Prachatai English

Prosecutor stalls over King Rama X tweets

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-06-05 18:46
Submitted on Fri, 5 Jun 2020 - 06:46 PM

The public prosecutor has chosen not to move forward in the case of a famous young twitter user who was arrested for posts about King Rama X. The defendant says he is quite stressed because the statute of limitations is 10 years, but his family is even more concerned.

Niranam_ from behind

On 4 June, the Pattaya Provincial Court held a prosecution order hearing in the case of‘Niranam_ [sic], a twitter user who has criticized the Thai monarchy. However, no prosecution order was submitted.

Pavinee Choomsri, a lawyer from Thai Lawyer for Human Rights, said that the case remains open as the statute of limitations is 10 years. If the prosecutor decides to bring charges, the police can still summon the defendant to the court.

Niranam_ said that he is quite stressed and the lawsuit made his family very concerned about him. 

“I have some stress because this is the first case I have had in my life. I am now 20 so some stress is normal. But I did not kill anybody. I only think differently from them. As far as the impact goes, personally I don’t feel much but I think the charge under Section (3) of the Computer Crimes Act about security is rather too serious.”

“The impact is greater on my home, because I’m an only child and they are pretty worried about me.” said Niranam_

The hearing, which was postponed from 8 April, came after the 4th pre-trial detention period. The suspect has the right to reclaim his bail money.

Niranam also gave a poem after he was interviewed:

In the darkest day, a light still shines.

This mind is fragile but will never be destroyed.

Still watching in anticipation of the day of freedom.

Who is Niranam_?

Age 20, Niranam_ is from Chonburi Province. He has posted many comments on the history of the Thai monarchy and become famous among teenagers and social media users. On 19 February, his house was searched by the police and he was taken to Pattaya Police Station without an arrest warrant.

He was subsequently charged with violating the Computer Crime Act over posting photos and messages about King Rama X. He was detained in prison for 5 days and 4 nights before being bailed out.

His arrest and prosecution were in the social media spotlight. 1 day after his arrest, the hashtag #Saveนิรนาม (SaveNiranam) became a twitter top trend. #Freeนิรนาม (FreeNiranam) also hit the top trend on 24 February.

A Facebook page ‘Nai Nam Khwam Sa-ngop Riaproi’ (In the Name of Peace and Order) raised 1.5 million baht online for his bail, which was set at 200,000 baht. The page administrator said that the remaining 1,472,695.16 baht has been spent on Niranam_’s legal costs.

NewsNiranam_Computer Crime Actfreedom of expressiontwitterKing Rama XSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/87962
Categories: Prachatai English

Student activists hand out cookies commemorating Tiananmen Square massacre

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-06-05 18:30
Submitted on Fri, 5 Jun 2020 - 06:30 PMPrachatai

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal and members of the Humanity Beyond Borders group went to the Chinese Embassy on 3 June and handed out cookies to passers-by as part of their commemoration event for the 31st anniversary of the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Humanities Beyond Borders at Yaowarat China Town (Photo from Humanity Beyond Borders) 

The group said that the cookies were milk tea-flavoured because of the recent Twitter trend in which Thai, Taiwanese, and Hong Kong netizens came together and used the hashtag #MilkTeaAlliance to show solidarity against Chinese influence in their countries as well as against what China has done against Tibet and against the Uyghur people.

The patterns on the cookies depict Tiananmen Square and the famous “Tank Man” picture, with “Tiananmen 1989” written in Chinese. The packaging also includes a QR code linking to information about the Tiananmen Square massacre and the Tank Man.

The cookie packaging has a QR code at the back link to information about the Tiananmen Square massacre (Photo from Humanity Beyond Borders) 

The group also went to Yaowarat China Town and the Siam BTS Station. Netiwit said that the police did not come to stop their activity, but while they were in front of the Chinese Embassy, a security guard came to stop them from organizing their event in front of the Embassy itself, so he gave the guard a cookie.

A security guard inspecting the cookie box (Photo from Humanity Beyond Borders)

“A crime committed by the state should not be forgotten, and citizens who fought for democracy and freedom should receive reparations and respect, not kept a secret so that the Chinese people do not know the truth. We would like the Chinese Embassy to know that the Thai people are unhappy with their threats against our Mekhong River and their persecution of the Tibetan people, the Uyghurs, and the people of Hong Kong,” said Netiwit.

Netiwit previously filed a request to hold a commemoration event in front of the Embassy, which he said would have involved participants standing with flags and protest signs, but his request was denied by the police under Article 9 of the Emergency Decree.

NewsNetiwit CholtiphatphaisalHumanity Beyond BordersTiananmen Square massacre#MilkTeaAlliance
Categories: Prachatai English

Philippines' New Anti-Terrorism Act Endangers Rights

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-06-05 15:06
Submitted on Fri, 5 Jun 2020 - 03:06 PMHuman Rights Watch

The Philippines government is on the verge of enacting a counterterrorism law that will eliminate critical legal protections and permit government overreach against groups and individuals labeled terrorists, Human Rights Watch said today. The draft Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to quickly sign the bill into law.

President Rodrigo Duterte (Source: Wikipedia)
 

The draft law uses an overbroad definition of terrorism that can subject suspects, apprehended without a warrant, to weeks of detention prior to an appearance before a judge. A special body composed mainly of Cabinet officials appointed by the president would provide the authority to enforce the law.

“The Anti-Terrorism Act is a human rights disaster in the making,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The law will open the door to arbitrary arrests and long prison sentences for people or representatives of organizations that have displeased the president.”

In a letter to Congress on June 1, 2020, Duterte certified that passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act was urgent, short-circuiting a more thorough debate of the legislation and prompting the House of Representatives to quickly adopt in full a version of the bill passed by the Senate. The measure would replace the existing Human Security Act of 2007.

The draft law creates a new Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), consisting of members appointed by the executive, that would permit the authorities to arrest people it designates as “terrorists” without a judicial warrant and to detain them without charge for up to 24 days before they must be presented before a judicial authority. Under existing law, terrorism suspects must be brought before a judge in three days. Human Rights Watch believes that anyone taken into custody should appear before a judge within 48 hours.

Under the draft law, those convicted on the basis of overbroad definitions of “terrorism” face up to life in prison without parole. An individual, as well as a group, commits terrorism when he or she “engages in acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person, or endangers a person's life,” or “causes extensive damage to public property,” in order to “create an atmosphere or spread a message of fear.” While the definition also includes aims often associated with terrorism, such as seeking to “seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental social, economic or political structures of the country,” it does not require such intent. By this broad definition, starting a fight in a bar could technically be classified as an act of terrorism, Human Rights Watch said.

The draft law also makes it a criminal offense to “incite others” to commit terrorism “by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations tending to the same end.” The law, which does not define incitement, poses a danger to freedom of the media and freedom of expression by providing an open-ended basis for prosecuting speech. The Anti-Terrorism Council would be the sole arbiter to determine whether a threat should be considered serious. Those convicted would face up to 12 years in prison.

The bill exempts advocacy, work stoppages, and humanitarian action from the definitions of terrorism, provided they are “not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person's life, or to create a serious risk to public safety.” But the council’s powers to determine what constitutes a serious risk undermines those protections.

The draft law also relaxes accountability for law enforcement agents who violate the rights of suspects, particularly those in detention. Under existing law, law enforcement agents who wrongfully detain suspects can be penalized 500,000 pesos (US$10,000) for every day of wrongful detention. But this safeguard provision against government misconduct is excised from the new version of the law.

The broad role of the Anti-Terrorism Council under the new law places people’s liberty rights at considerable risk, Human Rights Watch said. It is an executive department-led agency chaired by the president’s executive secretary and composed of presidential appointees such as the secretary of national defense. The council’s secretariat will be run by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), the government’s main intelligence body composed primarily of security force officials.

NICA, along with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict created by the Philippines National Security Council, has been carrying out a long-running surveillance, harassment, and suppression campaign against activists and groups that operate openly and legally. The agency has frequently accused these groups and individuals of being front organizations, members, or supporters of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Over the years, the government has targeted hundreds of community activists, tribal leaders, farmers, environmentalists, trade union leaders, and local journalists with threats, harassment, and prosecution on suspicion of being communists or communist sympathizers. The UN Human Rights Office in Geneva released on June 4 a report on the Philippines saying that at least 248 activists have been killed between 2015 and 2019 in relation to their work. The military and police, and their inter-agency forms of the NICA and the task force, have similarly accused leftist political groups of being front organizations for the New People’s Army.

“The new counterterrorism law could have a horrific impact on basic civil liberties, due process, and the rule of law amid the Philippines’ shrinking democratic space,” Robertson said. “The Philippine people are about to face an Anti-Terrorism Council that will be prosecutor, judge, jury, and jailer.”

Pick to PostHuman Rights Watch (HRW)The PhilippinesRodrigo DuterteAnti-terrorism bill
Categories: Prachatai English

House Committee petitioned over royalist witch hunts

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-06-05 14:36
Submitted on Fri, 5 Jun 2020 - 02:36 PM

A human rights lawyer has submitted a petition to a parliamentary committee on witch hunts and legal harassment against at least 25 critics of the Thai monarchy on the ‘Royalist Marketplace’ Facebook.

Left to right: Anon submitted a petition to an MP Rangsiman Rome.

On 4 June, human rights lawyer Anon Nampa submitted to the House Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights a petition to examine the cases of people subjected to witch hunts for expressing their opinions about the Thai monarchy in the ‘Royalist Marketplace’ Facebook group.

As of 4 June, the group, established by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai academic in exile, has more than 497,000 members. Group members exchange opinions in daily satirical discussions of the monarchy. These activities have provoked online and offline retaliation from royalist Thais.

Anon said that the retaliation ranges from pressuring companies to fire group members, to mobilizing people to file lawsuits in distant jurisdictions, forcing defendants to make difficult journeys. The petition states that personal information on at least 25 people has been exposed on social media, 2 have been threatened by the police, and 12 are the subject of complaints to the police under the Computer Crimes Act, the defamation laws and the lèse majesté law.

The petition urges the Committee to summon state authorities and the plaintiffs to address the issue. It also calls for the Committee to identify the administrators of Facebook pages that have mobilized retaliation, such as The METTAD, Ueng Ia Sue Thue Iao Kia v10 (อึ้งเอี๋ยะซือ เทื้อเอี้ยวเกียv10), Khunnak (ขุนนาค), Sae Play (เสธPlay) and Phak Krayachok (พรรคกระยาจก).

Rangsiman Rome, Move Forward Party MP and committee member, said that the petition will be considered. He also said that the retaliation is considered judicial harassment which is within the committee’s responsibility. The committee will study the issue and submit a report to Parliament and the Cabinet.

A report from the Thai Lawyer for Human Rights, referred to in Anon’s petition, states that the authorities’ reaction toward the group’s activities can be considered as “intense”. Civilians also play a part in creating a threatening atmosphere against who express sceptical or critical opinions against the monarchy.

In one case, unidentified state authorities took a person from his home to a police station without a warrant. His device was seized by officers for examination. He was also forced to give the police personal information and delete his posts. He was asked whether or not he was affiliated with the Thai Federation group, an activist group promoting a change in the country’s form of government. He was warned not to post such comments again, otherwise he would be sued.

“They [officers] said they wanted to have a little chat. They didn’t use strong language. Once it was over they would bring me back home. Then they took me to the police station. They forced me to get into the car with them.”

“They said ‘We are doing our job. You broke the law but we don’t want to harm your future. We all are Thai. We will look at each person in turn. If you understand us, we won’t do anything. We just want you to stop expressing your opinions’,” one victim told Prachatai.

The Royalist Marketplace is also a parody of ‘Marketplace’ groups created during the Covid-19 lockdown as a platform for members to buy and sell commodities and interact with a sense of community.

NewsAnon NampaRangsiman RomeRoyalist MarketplacePavin ChachavalpongpunSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/87956
Categories: Prachatai English

Virtual Black Lives Matter Bangkok rally to be held on Sunday

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-06-05 11:56
Submitted on Fri, 5 Jun 2020 - 11:56 AMPrachatai

An online rally in support of #BlackLivesMatter movement and to protest against George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin has been set for Sunday, 7 June.

A poster with the full detail of the campaigns from the Supporters of Black Lives Matter in Bangkok Facebook page 

The organizers, Supporters of Black Lives Matter in Bangkok, planned out two campaigns — speak your mind and live moment of silence.

Before 20:00 of 6 June, the public is encouraged to submit a video or a photo of them in black clothes holding up a protest sign with messages or artworks in support of the BLM movement, raising a fist and stating the reasons why they support the BLM movement.

The videos and photos are to be uploaded to the link that will be provided and to social media with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatterBangkok.

On Sunday, 7 June at 14:15, the organizers are aiming to create over 200 Zoom meeting rooms for people to join the rally on Sunday (7 June) at 14. 15. They plan to hold a live moment of silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds at 14.30, to represent the amount of time the police officer had his knee on Floyd’s throat, which resulted in his death. All participants are encouraged to wear black to look unified.

The screen of all Zoom meeting rooms will be recorded and compiled with videos and photos from the first campaign. The videos of the two campaigns will be shared with the United States embassy, Black rights organizations and hopefully to Floyd’s family, as the organizers said.

The rally was previously planned to be held in person at a location in Bangkok. As the imposed Emergency Decree bans large gatherings, the organizers said considering legality and the safety from COVID-19, they decided to hold the rally virtually. They said they initially anticipated 30 people but over 1,000 people have shown interest in joining the rally after the event was announced.

“We can ensure you our intentions are good and we are doing this from the heart. We felt strongly about standing together with others standing up around the world to protest against racial discrimniation and show support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the States, Thailand and everywhere (else no matter what it is called.),” the organizers wrote in the statement.

NewsBlack lives matterVirtual protestracismPolice brutalitystate violence
Categories: Prachatai English

"Argh, can't breath": Thai political exile kidnapped in Phnom Penh

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-06-04 22:57
Submitted on Thu, 4 Jun 2020 - 10:57 PMPrachatai

Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a Thai political activist accused of lèse-majesté in exile in Phnom Penh, was allegedly kidnapped from in front of his condominium earlier this evening (4 June).

(Left) A CCTV footage of the car that took Wanchalearm (right)

A source, whose name has been withheld for security concerns, claimed to be speaking on the phone with Wanchalearm as he was taken, and heard him said “argh, can’t breathe” before the call was cut.

The source said that they thought he has had an accident, but when they later ask a friend to go check on Wanchalearm at the condominium, the friend would that he has already been taken.

Video footage shows that he was taken away in a black car. A security guard at the scene also tried to help, but said that the kidnapper was armed with a gun.

Student activist Parit Chiwarak also posted on his Facebook earlier today (4 June) that Wanchalearm was taken away in a black car.

Wanchalearm is a critic of Thai politics and on 3 June published a video clip criticizing Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha while speaking in the northeastern Thai dialect.

He was also accused of setting up the Facebook page ‘Ku Tong Dai 100 Lan Jak Thaksin Nae Nae’ (I must get 100 million baht from Thaksin for sure), a political satire page which has been criticizing the junta since 2014, and was among those prosecuted for refusing the junta summon following the 2014 military coup.

According to Isra news, he is also one of the many self-exile Thais who have been accused of violating Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, or Article 112 in the Criminal Code.

Newslese majesteWanchalearm Satsaksitenforced disappearancehuman rightspolitical refugeeSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/87968
Categories: Prachatai English

Proposed Anti-Terrorism Law will solidify abuse of State power

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-06-03 16:01
Submitted on Wed, 3 Jun 2020 - 04:01 PMFORUM-ASIA

The railroading of the Anti-Terrorism Bill in the Philippines will further erode human rights in the country, rights groups said today.

The Asian Forum of Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and its member organisations Balaod Mindanaw, Dakila, Karapatan, LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights), Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), and Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) warned that the proposed law would lead to a crackdown on civic space and fundamental freedoms.

‘We have seen the systematic intimidation of civil society, from human rights organisations to journalists and the general public under the Duterte regime. The Anti-Terrorism Bill would institutionalise and facilitate an abuse of power, leading the weaponisation of the law against its people,’ the groups said.

On 1 June, President Rodrigo Duterte certified House Bill 6875 or the Anti-Terrorism Bill as urgent, which would allow the House of Representatives to fast-track its approval. The bill is expected to be passed before the Congress adjourns on 5 June. The House of Representatives had earlier adopted the Senate version of the bill, approved in February 2020, to facilitate its passage into law.

The proposed anti-terror law contains provisions that effectively erode civil liberties and remove necessary checks in power. Vague language in the bill, including on the definition of terrorism which includes acts committed ‘regardless of the stage of execution’ would allow for broad interpretation and overreach.[2]

The bill allows for a lengthened period of warrantless detention, and surveillance that go beyond stipulations in existing national security legislation. It would lead to the creation of an Anti-Terrorism Council, comprised of State officials, which would have the power to authorise the arrest and detention of a person suspected of being a terrorist – a power reserved for the Courts.

Under Duterte’s administration, repressive laws and policies have been used as tools of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders and critics. Executive Order No. 70, adopted in 2018, led to the consolidation of the country’s agencies towards a whole-of-nation approach against national insurgency. This policy was used to justify surveillance activities and raids against organisations accused of being communist fronts.

Citing ‘national security’, State officials have regularly released lists tagging human rights defenders, including United Nations Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, as terrorists. FORUM-ASIA’s members Karapatan, PAHRA and TFDP have also been labelled as terrorists for speaking out against human rights violations in the country. These accusations threaten their security and compromise the ability to conduct their work.

The administration has used existing legislation, including on cyber-libel and sedition to target critics, while pushing for new laws that dismantle Constitutional guarantees, and stifle dissent. The recently introduced Bayanihan to Heal as One Act included a ‘fake news’ provision which has been used to arrest individuals posting online criticism of the government’s response to the pandemic.

‘Fast-tracking the Anti-Terrorism Bill at a time when the country is grappling with the effects of a public health emergency demonstrates a complete disregard for any trust the public has placed in its Government. Members of the Philippine Congress should take a strong stand against this bill and demonstrate that they are capable of upholding democracy and not just the wishes of their President,’ urged the rights groups.

Pick to PostThe PhilippinesAnti-terrorism billFORUM-ASIA
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Police deny students’ request to hold Tiananmen Square commemoration

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-06-03 11:34
Submitted on Wed, 3 Jun 2020 - 11:34 AMPrachatai

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal went to Huaikwang Police Station on 2 June to receive a police order forbidding him and other students from organizing a commemoration event on the 31st anniversary of the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Netiwit after receiving the police order forbidding the event (Source: Netiwit Ntw)

Netiwit said that the police denied his request under Article 9 of the Emergency Decree, which carries a prison sentence of up to 2 years or a fine of 20,000 baht or both for any violation.  

Netiwit submitted a request to hold the event to Huaikwang police stating that the event, to be held in front of the Chinese Embassy, would involve around 10 participants holding signs saying “Thailand is a sovereign nation, not a part of China” and “Protect the Mekong River” along with the Tibetan, Uyghur, and Hong Kong flags.

The request also detailed the event’s social distancing measures, stating that participants will be required to wear face masks and stand 1 - 2 metres apart, and requesting that the authorities assist them in coordinating with other agencies responsible for disease control if they think it is necessary.

Since the Thai government declared a state of emergency on 3 April 2020 in order to control the spread of Covid-19, the authorities have used the Decree to restrict freedom of expression. On 28 April, Sunthorn Duangnarong, a human right defender from the Chaiyaphum-based Rak Bamnet Narong Conservation Group, was arrested and taken to the Hua Thale Police Station, where she was told that she may later be charged under the Public Assembly Act and the Emergency Decree after she appeared in a video alongside 20 other community members reading out a statement calling on the government and private mining companies to put on hold any mining-related activities for as long as the Covid-19 restrictions are in place.

Political activist Anurak Jeantawanich was also arrested twice after participating in public assemblies. On 13 May, he was arrested and taken to Lumpini Police Station after a commemoration event on the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, with the police claiming that he violated the Emergency Decree by organizing the gathering, and also because many of the participants were not maintaining a safe distance from each other and were not wearing face masks.

Anurak was arrested again alongside former MP Dr Tossaporn Serirak on 22 May, after they organized an event in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) to mark the 6th anniversary of the May 2014 military coup. They were taken to Pathumwan Police Station and charged with violating the Emergency Decree by organizing a public gathering that risked spreading infection.

The police in Songkhla also denied a request from a beach conservation network to hold an anti-seawall protest on Muang Ngam Beach on 23 May, claiming that the protest would violate the Emergency Decree.

NewsNetiwit CholtiphatphaisalTiananmen Square massacrefreedom of expressionfreedom of assemblyEmergency DecreeState of emergency
Categories: Prachatai English

Students and workers call for lifting of Emergency Decree

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-06-02 13:22
Submitted on Tue, 2 Jun 2020 - 01:22 PMPrachatai

Students have joined hands with labour organizations in submitting a letter urging the government to lift the Emergency Decree after the cabinet decided to extend it to 30 June. The letter says, “stop using the pandemic as an excuse to oppress the people.” Thai Lawyers for Human Rights pointed out three legal reasons why the situation does not warrant extending the Emergency Decree.

Students and representatives of labour organizations giving the three-finger salute while a representative submit the petition to Sompas Nilapund, advisor to the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister, at the same time observing social distancing measure.

On 28 May, representatives from the Student Union of Thailand and labour organizations joined together at Exit 4 of Government House to insist that the government lift the Emergency Decree. Jutatip Sirikhan, President of the Student Union of Thailand, read an open letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha titled, “The government must lift the Emergency Decree and distribute compensation payments to all citizens,”. The group then submitted the letter at a government complaints centre where it was received by Sompas Nilapund, advisor to the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister.

The letter summarizes what the government has done during the two months since the Emergency Decree was enforced and finds that it has arrested and threatened to charge critics the government's operations. The authorities each time cited public order as the reason, not disease control. The groups therefore see the Emergency Decree as an opportunity to block the freedoms of the people by using the pandemic as an excuse. As the COVID-19 situation has significantly improved, the network of students and workers organizations call on the government to stop using the pandemic as an excuse to oppress the people.

The letter calls for the government to lift the Emergency Decree and apply laws that can control the pandemic but do not limit the people’s freedoms, like the 2015 Communicable Disease Act, and to provide compensation for all types of workers, including those who are not in the social security system, the self-employed and agricultural workers, who must receive equal rights, so that every person has equal access to timely government assistance.

It is greatly hoped that in this difficult situation, the government will take the people’s interests over maintaining its own power because Thailand belongs to all Thai people.

Students and labour organisations representatives reading their letter to the press

The letter reads:

“Open Letter

‘The government must lift the Emergency Decree and distribute compensation payments to all citizens’

To Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha

The Cabinet on 26 May approved the extension the Emergency Decree, which was imposed on 26 March, by claiming that the extension was to control the spread of Covid-19 and not for any

hidden political reason. During two months under the Emergency Decree, there have been many arrests and threats to bring charges for violating the Emergency Decree against students, social activists, and even normal people who criticize the government. Each time, the authorities said these groups of students and people were acting against public order and creating social disorder and did not refer to control of the pandemic. This clearly shows that in the past the government did not use the Emergency Decree to control the pandemic but used it to control people who do not agree with the government. The extension of the Emergency Decree is being used as an opportunity to limit the freedoms of the people using the pandemic situation merely as a pretext

The extension of the Emergency Decree creates difficulties for many people, especially workers who have no income because of layoffs or the inability to work as normal. The curfew also means that people and workers who work night shifts have to experience difficulties in travelling, or even being able to work at all. The government also has not yet given importance to dealing with the difficulties of the people. As we can see, the relief measures that the government has implemented have been beset by delays and inefficiencies, which has led to many people being missed out from state measures, especially informal workers and agricultural workers.

Extending the Emergency Decree solely for the government maintain its own power is considered to be cold-blooded aggravation against the people and extreme contempt for the people.

While the pandemic situation is greatly reduced in severity, we can see the numbers of infections and deaths from COVID-19 in Thailand is far less than other countries, But the number of deaths from destitution and the economic depression has been increasing.

We, students and labourers, are calling for the government to stop using the pandemic as an excuse to oppress the people and we call for the government to take the following actions:

1. Lift the Emergency Decree and use instead laws that can control the pandemic but which cannot be used to limit the people’s rights and freedoms, like the 2015 Communicable Disease Act.

2. Assist everybody without exception, so that workers in every category, such as those who are not in the social security system, the self-employed and agricultural workers, must receive equal rights, so every person has equal and timely access to state help without exception.

It is greatly hoped that in this difficult situation, the government will take the people’s interests over maintaining its own power because Thailand belongs to all Thai people.”

The letter is dated 27 May and signed by the Eastern Labour Relations Development Group, the Greater Rangsit Area Labour Union Group, the Building and Wood Workers International Council of Thailand, Just Economy and Labour Institute, the Textile Garment and Leather Workers' Federation of Thailand, and the Student Union of Thailand.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights point out three legal reasons for not extending the Emergency Decree.

It was reported on 25 May, before the cabinet decided to extend the Emergency Decree, that Thai Lawyers for Human Rights released three legal observations as to why the government should not extend the decree.

1. The ongoing COVID-19 situation may no longer meet the definition of an ‘emergency situation’ under the Emergency Decree.

2. The end of the Emergency Decree and the use instead of other existing laws would better guarantee the rights and freedoms of the people.

3. To extend the Emergency Decree without the participation of the legislature may not be consistent with a democratic system of government.

NewsEmergency DecreeState of emergencystudent movementStudent Union of ThailandJutatip SirikhanCOVID-19coronavirusfreedom of expressionfreedom of assemblylabour rights
Categories: Prachatai English

Democracy Monument shrouded in black to commemorate death of anti-dictatorship politician

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-06-01 20:53
Submitted on Mon, 1 Jun 2020 - 08:53 PMPrachatai

Political activists tied a black shroud around the Democracy Monument in commemoration of the 59th anniversary of the execution of anti-dictatorship figure Khrong Chandawong on the orders of the dictator Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat. They also raised banners with Khrong’s famous last words “Dictatorship shall fall, democracy shall prosper”.

Activists tied a black robe to the Democracy Monument and showed banners with Khrong's last word on it. 

At 6.00 am on 31 May, the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG), a political activist group, and Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer, staged a symbolic activity at the Democracy Monument in commemoration of 59th anniversary of the death of Khrong Chandawong’.

They tied black cloth around the Monument and raised a banner with Khrong’s famous message “Dictatorship shall fall, democracy shall prosper” which he delivered before his execution by firing squad.

“Nowadays, our democratic system is shrouded by a military dictatorship. Restoring [democracy] may be impossible, but we must have this commemoration to remind us that the struggle for democracy is long and many have sacrificed their lives before us,” said Anon.

Khrong was Member of Parliament for Sakon Nakhon. He was arrested many times for engaging in anti-dictatorship activities. In 1959, he was executed during the administration of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, who had staged coups d’état in 1957 and 1958.

The death sentence was handed down under Article 17 of the 1959 Charter which replaced the 1952 Constitution. It legitimized any action of the Prime Minister to quell any perceived threat to the security of the Kingdom and Monarchy. 

Khrong Chandawong and words that still live on

Khrong’s last words are used widely in the Thai democratic movement. Under the 2014-2019 National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) military junta, 2 people were prosecuted for using this famous quote. 

In 2015, Phonlawat Warodomphutikun was caught distributing leaflets with Khrong’s message in many educational institutes in Rayong Province. He was taken to a military camp and prosecuted for sedition. The court sentenced him to 4 months in prison. His case is still under appeal.

In 2016, Samart Kwanchai was arrested and prosecuted under the Referendum Act which was used to silence critics of the draft 2017 constitution ahead of a national referendum. Samart was arrested after he distributed ‘Vote No’ leaflets with Khrong’s message in a shopping mall parking lot in Chiang Mai Province.

NewsKhrong ChandawongDemocracy Restoration Group (DRG)Anon NampaDemocracy MonumentSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/05/87895
Categories: Prachatai English

George Floyd protests: Police failing to ensure rights to protest, endangering lives

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-06-01 19:08
Submitted on Mon, 1 Jun 2020 - 07:08 PMAmnesty International

Protesters confront with the police in Minneapolis (Source: (ที่มา: Facebook/ Premeira Linha)

Rachel Ward, National Director of Research at Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), issued the following statement about the police response in cities nationwide to this weekend’s protests:

“U.S. police across the country are failing their obligations under international law to respect and facilitate the right to peaceful protest, exacerbating a tense situation and endangering the lives of protesters. In city after city, we are witnessing actions that could be considered unnecessary or excessive force. We call for an immediate end to any such use of force and for law enforcement to ensure and protect the legal right to protest.

“The use of heavy-duty riot gear and military-grade weapons and equipment to police largely peaceful demonstrations may intimidate protesters who are practicing their right to peaceful assembly. These tactics can actually lead to an escalation in violence. Equipping officers in a manner more appropriate for a battlefield may put them in the mindset that confrontation and conflict are inevitable.

“Police must engage in de-escalation, before the situation worsens. They should de-militarize their approach and engage in dialogue with protest organizers to reduce tensions to prevent violence or to stop it quickly as soon as it breaks out in order to protect the right to peaceful assembly.

“All unnecessary or excessive force must cease immediately, and all instances of potentially excessive or unnecessary force against protesters must be investigated and any officers who broke the law must be held accountable.

“Furthermore, we call on the federal government and U.S. cities and states to act swiftly and meaningfully to address the root cause of these protests and take immediate measures to stop unlawful killings by police of Black people and others. Officers must be prosecuted, all U.S. states must pass laws to restrict the use of lethal force as a last resort to prevent an imminent threat to life, and Congress should pass the PEACE Act to create a federal standard and incentivize state reform.

“Racism and white supremacy are fueling these killings and the police response to the protests. The federal government should set up a national commission to address all aspects of this crisis including killings by police, the right to protest and ending discrimination. President Trump must end his violent and discriminatory rhetoric and policies.

“The U.S. government at all levels must ensure the right to protest as guaranteed by international law.”

Pick to PostGeorge FloydUnited States of AmericaAmnesty InternationalSource: https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/police-failing-to-ensure-right-to-protest-endangering-lives/
Categories: Prachatai English

CCSA to relax lockdown measures starting 1 June

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-06-01 15:55
Submitted on Mon, 1 Jun 2020 - 03:55 PMPrachatai

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) announced the relaxation of some Covid-19 control measures as the number of new cases per day continues to drop.

According to BBC Thai, Gen Somsak Rungsita, Secretary-General of the National Security Council (NSC), said that businesses that reopen must strictly follow disease control procedures, including temperature screening and symptom monitoring for both employees and visitors, registration on the Thaichana platform, and developing ways of controlling the disease in the long run.

Malls will now be allowed to stay open until 21.00, while the nationwide curfew hours will be changed to 23.00 – 3.00.

Massage parlours and hairdressers are allowed to open, but each visitor must spend not more than 2 hours at each establishment. Gyms and other sport clubs must set a time limit for visitors, while theatres are not allowed to have more than 200 people in an audience at one time.

Meanwhile, schools are to remain closed until 1 July, but venues may be used for entrance examinations and short courses. The Ministry of Education may also allow some low-risk schools, such as vocational schools or smaller schools, to re-open first.

These changes take effect on Monday (1 June).

Gen Somsak also said that the ban on international travel will remain in place, and that Thai nationals returning from overseas must still follow quarantine procedures. Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) has already extended its international flight ban to 30 June. The Emergency Decree, which has also been extended, also states that only foreign nationals with work permits or smart visas, members of diplomatic missions, or those granted permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs may enter the country.

According to the Bangkok Post, the government is planning to lift the lockdown completely on 1 July, allowing interprovincial and international travel as well as lifting the Emergency Decree and the curfew.

The Thai government’s decision to extend its state of emergency has been criticized by several human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as unnecessary, unjustified, and a move which is being used as an excuse to limit freedom of expression and silence anti-government voices. Several activists have been arrested in May, with the police claiming that they have violated the Emergency Decree.  

As of 29 May, Thailand has a total of 3076 cases of Covid-19, only 74 of which still remain in hospital, and a death toll of 57. The CCSA reported 11 new cases on 29 May, all of which were Thai nationals returning from Kuwait and in state quarantine.

NewsCOVID-19coronavirusState of emergencyLockdown
Categories: Prachatai English

Thai political slang explained: ‘อีโง่’ or ‘stupid bitch'

Prachatai English - Sat, 2020-05-30 00:00
Submitted on Sat, 30 May 2020 - 12:00 AMThammachart Kri-aksorn

Source: Yingluck Shinnawatra's Facebook Page

May 2020 is not only the 10th anniversary of the killing of the red shirts, but also the 6th anniversary of the 2014 military coup which overthrew Yingluck Shinawatra, the first woman prime minister of Thailand. In remembrace of the fateful event, Thai Political Slang Explained introduced '‘อีโง่’ or ‘stupid bitch', the offensive word which was terrifyingly used to bring her down. 

Before I continue to the second part on the term khwai daeng and how its meaning changed, I would like to introduce between the two sections this term: ‘อีโง่’ or ‘stupid bitch.’  This May is not only the 10th anniversary of the killing of the red shirts, but also the 6th anniversary of the 2014 military coup which overthrew Yingluck Shinawatra, the first woman prime minister of Thailand whose main supporters were the red shirts. I will try to show that the junta empowered not only those who discredit the rural and lower middle class population, but also the same people who look down on women.  

In the previous article, I showed that the term ควายแดง (khwai daeng) or ‘red buffalo’ implies ‘stupid’. The term was widely used to discredit Thaksin’s supporters after the military coup in 2006. It was reinforced by the yellow-shirt establishment and Anek Laothamatas’s academic work which labels them as poor, rural, uneducated voters. It is sad enough that this aderogatory term is regularly used in Thailand’s public discourse, but usage peaked in 2010 when Abhisit’s government killed 90 red shirt protesters. 

However, we will see that it was not the only time when its use became so popular. After Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolved parliament in 2011, an election was held. The red shirts struck back not with bullets, but with ballots. Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister, won the election and became the country’s first woman prime minister. Despite the efforts of the network of the military, the conservative elite and the yellow shirts to take and hold onto power by staging a coup, drafting a new constitution, co-opting unelected bodies, discrediting Thaksin’s supporters and even killing them, the red shirts won power by electoral means.  Again.

Like any other government, the Yingluck administration had its ups and downs. However, she was hated viscerally by the anti-Thaksin movement. Not only did the conservatives disparage her supporters, but they also looked down on her. The most popular term at the time, apart from khwai daeng, was อีโง่ (i-ngo) or ‘stupid bitch’. 

What does it mean?

There are many translations of the term อีโง่. The Nation translated it as ‘stupid woman’, the Bangkok Post used the term ‘stupid lady’ (a correction of their earlier ‘dumb bitch), and Khaosod English went with the term ‘stupid bitch.’ I agree with the Khaosod English translation because it is the most accurate as it makes clear the rudeness of the term. 

‘อี’ (i) is an offensive prefix used to refer to women. The equivalence for men is ‘ไอ้’ (ai). Sometimes these can be used interchangeably between genders. You can put any name or adjective after these prefixes to show disrespect to anyone you refer to. It can also mean you have a close relationship with them or you are jokingly insulting them as a form of affection.  For example, if Tom is close to you, you can call him ‘ai-Tom’ or ‘i-Tom’ (you are more likely to call him ‘i-Tom’ if you are a woman). You can also imagine the same term being used by his angry boss when Tom makes a mistake. If you add an adjective with a positive meaning after these prefixes, it will sound sarcastic. It is similar to when you call someone “Mr/Mrs Smart” in English, except the prefix “Mr.” in English is a lot more neutral. 

The word โง่ (ngo) means ‘stupid’. It is a direct insult like ควาย (khwai). You can copy and paste it in Google Translate if you want to learn a mean word to use with your Thai friends. But at your own risk.   

Before Yingluck rose to power, this term อีโง่ was in daily use. It still is, and if used, almost teasingly, with your close friends, it is totally okay. However, once Yingluck became Prime Minister, this term became more politically charged. Recently I searched the term “อีโง่” on Google and I found nothing but controversy about Yingluck. When some Thais hear this term, they still think about her political struggle. 

Who started it? 

The obvious answer is her haters, the yellow shirts who fought to bring down her brother in 2006 and labelled her supporters ‘khwai daeng’. The term อีโง่ gradually gained momentum as public criticism grew less restrained. Some argue that it started when Vanessa Race, a famous Thai writer on neuroscience, harshly criticized Yingluck on Twitter for an ineffective response to the floods in 2011. To be fair, she did not identify herself with any political group, and she said “stupid leader (ผู้นำโง่)” but not “stupid bitch (อีโง่)”, It is only an assumption that her statement may have provided a basis for the term อีโง่ later on even though it was not her intention: 

“Let me say something harsh for once in my life. … Speak and then cry. ... Floods I’m not afraid of. I’m afraid of only one thing … a stupid leader, because we will all die.” 

Sometimes the criticisms were unfair. Also popular among her haters was fake news about her saying “thank you three times” in public as she read a script literally. The best proof they could offer was a video on YouTube with the title “Thank you 3 times” but the content shows that Yingluck never said “thank you 3 times.”

Even though the exact time and date of the term อีโง่ being widely used cannot be identified, we can pinpoint the politician who pushed it into the national conversation: Abhisit Vejjajiva. Here is what he said at a Democrat Party rally in 2013 when Yingluck’s popularity was starting to decline:

This morning I saw a bit of what she was doing: What was the project? ‘Smart Lady’ [the Thai original uses the English words].  What does it mean? I don’t really understand it all.  It’s like they are going to have contest to find to a Smart Lady. I have asked Apimongkol [Apimongkol Sonakul, then a Democrat MP and the son of the current Minister of Labour]. It means a clever woman. But then I asked, hey, if they are doing this project, why do they have to? Why do they have to have a clever woman competition? Because they say that if they had a competition for a stupid bitch [อีโง่], no one could compete.  

 

If this was said by other ordinary politicians, it might have been not a big deal. But this was from the leader of opposition who happened to be an elite from Eton and with a face Thai media and many considered as handsome. So, it was quite shocking. This was when searches for the term ‘อีโง่’ peaked according to Google Trend. 

Did he hold a grudge because voters loved her more than him? As I discussed in the previous section, Abhisit was Prime Minister from 2008 to 2011. He became Prime Minister not by winning the popular vote in an election, but by the defection of a faction of MPs which evolved into the Bhumjaithai Party of the current governing coalition. Many questioned his legitimacy. 

When the red shirts gathered in 2010 to demand the dissolution of Parliament and fresh elections, he ordered in armed troops who killed almost a hundred of them. The following year, after the election laws had been amended to favour his party, he dissolved parliament and called elections. The country promptly voted a Shinawatra back into power right before his eyes. He was defeated by a woman with virtually no political experience and became for the second time the leader of the opposition.   

We may never know if he held a grudge, but the comment triggered responses from many groups. In an op-ed was written in defence of Yingluck in the Bangkok Post by Kaewmala, who produced the thaiwomantalks blog. Jaded Chouwilai, Director of the Women and Men Progressive Foundation (WMP), said that listening to what Abhisit said, he could not expect any good from the opposition. Pheu Thai MPs pressured Abhisit to apologize. But he disingenuously claimed he was not referring to Yingluck when he mentioned ‘อีโง่’. The Democrat Party spokesperson also asked the government to file a complaint with Google because when people search for the term ‘อีโง่’, Yingluck’s face showed up all over the page and it hurt Thailand’s international reputation.

Yingluck was also called other things as the protesters doubled down on offensive usages: “a whore,” “an animal,” “slutty moron”, “barbie” etc. Famous among these was a political cartoonist Chai Rachawat’s post on Facebook which led Yingluck’s legal team to file a defamation lawsuit against him. Chai was called by police to learn about the accusation in May 2013, but there has not been reported progress until now. 

“Please understand. A whore is not a wicked woman. A whore just peddles her body, but a wicked woman peddles the nation.” 

Despite all this, Yingluck persisted. The rice pledging scheme, the first-car tax rebate scheme, raising the minimum wage, and other policies were implemented. They were criticized as ‘populist’ - giving a short-term stimulus to please voters but bad for the economy in the long run. However, her real mistake was when in 2014 she tried to pass an amnesty bill to acquit everyone accused of previous political crimes. Some said that she was betrayed by the opposition who had made a ‘superdeal’ agreement with her. Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Deputy Prime Minister and Democrat MP, resigned from the party and became the full-time leader of anti-Yingluck protesters. 

The protests were successful in shutting down Bangkok and creating a political vacuum. Yingluck dissolved parliament and called a new election. The protesters knew that the red shirts would vote her back again, so they obstructed the polls. The Constitutional Court later nullified the election because of the chaos caused by the protesters. They also disqualified Yingluck from the premiership for illegally removing a bureaucrat from office. The anti-Yingluck protesters finally celebrated when Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha staged his military coup in 2014. During this period the term ‘khwai daeng’ peaked again. 

After that, we all know the story. Gen Prayut has been Prime Minister for 6 years now. Yingluck is in exile and now has Serbian citizenship. The political meaning of the term ‘อีโง่’ has been gradually forgotten even though traces of it can still be found. However, the term ‘ผู้นำโง่ (stupid leader) which Vanessa invented and the term ‘khwai daeng’ have changed their meaning in unexpected ways.

 

 

 

 

 

NewsThai Political Slang ExplainedYingluck ShinawatraAbhisit VejjajivaChai RatchawatSuthep ThaugsubanPDRC
Categories: Prachatai English

Isaan Mekong basin network concerns the Sanakham hydropower push

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-05-29 17:49
Submitted on Fri, 29 May 2020 - 05:49 PMPeople's Network of Isaan Mekong Basin

Boats in Mekong river

Amidst the spreading of the Coronavirus 2019 in every corner of the world, the government in each country, as well as the departments, organizations, and other related parties are vigorously collaborating in solving the problem with a hope of surviving the disaster that is impacting the human race.

At the same time, the Lao government, in collaboration with a Chinese power generating state enterprise, took the opportunity during this crisis and quickly pushed forward the Hydropower dams on the Mekong river. The latest project is the Sanakham dam.

Commission (MRC) revealed to the public that Lao People's Democratic Republic will start the process of the "Prior Consultation" for the Hydropower Project of Sanakham. This process follows the regulations on prior informing and consulting and the agreement by the MRC, whose members consist of Thailand, Lao, Cambodia, and Vietnam, on initiating a project that will draw the benefit from the Mekong river.

The Sanakham Hydropower Project is under the development of Datang Sanakham Hydropower company. The company is a child company of Dantang company, a Chinese power generating state enterprise.

According to the document on the Sanakham project that had been proposed to the MRC, it is stated that the dam is a run-of-the-river dam with the capacity of producing 684 megawatts of electricity. The construction site is in between Xayaburi province and the city of Vientiane, at Sanakham city. The site is only 2 kilometers from Chiangkhan district, Loei province, and 155 kilometers from Vientiane.

Lao is hoping to start the project in 2020 and finish the project by 2028. The project is estimated to cost 66 billion baht. A majority of the electricity produced will be sold to Thailand.

The effort to push for the construction of hydropower dams in the Mekong River has been ongoing for the past two decades. Eleven dams had already been built within China, and Lao has a goal of building seven more dams on the Mekong River. 

One of the dams, the Xayaburi dam, had already been completed. There are two more dams that already have plans to be constructed on the Thai-Lao border, Pak Chom dam at Pak Chom district, Loei province, and Baan Khum dam, in Kongchiam district, Ubonratchathani province. These dams are part of the Hydropower Dam development plan that had been laid out along the Mekong River.

We, the People's Network of Isaan Mekong Basin, as part of the civil society and people's network, have been following the situation in the lower Mekong basin, especially the push for the construction of the dams in the Mekong river that create social and environmental impacts across the borders on the community within the Mekong basin in lower Isaan, in the past ten years. We have the following perspectives and the observation on the construction of the dams on the Mekong River:

Over the past years, the Mekong dams in china, including the Xayaburi dam in Laos, had formally started to retain the water to produce electricity since 2019. This had created impacts on the ecosystem and the environment in the Mekong river and led to severe destructions; the reduced in the biodiversity, especially in fish varieties and other aquatic lives in the Mekong river, the issue of the sediments of the upper river dams that affect the nutrients within the lower river ecosystem, and the change in the color of the water that had never happened before. These are the crossed-border environmental impacts that have been accumulated for a long period of time.

These environmental and ecological impacts led to social impacts concerning the food security issues of the communities in the lower Mekong basin within four countries. Local fishers lost their livelihood and income, and many communities lost their agriculture land along the banks of the river.

In addition, the natural tourist sites and the many crucial cultural and historical sites along the river are being impacted which had caused people within the communities and related parties to lose a huge amount of income.

Therefore, the push for the Sanakham project will greatly aggravate the environmental and social problems within the Mekong river on the communities in the lower Mekong basin.

From the situation mentioned above, we have the following proposal to the government and all the related government's department:

Thai government should clearly declare its stance on the situation and the impacts on the ecosystem and environment in the Mekong river caused by the dams built on the river. Thai government should reconsider its stance on buying electricity from the hydropower dams in the Mekong river, especially the Sanakham dam, which will bring about a disaster on the environment and the ecosystem of the Mekong River.

More importantly, the government should reveal the information and the fact surrounding the issue and the impacts caused by the development of the Mekong river to the public and open for the civil society and the people to take part in identifying the problem and propose alternatives for the development, as well as how to mitigate the environmental problems that had already occurred.

With Reverence

the People's Network of Isaan Mekong Basin

28 May 2020

Pick to PostMekong RiverSanakham hydropowerLaosMekong River Commission (MRC)Source: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/05/87873
Categories: Prachatai English

Foreign national spouses left hanging in the air

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-05-29 15:08
Submitted on Fri, 29 May 2020 - 03:08 PMChatchai Mongkol

Thousands of foreign nationals who are married to Thai citizens are expressing their concerns and frustrations over the Thai government’s travel restrictions because they are not included among those allowed into the country, leaving them stranded overseas, separated from their loved ones.

According to the Emergency Decree declared on 25 March, the only foreigners who are allowed to enter the country are those with work permits or smart visas and those granted permission by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). This does not include foreigners with marriage visas.

In April the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand imposed a ban on all incoming international flights, except for state or military aircraft, emergency landings, technical landings without disembarkation, humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights, repatriation flights and cargo flights.

So foreigners with marriage visas cannot travel due to the flight ban and cannot enter the country due to the Emergency Decree.

Both restrictions have been extended to 30 June.

Among many thousands of cases, Jaco Willem Kotze is stranded away from his wife and daughter in Western Cape, South Africa. The three of them left Thailand for a family vacation on 27 Feb and returned on 25 March, the day the Emergency Decree was imposed.

Jaco’s wife and daughter were able to enter as they are Thai citizens, but as foreigners were no longer allowed in, Jaco was denied entry as he did not meet the criteria. He was then forced to return to South Africa despite having all the specially required travel documents and a marriage certificate and a long-stay retirement visa. Jaco also had to pay for his flight back to South Africa.

Jaco said he was “confused, angry, very hurt nauseas [sic], [and wanted] to get sick from all that bad stress, but more angry to see the pain in my wife's eyes.”

They want their voices heard.

Two Facebook groups have been founded as platforms for people like Jaco to share their stories in the hope of communicating with the authorities so that they can be reunited with their families, “Farangs Stranded Abroad Due to lockdown in Thailand” has over 800 members and “Thai Expats Stranded Overseas Due To COVID-19 Travel Restrictions” has over 1600 members as of 27 May.

Michael V Piroon, a Thai citizen whose fiancée is stranded in Shenzhen, China, and a member of both groups, made a video called “FAMILY COMES FIRST - let us fly back to our love ones” on his YouTube channel after reading others’ stories in the Facebook groups. Michael said that instead of sitting there and complaining, he wanted to act. Michael hopes the video and the stories will catch the media's attention and get heard.

“I’m going to fight for my fiancée to get back as fast as she can, [and] I’m also going to fight for everybody too,” Michael said.

Michael expects the Thai government to be clearer on its plans on when each type of foreigner will be allowed to enter. Michael said he sought help from many government agencies but was told different things.

“I call the AOT [Airports of Thailand], they say one thing, I call the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they’ll do another thing, I call the Embassy, they tell you to do another thing,” Michael said. “We need more coordination and I think that has to trigger from the top down.”

It is not only Michael who experienced confusion from government agencies. The Nation Thailand reported on Chonpiti Duangsangaram, whose husband, Daniel Nolan, is stranded in Australia, and who said she tried to get her husband back by speaking to the immigration officials at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, but they said it was beyond their authority. Rob Kennedy also said the Thai Embassy in Brunei was helpful, but high-ranking officials in Bangkok are showing little interest in his case.

Bob Natalini is stranded in the United States and has been separated from his wife and daughter for five months. Bob, who carries an expired Thai non-immigrant visa, said he has contacted the Thai Consulate in New York but did not receive any response. Ten days prior to Bob’s flight to Thailand, the border closed. Bob said he was preparing to build a house for his family.

“The Thai government must prioritize reuniting families,” Bob said in his post. “That is a human right.”

Bob also said he is afraid that people from the United States will be the last group to be allowed entry as the pandemic situation there is “wildly out of control.”

What is ahead remains unknown.

Some group members plan to fly to neighbouring countries such as Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam to enter Thailand through a land border. However, Pol Col Cherngron Rimpadee, Deputy Immigration Police Spokesperson, said both land and sea borders have the same measures and regulations as air borders, and foreigners who do not meet the criteria stated in the Emergency Decree will not be allowed to enter.

As there have been many reports of separated couples, Allan McKinnon, the Australian Ambassador to Thailand, said on 6 May that he has taken this issue to the Office of the Prime Minister, and received a response saying that the Thai government is aware of the situation but in the ongoing situation, as there are limited quarantine facilities and medical personnel within the country, the government has to be cautious with all inbound passengers. Ambassador McKinnon said in the video that it has been confirmed that the Thai authorities are not focused on bringing non-citizens into Thailand right now, according to the letter he received from the Office of the Prime Minister.

Alex Wilson, one of the group’s admins, said he called the MFA’s Department of Consular Affairs and was told that at the end of the month there will be an online registration for foreigners who need to return to Thailand.

“Let's hope this is the case. I am more and more confident that at least by July, we will be able to return,” Alex said.

Prachatai English reached out to the Department of Consular Affairs but did not receive any confirmation of the plan.

Foreign nationals who meet the criteria stated in the Emergency Decree may register for repatriation flights, according to Jacy Fu, who has spoken to a friend who works at the MFA. Fu said companies in Thailand employing individuals must submit a letter of intent to the MFA for approval, and once approved, they have to contact the local Thai Embassy.

While travel may depend on availability of flights, Fu said there were three Hong Kong nationals on a repatriation flight on 27 May. Chris Franck, another member of the group who has a Thai marriage visa and a work permit, also posted that he received an email from the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington DC saying that he is eligible for the repatriation flights.

Post Today reported on 26 May that the government is considering lifting the travel restrictions if the situation gets better. Minister of Transport Saksayam Chidchob said there should be a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Thailand and each country on conditions and health procedures for international travel. Saksayam said this would not be for every country but only for the countries that have stable control of the pandemic according to World Health Organization standards.

As of today, there is no clear policy to allow foreign national spouses of Thai citizens to reunite with their families in Thailand. Because the flight ban and the Emergency Decree have been extended to 30 June, the soonest that any foreigner will be allowed entry is 1 July.

FeatureCOVID-19coronavirusTravel banCivil Aviation Authorities of Thailand (CAAT)Emergency DecreeState of emergencyExpatMarriage migration
Categories: Prachatai English

Community based WHRD visited by police officer after publicly demanding Emergency Decree to be revoked

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-05-29 14:50
Submitted on Fri, 29 May 2020 - 02:50 PMProtection International

The woman human right defender of the anti-mining Rak Ban Haeng Group in Lampang received a visit and intimidation by the police on Thursday, after publicly reading statement echoing the calls of the People’s Movement of 5 Regions that demands the government to revoke Emergency Decree.

Sommai Harntecha (centre) reading the statement calling for the government to revoke the Emergency Decree (Source: Protection International)

Sommai Harntecha was one of dozens of members of the Rak Ban Haeng group seen in a video uploaded around 11am to Lampangmining Facebook page, which is used by Rak Ban Haeng group to share news and information regarding the campaign. The video saw her reading the public statement demanding the government to revoke Emergency Decree along with other members of the group.  Around 11.30, three police officers who did not identify their names and coming from Ngao District police station in Lampang, came to look for her in the village.

The police officers were inquiring Sommai about reasons for gathering and relating to the video, in which she replied that the it was to discuss the land issues. The police later told her that the group should not mention or do any public activities regarding the Emergency Decree, as it was “the issue of public matter.”

On Tuesday, the People’s Network of 5 Regions submits a letter, signed by  more than 390 entities, to the government and the Ombudsman to demand the government to revoke the Emergency Decree. The group pointed out that the Decree allows for blanket use of powers without required check and balance, causing worries about abuse of power unrelated to the Covid-19 pandemic control. Earlier on Monday, the Commoner’s Party also submitted similar call to the whip of the opposition parties.

Today, 3 community-based, anti-mining W/HRDs groups in Lampang Province, Nongbualamphu Province and Chaiyaphum Province also echoes the demands of the Network, stating that the Emergency Decree is depriving rights and liberty of people, especially those who are opposing development projects but cannot exercise their freedom of assembly. The Emergency Decree should be revoked as there are other available laws to control the current pandemic situation, the groups said.

Protection International, Thailand deplores such actions as it violates the people’s rights to exercise their human rights, including their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

The government must not exploit the pandemic situation to increase the sufferings of the people by intimidations and/or prosecutions of women/human rights defenders.

The government should not use the draconian Emergency Decree to quash dissent, control the population, or as a means to perpetuate their time in power, as also was a recommendation by UNOHCHR to governments on 27 April 2020. UNOHCHR also emphasized that undermining freedom expression “may do incalculable damage to the effort to contain COVID-19 and its pernicious socio-economic side-effects.”

Thailand must end harassment of human rights defenders and we called on the State not to use emergency declarations during the COVID-19 crisis to impose wholesale restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Governments and law enforcement agencies must act to prevent human rights abuses.

Pick to PostRak Ban Haeng GroupProtection InternationalSommai HarntechaHuman right defenderWoman human rights defendercommunity rightsenvironmentAnti-miningEmergency Decreefreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

MP urges Dept of  Marine and Coastal Resources to intervene sea wall construction

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-05-29 14:31
Submitted on Fri, 29 May 2020 - 02:31 PM

Move Forward MP Prasertpong Sornnuwat has submitted a letter to the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources calling for it to legally intervene in the construction of 4 seawalls in Songkhla Province. The Department said that it could not halt construction right away as no proof of damage was presented, although some of the beach has already been dug up. 

A seawall construction is being built at Muang Ngam beach (Source: Facebook/Beach for life)

The 28 May letter urges the DMCR to halt 4 projects, 2 of which are on Muang Ngam beach, one at Maharat beach and the other at Sai Kaeo beach. It claims that the construction will cause further erosion at the edge of the seawalls and dramatically affect the ecology and community livelihoods.

The letter cited Article 17 of the Marine and Coastal Resources Management Promotion Act which authorizes the DMCR Director-General to temporarily stop activities that critically destroy marine and coastal resources.

On the DMCR response, Prasertpong said via telephone that the Director-General, Deputy Director-General and Director in charge would be glad to communicate with the Department of Public Works, which is in charge of the construction.

However, Prasertpong said the DMCR claimed that this could not lead to a halt in construction as enforcement of Article 17 requires proof of environmental destruction. This part is subject to interpretation and might require a court verdict, but the Move Forward MP believes that damage has been done as the beach was dug up and concrete foundations laid.

In case of the Muang Ngam beach, Prasertpong said that construction was not passed by the provincial committee which oversees marine and coastal resources. This must later be proved in court as dereliction of duty. He plans to submit another letter to the Department of Public Works.

“I think the method that an MP or people can try is to submit a letter to the Department of the Public Works for Minister Anupong Paochinda to show courage as a general to be generous to people who are struggling,” said Prasertpong.

The Muang Ngam beach seawall is being constructed along 7.2 km of Muang Ngam beach, a public recreation space, tourist spot and fishing pier. The current phase of the project costs 87 million baht for 710 metres of a projected 2,625 metres.

The project claims to protect the beach from further erosion, which will affect seaside infrastructure. The project is scrutinized by many out of concern for its necessity, environmental impact and legitimacy. Local communities claim that the public hearings were not inclusive.

On 23 May, police in Songkhla Province turned down a request to hold an anti-seawall public gathering at Muang Ngam beach, claiming it would violate the Emergency Decree on Covid-19 control. 

Prasertpong disagrees with the police ban. He said that such an action breaches the basic right to freedom of expression in the Thai constitution and universal human rights.

“As the people bear no arms, and if they observe social distancing, you [authorities] cannot prohibit them.” said Prasertpong.

In December 2013, the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning) removed seawalls from the category of constructions that require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Previously, any seawall longer than 200 metres was subject to the EIA process. Apisak Tassanee, from the beach conservation group ‘Beach for Life’, claimed that the seawall has a severe environmental impact and should require an EIA.

NewsenvironmentPrasertpong SornnuwatMove Forward partyPrasertpong SornnuwatseawallDepartment of Marine and Coastal ResourcesSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/05/87862
Categories: Prachatai English

Thailand's State of Emergency extension unjustified, says HRW

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-05-28 14:02
Submitted on Thu, 28 May 2020 - 02:02 PMHuman Rights Watch

The Thai government’s extension of its state of emergency is an apparent pretext for violating basic rights, Human Rights Watch said today. On May 26, 2020, the government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha extended the draconian Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situation until June 30. 

A sign on the metal fence in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre says "activities are prohibited according to the 2005 Emergency Decree." It had been placed there in anticipation of a commemoration event on the 6th anniversary of the 2014 military coup. (Source: Museum of the Commonners)

Since the state of emergency was declared on March 24 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has stifled dissenting voices and critical opinions. Thai authorities have shut down criticism from the media, healthcare workers, and the general public about their response to the pandemic, using both the Emergency Decree and the Computer-Related Crime Act’s “anti-fake news” provisions. The decree grants officials immunity from prosecution for any human rights violations they commit.

“The Emergency Decree provides Thai authorities unchecked powers to suppress fundamental freedoms with zero accountability,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.“There is no legitimate basis for extending this decree, which allows for the arbitrary and disproportionate restriction of rights guaranteed under international law and the Thai constitution.”

In March, the government issued a list of prohibitions under the state of emergency, including vague and overbroad restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom that could be enforced by prosecution: “Reporting or spreading of information regarding COVID-19 which is untrue and may cause public fear, as well as deliberate distortion of information which causes misunderstanding and hence affects peace and order, or good moral of people, are prohibited.”

International human rights law recognizes that in the context of a serious public health emergency, restrictions on some rights can be justified when they are strictly necessary, proportionate to achieve the objective, and are neither arbitrary nor discriminatory in application. On March 16, a group of United Nations human rights experts said “Emergency declarations based on the Covid-19 outbreak should not be used as a basis to target particular groups, minorities, or individuals. It should not function as a cover for repressive action under the guise of protecting health … and should not be used simply to quash dissent.”

In crisis situations, international law allows authorities to exceptionally limit speech that could endanger public health. However, access to information and freedom of expression are among the integral components of the right to health, especially during a global pandemic. Access to information includes the right to seek, receive, and share informationabout the health risks and the government’s response.

Thai authorities have brought retaliatory lawsuits and sought to intimidate whistleblowers in the public health sector and online journalists after they reported alleged corruption related to hoarding of surgical masks and other supplies and black-market profiteering. Thai authorities also threatened some medical staff with disciplinary action, including terminating employment contracts and revoking medical licenses, for speaking out about severe shortages of essential supplies needed to treat Covid-19 patients and prevent the spread of the disease in hospitals across the country.

Human Rights Watch also documented a number of incidents in which Thai officials selectively used public health justifications to suppress fundamental freedoms for politically motivated reasons, targeting anti-government activities.

On May 22, Bangkok police arrested prominent pro-democracy activists Anurak Jeantawanich and Tosaporn Serirak for violating the ban on public assembly – one of the emergency measures imposed to slow the spread of Covid-19. The arrest was triggered by a remembrance service they held earlier that day with supporters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship – known as the “Red Shirts” – to mark the 6th anniversary of the 2014 military coupThai authorities previously arrested Anurak on the same charges on May 13, when he held a remembrance service to demand justice for those killed and wounded by the military during the crackdown on the 2010 Red Shirts protests. Even though thermal scanners to detect fevers were provided at the events and participants wore face masks, the activists were accused of ignoring social distancing, acting in a way likely to spread the virus, and disobeying lawful orders in both cases. If found guilty, they face two years in prison and a 40,000 baht (US$1,250) fine.

In southern Thailand, local authorities in Songkhla province denied a request by villagers in Singha Nakhon district to hold a rally on May 24 in protest of the government’s plan to build beach walls and breakwaters on Muang Ngam Beach. Despite an assurance from the organizers to follow social distancing and other Covid-19 measures to keep people safe, officials prohibited the rally.  

“While the Thai government has a responsibility to adopt measures to protect people from the pandemic, the government has not offered evidence to justify the extension of its limitless state of emergency,” Adams said. “Extending the emergency will allow Thai authorities to continue to repress contrary views, arrest critics, and ban peaceful rallies for political and not public health reasons.”

Pick to PostHuman Rights WatchEmergency DecreeState of emergencyfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

State of emergency extended until the end of June

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-05-27 18:07
Submitted on Wed, 27 May 2020 - 06:07 PMPrachatai

The cabinet decided on Tuesday afternoon (26 May) to extend the State of Emergency to the end of June, while civil society organizations have called for the Emergency Decree to be lifted, raising concerns about abuse of power in situations unrelated to the pandemic.

Police officers at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) on 22 May, following the arrest of Anurak Jeantawanich and Dr Tossaporn Serirak, organisers of a commemoration event on the 6th anniversary of the 2014 military coup.

Narumon Pinyosinwat, spokesperson of the Office of the Prime Minister, said during a press conference following the cabinet meeting on Tuesday that, in order to effectively control the spread of Covid-19 and coordinate different agencies involved in combating the pandemic, the 2015 Communicable Diseases Act is not enough and therefore the Emergency Decree is necessary. Narumon also said that there is no political motive behind the cabinet’s decision.

The State of Emergency had previously been extended once at the end of April, and, without the latest extension, would have been lifted at the end of May. The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) has also extended its international flight ban until the end of June.

Meanwhile, prior to the cabinet’s decision, the People’s Network of 5 Regions, along with a network of other civil society organizations, submitted a letter on Tuesday (26 May) demanding that the government lift the Emergency Decree, as there are concerns about abuse of power in situations unrelated to the pandemic.

The letter stated that, since the number of new Covid-19 cases has reduced significantly and is close to zero, the situation no longer requires the Emergency Decree and the government can use other existing laws to control the situation. It also said that the Emergency Decree severely restricts people’s rights and freedoms, and the power under the Decree can be abused as the Decree itself does not have a check and balance system in place.

On 28 April, Sunthorn Duangnarong, a community rights activist from the Chaiyaphum-based Rak Bamnet Narong Group, was arrested and taken to the Hua Thale Police Station, where she was informed that she may be charged for violating the Public Assembly Act, the Emergency Decree, and the Communicable Diseases Act, after she joined about 20 other community members in reading out a statement calling on the government and private mining companies to put on hold any mining-related activities for as long as the Covid-19 restrictions are in place, which was recorded and posted on the group’s Facebook page.

“The government must not exploit the pandemic situation to increase the sufferings of the people by intimidation and/or prosecutions of human rights defenders,” said Protection International about Sunthorn’s arrest. “The government should not use the draconian Emergency Decree to quash dissent, control the population, or as a means to perpetuate their time in power, as was recommended by UNOHCHR to the government on 27 April 2020. UNOHCHR also emphasized that undermining freedom of expression may do incalculable damage to the effort to contain COVID-19 and its pernicious socio-economic side-effects.”

On 13 May, political activist Anurak Jeantawanich was arrested and taken to the Lumpini Police Station after he organized and participated in a commemoration event on the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol. The police report claimed that Anurak violated the Decree by organizing the gathering and posting an invitation on Facebook, and also because many of the participants were not maintaining a safe distance from each other and were not wearing face masks.

On 22 May, when many groups were organizing activities to mark the 6th anniversary of the May 2014 military coup, Anurak was arrested again alongside former MP Dr Tossaporn Serirak, after they organized an event in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC). They were taken to the Pathum Wan Police Station and charged with violating the Emergency Decree by organizing a public gathering that risked spreading infection.

The police in Songkhla also denied a request from a beach conservation network to hold an anti-seawall protest on Muang Ngam Beach last week, claiming that the protest would violate the Emergency Decree.

Between 3 – 19 May, 34,669 people have been arrested for charges under the Decree, such as gathering in a group or breaking curfew, including a number of homeless people who were arrested for breaking curfew.

Amnesty International (AI) issued a statement earlier today (27 May), stating that the decree has been used “to restrict movement, peaceful assembly, privacy and freedom of expression, with penalties of imprisonment and/or fines” and calling on the Thai authorities to “ensure all restrictions it imposes on the exercise of rights are proportionate and necessary” and to implement measures to protect the rights of marginalised groups who “are at heightened risk because they cannot effectively protect themselves during the pandemic; face obstacles in accessing information about the virus transmission and adequate healthcare and services; or lack the capacity to comply with the government’s existing measures.”

AI also called on the authorities to “lift charges it has imposed on individuals who are being penalized for exercising their right to freedom of expression; stop the arbitrary detention of refugees and migrants; and refrain from using restrictions to target critics with disproportionate punishments based on politically-motivated grounds.”

“While the right to freedom of peaceful assembly can be restricted where doing so is necessary and proportionate to protect public health, those facing charges for assembling in breach of physical distancing measures must never face prison sentences,” said AI.

NewsCOVID-19coronavirusEmergency DecreeState of emergencyarbitrary arrest
Categories: Prachatai English

Resistance goes online, Emergency Decree extended, what’s next?

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-05-27 16:30
Submitted on Wed, 27 May 2020 - 04:30 PMYiamyut Sutthichaya

Guerilla message projection and online sharing are being used as protest movements as the Covid-19 Emergency Decree is used to prosecute and prevent offline gatherings, foreshadowing many days which could trigger public discussions and gatherings.

In May, Thai politics has moved online as public events have been prohibited and eventually criminalized during the Covid-19 lockdown.

In Germany, a group called PixelHELPER has been projecting messages onto the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl in Bavaria and famous landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag.

Their messages mainly criticize the Thai King and call for democracy. They are asking online for public donations to help them to keep on rallying.

Meanwhile in Thailand, where the lèse majesté law prohibits discussion of the monarchy, other issues are raised in a similar manner. On 10 May, the Progressive Movement, a group of former members of the dissolved Future Forward Party projected onto sites around Bangkok messages about the 2010 military crackdown on the red shirts. They relayed their message online with the hashtag #ตามหาความจริง (SeekingTruth).

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who was army commander at the time of the crackdown said that now is not the time for protest as the Covid-19 outbreak is the main priority. The Metropolitan Police say that they are investigating the campaign. (Source: Thairath)

A student activist group from Bangkok University posted photos of projected laser messages on the university buildings. The messages demand that the University return tuition fees and call for a more inclusive safety net policy from the state during the Covid-19 crisis.

On 22 May, a group including students staged small demonstrations in several places in Bangkok to mark the 6th anniversary of the 2014 Coup. Not many people attended. In some cases, police officers outnumbered participants. They still gained a lot of traffic online.

Emergency Decree criminalizes protest

Offline activities were suppressed and harassed by the authorities using the Emergency Decree which prohibits public gatherings that could lead to infection. This provision in the Decree has been steadily subverted to criminalize public gatherings.

This month, 2 people have already been arrested and prosecuted at events marking the anniversaries of the red-shirt massacre and the 2014 coup. Another public gathering in Songkhla province was banned by police on 24 May. In all cases, the police cited potential violation of the Decree.

On the other hand, the online world has been used to mobilize so-called ‘mobs from home’. People express their opinions in unison via a hashtag. When combined with minor activities on the ground, the messages resonate across social media and are then picked up by news agencies and reach larger audiences.

The real impact is still questionable as this lacks the synergy of the old-school form of protest that created attention by massively disrupting a public sphere. However, this has become a new norm of social movement under the Thai government’s attempts to control Covid-19.

The cabinet decision on 26 May to extend the Emergency Decree to the end of June will overshadow many anniversaries that month:

  • The Tiananmen crackdown in China (4 June 1989)
  • The Siamese democratic revolution (14 June 1932)
  • The mysterious death of King Rama VIII (9 June 1946)
  • The unexplained disappearance of Tanong Po-arn, a prominent labour unionist (19 June 1991)
  • World Refugee Day (20 June)

Parliament is also resume after its regular break on 27 May. Debates will mainly be about the 1.9 trillion baht stimulus plan approved by the Cabinet. But other issues that could shake the government will be brought up by the opposition.

It is still unclear about where this online-dominated movement will take us. It is also unclear how the Covid-19 crisis will be dealt with. For better or worse, it is worth watching.

Round UpPixelHELPER#findinngtruthmilitary crackdown 20102014 coupCOVID-19Emergency Decree
Categories: Prachatai English

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