Prachatai English

Sissy That Mob: LGBT youths front and centre in Thailand’s democracy movement

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-09-15 15:03
Submitted on Tue, 15 Sep 2020 - 03:03 PMPaisarn Likhitpreechakul

Originally published on Asia.gay

“Raptor” (in drag) and fellow protestors flash the three-finger salutes at the end of the Aug 16 rally.

They used to be ridiculed and bullied, but LGBT youths have now emerged among the leaders of Thailand’s pro-democracy movement. During the historic August 16 student-led rally at the Democracy Monument, one of the MCs appeared in drag on the mainstage with an audience of more than 20,000 people and a proudly-waved giant rainbow flag.

Thailand’s LGBT movement began to take shape in 2006 when Sexual Diversity Network activists filed a case against the Ministry of Defence for labelling transgenders as suffering from “permanent mental disease” in their conscription paper and won it five years later.

In 2009, after an HIV/AIDS march in the northern city of Chiang Mai was mobbed by a homophobic political group, LGBT activists and allies struck back with a rainbow protest at the Democracy Monument demanding their rights and acceptance in a country once mythicized as “LGBT paradise”.

As the global LGBT rights movement gathered strength, Thai LGBT activists in 2011 began to converge on the issue of marriage equality. However, their initial efforts to draft a “Civil Partnership” bill faced years-long delays due to conservative opposition as well as the government intention to regulate rather than liberate.

Then came the 2014 military coup d’état which dealt a heavy blow on the movement. While many activists saw it as an opportunity to push their agenda without any democratic check-and-balance, others in the minority refused to become an organ for a junta-installed government and began to collaborate with like-minded NGOs and political parties to foster a new generation of LGBT activists.

Rainbow flag waved by feminists on Aug 16.

Although widely considered free but unfair, last year’s general elections put four openly LGBT candidates of the Future Forward Party in the House of Representatives. With wider social acceptance, the issue of marriage equality resurfaced to prominence – this time with greater support for the rewriting of the country’s archaic marriage law with gender-neutral language rather than the government’s separate-but-not-so-equal Civil Partnership bill.

But young LGBT activists are no longer alone. During the five years of military rule, they have built broad alliances with non-LGBT counterparts, especially on the issue of school uniforms and haircuts where gender-segregated codes are aggressively enforced. Together they marched under a “We are not freaks!” banner to the Ministry of Education to demand an end to discrimination against LGBT students, more progressive health and sex education, and a revision of draconian rules.

We are not freaks: students marching to the Ministry of Education to protest against draconian uniform and haircut rules, as well as discrimination and stigma against LGBTQ students in educational institutions and textbooks (Source: Khaosod English)

The banning of the Future Forward Party over alleged financial irregularities by the Constitutional Court in February enraged the party’s mainly young support base. Protests began to emerge just before Covid-19 shut down the country, only to come back with a vengeance five months later after the pandemic had been brought under control.

On July 18, the Free Youth group, a recently founded young pro-democracy group with several LGBT members, organized the first post-Covid public protest against alleged government corruption and mismanagement. One of their loudest grievances was the disappearance of government critics and dissidents, including 38-year-old pro-democracy HIV/AIDS activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit who was abducted in Cambodia on 4 June. They demanded that the government 1) stop harassing critics and dissidents, 2) dissolve the parliament currently dominated by 250 junta-appointed senators, and 3) draft a new constitution to replace the military-friendly 2017 charter.

After a government spokesperson called the protest “a cute mob”, student-led rallies mushroomed across the country including one on July 25 organized by LGBT youths. Convinced that equality cannot be achieved without true democracy, they called their gathering a "Not cute… but sissy mob" in which songs, dances and slapstick humour were used to assert LGBT rights and double down on the Free Youth group’s demands.

“Not cute… but sissy mob” led by LGBTQ students on July 25. (Video credit: workpointTODAY.com)

The August 16 protest – the biggest since the 2014 coup – was a historic moment when marriage equality and employment non-discrimination for LGBTs were raised before a large receptive crowd, along with the issues of bloody government crackdowns in past pro-democracy struggles, illegal land grabs, legal abortions, military rule in the southern provinces, and many others. The spirit of resistance has spread to universities and high schools all over the country with students making “Hunger Games” three-finger salutes, flashing blank sheets of paper, and tying on white ribbons as a sign of defiance against dictatorship.

In a period of just two months, Thai students have kindled a new revolution by showing unprecedented courage, commitment to democracy and non-discrimination, and perceptive insight on the interconnection and intersectionality of all human rights. Although dozens have been arrested on sedition and other charges, they vow to press ahead and reclaim their future with the next mass protest called for September 19. The conservative backlash has so far been limited, but in a country that has suffered thirteen successful coups in 88 years, nobody knows what happens next.

However, one thing is certain: for a youthful movement that has brilliantly borrowed from Harry Potter, Les Misérables and Japanese anime Hamtaro, time is on their side. As Pablo Neruda beautifully put it: You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.

Holding each other’s hands, two FreeYouth co-founders — Phanumat “James” Singprom and Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikitseree — made a defiant three-finger salute after being arrested and released on bail on August 26. They also caused a public stir late last year when kissing in front of the press to make a statement as a petition demanding marriage equality was being submitted to the Parliament by a group of LGBT activists. (Photo credit: Mthai.com)

OpinionLGBT rightsLGBTstudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020Paisarn Likhitpreechakul
Categories: Prachatai English

UN experts concerned at slow pace of investigation into Wanchalearm’s disappearance

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-09-15 11:14
Submitted on Tue, 15 Sep 2020 - 11:14 AMPrachatai

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances submitted a second letter to the Cambodian government over lack of progress in the investigation since the Thai activist was kidnapped from the front of his residence in Phnom Penh on 4 June 2020.

Wanchalearm Satsaksit

The letter, issued on 15 July and released to the public on 15 September in line with UN regulations, gives a timeline of the efforts to discover Wanchalearm’s fate:

Wanchalearm Satsaksit travelled internationally after 2017 and returned to Cambodia following his trip. On 3 June 2020, he was seen by multiple people in Phnom Penh, and there are witnesses to his abduction on 4 June 2020.

On 8 June 2020, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC) issued a public statement calling on the Thai Government to take appropriate action.

On 9 June 2020, the Cambodian National Police Commission confirmed that an investigation had been launched.

On 10 June 2020, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Thailand responded to a question raised in Parliament on the case by indicating that as Wanchalearm Satsaksit did not have political refugee status, Thailand had to wait for Cambodia to finish its investigation

On 17 June 2020, a meeting was held by the Thailand House of Representatives’ Standing Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice and Human Rights (the Standing Committee). Family members and relevant officials from the Royal Thai Police, Ministry of Justice, Judge Advocate General’s Office, Office of the Attorney General (OAG), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were invited to provide information. The Standing Committee has issued a number of views and recommendations to various ministries and offices in order to trace the whereabouts of Wanchalearm Satsaksit.

On 23 June 2020, persons associated with Wanchalearm Satsaksit and their lawyers filed a case with relevant Thai mechanisms including the OAG, the National Interim Mechanism to Receive and Manage the Complaint of Torture and Enforced Disappearance of the Thai Ministry of Justice, and the NHRC.

On 25 June 2020, the case was filed with the Thai Department of Special Investigation (DSI) of the Ministry of Justice.

On 7 July 2020, persons associated with Wanchalearm Satsaksit, through their lawyer in Cambodia, officially filed the case with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

On 8 July 2020, they were informed that the case had been transferred by the Cambodian Attorney General to the Cambodian Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice. 

Also on 8 July 2020, the DSI of the Ministry of Justice issued a public statement announcing the consideration of its Complaint Management Division, which concluded that, given that Wanchalearm Satsaksit went missing outside of the Kingdom of Thailand, the OAG is responsible for this case under the Section 20 (para. 1) of Thailand’s Criminal Procedure Code. Therefore, on the same day, the Director-General of the DSI transferred the case to the OAG to investigate the case. 

Despite the registration number of the car involved being known and there being multiple witnesses, no further information is available on the progress of the investigation in Thailand or Cambodia.

At the date of this communication, the fate and whereabouts of Wanchalearm Satsaksit remain unknown. 

"Argh, can't breathe": Thai political exile kidnapped in Phnom Penh

Cambodian authorities deny knowledge of Thai activist’s disappearance

The letter also cited the lack of progress in the investigation. The reply from the Cambodian government that Wanchalearm’s visa had expired on 31 December did not dismiss the obligation to fully investigate an alleged enforced disappearance. Cambodia should take all necessary measures to locate and protect him and investigate the disappearance, says the Working Group.

“We highlight that the anguish and sorrow of the family may reach the threshold of torture. The right to truth is therefore an absolute right which cannot be restricted and there is an absolute obligation to take all the necessary steps to find the person (A/HRC/16/48). We further underline that his family should be protected from ill treatment or intimidation if required,” the letter stated.

The Working Group, consisting of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, under the mandates of the Human Rights Council, urges the government of Cambodia to respond as follows:

  1. “Please provide any additional information and any comment you may have on the above-mentioned allegations.
  2. Please provide detailed information on the investigations being conducted into Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s abduction and alleged enforced disappearance. Please include information on: 
  • The steps taken to search, locate and protect Wanchalearm Satsaksit including through a comprehensive strategy of search and investigation.
  • The authorities leading and involved in the search and investigation and the extent to which they are independent, have access to all relevant information, have access to all relevant places where people are deprived of the liberty (official or unofficial) and have sufficient resources.
  • Any progress that has been made in the investigation since his abduction.
  • Any information available on Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s current fate and whereabouts.
  • The steps taken to ascertain the identity and affiliation of the perpetrators and to hold them responsible.
  • The steps taken to ensure cooperation in the search and investigation between the Thai and Cambodian authorities.

 3. Please provide information on how Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s family and legal representatives are being kept informed of the progress of the investigation 

“While awaiting a reply, we urge that all necessary interim measures be taken to halt the alleged violations and prevent their re-occurrence and in the event that the investigations support or suggest the allegations to be correct, to ensure the accountability of any person responsible of the alleged violations.”

The response on 12 August 2020 from the Cambodian government to the Working Group's first letter stated that Wanchalearm was abducted east of the Mekong River in Phnom Penh. He was taken into a blue Toyota Highlander. The authorities carried out an investigation and were accumulating evidence at the scene but “had no clue”.

The letter says that the Ministry of Public Works and Transport found that the car identified as used for the abduction was not “in the management list of the Ministry”. The licence number of the vehicle is redacted from the letter. The letter further claims that three witnesses living in the area confirmed that there were no reports of abduction in that area.

NewsWanchalearm SatsaksitUnited Nationsenforced disappearanceCambodiaThailand
Categories: Prachatai English

Mother, teacher, MP call for change as student dies after punishment

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-09-14 11:33
Submitted on Mon, 14 Sep 2020 - 11:33 AMBamaejuri Sohkhlet, Thidatep Piboon, Yiamyut Sutthichaya

Abuse in the Thai education system has resurfaced with the death of a student from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy 2 days after a teacher made him do 100 squats as a punishment for not doing his homework. It amplifies the calls for education reform and tougher enforcement of regulations to stop violence in schools.

The vigil ceremony for students who died from education issues held at the students protest on 5 September 2020.

The death took place on 7 September, 2 days after the teacher inflicted the punishment despite the student showing a medical certificate, explaining that he was too sick to do homework. (Source: Khaosod, Komchadluek)

The death comes just as student protesters have protested against harassment of students in schools and school-related deaths among their main demands for education reform on 5 September.

While his parent have decided not to file a legal complaint, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has not taken any action and the punishment and the death have still not been linked, Prachatai English talked to a mother, teacher and policy maker about their concern over the incident which reflects a constant risk of death in schools.

A mother calls for cultural change regarding corporal punishment

Nuttaa Mahattana, an activist and mother of a 13-year-old son, felt terribly sad as the boy who died is the same age as her son. She is disappointed that physical punishment is still used despite the MOE regulations prohibiting it. This reflects on the Ministry’s inefficiency or incompetence in implementing policy. 

Rule of the Ministry of Education on Penalisation of Pupils And Students, B.E.2548 (2005) allows 4 kinds of punishments: warnings, probation, deducting conduct scores, and performance of activities with a view to behavioural adjustment. No violence of any kind is allowed as a punishment.

For this case in particular, Nuttaa wants to see immediate action taken by the MOE by pursuing legal action against the teacher and to providing some form of compensation to the family. 

“I still remember at the time I was like 9 years old, there was a teacher who would come into the classroom, scolding children for no good reason, quite harshly and the kids are so young. So this happens, and it's still there”, Nuttaa relayed her school experience, things like mandatory haircuts which still exist today.

She urges the Ministry of Education to take 3 steps to solve the problem: be responsible for this case and take legal action against any teacher who inflicts violence on students; ensure that teachers understand the legal consequences for assaulting students; and lastly, a cultural change within the education system and a change in the mindset of people. 

“If there is still a culture of authoritarianism in schools like this, no matter what kind of rule is issued by the Ministry, it will be ignored as in the past. The Ministry has improved their regulations a lot already. 

“It’s not like they have the wrong regulations, they have appropriate regulations about punishment and all. But they are ignored because [of] the culture in the education system so there must be cultural change, change in the mindset.”, said Nuttaa. 

On 9 September, Nuttaa posted an open letter to Nataphol Teepsuwan, the Education Minister, to take serious action to put a stop to repeated violence in schools. (Source: Matichon)

Community of parents should unite against teacher aggression

Viroj Lakkana-adisorn, an MP from the Move Forward Party (MFP) and spokesperson for the House Committee on Education, questions whether physical punishment in schools is being carried out only after other positive reinforcement methods have failed. 

“...Can the teacher use other methods, such as having him submit the homework later, either after school or at lunch time? What will be gained from punishment? This is the use of power. This is the brutality embedded in authoritarianism,” said Viroj.

He said in the past 2 months, the Committee has received 20 complaints about harassment of students. The Ministry must take a serious stance on teachers' assaults on students by using any legal and disciplinary procedure at its disposal to deter teachers from repeating the behaviour.

Viroj urges the Ministry to work actively to reform school boards, which oversee school activities, to include all stakeholders, including teachers, alumni, students, parents and the community. Protection of children's rights and putting a stop to atrocities in schools must be one of the primary objectives.

He also urges the parents in the community to take an active role in checking teachers’ abuse of power.

“With the Ministry of Education as the host, there are agencies to start legal proceedings against teachers who still commit violations and mount an ongoing campaign. Meanwhile, the community of families has to try to mobilize to take a greater role, and push to have more role in protecting their children.”, said Viroj.

Teacher engagement with students should change

“Is it wrong to be sick?”, asks Ongkarn Chomvisarutkul, the director of kindergarten school and a former English teacher who has always disagreed with corporal punishment.

Ongkarn feels sad and angry and says that the case of illness is absolutely unfair. He thinks that teachers should instead engage with students to encourage them. A 100 squats violates Section 6 of the Ministry’s Rules [which bans physical punishment]. There is no benefit and could be both violent and humiliating if it was in front of other people.

“…I have never physically harmed students because I have always held that they’re someone’s children.”

“Once I got into the world of education, read books on psychology and had my own experience. I found out that it [corporal punishment] had no benefit as I had thought. It is not a fact. It is just a belief that people believe in incorrectly.”

Ongkarn said that authoritarianism, the teacher’s ego and sayings such as ‘The cane makes a man’ and “To love a cow, tie it up; to love a child, hit him/her,” are the reasons why corporal punishment still exists in school. He also urges teachers who still use this punishment to change their mindset and to understand their students more. 

“Teachers have a duty of helping and coaching students, not tyrannizing them”, said Ongkarn.

Bamaejuri and Thidatep are Prachatai English interns from Mahidol University International College (MUIC)

FeatureViroj Lakkana-adisornNuttaa MahattanaOngkarn ChomvisarutkuleducationEducation reformviolence in school
Categories: Prachatai English

11th grader summoned by teacher, asked not to give protest speeches

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-09-11 20:26
Submitted on Fri, 11 Sep 2020 - 08:26 PMPrachatai

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has reported that a 16-year-old student in Bangkok was summoned by a teacher after making a speech at the student protest on 5 September. She was asked to give the names of schoolmates who joined the protest and not to make any speeches again out of concern for the school’s reputation.

Students raising 3 fingers at the protest in front of the Ministry of Education on 5 September.

Tan (alias) said she was summoned to a meeting room on 8 September by her classroom teacher. There, she met another teacher who she had never studied with. There was no other state agent present.

According to Tan, the teacher asked her the reason for making a speech on the stage in student uniform. She gave the teacher details about the protest and their demands which related to education. She had also concealed the school name on her uniform while taking part in the protest.

The teacher said that her appearance on the stage had affected the school’s reputation. The teacher also said that a speech calling for the legalization of prostitution is improper. Tan said the talk went smoothly without any verbal assault but she felt that the teacher did not try to understand her reasons.

The teacher also asked her repeatedly during the talk not to take the stage again, claiming that her mother would be disappointed and that she might face danger. Tan responded that her mother allowed her to join the protest. Regardless of her answer, the teacher called her mother to talk about her participation.

Tan said her mother is quite open-minded and accepts her decision. However, her mother is concerned about her life at school and whether she would be monitored or expelled. The teacher still did not say anything about punishment.

Tan, along with some of her friends at school who are interested in politics took part in organizing the “#I Know I’m Bad” protest in front of the Ministry of Education (MOE) on 5 September along with 49 other student groups. It has been very rare to see Thai school students taking part in political activities.

Bad Students teach Minister education reform

Good adults join protest of Bad Students

The students stated their 3 demands: stop the harassment of students, cancel outdated rules, and comprehensive education reform. They also gave an ultimatum that Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan must resign if he fails to meet the demands.

A symbolic performance at the 5 September protest showing the students suffering in Thai education system. 

Student harassment by teachers is one of the lingering problems in the Thai education system. Despite MOE regulations forbidding punishment that involves the use of force or violence, verbal and physical assaults are still seen from time to time in the news.

Students have been expressing their political opinions and anti-dictatorship calls in line with waves of countrywide pro-democracy protests since the first landmark protest in Bangkok on 18 July. After a large protest on 16 August, students in many schools showed their symbolic support by raising 3 fingers and wearing white ribbons. Many faced suppression and negative reactions from teachers as a result.

In August, TLHR reported at least 103 cases of harassment of students expressing their support for democracy.

NewsStudent protest 2020Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)student harassmentpoliticsfreedom of expressioneducationSource: www.tlhr2014.com/?p=21245
Categories: Prachatai English

High school student summoned for Ratchaburi protest

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-09-10 23:34
Submitted on Thu, 10 Sep 2020 - 11:34 PMPrachatai

A high school student has been summoned by the police for participating in an anti-government protest in Ratchaburi on 1 August and accused of violating the Emergency Decree and the Public Assembly Act.

The demonstration at Ratchaburi on 1 August

The student activist group Free Youth posted a picture of the summons on their Facebook page yesterday (9 September), stating that a 17-year-old high school student who participated in the anti-government protest in Ratchaburi on 1 August has received a police summons alongside 4 other university students, and that this is the first time since the mass protest on 18 July that the authorities have issued a summons for a high school student.

The summons states that the students are accused of violating the Emergency Decree and the Public Assembly Act and of using a sound amplifier in public without permission.

Student activists Panuwat Songsawatchai and Theerachai Rawiwat said that they also received a police summons for participating in the same demonstration.

“For what reason does a peaceful protest without arms by young people calling for a better future, something that is guaranteed by the 2017 constitution which the NCPO dictatorship themselves wrote and which enables this, lead to young people being summoned at this time?” wrote Free Youth on their Facebook page.

“Stop making the country darker than it already is by silencing young people and stopping them from demanding a brighter future. If we still have a twisted structure like the 2017 constitution, if we still have a government which disrespects the people in this way, a bright future for this country will be something that is difficult to bring about.”

NewsRatchaburiEmergency DecreePublic Assembly Actstudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020Panuwat SongsawatchaiTheerachai Rawiwat
Categories: Prachatai English

Anti-coup instructions spread as speculation runs riot

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-09-10 16:33
Submitted on Thu, 10 Sep 2020 - 04:33 PMThammachart Kri-aksorn

Monday 7 September was supposed to be a peaceful holiday, but a Thai translation of Gene Sharp’s book The Anti-Coup suddenly spread all over social media as a tank was spotted on a street by Thai netizens.  The hashtag ‘no coup’ was retweeted more than 100,000 times, but the story turned into an anti-climax when the Royal Thai Army said they were just conducting annual military exercises. However, Thailand’s future remains uncertain as change is in the air.

Monday 7 September was also supposed to be a peaceful holiday before Thais get back to work. The government had announced that Friday 4 and Monday 7 September were holidays to compensate for the cancellation, because of the Covid-19 situation, of the Songkran festival, which ordinarily takes place in April. 

But Thais could not sit still as prospects of a military coup loomed large. A day before the long weekend, Thai Rath Online published an analysis of military training for Rapid Deployment Forces (RDF) in large provinces where demonstrations of Free Youth had taken place, including Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Phitsanulok, Lopburi, Chiang Mai, Ubon Ratchathani, Roi Et and Nakhon Ratchasima.

The analysis said that the RDF training will include the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 9th and 11th Infantry Divisions, the 1st Cavalry Division, the Anti-Aircraft Division, and the Special Warfare Command. In the last military coup in 2014, Thai Rath said that 7 divisions, 17 regiments, and 43 battalions were mobilized to seize power.  

On Sunday night (6 September), Thais went into an even greater panic as a famous Twitter user ‘Mam Po Dam’ posted a picture of a tank on the streets. “Soldiers from Kanchanaburi, the 9th Division, have entered Bangkok again,” wrote Mam Po Dam. “This must be preparation for the 2021 Children’s Day. #No Coup #No Dictatorship #End Threats against Citizens.”

A famous Twitter user ‘Mam Po Dam’ posted a picture of a tank on the streets.

 

After the tweet, the hashtag “no coup” was retweeted more than a hundred thousand times. Anti-coup instructions have been shared all over social media along with a Thai translation of The Anti-Coup, written by Gene Sharp and Bruce Jenkins.

A single page of anti-coup instructions available since the 2014 military coup also resurfaced and went viral online. It emphasizes the importance of nonviolent discipline and outlined practical steps required to resist the coup, including obstructing transportation routes of the military, strikes, withdrawing money from banks, symbolic protests, and refusal to pay taxes.

Caption: A single page of anti-coup instructions available since the 2014 military coup also resurfaced and went viral online.

The Anti-Coup A Thai version of The Anti-Coup has been published twice. The version which went viral online was a translation by Nuchari Cholakhup with support of the Komol Keemthong Foundation in 1993. It was published after the military coup in 1991 and Black May incident in 1992.  

Two decades passed by, two military coups have happened since then, and the original English version of the book has been revised in 2003.  So student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal revised the translation, asked opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit to write an introduction for the book and republished it in 2019.

He recently sold copies at a demonstration on Ratchadamnoen Avenue which attracted more than 10,000 protesters. But this more recent version has not been made available online.

On 7 September, Nattacha Boonchaiinsawat, a spokesperson of the Move Forward party, said that a coup will be suicidal for the military, because people are no longer in fear.

A leading figure of the student movement also called for Thais to prepare. “If there is an attempt to stage a coup by no matter who, I ask that brothers, sisters, and people come out together to obstruct and immediately make the instigators guilty of treason under Section 113 of the Criminal Code. #No Coup,” said the Secretary General for the Free People Movement, Tattep 'Ford' Ruangprapaikitseree, on Twitter.

Thailand has experienced military coups far too many times: in 1947, 1948, 1951, 1957, 1958, 1971, 1976, 1977, 1991, 2006, and 2014.

False alarm

It turns out that this time was just a false alarm. “Nonsense” was Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s response after being asked by the press to clarify the rumours of a military coup, “What a question.” He told the press to “go home” as he walked away from the podium while the press were still asking questions. 

Col Winthai Suvaree, Royal Thai Army spokesperson, held a press conference to say that the rumours were fake news. The transportation of military equipment seen recently was just part of the annual training of army military units. The Royal Thai Army has updated people about these on a regular basis. There were more military exercises than usual during this period because Covid-19 led to earlier training at unit levels in March being postponed.

Gen Natapon Srisawat, special advisor to the Royal Thai Army, told Voice Online that the training on 8-9 September was to increase the capability of the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF). Gen Natapon also said that the rotation of 3,000 troops from Army Region 3 in the north of Thailand to Saraburi Province was part of the RDF training for cavalry units which also took place in other provinces.

Gen Natapon also said this had nothing to do with the ongoing protests because it had been scheduled long ago.

Gen Natapon Srisawat told the press that there will be no coup.

Source: Prachaya Nongnuch

If a military coup happens in Thailand, it will most likely be under the order of the Army Chief, as when Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha seized power in 2014. But the Army Chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong has made it clear. “Don’t worry. [A coup d'état] will never happen again,” he told the Bangkok Post.

Apirat’s term will end soon on September 30. Gen Narongphan Jitkaewthae is expected to be the next Army Chief.

Gen Narongphan is a high-profile soldier. He fought the insurgency in ‘red areas’ in the south of Thailand in 2004-2005 and participated in the Thai peace-keeping mission in East Timor under the UN. He is also a direct descendant of the Wong Thewan faction and was appointed a special soldier of the King’s Own Guard in 2018.

During the transition from Gen Apirat to Gen Narongphan, many doubt that there will be a military coup.

Future uncertain  

However, change is in the air.

Thailand has seen two waves of large demonstrations this year. The first wave started in February, in response to the dissolution of the Future Forward Party. Its momentum was stalled for a while because of the Covid-19 outbreak and the government’s Emergency Decree. The protesters have returned as grievances have been piling up but the government has remained unresponsive.

Also, for the first time in Thai political history, protesters have openly called for monarchy reform when human rights lawyer Anon Nampa outlined a 10-point proposal to curb the monarchy’s excessive power. He was arrested for violating the sedition law, let out on bail, had his bail revoked last week, but then was released along with political activist Panupong Jadnok after 5 days in jail.

Left: Anon Nampa. Right: Panupong Jadnok. The leading activists were released after 5 days in prison on 3 Sep.
Source: Prachatai

Police claimed that the investigation process had made enough progress for there to be no further need for his detention. But it is also possible that Thai authorities are trying to reduce tension before what may be one of the biggest protests in Thailand.

This protest is scheduled for the 14th anniversary of the 2006 military coup on 19 September. Before the release of Anon and Panupong, Sombat Boongamanong, a political activist renowned for his creative tactics, suggested that the protest organizing team should produce 100,000 masks with Anon and Panupong’s faces on them. This number is 10 times the conservative estimate of numbers in the protest on 18 July since 2014 on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, the largest since 2014.

Whether 100,000 or fewer, the government has enough headaches. The protesters have accomplished several successes: they have drawn wider support, mobilized people onto the streets, put monarchy reform on the agenda, pressured the government into withdrawing the anti-protest clause in the Emergency Decree, and provoked a constitutional amendment process.

At some point, the government may really want to stage a coup, so it is good that Thais are preparing anti-coup instructions.

Round UpRound-upAnon NampaPanupong Jadnokanti-coupEmergency Decree
Categories: Prachatai English

AI calls for urgent action against prosecution of Thai activists

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-09-10 00:13
Submitted on Thu, 10 Sep 2020 - 12:13 AMAmnesty International

Amnesty International (AI) has issued a call for an urgent action against prosecution of Thai political activists, inviting supporters to submit an appeal to the Thai government demanding that it drops all charges against protesters and end all effort to obstruct peaceful assemblies. The campaign will run until 21 October. 

A protester at the mass protest on 16 August holding up a placard, which says "To whom it may concern: Be civil. It's not that hard."

Thai authorities issued arrest warrants for 15 pro-democracy leaders and activists for their role in a mass gathering in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, on 18 July 2020. 16 other protestors have been summoned and charged from the same incident. All 31 face serious allegations including sedition – this broadly worded and repressive law is often used by the government to silence critical voices. If convicted, each activist could face up to seven years in prison. This recent slew of arrests of peaceful demonstrators illustrates the authorities’ intensifying crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly.

AI calls on supporters to submit appeals to the Thai authorities in their own words or use the model letter provided on AI's website. 

Additional information

On 18 July 2020, 31 individuals, including several university students, had taken part in a peaceful demonstration at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, organized by a student-led movement Free Youth. The gathering attended by an estimated 2,400 protestors listed three demands to the Thai government: parliament dissolution and fresh elections, a new constitution, and an end to harassment against individuals.

Each of the activists face up to seven years in prison if convicted. All of them face charges that include: sedition, assembly intended to do act of violence, refusing to comply with an order of an official, obstructing the public way and committing an act of violence not amounting to bodily or mental harm to the other person under Articles 116, 215, 368, 385, and 391 of the Penal Code, respectively; violation of the Emergency Decree; offence under the Communicable Diseases Act; obstructing the traffic under Article 114 of the Land Traffic Act; Article 19 of the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness Act; and the use of an amplifier without authorities’ permission under Article 4 of the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act.

15 out of 31 individuals have an arrest warrants issued against them. To date, 13 activists out of 15 have been arrested and bailed out with 100,000 Thai baht (approx. USD 3,000) surety each, or with positions of professor or parliamentarian as a guarantee. Two individuals still face the risk of arrest. The 16 other protestors are facing the same allegations and are due to report themselves to the police at Samranrat station, Bangkok, on 28 August 2020.

One of those arrested on 7 August – lawyer Anon Nampa – was arrested again by police from Chanasongkram station on 19 August for his role in a Harry Potter-themed rally in Bangkok on 3 August, at which Arnon gave a speech calling for a reform of the Thai monarchy. He was later granted bail with conditions not to carry out the same alleged acts. The police later arrested Panupong Chadnok (Mike) and Arnon again, on 24 and 25 August respectively, for joining a different protest at Thammasat University, Pathum Thani province, on 10 August. In this case, the pair face serious charges including sedition and importing to the computer system information deemed a threat to national security.

Since the imposition of stringent measures under the Emergency Decree on 26 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of people – including university and high school students – have taken to the streets to voice their demands regarding social and political matters. Apart from the three main demands listed at the 18 July protest, many of these demonstrators call for a reform to education, gender equality, sexual and reproductive rights, justice for enforced disappearance cases, among other issues. After the Emergency Decree came into effect, the authorities have increasingly detained and initiated criminal complaints against individuals who engaged in peaceful protests and activities. Demonstrators have reported being subject to intensifying harassment and intimidation by local officers in recent months solely for their involvement in peaceful demonstrations.

PREFERRED LANGUAGE TO ADDRESS TARGET: English, Thai or your own language.

PLEASE TAKE ACTION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE UNTIL: 21 October 2020

Please check with the Amnesty office in your country if you wish to send appeals after the deadline.

NAME AND PREFFERED PRONOUN: [Enter Name] Arnon Nampa (he/him), Baramee Chairat (he/him), Cholathit Chotsawas (he/him), Dechathorn Bumrungmuang (he/him), Jakkatorn Daoyame (he/him), Jatupat Boonpattararaksa (he/him), Jirathita Thammarak (she/her), Jutatip Sirikhan (she/her), Karnnithi Limcharoen (he/him), Korakot Sangyenpan (he/him), Kritsana Kaigaew (he/him), Lanlana Suriyo (she/her), Nawat Liangwattana (he/him), Nattapong Phugaew (he/him), Nattawut Somboonsap (he/him), Netnapa Amnajsongserm (she/her), Panusaya Sittijirawattanakul (she/her), Panumas Singprom (he/him), Panupong Chadnok (he/him), Parit Chiwarak (he/him), Pimsiri Petchnamrob (she/her), Prachaya Surakamchornroj (he/him), Sirin Mungcharoen (she/her), Suwanna Tanlek (she/her), Taksakorn Musikrak (he/him), Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree (he/him), Thanachai Eu-ruecha (he/him), Thanayuth Na Ayutthaya (he/him), Thanee Sasom (he/him), Todsapon Sinsomboon (he/him), Yamaruddin Songsiri (he/him)

Pick to PostAmnesty Internationalstudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020judicial harassmentEmergency DecreeState of emergencyfreedom of expressionfreedom of assembly
Categories: Prachatai English

Nong Bua Lamphu community rights group reclaims former mining zone

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-09-09 23:38
Submitted on Wed, 9 Sep 2020 - 11:38 PMProtection International

On 4 September, the women and men human rights defenders (W/HRDs) of the Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group have achieved a tremendous victory in their 26-year struggle against quarry mining by reclaiming the mining zone and proclaiming it a community forest zone.

(Source: Protection International)

At least 300 W/HRDs from the local communities within the Dong Mafai Sub District of Nong Bua Lamphu Province marched to occupy the mining zone. They performed traditional rituals and held rejuvenation ceremonies in order to revive their motherland back to its prosperous state, to the likes of its condition before mining.

The declaration of their victory and reclamation of justice came after the company’s forest utilization permit for quarry mining expired on 3 September 2020. After this date, the company no longer has valid legal permission to utilize the mining zone, forcing a halt to all operations. The effected mining operations occupied 175 Rai (28 hectares) of reserve forest on Huak Cliff, Dong Mafai Sub District, Suwannakuha District, within the Nong Bua Lampu Province of Northeast Thailand.

The rituals performed include the ordination of forestry—a traditional ritual done by the community to protect the forest from invaders—a declaration of the determination by the people of Dong Mafai to protect all the cliffs and forest from mining, a declaration of reclaiming justice for those who were killed from defending the community and forest from mining, and Bai Sri Suu Kwan, which is a traditional Thai blessing ceremony.

The blessing ceremony performed at the site (Source: Protection International)

The community W/HRDs of Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group have been opposed the mining operations for over two decades due to the negative impacts they have had on locals’ access to food sources in the forest, the damage to buildings due to debris caused by explosions at the mine, and its consequential pollution. Between 1995-1999, four environmental W/HRDs within the conservation group were killed for their activism work. No perpetrator has been held responsible for the crimes, further feeding the vicious cycle of impunity.

To date, the company still has access to the stone mill, which currently occupies 50 Rai (8 hectares) of land next to the mining zone. The Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group will continue to protest and blockade to mining site until the permit to the stone mill will expire on 24 September 2020, which is when the company’s overarching mining permit expires. The group plans to enter the mining areas and shut down the mining site permanently on 25 September 2020.

(Source: Protection International)

Protection International would like to congratulate and commend the W/HRDs’ continued efforts to put a permanent end to environmentally destructive 

mining operations. Thailand has clear obligations to respect the rights of environmental W/HRDs and protect them from harm. They should combat impunity for attacks and violations against environmental W/HRDs, particularly by non-State actors, who in turn also have responsibilities under human rights law. Business enterprises have a responsibility to respect internationally recognized human rights, a duty which is independent of State obligations.

Protection International urges for Thailand and the businesses operating within its borders to respect the right to defend human rights. We implore States to protect our environmental protectors. We encourage all key stakeholders to #StayWithDefenders throughout the current pandemic and beyond, as we continue to adapt our means of protest and freedom of expression.

Pick to PostProtection Internationalcommunity rightsEnvironmental rightsAnti-miningKhao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group
Categories: Prachatai English

People with disabilities call for constitutional amendments to be inclusive

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-09-09 19:48
Submitted on Wed, 9 Sep 2020 - 07:48 PM

A symbolic campaign by the Alliance for Inclusive Society Movement (Allism) on 6 September 2020 called for any constitutional amendment to also benefit people with disabilities.

The Allisms performance before the statement reading.

The campaign was launched at the Pathum Wan Skywalk, Bangkok, in the form of a pantomime where a man in a wheelchair tried to reach a golden phan (traditional sacred plate) and a student uniform at the top of a set of stairs, reflecting the inaccessibility of public welfare and participation.

Auttapon Srichitsanuwaranon, the performer and Allism representative, then read a statement that the 2017 Constitution did not clearly ensure the right of children with disability to access free compulsory education, unlike the 2007 version. This may lead the state ignoring people with disabilities.

The lack of access to education may spill over to deprive the disabled of opportunities and a better quality of life later on, which leave them behind and unable to contribute to the country's development.

The Allism statement contains 3 demands:

  1. Drafting a new constitution. Sections relating to education should consider the diversity of people. The state must provide disabled people with the means to access education, such as assistance, instructional media and an environment for learning.
  2. The Constitution must require that all educational institutions, according to ministerial rules, wholly and retroactively provide facilities for disabled and elderly people.
  3. The Constitution should protect the rights to access and to participate in social activities by providing allowances in line with the national average poverty standard. This will support access to education for the disabled, as long as Thailand still does not have public transportation that helps to lower living costs for all.

The statement also has 2 standpoints:

  1. All demands must be based on the principle of Independent Living (IL), which is important in establishing and returning the power of decision-making to disabled people.
  2. All demands must be established in a democratic environment where the supreme power is with the people, without coups d’état ripping up the constitution. The principles of democracy will ensure that the people’s voice is heard and will lead to decentralization, helping to build engagement in decision-making at all levels.

“We agree with and support the demands of the students and their allies that are established following a democratic approach because we believe that seeing all people as equal, accepting diversity and valuing all voices will turn the country into a society in peace,” the statement said.

Auttapon said his performance reflects 4 obstacles that children with disabilities face: environment, attitude, public participation and public policies, which contribute to exclusion from education, a means to raise one’s quality of life.

He also wants to voice support for constitutional amendments.

“Seen in terms of economics, the problems of work for disabled people during Covid-19  is affected. When normal people are fired, the quota for employing disabled people is decreased. In terms of making a living, the impact is a higher cost of living. Severely disabled people have a high cost of living.

“If politics is good, welfare for the disabled will also be better. There will be rights of access, education in a dimension where people can study together. They will find perspectives that they themselves are not limited. They will have friends from many groups, and access to opportunities through many channels,” said Auttapon.

Source: Prachatai, ThisAble.me

NewspoliticsAuttapon SrichitsanuwaranonAllismsPeople with disabilitiesConstitutional amendment
Categories: Prachatai English

Protest leaders released after five days in prison

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-09-08 22:19
Submitted on Tue, 8 Sep 2020 - 10:19 PMPrachatai

Protest leaders Anon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok have been released from the Bangkok Remand Prison, where they have been detained for five days after the Criminal Court ruled on Thursday (3 September) to have their bail revoked.

Anon and Panupong were released at 17.30 on Monday (7 September) after the inquiry officer at the Samranrat Police Station requested to have them released, claiming that the investigation process had progressed enough that there is no reason to detain them any longer.

The Bangkok Criminal Court ruled on Thursday (3 September) to revoke Anon’s bail and increase Panupong’s security after the inquiry officer filed a motion to revoke their bail, claiming that, since Anon and Panupong have continued to take part in demonstrations, the Criminal Court’s bail condition has been violated.

The Court did not prevent them from seeking bail again, but Anon and Panupong decided against that. They were detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison for five days before being released. 

During their detention, a group of supporters gathered in front of the Bangkok Remand Prison on Thursday night and in the afternoon of Friday (4 September) and Sunday (6 September) to demand their release. 

Upon release, Anon and Panupong said they will continue to fight for their goals as they have always done. Anon said that he and Panupong will be joining the protest at Thammasat University on 19 September, and that he will be speaking on stage. Anon also said that he is expecting to face many more lawsuits.

Panupong said that they decided to not seek bail because they feel that the Court’s conditions limit their rights and freedoms, and therefore they cannot accept them.  

NewsAnon NampaPanupong Jadnokjudicial harassmentstudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

Good adults join protest of Bad Students

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-09-08 20:54
Submitted on Tue, 8 Sep 2020 - 08:54 PMThidatep Piboon, Yiamyut Sutthichaya, Thammachart Kri-aksorn

As adults are asked to behave according to the ‘10 duties of adults’, grandparents, parents and public figures have joined the protest held by the Bad Students to help them pressure the Ministry of Education to do more on education reform.  

A woman with a white ribbon, a symbol of the student movement, walking past the ministry of Education wall with wreaths from student protesters.

Naruemon, 70, came from Chiang Rai to attend the protest with her grandchild. Triyaphon, 11, wanted to join the protest, so she told her grandmother the night before.

Naruemon came along right away. ‘I have been here since the October [incidents in 1973 and 1976]. It runs in my blood. I love what is right. I have been through a lot, wrongs that have not been useful to us at all,’ said Naruemon as she expressed her dissatisfaction with corrupt local government officers.

Right: Naruemon with her grandchildren.

‘I am delighted in my grandchild. I even cried when she told me that she would come here. She said she was not afraid because she didn't do anything wrong,’ said Naruemon.

Naruemon’s grandchild was one of the 300 students from 50 schools who gathered in front of the Ministry of Education to call for education reform. As the students challenged Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan to a debate, they received tremendous support from adults with democratic minds.

Chaiamorn ‘Ammy’ Kaewwiboonpan, a singer from the famous band Bottom Blues and a frontliner in the democratic movement, posted on Facebook that he came to join the protest as a security guard as he rallied along with the students to the Education Ministry. 

Nuttaa Mahattana

Nuttaa ‘Bow’ Mahattana, a political activist, also joined the stage calling on parents and adults to protect their children. Behind her was a vinyl backdrop which elaborated the 10 duties of adults adapted by the Bad Students from the lyrics of ‘Yea Kids, Good Kids’, a song composed in 1991 which is still used by the government today.

Comparing the lyrics of ‘Good Adults’ and ‘Good Kids’

10 Duties of Adults (2020)

10 Duties of Kids (1991)

  1. Be open-minded about religion.
  1. Respect religion.
  1. Know the value of fellow humans.

2. Safeguard tradition.

  1. Have judgement.

3. Believe parents and teachers.

  1. Speak without satire or abuse.

4. Speak politely, softly and sweetly.

  1. Think and act with reason.

5. Adhere to gratitude.

  1. Respect people who think differently.

6. Be a person who knows and loves work.

  1. Have a neutral mind, listen to inferiors, don’t rush to oppose.

7. Study to be an expert, persevere, don’t be lazy.

  1. If you have an ego, get rid of it.

8. Know how to be thrifty.

  1. Don’t limit your experience, learn a wide new world, keep up-to-date with international developments.

9. Be eternally honest, sportsmanlike and courageous, appropriately for the stage of national development.

  1. Be a good example. Learn to say sorry, and do not cause only problems. Adults in the period of national development cooperating with children lead the Thai nation to progress.

10. Make yourself useful, know good from evil, and preserve national treasures. Children in the period of national development will be children who lead the Thai nation to progress.

She said that the students' 3 demands are something that adults should unanimously support.

The 'Good Adults' music show (Source: Matichon TV)

In the protest, the Bad Students called for the end of harassment against students, cancellation of outdated rules, and comprehensive education reform. They also gave an ultimatum that Education Minister Nataphol must resign if he cannot do the job.

Nuttaa referred to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), signed by 196 countries including Thailand. According to the CRC, a child has 4 basic rights including the rights to life, survival, development and respect for the views of the child. Nuttaa said the Education Minister must work harder, especially on the third one.

‘Because those who protect the children's rights from now on will be the adults in society, the government, MPs, the media and teachers in schools,’ said Nuttaa, ‘from now on, we will no longer see things like this: when a teacher shaves a kid's hair, parents will not go to talk to the teacher and reach a compromise and apologize to each other. From now on, when a teacher shaves a kid's hair, we will be the people walking to the police station to report a criminal case.’

She ended her speech by reading the poem On Children by Kahlil Gibran.

Thai students have been suffering from haircut regulations. Under the haircut regulation released this year, boy students can either have short hair or long hair, but it must not be longer than their hairline. Girls can also either have short or long hair, but it must not be too long and must be tied appropriately. But teachers have exploited the vague regulations as they punished students based on arbitrary judgements, forcibly cutting students’ hair to make them look ugly.

Teachers must use their freedom

On the stage, Tanawat “Kru Tew” Suwannapan, a social studies teacher from Wat That Thong School, also gave a speech saying that a school should be a garden that allows students to grow beautifully, not a factory that turns every student into the same fruit.

Tanawat Suwannapan

Tawawat is a member of Khru Kho Son group, a band of teachers calling for better teaching in terms of both quantity and quality.

The teacher said many teachers refrain from expressing their political opinions due to fear of violating discipline and the professional code. But Section 93 of the 2004 Government Teacher and Education Personnel Act has nothing to do with political expression.

Tanawat said that the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression for all citizens. Teachers are also citizens. The code of ethics for teachers also urges teachers to develop their attitudes about social, economic and political issues. If teachers are apolitical, they have overlooked the code.

‘Section 93

‘Government teachers and education personnel must remain politically neutral in carrying out their duties and other activities related to the people, by not utilizing their powers and duties as government officials to display affiliation with, support for, or endorsement of any politician, political group or political party.”)

As a teacher, he said that the Ministry should reduce the workload unrelated to teaching. Teachers have been overburdened with trivial paper tasks including security, procurement, driving, and annual evaluations, which divert their attention away from students.

Thanawat urged society to push forward education reform by questioning the purpose of education. Teachers should be allowed to express their opinions and criticism of centrally determined policies.

Help from behind the scenes

The protests by the Bad Students are thought to be the best-scripted and organized demonstrations in Thailand. The Education Minister said he felt threatened after hearing the student’s ultimatum that he must resign if he cannot do his job.

Bad Students teach Minister education reform

The Bad Students are praised by their allies, but criticized by pro-government supporters as tainted. It turns out that they receive tremendous support from an adult who shares their democratic cause.

Pakorn Porncheewangkun, a red shirt protester, told PPTV that he had spent almost 200,000 baht to help the students organize this protest, including provision of banners, a stage, a toilet truck, electric generator truck, audio amplifiers, and 4,000 bottles of water with Kai Meaw’s ‘Ta Sai’ stickers. Some of the money also came from politically like-minded donors.

Students raising 3 finger, an anti-dictatorship gesture inspired from the salute in The Hunger Games film.

“We must accept that a protest requires money; if we do not use money, we cannot push forward anything,” said Pakorn.

While he denied the involvement of any politicians in the protests as it should be, Pakorn said politicians should support the protesters in the form of bail when a case comes to court.

In 2019, Pakorn bought one of a set of controversial paintings that depicted Lord Buddha as the superhero Ultraman for 4,500 baht. They were painted by a student at Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University who later had to apologize to hardline Buddhist groups for tarnishing their religion after they asked the Crime Suppression Division to prosecute her.

Despite a request from the University, he refused to return the paintings knowing that they would be destroyed. Instead, he put them up for auction and donated some of the money to the young painter and hospitals in Nakhon Ratchasima. The first painting raised 600,000 baht while the second raised 2 million baht.

Pakorn announced that he was ready to support any group of student protesters in the democratic cause. He believes that the government allows the protests because they know in the long run the students cannot afford to keep holding protests. So he supports the students to help increase their chance of success. 

NewseducationBad StudentsStudent protest 2020Education reformNuttaa MahattanaPakorn Porncheewangkun
Categories: Prachatai English

Student’s family threatened over posting news of Royal Consort

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-09-08 19:30
Submitted on Tue, 8 Sep 2020 - 07:30 PMPrachatai

A man claiming to be a police officer visited the home of Chettha Klindee, a Mahasarakham University (MSU) student activist, without showing any identity documents. He threatened his family to make him delete a Facebook post taken from an official source. The health of his already sickening grandmother has worsened.

Chettha Klindee (Source: TLHR)

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that the visit took place on 5 September. A man wearing a flak jacket with the Thai national flag on the chest went to his home in Surin Province while his grandmother was there. After a short talk, she called Chettha’s father to speak to him.

The man showed Chettha's Facebook post, alleging that he had violated the monarchy. The man also demanded that Chettha stop talking about the monarchy otherwise he would find him and prosecute him. The man also took a photo of Chettha’s father before leaving.

Chettha shared a news report from The Standard about the Royal Gazette announcement restoring all official titles of Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, the Royal Consort. The visit caused him confusion as the news is official and he did not add any caption. 

According to his father, the man did not show any identity documents. Chettha’s father asked a relative who works as a police officer in Surin Police Station but did not get any confirmation of any police deployment from there. It is likely that the man is not from the Surin station.

Chettha said his 70-year-old grandmother could not sleep on the night after the visit. She was ill the following morning; as she already has many illnesses, his uncle had to take her to the doctor. Chettha tried to explain to her that he did not share anything illegal. However, not knowing about Facebook, she still did not understand very well.

Chettha is a College of Politics and Governance (COPAG) student at MSU. He is a member of the MSU Student Front for Democracy, a student activist group that has taken part in organizing many anti-government protests at MSU and in other provinces. 

According to the TLHR, he was visited in a similar manner on 24 June in order to convince him not to hold a  commemoration of the 88th anniversary of the 1932 democratic revolution at Surin provincial hall. 3 policemen and the village chief warned him that any illegal act would be prosecuted. The village chief also referred to the 6 October 1976 massacre at Thammasat University in a threatening manner.

The organizing members were concerned about that visit and decided to cancel the event. 

Pro-democracy activists and protesters have faced many reprisals by agents of the state, alleging violations of the Emergency Decree, the sedition law and traffic and cleanliness-related laws. Informal harassment like visiting families and schools to deter people from expressing their political opinions has also been reported.

Since the implementation of the Emergency Decree on 26 March 2020, at least 63 people in 20 cases have been charged related to political expression. At least 14 people have been summoned, and some have been arrested after participating in the mass protest on 18 July.

NewsChettha KlindeeThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Mahasarakham UniversityStudent Protets 2020Source: prachatai.com/journal/2020/09/89411
Categories: Prachatai English

Bad Students teach Minister education reform

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-09-08 15:34
Submitted on Tue, 8 Sep 2020 - 03:34 PMThidatep Piboon, Yiamyut Sutthichaya, Thammachart Kri-aksorn

Caption: Suphitcha, a student from Chiang Mai, said that more young generation people gathered here because they deserve a better future. Source: Prachatai

The Bad Students group gathered in front of the Ministry of Education to challenge Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan in a debate. In a highly organized protest, the students repeated 3 demands and 1 ultimatum as they called for education reform.

On 5 September, around 300 students from 50 schools gathered in front of the Ministry of Education. The students hung wreaths on the wall of the Ministry as a show of mourning for Thai education while girl students tied white ribbons in their hair as a sign of resistance.

Source: Prachatai

The students blew whistles, one of the symbols of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), and raised a banner that reads ‘Shutdown dictatorship. Restart education’ as a parody of the PDRC campaign slogan ‘Shutdown Bangkok. Restart Thailand.’ Nataphol was ridiculed for being a leading figure in the PDRC protests which led to the military junta seizing power in 2014.

The students repeated their 3 demands: stop the harassment of students, cancel outdated rules, and comprehensive education reform. They also gave an ultimatum that the Minister must resign if he fails to meet the demands.

Apart from their 3 demands and 1 ultimatum, they also called for reform on other issues. ‘Reform the monarchy, revise Thai history textbooks’ read one banner raised by a Thammasat University student. He said Thai history textbooks are monarchy-centric and overlook local histories, which in particular fuels conflicts like one in the south of Thailand.

Caption: ‘Reform the monarchy, revise Thai history textbooks’ read one banner raised by a Thammasat University student. Source: Prachatai

Other students called for reform in vocational education. One student raised a sign reading ‘Cancel V-NET’. Next to him was Nong Khao (alias) from Vocational Students against Dictatorship. She told Prachatai that the V-NET exam was useless because it was only used for ranking schools.

V-NET cannot be used for college application, said Nong Khao. She said vocational schools also failed to provide information about O-Net, the exam required to enter a college, which is usually given in non-vocational schools. This shows a gap between vocational and ordinary education.

According to the 2021 national budget bill, vocational education gets 0.7548 percent of the total budget, the lowest in 15 years in terms of percentage.  

Caption: One student raised a sign reading ‘Cancel V-NET’. Source: Prachatai

Despite some hesitation in the morning, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan came out of the Ministry to join the debate on stage. As planned, the students welcomed him with boos and 3 fingers as he entered the stage. The background was decorated with an unusually colourful vinyl backdrop as if the debate was taking place in a flower garden.

The debate was highly anticipated as Bad Students had challenged Nataphol to a debate via social media. Laponpat Wangpaisit, a grade 12 student, represented the student groups to debate with the Minister.

The dialogue revolved around their 3 demands and 1 ultimatum. Laponpat asked about measures against various forms of harassment against students including physical and sexual abuses based on gender identity or political expression.

Caption: Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan came out of the Ministry to join the debate on stage. Laponpat Wangpaisit, a grade 12 student, represented the student groups to debate with the Minister. Source: Voice TV

He said that the Education Ministry should come up with an evaluation process, like an anti-harassment index, if they are willing to protect the students. Laponpat had submitted such a proposal to the Ministry, but its legal department rejected it claiming they received too many complaints from too many schools.

Nataphol responded that despite 109 harassment cases, there are still 500,000 teachers who understand students. He gave an assurance that expressing political opinions in schools is permitted and encouraged students to submit their problems through the new online channels introduced by the Ministry.

He said the students must also be fair to the abusers. Also, identification of the student involved was needed to ensure that a complaint was genuine as he was certain that the system was safe enough to protect their personal information.

(Nataphol’s response was incorrect. There have been abuses in 109 schools, not 109 cases of abuse.)

Laponpat also questioned the Minister about outdated regulations. The Minister promised to conduct a thorough investigation into cases where school rules lead to harassment and abuse of students. The Ministry is also considering the abolition of regulations which have been in force for more than 2-5 years, but the process of student participation was not addressed.

Outdated regulations

Thai students suffer most blatantly from haircut and uniform regulations. According to the new haircut regulations released this year, boy students can have either short or long hair, but it must not be longer than their hairline. Girls can also either have short or long hair, but it must not be too long and must be tied appropriately.

But teachers have exploited the vague regulations and punished students based on arbitrary judgements, forcibly cutting students’ hair to make them look ugly.

Uniforms are also compulsory for students in Thailand according to the 2008 regulations. Conservatives have defended it, using the argument of equality as it makes the rich and the poor look equal. This idea has been repeatedly debunked as the appearance of equality burdened poor families with even heavier uniform expenses.

With regard to student uniforms, Nataphol said that education reform should come first. Uniforms are good for the safety of students and for closing the gap between the rich and poor.

Laponpat argued that in reality many cases of abuse happened to students in uniform. ‘A student uniform is not a suit of armour,’ said Laponpat. ‘It cannot make students safe.’ The Minister insisted that the uniform issue could wait.

Laponpat raised concerns about LGBTQ+ students who were prohibited from expressing themselves. For example, the haircut regulation only mentioned boys and girls. The Minister answered by not answering: today boy students cannot have long hair like girl students and girl students cannot have short hair like boy students.

At the end of the debate, Nataphol said that despite the adversarial setting, he welcomed the students' suggestions.

‘Talking to each other peacefully, as far as Thailand is concerned, should be the best outcome,’ said Nataphol. ‘In the past, in the past, why couldn’t we get to solving problems? Because there was no discussion, no platform like this. Today the platform is open. Thank you again for the time for me sit here and have a conversation with you. Thank you.’ said Nataphol.

The students gave a souvenir to the Minister in accordance with a Thai tradition which requires a gift to invite adults to engage in social activities. The souvenir included 8 textbooks from the problematic curriculum, a cane, 44 whistles, and ‘Pu Thai’, a snack whose name is similar to the nickname of former Prime Minister Yingluck ‘Pu’ Shinawatra who was overthrown by the PDRC protests in 2014.

‘I hope that I won’t see a flawed curriculum like this and won't see a cane in the education system again,’ said Laponpat.

Thai schools in chaos  

This is the second protest in front of the Education Ministry. On 19 August, Bad Students put the Education Minister in an awkward position by shouting at him to get in line after he said he wanted to give a speech. They also played the national anthem to force him to stand still and prevent him from getting away. As at this protest, they blew whistles to mock him as a leading PDRC protester back in 2014.  

The protests are taking place amid growing resistance in schools nationwide as the students suffer from teacher abuse and Ministry regulations. On 27 August, BBC Thai reported that the Associate [sic] of Students in Thailand (AST) and the Uncommon International Group (UIG) filed a complaint with the Ministry of Education disclosing that there have been cases of abuse against students in 109 schools.

Since the beginning of the semester, students have tried to express their political opinions peacefully by raising three fingers during the national anthem and tying white ribbons to their hair and school bags. But their attempts have been met with abuse by teachers.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that they found 103 cases of abuse against students in 3 days from 17-19 August. The cases include bans on political expression, psychological, physical, verbal and sexual abuse, threats to call parents, and confiscation of and damage to mobile phones.

These abuses occurred despite the Ministry’s “Very Urgent Order” on 20 August that schools must provide safety zones for students to express political opinions. In one week, the Education Ministry managed to open online channels for students to file complaints if they experience any abuse. But the students are pressuring the Ministry to do more to bring about genuine education reform.

NewsEducation reformBad StudentsNataphol TeepsuwanMinistry of Education
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Free Mice

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-09-07 10:19
Submitted on Mon, 7 Sep 2020 - 10:19 AMCartoon by Stephff: Free Mice

Stephff is about to have a cartoon exhibition on 11 September on the 3-finger anti Junta movement  at the the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT). 

MultimediaStephffAnon NampaPanupong JadnokStudent protest 2020Sedition
Categories: Prachatai English

Thais join Milk Tea Alliance in Mulan boycott

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-09-04 22:53
Submitted on Fri, 4 Sep 2020 - 10:53 PM

Caption: Thai student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal and his fellow activists made an appearance at a movie theatre. with signs read ‘#BanMulan’ and ‘#MilkTeaAlliance.’

Today (4 September) is the release date of the film Mulan with Liu Yifei as protagonist, but last night the hashtag #BoycottMulan soared to no.4 in Thailand’s twitter as Thais join the Milk Tea Alliance to ban it in support of Hong Kong protesters.

Yesterday (3 September) Thai student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal posted on social media a picture of him and his fellow activists at a movie theatre. With signs reading ‘#BanMulan’ and ‘#MilkTeaAlliance’, he asked people to join the movement in support of Hong Kong protesters.

“We have still not forgotten that Mulan’s leading actress supported the police use of violence against Hong Kong protesters who fight for freedom and democracy” said Netiwit on Twitter. “I would like to invite everybody to #BoycottMulan, #BanMulan, so that Disney and the Chinese government realize that state violence against the people is something that cannot be accepted.”  

As of today Netiwit’s tweet has 47.8k shares and 10.6 likes. Many have said they will join the boycott.

“When I first saw the trailer release I really wanted to watch it,” said one Twitter user. “Then the leading actress came out to support the crackdown on the protests of Hong Kong people and use of violence. I no longer think of watching, no matter how much I want to. #BoycottMulan” 

Caption: 'Thailand supports Hong Kong', a Facebook page with 12,000 followers in Thailand, posted a photoshopped picture of Liu Yifei with a communist badge. Her police shield and baton soak with blood. 

Caption: เชื่อGUไปดูเลย, a Thai movie reviewer page on Facebook, posted a campaign picture calling for Thais to boycott Mulan.

According to the BBC, Liu Yifei shared a Weibo post from the People’s Daily back in mid-August. The People’s Daily is a government-run newspaper based in Beijing.

The post said in Chinese “I also support Hong Kong police. You can beat me up now.” The quote was said to be the words of a reporter for Global Times, an English-language newspaper under the People’s Daily.

People’s Daily added a message in English to the post saying “What a shame for Hong Kong”, to which Liu Yifei echoed by saying “I also support Hong Kong police.”

Twitter is banned in China, but the hashtag #BoycottMulan soared on Twitter after her post back in mid-August.

Police brutality in Hong Kong has been condemned by the international community. Back in June, Man-Kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said that the response from police was “excessive” and “a violation of international law.”

“Tear gas and projectiles like rubber bullets are notoriously inaccurate and indiscriminate and can result in serious injury and even death,” said Man-Kei Tam.

Caption: #BoycottMulan soared to no.4 in Thailand’s twitter as Thais join the Milk Tea Alliance to ban it in support of Hong Kong protesters.

Meanwhile, Thais also have a struggle of their own as they are required to stand up and pay respect to King Vajiralongkorn before every movie starts. Many reportedly said on social media that more people are not standing up.

Recently, Thailand has also seen ongoing protests calling for constitutional amendments and monarchy reform. On 16 August, the largest protest in 6 years was held on Ratchadamnoen Avenue. A conservative estimate shows that more than 10,000 protesters joined. As part of the Milk Tea Alliance, Joshua Wong and Nathan Law tweeted out in solidarity with Thailand.

Pre-Milk Tea Alliance relations

Before the existence of Milk Tea Alliance, Thai activists and Hong Kong activists had been in some form of contact.

In 2016, Joshua Wong was barred from entering Thailand. He was invited by Netiwit to give a talk about politics of the new generation at an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 6 October massacre.

In October 2019, opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit went to an Open Future Festival organized by the Economist in Hong Kong. He met Joshua Wong and had a brief talk with him for 5 minutes. A picture taken at that time was leaked, leading to criticism by pro-government supporters as unpatriotic as they claimed it showed that Thanathorn welcomed foreign interference.

The Thai government has supported the Hong Kong government amid Hong Kong’s ongoing protests. In November 2019, Carrie Lam paid a visit to Thailand and signed 6 MOUs with the Thai government to help Hong Kong investors suffering from the Sino-US trade war and the ongoing protests.

Somkid Jatusripitak, the then Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand responsible for the economy, paid a visit to Hong Kong in October 2019 in order to draw foreign investments to Eastern Economic Corridor.

In July 2020, Somkid resigned from his post amid Thailand’s economic decline worsened by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Thai government also tried to discredit Hong Kong protesters to discourage protests in their own country. In October 2019, Royal Thai Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong made xenophobic allegations against Joshua Wong claiming that he had paid many visits to Thailand with an unknown agenda. Apirat also said the Hong Kong protests hurt the city as a tourist spot and encouraged Thais not to do the same. 

In response, Joshua Wong told Prachatai English in October last year that his only successful trip to Thailand was when he was 10 years old on a family trip with his parents to Bangkok. He also said that if Thai government did the same to Thai protesters, they will do the same as Hong Kong protesters.

“Hong Kong is suffering from the threat from Beijing. And when the Army Chief asked Thai youth not to do the same, my only response is if the government in Thai[land] do the same, the youth in Thai[land] they will do the same as Hong Kong youngsters did in the past four months. So it depends on the authorities instead of depend[ing] on us.”

News
Categories: Prachatai English

'Unblemished' - Thais react to return of royal consort with wordplay

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-09-04 15:11
Submitted on Fri, 4 Sep 2020 - 03:11 PMPrachatai

Caption: King Vajiralongkorn and Thai Royal Consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi.
Source: Royal Palace

King Vajiralongkorn has deemed Thai Royal Consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi ‘unblemished’, according to the Royal Gazette. While her official titles have been restored as if they had never been stripped from her, many Thais welcomed her back with unexpected forms of wordplay.  

The Royal Gazette reveals that the order from King Vajiralongkorn has been effective since 28 August. It backdated the announcement to 29 August although it appeared on the official website only on 2 September. According to the announcement, all her royal, bureaucratic and military titles have been restored as if they had never been revoked.

Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi was removed from her post as Royal Consort of King Vajiralongkorn on 20 October last year. The royal announcement of her fall from grace said that Sineenat attempted to make herself Queen and tried to make unauthorized orders on behalf of the King and Queen Suthida. The King made her a Royal Consort in order to reduce the tension, but Sineenat remained dissatisfied and returned the favour with inappropriate behaviour.

Millions of Thais suspected in advance the return of the Royal Consort and the announcement confirmed earlier claims by Thai political refugees. Somsak Jeamteerasakul said on 20 August that Sineenat would be released on 28 August. One million Facebook users were also notified on 27 August when Pavin Chachavalpongpun posted the upcoming event on Royalist Marketplace – Talad Luang.

After the announcement, some spoke in defence of King Vajiralongkorn. For example, royal family member Julajerm Yukol posted on Facebook “The monarchy should have the right to personal life like ordinary people in living their lives.”

However, many Thais welcomed her back with teasing wordplays. Royal World Thailand reported the story in both Thai and English, but the Thai version used unusually informal language including “moving on cyclically” and “the fiercest Royal Consort on earth”.

Royal World Thailand also made observations by asking questions. In the English version they said “What makes him change his mind? And how would this return create another phenomenon to the Monarchy? Particularly Sineenat herself, how would she act in front of the people?”

News about the royal family usually appears daily at 8.00 pm on all television channels using very formal language. Thai has a set of royal vocabulary and usage solely dedicated to the royal family. Never before has news about royal family been reported this way.    

Meanwhile, Facebook users in Thailand added ‘unblemished’ on to their profile pictures.

Caption: Jatupat 'Pai' Boonpattararaksa, a political activist who had been in prison due to lèse majesté law, posted on Facebook his profile picture with a message 'unblemished.' 

Others also called themselves ‘dogs’ and the meme spread all over social media. In Thai, a ‘dog’ is not only an animal, but also implies a friend who comes between two lovers and encourages the couple to split up during their arguments but they reunite anyway and the friend is left in isolation.

Caption: 'Underground Karaoke' posted a meme of the scouts who howled after the royal announcement. The original video clip 'Wolf Dance' made by Bangkok Metropolis is usually used for primary school education.  

Apart from the profile pictures and ‘dog’ memes, a viral quote also appeared on social media: “If a guy wants to meet, Germany is only at the end of the street.”

Caption: 'A comrade of mine', a Facebook page in Thailand famous for sharing anonymous quotes, shared the statement "If a guy wants to meet, Germany is only at the end of the street." 

Other reactions are quite serious. Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a Thai political exile, said that the return of the Royal Consort is a part of a bigger problem with the Thai constitution which gives too much power to the monarchy. He said it allowed the King to do things arbitrarily while people pay taxes for his royal servants.

Students also applied the term ‘unblemished’ to their anti-government protests. Free Youth’s Twitter account said that Netnapha Amnatsongsoem was eating noodles near to MRT Yaek Tiwanon waiting to be arrested despite the fact that she was #unblemished. She will be the last of the 15 student activists to be arrested for reading a statement on stage at the anti-government protest on 18 July, one of the largest protests since the military coup in 2014. 

เราอยู่ร้านก๋วยเตี๋ยวเป็ด! เนื่องจากร้านขาหมูปิด! ผ่านไปกว่า 1 ชม.แล้วที่ไนซ์ประกาศว่า จะกินลูกชิ้นและข้าวขาหมูรออยู่บริเวณ MRT แยกติวานนท์ หากจะจับ ให้เอาหมายมาแสดง! ไนซ์รออยู่ตรงนี้จนถึงเวลาบ่าย 3! แต่ก็ยังไม่มีเจ้าหน้าที่คนใดมาแสดงหมายจับกับไนซ์ #มิได้เป็นผู้มีมลทินมัวหมอง pic.twitter.com/XeHun6ZQL0

— FreeYOUTH (@FreeYOUTHth) September 3, 2020

The return of Royal Consort came amid ongoing anti-government protests which also call for monarchy reform. On 3 August, a group of Thai citizens openly called for monarchy reform in a Harry Potter-themed protest. On 10 August, Anon Nampa outlined a 10-point proposal dealing with the monarchy's legal immunity, the lèse majesté law, the Crown Property Bureau, royal lands, the system of donations to and by the royals, and royalist propaganda.

Yesterday (3 August), Anon's bail was revoked for violating the sedition law. Bangkok Criminal Court also ruled to increase the security for student activist Panupong “Mike” Jadnok. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that he will not be seeking bail any longer. Meanwhile, the anti-government protesters posted that they were 'unblemished.'

Source: Wiwata

According to Thailand’s lèse majesté law, defaming, insulting, or threatening the king, queen, heir-apparent, heir-presumptive, or regent is punishable up to 15 years in prison. Royal Consort Sineenat is not protected under this law. Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha also said recently that the King asked the government not to prosecute people under this law.

But the Thai authorities have been using other laws against supposed acts of lèse majesté, making the scope of enforcement even more vague. These laws include the Computer Crime Act which prohibits people from importing information which may threaten national security and Section 166 of the Criminal Code which prohibits sedition. Because of these laws, even though more Thais are openly critical of monarchy, their reactions to the return of Royal Consort Sineenat remain indirect.

NewsAnon NampaPanupong JadnokKing Vajiralongkornlèse majesté lawSedition2007 Computer Crime Act
Categories: Prachatai English

Court rules to revoke bail for protest leader Anon Nampa

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-09-04 14:16
Submitted on Fri, 4 Sep 2020 - 02:16 PMPrachatai

Following a motion from the inquiry officer at Samranrat Police Station to revoke bail for human rights lawyer Anon Nampa and student activist Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, the Bangkok Criminal Court ruled to revoke Anon’s bail and increase the security for Panupong.

Anon arriving at the Criminal Court on Thursday morning (3 September) 
(Source: Banrasdr Photo)

Anon and Panupong were arrested on 7 August and accused of sedition and violation of the Emergency Decree, among other charges, for their participation in the mass protest at the Democracy Monument on 18 July. They were held in police custody for one night and released on bail the next day with 100,000 baht as security. The Court also banned them from repeating the actions similar to those they were accused of.

The inquiry officer at Samranrat Police Station later filed a motion to have their bail revoked, claiming that, since Anon and Panupong have continued to participate in and speak at demonstrations, such as the demonstration at Thammasat University on 10 August, the Criminal Court’s condition has been violated.

At 16.25 today (3 September), the Criminal Court ruled that Anon’s speech at the demonstration in Chiang Mai on 8 August and the demonstration at Thammasat University on 10 August are considered the same as the action at the 18 July protest for which Anon is being charged. The Court therefore ruled to revoke Anon’s bail, but did not prohibit him from seeking bail again.

Anon said that he will not be seeking bail, as he believes that the law is being used to prevent his activism. He has also told the Court that he believed it is his right to give speeches.

“I am willing to sacrifice my personal freedom to safeguard my ideals. I think what is happening to the people is wrong,” Anon said.

Panupong arriving at the Criminal Court on Thursday morning (3 September)
(Source: Banrasdr Photo)

Meanwhile, the Court ruled to increase Panupong’s security to 200,000 baht and ordered him to report to the Court in 15 days. His bail will also be revoked if he fails to do so. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that Panupong did not post more security money as required and, like Anon, he will not be seeking bail this time.

At 17.20, Anon and Panupong were being taken to Bangkok Remand Prison. TLHR said that court officials prevented their lawyers and family members from seeing them before they left, and that the car they are being taken to prison in left the court from a gate where supporters were not waiting.

NewsAnon NampaPanupong Jadnokjudicial harassmentfreedom of expressionfreedom of assemblystudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

Pro-monarchy protesters co-opt Elizabeth Warren to their cause using a blatant mistranslation

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-09-03 14:19
Submitted on Thu, 3 Sep 2020 - 02:19 PMThammachart Kri-aksorn

Elizabeth Warren has become a topic of conversation in Thailand after a leading pro-monarchy protester claimed her as a supporter of their cause. The facts show otherwise, as a Thai writer and netizens have exposed the distortion of a Warren speech by pro-junta protesters.

On 30 August, 1,200 pro-monarchy protesters gathered at Thai-Japan Bangkok Youth Centre. Even though it was small in comparison to the largest anti-government protest with 10,000 participants, it was one of the biggest pro-monarchy protests. The pro-monarchy group Thai Pakdee was created on 19 August by Dr. Warong Dechgitvigrom, a former establishment politician, and 27 other founders. The group was a response to ongoing anti-government protests which have openly called for monarchy reform for first time ever.

The launch of the group on 19 August involved several controversies, including a call for severe punishment for lèse majesté speeches, 3,000 baht payments to people who did not understand the lectures, and denial of involvement in an assault on a cleaner who was wearing a red shirt near the protest site. It created further controversy by referring to Elizabeth Warren as a supporter of their cause.

At the protest on Sunday (30 August), Haruthai ‘Au’ Muangboonsri, a hard-line royalist singer who claims to own one of Vincent van Gogh’s works, took to the stage for a speech in defence of celebrities who took part in the demonstrations which called for the military coup in 2014. Pro-junta celebrities have recently been under attack for their anti-youth comments and a boycott against TV programmes hosted by these celebrities has emerged.  There has been some success, including the resignation of Ornapha ‘Ma’ Krisadee from 3 TV programmes and of Pawanrat ‘Meaw’ Narksuriya from one programme.

To defend these celebrities, Haruthai invoked a speech by Elizabeth Warren with her own political opinions mixed in:

“Boycotting celebrities, singers and actors who joined the PDRC [People’s Democratic Reform Committee] is, I think, alright because those young people are not aware of the context of Thai politics. They missed out on studying the history of the fight against the power of parliamentary dictatorship. Recently, Senator Elizabeth Warren of the US has given a speech about Thailand, saying that Thailand survived not because it has democracy, Thailand has not survived because it has a constitution, Thailand has not survived because it has laws. But Thailand has survived because it has good citizens who are not indifferent and who do have responsibility and the Thai people resist evil people who are dishonest and corrupt. This is the strength of the Thai people. So celebrities, artists, and singers who came out to fight with the PDRC, to fight corruption, people all around the world agree with you. But those kids do not understand. We must not be angry with these kids and young people. We don’t have to ban the products and businesses of the Thai people all together. How will Thai people be able to live together? Don’t create hatred. We want all of this to stop.”

Haruthai’s statement has been under scrutiny by netizens as her statement seems to be fake news. According to Thai writer Sarinee Achavanuntakul, pro-junta groups have been spreading misinformation about Warren’s speech for a while now. Since Warren is one of her favourite politicians, she does not want to let this slide.

Caption: Sarinee Achavanuntakul

On her Facebook post, Sarinee said from the source is a speech by Warren when she was attacking Trump as the then presumptive Republican nominee in 2016. But Warren’s speech had nothing to do with Thailand:

“Senator McConnell recently said he’s “pretty calm” about Donald Trump because “what protects us in this country against big mistakes being made is the structure, the Constitution, the institutions.” That is 100% wrong. Our democracy does not sustain itself. Our Constitution does not sustain itself. The rule of law does not sustain itself.

There have always been those with money and power who think the rules shouldn’t apply to them. Those who would pervert our system of government to serve their own ends. They have tried it before and they are trying it now. All that is required for the rule of law and our independent judiciary to collapse is for good people to stand by, and do nothing.

Now is not the time to stand by. Now is the time to stand up. Now is the time to say no. No. Not here. Not in these United States of America.

We are not a nation that disqualifies lawyers and judges from public service because of race — or religion — or gender — or because they haven’t spent their entire careers representing the wealthy and the powerful.

We are the nation of John Adams — a lawyer who defended the British soldiers after the Boston Massacre, and went on to serve as President of these United States.

We are the nation of Abraham Lincoln — a lawyer who defended accused killers, and went on to serve as President of these United States.

We are the nation of Thurgood Marshall — a lawyer who fought for racial equality, and went on to serve on the Supreme Court of these United States.

We are the nation of Ruth Bader Ginsberg — a lawyer who fought for gender equality, and went on to serve on the Supreme Court of these United States.

That is who we are. And we will not allow a small, insecure, thin-skinned wannabe tyrant or his allies in the Senate to destroy the rule of law in the United States of America.

It’s time again to fight — as we have in every generation — for those four simple words that define the promise of our legal system. Equal justice under law.”

Other netizens pointed out that the misinformation may have come from Naowarat Pongpaiboon, a Thai National Artist who wrote an article in Matichon Weekly in 2016 in which he encouraged people to be good citizens and fight corrupt politicians by voting in a national referendum to approve the 2017 Constitution. He began the article by quoting Warren’s speech directly in Thai, but the quotation was mistranslated and the meaning was distorted. Here is a reverse translation of the quotation back into English:

“A country does not survive because of democracy

It does not survive because of a constitution

It does not survive because of the law

But a country will be able to survive because of the force of good citizens who are not indifferent and do not surrender to evil people, dishonest people who undermine the nation. So good citizens must stand and protect the country to be secure for future generations.”

– quote of the American woman senator Elizabeth Warren

Good citizens who stand up to defend the rule of law, constitution, and democracy in Warren’s speech are not the same as Thai “good citizens” who called for the undemocratic, unaccountable and dictatorial military junta which has been in control for the past 6 years. Naowarat Pongpaiboon, Haruthai Muangboonsri, Ornapha Krisadee, Pawanrat Narksuriya all joined the PDRC protests which led to a military coup in 2014 with no democracy, the constitution ripped up and the military making their own rules with impunity.

Caption: Naowarat Pongpaiboon

Haruthai also made other unsubstantiated claims about foreign countries. Khaosod English reported her as saying that western countries want to undermine the Thai monarchy by supporting the anti-government protests. The US Embassy has responded that while they support the democratic process and rule of law, they deny allegations of meddling and call for both sides to act with respect and restraint.

NewsThai PakdeeElizabeth WarrenWarong DechgitvigromSarinee Achavanuntakul
Categories: Prachatai English

Khon Kaen officials receive petition to move local Democracy Monument

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-09-03 14:04
Submitted on Thu, 3 Sep 2020 - 02:04 PMPrachatai

The activist group “Khon Kaen’s Had Enough” (ขอนแก่นพอกันที) published a letter from the Superintendent of Mueang Khon Kaen Police Station to the Khon Kaen city mayor stating that they received a complaint about recent protests in the city from a citizen who also petitioned to have the local Democracy Monument moved elsewhere.

Khon Kaen Democracy Monument

The letter stated that Khon Kaen Police Station received a phone call from Amphon Trirak, a resident in the Khon Kaen city pillar shrine area, saying that she was annoyed by the noise from the anti-government protests between 22 – 24 August and was petitioning the police to ask the protest organisers to take their next gathering elsewhere, since the city pillar shrine is a sacred place.

 

The letter also stated that Amphon has also filed a complaint with the Khon Kaen Municipal Office and discussed with the relevant agencies to consider whether the Khon Kaen Democracy Monument, which is located near the city pillar shrine, should be moved elsewhere.   

Col Preechai Kengsarikij, Superintendent of Mueang Khon Kaen Police Station, told Khaosod English that the next steps are still under discussion and that the document shows that the police accepted Amphon’s complaint.

Khon Kaen’s Had Enough posted on their Facebook page that “if the protests are so annoying that the monument has to be moved elsewhere, then in the future the Khao Niao Road Festival or New Year Festival will probably not be allowed.”

“We insist that the Khon Kaen Democracy Monument is the people’s space, and we will absolutely protect it from being destroyed, relocated, changed, or disappeared,” said the group.

The Khon Kaen Democracy Monument has often been used as a protest site. It is one of the local Democracy Monuments scattered across the country which are relics of the People’s Party, marking the Siamese Revolution in 1932 which ended absolute monarchy in Siam.

NewsKhon Kaen’s Had EnoughKhon KaenKhon Kaen Democracy MonumentPeople's Party1932 revolutionIconoclasmArchitecture
Categories: Prachatai English

District chief visits Anon’s grandmother in Roi Et Province

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-09-03 11:12
Submitted on Thu, 3 Sep 2020 - 11:12 AM

Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer who publicly addressed the issue of monarchy reform last month, has posted on Facebook that his grandmother was harassed on 1 September by the District Officer.

Anon Nampa (File photo)

He has demanded that the District Officer stay away from the property, otherwise he will make a speech about monarchy reform in front of the District Office.

Akgosot Rak-iad, Thung Khao Luang District Officer, told Prachatai that he did go to Anon’s grandmother’s house but did not meet her. He wanted to get to know her as he had been asked by many people about Anon. 

He insisted that he did not mean to harass her. He has met many other groups of people beside Anon’s family in the past, such as drug users.

Anon said his grandmother, aged 75, was with his mother at the time of Akgosot’s visit. They were both afraid and hid inside the house.

Anon became centre of public attention when he made a speech addressing the issue of monarchy reform at the Harry Potter-themed protest on 3 August, a landmark speech that made a straightforward demand for the monarchy reform, a very rare and bold move in this country.

As of 2 September, Anon has been charged at least 7 times for speeches made in protests countrywide. The charges also include violations of the sedition law and the emergency decree.

NewsAnon NampaRoi EtAkgosot Rak-iadharassmentSource: prachatai.com/journal/2020/09/89328
Categories: Prachatai English

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