Prachatai English

Ensure accountability for Thailand’s 2010 political massacre

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-05-20 00:09
Submitted on Wed, 20 May 2020 - 12:09 AMFORUM-ASIA

A decade after Thailand’s deadly crackdown against anti-government protesters, accountability for the political massacre remains elusive, said rights organisations on its tenth anniversary.

People in red shirts gathered at Ratchaprasong Intersection for a commemoration event for the 10th anniversary of the May 2010 military crackdown on the red shirt protests. 

In a joint statement today, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Asia Democracy Network (ADN) call on the Government of Thailand to re-activate its investigation into the crackdown, and ensure transparent proceedings and due process for all involved.

‘The Government must ensure that activists fighting for justice for victims of this massacre are protected from reprisals. The Government should take genuine and impartial steps towards ensuring justice for all if it is to gain the trust of its people,’ the groups urged.

On 12 March 2010, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), also known as the Red Shirts, launched an anti-government march calling for the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of new elections.  They were protesting against political turmoil in the country exacerbated by a biased and prejudiced political system.  The demonstration intensified and spread to Bangkok’s business districts.

On 10 April 2010, the Royal Thai army fired ‘live’ ammunition against protesters to reclaim UDD areas, where protestors had set up camp, claiming its first casualties. The Government used the heavily armed ‘Black Shirt’ militants, who were responsible for deadly attacks on the army, as justification to intensify its ‘live fire zones’ around protesters.

By 19 May 2010, the excessive use of force, including the use of snipers and assault rifles, had resulted in more than 90 deaths and thousands of injuries. The casualties comprised mostly of unarmed civilian protesters, bystanders, volunteer medics, media reporters and state officials.

Post-mortem inquests of 33 individuals concluded that at least 18 were killed by bullets fired by the army. These included Kamolkate Akhad, a volunteer medic who was among six victims killed in Pathum Wanaram temple, despite it having been declared a ‘safe zone’. Akhad was shot inside the medic tent despite wearing a Red Cross uniform.

On 4 May 2019, Phayao Akhad, the mother of victim Kamonked Akhad, was informed that the charges against eight military officers accused of killing her daughter were withdrawn due to the lack of evidence.

A picture of Kamonked Akhad and the red cross vest she was wearing when she was killed has been placed at the front gate of Wat Pathum Wanaram alongside roses and red candles at today's vigil (19 May 2020). 

Efforts to hold state perpetrators accountable within the past decade have not led to any results. The Supreme Court in 2017 dismissed the cases against two top government officials responsible for the crackdown, citing a lack of jurisdiction. The Thai authorities have yet to issue post-mortem examinations for the more than 50 deaths in the massacre.

Advocates for victims from the crackdown face repercussion for demanding justice. Phayao Akhad has faced threats for speaking up and calling for justice on her daughter’s death.

On 10 May 2020, a group of people were threatened with legal repercussions after they used laser projectors to display the message ‘Searching for Truth’ on to the walls of downtown buildings connected to the 2010 crackdown in Bangkok. Three days later, prominent Red Shirt activist Anurak Jeantawanich (aka Ford Anurak), was arrested after an event commemorating the 2010 crackdown. Police accused him of holding a gathering which violated the social distancing policies under the Emergency Decree. He was later released on bail.

Ten years on, none of the operating soldiers, commanding officers or government officials who authorised the lethal military operations have been convicted of criminal charges. The massacre and the impunity with which it was allowed to happen, continues to mar the country’s image and creates a legacy of fear.

The rights groups are calling on the Government of Thailand to carry out a reliable and transparent investigation to assure its people that such forms of violence would never recur, and to ensure the protection of advocates pushing for accountability.

Those criminally responsible need to be held accountable, regardless of position or political affiliation. Without this accountability, the right to fundamental freedoms, and the ability of the public to trust its Government remains compromised.

Pick to PostFORUM-ASIA19 May 2010 political violenceApril-May 2010 massacreApril-May 2010 political violenceMilitary crackdownstate violence
Categories: Prachatai English

A decade later - Mother/WHRD still demanding truth and justice for daughter killed in military crackdown on 2010 Red Shirt protest

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-05-19 23:58
Submitted on Tue, 19 May 2020 - 11:58 PMProtection International

As the military crackdown on the ‘Red Shirt’ protests, which killed at least 94 persons and injured at least 2,000 people, sees its 10th year anniversary on 19 May 2020, Phayao Akhad, a Woman Human Rights Defender, the mother of a nurse who was brutally killed by the military in 2020, is still tirelessly seeking for justice despite facing threats, intimidation and legal reprisals by reason of her struggle for justice.  

Phayao Akhad at the vigil for her daughter and other victims of the 19 May 2010 crackdown at Wat Pathum Wanaram on 19 May 2020. 

Phayao Akhad was recognized as Outstanding Women Human Right Defender by the National Human Rights Commission in 2019, is a mother whose 25-year-old daughter, Kamonked Akhad, was shot repeatedly while working as a nurse and providing medical aid to the protesters in Wat Pathumwanaram during this Red Shirt protests, which had occupied central Bangkok from April-May 2010. The protesters were demanding then for Abhisit Vejjajiva, the then Prime Minister, to resign and dissolve Parliament which would result in a General Election.

The Inquest found that Kamonked was killed by being shot with multiple bullets by 8 military officers, who were stationed on the BTS rails which overlooked Wat Pathumwanaram. She was shot repeatedly even though she was wearing the white nurse’s uniform with a Red Cross sign, indicating that she was a health worker, whose lives must be protected on humanitarian grounds - never to be targeted, let alone killed, under any circumstances.

In 2010, Department of Special Investigation (DSI) took her case up to investigate further and forward it to the military prosecutor, who in May 2019 stated that they would dismiss the case as they claimed that there was no sufficient evidence and/or witnesses to proceed with the case. Phayao insisted that there were enough evidence such as the video recordings, photos, bullet cases, and even the testimonies of military officers, who did admit during the inquest hearing that they were on the BTS rails on that day.

Earlier, on 8 May 2020, Phayao, along with Pansak Srithep, the father of a 15-year-old boy, who was also shot dead by the military on 15 May 2010, went to submit the letter as a follow up to find out the progress of the investigation from DSI.

They also made the point that this case should not end up in the military court, who will also have a military prosecutor. The said that this case should be forwarded to the civilian court as the case involved higher ranking authorities in the civilian government, according to a lawyer familiar with the case. They also noted that so far that there has not been any summons to military officers to give testimonies as a part of the investigation.

Today, 19 May 2020, Phayao had requested to meet with the Justice Minister, being the Minister responsible for the DSI. However, the Minister was not available, so the meeting had to be postponed.

Annually, the families and relatives of those killed on 19 May 2010, would organize vigils at Wat Pathumwanaram at 17.00 to remember their loved ones who were killed.

This year, Phayao received word from the temple authorities that they could not use Wat Pathumwanaram  as it would be closed for cleaning. As of the noon today, the temple gates still remained closed, and a number of police officers are seen stationed in front of the temple. Phayao also have reportedly received a number of calls from the police officers inquiring of her activities.

When asked about her feelings about her struggle to seek justice 10 years on, she said that the Thai government is trying to forget the case, hoping that it will fade away from memory with time.

“I only want truth. It needs to be uncovered so it can enter the justice system. This way truth can be opened to the public because right now we are still divided. This is the only way to get back dignity of those who were killed. They are only normal people without any weapons but they were killed brutally.” She said, “Ked is a nurse in the so-called sanctuary zone, why was her life not spared?”

Phayao, who was a flower vendor, said that before her daughter’s death, she was politically inactive, but since the incident, she has been at the forefront demanding justice for those who died during the 2010 military crackdown. Since then, she has faced countless intimidation such as calls from the police and intelligence officers, visits from plainclothes officers, and other reprisals for her activities defending human rights.

Recently, after the laser projection of the #FindingTruth all over Bangkok, she received repeated calls from the authorities on 11 May 2020 to inquire whether she was a part of it and whether she has plans to organize any protest for the commemoration.

Earlier, on 10 December 2018 on International Human Rights Day, she participated in a mime with other activists in the streets in Bangkok, where she dressed up in her daughter’s nurse uniform. The message communicated to the public was that justice has not been achieved yet. Thereafter, she was charged for violating the Public Assembly Act, and later in July 2019, she was fined 1,000 Baht for failing to inform the authorities 24 hours in advance before the event according to the Public Assembly Act.

Protection International Thailand calls on the Thai government to provide protection mechanisms to Women/Human Rights Defenders (W/HRDs) who have been demanding justice for their families and relatives who were killed during the military crackdown in 2010. They must have the right to demand answers and accountability from the state without fear of reprisals. All perpetrators must be held accountable.

We are concerned that the prevailing impunity negatively affects W/HR Defenders, by amongst others, preventing them access to justice. It also has a hostile impact on movements they are affiliated with and on society as a whole, as it obstructs access to truth and seems to protect the wrongdoer. Such attitude will not prevent the recurrence of similar events of injustices. The use of State Impunity to deter and silence others from defending human rights is unacceptable and shameful.

The government must never obstruct justice and must ensure that all perpetrators be held accountable for their crimes in order to halt the culture of impunity in Thailand.

Pick to PostProtection InternationalPhayao AkhadKamonked AkhadMilitary crackdown19 May 2010 political violenceApril-May 2010 political violenceApril-May 2010 massacrestate violence
Categories: Prachatai English

CSO network petitions Dept. of Health to ensure access to safe abortion during Covid-19 pandemic

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-05-19 23:27
Submitted on Tue, 19 May 2020 - 11:27 PMPrachatai

Choices Network Thailand, along with a network of civil society organizations, went to the Department of Health (DOH) on 15 May to submit an open letter to the DOH Director-General calling for the DOH to ensure that women can access safe abortion services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Representatives of the network submitting the open letter

The Tamtang Group and the 1663 counselling hotline found that there has been a significant increase in the number of women seeking abortion since the Thai government declared a state of emergency in March. Meanwhile, the spread of Covid-19 has made accessing abortion services more difficult, as some government hospitals stopped providing these services to shift their effort to caring for Covid-19 patients and other hospitals limited the number of cases or opening times and became stricter about referrals from areas affected by Covid-19.

Not only that, the lockdown also limits the ability to travel to health centres in other provinces as well as access to the most effective forms of contraception. The Tamtang Group and the 1663 counselling hotline also found that socio-economic factors such as higher rates of domestic violence and the impact of economic crisis may also contribute to the increased number of women seeking to terminate their pregnancy.

Safe and legal abortion services in Thailand are available through the Referral System for Safe Abortion (RSA), a volunteer network of medical personnel, social workers and mental health professionals run by the DOH’s Bureau of Reproductive Health and Choices Network. However, the petition explains that, due to stigma and resistance from some healthcare providers, not all public hospitals provide safe abortion services and often women have to be referred to a healthcare provider in another province, increasing expenses and unnecessarily delaying their access to the service.

The increased workload of healthcare professionals during the Covid-19 pandemic also means that reproductive health services are delayed. Before the outbreak of the virus, the RSA had in its network 142 hospitals in 42 provinces. The number has declined to 71 hospitals in 39 provinces, only 40 of which accept referrals from other provinces and only 4 perform abortions after 12 weeks.

“Limited access to safe abortion services during the spread of Covid-19 may drive more women to risk unsafe abortion,” says the petition. “If there are no preventive measures or solutions, the number of women with post-abortion severe complications and death may increase. Moreover, there will be more people experiencing a low quality of life as they are forced to cope with additional children they are not ready to care for.”

Constitutional Court rules in favour of amending abortion laws

Choices Network and its partner organizations call for the implementation of immediate measures to give women better access to abortion services and for the DOH to take the following actions:

  1. Coordinate with the Ministry of Interior and other authorities responsible for the lockdown so that women seeking abortion are allowed to travel to other provinces
  2. Provide both short-acting and long-acting reversible contraceptives as measures preventing unintended pregnancy and make post-abortion contraception accessible, adequate, and widely available
  3. Implement strategies to ensure there is no shortage of abortion medicine in the near future
  4. Consider integrating tele-medicine for abortion into the health services system, as it can reduce the risk of both medical personnel and service recipients contracting Covid-19
  5. Inform all healthcare providers under the Ministry of Public Health to provide ultrasound examination without forced antenatal care registration
  6. Raise awareness among the public and all service providers about safe abortion services so that they may support women’s access to safe abortion.
  7. Collect and analyse national data relating to barriers to access to safe abortion during the Covid-19 outbreak
  8. Ensure that public hospitals are ready to care for women with post-abortion complications or any health impacts from clandestine abortions during the Covid-19 pandemic
  9. Develop policies and long-term strategies to increase the number of public hospitals providing safe abortion services to at least one per province.

“We[…]hope that the Department of Health will strongly consider the significance of women’s sexual and reproductive health during the COVID-19 crisis, and thus initiate immediate measures to reduce the barriers to safe abortion services. This is to reduce post-abortion complications and death rate caused by unnecessary unsafe abortion and show your strong support to health care provider who provide safe abortion services to women despite the pandemic,” says the petition.

The petition is signed by 56 organizations both in Thailand and elsewhere, and now has over 599 signatures on Change.org.

NewsCOVID-19coronavirusabortionTermination of pregnancyReproductive healthReproductive rightsBodily autonomypro-choiceDepartment of HealthBureau of Reproductive HealthReferral System for Safe Abortion (RSA)Choices Network ThailandTamtang Group
Categories: Prachatai English

Mahasarakham University students demand 50% tuition fee reduction and COVID-19 aid for all

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-05-19 23:22
Submitted on Tue, 19 May 2020 - 11:22 PM

Students at Mahasarakham University are demanding a 50% reduction in tuition fees, saying that the University must help every student without having to prove need, because every student is affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 13 May, the MSU Democracy Front Facebook page posted a message demanding that Mahasarakham University reduce tuition fees by 50% without students having to prove their financial need, because every student was affected.

“During the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are economic impacts both inside and outside Thailand, affecting the way of life of all students. The MSU Democracy Front group would like to call on the Mahasarakham University administration to consider reducing the term fees of students by 50% to reduce the cost of living and ease the burden on students’ families as a form of assistance without having to prove poverty or difficulty, because every student is affected. We invite all parents and students to join us in expressing our opinions. #MoveForwardWithTuitionAndHousingCostsReductionWhileIncreasingWelfareForAll (#เดินหน้าลดค่าเทอมลดค่าหอเพิ่มสวัสดิการที่ทั่วถึง) #WeLiveForThePeopleNotForDictatorship (#พึงเป็นอยู่เพื่อมหาชนมิใช่เพื่อเผด็จการ)”

Prior to the demand, Mahasarakham University came up with measures to help students who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic including a 50% reduction in academic fees for the special 3/2562 semester, a 10% reduction in academic fees for all students for the 1/2563 semester, a 3-payment instalment plan for tuition fees, and 1,500-3,000 baht grants for qualified students .

Pongsathon Tancharoen, a Mahasarakham University student, told Prachatai that he didn’t agree with the University’s measures to help students, especially the grants for students, because the University is giving out only 1,500 grants, which are not enough for all 40,000 students in the University. Also, students must meet qualifications to get the grants approved. Pongsathon saw that as too much of a limit on students’ access to university aid. It was like students had to prove their financial status and difficulties, which was no different from the problematic 5,000 baht state grants.

Pongsathon also said the University should reduce tuition fees by 50% for at least the upcoming semester, because the University has over 40,000 students, and all students have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Also, during the university break, the lower water and electricity use must have reduced the University’s bills. He said that the University should use that money to help every student in the University.

Pongsathon said the core idea of universal welfare will improve and develop the quality of life of students in every university. Universities must include students during the process of designing universal welfare.

“The heart of creating universal welfare is that we don’t see people equally. We shouldn’t see that this person struggles, so we must help. We need to see that everyone has different problems and we must create a variety of measures to help every student, everyone and every group.”

It was also reported that the Mahasarakham University Student Council has created a survey to collect the community’s opinions on the University’s measures and to check students’ needs, including welfare and tuition, and to present the information for the University administration to consider in developing better welfare for students.

NewsMahasarakham Universitystudent movementCOVID-19coronavirus
Categories: Prachatai English

Black May 1992 victims’ remains transferred awaiting memorial construction

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-05-19 22:11
Submitted on Tue, 19 May 2020 - 10:11 PMPrachatai

Victims, relatives and participants of the Black May 1992 incident attended the 28th commemoration of the mass protests that resulted in the overthrow of a military government. The remains of the dead were temporarily transferred awaiting the anticipated end of construction of their memorial within 90 days, after 7 years of work. 

The May 1992 Memorial (Source: The BMA Public Works)

On 17 May, the Committee of Relatives of the Black May 1992 Victims, including participants in the Black May incident and relatives, attended the annual commemoration at the Phreutsapha Prachatham Memorial, Santiphon Park, Ratchadamnoen Avenue, Bangkok.

Among the attendees are Adul Khieoboriboon, the committee chairperson, Jatuporn Prompan, former head of the red shirts’ United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship or , and Pipob Thongchai, a leading figure in the yellow shirts’ People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

This year marks the 28th anniversary of the Black May incident when people took to the streets to protest against the military dictatorship of Gen Suchinda Kraprayoon. 52 people were officially confirmed killed during the military crackdown while about 3,500 were arrested and allegedly tortured.

This year, the committee transferred the remains of the deceased, which were to be buried under the memorial, to Wat Chana Songkhram temple. Construction of the memorial has been delayed for more than 15 years since it was first mooted.

Adul said that the long delay was caused by objections from the Krung Rattanakosin Committee, the entity that oversees construction in the old royal capital island. After construction was approved, budget deficiencies prolonged the delay.

However, he said that this year the committee had received enough money to finish construction and a contractor is already in place. The project must be finished within 90 days. Construction of Santiphon Park, overseen by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, is expected to be completed within 60 days.

The construction of the memorial was initiated in 2013  but progressed slowly. At present, only the landmark sculpture is in place on top of a metal frame.

The committee also published a statement urging Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to consider resigning, and calling for the state to properly use economic and social stimulus funds to help affected people, not to assist capitalist groups, and to strictly stamp out corruption.

Jatuporn said that the victims’ relatives are now pushing for completion of the memorial and also setting standards of compensation that can be used in other political protests, regardless of faction.

“All the dead and injured should receive equal compensation, going back to 14 October 1973, 6 October 1976, May 1992 up to the protests of the PAD and the PDRC (People's Democratic Reform Committee) [the protest group which paved the way for the 2014 coup d’état] because no one should be killed for expressing a standpoint on democracy.” said Jatuporn.

NewsBlack May 1992memorialAdul KhieoboriboonJatuporn PrompanSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/05/87698
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: crackdown anniversary

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-05-19 17:30
Submitted on Tue, 19 May 2020 - 05:30 PMStephffCartoon by Stephff: crackdown anniversary

 

MultimediaStephffApril-May 2010 massacreApril-May 2010 political violencered shirt
Categories: Prachatai English

Deadly crackdown sees no justice after ten years

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-05-19 14:24
Submitted on Tue, 19 May 2020 - 02:24 PMAmnesty International

Amnesty International issued a statement on the 10th anniversary of the 19 May 2010 military crackdown on the Red Shirt protests, calling for the Thai authorities to immediate prosecute those responsible and provide full reparation for relatives of the victims and survivors. 

The hashtag #FindingTruth projected onto the wall of Wat Pathumwanaram (Source: Nutchanon Payakaphan)

Ten years ago today, Thailand witnessed one of the deadliest government crackdowns in the country’s history. While protest leaders and demonstrators have faced criminal prosecutions, no justice, truth or reparation has been served to families of those killed during the violence. The Thai government must now bring to justice those suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes committed during the May 2010 unrest.

On 19 May 2010, Thai authorities launched its final military operation to disperse thousands of protestors during months-long demonstrations in Bangkok, which were sometimes violent and included attacks against political opponents. Between 10 April and 19 May 2020, several violent confrontations claimed 94 lives, while at least 1,283 individuals sustained injuries. Protestors, journalists, bystanders, volunteers, police officers and military personnel were among those killed. However the cause of the deaths is still not known for some victims. On the 10th anniversary of the last day of the violent crackdowns, Amnesty International calls on the Thai authorities to immediately bring all those suspected of criminal responsibility to justice in fair trials before civilian courts, and provide effective remedies for families of those who were killed.

The protests began on 12 March 2010 when the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) – known as the Red Shirts – mobilized several protests in Bangkok and its periphery, and called for supporters from provinces throughout Thailand to immediately join them. Two days later, the UDD demanded that the then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolve parliament and hold general elections. When measures by the government’s Centre for Resolution for Emergency Situation – headed by then Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and General Prawit Wongsuwan, who is currently Deputy Prime Minister – had failed, army troops equipped with live ammunition were deployed to disband the demonstrators.

During these operations that commenced on 10 April 2010, the military used unnecessary and excessive force and unlawfully killed protestors, including three children and two unarmed medics wearing medical uniforms with a red cross. While tear gas and rubber bullets were fired, army troops reportedly also fired live ammunition at and above the crowds in the “live fire zones” adjacent to the protest sites. Demonstrators also reportedly used firearms to attack political opponents and security forces, and were accused by the authorities of arson and vandalism.

Following the violence, the government announced on 21 May 2010 that “an independent investigation of all the events that have taken place during the protests” would be carried out “in a transparent manner.” To date, none of the government officials, army commanders, or military personnel involved in the operations has been prosecuted, despite the Department of Special Investigation’s effort to file murder charges against ex-Prime Minister Abhisit and his deputy Suthep with the Prosecutor’s Office based on a court-confirmed death by military ammunition. The victims also filed a malfeasance case against Abhisit, Suthep, General Anupong Paochinda, then Army Commander who currently serves as Minister of Interior, and others to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, but the case was dismissed in 2015. Five police officers who were involved in filing were sentenced to four years imprisonment, then reduced to two, by the Court of Appeal for malfeasance.

Some of the leaders of the demonstration were acquitted of ‘terrorism-related’ offences by the Criminal Court in August 2019, but have faced serious criminal and civil charges in at least five other cases, one of which resulted in a fine of more than 20,000,000 Thai Baht (approx. USD 780,000). When human rights violations and abuses are committed, all those suspected of criminal responsibility must be brought to justice in fair trials before civilian courts. If state officials are found guilty of human rights violations, purely disciplinary or administrative remedies are inadequate and not in accordance with international law.

Since 2010, families and friends of the victims have consistently called for justice, but in response, some have faced intimidation by government authorities. Phayaw Akkahad, mother of a volunteer nurse Kamonkade Akkahad, who was shot dead at Bangkok’s Pathum Wanaram temple, filed murder charges against military personnel with the Department of Special Investigation in 2010. In May 2019, she learned that the military prosecutor issued a non-indictment decision on the case. In July 2019 Phayaw was fined for failure to notify authorities of the protest under the Public Assembly Act after she had campaigned for justice for her daughter. Most recently, on 11 May 2020, the Special Branch police made several phone calls at night questioning her about plans for the anniversary of her daughter’s death. Under international law and standards, remedies must be provided by an independent and impartial court of law, “especially when violation of the right to life is alleged.” A key witness to nurse Kamonkade’s death – Nathathida ‘Waen’ Meewangpla – faces ‘terrorism-related’ charges in relation to a grenade attack on Ratchada Criminal Court, in addition to royal defamation allegations under the vaguely-worded Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code.

To mark the tenth anniversary and demand justice, since 10 May 2020 a group of activists have projected laser-messages “Searching for the Truth” and “Killing Fields in Central Bangkok” on a number of sites symbolic of the crackdown including Pathum Wanaram temple, the Defence Ministry, the Democracy Monument, the large mall Central World, and Ratchaprasong intersection. In response, the Defence Ministry’s spokesperson Kongcheep Tantravanich labelled the act “politically motivated” and threatened to take legal action against the Progressive Movement, the group said to have carried out the campaign.

On the night of 13 May 2020, a number of Red Shirts gathered at the entrance of Bangkok’s Lumpini Park in memory of Major General Khattiya Sawatdiphon, known as “Seh Daeng,” a military advisor to the protestors, who was struck, and later died, by a sniper’s bullet whilst giving a press interview during the 2010 protests. After the crowd dispersed, police at Lumpini police station arrested Anurak “Ford” Jeantawanich, a well-known political activist who had organised the event, and accused him of violating the prohibition of gatherings set under the Emergency Decree and subsequent regulations issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Anurak faces two years in prison and a fine of 40,000 Thai Baht (approx. USD 1,250), in addition to a number of pending criminal charges against him as a result of his previous activism. Amnesty International has previously called on the Thai authorities to ensure that emergency powers to address COVID-19 are not used arbitrarily to restrict human rights.

The lack of justice, truth and reparation from the government for those killed and injured during the 2010 protests highlights the continued impunity for human rights violations, as well as the government’s disregard of international law and standards on crowd dispersal and the use of force. The authorities’ failure to address these violations creates a climate of fear among the public and allows room for future violations and abuses to go unpunished. The Thai authorities must immediately prosecute any current and former officials and individuals suspected of criminal responsibility, including those with command responsibility, with the guarantee of the right to a fair trial. Full reparation must be effectively provided for relatives of the victims and survivors in accordance with international law and standards.

 

Pick to PostAmnesty Internationalred shirts19 May 2010 political violencemilitary violencemilitary crackdown 2010state violenceApril-May 2010 political violence
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1 year on, disappeared activist Siam Theerawut’s whereabouts remain unclear

Prachatai English - Sat, 2020-05-16 10:41
Submitted on Sat, 16 May 2020 - 10:41 AM

8 May marks 1 year since Siam Theerawut went missing after being extradited from Vietnam along with other 2 self-exiled activists. His family’s attempts to discover his whereabouts have yielded no progress.

Siam Theerawut

Siam Theerawut, a self-exiled political activist, was reportedly arrested in Vietnam and extradited to Bangkok on 8 May 2019, along with 2 other Thai activists in exile, Chucheep “Uncle Sanam Luang” Chiwasut and Kritsana Tubthai. 

Siam’s younger sister and mother said that they have been checking on Siam’s whereabouts with the Thai Crime Suppression Division, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and the Vietnamese Embassy over the past year. However, every attempt failed.

“I don’t know how I will struggle on. We cannot dig into it at all. If we can dig into one point, we will find a way out. … If they give us only 1 percent of the information, that will be enough for us to move further, but there is nothing at all.” said Kanya, Siam’s mother.

“We miss him, we are concerned. If I did not have the monks to depend on, I would be in trouble. I went to see a monk and he said that he is not dead, is still alive. So I’m okay. It makes me feel that Siam is still alive.”

Before fleeing the country, Siam took part in “The Wolf Bride”, a period comedy that provoked some groups of people to file a lawsuit under Article 112 (the lèse majesté law) in 2013. Others involved in staging the play, Pornthip Munkong and Patiwat Saraiyaem, were arrested and spent two years in prison.

Left to Right: Chucheep, Siam and Kritsana portrait on passports used for entering Vietnam. Later, they were arrested for passport forgery.

Siam fled the country at the age of 29 at some point after the 2014 military coup when all Article 112-related cases were revived. In 2018, the authorities alleged that he was involved with the Thai Federation group, an anti-monarchy group.

Timeline of the disappearance
  • 5 December 2018 The Thai Federation group invite their followers to wear black shirts with the group’s symbol in Bangkok and other provinces. Many were later prosecuted.
  • 7 December 2018 Deputy PM Gen Prawit Wongsuwan welcomes the Lao Minister of Defence, General Chansamone Chanyalath and discusses the issue of Thai political exiles in Lao. Chansamone admitted that there was a movement on the Lao side but it had few people. The Thai Federation group operated through radio programmes. The Ministry of National Defence would deal with it, but the movement was nothing to worry about since they could do nothing.
  • 12 December 2018 In Lao, Surachai Danwattananusorn (Sae Dan), another famous self-exiled political activist, goes missing along with other 2 activists; Kraidet Leulerd, or Kasalong, and Chatchan Bupphawan, or Phuchana. The Thai exiles acknowledged that they would have to lay low whenever the Thai and Lao authorities talk about cooperation. But Surachai did not.
  • 13 December 2018 Thai PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha visits the Lao President in Vientiane.
  • 26-29 December 2018 2 bodies are washed ashore alongside the Maekhong River. DNA tests identify them as Kraidet and Chatchan. The internal organs had been removed and replaced with cement and the faces were mutilated. Surachai’s whereabouts remain unknown until now.
  • 8 May 2019 The Thai Alliance for Human Rights (TAHR) based in the United States reports that Siam, Chucheep and Kritsana were arrested some time earlier and deported from Vietnam .
  • 9 May 2019 Siam’s relatives file a missing person report. The Crime Suppression Division do not accept the report as there is no arrest report. 
  • 10 May 2019 Siam’s relatives file a request with the Crime Suppression Division Commander to be informed about Siam’s arrest. Human Right Watch and Amnesty International issue statements calling on the Thai authorities to disclose the whereabouts of Siam, Chucheep and Kritsana.
  • 13 May 2019 Siam’s family and friends go to the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand to call on the Vietnamese authorities to address the disappearance. They also file petitions with the National Human Rights Commission and the European Union.
  • 14 May 2019 Siam’s family and friends go to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Bangkok to give information regarding Siam. They also urge the OHCHR to help finding him.
  • 16 July 2019 Siam’s sister says that the Thai Embassy in Hanoi has asked the Vietnamese authorities about the entry of Siam and his colleagues into Vietnam. However, the authorities did not have any information.
  • 8 August 2019 Thai political activists in Europe gather at the Thai Embassy in Paris holding photos of 10 Thai activists who had either gone missing or been killed since 2016.
  • 12 September 2019 Siam’s mother says at the ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (APF) that the Rights and Liberties Protection Department (RLPD) told her not to take her son’s case to the UN as it could damage the country’s image.
  • 10 October 2019 Pranee Danwattananusorn, Surachai’s wife, files a petition with the Royal Thai Police Commander to investigate the disappearance of Surachai and other activists .
  • 12 March 2020 Siam’s portrait is exhibited in the “For Those Who Died Trying” exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, along with other cases of disappearance.
Round UpSiam TheerawutUncle SanamluangSurachai Danwattananusornenforced disappearanceChucheep ChiwasutKritsana Tubthai.VietnamSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/05/87620
Categories: Prachatai English

Labour Rights curtailed during COVID-19

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-05-15 19:17
Submitted on Fri, 15 May 2020 - 07:17 PMThammachart Kri-aksorn

Three stories show that the Thai government is failing to protect the labour rights of Thai nationals and migrant workers.

Prohibition of strikes and lockouts

The Thai Ministry of Labour has invoked the Emergency Decree to prohibit labour strikes and lockouts during the Covid-19 outbreak. Any labour disputes will be transferred to the Labour Relations Committee appointed by Chatumongol Sonakul, the Minister of Labour.

Minister's order to prohibit strikes and lockouts
Source: Government Gazette

The order has been in effect from 6 May onward. In a normal situation, the current law allows strikes and lockouts in irreconcilable disputes, except in essential infrastructure industries. The government can intervene only when the country is under martial law or an emergency decree or when the Minister of Labour rules that labour disputes may affect the economy or public order.

The order was issued in an attempt to mitigate the surging unemployment resulting from government measures taken to control Covid-19. On Wednesday (13 May), the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare called for business owners to use labour relations principles before they lay off employees, including cutting other costs, improving human resources management, and delaying lay-offs of current employees.

Anusorn Tamajai, Dean of the Faculty of Economics, Rangsit University, questioned if it helps. On 10 May, Anusorn shared his concern that as Thai labour relations have not been in the same tier as in the developed countries, the prohibition on strikes may increase lay-offs and worsen working conditions as business owners struggle to cut costs.

The problem cannot be solved by more prohibition, but by more protection, said Anusorn. In advice given to the Ministry of Labour, he suggested that to slow down lay-offs, the Ministry should propose to amend the Labour Protection Act and extend the period of compensation for all unemployed by two months, however long their period of employment,. For example, a laid off worker who qualifies for unemployment compensation at level 1 (has worked for at least 120 days but less than one year) should have their compensation period extended from 30 days to 90 days.

Jumping off a building

The Ministry of Labour said that as of 10 May, 1 million have enrolled for unemployment compensation. The surging number has overwhelmed the system, resulting in delays in processing money transfers.

Delays do not help people in hardship. On Tuesday (12 May), a group of unemployed gathered at the headquarters of the Office of Social Security and threatened to jump off a building unless there was an immediate transfer of compensation money by 15 May.

So far, Social Security is trying to help. Dr Duangrit Benjathikul Chairungruang, Deputy Minister of Labour, said that from 20 April to 11 May, the Office of Social Security had transferred 3,997 million baht to 706,633 unemployed. When employers close down their business by themselves or by order of the government, the unemployed will get 62% of their daily salary for a maximum of 90 days. Those who do not get approval to receive compensation can file an appeal to the Office by 18 May.

There was talk about whether the Office of Social Security should increase the amount of compensation from 62% to 75% of daily salaries. However, the Office has rejected the proposal, saying the increase will make the Social Security system unsustainable in the long run. Anusorn Tamajai agreed with the Office's position, saying that the Office should withstand the short-term pressure and promote the sustainability of social security.

Pregnant Myanmar migrant worker to return home

On 13 May, Theanrat Nawamawat, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, revealed that a 30-year-old, 4-month pregnant Myanmar migrant worker came to the Ministry to request help. Wa Wa Thuay had worked in Nakhon Pathom for four years with registration documents. After her employer closed the business due to the outbreak of Covid-19, she had nowhere to go.

Her husband was also working in Thailand, but had to go back to Myanmar to renew his work permit. He was prevented from coming back to his wife when the Thai-Myanmar border was closed due to Covid-19. Without a job, money or relatives, she wanted to go back to her husband and family in Myanmar. 

Theanrat said that the Ministry of Labour respects human rights and equal treatment for foreign migrant workers in Thailand. The Ministry coordinated with the Myanmar Embassy’s labour attaché to return Wa Wa Thuay to her homeland. Ministry officials will accompany her to the border at Mae Sot, Tak Province, and facilitate the paperwork for her to get home.

This one case is solved, but structural problems remain. So far, Thailand's policies towards foreign migrant workers have focused more on prevention and containment of Covid-19. The Thai government started to close its land borders on 23 March and allowed foreign migrant workers to extend their stay until 30 May. Leaflets, masks, and hand-sanitizing gels have been distributed. Checklists and screening procedures have been imposed in workplaces. 

According to the Ministry of Labour, there are 2,814,481 registered foreign migrant workers in Thailand as of March. However, the Office of Social Security reported in April last year that 1,017,732 foreign migrant workers have social security. More than half of migrant workers seem to be left out. 

Some of them have come to Thailand under MOUs that the Thai government made with neighbouring countries to make it easier for migrant workers to come to Thailand. Others come to Thailand through other channels, both legal and illegal. Usually, all need the help of employers or brokers to process documents for them. The problem is that the system is not designed well.

Johnny Adikharee, the leader of a Myanmar labour union in Thailand, believes that 95% of migrant workers do not know about the benefits of social security at all. Even for those who do know about it, the procedures are too complicated.

Suthasinee Keawleklai, Coordinator of the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN), said that to ask for compensation for lay-offs, a migrant worker not only has to ask for a letter of approval from the employer but also has to go through both the Department of Employment and the Office of Social Security. Most of the time, a migrant worker needs to hire a lawyer to get through the process.

Suchat Pornchaiwiseskul, Director-General of the Department of Employment, Ministry of Labour, insisted that there is no discrimination since the Thai government uses the same law for both Thai and migrant workers. If there is unfair treatment, they can ask the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare for support. Migrant workers who have no access to social security tend to work in seasonal agriculture and fisheries. Although they have no social security, employers tend to buy health insurance for them.

Still, the Ministry of Labour should improve the system to make it more accessible, said Sompong Srakaew of the Labour Rights Promotion Network. Sompong said that the way it is currently designed, the system forces migrant workers pay lots of money to get through the documentation process. It also makes migrant workers heavily reliant on employers.

"Sometimes, an employee paid an employer every month for social security, but the employer did not pay for their social security," said Sompong. "Or in the case of MOUs, where the Thai government attempts to legalise all foreign migrant workers, processing the documents by themselves or through middlemen is expensive. Workers have no money for it, like 1,900 baht for a 2-year visa. Some just become illegal workers, and then they get exploited by the brokers, the employers, or even the officials. "

For Sompong, a simple way to solve this problem is to design a single ID card for universal access. This will end not only possible discrimination by employers and brokers but also the document process, which is unnecessarily complicated. "I want just one card to guarantee their legal rights, by workers themselves having to prove that they have a job and an employer," said Sompong.

Round Uplabour rights
Categories: Prachatai English

Sex workers must be able to join social security scheme, says Empower Foundation

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-05-15 13:12
Submitted on Fri, 15 May 2020 - 01:12 PMPrachatai

During the Covid-19 pandemic, most sex workers have no income and no social security but are able to apply for the government aid scheme, says the Empower Foundation in a statement on Tuesday (12 May), which also called for the legalization of sex work and for sex workers to be able to join the social security scheme.

The Empower Foundation said that sex workers have been continuously affected by the economic decline since the end of 2019, and after places of entertainment were closed as part of government measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, many became unemployed and have no income. The Foundation also said that 80% of sex workers are caring for their families, and proposes that it would beneficial to most sex workers if the government provided aid for every mother or everyone who has to take care of family members, without having to collect more information which could lead to the stigmatization of sex workers.

However, the statement also noted that, as sex workers are not part of the social security scheme, they have to apply to the government’s “No one left behind” Covid-19 aid scheme. The Empower Foundation said that the fact that they are able to register is an indication that “the government accepts that we are one kind of worker in society, that sex workers are the backbone of the entertainment and tourism industry and are equal to others in the workforce.”

Noting that sex workers “will be the last group of people to return to work,” the Empower Foundation stated that, while the most immediate need is money for survival, sex workers must also be part of the planning process for the future.

The Foundation called on the Ministry of Tourism and Sports to take into account the opinion of sex workers and to let them be a part of the government’s process of planning for the future direction of the tourism industry in Thailand.

“The entertainment industry or service industry must not return to treating sex workers like criminals, exploiting sex workers, and making them the target of state officials’ corruption.

"Raising clearer awareness that our work is really work will help prevent such issues. However, this has to include the participation of the Ministry of Labour and the Social Security Office in making sure that employers follow labour protection laws. The Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act, which is an obstacle, also must be repealed and replaced by a law that protect everyone’s rights. This is a good opportunity to improve the life and work of hundreds of thousands of sex workers,” said the statement.

Mai Chanta, the Empower Foundation’s sex worker representative, told BBC Thai in April that, since the order for all places of entertainment to close came suddenly, no one had time to prepare.

“They don’t have a salary,” Mai said, “which means that the money they earned the day before the closure order will be their last income until the situation improves. They can’t live like this.”

Mai also explained that more than half of the sex workers in Chiang Mai are either from an ethnic group or are migrant workers, who are not able to apply for the “No one left behind” scheme. She also said that only a small group is covered by the social security scheme.

“The government has never paid attention to or assisted sex workers. What they do very often are sting operations and raids. I would like the government to see that we are important and help us more,” Mai explained.

Empower Foundation co-founder Chantawipa Apisuk also told BBC Thai that the 5000 baht aid money is not a sustainable solution, because no one knows when the outbreak is going to end and how long it will be before the situation returns to normal.

“Acceptance is more importance than aid money,” Chantapiwa said. “State officials have to stop closing their eyes and accept that sex workers exist. They are real, and they are important to our country’s economy. Instead of doing sting operations, arresting them, fining them, and stigmatizing them, it would be better for us to just see how important their occupation is.”

Newssex workersSex workSocial Securitylegalization of sex workEmpower FoundationCOVID-19coronavirus
Categories: Prachatai English

Group commemorates assassination of Seh Daeng; organizer arrested on Emergency Decree

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-05-15 12:20
Submitted on Fri, 15 May 2020 - 12:20 PM

40 people gathered on 13th May to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol who was shot by a sniper during a media interview. His daughter said that no soldier had stood with the people since. A political activist was arrested at the event and charged with organizing an group with the risk of spreading Covid-19.

People were offering roses at the commemoration venue.

On 13 May, members of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) or Red Shirts gathered at Lumpini Park for a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the death of Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol or ‘Seh Daeng’.

At around 7.20 pm on 13 May 2010, Maj Gen Khattiya was shot in the head while being interviewed by International Herald Tribune reporter Thomas Fuller. Another journalist present said the shot appeared to have been fired by a sniper.

This year, the police reported that 40 people attended the event, including Khattiyar Sawasdipol, Khattiya’s daughter, who is currently working for the Pheu Thai Party. 40 police officers were present. Nurses provided temperature screening.

Khattiyar Sawasdiphol was attending the commemoration.

Khattiyar said that the case of her father’s death is still with the Department of Special Investigation. She said that in the past 10 years she had not seen any soldier decide to stand with the people. She still hopes it will happen in the future.

On the laser projections about finding the truth about the crackdown against the red shirts, Khattiyar said that craving for the truth is a right. The truth is not dead and the perpetrators will receive what they deserve. She is happy that the new generation is interested in the truth about the red shirts’ crackdown.

Progressive Movement claim responsibility for crackdown commemoration messages

Seh Daeng was the first to be killed under the krachap wong lom operation (tighten the encirclement) overseen by the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), a senior group of administration and military officials dealing with the UDD protests.

On the same night, Chatchai Chalao was shot in the head. The post mortem report stated that he was killed by 5.56 mm bullet fired from a military checkpoint. However, the shooter could not be identified. The lawsuit to bring the perpetrator to justice has still not made any progress.

The event was held under the Emergency Decree which specifically prohibits activities that spread the Covid-19 virus. Anurak Jeantawanich, a political activist and one of the participants, was arrested and taken to Lumpini Police Station. The police said that he had violated the Emergency Decree by organising this gathering.

The arrest report states that Anurak posted on Facebook an invitation to people to attend the commemoration. The police found that many participants did not maintain social distancing and did not wear face masks. 

At 10.38 pm, 3 hours after his arrest, Anurak posted on his Facebook account that he tried to keep the gathering clean and in order. What was deemed to be an offence was the group photo for the media. He insisted on fighting the charge in court. 

Anurak was granted bail for 30,000 baht. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison and/or a 40,000 baht fine. He was released at midnight and escorted home by the police.

Anurak has been under police surveillance as he has organized many events since the military National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta seized power in 2014. During the 2019 ASEAN Summit in Bangkok he planned to submit a petition to the ASEAN leaders. The police promised to escort him to the meeting venue but suddenly changed course and detained him at the Royal Thai Police headquarters for almost 2 hours.
 

NewsKhattiya SawasdipholKhattiyar SawasdipholSeh DaengUnited Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)red shirtsAnurak JeantawanichSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/05/87642
Categories: Prachatai English

School sexual assault case a ‘wake-up call’ to strengthen child protection in school, says UNICEF

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-05-14 14:05
Submitted on Thu, 14 May 2020 - 02:05 PMUNICEF Thailand

UNICEF has issued a statement after the alleged sexual assault of two teenage girls at a Mukdahan school by their teachers and the school’s former students was reported in the media last week, raising concern about the lack of protection for children in schools and calling for the authorities involved to reinforce their efforts to ensure prevention of violence in schools and to ensure that the survivors are protected.

UNICEF has serious concerns about the alleged repeated rape of two girls, aged 14 and 16, allegedly with the involvement of their teachers and former students from a public school in Mukdahan Province.  This shocking alleged case represents a notable failure to protect children and is a strong wake-up call that more action must be taken to strengthen protection of children in schools.

No child should suffer from any form of violence, anywhere. Schools, in particular, must be safe havens for children. Every child deserves to be safe and secure in school so that they can learn, grow and develop the skills and confidence they need to lead healthy and prosperous lives.

One of the fundamental duties and core obligations of the education institutions, including school personnel, is to protect children who are in their care.  Teachers and other education personnel must play a frontline role in closely observing children, watching for signs of violence, abuse and neglect and reporting it when they have concerns. Teachers also have a critical role of preventing harm to children while in their care, including from school staff members. 

UNICEF commends the action by the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Ministry of Justice and the Royal Thai Police in moving forward decisively on this case and trust that the process will follow its course with extremely strong response to such a grave assault on children. UNICEF will continue to monitor developments in this case.

The education sector has an important role to play in preventing such incidents as part of national coordinated systems for child protection. The Ministry of Education should consider a review of the effectiveness of its protection measures, monitoring mechanisms, and response protocols. The review, in partnership with professional bodies such as the Teachers’ Council of Thailand, can also help in strengthening the code of conduct for teachers and other education staff, further ensure these codes are effectively implemented, and appropriate sanctions applied in cases of violation.

Confidential reporting channels linked to action must be established and staff and students alike must know how to use them. Schools should have clear referral pathways to social welfare agencies and work with multidisciplinary teams to provide support to survivors of violence and abuse.

The Ministry of Education, teacher organizations, schools themselves, and teacher training colleges must reinforce their efforts to ensure prevention of violence in schools.  They should commit to creating schools as a place of hope and opportunity, where children are safe to learn. Teacher training curriculums and professional development opportunities should include regular and mandatory trainings about the causes of school-related violence and abuse, possible prevention activities, referral and response frameworks and ethical personal conduct.

Caring for the children 

As important as reforming the system is making sure that child survivors of abuse make their way back on the path to realize their full potential in a supportive environment.  Being a victim of violence in childhood can have lifelong negative impacts on education, health, and well-being. Exposure to violence negatively affects the cognitive, emotional, and social aspects of the child’s development and can lead to educational underachievement.  But with support, children can recover to lead normal lives.

Social workers, psychologists, and medical personnel play a key role in the children’s recovery. Thailand should invest further in expanding its social service workforce, including on child protection, so that victims of violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect can be supported and cases are detected early before they become tragedies like the one in Mukdahan.

UNICEF calls on everyone concerned to ensure that children who are survivors of all forms of violence are protected, and that all action taken be in their best interests. 

The role of the media in protecting children 

The media must also protect children’s rights, their dignity and privacy. They must ensure that the news-making process and news reports are conducted in the best interest of the child and do not inflict further harm to the child.  UNICEF asks all media personnel not dig further into the specific personal circumstances of the girls but protect their identity and prevent creating social divide on the case. This type of attention could prove disastrous to the girls’ efforts to move on later and the media would bear a strong responsibility in such respects. UNICEF also asks the wider public to do the same and play its role in protecting the girls. 

UNICEF trusts that the justice system will do its part to shield these children from any negative consequences of proceeding with the case.  Fortunately, Thailand has strong measures to protect child victims and witnesses.

These very serious allegations remind us all that we must rush to establish robust child protection systems in schools, in social welfare, in the justice system, and within the community itself. 

UNICEF will continue supporting the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Public Health, among other agencies, to strengthen the child protection alert and response systems at all levels so that no more children fall victim of violence.

Pick to PostUNICEFSexual assaultsexual violencegender-based violenceeducationchildren rightsChild Protection
Categories: Prachatai English

Progressive Movement claim responsibility for crackdown commemoration messages

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-05-14 13:17
Submitted on Thu, 14 May 2020 - 01:17 PMPrachatai

The Progressive Movement, a group formed by former members of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party (FFP), claimed that they are behind the mysterious messages which appeared on Sunday night (10 May) at key locations of the May 2010 crackdown on the Red Shirt protests. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence is seeking legal action against those responsible.

The Democracy Monument with the hashtag projected onto the wing to the front left. (Source: Nutchanon Payakaphan)

On Monday night (11 May), the Progressive Movement posted a time-lapse video on their Facebook page. Shot from inside a van, the video appears to show the behind-the-scenes process of setting up the projection.

“May 1992|2010: The truth must come to light,” the post says. “How many times have unarmed citizens been killed in cold blood? How many times have the killers and those who ordered the killing not only escape punishment but rise in the corridors of power? Every time, the truth was erased, and justice never arrived.

“Enough with limitless power to murder hundreds of people with impunity. To those in power, you don’t have to tire yourselves out looking for who was shining the light to look for the truth. It’s just us, ‘the people’.”

Pannika Wanich, former FFP spokesperson and one of the leading members of the Progressive Movement, told BBC Thai that the messages were part of a campaign leading up to a series of activities the group has planned for 12 – 20 May.

“I don’t want to say “admit,” because we are not hiding it. No one owns this campaign, but it’s done by citizens who want to know the facts about an important event in Thai political history,” Pannika told BBC Thai. “We did the projection. You don’t have to look anywhere else, and we ask you not to threaten civilians who don’t have a voice.”

The Progressive Movement then launched the #FindingTruth campaign last night (13 May), announcing a schedule of activities commemorating the “Black May” protest crackdown in May 1992, as well as the May 2010 Red Shirt crackdown, which includes online screenings of the documentary “The Look of Silence” on 18 – 20 May and a Facebook live panel discussion on 19 May.

The group is led by former FFP executives who were banned from politics following the party’s dissolution in February, including Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul. Meanwhile, former FFP MPs who escaped the ban and remain in parliament joined a new party under the name Move Forward Party.  

Defence Ministry, police seek legal action against those responsible for the campaign

Khaosod English reported yesterday (12 May) that the Ministry of Defence is planning to take legal action against those responsible for the campaign.

Defence spokesperson Maj Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich said that the campaign was “politically motivated” and sought to create disunity in the country. He said that he “personally believe[s] it is inappropriate” and that it is “not beneficial to the current situation.”

“I see this as a politically-motivated act seeking to cause misunderstandings to institutions and organizations. Security officials are working to find the perpetrators, which should not be difficult for them,” said Maj Gen Kongcheep.

BBC Thai also reported that the Metropolitan Police Bureau is also investigating the campaign. However, Pol Maj Gen Methee Rakpan, Commander of the Metropolitan Police Bureau’s Division 6, said that he cannot tell whether the campaign has broken any law.

Pannika insisted that even though the team who did the projection went out at night, they did not break the 22.00 – 4.00 curfew, announced by the government as a Covid-19 prevention measure. She also said that none of the locations on which the messages were projected were damaged, since the projection does not affect the surface itself, and that their campaign did not cause any disturbance, as the light was not projected onto windows, there was no noise, and it did not cause any traffic jam.

She also said that the campaign does not aim to cause conflict in society, and that she thinks that unity can be created only when the truth is brought to light, and that forgetting will not lead to healing.

Meanwhile, Phayao Akhad, whose daughter Kamonked was among the 6 people killed at Wat Pathum Wanaram on 19 May 2010, told Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) that she received a phone call from a Special Branch police officer in the middle of the night on Monday (11 May).

Phayao said that she received the call at around 22.00, when she was already in bed, but since the caller repeatedly call her both through the application Line and through her phone number, she had to answer. She said that the officer was the same one who visited her last month, that he has her phone number and has been trying to add her on Line.

She said that the officer asked her whether she would be organizing any event on the anniversary of the crackdown and her daughter’s death, and pressed her to answer whether she will be going to the temple. Phayao told him that he will see if she is going to organize any event. The officer then hung up.

NewsProjection mapping19 May 2010 political violenceApril-May 2010 massacreApril-May 2010 political violencered shirtmilitary crackdown 2010state violenceProgressive MovementPannika Wanich
Categories: Prachatai English

Thais set up neighbourhood sharing pantries amidst Covid-19

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-05-14 12:57
Submitted on Thu, 14 May 2020 - 12:57 PMChatchai Mongkol

Starting with only five, Pantries of Sharing (ตู้ปันสุข) have reached all 77 provinces across Thailand with over 600 locations providing food and other necessities for those hit by COVID-19 pandemic.

A pantry location in Nakhon Ratchasima being re-stocked (Source: Khaosod English)

Thai business coach Supakit Kulchartvijit and his friends founded the Little Brick group (อิฐน้อย) and came up with the Pantry of Sharing campaign. The idea was to let people in need take what they need from the pantries, mostly filled with instant noodles, canned food, chips and household goods. The pantries are in community areas. People in the area are encouraged to stock the shelves with what they have left to share.

“Grab just what you need,” the sign in front of all pantries stated. “If you have something, put it in the pantry to share.”

Pantries of Sharing are inspired by the Little Free Pantry (LFP) campaign launched by Jessica McClard in the U.S. in May 2016. The LFP is “for neighbours helping neighbours.” It was launched mainly to help those who were experiencing food insecurity but were left out of the government programmes with the idea of not shaming people for needing donations.

“Food pantries operate as service providers, those who use them as clients. The LFP dissolves that professional boundary. Whether stocking or taking stock, everyone approaches the LFP the same way, mediating the shame that accompanies need,” says on the LFP’s website.

The campaign in Thailand by Little Bricks group started on 27 April with five shelves at four locations in Bangkok: Sukhumwit 71, Bang Korlam Market, Petchkasem 54 and Vipavadee 60; and one at Ban Lang in Rayong. The first five shelves were an experiment to see how Thais would react to the campaign.

Supakit posted on 29 April a video on his Facebook page, asking people’s opinions on what they thought would happen if there were public food pantries in Thailand. As the Little Brick group thought, most people doubted if campaign like this was possible in Thailand. The comments ranged from thinking that someone might take everything from a pantry to thinking that whole pantries would be carried off by someone to keep everything for themselves. However, two weeks after the shelves were installed, they received good feedback from the communities.

“The feedback was different for each of the five shelves depending on the circumstances where they were placed,” said the Pantry of Sharing Facebook page. “But the thing that was the same was that all five pantries were still there. None had disappeared. There were always people who came to put things in and some who took things. How much depended on the community. All five pantries had villagers from the area looking after them.”

The initiative by the Little Brick group has led to 618 food pantries in every province in the country as of 12 May. People who are interested in putting a pantry in their community are free to do so without consulting of the Little Brick group but must contact the owner of the property or the authorities where the pantry will be installed.

While the campaign was initially intended to create a sense of community sharing, it also created controversy on the internet. People questioned if this campaign was a good fit in Thailand as many videos have been shared online showing people taking everything from the pantries for themselves and local people demanding more.

A flight attendant and owner of one of the pantries Chatrudee Kopit, 45, told One31 News of her intention when she decided to put a pantry in front of her house and the frustration which led to the decision to take it away. Chatrudee said she decided to participate in the campaign after seeing Supakit’s video on Facebook as she has been volunteering with the airline she works for.

“They looked at everything and chose what they needed,” Chatrudee said. “They had no bag, they didn’t grab everything.”

What made Chatrudee want to keep going were notes from people in the area showing how grateful they were for what she did.

Chatrudee said everything was going well until 11 May, when it was raining, and Chatrudee decided to temporarily take the pantry back inside to keep it from getting wet but left the sign outside. While the pantry was inside, Chatrudee said people were still coming for what they needed. Some asked nicely but some demanded goods rudely. Chatrudee said one person said, “If you don’t have anything, why did you leave the sign out?” She took that as verbal harassment.

“I consider that we were threatened,” Chatrudee said. “I want to keep carry on, but I don’t want problems.”

That event led to Chatrudee’s decision to remove the pantry, as she was concerned for her and her family’s safety. Instead, she contributes by contributing to a nearby pantry.

On May 12, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha publicly criticized people who took everything for themselves. Prayut said this was unacceptable.

“I don’t want this to happen again in Thai society. We must be sympathetic to others,” Prayut said, “because if you keep doing this, there won’t be any people making donations and other people won’t get anything.”

Prayut also said on 13 May he has ordered Pantries of Sharing to be watched by guards and cameras to prevent such incidents.

Pantries of Sharing are not the first attempt to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before this campaign was launched, many people handled out donations in various locations in the country, but were issued warnings or charged with violations of the Emergency Decree.

Voice TV reported guideline from Hunger Free America for individuals who want to contribute to addressing food insecurity, donations are not the solution to starvation in the long-term; the solution needs government policies and structural changes.

NewsLittle Bricks groupPantry of SharingSupakit Kulchartvijitfood securityCOVID-19coronavirus
Categories: Prachatai English

Others saw Chula-Thammasat Online Markets as opportunity, I saw a success story of SOTUS

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-05-14 11:23
Submitted on Thu, 14 May 2020 - 11:23 AMBandhukavi Palakawong na Ayudhya

Cover photo from CU and TU Marketplace

Online Markets are flourishing during the COVID19 Pandemic. People from different backgrounds are coming together to create online markets and communities for the survival of their businesses. So many universities have decided to establish their own communities which now attract social network communities and national news.  

On 7 April, Thammasat Marketplace or Thammasat lae kan fak ran was launched by TU students as an online marketing solution during the lockdown. It was then followed by Chula Marketplace on 14 April. The Thammasat group now has around 162,909 members and Chulalongkorn has 218,045; members are alumni, employees, students and shoppers.

At first, both groups sold general goods found in digital markets like Shoppe or Lazada, but as the popularity of these groups grew, more extraordinary items could be seen such as famous or celebrity alumni, luxurious properties like condominiums, or even real estate, and exclusive promotions for Thammasat and Chula graduates. (See Sanook, PPTV)

Some products and posts are quite extraordinary, some are impossible to afford, and some are just for fun.

However, there are contentious debates about these sites: were they a sympathetic way of helping small traders, or rather for boasting and promoting elitism? This led us to think about what actually contributed to this phenomenon. I saw a direct but imperceptible link to  SOTUS. Others saw an opportunity, but I saw its brutal shadow – SOTUS, authoritarianism, and the root of Thai culture.

So what is the essence of the SOTUS system in Thailand? SOTUS is a concept that is presently embedded in Thai universities under a variety of names such as rap nong, bai si, and CheerRoom. SOTUS is the acronym (in English) of 5 concepts that represent the traditional Thai belief in harmony: Seniority, Order, Tradition, Unity, and Spirit. It was first used when Chulalongkorn University was still the Civil Service Training School in the Vajiravudh period. The system was modified from elitist culture in England (where it is known as fagging) in order to cultivate good “matriculated” students (nisit) to serve the nation's needs, especially as royal pages or public servants.  At that time, it was benign; there was no sign of the ferocity of current day SOTUS practices, with the norms of seniority and respect being prominent in many written works. Later, Kasetsart, Maejo and other universities took over and modified this concept, which have deteriorated into today’s SOTUS, a form of hazing. (See: Khaosod English)

During the freshmen year, initiation activities will be held such as rap nong, where freshmen will spend their time being instructed by seniors, CheerRoom, where students will be encouraged to know the history of the university and sing the university songs, and FamilyCode or FamilyLine (sai rahat), where seniors will play a puzzle game, and at the end of the game, reveal the secret and make a commitment to care of their nong rahat (initiates) as part of their family. All these activities are a legacy to the next cohort in the future, or the “T” of tradition. After the activities, due to psychological-peer pressure which is the signature feature of the SOTUS structure, some students may really feel appreciated because of the SOTUS method; some will inherit the culture by in future years turning into a head of their cohort, threatening initiates, or even disguising themselves as phi nen (fake freshmen) to increase the pressure of SOTUS. But a small number may reject the system. In the news, SOTUS is recognized as a notorious activity where Thai society is starting to question its purpose and necessity, not only in terms of its harshness but also the designated and desirable outcome of SOTUS. (See: Khaosod English)

“I was there in the Political Science Faculty of Chula, and I perceived that the system of lions (sing), like the Black Lions (sing dam: Pol Sci CU) or Red Lions (sing daeng: Pol Sci TU) or even white, grey, or other colours of lion, is actually meaningful and counts for something in the ministries. But we all know that the dominant lions are always going to be sing dam and sing daeng. …

 “I want to add this to clarify to all of you how cruel SOTUS and Pol Sci CU are. Just a moment ago, Khun Phun gave the example of seniority and brotherhood of Pol Sci CU that if you graduated with a Master Degree at Pol Sci CU then Phun and I are a brotherhood.  The cruel thing is … they do not actually count you as a member of sing dam. This is true. In Pol Sci Chula or any programme in Chula, if you are from a graduate studies programme, you will be not recognized as one of “our” brotherhood systems, because you never passed the hardest admission exam of Thai universities with the highest score (Chulalongkorn University takes students with the highest scores in Thailand) and also you never were part of our 4-year matriculation culture.”

Statement by Pannika ‘Chor’ Wanich at an ANTI SOTUS Panel in 2018 (translated by the author). (See full video)

On the one hand, it actually demonstrates the success of the system by fulfilling the original purposes of SOTUS –harmony, benevolence, and (fraudulent) love. Through the process of initiation to graduation, students will involuntarily absorb the SOTUS concept. The sadistic SOTUS-related activities will be overlooked as they will be compensated for with greater benefits after exiting the prison of an educational system, as you will acquire easier jobs, better connections, and proper respect.

On the other hand, do we willingly succumb to these systems of manipulation, patronage and authoritarianism, and do we all now belong to the SOTUS system which has penetrated and become embedded in Thai culture?

As a result of SOTUS, students become bonded in loyalty to the identity of the institution. The “colour” culture is now apparent in Thai society. For instance, when a new graduate applies for a job, Human Resources departments will characteristically consider their educational background, and if the candidate graduated from an institution with the same organizational vision or biases of the recruiters, then it will be easier for that candidate to get the position through this patronage system.

In a sociology or cultural studies paradigm, this is cultural adaptation for group survival embedded into existing Thai culture. I would say that Thai culture and the harshness of human nature created the SOTUS system, and at the same time, SOTUS also shapes modern Thai culture. This process happens automatically, constantly, and eternally. If people are not aware of its existence it will soon turn Thailand’s development into a dystopia. Elitism cultures related to universities also occur in foreign countries such as the UK, where they have Oxbridge, the US Ivy League, and Korea’s SKY. This also can be explained in sociology as group identity, which emerges naturally in every society and network. But a more interesting characteristic in Thailand is the integration of SOTUS and the basis of Thai culture, which together drive Thai Society.

Today, SOTUS has become less influential among many top-tier universities like Chula, Thammasat, and Mahidol. (See Khaosod English) Even though weaker than in the past, the results and outcomes persist. Chula and Thammasat are considered to have the gentlest SOTUS in Thailand. Some of the traditional freshman activities were abolished by students themselves or forbidden by the university, such militaristic training, intensive cheerrooms, and shouted commands (wagger). This is especially the case in Thammasat, where egalitarian ideologies are valued. However, I do not say SOTUS is totally abolished at either Chula or Thammasat. The concept and implementation of SOTUS has just changed into a “positive” SOTUS rather than a “negative” SOTUS. (See how Chula students image SOTUS). Although, there is no violence related to the activities, and while “S” seniority and “O” order are de-emphasized, remember that “T” Tradition, “U” Unity, and “S” Spirit are still present. Even without bloodshed, SOTUS is still SOTUS. Some people argue that since only the last 3 letters are being used, it is not completely SOTUS. I would agree that without the 5 elements, it is not SOTUS. However, I say that  Seniority and Order, with or without a negative perception are just being soft-pedalled and are subtly persist.

Now let’s move to the Marketplace groups. If you want to post a deal in the Chula or Thammasat online communities, you first need to confirm that you are a genuine CU or TU student. An example posting: ‘Hey, I am “Fristoff” from Thammasat, Commerce and Accountancy, Code 44, Table Kho Khwai (the table system indicates that you were an undergrad, originally passed an entrance exam, and so are an indigenous Thammasat student), I am here to offer you … ’ During Covid-19, these two groups, as well as other universities’ online marketplaces, are proliferating. However, due to this rapid expansion, there are cases of con men who pretend to be a university member in order to make deals, or in other words, scam others. If the swindlers are caught, then trust me, they face a frightening prosecution by TU or CU alumni, especially if they picked wrong guy like a law graduate.

So, is SOTUS all negative?  I would say no, not all. There are both positive and negative reinforcements, purposes, and images. Nevertheless, SOTUS is SOTUS, a rose is a rose is a rose, “never a rose without the prick”, a dictator is a dictator; it will always be. If you look back, you will certainly see that a red rose is actually blood, and SOTUS is actually the gore of an artificial culture that older generations invented to confine us.

I admire the creators of the groups, vendors in the marketplace, and associated members, who are really witty, for accessing existing resources, the foundation of societies and cultures, and making precious profits. This opportunity for survival impresses me but at the same time, depresses me.

Do I suggest that we abolish the SOTUS system by ending support to elite institutions? No, I am not suggesting that as you cannot stop it, because you and I (yes, myself) are already part of the cultural system and structure. Banning the products of SOTUS will not result in anything better. It is good to subsidize people, groups, and networks that you care about and love. But I hope this will remind you how we created our own nation and destiny, and how societies and networks were corruptly constructed.

If you escape SOTUS like I did, you will end up without hope and will be relentlessly pursued by the nature of a system that follows you like a shadow; because it is you, and you belong to the system. It does not tell you to give up, but I am telling you to keep fighting, or if you cannot, just be aware of its existence; at least it will brighten the truth of society. But remember, if you do not run, it will run to you – the cruel truth.”

Bandhukavi Palakawong na Ayudhya or “Keng” is currently studying at the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University (International Program). He is a former member and committee member of the ANTI SOTUS group, which is fighting against hazing, patronage, and the culture of dictatorship.

OpinionBandhukavi Palakawong na AyudhyaChula MarketplaceThammasat MarketplaceSOTUS
Categories: Prachatai English

Court to try artist over claim Suvarnabhumi Airport had no Covid-19 screening

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-05-14 09:32
Submitted on Thu, 14 May 2020 - 09:32 AM

The court has accepted a case under the Computer Crime Act against a 42-year-old artist from Phuket who posted that he underwent no Covid-19 screening process on arrival from Spain. The state prosecutor has called for a heavy sentence.

Suvarnabhumi airport (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

On 12 May, at the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road, the state prosecutor filed a case against Danai Usama, an artist from Phuket, over his Facebook post in March, where he claimed that disease control regulations at Suvarnabhumi Airport were not properly enforced.

Danai posted on 17 March that he was not subjected to any health screening process after his arrival from Barcelona, Spain, a Covid-19 hotspot. However, the photo he uploaded to show no screening activity was taken in 2019. The prosecutor charges that he uploaded false data into cyberspace and violated the Computer Crime Act.

The prosecutor charges that the photo constitutes false information. The airport had deployed thermoscan machines and had officials in every area including the arrival hall. The false data might have misled the public and led to panic and loss of trust in the airport authorities.

The prosecutor also asked the court for a heavy sentence on the defendant because he committed the offence knowing that this false information on a popular social media platform like Facebook would lead to fast and widespread sharing. Posting such misleading information about an important national airport could cause widespread public confusion and panic.

Via video conference, the court accepted the case and arraigned the defendant. Danai confirmed his plea of not guilty. The court set 20 July 2020 for the hearing of evidence.

Danai’s case has attracted international interest as it represents the use of legal action to prohibit the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression to criticize state efficiency. The arraignment process on 12 March was observed by Trial Watch.

Danai, under his Facebook alias “Zen Wide”, posted a message on 16 March 2020 that upon his return from Barcelona, he encountered no Covid-19 screening at the Immigration checkpoint at Suvarnabhumi Airport, nor did 500-600 other passengers from the same flight and a couple of other flights.

Danai was arrested during his 14-day self-quarantine at his gallery in Phuket on 23 March and taken to the Phuket Provincial Police Station to process the charge. He was then taken by plane from Phuket at around 17.00 to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) in Bangkok.

The police insisted on having him remanded in custody. By placing him among other suspects at Thung Song Hong Police Station and at the holding cell under the Criminal Court, the authorities made it possible for Danai to spread any infection he may have contracted from Spain to other suspects, which could have led to a widespread outbreak in the penitentiary system.

Source: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)

NewsDanai UsamaSuvarnabhumi AirportCOVID-19freedom of expressionSource: www.tlhr2014.com/?p=17703%E0%B8%AD%E0%B8%B1%E0%B8%A2%E0%B8%81%E0%B8%B2%E0%B8%A3%E0%B8%A2%E0%B8%B7%E0%B9%88%E0%B8%99%E0%B8%9F%E0%B9%89%E0%B8%AD%E0%B8%87&fbclid=IwAR0DSgtgKyGtWwzyLzEzUd_bd6LNGSmBcwhILveCy3-2QhJdvTV52OHlt28
Categories: Prachatai English

Cambodia's abusive “war on drugs”, rife with torture and corruption, must be overhauled, says AI

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-05-13 17:51
Submitted on Wed, 13 May 2020 - 05:51 PMAmnesty International

The Cambodian government’s three-year long “war on drugs” campaign has fuelled a rising tide of human rights abuses, dangerously overfilled detention facilities and led to an alarming public health situation – even more so as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds – while failing in its stated objective of curbing drug use, a new investigative report by Amnesty International published today (13 May) reveals.

The new 78-page report, Substance abuses: The human cost of Cambodia’s anti-drug campaign, documents how the authorities prey on poor and marginalized people, arbitrarily carry out arrests, routinely subject suspects to torture and other forms of ill-treatment, and dispatch those who can’t buy their freedom to severely overcrowded prisons and pseudo “rehabilitation centres” in which detainees are denied healthcare and are subjected to severe abuse.

“Cambodia’s ‘war on drugs’ is an unmitigated disaster – it rests upon systematic human rights abuses and has created a bounty of opportunities for corrupt and poorly-paid officials in the justice system, while doing nothing for public health and safety”, said Nicholas Bequelin, Regional Director at Amnesty International.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, launched his anti-drugs campaign in January 2017, just weeks after a state visit by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, during which the two leaders pledged to cooperate in combatting drugs. According to government officials, the campaign aims to reduce drug use and related harms in Cambodia, including by arresting people who use drugs en masse. As recently as March 2020, Interior Minister Sar Kheng called for legal action against all “drug addicts and dealers in small-scale drug use and distribution cases.”

Yet, like the Philippines’ so-called “war on drugs”, this campaign is rife with egregious human rights violations that are disproportionately affecting poor and marginalized people – irrespective of whether or not they use drugs.

“Using abusive approaches to punish people who use drugs is not only wrong, it is utterly ineffective. It is high time that Cambodian authorities heed the widely available scientific evidence showing that all-punitive law enforcement campaigns simply exacerbate social harms”, Nicholas Bequelin. 

Two parallel systems, one devastating campaign and no due process    In the course of its investigation Amnesty International spoke to dozens of victims of Cambodia’s inhumane anti-drugs campaign. They described being subjected to two parallel systems of punishment: some were arbitrarily detained without charge in drug detention centres, while others were convicted through the criminal justice system and sent to prison.   Their testimonies reveal a remarkable consistency in violations of due process leading to people’s detention, and no coherent method in determining whether people are either criminally prosecuted or sent to drug detention centres. Individual police officers – who are sometimes influenced by bribes – have significant discretion to determine people’s fate.   The case of 38-year-old Sopheap shows the arbitrary nature of the campaign. She started using methamphetamine occasionally in early 2017. Six months later, in October 2017, she was arrested in a drugs raid along with her two 16- and 17-year old neighbours.   “There were no more drugs left when the police came, only a bottle, a lighter and other paraphernalia lying around,” she explained. “They said they would send us to a rehabilitation centre… but they actually sent us to the court, and then to the prison.”   Many people described how they were detained as a result of police raids on poor neighbourhoods or city “beautification” sweeps that leave people who are poor, homeless, and struggling with drug dependence especially at risk of arrest.   Sreyneang, a 30-year-old woman from Phnom Penh, told Amnesty International how she was tortured following her arbitrary arrest during a drugs raid in Phnom Penh: “They asked me how many times I sold drugs… The police officer said if I didn’t confess, he would use the taser on me again.”   Those subjected to criminal prosecution consistently described legal processes which made a mockery of fair trial rights, including convictions based on flimsy and inadequate evidence and summary trials conducted in the absence of defence lawyers. Many accused people had a very limited understanding of their rights, putting them at even greater risk of human rights violations.   One interviewee, Vuthy, was only 14 at the time of his arrest. After being arrested in a drugs raid, he was beaten by several police officers and charged with drug trafficking. He described his investigation and trial: “I didn’t understand the process and what the different court visits meant. The first time I understood what was happening was when they told me my prison sentence. Nobody ever asked me if I had a lawyer or gave me one.”  Inhumane detention conditions The campaign, which continues to this day, was initially presented as a six-month operation starting in January 2017. It is the leading cause in Cambodia’s current crisis of severe overcrowding in prisons and other detention facilities.   This overcrowding crisis is causing serious violations of the right to health of people deprived of their liberty. It often amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under international human rights law.   By March 2020, the nationwide prison population had skyrocketed by 78% to over 38,990 people since the campaign’s start. Cambodia’s largest prison facility, Phnom Penh’s CC1, exceeded 9,500 prisoners – nearly five times its estimated capacity of 2,050.    This situation should have led the authorities to urgently ease extreme overcrowding in the country’s detention centres amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including by releasing all those held without an adequate legal basis – such as people held in drug detention centres – and by pursuing parole, early or conditional release, and other alternative non-custodial measures for prisoners, especially those most at risk of COVID-19.   Maly described how she and her one-year-old daughter were held in Phnom Penh’s CC2 prison: “It was so hard to raise my daughter inside. She wanted to move around, she wanted more space, she wanted to see the outside. She wanted freedom… She often got fever and flu. Because we had no space, my child normally slept on top of my body.”   While the total population in Cambodia’s drug detention centres is not publicized, all testimonies obtained by Amnesty International suggest that overcrowding inside these centres is just as severe as inside prisons.   All detention facilities are at high risk of major outbreaks of COVID-19, and many detainees have pre-existing conditions such as HIV and tuberculosis that put them at increased risk. Long, a former CC1 inmate, told Amnesty International: “If one person got a respiratory infection, within a few days everyone in the cell got it. It was a breeding ground for illness.”   Exclusive video footage from inside a Cambodian prison, published by Amnesty International last month, showed extreme overcrowding and inhumane conditions of detention. In response, a spokesman for the prisons department conceded that “every day is like a ticking time bomb” for a COVID-19 outbreak in detention facilities.   Yet, to date, the Cambodian authorities have failed to take any action to reduce the prison population, even as regional neighbours including Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia have released tens of thousands of people in detention who are at risk, including people held on drug-related charges.   Torture in drug detention centres 

Although drug detention centres claim to provide treatment for people with drug dependence, in practice they operate as sites of abuse. Every individual interviewed by Amnesty International provided detailed accounts of physical abuse amounting to torture or other ill-treatment committed by centre staff or so-called “room leaders” – inmates entrusted by staff to enforce discipline.

Thyda, who was held in the Orkas Khnom drug detention centre in Phnom Penh during 2019, told Amnesty International: “This [violence] happened to everyone and it was normal. Violence like this was part of the daily routine; part of their programme.”

Another, Sarath, described his first day in a drug detention centre, where he was sent at the age of 17: “As soon as the guard left, the room leader started to beat me. I was knocked unconscious so I can’t remember what happened after that.” 

Drug detention centres have also been dogged by reports of sexual violence and deaths in custody. Amnesty International’s investigation uncovered multiple new allegations of such deaths. Phanith, a former room leader, told Amnesty International how he witnessed an inmate “chained by the hands and the feet so that he could not move around. And the building leader beat him like that until he died.”

Time to end punitive approaches to people who use drugs

The Cambodian authorities’ hard-line approach to people who use drugs has failed in its primary aim of reducing drug use and related harms, and instead created a catastrophic public health and human rights crisis for the country’s poorest and most at-risk populations.

Yet there are clear, evidence-based alternatives. International drug policy has shifted in recent years and led to sweeping reforms in favour of evidence-based alternatives that better protect public health and human rights, including the decriminalization of use and possession of drugs for personal use. The Cambodian Ministry of Health has recently taken some tentative steps in the right direction by increasing the availability of evidence-based treatment in community settings.

However, it is essential that all compulsory drug detention centres be shut down promptly and permanently. People detained there must be released immediately with sufficient provisions of health and social services made available to them.

Moreover, the Cambodian authorities should move without delay towards implementing the measures they committed to at the UN Human Rights Council in 2019, in order to put in place a new drug policy that shifts away from prohibition and fully protects the rights of people who use drugs and other affected communities.

“In Cambodia, and across the world, the so-called war on drugs has failed. But there are clear alternatives based on scientific evidence that better protect human rights. The Cambodian authorities must consign the abusive policies of arbitrary detention and criminalization to history and embrace a compassionate and effective new era of drug policy”, said Nicholas Bequelin.

Pick to PostAmnesty InternationalCambodiaDrugtortureInhumane treatmentAbusedetentionCOVID-19
Categories: Prachatai English

Songkhla fishing communities demand authorities halt public hearings on an industrial zone megaproject

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-05-13 16:41
Submitted on Wed, 13 May 2020 - 04:41 PMProtection International

Villagers residing in various districts of Songkhla province under the name of Chana Rak Thin Network (Chana Love Homeland Network) submitted the letter to the Prime Minister through the provincial governor of Songkhla on Tuesday, 12 May 2020, demanding the authorities to halt a series of public hearings of a mega project that would turn over 16,000 rai of seaside land into an industrial zone.

Kaireeya Ramanyah, the Network's youth representative, sitting in front of the Songkhla provincial hall. (Source: Protection International)

The public hearing, set to take place in 3 subdistricts of Chana district, Songkhla Province from 14-20 May 2020, is problematic for the locals to have a meaningful public participation as the country is currently under COVID19 pandemic with Emergency Decree restrictions in place, as well as it is during the fasting month  of Ramadan. Current circumstances prevent the people from being able to travel and participate in public activity, the Network said.

The project, of which the investment is estimated to worth 18,680 million baht, was conceived on 7 May 2019 through  a cabinet resolution. On 21 January 2020, the follow up cabinet resolution spelled out details of the project and that it would be implemented mainly by the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SPBAC) as part of peace and economic development in the southern border provinces. The mega project titled ‘Chana, the Industrial Model City of the Future’, would turn the seaside 16,753 rai of land into industrial zone built for light and heavy industry such as biomass power plants, petrochemical production, biochemical plants, as well as deep sea ports.

The official documents by the SPBAC assess that the project would result in large-scale industrial pollution in forms of chemical waste and toxic waste that would pollute air and water in the nearby area. It states that there would regulation of such pollution according to the law but does not mention other compensation or reparation measures to the affected communities.

The villagers, who are mostly fisherfolks and dependent on the sea for their livelihood, point out that since the project was pushed ahead in May 2019, the authorities failed to provide comprehensive information about  the impacts to the communities who would be directly affected. The past public forums organized by the SPBAC were only used to hear about the concerns of the villagers but the detailed information about the project was never given, according to the Network.

Kaireeyah Ramanyah, a young woman human rights defender and youth representative of the Network, has  sat in front of the provincial hall since the group submitted the letter on the morning of 12 May to the provincial governor. On the personal letter that she wrote to ‘grandpa Prayuth’ which is published publicly, she said that she would not leave until the written order stating that the public hearings be cancelled.  

As “daughter of the sea”, she said that the livelihood of her family and communities are all derive from the sea. She grows up seeing the communities living and caring for the sea which sustained each other.

“The SBPAC is going ahead with the public hearing without informing the people. Those who live outside the 3 districts also could not participate but they are also affected. This is a project worth over 10,000 million baht yet we are not fully informed about it,” she wrote. “I asked grandpa Prayuth to rethink about the project especially when the processes are unfair.”

At night, close to 10pm of 12 May, the deputy provincial governor of Songkhla reportedly asked Kaireeyah to go home. She and some members of the network are still sitting at the provincial hall waiting for the answers.

In July and August last year, the Network has already submitted the letters to the Songkhla Provincial Governor demanding the government to provide the comprehensive information about the project and the impacts on the community as well as the plans to address to the concerns, yet the answers were not satisfactorily provided.

EnLaw Foundation, the environment lawyer’s human rights group, points out that the public hearing processes fail short of accommodating a truly meaningful public participation. The announcement regarding the public hearing was announced on 28 April 2020 and posted at various public offices including the Songkhla Provincial Hall, and 3 subdistrict offices, which are the area not frequented by the locals during the time of pandemic and Emergency Decree. The SPBAC website which posted 113-page information regarding the project is realistically also not a common way to reach out to the local people.

EnLaw also points out that the short window of the public hearing contradicts the government’s own measure under Emergency Decree and pandemic situation which enforces social distancing, banning of public gathering and public commute. It also violates the people’s rights to participate in maintaining and managing their natural resources sustainably, as stipulated in the 2017 Thailand’s Constitution Section 43 (2) and 57 (2). The hearing done in such manner also violates the rights and freedom to receive information, freedom of expression, and public assembly, the group stated in their legal opinion published on 12 May 2020. Latest news at the time of writing, indicates that the public hearing may be postponed.

Protection International, Thailand call for States to ensure that women/human rights defenders are able to operate in a safe and enabling environment, free from restrictions and attacks.

The government must not exploit the pandemic situation to increase the sufferings of the people by intimidations and/or prosecutions of human rights defenders and  must stop the mega development project that have enormous  impacts on the livelihood of the community .

The government should not use the draconian Emergency Decree to quash dissent, control the population, or as a means to perpetuate their time in power, which is also a recommendation by UNOHCHR to governments on 27 April 2020. UNOHCHR also emphasized that undermining freedom expression “may do incalculable damage to the effort to contain COVID-19 and its pernicious socio-economic side-effects.”

We demands that restrictions to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic be also enforced on all development -related activities. People’s rights and freedom must never be violated. The government must protect those who speak up about these contentious development projects that will impact communities, and ensure non-suppression of HRDs who play a very important role in continuing to care for their livelihood, communities, society, and the environment.

Pick to PostChana Rak Thin NetworkSongkhlaChanaChana industrial zonePublic forumPublic hearingcommunity rightEnvironmental issueKaireeyah Ramanyahpublic participationcurfewEmergency DecreeEnLaw FoundationProtection International
Categories: Prachatai English

Woman arrested again over 2010 protests despite acquittal on similar charge

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-05-13 13:29
Submitted on Wed, 13 May 2020 - 01:29 PM

The Department of Special Investigation have arrested a 46-year-old food vendor, alleging that she was part of an unknown armed group which attacked soldiers in the 2010 red-shirt protests, despite a similar charge being dismissed twice.

(Left to right: Punika Choosri and her food donation project sign said "Giving away food for free, 1 box/person, 50 boxes a day")

On 4 May, Winyat Chatmontree, a lawyer from the United Lawyers for Rights and Liberty, posted on Facebook that Punika Choosri, a 46-year-old food vendor, was arrested by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) for murder.

The DSI allege that Punika was involved in shooting and injuring soldiers during the protests by the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) or Red Shirts on 10 April 2010. Winyat said that the arrest warrant was requested on 7 January 2020.

Punika was arrested, detained and put on trial for murder once before in September 2014, based on allegations that she was among the ‘men in black’, an unknown group blamed by the state for several acts of violence during the UDD protests in 2009-2010. She was acquitted by the lower court in January 2017 and the appeal court in February 2020. She was detained in prison during the appeal.

The current charge claims that she was involved in an assault on Tanao Road where a soldier was shot in the buttocks. However, Winyat said that there is no evidence that Punika was there when the violence broke out. She was selling food at Ratchaprasong, another protest venue 6 km away. 

Before her latest arrest, Punika and her friends were supporting people in need in Bangkok because of the Covid-19 outbreak by donating 50 boxes of food a day .

The UDD’s main demand in 2009-2010 was the dissolution of the unelected Abhisit government, which had ruled the country since 2008 after a Constitutional Court decision had dissolved the People’s Power Party (PPP) led by Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat. 

The PPP was mainly composed of former members of the Thai Rak Thai Party that was itself dissolved after the 2006 coup d’état which ousted its leader, Thaksin Shinawatra. PPP voters’ dissatisfaction was stoked even more by many media reports that the military had played a large role in influencing some former Thai Rak Thai MPs to join the opposition, allowing a coalition led by Abhisit and the Democrats to take over parliament. This dissatisfaction led to mass protests in 2009, which were suppressed by the military.

Many doubts about the May 2010 crackdown remain. On the night of 10 May, mysterious messages were projected onto key locations crackdown. One of the messages, “#SeekingtheTruth” (“#ตามหาความจริง”), later trended on Twitter. 

NewsPunika ChoosriWinyat Chatmontreered shirtsUnited Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)2010 men in blackSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/05/87498
Categories: Prachatai English

CSOs call for an end to online sexual harassment against women activists

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-05-12 21:11
Submitted on Tue, 12 May 2020 - 09:11 PMPrachatai

A network of civil society organizations issued a statement on 29 April calling for an end to online sexual harassment against activists after student activist Sirin Mungcharoen faced a storm of social media attacks, the majority of which can be considered sexual harassment.

Sirin was one of the organizers of the “CU Assemble” student protest at Chulalongkorn University in late February. She has been outspoken about issues of gender equality and has posted content about feminism and gender equality on her social media accounts.

Recently, Sirin’s picture was posted in a public Facebook group and received comments which are sexual in nature and amount to bullying and sexual harassment, later escalating to her personal information being shared on social media.

“This group of people uses the principle of free speech to support expressions which are considered sexual harassment and online bullying, even though freedom of speech does not cover actions which support sexual violence, sexual harassment, incite hate, or any other action which leads to the incitement of crime and creates unsafe spaces in society,” says the statement.

“Such incidents have happened several times to activists who speak about gender equality, such as the case of online bullying against Sirisak Chaited, whose picture was shared on Facebook and who received comments which amount to sexual harassment, sexuality shaming, and threats, or the Buku sexuality classroom, which faced similar attacks.”

The statement says that such attacks create fear and reduce the space in which activists can safely speak about gender equality through attacking the person, shaming them and making them feel threatened. The statement also notes that many activists attacked in this way are women and LGBTQ people, and that issues of sexual harassment both online and offline are often overlooked.

The statement calls for an immediate end to sexual harassment and online bullying which can lead to hatred and threats towards activists. It then calls for human rights activists and organizations, the government sector, the media, and the general public to be aware of online sexual harassment, to not overlook the issue, and to join together to find a way of protecting activists working on issues of gender and gender-based violence. 

It also calls for the creation of spaces both online and offline in which people can discuss issues of gender equality with respect for others’ human dignity, and ask that said spaces do not support the reproduction of gender-based violence and condone personal attacks and violations of privacy on the ground of free speech.

The statement was first published on the Facebook page thaiconsent, inviting people to sign the statement. So far, it has over 200 signatures.

According to the 2019 Amnesty International report “Challenging Power, Fighting Discrimination: A Call to Action to Recognize and Protect Women Human Rights Defenders,” while human rights defenders across the world continue to face verbal and physical attacks, among other threats, women human rights defenders face gender-specific challenges because of “who they are as women or gender non-conforming people, and/or because the rights they defend are connected to women’s rights, gender equality and sexuality, which are structurally repressed in patriarchal societies.”

Women human rights defenders are working “in a context of discrimination, inequality, violence (or threat of violence) against them as individuals” and “against patriarchal structures, institutions, and practices that resist change,” says the Amnesty report, which also noted that they are more at risk of “certain forms of violence” including sexual violence and shaming or smear campaigns based on gender norms.

Women human rights defenders also face frequent online gender-based attacks, which the Amnesty report says are “part of a continuum of violence and structural discrimination women and gender-diverse people experience.” These attacks often target not only women human rights defenders but also women journalists and politicians, and often led to self-censorship. Forms of online attacks against women human rights defenders include “harassment and attacks on reputation and credibility through social media, cyberstalking, violations of their privacy, unlawful surveillance, censorship, hacking of e-mail accounts, devices and platforms; as well as online threats of sexual violence, verbal abuse, sexuality baiting, doxing […] and public shaming on social media.”

The 2020 CEDAW progress report card on Thailand’s compliance with the 2017 Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), complied by Protection International, also noted the increase in online sexual threats and harassment against women human rights defenders, which “seems not to be taken seriously by authorities,” in addition to judicial harassment, violence, and intimidation from state authorities as well as business enterprises. The report cited the case of activist Nuttaa Mahattana, who received online rape threats, and former human rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit, who was also harassed online. 

The report also noted that no known action has been taken by the Thai authorities regarding this issue. 

Not only that, as activist Anticha Saengchai noted in the panel discussion “Women human rights defenders in a pseudo-democracy,” organized by Protection International in February, women activists also face sexual harassment from within their own organizations. Anticha also noted that some human rights defenders still lack an understanding of gender issues and that civil society organizations need to have a policy on gender as well as on physical and mental health, since the health issues facing activists combined with the stress of legal prosecution will undermine the movement.

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