Prachatai English

13-year-old girl’s escape from forced marriage highlights the neglected issue of Thailand’s child brides

Prachatai English - Fri, 2019-11-15 17:24
Submitted on Fri, 15 Nov 2019 - 05:24 PMAnna Lawattanatrakul

The Chiang Rai-based NGO Center for Girls has revealed that they have managed to help a 13-year-old girl escape a forced marriage with a 50-year-old man after the girl contacted them in March 2018.

Chitraporn Vanaspong, Chairperson of the Center’s Board, posted on Facebook on 8 November that the Center received a note from a young girl, who for reasons of privacy will be referred to as Nu Na, asking for help as she said that she was being forced by her parents to marry a 50-year-old man as soon as she finishes Year 6 (Pathom 6).

“I don’t want to get married yet. I want to keep going to school,” said Nu Na’s letter. “My mom is forcing me to get married, but I don’t want to. I want a scholarship so that I can keep going to school. I want to go to school outside. Help me. I want to go to school.”

The letter from Nu Na to the Center for Girls

Nu Na’s close friend had taken part in a Center workshop on children’s rights in which they talked about child marriage as a violation of children’s rights. According to Chitraporn, Nu Na’s friend told her to seek help and was the one who delivered the letter – a very clear demonstration of what can come from educating children about their rights.

Nunnaree Luangmoi, founder and director for the Center for Girls, said that Nu Na’s family had financial problems, and that her parents owed the man money. Nunnaree said that the man may have given Nu Na’s parents the ultimatum that if they couldn’t pay him back, they should give him their daughter instead, which could be why Nu Na was being forced to marry him.

However, Nunnaree said that the Center does not have the authority to separate children from their parents, and in Nu Na’s case, the government said that they could not help because nothing had happened to her yet. Since they cannot take Nu Na away from her family, a team from the Center went to see the man, who lives in a different district, because the assistant village chief told them that the man was regularly visiting Nu Na. He had bought her a mobile phone, and Nu Na’s mother had been urging him to take her out.

Chitraporn said that the team that went to talk to the man included a police officer and an officer from a children and family shelter with them. They took a copy of the Criminal Code and explained to the man the legal penalties he would be facing if he married the child. Chitraporn said that the man denied everything, saying that he did not think about Nu Na in that way, that he only liked her and bought her a cell phone because she was a good student.

At that time, Nu Na was 13 years old, a minor under Thai law and below the age of consent. According to Section 317 of the Thai Criminal Code, whoever, without reasonable cause, takes away a child not yet over fifteen years of age from the parent, guardian or person looking after such child, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years and a fine of six thousand to thirty thousand baht. Moreover, Section 279 also states that committing “indecent” acts on a child younger than fifteen, whether with the child’s consent or not, carries a prison sentence of not more than ten years or a fine of not more than twenty thousand baht, or both.

Section 277 also states that whoever has sexual intercourse with a girl not yet over fifteen years of age and not being his own wife, whether the girl consents or not, shall be punished with imprisonment of four to twenty years and fined eight thousand to forty thousand baht. If the offence is committed against a girl not yet over thirteen years of age, the offender shall be punished with imprisonment of seven to twenty years and a fine fourteen thousand to forty thousand baht, or imprisonment for life.

Students during a discussion on gender in a Center for Girls workshop (Source: Center for Girls)

According to Chitraporn, one of Nu Na’s older sisters had already been married off. Chitraporn also said that the parents were violent toward their children, and that the parents insisted that because Nu Na is their child, they can do anything with her. They have been talking to the parents for several months.

Finally, when the Center was organizing a children’s camp in the village, Nu Na ran to them and asked to go with them, saying she is not staying there anymore. At that point, they had to bring Nu Na to the Center, before working on sending her to a children’s shelter and talking to the parents.

Despite the difficulties, they were able to convince the parents to let Nu Na leave home and go to school. Nu Na has now been referred to a shelter, where she now lives and has transportation to go to a nearby school.

Chitraporn said that when they visited Nu Na 2 months ago, Nu she seemed to be doing fine. She said that she does not miss home, and that she wanted to continue studying until she finishes Year 9 (Mathayom 3), and then she will think about what to do next.

Chitraporn said that Nu Na is smart, but she does not want to pursue higher education. She wants to finish school quickly so that she could earn money to care for her family.

The hidden problem of Thailand’s child brides

Nu Na is not the first girl faced with being forced into a marriage, and she is not likely to be the last. In June 2018, reports of the marriage of an 11-year-old girl from Narathiwat, referred to as “Ayu” in a report in The Guardian, to a 41-year-old Malaysian man triggered a public outcry in Malaysia after one of his wives lodged a complaint with the police, making the union public.

Ayu is a Thai citizen but lived with her parents in Malaysia. Malaysian rubber scrap dealer Che Abdul Karim Che Hamid reportedly married her as his third wife in Thailand in a Muslim wedding ceremony which skirted both Thai and Malaysian marriage laws. He reportedly already had two wives and six children before he married the girl, and claimed that his marriage was lawful and approved by the girl’s parents.

However, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said that the marriage was illegal as it had not been approved by a Shariah court, and that officials have launched an investigation to see whether Ayu’s parents agreed to the marriage because of their poverty.

According to Wan Azizah, the mother asked the man not to consummate the marriage until the girl turned 16, something the Imam who married them also made him promise, but reportedly to no effect, according to medical tests.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (Source: BenarNews)

According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), child marriage, early union, and teen pregnancy continue to rise in some Southeast Asian countries and are not falling rapidly enough in others, which represent significant challenges to young persons’ rights and sustainable development that governments and civil society organisations are seeking to urgently address in partnership with UN agencies.

UNFPA reported that the percentage of women in the region aged 20 to 24 who were married or in a union before 18 ranges from 35.4% in Laos PDR to 11% in Vietnam.

In Thailand, a 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) of 14 provinces conducted by UNICEF and the National Statistical Office (NSO) found that, on average, 4% of Thai women are married by the age of 15 and 23% are married by the age of 18. The survey also found that women are more likely than men to marry before age 15 and 18.

Thailand's child marriage rates (Source: Girlsnotbrides)

Nunnaree said that there are many factors that lead to a child being married off. She said that in some families, the parents often have many children so that they can help with work and household chores. She also said that sometimes the parents cannot afford to send their children to school after they finish Year 6 (Pathom 6). Even though there are no tuition fees, not every village has a middle or high school, and so travel, food, and clothing represent costs which some families cannot afford.

According to a report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the World Health Organization (WHO), child, early, and forced marriage is detrimental to child development, both to the child bride herself and to any children born to the young mother.

Girls who marry at a young age has a higher risk of violence and abuse, persistent poverty, and are especially vulnerable to sexual and reproductive health problems, as well as complications in pregnancy and childbirth. They are more likely to experience domestic violence and forced sexual relations, and are often missed out on opportunities for empowerment and education.

“In the Northern region, like I said, there are many factors which forced the parents or family to do this. Really, they don’t want to do it,” Nunnaree told Prachatai. “But there are beliefs and a mindset that it could be a good thing if the child is married to a good man, or a rich man who is older, or that the child would then be able to improve the family’s situation. There are those kinds of ideas.”

“We have not been collecting statistics. We only have the information when someone asks for help. Even if it’s not common, if it happens to a child, it is still considered a serious violation,” said Nunnaree.

There are legal mechanisms available to invalidate child marriage. Section 1503 of the Civil and Commercial Code states that an application can be made to the court for cancellation of a marriage if the spouses have not complied with Sections 1448, 1505, 1506, 1507 and 1509.

Section 1448 specifies the minimum age of marriage at 17. Section 1507 states that a marriage is voidable if it is made by the spouses on account of duress to such an extent that without it the marriage would not have been made. And Section 1509 states that parental consent is required for a minor to be married.

Section 1458 also states that a marriage can only take place if both parties “agree to take each other as husband and wife, and such agreement must be declared publicly before the Registrar in order to have it recorded by the Registrar.” According to Section 1495, marriage made without spousal consent as required by Section 1458 shall be void.

According to the Bangkok Post, Ayu was sent back to Thailand from Malaysia in August 2018 and was placed under the care of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.

Nevertheless, the problem remains. “The biggest problem with child marriage in Thailand is that nobody wants to talk about it – not the Islamic Council, not the imams and not the government,” Wannakanok Pohitaedaoh, who was forced into a violent marriage at 13 and now runs the Luk Riang children’s shelter in Narathiwat, told The Guardian. “It has always been swept under the rug, and that’s where they want it to stay.”

Children’s rights activist Anchana Heemmina said that the Thai government does not want to deal with the issue, pushing responsibility back to the provincial Islamic Councils. “They don’t want to provoke the communities,” Anchana told The Guardian, adding that their reluctance is rooted in sensitivity over self-determination for Islamic communities in the deep south of Thailand, which means that any policy implemented by the government in Bangkok can become a cause of friction.

But in December 2018, the Straits Times reported that the Central Islamic Council of Thailand (CICOT) has issued a new regulation which bans children under the age of 17 from marriage. The new regulation ensures that local mosques cannot grant permission for marriages involving anyone aged under 17 unless an Islamic court gives permission or the parents sign a document approving the marriage at the provincial Islamic committee office or at a local police station.

Back in Chiang Rai, despite Nu Na’s case being considered a major success, the Center for Girls did not receive much support in their attempt to help her. Chitraporn said that the provincial child protection service initially did not want to take Nu Na away from her family, but wanted the Center to monitor the situation, since the service operated on the principle that it would be easier to take the child away “if she has already been raped.”

This goes against what the Center felt was right, because at that time the man was still visiting Nu Na, so they wrote a letter to the Director-General of the Department of Children and Youth in Bangkok. Chitraporn said that the Director-General redirected their letter to the provincial office, telling them to take care of the case. The provincial child protection service now became annoyed that the Center had taken the matter to their superior instead of discussing it “in [their] own province”. Chitraporn said that intervention from the central government is limited, since the case workers are personnel at the provincial level.

Chitraporn also said that the family did not understand why the Center was “messing with their family’s affairs.” When they were negotiating with Nu Na’s parents so that they would allow her to go live elsewhere and attend school, her mother became angry and swept dust and cobweb all over the team who went to talk to the parents. Chitraporn said that, seeing that the mother was angry, the community leaders left the representative from the Center and a police officer to face Nu Na’s parents alone while they waited in front of the house.

Chitraporn said that community leaders agreed with the Center’s attempt to challenge the parents’ authority but often keep their distance. She said that they often have the mindset that they cannot interfere in a family’s affairs and that the parents can do anything to their children, so they rarely exercise their legal authority as child protection officers.

Meanwhile, the man who Nu Na was going to be forced to marry went to the subdistrict headman after his meeting with the team from the Center and complained to the headman about why they were “meddling in his business.”

Nevertheless, Chitraporn said that one of the factors that led to the case’s success was Nu Na’s own strength. She said that Nu Na has a very clear idea of what she wants in life. Even though she felt guilty at first that she may have been ungrateful to her parents, when the team from the Center explained her rights to her, Nu Na understood and did not back down.

Chitraporn said that what made Nu Na’s case a major success is that they were able to help her escape before anything happened, which means that they were successful in their prevention and monitoring strategy. She said that if the child had already been violated, it takes a lot of funds and time in order to work on remedies and the healing process for the child, so it is better to prevent than to cure.

In 2017, Plan International conducted research on child, early, and forced marriage in 14 Asian countries, including Thailand. They recommended that the following actions be taken in order to tackle child, early, and forced marriage across Asia:

  1. Strength regional and national programmes and policies to address all sustainable development goals (SDGs), including SDG5, which is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, with equal urgency
  2. Develop and implement effective legislation to prohibit and discourage child marriage
  3. Strengthen civil registration and vital statistics systems
  4. Improve girls’ access to quality primary and secondary education
  5. Support economic and livelihood opportunities for young people, especially girls
  6. Provide age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health and rights information and services
  7. Engage and work with parents, teachers, community leaders, and faith-based organisations
  8. Support boys and girls who are already married
  9. Involve girls and boys in decision-making processes that affect them.
FeatureChild MarriageChildren's rightsCenter for GirlsChiang RaiChitraporn VanaspongNunnaree Luangmoi
Categories: Prachatai English

Thailand: Two lawyers subjected to legal harassment for their defense of human rights researcher

Prachatai English - Wed, 2019-11-13 18:33
Submitted on Wed, 13 Nov 2019 - 06:33 PMInternational Commission of Jurists

12 November 2019 - The ICJ condemned the use of civil proceedings to harass Nakorn Chompuchart and Sira Osottham, lawyers representing labour rights researcher Andy Hall.

The ICJ called on Thailand to take measures to protect lawyers so that they can perform their duties without intimidation, harassment or improper interference.

On 12 November 2019, the Bangkok Civil Court conducted its first hearing in a tort case under the Civil and Commercial Code by a Thai fruit processing company, Natural Fruit Company Ltd. (‘the Company’), against the lawyers. The two lawyers represent Andy Hall in several criminal and civil proceedings brought against him seeking damages claimed to have resulted from his research into labour rights abuses allegedly committed by the Company.  In the lawsuit against the lawyers, the Company is seeking 50 million Thai baht (approximately 1.65 million USD) as compensation for lost business.

“This legal action is part of a pattern of harassment by Natural Fruit against Andy Hall,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia Pacific Regional Director. “It is a bedrock principle of the rule of law that lawyers should not be identified with their clients or their clients causes as a result of discharging their function.”

In the complaint, Natural Fruit claims that Andy Hall and his lawyers “excessively exercise their rights”, “intentionally damage the Company’s reputation”, and “caused financial loss in their business” when they brought a case in 2017 against the Company, the Company’s lawyers, and public prosecutor for allegedly “giving false testimony” and “filing false complaint” in other criminal proceedings.  The case was dismissed by the Supreme Court who was of the view that the Company exercised their right in good faith.

“This is not the first time in Thailand that lawyers have faced the unwarranted threat of criminal or civil prosecution when representing their clients,” said Rawski. “As with the criminal proceedings brought against Sirikan “June” Charoensiri for her professional activities as a lawyer, such vexatious actions set a precedent that endangers the ability of lawyers to effectively represent their clients. The government must take prompt and effective measures to ensure that the safety and independence of lawyers is guaranteed in law and in practice.”

 

Background

This case was also initially brought against Andy Hall, but was later withdrawn because the Court could not send court writs to Andy as he does not reside in Thailand.

Criminal and civil proceedings have brought against Andy Hall were in relation to the report of a Finnish NGO, Finnwatch, published in January 2013, called Cheap Has a High Price, which alleged that labour rights violations were taking place at Natural Fruit Company.

Thailand is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 14 of the ICCPR guarantees the right of the clients of the concerned lawyers to an effective defence.

UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers also provides that “governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference” and “shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.” Moreover, lawyers should not be identified with their clients or their clients causes as a result of discharging their function.

Pick to PostInternational Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
Categories: Prachatai English

Asia Centre Launches Journalism for an Equitable Asia Award.

Prachatai English - Wed, 2019-11-13 13:16
Submitted on Wed, 13 Nov 2019 - 01:16 PMTara Abhasakun

On Friday (8 November)the Asia Centre launched the new Journalism for an Equitable Asia Award.

Nominations for the award will be open starting November 15, and closed on January 31. The award ceremony will be held from March 27-28.

The award aims to recognize “journalists who report to fight the injustice of inequality and poverty.”

The launch included a panel discussion by four journalists and academics about the role of journalism and media in promoting more equitable societies in Asia.

The first panelist was Dr. Jessada Salathong, a lecturer at the Faculty of Communication Arts at Chulalongkorn University. Salathong’s primary area of interest discussed was reporting on climate change, and why marginalized communities and women are most impacted by it.

The second panelist was Supinya Klangnarong, a media rights advocate. Klangnarong spoke about the decline of traditional media, and the disconnect between activists and social media, which she said must be fixed. Specifically, she said that many of her colleagues who tried to “be a voice for the voiceless” were not experienced in using platforms such as Twitter, and therefore had trouble getting their message across society.

The third panelist was Shaikh Ashfaque Zaman, a Bangladeshi journalist and researcher at BRAC, a research NGO. Zaman spoke about the need for researchers to compile data into facts that the public can understand.

The final panelist was Max Lawson, head of Inequality Policy at Oxfam International. Lawson joined the panel via Skype from his location in Nairobi, Kenya. Lawson spoke about the need for journalists who cover inequality to not only cover the lives of the poorest people, but also the richest. He argued that in order to fight poverty, the world’s wealthiest people must be held accountable. Facts about how much money the wealthiest people have in proportion to the poorest must be publicized, he said.

The panel was followed by a Q&A session. Questions included, “How can journalists avoid romanticizing poverty?” and, for Dr. Salathong specifically, “What are you teaching your students while we are in such a fragmented time for journalism?” Salathong explained that many traditional departments of media are losing popularity. For three years, he said, zero students have enrolled in print media, and the second least popular field of study is broadcast. He had to change the name of the broadcast department to, “on-screen performance.” Currently, Salathong said, he has a student who told him, “I want to be a beauty influencer.” Salathong said that students no longer want to work for big media companies, and it was exhausting for him as a faculty to continuously update curricula based on aspirations of young people in modern-day journalism. He said, “We have to disrupt ourselves to keep up with this trend.”

The panel concluded with each panelist except for Lawson, as he did not attend in person, being presented with gifts as a token of appreciation for their time.

NewsJournalism for an Equitable Asia AwardAsia CentreJessada SalathongSupinya KlangnarongShaikh Ashfaque ZamanMax Lawson
Categories: Prachatai English

Victory for trans students at Chulalongkorn University

Prachatai English - Wed, 2019-11-13 12:31
Submitted on Wed, 13 Nov 2019 - 12:31 PMPrachatai

Chulalongkorn University has finally amended its uniform regulations to allow students to dress according to their gender identity, after a group of students earlier this year filed a request for this and a complaint against a Faculty of Education lecturer.

Jirapat Techakijvekin (second from right) when she went to file the petition with the Committee on Consideration of Unfair Gender Discrimination

An announcement from Chulalongkorn University dated 7 November 2019 said that the University has approved the amendment to its uniform regulations, which now clearly states that “students may wear the uniform according to the gender they have been assigned at birth or according to their gender identity,” allowing students to dress accordingly in class, in examinations, or at formal events.

Prior to this amendment, Chulalongkorn University had no official protocol for transgender students wishing to dress according to their gender identity. Students had to file individual requests with the University in order to graduate in the clothing that matches their gender identity or to dress according to their gender identity in class and in examinations. While the University has been allowing students to graduate in the dress that matches their gender identity, it is rare for students to file requests to do this for class or examinations. The request process is also complicated, requiring a large amount of paperwork, including a medical certificate stating that they have a “gender identity disorder.” Students are also often unaware that it is possible to make such a request or how to go about it.

While many lecturers will not punish or pressure trans students into dressing according to the gender they were assigned at birth, students still face discrimination or transphobic comments from some members of staff, especially in faculties which are perceived as more ‘conservative’, such as the Faculty of Education, where students have often been threatened with disciplinary action. The amendment to the uniform regulations may mean that trans students can no longer be accused of violating university regulations and will no longer have to file individual uniform requests. However, it may not end discrimination on the individual level.

In January 2019, Jirapat Techakijvekin, a student at the Faculty of Education, filed an appeal with the University’s grievance committee after the Faculty Board of Administrators overturned permission for her to wear the uniform for female students and ordered her to dress as male or face extreme penalties. Jirapat said that she filed a formal request with the Faculty in September 2017, and in December of the same year, she was informed by the Faculty that permission has been granted only for it to be overturned on 11 January 2019.

Jirapat also said that she faced transphobic comments from Niran Sangsawat, a special instructor, in November 2018. Niran reportedly told her to either dress as male for his next class, or not come to class at all. He also told her that being transgender is just like being insane, and said to her: “it is good enough that we’re allowing you to study instead of sending you to an asylum.” He also allegedly told Jirapat that he would be asking the Faculty to reconsider her case, after which the Faculty’s decision on her request was overturned.

Other students also came forward on social media to say that generations of students for the past 35 years have faced discriminatory behaviour while in Niran’s class. Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal also launched a Change.Org campaign calling for the Faculty of Education to take disciplinary action against Niran. However, it is unclear whether the Faculty will be taking any action.

Jirapat and two other students also went to the Department of Women’s Affairs and Family Development (DWF) on 29 January 2019 to file a formal complaint with the Committee on Consideration of Unfair Gender Discrimination. Under Section 18 of Thailand’s Gender Equality Act, any person who thinks that they have suffered from gender-based discrimination may file a complaint with the Gender Discrimination Committee, which has the authority to ensure that appropriate actions are taken to end and prevent discrimination, and to ensure that there will be compensation and remedy for the injured party.

A letter dated 18 February 2019 from the University to Jirapat stated that, while the University’s Office of Students Affairs is in the process of amending the uniform regulations so that it will be in accordance with the Gender Equality Act, the university granted Jirapat permission to wear the uniform for female students. The amendment to the uniform regulations was finally announced yesterday (11 November).

The Thai LGBT community faces daily cases of discrimination and inequality, most living under strong pressure not to bring shame to their family, while the country’s tourism authority advertises Thailand as being a queer-friendly destination, even launching the “Go Thai, Be Free” campaign, hoping to attract LGBT tourists. Bangkok has been called “Asia’s gay capital” and is known for its gay nightlife scene, transgender beauty queens, and gender confirmation surgery. However, even with the Gender Equality Act of 2015, there is very little legal support for the LGBT community.

And even if homosexuality is no longer a crime under Thai law, the LGBT community still faces discrimination in the workplace, school, and in the home. There are reports of LGBT people being denied promotion or fired from their jobs after disclosing their sexuality, or questioned inappropriately about their sexual orientation and gender identity during interviews. LGBT students face harassment and bullying from their teachers and peers based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Transgender inmates in Thai prison have difficulties accessing hormone treatment, and many faced a condition known as “double imprisonment” when transwomen who have not undergone gender affirmation surgery are held in a segregated area inside men’s prisons.

Thailand currently lacks a gender recognition law, preventing transgender people from changing their title. It also does not have a marriage equality law, meaning that same-sex couples cannot be legally married, leading to other issues, such as not being able to adopt children or to make medical decisions on behalf of one’s partner.

On 22 August, parliament also voted not to support a proposal to set up a separate Standing Committee on LGBT rights. Instead, LGBT rights will be subsumed under the Standing Committee on children, young people, women, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and ethnic groups.

NewsChulalongkorn Universitystudent uniformLGBT rightsDiscrimination against LGBTCommittee on Consideration of Unfair Gender Discriminationtransgender rights
Categories: Prachatai English

The Lam Phaya attack and the peace talk– what was the signal?

Prachatai English - Tue, 2019-11-12 14:34
Submitted on Tue, 12 Nov 2019 - 02:34 PMAbu Hafez Al-Hakim

Abu Hafez Al-Hakim is the spokesperson for MARA Patani who is directly involved in the peace talk. This article reflects his personal views and not the official view of MARA Patani.

 

Royal Thai Army Region 4 joined the funeral of 15 people killed on 5 November 2019.

When we gathered to discuss the latest issues and development in the Deep South a fortnight ago, someone casually asked: why has there been no (violent) incidences lately? Everything seems quite. Another person answered: usually, there’s a calm before the storm.  

Then the answer was confirmed on the night of 5th November 2019  at  Lam Phaya, a village in  Yala province, 18 kilometres from the city centre. The incidence was widely reported. It was a storm indeed, of firepowers and blood.

That was not the first time a security unit manned by ill-equipped and ill-trained personals being targeted. The previous one was in the Muang District of Pattani a few months ago.

Some considered the village volunteers as soft targets while others considered them legitimate ones since they were trained and armed. Whatever they may be, they seemed to be “easy targets” by the armed group to top up their arms supply, compared to regular or specially trained soldiers. The policy of training and arming civilians (farmers by day soldiers by night) by Thai security apparatus on the pretext of village self-defence has backfired.   

Naturally, all fingers point to the BRN (Barisan Revolusi Nasional), the most dominant liberation movement for Patani independence. Based on the modus operandi and the previous track records, I tend to agree, pending official investigation result by the authorities.

The next FAQ is, if it was the work of BRN, apart from the “business goes as usual” operation, what signal was the BRN trying to send across to the other party i.e. the Thai state? Was it a mere retaliation or has it got anything to do with the current dwindling peace process and the ongoing new initiative to resume/revive another round of peace dialogue? 

We now know that when the first official dialogue started at Kuala Lumpur in February 2013(dialogue 1) the Patani Malay movements were represented by Ustaz Hassan Taib from the BRN as the chief negotiator. Unfortunately, the much publicised peace process lasted for only nine months when both sides faced internal problems: The BRN was not happy with the process when its five demands were ignored, prompting them to stripped Hassan off his post, while Thailand was in a political turmoil that led to military takeover months later. 

The peace talks resumed (dialogue 2) when the military-led government initiated the so-called “Happiness process” rather than the peace process, in December 2014. This time around the Patani movements grouped themselves to form MARA Patani (Patani Consultative Council) consisting of five liberation movements. The mainstream BRN stayed away from the pact and the dialogue table while some of its members participated in the process. Another member of BRN, Ustaz Shukri Hari was appointed as the head of the MARA Patani dialogue team.

Both sides started with the confidence-building measures: drafting the Terms of Reference (TOR), jointly designed the General Framework for Safety Zones (SZ), the establishment of The Safe House (SH) and the formation of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) at the ground level. All had been accepted and agreed.

By April 2018 the Safety Zones at the district of Cho Ai-Rong as the pilot project was ready to kick start. However, the Thai side was not ready to sign the agreement for certain “reasons” while MARA Patani opined that signing was necessary for the safety and security of its members.  It was a deadlock. The implementation of SZ was put on hold.

When there was a change of government in Malaysia after the May 2018 general election, the facilitator was replaced. Thailand also appointed a new chief negotiator, General Udomchai Thammasarorat, who then sought for direct engagement with the Patani movements, especially the mainstream BRN.  However, at least on two occasions, the mainstream BRN turned down General Udomchai’s request for a preliminary meeting. As the effort proved futile he had to return to face MARA Patani at the table.

 A misunderstanding occurred on the first proposed meeting date in early February at Kuala Lumpur. It prompted Ustaz Shukri to call off the meeting and postponed it until after the upcoming Thai election scheduled in March 2019. Another deadlock. Finally, the process stalled and stopped. General Udomchai would be remembered as the chief Thai negotiator who had never sat at the dialogue table.  Nevertheless, the technical teams met briefly in early August 2019.      

All these while, the mainstream BRN, who was not on board, has been closely monitoring the dialogue through its proxies. From time to time its Information officer issued statements affirming their stance and opinion on the peace process. Among others, they stressed on international norm and standard of the peace process with foreign involvement, the credibility and the impartiality of the mediator, a road map and the design of the process mutually drawn and the sincerity of the Thai government to officially recognise its dialogue partner.

As usual, Thailand ignored them. Whenever there was any violent incidence in the Deep South, or sometimes outside, it was usually interpreted as the BRN trying to flex its muscles and sending a constant reminder to the Thai state to be committed and sincere in the peace talks. Could the Lam Phaya attack be another signal?

Of late there have been rumours that the mainstream BRN is ready to return to the table in Kuala Lumpur after MARA Patani and Thailand had relatively failed to make significant progress in the dialogue.  It is too soon, however, to ascertain whether the BRN will come solo or will let other groups tag along. Internal communication amongst the ranks and files of liberation movements’ high officials is supposedly underway. Whether a new coalition is expected to surface, or the existing MARA Patani will continue its role remains to be seen. 

As a person who is directly involved in the peace talks, I personally do not see the political will and sincere commitment from the government of Thailand (especially the military guided administration) for real peace in the Deep South. Recently General Udomchai was dismissed and General Wallop Raksanoh has been appointed in his place. I would like to suggest that Thailand reviews and revaluates its stance and policy pertaining to its limitation and concern in certain issues that hinder the peace process from moving forward. Perhaps this article by a Thai academic could be an eye-opener towards the realistic approach the government can adopt if it wants true peace. 

A few days ago a statement was posted in the Facebook by “BRN Barisan Revolusi National” (National instead of Nasional) clarifying its stance and motive behind the military operations.

Although it was not issued by the usual Information Department of BRN through its spokesman (Abdul Karim Khalid), I think it is authentic based on its content and timing. Lam Phaya was not specifically mentioned but in between the lines, the BRN has indirectly acknowledged its involvement in the attack. The message and the signal were clear.

The cards now are in the hands of the Thai administration whether they would respond accordingly to the BRN’s proposals and give the peace process a momentum to move forward or trash them away and let the Deep South burn in flame. If that is the case Lam Phaya will not be the last.

10 November 2019

 

OpinionDeep SouthMARA PataniBRNInternal Security Operations Command (ISOC)
Categories: Prachatai English

Climate of Apathy

Prachatai English - Tue, 2019-11-12 13:50
Submitted on Tue, 12 Nov 2019 - 01:50 PMHarrison George

On Nov 5 another climate change report came out.  Yawn.

But this one made the news.  Not because of the information it contained.  This was just a distillation of countless earlier papers, many of them compilations of yet more reports.

But there were 2 newsworthy features in this report.

One was the language used.  Science reporters noted that this was not the dispassionate prosaic prose of academia but more like the language of advocacy.  The first sentence, for example, ends with “tell it like it is” (the quotation marks are theirs – they don’t get that uncorseted), a phrase straight from the discourse of the reality-challenged Trump base.

The other was the number of signatories.  The paper is just 5 pages, including lots of graphs (and soon to appear in a Thai translation, I am told, so you have no excuse for not reading it).  But the list of people who signed it runs to 324 pages.  There are 11,258 scientist signatories from 153 countries. 

And basically the message is: We’ve been telling you for 40 years that everything’s going whoopsy.  If anything, we’ve downplayed the problem.  But collectively you’ve done eff all about it and look where you have got us now.  There’s still a slim chance that things can change but you must act now and here are 6 areas when you can still make a difference.

Thailand is listed among the countries with signatories.

So is Cambodia with 2 names; Lao with 3; Viet Nam with 7; the Philippines with 10; Malaysia with 14; and Indonesia with 18. 

Thailand has 4. 

And 2 of them are farangs. 

Only 2 Thai climate scientists could be bothered to sign?  2?  TWO??  What the proverbial?

Now I have to admit, I did not scan every name and there may be Thais affiliated with institutions outside Thailand who also signed.  As there could with Cambodia and Lao.

But 2?  With hundreds of universities, thousands of tertiary education programmes and hundreds of thousands of university-level students, this is the best that the country can do?

Next time you read some PR puffery about a Thai university crawling up one of these international league tables of educational excellence, keep this in mind.  However well they manage to game the algorithm that will determine their ranking, by hiring more PhD teachers, by bullying them into more publications or whatever, they couldn’t really give a left-handed about what more than 11,000 scientists claim is the greatest existential threat that this planet has ever faced.

As goes the education system, so goes the nation.

The UK is about to have an election, caused by the Brexit conundrum.  And while Brexit is naturally a lead issue, already the climate crisis is emerging as major concern of voters.  Now compare Thailand’s election last March.  Remember how much the climate crisis featured in that campaign?  No, neither can I.

Or how about the budget which has just been debated in parliament?  Do you recall global heating being discussed?  They did discuss boosting spending on tourism and roads, both of which will directly increase greenhouse gas emissions.  The general mindset was ‘growth is good’ so let’s engineer as much of it as we can and the environmental consequences be damned. 

This past week, hands have been wrung over the layoffs in the manufacturing sector, and this is awful news for those suffering the consequences.  But the biggest hits have been taken in the automotive sector.  And the knee-jerk reaction has been how to get the same workers back into the same factories producing the same products that will ultimately make this planet uninhabitable.

Institutionally, it begins to look like this country just doesn’t really care about the climate crisis.  Or at least only to an infinitesimal degree.  How infinitesimal?

Sometime Thailand resident Malcolm Pryce has written a series of Welsh noir novels about a fictional private detective in the real Welsh town of Aberystwyth.  They have spoof titles like ‘Aberystwyth Mon Amour’ and ‘Don’t Cry for Me Aberystwyth’ and I strongly recommend them for anyone who enjoys Welsh humour.  Or noir.

Aberystwyth has 16,000 inhabitants and a university.  I checked the list of signatories to the climate change report.  Aberystwyth University has 2, or exactly as many as Thailand with a population of 69 million and 170 universities.

‘Don’t Cry for Me Aberysctwyth’, but please cry for Thailand.

Alien ThoughtsClimate Emergency
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Berlin wall anniversary

Prachatai English - Sat, 2019-11-09 00:00
Submitted on Sat, 9 Nov 2019 - 12:00 AMStephff

Stephff's cartoon on occasion of the 2019 Berlin wall anniversary date. 

MultimediaStephffBerlin wall
Categories: Prachatai English

[Event] Living in Truth amidst the Lies: The Life and Ideas of Václav Havel

Prachatai English - Fri, 2019-11-08 22:00
Submitted on Fri, 8 Nov 2019 - 10:00 PM

Office of Academic Resources, Chulalongkorn University, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Bangkok, cordially invites interested public to attend a panel discussion on the topic of

 

Living in Truth amidst the Lies: The Life and Ideas of Václav Havel

 

held as part of the launch of the Thai translation of Václav Havel’s Letter to Dr Husák and as part of the opening ceremony of an exhibition commemorating the 25th anniversary of Václav Havel’s visit to Chulalongkorn University

Date:

Monday 25 November 2019

Time:

14.00-16.00 hrs

Venue:

Office of Academic Resources, Chulalongkorn University [Central Library]

Programme: 

13.00 - 14.00 hrs Registration

14.00 - 14.20 hrs Opening Speeches

– Associate Professor Amorn Petsom, PhD, Director of the Office of Academic Resources

– His Excellency Mr Marek Libřický, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Kingdom of Thailand

14.20 - 14.35 hrs “Remembering Václav Havel” – Sulak Sivaraksa

14.40 - 15.30 hrs

Panel Discussion on “Living in Truth amidst the Lies:

The Life and Ideas of Václav Havel” – Pitch Pongsawat, Nuttaa Mahattana, Chayangoon Thamma-un & Verita Sriratana

Moderated by Anna Lawattanatrakul

15.30 - 16.00 hrs Q&A

*This public event will be conducted in Thai. Faculty of Arts student volunteers may offer simultaneous interpretation upon request. Walk-in registration is free of charge.

For more information, please contact Sam Nak Nisit Sam Yan Publishing (SCPH) at kgaryk2@gmail.com or Suphanutjui@gmail.com

Tel. 091 – 720 – 8998 or 098 – 825 – 6861

Pick to PostVáclav HavelEventEmbassy of the Czech RepublicChulalongkorn UniversityLetter to Dr Husák
Categories: Prachatai English

AI calls for Cambodia to stop pressuring regional neighbours to harass opposition figures

Prachatai English - Fri, 2019-11-08 21:37
Submitted on Fri, 8 Nov 2019 - 09:37 PMAmnesty International

Cambodian authorities should stop pressuring neighbouring governments to harass, intimidate, arrest and detain Cambodian citizens with links to the outlawed political opposition, Amnesty International said today (7 November).

Sam Rainsy (center) holding a bouquet of flowers

“The last few days have seen a wave of brazen harassment and intimidation of Cambodians throughout the region. It is appalling that Hun Sen’s government is trying to co-opt regional neighbours to collude in this blatant abuse,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s East and South East Asia regional director.

Several members of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have been detained or threatened across the region in recent days, including in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Mu Sochua, deputy leader of the CNRP and a dual Cambodia-US citizen, was detained for most of the day by the Malaysian authorities upon arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport this morning. She was later released.

Ngoeum Keatha and Heng Seang Leang, two other Cambodian citizens, were detained by the Malaysian authorities since Monday. After days of uncertainty regarding their possible deportation to Cambodia, where they faced certain serious human rights violations, it was announced that they would also be released by the Malaysian authorities.

“The Malaysian authorities have ultimately done the right thing – but the three should never have been detained in the first place. Other ASEAN states must follow suit and refuse to collude in Cambodia’s human rights abuses,” said Nicholas Bequelin.

According to documents seen by Amnesty International, the Cambodian authorities yesterday arbitrarily revoked the passports of 12 Cambodian citizens affiliated with the CNRP.

Amnesty International has received further reports that Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand have been subject to increased surveillance and intimidation in recent days. On 6 November, in Thailand’s Samut Prakan province, a group of 60 or so Cambodians was dispersed by Thai police and two individuals were arrested and interrogated for hours before being later released. On 4 November, in Pathum Thani province, a dozen police surrounded the house of a Cambodian man, though he had already fled his home.

On 6 November, before flying to Malaysia, Mu Sochua was addressing a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, when the Cambodia ambassador to Indonesia disrupted the event and called for her arrest. In October, Mu Sochua was also denied entry to Thailand by Thai immigration officials, after the Cambodian authorities issued warrants for the arrest of CNRP leaders to fellow ASEAN states.

The Cambodian authorities have taken other steps to thwart the return of CNRP leaders. On 1 November, the Cambodian civil aviation authority threatened airlines with prosecution for supporting “a coup d’état” should they allow Sam Rainsy, the acting leader of the CNRP, to board a flight to Cambodia.

Earlier today, Sam Rainsy was denied checking in to a flight from Paris to Bangkok. Yesterday, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said that Rainsy would not be allowed to re-enter Cambodia via Thailand.

Background

This spate of intimidation, harassment, arrests and other threats follows a pledge by Sam Rainsy, who resides in France, to return to Cambodia this Saturday 9 November. The CNRP have called for mass demonstrations on the same day. In response, the Cambodian authorities have labelled the planned return an attempted coup d’état and undertaken a heavy-handed crackdown against individuals affiliated with the CNRP.

Since August, when Rainsy made this pledge, at least 45 former CNRP members have been jailed and 92 have been subject to politically-motivated charges including “plotting against the state” and “attack” for allegedly supporting the return to Cambodia of CNRP leaders living abroad. Arrests have typically been conducted without due process and in the absence of arrest warrants.

The ongoing crackdown has already had deadly consequences in Cambodia. On 30 October, Sam Bopha, a CNRP activist, was killed while in police custody after being arrested at her home in Svay Rieng province. Another CNRP activist, Tith Rorn, died in detention soon after he was arbitrarily arrested in April. No independent investigation into the circumstances of his death has yet been carried out, despite the presence of injuries on his body consistent with beating.

These recent developments have been accompanied by the militarisation of Cambodian border provinces, while Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has publicly ordered the military to attack any opposition gatherings that are held on 9 November. Live-fire military exercises and troop deployments in towns and cities adjacent to the Thai border have further contributed to significant concerns about the potential for violence on 9 November.

CNRP President Kem Sokha remains detained on charges of “conspiracy with a foreign power” since his arrest in 2017. After spending one year in a maximum-security prison, he was transferred to house arrest under highly restrictive conditions in September 2018.

Pick to PostCambodiaSam RainsyCambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP)Mu SochuaAmnesty International
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: popemobile is ready

Prachatai English - Fri, 2019-11-08 00:00
Submitted on Fri, 8 Nov 2019 - 12:00 AMStephff

Stephff cartoon illustrating what Pope Francis may look like when visiting Thailand from 20-23 November. Actually, it is not going to be a Tuk Tuk, but a locally produced Nissan with a diesel engine.  

MultimediaStephff
Categories: Prachatai English

15 killed in deep south, government stuck in coercive approach

Prachatai English - Thu, 2019-11-07 01:08
Submitted on Thu, 7 Nov 2019 - 01:08 AM

In the wake of the killing of 15 people in the Deep South, there is still no sign of the government changing course. 

source: ISOC Region 4

On Tuesday (ุ5 Nov) at midnight, an unknown number of assailants attacked two security checkpoints in Yala Province, killing at least 15 and injuring at least 4. The Reporters said that 8 guns were stolen. 

One security checkpoint under attack where no damage was caused was at Village No.4 of Lam Phaya Subdistrict, Mueang District, Yala Province, but the checkpoint at Village No.5 saw many dead and injured bodies when rescue teams arrived. 

The assailants also put nails on Highway 409 and tires were set alight, disabling 3 rescue vehicles. Security units were sent in to contain the area but there is still no confirmation if the assailants have been found. 

Khaosod English reported Pol Col Thaweesak Thongsongsi, superintendent of a police station in Yala Province, saying that the assailants used heavy weapons in the attack. A small explosive was found near an electricity pole to shut down electricity. 

Many sources reported that 11 died at the security checkpoint. And at least 4 died at the hospital while another 4 were injured. 

All of them were volunteers, including civilians who joined the Peace Through Development programme under Royal Auspices of Sirikit the Queen Mother launched in 2006. Three are civilians who underwent paramilitary training arranged by the Royal Thai Army. 

Among them were also a police officer, a deputy village head , and a paramilitary unit doctor. Together they formed a joint security unit, one among many which volunteer to patrol the area.  

According to Isara, a total of around 95,000 civilians have undergone training, working with around 35,000 police and military officers. It reports the authorities as saying that the incident occurred when there had been no violence for a long time, giving the insurgents an opportunity for a surprise attack. 
 
The analysis also said that officers had been re-assigned to cover the ASEAN summit. At the summit, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia, which has played a role in negotiations between the Thai government and the insurgency groups, declared an anti-separatist stance and offered more cooperation in joint patrols. 

It also said that the incident was in the context of news about a meeting between Thai and Malaysian facilitators to start negotiations with BRN, an insurgency group, which wanted to show its capabilities to increase its bargaining power.  

Is the military approach effective? 

The incident is part of the chronic conflict in the Deep South of Thailand. Some of the insurgency groups have claimed in public statements that it is a conflict which has lingered for decades between the Thai state and Patani, a centre of political power before the realization of the Thai nation state under the absolute monarchy of King Rama V. 

Thai governments have tried for years to establish peace in the Deep South, and have repeatedly failed. The post-election government led by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has continued to use a coercive approach just like before the election, but many question its effectiveness. 

During a parliamentary session in October, Dr. Petchdau Tohmeena, a Bhumjaithai Party MP, said that in the last 15 years, there have been 20,376 incidents or 3.64 per day with 7,017 deaths and 13,673 injuries. 3,075 became widows, or 0.54 per day, and 6,575 became orphans, or 1.17 per day. 

She also said that this year the budget allocates 10,865.5 million baht for an integration plan to solve the conflict in the Deep South. 36.4% of the budget goes to the military, 24.5% goes to development projects, and 16.5% goes to road construction. She asked if there was an effective use and evaluation of the 20 million baht secret budget transferred to the Office of Deep South Administration every year. 

Pannika Wanich, a Future Forward Party MP, also said that during the 5 years of Gen Prayut's premiership, 81,924 million baht or 56 million baht per day was spent to solve the conflict in the Deep South. This year the aim was "adjustment in people's attitude, beliefs, perception, and cultivation of nationalist awareness, patriotism, and good feelings towards the military." She asked if the approach was effective when a survey showed that 65% of people in the Deep South see peace talks as a primary approach to a solution. 

This year the budget was cut 20 per cent with the goals of reducing the insurgency by 20%, growing the local economy by 10%, and successfully holding 90% of events with the local people. According to BBC Thai and Isara, the last 17 years saw spending of 313,792 million baht by 8 governments. 

Martial law, the Emergency Decree, and the Internal Security Act have remained in force in the Deep South for years, enabling the authorities to make questionable arrests and treat thousands of people with impunity, reflected in the recent death in custody of Abdullah Isomuso and the attempted suicide of judge Khanakorn Pianchana.  Recently, the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), the main agency assigned to solve the conflict in the Deep South, required mobile phone users there to register facial identification for their SIM cards, triggering concerns over a violation of privacy guaranteed by law. 

ISOC is also responsible for the military approach to many development projects, attitude adjustment, and training to establish peace in the Deep South. The dead and injured volunteers were also part of these initiatives. ISOC made clear earlier this year that it will continue the work of the NCPO, which staged the military coup in 2014 and which still remains in power in the disguise of an elected government. 

It is questionable if this approach is effective as the peace talks between the representatives of the insurgency and the government have been at a halt since February. Mara Patani, the umbrella group which claims to represent the insurgency, said the peace talks may continue after the general election in March with new government representatives. With the possibility of a new round of negotiations, the future of the Deep South remains clouded. 

NewsDeep SouthinsurgencyYala
Categories: Prachatai English

End Impunity, Free Expression!

Prachatai English - Wed, 2019-11-06 12:03
Submitted on Wed, 6 Nov 2019 - 12:03 PMAnnie Game

Imagine a world without impunity, where everyone is free to exercise their right to freedom of expression and information and able to access, generate and share ideas and information in any way they choose, without fear. We do. 

On this International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, it's important to recognize the essential link between the right to freedom of expression and the right to information. Journalists are too often the direct targets when either right is under attack, and ultimately — we are all victims. 

Two weeks ago, the UN General Assembly voted to declare 28 September the International Day for Universal Access to Information. A significant victory, following a decade of sustained advocacy by numerous civil society groups, including many African members of the IFEX network. 

Some people — but probably no one involved in the struggle to promote and defend freedom of expression — might have greeted this news of a new UN Day with a shrug.  But they should think again, for our right to information is inseparable from our right to expression, and both are increasingly under attack.

Threats to information are coming in many forms — from attacks on journalists, to deliberate disinformation, to the obstruction of newspapers — and the impacts are far-reaching: keeping people from the information they need to engage with the issues they care about, exacerbating political polarisation, and undermining democracy.

Let’s take a recent high-profile example of the power of expression, and its reliance on access to information. 

Last month, an estimated 6 million people took to the streets in response to the climate change crisis. The creativity of their protests inspired many as they marched; expression in action, emboldened by facts.  

Swedish climate activist Greta Thurnberg implored us to “listen to the scientists” — but what if the voices we need to listen to are silenced, directly or indirectly? 

Voices can be silenced through censorship, or drowned out in a sea of disinformation. But in a growing number of instances, the silencing tactic used is murder. Murder without consequences. Murder with impunity.

A comprehensive study released in August 2019 revealed that killings of environmental activists have doubled over the past 15 years. In 90% of those cases no one has been convicted — a shocking level of impunity, matched by those of murdered journalists.

As we mark another International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, this deadly form of censorship is never far from our thoughts.

UNESCO’s list of journalists who have been killed around the world — over a thousand since 2006 — is a sobering reminder. The proportion of women among fatalities has also risen, with women journalists facing increased gender-specific attacks.

Of the 207 journalists killed between January 2017 and June 2019, more than half were reporting on organized crime, local politics and corruption. 

Their right to expression was ended, forever, to stop them from sharing information. 

Every time such a crime goes unpunished, it emboldens others. Those who would share information in the public interest rightfully ask themselves – is this worth my life?  Is it worth putting my family at risk? And if they decide that it is not, who can blame them? The ripple effects of impunity are endless.

That is why, for over eight years, the IFEX network has campaigned to end impunity for crimes against journalists and all those exercising their right to freedom of expression.

It's not work that lends itself to quick successes. As the expression goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The work does not end with finding the perpetrators; states must be held accountable for allowing or encouraging a climate of impunity in which such crimes flourish. 

We embrace every win, large and small. The good news is that at IFEX we are seeing creative, collaborative, and powerful new strategies, and tangible progress. 

In the past 12 months, we’ve seen the truth finally coming to light in The Gambia about the 2004 killing of journalist Deyda Hydara; a landmark ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that found the government of Colombia culpable in the 1998 murder of Nelson Carvajal Carvajal, and the historic decision by the Inter-American Commission to take to the Court the case of the brutal attack in May 2000 that nearly took the life of investigative journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima. 

Just two weeks ago, we welcomed the decision by Kyrgyzstan to re-open the 12-year old case of the murder of journalist Alisher Saipov, following sustained pressure by IFEX and its local members the Media Policy Institute and Public Association Journalists. 

Imagine, these cases represent a combined 66 years of impunity.

So let those responsible for — or contemplating — violence against journalists, hear this loud and clear: long after the world’s attention may have moved on, you may think you have gotten away with murder. No. Those of us committed to fighting impunity are persistent. We do not give up. So you can never rest easy.

For us, the culture of impunity surrounding attacks on journalists represents one of the single greatest threats to freedom of expression worldwide. The progress we have made toward ending impunity would never have been possible without the resilience, persistence, and tenacity of those who fight it.

We must use our freedom of expression, to defend it. We must use it to call out crimes against journalists, and end impunity.

The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists is one day, but this important work goes on year-round. I invite you to watch this short video and be inspired by the growing number of ways people around the world are working to end impunity and make it safer to be a journalist. 

Annie Game is the Executive Director of IFEX, the global network promoting and defending freedom of expression and information.

OpinionIFEXInternational Day to End Impunity for Crimes against JournalistsAnnie Game
Categories: Prachatai English

Student resigns from Maejo over violent hazing

Prachatai English - Tue, 2019-11-05 20:05
Submitted on Tue, 5 Nov 2019 - 08:05 PMPrachatai

The mother of a first-year student studying fishery technology and aquatic resources at Maejo University has told Workpoint News that her son is about to resign after facing violent hazing for many weeks.

The student was forced to swear not to tell anyone else, even their parents. However, the violent hazing was not over after one week as their seniors had promised. They said it was going to be "7 dangerous days" at the beginning of the semester. The student revealed to his mother a picture of his bruised back on 4 October.

Picture of student beaten in violent hazing.
Source: รับน้องสร้างสรรค์ระดับโคตรมหากาฬ  

Shocked, the mother filed a report with the police the next day, but the police said Maejo University had to give permission first before they could begin an investigation. The mother received no answer from the University, so she posted what happened on social media. She said even though the University had banned violent hazing, her son told her it was done in dark corners.

Because there has been no progress, she said she has decided to have the student hand in a resignation letter because the hazing was too harsh and brutal even though it was a tradition passed on from generation to generation. Maejo University is in the process of approving the letter and must give her son one year’s grace so that he can prepare to enter another university.

Pol Col Nathaphon Keawkamnoed, Superintendent of Maejo Police Station, said that the police had not stayed idle on this matter. The investigation team was brought to the scene where the student said the violent hazing had happened. The student cannot identify his seniors. Even though teachers called in the seniors for questioning, they denied the accusation.

Pol Col Nathaphon said the teachers are still not cooperative enough as they claim that they cannot reach the seniors during the vacation. The police estimate there were around 10 perpetrators. Meanwhile, Maejo University posted on Facebook its anti-hazing position and apologies for what happened. It also said it would identify the perpetrators as soon as possible.

There are many explanations about where violent hazing come from. However, it was likely that at Maejo University it started since its establishment in 1934, when Thai teachers who studied agriculture in the United States, especially Cornell University and the University of Oregon, introduced the practice. Today, Maejo University is seen has having one of the most violent hazing cultures in the country according to public opinion.

 

NewsViolent hazingMaejo University
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: ASEAN unite!

Prachatai English - Tue, 2019-11-05 19:42
Submitted on Tue, 5 Nov 2019 - 07:42 PMStephff

Cartoon by Stephff as leaders attended ASEAN Summit from 31 October to 4 November 2019.

MultimediaStephffASEAN
Categories: Prachatai English

Rohingya Association Thailand's statement at 35th ASEAN Summit statement

Prachatai English - Fri, 2019-11-01 23:38
Submitted on Fri, 1 Nov 2019 - 11:38 PMRohingya Association Thailand

As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations convenes the 35th ASEAN Summit during 2-4 November 2019 in Thailand, the leaders of the group and partners are pursuing an agenda to ensure ASEAN is a people-centered grouping dedicated to sustainable development. Head of government from country will discuss the Rakhine Crisis and the fate of nearly one million Rohingya refugees being shelter in Bangladesh.

Speaking to this, we are member of the Rohingya Association Thailand representing our brothers and sisters who were forced to flee the strife torn Rakhine State in Myanmar as well as being in the process of repatriation and relocations. We are here to express our concern and to appeal the assistant from the ASEAN leaders. 

We call to the government of Myanmar as a member of ASEAN;
1. To verify and grant citizenship to all displace Rohingya, both those who fled from Rakhine State and those who remained.
2.  To guarantee the safety of Rohingya refugees who voluntarily agree to return home to Myanmar. There must be no forced repatriation of those refugees. 
3. To guarantee Rohingya the equal right to serve in the civil, police and defense services of Myanmar government.

We call the government of ASEAN member states:
1. To verify and document Rohingya migrants in order for them to have the legal status required to live and work in hosted countries legally.
2. To consider granting permanent residence status to Rohingya who have live for an extended period in Asean member states and are not willing to return to Myanmar.

OpinionRohingyaASEAN SummitSource: Network
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Blind Nationalism

Prachatai English - Mon, 2019-10-28 16:28
Submitted on Mon, 28 Oct 2019 - 04:28 PMStephff

Cartoon by Stephff in response to a driver of Honda Civic who was fired by his company and widely criticized by general public over his political rants during a traffic dispute.  

MultimediaStephff
Categories: Prachatai English

Kurds and Their Way

Prachatai English - Mon, 2019-10-28 16:03
Submitted on Mon, 28 Oct 2019 - 04:03 PMHarrison George

The sorry situation facing the Kurds in northeastern Syria needs a radical re-framing.

So far the political situation in the region has been reported within the framework of simple-minded dichotomies between good hats and bad hats and Trump-friendly nostrums like ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’.

So the Kurds are good guys because they fought (and defeated at great cost to themselves) ISIS. (Minor linguistic aside.  The Kurds and others call them Daesh, not ISIS. This is braver than you think because members of Daesh are incensed by this and retaliate by flogging and cutting out tongues.)

But the Kurds weren’t at Normandy side by side with the Allies, complains Trump, so they must be bad guys, or as he repeatedly put it, ‘no angels’.  (Note to the Thai military: you weren’t at Normandy either, so you’d better keep quiet about this at the next Cobra Gold.)  Of course, you know who else wasn’t at Normandy?  Any member of the Trump family.  But the Germans were there of course, so that’s alright then.

Turkey now, well, they’re NATO allies, so they must be good guys.  But they hate the Kurds and for months have been itching to invade (again) across their southern border. 

And you can see how the cogs get jammed in what passes for Trump’s brain.  We fight ISIS and the Kurds do too, so they must be our friend.  But Turkey is our friend and Turkey fights the Kurds so the Kurds must be, er, our enemy.

Maybe instead of this two-dimensional Realpolitik, we could look at real politics.  What has been going on in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria?  And might this have anything to do with why everyone else wants to see them destroyed?

First off, this is not ‘Kurdish-controlled northern Syria’.  It has its official name (above) and the handy shorthand name of Rojava, which I have yet to hear in a mainstream news bulletin.  It is an autonomous region of Syria with no claim to independence, but which aims to serve as an example of how a post-war federated Syria could be run.

And before I start on what kind of government they have, let me emphasize that everything has been achieved in the middle of the most brutal civil war in today’s world.  In a country of 21 million, something close to half a million have been killed, almost 2 million have been wounded and more than half the population have become refugees, although in the chaos, these can only be estimates.

Rojava however has a popularly ratified constitution, which in a number of respects leaves the latest Thai constitution in the dust.  First, it guarantees equal representation of all ethnic groups, the Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians et al, in a form of direct democracy where decision-making starts at the bottom.  All languages (Kurdish, Arabic, Syrian, Turkmen, Circassian and a whole bunch more that you’ve never heard of) have equal status and translation of government documents rivals that of the EU. 

The basic freedoms of religion, expression, the media, etc, are guaranteed, and decentralization and environmental sustainability are promoted, as is gender equity, but here it is backed up in practice with a system of ‘co-governance’ where every position at every level of government has a male and female with equal authority.  Try to remember that the next time you see a picture of the Thai cabinet or a gathering of high-ranking government officials. 

The economic system has been criticized as ‘anti-capitalist’ but guarantees private property alongside cooperatives; community ownership and workers’ control are widespread.

Now Rojava is no paradise.  Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented human rights abuses, but mainly because they are given free rein to monitor the situation.  In Turkey, Amnesty International’s Director and Chair of the Board were thrown in jail.

Compared with Turkey, which in 2015-6 killed around 4000 Turkish Kurds and levelled Kurdish cities, with Syria, a state that is incapable of anything except killing, torturing and displacing its own people, and with Iraq, so corrupt it is incapable even of that, Rojava looks to me like a relatively nice place to live.

Except that everything I have said about it now has to be put into the past tense.  It’s over.

In one phone call, the Artist of the Deal got conned again by another autocrat who convinced him that the Kurds in Syria were the same thing as the PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party) in Turkey which the Turkish government has had branded as a terrorist organization.  Trump moves the US forces to one side, and the Turks and their Arab ‘militias’ pour over the border to impose their version of how society should be run.

One example of this occurred on 12 October. Hevrin Khalaf, a political leader in Rojava, was intercepted in her car, summarily executed, as was her driver, and her corpse mutilated by Syrian Arab mercenaries doing Turkey’s dirty work.  The Arab ‘militias’ deny doing it (and presumably deny recording it on their cell phones) and Turkey of course has no responsibility whatsoever.

So is the imminent demise of the only remotely democratic secular government in the region the result of shifting allegiances in a game where the major players (and the mainstream media) can see only 2 sides, us and them?  Or was it thought that the last thing the Middle East needs is a working example of how a society can be organized on principles of equality, justice and mutual tolerance, an example that the media has pretty much completely ignored?

If there were examples like Rojava around (and Catalunya and the Scots Nats and other secessionist and surprisingly progressive movements), folk might just get the wrong idea. All sorts of wrong ideas.

Alien ThoughtsHarrison GeorgeSyriaKurds
Categories: Prachatai English

Military atrocities ‘relentless and ruthless’ in northern Shan State, Amnesty report shows

Prachatai English - Fri, 2019-10-25 15:26
Submitted on Fri, 25 Oct 2019 - 03:26 PMAmnesty International

Amnesty International has gathered fresh evidence that the Myanmar military is continuing to commit atrocities against ethnic minorities in the north of the country, with civilians bearing the brunt of offensives against multiple armed groups. The conflicts show no sign of abating, raising the prospect of further violations.

A new report, “Caught in the middle”: Abuses against civilians amid conflict in Myanmar’s northern Shan State, details the harrowing conditions of civilians arbitrarily arrested, detained and tortured by the military. It also highlights the abusive tactics used by ethnic armed groups as they confront the military and each other to exert control in the region.

“The Myanmar military is as relentless and ruthless as ever, committing war crimes against civilians in northern Shan State with absolute impunity,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southeast Asia. “Soldiers – and more importantly commanders – are subjecting civilians to the military’s hallmark brutality in the absence of any form of accountability.”

Amnesty International documented war crimes and other military violations against ethnic Kachin, Lisu, Shan, and Ta’ang civilians during two field missions to the region in March and August 2019.
Civilians who spoke to Amnesty International repeatedly implicated the military’s 99th Light Infantry Division (LID) in many of the violations. Units from the 99th LID were implicated in some of the worst atrocities against the Rohingya in Rakhine State since August 2017, as well as in war crimes and other serious violations in northern Myanmar in 2016 and early 2017.

“Wherever the 99th Light Infantry Division is deployed we see similar patterns of abuse and the commission of horrific crimes unfold. This highlights the urgency of international action to hold Myanmar’s military – not least its senior generals – accountable.”

Violations have continued even after the military announced a unilateral ceasefire, since lapsed, in December 2018. A recent escalation of fighting in the region – which the government has linked to illegal drug trafficking but which ethnic armed groups attribute to ongoing military offensives – has brought new reports of violations. Meanwhile, progress on the country’s stalled peace process looks
unlikely as all sides gear up for general elections in 2020.

Familiar patterns of military violations

Myanmar soldiers have committed serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the last year, particularly in the northernmost townships of Shan State. These have continued even after the military’s announcement of a unilateral ceasefire in the area on 21 December 2018.

Soldiers have detained civilians – overwhelmingly men and boys – often torturing or subjecting them to other forms of ill-treatment. Most were accused of having links to specific armed groups based solely on their ethnicity, a sign of the climate of suspicion, discrimination and arbitrary punishment that Kachin, Shan, Ta’ang
and other ethnic minority communities face at the hands of the Myanmar military.

The military has also fired indiscriminately in civilian areas, killing and injuring civilians and damaging homes and other property.
On 11 March 2019, soldiers from the 99th LID detained and tortured two ethnic Kachin villagers in Kutkai Township. While the men were away fishing, fighting broke out between the military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). One of the men, 35, recalled what happened when they encountered the group of soldiers:

“[A soldier asked] ‘Are you KIA?’ I said ‘no’, then they started punching and kicking me. They forced me to take off my clothes [and] held a knife to my neck...Then they forced me to squat with my fingers on my knees... They told me if I moved they would cut off my fingers... They put a grenade in my mouth... I was afraid if I moved it would explode.”

In some cases, detainees were taken to military bases where they were held incommunicado for up to three months and denied access to family and lawyers.

In one case documented by Amnesty International, an 18-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy were subjected to forced labour, including digging trenches, while being held at a military base in the town of Kutkai.

Before being taken to the base the 18-year-old was beaten, then tortured further. He said: “They asked if I was a [KIA] soldier... I kept saying no, then they put a plastic bag over my head [and] tied it tight by holding it in the back. They were asking me if I knew any soldiers from the village. They did it six or seven times, each time for two or three minutes. I couldn’t breathe.”

Ethnic armed groups also committing abuses

Civilians are increasingly caught between ethnic armed groups who abduct, detain and sometimes torture men and boys, often accusing them of supporting a rival armed group. Amnesty International documented such abuses by the Kachin

Independence Army (KIA), the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

Armed groups have also subjected civilians to forced labour. Amnesty
International documented several instances when civilians were forced to work as porters, carry fighters’ belongings and guide them to other villages during active combat, putting their lives at risk.

Civilians also told Amnesty International that armed groups regularly extort food and money from them, threatening anyone who
refuses with physical violence.

“Armed groups are responsible for heinous abuses against civilians, including abductions, forced labour and beatings. We are calling on all sides to stop targeting civilians, and to take all possible measures to keep fighting away from populated areas,” said Nicholas Bequelin.

Civilians paying the price

Thousands have been forced to flee their homes in the last year as the fighting moves closer to villages. Many people have been displaced multiple times. One women told Amnesty International she had fled her home four times in March 2019 alone.

Villagers often flee to makeshift displacement sites such as churches and monasteries, where they stay until the fighting moves to a different area. These short-term displacements can make it difficult for humanitarian workers to access people in need, made worse by government and military restrictions on humanitarian access.

Even those who flee are not safe, with an alarming increase since 2018 in the number of civilians killed or injured by landmines or improvised explosive devices.

Amnesty International is calling on all sides to respect international humanitarian and human rights law, protect civilians, and ensure humanitarian access. Armed groups must end acts of violence and intimidation against civilians and take all feasible measures to avoid civilian-populated areas.

“Those responsible for war crimes should face justice, all the way up to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the Myanmar military’s Commander-in-Chief,” said Nicholas Bequelin. “Fighters and commanders in ethnic armed groups should also be investigated and held accountable for war crimes.”

“For too long the UN Security Council has stood by as civilians were abandoned to a ceaseless cycle of violence. It is time for the Council to stop dragging its feet and refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.”

Pick to PostMyanmarShan Statemilitary violencehuman rights violationdisplacement
Categories: Prachatai English

HRW calls for Thailand to repeal or amend laws criminalizing freedom of speech and assembly

Prachatai English - Fri, 2019-10-25 12:15
Submitted on Fri, 25 Oct 2019 - 12:15 PMHuman Rights Watch

Thai authorities over five years of military rule prosecuted numerous peaceful critics of the government to stay in power, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Concerned governments should press Thailand to protect the rights to expression and assembly, and reform laws penalizing peaceful speech to bring them in line with international standards.


The 136-page report, “‘To Speak Out is Dangerous’: Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in Thailand” documents the use and abuse of a range of broad and vaguely worded laws and orders to criminalize peaceful expression, including debates on matters of public interest, and provides specific recommendations for the repeal or amendment of those laws. Focusing largely on the period between the military coup in May 2014 and nationwide elections in March 2019, Human Rights Watch documented the Thai government’s use of repressive laws and orders against pro-democracy activists, opposition politicians, critics of the junta, and ordinary citizens.

“The five years after Thailand’s military coup were marked by intense government repression of peaceful speech and assembly, and little has changed under the new government,” said Linda Lakhdhir, Asia legal advisor at Human Rights Watch and the author of the report. “The government needs to stop prosecuting its critics and dissidents, which only makes a mockery of claims that democratic rule has been restored.”

Although the junta finally held elections in March 2019, the new government is still led by the junta prime minister, Prayut Chan-ocha, and peaceful critics continue to face arrest and prosecution under many of the same laws and orders used by the military government, Human Rights Watch said.

The report draws on interviews with lawyers, journalists, students, activists, members of nongovernmental organizations, and individuals prosecuted for speech or assembly and their family members. Human Rights Watch also examined police charge sheets, court documents, and news reports concerning criminal proceedings in relevant cases, as well as public statements by government spokespersons and officials. The report contains in-depth analyses of provisions of Thailand’s criminal code, as well as laws such as the Computer-Related Crime Act, the Public Assembly Act, and orders issued by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta following the coup.

One of the most abused laws is section 116 of the Criminal Code – Thailand’s sedition law. Thai authorities have repeatedly treated peaceful criticism as sedition, arresting people for criticizing the prime minister, disparaging the performance of government, or simply for calling for elections. As one of those prosecuted for sedition said, “We called for elections and got charged with sedition.” The authorities have also used provisions of the Computer-Related Crimes Act criminalizing “false” information to arrest those commenting on the economy or on other aspects of the government’s performance, or for simply posting satirical memes about the prime minister on social media.

Hundreds of peaceful protesters have been arrested for violating orders issued by the military junta prohibiting political gatherings of five or more people, or for violating the broad restrictions of Thailand’s Public Assembly Law. Many of those charged for peaceful protests were also charged with sedition and a range of other criminal offenses. While the junta’s restriction on gatherings of five or more people was lifted in December 2018, prosecutions of some of those arrested under that provision continue. Even where charges for violating the order restricting gatherings have been dropped, many people still face charges for sedition or other offenses allegedly committed during the protests.

Human Rights Watch called on concerned governments to press the Thai government to drop all pending criminal charges for peaceful speech and assembly, repeal all remaining junta orders restricting basic rights, and bring Thailand’s laws, policies, and practices in line with international human rights law and standards for the protection of freedom of expression and assembly.

“Thailand’s new government is showing few signs that it will be any more tolerant of criticism than the junta it formally replaced,” Lakhdhir said. “Thailand’s friends should act together to press for change before the repression of the junta years becomes too deeply embedded. The window for change under this government is rapidly closing.”

Pick to PostHuman Rights Watchfreedom of speechfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

[Event] Darrel J. McLeod: a public lecture and reading

Prachatai English - Fri, 2019-10-25 12:07
Submitted on Fri, 25 Oct 2019 - 12:07 PMFaculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University

Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, in collaboration with the Embassy of Canada in Bangkok, cordially invites you to attend a public lecture and reading by Canadian Governor General’s award-winning indigenous writer, Darrel J. McLeod.

Darrel holds degrees in French language and literature from the University of British Columbia, a diploma in education and advanced training in dispute resolution. Before retiring and pursuing a career in writing, he was a chief negotiator of land claims for the federal government, and executive director of education and international affairs with the Assembly of First Nations.

Besides giving a special lecture, Darrel will read a section from Mamaskatch, and discuss some of the themes covered in the book as well as the impact his book has had on its readers to date.

Date and venue: 

Wednesday November 13, 2019
17.00 – 19.00 hrs.
9th Floor, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Building, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University (https://goo.gl/maps/DpdACArW6HowSezL9)
Online registration is free of charge and available via the following link: https://forms.gle/3ygkKW69epooSGLu5 (or scan the QR code on the poster)

Pick to PostEventFaculty of ArtsChulalongkorn UniversityEmbassy of CanadaDarrel J. McLeodMamaskatchindigenous peopleFirst Nationsliteraturepostcolonialism
Categories: Prachatai English

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