Prachatai English

AI calls for Thai authorities to drop charges against two activists

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-08-07 22:06
Submitted on Fri, 7 Aug 2020 - 10:06 PMAmnesty International

Following the arrest of human rights lawyer Anon Nampa and student activist Panupong Jadnok earlier today, Amnesty International called on the Thai authorities to drop charges against the pair and to end the crackdown on freedom of expression as well as ensure the safety of those involved in protests. 

Anon Nampa

Responding to the arrest of two prominent activists today, and reports of further arrest warrants against other protestors, ahead of planned anti-government protests over the weekend, Piyanut Kotsan, Amnesty International Thailand’s director, said:

“This is yet another entirely disproportionate response from the Thai police to peaceful activism, clearly intended to intimidate and dissuade protestors from taking to the streets this weekend.

“Having endured months of harassment, Arnon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok now face a repressive new set of criminal charges simply for exercising their right to protest.

“As well as dropping these groundless charges, Amnesty International is calling on the Thai authorities to stop what appears to be a new crackdown on freedom of expression and to ensure the protection, safety and security from reprisals of any individuals whose names have been linked to ongoing demonstrations over the past week.”

This is a developing story. Prachatai English is currently live reporting and will be posting new developments in the following article

We will also be posting updates on our Facebook and Twitter.

Background

On Friday 7 August, police arrested lawyer Arnon Nampa in front of his residence in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, and student activist Panupong “Mike” Jadnok at Ramkhamhaeng University. The two are currently being held at Bangkok Criminal Court. Another student activist Parit Chiwarak, member of the Student Union of Thailand, also has an arrest warrant against him.

Arnon and Panupong face up to seven years in prison. Charges against them include sedition, assembly intended to do act of violence, and obstructing the public way under Articles 116, 215, 385 of the Penal Code, respectively; violation of the Emergency Decree; offence under the Communicable Diseases Act; obstructing the traffic under Article 114 of the Land Traffic Act; Article 19 of the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness Act; and the use of an amplifier without permission under Article 4 of the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act. Reports indicate that five other demonstrators have pending warrants with the same charges. Since the imposition of the Emergency Decree on 26 March 2020, officials have continuously detained and initiated criminal complaints against individuals engaged in peaceful protests and activities. Demonstrators have also reported numerous incidents of harassment and intimidation by police officers solely for their involvement in peaceful protests since then, including ongoing student-led peaceful demonstrations calling for a new constitution, resignation of the government, and an end to harassment of the police opposition.

Amnesty International calls on the Thai government to guarantee that its law enforcement arm avoids the use of force as far as possible and adhere to non-violent means.

Pick to PostAnon NampaPanupong JadnokAmnesty Internationalstudent movementYouth movementprotestjudicial harassmentfreedom of expressionfreedom of assemblyStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

Two activists under arrest for sedition, violating Emergency Decree

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-08-07 18:20
Submitted on Fri, 7 Aug 2020 - 06:20 PMPrachatai

Human rights lawyer Anon Nampa and student activist Panupong Jadnok are now under arrest on sedition charges under Section 116 of the Criminal Code and for violating the Emergency Decree after they took part in the mass protest on 18 July.  

Anon Nampa on stage at the protest on 18 July

Anon was arrested in front of his condominiumat  around 14.10 today. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that around 8 uniformed and plainclothes police officers came to execute the arrest warrant and took him to Samranrat Police Station.

Anon also posted a picture of the arrest warrant on his Facebook profile with the comment “I have been arrested.”

The warrant accuses Anon of sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code; of organizing an assembly of ten or more people and threatening to cause violence or a breach of peace under Section 215 of the Criminal Code; violating the Emergency Decree, which bans large gatherings; obstructing the public way without permission under Section 385 of the Criminal Code; violating Section 19 of the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness of the Country Act; and of using loudspeaker without permission under the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act. 

Anon's arrest warrant

“Anon can only be detained no more than 48 hours before he has to be produced before the court. At that time he will likely seek bail,” Yaowalak Anuphan, head of TLHR, told Khaosod English.

Yaowalak also said that the warrant named Anon the seventh suspect, suggesting that his arrest is part of a “larger crackdown on pro-democracy activists.”

At around 15.00, TLHR reported that Panupong, a Rayong-based student activist who previously face harassment from the authorities after he attempted to hold up a protest sign during Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s visit to Rayong last month, was also arrested in front of Ramkhamhaeng University and was also taken to the Samranrat Police Station. 

Panupong was arrested on the same charges as Anon and was named the fifth suspect on the warrant.

Panupong Jadnok in the inquiry room at the Samranrat Police Station

At around 15.30, police sneaked past the crowd gathering at Samranrat Police Station and took Anon to Bangkhen Police Station, while Panupong was held at the Samranrat Police Station.

The Free Youth Movement has called for a demonstration at 18.00 in front of Bangkhen Police Station, stating on their Facebook page that at least three people have now been arrested for taking part in the protest on 18 July.

At 17.40, both Panupong and Anon are being taken to the Bangkok Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road. TLHR said that, if both are detained and are unable to post bail in time, they will be send to prison.

TLHR also reported that the inquiry officer at the Samranrat Police Station has forced Panupong to sign a statement without waiting for his lawyer to arrive. He was then taken to court without his lawyer.

The arrests took place after Anon gave a speech at the Harry Potter-themed protest on Monday (3 August), calling for monarchy reform and open criticism of the crown, and after the Free People Group’s launch event earlier today at the Democracy Monument, where they announced that they will be holding another protest on 16 August. Anon was also due to speak on monarchy reform at a rally in Chiang Mai on Sunday (9 August).

NewsAnon NampaPanupong Jadnokstudent movementYouth movementanti-governmentactivistjudicial harassmentsedition lawEmergency DecreeState of emergencyfreedom of assemblyfreedom of expressionStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

Technocrats and coalition partners dominate new cabinet line-up

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-08-07 13:01
Submitted on Fri, 7 Aug 2020 - 01:01 PMPrachatai

The new cabinet list has been published in the Royal Gazette, with technocrats taking the Energy and Finance ministries, and Labour and the PM’s Office going to the Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP) network. 

The announcement was made on Thursday 6 August after more than a month of speculation. There are six changes in the cabinet:

  • Predee Daochai replaces Uttama Savanayana as Finance Minister.
  • Supattanapong Punmeechaow replaces Sontirat Sontijirawong as Energy Minister and also becomes Deputy PM.
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai takes on an additional role as Deputy PM.
  • Anek Laothamatas, leader of the Action Coalition for Thailand (ACT) party replaces Suvit Maesincee as Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation.
  • Suchart Chomklin replaces M.R. Chatumongkol Sonakul, former ACT leader, as Minister of Labour.
  • Narumon Pinyosinwat, former cabinet spokesperson, becomes Deputy Minister of Labour.
  • Anucha Nakasai becomes PM’s Office Minister.

On 16 July, Somkid Jatusripitak, the Deputy PM for economic affairs, who had served under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha since the 2014 coup d’état, Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana, Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Suvit Maesincee and Kobsak Pootrakool, Deputy Secretary-General of the Prime Minister’s Office, all submitted their resignations, paving way for the reshuffle.

New cabinet to face economic challenges ahead

3 out of 7 new cabinet members are from the PPRP, while the ACT seat moves from Labour to Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation and the Chart Pattana Party led by Tewan Liptapanlop loses its cabinet quota.

Don, who has served the Prayut’ administration since the 2014 coup, is also a runner-up in the senate list. It was speculated that he would be ousted in the reshuffle but his position is in fact enhanced.

The names of technocrats like Predee, Chair of the Thai Bankers' Association, and Supattanapong, former President and Chief Executive Officer at PTTGC, a PTT subsidiary, were widely tipped as replacements for the economy-related ministers who had failed to cope with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

NewsCabinet ReshufflepoliticsSource: prachatai.com/journal/2020/08/88918
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Regional lawmakers urge Philippine MPs to oppose re-introduction of the death penalty

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-08-06 16:56
Submitted on Thu, 6 Aug 2020 - 04:56 PMASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

As debates on the death penalty begin in the House of Representatives today, Southeast Asian parliamentarians urgently called upon members of the Philippine Congress to strongly oppose efforts aimed at reintroducing capital punishment in the country.

(Source: ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights) 

“When considering bringing back the death penalty, Philippine lawmakers must remember that it is an inhumane and ineffective punishment, and reinstating it will be in total violation of the Philippines’ human rights obligations,” said Charles Santiago, a Malaysian member of parliament (MP) and chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). 

“Instead of finding new ways of adding to the long list of casualties of the drug war, the Philippine government should focus its efforts on tackling the root causes of crime and drug use. This starts with ending impunity for police violence, strengthening the criminal justice system, and developing health-focused based policies,” Santiago said.  

In the current 18th Congress, about 13 death-penalty-related bills have been filed in the House of Representatives, while 11 are pending at the Senate. According to a news report, the Committee on Justice in the House of Representatives is scheduled to discuss some of the bills this week. Many of them are proposing the death penalty for certain crimes, including drug-related offences, murder, rape, kidnapping, and treason.

It is also concerning that discussions on such an important issue are being prioritised as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the number of new cases continues to increase, APHR said. 

The hearings come after President Rodrigo Duterte recently renewed his call during his annual speech at the State of the Nation Address, urging Congress to pass legislation to revive capital punishment as part of efforts to reduce crime rates.

“Studies have shown that there is no link between capital punishment and any deterrent effect on crime. Rather, those that will be impacted most heavily will, once again, be the poor or underprivileged who cannot afford legal representation to protect their rights,” added Santiago.

Such a move would also be in total departure from the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty, APHR said. The most recent 2018 resolution of the UN General Assembly on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty was adopted by a record 120 countries. 

The Philippines abolished the death penalty a first time in 1987 and then again in 2006 after it was reinstated in 1993. The country is also a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its Second Optional Protocol aimed at the abolition of the death penalty.

Pick to PostThe Philippinesdeath penaltyASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
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ASEAN MPs call for immediate release of Cambodian union leader

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-08-06 16:41
Submitted on Thu, 6 Aug 2020 - 04:41 PMASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Southeast Asian parliamentarians have today (5 August) called on Cambodia’s authorities to immediately release and unconditionally drop all charges against union leader Rong Chhun, who was arrested late last week, and to end all attacks on those that peacefully voice their concerns. 

Rong Chhun (Source: ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights)
 

“Rong Chhun is being punished for doing precisely what the Cambodian government is unwilling to do – addressing people’s concerns over their land and livelihoods,” said Sarah Elago, a Philippine Member of Parliament (MP), and member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). “Chhun’s arrest and detention reflects the highly repressive environment that human rights defenders operate in under Hun Sen’s regime. Cambodians should be able to peacefully air their grievances without the fear of reprisals. Rong Chhun must be immediately released, and all charges against him dropped.’ Elago said. 

Chhun, a vocal political activist and President of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, was arrested without a warrant at his home on July 31, and a day later taken to Phnom Penh Municipal Court where he was charged with “incitement to commit a felony” under articles 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code. He is currently being held in pre-trial detention in Phnom Penh’s Correctional Centre 1, and faces a potential two-year jail term and a fine of up to 4 million Riel (USD 970). 

His arrest came shortly after the government’s Cambodia Border Committee claimed Chhun had disseminated “fake news” based on “groundless accusations” in comments made following a visit to the Cambodia-Vietnam border in mid-July. According to media reports, on July 21, Chhun issued a statement on behalf of the Cambodia Watchdog Council saying irregularities in the placement of border posts had resulted in farmers losing access to land. 

Days before his arrest, Chhun also joined a group of garment workers who gathered to submit a petition outside the home of Prime Minister Hun Sen to ask for his help following their factory’s closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Cambodia, garment workers have been some of the most heavily affected by the crisis, with hundreds of factories reportedly asking the government for permission to suspend their operations entirely or partly. 

“Once again in Cambodia, it is the poorest and those in the most vulnerable situations who are hurting the most as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Chamnan Chanruang, an APHR member and former Thai MP. “Instead of harassing and arresting those speaking up on their behalf, the Cambodian government must focus on providing them with social security, as well as a post-COVID19 economic recovery that closes the glaring inequalities the virus has exposed.” 

Chhun’s arrest is  part of a worrying trend of the continued crackdown on civil society, independent media, and political opposition in Cambodia, a situation that has gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, APHR said. Since March, dozens of human rights activists, journalists and political opponents have been arrested for merely raising concerns about the virus. In April, the government introduced a state of emergency law granting itself unfettered powers. 

Pick to PostRong ChhunCambodialabour unionASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
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Debunking misconceptions: Feminism explained

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-08-06 15:33
Submitted on Thu, 6 Aug 2020 - 03:33 PMPattanun Arunpreechawat

Thai social media has recently focussed on issues of sexual violence and gender equality, sparking a debate about feminist ideas and the goal of the movement. In this interview, five self-identified feminists who have experienced and witnessed gender-based violence and discrimination speak on the feminist movement in Thailand, misconceptions about feminism, and what it actually means to be a feminist.

In the eyes of netizens, feminism, the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes, has been turned into a so-called matriarchy movement. This led to the term เฟมทวิต (Femtwit), a combination of “feminist” and “Twitter”, coined by anti-feminist netizens to demean feminists on Twitter.

Associate Professor Verita Sriratana, lecturer at the Department of English, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, Jaded Chouwilai, director of the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation, Daranee Thongsiri, founder of Feminista, Fluorescent Lady (pseudonym), and Pimsiri Petchnamrob, a human rights activist, share their experiences and views on feminism in Thailand.

Feminist movement and portrayals of feminists in Thailand

The term feminism might have been acknowledged in larger circles only recently, but Jaded, who has been fighting against gender-based discrimination for 30 years, said the movement used to be mobilized and discussed only in academic groups and non-governmental organizations. 

Compared to feminist movements in the Anglophone world, most interviewees see that Thai feminists are not as unified but many feminist ideas are found in various political groups such as labour unions (for rights to maternity leave) and environmental activist groups, even though they may not identify themselves as feminists. 

Daranee and Pimsiri said many Thai people see Kalamae and Panadda Wongphudee as feminist figures. It might be true that some of their ideas parallel those of feminists, however, Panadda’s belief in capital punishment for rapists does not.

“When people look at individuals, it makes them think that this is all feminism is, so they misunderstand feminism,” Daranee pointed out, “There have never been interviews with feminists who work behind the scenes who do not have the power to get their voices heard.”

Nowadays, interviewees see that feminists are getting louder. In Fluorescent Lady’s opinion, “Femtwit” can be considered part of the latest feminist movement in Thailand.

Daranee explained that this name refers to those who are likely to be angry and use inappropriate words. Thus, anti-feminists pigeonhole Femtwit into “bad feminists” in contrast to “good feminists” whose voices are more polite and pleasant. These are attempts to show feminists as unfavorable or wicked when they defy patriarchy and call for justice. “Pushing feminists into two sides is like saying feminist voices that are sweet are the voices that are correct and fine, which devalues other feminist groups whose words are unpleasant in the eyes of antifeminists” Daranee said.    

Fluorescent Lady explained further that those who call people Femtwits have internalized patriarchy and are usually fact-deniers as they deny gender inequality and patriarchy. She sees their acts of hatred that try to control and punish feminists on Twitter as misogynistic. 

In the views of online anti-feminist bullies who Verita has encountered, “feminists are portrayed as man-hating supporters of matriarchy who revel in women’s all powerful rights to park cars in ladies’ parking spaces allotted in department stores” and “bra-burning lesbians wanting to scrape men from the face of the earth.”

Yet Verita does not find, among the feminists she knows, any who are like this perception. In fact, in her close friends and family, she  sees men and women showing solidarity and working together in their shared mission to challenge and deconstruct patriarchy.

Similar to Daranee, Verita finds it unsurprising that those who fight for a political cause tend to be conveniently divided. She provides an example of feminists in the twentieth century in the UK. While “suffragists”, were labelled as the good ones in the eyes of patriarchal establishment, “suffragettes” were labelled by the press as the bad ones.

Verita proposes that, like the term “suffragette,” which was later cleverly appropriated and embraced by the so-called “bad women” it meant to demean, “Femtwit” can easily be embraced in defiance of the anti-feminist discourse which propagates the term . She also suggests that this coinage can never tame feminists or drive them into silence if feminists do not let it. 

Like the suffragette and suffragist movements, Verita believes that direct militant action as well as civil disobedience is as important as the call for reform. For Thai society, she advises against being submissive and eager to please the tone-policing group of people. She also wishes to debunk the idea that the best way to build gender rights awareness or to fight for the feminist cause is to do so while crawling in front of the patriarchal status quo and engaging in the act of prostratinoneself on the lap of ever-condescending patriarchy.

“Nothing can be achieved by being compliant and submissive, just like nothing can be achieved by singing a love song to a dictator in exchange for liberation and democracy,” said Verita, who believes that advocating for gender equality constitutes and enhances self-expression, which is central to democracy, and one must not only shake but also shatter and deconstruct the status quo.

Verita leaves a note for online feminists thus: “Don’t pay attention to those who say Twitter is not the real world and ignore people who are trying to condemn the act of “ฉอด ” or “ranting” (a term which means being loud and critical on social media but not causing any real change in the real world).”

She gave the examples of the Arab Spring protests and the #MeToo movement where social media, especially Twitter, has the power to call out injustices, topple the status quo, and make social changes. She also suggests that a term like “เฟมทวิต”(Femtwit) or “ฉอด” can be reclaimed and redefined by the very target of anti-feminist ad feminam “labelling” attacks, which is the original purpose of this divisive term.

In contrast to such categorisation, feminism is indeed diverse by its nature. There are differences among feminist philosophers and various political causes one can fight for.

Verita, for instance, identifies herself as a lesbian feminist. She explained further that the word feminist usually requires at least one adjective or attributive noun, such as male feminist, marxist feminist, transgender feminist, etc.

The word “feminist” is fundamentally democratic. It comes with so many political possibilities, as Verita explained, “even anti-feminists can never exist or campaign without the word which they attached the hateful prefix to: feminists.”

“Feminists are not homogeneous and do not think the same, and it’s not a problem,” Daranee added. Some might support sex workers as they see it as an act of empowerment and it is in women’s power to use their own bodies, while others might not, because they see it as a form of oppression.

It is up to the people which group they want to ally with. “Pick your own battle,” Fluorescent Lady suggested.

“The fight goes on as the ceiling of gender inequality, solid and transparent, which can be felt in terms of not only legal and economic inequality, but also everyday casual sexism, remains intact to this day,” said Verita.

“Men are trash”

The coinage of Femtwit can be traced back to its origin, #menaretrash, shared by victims of sexual violence. Fluorescent Lady brought up the issue that “men are trash” is banned on Facebook as it is viewed as hate speech. Still, she empathizes with those who used this statement to express their grievances.

Meanwhile, Verita problematizes and criticizes Facebook’s censorship of this phrase as it has a reputation of banning the wrong people. For example, a woman who shared rape comments has been banned for reposting the offensive comments even though she made it clear that she was against sexual violence in any form. But the actual harassers who posted rape comments got away without any punishment.

Verita added that misogynist sayings like “having a daughter is like having a toilet in front of your house,” period shaming, or the ingrained notion that women are the weaker sex cause much more unspeakable harm and deep suffering. It is latent sexism against women, not the phrase “men are trash” that supports violence against and violation of women ranging from bullying and limiting women’s rights to rape and murder.

“If, in your eyes, ‘men are trash’ causes more offense and grievance than the misogynist sayings and practices which have unquestionably become our social norm do, then you are looking at gender equality from the tip of your own privilege, being so fortunate and high up that you do not see the real problem. Or you are just a plain ignorant hypocrite. There are not many options left, I’m afraid,” said Verita.

Daranee explained that “men are trash” is not a feminist strategy but rather the experience of women who have been harassed and assaulted, while Verita thinks that it’s a generic statement and a provocation, which is meant to propel listeners to think and rethink toxic and fragile masculinity.

Although Daranee herself never uses this statement for the cause, she believes that this statement does not take away their privileges or harm men, except perhaps for a feeling of uneasiness, but there are practices that actually harm women,  such as selective abortion in India, which see women as a burden. “We can see that women are trash the moment they were born,” said Daranee.

Why do you call yourself a feminist?

As feminists are negatively branded and too controversial in the eyes of the public, many netizens argue that feminists should start calling themselves humanists instead of feminists.  

Still, all interviewees call themselves feminists without hesitation. In fact, some of them even wear it like a badge. Each one became a feminist because they have experienced or witnessed gender discrimination or sexual violence. While Fluorescent Lady was treated as subordinate because she’s a woman, Daranee experienced sexual violence and Jaded witnessed violence against the lives of female labourers. Pimsiri, on the other hand, acknowledges gender discrimination.

In response to this statement, Daranee thinks that the ability to identify oneself is one’s right. She insisted that “humanist does not conflict with feminist. We can be both simultaneously. Being feminist stems from the fact that we cannot see gender equality.”

Verita agrees that feminists have often been attached to stigma throughout the term’s long history.

However, she poses a question on how one can be an anti-feminist while upholding a socio-political philosophy (humanism) which advocates for the equality of all humans given the fact that gender equality is elusive.

“All humanists are automatically feminists. Anti-feminism goes against the value of human reason and egalitarianism,” said Verita, while Fluorescent Lady added that inequality of women could not be acknowledged if people only call themselves humanists as naming feminists is a part of addressing the issues.

“I call myself a feminist to reclaim this word just like women should reclaim the night in which they walk the streets without fear. I call myself a feminist to pay homage to those who have fought and perished, hated and persecuted, in the process of gaining what many women take for granted today i.e. professions for women, rights to vote, rights to property.” 

“Lastly, I call myself a feminist because, as long as gender inequality exists (and it still exists), each and everyone of us should be a feminist.” said Verita, which Pimsiri agrees with.

Feminism is good for all genders

Despite misconceptions that feminists aspire to matriarchy or more privileges than men, all interviewees insisted that feminism is good for all genders. Verita emphasized that what feminists unite to fight against is patriarchy, not men in their lives.

Jaded noted that not only men, but also women can internalize the ideology of patriarchy. From his experience, some women still think that only men can be good leaders and do better than women.

For Daranee, women do not understand patriarchy any better than men but women have many experiences related to gender discrimination due to power dynamics. She further explained that feminists acknowledge that not only women but also men suffer from patriarchy.  

Fluorescent Lady shared her own experience of never realizing that she was sexually harassed until she studied feminism. Things like sexual harrassment are not dealt with in compulsory education but she wished the Ministry of Education would take it into consideration. She explained that originally she thought that sexual harassment included only physical contact when in fact it also includes implicit sexual overtones, and sexual jokes.

Jaded elaborated further that when women face domestic violence, they often blame themselves for being bad persons or perhaps for being dressed in ‘too revealing’ a way. This is when feminist thinking takes place as it empowers women and helps them realize that such violence stems from patriarchy.

Seeing many male opponents online, Verita is amazed by the fact that men would rather die than become feminists. In a deeper and more subtle extent than women, Verita explained, men have served as patriarchy’s slaves and mediums for many centuries to the extent that masculinity is so fragile a concept that it can be easily threatened by the misconception that feminists “want more privileges” than men.

Verita finds it unsurprising that women, on the other hand, , would rather stay silent and indifferent so they can remain the “good ones” in the eyes of the patriarchal world they were born into as women have been trained for centuries to think and seek approval in that way.

“The enemy of feminism is the patriarchal mindset, never men – who, by the way, suffer more than women from being hopelessly enmeshed in the patriarchal discourses,” said Verita.

As Verita has encountered many online bullies, she expressed her sadness that one can feel threatened and insecure when other people demand basic rights to the point that one says hateful words to those who fight for the cause.

Gender inequality as a democratic struggle

Since the Civil Partnership bill was drafted, many netizens argue that the LGBT community will not achieve what they are fighting for or even fight for their own rights, as the goal of a true democracy has not been accomplished.

Daranee sees that fighting for gender equality is the same as fighting for democracy, as democracy enables everyone to have equality. For example, women have fewer job opportunities because of gender.

Daranee explained that sometimes those who fight for democracy go against feminists as patriarchy does not distinguish men and women or even LGBT, which prompts them to lack perception.

Many fight for freedom in this country, yet they inflict violence on their partners. As Daranee said, patriarchy is a structure that forms and shapes us unknowingly and therefore, possibly transmits patriarchal ideas to others without realizing it.

Verita provided a historical background that thanks to Khana Ratsadon (the People’s Party), Siamese women were given the right to vote 12 years before women in France and suffrage was never fought for in Siam. This shows, Verita believes, that a central element of democracy is women’s active political participation.

According to Verita, despite the right to vote, which is a good first step towards gender equality, Siamese women never really achieved equal rights and standing to Siamese men. She explained that Khana Ratsadon’s views on women and gender equality can be seen as flawed by the benevolent sexist discourse prevalent at that time. For instance, Siamese women serving in office were almost non-existent.

“Those who nowadays celebrate the legacies of Khana Ratsadon and call themselves progressive and democratic but nevertheless use the term Femtwit  to demean and silence feminists ought to be ashamed of themselves. One would be a total hypocrite if one claims to be fighting for democracy while seeing nothing wrong in gender inequality,” Verita pointed out.

She also urges readers to consider whether those who claim to support democracy but do not support marriage equality at all because the marriage laws are flawed are any better than those who claim that Thai people should not have an election before reform, which led to the demise of democracy in Thailand. 

Verita also said it would be a sad waste of potential, especially for the Thai intelligentsia and those who have access to the opportunity to improve their academic skills and knowledge, if they keep harbouring such cheap attitudes.

“This trashy thinking awaits critical and logical cleanup. So squeeze out your sanitiser gel, get a broom, get a rag, and sweep and wipe, citizens – dear feminist men and women, sweep away and wipe out such hateful prejudice and pseudo-intellectualism which have hindered democracy in Thailand!” Verita urged.

Interviewfeminismgender equalitytwitterInternet culturegender-based violencegender-based discriminationVerita SriratanaJaded ChouwilaiDaranee ThongsiriFluorescent LadyPimsiri Petchnamrob
Categories: Prachatai English

Govt official files royal defamation complaint over Harry Potter protest speech

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-08-05 23:28
Submitted on Wed, 5 Aug 2020 - 11:28 PMPrachatai

Apiwat Kantong, vice minister of the Office of the Prime Minister, filed a complaint today (5 August) against human rights lawyer Anon Nampa accusing him of defaming the monarchy in his speech at the Harry Potter-themed protest on Monday (3 August), during which he called for monarchy reform and open criticism of the crown.

Anon Numpa during his speech at the rally on Monday (3 August). 
(Source: The Isaander)

Apiwat filed his complaint today at the Samranrat Police Station against Anon, bringing to the police documents, audio clips, and video clips of the protest as evidence. He accused Anon and other unnamed supporters of the protest of violating the Emergency Decree and other criminal laws, defaming the monarchy in his rally speech, and of intending to damage the monarchy and create division in the country. 

During his speech at the rally on Monday, Anon spoke directly about the need to reform the monarchy, and called for open criticism of the crown. He pointed out that many legislative changes meant that the monarchy now has power beyond what is allowed in a constitutional monarchy, and that this is an issue that must be discussed seriously, publicly, and respectfully, so that a solution can be reached.

“Talking like this is not overthrowing the monarchy, but it is for the monarchy to exist in Thai society with legitimacy in accordance with the democratic system of government with the monarch as head of state,” Anon said during his speech.

Under Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, or Article 112 of the Criminal Codes, criticizing the monarchy is punishable with a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment.

Anon posted on his Facebook today that “It is important and necessary to talk about the expansion of the power of the monarchy because so that the society can ask questions and find solutions to the country’s problems together, because the country does not belong to just one person but to all of us.

“If this political fight is successful and resulted in the monarchy being truly above politics and under the constitution, the benefits of the fight will be for every Thai citizens, including this group of people who is filing charges against me.”

Pol Col Ittipol Pongthorn, superintendent of the Samranrat Police Station, said that they will be investigating the evidence submitted to them and will be forwarding the cast to the Chana Songkhram Police Station, since the protest took place under the Chana Songkhram Police’s jurisdiction.

NewsAnon NumpaMonarchy reformArticle 112lese majesteRoyal defamationApiwat Kantongproteststudent movementYouth movementreform
Categories: Prachatai English

UN OHCHR representative visits environmental human rights defender group

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-08-05 19:01
Submitted on Wed, 5 Aug 2020 - 07:01 PMProtection International

On 23-24 July 2020, representatives from the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office for South East Asia visited community-based women and men human rights defenders (W/HRDs) from Khon Rak Kroksomboon Group and Khon Rak Ban Nong Talad Group in Prachinburi Province, eastern Thailand.  The visit is to follow up on the security and protection of the W/HRDs, who are facing high risks for defending their community and environmental rights.

UN OHCHR visit to Khon Rak Kroksomboon Group (Source: Protection International)

The OHCHR representatives also held official meetings with representatives from the Prachinburi Provincial Office, the Provincial Industry Office, the Provincial Justice Office and the Provincial Police Station to clarify understanding and coordinate with the authorities regarding the security and protection of the W/HRDS. 

Under the coordination from EnLaw and Protection International, OHCHR representatives met and discussed with the W/HRDs their security situation. They also discussed the progress on hoped solutions for problems of toxic smells and alleged chemical contamination of the water and soil in the communities, problems allegedly coming from a nearby industrial waste management company. 

In late August 2019, around 700 members of the Khon Rak Kroksomboon Group and Khon Rak Ban Nong Talad Group gathered in front of the Prachinburi Provincial Hall to submit a complaint letter to the Provincial Governor, calling for an official investigation into the issues. As a result, the tripartite committee was set up comprised of the local authorities, the company, and the community representatives. Since then, the committee has convened regularly to review and solve the problems. 

However, in April 2020, Sumeth Rainpongnam, an environmental HRD and a signatory to the complaint letter submitted to the provincial governor, received a court notice outlining complaints against him for defamation, filed by the waste management company, with the request of 50 million-baht compensation (approx.1, 602,564 USD). The company claimed that the complaint letter submitted by the groups has damaged the company’s reputation. A month later, he received a second court notice informing that the company filed a second defamation charge against him, citing a Facebook post. 

Earlier in September 2019, Sumeth and his wife were attacked by unknown assailants in three different incidents with a total of 14 gunshots as they were driving home at night. Fortunately, they were not harmed. Amongst the wider community, at least two other W/HRDs have faced life-threatening intimidation as a result of their environmental campaigning.

UN OHCHR visit to Khon Rak Kroksomboon Group (Source: Protection International) 

The OHCHR representatives express concerns regarding the security situation faced by the W/HRDs. They emphasise that the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) should be respected to ensure that W/HRDs can do their work without fear of reprisals from business or authorities.

 The visit by the OHCHR representatives took place as Thailand became the first Asian country to launch a National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights. However, human rights violations from business still occur regularly. Thailand should urgently act to protect human rights defenders, and utilise mechanisms to prevent Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) as identified in the NAP.

Pranom Somwong, Protection International’s Thailand Representative, said that though Thailand has National Action Pan and the Thai government has often indicated their good intentions, there has been little change in the lived experience of W/HRDs, who continue to face violations, threats, and judicial harassment. We urge the UN OHCHR, UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to request that the Thai government provides details of the concrete actions to be taken to uphold business and human rights principles for all, beginning with an end to the intimidation and judicial harassment. The Thai government must be asked to show measurable goals with a clear-cut timeframe.

In June 2020, Protection International, along with 53 organisations and 23 individuals, submitted a letter to the UN agencies organising the UN Annual Meeting on Business and Human Rights. The signatories called for the Thai government to ensure that it would end judicial harassment to W/HRDs who face judicial harassment and SLAPP cases, such as Sumeth. 

Sumeth is due to have a second mediation meeting on 11 August 2020 on the first defamation case at the Prachinburi Provincial Court. If the mediation does not yield agreement, the preliminary hearing will proceed to take place on 31 August 2020 at the Prachinburi Provincial Court. 

The Kon Rak Kroksomboon Group plans to organize a public forum on 30 August 2020 to draw attention to the industrial waste management problems, which have caused significant environmental and health impacts to the residents in Prachinburi Province. This issue is also very prevalent along the Eastern Economic Corridor of Thailand, where there is a largescale industrial zone development.

Pick to PostProtection InternationalOffice of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)Kon Rak Kroksomboon GroupEnvironmental issueHuman Rights DefenderCommunity rights activistcommunity rightsEnvironmental rights
Categories: Prachatai English

The revolution will be magical: Harry Potter-themed protest calls for monarchy reform

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-08-05 13:51
Submitted on Wed, 5 Aug 2020 - 01:51 PMPrachatai

Students from Kasetsart University and the Mahanakorn for Democracy group organized a Harry Potter-themed protest on Monday (3 August) at the Democracy Monument, calling for amendments to laws regarding the power of the monarchy and for the authorities to listen to the voice of the people.

The crowd in front of McDonoald's during Thatchapong Kaedam's speech

A framed picture of series villain Lord Voldemort, most often called "you-know-who," was affixed to a scarecrow at the protest. 

The organizers, as well as several participants, were seen wearing costumes from the Harry Potter series and carrying replicas of wands from the series or chopsticks handed out by the organizers. During the event, which took place between 18.00 – 20.30 on the footpath in front of McDonald’s, protestors were also invited to cast the “expecto patronum” patronus spell in a symbolic action bestowing protection upon Thai democracy and chasing away “dark powers.”

Thatchapong Kaedam, one of the speakers at the event, said that the Harry Potter series is a story of the fight between light and darkness, with the light being young people and their teachers, and that the hardest thing to fight is you-know-who’s network, which has extended to cover everything, claiming national reform, while the young people who are trying to fight back are prosecuted and subjected to witch hunts.

“I want everyone to think of Wanchalearm’s smile,” said Thatchapong before he invited participants to cast the patronus charm, described in the series as a spell that relies on the power of happiness to grant protection. “Think of the smiles of our friends who have been forced into exile overseas. Think of the smiles of our friends who think differently and are forced into becoming people to overthrow Lord Voldemort. Think of our friends’ different ideas, the smiles of our friends who were abducted and disappeared because they think differently, and point your wand into the sky.”

Two protestors seen flashing the three-finger 'Hunger Games' salute, another pop culture reference which has now become a well-recognised symbol of resistance in Thailand

The organisers also issued a statement, which was read out during the protest, stating their three demands:

  1. Repeal and amend laws which expand the power of the monarchy which could affect the system of government with the monarch as head of state.
  2. Amend the lèse-majesté law so that it is in accordance with the democratic system and does not violate human rights.
  3. Listen to the voices of the students and the people who have now come out to express their political opinion in order to solve the country’s problems according to democratic principles.

Protestors flashing the 'Hunger Games' salute as one of the speakers, dressed in the long black robe of a Hogswart student, is giving a speech.

Other speakers also took turn giving speeches. One speaker called for the abolition of the senate, as the current set of senators has done nothing for the people and the senate budget would be more beneficial if used to support the people. This speaker repeated two of the demands made by Free Youth Movement at the mass protest on 18 July, calling for the authorities to stop harassing people and for constitutional reform, which must involve giving the highest punishment for staging military coups in order to prevent any more coups from taking place. The speaker also said that parliament must be dissolved after the constitution has been amended and changes have been made to legislation regarding the power of the senate.

“I believe that the pure power of the people will be the light fighting against dark powers. Don’t let them threaten our friends. Don’t let them abduct and murder our friends. Hold up your three fingers and say ‘we won’t stop until the dark powers are gone’,” said the speaker.

Some of the placards seen at the protest. The second one says "“Exiles are people too. Why do you abduct them?”

The organisers also responded to criticism that the Harry Potter series should not be referenced by a demonstration calling for democracy and equality when J.K. Rowling has been criticized for expressing transphobic sentiments on social media. A representative of the organizers read out a statement at the event insisting that the organizers support the LGBT community and that they are against all forms of gender-based discrimination.

The statement also said that the organizers do not support J.K. Rowling’s transphobic attitude and actions, and that they chose to organize a Harry Potter-themed event as they saw parallels between events in the series and the current Thai political situation and that the series carries symbolism about the fight against dark, unseen powers, which is relevant.

“We organized this event to fight for our rights and freedoms and justice in Thai society. We would like to use this stage to inform everyone of our intentions in organizing this event and would like to use this space to call on everyone to join in supporting LGBT issues and the LGBT movement at the same time as supporting the democracy movement,” said the statement.

Some of the placards seen at the event. The second one says "I want someone to be beside me, but I don't want Tu", with Tu being prime minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha's last name.

Among the placards seen at the protest were signs saying “Trans witches are witches. Trans wizards are wizards.” Other placards held by protestors say “Get rid of tax eaters”, “Exiles are people too. Why do you abduct them?” and “I am not afraid of you.”

There was also a performance by the Commoner Band, who, in addition to the few songs they usually sing at protests, also sang the modified Hamtaro theme song which has been used by protestors in several protests since the Hamtaro run on 26 July.

Protestors turning on the flashlights on their mobile phones during the Commoner Band's performance, after the singer called for a "lumos" spell, described in the series as a spell which cause a wand to light up. 

The protest was joined by around 200 people. Meanwhile, around 60 – 80 uniformed police officers and a crowd control unit were present in the area, with one group standing guard around the Democracy Monument and another standing in two rows blocking protestors from leaving the footpath.

Police officers blocking protestors from leaving the footpath

This was the latest in the wave of youth-led protests which started with the mass protest organized by Free Youth Movement on 18 July, and took place at the same time as two other protests in Samut Sakhon and Sakhon Nakhon. So far, over 60 protests have taken place over two weeks in the country as well as those organized by Thai communities overseas.

A protestor appeared in front of the stage in a realistic silicone mask of deputy prime minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, flashing the 'Hunger Games' salute.

Another protestor posed for journalists. Wearing a Hogswart student costume, he pointed his wand at the Democracy Monument.

Anon Nampa calls for monarchy reform and open criticism of the crown

Human rights lawyer Anon Nampa was the last speaker to appear on the stage, wearing a black gown and a red and yellow scarf, holding a wand, and said that he was invited by the organisers to speak at the event on a topic many would like to hear but no one has spoken about formally, and insisted that, with all due respect to the monarchy, it is absolutely necessary for him to speak about the role of the monarchy in contemporary Thai politics.

Anon Numpa appeared at the event wearing a Harry Potter costume.

“We have swept this issue under the rug for many years. No one has really talked about this issue, which led to attempts to solve the problem that did not get straight to the point. We have to accept the truth that students and citizens have risen up to protest today partly because many people would like to raise questions about our monarchy,” Anon said.

Anon said that, even though placards mentioning a person who lives in Germany have been seen at recent protests, these mentions will hold no weight if we don’t talk about the issues with reason and directly according to the principles of constitutional monarchy.

The main problem, said Anon, is that today there is a process which is taking the monarchy further and further away from democracy, with certain articles in the current constitution and subsequent legislation giving the monarchy power beyond the democratic system.

He also mentioned that, following the constitutional referendum in 2016, then-NCPO leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha presented the draft constitution to the king, who ordered several changes to be made – something which could not happen in a constitutional monarchy, since it is considered interference with the process of drafting and implementing the constitution.

Anon then touched on the issues that resulted from King Vajiralongkorn taking residence in Germany, including the possibility that the King will have to pay taxes according to Bavarian state laws, which would come from Thai taxpayer money, and the fact that foreigners are criticising the Thai monarchy because the King lives overseas.

Additionally, he touched the issue of managing crown property and the transfer of troops to the crown.

“All of this means that we have a democratic system of government with the monarch as head of state, but the monarchy already has power beyond what is allowed by the system. This is an issue that we need to talk about seriously, and everyone must talk about it publicly and with respect to the system and to the monarchy. If we don’t talk about this issue, there is no way to solve the problem. Talking like this is not overthrowing the monarchy, but it is for the monarchy to exist in Thai society with legitimacy in accordance with the democratic system of government with the monarch as head of state,” he said.

Anon on stage during his speech

Anon proposed that parliament amend the constitution to require the king to appoint a regent while he is not in the country and to return public property to the people, as well as to make sure that the crown’s use of the national budget is accountable and can be criticized.

He also called on the crown to take action against people like Maj Gen Dr Rientong Nan-nah, who are using the crown’s name for their own benefit and to claim legitimacy in harassing other citizens.

Anon said that he believes the students who have been protesting since the start of this year know these issues very well, but no one was brave enough to speak of it directly. He hopes that from now on, we will be able to discuss these issues in public. He also called on members of parliament to speak on behalf of the people and to not let ordinary people who speak about the monarchy face harassment by themselves or let political refugees who are speaking get abducted and brutally murdered.

“From now on, no one else who speaks about the monarchy should be accused of being mad, of being insane, or carried off to hospital even though they are speaking the truth,” said Anon.

“If anything is going to happen from me speaking the truth, whether it is threats, prosecution, or killing me, I do not regret it, because today I get to say the truth, and this truth will stay with my fellow citizens and will haunt the dictator until we get true democracy,” Anon concluded.

Newsstudent movementYouth movementanti-governmentPro-democracyprotestDemocracy MonumentmonarchyMonarchy reformAnon Numpapop cultureHarry Potter
Categories: Prachatai English

Ministry to prosecute Facebook for not blocking all illegal content

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-08-05 11:46
Submitted on Wed, 5 Aug 2020 - 11:46 AMPrachatai

Puttipong Punnakanta, Minister of the Digital Economy and Society (DES), says that Facebook has violated the Thai Computer Crime Act for blocking only 20 per cent of all illegal content whose removal has been requested by the authorities.

Facebook login page on a smartphone (Source: pexels.com)

The Minister said Facebook can be charged with not complying with orders from the Thai authorities, referring to Section 27 of the Act. Facebook faces penalties of up to 200,000 baht and an additional 5,000 baht per day until the orders are observed.

Puttipong tweeted that in 2020, Facebook has blocked only 1,316 out of 4,767 URLs named in court orders while YouTube has blocked 1,507 out of 1,616.

“The [DES] Ministry is prepared to proceed against any platform abroad that provides services to the Thai people. Anyone doing business in Thailand must learn to respect Thai law and is responsible for the Thai people’s feelings and what Thais hold dear,” said Puttipong.

Facebook is facing pressure from the Thai authorities and conservatives alike because of content about the monarchy. Recently its auto-translation feature mistranslated a live-streaming of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s birthday ceremony last week. Facebook has apologized and temporarily disabled the feature.

On 1 August, Sermsuk Kasitipradit, a well-known news reporter, posted a court order on his Facebook account. Issued in June, the order requested the closure of 24 URLs in accordance with an MDES request, including the Royalist Marketplace Facebook page.

This page, established by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai academic in exile, mainly criticizes the Thai monarchy and politics. Since it started on 16 April 2020, more than 830,000 Facebook users have joined the group. Royalist Marketplace banners have appeared in many recent protests countrywide.

As of 4 August, the page is still accessible.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that at least 25 group members are being hunted.

In the age of King Vajiralongkorn and the internet, the government knows too well that they cannot prosecute all critics. The Thai Security Plan for 2019-2022 admitted that the new generation’s bond to the monarchy has weakened.

In November 2018, BBC Thai reported that Facebook had taken down more than 735 lèse-majesté posts since 2016 at the request of the Thai government.

Source: Blognone, Prachatai

NewsRoyalist MarketplaceSermsuk KasitipraditPuttipong PunnakantaFacebookYouTubeinternet freedom
Categories: Prachatai English

Two weeks after youth groups began to free themselves: Their call to end harassments backfired

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-08-04 20:02
Submitted on Tue, 4 Aug 2020 - 08:02 PMThai Lawyers for Human Rights

On 18 July 2020, a group of secondary school and university students, together with other ordinary citizens, held the #FreeYouth demonstration at the Democracy Monument. The protestors’ three collective demands call for the government to dissolve the Parliament, rewrite the Constitution, and end all forms of state harassment of critics. During the following two weeks, this event has triggered a wave of flash mob rallies in other areas across the country to reiterate the three demands until now.

The mass protest on 18 July at the Democracy Monument

According to the information gathered by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), there have been at least 75 announcements about plans to organize a protest and public activity in 44 provinces across the country to support the Free Youth group’s demands. In many other places, protestors have vowed to hold their events until mid-August.

It is interesting to note that a large proportion of protestors belong to the young generation of Thai people. In several areas, secondary school students organized and led the protests. Moreover, the protestors designed their activities with great creativity and diversity to communicate their demands to the public and the government.

However, the rise of protests and political expressions in public has prompted interventions from state officials who tracked down, harassed, and suppressed protest leaders and participants in many places. Out of at least 76 planned activities, five could not be organized – including one activity in Sakon Nakhon province where a protest was postponed because the organizers were not ready. In this case, the authorities also reportedly met and had a discussion with the administration of a local university where the protest was set to take place.

A youth-led protest in Pattani on 2 August.

Apart from pressuring and intimidating organizers to stop their activities, TLHR has observed at least eight general trends of harassment:

1. Before activities began, state officials in some areas- including the police, Special Branch officers, and administrative officers- had tracked down some secondary school and university students and ordinary people to their houses or personal spaces. They claimed that they needed to gather information to report to their superiors or wanted to understand more about the upcoming activities.

If state officials could identify the organizers, they would directly visit them at houses to inquire about the activities’ details and record the organizers’ personal information. Meanwhile, if they were unable to identify the organizers, they would reach out to different groups of people who had previously engaged in activism or participated in a flash mob rally earlier at the beginning of 2020. Remarkably, these students or people might not have been involved in any way in this new wave of political activities.

The authorities also reportedly tracked down and sought to identify people who advertised the protest activities via social media platforms or make inquiries about such activities in social media groups. This type of operation brought up questions from the victims of harassments who wondered under which law the authorities were invoking their powers. In several cases, the officials did not mention which specific legal provision they were invoking to operate whereas, some operations were blatantly unlawful.

Participants flashing the three-finger 'Hunger Games' salute at the protest in Rangsit.

Overall, state operations are often carried out in the forms of warning, suppressing, and intimidating protest organizers, participants, and other related parties who could influence the organizers’ decision. The goals were to terminate public assemblies or pose limits upon the conditions of organizing them. As most organizers are young people, the officials sometimes decided to approach their parents, asking them to prevent their children from participating in political activities. They would often mention that students must focus on their studies and threaten that their participation in a political movement would adversely impact their studies. Due to such harassment, some protests had to be canceled or subject to a change of organizers. (See an example of the rally in Lampoon Province).

2. In addition to visiting houses, some plainclothes officers reportedly threatened to take some protest organizers to a police station without an official warrant. They claimed that they merely wanted to inquire about the organizers about their activities. One police superintendent stated that the police regularly conduct this process to gather intelligence. However, TLHR later found that the police officers took the organizers to the station to persuade and pressure them to back away from the protest. Both working-level and high-level officers in the same area were involved in this operation. (See a case study in Petchabun province)

3. During almost every event, state officials put up posters, handed out pamphlets, or made announcements using an amplifier to threaten the protestors that their activities might constitute a violation of the law. They make references to several legislations, especially the Emergency Decree’s provisions on the prohibition of public assembly or gathering for unlawful purposes, which might pose risks of spreading diseases. Other laws mentioned during such announcements included the Communicable Diseases Act, the Road Traffic Act’s provisions on the obstruction of traffic, the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act, and the Act on the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness of the Country.

The announcements of legal prohibitions were found to be a nuisance in some cases because they were carried out while the protestors were delivering speeches to express their opinions and presenting their collective demands. Some frustrated protestors had to approach the police officers and ask them to turn down the volume or stop making the announcements.

4. Similar to past trends, officers in plainclothes and uniforms continued to take photos of the demonstrations. However, TLHR found that several officers aimed to target specific individuals during these recent flash mob rallies and tended to take pictures of those holding protest signs closely so that they could identify the persons later.

The authorities attempted to obstruct protestors in some provinces from using their intended venues by blocking them from those areas and causing them to move their activities elsewhere. Furthermore, it was reported that military officers and officials from the Internal Security Operations Command in some provinces attended the protests to observe and record the activities.

The protest at Tha Pae Gate, Chiang Mai on 29 July. 

5. The authorities have weaponized the law by filing charges against protest organizers or participants who delivered speeches, creating additional burdens and complications in their lives. Four university students who gave speeches during the #ChiangMaiWillNotTakeThisAnyMoreToo activity, which took place after the #FreeYouth demonstration, were summonsed to Chiang Mai Provincial Police Station to acknowledge their charges under the Emergency Decree and the Communicable Diseases Act. As illustrated in this case, the Emergency Decree has continued to be used to silence political expressions.

6. The authorities followed some protestors backed to their home, especially those who held up protest signs. They claimed they needed to tell the protestors to stop using these signs because they contained “sensitive” messages, which could be interpreted as critical of the monarchy. Reportedly, they recorded the protestors’ personal information and took their photos.

The Harry Potter-themed protest at the Democracy Monument on 3 August

The authorities had also confiscated the protest signs during the demonstration. In some cases, they arrested the protestors, put their information in an “interrogative record,” and seized the signs, as illustrated during the protest at King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok. Nonetheless, there is currently no report of any cases instituted or charges filed against any person holding up a protest sign.

The police, Special Branch officers, and administrative officers were not the only ones undermining the protests. As aforementioned, most protestors are secondary school and university students who belong to the younger generation compared to past demonstrations. Therefore, some schools and universities took the lead to undertake measures for suppressing and threatening their students. Several educational institutions prevented the student protestors from using their campus ground as a protest venue and ordered their students to refrain from organizing or participating in a public assembly.

The "Hamtaro run" protest at the Democracy Monument on 26 July.

7. The police and Special Branch officers talked to administrators of schools and universities, requesting to obtain the students’ personal information by claiming that they would like to reach a mutual understanding with these student protestors. The authorities had reportedly obtained the information of both the students who had previously participated in a demonstration but did not participate in the recent ones as well as those who participated in the recently advertised ones.

This operation aimed at pressuring students organizing the protests, and discouraging them. Knowing that the authorities already have received their personal information from schools or universities, the students realized they could be further harassed at their own homes. Therefore, they needed to re-assess their risks in organizing the protest as the authorities asserted this kind of pressure via their educational institution in this manner.

8. Schools or universities prohibited their students from participating in any rally. In some areas, after students announced their plan to organize a rally on their campus grounds, their universities issued an order banning them from doing so. This type of ban was issued at Prince of Songkhla University and Mahasarakham University.

In some cases, a director or disciplinary staff of educational institutions summonsed their students to prohibit them from organizing or participating in any protest. As the school authority often claimed that participating in the protest would impact the students’ ability to study or graduate, this tactic triggered fear among them. Reportedly, some teachers also attended the rally to tell their students to stop participating or take photos of the student protestors without any apparent purpose.

The protest at Kasetsart University on 24 July.

The phenomenon of increasing harassment of secondary school and university students hinders their exercise of freedom of expression and assembly, thereby reaffirming and reflecting the significance of the #FreeYouth group’s demand, which calls for government officials to end the harassment. The harassment has taken multiple forms, be it monitoring the students to obtain personal information, tracking them down to homes or schools, triggering fear by telling them that they were on the security agencies’ blacklist, or threatening that the protest would violate the law, such as the Emergency Decree, even before the activities took place.

The attempts to suppress, pressure, and intimidate protestors constitute an attack on peaceful expressions of opinions and unarmed demonstrations, which are the rights enshrined in the 2017 Constitution. Several of these attempts had no legal basis; they merely exploited people’s gaps in knowledge to undermine the power of free expressions.

Pick to PostThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)student movementYouth movementprotestanti-governmentharassmentfreedom of expressionfreedom of assembly
Categories: Prachatai English

Court schedules testimony by activist over his comments about monarchy

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-08-04 15:31
Submitted on Tue, 4 Aug 2020 - 03:31 PMPrachatai

The Criminal Court has scheduled 14 September to hear the testimony of political activist Karn Pongpraphapan. The prosecutor has brought charges under the Computer Crime Act over comments about the monarchy that allegedly caused public disorder and affected the Kingdom’s security.

Karn Pongpraphapan giving a speech in a certain protest.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the schedule was announced on 30 July after charges of violating Section 14(3) of the Computer Crime Act were brought at the beginning of June. Karn has denied all the charges.

The prosecutor states that Karn is sued over 2 public Facebook posts during 2 – 4 October 2019. One post compared the fates of monarchies in Russia, France, Germany, Greece and Laos. The second post commented on the hashtag #ขบวนเสด็จ (#RoyalMotorcade), a popular hashtag used to criticize the Thai monarchy at the time.

Late on the night of 3 October, Karn received an SMS sent under the name of “RoyalPalace” urging him to abandon all social media accounts that night for his own safety. He did so and received another SMS from the same name on 4 October saying “Thank you for the cooperation”. The identity of the SMS source is still unknown today.

Karn was arrested at his house on 7 October 2019 by the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD), an anti-cybercrime police force. His smartphone and laptop were seized. The court later granted him bail of 100,000 baht.

TLHR stated that Karn’s case marks a significant change in the legal prosecution of anti-monarchy opinions. Section 112 of the Criminal Code (the lèse majesté law) is no longer used in favour of Section 14(3) of the Computer Crime Act.

Karn, now 26 years old, graduated from Thammasat University. He participated in several public protests in 2019 calling for a general election and was prosecuted twice for doing so.

NewsKarn Pongpraphapanmonarchy#RoyalMotorcaderoyal motorcadeSource: prachatai.com/journal/2020/08/88885
Categories: Prachatai English

Laws governing development of EEC and SEZs fail to adequately protect Human Rights

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-08-03 16:54
Submitted on Mon, 3 Aug 2020 - 04:54 PMThe International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) called on the Thai government, legislature and regulatory agencies to take steps to address deficiencies in the legal and regulatory framework governing economic development in Special Economic Zones and the Eastern Economic Corridor to improve transparency, protect communities and labourers’ human rights, and implement safeguards to mitigate the adverse impact of such development on the environment and human rights.

An area that would be affected from the 3rd phase Laem Chabang port construction.

The report, titled ‘The Human Rights Consequences of the Eastern Economic Corridor and Special Economic Zones in Thailand’ identifies gaps and weaknesses in the current law and policy governing investment in areas that have been designated for economic development in order to attract foreign investment. The report documents reported human rights violations and abuses of affected communities, as well as the adverse impact on the environment and working conditions for migrant labourers.

Drawing on international law and good practices, and the ICJ’s previous work in Myanmar, the report offers a detailed set of recommendations for how to improve the existing legal framework in order to prevent future human rights violations and abuses and provide reparation to victims of human rights violations perpetrated in and associated with SEZs.

“There is no reason for Thailand to repeat the mistakes made by governments elsewhere in the world that have rushed to dilute human rights and environmental legal protections in a misguided attempt to attract foreign investment”, said Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia-Pacific Director. “Safeguarding the well-being of local communities and the environment, ensuring decent conditions for migrant workers, and establishing transparent and inclusive decision-making processes are essential elements of a sustainable development that respects human rights.”

As discussed in the report, the current laws and regulations governing SEZs do not contain adequate procedural safeguards and human rights protections, including for the rights to food, health, water, work and adequate housing. While the law governing development of the EEC does contain a number of provisions that protect communities and the human rights of affected individuals, the report outlines concerns about the regulatory body governing the EEC’s broad discretionary powers and inadequate transparency in its work, as well as a lack of adequate preventive and remedial frameworks to ensure respect of human rights and environmental protections in areas designated for development under the law.

“The ICJ is encouraged by the fact that Thailand has adopted a stand-alone National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights – the first country in Asia to do so.  As part of the NAP, it has committed to reviewing and amending laws and regulations to ensure that they comply with human rights law and standards”, said Rawski.  “This report offers a set of concrete recommendations for law and policymakers to help them to fulfill this commitment as it pertains to the environmental and human rights consequences of SEZs, and the development of the EEC in particular.”

The report was based on extensive legal research, as well as interviews with over 90 people, including individuals from affected communities in Chonburi, Chachong Sao, Rayong, Songkhla and Tak provinces, as well as human rights lawyers, academics and government officials at the provincial and central levels.

Key recommendations to the Government of Thailand

  • Protect human rights by amending SEZ legal frameworks, EEC laws, laws governing land acquisition and environmental and labour protections, following meaningful public consultation in accordance with international standards, to ensure that:
    • the government bodies responsible for developing and administering SEZs and the EEC be independent, and operate in a transparent and inclusive manner including by providing public participation in planning and decision-making processes;
    • all persons have a minimum degree of security of tenure sufficient to protect them from forced eviction, harassment and other threats;
    • standards be in place to protect the environment, and to mitigate the impact of environmental degradation on communities; and
    • all workers enjoy equal rights protections based on the principles of non-discrimination and equality.
  • Adopt an amended SEZ Act that contains provisions that are in compliance with Thailand’s international human rights obligations.
  • Ensure that effective, prompt and accessible judicial and non-judicial remedies be provided to those affected by the implementation of SEZ and EEC policies; and
  • Ensure that companies operating in SEZs and the EEC carry out business activities in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Pick to PostEastern Economic Corridor (EEC)Special Economic Zone (SEZ)International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
Categories: Prachatai English

Thai Appeal Court decision paves the way for Asia’s first transboundary class action on human rights abuses

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-08-03 15:24
Submitted on Mon, 3 Aug 2020 - 03:24 PMFORUM-ASIA

Today, Cambodian plaintiffs representing more than 700 farming families won a landmark appeal allowing them to move forward with their class action against Asia’s largest sugar producer, Mitr Phol.

The transboundary class action Hoy Mai & Others vs. Mitr Phol Co. Ltd. is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. It was filed under Thai laws permitting a class action to be brought by foreign plaintiffs for abuses committed by a Thai company overseas.

The complaint accuses Mitr Phol of complicity in the forcible displacement of the families to clear the way for an industrial sugarcane plantation in rural northwestern Cambodia. Between 2008 and 2009, the families’ land was seized, their crops were looted, and their homes were demolished and burned. Some of those who sought to defend their rights were jailed.

The affected communities have been fighting for justice ever since. In 2015, the Thai National Human Rights Commission found Mitr Phol responsible for the land grab and called upon the company to “correct and remedy the impacts.” So far, Mitr Phol has steadfastly refused to provide any form of compensation to the Cambodian families whose lives it destroyed.

The decision recognizing class status, which was delivered today by the Bangkok South Civil Court, allows the families to bring the case as a group, ensuring access to justice and preventing the laborious and costly process of bringing hundreds of individual lawsuits.

“Today’s win marks a huge step forward for the plaintiffs and all the people affected by the evictions. The voices of those who have been harmed can now be heard. The court’s decision shows that access to justice is possible, and that their decade-long fight has not been for nothing,” said Eang Vuthy, Executive director of Equitable Cambodia.

For Thailand and the region, the decision changes the legal landscape, providing that class action legislation can be used in transboundary cases and to protect some of the region’s most vulnerable people.

“The importance of this legal precedent cannot be overstated,” said Natalie Bugalski, Legal Director for Inclusive Development International. “This is a David vs Goliath case that will redefine access to justice for the victims of corporate abuse in Southeast Asia and beyond.”

It is also a key test of corporate accountability. Mitr Phol is the biggest sugar supplier in the region and has counted some of the world’s largest consumer brands, including Nestle, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mars Wrigley and Corbion, as past and current customers. While Coca-Cola took initial steps to investigate the allegations against Mitr Phol, it failed to use its leverage to compel the company to provide redress to the victims in Cambodia. Instead, in 2018, Coca-Cola informed Inclusive Development International that it no longer sourced sugar from Mitr Phol. It has never reported the termination of the supply relationship publicly.

Mitr Pohl is also a member of the sugar industry’s “sustainability” certification body Bonsucro, which is under scrutiny by the UK National Contact Point for the OECD (a government body that monitors the operations of British businesses overseas) for failing to hold Mitr Phol accountable for its abuses against these communities.

For the families represented in this lawsuit, it has been a decade-long battle for justice.

“As a representative of the people in Oddar Meanchey province, I am very happy with this result, I hope to get justice in the future. We will all continue to fight until the end.” said Hoy Mai following the decision on Friday.

“I applaud the Thai court for supporting the Cambodian people in Oddar Meanchey by deciding that our case is a collective one,” he said. I hope we, the victims, get justice. According to the results, it is a new hope for our struggle going forward.” Said Smin Tit, affected community representative.

 

Pick to PostMitr Phol SugarClass action lawsuitBangkok South Civil CourtHoy MaiEang VuthyEquitable Cambodialabour rightsHuman right violation
Categories: Prachatai English

Young people mail their hopes and dreams to the future

Prachatai English - Sun, 2020-08-02 00:51
Submitted on Sun, 2 Aug 2020 - 12:51 AMPrachatai

At an event organized by the Student Union of Thailand (SUT) and the Popular Student Network for Democracy (PSND), young people wrote down their hopes and dreams for the future and put them in a sealed envelope to be opened in ten years’ time, while many expressed concerns that the country might not make it that long.

A student wrote the message "these past years I lost many opportunities and many of them are long-term. Who is going to take responsibilities?" 

The event, titled “10 years we wasted, 10 years we want,” took place in front of the Grand Postal Office on Charoen Krung Road. The organisers previously planned to hold the event in the courtyard in front of the building. But they found that the area had been blocked off, so they moved to the Si Phraya Express Boat Pier, but were once again prohibited from using the space in front of the River City Shopping Centre. They then moved back to the footpath in front of the Grand Postal Office.

The organisers put up ropes on the wall in front of the postal office, and invited participants, as well as reporters covering the event, to write down what they would like to see in Thailand in ten years’ time. Many messages contained their hopes for democracy and equality, with mentions of good infrastructure, press freedom, marriage equality, and state welfare.

The sign the organisers put up on the rope read "10 years in the past, 10 years in the future. What do you want to say?"

Participants and reporters gathered on the footpath in front of the Grand Postal Office building

One message read “Do you know that on this day ten years ago, we had to fight a dictatorship. I hope that, if you are reading this, our fight will be over.” Another message read “In 2030, I myself, a woman, with a partner who is a woman, will probably be able to get married.”

Meanwhile, several messages raise concerned whether the country will get there, worrying whether there will be true democracy after a decade. One message read “I knew it. We still have a military government,” while another read “Will democracy come first or will people starve to death first?”

One participant wrote "Do you know that on this day ten years ago, we had to fight a dictatorship. I hope that, if you are reading this, our fight will be over.”

"It's been ten years. Have we got democracy yet?" 

The messages were hung on display during the event, before being placed in a sealed envelope which will be kept at the Museum of the Commoners and opened in 2030.

A representative of the organisers also read out a letter they had written, which was sealed in the envelope alongside the messages written at the event.

Two messages wonder about marriage equality. The top one read "In ten years time, are LGBTQ couples able to get married?" while the bottom one read "In 2030, I myself, a woman, with a partner who is a woman, will probably be able to get married.”

“We agree that, if this country is to be a country in which every Thai citizen is equally happy, Thailand needs to be ruled by democracy only. Whatever our political movement we bring forward, the reason is our intention to see change in this country in a better direction in every aspect, to see democracy blossom in the future, to let future generations recognize the importance of the democratic system, of the rights of all, and above all else, of the values of humanity, because whenever the state does not listen to the voice of the people, the state will no longer be a state, and whenever the state obstructs the people’s protests, that state is considered to have lost all legitimacy,” the letter reads.

“Throughout the past decade, Thai people have realized very well how shameful it is to bow down to unjust power. For the past ten years, every Thai person has had to put up with the difficulty of paying taxes and laws of the land which are no longer sacred. Because of this, we cannot tolerate it for even a second longer, and we would like to see a true democracy for every Thai citizen whatever change it takes. This is the intention of all student organisations in coming together today, because all of us strongly believe that democracy is the system which will allow every single citizen to truly be happy and enjoy the rights and freedoms of the people to whom the country belongs, so that every Thai citizen will truly be free.”

One participant wrote "After 10 years, will democracy come first or will people starve to death first?”

Around 20 - 30 people took part in the activity. During the event, the organisers give speeches. There was also a poetry reading, as well as a rap performance and a short concert by the Commoner Band.

The Commoner Band also performed at the event

The messages were placed in the sealed envelope, which was then given to the Museum of the Commoners.

At least 20 police officers, both uniformed and plainclothes, were present in the area.

This event is the latest in the wave of student-led demonstrations which began with the mass protest at the Democracy Monument on 18 July and has continued for over ten days, with protests springing up in over twenty provinces across the country, most of which are led by university students and some by high school students. More demonstrations are still planned until 10 August.

Newsstudent movementYouth movementanti-governmentStudent Union of Thailand (SUT)Popular Student Network for Democracy (PSND)Grand Postal Office
Categories: Prachatai English

Nationwide protesters face obstruction by state authorities

Prachatai English - Sat, 2020-08-01 15:27
Submitted on Sat, 1 Aug 2020 - 03:27 PMChatchai Mongkol

Despite attempts at intervention at all levels by state agents, student-led protests against dictatorship have continued nationwide for a second consecutive week.

Police officers standing guard around the Democracy Monument during the mass protest on 18 July

Following the Free Youth protest on Saturday 18 July, young people in over 46 provinces across the nation organized protests in their hometowns with similar goals. The Free Youth demands were that the government dissolve parliament, put an end to state harassment of dissidents and draft a more democratic constitution.

Between 19 July-26 July, there were at least 30 anti-government events across the nation.

Besides large numbers of police officers at protests taking photos and playing audio recordings of laws protesters might violate, state agents at all levels — including university presidents, teachers, police officers and local political leaders — have also reportedly attempted to stop youths and youth leaders from attending protests.

University presidents banned the use of campuses

The presidents of Mahasarakham University in Maha Sarakham and Prince of Songkla University in Pattani issued letters banning protests on their campuses as the organizers planned. Both presidents cited Covid-19 concerns.

Despite the disapproval from the administrators, students and members of the public went ahead with their protests with the additional goal of protesting against their presidents for not standing with the taxpayers who pay their salaries.

Matichon reported that over 2,000 people attended the event in Maha Sarakham on Wednesday (22 July) evening, although the university kept the lights for the protest turned off.

Matichon also reported that a student at Maejo University in Chiang Mai was called in and interrogated by police officers and the university administration on his motivations and objectives for the event.

High schoolers face pressure from their schools

Student organizers at Satriwitthaya 2 School were called to a meeting with the school director regarding their planned anti-government event on 23-24 July. The Twitter accounts of those students were also suspended.

The event at the school did not happen as police officers and teachers were standing by at many locations in the school.

Triam Udom Suksa students held their protest on 24 July despite unfriendly weather and hostile authorities. According to iLaw, the school was ordered to close its gates by Pathumwan police. It was also reported that police officers and public health authorities talked to school administrators while looking at school CCTV footage.

Over 500 people attended a protest in Phrae on 22 July after high school students were told by their teachers that the school would not let them graduate if they attended the protest, according to iLaw.

There is also a leaked audio recording of a PA system announcement at a school in Phrae threatening staff and students that if they attended the protest, they would be violating the Emergency Decree and might be sent to a youth detention centre.

Authorities at a school in Nakhon Sawan talked to a student, called the student’s parents and threatened to fire the student after the student held a sign in public showing support for the 18 July student-led protest. Students at Kanlayanee Si Thammarat School in Nakhon Si Thammarat faced similar threats.

A 16-year-old Phetchabun student was summoned and interrogated by her school’s deputy director after she shared a promotional poster of an event planned in the province, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

Another 16-year-old Lamphun student was also hunted down by a teacher, TLHR reported. A teacher showed a photo from her Facebook account to students around the school in an attempt to find her. She said she had to hide in a bathroom and go home immediately after school with help from her friends.

However, students still appeared at protests, most of them with tape on their shirts to cover their schools’ names.

Harassment at home

Lom Sak police took one of the Phetchabun organizers into custody, without identifying themselves and without any warrant, to talk about the planned event. The police told him that they were prepared to press charges if the event went ahead, TLHR reported. He decided to cancel the event.

Police officers reportedly harassed youth leaders of Phrae, Lamphun, Samut Prakan and Phetchabun in their homes. Their actions included asking for the information about the protests, attempting to take photos of their ID cards without their permission, taking photos of their property, asking condo security guards for CCTV footage of an activist and threatening parents and relatives.

A 16-year-old in Lamphun was told that her name was on the “blacklist.” Another Lamphun student posted on her Facebook page that she would not attend the event planned on 24 July because she was concerned about her security after she was visited at her home by plainclothes police.

A Hat Yai youth was also visited by local government politicians at his house.

Related businesses also harassed

THLR reported that a Phetchabun business that agreed to provide electroacoustics for an event was threatened by the police with having its license taken away.

On the day of the protest on 23 July, Khon Kaen police were reported to have talked to drivers of songthaew buses that provided transportation for students to the protest in an attempt to get private information about them. According to iLaw, they asked which politicians are behind all these protests.

Police officers came to warn protestors at Kasetsart University on 24 July to not violate the Emergency Decree

Taking photos

Police attempted to take photos of protestors’ ID cards and their homes when they visited them. They also appeared at every event taking photos and videos using their phones, cameras and drones.

At the trash picking event in Chonburi, Tanawat Wongchai posted a video of police officers taking photos of participants’ car license plates. Over 1,000 people were at the event.

A protester in Pathum Thani was asked by an officer for their ID card. The officer attempted to take a photo of the card but failed because he was booed by all the protesters. Municipal officers in Pathum Thani also set up CCTV cameras on a nearby pedestrian flyover facing the protesters.

Other events scheduled at the same locations

Another reason Satriwitthaya 2 students had to cancel their event on 23 and 24 July was because the school scheduled mosquito spraying on both days without any notice.

Phayao youths organized a protest on 27 July, but after the event was announced, the Phayao Mueang District Chief Officer scheduled a volunteer event for local royal volunteers at the same time and location as the protest. However, the organizers decided to change the location.

Anti-government rallies continue for a second consecutive week

Despite all the attempts at obstruction, most protests happened as planned. Many anti-dictatorship protests are planned for next week. The Free Youth leaders said that if their three initial demands are not met within two weeks after 18 July, they will hold another protest on an even bigger scale.`

Saturday 1 August will mark a full two weeks.

Round Upstudent movementYouth movementprotestanti-governmentfreedom of expressionfreedom of assemblystate violencePolice harassment
Categories: Prachatai English

Idols in Thailand: Business models, objectifications and their political stances

Prachatai English - Sat, 2020-08-01 12:35
Submitted on Sat, 1 Aug 2020 - 12:35 PMPattanun Arunpreechawat and Chatchai Mongkol

While members of idol girl groups such as BNK48 are seen as products and are expected to be voices for the society, they neither see themselves as objectified nor obligated to advocate for social issues, but they have to adapt to a mixture of Thai and Japanese idol cultures. Idol insiders also explain the business model and its origins.

The panel, from left: Atipati Praihirun, Yatawee Limsripothong, Nayika Srinian, and Pichate Yingkiattikun

On 10 July, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) held a panel on idol culture in the Thai context, especially amid Covid-19. The panel consisted of Cm Cafe member Yatawee “Nowlim” Limsiripothong, former BNK48 member Nayika “Can” Srinian, idol analyst Pichate Yingkiattikun and FEVER founder Atipati Praihirun.

In Japanese culture, idols are singers, actors and dancers who sell their creative works, personality and appeal. It was developed from the “Cool Japan” policy adopted by the Japanese government after World War II to improve the country’s economy and national image through the distribution of Japanese pop culture.

Pichate explained that the industry reached its peak after the birth of the idol girl group AKB48. Idol culture reached Thailand in 2016 with the debut of AKB48's sister band, BNK48. While the idols must do what Japanese idols do, Pichate explained that they had to adjust to Thai culture as Thai people perceive idols as role models who have to set a good example for society, not just as entertainers.

Idol culture is all about business and marketing

Pichate Yingkiattikun

“Many might define idol girl groups as another genre of music, but for me, idols are business,” Pichate said.

Similar to alternative music, which contains rock, pop and jazz, idol girl groups might contain synth-pop, Pichate explained.

The turning point of BNK48 was the success of the song “Fortune Cookie” on their second album with more than 100 million views on YouTube. This is viewed as the Golden Age that generated more idol music and many idol groups.

The challenge faced by BNK48 is that they must translate Japanese songs into Thai. So one of the factors which determine the success of a song is its adaptability to the Thai context. For example, Pichate explained, Japanese songs usually narrate the events but when translated into Thai they sound ridiculous.

Another challenge is that idol groups are closely tied to the state of the economy. People may buy one CD to listen to the music, but the idol group industry revolves around making the CDs more valuable, such as by including a ticket to a handshake event. But as Thailand is facing an economic recession, idol groups and their stakeholders face an even greater challenge in how to deal with the situation.

Since the global pandemic, Atipati sees that conditions under the “new normal” might bring about new activities from face-to-face fan meetings to video calling. Still, Atipati is concerned that it might be difficult as the idol fan clubs are based on seeing idols face-to-face.

Idols as products

Pichate said idol culture is about turning everything relating to idols into products. This includes idol shirts, idol fans and idol light sticks. He also said the commodification of each idol is carried out as a package that includes the concept of the band, songs, apparel and all appearances.

Nayika Srinian

However, Nayika said she has never felt like she was an object, because an object does not have feelings but an idol does. She gave an example of handshake tickets that are beneficial to both idols and fans. This is because, as she said, fans get to touch her hands and she also receives encouragement and support from them.

There was also an observation on the regulations imposed on idols, one of which is that they are not allowed to date. Pichate suggested that this reflects Japanese culture as it’s still believed that women, if married, must become housewives. It should also be noted, he said, that gender inequality is pretty severe in Japan and this thinking is transmitted to AKB48’s sister bands and flourishes in countries where gender inequality still exist such as India, Indonesia, China and the Philippines.

Consensual sexual objectification

Nayika thinks it is up to each individual whether or not they see idols as sexual objects.

Atipati found that those who see idols as sexual objects are not usually in fan clubs but rather normal people who do not understand idol culture and its context. As the founder of an idol group, he came up with mechanisms to protect idols from harassment, such as no touching and no pictures allowed outside working time.

Atipati Praihirun

Pichate added that to consider idols as objects requires consent as there are certain frameworks set out by the company to protect the artists to which both sides agree.

Pichate said viewing idols as sexual objects is the old perspective. He mentioned the interdependent relationship between idols and fans in terms of fan service in which idols know how to behave in order for their fans to like them. He sees this as a role for idols to create their popularity.

Expressing political opinions is up to the idols

As there are different interpretations of the concept of idols in Thailand and Japan, Nayika said she needs to adapt to a mixed culture by being both a role model for society and a Japanese idol like AKB48. 

The former BNK48 member explained that being an idol for Thai people means that she needs to be a prototype for the people, and it comes with many expectations including being a voice for society. She said as Thailand is a free country, idols have full rights to determine whether or not they want to express their political views. She said the least she could do was to show everyone that she always keeps herself educated on current affairs.

Nayika said there is obvious political conflict in Thailand. If she remained silent, what she wants to change might not happen, because even if there are others who speak up, they might not have a loud voice like her.

Nayika suggested that people with fame should spread information on social issues without picking sides, just stating the problems and letting their followers think for themselves. She said that would be more beneficial.

A fact today might not be true tomorrow

Yatawee Limsiripothong

Nayika and Yatawee agreed that many celebrities chose not to comment on politics because they are uncertain about the facts and afraid of being wrong.

Yatawee pointed out that a fact today might not be a fact tomorrow. She believes that many people who start political debates do not have a full understanding of the issue. When looking at the facts from many sides, she becomes unsure of the true facts. Such beliefs restrain her from talking politics.

The Cm Cafe member clarified her beliefs by using an example. She questioned whether people who believe 1+1 is two would express their belief if everyone else in society said that 1+1 is three. Yatawee said if she was the one with that belief, she would start to doubt her belief and would not be brave enough to express it if such a scenario happens.

“If actually 1+1 equals two, but we’re in a society where everyone says that 1+1 equals three, then I am alone. Would you dare to speak?” Yatawee asked. “Even if I believe in myself, I can choose not to speak or I can choose to speak but that makes a problem.”

NewsForeign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT)Panel discussionIdol cultureGirl groupmusicpop cultureMusic industrygenderBNK48Cm CafeFEVERYatawee LimsripothongNayika SrinianPichate YingkiattikunAtipati Praihirun
Categories: Prachatai English

AI urges Thai police to not interfere with peaceful assemblies

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-07-31 15:20
Submitted on Fri, 31 Jul 2020 - 03:20 PMAmnesty International

Amnesty International issued a letter today (31 July) to the Royal Thai police to urge them to not arbitrarily interfere with peaceful public assemblies and called on the police to  to discharge their positive obligations to ensure and facilitate respect for human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Uniformed police officers setting up railings in front of MBK Center before the start of the rally at Pathumwan Skywalk on 24 June.

The letter reads: 

Dear Commissioner General

I am writing to you in light of ongoing and planned demonstrations in Thailand, and the Royal Thai Police’s detention of demonstrators and filing of criminal complaints against them solely for exercising their human rights by participating in peaceful protests.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Thailand is obliged to ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fully and effectively respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled without distinction of any kind, including political opinion. Authorities should not arbitrarily interfere with or restrict these rights. At the same time, they also have positive obligations to ensure and facilitate respect for human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Amnesty International recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a global public health emergency that requires a coordinated and large-scale response by governments to protect health, and has urged that any measures authorities take to restrict the exercise of human rights during the crisis are proportionate and necessary. To that end, we urge you to ensure that the Royal Thai Police, while discharging its responsibility to maintain order and protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, polices demonstrations in a way that effectively enables peaceful assemblies to take place. This includes refraining from filing criminal complaints against individuals engaging in peaceful protests; guaranteeing the safety and security of demonstrators; and allowing them to exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully. Amnesty International also calls on you to withdraw any existing criminal complaints against dozens of individuals, including students and political activists for peacefully protesting. This includes for violating restrictions on public assembly under Article 9 (2) of the Emergency Decree, which have been in place since late March 2020, and which authorities reportedly plan to lift. In most cases, demonstrators carrying out peaceful protests have complied with measures designed to protect public health, including wearing masks and physically distancing themselves.

Officials have detained and initiated criminal complaints against individuals engaged in small-scale peaceful protests since the imposition of the Decree, including under both the Emergency Decree and other restrictive legislation on public assembly. Demonstrators have also reported that police officers have harassed and intimidated individuals solely for their involvement in peaceful protests during this period, including ongoing student-led demonstrations calling for constitutional reform, resignation of the government, and an end to harassment of the political opposition. Police officers have visited demonstrators and their families at their residences and warned them against joining protests. Additionally, Amnesty International requests that the Royal Thai Police respects and protects the rights of human rights activists monitoring demonstrations. We urge police not to confiscate or destroy any written or recorded materials and equipment used to monitor the progress of demonstrations.

Amnesty International also urges you to ensure that the Royal Thai Police fully comply with the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, which in Article 3 provides that “Law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.” The principles of legitimate purpose, strict necessity and proportionality encapsulated in this provision are elaborated in the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which also set out practical measures to be taken by governments and law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance with Article 3 of the Code of Conduct and with international human rights law and standards generally.

Therefore, it is important for the Royal Thai Police to as far as possible apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force, and whenever the lawful use of force is unavoidable they must use it with restraint and in proportion to the seriousness of the law enforcement objective, and must ensure that assistance and medical aid are rendered at the earliest possible moment to anyone injured or affected.

The Basic Principles underline the right to participate in peaceful assemblies, in accordance with the principles in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and stipulate that in dispersing assemblies that are unlawful but nonviolent, law enforcement officials must avoid the use of force, or if that is not practicable they must restrict it to the minimum necessary. Thank you in advance for your consideration of these concerns.

Yours sincerely.

Ming Yu Hah

Deputy Director, East and Southeast Asia and Pacific Regional Office

 

Pick to PostAmnesty Internationalfreedom of assemblyfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Ultraroyalist pledges to end youth’s future

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-07-31 12:15
Submitted on Fri, 31 Jul 2020 - 12:15 PMPrachatai

To protect the monarchy, the head of an ultra-royalist group has made an announcement asking volunteers to infiltrate protests and take pictures of participants. While Maj Gen Rientong pledges to “end the future” of young protesters by creating a blacklist of individuals that Thai society must ban, legal scholar Sawatree Suksri offers guidelines for protesters to defend themselves.

On 28 July, Maj Gen Rientong Nan-nah posted on Facebook the launch of an “Extinguish the Future Project” where he aims “to create a list of individuals which companies, government agencies, and educational institutions must ban from being employed, enrolling for study or receiving scholarships.”

Maj Gen Rientong instructed his ultraroyalist volunteers to infiltrate demonstrations and take pictures of individuals participating in the protests. “Try to take pictures which show their face enough for us to track down who they are. Just that is enough.” He also asked the volunteers to send the pictures to his email so that he can distribute the list to various public and private agencies.

Maj Gen Rientong, the head of the ultra-royalist Rubbish Collection Organization, said that he will not receive any donations for running this project. In a later post, he said that his enemies “were showing up like crazy” after he posted about the project. He also said they save him time because he no longer has to send volunteers to take their pictures. Calling them “stupid” and “deluding themselves into believing they have future,” he said he was not afraid of them. However, he also asked them not to report his page. “If you’re so cocksure , send your name, surname, where you study, where you work as well,” said Maj Gen Rientong.

The anti-youth measure has begun with Mongkutwattana Hospital, which his family owns and where he is the current director. He said that all job applicants must show their social media record to the human resource department if they want to get a job. “If you have wicked behaviour, this place will not accept you. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the new generation has any value. They are just the stupid filth of the earth.”

Established in April 2014, the Rubbish Collection Organization (RCO) has been one of the most hard-line in combating lèse majesté speech on the internet. Maj Gen Rientong is a former operations director of the Army Medical Department. He joined the conservative protests which overthrew Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government in 2014. Recently, he was appointed as an advisor to the Prime Minister with regard to reducing the social and economic impacts of Covid-19. 

His initiative has caused a huge controversy in Thailand. While conservative hard-liners have been in favour of his project, many took to social media to say they do not share his ultraroyalist sentiment. Ticha na Nakorn, Director of the Baan Kanchanapisek Vocational Juvenile Training Centre and former member of the junta’s National Reform Council, posted on Facebook that “there should not be even a single adult in this country who thinks about extinguishing the future of young citizens who are our children and grandchildren.” She also asked the Prime Minister if he was proud of his advisor’s project.

Intira ‘Sine’ Jaroenpura, a Thai actress and singer, also posted on Twitter that this discrimination may violate Section 27 of the Constitution which guarantees everyone equal rights and liberties before the law. Companies who imposed such sanctions may also lose partnerships with international corporates. Sombat Boonngamanong, a high-profile political activist, asked on social media whose future is more gloomy, protesters with a pro-junta record or those with a pro-democracy record.

According to Sawatree Suksri, a law professor at Thammasat University, protesters have the legal right to defend themselves. On her Facebook post, she provided guidelines on how to respond to people surreptitiously trying to take their pictures. Anyone who is misled by Maj Gen Rientong into taking their pictures without permission can be charged under Section 397 of the Criminal Code with a light penalty of at most a 5,000 baht fine.

“Nudge and tell your friends or people nearby to help each other to dissuade them or give them a warning,” said Sawatree. “If they do not listen and persist, have these individuals held “politely”. Let me say again that you should do this as politely as possible. Don’t be rude or use force against them (other than for the purpose of being able to hold them, inviting them to accompany you to the police station or collecting evidence to confirm the offence. This is to protect yourself from them prosecuting you in return on other grounds).”

 

If the police do not accept your complaint, Sawatree said protesters can charge them for negligence under Section 157 of the Criminal Code. However, the act of negligence should also be witnessed and recorded. “You have to systematically ask that officer for their reasons (you can also record a video clip) and confirm your grievance about how you feel threatened by referring to Rienthong's post and show it to them.” 

Although Rienthong’s volunteers can be charged, Sawatree said the mastermind will still be able to evade any lawsuits. Section 85 which prohibits misleading people into committing illegal actions does not apply to offences with penalties less than 6 months in jail. This means Rienthong will get away with it while his volunteers have to face the penalties alone. However, a lawsuit is not the only way to take him down. “Even though criminal offences cannot apply, on issues of morality, medical ethics, the relevant institutions should do something about it.” 

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Thai King works hard in his own way, says professor

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-30 13:46
Submitted on Thu, 30 Jul 2020 - 01:46 PMPrachatai

Caption: In January, King Vajiralongkorn sent a message to the President of China concerning the outbreak of Covid-19.

In an opinion piece on Manager Online, a professor at the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) has written in defence of King Vajiralongkorn, saying that His Majesty prefers to keep a low profile as he works hard using Line and other modern technologies to give orders to his royal servants and follow up on them. The piece is one of many responses to negative sentiments towards monarchy as anti-government protests grow.   

“With regard to the issue that people make accusations and gossip that King Rama X rarely works, I know that it is not true. In fact, His Majesty works very hard and uses many methods specific to His Majesty,” wrote Arnond Sakworawich. The Assistant Professor at NIDA’s Graduate School of Applied Statistics said that he knows His Majesty’s working style from his observation of His Majesty’s role in the Tham Luang cave rescue in June and July 2018.

“I came to know this since the incident where the Wild Boars team got stuck in the Tham Luang Nam Nang Non cave. His Majesty had his officials stationed in front of the cave, and had them record videos and take pictures to be sent to him, and write reports to him all the time via Line. His Majesty also sought equipment, contacted divers and experts from around the world by himself, and gave advice and assistance closely and followed up every step” wrote Arnond.

Describing His Majesty as hard working, the assistant professor also criticized many Thais about their uses of technology. “King Rama X uses modern communication devices, the internet and smartphones to give orders and follow up work (while many of us Thais are sending flowers of seven colours, saying hi for seven days, and sharing fake news and messages around without checking and using it for entertainment more than work.)”

The Assistant Professor said that King Vajiralongkorn prefers to keep a low profile and people who work closely with His Majesty know this well. In the case of the Tham Luang cave rescue, “He went without sleep following all aspects of the situation himself. He followed in his own way, that is, His Majesty did not want anyone to know what he was working on. The King likes to be silent, and likes it to be a secret. He does not make announcements, attaching gold leaf to the back of the Buddha statue in the most silent way.

“Even people who worked closely for him such as the then Provincial Governor of Chiang Rai, Narongsak Osottanakorn, knew this very well and regards his royal kindness extremely highly,” wrote Arnond. “But everyone who works closely [with the King] also knows that he prefers working as silently as possible so that it won’t make the news.”

Recalling times when he was still the Crown Prince, Arnond remembered the King was shy. When the then Crown Prince went to the United States with the then Queen Sirikit, she asked him to give a speech to Thais in the United States. He “shook his head with diffidence and shyness. He said he was not good at giving speeches and spoke briefly before asking the Queen to continue.”

From listening to those working for Privy Council, he also learned that, regardless of which country he stays in, the King works at night and sleeps during the day, a tradition which can be traced back to at least the period of King Rama IV. As His Majesty works, he clearly assigns different work for each Privy Councillor. “Some are responsible for the three border provinces in the South, some for public health, some for agriculture, some for security, and some for education. He assigns work in a military way.” wrote Arnond. 

In 2014, Arnond Sakworawich was on stage of the PDRC mob which overthrew Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government and gave rise to 6 years of military regime. He also resigned from the directorship of the NIDA Poll organization in January 2018 after working there for only 3 weeks because a poll about the scandal of Gen Prawit’s luxury watches was put on hold by the university’s rector.

The opinion piece came out amid proliferating protests against Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government, many elements of which are seen by many as involving the monarchy. The protests also took place in July, which is the month of King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday. Many have asked the protesters not to involve the monarchy, including former red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, Army Chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong, the leader of the Kla Party, Korn Chatikavanij, and the rector of Rangsit University, Arthit Ourairat.

Meanwhile, the Thai monarchy is facing a growing challenge. Royal World Thailand reported that “His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn of Thailand has been facing decreasing popularity with a growing number of negative views among the people, from normal critics to great malice displayed publicly which has never ever happened in Thai history.” The reason for this is because “at this moment, the people still see that the King assigns various officers to represent him in some duties, rather than doing them mostly by himself.”

Even though “during the Coronavirus crisis, the King is seen working well by organising the medical supplies for the people” and “Thai media...never publicises any negative news and any royal scandals,” still “there are growing negative attitudes towards the institution, as well as waves of haters and great malice.” Even his traditional supporters “acknowledge well the negative flows” and “it is not how they used to admire the monarchy in the past.”

To restore faith in monarchy, Royal World Thailand opined that there needs to be “change from inside,” meaning the King must solve it by himself. “As people would like to see more concrete things, more transparency in the institution, one thing should be strongly considered; adaptation to the unstoppable modern age, particularly to win the hearts of the new generation,” wrote Royal World Thailand.

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