Prachatai English

Thailand: No Justice 9 Years After ‘Red Shirt’ Crackdown

Prachatai English - Sun, 2019-05-19 18:52
Submitted on Sun, 2019-05-19 18:52Human Rights Watch

 

(New York) – Thai authorities have failed to punish policymakers, military commanders, and soldiers responsible for the deadly crackdown on “Red Shirt” protests in May 2010, Human Rights Watch said today. On May 4, 2019, the military prosecutor decided not to indict eight soldiers accused of fatally shooting six civilians in Bangkok’s Wat Pathumwanaram temple on May 19, 2010.

“Despite overwhelming evidence, Thai authorities have failed to hold officials accountable for gunning down protesters, medics, and reporters during the bloody crackdown in 2010,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The military prosecutor’s decision to drop the case against eight soldiers is the latest insult to families of victims who want justice.”

The military prosecutor dismissed the case on the grounds that there was no evidence and no witnesses to the killing. This decision contradicted the Bangkok Criminal Court’s inquest in August 2013, which found that the residue of bullets inside the victims’ bodies was the same type of ammunition issued to soldiers operating in the area at the time of the shooting. Based on information from the Justice Ministry’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI), witness accounts, and other evidence, the inquest concluded that soldiers from the Ranger Battalion, Special Force Group 2, Erawan Military Camp fired their assault rifles into the temple from their positions on the elevated train track in front of Wat Pathumwanaram temple.

From March to May 2010, political confrontations between the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), known as the “Red Shirts,” and the government of then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, escalated into violence in Bangkok and several provinces. According to the DSI, at least 98 people died and more than 2,000 were injured. The DSI issued a finding in September 2012 indicating that the military was culpable for 36 deaths.

Human Rights Watch’s May 2011 report, “Descent into Chaos: Thailand’s 2010 Red Shirt Protests and the Government Crackdown,” documented excessive and unnecessary force used by the military that caused many deaths and injuries during the 2010 political confrontations. The high number of casualties—including unarmed protesters, volunteer medics, reporters, photographers, and bystanders—resulted in part from the government’s enforcement of “live fire zones” around the UDD protest sites in Bangkok, where sharpshooters and snipers were deployed. Human Rights Watch also documented that some elements of the UDD, including armed “Black Shirt” militants, committed deadly attacks on soldiers, police, and civilians. Some UDD leaders incited violence with inflammatory speeches to demonstrators, urging their supporters to carry out riots, arson attacks, and looting.

All those criminally responsible should be held to account whatever their political affiliation or official position. But over the past nine years, there have been a series of cover-ups that have ensured impunity for senior government officials and military personnel. Successive Thai governments charged UDD leaders and supporters with serious criminal offenses but ignored rights abuses by soldiers. Under pressure from the military, deliberately insufficient investigative efforts have been made to identify the soldiers and commanding officers responsible for the shootings. Criminal and disciplinary cases were dropped in 2016 against former prime minister Abhisit, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, and former army chief Gen. Anupong Paojinda regarding their failure to review the use of military force that resulted in the loss of lives and the destruction of property. Thai authorities have targeted for intimidation and prosecution witnesses and families of the victims who demand justice.

“It is outrageous that the military has been allowed to walk away scot-free from deadly crimes committed in downtown Bangkok,” Adams said. “The failure of the government and military to provide justice for the deaths in 2010 heightens concerns for future political violence in Thailand.”

Pick to Post19 May 2010
Categories: Prachatai English

Thanathorn’s difficult prime ministerial bid

Prachatai English - Fri, 2019-05-17 00:52
Submitted on Fri, 2019-05-17 00:52Prachatai

In order to become the next Prime Minister of Thailand, Thanathorn needs to rely on defections.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has announced at Thai Summit Tower on 16 May 2019 that he is ready to form a government and become the next Prime Minister of Thailand.

Dressed in white as usual, Thanathorn said he was ready to talk to every party to form a government coalition in order to stop the junta’s continuation of power, send the military back to the barracks, amend the constitution, and hold a more democratic election.

After the election, he said he was ready to be the next Prime Minister of Thailand, but the Future Forward Party would not nominate him because it did not get most seats in Parliament. However, he said the Pheu Thai party, which has won the most MPs in the last election, has opened the way for the Future Forward Party to lead the next government.

It is still safe to say he has the backing of 245 MPs of the anti-junta bloc, consisting of Pheu Thai, Pheu Chart, Thai Liberal Party, Prachachart Party, Phalang Puangchon Thai Party, and the New Economics Party. However, he still has 131 MPs to go. In order to win the premiership, Thanathorn would need to gather a total of 376 MPs and senators from diverse points on the political spectrum to join his side.

It will be very challenging for him to form a government. He faces an uphill battle because the junta has a head start with the support of the 250 senators who, appointed by the junta itself, are enabled by the Constitution to vote for the Prime Minister. A group of micro parties with a total of 13 MPs, who benefited from the questionable calculation method for allocating party-list MPs designed by the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT), has also declared its allegiance to the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party.    

Thanathorn said yesterday (15 May) that he made a phone call to congratulate Jurin Laksanawisit on his election as the new leader of the Democrat Party. Even though they did not discuss government formation, Thanathorn said he received a good feedback. The Democrat Party won 52 MPs in the March election.

The Democrat Party is one of five undecided parties totalling 119 MPs. Even if Thanathorn can overcome all obstacles to win support from all of them, it will still not be enough for him to become Prime Minister since he will still need 12 more MPs. So he will need to rely on defections to form a government.

A couple of days after the election, Thanathorn formed an anti-junta bloc with 255 MPs out of 500, but this was recently reduced to 245 MPs due to the ECT’s method of calculating the allocation of party-list MPs. The first step would be to gain back that majority in the House of Representatives in order to have leverage against the junta. In that case, the junta government will not be able to pass legislation through the House, and the 250 senators may change their minds so that the country can move “future forward”. But no one knows if it is genuinely possible.

It is also wishful thinking to say that another potential source of defections may be Phalang Pracharat itself. 42 MPs from the last election are former members of other political parties before they joined Phalang Pracharat, including Pheu Thai, the Democrat Party, and the Bhumjaithai Party. If Thanathorn’s allies (now still limited to Pheu Thai) can make use of this, there might be some prospects.  

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Categories: Prachatai English

ECT requests Court to suspend Thanathorn from Parliament

Prachatai English - Thu, 2019-05-16 17:38
Submitted on Thu, 2019-05-16 17:38Prachatai

The Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) has requested the Constitutional Court to suspend Future Forward party leader Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit from joining parliament, after accusing him of holding shares in a media company.

Thanathorn after he left the Pathumwan Police Station, where he has been summoned to answer a sedition charge on 6 April. 

Today (16 May), the ECT filed a request with the Constitutional Court to rule whether to suspend Thanathorn from parliament. The ECT previously accused Thanathorn of holding shares in a media company – an act which, under Section 98 of the 2017 Constitution, prohibits him from running in an election of MPs and could result in a termination of his MP status, according to Section 101.

Thanathorn denied all allegations against him. Future Forward secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul said in a press conference that Thanathorn has already transferred his share in V-Luck Media Co. to his mother since 8 January 2019 – a month before the registration opened for candidates in the 2019 election. The company itself is also no longer in operation.  

Future Forward Party has been hit with a string of lawsuits both during the election campaign and following their success on the election day. So far, there have been 7 legal cases against party members and 5 electoral complaints against the party. Thanathorn himself has 4 cases against him, including a sedition charge filed against him by the NCPO’s legal officer, Col Burin Thongprapai.

Read more on the legal cases against Future Forward Party

Under Section 125 of the Constitution, no member of the House of Representatives or Senator shall be arrested, detained, or summoned by a warrant for inquiry as a suspect in a criminal case during a session, unless the House of which they are a member grants permission, or if they are arrested while in the act of committing the offense.

Section 125 also says that, if an MP is detained during inquiry or trial before the beginning of a session, the inquiry or the court must release the MP as soon as the President of the House requested, and the Court may order their release on bail or on bail and bond. If a criminal charge is brought against a member of the House of Representatives or a Senator, whether the House is in session or not, the Court may try the case during the session, as long as the trial does not prevent the member from attending the sitting of the House.

When the session begins on 22 May – the 5th anniversary of the military coup in 2014 – Thanathorn as an MP will be entitled to this immunity according to the Constitution. If the Constitutional Court rule to disqualify him from taking office, he could be subjected to detention for the charges the NCPO filed against him.

News2019 general electionThanathorn JuangroongruangkitFuture Forward PartyElection Commission of Thailand (ECT)
Categories: Prachatai English

All goes wrong with unelected Thai Senate

Prachatai English - Thu, 2019-05-16 17:37
Submitted on Thu, 2019-05-16 17:37Prachatai

The list of unelected 250 senates has been announced in the royal gazette. All of them were appointed by the junta. Some of them were also the junta’s relatives.

Gen. Preecha Chan-o-cha, Prayut's brother and now a senator.

The king signed to approve the senates on 14 May under the recommendation of the NCPO. According to the constitution, the 250 senates will be able to vote the Prime Minister along with 500 members of the house of representatives during the first five years of its enforcement. It means the 250 out of 376 votes, the Parliament’s majority to elect the Prime Minister, are already in the junta’s pockets.    

The senate comes from 3 sources: 194 appointed by NCPO out of 400 filtered by the selection committee presided over by Prawit Wongsuwan; 50 appointed by NCPO out of 200 representatives of ten professional groups nominate among themselves; 6 automatically called from the security forces including the supreme commander, the commanders of the three armed forces, the chief of police, and the permanent secretary of the defence ministry.

Some of them were the junta’s relatives. Som Jatusripitak and Air Vice Marshal Chaloemchai Krue-ngam, brothers of Somkid Jatusripitak and Wisanu Krue-ngam, the deputy prime ministers, were on the senate list. Gen. Preecha Chan-o-cha and Admiral Sithawat Wongsuwan, brothers of Prayut Chan-o-cha and Prawit Wongsuwan, the junta leaders, were also appointed.

According to Khaosod, Gen. Preecha Chan-o-cha was absent from meetings of the national legislative assembly for 394 days out of 400 days. He, along with other 7 members of the NLA, had been under investigation for being absent more than one-third of NLA’s meetings in 90 days, but found not guilty because he was absent for necessary matters.

15 cabinets resigned just before becoming the senators

Among 250 senates, 104 were military or police officers, 15 were members of the junta cabinet who resigned just before becoming the senate. According to Way Magazine, 71 were members of the junta’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA), 5 were the NCPO, and 24 were members of National Reform Steering Assembly.

The Election Commission of Thailand (ECT), who facilitates the appointment of Senate, received 1.3 billion baht of budget. While 1.176 billion baht goes to the ECT, the other 126 million baht goes to other assistive agencies. In the election of MPs, the ECT spent 4.095 billion baht despite irregularities and questionable calculation of the party-list MPs.

The Senate will not only play the role in voting for the Prime Minister, but also in law-making process. Even though it cannot turn down a bill proposed by the house, the Senate has the power to delay a bill by returning it to the house to reconsider. It can also play a role in a constitutional amendment since it requires 376 votes of the whole parliament and at least one-third of the Senate to pass the draft.  

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Categories: Prachatai English

Who is Siam Theerawut? From exile to Vietnam to whereabouts unknown

Prachatai English - Thu, 2019-05-16 13:14
Submitted on Thu, 2019-05-16 13:14Korakot Phiangjai

Siam Theerawut’s name appeared in the news on 9 May, after Piangdin Rakthai, a political refugee, said on YouTube that Siam and a famous underground radio host known as “Uncle Sanam Luang,” along with one other companion had been arrested in Vietnam and sent back to Thailand on 8 May.

Siam Theerawut at a 1932 revolution memorial day event at the memorial plaque, 24 June 2012

There are now concerns that these Thai refugees have disappeared, because there have already been cases of refugees disappearing and found dead. At least two people disappeared in 2016 and 2017, and at least two others were brutally murdered. Their bodies were found in the Mekhong River. Another missing person is Surachai Saedan, who has yet to be found.

“I just want to know if he is safe, and where he is,” Kanya Theerawut, Siam’s mother, said.

She has been going around handing letters to various agencies, requesting them to investigate the matter. Both the police and the military have denied the arrest, but the family is still worried, as the news reports gave a very specific time and date, and there were pictures of the fake passports with the three activists’ pictures. And most importantly, as they have done for the past five years, military officers may hold anyone in custody in a military camp without allowing them any contact with the outside world for seven days. Today, this order still has the force of law.

Kanya Theerawut at the Embassy of Vietnam in Bangkok, where she went to file a letter requesting information on her son's alleged arrest and extradition, 12 May 2019

“Only by publicly affirming that these three activists are in detention and in contact with their relatives and legal counsel will the authorities put to rest the fear that these men have been forcibly disappeared,” said Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director.

Siam is not a public figure. He is not well-known. He is only a young man, a graduate of Ramkhamhaeng University, who had to flee the country at the age of 29, after the 2014 military coup, when every Article 112-related case was brought back.

The origin of the charges against him was “The Wolf Bride,” a period comedy play which caused displeasure among some groups of people, who then filed a lawsuit under Article 112 in 2013. Those involved with the staging of the play, such as Pornthip Mankhong and Patiwat Saraiyaem, 25, were arrested and spent two years in prison.

Siam with his family at his graduation in 2013 (Source: Thanissorn Maneerak)

If we go back further, we will find that Siam is from Krathum Baen, Samut Sakhon. He worked with his family, who run a business installing air conditioners. At the same time, he enrolled at the Faculty of Political Science, Ramkhamhaeng University.

Siam’s younger sister said that he loves reading. He read a lot of political and history books, and often passed them on to her. Publications by Same Sky Books seem to be influential to his thinking. Other than that, he is particularly interested in Cambodian history and culture. His family said that he has a lot of books in Khmer, which he taught himself by watching YouTube videos, and he also bought a large Khmer dictionary to carry with him.

“Lakhon Basak: the best Khmer opera from Cochin China”

“Lakhon Yike: Cambodia’s musical theatre heritage”

“Chapei dong veng: the legacy of Cambodia’s musical culture”

“The splendour of King Sihanouk’s royal cremation ceremony”

“King Norodom Sihanouk: Cambodia’s national artist”

“Krom Ngoy: immortal Khmer poet”

etc.

These are the titles of the articles Siam wrote on his Blogazine, in the column “Jumreabsur: easy Khmer art in my style.” He describes his blog as

“Jumreabsur is a Khmer greeting, used for someone older than the speaker, or for a general person whose age you don’t know. This is different from “sua sday” which is a greeting for a person younger or equal in age to the speaker.

“Because of this, naming my blog “jumreabsur” means that this is a greeting for the general reader with the highest honour I can give, because I think that the highest honour of creating a work is the kindness I receive from every person who reads my work, no matter who you are.”

His thick glasses, his polite demeanour, the way he talks with his flat, monotone voice – these are how you know it’s him.

Kengkij Kitirianglarp, a lecturer at the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Chiang Mai University, who was once a member of the activist group Prakaifire and met Siam while participating in group activities, said that Siam is very polite and knowledgeable, especially about Cambodia, which he seems interested in to the point of obsession. Siam met members of the Prakaifire group when he was a student at Ramkhamhaeng a few years ago. Because he did not have many friends he could talk to and exchange his knowledge with, he wanted to join the group and join in their activities.

Siam at a demonstration against violence in the Thai-Cambodian border, early 2011

The Prakaifire group was founded around 2008 by enthusiastic young people who met previously as student activists, protesting against granting universities autonomy, against the war in Iraq, or other causes. After the 2006 military coup, these young people protested against the coup, despite many of them having joined the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, but they broke with the PAD when it started to demand that Thaksin be replaced by a new Prime Minister appointed by the King, as allowed by Article 7 of the Constitution.

Kengkij said that other than protesting against the military coups, the Prakaifire group mostly worked with workers. These young people organized study groups with factory workers to help them understand their rights and how to negotiate with employers. They campaigned in support of state welfare. When the Triumph Factory laid off 1900 workers, the Prakaifire played a major role in the campaign which sparked a long protest at the Ministry of Labour.

Sriprai Nonsee, who has been a workers’ rights activist since she was 18 and working in a sewing factory, and who has campaigned for a welfare system, posted on her Facebook page about Siam:

“Siam was one of the students that helped me with the workers’ study group and with the exchange talks between workers and students. He is a nice man who helped out with every event. He went everywhere where the workers were holding events, no matter how far or hard the journey was. He even went to the funeral of workers he didn’t know. The latest was Tula’s funeral, around Om Noi. We were parted suddenly because he had to seek asylum, but I am still hoping that one day we’ll see each other again. Yesterday, I saw on the news that he was arrested and sent back to Thailand, but the Thai authorities deny everything. I can’t sleep because of what happened, and I think I can’t just do nothing, and wait around without knowing when I’ll hear that he’s safe. I’m saying here and now that I won’t let my beloved little brother disappear like this. There’s no way I’ll ever let that happen.”

During Prakaifire’s journey of activism, some members who are skilled in theatre separated from the group in order to focus on art and culture work, since they see theatre as a tool the working class can use to spread ideas. Kengkij said that Siam and this group of friends started travelling around staging workshops on easy ways to make plays for different workers’ unions.

Siam (right) in one of the productions he was a part of.

A friend in the theatre group said that he met Siam at various seminars around 2009. Siam was an upperclassman who had yet to graduate and a fan of the Students Federation of Thailand, so he invited him to join the group.

In 2010, Siam and the group often observed the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) protests at the time.

“Everyone believed Siam was Special Branch. He likes to ask a lot of questions. He didn’t go to the protests because he wanted to fight in the UDD’s way or anything like that, but he likes knowing people. He likes knowing the commoners. He wanted to know how they got there, which type of vehicle they came in, how long have they had been here, how many they were, who was taking care of the house while they were at the protest, how is their dog was being taken care of. He asked that much. He’s so sensitive with other human beings, and he was happy that he got to come back and tell his friends about it, because we were too lazy to go. It was too hot.”

“He doesn’t have a lot of self-confidence. He’s not confident in his own ability, even when he is really very capable. He’s a real linguistic genius. We used to wonder why khanom chin is called khanom chin, and we were betting on whether Siam would know. When we called him, he really did know why it’s called khanom chin, and he gave us a long explanation of the etymology. And he knows a lot about Thai classical music. He listens to Thai classical music.”

As for Siam’s first step into the world of theatre, it was because he was forced.

“We didn’t have enough actors, so we made him join, and we thought that acting would help with his confidence in expressing himself and interacting with others, and he did well.”

Siam (center) in another production

“He had no radical thoughts at the time. He’s very compromising, friendly, honest, and timid. When people got arrested because they were in a play, his friends were most worried about him because he was not ready at all for prison. He was not ready to face that much evil. We were worried that he’d get beaten up, that he’d die in jail,” Siam’s friend said.

As for the news about Siam this time, Kengkij said that he is very sad.

“I feel sad about many things, not just about Siam. Many people I know have had to run away, or are in jail. There are people of many generations who are facing the same fate. If we look at Siam’s case, he was not at all radical when I met him. He was just someone who is interested in social issues, who wants to learn, to discuss, who wants society to get better. But the situation with the dictatorship has driven a lot of people to leave. They’re not a danger to society, but the atmosphere makes them dangerous. They didn’t want to leave the country, but they can’t stay because they have to face an unfair law. The pain and hardship they face make them more critical of the system, at least more than we are.”

“We should rather question what kind of social conditions make so many capable people end up in jail or having to flee the country. It’s a complete destruction of coexistence,” said Kengkij.

This coming week, Siam’s family will still be searching for their son and brother, with only the hope that Siam and the others are still safe and will face a normal trial.

Regarding the situation between Thailand and Vietnam related to the expulsion of political refugees, on 25 March 2019, Amnesty International headquarters in London, United Kingdom, issued another statement calling for the Thai and Vietnamese authorities to give a direct explanation of the disappearance of a Vietnamese journalist in Thailand, after reports that Truong Duy Nhat, a Radio Free Asia host, disappeared on 26 January after he travelled to Bangkok to apply for asylum with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Highlightpolitical refugeeenforced disappearanceSiam Theerawut
Categories: Prachatai English

Weapon of math destruction at work in Thai politics

Prachatai English - Wed, 2019-05-15 16:12
Submitted on Wed, 2019-05-15 16:12Thammachart Kri-aksorn

The calculation of party-list MPs by Election Commission favours pro-junta parties as it slices down the opposition. Here’s how it works step-by-step. 

Caption: Mongkolkit Suksintharanon of the Thai Civilized Party announcing to join Prayut after gaining one seat from the junta's calculation method.

A weapon of math destruction is at work in Thailand. The Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) confirmed the election of 149 party-list MPs on 8 May. The calculation favours the junta as it removes the anti-junta bloc’s majority in the House of Representatives.

The calculation is based on the Organic Law on Election of MPs, which, as the Constitutional Court confirmed on the morning of the same day, does not contradict the 2017 Constitution. Due to the ECT’s method of calculation, as many as 26 parties get party-list MP seats. “No reason, because it follows the law,” said Sawang Boonmee, the Deputy Secretary-General of the ECT. 

The Thai people have waited 45 days for the official election results. It turns out while it takes around 70,000 votes for each seat that the big parties get, it takes as few as 33,754 votes (0.09 percent of the total votes) for the smallest party (e.g. Thai Rak Tham Party) get one seat in the parliament, while the Pheu Thai party, because of its success in getting constituency MPs elected, gets zero party-list MPs.

Had the result been calculated by the fairer method, such as one which set a minimum threshold for getting a party-list MP (the method used in Germany which uses a similar voting method), party-list MPs would be limited to 16 parties, and the Future Forward Party (FFP) claims it should have earned more 7 seats. “We lost more than 7 parliamentary seats,” the FFP posted on Facebook. “These are representatives of people from ethnic groups, representatives of people interested in education reform, representatives from farmers’ groups, democratic activists, the new generation, and representatives from the people of the northeast. What a shame.”

The anti-junta bloc, consisting of Pheu Thai, Pheu Chart, the FFP, the Thai Liberal Party, the Prachachart Party, the Phalang Puangchon Thai Party, and the New Economics Party, which would, by other methods of calculation, have earned 255 seats out of 500 in the House of Representatives, now has only 245 seats.

The Pheu Thai party released a statement protesting the calculation method, while the FFP said it will file a case with the Constitutional Court whether it was against the constitution. However, some small parties with extremist ideas benefited from the ECT’s calculation method.

For example, Paibul Nititawan of the People Reform Party, which got one seat from its 45,374 votes nationwide, campaigned to invoke the teachings of the Buddha to solve people’s problems. Paibul was a Senator during the Yingluck administration and was an implacable foe of the so-called Thaksin regime.  Under the NCPO he was a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee and of the National Reform Council where he headed the Buddhism reform committee.

Mongkolkit Suksintharanon of the Thai Civilized Party, which got one seat from 60,354 votes, vows to bring back whipping to combat corruption. He is Secretary-General of his own National Anti-Corruption Network, which campaigns selectively and did not, for example, touch the scandal of Prawit’s watches.  Another party founder is notorious social media personality Natchapol Supattana or “Mark Pitbull”.

The junta seeks a House majority by gathering MPs from small parties who have benefitted from the ECT’s calculation method. And they returned the favor on 13 May when 11 small parties announced that they will together support Prayut Chan-o-cha to be the Prime Minister. Damrong Phidej, the leader of Thai Forest Conservation Party (2 MPs), which gained 1 more seat from the junta's calculation method, also announced it will join the government led by the junta. 

Before the election results, the junta was relying on the 250 senators, appointed by the junta, to pick Prayut Chan-o-cha to be the Prime Minister, but it would not be able to pass laws because the anti-junta bloc would still hold a majority in the House. With the help of the small parties and the calculation methods, it is now more likely than ever that Thailand will be ruled by the junta under the disguise of democratic election. However, pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party still needs support from Bhumjaitai Party (51 MPs), Democrat Party (52 MPs) as well as other undecided parties to secure the majority in the house. 

The consequence is obvious, but what’s obscure is how the calculation works. Weapon of math destruction, from the title of a book on big data algorithms authored by Cathy O’Neil, is an apt term for the calculation method designed by the junta to prolong its status quo. Since we owed the explanation of no-explanation to the international community, here is a step-by-step elaboration of how the calculation works according to the ECT’s announcement.

The weapon of math destruction

                1. Total the votes from all parties nationwide. According to the ECT, the result is 35,441,920 votes.

                2. Since the election in one constituency is still incomplete due to violations, find the number of total MPs and party-list MPs by: 

                                (a) Divide the number of all constituency MPs with official results (349) by the number of all constituencies (350) = 349 ÷ 350 = 0.9971.

                                (b) Find the total number of MPs to be reported by the ECT by multiplying the result of (b) by the total number of MPs in parliament (500) = 500 × 0.9971 = 498.5714.

                                (c) Find the total number of party-list MPs to be reported by the ECT by subtracting the number of all constituency MPs with official results (349) from the result of (b) rounded down  = 498 – 349 = 149.

                3. Allocate the 149 party-list MPs by the following steps:

                                (d) Divide the total number of votes from (a) by the total number of MPs to be reported from (b) rounded down = (35,441,920 ÷ 498) = 71,168.5141.

                                (e) Find the number of MPs each party ‘should get’ by dividing the total number of votes for each party by (d).

                                (f) Find the preliminary number of party-list MPs for each party by subtracting the number of constituency MPs of each party from the number of MPs each party ‘should get’ from (e).  Since Pheu Thai Party won more constituency MPs than the number of MPs it ‘should get’, it receives no party-list MPs.

Table 1: How to calculate the preliminary number of party-list MPs

No.

Political Parties

Total Vote

MPs the party ‘should get’

Constituency MPs

Party-list MPs

1.

Phalang Pracharat Party

8,413,413

118.2182

97

21.2182

2.

Pheu Thai Party

7,881,006

110.7373

136

0.0000

3.

Future Forward Party

6,254,726

87.8861

30

57.8861

4.

Democrat Party

3,957,620

55.6091

33

22.6091

5.

Bhumjaithai Party

3,734,055

52.4678

39

13.4678

6.

Thai Liberal Party

822,240

11.5534

0

11.5535

7.

Chart Thai Pattana Party

783,607

11.0106

6

5.0106

8.

New Economics Party

485,574

6.8229

0

6.8229

9.

Prachachart Party

481,143

6.7606

6

0.7606

10.

Phuea Chart Party

419,121

5.8891

0

5.8891

11.

Action Coalition for Thailand

415,202

5.8341

1

4.8341

12.

Chart Pattana Party

244,770

3.4393

1

2.4393

13.

Thai Local Power Party

212,953

2.9922

0

2.9922

14.

Thai Forest Conservation Party

134,532

1.8903

0

1.8903

15.

Thai People Power Party

79,783

1.1210

0

1.1210

16.

Thai Nation Power Party

73,189

1.0284

0

1.0284

17.

People Progressive Party

68,973

0.9692

0

0.9692

18.

Thai Civilized Party

60,354

0.8480

0

0.8480

19.

Phalang Thai Rak Thai Party

60,298

0.8473

0

0.8473

20.

Thai Teacher Power Party

56,308

0.7912

0

0.7912

21.

Prachaniyom Party

56,215

0.7899

0

0.7899

22.

Prachatham Thai Party

47,787

0.6715

0

0.6715

23.

People Reform Party

45,374

0.6376

0

0.6376

24.

Thai Citizen Power Party

44,961

0.6318

0

0.6318

25.

New Democrat Party

39,260

0.5516

0

0.5516

26.

New Palangdharma Party

34,924

0.4907

0

0.4907

27.

Thairaktham Party

33,754

0.4743

0

0.4743

28.

Phuea Paendin Party

30,936

0.4347

0

0.4347

29.

New Alternative Party

29,219

0.4106

0

0.4106

30.

Paradonraphab Party

29,219

0.3861

0

0.3861

 

Other parties

 

Total

35,441,920

498

 

174.2629

                               (g) If the preliminary number of party-list MPs under (f) totals more than the total number of party-list MPs under (c) (149), then divide the number of party-list MPs of each party by the total preliminary number of party-list MPs under (f) (174.2629) and multiply by the total number of party-list MPs under (c) (149). Distribute the party-list MPs according the results rounded down.

                                (h) If after (g), the total number of party-list MPs is less than 149, give one more party-list MP to each party which already has a party-list MP and whose preliminary number of party-list MPs under (f) can be rounded up (contains a fraction of more than 0.5).

                                (i) If after (h), the total number of party-list MPs is still less than 149, give one party-list MP to each party, excluding those which have received an extra seat under (h), in order of the size of the fraction of the preliminary number of party-list MPs under (f) until the total number of party-list MPs reaches 149.

Table 2: How to calculate the final number of party-list MPs

No.

Political Parties

Total Vote

MPs the party ‘should get’

Constituency MPs

Preliminary Party-list MPs

Subtracted by  preliminary no. (174.2629) and multiplied by 149

Additional MPs gained from rounding up

Final Party-list MPs

1.

Phalang Pracharat Party

8,413,413

118.2182

97

21.2182

18.1422

 

18

2.

Pheu Thai Party

7,881,006

110.7373

136

0.0000

0.0000

 

 

3.

Future Forward Party

6,254,726

87.8861

30

57.8861

49.4943

1

50

4.

Democrat Party

3,957,620

55.6091

33

22.6091

19.3315

 

19

5.

Bhumjaithai Party

3,734,055

52.4678

39

13.4678

11.5154

1

12

6.

Thai Liberal Party

822,240

11.5534

0

11.5535

9.8785

1

10

7.

Chart Thai Pattana Party

783,607

11.0106

6

5.0106

4.2842

 

4

8.

New Economics Party

485,574

6.8229

0

6.8229

5.8338

1

6

9.

Prachachart Party

481,143

6.7606

6

0.7606

0.6503

1

1

10.

Phuea Chart Party

419,121

5.8891

0

5.8891

5.0354

 

5

11.

Action Coalition for Thailand

415,202

5.8341

1

4.8341

4.1333

 

4

12.

Chart Pattana Party

244,770

3.4393

1

2.4393

2.0857

 

2

13.

Thai Local Power Party

212,953

2.9922

0

2.9922

2.5584

1

3

14.

Thai Forest Conservation Party

134,532

1.8903

0

1.8903

1.6163

1

2

15.

Thai People Power Party

79,783

1.1210

0

1.1210

0.9584

1

1

16.

Thai Nation Power Party

73,189

1.0284

0

1.0284

0.8793

1

1

17.

People Progressive Party

68,973

0.9692

0

0.9692

0.8287

1

1

18.

Thai Civilized Party

60,354

0.8480

0

0.8480

0.7251

1

1

19.

Phalang Thai Rak Thai Party

60,298

0.8473

0

0.8473

0.7245

1

1

20.

Thai Teacher Power Party

56,308

0.7912

0

0.7912

0.6765

1

1

21.

Prachaniyom Party

56,215

0.7899

0

0.7899

0.6754

1

1

22.

Prachatham Thai Party

47,787

0.6715

0

0.6715

0.5742

1

1

23.

People Reform Party

45,374

0.6376

0

0.6376

0.5452

1

1

24.

Thai Citizen Power Party

44,961

0.6318

0

0.6318

0.5402

1

1

25.

New Democrat Party

39,260

0.5516

0

0.5516

0.4716

1

1

26.

New Palangdharma Party

34,924

0.4907

0

0.4907

0.4196

1

1

27.

Thairaktham Party

33,754

0.4743

0

0.4743

0.4055

1

1

28.

Phuea Paendin Party

30,936

0.4347

0

0.4347

0.3717

1

1

29.

New Alternative Party

29,219

0.4106

0

0.4106

0.3511

1

1

30.

Paradonraphab Party

29,219

0.3861

0

0.3861

0.3301

1

1

 

Other parties

 

 

 

Total

35,441,920

498

 

174.2629

 

 

149

Round Up
Categories: Prachatai English

NCPO summons 15 activists on sedition charge

Prachatai English - Wed, 2019-05-15 11:58
Submitted on Wed, 2019-05-15 11:58Prachatai

15 activists, including Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa, have been summoned to Pathumwan Police Station on sedition charges filed by Col Burin Thongprapai, says Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (left) and Panupong Sritananuwat (right), both summoned on sedition charge by the NCPO

TLHR reported that the activists were charged on the basis of an incident on 24 June 2015, when the activists attempted to bring charges against the police for using unnecessary force to crack down on activists’ peaceful commemoration of the coup’s first anniversary in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. On that day, the activists were also joined by the Dao Din group, students from various institutions, and members of the public, who gathered in their support.

Panupong Sritananuwat, a former member of the Dao Din group, said that a summons was delivered to his house on 12 May, ordering him to report to Pathumwan Police Station on 21 May to face accusations of “making an appearance to the public by words, writings, or any other means which is not an act within the purpose of the Constitution or for expressing an honest opinion or criticism in order to raise unrest and disaffection amongst the people in a manner likely to cause disturbance in the country or to cause the people to transgress the laws of the country” and “an assembly of ten persons upwards, which do or threaten to do an act of violence, or do anything to cause a breach of the peace” under Articles 116 and 215 of the Criminal Code.

“It’s been almost four years and the charges have just arrived. And obviously this is another spasmodic attempt by the NCPO to use the law to silence people,” posted Chonticha Jangrew, who also received a summons, on her Facebook page. The list of activists summoned also included Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa, who was released from prison just last week following a royal pardon, and Rangsiman Rome, now a Future Forward party-list MP. 

The summons recorded that the charges were filed by Col Burin Thongprapai, the NCPO’s legal officer, who has also previously filed the same charges against the Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. The 14 activists were accused over the same incident as Thanathorn.

“As I have said many times, these unfair actions do not happen only to me, but they are being used systematically to silence or destroy political dissidents. I would like to call for every citizen to not give in to injustice and to come together to fight for what is right, for the freedom of [the activists] and the people. When Thai society returns to true democracy, the Future Forward Party will try our best to erase the consequences of the military coup and return justice to everyone who fights for democracy,” Thanathorn wrote on his Facebook page.

 

Newsjudicial harassmentPanupong SritananuwatJatupat BoonpattararaksaChonticha Jangrewstudent activist
Categories: Prachatai English

Missing activist’s mother files request with Vietnamese Embassy for information on son’s disappearance

Prachatai English - Tue, 2019-05-14 11:44
Submitted on Tue, 2019-05-14 11:44Prachatai

Siam Theerawut’s mother went to the Embassy of Vietnam in Bangkok this afternoon (13 May) to file a request to the Vietnamese authorities to disclose information on her son’s disappearance.

Kanya Theerawut (center) with demonstrators in front of the Embassy of Vietnam

At 13.00 today (13 May), Kanya Theerawut went to the Embassy of Vietnam in Bangkok to file a request to the Vietnamese authorities to disclose information about her son’s alleged arrest and extradition, after it was reported last week that Siam, along with two other activists, Chucheep “Uncle Sanam Luang” Chiwasut and Kritsana Tupthai, had been arrested and sent back to Thailand.

Kanya said that she is filing the request in order to find out whether Siam was really sent back to Thailand. The Thai authorities have yet to acknowledge the arrest or detention of the three activists, and Kanya said that the family has no information about the arrest.

“I’m filing a letter here because I want to know if he really was arrested for using a fake passport, and if he was really sent back to Thailand. This is what I would like to know. I’m very worried. I can’t sleep. I’m very stressed,” said Kanya, who has not spoken to her son since Siam fled the country following the 2014 military coup.

Kanya Theerawut

Pawinee Chumsri, an attorney from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), said that a representative of the Embassy has accepted the letter and promised to pass it on to the relevant Vietnamese agencies and will contact her if they receive any information.

Since hearing the news of Siam’s alleged arrest and extradition, Kanya has been filing letters with various agencies in an attempt to find out more about her son’s fate. She went to the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) on 9 May to report Siam’s disappearance, but the CSD would not accept her report, claiming that the CSD has not been notified of the arrest.

Kanya also went to the National Human Rights Council this morning to file a complaint on her son’s case. Pawinee said that they are also submitting a letter to the EU headquarters in Bangkok, and that they are also in the process of contacting the United Nations and may be able to meet with a UN representative tomorrow. She said that the UN is also helping them with coordination.

A crowd gathered in front of the Embassy in support of Kanya and the three missing activists, each holding a sign saying “Where are you? (Justice in) Siam”. In an act of peaceful protest, they sang the song “ฝากรักถึงเจ้าผีเสื้อ” (“Sending Love to You, the Butterfly”), which the lead singer said he once sang for Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa, an activist who was imprisoned on a lèse majesté charge and was released from prison last week. The song is a message to a friend who has gone far away and carries the hope that one day they will be reunited.  The lead singer said that he hopes he will see Siam again.

Newspolitical refugeeenforced disappearanceSiam Theerawut
Categories: Prachatai English

Ekkachai suffers 7th attack, this time in front of court

Prachatai English - Mon, 2019-05-13 14:55
Submitted on Mon, 2019-05-13 14:55Prachatai

Ekkachai Hongkangwan, a political activist, was assaulted for the 7th time in front of the court. 


A political activist, with bruises on his face, shows his right hand splinted at Paolo Hospital. Source: Ekkachai Hongkangwan's Facebook Page

Ekkachai Hongkangwan, a political activist, posted on Facebook at 9 a.m. he was assaulted by 4 men, worn in motorcycle helmet, in front of the Ratchada Criminal Court. His picture shows bruises on his face.

At 11.20 a.m., Ekkachai posted he went to Paolo Hospital where his right arm was splinted as showed in another picture. He said he had to pay 5,000 baht without getting reimbursed. Anurak Jeantawanich, his fellow activist, said Ekkachai arrived at Dr. Panya General Hospital where he can get access to the healthcare coverage at 3 p.m.  

Nattaa Mahattana, Ekkachai’s fellow activist, said they went to the Court together after they had been charged for a campaign calling for election in Thailand. Nattha also said she saw Ekkachai being hit right after he walked down from the bus. She went to report at Phaholyothin Police Station.

According to Siam Rath, Pol.Lt. Songkran Srisuk, the Sub-Inspector of Phaholyothin Police Station, said he has received the report and started investigating on the issue at the crime scene.

Anurak Jeantawanich, Ekkachai’s fellow activist who was also assaulted in his own house earlier, posted on Facebook that Ekkachai’s bone of his right hand and ninth rib were fractured. On Ekkachai’s white shirt also found several footprints.

His supporters campaigned on Facebook for donation in support of Ekkachai. But his political opponents made fun of him being hit by posting in the comment section of Ekkachai's Facebook page a receipt of money transfer showing 0.01 baht of donation and asked if the activist arranged the assault himself in order to earn money.


Ekkachai's political opponents in the comment section of his Facebook page. 

Rangsiman Rome, an MP of Future Forward Party, posted on Facebook calling for the police to take serious action in order to prevent this from becoming a new normal. 

This is the seventh time he was physically assaulted for opposing people in power, excluding two times of his car being torched to a irreparable point. In 2013, he had been imprisoned for 2 years and 8 months for violating lese majeste law by selling CDs of ABC’s documentary about Thai monarchy and Wikileaks’ document.    

News
Categories: Prachatai English

Thai government must disclose whereabouts of missing activists, say rights groups

Prachatai English - Mon, 2019-05-13 11:32
Submitted on Mon, 2019-05-13 11:32Prachatai

After reports surfaced on Thursday (9 May) of the disappearance of three activists in exile in Vietnam, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have expressed their concerns over the activists’ safety and called on the Thai government to disclose information about their whereabouts.

Chucheep “Uncle Sanam Luang” Chiwasut, Siam Theerawut, and Kritsana Tupthai have been living in exile since the May 2014 military coup. The Thai authorities have previously accused them of violating Article 112, and Chucheep was also accused of being a leading member of the Thai Federation movement.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that the Vietnamese authorities arrested the three men in early 2019 for illegal entry and using fake travel documents. On 9 May, the Thai Alliance for Human Rights (TAHR) issued a statement claiming that they had already been handed over to the Thai authorities. However, the Thai government has yet to acknowledge their arrest or detention.

There are now concerns from human rights groups that the three men have become victims of enforced disappearance. HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams called on the Thai government to disclose the whereabouts of the three men, and to permit their family members and lawyers to see them.

“Vietnam’s alleged secret forced return to Thailand of three prominent activists should set off alarm bells in the international community,” Adams said. “United Nations agencies and concerned governments should press the Thai government to immediately reveal where Chucheep and his two colleagues are being held and allow others to visit them.”

Minar Pimple, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Global Operations, also called on the Thai authorities to “acknowledge whether they are in military or police custody and establish their whereabouts.” If the three activists are indeed in state custody, Amnesty International asked that the Thai authorities “ensure that the three men are held in an official place of detention and have immediate access to independent lawyers, doctors, and family members.”  

“We also call on authorities to either charge them with a recognizable criminal offence in line with international standards or release them from custody, and not penalise them for their exercise of the right to freedom of expression,” says Pimple.

Newspolitical refugeeenforced disappearanceChucheap CheewasutSiam TheerawutKritsana Tupthai
Categories: Prachatai English

UN calls for disclosure of information about disappeared dissidents

Prachatai English - Sat, 2019-05-11 13:20
Submitted on Sat, 2019-05-11 13:20Prachatai

In an official communication to the Thai government made public this week, UN human rights experts expressed serious concern about the alleged enforced disappearance and extrajudicial execution of political dissidents Surachai Saedan, Chatchan Bupphawan, Kraidej Luelert, and Itthipol Sukpan and called for the Thai government to release information concerning their fate.

The communication to the Thai government was issued jointly by the Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and was dated on 6 March 2019.

The letter expressed concerns regarding the alleged abduction and killing of Chatchan Bupphawan (“Phuchana”) and Kraidej Luelert (“Kasalong”), the alleged enforced disappearance and possible killing of Surachai Danwattananusorn (Surachai Saedan), and the alleged disappearance of Itthipol Sukpaen (“DJ Sunho”), and the fact that “these events may be directly linked to their political opinions and activities”.

The letter then asked that the Thai government disclose information about the fate and whereabouts of Surachai and Itthipol, and about any investigation which may have taken place into the murder of Phuchana and Kasalong.

“While awaiting a reply, we urge that all necessary measures be taken to protect the human rights to life, personal security, integrity and freedom of expression in Thailand and to prevent the violation of these rights, and in the event that investigations establish that the allegations described in this letter are correct, to ensure the criminal accountability of any person responsible for them,” says the letter.

The UN also expressed concerns over the draft Bill on Suppression and Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance, which appears to fall short on international standards. The draft no longer contains an explicit and absolute prohibition of acts of torture and enforced disappearances in any circumstances, including during a State of Emergency; and there is no provision prohibiting the refoulement of individuals to countries where they would face a real risk of torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or enforced disappearance – shortcomings which the UN sees as seriously weakening the legal protection against torture and disappearances. As of May 2019, the Bill has yet to be passed.

Surachai, Phuchana, and Kasalong were living in Laos when they disappeared in December 2018. Around New Year, two mutilated bodies were found washed up on the banks of the Mekhong River near Nakhon Phanom, and DNA results later confirmed that the bodies are those of Phuchana and Kasalong. Surachai’s body has yet to be found, and his fate and whereabouts is currently unknown.

Itthipol, another political activist living in exile in Laos, went missing in 2016. He was reportedly last seen on 22 June 2016. His fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

No reply from the Thai authorities has been made public, other than a letter dated 14 March from Sek Wannamethee, the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Thailand in Geneva, informing the UN that their letter has been forwarded to relevant agencies in Thailand.

Newspolitical refugeeenforced disappearanceSurachai DanwattananusornSurachai SaedanPhuchanaChatchan BubphawanKasalongKraidej LuelertItthiphol SukpanDJ Sunho
Categories: Prachatai English

A Revolution in Song: remembering Jit Phumisak through music

Prachatai English - Sat, 2019-05-11 13:06
Submitted on Sat, 2019-05-11 13:06Anna Lawattanatrakul

On 5 May 1966, Jit Phumisak was killed in Ban Nong Kung, Sakhon Nakhon. 53 years have since passed.

         Today, Jit is remembered in many different ways. For the student activists of the 14 October 1973 uprising, this bespectacled serious-looking young man in the old photograph is a revolutionary hero and an intellectual who fought for the people.

For people in Ban Nong Kung, Amphoe Waritchaphum, Sakon Nakhon, he is “Acharn Jit” (“Teacher Jit”), an important figure in local history. At the same time, he is “Chao-pho Jit,” a guardian spirit who might tell them how to win the lottery if they place an offering of cigarettes and “red star beer” – i.e. Heineken beer – at the stupa at Prasittisangwon Temple, where his remains have been interred.

As a historian and a linguist, Jit left many important scholarly works, such as “The Real Face of Thai Feudalism” and "Etymology of the terms Siam, Thai, Lao, and Khom, and the Social Characteristics of Nationalities" for Thai academia.

Not only that, Jit was also a thinker, a poet, and a songwriter. His songs are still remembered and sung today, especially “Starlight of Faith” (“แสงดาวแห่งศรัทธา”), which has appeared in political demonstrations by almost every group. Jit wrote both the music and lyrics to most of his songs, with the exception of a few where he used existing tunes. He was reportedly a capable musician and was part of the traditional Thai music group at the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, where he was a student, and the Thai Labour Museum now holds the chakhe zither he once used to compose music. Jit has also written critiques of Thai traditional music, and the book “Art for Life, Art for the People” is now considered as one of Jit’s most important works.

Jit’s music has always reflected his political ideas, especially his proposal in “Art for Life, Art for the People,” that art must serve the people. His songs therefore are a call for listeners to fight for the underprivileged and the working class, and a tribute to labourers. Jit’s songs are still remembered today as symbols of political defiance.

Jit Phumisak at “Lard Yao University”

Jit’s songwriting goes back to 1956, when he was still a student at Chulalongkorn University. Jit wrote around 20 songs throughout his life, and even his earliest works express his socialist ideas. For example, “The Workers’ March,” which he wrote around 1956-1957 to use in celebration of the 1957 Labour Act, is a tribute to the working class and a call for them to join forces. “The Anti-Imperialism March,” written around the same time, was a call for Thai citizens to rise against American influence, since Jit saw the U.S. as an imperialist nation taking over the Thai economy.

In 1958, Jit was accused of being a communist. He was arrested and imprisoned at Lard Yao Prison, a place which he and other inmates called “Lard Yao University.” It was during his imprisonment that Jit wrote many of his most well-known songs, such as “Starlight of Faith” “The Call from the Motherland” (“เสียงเพรียกจากมาตุภูมิ”) and “The Sea of Life” (“ทะเลชีวิต”). While these songs are not marches, nor are they calls to arms, they are still expressions of Jit’s political ideology and are songs about persistence in hopeless times, when one does not know how to keep fighting. In “Starlight of Faith,” for example, he says that the “star of faith” is still shining and guiding people’s hearts, despite all hardship and obstacles.

Atibhop Pataradetpisan notes that the star is a recurring symbol in many of Jit’s song, not only in “Starlight of Faith.” For example, the words to “The Sea of Life,” a song Jit wrote for other political prisoners who shared his ideology, are “I ask the star to be kind. Please guide my friends, give them strength to fight against danger until they make it through.” Atibhop argues that, since the red star is a recurring symbol in many of the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT)’s revolutionary songs, the star Jit referred to in his songs is most likely not just any star, but the communist party’s red star.

Jit also wrote songs for the plays the prisoners staged in Lard Yao Prison, and he has also written love songs. However, despite being love songs, they still carry his socialist ideas, for example, “The Kingdom of Love” (“อาณาจักรแห่งความรัก”), which is not about romantic love but a love of the underprivileged class. The song says that “true love from the heart spreads out in the sky, as would a bird taking flight. The kingdom of love extends to the people” and encourages listeners by saying that “One’s life is not worthless. Stay; wait for the bright future. Spread the love, now limited, out to the hearts of those who suffer throughout the land.”

“Comrade Preecha”

In 1964, after he was released from prison, Jit joined the CPT. He was then known as “Comrade Preecha” and was part of the CPT force working in the Phu Phan mountain area in Sakhon Nakhon.

Jit was tasked with writing revolutionary songs for the CPT, because at that time, the People’s Liberation Army did not have its own music. This is possibly why Jit composed several marches during his time in Phu Phan, and why most of the songs he wrote as a CPT operative speak more openly of the communist movement than his earlier works.

The People’s Liberation Army March” (“มาร์ชกองทัพปลดแอกประชาชนไทย”) was one of the songs Jit wrote in service of the CPT, and the words say that “the party leads the Thai people in the liberation war. Follow the party with one’s heart, faithful and brave.” In “The Phu Phan Revolution” (“ภูพานปฏิวัติ”), another song Jit wrote for the CPT, he describes the party flag waving above the mountains, “fighting the storm without fear” and the people’s liberation army as “the people’s soldiers” who would travel anywhere and who would stand their ground as unmoving and fearless as the Phu Phan mountain itself. Having taken inspiration from a forest fire he saw on Phu Pha Lom, Jit also uses the imagery of fire to describe how the revolution might spread through the land. 

In comparison to his earlier works, these two are more openly in support of the communist movement than, for example, “Revolutionary Heroes” (“วีรชนปฏิวัติ”) which Jit wrote during his imprisonment. Inspired by Khrong Chandawong, an activist who was arrested and executed on the orders of Sarit Thanarat in May 1961, Jit wrote this song as a call for the people to continue fighting in place of the revolutionaries who had died for their cause. Despite the song being about the people’s fight against totalitarianism, it never says anything about the CPT, even though Jit had allegedly been involved with the CPT since 1953, according to Vorasakdi Mahatdhanobol.

But it is not only in Jit’s revolutionary songs that he expresses his socialist ideals. Even in his love songs, like “The Kingdom of Love” mentioned above, or in “Jom jai duang kaew” (“จอมใจดวงแก้ว”), there are references to the fight to liberate the people. “Jom jai duang kaew” was a song he wrote for his guard Comrade Kalahom to give to his lover. The song is about a revolutionary who is leaving his lover behind to join the revolution, and the singer talks about how their love will not last because of the suffering that comes with poverty. The singer tells his lover that he will have to leave to join the people’s army, with the hope that, with the people’s revolution, they can be together.

Jit took his own advice – the one he proposed in “Art for Life, Art for the People”. His ideal of art which serves ordinary people, which reflects society in order to lead to the creation of something better, can be seen in the way he wrote his songs. By writing with his socialist ideals and by writing about the people’s suffering and calling for liberation, Jit is using art to point to the possibility of a better society.

Death and rebirth

If he were alive today, Jit would be 89 years old.

No one can tell what Jit would think of Thailand today, if he had lived through the political changes of the last 50 or so years. No one can tell which side he might take. What we can see is that Jit’s story has been retold over and over. He is now remembered as a symbol of a person who persisted, while his communism has been left behind.

As Smanachan Buddhajak argues, Jit is better-known in death than in life. His ‘rebirth’ might have come when his writings were reprinted around and after the 14 October 1973 uprising. This constructed the image of Jit as an artist who fought for the people. Historian Charnvit Kasetsiri said that “the reason they say that Jit was born again for the second time after 14 October 1973 is because the youth of that time dug up his works as a thinker, writer, and revolutionary. Because of this, what he did in the decade between 1947 and 1957, which was forgotten due to the Sarit-Thanom dictatorship, became powerful again.”

Nevertheless, while Jit the revolutionary is remembered, Jit the communist has been forgotten. Thikan Srinara argues that the revival of Jit’s writings and the publicizing of his biography contributed to the erasure of his role in the communist movement. Citing Somsak Jeamteerasakul’s doctoral thesis, Thikan argued that the CPT also played a role in Jit’s popularity after the 14 October uprising, before the erasure of his image as a communist began after 1977, when Jit’s scholarly works were published more continuously than his other writings, and people began to study his life as a person, not as a left-wing revolutionary.

This is all an attempt to reconstruct Jit purely as a scholar and political fighter, which allows Jit’s story and his music to appear in political demonstrations organized by almost every group. Suthachai Yimprasert noted that “Starlight of Faith” has been sung in almost every protest, from the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) to the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) to the New Democracy Movement (NDM), and even the ultra-right-wing People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

All of these groups are at vastly different points on the political spectrum, and may not stand for the same ideals Jit stood for during his lifetime. And yet, Jit’s image has been claimed and used by all of them. However, other than the erasure of his communist identity according to Thikan, Atibhop argues that it is possible that his image as a political fighter is more important and more effective in rallying the people, because these groups are fighting against state power. Because of this, Jit as a symbol of the fight against the state is more important than whether he was a communist. Not even the UDD mentioned Jit’s involvement with the CPT, and the meaning of “Starlight of Faith” has been reduced to the fight of an individual for some kind of abstract belief, rather than about a socialist revolution.

From the day of his death, Jit Phumisak has been reborn time and time again. From a forgotten communist fighter shot dead in the woods, Jit became a revolutionary hero, and passed into collective memory as an artist and thinker who fought for what he believed in. And he will be born again and again. In a way, he has become immortal. As Charnvit said, “people have been inspired by Jit. People want to learn from Jit and there are those who want to carry on his aspirations…The people and this society will never be able to forget him. It is believable that, in the future, there will still be people who want to learn from him.”

 

Reference:

  1. Atibhop Pataradetpisan, “Music, Culture, Power.” (“เสียงเพลง วัฒนธรรม อำนาจ”). Matichon Books
  2. “The wind changes, but not the heart: the crystal of life and Thai revolutionary songs” (“สายลมเปลี่ยนทิศ แต่ดวงจิตมิได้เปลี่ยนเลย : ผลึกแห่งชีวิตและเสียงเพลงปฏิวัติไทย”) (edited by Wat Wanlayangkul)
  3. Vorasakdi Mahatdhanobol, “If Jit was still alive” (“ถ้าจิตรยังมีชีวิตอยู่”). Samanchon Publishing
  4. Smanachan Buddhajak, “Fifty years after Jit Phumisak’s death: From Lottery-hinting Ghost to Acharn Jit” (“50 ปีการจากไปของ จิตร ภูมิศักดิ์ จาก ‘ผีใบ้หวย’ สู่ ‘อาจารย์จิตร’”). (https://prachatai.com/journal/2016/05/65617)
  5. “Mai het praphet thai” (“หมายเหตุประเพทไทย”) Episode 107 “How is Jit Phumisak remembered?” (“จิตร ภูมิศักดิ์ ถูกจดจำแบบไหน”) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ80aLgZ6xs&t=573s)
  6. Thikan Srinara, “Deconstruction of the Communist image of Jit Phumisak after the CPT” (“การกีดกันความเป็น ‘คอมมิวนิสต์’ ออกจากจิตร ภูมิศักดิ์ หลังพคท.”) http://ejournals.swu.ac.th/index.php/JOH/article/view/2578/2592 
NewsJit PhumisakCommunist Party of Thailand (CPT)
Categories: Prachatai English

Myanmar Reuters journalists released following presidential amnesty

Prachatai English - Fri, 2019-05-10 14:13
Submitted on Fri, 2019-05-10 14:13Prachatai

The two Reuters journalists jailed for their reporting on a massacre of the Rohingya people have been released from prison after an amnesty order from President Win Myint.

Wa Lone (left) and Kyaw Soe Oo (right)

The BBC reported that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were both freed after Myanmar’s President Win Myint issued an amnesty order issued on Tuesday (7 May). The two had spent more than 500 days in prison and were released along with more than 6000 other prisoners given an unconditional amnesty by President Win Myint to mark the Myanmar New Year.

According to Amnesty International, they were arrested in Yangon on 12 December 2017. At the time, the two were investigating the massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys committed by members of the Myanmar security forces in northern Rakhine State, for which seven Myanmar soldiers were later jailed by a military court, where the fairness of proceedings came under question.

The two journalists were arrested on 12 December 2017 shortly after being handed official documents by police officers who had invited them to dinner in north Yangon that evening.  In April, a police officer acting as a witness for the prosecution told the court that he and his colleagues had been ordered by a superior officer to “trap” the journalists.’. They were later awarded the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in April 2019 for their reporting of the massacre. 

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were subsequently convicted under the Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years imprisonment in September 2018. In January 2019, the Yangon High Court rejected their appeal.

The amnesty order from President Win Myint (Source: The Global New Light of Myanmar, 8 May 2019)

Their release is now seen as offering a glimmer of hope for journalists working in Myanmar’s difficult environment. An editorial in The Irrawaddy said that the two journalists’ release “triggered a wave of rare optimism in Myanmar’s still depressingly repressive society” and that their freedom, and that of other activists also freed from prison, is “a small step on the long journey to press freedom.” Amnesty International’s East and Southeast Asia Director, Nicholas Bequelin, also said that this “marks an important victory for press freedom in Myanmar”.

Despite this, journalists in Myanmar continue to face threats and intimidation. Many members of the press, including an editor at The Irrawaddy itself, have been hit with lawsuits, and a number have been given long prison sentences. Amnesty International said that it “has recorded a surge in politically motivated arrests – most for criticism of the military” and called for the Myanmar government to “follow through its rightful decision to free Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo by releasing all other journalists and prisoners of conscience detained on hollow charges, and by repealing all laws that keep a chokehold on freedom of expression.” Meanwhile, The Irrawaddy editorial asked that the government “ensure the safety of journalists, while helping to create enabling conditions for a free and responsible media, including regulatory and legal reform.”

 

Newspress freedomMyanmarWa LoneKyaw Soe Oojudicial harassment
Categories: Prachatai English

Three political exiles arrested in Vietnam now in Thai government custody

Prachatai English - Thu, 2019-05-09 18:24
Submitted on Thu, 2019-05-09 18:24Prachatai

The Thai Alliance for Human Rights (TAHR) has issued a statement earlier today (9 May) that three political exiles have been arrested in Vietnam, and have now been handed over to the Thai authorities.

The statement, read by Piangdin Rakthai, a TAHR leader and a political exile himself, said that the three people arrested were Chucheep Cheewasut, an activist and underground radio host known as “Lung Sanamluang,” and two other exiles named Siam Theerawut and Kritsana Tupthai. They were arrested in Vietnam and are now reportedly in Thai custody.

The TAHR statement expressed concerns about the possibility of torture and intimidation, and questioned whether their return to Thailand is in accordance with Vietnamese and international laws. TAHR also called for the Thai authorities to follow human rights conventions and to treat them as innocence until proven guilty in the trial court, the appeal court, and the supreme court. Until then, TAHR asked that they receive an open and fair trial, and are allowed to be represented by an attorney during their trial.

Chucheep is allegedly a key member of the Thai Federation movement, whose supporters are being arrested following the demonstrations in December 2018. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that among those arrested included Chucheep’s wife Laddawan Cheewasut and their son Suthawat. They were arrested on 8 December 2018 and was released after being held in custody for 7 days.  

There have been several reports of the disappearances of political exiles. In June 2016, Ittipol Sukpaen, or “DJ Sunho,” another underground radio host, disappeared in Vientiane while living in exile in Laos. Exiled activist Wuthipong “Ko Tee” Kachathamakul, also living in Laos at the time, was also reportedly abducted in July 2017.   

In December 2018, Surachai Danwattananusorn, or Surachai Saedan, disappeared along with two other exiled activists, Phuchana and Kasalong (pseudonyms), while living in exile in Laos. Two mutilated bodies were subsequently found washed up on the banks of the Mekhong River near Nakhon Phanom. DNA test identified the two bodies as those of Phuchana and Kasalong. Surachai’s body has not been found, but he is now believed to be dead.

NewsPolitical exileenforced disappearanceChucheap CheewasutSiam TheerawatKristana Tupthai
Categories: Prachatai English

Activist ‘Pai Dao Din’ to be released on Friday by the King’s Pardon

Prachatai English - Thu, 2019-05-09 14:19
Submitted on Thu, 2019-05-09 14:19Prachatai

The King pardoned the approximately 50,000 inmates on the occasion of his coronation; Jatupat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa, a prominent activist, who will be released on Friday 10 May.

Before the coronation, King Vajiralongkorn pardoned approximately 50,000 convicts who meet specific conditions, including the disabled, the sick, and the youth, and the inmates who have been in prison for a certain time. One of them is Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, also known as Pai Dao Din, he was eligible to be pardon for he has remaining sentence less than a year.  

“Pai Dao Din will be released on the upcoming May 10,” said Wiboon Boonpattararaksa, Jatupat’s father on his Facebook. “Please share the news, because many people constantly asked about this.”

If there was no the royal pardon, Jatupat would be released on 19 June. Jatupat, an activist, was sentenced for 2 years and 6 months in jail for violating the lèse-majesté law after he shared a BBC biography of His Majesty the King from BBC Thai.

Earlier, Jatupat’s father shared a concern that the royal pardon might have meant nothing for his son, because the pardon’s process can be completed as late as 19 August, long after he was released. The Decree of Royal Pardon, announced on 21 April, specifies that authorities must finish the process within 120 days.

In order to be pardoned, an inmate’s profile also has to be vetted by the committees, including the provincial governor, the local judge and attorney. They will have a final say if the inmate meets the requirement. “Previously, requirements for suspension or reduction of the sentence, Pai met them all, but he always failed when it came to the [committee’s] judgements” said Wiboon on his Facebook.

5 yellow shirt leaders, including Chamlong Srimuang (83), Pipob Thongchai (72), Somkiet Pongpaiboon (68), Somsak Kosaisuk (72), Suriyasai Katasila (45) are also be released. In 13 February, they were jailed for 8 months for occupying the Government House when they organized the protest in 2008.

However, Sondhi Limthongkul (70) will not be pardoned, because he was jailed for 20 years for fabricating Manager Media Group Company’s fake report to guarantee Krung Thai’s Bank one-billion-baht loan to another company which he was also a stakeholder.

News
Categories: Prachatai English

Thailand’s coronation comes amid political conundrum

Prachatai English - Wed, 2019-05-08 03:20
Submitted on Wed, 2019-05-08 03:20Prachatai

From 4-6 May, King Vajiralongkorn was crowned in one of the most elaborate traditional coronation ceremonies in the world while Thailand faces a political conundrum.

Source: Thai TV

With influences from Hinduism, the coronation of King Vajiralongkorn was the first in Thailand in 69 years. With a 1 billion baht budget and Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister and head of junta, as the head of the organizing committee, the coronation of King Vajiralongkorn took 5 months of preparation. Monday 6 May was made a national holiday by the government. Skytrain and subway rides were free for everybody on 5-6 May. All department stores in Thailand played songs in praise of the new King. Many people wore yellow to celebrate the coronation either voluntarily or under the encouragement of their workplaces, because King Vajiralongkorn, like his father, was born on a Monday, and yellow is the auspicious colour for Monday in Thai belief.

On 4 May, King Vajiralongkorn, in white robes, was bathed in sacred water. Then, in royal dress, he was anointed with sacred water by 8 members of the royal and political elite of Thailand, stationed in 8 cardinal directions around the King. These included two descendants of King Rama V (Mongkolchalerm Yugala and Chalermsuk Yugala), the President of the Privy Council (Prem Tinsulanonda), the President of the National Assembly (Pornpetch Wichitcholchai), the President of the Supreme Court (Cheep Chulamon), a member of the Royal Society (Charas Suwanwela), the Prime Minister (Prayut Chan-o-cha), and the Minister of Interior (Anupong Paochinda). With help of the bureaucracy and military, the sacred water was brought from an unprecedented 126 local sources in 76 provinces in Thailand, while the coronation of the late King Bhumibol in 1950 used 108 sources.

Source: Thai TV

With the royal ablution, royal anointment, and the coronation, King Vajiralongkorn is now the rightful King of Thailand. “I shall continue, maintain, develop, and rule this land with righteousness for the happiness of the people forever”, said King Vajiralongkorn, after sitting on the throne and being crowned as the rightful monarch of Thailand in the coronation ceremony on 4 May at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The statement was concordant with that of the late King Bhumibol, his father, who said at his coronation “I shall rule this land with righteousness for the happiness of the Thai people.”

It was as if all resentment disappeared during the coronation. Thaksin Shinawatra, the fugitive ex-Prime Minister, asked in an interview with BBC Thai on 26 March what he would suggest himself if there were negotiations with the army, said “Just think of me as another Thai citizen, and an ex-Prime Minister who loves the country, loves the people and loves the King.” But his royal decorations were revoked by the King on March 30, 6 days after the questionable General Election. The claim was that he had been sentenced to exile. Still, Thaksin Shinawatra posted on Twitter on 4 May the message “Long live the King on the occasion of the coronation ceremony” and a poem in praise of the King.

บรมราชาภิเษกบรมกษัตริย์
เฉลิมสวัสดิ์รัฐสีมา
พระบารมีเกริกก้องฟ้า 
ปกประชาราษฎร์ร่มเย็น

ด้วยเกล้าด้วยกระหม่อม ขอเดชะ
ข้าพระพุทธเจ้า ดร.ทักษิณ ชินวัตร pic.twitter.com/J9fHnt9e1W

— Thaksin Shinawatra (@ThaksinLive) May 4, 2019

On the same day, Princess Ubolratana, the King’s older sister, reportedly hugged King Vajiralongkorn during the coronation ceremony. On 5 May, the second day of the coronation ceremony, when the King was to give official royal titles to members of the Chakri dynasty, Princess Ubolranata was not given one, but this seems to be what she wished. In February, the Thai Raksa Chart Party, a party associated with Thaksin, nominated Princess Ubolratana to be their PM candidate. The Princess had renounced her royalty in 1972 to marry Peter Ladd Jensen (they are now divorced), and insisted she was an ordinary person. However, the King announced the nomination unconstitutional and inappropriate as she remained a member of the royal family. In March, the Constitutional Court dissolved the Thai Raksa Chart Party for threatening the constitutional monarchy. Asked on Instagram by her followers why she did not get a royal title, the Princess explained “because of my work, it’s more convenient and effective this way.” She has been correcting her followers that instead of praising her “long live Her Highness”, they should say “long live slender.” 

Source: Princess Ubolratana's Instagram

After giving royal titles to the members of the royal family, King Vajiralongkorn with his royal entourage, consisting of the King’s Guard, military and police, and a marching band, went along Ratchadamnoen Avenue, from the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Since this is the first coronation in the age of the smart phone, people who came to reserve places along the street since the early morning took pictures, posted them on social media and chanted “Long live the King” as King Vajiralongkorn passed by in the evening. On the evening of 6 May, the King made a public appearance at Phra Thinang Sutthaisawan Prasat of the Grand Palace along with royal family members to celebrate with the people. Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, the King’s daughter, reportedly captured the moment and posted it on her official Instagram and Facebook pages.

But smartphones mean that Thai people can express their love differently. On eve of the election, the King made an announcement to the Thai people to choose good people to rule this country. Right after the announcement, the hashtag ‘We are grown-ups and can choose for ourselves’ soared to the top of Twitter trending. Three days before the coronation, King Vajiralongkorn announced his marriage to now-Queen Suthida, and the hashtag ‘Queen’ tops Twitter again. In the eyes of authorities, a too deviant expression of love can be inappropriate, or even illegal under Article 112 which means 3 to 15 years in jail.  

The Political Conundrum

On 1st January 2019, the Royal Palace announced that the coronation ceremony of King Vajiralongkorn would be held from 4 to 6 May. The government then postponed the election from 24 February to 24 March so that it would not affect the coronation. Demonstrations were held to end the election delay after the NCPO government lifted the restrictions on freedom of expression. After the coronation, Thailand’s political future remains uncertain. With the political stalemate after the General Election on 24 March, the junta has been trying every way to form the next government.

First, the anti-junta bloc has been under attack from a series of lawsuits. According to the Financial Times, Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit said the party faces 16 accusations, 6 of which are against him personally. Apart from sedition, the most recent is on the ground that he remained a shareholder of V-Luck Media Company, although he insists he transferred his shares on 8 January. If convicted, he can no longer be an MP. Surapol Kietchaiyakorn of the Pheu Thai party, who won in Constituency 8 of Chiang Mai, was banned from politics for 1 year for donating 2,000 baht in cash and a clock to Phra Khruba Sam of Wat Phra That Doi Chao. 

Second, the appointed senate is coming. Peerasak Porjit, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, said that 60 of the 250 senators appointed by the junta will be from the National Assembly, a legislative body which has been working for the military government since 2014. The King will officially endorse the senators, after they have been nominated by the NCPO, on 10 May. During the first 5 years of the 2017 constitution, the Senate has a say in voting for the Prime Minister.

Third, even now, the junta-appointed Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) still has not announced the complete election results. The ECT released the official results of the constituency elections on 7 May, but the real trouble is the party-list MPs. The 2017 constitution, drafted by the NCPO-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee and approved in a national referendum, specifies a single-ballot system, with a single vote for the two types of MP. In constituency elections, the winner is still decided in a first-past-the-post system. But the party-list system requires a more sophisticated calculation, since voters have no direct way to elect party-list MPs of the political party of their choice.

The problem is that the ECT still has no idea how to calculate the party-list MPs. On 11 April, the ECT requested the Constitutional Court to decide how to calculate the party-list MPs, but the Court dismissed the request on 24 April, saying it was a matter under the authority of the ECT. Kriangkrai Leekitwattana then filed a request with the Ombudsman to consider if the Organic Law on the Election of MPs contradicts the Constitution, and therefore if the election is valid at all. The Ombudsman dismissed the issue of invalidating the election, but filed a request with the Constitutional Court to rule on the constitutionality of the Organic Law. This time, the Court accepted the request.

Related:

9 judges will decide the fate of Thai General Election

Now, the Court has two main choices. One is to rule that the Organic Law is valid. The Organic Law requires that ECT’s calculation must include a minimum vote requirement for a party to get a party-list MP. This will mean that 16 parties will get MPs.  The alternative is to rule that the Organic Law is invalid. This means that the more ambiguous Article 91 of the Constitution, which lacks the minimum vote requirement, will play a decisive role in the calculation. If the latter is applied, it means that as many as 27 political parties will get party-list MPs, and the anti-junta bloc in the House of Representatives will have even fewer seats. The Future Forward Party, for example, may lose 8 seats under this calculation method. The Constitutional Court will rule on the matter tomorrow.

Round Up
Categories: Prachatai English

New Queen of Thailand

Prachatai English - Thu, 2019-05-02 20:34
Submitted on Thu, 2019-05-02 20:34Prachatai

On 1 May 2019, in the fourth year of his reign, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, married Gen Suthida Vajiralongkorn, His Majesty’s royal consort, making her officially the new Queen of Thailand ahead of his coronation ceremony. The marriage has been announced in the Royal Gazette.

According to Matichon, King Vajiralongkorn was at Dusit Palace along with Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, His Majesty’s sister, and Gen Suthida Vajiralongkorn, for the marriage ceremony at 16.32. His Majesty’s Guard read the royal announcement of the marriage.

Queen Suthida gave an offering of flowers, candles, and incense to King Vajiralongkorn. The King anointed her with blessed water, and gave her regalia, His Majesty’s Royal Cypher Medal (First Class), and the royal announcement of their marriage.

The Director of Dusit District gave King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida the royal marriage registration for their signatures. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, also signed as witnesses. Gen Anupong Paochinda, the Minister of Interior, gave King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida the complete royal registration.  

According to Thai Rath, Queen Suthida graduated from the Faculty of Journalism, Assumption University, in 2000, and became a flight attendant for Thai Airways. On the Royal Gazette website, there have been around 20 announcements by the Royal Palace and the Government House regarding Suthida.

According to BBC Thai, Suthida was given a second-class royal decoration for serving the King in July and promoted to Lieutenant General in charge of the King's Bodyguard in November 2013. She became Chief of Staff of the King’s Guard Unit in 2014 and promoted to Gen. and Deputy Commander of the King’s Guard in 2017.

What does this mean for the Thai people? According to Thai law, the new Queen is now under the protection of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, making her immune from criticism. Defamation against her means 3 to 15 years in jail.

From 1 May onward, Thai citizens will also no longer be able to give their children a name which resembles Her Majesty’s name ‘Suthida’, both in terms of spelling and pronunciation, according to Article 6 of the 1961 Person Name Act.

Queen Suthida is the fourth marriage registration of King Vajiralongkorn.

News
Categories: Prachatai English

On May Day Feminist Groups Reiterate Call for a Women’s Strike

Prachatai English - Thu, 2019-05-02 20:04
Submitted on Thu, 2019-05-02 20:04Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and DevelopmentIf Women Stop, The World Stops

 

Press Release: On May Day Feminist Groups Reiterate Call for a Women’s Strike *Demand no gender wage gap, end gender-based violence among other issues* * Call for a Women’s Global Strike on 8th March 2020*

 

01 May 2019

Chiang Mai, Thailand

For Immediate Release

On May Day, feminists, women’s groups and social justice movements are demanding a just, fair and equitable world  that includes, a living wage, no gender wage gap, ending gender-based violence, food sovereignty for all communities, and women’s access and control over resources and livelihoods.

The current state of development is market-driven and emphasises individualism, profits, privatisation of public services, while protecting corporations through tax breaks, concessions and loans. “This system is sustained by lowly paid women who are systematically exploited to maximise profits, spend significant time in unpaid care work, and are excluded from political, social and economic decision making. At the same time, we strongly oppose land grabs by corporations that deprive rural women's livelihoods. We want to strike globally to stop economic exploitation of women,” said Burnad Fatima, Tamil Nadu Women’s Federation, India.

Globally, women earn 37 percent less than men and at the current rate of progress, it will take 202 years to close the gap. “In developing countries, two thirds of women are in the informal economy where they are less likely to have legal rights or social protection, and are often not paid enough to escape poverty. We cannot continue like this anymore and demand decent jobs, living wage and the right to organise for women workers,”’ added Daisy Arago, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CUTHR), Philippines.

It is estimated that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual abuse at some point in their lives and at least one in four women has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Ivy Josiah, Feminist Activist and Former Executive Director of Women’s Aid Organisation, Malaysia said, “The world is at a juncture to take a significant progressive step  to making a world for women to be free of violence and harassment. The Women’s Global Strike calls for all governments to adopt the ILO Convention and Recommendation on ending violence and harassment in the world of work at the 108th Session of the International Labour Conference in June 2019. It is not only decent but just for governments to take action on their many pledges made on the global stage to end violence against women.”

Women’s labour rights are rooted in the history of International Women’s Day and women’s struggle to participate in the society on an equal footing with men. “We are living in a dangerous world where feminism or women’s human rights are depoliticised and pink-washed by promoting terms such as women’s economic empowerment, or even feminist foreign policy. This is the state of political manipulation. Our collective power and feminist solidarity are our hope and answer to fight back patriarchy, fundamentalisms, capitalism and militarism. And that’s why we are calling for a Women’s Global Strike on International Women’s Day next year!,” added Misun Woo, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, Thailand.

The coalition also launched the website for campaign, womensglobalstrike.com. This website will be a one stop resource for information about the campaign, how women can participate and take actions for a global strike.

Pick to PostSource: https://apwld.org/press-release-labour-day-feminist-groups-call-for-a-womens-strike/
Categories: Prachatai English

Without the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, one is not a citizen: an interview with Clément Nyaletsossi Voule

Prachatai English - Mon, 2019-04-29 23:48
Submitted on Mon, 2019-04-29 23:48Prachatai

The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are both fundamental human rights enshrined in both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Articles 21 and 22 of the ICCPR recognize the right of peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of association, which must not be restricted unless required by law or in the interests of national security or public safety. However, the freedom of peaceful assembly and association are being increasingly restricted in today’s world, undermining the public’s ability to gather, mobilize, share ideas, and participate in politics. 

Clément Nyaletsossi Voule

Prachatai speaks to Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, on the importance of the freedom of association and assembly in democratic societies, restrictions on these rights, and the role of the internet in political participation.

What is the importance of the freedoms of association and assembly?

When we talk about the freedoms of association and freedom of peaceful assembly that are guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), this is a tool, important rights that enable citizens, groups, individuals like you and me to decide that we want to organize ourselves, that we want to associate, because we want to constitute ourselves as a group to promote the rights that are enshrined in the ICCPR. But we also want to associate to be able to participate in the development of our country, because that’s the right to allow us to constitute as a group, like a women’s group, community group, to participate in cultural activity, to participate in artistic activity, to participate in many things that are really the substance of what we call a society, to constitute ourselves to defend even our land, to defend our rights, to prevent climate change, to prevent a lot of things. Without association, without the capability of us to join our forces together, we won’t be able to tackle some of the challenges that we’re facing in our society. We have to associate as citizens in our country. That’s why we guarantee the right of everybody to associate, to be able to join a group is important, because you join a group for a purpose. You join an association because you know that what they defend is important. It helps your society to move ahead and to improve lives within your society.

At the same time, the assembly, once you associate, you need to also have the right to assembly. You need to have the right, for example, to meet among you, or either at some time, also to express your satisfaction or dissatisfaction on how your country or your leaders are ruling the country, because this makes you a citizen. In a country where people are not able to assemble, they are not able also to protest. They aren’t able to express what they see as good or bad policies. Then, they are not a citizen. I’m sure you’d agree with me that, without these rights, it’s like you’re living in a country where you don’t have any participation right. You don’t participate in your country. The participation on political rights and the participation in democracy are important for any citizen to be an agent of change and development. That’s why I personally call these two rights, the right to associate and the right to assembly, as enabling rights, because it’s enabling you and me to be an agent of change in our country. It enables us to promote and to protect these rights. The universal declaration also says that everybody, and if you read also the UN declaration on human rights defenders, that also says that the responsibility of groups and individuals to promote and protect rights. And this responsibility is also to tell us that you have rights to come together to promote human rights. If we don’t have the right to association, if we don’t have the right to assembly, we cannot defend our own human rights, that’s why they are enabling rights.

How does the freedom of association and assembly affect a state in transition from one regime to another?

In the resolution that set up my mandate, if you go back, and I also invite you to go back to this resolution, you can see that one of the paragraphs says that the rights to associate and assembly are democratic rights. And these rights are important for any democratic society as it allows groups, individuals, and marginalized groups to be able to voice their view, to be able to express their concerns within an open society.

These rights are important in terms of change. Any democratic transition is always triggered by the fact that at some point people feel like we need to move to another society. This is what you can see in most of the countries that went through revolution, through transition change. The protection of association rights and freedom of association and assembly is important for any peaceful transition.

In a country where there is a rejection of any rights for people to peacefully assembly, to express their view on what political regime they want, then, you can see that the peaceful transition is compromised.

You can see it in many countries, in many societies. Let me give the example of Syria. Because people were not able at the beginning to have the right to peaceful demonstration, so, we end up having the tragedy in Syria today, where the wish of people to have a peaceful political transition ends by violence because their rights to peaceful demonstration and assembly were not respected, were not guaranteed. That’s why it’s really important.

Whenever we talk about peaceful assembly, this is the understanding that the state should guarantee that people have rights to demonstrate without restriction, without any harm to them.

Whenever states use excessive force, you’re telling people exactly that I’m not accepting your right to peaceful demonstration, and the reaction that you’ll get from people is ‘okay, we don’t have this right to peaceful demonstration’, this is what triggers violence.

The state will ensure and put in every means to let people know that you have the rights to associate, rights to peaceful association, exercise your rights peacefully, exercise your rights within a context where we guarantee these rights. That’s the principles that we want you to exercise these rights, not to repress you.

The first two countries where I visited since I took the mandate were countries where there was a political transition. To me, it was important to go in these countries. Tunisia, where since 2011, Tunisians decided to move into a democratic country.

Tunisia is the one of the only countries where the Arab Spring ended by a peaceful transition, because people are able to exercise their rights to assembly. Even though in the very beginning there was a lot of repression, today it’s important that within the political transition, the people understand that a guarantee of the right of assembly and association is important in order to have a sustainable democracy.

Also, I was in Armenia recently in November (2018). Armenia decided to move to another democratic regime. And the exercise of peaceful demonstration is important for Armenians to express their view on what kind of regime they want. So I was in Armenia and I insisted on the fact that it’s important that the peaceful assembly and association be the heritage to the transition because it helps the country to move, and also to have a sustainable democracy, you have to guarantee these rights, the full access of these rights.

When you talk about the ‘full access’ to the rights to association and assembly, to what extent would that be?

For me the full access of the rights is that, the first thing for me is to understand that the exercise of the rights is the rule. Limitations should be the exception, only the exception which is narrowly defined in the convention, in Article 21 It means that in the ICCPR, there are strict limitations to when the state can limit the exercise of peaceful assembly, in a situation where there’s the issue of emergency, a situation where, for example, you can see them on Article 21 and a situation where there is a very high security concern.

The limitation should be time-bound. It’s not having to have a general limitation like adopting an emergency law and say that the law was adopted because of security concerns and must stay there forever. In some countries, you have emergency laws that are there forever, which would limit the people’s right to assembly. You have to ensure that those are time-bound, because as soon as the reason why this limitation is there is no longer there, you have to lift the limitation.

The limitation also has to be proportional. To me, proportionality means also that the limitation should not go beyond the limitation needed to safeguard against the risk you want to prevent. You can’t just, for example, forbid demonstrations just because you’re in an election period where in the election period it is important, for example, to ensure people have freedom to exercise their rights to assembly and association, and also for political parties to exercise this right to assemble people to talk to them about politics. You cannot limit it because you say we want a peaceful election. There’s no proportionality. There is no harm, why do you need that? It’s important that in an election period, people can mobilize themselves to agree on a political agenda. So you need also to have this necessity, proportionality, and also time-binding of this limitation. This is why I emphasize this, that the full exercise of the rights should be the principle.

What do you see as the overall situation of freedom of association and peaceful assembly in Southeast Asia?

Since I came here and during regional consultations, one of the things I realized from the testimony, from the discussions is that in this region, there is still a lot to do to ensure that everybody enjoy the rights of association and peaceful assembly. In particular, some governments resolved to place limitations where they are not necessary, when they are not allowed under international law.

For example, we have this limitation during an election period. In many countries in South Asia, the elections sometime are the periods where some governments want to avoid any kind of challenge from other political parties. They use this period to limit some rights. Some that we hear about are limitations on access to the internet. Either they drop the internet from 4G to 2G to limit people’s right to use the internet to mobilize, to online assembly, which is not, from my perspective, needed because an election is the particular period where you have to ensure that people exercise these rights, where citizens are able to connect to political party leaders, that they are also able, during this time, to challenge the agenda of the political parties.

If you don’t guarantee that people can use all peaceful means to really assembly, to really discuss about the political future of the nation, at that time you are not giving the citizens the possibility to decide freely who they want as a leader, who they want to give their trust to.

One of the important aspects of the freedoms of association and assembly during the election period is because it helps people to decide who they want to give this legitimacy to. If they are not able to assemble, they are not able to associate during this period to discuss what agenda they want for our country for the next years, how can they decide to give this legitimacy?

If you don’t give them the possibility to assemble, the election is not fair. You need to guarantee that the political parties, even if they are from the opposition or whatever, have these rights to assembly, to talk to their supporters, to be able to discuss even with those who aren’t supporting them, to convince them about their agenda.

This is a common trend during the election period, and the ongoing one is really the right situation around online assembly. The use of technology by people to mobilize is important. At the same time, I also realize that the government also puts a lot of restrictions through limitations of access online. There is also another that I realize is the cyber security law. This is one of the biggest concerns in this region, and also, anti-terrorism laws where they are misused to limit the rights of association and assembly.

Please elaborate more about freedom of association and assembly online. This is very new.

Association and assembly online is a new area that my mandate is trying to explore. Based on the discussions that I had with civil societies and governments, most of them express the importance for the mandate to elaborate more on freedom of association and assembly online. There is interest both from the state and from civil society to understand this better, because technology is important for our lives. Today, it’s difficult to imagine physical association without online association, or physical assembly without online assembly, because today, everything starts on the internet. We are in what many people call the open world where we connect to each other.

You don’t necessarily have to take a flight but are able to connect and discuss what is important. Today, people are using the internet to start discussions, to mobilize about climate change. Today, people don’t meet but associate online to tackle, for example, issues around violence against women or issues around trafficking. The internet helps them to associate with each other and also to protest.

But at the same time, we see in many countries today that because of this cyber-crime law, anti-terrorism law, some governments put restrictions on online assembly. Why? Because they know that this online assembly mobilizes a lot of people, that people start discussions there and then talk about where will they meet, what they can do.

Assembly online supports offline assembly and vice versa. Both spaces are important for us to exercise democratic rights, to exercise our freedom of association and assembly. And today some restrictions are put in place. I’m trying to explore how this space is important for people to connect, to challenge the difficulties that our world is facing, the difficulties that society is facing, and how they are also prevented from doing that and how this impacts the rights protected under the ICCPR, meaning the rights of assembly and association. These are some of the key issues that I’m exploring, but I’m convinced that, today, online association and assembly is important as one way to exercise our democratic rights because it opens our society.

What have you seen on the debate and discussion about the freedom of association and assembly online?

From I hear up to now, people value the importance of online association and assembly. There are many examples today: the recent campaign on #MeToo, the recent campaign on Boko haram (#BringBackOurGirls), the recent campaign on climate change. Today people see the value of ensuring that the internet to be used by citizens to express their concerns, to connect themselves, to participate in the development of their country through different kinds of association that they can have online. There are also some challenges, because some groups use hate speech on the internet. They also understand that some countries need to take some measures to ensure that this space is safely used. but these measures need to really not undermine human rights. These measures need to be set up in order to help people exercise their rights, not to limit their rights.

Many countries in this region have some kind of Public Assembly Act. What should be the best practice for this kind of law?

The first thing I insisted in any law that regulate the assembly or association is that the principle should be the principle of information, not authorisation. For example, when people decided to associate themselves, the law shouldn’t require for them to have a specific document before they start to operate. The best practice should be that they inform the authority and send them all the relevant documents that shows what is the purpose of the association and what they want to promote. As soon as they sent the documents, they should be allowed to operate.

But there are also many associations in some countries that can be informal. Like, some social movement groups, they want to defend the rights but they don’t want to be in the formal setting. So, the law should allow different types of association, either formal or informal association because the purpose should be that as soon as the purpose is to promote the rights, to serve the community, to me it shouldn’t be prohibited, because it serves the society.

Also the same for assembly. Whenever people want to assemble, it should be that the law should only require that people inform the authorities, not to request authorization, because assembly is a fundamental right. The purpose of informing the authority is to ensure that the authority take the measure whenever it is needed to secure the assembly of the people. When the law is trying to say “okay, you need authorisation because we need to take the security measure”, it’s not in everyday and every country that people need the police before the assembly.

It’s not every assembly that poses a threat to the security of the country, but when the law imposed that you need to receive authorisation because your assembly, it means the laws is saying that any assembly carry the security concern. Why in our society we cannot just come together and discuss or go on the road and say that we are against the fact that there are taxes that are added to the product and everything. Do we need to hold the security for them to come? No, because sometime they live in the community that doing in what they believe and believe in the issues that we defend. That’s why for me the principle should be information.

And it’s only in the narrow situation where there is a threat that you will be attacked by the other group so that the police will take measure to ensure that you exercise your rights without other people, other groups that want to disrupt your assembly to achieve their purpose.

Unfortunately, in many countries, there is principle of authorisation. Some governments use this than just receiving the information. You informed them and they want you to wait for the government to tell you if it’s a yes or not, to assembly or not. This is a bad practice for me because you are trying to limit people rights to assembly.

There are narrative from people that Freedom of Association and Assembly means protest and chaos, leading to a negative perception of Freedom of Association and Assembly.  What is your view on this?

The right to assembly is not the right to disrupt public safety. We need to ask why we need associate. I explained that at the beginning. We need to associate because we are human, because we are in a community. Without this kind of association, we are not able to come together and to think as a group on how we need political party to reinforce our democracy. We are not under one party just because all of us has to think the same way. We need diversity of people, we need diversity of groups in order to have a debate and see what’s good for our country. We need that assembly because it helps us. The protest also helps us to express our view on what political party should take as the priority for the country.

If we aren’t able (to associate and assembly), if there some eviction in one part of the country, we, as a part of the society, should be allowed to come on the street to say that this kind of eviction is not humane. You need to stop it because it affects people’s lives. if you aren’t able to come together and to come to the street to express our view, how come we are human in this society and we are not concern about what happening to others.

The purpose of the guarantee of this right is not to disrupt the public safety. It is to help improving the society that we are living in. The right to assembly is not just to come on the road and walk. It’s also the different ways. You can also protest through the artistic way, for example, painting. There are different ways you can protest. We need to think about that as a positive mean to achieve the development, to achieve also the safety and peace.

Any peaceful society will allow people to be able to express their view. The dissident view is important. If you are in the society that cannot accept the dissident opinion, then we are not living in a democratic society. People need to understand themselves that in our country we have all peaceful means to express ourselves. We don’t need to resort to violence. If you can’t guarantee the peaceful mean to people, the only thing they will resort to is to violence. Because they know that the society are unable to guarantee them to hear their view. It is in the interest of our society to guarantee this kind of means to people, peaceful means. 

And this is also the work of human rights defender to try to remind the government that this kind of violation is dangerous, because it put the people in the situation where they don’t feel like they’re part of the society and sometime it pushes them to use either violent means which is not what we wish in a peaceful society.

InterviewClément Nyaletsossi Voulefreedom of associationfreedom of assembly
Categories: Prachatai English

Transwoman denied teaching positions due to gender identity

Prachatai English - Mon, 2019-04-29 23:34
Submitted on Mon, 2019-04-29 23:34Prachatai

On Saturday (27 April), Voice TV reported that Worawalun Taweekarn, a graduate of the Faculty of Education, Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University, has been denied teaching positions for the past two years because she is transgender.

Worawalun Taweekarn (left) with the winner and first runner-up of the 2018 Miss Tiffany's Universe (Source: Miss Tiffany's Universe)

Trans rights activist Nada Chaiyajit posted on her Facebook page that, for the past two years, Worawalun has been applying for a teaching positions, but her applications were rejected due to her gender identity.

Nada said that Worawalun has a Bachelor of Education in mathematics, and has been a maths tutor since she was in Mathayom 6 (Year 12). She has always dreamed of becoming a teacher. After graduation, Worawalun applied for teaching positions at four Christian schools, all of which rejected her applications. Worawalun was told by the schools’ human resources departments that the school executives would not like it if they accepted a transgender teacher, because she might present a bad example for students and that there were concerns about a sexual scandal.

In 2018, Worawalun entered Miss Tiffany’s Universe, an annual beauty contest for transgender women, in which she won second runner-up. Afterwards, she continued to apply for teaching positions, but once when she was being interviewed for a position, the interviewer said to her: “You’re the second runner-up Miss Tiffany. Why don’t you go and be a showgirl or work for a cosmetics brand? We’re a Christian school, so this might not be appropriate.”

Since Worawalun’s story began to circulate on social media, she has been questioned as to why she applied for teaching positions in Christian schools. Worawalun explained on her Facebook page that most major private schools are Christian schools, and that she applied at both single-sex and co-education schools. She also said in another post that while it is true that there are transgender teachers at many schools, there are still schools that discriminate. She said that she is taking action because she thinks that such a thing should not happen when there is a gender equality law which guarantees her rights.  

Nada said that a school’s most important duty is to offer public educational services, and therefore must not discriminate on the basis of gender. She also said that Worawalun will go to the Department of Women’s Affairs and Family Development (DWF) on 2 May to file a complaint with the Committee on Consideration of Unfair Gender Discrimination.

Thailand’s 2015 Gender Equality Act prohibits unfair treatment on the basis of gender, and under Section 18 of the Act, any person who thinks that they have suffered from gender-based discrimination may file a complaint with the Committee on Consideration of Unfair Gender Discrimination, which has the authority to ensure that appropriate actions are taken to end and prevent discrimination, and to ensure that there will be compensation and a remedy for the injured party.

 

NewsLGBT rightsDiscrimination against LGBTGender discriminationWorawalun Taweekarn
Categories: Prachatai English

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