Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has claimed that HM the King asked for no prosecutions under Article 112 of the Criminal Code. However, other laws and extra-legal means have been used to stop anti-monarchy speech.
Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha
On 15 June, the Prime Minister stated that the things that he is most concerned about now are acts denigrating the monarchy.
He urged Thai people not to believe distorted messages that create hate which are being spread increasingly as a special day approaches. The Prime Minister did not identify the day but observers believe he was referring to the anniversary of the 1932 Siamese Revolution on 24 June.
On anti-monarchy campaigns in neighbouring countries and Europe, the Prime Minister said that the authorities will send letters to these countries and it would depend on how they reacted. Gen Prayuth denied that Thailand was operating undercover missions outside the country.
The Prime Minister added that the authorities have asked for the cooperation of states where there are anti-monarchy movements. Some of the people involved have refugee status. Those people must know what they should not do in those countries.
“Be aware why Article 112 is not being used to prosecute cases and why there are people grabbing this opportunity. His Majesty has royal mercy and his royal grace has been directly repeated to me these past 2-3 years not to use Article 112.”
Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said that the authorities are now investigating the anti-monarchy network. When the names are identified, they will be prosecuted. He also affirmed that Article 112 will not be used.Computer crime, sedition and ‘extra-legal means’ replace lèse majesté
Article 112 imposes jail terms of 3 to 15 years for each count on those who defame, insult, or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent.
Prachatai reported in 2019 that no new Article 112 cases were prosecuted. However, Article 116 of the Criminal Code on sedition and Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act, which can be interpreted as criminalizing expression as a threat to the national security, are being increasingly used.
Extra-legal means are also used by the police and military officers. These include detention without a warrant, forcible collection of personal data, MOUs restricting future behaviour or forcing the signature of documents whose content is hidden. These methods are used against suspects without prior notification of their rights. Some people are forced to delete allegedly criminal posts.
Pavinee Chumsri, from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), said that the law does not permit officers to summon people without charge. Arrest and search warrants are also needed. Documents that are signed without the suspect knowing what they say are sometimes used in future prosecutions.
On November 2019, TLHR reported that a university student in Pathum Thani Province was taken to a police station by 3 plainclothes police officers who did not show her any official authorization. They only informed her that it was because of her twitter posts that were seen as defaming the monarchy.
The student, along with a university secretary, was taken to Khlong Luang Police Station where she was interrogated by about 10 unidentified plainclothes police officers. The main questions focused on her tweets about the monarchy, and her opinion of the Prayut administration.
The officers asked her to delete all of the allegedly criminal tweets. They also made copies of her mobile phone IP address, twitter ID, telephone number, all emails in her inbox, LINE chats, and Instagram and Facebook messages. She was pressured into signing her name to an MOU that allowed the authorities to inspect her electronic devices and use the collected data, which affirmed that the officers did not threaten or assault her and where she promised not to tweet any more messages about the monarchy.
In September 2018, Nathee, a 28 mentally ill man, was arrested over 2 Facebook posts from 2016 where he expressed his opinion about the late King Rama IX. He was charged by the police under the lèse majesté law and the Computer Crime Act. Later, the charge under the lèse majesté law was dropped and replaced by one under Article 116 of the Criminal Code on sedition.
In December 2019, Nathee was found guilty under the Computer Crime Act and sentenced to 3 years in prison, reduced to 2 years because the court found his testimony useful. While on bail pending an appeal, Nathee committed suicide on 12 April 2020.
In February 2020, Niranam_ (the name means ‘anonymous’ in Thai), a famous twitter user who posted many comments on the history of the Thai monarchy and become well-known among teenagers and social media users was taken to Pattaya Police Station without an arrest warrant.
He was subsequently charged with violating the Computer Crime Act over posting photos and messages about King Rama X. On 9 June, he faced 7 new charges related to 7 tweets about the current and former kings and claims about being a fashionista, the death of King Rama VIII, the October 1976 massacre and the 2006 coup d’état.
If found guilty on all 8 charges, Niranam_ faces a maximum of 40 years in prison (maximum 5 years for each charge).NewsPrayuth Chan-o-chaLèse-majestéArticle 112NiranamNiranam_NatheeThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Source: prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/88159
Human rights activists, legal experts and politicians are demanding laws to protect citizens from enforced disappearance while calling on the Thai and Cambodian governments to show responsibility for the disappearance of Thai dissident Wanchalearm Satsaksit.
The participants on the panel, from left: Thapanee Eadsrichai, Sunai Phasuk, Angkhana Neelapaijit, Chaitawat Tulathon, Pol Col Tawee Sodsong, Chayootm Sirinantapaiboon, Piyanut Kotsan, and Nongporn Roongpetchwong
Wanchalearm is a Thai political activist who was reported kidnapped from his residence in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 4 June. As of 12 June, neither the Thai nor Cambodian governments had conducted an investigation.
On 11 June, 25 organizations held a joint forum on the risks of enforced disappearance and possible protections. The panel included Wanchalearm’s friends and representatives from human rights and legal organizations, the Justice Ministry and two political parties.
Chayootm Sirinantapaiboon, who has known Wanchalearm since 2002, said nobody should be “abducted and murdered” solely for criticizing or expressing dissenting political opinions, not even criminals.
Chayootm said he has been told since he was young that he needs to beware of his safety when expressing his thoughts on political matters.
Director of Amnesty International Thailand Piyanut Kotsan also expressed her concern.
“We’re in a land that is obscure. Mouths that accidentally speak, hands that happen to post, or even only thoughts that flash out, we are warned,” Piyanut said. “It makes us worried about whether or not we are breaking a law, even though in fact laws shouldn’t have been designed to block the freedom of expression of the people.”
Wanchalearm is not the only activist who has mysteriously disappeared. Advisor to Human Rights Watch Sunai Phasuk said there have been eight activists who disappeared from the neighbouring countries of Laos and Cambodia. Two of the eight were found dead.
The most basic human right is the right to life, Sunai said. The public should care about Wanchalearm’s disappearance as his most basic human right has been violated. His political opinions cannot be considered an excuse to not care about him.Laws to prevent torture and enforced disappearance
Thailand started drafting legislation that would prevent torture and enforced disappearance when the government raitified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) in 2007. But it has not yet been enacted. Nongporn Roongpetchwong of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, Ministry of Justice, said the
draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act has been delayed since it conflicts with a section in the 2017 constitution.
Director of Amnesty Thailand Piyanut Kotsan said the government must pass the act so the people can have legal assurance that they can express their opinions freely while being able to seek justice when they are faced with injustice from the authorities.Problems with Thai laws
Pol Col Tawee Sodsong, Secretary-General of the Prachachart Party, said the problem with Thai laws is that they were not designed to serve the people, but rather to control the people.
“Whichever class writes the laws, the laws serve people in that class,” Pol Col Tawee said.
Chaitawat Tulathon, Secretary-General of the Move Forward Party, agreed and pointed out that what happened shows that the government sees its people as its enemy and as a threat to national security. Chaitawat believes the draft act would be difficult to pass under Gen Prayut’s administration but he said his party will keep pushing this legislation.
To make the draft act effective and actually serve justice for the disappeared, their family members must be a part of drafting it, suggested Angkhana Neelaphaijit, former National Human Rights Commissioner, as she believes there is no one who has a better understanding of the loss than them. After Somchai Neelaphaijit, her husband, was abducted, she hoped he would be the last person to face the situation but it keeps happening. Angkhana said there must be an assurance from the government to guarantee that no one will face this injustice.Pressure on the Thai and Cambodian governments
It has been more than a week since Wanchalearm disappeared but neither government has acted on it. Chayootm said Wachalearm is not the administrator of the anti-government Facebook page, กูต้องได้ร้อยล้านจากทักษิณแน่ๆ (I must get 100 million baht from Thaksin for sure), as he has been accused, but he did not get a chance to defend himself.
Chayootm called for justice for Wanchalearm, saying the Cambodian government must investigate the case as a crime has been committed on Cambodian soil, and must institute legal proceedings once they find the suspect.
Sunai called on Thai government to stop devaluing and dehumanizing Wanchalearm, as Gen Prayut said they do not know who Wanchalearm is and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said he was not registered as a political refugee in the UNHCR system. Sunai pointed out that the Thai government has the constitutional duty to protect its citizens regardless of personal relationships or their legal status. Sunai suggested that Thai government publish its communications with the Cambodian government for reasons of transparency and completeness of the documentation.NewsWanchalearm Satsaksitenforced disappearanceanti-torture billThapanee EadsrichaiSunai PhasukAngkhana Neelapaijit Chaitawat Tulathon Pol Col Tawee Sodsong Chayootm SirinantapaiboonPiyanut KotsanNongporn RoongpetchwongHuman Rights WatchAmnesty International
Six people who participated in the demonstration in front of the Cambodian Embassy last Monday (8 June) to call for the authorities to address the disappearance of activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit have been summoned by the police on Emergency Decree charges, said Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).
The group of protestors in front of the Cambodian Embassy on the afternoon of 8 June.
TLHR reported that Chotisak Onsoong, a leader of the activist group People’s Party for Freedom, Mathana Atchima), and one other person reported receiving a summons from Wang Thong Lang Police Station requiring them to report on 17 June for violating the Emergency Decree. They said that the summons also named activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and five other people.
One of those who received the summons said that it concerned their participation in a demonstration in front of the Cambodian Embassy on 8 June to demand that the authorities investigate the disappearance of Wanchalearm, who was abducted from in front of his condominium in Phnom Penh on 4 June.
The NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO COD) also posted on their Facebook page yesterday (14 June) that their four representatives who went to the Cambodian Embassy on the morning of 8 June to submit a petition calling for an investigation into Wanchalearm’s disappearance have also received a summons from Wang Thong Lang Police Station for violating the Emergency Decree.
A group of students from the Student Union of Thailand (SUT) were also arrested and threatened with charges under the Emergency Decree after they tied white ribbons at various Bangkok locations as part of their “White Ribbon Against Dictatorship” campaign, in which they invite the public to display a white ribbon to call for justice for Wanchalearm. The police later dropped the Emergency Decree charges and instead charged them with violation of the Cleanliness Act and failing to carry their national identification cards.
The Thai authorities have, on many instances, used the Emergency Decree to restrict freedom of expression. Several activists have been arrested and charged under the Decree, including Chaiyaphum-based human rights defender Sunthorn Duangnarong, political activist Anurak Jeantawanich, and former MP Dr Tossapon Serirak.
Police in Songkhla also denied a request from a beach conservation network to hold an anti-seawall protest on Muang Ngam Beach on 23 May, claiming that the protest would violate the Emergency Decree.
On 2 June, the police also denied a request from student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal to organize a commemoration event on the 31st anniversary of the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.NewsWanchalearm SatsaksitEmergency DecreeState of emergencyfreedom of expressionfreedom of assemblyThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)CambodiaChotisak OnsoongMathana AtchimaSomyot PruksakasemsukNGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD)
Maria Ressa on stage as keynote speaker of the 2019 Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Hamburg, Germany (Photo by Nick Jaussi)
On June 15, 2020, a Manila court issued a guilty verdict for Maria Ressa, the founder and executive editor of the news website Rappler, and a Rappler researcher, Reynaldo Santos Jr.
Rappler reported that Ressa and Santos received an “indeterminate sentence,” with a minimum of six months and one day and a maximum of six years, and fines of P200,000 (US$4,000) in moral damages and another P200,000 in exemplary damages.
The verdict stemmed from one of several cases that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte instigated to stifle Rappler’s critical reporting on the government, particularly its murderous “war on drugs,” which has killed tens of thousands of people since July 2016. In addition to this case, Ressa and her colleagues face seven other cases in various courts for which she was arrested and detained, and posted bail.
“The verdict against Maria Ressa highlights the ability of the Philippines’ abusive leader to manipulate the laws to go after critical, well-respected media voices, whatever the ultimate cost to the country,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “The Rappler case will reverberate not just in the Philippines, but in many countries that long considered the country a robust environment for media freedom.”
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In May 2012, Rappler published an article accusing then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona of impropriety for using an SUV owned by a businessman. The article predated the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which includes the crime of libel. In February 2014, Rappler corrected a typo in the story, changing “evation” to “evasion,” thus technically updating the story on the website.
The businessman, Wilfredo Keng, used this “re-publication” as a legal basis to claim the story was covered by the Cybercrime Prevent Act, and filed a criminal libel case against Rappler in October 2017. Duterte’s Justice Department rushed to support the prosecution’s assertion that updating the story constituted “continuous publication,” and recommended that charges be filed against Ressa and Santos. In February 2019, the court issued arrest warrants against them.
The Duterte administration in this and other cases has demonstrated its determination to intimidate and shut down the Rappler website. Ressa and other Rappler journalists suffered a withering online campaign using what Ressa called the “weaponization of the internet” against critical media and citizens. Duterte banned Rappler’s reporters from covering the presidential palace.
The campaign against Rappler is widely seen as retaliation for the website’s reporting on Duterte’s “war on drugs,” which has included in-depth reporting on extrajudicial killings committed by police and police-linked “death squads.” Human Rights Watch’s own reports have corroborated Rappler’s findings. In May 2020, the government shut down ABS-CBN, the country’s largest broadcast network, which had also been critical of the Duterte administration.
The campaign against Rappler occurs in the context of worsening media freedom and freedom of expression in the Philippines. Journalists from other media groups have suffered intimidation and attacks online and offline. Recently, the government began targeting social media users who posted comments critical of the government, mainly on Facebook. The government has investigated dozens of social media users and arrested several for violating the country’s “fake news” regulations during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The government should reverse this alarming affront to justice and quash the convictions of Rappler’s Ressa and Santos,” Robertson said. “The prosecution was not just an attack on these individual journalists, but also a frontal assault on freedom of the press which is critical to protect and preserve Philippines democracy.”Pick to Postpress freedomjudicial harassmentviolation of press freedomRapplerMaria RessaThe PhilippinesHuman Rights WatchCyber libel
An Army sergeant has spoken out after finding himself involved in military corruption and has received a questionable lengthy punishment for his pains. Military reform, civilian control and systematic external monitoring are needed to shed light on an uncomfortable truth within the Thai military.
Sgt Narongchai Intharakavi
In 2013, Sgt Narongchai Intharakawi of the Army Ordnance Materiel Rebuild Centre found his name and signature were being repeatedly used for reimbursement of allowances and project expenses, one of many corrupt tricks used in the Thai bureaucracy. He also found that he would be penalized by his superior if he refused to go along.
In 2017, he asked his superior not to involve him in the corruption. His request was met so but he was subject to continuous bullying in return. For example, his sick leave was not approved so that he was guilty of absence without leave, and he was confined to barracks for his first offence. He was later also blocked from promotion.
In 2019, Narongchai found his name being used again in a similar scheme when he was serving as a division clerk. He decided to file a petition with the Office of the Ombudsman. His superior, who also involved in the corruption, retaliated against him.
In March 2019, Narongchai was investigated, jailed for 7 days and removed from his position in the division. The witnesses in the investigation were also involved in the corruption.
Narongchai then appealed to the Royal Thai Army in the hope of receiving justice from the central command. Eventually, he received even more pressure from the superior. After the internal backlash he faced, he decided to go public.
The Narongchai case sheds light on systematic corruption in the Thai bureaucracy, especially within the military, which considered by many as a ‘black box’ where corruption is spoken of in rumours. It also underlines the sharp pressure for military and governance reform in this military-dominated developing country.Long, costly struggle
- On 5 Sep 2019 Narongchai filed a petition with the Ombudsman about corruption.
- In Sep 2019 Narongchai came into conflict with his superior over the petition, according to Narongchai and the Army.
- In Oct 2019 the division set up a committee to investigate. Narongchai was found guilty for violating the military code and sentenced to serve a prison term from 18 to 24 March.
- On 24 Feb 2020 Narongchai filed an appeal with the Royal Thai Army (RTA) via Maj Gen Burin Thongprapai, Director of the Army's Judge Advocate General's Office and Col Winthai Suwaree, an Army spokesperson.
- On 25 Feb 2020 a committee was established to investigate the document leak, not the corruption.
- On 12 Mar 2020 Narongchai appealed against the corruption and his prison sentence through a direct complaints channel set up by RTA commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong.
- On 13 Mar 2020 Narongchai asked his superior for forgiveness. He withdrew his appeal through the RTA direct complaints channel as he thought it would end the problem. However, his punishment remained as a result from the investigation committee decision. The event was recorded on video by other soldiers in the room.
- On 16 Mar 2020 Narongchai contacted the Ombudsman to withdraw his appeal but later decided not to.
- On 17 Mar 2020 Narongchai went back to work and found his prison sentence still stood. He then filed a petition with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) asking for protection. This attempt was unsuccessful as of 11 June 2020.
- On 18 Mar 2020 Narongchai fled from his post.
- On 19 Mar 2020 Narongchai appealed again via the RTA direct complaints channel over his prison sentence. Another appeal was filed on 14 April.
- On 24 Apr Narongchai submitted evidence to Veera Somkwamkid, Secretary-General of the People’s Anti-Corruption Network, a watchdog NGO.
- On 27 Apr Narongchai and Veera submitted an appeal to the House Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights with evidence of the alleged corruption comprising fake travel permission and project approval documents with self-written invoices.
- On 27 May the House Committee summoned the Army Commander to address Narongchai’s appeal. The Commander sent Lt Gen Sornchai Kanjanasoot, head of the Royal Thai Army Ordnance Department in his stead. The Committee later announced that Lt Gen Sornchai could not address nor answer questions on the issue.
- On 28 May a video clip taken on 13 May 2019 was leaked on the internet. In the video, the superior says that even though he had forgiven Narongchai and given him another chance, if he kept on doing this, his military career would go nowhere. Narongchai claimed that there were words which he considered as a threat which are not shown in the video clip.
- On 30 May It was widely reported that the RTA Commander had established a investigation committee in the Narongchai case and found that the allegations of corruption are well-grounded. The case would be submitted to the NACC after the RTA Commander approved. The committee did not find the allegations of threats and harassment grounded. Narongchai would be put on trial for deserting his post.
Narongchai’s hope for protection now lies solely on the NACC. His petition to the NACC was submitted under the Organic Act on the Prevention and Suppression of Corruption, which grants the NACC the power to protect those who expose corruption from reprisals in their career and through the courts.
His plea to the NACC is still under consideration. On 9 June, Suthi Boonmee, Director of the Office of Investigation and Special Affairs, said that Narongchai’s petition is under consideration. The NACC spent the past 2 months collecting data and assessing risk (Thai PBS). Narongchai said on 5 June that if the NACC responded to his petition sooner, he would not lose his job.Civilian control needed
Lt Gen Pongsakorn Rodchompoo, former Chair of the House Committee on National Security and former executive board member of the dissolved Future Forward Party, said that the Narongchai case and the 2020 February mass shooting in Nakhon Ratchasima stem from higher degree of patronage after the coup d’etat. Subordinates find it difficult to deal with internal pressure and eventually put their hopes on other means.
Lt Gen Pongsakorn Rodchompoo
In the long term, he suggests military reform which would involve many steps like having civilian control over the military, a merit-based promotion system and a limit to the positions that one officer can be appointed to. In the short term, he suggests having a civilian-appointed inspector accountable to parliament as an external check on the military.
“The US military has inspectors general who are appointed by Congress. Congress appoints them as inspectors. They inspect everything regarding military personnel. This is an example of external supervision. If people supervise each other internally, sometimes if the superior officer is good then it’s okay. But if the superior officer is a little defective, the subordinates will become corrupt.”
Pongsakorn also said that having a professional military instead of a conscript army will eliminate systematic corruption as soldiers will become bureaucrats where it is easier to file appeals and corruption is harder.
A public seminar was held after Narongchai's press briefing on 5 June (Left to right: Viroj Lakkana-adisorn, Fuadi Pitsuwan, Nattha Mahattana, Yingcheep Atchanont).
Yingcheep Atchanont, Manager of iLaw, a legal watchdog NGO, said that problems within the military have never been addressed thoroughly. One reason lies in military pressure upon whistleblowers. The military usually files defamation or Computer Crime charges and then calls for negotiations to find a common ground where the issue would be dropped and the case dismissed.
The iLaw Manager said the 2017 constitution that the junta administration claimed would be a ‘corruption killer’ is flawed as whistleblower protection under the 2018 NACC Act does not work as shown by Narongchai’s case.Changes required to old-fashioned threats and discipline
Fuadi Pitsuwan, an academic from Oxford University, said that in the US, the Military Whistleblower Protection Act of 1988 allows military officers to file appeals directly to Members of Congress and Inspectors General. If Narongchai’s case will benefit Thai society in some way, he hopes that Thailand would at least implement such a law to allow soldiers to speak out.
Sgt Narongchai during the press briefing on 5 June.
Fuadi also said the Thai military has to adjust and prioritize new kinds of threat that are borderless and require more collaboration, like disease, refugees, global heating, cyber security and natural disasters. The military can do this by properly reallocating resources, be it budget or manpower, which will lead to another controversial systematic reform, conscription.
“The threats have changed. Should military duty still be limited to conscription? If I want to help the fire service or if I was to volunteer as a subdistrict public health volunteer, can I use that as a quota for national service the country instead of being conscripted?” asked Fuadi.
Viroj Lakkana-adisorn, an MP from the Move Forward Party said many appeal mechanisms in Thailand are used for allocating benefits among like-minded networks. The country lacks social welfare because many who want to expose corruption have to think twice as trials take a toll on their time, money and job security.
Viroj suggests the law must protect whistleblowers to ensure the rule of law in society. He also calls for a revision for the 1933 Military Discipline Act, where many terms seem to be outdated and depend too much on interpretation, for example, "stubbornness", "not acting in accordance with traditional manners" and "not respecting seniors". The Act also allows disciplinary punishment involving the use of weapons.Featuremilitary reformNarongchai IntharakavicorruptionNational Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC)Viroj Lakkana-adisornFuadi PitsuwanNattha MahattanaYingcheep AtchanontPongsakorn Rodchompoo
The Centre for the Covid-19 Situation Administration with the PM at its helm decided to lift the 11 pm – 3 am curfew. Many businesses are also allowed to resume, with protection measures and social distancing, on 15 June. Border controls remain in place.
a woman excercising in front of a closed Lumpini Park
On 12 June, Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for the Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) said that the it has decided to lift the countrywide 11 pm – 3 am curfew and allow some business activities to resume as the number of the cases keeps falling.
However, air, sea and land immigration controls will remain in place. Thairath online reported that schools, educational institutions, government offices and state-run agencies can be resume activity with ongoing and comprehensive protection measures in place.
The CCSA decision will be considered for Cabinet approval next week.
Other high-risk activities will also be allowed to resume:
- hotel conference rooms, exhibition spaces, theatres with 4 sq.m. per person distance;
- public events, musical shows and concerts with 5 sq.m. per person distance and no commercial promotion activities;
- restaurants, food courts, hotels and food shops are allowed to open and sell dine-in alcohol but with no commercial promotion activities; pubs, bars and karaoke bars are still not allowed to resume;
- child and elderly care centres non-residential services; child care centres must have 2 sq.m. per person distance;
- science centres and planetariums;
- stage plays can up to 150 crew and less than 50 audience;
- health massage, onsen and sauna services with 5 sq.m. per person distance; massage parlours are still prohibited from reopening;
- parks, theme parks, pools except bathhouses; aerobic dance is allowed with a maximum of 50 people and 5 sq.m. per person;
- sports fields and exercise venues; sports events can resume without spectators;
- arcades inside shopping malls with a maximum of 2 hours per person;
- public transportation; airplanes can carry almost 100% with passengers wearing face masks all the time and buses can operate with a maximum of 70% of seats filled.
On Wednesday (10 June), representatives from Choices Network Thailand and the Tamtang Group went to parliament to submit a petition to the Standing Committee on Children, Young People, Women, the Elderly, Persons With Disabilities, Ethnic Groups, and LGBT People calling for the repeal of Article 301 of the Thai Criminal Code, which criminalises abortion.
Kritaya Achavanitkul (behind the podium) with representatives from Choices Network Thailand, the Tamtang Group, and the Standing Committee on Children, Young People, Women, the Elderly, Persons With Disabilities, Ethnic Groups, and LGBT People at the press conference where they submit the petition.
Kritaya Achavanitkul, coordinator of Choices Network, said that “Article 301 is the ugliest section in the Thai Criminal Code, because it is the only article which punishes only women.” Article 301 states that any woman who terminates her own pregnancy or allows others to terminate her pregnancy may receive a prison sentence of up to three years or a fine of 60,000 baht or both. It is the only article in the Thai Criminal Codes in which the person violating the law is specifically referred to as “woman” instead of “person.”
Kritaya also said that, since termination of pregnancy is something the woman does to her own body, it is a victimless crime, and Article 301 can be considered discriminatory.
On 19 February 2020, the Constitutional Court of Thailand also ruled that Article 301 violates Sections 27 and 28 of the Constitution, and should be amended to be more suitable to the situation. The ruling also stated that the Court’s decision on Article 301 will take effect 360 days after the date the ruling was issued.
Section 27 of the Constitution states that “all persons are equal before the law,” and that “men and women shall enjoy equal rights,” as well as prohibiting discrimination based on differences, while Section 28 states that “a person shall enjoy the right and liberty in his or her life and person.”
Kritaya said that the Cabinet has received the Court’s ruling and assigned the task to the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. However, Kritaya said that, in reality, it is the Office of the Council of State which is currently responsible for drafting a new law. She said that she has been part of the process of amending the abortion law, and said that the new version of the law would still criminalise abortion after a certain gestational age, which has yet to be determined.
“If the amendment is not made within 360 days, this article will automatically lapse, but we are not really sure whether that will really happen, because the government side and other government agencies are trying to speed up the drafting of the law, so we are proposing an amendment to the Criminal Code, as a proposal from the civil society sector. […] It took us two days to get the signatures. 40 organizations and over 1300 people have signed the petition, which is still open for signatures. This article is heart-breaking for women, especially women who have unwanted pregnancies and want to terminate, because it carries a criminal sentence and a statute of limitations of 20 years, if the police still want to arrest the woman, but in reality in Thailand, no women has ever been arrested and prosecuted for having an abortion, because the police often take them in as witnesses, but they exploit this article to threaten them or to find an indirect way of prosecuting doctors who provide the correct services, […] so I think that this article needs to be repealed,” said Kritaya.
As of now (12 June), the petition on Change.org has 4,910 signatures.
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The petition also proposes that Article 305, which states that a medical practitioner who performs an abortion in cases where it is necessary for the woman’s health or if the pregnancy is the result of a criminal offence, such as rape or seduction, or if the pregnant person is a girl under the age of 15, is not guilty, be amended to say that
“If the act as stated in Article 302 (“…procures abortion for a woman with her consent”) is committed by a medical practitioner or under the supervision of a medical practitioner, and at a gestational age of less than 24 weeks, or over 24 weeks in cases where
- the abortion is necessary due to the woman’s physical or mental health, or
- the foetus has severe deformity or genetic condition, or
- the woman is pregnant due to a contraceptive failure, including female sterilization, male sterilization, contraceptive implant, intrauterine device, or other methods with comparable efficiency, or
- the pregnant woman and her family have economic or social problems which mean they are unable to take care of the unborn child, or
- the woman is pregnant as a result of a criminal action under Articles 276, 277, 282, 283, and 284 of the Criminal Code,
the person who commits the act is not guilty.”
The petition also proposes that “abortion” be defined as “the process of terminating a pregnancy,” and to categorize it as a safe abortion, meaning termination of pregnancy through a medical procedure such as using drugs or medical equipment, and an unsafe abortion, meaning termination of pregnancy by other methods or by a person who has not been trained in safe abortion procedure.
Meanwhile, Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, a Move Forward Party MP and spokesperson for the Standing Committee on Children, Young People, Women, the Elderly, Persons With Disabilities, Ethnic Groups, and LGBT People, said that the issue of abortion rights is not only an issue of legality, and that the Thai society at large still does not understand safe abortion, which should be seen as an issue of women’s health.
“It is the right of a woman to take care of herself and make her own decision, so society plays a part. I would like the issue to be something for all of us in society to understand, to stop the stigmatization, stop passing judgements, because every woman has the right to make decisions about her own body. We should understand each other, and this is the solution for us to be able to live together with understanding and peace,” Tunyawaj said.NewsabortionTermination of pregnancypro-choiceReproductive healthwomen's rightsCriminal CodesBodily autonomyChoices Network ThailandTamtang GroupStanding Committee on ChildrenYoung Peoplewomenthe ElderlyPersons With DisabilitiesEthnic Groupsand LGBT People
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) expresses its deepest condolences to the family and many friends of renowned academic and politician Kraisak Choonhavan, who passed away on Thursday evening. Kraisak was a founding member of APHR, and an important voice on human rights issues across Southeast Asia.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Khun Kraisak, who was a founding member of APHR," said Charles Santiago, a Malaysian Member of Parliament (MP) and APHR chair. "We'd like to extend our condolences to his family and friends. Not only was he an important ally in the battle for human rights across the region, but he was also a dear friend. He will be sorely missed."
Kraisak was diagnosed with base of tongue cancer in 2015, and died at Bangkok's Siriraj Hospital on June 11. He was 72.
The son of former Prime Minister General Chatichai Choohavan, and Khunying Boonruen, Kraisak received a bachelor’s degree in international relations at the George Washington University in the United States, and a master's degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. After his studies, he returned to Thailand to teach politics at Kasetsart University.
He later joined his father's government, who he represented in solving disputes with Cambodia, as well as in peace talks with Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.
In 2000, he was elected as a senator for Nakhon Ratchasima and chaired the Senate's committee on foreign affairs. He later became deputy leader of the Democrat Party, and remained a Member of Parliament until the House was dissolved in 2011.
In 2013, he was one of the founding members of APHR, which was established with the objective of promoting democracy and human rights across the region.
Kraisak was not only active in politics but was a public intellectual who had close friendships with scholars and progressive thinkers throughout ASEAN.Pick to PostASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)Kraisak Choonhavan
On June 8, 2020, Malaysian authorities detained 269 Rohingya refugees who arrived on a damaged boat off Malaysia’s coast at Langkawi. A second boat with an estimated 300 Rohingya remains at sea near Thailand’s Koh Adang island, according to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
Both boats left from Bangladesh in February, meaning that the hundreds of ethnic Rohingya on board have been at sea for four months without access to adequate food and water. On a previous boat of Rohingya bound for Malaysia that was rescued by the Bangladesh coast guard, as many as 100 may have died on board as a result of the deplorable conditions.
“Southeast Asian governments are callously passing the buck on protecting Rohingya refugees desperate for sanctuary and a future after Myanmar’s military drove them from their homes with mass atrocities,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “While Myanmar remains ultimately responsible for the Rohingya refugees’ plight, Malaysia and Thailand should stop wearing blinders about the immediate risks and suffering that they face at sea.”
Malaysian officials who intercepted the boat carrying Rohingya on June 8 intended to return it to international waters, but a damaged engine prevented the pushback. Approximately 50 refugees jumped off the boat and swam to shore, where they were detained, while the boat with the remaining passengers was towed to Langkawi. The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency arrested them on arrival and has detained them at the Nation Building Camp center.
The director-general of the maritime agency said that only 70 percent of the detained Rohingya were able to walk when they arrived due to the harsh boat conditions and lack of adequate food and water.
Malaysian authorities have not yet responded to the request from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, for access to the recently arrived Rohingya to provide urgent humanitarian assistance and assess whether they qualify for refugee status, a UN spokesperson said. Malaysia should immediately grant UNHCR access to the Rohingya and seek alternatives to detention for all asylum seekers in custody.
A second vessel that left Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, at the same time remains at sea, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency reported, allegedly having been pushed back by Malaysian authorities over “many attempts to enter Malaysian waters.” The maritime agency’s director-general said that the boat carrying 300 people is stranded in waters off of Thailand’s Koh Adang, after Malaysian and Thai authorities provided it with food and fuel. But Thailand has rejected the claim. “I don’t see any reports that we spotted [Rohingya boats],” a Thai naval officer told BenarNews.
Malaysian Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that Malaysia intended to return the detained Rohingya to Bangladesh: “The Rohingya should know, if they come here, they cannot stay.” Bangladesh, which hosts nearly a million Rohingya refugees, has refused. “Bangladesh is neither obligated nor in a position to take any more Rohingya,” said Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on June 9. “Rohingyas are not Bangladesh citizens. They are the residents of Myanmar for centuries.”
From January to March, numerous boats, each with hundreds of Rohingya refugees, left the overcrowded, flood-prone camps in Cox’s Bazar for Malaysia. Over the past two months, Malaysian authorities have repeatedly turned away boats of asylum seekers attempting to land, leaving hundreds of Rohingya in life-threatening conditions at sea, contrary to international search and rescue obligations. Several boats returned to Bangladesh, with some refugees sent to quarantine in the camps while over 300 have been confined in dangerous conditions on the remote silt island of Bhasan Char.
Malaysia has ramped up control of its borders in response to Covid-19, prohibiting foreigners from entering the country. According to Minister Ismail Sabri, authorities have blocked the arrival of 22 boats since May 1.
Under international law, public health measures must be proportionate, nondiscriminatory, and based on available scientific evidence. Subjecting those who arrive to a period of isolation or quarantine may be reasonable. But the pandemic does not justify a blanket policy of turning away boats in distress, risking the right to life of those on board. Malaysia’s pushback policy also violates international obligations to provide access to asylum and not to return anyone to a place where they would face a risk of torture or other ill-treatment.
All countries, including Malaysia and Thailand, have the responsibility to respond to boats in distress, enact or coordinate rescue operations, and ensure timely disembarkation in a safe port, Human Rights Watch said.
In May, UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime released a statement expressing concern regarding the growing number of pushbacks of Rohingya refugee boats in the region. The groups said:
Deterring movements of people by endangering life is not only ineffective; it violates basic human rights, the law of the sea and the principles of customary international law by which all States are equally bound. We call on States in the region to uphold the commitments of the 2016 Bali Declaration as well as ASEAN pledges to protect the most vulnerable and to leave no one behind. Not doing so may jeopardize thousands of lives of smuggled or trafficked persons, including the hundreds of Rohingya currently at sea. Saving lives must be the first priority.
In February, the Task Force on Planning and Preparedness of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime made a commitment to saving lives when responding to “irregular maritime migration.” Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Bangladesh are all members.
Responsibility for the security of the Rohingya rests primarily with the Myanmar government, but extends to the countries where they seek refuge, Human Rights Watch said. About 900,000 Rohingya are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, most of whom fled Myanmar since August 2017 to escape the military’s crimes against humanity and possible genocide.
The estimated 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State in Myanmar are subject to government persecution and violence, confined to camps and villages without freedom of movement, and cut off from access to adequate food, health care, education, and livelihoods. Southeast Asian governments should collectively press Myanmar to improve conditions in Rakhine State, address the causes underlying the crisis, and start cooperating with international institutions.
“In the face of a global pandemic, governments should demonstrate their recognition of a shared humanity and a common goal of protection and health,” Adams said. “Instead of pushing Rohingya back to sea to die, Southeast Asian countries should be working together on plans for rescuing boats, providing aid, and opening the door to international protection.”
Pick to PostRohingyaRefugeeasylum seekersMalaysiaHuman Rights Watch
The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has submitted a request to the Cambodian state to take urgent action in the case of Wanchalearm Satsaksit.
A person holding a poster of Wanchalearm with a caption 'MISSING'
On 11 June, the United Nations Working Group submitted a petition to the Cambodian authorities to take immediate and urgent action over the disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a Thai activist in exile who was kidnapped in Phnom Penh on 4 June.
The petition was submitted in compliance with the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearance which Cambodia has ratified.
“The Committee was informed that Mr.Wanchalearm’s disappearance occurred in the context of ongoing persecution of Thai dissidents who fled to neighbouring countries following the coup on 22 May 2014. It is reported that eight such dissidents have disappeared so far, two of them having been later found dead.
“The committee was also informed that the perpetrators of Mr.Wanchalearm’s disappearance appeared to have been professionally trained, which would imply that they may be linked to State agents, and that no ransom was requested,” the petition stated.
The Committee requested that Cambodia, as a state party, take the following action regarding the case submit information of the actions taken by 24 June 2020:
- To take all necessary measures to search, locate and protect Wanchalearm, including establishing and implementing a comprehensive strategy of search and investigation with a periodically reviewable action plan and timeline.
- If Wanchalearm’s location can be confirmed, to take him under the protection of law and the family and committee should be informed of his whereabouts. Wanchalearm should be enabled to make immediate contact with relatives, counsel or person of his choice, including visits if he is detained.
- If Wanchalearm’s location cannot be confirmed, to take immediate action to locate or clarify his alleged disappearance and to guarantee his placement under the protection of law.
- To take all measures that are necessary to identify the perpetrators, taking into account that this can be paramount in the search for the disappeared person.
- To provide the Committee with information as to the measures taken to implement each of these recommendations and the results of the actions.
Wanchalearm’s family said that in the use of human rights mechanisms will allow Cambodia as the State party to fully proceed in planning, scheduling and directing the action plan in line with the suggestions. The family believes that they would be able to embrace Wanchalearm once again if the Thai and Cambodian governments act honestly and sincerely.NewsUnited Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary DisappearancesWanchalearm SatsaksitEnforced DisappearancesCambodiaThailandSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/88083
A Thai Twitter already arrested over a tweet about King Rama X faces 7 more charges over tweets about the late King Rama IX and the King Rama X, seen as a threat to national security.
A cartoon image represents Niranam_, drawn by KaimaewX
On 9 June, Niranam_, a twitter user already arrested once for a post about King Rama X, was hit with 7 more charges under the Computer Crime Act after being summoned for further interrogation by Pattaya police, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.
The 7 new charges relate to 7 tweets about the current and former kings and claims about being a fashionista, the death of King Rama VIII, the October 1976 massacre and the 2006 coup d’état.
If found guilty on all 8 charges, Niranam_ faces a maximum of 40 years in prison (maximum 5 years for each charge).
The charge sheet states that false data was uploaded along with photos of the two kings. This was alleged to be photo doctoring with the intention of undermining the monarch which is highly respected by the people, and tantamount to an offence against national security.
Police will collect further data for the state prosecutor, who will then make the decision whether to go to court. On 4 June, the prosecutor chose not to submit a prosecution order for the charge over the first tweet.Who is Niranam_?
Aged 20, Niranam_ (the name means ‘anonymous’ in Thai) is from Chonburi Province. He has posted many comments on the history of the Thai monarchy and become well-known among teenagers and social media users. On 19 February, his house was searched by the police and he was taken to Pattaya Police Station without an arrest warrant.
He was subsequently charged with violating the Computer Crime Act over posting photos and messages about King Rama X. He was detained in prison for 5 days and 4 nights before being bailed out.
His arrest and prosecution were in the social media spotlight. 1 day after his arrest, the hashtag #Saveนิรนาม (SaveNiranam) became a twitter top trend. #Freeนิรนาม (FreeNiranam) also hit the top trend on 24 February.NewsNiranamNiranam_freedom of expressionlese majesteComputer Crimes ActKing Rama XKing Rama IXSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/88050
Three members from the internationally-recognized troupe performers jailed in 2019 for mocking Myanmar’s military are still behind bars as an amnesty overlook political prisoners. Domestic politics and ethnic conflicts contribute contribute largely in this phenomena.
A group photo of the Peacock Generation performers (Source: Facebook/ Peacock Generation)
Three Burmese men wearing traditional blue longyis shackled at the waist and feet carefully step down, one after the other, from a police truck in Ayeyarwady Region – 84 kms from the commercial capital, Yangon.
Armed officers lead Zayar Lwin, Paing Ye Thu and Paing Phyo Min into a courthouse.
The three are members of The Peacock Generation, a troupe of performers jailed in 2019 for mocking Myanmar’s military (along with three other members; Su Yadanar Myint, Kay Khine Tun and Zaw Lin Htut, also in prison).
“The military wants to censor and give a warning to the younger generation not to speak out against wrongdoings. It’s a threat to our freedom of expression,” said Thinzar Shunlei Yi, a 25-year-old spokesperson for The Peacock Generation.
All six were sentenced last year in Yangon for violating 505(a) of Myanmar’s penal code for performing thangyat, Myanmar’s traditional form of satirical street theatre, and 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law for broadcasting it to Facebook.
But they still face charges of criminal defamation for performing during last year’s Thingyan New Year festivities in Ayeyarwady Region.Bulldog vs. Peacock
“We [displayed] a picture of a bulldog in an army general’s uniform,” said Nyein Chan Soe, a 25-year-old member of The Peacock Generation arrested in 2019 but released after charges against him were dropped.
In Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, the peacock is a symbol of resistance first adopted by student unions and independence leaders.
Then it became the logo of a movement fighting for a return to democracy during military rule from 1962 to 1988. This led to the establishment of the National League for Democracy that has a peacock on its flag.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party won a landslide election victory in 1990 but wasn’t allowed to take power until after Myanmar’s military junta allowed a second election – during its touted “roadmap to democracy” - in 2015.
Myanmar’s military holds 25 per cent of all seats in government – giving it veto power. It also controls three key ministries (Home Affairs, Defense and Border Affairs).
From 1989 to 2013, the junta banned thangyat performances during the Thingyan New Year because the NLD had used it to raise awareness about the need for democratic change in Myanmar.
Students, artists and activists formed The Peacock Generation in 2014 to revive this form of traditional entertainment. The authorities began to monitor these annual street performances.
“The way thangyat is performed is a way to make [people] change their behavior. It’s not naming and shaming. It’s just a lovely way of telling the truth,” said Ma Thida, president of PEN Myanmar and former NLD party member. “It criticizes everybody not just the government [or military].”Political Prisoners
Last April, President Win Myint released 24,900 prisoners in the government’s largest amnesty to date. But according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) only 26 freed were political prisoners; 183 remain behind bars including the six members of The Peacock Generation.
International rights groups consider The Peacock Generation leaders in the fight for freedom of expression in Myanmar. For their efforts, they were awarded the 2020 E.U. Schuman Award.
Ma Thida believes they weren’t released in the amnesty because of the 2020 election expected this November. All six members of The Peacock Generation are noted political activists that could help mobilize the youth vote.
But recent accusations against Zayar Lwin and Paing Ye Thu have shown the jailed activists in a new light.
Local media reported the two had spread online hate speech towards the Rohingya in 2017. This came after the military’s brutal response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and resulting crackdown against Rohingya villages and murder of civilians in Rakhine state.
The UN said the military assault and unjust treatment of the Rohingya bear “the hallmarks of genocide.”
“In Myanmar, there is a difference between human rights defenders and political activists,” explained Thinzar Shunlei Yi. “These two are not the same.”
What she means is that political activists in Myanmar shouldn’t necessarily be recognized as human rights defenders, as is the case in other Southeast Asian countries.
Political activists in Myanmar may want the military to leave the political arena to the civilian leaders, but may still support the military in keeping the country secure against ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) operating in the borderlands.‘Othering’ the Rohingya
Some of the Myanmar’s most celebrated democracy activists and politicians have been accused of making Islamophobic statements in the past. Many still refer to the Rohingya as “Bengali” which means they view them as immigrants from Bangladesh and not native to Myanmar.
Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim community has been excluded from the country’s 135 recognized ethnic groups.
“In 2016, Aung San Suu Kyi issued an order to the media and [foreign] embassies not to use the word ‘Rohingya.’ This caused a lot of problems,” said Moe Thway, 39, president of Generation Wave youth movement.
“Now nearly one million Rohingya [have been] displaced and more than 10,000 were killed. Many lives were destroyed.”
The 2018 prison sentence handed to Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo for uncovering the murder of Rohingya civilians by soldiers in Rakhine state’s Inn Dinn village saw Myanmar’s recently won press freedom from 2013-17 start to backslide.
In its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Myanmar 139 out of 185 – a 20-point drop in four years.
According to Myanmar’s ATHAN - Freedom of Expression Activist Organization - a total of 1,051 people have been charged under laws restricting free speech since the NLD government came to power.
This year, Myanmar’s Thingyan New Year was cancelled because of concerns about the spread of Covid-19. There were no thangyat performances in 2020. But The Peacock Generation is hoping to return to the stage once released from prison.
They’ll have a lot of questions to answer about statements made in the past. But even though six are in jail, The Peacock Generation’s supporters have gone on to attack negative media coverage via the troupe’s Facebook page.
“The Peacock Generation’s spirit is strong. A prison sentence will not stop them from expressing their ideas and opinions. They’ve decided to raise their voice and fight for political reform,” said Nyein Chan Soe.FeatureMyanmarBurmaPeacock GenerationNational League for Democracy (NLD)
Thammasat University issued an announcement on Tuesday (9 June), signed by University President Kesinee Vitoonchart, allowing students to dress according to their gender identity as well as prohibiting all staff and faculty members from discriminating against LGBT students.
(Source: AMANDA DEN HARTOG/THE ITHACAN)
While students must still follow the university dress code, the announcement allows students to dress according to their gender identity while in class, when taking examinations, undergoing training, contacting university offices, and attending ceremonies, including graduation. They are also allowed to dress according to their gender identity in any photograph submitted to the university as part of official documentation.
The announcement also forbids all university offices from issuing regulations relating to student dress codes which discriminate against transgender students, and states that all university staff must treat transgender students by recognizing their humanity, rights, liberty, and gender equality. The announcement also states that bullying, insulting, or intimidating transgender students is a disciplinary violation.
- New study explores stigma and discrimination against trans women in Thailand
- Victory for trans students at Chulalongkorn University
- Students denied right to dress according to gender identity; petition National Human Rights Commission
Move Forward Party MP and spokesperson Tanwarin Sukkhapisit praised Thammasat University’s administration, and called for all other universities to allow LGBT students to dress according to their gender identity and to make gender-based discrimination a disciplinary violation, as LGBT students have long faced discrimination from lecturers and university personnel.NewsLGBT rightstransgender rightsGender identitygender equalityDiscrimination against LGBTThammasat University
Police have pressed charges against three students for violation of the Cleanliness Act and failing to carry their national identification cards after they attempted to tie white ribbons at various locations around Bangkok to protest against the abduction in Cambodia of Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit.
The four students at the Samranrat Police Station (Source: Student Union of Thailand)
Parit Chiwarak, one of the four student activists, said the police initially charged them with violation of the Emergency Decree but later dropped the charge after the students said they would protest by drawing their blood if charged under the Decree.
The police cited Section 12 of the 1992 Act on the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness of the Country, which states, “no one shall scrape, chip, scratch, write, spray paint or make appear by any means” messages in public places. Violators are subject to a fine of no more than 5,000 baht.
They also cited the 1983 National Identity Card Act as the students failed to present their ID cards when asked by officers.
Four students activists of the Student Union of Thailand (SUT) — Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul,Jutatip Sirikhan, Chanin Wongsri and Parit Chiwarak — were taken to Samranrat Police station on Tuesday (9 June) afternoon while they were trying to tie white ribbons at the Democracy Monument.
Around 30 uniformed and undercover officers were reported to be on scene.
Before the arrest, they went to various locations in Bangkok including the Phaya Thai area, the Ratchaprasong area, the Pratunam area, the Equestrian Statue, the First Army Area Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence. This is a part of the SUT’s “White Ribbon Against Dictatorship” campaign, in which they invite the public to display a white ribbon to call for justice for Wanchalearm.
A white ribbon tied to the gates at the First Army Area Headquarters.
When they were in front of the Ministry of Defence, around 10 military officers stopped them and said their campaign was not allowed as “it was symbolic.”
While Jutatip, Chanin and Parit were charged with violation of cleanliness and identification acts, Panusaya was only charged with violation of the Traffic Act as her parked car obstructed the traffic.
Police were reportedly trying to search Panatsaya’s cars without a warrant, taking photos of its licence plate without her lawyer’s presence and denying the presence of the students’ lawyers when explaining their allegations.
Students and professors from many universities gathered in front of Samranrat Police Station showing support for them while the hashtag #ปล่อยเพื่อนเรา (#LetOurFriendsGo) trended on Twitter as members of the public called for their release.
After almost six hours in police custody, they were released at 20:00. The police plan to deliver the case to prosecutors on 22 June at 9:00 at Samranrat Police Station. They together sang Jit Phumisak’s song “Starlight of Faith” and shouted “Dictatorship shall fall” as the students emerged.NewsWanchalearm Satsaksitenforced disappearancefreedom of expressionfreedom of assemblyEmergency DecreeState of emergencyStudent Union of ThailandParit ChiwarakJutatip SirikhanChanin WongsriPanusaya Sithijirawattanakulstudent activiststudent movement
Over 400 Thais and foreigners came together in an online protest on Sunday (7 June) in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and called for justice for George Floyd. The protest was held on Zoom due to legal and Covid-19 concerns.
(Source: Khaosod English)
Two entrepreneurs, Prameet Sirisachdecha and Natalie Bin Narkprasert, formed a group called Supporters of Black Lives Matter in Bangkok. They organized a rally in effort to create a platform for the Bangkok community to come together and stand against racism, discrimination and police brutality in the United States.
The rally was held online on Sunday 7 June with over 400 participants including live audiences on Zoom and Facebook. Most participants joined from Thailand while some joined from other countries.
“We were delighted about the turnout and the fact that people said it was eye-opening and educational. We wanted to bring supporters together, pay respects to George Floyd and elevate the voices of the Black community, and we did that,” the organizers said.
Two main reasons led them to hosting the rally online were Covid-19 and legal concerns — the Emergency Decree bans large gatherings.
While people in other countries came out to protest despite curfews and Covid-19-related regulations, this group chose safety first.
They explained that the virtual event would allow them to have full control without any risk as they knew they would not be able to ensure social distancing if a larger group of people showed up and they did not want the event to become a new spreader event in the pandemic.
Another concern shared among the Black community and expats that stopped them from having a physical event was legality.
“They were afraid [of] getting their visas rejected, revoked and they didn't want to jeopardize it. The goal was to bring people together and we could do that without having a physical event. We didn't want anyone to get arrested,” the organizers said.
Prameet and Natalie said the reaction during the rally was “phenomenal.” People came together to learn, share their messages, cry and pay respect to Floyd. They said they have received many messages from the Black community in Bangkok afterward thanking them for organizing the event.
For Natalie, the most memorable moment was when she saw participants raised their fists in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, which represents the period of time Floyd had an officer’s
knee on his throat before his death. Prameet said seeing people from all backgrounds and all skin colours come together for the same purpose made him cry.
After the event was announced on Facebook, over 1,000 people showed interest in being a part of it. They said they were “surprised, and not surprised.”
“Surprised that so many people found out about our event in just a few days. But not surprised that so many people connected with this event,” the organizers said. “When the pain is so deep, the whole world feels it. It gives us hope that while George Floyd’s death was a trigger, people around the world are saying enough to racial discrimination and injustice.”
Videos of the rally and their campaigns will be shared with the United State Embassy and Black rights groups and they hope to pass it to Floyd’s family as well.
Prameet and Natalie agree that the event was successful as they were able to provide a safe space for people who share the same beliefs. However, this event will not be a one-off event, they plan to continue advocating the issues in the long term. Also, they said they will consider organizing a physical rally once the Emergency Decree is lifted.NewsBlack lives matterVirtual protestracismCivil rightsPolice brutalityEmergency DecreeState of emergency
The criminal court has acquitted a Myanmar ex-employee and a human rights advocate sued for defamation by Thammakaset, a Lop-buri based chicken farm company, over a video interview about bad working conditions. The verdict found the video was fair comment.
Left to right: Nan Win and Sutharee Wannasiri
On 8 June, the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road, Bangkok, gave its verdict in a defamation case brought by Thammakaset Co Ltd against Sutharee Wannasiri, formerly with the human rights advocacy organization Fortify Rights, and Nan Win, a former Thammakaset employee from Myanmar.
The lawsuit was filed by a company proxy, Charnchai Permpol. It claimed that Nan Win’s video interview with Fortify Rights about worker exploitation defamed the company. It also sued Sutharee over her post with a caption and the video link.
According to the verdict, Charnchai testified that the company was defamed by incorrect information given by Nan Win in the interview. The allegations of exploitative working conditions and confiscation of passports were not true. Charnchai referred to a Department of Labour Protection press briefing and the fact that the defendant travelled outside the country very often.
The defendants denied the accusation. Nan Win said that long working hours were caused by a system that required workers to keep a lookout for wild animals, preventing them from enjoying proper rest. Also, the duty of cleaning pens at night, confirmed by a previous labour court ruling, can be considered as deprivation of rest.
On the confiscation of passports, the court referred to a report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) regarding the case, which acknowledged the confiscation but did not consider it as an intentional detention. However, the wage deductions were established.
On the accusation against Sutharee, the court found that her tweet did not refer to the plaintiff. The alleged content of the interview were gathered from various sources consisting of factual information from the Labour Ombudsman, the NHRC report and the Labour Court verdict which were also presented in media reports. Therefore, it is considered as fair comment.
The court therefore acquitted the defendants.
Thammakaset has brought a total of at least 37 complaints against 22 human rights defenders. This year, it filed 3 defamation lawsuits against human rights advocates: Thanaporn Saleephol, Angkhana Neelapaijit and Puttanee Kangkun.
The latest complaints relate to one tweet and one re-tweet posted by Angkhana Neelapaijit and one tweet and six re-tweets posted by Puttanee Kangkun between November 29, 2019 and January 30, 2020, with expressions of support for human rights defenders facing lawsuits by Thammakaset and links to news releases published by Fortify Rights about the cases.
Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, a lawyer from the Community Resource Centre Foundation and Thanaporn’s lawyer, who has also been responsible for the cases of Angkhana and Puttanee, said the company files lawsuits related to the allegedly defamatory Fortify Rights video even when the video is not directly involved.NewsThammakaset CompanySutharee WannasiriNan WinFortify RightsdefamationStrategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP)Source: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/88044
MultimediaStephffWanchalearm Satsaksitenforced disappearanceabduction
Following the recent abduction of Thai political activist Wanchalerm Satsakit in Phnom Penh, regional MPs are today calling on the Cambodian and Thai authorities to investigate the case and ensure his safety as a matter of urgency.
A scarecrow with a banner saying "no one should become a victim of enforced disappearance" was set up on Sunday as part of a campaign calling for justice for Wanchalearm.
"The fact that a Thai political activist has been brazenly abducted on the streets of the Cambodian capital is a matter of extreme concern,” said Charles Santiago, a Malaysian Member of Parliament (MP), and chairperson of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). “ASEAN governments that allow these types of actions to take place on their territory are effectively turning our region into an autocrats’ heaven, where the persecution of dissent knows no borders.”
On the afternoon of 4 June, two days after he posted an anti-government video on Facebook, a group of armed men abducted Wanchalerm close to his apartment in the Cambodian capital, and took him away in a black car, according to media reports. A colleague who was talking to him on the phone at the time heard him scream, “Argh, I can’t breathe,” before the call was cut off.
In June 2018, Thai authorities issued an arrest warrant for Wanchalerm, accusing him of violating the Computer-Related Crime Act for operating a Facebook page that is critical of the Thai government.
The Cambodian government and Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh have both said they have “no information” about Wanchalerm’s whereabouts.
In recent years, authorities in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia, have all been accused of arresting and returning critics of neighbouring countries. For example, in 2019 a Vietnamese blogger disappeared from a Bangkok mall before re-emerging in a Vietnam prison, and months later three anti-royalist Thai activists were reportedly arrested in Vietnam and have not been heard from since. In January, the bodies of two exiled critics of Thailand’s military and royal family were found along the Mekong River border with Laos, while in 2018, human rights groups criticised Thailand for deporting a Cambodian who fled her country to avoid prosecution after a video was shared on social media showing her throwing a shoe at an image of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“This growing trend of Southeast Asian governments exchanging political dissidents is sinister. ASEAN leaders should protect democracy not autocracy, something that starts with respecting their obligation to grant asylum and protecting those who flee persecution,” Santiago said.
APHR calls on parliamentarians in Thailand and Cambodia to hold their governments to account by asking for regular reports on their respective efforts and progress in finding the whereabouts of Wanchalerm Satsakit.Pick to PostASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)Wanchalearm Satsaksitenforced disappearanceabduction
The Covid-19 outbreak has added to the uncertainty of university graduates’ struggle to find a job as unemployment soars and government solutions are just not enough. Academics urge state-funded training and employment projects.
Mathuros Kliangchan, a graduating senior majoring in children’s literature, had her life planned out after being offered a freelance job, but when Covid-19 hit, her plan was ruined.
Mathuros, a student at Srinakharinwirot University, was going to work at a children-focussed company where she has previously interned. She expected some good work experience, as many children’s events would take place at this time of the year, before applying at a children’s book company. But the lockdown policy resulted in her job being cancelled.
“I’m worried because I don’t know when the situation will get back to normal, when events will come back like before. I still couldn’t find my way to the future yet,” Mathuros said.
She also finds herself under pressure from her family who expect her to get a job and become a provider after graduation.
“In a situation like this, how can I take care of them when I can’t find a job at all?” Mathuros said.
Mathuros is among one of “the unlucky generation” according to the Bangkok Post. Economic inactivity led to 267,351 registering for unemployment benefits on the Department of Employment website in April, 84.56% higher than in March. The number of unemployed graduates in March was estimated at 130,000, 15,000 more than in 2019.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation (MHESI) estimated 500,000 jobless graduates as of April 2020 while 300,000 more graduates will likely join the workforce this year. A National Economic and Social Development Board report says around 8.4 million people are at high risk of unemployment this year.A door closes, another opens
Mathuros is only an example of affected graduates. Many more have had their employment fates sealed in other ways. However, some jobs remain and even prosper during the outbreak.
Nabhatara Sinthuvanich recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Chulalongkorn University and started job hunting back in January. He got a customer service job at a company in Malaysia, decided to take the offer and signed the contract when he thought the pandemic had not made much impact in both Thailand and Malaysia.
If there had been no Covid-19, Nabhatara would have been in Malaysia right now, but because of the lockdown and immigration and travel restrictions in both countries following the pandemic, Nabhatara decided to terminate his contract with the Malaysian company.
“At the very first, I regretted the opportunity. I felt like I was going to get an interesting job. I was going to get experience working in a foreign country,” Nabhatara said. “But now if I could choose, I wouldn’t be so sorry because I wouldn’t have wanted to put my life at risk. It wasn’t worth it. At least I am in Thailand. I still have the opportunity to find a good job.”
Napattarapon Pranmontri, an industrial engineering graduate from Chulalongkorn University whose job starting date has been postponed indefinitely, said, “honestly, I would say this is unlucky, but I had to accept it.”
Napattarapon said he almost got a job at a big company working in the field of technology, but after he reached the last round of the company’s recruiting process, the pandemic hit. The company delayed the process until further notice. He believes he will be able to secure a job after the pandemic ends as he has skills that the job market needs. Meanwhile, Napattarapon is developing his computer skills in the hope of getting job offers from big companies.
On the other hand, Nichakarn Junthornpratin, a graduating senior in English at Chulalongkorn University, has not been affected by the pandemic at all in terms of looking for a job.
Nichakarn and some of her university friends opened a technology-related research company in February. She said she is still able to make a living with a freelance translating job she has.
“Actually, there has been no impact at all. Work at the company is already mostly online anyway. And freelance translation work is done in front of the computer and sent online as well,” Nichakarn said.
“I understand that generally, job hunting has become harder. But I don’t know if it’s because I was lucky or it was a good time or something, but last month, some alumni came in inviting me to apply for a job that directly relates to my field,” Nichakarn said. “So now, my plate is full, even more than before Covid-19.”
Chapaorn Lhappikultong, a graduating senior in civil engineering at King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi, also said job hunting has not become more difficult for her as she believes that there are always open positions in her field. Chapaorn said she won’t face unemployment, but it might become just more competitive.Greater challenge for new graduates
Experts estimate the economy will not get better immediately, while the number of jobs will keep declining as technology takes a greater role. Many jobs will no longer be needed in the market, especially jobs in the service sector, and industries such as tourism and restaurants will take time to recover from the pandemic.
Dr Yongyuth Chalamwong, Director of Labour Development Research at the Thailand Development Research Institute, says graduates who are looking for jobs in the service sector will take the hardest hit as this sector employed most new graduates in the past, but the recovery of this industry could take time and employers might not be willing to hire new faces. Dr Yongyuth also said the industrial sector would require a smaller human workforce as technology plays a greater role.
Dr Yongyuth estimates that only one-third of university graduates will be able to join the workforce this year while around 300,000 new graduates will be jobless, joining around 200,000 with undergraduate degrees who are currently unemployed.
The Bangkok Post reported in March that the Bank of Thailand forecasts the economy to shrink by 5.3% this year. Asst Prof Anusorn Tamajai, Director of the Economic and Business Research Centre at Rangsit University, says the damage to the economy from this pandemic is greater than the Tom Yam Kung financial crisis in 1997.What has been done is not enough, collaboration is needed
On 29 April the MHESI announced a project to create 10,000 jobs with a salary of 9,000 baht per month for five months. People who had been unemployed as a result of Covid-19 could apply for a job without any education requirement or prior experience. According to the statement, jobs will be offered at 42 main institutions under the Ministry including 39 public universities, the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency and the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research. Over 19,000 people applied for the positions, but only 9,730 were successful.
The MHESI will announce a second phase of the project in mid-June, which will create 32,000 more positions.
It was also reported that the Minister, Dr Suvit Maesincee, plans to use some of the budget under the Loan Decree to hire 200,000 new university graduates to work under the Ministry. Another 100,000 university students would be hired to work for communities for a semester, so they can have compensation for income that was lost due to the pandemic.
Asst Prof Anusorn said that the government must formulate policies or collaborate with the private sector to provide employment in order to deal with the economic impact of Covid-19 because there will be nearly 11 million unemployed in the worst-case scenario.
Dr Yongyuth suggested an “upskill-reskill” policy, in which the government provides skill training for workers so when certain jobs require a skill standard, workers will have more chance to get the jobs they want.FeatureunemploymentgraduateeducationCOVID-19Yongyuth Chalamwong
Justice for Wanchalearm: CSOs, students, public call for authorities to address activist’s disappearance
The disappearance of Thai activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit has sparked a wave of NGOs, activists, and members of the public both online and offline who are calling for justice. Netizens are using the #savewanchalearm (#saveวันเฉลิม) to show their support, while at least three demonstrations have been staged in his name since Friday.
Protestors placing flowers in front of a photo of Wanchalearm at the Pathumwan Skywalk demonstration on Friday (5 June)
On Friday evening (5 June,) the Student Union of Thailand (SUT) staged a demonstration at the Pathumwan Skywalk, near the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), calling for justice for Wanchalearm as well as other victims of enforced disappearance. During the demonstration, Jutatip Sirikhan, President of the SUT, read out the names of over 80 victims of enforced disappearance, including Tiang Sirikhan, Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, Siam Theerawut, and Surachai Danwattananusorn. Participants were seen kneeling while holding pictures of those who disappeared, and holding signs, including one which said “a person should not die for speaking the truth.” They also placed flowers around a picture of Wanchalearm and sang Jit Phumisak’s song “Starlight of Faith.”
Protestors kneeling with pictures of missing people. At the top left is a banner with a picture of Porlajee Rakchongcharoen and at the bottom right is a banner with a picture of Wanchalearm.
The demonstration faced interruption from the police, as an officer read out the Emergency Decree to the participants and threatened to arrest them if they did not maintain distance from each other. The participants shouted “save Wanchalearm” back.
A scarecrow with a banner containing a picture of Wanchalearm. The text above say "no one should become a victim of enforced disappearance."
On Sunday (7 June), the Democracy Restoration Group and the Popular Student Network for Democracy (PSND), set up a number of scarecrows in front of the BACC with signs relating to different social campaigns, including one which called for the government to lift the Emergency Decree and another which says “No one should become a victim of enforced disappearance” with a picture of Wanchalearm and other missing people.
Plainclothes officers speaking to the organizers
Five minutes into the event, a BACC security guard came to tell the organizers that they must request permission from the BACC before they can use the space. Around 10 plainclothes police officers then arrived at the scene to speak to the organizers, who ended the demonstration after 15 minutes.
Yesterday morning (8 June), The NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO COD) went to the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok to submit a petition signed by over 150 organizations calling for the Cambodian authorities to investigate Wanchalearm’s disappearance. However, an Embassy official said they are unable to accept the petition, so the group left it in front of the Embassy sign.
Meanwhile, in the afternoon, a group of students and members of the public gathered in front of the Embassy calling for the Cambodian authorities to address Wanchalearm’s disappearance and to find the culprits. The participants held protest signs, including some which said “I can’t breathe,” Wanchalearm’s last words before his abduction. The group also said that they will be back on 15 June to see if there has been progress.
The group of protestors in front of the Cambodian Embassy yesterday afternoon (8 June).
Missing person posters also appeared at different Bangkok locations on Sunday containing the pictures and names of various disappeared activists, and stated the cause of disappearance as “abducted by the state.” The Chulalongkorn University student group Spring Movement then later shared .pdf and .jpg files of the posters for those who wish to use them in their campaign.
The SUT have also started a campaign inviting members of the public to display a white ribbon in support of Wanchalearm and to stand against state violence. Members of the SUT also went to various Bangkok locations today (9 June) to tie white ribbonsa, including the Ministry of Defence, where they attempted to tie a white ribbon to a tree in front of the Ministry, but were stopped by a military police officer who told them that they are not allowed to do so because “it’s symbolic.” They also went to the Democracy Monument, where they were met by police officers, and at 14.30 were taken away in a police car to Samranrat Police Station.NewsWanchalearm Satsaksitenforced disappearanceabductionactivistStudent Union of Thailand (SUT)Spring MovementNGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD)Democracy Restoration Group (DRG)Popular Student Network for Democracy (PSND)