Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Myanmar Armed Forces Day

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-03-29 22:12
Submitted on Mon, 29 Mar 2021 - 10:12 PMStephff

MultimediaStephffMyanar coupMyanmar Armed Forces Day
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Salween Peace Park demanded the Tatmadaw to cease airstrikes in their area

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-03-29 21:51
Submitted on Mon, 29 Mar 2021 - 09:51 PMSalween Peace Park

Salween Peace Park statement on the Myanmar military dictatorship’s airstrikes on villages in the Salween Peace Park on 27th–28th, March 2021. They called for a cease to airstrikes, allow humanitarian aids to be provided and return the country to the democratic path.

A destruction from airstrikes in Mutraw District.  (Source: Thoolei News - KNU -Department Of Information)

On March 27th, 2021, the Myanmar military carried out airstrikes in Day Bu Noh, Mutraw District, in the Salween Peace Park to demonstrate their military strength. This followed helicopter surveillance which occurred at around 3.30 pm.

Two Myanmar military fighter jets dropped 9 bombs and fired automatic guns from the aircraft from 7:30 pm until midnight. 3 villagers were killed in the airstrikes, 7 were badly wounded, and many buildings have been damaged.

The following morning, on March 28th at around 10 am, the Myanmar military carried out another airstrike in Ta Kaw Toh Baw Village, which is 12 miles north-west of Day Bu Noh Village. On the same day at around 3 pm, four fighter jets flew over Day Bu Noh Village and then headed to the Salween River which runs along the Thai-Burma border. These fighter jets attacked some villages in the Salween River Basin: Mae Nu Hta and Thee Kaw Hta.

As a result of these attacks, civilians have fled into the jungle to hide. People from villages along the Salween River, including Mae Nu Hta Village, U Weh Klo Village, and Ei Tu Hta IDP Camp, have been crossing the river to seek refuge in Thailand.

Because of the breakdown of communications after the airstrikes, it is difficult to confirm the exact number of casualties and IDPs/refugees. Local news and community organizations have reported an estimated 2,500-3,000 people are seeking refuge in Thailand.

Prior to the airstrikes, the military had been shelling in Karen villages for several months, causing thousands to flee. In light of the ongoing offensives and recent airstrikes, the situation is expected to worsen with more casualties and displacement.

The Myanmar military, which forcibly seized power through a coup, has occupied our Indigenous territories, oppressed us, and committed numerous human violations against us for generations. We, the Indigenous people of the Salween River basin, make the following demands to the Myanmar military, and to all relevant national and international groups:

  1. The Myanmar military dictators must immediately cease airstrikes and attacks in our ancestral lands. They must immediately stop human rights violations and must remove their military camps from our ancestral lands.
  2. Humanitarian aid and support must be immediately provided to the displaced villagers.
  3. The Myanmar military dictators must return the control of the country to the people, who will then work towards a federal democratic governance system that ensures equality and full self-determination rights for all ethnic peoples.
  4. We urgently call for international action to prevent further mass atrocities. We call for a UN Security Council resolution to refer the situation in Burma to the International Criminal Court, immediately dispatch a monitoring body to Burma, and impose a global arms embargo on Burma.
Pick to PostMyanmar coupSalween Peace Park
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Thai authorities must halt relentless repression of dissent, stated Amnesty International

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-03-29 20:39
Submitted on Mon, 29 Mar 2021 - 08:39 PMAmnesty International

Responding to yesterday’s dispersal of peaceful protest in front of the Government House and the police’s arbitrary arrest of at least 99 peaceful protesters, Director of Amnesty International Thailand, Piyanut Kotsan said the Emergency Decree is just a blanket justification to stomp on difference of opinion.

Protesters at the Toward the Sky Village raising the 3-finger salute while lying down, awaiting the incoming arrest on 28 March.

“The mass arrests and charges of peaceful protesters yesterday is yet another systematic crackdown on people’s rights to freedom of expression and assembly. The abuse of law stresses concerns that the Emergency Decree is simply an unlawful blanket justification to stomp on difference of opinion under the guise of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Decree must be immediately revoked.

“Numerous arrests, detentions, and charges under the Emergency Decree are purposefully targeted at human rights defenders, activists, and protesters in order to silence dissident. The arbitrary and unlawful arrests reaffirm the police’s disregard of individuals’ rights to a fair trial and due process of law. Amnesty International calls for the immediate release of all protestors and their charges to be dropped.

“The Thai government must respect children’s rights to voice their messages and opinion. Detention of children must be an extreme last resort, and their best interest must come first and foremost.” 

Background

On 28 March 2021, police arrested two groups of at least 99 pro-democracy protestors who peacefully protested for democratic reforms. Protestors arrested include at least 6 children, four as young as 15 years old, two monks, and the elderly. 

At 6 am, approximately 300 riot police raided the site of protestors who had been camping in front of the Government House for two weeks to call for democratic reforms, claiming they had violated the ban on public assemblies under the Emergency Decree. Police gave them three minutes to disperse then arrested 67 activists and protesters.

During the arrest, police confiscated their phones and threatened to escalate crackdown measures if the protesters broadcast the arrest on social media. Different locations were given to who as a place of detention. Two monks were among those arrested and were disrobed.

All protestors were taken to the Border Patrol Police Command, Region 1, in Pathum Thani province, near Bangkok – an unofficial place of detention which runs contrary to the international policing standards. Protestors’s right to have access to their chosen lawyers were limited by venue and distance and their request to have access family during the detention were denied. 

In response, a group of hundreds of protestors organized a ‘flash mob’ in front of the Government House to call for the immediate release of those arrested in the morning. Around 6.30 pm, riot police attempted to disperse the mob and arrested another 32 protesters, including youths and artists. Despite having allegedly committed a crime at the same location, they were reportedly taken to the Police Club in Bangkok, an unofficial place of detention. The police is taking 60 persons together with the second group of 32 individuals to the Dusit District Court requesting for a pre-trial detention.

Six minors were released yesterday which the Juvenile and Family Court granted bails for them. Another 19-year-old boy was also released at the investigation process while being detained at the Border Patrol Command, Region 1. 

Since 2020, more than 500 people, including approximately 29 children, have been arrested and/or charged for peacefully exercising their right to protest. Amnesty International has recorded 12 dispersals of peaceful protests by the police in 2021. 

Police must respect protestors’ right to peacefully gather and express themselves, and facilitate the assemblies to voice their messages. Please see Amnesty International’s document on good practices of police’s management of public assemblies.

Under international policing standards, individuals arrested must be promptly informed of the charges against them and the place of detention, as well as are entitled to the rights to a fair trial – including access to legal counsel of their choice and contact with family or those they trust. They must be detained in officially-recognized places of detention and not subject to torture or ill-treatment. Most importantly, they are presumed innocent until proven otherwise and must be so treated.

Pick to PostToward the Sky VillageAmnesty InternationalEmergency DecreeState of emergency
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Missing activist’s sister testifies to DSI on brother’s disappearance

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-03-27 22:02
Submitted on Sat, 27 Mar 2021 - 10:02 PMPrachatai

Sitanan Satsaksit, sister of missing Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, said she has evidence of her brother being in Cambodia before his disappearance.

Sitanan Satsaksit (centre) at an event on Wanchalearm's 38th birthday in August 2020. (Picture from Amnesty International)

The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) reported that Sitanan, along with lawyers from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) and representatives of the CrCF, went to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) on Thursday (25 March) to testify on her brother’s disappearance.

Sitanan took with her documents which prove that Wanchalearm was residing in Cambodia before his disappearance, including a document from the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) on an investigation into an offense punishable under Thai laws which is committed outside of the country, images from CCTV cameras within Wanchalearm’s residence which are a record that he was living in Cambodia, and a passport issued for Wanchalearm by the Cambodian authorities.

Sitanan told The Reporters that even though the Cambodian police said that Wanchalearm’s passport and visa expired in 2018, she had met her brother overseas several times, and that during those trips, Wanchalearm used a passport issued by the Cambodian authorities in 2015. She also said that the visa the Cambodian authorities claimed had expired was attached to his Thai passport, but he had always used his Cambodian passport to travel while he was living there.

Wanchalearm went missing on 4 June 2020, after he was abducted from in front of his condominium in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he was residing after fleeing Thailand following the 2014 military coup. He has not been heard from in the past 9 months.

Sitanan also went to the Office of the Attorney General later that afternoon to meet Pol Col Kukiat Charoenboon to provide testimony in addition to 100 pages of documents and testimony she submitted to Kritsada Kasantikun, Deputy Spokesperson of the Office of the Attorney General, on 19 March 2021.

CrCF director Pornpen Khongkachonkiet told The Reporters that the family decided to file evidence with the DSI and the Attorney General because there has been no progress in the Cambodian courts, so they wanted to confirm that Wanchalearm went missing outside of Thailand and therefore the Attorney General has the authority to investigate his disappearance.

Pornpen said that it has been 3 months since Sitanan went to testify to the Phnom Penh municipal court, but there has been no progress, so they want the Thai authorities to follow up on the case and to show sincerity in their investigation.

NewsWanchalearm SatsaksitSitanan Satsaksitenforced disappearancepolitical refugeeCambodiaabductionDepartment of Special InvestigationOffice of the Attorney GeneralCross Cultural Foundation
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Fake eating to defend alleged sponsor of right-wing media outlet

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-03-27 01:02
Submitted on Sat, 27 Mar 2021 - 01:02 AMPrachatai

MK Restaurants and Yayoi have become the target of a boycott on suspicion that they are sponsoring Top News, a newly founded right-wing media outlet. Some tried to defend them by posting photos claiming to be eating their dishes, but netizens have revealed that the photos were taken from other people's social media profile. 

A right-wing activist also posted a photo of Grab Food riders waiting in a long line to take orders, but MK Restaurants said that the photo was from one of their promotion campaigns some time ago.

On 22 March, Sathaporn Kuasakul, a Top News correspondent, posted on Facebook a photo of rice with roasted duck with the caption “Thank you MK for taking a good care of Top News. Overwhelming happiness every day at MK."

Reporters of Top News have long been criticized for their biased coverage of the recent pro-democracy protests and for encouraging authoritarian attitudes. As MK Restaurants’ involvement in Top News became visible, calls for a boycott went viral on social media.

Amarat Chokepamitkul, an MP of the Move Forward party, said that MK Restaurants and Yayoi had been her favourite places to go. But she can no longer enjoy their food as long as they sponsor Top News.

"Stop eating at MK and Yayoi, even though they are your favorite restaurants, until they stop sponsoring the Top News channel," said Amarat. "If it is a misunderstanding, I ask MK to quickly explain the facts," she said. 

Meanwhile, the hashtag "Ban MK and Yayoi" spiked on Twitter. Facebook also saw users sharing information about alternatives to MK and Yayoi.

In response, Sathaporn posted "Ban everything. Be warned that you will have nothing to eat." He also added a degrading question about if she has "something special" which she has to "eat in secret".

Others came out to defend MK Restaurants. Kiat Kitcharoen, a Thai celebrity, shared an article about the history of MK Restaurants and said "Who doesn’t eat; I eat MK."

Khetrat and Chutathut Laothamatas, sibling MPs in the government's Phalang Pracharat party, also wrote Facebook posts to convince people to eat at MK Restaurants.

Caption: Chutathut Laothamatas posted a photo of herself eating at MK Restaurant. Source: Khaosod Online

While the discussion was going on, some resorted to a bizarre method: fake eating at MK by stealing others' photos. 

Some Twitter accounts posted photos of MK's roasted duck and said that thanks to the attention caused by the boycott, they ordered MK's tasty dishes to give them the support they deserve.

However, Twitter users have scrutinized their claims. It was found that one of the photos was taken from other people's social media. One Twitter user said that she was the one who took one of the photos when she ate at an MK restaurant.

Caption: A photo from MK's supporter can be found on other people's social media. Source: Khaosod Online

To minimize the damage, a right-wing supporter on Twitter adjusted their tone by posting a photo of MK's roasted duck and said "Whether the photo is old or new is not important, but today I ate the duck."

Songklot Chuenchoopol, a right-wing political activist and former soldier, also posted on Twitter a photo of Grab riders waiting in a long line for MK orders. He said "I would like to beautifully prostrate myself to ask you to boycott my shop, so that I can get along financially."

However, it turned out that the photo was taken from a column on Matichon Online available since 28 March 2020. At the time, there was a buy-one-get-one-free promotion, so the orders were overwhelming. MK Restaurants also confirmed that to be the case.

Caption: A photo posted by Songklot is also found on Matichon Online. Source: Khaosod Online

And because the waiting line was crowded and showed a lack of social distancing, which caused a controversy at the time, MK also reiterated their explanation that since then they have taken measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

So far, there has been no answer from MK Restaurants on whether they sponsor Top News.

Some Twitter users have pointed out that posting distorted information online is punishable under the Computer Crime Act. However, the law has never been used to prosecute right-wing figures.

Apart from MK restaurant, No Salim Shopping List's Twitter account also posted a list of other companies which they believe have been sponsoring Top News including S&P, Sappe, Miyazaki, etc.

Fake eating pattern

Some Twitter users had previously tried to use the same tactic to defend Potato Corner Thailand.

On 6 March, Piyarat ‘Toto’ Chongthep, a political activist, was arrested at Major Ratchayothin together with 20 members of We Volunteer, a peacekeeping group founded to ensure the safety of pro-democracy protesters.

Seeing an opportunity to promote their fried potatoes, Potato Corner Thailand posted on Facebook right after the arrest that Toto was arrested for eating their fried potatoes unstoppably at their branch in Central World. The hashtag “Ban Potato Corner” soared on Twitter immediately as netizens condemned the company for exploiting the arrest of the activist.

Pachara Chirathivat, a Thai celebrity who had already been criticized for his pro-government stance and political apathy on other occasions, happens to be the owner of Potato Corner Thailand. On this occasion, he apologized for the mistake.

Potato Corner’s Facebook page claimed that their mascot’s name was Toto too, and the post was scheduled long before the arrest of Piyarat.

At the same time, some Twitter users posted a photo claiming to be eating fried potatoes in support of Potato Corner, but after scrutiny by concerned netizens, the photo was also later found to be available on Google.  

Top News now fully operational

Top News is a right-wing outlet which started broadcasting on satellite TV and social media platforms in January 2021. The outlet includes right-wing media figures such as Kanok Ratwongsakul, Anchalee Paireerak, Sathaporn Kuasakul, Santisuk Marongsri, Ubonrat Thaonoi and Worathep Suwattanaphim.

These correspondents began working for Top News after resigning from Nation TV last year. Because of their biased coverage of the pro-democracy protests in 2019-2020 on Nation TV, pro-democracy activists launched campaigns to boycott products and services of Nation TV's sponsors.

The boycott caused some of the sponsors to withdraw support, including the Bangkok Mass Transit Systemm, which sold 406,390,000 shares, amounting to 9.9 percent of the total shares of the Nation Multimedia Group.

The decline in Nation TV's revenue and internal pressure led to the resignation of its right-wing correspondents as well as Sonthiyan Chuenruthainaitham, an executive of Nation TV at the time.

Sonthiyan was a right-wing activist and the founder of T-NEWS, a right-wing outlet whose reports supported the killing of red shirt protesters in 2010. A few years later, he was one of the leading figures in the protests of the People's Democratic Reform Committee which led to the military coup in 2014. 

In 2017, Sonthiyan was invited by Chai Bunnag to help Nation TV out of a debt crisis. Under his co-management with Chai, the revenue of Nation TV did go up in the first quarter of 2020.

However, Nation TV faced challenges from growing boycotts as the pro-democracy movement started gaining momentum. This development forced Sonthiyan to resign in June 2020. Not long after, Chai announced that Nation TV would return to "the Nation Way", promising to adhere to professional ethics and impartiality.

After Sonthiyan left Nation TV, he made unsuccessful attempts to buy NEW18 and PPTV. Then he founded Top News in January 2021. The outlet is now fully operational as the authorities have stepped up their actions against pro-democracy protesters.

NewsTop NewsSource: Khaosod Online
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Thai student groups submit report for Universal Periodic Review

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-03-27 00:29
Submitted on Sat, 27 Mar 2021 - 12:29 AMPrachatai

This November, the Thai government will have to answer all concerns expressed by UN Members over human rights violations in the country. For the 3rd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), student groups in Thailand have submitted a report to the Working Group, revealing that the Thai government has not delivered on the promises made to the international community 5 years ago.

The report was submitted by the SHero Youth Network, United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), Student Union of Thailand (SUT), Bad Students, Ratsadon, UNME of Anarchy, Nisit Chula Party, and ROOT.

According to the report, the Thai government accepted 13 out of 24 recommendations during the 2nd UPR Cycle in 2016. However, they have not made any progress when it comes to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, the lèse majesté law, human rights defenders, and enforced disappearances.

For example, the report says that the Thai government accepted a recommendation from Costa Rica to ensure “the rights of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, especially in the context of peaceful protests.”

However, the Thai government has “imposed excessive restrictions” against peaceful protest as well as treating unarmed protesters with chemical-laced salvos from water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets.

Thailand also accepted a recommendation from Guatemala to respect freedom of the press and freedom of expression. But instead of following the recommendation, the Thai government tried to shut down a TV channel and online outlets for their reporting on the pro-democracy protests.

With regard to human rights defenders, Thailand accepted 6 recommendations. One of them from Czech Republic asked Thailand to “stop all harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and effectively implement measures aimed at preventing violence and crimes against them.”

Instead of keeping this promise, the “Thai government has threatened to use all possible laws and measures against the pro-democracy protesters including child and youth human rights defenders,” says the report.

Not only does the report say that the Thai government has failed to follow the recommendations they accepted from other countries, but also that its lèse majesté law and the enforced disappearance of the political activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit constitute violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Thailand ratified in 1996.

For more detail, the report can be accessed here.

According to the UPR process, a letter by the Human Rights Council will be sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Thai government will then have to submit its national report by July.

Tentatively, on 10 November, the Thai government will have to answer to the UPR Working Group consisting of 47 State Members of the Human Rights Council. Other UN members can also participate in the dialogue with the reviewed state.

To help with facilitation, a reviewed country will have three countries to assist them as rapporteurs. The three facilitating countries are called a ‘troika’ and come from drawing lots. In the case of Thailand, the troika members are Côte d'Ivoire, China, and Bulgaria.

  NewsUniversal Periodic Review (UPR)the SHero Youth NetworkUnited Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD)Student Union of Thailand (SUT)Bad StudentsRatsadonUNME of AnarchyNisit Chula Partyand ROOT.
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Thailand’s year-long emergency is unnecessary and disproportionate, regional MPs say

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-03-26 12:10
Submitted on Fri, 26 Mar 2021 - 12:10 PMASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

In the one year since Thailand declared an “emergency situation” to curb the spread of COVID-19, the government has used it as an excuse to crack down on fundamental freedoms, particularly amid a rise in anti-government demonstrations in the country, lawmakers across Southeast Asia said yesterday (25 March). The parliamentarians urged authorities to lift the emergency and end its crackdown on critics and peaceful protesters. 

A line of crowd control police and razor wires at a protest in February 2021

“It’s absurd that Thailand still has its emergency in place after a year, when the number of COVID-19 cases have remained at a low level. While it’s crucial for the government to take steps to protect its people from the virus, the authorities’ repeated use of the emergency against critics and peaceful protesters make it clear that it has been used to end the demonstrations rather than the pandemic,” said Mu Sochua, a Board Member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), and a former Member of Parliament (MP) in Cambodia.

“Emergency measures should be put in place to deal with a specific threat, in this case health, not an opportunity to curtail voices the government doesn’t like,” added Mu. 

On 25 March 2020, a year ago today, the Thai Prime Minister declared a state of emergency under a 2005 Emergency Decree, which allowed him to issue restrictive regulations such as a ban on gatherings,  prohibit publications on overly-broad grounds, and the use of routes or vehicles. Violations of these regulations carry a prison sentence of up to two years. 

The Decree makes no mention of parliamentary scrutiny, limits legal challenges, and extensions of the declaration of emergency only require approval from the Council of Ministers. This is in violation of  international standards. 

The emergency has been used to excessively restrict civil liberties and lacks any real safeguards to prevent such abuse in the first place, said APHR. 

In addition, the emergency regulations have clearly been used to crackdown on the nationwide protest movement that swept the country. According to human rights organization Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the emergency regulations have been invoked against at least 314 people. Eighty-six of these cases were made under the current emergency to respond to the pandemic. The remaining cases were under a different serious emergency situation declared in response to protests, which lasted from 15 to 22 October 2020. Most of those facing charges are peaceful protesters, and government critics. 

Peaceful protests have also been met by authorities with excessive use of force, including the use of batons, rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons. According to Amnesty International, more than 380 protesters, including 13 children, face criminal charges while alleged protest leaders remain in detention. They have been calling for major changes to Thailand’s political order, including the release of detained activists, the enactment of a new Constitution, and reforms to the monarchy.

“Prime Minister Prayut should realize that a conducive environment for open debate will only develop public trust in his government and contribute to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. This means allowing its people to participate in democratic processes, such as to peacefully assemble and express opinions, as well as ensure that important decisions related to emergencies are promptly reviewed by parliament. Rather than prosecuting critics, he should engage in open and constructive dialogues to respond to their demands,” said Mu.

Pick to PostASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)State of emergencyEmergency Decreefreedom of expressionCOVID-19
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German Embassy protesters’ hearing postponed

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-03-26 00:57
Submitted on Fri, 26 Mar 2021 - 12:57 AMPrachatai

The public prosecutor has postponed until 13 May 2021 the hearing of 13 people involved in the protest in front of the German Embassy in Bangkok on 26 October 2020, as the prosecutor has yet to finish the paperwork needed to file the case against the protesters.

Three of the accused activists answering journalists' questions after their meeting with the public prosecutor. From left: Athapol Buapat, Benja Apan, and Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon

The group is facing royal defamation charges under Section 112 of the Criminal Code for either reading a statement or giving speeches during the protest, in which they submit a petition calling for the German authorities to investigate King Vajiralongkorn’s use of power during his time in Germany.

In addition to the royal defamation charge, several among the 13 protesters are also charged with sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code.

Student activist Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon said before going to meet with the public prosecutor that she is still confident, especially after last night’s protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection, where she gave a speech calling for monarchy reform.

Patsaravalee said she is encouraged by the people who joined the previous night’s protest and said she would keep fighting even if she was detained pending trial. She also added after leaving the prosecutor’s office that she is not worried about facing more charges as she believes what she said is possible within the bounds of freedom of expression in a democratic system.

Meanwhile, Benja Apan, another accused student activist and a member of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), said that they will keep calling for justice for themselves and their friends who have been detained due to their participation in protests.

Athapol Buapat, another leading figure in the pro-democracy protests and one of the accused, said that the postponement is somehow a good sign because they can still participate in the movement. He then called on the judicial authorities to safeguard justice in this country.

Benja, Patsaravalee, and Athapol also said during a press conference after they left the prosecutor’s office that even though their hearing has been postponed, around 20 people are currently being detained on royal defamation and other charges, and that they are worried about student activist Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, who is currently being detained pending trial and is fasting in protest at the court’s denial of bail for detained activists.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at least 77 people are facing royal defamation charges for their involvement in recent protests, 6 of whom are minors. Several protest leaders are also facing several counts, such as Parit, who is facing 20 counts, Anon Nampa, who is facing 12 counts, and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, who is facing 9 counts.

NewsSection 112Article 112Monarchy reformlese majestestudent activistsstudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020judicial harassment
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Pro-democracy protesters return to Ratchaprasong

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-03-26 00:47
Submitted on Fri, 26 Mar 2021 - 12:47 AMPrachatai

Protesters returned to the Ratchaprasong intersection on Wednesday night (24 March) to call for reform and release of detained activists despite police violence at recent protests.

Protesters gathering around at the Ratchaprasong Intersection. The banner at the stage says "monarchy reform."

The protest, which was organised by the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), began at 17.00 on Wednesday (24 March), a day before several protest leaders, including Benja Apan and Patsaravalee Thanakitvibulphol, are due to report to the public prosecutor to hear whether a case will be filed against them for their involvement in the protest in front of the German Embassy on 26 October 2020, which causes concerns that they will be detained pending trial.

Benja said before the protest that the people keep coming back to the streets despite the continuous police crackdowns. The people wanted to say that the country belongs to them, who have rights and liberties to assemble constitutionally. She said that they are not seeking violence, and that the people want to create a safe space for assembly, and called on the police to ensure the people’s safety.

Benja Apan

Benja said that UFTD still underlined the previous 3 demands made by the pro-democracy movement: resignation of the PM, constitutional amendment and monarchy reform. They are also calling for the release of detained activists. 

“[I’m] very concerned, concerned every day that our friends are in there [prison]. We don’t know what will happen to our friends. And Penguin (Parit Chiwarak) is on a fast and unhealthy. We don’t want anything to happen to our friend,” said Benja

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai academic in self-exile, made a phone call to the protest, saying the earlier moratorium on the use of Section 112 did not mean royal defamation offences were abandoned. The Computer Crimes Act was used instead during the moratorium from around the end of 2017.

The protests in the past year breached the wall surrounding discussion of the monarchy. This is very important because what has been said could not be taken back. The return of Section 112 is very fearsome and the U.S. has had to express its concerns over human rights and freedom of expression in Thailand.

Pavin said he personally wants Section 112 to be abolished. The monarchy must open for criticism as the number of people in royal service has expanded and assets have been transferred into the King in person under the Crown Property Bureau. The students’ demands were just as they are what makes the monarchy constitutional.

Patsaravalee Thanakitvibulphol

Patsaravalee spoke on stage during the protest, calling for monarchy reform. She said that, as a citizen, she would like to tell the King that he should conduct himself in a manner that befits the head of the state, and that the people, who are his last good friends, are now telling His Majesty that expansion of power will endanger the institution of the monarchy.

The absolute monarchy that is being built is an act of reversing the clock, said Patsaravalee. The absolute monarchy can be made in this reign, but it also can fall in the next reign, and we all know how fearsome the fall is.

Patsaravalee staged 3 demands to develop the institution of monarchy: having a single, inseparable armed force, ending intervention in any political groups by the monarchy, and quickly returning public assets which have been transferred to the King’s personal ownership.

Nat and friends lying down on the road inside a chalk line on which the number “112” was written.

Meanwhile, Nat and several other protesters were seen lying down on the road inside a chalk line on which the number “112” was written. The message “No 112 zone” was written at their feet. Nat said that the group wanted to show that the authorities are trying to keep the people in line, but staying inside the frame for too long is stifling, that thinking outside the box is not wrong, and that the activists’ detention is unfair.

Ploy

Ploy, another protester, wrote “draft constitution” in chalk on the street. She said that for her, it is not enough to repeal the royal defamation law, or Section 112, because other legislation still exists which infringes on the people’s freedom, and there are still loopholes which can be used for people to seek benefit, so the entire legislative system must be changed.

She said that the people should be able to participate in the process of drafting the constitution, such as through a referendum, because legislation would affect the entire country, so the people should have the right to choose the law that are issued.

She said that Section 112 is the legislation she would most like to change currently, because she sees the law as problematic, as anyone can file charges under the law and the definitions are unclear.

Ploy would like to tell people who are still unsure about joining the movement, or people who still don’t see the problem in the society, that now is the time, as there are now people who are detained and whose lives are in danger.

“If you see injustice happen, even though you do not agree with the demands, you see that life right now, the economy is bad, there is unreasonable violence, I would like you to join us,” Ploy said.

The protest concluded at 21.04.

NewsRatchaprasong intersectionMonarchy reformproteststudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020Student protest 2021
Categories: Prachatai English

Dean attempts to seize students’ art projects; claims they could violate the law

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-03-24 23:06
Submitted on Wed, 24 Mar 2021 - 11:06 PMPrachatai

The Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University, and several other faculty personnel attempted on Monday (22 March) to remove students’ art projects from the Media Arts and Design Department building without first informing the students, while the Faculty claims that some items were removed because they could violate the law.

Faculty personnel claimed that they removed the artwork in order to clean up the premises. However, students said that there is no reason for the Faculty to remove the students’ projects, and that students have always worked in the courtyard in front of the building. The claim that the projects need to be removed for cleanliness is therefore unacceptable. Students also said that police officers came to the building to monitor the students the night before as they were working on their projects.

One student also lay down on the street to block the vehicle being used to transport the projects from leaving the building’s car park.

Voice TV reported that one of the projects removed was an installation art project which looks like a body bound and wrapped in white cloth, and that the projects were taken apart and put in black trash bags.

Thasnai Sethaseree, a lecturer in the Media Arts and Design Department, came to help the students negotiate with the Faculty personnel to prevent the projects from being taken.

Thasnai Sethaseree (right) speaking to the Deputy Dean of Administration of the Faculty of Fine Arts (left)

“Are you a professor too? Do you love art? Do you love and respect human beings? Art is no one’s master, and art is no one’s slave. How many times have you threatened students? Are you threstening education?” Thasnai said during the incident.

“Art has faced enough shame because of people who do not love liberty. The students have just finished their thesis exhibition. Some classes are still not over and they have to keep working. What job is it of a lecturer to clean up for them? What job is it of the Dean to pick up trash. You’re an artist. You’re a teacher. First, respect people. Second, respect other artists. Third, respect artwork, whether it is made by students or people who have not studies art.”

Thasnai said that he already knew about the police officers coming onto campus at night to monitor students as they worked on their projects around the university art gallery and the department building. He also said that he needed to support the students, because the Dean’s action is a violation of the students’ freedom and affects their lives on campus.

The students whose projects were going to be removed then went to the Phupingrajanivej Police Station to file charges of theft and destruction of property against Asawinee Wanjing, the Faculty Dean, Pakornpatara Janthakhaisorn, the Deputy Dean of Administration, Pongsiri Kiddee, the Deputy Dean of Student Development, Sulalak Khaopong, the Faculty Secretary, and Chaiyan Khomkaew, a staff member the university art gallery, as their projects were damaged during the incident and some were missing.

The students speaking to police officers at the Phupingrajanivej Police Station

The Faculty of Fine Arts issued a statement following the incident claiming that Faculty personnel were preparing the gallery premises for the students’ thesis exhibition, which is to take place between March – May 2021, and found items in the area that could be “in danger of violating the law”, such as a modified Thai national flag with “inappropriate messages,” so they removed the items from the premises to be claimed by their owners.

Meanwhile students from the Faculty of Fine Arts issued a statement demanding that the Faculty administration investigate the incident, publicly apologize to the students, and for the three members of the Faculty Executive Board involved in the incident to resign.

The students also demand that the Faculty give an explanation of how Faculty workshop spaces can be used and of the use of Faculty space by lecturers other than for academic purposes, and that the faculty must publicly declare within 3 days their budget expenditures since the three lecturers became members of the executive board. 

Newsfreedom of expressionArtistic freedomacademic freedomChiang Mai UniversityFaculty of Fine Arts
Categories: Prachatai English

HRDF concerns over the migrant labors' child inaccessibility to health insurance

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-03-24 17:47
Submitted on Wed, 24 Mar 2021 - 05:47 PMHuman Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)

Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) submitting complaint to public health authorities concerning Vachira Phuket Hospital’s refusing to sell health insurance to child dependent of migrant labors.

(File Photo. Source: Prasiddhi Grudharochana)

Concerning Vachira Phuket Hospital’s refusing to sell health insurance to child dependent of migrant labors

On 11 March 2021, the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) has submitted a complaint to the Phuket Provincial Public Health Doctor, Director of Vachira Phuket Hospital, Governor of Phuket, Minister of Public Health and Minister of Interior regarding the buying of health insurance for child dependent by their parents who are migrant labors since the migrant labors have been prevented from buying such health insurance for their child born in Phuket. 

This intervention has involved HRDF accompanying the migrant labors and their child to the Health Checkup and Health Insurance Service Center for Alien Workers, at Vachira Phuket Hospital in Ko Sire to buy the child a health insurance card. But the officer there has refused to sell such insurance saying that a child born of a parent who is a migrant labor is only eligible to buy health insurance card when the child’s mother has already had a health insurance of herself. Even though the father may have a health insurance card or a social security card, but if the mother had no such card, the child is not allowed to buy a health insurance card.

HRDF finds that the refusal to sell health insurance card to the child dependent does not comply with the guidelines concerning health insurance of aliens and alien labors, issued by the Ministry of Public Health in 2020. Its Annex 3 on health checkup and health insurance measures of alien labors clearly states that officers are obliged to conduct health checkup and offer health insurance to the dependents at the same medical facility where their parents are insured or at a public facility in the area where either of the parents live or in the area where they are employed according to the notifications.

Meanwhile, descendants of alien labors born in the Kingdom shall be entitled to the right to live in the Kingdom similar to their parents according to the Ministerial Regulation to determine the status and condition for living in the Kingdom of those born in the Kingdom but are non-Thai B.E. 2560. These children shall be treated as beneficiaries for medical and public health services according to the health checkup and health insurance for alien labors, the Ministry of Public Health, 2020 and according to the concerned notifications of the Ministry of Public Health.  

Therefore, to ensure the child dependents of migrant labors access to health insurance which shall help to enhance the protection of the rights of the child and society and uphold the best interest of the child according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Thailand is a state party since 1992, HRDF calls on concerned public health authorities to rescind any obstructing criteria and to allow all children who are dependents of migrant labors to buy health insurance. They could invoke their right through the connection with either of their parents who has health insurance or social security. In a similar vein, a child is already allowed to have access to social security benefits through the connection with either of their parents who is an insured person. All medical facilities should be advised to act accordingly as well.

Pick to PostHuman Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)migrant laborlabor rights
Categories: Prachatai English

A protester well-known for wearing croptop arrested at night, temporary detained

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-03-24 16:01
Submitted on Wed, 24 Mar 2021 - 04:01 PMPrachatai

Chukiat ‘Justin’ Saengwong, a pro-democracy protester, was arrested at night on 22 March on a charge of royal defamation and taken into police custody awaiting a court decision on bail. The court then allow the police request for temporary detention.

Chukiat Saengwong (File photo)

At 13.01 of 23 March, he was waiting for a court decision on his bail application via a teleconference hearing, according to Bencha Saengchantra, the Move Forward Party MP requesting bail for Chukiat. Bencha also said the police were going to transfer Chukiat to court in the morning, but suddenly changed to a teleconference hearing.

At 17.12, the court denied bail, giving as reasons the seriousness of the charge, the heavy penalty, and the fact that the accused committed similar offences after previously being allowed bail, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR). The offence that resulted in his arrest was from his part in the 20 March protest at Sanam Luang, although the offending action has not yet been identified exactly.

Chukiat posted on Facebook at 20.15 on 22 March “The police are taking me to Chanasongkram Police Station. Arrest warrant [Section] 112”. But supporters who went to Chanasongkram Police Station could not find him until he appeared at Huai Kwang Police Station at 23.00.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), whose lawyer was able to meet Chukiat at 00.54 on 23 March, tweeted that the police tried to interrogate Chukiat with a lawyer that they assigned to him and confiscated his phone. Because he objected to this, the police had him handcuffed and detained.

Sgt Narongchai Intharakawi, a soldier who exposed corruption within his army unit for which he was expelled, gave a live interview on The Reporters Facebook page after meeting Chukiat in Huai Kwang Police Station and said that there was no violence during the arrest. However, Chukiat was stressed due to the long period of custody.

The police said that Chukiat would not be granted bail under police procedures. He would be transferred to hear the court decision without going through the state prosecutor.

Some people went to Huai Kwang Police station to show their support for Chukiat. Chinnawat Chankrachang from the New Generation Network of Nonthaburi protest group was also able to meet Chukiat in the investigation room. He said Chukiat gave him a message for the others to fight on and not to worry about him.

Chinnawat has been charged with 48 offences due to his past activities, 5 of them under Section 112 of the Criminal Code or the royal defamation law. Chinnawat criticized these prosecutions.

“Section 112 has made visible something which has never been seen in society. Our friends have denied every accusation. Actually, the court must presume that they are innocent because there has not been any judgement. So the court must allow bail.

“But it appears that the court does not allow even one of us bail. What good is this law? If we want the country to prosper, let’s abolish [Section] 112,” said Chinnawat.

Chinnawat underlined the 3 demands of the protestors: the resignation of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and his cronies from their political posts, constitutional amendments in line with the people's will and monarchy reform.

“We don’t want to overthrow the monarchy. We want the monarchy, but we want to put it right. We must get rid of the filth, all the fleas and lice that have just been living off the monarchy. This is what we insist on. We want the institution of monarchy to exist with dignity,” said Chinnawat.

Among those in the pro-democracy movement who have been calling for political and monarchy reform, the crop top has been used to lampoon news about King Rama X and the Queen. In January 2021, Parit Chiwarak and Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, wore crop tops at Siam Paragon shopping mall.

Later in January, both of them and Phawat Hiranphon, who was seen paying respect by bowing, giving a ‘wai’ (the Thai greeting), saying 'Long live the King', and presenting them with flowers, were charged with royal defamation.

Chukiat became well known for his speeches and public appearances in protests where he wore a crop top. The nickname ‘Justin’ comes from Justin Bieber, a famous singer who wears crop tops.

Beside the problem of detention pending trial, the hastiness of the legal process in lèse majesté cases has come under scrutiny.

On 17 March, Phromson Wirathammachari, a protester well-known for his speeches, went to hear a charge of lèse majesté at Thanyaburi Police Station but the police suddenly handed him over to the court, with a request to detain him.

According to TLHR, the court denied Phromson bail, citing the gravity of the charge, the severe penalty, and the likelihood that he would either flee or repeat the offence. The decision led to him being detained at Thanyaburi prison even though was seriously injured from a traffic accident,.

Sasinan Thamnithinan, a TLHR lawyer who went to the police station with Phromson, posted on Facebook an account of the police haste. The post stated that although Phromson came to the station with his injuries to prove that he had no intention to flee, the deputy superintendent (investigation), after the regular investigation stage, suddenly decided to take him to court before the court closed.

Sasinan doubted the police decision because for a detention request, the appointment at the station would be for the morning instead of the afternoon. The police also expressed uneasiness at her attempt to consult with Phromson over this sudden turn of events. The station superintendent gave them 2 minutes to consult in private.

Without being prepared, Sasinan wrote the bail request as fast as she could. However, the court denied bail, giving similar reasons to those in Chukiat’s case.

TLHR reported on 22 March that at least 76 people have been prosecuted under the royal defamation law in 66 cases. 27 cases were filed by ordinary citizens, 5 by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society and the rest by the police. 4 of the accused are under the age of 18.

NewsChukiat SaengwongJustin BieberCroptoppro-democracy protest 2021Chinnawat ChankrachangSection 112Article 112Lèse-majestéSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/03/92235
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Rubber vs Rubber

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-03-24 14:43
Submitted on Wed, 24 Mar 2021 - 02:43 PMStephff

MultimediaStephffRubber bulletpro-democracy protest 2021
Categories: Prachatai English

Children's right to protest must be protected, says Amnesty

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-03-23 16:51
Submitted on Tue, 23 Mar 2021 - 04:51 PMAmnesty International

Following the protest on Saturday (20 March), Amnesty International calls for the Thai authorities to drop all charges against children and others who participate in protests and for an investigation into the authorities' excessive use of force and ill treatment against protesters. 

A student in uniform at the protest site on Saturday

Responding to the recent arrest and charge of 7 children during the REDEM protest on 20 March 2021 where the crown control police deployed astonishing excessive and unreasonable use of force to arrest and harm children, journalists and other protesters, Amnesty International Thailand’s Director Piyanut Kotsan said:

“This demoralizing arrest and harm of children during protest is a clear sign that the Thai government does not respect the dignity of people, especially children, in the society. Children has the right to be heard as equal as other people in the society, and right to be protected by the society and its government. Instead of protecting children from harm, the law enforcement such as the Royal Thai police is acting as the perpetrator themselves.

“The arrest of children in the protest is intolerable and unlawful both under national and international standards. The ruthless approach of handling protesters will only create further disruption in the society.

“The ill-treatment of children during the detainment at the Regional 1 Border Police Bureau and the absence of thorough investigation of the arrest at the juvenile court are raising fundamental concern of the rights to fair trial and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).”

Background

On 20 March 2021, 32 protesters including 7 children have been arrested and charged from protesting at Sanam Luang Park and surrounded area.

Two of the seven have been charged with Article 112, Article 215-216 and Article 217 of the Penal Code for illegal assembly and set a fire at the public property, a violation of Emergency Decree, a violation of the Communicable Disease Act. Another two children are being charged with Article 215-216 and Article 138 of the Penal Code for illegal assembly, disobeyed the authorities’ order and attack the authorities on duty, a violation of the Emergency Decree, the Communicable Disease Act. The last group of three children are being charged with Traffic Act.

Since the protest in 2020, at least 24 children have been charged with heavy handed laws such as Article 112 (Lese Majeste Law), Article 116 (Sedition) from simply expressing their voice through the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Six of them have been charged with Article 112, where the youngest is 14 years old child. Since October 2020, the police have evidently increased its aggression towards children by operating a sweeping arrest at the protest where there is a lack of specific target, and physical force. In addition, the police also detained the arrested protesters at the Regional 1 Border Police Bureau where access to lawyers and family have been extremely difficult.

The investigation of the juvenile court has been uncommon and does not follow the guidelines on the best interest of the child, and the right for protection from harm. In addition, there has been no further investigation on the arrest with force from the court.

Amnesty international Thailand stands strongly under the guideline of the Committee on Child’s rights (CRC), and the General Comment 37 which emphasis the right of freedom of expression, and assembly and the right to be heard, especially those who participate in the protest. We continue our call for positive obligation of the law enforcement and the state to act and perform duties with a great awareness of children participating in protest.

  Amnesty International Thailand calls for drop of all charges of children and others who participating in protest and exercise their rights. It also calls for further and thorough investigation on the excessive use of force and ill treatment. The right to remedy and the best interest of the child should be factored as a fundamental guideline on judicial procedure.

Pick to PostAmnesty InternationalChildren's rightsfreedom of assemblystudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

The Alternative Ambassador: the Military Coup in Myanmar and the Fall of Thai Diplomacy

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-03-22 20:33
Submitted on Mon, 22 Mar 2021 - 08:33 PMYiamyut Sutthichaya, Sorawut Wongsaranon

Photo by Sorawut Wongsaranon

An interview with Russ Jalichandra, former Thai ambassador to Mozambique and Kazakhstan and owner of the Facebook page “The Alternative Ambassador” over the coup in Myanmar. How much can we expect ASEAN? What does the Thai government stance means?

Protesters preparing to clash with police before the crackdown on 28 February. (Source: Tachiliek News Agency)

Even as democratic countries all over the world denounced the coup by the Myanmar military, it took 4 days after the coup for Thailand to take a stance which is considered weak. There have been only the opinions of Don Pramudwinai, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, on safeguarding Thai citizens in Myanmar, and of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, which stuck to the line of the ASEAN Secretary-General and can be simply summarized as “we are worried”.

With doubts about this response, Prachatai has interviewed Russ Jalichandra, former Thai ambassador to Mozambique and Kazakhstan and owner of the Facebook page “ทูตนอกแถว - Alternative Ambassador”, who gained popularity from sharing information and opinions related to foreign affairs based on his first-hand experience in order to interpret the diplomatic code of current events.

His answers reveal the complexity that is the diplomatic game, where the deeper we dig, the more we see the Thailand’s diplomatic crisis of faith embedded in Thailand’s crisis of democracy.

The interview was originally published in Thai version on 4 February 2021 in Prachatai.

Prachatai: What things does the state have to take into account before taking a stance towards a coup in another country?

Russ: Frankly speaking, it depends on the interests of each country. Generally, the three main interests are political, security, and economic. But western countries have another set of interests combined with political interests, which we call political ideology. Political ideology is a national interest people often overlook.

Democratic values in western societies are still very much alive and are part of their political interests. When a coup has oc

curred, it is their duty, based on the democratic ideology that they regard as something that is right and good and something that the whole world should uphold, to act when power is seized from an elected civilian government.  That is the reason why they come out and take a stance like this.

In addition to politics, they may also have economic reasons, because western countries have invested a lot in Myanmar. If you stage a coup, the economy will certainly plummet. No countries that have staged a coup have improved. These countries stand to lose economically on their business investments. Hence, they have to express their concerns as a matter of course.

All that I have said does not mean that they love Myanmar and democracy that much. It is just that interests are connected in that way.

Now, looking back at our region, even ASEAN itself has not shown a uniform position. Let’s start with the current chair of ASEAN, Brunei, which has the resposibility on a rotation basis.

The statement of Brunei calls for transparent negotiation and consultation and recognition of the interests and fundamental freedoms of the Myanmar people. In other words, this is the collective stance of ASEAN with Brunei as the chair. However, Brunei could not issue such a statement by itself without other countries’ approval.

Why do we have such a problematic stance? Because we have a guilty conscience. We have our own scars. We cannot condemn others. But at the same time, we cannot praise them either. It is a question of security interests and political interests. But are our stance and interests aligned with the interests of the majority of the people? Or is this only in the interests of those in power? This is a matter for each person.

People coming out to show their resistance against the 2014 coup in Thailand.

After all, our government is the product of a coup. Even today, it is difficult to say that this government is truly from the people. While there was an election, the election rules were not fair in the first place.

Although the principle of non-interference is important in ASEAN, as I said, the ASEAN Charter says that each member state must adhere to democratic rules and human rights. So, you can still talk about them since the rules say so. When you do not respect the rules, as a member state, do you dare say anything?  If you don’t dare to speak, what does it show? It shows that your government is not a real democracy.

How much importance has Thailand attached to the policies within the ASEAN framework?

Since I have been in government service, ASEAN has always been known as a “cornerstone” of our foreign policy. In fact, Thailand played a very significant role in the foundation of ASEAN, speaking from the perspective that we were the driver that established ASEAN.

ASEAN was established on 8 August 1967, 54 years ago. But before that, there had been negotiations for many years. Finally, it was signed in Bangkok because we were the main advocate. Before us, the Philippines and Indonesia also tried to push for it, but failed. These attempts came in the time of Field Marshal Phibun’s government, but only succeeded during the era of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat with Thanat Khoman as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Until now, ASEAN policy has been our basic policy. It’s just that at the present time, since we had the coup, the Thai position in ASEAN has declined. We have been unable to push or initiate anything constructive. Simply put, ever since you had the coup, you have been an obstacle for ASEAN.

Previously, you were one of the founders and leaders. Recently, the others must have muttered under their breath that we are dragging them down, even a fellow dictatorship like Vietnam. But Vietnam has a different path of evolution. Though not totally accurate, the left-wing and right-wing dictatorships do differ. Left-wing dictatorships rise to power with genuine mass support. Even though they are communist, the majority of the people really support the communist party. They did not emerge with no base of support.

But if you are a far-right, fascist, people don’t support you. You simply steal power. It is a different thing. Saying that being a dictatorship can create growth has nothing to do with it. Dictatorships can also create disaster. Look at Laos for example, that has not grown, or look at Cuba that has collapsed. It has not only collapsed, it doesn’t have any freedom either. That’s even worse.

To conclude, ASEAN, from having Thailand pushing as a leader in its establishment and always playing a vital role in its affairs, now has Thailand as a burden. It really is a burden. Most recently, at the ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, why did the United States not come? They usually come every year. Clinton attended the APEC Summit, Obama visited Thailand during Yingluck’s government. Not only did Trump not join the ASEAN Summit, he did not even send the Secretary of State.

We are not in their vision. No matter big or small, this is because our government is a product of a coup. As a result, Thailand’s position in ASEAN has fallen, which has, in turn, pulled ASEAN down with it too. With Myanmar, now there are two such countries.

At the 35th ASEAN Leaders’ Summit hosted by Thailand in 2019, the US sent Robert C. O'Brien, United States National Security Advisor, as the country’s representative to participate in the summit, when normally the President attends.

Why has Thailand’s coup lowered its status in ASEAN?

We have something called ‘dialogues’. Our key dialogue partners include the western countries, the US, the EU, Japan, South Korea, all of whom are important countries that are democratic.

So when they are democracies, they have principles not to interact with illegitimate authoritarian countries, especially extreme right-wing dictatorships that have stubbornly seized government power from the people. For example, in the US, there is a specific law that says you cannot just shake hands with anyone. It is forbidden. Their congress will not approve. It is their standard.

The Prime Minister, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha hosts the 34th ASEAN Summit when Thailand assumed its chairmanship in 2018.

In the past, Myanmar used to be a burden. As we were trying to pull Myanmar into ASEAN, there were longstanding debates whether or not that was a good idea. However, there was this theory that if ASEAN did not accept Myanmar, China would, as it would leave Myanmar no other choice than to go in with China and we would stand to lose our influence over it. So, ASEAN took Myanmar in.

At that time, Myanmar had not had an election yet and still had a military government, which made other countries reluctant to attend ASEAN meetings. Myanmar was a burden and that was the price ASEAN had to pay.

What are the key ASEAN policies that are important for Thailand?

ASEAN is divided into two periods: the first 20 years after 1967 were all about building the foundation of ASEAN. You have to first understand what ASEAN was established for. ASEAN was really a political and security matter but disguised by the claim that it was socio-economic. The driving force was entirely politics and security.

We created it to counterbalance communist expansion because from the late 50s until the 80s, the Cold War period, we had to look for allies in the region in order to not be overly reliant on the US. We alone could not make our voice heard because each country was small. We either had to turn to China, or if not, the Soviet Union. We did not have an identity or options.

But if we expected ASEAN to help with the domestic problems of member states, we would be disappointed because the primary objectives of ASEAN since its establishment have always been external threats, not internal threats. It was set up to oppose communism and whatnot.

Even if later, there was the issue of economic cooperation, nobody was interested in anyone else. Indonesia was under Suharto’s dictatorship. The Philippines was Marcos. Singapore was under Lee Kuan Yew and not fully democratic either. Thailand was haunted by constant change. Nobody had any interest in anyone else. The problems were not internal but threats from outside the region. After Vietnam was brought in, there began to be more economic cooperation.

It is believed that the ASEAN that we created has had reasonable successes. The foundation of ASEAN was the main policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated by Thai diplomats, and it has achieved many things.

Apart from external threats, it has helped enhance stability in our region. Once there was stability, economic growth followed. That we became one of the ASEAN tigers was due to the fact that we were relatively stable, which attracted investment as a result. We can see that foreign affairs have an impact on security and economy, even though this was not generally seen.

Today, there is a new era of challenges, because we ourselves are the ones who do not respect the Charter. We cannot point a finger at others because we ourselves are the ones who are violating the Charter, which says we must respect democracy, respect human rights, and respect basic freedoms of the people.

When you are not a good member, you drag the organization down. If you have staged a coup, many developed countries or western dialogue partners are reluctant to associate with you because you go against their principles.

I think ASEAN, with over 50 years of success, is now facing new challenges  about how to move forward. If I were Indonesia, I would be quite sick and tired. Singapore would be, too. Singapore, for instance, has shown quite a strong stance because it has invested a lot. In that case, what are they going to do? The country is losing both politically and economically.

Why does the principle of non-interference exist in ASEAN? Have there been attempts to fix or weaken it?

As I said, the evolution of ASEAN came from outside, so in the beginning there were no mechanisms to address this (democracy and human rights). They were not the issues that the ASEAN founders at that time gave importance to because no one was democratic. No one mentioned it.

After several decades  this topic was finally discussed because we were expanding membership. We had Vietnam, we had Myanmar. We were thinking that, with more members, it would be increasingly difficult for us to use the principle of consensus where everyone has to approve everything. So, we were trying to look whether majority rule would be enough. I can’t remember but it hasn’t exactly succeeded.

At the moment, I think everyone feels it. However, has it matured enough yet that someone will take it up? Singapore is a small country.  It could be Indonesia because it’s a bit big. Even so, there are still real risks that it may break ASEAN apart. But even then, there is also the idea that if ASEAN remains dysfunctional like now, will major countries have to care about ASEAN? It is a challenge for ASEAN.

As it is, both Thailand and Myanmar are holding ASEAN back a great deal, which may push ASEAN to the point where it has to decide what to do with its own future. Does it want to be like this?  If it wants that, as long as there is no real return of power to the people, this can be a burden that prevents ASEAN from going anywhere.

As long as it stays like this, it will never be an organization that is truly accepted. It may be worse than a paper tiger, it may be a torn paper tiger. After all of its successes in creating stability in the region, generating growth, and carrying us through so far, in the end we ruin it ourselves. Thailand, as a founder, itself will destroy it.

In the past, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has acted as a front line of defense for the government, when the situation is undemocratic or there are human rights violations. In principle, can diplomats have a greater role in setting foreign policy?

Yes, if you dare. Do you dare? (laughs)

Can you give examples of daring acts?

Before, when we had excellent diplomats like Anand Panyarachun as permanent secretary, he went against the military. We were opening diplomatic relations with communist China, but at that time the military was close to the US, not with China like today.

We (the Ministry) were the ones who opened this up, but they (the military) were not pleased. But we believed that it was in the best interests of the country because we had to create a balance of power and not just follow the US. We had to be friendly with every country.

China is a big country and it also affected our security. Because don’t forget that friendship with China in the end also curtailed the movement of the Communist Party of Thailand in turn. And we also won the war. At the same time, China played an important part in making sure Vietnamese did not dare invade Thailand during the Vietnam War.  This is foreign policy that we created for security.

But at the time, the military did not know why we did what we did. They thought we were staying aloof to make friends with the communists. In the end, after another coup, they kicked Anand out of this permanent secretary’s chair to become ambassador to Germany. He resigned afterwards. It looked like he was punished by being demoted.

The question is if you dare to protect our interests like this, today would you dare do it? That’s all it is. Would you dare to tell the government, in your position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in your position as the window of the country that is in contact with other countries, can you say that the things the government is doing are really in the people’s interests?

Or do you dare tell the government in all honesty what other countries in the world think about Thailand? Or will you make up a nice story that other countries don’t really mind and they all admire us? This is your personal courage or honour. It depends on the person.

Are democracy and human rights really important for the image of Thailand? Thailand does not seem to take these matters seriously.

I think we don’t have to look far. Myanmar is the most obvious example. 20-30 years ago, Myanmar could not care less about the world and what the world would do. I’m not interested. I will be ignorant about this.

Myanmar went from a rich country with vast resources 60 years ago that was able to export the most rice in the world, even more than Thailand, to later being just a country that could produce rice only for domestic consumption.

It was their luck that they didn’t starve. From being the biggest exporter of rice in the world, they ran the country like that. They didn’t care. Whatever anyone thought, they didn’t care, until the entire country was wrecked. Eventually, they couldn’t stand it and had elections giving back power to the people. But they hand over power and less than 10 years later, they take it back again.

You can say you don’t care, and you can not care, but the country will never thrive. There is no way you can do things like this. You can violate human rights from morning to night and not care about the world, take no interest. But as long as you take no interest, the country will never thrive.

You are not China. Don’t come and say that China can do it. You have no vision. Your source of power is different from theirs. The context is different. You were in the wrong from the start. You are not the communist party. You do not come from a party that is based on real support from the masses.

You do not have an ideology. Communism is one kind of ideology, you know. But fascism is not. Fascism is a way of stealing power for your own benefit. So if you come and claim that you can be a dictator and prosper like China, you are immeasurably mistaken. You are mistaken since the very beginning.  You cannot make a claim like that.

This means that the pressure certainly had an effect, though we may not feel it at the moment.

Definitely. There is definitely an effect. It is like when South Africa was pressured by the international community and eventually allowed an election, when Nelson Mandela came in. They had been fighting for this for decades. But these things don’t come about in a day.

People will say, oh, the pressure has no effect.  It has an effect but sooner or later.  People say one year has gone by, two years have gone by, we don’t see anything. We are talking about decades here. But the longer it goes, the worse it just gets for the country.

Does international pressure exist? We can see from history, that one of the acheivements of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs was when Vietnam invaded Cambodia (1978). Invading Cambodia and taking over clearly violated international law. Vietnam said it went in to help Cambodia, the same old pretext.

We as ASEAN said that was not the case. It was a clear invasion of another country. As one of the ASEAN leaders, we were able to persuade the international community that what Vietnam did was wrong. Even though Vietnam was partly backed by Russia, most countries did not agree with it. What followed was pressure for a boycott of Vietnam.

But the problem was how to sustain the momentum. In the past, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quite good at that. We were able to lobby for a boycott of Vietnam every year, and the international community was on our side until we were able to get Vietnam to finally withdraw from Cambodia.

Then came the ‘Na Chat’ [Chatchai Choonhavan] period when turning battlefields into marketplaces was our vision. Vietnam was very pleased and it created stability.  At that time ASEAN was booming but now we are the bad boys.  We are a burden on ASEAN.

A boycott will be ineffective if the state can find another source of support, right?

Certainly. Back then, Vietnam had to depend on Russia. Suppose we were to be boycotted by the world, we would look to China. Suppose that was one possibility. But ask if China has ever given anyone anything for free, without wanting any compnesation? You have to pay.

They give nothing for free.  And where does the money that you pay to China come from? It comes from you, from me, from the people, from our country. You have leased land to China for 99 years. Is that selling the country or not? This is the price that you will have to pay, and the cost will be expensive because you have no bargaining power.

You cannot bargain with anyone because no one wants to be friends with you. If you are so shameless that you go to them, they are going to know that you are cornered. The more they know you have nowhere to go, the more they will try to squeeze you.

Like in business, if you could not sell to anyone and bring out your rice, China or anyone else that buys from you knows you have nowhere else to go. Will they give you a good price? Or will they fleece you?

InterviewRuss JalichandraThe Alternative AmbassadorMyanmar coupforeign affairMinistry of Foreign AffairsSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/02/91527
Categories: Prachatai English

Authorities should "take particular care" not to use force on journalists working in protests, says FCCT

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-03-22 18:03
Submitted on Mon, 22 Mar 2021 - 06:03 PMForeign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT)

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) issued a statement following the protest on Saturday (20 March), during which several journalists were shot with rubber bullets, calling for the authorities to review their crowd control procedures and to take care not to use force on working journalists. 

Protesters and journalists gathering in front of the container blockade at Saturday's protest

The statement reads: 

FCCT STATEMENT ON JOURNALISTS INJURED BY POLICE RUBBER BULLETS

The professional committee of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand is very concerned by the injuries inflicted by rubber bullets on several journalists covering the protests around Sanam Luang on Saturday night. The police used water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.

We fully support the points raised in a statement by six Thai media associations, and urge the Thai authorities to recognize that journalists covering the protests are doing their jobs, and should not be targeted.

The National Press Council, the Thai Journalists Association, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, the Online News Providers Association, the News Broadcast Council of Thailand and the National Union of Journalists Thailand, have raised these points:

1.People have the right, under a democratic system, to protest peacefully, without provocation, weapons or the use of force.

2.The police must take action, step by step, when dispersing protests, and must clearly inform the protesters and the media in advance about the steps to be taken, to avoid violence.

3.The media themselves should follow the set guidelines about working under crisis situations, to avoid physical injury, death or damage to their equipment or vehicles.

4.Media agencies should ensure the safety of their staff members and equip them with appropriate protective gear. Reporters covering protests should wear arm bands identifying themselves as members of the media, but also carefully assess risks.

The FCCT would like to draw attention to the United Nations guidelines on the use of non-lethal force, which stress that:

“The use of less-lethal weapons to disperse an assembly is an indiscriminate tactic, and should only be considered a last resort. Dispersal may be considered where violence is serious and widespread and represents an imminent threat to bodily integrity or property, and where law enforcement officials have exhausted all reasonable measures to facilitate the assembly and protect participants from harm.”

The guidelines also state that rubber bullets should only be aimed at the lower body area of individuals identified as posing a specific risk, and should never be aimed at the head. On Saturday night one journalist had to be hospitalised for a head scan after being struck in the head by a rubber bullet.

The FCCT urges the Thai authorities to review their crowd-control procedures, in view of the injuries suffered on Saturday night, and to take particular care not to use force on working journalists in a protest.

Pick to PostForeign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT)press freedomstate violence
Categories: Prachatai English

Regional MPs call for ASEAN to meet UN Special Envoy for Myanmar

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-03-22 17:10
Submitted on Mon, 22 Mar 2021 - 05:10 PMASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

On 22 March 2021, Lawmakers from Southeast Asia urged Brunei as the Chair of ASEAN to urgently organize a meeting of ASEAN leaders on Myanmar as suggested by the President of Indonesia and to extend an invitation to the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, to attend. 

A protester in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok. Source: the Move Forward Party

The meeting must be the occasion to coordinate a strong and decisive response to the increased violence and brutality of the Myanmar military, and ASEAN should consider sending a joint delegation with the UN Special Envoy to Myanmar to monitor the situation and help negotiate a democratic and human rights-based solution. 

“The Myanmar army is killing people everyday. Statements are welcome, but are useless against the military’s bullets,” said Charles Santiago, Malaysian Member of Parliament (MP) and Chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). “ASEAN and the UN must join forces to coordinate a strong and decisive response before the military becomes totally out of control. It’s time the courageous people of Myanmar feel that there is somebody out there to protect them.”

The international community has turned to ASEAN to rein in the Myanmar military, yet despite efforts by some of its member States, so far the regional grouping has been missing in action, and the Myanmar military has displayed total disregard for its calls for restraint. 

Together, the UN Special Envoy and ASEAN could be in a position to leverage the Myanmar military to immediately halt the violence and human rights atrocities. ASEAN must extend an invitation to the UN Special Envoy to come to the region at the earliest opportunity, and invite her to attend the ASEAN special meeting, APHR said. If ASEAN does not rise to the occasion it will not only fail the people of Myanmar but the entire community of nations. 

“The Tatmadaw is relying on its ‘friendly neighbor’ to beat back isolation from the global community of nations. However, it’s time for this neighbor to send a clear message that it will not tolerate a brutal regime that thinks itself as accountable to no one: not its people, not its neighbors,” said Kasit Piromya, former MP of Thailand and APHR Board Member. 

“Concrete steps that ASEAN must take to end the military-led anarchy include coordinating with the UN an immediate and decisive response and ceasing any invitations to its official meetings while violence continues,” Piromya added. 

Last week, the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Tom Andrews, reported growing evidence that the Myanmar military is likely engaging in crimes against humanity, including the acts of murder, enforced disappearance, persecution, torture, and imprisonment. The situation has deteriorated since then. The Myanmar army is trampling through Myanmar’s major cities, randomly shooting into people’s homes and on the streets, and detaining thousands in an absolute rampage, said APHR.

Pick to PostMyanmar coupASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)United Nations (UN)
Categories: Prachatai English

Protest turns bloody as police indiscriminately fire rubber bullets

Prachatai English - Sun, 2021-03-21 15:55
Submitted on Sun, 21 Mar 2021 - 03:55 PMPrachatai

On 20 March, protesters gathered at Sanam Luang demanding that the power of the monarchy be limited under the constitution. The police responded by setting up a long barrier of containers. The people faced retaliation after removing the blockade. Rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannon were deployed broadly and indiscriminately.

Crowd control police assembling at the front of Rattanakosin Hotel before engaging the protesters.

As of Sunday morning, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that 32 people were arrested. 30 people were taken to Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Pathum Thani for detention and investigation.

The Erawan Medical Centre reported on Sunday that 33 people were injured and transferred to hospital.

The protest was scheduled after a popular vote in the REDEM communication group. Protesters gathered at Sanam Luang at around 17.50 to face a long barrier of containers stacked two-high barring them from accessing the Grand Palace walls. The blockade was reportedly put in place at around 07.00 on Saturday.

A long containers blockade in front of the Royal Palace.

As more people arrived, some protesters were seen pulling down part of the wall of containers. At around 19.00 a path opened up after a row of containers was removed. Crowd control police behind the blockade began to warn the protesters not to cross the line otherwise they would be arrested.

At 19.02 water cannon opened fire from behind the blockade as the police were preparing arrest teams. 8 explosions were heard. The protesters retreated to Phan Phipop Lila Bridge before re-entering Sanam Luang, waving large white banners, only to face more water cannon fire. The water was reportedly infused with a tear gas agent.

Protesters unfolding a large white banners before entering Sanam Luang.

At around 19.30, the protesters were flanked by crowd control police who marched from Ratchadamnoen Road toward the protesters. The police on both sides then started forcibly dispersing protestors. Tear gas and rubber bullets were widely used at this stage as the protesters made a retreat to Phra Pinklao Bridge, the only major exit that remained open.

Doi, a 15-year-old young woman, was injured in the left chest by a rubber bullet. She said she was at the Mother Earth Statue across Sanam Luang when the police announced that they would arrest people who were lingering on the street. However, the police shot her after a couple seconds without allowing her to run.

Doi pointing at where she was shot.

Doi said she was terrified and hurt. She said her family is not against her coming to the protest. However, getting hurt is not what she wanted as she was afraid of missing a test because of her injury.

The standoff at Phra Pinklao Bridge went on for around 1 hour. Tear gas and explosions were observed several times. The media around Ratchadamnoen Road were restricted in a designated area by the police.

At 20.43, crowd control police opened a path to Atsadang Road, allowing protesters to leave. Police asked the media to lead the people out of the area. Afraid of an ambush by a pro-monarchy vigilante group, the protesters urged the police to lead them out to a safe place. 2 units of police were deployed to lead the protesters out.

At 21.45, a person was attacked by an unidentified group of men around Wat Mahannapharam with some sort of flag pole. He was injured in the head and taken to hospital.

At 21.53, the Coalition of Salaya for Democracy posted on Facebook that a person was shot with live ammunition by unknown men around the Giant Swing.

At 22.24, Prachatai journalist Sarayut Tangprasert was shot in the back by a rubber bullet while livestreaming the crackdown at Kok Wua intersection, leading to Khao San Road. He was wearing a media armband provided by the Thai Journalists Association (TJA).

Sarayut showing a bullet wound. He kept on reporting on Facebook live nevertheless.

During the night, journalists from Channel 8 and Khaosod were injured by rubber bullets, one to the head and one to the leg.

The police set up a line at Kok Wua intersection, moving back and forth to disperse protestors. People who were sitting in Khao San Road booed them before the police moved away from the famous tourist destination which is now less crowded due to the pandemic.

The crowd control police stacking up at Khaosan Road entrance.

Deputy Police Spokesperson Pol Col Kritsana Pattanacharoen said the police responded to the protest in accordance with legal provisions, noting that the protest was not allowed according to the restrictions of the Emergency Decree to control the spread of Covid-19. The police had warned the protesters not to trespass beyond the blockade. Protesters still came forward and some attacked the police with marbles or bolts fired by slingshots.

Pol Maj Kritsana Pattanacharoen

“In carrying out their duty this evening, police officers have used restraint, acting according to the steps of the law, acting strictly according to regulations in political science and legal principles,” said Kritsana.

At 21.15, the Medics and Nurses for the People volunteer group estimated that at least 30 people had been injured from tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon blasts and assaults.

At around 23.00 a clash broke out at Wan Chat Bridge, 400 meters from the Democracy Monument when protesters seized a police van and used it as a shield. The Tempo News reported men were caught throwing a home-made explosive at the police from the lines of media. Molotov cocktails were used but quickly put out. Police returned fire with tear gas and rubber bullets.

According to the Reporters Facebook live feed, crowd control police staged a crackdown at around 23.00, resulting in 9 arrests. 1 police officer and 1 other person were injured and taken away from the scene.

On 23.30, the Dao Din activist group gathered in front of Khon Kaen University Police Station to protest against the violence in Bangkok.

Calm before the storm

The Free YOUTH Movement, one of the protest organizers formed in 2020, published a statement demanding limits to the power of the monarchy, the demilitarization of politics and universal social welfare.

A protester with a placard stating "#Freeourfriends"

A protester skateboarding at the beginning of the protest.

Activities began peacefully. The protest on Saturday was meant to send messages via paper planes to address the issue of limiting the power of the monarchy under the constitution. People were seen flying kites, raising banners and spraying the ground with graffiti.

The artists' network Free Arts were also organising activities during the protest. Earlier in the evening, they were spray-painting pictures of activists currently imprisoned for charges relating to political activities, as well as messages such as “Free our friends” and “Abolish Section 112” onto kites, which can then be seen flying above Sanam Luang.

Kites with graffitis of Anon Nampa and Parit Chiwarak, 2 protest leading figures who are under the detention pending trials.

A representative of the group said that the idea behind the event is that several of the imprisoned activists are facing charges because of the protest at Sanam Luang on 19 – 20 September 2020, so the group decided to paint their pictures onto kites to show that they are thinking of those who are imprisoned.

The representative also said that one of the activities they think of when they return to Sanam Luang was flying kites, and that the event is also symbolic of how Sanam Luang used to be a public space where anyone can organize an event. 

Free Arts also planned to use the space for dancing, and said that there is also a plan for participants to read out Anon Nampa’s speech on monarchy reform. However, these activities did not take place as the protest was cut short due to police violence.

Eak, joining the protest wearing a T-shirt with a parody of the Naruto manga, changing the name to Narutu, a reference to the nickname (Tu) of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha. He said he wanted to express his anger at Thai politics.

Eak

“I am angry at the senators who rejected the draft constitution. I am angry that our friends were ordered to be detained by the court without a verdict. It is against international principles, against every theory, against everything.”

Eak wants the government to step down for the good of Thai children and the future.

Newspro-democracy protest 2021REDEMSarayut TangprasertMonarchy reformKritsana PattanacharoenSanam LuangWan Chat BridgeFree Arts
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Social medias blackout in Myanmar

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-03-19 10:16
Submitted on Fri, 19 Mar 2021 - 10:16 AMStephff

MultimediaMyanmarMyanmar coupMin Aung Hlaing
Categories: Prachatai English

Murdered indigenous rights activist remembered at Government House protest

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-03-17 23:19
Submitted on Wed, 17 Mar 2021 - 11:19 PMPrachatai

The Save Bang Kloi Coalition held a candlelight vigil last night (16 March), the 10th day of their protest at Government House, to call for justice for the indigenous Karen community at Bang Kloi, in remembrance of Lahu indigenous rights activist Chaiyaphum Pasae, who was killed at a checkpoint by military officers in 2017.  

Flowers were placed around a sign saying "#saveBangKloi" during the vigil. 

Thatchapong Kaedam, one of the members of the Save Bang Kloi Coalition, asked participants to stand in a circle and hold hands, before placing flowers and candles in the middle of the circle in memory of Chaiyaphum, who was killed on this day four years ago, as well as to remember the Bang Kloi community’s late spiritual leader Ko-i Meemi, and indigenous rights activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, who went missing in 2014.

“[Chaiyaphum] was probably just like us, who are trying to use art and culture to come out and take action for the rights of our ethnic brothers and sisters, especially about citizenship,” said Save Bang Kloi Coalition activist Pachara Khamchamnan during the vigil. “Chaiyaphum was one of our ethnic brothers and sisters who do not have citizenship, and was a victim of extrajudicial killing by war weapons in the hands of the military. Until this day, he has not received justice.”

Candles were placed on the road at the protest site during the vigil. 

Chaiyaphum was a Lahu activist who worked to promote indigenous rights in northern Thailand and was involved in numerous campaigns for indigenous peoples to gain citizenship and access to basic welfare. He also spoke out against abuses by state officials against his community during anti-drug operations.

He was also a filmmaker and songwriter, and had been awarded a prize at the 16th Thai Short Film and Video Festival for a short film called ‘Belt and Comb’ and several of his short documentaries were broadcasted on Thai PBS.

Chaiyaphum was shot and killed by military officers at Ban Rin Luang checkpoint in Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai, on 17 March 2017. He was 17 years old.

Chaiyaphum Pasae

The officers claimed that they found drugs in Chaiyaphum’s car and had to shoot him because he resisted the search and tried to throw a grenade at them. However, an eyewitness told Thai PBS that Chaiyaphum was dragged out of the car, beaten and shot. Forensic evidence found that Chaiyaphum died by a gunshot wound to the chest from an M16 assault rifle.

The Chiang Mai Provincial Court ruled after an inquest in June 2018 that he was killed by an army bullet, but did not rule whether his death was a result of extrajudicial killing or whether the officers’ action was lawful. The court also did not request the CCTV footage of the incident as evidence, despite a request from the family’s lawyer.  

In October 2020, the Civil Court in Bangkok dismissed a lawsuit filed by Chaiyaphum’s family in May 2019 for damages from the army, ruling that the officers shot Chaiyaphum in self-defence and out of necessity, and therefore the army is not liable to pay damages to his family.

The CCTV footage of the incident was never released and remains missing. Ratsada Manuratsada, the family’s lawyer, noted after the ruling that, despite this, the court gave weight to the examination report from the Police’s Office of Forensic Science, which stated that the CCTC cameras and hard disks were functioning, and that there was no deletion or addition of files in the recorder, but the court did not ask where the footage was.

NewsChaiyaphum PasaeExtrajudicial killingstate violenceLahuindigenous peopleIndigenous rightsHuman right defenderSave Bang Kloi Coalition
Categories: Prachatai English

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