Prachatai English

Thailand target of international human rights campaign

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-12-21 11:08
Submitted on Mon, 21 Dec 2020 - 11:08 AMPrachatai

Amnesty International has issued an appeal for its members worldwide to send letters to Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha calling for an end to criminal prosecutions of peaceful protestors.

A word 'reform' written on the symbolic performer at the 10th December gathering in front of Bangkok UN office.

The Urgent Action appeal, which was issued by the International Secretariat and not the Thailand office of Amnesty International, notes that ‘at least 220 persons, including six children, face criminal proceedings’ and that they ‘face up to decades or even life imprisonment if prosecuted and convicted.’ 

The appeal highlights the cases of high school student Benjamaporn ‘Ploy’ Nivas, Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sittijirawattanakul, Tattep ‘Ford’ Ruangprapaikitseree and Jatupat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa.

Amnesty International points out in the appeal that the United Nations Human Rights Committee, among many other organizations, has repeatedly recommended that Thailand amend or repeal the very laws it is now using as tools to suppress the expression of critical and dissenting opinions and peaceful protests.  Much international concern has focussed on Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the so-called lèse majesté law, which has been widely used in recent days.

This is the second Urgent Action appeal that Amnesty has issued about the situation in Thailand.  The first appeal in early September focussed on 31 protestors.  That appeal asked Amnesty members to send e-mails to an address for the Public Relations Department.  This time, members are asked to send letters direct to the Prime Minister’s office

NewsStudent protest 2020Amnesty International (AI)UNHRCUnited Nations Human Rights CommitteeArticle 112Section 112lese majeste
Categories: Prachatai English

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights raises concerns over Thai authorities' use of Section 112

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-12-18 22:29
Submitted on Fri, 18 Dec 2020 - 10:29 PMOHCHR

Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a statement today (18 December) raising concerns over the Thai authorities charging protesters with charges under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, Thailand's lèse majesté law.

A group of activists holding a banner in front of the UN building in Bangkok when they went to file a petition calling for the UN to pressure the Thai government for the repeal of Section 112 on 10 December.

At least 35 people involved with recent protests are now facing charges under this law, including a 16-year-old student activist.  

The statement also raised concerns over the authorities' use of other criminal charges against protesters, including sedition charges and charges under the Computer Crimes Act, and called on the Thai government to stop the repeated use of such serious criminal charges against individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as to amend Section 112 and bring it into line with Article 19 of the ICCPR on the right to freedom of expression.

The full statement reads: 

We are deeply troubled by the move by Thai authorities to charge at least 35 protesters in recent weeks, including a 16-year old student protester, under Article 112 – the lèse majesté provision of Thailand’s criminal code. The offence carries sentences of between three and 15 years’ imprisonment for defaming, insulting or threatening the country’s royal family. We are particularly alarmed that the 16-year-old protester was yesterday presented by police to the Juvenile Court with a request for a detention order. The Court denied the detention order and granted conditional bail.

A number of UN human rights mechanisms, including the UN Human Rights Committee, which oversees implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), have repeatedly called on Thailand to bring this law in line with the country’s international obligations. It is extremely disappointing that after a period of two years without any cases, we are suddenly witnessing a large number of cases, and – shockingly – now also against a minor.

We also remain concerned that other serious criminal charges are being filed against protesters engaged in peaceful protests in recent months, including charges of sedition and offences under the Computer Crime Act. Again, such charges have been filed against a minor, among others. 

We call on the Government of Thailand to stop the repeated use of such serious criminal charges against individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. People should be able to exercise these rights without fear of reprisals. The UN Human Rights Committee has found that detention of individuals solely for exercising the right to freedom of expression or other human rights constitutes arbitrary arrest or detention.

We also urge the Government to amend the lèse majesté law and bring it into line with Article 19 of the ICCPR on the right to freedom of expression.

Pick to PostUnited Nations High Commissioner for Human RightsSection 112Article 112freedom of speechfreedom of expressionStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

Students accused of royal defamation for protest fashion show hear charges

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-12-18 22:08
Submitted on Fri, 18 Dec 2020 - 10:08 PMPrachatai

Two students facing charges under the lèse majesté law for participating in a “fashion show” during a pro-democracy protest on Silom Road went to hear the charges yesterday (17 December), while members of the We Volunteer protest guard group and other protesters gathered outside the police station in Thai traditional dress to show support.

Jatuporn Sae-Ung arriving at the Yannawa Police Station

Jatuporn Sae-Ung, 23, and Noppasin (last name withheld), 16, went to Yannawa Police Station to hear the charges after they were accused of insulting the Queen by wearing Thai traditional dress, a gesture seen as mockery of the royal family, at a “fashion show” during the protest on Silom Road on 29 October 2020.

Jatuporn was immediately released after she was informed of the charges without needing to post bail. She said after her release that, during the protest, she only wore Thai traditional dress and did not give any speeches, but she was accused of imitating the Queen. She said she would like Section 112 to be repealed, but commented that it might be difficult and that the law seems to be used as a form of harassment.

Noppasin, on the other hand, was taken to the Juvenile and Family Court, so that the court could examine whether the case was handled properly according to the protocol for pressing charges against a minor. The inquiry officer also submitted a detention request, which the Court approved as the charge carries high penalty, despite Noppasin’s lawyer objecting to the request on the ground that he would not flee and will report to the aithorities as summoned. He was eventually released on bail.

Khumklao Songsomboon from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that, according to the inquiry officer, Noppasin is charged because he wore a tank top, which was interpreted as mockery. Noppasin has denied all charges.

Khumklao also said that, even though Noppasin was granted bail, he still has to report to the Juvenile Detention Centre on Monday. He also has to report to the inquiry officer along with Jatuporn on 11 January 2021, when the inquiry officer is scheduled to submit the case to the public prosecutor.

Parit Chiwarak giving a speech in front of the Yannawa Police Station

As Jatuporn and Noppasin were hearing their charges, the We Volunteer (WeVo) protest guard group organized a rally in front of Yannawa Police Station, even though the police stated that they had not notified the police of a public assembly and must disperse by 11.30 a.m. Many people who joined the rally wore Thai traditional attire to show their support.

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak wore a red Thai costume with blue diamond accessories. He made a speech criticizing the illogical use of lèse majesté law including this case and another involving a pro-democracy actress who supported the protests with food.

He also urged the authorities to accept the demand of the people and abolish the lèse majesté law, otherwise, the law will no longer be justified and the people will abolish it no matter what the royal institution thinks.

Parit said that lèse majesté charges had been filed not in the cause of justice but as a punishment on behalf of the King. And if the authorities continued to obstruct democratization by the lèse majesté law, this meant that they were trying to make the royal institution an enemy of the people.

34 people now charged with Section 112

 

As of 17 December, total of 34 people are now facing charges under Section 112 in connection with the recent protests. 

Actor Inthira Charoenpura and volunteer medic Natthathida Meewangpla received summonses on Wednesday (16 December 2020). Inthira has been supporting the pro-democracy protests by donating food and equipment and supporting other activists’ fundraising efforts, but has never given speeches. Natthathida, who was previously been charged with royal defamation in 2015, received a summons from Bangkhen Police Station, most likely for the protest in front of the 11th Infantry Regiment headquarters on 29 November.

Student activist Phongsatorn Tancharoen, a member of the student activist group Mahasarakham University Democracy Front, received a summons from Paholyothin Police Station, most likely in relation to the protest in front of the SCB headquarters on 25 November.

Narin (last name withheld) is also facing charges under Section 112, most likely for putting a sticker on a display in honour of the King. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) also reported that, following the 19 – 20 September protest, Narin was arrested by plainclothes officers for charges under the Computer Crimes Act,  and accused of running the satirical Facebook page “กูkult.”

Others who have already been summoned have received summonses for additional charges, including human rights lawyer and protest leader Anon Nampa, who is now facing 7 counts of royal defamation.

NewsArticle 112Section 112lese majestefreedom of speechfreedom of expressionMonarchy reformStudent protest 2020Jatuporn Sae-Ung
Categories: Prachatai English

Duterte administration must end ‘red-tagging’ campaign against opposition MPs, says APHR

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-12-18 14:42
Submitted on Fri, 18 Dec 2020 - 02:42 PMASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

Parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia today called on President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime in the Philippines to immediately end its vicious and dangerous campaign of “red-tagging” opposition lawmakers, which is part of widespread attempts to intimidate and silence opponents. 

Rodrigo Duterte

“Red-tagging has had extremely violent consequences in the Philippines, and the fact we are seeing President Duterte leading the way on such a menacing practice is utterly inexcusable,” said Charles Santiago, a Malaysian Member of Parliament (MP), and chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). “Let’s be clear: not only do the president’s actions attempt to silence political opposition and undermine democracy, but they also directly put people’s lives at risk, particularly those who oppose his agenda.”

In the Philippines, “red-tagging” has long been used by authorities to vilify and harass those perceived as threats to the country by accusing them of being Communists or Communist sympathizers, and those labeled as such have been physically attacked and killed. 

President Duterte has taken a lead role in the “red-tagging” campaign, including by recently accusing the Makabayan Bloc of being a front for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), and comparing Makabayan Representative Carlos Zarate to “dog shit”. 

The Philippine Senate is currently conducting an inquiry into alleged red-tagging by military officials, which Zarate has said has been reduced to “a venue for witch hunting”. 

“How can lawmakers be expected to fulfil their role as a check on the executive when they themselves are being attacked? We urgently call on President Duterte and the Philippine government to stop labelling directly-elected representatives as terrorists, and allow opposition lawmakers to effectively fulfil their mandates and freely express their opinions,” Santiago said. 

In its report, Parliamentarians at Risk, published in September 2020, APHR found that all six lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc have been red-tagged, with some saying they experienced it “almost everyday”. They have been red-tagged online and offline, including on social media, in reports, and news articles, the report found. 

The latest comments by Duterte are part of a widespread assault on democracy and human rights in the Philippines by his administration, APHR said. Since coming to power, he has overseen a brutal “war on drugs” that involves extrajudicial killings with near-total impunity, the jailing of government critics – including APHR member Senator Leila de Lima – and in July introduced a new Anti-Terror Law that rights groups say will be used to further threaten and harass human rights defenders and government critics. 

“We call on MPs in the Philippines and across Southeast Asia to use their positions to speak up against the practice of ‘red tagging’ in the Philippines, particularly by government officials towards political opponents, and ensure that their colleagues can effectively fulfil their mandates as elected representatives of the people,” said Mu Sochua, an APHR Board Member and former Cambodian MP. 

Pick to PostThe PhilippinesRodrigo DuterteASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
Categories: Prachatai English

Strengthen National Human Right Commission before Accreditation Upgrade, says NGO network

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-12-18 13:19
Submitted on Fri, 18 Dec 2020 - 01:19 PMFORUM-ASIA

The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) should continue to be accredited as ‘B status’[1] in the re-accreditation exercise by the Sub-Committee on Accreditation of Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI-SCA), said the Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Protection International (PI), Community Resource Centre (CRC), and People’s Empowerment Foundation (PEF) today.

Over the past few days, the GANHRI-SCA has conducted the accreditation process of national human rights institutions (NHRIs), including the NHRCT. The NHRIs were assessed on their compliance with the Paris Principles. NHRIs considered to be fully compliant with the Principles are accredited as “A status” and can participate in the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. Partially compliant NHRIs are given “B status” and may only participate as observers.

The NHRCT was last accredited in 2014. At that time, the GANHRI-SCA recommended that the NHRCT be downgraded to a “B status” for its persistent deficiencies, which included its selection and appointment process of the Commissioners, functional immunity, lack of ability to address human rights issues in a timely manner, and serious questions around independence and neutrality. 

The NHRCT was given a period of one year to provide evidence of improvement, yet it had failed to do so and was thus officially downgraded in 2015.

‘We believe that upgrading the international recognition of the NHRCT is the wrong move now because it would legitimise the commission’s continued, serious shortcomings, and would fly in the face of evidence from the ground showing an upgrade is not warranted. The NHRCT continues to suffer from severe legitimacy challenges and a lack of public confidence because of its continued failure to effectively protect rights, its continually poor performance, and its politically compromised independence, all of which fall substantially short of the minimum international standards mandated in the Paris Principles. Urgent changes are needed in the Commission before it can be upgraded to again become a Paris-Principles-compliant NHRI,’ the rights groups said. 

The Organic Act on the National Human Rights Commission

The NHRCT is performing its duties under the 2017 Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand and Organic Act on the National Human Rights Commission (2017 NHRC Act). The amendment to the 1999 NHRC Act was enacted without a meaningful consultative process.

The amendment provided a controversial new mandate to the NHRCT, which allows it  to investigate, clarify and report on any publication or report concerning the human rights situation in Thailand that the government designates as  being “incorrect” or “unfair.” Under this mandate, the NHRCT has launched investigations (still inconclusive) of reports by human rights organisations accredited by the United Nations, such as Human Rights Watch. 

Selection and Appointment Process

The selection and appointment process of the NHRCT Commissioners continues to fall short of the minimum standards set out in the Paris Principles and General Observations. Despite the improvements provided in the Act, the current selection process has not adequately addressed the issues of transparency and independence due to the continuous interventions made by the then military-appointed National Legislative Assembly, which rejected five candidates in several closed hearings in December 2018. After the 2019 general elections, the military-appointed Senate has rejected most candidates coming from a civil society or human rights background, and appointed only government approved academics and former officials who have previously worked in the government.

Functional Immunity and Lack of Leadership

The rights groups noted that some NHRCT Commissioners faced serious obstacles in effectively carrying out the organisation’s mandate. One former Commissioner, Angkhana Neelapaijit, was undermined by the Commission when it conducted a disciplinary action against her for simply performing her job. She continually noted efforts by the former NHRCT Chair What Tingsamitr to block efforts to raise and investigate civil and political rights cases. Angkhana, who was awarded the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2019, still faces defamation charges filed by Thammakaset Farm Company due to her work as Commissioner on a case involving violations of migrant workers’ rights, yet the NHRCT has done nothing to defend her. 

Over the years, the NHRCT has been plagued by inefficiencies in implementation and follow-up, internal conflicts and a continuous lack of leadership from the former Chairperson. Commissioners have submitted resignations before they have finished their tenure. In 2017, Surachet Satitniramai resigned due to dissatisfaction with the management and the working system under the administration of the former Chairperson. In 2019, Angkhana Neelapaijit and Tuenjai Deetes resigned due to the NHRCT’s mis-management on the complaint handling system, and its unsatisfactory working methods.

Failure to Address Human Rights Violations

To date, the NHRCT is still failing to adequately address human rights violations in the country. The restrictive laws and policies adopted during the National Council for Peace and Order’s military rule may have created more hurdles, but this is no excuse for NHRCT’s failings to investigate or act on complaints received. Civil society and human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, have repeatedly expressed disappointment in the NHRCT’s lack of meaningful and timely interventions in addressing human rights violations. A number of human rights defenders expressed that the actions by the NHRCT still lack respect towards human rights defenders, and fail to respect free, prior and informed consent by communities. This is the case when NHRCT officials conduct community visits after W/HRDs use the NHRCT complaint mechanism.

The NHRCT have provided little to no intervention in cases of human rights defenders and violations against freedom of expression and assembly in association, such as the arbitrary arrest and intimidation of P-Move, as well as the dozens of cases of judicial harassment by Thammakaset Farm. The NHRCT’s approach is to selectively intervene on some high-profile W/HRD cases, when in reality it should be acting on all cases. For example, in the high profile case of Lertsak Kumkongsak, the environmental human rights defender who received death threats, and Dam Onmuang, the land rights defender of the Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand who suffered an attempted murder, the NHRCT acted inadequately. By simply reporting these incidents to government agencies, like the Ministry of Justice, the NHRCT is not fulfilling its role to protect W/HRDs at high risk.

With regard to the current pro-democracy street protests across the country that started in July 2020, and the authorities’ crackdown on both protest leaders and peaceful protesters exercising their civil and political rights, the NHRCT has failed to fulfill its mandate to take adequate measures to protect and promote human rights. In response to the current political situation, the NHRCT has pointed to their efforts in establishing a monitoring team, promoting the complaint mechanism, and making public statements. While these appear to be positive steps taken by the Commission, human rights observers have correctly criticized the interventions for not being fully in line with international human rights standards, and for not fully addressing the concerns of those whose rights have been violated. 

‘It is premature for GANHRI-SCA to upgrade the NHRCT from its current “B status.” The NHRCT must show greater independence, diligence, competence, and commitment in seeking to promote and protect human rights. The NHRCT still needs to show it can make timely, independent, and impartial investigations and pronouncements on systematic human rights violations, and ensure that such responses and actions are informed by a long-term plan that addresses rights violations at an institutional level, before it can qualify as an “A status” NHRI,’ said the organisations.

Notes: 

1. 'B status' institutions: Not fully in compliance with the Paris Principles or has not yet submitted sufficient documentation to make that determination.

Pick to PostAsian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
Categories: Prachatai English

32 people now charged under Section 112

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-12-16 23:31
Submitted on Wed, 16 Dec 2020 - 11:31 PMPrachatai

The number of people involved in recent protests who have been charged under Section 112 continues to rise as 31 people have now been summoned, one of whom is 16 years old. Meanwhile, the public prosecutor in Nakhon Phanom has issued a prosecution order in the case of a man accused of royal defamation for a Facebook post made in 2016.

A list of people facing charges under Section 112, as of 16 October. Those with the red "reported" sign have been to the relevant police stations to hear their charges. 

Between 8 – 16 December, 14 more people involved with recent protests have received police summons to hear charges under Section 112, in addition to the 17 activists who received their summonses between 24 November – 8 December: Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, Akarapon Teebthaisong, Athapol Buapat, Suthini Jangpipatnawakit, Joseph (pseudonym), Korakot Saengyenpan, Sombat Tongyoi, Jatuporn Sae-ung, Chukiat Saengwong, Inthira Charoenpura, Sirapob Phumphuengphut, Natthathida Meewangpla and two others whose names are withheld.

A man named Isares (last name withheld) also reported to the provincial public prosecutor in Nakhon Phanom today (16 October) for charges under Section 112 and the Computer Crimes Act.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), he is facing charges for a Facebook post he made on 14 October 2016, and was arrested while taking a train back to Nakhon Phanom after participating in the protest on 19 – 20 September 2020. He was detained for 1 night before being granted bail.

TLHR observed that Issares’ case is the first case in which Section 112 is used, before prime minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha issued a statement on 19 November 2020 that every law will be used against protesters and before the new set of Section 112 charges filed against protesters. It is likely that the public prosecutor issued a prosecution order following this trend.

Meanwhile, human rights lawyer and protest leader Anon Nampa has received summonses for additional Section 112 charges. As of 15 December, he now faces 7 counts.

One of the Section 112 charges filed against Anon is related to a letter to King Vajiralongkorn he posted on his Facebook page on 8 November, which called for the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and a new constitution, as well as for monarchy reform.

Anon posted the letter as protesters marched to the Grand Palace and put letters to the King in replica red post boxes in a symbolic gesture to send a message to the King. At the time, he was in Chiang Mai to hear a charge relating to one of his earlier speeches on monarchy reform.

Anon Nampa (picture from TLHR)

He is also charged with “entering into a computer system computer data which is an offence related to national security,” under Section 14 (3) of the 2017 Computer Crimes Act.

Several people who joined a protest at Silom Road on 29 October 2020 are also being charged under Section 112, one of whom is 16 years old. Another is Jatuporn Sae-ung, who was charged after she appeared in a parody fashion show at the protest in a pink traditional Thai dress and was greeted by the protesters chanting “long live your majesty,” which is seen as mocking the Queen.

Actor Inthira Charoenpura and volunteer medic Natthathida Meewangpla are also facing Section 112 charges, most likely for the protest in front of the 11th Infantry Regiment headquarters on 29 November. Inthira has been supporting the protests by donating food and equipment, as well as help with the activists’ fundraising effort, but she has never made any speeches.

Natthathida was previously charged with royal defamation under Section 112 in 2015, as well as an attempted terrorism charge. She was imprisoned for over three years for both charges before being granted bail in 2018.

One of the participants in the 10 December rally to petition the United Nations Human Rights Council to pressure the Thai government to repeal Section 112 bound and handcuffed herself in a symbolic action to protest against the law. 

Supanut Boonsod, a lawyer from TLHR, said that Section 112 is once again being used to stop criticism of the monarchy, but the way the law is used has changed.

Supanut explained that previously, officers issued arrest warrants, and in most cases, those charged were denied bail, no matter how many times they filed a request. Almost all cases received jail sentences, and the accused often decided to confess after being denied bail for a long pre-trial period. After the 2014 coup, Section 112 cases were tried in military courts, so the sentences were even more severe.

After Gen Prayut claimed that the King had asked for no prosecutions under Section 112 out of “royal mercy”, Supanut said that most of the remaining cases were dismissed, granted bail, or the charge was changed to Section 112. But more sedition charges were seen under Section 116 of the Criminal Code and under the Computer Crimes Act, and the sentences were similar to those under Section 112.

Supanut said that after Gen Prayut said that every law would be used, Section 112 has once again been brought back. However, no arrest warrant has so far been issued. Instead, officials are issuing summonses. In the cases of those charged in relation to the protest at the German Embassy, for example, the inquiry officer did not take them to court for a temporary detention request when they went to Thungmahamek Police Station to hear their charges and they were all released. Whether the situation will be different when the cases get to court remains to be seen, but Supanut said that the purpose of using Section 112 is still to stop the movement and protests relating to the monarchy.

NewsArticle 112Section 112lese majestefreedom of speechfreedom of expressionMonarchy reformStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

CSOs call for justice upon the 8th year of a Lao activist disappearance

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-12-16 17:00
Submitted on Wed, 16 Dec 2020 - 05:00 PMFORUM-ASIA

After eight years, civil society worldwide demands the government establish and reveal Sombath’s fate and whereabouts.

Collated photo of Sombath Somphone.

15 December 2020: On the eighth anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, we, the undersigned organizations, reiterate our calls on the government of Laos to reveal his fate and whereabouts, and to investigate all allegations of enforced disappearances in the country to bring those responsible to justice in fair trials.

The government’s ongoing failure to thoroughly, independently, and impartially investigate the cases of Sombath and other alleged victims of enforced disappearance is compounded by its total lack of commitment to address this issue.

In June 2020, during the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Laos at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, the government refused to accept all five recommendations calling for an adequate investigation into Sombath’s enforced disappearance. The government also refused to accept another eight recommendations calling for investigations into all cases of alleged enforced disappearance.

Despite the government accepting that “the search for missing Lao citizens, including Sombath Somphone, is the duty of the Lao government”, it failed to demonstrate any will to effectively execute or fulfill this duty. The government stated that investigations into cases of enforced disappearances were “considered on a case by case basis,” but did not reveal how many investigations it had conducted, for which cases, or any updates on developments in the alleged investigations. It also failed to provide any information about its efforts to determine the fate and whereabouts of Sombath Somphone.

In addition, the government failed to further commit to ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance – a treaty that Laos signed in September 2008.

We renew our call for the establishment of an independent and impartial investigative body tasked with determining Sombath’s fate and whereabouts. The new body should receive international technical assistance in order to conduct a professional and effective investigation in accordance with international standards.

We also urge the Lao government to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance without delay, incorporate its provisions into the country’s legal framework, implement it in practice, and recognize the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of the victims in accordance with Article 31 of the Convention.

We stand shoulder to shoulder with all victims of enforced disappearance in Laos and their families, and we will not stop demanding that all their cases be independently, impartially, and effectively investigated, and the perpetrators of such a serious crime be identified and held accountable in fair trials, regardless of their rank or status.

Sombath was disappeared, but our combined determination to seek truth, justice, and reparations for his enforced disappearance will never go away. Our commitment is as strong today as it was eight years ago. We are still asking “Where is Sombath?”

Background

Sombath was last seen at a police checkpoint on a busy street of the Lao capital, Vientiane, on the evening of 15 December 2012. Footage from a CCTV camera showed that Sombath’s vehicle was stopped at the police checkpoint and that, within minutes, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove him away in the presence of police officers. CCTV footage also showed an unknown individual driving Sombath’s vehicle away from the city center. The presence of police officers at Sombath’s abduction and their failure to intervene strongly indicates state agents’ participation in Sombath’s enforced disappearance.

Lao authorities have repeatedly claimed they have been investigating Sombath’s enforced disappearance but have failed to disclose any new findings to the public since 8 June 2013. They have neither met with Sombath’s wife, Shui Meng Ng, nor provided her with any updates on their investigation into his case since December 2017. Relatives of people who are forcibly disappeared are themselves victims of enforced disappearance and have the right to a remedy for violations of international human rights law. They frequently suffer harm, including mental anguish and material consequences, which may amount to torture or other ill-treatment.

Signed by:

  1. 11.11.11-Belgium
  2. Alliance Sud
  3. Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma)
  4. Amnesty International
  5. ARTICLE 19
  6. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
  7. Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances
  8. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  9. Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED)
  10. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights
  11.  Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines
  12. CCFD-Terre Solidaire
  13. Center for Prisoners' Rights
  14. Civil Rights Defenders
  15. CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network)
  16. Commonwealth human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  17. Covenants Watch
  18. Cross Cultural Foundation
  19. Environics Trust
  20. Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières (ESSF)
  21. Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos
  22. FIAN International
  23. FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
  24. Focus on the Global South
  25. Four Freedoms Forum
  26. Fortify Rights
  27. Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
  28. Fresh Eyes
  29. Fundacion Solón
  30. Human Rights Watch
  31. International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances
  32. International Commission of Jurists
  33. International Rivers
  34. Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw)
  35. Justice for Iran
  36. Justice for Peace Foundation
  37. Lao Movement for Human Rights
  38. League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran
  39. MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
  40. Maldivian Democracy Network
  41. Manushya Foundation
  42. MARUAH
  43. Mekong Watch
  44. Odhikar
  45. Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee
  46. People’s Watch
  47. Project SEVANA South-East Asia
  48. Taiwan Association for Human Rights
  49. The Corner House
  50. Transnational Institute
  51. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
  52. WomanHealth Philippines
  53. World Organisation Against Torture
  54. World Rainforest Movement

Individuals

Achin Vanaik

Andy Rutherford

Angkhana Neelapaijit

Anna Polony

David JH Blake

Francine Mestrum

Jesus Santiago

Katherine Bowie

Keith Barney

Larry Lohmann

Leang Bunleap

Natalia Scurrah

Nick Buxton

Nick Hildyard

Sarah Sexton

Shui Meng Ng

Soren Bo Sondergaard

Thierry Kesteloot

William Nicholas Gomes

Pick to PostSombath Somphoneenforced disappearanceLaoFORUM-ASIA
Categories: Prachatai English

Chana industrial project delayed, protesters return home

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-12-16 14:21
Submitted on Wed, 16 Dec 2020 - 02:21 PMPrachatai

On the 6th day of a protest in front of Government House, a cabinet resolution has delayed a city zoning meeting, a process required for the proposed industrial project in Chana District, Songkhla Province, and established a committee to solve the problem of constructing the industrial zone over 16,000 rai.

The protesters from Chana under the banner reads "STOP Chana Industrial Estate".

On 15 December, Thammanat Prompao, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, announced that the committee will consist of both those in favour and those against the project. Membership of the committee will be considered later and fieldwork may be carried out at the beginning of 2021.

He admitted that this is not a suspension or delay of the industrial project. However, the decision does delay the city zoning, which results in a delay of other parts of the project.

The villagers’ representative said that they will give the government some time to work but vowed to come back if the resolution is not realized. They also want the media to investigate local politicians who benefit from the project and who may pressure Thammanat for coming out to help the villagers.

The government arranged buses along with food and drinks for the villagers’ journey home.

On the same day, at the Government Complaints Centre, another group of the villagers from Songkhla submitted a petition via Suporn Atthawong, Deputy Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, to demand that the project proceed.

They stated that the project will alleviate the locals' livelihood and quality of life. They also questioned the way the government listens to a minority who are against the project, which the group believes was being instigated by outside NGOs.

The group wants the Chana Rak Thin group, who had come to protest against the project, to return to the public hearings which they have rejected in the past. They also want the government to prevent the industrial project from being politicized. If the government ignores these demands, they are ready to mobilize over 10,000 people to protest at Government House.

The Chana industrial project was approved by a cabinet resolution at the last cabinet meeting of the junta government which was installed after the coup in 2014. According to the Bangkok Post, the project aims to construct an 18-billion-baht industrial estate on 16,700 rai of land. The area covered 3 sub districts with 1,500 residents.

The project is controversial because of questions about the public hearing process where those who opposed the project out of many concerns, including its impact on livelihoods, homes and the environment, were barred from attending hearings.

Previously, the group that is against the project have 2 demands:

  1. The Chana industrial city prototype project must be cancelled, along with related activities like changes to city zoning and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), as it is an illegitimate legacy of the previous junta government.
  2. After cancellation, the government must conduct a proper Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to establish quality academic data for decisions about further development projects in the south.

Source: Thairath, Matichon [1] [2]

NewsChana industrial zoneChana industrial projectSongkhlaCapt Thammanat Prompaoenvironment
Categories: Prachatai English

387 journalists detained worldwide, says RSF’s 2020 report

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-12-15 21:39
Submitted on Tue, 15 Dec 2020 - 09:39 PMPrachatai

387 journalists worldwide are currently detained in connection their work, while 54 are held hostage and 4 are missing, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF)’s 2020 round-up report on abusive treatment of journalists.

The report noted that the number of detained journalists is “still at a historically high level,” with the number at the start of December 2019 being 389, and that the number of detained professional and non-professional journalists has risen 17% in the past five years.

According to the report, more than half of the detained journalists are being held in China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and Syria. In China, which has retained the No.1 ranking, a total of 117 journalists are currently detained, nearly a third of whom are non-professionals.

The report also notes that the number of women journalists in prison has risen by 35% from 31 a year ago to 42 now. Of the 17 new cases, 4 are held in Belarus, which the report notes “has experienced an unprecedented crackdown since the controversial election in August, 4 are held in Iran, 3 in Egypt, 2 each in Cambodia and China, and 1 each in Vietnam and Guatemala. Among these numbers is Vietnamese journalist Pham Doan Trang, one of the recipients of the 2019 RSF Press Freedom Prize. 

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to additional arrests of journalists, the report said, despite calls for the urgent release of prisoners of conscience due to the increased risk of infection in crowded prisons. Data gathered by RSF for Tracker 19, a project RSF launched to track the impact of the pandemic on press freedom, also shows “a significant surge in press freedom violation during the northern hemisphere’s 2020 spring.” Of the more than 300 incidents linked to coverage of the pandemic recorded between February and November 2020, 35% involved arbitrary arrests. While most were released within a few hours or days of their arrest, 14 are still being held.

The Tracker Report condemns the decree issued in March in Thailand under which the government, on the pretext of regulating coronavirus information, gave itself the right to decide what is true and what is false, noting that the freedom to inform must be respected at this crucial time.

The report noted that most journalists detained in relation to their Covid-19 pandemic coverage are in Asia. 55 journalists have been arrested in the Asia-Pacific region, 10 of whom are still being held. In China, at least seven journalists, whistle-blowers, and influential political commentators who have been arrested in connection with the pandemic are still being held, including Zhang Zhan, a lawyer and non-professional journalist who was arrested for her tweets and YouTube live-streams from Wuhan, and Cai Wei and Chen Mei, two non-professional journalists who were arrested for republishing censored media reports and interviews on the pandemic.

According to the report, 54 journalists are also currently held hostage worldwide, 5% fewer than in 2019, all of whom are located in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, while four journalists have been reported missing in 2020. 

NewsReporters Without Borders (RSF)press freedomarbitrary arrestarbitrary detentionfreedom of speechCOVID-19coronavirus
Categories: Prachatai English

Meet 3 dental students who stood up against a faculty’s uniform taboo

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-12-15 19:43
Submitted on Tue, 15 Dec 2020 - 07:43 PMYiamyut Sutthichaya

A norm for some, a new challenge against taboos for others. Meet 3 dental students from Chulalongkorn University who joined the school students’ campaign calling for free choice of dress in a place where uniforms are obligatory for undergraduates.

The campaign initiated by KKC Pakee Students, a student activist group in Khon Kaen province, then joined by Bad Students, another prominent group, caught public attention when students in many schools received both praise and criticism for not wearing uniforms to school on the first day of the new semester on 1 December.

Champ, Pok and Ploy, 3 undergraduate dental students from Chulalongkorn University, who all asked not to be named, decided not to wear their uniforms to a clinical class. They found themselves to be the only three that broke the taboo, but it shed a new light on their everyday lives by bringing them into the public debate over uniforms.

“In our status as nisit (a term referring to undergraduate students at some Thai universities), in the education system, we think that our Faculty, or even Chula, should come out and say something to show that in higher education institutions it should be appropriate to wear (normal clothes). Although our Faculty has a conflict about working with patients and most of the teachers think conservatively, if we do not try to show our ideas, there might be no other chance,” said Champ.

“If we wear the clothes of our choice while at university, teachers can point out which outfit is not proper in their opinion. Then, when we go on to a master’s degree, we will know what we should wear,” said Ploy.

Champ said they heard about the campaign on Twitter, and they started to ask friends in small groups to participate. In the end, there were 3 of them.

The next day, Champ wore a blue Hawaiian shirt along with the regulation long trousers to the Faculty while Pok wore a white T-shirt with a navy blue-orange jacket and Ploy wore a blue dress.

Same-old faculty, new perspective

“I was a little excited because I was afraid that the teachers would tell us off because during my 4th year, I once dyed my hair blue to class and some teachers [told me] that it’s not polite,” said Ploy

The three said they wanted to show that clothes do not affect their performance in treating patients and studying. On the other hand, the uniform regulations prove to be troublesome, especially for students who have to attend clinical classes as it hinders mobility. The choice of clothing should be free, as long as it is proper.

The three found that it was not so bad, besides feeling a bit nervous, as their surrounding friends and faculty staff mostly did not object to what they did. Teachers mistook them for graduate students or exchange students who are allowed to wear their own clothes. Some even agreed that any clothes should be allowed.

But Champ was later summoned to the Student Affairs Division. He was lectured and had conduct points deducted.

According to CU university regulations, male students have to wear a white shirt, black or navy blue long trousers, a black leather belt with the CU logo on the buckle, black socks, black or brown brogue shoes and a necktie with the CU logo.

Females must wear white a shirt long enough to cover the hips and thick enough not to be transparent, with pleats on the back, decorated with metal buttons with the CU logo and a CU badge on right chest. The skirt has to be black or blue with white, brown, blue or gray shoes that cover the heels.

Punishments for infringements range from conduct points deductions, summoning parents, and suspension for 1 or 2 semesters up to expulsion.

The uniform regulations in CU differ from faculty to faculty. In some faculties, students are allowed to wear their own clothes to class, depending on an agreement between teachers and students or with the consent of the teacher. However, students still have to wear uniforms to exams.

“By the afternoon, at about one o’clock, a Student Affairs teacher came to look for me at the patient clinic, wanting to talk. ... The main thing that we talked about was that what I did was only my personal opinion. They did not prohibit expression. But I must not forget that there are the CU regulations, the Chula rules. If we do not follow them, it will be against the rules. The teacher suggested that there is the issue about the image of being a dentist, being a doctor. That was what they were worried about,” said Champ.

Champ and Pok in uniforms, the interview took place several days after Champ had his conduct points deducted.

Champ asked the teacher back about what needs to be done in order to have a free choice of clothing. The teacher answered that a majority opinion needs to be collected and passed on to the university executive members to consider, a method which he found very impractical.

“The teacher asked that we are undergradutes, like in dental school, so we should work for the honour of the institution by wearing proper clothing, undergraduate clothing. Finally, the teacher said that it is the rule anyway.”

Champ is now reluctant to wear his own clothes to the Faculty again as he is afraid of possible further deduction of conduct points.

Clothing should be more free

Although one of them had conduct points deducted, their actions became quite well-known among the dental students, according to Champ and Pok, due to the small number of students. Conversations over uniform regulations began here and there around them. Some agreed with what they did and some preferred wearing the uniform so that it was not so hard to choose what to wear.

“Actually, I want the administrators, or those who are involved, or Students Affairs to address this issue more about why the kids expressed themselves this way. I want them to see the problem of whether compulsory uniform wearing is useful or not. Or whether the good image of dentists that the dentistry teachers talk about is something made up,” said Pok.

This December, Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, a student activist and CU political science student who became well-known almost a decade ago when he and his friends successfully rallied for freedom for school student haircuts, started a campaign for the free choice of clothing to exams using the hashtag, #ใส่ไปรเวทไปสอบ (#Wearyourownclothestoexams).

The Rights Protection and Democracy Promotion Division of the Political Science Student Council, of which Netiwit is President, conducted a poll over the choice of clothing to exams. It found that 90.9% of 300 surveyed people agree with allowing students to wear their own clothes to exams.

Putting this idea into action is harder as students are at risk of not being allowed to enter the exam room. Champ, Pok and Ploy wore uniforms because of this risk.

The three said they put more hope in those who have graduated and come back as teachers to pave the way for a freer choice of clothing and other issues as undergraduates are bound by the regulations and punishments that can affect their education.

“I have talked to some teachers, some teachers who are modern in their ideas, who think that in the preclinical period, kids in the 1st-3rd years who have not got to year 4 and not yet met any patients, the teachers think we should wear our own clothes.”

“Another teacher talked straightforwardly. They seem to agree with many of the new generation’s standpoints. They think that currently, power and setting rules are still under the old generation. If we expect them to change in a couple days, it’s not going to happen, and I understood that it won’t happen. ... They warned me to calm down,” said Pok.

“There was a teacher at the Faculty who dyed her hair because she wanted dyeing hair not to be against the Faculty rules. And now the juniors in the Faculty have started to dye their hair yellow,” said Ploy.

FeatureuniformeducationdentistChulalongkorn University
Categories: Prachatai English

Student group calls for repeal of Section 112 in open letter to the King

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-12-15 12:43
Submitted on Tue, 15 Dec 2020 - 12:43 PMPrachatai

A group of alumni and current students from the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, has issued an open letter to King Vajiralongkorn, calling for the repeal of Thailand’s lèse majesté law, with which at least 24 people involved with recent protests have been charged in the past two weeks. 

One of the people who went to the Thung Maha Mek Police Station to support those facing Section 112 charges holding up a sign saying "Repeal 112" (Picture from TLHR)

The open letter states that the government appears inclined towards violence when dealing with protesters, and that its use of Section 112 has “adverse effects” on the monarchy. The letter said that Section 112 has been weaponized, and that during trials, suspects were not treated according to universal principles of justice, in which they should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

It also said that the principles behind Section 112 also do not follow the universal principle of justice or of government in a constitutional monarchy, where citizens have the right to criticize and scrutinize “their affiliations, local organisations and national institutions.”

Such criticism, the letter said, is “not necessarily meant to defame, insult, or display malice” towards the monarchy, but is a way for citizens to contribute to the preservation of the monarchy’s honour and integrity.

It then calls for the repeal of Section 112, or at least for the prosecution process to be revised to be just and fair. It also asked that the King issue a statement concerning Section 112, “for the happiness and wellbeing of all your subjects.”

The group, who notes that they are not officially affiliated with the faculty or the university but are an independent group of alumni and students, also provides a summary of the open letter in 12 foreign languages.

Three people involved with the protest at the German Embassy after they went to hear the charges at the Thung Maha Mek Police Station

During the past 2 weeks, at least 24 people involved with recent protests have received a police summons for charges under Section 112, including an alumnus and a current student at the Faculty of Arts, who read out the German version of the protesters’ statement during the protest in front of the German Embassy on 26 October.

Several people who took part in the German Embassy protest have been charged with sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code, in addition to the royal defamation charge. 

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), students, alumni, and faculty members from the Faculty of Arts also went to Thungmahamek Police Station to show their support on 9 December, when Athapol Buapat, Ravisara Eksgool, Suthinee Jangpipatnawakit, and another person, who were involved with the German Embassy protest, went to hear the charges. The group held up signs calling for the repeal of Section 112.

During the questioning process, one of the Faculty of Arts lecturers present raised a question of how the German statement can be seditious when the audience is Thai, adding that there might be differences in how the audience might perceive the content of the statement, and whether the inquiry officer’s Thai translation of the statement in German is reliable. 

The full open letter reads: 

May it please Your Majesty,

With grave concerns for our country and its main institution within this democratic system, we seek Your Majesty's permission to present our views regarding the current situation in Thailand. We humbly implore you to listen to our voices and, should any part of our message give you cause for disquiet, may we entreat Your Majesty, with your boundless mercy and immeasurable patience, to graciously bestow upon us your most benevolent regis veniae.

In the course of the last few months, the Government of Thailand has clearly made no intention to treat the protesters with the justice they deserve; on the contrary, its intention appears to incline to an escalating violent suppression of the protesters. The actions taken by the government and its officials, specifically charging protestors with Article 112 of the Criminal Code, point to three significant issues that unavoidably produce adverse effects upon the monarchy and Your Majesty. Therefore, we deem it timely that we present our thoughts to you, which are as follow.

Firstly, it is impossible to conduct a transparent investigation into the prosecution of cases related to Article 112. The article has most unfortunately been weaponised to persecute the innocent. Moreover, during trial, officials do not treat the suspects or those accused according to universal principles of justice, in which the presumption of innocence must be observed with utmost conscience and fairness. Yet, they are subjected to all kinds of gravely dehumanising treatments. it is in this conviction that we humbly appeal to Your Majesty's mercy to consider the abolition of Article 112, or in the least endeavour to revise its prosecution process to be just and fair.

Secondly, the principles behind Article 112 does [sic] not follow the universal principles of justice or the principles governing countries under a constitutional monarchy, where citizens have the right and freedom to criticise and scrutinise their affiliations, local organisations and national institutions

Such criticism is, by all measures, not necessarily meant to defame, insult, or display malice towards Your Majesty and the monarchy; instead, it is one of the ways in which Thai citizens can contribute to the preservation of the honour and integrity of their most heeded main institutions. Again, we hope that it pleases Your Majesty to let us emphasise that we the Thai people only have pure conscience and intention in our criticism of the monarchy, since our goal is to ensure that the Thal democracy continues to flourish alongside Your Majesty and the royal family.

Lastly, the monarchy and Article 112 have become an important tool for the government and its officials to severely injure and dispose of dissidents. Sadly, this could be the reason why many believe that the monarchy is involved in the actions of the government and its officials. To preserve the integrity of the monarchy so that it remains stable without any single speckle of taint, we feel that it would highly benefit the current situation if Your Majesty were to issue a statement regarding your thoughts and wishes concerning this article, for the happiness and wellbeing of all your subjects. Your profound mercy would make it clear for all to see that you are a just, democratic monarch whose virtues know no bounds.

Your most loyal subjects,

The current students and alumni of the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, who believe in democracy under a constitutional monarchy

NewsSection 112Article 112Monarchy reformfreedom of speechfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Next Royal Barge design?

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-12-15 12:01
Submitted on Tue, 15 Dec 2020 - 12:01 PMStephff

MultimediaStephffroyal barge
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: PM 2.5

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-12-15 11:58
Submitted on Tue, 15 Dec 2020 - 11:58 AMStephff

MultimediaStephffPM 2.5
Categories: Prachatai English

Two years on, families of disappeared activists wait for answers

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-12-14 19:57
Submitted on Mon, 14 Dec 2020 - 07:57 PMPrachatai

Two years after the disappearance of three Thai activists in exile in Laos, their families wait for answers as no progress has been made in the investigation.

On 12 December 2020, a memorial event was held at the 14 October 1973 Memorial for activist and political refugee Surachai Danwattananusorn, or Surachai Saedan, who went missing in December 2018 while living in exile in Laos, along with two other political refugees: Chatchan Bupphawan, or Phuchana, and Kraidet Luelerd, or Kasalong.

Two mutilated bodies found washed up on the banks of the Mephong River near Nakhon Phanom in early January 2019 were later confirmed to be those of Phuchana and Kasalong. Surachai remains missing and is presumed dead.

Pranee Danwattanusorn

Pranee Danwattananusorn, Surachai’s wife, said during the event that she has gone to several government agencies, including the Rights and Liberties Protection Department and the headquarters of the Royal Thai Police, to seek justice. She has asked for support from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), and filed a complaint to the United Nations that she has not received justice and that Thai government agencies have not done anything. Pranee said that national security agencies have said that they can still see Surachai’s movements in neighbouring countries, but he has not contacted her since December 2018, and Surachai has not made any video clip since, but when she went to various government agencies seeking answers, they cannot answer her.

Pranee said that there are rumours that Surachai is still alive, but no one has ever actually spoken to Surachai, and while the Thai authorities have denied being involved with the disappearances, they have not done anything to show that they care about the missing Thai citizens.

Pranee said that if the Thai government is sincere, then they have to try their best to follow up on the cases and see people as people, not only as subjects. She would like to call on Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to show sincerity by investigating the disappearances, and the government must take responsibility.

The candlelit vigil in memory of the three activists

Pranee said that during the past years, she felt hopeless and tried to comfort herself with the belief that, even though the perpetrators can escape the law, they cannot escape karma and that they will be haunted by their conscience for the rest of their lives. She would like every victim of enforced disappearance to rest in peace, and while she has tried to come to terms with what happened, she would still like to see justice and democracy. Pranee thanked everyone who is fighting for democracy and said that Surachai would be at peace now that young people are fighting for what he also believed in.

In a later media interview, Pranee said that the police have stopped investigating the disappearance, while the Pattaya Provincial Court said that they cannot reduce Surachai’s breach of bail fine as they cannot bring Surachai to court and there is no evidence that he is dead. She went to Lao PDR to follow up on the case, but the Lao authorities have always denied any knowledge of Surachai’s disappearance, while the Thai government said they cannot do anything as the death happened overseas. She said that she hopes that when the country becomes democratic, cases of enforced disappearance will be brought back and there will be justice.

Pongpetch Konghom, a TLHR lawyer, said that there is still 300,00 baht in an outstanding fine in Surachai’s case and that they filed an appeal on the court order in December 2019, but the Appeal Court has not summoned them for a ruling.

Kasalong's son (in black) and Phuchana's sons (in red and in brown vest)

Meanwhile, Phuchana’s son (name withheld) said that police officers have called him to ask whether there has been any progress in the case and that special branch police have called him to ask whether he was going to join activities. He also said that he himself has to call the police officers responsible for the case to follow up on the progress.

Phuchana’s son said that activist Chonticha Jaengraew told him that the parliamentary Standing Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights have called local police in for questioning, and found that the public prosecutor has decided to not issue a prosecution order as there is not enough evidence about who the killer was and where the murder took place, and there is not enough evidence to continue the investigation.

Kasalong’s son (name withheld) said that the situation is the same in his father’s case, but officials from an unknown agency once went to their household registry address, where only his grandparents are staying, to ask about progress on the case, but he himself does not know where the investigation is.

Phuchana’s son said that evidence disappears as time passes, and that he himself does not hope to catch the perpetrator, but he would like the relevant people to take responsibility and to know what is going to be done. He said that there are Thai people who went into exile and have died, and he would like to know what the government would do to investigate these cases. He also said that the police have shown no enthusiasm in trying to find the perpetrators.

He said that when he saw a reporter ask Gen Prayut about the investigation into Surachai’s disappearance, he thought that it was the duty of a leader not to deny involvement when Thai citizens die overseas, but to say how they would investigate the case. He asked who he can expect anything from when even the leader of the country is saying something like this.

Phuchana’s son also said that he has been advised to take the case to court himself, but it has been two years and he does not know how much evidence will remain. He does not think that the perpetrators will ever be found, but he would like some concrete conclusions and to know where and when his father was killed and what evidence exists. The police should be able to say where the evidence came from and where the bodies have been washed up from, but they did no such thing. Instead, they are waiting for him to tell them who he suspects and say he should let them know and then they will investigate, but he is not sure who he should suspect when the disappearance took place in Lao and he did not even believe at first that the body was his father’s.

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk

The event was attended by other activists, including activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk. During the event, flowers were placed in memory of the three activists, and there was a candlelit vigil as well as musical performances.

Somyot, who was in prison at the same time as Surachai, said that Surachai’s friends went to where the abduction took place and saw tire marks from a heavy car in the soil. He also said that he went to Tha Uthen Police Station with Pranee to file a complaint, as well as to see the place where the first body was found on 26 December before it was washed away. He said that he talked to the local village headman who found the body, who said that he did not tamper with the body and that he went to notify the police, but the police said that no one came to notify them.

Somyot said that Surachai dedicated his life to the revolution, and that he said in November 2018 that he would like a republic. Somyot said that he would like Surachai to know that the idea of a republic has now been brought up again by the student activist group Free Youth.

NewsSurachai DanwattananusornSurachai SaedanPhuchanaKasalongKraidej LuelertChatchan Bupphawanenforced disappearanceabductionpolitical refugee
Categories: Prachatai English

Convolutional Court Verdict

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-12-14 19:53
Submitted on Mon, 14 Dec 2020 - 07:53 PMHarrison George

In a verdict whose twisted and bizarre reasoning surprised no one, the Convolutional Court yesterday ruled that the punishments meted out by schools against students who refused to wear school uniforms were permissible. 

The Court decided that exclusion from classes, public humiliation, retaliation against parents and physical assaults did not constitute a violation of the convolutional rights to freedom of expression, freedom from torture, freedom from arbitrary and illegal punishment and the right to an education.

The case had arisen following protests by Absolutely Atrocious Students, a group of secondary school students campaigning for educational reform.  The group has held repeated rallies, which, among other issues, have highlighted cases of abuse against children by teachers which have been condoned by the educational authorities.  The group has decried the failure of the Ministry of Education to take action against abusers, even after it was admitted that the abuses did violate Ministry regulations.

Absolutely Atrocious Students did not, however, file any case with the Convolutional Court.  The Court was in fact hearing a petition by the Positively Perfect Teachers group, a previously unknown organization claiming to speak for the vast majority of correctly-thinking teachers in the country.  This raises the question of how the Convolutional Court came to be hearing the case in the first place.

In its written verdict, the Court first tried to deal with this issue by establishing the standing of the petitioner, or the right of Positively Perfect Teachers to go straight to the Convolutional Court.  This had been questioned by legal scholars, since petitions to the Court must come from an official body, such as Parliament, or arise from an ongoing prosecution.  It was a mystery as to how a petition from an unfamiliar group could get onto the Court’s docket out of the blue in this way.

The Court’s attempt to explain this started with a declaration that Absolutely Atrocious Students had no standing in the case because they had been very, very naughty children.  But since the students had never petitioned the Court in the first place, and never claimed any standing, this point seems completely irrelevant and nothing more than a way of muddying the waters and evading the entire issue.

According to Court documents, the Positively Perfect Teachers’ petition claimed a violation of the convolutional right of teachers throughout the country not to have their feelings hurt. This right, which human rights lawyers have been unable to identify, had been wantonly and repeatedly violated by Absolutely Atrocious Students and their accomplices, co-conspirators and accessories in crime.

The Court noted that the 2008 Student Uniforms Act and the 2008 Ministry of Education Regulation on Students Uniform do permit schools to punish students for not wearing uniforms.  The 2005 Rule of the Ministry of Education on Penalisation of Pupils and Students also states that punishment may take the form of warnings, parole, conduct points deductions and behaviour adjustment activities.

The Court noted that since these rules came into force, there have been countless media reports, supported by documentary and video-recorded evidence, of schools inflicting other more severe punishments.  There have been, on the other hand, few if any reports of the Ministry of Education taking any action, or even issuing statements, to indicate that these punishments were in any way improper.

It was therefore the opinion of the Court that these other punishments, although not explicitly allowed by regulation, were permitted in practice, and were thus a matter of interpretation.  The Court gave the example of a student who had been physically struck by a teacher; this, the Court argued, could be interpreted as a ‘warning in physical terms.’  Similarly, sending students home and refusing them access to classes unless they wore a uniform, could be interpreted as ‘behaviour adjustment by means of exclusion.’ 

The Court expressed sympathy with the Positively Perfect Teachers in their plea for understanding.  Their work is onerous, their responsibilities are heavy, and they are so overburdened with bureaucratic form-filling that they have no time to read Ministerial rules and regulations. 

So when some stroppy sod turns up at the school gate in a Prachatai t-shirt, it is only natural for the teacher on duty to instil a proper sense of discipline by publicly clouting him round the ear-hole, summarily sending him home and telling him that his parents must be ignorant pieces of shit.

The efforts of Absolutely Atrocious Students to document such incidents, however, were entirely without legal justification, according to the Court.  Even if their rights were being violated, as they supposedly claim, this does not give them permission to go round moaning about it or asking for legal remedy.  This only upsets society.

The correct behaviour for human rights victims in this country (and an amicus curiae brief from the National Human Rights Commission confirmed this) is either to keep quiet about it, or to make discreet approaches to the proper authorities, without alerting the media, and wait for the issue to be forgotten.

Finally, the Court’s verdict made note of the yellow shirts that the Positively Perfect Teacher representatives wore to court.  This was, in the Court’s words, ‘very brave, very brave, very good, thank you.’

Alien ThoughtsHarrison George
Categories: Prachatai English

Open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi to address water contamination issue

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-12-14 17:56
Submitted on Mon, 14 Dec 2020 - 05:56 PMSaw Paul Sein Twa

Open letter from the recipient of the 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize for Asia, Saw Paul Sein Twa, to the State Counselor on Human Rights Day, urging the government to take immediate action in resolving water contamination case in Myaing Ka Lay area.

Your Excellency;

First of all, I am Saw Paul Sein Twa, the Chairperson of the Salween Peace Park in Mutraw District, Karen State, Kawthooeli, Eastern Myanmar, which recently was awarded the 2020 Equator Prize.

I work closely with local Indigenous Karen people and walk with them as they struggle to establish and govern their Indigenous territory known as the Salween Peace Park. I am working  to protect our natural environment and precious biodiversity through the preservation of our Indigenous Karen people’s culture and through the recognition of their Indigenous rights to create a model of sustainable development that is harmonious with our Indigenous Karen people’s way of life in their ancestral lands. 

Since October 2019, the communities from over 17 villages around Myaing Ka Lay area, Hpa-an Township, Karen State, have been experienced water contamination, abnormal fish deaths, skin diseases from using contaminated water, and other health problems. I learned about this environmental crisis and challenges that the people are facing here from various media reports by international news agencies, video documentaries, and a joint report by Karen Rivers Watch (KRW), Advancing Life and Regenerating Motherland (ALARM), and the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA). 

Besides this, I have also learned that there have been restrictions placed on civil society groups to prevent them from actively participating to address this problem and provide assistance to the affected people. One example of this was when the Karen State Government used sections 505 (b) of Myanmar Penal Code to file charges against the environmental activist Saw Tha Phoe, who had been supporting communities affected by the water pollution to help them find solutions.

This action by the Karen State Government has negatively affected the collaboration between government and civil society groups to work together to address this problem. This will not solve the problem, instead, it will only serve to lengthen the time it takes to solve it. 

If the situation like this continues, this water pollution problem and its consequences could spread out to wider places and will be more costly for both the State and Union Government. It will put more unnecessary pressure on the government’s resources and capacities to address the problem. Moreover, the lives of many people will be seriously affected. This precious fresh water resource will be lost, along with the biodiverse life that it supports. These tragic effects will occur, without a doubt, if nothing is changed.

Recently, on December 4th, the Karen State Government conducted testing on the water, soil and air quality in the affected areas. For this, on behalf of the local Indigenous people, I would like to say that I sincerely acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of the Karen State Government in carrying out such actions to resolve these issues during this difficult pandemic time. 

But this is not enough. Besides these actions, the Karen State Government should cooperate with expert and civil society groups in their efforts to address this problem, as well as providing emergency drinking water, which is very crucial for the local people and which is a fundamental human right. Moreover, the Karen State Government should work with international experts to determine the origin of the water pollutants, and devise a plan to respond to the problem as soon as possible. The entire process must be transparent and its aim must be to ensure the well-being of the local people, since this water contamination problem directly affects the most important and basic human right- the right to life. 

Protecting Indigenous peoples’ rights is equivalent to protecting fundamental human rights. Freedom of expression is also a fundamental human right that must be protected. Democracy is a necessity for Myanmar. The government must ensure that fundamental human rights of all the people of Myanmar are equally fulfilled. 

Therefore, as communities which share the free-flowing Salween River together with these affected people, in solidarity with them for their wellbeing, we, the civil society groups, are requesting to be allowed to actively participate and assist in systematically addressing this water contamination problem. Moreover, I firmly believe that Saw Tha Phoe has been working in accordance with democratic principles to help solve this environmental problem, and to assist affected community members attain environmental and human rights justice.

Therefore, in light of today’s commemoration of Human Rights Day, I would like to urge the government to drop all charges against Saw Tha Phoe in line with human rights and democracy standards, and to create a space where the government and our civil society groups can work together in order to find the optimal solution for this water contamination problem. 

Pick to PostSaw Paul Sein TwaAung San Suu KyiKarenMyanmarwater contaminationMyaing Ka Layenvironment
Categories: Prachatai English

Students in Phrae rally for lèse majesté abolition, face police surveillance

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-12-14 13:57
Submitted on Mon, 14 Dec 2020 - 01:57 PMPrachatai

The Phrae Democracy Lovers network has reported that police got from the Vice Principal of Nareerat School the names of students involved in a display of banners and card images promoting democracy and the abolition of the lèse majesté law at the school’s sports day on 11 December.

Students marching a banner with the Democracy Monument painting and the message "Nation, liberty, people".

The regular annual sports day at Nareerat School, Phrae Province, went viral on the internet as students were seen raising banners with messages like “Nation, liberty, people” or “Democracy is being exploited by a disgusting person”.

There is also footage of a card image, where students in the stand, each holding a different card, together turned a picture or message into 112, referring to the Section 112 of the Criminal Code which prohibits people from defaming or expressing hostility to the king, queen, heir-apparent and regent.

The stand also chanted “Very good. Very good. Very brave. Very brave. Thank you,” copying King Vajiralongkorn’s words to one of his supporters at a public walkabout on 23 October.

A banner states "Democracy is being exploited by a disgusting person".

The network told Prachatai that after the incident went viral, Phrae provincial police asked the Vice Principal for information on the students involved. The Vice Principal gave them the names and phone numbers.

According to the network, 2 students alleged of being involved in the rally were called from an unknown phone number.

On 12 December, at a meeting between teachers and students, those involved in the rally were separated out to attend another meeting in the afternoon.

On 11 December evening, Bad Students, a student activist group, tweeted to ask the public to watch what was happening at Nareerat School.

NewsNareerat SchoolPhraelese majesteStudent protest 2020Phrae Democracy Lovers networkSection 112Article 112Source: prachatai.com/journal/2020/12/90794
Categories: Prachatai English

Protest at Social Development Ministry voice concerns about disability rights

Prachatai English - Sun, 2020-12-13 23:08
Submitted on Sun, 13 Dec 2020 - 11:08 PMPrachatai

A protest took place in front of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) on Thursday (10 December), which addressed issues of the rights of people with disabilities, including the right to receive state welfare.

Banpot Chaiyala

Banpot Chaiyala, a disability rights activist and leader of the protest, said that the rally was to demand rights for people with disability, including the right to be employed, which are still neglected by the state.

The Association of the Physically Handicapped of Thailand previously demanded that the government hire 8000 people with disability in accordance with the employment quota for the private and public sectors. However, the government has yet to comply.

Banpot said that he has already informed the police of the protest as required by law, and that the protest should conclude by 20.00.

Earlier in the morning, Banpot went to Thammasat University to pay respect to the statue of Pridi Banomyong, before walking to the MSDHS. On the way, he met several people with disability working as vendors on the street who do not have the government-issued disability card, which allows access to state welfare. He also found that much of the footpath, such as near Sanam Luang, did not have enough space for people to travel, and was left in disrepair at many points, which poses problems for people with disability who have to travel around Bangkok.

At the MSDHS, where at 16.00 the protest began, microphones and speakers were set up on the steps of the Ministry for performances and speeches.

Namphu

Namphu, one of the speakers, who uses a wheelchair, said that he would like to call for amendments to the articles relating to people with disability in the Constitution, and for human dignity to be enshrined in the Constitution, and that he would like to see people with disability receiving rights and a society without structural inequality.

He said that the rally shows that people with disability do not have to wait for the state to help them, but can demand their rights, and that they do not need charity because everything they are demanding is what they should get. He said that he has to work hard to support himself, because the 800 baht per month disability benefit is not enough, but he said he doesn’t know how he will be able to support himself when he is old.

Namphu also said that, while there are laws which state that people with disability must be able to get an education and must be able to be find work, but it is not possible for them to go to school or work without support. He said that many people with disability are unable to get employment as stated in the Empowerment of Persons With Disabilities Act, and that many face inequality and exploitation, which is the reason why structural reform is needed.

“I would like the Ministry (MSDHS) to open their minds and accept the truth about the disability benefit, employment, and the unequal structure. If we accept this, then we have a way out. Lastly, I would like the Constitution to be amended. While the 1997 and 2007 Constitutions talk about human dignity, but the latest Constitution does not mention this at all, and it’s time we talk about state welfare,” Namphu said.

Aom, another speaker, also said that the 800-baht disability benefit is not enough and that the benefit should match the poverty line, because people with disability have more expenses than abled people. He said that he once applied to study at a university, but the university rejected his application because they don’t have the facilities. He also said that people with disability face many issues when traveling, as they are not able to access cheaper forms of transportation, and that he wanted to call for equality in daily life.

Earn

Earn, the next speaker, said that she is speaking as the sister of a person with disability. Earn’s sibling needs expensive medical procedures, but while there is the disability benefit, they need to wait for months. She said that she would like society to recognize the worth of people with disability, and that they don’t need charity but they do need to be cared for. She said that she has previously been attacked on social media, but she insisted that young people, women, and people with disability should be able to have a better life.

The next speaker, Ploy, said that her mother was disabled after a stroke, so she has seen how difficult it is to live with disability. She said that medical equipment and other equipment to support people with disability are expensive, and the situation is made worse in comparison to the disability benefit from the government.

Chuveath Dethdittharak

Chuveath Dethdittharak from We Fair, a civil society network campaigning for state welfare, was the last speaker. He said that disability is a result of physical limitations, legal limitations, limited access to information, and issues of bias, which are the reasons people with disability are not able to have the rights they deserve. He gave the example of sign language interpreters during television broadcasts, who are shown in a small square in a corner of the screen, while in other countries, it is required that half of the screen be dedicated to the interpreter for the broadcast of important information, which shows how Thailand views people with disability. He also said that these obstacles are the reason few people with disability are able to speak for their rights.

He noted that the 2007 Constitution states that people with disability must be able to access facilities, which led to the 2007 Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Act, but this right is not mentioned in the 2017 Constitution, as well as the right to receive an education. These things happened despite having members of parliament who are people with disability.

He said that the rights of people with disability have not received attention, despite having representatives in parliament, such as Viriya Namsiripongpan and Monthian Buntan. These representatives also face obstacles, such as being prevented from speaking or being told that the session has run out of time. He said that people do not see the capabilities of people with disability, and that legislation on disability rights that came out recently does not actually work. He also said that it is impossible to fight for democracy without addressing the issue of quality of life and state welfare, and called on leaders of the disability rights movement to stand with the people, not those in power.

The protest ended at around 20.30. Protesters then went to the Chamai Maruchet Bridge to show their support to a group of around 40 community members from the Chana district in Songkhla, who had gathered there to protest the Chana industrial zone project.

NewsDisability rightsPerson with disabilityState welfareMinistry of Social Development and Human Securityprotest
Categories: Prachatai English

Southern villagers protesting in Bangkok against industrial zone

Prachatai English - Sat, 2020-12-12 12:58
Submitted on Sat, 12 Dec 2020 - 12:58 PMPrachatai

Around 60 villagers from Chana District, Songkhla Province, travelled a thousand kilometres to Government House in Bangkok to demand the cancellation of a controversial industrial project in their area. They met pressure from police who were facing off against pro-democracy protesters, which had repercussions on their protest too.

The villagers from Chana protesting in front of the containers barricade before the Government House.

On the afternoon of 10 December, the villagers arrived at the Chamai Maruchet Bridge, 50 metres away from Government House, where containers, razor wire and riot control police had been deployed to handle the nearby rallies already called by pro-democracy protesters and disabled people. They decided to set up camp in front of the barricade.

The villagers from Chana have 2 demands, and unless they get a satisfactory response from the government, they vow to stay put:

  1. The Chana industrial city prototype project must be cancelled, along with related activities like changes to city zoning and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), as it is an illegitimate legacy of the previous junta government.
  2. After cancellation, the government must conduct a proper Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to establish quality academic data for decisions about further development projects in the south.

The protesters made a prayer at night.

The Chana industrial project was approved by a cabinet resolution at the last cabinet meeting of the junta government which was installed after the coup in 2014. According to the Bangkok Post, the project aims to construct an 18-billion-baht industrial estate on 16,700 rai of land. The area covered 3 subdistricts with 1,500 residents.

The project is controversial because of questions about the public hearing process where those who opposed the project out of many concerns, including its impact on livelihoods, homes and the environment, were barred from attending hearings.

Potential crackdown spurs attention

At 17.37, Supat Hasuwannakit, Director of Chana Hospital, who expresses support for the protesting villagers, posted on Facebook that Pol Col Atthawit Saisueb, Deputy Commander of Metropolitan Police Sub-division 1, told a leading figure in the Chana protest that they should return on Monday to submit their petition to the government. The villagers rejected this.

“Tonight, the situation is not certain. Please follow it closely,” said Supat in his post.

Many media arrived at the scene in the evening to cover the situation. It is reported that the protesters have retroactively submitted a protest announcement in line with the Public Assembly Act. So staying in place should not be a legal problem.

The situation intensified at 21.10 when the protesters who had just finished a protest at the 14 October Memorial and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) decided to march to express their support for the people of Chana.

The police responded to the situation by deploying riot control police at the Wat Benjamabophit intersection, 200 meters away from Chana villagers and setting up barricades to block the protest guards who arrived at Nang Loeng intersection, 200 meters away from the protest on the other side.

Pol Col Atthawit was at Nang Loeng intersection but refused to be interviewed. He told one observer that it was not good for the protesters with another agenda to mix with the Chana people at night time.

During the negotiations between the Chana representatives and Atthawit, the protesters broke through the barricade and finally made their way to the protesters from Chana. The police then responded by deploying around 200-300 riot control police equipped with batons, shields and body armour. They confronted the protesters at Nang Loeng intersection without any violence.

However, a water cannon truck was seen parked with its engine running in front of Government House, behind the barricade of containers . The people in the vicinity said the truck shot a blast of water into the canal.

At 22.00, Jatupat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattararaksa, an activist who had joined the march from the MSDHS and who has demonstrated on environmental and natural resources issues in the past, gave a speech in support of the Chana people. He said the pro-democracy protesters made their way to meet them to express support in whatever way they could. If there is a crackdown, they will be there to help.

Jatupat then dispersed the protest, urging people to leave to allow the villagers from Chana to sleep. Some protesters could be seen hanging around for a while, exchanging opinions with the villagers before leaving. The tension decreased significantly after the protest dispersed.

It is worth noting that the police have been using the tactic of container barricades whenever a pro-democracy protest or activity is announced near Government House, which is located near other monarchy-related venues like the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) office, the equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn and various palace complexes.

The first time that the container tactic was used was on 25 November when protesters announced a protest in front of the CPB. The following night, containers, razor wire and riot control police were heavily deployed and a large area around the CPB was sealed off from traffic.

NewsChana industrial zoneSongkhlaJatupat BoonpattararaksaSource: prachatai.com/journal/2020/12/90763
Categories: Prachatai English

Activists petition UN to pressure Thai govt for repeal of Section 112

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-12-11 16:15
Submitted on Fri, 11 Dec 2020 - 04:15 PMPrachatai

Representatives from the 24 June Democracy group went to the United Nations (UN) office in Bangkok today (10 December) to petition the UN Human Rights Council to pressure the Thai government to repeal Section 112, Thailand’s lèse majesté law.

Representatives from the 24 June Democracy group before going to submit their petition

The petition states that the recent pro-democracy protests have been met with state persecution and crackdowns, despite peaceful protest being a right under the Thai constitution and international human rights principles. Many protesters are facing legal charges, with activists now facing charges under Section 112, which has not been used for the past two years.

During the past two weeks, since student activist Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak received a summons for a charge under Section 112 on 24 November, at least 23 people involved with recent protests have been charged with royal defamation.

The petition notes that Section 112 “does not have a clear extent of enforcement,” and that those who have been charged under this law have often been denied bail, which is a restriction of rights and liberties, as well as of freedom of expression in relation to the monarchy.

The petition calls on the UN Human Rights Council to pressure the Thai government to cease persecution against people participating in the pro-democracy protests and to repeal Section 112.

Sinphat Khaiyanan, one of the representatives, said that the group’s aim was to call for the UN or the UNHRC to pressure the Thai government about the legal charges filed against protest leaders, students and members of the public, and to repeal Section 112, which goes against human rights principles, as criticism of various political institutions should be permitted according to the principles of rights and freedoms.

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, another representative, said that Section 112 is an outdated law which restricts people’s rights and freedom of expression, which is one of the fundamental freedoms, and has been used against the political opposition. He said that since the head of state receives income from taxpayers and is in this position according to the constitution, criticism of the head of state should be permitted in order to resolve the public’s questions about the monarchy. If Section 112 is repealed, the head of state will be able to come to an understanding with the people, which would be beneficial to the monarchy itself and to Thai politics.

Somyot said that the group would be following the process after the petition is submitted, and that there will be rallies both locally and internationally. He said that the group will send letters to international civil society organizations, such as to human rights and labour rights organizations, to call for a show of solidarity, and that the group is in the process of organizing a rally in Switzerland during a UN meeting in May 2021.

Somyot said that he is not concerned about attacks on the monarchy if Section 112 is repealed, as there is already a defamation law, which can be used in case of slander. He said that repealing Section 112 would instead lessen concerns, as the Bureau of the Royal Household would then be able to explain and correct false information.

He said that using Section 112 against protesters will lead to confrontation between the monarchy and the people. He asked whether the judicial process, where the courts represent the monarch as judgements are made in his name, will be just, because if people are denied bail or if an arrest warrant is immediately issued, it will be a reflection of injustice, which would not be beneficial to the government and the monarchy. 

Jirasupho giving a speech

While representatives of the group went in to submit their petition, a small stage was set up in front on the UN building with protesters taking turn giving speeches.

A monk named Jirasupho gave a speech saying that Section 112 is similar to Section 116 in that, if whatever is said goes against the values of the institutions concerned, whether it is true or not, the action will be deemed illegal, but Section 112 is worse for many reasons, such as the broad interpretation of the law, or how to interpret the terms ‘threaten’ or ‘insult.’ He asks whether speaking about legal cases involving the monarchy without intending for it to be a threat would be wrong, such as Anon Nampa’s raising questions about the death of King Anada Mahidol, or speaking about the incidents on 14 October 1973 or 6 October 1976. He also asks whether Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul’s address to King Vajiralongkorn (at the rally on 19 September) can be interpreted as a threat.

He said that in other countries, cases like the Holocaust have been investigated until the world understands how bad it is and until people understand the Nazi swastika, but in Thailand, we don’t even know who ordered people to be murdered because these laws keep people silent.

Jirasupho said that he wanted to speak out because one of his university lowerclassmen, Ravisara Eksgool, received a summons for reading a statement during the rally in front of the German Embassy. Many people have told him that he is a monk and therefore should not come out to show support for her, but he thinks that if religion is a representation of good, if religion wants to teach people kindness, it should be possible to support one’s friend. He believes that religion should be against unjust laws. Jirasupho said that he is doing this for his friend and for society, and that if he doesn’t do it today, when would be the time. He said that time is up for a law which is in favour of only one group of people, and he would like people to talk about Ravisara in addition to the protest leaders who have been charged with royal defamation.

Following his speech, while he was in the middle of a media interview, two plainclothes police officers came up to Jirasupho and asked for the name of his temple and other personal information. Jirasupho said that people around him then told him that this is intimidation, and many supported him. He said that, personally, he said nothing wrong. He was only speaking according to the information he has and that he is only criticising the law.

Jirasupho said that he is worried, but he will continue to speak out, but while he is still ordained, he would only be joining activities during the next few days, as the issue of Section 112 is urgent and a violation of people’s rights and freedom, and even his friend has been charged with it.

One of the men who came to ask for Jirasupho's information

During the rally, plainclothes officers also tried to ask for information about Jirasupho from one of Prachatai’s reporters at the scene, but the reporter refused to give them any information.

At 12.20, after the group representatives returned from submitting their petition, the crowd marched to the 14 October 1973 Memorial on Ratchadamnoen Road, where another event, organised by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration and the organisers of the Mob Fest rally, was being held.

The march passing through the Democracy Monument

Pleng Tupmalai, representative of the 24 June Democracy group, said that Badar Farrukh, the Thailand team leader of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), came to receive their petition, and that they spoke about legislation which violates human rights and the safety of people who joined the rally in front of the UN building.

Pleng said that Farrukh insisted that OHCHR representatives have spoken to the Thai authorities about allowing freedom of speech, but the government has not reacted.

Pleng would like the public to help spread awareness about Section 112 and the violence that happened, and asked people not to be afraid, as the fact that the authorities tried to block the rally shows that it is the authorities who are afraid.

Containers blocking Makawan Rangsan Bridge

Prior to the rally, which began at 10.00, the authorities blocked the Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge with a row of containers, which has reportedly been there since the night before. There were also around 200 – 300 riot police stationed behind the containers.

The Thewet Naruemit bridge was also blocked with containers and razor wire. Members of the We Volunteer protest guard group came to move the razor wire, after they received a complaint from people traveling through the area that the wire was blocking the way. A minor clash then occurred after police officers came to order them to leave the area and reportedly threatened to charge them. 

Police officers in full riot gear at the Thewet Intersection

We Volunteer staff also went to the Thewet intersection later in the afternoon to move the razor wire blocking the street, claiming they received a complaint from people travelling through the area.

They were trying to negotiate with the police to have a bridge opened over the Phadung Krung Kasem canal, which connects to Bangkok’s old town area, after it was blocked with containers and razor wire. However, a group of police officers in full riot gear surrounded them, which group leader Piyarat Chongtep said could be an attempt to arrest them.

Piyarat and a group of We Volunteer staff had been arrested on Monday night (7 December) after they went to clear the razor wire left behind by the police at the Uruphong intersection, but they were later released.

At around 15.00, We Volunteer retreated from the Thewet intersection, while police officers placed more razor wire on the bridge.

NewsSection 112Article 112lese majesteMonarchy reform24 June Democracy group
Categories: Prachatai English

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