Prachatai English

Activists jailed, bailed for contempt of court

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-11-23 11:14
Submitted on Tue, 23 Nov 2021 - 11:14 AMPrachatai

On 22 November, 9 activists were found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to 10 days in jail by the Thanyaburi Provincial Court according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR). 3 of the activists are already in jail pending trial on other charges.

The activists in the detention room at the Thanyuburi Provincial Court on 9 August 2021.

The nine are Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, Sam Samat, Thanapat Kapeng, Panadda Sirimaskul, Thatchapong or Chatchai Kaedam, Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Sirichai Natueng and Nutchanon Pairoj.

Parit, Panupong and Sam have already been detained pending trial on other charges. 

Initially, the verdict stipulated that the nine receive a 20-day jail sentence. This was reduced to 10 days at the Pathum Thani Central Detention Center after defence attorneys pointed out that the defendants were students who admitted their crime and had earlier been jailed for the same offence.

The court also granted bail for the six individuals not yet in prison. They were released after putting up 10,000 baht securities per person. Parit, Panupong and Sam will be transferred from Bangkok Remand Prison to Pathum Thani Central Detention Center to serve their 10 day sentences.

The 9 were charged on 9 August for their role in a protest on 2 August 2021 to demand the release of 32 detained activists.

At their arraignment, the Thanyaburi Court approved their temporary detention, denying them bail on the grounds that they acted in violation of the law without regard for public safety, peace, and order during the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Reports indicate that the activists resisted getting into the detention van and had to forced into the vehicle by police officers. Police officers were reportedly took pictures of their family members. 

According to a Voice TV report, Parit may have been assaulted while being forced into the detention van as he was heard shouting "I can't breathe" and "help me."  Another unidentified voice in the van called out "people's revolution.”

Sections 30-33 of the Civil Procedure Code defines “contempt of court” as refusal to comply with a court order. The offence can also include the publication or public expression of information that causes disorder in a trial, misleads the public about a trial or encourages people to give false evidence or testimony. Punishments range from expulsion from court proceedings, to a fine of no more than 500 baht or jail sentence of no more than 6 months.

TLHR reports that contempt of court provisions have been used more frequently in 2021, after a sudden surge of pro-democracy protests calling for political and monarchy reform. Since July 2020, 24 people have been charged with the provisions in 4 cases.

In comparison, only 9 contempt of court cases involving 20 people were reported in the 5 year period between February 2014 to August 2018.

Newspro-democracy protest 2021contempt of courtThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Parit ChiwarakPanupong JadnokSam SamatThanapat KapengPanadda SirimaskulThatchapong or Chatchai KaedamPhromsorn WeerathamjareeSirichai NatuengNutchanon Pairoj
Categories: Prachatai English

Police raid live painting event, order erasure

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-11-22 20:11
Submitted on Mon, 22 Nov 2021 - 08:11 PMPrachatai

On Thursday night (18 November), police from Thonglor Police Station raided a live painting event organized by the Cross-cultural Foundation (CrCF) at WTF Gallery & Cafe and ordered them to erase the painting claiming that it is “insulting.”

Artist Tawan Wattuya painted portraits of detained protesters on the wall

CrCF director Pornpen Khongkachonkiet said that the event took place between 18.00 – 19.00. After the event ended, two police officers came to the venue to inform them of a noise complaint, but she told them that the sound they used was not loud and that they were already about to leave.

Around 20 plainclothes and uniformed officers from Thonglor Police Station then arrived and blocked the entrance to the alleyway. Pornpen said their behaviour was intimidating and prevented participants from taking their motorcycles out of the alleyway. An officer then came to tell them to erase the painting on the wall and asked her to go talk to him about the event.

Pornpen said that the police did not tell them why the painting needed to be erased and did not charge them. She said that the wall belongs to a privately-owned building that is often used for art events, and that they will have to wait and see whether they will be charged, but she believes that the police see even art as sensitive.

A Facebook live broadcast by one of the participants who confronted the police showed the officers arriving at the venue and ordering those who still remained in the area to erase the messages written around the painting, claiming that they are “insulting.”

The event was part of CrCF’s Safe in Custody Awareness Month, which aims to raise awareness about torture and inhuman treatment of detainees. During the event, artist Tawan Wattuya painted a portrait of young protesters arrested at a protest at the Din Daeng intersection while speaking about detainees’ experience. He also let other participants write messages around the painting.

The messages included “Fuck The King Kong” “Fuck The PoPo” “No God No K!-" "Only Humans” and “Royally Bestowed Bullet."

NewsWTF GalleryTawan WattuyaCross-Cultural Foundationfreedom of expressionArtistic freedomSafe in custodytorture
Categories: Prachatai English

Amnesty International's Write for Rights campaign to call for justice for Thai student activist

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-11-20 14:33
Submitted on Sat, 20 Nov 2021 - 02:33 PMAmnesty International

Amnesty International has launched its 20th Write for Rights campaign, which includes a call for justice for Thai student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, currently detained pending trial on royal defamation charges. 

Amnesty International’s record-breaking Write for Rights campaign launches today, marking 20 years of the global letter-writing drive. Since 2001, the organization has collected millions of messages written in support of people who are unjustly detained or persecuted, and Write for Rights has become the world’s biggest human rights event.

This year, Amnesty International is calling for justice for 10 more brave individuals and groups, including a citizen journalist imprisoned in China for reporting on Covid-19, an environmental activist imprisoned in Guatemala for campaigning against the destruction of one of his country’s sacred rivers, a teenage journalist from the occupied West Bank and a Mexican women’s rights activist who survived a police shooting.

“Every year, Write for Rights offers a lifeline for people around the world whose human rights are under attack, simply because they stood up for what they believe in. They are challenging inequality, discrimination, political repression and campaigning to protect all our rights, whether for environmental justice or against the death penalty. The Write for Rights campaign signifies everything Amnesty stands for – people from all over the world coming with one voice, in global solidarity, to challenge injustice,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“They need you to stand with them – whether that’s through a tweet, a signature or a letter to those in authority. Sometimes the smallest act can make the biggest difference. The last 20 years of Write for Rights shows words really do have power.” 

Every December, people around the world write millions of letters, emails, tweets, Facebook posts and postcards in support of those whose human rights are under attack. Write for Rights has helped transform the lives of more than 100 people since 2001, freeing them from torture, harassment, or unjust imprisonment. 

One of the cases featured in this year’s campaign is 15-year-old Janna Jihad, who grew up in the small Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh. In 2009, when Janna was three, her community began to hold weekly peaceful demonstrations against the occupation, which were met with violence by Israeli forces. When Janna was seven, she began using her mother’s phone to record the experiences of her community, and she has been recognized as one of the youngest ever human rights reporters. 

Janna has faced death threats and intimidation for her work, but is determined to keep speaking out. She said:

“Being raised in an activist family – hearing the stories of my grandma or grandpa, listening to my uncles talk about getting arrested, learning about the resistance -- inspired me to not stay silent. Staying silent in such situations is impossible. Why would I stay silent if I want to change the reality of what we’re living through and what we’re still going through?” 

Amnesty International is calling on supporters to write letters to demand protection for Janna. 

Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul

Amnesty International is also calling for justice for:    

  • Mikita Zalatarou, who just 16 when he was arrested after being caught up in crowds leaving a protest in Belarus. He was held in solitary confinement where he was reportedly tortured. 
  • Wendy Galarza, who was shot after attending a protest to demand justice for a murdered woman in Cancún, Mexico. 
  • Bernardo Caal Xol, who is imprisoned in Guatemala for campaigning against the destruction of the river Cahabón.
  • Citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, imprisoned in China for her work reporting on the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan.
  • Panusaya ("Rung”) Sithijirawattanakul, a 22-year-old activist who is facing life in prison for calling for freedom and democracy in Thailand.
  • Imoleayo Adeyeun Michael, who is facing prison for taking part in the #EndSARs movement in Nigeria.
  • Anna Sharyhina and Vira Chernygina, who run an LGBTI organization in Ukraine. Anna and Vera have been attacked and abused, and the authorities have failed to protect them.
  • Mohamed Baker, a lawyer imprisoned in Egypt. Mohamed has dedicated his life to protecting the human rights of others. 
  • Ciham Ali from Eritrea, who has been missing for more than eight years. When she was 15, she was taken by the Eritrean authorities while trying to leave the country and has not been seen since.

Write for Rights began 20 years ago in Warsaw, Poland, when a group of friends decided to celebrate Human Rights Day (10 December) with a 24-hour letter-writing marathon. From 2,326 letters in 2001 to 4.5 million letters, tweets and petition signatures in 2021, Write for Rights has grown into the world’s biggest human rights campaign. 

It's a campaign that really does work - as Jani Silva, an environmental activist from Colombia, can attest. Jani’s fearless opposition to environment contamination and human rights violations has led to harassment, intimidation and death threats. In 2020, more than 400,000 people took action through Write for Rights, calling for her protection.

Jani said:

“I am so very grateful for the letters. From the bottom of my heart, this campaign has kept me alive. It’s what has stopped them from killing me because they know that you are there.”

Pick to PostAmnesty InternationalWrite for RightsPanusaya Sithijirawattanakulright to bailPre-trial detentionarbitrary detentionstudent activistStudent protest 2020pro-democracy protest 2021
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Loy Kratong 2021

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-11-20 14:21
Submitted on Sat, 20 Nov 2021 - 02:21 PMCartoon by Stephff: Loy Kratong 2021

MultimediaStephffLoy Kratong
Categories: Prachatai English

Marriage law does not violate the Constitution, says Constitutional Court

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-11-18 18:48
Submitted on Thu, 18 Nov 2021 - 06:48 PMPrachatai

The Thai Constitutional Court ruled yesterday (17 November) that the current Thai marriage law, which states that marriage can only be contracted between a man and a woman, does not violate the Constitution.

The Court ruled that Article 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code, which governs marriage, does not violate Sections 25, 26 or 27 of the 2017 Constitution, after a petition filed by Permsap Sae-Ung and Puangphet Hengkham was forwarded to the Constitutional Court by the Central Juvenile and Family Court.

It also observed that parliament, the cabinet, and other relevant agencies should draft legislation to grant rights to LGBTQ people.

Under Section 27 of the 2017 Constitution, all persons are “equal before the law, and shall have rights and liberties and be protected equally under the law.” This section also states that “unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of differences in origin, race, language, sex, age, disability, physical or health condition, personal status, economic and social standing, religious belief, education, or political view which is not contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, or on any other grounds shall not be permitted.”

In early 2019, Permsap and Puangphet along with For-SOGI, filed a complaint with the Ombudsman on the grounds that denying marriage registration to LGBTQ couples is discrimination. However, the Ombudsman ruled that such denial is not discrimination since the law only considers gender assigned at birth.

Permsap and Puangphet, together with For-SOGI representatives, then went to directly file a petition asking the Court to rule whether Article 1448 is in violation of Section 27 of the Constitution. However, their petition was dismissed on the grounds that they needed to follow administrative procedure as denying marriage registration is an administrative act.

On 14 February 2020, Permsap and Puangphet went to the Bangkok Yai District Office to request registration of their marriage. After they were refused, they appointed a lawyer to file a complaint with the Central Juvenile and Family Court to have the Court order the registrar to register their marriage, or to forward their complaint to the Constitutional Court to have the Constitutional Court rule whether Article 1448 violates the Constitution.

Two bills on marriages for LGBTQ couples are currently in progress: a bill proposing amendments to the Civil and Commercial Code, which was proposed by MPs from the Move Forward Party (MFP), and the Civil Partnership bill, proposed by the Ministry of Justice.

The amendments to the Civil and Commercial Code propose that the terminology used in the law be changed to use “spouse” instead of “husband” and “wife” and “person” instead of “man” and “woman.” It also proposed to raise the age at which a person can legally marry from 17 to 18 years.

These changes allow individuals to be legally married regardless of gender, and ensure that they receive equal rights, duties, and protection under the law. If the bill passes, LGBT couples who have registered their marriage will be able to adopt children together, make medical decisions on behalf of their partner, and in cases where one partner dies, the other will be able to inherit from their partner and make legal decisions about their partner’s assets.

The bill was submitted to parliament in June 2020. It has yet to go before parliament, although it has already appeared on parliament agenda.

Meanwhile, the Civil Partnership bill was approved by the Cabinet in June 2020, but still has to be approved by parliament before it becomes law.

This bill defines “civil partnership” as a union between two people of the same gender. To register as civil partners, both persons must be at least 17 years old, and one or both must be a Thai national.

The bill allows civil partners to adopt children, and gives them the power of attorney to act on behalf of their injured or dead partner in a legal proceeding according to the Criminal Procedure Code. It also includes a section on the properties of civil partners, which is separated into personal property and property acquired after entering into a partnership.

The Civil Partnership bill has been criticized by civil society for not giving LGBTQ couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, while putting LGBTQ couples under a different law could deepen the stigma against the LGBTQ community in Thailand and relegate them to the position of second-class citizens.

 

NewsConstitutional courtmarriage equalityLGBTQLGBT rightsDiscrimination against LGBT
Categories: Prachatai English

[Event] Public lecture: public lecture “Critical Discourse Analysis approach to study anti-minority discourses, racism, and genocide denial”

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-11-18 16:21
Submitted on Thu, 18 Nov 2021 - 04:21 PMFaculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University

A public lecture and discussion with Professor Teun A. van Dijk, the founder of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA)

The Bachelor of Arts in Language and Culture (BALAC) program, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, in collaboration with the NEVER AGAIN Association, American University of Phnom Penh and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance cordially invites you to attend an online public lecture “Critical Discourse Analysis approach to study anti-minority discourses, racism, and genocide denial” by Professor Teun A. van Dijk, distinguished professor at Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona.

The session is moderated by Associate Professor Verita Sriratana, Ph.D., Department of English, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University & Visiting Research Fellow in Human Rights at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Lund University.

November 23, 2021

17:30-19:30hrs. (Bangkok time)/11:30-13:30hrs. CET (Central European time)

Via Zoom

Online registration is free of charge and available here.

The lecture is part of the Symposium "Identifying and countering Holocaust distortion: Lessons for and from Southeast Asia". Click here for further details. 

About the Speaker

Teun A. van Dijk is the co-founder of Critical Discourse Analysis. Director of the Centre of Discourse Studies, Teun A. van Dijk was professor of discourse studies at the University of Amsterdam until 2004, and is at present professor at Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona. After earlier work on generative poetics, text grammar, and the psychology of text processing, his work since 1980 takes a more critical perspective and deals with discursive racism, news in the press, ideology, knowledge and context.

He is the author of several books in most of these areas, and he edited ‘The Handbook of Discourse Analysis’ (4 vols, 1985) the introductory book ‘Discourse Studies’ (2nd edition, 2011) as well as the reader ‘The Study of Discourse’ (5 vols., 2007). He founded 6 international journals, ‘Poetics’, ‘Text’ (now ‘Text & Talk’), ‘Discourse & Society’, ‘Discourse Studies’, ‘Discourse & Communication’ and the internet journal in Spanish ‘Discurso & Sociedad’ (www.dissoc.org). He still serves as editor for ‘Discourse & Society’, ‘Discourse Studies’, and ‘Discourse & Communication’. For more information please visit: www.discoursestudies.org

About the Moderator

Verita Sriratana is Associate Professor of Literary Studies at the Department of English, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University. She is currently Visiting Research Fellow in Human Rights at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI), Lund University, Sweden, where she researches on the topic of offline and online gender-based violence against female activists in Thailand’s current pro-democracy movement as well as the movement's feminist and intersectional retaliation against patriarchal epistemic violence. Her publications span modernist literature, gender studies, necropolitics, postcolonialism and Central & Eastern European Studies.

Pick to PostEventFaculty of ArtsChulalongkorn UniversityTeun A. van DijkVerita SriratanaBachelor of Arts in Language and CultureNever Again AssociationDiscourse analysis
Categories: Prachatai English

135,000 voter-supported constitutional amendment rejected at the first reading

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-11-18 12:44
Submitted on Thu, 18 Nov 2021 - 12:44 PMPrachatai

A joint parliamentary session has dismissed a draft constitutional amendment, proposed by the Re-Solution group and related networks.  The draft was backed by over 135,000 voters.

Fences bar people from entering the Democracy Monument. A banner states 'Do not enter prior an approval. Under maintenance'.

To pass the first reading, the draft needed 362 votes from a joint parliament, including one-third of the Senate, a minimum 84 senators. The draft received 203 votes in favour from the House of the Representatives but only 3 from the Senate.  Naowarat Pongpaiboon, Pisan Manawapat and Monthian Boontan are the senators who backed the proposal. 

This is the second time the constitutional amendment has been proposed by civil groups. The first version proposed by iLaw, a legal watchdog NGO was rejected in November last year.

This new draft proposal was submitted by iLaw, Re-Solution group, the Progressive Movement and the Move Forward Party. Supported by 135,000 eligible voters, the draft called for several key changes to the current 2017 constitution.  

Nicknamed the “Uproot Prayut Regime” amendment, it sought to roll back the legislative legacy of the post-2014 government, repealing a number of the junta’s orders including its mandated 20 year national development strategy. It also called for reform of independent governmental institutions like the Constitution Court and stipulated punishment for staging coups.

One of more hotly debated changes was a plan to abolish the senate and establish a unicameral parliament, a House of the Representatives. 

How can the constitution be amended

The amendment process under the 2017 Constitution is harder and more complicated than those of the 2007 and 1997 constitutions. Section 256 of the 2017 Constitution is central to the problem. Under the previous constitutions, parliament required only a majority vote to pass a motion. There was no specification over the percentage of votes required from members of the House of Representatives or members of the Senate.

Under the 2017 Constitution, a proposal can be made either by the cabinet, one-fifth of the current members of House of Representatives, one-fifth of members of House of Representatives and Senate, or 50,000 citizens eligible to vote. When entering the floor of parliament, the proposal will go through three readings.

The first reading is to approve the principles of the constitutional amendment. It requires at least one half of the total votes in parliament (375 from both the House of Representatives and the Senate). At least one-third of the unelected senators is also required to pass the motion.

The second reading considers the constitutional amendment in detail. These shall be approved by a majority vote of parliament. If the amendment is proposed by citizens, the citizens who have proposed the amendment can send a delegate to speak in the parliament.  If the motion passes the second reading, there is an interval of 15 days before the third reading begins.

The third reading also requires a majority vote of the parliament. However, that majority must also include one-third of the Senate, and 20 percent of MPs from all political parties which do not hold positions as cabinet members, Speaker of House of Representatives, or Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives.

Even though there have been prohibitions against changing the form of state in every constitution throughout Thailand’s history, there has been no restriction against amending specific chapters or sections. Even then, some sections are more difficult to amend than others under the 2017 Constitution.

After the third reading, there will be an interval of 15 days before the Prime Minister sends the final draft to the King to sign. However, the government must hold a national referendum if the constitution amendment involves Chapter 1 (General Provisions), Chapter 2 (The King), or Chapter 15 (Amendment to the Constitution).

 

The government must also hold a referendum if the amendment involves qualifications and prohibitions of persons holding the positions under the Constitution, the duties or powers of the Court or Independent Organs, or rendering the Court or an Independent Organs unable to act in accordance with its duties or powers.

 

If the amendment is suspected of being unconstitutional, one-tenth of the total number of the current members of parliament has the right to file a joint petition with the Constitutional Court where it shall be decided within 30 days whether the draft would amount to “changing the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State or changing the form of the State” according to Section 255.

NewsConstitutional amendmentConstitutionpoliticsiLawRe-Solutionthe Progressive MovementMove Forward party
Categories: Prachatai English

Man arrested for hacking Constitutional Court website

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-11-18 12:20
Submitted on Thu, 18 Nov 2021 - 12:20 PMPrachatai

A man was arrested on Sunday (14 November) in Ubon Ratchathani and accused of hacking the Constitutional Court website following the Court’s ruling that speeches made by several protest leaders and subsequent calls for monarchy reform are treasonous.

The Constitutional Court website after it was hacked

On 11 November, the Constitutional Court’s homepage was apparently hacked and renamed “Kangaroo Court,” a term meaning a court that ignores accepted standards of law and justice. Site content was also replaced a YouTube video of the song “Guillotine” performed by the American hip-hop band Death Grips.

The website went down for several days. It has since come back online, but the homepage contains a message at the bottom saying that the site is under construction. Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn said that the Court outsourced its website maintenance to a private company, and that the site might be difficult to restore even though site data had not been tampered with.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that on Saturday (13 November), police officers in Warin Chamrap District, Ubon Ratchathani, took Wachira (last name withheld), 33, to Warin Chamrap Police Station. Local activists were told by Wachira’s mother that Wachira and his father were taken to the police station for questioning before being allowed to return home. The police also confiscated their mobile phones and computers.

Police officers returned on Sunday morning (14 November) with an arrest warrant. Wachira was again taken to Warin Chamrap Police Station and his parents were told that he was to be taken to Bangkok and that they should prepare a bail security of 100,000 baht. The police also told them that there was no need for a lawyer.

An arrest record made at Warin Chamrap Police Station without a lawyer present stated that Wachira confessed. However, at the inquiry level, he denied all charges and would be providing more testimony in writing within 30 days.

TLHR said that, while at the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau, Wachira’s lawyers asked the inquiry officer whether he would be granted bail at the inquiry level and were told at that time that they had prepared a room for him. After Wachira denied the charges, a high-ranking police officer joined the questioning and tried to convince him to change his testimony, but his lawyer insisted that it was his right to testify however he wishes.

Wachira was then sent to Thung Song Hong Police Station, where he was held overnight before being taken to court for a temporary detention request via video conference. He was later granted bail with a security of 25,000 baht. The court did not set any conditions other than ordering him to report to the court on 4 January 2022.

Wachira was charged under Sections 5, 7, 9, and 10 of the Computer Crimes Act with wrongfully accessing a computer system, wrongfully accessing computer data with specific security measure; damaging, destroying, or revising someone else’s computer data; and blocking, deferring, obstructing or interfering with the computer system of someone else and causing it to fail.

Section 5 carries a prison sentence of up to 6 months, a fine of up to 10,000 baht, or both. Section 7 carries a prison sentence of up to 2 years, a fine of up to 40,000 baht, or both. Sections 9 and 10 carry a prison sentence of up to 5 years, a fine of 100,000 baht, or both.

Protesters gathering at the Pathumwan Intersection burned effigies of the 9 Constitutional Court judges during Sunday's protest

On 10 November, a day before the website was hacked, the Constitutional Court ruled that speeches made by protest leaders Anon Nampa, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, and Panupong Jadnok, as well as subsequent calls for monarchy reform, were an intentional abuse of constitutional rights and liberties in an attempt to overthrow the “democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.”

The ruling sparked protests from activists and members of the public. Immediately after it was read, reams of paper bearing the messages “Reform the judiciary,” “Reform is not rebellion,” and “Abolishing Section 112 is the first step to monarchy reform” were scattered on the steps of the court building. Activists from the Thalufah group also burned a model of the Democracy Monument to show their opposition to the ruling.

On 11 November, the activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) Facebook page posted pictures of activists holding up protest messages - “I am not a rebel,” “An absolute monarchy with the illusion of a democracy,” “Reform does not equal overthrow,” and “Repeal 112” at various locations around Bangkok. Four people also taped “Reform does not equal overthrow” and “Repeal 112” signs to the shop door of Sirivannavari Siam Paragon – the flagship outlet of a fashion brand owned by the King’s youngest daughter, Princess Sirivannavari.

A protest march also took place on Sunday afternoon (14 November) to protest the ruling. Protesters originally planned to march from the Democracy Monument to Sanam Luang but were met with police blockades and had to relocate to the Pathumwan intersection, from where they marched to the German Embassy. 

NewsConstitutional courtHackingComputer Crimes ActMonarchy reform
Categories: Prachatai English

How political parties stand on the lèse majesté law

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-11-18 12:08
Submitted on Thu, 18 Nov 2021 - 12:08 PMPrachatai

When protesters and members of the public again raised the issue of amending the lèse majesté law in November, political parties and affiliated think tanks responded in different ways.

  • Thaksin Shinawatra suggested we should end the ‘drama’ about the issue, remarking that the law itself has never been a problem, but those in the judicial system are the problem.
  • Prawit Wongsuwan says PPRP is definitely against any amendment.
  • The Democrats have never thought of amending Section 112.
  • The royalist Thai Pakdee Party supports the strict enforcement of Sections 112 and 116.
  • The KLA Party insists on standing against amending Section 112.
  • Action Coalition for Thailand opposes amendment.
  • Move Forward is pushing ahead with an amendment to Section 112.
  • Anutin confirms that Bhumjaithai is not involved in Section 112 amendment
  • The Commoners Party backs abolition as the first step paving the way to reform of the monarchy.
  • The CARE group joins the movement to amend Sections 112 and 116.
  • Wissanu says that Section 112 can be amended like any other law.

At the 31 October protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection, Citizens for the Abolition of 112 collected signatures supporting abolition of the royal defamation law, or Section 112, and made clear their demands for political and monarchy reform. In response, various political parties and groups came out to show their position towards royal defamation in the Kingdom, long a taboo subject for discussion.

A banner states "Reform is not equal to treason".

Right after the demonstration, Chaikasem Nitisiri, head of political strategy and direction for the Pheu Thai Party, declared they were ready to propose amendments to Sections 112 and 116 at the next parliamentary sitting. This was followed by the Move Forward Party stating that they would push ahead with the petition to gain as many signatures as possible and apply their knowledge and experience in constitutional reform to support the campaign.  

Chaikasem said that the authority to amend laws belongs to parliament acting as citizen’s representatives in accordance with the democratic process. The Pheu Thai Party's stance is to release prisoners of conscience and allow no further cases, which will be a starting point for restoring trust in the Thai judicial system. However, whether the laws will be amended and what the details will be depends on the authority of parliament.

But on 2 November, Thaksin Shinawatra, former Prime Minister and brother of Yingluck Shinawatra, former Pheu Thai leader and Prime Minister, posted on Facebook that it had been a couple of days since he had heard of the ‘drama’ about Section 112 from both the supporters and opponents of amendment or abolition. He gave his opinion, as a former Prime Minister who was consulted several times about Section 112.  

“Let me relate my experience. Section 112 came into law a long time ago in the time of Field Marshal Sarit (Thanarat), around 1957. The law itself has never been a problem. But the problem today comes from improper use because individuals in the judicial system might become afraid or maybe wish to show their loyalty by not upholding the rule of law and so they abuse their power in the hope of some benefit, especially the government in the hope of political benefit. This causes great dissatisfaction. The more this Section is enforced, the more displeasure its causes. In the past, the Royal Thai Police had a committee to consider whether complaints really involve intentional violation of Section 112 or not. And the number of cases was small, and everything followed the due process of law.” Thaksin posted.

So according to Thaksin the problem was limited, but at present, a lot of problems have happened. The Section is frequently used, and people get angry and accuse each other. Thaksin has already said that the government should negotiate with youths who have different ideas and thoughts these days. We then find a solution to live peacefully between people of different ages. If we want to restart where we went wrong, by adjusting the procedure for prosecutions of Section 112 cases, we have to go back to a system of rules as in the past. No slanders or accusations, allow alleged offenders bail and maintain the criminal justice system, and talk to the young people to gain mutual understanding. To live together, we need to have rules. Rules that are acceptable to all sides are important.

The former PM posted again that before anyone says they want to abolish Section 112 because of anger or for some without having a reason or if they are strongly against abolition, which is clearly a Yes or No issue, negotiation and setting rules would be better. These days, the country seems to have no organization, no administration. There seems to be only law and order, which goes against the principle of bringing society together in unity.

“I suggest that before anyone says the we should or shouldn’t amend Section 112, we should think back that the law itself has never been a problem, but the problem is in fact the people in the judicial system and the people who use this issue to create divisions in society. If there are proper rules and dialogue between those with different points of view, it would be a great starting point and lead to maintaining a just law, and no one would be troubled. But today, I want to emphasize again that the country lacks administration and has chosen to use only law and order. I want both sides to end the drama, take a deep breath and start again from the beginning as I have already proposed, for love, to show loyalty in the correct way, and not to have royalty condemned without knowing,” Thaksin said in the post.

Prawit says PPRP is definitely against any amendment

On 2 November, Matichon Online reported Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Deputy Prime Minister, taking a clear stance on the proposed amendments to Sections 112 and 116. The institution of the monarchy must be retained because it built the country.

PPRP is definitely against amendment, but would accept the ideas of all citizens and will help the people to live in plenty and peacefully together, said Gen Prawit.

The Democrats have never thought of amending Section 112.

On 1 November, Matichon Online interviewed Democrat Party leader Jurin Laksanawisit, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce, on the move to abolish Section 112. Speaking for the Democrat Party, Jurin has clearly reaffirmed many times that the party consistently supports a constitutional monarchy. This position is clear, and nothing has changed. However, the Constitution has to be changed in order to be more democratic. On Section 112, the party has never given any thought to amending it. The party always said this because it thinks the constitutional monarchy is most appropriate for our country.

The royalist Thai Pakdee Party supports the strict enforcement of Sections 112 and 116.

Post Today reported that the Thai Pakdee Party issued a statement supporting strict enforcement of Sections 112 and 116, in accordance with the judicial system.

The KLA Party insists on standing against amendment of Section 112.

On 1 November, Matichon Online reported that Attawit Suwanpakdee, the party Secretary-General, opposed the abolition of Section 112, saying that it would raise the country’s conflict as defamation of royalty and conflict will occur more often, leading to another political crisis that may pave way for political intervention or a coup.

Action Coalition for Thailand opposes the amendment.

Khaosod Online reported that Khetrat Laothamatas, a party-list MP and spokesperson of the Action Coalition for Thailand party, posted messages opposing amendment of Section 112, questioning whether it is an acceptable choice for the public to amend a law which has been part of society for a long time.

Move Forward pushes ahead with an amendment to Section 112.

Chaitawat Tulathon, Secretary-General of the Move Forward Party, revealed on 2 November that the MFP has proposed an amendment to Section 112 but it has been held up by a procedural problem. The Secretariat of the House of Representatives wanted the MFP to consider whether the bill contradicts Section 6 of the Constitution that grants the monarch ‘inviolable’ status. The Party has already reconsidered the bill and has affirmed that the bill does not contravene the Constitution. A statement will be made and a motion submitted to parliament.

Anutin confirms his stance, Bhumjaithai not involved in Section 112 amendment

Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy PM and Minister of Public Health, as party leader, insisted on Bhumjaithai’s stance against Section 112 amendment.

On 3 November, Anutin spoke at parliament after the Pheu Thai Party declared its support for amending Section 112. He has said since the party was founded that Section 112 cannot be changed. Therefore, there would not be any amendments coming from the Bhumjaithai Party. He himself would support nothing that would weaken or bring down Section 112.

The Commoners Party backs abolition as the first step paving the way to reform of the monarchy.

Lertsak Kamkongsak, leader of the Commoners Party, released a statement that abolition of Section 112 is seen as the first concrete step to reform of the royal institution on other issues.

The CARE group joins the movement to amend Sections 112, 116.

Creative Action for Revival & People Empowerment (CARE), a think-tank related to the Pheu Thai Party, publicly joined the call for the amendment of Sections 112 and 116 and other laws that restrict freedom and suppress citizens.

“To protect innocent people from the abuse of power by state officials, to ensure the release and return of justice to prisoners of conscience, to disable the government’s use of the power and force that they have to oppress innocent citizens, and to make Thailand a country with no more prisoners of conscience, this is the first step to restoring trust in Thailand’s judicial system,” the CARE group said.

Wissanu says that Section 112 can be amended like any other law

Khaosod Online interviewed Wissanu Krea-ngam, Deputy Prime Minister, on the move to amend Sections 112 and 116. He said the process would be similar to how other laws are amended. As the amendments have no financial implications, they do not need to be considered by the government before being submitted to parliament. It is the right of MPs to make a decision.

Round Uppoliticslèse majesté lawArticle 112Section 112Thaksin ShinawatraChaikasem NitisiriPrawit WongsuwanAnutin CharnvirakulJurin LaksanawisitThai PakdeeAttawit SuwanpakdeeKhetrat LaothamatasChaitawat TulathonLertsak KamkongsakWissanu Krea-ngamSource: prachatai.com/journal/2021/11/95760
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Learn how to swim

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-11-17 23:18
Submitted on Wed, 17 Nov 2021 - 11:18 PMStephffCartoon by Stephff: Learn how to swim

MultimediaStephff
Categories: Prachatai English

Drummers stage flashmob to demand bail for detained activists

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-11-17 23:10
Submitted on Wed, 17 Nov 2021 - 11:10 PMPrachatai

On 13 November 2021, the performers' network RasaDrums staged a flashmob in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) to demand the right to bail for detained activists.

A representative of the group said that they want to stage the event to show that they still stand with their detained friends, and said that they will continue to play their drums with the hope that they can encourage others to keep fighting.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), since July 2020, at least 1636 people are now facing charges for participating in pro-democracy protests.

25 people are currently detained pending trial, 6 of whom are detained on royal defamation charges: Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, Panupong Jadnok, Benja Apan, and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

MultimediaRasaDrumsright to bailPerforming artpro-democracy protest 2021
Categories: Prachatai English

Student activist denied bail for crop top protest

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-11-17 02:05
Submitted on Wed, 17 Nov 2021 - 02:05 AMPrachatai

Student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul has been denied bail on a royal defamation charge relating to a protest on 20 December 2020, in which activists wore crop tops at Siam Paragon shopping mall to campaign for the repeal of the royal defamation law.

Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported on Monday (15 November) that Panusaya went to testify to the South Bangkok Criminal Court on the case, along with 4 other activists who were charged in the same case: Benja Apan, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, and Phawat Hiranphon. Two other activists were also charged, but since they are minors, their case is being heard separately.

The activists were charged with royal defamation under Section 112, after they walked around Siam Paragon in crop tops to campaign for the repeal of the royal defamation law and to make a statement that it is not illegal to wear a crop top, after a 16-year-old protester was charged with royal defamation for wearing a crop top to a protest and writing the message “My father’s name is Mana, not Vajiralongkorn” on his back.

Parit also wrote the message “Repeal Section 112” and “Reform the monarchy” on his arms, as well as “My mother doesn’t cheat” on his waist. Panusaya wrote “I only have one father” on her stomach. Benja wrote “My father’s name is not…” and “Are you insane?” on her stomach and waist, and walked behind Parit and Panusaya while carrying a handbag on a golden tray with pedestal.

Meanwhile, Phawat walked around with the group, bowing, saying 'Long live the King', and presenting flowers to Parit and Panusaya. 

The public prosecutor claimed that their action mocked the King and that they intended to damage the King’s reputation and to cause people to lose their respect for him.

The complaint against them was filed by Acting Sub Lt Narin Sakcharoenchaikun, a member of the royalist group Thai Pakdee, which also filed a similar charge against Anon Nampa for his Facebook post of a letter to the King.

The activists wore crop tops and walked around Siam Paragon to campaign for the repeal of Section 112

TLHR said that the 5 activists denied all charges, and noted that observers from the Embassies of Finland and Luxembourg were also present in the courtroom. The court then scheduled 2 more hearings on 26 November 2021 and 24 January 2022.

Since Panusaya was not brought to court when the public prosecutor indicted her on 29 June 2020, she has to file a bail request using a 200,000-baht security, which is covered by the Will of the People Fund, a bail fund for people facing charges for political expression.

However, the court denied her bail on the grounds that she has committed similar offenses, and is likely to repeat her offense if released. The order was signed by judge Santi Chukitsappaisan, Research Justice of the Supreme Court, temporarily acting as the Deputy Chief Justice of the South Bangkok Criminal Court.

Panusaya is detained at the Central Women Correctional Institution. This is the second time this year that she has been detained pending trial on a charge relating to pro-democracy protests, after she was previously detained for 60 days on charges relating to the 19 – 20 September 2020 protest before being released on 6 May 2021.

According to TLHR, 25 people are detained pending trial on charges relating to their participation in pro-democracy protests, 6 of them on royal defamation charges: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, Benja Apan, and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

NewsPanusaya SithijirawattanakulRoyal defamationSection 112lese majesteMonarchy reformstudent activistStudent protest 2020freedom of expressionjudicial harassmentright to bail
Categories: Prachatai English

Feminists, grassroots women slam world leaders’ betrayal at COP26

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-11-16 16:26
Submitted on Tue, 16 Nov 2021 - 04:26 PMAsia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

As the 26th session of the Conference of Parties (COP26) to the UN United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Glasgow comes to a close, members and partners of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) reiterate their rejection to false climate solutions reflected in the COP26 outcomes that further burden grassroots women and perpetuate plunder of resources of global south countries.

APWLD member and executive director of Aksi! for gender, social and ecological justice in Indonesia Titi Soentoro detests that the COP26 has failed to address roots of climate injustices raised by activists and environmentalists both in Glasgow and in virtual platforms during the two-week run of the conference.

“The COP26 has essentially served as a platform for developed countries to skirt responsibility by diverting public attention from irreversible environmental and social impacts to false solutions that perpetuate capitalist drive for profit,” Titi says.

According to Titi, the push for net zero emissions instead of ‘real zero’ is nothing but a  decorative cover for unrestricted emissions.

“The current proposed net zero pledges are not grounded in deep decarbonisation, and instead rely on other false solutions including nature-based solutions (NBS) as sinks, to sequester the carbon emissions; as well as on carbon-markets to deliver carbon offsets in developing countries. We also demand for a complete phase out of fossil fuels,” Titi explains.

An indigenous woman and APWLD Climate Justice Feminist Participatory Action Research (CJ FPAR) partner, Delima Silalahi of Kelompok Studi dan Pengembangan Prakarsa Masyarakat (KSPPM) of Indonesia adds that it is critical for rural and indigenous women on the ground to really understand these false climate solutions and the impacts to their lives and survival.

“The outcome of the negotiation on market mechanism is a huge threat for indigenous communities in Asia and the Pacific. World leaders are not even brave enough to commit to the protection of human rights along with the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous Peoples. Above all, a market-based mechanism is never a true climate solution. It is a dirty business tactic, putting profits over peoples,” Delima notes.

“We reject false climate solutions. We want just and equitable transition. The market mechanism, especially carbon trading, will aggressively violate Indigenous Peoples’ rights to land and forest in the name of battling climate catastrophe. It is a massive land grabbing plot threatening our survival. It is a matter of life and death for us in the community,” she adds.

Meanwhile, APWLD member Ana Celestial of Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) in the Philippines underscores the importance of continuing the fight for climate justice and demanding accountability for the climate crisis.

“Feminists, activists, and environmental and land rights defenders are either killed, criminalised, or subjected to various forms of harassment for protecting mother earth. Their perpetrators, the authoritarian governments and massive foreign corporations, continue to plunder our lands and natural resources, yet get off scot-free. Worse, these are the same people who are among the most powerful dominating the global climate negotiations now, including the recently concluded COP26.” Ana says.

Ana adds that the failure of member countries to walk out of COP26 with real commitments on financing for loss and damage is outrageous especially amid increasing climate-induced natural disasters that have devastated many developing countries including the Philippines. 

She explains that it is critical to continue demanding more financing from the developed and capitalist countries to deliver their promise of USD 100 billion a year and additional public climate finance based on the needs of the affected communities. 

“Our fight for climate justice continues even after COP26 wraps up. We will continue to fight for the protection of our human rights, consistently calling out the wealthy countries and corporations to stop lying and to pay for their historical and ongoing responsibilities inside these negotiation chambers and on the streets. We will never stop mobilising and demanding accountability from developed countries and our own governments,” Ana concludes.

Pick to PostAsia Pacific Forum on WomenLaw and Development (APWLD)COP26United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)Climate crisisglobal south
Categories: Prachatai English

People take the streets to protest Constitutional Court’s treason ruling

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-11-16 15:46
Submitted on Tue, 16 Nov 2021 - 03:46 PMPrachatai

A protest on Sunday (14 November) against the Constitutional Court’s ruling that calls for monarchy reform constitute an attempt to overthrow the “democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State,” was met with police blockades and forced to relocate.

Police blockade at Kok Wua Intersection

The protest was called by an activist network under the name People Against Absolute Monarchy, comprising several activist groups: the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), Thalufah, the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG), Ratsadorn Army, the Coalition of Salaya for Democracy, SUPPORTER THAILAND, We Volunteer, and the Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution (CCPC).

Initially, the protest was scheduled to begin at the Democracy Monument at 15.00 before marching to Sanam Luang. However, police were deployed to block the routes to the Democracy Monument. Checkpoints were set up to search pedestrians, while concerns were raised about the weapons carried by uniformed police officers carrying shields and firearms stationed in the area. It was reported on 31 October 2021 that, according to the deputy police spokesperson, police headquarters had assigned officers carrying live firearms to deal with protests instead of crowd control units.  

At around 13.40, the activist groups who had called the protest announced on their social media profiles that the protest would be moved to the Pathumwan intersection. A number of protesters then marched from the Democracy Monument to Pathumwan, while a crowd began forming at the courtyard in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC).

A banner saying "We don't want an absolute monarchy" is seen hanging form the Pathumwan skywalk while protesters burned effigies of the 9 Constitutional Court judges.

By 15.00, traffic through the Pathumwan Intersection was blocked. Banners saying “We don’t want an absolute monarchy,” "We are the representatives of the future, and we'll never surrender,” and "They said I want to overthrow the government, but I am only asking for reform" were hung from the skywalk above the Pathumwan intersection along with effigies of the 9 Constitutional Court judges.

At 16.20, the protesters burned the judges’ effigies in the middle of the intersection. An announcement was then made that there would now be a march to the German Embassy. The protesters lined up in front of the Siam Discovery shopping mall and began marching towards the Chaloem Phao intersection, which was blocked by crowd control police and water cannon trucks. Protesters pushed through the barrier and turned onto Henri Dunant Road.

A protester was shot in the chest near the Institute of Forensic Medicine on Henri Dunant Road.

As the march moved through the Chaloem Phao Intersection, it was reported that a protester was shot in the chest while standing near the Institute of Forensic Medicine on Henri Dunant Road. The protester was reported to be around 20 years old and was taken to Chulalongkorn Hospital.

It is unclear who shot the protester and which type of bullet had been fied. However, according to a member of the We Volunteer protest guard group, gunfire was seen coming from inside the police headquarters, and a protester retrieved a casing of what seems to be a 12 gauge shotgun bullet.

A bullet casing found at the scene of the shooting

Meanwhile, former Pheu Thai MP Dr Tossaporn Serirak said that he saw a crowd control officer raising his gun, after which there were several loud bangs and the protesters dropped to the ground. Hearing a shout that someone has been shot, he went to the scene and found that 2 protesters were shot. He said that the protester who was shot in the chest could not breathe as the bullet had penetrated his lung, and that both were taken to the Chulalongkorn Hospital and are in stable condition.

iLaw reported that a total of 3 people were shot at close range, and at least 2 were injured. One person was shot in the chest and another in the shoulder. 10 minutes later, the protest guards went to negotiate with the police and regroup in front of the Institute of Forensic Medicine. The protesters then continued with their march to the German Embassy without further interruption from the police, while an announcement was made through speakers that a representative of the Embassy was already waiting for them.

Protesters arriving at the German Embassy

The protesters arrived at the German Embassy at around 18.10. A large number of police officers in normal khaki uniforms were lined up in front of the Embassy, while the Superintendent of Thungmahamek Police Station announced that the protesters must leave as their march violated the Emergency Decree.

Three representatives of the organisers then went into the Embassy to submit their open letter. After they re-emerged, they said that they were told by the Embassy representative that their letter would be passed onto the Ambassador, who will also be informed of the injuries to the protesters. The representative also told them that the Embassy is concerned about the protest situation of the and wished them a safe return home.

The activists also asked that the Embassy contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the Constitutional Court’s ruling, which was delivered on the same day as the review of Thailand’s human rights records during the Universal Periodic Review session in Geneva.

Activist Nawat Liangwattana then read out a statement saying that the increased power of the monarchy is moving Thailand away from a democratic regime and towards an absolute monarchy, while royalists are trying to rewrite history so that the monarch has the power to rule the country and the people become only those who live in it.

The statement said that it is therefore unavoidable that the monarchy’s expansion of power must be stopped to bring about democracy. It also insisted that they are not calling for an abolition of the regime but are fighting for a regime in which everyone is equal. The protest then concluded at around 18.50.

A banner saying "They said I want to overthrow the government, but I am only asking for reform" was hung from the Pathumwan Skywalk.

The incident followed a Constitutional Court ruling last Wednesday (10 Nov) that speeches made by protest leaders Anon Nampa, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, and Panupong Jadnok, as well as subsequent calls for monarchy reform, were an intentional abuse of constitutional rights and liberties in an attempt to overthrow the “democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.”

The ruling sparked protests from activists and members of the public. Immediately after it was read, reams of paper bearing the messages “Reform the judiciary,” “Reform is not rebellion,” and “Abolishing Section 112 is the first step to monarchy reform” were scattered on the steps of the court building. Activists from the Thalufah group also burned a model of the Democracy Monument to show their opposition to the ruling.

Protesters speak out against Constitutional Court’s ruling

Several participants in the protest said that they found the Constitutional Court’s ruling questionable and concerning, and that the call for monarchy reform is not the same as trying to overthrow the regime.

K.

K. (pseudonym) comes from Europe and has been living in Thailand for the past 15 years. He said that he found the Court’s ruling questionable, as the 10 demands to reform the monarchy are nowhere near to asking for an abolition of the monarchy.

"It just asked the monarchy to be fair, under the constitution, and become less burden of the people," K. said.

K. agreed with the demands for a new constitution and new government, raising questions about the junta-appointed senators and abnormalities in the results of the last general election.

"They make sense. Where I come from, you don't have to demand them," he said.

K said it is a good thing that tourists will once again be allowed to enter Thailand, as it would boost the fragile economy. However, he wants the tourists to note that this government is not legitimate.

He also urges them to come and see the demonstration to let the oppressive government know that they are under watchful eyes.

Chung

Meanwhile, Chung, from Malaysia, said that people should support democratization, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly. He said that the current royal defamation law is oppressive to these freedoms and caused many Thai dissidents to become refugees. He agrees that this law should be abolished to allow people to freely express their opinion without fear of legal repercussions, and so that political refugees can return home.

Chung urged incoming tourists to pay attention to the political and human rights situation in Thailand, and to at least hear the demands of the people.

Dan

Dan (pseudonym), 47, said that he has been attending every protest he could, and said that calling for monarchy reform is not an attempt to overthrow the regime but demanding back democracy as it should be.

He is concerned that the Constitutional Court's ruling might led to more severe sentences being used against protesters, and that calling for democracy will be interpreted as overthrowing the regime.

Nevertheless, he said that, if no one speaks out, it would mean that they accept the ruling, and that the situation could become worse and more difficult to change in the future. 

"Some people say that they can take it, but do we really need to wait until we can't take it anymore? Whatever is not right, we should call it out," he said.

Protesters marching by Lumpini Park

Na (Pseudonym), 24, said that they felt that the Constitutional Court's ruling was wrong, and that they already knew that calling for reform is not the same as abolition.

It does not make sense, Na said, that reform would be the same as trying to overthrow the regime, and said that the Court's ruling made them question whether Thailand has never been a democracy. 

"Saying that power has belonged to the monarch since the Sukhothai era, does it mean that you admit that we have never been a democracy. Are we an absolute monarchy? I felt that that's not it," Na said.

Na said that the 10-point demand for monarchy reform made by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, as well as the demands for the repeal of the royal defamation law made on 31 October, would reduce the role of the monarchy in politics, and would make the monarchy more respected.

Personally, Na said that the uncompromising image of the monarchy right now reinforces the idea of those who do not want the monarchy to exist.

"For me, the monarchy must not descend into meddling in politics, and if it turns out that the monarchy compromises and stays under the constitution, our country will have a monarchy that lasts longer. Right now it's like the monarchy is shortening its own time, and people are losing faith in it," Na said.

Meanwhile, Nan (pseudonym), 27, said that the Court's ruling cemented their idea, and many other people's idea, that if they want to make the country better, they may have to reduce their demands to one, but Nan still thinks that the monarchy is still a spiritual anchor for some people, so if the monarchy stays under the constitution, adjusts to the modern world, and allows scrutiny, the monarchy will be able to last.

Both Na and Nan said they are not worried about protesting after the ruling, as they want to fight for their own future and for the country to be better.

"It’s not that I want to follow the leaders, but we have a core that wants to make the country better. I refuse to live under this regime any longer," Na said.

"I feel that living in this country, I can't see the light and my own future in this country. At least being out here is not as scary as not seeing myself in this country at all," Nan said.

NewsConstitutional courtAbsolute monarchypro-democracy protest 2021Police brutality
Categories: Prachatai English

Lives damaged as river fluctuates: reflections from the banks of the Mekong

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-11-15 22:17
Submitted on Mon, 15 Nov 2021 - 10:17 PMRattanaporn Khamenkij

When the Mekong River changes,  a way of life does too. Listen to the reflections of two generations of “Mekong people” from Pho Sai District, Ubon Ratchathani Province, who are facing dead plants, disappearing fish, falling incomes, and diminished tourism – because of upstream dams in China.

“I wish the river was like it used to be. If the waters return, the riverside communities could recover.”

These are the words of ‘Son Champhadok’. To locals in Ban Samrong, Pho Sai District, Ubon Ratchathani Province, she is ‘Mae Son (Mother Son)’, a 60-year-old fish hunter who has lived with the river ecosystem since birth.  It has always been a part of her life.

Son Champhadok

According to Mae Son, much has changed since 2013 and her way of life is now under threat.  She recalls that as far back as she can remember, the Mekong River was always changing. Changes in the past 10 years have been the most pronounced, however. Since 2013, she has been worrying that her previous way of life is over and may never return.

“The fish slowly disappeared. There used to be lots in the past. We caught a lot of fish, enough to fill the boat. After catching them we’d trade some for food in Ban Kok and we would keep some. We didn’t often sell them. We dried them or made fermented fish. When we did sell them, they’d go for 60-70 baht a kilo; 7 baht a kilo for the small ones

“A car from Khemrat District used to come and  buy fish from our village market to sell elsewhere. When the river changed, the car disappeared. We don’t catch many fish anymore.  If they drive here, they lose money,” Mae Son said.

Mae Son’s nickname - ‘Lady Fish Hunter’ - was earned the hard way.  She is an expert in hunting Mekong River fish. She grew up in a fishing family in Pak La Village, Khongchiam District, Ubon Ratchathani Province.  After marriage, she joined her husband’s family fishing at Ban Samrong. She has been a ‘fish hunter’ her whole life.

“When little, I helped my parents cast the nets. After I grew up a bit, I also did farming next to the Mekong, fishing at the same time. My parents showed me the best luang for fishing.”

A word in local Isaan language, luang refers to a family’s fishing areas. Traditionally, the river terrain was divided among fisher families. It was similar to farming a field.  Claims to ownership were informal, but people respected them and did not trespass on each others spaces.

Mae Son said that in the past, there were many different types of fish in the river, and that each had its own season. Carp and other smaller fish came in the dry season between January-March. Then, in April, catfish, loaches and other large fish came to eat the smaller ones.

Asked how many fish they used to catch, Mae Son answered that they filled up their homes, that in the past, the river fish were abundant throughout the year.

The changes witnessed by Mae Son include sharp declines in fish stocks, unseasonable changes in water levels and deteriorating water quality.  The latter affects the fish spawning because river fish lay their eggs in the freshwater seaweeds that grow in the clear, still water of the shallows. The grasses serve as a food source and also protect eggs and hatchlings from bigger fish.

A 2021 Mekong River Commission (MRC) report, Status and Trends of Fish Abundance and Diversity in the Lower Mekong Basin during 2007–2018), reports a total of 617 species of fish in the Lower Mekong Basin. The highest diversity, 115 species, was found in Tonlé Sap, Cambodia. The second highest was found in  the river delta in Vietnam.  In the waters adjacent to Laos and Thailand, only around 50 species remain. Invasive species are few in number, less than 1% of the total, but the problem may grow worse in the future.

The Mekong River Commission concluded that fisheries in the Lower Mekong Basin were stressed by overfishing and other factors disrupting the lives of aquatic animals: human settlements along the river; economic development, and changes in the surrounding environment. They called for the commission’s four member states to protect fish stocks and diversity in order to assure food security for the millions of people who live in the Lower Mekong Basin.

The report did not collect data of about fish populations at various dams on the river and made no mention of construction of dams in China whatsoever.

Dams change the Mekong’s colour

In late 2019, a number of news agencies and environmental groups reported that the water in the Mekong River had changed colours. Published images showed a river turned bluish-green, a seawater hue, different from the murky-red colour of a river carrying sediment. Green News explained that this was the “hungry water effect” caused by water dropping sediment upstream, behind a dam. They also noted that the river’s downstream sediment carrying capacity was likely to cause increased erosion along its banks, a loss of Thai territory over time.

In a 2019 study of riverbank failures in eight river-side provinces  between 1992-2018 , the Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR) revealed that some 200 square kilometres of land had been lost along the 958 kilometre river bank running from Chiang Rai to Ubon Ratchathani.  The erosion reportedly increased after 2003, when the Jinghong Dam started operating.  According to the report, far more land was lost to erosion than gained through sedimentation.

ONWR’s latest report, A study on the Riverbank Failure in 8 Mekong River Provinces during 2018-2020, found that the problem is getting worse. Riverbank failures over 3 years amounted to another 97.23 square kilometres. After the Xayaburi Dam started operations in 2019, river bank failures doubled from the previous year.

Montree Chantawong and Chanang Umparak, representatives of a local environmental group, the Mekong Butterfly, conducted field research together with people from six villages in Chiang Rai, Loei, Nakhon Phanom, Amnat Charoen and Ubon Ratchathani Province to study the volume of sediment in the river.  They used a simple method which allowed villagers to collect and analyse data by themselves. Data was also collected in Ban Samrong, Mae Son’s home. Their main hypothesis is that river sediments have declined because of the Xayaburi Dam in Laos, 300 kilometres from Chiang Khan District, Loei Province.

Measures of water turbidity between Feb-May 2021 found river sediment decreased from test points in Loei to Ban Samrong, Ubon Ratchathani, an area below the Xayaburi Dam. Turbidity in Chiang Khong District, Chiang Rai, above the Xayaburi Dam,  higher value. The turbidity was measured in centimetres. The higher the value, the less the turbidity (very clear). If the value is low, then there is a lot of turbidity (not very clear).

Changes in water level impact fishing, agriculture and tourism

Thanyaphon Bupphatha, a Song Khon village agricultural volunteer and community tourist guide in the Pho Sai District, Ubon Ratchathani Province, said that another factor causing fish in the river to disappear is reduced water flow. Not enough water reaches the areas where fish lay eggs. Many species spawn in small brooks that flow through river-side communities.


Thanyaphon Bupphatha

Born and raised in Ban Song Khon, Thanyaphon is a true child of the Mekong. Her family has been living on the river for three to four generations. Thanyaphon worked in the city for a time before returning to develop her hometown. She plans to develop Song Khon into an ecotourism site, inviting visitors to experience local culture and lifestyle. She is currently pursuing a a Masters’ degree in tourism at Ubon Ratchathani University.

According to Thanyaphon, over the last 5 years, the number of fish in the Mekong River has decreased markedly – leaving just enough to catch for food but not enough sell.  People are no longer able to earn their livelihoods through fishing.  As a representative of Ban Song Khon, she has actively participated in developing the Mekong River Basin with the Seven Isaan Province Mekong Basin Community Council Network Association. One of the projects planned by the association is a program to conserve Mekong fish. The hope is to revive a way of life and bring the fishing profession back again.

In addition to environmental issues caused by dam construction, Thanyaphon said that locals and outsiders sometimes engaged in illegal fishing, catching protected species or poaching in neighbouring territories. Local people could be warned and stopped but in some cases, for example when tourists came to go diving and shoot fish underwater for sport, it was necessary to get help from provincial fishery bodies and related agencies so that developments could be investigated and monitored.

According to Thanyaphon, changes in the river water level effected not only fishing but also riverside farming. Farming along the riverbanks has long been a side job for those living next to the Mekong. Common crops included vegetables and greens.  Others made money from planting indigo, cotton, corn, peanuts, sweet potatoes, jicama, garlic, spring onions and coriander. Back when water levels were stable, Mae Son also did this as a side job, earning an extra ten thousand baht per year.


Thanyaphon standing an agricultural area next to the Mekong, near Pak Bong, the narrowest spot between Thailand-Laos. In the past, this area would flood during wet season but now, the water does come up as high.

Thanyaphon explained that lower water levels reduced the fertility of the soil.  Local farmers previously did not use fertilisers but relied instead on minerals from sediment deposited by the river when it flooded. The resulting produce was chemical-free, tasted great and no bad effects on health.  Farmers used to plant after the water receded in November.  Now, however, the water seldom reached the bank, and yields were less than in the past.  Worse, the upstream release of water from dams occasionally caused floods in the dry season, making it risky to plant anything.

A raintree at Pak Bong, near Song Khon. In the past, the roots would be covered by water.  Now, the roots can be clearly seen. Water has not flooded the bank for many years now (photo taken in Sept 2021).

Shifting water levels are not only having an impact on traditional occupations like fishing and farming. New occupations dependent upon tourism are also starting to disappear. According to Thanyaphon, two decades back there were many well-known tourist spots in Udon Ratchathani.  Thai and foreign tourists would come for sight-seeing, enjoying local culture and nature.

One such attraction near Ban Song Khon is Sam Phan Bok. Erosion caused during the flood season by river rapids created a site similar to the Grand Canyon in the US. In addition, there is also Hat Salueng, a kilometer-long white sand beach that used to appear every year in the dry season. The site was a popular tourist attraction during Songkran holidays, providing millions of baht in revenue to locals. But tourist flows at Hat Salueng have dried up. In the ten year period after China’s Jinghong Dam began operating, water levels have grown irregular.


Sam Phan Bok (image by Tourism Authority of Thailand)


Hat Salueng (image by Tourism Authority of Thailand)

As Thanyaphon explain it, the river was now likely to “flood in the dry season and dry up in the flood season.” The fluctuation has been so extreme that Hat Salueng is now neglected and unoccupied, devoid of tourists.

According to Thanyaphon, since 2013 the Mekong has been flooding its banks in March-April, which used to be the tourist high season. Withouts tourist, family restaurants, hotels and resorts have had to shut down. With the spread of COVID-19, things have gotten worse. Some houses now sit vacant.

Hat Salueng in the wet season. The water level in the dry season no longer drops.

Thanyaphon took us to see tourist sites around Hat Salueng, now without visitors. At a local pavilion, ferry boat tickets used to be sold for 500-1,000 baht a trip, depending on the distance and destination.  Some cruises lasted for up to five days. Guide services also used to be a source of income for local youth, who could earn up to a 1,000 baht/day. Thanyaphon said that when tourism was flourishing, village kids had thousands of baht in savings and were able to pay school fees without asking money from their parents.

A booth near Hat Salueng that previously sold tickets for boat trips is now quiet.  Fluctuating water levels in the Mekong River ended the tourist high season.  The business has been devoid of customers for almost 2 years due to COVID-19 lockdown measures.


Mekong Riverside pavilion near Hat Salueng

Song Khon restaurant, located next to the Mekong River, near Hat Salueng, is quiet now, without a trace of tourists.

In addition to businesses dependent upon tourism, other occupations have also been affected. Without visitors, community state enterprise OTOP (One Tambon One Product) outlets cannot sell anything.

“If there was no impact from the dam, everything would be normal. We villagers would have food security, enough food to eat and some left over to sell. There would be jobs other than farming and income from crops grown on the river banks. River bank farming didn’t require a big investment … but now, more inputs are required and income is not enough to cover expenses. We are operating in the negative

“People have to find work elsewhere, to hire themselves out, go to work in Bangkok. People who run away from COVID in Bangkok return home with nothing to do. Other than rice farming, they just sit at home. There is nothing to do; they can’t even plants gardens,” Thanyaphon said.

According to Thanyaphon, the local economy was already in crisis as a result of changed water levels in the river.   When the pandemic hit, things got worse. Locals working out of town returned home, some because their factories shut down and others to isolate themselves and recover from the virus. Those who returned had no work. Natural resources which used to be abundant enough to live off of were almost gone. People lived off their savings instead. Those without savings had to wait for state welfare, which did not help much. People in the area were sinking into debt … taking out loans to pay expenses and school fees.

A 2021 Mekong River Commission report, Social Impact Monitoring and Vulnerability Assessment: SIMVA 2018), compared the incomes of 2,800 households in 200 Mekong villages in four countries - Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam - in 2016 and 2018. Some 35% of the total experienced a fall in income. The incomes of another 32% remained flat. Some 26% reported that their incomes had increased slightly. Only 6% said that their incomes has significantly improved. 

“If the spread of COVID slows down, there may be some tourism, but it will require a good vaccine as well. If we have good vaccines in sufficient quantities, things should return to normal. It will probably take a year or two before tourism returns. In 2021, the disease hit us hard. In 2022, we should get good vaccines, allowing the situation to return to normal in early 2023,” Thanyaphon said.

An a more positive note, Thanyaphon said that the decline of tourism gave nature time to recover. She acknowledged that the tourist industry also had negative impact on the river. People threw trash in the water, damaging a marine ecosystem that was already being affected by global warming and climate change.  She added that the biggest threat to traditional lifestyles remained the fluctuating water levels resulting from upstream dams releasing water without warning.

“Rain does not fall in season. Floods happen. These are natural disasters. Our grandparents understood this … but these days, they don’t know how the water rises and falls,” Thanyaphon said.

China should disclose their water management plans at least 3 months in advance.

Mae Son, Thanyaphon, and other people living near the Mekong River know that there is no way to return back to how things were, to restore the natural abundance and the way of life of those tied with the river in past generations.  There is no point in demanding that the dams be destroyed. It is possibly to demand an effective water-level warning system, however. Warnings could be issued before dam water is released so that the people can make timely preparations.   It would not change the impact on river bank gardens or village water systems but at least it would help people living downstream to protect their property - boats, fishing equipment, and houses.

“It would be good if there were a warning system for the water rising and falling. We have to live in fear, worrying because the water comes very fast and very strong,” Thanyaphon said.

Demands have previously been made for warnings prior to the release of dam water.  According to Montree from the Mekong Butterfly, warnings are not enough, however.  An alert issued a few weeks before a release does not give people downstream enough time to prepare.  Investments have been made in things like fish farming in floating baskets and growing crops on the river banks. Months of work are at stake. If China sends people a warning and they have not yet been able to harvest their produce, the water will still damage their incomes and way of life. Montree proposes that the Thai government and Mekong River Commission demand that China reveals its water management plans at least 3 months in advance. If, in late October, Chinese authorities disclosed their water management plans through to January, those living downstream would be able to plan their lives, deciding what plants to grow or how to farm fish, with minimal disruption.

Lower Mekong Basin countries should negotiate with China to change their last two dams into ‘diversion dams’

Montree also proposed another method to help solve the issue of fluctuating water levels in the Mekong River. He recommends that downstream countries join hands for some hard-headed negotiations with China to repurpose the Nuozhadu Jinghong dams. The last fortress dams planned by China, both are being built to generate electricity. They could be used instead as diversion dams to restore pre-1993 water levels in the Mekong. This would maintain the stability of water flow in the lower Mekong River, making it as natural as possible.

Mae Son and Thanyaphon agree that if they could choose, they would like the Mekong to return to its original state, with water levels changing according to the seasons, and water rich with sediments. With water so clear that one can see the river bed, a way of life is dying along with the fish.

“If the dams had not been built… things would be as they were, our lives would be the same.  The only real change would be tourism,” Thanyaphon said.

“In my heart I want the river to be restored to what it was.  Our food would be better.  Our health would be better. We would be able to eat natural produce, growing it ourselves without using chemicals. The water would bring abundant nutrients. In my heart I want it all to be as it was in the past. If it was, the lives of all of the people in the communities along the river – not just mine – would get better,” Mae Son said.

FeatureIn-DepthMekong RiverMekong-Lancang CooperationUbon RatchathaniMekong River Commission (MRC)The Mekong ButterflyCOVID-19
Categories: Prachatai English

Let the children dream: Srisamorn Soffer’s mission to draw hope for the future

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-11-15 16:36
Submitted on Mon, 15 Nov 2021 - 04:36 PMAnna Lawattanatrakul

The "Dream of Hope Tales" series

In late September 2021, it was reported that Deputy Education Minister Kalaya Sophonpanich had formed a working group to investigate a series of illustrated children’s books about the pro-democracy movement, claiming that the series might mislead children. It was then reported on 14 October that the working group found that at least five of the eight-book series were likely to lead to violence in children.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB) summoned the publisher of the series for a meeting, claiming that they had received a request for an investigation into whether selling books on a Facebook page violates the 2002 Direct Sales and Direct Marketing Act. Following a meeting on 12 October 2021, an OCPB officer said that the sellers had done nothing illegal, but the OCPB would investigate further. 

The series in question is called “Nithan Wad Wang” (“Dream of Hope Tales”) – a set of 8 colourful picture books about the pro-democracy movement, freedom, and young people’s dream of the future.

Prachatai spoke to Srisamorn Soffer, primary school teacher and children’s book writer, who started the project and who wrote most of the poems in the series, about how the project began, the importance of the stories, and young people’s freedom to read.

Drawing hope

“The Adventure of Little Duck,” an illustrated book by cartoonist Sa-ard about a yellow duck adventuring and fighting for democracy

Children’s literature in Thailand often has the objective of teaching children to be good and obedient, and to instil traditional values like filial piety. There is nothing wrong with this, Srisamorn says, but children’s literature has the potential to be much more diverse.

Srisamorn, who taught primary school and special needs students in the US for 15 years, said that American children’s books have so much variety. Not only that, kindergarten and primary school students are required to read about history, from Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement to the underground railroad which helped escaped slaves in the 19th century. This made her question why such books rarely exist in Thailand.

“In most cases, no one who hopes to get rich would come to work in publishing, especially children’s books. People who work in children’s books must love children. They must love books and want to give children good things. There is nothing wrong with that, but the important thing is that there should be diversity, not 80% one-sided stories or another 10% about development” Srisamorn said.

“The important, basic things about being human, like who I am, what I like, what dreams do I have, what is my country like, who is there, or talking about history and important people, I don’t want to talk about just one person. I want there to be diversity, and we’re not a ministry or a school or anything. We’re just presenting it. Any family who wants to buy them for their children to read are welcome to do so.”

When asked whether people may think that children are too young to read about ‘politics,’ Srisamorn said that it is not about whether they are too young but about how we communicate with children, and adults must also respect children’s judgement and learning capabilities, adding that parents often screen things for their children first anyway and that no one would give their children bad things.

Srisamorn said that while it might have been true in the past that Thai society tended to believe that children can’t think for themselves and must be protected from anything that goes against ‘good morals,’ society is slowly changing and becoming more open. For Srisamorn, society is a living and always changing thing which cannot be kept frozen so that it stays the same.

“Especially in the age of the internet, what do we want our children to be? Do we want our children to part of the world citizenry who can talk to other people and know how to respect themselves? I think this is something very important,” she said.

“If children dream about what they want to do, their lives will have goals. Why should we wake them up? A three-year-old dreams about going to play in the sand pit tomorrow. A five-year-old thinks about going to get ice cream tomorrow. A seven-year-old wants to make this card. It happens at every age. It’s universal. We shouldn’t put them in cages or inside boundaries that are too tight. It’s good to have some loose boundaries with the good intentions of adults and society, but it must be flexible so that everyone is comfortable and respectful of each other.”

Writing for the future

An illustration from "Children Have Dreams" depicts a school as children want it to be

From an illustrated biography of historian and dissident writer Jit Phumisak and “The Adventure of Little Duck,” an illustrated book by cartoonist Sa-ard about a yellow duck adventuring and fighting for democracy to “Mom, where are you going?” which tells the story of the 2020 pro-democracy protests through the eyes of actor-turned-activist Inthira Charoenpura’s cat and “Children Have Dreams,” a ‘Where’s Wally?’-style picture book about what young people dream they want the world to be, the series tells stories about history, social movements, hope, and the freedom to dream.

Last Children’s Day in January 2021, Srisamorn saw the viral video clip by the YouTuber Pimrypie, where she went to an indigenous community on a mountain in Chiang Mai and installed solar panels to produce electricity. During the video, the YouTuber said that the children do not have dreams, which Srisamorn, who taught in a similar Karen indigenous community as a new graduate, said was partially true. She said that it is in children’s nature to dream, and thought of starting this project.

Srisamorn said that she contacted several well-known people and asked whether they wanted to write a children’s book to communicate with the younger generation. She said that she was looking for a diverse group of people with a lot of experience, as she thinks that they would offer another perspective for children as well as showing their gentler side, but many who were asked hesitated, as they are not sure how to write for children.

“Many people get stressed about writing for children. What if they couldn’t write well enough? They have an awareness, and everyone said they’ve never done it before. I’d tell them to write anything,” Srisamorn said.

An illustration from "Mom, where are you going?" depicts an event at the Democracy Monument on 24 June 2021. Mim, Inthira's ginger cat, is looking from a corner of the page.

When actor-turned-activist Inthira Choroenpura was asked to join the project, she told Srisamorn that she doesn’t know what to write. After Inthira told Srisamorn about her ginger cat Mim, who often meows at her whenever she is leaving the house, Srisamorn told her to write the book as if she is telling her cat where Mommy is going.

The book, which contains illustrations of events from the 2020 - 2021 pro-democracy protests by artist Phetladda Kaeochin, is narrated through a poem by Srisamorn, and includes short notes from Inthira about what she has done during the protests.

Other than Inthira, activist Sombat Boonngamanong wrote “Hack! Hack! The Fire Dragon,” a story about the fight against a fire-breathing dragon attacking an indigenous village, drawn from his experience working with the Mirror Foundation’s forest fire-fighting volunteers in the north of Thailand.

As for the Jit Phumisak biography and whether children would find it hard to identify with the story, Srisamorn said that she felt that Jit was a genius, and while intellectuals often see Jit as a serious person, Srisamorn thinks that he might have had a fun side and had many interests and talents. 

“I wanted to tell children, look, whatever you want to learn, you can,” she said. “Like Jit, when he was in jail, he learned Chinese. When he met another inmate who came from a hill tribe, what did he do? He made a Thai-Lahu dictionary. I think that the world must know about someone like this, so the children know that learning is fun.”

A page in the Jit Phumisak biography shows Jit playing music

Srisamorn said that she was not looking to make money from the books, and that everyone on her team was almost like a volunteer, but she wanted to show a gentler perspective to a society which is currently full of anger. The books became like therapy for the writers and artists in the project.

“They got very little money, because I don’t have a lot of money. I have been saving up for many years, and I didn’t think that, suddenly, I would be doing this, but I think that, with the situation in Thailand as it is, I don’t want to just be angry at the government. I was never a rude or angry person, and then I saw anger bursting out, and people are getting ruder in society. I felt that if this comes out, there will be a gentler side, another perspective, and people who are famous can present something else,” she said.

Let the children dream

Even though Srisamorn said that she didn’t think the books would sell, they are sold out within a week of the report that the Ministry of Education was investigating them. The team decided to donate the profit to pro-democracy activist groups and civil society organizations.

“I think that, say we make 8 books a year, within 5 years we’ll have 40 books. It’s not because I want to be famous. I want people in publishing to see that these books work, that people are interested in them, so other people want to do it too,” Srisamorn said.

She admitted she was shocked at first when she heard about the Ministry’s investigation, and confused as to why it happened, but she added that she has to thank the ministers and senators, as well as other public figures, who made the books more widely known.

Despite the situation, she also said that the team has received a lot of support from readers, many of whom paid more than the price of the books as donations and many bought the books to donate to schools. She is also happy that children like the books. Not every child would like all 8 books, she said, but there are a lot of choices they can choose from, and she insisted that there is nothing illegal or immoral about them, or anything that goes against the ethics of someone who is a teacher, a writer, and a mother.

“I wanted to tell children to be happy, to have fun with life, to be healthy, and to open your world to a lot of things. Whatever you want to do, you should try it, like when you were little and learning to stand, or the first time you learned to ride a bike. If you fall, then you get back up, or if you ride a bike and didn’t like it, then you go and play football. It’s not that everyone is going to force children to read these books or play mancala or anything. You have the choice. Do whatever you want,” Srisamorn said.

InterviewSrisamorn SofferDream of Hope TalesNithan Wad WangChildren's literaturefreedom of expressionArtistic freedomStudent protest 2020pro-democracy protest 2021Jit PhumisakInthira Charoenpura
Categories: Prachatai English

Imprisoned protest leader pens letter against Constitutional Court’s treason ruling

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-11-15 15:56
Submitted on Mon, 15 Nov 2021 - 03:56 PMPrachatai

Following the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the call for monarchy reform is an attempt to overthrow the government, human rights lawyer and protest leader Anon Nampa has written an open letter saying that the ruling has made rebels of those who fight for freedom and equality.

Anon Nampa

The open letter was posted on Anon’s Facebook profile on Thursday (11 November) at around 19.00. It says that the Constitutional Court’s ruling has turned people who want a society with more freedom and equality and who call for monarchy reform in accordance with democratic principles into “rebels,” and affirmed that every demand for monarchy reform has been designed so that the monarchy stays within the bounds of a constitutional monarchy. If these people are rebels, the letter said, it is probably because they want to change from an “absolute monarchy in disguise” into a constitutional monarchy.

The letter also noted that the Constitutional Court’s ruling contains many inaccuracies, and that if any change happens in this country, the Court should be considered one of the catalysts for that change.

Anon is currently being detained pending trial on royal defamation charges relating to his participation in protests on 3 August 2020, 14 October 2020, and 3 August 2021. So far, he has been detained for 96 days.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling on 10 November that speeches made by protest leaders Anon Nampa, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, and Panupong Jadnok, as well as subsequent calls for monarchy reform, were an intentional abuse of constitutional rights and liberties in an attempt to overthrow the “democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State” sparked opposition from the pro-democracy movement. Immediately after it was read, reams of paper bearing the messages “Reform the judiciary,” “Reform is not rebellion,” and “Abolishing Section 112 is the first step to monarchy reform” were scattered on the steps of the court building. Activists from the Thalufah group also burned a model of the Democracy Monument to show their opposition to the ruling.

A protest also took place on Sunday (14 November) to demonstrate opposition to the ruling. The protest was initially planned to start at the Democracy Monument before marching to Sanam Luang. However, due to police blockades, they relocated to the Pathumwan Intersection before marching to the German Embassy.

An open letter to my fellow rebels

Today, they have slandered us and comprehensively judged us as rebels. This means that, right now, there are hundreds of thousands of rebels in Thailand, even though, in reality, we only wanted to change society so that there is more freedom, there is equality, and reform of the monarchy in accordance with democratic government.

Each one of our proposals merely aims to bring the country and the monarchy into line with a democratic constitutional form of government. If they are going to call us “rebels,” it is probably because we want to change the newly established form of government, which is an absolute monarchy in disguise, and return it to a democracy with a monarchy under the constitution, or what we call “a democratic form of government with a monarch as the head of state.”

In fact, the Constitutional Court’s ruling is inaccurate in regard to many facts, and there are likely to be academics expressing their opinions, and if any change happens in this country, consider the Constitutional Court as one of the sparks that ignited the change.

I am proud to have fought with you all from the first day, until the day I was put in jail. Whatever my original intention was, it remains the same, and if anyone dares to turn back the clock and return Thailand to a regime where one person has absolute power, does not listen to the voice of the people, violate rights and freedoms, I am happy to declare myself a rebel against that regime both in this life and the next.

Anon Nampa

Wing 4, Bangkok Remand Prison

11 November 2021

NewsAnon NampaConstitutional courtDemocratic regime of government with the King as Head of StateMonarchy reform
Categories: Prachatai English

Constitutional Court website renamed ‘Kangaroo Court’

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-11-13 15:33
Submitted on Sat, 13 Nov 2021 - 03:33 PMPrachatai

Following Wednesday (10 November) Constitutional Court ruling against public discussion of monarchy reform, the Court’s website was apparently hacked on Thursday (11 November) by an unidentified party, who renamed it “Kangaroo Court” and modified site content.

The Constitutional Court website after it was hacked

Around 13.00 on Thursday (11 November), the Court homepage had been renamed “kangaroo court”, a derogatory term for a court that ignores accepted standards of law and justice.  Site content had also been replaced by a YouTube video of the song “Guillotine” performed by the American hip-hop band Death Grips.

The video only appeared when the website was accessed directly at https://www.constitutionalcourt.or.th/.  The normal homepage was retrieved when accessing the site via a Google search. 

The site went down at around 14.00 on Friday (12 November). As of 15.30 on Saturday (13 November), it is still offline.

According to Matichon Online, Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn said that access to the site has been temporary suspended and might be difficult to restore, even though site data had not been tampered with.

Chaiwut said that the Court outsourced its website maintenance to a private company, which may not have set up adequate security measures, allowing outsiders to obtain the site username and password. He added that they were still investigating whether the system was hacked or if the username and password were leaked by the server administrator.

Chaiwut said that the authorities know who is behind the incident, and that it was planned before the Court issued its ruling. He added that while it might take some time, DES will collaborate with the National Cyber Security Agency (NCSA) and the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) to catch the hackers.

He also told Matichon that several government agency websites have been attacked in the past, and noted that many agencies do not have enough budget to set up proper security measures. He said that it might be necessary to allocate more budget for security systems and proposed that money from the Digital Economy and Society Development Fund be utilised.

The incident followed a Constitutional Court ruling on Wednesday (10 Nov) that speeches made by protest leaders Anon Nampa, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, and Panupong Jadnok, as well as subsequent call for monarchy reform, were an intentional abuse of constitutional rights and liberties in an attempt to overthrow the “democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.”

The ruling sparked protests from activists and members of the public. Immediately after it was read, reams of paper bearing the messages “Reform the judiciary,” “Reform is not rebellion,” and “Abolishing Section 112 is the first step to monarchy reform” were scattered on the steps of the court building. Activists from the Thalufah group also burned a model of the Democracy Monument to show their opposition to the ruling.

On Thursday evening (11 November), the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) Facebook page published pictures of activists holding up protest messages - “I am not a rebel,” “An absolute monarchy with the illusion of a democracy,” “Reform does not equal overthrow,” and “Repeal 112” - at the Victory Monument, on the BTS Sky Train, in a public bus and at other locations around central Bangkok.

Four protesters also attached “Reform does not equal overthrow” and a “Repeal 112” signs to the shop door of Sirivannavari Siam Paragon – the flagship outlet of a fashion brand owned by the King’s youngest daughter, Princess Sirivannavari. They were arrested, fined 2000 baht for violating the Cleanliness Act, and released.

The Democracy Restoration Group, along with a number of other activist groups including UFTD and Thalufah, have called for a protest march on Sunday afternoon (14 November) from Democracy Monument to Sanam Luang in order to demonstrate opposition to the ruling.

NewsConstitutional courtDeath GripsHackingdigital securityMinistry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES)
Categories: Prachatai English

Four arrested for taping “Repeal 112” sign to Sirivannavari shop door

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-11-12 16:37
Submitted on Fri, 12 Nov 2021 - 04:37 PMPrachatai

On 11 November, 4 people were arrested for attaching a “Reform does not equal overthrow” sign and a “Repeal 112” sign to the shop door of Sirivannavari Siam Paragon.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that the detainees were released around 10 PM, some 4 hours after being arrested. They were fined 2000 baht for violating the Cleanliness Act.  Police also confiscated their signs.

Voice TV reported that 5 plainclothes officers and 2 traffic police surrounded the taxi the group was on and forced the taxi driver to take them to Pathumwan Police Station, where officers threatened to search the group and seize their ID cars and mobile phones, even though they insisted on waiting for a lawyer.

Sirivannavari Siam Paragon is the flagship store for Sirivannavari brand, owned by the King’s youngest daughter, Princess Sirivannari.   In 2020, the Ministry of Commerce received a 13-million baht budget to organise overseas exhibition of the brand’s new products.

Yesterday evening, the activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration’s Facebook page posted pictures  of activists holding various protest messages - “I am not a rebel,” “An absolute monarchy with the illusion of a democracy,” “Reform does not equal overthrow,” and “Repeal 112” - at locations around central Bangkok, such as at Victory Monument, on a BTS Sky Train, and in a public bus. 

The protest came after the 10 November Constitutional Court ruling that speeches made by demonstration leaders Anon Nampa, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, and Panupong Jadnok, as well as subsequent calls for monarchy reform constitute an attempt to overthrow the “democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State,” in violation of the 2017 Constitution, Section 49.

NewsSirivannavariSection 112lese majesteRoyal defamation
Categories: Prachatai English

Royal defamation law ‘reflects Thai society,’ says Thai delegate at UPR session

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-11-12 16:21
Submitted on Fri, 12 Nov 2021 - 04:21 PMPrachatai

The royal defamation law reflects Thai society and is needed to protect the monarchy and national security, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Thani Thongphakdi at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session on Wednesday (10 November).

Thani Thongpakdi

Thailand is one of 13 states whose human rights record is being examined by the UN Human Rights Council’s UPR Working Group during its current session, 1-12 November 2021. This is Thailand’s 3rd UPR review; the first was October 2011 and the second in May 2016.

During the session, delegates from other UN member countries made recommendations to the Thai government on human rights issues, including the anti-torture and enforced disappearance bill, the new non-profit organization bill, and violation of freedom of expression.

The US, Luxembourg, and Belgium recommended that Thailand amend the royal defamation law, or Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. The US suggested removing the prison sentence for violations of Section 112. Luxembourg said that the sedition law, or Section 116, and the Computer Crimes Act both limit freedom of expression, while Belgium raised concerns about the arrests of pro-democracy protesters. Both countries recommended that Section 112 be amended so as to be in compliance with the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). South Korea also recommended amendments to laws about freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as well as calling for the enactment of the law against enforced disappearances.

Ireland recommended that the Thai government end legal prosecution against political activists. Japan recommended that Thailand improves the situation regarding freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and Malawi recommended that law enforcement officers be trained to meet international standards for overseeing protests.

Iceland recommended that Thailand ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and raised questions about marriage equality in Thailand.

Answering recommendations from other delegates, Thani said that Section 112 reflects Thailand’s society and history, where the monarchy is respected, and the law is therefore needed to protect the monarchy and national security, while amending Section 112 is within the authority of the parliament.

Thani insisted that the Thai government respects freedom of expression, but this must be exercised within the limits of the law. He said that the government has to find the balance between the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and peace and order, that the press has the freedom to report information to the public, and any interference from state officials has been to prevent the spread of misinformation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A representative from the Ministry of Justice also said that the anti-torture and enforced disappearance bill is currently being considered by parliament, with participation from civil society.

Concerns regarding the use of the royal defamation law have been raised during Thailand’s previous UPR sessions. Recommendations ranging from reducing the sentence to repealing the law have been made, but were never accepted by Thai delegates, citing national security.

While the UPR session was taking place in Geneva, the Constitutional Court in Bangkok ruled that speeches made by protest leaders Anon Nampa, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, and Panupong Jadnok at the 3 August and 10 August 2020 protests, and subsequent calls for monarchy reform, are considered abuse of constitutional rights and liberties to overthrow the regime, since the monarchy is an essential part of government since ancient times, and a constitutional amendment regarding the status of the monarch or amendment of Section 112 would diminish the respected status of the monarchy, leading to unrest and affecting public morality.

NewsUniversal Periodic Review (UPR)Section 112lese majesteRoyal defamationfreedom of expressionfreedom of assemblyHuman right violation
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