Prachatai English

APHR calls for accountability and restoration of Rohingya’s rights

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-08-24 15:07
Submitted on Mon, 24 Aug 2020 - 03:07 PMASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Three years since the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingya population by the Myanmar Army, parliamentarians in Southeast Asia are reiterating their calls for the Myanmar government to restore the fundamental rights of the Rohingya, and fully cooperate with international justice mechanisms.

“It’s been three years and we have seen no improvements for the people in Rakhine State, or the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh,” said Kasit Piromya, a Board Member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), and a former Thai Member of Parliament (MP). “Myanmar has still not taken any concrete steps to dismantle the discriminatory system that denies the Rohingya access to the most basic rights and guarantee the possible return of the refugees in safety and dignity.” 

A UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar found that senior officials of the Myanmar military should be investigated for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for its brutal 2017 crackdown that killed thousands and caused more than 740,000 Rohingya to flee into Bangladesh. The estimated 600,000 Rohingya who still live inside Myanmar continue to be denied access to basic rights including freedom of movement, citizenship, and access to education, healthcare, and livelihoods.  

Further, violence and human rights violations in Rakhine State have only continued, as a deadly conflict between the Myanmar Army and Arakan Army has intensified over the past year, displacing more than 157,000 people and killing hundreds. The COVID-19 pandemic, a telecommunications blackout, and limited access to humanitarian aid have further exacerbated the Rohingya’s vulnerabilities and affected the Rakhine population, said APHR.

“The evident lack of progress is a clear indication that ASEAN and the international community must step up their pressure on Myanmar to restore the rights of the Rohingya, ensure that they are allowed to play a central role in the discussions and decisions that impact them, and that Myanmar fully cooperates with international justice mechanisms,” added Piromya.  

A first step would be for Myanmar to ensure that all communities in Myanmar, including in Rakhine State, are allowed to vote in the upcoming November general elections and have fair representation in parliament, said APHR.

 

Pick to PostASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)RohingyaRakhine StateMyanmarBangladesh
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: New submarine

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-08-24 14:41
Submitted on Mon, 24 Aug 2020 - 02:41 PMStephffCartoon by Stephff: New submarine

 

MultimediaStephffArmy budgetArmy reform
Categories: Prachatai English

[Podcast] Thailand's defiant youth

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-08-24 14:38
Submitted on Mon, 24 Aug 2020 - 02:38 PMPrachataixNew Naratif

In March 2019, Thailand held its first elections since a military coup. The results of that election saw ex-military junta Prayuth Chan-o-cha elected as Prime Minister. However, critics say that the election and constitution were both rigged and changed to make the military more influential. Amid an ongoing state of emergency to contain COVID-19, young people around Thailand have taken to the streets to call for Prime Minister Prayuth’s resignation and for systemic reforms. Protesters have even hinted at their dissatisfaction at the Thai monarchy, a taboo that can have legal consequences. The latest protest held on 16 August 2020 is now known to be the largest demonstration in Thailand since the military coup in 2014.

On this episode of Southeast Asia Dispatches in collaboration with Prachatai, Anna Lawattanatrakul, assistant editor at Prachatai, speaks to Tattep "Ford" Ruangprapaikitseree, secretary general for the Free People Movement and Nuttaa Mahattana, an activist from the We Vote Movement, about what led to these protests and the implications of a renewed youth movement.

Find the episode on New Naratif's website here and the rest of the Southeast Asia Dispatches podcast here

Find out more about New Naratif on their website, and how to join as a member or donate at https://newnaratif.com/product/membership/ and https://newnaratif.com/donate/

 

MultimediaNew NaratifNuttaa MahattanaTattep Ruangprapaikitsereestudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

Royalist Marketplace to face criminal charges

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-08-24 09:14
Submitted on Mon, 24 Aug 2020 - 09:14 AMPrachatai

Caption: Political cartoon of Somsak Jeamteerasakul and Pavin Chachavalpongpun discussing Royalist Marketplace signs which are everywhere. Source: Kai Meaw X

Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) has filed a complaint with the Technology Crime Supression Division (TCSD) to prosecute Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai professor in exile and the admin of a Facebook group which has more than 1 million monachy reformists as supporters.

BBC Thai reported that the complaint was filed by Putchapong Nodthaisong, spokesperson and Deputy Permanent Secretary of the MDES on behalf the Minister Puttipong Punnakanta. Invoking Section 14 (3) of the Computer Crime Act, the spokesperson said at a press conference that the Facebook group Royalist Marketplace has imported criminal information which involves threats to national security or terrorism. So far, MDES have spotted six offenses in the Facebook group.

The spokesperson particularly mentioned Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai professor who remains in exile in Japan. He also warned against sharing any illegal information which could be prosecuted under Section 14 (5) of the Computer Crime Act with a 5-year prison sentence and 100,000 baht fine as the ministry has opened a channel for volunteers to report illegal activities online.

TCSD police said they have received the complaint and will proceed as required by law. However, prosecution will be difficult because of complications in the extradition process.

According to BBC Thai, Royalist Marketplace was founded on 16 April 2020. Pavin Chachavalpongpun, the group founder, said on his personal Facebook page that his original intention was to make fun of other marketplace groups opened for people to buy and sell products during the Covid-19 outbreak. Since then, it has become the place where people have honest discussions about the monarchy and it has exceeded his expectations that members have reached 1 million.

Pavin said he believed that the group has palyed a role in empowering people to call for monarchy reform in the recent protests. BBC Thai reported that people have shown Pavin’s portrait and Royalist Marketplace signs in many anti-government protests since 18 July.

The Thai authorities have been working hard to combat alleged lèse majesté comments. On 4 August, Puttipong Punnakanta, Minister of the Digital Economy and Society (DES), said that any internet platforms can be charged with not complying with orders from the Thai authorities and may face penalties of up to 200,000 baht and an additional 5,000 baht per day until the orders are observed according to Section 27 of the Computer Crime Act.

Recently, Facebook has been the main target. On 30 July, Puttipong said that Facebook had deleted only 1,316 posts out of 4,767 requests despite court orders. He also compared Facebook with YouTube which was more cooperative as it had deleted 1,505 URLs out of 1,616 requests. On 1 August, Sermsuk Kasitipradit, a royalist reporter, said that there was a court order to close Royalist Marketplace since June, but Facebook has taken no action.

Facebook was also told to apologize to Thai PBS for their auto-translation inaccuracy which resulted in a mistranslated headline from English to Thai about royal activities on the King’s birthday.  According to the Bangkok Post, Facebook said it has temporarily deactiviated its translation function on Facebook and Instragram and they offered apologies while Thai PBS was filing a complaint with the TCSD for the allegedly illegal auto-translation.

NewsRoyalist MarketplaceMinistry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES)Pavin Chachavalpongpun
Categories: Prachatai English

Protesters should not 'monopolise legitimacy’, says National Human Rights Commission

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-08-24 08:47
Submitted on Mon, 24 Aug 2020 - 08:47 AMPrachatai

Caption: Mr. What Tingsamitr, the Chairperson of the NHRCT, said earlier in August that he will closely monitor the situation. Source: NHRC

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Thailand has released a statement demanding anti-government protesters to respect Thai law at the same time as they are being arrested and threatened by the Thai authorities. While the NHRC also calls for the government to follow international standards in managing assemblies, former commissioners released a more progressive statement calling for the end to harassment of the protesters.

On 20 August 2020, the NHRC issued a statement expressing concern about the sensitive situation of the protests. The Commission said that the protesters’ demands for constitutional amendments and monarchy reform have caused widespread controversies in Thailand. Since 18 July, the Commission has sent observers to the protests in both schools and public places.

To de-escalate the conflict, it has released an 8-point proposal. Part of the content criticizes the protesters’ demands as “vague” and trying to “monopolize legitimacy”. Elsewhere the proposal demands that the government follow international standards and provide safety zones for protesters.    

“1. Under the constitution and international obligations on human rights to which Thailand is a party, a person shall have freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful, unarmed assembly. But the exercise of these freedoms shall be restricted by laws enacted to protect the rights or freedoms of others, to maintain national security, or to maintain public order or public morals.

The exercise of freedom of expression and assembly which shall be given such protection must not include speech, gesture, or action by other means which are aggressive, contemptuous or offensive, or hate speech so as to violate the human rights of others.

2. According to Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Thailand is a state party, children below 18 years old, who already have the ability to think for themselves, have the right to freely express their opinions over the issues which affect children. These opinions must be considered seriously according to their age and maturity. And even though a child shall have the right to freedom of expression, the exercise of that right must also respect the rights and reputations of others.

3. We request that protesters make demands that are clear, that have reasons that can be explained, that are not vague, that do not monopolize legitimacy for one side only, and that conform to the constitution and relevant laws.

4. We request that protest participants take measures to protect health during the Covid-19 pandemic, because if there is infection from reckless gatherings and shouting, the consequences are medical costs and loss of international confidence in Thailand’s efforts to fight the disease.

5. We request that the state officials use the 10 Principles for the proper management of assemblies designed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association. For example, the state must respect and ensure all rights of persons participating in protests. Any restrictions imposed on peaceful assemblies shall comply with international human rights standards. The state must facilitate the exercise of the right of peaceful assembly. And the collection of personal information in relation to an assembly must not interfere with privacy and other rights when prohibited by law.

6. In cases where children and youth join an assembly in a public place, we request state officials to provide a safety zone to ensure that these children and youth are not targets of violence whatever the case.

We request that the administrators of educational institutions arrange for schools and universities to be safety zones for students so that they can exchange and express ideas creatively while taking into consideration their appropriateness in the context of Thai society, for example, by setting a particular time or place for expressing and exchanging opinions in an academic atmosphere. We request that they comply with the orders of their organization in a uniform direction.      

7. We request that all parties open their minds and listen to each other, and respect different opinions, beliefs, and faiths, which is an important value of a multicultural society which has long been taught. There should not be any action characterized by incitement to physical and verbal violence such as insults and abuse.

8. We request that all parties adhere to human rights principles and use peaceful approaches to solve problems, listen to the honest opinions of the other side, and consider looking for mechanisms for discussion and negotiation for outcomes which are acceptable to all parties for the collective benefit of the nation and the happiness of the people in general.”

The statement came amid growing concern about human rights violations against protesters. As of mid-August, iLaw said that there have been at least 79 cases of threats and intimidation against civilians by the Thai authorities. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights also said that there have been at least 47 cases of harassment by teachers, school administrators, and parents against student protesters who raised three-finger signs during the national anthem. 

The NHRC consists of 7 commissioners. According to the Constitution, a commissioner can serve for only one 7-year term. The current commissioners were appointed by the unelected senate installed by the NCPO, the junta whose orders are legal according to the current constitution. At the end of July last year, veteran human rights defenders Angkhana Neelapaijit and Tuenjai Deetes announced their resignation from the NHRC in protest against a new regulation which prevented them from receiving complaints directly from the public.

The NHRC was not fully functional for a while because another two commissioners had previously resigned, leaving the remaining commissioners without a quorum to approve important decisions. The NHRC came back to work after interim commissioners were appointed. However, their terms will all end soon in November 2020.  Post Today has reported that new commissioners have been listed and will soon be approved by the unelected senate.

The NHRC’s statement still does not quite live up to progressive interpretations of international human rights standards. According to Article 19’s Principles published in 2016, although it is okay to invoke legality, national security, public order, public health, public morals, and rights of others as legitimate restrictions on the right to protest, it said that the protesters should also have “the freedom of choose the content and cause of protests” and “the freedom to choose the form and manner of a protest.”

“States should ensure…that restrictions are never imposed on the right to protest simply on the basis of the authorities’ own views on the merits of a particular protest,” said the Principle. It also said that states should ensure that “protest that annoys or gives offence to people who are opposed to the ideas or claims that a protest is seeking to promote, or conduct that temporarily hinders, impedes or obstructs the activities of third parties, is never by itself sufficient grounds for imposing restrictions.”

Former commissioners release more progressive statement

 

One day after the NHRC statement, 6 former commissioners of the NHRC released a more progressive statement calling for an end to the harassment of protesters. The statement was signed by Wasan Panich, Sunee Chaiyaros, Naiyana Supapung, Niran Pitakwatchara, Tuenjai Deetes and Angkhana Neelapaijit. Their statement consists of five demands.

(1) The government and its relevant agencies must respect and protect the right to freedom of political expression and of peaceful expression of students and the people and end all forms of threats including surveillance, spying and judicial harassment through the prosecution of those with opinions different from the state.

(2) The government must solve the problem of ideological conflict in the nation by applying political science principles rather than looking to see who is right and who is wrong and applying the law strictly against those with opinions different from the state, which may lead to conflict, hatred and increasing distrust of the state.

(3) The proposal of protestors for monarchy reform under the constitution should not be used as justification to spread hatred among Thai people which may eventually lead to violence.

(4) The government and parliament must expedite the process of amending the constitution before dissolving parliament. The process should promote participation from all stakeholders including the government, the opposition, and civil society.

(5) The government and the Ministry of Education must take measures necessary to protect the right to freedom of expression of children. Schools must be safe places for students to express their political opinions. They must guarantee that there will be no punishment of children through any form of violence. In the event of any child committing an offence, all children and young people must be guaranteed appropriate assistance in the judicial process.

The statements provoked people to make comparisons on the internet. Since the military coup in 2014, the NHRC has been criticized for its inability to do the job. In an earlier response to growing concerns over violations of human rights by ultra-royalists’ attempts to take pictures of protesters and use them for public sanctions, the NHRC said that “any person or organization witnessing an act or omission of an act that is considered a human rights violation can submit the case to the NHRCT for further examination, instead of accusing each other through the media.”

The NHRC’s view does not seem to comply with General Comment No 37 issued last month by the Human Rights Committee of the UN Human Rights Commission. This General Comment interprets Article 21 on the right to freedom of assembly of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Thailand has ratified.  After noting that protestors have the right to wear hoods or masks to hide their identity, the Comment says ‘Any information gathering, whether by public or private entities, … must strictly conform to applicable international standards, … and may never be aimed at intimidating or harassing participants or would-be participants in assemblies’. 

NewsNational Human Rights Commission (NHRC)Angkhana Neelapaijit
Categories: Prachatai English

Voices from the Democracy Monument dream of the future

Prachatai English - Sun, 2020-08-23 23:47
Submitted on Sun, 23 Aug 2020 - 11:47 PMPrachatai

The mass protest at the Democracy Monument on Sunday (16 August) has now been dubbed the largest protest in Thailand, after more than 20,000 people joined the demonstration which started at 15.00 and went on until around 23.00.

The crowd around the temporary stage at the Democracy Monument before the beginning of the demonstration on 16 August.

On the main stage, speakers took turn giving speeches about many issues, including violations of human rights in schools, gender equality, labour rights, and the issues facing people in the Deep South provinces. They also pressed the three demands made at the mass protest on 18 July: stop harassing citizens, draft a new constitution, and dissolve parliament.

The group also added that the demands are made on the conditions that there must not be a military coup or a national unity government, and that there is “one dream,” in which they hope to see a democracy with the monarch under the constitution.

Prachatai spoke to a number of participants in the demonstration, including a group of student observers from Chulalongkorn University, a family with a young child, a man campaigning for a more open beer production law, Spokedark TV’s Winyu Wongsurawat, and art critic Thanom Chapakdee, about their goals in joining the protest. 

Student observers: we’ll stand with democracy

Students set up a table and hand out raincoats and water bottles to protesters. 

Members of three student organisations from Chulalongkorn University, the Faculty of Political Science Student Union, the Faculty of Arts Student Committee, and the Student Government of Chulalongkorn University (SGCU), joined the protest as observers, setting up a table on the footpath along Ratchadamneon Road, handing out raincoats, water, and snacks to protesters.

“We are observing today because there are a lot of Chulalongkorn students joining the protest,” said one member of the group. “What we can do is come here and make it known that we are here, we support them and help them.”

The student said that they have brought first-aid kits with them, and that they have a group chat where students can let them know if there is any problem, as well as checking in to let the group know they have made it home safely when leaving protest ground after dark.

When asked if there are any concerns in coming to the demonstration, the student said “Everyone has fears. There are rumours that something might happen, but since we have already decided to come, we definitely have to come. We are here to take care of our friends and all of our brothers and sisters.”

The student said that they did not meet any resistance from their lecturers or university administration in deciding to come to observe the protest. She said that the lecturers have been helpful, telling the students that they can give them a call if they need help, but they did not show their support openly.

“The standpoint of all three organizations is always to support democracy, therefore, whatever we do, we will stand on the side of democracy, and help those who share our ideology here,” said the student, who noted that the Faculty of Arts Student Committee has a policy in which they support the rights, freedom, and democracy of students and society, and that recently they have been running a station where students can sign iLaw’s petition for constitutional amendments, an activity which they may continue.  

“Here for our child’s future”

A family with a young child came from Pathum Thani to join the demonstration, holding a sign saying “Here for our child’s future”. When asked about their dreams of the future, the parents said that they would like to see a more equal world and a new government.

While there is an impression that protesters are often students, the couple noted that they also notice working people and older people joining the protests. They also said that the protesters were friendly and were there because of something they believe in.

“It’s time that change needs to happen. Right now, frankly, we’re not here for our own future, but for our child’s future. He shouldn’t have to grow up with something like this, so we have to join and show our power. Even if we’re just a small voice, we want to come and encourage everyone,” said one of the parents.

An open craft beer law

One man brought bottles of craft beer made by Thai manufacturers and lined them up on the street next to the Democracy Monument in a symbolic campaign for a more open beer production law. He said that the current legal requirements benefit large manufacturers, while limiting smaller breweries.

When asked about what he would like to see, if the law is changed to open the door to small breweries, he said that he would like to see the day where each region of Thailand has its own local beer that is made from local produce.

Winyu Wongsurawat: Students’ 10 demands are not an insult to the monarchy  

Winyu Wongsurawat (left)

Spokedark TV’s Winyu “John” Wongsurawat was also at the protest. He said that he was there to show support as much as he can as part of the media, and that he was concerned about safety and that he doesn’t want any violence to be committed against the students again. He also said that the fact that the authorities are still harassing the people while Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha said he will listen to the students is hypocritical.

“It’s a lie from a dictator who has been like this since before the coup, during the coup, until now. I’m not surprised, but I didn’t expect them to be this cruel,” said Winyu. “If there is anyone who is still thinking about joining and supporting the kids, the new generation, you might not be sure this time, but if there is next time, I would like you to be out here if possible.” 

Winyu also said that the students’ 10 demands for monarchy reform are not an insult to the monarchy. He said that he has talked to legal experts and they did not find that these demands broke the law, and added that he does not want this issue to be used to paint the students in a negative light.

“We need real democracy”

An old man was seen by the Democracy Monument, holding a sheet of paper with the message: “We need real democracy.” When asked why he joined the protest, he said:

“I came to the protest because I have never seen any prime minister lie to the people this much in my life. He lied to other countries that we don’t have violations of rights. He lied that he will listen to the young people, but people still get harassed. What I would like to see the country change is that it has to follow the students’ 10 demands. Those 10 demands are the best. If we could do it, then the country will really be a democracy.”

“I walked past them, they cursed me for being a red buffalo, so I said thank you”

Thanom Chapakdi

Art critic Thanom Chapakdi had been around Ratchadamnoen Road since noon, and told Prachatai about walking past the pro-monarchy protest, who called him a “red buffalo.” Thanom said that he said “thank you” back.

Thanom said of the fact that over 10,000 people joined the anti-government demonstration that it is the younger generation going beyond the limits, and that what young people are expressing and proposing has gone further than the older generation has predicted.

He compared the protest to the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, and said that the 10 proposals for monarchy reform are ordinary and about something that has been repressed by fear for a long time, and the students have spoken on behalf of a lot of other people.

Interview16 August 2020 protestStudent protest 2020student movementYouth movementWinyu WongsurawaitThanom ChapakdiChulalongkorn UniversityFaculty of Political Science Student UnionFaculty of Arts Student CommitteeStudent Government of Chulalongkorn University (SGCU)Democracy Monumen
Categories: Prachatai English

Labour Network for People's Rights supports the pro-democracy movement

Prachatai English - Sun, 2020-08-23 23:00
Submitted on Sun, 23 Aug 2020 - 11:00 PMThe Labour Network for People's Rights

7 labour groups have announced "We are no longer willing to tolerate this." Workers will fight alongside students and youth to create a democratic society in Thailand for the sake of present and future generations. 

The 16 August 2020 protest at the Democracy Monuent (Source: Niranam Plod Aek)

The statement was published on 16 August 2020, in line with the mass protest at the Democracy Monument, Bangkok at the same day.

The Labour Network for People's Rights is a coalition of organized labour groups that believe in democracy and are no longer willing to tolerate dictatorship in Thailand. Since the government led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha came into power, the economy has taken a downturn and workers everywhere have faced tremendous hardship. 

Even before that, our economy had already failed us. Yet the authoritarian government has managed to make things worse. For example, in Bangkok, government-promoted sidewalk regulations destroyed the livelihood of countless street vendors. Furthermore, the pro-capital Minister of Labour has led the effort to suppress our minimum wages for years. In the South, an industrial estate zone has been imposed despite opposition, putting people's livelihoods and the environment at risk. On top of that, the government has abused the emergency decree to suppress our rights to assembly and freedom of expression. It is clear that the government is willing to use the law to silence the poor but when it comes to the rich, the law is nowhere to be found. Time and again, the government has colluded with companies' unfair layoffs and union-busting by looking the other way. A case in point is the millionaire who committed a crime in broad daylight and managed to get away with it. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the working poor has hit rock bottom. The government does nothing while companies are using the pandemic as an excuse to close down businesses and fire workers and union leaders without compensation or taking the steps required by law. 

The government has also failed to handle Covid-19 economic relief and recovery measures. Due to bureaucratic red tape, those who need relief the most are the ones who cannot access the funds. Such failed management has only made things more difficult for us. The unemployment rate is higher than it has ever been. Graduating college students and recent graduates have no job prospects in this labour market. Accordingly, we believe that this government no longer has legitimacy to govern our country. 

Millions of Thais have lost their jobs and fallen into dire poverty. Tragically, many of those unable to endure the burdens of household debt have taken their own lives. By contrast, the junta and its cronies continue to waste our tax money—feasting while we are starving to death. All 250 senators-- not elected by the people but handpicked by the junta—have used their newfound power to give themselves exorbitant raises. We are calling for a serious look at how the junta and its cronies are spending our tax money. 

While pro-junta politicians enjoy skyrocketing incomes and luxurious lifestyles--the "perks" of appointing themselves to multiple positions--our daily minimum wage has for years stagnated at barely above 10 dollars. When the government uses slick slogans such as: "Leave no one behind" and "people-centred development," these words never become reality. The children of workers are often separated from their parents after birth, sent to other provinces because there is no daycare for our children. The luckiest ones receive a decent education, but that is rarely the case. For so long, we have had to bear with an underdeveloped and oppressive education system. As a result, when our children are grown up, they are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, endlessly passing on the inheritance of poverty to their own children. In short, the inequality gap widened by the authoritarian government makes it almost impossible for us to pull ourselves up the social ladder. 

As working-class people, we are often subject to criminalization; the rule of law is absent when labour activists and human rights defenders attempt to speak truth to power. Many unionists, labour, community, and human rights activists, who question or criticize government projects, have been harassed, made to disappear or murdered. These incidents underscore issues of inequality and class in Thai society. 

The fundamental right that our labour movements have fought for and hold dear is the democratic right to question those who hold power. All workers, factory workers and beyond, cannot work and live with dignity without exercising the basic right to question those in power— including our employers and the government—when we see actions that conflict with the interests of the people. 

Therefore, we want to publicly announce our support for the demands of the youth- and student-led pro-democracy movement, and call on Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha's government to meet the following demands: 

1) Stop harassing students and citizens who participate in the pro-democracy protests. Expressing political views is a fundamental right and freedom for all people. 

2) Start the drafting process for a new constitution that truly reflects the will of the people and for the people. The current constitution was primarily designed to benefit a select few and their cronies. 

3) Institutionalize a comprehensive welfare scheme from "Womb to Tomb," along with progressive tax reform to reduce class inequality. 

4) Dissolve parliament immediately and organize new general elections under fair rules. 

Today we have gathered here to announce that "We are no longer willing to tolerate this." Workers will fight alongside students and youth to create a democratic society in Thailand for the sake of present and future generations. 

August 16, 2020 Labour Network for People's Rights 

The dictators shall perish, Long live democracy! 

Coalition Members 

1. Rangsit Area Trade Unions Group 

2. Try Arm Factory Workers 

3. Eastern Labour Relations Group 

4. Samut Prakan Province Labour Group 

5. Saraburi Province Labour Group 

6. Ang Thong Province Labour Group 

7. Federation of Textile, Garment and Leather Workers of Thailand Coordinator, Just Economy and Labour Institute 

Pick to PostThe Labour Network for People's RightsStudent protest 2020politics
Categories: Prachatai English

The Government of the Philippines must end the killings of human rights activists and defenders

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-08-21 15:12
Submitted on Fri, 21 Aug 2020 - 03:12 PMFORUM-ASIA

The Philippine government should immediately end the killings of activists and human rights defenders and ensure credible, transparent investigations and accountability for the lives which have been lost, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) said in a statement on 19 August.

Zara Alvarez : © Christina Palabay/Facebook

Human rights activist Zara Alvarez was gunned down on the evening of 17 August in Bacolod City while on her way home. Alvarez worked as the research and advocacy officer of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program, and was the former Campaign and Education Director of the Negros chapter of human rights network Karapatan. She is the 13th Karapatan member to have been killed under the current administration.

‘The endless killings of activists in the Philippines have become systematic in Duterte’s regime, and demonstrate the continuing impunity in the country. The government should end these killings immediately and take genuine steps towards ensuring justice for victims and their family members,’ said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director at FORUM-ASIA.

A week prior, on 10 August, peace consultant and labour activist, Randy Echanis was stabbed and killed in his home in Quezon City. Echanis was also the chair of Anakpawis, a party-list advocating for the rights of workers.

Alvarez and Echanis were both included in the Philippine Department of Justice’s (DOJ) list of individuals in its petition for terrorist proscription in 2018. The list included human rights defenders and activists, and a UN Special Rapporteur. While the DOJ eventually revised this list and removed their names, Alvarez, Echanis, and other human rights activists were still targets of unknown perpetrators.

Terrorist tagging or ‘red-tagging’ has become increasingly common in the Philippines under Duterte’s regime. The President and country’s leaders have branded human rights defenders as enemies of the people who incite violence against civil society. State agencies and the security sector have shared lists that frame activists or civil society organisations as threats to national security.

Alvarez and Echanis’ murders demonstrate how red-tagging endangers the lives of human rights workers in the country who are doing legitimate work.

From 2017 to 2019, FORUM-ASIA has recorded 95 violations against human rights defenders in the Philippines, making this the highest number of violations in Asia, with violence, judicial harassment, intimidation and threats being the most common violations. Within this period, 39 human rights defenders from the country were killed. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report detailed attacks faced by human rights defenders in the country as they strive to hold the Government accountable.

‘These incessant killings prove that despite international scrutiny, the Philippine government has failed to protect activists and human rights defenders, and have reinforced a culture of complete impunity’ said Shamini.

In the absence of any willingness by the government to pursue credible accountability for these killings, international accountability measures are essential to hold perpetrators of these killings to account. FORUM-ASIA calls on the UN Human Rights Council to urgently mandate an international investigative mechanism in the Philippines to address the wide-scale violations, including the extrajudicial killings related to the ‘war on drugs’ and the continuous attacks against activists and human rights defenders.

Pick to PostZara AlvarezThe PhilippinesFORUM-ASIAHuman Rights Defenderviolence
Categories: Prachatai English

AI calls on Thai authorities to drop charges against eight arrested activists

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-08-21 14:59
Submitted on Fri, 21 Aug 2020 - 02:59 PMAmnesty International

Following the arrest of nine activists between Wednesday night (19 August) and Thursday morning (20 August), Amnesty International said that the Thai authorities are weaponizing the law to silence dissent and call for them to drop charges against the activists. 

Police officers delivering Anon Nampa's arrest warrant on Wednesday night (19 August). 

Responding to the arrests of eight more activists last night and today, Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, said:

“Authorities are weaponizing the law to silence people who peacefully criticize the government. These charges are clearly designed to intimidate people who are taking to the streets in ever-larger numbers.

“The authorities must drop these bogus charges against peaceful protestors. Freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly are human rights, even if the government disagrees with the criticisms being levelled at them.

“It’s high time the authorities constructively engage with these mass mobilizations, instead of bandying threats and hoping these thousands of people will be scared away from future rallies.”

The crowd in front of the Criminal Court waiting for the activists to be released. 

Background

On Wednesday 19 August, police at Samranrat police station arrested activists Baramee Chairat (coordinator of the Assembly of the Poor), Suwanna “Looktan” Tanlek (member of the 24 June Democracy Movement), and Korakot Sangyenpan (member of the Democracy Restoration Group).

This morning, eight more activists were arrested: Dechathorn “Hockey” Bumrungmuang (member of rap group Rap Against Dictatorship), Todsapon Sinsomboon (student member of the Free Youth Movement), Thanee Sasom and Nattawut Somboonsap (protestors) and Thanayuth “Book” na Ayutthaya (member of rap group Eleven Finger). All have been released on bail with conditions not to carry out the same alleged acts.

Previously, on Friday 14 August, Parit Chiwarak, member of the Student Union of Thailand was also arrested on the same allegations, as were lawyer Arnon Nampa and student activist Panupong “Mike” Jadnok on Friday 7 August. The three were later released on bail.

They each face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

The individuals arrested today were all charged in relation to their alleged participation in Free Youth’s pro-democracy protest on 18 July 2020, which listed three demands from the government: parliament dissolution, a new constitution, and an end to harassment against individuals. Another four protestors have an arrest warrant against them from the same incident but have yet been taken into custody, while 16 other individuals are facing the same allegations without an arrest warrant and are due to report themselves to the police.

Separately, lawyer Arnon Nampa was arrested again by police from Chanasongkram police station last night for a Harry Potter-themed rally held on 3 August 2020. The police later brought Arnon to the Criminal Court to file for pre-trial detention. Arnon was later granted bail with conditions not to carry out the same alleged acts. Arnon was charged with sedition under Article 116 of the Penal Code, offences under the repressive Public Assembly Act, the Sound Amplifier Act, and the vague and broadly-worded Computer Crime Act.

Since the imposition of the Emergency Decree on 26 March 2020, officials have increasingly detained and initiated criminal complaints against individuals who engaged in peaceful protests and activities. Demonstrators have also reported being subject to intensifying harassment and intimidation by police officers in recent months solely for their involvement in peaceful demonstrations.

Pick to PostAmnesty Internationaljudicial harassmentStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

Human rights lawyer arrested again after reform speech

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-08-20 17:49
Submitted on Thu, 20 Aug 2020 - 05:49 PMPrachatai

Human rights lawyer Anon Nampa was arrested again last night (19 August) because of his participation in the Harry Potter-themed protest on 3 August.

Police officers delivering Anon's arrest warrant at the Criminal Court

Anon was arrested at the Bangkok Criminal Court where he had been conducting a case at around 20.00 last night, and taken to Chana Songkhram Police Station. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that Anon was accused of sedition and of violating the Public Assembly Act, the Sound Amplifier Act, and the Computer Crimes Act.

As Anon still has to conduct a case today (20 August), he and his lawyer negotiated bail with the police, using 150,000 baht and Move Forward Party MP Rangsiman Rome’s MP status as security. However, the inquiry officer refused bail, claiming that they are not done questioning and gathering evidence, and that they are concerned that Anon will flee.

A crowd of around 30 – 50 people gathered at the police station to show support for Anon. They shouted “free Anon!” and sang “Happy Birthday,” as it was Anon’s birthday the day before.

The crowd in front of the Chana Songkhram Police Station also read out Anon's speech on monarchy reform, given at the protest on 3 August. 

By 23.30, some of the people who had gathered at Chana Songkhram Police Station moved to Samranrat Police Station to show support for Baramee Chairat, coordinator of the Assembly of the Poor, who was also arrested earlier that night due to his participation in the 18 July protest.

Activists Suwanna Tanlek and Korakot Saengyenpan were also arrested last night due their participantion in the 18 July protest, after they arrived at the Samranrat Police Station following Baramee's arrest. 

Five other people were arrested this morning in the same case: Rap Against Dictatorship member Dechatorn Banrungmuang or “Hockhacker”; 19-year-old rapper Thanayut Na Ayuthaya, a member of Eleven Finger, a band from the Klong Toey community; Totsaporn Sinsomboon, a student activist and a leader of the Free Youth Movement; Student activist Thanee Sasom, also a leader of the Free Youth Movement; and Nattawut Somboonsap, student activist and another leader of the Free Youth Movement.  

Anon was taken to the Criminal Court at around 11.00 today for a temporary detention request. At 16.45, the Court ruled to temporarily detain him. He and his lawyer is currently seeking bail.

TLHR reported that the steps up to the Criminal Court building were blocked this morning, and that there were around 70 police officers standing guard.

Officers have gone to search Anon's residence

At around 12.00 today (20 August), plainclothes and uniformed police officers and officers from the Technology Crime Suppression Division went to search Anon’s residence, along with a lawyer from TLHR, but did not find anything they deemed illegal or can be used as evidence.

Anon and student activist Panupong "Mike" Jadnok were previously arrested on 7 August and accused of sedition and of violating the Emergency Degree after they took part in the mass protest on 18 July. Both were released on bail the next day.

At the Harry Potter-themed protest on 3 August, which took place at the Democracy Monument, Anon gave a speech calling for monarchy reform and open criticism of the crown. He has also spoken on the same topic at another demonstration in Chiang Mai and at the demonstration at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on 10 August.

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Categories: Prachatai English

Drop Charges, Free Democracy Activists Authorities Disregard Own Pledge to Allow Dissent

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-08-20 17:32
Submitted on Thu, 20 Aug 2020 - 05:32 PMHuman Rights Watch

Thai authorities should immediately drop all charges and unconditionally release prominent pro-democracy activists arbitrarily detained for their role in peaceful protests, Human Rights Watch said on 20 August.

Banners at the protest on 18 July.

On August 19, 2020, Thai police separately arrested Anon Nampha, Baramee Chairat, Suwanna Tanlek, and Korakot Saengyenphan, charged them with sedition and other offenses, and jailed them.

“The Thai government’s repeated promises to listen to dissenting voices have proven meaningless as the crackdown on pro-democracy activists continues unabated,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should right their wrong and immediately drop the charges and release Anon and other detained activists.”

Police arrested Anon, a defense lawyer with the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, outside the Bangkok Criminal Court after he finished his day’s cases. He was charged with sedition, which carries a maximum seven-year prison term, assembly with an intent to cause violence, violating the ban on public gatherings, and other criminal offenses related to his involvement in a pro-democracy protest in Bangkok on August 3.

At the protest, he wore a Harry Potter costume and publicly demanded reforms to bring Thailand’s monarchy into conformance with democratic constitutional principles. The police detained him at the Chanasongkram Police Station in Bangkok.

Three other activists – including Baramee from the Assembly of the Poor in Bangkok, Suwanna from the June 24 for Democracy Movement, and Korakot from the Democracy Restoration Group – also face sedition and other charges similar to those brought against Anon. They have been detained at Bangkok’s Samranrat Police Station.

The police previously arrested Anon on similar charges together with another pro-democracy activist, Panupong Jadnok, on August 7. A week later, on August 14, the police arrested a well-known student leader, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, bringing similar accusations.

These six activists are among 31 people whom the police were purportedly seeking to arrest for speaking onstage at a protest sponsored by the Free Youth Movement in Bangkok on July 18. Since the Free Youth Movement held that peaceful protest in front of the Democracy Monument demanding democracy, political reforms, and respect for human rights, youth-led protests by various groups have spread across in Thailand.

The largest protest was in Bangkok on August 16, with more than 20,000 participants calling for the dissolution of parliament, a new constitution, respect for freedom of expression, and reforms of the institution of the monarchy to curb the current monarch’s powers.

Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has denied that he ordered the police to arrest the activists and has maintained his pledge to listen to the youth protests. “There has been no order from the prime minister to target those activists,” General Prayuth said during a media interview on August 15. “The police simply use their own judgment and carry out their duty to uphold the law. In the current situation all sides should be reasonable and listen [to each other]. We need to avoid provocation and confrontation.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand ratified in 1996, protects the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. However, Thai authorities have routinely enforced censorship and gagged public discussions about human rights, political reforms, and the role of the monarchy in society.

Over the past decade, hundreds of activists and dissidents have been prosecuted on serious criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) for the peaceful expression of their views.

Government repression has intensified in Thailand over the past five months as the authorities used state of emergency powers assumed by the government to help control the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to ban anti-government protests and harass pro-democracy activists.

International pressure is urgently needed to press the Thai government to end the crackdown on pro-democracy activists and peaceful protests, and release those arbitrarily detained, Human Rights Watch said. 

“The United Nations and concerned governments should speak out publicly against the rolling political repression in Thailand,” Adams said. “Thai youth are increasingly demanding real progress toward democracy and the rule of law so they can freely express their visions for the future of the country.”

Pick to PostHuman Rights WatchStudent protest 2020Anon NampaBaramee Chairatuwanna TanlekKorakot Saengyenphanfreedom of expressionSource: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/20/thailand-drop-charges-free-democracy-activists
Categories: Prachatai English

Students protest at Ministry of Education after schools retaliate against political expression

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-08-20 16:58
Submitted on Thu, 20 Aug 2020 - 04:58 PMPrachatai

In an aftershock from the 16 August mass protest in Bangkok, over 500 school students have protested against Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan and the prohibition against political expression in many schools.

Students raising 3 fingers with their arms tied with white ribbons.

The event was organized by the BAD STUDENTS group, which advocates students' rights. This week, students across the country have been trying to exercise their rights by raising 3 fingers and tying white ribbons as symbols of resistance against dictatorship.

The white ribbon has been used as a symbol of concern about Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a self-exiled Thai activist who was abducted in Cambodia in June.

The organizers distributed whistles as a parody of a method used by the People's Democratic Reform Committee PDRC), which Nataphol belonged to and whose protests against the Pheu Thai government led to the 2014 coup.

Students walking to the protest venue.

At 16.36 Mongkolkit Suksintharanon, an MP from the Thai Civilized Party, a member of the government coalition, appeared at the protest. He said, amidst boos, that he was there to observe and support students exercising their rights and freedoms.

Mongkolkit Suksintharanon

He said the students should support only the 3 demands from the Free People Movement about parliament dissolution, a new constitution and an end to authorities’ harassment of civilians. Political parties have all accepted these demands. 

However, he urged the students not to support the 10 demands for monarchy reform as he believes that it violates the constitutional monarchy regime.

At 16.50 Nataphol came to see the protest himself. His appearance was greeted with boos and whistles. He had earlier failed to attend parliament to answer MPs’ questions about student harassment, saying that he had an appointment.

(Blue mask) Nataphol at the front of the ministry.

As he tried to take the stage to make an address, the speaker told him to “get in line” and wait as there were many speakers before him. Protesters chanted “get in line, get in line”. 

Get in the line” is said regularly by teachers during morning assemblies for singing the National Anthem. He decided to go and sit with the students at the back. However, the spot there was rough as people around did not welcome him kindly.

Chronic, deep-rooted educational problems addressed

In their speeches, students complained about harassment for raising 3 fingers and physical punishments by teachers which left scars on students. As VAT payers and citizens, they have full rights to express their opinions. 

Students with their white ribbons, a symbolic item against dictatorship.

Some students said the strict dress code in schools oppresses women. More effort goes into teaching girls to keep themselves safe from sexual harassment than into teaching men to be respectful. The haircut rule, where students must have one style of very short hair, was also criticized.

A university student from a Faculty of Education took the stage. She said students these days have enough moral courage to come out against dictatorship despite facing harassment in schools. As a person who is going to be a teacher, she thanked the students for being here for the future of the country without authoritarianism.

At around 18.00 the students sang the National Anthem while raising 3 fingers. Then they chanted "Dictatorship shall fall, long live democracy" and tied white ribbons to the Ministry gate. 

Nataphol met 4 students after giving press the an interview.

4 students had a dialogue with Nataphol in the Ministry forecourt. They urged the Minister to solve the problems with the social studies curriculum, weak enforcement of more liberal school rules and gender biases within schools.

They said female students are ordered to wear many garments and skirts are strictly regulated. This is considered as a form of body control based on the idea of victim blaming, while male students are not taught to refrain from sexual harassment. The variety of genders and identities is also not sufficiently respected.

The students said the current school rules are not meant to allow students to grow up and prosper as they are in terms of identity. 

Earlier, Nataphol gave a press interview. He regretted that he was not allowed on stage to address the issues. However, he was glad that the students were concerned about their future. Many issues that have been raised were already being processed by the government. 

He said the Ministry will announce public hearings in schools countrywide on 20 August. The process will be via student councils which will compile the issues raised by the students. These will be filtered and sent to the Ministry.

On the provocation that he had received, he said Thai people should be united in order to progress forward together. The erstwhile pro-junta protester urged people to find solutions despite having different ideas.

A student tying a white ribbon at the ministry gate.

He urged the students that whatever demands they make should benefit the country. The students should consider the impact of their action beforehand, such as the impact on investment.

Nataphol is the first minister in the Palang Pracharat-led coalition government to meet an anti-government protest.

NewsNataphol TeepsuwanStudent protest 2020Ministry of EducationpoliticsBad StudentSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/08/89113
Categories: Prachatai English

All you need to know about Thai protests

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-08-19 23:28
Submitted on Wed, 19 Aug 2020 - 11:28 PMThammachart Kri-aksorn

The protests proliferating across Thailand are becoming more creative than ever. The government is looking for ways to take them down. For better or worse, the outcome will be different from the past.

Here is all you need to know about the Thai student protests. We have taken interesting questions and answered them below. This report will be constantly updated. Since we believe in democracy, let us know via email if you want us to answer any other questions.

What are they doing?   Demanding a better future, the student-led movement has held more than 100 protests across the country in the last two months. Using popular culture references to make fun of Thai authoritarianism alongside other tactics, they have been quite creative in their endeavours. Apart from the famous Hamtaro protest, other examples are also worth mentioning:  
  • On 21 July, a group of students held a protest. Inviting people to take a look at Democracy Monument’s new garden. They repeatedly chanted the message “the garden is really beautiful” and “dissolve parliament”. The satire aims to highlight the suspicion that the garden was planted because the government wants to make protests there more difficult as Democracy Monument was a regular landmark of protest due to its origin and political history
  • On 25 July, LGBT activists held a demonstration and chanted a dialogue adapted from the film Hor Taew Taek, a famous Thai comedy about LGBT people directed by Poj Arnon. By making fun of Prime Minister Prayut Chano-cha and his government, the activists want them to give everyone equal marriage rights by amending the Civil and Commercial Code instead of passing a separate Civil Partnership bill which will enable but still discriminate against LGBT marriages.
  • On 26 July, Sombat Boonngamanong, a political activist and the leader of the Grin party, treated antigovernment protesters to McDonald’s. Anyone who wanted free food had to say rude things about Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to get in. The hashtag “I am hungry I won’t tolerate it” has been tweeted along with “let them digest in our stomach.” The latter was in parallel with the hashtag “let it end with our generation” which showed up in earlier protests.  
  • On 30 July, the student protesters held a demonstration washing dishes with Gen Prayut Chano-cha’s face on them. They said he was difficult to wash away but all problems came from him. They wanted to wash away double standards in Thailand too. The protest was a response to a Phalang Pracharat MP’s post on Facebook: “everyone wants to help the country, but no one wants to help mom wash dishes.” To which a student replied with a sign: “If politics was good, my freaking mom would have had a dishwasher long ago.”
  • On 31 July, a group of students held an anti-government protest by displaying blank pieces of paper. When police asked to investigate the blank papers, they were made fun of by the Thai media. It looks like the Thai student protesters have borrowed the idea of blank sheets from Hong Kong protests which are facing a hard struggle against the new security law.
  • On 4 August, a group of Thai citizens openly called for monarchy reform in a Harry Potter themed protest. The group’s statement called for abolition or amendment of laws which help expand the monarchy’s power and limit freedom of criticism against the monarchy. 

Apart from holding creative protests, the student-led movement also used more traditional methods including speeches, three-finger signs, hunger strikes, public gatherings, etc. Last Sunday, they held the largest demonstration in 6 years on Ratchadamnoen Avenue. A conservative estimate shows that more than 10,000 protesters joined.

Activism has also taken place in places other than streets. In schools, students showed three-finger signs during the national anthem despite physical threats and disciplinary punishment from teachers. In universities, students said that they will not join graduation ceremonies where they have to receive certificates from members of the royal family. Unconfirmed reports also said that in movie theatres, people did not stand up to pay respect to the King before a movie began. 

The current student protests are the second wave this year. The first wave started in February, in response to the dissolution of the Future Forward party. Its momentum was stalled for a while because of the Covid-19 outbreak and the government’s Emergency Decree. But they started gathering again after it was exposed that Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a political activist in exile, was abducted in Cambodia. This time the student-led protests were far more powerful as more issues have been added to people’s grievances in the last five months.

Why are they protesting?   There are many short-term issues which have given rise to the on-going protests:  
  • In March, a judge shot himself to death after his supervisors in the judiciary attempted to influence his verdicts in favour of military officers in the Deep South, the area torn by a century-long conflict. Months later, Pattani students held a protest under the slogan “where there is democracy, there will be peace.”
  • In March, a man was revealed to be exporting millions of masks to China despite government restrictions to mitigate domestic scarcity. He boasted on social media that he had the support of a Thai minister’s close aide. Thammanat Prompao, the minister in question, had earlier been exposed as a former drug criminal and denied any involvement. 
  • In May, one million enrolled for unemployment compensation, but money transfers were delayed because the surging number overwhelmed the system. The government has been incompetent in delivering relief as the economy declines due to the Covid19 pandemic.
  • In June, Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a Thai political activist in exile, was kidnapped in Phnom Penh. The investigation has gone nowhere as the Thai government denies involvement in the disappearance.
  • In July, the cabinet approved the Civil Partnership bill, denying LGBT individuals the rights which heterosexuals enjoy under the Civil and Commercial Code. The cabinet’s decision prompted LGBT groups to join the anti-government protests.  
  • In July, an Egyptian soldier infected with Covid19 was found traveling around Rayong with VIP status while the government was telling the people not to “let their guard down.” Two protesters showed anti-government signs when Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha paid a visit to Rayong and were arrested. One of them later became a leader of the anti-government protests.
  • All charges against Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, the son of billionaire Chalerm Yoovidhya, were dropped despite evidence that he had killed a police officer by reckless driving. Memes spread in protests that if you pray to the god of Red Bulls, you will be immune from jail. 

Apart from these single-issue cases, grievances expanded to authoritarianism in schools, labour rights, abortion rights, monopolies in the alcohol industry, and more. People were fed up with corruption, double standards in the criminal justice system, and the lavish budgets for the military and the monarchy. At the heart of the problem is the constitution which enables unelected senators and supposedly independent but de facto partisan bodies to help the generals stay in power, cover up their misdeeds, and undermine their political opponents. 

What do they want?

 

The goals are clearer now than in the first wave. The student groups have repeated three demands: the dissolution of parliament, a new constitution, and no more threats against citizens. Other groups have also brought their issues to the platform including LGBT rights, women’s rights, a welfare state, education reform, military reform, and improvements to the economy.

Politicians and academics are figuring out the steps required to meet the growing demand for constitutional amendment. Some pro-government MPs and unelected senators also joined the bandwagon. The main obstacles are still the pro-government MPs and the 250 unelected senators whose votes are required to pass any constitutional amendment. Most of them have remained silent or are opposed.  But the most controversial of all has been reform of the monarchy. On 10 August, Anon Nampa outlined a 10-point proposal dealing with the monarchy's legal immunity, lèse majesté law, the Crown Property Bureau, royal lands, the system of donations to and by the royals, and royalist propaganda. Most political parties have remained silent on this while they figure out what to do.    What they have achieved so far?   Under an oppressive regime, small victories are worth celebrating. Their first achievement is to have successfully pressured the government to withdraw the anti-protest clause from the current Emergency Decree. They criticized the government for exploiting the Covid-19 outbreak to prolong their power and suppress dissent. It is true that the government can still charge protesters on other grounds, but no longer can they accuse them as potential spreaders of the Covid-19.    Since they are a nonpartisan movement, they have been able to draw support from many more groups than before, including LGBT and women’s rights groups, the red shirts, labour unions, and even famous singers and actors. In the past, the Thai entertainment industry was widely criticized for its political apathy and pro-government attitudes. But this time many have denounced Gen Prayut’s government and joined the protesters.  

On social media, it is also more usual to see former pro-government supporters make their apologies and change sides to be with protesters. Since the movement has become more diverse, so are their tactics and demands - as elaborated above. Because of their growing momentum, police operations against them are still minimal. Threats and prosecution seem to be directed at specific individuals rather than a large-scale violent crackdown.

They have also been successful in dismantling “the separation between activism in the online and offline spheres.” It shows that people’s outrage can be seen in qualitative terms rising from online to offline spheres. Online spheres like Twitter can be a place of outrage incubation instead of outrage de-escalation. 

However, the most notable achievement is that they have demanded monarchy reform in public for the first time in decades. This is something previous movements did not have courage or the appropriate opportunity to do. In the past decade, the political elite in the red shirt movement has been criticized for “fighting and prostrating”. Some of the red shirts in exile also tried to use social media platforms as an “underground radio” to criticize the monarchy during the reign of King Rama IX, but unfortunately their demands never reached the surface.

How has the government responded?   So far, the government’s responses have been two-faced. Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and his cabinet members and MPs tried to spread a positive message saying that they will listen to the student demands. Parliament has established a committee to hear the students. Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has paid visits to several alternative media outlets to listen to their recommendations.  

At the same time, Gen Prayut tried to sabotage the movement by asking about their source of funding, political masterminds, and their negative impacts on the economy. Recently, protest leaders, including Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Parit Chiwarak, have been arrested on sedition charges for going public about monarchy reform. Some Thai academics and opposition politicians are defending them saying that monarchy reform can be talked about under the current constitution while many media outlets have been trying to report it in an anti-protest fashion.

As of 13 August, according to iLaw, there have been at least 79 cases of threats and intimidation against students and citizens by the military, police and teachers. Most of the time the military and police would pay a visit to targets at their home. Teachers would call students to the administrative offices for interrogation and warnings. In some cases, teachers also coordinated with the police or the military while delivering threats to the students.  

Can the government launch a large-scale crackdown?   Evidence of an imminent large-scale crackdown remains scarce. Experts also think that it remains unlikely.   At the end of July, Matichon Online reported the leaking of two documents. One was an order for a Border Patrol Police unit to prepare facilities for accommodating a crowd control unit and detaining 100 protesters and their 5 leaders. The other was an order for the crowd control unit to prepare equipment and transportation routes so that they are available anytime. When Matichon Online asked the police, they said that the documents were genuine but it was a normal procedure.  

Video footage of a recent pro-monarchy “student” protest revealed that the participants were actually quite old. One of them said that he had participated in the crackdown at the 6 October incident in 1976 and they would not rule out the use of violence. In their later protests they said that they would not use violence.

In the latest anti-government demonstration at the Democracy Monument, all the pro-monarchy protesters did was shout rude words at their opponents. Their leaders told the press that they would send volunteers to record lèse majesté speeches at the protest and report them to the police, but there was no sign of direct physical harm against the anti-government protesters.

The establishment warned that if the protests go on, the bloodshed of 6 October 1976 may repeat itself.  Politicians in the opposition camp, including Pita Limcharoenrut and Chaturon Chaisang, have countered this victim-blaming narrative. They said that if history was to repeat itself, it would not be because of the protesters but the oppressors themselves.

Meanwhile, experts think that a large-scale crackdown was unlikely.  Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a historian and intellectual activist in exile, made an observation on social media that unlike in the 6 October incident, the contemporary right-wing groups were not state-sponsored. In a recent article, Nidhi Eoseewong said that we should not rule out the possibility of violence, but it will take at least 6 months to prepare and gather resources if the government wants to stage a 6-October-like crackdown. And this time it will be live on international news.

Will there be a national unity government? This question may appear irrelevant to some observers. But many who are familiar with Thai political development frequently ask this question.   Behind it is an assumption that the event may unfold in a similar fashion to 14 October and the 1992 Black May. In both events there were violent confrontations between the military and protesters, and the monarch came in to intervene as a mediator calling for the violence to stop. In both cases, King Rama IX presided at the negotiation table where a junta leader made a decision to resign, and where a high-profile citizen was royally appointed to lead an interim government and launch a transition from dictatorship to democracy by drafting a new constitution. Hence a national unity government.  

It is possible that this pattern will be repeated. But certain conditions have to be met:

(a) there needs to be a violent confrontation between the military and the protesters;

(b) both parties must perceive the monarch as a legitimate actor;

(c) the monarch must perceive the feasibility of launching a transition from dictatorship to democracy.

Condition (a) has so far not been met. As elaborated earlier, there is still no sign of a large-scale crackdown, thus no violent confrontation. As for condition (b), the protesters want the monarchy to exist, but they also demand monarchy reform so that it has an appropriate place in a democratic society. They have also said they would not accept a royally appointed prime minister nor a national unity government. So the answer to the condition (b) remains unclear. (This statement cannot be treated as an accusation against the protesters of ingratitude towards the monarchy.)

And then condition (c) will determine the kind of national unity government, which could simply be a military junta instead of an interim civilian government if there is a double-dip coup and the protesters lose. In that case, the monarchy may approve an interim junta government. Hence an illegitimate form of national unity government.

Since before the 2014 military coup, rumours of a national unity government were never lacking. iLaw says that there were at least four such rumours between 2014-2019.

In February 2019, Princess Ubolratana was nominated by the Thai Raksa Chart party as a candidate for prime minister. Many speculated that it was an effort to conflict the Thai elite to make a “super deal” and form a national unity government. The princess’ nomination was voided after the King issued a declaration and the Constitutional Court verdict to dissolve Thai Raksa Chart.

As the election turned out to be questionable, in April 2019, Democrat MP Thepthai Senpong called for a national unity government with a two year term and proposed 4 prime minister candidates from the Democrat Party to deal with political reform.

In June 2020, there was a rumour that Pheu Thai may leave the opposition camp to join Phalang Pracharat and form a national unity government. The Pheu Thai party leader Sompong Amornvivat came out to deny the claim saying that they would never accept the legitimacy of Gen Prayut’s government.

In our analysis, all these rumours lack essential ingredients. If Thai political history taught us anything, it is that a national unity government cannot be constituted without a royal mandate. The political will or initiatives of politicians themselves are not adequate. If they managed to pull it off, it would be unprecedented in Thai political history. Not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

Upcoming questions we will answer
  • What are the protesters’ shortcomings?
  • What is the stance of the red shirt movement?
  • What does it mean when the protesters say “let it end in our generation”?
  • How the protests are reported in Thailand?
  • Is the milk tea alliance a thing?
  • What are the possible scenarios?
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Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Democracy Monument volcano

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-08-19 14:12
Submitted on Wed, 19 Aug 2020 - 02:12 PMStephffCartoon by Stephff: Democracy Monument volcano

MultimediaStephffDemocracy Monumentstudent movementYouth movement
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Cartoon by Stephff: Crossing the line

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-08-19 14:11
Submitted on Wed, 19 Aug 2020 - 02:11 PMStephffCartoon by Stephff: Crossing the line

 

MultimediaStephfffreedom of expressionstudent movementYouth movement
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Chulalongkorn students stage anti-govt protest despite resistance from university

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-08-19 01:56
Submitted on Wed, 19 Aug 2020 - 01:56 AMPrachatai

Students at Chulalongkorn University staged an anti-government protest on Friday (14 August) despite resistance from the university and heavy rain which forced them to find a new location.  

Protesters flashing the three-finger salute together as they gather on the ground floor of the Faculty of Arts building

The demonstration, organized by student groups Spring Movement and Nisit Chula Party, took place at the Faculty of Arts’ Maha Chakri Sirindhorn building. It was joined by around 600 people, occupying most of the building’s ground floor, as well as the area in front of the building despite the rain which continued to fall for most of the night.

Plainclothes police officers were seen around the Faculty of Political Science earlier in the afternoon. A group of plainclothes officers were also seen around the Faculty of Arts later in the evening. After facing resistance from the university and as heavy rain continued to fall, the organisers announced at 16.45 that the demonstration would take place at the Faculty of Arts.

One of the organisers explained on stage that university administration previously told them that they will be able to use an on-campus location, but later told them that the location is not ready. They then invited the protestors to flash the three-finger ‘Hunger Games’ salute and shout “stop harassing citizens!”

Protestors filling the ground floor of the building as the evening went on.

The organizers previously tried to obtain permission from the university to organize the demonstration and announced that the event would take place at the university’s sport stadium. However, the university’s Office of Student Affairs released an announcement on Friday morning that the university did not give the students permission to organize the event, claiming that their request was on such short notice that they were unable to coordinate with relevant internal and external agencies in order to prevent “illegal activities and expansion of conflict to the point that may cause violence” in time.

The university’s announcement also stated that they would take disciplinary actions against the students if the event went ahead.

Spring Movement and Nisit Chula Party then announced on their Facebook pages that they would hold the demonstration on the university field in front of the statues of King Chulalongkorn and King Vajiravudh, and that they are willing to take any punishment from the university. However, heavy rain began to fall around 15.00, forcing them to move the event from 16.00 to 17.00 at the Faculty of Arts.

14 lecturers from the Faculty of Law also issued a joint statement against the university’s announcement stating that the students have the right and freedom to express their political opinion and to participate in a peaceful assembly, and that the university, as a government agency, should respect their rights and encourage freedom of expression and assembly, instead of restricting their expression, and even if the protestors violate the law, it is the duty of other government officials to deliver any resulting punishment.

The statement also said that the university should encourage the exercise of freedom while also choosing appropriate security measures, and noted that the field where the demonstration was planned to take place has been used for public assemblies before, such as a demonstration held in support of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) in March 2014.

The Faculty of Political Science Student Union also issued a statement saying that preventing students from organizing a demonstration on campus is a violation of the students’ freedom of expression and that the university should protect rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression, in accordance with international principles of democracy, as well as students’ welfare, instead of pushing them out of campus to face greater risk.

According to Section 3 of the Public Assembly Act, the Act does not apply to assemblies taking place within an educational institution.

A group of students from the nearby Triam Udom Suksa School also joined the protest. 

Another speaker who gave a speech about the role of educational institutions in the student movement also said that, by not letting students organize a demonstration on campus, the university is attempting to block students from expressing their political opinion.

“The university grounds do not belong to any one individual. It is not a space where a group of people can use to seek benefit. The university has a duty to be an academic marketplace for society, to open up a space for debate, but the administration claims that all activities must be academic. For me, this is a major misinterpretation of what academic means. Academia must be connected to the society and the people. Otherwise, it cannot be called academic.”

Students also gave speeches about the gentrification and over-commercialization of the area around the university, which has caused the loss of communities surrounding campus. One speaker mentioned the Chao Mae Thap Thim Saphan Lueang Shrine, a local Chinese shrine which faced demolition and relocation after the Office of Property Management of Chulalongkorn University (PMCU), which owns the land on which the shrine is located, planned to build a student hall on the land – a plan which has now been delayed after it faced resistance from both students and locals.

Many speakers also harked back to the history of resistance in Thailand. One speaker read out parts of the lyrics to “Starlight of Faith” (แสงดาวแห่งศรัทธา), a song written by academic and revolutionary Jit Phumisak, who was also a student of the Faculty of Arts.

“We don’t have it half as hard as it was for Jit,” said the speaker, who then ended the speech by saying “Don’t forget to call for this place to be a place where people of different cultures can also use. We’re not just students, but we are citizens.”

A group of students were seen with placards calling out Thai mainstream media for not paying attention to the student movement and other political issues. The first placard says "A media which ignores the people is a reflection of a country which ignores democracy." The second one says "can you report about abduction victims as much as you do about a dog?" The third one says "I have lost faith in Thai mainstream media." 

Another speaker also read out Red Shirt leader Nattawut Saikua’s poem “From the Earth to the Sky,” saying that the Red Shirt movement is “the strongest and most stigmatized people’s movement.”

“I would like to give a round of applause for the bravery of our Red Shirt brothers and sisters who fought for democracy,” he said.  

A student held up a picture of activist-in-exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who has been missing since the beginning of June. 

Another speaker quoted from Somsak Jeamteerasakul’s speech on moral courage, given at the funeral of Ampon Tangnoppakul, or “Ah Kong,” a lèse majesté prisoner who died in prison while serving his sentence.

“Moral courage means that despite knowing that if we persevere and fight for the ideas or principles we believe in, we may be threatened, or we might risk our lives, we still persevere on coming out to fight. That’s what Professor Somsak said. If you ask how moral courage is important, does everyone think the university has moral courage?” said the speaker, who then went on to say “when Chula doesn’t have moral courage, then what do the students have? The only thing that will help us is the courage to come out and speak the truth, the courage to come out and accept that, right now, the country is having problems, the courage for the media to present the truth for the majority of the people to hear.”

The speaker said that the Thai people have not shown enough moral courage, and even though there are people and organisations who are fighting for justice, the majority has never been brave enough to speak out and help these people. “If we are brave enough to come out, perhaps what happened to Wanchalearm might not have happened, perhaps Penguin (Parit Chiwarak)’s arrest would not have happened. If we are brave enough to come out, no one will have to face what a lot of activists have had to face,” she said.

The student during her speech about moral courage

“I am very afraid of what will happen,” she said, “and I know that many of us are also afraid, but I would like everyone to think about the activists who spoke onstage, some of the activists who lost even their lives to call for justice for all of us in society, and have the courage to speak the truth. Courage is not getting rid of fear, but courage is doing what is right. Even though we are still afraid, it’s time we do the right thing.”

“Many people here might have been told by their parents not to get involved with political activities and to not say too much, but if we don’t come out, the next person who may get carried off to a police station might be the person standing next to us. It could be our underclassmen. It could be our friends, and even if we, Chula students, come out this time and we don’t win, we might still be able to go back and stay in society because we are privileged, but there are many other people outside the university gates, people who don’t have the opportunity to get an education like Chula students, are dying from the economic condition left by this government, and it is the duty of all of us here to come out and fight for people who don’t have the privilege and don’t have a voice in society.

“What use will we have as students and professors if we have never used our voices to move society. If we claim that we are a pillar, what we should do is support the democracy which gives the people equal opportunity, not be a broken pillar which hold up a dictatorhip.” 

She called on the media to show the truth of the harassment students now face from the authorities and to have the courage to join the students. She also called on celebrities and academics to come out and show their support for the students.

Sirin Mungcharoen on stage

Sirin Mungcharoen, a member of Spring Movement, called on international media to pay attention to what is happening in Thailand. 

“Please tell the world how fed up we are with the dictatorship. with people's lives being ignored, with activists being harassed by the authorities with the enforced disappearances, with the government siding with the capitalist and leaving the people to suffer," she said. 

Aomtip Kerdplanant giving her speech

Aomtip Kerdplanant, a graduate of the Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University, also gave a speech inviting graduates to not join this year’s graduation ceremony, which she said is an act of civil disobedience which breaks no law. She also said that the campaign is more about who the degree certificates are conferred by and “We would be happy to receive our degrees from the professors who taught us.”

At 18.00, protesters also sang the national anthem while holding up the three-finger salute.

The demonstration at Chulalongkorn University came within hours of the arrest of Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, a student activist who was accused of sedition and illegal assembly. The organisers made announcements updating the crowd on the situation and at the end of the demonstration encouraged protesters to join the crowd at the Samranrat Police Station, where Parit was being held.   

The crowd spilled out onto the courtyard outside the building. Many stood with their umbrella listening to speeches despite the rain. 

The current wave of student-led protests in Thailand has continued for the fourth consecutive weeks now, with demonstrations taking place all over the country calling for democracy and reform. Most demonstratons repeat the three demands made at the mass protest on 18 July: an end to authorities' harassment of the people, a new constitution, and the dissolution of parliament. 

The protest at Chulalongkorn University took place at the same time as another demonstration at Ramkhamhaeng University, and only a few days before the mass protest at the Democracy Monument on Sunday (16 August), which has now been dubbed the largest protest in Thailand since the 2014 military coup. 

NewsStudent protest 2020student movementYouth movementChulalongkorn UniversitySpring MovementNisit Chula Partyanti-governmentprotest
Categories: Prachatai English

People claiming to be undercover police monitor Prachatai and TVS offices

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-08-18 10:02
Submitted on Tue, 18 Aug 2020 - 10:02 AMPrachatai

On 13.00 - 15.00 of 14 August, three men with short hair claiming to be undercover police appeared in the vicinity of the Prachatai and Thai Volunteer Service offices.

Men on a motorcycles claimed to be undercover police officers.

When asked, they refused to show their police ID, claiming to be on a mission, which they also denied to reveal.

A reporter told them that their presence made them uncomfortable. They replied that they would not do any harm. 

Their motorcycles did not carry any license plates.

Pol Lt Col Thanawan Chanta, chief of the investigation section of Sutthisan Police Station, said that his unit was not ordered to be deployed at the area and every police vehicle carries a license plate. The group therefore may be imposters.

NewsThai Volunteer ServicePrachataipress freedomSource: prachatai.com/journal/2020/08/89037
Categories: Prachatai English

In the Frame

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-08-17 21:58
Submitted on Mon, 17 Aug 2020 - 09:58 PMHarrison George

Years ago, someone suggested a clever linguistic trick.

At the time Nelly Mandelly was being locked away in apartheid South Africa, and Martin Luther King was getting assassinated for having a dream.  Skin colour, then as now, was a big thing in politics.

In the UK, Enoch Powell, who in an earlier incarnation as Health Minister had been aggressively recruiting nurses and hospital staff from the Caribbean, was warning of ‘rivers of blood’ in the UK if the immigration of blacks and browns was not controlled, curtailed or, even better, stopped.  The Tory Party unseated a Labour minister in Smethwick constituency on the slogan ‘If you want a nigger neighbour, vote Labour’.

Meanwhile in Rhodesia (named after the white supremacist and racist whose statue has become an embarrassment for Oriel College, Oxford), Prime Minister Ian Smith was fighting a vicious bush war to keep Rhodesia independent, which for him meant governed by its white minority.

The linguistic trick involved the words generally used to describe blacks in the UK and whites in Rhodesia.  The former, many of whom were born in the UK and carried the same UK passport as I did, were classed willy-nilly as ‘immigrants’ whether they had actually immigrated or not.

Smith’s white supporters (and he was a very popular figure among whites throughout southern Africa) were called ‘settlers’, even those who had been not born in Africa, who owned vast swathes of it, and who proudly retained their UK passports.

The trick was to take news headlines and swap the words.

‘Conservatives oppose welfare for black settlers’ and ‘Majority rule rejected in vote by white immigrants’ were the disconcerting results.

This is a very superficial example of linguistic or cognitive framing, where the choice of language has some very disturbing consequences for the way people think, or even can think, about things.

We could do with some framing awareness in Thailand today.

Take the recent unscrupulous Bangkok Post headline ‘Unis told to stop students’ slurs’.

Now there’s a lot to unpack there.  First of all, there is an implied chain of command. 

Someone (the article reveals this to be ex-student activist and current anti-student activist Anek Laothamatas in his newly minted position as Minister for Higher Education, Science, Retaliation and Oppression) is presumed to have the authority to give orders to universities, state or private, autonomous or government-administered.  And these universities in turn are presumed to have the authority to give orders to students about what they can and cannot say. 

In 6 words, the Bangkok Pist, sorry Post, headline writer has ridden a coach and horses through any notions of academic freedom or the right to freedom of expression.  Not by arguing that there should be no such things, but by writing a headline that assumes without argument that such things simply do not exist.  At least, not when it comes to students waving 3 fingers about.

The Bangkok Post has created a frame which lulls, inveigles and seduces the inattentive reader into thinking about the issue in terms of hierarchies of power, which of course is exactly what the student protestors want to question.   

The next suspect is the word ‘slurs’, which sneaks into the headline a presumption of guilt (and in Thailand, because of Section 326 et seq. of the Criminal Code, criminality), in much the same way as the famous question ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’

Now what seems to have agitated the underpants of Minister Anek is the 10-point agenda for monarchy reform that has been put out by some of the protestors.  It must contain ‘slurs’, no?

If your news intake is limited to the mainstream Thai media, you have no way of knowing.  The mainstream media appear to have been ordered not to reveal what these 10 points are (Prachatai readers have no such unjustified restriction on their access to information).  

Those with an understanding and experience of human rights have looked at these points closely and say that none are in any way disrespectful. But go on, ignore the tinpot autocrats and judge for yourselves. 

What IS disrespectful is the speech by Army Chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong on 5 August where he told military cadets that pro-democracy protestors are ‘nation haters’.  Now as a government employee, such comments may be stepping over the line, but let’s not follow his own example by violating his right to freedom of expression.

Let us focus on the more disturbing frame in which he embeds ‘nation-hating’.  This is not an opinion that he attributes, in all likelihood falsely, to people who do not think like him or sport Kaiser Wilhelm helmets. 

It is a disease worse than Covid-19. 

And once we are in the ‘dissent-as-disease’ frame, it makes sense to talk about cures (there is none, he says – well, no, it’s not a disease so how could there be?) and prophylaxis (‘cultivating a patriotic mindset early on from childhood’ which others might call indoctrination and which the Thai education has for generations been pursuing relentlessly and clearly unsuccessfully).

So what can be done to first expose and then vaporize the multiple frames of the Bangkok Post?

Time for a linguistics trick a la settlers vs immigrants.

Maybe the Bangkok Post should consider the headline ‘Army told to stop generals’ slurs’.  I think we’d all like to read that article.

Alien ThoughtsBangkok PostStudent protest 2020Monarchy reformHarrison GeorgeAnek LaothamatasApirat Kongsompong
Categories: Prachatai English

A Hypocritical Nation is Not What the Youth Want

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-08-17 19:03
Submitted on Mon, 17 Aug 2020 - 07:03 PMThongchai Winichakul

Many people have said that what the students said on 10 August were sincere expressions of opinion that remained within the lines. People have said that the stance of the university should be to protect freedom of thought and expression to the farthest degree acceptable by the society at the time. They have said that the university should not be afraid of unconventional ideas and provocative thoughts, and, as much as is possible, must protect students from threats from the state.

I agree completely with all of these views.

I would like us to contemplate another issue about which there has been little discussion. This point pertains not so much to the royals, but rather to all of us.

I would like to ask each of us in Thai society, those who are grown-ups and those present in the top echelons of society, especially all who have called for the students to be dealt with by slapping them with the accusation of impugning the institution of the monarchy. 

I would like to ask you: when talking among your friends or family, have you ever gossiped, ridiculed, or been sarcastic or insulting the royals?

Scholars who study Thailand knew well that this behavior can be found among ordinary Thais of nearly every occupational class over the past 20-30 years, especially middle and upper-class people. This is the decades-long culture of ordinary urban Thai people. Let me add here that people who gossip about the royal very fiercely tend to be those who praise and commend the royals utterly and completely in various ceremonies or even in their daily displays of loyalty for others to see. It is a performance!

This very behavior thoroughly reflects Thainess because it is the simultaneous deception of oneself and others. Thai society is full of those who become members of the “Association of Hypocrites” to survive.

Such behavior also reflects the “go with the flow” (อยู่เป็น) idea in Thai culture, licking the boots of those superior to oneself, but trampling upon and displacing guilt onto those inferior to oneself. Thai society is filled with members of the “Association of Boot Lickers” who search for privilege for themselves and to improve their social status.

The wrongdoings the students are accused of in the present tend to be discussed in terms of law. Law is for disciplining and ordering the society. I have explained elsewhere that the Thai legal tradition and system have created the privileged class. Ultimately, the accusation of violation or defamation placed upon the students is not related to any kind of security, because the Thai monarchy is very strong, like the Golden Mountain (in Bangkok). No way will it be easily toppled.

But the purpose of security laws is to perpetuate the existing social order (which is called by another name “Public Order and Good Morals”). Law is used to control and create citizens who are familiar with and cooperate with the boot-licking, hypocritical social order (which has another name: “Thainess”). Generation after generation.

On one hand, the Thai legal system props up the privileged class. Many people possess the privilege of being above the law. What is most important is the privilege of impunity. But on the other hand, the law that is enforced upon those on the lower rungs and those who are rendered weak , including the stubborn youth who think outside the box, in order to shape their behavior by force. This behavior to be shaped includes how to gossip about the royals. Such gossip can occur in secret. But in public, one must perform the opposite extreme in order to make a living with the royals without raising any doubts.

If what is said in secret is said openly and frankly, even if it is principled and serious, it hurts the feelings of Thais too much. The good people of Thai society cannot accept it.

Buddhism seems to foresee such rottenness and therefore always warns us that honesty comprises both words and minds too. But Thai-style Buddhist society is a hypocritical, boot-licking one. So we call for sincerity from other people a hundred times per day, because we know in our hearts that we are always wearing masks toward one another. We always have to check whether or not others are really being sincere in their words and actions to us.

If that is the case, among those whom are upset with the students, how many have never whispered gossip or insults about the royals at all, even in personal conversation? How many people sincerely esteem the institution and always have conversation about the royals while bowing down to the ground in their daily routines? I offer my great respect to these latter ones, and it is my view that only such people have the right to be furious and accuse the students of gravely hurting their feelings.

But all the other people, the many tens of millions, who gossip and insult the royals in their personal space,  but proclaim the need the to deal with the students, especially the esteemed members of the boot-licking senate  and the bloodthirsty media out for the young, please will you “Shut Up!”

The crime of the youth is that they have brought what us grown-ups insult in secret and spoken about it with maturity out in the open.

Their crime is to turn the content of whispered gossip into public issues that must be dealt with in a reasoned, principled matter like adults. They have done so while few grown-ups have given any more thought to it beyond petty gossip about various personal details, even though imperfection is normal for humans. We ourselves are no better or more perfect than those about whom we gossip.

The ten-point declaration of the students can be summarized into three main issues which all of us can accept, but on whose meaning we may differ. They are as follows:

1) The king must not be involved in politics or exercise ruling power.

2) The king must not be above law. He is not higher than people.  

3) The king must live in a dignified manner and respect of him must be willingly afforded.

The crime of the youth is that they are attempting to tell all grown-ups (they are not addressing the monarchy) that, enough already, stop gossiping that the monarchy is terrible when in secret and offering bootlicking praise when out in the open. If there is an issue, all the grown-ups should speak up and provide reasons because it is “Thai-style going with the flow” behavior itself that is destroying the security of the monarchy in the long term and is itself the most insidious erosion of the institution.

The crime of the youth is that they have asked the revered grown-ups: “When are you going to actually be a grown-up?”

The grown-ups always say that youth are the future of the nation. But instead all the revered grown-ups try to force the youth to learn by rote that, “The future is the past, the past is the future.” Youth, for them, are the past in the future. 

Attacking the youth and destroying their dreams today is not only the destruction of the futures of a few individual young people, but is the killing of the futures of all those in the generation. The future of the nation is being destroyed by the hands of all the revered grown-ups.

A better solution is respectful debate between the past and the future, and between the youth who want to create the future that they want and the grown-ups who hold power.

Translated by Tyrell Haberkorn.

OpinionThongchai WinichakulmonarchyMonarchy reformStudent protest 2020Thammasat UniversitySource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/08/89012
Categories: Prachatai English

Student protest the largest demonstration since 2014 coup

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-08-17 17:02
Submitted on Mon, 17 Aug 2020 - 05:02 PMPrachatai

Between 20,000 - 30,000 people joined the anti-government protest at the Democracy Monument on Sunday (16 August) to press their three demands for the government. The Free People Group, who organised the protest, called the protest “deadline for the end of the dictatorship,” a phrase which is also used as the event’s hashtag. It is now dubbed the largest demonstration in Thailand since the 2014 military coup by the media. 

People gathering around the Democracy Monument during the protest

The Free People movement's statement also showed it is adhering to the three demands made at previous protests: an end to the authorities’ harassment of citizens, the drafting of a new constitution, and the dissolution of parliament. 

The group said it was also opposed to all attempts to stage a military coup and to form a national unity government to break the political impasse.

14.52

A crowd of over 1,000 people have begun gathering on Ratchadamnoen Road ahead of the demonstration at 15.00, as the organisers began setting up the stage. 

This incident is happening simulteneosly with another pro-monarchy demonstration on the opposite side of the roundabout.

16.45 

Protesters, most of whom are wearing a black t-shirt, arriving at the Democracy Monument.

The hashtag #แท๊กเพื่อนไปม๊อบ ("tag a friend to go to protest") has hit Thailand's top 4 twitter trend. The event's hashtag, as well as the general Thai politics tag #WhatsHappeninginThailand also trended on Twitter through the night. 

16.46

A Large rainbow flag, a symbol of gender equality, is waved at the demonstration.

Some demonstrators carry their own message in the banner. Reporters spotted people who were calling for gender equality and legalizing abortion. 

The Women for Freedom and Democracy group also set up a station at the protest for people to sign their petition calling for the decriminalization of abortion. They also set up pieces of clothes where people can write down their hopes and dreams for gender equality, as well as a table where participants can colour a drawing of a vagina. 

17.06

Protesters holding a sign saying "No more dictatorship in Thailand" and a smiley face which says "I won't be silenced." 

Representatives from the student rights group Bad Student gave a speech on the main stage about the violation of human rights in school, as well as the harassments faced by students who are exercising their freedom of expression. 

17.32

Kornkanok Kamta

Kornkanok Kamta from the Women for Freedom and Democracy group read a statement calling for the decriminalization of abortion.

She asked whether there can be freedom if we still don't have the right to our own bodies, if abortion still carries the risk of breaking the law and losing our lives. 

"This is our body, our decision, our responsibility for our own lives. This is the best option we have chosen for ourselves,” she said. 

18.02

Winyu Wongsurawat

Spokedark TV's Winyu "John" Wongsurawat said that he comes today to give any support  as media.

"Anybody that are hesitating to join or come to support the new generation, this time you may not sure. But if there is another time, if possible, [I] want you to come out."

A bird's eye view of the demonstration, showing the crowd surrounding the Monument on all sides. (Source: Niranam Plod Aek)

18.20

Police officers are blocking traffic on Ratchadamnoen Road from Phan Fah Intersection and setting up security checkpoints. More people are still arriving as protesters now surround the monument on all sides.

19.00

Protestors sang Jin Gammachon's song "เพื่อมวลชน" ("For the People") with the Commoner Band, while various messages are projected onto the wings around the Democracy Monument, including #ลบยังไงก็ไม่ลืม ("You can erase it but we won't forget") #SaveAnon, #SaveWanchalearm, #ตามหาความจริง ("Searching for truth") and #ให้มันจบที่รุ่นเรา ("Make it end in our time").

As of 19.00, the organisers estimated that 20,000 - 30,000 are currently taking part in the protest.

20.10

Police officers cut off the signal and took down a drone, which is being used to document the protest, stating that drones are forbidden from flying in the area.

20.45

Around 300 police officers arrived at the protest ground. An officer said that it was a routine redeployment.

20.57

Pop band The Bottom Blues performed on stage. Lead singer Ammy said that "if one day I go missing, I would like everyone to know that I'm very happy to be here and that I get to do and say the right thing." 

21.40

B-Floor Theatre performed a stage adaptation of Seni Sauvapong's Pisat ("Ghosts"), telling the story of the ruling class's way of reaching agreements for their own gain and parodying many incidents, including the case of the Red Bull heir.

22.00

The organisers and participants sang a Thai version of Do You Hear the People Sing? from the musical Les Misérables, which is often sung by the pro-democracy movement during protests in recent years. 

22.33

Human rights lawyer Anon Nampa spoke at today's protest on the student movement and its demands for constitutional amendments and monarchy reform. 

The organisers then invited those who are on the list of activists being targeted for arrest onto the stage. They then invited the police to come to the stage and explain the situation about their arrest.

23.00

The organisers sang "Do You Hear the People Sing?" while standing in front of banners which stated all of their demands before closing the demonstration. 

00.00

Anon Nampa surrounded by reporters

Following the end of the demonstration, the organisers then walked to the Samranrat Police Station to ask for clarification on whether there is an arrest warrant out for them.

Anon told reporters that they are waiting to hear back from the police on who among the 31 activists they have already issued an arrest warrant for, and the group will wait at the Giant Swing for answers.

00.30

Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree

Student protest leader Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree said that they did not intend to turn themselves in, but were just asking about arrest warrants, and that if an arrest warrant has been issued for them, they will let the police arrest them. However, the police has yet to give them any answer, so they will be heading home for now.

Tattep said that he will continue to live as normal because he doesn't know if he will be arrested. He is grateful that so many people joined them today, and believes that there are others who share their dream but did not come.

Round Up16 August 2020 protestStudent protest 2020student movementYouth movementanti-governmentDemocracy Monument
Categories: Prachatai English

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