The Constitutional Court of Thailand ruled today (21 January) to acquit the Future Forward Party (FFP) and its leaders of anti-monarchy and sedition allegations, citing insufficient evidence.
Pannika Wanich, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and other party leaders at the press conference following the court ruling
Now known as “the Illuminati Case,” the sedition complaint was made against the FFP in June 2019 by Nattaporn Toprayoon, former advisor to the Chief Ombudsman who has previously acted as a lawyer for the PAD, the Thai Patriots Network and other right-wing groups. Nattaporn accused the Party of attempting to overthrow the "democratic regime with the king as the head of state" according to Section 49 in the 2017 Constitution, and of being linked to the Illuminati, a fictitious secret organization believed by conspiracy theorists to be seeking world domination.
Nattaporn’s complaint claimed that FFP members are anti-monarchy and anti-religion, and that the party symbol points to its link to the Illuminati and the party’s hidden purpose. The complaint was filed on 18 June 2019 and the Court accepted it on 22 July.
At 11.30 today (21 January), the Court ruled to acquit the party and its leaders on the ground that a political party must submit its regulations to the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) at the time of the party’s registration. Since the ECT approved the FFP’s party registration, the party’s regulations could not be against the "democratic regime with the monarch as the head of state.”
The Court also ruled that there is not enough evidence to prove beyond doubt that the FFP and its leaders are using their rights and freedom to overthrow this regime, or that the party leaders are anti-monarchy and intend to change the structure of Thai society.
However, the Court ruling said that the party should amend any part of its regulations that may cause confusion and conflict, such as the party’s statement that it upholds “the principle of democracy under the constitution” instead of "a democratic regime with the monarch as the head of state” as used in the text of the constitution.
At the party headquarters at the Thai Summit Building, a crowd of reporters and supporters had been gathering since 10.00 to wait to hear the court ruling, after the party announced on its social media pages that its leaders and MPs will not be travelling to the Constitutional Court to hear the ruling but will be watching the live broadcast at the party headquarters.
After the ruling was read, the crowd celebrated by shouting “Prayut out” and “Death to dictatorship. Long live democracy.” Some gave the three-finger ‘Hunger Games’ salute, a symbol of resistance since the early days of the 2014 coup.
The crowd of FFP's supporters celebrating after the ruling was read.
FFP secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul said at the press conference following the ruling that this case should not have been brought in the first place, and that this “legal war” does not contribute anything to the country and to democracy, and therefore should stop.
Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit then declared that the party will march forward.
“We would like to thank all the people who support us, who stand behind us,” said Thanathorn, “because the effort of those people has brought us this far. Without the support of these people, we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t have achieved this much.”
This case is a one of a storm of lawsuits thrown at the FFP since the start of 2019. On 21 November, the Constitutional Court ruled to disqualify Thanathorn as an MP for holding shares in a media company, despite the company having ceased doing business in 2017.
The Constitutional Court also has yet to rule on whether the FFP violated Article 72 of the 2017 Organic Law on Political Parties by taking a loan from its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. The penalties include dissolution of the party and barring the party’s executive members from running in elections for a number of years.
An FFP supporter holding signs saying "Love Thanathorn" and "Prayut get out" while waiting to hear the ruling at the party headquarters this morning
The legal attack on FFP prompted criticism from several international organizations. Amnesty International (AI) issued a statement last night (20 January) ahead of today’s court ruling, calling for the Thai authorities “to stop instrumentalizing the legal process to intimidate and harass the leaders and members of the Future Forward party.”
AI’s statement also said that “the spate of prosecutions targeting the party appear to be in clear retaliation for activities of the party that fall within the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”
Meanwhile, Charles Santiago, Chair of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), said after the ruling that while today’s decision was welcomed, the FFP is still at risk of dissolution and is still facing “a myriad of other politically motivated charges,” and that the Thai government “should immediately drop all politically motivated charges against [the FFP] and democracy activists” if it wants to “restore faith into its so-called “return to democracy”.”NewsFuture Forward PartyThanathorn JuangroongruangkitConstitutional courtthe Illuminatijudicial harassment
The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project has the status of a Special Economic Zone. It was begun in 2017 under the government of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha with an investment goal over the first 5 years of 1.5 trillion baht divided into 2 types of projects: 5 infrastructure projects; and projects to develop 12 target industries using a Public-Private Partnership system.
This project comes under the Thailand 4.0 strategy and is an extension of the Eastern Seaboard project started during the premiership of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda covering the 3 provinces of Rayong, Chonburi and Chachoengsao. But the Policy Committee of the EEC can use its authority under the EEC Act to issue Royal Decrees to increase the area, and almost all of the committee members are ministers in the Prayut government,
The EEC Board has a great deal of authority to make decisions on the fate of the eastern region. Apart from the authority to propose to the cabinet amendments to laws or orders that obstruct project operations, the committee can also take over the authority to give approval or permission from other agencies. The EEC Act also gives exemptions from 19 laws which protect the rights of the people.
This report tries to show concerns about things that were beginning to occur in the eastern region when the project was started under the dictatorship.
After the 2014 coup d’état, the NCPO [National Council for Peace and Order] relied on Section 44 of the Interim Constitution to issue 3 NCPO Orders in 2017 to initiate the EEC project. These are NCPO Order 2/2560, NCPO Order 28/2560 and NCPO Order 47/2560. In 2018, the NLA [National Legislative Assembly] (appointed by the NCPO) approved the Eastern Economic Corridor Act. A transitional provision (Section 71) states that those operations that rely on NCPO Orders remain enforceable until such time as the EEC Project Policy Committee makes a resolution to repeal or otherwise restrict them.
Panuwat Panduprasert of the University of Chiang Mai wrote in a Kyoto Review article that since the NCPO government was unelected and came to power through a coup, it has to create legitimacy in 3 ways: 1. performance legitimacy; 2. royal legitimacy; and 3. national reform. The EEC Project shows attempts to create all 3 forms of legitimacy for the NCPO. The EEC website shows a programme on the ‘Royal Science for Sustainable Development’ which includes the EEC in its content.
However, it cannot be denied that this project runs counter to the process of learning lessons from the environmental impact on the eastern region that occurred after the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate was built and runs counter to global environmental knowledge that has been developed over the last 60 years.Amata Phase 2: ‘If there was no dictatorship, it could not be done”
The EIA of the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate was approved in 1989 but in 2007, 27 representatives of the people sued the National Environment Board in the Administrative Court for dereliction of duty for not announcing a Pollution Control Area in April 2009 as the law specifies. This complaint lead to the suspension of 76 projects in Map Ta Phut because the evidence clearly showed that there were carcinogenic heavy metals and volatile organic compounds in the environment.
“For years, everyone has been learning about the negative effects of the Eastern Seaboard. Many systems have been adjusted. There have been more conversations with communities. People have turned towards looking for common solutions,” says Dr Somnuck Jongmeewasin, technical advisor to the EEC Watch group
“In 2000, Thaksin Shinawatra thought of having Special Economic Zones which many countries were beginning to set up together because of a regional agreement among the Mekhong countries to have Special Economic Zones. Thaksin pushed this, but there was a heavy opposition to the wording that foreigners could lease land for 99 years. Eventually the bill was dropped,” said Somnuck, talking of what happened in an atmosphere of democracy.
“Special Economic Zones reappeared after the 2014 coup d’état. In 2016, Special Economic Zones were announced in 10 provinces through NCPO Order No. 3/2559. If there was no NCPO Order, or to put it more simply, if there was no dictatorial government, it could not have been done,” Somnuck is certain.
The process of interpreting the lessons from the impact of the Eastern Seaboard project unfortunately collapsed. One of the important examples was the case of Amata City Company 2, which people long opposed, but which was approved and declared an Industrial Promotion Zone under the authority of the NCPO Order.
“This area was a good quality agricultural area according to the data from the Department of Public Works and is an area that receives and discharges water. Once Amata City was sited there, the villagers protested. Just as the process of making an urban plan started 2-3 years ago, a lot of people went to participate. The result came out that it was a green zone. So the urban planning rules do not allow an industrial plant. The NCPO then used Section 44 [of the Interim 2014 Constitution], which we had heard was for suppressing corruption and controlling the mafias. So there was a dispute about using EEC project land. They applied the planning rules to make all of Chonburi, Rayong and Chachoengsao exempt from the planning process,” according to Sarayuth Sonraksa, a member of the public from the area.
Amata City Company 2 industrial project is one of 24 projects approved as Industrial Promotion Zones. All these projects are within the new urban plan which the Cabinet approved on 6 November 2019. Earlier, the people had complained that there were people in at least 7 places in the area who had been affected by the new plan which had changed the category of land from agriculture or conservation to industrial promotion, such as in Khao Din Subdistrict and Khao Hin Son Subdistrict, Chachoengsao Province, and Khao Mai Kaeo Subdistrict, Chonburi Province.Ignoring all measurements of environmental impact
The body of knowledge on environmental protection has developed over many decades from EIA (Environmental Impact Assessments) to EHIA (Environmental Health Impact Assessments) and to SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessments). The essence is to take an area-based look at how much pollution can be tolerated. Thailand requires an SEA for development projects in the 10th, 11th and 12th (2017-2022) National Economic and Social Development Plans and in the National Reform Plan and the 20-Year National Strategic Plan. Somnuck confirms that the first draft EEC law specified SEAs, but this was cut out in the final bill. What criteria does the EEC project use to measure environmental impact?
Information on the EEC website specifies that there has been an announcement of a 2018-2021 environmental plan costing 13,500 million baht for the implementation of all 86 projects. Most deal with waste management and wastewater treatment from the industrial sector. These measures are far removed from SEA.
Supaporn Malailoy, manager of the EnLaw Foundation, found that many industries in the EEC project are pre-existing industries so they do not require to do an EIA again, which is worrisome because the data is not up-to-date. Also, the EEC law still specifies that that an expert committee can be appointed specifically to check their own EIA report and this must be read completely within 120 days, no matter how big the project may be.
Decharut Sukkumnoed says the impact that may occur in the EEC if there is no counterbalancing inspection system, no participation and no satisfactory environmental and health regulations can be divided into 3 kinds. 1. Air pollution. A study from 1997 found that the Map Ta Phut area was already at the limit. The EEC project is even more in need of an overall carrying capacity study. At the moment he doesn’t see any figures on carrying capacity but there are special economic zones which the private sector had already bought on speculation. 2. The concept of carrying capacity must be applied to water, land and waste management, but it appears that there are no studies. The problem that will necessarily follow is that there will not be enough water. 3. Hazardous waste. Current measures are not good enough. In the past, factories that were at the standard level and those in well-known industrial estates still smuggled waste for disposal outside. 4. Urban planning. During 2017, with the announcement that special economic zones were not required to follow the planning laws, it turned out that capitalists bought up land before anyone said that the area was suitable.What is the solution?
After the 2019 election, the fact that 7 opposition parties raised a question about the EEC project is a good sign. Even though this did not succeed is setting up a parliamentary committee to study the impact of the EEC project, the more open political atmosphere will create hope to a certain degree. But this is far from a satisfactory solution to the problem.
In the view of Decharut, who has conducted research on the impact of not declaring the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate a Pollution Control Area and the future of the eastern region, he sees that from 2007 to 2013:
“In concrete terms, the EEC Act must be amended as well as the consequences of the related NCPO Orders and possibly Section 279 of the Constitution which specifies that all NCPO Orders are lawful. The government should also promote systematic estimates of the capacity of the area to support industry by using SEA and should open genuine opportunities for the people’s participation.
“During the time of Gen Prem, it was bad that we did not negotiate with him at all because we still did not know anything. But now it is the case that we know, but they don’t let us negotiate. What makes it worse is that when we have learned the lessons, why do we go back to the old situation when we knew nothing?” Decharut concluded.FeatureEECIn-DepthEastern Economic Corridor (EEC)Eastern ThailandIndustryenvironmentSource: In-depth report
Thailand’s smog crisis continues in Bangkok and other provinces for a second week, with pollution readings at hazardous levels, while the spokesperson of the Prime Minister’s Office has insisted that the situation has yet to reach a crisis level and asks the public not to panic.
Bangkok's skyline now covered in a thick blanket of air pollution
On Monday afternoon (20 January), AirVisual recorded the air quality at 167 AQI, with a PM2.5 level of 86.2 micrograms per cubic metre, while the World Air Quality Index Project Team recorded the air quality at 170 AQI, both unhealthy levels.
The Pollution Control Department’s Air4Thai website reported a range of air quality from around 100 to 205 AQI and an average PM2.5 level of around 50 – 60 micrograms per cubic metre in Bangkok districts. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), on the other hand, reported a PM2.5 level of 50 – 89 microgramc per cubic metre.
Health-hazardous pollution levels were reported in 34 out of Bangkok’s 50 districts, with the worst being in Phra Nakhon district.
Unsafe PM2.5 levels were also reported in 23 other provinces: Ayutthaya, Chachoengsao, Chiang Rai, Chonburi, Kanchanaburi, Lampang, Loei, Nakhon Pathom, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Sawan, Nan, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Phayao, Phrae, Prachinburi, Ratchaburi, Rayong, Sa Kaeo, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Saraburi, and Suphan Buri.
The Thai government’s set safe limit for PM2.5 is 50 micrograms per cubic metre, while the guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) state that the annual average PM2.5 level should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic metre or a 24-hour average of 25 micrograms per cubic metre.
The government has yet to issue any concrete long-term plans to tackle air pollution, but among the measures planned in a meeting between the Pollution Control Department, the Department of Land Transport, and the Department of Highways is to set up more checkpoints for cars which release black smoke, to ask truck drivers not to come into Bangkok between 6.00 – 21.00 on odd-number days until the end of February, to reduce the price of diesel oil, and to tighten factory regulations, among others.
These measures will have to be approved by the cabinet before they are implemented. Meanwhile, Narumon Pinyosinwat, spokesperson of the Prime Minister’s Office, insisted that the smog situation has yet to reach crisis level, and asked the public not to panic.
Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is currently on a mobile cabinet meeting trip in in Narathiwat, said during a meeting with the public, that the people themselves are the cause of the air pollution problem, and that he does not want to punish people, but the government needs their cooperation. He also told those in sensitive groups to “wear face masks if you think you are in danger.”NewsPM2.5Air pollutionClimate crisisSmogSmog crisis
Amnesty International calls on the Thai authorities to stop instrumentalizing the legal process to intimidate and harass the leaders and members of the Future Forward party, as the country’s Constitutional Court prepares to deliver a judgment on 21 January 2020 on a judicial case that could see the party banned and its leaders prosecuted. The spate of prosecutions targeting the party appear to be in clear retaliation for activities of the party that fall within the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
The Future Forward Party faces disbandment on 21 January. The case was initiated on 18 June 2019 by a petition filed with the Constitutional Court by Natthaporn Toprayoon, former advisor to the Chief Ombudsman. The party’s leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, its secretary-general, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and several party executives are alleged to have violated Section 49 of the 2017 Constitution through acts deemed to have the intention of overthrowing the constitutional monarchy. Natthaphon further accused the party of having links to the Illuminati, a name given to both real and fictitious groups, citing a vague resemblance between the logos.
Despite the party’s request for a full inquiry, the Court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to issue a ruling in the case, and refused to summon witnesses or examine evidence. The party could face disbandment if the court upholds the complaint, which would violate Thailand’s human rights obligations, including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association of the party’s members.
Another case against the party came after the Election Commission recommended that the Constitutional Court dissolve the party, in a filing dated 11 December 2019. The document alleged that the party was in breach of Sections 62, 66 and 72 of the Political Parties Act, allegedly because it had accepted more than 10 million Baht (approx. USD 330,000) in one year and accepted “illegitimate sources” of funds. The party’s 15 executive members face a ban from competing in elections or founding a party for up to ten years, while the party itself faces dissolution. Amnesty International takes no position regarding the character of these charges.
The two cases have been accompanied by a slew of politically motivated prosecutions that have been brought against senior leaders and members of the party in the past two years. Most recently, authorities summoned five party leaders and members to hear charges in relation to the ‘flash mobs’ held on 14 December 2019 in response to the Election Commission’s recommendation. The suit accused them of a range of offenses, including failing to notify authorities of the gathering, obstructing the operations of the train station, unlawful use of speakers, and organizing a gathering within 150- metre radius of the Royal Court. Three of the accused also face charges filed by Sonthiya Sawasdee, MP for the majority Palang Pracharath Party, including sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code – which is extensively used to stifle peaceful dissent by activists, human rights defenders, journalist and lawyer. If convicted, the party members would face up to seven years in jail.
A new opposition party established in 2018, the Future Forward Party won 81 seats in the general elections in March 2019, the country’s first since the May 2014 coup led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha. Both before and after the elections, the authorities had tried to dissolve the Future Forward Party, and had disqualified Thanathorn from sitting in parliament.
The relentless onslaught against the Future Forward Party follows a trend of judicial harassment, which has been ongoing since the lead-up to the March 2019 general elections. The prospect of increased public support for political opponents is widely believed to have motivated the government’s many attempts to persecute Future Forward Party members or to dissolve the party altogether. Previously, the Thai authorities used the criminal justice system to target political opponents, as evidenced by the politically-motivated disbandment of the Thai Raksa Chart Party on 7 March 2019, whose leaders were barred from competing in elections for ten years.
The ongoing attacks on the political opposition must be seen in the context of the Thai authorities’ continuing surveillance, intimidation, harassment and prosecution of pro-democracy activists, human rights defenders, journalists and individuals criticizing the government since the May 2014 coup. Such actions continue to cause a chilling effect by way of silencing dissent, causing the public to fear exercising their human rights, and threatening individuals with reprisals.
Amnesty International calls on Thai authorities, as a state party to a number of international human rights treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to immediately halt the misuse of judicial powers against political opposition leaders and members and others and drop all charges against individuals charged simply for the peaceful exercise of their human rights. The authorities must publicly commit to ensuring that all individuals will be allowed to freely exercise their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
Amnesty International further calls on the members of the international community to publicly speak out against human rights violations and abuses in the country, closely monitor the government’s continued crackdown, and to use political and diplomatic leverage to promote human rights reforms and accountability for violations and abuses.Pick to PostAmnesty InternationalFuture Forward PartyConstitutional courtjudicial harassmentfreedom of expressionfreedom of assemblyfreedom of association
Khanakorn Pianchana, the judge who shot himself in protest against meddling in judges' decisions, will be charged by police for violating the gun law.
Sarawut Benjakul, Secretary-General of the Office of the Judiciary, said the Yala police have asked for permission from the President of the Supreme Court to prosecute Khanakorn as it is time for prosecutors to file criminal charges.
The case will be based on the law which prohibits carrying a gun in a public place or owning a gun without a license. The penalty is 1-10 years in jail and a 2,000-20,000 baht fine. So far, Khanakorn has not been detained.
In November last year, Khanakorn attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest in his courtroom in Yala Provincial Court after reading his verdict as a judge of the court of first instance. Criticizing how the judicial system operates, his statement described how the judicial establishment interfered with his work to favour military officers in the Deep South.
Proposing systemic reform, the last sentence of the statement read "return verdicts to judges, return justice to the people." After public outcry over the incident, an investigation committee was established by order of the President of the Supreme Court to look into what happened. It remains to be seen if its work will lead to judicial reform.
While investigations are going on, Khanakorn has been transferred to work as an assistant Appeal Court judge in Chiang Mai, where his family lives, but 1,700 kilometres from his former office in the insurgency-prone southern part of Thailand.NewsKhanakorn PianchanaDeep South
As the deadline for the submission of countries’ climate change action plans to the Paris agreement (NDCs) draws to a close, regional lawmakers urge ASEAN member states to review their climate ambitions.
The first Climate Strike march in Thailand took place in September 2019
The situation is dire. According to the UN, instead of reaching the Paris Agreement goal of keeping the world’s global temperature increases to “well below 2°C”, the world’s climate action plans are on track for a 3.2°C increase in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels by 2100. This is a catastrophic scenario and ASEAN member states are part of the culprits, said ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).
“Southeast Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change and while many governments recognize this imminent threat, experts are disappointed with their less-than-ambitious climate plans. They have one month to rectify this by submitting new enhanced climate action plans to the UN Climate Change Conference. We must act with fierce urgency and ambition to fulfill our respective commitments to the Paris Agreement, or risk failing our people, not just the agreement” says Anthea Ong, Nominated MP of Singapore and member of APHR.
The submission of climate action plans is part of countries’ obligations under the Paris Agreement. The action plans lay out the measures governments will implement to limit the global rise in temperature. Yet, according to the Climate Action Tracker, Indonesia and Singapore’s climate action plans are highly insufficient and Vietnam’s is deemed “critically insufficient” to meet the Paris agreement goal. Another report identifies all of Southeast Asia’s climate action plans as “insufficient”.
ASEAN governments have already submitted action plans, but until February, it is still possible for nations to submit new enhanced ones to the UN Conference on Climate Change. After that deadline, the next opportunity to review the plans will be in 2025, but, according to the UNEP, waiting until then will be too late to tackle climate change.
It is urgent that governments submit new stronger climate action plans by February in order to avoid a catastrophic situation says APHR. APHR regrets that when 73 nations committed last month at the COP25 in Madrid to increase their climate actions none of the ASEAN member states joined them.
Southeast Asia’s high exposure to the adverse consequences of climate change such as increased droughts, changing rainfall patterns, sea-level rise and increased incidence of extreme weather events will result in threats to Southeast Asians’ human rights including the right to food, life, water and others. According to the Asian Development Bank, climate change will also lead to economic losses in the region far greater than the world average. The bank estimates that climate change on its own could reduce the region’s GDP by 11% by the end of the century.
“Our people are already suffering disproportionately from climate change. Just three weeks ago, another typhoon hit the Philippines killing at least 28 people. We know that typhoons will be harsher and more frequent with climate change. Yet, our region’s governments’ response to this is: we won’t ameliorate our plans, even if scientists say they are insufficient. What they are doing is clear: they are abandoning their people.” said Kunthida Rungruengkiat, MP of Thailand, and a member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights.Pick to PostASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)Climate crisisClimate actionClimate ChangeParis agreementEnvironmental issue
10 women journalists shared their experience of working as an investigative journalists and strategies they used in their professional work, from mental health strategies to balancing work and family, and investigating state-sponsored killings, at the 2019 Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Hamburg, Germany, on the conference’s only two all-women panels.
(Source: Nick Jaussi / Netzwerk Recherche)
Associated Press writer Marta Mendoza shared her experience of becoming a mother while working as a journalist and working with colleagues who become parents, and the “quiet preparations” that go into balancing work and parenthood. Mendoza, who had her children while working as a journalist and took three to four months of maternity leave for each child, said that one of the reasons she might have talked to management about parenthood is that she did not want management to not assign her to a story because she was pregnant or nursing, and that she did not want to be given special treatment because she is a mother.
Mendoza said that she has a “huge privilege” in that her husband became a stay-at-home father, and therefore they have an easier time moving the family when her career requires it. She said that there are different ways of navigating becoming parents as journalists, and that she does not want to “preach” about it, but she encourages those in the industry to support each other when they themselves become parents or when their colleagues become parents, and to advocate for each other in order to implement the required facilities to support members of the organizations who have children, such as having a nursing room set aside for breastfeeding mothers.
Patricia Evangelista, investigative reporter for the Filipino news outlet Rappler, whose story “Murder in Manila” won the 2019 Global Shining Light Award in the large outlet category, shared her experience of working with Rappler’s almost all-women team. Her organization is “a matriarchy,” Evangelista said. It is led by women and staffed by mostly women, and values openness and caring for each other.
For the last three years, Evangelista has investigated the “War on Drugs” in the Philippines, the result of which is “Murder in Manila.” Evangelista said that when she started reporting the story, her management team held a security briefing. They told her to check in, to leave before sundown, to make sure she does not go alone, and to make sure that any vigilante she was speaking to was unarmed before she started talking to him. But she emphasized that they had let her start the investigation despite the risks.
“I am part of a long tradition of female journalists in the Philippines. They’ve survived torture. They’ve survived dictators. They’ve survived a threat of shutdown” said Evangelista, who went on to say that she is proud to be among her female colleagues.
Patricia Evangelista receiving the Global Shining Light Award for the story "Murder in Manila," an investigation into President Duterte's drug war
Minna Knus-Galàn from the Finnish Broadcasting Company shares her experiences of the challenges facing women journalists and her strategies for coping with these challenges. While she said that knowing how to cope with criticism is important for both men and women in the industry, she noted that she thinks women journalists often face more scrutiny, especially when they are covering “hard” topics such as financial crimes.
Knus-Galàn said that she once published a story on corruption in the Finnish tax administration, and a male journalist wrote a newspaper column criticizing the story, which she said is not an issue, since everyone has the right to criticism, but he had called her an “inexperienced girl reporter,” when she has 15 years of experience as a journalist. She also said that women journalists get a different kind of criticism from their male colleagues. The criticisms are often “more personal and sexist.” One of Knus-Galàn’s younger colleagues told her that after she published a story, she noticed that online commenters were discussing the size of her breasts. She then suggested that if such a thing happens, one should let one’s team know. She also said that an editor or producer should be able to act as a “buffer” for the journalists and to help absorb the shock when such comments are thrown at them.
Knus-Galàn’s recommendation is to document everything from one’s research to e-mails, and to keep them in order, so that they may be referenced if a claim is made that there is a factual error. She also stressed the importance of peer support in a news agency.
Marcela Turati, founder of Quinto Elemento Lab, Mexico, shared her experience of reporting as a woman in Mexico, where she often covers violent crimes, and how she processes and talks about what she is experiencing. Turati and her colleagues spent two years documenting mass graves in Mexico. She started noticing that her colleagues in the all-women team were showing signs of trauma, and realized the need to implement measures to support colleagues emotionally and to open up channels of communication about what each member of the team was experiencing, stressing the importance of finding ways to cope with reporting violence.
She also said that during the mass graves documentation project, one of her colleagues became pregnant, and in this case, it is important to set an “emotional deadline” so the colleague is able to distant herself from the atrocities they are documenting in the last month of her pregnancy.
Miranda Patrucic is an investigative journalist for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and two-time winner of the Global Shining Light Award. Patrucic has reported in Central Asia and Azerbaijan, and said that during the times she was being recognized with global journalism awards, she reached a point where she was so overworked that she was no longer productive. She began experiencing memory loss, panic attacks, inability to focus, brain fog, and fatigue, all of which are symptoms of burnout.
Patrucic said that, while the process took about a year, she was very lucky to have recovered and stressed that it is important to know one’s limits, to remember that “you are only human,” and to take care of yourself.
Juliane Löffler from BuzzFeed News also emphasized the importance of stopping and pausing to think about what one needs to be able to keep working. She said that there is a need to counter the stereotypical idea of what an investigative reporter is, such as being someone who is constantly working and who works alone, and that it is important to have mental health support, saying that her team has decided that they will have a “psychological supervisor” for the team that they can consult on a regular basis. She also said that it is important to be one’s own advocate and communicate to the organizations’ management that mental health resources are needed for a good performance.
On the topic of mental health and trauma, Japanese journalist and filmmaker Shiori Ito, sharing her experience of investigating sexual violence, said that “every story we do is sometimes traumatic.” Ito went public in 2017 with allegations that she had been sexually assaulted by Noriyuki Yamaguchi, the former Washington bureau chief for the TBS network with close ties to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in 2015. Her experience of the Japanese legal system after she reported that she was assaulted led to her investigation of sexual harassment in the Japanese media industry. She said that sometimes the investigation can be quite personal for the journalist, but also that the ability to investigate is a journalist’s power.
Shiori Ito holding a "victory" banner in front of the Tokyo district court when she won her lawsuit against Noriyuki Yamaguchi
Ito said that, when she first went to the police in 2015 and was told that the police would not take her case, she started to learn how the Japanese legal system fails victims of sexual violence. Since nothing came out of reporting the assault, she decided to go public. As a result, she received backlash against her and her family. She was also attacked by “right-wing” media, and said that she still faces threats and attacks. Ito was also told that by going public, she can no longer work in Japan, so she found work with a London-based media organization, which she said helped her in speaking out. She is now based in London, has worked in different locations around the world, and her latest project is an investigation into female genital mutilation in Syria.
In 2017, Ito published a book based on the documents she collected during the investigation process for her own assault case. Black Box has now been published in 64 languages, and Ito has been called “the symbol of Japan’s #MeToo movement” by several media outlets.
In December 2019, Ito won her civil case against Yamaguchi. The Tokyo District Court ordered Yamaguchi to pay Ito 3.3m yen, or around 911,590 baht, in damages, and dropped his counter suit against her.
Oriana Zill, producer for CBS News 60 Minutes, shared her experience of covering the story about children being separated from their families at the border by the US Homeland Security, a story she said she could not have covered without being a mother, and he storm of online attacks from government officials, which included being accused of spreading fake news and misinformation.
“Even when the government is attacking you, as women, we should be covering these hard issues that as women I think we have a particular talent to cover it [sic] well and spend the time we need with the victims and the families.”
Zill also pointed out that there is an imbalance across all media in terms of the gender of the interview subject, and said that, as a way of contributing to the ways news is being covered, she has made an effort to try to feature women in all of her stories.
“There are a lot of topics women would lean towards and cover, because we are women. I can do four stories a year and I tried to think about selecting the story topics that I’m going to do that will pertain to women and feature women prominently on television and should talk about issues that are really important to women,” Zill said.
Asha Mwilu, investigative journalist and Special Projects Editor for Citizen TV, Nairobi, Kenya, warned against unsafe reporting. Mwilu works in Kenya and shared her experience of reporting in areas under threat and in places that were later attacked. In 2012, Mwilu was running an investigation into criminal gangs in Kenya who are being used by local politicians to carry out ethnic violence before the election. Mwilu was speaking to gang members to find out what they were planning. She said that the day after the story aired, some of the gang members she interviewed came to her office during the night, and that these people were later found to have been armed.
She said that, in most cases, she was underfunded and did not have adequate security measures while working in risky situations. She also stressed the importance of considering the reporter’s well-being and safety before covering a story, with one of the measures being working as a team instead of alone, and that it is important to build a community not only of journalists but also civil society organizations.
Alejandra Xanic Vb, co-founder of Quinto Elemento Lab, shared her strategies for finding a work-life balance, noting that those who are not parents often have a harder time finding balance. She stressed the importance of thoughtfulness, of thinking about a plan for the project and what is needed for the way ahead, and of paying attention to one’s instincts. In recognizing the highs and lows of the investigative process, Vb said that it is also important to praise each other’s work and to celebrate the small successes.
The Panel was moderated by Sheila Coronel, Dean of Academic Affairs of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
More stories from the 2019 Global Investigative Journalism Conference
A 2011 report by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) which surveyed more than 500 media companies in nearly 60 countries, found that men occupy the “vast majority” of management and news-gathering positions in most countries, with 73% of top management positions being occupied by men and only 27% by women. Meanwhile, around 64% of reporters in the companies surveyed are men and only 36% are women.
The study stated that it has found “glass ceilings for women in 20 of 59 nations studied” with these barriers being found in the “middle and senior management levels.”
In Asia and Oceania, the study surveyed media companies in Australia, Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India, Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, and South Korea. It found that men in the media outnumber women four to one across the region, and that “the general pattern is one of exclusion,” with the exception of China, Fiji, and New Zealand, where “women are either at parity with men or even exceed the numbers of men, in some occupational levels associated with reporting and decision-making”.
The Global Investigative Journalism Network provides resources for women journalists, which can be found on its website, including ways of finding networks and opportunities of support for women journalists, as well as resources for handling issues such as online harassment, workplace discrimination, and gender-based violence.
The 2019 Global Investigative Journalism Network has also noted and been praised for the gender balance among its speakers and participants, with 48% of the speakers being women and 49% being men, while 50% of the participants are women and 45% are men.
Gabriela Manuli, Deputy Director of the Global Investigative Journalism Network, said that “it is not a challenge” to find women panellists, and that the organizers have done their very best to have gender-balanced panels.NewsGlobal Investigative Journalism ConferenceWomen in journalismgenderGender balancegender equality
Palang Pracharat (PPRP) MP Pareena Kraikupt has been formally appointed to the Standing Committee on Corruption and Misconduct despite being accused of encroaching on a national forest reserve area, prompting criticism from the Thai public.
Yesterday (16 January), an announcement appeared on the Royal Gazette website stating that PPRP MPs Pareena Kraikupt and Sira Jenjakha have been appointed to the Parliament Standing Committee on Corruption and Misconduct in place of two other MPs who resigned from the committee.
The decision to appoint the two MPs was made at a House of Representatives meeting on 6 November 2019 after two former members of the Committee, Thanasit Kowsurat and Payom Phrompetch, resigned.
Pareena has been accused of encroaching on about 1700 rai of national park land in Ratchaburi, where she operates a poultry farm. The issue came to light in August 2019 when she declared net assets of 140 million baht, which included a total of 1706 rai of land and 110 million baht of her annual income which came from her Khao Son poultry farms.
Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a former member of the now-dissolved Thai Raksa Chart Party then petitioned the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to investigate whether she had trespassed on forest reserve land. Subsequent surveys showed that 682 rai of her land had been declared reform land by the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO) and 46 rai was forest reserve land. As for the remaining 1000 rai, her father claimed the family never had that much land, and she later asked the NACC for permission to change her asset declaration to exclude the 1000 rai, claiming there was a misunderstanding.
In December 2019, Pareena returned the 682 rai of land to ALRO to be used for agricultural reform purposes. According to Capt Thammanat Prompow, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, who is at the centre of a scandal himself after an Australian news outlet reported that he once did jail time in Australia for drug trafficking, no criminal action will be taken against Pareena since her family owned the land before its ALRO designation and that she has already shown “good faith” by pledging to return it.
The Royal Forest Department (RFD) has also filed a legal complaint against Pareena for encroaching on 46 rai of protected forest land. The penalties for encroaching on forest land is 4-20 years in prison for plots over 25 rai and 1-10 years for smaller ones.
The Thai public has raised questions whether there were double standards in the authorities’ handling of the accusations against Pareena and whether legal action will be taken against the rich and the powerful. Her appointment to the Standing Committee prompted even more criticisms from the Thai public, many of whom took to the internet to express their opinion and asking how a “corrupt” MP is appointed to the Standing Committee on Corruption.NewsPareena KraikuptStanding Committee on Corruption and MisconductNational forestland encroachment
Tanawat Wongchai, one of the organisers of the “Run Against Dictatorship” in Bangkok, has been summoned by Bang Sue Police Station for organizing a public assembly without notifying the police according to the Public Assembly Act.
Tanawat posted on his Facebook page yesterday (16 January 2020) that the summons required that he report to the police station at 13:00 on Monday (20 January 2020). He insisted that a race is exempted from the Public Assembly Act and that this is a case of harassment of the political opposition.
The Public Assembly Act states that organizers of a political demonstration must notify the authorities no less than 24 hours before the event takes place. However, Article 3, Clause 3 of the Act states that it does not apply to an assembly held for sports or for entertainment.
However, Tanawat told Prachatai that the summons does not make him concerned about the next race, which is scheduled to take place on 2 February 2020, and that his team is not afraid, their only concern being that pressure from those in power will mean that they might not be able to find anywhere to organize the event.
- ‘Run Against Dictatorship’ finally launches after police pressure
The “Run Against Dictatorship” was a 6km mini-marathon and demonstration against the current government under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, and took place on Sunday (12 January 2020). Spin-off events also took place simultaneously in at least 14 other provinces. There have since been many reports of the organizers of “Run Against Dictatorship” events facing intimidation from the authorities in many provinces both before, during, and after the event.NewsRun against DictatorshipTanawat Wongchaijudicial harassmentPublic Assembly Actfreedom of assemblyfreedom of expressionfreedom of association
Extraordinary Cat Diversity in Myanmar and Thailand Landscape Underscores Need for Urgent Protection, WWF “Land of Cats” Report Says.
Bangkok, January 14, 2020 -- A remarkable one fifth of the world’s 36 cat species are found in a single landscape straddling Thailand and Myanmar, but they are under increasing threat of extinction, according to a new report from WWF that outlines an eight-point action plan to save them.
“Dawna Tenasserim: The Land of Cats” profiles the tigers, leopards, clouded leopards, Asiatic golden cats, marbled cats, jungle cats and leopard cats that roam the forests of this vast landscape. It also includes the elusive fishing cat, which may also live there. At 18 million hectares, the Dawna Tenasserim is the largest contiguous forested area in mainland Southeast Asia, with an incredible 82 percent still forested. Yet few people in Myanmar and Thailand are aware that they live next to one of the Planet’s great wilderness areas with so many amazing endangered cat species.
The seven, possibly eight cat species are holding on despite intense pressure from poaching for the illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss due to land clearing for agriculture, unsustainable infrastructure and retaliation for killing livestock. And they are following a depressing trend of decline in large cats across Asia, such as the recent conclusion that the tiger and the leopard are now extinct in neighbouring Laos.
“The cat diversity and the overall size and quality of the forest habitat in the Dawna Tenasserim are remarkable,” says Regan Pairojmahakij, Dawna Tenasserim Transboundary Landscape Manager. “But the cats’ days are numbered unless the countries, and the world in general, recognize the value of this cradle of biodiversity and quickly step up to address the threats to it.”
Highlights from the report include:
The Dawna Tenasserim has 180-220 tigers and a recent Myanmar survey of just eight percent of the country’s potential tiger habitat showed at least 22 tigers. Large parts of their potential range have no protection.
In 2019 a tiger was recorded in Thailand’s Kui Buri National Park for the first time in 7 years.
Leopards, most likely extinct in Laos, Viet Nam and nearly extinct in Cambodia, still exist in the Dawna Tenasserim but are declining. The Indochinese sub-species is now critically endangered.
The stunning Asiatic golden cat thrives in the Dawna Tenasserim and has even been camera trapped in pairs there. However, they are one of the species living close to a proposed road in Myanmar which could threaten their existence.
Given up as extinct in Thailand, the jungle cat re-emerged in the Dawna-Tenasserim on camera trap images in 2017. It is listed as critically endangered by Government of Thailand due to hunting pressure and habitat loss.
In contrast to the jungle cat, the leopard cat is abundant throughout the Dawna Tenasserim and is the most commonly captured species on camera traps in Myanmar.
Fishing cat have been recorded recently outside the landscape and claims of their presence inside it persist – only further surveys will tell!
Camera trap surveys in 2018-2019 captured six of the seven species in Myanmar and Thailand.
Threats to the cat species include infrastructure development, poaching for the illegal wildlife trade and expansion of agriculture and plantations.
“It’s so rare to have such a rich diversity of cat species – and other large wildlife like elephants, gaur, banteng and two species of bears – within a single landscape in Southeast Asia .at present. The wildlife have already been exterminated in the vast plains and squeezed into these narrow mountains, and it would be a double tragedy if we lost them further to poachers’ snares and developers’ bulldozers,” says Yoganand Kandasamy, WWF-Greater Mekong Wildlife Lead.
The report highlights threats such as conversion of land for maize, rubber, cassava, oil palm, and betel nut. Land conversion and construction of roads accelerate the poaching threat by providing easier access to endangered species for poachers. Cheap, home-made snares can be set by the hundreds in these forests and they can kill or maim any creature that comes along. And the proposed Dawei-Htee Khee Road that will connect a deep sea port and Special Economic Zone in Dawei, Myanmar with Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia threatens to bisect elephant and tiger movement routes. Recent wildlife surveys highlight the fact that many wildlife exist along the proposed road.
“The very reason so many cat species persist in the Dawna Tenasserim is because of a combination of Thailand’s effective protected area management, the strong conservation ethic of local communities in both countries, and long-standing inaccessibility of areas in Southern Myanmar resulting in little incursion into forest areas,” says Nick Cox, Interim Country Director, WWF-Myanmar. “If this road is built, it should include world-class wildlife passages and other sustainable infrastructure elements.”
WWF’s 8-point action plan to save the Land of the Cats includes:
1) Greater investment in critical areas for feline populations; 2) increased feline biodiversity surveys and research on prey abundance and habitat needs; 3) identification and protection of wildlife corridors within and between countries; 4) strengthening of wildlife protection units on both sides of the border, increased law enforcement and community protection of wildlife and habitats; 5) increased engagement with local and indigenous communities; 6) high level recognition and protection of vital wildlife habitat in the Dawna Tenasserim; 7) a transboundary approach for monitoring and protection of larger, wide ranging species such as tigers; and 8) anticipating, tracking and working with national and regional infrastructure planning agencies to mitigate the negative impacts of major projects such as roads.
“The dedicated national park teams work day and night to protect these cats and recently got video footage of a healthy tiger in Thailand with a massive kill – a gaur – proving that with the right protection and habitat management, we can ensure the Dawna Tenasserim can provide healthy habitat for not only tigers but all endangered species,” says Arnold Sitompul, WWF Thailand Conservation Director.Pick to PostWorld Wildlife Fund (WWF)WildlifeSource: Network
Thai state enterprise trade unions and the international labour movement have discussed solutions to the violations of workers’ rights which led to the US suspending GSP for Thailand. The unions also warned that the Thai government’s lack of understanding will affect trade opportunities with other countries
Last Wednesday (8 Jan 2020), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and State Enterprise Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC), labour unions representing workers in Thai state enterprises, organised a forum to voice their concern that the violations of workers’ rights which led to the US GSP suspension will affect trade opportunities with other countries.
The forum was held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok. The discussants included Cathy Feingold, ITUC Deputy President and Director of the International Department of the American Federation of Labor-Council of Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO), Sawit Kaewvarn, SERC General Secretary, and Chalee Loysoong, Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) Vice President, with Sakdina Chatrakul Na Ayudhya, an academic specializing in labour history, as moderator.
The forum provided the opportunity for Thai and international labour leaders to discuss, exchange, and suggest solutions to the problems of workers’ rights violations and anti-union practices which led to the USTR’s announcement to suspend Thai GSP on 25th October 2019, and to provide a channel for the press and concerned participants to ask questions and share opinions.
Cathy Feingold, union leader and activist from the 12.5 million-member AFL-CIO and 200 million-member ITUC, said that the American labour movement had advocated since the 1980’s enforced compliance with ILO core labour standards as a condition for GSP recipient countries, in order to prevent any country building a comparative advantage and reducing production costs by violating or restricting workers’ rights, which include the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
Feingold also explained that the GSP suspension is not about the US government pressuring Thailand to give more rights to migrant workers, as the majority of the cases in the GSP petition dealt with violations against Thai workers, such as the cases of the State Railway Workers’ Union of Thailand (SRUT), Thai Airways International Labour Union (TG Union), and Mitsubishi Electric Labour Union.
The filing of the GSP petition aimed to encourage respect for internationally recognized labour standards regardless of race or nationality. In the 2019 ITUC Global Rights Index, Thailand was given a rating of 5, or a country with no guaranteed rights. The suspension did not happen just because of one case but due to systemic violations of rights and the government’s failure to enforce labour standards. A union density of one percent is too low and affects workers’ bargaining power; accordingly, the international labour movement will continue to struggle for workers in Thailand to have their rights respected, and to have access to the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining in order to improve their lives.
Feingold also commented Thai Government might not truly understand the real impact of the GSP suspension, judging from its comments that only a few Thai exports would be affected. The suspension in April would be one-third of the total benefits. The view of Minister of Labour that the problems could be resolved by relying on the advice of technical advisors, not trade union leaders who understand the issues, is also very concerning. All exchanges with the Thai government will be passed on to the US government. The EU and Swiss governments, who are looking to negotiate FTA deals with Thailand, will also have to hear about workers’ rights violations in Thailand, as compliance with internationally recognized labour standards is also a condition of their FTAs.
Sawit Kaewvarn, SERC General Secretary, reported on the meeting between Feingold and Minister of Labour Chatumongkol Sonakul to discuss the window of opportunity to resolve the issues before GSP is suspended in April 2020. The current crisis is nothing new as Thailand has previously been under several boycott threats due to non-compliance with international human and workers’ rights. It was previously listed as a Tier 3 country in a US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report and yellow-carded by the EU regarding Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU). Those crises eventually led to cooperation between the government, employers and trade unions which helped improve the situation. However, the first step to resolve the problems is to admit and to speak the truth, not deny that there is any violation. Sawit gave his case as an example, as he is one of the SRUT leaders who were dismissed and are currently being prosecuted in the Criminal Court. His wages are being garnished and he only has 300 baht left each month, in retaliation for the union’s campaign to demand train safety after a train derailment caused 7 fatalities.
Sawit further stressed that nowadays the conduct of business and compliance with human rights are inseparable. The Thai government has signed many human rights agreements such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), but rarely does it honour their provisions. Thailand has also been a long-time recipient of US GSP benefits but has also failed to comply with the condition that internationally recognized labour standards must be promoted and protected. In the future, there is a greater chance that countries failing to meet these standards will have their exports boycotted. Recently on 28 November 2019, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), with members all over Europe, co-signed a letter with the ITUC calling on the Thai government to resolve all labour rights violations as detailed in the GSP petition. The ETUC, which also works with the EU Parliament, will also ensure that all EU members and other European countries understand the issues in Thailand before proceeding with any trade negotiations, including FTAs, as prior compliance with ILO core standards is required in such trade deals.
Sawit also recounted how the TLSC and SERC have assisted migrant workers in Thailand so that now they enjoy some rights of association and the right to bargain with an employers’ association that has over 20 member companies. Despite the continuation of violations and the inability to register their own unions, migrant workers have come a long way from the past when they were completely denied all rights. Sawit said that he is now more concerned with Thai workers, as many sectors, including civil servants and public employees, do not have the right to organize and to join unions. Public employees nowadays fall under many types of employment, and most lack protection under the social security and labour protection acts, and receive less than the minimum wage paid to Thai and migrant workers in the private sector. Sawit also revealed that he and other union leaders have been called “traitors” for reporting violations in Thailand to the international community, where he insists that cooperation among labour movement must transcend borders. The American labour movement has disagreed with and opposed many of the US government’s policies, and so has the Thai labour movement. Workers’ organizations such as the ITUC or AFL-CIO are brothers and sisters to Thai workers and workers all over the world, as they aim to ensure that economic development happens concurrently in compliance with human rights, including workers’ rights, not just the numeric growth of GDP that leaves workers who make up the majority in the country to be exploited and violated.
Chalee Loysoong, the TLSC Vice President, insisted that the violations detailed in the GSP petition mostly occurred against Thai workers. Thai labour laws have long failed to meet international standards as Thailand has not ratified ILO Conventions 87 and 98, which are the core standards that promote the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining that would lead to other rights and protections. The Thai government almost ratified the two conventions during the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration, but the process was delayed due to complicated parliamentary and legal requirements. Ratification then was pushed back after Abhisit dissolved parliament.
He recounted that he started working with the international labour movement about a decade ago as there were so many workers’ rights violations and anti-union practices. He collected over 10 cases in the first complaints sent in 2013, which included violations at Yum Restaurant, Electrolux, and the SRT. Chalee insisted that US government and the USTR had repeatedly sent their representatives for discussions and investigations with representatives of the Thai government and trade unions. The announcement of the GSP suspension has gone through a thorough process and not just happened overnight.
Chalee added that many violations have occurred since the first report in 2013. One of the most serious examples was the case of Mitsubishi Electric, where discrimination and retaliation included the company’s ban on union leaders and some members from returning to work after the end of the dispute, forcing the workers to participate in de-programming activities including military-style training to make the workers feel guilty about invoking their bargaining rights, and making it a condition of reinstatement that workers must no longer engage with the union.
Chalee also pointed out that he was fighting for subcontracted workers who received lower wages and benefits than permanent workers despite having the same job description. While the workers won a decision of the Supreme Court in 2012 that there must not be any discrimination in wages and benefits, the Ministry of Labour has refused to formulate ministerial regulations. This shows the failure of the Thai government to enforce labour protection in the country, as subcontracted workers suffering discrimination have to file their own complaints to the Labour Court, instead of having a ministerial regulation to automatically enforce equal wages and benefits.
Chalee said that the situation still has not improved after the announcement of the GSP suspension as many cases of labour rights violations and anti-union practices have happened since.
For example, Mizuno Precision in Ayutthaya dismissed the founders of the union one day after the first union congress; Pongpara Codan in Samut Sakhon shut down their plant with 1000 workers (700 of them union members) but re-opened at the same location under a new name and registration, asking the laid-off workers to re-apply with the wages and benefits reset; and Seishin in Chonburi shut down their plant without paying wages or severance pay. While the government believes that the GSP suspension would have a minimal effect on total exports, Chalee questions the reputation of the country, and if Thailand wants to be perceived as a country that develops by “suppressing the workers”. Chalee called for the government to have a clear direction and road map, with a timeframe to tackle the problems, to involve union leaders who understand the issues in the taskforce, and to improve cooperation among ministries such as the ministries of Labour, Commerce, and Foreign Affairs, in formulating a concrete plan to resolve all issues and raise international labour standards in the country.
After the forum, Sawit Kaewvarn, SERC General Secretary, read the joint statement of the ITUC and SERC demanding that the Thai government resolve labour issues by complying with international labour standards and principles that will be beneficial to both Thai and migrant workers in Thailand in promoting decent working conditions, which will result in having the US government review and possibly revoke the GSP suspension.
SERC also recommend that the Thai government work intensively with legitimate Thai trade unions to promote decent working conditions as a guideline to solving labour problems sustainably. The union also stated that it always has a strong commitment to fully cooperating with the Thai government in resolving labour issues.Newslabor rightsGSPInternational Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)State Enterprise Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC)Source: Network
You Can “Run Against Dictatorship”: Basic Legal Recommendations before Staging a “Run Against Dictatorship” Event
On 12 January 2020, people in several Thai provinces and abroad will unite to “Run Against Dictatorship”. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has found that event organizers in Bangkok and other provinces have faced difficulty in obtaining permission to use some locations for the event, being threatened by officials when requesting permission to stage the event. The authorities claim that Run Against Dictatorship is considered as a public assembly and a political activity. To clarify and debunk such consideration, TLHR has the following legal recommendations.1. Run Against Dictatorship is not a public assembly
According to the Public Assembly Act 2015, to be considered as a public assembly, such an event must bear all of the following three characteristics:
1) It must be a gathering of people in a public space;
2) It must be a gathering solicited to demand, support, oppose or express an opinion on any matter utilizing a public display;
3) Other people must be able to join the assembly.
Provided that a Run Against Dictatorship event is organized following these characteristics, for example: by holding the event in a private space; by holding the event without making any demands, or without expressing support for, opposition to, or opinion on a particular subject; by organizing an activity for a specific group of people and which anyone who has not previously registered cannot attend – these are not considered as characteristics of public assembly as defined by law.
Thus, there is a clear application registration process for the Run Against Dictatorship, so the general public cannot simply join in, just as with most running events. This means it should not come under the purview of the Public Assembly Act and there is no need to comply with this law.2. Run Against Dictatorship is a sporting event and thus does not fall under the purview of the Public Assembly Act
Run Against Dictatorship is a sporting event just like any other race or fun run with a social message, such as runs with environmental campaigns, anti-drug campaigns, campaigns against domestic violence, or other running events. None of these are subjected to the Public Assembly Act, since Article 3(3) stipulates that the Act shall not be enforced on sports gatherings. Thus, the Run Against Dictatorship itself in this sense is a sporting activity that holds the social campaign as the subject of concern, just as with other running events. Per the wording of the Act, the event, therefore, shall not be subjected under the purview of the Public Assembly Act, and authorities cannot use such allegation as a claim to force organizers of the event to give prior notification, set event conditions, or prohibit activities entirely.3. There is no law against political activities
Since the repeal of NCPO Order No. 3/2015 Article 12, which prohibited political gatherings, there is currently no law prohibiting people from gathering or engaging in political activities. Even if, as the authorities argue, Run Against Dictatorship events amount to political activities, people still enjoy the right to organize such activities per the Constitution.4. The law requires the organizer to “notify of the assembly”, not to “request permission” to assemble.
Run Against Dictatorship is a legitimate expression approved by the Constitution. If the organizers of the event do want to arrange it in the form of rally or public assembly, they must notify the police. The police, however, have no power to prohibit the activity.
Section 44 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand 2017 stipulates that “a person shall enjoy the liberty to assemble peacefully and without arms” and Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stipulates that “the right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized”. Consequently, if the organizers of the Run Against Dictatorship event choose to hold it in the form of a public assembly, they can do so per the laws guaranteeing their rights and freedoms. Public officials do not have the power to prohibit such activity. They have no power to grant or disallow; the only legal requirement is that the officials be notified in advance of any public assembly.
Article 10 of the Public Assembly Act stipulates that the police must receive notification not less than 24 hours before the assembly is due to start. The police are then obliged to respond to the notifier within 24 hours of receiving notification and to send a summary of essential information concerning public assemblies. This has nothing to do with a request for permission; it is merely a “notification”. Officials have no legal authority to grant or disallow an assembly. Furthermore, should officials prohibit an assembly or similar activity, they will be in breach of the Constitution, the highest source of law in the country.5. If there is no prior notification of an assembly, assembly participants are not guilty
If the Run Against Dictatorship event is staged as a public assembly without the legally required notification, only the event organizers may be found guilty. Section 28 of the Public Assembly Act imposes a fine of not more than 10,000 Baht. There is no jail sentence, however, for the cases in which TLHR has assisted, the court has ordered fines of 1,000, 2,000, and 3,000 Baht, depending on the case.
Assembly participants (not organizers) who participate in the assembly, despite the lack of notification, will not be prosecuted as per Sections 4, 10 and 28 of the Public Assembly Act 2015.6. There is no prison sentence for running on a road and obstructing traffic
Should the course of Run Against Dictatorship be on a public road and that the activities need to use such space, the organizers must obtain permission to use the road surface from traffic officers per the Road Traffic Act 1979.
The regulations on requesting the use of a road surface issued by the Traffic Police Division require that a request be submitted no less than 15 days before the intended march or procession (see the regulations here).
However, should the police traffic officers deny permission, participants in a march or procession which obstructs traffic may receive a fine not exceeding 500 Baht, with no imprisonment per Section 148.7. No imprisonment for unauthorized use of an amplifier
In municipal areas, the mayor is the competent official.
Outside the municipality, the District Chief or Deputy District Chief is the competent official.
In Bangkok, this means the competent authority lies with the District Office for the area in which the amplifier will be used.
The use of an amplifier without permission imposes a fine of not more than 200 Baht, without imprisonment, per Article 9 of the Advertising Control Act.8. If you have any issues related to this event, please call Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.
If you are the organizers of the Run Against Dictatorship event or members of the general public who face any issues related to the freedom of expression or freedom of assembly, you can contact TLHR for further information or request legal advice.Pick to PostRun against DictatorshipThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Source: Network (TLHR)
PM2.5 levels in Bangkok and surrounding provinces have reached a hazardous level for the third consecutive day on Friday (10 January), with the air quality measuring between 156 – 163 AQI (Air Quality Index), while the government has yet to issue any concrete long-term plan to tackle the issue.
AirVisual recorded 163 AQI on Friday afternoon, while the World Air Quality Index Project Team recorded 169 AQI, both unhealthy levels.
The Pollution Control Department’s website reported 204 AQI as of Friday (10 January), which is a potential health hazard. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA)’s statistics, meanwhile, report lower PM2.5 levels than other monitoring units, ranging from 53 to 115 microgram per square metres.
Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha said in a tweet on Friday morning that cars which release black smoke will be put on a watchlist and would be subject to tougher inspection when they renew their license. He also recommended that the public wear face masks and avoid outdoor activities.
From Saturday to next Thursday, government health officials will also send out mobile health clinics to Bangkok’s Phasi Charoen District, one of the districts with the worst air quality according to BMA statistics, with its PM2.5 level at 127 microgram per square metres.
However, the government does not seem to have any rational long-term plan to tackle the smog crisis, which appears to have worsened since the beginning of 2019. Government solutions typically involve spraying water into the air in affected areas and near air quality monitor stations, a solution already criticized for being ineffective against PM2.5 smog, and pledging tougher punishments for vehicles or buildings that contribute to pollution.NewsPM2.5SmogAir pollutionenvironment
Authorities have been attempting to block spin-off Run Against Dictatorship events in at least three provinces, while the main Bangkok event has been forced to move from Thammasat University to Wachirabenchathat (Rot Fai) Park.
Yesterday (7 January), Khaosod reported that Acting Sub-Lt. Prasert Nguansuwan, President of the Phrae Democracy Lovers Network, and other organizers of the event met with the Superintendent of the Muang Phrae Police Station on Monday morning (6 January) to request permission to organize the Phrae Run Against Dictatorship event. The Superintendent said that he would check the documents before granting permission, but has yet to inform the organizers of his decision.
Meanwhile, iLaw said that the organizers of the Phrae Run Against Dictatorship have faced intimidation from the authorities. Prasert told iLaw he has been visited by plainclothes police officers on Saturday (4 January), and that they tried to convince him to cancel the event, claiming that it might violate the Public Assembly Act.
On Sunday (5 January), Prasert said that the police asked to see him again, so he went to meet three officers at a coffee shop. The officers, who told Prasert they are from the Phrae public security police, asked Prasert to cancel the event, claiming that it could affect national security. They also told Prasert that the authorities will not grant him permission to organize the event if he were to file a request, telling him that the event could be violating the Public Assembly Act and other legislation. However, Prasert insisted that he will not cancel the event.
Prasert also claimed that he has been followed by plainclothes officers while traveling around, and told iLaw that he was later told by a neighbour after he went to the Muang Phrae Police Station on Monday (6 January) that a police officer came to photograph his house. In addition, he said that plainclothes officers visited the Future Forward Party’s Phrae headquarters to meet the other organizers yesterday afternoon (7 January) to convince them to cancel the event and were asking whether the party is involved with the event.
Meanwhile, on Monday (6 January), Thai Lawyers For Human Rights (TLHR) reported that three students from the University of Phayao who were organizing a Run Against Dictatorship event in Phayao were summoned by the police to provide more information about the event, after the three students were questioned for over 5 hours on Sunday (5 January).
The superintendent of the Muang Phayao Police Station then sent the students a letter refusing them permission to organize the event on the grounds that the Muang Phayao Municipality Office has not granted them permission to use the space and that they have not been permitted by the traffic officer to use the road.
The letter also stated that if they continue to organize the event without filing a request for permission to hold a public assembly, they may be violating the Public Assembly Act.
TLHR also reported that police officers have been calling the students repeatedly over a period of three days to summon them in for questioning, even visiting their parents’ homes at night.
One of the students said that police officers went to his family’s home in Chiang Rai, and after learning that his mother has gone to the temple, they followed her there in order to question her whether her son is involved with the Run Against Dictatorship event in Phayao and whether she allowed him to get involved. They also questioned her about his personality and whether he has previously been involved in political activities.
The three students said they will still be organizing an event, but possibly in a different format.
In Ubon Ratchathani, Matichon reported that the Acting Superintendent of the Muang Ubon Ratchanani Police Station withdrew his permission for a Run Against Dictatorship event, after a request to hold a public assembly was filed on 6 January.
The Superintendent claimed that the permission was previously granted because he thought it was a running event involving collecting trash along the street, but after the authorities reviewed the request, they withdrew the permission because the event has a political intention and may involve an anti-government demonstration.
Khaosod also reported that the police told the organizers that the event violates other people’s rights and so is not allowed.
Organizers of similar events were also visited by police officers. Pongsathon Tancharoen, a student at Mahasarakham University, told iLaw that police officers from the Muang Maha Sarakham Police Station visited him at his home in Kalasin during the New Year holiday to question him about the event.
Not only that, Pongsathon also received a phone call from one of the lecturers at Maha Sarakham University, telling him that national security authorities had contacted the University, and that the University’s administrators felt it was not appropriate for the event to be held on campus.
After it became clear that the University would not allow them to organize the event on campus, the organizers announced that they will be moving the venue inside the city. Pongsathon then received a phone call from one of the officers who visited him, claiming that his “boss” wants to know what Pongsathon’s parents do for a living, which he felt was an attempt at intimidation.
Walailak University also issued a statement on Tuesday (7 January) that it is not affiliated with the organizers of the Run Against Dictatorship event in Nakhon Si Thammarat, and that it does not permit the event to use campus space. Its statement said that while it supports academic freedom of thought, it does not support political activism, and does not allow such activity to be held on campus.
Currently there are Run Against Dictatorship and similar events organized in at least 14 provinces and at least 6 places overseas, all of which are scheduled to take place on 12 January. The organizing committee of the main Run Against Dictatorship in Bangkok, which has been forced yet again to move to Wachirabenchatat Park after Thammasat University did not allow them to use their grounds, said that they are not involved with the events organized in other places, but organizers of other events may contact them for shirts and medals.NewsRun against DictatorshipPublic Assembly Actfreedom of expressionfreedom of assemblyfreedom of associationpolice intimidation
On 31 December 2019, the Constitutional Court of Thailand decided not to accept a petition made by two LGBT couples and the Foundation for SOGI Rights and Justice (For-SOGI) on 22 November 2019, requesting the Court to rule whether the current Thai marriage law violates the 2017 Constitution.
The two couples with representatives from LGBT rights organizations in front of the Constitutional Court
The Court ruling stated that the submission of the petition was not in accordance with Articles 46, 47, and 48 of the 2018 Organic Law on the Rules and Procedures of the Constitutional Court.
The Organic Law states that an individual whose rights have been violated may petition the Court to rule on a case within 90 days after filing a petition with and receiving a ruling from the Ombudsman. However, Article 47 states that said violation of rights must not be an instance for which other legislation has specified the procedure, which has not been completed. The Court stated that the refusal of the Registrar at the Phasi Charoen District Office to register the marriage of the couples is an administrative act for which the Constitution has specified other procedures.
The Court also stated, as one of the reasons for its rejection, that the Rights and Liberties Protection Department of the Ministry of Justice is already in the process of proposing a Civil Partnership Bill. However, this bill has long faced criticism from NGOs and LGBT rights activists for not giving same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, and is seen as relegating the LGBT community to the position of second-class citizens.
The lack of marriage equality has meant that same-sex couples in Thailand face issues such as not having the power of attorney to make medical decisions on behalf of their partners. They are unable to adopt a child together or to have access to assisted reproductive technology. In cases where one partner dies, the other is not able to inherit or make legal decisions about their partner’s assets, and in cases where one partner is not a Thai national, they are not entitled to a marriage visa in order to take residence in Thailand with their partner.
Earlier this year, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, Thailand’s plan for a Civil Partnership Bill does not appear to be making any progress, but a group of LGBT rights organizations is now pursuing an amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code to have the definition of marriage changed from being between a man and a woman to between two persons.
Meanwhile, yesterday, the Supreme Court of the Philippines also rejected a petition to legalize same-sex marriage. The petition was filed by radio show host and lawyer Jesus Falcis, who sought to challenge the definition of marriage as a “permanent union between a man and a woman” in the country’s Family Code and clauses declaring homosexuality as grounds for separation, and was once lauded as historic in the predominantly Catholic country. It was first rejected in September 2019 on the grounds that Falcis did not have a partner and was not seeking marriage, and therefore cannot claim to be a victim of existing laws. A motion for reconsideration was denied yesterday (6 January) “with finality,” on the grounds that no substantial argument was presented “to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision,” preventing further motions from being submitted in the case.NewsDiscrimination against LGBTLGBT rightsmarriage equalitysame-sex marriagemarriage lawCivil and Commercial CodesConstitutional courtFor-SOGI
In 2018 Setthawut Poonsiriratanakul, 31, was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Sunicha Inchuay, 27, in 2011.
Setthawut stabbed Sunicha repeatedly and cut her throat.
Thailand passed the Domestic Violence Protection Act in 2007 in an attempt to punish and reform abusers. Still, A seminar in January this year reported that the number of deaths related to domestic violence in the first 2 weeks of this year was double that of the previous year.
Prachatai English spoke with lawyer, activist, and domestic abuse survivor Busayapa “Best” Srisompong, about how Thai police handle complaints of domestic violence. [The interview was conducted in English and is recorded verbatim.]
Busayapa Srisompong (Source: SHero Project)What did you say during your conversation with the police? How did they respond?
"The first time I walked in the station I asked to report ‘domestic violence’. The officers told me that it was not serious, suggested that I did not need to report because I am not seriously injured. I felt uncomfortable because the interview was not in a private space. I sat where everyone else can hear what is going on easily. It is the front desk area. They suggested that I should talk to my ex and we will be fine. I tried to tell the police that I do not feel safe. They told me to call them if it is happen again. The first attempt I just gave up and walked out.
"I went to a clinic at first then I was referred to the hospital. At the hospital I did body check. OSCC [One Stop Crisis Centre] had made record of my scars, bruises, my head was in pain as well after the attack but I have no brain injuries. I also have the bleeding like period bleeding but it was not internal injury, it occurred from stress. (I was kicked in the stomach as well.) I told them all of these, but for police officers it seems to be normal.
"Then I went back a second time after I spoke to many of my friends and had decided to should report, for safety and for justice. The second time was not easy but I push it and I also called my mentors who are gender specialist and domestic violence advocate. They speak to the police directly. It takes a lot of effort before police officer agree to start the case. Eventually, the officer did help me through the case. They tried convincing me to do mediation procedure with my ex from time to time, but I was firm that I do not want to mediate. I simply have nothing to compromise.
"Domestic violence is a crime. I do not want to be silenced anymore. He later got a year probation and pay a small amount of fine. That was all. I did not ask for compensation. I did not want it. I just want justice."Do you know what percentage of abused women in Thailand report the abuse?
"It is difficult to identify the prevalence of GBV [gender-based violence] against women because most cases went under-reported, therefore there is no evidence to make statistics. I personally think that we should not narrate GBV story over numbers because GBV happen everywhere, any minutes. The numbers will not be precise and may generalize the wrong image towards certain community. We should look into the numbers of how many cases have achieve access to justice and public services, how many have not. There is no evaluation about satisfaction towards public services on GBV either, which is need to be done to improve the system."Can you provide any statistics about how Thai police respond to abused women? Do you know how common it is for police to dismiss abused women?
"No statistics. From my professional experiences, all of my cases have difficulty receiving immediate responses from the police officers. All of them struggle to report the case. Struggles to reporting are:
- Police try not to open official case, instead, ask questions to the victims in the direction that its victims faults, and convince victims to settle the case at police level by mediation with the abuser.
- Telling them that it is not their jurisdiction, victim has to go to other police station, while police can assist the victim by take a record first not just saying no and tell them off.
- Victims are often told by police that they cannot report because there is no evidence, where it is their job to find evidence they can’t say no to the victims.
Most people don’t know what to do and give up reporting.
"It can also be a struggle to answer harsh questions at reporting stage, without being in private investigation space, officers asked several inappropriate questions until survivors lost their confidence."Why do you think that Thai police don’t believe abused women? What are the social reasons behind this? Do you think that the issue of Thai police not believing women is connected to victim-blaming culture?
"Police institution has their organizational problem, lack of funding and human resources to the field offices, changing position of officers inappropriately. Therefore it is rare to find the officers who specialize in certain issues, overworked- overloaded of cases make them dismiss SGBV [Sexual and gender-based violence] cases – as SGBV are the most sensitive and difficult to find evidences. Police officers have to deal with emotions which they do not have (enough) training for it. Also, most domestic violence survivors tend to not complete the case after the officers had opened the case. That is one of the reason police don’t like DV [domestic violence]case (they told me). It can be because of survivors struggle to live relationship and did not have enough psychosocial support to go through the justice procedure.
"For sexual violence survivors, to go through insensitive process you can be triggered/retraumatised easily. So yes there are survivors who choose legal path, but most do not. And survivors who start the case and could not go through with it. The investigation procedure is not victim-friendly due to insensitive interrogation - victims have to repeat your assault incidents for 3-4 times until the trial. Rape cases, most survivors have ‘blackout’ ‘freeze’ or traumatise in the different way. They cannot tell the story the same way every times. Sadly, some law enforcers do not understand and have negative attitudes.
"Most of the time, evidence from rape survivor’s body has already gone because they did not go to hospital and report to the police right after the attack (most don’t come right away due to shock, and disgust feeling make them wash off themselves clear all physical evidence) so it is difficult for the police to proof. But instead of being supportive, officers sometimes hold it against the victims – tend to questions as if they are lying or blaming them for putting themselves at risks.
"However, there have been attempt for police training to deal with sexual assault cases. But changing attitude been interactive workshop and also fund to support work, office spaces, train specific officers to deal only with SGBV cases not mix with other case. I do not want to comment on the police unfairly. There are good police officers that want to help people and change this too. Most are new generation officers who want to create changes within the core of system but it is not easy.
"There are lack of attitude, skill and knowledge capacity in police systems to deal with SGBV cases effectively.
"In terms of deeper root cause, Thai gender stereotyping, norms, normalisation of violence against women have led to victim-blaming culture as a consequence. This is not just happen in police institution, it is everywhere. People internalize those ideas without realizing it, and socialize this idea among police informal forums that have a lot of victim-blaming attitudes and stigmatisation towards sexual violence survivors."InterviewBusayapa Srisompongsexual violencegender-based violenceDomestic violence
Cartoon by Stephff: India's controversial citizenship lawMultimediaStephffIndiaCitizenship law