Prachatai English

King’s birth month: Government agencies and the public urged to celebrate

Prachatai English - Sat, 2020-07-04 22:09
Submitted on Sat, 4 Jul 2020 - 10:09 PMPrachatai

All government agencies have been told to organize ceremonies for His Majesty the King’s 68th birthday while everyone is urged to wear yellow in July.

Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha lead the candle-lit ceremony in honor of King Vajiralongkorn's birthday on 28 July, 2018 (Source: Thai government)

On 30 June, Oranuch Srinon, Deputy Permanent Secretary to the Office of the Prime Minister, sent a letter to all ministries encouraging them to hold ceremonies to show loyalty to the King and acknowledge his royal grace as 28 July is the King’s birthday.

Each government agency is encouraged to:

  • Set up altar tables displaying the King’s portrait with royal offerings

  • Set up places for people to write messages of goodwill for the King

  • Display Thai and royal flags at government buildings and residential areas

  • Decorate government buildings and residential areas with yellow and white cloth

  • Decorate main streets with lights for an appropriate period of time

  • Post messages of goodwill on the main page of agencies’ websites

  • Wear yellow from 1-31 July

Ministries are encouraged to hold celebrations for the King with the leader of each agency as the guest of honour to pay respect, say a blessing and sign a blessing for the King. Due to Covid-19 concerns, the Office of the Prime Minister asked all agencies to hold ceremonies at special locations and take proper precautions.

Participants will wear their white civil servant uniforms and display the royal commemorative pin from the King’s birthday ceremony in 2012 with the royal commemorative pin from the 2019 coronation.

The letter said the agencies can publish photos and videos of the ceremonies on their websites.

Government agencies include those inside in the country, such as public schools, and those abroad, such as Thai embassies.

On 1 July, Interior Ministry Permanent Secretary Chatchai Promlert sent a letter to all 77 provincial governors asking them to organize ceremonies.

Governors are asked to display the King’s portrait in front of their provincial halls, decorate them with flags and cloth, put up decorative lights on main streets, set up a place for the public to write messages of goodwill and tell other local government agencies to do so.

Chatchai also asked the governors to encourage private businesses and the public in each province to do the same things at their business locations and their homes.

On 30 June, Traisuree Taisaranakul, Deputy Spokesperson for the Office of the Prime Minister said Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha had asked cabinet members, civil servants and the public to wear yellow for the whole month of July.

On 1 July, Wissanu Krea-ngam, Deputy-Prime Minister, said cabinet members were asked to wear yellow only at their meetings on Tuesdays while they are asked to wear a yellow tie on other days if possible.

Why yellow?

King Vajiralongkorn was born on 28 July 1952, which is a Monday. According to Thai concept of colours for every day, yellow is the colour for Monday.

Most of the time during the regime of King Bhumibol, the government asked the public to wear yellow at many royal ceremonies, as he was also born on a Monday. Wearing yellow became a symbol of honouring the King, acknowledging his royal grace and the people’s loyalty to him.

In the case of former Queen Sirikit, who was born on Friday 12 August 1932, the public has been encouraged to wear blue in the month of August. The colour associated with Friday is blue.

NewsKing VajiralongkornPrayuth Chan-o-chayellow shirts
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: No more democracy for Hong Kong

Prachatai English - Sat, 2020-07-04 00:45
Submitted on Sat, 4 Jul 2020 - 12:45 AMStephffCartoon by Stephff: No more democracy for Hong Kong

MultimediaStephffHong Kong
Categories: Prachatai English

Southern Peasant Federation opposes ill-conceived land rights policy

Prachatai English - Sat, 2020-07-04 00:38
Submitted on Sat, 4 Jul 2020 - 12:38 AMProtection International

The Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand (SPFT) met with the Parliamentary Committee on Land Issues and Land Deeds on 26 – 27 June to discuss land rights issues and called for realistic allocation of land to achieve sustainable livelihood for the landless.

Members of the Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand (SPFT) attending the meeting.

On 26-27 June 2020, the Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand discussed land rights issues with the Parliamentary Committee on Land Issues and Land Deeds, led by Sathit Wongnongtoei, during its official visit to the province of Surat Thani.

Members of the delegation in visit to the province of Surat Thani during the meeting.

Bangkok 3 July 2020 – The Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand (SPFT) – one of protection international’s W/HRDs collective partner – restated its opposition to the National Land Policy Committee (NLPC) policy and called on the Parliamentary Committee on Land Issues and Land Deeds to provide for the realistic allocation of land in order to allow for sustainable livelihoods for the landless. The Parliamentary Committee on Land Issues and Land Deeds will have 90 days to study the land issues and make recommendations to Parliament.

Sathit Wongnongtoei, who formerly chaired the Southern Region Working Group, visited the province of Surat Thani along with three other parliament members in order to hear the concerns of the local community. The deputy provincial governor of Surat Thani Province, the Chai Buri district chief, and representatives of the Agricultural Land Reform Office and Police, also joined the visit to speak with women and men human rights defenders (W/HRDs) of the Klong Sai Pattana Community, the Chaiburi District, and Surat Thani.

The Klong Sai Pattana Community in Surat Thani Province is one of the five peasant communities of the Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand (SPFT). The community was established in 2008 by landless farmers who, on seeing the expiration of a private company’s license that had been illegally occupying the land, moved in to utilize part of the area.

The right to defend land rights is critical for the landless farmers in Thailand. Access to land is a multidimensional issue that affects a number of other economic, social and cultural rights, and disputes over land are often the cause of conflicts. It is key for their security and food sovereignty, eradication of poverty, and as well as their struggle to promote organic agriculture. It also contributes to mitigating the greenhouse effect and global warming.

After discussing with representatives of SPFT and visiting the Klong Sai Pattana community, Sathit admits that land allocation and use should be determined by the types of land and the communities’ needs. The proposed cookie-cutter approach to land allocation such as those imposed by the NLPC would only cause further problems. The Committee members also recognize that SPFT’s collective land management approach is more sustainable as it is based on collective decision-making and management of the land.

“What we truly want is the guarantee for land rights use, especially for those who have been utilizing the land for more than 10 years. We should be entitled to legal rights to use it. How are we supposed to be intruders, and still remaining as intruders for the rest of our lives?” said Mr Boonrit Pirom, a member of SPFT.

“I remember we discussed this issue 12-13 years ago, and we are still talking about it today. Why are we still not making any progress?” he asked.

A member of SPFT said that, in addition, problems still exist especially in terms of the necessary infrastructure needed to support the farmers in selling their produce to the market. He commented that the authorities should provide and invest in roads, as well as guarantee land rights use for all landless farmers.

These issues have persisted for over 10 years and have worsened with the junta’s incoherent land policy. After the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) came into power in 2014, the National Land Policy Committee (NLPC) was established to centralize the policies relating to land use and land titles. However, the SPFT finds there are multiple problems with the regulations that the NLPC issued. While one regulation states that only heads of the household can register for land allocation, for example, another states that those eligible must be so poor that they do not have any housing nor house registration.

Due to another problematic regulation, whoever owns land or has an annual income more than 30,000THB (82 THB/day) is not eligible to receive Sor Por Kor land*. This excludes many low-income families who already own small pieces of land from being eligible for additional land allocation from the state. Since the current minimum wage (325 baht/day) is lower than the set annual income indicator, it also excludes those that may be considered the country’s working poor.

The current land allocation managed by SPFT provides 10 rai (1.6 hectares) of land per family, in addition to collective farming areas used to grow marketable crops. The scheme is currently in conflict to the NLPC committee. The NLPC policy set the universal scheme of allocation to 6 Rai (0.96 hectare) provision per family, 5 of which to be used for farming and 1 for residence, which peasants consider to be barely enough to make a sustainable living.

In 2009, SPFT, along with the People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) and the National Land Reform Network of Thailand, succeeded in getting a Regulation of the Office of the Prime Minister which would result in the issuance coordinate the issuing of community land titles around the country and allocation unused public land for landless farmers to utilise. In total, 486 communities received land based on community land titles, including the SPFT. If this regulation is implemented, it will enable landless farmers to be able to do the sustainable land management, which is also key to reducing the impacts of climate change.  Giving the rights to ‘community land title’ also means guaranteeing that this land will also pass on to future generations of affected families.

Formed earlier this year by the parliament, the Committee’s aim is to study the land rights issues related to land deeds nationwide and to issue recommendations to the parliament for effective solutions. The Committee commits to bringing contextualised issues forward to parliament in order to resolve ongoing land problems.

*Sor Por Kor land is agricultural land, usually found in rural areas, consisting of public land, which the government can allocate to needy families for agricultural purposes with a portion meant for residence.

Pick to PostProtection Internationalland rightscommunity rights
Categories: Prachatai English

Students speak out against outdated haircut rules

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-07-03 13:08
Submitted on Fri, 3 Jul 2020 - 01:08 PMChatchai Mongkol

Students have criticized schools’ haircut rules by holding demonstrations, submitting online petitions and sending out tweets as schools have not changed their rules in line with the Education Ministry’s latest policy.

The students met with a representative of the Ministry of Education after their demonstration this morning. (Source: Bad Student

On 30 March, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan introduced new regulations for student haircuts to protect human dignity and to make the policy appropriate to the present day. According to the new regulations, students no longer have to keep their hair short. However, the regulations give full authority to school executive boards to determine the rules.

It sparked conversations among students that the policy still is not clear as the new regulations are vaguely written.

Some schools still have not adjusted their rules to the new regulations. The Bad Student group submitted a petition to the Parliamentary Committee on Education on 17 June with a list of 312 schools that reportedly violate the new regulations.

Bad Student has been active on the issue. A representative of the group went to various locations in Bangkok holding a sign saying “#ไม่ตัดผมเปิดเทอม” (I will not cut my hair for the new term). In another stunt, the student was tied to a chair under Siam BTS station with a pair of scissors and a sign saying “This student’s behaviour has violated school rules by having her hair longer than her ear lobes and having bangs. Ruining the identity of Thai students. Please punish this student.”

15-year-old Benjamaporn Niwad, the student in both campaigns, told The Matter that she wanted to tell society that this is actually something Thai students have to face in school. She wanted to raise the awareness of people on the rights of students.

On 3 July, Bad Student held the same demonstration in front of the Ministry of Education.

In addition to the activities of Bad Student, there are many petitions on Change.org. One of them calls on the Education Ministry to abolish all haircut regulations for Thai students, and over 24,000 people have signed it.

Other petitions demand that schools include students and parents in the process of developing the new rules at Suksanari School and demand a clearer policy from the education authorities. A petition calling for rule changes was successful at Princess Chulabhorn's College Mukdahan when the director changed the rules after the petition received over 800 names.

Students who spoke out against school policy on social media faced pressure and many attempts by their teachers to censor their opinions, including threats of prosecutions under the Computer Crime Act and of being refused enrolment.

On 30 June, Bad Student claimed to have negotiated the issue with Kowit Khuphaniat, Director of the Education Law Group. Benjamaporn from Bad Student said the group was told three things — rules that schools enforced before the new regulations were announced are void; schools must develop new rules with the participation of students; and schools must use the Ministry’s regulations during the rule development process.

Benjamaporn said in the video that Bad Student was not allowed to disclose the negotiations but the authorities failed to release an official document as promised, which left them no choice but to share it with the public. Bad Student claimed to have an audio recording of the negotiations.

On 1 July, the Education Ministry released the official document that was sent to every school. It was dated 4 June.

Bad Student also said on their Twitter account earlier today that the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education has confirmed to them that every school has to amend their student haircut regulations to match the new ministry policies, and that the Ministry will be sending a letter out to every school to remind them to do so.

Newsstudentstudent movementhaircutDresscodeMinistry of EducationeducationBodily autonomy
Categories: Prachatai English

Administrative court orders temporary halt to 2.7 km Muang Ngam seawall

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-07-03 11:25
Submitted on Fri, 3 Jul 2020 - 11:25 AMPrachatai

The Songkhla Administrative Court has issued a temporary injunction, halting construction of a 2.7 km seawall which will have an irreversible impact on the community and the environment with no proven effectiveness.

A seawall construction site at Muang Ngam Beach.

On 30 June, the Court issued the order to halt construction of the seawall at Muang Ngam beach, Singhanakhon District, Songkhla Province, until the Court makes a final judgement.

The order came after 5 Muang Ngam residents, with 541 supporters, filed a lawsuit on 14 May against the Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning (DPT) and the Harbour Department, claiming that the project was illegitimate as there were no proper public hearings, Environmental Assessment Impact or legal permission.

The order, published by the Community Resource Centre Foundation, states that the over 200 metre long seawall may have an irreversible impact on the community and the surrounding beach. The DPT did not provide enough evidence to defend its claims that the seawall will preserve the beach and prevent erosion both at the site and on surrounding beaches.

Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, a lawyer from the Community Resource Centre Foundation, told Siamrath that the court issued a temporary order after consideration of the technical features and project merit. A report from the National Ombudsman found that only 30 percent of the seawall project was worthwhile.

Sor believes that this order will serve as a norm for similar cases. She suggests that other communities experiencing the same situation should utilize their legal rights to protect their livelihoods.

Siamrath also cited one of the plaintiffs as saying that the villagers are relieved to hear the court decision. But the community will have to keep insisting that the project must be withdrawn.

Muang Ngam beach is 7.2 km long, located at Muang Ngam Subdistrict, Singhanakhon District, Songkhla. The beach has a fishing pier and is used as a public recreation space and tourist spot. The 2,705 m long seawall construction project has taken place at Mu 7 - 9 along the beach. The first 710 m construction phase has already started.

Despite the authorities’ claim of having conducted public hearings, many people have expressed their opposition to the construction out of concern for the impact on the environment and their livelihoods. On 23 May, people tried to gather at the beach to protest but faced a large security force deployed there. Their request for a public gathering was also turned down by the police.

Death of the beach? Conflict over Songkhla seawall construction

Songkhla Police ban protest, claiming it violates Covid-19 Emergency Decree

Pol Col Somchai Noppasri, Muang Ngam Police Station Superintendent affirmed to Prachatai that he had refused the gathering because it would be held under the Emergency Decree and would enhance the risk of Covid-19 contagion.

Beach for Life, a beach conservation group, questions the necessity for the Muang Ngam seawall. It says that the erosion rate at the beach is 0.5-1.49 metres per year, according to the seawall project study. This rate is low when compared to the erosion rate index of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR).

Padungdech Luepiyapanich of the Songkhla Provincial Public Works and Town and Country Planning Office says that the construction project is a controversial issue, but was initiated in response to a plea from the community as erosion affected their daily lives.

Law causes controversy

An amendment to a national level law is partly responsible for the local confrontation. In December 2013, the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) removed seawalls from the category of constructions that require an EIA. Previously, any seawall longer than 200 metres was subject to the EIA process.

Beach for Life and Thai Civil Rights and Investigative Journalism report a significant increase in the number of seawall projects after the requirement was lifted. In 2014-2019, 74 seawall projects with total length of 34.88 km were undertaken with an overall budget estimated at 6.9 billion baht. In 2008-2018, the cost per kilometre increased to 117 million baht.

NewsseawallMuang Ngam beachenvironment
Categories: Prachatai English

Old Chinese shrine removal delayed due to missed legal requirement

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-02 17:56
Submitted on Thu, 2 Jul 2020 - 05:56 PMPrachatai

Property Management of Chulalongkorn University (PMCU) still delayed the demolition and relocation of Chao Mae Tub Tim Saphan Luang Shrine amidst active opposition and legal scrutiny. The District authority stated that the University has not obtained permission to remove and construct new property.

A man worshipping Chao Mae Tub Tim figurine.

On 2 June, Chao Mae Tub Tim Saphan Luang, still remains fully intact despite its relocation schedule set on 16 June by its de jure land owner, the PMCU. The caretakers of the shrine were notified and asked to move out of the area by 15 June.

However, students and Samyan District locals gathered at the shrine on 15 June to protest the demolition. They said the shrine is not only a place to worship, but it also has a long history and is important for Chinese descents in the area. Netizens also showed their interests in the case. There was a petition to the PMCU created online and the hashtag #SaveChaoMaeTubTimShrine (#saveศาลเจ้าแม่ทับทิม) was trended on Twitter on the same day.

The 15 June protest against the shrine demolition.

The demolition of the shrine is a part of a plan to build a 972-unit dormitory for students at the University, according to a PMCU’s statement released on 23 June. The PMCU also will relocate the shrine to a new location near 100-year Chulalongkorn University Park. 

Masawan Pinsuwan, Director of Pathumwan District Office, said on 25 June in a letter to the shrine’s caretakers that the University has not obtained permission to build a construction at the new location and to build a worker site at the current location. Masawan said there is already a construction built and the District Office will proceed with the operation against the PMCU actions.

The PMCU released a statement on 23 June stating that the plan to relocate the shrine has been developed over two years ago while always keeping the caretakers informed on the process, but the shrine’s Executive Committee also issued a statement stating that the University started to listen to their voice after the protest on 15 June, not since the beginning of the plan as the PMCU claimed. 

While the PMCU said the shrine would not be demolished, the committee said the university planned to demolish and recreate the shrine as there was a team of Thai architects prepared. The Committee said the PMCU just changed the plan after the shrine became controversial.

The PMCU said people can expect to visit the new-located shrine in December.

The current Chao Mae Tub Tim Shrine was built in 1970 after it was moved from the previous location. One of the evidences, oftenly cited, that indicates its primitiveness was the worship trip of the shrine made by King Chulalongkorn and joss stick pot that was given by King Mongkut from the funeral of King Rama V in 1911. (Source: The People)

This shrine also has a different architectural value from other shrines as it has a unique local Cantonese architecture.

Besides the architectural and primitive reasons, people are concerned that if it is relocated to the park, the worship process that includes lighting the incense sticks and burning oblations would be troublesome.

NewsChao Mae Tub Tim Saphan LuangPathumwanchinese architecture
Categories: Prachatai English

Student Union tore police warrants at the station in resistance against the Emergency Decree

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-07-01 15:41
Submitted on Wed, 1 Jul 2020 - 03:41 PMPrachattai

2 Student Union of Thailand members staged a civil disobedience against their charge of an Emergency Decree violation. They went to the police station and tore their summoning warrants to signify the ongoing decree enforcement.

Left to right: Parit and Panutsaya tore their summoning warrants.

On 30 June, the Student Union of Thailand members led by Parit Chiwarak, one of the Union leading figure and Panutsaya Sitthichirawatthanakul, the Union spokesperson went to the Pathum Wan Police Station to tear their summoning warrants apart.

They called the action as a civil disobedience against the implementation and persecution in accordance with an ongoing Emergency Decree. In the open letter they read stated that the  Decree was prolonged in order to control the public protest in dissent of the government.

The two and Juthatip Sirikhan, the Union president received summon warrants from the Pathum Wan Station for violating the emergency decree by organizing a demonstration in commemoration of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a Thai activist who was kidnapped in Phnom Penh.

The event was held at the Pathum Wan skywalk on 5 June, a day after the disappearance. The event gained a lot of attention and engagement. The Union was able to see the event through the end but later received the warrant on 20 June.

The commemoration event at the Skywalk on 20 June.

Parit said that Thailand currently has no Covid-19 infection case domestically which can be recognized as safe. If the authorities are not sure of the situation, the Communicable Disease Act is able to manage it. Hence, there is no reason at all to implement the Emergency Decree.

“The accusation that we received should not be happening in the first place. We come to Pathum Wan Police Station to express our honesty that we don’t have intention to flee. But we will taking the civil disobedience. We deny any progress that stemmed from the Emergency Decree because we don’t accept the authority of this law and we will not act in line with this authoritarian law anymore.”, said Parit.

Panutsaya said that the team was threatened by the authorities every time they stage protests. Eventually, they were accused of violating the Emergency Decree.

On 29 June, Parit revealed that he was fined twice against the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness of the Country Act 1992 from Phra Ratchawang and Bang Khen police stations. The charges’ offences referred to the SUT tying white robes activities in front of the Ministry of Defence, the Thai Army Club and the 1st and 11th Infantry Battalion, King's Own Bodyguard Regiment)

The activities were also held in commemoration of Wanchalearm’s disappearance. 

The Decree prohibit people from holding any public gathering that increase the risk of Covid-19 contagion. On 30 June,  the Cabinet has agreed to prolong the decree enforcement for 1 more month since its first enforcement in March.

iLaw, a legal watchdog NGO reported that since the Decree implementation on 26 March, 23 people were prosecuted in 6 cases of violating the Decree.

The Decree centralizes the kingdom wide governing command to the ad hoc committee led by the Prime Minister. Many MP from the opposition party and critics criticized the long-lasting implementation over its political intention in controlling the opposition party influence and public protests.

NewsParit ChiwarakPanutsaya SitthichirawatthanakulJutatip SirikhanStudent Union of Thailand (SUT)Emergency DecreeSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/88387
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: state of emergency extension

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-07-01 13:47
Submitted on Wed, 1 Jul 2020 - 01:47 PMStephffCartoon by Stephff: state of emergency extension

 

MultimediaStephffEmergency DecreeState of emergencyfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Regional MPs urge UN to establish independent mechanism to investigate rights violations in the Philippines

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-07-01 13:36
Submitted on Wed, 1 Jul 2020 - 01:36 PMASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Southeast Asian lawmakers on 29 June called upon the UN Human Rights Council to act on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ findings by establishing an international independent investigation mechanism into the human rights violations committed in the Philippines since 2015.

President Rodrigo Duterte (Source: Wikipedia)

"As the institution responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights globally, the UN Human Rights Council must ensure that the appalling human rights abuses taking place in the Philippines do not go unpunished. Any other decision would not only undermine the Council’s legitimacy but also send an emboldening message to human rights abusers worldwide,” said Mu Sochua, APHR Board Member and former member of parliament (MP) in Cambodia. 

Earlier this month, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), released a hard-hitting report, detailing persistent impunity for human rights violations occurring in the Philippines. The High Commissioner is expected to present her findings to the Human Rights Council on 30 June.

In addition to documenting the widespread and systematic killing of thousands of alleged drug suspects, the report also noted that the Philippine authorities’ oppressive response in relation to national security has seen the acute shrinking of civic space, especially for human rights organisations, lawmakers, trade unionists, religious communities, and the media. In particular, several rights activists who were “red-tagged” or labelled as terrorists were subsequently killed and their murders remain unresolved. 

In response to the report, the Philippine government said it “firmly rejects” the findings.  

“The Philippines government's rejection of the UN findings is nothing but confirmation that the impunity described will persist. The government’s recent use of the COVID-19 pandemic to intensify its crackdown on dissent and abuse human rights also leaves no hope that it will change course. That is why the Council must step-up. If they don't, the number of victims of human rights abuses in the Philippines will only continue to rise,” added Sochua. 

Pick to PostThe PhilippinesASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)human rights violation
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State of emergency extended until the end of July

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-07-01 13:23
Submitted on Wed, 1 Jul 2020 - 01:23 PMPrachatai

The cabinet decided today (30 June) to extend the State of Emergency to the end of July, even though Thailand has now gone over a month without any cases of local transmission of Covid-19. 

Uniformed police officers setting up railings in front of MBK Center before the start of the rally at Pathumwan Skywalk on 24 June.

Narumon Pinyosinwat, spokesperson of the Office of the Prime Minister, announced the extension in a press conference following today’s cabinet meeting, and said that there is no other motive behind the cabinet’s decision than public health.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha said following the cabinet meeting that he will not be commenting about the movement calling for the government to lift the Emergency Decree, as there is a reason and a need for it. According to Matichon Online, he said that the government doesn’t want to block the people from doing anything, and that if anyone would like to organize a demonstration, they can still request permission according to the Public Assembly Act, but the Decree is there to prevent a large number of people from gathering.

This is the third time that the State of Emergency has been extended since it was declared at the end of March to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Since its declaration, the Thai authorities have used the Emergency Decree to restrict freedom of expression. According to ARTICLE 19, at least 25 individuals are facing legal prosecution for alleged violations of the Decree after participating in peaceful protests, and today’s decision to extend the State of Emergency “heightens concerns that the pandemic is being used as a pretext to silence government critics.”

“The government is giving Thais the green light to pile on to crowded trains and spend Sunday afternoons at the mall, while at the same time charging activists that gather in far smaller numbers,” said Matthew Bugher, ARTICLE 19’s Head of Asia Programme. “The danger to protesters in Thailand is not COVID-19, but a government intent on silencing its critics.”

According to the Bangkok Post, Thailand has not found any local cases of Covid-19 in 36 days, with the exception of cases found in state quarantine.

NewsEmergency DecreeState of emergencyfreedom of assemblyCOVID-19coronavirus
Categories: Prachatai English

CAAT eases international flight ban

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-07-01 13:12
Submitted on Wed, 1 Jul 2020 - 01:12 PMPrachatai

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) will ease international flight restrictions starting Wednesday 1 July. Flights with Thai nationals and certain groups of foreigners on board are permitted to fly.

Suvarnabhumi airport (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

CAAT Director General Chula Sukmanop issued an announcement on 29 June on the conditions for international flights permitted to land in Thailand.

Six types of flights are allowed to fly over, fly into, fly out of, take off from or land at international airports. These are state or military aircraft, emergency landing flights, technical landing flights without disembarkation, medical flights, repatriation flights and cargo flights.

Each flight must obtain permission of the CAAT.

According to the announcement, flights that will be allowed to fly over, fly into, fly out of, take off from or land at an international airport in Thailand may carry the following 11 types of people:

  • Thai nationals
  • Persons permitted by the Prime Minister
  • Non-Thai spouses, parents or children of Thai nationals
  • Non-Thai nationals with a valid certificate of residence
  • Non-Thai nationals with a work permit and their spouses and children
  • Carriers of essential goods
  • Crew members on a mission with specific return date and time
  • Non-Thai students at approved institutions and their parents or guardians
  • Non-Thai nationals seeking medical treatment in Thailand excluding Covid-19 treatment
  • Individuals permitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and their spouses, parents or children
  • Non-Thai nationals permitted under special arrangements with foreign countries

Every passenger who enters Thailand is subject to a mandatory 14-day state quarantine.

The international flight ban was imposed together with the Emergency Decree. Even though Thailand has been Covid-19-free for over a month, excluding infections found in state quarantine facilities, the government has not lifted the Emergency Decree but rather extended it.

NewsCivil Aviation Authorities of Thailand (CAAT)Travel restrictionCOVID-19coronavirus
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Thailand’s Supreme Court rules in favour of Andy Hall in criminal defamation and computer crimes case

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-06-30 21:32
Submitted on Tue, 30 Jun 2020 - 09:32 PMFinnwatch

Thailand’s Supreme Court has upheld the Appeals Court’s acquittal of human rights defender Andy Hall on criminal defamation and computer crimes charges from a canned fruit company. 

Middle: Andy Hall gave media an interview (Source: File photo from 2014)

Thailand’s Supreme Court has upheld the Appeals Court’s acquittal of human rights defender Andy Hall on criminal defamation and computer crimes charges brought against him by the pineapple company Natural Fruit Co Ltd in 2013.

The Supreme Court’s ruling, coming 7 years after the case was first prosecuted, was read today at 9am at the Bangkok South Criminal Court. Hall did not attend the hearing.

The Supreme Court’s decision is welcome. The original conviction against Andy Hall was much criticised at the time as an abuse of justice that should never have happened in the first place. Researching human rights violations is not a crime, said Sonja Finér, the executive director of Finnwatch.

The prosecution in this case relates to interviews Hall conducted with migrant workers of Natural Fruit Co. Ltd. for the Finnwatch report Cheap Has a High Price, published in 2013. Worker interviewees’ testimonies detailed allegations of violations of labour and human rights at the Natural Fruit plant in Southern Thailand.

In September 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court sentenced Andy Hall to four years’ imprisonment, reduced by one year and suspended by two years, and ordered him to pay a fine of 200 000 baht (5 700 euros), reduced to 150 000 baht (4 300 euros).

However, the Appeals Court in May 2018 overturned the verdict by the court of first instance, ruling that Hall had not acted unlawfully, and that based on all the evidence before the court, there was a real possibility of labour rights violations at the Natural Fruit Co Ltd’s factory. The Appeals Court also ruled that Hall’s research had been in the public interest. Natural Fruit Co Ltd appealed the Appeals Court’s ruling to the Supreme Court.

Recent years have witnessed a surge in Thailand in riminal defamation and computer crimes charges brought against human rights defenders, activists and journalists who report on abusive company behaviour. Thailand must follow-up today’s ruling with crucial labour rights reforms and by decriminalising defamation, Finér continued.

Natural Fruit Co Ltd has filed altogether four criminal and civil cases against Andy Hall following the publication of the Finnwatch report. In two weeks time on the 14th of July, Thailand’s Supreme Court is due to issue a final ruling on Andy Hall’s appeal against a 10 million baht (286 000 euros) civil defamation conviction imposed on him in 2018. This conviction is in relation to a case brought by Natural Fruit Co Ltd in 2013 concerning an interview Hall gave to Al-Jazeera that year in Myanmar.

Andy Hall left Thailand in 2016, making clear his intention not to return unless judicial harassment against him ceases. He continues to work on migrant workers rights across South East Asia.

After today’s ruling, Hall commented from Kathmandu, Nepal: “I welcome today’s final ruling in this case. But after years of ongoing judicial harassment that has taken a heavy toll on me, my family and my colleagues, the verdict does not feel like a victory. My activism for over a decade in Thailand was intended only to promote and uphold the fundamental rights of millions of migrant workers in the country. These workers continue to find themselves without a voice in high risk situations of forced labour and subject to systemic human and labour rights violations in global supply chains. I remain open to reconciliation to put an end once and for all to this continued irrational cycle of litigation against me and my colleagues that remain in Thailand.”

Pick to PostAndy Halllabor rightsNatural fruit co.ltd.
Categories: Prachatai English

APWLD condemns arrest of pride protestors in Manila

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-06-30 14:12
Submitted on Tue, 30 Jun 2020 - 02:12 PMAsia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)

Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) vehemently condemns the illegal arrest of at least 20 pride protestors from Bahaghari (a national LGBTQI+ organisation), Children’s Rehabilitation Center, GABRIELA and other LGBTQI+ allies on 26 June 2020 while commemorating the international pride month in Mendiola, Manila, Philippines.  

In commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, the Pride Protest in Manila promotes what the LGBTQI+ community has fought for in the past: socio-political and civil rights, equality and end of discrimination for all. True to its past, the LGBTQI+ community marched along with other groups to demand free mass COVID testing, government assistance for the COVID-19 pandemic, opposition against the enactment of the Anti-Terror Bill, among others. “Fifty-one years have passed since the Stonewall Riots but not much has changed” Bahaghari shared. 

The protestors were peacefully organising  while observing social distancing, when they were brutally dispersed by police in full riot gear. At least 20 LGBTQI+ rights defenders were arrested without the authorities being able to state what laws or regulations they were violating.  For the LGBTQI+ community and their allies, this act of repression illustrates the exact reason they protest – the silencing of their marginalised voices. The fact they were subjected to this humiliation and silencing during the month LGBTQI+ groups around the world and in Philippines rise up in solidarity of the long history of pride as means of protest and resistance against the continuing discrimination and oppression is appalling. More broadly, it speaks to the worsening impunity in the Philippines against voices of dissent, an alarming trend of suppressing freedom of assembly and association, and the impending enactment of the Anti-Terror Bill.  

The hostile approach by the Government of Philippines towards the LGBTQI+ community is not  surprising. The community has been fighting against neoliberal capitalism, militarism culture of violence and state authoritarianism, for years now. The state repression, illegal arrests and police brutality in the middle of a pride month proves that the community struggle against all forms of discriminations is still an everyday reality. 

These illegal arrests amount to a direct violation of Article 20 of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights, which states ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association’. It also goes against the Philippine government’s pledge of commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’s (CEDAW) Committee in its 36th Session in 2006. The General Recommendation No. 28 on the Core Obligations of States Parties under Article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women states in Paragraph 18 that ‘Discrimination on the basis of sex or gender may affect women to a different degree or in different ways to men. States parties must legally recognize such intersecting forms of discrimination and their compounded negative impact on the women concerned and prohibit them.’

It also goes against the Government of Philippine’s international obligations to the following United Nations General Assembly Resolution: ‘Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity’ (32/2) which ‘Strongly deplores acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity’. 

APWLD calls on the Government of Philippines:

  • To immediately release the women human rights defenders and LGBTQI+ rights defenders who were illegally arrested at the Pride March.
  • To stop further harassment and/or threats 
  • To bring in the real perpetrators and make them accountable by taking appropriate legal actions. 
  • To drop the proposed legislation of the Anti-Terrorism bill which appears incompatible with the UDHR Articles.

Footnote: APWLD uses LGBTQI+ as an umbrella term for Lesbian, Gay, Bisxual, Trans*, Intersex, and Queer with diverse SOGIESC (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Expression, and Sex Charactertics). Trans* is an umbrella term for transgender people, gender queer people, gender non-binary people, and people who do not conform to notions of gender assigned to them at birth/gender non-conforming people)

Pick to PostAsia Pacific Forum on WomenLaw and Development (APWLD)PrideLGBT rightsDiscrimination against LGBTThe PhilippinesPride monthfreedom of assembly
Categories: Prachatai English

Thailand: Stop using emergency powers to restrict the rights of protesters

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-06-30 13:45
Submitted on Tue, 30 Jun 2020 - 01:45 PMARTICLE 19

Emergency measures adopted to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have been repeatedly used by Thai authorities to target government critics and peaceful protesters, said ARTICLE 19. Police have initiated criminal proceedings against at least 25 individuals involved in peaceful protests for alleged violations of emergency regulations. Today’s decision to extend the emergency period heightens concerns that the pandemic is being used as a pretext to silence government critics.

A sign on the metal fence in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre says "activities are prohibited according to the 2005 Emergency Decree." It had been placed there in anticipation of a commemoration event on the 6th anniversary of the 2014 military coup. (Source: Museum of the Commonners)

“As the virus has receded in Thailand, authorities have ratcheted up the pressure on student activists and government critics,” said Matthew Bugher, ARTICLE 19’s Head of Asia Programme. “Measures ostensibly aimed at protecting the Thai people from a public health threat are being used to harass and obstruct peaceful protesters calling for justice and accountability.”

In March, the Thai government invoked the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situation, B.E. 2548 (2005) (Emergency Decree) to declare a state of emergency and implement a set of regulations aimed at combatting the spread of COVID-19. The measures, which went into effect on 26 March, closed bars, stadiums and other public venues, prohibited the hoarding of goods, and restricted international travel.

ARTICLE 19 raised concerns about a provision that prohibits the sharing of news that is ‘false or may instigate fear among the people’, warning that it threatened the right to freedom of expression and access to information. The emergency measures also ban public gatherings, stating that, ‘It is prohibited to assemble, to carry out activities, or to gather at any place that is crowded, or to commit any act which may cause unrest’.

Violations of orders made under the Emergency Decree are punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.

The emergency declaration was extended for one month at the end of April and another month at the end of May. Last Thursday, the National Security Council recommended a further extension to 31 July, even though Thailand has not recorded a domestically transmitted case of COVID-19 in more than a month. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration agreed to the extension today, and it is expected to be approved by the Thai Cabinet tomorrow.

Since the emergency measures were adopted, Thai authorities have initiated criminal proceedings against at least 25 individuals for their role in peaceful protest activities. Many of those facing charges have been involved in protests concerning the 4 June abduction of exiled Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit in Cambodia. Wanchalearm, a pro-democracy activist who fled Thailand after the May 2014 military coup, was forced into a car by armed men outside his apartment in Phnom Penh. His abduction follows the disappearance and death of Thai exiles in Vietnam and Laos.

Parit Chiwarak, Jutatip Sirikhan and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, activists from the Student Union of Thailand, were summoned by police under the Emergency Decree after participating in a 5 June rally in central Bangkok calling for justice for Wanchalearm. The three, along with another activist, were also arrested and charged under the Emergency Decree for a 8 June protest, only to have the charges dropped and replaced by charges under the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness Act. The activists have also reported surveillance and unannounced home visits by police officers.

Ten other activists were called for questioning under the Emergency Decree after protesting Wanchalearm’s disappearance in front of the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok on 8 June. A university student has been charged with violating the Emergency Decree for a protest in Rayong involving a sign reading ‘Who Ordered the Abduction of Wanchalearm Satsaksit?’

Activists have also been charged for protests relating to other issues. On 28 April, an anti-mining activist was questioned by police and threatened with charges under the Emergency Decree after organizing a protest against mining operations in Chaiyaphum province. At least eight prominent political activists and a former member of parliament have been arrested or summoned under the Emergency Decree in relation to commemorations of the tenth anniversary of the deadly crackdown on “Red Shirt” protesters in Bangkok.

Authorities have also cited the emergency declaration as justification for denying permission to hold assemblies, including a gathering to protest the construction of a sea-wall in Songkhla province and a commemoration of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China.

Since the emergency measures were imposed in March, Thai authorities have also taken steps to restrict expression concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency measures empowered officials to initiate criminal proceedings against those spreading false information under the Emergency Decree or Computer Crime Act, a repressive law that has frequently been used to stifle dissent. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and ARTICLE 19 have documented criminal proceedings against 42 individuals who made comments about the virus or the government’s response to the virus on social media or other online platforms. One of these individuals is Danai Usama, an artist who made a Facebook post about the lack of screening measures at Suvarnabhumi Airport upon his return from Barcelona and now faces charges under the Computer Crime Act.

Given the current circumstances in Thailand, restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly cannot be justified on public health grounds. Thailand should immediately revoke emergency measures imposing such restrictions and end all criminal proceedings against those targeted merely because of their exercise of those rights.

“The government is giving Thais the green light to pile on to crowded trains and spend Sunday afternoons at the mall, while at the same time charging activists that gather in far smaller numbers,” said Matthew Bugher. “The danger to protesters in Thailand is not COVID-19, but a government intent on silencing its critics.”

Pick to PostArticle 19Emergency DecreeState of emergencyCOVID-19coronavirus
Categories: Prachatai English

Teachers reveal deep-rooted problems as schools keep failing in English teaching

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-06-29 22:43
Submitted on Mon, 29 Jun 2020 - 10:43 PMChatchai Mongkol

While a vaguely-written core curriculum leads schools and educators to an non-ideal teaching approach to English, teachers say the bigger problem that fails students is the surrounding environment and attitudes toward English.

Thanisara Kaewbuasa, a student at Chalermprakiat 60 Pansa School in Pathum Thani, said she has a goal of being able to communicate in English but her classroom lessons fail to fulfil her needs. Thanisara explained what is taught in class is not for practical use but only for passing the exams.

“Teachers just teach, students just memorise,” Thanisara said.

Another student from Phrae Technical College, Preyanan Jaioua, also said English courses offered at her school are impractical and worthless. Preyanan said there is no point in acing the exams if she cannot communicate.

Despite the effort the education authorities have put into promoting English in Thai classrooms — including a policy to make English the first foreign language students have to learn starting in the first grade, providing training for English teachers, encouraging the opening of international schools and promoting English Programmes (EP) in public schools — Thailand is still ranked “very low” in terms of English proficiency, according to the EF Proficiency Index 2019.

Even though the teaching approach is aimed to pass the exams, it still fails its own national test. The average score of the Ordinary National Educational Test (O-Net) English exam for high school seniors in the 2019 academic year was 29.20 out of 100. It was 31.42 in 2018, 28.31 in 2017 and below 25 in 2016 and 2015.

Problems with the core curriculum

English teacher Mutita U-donphaew from Anukoolnaree School in Kalasin said the core curriculum was well written in terms of completeness but there are problems with applying the materials. Students need to learn listening, speaking, reading and writing skills but teachers cannot apply all the skills thoroughly within the limited time.

Two English teachers, Namchai Saensin from Mahannoparam School, Thonburi, and Kanchanokchon Woodeson from Ammartpanichnukul School, Krabi, both said that the curriculum was written using a one-size-fits-all model, which left teachers to decide how to conduct their courses to meet certain indicators. 

Namchai said teachers could design their own ways of teaching but he believes the majority of teachers chose to stick with the traditional way, teaching solely from the textbooks, as it is the easiest way and has been used for decades.

It led to a non-interactive classroom experience with ponderous lectures.

Namchai said he has tried to design his class to make it more interactive and come up with interesting conversation topics, but he said students tend to care only about the grade as they always ask how much certain work will affect their grades and said they would not do assignments that barely affected their grades.

That is because students have no goal to use English outside the class.

“Many Thai kids, I noticed that when they’ve finished learning, they’re finished, meaning when they’re finished in class, they’re finished,” Namchai said.

Limited chance to perfect English skills

While the curriculum is a problem, teachers think that the Thai environment is an even bigger threat.

An important factor in learning a language is being surrounded by the environment of that language. Kanchanokchon said teachers are not well trained to speak English to support students’ communicative English learning experience. From what Kanchanokchon has noticed, every English teacher always speaks Thai and explains their lessons in Thai.

“So that’s not motivating children to come up with the curiosity that if they want to speak at this level, speak English like this, how should kids imitate the teachers?” Kanchanokchon asked. “Kids can’t imitate the teacher because the teacher doesn’t dare to use [English], maybe because of shyness, or unfamiliarity or fear that kids wouldn’t understand what they’re trying to explain.”

When a language is supposed to be learned by learning to listen, speak, read and write in that order, Namchai explained that the majority of teachers skip the order and start with the most difficult skill, writing. It frustrates students’ learning.

Students also have almost no chance to speak English outside the classroom as everything out there is in Thai. Namchai said English is taught for only 150 minutes per week, three 50-minute periods a week, at his school. He pointed out that the 50-minute time frame is less than enough to practice a language when other periods are all in Thai and students speak Thai with friends and families.

“English is only with English language teachers and in the textbooks. It’s hard to access. After that, I tried [to guide them]  to practice using it as much as possible, and designed activities for students to come into contact with it as much as possible,” Namchai said.

Namchai said it is important to be trendy and assign things that are relevant to today's world to help students use as much English as possible outside the classroom. He once assigned students to make a 1-day vlog in English.

Kanchanokchon said teachers should apply “language acquisition” theory, in which they provide an English environment for students. The more teachers can do that means the more chance students have to be able to communicate.

Prejudice toward English should change

Kanchanokchon believes that the mindset of seeing English as insignificant because Thailand was never anyone’s colony still exists, and this belief leads to an unsupportive learning environment for students. People need to change that mindset and start to believe that English is the second language of the country.

Teachers and parents need to be supportive of their students learning English by not pointing out students’ English mistakes because that would give students negative attitudes towards English, Kanchanokchon said.

However, the unsupportive learning environment is sometimes caused by the students themselves.

Pinpech Charoenchuea, a recent graduate in English for international communication and a future English teacher, said that as a former student she liked to answer questions and speak English in her classroom but her friends liked to mock her accent and laughed at what she said.

“I think it’s deeply rooted for Thais. When someone speaks English, they see it as affected,” Pinpech said.

Pinpech said Thai attitudes towards English must change. As a future teacher, Pinpech said teachers should change their teaching approaches to make English more attractive, as well as create positive attitudes towards it for students

Newseducationenglish teachingThailand
Categories: Prachatai English

5 red shirt leaders face 2 years 8 months in jail for violence in 2007 protest

Prachatai English - Sat, 2020-06-27 14:00
Submitted on Sat, 27 Jun 2020 - 02:00 PMPrachatai

The Supreme Court has upheld the 2 years and 8 months jail sentences for 5 red shirts who led a protest outside the house of the late Privy Council president in 2007 demanding that he resign. The Court ruled that they caused serious violence and public disorder.

Nattawut Saikuar, one of the defendant appeared at the court with the Liverpool FC jersey in celebration with the Kop championship. (Source: UDD News)

On 26 June, the Supreme Court upheld the verdict of the Court of Appeal against 4 defendants over a violent protest outside the Si Sao Thewes residence of Prem Tinsulanonda, the late Privy Council President, in 2007.

The defendants, United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship leaders Veerakarn Musikapong, Nattawut Saikuar, Vipoothalaeng Pattanapoomthai and Weng Tojirakarn, and Nopparut Worachitwutthikul, leader of the 2006 White Pigeon group, were each sentenced to 2 years and 8 months in prison for mobilizing more than 10 people to cause violence and public disorder. 

The court rejected the defendants’ appeal for a lighter sentence. The defendants were sent to the Bangkok Remand Prison. 

There were originally 7 defendants in this case but two were acquitted by the Court of First Instance, which sentenced the remaining 4 to 4 years and 4 months in prison. Nopparut appealed that he was not active on that day and the other defendants appealed that the violence was to prevent threats. 

In 2017, the Court of Appeal reduced the sentences to 2 years and 8 months, now upheld by the Supreme Court.

The charges relate to protests by thousands of UDD members (then the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship or DAAD) on 22 July, 2007, who were led from Sanam Luang to Si Sao Thewes, demanding the resignation of Gen Prem from the Privy Council.

There the protesters clashed with security officials and Pol Lt Thawisak Namchanchiam was injured when Nopparut hit him on the wrist with a flag pole.

NewsVeerakarn MusikapongNattawut SaikuarVipoothalaeng Pattanapoomthai and Weng TojirakarnNopparut Worachitwutthikulred shirtsPrem TinsulanondaSource: prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/88333
Categories: Prachatai English

CSOs condemn human rights violations by ASEAN states during Covid-19 pandemic

Prachatai English - Sat, 2020-06-27 13:33
Submitted on Sat, 27 Jun 2020 - 01:33 PMPrachatai

In conjunction the 36th ASEAN Summit, held virtually on 26 June, 45 civil society organizations issued a joint statement condemning the increase in human rights violations by ASEAN member states during the Covid-19 pandemic, and also criticising the exclusion of civil society organisations from participating in the summit.

ASEAN “has failed to hold its Member States accountable for the spike in human rights violations and erosion of the fundamental freedoms across the region over the past six months,” said the statement, which goes on to demand that ASEAN “take immediate and meaningful action to demand justice and accountability from its Member States, particularly in upholding principles of human rights and ensuring participation of civil society in the process.”

“Throughout the pandemic, ASEAN States have been accumulating excessive power through emergency measures and have acted through law enforcement apparatuses legitimated by public health crisis response measures. As a result, a sharp increase in cases of human rights violations and fundamental freedoms is evident across the region,” said the statement, which gives the example of the Emergency Decree currently in effect in Thailand, the anti-terrorism bill being fast-tracked in the Philippines “over the mounting needs of the public exacerbated by the pandemic,” as well as a range of “Draconian laws” implemented to “curb free speech, censor online content and silence political expression […] under the pretext of a public health response” in other ASEAN countries including Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The statement also notes that there are “numerous cases of arbitrary arrests, detentions and violent crowd dispersals when civil society raised the alarm on human rights abuses arising from the pandemic,” which has a severe effect on “the most marginalized communities, particularly labourers, undocumented migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and those in poverty.”

Meanwhile, the statement notes, “threats and intimidation are increasingly aimed at those who criticize the government’s efforts during the pandemic,” most of all journalists, community rights activists, LGBTQ activists, migrants, refugees, and civil society organisations, all of whom were subjected to “judicial harassment, arbitrary detention in prison facilities that lack sufficient healthcare systems, cyberattacks, smear campaigns and enforced disappearances. Some of the cases recorded have led to death.”

“The attacks against people who demand more equitable government responses to the pandemic is an assault on human rights. ASEAN, as a regional body, cannot afford to continue being silent toward the erosion of fundamental freedoms by its Member States,” said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) Executive Director.

The statement also expressed concerns that “women and girls are subjected to increased burden and violence as gender stereotypes and pre-existing vulnerabilities are being exacerbated by the pandemic,” noting the rise in domestic violence in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, as well as the fact that most frontline healthcare and social care workers are women.

“The groups were also alarmed by the rise of xenophobic and anti-Rohingya sentiments, characterised by hate speech and fake news in social media in Malaysia and Thailand, and the lack of a regional condemnation of hateful rhetoric,” the statement also said.

“For ASEAN to be relevant to its people, it must demand accountability from its Member States to uphold the universal principles of human rights during and after the pandemic. Measures taken by ASEAN Member States under the pretext of cultural relativism and state sovereignty that deviate from international standards of human rights must not be tolerated, as it only exacerbates the struggles faced by vulnerable groups in the region,” said the statement, signed by 45 civil society organisations from all over ASEAN.

Meanwhile, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) also issued an open letter addressed to Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of Vietnam, which is the current ASEAN chair, calling for ASEAN leaders to address human rights concerns during the Covid-19 pandemic at the summit and call for them to make sure that “ASEAN’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath places human rights at its centre.

“While our region should be commended for being reasonably successful in containing the spread of the virus, the pandemic exposed major weaknesses and inequalities in our governance systems. The region failed to protect those in the most vulnerable situations, in particular its migrant workers and refugees. It has also seen a surge in restrictions on freedom of expression and in hateful rhetoric against marginalised groups,” said the letter.

“However, the gathering of the region’s leaders under your chairmanship this week presents an opportunity to demonstrate that ASEAN can learn and grow from these challenging times, by ensuring that from this point on, our region’s policies are inclusive of all and promote a more just, sustainable and equal society.”

The letter calls for the region to “move collectively towards a greater environmental sustainability and social justice,” by taking the opportunity to “move away from a reliance on fossil fuels and coals and towards renewable energy projects” as well as making sure “post-COVID19 economic stimulus investments […] reach small and medium-sized enterprises, and be used to prioritise the creation of sustainable and decent employment.”

The letter also raised concerns about the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on women and girls, who are “more at risk of falling into poverty and facing food insecurity, and have also faced restricted access to sexual and reproductive health services, as well as a rise in sexual and gender based violence.” It then went on to call for the region’s post-Covid-19 policies to “take into consideration this differentiated impact, be gender responsive and ensure women’s equal participation in all policies and decision making.”

The letter also expressed concerns over “the rise in xenophobic and hateful rhetoric” and urged ASEAN leaders to “immediately publicly acknowledge the risk that hate speech represents and to speak out against discrimination of all kinds.”

It also addressed the Rohingya refugee situation, calling for member states to “organise urgent collective search and rescue operations for boats carrying Rohingya refugees and to organise for their proper disembarkation” as well as to use “[their] political leverage to ensure that Myanmar addresses the root causes of the human rights crisis in Rakhine State, ends all attacks on civilians and restores the rights of the Rohingya.”

“In the spirit of a “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN,” we hope that Vietnam will use its leadership to ensure that ASEAN’s “new normal” is one of a truly people-centered ASEAN – that is inclusive, sustainable, and that benefits all,” said the letter

NewsCOVID-19coronavirusASEANASEAN Summithuman rights
Categories: Prachatai English

MEPs call for an investigation into the disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-06-26 19:48
Submitted on Fri, 26 Jun 2020 - 07:48 PMEuropean Parliament

Following the recent disappearance of Thai human rights activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit in Cambodia, MEPs Heidi Hautala* (The Greens/EFA, FI), Maria Arena** (S&D, BE) and Daniel Caspary*** (EPP, DE) issued the following statement on Friday:

“We are very concerned about the safety of Thai political activist and human rights advocate Wanchalearm Satsaksit who recently disappeared in Phnom Penh. Therefore, we call on the Cambodian and Thai authorities to immediately investigate his abduction. We recall that the abduction constitutes a grave violation of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. National authorities must ensure that such crimes are effectively investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice. We are furthermore concerned about reports of the exchange of political dissidents by authorities in the ASEAN region. It is imperative under international law to respect the principle of non-refoulement. Thus, we urge all relevant authorities to ensure that the rights of those individuals seeking shelter in their countries are respected and that their safety is guaranteed. The freedom of expression is an essential part of these rights. It entails the right to express peacefully dissenting voices.”

Background

According to information gathered by Human Rights Watch, Mr Satsaksit was kidnapped on 4 June by a group of armed men in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Mr. Satsaksit, an activist affiliated with the pro-democracy United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, known as the “Red Shirt” movement, fled to Cambodia after the May 2014 military coup in Thailand. Having criticised the Thai Government and the Prime Minister, the Thai authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in 2018.

On 3 June, one day before his disappearance, he posted a video clip on Facebook criticizing the Thai Prime Minister.

The U.N. Committee on Enforced Disappearances has called on Cambodia to “urgently search” for Mr. Satsaksit. Before his disappearance, at least eight other exiled Thai dissidents had disappeared in Laos and Vietnam.

*Heidi Hautala is Vice-President of the European Parliament, in charge of Human Rights, Democracy and the Sakharov Prize Community.

**Maria Arena is the Chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights.

***Daniel Caspary is the Chair of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with the countries of Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Pick to PostEuropean ParliamentWanchalearm Satsaksitenforced disappearanceCambodia
Categories: Prachatai English

Graffiti artist stalked by police officers after revolution commemoration event

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-06-26 19:25
Submitted on Fri, 26 Jun 2020 - 07:25 PMPrachatai

The graffiti artist known as Headache Stencil was allegedly stalked by four plainclothes police officers at his condominium on Wednesday night (24 June), after he projected an image of Pridi Banomyong onto the wall of Wat Ratchanadda royal temple in the early morning of 24 June to commemorate the 88th anniversary of the 1932 Siamese Revolution.

Images from the condominium CCTV camera showing the four men loitering around the building. 

The anonymous artist, who is known for his political satire, posted on his Facebook page after midnight that four plainclothes officers came to his condominium and waited until he returned. He said that they didn’t have a warrant, and that as soon as he saw them and tried to drive away, they started giving chase.

He told Khaosod English he managed to lose them and spent the night at a friend’s house, and that a security guard at the condominium later told him that the four men said they were police officers but did not present any ID cards.

He posted several images from the condominium CCTV camera, which show the four men loitering around the building, with a timestamp on the images of 22.33 of 24 June.

The incident came after Headache Stencil projected an image of Pridi Banomyong onto the wall of Wat Ratchanadda, as well as an image of the revolutionaries announcing the regime change from an absolute monarchy to democracy, at 1.00 on 24 June to commemorate the 88th anniversary of the 1932 revolution.

A picture of Pridi Banomyong (left) and a picture of the revolutionaries announcing the regime change in 1932 (right) projected onto the wall of Wat Ratchanadda.

Headache Stencil has faced a similar intimidation before, when he spray-painted the image of a clock with the face of Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan onto an overpass in the Sukhumvit area. He ended up receiving a fine of 3000 baht on a vandalism charge.

As democratic revolution gain popularity, state tries its best to stop them

On 24 June, over 15 demonstrations and other events took place all over the country to commemorate the revolution. Other activists have been harassed following their activities, including student activist Parit Chiwarak and other members of the Student Union of Thailand, who were followed by a group of officers after leaving their rally. Piyarat Chongthep, activist and former Future Forward Party MP, was also served an arrest warrant from his part in an earlier assembly while attending a gathering at dawn at the Democracy Monument and was reportedly followed by a plainclothes police officer throughout the morning before he turned himself in.

NewsHeadache Stencilgraffiti1932 revolutionfreedom of expressionintimidationactivist
Categories: Prachatai English

As democratic revolution gain popularity, state tries its best to stop them

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-06-26 15:21
Submitted on Fri, 26 Jun 2020 - 03:21 PMYiamyut Sutthichaya

The 24 June 1932 democratic revolution has gained wide public attention on its 88th anniversary. State reaction to the people’s movement celebrating the revolution is based on suspicion and threats, while the military glorify the rebels who tried by force to reinstate the monarchy.

Dr Tossaporn Serirak, a former MP talked with a police officer during the 1932 revolution commemoration event at the Pathum Wan Skywalk, Bangkok.

The countrywide commemorations of the 24 June 1932 Siamese Revolution are recognized as the biggest for at least 10 years as many gathered in public across the kingdom to recall the overthrow of the absolute monarchy 88 years ago.

At least 12 offline events were held in many parts of the country: 3 in Bangkok, 2 in Khon Kaen and 1 each in Rayong, Nakhon Ratchasima, Maha Sarakham, Ubon Ratchathani, Songkhla, Surat Thani and Chiang Mai. There were also several online gatherings and seminars.

The hashtag #24มิถุนา (24 June) also hit Thailand Twitter top trend at the dawn of the day.

The action that caught the attention of the public and media seems to be the reading of the 1st People's Party Declaration, which was read at dawn in 1932 and marked the regime change. About 500 - 700 people gathered at the Bangkok Pathum Wan Skywalk in the afternoon to hear the reading and chant “This country belongs to the people”.

The Declaration mainly highlighted the incompetence of the absolute monarchy that required the revolution to set things rights through 6 principles of development.

Symbols of the revolution and democracy were also introduced into the activities such as the disappeared People’s Party plaque and the sculpture of the constitution on the phan (a plate-like object used mainly in sacred ceremonies). 

Movement criminalized

Although nobody was arrested, the authorities’ reaction toward the commemorations seemed to be suspicious and threatening. To a certain extent, the commemorations were demonized.

The ongoing state of emergency gives the authorities legitimate cause to prohibit public gathering that risk the spread of Covid-19. However, their actions toward people are shady and threatening.

On 23 June, Pol Col Kritsana Pattanacharoen, deputy police spokesperson, gave a press briefing that the military and police found firearms, grenades and ammunition on the Thai-Myanmar border. He cited sources that claimed the weapons would be used in political movements around this time.

This claim was scrutinized by the Myanmar news outlet the Irrawaddy which reported that the weapons were made in China and meant to be sold to armed ethnic groups in Myanmar.

Media and people were paying attentions to the commemoration activity at the Democracy Monument at the dawn of 24 June 2020.

On the same day, the people who wanted to gather for commemorations in Yasothon and Surin provinces faced pressure from the authorities to minimize the Yasothon event and cancel the one in Surin.

A source from the movement in Yasothon told Matichon that the group was contacted by the authorities not to hold the event otherwise they would face legal charges. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that the event at Surin faced similar pressure from the police and Village Head.

In Khon Kaen province, students and activists gathered at the Democracy Monument in Muang Khon Kaen district. The authorities put up fences to keep people away from the monument.

Other events that were held offline faced pressure from police officers at the scene. In Surat Thani, a public panel had to be called off 1 hour before schedule as 2 administrative authorities came to check on the venue.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) also faced 2 visits from the police before a public panel about the 1932 revolution. Gwen Robinson, the FCCT President, said 12 police officers showed up at the panel. 8 remained at the venue while the manager negotiated for the others to leave.

Graffiti artist Headache Stencil has alledgedly been visited by four plainclothes police officers at his condominium last night (25 June) , after he projected images of Pridi Banomyong and other members of the People's Party onto the wall of Wat Ratchanadda Temple at around 1.00 on 24 June to commemorate the 88th anniversary of the 1932 Siamese Revolution.

Parit Chiwarak, an activist from the Student Union of Thailand who organized the gathering at the Pathumwan Skywalk posted on Facebook an hour after the live video was streamed that he was being followed by plainclothes officers in cars and on motorcycles.

Piyarat ‘Toto’ Chongthep, an activist and former MP candidate of the Future Forward Party attended the gathering at dawn on 24 June in Bangkok and was served an arrest warrant for his part in an earlier assembly. 

He decided to turn himself in at noon but during the morning, he was followed by someone who seemed to be a plainclothes policeman. The man said he wanted to take Piyarat to meet ‘the boss’. He did not answer when Piyarat asked him to identify himself.

Military cherishes royalists and rebels

As the people remembered the democratic revolution of the People’s Party, the Royal Thai Army (RTA) was constructing another version of history. The RTA secretariat published a press release reporting a merit-making ceremony for Prince Boworadet, who led a failed rebellion against the People's Party government led by Gen Phraya Phahon Phon Phayuhasena a year after the 1932 revolution.

The press release stated that the Prince’s reason for rebelling was that the Phahon government resembled an authoritarian regime. The rebels called for a more democratic government, with the monarchy intact and a check and balance system against the government.

The courageous heroic act and devotion of Prince Boworadet and Phraya Srisitthisongkhram [Boworadet’s deputy] are worth praising as they earnestly protected the monarchy. They also wished for the country to truly remained democratic.”, stated the press release.

Left to right: Rooms at the RTA Headquarters that are named as Boworadet and Srisitthisongkhram.

According to the historical record, the Boworadet rebellion had 6 demands, 2 of which relate to the distribution of power in parliament. One guaranteed that Siam will be ruled under a constitutional monarchy forever and the second granted the King the power to appoint half of the MPs.

The military have taken many measures to erase the legacy of the People’s Party. 

A statue of Field Marshal Plaek Phibulsongkhram was removed from in front of the National Defence College in January 2020. His museum at the artillery base in Lopburi province was also shut down.

Around the same time, a statue of Phraya Phahon was also removed from the artillery base in Lopburi. The museum, which contains his belongings donated by his descendants, was also put off-limits.

On March 2020, the Royal Gazette announced that the Artillery Centre in Lopburi, known as “Fort Phaholyothin”, had been renamed “Fort Bhumibol,” after King Bhumibol, King Vajiralongkorn’s father. The “Fort Phibulsonggram” Artillery Brigade Camp nearby was also renamed “Fort Sirikit” after Queen Sirikit, the Queen Mother.

Round UpSiamese Revolution on 24 June 1932freedom of expressionEmergency DecreeBoworadetSrisitthisongkhramPeople's PartyPlaek PhibunsongkhramPhraya Phahonphonphayuhasenademocracy
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