Prachatai English

Students arrested, accused of burning king’s portrait

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-09-17 22:55
Submitted on Fri, 17 Sep 2021 - 10:55 PMPrachatai

Two students from Khon Kaen University were arrested on Friday morning (17 September), after the police raided their house and charged them with arson in relation to the burning of the King’s portrait on 13 September 2021.

Police officers guarding the Khon Kaen Police Station, where the students were held

Panupong (last name withheld) and Ruangsak (last name withheld) were arrested after a group of around 30 plainclothes and uniformed police officers tried to break into their residence to search the house.

The students were taken to Muang Khon Kaen Police Station. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that the police took them into separate rooms for questioning and provided Ruangsak with a lawyer  who has a police rank and did not inform the suspect of his rights.

Pol Maj Gen Netipong Thatthamlae, Deputy Commander of Provincial Police Region 4, said that the students were suspected of burning a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn in front of Srinagarind Hospital in Khon Kaen on 13 September 2021.  The police also confiscated a car which they believed to be the vehicle involved in the incident.

Activist and musician Patiwat Saraiyaem sang and spoke in front of the Khon Kaen Provincial Court, while the students are waiting for the result of their bail request

Panupong and Ruangsak were charged with arson. They were taken to court for a temporary detention request via teleconference. They were later granted bail without security, on the condition that they will receive a fine of 35,000 baht each if they violate their bail. The court also appointed the Deputy Dean of their faculty’s as their guarantor.

TLHR reported that while the students were held at Muang Khon Kaen Police Station, officers blocked off the entrance and the road next to the station.

NewsThai Lawyers for Human RightsKhon Kaenpro-democracy protest 2021Monarchy reformArsonPanupongRuangsakSrinagarind HospitalKhon Kaen University
Categories: Prachatai English

Police raid activists’ house; 1 arrested

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-09-17 22:43
Submitted on Fri, 17 Sep 2021 - 10:43 PMPrachatai

On Friday morning (17 September), police officers raided the house of members of the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), confiscating mobile phones and computers and arresting one person.

Police officers arrived at the activists' residence at 7.00 on Friday morning to search the house

A group of plainclothes and uniformed police officers went to search the house of activists Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Benja Apan, and Niraphon Onkhao at 7.00 on Friday (17 September). They presented a search warrant issued by the Thanyaburi Provincial Court.

The UFTD posted on their Facebook page that the police raided the house without waiting for a lawyer to arrive, and that they presented an arrest warrant for Niraphorn on charges under the sedition law, or Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code, and the Computer Crimes Act. She was then taken to the Technological Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) headquarters on Chaeng Wattana for questioning.  

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the arrest warrant was issued on 15 September 2021 by the Criminal Court. The warrant does not say why the warrant was issued and contained the wrong citizen ID number. Niraphorn also said that she has never received a police summons before being arrested.

TLHR said that the complaint against her was filed with the TCSD by Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims, an online royalist group whose members have filed numerous lèse majesté charges against many netizens and activists, including Parit Chiwarak and Anon Nampa.

Niraphorn Onkhao was arrested and taken to the TCSD headquarters 

TLHR said that the inquiry officer’s temporary detention request stated that the complaint against Niraphorn was filed because she is involved with running the UFTD’s Facebook page, which contain messages calling for people to join protests, which Nopadol said were not peaceful protests and at risk of spreading Covid-19.

The request also stated that, following an investigation, officials found that the Facebook page contain what they consider to be seditious messages calling for people to rebel against the authorities, as well as accusations that officers used excessive force on protesters. They therefore requested a court warrant to search the house and for Niraphorn's arrest. 

Niraphorn denied all charges and refused to sign the arrest record. She was later released on bail using 25,000 baht as security.

Meanwhile, Benja posted on her Facebook page that the police confiscated all of their computers, which they still need for online classes and upcoming midterm exams, since all three activists are students at Thammasat University and are currently enrolled in classes.  

NewsUnited Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD)Niraphorn OnkhaoBenja ApanPanusaya SithijirawattanakulSeditionComputer Crimes ActTechnology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD)pro-democracy protest 2021student activistjudicial harassmentNopadol PrompasitThailand Help Centre for Cyberbullying Victims
Categories: Prachatai English

AI: Legislation on torture, enforced disappearances must offer justice to victims

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-09-17 13:35
Submitted on Fri, 17 Sep 2021 - 01:35 PMAmnesty International

Amnesty International calls on the Thai authorities to pass a law which includes definitions of torture and enforced disappearances in full accordance with international law and offers justice to victims, after the Thai parliament voted yesterday (16 September) to approve the first reading of a bill criminalizing torture and enforced disappearance. 

Activists and relatives of victims of enforced disappearance went to parliament last week to call for the immediate passing of a bill criminalizing torture and enforced disappearance

Responding to the Thai parliament’s vote to approve in principle a draft law that seeks to criminalize both torture and enforced disappearances in Thailand for the first time, Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for Research, said:

“Amnesty International welcomes today’s development, which marks the first time legislation on these crimes has reached this stage. This symbolic act shows that the government recognizes the need to protect people against these heinous violations and to provide long-overdue justice to victims and their families.”

“Authorities must now take the next steps and ensure the existing draft laws are further developed to fully comply with Thailand’s international human rights obligations – and then swiftly enacted.”

“The government’s delay in making torture and enforced disappearances a criminal offence has denied victims’ access to justice and deterred others from coming forward. It has also sent a message to officials that they can carry out these violations with impunity.”

“Victims of torture and relatives of disappeared people – such as lawyer Somchai Neelapaijt and abducted activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit – have been campaigning for a law that would allow them to obtain justice, truth and reparation for their family members; this draft legislation, if amended, may provide a pathway for them to do so.”  

“The vote to approve this draft law serves as a vital first step, but will not be not enough on its own. Recent news reports of police torture highlight the need for the government of Thailand to effectively address a culture of torture and abuse of powers by some officials.”

“Amnesty International calls on the authorities to pass a law that includes definitions of torture and enforced disappearances in full accordance with international law, places legal responsibility along all points of the chain of command and respects the legal principle of non-refoulement.”

We won't be scapegoated: Father spends 12 years seeking justice for tortured son

Victims oppose further delay for anti-torture bill

Sitanun Satsaksit: A changed life

What Happened to Wanchalearm?

Background

The Thai parliament today voted to approve a draft law on the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act and set out a timeline to pass the law by early 2022. After a seven-day period allowing for amendments, parliament will then seek to combine this draft law with three other draft bills on the same subject before submitting them to parliament again for review within 90 to 120 days.

The government first drafted the law in 2016, yet it remained on hold after authorities repeatedly amended, delayed and apparently suspended action on the legislation over recent years.

Crucial gaps remain in the recent draft legislation, including on issues related to detention safeguards, universal jurisdiction, the prohibition of accepting information obtained by torture as evidence, as well as concerns about the applicability of statutes of limitations.

Although Thailand ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2007 and signed the United Nations International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2012, officials have continued to violate these conventions.

Amnesty International has documented widespread commission of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment by the Royal Thai Police and Royal Thai Army, and numerous cases of enforced disappearance. Human rights defenders, suspected insurgents, migrants, drug users and military conscripts in basic training are among the many victims of these crimes. In addition, Thai authorities have forcibly returned persons to countries where they are at risk of torture, in violation of the principle of non-refoulement.

The Thai authorities have also further compounded a prevailing culture of impunity by filing criminal proceedings against victims and human rights defenders who have made their concerns public.

Pick to PostAmnesty Internationalenforced disappearancetortureanti-torture bill
Categories: Prachatai English

A monarchy reform graffiti painter and citizen journalist arrested

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-09-16 16:55
Submitted on Thu, 16 Sep 2021 - 04:55 PMPrachatai

A citizen journalist and a protester who allegedly painted graffiti about monarchy reform at Din Daeng Intersection on 13 September were arrested by the police on Wednesday night (15 September). 

A photo of the painting incident on 13 September 2021.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Wiraphap Wongsaman was arrested and taken to Chaiyaphruek Police Station in Nonthaburi Province to file the report and then detained at Phaholyothin Police Station in Bangkok. 

Student activist Wanwalee Thammasattaya posted on Facebook that she personally knew Wiraphap by the nickname ‘Reef’ and that he was arrested while eating noodles. He was accused of painting graffiti reading ‘The monarchy should be reformed to be under the constitution’.

She stated that Reef has been the target of Information Operations and a pro-monarchy group which tried to label him as a radical protester. A video of him shoving reporters’ cameras was criticized online. In fact he was trying to prevent reporters from recording the faces of protesters who were minors, and had later apologized to the reporters.

On the same night, a citizen was arrested for resisting the authorities. He was taken to Thakham Police Station before being detained at Phaya Thai Police Station. According to Voice TV, a citizen journalist was arrested while wearing a purple vest that identified him as a follower of Kathoei Mae Luk On (trans mom with an infant child), a YouTuber who has been live broadcasting the Din Daeng protests.

Similar to the case of Ratsadon News whose reporter was arrested on Monday night (13 September), Kathoei Mae Luk On is a citizen journalist with 300,300 followers on YouTube.

NewsMonarchy reformpro-democracy protest 2021Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Kathoei Mae Luk Onpress freedomSource: prachatai.com/journal/2021/09/95011
Categories: Prachatai English

We won't be scapegoated: Father spends 12 years seeking justice for tortured son

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-09-16 16:16
Submitted on Thu, 16 Sep 2021 - 04:16 PMYiamyut Sutthichaya

A newly-launched book documents the ongoing case of Somsak Chuenchit and his 12-year effort to bring the police officers who tortured his son by beating and suffocating him with plastic bags during an interrogation.

From left to right: Ritthirong and Somsak Chuenchit. (Source: Cross Cultural Foundation)

On 28 January 2009, Ritthirong 'Shop' Chuenchit ,18, was returning from a cinema in Prachinburi Province with a friend when he was stopped by the police. His clothing and motorcycle helmet reportedly fit the description given to police by a woman who had earlier been the victim of a gold necklace-snatching.

At the police station, the woman identified Ritthirong  as the person who had taken her necklace. Ignoring his assertion of innocence, the interrogating officers beat the handcuffed youth and then suffocated him in a bid to determine where the necklace was hidden. Whenever Ritthirong chewed holes in the plastic bags to breathe, more were placed over his head.

The interrogators also told Ritthirong that if he died, they would hide his corpse in a far-away wilderness. Terrorised, the youth decided that the only way to escape was to admit to the theft and claim that the necklace was at a shop he frequented. 

After beating him some more, the police accused him of being on drugs and sought evidence with a urine test, which later proved to be negative.

Eventually, Ritthirong ’s father Somsak arrived on the scene, launching a fight to restore his son’s dignity. 

Rough road for justice

Torture at the hands of the police left the 18-year-old student and acoustic guitar player with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and he has since required ongoing medical treatment. He is often awakened by nightmares and his appetite for guitar playing and music has declined.

In a bid to get justice for his son, Somsak filed a complaint about the assault. The perpetrators worked to stop him, lobbying him to drop the case, fabricating evidence, and harassing him with the threat of drug charges. Police officers also appeared at Ritthirong’s school, exacerbating the concerns of an already-frightened student.

A rally poster against torture and enforced disappearance. (File photo)

“I had to fight alone. I had to fight the police.  Some units, some police violated our rights by violating and depriving my son of the right to breathe. Even the air to breathe they wouldn't give him,”

"I haven't been mixed up with drugs at all.  But in 2011 I was told by a local government agency to go for drug rehabilitation. I took this letter to the District Chief telling him that I had no history with drugs. This was the beginning of the threats,” said Somsak.

Somsak's case began to draw public attention after he contacted Amnesty International and the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), a rights advocacy group. With the aid of a CrCF legal team, Somsak filed a lawsuit in 2015 against the 7 police officers involved in the incident for malfeasance, perverting the course of justice, assault and illegal detention .  

Far from over

Thus far, Somsak’s efforts have borne little fruit. After 12 years of struggle, only one police officer has been punished. Sentenced to prison for 16 months and fined 8,000 baht fine for interfering with an investigation, he has already been paroled.

Somsak is still pursuing cases against the police for utilising false testimony and fabricated evidence to frame his son. Police are pursuing a case against him in turn for allegedly presenting false information in court.

Aitarnik Chitwiset, an author of When tortured, I sought justice who spent over 6 months collecting data and conducting interviews before writing a book about the case, believes that Somsak's struggle is worth keeping an eye on. On a number of occasions, patron-client networks in the bureaucracy were used to block Somsak's efforts, reflecting a fundamental defect in a state system that needs reform.

When tortured, I sought justice at the book launch event on 10 September 2021.

Preeda Nakpiw, the CrCF lawyer in charge of Somsak's lawsuit, blames the lack of a law criminalising torture, which makes it relatively easy for wrong-doers to escape punishment. Only an anti-torture and enforced disappearance bill will ensure that mechanisms are in place to end such practices.

A draft bill banning torture and enforced disappearance is scheduled for parliamentary debate

Civil groups and the relatives of victims are working to have it pass on the first reading. Slated for 15 October, the last day of the current parliamentary session, the reading has already been delayed for 7 years.

Eventually, the parliament has passed the first reading of the bill on 16 September with an overwhelming 363-0 vote. Howver, the actual enforcement is still far as further debates over the details are needed before passing the second and third reading.

According to Surapong Kongchantuek, the president of CrCF, torture and enforced disappearances are often carried out in places with limited public access, such as military barracks, police stations or national parks, making it difficult to gather evidence and investigate culprits.

He calls for the immediate passage of the anti-torture bill to create a legal toolset to pursue investigations. He also proposes police reforms to decentralise the command structure, facilitate independent investigations, enforce rules of conduct for interrogations including the mandatory use of voice and video recorders,  provide clear criteria for internal promotions and eliminate the current “bounty system” which encourages unwarranted police raids and abductions.

As for Somsak and his protracted struggle for justice, he wants his family to be remembered for their stand against abusive authorities.

“We have been branded as scapegoats.  We refuse to be sacrificed. So we must look for every way to fight.  This is a fight not be be scapegoats.”

This article uses material from Aitarnik Chitwiset’s new book “When tortured, I sought justice” published by the CrCF and information given at the book launching. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, click here. The book is in Thai language)

Featuretortureenforced disappearanceanti-torture billSomsak CheunchitRitthirong CheunchitCross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)Amnesty Internationalhuman rights
Categories: Prachatai English

5 activists granted bail, 1 arrested

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-09-16 11:08
Submitted on Thu, 16 Sep 2021 - 11:08 AMPrachatai

Five activists detained on charges relating to a protest in front of the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters on 2 August 2021 to demand the release of 32 detained activists have been granted bail.

From left to right: Parit, Nutchanon, Phromsorn, Panupong and Thatchapong. (Source:TLHR)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that the Court of Appeal granted bail to activists Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, Thatchapong Kaedam, and Nutchanon Pairoj earlier today (15 September), after they had earlier been denied bail several times.

9 activists were arrested on the same charges. Parit, Nutchanon, and Phromsorn were arrested along with Sirichai Natueng on 8 August 2021, after they reported to the police headquarters to show that they did not intend to flee or tamper with evidence.

Thatchapong and Panupong were arrested on the same day after they reported to Khlong Ha Police Station and were taken into custody. Thanapat Khapeng and Panadda Sirimasakul, members of the activist group Thalufah, also went to Khlong Ha Police Station with Thatchapong and Panupong and were arrested.

Sam Samat, a stateless man who was previously arrested for joining the 28 February 2021 protest and allegedly pretending to urinate onto crowd control police gathering below the containers used to block protesters, was also arrested on 7 August 2021.

Thanapat was granted bail on 13 August 2021, while Panadda, Sirichai, and Sam were granted bail on 26 August 2021.

Phromsorn, Panupong, Thatchapong, and Nutchanon were released in the afternoon. However, TLHR said that they still have to file another bail request for Parit, whose bail for charges relating to the 19 September 2020 protest has been revoked by the Criminal Court following a request from the public prosecutor.

Meanwhile, human rights lawyer and activist Anon Nampa is still in detention, after he was arrested on a royal defamation charge due to his speech at the second Harry Potter protest on 3 August 2021 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC).

Activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa is also still in detention, after he was arrested on 9 August 2021 on charges related to an incident on 3 August, in which activists splashed paint in front of Thung Song Hong Police Station following their release after spending a night in detention on charges relating to a protest at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau on 2 August to demand that the police return a speaker truck seized after the 1 August ‘car mob’ rally. He was charged with violating the Emergency Decree, damaging public property, and taking part in an assembly of more than 10 people which caused a breach of public peace.

Seven of the 11 detained activists have tested positive for Covid-19 since their detention: Parit, Sirichai, Sam, Phromsorn, Panupong, Thatchapong, and Jatupat. Thanapat also tested positive for Covid-19 after he was granted bail. Meanwhile, Sam and Sirichai were transferred to a hospital after they were granted bail.

Thawee Thiangwiset, another member of the Thalufah group, was arrested today (15 September) and charged with resisting an official, committing an act of violence not amounting to bodily or mental harm to another person, escaping while in detention, and violation of the Emergency Decree and the Communicable Diseases Act.

Thawee was arrested while reporting to Nang Loeng Police Station along with other Thalufah members to hear charges relating to the incident on 22 July 2021, when they gathered to show support for 19-year-old rapper Danupha Khanatheerakul, known under her stage name Milli, who was charged with defamation for posting on her Twitter account criticism of the government. 

TLHR said that Thawee was arrested by a group of men claiming to be plainclothes officers from Phaya Thai Police Station, who did not present their police IDs. Thawee was then taken to Phaya Thai Police Station, where he was informed that his charges are related to an incident on 3 September 2021, when drivers of the Thalufah speaker truck were arrested following a protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection.

Officers who filed the complaint against Thawee said that while the group was being arrested, a group of people tried to stop the officers from taking them away, and that Thawee punched an officer in the face before escaping along with another person who was being arrested.

The inquiry officer then took Thawee to court for a temporary detention request via video conference. The court denied him bail on the grounds that he violated previous bail conditions, and that the court believes he would flee or repeat his offense. The court order was issued by judge Tewan Rodcharoen, Deputy Director-General of the Criminal Court.

Newspro-democracy protest 2021Phromsorn WeerathamjareeParit ChiwarakPanupong JadnokThatchapong KaedamNutchanon PairojThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Source: https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/09/94989
Categories: Prachatai English

Civil society urges inclusive and more detailed in the state's Factory Sandbox

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-09-15 18:49
Submitted on Wed, 15 Sep 2021 - 06:49 PMMigrant Working Group (MWG)

An open letter from Migrant Working Group (MWG), the labour-related NGO expresses its observations and recommendations for the management policy of the Factory Sandbox by the Ministry of Labour.

File photo. (Source: ILO Asia-Pacific/Phaywin (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

Dear Minister of Ministry of Labour

On 30 August 2021, the cabinet acknowledged the report of the implementation of a pilot program for the prevention and control of communicable diseases in factories (Factory Sandbox) conducted by the Ministry of Labour. Starting since 13 August 2021, it has focused on workplaces, businesses and factories serving large scale export which plays a vitally important role to the national economy to ensure the continuation of industrial operation in four sectors including automobile, electronic parts, food and medical equipment. It took place in four target provinces including Nonthaburi, Pathumthani, Samut Sakhon and Chonburi with factories employing at least 500 workers and upward. This has been done in conjunction with disease control and prevention measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Ministry of Labour, in the pilot area (Phase I), there were 387 participating workplaces with 474,109 insured workers. The Migrant Working Group (MWG) has these observations to make; 

  1. This program was put under the charge of the Ministry of Labour in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Interior under the “Health Economics” concept to stabilize the economy while upholding the employment and ensuring the control and prevention of communicable diseases. MWG has found that even though the Ministry of Labour took the lead in the program, but the focus of the labour management has been placed on workers insured in the social security system pursuant to Section 33. As a result, some uninsured workers could be unaccounted for in this program even though they are employed by the participating factories. 
  2. In terms of labour protection and the promotion of decent work in the midst of the pandemic, according to our survey of workers within and outside the Bubble and Seal (BBS), the workers have to face similar programs including being suspended from their work and isolated if they are found to have close contact with infected persons while there is no clarity regarding the payment of their wage during such quarantine. In practicality, the workers are forced to isolate themselves taking their days off or their annual leave which shall affect the exercise of their rights as an employee according to the labour protection law concerning annual leave. In terms of their accommodation, despite measures put in place by the public agencies, but according to cases reported to the MWG, the workers have to live in crammed and vulnerable places with insufficient supply of food and drinking water.  If both parents participated in the program, their children would be left behind unattended. 
  3. MWG has found the MoPH’s Department of Disease Control’s (DDC) has published a detailed guideline on “Disease Prevention and Control in Designated Area (Bubble and Seal - BBS) for Workplaces”. In reality, all workers are required to have a Covid-19 test via RT-PCR to isolate infected persons and ensure they receive prompt treatment. They are also required to test themselves using Antigen Self-Testing Kit (Self ATK) every week. MWG notes that the DDC’s guideline does not clearly mention as to who shall be held responsible for the testing costs. Just for the initial target group of 474,109 workers required to have RT-PCR, it would have cost at least one billion baht (at 3,000 baht/person). The weekly ATK tests would have cost 33,187,630 baht (at 70 baht/person/week). If they have to test themselves four times a month, they will need 1,896,436 self-test kits. A lack of clarity regarding who shall bear the expense for the tests asides, MWG has been informed by workers from the factories participating in the BBS program that many of them are forced to pay for the ATK test kits themselves. There is also insufficient ATKs for the workers. At present, the National Health Security Office (NHSO) has decided to procure 8.5 ATKs via the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) and the distribution targets shall include slums and fresh markets focusing on risk groups and those working with the community. And according to online news, the NHSO will start distributing such ATKs to the public the middle of September onward while the Factory Sandbox pilot program has started since late August 2021.

Therefore, to ensure economic stability and to protect employment as well as to control and prevent diseases as part of the Covid-19 pandemic response and to ensure the protection of people’s rights according to the Constitution 2017, MWG has these recommendations for the Ministry of Labour and concerned agencies. 

  1. Produce a manual on the labour protection in designated disease control areas to set out clear guidelines for the employers and their employees. What should they do If they have to be suspended from their work, how they should take their days off. There should be clarity as to the payment of their wage during the quarantine, or the compensation. This is to ensure that while acting in compliance with measures for disease prevention and control, the workers shall not be deprived of their due rights as protected by the Labour Protection Act 1998.  The Ministry of Labour must issue a notification specifying that the taking of sick leave for Covid-19 quarantine must be treated as a paid sick leave and they shall not be included in their normal sick leave provided that they may have to isolate themselves for a long time. Proactive testing should also be conducted among the workers in response to the outbreak. For example, the migrant workers should be allowed to submit their applications in their languages and to submit them as a group through online complaints mechanism. Since the four industrial sectors are geared toward export, it is important to ensure the standards of goods are met as well as compliance with labour protection standards since it would be one of the requirements set forth by the buying countries. This action may have ramification on Thailand’s image as far as the Business and Human Rights principles are concerned.  
  2. The Ministry of Labour should expand the program to also account for uninsured workers who are employed in the participating factories. These factories may employ both Thai and migrant workers and the latter are subject to labour management at different levels. Some migrant workers are in the process of becoming insured workers and having access to unemployment benefits. Therefore, if they are at risk and required to isolate themselves, they may not be able to exercise their rights according to the labour protection law. 
  3. The MoL should urgently meet with the MoPH to ensure sufficient supply of test kits for all workers participating in the program. And the MoPH should take the lead to outlay expenses to procure ATKs while refraining from charging either the employers or the employees. The MoPH’s budget can be drawn from the one-trillion-baht emergency loan decree since the program serves medical and public health purposes with the existing earmarked budget of 63,898 million baht. This shall also serve the purposes of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand 2017’s Section 47 paragraph 3 which prescribes that “A person shall have the right to the protection and eradication of harmful contagious diseases by the State free of charge as provided by law.” Every country in the world including Thailand realizes and acknowledges that Covid-19 pandemic is an emerging disease that affects public health of all people and all aspects of national development. 
  4. The MoL should expedite the effort to ensure access to vaccination of all workers. This will help to reduce their vulnerabilities to the disease, sickness and deaths. It can also promote the good quality of life of the people and the fulfillment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Thailand’s SDG ranking has fallen from 41st last year to 43rd this year. It also serves Thailand’s commitment on “No one safe until everyone safe” made during the Global Compact on Migration meeting at the United Nations in March 2021.
  5. The Social Security Office (SSO) or the Division of Health Economics and Health Security, as the case may be, should ensure health facilities in the areas where the workers are eligible take the lead to provide healthcare in each spot of the Factory Sandbox. Otherwise, NHSO should coordinate for the provision of healthcare to all workers by drawing into the Health Insurance Fund and not charging either the workplaces or the workers. 
  6. Clear measures and guidelines should be put in place to monitor the accommodation for the isolated of workers at risk of infection provided by each workplace. It should focus on the provision of consumable supplies, preventing crowdedness and any vulnerable condition. Measures should be put in place to help if both parents have to be quarantined and their children could be left unattended. 

With respect in human rights and human dignity

Migrant Working Group (MWG)

CC:  

  1. Minister of Public Health
  2. Minister of Interior
  3. Minister of Industry
  4. Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)  
  5. Thai Frozen Foods Association (TFFA)
  6. Thai Tuna Industry Association
  7. Federation of Thai Industries
  8. Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade of Thailand  
Pick to Postlabour rightsMigrant Working Group (MWG)migrant workerFactory Sandbox
Categories: Prachatai English

Police create their own definition of media with the arrest of 2 citizen journalists

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-09-15 11:07
Submitted on Wed, 15 Sep 2021 - 11:07 AMPrachatai

2 online reporters were arrested on the night of 13 September while covering the protest at Din Daeng intersection and charged with violating the curfew and the emergency decree.

From left to right: Panida and Nattapong during the arrest.

Arrested were Nattapong Malee from Ratsadon News and Panida (surname withheld) from the Free Our Friends page. Live footage from Ratsadon News showed police asking Nattapong to produce written permission for him to work during the 21.00-04.00 curfew. He responded that his application was pending, and was taken in.

Ratsadon News is one among many online citizen journalists providing close coverage of the protests at Din Daeng through live broadcasts. These have occasionally exposed police brutality.

The two were detained overnight and taken to court the next day to request further temporary detention. The court released them on bail with no security.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that 11 people were arrested on the same night. 5 were minors, one of whom was 12 years old, 2 were reporters, and one was a volunteer nurse.

‘Unaffiliated’ media barred from covering protests

On 14 September, Khaosod reported that Pol Col Kritsana Phattanacharoen, deputy police spokesperson, said in a press briefing that Youtubers and freelancers from Thai and foreign news agencies are not allowed to cover the protests if they cannot confirm their affiliation.

Prior to the arrests, Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai, Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, gave an interview to the Question Time programme on the Thai PBS channel that the police have received media reports about protesters or Youtubers disguising themselves as journalists. 

Pol Maj Gen Piya said the police would remove unaffiliated journalists or Youtubers from the scene. 

Reports of unaffiliated reporters and freelance journalists and photographers being blocked from reporting and assaulted have increased in the latter half of 2021 as police increased pressure on pro-democracy protesters. 

Although official media carry press cards, they are often affected by police use of rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon, sometimes deployed indiscriminately.

Sirote Klampaiboon, a Voice TV reporter, tweeted on Monday night (13 Sep) that a group of reporters at Din Daeng had rubber bullets fired at them after the police picked them out with green lasers.

Somchai Homla-or, a human rights lawyer, in an interview with Backpack Journalist on 17 August after a freelance photographer was hit by a police baton that destroyed her camera lens, said that the authorities have no right to use violence to stop people and the media from taking photos or videos as they serve as tools for monitoring the protest situation.

Somchai cited a Court of Appeal Region 5 ruling, which said that people can take photos and videos when the authorities make an arrest or perform their duty at checkpoints as it is meant to increase transparency regarding the authorities’ actions. Citizens and journalists are able to record the situation as long as they do not interfere with the authorities.

The Thai Media for Democracy Alliance (DemAll), a group of pro-democracy media and content creators, published a statement after the arrest of the 2 citizen journalists, saying that it found many reports that reporters were asked to produce press cards, to stop live broadcasts and to leave the scene, with the curfew used as an excuse.

DemAll demanded that the police not restrict the definition of the media to only those affiliated with major press outlets and put a stop to threats against journalists.

“The press cards are not the main issue. Even citizen journalists are regarded as journalists with the duty of relaying information to the people,” stated the statement.

NewsNattapong MaleeFree Our Friendspress freedomRatsadon NewsPiya TawichaiSomchai Homla-orpro-democracy protest 2021Source: prachatai.com/journal/2021/09/94976
Categories: Prachatai English

Sergeant hit-and-run explained as an escape from danger

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-09-14 18:10
Submitted on Tue, 14 Sep 2021 - 06:10 PMPrachatai

According to Police General Suwat Jangyodsuk, Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police, a police detention pick-up truck driver who fled the scene of an accident after running over a protester was afraid of the threat posed by nearby demonstrators.

A protest at Din Daeng. (File photo)

A film clip of the incident, which occurred late last Sunday, was posted by the Reporters news agency.  A police car can be seen ramming an individual who appeared to be running away from it.  The victim reportedly required treatment for injuries on the chin and torso. Redistributed online, the footage elicited angry commentary from local netizens.

According to Voice Online, Police General Suwat explained that the driver of the truck with HJ 5399 BKK license, Sergeant Noraseth (surname not stated) had been ordered to return to the Plubplachai Police Station after performing crowd control duty at Din Daeng Intersection.  

The sergeant alleges that some 6-7 protesters approached his vehicle, hitting it with sticks while throwing objects and fireworks at its windows. Unarmed, he decided to flee the scene as fast as he could, ramming a protester who was blocking his way in the process. He also claims that one of the tires exploded before he arrived at the station.

The Police Commissioner noted that Sgt Noraseth has filed a complaint to the police and added that the crash victim had the right to take legal action as well. Suwat denied of the incident being called ‘hit-and-run’ as Noraseth has filed the complaint to the police after he departed the scene.

The incident came a night after the escalation of police measures to end demonstrations at the Din Daeng Intersection, a transport hub close to Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s residence.  For months running, protesters attempting to reach the PM’s house have met with rubber bullets, tear gas and container blockades.

In response, some protesters been begun bringing firecrackers, hand-made explosives and firearms to the marches.  Since August, the intersection has been the scene of increasingly violent clashes.

In early September, crackdowns and arrests increased after police announced plans to end the Din Daeng protests within the space of a week. On the evening of 11 September, police at the site arrested 78 people including 6 minors, 2 Cambodian nationals and some 20 taxi drivers and food vendors.  That same evening, a crowd control police officer suffered severe facial injuries after being hit by an explosive object.

On Monday, Police Major General Piya Tawichai, Deputy Chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) stated that since July, the police have brought charges against 756 people in 204 cases and arrested another 511 people.

NewsSuwat Jangyodsukpro-democracy protest 2021Din Daeng Intersection
Categories: Prachatai English

Writer and former Senator Thommayanti dies at 85

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-09-14 18:02
Submitted on Tue, 14 Sep 2021 - 06:02 PMPrachatai

Writer and former senator Wimon Chiamcharoen, best known under her pen name Thommayanti, passed away yesterday (13 September) at the age of 85.

Wimon Chiamcharoen (Picture from Thai Writer Association)

One of Thailand’s most popular writers, Wimon was known for her novels, which were written under 6 pen names and often contained nationalistic themes. She was also very prolific, having written 69 novels under her pen name Thommayanti alone.

The romance novel Khu Kam, a love story between a Thai woman and a Japanese soldier during the Second World War, is one of her best-known works and has been adapted into films, television series, and a stage musical. The historical fantasy novel Thawipop, in which a woman from the 20th century time travels to Siam during the reign of King Chulalongkorn, has also been repeatedly adapted as films, television series, a stage play, and a stage musical. In 2012, she was named a National Artist in literature.

There has also been speculation about similarities between her novel Phitsawat and Marie Corelli’s 1897 novel Ziska, due to the similar plot elements and themes.  

Wimon was also a controversial figure for her role in the lead-up to the 6 October 1976 Thammasat University Massacre. She was a leader of the Housewife Society founded in 1976, which consisted of the wives of bureaucrats and military officers. The Housewife Society was vocal in their attacks on the student movement, accusing them of destroying Thailand’s good relationship with the US. The group held a protest against the students on 17 May 1976.

She also spoke on the military’s Yan Kro (“armoured car”) radio network, a right-wing radio channel which was instrumental in fomenting attacks against the students, accusing them of being communists, and coordinating the attacks on the students. Wimon often attacked the student movement and the communist ideology in her talks, even calling for the US government to continue running an air force base and radar station in Thailand. A voice clip reported to be one of Wimon’s talks on the Yan Kro Radio was immediately shared on social media following her death. 

Following the Thammasat University massacre, Wimon was appointed to the National Reform Council and in 1977, to the National Legislative Council. According to the Documentation of Oct 6 project, Wimon strongly opposed a bill granting amnesty to students facing charges following the Thammasat University Massacre. At a National Legislative Council meeting on 15 September 1978, Wimon reportedly spoke during the session against the bill before walking out after the bill passed first reading.   

In 1979, she was elected as a senator, before being dismissed from office in 1986 after the Supreme Court found her guilty of adultery, while her husband filed for divorce. Nevertheless, she was awarded with the title Khunying in 2005 by King Bhumibol.  

NewsobituaryThommayantiWimon Chiamcharoen6 October 1976Thammasat University massacreliterature
Categories: Prachatai English

Activist’s mother summoned on violation of Emergency Decree charge

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-09-14 16:02
Submitted on Tue, 14 Sep 2021 - 04:02 PMPrachatai

Sureerat Chiwarak, mother of student activist Parit Chiwarak, has received a summons from Thong Lo Police Station on a violation of the Emergency Decree charge.

Sureerat Chiwarak joining a protest at the Thanyaburi Provincial Court on 11 September 2021 to demand the release of her son and other detained activists (Picture from the Labour Network for People's Right)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that Sureerat has to report to the police station to hear the charges on 20 September 2021. TLHR also posted a picture of the summons, which stated that the charge was filed by Pol Maj Ithithon Praosetsak, investigation inspector at Thong Lo Police Station, and that former Red Shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar also faces the same charge. 

The student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) said that the charge is related to a protest at the Asoke intersection, organized by Nattawut. The UFTD also said that Sureerat only attended the protest.

This is Sureerat’s second summons for violating the Emergency Decree. According to TLHR, she previously received a summons from Thong Lo Police after a complaint was filed against her by Srisuwan Janya, Secretary-General of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, who is known as Thailand’s “complainer-in-chief” for repeatedly filing police complaints against activists and politicians.

The UFTD said that Srisuwan’s complaint is related to the 3 September 2021 protest organized by the UFTD and the activist group Thalufah. However, TLHR said that the complaint is likely related to the 2 September 2021 protest at the Asoke intersection.

Sureerat looking at a picture of her son, which was displayed in front of iLaw's table at the 3 September 2021 protest at the Ratchaprasong Intersection, where people were invited to write letters to political prisoners. 

Sureerat has been active since the beginning of 2021 in the campaign for the release of activists detained pending trial, after her son was denied bail and detained in February 2021 along with 9 other activists. She became known, along with the mothers of other detained activists who spoke out to demand their children’s release, as the “Ratsamom,” a combination of “Ratsadon,” which means “people,” and “mom.”

Parit was released on bail on 11 May 2021, after being detained for 92 days. He was detained again on 8 August 2021 on charges relating to a protest in front of the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters on 2 August 2021 to demand the release of 32 detained activists. The Criminal Court also revoked his bail on charges relating to the 19 September 2020 protest. He is currently detained at the Thanyaburi Remand Prison and has been denied bail at least 4 times.

NewsSureerat ChiwarakRatsamomParit ChiwarakEmergency Decreejudicial harassmentThonglo Police StationSrisuwan Janya
Categories: Prachatai English

UN must retain Myanmar Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun’s accreditation, says APHR

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-09-14 13:07
Submitted on Tue, 14 Sep 2021 - 01:07 PMASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

Civil society calls on UN to Retain Myanmar’s Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun’s accreditation to the UN, amid fears Myanmar people could be ‘robbed of their rightful voice’ by the military junta

U Kyaw Moe Tun raising the three-finger salute, now a resistance symbol in Myanmar, during his briefing for the UN General Assembly

UN Member States must ensure that the current Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the United Nations, Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun, retains his position as Myanmar’s representative to the UN, 358 Myanmar and international civil society organizations said today in an open letter to members of the UN General Assembly.

On September 14, the UN’s Credentials Committee, comprised of nine UN Member States (including China, Russia and the United States), will meet to consider which of the competing submissions – Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun or the illegitimate military junta that has attempted a bloody coup since February – should be Myanmar’s representative at the UN. Since the attempted coup, the Ambassador has provided a crucial voice at the UN for the people of Myanmar and their legitimate government, the National Unity Government (NUG). Following its deliberations, the Credentials Committee will submit its recommendations to the UN General Assembly. 

Khin Ohmar, founder of Progressive Voice, said “There is a real risk that complacency from UN member states could result in the Myanmar people being robbed of their rightful voice at the UN, or even in the military junta receiving official UN accreditation as representatives of the people they have murdered and tortured so mercilessly. We therefore need any UN member state that values humanity, peace and stability, and respects the will of the people, to reject – as the people of Myanmar categorically have – the military junta and its mass atrocities, and take a stand publicly in support of U Kyaw Moe Tun and the NUG.”

Since the February attempted coup, the military junta has killed 1,058, arrested 7,992, detained 6,343 (including 104 children), sentenced 118 people in absentia and 39 people to death in absentia, and has tortured and sexually assaulted countless more. Furthermore, the junta has been unable to establish government functions or take effective control over the territory of Myanmar. Instead of making attempt to control Covid-19, the junta has instead seized medical facilities, hoarded oxygen, persecuting healthcare professionals, and fired on crowds seeking assistance, resulting in an uncontrolled outbreak of the disease that jeopardises global efforts to control it.

Kasit Piromya, a Board Member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and former Foreign Minister of Thailand, said “The junta is the very antithesis of the UN’s core values of peace, human rights, justice and social progress. Allowing it to sit at the UN would not only undermine any chance of seeing peace and democracy again in Myanmar, but would undermine the credibility of all UN efforts across the globe.”

Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, said “Myanmar’s military is responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and continues to kill and arrest its own people for resisting the coup. The UN General Assembly voted in June to condemn the excessive and lethal violence utilized by Myanmar’s armed forces since 1 February 2021 and called upon the military to respect the will of the people. This denunciation sent a clear message from the international community that the actions taken by the junta are contrary to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. No country should recognize or support the Myanmar’s military junta.” 

Pick to PostU Kyaw Moe TunMyanmarMyanmar coupASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)UNUnited Nations
Categories: Prachatai English

[Video] "We want our future back" : Students protest against continuous online education

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-09-13 20:07
Submitted on Mon, 13 Sep 2021 - 08:07 PMPrachatai

“We don’t want this rotten education system. We don’t want this stinking Minister. But we want our future back."

Last week, the student activist group Bad Student launched a strike campaign to protest against the continuous use of online classes during outbreaks of Covid-19, which has been detrimental to students’ mental health and deprived many of an education.

During a protest at the Democracy Monument on 7 September, a representative of the group gave a speech criticizing the current online education system, and that at least 1.8 million students have now dropped out of school, while the Ministry is persisting with its online education policy.

The group also staged a performance in which a student is tied to a chair surrounded by burning school books in protest of the online education policy. 

Students protest against continuous online education

MultimediaBad StudentStudent rightseducationCOVID-19Covid-19 pandemicOnline classAccess to educationRight to education
Categories: Prachatai English

78 people arrested in Din Daeng clash; media prevented from filming

Prachatai English - Sun, 2021-09-12 22:03
Submitted on Sun, 12 Sep 2021 - 10:03 PMPrachatai

78 people including minors, volunteer medics, and bystanders have been arrested following a clash between protesters and crowd control police on Saturday night (11 September).

Protesters on Vibhavadi Road (Picture by Ginger Cat)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that 9 of the 78 people arrested were minors, and that 20 of the detainees were not participating in the protest but were motorcycle taxi drivers, taxi drivers, and food vendors at the protest site.

The detainees were detained at several police agencies in the area. 8 were taken to Phaholyothin Police Station, 21 to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, and 24 to Don Mueang Police Station

Police officers in bulletproof vests guarding the Din Daeng Police Station

25 volunteer medics were also detained. They were initially held at the Royal Thai Army Band Department headquarters and later taken to Din Daeng Police Station. They were released at 1.40 on Sunday (12 September) without charge. They were told to register themselves with the metropolitan police in order to work at protest sites and not to leave their residences after curfew.

While the medics were detained, lawyers went to meet them at Din Daeng Police Station, but the police would not allow the lawyers to see them, claiming that they were not being charged and therefore could not see a lawyer. The police also forced the lawyers to leave the area in front of the police station, claiming safety reasons, and said that the police station is off limits. They were finally allowed to meet the medics at around 00.35.

The police station building was surrounded with razor wire and guarded by officers in bulletproof vests carrying firearms, while all the building lights were turned off. While the lawyers were negotiating with the police to see the detained medics, 10 police motorcycles, 5 police trucks, and at least 2 military Humvees were seen leaving the police station.

Crowd control police stationed in an alley near the Din Daeng Intersection (Picture by Ginger Cat)

During the clash, which began in the evening, crowd control police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters, who retaliated with firecrackers and other small explosives. Crowd control police were also reported to have fired tear gas and rubber bullets into nearby houses and apartment buildings. Residents who came to ask the officers to leave their community were also threatened with arrest as the officers claimed they were breaking the curfew.

iLaw reported heavy use of tear gas by the police at around 20.45, 15 minutes before the 21.00 curfew, affecting bystanders, one of whom reported chest pain and needed first aid. iLaw also noted that crowd control police were firing rubber bullets out of the Army Band headquarters, firing tear gas from the overpass in front of the Veterans General Hospital. At around 21.00, crowd control police pushed protesters out of Mit Maitri Road and surrounded an apartment building on Din Daeng 1 Road. There are also reports that crowd control police searched the apartment building for protesters.

Voice TV reported that for 40 minutes from 22.00, crowd control police continuously fired rubber bullets, tear gas, and marbles at the Din Daeng 1 apartment building, after protesters went into the building to escape arrest. Windows and walls in the building were damaged, and several residents had to leave their homes to stay elsewhere. There was also a report that a protester fell from the apartment building and was injured.

Damages inside a residence near the protest site (Picture by Ginger Cat)

Journalists in the field also reported that the police attempted to limit coverage of the clash and were threatened them with violation of the Emergency Decree charges. Crowd control police ordered a group of journalists gathering near the Din Daeng District Office to sit down and to end their live broadcast while officers checked their press IDs. Crowd control police also prohibited journalists from covering events at the nearby apartment buildings.

Voice TV reported that journalists were asked to leave the area in front of the Din Daeng 1 apartment building, and were ordered to end their live broadcast during the police operation. The police also checked the identification of journalists and volunteer medics in the area, as well as passers-by.

At around 22.40, The Reporters posted on their Facebook page that they havd to end their coverage as the police had ordered journalists to leave the area or face arrest for breaking the curfew.

The Din Daeng intersection and surrounding area have been the site of daily clashes for the past month, as protesters gathered to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. According to TLHR, at least 225 people were arrested at the Din Daeng protests in August alone, at least 15 of whom were under 15 years old and at least 62 were between 15 - 18 years old.

NewsDin DaengThalugazpro-democracy protest 2021Police brutalityarbitrary arrestpress freedomstate violenceEmergency DecreeState of emergencycurfew
Categories: Prachatai English

TMT president admits law firm paid US$18 million, says MP

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-09-11 21:08
Submitted on Sat, 11 Sep 2021 - 09:08 PMPrachatai

The House Anti-Corruption and Misconduct Committee (ACMC) released an update on its investigation of a Supreme Court case involving Toyota Motor Thailand (TMT), the Customs Department, and allegations of bribery to avoid paying import taxes.

Right: Teerajchai Phunthumas

On 8 September, a TMT representative testified to the ACMC about the company’s alleged bribery of several high-ranking judges to secure a favourable ruling in a case involving tax duties on the import of spare parts.

Teerajchai Phunthumas, a Move Forward Party (MFP) MP and ACMC member, reports that the Court of Justice secretariat was also called upon to testify so that matters could be clarified for the public.

Teerajchai said that the committee heard testimony from Mr. Noriaki Yamashita, the president of TMT, as well as the legal officers involved in the preliminary hearings and the appeals process.  He added that the Prosecutor’s Office had reopened the case, which was now under the consideration of the Supreme Court.

According to Teerajchai, Mr. Yamashita acknowledged that TMT made a payment of US$18 million to a local law firm, the Annanon Legal Office.   Earlier reports note that Annanon had been promised a total of US$27 million dollars to successfully move the case through the appeals process.

Teerajchai added that Mr. Yamashita had only just assumed his position, that the Annanon Legal Office was no longer handling TMT affairs, and that individuals involved in the case were no longer with the firm. Annanon was also immediately unable to account for its sharp increase in income during the timeframe of the case.  Firm earnings reportedly rose from a few hundred thousand baht to well over 100 million baht within the space of a few years. 

The MFP representative said further documents and testimony from TMT are still needed, while adding that those found guilty of wrong-doing would be held accountable for their actions.

According to a report published by the Bangkok Post last May, the case stems from a TMT decision in 2010 to import parts for the local production of its Prius hybrid model. Under the terms of the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership (JTEPA) agreement, the parts were eligible for import tax reductions.

In 2012, the Laem Chabang Port Customs Bureau found that TMT was circumventing an 80% import tax on finished automobiles by bringing in knocked-down vehicles for reassembly in Thailand.  The Bureau estimated that TMT imported some 20,000 cars in this manner, leaving the company with an eleven billion baht tax bill.

TMT countered that the agreement was open to interpretation and asked the Customs Department for a clarification in late 2013.

In June 2015, the company also filed a case against the Customs Department in the Central Tax Court, insisting that it had paid the correct tax rate and that the Department’s additional tax assessment was unfair.

The courts initially ruled in favour of TMT in September 2017 but the decision was later overturned after an appeal from the Department.  TMT appealed the ruling in turn.

In April 2020, Toyota Motor Corporation informed the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice that TMT might have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

March 29 of this year, a US-based news agency Law360 reported that Toyota Motor Corp had retained Wilmerhale Corporation to conduct an internal probe, which alleged that a TMT consultant company paid bribes to several Thai judges and officials in a bid to overturn the Prius case ruling.

NewsTeerajchai PhunthumasToyota Motor ThailandLaw360Move Forward party
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Thammanat is fired

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-09-10 22:05
Submitted on Fri, 10 Sep 2021 - 10:05 PMStephff

MultimediaStephffThammanat Prompaopolitics
Categories: Prachatai English

Prachatai found on DES’ ‘fake news’ list

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-09-10 20:35
Submitted on Fri, 10 Sep 2021 - 08:35 PMPrachatai

Prachatai’s Facebook page has been found on the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES)’s list of sites that spread fake news, which also includes Facebook pages for activists and activist groups, as well as other online news sites.

The Reporters reported on 24 August 2021 that between 16 – 22 August, the MDES reported that they have found 44 URLs which they claimed to be spreading fake news, and that they are in the process of requesting a court order to block at least 145 URLs.

The majority of the 44 offending URLs are on Facebook, and included activists as well as online news sites. Prachatai’s Thai language Facebook page is included in the list, along with Voice TV’s Talking Thailand Facebook page and the Progressive Movement’s Facebook page. Prachatai reporter Sarayut Tungprasert’s Facebook profile is also on the list.

The Facebook pages for academic in exile Pavin Chachavalpongpun, photographer Karnt Thassanaphak, actor and pro-democracy protest supporter Inthira Charoenpura, and activist Parit Chiwarak are all included on the list, as well as the Facebook pages for activist groups Free Youth, United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), Dome Revolution, and Thalufah. The Facebook group Royalist Marketplace is also listed.  

17 Twitter accounts appear, including those of human rights lawyer and activist Anon Nampa, Thalufah and UFTD, as well as @ThePeopleSpaces, an account which often runs discussions relating to politics and the pro-democracy movement on Twitter’s Spaces platform.

Prachatai has yet to receive a court summons related to this order, and does not know which piece of news led to the Facebook page and Sarayut’s Facebook profile being included on the list.

Newspress freedomfreedom of expressionSarayut TungprasertFake newsMinistry of Digital Economy and Society
Categories: Prachatai English

Students protest against continuous online education

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-09-10 20:22
Submitted on Fri, 10 Sep 2021 - 08:22 PMPrachatai

The student activist group Bad Student has launched a strike campaign to protest against the continuous use of online classes during outbreaks of Covid-19, which has been detrimental to students’ mental health and deprived many of an education.

A student is tied to a chair surrounded by burning school books as part of Bad Student's performance at the 7 September 2021 protest, staged to protest against the online education policy. 

The group is demanding that the government provide students, education professionals, and members of the public with high efficacy vaccines as soon as possible so that the education system and the economy can continue. If the government is not able to provide vaccines and students are not allowed to return to in-person classes, the Ministry of Education must provide students with equipment for online learning, internet services, and reimbursement of expenses.

To prevent even more students from being deprived of an education, the Ministry should also reduce tuition fees or impose a tuition fee moratorium, and provide whatever welfare is needed by students and their parents to keep young people in school. 

They also demanded that the Ministry reduce class time, teachers’ and students’ workload, and adjust the curriculum to match the current situation, as well as provide counselling services for students whose mental health is affected by having to study online, which is said to be more stressful than in-person teaching. The Ministry must also open up communication channels for students to file complaints.

Students joining the campaign are encouraged to stop attending classes between 6 – 10 September 2021, or to join and then leave the video call. Those who must attend class can also change their Zoom profile picture or background to show support for the campaign.

During a protest at the Democracy Monument on Tuesday (7 September), a representative of Bad Student gave a speech saying that the current online education system is not effective, and that it is indirectly killing children. He also claimed that at least 1.8 million students have now dropped out of school, while the Ministry is persisting with its online education policy.  He said that the aim of their strike campaign is to send a message to the government about the issues students are facing.

“We don’t want this rotten education system. We don’t want this stinking Minister. But we want our future back, and even better, is an education system that truly improves us,” he said.

A banner saying "The workload that is surrounding us because of online class is destroying students' childhood" is hung from the Democracy Monument during the 7 September 2021 protest. 

According to the Equitable Education Fund (EEF), around 1.9 million out of 9 million Thai students live in poverty or extreme poverty, as the pandemic has caused a decrease in their families’ income. Almost 88% of students living in poverty have difficulties attending classes due to lack of electricity and equipment needed for online classes, while almost 15% have likely left school.

The EEF also found that at least 366 children have lost their parents to Covid-19, and need long-term support similar to children who lose their parents from natural disasters. They should be supported until they receive their Bachelor’s degree.

On 17 July 2021, a network of students and teachers also petitioned the Parliament Standing Committee on Education to summon Education Minister Trinuch Thienthong to give information on the policy to compensate students, parents, and teachers affected by prolonged school closures and online classes during the pandemic.

The network said that many new teachers do not have computers or mobile phones, while low-income parents whose salaries have been cut or who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic are not able to purchase the equipment necessary for their children to attend class. They must also carry the expense of internet access, while teachers have to bear the cost of travel to visit students while schools are closed.

Jirawut Jitjak, a teacher from Nakhon Pathom who filed the petition on behalf of the network, said that while classes have been online for at least 2 semesters, neither students nor teachers have received any support. Teachers and vulnerable families have been left to deal with these issues and many are no longer able to put up with the consequences. Students are being left behind as their teachers’ class workload increases but their learning income decreases.

On 3 September 2021, a group of Mathayom 6 students also petitioned the Education Committee to be exempted from the application fees for TCAS, the central university admission test, as these tests now cost over 2000 baht for each student, adding to the stress of online classes, inequal access to education and online learning equipment, and the lack of reimbursement for tuition fees.

NewsBad StudenteducationStudent rightsCOVID-19Covid-19 pandemicOnline classAccess to educationEducation system
Categories: Prachatai English

Australia must not follow ASEAN’s lead in Myanmar response, say ASEAN MPs

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-09-09 12:25
Submitted on Thu, 9 Sep 2021 - 12:25 PMASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

On 9 September 2021, over 60 former and current parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia have signed an open letter to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, urging his administration to take urgent action to support human rights and democracy in Myanmar, and express concern about its stated policy to wait on action by the ASEAN. 

Police officers in Karenni state participate in the civil obedience protest on 6 March 2021. (Source: Khit Thit Media)

"Although many of us had hoped ASEAN would rise to the occasion and formulate an effective response to the Myanmar crisis, in recent months it has become abundantly clear that the bloc has failed at all levels. ASEAN's response has been not only lethargic, but also dangerous, by emboldening the military," said Charles Santiago, chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (MP), and a Malaysian Member of Parliament (MP).

Despite an initial meeting on 24 April 2021, during which ASEAN Member States reached a Five-Point Consensus, little further action has taken place. It took four months for ASEAN to reach an agreement to appoint on 2 August the second Foreign Minister of Brunei Darussalam, Erywan Yusof, as its Special Envoy.

We would, however, welcome with caution this appointment. It is important to keep in mind that the Minister, as the representative of ASEAN’s Chair, has led the bloc’s ineffective response so far, including a delegation to Myanmar in June, during which he not only met solely with the junta, but also pushed their narrative that elections could take place, even suggesting that ASEAN sends monitors. We are also concerned that the Minister of an absolute monarchy that does not abide by international human rights standards has been tasked with convincing a murderous army to respect these principles.

Furthermore, no humanitarian aid has been provided so far, and ASEAN is still yet to engage all relevant parties in Myanmar, in particular the National Unity Government.

A part of the open letter from APHR

“As representatives of the people of ASEAN, we urge Australia to hold true to its democratic principles and foundations, and not hide behind the harmful response of its undemocratic neighbors,” Santiago said. “Australia should be a strong regional partner to the people of Myanmar and the people of Southeast Asia, not our region's authoritarian leaders, who are working together to protect themselves from scrutiny and accountability." 

The signed letter was partly in response to comments made by Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne in June, who said that placing targeted sanctions on the Myanmar military would not advance Australia's interests, as well as "interests in supporting the ASEAN-led solution and the ASEAN efforts that are being made." 

"Time and again, rather than standing up for the Myanmar people, who could not have made their rejection of the military any clearer, ASEAN has kowtowed to the murderous junta, by inviting its representatives to official meetings, granting it a veto over the choice of a special envoy, and even watering down a UN General Assembly statement aimed at preventing the sale of arms to the regime," said Kasit Piromya, an APHR Board Member and former Thai Foreign Minister. 

The MPs urged the Australian government to follow the actions of democratic allies including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union, who have placed targeted sanctions against the military and its business interests, including its major conglomerates, Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC). 

"It's crucial that the military's business interests are targeted as heavily as possible, since it’s revenues from these entities that fund their deadly campaigns against the people, including killing more than 1,000 people since the coup," Piromya said. "In addition, in contrast to ASEAN's actions so far, Australia's government must not lend any form of legitimacy to the regime, and should instead formally engage with the democratically-elected representatives of Myanmar, including the National Unity Government (NUG)," Piromya said. 

Pick to PostMyanmar coupMyanmarASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)AustraliaScott Morrison
Categories: Prachatai English

Victims oppose further delay for anti-torture bill

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-09-09 00:36
Submitted on Thu, 9 Sep 2021 - 12:36 AMPrachatai

As uncertainty looms over whether a bill to criminalize torture and enforced disappearance will be approved by parliament, friends and relatives of the disappeared rallied on 8 September to demand its immediate passing to put an end to impunity and harassment from the authorities.

A group shot of the people who come to submit the petition at the parliament.

Family members and friends of the disappeared and human rights activists staged a symbolic action in front of parliament before submitting their petition to members of parliament.

The bill is the ninth item on the emergency agenda to be debated in the parliamentary session ending this week. If it fails to come up for debate in parliament this week, the bill will be carried over to the next session in November, causing a further delay in a process that has already lasted 7 years.

Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Director of the human rights NGO the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), said every time that the bill was sent to the legislature, there would be a ‘little letter’ which would result in the debate being called off. Having the draft before parliament this time is an important opportunity to criminalize torture and enforced disappearance.

The CrCF Director said Thai society has been informed of torture and enforced disappearance in the Deep South where a state of emergency and martial law have resulted in many cases. The bill will prevent such acts by having mechanisms to monitor and check what the authorities are doing.

Positive sign

In total, there are 4 draft bills to be debated from the Democrat Party, the Prachachart Party, the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights based on an earlier draft by civil society, and from the Ministry of Justice. This reflects the importance of the bill amidst increasing public awareness of the harassment of the people and pro-democracy activists by the authorities.

Despite their differences, every bill aims to criminalize torture and enforced disappearance by the authorities, which Thai law has never clearly defined.

Bill banning torture and enforced disappearance to be debated in parliament

Representatives from the Move Forward Party (MFP) Manop Keereepuwadol and Rangsiman Rome said after they accepted the petitions that there are positive signs that the law will be passed in the first reading in this parliamentary session.

Rangsiman said he had contacted one of the government whips and they see no problem in pushing the bill ahead of other agenda items.

Rangsiman (right) receives a petition from Gorgarn Buppawath.

The activist-turned-politician said he has friends who are related to those who have been disappeared. The feeling of waiting without knowing whether their loved ones are dead or alive is painful. On the other hand, the fact that this fate befell people who want a better country reflects how barbaric this society is.

Manop said the Thai government will have to report on the human rights situation to the international community under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism in November. The fate of this bill will reflect how much Thailand is prepared to comply with the international conventions it has committed itself to.

Somboon Uthaiviankul, Secretary to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, said upon receiving the petition that consideration of the bills had been re-ordered from ninth to fourth place.

The Kingdom ratified the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2007 and signed (but not ratified) the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2012. However, no law has been enforced to make the conventions legally effective.

Relatives still looking for justice

Sitanan Satsaksit, sister of Wanchalearm Satsaksit who is believed to have been abducted from in front of his residence in Phnom Penh in June 2020, said this bill will allow the authorities to investigate alleged cases of torture and enforced disappearance that happened in the past. It will also safeguard people from being persecuted for expressing their political ideas.

In her attempts over the past year and more to look for her brother, Sitanan has filed evidence and looked for clues in Thailand and Cambodia. However, there have been no significant progress in the investigation.

Gorgarn Buppawath , son of political activist Chatchan Bupphawan, or Phuchana, one of the two who were found dead after being abducted in 2019, said the law will perhaps provide a tool and mandate for police to re-investigate or compensate victims as a humanitarian measure.

Gorgarn said the investigation of his father’s case is stuck at the stage of ‘waiting for further evidence' since he filed the complaint and that he was the one who had to look for evidence himself.

Due to past police monitoring and immigration difficulties, Gorgarn said he had to change his name and surname from that of his father.

Public pressure to pass this law has increased from time to time when cases of enforced disappearance and torture hit the news. Recent calls came in August after former Pol Col Thitisant Utthanaphon or ‘Joe Ferrari’, a high-profile police officer, was videoed covering the head of an alleged drug dealer with 6 plastic bags, leading to his suffocation and death.

Since the 2014 coup, nine activists have been forcibly disappeared while living in self-exile. Two were later found dead. The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances 2020 report notes 75 outstanding cases of enforced disappearance in Thailand.

Newsenforced disappearanceanti-torture billtorturePornpen KhongkachonkietSitanan SatsaksitWanchalearm SatsaksitChatchan BupphawanRangsiman RomeManop KeereepuwadolGorgarn BuppawathSource: prachatai.com/journal/2021/09/94893
Categories: Prachatai English

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