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Prachatai English

Attachak Sattayanurak

Prachatai English - Tue, 2018-11-20 13:14
Submitted on Tue, 2018-11-20 13:14

It may be necessary to think about policy for the elite to be able to imagine what education would allow people to live together, calmly, peacefully and happily.  The emphasis is on the elite first because this minority group is destroying Thai society with the idea that they are the most knowledgeable and clever.  But in fact they are the most naïve about social changes.

Attachak Sattayanurakhumanitieseducation
Categories: Prachatai English

(Repost) A Decade of Article 112 Cases

Prachatai English - Tue, 2018-11-20 03:20
Submitted on Tue, 2018-11-20 03:20Metta Wongwat

In what follows below, I offer a concise picture of the dynamics and significance of Article 112 over the preceding decade. Some of the sources cannot be fully cited as it may harm those who provided information or defendants in ongoing cases.

InfographicArticle 112Source: https://prachatai.com/english/node/7466
Categories: Prachatai English

Humanities – the disappearing subjects? Are they necessary when the market doesn’t need them?

Prachatai English - Mon, 2018-11-19 23:49
Submitted on Mon, 2018-11-19 23:49Yiamyut Sutthichaya

According to UNESCO’s definition, the humanities comprise religion and theology, philosophy and ethics, languages and literature.  Questions about the state of humanities subjects in Thailand are asked today when the world situation indicates that the humanities are gradually disappearing from universities.

The Humanities Indicators were established by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and their data shows that the proportion of those completing humanities programmes in 2015 compared with other subjects was lower than the previous the lowest point in 1985.  Humanities graduates have the second highest unemployment rate after arts graduates.  PhDs in the humanities in the US receive the lowest income compared to medicine, the physical sciences, the social sciences, engineering and education.

Illustration by Nattapon Kaikeaw

In March 2018, the Washington Post reported that the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point was proposing the abolition of 13 majors in the humanities and social sciences and adding programmes with ‘clear career pathways’ as a way to address declining enrolment and a multimillion-dollar deficit.  If a campus governance committee and the university Board of Regents approves, the process to close these majors will take place in 2020.  Meanwhile, in the UK, information from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) shows that from 2012 to 2017, the numbers choosing to study languages, history and philosophy declined every year.

In Thailand, information from the Office of the Higher Education Commission (OHEC) shows that the number of humanities students in 2017 declined, but this reduction was related to an overall reduction of students in the country.

In March 2018, there was news that the Philosophy Department at Silpakorn University had been downgraded to a programme.  This became a major story when teachers in the Department rose up in opposition through the media.

‘If it is a programme, then it will be administered centrally by the faculty.  As a department like before, higher administrators cannot come in and manage certain things in the department.  So it would still be a decentralized form of administration and ensure academic freedom,’ according to Komkrit Uitekkeng, an instructor in the department.

Facebook/ Komkrit Tul Uitekkeng

Viewed overall, many universities have been transformed into public autonomous universities, commonly known as ‘universities outside the system’, in the belief that this will liberate management and reduce regulation while still receiving some budget support from the state.  At present, there are 23 public autonomous universities.  Leaving the system leads to many structural changes including the downsizing of departments and internal agencies in faculties in the belief that this will increase efficiency.

At Srinakharinwirot University (SWU), all departments in the Faculty of Humanities have been abolished; these are psychology, library and information science, philosophy and religion, western languages, Thai and oriental languages, and linguistics.  The existing curricula have been moved under an agency called the Centre of Undergraduate Studies, Graduate Studies and International Studies. Charn Rattanapisit, the head of the Centre, said that the change in the administrative structure responded to the question of autonomy and quality assurance of OHEC by focussing on the curriculum, and reduced administrative duplication by saving on the costs of department heads.  There was no need for so many department heads at a time when financial support from the state sector was decreasing.  But the disappearance of departments meant that the venue for communication among individuals disappeared and was replaced by one-way communication through e-mail.

‘The concept that universities must provide for themselves leads to adjustments in the old curriculum so that it can be sold to attract a new group of people to study.  When there is a new curriculum, it will naturally affect the existing curriculum.  The old curricula for philosophy, religion, linguistics and Thai language were completely unsellable.  But it is not that humanities subjects will disappear.  They will just be transformed into applied humanities,’ said Puttawit Boonnak, president of the philosophy and religion curriculum at SWU.

At the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Thammasat University, 14 departments have been merged into 5.  Asst Prof Adisorn Muakpimai of the Faculty of Liberal Arts, TU, said that the merger of departments was the result of autonomy because of the administration’s belief that restructuring would create more flexible decision-making.  But after the merger it was found that decision-making on some issues was not more flexible, such as recruiting new teachers, which was earlier divided by department.  At present, it was done collectively, but academic freedom was not reduced.

At the Faculty of Humanities, Chiang Mai University, departments have merged but problems were found, so the merger was redone.  Prof Attachak Sattayanurak of the Faculty of Humanities said that the merger of departments came after the university became autonomous and the ‘elite’ in the university just saw that there were too many departments in the Faculty of Humanities wasting money, so they pressured the dean who had come by appointment.  The merger resulted in delays in academic administration because it was a layered merger.  There were still subject programmes, but under new departments, so the chain of command was longer.

‘Eventually there was a proposal that if it was going to be like this, the search for knowledge in each subject would decline, leaving only daily teaching.  This led to a new merger, with the group of oriental languages (Thai, Burmese, Pali, Japanese and Chinese) as one department, and the western languages (French, Spanish and German) as another department, but this has not reduced the problems of those subjects.  The old problems still remain,’ explained Attachak.

Turning to the so-called open universities like Ramkhamhaeng, which, as a new form of state university, do not limit admissions, they have run into factors forcing them to adapt.  One of these is by budget support which the state pays every budget year.

The draft 2019 Budget Act, which passed the first reading in the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) at the beginning of June 2018, shows a budget of 1,194.2 million baht for Ramkhamhaeng University, down from 1,326.6 million baht in 2018, while the budget for the Ministry of Education increases every year.

Hon Prof Wiroj Nakchatri, a teacher in the History Department, Faculty of Humanities, and Deputy Dean for Academic Services, Sisaket Campus, responsible for the campuses in Surin and Sisaket, said that the reduction in budget forced the university to adjust by reducing costs in many ways and there was a move to abolish the Philosophy Department.  Even though it has not yet been carried out physically, the importance of the Philosophy Department has declined with its budget allocation reduced from 300,000 baht to 100,000 baht and no additional teaching positions, so that the few teachers have to take on a heavy burden of teaching.

Although philosophy is not a subject that leads directly to a profession, Wiroj insists that it is still necessary to teach because it is a subject that teaches people to know how to think, to differentiate reasons that are correct and false.  It teaches how to have a perspective and goals in life, especially in open universities where large numbers of people can learn and complete their studies with fees that are cheaper than other universities.

‘The Humanities “Crisis” and the Future of Literary Studies’ by Paul Jay is a book which Attachak brings up to explain the importance of humanities subjects.  Jay believes that in the present era, when budget and the number of people interested in studying the humanities are both going down, humanities scholars and supporters should not just criticise the humanities tide that is being diverted towards practical skills, but should find ways to answer the question of the importance of humanity studies to students, their parents and the administrators of educational institutions both from the perspective of the body of knowledge of the humanities that graduates will receive and the skills that humanities students acquire from the theories that they study or critical methods of education.

Illustration by Nattapon Kaikeaw

Asst Prof Athapol Anunthavorasakul, a teacher in the Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University, and Director of the Thai Civic Education Centre, gave the opinion that merely following the demands of the labour market is not a good option and is an excessively rigid goal for the production of graduates because sometimes before you have finished studying, the market has gone.

‘So we have to come back and ask the question why we have universities.  If we have them to produce labour, then universities have to be slanted in accordance with the labour market.  But if universities are a mechanism to create knowledge for society, then the government must support them.  Now the universities are all producing graduates according to the market.  But market expectations right now are uncertain because we don’t know if this kind of work will still be there in the next 10-20 years.  The labour market changes about every 5 years as well.  If we use the labour market as the determiner, there is a very high risk about whether the graduates produced will have guaranteed work.  Even more important is that universities must prepare people with a variety of skills ready to face the changing situation of the world and a fast-changing economy.’

In practice Athapol suggests that the universities work proactively with research and private funding sources.  Regarding subjects that are academic, they must be maintained.  The production of graduates from the humanities also has a high value in the market but it is an investment which does not see short-term gains.

In Thailand there is still a large question mark about whether the humanities really create students with critical thinking, a skill that has been claimed as a trait of education in this field.  Attachak, as a humanities teacher, still expresses concern that the aim of the Thai state in producing graduates has not had this objective since the beginning.

‘The conceptual framework of the state emphasises state security and then economic growth was added, which became a force obstructing educational progress in the humanities and social sciences because it blocks and limits the search for knowledge in other dimensions which will help to understand complex social dynamics, so that all that is left is knowledge that helps to maintain state security, such as the study of local history through the study only of local heroes who are on the side of the Thai state, or that emphasises only economic growth.

‘In the past, knowledge in the humanities and social sciences was limited to the elite because it was knowledge that was used to control and command those who were below them.  But in the world today, knowledge of this kind has been freed from the hands of the elite and it has become a basic goal how to increase ordinary people’s understanding of the world and society.  This new conceptual framework gives people the capacity to think and find their own path in life.  It emphasises the greater power of the individual to make decisions and at the same time creates an understanding of a new kind of morality which is needed in today’s world.

It may be necessary to think about policy for the elite to be able to imagine what education would allow people to live together, calmly, peacefully and happily.  The emphasis is on the elite first because this minority group is destroying Thai society with the idea that they are the most knowledgeable and clever.  But in fact they are the most naïve about social changes,’ Attachak said.

HighlighthumanitiesHumanities IndicatorseducationphilosophyOffice of the Higher Education Commission (OHEC)Source: https://prachatai.com/journal/2018/08/78480
Categories: Prachatai English

From santiphap to santisuk: What Mahathir’s visit to Thailand indicates

Prachatai English - Fri, 2018-11-16 13:06
Submitted on Fri, 2018-11-16 13:06Hara Shintaro

The peace process to solve the conflict in the southernmost provinces of Thailand, known as Patani, which was officially inaugurated officially on 28 February 2013, has never been smooth. The process is susceptible to any significant political change, and a small hitch may cause a long stagnation. The visit of the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, to Thailand during 24 and 25 October 2018, seems to have signalled a promising restart. The conflict was allegedly top of the agenda in his meeting with the Thai Prime Minister. [1] During his stay in Thailand, he behaved as the ideal guest in a country which has been governed by a junta since the military coup in 2014. Mahathir, 93, also visited his ‘old friend’, the President of the Privy Council, Prem Tinsulanonda, 99. [2] Quite significantly, his visit took place on the anniversary of the notorious massacre in Tak Bai, Narathiwat Province, on 25 October 2004, in which at least 87 demonstrators were ruthlessly killed by the security forces. Mahathir was diplomatic enough not to mention anything about it during his visit.

After his visit, there have been many discussions and exchanges in the conflict area of Patani about the prospects for the peace process, both formally and informally. In these discussions, I found that a significant number of people saw Mahathir’s visit to Thailand as a promising sign that there would be considerable progress. In fact, the visit can be interpreted as the final piece of the line-up needed by the junta in order to build peace in the conflict area according to their plan. Mahathir practically endorsed santisuk, the version of peace wanted by the Thai state, rather than santiphap, the Thai word generally used for the meaning of ‘peace’.

These two Thai terms, santiphap and santisuk, when translated into English, can both mean ‘peace’. Originally the peace process was named as the Peace Dialogue Process, in which the Thai translation for the term peace was santiphap, not santisuk. The change happened after Prayuth visited Malaysia to see then Prime Minister Najib Razak. He officially asked Najib for Malaysia to continue to act as the facilitator of  the process, which he named as the Peace (Santisuk) Dialogue Process. [3] What are the differences between these two words?

Santiphap means peace, and in a peace process which seeks this kind of peace there would be certain changes in political, legal or administrative structures. In case of the Peace Dialogue Process commenced by the civilian government led by Yingluck Shinawatra, this might be something the state had in mind at that time. The purpose was to find political solutions for the root causes of the conflict, in order to build sustainable peace in the conflict area by recognising legitimacy, identities and demands of the non-state parties. This type of peace is also called ‘positive peace’ or ‘liberal peace’.

On the other hand, santisuk is a term basically used for the settlement of an internal dispute. In other words, santisuk is no more than a condition under which there is no use of violence or disturbance. Therefore, things like a temporary ceasefire, an armistice or even a temporary decline in the use of violence are regarded as peace itself, without requiring any structural changes in the state. In this frame, a peace process is merely a manoeuvre of counter insurgency measures. This type of peace is also called ‘negative’ or ‘illiberal’ peace. Accordingly, the use of the term santisuk by the military government is an indirect assertion that the conflict is an internal problem, not an armed conflict. It is highly likely that the junta wants to apply the combination of partial or limited amnesty and development plans which was effective in quelling the Communist rebels in the past.    

Santisuk, rather than santiphap, also suits what Mahathir probably has in his mind as the solution for the problem in the south. In 2005, he initiated secret talks called the Langkawi Process. A document called the “Joint Peace and Development Plan for Southern Thailand” was signed, which was “handed to former prime minister Anand Panyarachun who forwarded to Thaksin. But Thaksin was too busy with the Yellow Shirt demonstrators that was brewing up in Bangkok.” [4] The contents of the document were no more than the settlement of the dispute by certain measures that did not include any change in the administrative structure.

Mahathir’s controversial appointment of Abdul Rahim Noor is very telling. The former Inspector General of the Malaysian police is known for his misuse of power against Anwar Ibrahim while he was detained. He was later jailed for the offence. His appointment was flatly rejected by Anwar’s daughter, Nurul Izzah, who is also an MP and a Vice-President of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (People’s Justice Party). She described the ex-police chief as “a brutal assaulter of an innocent man” while “he lay there blindfolded and handcuffed - left without medical attention for days”. [5] Before being promoted to police chief, Rahim Noor was the head of the Special Branch (SB), the section of the police which has been closely monitoring the movements of Thai insurgent members in Malaysia. He is certainly in a position to wield his influence to pressure these organisations, but whether or not he is a suitable person as facilitator of the peace process, which requires a high level of political understanding, is highly debatable.

According to a member of MARA Patani, there was a meeting with the insurgent organisations (apart from the mainstream of the BRN) with the newly appointed facilitator. He explained that he was prepared to use ‘legal measures’ for the success of the dialogue process. Although no detailed explanation was provided, given the fact that a number of insurgent organisation members are in Malaysia without any official documents, it indicates that certain actions might be taken against these members as pressure to join the process. [6]

Rahim Noor also stated in the meeting that he would be in the position of the facilitator for no more than two years, until Anwar Ibrahim, supposedly the next Prime Minister, appoints a new person to the job. There is a high level of uncertainty about this. First, even though at first Mahathir clearly stated that he would be Prime Minister for one or two years, this is a political promise which can be discarded at any point. [7] If his health allows, there is the possibility that he might stay longer than that. [8] Another uncertainty is whether Mahathir will really hand over the premiership to Anwar Ibrahim, his long-time political foe. Everyone understands that the cooperation between these two men is merely for the sake of the defeating the long-time ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition in elections. It is highly likely that the best option for Mahathir is to appoint as his successor somebody who can inherit his political and economic agendas, but not Anwar. If this happens, the facilitator, whose appointment is purely political, will be the same person as the current one.

Mahathir is seemingly ready to help the Thai government to settle the problem in Patani which borders his country following the line of santisuk, not santiphap. For this purpose, he picked a person who can directly pressure the insurgents. Rahim Noor “spent a great deal of his career back in the 1980s clamping down on a communist insurgency along the Thai border”. [9] Mahathir is also known among the insurgents as the Malaysian PM who was responsible for the arrest of two prominent PULO leaders from Tha Nam, Haji Ismail and Haji Daud (respectively known as Sama-ae Thanam and Dao Thanam in Thailand). There is no guarantee that he will not use the same method to pressure members of the mainstream BRN who have been persistently reluctant to join the process. 

Those who have Malay nationalistic tendencies in the conflict area see the role of Malaysia in the peace process as that of an ASEAN country which helps its fellow ASEAN government to solve an internal problem, rather than a country of Malay Muslim brothers. Mahathir and Najib Razak, the former PM of Malaysia, have at least two things in common. First is the appointment of a crony as facilitator. Najib’s appointment of Ahmad Zamzamin Hashim, an ex-chief of the national intelligence, was in essence no different from Mahathir’s appointment of Rahim Noor. Second, and more important, is that both Mahathir and Najib are staunchly against the independence of Patani. This attitude is convincing the Thai state rather than the insurgents, their supporters and sympathisers in the region.

The Thai state is also preparing for a santisuk form of settlement. In the 20-year National Strategic Plan, there is no space for political solutions for the conflict, such as significant changes in administration. [10] Basically the plan is to maintain the structure set up by the NCPO (National Council for Peace and Order) for at least two decades. The problem in the south is regarded as a security problem like drug abuse and crime. This plan indirectly indicates that the solution for the unrest in the south must be in the form of negative peace or illiberal peace.

The head of the peace dialogue panel for the Thai side, Aksara Kerdphol, was also replaced by Udomchai Thammasaroraj, former commander of the Fourth Army Region. Aksara never succeeded in bringing the mainstream BRN into the talks, and his dispute with then commander of the Fourth Army Region, Piyawat Nakwanit, was publicly known. Certainly Udomchai has much better connections with the Fourth Army Region where he worked for many years. He is also a member of the Forward Cabinet set up by the NCPO to solve the problem in the south, and comes to the conflict area much oftener than his predecessor. However, probably the most significant reason for his appointment is that he is the mastermind behind the Bring People Home Project, a replication of the scheme used by the Thai state against the communist rebels. This project, that is in essence a combination of partial amnesty and development schemes, is perfectly in accordance with the concept of peace held by the state, represented by the term santisuk. 

Under these conditions, what will be the future of the current peace dialogue process? In his meeting with the insurgent organisations, according to the same MARA resource mentioned above, Rahim Noor stated that they had spent long enough building mutual confidence. Therefore, there would be no more talk on the establishment of safety zones, the regional ceasefire plan which had never been realised. Rahim Noor, by resorting to his connections to the police and SB, will pressure mainstream BRN members to join the process. This is certainly something he is capable of doing. Nonetheless, what is outside his control are the military forces which have been staging violent incidents in the conflict area.

Ideologically speaking, all the insurgent organisations, including the BRN, have certain limitations in their operations based on Islamic humanitarian values. However, the extent to which these ideological limitations have been digested by their armed forces is highly questionable. A local Malay activist explained that for those who are involved in the struggle which they firmly believed as a jihad, becoming a martyr (shahid) is sufficient justification to join. [11]

For this reason, even if a peace agreement for santisuk is achieved in these circumstances after strong pressure from the new facilitator, how well it can be actually enforced is still another question. On top of that, there is the possibility that several insurgent leaders have already left Malaysia as soon as they found out who the next facilitator would be.

We are now at a turning point which will decide what kind of peace we shall see in the conflict area in the future, either santiphap or santisuk. For the Thai state, a temporary decline in the number of violent incidents over a long period of time, like the one realised by Prem Tinsulanoda through his famous Tai Rom Yen (South in the Cool Shade) scheme, is regarded as a success of the counter insurgency measures. Mahathir’s visit to his ‘old friend’ can be interpreted as a message to the southerners that he will follow Prem’s lead in solving the problems in the south. It cannot be denied that during this period the number of casualties can be reduced. However, as long as the root causes of the conflict are not addressed, another surge of violence might resurface in the future.

The Thai state is eager to set up a frame for the peace process heading for santisuk, and apparently Malaysia is fully prepared to help. The insurgents will be pressured by the new facilitator and the scheme could be successful. Nevertheless, the result of the coming election of Thailand, currently scheduled on 24 February 2019, might change everything. If a civilian government is returned to power, there could be a chance for santiphap.

Whatever type of peace is achieved in the conflict area, there is still another problem to be considered seriously, i.e. the influence of transnational jihadism. At this moment, as is explained in a report from the International Crisis Group, there is hardly any space for this kind of extremism to infiltrate into Thailand. [12] All the insurgent organisations abide by an ideology which is fundamentally ethno-nationalistic. However, the ideology is being transformed. For example, the current line of insurgent ideology is much more Islamic when compared to the 1960s.

Although the visions for peace between the Thai state and the insurgent groups are certainly different, they do have at least one thing in common. Neither party wants to see either the influence of transnational jihadism or the next Marawi in Patani. The current increase of Islamophobia in Thailand is alarming, and the state is still seeking an appropriate way to handle the issue. [13] Radicalisation of anti-Islam sentiment might lead to the radicalisation of Muslims too. Preventive measures against radicalisation of both Muslims and Buddhists in the southernmost provinces can be properly discussed only at the dialogue table. I end this lengthy article with the recommendation that they should put this issue on the agenda of the peace dialogue. 

Notes: [1] “Deep south conflict tops agenda as Mahathir visits Thailand”, The Strait Times, 24 October 2018.  [2] “Mahathir makes time for his old friend Prem”, by Marisa Chimprabha, The Nation, 25 October 2018.   [3] “ประยุทธ์’ถก‘นาจิบ’ยันเดินหน้าพูดคุยสันติสุข”, Kom Chad Leuk, 1 December 2014 (in Thai).  http://www.komchadluek.net/news/politic/196957 [4] “Thaksin, Thailand and the Secret Talks with Patani-Malay Separatist Movements”, by Don Pathan, 17 April 2012, Patani Forum. [5] “Malaysia's former police chief, who beat Anwar in jail, raises hackles with new appointment”, The Strait Times, 2 September 2018. [6] A MARA Patani member, interviewed on September 2018 in Kelantan, Malaysia. [7] “Mahathir says may stay as PM for 1-2 years”, The New Strait Times, 15 May 2018. [8] “Malaysia’s PM Mahathir may stay on beyond 2 years, harbours ambition for new national car project” by Melissa Goh, Channel News Asia, 11 June 2018.  [9] “Thailand Installs Controversial Figure in Deep South Peace Talks”, by Don Pathan, Benar News, 17 October 2018. [10] For the summarised account of the strategic plan, see “What is Thailand’s 20-Year National Strategy?”, iLaw, 19 July 2018. The full version of the strategy (in Thai) is available from http://www.ldd.go.th/www/files/90058.pdf [11] A local Malay activist, interviewed in Pattani, May 2018. [12] “Jihadism in Southern Thailand: A Phantom Menace”, the International Crisis Group, 8 November 2017. [13] “Understanding Anti-Islam Sentiment in Thailand”, by Don Pathan et. al., Patani Forum, 2018.   

 

OpinionMahathir MohamadGen Prem TinsulanondaDeep South peace talkSantiphapSantisukAbdul Rahim NoorOutsider InsideHara Shintaro
Categories: Prachatai English

The situation for refugees on the Thai-Myanmar border when Myanmar’s transition stalls

Prachatai English - Thu, 2018-11-15 15:06
Submitted on Thu, 2018-11-15 15:06Pongpun Chumjai

The political situation in Myanmar has changed from a military government, which ruled since 1962 until a civilian government led by the National League for Democracy (NLD) won the elections in 2010 and 2015.  Even though this has still not brought the country to a fully democratic system of government, since the 2008 Constitution still reserves political power to the Myanmar military, it has been enough for western countries to adjust relations with Myanmar by relaxing sanctions, investing in Myanmar and donating more assistance funding.

There have been peace negotiations between the Myanmar government and the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) since the end of 2011, leading to the signing of a National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) on 15 October 2015 with 8 EAOs, led by the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Restoration Council of Shan State/ Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA).  In February 2018, a further 2 groups signed: the Lahu Democratic Union and the New Mon State Party.  But at present, steps in the peace negotiations and political negotiations show no progress.  On the other hand, the Myanmar Army itself has expanded its military forces and reinforced its military facilities in the areas of the EAOs, leading to many military confrontations and clashes which deteriorated further when the Myanmar Army wiped out Rohingya Muslim communities in August 2017.  The latest figures have more than 800,000 refugees across the Bangladesh border.

This changed political situation in Myanmar has an impact on the humanitarian situation on the Thai-Myanmar border area, because after western governments adjusted their relations with the Myanmar government, donors from the western countries, both government and non-government, began to cut their budgets or shift their priorities from the border to assistance inside Myanmar.

This report will survey the humanitarian situation on the Myanmar border which has been affected by changes in foreign assistance and the human rights and security situation in the Thai-Myanmar border area.  It will look at three cases: 1) the Mae Tao Clinic which has long provided important public health services on the Thai-Myanmar border;  2) the Koung Jor refugee camp on the border between Thailand and Shan State, in Wiang Haeng District, Chiang Mai Province;  3) 12 communities of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Kayin State after the Myanmar Army cut a strategic road into an area administered by the KNU.

Dr Cynthia Maung

1. Mae Tao Clinic

The Mae Tao Clinic was set up in 1989 as an important clinic on the Thai-Myanmar border.  Each year it treats on average no fewer than 100,000 patients from the border area or cross-border patients, 50% of whom are from Myanmar.  It also helps delivering 2,300 babies a year, screens for tuberculosis and HIV, and conducts research and prevention of infectious diseases, especially malaria.

Dr Cynthia Maung gave treatments to patients at Mae Tao Clinic in 1990

A mother took her baby for a vaccination at Mae Tao Clinic

For the past 30 years, it has been a training centre for more than 2000 public health officials who have gone back to take important roles in remote areas in the east of Myanmar which are the home of ethnic minorities, including Shan State, Kayah State, Kayin State and Mon State, using a Health System Strengthening (HSS) programme which collaborates with 8 ethnic minority public health organizations.

However, the budget received by the Mae Tao Clinic from funding agencies in 2018 is sufficient for only 25% of its actual needs.  The principal funders, such as UK Aid and USAID, explain that they are unable to provide any more assistance budget for the Thai-Myanmar border and have to switch to operations inside Myanmar instead.  The Mae Tao Clinic therefore has to look for replacement budget and funding sources in order to be able to continue its border public health activities.  Otherwise the Mae Tao Clinic will have to cut its budget for many public health and child welfare projects.  This will affect infectious disease prevention along the border.

Data from staff of the Suwannimit Foundation, the umbrella organization of the Mae Tao Clinic, reveals that in the last year, all project sections have been reduced from 400 to 300 staff and salaries and expenses have been cut by 20%.  Dr Cynthia Maung, the director of the Mae Tao Clinic, revealed that in the past there has been a review of the personnel structure of the Clinic and there are plans to adjust the number of personnel appropriate for providing public health services efficiently.  There is also a search for other allies and funders at the regional level, such as the private sector in Thailand which occasionally helps with medical supplies, for assistance from governments and the private sector, and for Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) from the Japanese government.

For the costs of treatment, a system of voluntary co-payment by patients was begun in October 2017, but this is not used for all treatment.  The co-payment system is used for cases which are not emergencies, such as vision care and non-emergency surgery and treatment.  Patients may contribute 25% of the medical costs.  If they are unable to pay, this may be reduced to 10% or 15% or whatever the patient is able to pay, such as to 100 baht or 50 baht.  From a basic assessment, staff of the Suwannimit Foundation reveal that after one year of the voluntary co-payment system, the medical fees received cannot yet cover the costs of the Clinic but merely provide a breathing space for operations.  The Mae Tao Clinic also still encourages migrant labour in the area to access health insurance at an appropriate price.

Health care staff gave a training session on postnatal care at Mae Tao Clinic (March 2017)

Patients were waiting at registration desk

At the same time, Dr Cynthia commented on the peace negotiations, especially in Kayin State, which affect the public health situation and policy on the border, by saying that since the ceasefire it has been much easier for health volunteers working on malaria prevention.  The Shoklo Malaria Research Unit, a collaboration between the universities of Mahidol and Oxford, is able to do more work inside Kayin State, and this has an effect on disease prevention and reduces the number of malaria patients in the western border areas of Myanmar.

The lack of progress in the NCA negotiations has had an impact on public health policy along the border to the point where the Myanmar government still does not guarantee health personnel, especially health personnel from the ethnic minorities, and still has no Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Health of the Myanmar government and the public health organizations of the ethnic minorities.

2. Koung Jor refugee camp

Koung Jor refugee camp, Wiang Haeng District, Chiang Mai Province, was established in 2002 as one of six communities of war refugees from Shan State.  At present it has 90 households with 402 people.  The other five camps are in Shan State.  All six camps on the Thai-Myanmar border house 6,185 refugees from Shan State.

Information from the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) shows that the camps of refugees from Shan State date from more than 19 years ago as a result of the large-scale sweep by the Myanmar army in central Shan State between 1996 and 1998 when the army used the "Four Cuts" operation, cutting supplies, funds, information and personnel, in order to deprive the SSA of support.  Communities in 11 districts of southern Shan State were forced into the cities, turning more than 1,478 villages into abandoned villages.  Around 300,000 villagers from 55,957 households were affected.

SHRF states that from 1996, tens of thousands of civilians crossed into northern Thailand to work in agriculture and construction in Chiang Mai Province.  The Thai authorities did not allow a camp for refugees from Shan State, unlike the camps for refugees from Kayin and Kayah states along the Thai-Myanmar border which are registered with the UNHCR. as officials in Thailand believe that Shan refugees are merely ‘seasonal refugees’.

There are also refugees from Shan State as a result of the expansion of the power of the United Wa State Army (UWSA).  The Myanmar army has allowed the USWA to bring Wa people from northern Shan State on the border with China to settle in the area of Tachileik, Mong Hsat and Mong Ton near the Thai-Myanmar border, forcing the original residents to flee elsewhere in Shan State or across the Thai border.

In the case of Koung Jor refugee camp, the fighting between the Myanmar Army and the SSA in 2002 forced the inhabitants of 4 villages near the Thai-Myanmar border, Ban Huai Yao, Ban Pang Hok, Ban Pang Mai Sung and Ban Pang Kam Ko, to decide to flee into Thailand and set up a refugee community in Wiang Haeng District, Chiang Mai Province.  However, assistance, especially in the form of food, stopped in October 2017 when many of the original funders shifted their assistance from the border area.

Uncle Jai Laeng presented a sample of product from women group in the community.

Uncle Jai Laeng, the Koung Jor refugee camp community leader, reports that they used to receive a rice ration of 16 kg per person per month.  This was later reduced to 11 kg.  They used to get 1 litre of vegetable oil per person per month; this was later reduced to half a litre.  And since October 2017, the cuts in assistance have led them to seek emergency from the Philanthropy Connections Foundation (PCF), which provides basic foodstuffs to refugees with a rice ration of 12 kg per person per month and 1 litre of vegetable oil per person per month.  PCF said in its report that it will provide assistance until the assistance situation revives.

Since to reduce costs, refugee assistance provides only basic foodstuffs and other daily essentials, the villagers in Koung Jor refugee camp must seek seasonal employment in the surrounding agricultural area, such as harvesting garlic and chili.  They can work only 90-100 days a year.  Some with construction skills become labourers in small construction sites in the surrounding villages.

Aunt Khin (pseudonym) said that living conditions after the assistance was cut have been rather difficult because in the household there are additional expenses.  Aunt Khin hopes that the assistance, which is important for refugees, may be something to study with respect to youth and basic food assistance.  As regards going home to Shan State, the Norwegian Refugee Council, under the peace support programme of the Norwegian government, came in 2012 to survey the opinions of refugees about whether they would be happy to return to their homes close to Tachileik in Shan State.  The refugees in Koung Jor refugee camp told the Norwegian representatives that they did not yet want to go back since it was not yet safe from the Myanmar military.  It was also a heavily mined area.  The Shan community issued a statement saying that conditions in the area that had been prepared for the refugees’ return ‘were almost abandoned villages’.  There was also still fighting between the SSA and the Myanmar military in many areas including the area of Tachileik

Wat Fa Wiang In from Shan state side

Satellite imagery shows the Myanmar military base in the place where were home of reugees in Koung Jor camp.

Regarding the situation in Mong Ton and Tachileik where the Myanmar government states it will build houses for refugees, Jai Laeng said that apart from the activities of the SSA, it is still a base of the Myanmar military and the UWSA and there are still Lahu volunteer troops.

“When there are many sides, villagers do not have confidence in being able to live there.  Also in Shan State there is still shooting, and no real peace as many understand,” , Jai Laeng said.

3. Internally Displaced Persons in Kayin State

A new wave of refugee villagers in northern Kayin State shockingly reflects the status of peace negotiations in Myanmar and destroys the trust of Karen communities in the Myanmar army’s ability to make peace.

Karen refugees from He Gho Loh Der village

Mutraw District, or Hpapun as it is called on the Myanmar side, in the north of Kayin State is known as a “black zone” by the Myanmar army since most of the area is still under the control of the Karen National Union.  A report, ‘The Nightmare Returns’, published in April 2018 by the Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN) states that the Myanmar army is still conducting operations in the area as if it were a military target.  The 3 major campaigns between 1992 and 2008 resulted the inhabitants of more than 80% of the area becoming refugees, with up to 107,000 in 2003.  Many communities in Mutraw District had to flee for their lives into the forest or into areas far from the Myanmar army, becoming Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and a great number became refugees in camps on the Thai-Myanmar border.  14,672 people or 15.72% of the population of the refugee camps come from Mutraw District.

Eventually the Myanmar government and the KNU signed a bilateral ceasefire in 2012 and signed the National Ceasefire Agreement on 15 October 2015.  Since then, the Karen villagers in the northwest of the Lu Thaw area of Mutraw District began to meet to find a way to revive their communities in the Ler Mu Plaw area.  In 2013, the villagers returned to farm again near to the area seized by the Myanmar military. At first they worked in the area in the middle of the day and returned to homes in a place distant and safe from the army base and the Myanmar military’s strategic road.

In 2016, when the National Ceasefire Agreement came into force, the villagers began to reconstruct their old villages and also built primary schools and health stations in the area.  They also initiated the Salween Peace Park covering an area of 5,485 km2.  From May 2016, community representatives from all over Mutraw District began a public consultation process and at the beginning of 2018 collected signatures of support from 300 villages of 26 communities throughout Mutraw District to designate 88 sacred areas according to their beliefs, or ‘Kaw’, with an area of 1.12 million rai [1,790 km2], and declare 23 community forests to conserve trees and wildlife habitat.

However within a few years after rebuilding the communities, their future is uncertain.  Many communities in the Salween Peace Park have become IDPs again since four reinforcement battalions of the Myanmar army from Bago entered the Lu Thaw area in the middle of February 2018, claiming that they wanted to repair the strategic road connecting two army bases between Kay Pu village and Ler Mu Plaw village.  By March, the Myanmar military had brought in more than 1,500 extra troops while 304 Karen households or 2,417 people from 12 villages had to flee into forested areas in the Lu Thaw area, Mutraw District, Kayin State, and five schools had to close.  Another four villages with 72 households are at risk of having to flee if the situation becomes more violent.

Trust between the Myanmar army and Karen communities worsened even further when Saw O Moo, 42, a Karen community leader, an important activist for the Salween Peace Park, and one of a team working to provide humanitarian assistance to Karen refugees, was shot and killed by the Myanmar military while returning to Ler Mu Plaw village.  Until now (November 2018), the family of Saw O Moo have still not received his body for a funeral ceremony and have merely retrieved his motorcycle.

(By courtesy of KPSN)

Funeral ceremony of Saw O Moo, photos by courtesy of KESAN

Community organisations and civil society groups in the area set up the Mutraw Emergency Assistance Team (MEAT) on 12 March 2018 to provide medical and food assistance to refugees using Der Poo Nu village in the Lu Thaw area as an administrative centre for Mutraw District of the KNU for administering and coordinating assistance.

Saw Tender, the Mutraw District Governor, stated that the administration centre will be responsible for giving information to those who want to help refugees and coordinate information with refugees in the forests in the area on when donations will be distributed to refugee communities.  The refugees themselves will have village-level committees with the responsibility for receiving assistance and taking it back for distribution and preparing officials to give assistance to refugees who have to hide in the forest.

The Mutraw District Governor estimates that if the refugee situation extends until the end of 2018, and the communities cannot return for planting, the dry food that they have collected will not be enough and in his estimation the families who do not have enough food to last till the end of the year are more numerous than their families who have enough.  For this reason he is trying to get each community to set up a group to go out and look for food in the forest.  The Mutraw Emergency Assistance Team is also proposing assistance in the form of medicines and food, which are greatly needed in the area over the long term.

The KNU is trying to find ways to resolve the tensions with the Myanmar army through mechanisms in the NCA.  However negotiations on 29 March 2018 failed when the Myanmar army broke off negotiations until there were informal consultations on 17 May 2018 between General Min Aung Hlaing, commander of the Myanmar army, and representatives from the KNU led by General Mutu Say Poe, chairperson of the KNU.  The Myanmar army agreed to postpone military manoeuvres and road building in Lu Thaw and agreed to look for a way for civilians to return to their communities.

(By courtesy of KPSN)

However information from the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) reveals that villagers from all 12 villages are still living in the forest because they do not trust the situation and the Myanmar military are reinforcing both their military bases.  Saw Tender, the Mutraw District Governor, also estimates that if in the long term the Burmese military do not completely move out, the villagers may decide to settle down and build new communities in this area where there has been heavy fighting for decades.  The villagers have experience of being refugees in this area and know the water and soil conditions.  As regards providing education for the youth in the community, building a new school may be considered at a site where population is greatest to replace the school that has been closed.

HighlightInternally Displaced Persons (IDPs)Mae Tao ClinicDr Cynthia MaungSuwannimit FoundationKoung Jor refugee campShan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF)the Restoration Council of Shan State (Shan State Army-South)Shan State ArmyKayin StateKaren Peace Support Network (KPSN)Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN)Karen National UnionMutraw Distict
Categories: Prachatai English

Patrik Proško in Thailand: An Artist On the Edge of Reality and Between the Worlds

Prachatai English - Wed, 2018-11-14 14:05
Submitted on Wed, 2018-11-14 14:05Verita Sriratana

Having travelled twenty-five thousand kilometres across Europe, Czech artist Patrik Proško is known to be the creator of nineteen large-scale realisations at unconventional locations set in the landscapes of eleven states ranging from Finland to Gibraltar, of which a selection was presented in an exhibition called On the Edge of Reality at the Illusion Art Museum Prague in the Czech Republic. The most remarkable, — cliff-hanging — adventurous, aspect of this exhibition was Proško’s painting on a melting iceberg (Svartisen), as well as one of his largest realisations: the thirty-metre-wide rock art at the northernmost point of mainland Europe, the Norwegian Nordkapp. A painter who paints on the edge and transports us to the brink of breathless reality, that is what one might think of Patrik Proško.

Source: www.prosko.cz

Having travelled twenty-five thousand kilometres across Europe, Czech artist Patrik Proško is known to be the creator of nineteen large-scale realisations at unconventional locations set in the landscapes of eleven states ranging from Finland to Gibraltar, of which a selection was presented in an exhibition called On the Edge of Reality at the Illusion Art Museum Prague in the Czech Republic. The most remarkable, — cliff-hanging — adventurous, aspect of this exhibition was Proško’s painting on a melting iceberg (Svartisen), as well as one of his largest realisations: the thirty-metre-wide rock art at the northernmost point of mainland Europe, the Norwegian Nordkapp. A painter who paints on the edge and transports us to the brink of breathless reality, that is what one might think of Patrik Proško.

 When it comes to a prolific artist whose cutting-(on-the)-edge artwork has been featured in the French Graffiti Art Magazine and the English LSD Magazine (London Street-Art Design), viewers’ attention is drawn to art in its “raw state”, pervading our everyday lives and transcending the highly stratified and organised world of our contemporary times. Since Proško works exclusively with biodegradable paint, mutability and transience are, in a unique way, translated from abstract notions to most tangible experiences.

Now Patrik Proško’s creativity compass has led him to Asia. He is currently travelling across Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar, engaging in land art projects in each country he visits. And what a treat for people living in Thailand to know that Proško’s project called Intermundia, a selection of artworks created across Europe and Asia, will be featured at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) from 17 November to 30 November 2018!

The Czech Embassy in Bangkok, therefore, cordially invites you to the Intermundia Exhibition Opening Ceremony, which will be held at BACC on Saturday 17 November 2018 at 18.00 hrs. The exhibited images, which are part of the project named Journey to ARTASIA, will also be available for purchase. It costs 6,000 THB minimum for one installation item.  Proceeds will go to charity in the form of material assistance to children and adults affected by unexploded ammunition in Laos and now living in poverty. Purchased works can be collected at the Czech Embassy in Bangkok (Address: 71/6 Ruam Rudee, Soi 2, Ploenchit Road, Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330) after the exhibition has ended.

Those who wish to make donations or purchases can contact Mr Tomáš Ledajaks at 0841915440 or tomledy@gmail.com. Please kindly provide us with your contact information as the organisers will afterwards send photographs taken at the donation ceremony to all donors and purchasers.

Assistant Professor Verita Sriratana, PhD Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University verita.s@chula.ac.th OpinionPatrik ProškoCzech EmbassyArtExhibition
Categories: Prachatai English

Waen : From a medical volunteer and key witness in Wat Pathum massacre case to defendant in two national security cases

Prachatai English - Fri, 2018-11-09 16:56
Submitted on Fri, 2018-11-09 16:56TLHR

Amidst the searing heat of March 2010 which competed with the incumbent political heat, a massive number of members of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) took to the street in downtown Bangkok to demand a house dissolution while the country was ruled under the Abhisit Vejjajiva-led coalition. They claimed the government had been formed in a military barrack with military backing and hence the nickname of the incumbent Prime Minister.

The then government responded by establishing the “Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES)” mobilizing military forces from various divisions to contain the situation. Two armed operations were launched in a bid to disperse the demonstrations. CRES called the operations ‘reclamation of public spaces’, the first of which took place on 10 April and the second of which, the ‘tightening of spaces’, from 13 -19 May. It has led to nearly 100 deaths including the UDD supporters, local residents and some public officials and more than 1,000 injuries.

In its finale, the evening of 19 May 2010 which saw the impending end of the months-long demonstrations and the use of lethal military forces against the people, Natthathida Meewangpla aka ‘Waen’, a medical volunteer, was busy tending to the wounded demonstrators who were gathered inside Wat Pathum Wanaram about to be evacuated and return home. The reasons they were there was an announcement had been made earlier to declare the Buddhist temple a ‘sanctuary’ making the demonstrators think it was safer to take a refuge therein. The surrounding areas saw deployment strong military forces since 13 May and rows of the troops were squeezing the main demonstration site at the dawn of 19 May to disperse the demonstration.

Waen bore witness when military officials stationed on the BTS Skytrain track between Chid Lom and Siam started firing lethal shots from their war weapons into Wat Pathum Wanaram. She has thus later become a star witness in the ensuing inquest hearings concerning the deadly incidence that happened inside the temple.

Waen (woman in nurse uniform, on the left), tending to Atthachai Chumchan, photo courtesy of Steve Tickner

Waen bore witness two of the six deaths inside the temple. She was the person who attempted a resuscitation on Atthachai Chumchan and saw Kamolket Akhad, another medical volunteer being shot down under the medic tent. In her testimonies to the Court, Waen said that evening she spotted military officials on the BTS tracks in front of the temple while they were shooting at the demonstrators inside the temple. Her evidence coupled with evidence from other eye witnesses and other convinced the Court of what happened and eventually, the Court ruled that the six individuals inside the temple were gunned down by military officials and there were no “men in black” (armed men clad in black suit as claimed by the prosecution) in the temple.

Evidence from three key eye witnesses in the 6-death-case inside Wat Pathum attesting to fires being shot from military officials on BTS tracks and columns

 

Court ruled six individuals in Wat Pathum gunned down by military officials and no men in black involved

3 years 5 months and 18 days

Six years later, from a star witness in cases concerning the dispersal of the 2010 demonstrations, Waen has been tuned into a defendant in a conspiracy behind an attempted terrorist offence. She was accused of being part of the plotters to throw a hand grenade into the Bangkok Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road on 7 March 2015. The only incriminating evidence against her was her being part of a Line group chat of the Red Shirt supporters.

Moreover, Waen has been charged for royal defamation, an offence against Article 112, after she had just been arrested in the first case. This subsequent charge was believed to be a tactic to continue holding her into custody after she had been bailed out from the first case.

Most importantly, the two cases are tried in the Military Court, which has been used against civilians since the day after the May 2014. And it was later decreed that defendants in terrorist cases would be barred from appealing to the court of higher instances as the offences took place while Martial Law was still effective.

3 years 5 months and 18 days were the number of days recounted by Waen for the time she was incarcerated pending trial in the two cases. The Military Court eventually granted Waen bail but demanded as high as 900,000 baht for bail bond. No one is sure if she would be put into another custody again or not.

Waen told us that unlike several other people, prior to these prosecutions by the NCPO, she had never been summoned by the NCPO. There were just uniform and plainclothes officials being sent to approach her. Some came brandishing their ID cards, while others approached her claiming faintly that they knew her from someone. Some approached her claiming to collect information that could be useful for solving the nation’s problems. After all, they tended to focus on inquiring her about her experience during the dispersal of the Red Shirt demonstrations and whether she sighted the ‘men in black’ or not.

“A lot, dozens of times. They called to ask for an appointment, they called just to talk, they called to threaten me, they called asking me to meet with them. I declined and insisted that I would only meet them with the presence of a lawyer. I was so scared.” Replied Waen, when asked how often she got contacted by the officials. She also revealed how they asked to meet with her at home, but she refused to do so out of her fear. Still, the officials seemed knowledgeable about her personal information; how many children she had, where they were studying, etc.

On 11 March 2015, it took Waen by surprise that she was nabbed by around six or seven uniform military officials and plainclothes officials inside her cousin’s home in Pra Pra Daeng. The officials simply invoked Martial Law to have her arrested. But during the arrest, they did ask her if she knew anything about the bomb attack at the Bangkok Criminal Court. Waen said she was only aware of it from news report.

“They said it’s good, then let’s go. Please cooperate with the police. But they showed me no arrest warrants or anything. They just barged into my residence and abducted me. They asked me to pack up my clothes and seized my five mobile phones I used for my emails, Facebook, and Line. They took all of them away and even forcefully asked for the passwords while I was driven away.”

Inside the car, they blindfolded me, so tight. I had no idea where we were heading to and what they were doing inside the car. One of the men tried to roll up my short sleeve and I remonstrated ‘You can’t do this to me’. He then said “Don’t act like you have never had a husband. I just wanted to see your tattoo.’ I felt it was not right and tried to protect myself since then, but I was unable to do so. They infringed on my body. They just pulled open any part of my body. I was a clown to them. I was there and treated as an object to fulfill their gratification. They could do whatever they wanted.”

Waen said she was driven for nearly 30 minutes. Upon arrival at the destination, she was taken down and brought to a detention cell. The condition of the room was far removed from the term ‘convenient’. What stressed her out even more was inside this square room lied two beds side by side with a fan and CCTV. All the windows and doors were locked down. She could not get a glimpse of light outside and there was no clock in the room. The fluorescent bulbs were put on 24 hours and there was not built-in bathroom. When nature called, she had to knock on the door for the official and then would be blindfolded and escorted by an official with a schematic mask to the restroom. This holding cell was also used when they questioned her.

“About four or five men came to sit by me. Leading questions were everywhere ‘You must know. You must give us everything we want to know. You have no right to know who we are.’ No one was there to help remove the blindfold for me. They tied the clothe so tight around my nose jobs, so much so I could see nothing and could not hear clearly.”

Every question asked was a leading question and I was compelled to answer them. ‘You must know this’ they said. ‘If you don’t answer, if you don’t know, your family, your children, your relatives, your parents are doomed.’ ‘Watch them out.’ They threatened me.

‘I could invoke NCPO Orders, Martial Law. I could do anything.’ The questions were like who was the perpetrators? Where did they do it? How many target sites? Who do you know? I was bombarded with leading questions, like, do you know Dear? Do you know Suraphon? (One of defendant charged with terrorist case) Do you know this or that guy? When my blindfold was removed, I was instructed to look down on the floor. Then, they would show me photos of three or four persons. I just said I knew none of them.

I told them if you want to ask me about paracetamol or antihistamines or wound dressing or even about snake bite, I can give you an answer as to how to treat the wound. But if you ask me about a bomb, I could give you no answer. Then they said ‘Let’s not quibble, how come you know nothing about this.’

The interrogation Waen subject to continue into wee hours. I had no idea what time it was, I only knew I was so exhausted and was overcome by my allergy. My eyes started to get swollen. They threatened me in every way, restlessly. They took a dig at me on this and that issue. I was allowed to rest for about 20 minutes to one hour at a time, then got woken up and blindfolded again. It happened like that on and on and sometime I would only get to rest 2.00 or 3.00 in the morning. The inquiry started from one o’clock in the afternoon and each round lasted about 3-4 hours.”

Apart from being blindfolded during the interrogation to prevent her from seeing the whole surrounding, she was also subject to intimidation and threat.

“Their hitting was not meant to kill me. They patted me on my shoulder to remind me that they had guns in their hands. They tapped me on my neck with a gun. ‘Just give us all the information. Tell us who they are. How much did Thaksin give you? Why did not you speak?’ I just said no, I have never received anything from him, I have never talked to him, I have not even known him personally.”

“They threatened to harm my family, my close friends and all the older persons I respected if I refused to cooperate with them. They said they would bring trouble to all those names in my phonebook. They would charge all of them invoking Martial Law. My family, my children would not be spared. They said they could not even guarantee if I got to see their dead bodies.”

According to Waen, during the first three days, she was subject to the same old questions. They were repeatedly asked dozens of times to make her confused. Still, she insisted she knew nothing. On Day 4, she was transferred to another room she would share with Wassana Buddi, another suspect in this case. Even though the questioning time was reduced, still, she was slapped with the same questions time an again.

Waen being transferred from the 11th Military Circle to the Metropolitan Police

From her arrest until 18 March 2015, it was reported that Waen was then transferred from the 11th Military Circle to the Metropolitan Police Bureau where she would be formally charged by the inquiry official. Her request to have access to a lawyer was denied. Even though there was a lawyer present during the charging procedure, he was arranged for by the authorities, not the lawyer of her choice or the one she could trust.

“The questioning took place without a lawyer even though Pi Winyat (Winyat Chartmontree; a human rights lawyer and Secretary General of the United Lawyers for Rights & Liberty) was there already. They (the police) refused to let him in, and only allowed their own lawyer to be there. I was forced to sign off a paper, in front of the lawyer arranged by them, declaring that I had not been subject to intimidation. They said they had never threatened me, but I dd need to sign my name there in front of the lawyer arranged by them. They said they would not let the lawyer of my choice come in. This is the reality in Thailand and how a government official has treated the person who pays them their salaries!”

Waen recounted how she was verbally abused in many ways by a police general who was present during her answering to the charges and when she was forced to sign off many papers prepared by the inquiry official. She insisted on signing none of them since she had not committed any offence. Eventually, they asked her to sign a paper that reads ‘I do not know.” And they told me to fight the charge in the Court. After signing all the papers handed over by the police, she was allowed to meet her lawyer briefly while she was brought for arraignment at the Military Court.

Since then, Waen has been remanded in prison from the police level to the trial. After being incarcerated for some time, the police visited her in the prison asking for information regarding the case in which she was accused of sending a message to defame the King, an offence against the Penal Code’s Article 112.

On 24 July 2017, after being remanded in prison for over two years, Waen was bailed out along with three or four defendants accused in the terrorist case. But that very night, when she was about to step into temporary freedom, Waen just realized that she was to be further remanded for another case when plainclothes officials identified themselves at the Central Women Correctional Institution where she was remanded in custody.

“Waen was handcuffed and then put into a black Toyota Fortuner by four individuals in civilian clothes, two of whom looked more like junkies and the other two with guns in their hands. They did not look like police officials. They handcuffed me claiming they came from the Crime Suppression Division. En route to CSD, they asked me ‘will your relatives be there to meet you?’. When I said no, I have no idea if anyone would be waiting for me there. I felt I could not say anything since it might bring trouble to more people.”

Accidentally, we ran into Ball and Tol (the nickname of Lawyer Winyat Chatmontree), my two lawyers, at the security guard box. The officials drove me from inside the prison. Attorney Tol waved for the car to pull over, then he brandished his attorney card at the windshield. ‘Is this guy your relative?’ I said no, he was not my relative, but my lawyer. They then said ‘Well, if he is not your relative and is a lawyer, I cannot let you talk with him.”

Lawyer Tol then said “My name is Winyat Chatmontree. ‘Could I see if the person in the car is Ms. Natthathida Meewangpla, my client, or not?’ ‘If you get out, I will surely shoot you. Don’t pound the car like this.’ The attorney was patting the car by his hand asking to see inside the car. When the car was about to accelerate, I decided to tap the side of the car with the handcuff and shouted ‘Pi Tol, I am in here. Pi Ball, I am in here. After tapping the car one time, they dragged me inside again.”

The incidence when the police took Waen from the Central Women Correctional Institution, the night of 24 July 2017, video by NOPPAKOW KONGSUWAN

Waen continued that she was extremely upset and aggrieved to have been brought back to the prison. She cried for two days before she could make do with it. She had never thought she would have been brought back in. Luckily, the prison wardens seemed to understand her, while some fellow inmates showed her their sympathy.

Being remanded again has further extended Waen’s incarceration to more than a year. Altogether, she had been languishing in jail during the remand in custody for nearly three and a half years before the Military Court allowed her another bail which she had to place nearly one million baht as a bail bond on 4 September 2018.

After being temporarily released, Waen recalls how she has to rely on sleeping peels to put herself to sleep. The experience while being held in custody in a military barrack still haunts her. She could not bring herself to stay in an apartment without very good security system.

The Red Shirt supporters were there to wait and welcome Waen who was released from the Central Women Correctional Institution the night of 4 September 2018 after the Military Court granted her another bail. Photo courtesy of Banrsdr Photo

Why are you interested in politics?

Prior to her exposure to politics which has brought her all these bad predicaments, Waen was working as an assistance to a pharmacist in a drug store for four years. It helped her to acquire knowledge about drugs and medical equipment. After quitting the job, she found a friend of her was working as a medical volunteer, so she decided to help her friend. She did not do the job every day. She only worked on certain occasions, i.e., during floods, on important days like Father’s Day, Mother’s Day. She did not join any group and was not affiliated to any of them. She and her friends just formed their own group calling themselves “Green General Group” using red as its symbol.

Waen recalls that she had never participated in any political gathering prior to March 2010, a few days after the UDD supporters started taking to the street. She happened to go to the demonstration site as her mother asked her to look for her brother who had vanished into the sea of the demonstrators for several months. Even though, she could not find her brother, she happened to have visited the demonstration site several times getting to meet her relatives or people from her hometown who joined the demonstrations there. It was an opportunity for her to make use of her skill.

“The more I have gone there, the more I have sympathized with them. I know that what they need is medical treatment and first aid to tend to wounds, snake bite, bruises, headache, fever, allergy, and diarrhea. Waen spent her own money to buy basic drugs, paracetamol, and antihistamines to give to the people there.”

“I did not know exactly who they are, Nattawut Saikua, Jatuporn Prompan, Veera Musikhapong, even on 10 April, I had no idea who these people are. I was there just to talk with people who came from my hometown; I have been back to my hometown for some time. I have gone back to the province once every two or one year. So I felt elated getting to meet up with them and started to sympathize with their difficult living. I was impressed by their determination and felt bad for the way they had been treated. It was not that I had had no knowledge in politics. But I had no idea what they were fighting for. I only knew they were treated so unfairly and I could not tolerate their being abused. They just wanted to cast their votes in the ballot box and did not want a funerary box. Why did they have to fire tear gas from helicopter? Why did they shoot at people this way? I started to feel the bond with them and worry about my relatives and teachers.”

After the event in 2010, she has become more engaged in politics becoming a board member of a Red Shirt village in Udon Thani, joining the People Power Network (PPN), offering training to community leaders and other core members countrywide. The training was meant to nurture their leadership and educate them about democracy and Thailand’s constitutions. She insists that these activities have been conducted legally. But right after the 2014 coup, all these activities have been banned by the coup makers.

Asked how did she become interested in politics? Waen said she had had some idea about politics, but not so engrossed with it. She has found the most concrete policies being developed during the reign of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Them she ran three businesses and employed many workers. With good cashflow, she even had enough to hire a babysitter to look after her two sons. It enabled her to have free time to use to acquire more working skill.

The 2012 deluge left her businesses in tatters. She started to have some quarrel with her husband as she has since come out to speak about what really happened during the dispersal of the demonstrations.

“In 2012, all my businesses were gone. Businesses of the whole family were devastated by the floods. The floods spared nothing in my beauty salon. I could manage to sell nothing after the water subsided. I could not rent the shop out, too. I managed to sell my cosmetic business to a friend. I ran into a problem with my friend on our joint investment in a milling factory with bounced checks. I could manage to keep just some machine. My mother in law was not so happy with my outspoken personality and publicity. She and my husband’s sister were mad at me for speaking out too much. They offered to pay me one hundred thousand baht to sever relationships with my husband. I refused to take it but wanted to talk this over peacefully. But my husband refused to break up with me. I eventually had to tell him I was seeing another guy, he then decided to break up with me in 2012. But he denied my visit to our two sons, 16 and 8 then, who were living with him then. I also broke up with my second husband who was not so helpful and even criticized me.”

Even she can now enjoy freedom outside, all the prior events have estranged her and her ex-husband even more. As her ex’s family refused to allow her to contact her sons, she is too scared to contact them. It is not possible for her to restore her stable job. Travel expense incurred from the legal cases also takes its toll on her.

The two cases against her proceed slowly. In the bomb attack case, the military prosecutor has failed to get their witnesses to give evidence on time and the hearings have to be postponed more than ten times. Unlike the civilian court, the Military Court cannot fix the hearings to take place consecutively. Witness examination can take place probably two times a month, each lasts half a day. The procedure is so protracted and as the prosecutor often fails to get witnesses to give evidence on time, it has even caused more delay and incurred even more expenses for defendants in such cases.

As to the lese majeste case against Waen, the first witness examination only commenced on 20 July and in this case, she is barred from appealing to a Military Court of higher instances. It is likely that it will take some more time to complete all witness examination given that there are 20 persons to be examined by both parties. Until now, only three persons have given evidence to the Court. So the second case against Waen will certainly last not a long time, just like the first case.

Statement on the Arbitrary Arrest and Detention of Mr Charoenchai Sae-tang

 

One year living under Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015: The exercise of special powers in ordinary situations

 

She and he who remain incarcerated: At least nine defendants in the lèse-majesté cases are denied bail, while fighting charges against them

First published: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)

Pick to PostWinyat ChartmontreeNatthathida MeewangplaWaenArticle 112Wat Pathum Wanaram Ratcha WorawiharncrackdownwitnessNCPOSource: https://www.tlhr2014.com/?p=9496&fbclid=IwAR0eR_AB6Fp2T9Ng-9XwSEb5guao7us3JXVb0ifGz8z43K7XWKhRNvihDx4
Categories: Prachatai English

After almost 4 years, 112 suspect Anchan has been granted bail of 500,000 baht

Prachatai English - Fri, 2018-11-09 12:17
Submitted on Fri, 2018-11-09 12:17Prachatai

After being detained for almost 4 years, Anchan P. , facing 29 charges under Article 112 for releasing voice clips of Banpot allegedly containing lèse majesté material against the late King, has been granted bail of 500,000 baht. She was released from the Central Women’s Correctional Institution. The court ruled that despite objections by the prosecutor, it believes the accused will not escape or tamper with evidence.

On 2 Nov 2018, it was reported that Anchan, 60, a former government official at the Revenue Department charged under Article 112, has been bailed using as collateral savings certificates  and government bonds totaling 500,000 baht.

The court said that despite objections by the prosecutor, after careful consideration of reliable bail collateral. the court believed that the accused will not escape, tamper with evidence or cause other dangerous incidents. and permitted temporary release on bail.

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, former Article 112 detainee (left), congratulates Anchan (right)

Anchan was arrested on 5 Jan 2015, accused of uploading and disseminating voice clips of Banpot which contained material that allegedly defamed the late king. She was detained incommunicado in a military camp for 5 days before the police announced that she and others had been arrested one by one, all accused of being part of the “Banpot network”. Anchan faced 29 charges under Article 112.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that Anchan has been remanded in custody since 30 Jan 2015. Relatives had made repeated requests for bail, but these were rejected by the military court. The most recent request in April 2017, using a deed valued at 1,000,000 baht, was again rejected, the court claiming that penalty in the case is severe and there were fears that the accused would escape.

The judicial process in Bangkok Military Court continued slowly after Anchan decided to fight the case, while most of the Banpot network confessed. It has been almost 3 and a half years since the military prosecutor filed charges against Anchan on 23 April 2015. Seven of the 11 prosecution witnesses have been questioned, with 2 defence witnesses yet to be heard.

It is worth noting is while Banpot was accused of producing more than a hundred clips, he faced only one charge under Article 112, Anchan, alleged by the police to be involved in “managing the finances of the Banpot network”, faced 29 charges for separate acts of sharing Banpot’s clips on Facebook and uploading them on YouTube.

Police arrest 6 suspects in alleged online lèse majesté network

 

Details of arrest of 6 suspects in alleged network to defame monarchy

 

A year after arrest, 1st witness testify in lese majeste case against Anchan

 

The (exceptional) long struggle for justice in the (exceptional) military courts

NewsAnchan P.Banpodj Networklese majesteArticle 1122007 Computer Crime ActSomyos PrueksakasemsukSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2018/11/79418
Categories: Prachatai English

Don’t Deport Pakistani Asylum Seekers

Prachatai English - Tue, 2018-11-06 10:47
Submitted on Tue, 2018-11-06 10:47Human Rights Watch

(Bangkok, November 6, 2018,) The Thai government should ensure that recently arrested Pakistani asylum seekers are not returned to face persecution, torture, or other serious abuse in Pakistan, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the Thai prime minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha. Almost all of the dozens of detained asylum seekers are from Christian and Ahmadiyya communities that have been prosecuted under discriminatory laws or attacked by religious extremists in Pakistan.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) should have constant and unimpeded access to the Pakistani asylum seekers to help ensure that no one is deported to a place where their lives or freedom are threatened, under the international customary law principle of nonrefoulement.

“The Thai government may not fully appreciate the grave dangers facing Pakistani Christians and Ahmadis back in Pakistan,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s critically important for Thai authorities to free Pakistanis recognized as refugees from detention and not to return any into harm’s way in violation of international law.”

Pakistani refugees and asylum seekers have been targeted for arrest and prosecution for illegal entry or visa overstays as a part of a Thai immigration crackdown called Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner in which thousands of people have been detained. In a number of instances, immigration raids have targeted buildings where Pakistani and other South Asian community members live.

Thai authorities should not detain recognized refugees under any circumstances, Human Rights Watch said. The Thai authorities should recognize the critical importance of careful case-by-case consideration of asylum claims and abide by UNHCR determinations to ensure respect for the principle of nonrefoulement. They should also ensure compliance with Thailand’s obligations under the UN Convention against Torture.

Pick to PostPakistaniasylum seekersChristiansAhmadisUNHCRdetentiondeportationSource: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/11/05/thailand-dont-deport-pakistani-asylum-seekers
Categories: Prachatai English

UN body petitioned over the longest ongoing detention of a lèse-majesté defendant

Prachatai English - Tue, 2018-11-06 10:28
Submitted on Tue, 2018-11-06 10:28FIDH

Bangkok, Paris, 5 November 2018: FIDH and its partner organization Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) today petitioned the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) to seek the release of lèse-majesté defendant Siraphop Kornaroot. Since August 2012, the WGAD has found the detention of seven other individuals detained under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (lèse-majesté) to be “arbitrary.”

Siraphop, 55, has been detained for more than four years and four months - the longest time for a person currently charged or serving a prison sentence under Article 112. Siraphop was arrested on 1 July 2014 in Bangkok and is currently incarcerated at the Bangkok Remand Prison. Since July 2014, the Bangkok Military Court has rejected Siraphop’s bail applications seven times, the most recent today, 5 November 2018. His trial before the Bangkok Military Court has been ongoing since 24 September 2014.

“The detention and prosecution of Siraphop Kornaroot violate his fundamental rights to liberty, freedom of expression, and a fair trial – all rights guaranteed by international treaties to which Thailand is a state party. It is very disturbing that after more than four years there is no end in sight for Siraphop’s trial and the military court, which should not try civilians in the first place, continues to deny him bail,” said FIDH Vice-President Adilur Rahman Khan.

Siraphop has been detained and prosecuted for the exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression. He was charged with violations of Article 112 of the Criminal Code and Articles 14(3) and 14(5) of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act in connection with three posts he had made online on 7 November 2009, 15 December 2013, and 22 January 2014. Police deemed these posts (which included a poem and two caricatures) to be offensive to the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away on 13 October 2016. Siraphop was held in pre-trial detention for the maximum period allowed by Thai law (84 days), before the start of his trial on 24 September 2014.

The case of Siraphop shows that there are still many individuals who continue to languish in jail as a result of the abuse of lèse-majesté since the May 2014 military coup. Until Article 112 is reformed and brought into compliance with international law, the risk of arbitrary detentions and unfair prosecutions for lèse-majesté remains high,” said TLHR Head Yaowalak Anuphan.

Article 112 imposes jail terms for those who defame, insult, or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent. Persons found guilty of violating Article 112 face prison terms of three to 15 years for each count.

FIDH and TLHR call for the immediate and unconditional release of Siraphop and for all the charges against him to be dropped. FIDH and TLHR also urge the government to end the abuse of lèse-majesté and immediately and unconditionally release those detained or imprisoned under Article 112 for the mere exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Since the 22 May 2014 coup, at least 127 people have been arrested for violating Article 112. Fifty-seven of them have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 35 years. At the time of the military takeover, there were six individuals behind bars on lèse-majesté charges.

In the last several years, many UN bodies have repeatedly expressed their concern over the prosecutions, the prolonged detentions, and the lengthy prison sentences under Article 112. They have called for the amendment of Article 112 and the release of lèse-majesté detainees, emphasizing that the deprivation of liberty stemming from the enforcement of lèse-majesté is inconsistent with Thailand’s obligations under international law with regard to the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The International Federation for Human Rights, known by its French acronym FIDH, is an international human rights NGO representing 184 organizations from 112 countries. Since 1922, FIDH has been defending all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as set out in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.

Pick to PostFIDHThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD)United NationsSiraphop KornarootArticle 112lese majestearbitrary detentionSource: https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/thailand/un-body-petitioned-over-the-longest-ongoing-detention-of-a-lese
Categories: Prachatai English

‘Prathet Ku Mi’ Rap Against Dictatorship, interviews with the rappers and MV director

Prachatai English - Sat, 2018-11-03 16:12
Submitted on Sat, 2018-11-03 16:12Nutcha Tantivitayapitak

‘Rap Against Dictatorship’ says that politics, for them, is posing questions about the things happening in daily life. An interest in politics is a way to change for the better things that you don’t like and dictatorship isn’t only the military, but the election that’s about to happen can also be held in a dictatorial way. We also a talk with Teerawat Rujintham, the director of the MV, who is behind many pro-democracy groups.

After the release of a music video of the rap song ‘Prathet Ku Mi’ (Which is My Country) by the rapper group ‘Rap Against Dictatorship’, YouTube views rocketed past 600,000 within 2 days. The song takes political situations and arranges them in a way that is easy to understand, immediately arousing empathy among listeners. The music video shows one of the memorable photos of 6 October 1976 taken by Neal Ulevich, of a man taking a chair to hit a corpse hanging from a tree; a crowd watches, one boy with a smile on his face. This photo received the Pulitzer Award in 1977 and is used as a background in the last part of the video.

 

Prachatai interviewed a representative of Rap Against Dictatorship about how the basic idea of the project started, how they composed the song, and about the meaning of politics. They said that to them politics is asking questions about things happening in daily life. An interest in politics is a way to change things you don’t like for the better. Also the meaning of dictatorship covers not only military dictatorship but also the upcoming election which is still going to be done in a dictatorial manner.

We also interviewed Teerawat Rujintham, one of Thailand’s leading cinematographers, who directed this video. He was the one who proposed using the images of 6 Oct as a background. For him, this is the first time that he has revealed his real name after working behind the scenes for many pro-democracy groups, such as Resistant Citizen. Now it’s Rap Against Dictatorship, and he’s ready to answer the question “Are the images that clearly show a corpse and chair-hitting near the end of the music video a reproduction of violence?”

RAD’s Starting Point

The Prathet Ku Mi song has an intro by Liberate P, released since 2016. At that time, he started to compose the political songs Oc(t)ygen, Capitalism, Prathet Ku Mai Mi (Which Is Not My Country) and Prathet Ku Mi as an 8-bar intro. The musical steps hadn’t fallen into place yet, so the project was put on hold.

Near the end of 2017 there were talks between the 4 of us; Liberate P, Jacoboi, ET and Hockhacker about the Rap Against Dictatorship project. We then invited other interested parties to collaborate. However, it is mainly the 4 of us that control the ideas, the song’s direction and promotional methods.

The singers have a common position, which is anti-dictatorship, but may hve different ideas about other things. Was there any conflict when you were working together?

There weren’t any conflicts, since we all already knew that each of us have different approaches. But before we started to make the song, we had an internal workshop. All the rappers talked to each other and discussed what they each wanted to talk about, the method and all the content, as a way of adjusting everyone’s basis in understanding politics of each person which may not be the same. In the group there are people who understand politics very deeply, right to the structure of it, as well as people who are dissatisfied with the current situation but still haven’t looked as deep as the structural issues. After talking about it, people understood more. After the workshop we let them decide whether to participate or not. In the end, everyone decided to do it, just that the content of the song differs depending on the person’s interests.

What audience is the content intended for?

The general public. But how much the content will impress different groups depends on the listeners. We had intended to create a mainstream song. Maybe it’s not that mainstream, but we made a song with content that general people without any basic politics could listen to and get it without having to interpret it, or we didn’t use comparisons since it’d be hard to understand. The song then came out with content that people would feel, “yeah, this is the thing, this is the thing”. It can make them feel dissatisfied. We’ve done a fair amount of of homework on whether the content is too deep, too difficult, too many comparisons, what makes people who listen be with us;. We would then choose that. And our purpose doesn’t want to attack people or criticise them for not protesting, but we’re attacking the state, attacking dictatorship.

This means even though the team discussed things deeply as far as structural problems, when you made the actual song, you didn’t intend it to be that deep, but rather easier to listen to?

Yes, but we also secretly included something that people who have a deep understanding may be able to catch. Since some things we do know, but we really can’t talk about them, or if we don’t need to say something in this song we won’t say it. If we listen to the content in the song, they will see that it is not the same depth.

When composing this song, did you crystallise your thoughts first or was it putting into the song things people in society have already been criticizing ?

Personally, if it’s a party song or regular song about presenting oneself, it wouldn’t be so hard, since it’s something we feel and can express straight away. But if it’s a song about social and political ideologies, there needs to be some crystallisation or understanding of the topic at a certain level. We did quite a lot of homework. Some spent more time on their lyrics than others, some were able to compose them straight away from what they had experienced, because the foundation of perceptions and political experience of each person are different.

Actually it’s something everyone already knows. Like one of the verses that says “the end of the barrel pointing at [the end of] our Adam’s apple” (plai krabok cho thi plai kradueak). It’s a play on words in rap song language. A symbol was hidden there; the end of the barrel means a gun and the Adam’s apple is our chin or mouth. It’s a way to say that we’re in an era where the governing system has guns. It’s something common that everyone knows, but the rappers’ choice of words raised the power of the song. The importance is that what everyone has narrated is what they really feel, and they really do believe in opposing dictatorship, so there is a lot more power. This is a good thing about rap songs; if we talk about something we really have experienced, a lot more power will be sent out.

What is the politics that your group has experienced?

For us politics is posing questions about things that happen in in daily life. Why is it like this? Why can’t we solve these problems? Then at the end it comes back to politics. All power comes from politics. If we don’t care about politics, we won’t be able to change anything. An interest in politics is looking for a way to change things we don’t like for the better. For example, we don’t like traffic jams. If we’re not interested in politics, we may say that the traffic jams are caused by police turning on the traffic lights but if we look at it more deeply, it’s because of national city planning. It depends on how you think of the problem you are faced with. You can just complain or try to find solutions to improve them for the better.

Politics is all around us. Why is it that for the 20 years we’ve walked on the footpath by the road, it has never improved? The bricks on the footpath are still broken. It’s all about administering and managing the city. Politics isn’t only about coming out to protest on the streets or dividing into sides or colours . It’s about livelihoods, what we’re experiencing. It’s not only politicians. In schools, agencies, companies, there are also internal politics. Everyone already knows this. Approaching someone else for certain benefits is politics.  

But in the end when you start to look at problems from things near us, the answer leads to political structural issues anyway.

Yes. Our common ground is opposition to dictatorship. It doesn’t only refer to military dictatorship since the military is the most obvious for using power, weapons and fear to interfere with normal people’s lives. But we still have dictatorship in local administration, dictatorship in parliament. People in parliament are all on the same side; there isn’t any opposition.

There are people who see politics as something boring and that whether the government is elected or a dictatorship, life is no better than before.  Do you think that your song will communicate with them?

In our group, we believe that we can communicate and inform them, but we don’t expect that you’ll listen to this song and change your behaviour,. because it takes time to believe in something and change behaviour. But we let many people know and when it becomes a trend it’ll open their ideas, that we can talk about these things. People who have listened to the song and commented or shared, we already think that’s awareness. Or if they’re bored and not interested, then that’s their right, because they may have experienced something that makes them doesn’t want to be involved. But some people who live in fear or do not have the courage, come out to criticise us for making this song. We also consider them as already being politically aware, since at least they stood up to express their opinions about this. This is already an ideological movement in this age.

Your feelings when composing this song were anger, refusal to submit?

Everyone feels anger and boredom already, but how will we transfer these feelings into musical aesthetics, so that people would feel what we feel. I think it’s a contemporary song that allows the new generation to listen and feel moved with the content.  For us the new generation doesn’t refer to age, but refers to people who are living in the current era, in the current era that has changed. How we understand things better, how much we can keep up with the things that are happening, how do we adapt to the changes in this era; that’s the new generation.

If there’s an election, will RAD continue? Or while waiting for an election, will there be anything else other than criticising dictatorship?

An election may mean democracy, but actually in this election, we know from the news, such as the nominated Senators being appointed, that is still a form of dictatorship. In fact there will be other songs that will be released and after this if there is an election, we’ll talk to each other again about what form the group will take in the future.

000000

Teerawat Rujintham (centre)

How did the idea of  Oct 6th in the MV come about?

The idea of Oct 6th came from my curiosity. The first film I produced was The Moonhunter; in the script there is a scene about  Oct 6th. There were preparations about how we would film this scene, but in the end the director Bhandit (Rittakol) decided to cut it because he didn’t know how to present it. At that time he said that if it wasn’t presented well, it would turn into exposing a corpse. I didn’t really understand his reason at that time.

Last year I had a chance to help in the Documentation of Oct 6 Project, helping to direct a short film, ‘The Two Brothers’. I read more information about the Oct 6th incident. Recently they wanted me to help find the place where the tree was where the corpse had been hanged . During that time, the idea of contributing to this song came up. I thought about this, mixing them together, and eventually it came out as the scene where the corpse is hanging from the tree with a crowd cheering for the mutilation of the corpse. Normally we only look at photos, but if we place the camera in the middle of the event, the audience will feel something. I think that Oct 6th is a physical symptom of this country’s illness that is still relevant.

The idea of the camera is that I wanted to do a long take with the rappers swapping in for each verse, walking around in a circle. I thought that designing a camera path that goes around in circles stands for Thailand’s situation that’s going nowhere but around in circles. People don’t learn, those with power don’t learn and so history repeats itself. This is a concept only for the producers; the audience doesn’t need to understand it.

With a length of 5 minutes, I had to design it so that it started with a rapper rapping, with people clapping as a background, without knowing what they are clapping about. Maybe they’re just having fun with the singers that are singing, but in the end when we see the Chair Man who’s using a chair to hit the corpse, the audience would understand what event it is and it becomes a highlight at the end.

Behind the scenes of the MV

The photo of the corpse and chair hitting is clear at the end. Is it a reproduction of violence?

This is a topic I’ve been debating with myself. I told my friend who’s a researcher in the Documentation of Oct 6 Project of this concept, and asked what he thought if we used photos of violence from Oct 6th . Would it be like we’re using the photo to rape the audience again? He said sometimes the photos of violent events can’t be denied. For example, two years ago I only just found out that it wasn’t just 2 people that got hanged on Oct 6th  but at least 5, some we don’t even know the names of.

We were surprised that something like this has been overlooked for over 40 years. From listening to various people, people in that era thought that they were photos of violence and cruelty and didn’t have the courage to look at them directly. I understand that this lack of courage to look at them directly creates misunderstandings. Another example is that people think that the photo of a person being hanged and hit with a chair is of Wichitchai Amornkul, but we actually don’t know his name. Wichitchai was hanged in a different photo.

The point is that sometimes we have to stare directly at what is happening in front of our faces. That’s why I feel, after weighing it up, the issue of reproducing violence was pushed aside. Sometimes we also have to present violence using a straightforward method, so that people will feel and see certain truths.

Behind the scenes of the filming

Lastly, would you like to leave a few words?

I would like to thank all my friends and others that have helped in this project. Some people would like to remain anonymous. Without them, this MV wouldn’t have been born.

Normally I work as a part of the entertainment industry, but after the coloured shirts, I have always worked behind the scenes. I was behind Resistant Citizen which I’ve always kept a secret. This time I’ve decided to reveal my real name because today many of my fears have disappeared. I feel that if you do something secretly even though you have the same thoughts or ideas for the people, democracy should be the solution for this country. I don’t have anything I need to fear anymore, so I would like to call for other artists have the courage to step out. Society that lives under fear and self-censorship doesn’t work. If we believe in something, we must be brave enough to fight and take a stand for it.

Rap Against Dictatorship is still open for the general public to participate in their activity for 8 bars per person for Prathet Ku Mi. Most recently there have been so many participants it’s become impossible to see with our eyes alone.

InterviewRap Against Dictatorship (RAD)Thai rappersfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

(Multimedia) Asian relatives show there were more than white men involved in the construction of the Death Railway

Prachatai English - Wed, 2018-10-31 22:07
Submitted on Wed, 2018-10-31 22:07Yiamyut Sutthichaya

Relatives of Asian workers who participated in the construction of the Death Railway have retraced their state-forgotten stories in Thailand 75 years after its completion. The head of the group wants a proper official commemoration and a detailed history to recognize the victims and their countries.

Kanchanaburi’s famous hot sunshine failed to stop tourists from many nations from visiting the Death Railway on 15 October, just one day before the 75th anniversary of the completion of one of the most oppressive wartime railway projects of the Japanese Empire.

... [Read more]

MultimediaDeath RailwayPrisoners of War (PoWs)Death Railway Interest Group (DRIG)P. ChandrasekaranAsian workersHellfire Pass Memorial Museum
Categories: Prachatai English

Asian relatives show there were more than white men involved in the construction of the Death Rai

Prachatai English - Wed, 2018-10-31 12:18
Submitted on Wed, 2018-10-31 12:18Yiamyut Sutthichaya

Relatives of Asian workers who participated in the construction of the Death Railway have retraced their state-forgotten stories in Thailand 75 years after its completion. The head of the group wants a proper official commemoration and a detailed history to recognize the victims and their countries.

Kanchanaburi’s famous hot sunshine failed to stop tourists from many nations from visiting the Death Railway on 15 October, just one day before the 75th anniversary of the completion of one of the most oppressive wartime railway projects of the Japanese Empire.

Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum Audio Guide recounts:

“On the 16th of October 1943, 15 months after work first begun, both ends of the Burma-Thailand Railway were joined at Kointaka [Kaeng Khoi Tha, Sangkhla Buri District, Kanchanaburi Province] – not far from the Three Pagodas Pass. With much pomp and a fair amount of ceremony, a well-fed Japanese soldier drove the final spike into a sleeper. The finished railway wound around 415 kilometres of jungle track, and included 688 steel and timber bridges. The cost in human life was savage. It is estimated that approximately 12,800 Allied prisoners of war and up to 90,000 Asian labourers died working on the railway.

Kointaka [Kaeng Khoi Tha, Sangkhla Buri District, Kanchanaburi Province] where the opening ceremony was held on 16 October 1943 (Source:The Australian War Memorial)

Asian workers also worked on the railway      (Source: The Global Review)

75 years since the completion of the Death Railway

The Thailand-Burma railway was finished on 16 October 1943 with the aim of transporting troops and supplies of the Japanese Empire to Burma for a planned strike into British India.

The railway was built from 2 ends; one began in Ban Pong, Ratchaburi Province, in Thailand and the other began in Thanbyuzayat, Mon State, in Burma. The tracks met at Konkoita station (now under the Vajiralongkorn dam reservoir).

It took only a year to complete the 415 km railway over rough terrain. Some estimates say that 50% of the Asian workers died from starvation, disease and maltreatment; about 20% of the PoWs died which is outnumber the death toll from Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum, reflecting the variation of the information.

61,811 Allied Prisoners of War are known to have worked in the railway. Some made it back alive and some did not; some are remembered but some are not. Most were recognized and later given a proper burial. On the other hand, over 300,000 Asian workers or “Romusha” as called by the Japanese also worked on the railway, only for many to lose their lives and pass forgotten.

The Romusha mostly came from Vietnam, Java (Indonesia), Malaya, Singapore, Burma, India and Thailand. (The ‘Chinese’ were almost all from Thailand, Malaya and Singapore). Some were drafted in by the Japanese and some came after rumours of good wages.

Sadly, the dead Romusha are commemorated by nothing more than a mass grave by a Buddhist temple and a Japanese cenotaph.Their deaths went unrecognized by the governments where they came from after they became independent.

Despite this lack of recognition, some relatives of dead Romushas came from Malaysia to the site in Thailand this year in order to retrace and pay tribute to their loved ones.

P. Chandrasekaran, Chair of the Death Railway Interest Group (DRIG)

P. Chandrasekaran, Chair of the Death Railway Interest Group (DRIG) brought a group of 13 people to remember their loved ones who lost their lives in the construction. The trip was recorded by his Indian colleagues and will be broadcast in India and Malaysia.

(The purpose is) to bring the family members of victims who built the railway. They have never had a chance to come and see the place. If they come by themselves, they will not know where to go.

We try to retrace the journey of our workers who were brought here. We understood from some survivors that workers were originally taken from various towns in Malaya and brought to the railway.

The DRIG Chair said that 2 of the survivors came with him on the previous trip last February. The next trip will be in the December when Thai officials will hold a commemoration ceremony for the dead.

The primary aim of this trip is basically to tell the world that there is no commemoration held except for the prisoners of war. For the Asian workers who died, there is no commemoration. Not by the Thai, Indian, or Malaysian governments, in fact any government whose people worked on the railway. They’re totally forgotten.

We are trying to make a point. The governments may have forgotten but the people who are affected have not. Six Malaysians came with me; every one of them is affected. Either their grandfather, father, uncle or somebody is affected.

We all are the affected. There are no tourists in this. We’re all affected people. For us it’s an emotional trip.

He also said that the tourist spots and history are all about the white men. And Thai officials tend to narrate the story in the same way.

They (some group members who travelled to the site before) are very disappointed that there is nothing in Thailand to shows that any Asian worker was involved. Everything is about the white man. Even the commemoration is for the white men. Also when the Thai government stages the special programme in December, they make it look like only the white men built the railway.

I have also seen some fliers produced by the Thai Tourism Authority saying that there is a special museum built for the railway. It’s called the JEATH museum. They say it’s named after the 5 countries that built the railway: England, Japan, Australia, Thailand and Holland. They only mentioned that. All of other Asian countries are forgotten.

If you ask me, it is a gross misrepresentation of the facts, because the Asians who worked on this railway far outnumbered the Europeans or Thais. The Thais formed very small number. The Europeans may have formed a 1/3 or a quarter but you forgot the other 3 quarters.

And it is not a private company or enterprise which overlooked it for commercial reasons (which) I can understand, but the Thai Tourism Authority which is a government body is promoting this misinformation.

Although the JEATH War Museum was the initiative by the Abbot of Wat Chaichumpol. However, the TAT promoted its misinformation about the international involvements on its website.

I think they should correct it and give due recognition to the Asian workers. So what I tell them is; if you cannot have the cemetery for these workers, the least you can do is to have a proper monument for the Asian workers.

 

HighlightDeath RailwayPrisoners of War (PoWs)Death Railway Interest Group (DRIG)P. ChandrasekaranAsian workersHellfire Pass Memorial Museum
Categories: Prachatai English

Singapore should follow Malaysia in Abolishing Death Penalty as we strive for a Death Penalty free ASEAN Region.

Prachatai English - Tue, 2018-10-30 13:47
Submitted on Tue, 2018-10-30 13:47MADPET

MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is very disappointed that Singapore, which is just one of 4 countries, still conducting execution for drug offences in 2017, has on 26/10/2018 went and hanged 31 year old Malaysian, Prabu Pathmanathan.

Prabu was sentenced to death for committing several acts preparatory to and for the purposes of trafficking 227.82g of diamorphine or heroin into the island state on Dec 31, 2014.(Malaysiakini, 26/10/2018).

According to The Online Citizen(TOC) report, Prabu is just one of a possible 4 persons who were executed this week. TOC reported that ‘Ali Bin Mohamad Bahashwan was executed alongside his co-accused Selamat Bin Paki on Wednesday afternoon (24 October 2018)…. Irwan Ali, a Singaporean, is the other inmate who is set to be executed this Friday…’(TOC, 26/10/2018)

The Singapore Prison Service 2017 annual report showed eight people were executed in 2017, up from four in 2016. Actual statistics of executions carried out in 2018 cannot be confirmed, as Singapore continuous be ‘secretive’ and not transparent with such data. It is believed that there may have already been about 8 executions to date in 2018.

Many a time in Singapore, one becomes aware of upcoming executions, only when immediate family is informed days before, take the trouble to inform anti-death penalty advocates and groups.

The death sentence is provided for drug-related crimes in about 15 countries, but according to Amnesty International only four countries recorded drug offence executions in 2017 – Singapore, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China.(South China Morning Post/SCMP, 26/10/2018)

In reality, the majority of those executed for drug trafficking will not be “kingpins” but are just low-level offenders.

Many may have been driven to crime by reasons of poverty, which really highlights a failure of governments in ensuring the wellbeing and livelihood of its people.  Singapore, Malaysia and other States must really look into the link of poverty to crime, and maybe the solution to crime reduction a maybe a caring government policy that will ensure that no one will ever needs to resort to crime out of desperation for the wellbeing of themselves and their families.

Singapore also need to strive to become a more caring and civilized nation, and do away with this archaic ‘death penalty’ just like neighbouring Malaysia, who has already made the decision to totally abolish the death penalty. In Malaysia, the necessary Bills will be tabled at this current Parliamentary Session, that  will give effect to the Cabinet decision to abolish the Death Penalty.

MADPET calls on Singapore to follow neighbouring Malaysia and abolish the death penalty, as we strive forward for a more caring and civilized ASEAN where there is no more Death Penalty and Torture.

MADPET also calls on Malaysia to immediately identify Malaysians on death row at risk of being executed in Singapore prisons, and proactively act now to save them from being executed by Singapore. This is a priority, as knowledge about impending executions only come to light at the eleventh hour, and that too in only certain cases.

MADPET further calls on Singapore to impose a moratorium on executions, and abolish the death penalty’

Pick to Postdeath penaltySingaporePrabu PathmanathanabolitionMalaysia
Categories: Prachatai English

Know more about the draft that will transform Thailand into an Orwellian state

Prachatai English - Tue, 2018-10-30 12:03
Submitted on Tue, 2018-10-30 12:03Yiamyut Suthichaya

The draft cyber security law has raised the concerns of netizens that the state will have more power to seize data from the private sector and individuals. Some fear the law, which still has no clear limits, will be used on a daily basis.

On October 11, the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) organised a public hearing on the Cyber Security Bill. The details triggered fears among Thais that their privacy will be breached.

Netizens and stakeholders expressed concern that ambiguous wording on protecting ‘cyber security’ gives too much power to the state to monitor and collect data across many sectors. Many also fear that it could be used to eliminate political opponents.

As the wave of criticism grew stronger, junta leader Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered a review of the law. But he insisted that a law is necessary in the present day.

Introduction to the Cyber Security Bill: What, Who, How?

What: Defending against incoming cyber threats.

The draft’s general concept is to have a law that allows the state to address, solve and decrease the risk of cyber threats. It calls for cooperation between the public and private sectors by establishing an office and committee to act as policymaker.

There are 4 definitions that you need to know before we dig into more details: Critical Information Infrastructure (CII), Critical Infrastructure (CI), cyber threat and information assets.

CII: A computer or computer system operated by the public or private sector. The system has to be related to the state, the public, or economic security.

CI: IT infrastructural services provided by public or private organizations. The draft defines 8 areas:

  • state security
  • important public services
  • banking
  • IT or telecommunications
  • energy and public utilities
  • logistics and transportation
  • public health
  • Others as deemed necessary by the NCPO
  •  

Cyber Threat: An action or event that takes place via a computer or electronic means in order to disrupt or gain access to information assets or attempt to do so, resulting in damage to or destruction of the information assets.

Information assets:

  • Computer networks, computer systems and IT systems
  • Computers computer equipment, backup tools etc.
  • IT data, electronic and computer data.

For example: A hospital (CI) uses a computer network (CII) to store and manage patient records (Information assets). Cyber threats may include activities that damage the functioning of the CII by, for example, hacking, viruses, or DDOS.

 

Who: A committee and office to be established, with seemingly unlimited oversight of data.

The draft states that a National Cyber Security Committee (NCSC) will be established, along with a supporting office, chaired by the Prime Minister with 13 members: the Ministers of Defence and of Digital Economy and Society, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, the Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, the Secretary-General of the National Security Council, the Governor of the Bank of Thailand and 6 experts in cyber protection, IT technology and communication, privacy data protection, science, engineering, law or other related fields.  One member will be appointed Secretary-General.

The position will be given a wide-range power from the draft.

The NCSC Office will coordinate cyber security, through surveillance, warnings, and assistance in defending against, dealing with and decreasing the risk of cyber threats, and disseminating information, studies and research and development.

The Office has the status of a juristic person, not a government agency. It receives an annual budget from the state, but it does not have to send any income from its services or assets back to the treasury as government income.

Article 17 grants the office power to serve as a joint venture or partnership with private companies or other juristic persons with the same objectives, to borrow money in order to achieve its objectives and collect fees, subscriptions, compensation and service charges in its operations.

 

How: Broad powers to enter homes and seize computers without court orders but low accountability

The draft grants are worrying powers to the Office with reference to ‘cyber threats’ that are vaguely defined. Article 46 empowers the Secretary General to issue letters requesting cooperation in accessing information on:

  • the architecture and configuration of the CII and information on related networks
  • the function log of the CII or its related networks
  • any other data deemed necessary for CII cyber protection

When the Office recognizes or predicts a cyber threat, the draft empowers them to:

  • call relevant people to give information about the threat
  • request data, documents or copies of these that are in the possession of other people
  • question thise who have information on or an understanding of the situation
  • access property or premises that is implicated or thought to be implicated with the permission of the owners.

The draft does not specify or give examples of cyber threats, so it cannot be said that sending e-mails, posting on Facebook or the content of videos are not cyber threats. It also pays little attention to the potential misuse of the data it acquires, saying only that the Office has to take care that the data is not used in such a way as to cause damage.

The draft contains preparations for worst case scenarios or serious cyber threats, which means incidents which:

  • risk significant damage to IT assets or disrupt CII services
  • threaten national security, national defence, international relations, the economy, public health, public safety or public order
  • are severe enough to damage or have the potential to cause serious damage to individuals or essential IT assets.

In such cases, the Secretary-General ias empowered to command or direct relevant state agencies to protect against, address and mitigate the threats.

Article 57 empowers the Secretary-General to order owners or users suspected of involvement with cyber threats to:

  • monitor computers or computer systems for a certain period.
  • check computers or computer systems to look for security breaches.
  • take action to resolve threats; clear examples given of this include deleting malicious commands, improving software, temporarily disconnecting computers, changing the routing of malicious data or commands.
  • shut down computers or computer systems.
  • if necessary, officers can ask for assistance in accessing the suspected computer or computer systems.

Article 58 gives the Secretary-General oppressive powers to protect against, address and mitigate cyber threats by accessing people or physical equipment without a prior request to the court in the following case.

  • check facilities with a warning letter to the owners.
  • access and make copies of IT assets, screening for suspected IT data or computer programmes.
  • test suspected computers or computer systems
  • seize any computers or equipment believed to be related to cyber threats for examination and analysis within 30 days, extended for up to 90 days with a request to the civil court.

In emergency cases, the Secretary-General has the authority to request real time data from relevant persons.

The punishments for violating the law are also heavy. Those who fail to act according to orders of the Office and Secretary-General may be fined 100,000-300,000 THB (about 3,000 - 9,000 USD), and a maximum 10,000 THB daily fine from the date of the order to the date action is taken and/or a maximum of 3 years in jail.

The draft barely mentions punishment for the Secretary-General and other officials. Since the Office does not have the status of a state agency, it is not clear whether it is subject to criminal law on the abuse of official power (Article 157).

During the public hearing on Oct 11, many people raised concerns that the law gave the Office and Secretary-General powers that are broad and excessive. Its legal status is also a problem allowing officials to benefit from operations without the restrictions that apply to other state agencies.

Participants also said that the Secretary-General should get permission from the courts before accessing data, facilities and seizing the computer equipment, because the same powers under the Computer Crime Act require court approval.

Related story: Thailand’s new Cyber Security Bill: security from military perspective

Read: the Cyber Security Bill (in Thai)

Newscyber security billNational Cyber Security Committee (NCSC)OrwellianElectronic Transaction Development Agency (ETDA)
Categories: Prachatai English

Marriage and married life in the world of disabled ethnic minority women

Prachatai English - Wed, 2018-10-24 15:03
Submitted on Wed, 2018-10-24 15:03Nalutporn Krairiksh

2-3 years ago, the Thai media paid more interest to the issue of the disabled, judging from the content appearing on television and in online media.  I myself became immersed in this issue with the creation of the ThisAble.me website to pose questions about the lives of the disabled, and to explore the doubts of society about the ability and rights of this group and the misconceptions that they have to face. Like ethnic minority women, hidden misconceptions force them to face many forms of inequality, from gender inequality to misunderstandings created from ethnic cultures, as seen in many studies.  But how much are disabled ethnic minority women recognized?

I went to Chiang Mai Province with a knowledge about ethnic women from books I had read.  For example, they are unable to communicate in Thai, and have no nationality and cannot access health care.  The culture is patriarchal.  With a broad perspective on disability, I spent 9 days with 2 groups, the Pga K'nyau and the Hmong.

There are now around 1.9 million registered disabled people in Thailand and there is still a large number that have not registered.  Many have no work and rely on a living allowance of 800 baht.  They still encounter problems of ill-treatment and discrimination, like ethnic minority women who in the past suffered various kinds of oppression, leading to ongoing efforts to change some customs so that the lives of ethnic minority women are made equal, such as creating the custom for Hmong daughters to return home when they are separated from their husbands.

The nonexistent ‘disabled’ Pga K'nyau women

‘Pga K'nyau men think that they must marry a disabled woman out of pity and some Pga K'nyau parents offer their daughters to men without having to go through the traditional ceremony.

Most disabled Pga K'nyau women in the Mae Wang area have a hearing disability.  Almost all communicate through sign language that they use in and around their homes.  People here do not see disability as something unusual but just the inability to use some organ of the body.

Baeri (pseudonym), 54-years-old, was on her way to gather passion fruit when I interviewed her.  She and her brother are deaf because of a ceremony that went wrong at birth.  She lives a normal life through sign language.  Normally women here marry when they are around 18-20, but Baeri fell in love with her husband ‘Thuan’ when she was 24 and was thought of as being ‘old enough to be a spinster’ in Pga K'nyau society.  The couple met because Thuan came to work with Baeri’s brother and got to know her and felt sorry that ‘she had no one who wanted her’ (in the sense that she did not have a family to look after her) so they decided to marry.

Earlier the Pga K'nyau often had arranged marriages but now after the introduction of Buddhism and Christianity, people understand about gender equality because they have had more education.  Gender oppression has therefore been reduced but there is still more rape and premarital sex with disabled women than with women in general.  This is the case of Tima (pseudonym), a woman with a hearing and intellectual disability, aged 28, who was married eight years ago.  Her husband ‘Jaded’ says that he loved and pitied her and wanted to look after her because Tima had no father and her family almost didn’t care about her.  He and Tima had sex before they were married eight years ago and she became pregnant.  Because they were not married, Tima’s mother gave their son away to someone outside their village and had her sterilized because she thought that she would not be able to look after a child.

Being a disabled Hmong = no access to education

Data from the TCIJ website shows that there are 800,000 disabled children of school age throughout the country but there are few special schools and they are remote.  So disabled children who live far away cannot access education, like Tima.  She copies the behaviour of those around her, from eating, washing clothes and scooping water to learning to use a washing machine.  She uses her free time to practice writing Thai.  She never went to school like her brothers and sisters, who went to school normally.  These days, her son and Jaded are studying Primary 2 at another village.  Tima has never forgotten her child and is always telling Jaded to bring him back.

Even though there are few disabled in proportion to the number of ethnic minority people, most disabled women are told to get sterilized, because there is a risk that they will be raped or get pregnant before marriage.  If they don’t know who has raped them and no one takes responsibility, the village will condemn them.  They will be accused of having HIV, as in the case of Jarungjit (pseudonym), 26, who has a learning disability.  She was raped by someone from another village.  The rape made her afraid and upset, but worse than that was that people in the village looked at her as if she had AIDS and was about to die.  Everyone beat her to keep her away.  A doctor recommended that she be sterilized as protection against pregnancy if she was violated again.  But she refused and asked only for a contraceptive injection after an examination showed she did not have HIV.  Jarungjit’s mother and stepfather had her married and she moved to be with the man because it was believed that he could look after her.  A month later, the man abandoned her and she came back to live with her mother and stepfather again.

Earlier there was very little sexual violence among the Pga K'nyau, but it has slowly increased.  Villagers believe that it has happened because of more outsiders coming to settle and the village has become a thoroughfare for surrounding villages.  Incidents of rape happen a lot, especially among intellectually disabled women and women with a hearing disability.  After a rape, the woman will be married off to the man in accordance with their culture and they often live together for a long time.  Only 2 couples have separated.

The scar of what happened to Jarungjit caused depression and she suffers repeated relapses because she has no medicine.  Since she separated three years ago, Jarungjit has had no other lover because she is afraid she will not be able to raise a child and she is happy that she may remain unmarried.

4 days is certainly not enough to relate everything that is happening but the signs of change from spirit worship to belief in religion makes people’s beliefs changeable as with the Hmong people.  This is in line with the observations of Angsurak Phromsuwan, a student of Hmong women, that Hmong women themselves choose to believe in religion as a way to access education and to form a bargaining group to deal with patriarchal beliefs that they have to face.  ‘In the Hmong culture that we see today, even though Hmong families had a good status, boys and girls are not sent to study equally.  There is the practice of bride kidnapping and then asking for permission.  A Hmong can have an unlimited number of wives for labour.  When a woman disappears, the family will know that she has been kidnapped.  In the morning, the parents will come to an agreement,’ Angsurak said.

The strong belief in spirits and ancestors among the Hmong is evident when there is a disabled person in the village.  Other people will think that disability is caused by something that the ancestors have done in the past rather than an abnormality in pregnancy or an illness that can be explained by medicine.  Disabled Hmong people have never been mocked or had their disability talked about because they believe this would anger the ancestors and affect their children and future generations of families with disabled people.  So disabled Hmong people are treated well and tradition requires that if a family has a disabled person, the younger brother must become the lifelong caregiver to his older sibling.

Young disabled Hmong woman who has no wedding day

 ‘Young Hmong women who are disabled will not marry no matter how minor their disability.’

Choen (pseudonym) is a Hmong woman who was born with a small body and rigid legs because of a brain infection at birth.  Choen can speak central Thai clearly because she studied from films and plays every day.  Even though she is very much into love scenes in plays, she repeats that she is single, has never had a boyfriend and wants to live with her parents.  Choen’s younger brother who is sitting nearby interrupts by saying that according to Hmong traditions, disabled women will not marry and will stay with their family all their lives.

As I have said, a belief in religion gives an opportunity to access education and increase one’s networks in the area.  The Hmong have relationships with Lao and Phetchabun and even the US, like Chinese families.  They have many networks and are expert traders.  They stick to their traditions of having children to carry on the family name, like Wichai Phusiriphathanon, who has been married for a long time but has no children.  He therefore decided to adopt Malai (pseudonym).  Malai, now 17, was adopted when she was 4 days old.  There was nothing at all to show that Malai was disabled but when she reached primary school age, she refused to go to school because she was slow and she couldn’t do anything.  Her father therefore sent his daughter to a school for the disabled in Chiang Mai city.  She left 2 years ago because her petulance meant she did not want to go to school.

Generally Hmong women will marry at about 16-17 years of age, or at Secondary 3 or 4, which is Malai’s age.  But this will not happen with Malai.  Her father says that his daughter will be the responsibility of the males in the family and he does not want her to leave the house for fear that she will suffer harm if no one is looking after her.

These days even though the custom of bride kidnapping still sometimes happens, it is gradually disappearing.  The way of life of young Hmong women is beginning to change as a result of education.  When they send their children to study, they follow a city lifestyle.  Their attitudes are changing to resemble those of the middle class.  Children of the new generation study in good schools, and their parents pick them up and send them.  However, city thinking is not all reflected in the village where there are elders who still strictly regulate Hmong culture.  Many people may think that accepting city culture may cause problems for the Hmong and make them lose their identity.  But for the Hmong, cultural integration is happening harmoniously.  Even if accepting city culture makes the Hmong more flexible in their lives, this flexibility makes many disabled women feel that they themselves do not have to stay in the culture of marriage which has been instilled in them.

The ability and opportunity to have to wait for an offer

‘When I was a kid, I could not sit, could not crawl, could not stand, but I wanted to walk so I tried, which was very painful.  In the end I could stand and walk but not like other people because my knees are smaller than normal.  My mother used to have to carry me around until I was eight or nine when I could help myself and to do daily chores’ Phetkamon said.

Phetkamon (pseudonym), is a 29-year-old woman with a physical disability resulting from diplegia (a condition which makes the muscles rigid, especially in the hips and legs; the knees are bent inwards and walking is difficult).  Phetkamon has 5 younger siblings, 4 sisters and the youngest is a brother.  Even though Phetkamon is 29, she is still single and lives with her family.  In a disrespectful voice she says she doesn’t have to have a family because living alone is more relaxed.  She is afraid of thieves, of men, of everything, and she is still building the confidence to live with someone else.  She keeps repeating throughout the interview that school was like a second home.  English was her favourite subject.  As soon as she finished studying she wanted to study languages further but now she is old, she hesitates however much in her heart she wants to be a language teacher.

Phetkamon has lots of things she wants to do from visiting a waterfall and the sea to leaving home and going to work alone.  She wants to study more and to learn to drive because she wants to get around without bothering anyone.  But people in the family put the brakes on this by telling her she’s raving.  ‘How can a disabled person drive?’  ‘You walk just a little way and you get tired; where can you go?’  During the interview the voice of her mother, her sister and her brother gradually got louder in opposition to the things Phetkamon was saying, like wanting to study further, live her own life or learn to drive.

The interviewer felt uncomfortable with this situation, unlike the interviewee.  Phetkamon said that these ideas are ‘normal’ in ethnic minority communities.  They don’t know anything about disability, they don’t understand or believe in their potential.  She is determined, as a disabled person, to study and doesn’t think about love.

In earlier days a Hmong man could kidnap a woman that he wanted to marry and raise a family with, by asking his friends to carry the woman off to his home.  When the people in the woman’s home saw that their daughter was missing, they knew this was a sign that she had been kidnapped.  The next day the man’s side had to bring the woman back home and ask for her hand as the end of the ceremony.  When a woman has undergone kidnapping, she must be cut off from her former home and go to live in her husband’s home.  Even if they separate, she cannot back to her parents’ home out of the belief that a daughter is like water in a bowl which, once it has been poured out, cannot be put back.  At present there are efforts to bring these women home by means of the so-called Phum ceremony or ‘accepting daughters back home’, which has two stages.  ‘Likai’ is notification to the elders and the ancestors that the woman has come back as a member of the household and encouragement through a welcome ceremony and blessing from the elders and tying a thread around the wrist so that the woman can return to her former home.

In earlier days a Hmong man could kidnap a woman that he wanted to marry and raise a family with, by asking his friends to carry the woman off to his home.  When the people in the woman’s home saw that their daughter was missing, they knew this was a sign that she had been kidnapped.  The next day the man’s side had to bring the woman back home and ask for her hand as the end of the ceremony.  When a woman has undergone kidnapping, she must be cut off from her former home and go to live in her husband’s home.  Even if they separate, she cannot back to her parents’ home out of the belief that a daughter is like water in a bowl which, once it has been poured out, cannot be put back.  At present there are efforts to bring these women home by means of the so-called Phum ceremony or ‘accepting daughters back home’, which has two stages.  ‘Likai’ is notification to the elders and the ancestors that the woman has come back as a member of the household and encouragement through a welcome ceremony and blessing from the elders and tying a thread around the wrist so that the woman can return to her former home.

The many days I spent with the Hmong and Pga K'nyau were just a short time that challenged the assumptions I had had about disabled women, both on the issue of building a family life and whether they have an identity.  Before, it was hard even to imagine what the life of disabled women from ethnic minorities was like.

This exploration of their world tour taught me that the disabled women in this area do not have no access to, or do not know about issues of sex, but they have ways of belief and ways of sex in a pattern of their own.  Also the ways of the ethnic minorities themselves do not obstruct the disabled from having relations, but this is a difficult matter for the disabled who want to leave their current path because they have little opportunity to study further, to work, or to tell their story to others.

[1] Study finds ethnic minority women most exploited, oppressed by ethnic culture-beliefs.  4 still waiting for nationality – no access to law.

http://transbordernews.in.th/home/?p=3867

[2] Identity increases one’s power to set one’s own way of life: the disabled leading a free life in Thai society.  Kamolpun Punpuing, 2010.

[3] Study finds ethnic minority women most exploited, oppressed by ethnic culture-beliefs.  4 still waiting for nationality – no access to law.

http://transbordernews.in.th/home/?p=3867

[4] Karen
http://impect.or.th/?p=15026

[5] Traditional beliefs that repeatedly oppress those who are sexually abused - the voice of ethnic minority women

https://prachatai.com/journal/2017/11/74279

[6] Special report: ‘Disabled women (1)’ Jinxed life, raped-sterilised

https://prachatai.com/journal/2016/10/68524

[7] Sexuality of the disabled: illusion and attitude

https://prachatai.com/journal/2009/05/23927

 

HighlightHmongPga K'nyauethnic minoritydisabilitiesRightsmarriagegenderSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2018/10/78993
Categories: Prachatai English

Looking at the answers of past Commanders-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army when asked if they would lead a coup or not, after Apirat promises nothing

Prachatai English - Wed, 2018-10-24 11:01
Submitted on Wed, 2018-10-24 11:01PrachataiTurning back to answers from past Commanders-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army when asked if there would be a coup d’état, Chalermchai insisted “there won’t be one”; Teerachai smiled but didn’t answer; Udomdej affirmed that there definitely wouldn’t be one; Prayut gave answers that started as chaotic to a question that can’t be answered and as we know, Anupong insisted that there definitely wouldn’t be one, and Sonthi said there probably wouldn’t be one before saying “some questions cannot be answered even after death”.

On 17 Oct 2018, Gen Apirat Kongsompong, Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, gave an interview on the political situation where he insisted that neutrality depends on people’s views, and he is confident that he is neutral. While a question the Commander-in-Chief is often asked is whether the current situation would lead to a coup or not, the Commander-in-Chief asked what would have happened to the country if on that day, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha had not made a decision. He had great hopes that violence would not happen again in Thailand because the military would never defeat the people, while the people came out to set houses on fire or set off explosions. That is what makes the country lose.

“I am confident that if politics is not a reason for riots, then nothing will happen,” the Command-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army said.

 

‘Those who defame the Institution, if they are not crazy, have to seek asylum.’

To a question about his role in protecting the monarchy, Gen Apirat stressed that the army is the servant of the monarchy, out of both its duty and its respect. The army will protect the monarchy to the utmost of its ability.  Lèse-majesté many times occurred because people were mentally abnormal. Others were normal but had strange thoughts and could not stay in the country and had to flee to other countries.

“The people who commit lèse-majesté are mostly mentally abnormal. The people who are normal just have strange thoughts but they cannot stay in Thailand. They have to flee abroad because they can’t stay in Thailand. In our country we have lived under royal protection since the times of our grandparents. Why don’t they realise the debt they have to the country of their birth? There is no one who doesn’t love the country of their birth. The government changes but the monarch has to be with Thailand forever. This is the duty of the army, and I will protect the monarchy with everything that I have,” Gen Apirat said. (Sources: Voice TV and Khaosod)

Turning back to answers by Commanders-in-Chief about coups

Early last year, the Washington Post published an analysis “Where, of all the countries in the world, are coups most likely to occur in 2017?” and Thailand was ranked 2nd, behind Burundi, as the country where a coup is most likely to occur. 3rd was the Central African Republic, 4th Chad and 5th Turkey. At that time (2 Feb 2017), Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart, then Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, asked, so does the media believe it? Westerners can talk. The Thai people have brains; we are the ones here in the area. We know what is what and for this matter I already talked about it on 3 Oct 2016, on the day that I announced my policy to the army when I took up the position of Commander, and I said there won’t be one.

Chalermchai insists “there won’t be one”

When we turn back to 3 Oct this year, Gen Chalermchai said that, if we talk about a coup, then we must ask for what purpose, since in the current situation, we can’t stage a coup. Also, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Prime Minister and NCPO chief, already said that the last coup was the last one and wouldn’t have happened if the people didn’t agree. We can see that in the last 2 coups, the military has become involved in politics and their control of the situation has received an overwhelming response from the people. He said that he is a professional soldier. Whatever the commander says, goes. There aren’t any problems and no one has to worry about a coup because he guarantees that there won’t be one. “A double coup is impossible and won’t happen. I want to erase these words. Don’t worry. Whatever happens is up to the majority of the people in the country. If the government rules with virtue, nothing can happen. I want everyone to forget about a coup and don’t ask me again,” Gen Chalermchai said. (Source: Manager Online)

Teerachai smiles, but doesn’t answer

On 30 Sept 2015 after the Commander-in-Chief transition ceremony, Gen Teerachai Nakwanich, the then new Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, answered the question whether there was going to be a coup during his term. Gen Teerachai only smiled without saying anything before immediately returning to the Royal Thai Army headquarters. (Source: Manager Online)

Udomdej affirms that there definitely won’t be one

On 8 June 2015, Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, then Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army and Minister of Defence, answered a question about rumours concerning another coup after news concerning the monarchy. Gen Udomdej said that there definitely wouldn’t be one. The army was still sticking to the government’s policy and the Prime Minister. Everything was going according to his wish to make the country stable. Organisations under the government were also cooperating well. The army was fully ready to help the government and the Prime Minister. (Source: Bangkokbiznews)

Prayut gave answers that started as chaotic to a question that can’t be answered.

Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister and Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), when he was still the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, talked of matters concerning coups at least 10 times in interviews. The first time was on 8 Oct 2013 when there was a movement to push forward the Amnesty Bill. Gen Prayut said not to demand that the military come out. If they come out, it’ll be chaotic. Up till 20 May 2014, the day Martial Law was enforced throughout the country, he said in interviews that a coup is a question that can’t be answered. Two days later, the NCPO announced it was taking over from the acting government at that time and it has been in power for more than 4 years.

28 Oct 2013Don’t demand that the military come out. If they come out, it’ll be chaotic. (In response to the media, on concerns about the Amnesty Bill.)

4 Nov 2013Every time the military comes out, they come out under a legal order, not when they want to. (In answering the question whether the military come out if the protests against the Amnesty Bill continued to drag on.)

8 Dec 2013If the military carries out a reform (coup) again and solves the issue the wrong way, other problems will recur. How will Thailand stand among the world community then?  (Confirming that no matter happens at the People's Democratic Reform Committee’s major protest on 9 Dec 2013, the military will not come out.)

7 Jan 2014Rumours are news that isn’t true. So don’t believe them.  (Denying rumours that military movements at that time were for a coup.)

22 Jan 2014Today we have to abide by the rules. We cannot do anything outside the rules because the armed forces carry weapons.  (In response to the government announcement enforcing the Emergency Degree in Bangkok and surrounding areas.)

24 Feb 2014What the military is doing right now must abide by the constitutional law.  (Reading a statement on the position of the army towards the political situation on Channel 5, the Royal Thai Army Radio and Television Station)

25 March 2014By what rules would I become Prime Minister?  (A question back to Nattawut Saikua, who stated that Gen Prayut is also one of the candidates to become a compromise Prime Minister)

9 April 2014The military’s position right now is to not side with those that break the law.  (In response to a speech by Suthep Thaugsuban, Secretary-General of the PDRC, on sovereignty.)

10 May 2014The military should be kept as a last resort. I believe that a coup wouldn’t end anything.  (Leaving a message on the show Lab Luang Prang, insisting that the army has to be resolute and cannot act according to others’ demands.)

20 May 2014A coup d’état is a question that cannot be answered.  (As Director of the Peace and Order Maintaining Command, in answer to a question on the concept of appointing a Prime Minister under Article 7 after the declaration of Martial Law.)

Anupong insists that there definitely won’t be one

On 27 Dec 2009 Gen Anupong Paochinda, then Commander-in-Chief, answered a question about whether it is possible to close the door on coups d’état. If next year something occurs and blood is shed, Gen Anupong said “if I issue an order that is wrong, I think they wouldn’t follow it. The military doesn’t take sides. Anything that allows the country to continue moving forward and exist. Thai people cannot fight each other. The military won’t allow that to happen. At the same time, don’t do anything illegal because we can’t live like that. I will confirm that next year there won’t be any bloodshed and definitely no coup. We have many other ways to solve the issues of the nation and I think that most people wouldn’t consent. I believe that no one would. I won’t let it reach that point. I believe that. Anyone who thinks that there will be a coup can forget it. I think there’s no way.” (Source: Prachatai)

Sonthi ‘There probably won’t be one.’

“There probably won’t be one. We have to be resolute. Don’t believe these trends that will diminish our unity.” Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin answered a question on rumours of a coup before a real coup occurred later (19 Sept 2006).

On 25 Nov 2005, Gen Sonthi also said not to be worried about a coup since a coup would cause damage to the country.

Many years after Gen Sonthi left power , Maj. Gen. Sanan Khachonprasat asked him a question on 21 March 2012 about who was behind the coup on 19 Sept 2006. Gen Sonthi answered “Some questions cannot be answered even after death”. (Source:

HighlightCommander-in-ChiefRoyal Thai ArmGen Apirat KongsompongGen Prayut Chan-o-chacoup makersspeech
Categories: Prachatai English

Do we need diversity education in Thailand?

Prachatai English - Mon, 2018-10-22 13:53
Submitted on Mon, 2018-10-22 13:53Nattavud Pimpa

Thailand has always been a diverse place of people of different racial, cultural, physical and mental backgrounds. Unfortunately, we seem to forget to include this vital concept in our social policies. 

Indeed, diversity is more than a mere buzz word. With expanding regionalism, Thai businesses’ greater incorporation of individuals with different conditions and abilities into their workforce can enhance their productivity while helping contribute to social and economic progress as a whole. 

Unfortunately, when we examine how Thais learn about diversity or how to manage workforce of diverse backgrounds, it seems that the centrality of ‘Thai identity’ can distort the issue. It has remained unspoken and under-utilised, thanks to the growing sentiment of ‘Thainess’ and the rising trend of nationalism in this society!

But Thailand’s greater adoption of diversity management can happen and it can start at schools. 

Thailand needs people who understand this concept and practice it. We need business operators, owners, managers, educators, and leaders who are fully aware of the challenges of diversity in the current global and local context.

The creation of ethical and diversity sentinels at school level is truly important. Thai educators need to commit themselves more to teach and promote diversity management in their curriculum.

Diversity gives all organisations access to a greater range of ideas and global connectedness, not just the talent that belongs to a particular world-view or some other restricting definition. Management of diversity will provide insight into the needs and motivations of all of stakeholders.

The dilemma in learning and teaching of diversity in Thai schools is to move or not to move beyond the nationalist sentiments. At present, two scenarios have emerged. 

Known as “continued globalisation,” the first scenario is a positive one that has been widely discussed among the ‘globalists’. Emerging economies and/or hyper growth in trade have been a major conduit of overall world growth and reduction in poverty. We believe in the power of diversity. 

Research shows that promotion of diversity in developed countries, such as Australia and Germany, is related to higher political participation among their citizens, people engagement in social policies, and decreases in poverty and upgrades in economic and technological capabilities. Good education can accelerate the level of diversity worldwide.

On the other hand, we are still experiencing Thais who criticise diversity and mobility of people as the negative consequence of globalisation. We still witness issues such as nationalism, homophobia, sexist, discrimination among migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, lack of legal and social systems to promote equality among migrant workers in Thailand. 

In the current climate, we have seen actions that explain the lack of understanding of diversity from the Governmental policies such as threatening unregistered migrant workers with long prison terms and large fines. This poor understanding of basic diversity leads to corruption among officials and unscrupulous employers to abuse and exploit the workers.

Obviously, we do not comprehend the concept of diversity.

The debate on diversity management in Thai education remains sluggish, although almost all universities offer business and management degrees aiming at producing managers of global standard.

There are two important points that Thai schools should consider when they develop their management curriculum.

The first issue is “how to teach high-level diversity management in the curriculum?” There are, in fact, a wide range of learning and teaching activities that can help students recognise the essential humanity and value of different types of people. This is a good starting point.

If we start from the classroom level, our business students will be able to design a strong organisational framework on diversity management, which is still lacking in Thailand. This framework can be developed after the introduction of national legislation designed to promote equal opportunity in society at all levels. We need more role models when to comes to diversity in Thailand.

We should encourage both public and provate organisations to be the role models in issues such as skills promotion for people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and interest (LGBTQI)staff and their rights, equality among men and women at work, older workers in the Thai workforce, and acknowledgements of migrant workers in the contemporary Thai economy. 

Role models who demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities from diverse backgrounds, and make social contributions in a non-stereotypical way will help students recognise the meaningful and limitless ways in which they can have a positive impact on society. 

More importantly, we need to teach the future business leaders to be clear on “what they want to achieve” in developing diversity policies. 

There are a number of lessons-learnt on the fundamental error of failing to align corporate’s diversity practices with their goals. Some Thai business organisations aim to promote potential of diverse teams, by then implement diversity policies, primarily designed to foster the representation of certain social groups in leadership positions. Without understanding a clear objective of diversity, they will fail and give up on such policies. Only by understanding what the ultimate goal is can they have a chance of reaching it.

Diversity policies must be researched, assessed for effectiveness, and implemented with care so that everyone in our society can feel valued and supported. Socially, we are becoming more knowledgeable about, and accepting of, individuals with unique conditions and abilities, which is generating an ecosystem of inclusiveness. Thai schools will need to serve the real change when it comes to diversity in our society. 

Nattavud Pimpa is an associate professor in international business at the College of Management, Mahidol University.

OpinioneducationdiversitypovertyNattavud Pimpa
Categories: Prachatai English

Just Deserts

Prachatai English - Thu, 2018-10-18 17:16
Submitted on Thu, 2018-10-18 17:16Harrison George

On the morning of 9 August, a bus stopped in the market area of the town of Dahyan in northern Yemen, close to the border with Saudi Arabia.  People at the scene reported that warplanes had been circling the area for an hour or so, a common occurrence.  The area was crowded with civilians.  Well, it is a market.

A Saudi Arabian fighter jet then made a direct hit on the bus.  CNN claimed to have found a fragment of the bomb.  This has markings that identify it as a 500-pound laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin and sold to the Saudi government with the approval of the US government (earning valuable export income, well done). 

The bodies of some of the victims were so pulverized that an accurate count of the number of casualties is not possible, but the best guess is 51 dead and about the same number injured, maybe more.

The identity of the occupants of the bus is not in doubt.  A video clip was taken from a mobile phone inside the bus just before it was hit.  It shows a bunch of schoolboys, mostly under 10, having a whale of a time.  They were on a rare school outing and had stopped at the market for a drink.

The phone survived.  Its owner did not.

The reaction of the Saudi government to news of the bombings was forthright and unapologetic.  They had attacked enemy missile launchers that had been used to fire rockets into southern Saudi Arabia (none of which hit any school bus, by the way). 

The Saudi Press Agency put out a quote from Col Turki Al-Malki, official spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition that dominates one side of the Yemen civil war and a US-trained pilot of the Royal Saudi Air Force.  He said the bombing was ‘a legitimate military action, conducted in conformity with the International Humanitarian Law’.  (Don’t you love the way they put that in capitals?)

When he was appointed spokesman, Col Al-Malki said that he would ‘continue to transparently and openly communicate about its military campaign to support the legitimate government of Yemen’.  Yes, of course, that’s what military spokesmen do the world over.  Like in Thailand.  He’s since gone on to complain, transparently and openly, about ‘biased’ UN reports of civilian casualties.

As footage of small corpses started appearing in the international news, there was a slight shift in the Saudi story.  It accused the Houthis (the other side in the civil war) of deliberately using children as human shields. 

By September 1, the story had changed again.  Lt Gen Mansour al-Mansour, head of the ‘Joint Incidents Assessment Team’ of the Saudi-led coalition, apologized for the ‘collateral damage’ and promised compensation to the families of bystanders who were killed and injured.

Bystanders?  Ah, no, you see, they were still claiming that the bus contained Houthi military personnel.  You know, those people who were hiding when the video was taken and whose corpses must have vaporized into thin air.  So they did hit the right target, but unfortunately in the wrong spot, i.e. the middle of a crowded market.

Lt Gen al-Mansour may not be an altogether reliable source.  He is a Bahraini military lawyer (and we in Thailand well know what an oxymoron that can be).  His main claim to fame, apart from lying for the Saudis, was running a tribunal in Bahrain in the wake of the Arab Spring protests.  Hundreds of non-violent protestors were handed lengthy jail terms (some got life).  Claims of torture and sexual assault in detention were routinely ignored.  He also regularly closed his court to the media and human rights monitors.

In his role as head of the Joint Incidents Assessment Team, Lt Gen al-Mansour has looked into Saudi airstrikes against civilian targets like hospitals, weddings, funerals, the list goes on and on.  And blow me if they didn’t all turn out to be perfectly legitimate and in conformity with whatever he thinks ‘international humanitarian law’ might be.

Now at the time of the Dahyan attack, there were calls for some kind of international action to be taken against the Saudi government in the hope of preventing the murders of even more children.  These came from the regular bleeding-heart suspects: the human rights and aid agencies, the UN, the Red Cross. 

The US asked for ‘an investigation’. (Well, they got one, didn’t they?  All nice and freshly whitewashed.)  The UK, who alongside the US dominates arms sales to the Saudi government, expressed ‘concern’.  No, I do them a disservice.  It was in fact ‘deep concern’.  End of story.

Now fast forward to 2 October.

A US-resident Saudi national goes into the Royal Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and never comes out again.  The Turkish authorities, citing surprisingly detailed evidence that has not been made public, say he was murdered by a group of government and military ‘tourists’ who flew in from Riyadh on private jets and flew out again a day later, carrying, it is alleged, a bone saw in their luggage. 

And all hell breaks loose. 

Well, not quite all.  As I write, Trump and his apologists are still trying to stitch together some flimsy fig leaf for his autocratic friends in Riyadh.  

 

But the shine has suddenly come off Crown Prince Mohammad ‘MBS’ bin Salman.  Even the corporate sector has found enough conscience to start deserting in droves his forthcoming ‘Davos in the Desert’ Future Investment Initiative conference.  There was not a peep out of the lot of them when 40-odd kids got incinerated by the same guilty party.

Why the difference?

Well putative assassinee Jamal Khashoggi is no hick from some dusty Arabian desert town. 

Under previous management, he was advisor to the Saudi royal family.  His father was royal doctor to the first king of the Sauds.  One of his uncles was Adnan Khashoggi, an arms trader and general wheeler-dealer who accumulated US$4bn, numerous charges of fraud and racketeering, and a starring role in the Iran-Contra scandal.  A cousin is Mohamed Al-Fayed, erstwhile owner of Harrod’s and Fulham football club, which automatically means Khashoggi was also a relative of Mohamed’s son Dodi Al-Fayed, who died in a high-profile high-speed car crash in Paris with his girlfriend whose name escapes me for the moment. 

Translation: he is a fully-paid-up, card-carrying member of the 1%. 

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman can kill as many ordinary Yemenis as he likes, either directly by dropping bombs on them or indirectly death by starvation or disease.  And the 1% – government, corporate or hiso – will turn not a hair.

Just don’t touch one of their own.

About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).

Alien ThoughtsSaudi ArabiaYemenJamal KhashoggiCrown Prince Mohammad bin SalmanArab Spring
Categories: Prachatai English

Supreme Court acquits Kalasin police for covered up murder of 17-year-old boy during drugs war

Prachatai English - Thu, 2018-10-18 10:24
Submitted on Thu, 2018-10-18 10:24Prachatai

The Supreme Court has dismissed the charges against 6 Kalasin police officers over the hanging of a 17-year-old youth, who allegedly stole a motorcycle during the drug war.  It stated that witness testimony was unreliable, unconvincing and not credible, and gave the accused the benefit of the doubt.

On 11 Oct 2018, the Criminal Court, Ratchadaphisek Road, read the verdict of the Supreme Court for the murder of Kiattisak Thitbunkhrong and its cover-up during the war on drugs.  The case was brought by the Public Prosecutor of the Department of Special Litigation 1 against 6 defendants, former police officers of Kalasin Provincial Police Station, on charges of first degree murder, moving a corpse for the purpose of concealing the cause of death and acting improperly in their position as officers with the power to investigate criminal cases to help a person or persons to escape punishment.

Thaipost newspaper reported that the court summoned from prison the first 3 defendants, Pol Sen Sgt Maj Angkhan Khammunna, aged 54, Pol Sen Sgt Maj Sutthinan Nonthing, 49, and Pol Sen Sgt Maj Phansin Uppanan, 48. The 4th defendant, Pol Lt Col Samphao Indi, 57, former Inspector (Suppression), Kalasin Provincial Police Station, and 6th defendant Pol.Lt.Col. Sumit Nansathit, 51, former Deputy Superintendent of Kalasin Provincial Police Station, who had been given bail, were also summoned to court, while the 5th defendant Pol. Col. Montri Sibunlue, 68, former Superintendent of Kalasin Provincial Police Station, is on the run (all ranks at the time).

The Court read the verdict of the Supreme Court, which stated that the prosecutor had only one witness and no eyewitness. The testimony was scrutinized many times, and was found to be unreliable and not credible. Moreover, the 6 defendants have always denied the offence. It is therefore doubtful if they really committed the offence, and so were given the benefit of the doubt.  The prosecuting statement and prosecutor sounded unreasonable. The court ordered the case against all 6 defendants dismissed.

This killing occurred on 22-23 July 2004. The 1st-3rd and 6th defendants together allegedly killed Kiattisak Thitbunkhrong, aged just over 17, accused of stealing a motorcycle, by taking him out of Kalasin Provincial Police Station, strangling him to death and hanging the corpse to cover up the crime. All 6 defendants denied all charges.

On 6 September, the Court issued an arrest warrant for Pol. Col. Montri, the 5th defendant and confiscated his bail of 1 million baht because he did not attend the verdict of the Supreme Court.

The Court of First Instance issued its verdict on 30 July 2012, sentencing the 1st-3rd defendants to the death penalty for murder and moving a corpse for the purpose of concealing the cause of death. The 6th defendant received a life sentence for murder. The 5th defendant was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment for acting improperly as an officer with the power to investigate criminal cases and the 4th defendant was acquitted. The prosecutor, joint prosecutor, and the defendants appealed. The Court of Appeal examined the case, held a consultation meeting and issued an amended verdict. The 1st-3rd defendants were found guilty of first-degree murder and moving a corpse for the purpose of concealing the cause of death. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Court of First Instance’s sentence of death for the 1st and 3rd defendants, but the testimony of the 2nd defendant was beneficial to the case and his sentence was reduced to 50 years imprisonment. In addition, the 4th defendant was guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death, but the defendant gave testimony beneficial to the case and the sentence was mitigated to life imprisonment. The 5th and 6th defendants were found guilty of acting improperly as officers with the power to investigate criminal cases but the Court of First Instance’s sentence of 7 years imprisonment was judged too heavy and was reduced to 5 years imprisonment.

This killing occurred in 2004, while the drug suppression policy of the government of Thaksin Shinawatra was being implemented. Many deaths and disappearances occurred at that time.

The Human Rights Lawyers Association stated that this case is an example reflecting the improper conduct of police officers and is rare in that the state officials were brought before the judicial process, but it was not easy. During the 12 years that the case was being heard, the relatives of the victim had to travel and file complaints with many agencies. There were repeated threats made against relatives and witnesses. Important witnesses disappeared, and some died in mysterious circumstances.

Newswar on drugsKiattisak ThitbunkhrongKalasin Provincial Police StationSupreme Courtcriminal justiceSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2018/10/79102
Categories: Prachatai English

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