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Prachatai English

Junta courts politicians ahead of general elections

Prachatai English - Mon, 2018-08-06 19:36
Submitted on Mon, 2018-08-06 19:36

With the ban on parties engaging in political activity still in place, a group of pro-junta politicians is forming a political coalition to support the junta leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha in the next general elections. The coalition will target the Northeast, the stronghold of the Pheu Thai party. 

The “Three Friends” group (Klum Sam Mit)” has been named as the key people orchestrating the attempts. The ‘three friends’ comprise Somsak Thepsuthin, Suriya Juangroongruangkit and Somkid Jatusripitak. The are all founding members of Thai Rak Thai Party (TRT), a now dissolved party once led by Thaksin Shinawatra. They were instrumental in convincing politicians in the Northeast to join the party until TRT had enough members to officially register as a political party in 2001.

On 18 June 2018, Somsak and Siruya visited three politicians in Loey. One of them, Preecha Rengsomboonsuk, is a former Minister of Natural Resources and Environment under the Pheu Thai government. Preecha revealed that they came together to brainstorm policies and planned to visit rural politicians to seek more allies, adding that Suriya is the head of the Three Friends. Later, Suriya revealed that the group would support Palang Pracharat Party and promote Prayut as the Prime Minister in the upcoming election.

The new Palang Pracharat Party (PPP), which literally translates as the ‘People's State Power Party’, has actively supported the re-election of Prayut and vowed to continue the NCPO’s national reform plan. Its leader, Suchart Jantarachotikul, is a southern politician and a former member of the NCPO’s National Reform Council. The party also claimed that it will invited Prayut to be an advisory board.

However, Prayut has claimed not to be involved with the PPP, saying that he treated all political parties equally. Somkid, who is currently the NCPO’s Deputy Prime Minister in Economic Affairs, also denied his involvement with the Three Friends but still admitted that “we’re all friends”.  

On 27 June, the group invited about 50 former MPs to join a “discussion” at Pinehurst Golf Club. Most of the invited group were Northeastern politicians and used to be members of TRT or the Pheu Thai Party. Suriya revealed that all politicians invited to the golf club expressed readiness to join the Palang Pracharat Party.

The discussion at Pinehurst Golf Club (Photo from MCOT)

Another supporter of the Three Friends appears to be Suphon Atthawong, also known as Rambo I-saan. He was the former deputy secretary of the prime minister under the TRT government and an active member of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), commonly known as the red shirt movement. 

Suphon resigned from Pheu Thai about a month after the 2014 coup and vowed not to return to politics. After breaking his promise and joining the Palang Pracharat Party, he has accused Pheu Thai parties and the UDD of overlooking him and pursuing their own political interests rather than those of the people. 

Other names in the Group of Three’s Friends include Chamlong Krutkhuntod, a former deputy leader of TRT and Minister of Education under Thaksin government; Wieng Worachet, a former Pheu Thai MP who has won general elections in Roi-et four times; and Anucha Nakasai, a former executive member of TRT.

What about Thaksin?

The emergence of the Three Friends raises the question of whether Thaksin’s party will struggle in the upcoming election, given that majority of his supporters are northeastern people. 

In response, on 22 June, Thaksin made a video call from London to his brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat, vowing that Pheu Thai will still win all constituencies in the Northeast, as well as the general elections. He also sang a song, wishing those who joined the pro-junta party good luck and added that he would replace them with new-blood politicians.

“I’m about to tweet a message thanking those MPs who left the party because they have made great sacrifices for the new generation to become [the people’s] representatives,” Thaksin said in the video call. 

In an interview with BBC Thai, Thaksin categorised those MPs who left the party into three groups. The first are those who have a lawsuit, the second are in debt, and the third are overconfident that their personal popularity exceeds that of the party.

In June, various Pheu Thai politicians revealed that many former MPs had been invited to join the Group of Three’s Friends with an offer of money and political positions. According to Worachai Hema, a Samut Prakan Pheu Thai MP, the offer for so-called “A-class” politicians was up to 50 million baht.  

"Lastly, if any former MP of the party wants to leave, it’s alright, because after leaving, there will be people who are ready to replace them immediately. Many people want to work with Pheu Thai. I confirm that Pheu Thai will stand alongside the people to keep fighting the dictator,” Worachai added. 

While some UDD members have decided to join the Three Friends, Nattawut Saikua, the UDD leader, stated that the movement remains strong since those who leave do not honestly believe in democracy. 

“For us, it’s not hot news at all. We’ve always seen the clues and each other’s minds,” Nattawut said. “I told my friends not to be shaken. The Three Friends, or the vacuum force, now is working as a classifying process to cross-out those who are not in a ready mind.”

Harassment of the Future Forward Party
 
Although most criticism on the Three Friends come from Pheu Thai Party, the harassment happen to another small party. On 31 July 2018, members of the Future Forward Party (FFP), including Charuwan Saranket, Klaikong Vaidhyakarn and Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, visited the Office of the Technology Crime Suppression Division to answer questions in the case filed against them by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). All refused to provide information to the police, so the investigation finished within the hour.

Klaikong Vaidhyakarn confirmed in an interview that the NCPO is accusing them of violating the Computer Crimes Act for publishing content that creates public panic, and which constitutes treason and a threat to national security. The junta filed a complaint against administrators of the Facebook page “Future Forward Party” and “Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit” after they criticised the NCPO’s attempts to attract politicians from civilian parties to join its side in the upcoming general elections. 

Klaikong added that the security authorities are closely monitoring all FPP activities. Recently, some rural supporters of the FPP were forced to resign from positions in a local administrative organisation after joining the party’s campaign. 

FFP members answer questions at the Office of the Technology Crime Suppression Division
 

Round UpFuture Forward PartyPalang Pracharat Partyjunta 2014National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)Elections
Categories: Prachatai English

Witness of 2010 Massacre might be tried for another 2 years: lawyer

Prachatai English - Wed, 2018-08-01 17:06
Submitted on Wed, 2018-08-01 17:06

On 20 July 2018, the Bangkok Military Court called for witness testimony of the Article 112 case, the royal defamation case, against “Waen” Nattatida Meewangpla, a crucial witness in the 6-dead massacre at Pathum temple in 2010. 

The testimony of two witnesses, Maj Gen Wicharn Jodtaeng and Police Major General Surasak Khunnarong, started at 8.30 am. When Waen was brought to the Bangkok Military Court, she was taken into the building immediately, and the Court ordered this case to be a closed trial. 

At 2.00 pm after the trial, Winyat Chatmontree, the defendant’s lawyer, gave his opinion to the media. He said that the witness in today’s testimony didn’t have any clear evidence indicating that the defendant is guilty. The only evidence used to accuse the defendant is a photo taken of a screen of a smartphone showing Waen’s conversation on the messaging application LINE, just one picture and one message. 

There was no evidence showing computer data that can be compared to those in the defendant’s smartphone to check its accuracy or find if there are any discrepancies in the document. Besides, there are still many doubts about the acquisition of the evidence and eyewitnesses. 

Winyat views that the two witnesses had made an inquiry on Waen in a different case (the court-bombing case) all along, with a record of the investigation of that case as the evidence, but the witness gave conflicting testimonies to the truth. The defence lawyer sees that this eyewitness’s suspicious point makes the evidence weak.

“The defence lawyer tried to destroy the credibility of the accusation that Waen is someone who holds hostility towards the king or is part of an anti-monarchy group. The lawyer brought the original copy of an invitation sent from the Foundation of King Rama Nine, The Great in 2013 to show that Waen helped organised a pro-monarchy event, displaying her loyalty. However, the prosecutor objected to this document, claiming that it has no relations to this witness. The defence lawyer argued that the witness accusing the defendant of anti-royalism could be due to personal prejudice, despite how the defendant has continuously denied all charges and insisted on her innocence all along,” Winyat said.

Another point the lawyer views as a weakness of the accusation is that the message they claimed was posted by Waen wasn’t shown to the public. It was posted in a private group of members, but there was no evidence of messages sent from other members.

According to the charge, the problematic message was posted on 8 March 2015, but a point worth observing is that after that day, Nattatida was arrested and officers had taken her LINE account and password. Why is it that there is only one piece of paper as evidence for a crime that caused her to be held in prison like this?, Winyat questioned.

When asked how long he thinks this trial will take, Winyat explained that in this case, the prosecutor has nine witnesses and the defendant has 10 witnesses. It should take around two years since there aren’t enough judges. The witnesses for the prosecution tend to not come according to the summons, as well as the fact that the dates and times for the appointments don’t allow the case to be tried continuously. 

As for bail, the defence lawyer put forward 900,000 baht to bail Nattatida, but the Bangkok Military Court denied, stating that there is no reason to change the court order to something else. The legal team plans to request bail again at the next questioning of the witness for the prosecution.

Concerning the donation money for bail, Kanphat Singthong, another lawyer of Waen who had opened up an account for donations, said that the most recent total amount was one million and 50,000 baht. If the bail is approved, the rest of the money will be given to Waen as treatment fees and start-up funds.

The court has made an appointment to question the witness for the prosecution on 4 September 2018, also making an appointment with Associate Professor Suthini Rattanawara, Faculty of Law, Ramkhamhaeng University, as an expert witness concerning the message the prosecution accused Waen.

Waen rescused a victim of the 2010 Massacre

NewsNattatida Meewangplamilitary crackdown 2010Article 112Lèse-majesté
Categories: Prachatai English

An Open Letter on the Child Marriage Case of the 11-Year-Old Girl

Prachatai English - Sat, 2018-07-28 08:25
Submitted on Sat, 2018-07-28 08:25

An Open Letter on the Child Marriage Case of the 11-Year-Old Girl to H.E. Prime Minister, H.E. Minister of Social Development and Human Security, H.E. Minister of Justice, H.E. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikhul Islam Office of Thailand, The Central Islamic Council of Thailand and Concerned Agencies

July 25, 2018 

Child marriage below the age of 18 is a violation of basic human rights of children, especially regarding physical, intellectual, emotional, and mental development, which adversely affects their quality of life as well as society and economy in the long run. It also deprives girls and boys of the rights to live their lives as a child and destroys their educational opportunities. It put children at risk of danger to health, including becoming the victims of domestic violence and abuses. Marriage is a significant foundation of a family institution where the spouses must be capable of bearing responsibility for themselves, family, and society. Premature marriage obstructs the development of children in every aspect, causing the inability to create a perfect family institution.

Members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), such as Algeria, Oman, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, and Turkey, have set the minimum age of marriage at 18 years of age. Recently, Indonesia has agreed to sign a decree banning child marriage. In Malaysia, the minimum age of marriage is set in both civil and Islamic laws at the age of 18 for boys and at 16 for girls, without exceptions. 

In Thailand, child marriage is permitted under the Civil and Commercial Code. With an exception under the Civil Procedure Code, a man who has sexually assaulted an underage girl regardless of her consent, which is a criminal offense under the section 277 of the Penal Code, can marry her with the permission of the court and by fulfilling the requirements of the law. The Islamic Law on Family and Legislation, BE 2484, and the Act on Application of Islamic Law in the Provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala and Satun, BE 2489, do not prescribe the minimum age of marriage but leave it upon the discretion of the court, which has created a legal loophole where child marriage is legitimized based on local norms and customary practices in several cases, all of which are the violation of the Child Protection Act, BE 2546.

In the case of a 41-year-old Malaysian man marrying an 11-year-old girl from Narathiwat, Thailand, claiming the marriage was performed in accordance with the Islamic principles, the governmental and non-governmental agencies, including religious bodies in Malaysia and Thailand, have not been negligent but hastened to coordinate efforts to protect the child by convening a meeting on July 11, 2018 in Pattani. The meeting with the Central Islamic Council of Pattani and Narathiwat were held respectively. The Central Islamic Council of Narathiwat has clarified the marriage was wrong as the marriage document was falsified and the Central Islamic Council of Narathiwat was falsely claimed as the authorizing body to endorse the marriage. Also, the Imam who performed the marriage has been put on probation; hence he is unauthorized to perform the marriage for anyone. Currently, the Imam has been punished by the Central Islamic Council of Narathiwat. The marriage is, therefore, invalid and nullified. Nonetheless, the incident above indicates a legal loophole that enables the sexual exploitation of children under 18.

Child marriage in the southern frontier provinces of Thailand continues to be misused as a tool to deal with premarital pregnancy and child abuses such as rape. Forced marriage has become the only way to avoid shame, especially from having an illegitimate child and to legalize the relationship. Marriage to escape poverty is another major reason for child marriage. Therefore, the efficient and sustainable elimination and prevention of child marriage require an attitude and behavioral change to create a new social norm. Religious and community organizations are required to take responsibility for the empowerment of the community through the Zakat Fund as a powerful tool to eliminate disparities and poverty in the community. This effort should be implemented alongside the amendment and enforcement of the laws by upholding the best interest of the child. To fulfill the obligations to The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the CEDAW committee has given the recommendation to Thailand to amend the Criminal Code, Section 277 by setting the nationwide minimum age of marriage at 18.  The measures to eliminate child marriage and forced marriage must also be introduced (paragraph 49 (a) CEDAW / C / THA / CO6-7).

Today's children are the future of tomorrow. All children have the rights to thrive for their hopes and dreams. To achieve their fullest potentials, they should learn and have access to education, instead of getting married before the age of 18. Thus, to protect the 11-year-old girl and to prevent exploitation, sexual abuses, and for the long-term prevention of exploitation of children, child abuse and violation of the rights of the child from child marriage, the undersigned individuals and organizations of this open letter urge the concerned parties to take the following actions:

1. The provincial governor of Narathiwat province, as the chairman of the Provincial Child Protection Committee, with direct responsibility under the Child Protection Act, BE 2546, is urged resort to the legal mechanisms and lodge a police report as to activate the relevant authorities to investigate the evidence of sexual assault and exploitation against the child. The police report would lead to further steps of rescue and protection of the child which enable her access to basic rights, especially education. It is also imperative to file litigation against the offender to establish future norms and procedures for child protection.

2. The Central Islamic Council of Narathiwat is urged to make a public clarity on the marriage of 41-year-old Malaysian man and 11-year-old Thai girl to clarify unlawful conduct of nikah and forgery of the official documents, which have led to the exploitation and the violation of the rights of the child. These offenses have also damaged the reputation of the Central Islamic Council of Narathiwat province.

3. The Central Islamic Council of Thailand and the Provincial Central Islamic Councils are urged to take strict measures to protect the rights of children and women by conducting a clear and careful investigation of women’s willingness to marry, and ensure no women are forced in marriage. The measures must be urgently established to prevent the child marriage of women under the age of 18. An example can be taken from the Central Islamic Council of Pattani Province, under whom, the child marriage below 18 years of age is prohibited based on the strict observation of Child Protection Act, BE 2546. Men wishing to marry more than one wife must be scrutinized to assess their behavior, economic ability and capacity to ensure genuine justice in the family based on Islamic principle, which includes the emotional and mental justice for the prior wife/wives.

4. The government is urged to coordinate with all sectors to address the problem of child marriage. It is particularly important to work closely with Sheikhul Islam Office of Thailand and Central Islamic Council of Thailand to ensure the verdicts and laws pertaining to marriage and child protection are in compliance with Islamic principles, as well as  the international instruments and conventions, to which the Thai government has given the commitment, and hence is obliged to fulfill.  These conventions include the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), particularly in preventing child marriage and forced marriage. The Thai government must seek cooperation with the Malaysian government to improve the laws and ensure their compatibility with the aim to prevent the misuse of legal loopholes between the two countries for the exploitation of children including sexual abuse against children and women. 

 

The Undersigned Organizations and Individuals

Hearty Support Group (Duay Jai)

Women's Four-region Network (Southern Region)

The Network of Civic Women for Peace (Civic Women)

Southern Women’s Peace Network to Stop Violence

Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN)

Research and Campaign Network for Women

Songkhla Public Health Coverage Network (Public Benefit Organization)

Dr. Vacharuthia Boonthinan, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University

Nuntalee Jararut

Panan Heemmina

Pornpen Khongkachonkiet

Asian Resource Foundation

Cross Cultural Foundation

Foundation for Women

Foundation for Women and Children Protection

Friends of Women Foundation

Foundation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

Foundation for Peace and Culture

Asian Culture of Peace Foundation

Center of Excellence on Women and Social Security, Walailak University

Muslim Women Protection Center, Laem Pho District

Women and Family Learning Center, Talubok District, Muang, Pattani

International Institute of Peace and Development Studies

Children and Youth Association for Southern Border Peace (LukRiang Group)

Women's Association for Peace

FahSai Association for the Promotionof Youth Welfare in the South

The Coordination Center of Informal Labor Workers of Thailand

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nongyao Nawarat, Faculty of Social Sciences Chiang Mai University

Lamai Manakarn

Wanee Thitiprasert

Suchart Setthamaliness, Vice Chairman of Central Islamic Council of Chiang Mai

Asma Mangkornchai

Rosenun Chesof, University of Malaya

Sitimuna Ibrahim Payordueramae

Chuleeporn Kulyanon

Tianthida Tongpenkaew

Kanokwan Treethong

Somruedee Surasereewong

Sumalee Uthaitavorn

Amara Naksathit

Krittiya Sritrairattanarak

Pattapong Kulyanon

Pat Kulyanon

Prateep Rahedhard

Nat Kulyanon

Patcharin Juanworachai

Sunee Mukngern

Mukda Charusripan

Duangjit Panichkorn

Chomphunuch Chomwad

Anand Hunchana

Switta Yaprajuk

Waemeenoh Hajisamae

Sainung Salae

Yameela Hajisamae

Nattaya Hajisamae

Nareehun Sajisamae

Woranuch Chanchaona

 

 

Pick to PostChild MarriageChild ProtectionThe Central Islamic Council of Thailand
Categories: Prachatai English

Thai CSOs demand for greater responsibility of Thai investors in their investments abroad

Prachatai English - Wed, 2018-07-25 18:35
Submitted on Wed, 2018-07-25 18:35Joint StatementStatement of Thai CSOs demanding for greater responsibility of Thai investors in their investments abroad

We, representatives from communities affected by Thai investment abroad, network of river communities, NGOs, Thai foundations (concerning poor human rights practice of Thai investors abroad ), and civil society in ASEAN countries, concerned about the lack of responsibility to provide remedies and compensation. We demand the Thai investor- Ratchaburi Holding Enterprises Ltd to responsible for the damage they caused from operating XeNamNoy dam- including 6000 people who lost their lives, homes, properties, agricultural lands and encountering psychological damage due to the loss.

The recent Xe Nam Noy dam collapse in Attapeu province, Lao PDR has raised high alarm calling for greater responsibility of Thai investors in its outbound investments. The 410 MW Xenamnoy dam is located in Attapeu province; the dam involved Thai investor- Ratchaburi holding PCL (with 25% share), Korean and Singapore investors. The dam will export 90% of electricity to Thailand, said by Mr. Kiatkun Chatprasert, Thailand’s Ambassador to Lao PDR. The dam will start commercialized operation in 2019; Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand (EGAT) is the buyer and big four banks in Thailand provided funding for this project-Krung Thai Bank, Tanachart, Export-Import Bank of Thailand, and Bank of Ayudhaya (Krung- Sri).

The dam collapse on late Monday night, sending flash floods through 6 villages and 6000 people became homeless. Approximately 200 people are missing and 50 people have been reported dead. Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding sent out the notification that “the saddle dam was fractured, after continuous rainstorm. It caused the high volume of water to flow into the project’s reservoir”. The overflow of water from the dam destroys lives, property, agricultural lands of the communities and hundreds are still stranded on their roofs and trees waiting for the rescue operation.

The Saddle dam collapse raised the question of compliance to world best dam standards and dam safety, according to the World Commission on Dam Guidelines. The WCD framework recommend that mechanisms should be developed to provide reparations, or retroactive compensation, for those who are suffering from existing dams, and restore damaged.

We ask Thai investors abroad to draw the learnt from the case of XeNamNoy dam- raising the need to develop dam safety as the first priority in the case of planned dams. In addition, a comprehensive assessment of the existing dam is put in place before building a new one on the Mekong and its tributary rivers.

Several measures must be carried out as soonest to take responsibility according to the international best practice standards and human rights principle.

Recommendation to the Government:

·       We urge the government of Laos to order an investigation- regarding what causes the collapse of the dam and coming up with measures to avoid the same incidence to happen. The assessment should be done by the independent expert or third party

Recommendations to the investors:

·       We demand the company to responsible towards compensation and remedies to the communities due to the loss. The company must engage communities into discussion about compensation and appropriate remedies as soonest.

The statement is calling for a greater responsibility of Thai investors in their investments abroad which is based on the Guiding Principle of Business and Human Rights (UNGP). Thai investor must respect community’s rights to remedies- inclusive participation of the affected communities into compensation discussion, providing fair and just compensation and remedies to the affected communities.

The flood victims (Photo from Lao News Agency)

Endorsement:

1.     Thai People Network along 8 provinces of the Mekong

2.     Rak Chiang Khong

3.     Living Rivers Association

4.     Mekong Butterfly

5.     Extraterritorial Watch Coalition

6.     Foundation of Environment and Natural Resources

7.    Community Resources Centre Foundation

8. Mekong Communities Institute

9.  EarthRights International

 

 

Pick to PostdamsLaocivil societyElectricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT)
Categories: Prachatai English

Silencing a Witness to Thailand’s Deadly 2010 Crackdown

Prachatai English - Tue, 2018-07-24 14:39
Submitted on Tue, 2018-07-24 14:39Human Rights Watch

After she resisted intimidation by the Thai military to stay silent, the life of Natthida “Waen” Meewangpa – a volunteer nurse who witnessed the shooting of civilians and unarmed supporters of protesting “Red Shirts” by soldiers during the 2010 political confrontations in Bangkok – has turned to hell.

Natthida’s nightmare began three years ago when the military appeared to get tired of her demanding justice for the 2010 bloodshed and arrested her on March 11, 2015. After six days of interrogation in secret incommunicado detention, during which she alleged being beaten and otherwise mistreated, Thailand’s ruling junta accused Natthida of criminal association and conspiring to commit terrorist acts related to a grenade attack at the Bangkok Criminal Court on March 7, 2015. If found guilty by a military tribunal, she faces up to 10 years in prison.

The junta made further efforts to keep Natthida behind bars by accusing her in 2017 of sharing a comment in the Line chat application that officials considered offensive to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Thailand’s draconian lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) law carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

The junta has stonewalled questions from Natthida’s lawyers and human rights groups about this flimsy charge. It is unclear who actually posted the message in question, raising concerns that it may have been done to frame her. The message was allegedly shared on March 17, 2015, while Natthida was still in government custody and officials had confiscated her mobile phone. As in other lese majeste cases, Natthida’s bail requests have repeatedly been refused.

Trying civilians in military courts, which lack independence and do not comply with fair trial standards, violates international human rights law and has brought global criticism of the junta. Natthida’s case has become a glaring example of arbitrariness and injustice in Thailand’s justice system under military rule.

So long as Natthida remains locked up, there is little prospect of justice for the victims of one of Thailand’s bloodiest episodes. Worse still, soldiers and their commanders will have good reason to believe that next time around, they can again get away with murder.
 

Natthida “Waen” Meewangpa (Photo from Human Rights Watch)

Pick to PostHuman Rights Watch (HRW)Nattatida MeewangplaArticle 112Lèse-majestéred shirts
Categories: Prachatai English

Incident of violence against women and girls by foreign anti-trafficking NGO

Prachatai English - Mon, 2018-07-23 12:55
Submitted on Mon, 2018-07-23 12:55Empower FoundationOpen Letter to Lift International (NVADER)

Re: Incident of violence against women and girls by foreign anti-trafficking NGO Lift International (NVADER)
To: Lift International

According to media reports on the 13 July 2018 there was incidence of “entrapment” and raid at a Karaoke Bar in Chachoengsao Province where six women from Myanmar were found working in prostitution and also one teenage girl under the age of 18 was found to be working there. The anti-trafficking NGO Lift International said that they had conducted an undercover operation for more than a month before the raid. This is the latest in many such operations carried out by Lift International using the method of “entrapment” as part of the process in achieving their goal. These operations have repeatedly had a negative impact on women and girls both directly and indirectly.

The authorities raid into a massage parlor in Bangkok (Photo from PPTV)

“Entrapment” is the method to prove a criminal offense before a raid where investigators disguise themselves and go to Entertainment places to get close, gain manipulate trust in order to make arrests. Women who do sex work see entrapment as deceiving and coercing them into taking part in the commission of a crime.

The conducting of undercover entrapment operations against sex workers in Entertainment Places has been identified as a source of concern for human rights in Thailand since 2003. In 2017 the Committee of Experts on CEDAW raised concern that (sex workers in Thailand) faced violent police raids in Entertainment Places and targeted in entrapment operations. In the final recommendations the CEDAW Committee advised the Thai government must stop entrapment operations against sex workers immediately. The method used also contradicts the Code of Conduct for Foreign NGOs in Thailand 20181 and Convention on the Rights of the Child,

On the 1st June 2018 during the seminar “Has 10 Years of entrapment and raids solved trafficking yet?” hosted by Empower Foundation, National Human Rights Commissioner Ms Angkhana Neelapaijit said that “Entrapment of sex workers violates the right of the individual (Right to Privacy) It is not necessary to use the method of entrapment. There are other ways to collect evidence of human trafficking. Undercover entrapment is not necessary; according to the law other evidence and methods can be used to prove a criminal offence.”

However Lift International (NVADER) is still using entrapment without regard for the dignity of the women and girls, resulting negative impacts rather than in protection according to the law e.g. the practice of covering women’s and girl’s with towels during raids makes them feel as if they are criminals and cause emotional trauma2; keeping witnesses illegally in immigration detention; the slow court process, no proper compensation for victims or witnesses; sex workers arrested who are not involved in the trafficking case do not have legal representation; Empower has had to find more than 500,000 Baht to address the problems after Lift International (NVADER) has conducted entrapment operations and raids in cooperation with the Thai authorities.

The work of NGO’s should take into account human rights of their target groups and work to be a bridge between community and government. At the seminar on 1st June, National Human Rights Commissioner Ms Angkhana Neelapaijit and DSI’s Human Trafficking Division Deputy Director Pol Lt Col Krittat Uamson have both recommended that the problem of trafficking needs to be addressed at the root causes such as promoting access to education, providing employment, and increasing social benefits so women can care for their families. These issues are more appropriate for NGO’s to do rather than trying to fulfill the role of police, causing harm to their target group or being the tool of the government authorities as is the case now.

Empower Foundation and the signatories below call for Lift International (NVADER) to stop undercover entrapment operations, stop violating the dignity of women and girls and take responsibility to address the consequences of their “entrapment” operations to date.

Yours Sincerely

Pick to Postsex workersEmpower Foundationentrapment
Categories: Prachatai English

Thailand must re-join path towards abolition of death penalty

Prachatai English - Thu, 2018-07-19 17:34
Submitted on Thu, 2018-07-19 17:34Amnesty International

The Thai authorities must recognise that the death penalty has no place in any criminal justice system and halt any plans to carry out further executions, said Amnesty International, a month after the state carried out its first execution in almost nine years.

In an open letter to Thailand’s Minister of Justice, the global human rights organization called on the government to abolish the death penalty after a 26-year-man was executed by lethal injection for aggravated murder on 18 June 2018. It was the first execution since August 2009.

“No matter what the crime, who the prisoner is or the method of execution, nothing can justify the use of the death penalty. It is a despicable punishment that has no place in any criminal justice system”, said Katherine Gerson, Amnesty International’s Thailand Campaigner.

“The Thai government must reaffirm its commitment to human rights by immediately establishing a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty, as a first step towards its full abolition. The truth is, the death penalty does not have a unique deterrent effect on crime. It does not bring closure to family members of the alleged victim. It is never a solution.”

Background

On 18 June 2018, Thailand executed a 26-year-old man for aggravated murder in the country’s first execution since August 2009, which followed a period of no executions since 2003. Figures provided by the Ministry of Justice in March 2018 state that 510 people, including 94 women, were on death row of whom 193 had exhausted all final appeals.  Almost half of these 193 are believed to have been sentenced for drug-related offences.

While the imposition of the mandatory death penalty is prohibited under international law, the death penalty in Thailand remains mandatory for a number of offences, including aggravated murder. Many of the offences for which the death penalty may be applied do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes” to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international law in countries where it has not yet been abolished.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally, for all cases and under any circumstances.

As of today, 106 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and 142 in total are abolitionist in law or practice.

Pick to PostAmnesty International (AI)death penalty
Categories: Prachatai English

Political view behind the Tham Luang incident

Prachatai English - Wed, 2018-07-18 12:59
Thareerat Laohabut “It is not only a humanitarian assistance but also a political implication”   Thai and International headline news have been covering with 12 Thai football juniors and their coach trapped in Tham Luang cave in the northern Thailand for weeks. This topic has been virally spread across both online and offline platform all around the globe, so it is not only pray, encouragement, and good wishes but also the amount of international helps, British world professional divers, Australian medical experts, Japanese irrigation experts, a team of US troops and high-technology and useful equipment from China and so on, which have arrived to Thailand in order to cooperate with Thai officials to get these victims out of the cave.   According to the US official statement to public, Thai government sent their request for help, but what Thai Mass Media have presented and reported to public is only one-side truth. Thais, so far, have been acknowledged that every country which has sent their teams joining in rescue operation voluntarily sends offer to join in. Although International helps were whether offered or requested, eventually, the rescue operation has succeeded and all 13 victims are safe.    Nonetheless, in political aspects, implication does matter. As this rescue operation had globally been watched and interested, politics inevitably more or less gets involve. In politics, one of the significant tools is soft power. Soft power is a sort of psychological mechanism of politics in promoting and embedding value, idea and belief into people.   Russia, the current host of 2018 FIFA World cup, is also a great example to show how soft power plays its role. As a huge wave of people floods into Russia to watch football games, definitely, most of them will spend time to visit Russian tourist attractions and get to know Russian people, food and culture.    Essentially, Russia has received a number of compliments in hosting the FIFA World cup, so the Russia’s reputation is more or less improved on the ground level.    As public perspective and opinions do matter in term of strengthening or weakening relationship between countries. For instance, in the past, during the Cold War, Thailand and the US had a tight relationship, the US supported many Thailand’s development projects namely infrastructure, etc. Since then, the US influence in culture, food, movie and education, so-called “American soft power” has gradually embedded into Thai society. However, although, as time has passed by, Thai-US relations has been worsen by domestic and international occurrence namely US interference into Thai politics, US strong words in condemning Thai internal affair, etc., the American soft power does remain influence in Thai society.    For the Tham Laung incident, the US sends its officers to help Thailand in the rescue operation and President Trump does also tweet and give compliment to both the US and Thai officers who are in the operation. Essentially, for public opinion, we have seen a number of public posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram spreading and expressing gratitude and kind words and paying tribute to American team, British divers, Australian doctor and every country joining in the operation. It is obvious that Thais is more optimistic toward those countries.    Therefore, as soft power is one of essential political tools particularly major powers, I observe that these international assistance are linked to political relation between countries and Thailand. Thus, in my view, these countries definitely engaged the operation for not only humanity assistance but also political implication.    First, for Britain, they are currently suffering from the aftermath of Brexit, so they are in need of negotiating new bilateral trade deal with many countries including Thailand. During the first official visit in England of Thai Prime Minister, General Prayuth on June 2018, this issue was also raised up. For the US and China, two countries are clearly a rival in expanding their influence over Asia region according to the trade tariff which two countries have put on each other products recently. The US is gradually interested in returning its influence to Asia in order to balance the Chinese power according to the US secretary of defense’s remark at the 2018 Shangri-La dialogue and Trump’s speech for a possible rejoining Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Therefore, having a close relationship with Thailand would benefit and meet the US intention.    On the one hand, as China are one of Thailand essential trade partners and the US participates in the operation, China inevitably must join in. For Australia, according to the ASEAN-Australian special summit on March 2018, Australia reportedly announced that they would like to engage in and cooperate with ASEAN more and it is undeniable that Thailand has taken a leading role in ASEAN. Hence, providing assistance to this operation could partially benefit a long term relationship between two countries more or less. Finally, Japan also supports the operation by sending irrigation experts. As Japan has remained its economic influence in being a huge industrial investor in Thailand for many decades and significantly, China and the US join in the operation, Japan seem to be obligated to engage itself in the operation as well.     The 12 footballers and their coach trapped in Tham Luang cave (Photo from Thai Navy Seal)   About the author: Thareerat Laohabut has graduated a Bachelor Degree of Political Science, Thammasat University, Thailand with Erasmus+ scholarship, one year exchange program at the Geschwister Scholl Institute of Political Science, University of Munich (LMU), Germany. Currently, she is working as Research Assistant to Asst Prof Dr. Danny Marks, City University of Hong Kong and recently have worked for the American Studies Association in Thailand (ASAT) as Project assistant in conducting research project, “Youth Attitude on Thai-US Bilateral Relations”, to the Asia Foundation.   References: http://aseanaustralia.pmc.gov.au/special-summit/about http://thediplomat.com/2017/06/what-the-thai-prime-ministers-visit-means-for-us-thai-relations/ http://time.com/5327988/thailand-soccer-team-trapped-cave-rescue/ http://www.thairath.co.th/content/1326117 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/06/china-ready-to-fight-back-as-us-begins-trade-war http://m.welcome2018.thairath.co.th/content/1326117 http://aroundtherings.com/site/A_64024/Title_FIFA-Cheif-Best-Ever-World-Cup/292/Articles  http://englishnews.thaipbs.or.th/japan-sends-two-irrigation-experts-help-cave-rescue-operation  https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/theresa-may-mustnt-mince-words-over-thailands-human-rights-record-during-pm-visit https://th.usembassy.gov/statement-on-cooperation-with-thai-authorities-at-tham-luang-cave/         

 

Categories: Prachatai English

Political view behind the Tham Luang incident

Prachatai English - Wed, 2018-07-18 12:59
Submitted on Wed, 2018-07-18 12:59Thareerat Laohabut

“It is not only a humanitarian assistance but also a political implication

Thai and International news headlines have been covering with 12 Thai football juniors and their coach trapped in Tham Luang cave in the northern Thailand for weeks. The topic has been virally mentioned across both online and offline platform around the world, so it is not only prays and encouragement, but also amount of international helps, British professional divers, Australian medical experts, Japanese irrigation experts, a team of US troops and high-technology and useful equipment from China and so on, which have arrived to Thailand in order to cooperate with Thai officials to get these victims out of the cave.

According to the US official statement to public, Thai government sent their request for help to the US government, but what Thai mass media have presented to public is only one-side truth. Thais, so far, have been acknowledged that every country, which has sent their teams joining in rescue operation, voluntarily offers to join in. 

Nonetheless, for politics, implication does matter. As this rescue operation had globally been watched and interested, one of the significant tools, which I automatically think about, is “soft power”. It is a political mechanism in promoting and influencing people’s values, ideas and beliefs.

Russia, the current host of 2018 FIFA World cup, can be a great example to show how soft power plays its role. As a huge wave of people floods into Russia to watch football games, definitely, most of them may spend time travelling around Russia where people can learn about Russian food, society and culture more. 

Essentially, Russia has also received a number of compliments in hosting the FIFA World cup, so the Russia’s reputation is more or less improved on the ground level. 

As public opinions matter in international relations, it can either strengthen or weaken relationship between countries. For instance, during the Cold War, Thailand and the US had a tight relationship because the US supported many Thailand’s development projects namely infrastructure, etc. As a deep bound connection has been thriving, the US influence in culture, food, movie and education, so-called “American soft power” gradually embedded into Thai society. Although, as time has passed by, Thai-US relations has been worsen by domestic or international occurrence namely US interference into Thai politics, US strong words in condemning Thai internal affair, etc. from time to time, the American soft power remains its influence in Thai society. 

For the Tham Laung incident, the US sends its officers to help Thailand in the rescue operation and President Trump does also tweet and give compliment to both the US and Thai officers. Significantly, for public opinion, we have seen posts expressing gratitude and paying tribute to American team, British divers, Australian doctors and every country joining in the operation on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. It is obvious that Thais is more optimistic towards these countries. 

Therefore, as I mentioned earlier about soft power, I observe that these international assistance are also linked to political relations between countries supporting this rescue operation and Thailand. Thus, in my view, these countries may engage themselves in this operation for not only humanitarian assistance but also political implication. 

First, for England, they are currently suffering from the aftermath of Brexit, so they are in need of negotiating new bilateral trade deal with many countries including Thailand. As Thai Prime Minister, General Prayuth, officially visited England on June 2018, this issue was also raised up during the talk. According to the trade tariff which the US and China have put on each other products recently, two countries clearly shown a sign of antagonism in expanding their influence over Asian countries. The US has revealed a gradual interest in returning its influence to Asia according to the recent remark from the US secretary of defence at the 2018 Shangri-La dialogue and Trump’s statement for a possible re-joining the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). On the one hand, China is currently Thailand’s top trading partners. Therefore, having a close relationship with Thailand would benefit and meet both the US and China intention. 

For Australia, according to the ASEAN-Australian special summit on March 2018, Australia reportedly announced that they would like to engage in and cooperate with ASEAN more and it is undeniable that Thailand has taken a leading role in ASEAN. Hence, providing assistance to this operation could partially benefit a long term relationship between two countries more or less. Finally, for Japan, the Japanese government has cooperated with Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) Thailand Office to support this operation with irrigation experts. In politics, being a huge industrial investor for many decades, Japan has economically influenced Thailand. Significantly, the US, one of the Japan’s closest allies and China, one of the Japan’s rivals, both joins in the operation. Japan seem to be obligated to participate as well.

The 12 footballers and their coach trapped in Tham Luang cave (Photo from Thai Navy Seal)

About the author: Thareerat Laohabut has graduated a Bachelor Degree of Political Science, Thammasat University, Thailand with Erasmus+ scholarship, one year exchange program at the Geschwister Scholl Institute of Political Science, University of Munich (LMU), Germany.

References:

Opinion
Categories: Prachatai English

Rewind to the 1932 Siamese Revolution (2): the revolution ends but the fight does not

Prachatai English - Mon, 2018-07-16 17:21
On 24 June 1932 at Thammasat University, Tha Prachan, the Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANC) and the 24 June Democracy Group held a conference on “86 years since 1932: Branches and Fruit of Siam’s Great Revolution”   The conference had Assoc. Prof. Chaiyan Rajchagool, Faculty of Law, Chiang Mai University; Assoc. Prof. Anusorn Unno, Dean of the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University; Rawee Siri-issaranant (Wad Rawee), writer and owner of the Shine Publishing House; Assoc. Prof. Pichit Likitkijsomboon, Faculty of Economics, Thammasat University; and Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, core member of the 24 June Democracy Group, executive editor of Voice of Taksin magazine; with Phiengkham Pradabkhwam as a resource person.   Read the first part here Fruits of the 1932 revolution
Somyot stated that today he came with a police car leading him. He considered it was a great honour for the police officers show respect to him by asking him for details and asking about certain matters that are inappropriate to be speaking about. The issue they asked him to not talk about was the disappearance of the Khana Ratsadon plaque. He himself was afraid of offending and scared. He personally didn’t know about this matter because when the plaque disappeared he was in the Bangkok Remand Prison so he probably wouldn’t be able to talk as much as the other speakers.   Somyot continued saying that the 1932 revolution brought about a new era of civilisation to Thai society with, for example, compulsory education and Thammasat University which later on became an institution that produced politicians. It is a shame that these politicians did not inherit the intentions of 1932, so there are politicians who betrayed the democratic system. The people also have freedom where they could open their eyes and mouths at times even if freedom was decaying. The lèse majesté law was changed from 7 years’ imprisonment to 15 years. The sentence was increased when people were slaughtered on 6 Oct 1976. Nevertheless, the 1932 revolution gave the people freedom and the people are still fighting for freedom to this day.   Somyot said that there were some mistakes in the 1932 revolution. One of the mistakes was that Khana Ratsadon was able to create change at the level of power mechanisms by transferring power from the absolute monarchy to Khana Ratsadon, but they did not have a new ideology to replace the absolute monarchy and did not fully exterminate the entire system, so conservatism still persists today. The weeds of dictatorship are still present and have been developed to blossom today. At the same time, the branches of Khana Ratsadon were pruned until there were none left when Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat took power, and in that period the Thai National Day was changed from the original 24 June to 5 December.   The former editor of Voice of Taksin stated that at present there are still descendants of Khana Ratsadon. When news of the missing plaque came out, there was also news that the descendants of Khana Ratsadon went to ask about it. It’s clear that blood relations have disappeared since many descendants did not inherit Khana Ratsadon’s intentions but history isn’t discontinued or erased so easily. The 1932 revolution did not happen in isolation, but was the result of previous efforts to revolutionise Thailand, or what was called the rebellion of 130 Rattanakosin Era during King Rama VI’s reign when a group of military soldiers were ready to overthrow the government into a republican system but it wasn’t successful as their secret was leaked. King Rama VI suppressed the rebels; some instigators were sentenced to death, some were imprisoned, but in the end those people were released when the 1932 revolution occurred.    Somyot said that the disappearance of the plaque is nothing new because there have always been attempts to destroy the symbols of the 1932 revolution all the time, including the misrepresentation of the history of 1932 as premature where the revolution went ahead even though King Rama VII was getting ready to bestow democracy. The historical perception of the 1932 revolution has been limited. The date of the national day has been changed and Khana Ratsadon architecture. such as the Supreme Court building, has been destroyed. The Khana Ratsadon plaque is only one of the memories of the 1932 revolution but the phenomenon we see in the present is that the more that is destroyed, the more appears – people who want an election appear.   “I really feel sorry for Thailand because we shouldn’t be talking about an outsider Prime Minister for a long time already, because of Black May when people fought each other and were injured and died protesting against an outsider Primer Minister. What hurts is that they still want a Prime Minister with a … brain like Prayuth, I don’t understand what in history they are confused about. We lost lives on 14 Oct, in Black May, and we still need people who want an election like Bow, Rome, Niw, to speak of one right one vote, equality, elections. We shouldn’t be talking about this anymore, we should have gone further than this, but it can be considered as some colour for politics that doesn’t allow our country to be governed only by someone like Prayuth,” Somyot said.   Somyot also added that the next 10 years should be a period of excitement since he found that there are components that will cause a great political change, because the economy is very bad. The situation is that poverty and debt are rampant, and milking taxes by the Prayuth government, which does not really know how to work, is not able to develop the economy but instead uses money lavishly.   Not long ago, the 24 June group made three requests to Government House. One, to oppose the use of oil excise tax which is one of the factors that makes oil more expensive than in all our neighbouring countries. Two, to oppose the increase in VAT which could become 9%. And three, to cancel the extravagant use of money on weapons, munitions and increased salaries for their cronies.   As for the missing plaque, Somyot said that its disappearance today is alright. When one day we have democracy, and a government, we can install a new one. At least it can be an ideological symbol of democracy and Khana Ratsadon. 1932 revolution through past and present lenses
Chaiyan said that 4 years after the 2014 coup d’état there is one advantage. In the past, the side that obstructs democracy will talk in their homes or inside the military but this time they came out into the streets. This is the first phenomenon in Thai society that shows us which side doesn’t want democracy.    Many people criticise the 1932 revolution. Chaiyan doesn’t agree with the idea of failure, giving the analogy with football, where there is no one who wins and always continues to win. The other side needs to carry on the fight. The political game is something that continues on forever. Khana Ratsadon scored a goal in 1932 but has been counterattacked continuously. The important thing isn’t that the other side can counterattack and it does not mean they will win all the time either.   Chaiyan also indicated that understanding the 1932 revolution must stem from understanding both the past and present. One must suppose that the 1932 revolution is placed in the centre and go back and forward for 86 years before giving a meaning to the 1932 revolution. For example, if someone who dislikes politicians looks at the 1932 revolution, they would say it was the starting point of bad politicians, and view Khana Ratsadon as those who interrupted living conditions that they think were once good.   When King Rama VII abdicated the throne, His Majesty wrote “I am willing to surrender the powers I formerly exercised to the people as a whole, but I am not willing to turn them all over to any individual or any group, especially to use them in an autocratic manner and without heeding the real voice of the people” (Source: nationtv). Think about it. If we rewind from the 1932 revolution for 80 years, i.e. 1852-1932, which starts in the reign of King Rama IV, and asked if there were any governing system that truly listens to the voice of the people, there would be none. This means King Rama VII speaking like this is to make something that has never existed into a new normal (an abnormal normal).   The words new normal are something important if one were to speak about 1932 since it is a great change in thinking. It places the topic of democracy on the table, establishes democracy in our heads. When we see it we cannot return to not seeing it again. Even a dictator or someone who doesn’t want to have an election still speaks of democracy. Having the law, a state of law and the rule of law is considered as marking a new point for people’s thinking.   The issue that Khana Ratsadon brought up is that they wanted to change the people running the state, change the paradigm and importantly, the direction. This was the question and great effort to change. Some historians and some activists after 14 Oct still attack 1932, attack Khana Ratsadon, which they can criticise, and we should criticise Khana Ratsadon, but the point is whether we have continued what Khana Ratsadon started or not. Soon after 14 Oct, Pridi was invited to speak at Thai student associations in various countries. There is one book in which Pridi wrote ‘protect democracy’. At that time Chaiyan didn’t understand the words ‘protect democracy’, but later on understood them when 6 Oct occurred. That is, when you win, also keep it safe.     The panel speakers (from left to right): Chaiyan Rajchagool, Rawee Siri-issaranant (Wad Rawee), Pichit Likitkijsomboon, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and Phiengkham Pradabkhwam
Categories: Prachatai English

Rewind to the 1932 Siamese Revolution (2): the revolution ends but the fight does not

Prachatai English - Mon, 2018-07-16 17:21
Submitted on Mon, 2018-07-16 17:21On 24 June 1932 at Thammasat University, Tha Prachan, the Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANC) and the 24 June Democracy Group held a conference on “86 years since 1932: Branches and Fruit of Siam’s Great Revolution”   The conference had Assoc. Prof. Chaiyan Rajchagool, Faculty of Law, Chiang Mai University; Assoc. Prof. Anusorn Unno, Dean of the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University; Rawee Siri-issaranant (Wad Rawee), writer and owner of the Shine Publishing House; Assoc. Prof. Pichit Likitkijsomboon, Faculty of Economics, Thammasat University; and Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, core member of the 24 June Democracy Group, executive editor of Voice of Taksin magazine; with Phiengkham Pradabkhwam as a resource person.   Read the first part here Fruits of the 1932 revolution Somyot stated that today he came with a police car leading him. He considered it was a great honour for the police officers show respect to him by asking him for details and asking about certain matters that are inappropriate to be speaking about. The issue they asked him to not talk about was the disappearance of the Khana Ratsadon plaque. He himself was afraid of offending and scared. He personally didn’t know about this matter because when the plaque disappeared he was in the Bangkok Remand Prison so he probably wouldn’t be able to talk as much as the other speakers.   Somyot continued saying that the 1932 revolution brought about a new era of civilisation to Thai society with, for example, compulsory education and Thammasat University which later on became an institution that produced politicians. It is a shame that these politicians did not inherit the intentions of 1932, so there are politicians who betrayed the democratic system. The people also have freedom where they could open their eyes and mouths at times even if freedom was decaying. The lèse majesté law was changed from 7 years’ imprisonment to 15 years. The sentence was increased when people were slaughtered on 6 Oct 1976. Nevertheless, the 1932 revolution gave the people freedom and the people are still fighting for freedom to this day.   Somyot said that there were some mistakes in the 1932 revolution. One of the mistakes was that Khana Ratsadon was able to create change at the level of power mechanisms by transferring power from the absolute monarchy to Khana Ratsadon, but they did not have a new ideology to replace the absolute monarchy and did not fully exterminate the entire system, so conservatism still persists today. The weeds of dictatorship are still present and have been developed to blossom today. At the same time, the branches of Khana Ratsadon were pruned until there were none left when Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat took power, and in that period the Thai National Day was changed from the original 24 June to 5 December.   The former editor of Voice of Taksin stated that at present there are still descendants of Khana Ratsadon. When news of the missing plaque came out, there was also news that the descendants of Khana Ratsadon went to ask about it. It’s clear that blood relations have disappeared since many descendants did not inherit Khana Ratsadon’s intentions but history isn’t discontinued or erased so easily. The 1932 revolution did not happen in isolation, but was the result of previous efforts to revolutionise Thailand, or what was called the rebellion of 130 Rattanakosin Era during King Rama VI’s reign when a group of military soldiers were ready to overthrow the government into a republican system but it wasn’t successful as their secret was leaked. King Rama VI suppressed the rebels; some instigators were sentenced to death, some were imprisoned, but in the end those people were released when the 1932 revolution occurred.    Somyot said that the disappearance of the plaque is nothing new because there have always been attempts to destroy the symbols of the 1932 revolution all the time, including the misrepresentation of the history of 1932 as premature where the revolution went ahead even though King Rama VII was getting ready to bestow democracy. The historical perception of the 1932 revolution has been limited. The date of the national day has been changed and Khana Ratsadon architecture. such as the Supreme Court building, has been destroyed. The Khana Ratsadon plaque is only one of the memories of the 1932 revolution but the phenomenon we see in the present is that the more that is destroyed, the more appears – people who want an election appear.   “I really feel sorry for Thailand because we shouldn’t be talking about an outsider Prime Minister for a long time already, because of Black May when people fought each other and were injured and died protesting against an outsider Primer Minister. What hurts is that they still want a Prime Minister with a … brain like Prayuth, I don’t understand what in history they are confused about. We lost lives on 14 Oct, in Black May, and we still need people who want an election like Bow, Rome, Niw, to speak of one right one vote, equality, elections. We shouldn’t be talking about this anymore, we should have gone further than this, but it can be considered as some colour for politics that doesn’t allow our country to be governed only by someone like Prayuth,” Somyot said.   Somyot also added that the next 10 years should be a period of excitement since he found that there are components that will cause a great political change, because the economy is very bad. The situation is that poverty and debt are rampant, and milking taxes by the Prayuth government, which does not really know how to work, is not able to develop the economy but instead uses money lavishly.   Not long ago, the 24 June group made three requests to Government House. One, to oppose the use of oil excise tax which is one of the factors that makes oil more expensive than in all our neighbouring countries. Two, to oppose the increase in VAT which could become 9%. And three, to cancel the extravagant use of money on weapons, munitions and increased salaries for their cronies.   As for the missing plaque, Somyot said that its disappearance today is alright. When one day we have democracy, and a government, we can install a new one. At least it can be an ideological symbol of democracy and Khana Ratsadon. 1932 revolution through past and present lenses Chaiyan said that 4 years after the 2014 coup d’état there is one advantage. In the past, the side that obstructs democracy will talk in their homes or inside the military but this time they came out into the streets. This is the first phenomenon in Thai society that shows us which side doesn’t want democracy.    Many people criticise the 1932 revolution. Chaiyan doesn’t agree with the idea of failure, giving the analogy with football, where there is no one who wins and always continues to win. The other side needs to carry on the fight. The political game is something that continues on forever. Khana Ratsadon scored a goal in 1932 but has been counterattacked continuously. The important thing isn’t that the other side can counterattack and it does not mean they will win all the time either.   Chaiyan also indicated that understanding the 1932 revolution must stem from understanding both the past and present. One must suppose that the 1932 revolution is placed in the centre and go back and forward for 86 years before giving a meaning to the 1932 revolution. For example, if someone who dislikes politicians looks at the 1932 revolution, they would say it was the starting point of bad politicians, and view Khana Ratsadon as those who interrupted living conditions that they think were once good.   When King Rama VII abdicated the throne, His Majesty wrote “I am willing to surrender the powers I formerly exercised to the people as a whole, but I am not willing to turn them all over to any individual or any group, especially to use them in an autocratic manner and without heeding the real voice of the people” (Source: nationtv). Think about it. If we rewind from the 1932 revolution for 80 years, i.e. 1852-1932, which starts in the reign of King Rama IV, and asked if there were any governing system that truly listens to the voice of the people, there would be none. This means King Rama VII speaking like this is to make something that has never existed into a new normal (an abnormal normal).   The words new normal are something important if one were to speak about 1932 since it is a great change in thinking. It places the topic of democracy on the table, establishes democracy in our heads. When we see it we cannot return to not seeing it again. Even a dictator or someone who doesn’t want to have an election still speaks of democracy. Having the law, a state of law and the rule of law is considered as marking a new point for people’s thinking.   The issue that Khana Ratsadon brought up is that they wanted to change the people running the state, change the paradigm and importantly, the direction. This was the question and great effort to change. Some historians and some activists after 14 Oct still attack 1932, attack Khana Ratsadon, which they can criticise, and we should criticise Khana Ratsadon, but the point is whether we have continued what Khana Ratsadon started or not. Soon after 14 Oct, Pridi was invited to speak at Thai student associations in various countries. There is one book in which Pridi wrote ‘protect democracy’. At that time Chaiyan didn’t understand the words ‘protect democracy’, but later on understood them when 6 Oct occurred. That is, when you win, also keep it safe.     The panel speakers (from left to right): Chaiyan Rajchagool, Rawee Siri-issaranant (Wad Rawee), Pichit Likitkijsomboon, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and Phiengkham Pradabkhwam Highlight1932 revolutionKhana Ratsadon
Categories: Prachatai English

Thai Upgrade Too Soon in Annual Anti-trafficking Report

Prachatai English - Mon, 2018-07-16 14:14
International Labor Rights Forum Increased migrant worker vulnerability likely to follow   (Washington, DC) – The U.S. State Department upgraded Thailand to Tier 2, the middle of three possible rankings, in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report yesterday. It was one of several country rankings that have raised alarm among international anti-trafficking advocates, including U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who called the move "simply unjustifiable and troubling given the facts on the ground." The upgrade comes at a time when Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is conducting mass arrests of migrant workers, spreading fear amongst this vulnerable community, and making them more susceptible to human trafficking.   Thailand has been on the Tier 2 Watchlist, one level below this year’s ranking, in the U.S. Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report since 2016. Media reports of ongoing problems with human trafficking in Thailand, particularly in the seafood sector, and international pressure from governments and civil society have resulted in numerous legal reforms in Thailand since 2014. Some of the regulatory reforms in this period are significant, but effective implementation has largely been lacking, meaning that actual impact has been far less than claimed by the Royal Thai Government.   "We acknowledge Thailand has made some progress, but this upgrade comes too soon, potentially releasing the pressure on the Thai government at a time when we are still waiting for them to take concrete actions to protect migrant workers," said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum. "The Royal Thai Government has said they will make the legal reforms necessary, but currently the migrant workers who power Thai export production do not have the legal right to organize and bargain collectively for better working conditions, which makes them afraid to speak out. It’s impossible to stop human trafficking in such a context.”   The Thai government continues to fail to protect human trafficking victims when they report and speak publicly about the crimes committed against them. Instead of being treated as the victims they are, trafficking survivors who report problems risk punishment for not having proper documentation. According to a recent report by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Thailand Institute of Justice, these workers may even be detained until the conclusion of their legal proceedings in Thailand’s detention centers. In February, hearings began for 14 Burmese workers in Thailand who escaped from a Thammakaset poultry chicken farm in Lopburi Province where they had worked twenty hours a day for nearly five years. Rather than receiving compensation after their escape from forced labor, the workers face criminal defamation charges from the owners, and could be fined or imprisoned for speaking about their experiences. Their case has earned an oral statement from the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Until discriminatory legislation that denies migrant workers the right to organize and join unions in Thailand is repealed, there can be no significant change in migrant workers’ vulnerability to human trafficking, making Thailand’s upgrade both premature and unwarranted.   The report announcing the upgrade cited increased prosecutions and convictions of traffickers as justification, in reference to the country’s largest ever human trafficking trial that took place last year. More than 60 people were convicted of human trafficking of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh, after the discovery of mass graves on the Malaysia-Thailand border. This case was followed by an announcement from the Thai Labor Minister in February promising future reforms, such as “legislation on collective rights and collective bargaining including the extension of the recognition of labour rights to be in line with the ILO Convention No. 98.”   Despite these hopeful signs, widespread abuses remain and Gearhart maintains that the TIP rankings should reflect structural reforms rather than promises of change to come. “The high-profile conviction last year of senior-level government officials in a trafficking case shows what Thailand's justice system is capable of when there is political will to act. Unfortunately, despite this bright spot, there were many more cases last year that showed corruption continues to undermine the rule of law for victims of trafficking, and it is easier for employers to bring cases against migrant workers for speaking out than it is for the workers to secure justice when their rights are violated by employers.     Rohingyas are usually the victim of human trafficking in Thailand     
Categories: Prachatai English

Thai Upgrade Too Soon in Annual Anti-trafficking Report

Prachatai English - Mon, 2018-07-16 14:14
Submitted on Mon, 2018-07-16 14:14International Labor Rights Forum

Increased migrant worker vulnerability likely to follow

(Washington, DC) – The U.S. State Department upgraded Thailand to Tier 2, the middle of three possible rankings, in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report yesterday. It was one of several country rankings that have raised alarm among international anti-trafficking advocates, including U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who called the move "simply unjustifiable and troubling given the facts on the ground." The upgrade comes at a time when Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is conducting mass arrests of migrant workers, spreading fear amongst this vulnerable community, and making them more susceptible to human trafficking.

Thailand has been on the Tier 2 Watchlist, one level below this year’s ranking, in the U.S. Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report since 2016. Media reports of ongoing problems with human trafficking in Thailand, particularly in the seafood sector, and international pressure from governments and civil society have resulted in numerous legal reforms in Thailand since 2014. Some of the regulatory reforms in this period are significant, but effective implementation has largely been lacking, meaning that actual impact has been far less than claimed by the Royal Thai Government.

"We acknowledge Thailand has made some progress, but this upgrade comes too soon, potentially releasing the pressure on the Thai government at a time when we are still waiting for them to take concrete actions to protect migrant workers," said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum. "The Royal Thai Government has said they will make the legal reforms necessary, but currently the migrant workers who power Thai export production do not have the legal right to organize and bargain collectively for better working conditions, which makes them afraid to speak out. It’s impossible to stop human trafficking in such a context.”

The Thai government continues to fail to protect human trafficking victims when they report and speak publicly about the crimes committed against them. Instead of being treated as the victims they are, trafficking survivors who report problems risk punishment for not having proper documentation. According to a recent report by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Thailand Institute of Justice, these workers may even be detained until the conclusion of their legal proceedings in Thailand’s detention centers. In February, hearings began for 14 Burmese workers in Thailand who escaped from a Thammakaset poultry chicken farm in Lopburi Province where they had worked twenty hours a day for nearly five years. Rather than receiving compensation after their escape from forced labor, the workers face criminal defamation charges from the owners, and could be fined or imprisoned for speaking about their experiences. Their case has earned an oral statement from the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Until discriminatory legislation that denies migrant workers the right to organize and join unions in Thailand is repealed, there can be no significant change in migrant workers’ vulnerability to human trafficking, making Thailand’s upgrade both premature and unwarranted.

The report announcing the upgrade cited increased prosecutions and convictions of traffickers as justification, in reference to the country’s largest ever human trafficking trial that took place last year. More than 60 people were convicted of human trafficking of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh, after the discovery of mass graves on the Malaysia-Thailand border. This case was followed by an announcement from the Thai Labor Minister in February promising future reforms, such as “legislation on collective rights and collective bargaining including the extension of the recognition of labour rights to be in line with the ILO Convention No. 98.”

Despite these hopeful signs, widespread abuses remain and Gearhart maintains that the TIP rankings should reflect structural reforms rather than promises of change to come. “The high-profile conviction last year of senior-level government officials in a trafficking case shows what Thailand's justice system is capable of when there is political will to act. Unfortunately, despite this bright spot, there were many more cases last year that showed corruption continues to undermine the rule of law for victims of trafficking, and it is easier for employers to bring cases against migrant workers for speaking out than it is for the workers to secure justice when their rights are violated by employers.

Rohingyas are usually the victim of human trafficking in Thailand 

 

Pick to Posthuman traffickingLabourmigrant labour
Categories: Prachatai English

Middle Classes in Southeast Asia : Hegemony and Illiberalism [Video]

Prachatai English - Fri, 2018-07-13 15:21
Submitted on Fri, 2018-07-13 15:21Panel discussion “Middle Classes in Southeast Asia : Hegemony and Illiberalism” 11 July 2018, At the Chumbhot-Pantip Conference Room, 4th Floor Prajadhipok Building, Chulalongkorn University     Speakers • Special Guest: Prof. Dr. Erik Kuhonta, McGill University  • Dr. Kanokrat Lertchooskul, Chulalongkorn University  • Assistant Prof. Dr. Prajak Kongkirati, Thammasat University  • Ajarn Dulayaphab Chaturongkul, Thammasat University Moderated by Assoc. Prof. Viengrat Nethipo, Chulalongkorn University   Organized by Department of Government, the 70th Anniversary Political Science, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University And Direk Jayanama Research Center, Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University         MultimediaDulayaphab ChaturongkulErik KuhontaIlliberalismKanokrat Lertchooskulmiddle classPrajak KongkiratiSingaporeSoutheast AsiaThai politicsThailandViengrat Nethipo
Categories: Prachatai English

Rewind to the 1932 Siamese Revolution (1): the place of the monarchy in the new system

Prachatai English - Fri, 2018-07-13 13:58
On 24 June 1932 at Thammasat University, Tha Prachan, the Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANC) and the 24 June Democracy Group held a conference on “86 years since 1932: Branches and Fruit of Siam’s Great Revolution”   The conference had Assoc. Prof. Chaiyan Rajchagool, Faculty of Law, Chiang Mai University; Assoc. Prof. Anusorn Unno, Dean of the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University; Rawee Siri-issaranant (Wad Rawee), writer and owner of the Shine Publishing House; Assoc. Prof. Pichit Likitkijsomboon, Faculty of Economics, Thammasat University; and Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, core member of the 24 June Democracy Group, executive editor of Voice of Taksin magazine; with Phiengkham Pradabkhwam as a resource person. A challenge in economics, politics and status of the monarchy that Khana Ratsadon failed to meet   Pichit stated that what was lacking when talking about the 1932 revolution is an assessment of Khana Ratsadon (People’s Party) and the 24 June incident from the perspective of Khana Ratsadon and its allies, as an interpretation by the royalist side. During the time that Khana Ratsadon was in power to the end of their power due to Sarit's coup d’état in 1957, a total of 25 years under Khana Ratsadon's unstable administration, how well did they answer the problem posed on 24 June?   Pichit assessed the problem of the Khana Ratsadon to be the Six Principles they established, which are a social contract that Khana Ratsadon made with the people. Today we will analyse the response to the principles.   Pichit stated that in 1921, Siam had a population of 14 million people, of which 6.8 million or 68% were illiterate. In 1960, the population had increased to 26 million and the literacy rate to 70%. During that time, the Khana Ratsadon government announced a new law in 1926, enforcing compulsory education to year 4 of primary school. In 1960 when the Khana Ratsadon era ended, compulsory education was 7 years. In the 25 years when Khana Ratsadon was in power, compulsory education made considerable progress, even if there are still people who can’t read or write.   The economic principle which was the intention of Khana Ratsadon was that the people would not starve to death. After announcing the constitution on 24 Dec 1932, Pridi Banomyong, a member of Khana Ratsadon, drafted his economic framework which was violently opposed. It was accused of being communist, especially in King Rama VII’s claim that it was like Stalin’s economic plan in the Soviet Union. It became the starting point of the first anti-communist wave even before the establishment of the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT).   It raised the spectre of communism which led to the enactment of the first Communist Prevention Act that was enforced even before the CPT was established. That economic framework was not brought into use again since that time and no one has studied the issue of it never being used. However, due to the failure of the framework, Khana Ratsadon had to find another economic framework as a replacement to create legitimacy for their administration. In the end, Khana Ratsadon’s economic approach turned right, i.e. into nationalism.   During P. Phibunsongkhram’s term as Prime Minister, a right-wing nationalist economic system was created. The government controlled the economic activities of the private sector with hundreds of state enterprises. This led to many economic problems. The economic structure we see these days is partly the fruit of failure of the framework in the beginning when Pridi’s approach could not be used.   When one reads the economic framework, one will find that it has the characteristics of a socialist economy. All people are under the control of the state. The framework stated that all citizens are government officials. The state will establish various types of cooperatives and have the people be in them, with the government paying their salary and collecting tax. The people in the cooperatives will work and receive rewards according to the work they do. It aims to create a self-reliant economy.   There will be as little trade as possible with other countries. Personal assets exist as land for habitation. The state is the owner of the land as an economic factor. Machinery is also the state’s, with the reason that private ownership of factories will create conflict between employers and employees, but private professions still exist.   However the framework emphasised in various places that this economic system is not communist, because the state is not taking away the people’s rights of ownership. There is an alternative for the people to sell their assets to the state with the state issuing a loan certificate, a bond, and the people can take the interest. At that time it was thought a progressive method.   The land reform when the US took over Japan after World War II to destroy the former landlord system and the land reform in Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek also used this same method. It can be seen as a method used also by non-communist governments.   Another result Khana Ratsadon failed to deliver is the role and status of the monarchy in a democratic system. We are talking about the institution that is an organ of the state, with a political and governmental position where the head of state is an institution with legal and traditional power. The many revolutions around the world achieve complete success when they can answer the question of what the role, status and legal and traditional power should be, how much, and with what restrictions.   But in their 25 years, Khana Ratsadon did not answer this question clearly even when the Boworadet rebellion occurred. However, in the end this vagueness meant there was no pressure or challenge prompting Khana Ratsadon to clearly define where the monarchy should be under the constitutional system. There was none because King Rama VIII ascended the throne while still young and stayed overseas until the end of World War II before returning to Thailand.   During that time there had to be a regent and the regents at that time cooperated well with Khana Ratsadon, so there was no conflict. The conflict over legal and traditional power therefore was not clearly resolved because there were no clashes.   In addition, there was the arrest of political prisoners. These were a pro-monarchy group during P. Phibunsongkhram’s term who were placed on Ko Tarutao. After World War II ended, it was clear that Khana Ratsadon’s military faction lost because they had allied themselves with Japan while the pro-monarchy group were still the political prisoners that were arrested earlier, so only the civilian faction, which is Pridi, was left. He desired national reconciliation; solutions, not vengeance.    After being occupied by Japan for 3-4 years, we changed from a country that lost the war to one that won through diplomatic methods, so all political prisoners and prisoners of war were amnestied. The monarchists and former prisoners of war joined hands to seize power from Pridi in 1947. Eventually, only the monarchists, P. Phibunsongkhram and the Democrat Party established by the monarchists were left.   By 1957, a new generation of soldiers, who had grown up under a military system, a true warrior system, with no influence from the ideas of Khana Ratsadon, led a revival of royal traditions and royal power. The role and status of the monarchical prestige has lasted from then on. Article 112: hiding the sky with one’s hands: creating a thought vacuum   Wad stated that the main theme he would speak on was what resulted from seizing power from the king, and how did it end. The change in the system of government in 1932 did not happen in a few days or a few months, but there was continuous opposition from the monarchist side until the eventual amnesty and reconciliation; the monarchist side returned to power and overthrew Khana Ratsadon.   However a topic that is not often spoken of was that Khana Ratsadon lacked unity. It was divided into factions between P. Phibunsongkhram and Pridi. This situation appeared since the time of World War II when P. Phibunsongkhram lost power after Japan lost the war, causing the Pridi faction, which was the Free Thai movement, that was allied to the monarchists, to side with the Allied Powers and take power.   This is equivalent to the monarchist faction becoming stronger. After the death of King Rama VIII, the monarchist faction turned to attack Pridi until he had to flee the country, so P. Phibunsongkhram’s faction was able to come back into power again. P. Phibunsongkhram fought the monarchists until he was overthrown in 1957. All of this took 25 years since the coup in 1932 and the scene ended with the defeat of Khana Ratsadon.   Before this the topic of Khana Ratsadon has never come back as a topic in Thai politics, whether at the time of the 14 Oct incident, the 6 Oct incident or May 91-92. There was the revival of the importance of Khana Ratsadon aiming to restore Pridi’s honour, but it was done in a way that did not conflict with the royal institution.   Wad continued saying that in the early stages when Khana Ratsadon argued with King Rama VII, the two sides directly argued on the issues; their approach to the argument was the same, and they each knew what the other was thinking. The issue was how to deal with the power of the monarchy in the constitution. When we cut back to the situation before the crisis during Thaksin’s term, the political situation then did not have any concepts about the monarchy.   The focus of politics was on the military, police and politicians. Nobody saw the royal institution in the political system; nobody saw that they were related. There were words of Thaksin from long ago in an interview with foreign reporters that the king in his idea was like a god, not a person. The monarchy was not something with power in the political system, but was floating outside the system.   After the political crisis in 2006-2010, political paradigms that Thai people had recognized changed. People started to see a truth that they cannot go back and not see, no matter if they are conservatives or progressives. They can no longer look at politics and not see the issue of the monarchy any more. This is the issue that is a problem, because this is the difference from the time when Khana Ratsadon argued openly. Before the political crisis, they could not see, but once the crisis happened, they could see but could not express their thoughts.   Wad thought that the important returning issue of Khana Ratsadon was the problem of the power of the monarchy, where not only Article 112 of the Criminal Code violates human rights but the problem is that silencing people by using the law cannot change people’s thinking back to when they could not see this issue.   If there is no obstruction, the people who see the phenomenon will express themselves differently and when the reaction is apparent, a point is reached where their perception will change. They see the expression of opinion of other people, and arguments will occur and perception will be adjusted. This shows people the boundaries of the issue, without being confused about what the issue is about.   But when there are efforts to change people’s perceptions, political management with the power of the monarchy as its centre becomes impossible.  Each person keeps their thoughts inside their heads and it becomes a case of guessing what each person, each side is thinking. When thoughts are imprisoned, thoughts do not get established, turmoil arises from being prohibited.   But prohibition can’t be complete because thoughts spread in the era of the internet. But there are people who cannot access the internet who listen only to the NCPO at home. Therefore a vacuum is caused in society by obstruction, there is a lack of common ideas, and consensus in society is not created. Consensus cannot be created if people cannot express the ideas in their heads. The solution is to adjust people’s perceptions so that they are at the same level.     The panel speakers (from left to right): Chaiyan Rajchagool, Rawee Siri-issaranant (Wad Rawee), Pichit Likitkijsomboon, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and Phiengkham Pradabkhwam   
Categories: Prachatai English

Rewind to the 1932 Siamese Revolution (1): the place of the monarchy in the new system

Prachatai English - Fri, 2018-07-13 13:58
Submitted on Fri, 2018-07-13 13:58On 24 June 1932 at Thammasat University, Tha Prachan, the Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANC) and the 24 June Democracy Group held a conference on “86 years since 1932: Branches and Fruit of Siam’s Great Revolution”   The conference had Assoc. Prof. Chaiyan Rajchagool, Faculty of Law, Chiang Mai University; Assoc. Prof. Anusorn Unno, Dean of the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University; Rawee Siri-issaranant (Wad Rawee), writer and owner of the Shine Publishing House; Assoc. Prof. Pichit Likitkijsomboon, Faculty of Economics, Thammasat University; and Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, core member of the 24 June Democracy Group, executive editor of Voice of Taksin magazine; with Phiengkham Pradabkhwam as a resource person. A challenge in economics, politics and status of the monarchy that Khana Ratsadon failed to meet   Pichit stated that what was lacking when talking about the 1932 revolution is an assessment of Khana Ratsadon (People’s Party) and the 24 June incident from the perspective of Khana Ratsadon and its allies, as an interpretation by the royalist side. During the time that Khana Ratsadon was in power to the end of their power due to Sarit's coup d’état in 1957, a total of 25 years under Khana Ratsadon's unstable administration, how well did they answer the problem posed on 24 June?   Pichit assessed the problem of the Khana Ratsadon to be the Six Principles they established, which are a social contract that Khana Ratsadon made with the people. Today we will analyse the response to the principles.   Pichit stated that in 1921, Siam had a population of 14 million people, of which 6.8 million or 68% were illiterate. In 1960, the population had increased to 26 million and the literacy rate to 70%. During that time, the Khana Ratsadon government announced a new law in 1926, enforcing compulsory education to year 4 of primary school. In 1960 when the Khana Ratsadon era ended, compulsory education was 7 years. In the 25 years when Khana Ratsadon was in power, compulsory education made considerable progress, even if there are still people who can’t read or write.   The economic principle which was the intention of Khana Ratsadon was that the people would not starve to death. After announcing the constitution on 24 Dec 1932, Pridi Banomyong, a member of Khana Ratsadon, drafted his economic framework which was violently opposed. It was accused of being communist, especially in King Rama VII’s claim that it was like Stalin’s economic plan in the Soviet Union. It became the starting point of the first anti-communist wave even before the establishment of the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT).   It raised the spectre of communism which led to the enactment of the first Communist Prevention Act that was enforced even before the CPT was established. That economic framework was not brought into use again since that time and no one has studied the issue of it never being used. However, due to the failure of the framework, Khana Ratsadon had to find another economic framework as a replacement to create legitimacy for their administration. In the end, Khana Ratsadon’s economic approach turned right, i.e. into nationalism.   During P. Phibunsongkhram’s term as Prime Minister, a right-wing nationalist economic system was created. The government controlled the economic activities of the private sector with hundreds of state enterprises. This led to many economic problems. The economic structure we see these days is partly the fruit of failure of the framework in the beginning when Pridi’s approach could not be used.   When one reads the economic framework, one will find that it has the characteristics of a socialist economy. All people are under the control of the state. The framework stated that all citizens are government officials. The state will establish various types of cooperatives and have the people be in them, with the government paying their salary and collecting tax. The people in the cooperatives will work and receive rewards according to the work they do. It aims to create a self-reliant economy.   There will be as little trade as possible with other countries. Personal assets exist as land for habitation. The state is the owner of the land as an economic factor. Machinery is also the state’s, with the reason that private ownership of factories will create conflict between employers and employees, but private professions still exist.   However the framework emphasised in various places that this economic system is not communist, because the state is not taking away the people’s rights of ownership. There is an alternative for the people to sell their assets to the state with the state issuing a loan certificate, a bond, and the people can take the interest. At that time it was thought a progressive method.   The land reform when the US took over Japan after World War II to destroy the former landlord system and the land reform in Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek also used this same method. It can be seen as a method used also by non-communist governments.   Another result Khana Ratsadon failed to deliver is the role and status of the monarchy in a democratic system. We are talking about the institution that is an organ of the state, with a political and governmental position where the head of state is an institution with legal and traditional power. The many revolutions around the world achieve complete success when they can answer the question of what the role, status and legal and traditional power should be, how much, and with what restrictions.   But in their 25 years, Khana Ratsadon did not answer this question clearly even when the Boworadet rebellion occurred. However, in the end this vagueness meant there was no pressure or challenge prompting Khana Ratsadon to clearly define where the monarchy should be under the constitutional system. There was none because King Rama VIII ascended the throne while still young and stayed overseas until the end of World War II before returning to Thailand.   During that time there had to be a regent and the regents at that time cooperated well with Khana Ratsadon, so there was no conflict. The conflict over legal and traditional power therefore was not clearly resolved because there were no clashes.   In addition, there was the arrest of political prisoners. These were a pro-monarchy group during P. Phibunsongkhram’s term who were placed on Ko Tarutao. After World War II ended, it was clear that Khana Ratsadon’s military faction lost because they had allied themselves with Japan while the pro-monarchy group were still the political prisoners that were arrested earlier, so only the civilian faction, which is Pridi, was left. He desired national reconciliation; solutions, not vengeance.    After being occupied by Japan for 3-4 years, we changed from a country that lost the war to one that won through diplomatic methods, so all political prisoners and prisoners of war were amnestied. The monarchists and former prisoners of war joined hands to seize power from Pridi in 1947. Eventually, only the monarchists, P. Phibunsongkhram and the Democrat Party established by the monarchists were left.   By 1957, a new generation of soldiers, who had grown up under a military system, a true warrior system, with no influence from the ideas of Khana Ratsadon, led a revival of royal traditions and royal power. The role and status of the monarchical prestige has lasted from then on. Article 112: hiding the sky with one’s hands: creating a thought vacuum   Wad stated that the main theme he would speak on was what resulted from seizing power from the king, and how did it end. The change in the system of government in 1932 did not happen in a few days or a few months, but there was continuous opposition from the monarchist side until the eventual amnesty and reconciliation; the monarchist side returned to power and overthrew Khana Ratsadon.   However a topic that is not often spoken of was that Khana Ratsadon lacked unity. It was divided into factions between P. Phibunsongkhram and Pridi. This situation appeared since the time of World War II when P. Phibunsongkhram lost power after Japan lost the war, causing the Pridi faction, which was the Free Thai movement, that was allied to the monarchists, to side with the Allied Powers and take power.   This is equivalent to the monarchist faction becoming stronger. After the death of King Rama VIII, the monarchist faction turned to attack Pridi until he had to flee the country, so P. Phibunsongkhram’s faction was able to come back into power again. P. Phibunsongkhram fought the monarchists until he was overthrown in 1957. All of this took 25 years since the coup in 1932 and the scene ended with the defeat of Khana Ratsadon.   Before this the topic of Khana Ratsadon has never come back as a topic in Thai politics, whether at the time of the 14 Oct incident, the 6 Oct incident or May 91-92. There was the revival of the importance of Khana Ratsadon aiming to restore Pridi’s honour, but it was done in a way that did not conflict with the royal institution.   Wad continued saying that in the early stages when Khana Ratsadon argued with King Rama VII, the two sides directly argued on the issues; their approach to the argument was the same, and they each knew what the other was thinking. The issue was how to deal with the power of the monarchy in the constitution. When we cut back to the situation before the crisis during Thaksin’s term, the political situation then did not have any concepts about the monarchy.   The focus of politics was on the military, police and politicians. Nobody saw the royal institution in the political system; nobody saw that they were related. There were words of Thaksin from long ago in an interview with foreign reporters that the king in his idea was like a god, not a person. The monarchy was not something with power in the political system, but was floating outside the system.   After the political crisis in 2006-2010, political paradigms that Thai people had recognized changed. People started to see a truth that they cannot go back and not see, no matter if they are conservatives or progressives. They can no longer look at politics and not see the issue of the monarchy any more. This is the issue that is a problem, because this is the difference from the time when Khana Ratsadon argued openly. Before the political crisis, they could not see, but once the crisis happened, they could see but could not express their thoughts.   Wad thought that the important returning issue of Khana Ratsadon was the problem of the power of the monarchy, where not only Article 112 of the Criminal Code violates human rights but the problem is that silencing people by using the law cannot change people’s thinking back to when they could not see this issue.   If there is no obstruction, the people who see the phenomenon will express themselves differently and when the reaction is apparent, a point is reached where their perception will change. They see the expression of opinion of other people, and arguments will occur and perception will be adjusted. This shows people the boundaries of the issue, without being confused about what the issue is about.   But when there are efforts to change people’s perceptions, political management with the power of the monarchy as its centre becomes impossible.  Each person keeps their thoughts inside their heads and it becomes a case of guessing what each person, each side is thinking. When thoughts are imprisoned, thoughts do not get established, turmoil arises from being prohibited.   But prohibition can’t be complete because thoughts spread in the era of the internet. But there are people who cannot access the internet who listen only to the NCPO at home. Therefore a vacuum is caused in society by obstruction, there is a lack of common ideas, and consensus in society is not created. Consensus cannot be created if people cannot express the ideas in their heads. The solution is to adjust people’s perceptions so that they are at the same level.     The panel speakers (from left to right): Chaiyan Rajchagool, Rawee Siri-issaranant (Wad Rawee), Pichit Likitkijsomboon, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and Phiengkham Pradabkhwam    Highlight
Categories: Prachatai English

By the Book

Prachatai English - Tue, 2018-07-10 13:37
Harrison George

The Good Samaritan may soon be extinct in Thailand if the police response to a recent road traffic accident becomes the norm.

It all started with a run of the mill hit-and-run.  A tinted-window Mercedes (is there any other kind?) side-swiped a bicycle that was dutifully trundling along in the gutter, bringing down both rider and machine.  Nothing life-threatening and the bike was damaged but repairable.

Not that the Merc driver knew.  He was long gone.

The accident occurred within sight of a police traffic post/library (for those not familiar with the street furniture of Bangkok, these are air-conditioned boxes where police officers press buttons to control traffic lights and read newspapers).  So a message was sent out on the traffic police radio network.

Having done his duty to his own satisfaction, i.e. without even leaving his seat, the traffic cop settled down to further perusal of Thai Rath’s analysis as to why he’d lost money on the latest Latin American football failure.

The radio message was picked up by a high-ranking police officer who happened to be traveling in the vicinity on his way to negotiate a loan at a money-lender-cum-massage parlour on Ratchadaphisek.  The police general ordered his driver and entourage to divert immediately to the scene of the accident.

By this time, passers-by had come to the aid of the injured cyclist.  One with first aid training suspected that the cyclist had suffered a dislocated shoulder and had fashioned a makeshift sling by ripping up a cloth banner advertising instant loans.

Another quick-thinking civic-minded individual had started taking photos of the fast disappearing Merc and other things that might be useful to a police investigation.  Other less civic-minded individuals were also taking videos and photos, but with the simpler intention of improving their Facebook profile.

The arrival of the police general immediately changed things.  The traffic policeman hurriedly stubbed out his cigarette, brushed off the remains of his khao bai krapao and rushed to snap off a crisp salute.

With his decades of valuable experience, the high-ranking officer fired off a series of instant assumptions.  The cyclist, pedalling one foot from the curb, had obviously been far too close to the passing traffic and should be booked for dangerous driving.

The traffic policeman came in for criticism on two counts.  First, he had failed to properly secure the scene of the accident with cones and Do Not Cross tapes.  Second, he had failed to remove the damaged bicycle and injured cyclist from the roadway to ensure the free circulation of traffic was now blocked by the general’s minor cavalcade.

The general questioned the cyclist.  Did he have a license?  The cyclist, unaware that there was such a thing as a bicycle license, replied that is driving license was in the pocket that his dislocated shoulder prevented him from reaching.  The general instructed his retinue to arrest the cyclist either for riding without a non-existent license or failing to show the licence he did have.

The general turned his attention to the passer-by treating the injured cyclist, asking for his medical license number.  When told that, apart from the first aid certificate from the Thai Red Cross, he had no medical qualifications, the general ordered him arrested for practicing medicine without a license.

He then asked where the budget for the sling that come from.  The volunteer medic explained that no budget was involved and pointed to the source.  The general added to the charge sheet theft, wilful destruction of private property, and illegal restraint of free trade (usurious loans).

The general now spotted the passer-by who was recording the incident, including the generals’ own actions.  He was informed that taking pictures of a police officer could be construed as obstructing the police in the execution of their duty.  So delete everything or face prosecution.

And just as he was about to leave, the general spotted that the bicycle bell had been dislodged in the accident and was now lying in the middle of the road.  He ordered that the cyclist be slapped with the additional charge of littering.

A farang in the crowd, disgusted at this capricious enforcement of law and order, stepped into the road to retrieve the bell.  So the general had him charged with working (as a road sweeper) without a work permit.

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).

Categories: Prachatai English

Following “sentencing guidelines” creates prison overcrowding

Prachatai English - Wed, 2018-07-04 16:19
In June, a conference on measures to avoid pre-verdict detention, held at the Miracle Grand Hotel by the Department of Corrections, Ministry of Justice. The participants were Pol. Gen. Wanchai Srinualnad, former member of the National Human Rights Commission; Narong Jaiharn, Faculty of Law, Thammasat University; Dol Bunnag, Chief Judge of the Intellectual Property Court; and Namtaee Meeboonsalang, Provincial Prosecutor, Office of the Department of People’s Rights Protection and Legal Aid, Kanchanaburi Province. 350,000 prisoners: administrative measures suggested as alternatives to prison for petty crimes
Pol Gen Wanchai said that the 2017 Constitution determines criminal penalties only for serious crimes, but also states that justice agencies may change penalties or determine different penalties. Offences carrying light penalties are those that do not meet the criterion for imprisonment since they are not a serious crimes. Imprisonment is the second most severe criminal punishment in Thailand, after the death penalty.   The facts at present have 350,000 prisoners, 180,000 of them first-time offenders, 60,000 second-time offenders and 15,000 third-time offenders. Solutions in the past have been to enlarge the prisons, which is not correct since there are limits to managing prisons according to international standards, resulting in negative consequences for prisoners and society outside prison. Therefore, what the state must do is to determine strategies using administrative measures instead of criminal punishment.   In particular, the over 800 criminal laws should be linked to a central law. Administrative penalties should be applied in petty crimes and not criminal penalties, For example, driving without a helmet or petty crimes may be punished with a fine and state officials may consider the penalty themselves without needing to enter into the judicial process. The court has secret “sentencing guidelines” for every article   Dol said that the there are many punishment alternatives to imprisonment. Many countries specify middle-level penalty measures, between imprisonment and a fine followed by release, such as intermittent imprisonment, imprisonment on holidays, house arrest, bans on entering certain places, curfews after 6 o’clock, bans on being close to a victim’s house, and daily reporting, which can be done at the police level, and is called cautionary sentencing.    However, in practice only traffic offences can be given cautions. Defamation or cases of bodily assault cannot be given cautions. In other countries, exposure is also a type of penalty. For example, as a punishment for stealing letters, the court orders the display of a sign; in a case of running a red light, the court sentences the offender to carry a sign and stand at the intersection for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening, which is not a violation of human rights but a method of punishment to prevent further offences.   Dol also stated that Article 56 of the Criminal Code hides middle-level punishments, such as having the defendant make a payment to a foundation, aid the victim, and many other measures. It is just that the court doesn’t know that Article 56 contains middle-level punishments because the court has a punishment table or secret “sentencing guidelines”. There are sentencing guidelines for every article. For example, the penalty for theft is not more than 3 years’ imprisonment; if theft by no more than 2 accomplices, 2 years.    For felling timber of so many cubic metres, the punishment can be suspended. For the sale of 1 methamphetamine tablet the penalty is no more than 4 years, a sentence which can be suspended. He himself has suspended sentences. His friends looked him in the face because they don’t do it, and it risks instigating an inquiry. If you don’t want to risk it, then you must sentence according to the sentencing guidelines.   Dol said further that the courts are part of the reason for prison overcrowding. Cases of felling Siamese rosewood attract severe punishment. Most prisoners are scapegoats because capitalists do not cut down trees themselves. They should be punished by fines and orders to plant 5 Siamese rosewood trees, and be monitored to take care of the trees for 5 years and not let them die. The court has to accept new approaches to punishment, but they only have Article 56 to use to suspend sentences.    But the conditions have to be strict. Germany, France and Netherlands closed down many prisons. Imprisonment is only for a few years while Thai laws have penalties that are greater than necessary. In foreign countries prisons are used to confine people that are dangerous to society, where if they leave jail they’ll commit an offence and cause society great damage, whereas Thai laws severely punish people that don’t deserve to be severely punished.   ‘Will measures that differ from imprisonment succeed? Preparations have to be made for them to be put into actual practice and there must be a common understanding that measures replacing imprisonment are punishments that can prevent further crimes and heal victims, and society must be satisfied at a certain level. The important thing is we must have measures to check that alternatives to imprisonment are not abused. We don’t want to see the rich or influential escape because of the alternative punishments, so there must be investigations as to whether it is appropriate to use alternative penalties to imprisonment,’ Dol said. Examples of alternatives in foreign countries   Namtaee said that the real problem causing people to be charged is the economic and political situation. They must all be corrected. If only the Department of Corrections or the judicial process are fixed, the results will not succeed. Consideration of detention during a case must return to the initial procedure of whether they should be arrested or confined or not, because if they are imprisoned, the right to contest their case becomes very bad. If in the end the court dismisses the case, detention will have been unjustified, or if they were actually found guilty of a minor offence that does not warrant imprisonment.    When the level of punishment is considered, one in three are confined during the case, which is a great loss of humanity. In America, imprisonment is considered as the last choice and only if really necessary. In other countries the procedures to bring a case have to be quick and transparent. Public prosecutors and related people have to be at the scene of the crime immediately at the same time, allowing everyone to see the evidence from the start. Evidence cannot be destroyed or tampered with and prosecutors can bring charges even if there’s only 10 days or 3 hours left.    While detention has to be considered from the likelihood of flight or tampering with evidence, the person must be sent to the prosecutor along with all arresting evidence. In the case of former Buddha Isara, police requested an arrest warrant and opposed bail by claiming that there were 30 other witnesses they have yet to interrogate, which raises the suspicion of why they didn’t interrogate them before requesting the arrest warrant.   Namtaee also stated that in America for the arrest of suspects, prosecutors must make charges within 72 hours and the issue of an arrest warrant must have a request from the prosecutor stating whether there is sufficient evidence or not. After the arrest warrant is issued, the prosecutor will have 30 days to file charges. That is considered to be enough time to consider filing the case, while Japan sets a detention limit of 10 days for the prosecutor to draft charges.    All countries use a shorter period of time for the judicial process than Thailand. In Europe there are also alternative measures to imprisonment. What is interesting are limits to movement or meeting a certain person because of the danger just to that person.   ‘While Thailand will solve the issue in a Thai way, that is, immediate confession and not  listening if there is no other evidence. When justice is not served, send a complaint to the media.  This causes the prosecution procedure of our land to disappear. When the reform was done, I heard that Thai law is suitable for Thai society. The law must be according to international principles.  There must be separation of the criminal code and the code of criminal procedure, not Thai-style law,’ Namtaee said. 200,000 drugs prisoners should be treated, not confined in prison   Narong said that what worries the Department of Corrections is the management of limited personnel in limited places. The 200,000 prisoners in drug cases should undergo treatment not imprisonment. For the other 60,000 prisoners detained during investigation or trial, if we use measures of temporary release or EM bracelets, it may reduce the numbers, or we may consider amending laws to delay charges instead of just sending the case to court, so prosecutors can use behaviour monitoring measures instead of filing charges in, for example, drug cases. It may help to filter cases.    To use measures to wait in determining punishments, the subsequent mechanisms need a strong community that will help look after offenders so that they don’t become a danger to the community, by having to participate in monitoring their behaviour with the community. Nevertheless, he personally thinks that imprisonment is still necessary because certain people show signs of escaping or tampering with evidence. If they are left outside prison it will become a problem.   Narong also said that he agrees with the suggestion of Pol Gen Wanchai. Penalties for non-violent criminal offences should be replaced with administrative penalties. We have to analyse the new constitution carefully to see what serious crimes require imprisonment and what is the penalty, something which no one can yet answer. For the penalties we currently have, the only options are imprisonment and fines.   For cases of selling CDs, the minimum fine is 200,000 baht. If no fine, then you wait in jail. This law will need to be reviewed to see if measures to determine punishments can be used or not. In addition, mechanisms in law, especially in court, are limited by the penalty tariff or sentencing guidelines. If discretion is used to punish not in accordance with sentencing guidelines, there may be a risk that a committee will be set up to investigate whether the court knew the defendant personally and therefore set a light sentence. Concerning the arrest and defrocking of monks    Near the end of the conference, ML Panadda Diskul, former Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office with oversight over the Ministry of Justice, raised a question concerning the case of the arrests of senior monks, asking if the arrests were lawful. Namtaee said that, most recently, there was evidence that the monks knew nothing and it was a question of the budget allocation of the National Office of Buddhism.    Money really was transferred into the account for religious purposes, so the truth is that it is not money returned to the temple. So for this case we’ll have to wait and see that when the facts reach the prosecutor, how clear the evidence is. If the prosecutor does not file charges, the serious damage caused to the monkhood will result in having to reform the arrest and investigation procedures.   Dol said that monks who ordained when they were children are different from those who ordained because of bereavement. When they have to leave monkhood they may feel indifferent, but if we become monks disrobing is destroying our lives. Monks who do not make a declaration to disrobe have not, according to the teachings, disrobed.    Dhamma problems are spiritual problems, but to pursue legal proceedings, monks’ robes must be removed before they enter the prison. Personally he thinks that cases concerning monks or search procedures should be clearly specified. The court should have many standards because if there is only one standard then a computer can make decisions, with no need for the court.    The reason why there need to be many standards is because people are different. The equal enforcement of law is not wrong, but not right. Discretion should be used appropriately. In a case where the police have an arrest warrant, when the police arrive and the suspect willingly allows the arrest, then maybe the warrant does not have to be used.      80 percent of Thai inmates are convicted for drugs offences (Photo from Posttoday)  

 

Categories: Prachatai English

‘Model prisons’ fail to meet international standards: researchers

Prachatai English - Mon, 2018-07-02 14:02
Genevieve Glatsky

Several prisons certified as ‘model prisons’ by the Thai Institute of Justice (TIJ) fall short of international standards, as found by Prachatai English in a visit to several prisons, and according to a group activists and researchers, including former lèse majesté prisoner Pornthip Mankhong. The prisons have persistent problems of overcrowding, insufficient staffing, and poor medical care, as witnessed by Prachatai English.

The TIJ has certified ten prisons in Thailand as ‘model prisons’ for their compliance with the Bangkok Rules, formally known as the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders, standards concerning the specific needs of female prisoners. The International Federation for Human Rights conducted the research through its member organization, the Union for Civil Liberties, whose team evaluated prison compliance with the Bangkok Rules.

The team included Pornthip Mankhong, a former lèse majesté prisoner who spent two years in prison after being arrested in 2014 for directing a satirical play at Thammasat University. She is now one of the founders of Fairly Tell, an activist group that supports former women prisoners.

Other members were Pornpit Pakmai, who works on job placement for former prisoners, and reporter on infectious disease issues Raviwan Rakthinkamnerd.

Various members of the group visited women’s correctional institutions in Thanyaburi, Pathum Thani and Chiang Mai, prisons with large female sections at Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Provincial Prison, Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution and Chiang Rai Central Prison, as well as prisons with small female sections including Fang District Prison. Prachatai English was present for the visits to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Fang.

FIDH attempted to evaluate the prisons last year but were denied access by the Department of Corrections. After the TIJ announced the ten ‘model prison’ awards this year, they successfully visited six of them.

But the prisons varied in the freedom of access to the inmates allowed to the researchers. The group was often followed closely by guards who prevented them from speaking privately with the prisoners. Sometimes prison officials pre-selected inmates to speak to the researchers with prepared answers, or only in the presence of an officer who intercepted and answered for them.

Given these restrictions, Pornthip said that her status as a former prisoner helped her quickly gain the trust of the inmates, who she knows from personal experience are often coached to speak to outside organizations. She was even able to speak to many inmates who she knew from her time in prison.

“We have to say ‘Everything is so nice, everything is okay, we are happy to be inside’. That is not true. The visitors will not know the truth inside prison,” she said, “except when we have someone who we trust and they trust us. And I think my friends trust me and they can tell me the truth.”

She said she can get a sense from small details— like whether the prison makes prisoners sit on their knees for visitors — if they respect human rights.

“We are friends, they know me. They know what I’ve done in prison, they know I made problems in prison. So they know they can tell me. And they trust me, that I will protect them. That I can protect them.”

The most common problem in nearly every prison was overcrowding. Inmates told Prachatai English that the cramped, overheated quarters made it difficult to sleep, and that the heat during the day could be unbearable.

For example, at Samut Sakhon Central Prison 500 prisoners are confined to an area of about 0.3 acres. Each person has about 0.68 square meters to sleep in.

Further compounding the issue of overcrowding were shortages of supplies and staff like prison officials, doctors and nurses.

The group heard cases of urgent medical conditions and the failure to get inmates to hospital in time. One woman in Chiang Rai allegedly died in prison of a kidney condition, while another woman in Ayutthaya reportedly had to give birth in prison.

Many prisoners complained of rashes, which the according to researchers, is due to the prison providing ground water for bathing instead of tap water to save money.

The 28th of the Bangkok Rules states that: “Visits involving children shall take place in an environment that is conducive to a positive visiting experience, including with regard to staff attitudes, and shall allow open contact between mother and child. Visits involving extended contact with children should be encouraged, where possible”.

However, most prisons they visited did not allow inmates to have visits with their children other than behind a glass partition. Only Fang District Prison allowed mothers with children younger than 15 to have visits more often than once a year where mothers can touch and hug their children.

Pornthip added that she was pleasantly surprised by the conditions at Fang.

“It’s small but the officers really respect them, respect the human rights of the prisoners. It’s like they’re just a friend. Officers have their duties, but the prisoners just live inside like a big family.”

Among other concerns that Pornthip raised is an apparent policy that prisoners returning from a court date must be subjected to solitary confinement for up to 5 days afterwards to ensure that they haven’t consumed any drugs.

“They said they have to check for methamphetamine when they pee. It’s so stupid because we have the technology to check,” said Pornthip. “When they come back to the guards the prisoners can pee and they can check it immediately. Why do they have to wait 5 days?”

There were also disparities in how much inmates were paid for labour. Some stitched clothes and made only 5 baht per item of clothing. Others received 80 baht per month for doing paperwork. Some who do cleaning work aren’t paid at all. Pay can get as high as 2,000 baht a month, but the type of job a prisoner gets can be arbitrarily decided by the wardens.

Overall members of the group felt that the awards handed out by the Thailand Institute of Justice were good motivators for prisons to follow the Bangkok Rules, but that the institutions were limited by congestion and funding shortages.

For examples, some prisons don’t have an enough budget to purchase televisions. And some officials expressed dissatisfaction with the policy that dictates solitary confinement for several days upon returning from court, but were nevertheless obligated to enforce it.

Group members concluded that the larger correctional institutions have better occupational training than smaller prisons, but described a stricter and more hierarchical atmosphere. Inmates at smaller prisons reported a closer relationship with officers and compared life in prison to “school” or “family”, but said rehabilitation programs and vocational training were close to none.

Pornthip said she was grateful to be able to reconnect with her friends, and felt proud of returning to prison, this time no longer as a prisoner.

“I’m very proud of myself,” she said. “No one wants to go back there. But I want to go back and I want to see my friends, in a different situation with a different status. That makes me so proud of myself.”

*Original version of this report was first published on Monday 2 July, 2018.

** The updated version republished on Monday 16 July, 2018

Categories: Prachatai English

Is it time to reform toxic industrial waste management law?

Prachatai English - Thu, 2018-06-28 14:14
Kobkul Rayanakorn In the past weeks, one of the big news stories that received much media and public attention was the police raid on an electronic waste sorting and recycling plant in Chachoengsao Province. The incident was the first of a number of raids on many other similar plants in Chachoengsao Province and Latkrabang Industrial Estate, including seven containers in Laem Chabang seaport with smuggled electronic waste from Hong Kong and Japan.    A number of the raided plants were found to have violated the conditions of their factory operating licences. Hazardous waste disposal did not meet the official standards, meaning that the large quantities of hazardous materials in the electronic and industrial waste, such as iron, lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium and nickel could cause environmental contamination and affect the environment and the people’s health.      Photo from INESby(CC0)   Sources from the Customs Department stated that part of the problem arose from the fact that several hundred thousand tons of electronic waste from all over the world had been left in Hong Kong after China imposed a ban on the import of waste. Investors therefore came to establish recycling plants in Thailand. After separating out recyclable and usable materials, these were returned to China, while non-recyclable waste was put into sacks and secretly dumped in landfills in Thailand.   According to the Department of Industrial Works (DIW), in 2017 Thailand had over 60,000 tons of electronic waste. Among this was 7,400 tons from domestic industries while the other 53,000 tons were imported. At present Thailand has 148 plants that hold permits for electronic waste processing and disposal including waste sorting plants, waste processing and disposal plants and precious metal recovery plants.  Most of the imported waste for recycling came from Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. 98% was mobile phones, electronic circuit boards and computers.    DIW issued waste import permits to seven plants with quotas to import around 117,000 tons of waste annually. Among these, five plants were found to be contravening the conditions of their permits. Such figures reflect that Thailand currently imports a high volume of electronic waste. The important question that raises concerns is whether the state’s laws and mechanisms are prepared and efficient for handling such a large volume of industrial waste so as to prevent long-term impacts on the environment and health of the people.   Regarding the smuggling of electronic waste, DIW explained that electronic waste or E-waste is easily smuggled into Thailand due to legal loopholes, problems with law enforcement, weak penalties and the relaxation of DIW regulations to facilitate trade liberalization and the businesses of both Thai and foreign investors. Currently Thailand’s Hazardous Substance Act B.E. 2535 (1992) strictly controls the import of electronic waste: importers must obtain permits to import hazardous materials following procedures according to the Basel Convention.     In addition, DIW allows a recycling plant to import electronic waste only if it is used as raw materials in its own plant. Therefore, the problem of the unauthorized importation of electronic waste may partly be caused by false customs declarations. As the Basel Convention, to which Thailand has been a party since 1998, specifies that cross-border movements of hazardous waste must receive the formal consent of state agencies of both the country of origin and of destination, there has been lobbying to import electronic waste.    If the governments of the two countries can agree, electronic waste, as defined in the Convention, can be imported and disposed of in the country of destination. For instance, China might allow its toxic waste to be sent to Thailand for processing. The raids on illegal plants with false customs declarations reflect a problem caused by loose regulations and laws, together with possible corruption and kickbacks among officials, politicians and businesspeople.   These facts point to the following problems concerning the laws and agencies responsible for monitoring electronic waste imports and toxic industrial waste management.  
  1. Thailand is at high risk of having to face more problems if imports of electronic waste and hazardous waste increase. The free trade agreements that Thailand has made with several countries create the obligation to exempt from import duty many goods including chemical waste and electronic waste. In the past, the control systems of Customs used risk management methods of random inspection only in cases of suspicion about a company’s background. Therefore there was no physical inspection of most imported goods. The current target for inspection is less than 5% of imported goods and inspections will be reduced in line with the policy to promote trade liberalization.
     
  2. Weak law enforcement is a problem. The agency that gives permits for factory operations and the import of hazardous waste is the DIW. Provincial industry offices have the authority to monitor factory operations. When people file complaints against smells, polluted water and other forms of pollution caused by factory operations, the procedure under the Factory Act B.E. 2535 (1992) is to issue an order for the violator to correct factory operations, or if it is a case that causes serious impacts, an order might be issued to temporarily halt operations in whole or in part. After corrections are made within the given time, operations usually return to normal. 
    So it often appears that the trouble to the people has not been fixed and some factories even repeatedly violate the law. This observation conforms to a study by the Thai National Health Foundation and the Thailand Research Fund on the problems of industrial waste management. Therefore it is definitely appropriate to reform the laws regarding toxic industrial waste management by specifying that environmental agencies such as the Pollution Control Department (PCD) should have a direct role in monitoring factory operations rather than merely reporting the problems and sending letters to the Ministry of Industry to enforce the law, as is the case now.
     
  3. The Factory Act B.E. 2535 (1992) sets very low penalties.  There is no set minimum penalty. In addition, the Act defines a violation as an offense that can be subject to a spot fine. So when pollution is released or industrial waste is dumped without being treated as set by law, although the maximum penalty is set at no more than 200,000 baht, in practice many cases end in a spot fine of some tens of thousands only.  When it is like this, factory operators are not afraid of the law and see breaking the law as economically worthwhile. If the law is to be honoured, penalties must be increased with a set minimum and repeal of the provision that allows spot fines.
     
  4. The fact that DIW identified that there is lobbying for importing hazardous waste under the Basel Convention, and there may be corruption and kickbacks among officials, politicians and businesspeople, shows that there may well be lobbying especially when there is a lack of good governance among decision makers.
     
  5. Thailand does not yet have a law regarding a recovery system for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) from inside the country. This is still not managed properly. Most is dismantled in junk shops, with the valuable parts sold and the rest thrown back into the environment with no processing of the hazardous materials in it. The PCD has tried to push for a bill on electronic waste management for over a decade. It is now time that the government gave priority to this legislation based on the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): the producers and importers of electrical and electronic equipment are responsible for recovery so that WEEE will be properly processed. 
The news reports about the raids on the plants that smuggle electronic waste into the country help reflect a number of chronic problems. During the past four years we have spoken a lot about reforms; a reform council and various reform committees were established with large budget allocations. However, no clear path can be seen that leads to the reform of laws and systems that will control toxic industrial waste management.    Is it time for us to make a serious move toward solving the problems that have been in front of our eyes for years? This is especially the case with the issues of setting minimum penalties for violators of the Factory Act and repeal of the provision that allows spot fines for the offense of dumping industrial waste or releasing toxic substances that had not been processed according to legal standards. In addition, institutional reform is needed that mandates an environmental agency to monitor factories which is separate from the DIW as the agency that gives permits, which is the universal practice in other countries.   
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