Prachatai English

Chana villagers returned to protest industrial project

Prachatai English - 1 ชั่วโมง 4 นาที ago
Submitted on Thu, 9 Dec 2021 - 04:52 PMPrachatai

Villagers from Chana District, Songkhla Province, have returned to Ratchadamnoen Avenue to protest against the Chana industrial project after they were arrested on Monday night (6 December) while protesting in front of Government House.

Several Chana protesters praying at their camp in front of the UN headquarters

At around 15.00 on Wednesday (8 December), the villagers assembled in front of Government House and read out a declaration calling for the government to keep the promise it made during their last protest in December 2020, when they demanded that the project be cancelled and for a proper Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to be conducted to establish quality technical data for decisions about further development projects in the south.

At that time, Thammanat Prompao, the then Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, announced that a committee would be formed consisting of both those in favour and those against the project.

They also asked for updates on the committee and said that they have no intention of causing disorder in the society as the authorities claimed.

Protesters gathering in front of the UN headquarters

After they read out their declaration, the villagers moved from Government House to the UN headquarters on Ratchadamnoen Avenue and occupied the footpath in front of the building to wait for more community members to arrive. A representative of the group said that the move is to prevent another arrest or bail revocation, as they were given the condition that they must not stage another protest when they were released on Tuesday (7 December). The group also said they are using the space in front of the UN building to raise awareness about their issues for the international community as well as Thai society, and to wait for members of their network to join them from the south, before returning to Government House on 13 December 2021.

Earlier on Wednesday morning (8 December), activist Khairiyah Rahmanyah, 18, went to file a petition with the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights calling for an investigation into the police operation on the Chana protesters on Monday night, and for an investigation into whether there was any violation of human rights during the implementation of the Chana industrial project.

NewsChanaChana industrial projectcommunity rightsSongkhlaenvironmentCommunity participationfreedom of assembly
Categories: Prachatai English

Civic space in Thailand remained repressive in 2021, says CIVICUS

Prachatai English - 6 ชั่วโมง 11 นาที ago
Submitted on Thu, 9 Dec 2021 - 11:45 AMCIVICUS

Thailand’s civic space rated as ‘repressed’ as majority of countries in Asia are suppressing civic freedoms in 2021, stated by CIVICUS, a global platform tracking civic space and civil society.

  • Majority of countries in Asia restricting civic freedoms
  • Singapore downgraded from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’
  • Concerns about the deterioration of civic space in Myanmar and Afghanistan

Restrictions and attacks on activists and civil society has persisted across the Asian region according to a new report released by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online research platform that rates and tracks fundamental freedoms in 197 countries and territories The report, People Power Under Attack 2021, shows that out of 26 countries or territories  in Asia, four – China, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam – are rated as ‘closed’. Eleven are rated as ‘repressed’ and seven as ‘obstructed’. Civic space in Japan, Mongolia and South Korea is rated narrowed, while Taiwan remains the only country rated as ‘open’.

In reality, this means that the basic freedoms of speech, peaceful assembly and association are not being respected in most countries in this region. This decline marks a trend worldwide, as data from the CIVICUS Monitor shows that 89% of the world’s population now live in closed, repressed or obstructed countries.

In Thailand where civic space is rated ‘repressed,’ the CIVICUS Monitor documented in 2021, excessive use of force around protests, the use of criminal defamation, lèse majesté and other repressive laws against activists and proposed plans for a restrictive NGO law.

Police attempted to disrupt protests and use excessive force to protesters. Some were detained and suffered injuries, including children. In February 2021, authorities placed dozens of containers along the road in front of the entire length of the compound of the army barracks in an attempt to block the protesters. Razor wire was also placed to prevent pedestrians from using the bridge in front of the barracks. The Thai police then shot rubber bullets and used water cannon and tear gas.  In August 2021, police forcibly dispersed at least ten demonstrations using rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas. Journalists, including those who visibly identified themselves as press, were also reported being hit with rubber bullets at protests.

In addition to cracking down on street protests, Thai authorities have continued their harassment of pro-democracy protest leaders and participants through legal processes including charges of sedition and “lèse-majesté”. There have been a significantly increase in the use of Article 112 of the Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”) to criminalise protesters after almost a three-year hiatus. More than a hundred have been charged under Article 112, including children. Many of those charged for lèse-majesté have been subjected to a systematic denial of bail by the courts, both during investigation and pending trial. Critics have also been targeted. In January 2021, a woman was jailed for 43 years for criticising the royal family, the country's harshest ever sentence for insulting the monarchy.

Concerns continue to be raised about a draft law to regulate non-profit groups which could be used to muzzle civil society groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The “Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations” contains provisions that would have a deeply damaging impact on those joining together to advocate for human rights in the country, in violation of their right to freedom of association and other rights.

This year, Singapore has been downgraded from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’ as the government continues to use various tactics to silence dissent. A repressive “anti-fake news” law was used against government critics and independent media outlets. Journalists and bloggers also faced defamation charges with exorbitant fines imposed. A vaguely worded contempt-of-court law has been used to prosecute activists for criticism of the courts under the guise of protecting the judicial system, while activists organising peaceful gatherings, including solo protesters, have been arrested or charged. Civil society has also raised concerns that a new Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act, passed in October 2021, will further curtail civic space

“A staggering number of people in the Asia region are living in countries with closed or repressed civic space where their freedoms to speak up, organise or mobilise are severely restricted. Now Singapore, which claims to be a democracy, is joining this notorious list, due to its array of restrictive laws used to stifle dissent, the attacks on independent media, and a chilling new foreign interference law,” said Josef Benedict, Asia-Pacific Civic Space Researcher at CIVICUS.

In Asia, the top civic violation this year is the use of restrictive laws in 21 countries, as governments use legislation to muzzle dissent. Human rights defenders were detained under such laws in at least 19 countries and in 11 countries they were prosecuted.

China continued to prosecute scores of human rights defenders under vaguely worded offences while in Hong Kong, the draconian National Security Law has been weaponised to target dozens of activists. In Vietnam, activists and bloggers are facing long sentences for ‘anti-state propaganda’ and ‘abusing democratic freedoms’ while in Cambodia, ‘incitement’ laws are systematically used to target dozens of activists. Criminal defamation laws were deployed to criminalise activists and critics such as in Bangladesh for online dissent.

Another major violation is the crackdown on protests with protesters detained in at least 14 countries. In Myanmar, thousands of protesters were arbitrarily detained by the junta following the February 2021 military coup and some were even met with deadly force. In Indonesia, activists protesting the unilateral renewal of the Papua Special Autonomy Law.

Other major violations documented in the Asia region include the harassment and intimidation of activists, including surveillance, smear campaigns, cyber attacks, torture, ill-treatment and the detention of journalists.

“As authoritarian leaders in Asia seek to hold on to power they have deployed restrictive laws to arrest and criminalise human rights defenders. Scores of activists and journalists are behind bars, facing trumped up charges, and some have been tortured and ill-treated. Instead of listening to peoples’ demands, the authorities have also resorted to disrupting peaceful protests in numerous countries, at times under the guise of the pandemic, with excessive or deadly force. Despite these attacks, civil society have not relented and are finding new ways to push back and to demand their rights,” said Benedict.

Countries of concern in the region were Myanmar which saw a rapid decline in fundamental freedoms following the coup with the crackdown on protests, the arrest, detention and criminalisation of hundreds of activists, the targeting of journalists, as well as the torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners. Another country is Afghanistan - following the Taliban takeover, protests - especially by women - were met with excessive force leading to deaths and injuries, and there have been reports of intimidation and attacks on activists and journalists.

Despite these threats to civic freedoms, there has been some good news. Mongolia’s civic space rating has been upgraded from obstructed to narrowed. In April 2021 the country adopted a new law for the protection of human rights defenders, making it the first country in Asia to provide a legal framework for their protection. Other positive developments include progress in the campaign by activists to hold Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte accountable at the International Criminal Court, and the decriminalisation of same-sex relations in Bhutan.

Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor, providing evidence and research that help us target countries where civic freedoms are at risk. The Monitor has posted more than 550 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2021.

Civic freedoms in 197 countries and territories are categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology that combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

The full report can be downloaded here.

Pick to PostCIVICUScivic spacehuman rightsAsia
Categories: Prachatai English

Constitutional case to be filed over Thai-only Covid-19 cash handouts policy

Prachatai English - 6 ชั่วโมง 43 นาที ago
Submitted on Thu, 9 Dec 2021 - 11:13 AM Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)

Migrant workers and stateless persons to file case with Constitutional Court concerning access to Ministry of Labour’s “Section 33, We Love Each Other” Covid-19 handouts for constitutional breach.

The Constitutional Court logo.

On 8 June 2021, representatives of the persons insured pursuant to Section 33 of the Social Security Act 1990 including migrant workers and stateless workers had submitted a complaint to the Ombudsman demanding an inquiry and recommendations to the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Finance to rescind the criteria which require that an insured person pursuant to Section 33 has to be a Thai national in order to have access to the cash handouts.

The complainants demand that they and other insured persons who are stateless be given access to the remedy pursuant to the “Section 33, We Love Each Other” cash relief and other similar programs in the future. This will ensure an equal and fair treatment. The Ombudsman was also asked to propose this issue to the Constitutional Court in order for the court to rule if the program is an act which constitutes an unjust discrimination and segregation in breach of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand BE 2560’s Sections 4 and 27 or not.  

On 15 September 2021, the insured persons pursuant to Section 33 including migrant workers and stateless workers received a reply from the Ombudsman which states that the criteria of the “Section 33, We Love Each Other” cash relief which restrict access solely to a Thai national does not constitute a discrimination and is therefore not in a breach of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand BE 2560’s Sections 4 and 27 since the provisions which prohibit a discrimination on the grounds of differences in race do not include nationality (for more information, please read). 

The representatives of the migrant workers and stateless persons do not agree with the Ombudsman’s ruling and decide to file the case with the Constitutional Court for a review of the facts and to recommend to the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Finance and the cabinet regarding the “Section 33, We Love Each Other” program which only restricts its access to a Thai national and to adjudicate if it is in breach of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand BE 2560’s Sections 4 and 27 or not. The case will be filed on 9 December 2021 at 10 am.  

Pasuta Chuenkhachorn, Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), says that the case filed with the Constitutional Court is an exercise of the right to the remaining judicial mechanism to ensure the legal protection and uphold human rights of the people living in Thailand. The Constitutional Court is asked to determined if the Ministry of Labour’s and the Ministry of Finance’s policy to address the need of people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic constitutes an act of discrimination or not.

Pasuta thinks the Constitutional Court should accept to review the case and adjudicate it in light of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), an international human rights law to which Thailand is a state party. After all, Thailand has declared its commitment toward promoting and supporting respect and recognition of human rights and fundamental freedom of all human beings regardless of the reasons based on race, gender, language or religion.  

Pick to PostLabourLabour rightHuman Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)Constitutional court
Categories: Prachatai English

Construction tycoon sentenced to prison for black leopard poaching

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-12-08 21:44
Submitted on Wed, 8 Dec 2021 - 09:44 PMPrachatai

The Supreme Court ruled today (8 December) to sentence Ital-Thai Development President Premchai Karnasuta to 3 years and 2 months in prison for poaching in Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary.

Premchai Karnasuta (seated) when he was arrested at his forest camp

His driver Yong Dodkrua was sentenced to 3 years and 5 months in prison, while hunter Thanee Thummat got 3 years and 9 months. The Court also ordered all three defendants to pay compensation of 2 million baht to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation (DNP), with an interest rate of 7.5% per year.

Premchai, Yong, Thanee, and Nathee Riamsaen, who was their cook, were arrested by officials from the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary at their camp in February 2018. Carcasses of a black leopard, a barking deer, and a Kalij pheasant were also found at their camp.

They were later charged with carrying firearms in public without a license, poaching in a wildlife sanctuary, poaching protected animals, and illegal possession of carcasses of protected species.

On 19 March 2019, the Court of First Instance sentenced Premchai to 16 months in prison, Yong to 13 months, and Thanee to 2 years and 17 months. Meanwhile, Nathee was sentenced to 4 months in prison, but her sentence was suspended. She also received a fine of 10,000 baht. They also had to pay compensation of 2 million baht to the DNP.

The four defendants filed an appeal. The Appeal Court then ruled to increase their sentence. Premchai was sentenced to 2 years and 14 months in prison, Yong to 2 years and 9 months, and Thanee to 2 years and 21 months. Nathee received a prison sentence of 1 years and 8 months and a fine of 40,000 baht, but her sentence was suspended for 2 years.

However, the Appeal Court dismissed several charges against Premchai, including the poaching in a wildlife sanctuary and the illegal possession of carcasses of protected species. He was instead charged with assisting in the possession of carcasses of protected species.

Only Premchai, Yong, and Thanee appealed to the Supreme Court, whose decision to uphold the Appeal Court’s ruling brings an end to a long-running case which has captured public interest for the past 4 years and sparked public anger over the Thai elite’s perceived impunity and unfairness in the justice system.

NewsThungyai Naresuan Wildlife SanctuaryPoachingConservationWildlifeProtected speciesBlack leopardPremchai Karnasuta
Categories: Prachatai English

Myanmar: Unbridled destruction of freedoms as Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-12-08 15:06
Submitted on Wed, 8 Dec 2021 - 03:06 PMAmnesty International

Aung San Suu Kyi's prison sentence is "the latest example of the military’s determination to eliminate all opposition and suffocate freedoms in Myanmar," said Amnesty International yesterday (7 December). 

In response to the sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi to four years in prison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns Ming Yu Hah said:

“The harsh sentences handed down to Aung San Suu Kyi on these bogus charges are the latest example of the military’s determination to eliminate all opposition and suffocate freedoms in Myanmar. The court’s farcical and corrupt decision is part of a devastating pattern of arbitrary punishment that has seen more than 1,300 people killed and thousands arrested since the military coup in February.

“There are many detainees without the profile of Aung San Suu Kyi who currently face the terrifying prospect of years behind bars simply for peacefully exercising their human rights. They must not be forgotten and left to their fate.

“As violence escalates, displacing tens of thousands of people and setting up a humanitarian crisis in the middle of an ongoing pandemic, the situation in Myanmar today is alarming in the extreme. Without a decisive, unified and swift international response this can and will get worse.    

“The international community must step up to protect civilians and hold perpetrators of grave violations to account, and ensure humanitarian and health assistance is granted as a matter of utmost urgency. The country’s healthcare system is in tatters, the economy is on a precipice, and food shortages loom. The world cannot sit back and defer to ASEAN — states must act now to ensure an end to unlawful killings, arbitrary detention, torture and other gross violations, and to the decades-long pattern of impunity that has led us to where we are today.

“It is shameful that ASEAN has yet to fully implement its emergency consensus after more than half a year. Other than blocking military leader Min Aung Hlaing from attending a handful of meetings, ASEAN has remained shockingly weak as the Myanmar military continues to crush peaceful dissent, sow destruction, and wipe out freedom of expression.”

Background

Myanmar’s de facto leader State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested on 1 February, along with other elected officials, activists and members of the Union Election Commission. 

The guilty sentences handed down on 6 December were for incitement against the military under Section 505 (b) and for alleged breaches of COVID-19 measures under Section 25 of the Natural Disaster Management Law. She is facing a total of 11 criminal cases, including under Section 67 of the Telecommunications Law, and the Export and Import Law (related to the possession of walkie talkie devices in her home). She has also been accused of violating Section 55 of the Anti-Corruption Law and the Official Secrets Act. All of her hearings have been closed to the public.

On 24 April, the ASEAN held an emergency summit on Myanmar in Jakarta. A Five-Point Consensus was reached at the summit, which was attended by Myanmar’s commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who has been barred from more recent sessions. 

The Consensus called for an immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar, constructive dialogue among all parties, the appointment of a special ASEAN envoy to facilitate dialogue, the provision of humanitarian assistance, and a visit by the envoy to Myanmar. More than seven months on from the summit, it is clear that this approach has failed to yield truly meaningful results. ASEAN’s special envoy has been blocked from visiting Suu Kyi, who is being held at an undisclosed location in the capital Naypyidaw.

The military has continued to kill protesters, bystanders and other civilians, and arrest, detain, prosecute and imprison activists, human rights defenders, media workers, medical workers, artists, political opponents, and critics of the military for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma (AAPPB), as of 3 December, the military has killed more than 1,300 people and arrested more than 10,000.

Pick to PostAung San Suu KyiMyanmarMyanmar coupAmnesty International
Categories: Prachatai English

Villagers arrested for protesting industrial zone, ordered not to protest again

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-12-08 14:14
Submitted on Wed, 8 Dec 2021 - 02:14 PMPrachatai

On 6 December, 36 villagers from Chana District, Songkhla Province, were arrested after they camped in front of Government House, asking for an update on the promise made last year to reconsider a 16,700-rai industrial estate in the South that would affect their livelihoods.

A villager arrested by the police on Monday night. 

As of 7 December afternoon, the environmental law NGO EnLaw,, tweeted that the villagers had been released without bail at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau where they were detained for a night. The police set the condition that they must not stage any activity of this kind again.

According to the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), the villagers were charged with violating the Emergency Decree, causing traffic disruptions and refusing to follow official instructions. Among the villagers charged was a 70 year old.

“What the police have done to the people of Chana who came peacefully to demand answers from the government clearly shows that this is a government working for tycoons before the people,” said Pornpen Kongkachonkiet, Director of the Cross Cultural Foundation. “This further demonstrates that this government has no respect for the people.”

On Tuesday, 18-year-old Khairiyah Rahmanyah and other young protesters who had not been arrested gathered in front of the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission, opposite Government House, and declared they will keep fighting.

Meanwhile, Rungruang Rahmanyah, one of the protesters arrested last night, wrote a letter while in detention saying that the police told them that the authorities won't press charges against them if they stop protesting against the industrial project.

Ruangruang wrote that the protesters refused the offer, and that they will return to Government House once released.

"We are ready to give up our lives," he wrote.

On Monday night, community members were taken away in a detention truck, while crowd control police prevented reporters from recording the operation, threatening them with arrest and claiming that this was in line with an agreement between the Royal Thai Police and the media professional associations. Lights were intentionally directed against the photographers to prevent photographing. The police also stopped volunteer medics from reaching community members.

The incident caused #saveจะนะ hit Thailand’s twitter top trend on 6 and 7 December.

The Chana industrial project was approved by a resolution at the last cabinet meeting of the junta government which was installed after the coup in 2014. The project aims to construct an 18-billion-baht industrial estate on 16,700 rai of land. The area covers 3 sub districts with 1,500 residents.

The project is controversial because of questions about the public hearing process where those who opposed the project for a number of reasons, including its impact on livelihoods, homes and the environment, were barred from attending hearings.

The villagers had come to protest at Government House in December last year, demanding the project be cancelled and for a proper Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to be conducted to establish quality technical data for decisions about further development projects in the south.

At that time, Thammanat Prompao, the then Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, announced that a committee would be formed consisting of both those in favour and those against the project. Membership of the committee would be considered later and fieldwork carried out at the beginning of 2021.

On Tuesday (7 December 2021), Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha answered the media about the Chana protesters incident, saying that what Thammanat had proposed to the villagers was not agreed upon by either the cabinet or himself.

Gen Prayut was the one who fired Thammanat in September 2021 during the no-confidence motion after rumours of Thammanat’s attempt to topple him from within the ruling Palang Pracharat Party.

NewsChana industrial zoneSongkhla#Saveจะนะ #SaveChana
Categories: Prachatai English

Next steps on Thailand’s road to marriage equality

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-12-03 23:01
Submitted on Fri, 3 Dec 2021 - 11:01 PMAnna Lawattanatrakul

On 17 November 2021, the Thai Constitutional Court ruled that Article 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code, which states that marriage can only be contracted between a man and a woman, does not violate Section27 of the Constitution, which states that all persons are equal, and equally protected, under the law.

It also observed that parliament, the cabinet, and other relevant agencies should draft legislation to grant rights to LGBTQ people.

Pride flags with the message "Marriage equality" hung above the Ratchaprasong Intersection during the 28 November 2021 protest

The ruling was made after a petition filed by Permsap Sae-Ung and Puangphet Hengkham was forwarded to the Constitutional Court by the Central Juvenile and Family Court. Permsap and Puangphet filed a complaint with the Central Juvenile and Family Court in early 2020 after they were denied marriage registration by the Bangkok Yai District Office and asked the Court to either order the registrar to register their marriage or to forward their complaint to the Constitutional Court to rule whether Article 1448 violates the Constitution.

The ruling sparked criticism from activists and members of the public, many of whom expressed their disappointment and anger at the Court’s decision and called for the law to be change so that everyone has equal rights, while some also noted that the ruling came a week after the Constitutional Court’s 10 November ruling that calls for monarchy reform are treasonous.

Meanwhile, during Thailand’s Universal Periodic Review session on 10 November 2021, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Thani Thongphakdi said during his opening statement that the Thai government is working on promoting LGBTQ rights and is in the process of revising the law on gender equality and “developing a specific law on civil partnership.”

LGBTQ rights activist Matcha Phorn-in, founder and executive director of Sangsan Anakot Yawachon Development Project, V-Day Thai coordinator, and co-president of International Family Equality Day (IFED), said that considering the overall human rights situation in Thailand, the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the call for monarchy reform, and the fact that the hearing has been repeatedly postponed, she was prepared for the ruling to not be in favour of the movement, although she said that the Thai government’s promise to the international community during the last UPR session gave her hope.

“Part of me was prepared, but once the ruling was issued, I felt horrible, because it reinforces the idea that the state, and the Constitutional Court as the representative of the state’s mindset and power, does not see that what we are facing is a violation of human rights and sees that not allowing LGBTQ people to marry equally does not contravene the principles of the Constitution, and if we go back to the Constitution, which says that people must receive equal treatment in Thai society, it is not reflected at all in practice and in the law,” Matcha said.

Matcha (Centre) with her family during their 100-kilometre run to campaign for marriage equality and the right to a family (Photo from Matcha Phornin)

Nevertheless, Matcha said that she received support from other activists, and that she will keep going. On 30 November, Matcha and her rainbow family – her partner Veerawan Wanna and their daughter Siriwan Phorn-in – along with other LGBTQ and ally team members, ran 100 kilometres from Chiang Mai to Mae Sariang in Mae Hong Son as part of their 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign for marriage equality and the right to a family, aiming to raise awareness and demand acceptance and legal protection for other rainbow families and LGBTQ couples. 

No heaven for LGBTQ

Despite the Thai government’s attempt to promote the country as a heaven for LGBTQ people, the LGBTQ community in Thailand continues to face discrimination and violence. Students at many universities continue to have to file documents requesting permission to dress according to their gender identity, while trans people face discrimination in their workplace.

At the same time, LGBTQ couples are not allowed to register their marriage, depriving them of the legal rights, protection, and recognition that comes with being legally married and of their right to found a family.

This lack of legislation protecting LGBTQ people in Thailand, Matcha said, reflects the discriminatory attitude and homophobia still present in Thai society, which leads to hate crime. Such homophobic and transphobic attitudes are also the reason the law needs to be changed to ensure equal rights.

A protester during the 28 November 2021 protest has a sign taped to their back

Matcha said that there are many LGBTQ families in Thailand whose children are suffering in school because their parents are not recognized by law and are bullied and discriminated against – a violation of children’s rights. She also said that in many cases, only one parent is legally recognized, which affects the child’s safety in cases of emergency if their parent is not able to sign certain documents.

“There are many other LGBTQ parents who are not accepted by society, their family, and the law. In practice, they care for their children as their children, but legally the law does not accept them, so it is as if they are not in the same family,” Matcha said.

Matcha herself was not able to legally adopt her daughter Siriwan, because she was not accepted by her daughter’s biological family due to her sexuality, even though they have been a family almost 11 years. Whenever documents are required by her daughter’s school, she must have Siriwan’s biological father sign a proxy authorization.

However, this is not possible for more official procedures. Matcha said that she and her partner once wanted to take their daughter on a family trip to Japan, but found that they were not able to get their daughter a passport. She also said that Siriwan was once invited to join a conference, but was not able to travel for the same reason, depriving her of her right to travel, and if Siriwan wants to take out a student loan, Matcha would not be able to be her guarantor because they are not each other’s family in the eyes of the law.

The lack of legal protection and recognition forces LGBTQ couples to seek legal loopholes in order to be granted protection. Matcha said that there are cases where one partner would have their parent adopt their partner so that they would be legally recognized as family. Matcha said she does not oppose to this, but finds it painful and unacceptable in terms of human dignity, as people who are partners in practice have to be recognized as siblings in the eyes of the law in order to have the rights and benefits which come with being a family. She also said that they can never be sure whether this method would truly grant them legal recognition and that it forces them into a situation where they do not have the same protection as everyone else.

“Thailand has always been deceiving the world that it is a heaven for LGBT people, but there is not even a single law protecting us, so I think that it is time for us to strip away Thai society’s mask and make sure people know that the situation facing LGBT people in Thailand is as bad as anywhere else in the world. It is not good at all,” Matcha said.

“The overall situation of democracy, human rights, and LGBT rights in Thailand is very bad, so it is something we have to take in order to make the law in our country better so that we are protected and are granted the same dignity as everyone else, and then we will be able to say on the international stage that we have a law protecting everyone without discrimination.”

A protester during the 28 November 2021 protest holding a sign saying "Marriage equality = human right"

The issue could also lie in the text of the existing law itself, which is still very much based on the gender binary. Section 27 of the Constitution states that “men and women shall enjoy equal rights,” and when Permsap and Puangphet first filed a complaint with the Ombudsman in early 2019 after they were denied marriage registration by the Phasi Charoen district office, their complaint was dismissed on the grounds that denying marriage registration to LGBTQ couples is not discrimination because the law only considers gender assigned at birth.

Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang, lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, explained that, when the Constitution was drafted, the main issue was equality between men and women, and so the text was written in such a way to be clear. When it was said later that the concept of gender identity should also be included in the Constitution, there was an argument that every gender is already included in the terms “men and women.”

However, Khemthong said that this is not true in practice. Despite the constitution drafting committee’s claim that there is no need to include the concept of gender in the Constitution because every identity is included by the terms “men and women,” when it comes to the Ombudsman or the courts, gender identity is not recognized.

Khemthong said that we may need to change our interpretation of the law, and if everyone understands that when the law says “men and women,” every gender identity is included, amending the text itself may not be necessary. Nevertheless, he said that, if society is very conservative and refuses to change its way of reading the law, an amendment could be more effective. 

The road ahead

An activist stood on top of scaffolding during the 28 November 2021 while wearing a wedding dress and wrapped in clothes the colour of the LGBTQ Pride flag as part of a campaign for marriage equality

Currently, two bills on marriage for LGBTQ couples are already waiting to go before parliament.

In June 2020, the Cabinet approved of the Civil Partnership bill proposed by the Ministry of Justice, which defines “civil partnership” as a union between two people of the same gender, both of whom must be at least 17 years old and at least one of whom must be a Thai national.

The Civil Partnership bill has previously been criticised by NGOs and LGBTQ rights activists, who questioned the need for separate legislation legalising LGBTQ marriages and raised concerns that the bill will deepen the stigma against the LGBTQ community in Thailand. They also criticized it for not giving LGBTQ couples the same rights as heterosexual couples and for being unclear about whether certain rights are granted, such as whether a person in a civil partnership is allowed to make medical decisions on behalf of their partner, or whether they are allowed to take their partner’s last name.

Later, in July 2020, a bill proposing amendments to the sections on marriage and family in the Civil and Commercial Code was put up for public consultation. It was proposed by Move Forward Party MP Tunyawat Kamolwongwat and proposes that the terminology used in the law be changed to use “spouse” instead of “husband” and “wife” and “person” instead of “man” and “woman.”

The bill also proposes to raise the age at which a person can legally marry from 17 to 18 years.

The proposed amendments will allow individuals to be legally married regardless of gender, and ensure that they receive equal rights, duties, and protection under the law. If the bill passes, LGBT couples who have registered their marriage will be able to adopt children together, make medical decisions on behalf of their partner, and in cases where one partner dies, the other will be able to inherit from their partner and make legal decisions about their partner’s assets.

Both bills still have to be approved by parliament before becoming law. The bill proposed by Tunyawat already appeared on parliament agenda in early 2021, but has yet to appear before parliament.

Love Wins: A documentary

Valentine 2020 : Bangkok's district office denied LGBTQ marriage registration

Gender equality network demands democracy for all

Despite the Constitutional Court’s ruling, these processes should be able to keep going. Khemthong said that the bills waiting to go before parliament have to wait their turn, but going through the judicial channel is seen as a fast track, as getting a court order would speed up the process because the court would normally set a time limit for legislation to be enacted.

Khemthong explained that the legislative process is usually a political process, and it is not necessary for the courts to be involved; it is merely an option for those involved to decide whether they want to go to court. He also explained that the channel is available to ensure that no legislation is enacted that contravenes the Constitution or is not in accordance with the overall legal system.

He said that the Court’s ruling, in which it says whether something is right or wrong and what must be done, is clear and binding for every organization, which, if the order is not followed, will be considered to be neglecting their duty. In the case of the recent amendment to the abortion law, the Constitutional Court ruled that Article 301 of the Criminal Code, which criminalises abortion, violates the Constitution and ordered the law to be amended within 360 days of the ruling – a tactic Khemthong said is used by Constitutional Courts in many countries to reduce tension, since it gives parliament time to amend the law instead of having the law immediately become invalid.

However, in the case of the marriage law, the Court ruled that it does not go against the Constitution, but observed that new legislation should be drafted to grant rights to LGBTQ people. An observation, Khemthong said, is only a recommendation and not an order, and therefore would not be legally binding in the same way as a ruling and does not affect the ongoing parliamentary process, only that this specific complaint would be closed. 

Nevertheless, Khemthong said that the Court should only rule whether something is right or wrong, as making observations would seem like the Court is trying to tell the government what it should do, and the government might not know how it should handle such recommendations.

“Personally, I think that the court should avoid making observations. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. If it’s right, it’s right, and that’s it, because an observation turns the court into what some people would call a ‘government by court’,” Khemtong said. “The court is using its own personal opinions about social or political issues to make recommendations to the government. Something like this is not part of a ruling or the court’s legal authority. This is like the court is saying more than the law allows it to say. The law only allows the court to say whether something is right or wrong, but the court said that this is not wrong, but personally this is what the court likes. It’s beyond what the law allows it to do.”

He also speculates that, even though the court said that new legislation should be enacted, it does not mean that the Civil and Commercial Code will never be amended. Even though it seems like the Court wanted there to be a separate legislation for LGBTQ marriages, one can never say for sure until the full text of the ruling is released.

An activist at the 28 November 2021 protest wore a wedding dress and held a placard inviting people to back the new marriage equality bill

Meanwhile, civil society is moving to put their own bill on marriage equality before parliament. On 28 November 2021, during a protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection, the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality, a network of over 40 civil society organizations and activist groups, launched a petition proposing amendments to the Civil and Commercial Code to allow marriage registration between two people of any gender.

The petition proposes to amend Article 1448 of the Civil Commercial Code, which governs marriage, so that marriage registration is allowed between two people of any gender, instead of only between a man and a woman. It also proposed to raise the age at which people can legally marry from 17 to 18 years old.

The petition also proposes to replace the terms “man” and “woman” in every article of the Civil and Commercial Code relating to marriage with “person,” as well as to replace “husband” and “wife” with “spouse” and “father” and “mother” with “parents.”

The amendments will grant LGBTQ couples the same rights, duties, and legal recognition as heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt a child together and be recognized as the child’s parents, the right to have the power of attorney to make medical decisions of behalf of one’s partner and to press charges on behalf of one’s partner, the right to use one’s partner’s last name, and the right to inherit property from each other without the need for a will.

The rationale of the proposed amendments says that gender-neutral language is used so that the same rights, duties, and legal recognition are granted to persons of every gender and sexuality.

Within 24 hours of its launch, the petition gained over 150,000 signatures, ten times the number legally required for a bill to be put before parliament, and as of 22.20 on 3 December 2021, it has gained over 260,000 signatures.

Protesters during the 28 November 2021 protest flashed the three-finger 'Hunger Games' salute, now a well-known resistance symbol in Thailand

During the 2020-2021 pro-democracy protests, LGBTQ rights were among the major campaign issues in the movement.

A report by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, published in February 2021, noted that “an unprecedented movement for gender equality” emerged during the protests, as women and LGBTQ people became increasingly outspoken about gender issues and various women and LGBTQ rights groups were formed. Young people spoke out against gender stereotypes, gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, and rape culture, and called for better representation of women and LGBTQ people on protest stages, marriage equality, decriminalization of sex work, abolition of the gender pay gap, and a democratic system that respects and promotes gender equality.

Meanwhile, young women and LGBTQ people have been at the forefront of the movement, both as participants and as protest leaders and organisers. Young women made up the majority of participants, while high school girls played a key role in protests against the outdated school system and the abuse they face.

For Matcha, she saw a contrast between the older and younger generations. She noted that many young people are identifying as LGBTQ or said that they are alright with having LGBTQ friends and tend to support them. However, Matcha also said that these young people are marginalized and their voice is never listened to. They are excluded from participating in policymaking and the legislative process, while the older generation, many of whom are homophobic, sexist, or even anti-democratic, still rules over the political space. 

Matcha said that what has made her feel that LGBTQ people are still not accepted is that, after the Court’s ruling, she received very little support from people outside the LGBTQ community, and that people of her generation who are not LGBTQ did not stand with her and her community or show their support.

She said that the lack of support from outside the community reflects Thai society’s homophobic attitude, as many people are worried that if they say they support LGBTQ rights, others will think that they are also LGBTQ, while many LGBTQ people are still unable to come out to their family or to speak out for their own rights.

While Matcha sees that LGBTQ individuals in Thailand are suffering due to lack of legislation, she believes that things can get better with the development of democracy. She said that the pro-democracy movement, which includes young people and marginalized people who are speaking out for their rights, from the right to resources and indigenous rights to abortion rights and marriage equality, is a movement that will change the conversation about human rights in the country.

“I see the possibility. No one can stop the change towards something better, so what is still lacking in Thai society is that those who are in power are not listening to the voice of the people and are not allowing them to participate in making changes,” Matcha said.

“Changing the Constitution will allow changes in legislation and policy on participation and make the democratic system better, but now the Constitution can’t be changed. We don’t have a full democracy. Elections are not transparent and can’t be investigated. These things go back to the fact that we are still in an oppressive society, and the wave of young people who are not backing down and every marginalized person who are being oppressed, whether they are farmers, or people who work hand to mouth in the business sector, everyone is now angry at the unjust social system and we are about to change the face of Thailand.”

Featuremarriage equalitymarriage lawsame-sex marriageLGBTQLGBT rightsDiscrimination against LGBTConstitutional courtArticle 1448human rightsgender equalityMatcha PhorninKhemthong TonsakulrungruangRight to found a family
Categories: Prachatai English

Student activist sentenced to 2 months in prison for contempt of court

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-12-03 22:16
Submitted on Fri, 3 Dec 2021 - 10:16 PMPrachatai

Student activist Nutchanon Pairoj has been sentenced to 2 months in prison on a contempt of court change relating to a protest in front of the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court on 30 April 2021 to demand the release of detained student activist Parit Chiwarak.

Nutchanon Pairoj (Photo by iLaw)

The Criminal Court ruled on 2 December that Nutchanon was guilty of contempt of court for his role in the protest, which took place on the evening of 30 April 2021, after Parit’s mother Sureerat Chiwarak filed another bail request for her son, who was on a hunger strike at the time.

During the protest, Nutchanon gave a speech through a megaphone calling for the release of detained activists and demanded that judge Chanathip Muanpawong, who denied bail to several activists, listen to their demands. Meanwhile, other protesters held up signs saying “They did nothing wrong. Why did you lock them up?” and “Shitty motherfucking court,” among other messages. They also scattered pieces of paper containing the names of those who signed a petition calling for the release of detained activists in front of the court. Some of the papers were thrown inside the court ground.

The court ruled that Nutchanon’s speech, calling for other protesters to shout “free our friends” over and over, and attempted to pressure judges is considered rude behaviour and causing disorder on court premises, violating court regulations.

Nutchanon was sentenced to 2 months in prison, but was later released on bail using a 50,000-baht security. Meanwhile, student activist Benja Apan, who gave speeches at the same protest, received a fine of 500 baht.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), since 18 July 2020, at least 26 people have been charged with contempt of court. Of this number, at least 14 have been charged for demanding bail rights for detained activists.

Benja Apan

Both Benja and Nutchanon were previously sentenced to prison on a contempt of court charge stemming from a protest at the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court on 29 April 2021 to demand the release of detained activists. Benja was sentenced to 6 months in prison – the highest possible sentence for the charge – while Nutchanon was sentenced to 4 months, but was released on bail using a 50,000-baht security.

Benja is currently detained pending trial on royal defamation charges relating to protests on 26 October 2020 and 10 August 2021. She has been detained at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution since 8 October 2021.

NewsNutchanon PairojBenja Apancontempt of courtright to bailfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Facebook user charged with royal defamation for editing Emerald Buddha photo

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-12-03 22:05
Submitted on Fri, 3 Dec 2021 - 10:05 PMPrachatai

A Facebook user from Phitsanulok was arrested on Thursday (2 December) on a royal defamation charge, after she posted a picture of King Vajiralongkorn changing the seasonal decoration of the Emerald Buddha, edited so that the Buddha is wearing a dress.

King Vajiralongkorn changing the Emerald Buddha’s seasonal decoration in a ceremony on 20 November 2021 (Picture from royaloffice.th)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Warunee (last name withheld), 30, was arrested at her home in Phitsanulok at around 7.00 on Thursday (2 December) on an arrest warrant issued by the Criminal Court and taken to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) headquarters in Bangkok. TLHR also said that she never received a police summons before being arrested.

Warunee was reportedly accused of royal defamation for posting a picture of King Vajiralongkorn changing the Emerald Buddha’s seasonal decoration in a ceremony on 20 November 2021, edited so that the Buddha is wearing a purple ball gown with a Yorkshire terrier sitting next to the base of the Buddha, along with the message “Emerald Buddha x Sirivannavari Bangkok”.

A complaint against her was then filed by Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Centre for Cyberbullying Victims, an online royalist group whose members have filed numerous lèse majesté charges against many netizens and activists, including Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, and Panusaya Sithijirawattankul.

Nopadol claimed that the edited image insulted and made fun of the King, and that the post was rude and inappropriate and could affect national security, as well as insulting the religion. He also said that the dress edited into the photo was designed and worn by the King’s youngest daughter Princess Sirivannavari to attend VOGUE Thailand’s 2020 Vogue Gala event.

Warunee was charged with royal defamation under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, entering into a computer system data which is an offence relating to national security under Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act, and insulting an object of religious worship under Section 206 of the Criminal Code.

During her interrogation, Warunee denied all charges and asked the inquiry officer to summon Nopadol to explain his accusations and to point out which component of the image was offensive.

The police then confiscated her phone and laptop, and detained her overnight at Thung Song Hong Police Station. She was taken to court on Friday morning (3 December) for a temporary detention request.

Her lawyer then requested bail for Warunee on the grounds that she has bipolar disorder and needs to receive continuous treatment. She was later granted bail using a 100,000-baht security.

Since November 2020, 163 people are facing royal defamation charges for political expression in 167 cases. According to TLHR, of this number, 81 cases are a result of complaints filed by members of the public.

NewsSection 112Royal defamationlese majesteEmerald BuddhaKing VajiralongkornWaruneeNopadol PrompasitThailand Help Centre for Cyberbullying VictimsComputer Crimes ActTechnology Crime Suppression Division
Categories: Prachatai English

Struggling with mosquitoes (1): The past and present of dengue control in Thailand

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-12-03 14:12
Submitted on Fri, 3 Dec 2021 - 02:12 PMYiamyut Sutthichaya

The rainy season comes and goes, leaving behind hundreds of thousands dengue fever patients. Each year, hundreds die of the disease. The recurring outbreak was bad enough before. Now mosquitoes have developed improved resistance to control measures, creating a new challenge for public health officials.

“My little brother and I thought it was just a head cold. But then we had strange symptoms. I lost my appetite and had diarrhea. My brother began vomiting. Our symptoms got worse.  I often get a little dizzy, but with this, I was so dizzy I could barely get up. All I could do was sleep. We were like this for almost a week.”

Thananchanok, who request to has her identity hidden.

Thananchanok Saengmanee, 17-year-old student from Bang Kachao subdistrict, Phrapradaeng district, Samut Prakan province, shared her experience of coming down with the Dengue fever a few years back. She had a fever and a sore throat. She also had ulcers in her mouth and diarrhea. Her little brother had similar but more severe symptoms. A blood test revealed that they had contracted dengue fever.

Thananchanok’s case ended well. Her brother recovered with treatment and she was able to look after herself after receiving medicine from a local health centre. But not all victims of this seasonal disease are so lucky.

The Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in the Ministry of Public Health reports that there were 67,538 dengue fever cases with 49 deaths in 2020. The numbers were higher in 2019 - a total of 116,647 patients and 129 deaths. In 2005-2019, the average number of patients was at 77,000 people per year and 86 deaths per year.

At the global level, World Health Organization (WHO) data indicates that dengue is spreading across the world. In the decade after 1967, the disease was only reported in 9 countries. At present, it is in more than 100 countries, many located in the Asia-Pacific region.

In the past 20 years, the number of patients worldwide has also risen sharply, from 505,430 in 2000 to 5.2 million in 2020. Clearly, dengue fever and the Aedes mosquitoes that spread it are a becoming a serious public health issue around the globe.

New Age Mosquitoes: strong, tough

According to Dr. Darin Areechokchai, Deputy Director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Ministry of Public Health, dengue fever is among the seasonal diseases with high mortality rates. Cross-border migration is a significant factor in local outbreaks. As outbreaks happen every year, continuous efforts are required to control Aedes mosquitoes.

Aedes mosquitoes share a history with people. Studies suggest that dengue-carriers like Ae. Aegypti migrated from Africa to the rest of the world along with humans. They later spread westward along Portuguese and Spanish slave-trading routes between West Africa and the Americas.

Along the way, Aedes mosquitoes adapted to changing environmental conditions. They switched from drinking animal blood to human blood.  They also learned to lay eggs in man-made containers of still water and in closed spaces like ships, allowing them to reproduce and travel across the globe with humans.

Dr. Darin Areechokchai

At present, the movement of Aedes mosquitoes and dengue fever is still linked to human migration and trade. A report of the Pan American Health Organization notes that dengue fever moved with crowds of spectators attending the 2011 Pan American Games at Guadalajara, Mexico, as well as the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2016 World Cup in Brazil.

Aedes albopictus entered the Netherlands in 2005 along with imported lucky bamboo. Aedes aegypti rolled in with imported used tires. A 2008 study in Bangkok found that Aedes albopictus, Asian tiger mosquitoes, have increasingly taken up residence in human households, an adaption necessitated by the expansion of urban areas and diminished green space.

Climate change or “global warming” is another factor contributing to the spread of Aedes mosquitoes. Higher temperatures accelerate their growth and hasten the spread of the dengue virus serotype 2.

Mosquito-borne dengue spreads well in temperatures higher than 30 degrees Celsius.  Mosquito larvae also need less time to incubate. At 30 degrees Celsius, they spend 12 days in incubation. At 32-35 degrees Celsius, they only need 7 days to hatch.

Control measures also appear to be compromised. Previously, larvae were killed by putting abate sand granules in waterways. Repellent smoke was also sprayed to kill adults. Experiments conducted by Damrongpan Thongwat and Nophawan Bunchu in 11 villages scattered around 8 provinces in Northern Thailand found that larvae not killed by temefos, the active chemical used in abate sand granules, develop immunity to the repellents generally used in Thailand.

These contain pyrethroid, a synthetic chemical similar to pyrethrum or pyrethrins, which is found in plants from the chrysanthemum family. It is often used in agricultural and public health sector. Synthetic pyrethroids are modified to stick to surrounding surfaces for longer.

A study by Patcharawan Sirisopa et al. using samples collected from multiple sites around central and southern Thailand indicates that mosquitoes from all areas have developed a moderate to high level of resistance to synthetic chemicals in the pyrethroid family.  This includes commonly-used substances like bifenthrin, cypermethrin and deltamethrin.   The latter substance is found in  spray can chemicals and high-altitude fogs.  The mortality rate was reportedly less than 10%.

A further study of households at the Bang Krachao river bend, Phrapradaeng district, Samut Prakan province by Pathavee Waewwab et al. in 2016-2017 found that Aedes larvae were also developing immunity to temefos.

Houses built on top of the canal at Bang Krachao.

Commenting on the matter, Sungsit Sungvornyothin, a lecturer specialising in Medical Entomology at Mahidol University, pointed out that abate sand granule concentrations in the experiments were fairly low. He also added that fogs are usually composed of many different types of Pyrethroids, increasing their efficacy. However, he acknowledged that routine and repeated fogging by local administration organisations may be accelerating mosquito immunity.

Dr. Darin believes that abate sand granules and pyrethroid sprays, if properly used, are still effective for mosquito control in Thailand. Temefos is photosensitive and if not stored properly, may lose its potency. Similarly, the improper mixing of chemicals for fogging, using the wrong type of fogger, or daily spraying conducted at the behest of politicians may also cause Aedes to have better survival rates and increased resistance to fogging.

Big city, big problem

Huai Khwang , a 15 sq km area with a registered population of 84,000 plus tens of thousands of unofficial residents, is one of the smaller districts in Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok. It is at the top of the tier in terms of its dengue infection rate in many years.

One occasion, hundreds of Chinese workers caught the virus while constructing the basement of a new building, sending Huai Khwang ranked at the top of Bangkok’s dengue infection list. The district was also a home to the deceased actor Tridsadee ‘Por’ Sahawong, who passed away from dengue fever in 2015, attracting massive media attention to health issues in the area.

Naphatson Rattanatayakon, a public health professional in the district, noted that dengue control measures were necessarily tailored to land use. One method was used with free-standing homes, another with apartments and office buildings and yet another with slum areas.

Naphatson Rattanatayakon

“The well-off households have more areas to plant trees. Sometimes we can’t manage to spray there. They don’t want us to go in. When we campaign, they come out to talk, but offer excuses and don’t let us in. Some let us in. Some have breeding places with a lot of Aedes mosquitoes. It is an obstacle. It keeps us from covering the whole area.

“They only let us spray after they get sick. But when we first knock on their doors, they pretend they don’t hear us.”

Pradoemchai Bunchuailuea, a Pheu Thai Party member of parliament for Huai Khwang, and a former member of the Bangkok Municipal Council (BMC) and Huai Khwang District Council, has been involved in mosquito fogging and mosquito control efforts for 30 long years.   

Pradoemchai Bunchuailuea

According to Pradoemchai, Bangkok administrative efforts still fall short of the mark because of residential areas that are not formally registered as communities, housing estates and townhouses where there is little interaction between residents and government officials.

Registered community areas have a community council and Village Health Volunteers (VHV) who have been trained in dengue control. Statistics which Pradoemchai has indicate that the number of dengue cases in these areas were lower than in the housing estates and townhouses.

“Lots of people living in housing estates suffer from dengue. There are more cases in the townhouses than in the slums. The slums have the health volunteers. The district works with them during the campaigns. They help distribute abate sand granules and make sure that anything containing stagnant water gets drained.

“This was before COVID. After COVID, district officers have not gone out into the field as much.  The COVID situation made it tough for officers to go.  They have had to adopt preventive measures,” Pradoemchai said.

The fogging method advised by the Ministry of Public Health is limited to a 50 sq m area around a house.  In contrast, Pradoemchai’s fogging team tries to cover as wide an area as possible. With 3 fogging machine and 6 sprayers, his team is even larger than the district’s, which has only 2 machines and 2 sprayers.

A sprayer from Pradoemchai's team conducts a mosquito fogging.

Sprayers know that they are not solving the problem, however. The mosquitoes invariably prevail. And fogging can sometimes be difficult in densely-populated areas where residents hold different opinions.

“The number of mosquitoes never decreases. Every year when the rainy season ends and winter begins … the ground is waterlogged.  Mosquitoes lay their eggs and the virus spreads. Are less people getting sick? Not really.   And the number of mosquitoes doesn’t decrease either.  There are always more of them.”

“The sprayers try to provide people with basic information and ask for their help in draining containers with water where mosquitoes lay eggs and spread the disease. Otherwise more will hatch than can be killed by fogging. But some people think that fogging helps, that it will keep them safe, and they feel more secure,” Pradoemchai said.

“[Before going to spray at a site where someone has been infected] I have to call and check with the person who is ill. It may not be convenient. I have to ask about their surroundings. If there is a store, it has to close. There can be problems. For cases in the field or in office environments, the chances of getting bitten by a mosquito are low. But things need to be thought through. We can’t just spray and caused negative side effects. I was once grabbed by the collar and almost punched by a guy who had a pet chicken valued at tens of thousands of dollars.”

“The Ministry [of Public Health] would rather we didn’t spray. They told us that it is better to take care of the breeding spots and mosquito larvae.  Once they mature, they are harder to kill and die more slowly. Young adults fly away.  If we spray and it hits them directly, it’s possible to kill them but they don’t all just drop dead. The older ones might. People think fogging helps. I think we spray to make them feel better,” Naphatson said.

Money matters can sometime be a boon for mosquitoes. For example, a 2020 policy to collect taxes on unused land in Bangkok caused ‘farms’ pop up on previously vacant lands. Having more green spaces may sound like a good thing but is also created new mosquito breeding areas.

“Sometimes they left big spaces for water storage or created raised-bed orchards to plant trees. There was a loophole in the law.  Instead of paying an expensive tax on an abandoned space, people could plant trees and register their property as agriculture land with a lower tax rate.

A sewer lid in Bangkok and a floating mosquito fogging smoke.

“People living in nearby condos were affected and asked us to fog because there were lots of mosquitoes. But we couldn’t get in because the property was fenced off. It is still an issue. It’s a problem when empty lots have water sources, stagnant or clean. It is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, especially Aedes mosquitoes. We can’t do anything and don’t know how to address the problem,” Pradoemchai said.

“Huai Khwang also has them, swampy places covered in sedge grass. Where there’s water, there are Aedes mosquitoes. In the past they had us attend to these places as well, but it was just too much.  There are whole fields out there; how could anyone put down enough (pesticide) to cover them?  The immediate problem is here with the empty spaces in Bangkok.  The owners don’t fill the land.  It gets covered weeds and becomes a water source,” Naphatson said.

Resources lost to COVID-19

According to Dr. Darin, mosquito control operations were transferred from the Ministry of Public Health to local administrators over a decade back. Ministry officials now act as consultants. The plan was to increase local cooperation in control efforts.

A face mask littered in a roadside drainage.

In recent years, the spread of the COVID-19 has also drawn public health officers’ attention away from dengue. The listed number of cases in 2021 of about 8,000 may not be accurate as officers have not had enough time to collect data.

At the Bang Kachao river bend where Thananchanok got sick, the number of dengue cases has slowly decreased, from 5 in 2018, to 3 in 2019 and only 1 in 2020, defying a terrain full of swamps, overgrown gardens and households built over canals.

Thananchanok believes that the number of mosquitoes has greatly declined. In the past, mosquitoes would land on her arms and legs as soon as she went out to cook in the kitchen.

This may be due to prevention measures. Chamaiphon Saengdaengchat, director of the Bang Kachao Tambon Health Promoting Hospital (THPH) explained that the hospital has been training health volunteers, community leaders and people in the area to control mosquito breeding areas.

Chamaiphon Saengdaengchat

“We focus on training programs for village leaders. We invite them to the training and after it is over, we go around the villages with them to talk to villagers. We have done it 2 times. We only asked for that much budget. In addition to two training sessions, we also campaign together with village volunteers and municipal officers 4 times a year.”

“After the campaigns, we have health volunteers check for mosquito larvae.  A team evaluates what they find and takes steps to eradicate larvae … it supports the project.”

With the spread of COVID-19, the hospital had to reallocate resources, reducing the budgets for other projects. Health volunteer control efforts were continued but measures had to be taken to protect the people involved. As at Huai Khwang, the need for social distancing over the past couple of years ended house-to-house campaigning.

A mosquito controll rally staged by the Bang Kachao Tambon Health Promoting Hospital.

The situation is similar in Ban Krachao subdistrict, Samut Sakhon province. According to Patawee Puakphromma, a public health official at the Bang Krachao THPH, there have yet to be any cases reported in 2021. Normally, twenty people get the virus each year.  The number was higher in 2015-2016, with 30 cases. With the spread of COVID-19, resources have been diverted from earlier projects but mosquito larvae extermination activities and household checks continue as normal.

According to Dr. Kittipoom Chuthasamit, director of the Phusing Hospital in Srisaket province, the number of dengue cases there has fallen as a result of drought.  Normally the area has 25-30 patients a year but after a two-year drought, only 8 cases were reported this year. This is fortunate as there, too, the spread of COVID-19 diverted resources away from mosquito control.

“We were very active before COVID-19. Dengue is one of the first diseases we need to prevent because it breaks out almost every year. But when COVID-19 came, we had to start disease control, give swab tests and vaccinations. We allocated resources to COVID-19 and may have neglected dengue. Actually, it’s not neglected.  We has reprioritise.  It was no longer the most important task. It was second or third.”

More cooperation is needed

According to Kittipoom, dengue control in Thailand consists of 3 parts: 1) getting rid of mosquito larvae breeding areas by eliminating stagnant water and pouring abate sand granules into stored water, 2) getting rid of adult mosquitoes with fogging and 3) providing patients with rapid treatment to prevent further disease transmission by mosquitoes. Officials at every hospital agree.

The challenge is often about getting people with limited resources to cooperate and address the needs of big populations in complex urban settings. It has to be done.  Not dealing with larvae breeding spaces in one area places surrounding areas at risk.  The shadow of dengue remains, everywhere.

“In densely populated, congested areas, people have different hygienic practices. In congested communities, garbage increases. At dumps sites, larvae can actually be found in the garbage; after it rains Aedes larvae hatch in water-soaked containers,” Patawee said.

“We humans need to be aware. We need to know which parts of our house can become breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes. At the same time, mosquito control officers need to understand how people behave. A plastic container, a water barrel – these things are used differently in different homes. Containers serve different purposes. When we tell people to turn them all upside down, it is simple idea that doesn’t really reach people. Other mechanisms need to be involved,” Sungsit said.

Naphatson agrees that if people pay more attention to getting rid of Aedes mosquito larvae in their own areas, it will cut the breeding cycle of disease carriers and greatly decrease the risk of dengue.

“People lack awareness and concern. They are not interested and don’t cooperate, unless we spoil them. Sometimes, when we provide them with knowledge, they don’t understand."

“People don’t do enough to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. If we all cooperate and help each other, we can do it, but if people request fogging and don’t do anything else, it is not enough. Destroying breeding spots is the best preventive measure,” Naphatson said.

With ongoing calls for cooperation and repeated efforts to control this vector-borne disease, dengue continues to spread in Thailand. How can dengue disease control be made truly successful?

Read the answer in part two of this special report soon.

This special report serie is supported by Internews' Earth Journalism Network.

FeatureIn-DepthDengue feverpublic healthInternews' Earth Journalism NetworkBang Krachaovector-borne diseaseSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/11/96103
Categories: Prachatai English

Dramatic spike in threats to Southeast Asian MPs in past year, report finds

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-12-03 13:56
Submitted on Fri, 3 Dec 2021 - 01:56 PMASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

Lawmakers across Southeast Asia have come under drastically increased threats and harassment in the past year, in-part due to the military coup in Myanmar, but also troubling developments elsewhere in the region, a new report by ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) has found.

The message "This country belongs to the people" was written on the street at the Pathumwan Intersection in Bangkok during the 14 November 2021 protest against the Constitutional Court's ruling that the call for monarchy reform is treasonous. 

The number of Members of Parliament (MPs) detained in Southeast Asia has dramatically risen this year, from just one in 2020, to 91 in 2021, APHR found in its new report Parliamentarians at Risk: Reprisals against opposition MPs in Southeast Asia in 2021. This sudden spike was largely due to developments in Myanmar, where the military seized power in a coup in February, however there have also been alarming developments elsewhere in the region, including Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia, APHR said. Although not featured in detail in the report, former opposition lawmakers have also been targeted in Cambodia.

“This year has been yet another dark year for human rights in Southeast Asia, and as our region slides deeper into the grasp of authoritarianism, elected lawmakers have been among those heavily targeted, particularly those standing up for basic decency, human rights, and democracy,” said Teddy Baguilat Jr, an APHR Board Member and former Philippines Member of Parliament (MP). “Developments in Myanmar have been particularly troubling, where the political opposition has come under assault by the junta, but there are also concerns elsewhere, with governments utilizing COVID-19 to undermine opposition MPs, and erode the important oversight role they play in a democracy.” 

“On top of MPs being locked up merely for fulfilling their mandates as representatives of the people, we have also witnessed threats to lawmakers for doing their jobs, as well as orchestrated campaigns of judicial harassment and disinformation, aimed at both discrediting and silencing them,” Baguilat said. 

Amid the ongoing human rights catastrophe in Myanmar, the political opposition, in particular members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), which won the 2020 election in a landslide, has been among the most prominent targets. The junta has suspended all national and sub-national parliaments, and stripped democratically elected MPs of their seats without legal or constitutional justification. At least 90 parliamentarians remain in detention or house arrest, while many others have gone into hiding to avoid the same fate.

“Not content with stealing the result of the 2020 election away from the people, the military junta in Myanmar has sought to justify its power grab by shutting down parliament, declaring groups formed by democratically-elected MPs as ‘illegal’, and jailing almost 100 of those MPs on the most spurious of charges,” said Charles Santiago, APHR Chair and a Malaysian MP. “Over the past year, the Myanmar people have said loud and clear who their representatives are – those they elected in the 2020 election – and all international actors, including ASEAN, must condemn the Myanmar military in the strongest possible terms, call for the release of all those arbitrarily detained since the coup, including MPs, and for the country to be put back on the democratic path.” 

While the situation in Myanmar has dominated headlines, lawmakers were also at risk elsewhere in Southeast Asia, notably Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand, APHR said. 

In Malaysia, in January the government of then-Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to impose a state of emergency, while parliament was suspended for more than seven months. Opposition politicians were among those targeted in a growing crackdown on dissent, with at least ten lawmakers interrogated or charged for expressing criticism related to human rights abuses or the suspension of parliament.

In the Philippines, disinformation campaigns, threats and so-called “red-tagging” of opposition lawmakers rose alarmingly ahead of the general elections taking place in 2022, while President Rodrigo Duterte and other senior officials made baseless accusations against left-wing lawmakers, claiming they support an armed communist insurgency. Senator Leila de Lima remains in prison, and has now been arbitrarily detained for close to five years.

Meanwhile, in Thailand, the government and its allies continued to level trumped-up criminal cases against Move Forward Party (MFP) lawmakers, while opposition MPs were also the target of widespread abuse online, often through highly coordinated “information operations” orchestrated by state-affiliated actors. 

“An attack on an MP is an attack on democracy. The systematic harassment of MPs – whether online, offline, judicial or otherwise – is clearly aimed at preventing them from doing their jobs, and acting as a check and balance on behalf of the people,” said Baguilat Jr. “The role of MPs is absolutely crucial in a democracy, particularly during the pandemic of the last two years, or as elections approach, as is the case in the Philippines and Cambodia.” 

“Amid the assault on democracy we are witnessing across the region, those working to protect it must come together and act as one unified voice. We call on our governments across Southeast Asia to do everything in their power to protect the human rights of all MPs, and urge our fellow parliamentarians to call out the abuses they see at every turn,” Baguilat said.

Pick to PostASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)Member of parliamentoppositionauthoritarianismfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Freedom of speech swimming pool

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-12-03 13:43
Submitted on Fri, 3 Dec 2021 - 01:43 PMStephffCartoon by Stephff: Freedom of speech swimming pool

 

MultimediaStephfffreedom of speechfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Rights groups call on ASEAN to address Myanmar human rights crisis

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-12-03 13:32
Submitted on Fri, 3 Dec 2021 - 01:32 PMFORUM-ASIA

Under the Chairmanship of Cambodia in 2022, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must meaningfully address the regressive human rights crisis in the region, including the rapidly deteriorating situation in Myanmar, said rights groups at a webinar yesterday (2 December). 

The webinar titled ‘Cambodia as ASEAN Chair: Prospects for Human Rights in 2022’ organised by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) discussed the human rights situation in the region and how the ASEAN has responded in 2021 as well as its trajectory as Cambodia spearheads ASEAN next year.

Eleven months after the coup and eight months since ASEAN leaders adopted the five-point consensus, the human rights and humanitarian crisis continues unabated in Myanmar ‒ at least 1,200 people including children have been killed and 10,568 arrested. The deteriorating situation affects not only the daily lives of the people on the ground but also the human rights and political discourse at the regional and international level. 

Questions remain as to what extent the regional bloc can effectively bring immediate progress to the situation of Myanmar or if it will just be used to legitimise the military regime.

‘While we welcome the decision by ASEAN to exclude the military junta from ASEAN Summits, we are deeply concerned about the lack of substantive actions to mitigate the Myanmar crisis. The whole country is now dealing with a multi-level crisis. It is not sufficient for ASEAN alone to tackle this crisis. Therefore, we call on ASEAN to cooperate with the UN and international mechanisms to take immediate concrete actions. Further delays in actions will allow the junta to commit more atrocities and this means more bloodshed for the people on the ground,’ said Khin Ohmar, Chair of Progressive Voice.
‘As the next chair, Cambodia has a huge task ahead to ensure that ASEAN unity and credibility is not lost. If ASEAN allows the junta to continue in this manner, the Myanmar crisis will further impact the regional stability and development. ASEAN needs to understand that it is in its best interest to work with the National Unity Government and the people of Myanmar,’ she added.

‘We want ASEAN leadership to have a strategic vision and action plan. ASEAN will not be able to implement its five-point consensus alone, particularly after the junta military has blatantly denied their commitment in the consensus. Under the Cambodia Chairmanship, ASEAN must engage with NUG, the United Nations, dialogue partners, and civil society. What is happening is not only a crisis to Myanmar but a crisis to the credibility of ASEAN and threats to security in general,’ said U Bo Hla Tint, Myanmar National Unity Government Ambassador to ASEAN.

According to the CIVICUS Monitor, fundamental freedoms in half of ASEAN Member States are rated as ‘repressed’. The year 2021 has also shown how restrictive laws have been used to stifle dissent and prosecute human rights defenders in numerous ASEAN countries and new laws passed that would curtail civic space. Further there has been a crackdown on peaceful protests and the use of extra-legal tactics, including online surveillance and smear campaigns, as well as torture and ill-treatment. In Cambodia specifically, CIVICUS documented the arbitrary arrest of dozens of activists, judicial harassment, and intimidation of opposition party CNRP members and families, and reprisals on journalists. 

‘It is difficult to see how ASEAN would meaningfully progress on human rights issues with Cambodia at the helm. It has become a de facto one-party state after dismantling the opposition. Civic space has also continued to shrink in the country and those speaking up have faced blatant judicial harassment and at times outright violence. At the same time, we need to keep the pressure on them and support Cambodian civil society,’ said Josef Benedict, Asia Pacific Researcher of CIVICUS.

Under the pretext of COVID-19, Cambodia has introduced draconian measures such as the National Internet Gateway to increase online surveillance. This adds to the long list of concerns including the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of defenders and political opposition in the country. Cambodia’s degrading human rights record raises concerns about whether it has the political will to take the steps needed to improve on the human rights situation of ASEAN.

‘Cambodia should strive to improve the dire human rights situation it is facing domestically – especially considering the fact that elections are fast approaching – while also seeking to ensure regional peace and stability. As ASEAN chair, Cambodia must rally its ASEAN partners to answer the calls for support coming from Myanmar, and take concrete action rather than hide behind the argument of non-interference,’ said Sopheap Chak, the Executive Director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR).

ASEAN’s prospects of human rights in 2022 remain rocky and uncertain, reflecting on the domestic situation ASEAN Member States, particularly its Chair, must deal with. Nevertheless, the panelists called on civil society and various actors to keep monitoring the progress, or lack thereof, by ASEAN in responding to the situation of human rights and civic space in the region, particularly on immediate measures to bring an end to the crisis in Myanmar.

Pick to PostASEANCambodiaMyanmarMyanmar couphuman rightsCIVICUSAsian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Categories: Prachatai English

One way in, no way out: a month of travel bans against critical voices

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-12-03 11:34
Submitted on Fri, 3 Dec 2021 - 11:34 AMPrachatai

November has seen a crackdown on freedom of movement as the Thai authorities have reportedly requested the Department of Consular Affairs to revoke the passports of 13 Thai activists and hastily expelled a foreigner who made fun of the government and monarchy.

Suvarnabhumi Airport

Yan Marchal, a French expat well known for his political parodies, had to take a return flight to France after receiving an expulsion order upon arrival at Phuket Airport on 27 November, with immigration saying that he was a threat to society. An immigration official also said to him that he was on a blacklist but without elaborating on what such a list might be.

From the time the Kingdom announced him persona non grata to the time he took off, he received no assistance from the Thai authorities at all.

“I was parked in a waiting room of a boarding gate for the whole day, along with another deportee. We were by ourselves, we met nobody but the Thai Airways staff who brought us there and picked us up from there,” said Marchal.

Dechathorn Bamrungmuang, a.k.a. HOCKHACKER, a rapper who has voiced criticism of the government with the band Rap Against Dictatorship, found on 25 November that he could not get a new passport because his name is on a ‘watchlist’, according to BBC Thai.

On 18 November, BBC Thai interviewed Pol Col Tossaphol Ampaipipatkul, Superintendent of Samranrat Police Station, who said that he was the one who requested revocation of the passports, in line with legal procedures for those facing charges related to national security.

The Department of Consular Affairs had asked the police to produce further evidence to support the claim that the 6 persons named were likely to flee the country.

Watchlist against pro-democracy idea

According to the Thai Enquirer, Samranrat Police Station submitted a request to the Department of Consular Affairs to revoke the passports of 13 people who had been charged with sedition over their involvement in pro-democracy rallies, 6 of whom were specified by name: Jutatip Sirikhan, Korakot Saengyenpan, Suwanna Tanlek, Baramee Chaiyarat and Panumas Singprom.

Apart from Panumas and Marchal, the other five were also listed in a leaked confidential watchlist compiled by the Immigration Bureau in August 2021. The list contained personal and legal information on activists, human rights lawyers, academics and the members of the Move Forward Party and its predecessor, the dissolved Future Forward Party.

Now that one on the list has been unable to register for a passport, the question is whether the other 182 people in the list face a similar ban without knowing it.

Travel bans and watchlists of people thought to be anti-government have existed since the 2014 coup. In 2019, Asst Prof Andrew Johnson, an academic from Princeton University, was temporarily detained and interrogated by the immigration officers on leaving Thailand.

An official told Johnson that the names of 30 academics were on a list who officials would like to question. It was later established that the names were those who had signed a petition opposing the prosecution of academics who had criticized the military for trying to spy on the 2017 International Conference on Thai Studies in Chiang Mai Province.

Rosenun Chesof, a Thai academic teaching at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, also signed the same petition and said she had been detained a total of 10 times entering and leaving Thailand, acts that she considered as harassment of academics.

Travel ban for a reason?

In Marchal’s case, he was informed by an immigration officer that he was on a ‘blacklist’ and could not enter the country. The officer did not provide any details but suggested that he book a flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport after taking a transit flight to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

 

Cartoon by Stephff: Yan Marchal expulsed from Thailandhttps://t.co/ybdB3qiNOl#WhatsHappeningInThailand pic.twitter.com/GQ62FeL9Bi

— Prachatai English (@prachatai_en) November 29, 2021

 

Nadthasiri Bergman, Marchal’s lawyer, raised questions about Immigration’s handling of Marchal’s case. She said the expulsion was made under Sections 19, 22 and 54 of the 1979 Immigration Act which allows an appeal to the Prime Minister and the Interior Minister within 48 hours of receiving the expulsion order.

However, Yan received no information other than the ticket price of a flight to Paris and the need to leave Phuket for Bangkok. He received no information or documentation from officers in Bangkok either. Nadthasiri had to assist him in finding the appeal form and sending it to the relevant ministers via email on Saturday. 

According to the Act, the ministers have 7 days until 4 December to respond to the appeal. If there is no response, the appeal is considered as denied. As of Wednesday (1 December), Marchal still received no response.  Khaosod English reported that Marchal was about to board a flight to Paris on 27 November for fear that staying in Thailand would expose him to a lèse majesté charge.

Another question raised by his lawyer is that after Marchal filed an appeal, airport officials offered no advice or assistance at all regarding accommodation while waiting for a response as he was not allowed pass immigration and leave the airport.

Nadthasiri said she would look for further details about Marchal’s presence on a blacklist after that date. Dechathorn was also going to consult lawyers to ask the Department of Consular Affairs for an official explanation over the passport ban.

The reasons behind the forced deportation and travel restrictions seem to be secret. Marchal was informed of nothing other than the ban on him entering the country, which he had experienced before in November 2020. In Dechathorn’s case, he and his lawyers had not been informed at all of the passport revocation.

Possible reasons for these restrictions appear to be related to past political actions which in Dechatorn’s case, led to a national-security related charge of sedition, and in Marchal’s case, expulsion on the grounds of posing a ‘possible danger to the public’.

Round UpHOCKHACKERYan MarchalDechathorn BamrungmuangRap Against Dictatorship (RAD)deportationpro-democracy 2021
Categories: Prachatai English

Court dismisses police lawsuit against beating victim

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-12-03 10:55
Submitted on Fri, 3 Dec 2021 - 10:55 AMPrachatai

On 29 November 2021, the Prachinburi Provincial Court affirmed a Court of Appeals decision to drop a lawsuit filed by a police officer against Ritthirong Cheunchit, a man detained and beaten by the police. The suit alleged that Ritthirong previously gave false testimony in court.

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

According to the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), the court affirmed a Court of Appeals decision that Ritthirong’s account of the treatment he received at the hands of the police was credible.

This latest proceeding began on 10 June 2015. It stemmed from an earlier suit filed in 2009 by Ritthirong against a policeman for unlawful arrest and torture. A policeman filed a counter-suit against Ritthirong, accusing him of perjury.

The Prachinburi Court initially ruled against Ritthirong, who was given a 5-year jail sentence and 100,000 baht fine. The sentence was later reduced to two years of parole. The ruling has now been overturned.

In a press statement, CrCF noted that the police lawsuit was another attempt to stop a victim of unlawful treatment from pursuing justice. In conjunction with a number of other civil organizations, the Foundation is lobbying parliament to approve an anti-torture bill to facilitate proceedings on behalf of torture and enforced disappearance victims.

The bill is currently undergoing a second of three requisite parliament readings.

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

Ritthirong’s journey was long and hard. He was detained by police in 2009 on his way home from the cinema and forced to confess that he snatched a gold necklace.

At the police station, a woman wrongly 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 with plastic bags in a bid to determine where the necklace was hidden. When Ritthirong chewed holes in the bags to breathe, the interrogators put more bags over his head. 

They 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. 

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

The episode left the 18-year-old student and acoustic guitar player with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and he has since required ongoing medical treatment. Ritthirong’s father, Somsak, has been seeking justice for his son in the courts since 2009. 

Thus far, his 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.

NewsSomsak CheunchitRitthirong Cheunchitenforced disappearancetortureCross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
Categories: Prachatai English

Student activist granted bail to take exams

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-12-01 23:40
Submitted on Wed, 1 Dec 2021 - 11:40 PMPrachatai

Student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul has been granted bail to allow her to complete class projects and take her final examinations, after spending 17 days in detention.

Panusaya leaving the Central Women's Correctional Institution (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Panusaya was previously detained pending trial on royal defamation charges relating to 4 protests in 2020. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that, on Tuesday (30 November), the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court granted her bail on charges relating to the 19 - 20 September 2020 protest and the 2 December 2020 protest at the Lat Phrao Intersection.

TLHR reported that, during her bail hearing, Panusaya told the court that she is still enrolled at the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University, and is required to complete class projects and take her final examinations between 2 – 17 December 2021. She also said that in the next semester, she will have to complete an independent research project in order to graduate, and will be required to re-take the class if she is unable to complete the project.

Boonlert Wisetpreecha, lecturer at the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University, also spoke as witness during the hearing. He said that Panusaya is enrolled in one of his classes, and that he required his students to complete a report by 25 December 2021. The final exam for the class is also scheduled on 14 December 2021. He also said that lecturers can extend their deadlines only to 12 January 2022, when they will be required to submit their students’ grades to the university.

He also said that 4th-year students are required to complete an independent research project in their final semester. He explained to the Court that the project is similar to a Master’s degree thesis but on a smaller scale and will take the entire semester to complete. Students who do not pass the class will not be allowed to graduate. Boonlert told the court that he is happy to make sure that Panusaya follow the court’s condition.

Panusaya’s father also said during the hearing that the family is willing to make sure Panusaya follow the court’s conditions if she is released, and that she has not given speeches about the monarchy since she was released earlier this year, but has attended protests on other issues, such as campaigns for equality and LGBTQ rights. He also said that Panusaya has to take care of her cats and hamsters.

The Criminal Court then granted Panusaya bail on the grounds that her education has been damaged by her detention, and set the conditions that she must not leave her residence without court permission unless for a medical emergency, to go to classes or take exams, or to contact the courts.

She is also prohibited from participating in activities that are damaging to the monarchy or cause public disorder and from leaving the country. She must also wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

The Criminal Court's temporary release order is also only valid until 12 January, coinciding with the final exam period at Thammasat University.

The Court appointed Boonlert as Panusaya’s supervisor. While the court did not require a security, there will be a fine of 90,000 baht if Panusaya breaks her bail conditions.

Today (1 December), the South Bangkok Criminal Court granted her bail on charges relating to the 20 December 2020 crop top protest at Siam Paragon, while the Ayutthaya Provincial Court granted her bail on charges relating to the 21 August 2020 protest in Ayutthaya. Both courts also set her the same conditions as the Criminal Court.

Panusaya was released this evening from the Central Women’s Correctional Institution, where she has been detained since 15 November 2021.

Benja Apan

Five other activities are still detained pending trial on royal defamation charges: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Benja Apan.

Parit and Benja are both students at Thammasat University. A message from Benja was posted on her Facebook profile earlier today saying that she has taken leave of absence for the current semester, after being detained since 8 October 2021 and repeatedly denied bail.

Benja, a student at the Sirindhorn International Institute of Technology, said that she has not received support from her lecturers, and did not expect to receive assistance after she was detained. She also said that it is difficult to study inside prison as she is an engineering student and has no one to help her if she has problems with calculations. She also said that she decided to take a leave of absence because she would like to get good enough grades to be able to study at the postgraduate level.

Nevertheless, Benja said that she still wants to continue her education and that she wants to continue her study in aerospace engineering, but that she wants to study when she is ready and decided to take leave so that her detention will not affect her grades.

“But let me go,” Benja wrote. “I still have to study. I have more use than to just be held in the prison. Have you not destroyed my future enough?”

NewsPanusaya Sithijirawattanakulstudent activistStudent movement 2020right to bailjudicial harassmentPolitical prisonerRoyal defamationSection 112lese majestefreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

United Nations called by NGO to intervene for 2 detained activists

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-12-01 14:10
Submitted on Wed, 1 Dec 2021 - 02:10 PMDestination Justice

On 26 November 2021, a law NGO Destination Justice has filed an Urgent Action to the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Thai activists Parit 'Penguin' Chiwarak  and Panusaya 'Rung' Sithijirawattanakul. 

From left to right: Parit and Panussaya conduct an activity prior to a charge hearing in 2020.

The Urgent Action requests the United Nations body to declare Parit and Panusaya’s current arrest and detention as arbitrary and in violation of international law. 

Destination Justice has also called upon the United Nations to request the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Parit and Panusaya and terminate all prosecutions and cases against them. 

Parit and Panusaya are amongst the highest profile, most outspoken protesters in a mass protest movement in Thailand calling for socio-political change, including monarchy reform. 

They have been repeatedly arrested and detained for participating in peaceful protests, expressing opinions, and otherwise exercising fundamental freedoms protected under international law. 

Parit and Panusaya are currently being detained pending trial on charges including for lese-majesty under Criminal Code section 112, which has a sentence of up to 15 years. 

Overall, Parit faces 43 trials and up to 300 years’ imprisonment and Panusaya faces 25 trials and up to 135 years’ imprisonment in total. 

Moreover, a recent Thai Constitutional Court decision means that they may eventually charges of attempted insurrection for their human rights work, a crime which carries the death penalty. 

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is a Special Procedure of the United Nations Human Rights Council that investigates deprivation of liberty around the world. It can also intervene urgently where a person is detained arbitrarily in dangerous conditions or where there are other unique circumstances. 

The Urgent Action has also been sent to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on freedom of assembly and association, freedom of expression and opinion, and human rights defenders. All of these officials, together with the Working Group, have already expressed concern over the treatment of Thai protesters participating in the ongoing movement. 

Destination Justice is a NGO which focuses on human rights and rule of law.

Pick to PostParit ChiwarakPanusaya SithijirawattanakulDestination Justice
Categories: Prachatai English

The Silencing of the Din Daeng Crackdown

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-12-01 12:20
Submitted on Wed, 1 Dec 2021 - 12:20 PMPrachatai

An interview of a lawyer, a severely beaten protester and an arrested citizen media over what happened in one of the most brutal night raid at Din Daeng Intersection.

File photo (credit: Maew Som)

On the evening of 6 October 2021, the news of the riot policeman who was in a coma after being shot through his helmet was widely reported. But many events of that night remain blurry, including the string of raids and attacks on protestors. The media were not permitted to report what happened, but those arrested have not erased the facts from their memories.

“I used to use my camera to take art photos. But now, if the agents of the state are using violence against my brothers and sisters, against my home, I think everyone needs to know. Everyone needs to know what the state is doing in Din Daeng, everyone needs to know what the state is covering up. I will make it known,” Admin Ninja said.

Admin Ninja: I will make known what the state covers up

On the evening of 6 October 2021, Admin Ninja, an independent journalist, arrived in the area at around 8 pm after hearing news that the police were preparing a strike to start things off at Din Daeng intersection. He scouted for a spot to record video of the events with other journalists.

But while they were deciding where to station themselves, there was a loud ‘bang.’ When he turned in the direction of the sound, he saw a rapid deployment unit advancing out of Soi Mitrmaitri as protestors fought back by setting off firecrackers.

Admin Ninja ran to cross over to Soi Ton Pho and began a live broadcast of the events.  Only a few minutes passed and a SWAT team was quickly on the move from Victory Monument to carry out an assault on the protestors. They told the media to leave the area and gather under the expressway at Din Daeng intersection. Once the journalists are pushed out of an area, it also means that the eyes and ears of the people are covered. This was unacceptable to him.

As the other journalists were walking to assemble as ordered, he crept stealthily to keep recording video from another corner of Soi Ton Pho. What he saw were the police arresting everyone in the lane without any regard for whether they were protestors or just residents of the area. Not long after, state officials came to warn him and push him out of the area. But since he is from Din Daeng and knows every lane and alley, it was not difficult for him to creep back in to keep observing.  

“If I went along and stood with the media who were herded to Din Daeng intersection, no one would be left to perform the duty of the media to record what was taking place. So I got on my motorcycle and took a route that only people who live here know about. But once I parked, police came to search me and asked for my various media documents. All I had then was a PRESS armband. Since arresting journalists was not their objective, the police were not particularly interested in me and I was able to follow them to the lane where the riot policeman had been injured.”

As he followed the policemen, he tried to make himself unremarkable by draping the camera that was live broadcasting around his neck. Not long after, an ambulance came to take away the injured riot policeman. A high-ranking police officer then walked up and became displeased once he realized that Admin Ninja had been secretly recording. So he ordered the police to arrest and search him. They took him to a paddy wagon parked in front of Flat 1, which already held protestors arrested earlier.

“I chose to go record the events because everything should be recorded, and at that time, no media outlets were recording video. Plus, Din Daeng is my home. I am a resident. My family was born here. We are all brothers and sisters. If people in the area do not look after each other, if we do not see our worth, it is difficult to call on others to see our worth. All I want is to look after my home and protect people. We have to inform ordinary people about what happened that day. The police are meant to be the ones who look after the law and the country. Given their actions that day, do they really do so or not?”

His firm conviction in his duty as a journalist meant that he saw the physical assaults the police carried out on people as they arrested them. He saw the indiscriminate arrest of people without the police asking if they were involved in the youth protests or not.

“Some people had only gone out to buy fried chicken and sticky rice. It was around 10 pm then. It’s normal for people to go out to buy something to eat in the neighborhood near their home. They just went to buy fried chicken and sticky rice and got trampled upon. They went to buy bread with condensed milk and got beaten up and clubbed until blood ran from their heads. Another person was sitting in front of a shop drowning his sorrows in a beer after arguing and breaking up with his girlfriend. He was kicked off his stool and beaten with a club.”

If you think that this is already very grave, you have to realize that the physical assault while people were arrested was only one part of the events of that night for which the cameras were shrouded and did not record. Upon being arrested, people were put in the paddy wagon to be taken to the police station. They never imagined what would happen on the way, which was to be yanked down from the vehicle by their heads and beaten up again.

This took place in the dead of night on a road linking Phaholyothin and Vibhavadi Rangsit Roads, near the Veterans’ Hospital. No one passed by.

After Admin Ninja was arrested, the police took him to the paddy wagon. Once a fair number of people were arrested, they were going to be taken to the police station. But once the vehicle began to move, it went in the direction of an area between the Royal Thai Army Band Department and the Veterans’ Hospital. The vehicle stopped. Many tens of riot police were waiting outside.

Those in the vehicle were told they were going to be searched again. But the search began with pulling people down from the vehicle one by one by their heads. They were stripped of all their possessions, including their wallets and mobile phones. Their passwords were compelled by force and the police checked whom they had called and what messages they exchanged and with whom. All they while they were beaten and profanity that degraded their human dignity was hurled at them..

He had the sense that his PRESS armband did him some good. When he came down from the vehicle, he saw a high-ranking officer whom he had encountered before. The officer pulled him aside so he would not be beaten like the others.

“They took off everything I was wearing  —mask, shoes, and hat — and searched it all. The search was entertaining for them. They ridiculed me as they searched me. They mocked my status as a journalist. They asked for my press card, and I told them that my organization only has the armband. They laughed and said they would go buy a PRESS armband tomorrow and be journalists too.”

“More than that, they brought those arrested down from the vehicle one-by-one. They pulled them down by their hair. Punched them. Slapped them. Beat them up. One by one. They they were pushed together in the middle of the road and the police rushed at them and beat them all over again. As they were beating them, the officials screamed at them, ‘Do you know what happened to my friend? Do you know?’

“One youth was beaten until he could not take it and held his hands up in a wai (a gesture of begging for mercy). The official said, go wai your father, wai your mother, we don’t want your wai. As they spoke, they kept beating him and kicking him with their combat boots. The high-ranking police officer turned to me and said, ‘Do you see, younger brother? I cannot stop them.’ Sewage water was poured on them and cigarettes put out on their necks.”

“All I could do was watch, observe and remember everything that happened so I could write it all down and convey it to others. While they were being beaten, one police officer came and held on to me, as if to show that he knew I was a journalist and to help protect me from being beaten. But another one came around from behind and used his knee to knock my calves to make me sit down.”

A crowd control police fires a rubber bullet launcher during the raid. (File photo, credit: Maew Som)

“Such actions were inappropriate for the civil servants of the land. They are inappropriate for the police, and inappropriate for gentlemen.”  

He said that all of this occurred within the space of approximately 30 minutes. Then a high-ranking police officer, whom he thought was the head of the unit, walked up to inform those arrested of the charges they faced, and ordered them to get back in to the paddy wagon to be taken to Phaholyothin police station. 

In the end, all those arrested were taken to Phaholyothin police station and accused of violating curfew under the emergency decree. They were all fined and released. How quickly or slowly they were released depended on how long it took to make the file on each. Some were let go the next morning and others had to spend another night in a cell.

“It seems like the state is trying to ask for cooperation, for every unit and the people to be peaceful and orderly with the intention of creating happiness. But they do the opposite. And here, Din Daeng, is my home. So I feel even more strongly that I must be more dedicated and more tenacious in not letting anyone come and bully my brothers and sisters.”

“Really, those who come out to fight aren’t asking for very much. All they want is a place to live and food to eat. They want their quality of life to improve. But the state opts not to listen and instead offers violence. Over and over again.”

“If the state’s view is that absolute violence is what will solve the problem, Din Daeng will be no different than the three southern border provinces in the future. Violence does not help anything. Listening and understanding, on the other hand, are what can help. Rather than sending in armed police to lock us up and sending in steel-tipped boots to kick people, I think it would be better to send in microphones for singing songs, badminton rackets, soccer balls, and good roads and a good economy. This would be better than heaping violence upon us.”

Ohm: At that moment, I hurt inside and could not speak

Admin Ninja’s account was confirmed by Ohm, a middle-aged man who was the first to be arrested on the night of 6 October. He was arrested on Soi Ton Pho, next to Din Daeng Flat 1. Even though he was born and raised in Din Daeng, he was a new member of the youth struggle. He joined for the first time on the night of 3 December, only a few days before the night in which all the cameras were covered.

Ohm lived with his parents in a townhouse near the Din Daeng flats. But after the third wave of COVID, he was the only one left. His mother and father are among those who lost their lives from contracting COVID-19 during the government of Prayuth Chan-o-cha.

When he looked around inside his home, there was no one. When he looked outside, he saw people facing the same kinds of problems who were making demands by creating turmoil and then facing disproportionate force from the state. Some were people he knew. Some were still kids. The combination of his feelings and seeing people struggle caused him, a person who had surrendered to his fate and losses, to go outside to set off firecrackers and struggle together with the group of Din Daeng teenagers.

Protesters hide themselves while one shot out a flare. (File photo, credit: Maew Som)

On the evening of 6 October, Ohm had just gotten home from work. As he sat and ate dinner in Soi Ton Pho, a kid ran by yelling that riot police were attacking from Soi Mitrmaitri. So he quickly got firecrackers to shoot in that direction. But within only a moment, a rapid deployment force arrived from the direction of Victory Monument to raid and attack. Upon turning to look and assess the situation, he decided he did not have time to flee.

He decided to stop and let the police come and arrest him. Even so, he was shot with a rubber bullet at close range in his left elbow and hit in the head with the butt of a shotgun as he was pushed down to the ground.

In that moment, Ohm felt blood spurt out of his head. He tried to crouch and use his hands to protect his head from being hit again. The police then stepped on him to flatten him against the ground before taking him to the paddy wagon. They used their steel-tipped combat boot-clad feet to kick the right knee cap until his kneecap was dislocated. When he told the police that his kneecap was dislocated and could not walk, they propped him up by both arms and dragged him.

As he sat in pain from his wounds, others arrested were brought one-by-one to the paddy wagon. There was a total of eight, including Admin Ninja. The police told them that they were being taken to the police station. But before they arrived at the police station, out of nowhere, the vehicle parked in a spot on a shortcut between Phaholyothin Road and Vibhavadi Rangsit Road. What happened next was as Admin Ninja had said.

Ohm was the third person to be dragged by his head from the paddy wagon. Being the third person means you know what fate awaits you upon being brought down from the vehicle. Reflecting on what happened, Ohm said it felt like being hazed. The most he could do was steel himself to withstand the blows from hands, feet, knees and clubs. What he did not know how to take was the burning end of the cigarette that was poked into different parts of his body and the sewage that was poured over his head.

“They showed me a picture of the policeman who was shot. And said that I had done this to his friend, and that I must think I am really cool, really hot stuff. I kept saying I didn’t know because I was the first to be arrested, and so how could I know? But it did not help, at all. I couldn’t speak anymore. I hurt all over my body, and I hurt in my heart.”

“After the first round, I thought it was over. I thought they would send us to the police station, and those who were badly hurt would maybe be taken to the hospital. I had no idea there would be this second round.”

All eight were then taken to the Phaholyothin police station. A total of twenty-nine were arrested that night and the next morning. The stance of the policemen, the very same group who had attacked them, changed once they arrived at the station. After having swarmed around and beaten them, they now helped them into the police station and asked after their injuries with concern.

Ohm did not really know why people could change so dramatically so quickly. Or maybe it is the light and the eyes of other people that can cause us to swing from one pole to another.

Ohm was one of those who were seriously injured and it took a long time before the police agreed to send him to the Police Hospital. He owed 5000 baht for his treatment. When the vehicle stopped for the search and beating, his wallet had been taken and the 3000 baht in it disappeared. He refused to pay for his treatment. In the end, a policeman from Phaholyothin police station pulled out his wallet and paid. But the other injured people, who did not protest, had to pay their own hospital bills.

Ohm was given painkillers and antibiotics, and an appointment slip to come back to take out his stitches and have further x-rays. But he decided not to go back because he didn’t have the money to pay the hospital bill. He and a younger friend removed their own stitches. Ohm said he could see and feel that his kneecap that had been kicked and dislocated was still a little bit off. The spot on his head that was whacked with the butt of a gun until it was drenched in blood no longer felt strange.

Surveilling Every Step: Intimidation After Arrest

“If you ask about the impact it has had on me … it’s like I no longer have a place to be. It’s like I have become completely homeless. I once had a home and now I have become a stray. I go sleep at that house and then this house. It caused me to lose my job, too. The police contacted the company where I worked, the company told me, and then I had to quit.”

Din Daeng intersection protest. (File Photo by Nontawat Numbenchapol

Even though Ohm’s arrest and prosecution ended with a fine for violating curfew, he and many of his friends believe that they are being closely surveilled by the police. He said that it is not difficult to detect the surveillance because the form is so similar. For example, when he and his friends return to the Din Daeng flats, or even to the house where he had lived with his parents, a vehicle without license plates soon appears, parks and watches for a long time. Whenever he leaves the area, a vehicle follows him; he started choosing longer routes so he could lose the tail. The worst for him was that the police went to the company where he worked. The management summoned him and he had to agree to resign. Further, once he had recovered from his injuries, he started his life over by becoming a rider. But every time he rides his motorcycle to make a delivery, someone follows him the entire way. 

This has been experienced and corroborated by many people who were arrested that night. The police are trying to find the person who shot the riot policeman, but Ohm also thinks that the police are trying to use every method to make them afraid and feel that they are being closely watched all the time. They are even pressuring the owners of rooms in Din Daeng flats to not rent to teenagers or let them stay there. If they do, the police threaten that they will be accused of supporting demonstrations that create chaos.

Narongrat Khamsuwan: Blocking Access to Lawyers

It would be a misunderstanding to think that the arrests ended early in the evening of 6 October. The arrests and clashes between the police and groups of teenagers stretched all night and into the morning of the next day.

Narongrat Khamsuwan, a young lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, explained that around 8 am on the morning of 7 October, he was informed that there were around forty people who had been arrested during the night of 6 October and the early morning of 7 October who were being held at Din Daeng police station. 

File Photo

He went to Din Daeng police station and asked to meet with those arrested. But the police refused and would not provide him with any information. He decided to walk into the inquiry room. But the police pushed him out and used profanity against him: “This is a matter of law. What’s a lawyer getting involved for?” They closed and locked the door, and then he heard a voice from inside the room that said, “dickhead lawyer.”

“When I went into the room, I saw about ten people who had been arrested. There were another fifteen uniformed and plainclothes police. When I went in, all eyes turned to me. I was shocked, and once I regained my composure, asked, ‘What stage of the process is this? Have you informed them of their accusations yet, since they have been arrested since early morning?’ They were motionless. So I asked, ‘Were they caught while committing crimes or not?’ Because if not, the police do not have the right to hold them in custody. Once I asked a bunch of questions, they asked who I was. I said I was a lawyer.

Then they covered the faces of those who were being held. I yelled out to them that, ‘You were not caught while committing crimes. You have not been informed of the accusations against you. You are being subjected to an illegal process. According to your rights, you can get up and walk out.’ But no one dared to get up and walk out. A plainclothes policeman came up and pushed me out by the chest. As he pushed me out, he said, ‘What’s a lawyer getting involved for? Dickhead lawyer.’”

Narongrat explained that the police were trying to coerce information about who shot and seriously injured the riot policeman in the head. But the entire process was far in excess of what is permitted under the law. The rude comment from the police, “What’s a lawyer getting involved for?” multiplied his questions about the judicial process. If you are lawyer and you are not permitted to provide legal assistance to those who have been arrested, then what kind of process was taking place in the police station?

“Okay, so I get that police inquiry officials often do not carry out their duties strictly according to the letter of the law. But they should ultimately respect the law. They themselves are police, which is a profession that was designed to protect and preserve the law. They are the enforcers of law and they should not do anything outside the law. Once I challenged them on law, they used profanity instead of being polite.”

After that, he left Din Daeng police station and only observers remained. He was then contacted late in the evening of 7 October to return to serve as the lawyer for the protestors. By then, the police had already recorded the arrests and many had already confessed.

This article is translated from an original piece published in Voice TV Online, “การเมือง ‘ดินแดง’ เงียบงัน: รุมกระทืบ-ด่าทนาย-สลายเยาวชน

FeatureDin Daeng IntersectionDin Daeng JunctionNarongrat Khamsuwanpro-democracy protest 2021
Categories: Prachatai English

House committee to summon NBTC for asking media not to cover the monarchy issue, says MP

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-11-30 19:08
Submitted on Tue, 30 Nov 2021 - 07:08 PMPrachatai

Amarat Chokepamitkul, an MP of the Move Forward Party (MFP) and member of the House Committee on Political Development, Mass Communications and Public Participation said the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) would be summoned to explain their request to the mainstream media to avoid covering news about monarchy reform.

File photo

According to the MFP media team, Amarat said on 28 November that the House Committee will summon NBTC Commissioner Lt Gen Perapong Manakit to explain the Commission’s request to the mainstream media to avoid covering monarchy-related activities that are found unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court ruling on 10 November.

Broadcasting Commission warns media against covering calls for monarchy reform

Amarat said even if the Court ruling is regarded as a mandate binding on all organizations, it should not influence media news reports. Press freedom is important and the media should also protect their professional dignity.

On 26 November, Lt Gen Perapong held a meeting with representatives of various media outlets in which he said that they should not broadcast news about calls for monarchy reform. He cited the Constitutional Court ruling on 10 November that found the 10 demands for monarchy reform, speeches made by Anon Nampa Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, and Panupong Jadnok, as well as subsequent calls for monarchy reform, were an intentional abuse of constitutional rights and liberties in an attempt to overthrow the “democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.”

Perapong said that according to the ruling, calling for monarchy reform is against the law and reporting such calls could be repeating the offense. He also said that reporters should not interview protest leaders, protesters, or those who agreed with the demands, but may report on the events that happen. However, he said that they should avoid long live broadcasts of protests to prevent the re-broadcast of speeches made during protests and calls for people to join the movement.

The NBTC also recommended that the media avoid inviting guests for talk show interviews about the demands, especially inviting representatives of both sides to give their opinions on air.

Perapong said that it is possible to interview experts about the ruling, but that reporters should be aware that some content could go against the ruling, and they should consider the content before airing it.

Meanwhile, the NBTC said it is still possible to report on calls for the repeal of the royal defamation law, but the media should only report the facts and the events that take place.

NewsAmarat ChokepamitkulMonarchy reformNational Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC)lèse majesté lawpress freedomSource: prachatai.com/journal/2021/11/96167
Categories: Prachatai English

Petition for marriage equality gains over 100,000 signatures overnight

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-11-29 19:58
Submitted on Mon, 29 Nov 2021 - 07:58 PMPrachatai

A petition proposing amendments to the Civil Commercial Code to allow marriage between LGBTQ couples has gained over 100,000 signatures overnight after it was launched during Sunday night’s demonstration (28 November).

Protesters flashed the three-finger salute during Sunday night's demonstration

The petition proposes to amend Article 1448 of the Civil Commercial Code, which governs marriage, so that marriage registration is allowed between two people of any gender, instead of only between a man and a woman. It also proposed to raise the age at which people can legally marry from 17 to 18 years old.

The petition also proposes to replace the terms “man” and “woman” in every article of the Civil and Commercial Code relating to marriage with “person,” as well as to replace “husband” and “wife” with “spouse” and “father” and “mother” with “parents.”

The amendments will grant LGBTQ couples the same rights, duties, and legal recognition as heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt a child together and be recognized as the child’s parents, the right to have the power of attorney to make medical decisions of behalf of one’s partner and to press charges on behalf of one’s partner, the right to use one’s partner’s last name, and the right to inherit property from each other without the need for a will.

The rationale of the proposed amendments says that gender-neutral language is used so that the same rights, duties, and legal recognition are granted to persons of every gender and sexuality.

As of 19.50.00 today (29 November), the petition has over 150,000 signatures, more than ten times the number legally required for a bill from the citizenry to be put before parliament.

Protesters gathering at the Ratchaprasong Intersection on Sunday

A protest to campaign for marriage equality took place at the Ratchaprasong intersection on Sunday night (28 November), organized by the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality, a network of around 40 civil society organizations and activist groups. The petition was launched during the protest.

A group of protesters who called themselves “the Ungendered” said that they wanted to join the protest to support the call for marriage equality. The group asked why Thai people still have to wait, even though LGBTQ couples are already allowed to get married in many other countries, and why everyone cannot be granted the same rights even though we are all humans.

One member of the group said that, even though they are still young and have not fully felt the impact of the lack of marriage rights, but there are many other LGBTQ couples in Thailand who would like to register their marriage but are not able to, and that being able to register their marriage would mean they are able to access the benefits and rights to which married couples are entitled. They said that they hope the effort to amend Article 1448 is successful and hope to learn more from joining the protest.

Meanwhile, Mo, who works for a civil society organization, said that the pro-democracy movement and the movement for gender equality should go together. She said that she found Sunday’s event interesting in that there were also campaigns for the release of detained activists and the repeal of the royal defamation law, which she said should be included in every protest.

Mo said that attending the protest is a way of standing by the most fundamental principle of equality regardless of gender.

“I think that the struggle is something that we have to fight in the long term. No change comes easy. We have to keep fighting, but the fact that everyone came to the protest today is already a show of force that we all want to see change,” Mo said.

As part of the campaign for marriage equality, a protester dressed in a wedding dress and stood on top of scaffolding wrapped in clothes in the colour of the LGBTQ Pride flag.

The campaign and the protest came after the Constitutional Court ruled on 17 November that the current marriage law does not violate the Constitution, but observed that parliament, the cabinet, and other relevant agencies should draft legislation to grant rights to LGBTQ people.

The ruling was made after a petition filed by Permsap Sae-Ung and Puangphet Hengkham was forwarded to the Constitutional Court by the Central Juvenile and Family Court to rule whether Article 1448 violates Sections 25, 26, or 27 of the Constitution.

Under Section 27 of the 2017 Constitution, all persons are “equal before the law, and shall have rights and liberties and be protected equally under the law.” This section also states that “unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of differences in origin, race, language, sex, age, disability, physical or health condition, personal status, economic and social standing, religious belief, education, or political view which is not contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, or on any other grounds shall not be permitted.”

Newsmarriage equalityLGBTQLGBT rightsDiscrimination against LGBTsame-sex marriage
Categories: Prachatai English

Pages

Subscribe to ประชาไท Prachatai.com aggregator - Prachatai English