Prachatai English

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Police officers blocking protestors from leaving the footpath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anon on stage during his speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ministry to prosecute Facebook for not blocking all illegal content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As of 4 August, the page is still accessible.

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

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

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

Source: Blognone, Prachatai

NewsRoyalist MarketplaceSermsuk KasitipraditPuttipong PunnakantaFacebookYouTubeinternet freedom
Categories: Prachatai English

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

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

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

The mass protest on 18 July at the Democracy Monument

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

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

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

A youth-led protest in Pattani on 2 August.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The protest at Kasetsart University on 24 July.

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

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

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

Court schedules testimony by activist over his comments about monarchy

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

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

Karn Pongpraphapan giving a speech in a certain protest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key recommendations to the Government of Thailand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Young people mail their hopes and dreams to the future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Commoner Band also performed at the event

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

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

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

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

Nationwide protesters face obstruction by state authorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

University presidents banned the use of campuses

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

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

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

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

High schoolers face pressure from their schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harassment at home

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

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

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

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

Related businesses also harassed

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

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

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

Taking photos

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

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

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

Other events scheduled at the same locations

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

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

Anti-government rallies continue for a second consecutive week

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

Saturday 1 August will mark a full two weeks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idol culture is all about business and marketing

Pichate Yingkiattikun

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idols as products

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

Nayika Srinian

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

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

Consensual sexual objectification

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

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

Atipati Praihirun

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

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

Expressing political opinions is up to the idols

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

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

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

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

A fact today might not be true tomorrow

Yatawee Limsiripothong

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

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

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

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

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

AI urges Thai police to not interfere with peaceful assemblies

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

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

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

The letter reads: 

Dear Commissioner General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely.

Ming Yu Hah

Deputy Director, East and Southeast Asia and Pacific Regional Office

 

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

Ultraroyalist pledges to end youth’s future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

NewsRubbish Collection OrganisationSawatree SuksriLèse-majesté
Categories: Prachatai English

Thai King works hard in his own way, says professor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thai King works hard in his own way, says professor

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-30 13:38
Submitted on Thu, 30 Jul 2020 - 01:38 PMPrachatai

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Student group marches to Education Ministry to call for LGBT rights

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-30 12:08
Submitted on Thu, 30 Jul 2020 - 12:08 PMAnna Lawattanatrakul

A group of students held a “student pride parade” on 29 July by marching to the Ministry of Education to call for equal rights and protection for LGBT students.

Students carrying a large rainbow flag during the march

The event, organized by the student activist group Bad Student, took place this morning at 10.00 and was joined by around 30 high school students, each holding placards or sporting rainbow colours to represent the LGBT pride flag. One student was also seen with the non-binary pride flag over their shoulders.

A student is seen carrying the transgender pride flag

Another student is wearing a uniform shirt painted in rainbow colours and is also carrying a rainbow flag

LGBT rights activist Sirisak Chaited came from Chiang Mai to join the students' march

The group walked nearly two kilometres along Ratchadamnoen Road from opposite the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall to the Ministry of Education, singing a version of "Lamalila," a song often heard at school and university events, modified to talk about the discrimination faced by LGBT students.

The cloth banner saying "we are not freaks" which the students carrying with them in front of the march

The group marching past the United Nations building

On the steps in front of the Ministry building, several members of the group performed symbolic actions to make a statement about their demands. One member shaved their hair while another removed her male student uniform to reveal a blouse and a skirt underneath. Another also tore up a health education textbook, saying that it is outdated and perpetuates negative perceptions of LGBT people.

Another student who took part in the march was also wearing a student uniform with insults they have received from teachers and other students written on it as a statement about the bullying faced by LGBT students in Thai schools.

A student shaved their head in a symbolic action against draconian haircut rules.

Students standing on the steps in front of the Ministry building, carrying a large rainbow flag

Representatives of the group then submitted their petition, which states that, because the rights of LGBT students are not currently protected by any law and because LGBT students are faced with misunderstandings about their identity, the group is making the following four demands:

  1. The Ministry of Education must amend the 2020 haircut regulations to allow LGBT students to choose the hairstyle that matches their gender identity.
  2. LGBT students must be able to choose to wear the uniform which matches their identity, and the Ministry must design a uniform for genderfluid students or entirely abolish school uniforms so that every student may be able to dress according to their gender identity.
  3. The Ministry must review current textbooks and stop the sale of textbooks which contain misunderstandings about LGBT people, as well as repealing any evaluation form or school regulation that contains sexist views or discriminate against LGBT students.
  4. The Ministry of Education must make sure that teachers and education personnel treat every student equally regardless of gender and that they do not discriminate against or bully students based on their gender identity.

The petition was received by the Permanent Secretary Prasert Boonruang, who said that the Ministry will consider what changes need to be made and that the process will take at least two or three months. However, when pressed by the students to promise that changes will be made as well as to answer questions about the Ministry’s new haircut regulations, which was released on 30 March but did not see implementation in many schools and have been criticised for being unclear, he refused to answer and left before the representatives could finish speaking.

Some of the placards seen at the march. The student in the second picture is also carrying a ribbon in the colours of the lesbian pride flag.
The sign in the last picture says "my teacher said that LGBT being in a relationship is disguisting, it won't last, it's unnatural." One of the pieces of paper on the sign also said "you'll like men when you grow up."

Speaking to reporters present at the event, one student representative said “remember that today is the day the Permanent Secretary walked away from students and was unable to answer questions from the students in his care. We have submitted a petition three times, and he still cannot promise us anything.”

The student representative also said that the new haircut regulations did not take into account students’ opinions, and that they still violate their rights as the new regulations still require students to be clean-shaven.

NewsLGBT rightsDiscrimination against LGBTstudent movementYouth movementStudent rightsBad StudentHaircut regulationsDresscodeGender identitysexuality
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Protestors turn to Japanese anime in anti-government protest

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-30 11:42
Submitted on Thu, 30 Jul 2020 - 11:42 AMPrachatai

Over 1000 young people participated in a “Let’s run, Hamtaro” protest on 26 July, during which they marched around the Democracy Monument singing a modified version of the theme song from Hamtaro, a Japanese animated cartoon about a band of hamsters, and called for the government to step down.

Protestors marching around the Democracy Monument, clapping and singing along to the song.

The organisers, who are mostly netizens and members of the New Life Network (Nawachiwin), adapted the lyrics of the song to make it about oppression and opposition to the military coup and government corruption.

The original line “the most delicious food is sunflower seeds” was changed to “the most delicious food is taxpayers’ money,” which the protestors sang loudly. They also shouted “dissolve parliament” while marching around the Democracy Monument.

Protestors gathering at the starting point in front of McDonald's next to the Democracy Monument

Protestors holding their placards. The one in front said "I want a democracy that's not just for show" while the one in the back said "is taxpayers' money delicious?"

Other than placards calling for democracy and for the government to resign, protestors also showed up with stuffed hamster dolls. One protestor was seen dressed up as Gintoki Sakata, a character from the Japanese animation and manga series Gin Tama, while another was wearing an inflatable T-rex costume.

A protestor was seen wearing an inflatable t-rex costume, while the person dressing up as the Gin Tama character is behind him, leading the rest of the march.

Protestors' placards contain pictures of the animated hamster. The one on the right says "uncle please resign, I'm begging you."

Besides the young people, adults and red shirt supporters also participated in the event to show their political stand since the red shirt protest and to support the power of the young. Writer and political activist Bundit Aneeya also attended the protest, even though he said he didn’t know what Hamtaro is. He also said that he hopes the people will help care for the youth movement. 

Bundit Aneeya selling his tote bags at the event

The protestors also sang the national anthem while raising their arms with three fingers extended in the three-finger ‘Hunger Games’ salute, a symbol of resistance to the military coup now well-recognised in Thailand.

One of the protestors carrying a stuffed hamster doll during the march

Democracy activists Sombat Boonngamanong (left) and Waranchai Chokchana (right) observing the event. Waranchai is holding a piece of paper saying "time's up for dictatorship."

The organisers gave a speech afterwards, reiterating the three demands made by the Free Youth Movement at the mass protest on 18 July which are now echoed by protestors across the country.  

One of the protest organizers said “We are all mice in a cage. Today the power structure is pressing down on our cage to breaking point, so we have to come out and run. Thank you, everyone, for coming out and doing your duty, and we hope that one day we will have a life in which we have rights, freedoms, and equality.”

Protestors with their placards saying "Hamtaro, you're so good at eating" (left), "the most delicious food is taxpayers' money" (middle), and "louder, louder, louder" (right).

Phumwat Raengkasiwit, the New Life Network representative who is now on hunger strike, said that to show one’s political stand, one does not require violence or being hot-headed all the time. In his opinion, protesters can use other emotions such as happiness, peacefulness, or a friendly tone to show their political stand.

Newsstudent movementYouth movementDemocracy MonumentHamtaroAnimepop culture
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Cartoon by Stephff: Student protest

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-30 11:28
Submitted on Thu, 30 Jul 2020 - 11:28 AMStephffCartoon by Stephff: Student protest

 

MultimediaStephffstudent movementYouth movementanti-government
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Cartoon by Stephff: Filthy rich vs. Thai justice

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-30 11:24
Submitted on Thu, 30 Jul 2020 - 11:24 AMStephffCartoon by Stephff: Filthy rich vs. Thai justice

 

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End the silence

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-07-29 23:52
Submitted on Wed, 29 Jul 2020 - 11:52 PMPrachatai

Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a Thai political refugee living in Cambodia, was abducted from in front of his condominium in Phnom Penh on 4 June 2020. He has now been missing for almost two months, and there has been no further information about his whereabouts. 

In this interview, Wanchalearm's friends and colleagues talk about the issue of enforced disappearance in Thailand, his abduction, and Wanchalearm as they have known him.

 

Read more about Wanchalearm's disappearance:

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LGBT activists call for democracy and gender equality

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-07-29 15:47
Submitted on Wed, 29 Jul 2020 - 03:47 PMPrachatai

LGBT activists held a demonstration on Saturday (25 July) at the Democracy Monument in the name of gender equality, LGBT rights, and democracy, as well as calling the government out for their failure in handling the Covid-19 pandemic and demanding the dissolution of parliament.

 

Protestors flashing the three-finger 'Hunger Games' salute, a well-recognised resistance symbol in Thailand which has so far been used in every protest since the start of this year. 

The event was attended by at least 200 people under the watchful eyes of around 50 police officers.

One speaker criticized the government’s failure in handling the Covid-19 outbreak as the economic impact is severe and the government itself has put Thai people at risk of infection by recently allowing VIP guests into the country without state-controlled quarantine.

A participant tying a rainbow flag to a tree opposite the Democracy Monument

In addition to reiterating the three demands made by the Free Youth Movement at the mass protest on 18 July, which are now being echoed by protestors across the country, the organisers urged the government to push for amendments to the sections on marriage and family in the Thai Civil and Commercial Code to allow LGBT couples to legally marry, which will ensure that they receive equal rights, duties, and protection under the law.

If these amendments are made, individuals will be able to legally marry regardless of gender, and will receive the rights they are entitled to as married couples, such as being 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 organizers also expressed their opposition to the Civil Partnership Bill, which has been criticized for not giving LGBT couples rights equal to heterosexual couples and for making them second-class citizens and which is seen as contradictory to the principle of equality.

The stage at the protest, decorated with not only the rainbow Pride flag but also other Pride flags, including the lesbian, pansexual, aromantic, and genderqueer Pride flags as seen hanging in front of the stage.

Speakers took turns giving speeches about marriage equality, the problem of conscription, social injustice and prejudice toward LGBT people. 

The demonstrators together chanted a modified dialogue from the film “Ho Taew Taek”, a famous comedy film about the LGBT people directed by Pot Anon. The dialogue is “Tu [the PM’s nickname], you liar! Are you talking shit to the PM … No, I blame the doll” and “You chase me out of the house … is this your house?”

Performers during one of the sketches performed during the demonstration. 

Other than performing stand-up comedy sketches making fun of the Prime Minister and the government, the speakers also sang and led the crowd in a dance using songs often sung at school and university activities, with the lyrics changed to talk about injustice and other political issues. They also invited the police to join in the dance but none took part.

Protestors were also seen waving the rainbow pride flag on the street against the backdrop of the Democracy Monument. Uniformed and plainclothes police tried to urge them to go back behind the fence. The flag waver was on the street for almost 5 minutes before returning behind the fence.

Protestors flying a rainbow Pride flag on Ratchadamneon Road

Move Forward Party MP Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, who is transgender and part of the team that drafted the bill to amend the Civil and Commercial Code , said “the LGBT people have always had their dreams murdered and been cheated of their humanity, so it is now time, as we have the first transgender MP who got into parliament. We are therefore letting everyone know that we exist, that we really are human, so they have to treat us as equal.”

She urged people to understand that LGBT people are discriminated against because of gender and portrayed as clowns. They are made into second-class citizens and receive no rights under the law. Even now, LGBT people cannot escape the frame mainstream culture has put them in. LGBT people are still stigmatized and constantly discriminated against, whether it’s in school, the family, the workplace, or the professions.

“It’s time for Thailand to make a new page of history and create true equality for Thai citizens, by taking out the words that mark gender and leaving only the words ‘person and person’, by no longer judging others’ humanity by their gender or their sexuality, because everyone, regardless of gender, is human and is entitled to equal human rights,” Tanwarin said further.

One of the protesters who dressed up as one of the characters in “Ho Taew Taek” said they came to the protest because they want to call for the right to freedom of expression, and to express that thinking differently is not wrong. They also said that, regarding marriage equality, they would like the term “person” to be used instead of “man” and “woman,” and that they wanted people to see beyond gender.

The speakers leading the crowd in a dance activity

Besides the demands made by the organizers, some participants also asked for equal rights for sex workers.

Pin Suda, who held a placard saying “Legalize sex work”, expressed her concerns regarding sex workers whose situation has worsened during the outbreak. As sex work depends heavily on the travel industry and intimacy, they should have the same rights and legal protection as other kinds of workers. Pin also emphasized that sex work is important in bringing money into the country. Although the government and older people want to turn a blind eye, Pin said they should protect sex workers as they are exposed to many risks such as violence and fraud.

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Triam Udom and Kasetsart students rally against the government

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-07-28 16:44
Submitted on Tue, 28 Jul 2020 - 04:44 PMPrachatai

Dozens of Triam Udom students and over 400 Kasetsart University students gathered at their schools to show their stance against the government. The protesters announced three demands corresponding with those of the Free Youth Movement, and criticized the media and police who are not standing with them in their fight against dictatorship at a time of moral crisis.

Students at Triam Udom Suksa School holding a demonstration in the middle of a heavy rain. (Photo by Wisarut Bunya)

On the afternoon of July 24, Triam Udom students held a flash mob #Fridaywestandupagainstdictatorship (วันศุกร์ลุกมาต้านเผด็จการ) and #Triamudomdon’tsubmittodictators (เกียมอุดมไม่ก้มหัวให้เผด็จการ) with undercover and uniformed police officers in attandance.

The students announced three demands which corresponded with those of the Free Youth Movement protest, the biggest since the outbreak: dissolve parliament, stop harassing citizens and rewrite the constitution.

Despite pouring rain, the students held placards, turned on the flashlights on their mobile phones, and observed a minute’s silence for democracy. They also sang the Japanese animation Hamtaro’s theme song with modified lyrics parodying Thai politics, one line of which was “the most delicious dish is taxpayers’ money.”

Although the school gates were closed to prevent anyone entering the school, the hour and a half demonstration was carried out peacefully. Some police officers attempted to take pictures of students’ faces before they were loudly criticized by the students.

Another protest took place at Kasetsart University later in the evening The crowd began gathering in heavy rain in front of the university’s main auditorium where the demonstration was scheduled to take place, while the organisers announced on their Facebook page that the event had been pushed back from 16:30 to 17:00.

University personnel had blocked off the road in front of the main auditorium and set up temperature screening points near the protest area.

Police officers from the Bangkhen Police Station warning protestors about violating the Emergency Decree

Before the protest could begin, some police officers warned the protesters to not do anything illegal against the Emergency Decree on the Covid-19 situation. However, participants insisted that according to the constitution they had every right to carry out the protest.

Even though the government has yet again extended the Decree, it claimed that the Decree is not political and has nothing to do with protests, and has removed a ban on public gatherings.

Protestors gathering in front of the main auditorium at Kasetsart University in the rain. 

One of the placards held by a protestors at Kasetsart University.

Many students held placards such as “Oust Prayut,” yellow posters of disappeared Thai activists, and "(If you) get rid of the government, please also help get rid of SOTUS". This reflects dissatisfaction toward the strict and oppressive seniority system inside many institutions ranging from schools to the government.

Pongsakorn Punjakunaporn, one of the protesters, had a sign saying “The monarchy is the puppet maste.” He said he does not wish to change only one person because if only Prayut is removed and replaced by someone else, nothing will change as the existing system will still remain.  Who is behind the system is well recognized but it cannot be said in public.

He believed that royal families can function in a democratic state as long as they do not violate people’s rights and freedoms or use people’s taxes for their own comfort. He disagreed with the idea that people born in certain families should enjoy more privileges than others.

“It doesn’t matter if Thailand is a republic or constitutional democracy, we must change the status and power of the king. They cannot intervene in politics.”

During the event, various speakers took the microphone.

The first speaker was a representative of the southern provinces of Thailand where a State of Emergency has been declared for more than 16 years. He criticized the government for not listening to people's voices and extending the State of Emergency and special laws imposed in the three southernmost provinces. He claimed that Thai laws exist to harass people and to maintain the power of the authorities and no media agency was reporting what happened.

“If Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha does not step down, people will drag him out,” the speaker chanted.

He also mentioned the Triam Udom protest earlier that afternoon and praised the students

A protestor at Kasetsart University holding a placard saying "democracy belongs to the people."

Students holding protest signs and flashing the three-finger 'Hinger Games' salute. The first sign on the right says "we are here to take back our future." 

Sriprai Nonsee, a leading member of the Rangsit and Area Labour Union Group, criticized the government's poor measures in handling the impact of Covid-19 on workers. The 425 baht/day wage for workers proposed by the Palang Pracharat Party during the election has also not happened.

She said the workers are affected economically due to the economic decline. Students are at risk of losing their opportunity to study if their parents lose their jobs.

Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer said many recent protests have proved 3 points.

  • They debunk the discourse that says taking the streets means chaos, because people are demonstrating peacefully without weapons.
  • They prove that the protests have public opinion on their side as many celebrities have expressed support.
  • They discredit conservative opinions that try to label us as anti-monarchy by proving that these are democratic demonstrations.

He also gave some advice to students that if our movement wins, the political refugees who fled due to their opinions against the monarchy, like Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Pavin Chatchavalpongpun and Suda Rangkupan, will return in honour.

Protestors holding 'missing person' posters for missing activist-in-exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who was abducted from in front of his condominium in Phnom Penh two months ago. 

The other 2 speakers from KU asked the media and people to stand by the students’ side. As photos of protesters’ faces and ID cards have been routinely taken during the demonstration, they criticized the police for betraying the ones who they should truly serve and who pay them from their taxes.

Two placards seen at the Kasetsart University demonstration. The one of the right said "I want this country to be a country in which people can have a dream." The one on the left also contain the #saveWanchalearm hashtag, which was used to demand justice for Wanchalearm Satsaksit. 

The demonstration concluded at around 20:30. A KU student representative underlined their 5 demands: support democracy, rights and freedoms; create social welfare for all in all aspects; draft a new constitution with the participation of people; disband the current senate as it is appointed by the junta or just abolish the senate system for good; and decentralize power to local government and let them have decision-making power without the unnecessary control of the central authority.

The organizer said that they will meet again until democracy is in place.

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