Prachatai English

Southern Federation 1932 revolution commemoration disrupted by authorities

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-06-25 22:44
Submitted on Thu, 25 Jun 2020 - 10:44 PMThe Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT)

The Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT) online forum was disrupted by the authorities on 24 June. They called for a new constitution to replace the 2017 junta-led version.

A banner from SPFT commemoration the 1932 revolution

On 24th June, the Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT), a peasant movement based in Surat Thani/Krabi Province, southern Thailand, together with the People’s Movements for Democracy of Thailand, organized an online public forum to commemorate the 88th anniversary of the 24 June 1932 revolution, which saw the country transform from an Absolute Monarchy to become a Constitutional Monarchy. 

The public forum was organized in Khlongsai Pattana Community, Chaiburi District, Surat Thani Province from 9.30-11.00am. The event, which was live-streamed on Facebook, discussed the situation of the peasants under the current regime, the problems of access to land and resources, and the dangers faced by women and men Human Rights Defenders. The group also proposed that to achieve democracy, the current constitution needs to be amended. The SPFT statement was also read out. 

Officers who came to check the online forum venue.

Before the forum ended, at around 11.36 am, two members of the authorities, who came with a car with license plate ขจ.1703, from the Chaiburi District Office, came and inquired about the activities and SPFT. The officers, who identified themselves as being from the Volunteer Defense Corps, claimed that the District Chief Sukit Meepring asked them to check on the group’s activities and report back to the District Office. After about 10 minutes of inquiry, they left the community. 

On June 25 morning, the District Chief Sukit Meepring and four other official staffs have visited in Khlongsai Pattana Community, a member of SPFT. District Chief Sukit Meepring stated that it was a regular visit to the community. This is a first time that he pays a visit to SPFT community. 

Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand (SPFT) Statement 

In Commemoration of 88th Anniversary of 24 June 1932 Revolution From Absolute Monarchy to Democracy 

. “At this place, at the dawn of 24 June 1932, the KhanaRatsadon ("Peoples' Party") created the Constitution that would uphold the nation’s prosperity” 

From that day until this day, it has been 88 years since the plaque of Democracy was marked, creating the new form of society which replaced the old regime of absolute monarchy. 

In that revolution, the People’s Party had put forward 6 pillars, namely, Independence, Security, Economy, Equal Rights, Freedom, and Education in that first People’s Party Declaration. The People’s Party aimed for the people to have democracy and better lives. 

In the past 88 years, the 6 pillars, as announced by the then People’s Party, have not truly been achieved. The elite class has tried to obstruct changes towards Democracy through coups and mutiny, which happened 13 times since the 1932 revolution. 

For example, the principles by the People’s Party on security aim to uphold Rights, Freedoms and Safety of the people’s lives and assets. But the fact is that we see in all generations that Movement leaders and those who struggle for Democracy continue to lose lives until now, including through enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. This included Mr. Tiang Sirikant, Mr. Chamlong Daoraung, Mr. Tawil Udol, Mr. Intra Phuriphat, and at least 35 leaders of the Peasant Federation of Thailand, who were killed by those working for the Dictators from 1973 to 1979. 

At present, there are many leaders struggling for Land Rights and Democracy, and enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings still continue. Those more recent examples include 4 members of the SPFT( two HRDs and two WHRDs ), Mr. Den Khamlae, Mr. Billy Pholajee Rakjongjaroen, Mr. Wuttipong Kotthammakhun, Mr. Surachai Darnwattananusorn, Mr. Chatchan Boophawan, Mr. Kraidet Luelert, Mr. Choocheep Cheewasut, Mr. Kritsana Thapthai, Mr. Siam Theerawut, and most recently, Mr. Wanchaloem Satsaksit. Since the Revolution of 1932, many of those who came out and fought for Democracy have been brutally killed and/or suffered enforced disappearances. 

During the times of Dictatorship, there has been much suppression of people who demand Democracy, including those involved in the People’s Revolution of 14 October 1973, the student massacre of 6 October 1976, the May 1992 uprising, and the Red Shirt crackdown in 2010, which resulted in hundreds being killed and thousands more injured and/or disabled. 

At present, the people are governed by the military regime, which derived its power from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). People are deprived of their Rights and Freedoms 

through repressive laws and policies, including policies that limit the Rights to Access Land and Resources for the peasants. The Constitution, pushed for by the NCPO which was drafted without people’s participation, and the over 600 repressive Laws and Bills enacted by the NCPO, continue to violate people’s Rights and Freedom. 

This obstructs democracy for the past 88 years, and also do exploit economic benefits from the nation’s resources and wealth. This has caused a loss of economic opportunities and development for the country that would have benefited the majority of people. 

Obstruction and resistance to Democracy is the path paved by the dictatorship, so that the ruling class can continue to exploit the people, and suppress the people’s Rights and Freedoms. It merely aim to change slaves serving masters, to now become slaves of the Capitalist and ruling class. They never allow people to truly exercise their Freedoms and Liberties to live their lives. 

On the 88th anniversary of 24 June 1932 revolution, we would like to invite those who cherish Democracy to come together to push for a New Constitution to replace the NCPO Constitution of 2017, and demand that the government return power to the people. The people then can have the opportunity to push forward to achieve complete democracy as declared by the then People’s Party. 

Down with Dictatorship, Long Live Democracy! 

Declared on 24 June 2020 

Pick to PostSouthern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT)Siamese Revolution on 24 June 1932
Categories: Prachatai English

Student Union stages rally to commemorate 1932 revolution

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-06-25 16:40
Submitted on Thu, 25 Jun 2020 - 04:40 PMPrachatai

The Student Union of Thailand (SUT) staged a rally yesterday evening (24 June) on the occasion of the 88th anniversary of the 1932 Siamese Revolution with a reenactment of the declaration of the 1st People’s Party announcement, which was read at dawn on this day in 1932 to mark the end of the absolute monarchy in the country now known as Thailand.

Uniformed police officers setting up railings in front of MBK Center before the start of the rally. 

The rally was held at 18.00 on the Pathumwan Skywalk, in front of MBK Centre. Uniformed police officers were on the scene before the rally started, and made an announcement through a loudspeaker at around 17.30 that the Emergency Decree is still in effect and that everyone must keep a distance from each other. The police also ordered reporters who were waiting to report on the rally to stay in a designated area and apart from the protestors, because “the demonstrators might violate the law, and if you are mixed in with them, we might not be able to tell who is who.”

A police officer making an announcement ordering reporters to stay behind the railings and separate from the protestors.

The police also told former MP Dr Tossapon Serirak, who was attending the rally, that participants must keep a social distance from each other, and that any action that is a Covid-19 infection risk is a violation of the Emergency Decree. Dr Tossapon asked the police officer making the announcement repeatedly what they can and cannot do, but the officer did not directly answer his questions other than telling him that an assembly is not allowed under the Emergency Decree.

Dr Tossapon Serirak (blue shirt) speaking to a police officer about the limits of the Emergency Decree on assemblies.

Representatives from the SUT, including SUT spokesperson Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and activist Parit Chiwarak, arrived close to 18.00, with a vinyl backdrop and models of the still-missing People’s Party plaque and the symbol of the constitution. They then read out the 1st People’s Party announcement, a declaration which was made at dawn on 24 June 1932, marking the end of the absolute monarchy in Siam and the regime change to democracy.

Before the reading, they also played through a speaker the Thai version of the Italian anti-fascist song “Bella Ciao,” with lyrics by the dissident band Faiyen.

Representatives of the SUT in front of their vinyl backdrop

Parit Chiwarak (right), Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul (centre), and another SUT member after the reading

The models of the People's Party Plaque and the constitution symbol the SUT brought to the rally

Members of the organizing team carrying the constitution symbol model after the rally

After the conclusion of the demonstration, Parit went live on his Facebook page while in a car with the rest of the group and said that they were being followed by plainclothes officers driving several cars and motorcycles. He posted on his Facebook an hour after the live video that they were now safe.

The SUT’s demonstration was one of the over fifteen demonstrations and other events which were held across the country to mark the 88th anniversary of the revolution on 24 June. 

NewsStudent Union of Thailand1932 revolutionPeople's PartyParit ChiwarakPanusaya Sithijirawattanakulstudent movementstudent activistfreedom of assemblyTossapon Serirak
Categories: Prachatai English

Journalism expert calls for structural change in framing reports of protests

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-06-25 16:34
Submitted on Thu, 25 Jun 2020 - 04:34 PMPattanun Arunpreechawat

A Chulalongkorn University (CU) journalism expert says the way the Thai media covers protests without enough context influences people’s perception. She encourages journalists to conduct more investigative reports rather than event-based news focused on violence and confrontation. 

Artwork by Kittiya On-in

Since the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have gained worldwide attention, most Thai mainstream media have reported on the protests by emphasizing the episodic recounting of events and their consequences rather than providing context and analysis. 

Confrontation and violence became the focus of attention in Thailand as the media tried to attract audiences with their reporting. The formula is to depict the negative outcome resulting from the protests. Take these headlines for example:

Thais Caught in U.S. Unrest over Police Brutality

Robbing, burning, destruction, anti-racism protest becomes riot

This depiction of protests seems to have become normalized in the Thai media, be it the BLM or any other protest. Apart from the short-sighted benefit of attracting eyeballs, there may be something else.

Prachatai English interviewed Dr Phansasiri Kularb, a lecturer at the Faculty of Communication Arts, CU, and an expert on the role of journalism amid political conflicts, and asked her to address the phenomenon and its impact on the public.

Perceived Reality

Phansasiri mentioned that the media tend to portray protests as violent by selecting certain aspects of the event to draw the audience’s attention. Such portrayals can delegitimize the movement as the public overlooks the reason why the protests occurred in the first place.

A clear example is in the recent BLM movement in the United States. News reports focussing on vandalism, looting, and destruction overwhelmed the mass media. Despite conveying some truth, such coverage may not reflect the whole protest and demonises the protesters. This could weaken the political implications of the movement.

Phansasiri recalled that these portrayals might not reflect the whole movement. During the protest, there might be opportunistic thieves or even anarchists who are mainly violent and commit crimes. There are many protesters who tried to prevent such looting and destruction of property but these kinds of stories are often underreported. Phansasiri referred to ‘Reading the Riots’, an investigative report by the Guardian explaining that it is also possible that the small faction of the protest might loot impulsively because they saw it as a sense of empowerment. They might have done it to lash out against capitalism, a system that suppresses the working class especially people of colour, Phansasiri mentioned. 

In other cases, Phansasiri said some protesters might feel that vandalism or looting is a way to secure public visibility and recognition, which could be a way to express their grievances.

“The protesters who have committed crimes should be prosecuted according to the law but they shouldn’t be stigmatized for doing so. We should try to understand and have empathy towards them.” Phansasiri commented. 

Phansasiri stated that the language used in news reports also creates different perceptions. A word ‘riot’, for example, gives the sense of violent disturbance of public peace. Therefore, it must be dealt with and put down by the state authority. Conversely, the terms ‘protest’ and ‘demonstration’ connote a more neutral meaning and imply more legitimate political actors. 

Another clearer example is the Thai Red Shirts’ protest in May 2010. The discourse “เผาบ้านเผาเมือง” (burning down the homeland) has become a representation of this protest. Such discourse disparages the protesters and largely undermines their role as vital actors on the political stage. 

Phansasiri shared her experience that during the protest in May 2010, the Thai mass media mostly used the burning of Central World as the news frame but the UK media used the picture of the military crackdown. Phansasiri said the repeated portrayals of the burning Central World in Thai media might have misled the audience in believing that the red-shirt supporters were accountable when in fact those accused were found not guilty. The military crackdown, however, resulted in certain deaths and injuries.

One-sided views of events overlook the fact that the media is barely holding the authorities accountable. The question of whether policing is an important factor in escalating violence or causing riots is still left unanswered.  

In some contexts, the media deliberately depend on state officials for gathering information as such sources are considered more easily accessible and reliable. The CU lecturer suggests that the media can do better by gathering information from different groups.

“It’s unacceptable to partially report the events and push all the burden to the audience and let them think for themselves. Journalists must keep the question in mind whether they’re equipped to fully inform the readers” Phansasiri said.

Business and culture change needed

Phansasiri suggests changes from the current news production culture and business profit model that encourage prompt, event-based news in favour of a more comprehensive, informative and impartial form of journalism.

“If we want to minimize the superficiality of the news report, the news industry should change the model of gaining income, in which they could earn more money from doing investigative reports for impartially well-informed reports,” Phansasiri said.

The media also needs to challenge the assumptions made during the protests not only that the confrontations between police and protesters are highlighted, as Phansasiri said, but that the state authorities or other stakeholders who are being challenged are barely called into question.

“The narrative of the majority of the protesters who protest non-violently or tried to prevent people from breaking into the stores is often lost in the mass media,” Phansasiri said. “When these protesters are exploited and suppressed, no one really cared or tried to understand their grievances because these messages were also lost.”

FeatureBlack Lives Matter (BLM)journalisminvestigative reportPhansasiri Kularb
Categories: Prachatai English

Civil society calls for changing Thai National Day back to 24 June

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-06-24 22:31
Submitted on Wed, 24 Jun 2020 - 10:31 PMChatchai Mongkol and Pattanun Arunpreechawat

Representatives from the People's Party for Freedom (PPF), the 24 June Democracy Movement and the Greater Rangsit Area Labour Union Group submitted a petition to the House of Representatives demanding that the government declare 24 June as Thai National Day and reserve 23-25 June for celebrations as previously designated by the People’s Party.

The right board sign says "24 June, the day of the nation. This country belongs to people"

On 24 June, the Greater Rangsit Area Labour Union Group representative Sriprai Nonsi and the People’s Party for Freedom representative Patchanee Kamnak submitted a petition to change the National Day back to 24 June to Dr Sukit Atthopakorn, advisor to the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The submission took place at the same place and time as the 1932 Siamese Revolution commemoration event at the National Parliament held by the Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution (CCPC) in which separate demands called for a more democratic constitution.

24 June 1932 was the day of the Siamese Revolution that transformed Thailand from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. Sriprai said there were three branches of government introduced, which led to many improvements to the nation in terms of local government, education, freedoms, rights  the economy and city planning.

The groups believe 24 June is a meaningful day for Thais as it was declared the Thai National Day on 18 July 1938 by Phraya Phahonphonphayuhasena. 23-25 June were also designated for the National Day celebrations beginning in 1939.

The statement stated that the Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha had diminished the significance of 24 June by removing the legacies of the People’s Party, which highlight the power that belongs to the people, such as the removal of the 1932 Revolution memorial plaque and the Constitution Defence Monument.

It stated that these actions symbolised the betrayal of the resolutions of the People’s Party and the destruction of the foundations of democracy.

“To express the value of democracy and the pride of the people in the nation,” the petition said, “even though at present Thailand has not become a true democratic nation as there have been 20 coups in the past 88 years.”

On 21 May 1960, the National Day was moved to 5 December to coincide with the late King Bhumibol’s birthday. The move was imposed under the military dictatorship of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat.

The Thai monarchy, constitutionally supposed to be a figurehead after the 1932 revolution, has gained increased political visibility since the 1947 coup dominated by the conservatives and royalists. The coup also marked the end of the People’s Party’s political influence. 

The coup, occurring in the global context of the Cold War, was followed by the restoration of the royal institution’s power by the revival of many royal traditions. In 1960, Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat made Thai National Day the birthday of former King Rama IX which was later celebrated as Thai Father’s Day in 1980. In 1976, the Queen Sirikit’s birthday was made Thai Mother’s Day.

NewsSiamese Revolution on 24 June 1932People's Party for Freedom (PPF)24 June Democracy MovementGreater Rangsit Area Labour Union GroupField Marshal Sarit Thanarat
Categories: Prachatai English

Commemoration of the 1932 Revolution calls for more democratic constitution

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-06-24 17:36
Submitted on Wed, 24 Jun 2020 - 05:36 PMChatchai Mongkol and Pattanun Arunpreechawat

The public joined the Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution (CCPC) on Wednesday 24 June in remembering the 1932 People’s Party’s declaration and demanding amendments to the 2017 constitution. Meanwhile, other commemorations faced difficulties from the authorities.

The participants with a photo of the disappeared People's Party plaque.

On 24 June, the 88th anniversary of the 1932 Siamese revolution, which transformed Thailand from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy, the CCPC held a demonstration in front of Parliament House at 10:30.

The event included speeches from the CCPC, a petition to parliament’s constitutional committee demanding constitutional reforms and the singing of the original 1932 Thai National Anthem.

Over 100 people, including Members of Parliament (MPs), members of the press, students, and elderly people, joined the assembly in the presence of uniformed and undercover police.

One of the organizers, dressed in the uniform of a soldier from 1932, read out the 1st People's Party Declaration, which was read at dawn on this day in 1932 and marked the regime change from an absolute monarchy to democracy.

Representatives of the CCPC, People's Party for Freedom, the 24 June Democracy Movement and the Labour Unions of the Greater Rangsit Area pointed out that the government has failed to fulfil its own policies and urged the government to listen to the people’s wishes and demands. They emphasized that “the people own the country, not any particular group of powerful people.”

Along with the CCPC event, six counter-protesters also gathered in front of the parliament demanding the people to return their power back to the king to let him provide the "Thai-styled constitutional democracy" that goes along with Buddhist values.

The CCPC’s petition to the House Committee studying constitutional amendments details four changes to the 2017 constitution, which they said was not written to truly serve the people.

  1. Amendments or a new draft constitution must be based on democracy where the supreme power belongs to the people in both process and content.
  2. The House of Representatives must initiate and propose hearings under the Public Hearing Act on amendments to the constitution within this session in order to have a referendum on the constitutional amendments later this year.
  3. The new constitution must provide mechanisms such as a Constituent Assembly and must amend Section 256 of the 2017 Constitution to allow amendments to be passed with the approval of not less than half of MPs.
  4. The new constitution must advocate the freedoms and rights of the people. The power used in political institutions must be from the people. The Prime Minister must come from the House of Representatives who were elected by the people. Senators must be elected. Coups must not be pardoned.

Then, people sang the original (1932) version of Thai National Anthem together and chanted “Dictatorship shall fall, democracy shall flourish, the constitution must come from the people,”  before everyone left.

The CCPC submitted the petition demanding an amendment to the 2017 Constitution once back on March 13.

Purinat Payanon, one of the participants, said that it takes courage to bring about change in the country where hope is scattered and the struggle needs to keep going.

“Since that day until today, there has been a determination to put power in the hands of the people. There is a power struggle where power relations are still contested. I think we still need to keep fighting until our goal is achieved — that the power belongs to the people.”, said Purinat.

This event was one of over 15 events scheduled for 24 June.

At 05:40 at the Democracy Monument, Bangkok, about 50 people gathered to commemorate the 88th year of the 1932 Siamese Revolution.

The participants projected a short hologram video mimicking the declaration of the People's Party first declaration that marks the regime change from absolute monarchy to democracy which happened in the dawn of this day in 1932.

At 05:50 at the Free Democracy Bridge, Ubon Ratchathani province, people also gathered to commemorate the 1932 Siamese Revolution.

Photo courteasy from Tee Anmai

Meanwhile, the people who wanted to gather for commemorations in Yasothorn and Surin province faced pressure from the authorities that they have to minimize the event and cancel them respectively.

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

The sign stated "Sorry for an inconvenience, disaster prevention and relief drill is underway".

At 04:30, a cloth banner with the message "Inheriting the People's Party legacy, defeating the dictator" appeared at the overpass in front of the Khon Kaen University.

Round Up1932 Siamese revolutionCommittee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution (CCPC)2017 Constitution
Categories: Prachatai English

Missing activist’s family petitions Thai authorities to launch an investigation

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-06-24 11:27
Submitted on Wed, 24 Jun 2020 - 11:27 AMPrachatai

The family of missing activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit has filed a complaint with the Thai Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Justice’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department, and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), calling for an investigation into his disappearance, while also preparing to file a complaint with the Cambodian police.

Sitanun Satsaksit (third from left), Wanchalearm's sister, submitting the complaint to Yongyuth Srisatyachon, Senior Expert Public Prosecutor from the Executive Director's Office of International Affairs 3, Office of the Attorney General (first from right).

Sitanun is joined by Pranee Danwattanusorn (first from left), whose husband Surchai went missing while in exile in Laos, and Kanya Theerawut (second from left), mother of Siam Theerawut, another missing activist.

Sitanun Satsaksit, Wanchalearm’s older sister, went with representatives from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) on 23 June to the Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Justice’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department, and the NHRC, to file a complaint calling for an investigation into her brother’s disappearance.

A TLHR lawyer said that the family is filing a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General, calling for the authorities to launch an investigation in order to find and prosecute the three people who abducted Wanchalearm.

On the same day, the family also filed a petition with the Rights and Liberties Protection Department and the NHRC, calling for the Thai authorities to find out the following information:

  1. whether Wanchalearm has been arrested in Cambodia and why, and if this is the case, whether he is in custody in Cambodia and where;
  2. whether the Thai authorities were notified of Wanchalearm’s arrest by the Cambodian authorities;
  3. whether the Thai authorities requested the Cambodian authorities to send Wanchalearm back to Thailand to be prosecuted, and whether the Cambodian authorities did so.

They also call for the Thai authorities to investigate Wanchalearm’s possible torture and enforced disappearance, and that if the authorities have information on Wanchalearm’s fate or whereabouts, to disclose this information to the family and to allow the family to see him.

Sitanun also told Matichon Online that the Cambodian police said they cannot investigate the case because Wanchalearm’s relatives has not filed a complaint about his disappearance. She said that the family is in the process of finding a local lawyer in Cambodia to represent them, but they are unable to find one due to the high cost and because some lawyers have withdrawn from the case as they did not want to take the risk.

Wanchalearm was abducted from in front of his condominium in Phnom Penh on 4 June 2020 by three unknown people. He has been missing for 20 days. The Protection of Thai Nationals Abroad Division, Department of Consular Affairs, has also informed Sitanun that the Cambodian authorities have no information on Wanchalearm’s disappearance other than what has been reported by the media and that the case is currently being investigated.

NewsWanchalearm Satsaksitabductionenforced disappearanceOffice of the Attorney GeneralRights and Liberties Protection DepartmentNational Human Rights Commission (NHRC)Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Sitanun Satsaksit
Categories: Prachatai English

Public hearing on huge changes proposed for military service

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-06-23 18:03
Submitted on Tue, 23 Jun 2020 - 06:03 PMPrachatai

The Thai parliament has opened an online public hearing on a new Military Service Act which abolishes conscription, standardizes welfare and training and penalizes officers who exploit subordinates.

A photo of the military drafting process

Since 1 June, the Thai parliament website has hosted an online public hearing on the Military Service Bill. The draft was submitted by Rangsiman Rome, MP for the Move Forward Party which has been campaigning for military reform and the abolition of conscription abolishment since it was the Future Forward Party. Out of 31 amendments, 7 important points are open in the public hearing. 

From Duty to Right

The draft changes the status of military service from a duty into a right, making it voluntary instead of obligatory. 

As of now, all Thai men of 21 years old are required to serve as soldiers. They can postpone conscription if they are still studying.

Eligibility: from age to education

As recruitment will become voluntary, the criteria for eligibility will change from the age of 21 to at least a 12th grade education. Recruits will be selected by testing rather than the current drawing of lots. The Ministry of Defence is responsible for setting qualification procedures.

The term of service for those who are qualified is 5 years which can be renewed. After the first 5 years, recruits will be allowed to compete for promotion to commissioned and non-commissioned officers. Soldiers will retire at the age of 46.

The current military draft is for a 2-year term for draftees who draw a red card. This is reduced to 1 year for volunteers. Both periods are reduced by half if the recruit has a bachelor degree.

Standardized training, organized welfare, penalties for having personal servants

The training will follow one standard. Democracy, human rights, international military custom and international law must be included in the curriculum. The Ministry of Defence is responsible for the safety, welfare, human rights and dignity of trainees.

Soldiers will be provided with a monthly salary, welfare, scholarships, life insurance, health insurance that also covers families and other benefits as allowed by the Defence Ministry. There will also be an employment allowance for those who finish their term. Those who resign before finishing their term will not receive any benefit.

The bill includes punishments for officers who use privates for their personal benefit such as servants. Those found guilty will be recognized as seriously violating the disciplinary code.

As of now, there are many complaints from time to time about the harassment in the drills. Exploitation from the superiors are presented in news as many conscripts were taken to become personal servant at superiors' domain.

Military conscripts face rampant harassment, beatings and sexual abuse

Half of military conscripts end up as servants: former MP

More flexible recruitment

As of now, Thai men at age 17 register their name and address with a provincial military office where they will have to return to be drafted. The bill allows recruitment in accordance with the house registration address, which is more convenient for  those who have changed their address after relocating for work or study.

Conscription if war is imminent

The bill allows the Cabinet to pass a Conscription Decree if it perceives that war is imminent . Conscription will be for up to 1 year.

Veterans form reserves

Soldiers who finish their term will be transferred to the reserves. There are 3 levels of reserves depending on age (less than 30, 30-40 and 40-46 years old). Reserves, like soldiers, will retire at the age of 46.

NewsMilitary Service Actconscriptionmilitary draftThailandmilitary reformSource: prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/88196
Categories: Prachatai English

Bail allowed for ex-sergeant who exposed military corruption

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-06-23 17:34
Submitted on Tue, 23 Jun 2020 - 05:34 PMPrachatai

A military court has granted 50,000 baht bail for a former army sergeant who publicly exposed corruption within his division and suffered retaliation.

(Left) Narongchai during his trial procedure on 23 June.

On 22 June, a military court granted 50,000 baht bail for Sgt.Narongchai Intharakavi, formerly assigned to the Army Ordnance Materiel Rebuild Centre, who exposed corruption in the Centre.

Narongchai is now charged with absence without leave after he deserted his post for 15 days in March. On the morning of 22 June, he went to the Ordnance Centre in Pathum Thani Province to hear the charge. He was then taken to the military prison in Nakhon Pathom Province for pre-trial detention.

Once in prison, an appeal for bail was made to the military court in Bangkok. The court initially approved his detention, for the reason that the result of his criminal fingerprint registration was still pending. The court later allowed bail after Narongchai’s lawyer argued that the fingerprint process had been completed and there is no reason to think he would try to flee.

Later the same day, Narongchai was released. He expressed his gratitude to the people who supported him in terms of finance and goodwill.

“I must thank you very much for supporting me. If no one supported me, I would not have the money for bail, and I would not have the money to make a living and fight the case today and in future days where I do not know when the end will be.”

Military reform needed as sergeant faces retaliation for exposing corruption

Narongchai was fired from his post around a week before the trial started. The order overrules Narongchai’s March appeal to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for protection.

This has been a long, costly struggle.

  • On 5 Sep 2019 Narongchai filed a petition with the Ombudsman about corruption.
  • In Sep 2019 Narongchai came into conflict with his superior over the petition, according to Narongchai and the Army.
  • In Oct 2019 the division set up a committee to investigate. Narongchai was found guilty for violating the military code and sentenced to serve a prison term from 18 to 24 March.
  • On 24 Feb 2020 Narongchai filed an appeal with the Royal Thai Army (RTA) via Maj Gen Burin Thongprapai, Director of the Army's Judge Advocate General's Office and Col Winthai Suwaree, an Army spokesperson.
  • On 25 Feb 2020 a committee was established to investigate the document leak, not the corruption.
  • On 12 Mar 2020 Narongchai appealed against the corruption and his prison sentence through a direct complaints channel set up by RTA commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong.
  • On 13 Mar 2020 Narongchai asked his superior for forgiveness. He withdrew his appeal through the RTA direct complaints channel as he thought it would end the problem. However, his punishment remained as a result from the investigation committee decision. The event was recorded on video by other soldiers in the room.
  • On 16 Mar 2020 Narongchai contacted the Ombudsman to withdraw his appeal but later decided not to.
  • On 17 Mar 2020 Narongchai went back to work and found his prison sentence still stood. He then filed a petition with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) asking for protection. This attempt was unsuccessful as of 11 June 2020.
  • On 18 Mar 2020 Narongchai fled from his post.
  • On 19 Mar 2020 Narongchai appealed again via the RTA direct complaints channel over his prison sentence. Another appeal was filed on 14 April.
  • On 24 Apr Narongchai submitted evidence to Veera Somkwamkid, Secretary-General of the People’s Anti-Corruption Network, a watchdog NGO.
  • On 27 Apr Narongchai and Veera submitted an appeal to the House Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights with evidence of the alleged corruption comprising fake travel permission and project approval documents with self-written invoices.
  • On 27 May the House Committee summoned the Army Commander to address Narongchai’s appeal. The Commander sent Lt Gen Sornchai Kanjanasoot, head of the Royal Thai Army Ordnance Department in his stead. The Committee later announced that Lt Gen Sornchai could not address nor answer questions on the issue.
  • On 28 May a video clip taken on 13 May 2019 was leaked on the internet. In the video, the superior says that even though he had forgiven Narongchai and given him another chance, if he kept on doing this, his military career would go nowhere. Narongchai claimed that there were words which he considered as a threat which are not shown in the video clip.
  • On 30 May It was widely reported that the RTA Commander had established a investigation committee in the Narongchai case and found that the allegations of corruption are well-grounded. The case would be submitted to the NACC after the RTA Commander approved. The committee did not find the allegations of threats and harassment grounded. Narongchai would be put on trial for deserting his post. 
NewsNarongchai Intharakavimilitary reformcorruptionSource: prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/88271
Categories: Prachatai English

Missing royal dog found after extensive police search

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-06-23 13:33
Submitted on Tue, 23 Jun 2020 - 01:33 PMPrachatai

After five hours of an extensive police search —including teams of patrol officers, investigation officers and vehicle theft prevention and suppression officers  — a missing royal dog was found at the viewpoint at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

Police officers play with Khun Hom Nuan after she is found on Doi Suthep on June 21, 2020. (Source: Khaosod English)

Khun Hom Nuan, a dog belonging Princess Siribhachudabhorn, reportedly went missing at 00:32 on 21 June from a dog training centre at an air force base in Chiang Mai. Khun Hom Nuan was found at 19:00 the same day at the viewpoint at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

Bhuping Police reported that they started the search on 21 June at 14:00, immediately after the princess posted about her missing dog on Facebook at 13:57. The search included examining CCTV footage and showing local people Khun Hom Nuan’s photo and asking if they had seen it.

At 22:43, the Princess posted on Facebook a video thanking everyone for helping her find Khun Hom Nuan. She specifically mentioned 60 organizations and individuals in the post.

“I have seen the kindness of people who love animals and I am very grateful,” Princess Siribhachudabhorn said. “I want to let everyone know that I feel really grateful as the mother of Hom Nuan that she got to come home today. I didn’t think I would get her back.”

The princess also said those who helped her could feel free to post messages on her Facebook page if there any way she could repay them in the future for what has been done.

Princess Siribhachudabhorn is the eldest daughter of Princess Chulabhorn Walailak, who is King Vajiralongkorn’s younger sister.

NewsPrincess Siribhachudabhornmissing royal dogDoi SuthepChiang mai
Categories: Prachatai English

Thai Political Slang Explained: พิซซ่า or 'pizza'

Prachatai English - Sun, 2020-06-21 14:46
Submitted on Sun, 21 Jun 2020 - 02:46 PM

Kai Meaw X's cartoon of political exiles and their criticisms against the monarchy as a movie 'Parasite' trended in 2019 

Pizza is unquestionably one of the best things ever happened to mankind. A form of it has been around since ancient times, and it is considered a crime for a person to say “I hate pizza.” But in Thailand, it is okay to say that. It means you do not want to be in jail for 15 years or longer because ‘pizza’ in Thai is also a political slang term for the lèse majesté law.   

This example of slang might be something you miss when you search it on google. The Pizza Company and other competitors pay so that what we see are their ads and promotions. However, the term 'pizza' or 'พิซซ่า' also has another meaning because The Pizza Company’s hotline number 1112 happens to be similar to Section 112 or the lèse majesté law. 

Obsession with numbers

 

A meme in which Pizza Company's 1112 changed to Royal Pizza's 112.

Most Thais are obsessed with numbers. There are many reasons for this. One of them is the lottery. On the 1st and 16th of the month, many Thais will open the government’s lottery website or sit in front of the TV to see the lottery results. In Western countries, a psychoanalyst may interpret dreams to reveal that you have incestuous desires. But in Thailand, dreams are interpreted as a way to become a millionaire by giving you the winning lottery number. The chances to win the first prize of 6,000,000 baht are 0.0001%. Your chances can multiply if you buy many tickets. 

A scavenger winning the lottery always makes a good headline in Thailand. But it also says something about inequality. A report from last year showed that among state enterprises, it was the Government Lottery Office which contributed most revenue to the government — 40,278 million baht, more even than the state-owned oil and gas company, PTT. One reason for this may be that the lottery is one of the few ways to climb out of poverty. According to TDRI’s Somchai Jitsuchon, Thailand is “among the 10 most unequal countries on this planet for wealth distribution.” He estimated that “as much as 10% may have fallen to chronic poverty” while gaps in accessing high-quality social services - health, education, and welfare - are widening.

Lottery and economic inequality are not the only reasons Thais are obsessed with numbers. Thailand also has political inequality. Thais, especially those in authority, are also obsessed with particular numbers which can put critics in jail for expressing their thoughts.

Section 14 of the Computer Crime Act can put you in prison for a maximum of 5 years for posting anything which threatens Thai security, the economy, or public safety. 

  • Section 116 of the Criminal Code can give you jail time of a maximum of 7 years for sedition. 
  • Section 198 of the Criminal Code can put you in jail for a maximum of 7 years for contempt of court.

However, Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the most famous number of all, can put you in jail from 3 to 15 years for defamation of the King, the Queen, the Heir Apparent and the Regent if there is one. 

The lèse majesté law and ‘pizza’

 

Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a monarchy reformist, was photoshopped eating a pizza for speaking up about the monarchy for decades. 

The lèse majesté law in Thailand has a long history. It had taken many forms, and it became Section 112 of the Criminal Code in the 1950s when Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat staged a military coup and began the restoration of the monarchy’s status to keep communism at bay. The penalty was increased to 15 years with a minimum of 3 years after the massacre of student activists in the 6 October incident of 1976 by Thanin Kraivichien, then Prime Minister and later Privy Councillor. Decades passed and the draconian law acquired a new nickname. 

In a conversation with a senior reporter, he recalled that the term ‘pizza’ has been slang for the lèse majesté law since 2012. It probably came from the Same Sky Journal’s webboard. At that time, anti-monarchy accusations had been regularly used against the red shirts by ultra-royalists. The standout case was the prosecution of Ampon Tangnoppakul, or ‘Uncle SMS’, under the lèse majesté law. The 63-year-old was accused in 2011 of sending 4 SMS to Somkiat Khrongwatthanasuk, secretary of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. The messages were deemed offensive to the King and Queen and he was imprisoned for 20 years. He died in prison in 2012, 19 years before his sentence was complete. 

Somsak Jeamteerasakul was photoshopped adding flavors to pizzas.

Some conservative intellectuals demanded that the ultra-royalists stop abusing the lèse majesté law, but prosecutions continued. A movement of legal scholars and citizens campaigned for an amendment to the lèse majesté law, but their attempts were unsuccessful. One who called for the total abolition of Section 112 at the time was Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a Thai historian now in exile who has campaigned for reform of the monarchy for decades. Meanwhile, lèse-majesté charges spread a climate of fear among the red shirts and the democratic opposition.  

To alleviate the fear, the red shirts used humour against the anti-monarchy allegations. The number 112 has been an object of comical obsession. Seeing a product for sale with a price of 112 baht, a car registration plate with the number 112, a ticket with the number 112, or a game at level 112, was teasingly taken as a bad omen. The number 112 was expressed through many art forms, but the pizza hotline 1112 meant that ‘pizza’ was used to refer to the lèse majesté law. 

So during a political discussion, asking if a person wants to eat pizza means asking if the person wants to eat it in jail. Many memes emerged around Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who was photoshopped eating pizza. A song “112 Royal Pizza” by Faiyen, a music band now in exile, also reflected the use of the term which has persisted until now. 

Smart Repression 

 

Kai Meaw X's meme of Rangsiman Rome (a man holding a pizza) who spoke up in the parliament about the disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a human rights activist in exile. Many speculated that he would be the next target of reprisal.

Section 112 has not been used for several years now, but prosecution for lèse majesté allegations nowadays is still very much like winning the lottery or getting a free pizza. You never know who will get the jackpot. 

In the age of King Vajiralongkorn and the internet, the government knows too well that they cannot prosecute all critics. The Thai Security Plan for 2019-2022 admitted that the new generation’s bond to the monarchy has weakened. To prevent backlash, the Thai elite have avoided the use of the lèse majesté law and adopted “smart repression” tactics to spread fear. Instead of direct prosecution, other methods and institutions are used to censor and punish dissidents.    

  • In November 2018, BBC Thai reported that Facebook had taken down more than 735 lèse-majesté posts since 2016 at the request of the Thai government. 
  • In January 2019, Surachai Danwattananusorn, a political activist and former prisoner under the lèse majesté law, living in exile in Lao PDR, was found dead in the Mekong River. 
  • In August 2019, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a staunch critic of the monarchy, reported a physical attack against him using a chemical spray in his home in exile in Kyoto. 
  • In October 2019, political activist Karn Pongpraphapan was arrested for violation of the Computer Crime Act as Twitter users faced threats over comments on a royal motorcade. 
  • In January 2020, Buddhipongse Punnakanta, the Minister of Digital Economy and Society, paid visits to Facebook, Twitter, and Google headquarters asking for their cooperation in removing illegal content and fake news following court orders.
  • In May 2020, four people in northern Thailand were summoned by police for their posts about the monarchy. They were forced to sign a document promising they will not do it again.  
  • In May 2020, a Krispy Kreme employee was dismissed for a Facebook post about the late King Bhumibol’s musical composition. 
  • In June 2020, Niranam_, a twitter user, faced 7 charges under the Computer Crime Act, the law which sometimes functions in place of the lèse majesté law. The penalty is up to 40 years. 

As the Thai government becomes more insidious in repressing dissidents, the term pizza is less frequently used. However, the usage is here to stay. It is no longer strictly used to refer to the lèse majesté law, but also any repression mechanisms the Thai government uses to combat lèse-majesté activities. 

It is counterintuitive to say it, but many Thais wish for a world without a pizza.   

Newslese majesteanti-lèse majesté2007 Computer Crime ActArticle112Section 116Thai Political Slang Explained
Categories: Prachatai English

Return the exiled: People speak out for political refugees on World Refugee Day

Prachatai English - Sun, 2020-06-21 12:41
Submitted on Sun, 21 Jun 2020 - 12:41 PMPrachatai

People gathered in Bangkok to commemorate the World Refugee Day, 20 June, raising the issue of the recent disappearance case of an exiled Thai activist in Phnom Penh.

Participants raising photo of the Thai activists in exile.

At 5.00 pm on 20 June, about 15 people gathered at the Pathum Wan Skywalk to participate in a public event marking World Refugee Day. 40-50 police officers were present and were seen video-recording and photographing participants.

The event was organized by the People's Party for Freedom, the 24 June Democracy Movement and the Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation of Thailand. A few Rohingya refugees residing in Thailand also participated in the event.

Participants made speeches and displayed photos of Thai political refugees. Some participants put black plastic garbage bags over their heads to mimic the suffocation of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a Thai political activist in exile who was kidnapped in Phnom Penh on 4 June. His last words were "Argh, I can't breath".

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

Eneus Ahmad, a 53-year-old Rohingya refugee, said that he fled discrimination and persecution in Rakhine state, Myanmar, about 30 years ago and still cannot go back to his hometown. He said that he hopes the Myanmar government will give the Rohingya the same rights as others.

The organizers’ statement notes that the world is hosting over 70 million refugees, who are forced to leave their home countries by internal pressures, one of which is intolerance of dissent.

Thailand has had such refugees since long ago, such as  national artist Khamsing Srinawk, Pridi Phanomyong, an influential leader of the 1932 democratic revolution who fled to France, Puey Ungphakorn, former governor of the Bank of Thailand and the Rector of Thammasat University who was driven into exile in England by allegations of being a communist. 

After the 2014 coup d’état by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, more than 300 Thais sought refuge in neighbouring countries, Europe and the US. Between 2018 and 2020, 9 Thais fell victim to enforced disappearance. 3 were later found murdered. Recently on 4 June, Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a Thai activist in exile, was kidnapped in Phom Penh.

The statement demands that:

  1. the Thai government enforce and implement laws and policies to ensure full rights and protections for refugees in accordance with international human rights law and prevent refoulement and arbitrary arrest and detention;
  2. all junta orders and unjust laws that led to political refugees be repealed and refugees be brought back to Thailand;
  3. the facts about the abductions and murders of 9 refugees who were disappeared in Laos and Cambodia be investigated;
  4. the people’s anti-torture and enforced disappearance bill be enacted.

Somyos Pruksakasemsuk from the 24 June Democracy Movement said that these are demands of morality and are calls for an end to political killings and violence in order to create a peaceful society.

Photo of the event

NewsWorld Refugee DayWanchalearm SatsaksitSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/88239
Categories: Prachatai English

#SaveRome hits Thai twitter trending amidst threats against opposition MP

Prachatai English - Sat, 2020-06-20 17:48
Submitted on Sat, 20 Jun 2020 - 05:48 PMPrachatai

The hashtag #saveโรม (#saveRome) trended on Friday (19 June) morning to protect Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome against threats related to enforced disappearances.

Rangsiman Rome addressed at the Parliament on 12 June 2020.

Last Wednesday (10 June) democracy activist-turned-opposition MP Rangsiman Rome spoke out in parliament over the apparent enforced disappearance of self-exiled activist Wanchalearm ‘Tar’ Satsaksit in Cambodia. Wanchalearm is thought to have been disappeared by the Thai state.

Thai netizens on Friday used the hashtag #saveโรม in order to support Rangisman and also to criticize the state for using violence and fear as intimidation tactics.

Rangsiman Rome at Democracy monument on 10 February 2018.

Late on the night of 20 March, the hashtag #saveรังสิมันต์โรม (#SaveRangsimanRome) was trending on Twitter as Thai Twitter users expressed their support for opposition MP after charges were filed against him for defamation.

Rangiman was not given time during the no-confidence debate in late February to question Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan over his business dealings. 

The Move Forward MP accused a network of Gen Prawit supporters both in the government and in the opposition of conspiring to prevent him from having time to make a statement. He later held an ‘out of parliament’ censure debate where he publicly accused Gen Prawit of using his political power to amass a vast fortune through his ties to several organizations.

One of these organizations, the Forest Conservation Foundation has filed a defamation suit against Rangsiman.

NewsRangsiman Rome#SaveRometwitterMove Forward party
Categories: Prachatai English

Prime Minister announces the government’s “New Normal” approaches for post-Covid-19 era

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-06-19 21:33
Submitted on Fri, 19 Jun 2020 - 09:33 PM

Prime Minister plans to ask various sectors to propose a plan for the country to move forward and to improve citizens’ lives in the coming weeks.

Prayut Chan-o-cha on 12 June 2020 (Source: File/Thaigov.go.th)

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha announces a plan called “Thais Together Build Thailand,” which details three new approaches of the government operation after Covid-19 pandemic. His address was televised on 17 June on the Television Pool of Thailand.

The three new approaches include inclusivity of policy-making process, assessments from stakeholders and proactivity of the government operation.

Gen Prayut said he noticed the willingness of Thais at all levels to work together as a whole when the country was dealing with the threat from Covid-19, so he thought that the government and the people should work together as if there was a crisis everyday in order to move faster and further.

“In the post-Covid era, it’s time for us to look beyond the daily distractions of politics, and for us, as your elected officials, to accelerate our work to better the lives of people,” Gen Prayut said.

The first initiative introduced was cooperation of all sectors and all levels of the society. Prayut said the government will make sure its process of making plans and policies will become more inclusive of all the people affected by it. The public will no longer learn about the government’s process from the news but will, instead, become an integral part of the process.

“There are so many people who are willing to do more for their country, but they just need the opportunity to contribute. I will do my best to give them that opportunity,” Gen Prayut said.

Gen Prayut plans to ask various sectors to propose a plan for the country to move forward and to improve citizens’ lives in the coming weeks.

The second initiative introduced was giving the people more roles to evaluate the government’s performance. Gen Prayut and government officials plan to listen more to public opinions on government programmes. There will be changes made to government programmes if they are not actually benefiting the people as initially intended.

The third initiative introduced was proactivity of the government operation. Gen Prayut plans to move forward with even greater proactive purposes by designating certain urgent policies for cabinet consideration and monitoring the government projects closely. Government agencies will also be more proactively coordinated.

“I would like to invite every citizen to resolve to do their part and be ready to contribute to that plan,” Gen Prayut said.

Gen Prayut said Thai people must work together. While he understands that there might be opposed opinions, he promised to reach out to them and listen to what they have to say.

On June 18, ThaiRath reported that when Gen Prayut was asked how he plans to include the public in developing the country under his “new normal” approaches, he responded with “I’m thinking.” (กำลังคิดอยู่)

NewsCOVID-19Prayut Chan-o-cha
Categories: Prachatai English

Nurses union finds working conditions cause burnout and illness in public health staff

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-06-19 11:22
Submitted on Fri, 19 Jun 2020 - 11:22 AMPrachatai

A Nurses Union of Thailand report finds that many public health officials want to resign ahead of retirement age as heavy workloads burden them with cancer, diabetes and hypertension, leading to early death.

A nurse tending her own wound.

On 18 June, the Nurses Union of Thailand (NUOT) published the results of an opinion poll of 4,563 nurses and public health workers on remaining in the Ministry of Public Health, which garnered 2,072 recommendations.

The report found that average desired resignation age is 51, about 9-12 years ahead of the official retirement age. The reasons are frustration with the management system and poor prospects for career advancement. The result is concerning because by 51, staff have specialized and their resignation would result in a significant increase in the workload of remaining staff with consequences for the public.

It also found that many public health staff have health problems, especially cancer, diabetes and hypertension, due to hard work and a lack of good health care. Many nurses about 50 years old suffer from cancer. Also, more than 3% of retired personnel die before qualifying for their pension.

Some doctors who participated in the poll also said that they want to quit because of the difficulty of career advancement. The civil service promotion system requires them to publish academic papers in specific journals, which they found arduous while working in hospital.

However, doctors are amount to a very little proportion in the poll.

NUOT stated that they presented their suggestions for career promotion to the Ministry of Public Health Permanent Secretary in August 2019, The suggestions include a method of qualifying for promotion for all public health disciplines which is not excessively strict.

“We want it to flow like the police or military. The work of our Ministry is the hardest but we cannot grow, we cannot advance. Teachers do not have many students and can gain special expertise. But we have 700-800 patients daily and get just this. It makes them wonder why they would want to stay,” states the report.

NewsMinistry of Public HealthNurses Union of Thailandpoor working conditionnursedoctorSource: prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/88198
Categories: Prachatai English

Thai government should commit towards locating missing activist and protecting human rights defenders, say right groups

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-06-18 14:04
Submitted on Thu, 18 Jun 2020 - 02:04 PMFORUM-ASIA

The Thai government’s inadequate response to the enforced disappearance of pro-democracy activist Wanchalerm Satsaksit demonstrates its failure to protect human rights defenders and other dissenting voices, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Asia Democracy Network said today. 

Unidentified assailants abducted Wanchalerm in front of his residence in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 4 June. Following the 2014 coup when the ruling Pheu Thai government was ousted by the military, Wanchalerm fled to Cambodia in fear of reprisals. Wanchalerm was affiliated with the Pheu Thai party. In 2018, he was issued with an arrest warrant for allegedly violating the Computer Crime Act over his role as an administrator of an anti-government Facebook page.

Wanchalerm’s disappearance prompted outrage on social media. Peaceful gatherings in Thailand calling for a thorough investigation were held, although authorities cracked down on them. Student activists were detained and charged for tying white bows at the Democracy Monument and several other government buildings over the past two weeks. At least ten other demonstrators were summoned for allegedly carrying out an unlawful assembly and violating the Emergency Decree.

‘Thailand’s actions towards Wanchalerm and other activists are the exact actions that human rights defenders are fighting against. The government should focus on finding Wanchalerm instead of targeting those who call for accountability,’ said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

Wanchalerm is not the first Thai activist to have been disappeared while in exile. Since 2016, at least eight other exiled Thai activists have been abducted under unknown circumstances. Two were found dead near the Thailand-Laos border in December 2018.

These enforced disappearances demonstrate the precarious situation of Thai dissidents even after fleeing the country. In the first place, they should not have to feel the need to leave merely for exercising their fundamental rights.

 ‘If Thailand is to build public trust, they must commit towards ensuring the safe return of Wanchalerm and the other disappeared human rights defenders. The government should take genuine steps towards institutionalising better protection for all activists and human rights defenders,’ said Ichal Supriadi, Secretary General of the Asia Democracy Network.

Until the Thai government can demonstrate its commitment and proactive measures taken towards upholding the security and safety of all activists and human rights defenders, it will continue to face public doubt on any political will in resolving cases of disappearance, said the rights groups.

Pick to PostFORUM-ASIAAsia Democracy NetworkWanchalearm Satsaksitabductionenforced disappearance
Categories: Prachatai English

Rayong student faces Emergency Decree charge over rally for missing activist

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-06-18 13:57
Submitted on Thu, 18 Jun 2020 - 01:57 PMPrachatai

Rayong police have charged a 23-year-old student with violation of the Emergency Decree and the Public Assembly Act after he organized a “Who Ordered the Abduction of Wanchalearm?” rally. The student says he is going to fight the case and rejects all the charges.

The “Who Ordered the Abduction of Wanchalearm?” rally at Si Mueang Park on 14 June

On 16 June, 23-year-old Panupong Jadnok, a student at Ramkhamhaeng University, was charged as responsible for the Young Leaders group of Rayong with violating the 2008 Emergency Decree for organizing a “Who Ordered the Abduction of Wanchalearm?” rally and displaying a sign saying “Who Ordered the Abduction of Wanchalearm Satsaksit?” at Si Mueang Park on 14 June in a call for justice for Wanchalearm.

Panupong said police initially charged him only with violation of the Emergency Decree, but he was later also charged with violation of the Public Assembly Act, when the investigation found that he did not obtain permission to organize the gathering.

Panupong rejects all the accusations and confirmed that he will fight the case in court. He has asked for 15 days to write a clarification letter.

Panupong and 12 other Young Leaders of Rayong organized the rally marching around Sri Mueang Park for 40 minutes, carrying signs and with white ribbons tied around their wrists. He said the rally went smoothly and participants wore protective masks.

Panupong said he met Deputy Public Health Minister Satit Pitutacha during the rally. Satit said he doesn’t agree with whoever violated the law when Panupong asked him his opinion on the enforced disappearance.

With regard to Wanchalearm’s disappearance, Panupong said that as Wanchalearm was an activist, and Panupong and his team also have developed through activism, he sees a shared ideology between him and Wanchalearm. He also sees the equality of humanity and human rights that should be protected.

The Emergency Decree was initially imposed to control Covid-19, but Panupong said when the people speak out, the government uses the Emergency Decree to prosecute them. Panupong sees that it is being misused and he is campaigning using the hashtag #LiftTheEmergencyDecree (#ยกเลิกพ.ร.ก.ฉุกเฉิน)

Panupong said the next event will be organized on 24 June. There will be an exhibition on the 1932 Siamese Revolution. Leaders from seven provinces in the Eastern region will join the event under the name of Eastern Youth for Democracy. He is now consulting with his team on the location.

“Today I see as the beginning of a continuing fight and as the spark for many so that everyone sees that the Emergency Decree isn’t to control the disease but to deprive people of their rights and expression. I ask that my sacrifice is a wake-up call for everyone to protect their own rights. I ask everyone to be brave to do it for our country and I ask everyone to fight for our future. #LookingForCompanion #LiftTheEmergencyDecree.” Panupong posted on his personal Facebook page.

On 14 June, the เยาวชนปลดแอก Free YOUTH Facebook page posted that Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, a recent political science graduate from Chulalongkorn University, reported receiving a summons from Wang Thong Lang Police Station for violating the Emergency Decree on the day he called for justice for Wanchalearm in front of the Cambodian Embassy.

Around 10 protestors calling for justice for Wanchalearm in front of the Cambodian Embassy have received summons for violating the Emergency Decree.

The Cross Cultural Foundation issued a statement stating, “the protests do not amount to an ‘assembly or gathering of persons…which may cause unrest,’ rather, they are legitimate and peaceful in nature, and concurrent with the principles of Human Rights Defenders. Therefore, the charges and summons filed can only be seen as an abuse of the power granted by the Decree to intimidate and deprive the rights of those who do not agree with the government.”

NewsWanchalearm Satsaksitenforced disappearancefreedom of expressionfreedom of assemblyEmergency DecreeState of emergencyPanupong Jadnokstudent activiststudent movement
Categories: Prachatai English

International community enraged by the Philippines cyber-libel verdict against Rappler 

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-06-17 15:27
Submitted on Wed, 17 Jun 2020 - 03:27 PMPrachatai

Amid widespread outrage at the guilty verdict handed to Maria Ressa, co-founder of the independent news website Rappler, and its writer, Reynaldo Santos Jr, many international civil society organizations have called for the case to be dismissed.

Maria Ressa on stage as keynote speaker of the 2019 Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Hamburg, Germany (Photo by Nick Jaussi)

On 14 June Ressa and Santos received “indeterminate sentences” of a minimum of six months and one day and a maximum of six years, and fines of P200,000 (US$4,000) in moral damages and another P200,000 in exemplary damages.  They were found guilty of libelling a businessman under the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

In May 2012, Rappler published an article accusing then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona of impropriety for using an SUV owned by a businessman. The article predated the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which includes the crime of libel. In February 2014, Rappler corrected a typo in the story, changing “evation” to “evasion”, thus technically updating the story on the website.

In addition to this case, Ressa and her colleagues face seven other cases in various courts for which she has been arrested and bailed.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) published a statement that the legal cases filed against Ressa, Santos and the Rappler “amount to a serious attack on media freedom, which affects the work of all journalists in the country”.

“The FCCT opposes criminal defamation in principle. … Criminal defamation is widely misused in countries like Thailand, where it can be exploited to blackmail defendants into paying large out-of-court settlements or to silence political critics and human rights defenders. … Maria Ressa should be allowed to go free to continue holding those in power in the Philippines to account.” reads the FCCT statement.

The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) published a statement demanding justice for Maria Ressa.

“This baseless conviction is another deliberate attempt by the Philippine government to silence Ressa’s voice. … Like so many other women journalists, Ressa faces persistent online harassment for her coverage. On top of her legal battle, these attacks, waged by pro-Duterte troll armies, are further attempts to silence Ressa’s work and eliminate all criticism of the Duterte regime,” states the IWMF.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published a statement claiming “This conviction of Ressa and Santos is the latest chapter in the systematic judicial harassment to which they have been subjected by various government agencies for more than two years. Either directly or through Ressa, the website is facing ten other similar complaints, each as baseless as the other, with the aim of intimidating its journalists.”

After falling seven places since 2017, the Philippines is ranked 136th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

“By passing this extremely harsh sentence at the end of utterly Kafkaesque proceedings, the Philippine justice system has demonstrated a complete lack of independence from the executive,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“This sentence bears the malevolent mark of President Duterte and his desire, by targeting Rappler and the figure of Maria Ressa, to eliminate all criticism whatever the cost. We urge Manila’s judges to restore a semblance of credibility to the Philippine judicial system by overturning this conviction on appeal.”

An Amnesty International (AI) statement calls for the Philippine authorities to overturn the conviction against Ressa and Santos.

“This verdict is a sham and should be quashed. Ressa, Santos and the Rappler team are being singled out for their critical reporting of the Duterte administration, including ongoing human rights violations in the Philippines. The accusations against them are political, the prosecution was politically-motivated, and the sentence is nothing but political.” said Nicholas Bequelin, AI Asia-Pacific Regional Director.

“Ressa and her team have become global icons for press freedom after President Duterte himself has repeatedly singled them out for attack, intimidation and harassment. They face a long battle ahead, with several more politically motivated charges awaiting trial.”

The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) claims that the convictions mark a “devastating day for journalism … in a case that is which widely seen as a crackdown on independent journalism in the Philippines.”

“This is a miscarriage of justice," said ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan. “Maria is facing a bevy of charges designed to silence her and Rappler. If journalists are muzzled, democracy itself is at stake. ICFJ condemns Maria's conviction and calls for all other charges against her to be dropped.”

The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN)of which Prachatai is a member, is “outrage and alarmed” by the conviction and stated that it will closely monitor the case.

“Ms. Ressa is a journalist of unquestioned integrity, representing the best of her nation’s long tradition of investigative reporting. This politically motivated and legally irregular prosecution represents an attempt to silence independent Filipino journalists,” says the GIJN.

Round UpMaria RessaReynaldo Santos JrRapplerThe Philippinesfreedom of the pressmedia freedomThe Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT)The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF)Reporters Without Borders (RSF)Amnesty International (AI)The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ)The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN)
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: In Defense of Maria Ressa

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-06-17 11:29
Submitted on Wed, 17 Jun 2020 - 11:29 AMStephffCartoon by Stephff: In Defense of Maria Ressa

 

MultimediaStephffMaria RessaRapplerpress freedomThe Philippines
Categories: Prachatai English

Buddhism Office orders erasure of ‘inappropriate’ temple murals

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-06-16 22:23
Submitted on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 - 10:23 PMPattanun Arunpreechawat

Mural paintings of Mae Sitang Buathong, Prawit Wongsuwan and Prayut Chan-o-cha have become a controversy after the National Office of Buddhism and Tewan Liptapallop, Minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, declared that the paintings are inappropriate and should be erased. Tewan also ordered the National Office of Buddhism to uncover any paintings with hidden political messages in temples across the country.

The painting of Sitang Buatong, depicted her in a red shirt and pointing at an orange

Artist Jarunnapat Kaewum was commissioned by the abbot of Wat Nong Tao, Uthai Thani Province, to paint the story of the Buddha. While Jarunnapat was painting the scene where the Buddha descends from Tavatimsa heaven to preach his teaching to beings from 3 worlds, heaven, the earth, and hell, she drew Mae Sitang, a transgender who started the popular catchphrase “orange, stop! it stopped by itself.”  The motivation behind this illustration is her personal liking of Mae Sitang and the fact that she wishes to portray a once-popular transgender net idol for future generations. “Mae Sitang is my first inspiration. We should praise a gender non-conforming individual who has contributed to today’s society. We should respect each one of them for guiding the way for all LGBTQ to follow in their footsteps,” said the artist.

In regard to the catchphrase, the painter intentionally drew her hand pointing at an orange, a depiction which is viewed by the National Office of Buddhism as offensive. This is because the act of pointing a finger at someone is rude and disrespectful to the Buddha in Thai culture. The painter then was forced to change the painting of Mae Sitang’s hand.

In addition to the portrait of Mae Sitang, the portrayal of faces which look like those of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan are shown on another wall of the same temple. In this narrative, Prayut and Prawit represent some of the many temptations created by the evil Mara to obstruct the enlightenment of the Buddha. These paintings were removed immediately after they were considered irrelevant and disrespectful by officials without permission.

“It’s an outrageous act. It’s a great insult to artists, art and culture. It disrespects the people. Thai people are too considerate of civil servants when they are, in fact, supposed to serve the people […] They use their own standards to make decisions for society and define social ethics, which is wrong,” said Wara Chanmanee, a Thai researcher/scholar on the Channel 3 programme Hone-Krasae.

In general, murals in Thai temples portray events in the story of the Buddha, religious beliefs, kings, the Ramayana, and vignettes of people’s way of life in certain eras. Earlier murals in Thailand depict different things compared to modern murals.

According to Janio from the website Painaidii, there exist murals that show the lives of people in the 21st century which contradict traditional mural paintings. For example, there are pictures of people using iPhones or headphones, pictures of cartoon characters, or angry birds. Traditional murals (un)surprisingly depict the sex life of Thai people which now is usually a taboo topic in Thai society. It is a convention for painters to draw small satirical cameos on the wall. However, the picture of Mae Sitang was condemned by the National Office of Buddhism for having nothing to do with religious beliefs which are held to be sacred elements for people to revere.

The way the regime acted toward art minimized the freedom the artists used to have. If the work they produce conveys any political message or holds any satirical message about the regime, it must be censored or scrutinized before publicized. In other words, their creativity is much more restricted compared to when freedom of expression was still allowed in our society.

The reaction of the bureaucracy and the Minister seems to be an arbitrary form of political and moral censorship and poses for the Thai people the question of what is appropriate for mural paintings. If other paintings which are unrelated to the Buddha are left undisturbed, why are the paintings of Mae Sitang, Prayut and Prawit (tiny when compared to the image of the Buddha on the same wall) condemned and removed?

NewsSitang BuatongNational Office of BuddhismArtMuralcensorshipBuddhism
Categories: Prachatai English

Racism, colourism, and beauty standards in Thailand

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-06-16 21:56
Submitted on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 - 09:56 PMChatchai Mongkol

Story by Chatchai Mongkol
Illustration by Kittiya On-in

Representations in the media of dark-skinned people have distorted how Thais perceive them and set standards for beauty in society.

The death of George Floyd, an African American man, at the hands of a police officer has sparked a debate on police brutality against minority communities in the United States, especially African Americans, which has been going on for decades. The debate has moved beyond police brutality to include the overall discrimination and systemic racism facing the African American community, as well as marginalized communities in other countries.

Not only people across the United States but also people in other countries — including Germany, Brazil, France and New Zealand — have come out to protest Floyd’s death, demanding justice for him.

Thailand has not been excluded as a virtual rally was held on 7 June over Zoom. Participants wore black and held 8 minutes 46 seconds of silence, representing the period of time the police officer had his knee on Floyd's neck, which resulted in his death.

Racism against black people in Thailand takes a more subtle form compared to what is happening in the United States, according to African American teachers in Thailand, but it still exists.

Racism in Thailand comes from representations in the media

Tee Young, an African American teacher from Chicago, Illinois, said he has not experienced a lot of racism in Thailand, since he has a lighter skin, compared with people he knows with darker skin who sometimes experience poor service in public. However, Tee said some Africans have caused this because they steal, cheat, sell drugs and disrespect Thai people. Tee noticed that many Thais think all dark-skinned blacks are straight from Africa.

“I think more Thais need to realize not all Africans are bad and not all dark-skinned blacks are from Africa,” Tee said.

The difference between racism in Thailand and in the United States, as Tee explained it, is that there is an aggressive nature in Americans which causes a lot of racism to happen in your face, while racism in Thailand does not always appear on the surface. As Tee said, Thais are generally not naturally aggressive.

Racism in the United States originated during the colonial era when people held the belief that black people were undeveloped beings while white people were smart and intelligent, according to Thammasat University history lecturer Pipad Krajaejun, whereas racism in Thailand originated from how the media has portrayed dark-skinned people as clowns.

Phrae Chittipalangsri, a comparative literature professor at Chulalongkorn University, said on CU Inside that racism in Thailand and in the United States came from different origins. Racism against blacks in the United States has existed since slavery. Phrae looked at racism through the lens of literary studies and said Thai literature introduced Thais to the concept of colourism.

Many works of literature portray dark-skinned characters as antagonists, Phare gave Inau (อิเหนา) (Panji Tales) as an example. Inau is a cycle of Javanese stories. Inau, the protagonist, is described as having a light skin, while Joraka (จรกา), the antagonist, is described as having a black skin.

“It’s the foil of literature where Joraka is the character to make Inau seem more outstanding by comparison,” Phrae said. “It created a perception that evil persons must be black.”

Phrae said there are many other literary works that created the same perception of black skin.

It was not only literature that created misconceptions of having black skin but also social representations, Phrae explained. Thais tend to value light-skinned people since the ruling class in the past, such as kings and the nobility, consisted mostly of people with light skin. These days, people in government and economic leaders tend to have light skin as they are of Chinese descent.

The different roots of racism in the two countries has resulted in different levels of subtlety when it comes to racial discrimination.

Representations in both the media and society have affected Kris Murray, another African American teacher who has faced a much less subtle form of racism. Kris posted on her blog about her experience being black in Thailand. Kris was jokingly called an “ugly black female dog” by a Thai teacher in effort to make others laugh.

“I do not laugh. I do not look. I stare at the ground in an effort to disappear,” Kris explained her frustration.

At one of the schools where Kris applied to teach, she said a teacher who interviewed her said parents at the school were very “nervous” about her skin colour. Parents thought that native English speakers would not have black skin. Kris was questioned if she could make a lesson plan and if she could be a good teacher despite having a masters degree in education with five years teaching experience. Kris said two white British women got offered jobs at the school without any interview or teaching demonstration.

“[Every] day I pray. I pray someone doesn’t try me. I pray someone doesn’t try to make me feel inadequate. I pray that I respond appropriately to situations placed in front of me,” Kris said on her blog.

The media continues to portray the same perceptions today. Pipad gave one of the most popular Thai TV shows, The Mask Singer, as an example where height, looks and skin colour are still made fun of in the show. The laughter comes from dehumanization, Pipad said, and it is a way to normalize the issue.

“If we still believe in the same theory that the media has an influence on people’s ideas, the show is making the mockery of black people and short people into a social standard, and mockery will make the audience happy.” Pipad said.

Beauty determined by skin colour

Alexandria O’Benna, an African American teacher from Atlanta, Georgia, also said she was once told by an older Thai person that her skin was too dark and was not pretty compared to her co-worker who had lighter skin, but she did not take any offense as she understands the culture of colourism in Thailand. Instead, she took time to educate that person that skin colour does not determine beauty.

“Being black anywhere in the world, you are subject to racism at some point,” Alexandria said. “As an African American I strive to change the narrative [and] dispel the stereotypes the media put out about us.”

Amara Pongsapich, former Chair of the National Human Rights Commission, told ThaiRath that racism exists because of the environment that one has grown up in. Amara said everyone was acculturated since youth on the characteristics of people of each skin colour including their beauty and their intelligence. What determines beauty, Amara said, depends on the norms of society at the time.

Meanwhile, Phrae said letting skin colour determine beauty has become the norm in Thai society.

“It’s a sad story because on the issue of skin colour, no one speaks of the violence in social structures . We only see it as a preference of beauty.” Phrae said. “If we take a good look at it, it’s serious.”

No one cares about this issue because there are other political issues that people care about, Phrae said. No one in the media, literature or academia has spoken on this issue. She said even though there has been an effort to glorify dark-skinned Thais to become the Thai style in the international pageant industry by citing western beauty standards, it is not good for them in the end.

“It’s the mindset that makes dark-skinned people have to rely on the power of others to say that ‘my skin is pretty.’ Claiming that being dark-skinned is good just because foreigners like it isn’t self-empowering.” Phrae said.

Phrae said if people still do not speak up about this issue, nothing will happen. Racism and beauty standards will remain in existence in Thailand.

FeatureracismColourismBlack lives matterdiscriminationBeauty standard
Categories: Prachatai English

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