Prachatai English

Family, friends hold gathering in memory of missing activist

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-11-02 15:11
Submitted on Tue, 2 Nov 2021 - 03:11 PMPrachatai

Friends and family of activist in exile Siam Theerawut, who went missing 2 years ago, met at his family home in Samut Sakhon on Saturday (31 October) for a gathering on his 36th birthday, while his fate remains unknown.

They held a small merit-making ceremony, and a birthday gathering for Siam. There were also reports that, on 29 October, 2 days before the event, 2 men who claimed to be police officers came to the house to ask about the event.

Siam was a member of the Prakaifai theatre group and was involved in “The Wolf Bride.” Many of those involved in staging the play were charged with royal defamation under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. Pornthip Mankhong and Patiwat Saraiyaem, two other performers on the show, were arrested and spent two years in prison.

In 2018, Siam was accused of being a leading member of the Thai Federation and was charged with royal defamation. He fled the country after the 2014 military coup when all royal defamation cases were revived.

Siam went missing in May 2019, after he was reportedly arrested in Vietnam and extradited to Bangkok along with 2 other Thai activists in exile, Chucheep “Uncle Sanam Luang” Chiwasut and Kritsana Tubthai. They have not been heard from since.

In June 2021, Kanya and Saranya Theerawut, Siam’s mother and sister, went to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), along with Sitanun Satsaksit, sister of missing activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit, and their legal assistance team from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) and the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) to ask for updates on the investigation into the two activists’ disappearances.

Saranya said that there were no updates and that, while the DSI has asked the family for basic information about Siam’s disappearance, there has not been much progress in the investigation at all. As of October 2021, Siam’s whereabouts remain unknown.

NewsSiam Theerawutenforced disappearancepolitical refugee
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Thailand's reopening

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-11-02 14:39
Submitted on Tue, 2 Nov 2021 - 02:39 PMStephff

MultimediaStephffThailandtourism
Categories: Prachatai English

Threats, violence, and lawsuits became 'normal' for Thai journalists

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-11-02 01:08
Submitted on Tue, 2 Nov 2021 - 01:08 AMPrachatai

During the 2020 - 2021 pro-democracy protests, reporters in the field have been arrested and injured despite wearing visible press IDs and staying in groups with other reporters, while reporters covering resource disputes, development projects, and labour rights continue to face lawsuits. 

Meanwhile, reporters working in the Deep South are at risk of harassments, arbitrary detention. Their sources are also threatened to pressure reporters to stop covering stories. 

In many cases, assaulting reporters is normalized, such as when Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha sprayed hand sanitizer onto reporters at the Government House, or when Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Gen Prawit Wongsuwan appeared to punch a reporter, which was explained as him 'teasing' the reporter. 

Often, violence against Thai journalists are not investigated, and no perpetrators are brought to justice. On the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, Prachatai presents a report on the threats faced by journalists in Thailand and the impact of such threat on the journalists themselves and on communication rights. 

Crowd control police pulling on a reporter covering a protest (Photo from iLaw)

Press freedom situation in Thailand 

In the aftermath of the National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO) coup of 22 May 2014, Freedom House ranked Thailand’s media  as “Not Free” for a number of years running.  Following the general election in 2019, the country’s status was briefly raised to “Partly Free” only to return again to “Not Free” the next year.

In their 2020 annual report, Freedom House explained that Thailand’s improved ranking in 2019 was due to the fact that although laws limiting press freedom were is still in use, the NCPO canceled some of the controls that left Thai and foreign-language mass media exposed to junta censorship, threats and lawsuits.

In the same report, Freedom House also mentioned the case of a Belgium reporter who was taken from his residence after trying to interview a political activist who was assaulted prior the election, as well as the case of a Voice TV reporter who was sentenced to prison by the Court of First Instance for a Twitter post on labour rights abuse at a local chicken farm.

Explaining the ranking downgrade in its 2021 report, Freedom House stated that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government had declared a state of emergency using a 2005 Royal Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations, which gives the government power to limit mass media reporting. At the same time, it also imposed a Computer Crimes Act which threatens the possibility of lawsuits and stipulates that violators can be sentenced up to 5 years in prison. The report further noted government requests for deletion of content, the arrest of reporters covering anti-government protests and government appeals to the courts resulting in the closure of at least 4 news agencies.

According to Reporters without Borders (RSF)'s 2021 World Press Freedom Index, the 2019 election did not result in any significant improvement in press freedom in Thailand. Government critics continued to be stifled by strict laws and a politically-compromised judiciary.

RSF also discussed the 2019 Cyber Security Act, which increases governmental authority and poses a threat to online data, and the use of lese majeste laws under Section 112 of the Criminal Code which stipulates 3-15 years of imprisonment as  tools to block the public and mass media from expressing opposition to the government. 

As a consequence, media coverage of the the pro-democracy protests in 2020 met with considerable self-censorship and demands for monarchy reform were systematically deleted from mainstream mass media reports

The Thai government continues to use the COVID-19 pandemic to enact laws prohibiting the reporting of false information and news likely to cause public concern. They have also arrested or repatriated reporters and bloggers from Cambodia, China and Vietnam who took refuge in Thailand back to their respective countries to face imprisonment.

According to the UNESCO observatory of killed journalists, no reporter has been killed in in Thailand since 2013. Two journalists lost their lives while covering military crackdown on the protsts in 2010. However, the perpetrators were never apprehended. Three other cases have no investigation information.

Defining violence towards mass media

Phansasiri Kurarb, a lecturer at the Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University and a scholar of journalism in conflict settings, says that mass media work is directly related to violence; journalists are on the frontline, discovering truths, posing questions, and investigating events that arise in society – in many instances, violent events that endanger their lives and mental health, and threaten the safety and survival of their respective organisations.

Phansasiri added that the risks stem from interacting with people to collect information in dangerous settings: at demonstrations; in armed conflicts; during civil unrest; in war; terrorism; pandemics; disasters, and when investigating the misuse of power by state or other private beneficiaries. Data collected by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) indicates that more journalists die from reporting on politics, corruption and human rights than from covering war news.

According to Phansasiri, the reports of various human rights groups and international organisation about violence directed at mass media lend support to a theory proposed by Johan Galtung, a Peace Studies scholar, who categorises such violence into 3 levels, as follows:

1. Direct/physical violence - an obvious and direct threat to life which can involve threats, physical assault, inflicting pain or illness, sexual harassment, kidnapping, detention, and ultimately murder.

2. Structural violence - legal mechanisms, regulations, and market structures that impede the work and freedom of mass media. Phasansiri gave four examples of structural violence, as follows:

  • Legal measures which are vague or unfair; for example, lawsuits, orders, announcements or measures obstructing communication rights, press freedom, rights to access information, or freedom of expression, such as threatening to file charges for revealing false information or a government news bill which stipulates penalties for mass media.
  • Overseeing/monitoring mechanisms which are vague and unfair, authorising licenses, investigating, giving penalties, limiting access to opportunities, censoring content before and after publishing, and favoritism, such as denying access to membership in a media profession organisation.
  • Market structures that hinder free competition and the presentation of diverse content, such as:
  • Awarding radio frequencies for state profit as opposed to public benefits and communication rights, effectively ending community radio and leaving most other public communications channels in the hands of state agencies: the military’s Channel TV5HD and its (MUX) network; the Public Relations Department, state enterprises such as MCOT Public Company and public media such as Thai PBS. According to Phansasiri, things are not really different from the past when the state monopolised broadcasting frequency, a big step backwards for media structure reform.
  • High entry barriers for the industry. A large amount of capital is needed to maintain a media business. And there is an algorithm bias that requires platform providers to focus on engagement numbers, which encourages the dissemination of false information to obtain profit from advertisement.  Content production is also not always transparent.
  • Organisational mechanisms that do not support the welfare rights of workers: constraints on labour unions in negotiating labour rights: affirming freedom of expression while working behind closed doors; lobbying to protect private benefits and not freedom of expression.

3. Cultural violence - undemocratic thought processes that do not conform to human rights principles, impeding the work of authorised organisations, directors and media workers; and a society that does not support mass media to work freely, such as:

  • Beliefs and understandings in society about what should not be said or asked without deviating from proper morals, peace and order; beliefs  which often conflict with internationally accepted values of a democratic society promoting equality, human rights, and the concept of global citizenry. Local examples include issues related to the monarchy, religion, and nation-state (Buddhism-royal nationalism). When the media poses questions concerning such issues, they will be labelled as nation-haters and anti-royalists who want to overthrow the throne, as happened to Thapanee Eadsricha who was attacked for not loving the nation and loving outsiders more than her fellow nationals after writing sympathetic reports about Rohingya boat people seeking asylum.
  • The attitudes of people in government and state agencies who believe the mass media questions and investigations are antagonistic towards the state. Donald Trump, former President of the United States of America, is a good example, as our is own PM’s ferocious responses and refusal to answer questions … lecturing the mass media on the importance of cooperating with the state, etc.
  • Conservative organisational culture. For example, understandings of proprietary control, seniority, and patriarchy – one must be a strong woman who lives like a man to receive support.  One also has to overlook sexual harassment issues and set aside gender sensitivity.   And then there are class divisions between central and local reporters and stringers who are treated like hired help, not shareholders in news, get little welfare protection in consequence.
High pressure water, teargas, rubber bullets, arrests, assaults, fireworks: mass media becomes the target of protest violence

Mob Data Thailand collects data on public protests in the country. From 2020 to 29 October 2021, there have been at least 1,291 protests, some 58 of which were suppressed. During these protests, at least 5 mass media workers were arrested. Some 14 people reported being shot by rubber bullets. At least 3 people were physically assaulted. At least 4 were injured by explosive devices. Those arrested and injured all wore symbols indicating that they worked for mass media. Most were harmed while standing together, separate from the protestors.

Using weapons to suppress protests first started on 15 October 2020, when the government declared an emergency situation. Officers used high pressure water trucks and tear gas as weapons to disperse the protesters. On 16 October 2020, Kitti Pantapak, a Prachatai journalist, was detained while live-streaming the situation. His wrists were tied behind his back with cable ties for more than 2 hours. He was charged with disobeying a lawful order and released. Other reporters in the area were affected physically by the tear gas, which caused skin and respiratory system irritation. The protest suppression did not conform to international law.

Prachatai reporter Kitti Pantapak was arrested while covering police dispersal of the 16 October 2020 protest

From then until now, officers have continued to use weapons to suppress protests and violence has escalated. Rubber bullets were used for the first time at the 17 November 2020 protest in front of the parliament. The state started to forcefully arresting protestors at the 13 February 2021 protest in front of the city pillar shrine. Other escalations include:

  • Using force over five hours to suppress a protest,  and arresting over 100 people including reporters.
  • According to several photographers at the 17 November 2020 demonstration in front of parliament, police were the ones who triggered a confrontation with the protesters.
  • At the 13 February 2021 protest, volunteer nurses and shooting vocational college guards were assaulted, as reported by “Ratsadon” leaders at the end of the protest
  • At the 16 January 2021 protest, when protesters gathered at the Samyan Intersection to demand the release of activists arrested while writing on banners at the Democracy Monument, crowd control police surrounded the area to disperse the protesters. There was an explosion in front of Chamchuri Square and Tanakorn Wongpanya, a reported for The Standard, was injured on his left thigh.

  • In addition to Kitti, Bancha (last name withheld), a Naewna reporter, was arrested while on duty covering the 28 February 2021 protest near the residence of Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha.

    Bancha said in an interview with Thai Lawyers for Human Rights that officers ran over and detained him, pushing him to the ground. He was kicked and hit by batons, before being handcuffed with cable ties. Despite identifying himself as a mass media worker, Bancha was charged for violating Section 9 of the Royal Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations, the Communicable Diseases Act, for gathering and using force, causing chaos in society, fighting and obstructing lawful officers and harming officers.  If found guilty he could face 5 years in prison.

  • At a protest at Sanam Luang on 20 April 2021, which called for limits on the King’s authority, three reporters, 2 of whom were women, were shot with rubber bullets while on duty near Khao San Road. Those injured were Channel 8 reporter Phanittnat Phrombangkoet, who was shot in the head causing brain inflammation and had to stay in an intensive care unit for 1 night; Prachatai reporter Sarayut Tangprasert , who was shot by 2 bullets in his back; and Thanyalak Wannakot, who was shot in her leg. All three had symbols identifying them as media workers.

Prachatai reporter Sarayut Tangprasert was shot in the back with a rubber bullet while covering the 20 April 2021 protest

  • During the 18 July 2021 protest, members of the activist group Free Youth marched from the Democracy Monument to the Government House. Officers arranged a line to block the march at the Phan Fa Lilat Intersection, where Plus Seven reporter Thanaphon Koengphaibun, who was clearly identified as a journalist, was shot in the hip while standing with other reporters. There were no warnings from authorities. 2 other reporters were also shot by rubber bullets: Matichon TV reporter Pheeraphong Phongnat, a Matichon TV reporter was shot on his left arm, and The Matter photographer Channarong Ueaudomchot, a photographer was also shot on his left arm. 

  • At the 10 August 2021 protest, independent protestors started to gather at the Din Daeng intersection with the goal of calling for the Prime Minister to resign. They later became known as the “Thalugaz” group. On that day, The Reporters founder and reporter Thapanee Eadsrichai was shot by a rubber bullet on her leg. Independent photographer. The Human Rights Lawyer Alliance stated that at least 2 mass media workers were harmed with rubber bullets that day.

  •  

    During a protest at the Victory Monument on 11 August 2021, Laila Tahe, who conributed photos to Benarnews and Rice Media Thailand, was hit by a police officer with a baton, which missed her arm but damaged her camera lens.

The damage to Laila Tahe's camera after she was hit by a police officer while covering the 11 August 2021 protest

  • At least 3 mass media workers were shot by rubber bullets during the 13 August 2021 protest. Phichitpak Kaennakam, a VoiceTV reporter, was shot near his knee. He said in an interview with Matichon Online that he was shot while standing together with more than 10 other reporters to hide from the rain. All were wearing mass media armbands. However, the police approached and shot at them, even after they tried show their credentials, holding up armbands and showing their cameras or camera stands. Phichitsak said that another female photographer was also shot in the leg.

  • At the 15 August 2021 protest, at least 2 mass media workers were shot with rubber bullets. Khao Sod Online reported that a VoiceTV reporter was shot in the legs.

  • At the 21 August 2021 protest, Thapanee Eadsrichai reported that a journalist with The Reporters was hit with great force on the right side of his helmet by an object while live reporting from the Din Daeng intersection. He fell to the ground and was later treated for a torn eardrum, requiring three months of rest and observation.

  • At the 29 August 2021 protest at the Din Daeng intersection, Nation reporter Suphachai Phetthewi was shot by a rubber bullet near the back of his right ear. Siam Rath reported that fireworks were shot towards a group of reporters, injuring Chatanan Chataphiwan in his right hand and bruising Nation photographer Woraphong Noithaptim's right hand. 

  •  

    Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that at least 5 mass media workers were injured during the protest suppression at the Din Daeng intersection on 13 September 2021. Almost 20 reporters were targeted by lasers before rubber bullets were shot from the Army Band headquarters. They were standing on the opposite side of the protesters. 

    During the 13 September 2021 protest, the police also arrested Natthapong Mali, a reporter from Ratsadon News, and another woman citizen reporter from the Free Our Friends Facebook page for violating the Emergency Decree while they were live streaming from the Din Daeng Intersection. Both had their hands tied up with cable ties. 

Ratsadon News reporter Natthapong Mali was arrested while covering the 13 September 2021 protest

  • At the 27 September 2021 protest, a woman reporter from the Kathoei Mae Luk On Facebook page was pushed by the police. They also tried to arrest her, but she was rescued by a civilian. 

  • At the 28 September 2021 protest, Natthanon Charoenchai, a journalist with The Reporters, said he was shot with high-pressure water cannon until he fell while reporting on the situation at the Nang Loeng Intersection. At the time, he was standing close to 10 other reporters who were also live-streaming.

  • At the 6 October 2021 protest, “Admin Ninja”, an independent reporter from the Live Real Facebook page, was arrested while live-streaming the situation at the Din Daeng intersection despite having clear press identification.

  • At a protest on 29 October 2021 held in memory of Warit Somnoi, a 15-year-old boy who died as the result of being shot in front of the Din Daeng police station, there were reports that police shot rubber bullets from a moving truck towards protesters and journalists on the footpath. iLaw reported that police seized a mobile phone from a civilian reporter affiliated with the Kathoei Mae Luk On Facebook page. 

The police tried to seize a mobile phon from a civilian reporter from the Kathoei Mae Luk On Facebook page. (Photo from iLaw)

Three reporters - Sarayut Tangprasert, Thanaphong Koengphaibun, and Channarong Ueaudomchot - filed a lawsuit with the Civil Court, asking for protection for mass media workers. To this day, the Civil Court has yet to summon concerned parties for investigation. It also dismissed Sarayut’s case on the grounds that the Court was unable to prohibit protest suppressions as the Royal Thai Police had to investigate any unlawful actions to prevent threats towards mass media workers.

Focus on lawsuits. Reporting news in conflicts situations: resources, development projects, labour rights and SLAPPs

When it comes to conflicts involving resource disputes, development projects, and labour rights, there is limited record of physical violence. Since the 2019 general election, threats against journalists have taken the form of lawsuits for published pieces. 

There have been cases where threats caused reporters to feel unsafe. For example, journalists were threatened while covering a public hearing for a mine concession in Khlong Yai subdistrict, Tamot district, Phatthalung province. Manager Online reported that Channel 7 reporter Isana Udomsilp and Thai PBS reporter Latda Manirat, a Thai PBS reporter, along with the teams from Thairath TV and Amarin TV, were followed by a car while taking photos of water sources in the area. A man who claimed to be representing the company seeking the concession then came to ask them if they were reporters, and prohibited them from coveirng the hearing. He also followed them in car until they left the area. 

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Lawyers Association has been collecting data on at least 195 cases of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) in Thailand, at least 10 of which were against journalists. 

Since 2019, at least 3 cases were against journalists: a chicken farm defamation lawsuit against Voice TV reporter; a contempt of court case against Sarinee Achavanuntakul and the Krungthep Turakij newspaper editor; and a defamation lawsuit filed by a Thai mining company in Myanmar against former Green News editor Prach Ruchiwanarom. 

Suchanee Cloitre (Photo from iLaw)

In the chicken farm defamation case, former Voice TV reporter Suchanee Cloitre was sued for tweeting about a court ruling in a case brought by a Myanmar worker against the Thammakaset company. The court ordered the farm owner to pay the worker on 14 September 2017.

On 16 November 2017, Chanchai Phermphon filed a complaint with the police at Koktum Police Station in Lopburi, but the public prosecutor dismissed the case on the ground that the defendant only intended to report on the court ruling as a journalist and did not intend to cause damage to the Thammakaset company. 

On 1 March 2019, Thammakaset company authorised Chanchai to file charges against Suchani again with the Lopburi Provincial Court. On 24 December 2019, the Court of First Instance sentenced Suchanee to 2 years in prison for defamation, since the words she used were not the same as the court ruling, causing damage to Thammakasets reputation.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the case on 23 October 2020 on the grounds that, as a journalist, Suchanee has received information from directly interviewing the Myanmar worker. Although her words were not the same as the court ruling, it attracted readers. The words were also used by foreign media,  and offered in good faith. Currently the case is before the Supreme Court.

Sarinee Achavanuntakul

Another case started in August 2019. Writer Sarinee Achavanuntakul and Krungthep Turakij editor Yutthana Nuancharas were charged with contempt of court for an article published in Krungthep Turakij newspaper on 14 November 2019. The article discussed the disqualification of potential MP candidates using the objective to produce mass media as stated on the memorandum of association as a reason, even though the candidate's company does not run a media outlet. 

The case concluded in October 2019 with a public apology from Sarinee, who retracted the inappropriate wording she used to criticize the ruling of the Supreme Court's Election Case Division from her article. 

Prach Ruchiwanaram

The most recent case is that of the defamation lawsuit filed by the Myanmar Pongpipat Company, a Thai mining company in Myanmar, against Prach Ruchiwanaram, then editor of Green News for reporting that a Myanmar court ordered the firm to pay Tawai villagers 2.4 million baht for tin mine environmental damage. The report was published on the Green News website on 13 January 2020. The case is currently at the attorney stage.

This case is the second time that the mining company has pressed charges against Prach. In 2017, the company filed a lawsuit for defamation and reporting false information in response to the article “Thai mine destroys Myanmar water sources” which was published by the Nation Online. The case ended with mediation and the company dropping the charge.

Reporting from the Southern Border Provinces

The current phase of unrest in the Southern Border Provinces started in 2004. Phansasiri, Thai Media for Democracy Alliance (DemAll) coordinator Nattharavut Muangsuk, and independent reporter Naulnoi Thammasathien, all of whom has experience in reporting in the Deep South provinces, said that journalists in the region are not a target of violence like they are in protests, but may become collateral damage. 

Nevertheless, Nualnoi said that, although journalists in the Deep South are not a target of violence and do not get arrested as often as those who cover the protests, threats against press freedom are still a cause for concern. 

On 24 November 2019, officers of unknown affiliation raided a coffee shop in the Talat Kao area, Yala province, and detained Wartani news agency's editor-in-chief and 4 other employees: Ruslan Musor, Mapakri Late, Fais, and Weera Mateha.

Wartani editor-in-chief Ruslan Musor said that, during an editorial team meeting preparing to cover an attack on a village security booth at Lamphaya subdistrict in Yala at the coffee shop, more than 10 cars of officers came to search the place, claiming that there was a suspect there. Police officers asked to see Ruslan’s identification card, claimed that they had been trying to find him for a long time, and announced that they would be taking him in.  Seven people were detained.

Ruslan was taken to Yala police station for interrogation, without a lawyer. Officers tried to collect DNA samples but he refused. Additionally, the officers seized his mobile phone to check his IMEI number, claiming that they just wanted to collect information and look at his Facebook and LINE messages, before releasing him. They also repeatedly told Ruslan to explain to others that it was all a misunderstanding.

Ruslan said that Wartani reporters have always been threatened, sometimes with lawsuits. They also get followed while traveling. Officers visited family members or summoned them to ask them to tone down their reporting. Other than threatening the reporters and their families, officers also visited their sources at home to pressure Wartani into removing articles or prohibit them from speaking to Wartani. 

Mass media workers harmed by new source so often it almost appears normal

Reporters assigned to the Government House are another group that faces physical violence. In 2019, photos of Thai PBS reporter Wasana Nanuam being punched in the stomach by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, appeared in the press.

Wasana later explained that they were just playing around. In her words, “…it’s normal to tease or prank reporters that ask a lot of questions, particularly reporters covering the military. They grit their teeth and hit our shoulders, arms and stomach. It seems normal now.”

In January 2021, Amarin TV reporter Naphat Praniphon had his microphone taken, hit on the shoulder, and placed in a neck lock while interviewing Chaiphon ‘Uncle Phon’  Wipha, a suspect in the case of a girl who went missing and later found dead in Koktun subdistrict, Dongluang district, Mukdahan province.

On 9 March 2021, Gen Prayut sprayed alcohol hand sanitizer at reporters from many agencies after being asked about plans to adjust his Council of Ministers. In addition, while the Head of the NCPO, Gen Prayuth threw banana peels, water, instant noodles packets, and a tuberculosis test kit at reporters. There are also photos of him hitting reporters on the head.

On 3 September 2021, photos were published of Gen Prawit using his hand to touch the face of a reporter in anger and using his fist to punch at the face of a female reporter after being asked about conflicts within the Palang Pracharath Party, of which Gen Prawit is currently head.            

The impact of violence

According to Phansasiri, the use of various types of violence against people working in mass media threatens public communication rights. Instead of hearing from all sides, people will only receive partial truths. They will be left without a space to exchange ideas, discuss matters and debate issues in order to reach a conclusion or agreement. Especially during conflicts and crises, society needs a complete understand of the truth and public discussion to resolve conflicts and move forward without leaving anyone behind. When constraints have been placed on the media, the people lose power over their own fate as well as the means to speak to those who possess power.

In keeping with the above, Nualnoi added that the violence which effects people working in mass media often starts from little things that grow bigger over time, becoming a new standard, a new normal.

“If what happened at Din Daeng is repeated again and again, we’ll get a new normal that says whenever there is a protest, say a protest at Ratchadamnoen, officers will announce that the area off limits, that the media is not allowed inside. This means the eyes of the public will not see some places, some points. And we’ll accept this as the New normal,” Nualnoi said.

Nattharavut expressed concern about the safety of people working in mass media, especially the independents. He noted that independent journalists often report on issues that mainstream media does not dare to report.  As a result, they face greater risk from state authorities and third parties who disagree with protest demands.

In addition to the obvious physical risks to to journalists, the DemAll coordinator noted the psychological impacts they faced. He added that many reporters have developed PTSD as a result of the stressful conditions they operate in, waking up in the morning to report on protests that turn violent with water cannon, rubber bullets, firecrackers, fireworks, and explosions, not knowing if they will be hit by firecrackers or lose a limb to a rubber bullet.

“Fear and worry eat at our hearts, but we can’t do anything because resignation means no work. Moving within the mass media industry is not easy to do. We have to endure and continue. If an agency has a good editorial team, we can talk and the editor will listen. Some may find a way to change teams and not go out to face that problem, but for the most part, that’s the minority,” Nattharavut said.

Proposals to end violence against mass media workers

Phansasiri believes that adherence to democratic principles and the protection and guarantee of equal rights for the people, especially communication rights which cover information access, freedom of expression and public gatherings, are the factors required to end violence against journalists.

When violence is committed against mass media, every sector should have a proper investigation process to uncover the truth establish responsibility and assure that the perpetrators are really punished.  Protection mechanisms should also be in place to protect victims physical and mentally.

The Faculty of Communication Arts professor offered the following proposals for concerned parties:

1. Government, state agencies and overseeing agencies should implement policies and laws to protect the right to freedom of expression, to promote diversity in mass media and fair competition. They should also provide training to governmental agents, the general public and journalists to promote understanding of the role each must play in protecting the rights and freedoms of the people and reducing the risk of violence.  In addition, the government, state agencies and overseeing agencies should avoid all levels of violence and never accept violence as a legitimate recourse.

2. The legislative sector should work on amending laws that potentially threaten public freedoms. It should also provide a public space where people can freely present facts as well as discuss and debate issues in order to resolve conflicts peacefully.

3. Media groups and media professional organisations should uphold freedom of the press and freedom of the people.  They should also work to understand different types of violence and ways that organisations can prevent violence. For instance, trainings can be organized and information disseminated information on how to avoid promoting violence in the researching and news reporting process. The organisations should also ensure the labour rights and welfare of all workers.

In addition, mass media groups and media professional organisations should draw up a response plan to prevent violence and provide their personnel with protective equipment. When violence does occur, efforts should be made to immediately report it to every sector, including the public.

4. Mass media platform providers should cooperate with mass media organisations to ensure mass media communication access and quality. They should also promote free and fair public communication. Guidelines should be used to timely monitor content that might lead to violence against the people and journalists. Journalists’ privacy should also be protected.

5. The public and the civil sectors should work together to help people understand the connection between freedom of the people and freedom of the press, protecting mass media organisations and freedom of speech for the people. They should also point out that violence is unacceptable even when used is retaliation. Violence should be the last resort.

Nattharavut suggested that the most urgent action is to educate society, to help society mature and acknowledge the growing popularity of new media. At the same time mass media organisations need to take proactive measure to protect reporters in the field. For example, there should be a war room to keep track of protest situations and issue immediate reports. Field coordinators are also needed. When any problem occurs, coordinators could contact officers and protestors. This would allow reporters to present problems in a timely manner, seeing events as they unfold, not just finding footage afterwards.

In addition, the DemAll coordinator encouraged media professional organisations to be brave enough to present their demands to the state and engage in symbolic actions when the government has limited their freedom, such as banning or not reporting news, setting up the camera without a reporter, or having reporters wear body armour to signify that they are in a war. At the same time, journalists were encouraged to develop themselves, increase their awareness and be more wary of state domination.

Natthaphong Mali from Rasatdon News proposed that online mass media and independent news agencies should be given formal recognition. Profession organisations, the Thai government and people should realise that the world is changing. News agencies are no longer just the main TV channels and newspapers. The world is now online and borderless.  Anyone can be in mass media, provided they maintain principles and ethics, reporting the situation accurately.

Noting the deteriorating level of mutual trust in society Nualnoi suggested that those working in mass media clearly announce that they are journalists as soon as they enter dangerous or complex areas. She also proposed that journalists don’t work alone but enter the site with a partner who can help to look out for trouble.

“Journalists don’t have any weapons. To guarantee their own safety journalists must rely on little more than their sincerity, their transparency and their work,” said Nualnoi.

Featurepress freedomViolence against journalistsInternational Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists
Categories: Prachatai English

Labour minister should be replaced, says CSO

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-11-01 13:44
Submitted on Mon, 1 Nov 2021 - 01:44 PMMigrant Working Group (MWG)

The government urged to replace the Minister of Labour to show their responsibility for failure in the management of foreign workers and to address human trafficking, stated the labour rights NGO Migrant Working Group (MWG).

Policemen instruct the migrant labours at the ministry of labour.

On 29 October 2021, representatives of migrant workers together with the Workers’ Union, the Migrant Working Group (MWG) and the Labour Network for Peoples Rights have gone to the Ministry of Labour to submit a letter of petition to the Minister of Labour regarding the monitoring of the proposals to address the problems of construction workers and migrant workers amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

They also demanded other solutions including the bribery demanded from the workers, expenses incurred from the regularization process, a lack of clarity in the policy concerning the regularization process and the procedure for the registration of the migrant workers according to the cabinet resolution made on 28 September 2021 (click for more detail)

During the handing of the letter and the negotiation with officials at the Ministry of Labour, police officials, Immigration officials and other unidentified officials clad in vests bearing the name of “Minister of Labour Suchart Chomklin” have barged in and demanded the examination of the personal documents of the workers as well as taken their photo while they were in the premises of the Ministry of Labour.

Eight of the migrant workers were then taken immediately to the Din Daeng Police Station. The inquiry officials have later prepared a charge sheet made at the Immigration Bureau alleging that of the eight migrant workers held in custody, seven were allegedly aliens who have entered and lived in the Kingdom without permission. While being deprived of their liberty, all the migrant workers were denied access to their legal counsel and interpreter that they could trust. 

In response to the incidence, the Migrant Working Group (MWG) and partner organizations condemn the arrests of the workers while they were handing a letter to the Minister of Labour to explore solutions to the problems they were facing as a result of the policy concerning the management of migrant workers.

To prevent them from having to live and work illegally in the Thai Kingdom and to prevent them from becoming victims of exploitation, MWG have these opinions and urgent recommendations as follows; 

  1. As a leading agency taking charge of policies concerning the management of migrant workers in the past several decades, the Ministry of Labour has not seriously learned from lessons to ensure the sustainable management migrant workers. As a result, the country has been downgraded in terms of its credibility for the promotion of safe migration and has become a hub of exploitation, human trafficking, and the use of child labour. The mass arrests of migrant workers during the political crisis in 2014 due to ignorance among the leaderships and a lack of clear policy for the renewal of work permit for migrant workers whose employment permits were going to expire, has prompted an exodus of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers back to their countries out of their fear of the hardline crackdown. This has caused the downgrading of Thailand in terms of its response to trafficking in persons to the lowest tier (Tier 3-TIP report).
  2. During the crisis of labour management in 2014, the government’s only solution to the problems was the promulgation of the Royal Decree Concerning the Management of Foreign Workers in 2017. But a lack of legal enforcement or fair policies on employment have failed to give rise to a genuinely safe migration. Regarding the appointment of the Minister of Labour in the current coalition, MWG has found the Minister lacks visions, knowledge and leaderships essential for the enhancement of the quality of life of the workers, particularly during this major crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite being the host agency to propose solutions to the management of migrant workers, the head of the Ministry of Labour has failed to prevent the arrests of migrant workers whose employments in various sectors have been affected. A case in point was the arrests of migrant workers right in the premises of the Ministry of Labour, or the case against Ms. P who was subject to an unlawful arrest and later released after receiving legal assistance from civil society (more detail 5).  
  3. MWG urges the Ministry of Labour to immediately release all the seven migrant workers being held in custody and promptly address the gaps in the enforcement of the laws to ensure compliance with the cabinet resolution. Apart from proposing the management of migrant worker plan to seek approval from the cabinet, the Ministry of Labour has to expedite its effort to collaborate with concerned agencies to issue relevant Notifications and propose them to the cabinet meeting. For example, during the latest meeting on 28 September 2021, it was approved in principle to determine the goals for the management of migrant workers during the crisis to enhance disease surveillance and prevention and the undocumented migrant workers shall be allowed to continue staying and working in Thailand. The delay to issue the Notifications and the arrests of migrant workers at the Ministry of Labour have led to the deprivation of liberty of the migrant workers.
  4. MWG has found that responses by the Ministry of Labour affect the image and investment prospect of the country since Thailand continues to be looked at as a country not supportive of safe migration and it may lead to exploitation, human trafficking, and the use of child labour. We therefore demand the Prime Minister consider appointing a new Minister of Labour. The head of the Ministry of Labour must be recruited from leaders with visions, knowledge and leadership to enhance the quality of life of the workers and to promote the economic development with the understanding of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and respect of labour rights based on international laws and international labour standards. It also includes all the pledges on the protection of migrant workers without discrimination given by the delegations of Thailand in various global forums including the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) and the National Actional Plan on Business and Human Rights meetings.

“Migrant workers are labour
Labour rights are human rights”

Migrant Working Group (MWG)

Pick to PostLabour rightMigrant Working Group (MWG)Suchart Chomklin
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Russel Crowe

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-11-01 13:08
Submitted on Mon, 1 Nov 2021 - 01:08 PMStephffCartoon by Stephff: Russel Crowe

Multimedia
Categories: Prachatai English

People take the streets to demand the abolition of royal defamation law

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-11-01 11:33
Submitted on Mon, 1 Nov 2021 - 11:33 AMPrachatai

On 31 October, a protest was held by the Ratsadon group at Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong Intersection to demand that the royal defamation law be abolished and those held for violating it be freed.

People take over the road that leads to Ratchaprasong Intersection.

The march took place around 15.00 and concluded at 20.30 . Representatives of legal watchdog iLaw were at the scene collecting signatures for a petition demanding that parliament abolish Section 112 of the criminal code which stipulates punishment for anyone who defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent, or the Regent.

Meanwhile, people gathered at “Uncle Nuamthong Pedestrian Bridge”, in front of the Thairath newspaper office on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road to commemorate his suicidal protest and his death.

People pay respect to Nuamthong Praiwan.

On this day in 2006, Nuamthong Praiwan, slammed his taxi into a military tank near a military headquarters in Bangkok. The seriously injured driver told the press he wanted to protest against the coup committed on 19 September that year. 

At the opening of the event, Pol Col Kritsana Pattanacharoen, deputy spokesperson of the Royal Thai Police Office, stated the protest was in violation of both the emergency decree and Contagious Disease Act. He added that police planned to monitor the event and collect evidence so that charges could later be brought against anyone breaking the law.

The protesters took turns presenting critiques of the royal defamation law.

Yingcheep Atchanont, an iLaw spokesperson, noted growing frustration among members of the media, politicians, bureaucrats and the public with a law that left them unable to talk about the impact of monarchy-related issues on their lives.

Yingcheep Atchanont

“We believe that it would be better to have a concise law that lets people understand what can be said and what cannot, a law that leaves us confident that if what we said say is true, reasonable, and of benefit to the public and nation, we can speak freely and never be accused of wrongdoing.”

“We believe that it would be better if individuals who defame and damage others are tried under a just law by impartial court officers who decide cases on the basis of facts and law, irrespective of the political atmosphere,”

We believe, when people are in fundamental disagreement over the country’s problems, that it is better to put everything on the table and talk.  Let parties to the dispute put forward their arguments and debate the evidence.  Let people everywhere listen and participate in deciding what to do. ”

“We believe it would be better to live in a society where people are not imprisoned for simply expressing their political opinions, for demanding a better society, and for asserting that the people are the true owners of power in the country,” said Yingcheep.

Supitcha Chailom, a student activist charged under Section 112, also gave a speech at Ratchaprasong Intersection. She said Section 112 is being used by the state to harass and stoke fear among the people to keep them from criticising the monarchy and calling for monarchy reform. In the recent past, people have been charged for questioning the Kingdom’s vaccination rollout, mocking the royal dog, and even reciting part of a poem.

Supitcha Chailom

“The more you use [Section 112], the more likely it is that the thing you wanted to protect will come crumbling down,” said Supitcha, urging people to sign the petition to abolish Section 112.

Phromsorn Viradhammajari from Ratsadon Mutelu group also gave a speech, noting that although the monarchy is a state organization that receives a national budget, there is no public oversight of the many appointed royal officers and established royal projects.

He said feudalists have been using the monarchy and Section 112 to oppress people by claiming that those who rally for democratic reform are trying to uproot the royal institution.

“Actually, we love the monarchy. If we didn’t love it, we wouldn’t want to reform it to be under the constitution. It is because we love it that [we] ask for reform. Because if it’s not reformed, there could be a revolution.” 

At the end of the protest, Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, a student activist from Thammasat University read a statement from the Ratsadon group making two main demands: granting bail to all detained political activists and abolishing Section 112.

“The ten demands to reform the monarchy proposed on 10 August 2020 were meant to fundamentally address political deadlocks in Thailand and raise questions about cults of personality. These demands were made to see Thailand become a constitutional monarchy, a characteristic of which is that the throne is under the law and subject to bona fide public scrutiny like any other institution in a democratic system…”

“We, the People’s Party (Khana Ratsadon) for the Repeal of #112, will work with all groups, all sectors, all organisations and all individuals in society to repeal the law and assure the right to bail for political prisoners. We have a dream that Thai society will be prosperous under a genuine democracy, under liberté, égalité, and fraternité,” the statement said.

After reading the statement, Panussaya cut her wrist, making a wound of 112 figure and a cross line on it, underlining their demand for the law abolition.

A work of art by ‘Goat in a Graveyard’.

A supernatural-themed work of art made by an independent group of artists, ‘Goat in a Graveyard’. One of the members said they wanted to present a narrative of the political struggle since the 1932 revolution, demanding a reduction in royal power and  commemorating the many women who have been deprived of their rights and killed by political violence.

Newslèse majesté lawSection 112Article 112Royal defamationpro-democracy protest 2021Ratchaprasong intersectionRatsadonMonarchy reform
Categories: Prachatai English

Student activists sue PM to revoke ban on gathering

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-10-30 12:04
Submitted on Sat, 30 Oct 2021 - 12:04 PMPrachatai

Student activists Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Seksit Yaemsanguansak filed a lawsuit with the Civil Court on Friday, 29 October, against the Prime Minister and the military commander-in-chief to repeal emergency decree order 15 on the grounds that the ban on public gatherings unlawfully limits people’s rights and freedoms.

Seksit and Panusaya at the Civil Court (Picture from the Human Right Lawyers Alliance)

According to the Human Right Lawyers Alliance, which is providing legal assistance to the activists, the lawsuit filed against Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and military commander-in-chief Gen Chalermpol Srisawat requests that the court revoke the ban and compel the defendants to prohibit the obstruction of public gatherings by officials under their command, who should told instead to put people’s freedom and safety first while performing their duties. 

The Alliance said that the ban has been used to press charges against those who participated in recent protests. Panusaya herself is facing four counts of violating of the emergency decree for participating in protests between February 2021 – 2 July 2021.

Two other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, student activist Benja Apan, who was previously arrested on a royal defamation charge and is currently in detention, and singer Kuljira Thongkong, are also accused of violating the decree by participating in protests.

The Alliance contends that the ban, which was ostensibly imposed to prohibit unnecessary gatherings that risk the spread of disease during the pandemic, has been used instead to limit freedom of expression and assembly. 

They also argue that it is similar to existing laws and is likely to cause misunderstandings among members of the public and law enforcement officials, who are unsure which order is currently in effect.

According to the Alliance, the ban is an unnecessary limitation of people’s rights and freedom, as the Communicable Diseases Act already gives officials the authority to prohibit activities which risk the spread of disease. They also note that, during the protests, the authorities have not been following official protocol for overseeing public gatherings, using the ban as an excuse to block public roads with shipping containers, buses, train cars, and even oil tankers, excessive measures that hinder freedom of movement.

Panusaya added that while the Emergency Decree has been repeatedly used to end pro-democracy protests, pro-establishment groups have been allowed to hold their gatherings without interference from the authorities. She noted that although pro-democracy protesters have always been peaceful, their protests have been blocked by means such as razor wire and shipping containers, which are not listed as part of the legal protocol.

“The country is reopening in three days. Why are you still prohibiting us from gathering? If you reopen the country, there will be gatherings all over the country. People will come out to live their lives normally, so we think that there is no reason to continue banning gatherings,” Panusaya said.

The activists asked the court to hold an emergency session to impose a temporary injunction suspending the ban ahead of the protest this Sunday, 31 October, at the Ratchaprasong Intersection.

The Alliance reported that the court held an emergency inquiry on Friday, 29 October, but only one witness and lawyer were allowed to enter the room at a time and outsiders were prohibited from observing, ostensibly to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The Alliance noted that in other cases, observers were permitted in the courtroom and that it was only in this case that the court denied people the right to observe a hearing. They added that as the case was political and in the public interest, the court should allow observers to sit in, and that not doing so might raise questions about the transparency of the judicial process.

After a 5-hour wait, the Civil Court dismissed the temporary injunction request on the ground that the 31 October protest still risk spreading disease and the order is still needed to prevent the spread of Covid-19

NewsHuman Right Lawyers AlliancePanusaya SithijirawattanakulSeksit YaemsanguansakEmergency DecreeState of emergencyfreedom of assemblypro-democracy protest 2021
Categories: Prachatai English

16-year-old student indicted on royal defamation charge for protest fashion show

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-10-30 11:50
Submitted on Sat, 30 Oct 2021 - 11:50 AMPrachatai

The public prosecutor has decided to indict Noppasin Treelayapewat, 16, who was charged with royal defamation for participating in a “fashion show” during a pro-democracy protest on Silom Road on 29 October 2020.

Noppasin's costume at the 29 Octoboer 2020 protest

At the “Ratsadorn Catwalk” fashion show, staged at the 29 October 2020 protest, Noppasin is alleged to have mocked the King by wearing a black crop top with the message “My father’s name is Mana, not Vajiralongkorn” written on his back. He was charged with royal defamation under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code after a complaint was filed against him by Waritsanun Sribawornthanakit.

Waritsanun also filed a complaint against Jatuporn Sae-Ung, 23, for participating in the same protest. Jatuporn is alleged to have ridiculed the Queen by wearing a pink Thai traditional dress to the fashion show and walking along a red carpet under an umbrella held by another protester.

The public prosecutor decided on 15 July 2021 to indict Jatuporn with royal defamation on 15 July 2021. She was released on bail using 200,000 baht as security. The court also set her conditions that she must not repeat her offences, participate in activities that damage the monarchy, or leave the country.

The ”Ratsadorn Catwalk” took place after it was reported that the Ministry of Commerce received a 13-million baht budget for the overseas exhibition of new products by Sirivannavari brand, a fashion label owned by the King’s younger daughter, Princess Sirivannavari.

The 29 October 2020 protest took place on the same day that Sirivannavari’s new collection launch event was being held at the nearby Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Although there were no speeches, protesters participated in the fashion show, performed, and exhibit artwork to support monarchy reform.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at least 154 people have been charged with royal defamation for political expression since November 2020.  At least 12 of the defendants are under the age of 18.

Several protest leaders are also facing multiple counts of the charge, including Parit Chiwarak, who is facing 21 counts; Anon Nampa, 14 counts; Panupong Jadnok, 9 counts; Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, 8 counts; and Benja Apan, 6 counts.

Five people are currently detained pending trial on royal defamation charges: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Benja Apan.

NewsNoppasin TreelayapewatWaritsanun SribawornthanakitStudent protest 2020Ratsadorn CatwalkSection 112Royal defamationlese majestefreedom of expressionMonarchy reform
Categories: Prachatai English

Teenager shot at Din Daeng protest dies after 2-month coma

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-10-29 17:23
Submitted on Fri, 29 Oct 2021 - 05:23 PMPrachatai

Warit Somnoi, 15, who was shot following a Din Daeng intersection protest on the night of 16 August 2021, has died after spending 2 months in a coma at Rajavithi Hospital’s intensive care unit.

Footage from in front of Din Daeng Police Station recorded the shooting

Amnesty International reported on 28 October that they were informed of Warit’s death by his mother Nipaporn Somnoi. Warit and another 14-year-old protester were shot with live rounds near Din Daeng Police Station following a protest at the Din Daeng Intersection.

The 14-year-old was reportedly shot while riding a motorcycle past Din Daeng Police Station and sustained minor injuries to his shoulder.  Warit was shot in the neck. The bullet fractured his cervical vertebrae and remained lodged in his brain.

Amnesty International issued a statement offering condolences and demanding that Thai authorities conduct an urgent investigation into the shooting to bring those responsible to justice. Amnesty International Thailand director Piyanut Kotsan said that, even though Warit has died, the investigation must continue, adding that the use of live ammunition against protestors is deeply concerning. She called on Thai authorities to investigate the Din Daeng shootings and protect protesters from third-party violence.

A video clip circulated after Warit was shot showed a person in Din Daeng Police Station shooting at protesters. The superintendent of Din Daeng Police Station claimed that no live rounds were used during the police operation.

On 17 September 2021, the House Committee on Political Development, Mass Communications, and Public Participation released CCTV footages from a camera on Mit Maitri Road showing the two shootings. One clip shows Warit falling to the ground while running along Mit Maitri Road, opposite Din Daeng Police Station. 

Move Forward Party MP Pol Maj Gen Chavalit Laohaudomphan, a member of the House Committee’s working group investigating the two Din Daeng shootings, believes it unlikely that Warit was shot by another protester, as an alley beside the police station was blocked with metal fence, making it impossible for protesters to enter the area.

The working group also found a bloodstain on the ground and more than 8 bullet holes on the wall of the Bangkok City Hall, near where Warit fell.

Pol Maj Gen Chavalit noted that a video clip, filmed from inside an apartment building in the alley next to Din Daeng Police Station, shows a group of men walking out of the alley and repeated fire guns toward the alley entrance. At least 15 shots, in all likelihood coming from two guns, were heard on the video clip. The footage also shows that the group of men subsequently remained in front of Din Daeng Police Station.

Din Daeng Police Station deputy superintendent Pol Lt Col Sophon Yaemchomchuen said that the case file was forwarded to the Metropolitan Bureau.  He was unaware if further progress had been made in the investigation.  On 30 September, the Metropolitan Police announced that they had arrested Chutipong Tidkratok, 28, claiming that he was one of the shooters.

According to Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai, Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, Chutipong denied all charges, admitting only that he appeared in the video footage. Pol Maj Gen Piya also stated that Chutipong has no connection with the police. 

NewsWarit SomnoiDin DaengDin Daeng Police Stationpro-democracy protest 2021
Categories: Prachatai English

Parliament petitioned for repeal of Section 112

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-10-28 15:51
Submitted on Thu, 28 Oct 2021 - 03:51 PMPrachatai

Activists and people affected by the royal defamation law, or Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, went to parliament yesterday (27 October) to submit a petition to the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights for the repeal of Section 112.

CCPC representatives and members of the public holding pieces of paper with messages such as "Long live the pe_ple," "Prayut is a danger to the nation, but 112 could be a danger to you," and "The next person accused with 112 could be you". 

The Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution (CCPC) said that there has recently been a sharp rise in the number of people facing royal defamation charges for speaking out about the monarchy, and in many cases, people are being charged even though they only speak about the monarchy as an institution and not a specific member of the royal family, which does not constitute an offence under Section 112. The law also allows anyone to file a complaint under Section 112, and many file complaints in the area where they live, usually far away from the residence of those against whom the complaint is being filed. Complaints may also be filed with the intention of harassing those who are exercising their freedom of expression.

The CCPC also said that the text of the law is unclear and can be widely interpreted, while it is strictly enforced. In many cases, officials did not explain how a defendant’s action constituted an insult or a threat, often stating that their action damages the King and the monarchy, even though the law does not apply to the monarchy as an institution.

The CCPC therefore petitioned the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights to summon involved inquiry officers and investigate the issues and effects of enforcing Section 112 in order to amend or repeal this law.

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk speaking in front of parliament

Activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, who was previously imprisoned for 7 years on a royal defamation charge and is currently out on bail on another count of the same charge with the condition that he does not damage the monarchy, said that the royal defamation law has been used to restrict freedom of expression, which is a fundamental freedom in a democracy.

He also said that, since the monarchy uses taxpayer’s money and is listed as a public organization by the constitution, people should be able to express their opinions and criticism of the monarchy. He also noted how those charged with royal defamation are often denied the right to bail. 

Chavalit Witchayasut (second from right) and Rangsiman Rome (first from right) receiving the petition

The petition was received by Pheu Thai MP Chavalit Witchayasut and Move Forward Party MP and former activist Rangsiman Rome, representing the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights.

Rangsiman said that this is not the first complaint parliament has received about Section 112, and added that the Committee had already noted that there are issues with the judicial process when it comes to a royal defamation charge.  He noted that many of the accused are denied the right to bail, and that the law is often broadly interpreted and over-enforced. He said that the Committee will not neglect these issues and will be discussing them at next week’s committee meeting.

Thalufah's performance (Photo by Natthaphon Panudomlak)

The activist group Thalufah also joined the gathering and staged a performance in front of the parliament. 12 members of the group painted themselves red and crawled up the slope towards parliament in a symbolic act of protest to demand the repeal of Section 112.

Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code states that defaming, insulting, or threatening “the King, the Queen, the Heir apparent, or the Regent” is punishable with 3 – 15 years of imprisonment. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at least 154 are facing royal defamation charges for political expression since November 2020, after Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha announced that every law would be used against the pro-democracy protesters following a protest in front of the Royal Thai Police HQ on 18 November.

Several protest leaders are also facing multiple counts of the charge, including Parit Chiwarak, who is facing 21 counts; Anon Nampa, 14 counts; Panupong Jadnok, 9 counts; Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, 8 counts; and Benja Apan, 6 counts.

Five people are currently detained pending trial on royal defamation charges: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Benja Apan.

Thalufah's performance (Photo by Natthaphon Panudomlak)

The activist network Citizens for the Abolition of 112 announced on 24 October that, starting from this Sunday (31 October), they will be accepting signatures to back a proposal for the repeal of Section 112 and amendment of Thailand’s defamation law so that there is only fines instead of prison sentences. They also called for a demonstration on 31 October at 16.00 at the Ratchaprasong Intersection.

NewsCommittee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution (CCPC)House Committee on Legal Affairs Justice and Human RightsSection 112Royal defamationlese majestefreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

2021 Asia Land Forum highlights why secure land rights are key to achieving equality

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-10-28 14:19
Submitted on Thu, 28 Oct 2021 - 02:19 PMInternational Land Coalition (ILC) Asia, Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP)

On 27 October 2021, on the opening day of the 2021 Asia Land Forum: Securing Land Rights and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), participants reiterated the important role of using data to monitor the progress of securing land rights in Asia, particularly in accordance with the SDG targets and indicators.

Members of the International Land Coalition (ILC) in Asia agreed that secure land rights are central to eradicating poverty and hunger (Goal 1), advancing women equal rights to economic resources, including land (Goal 5), building a world of justice where human rights are protected (Goal 16), protecting the environment and fighting climate change (Goal 13), and restoring degraded land and soils (Goal 15). 

"There can be no justice without land reform and land rights. And there can be no equality without access to land," said Gam Shimray, Secretary-General of Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP), the co-organiser of the event and a member of ILC.

The Asia Land Forum, an annual event organised by ILC Asia, brings together members of ILC and other stakeholders to learn the latest state of land governance in the region, share experiences, and explore areas of collaboration. This year, the event aims to explore the challenges and opportunities to acknowledge the centrality of land rights in the 2030 Agenda and particularly in assessing the progress of achieving the SDG land targets at the country level. 

“In the next two days, we will also discuss the important role that indigenous peoples, local communities, youth and women play in protecting our planet with their traditional knowledge. The recommendations and solutions discussed here will be delivered to governments and policymakers across the region,” said Mirgul Amanalieva, ILC Asia Regional Coordinator.

The event will continue until Friday, 29 October 2021, and will focus on the strategies, key lessons, and factors that have influenced policy development and implementation of people-centred land governance. Discussions will also tap into issues intersecting with land rights and sustainable development, such as community-led ecosystem restoration efforts, and the role of women and youth as change-makers, among others.

Pick to Postland rightsInternational Land Coalition (ILC) AsiaAsia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP)2021 Asia Land Forum
Categories: Prachatai English

G20 leaders must not repeat their failure over equal access to vaccines, says Amnesty International

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-10-28 13:57
Submitted on Thu, 28 Oct 2021 - 01:57 PMAmnesty International

G20 leaders meeting in Rome must put aside greed and selfishness and ensure the fair global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, said Amnesty International ahead of this year’s G20 Summit in Rome, Italy, which takes place from 30-31 October.

Last November, leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies held their annual G20 Summit online, with a focus on ensuring Covid-19 vaccines would be made available to everyone. However, one year on, the most powerful countries have failed to protect the lives of millions of people, choosing to hoard vaccines, resulting in a predictable and utterly devastating vaccine scarcity for the rest of the world. Rich countries are sitting on an estimated 500 million doses right now.

Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said:

“The rollout of vaccines began last December – bringing hope to a world that had been crippled by Covid-19 and saving millions of lives. However, since the first vaccine was administered, the death toll has risen from 1.3 million people to nearly 5 million in 2021 due to gross inequality in access.

“The sheer selfishness and greed behind these deaths is unfathomable. While G20 countries enjoy vaccination rates of around 63%, only 10% of the population in low and lower-middle income countries have been able to get vaccinated. What have these leaders been doing for the past year but hoarding and actively contributing to vaccine scarcity along with Big Pharma? The millions of deaths show a staggering disregard for human life, a disturbing moral acceptance that profit trumps lives, and a blatant neglect of their global obligations.”

In 2020, G20 countries pre-ordered and bought the vast majority of Covid-19 vaccines before these vaccines had even been approved. Many countries stockpiled enough doses to be able to vaccinate their populations several times over. In 2021, they continue to hoard surplus doses, preferring to sit on them, rather than share them with those who need them most.

On 22 September 2021, Amnesty International launched a global campaign to demand that the World Health Organization’s target of vaccinating 40% of the population of low and lower-middle income countries is met by the end of the year. The 100 Day Countdown: 2 billion Covid-19 vaccines now! calls on governments with surplus stocks to redistribute these doses to other countries by the end of the year.

“While some countries have pledged to redistribute vaccines, many still haven’t provided a clear timeline– with some only committing to share vaccines by September next year,” said Agnès Callamard.

“Vaccines must be shared now. It's in the best interests of everyone, especially if we want to ensure borders can reopen and our global economy can recover in a fair way. The clock is ticking. It’s time to take action now.”

Leading up to the G20, Amnesty International, together with members of the Peoples Vaccine Alliance, will be calling on G20 leaders to redistribute vaccines now, upping the pressure with a media stunt expected to be held in Rome, Italy, on 29 October

Pick to PostAmnesty International (AI)COVID-19G20Agnès Callamard
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CMU students demand dean’s removal over violation of academic freedom

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-10-27 14:11
Submitted on Wed, 27 Oct 2021 - 02:11 PMPrachatai

Chiang Mai University students petitioned the Chiang Mai University Council, the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights, and the House Committee on Education to have university principle Dr Niwet Nantajit and Faculty of Fine Arts dean Asawinee Wanjing removed from office, after faculty and university administration prohibited students from exhibiting their theses in the University Art Centre as some pieces deal with social and political themes.

Students went to the Office of the University Council to petition for the removal of the university principle and Faculty of Fine Arts dean

Students from the Media Arts and Design Department and lecturers occupied the University Art Centre on 16 October to set up their exhibition, after the Faculty and University administration refused them permission to use the Art Centre for the thesis exhibition, required for 4th year students in the department, claiming that some pieces are political and therefore inappropriate for a public exhibition. Water and electricity at the Media Arts and Design department building were also cut on Friday night (15 October) and Saturday morning, reportedly by order of the Faculty Dean, while several students were locked inside the building as all gates were locked with chains.

Students also filed a lawsuit with the Chiang Mai Administrative Court on Monday (18 October) for a temporary injunction, as the exhibition is required for the students to complete their project so that lecturers can grade them within the semester. If they are not able to receive a grade, they could fail their class.

Faculty of Fine Arts lecturer Thasnai Sethaseree also said that the faculty administration has filed charges of trespassing and destruction of property against students and lecturers who occupied the Art Centre

At least 60 people went to the Office of the University Council to submit their petition, signed by at least 1,7000 students, lecturers, members of staff, and members of the public demanding that an investigation committee be formed to look into the obstruction of the students’ final thesis exhibition and to see whether to remove from office the responsible members of university administration.

They also demand that students, lecturers, and members of staff be allowed to elect the next set of university administrators, that an investigation be made into other issues caused by the current administration, and that a policy for inquiries into university management be announced to guarantee the protection of freedom of expression and academic freedom.

Tanongsak Chuajedton (left) and Aran Kanthiya (right)

Their petition was received by Aran Kanthiya, head of the legal department, and Tanongsak Chuajedton, director of the Office of the University Council. Tanongsak said that chair of the University Council Dr Kasem Wattanachai is away and that he will pass the petition on to Dr Kasem.

The students also submitted their petition to Pheu Thai MP Tassanee Buranupakorn and Move Forward Party MP Phetcharat Maichompoo to be passed onto the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights and the House Committee on Education.

Thatchapan Tritong, a student from the Media Arts and Design Department, said during the gathering that the students have had to pay a lot of money to use the University Art Centre. She said that the rental fee for the Art Centre is charged per day, and could be in the tens of thousands. She questioned why students need to pay to use university space when they have already paid their tuition fees, and added that the administration did not just close the Art Centre but also the department building, which students use as workshops and classrooms.

Thanathorn Wittayabenjang, another member of the student union committee, burned off the university symbol on his student union blazer.

Meanwhile, deputy president of the CMU Student Union Navinthiti Jarupratai said that student organizations are not doing a good enough job of protecting the students’ rights, such as in the case of the Faculty of Fine Arts, the call for tuition fee reduction during the Covid-19 pandemic, or the case of students facing legal prosecution for political expression.

In protest, Thanathorn Wittayabenjang, another member of the student union committee, burned off the university symbol on his student union blazer and announced that he is resigning from Wan Mai Party, the student group elected as student union committee.

NewsChiang Mai Universityacademic freedomfreedom of expressionArtistic freedomMedia Arts and Design department
Categories: Prachatai English

Overview of the experience of human rights violation in Patani

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-10-27 11:48
Submitted on Wed, 27 Oct 2021 - 11:48 AMAdam John

Transcript of talk presented by Adam John at the Tak Bai 17th Anniversary Commemoration organised by the Civil Society Assembly for Peace (CAP) on Monday October 25th 2021.

Asalamalakum. Good evening.

I’m really pleased to have been invited to talk tonight to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the Tak Bai massacre. I’m sorry that I can’t be there speaking to you live. I live in Sweden and the time difference means that I’m working right now teaching in Stockholm. I was asked by the organisers of tonight's event to give an overview of the experience of human right’s violations in Patani from an outside perspective.

I’ve decided to try to give several perspectives. Firstly, I’ll give my own point of view but then I will try to outline what I think a typical European or Western perspective might be since this view is much more important than my own. That’s because my point of view is not a typical one which I’ll explain in a moment. What’s more important for change and progress is what the general perspective of outsiders is, concerning human right’s violations in Patani.

So I’ll begin with my opinion. My name is Adam. I’m not a human right’s expert or dedicated human rights activist. The reason why I’ve been invited to speak and why I even know about the Tak Bai massacre is because my wife’s family originally comes from Patani. I remember 17 years ago when my wife - who was a university friend at the time in the UK - told me about what had happened in a small fishing town on the border between Malaysia and Thailand, a town which she had passed through many times as a child while visiting family in Patani.

I was a young university student with no real knowledge of Thailand or Patani. I remember thinking that if I hadn’t been told in person about what had happened, I would never have heard about it. I thought I might hear something on the news or people talking about it at university, but I didn’t. It got me interested in wanting to learn more about the conflict in Patani and the reasons behind it.

I have been in a unique position for a foreigner to understand more about the conflict because I have had access to my wife’s family and the wider Patani diaspora in Europe. That’s why I say my perspective is quite an unusual one.  I’m pleased that the organisers of tonight’s forum used a picture of me on holiday in Langkawi in Malaysia on the beach wearing a t-shirt I had made with the word’s ‘Patani self-determination’, because that really sums up how I feel about not only human right’s violations but ending the conflict and achieving peace.

Self-determination is the freedom to choose. Self-determination is the freedom of a people to manage their own community. I don’t just believe in the right to self-determination for the Patani people. I see it as a universal right and I believe it is a higher value than respecting the national integrity of a nation state. I personally feel that nations are becoming less relevant because the problems we face are international ones which don’t recognise national borders. So I will always support the self-determination of communities over nation states.

I see all human right’s violations in Patani stemming from the Thai state’s unwillingness to respect the local people’s right to self-determination. The Tak Bai massacre is just one more symbol to add to local people’s list of grievances against the Thai state’s unwillingness to recognise Patani people’s right to self determination. Like the Thai state’s refusal to acknowledge the seven demands for autonomy under the leadership of Haji Sulong and his subsequent arrest and disappearance. Like assimilation policies after World War Two forbidding the use of the Melayu language. And like the decision of Britain and Siam’s governments to decide the fate of Patani without considering the voices of the local people in 1909.

Combined, these symbols have acted as a recruitment tool for local people to take arms against what they see as an occupying force. And it will continue to do so as long as these grievances are not addressed and the right of self-determination of the local people continues to be ignored. 

So that’s my personal perspective. But like I said earlier, that’s not a common outsider’s opinion and therefore not that relevant. Now I’ll make some huge generalisations. I think it’s useful to do so because it might show us where some of the major challenges are in changing outsider opinions. I’m going to give two outsider perspectives. A pessimistic one and a more optimistic one. I’ll start with the pessimistic one.

This type of westerner or foreigner sees Thailand as a mystical paradise. Thailand is a place with beautiful beaches, a hot sunny climate with friendly local people and it’s so cheap to live there that you can live like a king. Although some of these things might be true, anything which upsets the foreigner’s paradise is a major inconvenience and therefore should be ignored. Things like undemocratic governments, human trafficking, corrupt officials and human right’s violations of minority groups get in the way of the foreigner’s paradise experience. 

The second, more optimistic perspective of the outsider is when as a foreigner we want to learn about all aspects of Thailand including the inconvenient ones. The problem with trying to understand what is happening in southern Thailand is that there is hardly any information about it. Not even Thai people from other parts of the country really know much about the region. Like I said earlier, I was only able to learn a bit about Patani from speaking to people from the Patani Malay diaspora. Most people don’t have this luxury. For outsiders who make a real effort to try to read about the political and human rights situation in Patani, it soon becomes clear that there is much conflicting information. It all seems too overwhelming and complicated to really understand what is happening there unless you are willing to settle for simplified explanations like “it’s just a religious war between Muslims and Buddhists” or that so-called criminal gangs and ‘bandits’ are to blame.

Why do I think these two outsider perspectives exist?

To understand the foreigner’s paradise perspective I think we have to look at the political relations between Thailand and the outside world, particularly the West. Thailand has been an important political ally of the US and Western Europe since the end of World War Two against the West’s enemies - communism and now international Islamic terrorism. All countries - including Western countries - don’t tend to raise uncomfortable truths about their allies such as domestic human rights abuses. It’s a principle we learn in the playground at school.

You don’t tell on your friends to the teacher if they do something wrong but you are happy to tell on other children you don’t like. It might even be to your advantage. 

For example, in the UK, it’s common to read in mainstream news about human rights abuses of the enemies of the UK government like Iran. It is not as common to hear about the human rights abuses of the UK’s allies such as Saudi Arabia. It’s easier to maintain the paradise illusion of Thailand when the image you are given is a place of pleasant mystery and beauty. 

To understand the second outsider perspective I think we have to look at the media in general. I would say that international reporting on human rights violations in Patani has not succeeded in informing an international audience. I don’t want to put all the blame on the media because reporting on state violence in Thailand is a very challenging task. This is particularly so in a militarised zone which has been under martial law for almost two decades.

It’s not easy getting verifiable information from a community which fears getting caught up in the conflict. It doesn’t take long for a journalist to realise that the conflict in Patani is a matter of political self-determination but if you want to operate in Thailand without the fear of arrest or being forced to flee the country, it is better not to address this issue. So gaps in the outsider’s understanding of the conflict remain and, because of a lack of international pressure, the environment remains hostile for journalists and human rights activists in Thailand.

So I have argued that the general Western response to human rights abuse in Patani is either to ignore the issue because it does not fit with the illusion of Thailand as a paradise or to conclude that the conflict in the Patani region is simply too complicated to understand.

I’ve given reasons for why I think these perspectives exist. The implication is that human rights abuses continue to be ignored by the international community.  There is no outside pressure on Thailand’s government to acknowledge why there is a conflict, to make political concessions and to respect its citizen’s right to self-determination.

The foreign understanding that southern Thailand is a paradise needs to be challenged and accurate information must be gotten out to the world.

Thank you for listening. And thanks again to the organisers for inviting me to talk tonight.

OpinionTak BaiDeep SouthAdam JohnCivil Society Assembly for Peace (CAP)
Categories: Prachatai English

Ruling in compensation case of ethnic activist killed by soldiers postponed

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-10-27 11:21
Submitted on Wed, 27 Oct 2021 - 11:21 AMPrachatai

On 26 October, the Ratchadapisek Civil Court postponed its ruling in the compensation case of Chaiyaphum Pasae, a Lahu indigenous activist who was shot to death by soldiers in 2017.

Chaiyaphum Pasae

Ratsada Manuratsada, the plaintiff's attorney, said after hearing the court’s order that the reading had been re-scheduled to 26 January 2022. The reason given was that the Court is not done with the ruling.

The case was originally filed in May 2019 by Napoi Pasae, Chaiyaphum’s mother, who asked to be compensated for damages caused by the army. In October 2020, the Civil Court in Bangkok dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the officers shot Chaiyaphum in self-defence and out of necessity, leaving the army with no liability to pay damages to his family.

Napoi subsequently filed an appeal to the Court.

Chaiyaphum was a Lahu activist who worked to promote indigenous rights in northern Thailand and was involved in numerous campaigns for indigenous peoples to gain citizenship and access to basic welfare. He also spoke out against abuses by state officials against his community during anti-drug operations.

He was a filmmaker and songwriter, and had been awarded a prize at the 16th Thai Short Film and Video Festival for a short film called ‘Belt and Comb’. Several of his short documentaries were broadcasted on Thai PBS.

Chaiyaphum was shot and killed by military officers at Ban Rin Luang checkpoint in Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai, on 17 March 2017. He was 17 years old.

The officers claimed that they found drugs in Chaiyaphum’s car and had to shoot him because he resisted their search and tried to throw a grenade at them. However, an eyewitness told Thai PBS that Chaiyaphum was dragged out of the car, beaten and shot. Forensic evidence found that Chaiyaphum died of a gunshot wound to the chest from an M16 assault rifle.

The Chiang Mai Provincial Court ruled after an inquest in June 2018 that he was killed by an army bullet, but did not rule whether his death was a result of extrajudicial killing or whether the officers’ action was lawful. The court also did not request the CCTV footage of the incident as evidence, despite a request from the family’s lawyer. 

The CCTV footage of the incident was never released in any of the investigation and trial processes and still remains missing.

NewsChaiyaphum PasaeRatsada Manuratsada
Categories: Prachatai English

Students charged with royal defamation for hanging banner from dorm balcony

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-10-26 18:07
Submitted on Tue, 26 Oct 2021 - 06:07 PMPrachatai

Two Burapha University students have been charged with royal defamation for hanging a banner containing a message about the monarchy from their dorm room balcony.

Watchara (last name withheld), 19, was arrested on Saturday (23 October) at his dorm on an arrest warrant issued by the Chonburi Provincial Court. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), he never received a summons before being arrested.

TLHR also reported that, according to the police report of the arrest, the police were told where Watchara lived by an informant who wanted a reward for assisting in his arrest. Acting on the information, the police arrested Watchara in front of his residence on Saturday afternoon (23 October). He was taken to Saensuk Police Station and held there overnight.

On Sunday (24 October), his roommate Wirachat (last name withheld), who was informed that an arrest warrant had also been issued for him, reported to the police. The inquiry officer informed both students that they were charged with royal defamation under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code for hanging a banner with an “inappropriate message” from their dorm room balcony. The inquiry officer also attempted to take DNA samples from both students, but their lawyer declined the request as there is no reason to do so in this case.

When Wirachat went to report to the police, a group of students came to show their support and were holding banners saying “Feudalism shall fall; the people shall prosper” and other messages demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government, access to Covid-19 vaccines, repeal of Section 112, and monarchy reform.

A police officer attempted to stop them from showing the banners, but the students insisted on continuing their activities, saying that the messages are not illegal and that if the officer wanted them to stop, he had to tell them which law the messages violated. Another group of students also poured dog food in front of a group of police officers.

The two students were held at Saensuk Police Station for one more night, before being taken to court for a temporary detention request the next morning. The inquiry officer claimed that the police still needed the testimony of 6 other witnesses, and opposed to bail on the grounds that the charge has a severe penalty and is related to national security.

The students were later granted bail using a security of 150,000 baht each, which was covered by the Will of the People Fund, a bail fund for those facing charges for political expression. The court also set them the condition that they do not repeat their offense.

Previously, on 13 October 2021, Watchara and Wirachat, along with another student, were taken to Saensuk Police Station after they hung the banner from their balcony on the evening of 12 October 2021. They were questioned without a lawyer present before being released without being charged.

According to TLHR, at least 153 people are facing royal defamation charges in 157 cases since 24 November 2020, of which at least 38 cases are related to forms of expression that are not speech, such as hanging banners or displaying printed material or stickers, while 72 cases relate to opinions expressed on social media.

Several protest leaders are also facing multiple counts of the charge, including Parit Chiwarak, who is facing 21 counts; Anon Nampa, 14 counts; Panupong Jadnok, 9 counts; Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, 8 counts; and Benja Apan, 6 counts.

Five people are currently detained pending trial on royal defamation charges: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Benja Apan.

NewsRoyal defamationlese majesteSection 112Monarchy reformfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Parliamentarians call on ASEAN to take concrete steps on Myanmar at Summit, meet with NUG

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-10-26 15:03
Submitted on Tue, 26 Oct 2021 - 03:03 PMASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

Southeast Asian parliamentarians call on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to use this week’s ASEAN Summit to take concrete actions to resolve the disastrous situation in Myanmar, including by immediately engaging with the National Unity Government (NUG).


 

“We’re soon approaching one year since the Myanmar military conducted its coup and launched unspeakable violence and terror against the people, and devastated millions of lives,” said Charles Santiago, chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and a Malaysian Member of Parliament (MP).  “This week’s Summit must be the occasion for the bloc to put in place concrete steps to help the people of Myanmar, who everyday since February 1 have so bravely displayed to the world that they do not accept this murderous junta.”

APHR is encouraged by ASEAN’s decision to exclude coup leader Min Aung Hlaing from attending this week’s ASEAN Summit, citing a lack of progress on the Five-Point Consensus on Myanmar agreed in April, but called for much more to be done. 

“We recognize that ASEAN took a major step in disinviting Min Aung Hlaing and letting him know that his toying with them doesn’t come free of consequences. Now our regional leaders must use this unprecedented opportunity to step up their response even further, and make real progress on putting Myanmar back on the democratic path. First and foremost, ASEAN must meet officially and publicly with representatives of the duly elected NUG.” said Santiago. 

ASEAN’s credibility depends on its ability to act decisively and bring the Myanmar military junta to end its relentless campaign of violence against the people of Myanmar, APHR said.  In particular, it must hold the Myanmar military to the Five-Point Consensus agreed between the leaders of nine ASEAN Member States and Min Aung Hlaing in April.

Further, ASEAN must discontinue inviting any other junta representatives to all ASEAN official meetings until there is an end to violence, all political prisoners are freed, and the will of the people for fully-fledged democracy has been heard, the group said.

ASEAN member states, in particular Thailand, must also be supported by the region and ASEAN Dialogue partners to respond to the movement of refugees in a way that respects human rights, including by providing humanitarian assistance and by allowing those fleeing Myanmar to seek asylum, APHR said.

“As well as threatening regional stability and peace, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Myanmar’s junta leaders are also accused of the worst crimes imaginable, including genocide. There’s only one place Min Aung Hlaing belongs: not at ASEAN’s next meeting, but in an international court of justice,” Santiago said. 
 

Pick to PostASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)MyanmarASEANASEAN SummitNational Unity Government (NUG)Myanmar coup
Categories: Prachatai English

People to rally again for abolition of lèse majesté law

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-10-25 21:40
Submitted on Mon, 25 Oct 2021 - 09:40 PMPrachatai

Starting on 31 October, civil society will seek people's signatures to support the deletion of the royal defamation law from the Thai Criminal Code.

The Citizens for the Abolition of 112 organize a press briefing. 

On 24 October, Citizens for the Abolition of 112, a group composed of political activists, held a press briefing in front of the Supreme Court.

Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, an activist from Thammasat University, said the group aimed to abolish Section 112 of the Criminal Code, generally amend the laws regarding defamation and slander, and abolish prison sentences for defamation.

"On Sunday 31 October 2021, I ask everyone to gather at Ratchaprasong intersection. The activity will run from 16.00 to 21.00. If we succeed in gathering signatures this time, what will happen is that the Section 112 will be abolished. The defamation law system will be completely amended, with only fines instead of prison sentences.

"This is the mission that all Thai people must carry out together," said Panussaya.

The group stated that at least 151 people have been charged with Section 112 between November 2020 and 19 October 2021 for their actions and online statements. Parit Chiwarak leads with at least 21 charges. If found guilty on all charges and given the maximum sentence, Parit will go to jail for 315 years.

"The existence of Section 112 is like a threat to the rights and liberties of the people, because this law has a high penalty but can be interpreted broadly to limit freedom of expression.

"Because the law also has no provisions to protect the expression of opinion, like honest criticism or comments for the public good, the expression of opinion, speeches, and even dress at protests or helping to support the organization of protests can all become for a reason for a Section 112 charge.

"Including Section 112 in the Chapter on state security [of the Criminal Code] distorts the judicial system. ... It makes the authorities choose to limit their role in protecting the rights of suspects such as the right to bail and the right to an open and fair trial," reads the statement.

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at least 1,458 people are now facing charges for participating in pro-democracy protests between July 2020 and September 2021. Of this number, at least 145 people are facing royal defamation charges under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. At least 111 people are facing sedition charges under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code, while at least 1,171 people are facing charges for violating the Emergency Decree.

TLHR also said that, as of 14 October, 23 people are currently in detention for participating in protests: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Anon Nampa, Huad, Thawee Thiangwiset, Chitipat, Chakri, Panupong Jadnok, Nat, Nawapol Tonngam, Wachirawit Limthanawong, Pawaris Yaemying, Paitoon, Suksan, Naruebet, Pichai, Jittakorn, Tha, Sith, Thu, Benja Apan, Kachen, and Kajornsak.

NewsCitizens for the Abolition of 112Monarchy reformlèse majesté lawPanussaya SitthijirawattanakulSource: prachatai.com/journal/2021/10/95617
Categories: Prachatai English

It’s time to talk about the lèse majesté law

Prachatai English - Sun, 2021-10-24 14:07
Submitted on Sun, 24 Oct 2021 - 02:07 PMPravit Rojanaphruk

Originally published in Khaosod English on 23 October 2021.

File Photo

Consider this an open letter to fellow Thai journalists.

A year has passed since the students-led monarchy reform movement descended to the streets of Bangkok and beyond in large numbers. One year on, over 140 have been charged with lèse majesté crimes, or defaming the monarchy. It’s punishable by a maximum imprisonment term of 15 years. Around half a dozen of them are currently being incarcerated as I type these words.

To Thai journalists, as well as foreign correspondents in Thailand, the lèse majesté law continue to be the biggest impediment to a free press. Only journalists in chronic denial would say they can carry out critical coverage of the monarchy institution in Thailand despite the law. No, censorship and self-censorship are the norm, combined with self-denial or silence to due fears of repercussions or political expediency. As the Thai press watches more people slowly taken to prison under the law, they should bear in mind that we, as journalists and media organizations and press associations, have an obligation to honour in this unfolding repression of fundamental rights to free expression. 

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, a Thammasat University protest leader, Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa and Anon Nampa, all have been behind bars for nearly 80 days now. Repeated bail applications have been denied.

The press could continue to watch and simply report about more prosecutions as more youths take the risks, are taken to jail, repeatedly denied bail, and refrain from questioning the anachronistic law. Such stance means the Thai press continue to be part of the problem for their lack of courage and commitment to greater press freedom.

It means the most young political activists feel the need to express themselves publicly on the streets or on social media, despite the risks as they regard the current situation as not just abnormal but unacceptable, untolerable and undemocratic. (Their next major protest is next Sunday, Oct 31, BTW.)

The least that journalists and media associations can do is to call out publicly and say we need to talk about the lèse majesté law and something needs to be done about it. Even if they do not support the abolition of the law, there are crucial details worth reforming: the severity of the law which is disproportionate and more.

Instead of saying this is not our problems, the Thai press can take a leap of faith and publicly say we need to at least reform the law so the press can function more normally and freely and cease to continue to function as a de facto PR machinery, willingly or not, for the monarchy institution because they can only report positive and more positive news, and non-critical news due to the draconian law.

For those Thai journalists still in denial, one has to only watch footage of the BBC Southeast Asia chief correspondent Jonathan Head spelling it out on air for you. Back in Oct 2016, when Head reported Live about the death of the late king, Rama IX, on Oct 13, he was asked by the news host in London what he thought about the successor, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, now the current king, Rama X. Head reminds the BBC news host and its global viewers that he’s not at liberty to freely criticize due to the law (and the fact that he’s in Thailand).

When Head was asked what kind of king Rama X would be, Head replied. “We can’t frankly, because of the law against [defaming] the monarchy, talk very safely about his personality,” Head said, matter of fact.

That’s the next best thing a journalist can do if you have to censor yourself. Let the public know that you are censoring yourself and why. Many Thai journalists took the road more commonly travelled – self-denial and silence, however. 

The lèse majesté law is not just about young activists wanting to critically discuss the monarchy and reform the institution but about the press being unable to do a proper job in providing critical reporting about one of the most important institutions in Thai society. This has gone on for too long and to the detriment of Thai society and basic freedom.

To fellow Thai journalists I say: If not now then when? How many more have to be taken to prison or flee into life-long exile simply because they want to discuss the monarchy critically – something that’s taken for granted in the United Kingdom or Japan. The time is now, the Thai press in general are already a year, if not many many years, late.

It’s time to muster fortitude and publicly say we need to publicly discuss the law and make it in line with the changing world now. Reduce the maximum imprisonment term, bar the general public from being able to file a lèse majesté complaint and add into the law a stipulation that if criticism against the monarchy if conducted with good intention for the public interests, it is not a crime. And more. These can be a good start and a compromise.

To not have the courage to do so, to continue the silence and docility, the Thai press will certainly be condemned by history as not just for being part of the problems but for abandoning their duty due to the lack of courage to fight for the very fundamental prerequisites of their profession – press freedom and honesty to the public.

OpinionPravit Rojanaphruklèse majesté lawArticle 112Section 112Royal defamationpress freedomSource: https://www.khaosodenglish.com/opinion/2021/10/23/its-time-to-talk-about-the-lese-majeste-law/?fbclid=IwAR1XXVixK3rGiDrh5FrP0lIY7rL9IdHfh6yneFAIF1fI9yLoqWnotI4o0-k
Categories: Prachatai English

MP from dissolved party may stay, says Constitutional Court

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-10-22 12:15
Submitted on Fri, 22 Oct 2021 - 12:15 PMPrachatai

The Constitutional Court ruled on 20 October that Paiboon Nititawan, who was elected as an MP from the now-dissolved People Reform Party and who moved to the Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP), may retain his party-list MP status.

Paiboon Nititawan

60 MPs had filed a petition asking House Speaker Chuan Leekpai to request the Constitutional Court to rule whether Paiboon is allowed to maintain his MP status, since he dissolved the People Reform Party, of which he was the founder and only MP, in August 2019 and joined PPRP in September 2019. He was therefore not among the PPRP’s party-list MP candidates as presented to the Election Commission before the 2019 general election.

As leader of the People Reform Party, he was also bound by the organic law on political parties to undertake the liquidation process to legally dissolve his party.

The Constitutional Court ruled, by a majority, that Paiboon is allowed to retain his MP status, as his party was legally dissolved, therefore allowing him to move to a new party within 60 days. As for his not being a PPRP party-list MP candidate, the Court ruled that the criteria on becoming a party-list MP as stated in the Constitution is used during and before an election, and so is a different issue from Paiboon’s case, which happened after he was been elected as MP.

Paiboon was elected in 2019 on the strength of a total of 45,508 votes for his People Reform Party in all constituencies across the country where they fielded candidates, none of whom got anywhere close to winning their constituency. 

The Election Commission calculated that each party-list seat should represent more than 70,000 votes, but in the case of micro-parties, such as the People Reform Party, allowed a rounding up procedure, making the minimum number of votes needed for a single seat only 35,000.  This interpretation of the law was challenged but the Constitutional Court merely ruled that the law did not contravene the constitution. 

NewsPaiboon NititawanPeople Reform PartyConstitutional courtmicro-partyPhalang Pracharat Party
Categories: Prachatai English

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