Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: A few invertebrates

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-04-22 14:24
Submitted on Thu, 22 Apr 2021 - 02:24 PMStephffCartoon by Stephff: A few invertebrates

 

MultimediaStephffASEAN
Categories: Prachatai English

Climate action for people and planet: The time is now

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-04-22 11:21
Submitted on Thu, 22 Apr 2021 - 11:21 AMAntónio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

In this pivotal year for humanity, now is the time for bold climate action.

The science is irrefutable and globally agreed: to stop the climate crisis from becoming a permanent catastrophe, we must limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

To do this, we must get to net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by mid-century.  Countries making up about two-thirds of the global economy have committed to do so.  This is encouraging, but we urgently need every country, city, business and financial institution to join this coalition and adopt concrete plans for transitioning to net zero.

Even more urgent is for governments to match this long-term ambition with concrete actions now, as trillions of dollars are mobilized to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.  Revitalizing economies is our chance to re-engineer our future. 

The world has a strong framework for action: the Paris Agreement, in which all countries committed to set their own national climate action plans and strengthen them every five years.  Over five years later, and with damning proof that if we don’t act we will destroy our planet, it is time for decisive and effective action as the United Nations convenes all countries in Glasgow in November for COP26.

The new national plans must cut global greenhouse gas pollution by at least 45 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels.  Many have been presented already, and set out clearer policies to adapt to the impacts of climate change and boost access to renewable energy.

But so far, those plans achieve less than a 1 per cent cut in emissions.  This is a true red alert for people and planet.

In the months ahead, beginning with the upcoming Leaders Summit hosted by the United States, governments must dramatically step up their ambitions – particularly the biggest-emitting countries that have caused the vast bulk of the crisis.

Phasing out coal from the electricity sector is the single most important step to get in line with the 1.5-degree goal.  Immediate action to remove the dirtiest, most polluting fossil fuel from power sectors offers our world a fighting chance.

Global coal use in electricity generation must fall by 80 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030.  This means that developed economies must commit to phase out coal by 2030; other countries must do this by 2040.  There is simply no reason for any new coal plants to be built anywhere.  One third of the global coal fleet is already more costly to operate than building new renewables and storage.  COP26 must signal an end to coal.

As the world moves toward clean air and renewable energy, it is essential that we ensure a just transition. Workers in impacted industries and the informal sector must be supported as they move jobs or reskill.  We must also unleash the vast power of women and girls to drive transformation, including as equal participants in governance and decision-making. 

The countries that contributed least to climate change are suffering many of the worst impacts.  Many small island nations will simply cease to exist if we don’t step up the response.  The developed countries must deliver on their commitments to provide and mobilize $100 billion annually by:

  • doubling current levels of climate finance;
  • devoting half of all climate finance to adaptation;
  • stopping the international funding of coal; and
  • shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy.  

The G7 Summit in June offers the opportunity for the world’s wealthiest countries to step up and provide the necessary financial commitments that will ensure the success of COP26.

While governments must lead, decision-makers everywhere have a vital role to play. 

I ask all multilateral and national developments banks, by COP26, to have clear policies in place to fund the COVID recovery and the transition to resilient economies in developing countries, taking into account crippling debt levels and huge pressures on national budgets.

Many local governments and private business have committed to net zero emissions by 2050, and have engaged in significant reviews of their business models. I urge all to set ambitious targets and policies. 

I encourage young people everywhere to continue to raise their voices for action to address climate change, protect biodiversity, stop humanity’s war on nature and accelerate efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Time is running out, and there is much hard work ahead, but this no time to raise the white flag.  The United Nations will keep flying our blue flag of solidarity and hope.  This Earth Day and over the crucial months ahead, I urge all nations and all people to rise together to this moment. 

OpinionAntónio GuterresSecretary-General of the United NationsInternational Earth DayenvironmentSource: https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/articles/2021-04-18/climate-action-for-people-and-planet-the-time-now
Categories: Prachatai English

Artists join campaign for release of detained activists

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-04-21 13:46
Submitted on Wed, 21 Apr 2021 - 01:46 PMPrachatai

Thai artists are joining the online campaign “#DrawTheJustice” (#วาดความยุติธรรม) to protest against the unfair judicial process and for political activists currently facing charges or detained pending trial to be granted justice.

Sina Wittayawiroj's campaign launch

Illustrator Sina Wittayawiroj launched the campaign on 16 April by posting a drawing of a character holding a sign saying “free our friends,” along with a message inviting other artists and members of the public to join the campaign by drawing pictures of characters doing the three-finger salute, holding campaign placards, or wearing campaign t-shirts “to call for justice from this society in which the justice system is being twisted, the law becomes a political tool, and judges lack humanity,” and sharing them using the hashtag #วาดความยุติธรรม or #DrawTheJustice “until all of our friends who come out to call for democracy receive true justice, and until this state respects the people, who truly hold supreme power in the country.”

Sina said that he previously started a Facebook group called “Illustrators for democracy,” which is a place for pro-democracy artists to share their work. As the group gained members, Sina felt that illustrators can use their art to speak out about political issues. He started with the campaign for artists to post their art along with human rights lawyer Anon Nampa’s petition filed with the Criminal Court in March.

In the petition, Anon raised concerns about the safety of detained activists after prison guards attempted to take activists Panupong Jadnok and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa out of their cell at night, claiming that they had to undergo Covid-19 testing. The petition ended with the message “Please help save our lives.”

Sina said that the campaign, which uses the ending sentence of Anon’s petition as a hashtag, went further than he expected. After seeing Resistant Citizen’s “Just Standing” campaign, in which people protest by standing in silence in front of the Supreme Court for 112 minutes every day to demand the release of detained activists, Sina felt that there should be a similar campaign for illustrators to show that they do not support injustice, so he launched the “Draw the justice” campaign.

A number of artists have since joined Sina’s campaign, including cartoonist Sa-ard, political satirist Kai Maew, the Thai Political Tarot project, and illustrator Siradasue. The hashtag also has over 100 posts on Instagram.

Sina said that he would like the hashtag to become an archive to show that there are artists who support the pro-democracy movement and are ready to speak out. He also said that he thinks a collection of artworks would have more impact than single pieces appearing on social media timelines.

Sina said that he intends to draw and post a picture every day, and that he has ideas of how to bring his work out of cyberspace, such as by making posters, stickers, or handing out prints at protests.   

 “Art is a medium. It is a language. It is something that is already uses communication from one person to another, or from one organization or institution to another person or group of people. It’s like a medium between many things. Suppose we look at history; religions also use art to communicate. Political concepts and ideologies also use art to communicate. I don’t think art is more powerful than other languages, but it’s one option for people like me, like illustrators or artists, to use. If we use it without censoring ourselves, if we use it sincerely, use it to communicate what we really want to say, I think it can also reach our audience. It’s not different from giving speeches. It’s not different from writing a book,” said Sina.

Student activist Parit Chiwarak (centre) is currently detained and is on his 36th day of hunger strike to protest the denial of bail for activists being detained pending trial. 

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at least 20 people are being detained pending trial on charges relating to political expression, 13 of whom are detained on royal defamation charges under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. Many detainees have also been repeatedly denied bail, including Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Panupong Jadnok, and Piyarat Chongtep.

Parit, Anon, and Somyot have been detained since 9 February. Panusaya, Jatupat, Panupong, and Piyarat have been detained since 8 March. Piyarat was granted bail on 2 April, but was immediately re-arrested and has since been detained at the Kalasin Remand Prison.

To protest against the denial of bail, Parit has been on a hunger strike for the past 36 days, while Panusaya has been on a hunger strike for the past 22 days. Parit’s mother Sureerat Chiwarak requested bail again yesterday (20 April) on the ground that his health is being severely affected by the hunger strike. She said that he is weak and is unable to stand on his own, and because he has asthma, she believes that his life is in danger. She also said that, if the court allows him to be temporarily released, the court may require that he stay in a hospital and must not leave the hospital grounds until his condition improves.

However, the Criminal Court once again denied bail for Parit on the ground that there is no reason to change existing court orders. TLHR reported that the judge who signed the order is Chanathip Muanpawong, who sentenced Ampon Tangnoppakul, or “Uncle SMS,” to 20 years in prison on a royal defamation charge under Section 112 in 2011, after Ampon was accused of sending messages to Somkiat Krongwattanasuk, who was at the time the secretary of then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, which were deemed offensive to the King and Queen.

NewsSina WittayawirojDrawTheJusticefreedom of expressionRight to a fair trialarbitrary detentionactivistArt and culture
Categories: Prachatai English

Media safety at increased risk in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, ICJ stated

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-04-21 13:32
Submitted on Wed, 21 Apr 2021 - 01:32 PMInternational Commission of Jurists

Journalists and media workers face an increasingly repressive legal landscape amidst the Covid-19 pandemic in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, as outlined by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in a submission to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

File Photo

“Laws in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam that do not comply with human rights law and standards have served to shrink the civic space in which the media operate,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Secretary General. “This stands to undermine the media’s crucial work in performing their investigative functions and their capacity to impart information to the public.”

The ICJ highlighted in particular how new laws have been enacted in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that aim at or can be used by State authorities to control information about the pandemic. These laws contain provisions incompatible with human rights law and standards as their vague language makes them prone to abuses. In addition, some   prescribe excessive sanctions, including severe criminal penalties, which are incompatible with the principles of necessity and proportionality.

The ICJ also underscored how the authorities in the three States continued abusing existing non-human rights compliant laws to arbitrarily restrict information and expression during the pandemic, by targeting journalists and social media users.

Although the ICJ recognizes the necessity to combat the spread of false information online to protect public health during the uncertainty of a pandemic, this objective can and must be carried out using the least intrusive means, rather than unnecessary and disproportionate measures like arrests, detentions, criminal prosecutions and onerous fines.

The submission called for the OHCHR to continue engaging with the relevant authorities in these three countries to better safeguard in law and practice the safety and work of journalists and media workers, and the right to health and right to freedom of expression and information.

This submission is aimed at providing the OHCHR information for a report it is preparing for the UN Human Rights Council pursuant to its Resolution 45/18 on the safety of journalists.

The full submission is available in English here. (PDF)

Pick to PostInternational Commission of Jurists (ICJ)press freedomCOVID-19ThailandVietnamCambodiaSource: https://www.icj.org/journalists-and-media-platforms-at-increased-risk-in-cambodia-thailand-and-vietnam-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/
Categories: Prachatai English

PEN International calls for release of detained activists and repeal of Section 112

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-04-21 12:35
Submitted on Wed, 21 Apr 2021 - 12:35 PMPEN International

PEN International issued a statement on Tuesday (20 April) raising concerns about the Thai authorities' use of the royal defamation law against critics of the monarchy and call for the repeal of Section 112 and for all charges against the protesters to be immediately dropped. 

The statement reads: 

PEN International is deeply troubled by the Thai authorities' use of criminal defamation laws against peaceful protestors who have publicly criticised Thailand’s system of monarchic rule. We call on the authorities to repeal the deeply problematic lèse-majesté law and to immediately drop all charges against those on trial for peacefully expressing their views.

In Thailand, insulting the monarchy is considered a criminal offence under Article 112 of the Thai criminal code and it can result in a maximum sentence of up to 15 years imprisonment per count if convicted. Commonly referred to as Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, it was last used in 2017 before mass protests swept the across the country last year.

As part of the Thai government’s efforts to suppress the ongoing protest movement, it has now charged over 80 individuals for violating the heavily criticised legislation in recent months. The rapid acceleration in the use of lèse-majesté charges against protestors has attracted the alarm of the United Nations and its independent experts, who have called for the law’s repeal.

Thailand has used its lèse-majesté law with wanton disregard to freedom of expression and it has frequently deployed it against critics of the government. Its elastic interpretation, expansive reach, and arbitrary use has enabled the state to chill speech and intimidate writers, journalists, and academics. That law is a blunt instrument that disrespects the Thai society by infantilising it. Thailand must release all those who have expressed their views peacefully and enact changes in law to prevent misuse of legal manoeuvres like SLAPP, said Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

Among those charged for their peaceful participation at the protests are numerous writers, poets and other public figures, including Arnon Nampha, a poet and human rights lawyer who now has a total of 11 pending lèse-majesté charges against him in relation to his peaceful participation at demonstrations that took place throughout 2020.

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, who had been subject to PEN International appeals when detained previously, had his bail denied by authorities after he joined twenty other defendants in signing a letter rejecting legal representation to protest against the occurrence of several violations of their right to a fair trial. Another detainee, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, has continued to have his poetry published on social media while imprisoned. A leader of the protest movement, Parit began a partial hunger strike on 16 March 2021 in an effort to secure bail for all those detained on lèse-majesté charges. Parit’s health has markedly deteriorated in recent weeks, requiring the administration of an IV drip.

Another concerning development that highlights the further deterioration of the right to freedom of expression in Thailand is the malicious use of civil and criminal lawsuits by individuals close to the monarchy to silence critical expression, a tactic commonly referred to as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (or SLAPP). Despite mounting concern from the United Nations and other organisations over the practice in Thailand, SLAPPs continue to be used against those seen to criticise the monarchy.

A recent example of this is the civil defamation case brought against Thai scholar Nattapoll Chaiching for an unintended mistake in his 2009 PhD thesis. The mistake centres on a false assertion that Prince Rangsit interfered with the government while acting as regent from 1947-1951. The error was subsequently discovered in 2018 by another academic who reportedly called for Nattapoll to be punished for slighting the monarchy’s reputation. On learning of his mistake, Nattapoll requested the ability to revise his doctoral thesis to remove the false information but this was denied by the university, which then subsequently prohibited any public access to his thesis – a deeply problematic act of self-censorship for an institution that should be dedicated to the principle of academic freedom.

Subsequently, in 2020 Nattapoll released a book with the publisher Fa Diew Kan (Same Sky Books) that was built upon his thesis, albeit with the false information removed. Despite the correction, on 9 March 2021 Prince Rangsit’s granddaughter, M.R. Priyanandana Rangsit, filed a civil suit against Nattapoll, suing him for the equivalent of 1.5 million USD in damages. Both the publisher and Nattapoll’s PhD advisor have also been accused in the case.

The pernicious targeting of Nattapoll and his publisher through disproportionate legal action has been widely condemned by hundreds of scholars around the world and is viewed as part of a broader pattern of repression in the country. The resulting chilling effect threatens to discourage anyone from writing about the Thai monarchy though a critical lens, undermining the right to freedom of expression in Thailand.

PEN International urges the Thai authorities to unconditionally release peaceful protesters who were arbitrarily detained for their peaceful expression. We also call for the repeal of the lèse-majesté law and for the strengthening of anti-SLAPP protections.

Background

UN human rights mechanisms have repeatedly clarified that criminal defamation and insult laws, including lèse-majesté laws, are incompatible with international standards on free expression. In 2017, the then UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, called on Thailand to stop using its lèse-majesté law to stifle critical speech. He said, 'The lèse-majesté provision of the Thai Criminal Code is incompatible with international human rights law, and this is a concern that I and my predecessors have raised on numerous occasions with the authorities.' The disproportionate use of such restrictions also run into tension with Articles 9 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party.

Pick to PostPEN InternationalSection 112freedom of expressionRoyal defamationlese majestearbitrary detention
Categories: Prachatai English

Myanmar’s National Unity Government must be invited to ASEAN Special Summit, MPs say

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-04-20 15:34
Submitted on Tue, 20 Apr 2021 - 03:34 PMASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

JAKARTA - 20 April 2021: Regional lawmakers have today called on ASEAN to extend an invitation to Myanmar’s newly-established National Unity Government (NUG) for its special summit on the country, which will take place on Saturday in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Protesters holding posters satirizing Sen Gen Min Aung Hlaing at the 4 Feb protest in Thailand.

The calls came after it emerged that Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who is directly responsible for the current reign of terror in the country, is expected to attend. 

“ASEAN cannot adequately discuss the situation in Myanmar without hearing from and speaking to the National Unity Government. If ASEAN’s purpose really is to strengthen democracy, as stated by its Charter, they must give them a seat at the table. After all, they are the embodiment of democracy in Myanmar,” said Charles Santiago, chairperson of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and a Malaysian Member of Parliament (MP). 

“The invitation to Min Aung Hlaing must be handled with extreme caution, and ASEAN must make it abundantly clear that he is not there as a representative of the Myanmar people, who totally reject his barbaric junta.”

The meeting must also include an invitation to the UN Special Envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, who is currently conducting a tour in the region, to help establish a coordinated and human rights based response between ASEAN and the UN Security Council to the ongoing crisis, APHR said. 

APHR understands that ASEAN may be planning to use the meeting to establish their own Special Envoy on Myanmar, and called on the bloc to ensure that this position comprises representatives from not one, but at least two or three Member States, in order to ensure accountability and meaningful progress.  

“If ASEAN is to establish a Special Envoy on Myanmar, they must ensure it is not used as a way to stall pressure on the military and delay solutions. It must impose pre-conditions that include an immediate end to the violence and the release of all political prisoners,” said Kasit Piromya, APHR Board Member and former Thailand MP. 

ASEAN may also be looking into establishing a humanitarian response. 

“While humanitarian assistance is much-needed, ASEAN does not have the capacity nor experience of intervening in violent and complex settings. It should use its position to negotiate access for UN and humanitarian agencies rather than take the risk of putting money into the hands of the junta, or potentially conducting harmful operations,” Piromya said.

Pick to PostASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)Min Aung HlaingMyanmar coupNational Unity Government (NUG)Kasit PiromyaCharles SantiagoSource: https://aseanmp.org/2021/04/20/myanmars-national-unity-government-must-be-invited-to-this-weeks-asean-special-summit-mps-say/
Categories: Prachatai English

Myanmarese Mahidol graduate student arrested after joining anti-coup protest

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-04-20 13:51
Submitted on Tue, 20 Apr 2021 - 01:51 PMPrachatai

Saw Lin Htet, an ethnic Karen student from Myanmar currently studying at Mahidol University, has been arrested in Myanmar after joining an anti-coup protest while conducting research, and has not been heard from since.   

Saw Lin Htet (Photo from Free Saw Lin)

Saw Lin Htet is a student in the Human Rights and Democratisation master’s degree programme at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP), Mahidol University. IHRP lecturer Bencharat Sae Chua said that he returned to his home country to conduct research for his thesis. While in Myanmar, he also joined anti-coup protests after the Myanmar military took power on 1 February 2021.

Bencharat said she was informed that Saw Lin Htet was arrested on 23 March 2021, while driving home in Hpa-An, the capital city of Karen State, with his 4-year-old daughter. He was stopped by military officers, who searched his car without presenting a warrant and arrested him after they found anti-government material.

He was accused of inciting violence against the state under Section 505 of Myanmar’s Criminal Code, which carries a prison sentence of up to 3 years.

He was taken to court on 6 April 2021, but his trial was not heard as there were too many cases. However, that evening, his wife noticed that he was not in the prisoner bus returning to prison, so she went to search for him both at the prison and at the police station, but no officer was able to tell her where he is. He has not been heard from since.

Saw Lin Htet’s family and friends are now concerned for his wellbeing. Bencharat said a petition has been filed with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, and that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights received the petition on 9 April. Meanwhile, his wife and daughter are in hiding out of fear that they are in danger from state officials.

His classmates at Mahidol University have also set up the Facebook page “Free Saw Lin” to call attention to his arrest and disappearance. On 9 April, they also issued a statement raising concerns about Saw Lin Htet’s wellbeing and calling on the Myanmar government to guarantee the rights Saw Lin Htet and other political detainees, as well as to allow them the right to be represented by a lawyer and to have a fair trial.

“We gravely fear for the condition of Saw Lin, who as of this moment remains under incommunicado detention,” says the statement. “Saw Lin’s current physical health is fragile since he is a survivor of childhood tuberculosis. His lack of consistent access to lawyers and his family clear violates his rights as an accused and person deprived of liberty.

“We appeal to the Government of the Union of Myanmar to allow Saw Lin, along with other political detainees, to have their rights guaranteed under the law. We request that they are granted access to justice, be represented by their counsels, and have a fair trial.”

NewsSaw Lin HtetMyanmarMyanmar couparbitrary detentionIncommunicado detention
Categories: Prachatai English

US academic to know result of visa application on 3 May

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-04-20 13:20
Submitted on Tue, 20 Apr 2021 - 01:20 PMPrachatai

David Eirich Streckfuss, an American academic who had his work permit terminated without notice by Khon Kaen University, has to wait for 15 more days for the result of his visa application as the Immigration Bureau needs more time to inspect the paperwork.

David sitting in the Immigration Office on 19 April.

On 19 April, Streckfuss went to the Immigration Office at Khon Kaen to hear the result of his application for a visa based on his employment as a coordinator at the Buffalo Birds Production Co. Ltd. .

Pol Maj Gen Preecha Kongkaew, Deputy Commander of Immigration Division 4 and Immigration Inspector Pol Lt Col Nathaphong Kunlasak said the delay was caused by the high volume of documents and the long Songkran holiday.

“I affirm that Khon Kaen Immigration is operating normally, with no political involvement. Mr. David is not a prohibited person according to the Alien Act. Therefore, the visa process should not have any problems,” said Pol Lt Col Nathaphong.

The Immigration Inspector insisted that Khon Kaen Immigration never pressured KKU to revoke Streckfuss’s work permit. Immigration only acted in response to the University’s letter terminating the US academic’s contract.

Streckfuss oversaw the Council on International Educational Exchange programme at the University under a contract until 15 August 2021. However, the University terminated the contract on 19 March 2021 due to his “inability to work as designated”.

Originally, there was a report that police officers visited the University President and Faculty Dean before the contract decision was made. The contract termination also took place after Streckfuss participated in the workshop which partly involved decentralization.

On 18 April, the Bangkok Post reported that KKU President Assoc Prof Chanchai Phanthongviriyakul denied that police pressure to terminate the contract or Streckfuss’ activism were factors. The agreement was cut short because he was unable to secure international students for the CIEE program.

Assoc Prof Chanchai also stated that Streckfuss was not a university employee, but the unpaid representative of the CIEE, a US-based non-profit organisation.

Prachatai tried to contact Assoc Prof Wongsa Laohasiriwong, Dean of the Faculty of Public Health for comment but received no response.

Since 19 March, Streckfuss has been living in Thailand on a 30-day visa which will expire next Monday. He is now trying to acquire a work permit with the Buffalo Birds Production Co., a company that produces documentaries and organizes events, where he is working as a coordinator. Immigration police came to interview him and the employer for the third time on 16 April.

Streckfuss is known for his expertise on the royal defamation law in Thailand. In 2010, he wrote “Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, treason and lèse-majesté”.

NewsDavid Streckfusslèse majesté lawKhon Kaen UniversityThe Isaan RecordimmigrationThe Buffalo Birds Production Co.
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Terrible leader

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-04-19 17:01
Submitted on Mon, 19 Apr 2021 - 05:01 PMStephff

MultimediaCOVID-19StephffThailand
Categories: Prachatai English

Panel discussion highlights obstacles for investigative journalists in Thailand

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-04-16 20:00
Submitted on Fri, 16 Apr 2021 - 08:00 PMPrachatai

On 8 April, the Documentary Club and the Thai Media for Democracy Alliance (DemAll) organised a screening of the Romanian documentary Collective ahead of the film’s scheduled public screenings, as well as a panel discussion on investigative journalism and press freedom in Thailand.

The documentary poster with the message "when the press bows down to the authorities, the authorities will mistreat its citizens."

Directed by Alexander Nanau, Collective revolves around a group of journalists from the Sports Gazette, a daily sports newspaper based in Bucharest, as they investigate corruption and mismanagement in the Romanian public healthcare system following the 2015 Colectiv Club fire, which killed 27 people and injured 180 others, and the death of over 30 other victims in the months after the fire due to bacterial infection and improper care for burn victims at public hospitals. The documentary also follows the then-Minister of Health Vlad Voiculescu, who was appointed after the resignation of the Social Democratic government following a series of mass protests in 2015, and his attempt at reforming the public healthcare system.

Collective has been nominated at the 93rd Academy Awards for the best documentary feature and the best international feature film categories, becoming the first Romanian film to be nominated for an Academy Award.

The screening was preceded by a panel discussion with The Reporters founder Thapanee Eadsrichai and Thai News Agency reporter Santiwithi Phrombut on working as investigative journalists in Thailand.

Santhiwithi said that one of the obstacles investigative journalists often face is the lack of support from editors and colleagues, as investigative work takes a lot of time and effort. He also said that he has been intimidated by those in power and his life has been in danger. He said that he has been followed to his workplace, that people have tried to find his personal contact information, and that he has faced lawsuits.

He also mentioned that the Computer Crimes Act has made the work of journalists difficult, as they risk lawsuits and intimidation if they get too close to the truth. He is also concerned that it would be even harder for journalists to work if the new Official Information bill comes into effect.

Santiwithi Phrombut

Meanwhile, Thapanee said that, even though investigative journalism is difficult by nature, she has found it more difficult since the 2014 military coup, as an undemocratic government is a major obstacle and the situation made it difficult to access information. She also shared her experience of covering the Rohingya refugee crisis and investigating reports that the Thai army is allegedly supplying rice to Myanmar troops, and said that, throughout her career as a journalist, she faced pressure from those whose interests are affected by her reporting, as well as from the state, which is another major obstacle in her work.

“Journalists are always blamed and cursed for making up stories and making trouble, but the Thai society has never thought about going back to investigate the source of the problems that are a result of the structure of the people who have power,” Thapanee said.

“Actually, journalists can do it, but we need to the society to help with the investigations, and I would like to leave you with this sentence from the film that when the press bows down to the authorities, the authorities will mistreat its citizens. Yes, that is how it really is, but with the last story that I worked on [the Thai army supplying 700 sacks of rice to Myanmar troops], I saw that, whenever the people are brave enough to speak the truth, but the media is not brave enough to uncover the truth, then you shouldn’t be journalists.”

Thapanee Eadsrichai

Documentary Club founder Thida Plitpholkarnpim told Prachatai that they wanted to screen the documentary as it touches on an issue that is powerful and relatable to the Thai context, and that as the documentary focuses on corruption within the Romanian public healthcare system and those in power who exploit the system for their own benefit while patients’ lives are on the line, Thai audiences might be able to relate to the issues being shown.

For Thida, the documentary’s focus on the role of the press also shows how much effort investigative journalism takes, how reporters must take risks and must protect their sources, and the barriers they have to go through to bring a story to society and hope that it will lead to change.

“I think that investigative journalism is something that has been talked about for a while in Thailand but we don’t often see, so I felt that this is a phenomenon that I would like to bring to the attention of Thai society as well,” Thida said.

Thida said that a documentary has a role in raising questions about many aspects of society, and often, many documentaries raise questions about issues that are overlooked by society or by the mainstream media. She said that, with the Documentary Club’s film choices, she wants Thai audiences to see that systematic issues exist in every society, but it is up to them whether they will start to question these issues and start demanding changes, from the community level up to the level of state policy.

“I think that there are many documentaries that were made to show these conditions in many places all over the world, so I think that, by screening films like these, I hope that it will have this effect on Thai society as well,” said Thida.

Thida hopes that, since the documentary also focuses on the failure of the public health system and is being screened at a time where many people are beginning to raise questions about how the Thai state is handling the pandemic, the audience will be able to reflect on the situation in Thailand through what they see in the film.

“In the end, it’s true that you’re seeing a film that was made in the context of another country, but what is important is whether seeing it leads you to start asking questions and have the courage to start fighting these things that are happening in our own country, so I would like to invite people to see it and start raising questions together,” said Thida.

Collective is now screening at House Samyan on the 5th floor of Samyan Mitrtown.

NewsCollectiveDocumentary ClubThai Media for Democracy Alliance (DemAll). Thapanee EadsrichaiSantiwithi Phrombutpress freedominvestigative journalismdocumentaryFilm screening
Categories: Prachatai English

Hunger striker facing lèse majesté charge granted bail

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-04-16 19:37
Submitted on Fri, 16 Apr 2021 - 07:37 PMPrachatai

Mongkhon Thirakot, who was arrested on Wednesday (14 April) on charges under the lèse majesté law and the Computer Crimes Act while on a hunger strike in front of the Criminal Court in Bangkok, has been granted bail after two days in detention.

Mongkhon Thirakot sitting at a bus stop near the Criminal Court on 12 April

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported earlier today (16 April) that Mongkhon was taken to the Chiang Rai Provincial Court for a temporary detention request. He was held in a police car and was not taken inside the court building, which the officers claimed was due to the Covid-19 situation.

In the afternoon, the Chiang Rai Provincial Court ruled to have Mongkhon temporarily detained during the investigation, as the charges he faces are severe. His lawyer then requested bail, which the court granted, requiring a security of 150,000 baht.

According to TLHR, Mongkhon is a local activist in Chiang Rai and an online clothing vendor. He came to Bangkok on 12 April to go on hunger strike while sitting in front of the Criminal Court in Bangkok to demand the release of activists currently detained pending trial and denied bail. He was arrested on 14 April by officers from Phaholyothin Police Station and taken to Chiang Rai.

Mongkhon has been held at the Muang Chiang Rai Police Station since he arrived in Chiang Rai following his arrest. Officers also searched his house and confiscated several pieces of paper with messages written on them, a declaration by the activist group Ratsadorn, an armband with the three-finger salute symbol, and a red ribbon, and had his mother sign documents to acknowledge the search and confiscation. It is not clear how the objects confiscated by the officers are related to the case. Mongkhon’s mobile phone was also confiscated when he was arrested in Bangkok.

According to the police, Mongkhon is being charged with royal defamation under Section 112 of the Criminal Code and with importing into a computer system data relating to an offence against national security under the Computer Crimes Act due to 25 Facebook posts he made between 2 – 11 March 2021, including messages referring to the King’s images, sharing video clips and foreign news reports about the Thai monarchy, and sharing posts from Somsak Jeamteerasakul’s Facebook page while adding captions. The inquiry officer said it is up to the public prosecutor how many counts Mongkhon will face.

According to TLHR, at least 86 people are facing charges under Section 112 in 79 cases since November 2020, at least 6 of whom are minors. TLHR also observed a rise in the number of people facing Section 112 charges due to their online activities, many of whom are ordinary members of the public who have had complaints filed against them by other citizens or royalist groups.

NewsMongkhon ThirakotSection 112lese majesteRoyal defamationComputer Crimes Actarbitrary arrestarbitrary detentionjudicial harassmentactiviststudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

Politicians offer visions for second wave of constitutional amendments

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-04-16 18:44
Submitted on Fri, 16 Apr 2021 - 06:44 PMPrachatai

With the next general election in 2023, Thai politicians from all sides are becoming more serious about constitutional amendments to advance their political interest.

In March, Parliament rejected an amendment of Section 256 of the Constitution. The opposition parties planned to establish a Constitutional Drafting Committee to rewrite the entire constitution. In a single night, government MPs and the unelected Senators ended a year-long process by voting down the amendment in the third reading.

To question the legitimacy of the motion, Phalang Pracharat politicians filed a petition to the Constitutional Court for a ruling on the legitimacy of the amendment. The nine judges ruled that the constituent power belongs to the people. So national referenda must be held both before and after Parliament passes any motion to rewrite the constitution, first to establish that an amendment is wanted and second to approve that particular amendment.

The moment when the amendment was turned down was dramatic, with sizable protests in Bangkok leading to detentions and injuries to many protesters. After two years of amendment campaigns since 2019, it was as if the demands of the pro-democracy protesters had gone nowhere. The political parties, government and opposition alike, were often criticized by protesters for not taking action.

However, with the election looming in 2023, this will change - for better or worse.

Government coalition parties to launch constitutional amendment

Professional politicians see constitutional amendment not in terms of ideology but in terms of expediency. They saw with their own eyes what the constitution could do to the election results in 2019. With the 2023 election in sight, all political parties want to have a say in constitutional amendment in order to advance their self-interest.

It is safe to say that all political parties are hurt by the current constitution. For professional politicians in the government coalition, like the Democrat, Bhumjaithai and Chartthaipattana parties, constitutional amendment means an opportunity to be the leader of a government of their own and the ability to deliver the promises made to their voters in the last election campaign.

Against the backdrop of the on-going protests and people’s dissatisfaction, these political parties decided to restart amendment of Section 256 right after its rejection in March. The amendment would make it easier to pass further constitutional amendments in order to make more substantive change possible.  

With regard to Section 256, there was no mention about incorporating the stance of the opposition parties into their proposal, that is, to establish a Constitutional Drafting Committee to rewrite the constitution. It was merely about removing the current unnecessarily complicated voting requirements for parliament to pass amendments and instead change to a three-fifths majority.

At a press conference, the Democrat, Bhumjaithai and Chartthaipattana parties also said that they planned to amend Section 272 to get rid of the Senate’s power to vote for a prime minister as well as other sections relating to rights, freedom, community rights, good governance, decentralization, and elections. Against the wishes of the Phalang Pracharat party, they said they would even work with the opposition parties to push forward these issues.

Referendum Act delayed

On March 18, the Democrat, Bhumjaithai and Chartthaipattana parties voted in the second reading in support of amending Section 9 of the National Referendum Bill in order to enable parliament and Thai voters, as well as the cabinet, to launch a national referendum. This is so that they can use parliament to initiate a referendum and proceed to amend Section 256 in compliance with the court’s verdict.

In the original draft, the referendum process could only be started by the cabinet to ensure that the Prayut government had complete control of the amendment process from the very start. In the shock after the amendment to Section 9 passed the second reading, Phalang Pracharat MPs and unelected senators called for a recount, but Deputy Speaker Pornpetch Wichitcholchai did not allow it. So they asked for the third reading to be postponed. Since this came during the last meeting in this session of parliament, this would delay passage of the bill until the next session.

The Speaker of Parliament and opposition MPs instead opened a special session on 7-8 April to push the legislation forward. However, the session made a little progress as Phalang Pracharat MPs and unelected senators were obstructive about passing the law. Using the pretext of the third outbreak of Covid-19 which had infected Minister of Transport Saksayam Chidchob (allegedly in an illegally operated entertainment venue in Bangkok) and probably other government politicians, Senator Somchai Sawangkarn, who has been prominent in attacking schoolchildren protesting for democracy, requested the Speaker not to recognize a quorum. As a result, debate on the National Referendum Act has been delayed until the next ordinary session of parliament.

New election systems discussed

Paiboon Nititawan, a leading figure in the Phalang Pracharat party, said that Phalang Pracharat planned to amend the constitution on 5 issues in 13 sections. However, getting rid of the Senate’s power to vote for a prime minister was clearly not on the list. It was Paiboon who engineered the downfall of the constitutional amendment motion in March. Originally elected as the single party-list MP for the People Reform Party on the strength of only 45,508 votes from all constituencies nationwide, Paiboon quickly switched parties and rose to prominence in Phalang Pracharat.

Even if the government coalition parties have conflicts with each other, they have a common interest in changing the electoral system. Both Phalang Pracharat and the three coalition parties agree on going back to a two-ballot system. On this issue, even the Pheu Thai party may also get on the wagon to regain their status quo, but we will have to wait and see whether or not this actually happens.

Returning to a two-ballot system means that the next election will be similar to those held under the 1997 and 2007 constitutions, where voters were given two ballots. One, for constituency MPs, would be counted under the first past the post system. The other, for party-list MPs, would be counted separately under a proportional representation system. This system favours Pheu Thai as political parties of their affiliation won every election from 2001 to 2011.     

In the 2019 election under the military-initiated 2017 constitution, a single-ballot system was used to elect both constituency MPs and party-list MPs. While the constituency MPs were decided by a first pass the post system, the party-list MP seats were allocated using an extremely complex calculation based on the total votes cast.  This was designed (and then misleadingly interpreted according to some observers) by the Election Commission appointed by the coup-makers back in 2014. The system resulted in a number of pro-government micro-parties, with as few as 35,000 votes nationwide, and Pheu Thai obtaining 250 seats from the constituency elections and zero seats from the party-list allocation.

Pheu Thai knew that they would not be compensated with party-list MPs seats due to their large number of constituency MPs. To solve the problem, the Thai Raksa Chart party was established under Pheu Thai’s affiliation to collect votes for obtaining party-list MP seats. However, after the dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart by the verdict of the Constitutional Court over the nomination of Princess Ubolratana to be Prime Minister, a lot of voters turned to the Future Forward party instead. Future Forward, as a result, gained a surprising number of party-list MPs before the Constitution Court dissolved them for taking a loan from its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. The event gave rise to the protests in February 2020 and Move Forward was formed to replace Future Forward.

Since then, Move Forward has been seen by the establishment as too outspoken and Pheu Thai party as no longer so dangerous. First, the Move Forward party exposed the Information Operations of the military in two consecutive no-confidence motions. Second, they voted against the transfer of military units to come under the King’s personal control. And third, they proposed an amendment to the lèse majesté law. As the only party courageous enough to challenge the military and royal power, it is not unexpected that the establishment would prioritize undermining the Move Forward party’s endeavours by reducing their MPs in the 2023 election.

In response, Move Forward came up with their own constitutional amendment. Secretary-General Chaitawat Tulathon said that they would restart the amendment of Section 256. By passing the National Referendum Act, Move Forward will push forward the establishment of a Constitutional Drafting Committee as previously planned with the other opposition parties.

While they insist on rewriting the entire constitution, they will continue to work on a section-by-section approach to amendments. In the previous attempt at constitutional amendment, Move Forward was the first party to come up with the idea of a section-by-section approach. But their amendment did not pass the first reading last year. This time Move Forward plans, among other issues, to get rid of the Senate’s power to vote for a prime minister just as in the previous amendment.

However, they have also come up with their own electoral model to protect their source of political power. While Move Forward agrees with the two-ballot system, they do not think that going back to the system of the 1997 constitution will get the country out of political deadlock. To make it more democratic, Move Forward has proposed a mixed member proportional representation system or MMP.

Move Forward says that their MMP system is similar to the one currently used in Germany. According to the proposal, the voter will be given two ballots. One will be counted in a first pass the post system for constituency MPs. The other, for party-list MPs, will be counted nationwide by proportional representation. However, unlike in the 1997 and 2007 constitutions, party-list MPs will be allocated in a compensatory manner. The number of the party-list MP seats that a political party gains will be calculated by their percentage of the nationwide vote minus the number of the constituency MPs it has obtained.

With an MMP system in place, Move Forward will still have a chance to gain party-list MPs in a more genuine democracy. How many MP seats the Move Forward will get will depend on how many voters they can maintain and how many more they can win from Pheu Thai, now that Pheu Thai will no longer face the same problem as in 2019. However, since it is a new election system, it is doubtful whether the establishment and Pheu Thai will agree since they might both be better-off with the voting system of the earlier constitutions. Worse still, the MFP idea will have to pass the unelected Senate in alliance with Phalang Pracharat.

Even if it looks like Pheu Thai is competing with Move Forward at each other’s expense, it is not the only story there is. The establishment is now facing a dilemma. Phalang Pracharat can either change nothing at all and risk facing Move Forward just as strong, or it can return to the old two-ballot voting and risk losing the election to Pheu Thai. Even though they remain dominant for the next two years, the 2023 election will not be easy.

Resolution campaign emerges

The political parties may push forward constitutional amendments according to their own political calculations, but civil society is also proposing a people’s version. Whether or not parliament will pass it, this campaign will set the bar for the second wave of constitutional amendments.

iLaw’s proposal for constitutional amendment may have failed to pass the first reading in parliament last year despite a hundred thousand signatures of voters. However, the attempt has re-emerged as a campaign known as the Resolution. The campaign is backed by the Move Forward party, the Progressive Movement, Conlab, and iLaw.

On 6 April, an event was held at the Faculty of Law, Thammasat University, Tha Prachan campus. A table was opened to collect signatures to propose to parliament the people’s constitutional amendment. According to the current constitution, a constitutional amendment backed by at least 50,000 signatures must be discussed in parliament. The goal of Resolution is to have from several hundred thousand to one million signatures.

On that day, speeches on several topics were given by leading scholars, politicians and political activists at the event. The leading figures who gave the speeches include Prajak Kongkirati, Parit Wacharasindhu, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Sarinee Achavanuntakul, Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon, and Chayathanus Saradatta.

According to speakers, the goal of the campaign includes abolishing the Senate to establish a unicameral parliament, reforming the power and selection process of the now anti-democratic independent bodies, abolishing the National Strategy and National Reform plans, and eliminating the legacy of the military coup. The campaign also accepts online submissions and instructions are provided on social media.  

The campaign did not mention any amendments to Chapter 1 (General Provisions) and Chapter 2 (the King) of the constitution. When asked about this by a reporter, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul said that there was no restriction against it in the current constitution, and it does not mean they would not do it in the future.

“Today we aim at 4 big issues including abolishing the Senate, removing the Constitutional Court and the issue of the independent bodies, abolishing the National Strategy and National Reform plans, and wiping out the legacy of the military coup. Not touching Chapters 1 and 2 does not mean we are not interested in that,” said Piyabutr.

Round UpConstitutional amendment
Categories: Prachatai English

KKU cancels work permit of US academic expert on lèse majesté law

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-04-16 17:52
Submitted on Fri, 16 Apr 2021 - 05:52 PMPrachatai

Khon Kaen University has terminated the work permit of David Eirich Streckfuss, an independent academic who oversees the Council on International Educational Exchange programme at the University. The decision reportedly came after police visited the University President and Faculty Dean, after Streckfuss participated in a workshop which partly involved decentralization.

The university announcement stating the end of Streckfuss's contract.

According to the university announcement, Streckfuss’s contract at the Faculty of Public Health from 15 August 2020 to 15 August 2021, was cancelled on 19 March 2021 due to his “inability to work as designated”.

Since 19 March, Streckfuss has been living in Thailand on a 30-day visa which will expire next Monday. He is now trying to acquire a work permit with the Buffalo Birds Production Co., a company that produces documentaries and organizes events where he is working as a coordinator. Immigration police came to interview him and the employer for the third time on 16 April.

Immigration police interviewing an employee at the Buffalo Birds Co.

Buffalo Birds is a registered company of The Isaan Record, a local online media outlet based in Khon Kaen.

Streckfuss, who has been living in Thailand for over 20 years, said this is the first time that his work permit has been cancelled in this manner. He also said that he was informed by the University that the cancellation came after police officers visited the University President and the Faculty Dean.

Hathairat Phaholtap, editor of the Isaan Record, also said that the work permit cancellation and the visit were made after Streckfuss attended a workshop about the preservation and development of the locan Isaan identity which was held at a Khon Kaen hotel on 12-14 February. 

Hathairat said the workshop participants were academics, NGO staff and also activists. The police were reportedly spotted as they tried to follow and monitor some activists who attended the workshop. 

Pol Maj Gen Kridsada Kanjanaarlongkon, Commander of Immigration Division 4 said the interviews were a regular procedure when foreigners submitted a visa extension. Immigration Division 4 is now waiting for a decision from Khon Kaen Immigration.

Streckfuss is known for his expertise on the royal defamation law in Thailand. In 2010, he wrote “Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, treason and lèse-majesté”.

Foreigners’ political participation is restricted

Nadthasiri Bergman, a lawyer from NSP Legal Office, is taking care of Streckfuss’s case. She said that foreigners in Thailand are very unlikely to be able to attend political activities as visa regulations can be interpreted in a very narrow scope. For example, if an individual’s visa is based on a work permit, they must live and work according to the details on the permit. If a foreigner were to attend a political activity, they would be watched by the authorities.

In 2019, Yan Marchal, a French expat, was asked by police to remove his viral music video mocking the then junta leader, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. He was also asked to sign a memorandum admitting that the music video was an “improper act” and that he was “now repenting for the bad action and will not do it again.”

In November 2020, he faced visa difficulties again when he was detained by Immigration after his visa expired and he faced deportation. Immigration later stated that it was Marchal’s misunderstanding.

In August 2020, Richard Barrow, an English blogger well known for tourism promotion in Thailand, was visited by Immigration officers saying that his visa extension may not be renewed. This came after he translated news about the 10 August protest at Thammasat University, a landmark protest which addressed monarchy reform.

After Barrow’s situation gained wide public attention, he tweeted that immigration officers had accepted his visa extension form.

Nadthasiri, who dealt with Marchal’s case in 2020, said that what should also be considered here is the government’s sensitivity. In a democratic country where human rights and freedoms are respected, foreigners would not be expected to talk only about the good aspects of the country.

NewsDavid StreckfussKhon Kaen UniversityThe Isaan RecordRichard BarrowYan Marchalimmigrationlèse majesté lawSource: prachatai.com/journal/2021/04/92577
Categories: Prachatai English

Hunger striker arrested on lèse majesté charge

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-04-15 16:10
Submitted on Thu, 15 Apr 2021 - 04:10 PMPrachatai

A man who has been on hunger strike in front of the Criminal Court for the past three days to demand the release of detained activists has been arrested on charges under the lèse majesté law and the Computer Crimes Act.

Mongkhon Thirakot

Mongkhon Thirakot, 27, came from Chiang Rai on 12 April to join the hunger strike while sitting in front of the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road, Bangkok, to demand the release of activists currently detained pending trial and denied bail. He said that he felt it was unfair that the court has yet to issue a verdict on the activists’ case but has already detained them, so he wanted to demand their release so that they would have the chance to fight their case.

Mongkhon said that when he arrived at the Criminal Court at around 5.00 – 6.00 on 12 April, court officials came to place metal barriers in front of the Criminal Court sign and told him that his action might be considered contempt of court, so he went to sit just next to the sign. Several officers also came to ask for his personal information, as well as questioning him on whether he is involved with drugs, what his intentions are, and how long he intends to stay. They also asked to search his belongings. An officer also later told him that a ‘higher-up’ in the Court is unhappy and would like him to go away, but he insisted on staying where he was and told the officers that they could arrest him if he is doing anything wrong.

He also said that later that morning, a group of uniformed and plainclothes police officers from Phaholyothin Police Station, along with some officers dressed like a commando unit, arrived to question him for another hour. He said that police and court officers periodically came to ask him the same questions over and over. Some officers offered to buy him food and drink, and some offered to find him a place to stay so that he would leave the area in front of the court.

A large number of officers also returned the next day as a few people began to gather at the Criminal Court to support Mongkhon, along with members of the press who came to cover his hunger strike. Mongkhon said that both court police and officers from Phaholyothin Police Station were present in the area, and that 5 police trucks and a number of motorcycles were parked near where he was staying, which caused him concern. 

Mongkhon said he went to ask the police why they had to bring so many officers and whether it was because there were reporters in the area. The officers told him that they were “keeping people safe.” He then told the officers that this is unnecessary, as they were treating his activity like a protest even though there were only three people and they were not doing anything but sitting there.

At 13.20 on 14 April, Mongkhon was arrested by police officers from Phaholyothin Police Station. The officers presented an arrest warrant from Phan Police Station in Chiang Rai, which stated that he was being charged under Section 112, or the lèse majesté law, and the Computer Crimes Act.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that, at 14.00, after he was taken to Phaholyothin Police Station to record his arrest, Mongkol was taken to Chiang Rai.

TLHR later reported that police officers from the Muang Chiang Rai Police Station went to search Mongkhon’s house this morning (14 April). The officers presented a search warrant to Mongkhon’s parents, but Mongkhon, who was also with the officers during the search, did not see the warrant and did not know whether anything was confiscated.     

NewsMongkhon ThirakotSection 112lese majesteRoyal defamationComputer Crimes Actarbitrary arrestarbitrary detentionjudicial harassmentstudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

Mass protests, hunger strikes in solidarity with political prisoners

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-04-15 14:34
Submitted on Thu, 15 Apr 2021 - 02:34 PMPrachatai

Ignoring the long Songkran holidays and a new surge of Covid-19 infections, people have started to demonstrate their sympathy with the pro-democracy protesters who are in detention without being proved guilty by joining the detainees in fasting and by protesting in front of the Supreme Court.

#ยืนหยุดขัง112นาที #ยืนหยุดขังday23 เริ่มแล้ว วันนี้เป็นอีกวันที่คนร่วมกิจกรรมเยอะ มาร่วมเรียกร้อง #ปล่อยเพื่อนเรา #พลเมืองโต้กลับ #Octdem

Posted by พลเมืองโต้กลับ Resistant Citizen on Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Photos of the 23 day of 'Just Standing' protest from the Resistant Citizens group Facebook page.

The subtle 112 minute per day ‘Just Standing’ protests held by the Resistant Citizen group since 22 March have swelled in numbers due to the wave of public sympathy. On its 23nd day (15 April), 450 people attended the symbolic stand against the courts’ decisions to detain defendants.

Among those standing in protest can be seen academics, lawyers and the mothers of detainees, holding banners calling for the right to be temporarily released under the law.

The mother of Panupong Jadnok, one of the leading protest figures, told Matichon that the prolonged and strict judicial process and the rejection of bail have made her son guilty without a court ruling. The repeated travel to numerous proceedings have exhausted her.

Malai Nampa, mother of Anon Nampa, another leading figure, said the last time she met Anon was on 9 April when he walked past her but was not allowed to speak. She did not think that her son would do something this big. But as things work out, she hoped that Anon would be released soon. As a mother, her duty was to stand there to support her son.

On the same day, people gathered in front of Chiang Rai Provincial Court to stage a similar activity. According to the Chiang Rai No Dictatorship Facebook page, they vowed to continue.

However, the protest in Bangkok will be suspended on 15 April after Resistant Citizen posted that a Chanasongkram Police Station representative had asked them not to protest as a royal procession was scheduled to take the King to the annual Songkran ceremony at the Royal Palace. The protest will resume on 16 April.

The court decision to detain pro-democracy protesters on remand involves mostly those charged under Sections 112 and 116 of the Criminal Code, for royal defamation and sedition respectively. At least 9 leading protesters and 2 others are being detained.

Mongkhon ‘Bas’ Thirakot, 27, travelled from Chiang Rai to Bangkok to attend the Just Standing protest and since 12 April has been on a hunger strike to show solidarity with Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul and Phromson Wirathammachari, 3 detainees who have been staging hunger strikes in prison, allowing themselves only milk and sweetened drinks.

Mongkol Thirakot. Photo taken on 12 April.

On 14 April, after being monitored by the police and the court, he was arrested on a warrant from Phan District Police Station, Chiang Rai province, for violating the royal defamation law. He was taken to Phaholyothin Police Station.

Wave of hunger strikes

Public opinion about the detainees’ hunger strikes is split, with some concerned about their wellbeing and others accepting the struggle. However, some of those outside have already joined the fray with their own hunger strikes, using the hashtag #อดพร้อมเพื่อน (Fast with friends on Facebook, and Twitter). The Nisit Chula Party activist group has invited people to join a hunger strike once a week and write a message about the detainees who also on hunger strike.

 

ร่วมอดอาหารสัปดาห์ละ 1 วัน
ในแคมเปญ #อดพร้อมเพื่อน
โดยอดอาหารวันใดก็ได้ในสัปดาห์
(สามารถดื่มน้ำ วิตามิน และเกลือแร่ได้ในปริมาณที่เหมาะสม)
.
ในวันที่อดอาหารเราจะร่วมกันเขียนบันทึกความรู้สึกและความระลึกถึงถึงเพื่อนที่อดอาหาร ในแท็ก #อดพร้อมเพื่อน pic.twitter.com/LjOioMi1Uv

— คณะจุฬาฯ (@NisitChulaParty) April 10, 2021

 

เมื่อวานอดไป1วัน เป็นคนท้องว่างแล้วจะอาเจียนเลยเหนื่อยกับการจะอาเจียนมากกว่าความอยากอาหาร สั่นไปหมดเลย เคารพการต่อสู้ของน้องๆค่ะ มันหนักมากจริงๆ สะเทือนใจ​มากจริงๆ ความยุติธรรม​ของประเทศ​นี้มันไม่มีแล้วหรือไง กระบวนการยุติธรรม​มันมืดบอดมันบ้าไปแล้ว ไม่มีความละอาย #อดพร้อมเพื่อน

— V I n (@I_am_10110) April 12, 2021

A tweet stated “Yesterday I fasted for a day. Someone with an empty stomach will vomit, more tired from being about to vomit than from wanting food. I was shaking. I respect the brothers and sisters’ struggles. It is really hard. I’m really very moved. There is no more justice in this country, is here? The judicial process is so blind, it is crazy. They have no shame.”

Sa-ard, a cartoonist, also posted on his Facebook page that he had participated in the hunger strike campaign to remind himself of those who are on hunger strike in prison “with hunger, guilt, respect, and the wish to join the call for justice for them, and surely, the wish to see them regain their freedom.”

 

ประมาณสิบปีก่อน ผมเคยมีความคิดบ้าๆ อย่างการพยายามอดอาหารทั้งวันหลายครั้ง เพราะคิดว่าถ้าจะโตไปเป็นนักเขียนการ์ตูน...

Posted by Sa-ard สะอาด on Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Methawi Sitthijirawattanakul, Panusaya’s sister, has also joined the hunger strike for 12 days so far. According to The Reporters, Methawi gradually reduced her diet to the point where she took only milk, sweetened drinks, water and fruits. She said she did it to know how her sister is feeling right now. She intends to resume her regular diet at the same time as Panusaya.

NewsResistant Citizenspro-democracy protest 2021Mongkol ThirakotSection 112Article 112Royal defamationlèse majesté lawMethawi SitthijirawattanakulMalai NampaAnon NampaPanupong JadnokSource: prachatai.com/journal/2021/04/92556
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Perfect storm

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-04-14 15:30
Submitted on Wed, 14 Apr 2021 - 03:30 PMStephff

MultimediaStephffKrystal ClubCOVID-19Songkran
Categories: Prachatai English

Only one of three lèse majesté detainees allowed bail

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-04-10 17:16
Submitted on Sat, 10 Apr 2021 - 05:16 PMPrachatai

Patiwat ‘Mor Lam Bank’ Saraiyaem was allowed bail while 2 others were not, following their decision to withdraw their legal representation in protest against what they call an unfair judicial process where their right to legal consultation and the presumption of innocence were undermined.

The decision was made on 9 April after a request for temporary release had been submitted on 5 April for Patiwat, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Jatupat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattararaksa, who were detained on charges related to their activism at the 19-20 September protest at Thammasat University and Sanam Luang, a landmark protest where demands for monarchy reform were made in speeches and symbolic actions.

The request stated that Somyot is old and in frail health and that the prolonged detention would affect his family. Also, detention pending trial violates the principle of presumption of innocence.  Somyot added that he could not properly spend time to find evidence to ensure a fair trial.

Jatupat testified in addition to his request that he did not have the intention to flee. Detention would affect his educational prospects as he is now a university student. And detention pending trial violates the principle of presumption of innocence.

Patiwat testified that if granted bail , he would not participate in any political gathering or give speeches infringing on the monarchy. He was willing to abide by every condition for release, including wearing an electronic tag, restricting his movements and reporting regularly to the court.

The other 2 defendants also accepted condition of not infringing on the monarchy and not participating in any activity that brought disgrace on the monarchy. They would also abide by all other conditions for release.

The court ruled that Patiwat was granted bail as it was convinced that he would not repeat the offense. The court ordered 200,000 baht bail with the condition that he not repeat similar offenses against the monarchy. Travel abroad is prohibited unless approved by the court. He is to report regularly to the court.

However, Somyot and Jatupat were not allowed bail due to their decision on 8 April to withdraw their legal representation and their refusal to participate in the trial, which made their testimonies untrustworthy. Jatupat and Somyot will therefore remain in prison after already being detained for over a month.

Beside these three, the court denied bail requests for 5 other defendants in detention pending trial: Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sitthijirawatthanakul, Panupong Jadnok and Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan. As of 9 April, Anon and Parit had been detained for 60 days and Panusaya and Panupong for 33 days.

Parit has been on a hunger strike, sustaining himself with only sweetened drinks and milk for more than 25 days while Panusaya and Phromson Wirathammachari, another person detained on remand for royal defamation, have been on a similar fast for a week.

Protest against ‘unfair trial’

The court’s refusal to grant bail to Somyot and Jatupat stems from the incident inside the trial room on 8 April when 22 defendants withdrew their legal representation in protest at court measures and treatment by prison officials which deny them the right to a fair and open trial.

The 23 defendants in the case are Chinnawat  Chankrachang, Nawat Liangwattana, Nattapat Akhad, Thanachai Aurlucha, Thanop Amphawat, Thanee Sasom, Phattaraphong Noiphang, Sitthithat Chindarat, Suwanna Tallek, Anurak Jeantawanich, Nutchanon Pairoj, Atthapol Buaphat, Adisak Sombatkham, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Patiwat Saraiyaem, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Panupong Jadnok, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Chukiat Saengwong, and Chaiamorn Kaewwwiboonpan.

All of the defendants with the exception of Patiwat, requested to withdraw their legal representation and their lawyers requested to be released from their duties. The court has yet to rule on this request.

According to a statement from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the defendants have not been allowed to speak to their lawyers individually and confidentially, as they were always under the control of prison officials. The names of the lawyers and defendants who are part of each hearing are strictly checked.

Lawyers who would like to speak individually with the defendants have also been assaulted or had their telephones seized. Several defendants who are being detained pending trial and others who have been granted bail have not been allowed to discuss the case with each other.

There were also various measures to keep family members to meet the defendants and observers from observing the proceedings. The measure is strict and strange to the point Anon, who is also a human rights lawyer wrote a declaration to the court that the judicial process they are undertaking does not take human dignity into account.

“This case has involved the destruction of human dignity, the use of the law to silence people, and many other forms of injustice. As a person who has studied the law and who practices as a lawyer, and as one of the citizens who aim to reform the monarchy, the defendant cannot continue to participate in this process. The defendant whose name is at the end of this petition therefore requests to withdraw legal representation and refuses this process,” Anon wrote.

After the statement was made, the Criminal Court published a press release, saying that the measure in the courtroom was due to the chaos during the trial on 15 March 2021 when some defendants and observers disregarded the rules by reading a statement, throwing objects or taking a photo within the room, which is prohibited. Therefore, the measure at the next trial on 29 March had to be made strictly.

In addition, the spread of Covid-19 during 7-8 April resulted in the court limiting the number of the attendance in order to apply to the social distancing measure. This results in the court allowing only those who related to the case to attend, numbering almost 50 consisting of defendants, the lawyer team, prosecutors and embassy representatives. However, the court has provided a room for relatives and observers to see the trial process via teleconference.

Despite not going into details about the prison officials, the statement insists that the court has allowed relatives, people, embassy representatives and media to attend the trial. It also grants the defendants full rights to talk with the lawyers and relatives and they can inform the judges if any inconveniences were found.

NewsArticle 112Section 112lèse majesté lawSomyot PruksakasemsukPatiwat SaraiyaemJatupat Boonpattararaksapro-democracy protest 2021monarcy reformPresumption of innocenceSource: prachatai.com/journal/2021/04/92501
Categories: Prachatai English

19 September protest defendants announce withdrawal of legal representation

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-04-10 14:56
Submitted on Sat, 10 Apr 2021 - 02:56 PMPrachatai

22 people facing charges relating to the protests on 19 – 20 September 2020, including 7 protest leaders facing lèse majesté charges, have withdrawn their legal representation in protest at court measures and treatment by prison officials which deny them the right to a fair and open trial.  

A part of Anon Nampa's written declaration saying "Denial of the process of injustice." 

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that, following the examination of evidence on Thursday (8 April) at the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road, 22 out of 23 defendants in the case declared that they intend to withdraw legal representation on the ground that the regulations and practices they experienced during the trial procedures do not facilitate a fair trial.

The 23 defendants in the case are Chinnawat  Chankrachang, Nawat Liangwattana, Nattapat Akhad, Thanachai Aurlucha, Thanop Amphawat, Thanee Sasom, Phattaraphong Noiphang, Sitthithat Chindarat, Suwanna Tallek, Anurak Jeantawanich, Nutchanon Pairoj, Atthapol Buaphat, Adisak Sombatkham, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Patiwat Saraiyaem, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Panupong Jadnok, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Chukiat Saengwong, and Chaiamorn Kaewwwiboonpan.

All of the defendants with the exception of Patiwat, requested to withdraw their legal representation and their lawyers requested to be released from their duties. The court has yet to rule on this request.

TLHR said that the defendants have not been allowed to speak to their lawyers individually and confidentially, as they were always under the control of prison officials. The names of the lawyers and defendants who are part of each hearing are strictly checked. Lawyers who would like to speak individually with the defendants have also been assaulted or had their telephones seized. Several defendants who are being detained pending trial and others who have been granted bail have not been allowed to discuss the case with each other.

Despite a request by Anon and Jatupat that the court order prison officials to respect their rights, the court said that it would do what it sees as appropriate and did not order prison officials to act with respect to the rights of the defendants or the lawyers.

There are also measures keeping family members and other individuals from observing the proceedings. TLHR said that those who came to observe the 8 April hearing had to register their names and ID numbers with court officials. The defendants’ family members were initially forbidden from even entering the court building and were told by court police that they do not have permission to enter the courtroom and it would be a waste of their time to try.

They were later told to wait in the arraignment room, so some of the relatives sat down on the stairs in front of the court building to express their disagreement. They had to wait for a long time before they were allowed up to the 7th floor, where the hearing took place. Panupong’s mother, who arrived after the others had already gone up, had to wait in front of the court while security guards radioed for permission for her to join them. She was also not allowed to give her son the glasses she had brought him and had to send them through prison officials.

The women’s bathroom on the 7th floor was also closed to everyone but court officials, and the area around the elevator was fenced off from the rest of the floor while court officials and guards patrolled the area inside and outside the courtroom. The relatives were also not allowed to sit in a nearby room, where there were chairs and air conditioning.

During the hearing on 7 April, the shops under the court building were closed, so food could not be bought for the detainees. Other defendants were not allowed to go downstairs to eat but officials brought food and drink to the court room due to Covid-19 restrictions. On 8 April, the defendants were taken downstairs to eat, but their families were not allowed to buy food for them.

These measures have been implemented despite the court not having ordered the case to be heard in secret, and the defendants and lawyers said they do not facilitate a fair and open trial.

Anon also wrote a declaration to the court saying that he would like to withdraw all legal representation on the ground that he has been denied bail and treated in ways which are degrading, that he cannot participate in a judicial process which is “carried out with fear and without taking human dignity into account.” He also wrote that the law has been used to silence the demands of the younger generation, that violence has been used to suppress protests, and that their detention will lead to fear in society and no one will dare to speak the truth.

“In this trial, our right to fully fight the case has been violated,” he wrote. “The courtroom has been made into a prison.” He then went onto say that the process is unconstitutional, and that the defendants and lawyers agreed that if they continue to participate in the procedure, they would be promoting a process of injustice.

“This case has involved the destruction of human dignity, the use of the law to silence people, and many other forms of injustice. As a person who has studied the law and who practices as a lawyer, and as one of the citizens who aim to reform the monarchy, the defendant cannot continue to participate in this process. The defendant whose name is at the end of this petition therefore requests to withdraw legal representation and refuses this process,” Anon wrote.

NewsThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Judicial processjudicial harassmentcriminal courtRight to a fair trial19 - 20 September protestSection 112Section 116lese majesteSeditionstudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

Women of Myanmar Call Immediate Global Action to End Military Rule

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-04-09 13:33
Submitted on Fri, 9 Apr 2021 - 01:33 PM Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)

The Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development (APWLD) and the Women's League of Burma (WLB) held a press conference with Kachin, Karen and Shan women on Thursday (8 April) to call on the international community for a monitoring and intervention mission to Burma/Myanmar, a comprehensive global arms embargo and ICC to recognise mass atrocities against peaceful protesters.

At a virtual press conference held today, women of Burma/Myanmar shared how the human rights situation is deteriorating in the country with continuous military offensives in ethnic areas, with recent airstrikes in Karen State and fighting in Kachin and Shan states. Since illegitimately claiming control of the country’s affairs on 1st February, the armed and security forces of the military coup council have waged violence against peacefully protesting civilians across Burma.

The General Secretary of Women’s League of Burma (WLB) said, “In a country that has experienced over 70 years of civil war, the abuse of power by the military is nothing new, especially for ethnic people who have been oppressed by the state for years. In the past two months, Burma has turned into a pool of blood as the world is watching and the military regime has continued committing all arbitrary acts of violence and atrocities with impunity. At least 43 women and girls have been killed.”

“While the military has brutally shot dead innocent civilians in urban areas, they are also launching air attacks and bombing the villages in Karen State. The airstrikes have displaced thousands of Karen civilians, and at least 14 people were killed and 40 more were injured, including women and children,” said a representative of Karen Women’s Organisation (KWO).

A representative of Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) shared, “The military coup will have the deepest impact on those who are already marginalised due to the decades of civil war and ongoing human rights violations committed by Burmese military. Humanitarian aid must be closely monitored to ensure that it benefits the conflict-affected ethnic communities and not the military. At the same time they need to make sure that all women and girls get access to basic reproductive health services.”

Since the early 50s, Shan State’s countryside has been a killing field and civilians have been caught in the crossfire. A representative of Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN) said, “Now Burma’s killing fields have extended to urban areas. Every day, the security forces of the military coup council have shot, killed and arrested the innocent civilians including women and children across the country. Now they are also destroying and looting people’s properties.”

“State has the obligation to protect its own people. Inside Burma, this responsibility is clearly failing. It is time for the international community to immediately exercise its universal, collective responsibility to protect the peoples of Burma from the ongoing state-sponsored ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Only then it will be proved how committed the UN and its member states are to the fundamental principles and purposes of the UN Charter. We need international solidarity – and your action counts,” said Misun Woo, Regional Coordinator of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).

The women came together for a call for collective action from the international community:

To immediately dispatch a well-equipped monitoring and intervention mission to Myanmar/Burma to end the state sponsored human rights violations being perpetrated against civilians exercising their rights to peaceful assembly.

To institute a comprehensive global arms embargo on Myanmar/Burma, to end the direct and indirect supply sale or transfer of all weapons and other military equipment that may be used for training, intelligence and military assistance.

To refer Military coup council members and personnel to the ICC for their mass atrocities against peaceful protesters, ethnic Kachin, Karen, Shan, Rohingya, Rakhine and other civilians.

Pick to PostAsia Pacific Forum on Womenlawand Development (APWLD)Women's League of Burma (WLB)Myanmarstate violence
Categories: Prachatai English

9 protesters charged with breaching the Emergency Decree and lèse majesté

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-04-09 12:02
Submitted on Fri, 9 Apr 2021 - 12:02 PMPrachatai

As Covid-19 infections spread in pubs and bars, 9 people who gave speeches at the 24 March protest at Ratchaprasong intersection have been charged with violating the Emergency Decree.

9 Protesters reporting themselve at Lumpini Police Station on 8 April.

Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon, one of the leading pro-democracy protest figures who gave a speech addressing monarchy reform on that day was also charged with violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the royal defamation law.

Pro-democracy protesters return to Ratchaprasong

10 people were summoned to Lumpini Police Station on 8 April to hear the charges: Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon, Chatchai Kaedam, Yingcheep Atchanont, Chinnawat Chankrachang, Thanaporn Wichan, Benja Apan, Chumaporn Taengkliang, Khanaphot (surname withheld by request), Atthapol Buapat and Natthida Meewangpla.

The investigator stated that the 10 were engaged in an activity that caused a crowd to gather, posing a threat of Covid-19 infection, which constitutes a violation of the Emergency Decree. All suspects denied the charges and will submit documentary evidence on 23 April. They were released without bail.

Atthapol did not report to the police station with the others as he had to attend court for his trial regarding his involvement in the 19-20 September 2020 protest at Thammasat University and Sanam Luang.

Patsaravalee said she understood that the authorities would use every measure to undermine protests, which may not succeed because the people have heard the reason why they [the protestors who gave speeches] came out. The speakers insisted that what they said was correct.

Patsaravalee said that the ongoing enforcement of the Emergency Decree and Communicable Diseases Law is not meant to solve the Covid-19 problem but to suppress people who think differently. The new surge of infections is also not from the common people.

The new wave of infections appears to stem largely from pubs and bars in the Thong Lo area of Bangkok. Saksayam Chidchob, Bhumjai Thai Party Secretary-General and the Minister of Transport, Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, Public Relations Department Director General and 2 high-ranking soldiers reportedly tested positive.

Current infections are spreading among celebrities and the political and military elite. Some are suspected of enjoying the nightlife at bars in Thong Lo without announcing to the public after they tested positive, or meeting those who have been there. Saksayam denied that he went to a bar in Thong Lor and provided a timeline for his whereabouts from 24-31 March.

Since the surge of pro-democracy protests in July 2020, no cases of Covid-19 infection from the protest sites has been reported.

NewsPatsaravalee Tanakitvibulponpro-democracy protest 2021Ratchaprasong intersectionCOVID-19Emergency Decreelèse majesté lawSection 112Article 112Source: prachatai.com/journal/2021/04/92478
Categories: Prachatai English

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