Prachatai English

Drunk naval officer at risk of lèse majesté charge

Prachatai English - Wed, 2022-01-12 19:40
Submitted on Wed, 12 Jan 2022 - 07:40 PMPrachatai

Claiming while drunk that the King of Thailand knew him well, naval officer Capt Alongkorn Ploddee has been dismissed from service effective from 7 January. He has been detained at a military camp in Sattahip, Chonburi, facing four charges and at risk of being charged with lèse majesté in a military court.

On 23 December, a video clip went viral online, showing a drunk man at a restaurant in Sattahip, Chonburi. Patrolling police officers arrived to check that no alcoholic drinks were sold at night at the restaurant, in accordance with a provincial mandate to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The man then intervened.

In his rant, he said that he was a naval officer who had close ties with big shots, claiming that he could remove any police officer from any police station. He also threw glass bottles onto the floor, warning the police to leave.

After public backlash against him, a video clip of a second incident has been posted online, showing similar behaviour. On 16 December at a restaurant near Ekkamai, he shouted claims that he had been the late King’s guard for 18 years and also a favourite of His Majesty. He failed to get free drinks as a waiter and a waitress politely asked him to leave.

“I was the Rama IX’s guard for 18 years. Rama X knows me well, just so you know that you are losers. I can remove you any time. No need to call anyone. I won’t go anywhere. I sit here. I’m the biggest in this country,” he said.

After public criticism and a written inquiry from police, the Royal Thai Navy revealed that the man was Capt Alongkorn Ploddee, the Director of the Real Estate Division at Sattahip Naval Base. A disciplinary committee was set up to investigate on the matter, followed by 14-day disciplinary actions against Capt Alongkorn.

To show responsibility, Adm Somprasong Nilsamai, Chief of Royal Thai Navy, subjected himself to disciplinary measures for 3 days and Vice Adm Narupol Kerdnak, commander of the Sattahip Naval Base, for 7 days from 28 December. Photos showed their shaved heads. They were also expected to walk long distances with a backpack and run with weights.

According to the Guardian, “shaven heads have been associated with trauma, brutality and the loss of individuality or strength.” Since the reign of King Rama X, a number of top brass officers have undergone head shaving as a form of punishment including Suriyan "Mor Yong" Sucharitpolwong who suspiciously died from a bloodstream infection in 2015.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who was also mentioned by Capt Alongkorn in one of the video clips ‘Brother Tu’, praised the navy top brass for the self-punishment in a cabinet meeting.

Capt Alongkorn also claimed that he was in the 31st class of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School alongside a powerful police officer, Lt Gen Surachate "Big Joke" Hakparn.

In response, Lt Gen Surachate said that if Capt Alongkorn was really in the 31st class, then it was undeniable that he was one of his friends, but the misconduct was the man’s personal responsibility. After the New Year, the Minister of Defence ordered Capt Alongkorn dismissed for serious misconduct. He was also stripped of the right to all forms of pension.

After the dismissal, he was denied entry to Sattahip Naval Base. According to the announcement, with the photograph attached, he had at least 12 vehicles including one Isuzu, six Toyota, one Honda, one Porsche, one Ford, and two Mercedes Benz.

The 14th Army Region Court issued an arrest warrant against Capt Alongkorn. He was brought to Sattahip Police Station to acknowledge four charges: insulting of officers in the conduct of their duties, libel of officers carrying out their duties, resisting or obstructing officers in the conduct of their duties, and threatening officers to take illegitimate action.

Sattahip Police Station has set up a committee to consider whether to charge him under the lèse majesté law. According to Section 112, “whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” So far, there were still no relatives who came to bail him out.

While the cases like these should go through a civilian court considering that these happened when he was off duties and he was stripped of his titles, Daily News reported that all of these charges would be processed through the military court, claiming that he took the action while he was still an officer.

NewsRoyal Thai Navy
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Cabinet approves draft bill tightening regulation of non-profits

Prachatai English - Wed, 2022-01-12 15:05
Submitted on Wed, 12 Jan 2022 - 03:05 PM

On 4 January, a Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations was approved in principle by the cabinet.  Drawn up by the Office of the Council of the State, the bill now goes to the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) for public hearings before being returned to the cabinet for final consideration.

Men in security vests observe protesters. (File photo)

According to a government press release, the Council of the State drafted the new act to stop non-profits from being used for money laundering, and to develop the capacity of non-profits to work with the authorities in an open and transparent manner that truly benefits the public.

The bill has been under consideration since February 2021.  Local civil society organisations (CSOs) have criticised the measure for its excessive regulation of non-profit financing and its vaguely-worded prohibitions.

As currently written, the bill prohibits organisations from engaging in activities that threaten national security, economic stability, foreign relations, public order, public safety and the rights and liberties of others.

Non-profits receiving overseas funding will also need to provide authorities with bank records showing where funds are held and what purpose they serve.  The use of funds for other ends, particularly those deemed political, will not be allowed .

Those found guilty of violating the law face punishments ranging from fines and prison sentences to organisation closure.

The definition of a not-for-profit organisation seems to be clearer: ‘individuals that organise, in one form or another, to collectively pursue activities in society without seeking financial gain, exclusive of groups that stage ad-hoc activities of benefit to group members or political parties.’

On 7 January, No NGO Bill Thailand, a CSO network with the support of some 1,867 organisations and individuals nationwide, announced their opposition to the bill.

In a group statement, the draft was decried as an ill-intentioned effort to control the activities of NGOs in the name of public order and national security that would leave authorities free to decide which groups to prohibit without providing the accused the right to appeal to the Administration Court. It also noted that many laws already regulate CSO registration and financial activity. 

The statement added that while network members supported transparency and oversight, they will: “oppose this bill to the end of the line, until this bill is withdrawn. Over 1,800 organisations and networks around the country have agreed to come out and oppose the government in this matter.”

Civic associations and foundations are currently regulated under the Civil and Commercial Code.  Foundations must register with the Ministry of Interior. Other groups are required to register under other laws. Some are free to operate without registration.

NewsOperations of Not-for-profit Organizations Actcivil societyNGO
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2021 Crowdfunding sum announcement

Prachatai English - Tue, 2022-01-11 20:10
Submitted on Tue, 11 Jan 2022 - 08:10 PMPrachatai

On 18 February 2021, Prachatai English launched a crowdfunding campaign to keep us in operation. So far, we have received a total of 68,035.57 THB. We would like to thank you for your support, which will help us continue to cover underreported issues in Thailand, especially democratization and human rights. 

Simple steps to support Prachatai:

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: service@prachatai.com, please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”

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Abolish Section 112: A call that gets louder as time passes

Prachatai English - Tue, 2022-01-11 19:44
Submitted on Tue, 11 Jan 2022 - 07:44 PMKritsada Subpawanthanakun

After a failed attempt a decade ago to amend or abolish the section of the Criminal Code that punishes people for defaming, insulting or threatening members of the monarchy, new calls have emerged questioning the monarch’s role in Thai democracy and have faced legal harassment.

Protester flash a 3-finger salute. One person holds a flag saying 'Free political prisoners. Abolish Section 112'. (File photo)

2021 saw the dwindling of a massive political movement calling for political and monarchy reform due to another wave of Covid-19 infections. Regardless of the decreasing number of public voices, the popular demand to abolish Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lèse majesté law, is an interesting sign.

Past attempts to abolish 112

The current version of the lèse majesté law carries a penalty of 3-15 years in jail for those found guilty of defaming, insulting or threatening the King, the Queen, the Heir Apparent, or the Regent.

There have been attempts to amend Section 112 in the past. In 2008, the Student Federation of Thailand, Triumph International Labour Union and the activist group Prakai Fai (Spark of Fire) published a statement calling for a variety of political reforms and social welfare measures. Among the demands for judicial reform, it proposed the abolition of Section 112, calling it ‘backward and chauvinistic’.

A year later, Giles Ungpakorn, then a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, gathered around 1,000 signatures in support of abolishing Section 112.

Somsak Jeamteerasakul (File photo)

In 2010, Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a history lecturer from Thammasat University, made ‘8 proposals for reforming the institution of the monarchy’:

  1. Abolish Section 8 of the Constitution, paving the way for parliament to conduct a trial over the monarch’s wrongdoing.
  2. Abolish Section 112 of the Criminal Code (the lèse majesté law)
  3. Abolish the Privy Council
  4. Abolish the Crown Property Act BE 2491 (1948)
  5. Abolish one-sided public relations and education related to the monarchy
  6. Abolish all royal prerogatives that allow the monarchy political expression
  7. Abolish all royal prerogatives regarding royal projects
  8. Prohibit all donations made by or to the monarchy

In April-May 2011, the civil society groups Democracy Network and 24 June for Democracy Movement rallied for another round of signatures to abolish Section 112.

Before 2012, academics from many colleges and universities had formed a group called the Committee Campaigning to Amend Section 112. The group proposed to reduce the penalty, remove the Section from the Chapter on security-related offences (which allows any individual to bring charges), make the Office of the Royal Secretariat the sole entity authorized to file complaints, and make a clear distinction between defamation and ‘honest criticism’.

They received 26,968 signatures in support of their proposal.

Before the establishment of this Committee, Worachet Pakeerut, Thapanan Nipithakul, Teera Suteevarangkul, Sawatree Suksri and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul of the Faculty of Law, Thammasat University, also proposed amendment of Section 112.

The Committee’s resolution was submitted to parliament on 29 May 2012. It was dismissed even before the parliament even had a chance to discuss it.

A louder call for Section 112’s abolition

In comparison with the attempts of the past decade, the current campaign on Section 112 has clearly surpassed them, with the issue widely discussed. One indicator is the number of signatures in support of abolishing the law on the website no112.org, which reached 237,589 as of 5 January 2022.

Moreover, there is even a call for change in parliament from the Move Forward Party, a move that no party has ever before dared to make. The KLA Party, which has no MPs, also proposed establishing a committee to consider indictments under the law, which the government approved at the beginning of 2022.

But the number of Section 112 prosecutions is as high as ever. Since the law was enforced again in November 2020 after a brief moratorium, 166 people have been charged in 171 cases, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

The interpretation of the law by enforcement officers goes beyond the legal framework, says Pichit Likhitkitsomboon, a former lecturer at Thammasat’s Faculty of Economics who supported amendment a decade ago.

“I see it as a high degree of difference in terms of policy. 10 years ago at the time of the committee to amend Section 112, I understood that there had been no high-level policy that set out a clear stance on this. It was handled on a case-by-case basis. There was still no common basic approach and still no coordination among different bodies in the judicial process, the police, prosecutors, the courts and the prison system, because at that time, criticism was still not widespread.

Pichit Likhitkitsomboon (File photo)

“But today, we can see clearly that there is a clear approach from high-level politics setting out that, if this is the issue, cases must be prosecuted in this way,” said Pichit.

Pichit also does not understand the wide interpretation of the law since 2020 where actions like wearing traditional Thai outfits or some other dress ended with royal defamation charges.

Monarchy’s role in democracy: a contributing factor to Section 112 discussion

Pichit finds the discussion in the past faced less resistance than at present. Many famous cases raised doubts about the enforcement and interpretation of the law, including that of Ampon ‘Ah Kong’ Tangnoppakul, the elderly lèse majesté convict who died of cancer while in custody in 2012 despite several attempts to secure bail due to his ill health. But the regular mechanisms of elected government and the atmosphere during the reign of the late King Rama IX accommodated differences of ideas.

But the movement starting in 2020 has pushed the limits of questioning the monarchy in public in a way the kingdom has never seen before. When discussion included the monarchy’s status and power within Thailand’s democratic system of government, it was inevitable that Section 112 would become an issue to be addressed.

“The idea of having to draw a clear line [around the monarchy’s power] has created discussion and astonishment. Especially those who have been living in the same relationship for fifty to sixty years will feel that posing questions or calls to draw a clear line are a threat, a path toward instability.

“There was a reaction. One weapon that was picked up was Section 112, so the debate that is taking place today is not a debate to find a solution … but a political conflict that includes defiance and a desire for systematic change. When feelings of understanding or belief like these arise, reasoned debate becomes difficult,” said Pichit.

Too soon to forecast abolition

As far as public outcry over amendment or abolition are concerned, Pichit sees a long way to go to achieve real changes in terms of policy.

So far, the Pheu Thai Party and Move Forward Party are the only two parties that have taken a stance on doing something in terms of policy. Pichit considers only the Move Forward Party as the real deal. He discounts the stance taken by former PM Thaksin Shinawatra of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai Party, many of whose core members are now part of Pheu Thai.

“The stance of Pheu Thai is unchanged. It will absolutely not touch the monarchy or the military. They have never touched the military budget, not to mention the budget for the monarchy or related activities. This is the stance of the boss of the party who has a direct interest in this, coordinating the interests and relations of the monarchy and the military.

“The statement that was issued and caused one day of uproar, if you go and read it well, stated only that the party will consider the issue.  It did not say at all that it will take part in amending Section 112. And a few days later, Khun Tony (Thaksin Shinawatra) put the brakes on. Since then, Pheu Thai has been silent,” said Pichit

Featurelèse majesté lawSection 112Article 112Royal defamationSomsak JeamteerasakulPichit LikhitkitsomboonMonarchy reformThai monarchySource: prachatai.com/journal/2022/01/96686
Categories: Prachatai English

Controversy surrounding Sitala is here to stay

Prachatai English - Tue, 2022-01-11 15:21
Submitted on Tue, 11 Jan 2022 - 03:21 PMPrachatai

With the ongoing political division in Thailand, controversies and boycott campaigns surrounding Sitala and other right-wing celebrities will not go away any time soon.

With a showcase event and social media campaign, Sitala’s first album with K-pop band H1-KEY has been released. In response to the controversies over her and her father’s role in anti-democracy protests which led to two military coups in 2006 and 2014, she said that she was young at the time and now wants diverse opinions to co-exist peacefully.

Her response faced another public backlash from pro-democracy elements in Thailand as the Twitter hashtag #bansitala soared in Thailand for a second time, citing current chaos in the country resulting from the suppression of the voices of dissent. In this divided nation, however, she did not fail to receive a welcome from conservative supporters and people who believe in keeping art and politics separate.

Controversy surrounding Sitala Wongkrachang emerged in December 2021 when GLG Entertainment announced that Sitala would join H1-KEY along with Korean artists Seoi (Lee Ye Jin) Riina (Lee Seung-Hyun), and Yel (Han Shin Young). According to Kprofiles, Sitala, born in 1996, was the fourth member to be announced.

The source said that she went to Korea in 2016 (when the junta government led by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha held a referendum to approve Thailand’s constitution, designed to prolong its power). After graduation from Ehwa Women’s University, Sitala became a trainee at Lionheart Entertainment in 2018. Her work towards becoming a K-pop star has been pretty smooth until now.

Her debut faced a public backlash when social media users, most of them young progressives still without the right to vote in 2016, exposed her and her family’s questionable past. The opposition party that young Thais voted for in 2019 and their two-year protests against the establishment in 2020-2021 have suffered relentless repression from the political establishment and security forces.

Saranyu Wongkrachang at a yellow shirt protest in 2008. Source: Wikipedia

Thai memes said that Saranyu Wongkrachang, Sitala’s father, resembled Tom Hiddleston who was cast as Loki for Marvel’s Avengers. But his royalist politics was dangerous. As an actor, director, and right-wing political activist who led protest after protest against elected governments, he paved the way for the military to seize power in 2006 and 2014.

Saranyu died from liver cancer in 2020 at the age of 59, having devoted his life to what he believed to be the defence of the monarchy and the country from corrupt, elected politicians. Little did he know that his political legacy would soon affect his daughter’s career as young people posted a flood of Tweets damning her and her family’s political profile.

Bruce Banner said he was “always angry” as he transformed into the Hulk and later in the Avengers threw Loki like a stuffed doll. The Thai progressive youth are acting in a similar manner. Their public outcry has torn apart the hypocrisies of conservative celebrities, who profess immense love for their country and a paranoia of foreign political interference, but send their family members abroad for better lives.

In December 2021, Yuenyong ‘Aed’ Opakul warned that Thais should not trust foreigners who want to colonize the country using democracy as a rhetorical device. Netizens responded by reposting photos of a grinning Yuenyong walking his daughter Nicha ‘Zen’ Opakul to the altar to marry a Scottish man. Yuenyong is Carabao’s frontman, famous for composing royalist and anti-American imperialist songs, and also a yellow shirt activist with a long anti-democratic political record in Thailand since the 2000s.

Jetrin ‘Je’ Wattanasin is a Thai singer and a People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) activist who gave nationalist speeches calling for the overthrow of the Yingluck Shinawatra government in 2014. While ranting on social media against pro-democracy protesters who demanded reform in 2020-2021, he invited a public backlash by sending his three sons to study in the UK. Young Thai progressives asked why he sends his children abroad if he loves the country so much.

With the anti-Sitala hashtags gaining more and more traction in Thailand in December 2021, GLG Entertainment, the manager of H1-KEY, responded to what the Bangkok Post called “the fuss“, saying that they “cannot hold Sitala accountable on the basis of her father’s past decisions and actions that were beyond her responsibility” and they had “made the decision not to change the members of the group.” The netizens countered this by reposting a photo of Sitala herself participating in an anti-democracy protest.

Amid the public backlash and calls for consumer boycotts, Ja Mezz (Kim Sung-hee), a rapper and the CEO of GLG Entertainment, announced that the company would be dissolved after accusations against him of aggressive behaviour and drug use. The disbanding of the parent company GLG Entertainment left the fate of H1-KEY and Sitala uncertain, a moment of catharsis for pro-democracy netizens. Then the H1-KEY debut and Sitala’s reply led to another wave of controversy on 5 January.

At the time of writing, Athletic Girl, the first H1-KEY music video, has 1.9 million views on YouTube. The Manager Online, a pro-establishment outlet, used the headline “more boycott, more views” as the song reached three hundred thousand views during the first 24 hours. In contrast, Matichon Online, a pro-democracy outlet, talked of “just hundreds of thousands” in its headline during the first 19 hours.

How can we measure the impact of a political backlash on the success of a debut? As of now, we have not been able to find an average number of views for a K-pop band debut. It would be unfair to compare a new K-pop band with well-established bands like BTS, Blackpink, or Twice, which have billions of views per year. The list of K-pop artists with the highest average views per music video also does not give comparable data.

According to Statista’s research for 2018, 46.1 per cent of entertainment agencies said that “the debut rate of their trainees is around 60 to 90 per cent,” while another 26.8 per cent said that “less than 60 per cent of their trainees can debut.” And “to debut as a singer in Korea took around two years and four months on average.” While it is common sense that sex scandals or criminal allegations will impact celebrities’ debuts or careers, political opinions and political division are more ambiguous as a factor.

According to the Harvard Business Review, any business should make concessions if the issue is one-sided (such as child labour) and avoid talking if it is polarizing (such as same-sex marriage in the US). The responses from companies related to H1-KEY, both in the case of Ja Mezz (one-sided) and Sitala (polarized), are to some degree right out of the textbook.

But will they pay the price? A drastically divided nation like Thailand ranked third in 2019 with 8.1% to the K-pop global viewership, behind Indonesia (9.9%) and South Korea (10.1%) itself. However, Bangkok surpassed Seoul in terms of views per capita (115 to 91), second only to Ho Chi Minh city (392). Mass protests in 2020-2021 saw hundreds of thousands gathered in Bangkok. While political division may not be a significant factor, it could not be ruled out of the equation.

We know where the anger of pro-democracy protesters comes from. During 2020-2021, more than a thousand protests were held across Thailand demanding various reforms. None of the demands has been fully achieved as inequality is rising. A number have been injured and arrested. When right-wing celebrities, who in their eyes have been working tirelessly to deprive them of their future, send their children abroad for better lives, a backlash should not be unexpected.

When the pressure from netizens has led to a real reduction in advertising revenue, several right-wing celebrities resigned from TV programmes. Some young Thai progressives would not even consider accepting a formal apology from public figures who have sided with anti-democracy forces. Regardless of the young progressives’ impact, controversies surrounding Sitala and other celebrities will not get away soon.

Meanwhile, left-wing celebrities may as well buckle up to face a public backlash from right-wing supporters. As long as there are no changes in the political system, these trends will stay, causing celebrities headaches. Now that their political standpoint, even at a young age, needs to be considered, entertainment companies that welcome stars may need to hire more public relations managers to craft more statements.

Round UpSitalaboycottpro-democracy protest
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APHR: Hun Sen’s rogue diplomacy is a threat to ASEAN and Myanmar

Prachatai English - Mon, 2022-01-10 14:17
Submitted on Mon, 10 Jan 2022 - 02:17 PMASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's meeting with Myanmar's self-declared State Administration Council leader Min Aung Hlaing is a threat to ASEAN and Myanmar, says ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).

Hun Sen

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s official visit to Myanmar, his meeting with the self-declared State Administration Council leader Min Aung Hlaing, and their Joint Press release, are a brazen and dangerous attempt to seize the initiative away from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN’s) collective approach to the crisis in Myanmar. These two coup makers are conducting another coup within ASEAN that threatens to split the organisation itself. The other eight members of ASEAN must jointly demand that Cambodia adheres to the Five-Point Consensus and works within the collective framework of ASEAN to tackle the multiple urgent crises in Myanmar.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Min Aung Hlaing agreed in April 2021 to the Five-Point Consensus as ASEAN’s approach to the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Myanmar. Almost immediately, Myanmar’s junta broke the agreement by escalating the violence and has failed to make any genuine progress on the agreed plan. Even before Cambodia took over the Chairmanship of ASEAN, Prime Minister Hun Sen signalled his disdain for the Five-Point Consensus, declaring he had his own plans. It is deeply concerning for the whole region that he has subverted the ASEAN process, and is hijacking the Chairmanship to oppose the will of the people of Myanmar who have made their stance clear for close to a year that they will not accept junta control.

Their joint press statement announces a number of apparent breakthroughs in their talks, but no one should be fooled that any actual progress has been achieved. The military has made no substantive concessions and there has been no dialogue that could lead to a tenable ceasefire. There is no mention of imprisoned elected officials such as President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, nor of the National Unity Government formed by elected representatives who were unconstitutionally ousted from power by the military. The apparent humanitarian initiative agreed to by Hun Sen and Min Aung Hlaing places aid in the hands of the same military that is blocking and destroying humanitarian aid to those in need, conducting the war that has killed, injured, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people, while impoverishing millions more. No progress can be made, unless the military junta’s campaign of terror against the Myanmar people is stopped and the Myanmar people and their elected representatives are consulted and included. An enduring solution to the crisis cannot be reached with the junta setting its own conditions.

“The joint statement released by the Cambodian Prime Minister with the leader of the illegal junta, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, is a misguided and dangerous attempt to deceptively portray a breakthrough, when in fact, his unilateral actions have dramatically weakened ASEAN’s collective leverage to solve the Myanmar crisis. It is a brazen attempt by these two coup leaders to hijack ASEAN for their own authoritarian purposes, undermining the Myanmar peoples’ fight for democracy and human rights,” said Charles Santiago, Chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights.

It is clear that Myanmar’s military has displayed a flagrant lack of respect for ASEAN, and in fact since its coup attempt on February 1, 2021, it appears to have used the bloc to try to gain legitimacy while at the same time intensifying brutal reprisals against the people of Myanmar, PM Hun Sen has chosen to be complicit in their strategy by recklessly attempting to legitimise the junta against the collective will of ASEAN leadership.

“Hun Sen should know better, having lived through the Khmer Rouge genocide, than to act as an accomplice to the Myanmar junta that is accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Hun Sen and the junta’s attempt to deceive the world that they are making progress to resolve the situation is blatantly dishonest, and Myanmar people are not fooled by it. The last thing we need is another dictator supporting Min Aung Hlaing’s campaign of terror. Has Hun Sen forgotten the millions of Cambodian people who suffered through their own genocide? Hun Sen’s hijacking of ASEAN through its Chairmanship should not facilitate continuation of the junta’s own killing fields against the people of Myanmar. This is unacceptable and ASEAN leaders have the responsibility to stop this,” said Khin Ohmar, founder of Progressive Voice.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights and Progressive Voice call on the other eight members of ASEAN to jointly demand that Cambodia, as ASEAN Chair, adheres to the Five-Point Consensus and works within the collective framework that has been maintained since its founding 55 years ago. ​​If no urgent actions are taken, the other members risk colluding with Hun Sen in furthering the destruction of the unity, integrity, and credibility of ASEAN, while the junta continues its terror campaign against the people of Myanmar.

We call on ASEAN leaders to reiterate their commitment to support the Myanmar people’s aspirations to achieve peace, freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights in their country.

Pick to PostASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)Hun SenMin Aung HlaingMyanmarASEANMyanmar coup
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Emergency Decree violation indicted on labor activist

Prachatai English - Fri, 2022-01-07 19:47
Submitted on Fri, 7 Jan 2022 - 07:47 PMMigrant Working Group

 

On 6 January 2022, prosecutors have prosecuted Thanaphon Wichan, a labor union activist from her attampt to give a Labour Minister a petition calling for assistance for labours amidst the pandemic. The court allowed her to post bail on own recognizance.

Policemen instruct the migrant labours at the ministry of labour on 29 October 2021.

The case stems from an incidence on 29 October 2021, when  Thanaphon Wichan, representative of migrant employees, The Workers’ Union, the Migrant Working Group and the Labour Network for Peoples Rights has gone to the Ministry of Labour to submit a letter to the Minister of Labour to follow up on their previous petition to demand a solution to construction workers and migrant workers amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and to demand a solution to other concerned issues including expenses incurred from entering the registration process which still lacked the clarity.

They wanted more clarification on the government’s policies to register the migrant workers per the cabinet resolution on 28 September 2021. The handing of the letter and negotiation with representatives of the Ministry of Labour was disrupted when the Cambodian migrant workers who accompanied her were arrested right in the premises of the Ministry of Labour.

After the incidence, the Ministry of Labour authorized its personnel to report the case with the inquiry officials of the Din Daeng Police Station against Ms. Thanaphon for “harbouring, hiding or in any manner assisting..”, an offence against the Immigration Act. As the police inquiry has yielded no culpable evidence against her on such charges, the authority decided to press another charge against her for “being complicit in the organization of a gathering and an illegal assembly in a manner that risks spreading the disease in the area designated by an announcement or an order as a maximum and strict control zone and an area under strict surveillance except for permission has been obtained from competent officials, an act of which is a breach of the Regulation issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005)”  (For more information, please read  https://mwgthailand.org/en/press/1639313913 )

Thanaphon and her attorney have met with the prosecutors of the Department of Special Litigation 2 of the Kwaeng Court (Office of Attorney General) to submit a letter of petition urging the prosecutors to decide to not prosecute the case since it is tantamount to a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or SLAPP.

Her act was simply the use of a mechanism to complain with concerned agencies, the right of which is recognized in the Constitution. In addition, prior to submitting the letter, a coordination had been made with representatives of the Ministry of Labour beforehand.

Therefore, the Ministry of Labour was obliged to act to ensure the enforcement of the disease prevention protocol to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The prosecutors accepted the letter of petition but have failed to review it and not acted to refrain from prosecuting the unfair case.

Koreeyor Manuchae, attorney, says that Thanaphon is a labor right defender and has accompanied a group of workers whose rights have been violated to lodge the complaint pursuant to a grievance mechanism provided by the state. Instead, she was victimized by the state which used the law as a tool to impede access to justice and it was a process of revictimization made possible by law.

She demands that the state grievance mechanism be made a safe space to which all workers must have an easy access based on an equal basis. Ms. Koreeyor further says that the prosecutors can use their discretion to not prosecute a case which may not serve public interest. But on the contrary, the prosecutors in this case have become part of the process to weaponize the law to stifle people’s rights and freedoms.

Meanwhile, the offence according to Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005) has been widely misused and abused to target human rights defenders or people who simply exercise their rights and freedoms as recognized in the Constitution and not for controlling the diseases as claimed.

Pick to PostMigrant Working Group (MWG)labour rights
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Thaksin's returning

Prachatai English - Fri, 2022-01-07 16:41
Submitted on Fri, 7 Jan 2022 - 04:41 PMStephff

MultimediaStephffThaksin Shinawatra
Categories: Prachatai English

Discussion of pro-democracy detainees cut from film award ceremony speeches

Prachatai English - Fri, 2022-01-07 14:14
Submitted on Fri, 7 Jan 2022 - 02:14 PMPrachatai

In a video recording of the 29th annual Bangkok Critics Assembly film award ceremony, references to imprisoned pro-democracy activists were cut from the speeches of awardees from ‘School Town King’, a film that took home seven awards.

The award ceremony on 24 December 2021. (Source:Youtube/ Bangkok Critics Assembly)

According to a 4 January Man On Film Facebook post, references to the detainees in the speeches of every awardee but one were cut from a nearly five-hour long video of the award ceremony, held on 24 December 2021 at Lido Connect in Bangkok.  The only speech not  ‘edited’ was given by Sinjai Plengpanich, who accepted an award on behalf of M.L. Pundhevanop Dhewakul.

In a separate Facebook post, School Town King director Wattanapume Laisuwanchai said that a total of seven speeches were cut, including one by his film’s editor Harin Paesongthai, who received an award for his work.

In his speech, Harin said that the film sought to address inequality and oppression in society, “not only in the education system … [but the social] system where we are dominated from the smallest unit to the largest, by the people on top.”

He added that he wanted to: “… use this opportunity to support and stand with the fighters who are being unfairly detained. Free our friends. There are still people suffering, detained because of the injustice of the system … I believe that there will be a better day for us. Justice must take place.”

In an online post Wattanapume decried the deletion of the comments as “unbelievable”. Noting that state support for the filmmaking industry in Thailand was negligible, he argued that filmmakers should be free to air their views, as well as to thank supporters and those who work behind the scenes.

“School Town King tries to speak for the voices that have been suppressed, the voices of the people in this country that have been overlooked.  I find it incredible that, even on the awards stage, cuts would be made to the air time given for each person’s speech. I am not sure why.  Was it politics?”

“Go back and listen to each speech.  No accusations were made.  No lies were spoken.  No rude words were uttered.   Instead, they spoke of things that have actually happened in this society, things we see in the news everyday.”

School Town King tells the story of ‘Book’ and ‘Non’, two youngsters from Khlong Toei, a densely-populated slum in the middle of Bangkok.  The pair dream of becoming famous rap artists, but their daily lives are a struggle framed by the inequity of the Thai society order.

The actor Thanayut ‘Book’ Na Ayudhya and Kontai Poonlab received an excellent film score award for their song ‘Freestyle’.   According to a post by Thanayut, a.k.a. Elevenfinger, his rap performance addressing the persecution of pro-democracy protesters was deleted from the video as well.

Bangkok Critics Assembly had been giving awards to people in the Thai filmmaking sector since 1991.

NewsBangkok Critics AssemblySchool Town KingWattanapume LaisuwanchaiHarin PaesongthaiSource: prachatai.com/journal/2022/01/96681
Categories: Prachatai English

Women, Feminists and LGBTQ+ in the Thai protests

Prachatai English - Thu, 2022-01-06 19:43
Submitted on Thu, 6 Jan 2022 - 07:43 PM

Summary:

  • Fed up with Thai patriarchy, groups of Thai women, feminists, and LGBTQ+ from all walks of life united in the struggle against the political establishment led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and joined other pro-democracy groups in calling for monarchy reform.

  • The women, feminist, and LGBTQ+ groups in Thailand helped nonviolent resistance by contributing to a more inclusive movement, through adding gender issues, reinterpreting politics and creating a safe space for participants. They also equipped the campaign with creativity and resilience.

  • Challenges ahead include how to get their messages across to broader sectors in Thai society, including some among in the pro-democracy protesters themselves. Their demands have yet to be fully achieved as the current government has made only limited concessions.

  1. Being a woman in Thailand

Throughout the two decades of political crisis, gender equality in Thailand has deteriorated. After the military coup in 2014, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha became Prime Minister of Thailand. Not long after he seized power, two British tourists were murdered on Ko Tao; the woman was also raped. What Prayut said shocked the world:

"They [tourists] think that Thailand is beautiful, safe and that they can do anything they want here. That they can put on their bikinis and go anywhere they want. I ask, can they get away with wearing bikinis in Thailand? Unless they are not beautiful?"

Under pressure, he apologized for the comment. Two years on, he still had not learned to communicate with the public. During his opening speech at an event promoting vocational education at the Impact Arena in 2016, he directly attacked the very idea of gender equality.

"Everyone says we must create equality — men and women deserve the same rights and can do the same good and bad things. Oh, if you all think so, Thai society will deteriorate!" said Gen Prayuth, shaking his head.

It was not known if he apologized for this comment. Whether he was sorry or not would mean very little considering the deep-rooted patriarchy in traditional Thai institutions, from schools, universities, and workplaces, to the cabinet, parliament, the military, and even the palace.

The 2021 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Reportranked Thailand 79th out of 153 countries in terms of gender equality. While Thailand achieved relatively high scores and rankings in educational attainment (0.992) health and survival (0.978) and economic participation (0.787) it ranked 134th in political empowerment with an abysmal score of 0.084.

Thailand has had its first female prime minister – Yingluck Shinawatra. Also the youngest prime minister of Thailand, she took office in 2011 only to be ousted by a military putsch in 2014. One of the reasons conservatives disliked her was because she was a 'stupid bitch’. Representation of women in recent cabinets and parliaments under the governments of Prayut Chan-o-cha has been meagre.

Women's economic lives improved in the 1990s out of the struggle for rights, but have remained stagnant since. The rights to 90 days of maternity leave was by labour unions in 1993 after a hard struggle. Children should be breastfed for at least six months, but the period of maternity leave has remained significantly less than this for almost two decades.

The most blatant expression of patriarchy is found in the crime statistics. The Ministry of Justice says that over the past three years, Thai prisons had received 10,000-15,000 sexual offenders, whose victims are almost all women, many of them teenage school students.

In 2020 alone, the Pavena Foundation received reports of more than 10,000 cases of violence against women and children in the form of rape, physical assault, trafficking, drug addiction, and unintended pregnancy. This was 3,000 more than the previous year. Frightening as these numbers are, many more go unreported.

Prostitution is illegal in Thailand despite its notoriety. In practice, sex workers have to bribe the police for protection. The police can turn against them any time, leading to stories of abuse of power, including 'sting operations' which the authorities prohibited in 2019 after a public backlash.

The problems of patriarchy reach as high as the palace itself. King Vajiralongkorn has been married five times with Thailand now under one queen and one royal consort. Many stories go unreported in Thailand, as they could constitute a violation of the lèse-majesté law and result in 15 years in prison.

The list goes on and on and on.

  1. Being an LGBTQ+ in Thailand

Meanwhile, Thai society has been tolerant towards the LGBTQ+ community, but as Prachatai English pointed out, calling it a paradise for LGBTQ+ is hugely overestimated.

In 2013, the Thailand Tourism Authority launched its "Go Thai, Be Free" campaign to attract LGBT tourists. Bangkok has been called "Asia's gay capital" and is known for its gay nightlife scene, transgender beauty queens, and gender confirmation surgery.

However, this facade of acceptance is only the tip of the iceberg. Thailand promotes itself as a gay paradise, but it offers no protection for its LGBT population. Discussions of sex and sexuality are still taboo. Sex education is limited in school, and LGBT people live under intense pressure not to bring shame on their families.

The LGBT community in Thailand is tolerated as long as its members remain within specific social confines. In Thai media, the token "kathoey" or trans woman is rarely seen in any other role than comic relief and gay people are portrayed negatively or as stock characters. LGBT films are often banned, such as Tanwarin Sukkhapisit's Insects in the Backyard.

Even with the Gender Equality Act of 2015, there is little legal support for the LGBT community. Homosexuality is no longer a crime under Thai law, but the LGBT community still faces discrimination in the workplace, school, and home. There are many reports of LGBT people being denied promotion or fired from their jobs after disclosing their sexuality.

LGBT students face harassment and bullying from their teachers and peers based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. A USAID/UNDP report cited a 2014 study conducted by UNESCO, Plan International, and Mahidol University, saying that a third of the 2000 LGBT students participating in the survey had been harassed. Only a minority had reported the bullying.

Transgender children are often abused by their families and punished for being trans. Under Thai law, a transgender person cannot legally change their title on their identity papers, even after gender confirmation surgery. Most schools and universities still do not officially recognize students' right to dress according to their gender identity.

Last but not least, same-sex couples still cannot legally marry. Therefore, they are denied certain rights afforded to heterosexual couples. They do not have the right to adopt a child, take their partner's name, access social benefits, make medical decisions on their partner's behalf, or obtain a marriage visa for a partner who does not hold Thai citizenship.

Rainbow flags can be seen in almost every protest in Thailand from 2020-2021.
Source: Prachatai

  1. "Patriarchy shall perish, equality shall prosper."

While the problems piled up under Thai patriarchy, the political elite were still busy calculating how to prolong their status quo. In 2019, an election was held as a result of public pressure. The opposition Future Forward Party, which gained 6 million votes, became a significant threat to the establishment's mandate. The party was eventually dissolved by the courts. But Prayut did not know that he would soon have to face one of the biggest protests in Thai history.

After the dissolution of the Future Forward party, pro-democracy protests proliferated across Thailand. Fed up with prolonged political decadence, protestors said, "let it end in our generation." They focused on the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, the drafting of a new constitution, and reform of the monarchy. Demands and tactics became increasingly diverse as the movement grew. Stalled by the Covid-19 outbreaks, the protests came back to haunt the establishment when infections declined.

With a middle-class mentality, many Thai women found polygamy at the top of the political hierarchy intolerable. LGBTQ+ persons also saw no place in the national discourse. With the declining economy, they experienced growing inequality in contrast with the luxurious lifestyles of the political elite. The system has been hurting them, so the feminists and LGBTQ+ groups joined the frontlines, calling for gender equality and a better standard of living.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, gender diversity groups would display rainbow flags and wear vivid clothes, joining many pro-democracy rallies. Many chanted the historic slogans "dictatorship shall perish, democracy shall prosper," but the motto "patriarchy shall perish, equality shall prosper" also appeared. The MeToo movement served as a backdrop in shaping their demands, including abortion rights, free sanitary pads, and ending sexual abuses.

The women, feminist, and LGBTQ+ groups in Thailand helped nonviolent resistance by contributing to a more inclusive movement by adding gender issues, reinterpreting politics, and creating a safe space for participants. They also equipped the campaign with more tactics, creativity, and resilience. As pro-democracy protesters fought for freedom, justice, and equality, support from LGBTQ+ was indispensable to the democratic movement in Thailand.

  1. Women, feminist, and LGBTQ+ groups in Thailand

The women, feminist and LGBTQ+ movement is diverse, from well-established organizations to loosely structured campaigns, from older to younger generations, and from online to offline. Important groups include 1448 for All, Voice from Friends, Women for Freedom and Democracy (later renamed Feminist Liberation Front Thailand), Serithoey Plus (Free Gender TH), and FemTwit.

The feminist and LGBTQ+ movement in Thailand spans generations. Ratsamom, a group of mothers of activists, fought for the unconditional release of their children. The campaign also expanded in high schools. Bad Students, a student group that focuses on education reform, had significant involvement from feminist and LGBTQ+ students against sexual abuse in schools.

Not all women and LGBTQ+ in Thailand define themselves as feminists. However, many groups use their traditional roles in society to fight for freedom. Ratsamom mobilized the concept of motherhood in the struggle. The marginalized groups in Thai culture, like sex workers and LGBTQ+ persons, also seized the opportunity to fight for broader social and legal recognition by expressing their identities through the protest platforms.

The feminists and LGBTQ+ worked across diverse groups, including political groups like Khana Ratsadon, Free Youth, United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, and UNME of Anarchy. While these political groups and the general public do not always welcome feminism, these women and LGBTQ+ activists and celebrities helped incorporate the idea into the platform.

Women and LGBTQ+ celebrities also became more vocal about politics, including Maria Poonlertlarp, Sumitta ‘Fai' Duangkaew, Focus Jeerakul, Kanatip 'Louk Golf' Soonthornrak, Kuljira 'Aey' Thongkong, and Inthira' Sine' Charoenpura. With the help of the internet and social media, political criticisms from celebrities reaches millions quickly and is very difficult to take down.

On Twitter, FemTwit would call out any behaviour or speech relating to toxic masculinity. Many Thai pages on the internet and social media, including Thai Consent, Spectrum and Feminista, also used their platforms to shed light on feminism and LGBTQ+ issues. When the protests erupted, these pages covered from a gender perspective the stories the mainstream media tried to avoid. Various actors in the movement helped make sure that calls for democracy and gender equality were intertwined.

  1. Contributions to the pro-democracy movement

Women, feminists, and LGBTQ+ groups in Thailand have contributed to the pro-democracy movement in at least three ways. First, they help make the pro-democracy movement more inclusive. Second, they provide the protests with more creativity. Third, by making the movement more inclusive and creative, they help improve the resilience of the nonviolent campaign against government repression.

Sirabhob' Raptor' Attohi
Source: Prachatai

  1. Making the movement more inclusive

The women, feminists, and LGBTQ+ groups in Thailand have helped make the democratic movement in Thailand more inclusive by adding gender issues, reinterpreting politics, and creating a safe space to promote public participation. As Sirabhob' Raptor' Attohi, a co-leader of Serithoey Plus, said, "a fight for democracy does not have only men."

5.1.1 Adding gender issues

Gender diversity protesters sang a Thai version of A Rapist in Your Path, calling for the protection of women and LGBTQ+ persons in March 2021
Source: Prachatai

Throughout 2020-2021, feminists and LGBTQ+ helped add a wide range of gender issues to the Thai pro-democracy movement. Some were influenced by the MeToo movement globally and had been part of public discussions before the protests. These include:

  • Abortion rights. In Aug 2020, Kornkanok Khumta, a representative from Free Women, gave a speech on stage at Democracy Monument calling for abortion rights. She said that Section 301 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes abortion, was unconstitutional.

  • Blood donations. Despite frequent shortages, Thai hospitals and Thai Red Cross society still do not accept blood donations from LGBTQ+ persons, claiming that they could have transmittable diseases. In Nov 2020, Seri Thoey Plus held a rally, referring to the issue as one of their demands with the hashtag #AcceptKatoeyBlood.

  • Decriminalization of sex work. In Sep 2020, the Empower Foundation launched an online petition to collect signatures to abolish the 1996 Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act. This legislation has led to abuse of power by the police against Thai sex workers, making them vulnerable to extortion and persecution.

  • Free sanitary pads. Many did not like that sanitary pads in Thailand were made subject to a 7% value-added tax. In Jan 2020, an activist group launched an online campaign on Change.org. With thousands of supporters, they handed a letter to a parliamentary committee, demanding the government provide free sanitary pads as a part of state welfare.

  • Legalization of same-sex marriage. In Jul 2020, the LGBTQ+ activists in parade costumes protested against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his government. They demanded the government amend the Civil and Commercial Code instead of passing a separate Civil Partnership bill that will enable civil unions but still discriminate against LGBT marriages.

  • Recognition of LGBTQ+ students in schools. In Jul 2020, Bad Students held a rally at the Ministry of Education, shouting, "we are not freaks." They handed a letter to the Permanent Secretary, calling for an end of hairstyle regulations and compulsory heterosexual uniforms and for better understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ+ students.

  • Ending sexual abuse. In Nov 2020, Nalinrat Tuthubthim, a 20-year-old student, held a placard reading "I have been sexually abused by teachers. School is not a safe place" during a pro-democracy rally in Bangkok. The action led to victim-blaming comments and solidarity support, raising awareness about the struggle against misogyny in Thai schools. Around the same time, a female protester in underwear held a protest sign exposing the hypocrisy of having a compulsory female uniform yet being seen as "provoking." In March 2021, gender diversity protesters also sang a Thai version of A Rapist in Your Path, calling for the protection of women and LGBTQ+ persons. Violations in women's prisons. Panusaya' Rung' Sithijirawattanakul, a protest leader, was detained in Oct 2020. Her long dyed hair was cut short and re-dyed black. Also, she was told to replace her glasses with a pair with a plain black frame. In November, a group of activists formerly detained at the Central Women Correctional Institution gathered to protest, pointing out the violations and demanding the separation of detainees awaiting trial from convicts according to international law. They displayed a banner reading "All they could do to us", the title of a book written by Prontip Mankhong, an activist sentenced to 2 years in jail under the lèse majesté law. The book describes vividly what it is like to be an activist in a Thai women's prison.

5.1.2 Reinterpretation of politics

In many cases, the women, the feminist, and LGBTQ+ groups did not just add gender into the equation. They also offered a different interpretation of the political demands to encourage participation. While it could be challenging to convey their messages, it is necessary for gender equality in the long run.

In 2020-2021, the main three demands of the Thai pro-democracy protesters were the prime minister's resignation, the drafting of a new constitution, and reform of the monarchy. The women, the feminist, and LGBTQ+ groups helped reinterpret these demands to be more inclusive by using various protest tactics.

It was obvious to Thai women and LGBTQ+ communities that Prayut was bad for them. The protesters also realized that the current constitution allows Prayut and the unelected senators to stay in power and prevent pro-gender equality legislation. The current constitution, drafted by the junta's aides, also enabled the Constitutional Court to strip the MP status from Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, an MP of the Move Forward Party who promotes LGBTQ+ rights. By taking to streets with pride flags and colourful outfits, the action speaks for itself. Or, as a gay protest shirt put it succinctly, "I love dicks, not dictators."

Chumaporn ‘Waddao’ Taengkliang
Source: Prachatai

The feminist and the LGBTQ+ groups also have had a say in monarchy reform. In Aug 2020, Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, the royal consort, was stripped of her titles for alleged "disloyalty". Amid the calls for monarchy reform at a big protest in Sep 2020, Chumaporn ‘Waddao’ Taengkliang gave a speech with a pride flag in her hand, asking anyone who would make fun of the royal consort to rethink.

Chumaporn explained that seen through a feminist lens, gender, the political system and the royal palace are intertwined. Therefore, Thai women, even concubines in the royal palace, are all victims who should not be humiliated. “This is called injustice. This is called injustice under a patriarchal structure,” she said.

“If you all truly believe that humans are equal, then believe that the voices of women and other genders are as valuable as those of men,” said Chumaporn. “If you support all ten reforms of the monarchy, I ask for one more, which is the need to abolish the patriarchal structure under the monarchy.”

With the spread of the Covid-19 and its economic impacts in 2020-2021, the topic of the welfare state and labour rights received more attention from the Thai public. Restart Democracy or REDEM, a campaign by the student group Free Youth, held a protest emphasizing labour rights and reducing the state budget for the monarchy. The slogan “workers are the ones who build the nation, not kings” spread online and on the streets.

To build on the concept, on 2 July 2021, Sirisak Chaited, an LGBTQ+ activist, gave a speech at a protest site saying that “prostitutes built the nation, not kings.” Reminding listeners that prostitutes brought billions into the Thai tourist industry and are the heads of many families, Sirisak called for the legalization of sex work and economic relief from the government.

Making the central demands relatable to the ordinary people is a challenge for any political campaign. The feminist reinterpretation of the main three political demands contributed to the solution. From the angle that “the personal is political,” women, feminists and LGBTQ+ did not just reinterpret the political demands, but also the boundary of politics itself.

Pride flags with the message "Marriage equality" hung above the Ratchaprasong Intersection during the 28 November 2021 protest.
Source: Prachatai

    1. Creating safe space within the movement

(25 Oct 2020) Ratsadance's performance at Rachaprasong Intersection helps reduce tension among the pro-democracy protesters.
Source: Prachatai

The gender diversity groups added gender demands and offered a different version of politics to the protest platform to make the movement more inclusive. However, concerns for the safety of women and LGBTQ+ activists and protesters remain a massive challenge. These undermine not only the movement’s legitimacy but also discourage public participation in civil resistance campaigns.

Threats against women could be seen on both online and offline platforms. In Jun 2020, Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, a protest leader, admitted that a member of Revolution Dome, a student activist group, was suspected of committing sexual abuse. It was one of many cases involving female student activists in the past few years. These stories were often highlighted by right-wing outlets to discredit the pro-democracy movement.

In Oct 2020, when protests were at their peak, Thai media outlets reported that women protesters were at risk. Pictures of their private parts were shared on exclusive online groups at 299 baht. The Voices From Friends found that 65 out of 1,172 participants said pictures or videos of them were taken without consent in a single protest rally. A Feminist’s Liberation Front Thailand's activist also noted that LGBTQ+ protestors were a target of ridicule in the protests.

Sexual violations within the pro-democracy movement are just an extension of sexual violations elsewhere in Thai society, in families, schools, and the workplace. In the majority of cases, the perpetrators were known to the victims. However, what recently became the biggest problem was the police crackdown and unlawful arrests during political rallies. Since the latter half of 2021, police repression has been a significant threat, as tear gas, rubber bullets, batons, and even real bullets have been widely deployed.

To ensure that the protests are a safe domain for expression and play a leading role in realizing gender equality, the Free Feminist deployed several measures. The Free Feminist (formerly named Free Women) set up Anonymous Meeting Points where women and LGBTQ+ individuals can gather to join a protest as a group. Using online platforms such as Twitter and Telegram, staff established a communication channel between the activists and the protesters to monitor the latter’s status and ensure that reliable people could help in the event of danger when in a protest.

The activists also asked participants to fill in a Survey Monkey form to obtain basic information, including age, medical condition, and contact information. At the end of a protest, the data was deleted to protect their privacy. Through these applications, protesters could check in and out of any political rallies to let their trusted ones know their status. The Free Feminist also invented Secure Rangers, a team of volunteers with rainbow badges, to roam protest sites to ensure protesters’ safety.

Seeing the importance of these systems, many volunteered to join the activist group, contributing to the movement-building effort. When police repression recently became more severe, these measures became crucial for women and LGBTQ+ and protesters in general. When a police crackdown took place, the Anonymous Meeting Points were used to locate the protesters. Secure Rangers would shift their focus to facilitating the exit of people from the protest site.

Apart from Anonymous Meeting Points and Secure Rangers, the Free Feminist recently created Krongkaokang, a monitoring network that reported the field situation live on social media. The information collected was fed into a risk assessment programme, dividing a protest site into zones based on risk levels. Krongkaokang helped ensure that protesters were well-informed about the situation and could more safely participate in a political rally. Krongkaokang also functioned to combat state disinformation to discredit the pro-democracy protesters.

Behind these activities is the idea that mass participation is the key to victory in a nonviolent struggle. To secure the strategic objective, a safe space must be created to reduce the participation cost. Chumaporn made it clear that “if…the space is not safe,… fewer people will join. … We want to create a safe space in every aspect so that as many people as possible can come out to raise their voice.”

  1. Creativity

Jatuporn Saeoueng reports to Yannawa Police Station after being charged for allegedly impersonating the queen during the catwalk protest in October 2020.

Source: Prachatai

Women and gender diversity groups make the movement more inclusive, but they also equip the protests with creativity and resilience. Feminists and LGBTQ+ in Thailand, as in other parts of the world, have been cultural inventors. With the patriarchal structure squeezing them to the edges of society, they become one of the most creative groups expressing their identity and waging defiance.

The most visible was aspect has been their costumes and use of cultural references. To capture media attention, the streets of Bangkok in 2020 were often the site of drag queen parades, pride flags, and colourful outfits. In July, LGBT activists held a demonstration. They chanted a dialogue adapted from Haunting Me (Hor Taew Tak), a famous Thai comedy about LGBT people directed by Poj Arnon, making fun of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his government.

The Feminist and LGBTQ+ groups were also skilful in using art in pro-democracy protests. In Oct 2020, they were frontliners in an activity on Silom Road called the People’s Runway, where a catwalk performance mocked Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya after it was revealed that the government had been subsidizing her fashion brand. Many LGBTQ+ activists wore traditional Thai costumes to join the catwalk protest.

Another example worth mentioning is Rasadance, a group that liberates their bodies through dance regardless of gender or age. It began when five protesters wanted to disperse tension at the Victory Monument by performing dance covers of K-Pop songs. The video clips later went viral. Korean media outlets also interviewed them. Among the performances included a dance cover of Into The New World by Girls’ Generation and Miniskirt by AOA, with the lyrics “Don’t tell me how to dress.”

In Dec 2020, a gay couple kissed in front of parliament to shed light on the legalization of same-sex marriage. The skit received massive media attention, with support from liberal allies and outcries from the conservatives. Faced with a dilemma, Parliament Speaker Chuan Leekpai ordered the matter to be investigated, only to face more public backlash from the protesters, mobilizing more support for same-sex marriage.

5.4 Resilience

Since participation, inclusivity, creativity, and resilience works in an interconnected logic, Thai women, feminist, and LGBTQ+ groups also helped contribute to Thailand's pro-democracy movement in terms of resilience. First, by making the movement more inclusive, people are more likely to participate. Having more people means that the campaign can continue the struggle when the government deploys repressive measures.

Adding gender issues and reinterpreting politics helps ensure that the movement has something to talk about to sustain or put more pressure on the establishment. For instance, when leading activists were arrested in late 2020, the mothers of political activists known as Ratsamom organized various activities to call for their children’s release when political gatherings were difficult. When Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul was detained, the Free Feminists group launched a campaign to demand the rights of female detainees to be respected.

Creating safe spaces also helps to contribute to resilience. By creating Anonymous Meeting Points, Secure Rangers, and Krongkaokang, the feminist and LGBTQ+ groups have helped ensure that protesters can join a protest and return home more safely, making it more likely that they will join the next protest. When protesters are arrested, these systems mean that police cannot easily bring false charges. In coordination with other groups, this makes it more easy for legal teams to monitor and provide support.

Second, equipped with creativity, the movement has more ways to continue the struggle. Artistic expression has been beneficial in resisting police crackdowns. As cultural inventors, the LGBTQ+ communities made pro-democracy protests more colourful with fancy outfits. Ratsadance also used dance to reduce tension at protests so that they did not develop into riots. These measures do not prevent crackdowns by themselves, but the peaceful image of the movement can make it more costly to justify a crackdown on protesters, making repression more likely to backfire.

 

  1. Challenges ahead

Mimi (alias), a 17-year-old gender equality activist, was also charged with violating the Emergency Decree and Public Assembly Act. Source: Prachatai

After all the struggles of 2020-21, none of the demands has been fully achieved. In only a few can progress be seen. Legalization of same-sex marriage has got nowhere. The Civil Partnership Bill was stalled after the cabinet “underestimated some of the very conservative voices that exist in the parliament”. Meanwhile, abortion has been legalized only within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and after almost two decades of campaigning, maternity leave was extended from 90 to 98 days.

These small changes come at the expense of criminal charges against activists. For instance, Jatuporn Saeoueng, an LGBTQ+ activist, was charged under the lèse-majesté law for allegedly impersonating the queen during the catwalk protest in October 2020. Mimi (alias), a 17-year-old gender equality activist, was also charged with violating the Emergency Decree and Public Assembly Act for giving a speech during a protest at Ratchaprasong intersection in Oct 2020.

The feminist and LGBTQ+ protests have revealed the harsh reality that patriarchy is in all domains of social life – even at protest sites. Many protesters also thought that the movement should focus on getting rid of the establishment first and address other reforms later. Therefore, not all pro-democracy protesters have welcomed the feminist and LGBTQ+ agenda into the campaign.

However, the feminist and LGBTQ+ groups have had so much to offer to the pro-democracy movement in Thailand. More internal dialogue is needed among the pro-democracy groups to stay united against the persistent authoritarianism in Thailand. The feminist and LGBTQ+ groups think that gender equality is indispensable in a democracy, and they must have their say.

“Straights who come should have learned and understood more about the problem of gender inequality and our demands, because in the end, the concept of democracy is that all human beings have equal rights,” said Sirabhob Attohi in an interview with Way Magazine after a big protest in Jul 2020.

“So if you understand the injustice that happens to the working class, why don’t you understand the injustice that women and LGBTQ+ have to face, even though it is the same inequality?” asked Sirabhob. “So we need to demand these things at the same time. We don’t have to set priorities of what is more or less important. We can fight all issues at the same time.”

Prachatai Editorial Team contributes to this report.

Round UpLGBTpro-democracy protest
Categories: Prachatai English

Community rights activist summoned on Emergency Decree charge

Prachatai English - Wed, 2022-01-05 23:01
Submitted on Wed, 5 Jan 2022 - 11:01 PMPrachatai

Community rights activist Khairiyah Rahmanyah, 18, said she received a summons from the Pathumwan Police Station for violating the Emergency Decree and the Sound Amplifier Act.

Khairiyah (centre) leading the march to Government House on 13 December 2020 (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Khairiyah, a 1st-year student at the Prince of Songkhla University’s Faculty of Communication Sciences, said that she has to report to Pathumwan Police Station on Friday, 7 January 2022. She was uncertain of why she was being harassed, said that she just wants to study like other people, and asked why it was no longer possible for people in the country to voice their opinions.

On 29 November 2021, Khairiyah came to Bangkok to follow up on an as-of-yet unfulfilled promise the government made in 2019 to reconsider a 16,700-rai Chana industrial estate project and conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). She sat in front of Government House every evening for a week to remind the administration of its pledge, but received no response from the authorities.

On 6 December 2021, a group of Chana community members came to Bangkok to occupy the area in front of Government House to demand that the government keep its promises. They were arrested that evening at their camp and charged with violation of the Emergency Decree. Held overnight at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, they were released on 7 December without bail on the condition that they not return to Government House.

After their release, the protesters occupied the foothpath in fronto fthe UN headquarters on Ratchadamneon Avenue for five days befor marching to Government House and occuping the nearby Chamai Maruchet bridge.

On Tuesday, 14 December, the cabinet finally issued a resolution to conduct an SEA, temporarily halting the Chana industrial zone project. The National Economic and Social Development Council was tasked with leading the SEA process.   The results will be evaluated by Thaksin and Prince of Songkla Universities. The next morning, the protesters left for Songkhla.

When they were occupying the footpath in front of the UN headquarters, Khairiyah and several other young protesters from Chana participated in an event organised by the People Go Network.  On 10 December 2021, she spoke on stage and participated in discussion circles about community rights issues at the courtyard in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC).

The Faculty of Political Science Student Union at the Prince of Songkhla University Pattani campus issued a statement last night (4 December) decrying the police action as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) and an attempt to silence people exercising their constitutional right to demand justice for their community.

The Student Union also asked the university administration to stand by students who face harassment from state officials and support students fighting charges. They further asked that the authorities respect people’s rights and end unwarranted prosecutions.

NewsKhairiyah RahmanyahChana industrial projectChana Rak Thin Networkcommunity rightsenvironmentfreedom of expressionfreedom of assemblyEmergency DecreeState of emergecy
Categories: Prachatai English

The dreams of the youth-people's movement amidst violence

Prachatai English - Wed, 2022-01-05 22:38
Submitted on Wed, 5 Jan 2022 - 10:38 PMPrachatai political editorial team

A year and a half after the first mass protest at the Democracy Monument on 18 July 2020, the youth-led movement has expanded to include issues other than the 3 main demands, including labour rights, justice in the education system, land rights, LGBTQ rights and gender equality, restoration of religion, and problems in the government’s administration especially with COVID. They also began calling for monarchy reform. 

Prachatai present a compilation of interviews with participants in the pro-democracy movement, which shows the diversity of the issues the movement is fighting for.

Protesters gathering at the Democracy Monument on 18 July 2020

  • A compilation of interviews with participants in the youth-people movement which show the diversity of the shades of the dreams of this group of people. Other than the 3 basic demands, there are issues of welfare/labour rights; freedom/justice in education system; the right to land/a resource base; LGBTQ rights, feminism and anti-patriarchy; restoration of religion; and problems in the government’s administration especially with COVID;.
  • Reflect back on 1 year of breaking the ceiling and the movement for monarchy reform from the perspective of Lawyer Anon.
  • A compilation of almost a thousand cases of getting thrashed and accusations of overthrowing the system of government , revealing what protest observers discovered about protest suppression since the 14 Oct royal motorcade.

Anon Nampa spoke at the 3 August 2020 Harry Potter-themed protest. His speech was the first time monarchy reform was publicly addressed by the 2020 - 2021 youth-led movement. 

Until it became the 3 demands

The movement led by the young, students and the people, was later called the Ratsadon Group (‘People’s Group’). Going back to early 2020 after the Constitutional Court ruled to dissolve the Future Forward Party, students from various universities started to hold flash mobs to express their dissatisfaction with the political injustice. At that time, the events often took place inside the universities, and disappeared in early March due to the spread of Covid-19. The protests returned in June 2020 after the enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a political activist in exile . Activist groups responded to step out and call for Wanchalearm to be found, leading to various charges. On 18 July 2020, a large protest at the Democracy Monument, led by Free Youth and the Student Union of Thailand (SUT), issued 3 major demands: 1) stop intimidating the people, 2) dissolve parliament; and 3) amend the constitution.

The flash mobs then returned and spread across the country. An important marker was set down at the protest on 3 August 2020 led by the Mahanakorn for Democracy Group and the Kased Movement using the theme of Harry Potter. Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer, made a speech demanding monarchy reform. He stressed that he wanted to convert the frustrations of the young protestors at that time, who often displayed signs or posted opinions on social network, which got them prosecuted or threatened, into a direct demand for the reform of the monarchy. Things became clearer on 10 August 2020 at the protest stage ‘#Thammasatwillnotendure We don’t want reform we want revolution,’ held at Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) where the 10-point demand for monarchy reform was announced.

Student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul read out the 10-point demand for monarchy reform during the 10 August 2020 protest.

Important events before the 3 major demands
  • 18 July 2020: Free Youth and SUT organised a protest with 3 main demands: 1) stop intimidating the people, 2) dissolve parliament and 3) amend the constitution
  • 3 August 2020: At a protest led Mahanakorn for Democracy Group and the Kased Movement, Lawyer Anon made a speech about monarchy reform
  • 7 August 2020: Free Youth’s 3 demands and 2 standpoints were launched. The demands were 1) stop intimidating the people, 2) draft a new constitution and 3) dissolve parliament. The standpoints were 1) there must be no coup and 2) there must be no national government.
  • 10 August 2020: The United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration held a protest with 3 demands: 1) stop intimidating the people, 2) dissolve parliament, and 3) draft a new constitution; and 2 standpoints; 1) no national government, and 2) no coup. They also proposed changes in the relationship between the monarchy and Thai politics, or the 10 demands for monarchy reform.
  • 16 August 2020: Free Youth held a protest with the same 3 demands and 2 standpoints as on 7 Aug, but adding 1 dream: having a “democratic form of government with the monarch under the constitution”.
  • 19 September 2020: The UFTD held a protest to submit 10 demands for monarchy reform through the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau of the Royal Thai Police.
  • 8 October 2020: A united front of students and people from over 30 organisations gathered in the name of the Ratsadon Group to hold a large protest on 14 Oct to make 3 demands: 1) the resignation of Gen Prayut and his circle; 2) an immediate parliamentary session to accept the people’s draft constitution; and 3) reform of the monarchy so that it comes under the constitution according to a democratic form of government.

The press conference on 8 October 2020 announcing the establishment of the activist network 'Ratsadorn'

From then on, the regular 3 major demands were: 1) resignation of Prayut and dissolution of parliament; 2) a new constitution; and 3) monarchy reform.

This resurgence, not only in the increased number of protests and their geographical spread and in the increased level of demands, saw also an increase in prosecutions.

Prachatai interviewed activists, youth and those who were prosecuted since the start of the year to understand their perspectives and ideas. Other than the 3 headline demands of the movement, each group of protestors or activists has its own agenda to present, including their specific issues which they connect to the basic demands.

Welfare state and labour rights

A welfare state or social democratic policies in administering welfare and allocating resources across the state is another topic that came under very intense discussion during the 2019 elections, when all political parties presented more policies on welfare. In the people’s protests there was more discussion, such as by We Fair, the Labour Network for People’s Right and the Workers’ Union.

Chanin Wongsri

Chanin Wongsri, a Thammasat student from the Puey Ungphakorn School of Development Studies, who was charged under Section 112 after reading the Thai-language declaration in front of the Embassy of Germany in the 26 October protest, gave an interview where he said his original interest in the welfare state was the Nordic Model of state budgeting, and on that day he talked about Section 6 of the Constitution and whether the budget for the monarchy is too much. If it’s too much, we should be able to criticise it. He raised the example of how much the U.K. monarchy budget was, and how the budgets of the monarchies of Sweden and Denmark were used. Then he said, ‘But in Thailand we can’t say this, because there’s Section 112, there’s Section 6, protecting the King. So then how will we know if this money is being spent effectively or not?’ At that time, they joked that they were charged under Section 112 for talking about a welfare state.

The reason Chanin is interested in the welfare state is because he read political and economic books, and studied life quality indices of various countries and found that people in the Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland, have a good quality of life because they have comprehensive basic welfare state systems.

Freedom and justice in the education system

In the recent movement, as well as university and college students, younger students also had important roles, such as the Bad Student group, Thai student, KKC Pakee Students and Reset and Revolution Education Thailand. So they were often seen campaigning alongside the Ratsadon Group and also holding their own regular activities, for example, calling for an end to intimidation of students, cancellation of outdated rules which oppress students, violate human rights according to international principles and diminish the human dignity of students, and reform of education to eliminate inequality, inaccessibility, poor quality curriculum, the burden of work on teachers, inappropriate teacher behaviour, among others.

The student rights activist group Bad Student staged a protest at the Ministry of Education on 5 September 2020.

Poisian (alias), a 15-year-old who was charged with violating Section 112 at the  20 March protest, said in an interview with Prachatai that during his high school days, he wants to push forward education issues, such as educational inequality. He wants all children to receive an equal education without needing to take competitive exams in order to gain educational opportunities. He himself had to struggle to pass an exam for his desired high school course, since his previous school did not have the course he wanted to take. He thinks that all children should be able to learn what they are interested in without needing to sit an exam. Thai education can be good; everyone needs to come out and help solve the issues together, not just students. In addition, we also need to fix structural issues and politics to push forward policies.

Land rights and right to resources

The state and capitalist groups often have the power through the law to seize and take over the land rights of local people. This is reflected in policies and various laws such as the National Park Act, especially during the era of the NCPO which issued a ‘take back the forest’ policy. This affected the movement calling for opposition to these policies starting from policy implementation, or specific cases like the state eviction of the Bang Kloi Karen people from their land in Kaeng Krachan District, Phetchaburi Province, which resulted in an opposition movement under the name of the #SAVEBangKloi Party. They joined with the Ratsadon Group and many activists in Ratsadon campaigned to support this party, raising the specific issue of Bang Kloi, and also of land rights overall.

‘Hugo’ Jiratita Tammarak, a 23-year-old new generation activist in Ratsadon, was charged under Section 112 for making a speech at the 2 Dec 2020 protest at Ha Yaek Lat Prao. She is a member of the Isaan Land Reform Network and talked about the issue of land, which many often view as something distant and belonging to specific groups, whether the Bang Kloi Karen or the case of Den Khamlae, a village land rights leader in Khok Yao forest, Chaiyaphum Province, who was disappeared. But in reality, this is a structural issue which touches us all.

Jiratita Tammarak (left)

“Issuing laws which favour capitalists and the government has caused great trouble to communities – taking back the forest without ever looking to see who was already there before, or having no policy to support or compensate those whose land has been taken to mitigate their troubles.”

For the big picture on the monarchy, Jiratita thinks that it is an institution which owns a large amount of land in the country. It may not cover everywhere, but it is often used to accumulate capital, for power and as a factor of production, until it turns into socially structured inequality. She pointed to the declaration of land for royal projects or dams in many areas, where many villages were expropriated to build dams, with serious problems of compensation for the villagers.

LGBTQ rights, feminism, and anti-patriarchy movement

Participants in the 7 November 2020 Pride parade holding a large Pride flag

This could be called the colour of this new generation movement in the issue of LGBTQ rights and feminism, led by the activist group Women for Freedom and Democracy, whose name was later changed to Feminist's Liberation Front Thailand, hoping to create awareness on gender equality. Participation is not limited to women alone, and they support the 3 demands of the Ratsadon Group but they must not have sexual harassment issues.

Mimi, a 17-year-old gender equality activist, became one of those charged with violating the Emergency Degree and Public Assembly Act after making a speech at a protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection on 25 Oct 2020. Mimi said that they started taking political action on the issue of gender equality together with Feminist's Liberation Front Thailand and Free Queer and Non-binary.

Mimi was one of the organisers of the Sita Lui Fai performance, adapted from A Rapist in Your Path (Un Violador en Tu Camino) by the feminist group Las Tesis in Chile, which later was used to call for gender equality in various countries in opposition to sexual violence, a victim-blaming culture and patriarchy in society.

Mimi (second from right)

“I think everyone should be a feminist, because if we’re a real democracy, the people should be the ones in power. Everyone should be equal, no matter what their gender or class,” Mimi said.

“I think that the democracy we dream of is not just that everyone has the same amount of voice, but I think it is that whatever fundamentally is your gender, birth or mind, you should be treated equally.”

Religious New Restoration

Within the Ratsadon movement, other than lay people, we also often see monks and new generation novices participating. They call themselves the ‘carrot gang’ or their official name, ‘New Restoration.’ They want the clergy to come out of the centralised state authority and adjust the structure so that monks self-govern, in accordance with democracy, heading towards becoming a secular state.

Young monks and novices are often seen participating in protests, and are often seen using the orange carrot dharmachakra symbol, since they have been called the "carrot gangs" by younger people due to the colour of their robes.

Monk Phra Chitsanuphong Phraiphari and Novice Saharat Sukkhamla, a student majoring in religious studies at the College of Religious Studies, Mahidol University, who are members of New Restoration, said that the ways monks are governed is a reflection of a political society that is not a democracy. Everything is centralised at the Sangha Supreme Council and the National Office of Buddhism. Some regulations also are not based on religious discipline, such as giving the absolute right to the temple abbot to govern monks under his care, using monks as a tool of the state, and discrimination under double standards. An issue this large needs considerable agreement within monk circles to be able to advance. The point is then whether the monks are ready or not to reform the Sangha Act and free themselves from the centralised authority of the Sangha Supreme Council.

Saharat was the first novice to be charged under Section 112 on 9 Nov 2021. He recently left the Buddhist monkhood and declared himself a ‘communist’ who will continue to advocate political and economic equality for the people, which capitalism cannot give.

Problems in the government’s administration, especially with regard to COVID

Beginning on 7 Aug 2021, Free Youth gathered at the Democracy Monument to march to the residence of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, which is located inside at the barracks of the 1st Infantry Regiment, King's Close Bodyguard, on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, but the protest ended in confrontation with Crowd Control Police. Even when the protest leaders announced the end of the protest, police still used tear gas, rubber bullets and chemically-laced water cannons to suppress the protesters remaining in the Victory Monument-Din Daeng intersection area. Almost every evening after that there were regular independent protests around Din Daeng and Mitmaitri Road, held in the name of Thalugaz, to confront the police in the area. There were many injured, including Warit, a 15-year-old who was shot in front of Din Daeng police station on 16 Aug 2021 and passed away in hospital 2 months later. Many more were arrested and prosecuted; Thai Lawyers for Human Rights stated that at least 498 were arrested in no less than 167 cases.

A clash between protesters and crowd control police on 29 August 2021 (Photo by Nontawat Numbenchapol)

The admin of the Facebook page ‘Thalugaz’ (who later resigned), said in an interview that an evaluation by the frontline operations team found that participants in the Din Daeng protests are mostly from marginalised urban communities severely impacted by the government’s administration.

“They don’t have demands like other protests, such as ‘Prayut resign’, ‘new constitution’. It’s not this at all. Their demands are a new government, new people to govern, and vaccines. They want their parents to return to work.”

“The issue of individual survival is not one they need to crystallize from socio-political theories, but is something they are directly affected by,” the ‘Thalugaz’ FB page admin stated.

This is in line with the virtual seminar “Searching for meaning under the carpet; third generation youth at Din Daeng intersection” organised by the Youth Health Promotion Network together with the Child Youth and Family Foundation on 18 September. Ticha Na Nakorn, the then Director of the Baan Kanchanapisek Vocational Juvenile Training Centre for Boys, said that from following the news she found that some former Baan Kanchana children participated in the protests. There are many groups, each going there separately. Some invited others. But what they found was that 1) they are vulnerable groups affected by COVID, both themselves and family members who got sick, but their access to treatment is near zero – difficult, complex, and affecting their attitude, making them angry; and 2) household debt has increased, both old and new debt, and there are no jobs either.

1 year the since the ceiling was broken and the movement called for monarchy reform

Anon Nampa reiterating his call for monarchy reform during the 3 August 2021 protest at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC)

On 3 August 2021, Anon spoke 1 year after raising monarchy reform. The movement crystallised principles of rights, freedoms, equality and democracy. On the direction of the movement, Anon confirmed that the movement can talk about monarchy reform at the same time as chasing Gen Prayut out of office. He does not agree with chasing out Prayut first. Anon reaffirmed that they must adhere to international standards of peaceful protest.

Anon reflected that in the 1 year of the movement they wanted to protect and improve the governance system and to warn groups that wanted to return Thailand to an absolute monarchy with the King as the Head of State, not to think of or carry this out, because if they talk about such a system as possible, then apart from democracy with a monarch as Head of State, there is a 3rd option as well, which is a republic. They have to talk about every option. There will definitely be some who choose absolute monarchy. As for the second option, there are also people who want democracy, who want to have a constitution that allows a monarchy under the constitution to be above politics, and who demand monarchy reform. But it must not be forgotten that there are also those who want equal governance for all, with direct elections, no god, no welfare state, where everyone is the owner or a republic. So do not force us to choose 1, 2 or 3 because if it comes to it, we all will vote in a referendum whether we want option 1, 2 or 3.

Rising number of legal charges and accusations of treason

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said that between 18 July 2020 and 31 Oct 2021, at least 1,636 people were prosecuted in 896 cases. Of the 1,636, 258 are youths under 18-years-old. At least 154 people were charged under Section 112 in 159 cases. This Section was brought back into use after 20 Nov 2020, when Gen Prayut announced that all laws would be used to deal with protestors, including Section 112, although on 15 June 2020, Gen Prayut himself had said, “I want to tell Thai people that in today, Section 112 is not being used at all because the King, with his royal benevolence, does not want it to be used.”

The most frequent charge was violation of the Emergency Degree with at least 1,337 people in 553 cases.

Another obvious highlight came on 10 November 2021, when the Constitutional Court read its verdict on the speeches of Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul at the Harry Potter-themed protest on 3 August 2020 near the Democracy Monument, which cast a spell to protect democracy, and the 10 August 2020 ‘Thammasat will not endure’, protest held at Thammasat University, Rangsit Campus. The Court ruled that their actions were an abuse of rights and freedoms aimed at overthrowing the democratic form of government with the King as Head of State according to Section 49 Paragraph 1 of the Constitution. The Court ordered the three, and their network organisations, to stop such actions in the future, using the authority under Section 49 Paragraph 2.  

It is also interesting to note that besides prosecutions, protest suppression became something normal. Busarin Paenae, coordinator of Mobdata Thailand and an observer of the protests, told Prachatai in an interview that the first counter-protest measures were to limit protests, set conditions and file prosecutions under the 2015 Public Assembly Act, until the proposal to reform the monarchy caused the protests to grow. The incident which became an important turning point was the case of the royal motorcade at the Chamai Maruchet Bridge on 14 Oct 2020, which led to the declaration of the Severe Emergency Situation and the use of water cannon trucks and tear gas for the first time on 16 Oct 2020.

The Queen's royal motorcade passing through a group of protesters in front of Government House on 14 October 2020

However, in 2021 it was found that the government’s tactics changed. Although the nature of the protestors remained the same as in 2020, consisting of students, guards, red shirts or adult members of the general public, the state started to use more force and more unpredictably under the authority of the Emergency Decree. A small-scale protest with around 50 participants was countered by 200 police officers to arrest and remove protestors from the site. It has also become clearer that the police will strictly protect important locations, not allowing protestors to get near sites such as Sanam Luang, the Royal Palace or the headquarters of the 11th Infantry Regiment, King's Close Bodyguard.

“So on 8 February this year, there was a march from the Victory Monument to the 1st Infantry Regiment. From our observation, they gave no warning of what they would find if they went, but just that this gathering was a violation of the Emergency Decree. When the marchers arrived and were dismantling the container barrier to hold their activities, it appears that the police deployed and arrested them without any negotiations,” Busarin said,

“The protestors were still using last year’s protest method, which was to drag barricades to block the police once they have come, thinking that this will slow the police. But no, the police officers charged right away, and some people were trampled underfoot. After that rubber bullets were fired without any prior warning, even though protestors were still in a controllable state and hadn’t used any violence. The tension kept increasing, and we started to see that they were no longer negotiating with protestors.”

FeatureStudent protest 2020pro-democracy protest 2021activiststudent movementPopular movementPro-democracystate violencejudicial harassmentfreedom of expressionfreedom of assembly
Categories: Prachatai English

Police force student activist to lay low during royal visit

Prachatai English - Wed, 2022-01-05 18:01
Submitted on Wed, 5 Jan 2022 - 06:01 PMPrachatai

Kantapat (surname withheld), a 17 year old student activist, was summoned to the Nong Ki police station in Buriram Province on 3 January to sign a paper affirming that he would not interfere with an upcoming royal procession of Princess Sirindhorn on 5 January.

Kantapat (on the right) meets the police on 3 January 2022. (Source: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights)

According to the Buriram Provincial Cultural Office, Princess Sirindhorn was planning to visit two Border Patrol Police Schools in the Lahansai and Pakham Districts on 5 January.  En route, the royal procession was scheduled to pass through Nong Ki District.

Kantapat told Prachatai that he received a phone call from a police officer on 2 January asking him not to stage any activity on 5 January. The police also asked that he go to the police station to sign a daily record and allow police to confirm his whereabouts via telephone at least twice a day during 3-5 January period.

The activist said that he had no plan to organise an activity during that time and was instead preparing for a midterm exam that was scheduled for after the long new year’s holiday.  Despite this, plainclothes police reportedly kept an eye on him at his home and school.

He could not explain why the police were ‘so anxious’.

Kantapat has been a target of the local police and school authorities since 2020, when he organised political activities in support of the pro-democracy movement and against the school’s uniform policy. 

As a result of police monitoring prior to the 14 November monarchy reform protest in Bangkok, he was unable to join the demonstration.

In December 2020, his parents were also summoned to his school to hear complaints about his political activism and Facebook posts criticicing the school principal. In April 2021, the school forced him to sign a resignation letter stating that he had failed to meet school standards of behaviour by demonstrating his ‘love for the nation, religion and the monarch.  The reason pertained to his pro-democracy activities. 

He was told that if he repeated the offence, the resignation paper would become immediately effective.

Police monitoring of activists in advance of royal visits has been frequent since the 2014 coup. Activists in Northern Thailand have reported such monitoring on a number of occasions. The latest was on 20 December 2021 when Pakawadee Veerapaspong, a Chiang Mai activist and translator, was visited by plainclothes policemen before Princess Sirindhorn’s royal visit in Chiang Mai Province on 24 December.  A full report was published by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

Prior to the Kantapat incident, royal processions in Bangkok have been targeted by activists twice. On 28 December 2021, three activists held up banners with the message “abolish Section 112” at a procession of King Vajiralongkorn in Bangkok. They were arrested and fined. 

Two days later, another two activists were arrested and charged with royal defamation after raising a banner at the Equestrian Monument Intersection close by one of the King’s palaces shortly before a royal procession passed the area. The banner demanded the release of detained protesters.

Arrests in both cases involved the use of force, resulting in cuts and, in one instance, a dislocated shoulder.

Newslèse majesté lawRoyal defamationHRH Princess Sirindhornpro-democracy protest 2022Source: prachatai.com/journal/2022/01/96676
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: New Year 2022

Prachatai English - Wed, 2022-01-05 17:33
Submitted on Wed, 5 Jan 2022 - 05:33 PMStephff

MultimediaStephffOmicronCOVID-19
Categories: Prachatai English

Editors’ Pick 2021

Prachatai English - Sat, 2022-01-01 18:24
Submitted on Sat, 1 Jan 2022 - 06:24 PMPrachatai

A protester wrapped the Democracy Monument in a large Pride flag during a protest in August 2021. On top of the Monument is a red flag stating the three demands of the pro-democracy movement: resignational of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, a new constitution, and monarchy reform

The Covid-19 pandemic continued in 2021. Thailand remains in a state of emergency, which was declared in March 2020 and has yet to be lifted, and has been going in and out of lockdown.

Meanwhile, pro-democracy protesters continue to struggle against the status quo and call for monarchy and democratic reform despite violence from the authorities and legal prosecutions, while also taking to the streets and social media to call attention to other social issues, such as community rights, labour rights, and gender equality.

Let’s close the year by looking back at 2021 through 15 articles chosen by the Prachatai English editorial team.

2021 budget: expenses related to the monarchy from all agencies total 37 billion baht

Read the article here.

In late August 2020, the Budget Expenditures Bill 2021 passed to the committee stage. The Prachatai editorial team looked through all the budget documents to add up all the expenses relating to the monarchy that were scattered among various agencies. We found that in 2021, government agencies were allocated a total of around 37 billion baht for activities relating to the monarchy.

Is crown property taxable?

Read the article here.

Under the 1936 Crown Property Act, royal property is separated into 3 categories: the ‘King’s private property’; ‘public property’; and ‘crown property.’ Public property and crown property, which is property of the King in his position as the monarch, is exempted from tax.

However, the 2017 and 2018 Crown Property Acts combined the ‘King’s private property’, ‘crown property’ and ‘public property’ into ‘crown property’ which can be administered at the King’s pleasure. The Prachatai political editorial team looked through the legislation related to crown property to answer the question of whether crown property is taxable.

From saleng to factories: Vulnerabilities & limitations of the recycling business

Read the article here.

The saleng are tricycles which drive around communities to buy recyclable waste, and are seen as an important part of recycling in Thailand. However, saleng drivers and workers in the recycling business are facing restrictions from state policies, laws, and people in the business themselves.

Yiamyut Sutthichaya reported on the recycling industry in Thailand and its various limitations and vulnerabilities.

Land of their hearts: the Bang Kloi indigenous Karen community on their long road home

Read the article here.

Since their forced relocations in 1997 and 2011, the Bang Kloi indigenous Karen community has been facing ongoing land rights and community rights issues. Despite promises from the authorities, the community lacks land for farming and are at risk of losing their traditional way of life. They are also not allowed to return to their ancestral homeland of Chai Phaen Din, deep in the Kaeng Krachan forest.

Anna Lawattanatrakul reported on the journey of the Bang Kloi community in their fight to return to their ancestral home, the problems facing indigenous communities in the Kaeng Krachan area who are pressured and prosecuted by conservation laws, and the movement for indigenous rights in Thailand.

Local communities struggling to contain Covid-19 as the poor are hit hardest

Read the article here.

The Covid-19 pandemic continued in 2021, and densely-populated communities like Khlong Toei and Nang Loeng were hit the hardest as community members have a hard time accessing testing, treatment, and government assistance.

Yiamyut Sutthichaya reported on the situation in Bangkok’s communities facing a new wave of outbreaks in May 2021 and the difficulties they face which reflect inequality in Thailand.

What Happened to Wanchalearm?

Read the article here.

In 2021, Prachatai English collaborated in our first cross-border investigative project with New Naratif and Voice of Democracy to find out what happened to Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a Thai activist-in-exile who went missing in June 2020 while living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and whose disappearance was one of the factors which sparked the pro-democracy movement in 2020.

While we did not find out what happened to him, our combined team of six reporters traced Wanchalearm’s life in Cambodia, his journey into exile, and his sister’s fight to learn his fate despite the lack of action from both the Thai and Cambodian authorities.

Kingkaew fire: a tragedy that will be repeated

Read the article here.

In July, an explosion and fire broke out at the Kingkaew Factory, located in the middle of a populated area near Suvarnabhumi International Airport, resulting in the death of one firefighter, 40 people injured, damage to 70 houses, and over 80,000 people evacuated, and raising questions about the lack of vision and law enforcement in town planning and public safety.

Constitution Defence Monument, the historical monument that disappeared

Read the article here.

In December 2018, the Constitutional Defence Monument, located near the Lak Si roundabout, disappeared without trace despite being 4 metres tall and situated in front of Bangkhen Police Station.

Jutharat Kuntankitcha investigated the monument’s disappearance. The Fine Arts Department said that no legal request for the monument to be moved was made in December 2018, and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) said it was not told about the relocation. To this day, there are still no answers.

2022 Budget: expenses related to the monarchy from all agencies total 35.7 billion baht

Read the article here.

For the third consecutive year, Prachatai looked through all budget documents after the 2022 Budget Expenditures bill passed to the committee stage to see how much budget is allocated for expenses relating to the monarchy.

For 2022, we found that government agencies have been allocated a total of 35.7 billion baht for expenses relating to the monarchy.

‘Nonviolence in my catapult’: protestors explain their use of force

Read the article here.

Almost every night from August to October 2021, the Din Daeng Intersection became a battlefield where protesters clashed with crowd-control police as they attempted to reach the residence of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha located in the nearby 1st Infantry Regiment headquarters.

Protesters were seen shooting firecrackers and throwing home-made explosive devices and Molotov cocktails. The police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, marbles and raids by police on motorcycles to arrest protesters.

Yiamyut Sutthichaya and Nontawat Numbenchapol spoke to the Din Daeng protesters, many of whom are young people from the nearby Din Daeng community who face ongoing economic hardship and inequality, about the reasons behind their clashes with the police.

Threats, violence, and lawsuits became 'normal' for Thai journalists

Read the article here.

During the 2020 – 2021 pro-democracy protests, field reporters have been arrested and injured despite wearing visible press IDs and staying in groups with other reporters. Crowd control police often attempt to block them from covering protests, especially during police operations, while citizen journalists become targets of arrests and violence. Reporters covering resource disputes, development projects, and labour rights continue to face lawsuits, and those working in the Deep South are at risk of harassment and arbitrary detention as their sources are threatened.

On the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, Prachatai presented a report on the threats faced by journalists in Thailand and their impact on the journalists themselves and on the right to information.

Lives damaged as river fluctuates: reflections from the banks of the Mekong

Read the article here.

The Mekong River is a major element in the way of life of those living along its path. As dams placed upstream affect the water levels and the amount of sediment carried downstream, the impact of fishery, agriculture, and tourism is changing these people’s way of life.

Rattanaporn Khamenkit reported on the changes to the way of life of communities along the Mekong in Pho Sai District, Ubon Ratchathani Province, who are facing dead plants, disappearing fish, falling incomes, and diminished tourism – because of upstream dams in China.

Next steps on Thailand’s road to marriage equality

Read the article here.

On 7 November 2021, the Constitutional Court ruled that Article 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code, which states that marriage can only be contracted between a man and a woman, does not violate the Constitution, sparking criticism from activists and members of the public, many of whom expressed their disappointment and anger at the Court’s decision and called for the law to be change so that everyone has equal rights, as well as calling out the homophobia still prevalent in Thai society despite its claim of being LGBTQ-friendly.

Anna Lawattanatrakul reported on where the movement for marriage equality is going after the ruling and amidst the pro-democracy protests, during which an unprecedented movement for gender equality emerged and young people called attention to LGBTQ right issues. 

Struggling with mosquitoes (1): The past and present of dengue control in Thailand

Read the article here.

Dengue fever remains an ongoing problem in Thailand, as each rainy season leaves behind hundreds of thousands of patients. Each year, hundreds die of the disease. Now mosquitoes have developed improved resistance to control measures, creating a new challenge for public health officials.

Yiamyut Sutthichaya reported on the recurring dengue fever outbreaks in Thailand and health officials’ ongoing struggle to control the disease.

Struggling with mosquitoes (2): the future of dengue control

Read the article here.

Part 2 of the report on dengue fever control covered the effort to control the Aedes mosquito and dengue fever. In the past, control measures have produced uneven results, but as mosquitoes are becoming resistant to existing measures, researchers and health officials are reconsidering their plans and developing new measures in an effort to control the disease.

NewsEditors' pick2021pro-democracy protests 2021human rightscommunity rightsenvironmentgender equalityLGBTQmarriage equalityfreedom of expressionfreedom of assemblyCovid-19 pandemicCOVID-19Monarchy reform
Categories: Prachatai English

Three activists arrested for raising banners during royal procession

Prachatai English - Sat, 2022-01-01 17:40
Submitted on Sat, 1 Jan 2022 - 05:40 PMPrachatai

Three activists, one a 17 year old, were arrested on Tuesday night (28 December) for holding up banners with the message “abolish Section 112” at Wongwian Yai, where a crowd of people were waiting to see King Vajiralongkorn and his entourage.

The activists being dragged away by men in yellow shirts while shouting "Abolish Section 112"

A video clip of the incident shows the activists being surrounded by men wearing royal volunteer service yellow shirts and scarves.  The men dragged them away, injuring them in the process.

Five activists were detained during the incident.  Three - Sainam, Baipor, and Tawan (last names withheld) - were taken to the nearby Bupharam Police Station.  Another two unidentified individuals were released.

A second video clip of the event shows a woman running up to the King’s vehicle as he was getting out of the car. She was immediately held back by guards. 

According to Pol Lt Col Seksan Pa-taesang from Buphharam Police Station, the woman was sent to the Somdej Chao Phraya Institute of Psychiatry. When our reporter asked what charges are being filed against the three activists, he immediately hung up.

Tawan, 20, said that they arrived at Wongwian Yai around 16.00 and were planning to raise their banners when the royal motorcade reached the scene to communicate directly with the King. Although concerned that they might be attacked by royalists, she said that they still wanted to exercise their right to express their opinions.

Baipor said that they planned to stand on the footpath but while waiting, were approached by a plainclothes officer who appeared to recognise Sainam. According to Baipor, they told the officer that they were only holding banners and did not intend to cause harm. Unidentified men in yellow shirts then surrounded them. In footage of the incident, formally clad police officers receiving the royal motorcade took part in the arrest.

Tawan added that the men in yellow shirt surrounded them for around an hour. Once the Queen appeared, they lifted up their banner, but the men immediately pulled it down. She said that they were not planning to make noise, but when the men snatched their banners away, they began shouting “abolish Section 112.”  They had earlier decided to do this if they were assaulted. The men dragged them away, putting their hands over the activists’ mouth and choking them in the process. 

Tawan said that instead of being brought to a police station, they were taken into a nearby alley and made to wait there until the royal motorcade left. Angered by the treatment, the activists demanded to know what crime they were being charged with. Instead of answering, the officers ordered them to sit down and pushed them to the ground. Around 20.00, they were taken to the Buppharam Police Station.

According to Tawan, when the men sought to physically silence her by placing their hands over her mouth, they knocked her contact lenses out of position, pushing them deep inside her eyelids.  She was later able to remove them but Sainam and Baipor both suffered injuries. Baipor was cut on the lips.

Asked about the woman who ran towards the King’s vehicle, Tawan said that she was not part of their group and that they never approached the royal entourage.

The activists were released a little after midnight. They were charged with causing a public commotion and failing to comply with police orders. Each received a 1000-baht fine. Following their release, they said that they were going to a hospital to make a record of their injuries and would by pressing charges against their assailants.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reports that police released the other two activists as they were only taking pictures of the protest, not shouting or holding up banners.

NewsMonarchy reformSection 112Royal defamationlese majesteRoyal volunteer servicestate violence
Categories: Prachatai English

Officers used excessive force against protesters, human rights commission finds.

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-12-30 01:36
Submitted on Thu, 30 Dec 2021 - 01:36 AMPrachatai

An investigation by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) found that police officers have used excessive force during operations against pro-democracy protesters and that there have been many instances of human rights violations.

A protester was pushed to the ground and arrestedby crowd control police during a protest on 27 September 2021 (Photo by Ginger Cat)

At a press conference on 24 December 2021, the NHRC announced the result of its investigation into human rights violations during pro-democracy protests in July – September 2021.

The investigation found that the state of emergency, declared in March 2020 to curb the spread of Covid-19, has been used to control political gatherings, and that the Emergency Decree tends to be used to prohibit all gatherings without balancing between freedom of assembly and public health. Protesters are also arrested and charged with violation of the Emergency Decree, creating a fear of exercising the right to freedom of assembly, which is a violation of human rights.

The NHRC also found that crowd control police have used inappropriate measures against protesters, such as using their batons in a way that could cause serious injuries, firing rubber bullets at head level, or firing tear gas into residential areas. This goes against the crowd control measures guidelines as outlined in the 25 August 2015 Cabinet Resolution and the UN Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement. The investigation found that protesters have been injured during arrest, such as by being shot with rubber bullets or because their vehicles were blocked by officers’ vehicles. The NHRC said that even though protesters may exhibit violence, it is not necessary for officers to use violent measures to arrest them without regard for the consequences, especially in cases where a minor is being arrested. These actions are therefore excessive and inappropriate, violating the protesters’ human rights.

The investigation also found that police officers used cable ties to restrain minors who are not trying to escape or obstruct officers’ operation, and that there have been cases of minors being held together with adults, and of protesters being taken to locations which are not the local police station, such as the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters. Lawyers are also prevented from seeing arrested protesters to provide legal assistance, while officers have not informed detainees of the charges and their rights and prohibited them from contacting relatives, which contravenes legal procedures.

The NHRC notes that several protesters have been denied bail due to violation of their bail condition or repeated offences. The NHRC believes that even though the decision to grant bail is at the court’s discretion, it should uphold the principle that everyone has the right to temporary release in accordance with the Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states that those facing legal prosecution should be presumed to be innocent until a verdict is reached.

The NHRC also notes that many protests in July – September 2021 were “car mobs” or “bike mobs” which involved driving vehicles to various locations, which shows an intention to prevent the spread of disease. The protesters were peaceful, and instances of violence occurred after the conclusion of the protests. This kind of protest, as well as marches and flashmobs, are an exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly. The NHRC said that protests without a clear leadership in which protesters use weapons against police officers are violent protests and officers may use legal measures against them as long as the measures are proportional, especially in cases where protesters are minors.

The NHRC notes that currently there is no legislation protecting those who are affected by political conflict, and recommends that legislation or regulations are passed to fill this gap.

The NHRC also found that officers tend not to separate children from adults during protests and that they treat children in the same way that they would treat adults both in terms of crowd control measures and the judicial process.

In order to prevent further violations of human rights, the NHRC recommends that the police do not use razor wire as crowd control equipment and improve crowd control police operations so that they are in line with the law and international principles. They must also grant every detainee the rights to which they are entitled in the judicial process and avoid preventing detainees from receiving legal assistance.

The NHRC recommends that the Cabinet should avoid declaring a state of emergency to control protests, as the Emergency Decree’s objective is to prevent serious threats to national security, not political protests. The Ministry of Justice should also draft legislation or regulations to compensate those who are affected by political protests, while the Royal Thai Police should issue crowd control guidelines with a focus on protecting detainees’ rights and avoiding charges which limit the exercise of freedom or create excessive burden for detainees. The courts should also develop guidelines on granting bail which are in line with the constitution and the ICCPR, as well as considering other measures in lieu of imprisonment.

The NHRC also recommends that protesters make sure protests are peaceful and without weapons. They should also assess the risk that comes with protests and the spread of Covid-19, as well as creating safe spaces for children. There should also be a communication channel between protest organisers and police officers to keep protests in line with international principles.

NewsNational Human Rights Commission (NHRC)freedom of assemblyfreedom of expressionstate violenceright to bailPolice brutality
Categories: Prachatai English

Four detained activists will no longer request bail, says lawyer

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-12-30 01:26
Submitted on Thu, 30 Dec 2021 - 01:26 AMPrachatai

In a statement issued on Monday (27 December), the lawyer of activists Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, Anon Nampa, and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa announced that his clients will not be filing another bail request, having been denied bail again last Friday (24 December).

Protesters marching from Paholyothing MRT Station on Lad Phroa Road to the Criminal Court on 24 December to demand the right to bail for detained activists, holding a banner saying "Free our friends."

Krisadang Nutcharus, a Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) attorney who currently representing the four activists, released the statement on his Facebook page.  After the Criminal Court again denied them bail last week, the activists reportedly decided that they will no longer request bail and will not authorize any party to file requests on their behalf.

According to Krisadang, the activists believe that the Court’s grounds for denying them bail are not in keeping with local jurisprudence, judicial principles, and international conventions. They also contend that not allowing them bail strips them of the opportunity to prove their innocence, making it appear as if they have already been judged guilty.

Parit, Panupong, Anon, and Jatupat were denied bail on the grounds that they are likely to repeat their offences.  However, during the 17 December hearing, they explicitly told the court that they would not engage in any activities damaging to the monarchy, take part in protests causing public disorder, flee the country, or violate Court-mandated travel restrictions. They also said that they would be willing to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and remain in their residences, other than for purposes approved by the court such as attending classes, taking exams, seeking medical treatment, and contact legal authorities.

The four activists are being detained pending trial on royal defamation charges resulting from their participation in pro-democracy protests. Parit, Jatupat, and Anon have been imprisoned since 9 August 2021, while Panupong has been imprisoned since 23 September 2021.

The activists noted that their decision does not apply to other detained activists and protesters who have been denied bail. According to TLHR, at least 16 others are being detained pending trial on charges relating to their participation in pro-democracy protests.  This includes student activist Benja Apan, who has also been detained pending trial on royal defamation charges.

“All four are still committed to the fight to change this country into a true democracy; detained or released, they will continue to struggle as they have in the past for the country’s reform,” the statement noted.

The four also reiterated their solidarity with fellow protesters, calling upon them to stand by the three demands and to continue the struggle using peaceful, democratic means.

Newsright to bailPolitical prisonerarbitrary detentionPre-trial detentionactivistpro-democracy protests 2021student protests 2020Parit ChiwarakPanupong JadnokAnon NampaJatupat Boonpattararaksa
Categories: Prachatai English

UN body demands immediate release of woman jailed for record lèse-majesté sentence

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-12-29 16:13
Submitted on Wed, 29 Dec 2021 - 04:13 PMFIDH – International Federation for Human Rights, its member organization and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)

Thai authorities should immediately release lèse-majesté detainee Anchan Preelerd, the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) urged.

Right: Anchan Preelerd (File photo)

Anchan, 65, is currently serving a prison sentence of 43 years and six months for violating Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (lèse-majesté).

“The UN opinion on Anchan’s case underscores the supreme injustice to which she has been subjected and the recurring and serious human rights violations associated with the enforcement of Article 112. It’s time for the Thai government to break the chain of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions and heed the growing domestic and international calls for the reform of Article 112,” said FIDH Secretary-General Adilur Rahman Khan.

The WGAD opinion was issued in response to a complaint filed jointly by FIDH and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) to the UN body on 7 July 2021. In its opinion, the WGAD found the deprivation of liberty of Anchan under Article 112 to be “arbitrary” and called on the Thai government to “release her immediately,” taking into account the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic in places of detention, and to “accord her an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations.”

The WGAD expressed its grave concern about the pattern of arbitrary detentions under Article 112, particularly those involving online expression, and the “serious harm to society” caused by the enforcement of the law.

The WGAD also called on the Thai government to bring Article 112 into conformity with Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law. Article 112 prescribes jail terms for those who defame, insult, or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent. Persons found guilty of violating Article 112 face prison terms of three to 15 years for each count.

The WGAD declared Anchan’s imprisonment arbitrary because it contravened Articles 3, 8, 9, 10, and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Articles 2, 9, 14, and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party. The referenced provisions of the UDHR and ICCPR guarantee the fundamental right to liberty, the right to a fair trial, and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The WGAD found that Anchan’s deprivation of liberty lacked legal basis, because it stemmed from an arrest without a valid arrest warrant issued by a competent, independent, and impartial judicial authority. Anchan’s initial detention at the military base without being brought before a judge was also in violation of her right to challenge the lawfulness of her detention, guaranteed under Articles 8 and 9 of the UDHR and Articles 2 and 9(3) of the ICCPR. In addition, Anchan was detained pursuant to Article 112, a legislation that the WGAD has consistently found it “expressly violates international human rights law.”

The WGAD also ruled that Anchan was detained as a result of her “peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression.” The WGAD considered the audio clips concerning members of the Thai royal family that Anchan uploaded onto social media platforms to “fall within the boundaries of the exercise of the right to freedom of expression” under Article 19 of the UDHR and Article 19 of the ICCPR.

FIDH and TLHR welcome the WGAD’s opinion and reiterate their calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Anchan and all other individuals detained under Article 112.

Anchan is the ninth lèse-majesté detainee whose deprivation of liberty has been found to be arbitrary by the WGAD since August 2012. Despite the continuing international concern regarding the lèse-majesté law, Thai authorities continued to prosecute and detain individuals for violating Article 112. Between 24 November 2020 and 20 December 2021, 164 individuals, including children, were charged under article 112. Five of them remain detained, in addition to Anchan.

FIDH and TLHR also call on the Thai government to amend Article 112 to bring it into line with Thailand’s obligations under the ICCPR and to refrain from carrying out further arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of individuals for the peaceful and legitimate exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Background

On 19 January 2021, Anchan, a former civil servant, was found guilty and sentenced to 87 years in prison on 29 counts of lèse-majesté over audio clips she uploaded and disseminated to social media platforms deemed to be defamatory to the Thai monarchy by the authorities. Her sentence was reduced to 43 years and six months, in consideration of her guilty plea. Upon the verdict, Anchan was imprisoned at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok.

Anchan was arrested on 25 January 2015 and detained at a military base for five days. Prior to her imprisonment, Anchan spent three years and 281 days in detention. Her criminal case under Article 112 was initially tried in a military court, who repeatedly denied her bail requests. Anchan was temporarily released on bail on 2 November 2018, though the lèse-majesté case against her remained under the jurisdiction of the Bangkok Military Court until July 2019, when the ruling military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), ordered the transfer of trials of civilians in military courts to civilian courts.

Pick to PostAnchan PreelerdThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Lèse-majestéRoyal defamationSection 112Article 112International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)monarchyarbitrary detentionSource: https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/thailand/un-body-demands-immediate-release-of-woman-jailed-for-record-lese
Categories: Prachatai English

CSOs underline concern over viable downside of new NPO Act

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-12-29 15:04
Submitted on Wed, 29 Dec 2021 - 03:04 PM47 undersigned CSOs and individuals

A joint statement by 47 Civil Society Organizations and individuals underlines their concerns over the Not-for-Profit Organizations B.E…  Draft Act, saying there would be needless damage upon the livelihood of their operations which benefit the public.

Men in security vests observe protesters. (File photo)

27 December 2021  Cabinet Ministers of the Royal Thai Government 
Government House 
1 Phitsanulok Road Dusit 
Bangkok, Thailand  Cc: Council of State 
All members of the National Assembly of Thailand 
National Human Rights Commission of Thailand 

Re: The Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organizations B.E… 

Dear Ministers 

We, the undersigned Thai and international organizations, write to express our deep concern regarding the Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for Profit Organizations B.E… (‘Draft Act’) dated 21 December 2021. We are civil society groups working on a wide range of social,  economic, environmental and human rights issues and collectively our activities assist millions of people in Thailand.  

Whilst each of our organizations are very different from each other, we are united in our alarm and opposition to the Draft Act which contains numerous provisions that would subject not-for profit organizations (NPOs) and its members to excessively restrictive measures curtailing their rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and other human rights,  including facing arbitrary interference with the right to privacy. 

Whilst many aspects of the Draft Act are concerning, in particular, Sections 19, 20, 21, 25, 26  and 27 are extremely problematic.  

Under Sections 19 and 21, several of the proposed requirements for information disclosure do  not specify the purpose, which could enable the exercise of arbitrary power. Existing legislation (including the Civil and Commercial Code, Revenue Code, regulations on foreign private  organizations) already requires a particular level of transparency and relevant authorities have the power to investigate when necessary.  

Section 20 is overly broad, vague and drafted so that legitimate activities by most not-profit organizations in Thailand could, to some degree, be interpreted as falling under its prohibited categories. In its current form, this section could allow for arbitrary interpretation and  implementation. In a country of 70 million people, any of these provisions could easily be applied arbitrarily to severely restrict freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and other human rights.

Section 20 states that “a Not-for-Profit Organization must not operate in the following manner: (1) Affect the government’s security, including the government’s economic security, or relations between countries. 

(2) Affect public order, or people’s good morals, or cause divisions within society. (3) Affect public interest, including public safety.  

(4) Act in violation of the law. 

(5) Act to infringe on the rights and liberties of other persons, or affect the happy, normal  existence of other persons.” 

The list of prohibitions in this section is so broad that it could likely capture activity by NPOs  working on most issues of public interest, or bilateral and multilateral development initiatives  involving civil society. 

Additionally, Section 20 does not respect the principle of legality in international law, which requires that laws be drafted in a way that makes their consequences foreseeable so that organizations and people can regulate their behaviour in accordance with them. 

Section 21 curtails certain privacy rights that NPOs are entitled to. Requirements around foreign  funding are overbroad and violate the right to freedom of association, which embraces the ability to seek and secure resources, both domestic and international. 

Sections 25, 26 and 27 propose punishments which are overly punitive, disproportionate and  likely to discourage individuals and groups from being active participants in Thailand’s civil society. 

This Act, if passed with its currently excessively broad provisions, could be easily misused and abused to significantly restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and other human rights. Not only could it have a significant impact on a wide range of grassroots, national and international civil society groups in Thailand, but such an Act threatens Thailand’s status as a hub for local and international not-for-profit organizations working on  diverse issues of public interest in Southeast Asia. 

Urging the Government of Thailand to support civil society and to uphold human rights is  consistent with the constitutional requirement to protect fundamental rights. Additionally, this is in line with Thailand’s National Strategy on Public Sector Rebalancing and Development. While  we recognize that the Royal Thai Government has a duty to protect public order and national  security, authorities must do so in a manner that is in accordance with international human  rights law, and that is proportionate, necessary and fulfills the government’s obligations to ensure and facilitate respect for human rights.  

We note that the United Nations Charter recognizes the importance of international cooperation  to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms  for all”. 

In light of the above grave concerns, we consider the Draft Act inconsistent with Thailand’s constitutional requirement to protect fundamental rights and its obligations under international  

human rights law and standards. We call upon the Thai government to withdraw the Draft Act  immediately and reaffirm its constitutional and international obligations to measurably protect, promote and fulfill the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and other  human rights. 

Additionally, the undersigned Thai organizations call on all members of the National Assembly  of Thailand and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand to support a vibrant, diverse and independent civil society and oppose the Draft Act in its current form. 

Finally, we urge the Thai Government to ensure a fully transparent and constructive consultative  process of an adequate time frame that meaningfully involves the general public, not-for-profit  organizations and other relevant stakeholders, and results in an outcome that benefits, rather  than harms, people in Thailand and this region. 

Thank you for your attention to the issues and recommendations expressed in this letter. We  remain available to discuss this matter further with the Royal Thai Government and would  welcome further opportunities to support the government in meeting its constitutional and  international obligations. 

Sincerely, 

1. Amnesty International 

2. APCOM Foundation

3. Article 19 

4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) 

5. Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL)

6. Campaign for Popular Democracy (CPD) 

7. Civicnet Foundation

8. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation 

9. Community Resource Centre Foundation

10. Cross Cultural Foundation

11. ENLAWTHAI Foundation

12. Feminist's Liberation Front

13. Foundation for Labor and Employment Promotion

14. Green South Foundation 

15. Greenpeace Thailand 

16. Home Net Thailand Association

17. Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)

18. Human Rights Lawyers Association

19. Law Long Beach

20. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada 

21. Manushya Foundation

22. Migrant Working Group

23. Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand

24. NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGOCOD)

25. Non-Binary Thailand

26. Peace and Culture Foundation

27. Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand

28. Social Democracy Think Tank - Thailand 

29. Sustainable Development Foundation 

30. TEA Group

31. Thai Allied Committee with Desegregated Burma Foundation

32. Thai Volunteer Service Foundation

33. The Northeastern Women’s Network

34. The Relative Committee of May 1992 Heroes 

35. The Southern Feminist’s Liberation - Thailand

37. Stop Drink Network,  

38. Committee on Agrian Reform And Rural Development Phichit Province

39. Network of Alternative Agriculture and Sustainable Development, Phichit Province

40. People Network for Community Rights and Conservation

41. Soil, Water, Forest Resource Network, Lower Northern Region

42. Soil, Water, Forest Resource Network, Kamphaeng Phet Province

43. People Network Monitoring Satun Province Development Plan

44. Disabilities Thailand

45. Angkhana Neelapaijit

46. Wanchai Phutthong

47. Suthawan Buapan

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