Prachatai English

Saudi Woman detained in Bangkok, feared of death for renouncing Islam.

Prachatai English - Mon, 2019-01-07 14:23
Submitted on Mon, 2019-01-07 14:23Prachatai

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, a Saudi woman, 18, has been detained at Suvarnabhumi airport. Fleeing from her family to Australia, she feared of being killed by her own family as she had renounced Islam.

BBC reported that Rahaf tried to flee to Australia two days ago from Kuwait while she was with her family on the trip. She says she has an Australian visa, but her passport was taken by a Saudi diplomat at Suvarnabhumi airport. A Saudi envoy in Bangkok denied official involvement in Ms. Mohammed al-Qunun’s detention, saying that “she was stopped by airport authorities because she violated Thai laws”.

Major General Surachate Hakparn, head of the immigration bureau, said that Ms Mohammed al-Qunun was “escaping a marriage” and that she was denied entry because she had no visa and was to be repatriated. However, according to Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “[f]oreigners, who travel via Thailand to other destinations from the same port of entry, are allowed to transit without a visa.”

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia, also said that she was en route to Australia and had no intention of entering Thailand. “It seems that the Thai government is manufacturing a story that she tried to apply for a visa and it was denied,” he said.  

Thai officials are still denying her from speaking to UNHCR.

Human Rights Watch says the KU412 flight from Kuwait has set out, but Rahaf’s Twitter account confirms that she is still in her hotel room. This gives more time for people involved to work on possibility of sending her to the desired destination.

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun said to BBC: "I shared my story and my pictures on social media and my father is so angry because I did this... I can't study and work in my country, so I want to be free and study and work as I want."

Under Saudi Arabia’s Male Guardianship system, every woman must have a male guardian -- either her father, brother, husband, or even her son -- who has the authority to make important decisions on her behalf. Women require their guardian’s consent to apply for a passport, travel out of the country, study abroad, or even get married.  The system also make it difficult for a woman facing domestic violence to report, and many chose to flee the country.

In 2008, an unknown young Saudi Arabian woman was murdered by her father for chatting on the social network site Facebook. Saudi preacher Ali al-Maliki, reported Telegraph, said that "Facebook is a door to lust and young women and men are spending more on their mobile phones and the Internet than they are spending on food.”  In 2017, a Saudi woman named Dina Ali Lasloom was stopped during transit at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila while en route to Australia to seek asylum. She was deported back to Saudi Arabia and her fate is currently unknown.  

HighlightRahaf Mohammed al-QununSaudi ArabiaPol Maj Gen Surachate ‘Big Joke’ HakparnUNHCR
Categories: Prachatai English

Thailand: Allow Fleeing Saudi Woman to Seek Refuge, Threat to Send Her Back to Family in Saudi Arabia

Prachatai English - Mon, 2019-01-07 09:37
Submitted on Mon, 2019-01-07 09:37Human Rights Watch

(Bangkok) – Thailand authorities should immediately halt the planned deportation of a Saudi woman who says she is fleeing domestic abuse and fears for her safety if forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should also allow her unrestricted access to make a refugee claim with the Bangkok office of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) and should respect UNHCR’s decision under the agency’s protection mandate. 

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, told Human Rights Watch that she arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on the evening of January 5, 2019, en route from Kuwait to Australia, but was met by a representative of the Saudi embassy who seized her passport to prevent her from traveling to Australia. Saudi and Thai officials told her she would be forced to return to Kuwait on the morning of January 7, where her father and brother are awaiting her.

“Saudi women fleeing their families can face severe violence from relatives, deprivation of liberty, and other serious harm if returned against their will,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Thai authorities should immediately halt any deportation, and either allow her to continue her travel to Australia or permit her to remain in Thailand to seek protection as a refugee.”

Al-Qunun said she fled while her family was visiting Kuwait, which unlike Saudi Arabia, does not require a male relative’s approval for an adult woman to depart the country. She said that she was fleeing abuse from her family, including beatings and death threats from her male relatives, who also forced her to remain in her room for six months for cutting her hair.

Al-Qunun began tweeting about her situation beginning at 3:20 a.m. Bangkok time via a Twitter account she created in January. In an English-language tweet, she wrote, “I’m the girl who run away from Kuwait to Thailand. I’m in real danger because the Saudi embassy trying to forcing me to go back to Saudi Arabia, while I’m at the airport waiting for my second flight.” 

She also tweeted a video in which she says that Saudi embassy officials stopped her after arriving in Bangkok, and she later posted a copy of her passport. 

She tweeted that she was being held in an airport hotel and that Saudi embassy officials told her she would be returned to her family in Kuwait in the late morning of January 7. 

Al-Qunun told Human Rights Watch that at about 5 p.m. on January 6, Thai immigration officers took her from her hotel room and informed her that she could not enter Thailand because her visa was “rejected” and that she must return to Kuwait on January 7. She then returned to her room. However, she had not applied to enter Thailand because her passport was taken, along with her plane ticket to Australia. 

Thai authorities have so far prevented Al-Qunun from having access to UNHCR to make a refugee claim even though it is evident she is seeking international protection. Under customary international law, Thailand is obligated to ensure that no one is forcibly sent to a place where they would risk being subjected to persecution, torture or ill-treatment, or other serious human rights violations. As a party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Thailand has a treaty obligation not to return anyone to a territory where they face a real risk of torture or ill-treatment.

Al-Qunun may be at serious risk of harm if returned to her family. She also faces possible criminal charges in Saudi Arabia, in violation of her basic rights, for “parental disobedience,” which can result in punishments ranging from being returned to a guardian’s home to imprisonment, and for “harming the reputation of the kingdom” for her public appeals for help.

Human Rights Watch has documented that under Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system, adult women must obtain permission from a male guardian to travel abroad, marry, or be released from prison, and may be required to provide a guardian’s consent to work or get health care. These restrictions last from birth until death, as the Saudi state views women as permanent legal minors.

While Saudi Arabia has some regulations to combat domestic violence, guardianship makes it extremely difficult for victims of violence to seek protection or obtain legal redress for abuse. The near impossibility of transferring guardianship away from abusive relatives can condemn women to a life of violence. Shelters for survivors of domestic violence often send women back to home if their abusers sign a pledge not to harm them, and women cannot leave such shelters without a male relative to receive them.

In a similar case involving a Saudi woman, in April 2017 Dina Ali Lasloom was forcibly returned to her family in Saudi Arabia while in transit in the Philippines en route to Australia. Human Rights Watch received reports that she was detained in a shelter in Riyadh for some time. It is not clear if she has since been returned to her family. Human Rights Watch has documented other cases of Saudi women attempting to flee their families in recent years, only to face similar risks of forced return.

“Once again we are seeing the abusive influence of Saudi authorities abroad as they seek to forcibly return Saudi women fleeing mistreatment and violence by their families,” Page said. “Apparently, Saudi authorities not only want to perpetuate systematic discrimination of women at home and prevent Saudi women from freely travelling abroad, but also ensure that those who manage to escape are forced back to a life of abuse.”

Pick to PostRahaf Mohammed al-QununSaudi ArabiaRefugeeUNHCRgenderviolenceAgainst WomendeportationHuman Rights Watch (HRW)Source:
Categories: Prachatai English

Demonstration at Victory Monument demands an end to election delays

Prachatai English - Sun, 2019-01-06 23:32
Submitted on Sun, 2019-01-06 23:32Prachatai

A demonstration was held at the Victory Monument BTS station sky walk earlier this afternoon to protest against another potential delay to the general election, previously planned for 24 February 2019.

Today’s demonstration was the first since General Prayut Chan-o-cha, head of the NCPO and Prime Minister, issued NCPO Order No. 22/2018, which repealed 9 previous NCPO orders, including Order No. 3/2015, which prohibited political gatherings of more than five people.

The event was attended by many activists, including Ekkachai Hongkangwan, Chokchai Phaibunratchata, Nattha Mahatthana, Sirawit ‘Ja New’ Serithiwat, Patnaree Charnkij, Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, and Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak.

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and Rangsiman Rome, members of the Future Forward Party, were also in attendance.

Nattha Mahatthana said that the event was held under the right to hold peaceful demonstrations. The organizers notified the authorities 24 hours in advance, in compliance with the Public Assembly Act, and the demonstrators promised that there would be no violence.

Attorney and activist Anon Nampha went to Phayathai Police Station yesterday to inform the authorities of the demonstration, as required by the Public Assembly Act.

The demonstration was also attended by both high school and university students, including high school members of the Education for Liberation Siam group, who were calling for a re-scheduling of the GAT and PAT examinations, previously moved to accommodate the election schedule, as well as for a general election. A 2nd year student from Mahidol University at the demonstration told Prachatai that this was their first time at such an event, since previous events clashed with classes and other university activities. The student said that they came to the demonstration because they do not want the election to be delayed any further. “In fact it is not okay to be having an election only now,” said the student, “it hasn’t been okay since we had the military coup.”

The demonstration ended around 5.00 pm, after Anon Nampha told the participants that there will be another event at the Ratchaprasong sky walk on Tuesday (8 January) evening.

News2019 general electionVictory MonumentdemonstrationAnon NamphaNattha MahatthanaEkkachai HongkangwanSource:
Categories: Prachatai English

Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal

Prachatai English - Sun, 2019-01-06 21:34
Submitted on Sun, 2019-01-06 21:34

The people must demand the right to election, and not only that demand, but also transparency and fainess[in the election]. Not just somebody, this country must belong to everyone.

บีบีซี ไทยNetiwit Chotiphatphaisal2019 general election
Categories: Prachatai English

Patience, says Prayuth to frustrated students

Prachatai English - Sun, 2019-01-06 18:31
Submitted on Sun, 2019-01-06 18:31Prachatai

As student outrage about the election delay pushed the Twitter hashtag "Delayed Again. You Mother******" into the national and global top 10, the Prime Minister has responded, but students continue to channel their frustration. 

Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha, head of the NCPO and Prime Minister (File/Twitter @prayuthofficial)

After the likely election delay was announced, students expressed their outrage as the original election date (24 February) had caused the hasty re-scheduling of the nationwide General Aptitude Test and Professional Aptitude Test (GAT-PAT) one week earlier, from 23-26 February to 16-19 February. As they have to study in a shorter timeframe, only for the election to be delayed again, students have called for the GAT-PAT tests to return to the original schedule.

In response to the concerns of the students, who he addresses as his ‘grandchildren’, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha tweeted on his @prayuthofficial account:

"Now I see there is a trend that my student grandchildren want to #takebackthetestdate. I understand you, grandchildren. However, I want my grandchildren to be a little bit more patient for the ECT [Election Commission of Thailand] to set a clear election date , so that the CUPT [Council of University Presidents of Thailand] can plan to consider postponing the GAT-PAT tests."

After the tweet, some Twitter users replied, still expressing their frustration. For instance, Tanawat Wongchai posted on his Twitter account @drballban:

"This entire problem came about because Mr. Prayut is not a man of his word. Mr. Prayuth should at least come out and apologize to the kids." 

Arranged by NIETS (National Institute of Educational Testing Service), the GAT-PAT tests are the main entry to universities in Thailand for high school students.

NewsPrayuth Chan-o-chaelection2019 general election
Categories: Prachatai English

‘Delayed Again, You Mother*** ’: Thai High School Students’ Twitter Outrage after Election Delay

Prachatai English - Fri, 2019-01-04 19:47
Submitted on Fri, 2019-01-04 19:47Prachatai

On the afternoon of 3rd January 2019, after Wissanu Krea-ngam, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, declared that the election was likely to be delayed to an unspecified date due to the announcement of the Coronation, a ranting hashtag on Twitter, #เลื่อนแม่มึงดิ (Luen Mae Mueng Di: Delayed Again, You Mother***), soared to No. 1 in Thailand as Thai high school students expressed their outrage. The hashtag even reached the global top 10 for a while.

The likely election delay is outrageous to many students because the earlier election date (24 February) caused the hasty re-scheduling of the nationwide General Aptitude Test and Professional Aptitude Test (GAT-PAT) one week earlier, from 23-26 February to 16-19 February. Teachers have also had to rearrange teaching and examinations in all high schools so that they can finish the term before the GAT-PAT.

Arranged by NIETS (National Institute of Educational Testing Service), the GAT-PAT tests are the main entry to universities in Thailand for high school students. Assoc Prof Samphan Phanphruk, the Director of NIETS, revealed that there were 259,882 applicants for GAT-PAT last year.

Giving themselves the hashtag #dek62 (Kids of 2019), many Twitter users explained the hardship of having to study in a shorter timeframe, only for the election to be delayed again. They also called for NIETS to return to the original schedule which had been set before the election announcement.

@SocialDome tweeted: “If they delay the election like this as if they’re playing with toys, the Ministry of Education should also please consider moving #GATPAT back to 23-26 February! Be fair to #dek62 [Kids of 2019]! You Idiots!”

@drballban, another Twitter user, tweeted:

 “Promised Abe (Japanese Prime Minister) to hold elections in 2015 = Delayed

Promised Ban Ki-moon (UN Secretary-General) to hold elections in 2017 = Delayed.

Promised Trump (US President) to hold elections in 2018 = Delayed.

Promised May (UK Prime Minister) to hold elections in 2019 = Delayed

The father of election delays #Luen Mae Mueng Di”


So far there has been no response from NIETS or the Ministry of Education on whether GAT-PAT will be rescheduled.

NewsWissanu Krea-ngamtwitterGAT-PAT2019 general electionNational Institute of Educational Testing Service (NIETS)Samphan PhanphrukSource:
Categories: Prachatai English

Election most likely postponed, says Deputy Prime Minister

Prachatai English - Fri, 2019-01-04 16:42
Submitted on Fri, 2019-01-04 16:42Prachatai

The general election, provisionally set for 24 February 2019, is most likely to be delayed to avoid overlapping with the coronation ceremony, says Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam. 

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam. File/Royal Thai Government

Mr Wissanu met with the Election Commission on Thursday afternoon, after the Bureau of the Royal Household announced on New Year’s Day that the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn will take place on 4 – 6 May 2019. Mr Wissanu says that he had explained to the Election Committee that there will be necessary activities taking place within the 15-day period before and after the three-day coronation ceremony, and that the election and related activities should be scheduled to avoid overlapping with those of the coronation. 

As dictated by the constitution, the general election must take place within 150 days of the election law taking effect on 11 December last year, or by 9 May 2019. It must also take place on a Sunday, the last of which is before the deadline is 5 May, colliding with the coronation ceremony. Yesterday, Mr Wissanu said prior to the meeting with the Election Commission that the election will take place within the 150-day window and before the coronation. In a statement from earlier today, he suggested that the poll date may be delayed until late March to avoid crashing with any coronation-related activities.

However, he declined to comment whether the government has ordered the Election Commission to postpone the poll date, since it is up to the Commission to decide on an appropriate timing.  

The 2019 election, the first after the military government took over in 2014, has previously been pushed back several times on the ground of constitutional and legislative steps needed prior to a vote. As the royal decree calling for an election had not been issued on Tuesday as previously planned, critics of the military government are now concerned that the junta is deliberately using the coronation to further delay the election for its own political gain.

News2019 general electionelectionWissanu Krue-ngam
Categories: Prachatai English

Supreme Court gives 2-year suspended sentence on charge of defaming Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

Prachatai English - Tue, 2019-01-01 10:45
Submitted on Tue, 2019-01-01 10:45Prachatai

On 27 Dec 2018, Thanyaburi Provincial Court read the verdict of the Supreme Court in the case of Anan (family name withheld), aged 70, charged with lèse majesté under Article 112 and defamation under Article 326 of the Criminal Code for comments about Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Princess Soamsawali. The Supreme Court found Anan guilty on 2 charges of personal defamation, and sentenced him to 1 year in prison for each offence, suspended for 3 years, and a fine of 20,000 baht for each offence.

It was reported that the defendant did not attend the hearing, and his lawyer paid the fine in his stead.

The case was reportedly investigated in 2012 but the investigating officer did not file a charge and the prosecutor did not take the case to court until after the May 2014 coup d’état when a number of 112 cases were reconsidered. A committee of the Royal Thai Police ordered that the case be prosecuted and the officer who did not file charges be subject to disciplinary punishment. A new set of investigating officers conducted an investigation and filed charges accordingly.

Thitiphong Sisaen, the defence lawyer, made some observations on the verdict.: 1) The Supreme Court has set a standard for defamation cases (Article 326). Even if the victim does not file a complaint, if there is an investigation into the offence, the prosecutor may file a lawsuit, even though by normal legal principles, if there is no complaint by the victim, investigating officers may not investigate and even if they do investigate, the prosecutor cannot file a charge. It is held to be an illegitimate investigation. 2) The Supreme Court referred to the 2017 Constitution as the criterion for the legitimacy of the investigation (the state has the duty to protect and preserve the monarchy and national security), but this case occurred in 2012 and the charges were filed in 2015. This means the Supreme Court has set down a new legal principle, stating that laws are effective retrospectively in order to punish the accused.

The defendant was given bail during the investigation and trial stages, until the Court of First Instance passed a sentence of imprisonment. The defendant was imprisoned for 21 days before being granted bail with 400,000 baht collateral. During the appeal, the defendant again requested for bail and the Court of Appeal increased the bail collateral to 800,000 baht.

The prosecution’s summary of the case is that on 26 Oct 2012 the defendant spoke to a company security guard and defamed Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who is an heir to the throne, and also made defamatory comments about Princess Soamsawali to the head security guard. This occurred in Pathum Thani Province. The defendant denied the accusations.

The Court of First Instance gave its verdict on 29 Sept 2016. In summary, it considered that the prosecution witnesses and circumstantial evidence confirmed the conversations and accorded with witness testimonies that were given to officials on the day of the incident. It would be difficult to add to or distort the truth. In addition, none of the witnesses were familiar with the defendant and had no reason to be angry with or offended by the defendant, and thus had no reason to falsely accuse the defendant. The testimonies have sufficient weight to be credible. False reports and false testimony would lead to legal penalties. It is believed that all witnesses spoke the truth. The defendant also attested to being at the scene of the crime, and according to reports of the defendant’s testimony during the investigation, the defendant did not deny the claims. Therefore, the later denial of these claims on lacked credibility. The evidence brought forth by the defendant is insufficient to counter the prosecution evidence. The truth is that the defendant defamed both princesses, resulting in several criminal offences.

The verdict of the Court of First Instance also stated that the expression “heir apparent” as an element of a crime under Article 112 refers only to the Crown Prince, according to documents from the Bureau of the Royal Household. The actions of the defendant thus did not fulfil all the elements of a crime under Article 112. There is still a problem that the prosecutor filed charges only under Article 112, not for defamation. Even though the facts do not show that the defendant defamed, insulted or showed malice towards the king, queen, heir apparent or regent, it is reasonable that the defendant defamed Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Princess Soamsawali. The court naturally has the power to punish the defendant for defamation according to the final paragraph of Article 192 of the Criminal Procedure Code, where the defendant argued that Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Princess Soamsawali did not file complaints nor did they authorize anyone to file complaints and bring charges against the defendant. This case was filed as a violation of Article 112 which is a non-compoundable offence, where even if there is no complaint, if there is an accusation officers have the power to investigate and the prosecutor has the power to bring a case according to Articles 2(8), 120, 122 and 127 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The defence is not credible. The court found the defendant guilty of violating of Article 326 of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to 1 year in prison for each offence, totalling 2 years.

Nevertheless, although the Court of First Instance passed sentence, Mayuree Cheeppanichpaisal, Chief Judge of Thanyaburi Provincial Court, attached a dissenting opinion that the crime of personal defamation may be investigated when there is a complaint under Article 121, Paragraph 2, of the Criminal Procedure Code. But there did not appear to be a complaint in this case. There were only persons who made reports and accusations to investigating officers, requesting judicial procedures be carried out for the crime of defamation, but it did not appear that those making the accusation had the authority or were authorized to file a complaint according to law. Thus, this investigation was illegitimate. The prosecution had no authority file charges against the defendant. 

The Court of Appeal gave its verdict on 20 May 2017. In summary, the defendant appealed that the Court of First Instance had no authority to penalise the defendant for defamation according to the final paragraph of Article 192 of the Criminal Procedure Code since there was no complaint. It was seen that the offence of defamation under Article 326 of the Criminal Code, for which the Court of First Instance sentenced the defendant, is a compoundable offence under the first paragraph of Article 333 of the Criminal Code. The investigating officer may commence an investigation only when there is a complaint according to Article 121 paragraph 2 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Even if it is seen that the head security guard testified during the investigation that he is the complainant or the one who made accusations to the inquiry official, there does not appear to be any facts in the case file that this person had the authority or was legally authorized to file a complaint. Thus this case does not have a complaint as defined by regulations. When there are no legal conditions for the investigating officer, prosecutor or court, as the case may be, to have the authority to investigate, file charges or judge the defendant, the case is dismissed.  

NewsLèse-majestéArticle 112Article 326 of the Criminal CodedefamationPrincess Maha Chakri SirindhornMayuree CheeppanichpaisalThitiphong SisaenThanyaburi Provincial CourtSupreme CourtSource:
Categories: Prachatai English

Surachai and refugee friends disappear from home, wife begs those with power to spare their lives

Prachatai English - Thu, 2018-12-27 08:52
Submitted on Thu, 2018-12-27 08:52Prachatai

On 23 Dec 2018, Facebook user Romchalee Sinseubpol, a refugee living in a neighbouring country, published a post saying that Surachai Danwattananusorn (Surachai Saedan), a 75-year-old political activist who fled Thailand after the May 2014 coup, had disappeared from his residence along with 2 other refugees he had been staying with. The last time he made contact through phone calls was on 12 Dec 2018.

Surachai Danwattananusorn

When reporters questioned another refugee going by the Facebook name of Phouphaaseree Saren, they learned that Phouphaaseree went to look for Surachai at his home for the first time on around 13-14 Dec 2018, but did not find him, and so returned home. Then on 22 Dec 2018, another refugee went to Surachai’a home but did not find him either. His house was not locked, the van he regularly used was still parked there, his personal belongings had not been taken, and Phuchana and Kasa, 2 other refugees living with him, had also disappeared.

While friends worry that this may be a case of enforced disappearance like DJ Sunho (Ittipon Sukpaen) or Ko-Tee (Wuttipong Kotthammakhun), there is still no further news on the disappearance of Surachai and his friends.

Pranee Danwattananusorn (Pa Noi), wife of the disappeared political refugee, activist and underground radio programme producer, told reporters that she had heard the news from online media and saw photos of his home and desk on social media. She also saw photos of the inside of his room, noting that Surachai did not take with him the blood pressure monitor he uses daily, but she did not see his blood glucose monitor in the photos.

Pa Noi said that they spoke on Line only once in a while and only about health. If there were any pictures concerning health, he would send them, but she could not remember how long it has been. But someone told her that someone communicated with Surachai in Line most recently on around 11 December 2018.

Pa Noi also said that their children had heard the news but don’t know what to do. Personally she can only pray and beg those who have captured Surachai and his friends not to take their lives, while on social media platforms, information on Surachai’s disappearance is being shared many times, including how the door of their home was left open, the disappearance of some important documents and traces of the place being searched.


HighlightSurachai DanwattananusornPranee Danwattananusorn112 Family Networkenforced disappearancepolitical refugeeexileSurachai Saedan
Categories: Prachatai English

“An academic forum is not a military camp” case dismissed; court rules law no longer exists to charge 5 defendants

Prachatai English - Wed, 2018-12-26 12:25
Submitted on Wed, 2018-12-26 12:25

On 25 Dec 2018 at 9 am, the Chiang Mai District Court read the verdict in the case over the sign reading “An academic forum is not a military camp” displayed at the International Conference on Thai Studies held in Chiang Mai on 18 July 2017. The 5 defendants were charged by military officers of violating NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015, Section 12, banning political assemblies or gatherings of 5 or more persons. NCPO Head Order No. 22/2018 of 11 Dec 18 has since revoked the Order that the 5 defendants were accused of violating.

Earlier on 6-7 Dec 2018, 6 prosecution witnesses were questioned with 4 more still to be heard. But on 12 Dec 2018, NCPO Head Order No. 22/2018 led to the Court ordering the end of all witness hearings, in anticipation of a ruling in accordance with the new Order. At the time, the 5 defendants informed the Court that they wished to be questioned to prove their innocence and present the effects of becoming suspects in this case (see previous news).

Prosecution of peaceful expression at an academic conference

Biographies of the Five Defendants

On 25 Dec 2018, the Chiang Mai District Court ruled that NCPO Head Order No. 22/2018 Section 1 (7) revoked NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015 Section 12, under which the defendants were accused. This was now a case where a later legal provision meant that the actions being prosecuted were not unlawful. According to Article 2, Paragraph 2, of the Criminal Code, because the actions of the 5 defendants are not unlawful, the case is dismissed according to Article 185, Paragraph 1, of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The Court also ruled that all judicial procedures, operations or actions taken according to earlier announcements or orders are not affected so as to become null or unlawful, according to NCPO Head Order No. 22/2018.

Nevertheless, Article 2 of NCPO Head Order No. 22/2018 states that “the revocation of announcements and orders under Article 1 does not affect the judicial procedures, operations or actions under announcements or orders before the revocation by this order”.

The ruling of the Chiang Mai District Court today means the end of the case after the 5 defendants had to fight for their innocence for 1 year and 4 months.

Source: Thai Lawyer For Human Rights - TLHR

NewsNontawat MachaiChaipong SamniengPakavadi VeerapaspongTeeramon BuangamChayan VaddhanaphutiThai studiesChiang Mai District CourtNCPO Head Order No. 22/2018NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015
Categories: Prachatai English

“An Academic Conference is Not a Military Barracks”: Biographies of the Five Defendants

Prachatai English - Mon, 2018-12-24 14:32
Submitted on Mon, 2018-12-24 14:32TLHR

On 6-7 and 12-14 December, witness hearings in the “An Academic Conference is Not a Military Barracks” case are being held in the Chiang Mai district court. The 5 defendants are accused of violating Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2558 regarding the prohibition of political assembly of 5 or more persons. The accusation is in relation to the holding up of a sign with the message “An Academic Conference is Not a Military Barracks” at the International Conference on Thai Studies (ICTS), held at the Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Center (CMECC) on 18 July 2017.

The aforementioned action was a reaction to the presence and actions of plainclothes state security officers who attended and recorded various activities at the conference. They did so without registering for the conference or asking for permission from the organizers, and otherwise interrupted the conference through speaking during presentations and making other loud sounds.  

The defendants were indicted in August 2018 after the case was stalled in the prosecutor’s office for nearly a year.  The case reflects the state of freedom of expression and academic freedom in Thailand and has been followed closely by international organizations and the international academic community.

The 5 defendants in the case include academics, students, and a translator, each of whom performs a different role in civil society. Each person was involved in ICTS in various manners, including as part of the organizing committee, presenter of a paper, moderator of a panel, and student assistant during the conference. Each now faces the shared fate of being defendants in this case.

The witness hearings have been divided into two periods. Prosecution witnesses gave testimony on 6-7 December. There were 11 prosecution witnesses in total, including military soldiers, police officers, CMECC workers, investigation officials, and academics. Defense witnesses will give testimony on 12-14 December, and include the 5 defendants and 10 academics from different departments and institutions.

In advance of the witness testimony by the 5 defendants next week, their biographies and roles are shared below.

Dr. Chayan: A senior academic with a long history of community involvement

Dr. Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, age 75, has served for over ten years as the director of the Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development and the head of the Center for Ethnic Studies and Development, both in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Chiang Mai University (CMU).

Dr. Chayan completed his BA in the Faculty of Arts at Chulalongkorn University and his MA and PhD in Anthropology at Stanford University.  He is also the recipient of an honorary doctorate in Social Anthropology from Gothenburg University (Sweden) in 2004.

Dr. Chayan has been a university professor for over 33 years, from 1985 until the present. His students, from BA to PhD level, include Thai and international students. He has produced scholarly work about ethnicity in northern Thailand, local wisdom, border studies, and refugees and displaced persons.

In addition, Dr. Chayan has worked with marginalized people and communities to access land and forest rights, community resource rights, and indigenous rights, as well as the struggle for democracy in Burma. He has worked to disseminate information about these issues by joining public debates, leading training workshops, and working with local communities to find solutions.

With the rise of the ASEAN Economic Community, Dr. Chayan has supported academic work in ASEAN Studies and surveying development in the Mekhong River subregion as part of his role as the director of the ASEAN Studies Center at CMU.

CMU was the host of ICTS in 2017, which was the 13th time this conference has been held. Dr. Chayan was the vice chair of the organizing committee and the chair of the academic subcommittee. He did not participate in holding up the “An Academic Conference is Not a Military Barracks” sign.  His only action was to examine the sign and decide that it was not a problem and therefore did not have to be removed. For this, he was targeted for prosecution by the military.

Pakavadi: Independent writer and translator

Pakavadi Veerapaspong, age 53, has been an independent translator and writer for many decades. Her academic background is in philosophy; she holds a BA in philosophy from Thammasat University and an MA in philosophy from Chulalongkorn University. Her interest in reading and translation dates from her time as a student.

Pakavadi has translated a number of significant works of literature. This includes The Name of the Rose, the historical mystery novel by the Italian writer Umberto Eco; The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Czech writer Milan Kundera; the quartet of novels by Indonesian dissident and writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer; and the Philip Marlowe mystery novels by American writer Raymond Chandler.

In addition, Pakavadi also translates academic work, and her published translations include writing by American linguist Noam Chomsky; Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken, a collection of essays about social and economic change;  and The Great Transformation, by Karl Polyanyi, about the industrial revolution in Europe. She was also part of the collective translation of Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson, the scholar of Southeast Asian Studies and nationalism.

Pakavadi is compelled by social and revolutionary movements and has translated books and written articles about social movements in Latin America and the West.

Pakavadi is also a magazine columnist and has regularly joined public debates on social and political matters in recent years.  She sometimes joins protests as a participant or an observer.

At ICTS, Pakavadi was a speaker on a panel about Benedict Anderson’s life and work.

Nontawat: Drama student and member of Lanyim Creative Group

Nontawat Machai, age 22, is a fourth-year drama student in the Faculty of Mass Communication at CMU.

His hometown is Phatthalung province and he graduated from Satriphatthalung School. His interest is in writing and performing in plays; he is a member of Lanyim Creative Group, a group of youth activists who perform plays, show films and organize seminars about social problems.

Nonthawat directed a play called “Swallow” in the annual theatre festival of the Faculty of Mass Communication at CMU in 2015. He has performed in many plays in the Faculty as well, including “I merely wish to go outside” (2015) and “Fly first” (2016). He also acted in the short film “Onli(n)e Society” (2016) and in the dialogue theatre of Lanyim Creative Group in collaboration with Makham Pom Theatre (2017).

Nonthawat was a member of the Chiang Mai University Student Assembly in 2015. He was awarded the National Youth Excellence Award in the field of communication for protection and resolution of social problems in 2014 and was the first runner-up for an award for creative communication and environmental innovation from the United States Agency for International Development.

At ICTS, Nonthawat was a student volunteer in the conference directorate. He was responsible for taking photographs and video at the conference and aiding with the opening and closing ceremonies.

Chaipong: Doctoral student of Lanna history

Chaipong Samnieng, age 36, is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in the Faculty of Social Sciences at CMU.

Chaipong is from Phrae province. He completed a BA in Social Studies in the Faculty of Education and an MA in the Department of History in the Faculty of Humanities at CMU.

Chaipong was previously a lecturer at Naresuan University in Phayao province. He then moved to CMU, first to work in the Public Policy Institute, and then to begin his doctoral studies, which continue at present. He is also a special lecturer for the course “Northern Society and Politics” in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at CMU.

Chaipong is interested in Lanna (northern Thai) history, local governance and public policy. His publication, both as a sole researcher and as a member of a research team, are numerous. These include, for example, Dynamics and Recognition of the History of Phrae, 1902-2006, Development of Capital Groups and Business Networks in Northern Thailand, 1903-Present, and as part of a research project to study public policy to advance decentralization of local governance, etc.

Chaipong also writes for print journals and online media about Lanna history, politics and culture.

At ICTS, Chaipong presented a research paper about conflict and confusion in Lanna history. He was also the coordinator of a series of panels about Lanna history, which was one of the highlights of the conference.

Teeramon: Editor and graduate student in mass communication

Teeramon Buangam, age 39, is an MA student in the Faculty of Mass Communication at CMU.

Teeramon is from Chiang Mai province. He completed a BA in the Faculty of Medical Technology at CMU, and then completed a BA with a newspaper major in the Department of Mass Communication in the Faculty of Humanities at CMU.

He has worked at Prachatham newspaper since 2005 and has served as editor since 2012. Prachatham is a northern media outlet that reports on civil society movements, community rights, and northern society.

At present, Teeramon is a special lecturer in alternative media and advanced reporting in the Faculty of Mass Communication at CMU and a special lecturer at Mae Jo University as well.

Previously, Teeramon was a researcher in a project to survey the landscape and direction of media convergence and a project to survey the resources and readiness for reporting of community radio. At present he is interested in data journalism and is writing his MA thesis about public communication by independent media in this field.

At ICTS, Teeramon presented a paper about data-driven journalism. He simply walked by and took a photograph with the “An Academic Conference is Not a Military Barracks.” This led to him being accused of violating the law and becoming a defendant.



Pick to PostThai studiesChiang Mai UniversityTeeramon BuangamChayan VaddhanaphutiPakavadi VeerapaspongChaipong SamniengNontawat MachaiSource:
Categories: Prachatai English

People’s sector petitions Administrative Court to cancel Chao Phraya promenade project

Prachatai English - Mon, 2018-12-24 13:18
Submitted on Mon, 2018-12-24 13:18Prachatai

21 Nov 2018, Matichon reported that the River Assembly, the People’s Art and Culture Foundation, the Civil Society Planning Network and the Riverside Community Network went to the Administrative Court, Chaeng Watthana Road, Bangkok, to file a lawsuit against four state agencies: the Cabinet, the Chao Phraya for All Project Steering Committee, the Ministry of Interior and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, calling for the cancellation of the Chao Phraya for All Project.

(By courtesy of: Facebook/Friends of the River)

Paranee Sawasdirak, a city planning academic, said that the project is still incomplete in both content and participation, while S. Rattanamanee Phonkla from the Community Resource Centre Foundation’s legal team said that she thought the project, which had started in 2015, had already been cancelled. However, there was an announcement calling for tenders. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration proposed the project to the Ministry of Interior. Thus, it was at a point where the lawsuit had to be submitted, otherwise if the bidding process is passed, from announcing price estimates to private bids, there will be problems for both state agencies and private organisations doing the project.

The plaintiffs brought in documents containing more than 3,000 pages, with information on the project from the government sector and from additional research, research on the impacts, news from various media, activities that the City Planning Network has opposed, and letters that have been submitted to various agencies. The Office of the Central Administrative Court received 5 sets of documents for Case No. Black 88/2561 and the plaintiffs also submitted a request for the Court to order a temporary protection order to delay the project, since no one knows how long the hearings will take.

On the same day, Matichon reported that Pol Gen Asawin Kwanmuang, Governor of Bangkok, speaking at the Rama VIII Bridge, Bang Phlat District, confirmed that all procedures were transparent and open for people's participation. Additionally, the government had approved a budget of around 10 billion baht.

Asawin also stated that currently the project is in the process of adjusting the construction design of the 10-metre-wide riverside walkway and cycle path which King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang had designed considering all possible impacts and adjusting the landscape of the embankment, piers, riverside pavilions, public service areas and access to electricity and drainage. For a start the construction will be divided into two phases, with 3 kilometres on the Phra Nakhon side from the Rama VII Bridge to the Samsen Royal Irrigation Department, in Bang Sue and Dusit districts . When the design is finished, which is expected during May-June 2019, the specifications will be announced by an electronic bidding system (e-bidding).

The Chao Phraya Landscape Improvement Project became a topic of conversation again after 2 Nov 2018, when at the National Reform Steering Assembly meeting No. 9/2561 chaired by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence a report on the progress of the project was accepted (source: Royal Thai Government).

Information from the Dailynews  in April indicated that construction for the Chao Phraya promenade will be divided into 4 contracts, with a length of 14 kilometres and a 8,363 million baht budget. 

From Rama VII Bridge to Samsen Canal: budget of 1,770 million baht

From Samsen Canal to Somdet Phra Pinklao Bridge: 2,470 million baht

From Rama VII Bridge to Bang Phlat Canal: 2,061.5 million baht

From Bang Phlat Canal to Somdet Phra Pinklao Bridge: 2061.5 baht

The Chaophraya River Circle questioned the participation procedures, fearing conflict with the constitution due to a failure to assess impacts.

Left to right: Kanokwan Kanokwanawong, Pradech Phayakvichien, Sulak Sivaraksa, Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, Buntoon Sethasiroj

On 16 Nov, the People’s Art and Culture Foundation, the Society for the Conservation of National Treasure and Environment, the River Assembly and Friends of the River hosted a conference on the Beloved Chao Phraya, Love it Before it’s Too Late: My Chao Phraya” at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Pradech Phayakvichien, an expert member of the Krung Rattanakosin and Old City Conservation and Development Committee, said that the Chao Phraya River project is the current idea of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister and Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), who said that there should be a riverside promenade like in foreign countries. However, the procedures of the Chao Phraya for All Project have been done as if there is already an answer before doing any studies. Even though the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration agency that would be most directly responsible for this protect is the Department of City Planning, which must do the studies, this project has ended up in the hands of the Department of Public Works, which has only the job of construction. It’s as if they already have an answer before doing any studies, which is very strange.Pradech said the reason for dividing the construction project into 4 segments isn’t to make the work easy, but because if the work is done all in one go there will be a part of the project that is inside the Rattanakosin Island district. A resolution of the Krung Rattanakosin Conservation and Development Committee (Krung Committee) does not approve of that kind of study and work. When corners are cut and the walkway outside the Rattanakosin district is built first, the Krung Committee will not be able to stop the project.

Qualified members of the Krung Committee also said that the separation of the community from the riverside promenade will result in the promenade not being a part of the existing community. When they are not together there will be a lack of a sense of ownership, and when there is no sense of ownership, no one will take care of it. An easy way to look at it is when one-way bicycle paths were constructed around Rattanakosin, they were not accepted and all the shops around the area removed them since they never felt that they received any benefit, just a negative impact. They got nothing from them; there was no common benefit.

Buntoon Sethasiroj, a member of the National Reform Committee on Natural Resources and Environment, presented information from the Chao Phraya For All Project. The documents from the responsible agencies tried to answer questions from many other agencies. It was found that the project has a rather good vision, with the objective of restoring the river. The project speaks of conserving the river and community folkways. It has rather good planning. But have the participation procedures, which state that all sides would receive fair treatment, accept the decisions, and give the people and related parties and stakeholders a say in the decision-making, been enough? Buntoon said that the attempts to ensure participation concerned the riverside groups or those affected by the project, but for broader audiences like those expressing concerns or other Bangkok dwellers, or even people throughout the country, they have not yet been achieved. The forums for participation were also in the form of providing information and stating opinions, but not giving advice or joint planning or joint decision-making .

Buntoon further said that in principle, the participation process can actually be done at various levels, but the problems lie with the state agencies which are limited by the Prime Minister Office’s regulations of 2005 that cover listening to the people’s opinions. They limit the participation of the people to the listening level, and do not include joint decision-making . So the state should wait for the People’s Participation in Public Policies Act to pass first. Right now a draft has been submitted to the National Legislative Assembly after collecting 10,000 signatures from the people, while the draft at the government level is waiting for Cabinet approval.

The National Reform Committee on Natural Resources and Environment stated that Article 58 of the 2017 Constitution in the Section on the Duties of the State requires the state to study and assess the impact on the quality of the environment and the health of the people or community, and listen to the opinions of stakeholders and related people and communities. The Chao Phraya For All project falls under Article 58 of the 2017 Constitution. The question is whether the project owners were aware that their actions are in conflict with the Constitution.

Section 58. In the case where any activity to be implemented by the State or with permission of the State may seriously constitute impact on natural resources, environmental quality, health, hygiene, quality of life or any other substantial interest of people or community or environment, the State shall manage for the undertaking of a study and an evaluation of impact on environmental quality and health of the people or community, and for the consultation with the concerned stakeholders, the people and the community beforehand with a view to supporting the consideration to implement or to grant permission according to the law.

A person and a community shall have the right to obtain information, explanation and justification from State agencies prior to the implementation or the permission under Paragraph One.

For the implementation or the permission under Paragraph One, the State shall take caution to minimize the impact on people, community, environment and biodiversity to the least extent, and shall fairly and promptly arrange for the provision of remedy for the suffering or the damage to the people or community affected thereby.

Among the questions and opinions on the project from professional associations, there was a question from the Association of Siamese Architects whether, in terms of hydraulic engineering, the promenade would reduce the potential flow rate of water. The explanation was that after analysis it was found that when the piles were sunk into the water, this will raise the water level by 3 cm. That doesn’t answer the question on the flow rate at all, and there are many other points where the responses don’t answer the question.

Buntoon also questioned the rush in deciding to build the Chao Phraya promenade since, according to the documents, there are 3 options. The first two deal with the issue behind the embankment, using community or religious areas to access the waterside. The second option is to use a public space or encroachment area to access the waterside.  The third option is to build outside the embankment, encroaching on the water. The question is if the first two options have been sufficiently studied. Was any importance really given to those options or not. The answer provided in the report was “no”. Furthermore, the Chao Phraya River also has other problems such as trash, encroachment and deterioration of water quality. The project doesn’t answer any of these problems.

Buntoon also said that if the 7 km cycle path is built along the Chao Phraya but forces the eviction of the community, with a large impact on the river, would people be brave enough to use it? Personally he wouldn’t be brave enough to ride on it if a lot of money has to be spent on the 7 km that will be gained in exchange for all the impacts. When considering the investment capital in construction of 14 billion, the many impacts and questions, as well as the other options that weren’t studied, we should wait for the Participation in Public Policies Act to be passed before continuing with the project.

NewsChao Phraya RiverChao Phraya For All ProjectBuntoon SethasirojParanee SawasdirakSource:
Categories: Prachatai English

Playing the percentages

Prachatai English - Thu, 2018-12-20 16:40
Submitted on Thu, 2018-12-20 16:40Harrison George

Well I never.  One Facebook post and some questionable statistics (ultimately from the Bank of Thailand) and suddenly economic equality is the new buzz.  Thailand is, according to just one source, Number One in the world for economic inequality.  And the powers that be are not happy.

Before now, almost every comment on the national economy health and well-being has been couched in terms of GDP.  A random sample of recent articles in One Of The Bangkok Newspapers reveals how.

‘The UTCC predicts GDP will grow 4.5% in 2019, 4.8% in 2020, 4.6% in 2021 and 5% in 2022’ with the assumption that higher growth is automatically better growth and A Good Thing.

‘The tourism sector accounted for 10.4% of global GDP in 2017’ with the assumption that a sector than accounts for more GDP is therefore more important and A Good Thing.

‘Iconsiam’s opening is viewed as a bright spot for the kingdom’s economy, which has been growing only sluggishly with just a 4.6% rise in GDP’ with the assumption that a hyper-luxury hyper-monstrosity must be A Good Thing because it raises GDP and raising GDP is A Good Thing.

So what is GDP?  And why is it generally assumed to be such A Good Thing that this single number will tell us if the economy is doing well (when it goes up) or not (when it falls)?

The economics textbooks tell us that GDP measures the market value of all goods and services produced in a given country or sector over a given period of time.  So if GDP goes up, it means more goods and services must have been produced.

Is that good?

Not always.  Suppose on your drive home tonight, you are involved in an accident.  Congratulations.  You’ve just boosted GDP.  The vehicle repairs, the medical treatment of victims, the services provided by insurance agents and police officers, all will contribute to GDP.  And none would have happened without the accident, which therefore, according to GDP economics, is A Good Thing.

And what if GDP goes down?  Is that always bad?

No.  We are all being encouraged to use cloth shopping bags instead of plastic.  If successful, then over the long term, this will reduce the production of plastic bags (partially offset by a much smaller increase in the production of cloth bags), which will lower GDP.  So helping the survival of the planet, according to GDP economics, is A Bad Thing.

GDP, you see, includes not just goods and services, but bads and disservices.

Note also that, as with everything in the mainstream capitalist system, GDP is restricted to ‘market value’.  If there is any economic activity which is not paid for, like the masses and masses of work done mostly by women in looking after homes, children, the sick and the old, it has no market value and so does not count toward GDP.

Expecting GDP to be, by itself, an accurate measure the health of an economy is akin to expecting a single clinical measure, such as temperature, or blood pressure, or weight, to be, all by itself, an accurate measure the health of a person. 

GDP, like body temperature, tells us something, but nowhere near the whole thing.  We need more measurements before we can properly decide if something is economically good for us or not.  

For example, knowing that GDP has risen does not tell us who, if anyone, has benefited (or lost out).  For that we need a measurement of economic equality. 

And boy do we need it.  One US economist asked his students to estimate how much of the national wealth is owned and earned by the richest 20% of the population.  They guessed it was about three-fifths.  He then asked what, for the economic health of the nation, they thought the figure ought to be.  They reckoned it should be about one-third.

The real figure is in fact 84%.  The richest 20% of the US population have more than five times what the remaining 80% have.  And the trend is towards greater inequality. 

And if you are tut-tutting at the economic ignorance of American students, just look at the horror with which the government (most of whose members belong to the 1%) has received the news of Thailand’s new Number One status, as if it hadn’t been there or thereabout for decades.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of just asking how big the economy is by giving a GDP number, newspaper articles also reported how fair it is?

Is there any number that measures equality?  Well, yes, there is.  The figure that is causing conniptions in the government and bureaucracy is based on calculating the percentage of national wealth owned by the richest 1% of the population.  The Gini coefficient is another measure that is often used for measuring wealth and income equality, and there are more alternatives. 

But at the moment the statistics are a bit flaky.  While a whole bureaucracy has been put in place to collect data for the calculation of GDP, the figures you need to calculate economic equality are often simply not there.  For example, one major form is wealth is land, and the Land Department has been very reluctant to release data on who owns what. 

But with sufficient will, it could be done. 

So the next time we are told that Chinese tourists are deciding to go somewhere else, we could be told that yes, this will lead to lower GDP, but, given that tourism revenues are generally skewed in favour of the already wealthy, it may also reduce income inequality.

And wouldn’t it be even better if government projects were assessed for how much they improved economic equality between men and women, or Bangkok and the rest of the country, or among different age groups? 

You see, apart from the moral question of fairness, economic inequality seems to correlate with all sorts of Really Good Things.  More economically equal societies tend to do more recycling, suffer less domestic violence, have higher voter turnouts, do more civic volunteering, all manner of stuff, even if no one is quite sure why.

On the other hand, the consequences of economic inequality are not so benign.  When an elite dominates the economy, they use their economic power to buy political power, pushing policies that perpetuate and even exacerbate inequality (and often restrict growth).  Democracy is eroded, the environment suffers, and social mobility becomes ever more difficult.  Trust within society decreases, and as the marginalized poor become ever more desperate, the chances of social and political upheaval increase, just the sort of thing that gives the 1% nightmares. 

Do the Thai 1% want to continue their cushy existence?  If yes, then they also should be clamouring for more equality.

Alien ThoughtsGDPinequalityeconomyIconSiam
Categories: Prachatai English

As Historic Migration Pact is Adopted, Grassroots Women Migrants Groups Call for Accountable Implementation and Concrete Protection for All Migrants

Prachatai English - Fri, 2018-12-14 21:22
Submitted on Fri, 2018-12-14 21:22APWLD

12 December 2018
Marrakech, Morocco

As the Global Compact on Migration, a non-binding pact on global migration governance, is being adopted in intergovernmental meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, grassroots women migrants groups in Asia are calling for accountable implementation of the pact that translates into concrete protection for all migrants regardless their status.

The Global Compact on Migration (GCM), due to be formally endorsed by the UN General Assembly in New York in December 2018, sets out 23 objectives for states to better manage migration, including minimising structural drivers of migration, reducing risks for migrants, and ensuring safe and regular pathway. Despite the non-legally binding nature of the pact, a number of countries have withdrawn their agreement to the controversial pact including the U.S., Australia, Austria, Hungary and Chile.

APWLD members in a side event on justice for migrants on a death row during the Global Compact for Migration Conference in Marrakech, Morocco. (Source: Nazma Akter)

Countries' positions for Global Compact for Migration (as of 10 December 2018) (Blue - Will adopt the Compact, Red - Won't adopt the Compact, Yellow - Considering not adopting, Grey - Data incomplete) (Source: Wikipedia)

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a victim of labour abuse turned migrant rights advocate and currently an organiser at Kabar Bumi, an association of returnee Indonesian migrants and their families, said “I hope that GCM translates into concrete protection for all migrants despite the glaringly lacking process to engage migrants ourselves in the drafting. Most of migrant workers have never heard of the Global Compact on Migration. The UN needs to do more to reach out and inform migrants of the instrument and the follow-up process after the adoption.”

Erwiana’s case sheds light on the plights of women migrant domestic workers. In 2014, Erwiana was rescued by a fellow migrant at the Hong Kong airport after she suffered eight-month long abuse from her employer. Erwiana was made to work 21 hours per day with no rest day, and given barely sufficient food. After a lengthy investigation, her employer was sentenced to six years imprisonment. She was named 100’s most influence by TIME magazine as an “inspiration” for other migrants to fight against violence and discrimination.

APWLD members in a side event on justice for migrants on a death row during the Global Compact for Migration Conference in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: Nazma Akter

Glorene Das, Executive Director of Tenaganita, a Malaysian migrant rights organisation, views that GCM needs to be more inclusive in providing protection for all migrants regardless of their status. She said, “The GCM still focuses on how to make migration ‘orderly’ and ‘regular’, but it ignores the reality that a large number of migrants in receiving countries like Malaysia, where majority of migrants are undocumented, are equally entitled to protection. As long as the GCM still endorses seasonal and temporary migration, it will not ensure the rights and protection to migrants as it promises.”

Cherry Clemente, Executive Committee, Migrante International, an alliance of overseas Filipino workers, said “Temporary migration scheme only prioritises the interests of private sectors and businesses who exploit cheap labour without providing social protection and living wage for migrants. The GCM should not serve to legitimise the labour export policies that are prevalent in Asia Pacific countries. Instead, the GCM should prioritise concrete protection and rights of migrants.”

“As the access to UN processes is challenging for grassroots migrants, the GCM must ensure that the voice and direct participation of migrant workers will be at the core of its implementation and monitoring, and not just space dominated by UN agencies, governments or big international NGOs,” said Eni Lestari, APWLD’s Migration Programme Focal Person and Chairperson of International Migrants Alliance – a global alliance of grassroots migrants, immigrants, refugees and displaced people.

“If states are prepared to adopt the GCM, they should, as the first step implement the GCM commitments, ratify the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families,” said Suluck Lamubol, Programme Officer, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).

Women migrants groups reiterate that despite the non-binding nature of the agreement, states must follow through the commitment to protect the lives of migrants as set out in the compact, while addressing the drivers of migration including economic inequality, lack of decent work opportunities, climate change, structural violence and conflicts.



Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) is a leading network of feminist organisations and grassroots activists in Asia Pacific. Our 235 members represent groups of diverse women from 27 countries in Asia Pacific. Over the past 32 years, APWLD has actively worked towards advancing women’s human rights and Development Justice. We are an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organisation and hold consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Pick to PostMigrationAPWLDGlobal Compact on Migration
Categories: Prachatai English

Thailand: Don’t Return Cambodian Dissident

Prachatai English - Wed, 2018-12-12 01:23
Submitted on Wed, 2018-12-12 01:23Human Rights Watch


                     Rath Rott Mony

(New York, December 11, 2018) – The Thai government should not forcibly return the dissident Rath Rott Mony to Cambodia, Human Rights Watch said today. There are strong reasons to believe that Mony would face politically motivated prosecution, wrongful detention, and ill-treatment in Cambodia.

“Thailand should not do Cambodia’s bidding by forcibly returning an outspoken activist who exposed police failures to stop abuses and child sex trafficking,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Thai authorities should immediately release Rath Rott Mony and allow him to seek protection from the United Nations refugee agency.”

Thai authorities arrested Mony, 47, president of the Cambodian Construction Workers Trade Union Federation (CCTUF), in Bangkok on December 7, 2018, based on a formal request by the Cambodian government. Cambodian police are believed to be unhappy about his role in the production of the RT documentary “My Mother Sold Me,” which included accounts of poor girls sold into sex work. Cambodian authorities accused the documentary makers of paying the featured girls and their mothers to lie on camera to harm Cambodia’s reputation.

Thai authorities have frequently collaborated with the Cambodian government to harass, arrest, and forcibly return exiled dissidents – including opposition politicians, human rights activists, and journalists – who fled to Thailand to escape persecution by the Cambodian government under Prime Minister Hun Sen. It is critically important for Thai authorities not to put Mony into harm’s way in violation of international law, Human Rights Watch said.

Under customary international law, Thailand is obligated to ensure that no one is forcibly sent to a place where they would risk being subjected to persecution, torture, or other serious human rights violations. Article 3 of the Convention against Torture, which Thailand has ratified, prohibits actions to “expel, return (‘refouler’) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing” that they would be in a danger of being tortured.


Pick to PostMy Mother Sold MeRath Rott MonyCambodiadissidentCambodian Construction Workers Trade Union Federation (CCTUF)asylum seekersSource:
Categories: Prachatai English

Thai military detain the wife and son of a Thai exiled activist

Prachatai English - Wed, 2018-12-12 01:10
Submitted on Wed, 2018-12-12 01:10Prachatai

December 11, 2018. According to a relative, Mrs. Jinda Santiparapop, the Thai military has arrested Mrs. Laddawan Chewasut(age 62) and Mr. Suthawat Chewasut(age 31),  the wife and son of Mr. Chucheap Chewasut or ‘Uncle Sanamluang’, the underground radio broadcaster who currently is living in exile.


The arrest took place in Talingshun-Bangkok. It is believed that the Thai Military perpetrators, later on the same day, brought both victims to their workplace in an office near Siri Raj Hospital.

After the search of the victims’ office, the Military took them to an unknown location without leaving any information that could be followed up by their relatives. The victims’ fate is currently unknown.

Chucheap is an underground political talk show host living in exile. He is a great proponent of Democracy for Thailand in the form of a Federal Republic. He advocated for people to wear black shirts with Red and White symbols in public to show support for his Federal Republic ideas. People who have shown support and wear this symbol have been detained by the government authorities in the last week.

NewsLaddawan ChewasutSuthawat ChewasutChucheap ChewasutUncle Sanamluangunderground radioexilearbitrary detentionSource:
Categories: Prachatai English

Court dismisses Article 112 charge, says words need interpretation and don’t refer to any specific person

Prachatai English - Wed, 2018-11-21 20:18
Submitted on Wed, 2018-11-21 20:18Prachatai

The court has dismissed a charge against Sakan (family name not given out of privacy concerns), alleged to have violated Article 112 while detained in Bangkok Remand Prison.

The court said that even though the accused confessed, his action cannot be confirmed as defamation against the King and Queen as charged. The court therefore dismissed the case under Article 185 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The court did not order the accused to be detained pending a possible appeal by the prosecutor, so he was released after the court delivered its verdict.

After being released, Sakan said in an interview that the case started while he was detained in Bangkok Remand Prison. He was accused by fellow prisoners when he was about to be complete his sentence from his original case in 2015 under a pardon due to good behavior.

Because of this, Sakan had to stay in prison and serve the full 4 year sentence ordered by the court. On his release, he was seized by police over this second case on 11 Oct 2017 and was detained for 7 months during his trial until the court approved a request for bail with 500,000 baht as collateral. 

Sakan said the reason he was reported by his fellow inmates may be that the guards had assigned him as a trustee since he had received military training from when he was a soldier. This made other prisoners dissatisfied, even though Sakan himself was not altogether willing to take the position.

Before the court set the date for reading the verdict, after the court questioned Sakan and investigated the evidence in the case, on 16 Oct 2018 he requested to testify again and confess.

iLaw reported further details of the allegations, which are that while in detention and watching a TV report on the activities of King Rama IX, the accused wilfully made defamatory comments about the King.  Later on 5 December 2014, during the singing of the Royal Anthem at a ceremony organized by the prison to honour HM the King’s birthday, it was alleged the accused wilfully made defamatory comments.  Again in early December 2014, it was alleged that the accused wilfully made comments of a defamatory nature.

Source: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)


NewsArticle 112SakanInmateThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)iLawfreedom of expressioncriminal courtSource:
Categories: Prachatai English

Attachak Sattayanurak

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

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

Attachak Sattayanurakhumanitieseducation
Categories: Prachatai English

(Repost) A Decade of Article 112 Cases

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

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

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Categories: Prachatai English

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

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

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

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

Illustration by Nattapon Kaikeaw

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

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

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

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

Facebook/ Komkrit Tul Uitekkeng

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration by Nattapon Kaikeaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HighlighthumanitiesHumanities IndicatorseducationphilosophyOffice of the Higher Education Commission (OHEC)Source:
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