Prachatai English

Failing to portray protesters as violent, Prayut lifts severe state of emergency.

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-10-22 23:03
Submitted on Thu, 22 Oct 2020 - 11:03 PMPrachatai

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha lifted the severe state of emergency today at 12.00, according to the Royal Gazette. The severe state of emergency was in force for 6 days from 15-22 October.

The state of emergency imposed restrictions on Bangkok and surrounding areas. They included a ban on public gatherings of more than five people, a ban on reporting information that threatened public stability, and control over transportation and access to certain buildings, in accordance with the Prime Minister’s orders.

The severe state of emergency was described as an “emergency in emergency” due to the pre-existing use of the Emergency Decree in response to the coronavirus outbreak which the government extended for the 7th time until the end of November.

After Prayut announced the severe state of emergency on 16 October, it was expected to end on 13 November. But it has ended today (22 October) after protesters publicly defied it for six straight days, marking another victory of the pro-democracy protesters.

Protesters have been gathering on the streets of Bangkok and other provinces every day since 14 October, demanding the resignation of Prayut, constitutional amendments, and monarchy reform.

Yesterday, Prayut gave a speech asking all groups to take one step back, and told the protesters to rely on the parliamentary process to get things done. On 20 October, the cabinet approved a special session of parliament for a debate on constitutional amendments on 26-27 October.

Failure to demonize protesters

The government failed to portray the protesters as aggressive and violent, causing a political backfire and pressuring them to step back.

Prayut announced the severe state of emergency on 15 October in response to the protest on 14 October which they claim may have disturbed the public order.

The anti-dictatorship protest on 14 October was part of an expected response after parliament postponed debate on constitutional amendments for 30 days on 24 September, disappointing the protesters demonstrating in front of the parliament on that day.  

The government claimed that the severe state of emergency was announced because of illegal protests in violation of the public assembly law, and specifically pointed to an incident where a royal motorcade passed through a protest site.

Three protesters, Ekkachai Hongkangwan, Boonkueanoon Paothong, and Suranat Paenprasoet, have been charged with allegedly harming the Queen’s liberty under the scarcely used Section 110 of the Criminal Code, which carries a penalty of “imprisonment for life or imprisonment of sixteen to twenty years.”  

Related story: Protesters accused of harming the Queen, royal motorcade route questioned. 

However, the government failed to demonize the protesters as public opinion largely did not believe that the protesters intended to harm the Queen. According to many media reports from the scene, the protesters in fact opened a path for the royal motorcade to pass through.

In defiance of the government’s restrictions, the protestors gathered again on 16 October at Pathum Wan. The government made the decision to disperse the peaceful protesters using water cannon with dye and a chemical irritant. The protesters, which included students, remained nonviolent, leading to criticism of the government for its excessively harsh measures, and provoking even more protesters to come onto the streets.

The government tried to control the narrative again by ordering the closure of media outlets which had given extensive coverage to the protests, including Voice TV, Prachatai, the Reporters, and the Standard. Their attempt backfired as the protesters continued the demonstrations and now included a demand for a free press.

Related story: Court lifts suspension orders against Voice TV, Free Youth

In their last attempt to provoke violence, pro-monarchy protesters in yellow shirts gathered at Ramkhamhaeng University to challenge the pro-democracy protesters. A minor clash took place between pro-monarchy and pro-democracy protesters,  initiated by the pro-monarchy yellow shirts.

Caption: Pro-monarchy protesters tried to remove a fence to go to attack the pro-democracy protesters. 

Leaked documents confirm that the government sponsored the pro-monarchy gatherings by “inviting” people to join. Some reluctant volunteers defied orders by showing the three-finger symbol while wearing a yellow shirt.

After failing to frame the protesters as violent, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha took a step back and lifted the severe state of emergency, asking the protesters to rely on the parliamentary process. The majority of the protestors’ demands remain unmet, however, as major political parties have insisted the debate on constitutional amendments in the next parliamentary sessions would not include monarchy reform, and the government persists on arresting anyone it can identify as a protest leader. 

 

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Categories: Prachatai English

6 days after crackdown, tens of thousands return to oust Gen Prayut

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-10-22 12:45
Submitted on Thu, 22 Oct 2020 - 12:45 PMPrachatai

The people have made 21 October another historic moment in Thai political history as leaderless protesters marched almost completely peacefully past police blockades to Government House. 

A big banner states "Go home and meet again" after the protesters gave the resignation letter to the PM delegate.

The night ended with a delegate from the PM’s Secretariat receiving an unsigned draft resignation letter in the name of the PM with a 3-day deadline for Prayut to quit and release all arrested protesters.

At 21.30, after almost an hour in front of the Government House, a Deputy Secretary-General of the PM’s Secretariat and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner accepted a resignation letter for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha from Korakot Saengyenphan, the protesters’ representative. 

The reception of the resignation letter by the deputy PM secretariat.

Dated 21 October 2020, the letter is addressed to ‘The People’ and reads as follows:

"Whereas I, Prayut Chan-o-cha, have used arbitrary power, bought and sold votes, threatened to impose a gangster’s constitution, traded benefits and positions and used the institution of the monarchy as a justification to get hold of the position of the Prime Minister,

"In order to maintain the dignity of my family, the dignity of the position of Prime Minister and the dignity of the country and to express my respect for the people who hold sovereign power, I, Mr Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister, hereby resign from the position of the Prime Minister."

The protesters also demanded an end to the prosecutions of protesters and leading figures. The protesters dispersed at 21.36.

After the protest, Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon, a student activist from the Mahanakhon group, was arrested and taken to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 Headquarters at 23.00.

One week previous at the same site, a protest led by the People’s Party 2020 occupied the street in front of Government House, only to be forcibly dispersed by the police before dawn. After that, the number of protesters has only seemed to increase in Bangkok and other provinces. Even more joined the fray after the police forcibly dispersed the protest on 16 October.

State of emergency declared, protest dispersed before sunrise

Police fire water cannon at pro-democracy protesters in Bangkok

On 21 October, protestors started to gather at the Victory Monument at around 15.30 before gradually occupying the roundabout. This was the sixth day of leaderless mobile protests arranged with very short notice of the place and time.

Protesters distributing safety helmets.

The reason that the protests are leaderless is that most of the leading figures have been arrested and the protestors have adopted a strategy where ‘everyone is a leader’. 

This also means that the police find it hard to chase the protesters down, although in this protest, the police were ready to block the way to Government House.

"My tax", the message stated.

At 17.38, the protesters started moving from the Victory Monument to the Phaya Thai intersection, around 1 km away.

The United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), one of the protest organizers, stated that the protest would march to Government House, where the protest was dispersed on 15 Oct at dawn, a prelude to the crackdown on 16 October at Pathum Wan.

Another protest was taking place at the same time at Ramkhamhaeng University which was confronted by a yellow-clad, pro-monarchy rally group that claimed to be there first. The pro-monarchy side breached the barrier set up by the police and assaulted pro-democracy protesters. Protesters decided to change the protest site to Huamark Police Station.

Middle: a student whom the pro-monarchy group threw the speaker at filing a complaint to the police. Her knee and left feet was injured.

Wara Chanmanee, a protester who was chased out of Ramkamhaeng University, said he felt sad about the assault by the yellow-clad group, which reminded him of the 6 October 1976 massacre. A victim of the assault later filed a complaint with the police.

March to Government House

As the protestors arrived at Phaya Thai intersection, a pro-monarchy group blocked the way. After a short pause, protesters proceeded to Government House along Phetchaburi Road, chanting "Free our friends", referring to arrested protesters.

A big banner states "Keep walking forward". Recent leaderless protesters came up with a way to communicate with each other such as hand signs, shouting en masse or large banner like this.

4 lanes of Phetchaburi Road were packed with protesters. At Uruphong intersection, protesters met the first line of defence, comprising police in riot control gear, razor wire and barriers. With further blockades ahead, the protesters spend most time sorting out the confrontation here.

Police blockade at the Uruphong intersection.

At 19.23, there was a minor clash as the protesters on the front line were pushed from behind, causing some commotion. The confrontation ended after protesters from Nang Loeng intersection approached the police from the rear. After that, the police abandoned their position and other defence lines failed to contain the protesters.

Another line of defense after Uruphong intersection.

Some protesters wounded from falling into the razor wire or during the commotion were tended by volunteer medics.

The march reached Government House at about 20.00 where police vans, public buses, lines of police, water cannon and voice amplifier trucks blocked the entrance to the Government House at Panitchayakan bridge.

Yellow-clad group of people stationed along Ratchadamnoen Nok road. They are believed to be soldiers.

PM asks people to ‘take a step back together’

As the protesters were marching to the Government House, Gen Prayut made a television address regarding the political situation and protests. He urged the protesters to solve the conflict via the parliamentary debate scheduled for 26-27 October. He also asked the government and the protesters to “each take a step back” and “find solutions to the problems.”

The PM also said that he is prepared to revoke the severe state of emergency in Bangkok, declared at 04.00 on 15 Oct to control the protest.  “I am currently preparing to lift the state of severe emergency in Bangkok and will do so promptly if there are no violent incidents.”

“The only way to a lasting solution for all sides that is fair for those on the streets as well as for the many millions who choose not to go on the streets, is to discuss and resolve these differences through the parliamentary process,” said Prayut.

In his speech, the PM also alleged that during the forcible police dispersal of the protest on 16 October at Pathum Wan, “We saw terrible crimes being committed against the police using metal rods and huge cutting implements in brutal attacks.”  No media reports at the time mentioned any such attacks.

NewsStudent protest 2020politicsMonarchy reformconstitution amendmentGen Prayuth Chan-o-cha
Categories: Prachatai English

BKK Art Biennale artists express support to Thai democracy protesters

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-10-22 11:49
Submitted on Thu, 22 Oct 2020 - 11:49 AMParticipating Artists of the Bangkok Art Biennale 2020

On October 21, 25 Bangkok Art Biennale including Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor, released a public statement expressing the support for the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations in Thailand and calling for dialogue, not a crackdown.

A protester in front of the crowd control police line. (Source: File photo)

As participating artists of the Bangkok Art Biennale 2020, we are deeply concerned about the events that have unravelled in Bangkok over the past days in response to the ongoing protests calling for democratic change. Scenes of overt police force, including the use of water cannons, being deployed against peaceful protesters have weighed heavily upon us as we prepare for the full opening of the biennale later this month. The arrests of key protest leaders and several activists are also a cause for concern. That many of these events have taken place in the Pathumwan intersection where the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), a key venue of the Biennale, is located makes this response all the more urgent and necessary.

The theme of this year’s Biennale is “Escape Routes,” which according to the Biennale, explores how art can help us understand and search for ways out of the many predicaments that we are living through in the world today. We believe that any attempt at imagining the possible futures that lie ahead of us must begin by confronting our present realities. This means that as artists we must not only maintain art as a space for reflection and debate on the issues of the day but also be able to speak directly to the situations that have literally arrived at our doorstep.

We therefore unequivocally condemn and call for the immediate stop to the use of violence against the protesters and express our support for their struggle for democracy. We also affirm the space of art as an essential constituent of the democratic public sphere which, in times of social upheaval, must also seek to provide refuge for those escaping violence. We further urge the Biennale and the BACC to join us in taking a stand against such violence and affirming the right to peaceful protest.

As artists, we thrive in a society that supports our ability to speak out and speak to the times in which we live. Such a society is one that meets calls for progressive change not with a crackdown but a commitment to building understanding, dialogue and collectivity.

October 21, 2020

Ai Weiwei
Anish Kapoor
Bussaraporn Thongchai
Chantana Tiprachart
Choy Ka Fai
Dane Mitchell
Dinh Q. Le
Haevan Lee
Ho Rui An
I-na Phuyuthanon
Irwan Ahmett
John Akomfrah
Julia Fullerton-Batten
Khvay Samnang
Linda Havenstein
Nipan Oranniwesna
Prateep Suthatongthai
Reena Saini Kallat
Ruangsak Anuwatwimon
Rungruang Sittirerk
Sarah Naqvi
Thanet Awsinsiri
Tita Salina
Yuken Teruya
Zhou Xiaohu

(As of October 21, 2020)

Pick to PostBangkok Art BiennaleStudent protest 2020cultureSource: http://www.artasiapacific.com/News/BangkokArtBiennaleArtistsShowSolidarityWithDemocracyProtesters?fbclid=IwAR2A4r2PlR5i-kcBgrHsfz7w9UFqAuUwN4uR1GOV8sNIs8ycPrjbb74-83g
Categories: Prachatai English

Sentencing Thai Railway workers is brazen attack on union work, freedom of association

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-10-22 10:50
Submitted on Thu, 22 Oct 2020 - 10:50 AMThe International Transport Workers Federation, International Trade Union Confederation

21 October 2020 guilty verdict handed down to 13 leaders of the State Railway Workers’ Union of Thailand (SRUT) is a gross miscarriage of justice and a brazen attack on workers’ rights.

A Thai train (Source: Thai News Agency)

These leaders have been charged and handed three-year sentences for nothing more than
rightly exposing unsafe working conditions on the Thai railway system. Efforts to make railways safer for both workers and passengers should be applauded, not prosecuted.

These SRUT workers have been ruthlessly pursued by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) through the legal system for carrying out a national  rail safety campaign following a fatal train derailment in October 2009 at Khao Tao Station.

This has also been shadowed by a general vindictiveness on part of the authorities including the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). The SRUT leaders have been scapegoated for an accident that both The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and an internal fact-finding investigation concluded was
primarily caused by the poor maintenance and condition of the locomotive.

The Thai authorities have used trumped up charges to deflect attention from their own lack of
competency in ensuring safe railways. It is regrettable that the mandate of the NACC has been used to undermine legitimate trade union activities and the principles of freedom of association. Instead of needlessly ruining the lives of SRUT workers and their families, the State Railway of Thailand and the NACC should be supporting their efforts to improve rail safety.

Since November 2018, the monthly salaries of seven SRUT leaders have been deducted to pay fines of Baht 24 million (US$726,116) to SRT for the 2009 initiative they took based on the decision of the Supreme Labour Court in 2017. This is tantamount to collective punishment of the workers and their families. The SRT must now withdraw the fines and reimburse the seven SRUT leaders.

They must also ensure that the SRUT leaders receive full compensation for lost wages and benefits which they have not received since their reinstatement. The ITF and ITUC will continue support the SRUT 13 and their families, as they post bail appeal this ruling.

About the ITF: The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) is a democratic global union federation of nearly 700 transport workers trade unions representing around 20 million workers in 150 countries.

The ITF works to improve the lives of transport workers globally, encouraging and organising international solidarity among its network of affiliates. The ITF represents the interests of transport workers unions in bodies that take decisions affecting jobs, employment conditions and safety in the transport industry.

About the ITUC: The International Trade Union Confederation is the world largest trade union
federation. The ITUC represents 207 million workers in 163 countries and territories and has 331 national affiliates.

Pick to Postthe State Railway of Thailand (SRT)State Railway Workers’ Union of Thailand (SRUT)
Categories: Prachatai English

Court lifts suspension orders against Voice TV, Free Youth

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-10-22 09:12
Submitted on Thu, 22 Oct 2020 - 09:12 AMPrachatai

The suspension orders against Voice TV and Free Youth have been reviewed and lifted by the Criminal Court on 21 October.

The Court also said that Prachatai, the Reporters, and the Standard enjoy the same protection under the Constitution.

Section 35 (1) of the 2017 Constitution says that “a media professional shall enjoy the liberty to present news or express opinions in accordance with professional ethics.”

Section 35 (2) says that “the closure of a newspaper or other mass media in deprivation of the liberty under paragraph one shall not be permitted.”

The court on duty had ordered the suspension of Voice TV and Free Youth online activities at the request of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES). The DES claimed that Voice TV had violated the Computer Crimes Act and the restrictions set under the severe state of emergency. The DES did not mention which law was used against Free Youth. 

But the Chief Justice of the Criminal Court read the court order sent to him according to procedure and thought that the order may be incorrect, so the case was reopened. 

“The Court also said, specific to the media, that the freedom of the media is very important because it is a principle under the constitution and human rights,” said Winyat Chartmontri, the lawyer of Voice TV.

“The process of submitting the complaint did not specify which content or message is illegal. Because the court sees that for any blocking, there must be content specifying which statement is illegal, an entire channel cannot be blocked, blocking whatever station, page, or URL. This is considered beyond the scope of law.”

Crackdown on media backfires

On 19 October, Buddhipongse Punnakanta held a press conference saying that there are 300,000 URLs on social media which violate the law, including the Emergency Decree and the Computer Crimes Act, which they would prosecute indiscriminately.

Buddhipongse also confirmed a leaked document with the signature of Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, the Royal Thai Police chief, which said that the government has ordered the police to consider censoring or closing Voice TV, Free Youth, Prachatai, the Reporter and the Standard, whose content allegedly violated restrictions set under the severe state of emergency.

The severe state of emergency was announced amid the ongoing protests in Thailand that began in July, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, constitutional amendments, and monarchy reform.

The government’s attempted crackdown on the media caused uproar on social media. #Saveสื่อเสรี (#savefreemedia) and #SaveVoiceTV topped Twitter’s trending in Thailand on 19-20 October.

Six journalist organizations issued a joint statement against the crackdown on media including the Thai Journalists Association, Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, Confederation of Thai Journalists, National Press Council of Thailand, News Broadcasting Council of Thailand, Online News Providers Association.

Deputy Permanent Secretary Puchapong Nodtaisong of the DES said on 20 October that the court had ordered the suspension of Voice TV and Free Youth. Voice TV said they would continue reporting despite the suspension order.

Free Youth, a Facebook page which protesters have been relying on to learn about the time and place of demonstrations, opened a substitute Facebook page which collected 300,000 subscribers in two days. It also opened a page and a group on Telegram.

In response, the DES has ordered the authorities to close 4 IP addresses of Telegram. Many Thai outlets reported that Telegram is impossible for even Russia to penetrate.

As social media erupted and people continued gathering on the street, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on 20 October that he had ordered the police to review the order to suspend media outlets by prioritizing freedom of the press. After his speech, the Criminal Court reviewed the order and lifted the suspension orders against Voice TV and Free Youth.

 

NewsVoice TVFree Youth
Categories: Prachatai English

Countrywide protests give 24 hrs to release protesters, withdraw emergency decree

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-10-21 15:26
Submitted on Wed, 21 Oct 2020 - 03:26 PMPrachatai

On 19 October, more protests took place at many sites in Bangkok and other provinces. It is the fifth day in a row and the organizers have called for a break of 24 hours to wait and see the government response.

The protest at Kasetsart intersection.

The United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), one of protest organizers, stated at 18.00 on Monday that, within 24 hours, those protesters who have been arrested must be released with no further additional charges and the emergency decree must be withdrawn. 

It also underlines the original 3 demands: Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and the cabinet must resign, parliament must be re-opened to amend the constitution and the monarchy must be urgently reformed.

“If the state does not comply, then prepare to handle a surprise from us,” says the UFTD post.

In the greater Bangkok area, people gathered at the Ministry of Health MRT station in Nonthaburi Province, Bangkok Remand Prison and Kasetsart intersection. According to the Free YOUTH movement, there were also protests at Nakhon Pathom, Buriram, Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai, Phetchaburi and Ubon Ratchathani.

The pro-monarchy protesters at Hat Yai.

Hat Yai, Songkhla Province, also saw a protest. There were people wearing yellow shirts, displaying banners in support of the monarchy in the area as well.

From 16.00 to 18.00 in Buriram, a flash mob took place at Buriram Rajabhat University. Protesters sang the national anthem while flashing the three-finger salute before dispersing.

The Kasetsart protest ended by itself at 19.00 after many thousands occupied the usually congested intersection.

At around 17.20, a protester at a Nonthaburi protest gave a speech admiring the Hong Kong protesters who rallied in support of the movement in Thailand and called for release of the protesters arrested in front of Thai consulate in Hong Kong on Monday.

She criticized the Xi Jinping administration for trying to suppress people in China and the region like the Uyghur, Hongkongers, Tibetans or the Mekong subregion people that are suffering from dam construction.

There are 3 conditions worthy of note relating to politics and the protests.

1. Some arrested protesters have still not been released. Some are remanded at the Bangkok Remand Prison. More are detained at Thanyaburi Prison, Pathum Thani, and Chiang Mai Prison. Despite some being released on bail on the evening of 19 Oct, some were immediately charged again.

At 11.30 on 19 Oct, it was reported by TLHR that Patipan Luecha, a mo lam singer, was arrested at his home and taken to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters, Pathum Thani, and charged with sedition, gathering in a group of more than 10 people to cause public unrest and using unauthorized voice amplifiers.

2. Chuan Leekpai, Speaker of the House of Representatives, consulted with a cabinet representative and called a special session of parliament on 26-27 Oct to solve the ongoing conflict, in line with Section 165 of the 2017 Thai constitution, enabling the session to be held without a vote or resolution.

Protesters have been calling for a special session to discuss constitutional amendments.

3. The severe emergency decree has been used to censor the coverage of the protests by The Standard, The Reporters, Voice TV, Prachatai and Free YOUTH. This quickly put #Saveสื่อเสรี (#Savefreemedia) at the twitter top trend today.

As of 20 Oct, all platforms of Voice TV have been ordered shut down under a court order filed by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES). Cases against the other media outlets will proceed later.

As of 21 Oct, the court has ruled out the shut down order on the 4 media.

NewsStudent movement 2020Voice TVThe StandardThe ReportersEmergency Decree
Categories: Prachatai English

Third person charged in connection with the royal motorcade incident

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-10-21 14:52
Submitted on Wed, 21 Oct 2020 - 02:52 PMPrachatai

Suranat Paenprasoet, a coordinator of the Active Youth network who joined the 14 October protest, has become the third person charged under Section 110 of the Criminal Code. He was seen on Phitsanulok Road when a royal motorcade passed through anti-dictatorship protesters.

Middle: Suranat Paenprasoet after being investigated by the police. Banners behind state "Save Suranat".

Suranat is a community activist in the Bangkok Noi and Bangkok Yai area. He planned to go himself to Dusit Police Station to hear the charges at 09.30 on 21 October after the charge was filed on 20 October, but the police went to his home earlier and took him to the police station. 

Suranat spoke to the media before being taken to Border Patrol Police Region 1 Headquarters, a place designated by the severe emergency decree as a detention place for protesters. He said that he did not know that a royal motorcade was approaching and he had no intention of blocking it. He said he denied all the charges made by the police.

Suchat Paenprasoet, Suranat’s brother who was at the scene, said Suranat had no intention of blocking the motorcade. He tried to move away as soon as he realized that a motorcade was coming through but he was blocked and pushed by the people around him. Suranat also said “Don’t push, there is a royal motorcade”.

As he was being questioned by the police, many people, including students and young people, gathered in front of the police station to give him support. Chuwit Jantaros, Secretary General of the Child, Youth and Family Foundation, prayed “The answer is blowing in the wind” and led supporters in chanting “Save Suranat”. 

Chuwit insists that Suranat never had any intention of overthrowing the monarchy as Suranat in the past engaged in activities mourning the death of King Rama IX. Many shed tears as Suranat was taken away from the police station.

Prior to Suranat, Ekkachai Hongkangwan and Boonkueanoon Paothong were charged with the same offence. Boonkueanoon was granted bail while Ekkachai was not.

What happened at the 14 October royal procession?

The incident took place at around 17.50 on Phitsanulok Road during the march by anti-dictatorship protesters from the Democracy Monument to Government House. The police had blocked the way, but some of the protesters, including the two accused, managed to make it through and were sandwiched by the police from behind.

As the main bulk of the protesters were negotiating with the police to open up a path, a royal motorcade passed by on Phitsanulok Road where there were police, anti-dictatorship protesters and some pro-monarchy people wearing yellow who were already there.

The Queen, representing King Rama X and accompanied by Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, was on her way to offer robes to monks in kathin ceremonies (an annual Buddhist merit offering ceremony) at Wat Arun Ratchawararam (the Temple of the Dawn) and Wat Ratcha Orasaram.  The motorcade passed protesters shouting and raising the 3-finger salute. One person also threw a bottle of water at the motorcade.

Ekkachai, Boonkueanoon and Suranat insist that they did not know about the arrival of the royal motorcade. 

Questions raised over procession route

Many pro-monarchy social media channels saw the confrontation at the royal procession as an assault on and harassment of the royal family. The severe state of emergency in Bangkok that was announced on 15 October also referred to the incident as unlawful and a threat to national security.

The Thai Move Institute, a conservative and pro-monarchy online influencer, interviewed people wearing yellow who were there to greet the royal procession. One of them said he was informed from news sources that there would be a royal procession there. So he moved from Makkhawan bridge where another royal procession had already passed by.

He said he and 20 other like-minded people tried to block the protesters while shouting “long live the Queen”. Another interviewee said that he did not know who was in the procession.

News reporters who were there also gave their views of the incident. Pravit Rojanaphruk from Khaosod English stated that he was there reporting via Facebook live. According to his observation, he did not see anyone trying to stop the procession or hitting the vehicles.

Live footage (sound muted due to improper language) from Teeranai Charuvastra, another Khaosod English reporter, confirms Pravit’s observation that no announcements were made as the police formed up the blockade. Ekachai and Boonkueanoon can be seen raising 3 fingers but neither of them blocked or got close to the procession at all.

“And importantly, there was no announcement from the police at all that there would be a royal procession along Phitsanulok Road, in front of Government House which the first group of protesters had occupied so easily that Francis (Boonkueanoon) told me that it was so easy that it felt ‘fishy’,” stated Pravit on Facebook.

Noppakow Kongsuwan, another reporter from Khaosod Online who was reporting on the pedestrian bridge across Phitsanulok Road, which would normally be cleared of people if there was a royal procession, stated on his Facebook post that there were no announcements or attempts to clear the pedestrian bridge.

He also questioned why the royal motorcade travelled via this route where the main bulk of the protesters were. Even though all alternative routes like Ratchadamnoen Avenue were almost completely cleared of protesters, the police responsible for arranging the motorcade route still decided to use Phitsanulok Road.

“I raise the question with no intent to provoke, based on available facts which many media agencies reported or even from many video clips or many of those who were there. There is collective agreement that in this case “there was no blocking” at all,” stated Noppakow.

NewsSuranat PaenprasoetHer Majesty the QueenThailandmonarchyStudent protest 2020Prince Dipangkorn RasmijotiSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/10/90069
Categories: Prachatai English

Amnesty, Human Rights Watch speak against media outlet shutdown

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-10-21 13:28
Submitted on Wed, 21 Oct 2020 - 01:28 PMAmnesty International, Human Rights Watch

Following the report of a court order to suspend Voice TV's online platforms, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued statements on the government's attempt to shut down media outlets. 

The protest at Victory Monument on 18 October

Media outlet’s shutdown a scare tactic amid growing protests, says Amnesty 

Responding to news that a court has upheld a government order to shut down "all platforms" of Voice TV, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, Ming Yu Hah, said:

"Voice TV has been doing its job, reporting on growing peaceful protests throughout the country. Like the charges against leading protesters, these tactics are clear attempts by the authorities to intimidate and harass people into silence.

"The harassment of media outlets is just one facet of the Thai authorities' current assault on communications channels, alongside threats to block the messaging platform Telegram and use of the Computer Crime Act, among other laws, against people for what they post and share online.

"Thai people of all ages are taking to the streets and growing the ranks of this peaceful youth-led movement. The Thai authorities should respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and media freedom. They should let people peacefully air their views, in the streets and on social media - and they should let journalists report on the developments. 

“We again urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all peaceful protesters currently detained. Authorities should drop all charges against protesters and, pending this, ensure that all those charged have access to legal counsel.”

"We also urge the authorities to rescind the ban on the Voice TV group and other media houses and allow the independent media to operate freely without any intimidation, harassment or fear of reprisals."

Background

On Tuesday 20 October, the Thai criminal court upheld a government order by the Joint Command for the Administration of the Emergency Situation (JCAES) to shut down all TV and digital broadcasts of the Voice TV group. The order also targeted three other media outlets: Prachatai, The Standard and The Reporters, although there has yet to be a court decision in their cases. Authorities allege that these outlets have violated orders issued under the Emergency Decree announced last week. A spokesperson for the Ministry for the Digital Economy and Society added that Voice TV was also found to be in violation of the Computer Crime Act.

Since 13 October 2020, authorities have detained at least 49 protesters, including some detained under emergency powers, including those announced earlier this year.  A "severe" state of emergency was declared on 15 October 2020. Reports of new arrests and detention continue to rise. Protests have grown throughout Thailand demanding a new constitution, monarchy reform and an end to harassment against individuals critical of the authorities.

Authorities have already initiated criminal proceedings against at least 65 individuals during the year in connection with ongoing peaceful protests. Protesters have reported official harassment linked to their presence at assemblies, including house visits and threats of lawsuits.

Voice TV's shutdown a misuse of the Emergency Decree to censor the media, says HRW

The Thai government’s shutdown of the outspoken Voice TV channel misuses Thailand’s emergency decree to censor the media, Human Rights Watch said today (21 October).

On October 20, 2020, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society announced at a news conference that the government had obtained a court order to close down Voice TV on all online platforms. The ministry alleged that the station’s coverage of a democracy protest in Bangkok on October 16 violated media restrictions under the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations and the Computer-Related Crime Act.

“Banning Voice TV is the Thai government’s latest attempt to stop the reporting about democracy protests and ensuing abuses against protesters,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The crackdown is part of a bigger effort to bully and control the media into becoming a government mouthpiece.”

On October 15, before the station’s online platforms were shut down, the Thai authorities pressed satellite service providers to block the broadcast of Voice TV. Since the May 2014 military coup that brought Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha to power, the government has targeted Voice TV for censorship and punitive sanctions more than any other TV station in Thailand. 

The government has also requested a shutdown order for three other online media services – The ReportersThe Standard, and Prachatai – citing similar reasons. In addition, Human Rights Watch obtained a document showing that the government is also seeking to block the Free Youth democracy movement’s accounts on the Telegram application.

On October 15, Prime Minister Prayuth declared a state of emergency in Bangkok. The United NationsThai human rights organizations, and Human Rights Watch, among others, raised concerns about the state of emergency on human rights and fundamental freedoms in Thailand.

The Emergency Decree empowers Thai authorities to impose broad censorship that violates the right to free expression and media freedom. On October 16, the police issued several warnings against news reports and social media commentary critical of the monarchy, the government, and the political situation in the country. Livestreaming pro-democracy protests was declared illegal, as well as posting selfies at a protest site.

That day, police arrested a Prachatai journalist, Kitti Pantapak, while was he was broadcasting the police’s dispersal of a democracy protest in Bangkok. True Visions is licensed to run the BBC World Service, CNN, and Al Jazeera English on its cable TV network, but it has blocked the broadcast of news reporting on the protests in Thailand. In addition, Thai authorities have blocked access to the online petition site Change.org, after it hosted a petition calling for King Maha Vajiralongkorn to be declared persona non grata in Germany.

The government has shown increasing hostility toward pro-democracy protests, which started on July 18 and later spread across the country. The protesters called for the resignation of the government, the drafting of a new constitution, and an end to the authorities harassing people who exercise their freedom of expression. Some of the protests included demands for reforms to curb the king’s powers. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that at least 81 protesters have been arrested since the declaration of state of emergency in Bangkok.

International human rights law, as reflected in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand ratified in 1996, protects the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. But Thai authorities have routinely enforced censorship and gagged public discussions about human rights, political reform, and the role of the monarchy in society. Over the past decade, hundreds of activists and dissidents have been prosecuted on serious criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) for the peaceful expression of their views.

In addition, over the past five months, the authorities have used emergency measures to help control the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to ban anti-government rallies, harass pro-democracy activists, and enforce censorship.

“Concerned governments and the United Nations should publicly demand an immediate end to the Thai government’s censorship and political repression,” Adams said. “Prime Minister Prayuth should immediately lift Voice TV’s ban and end further attempts to stifle media freedom and free speech in Thailand.”

 

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Court orders suspension of Voice TV’s online platforms

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-10-21 12:59
Submitted on Wed, 21 Oct 2020 - 12:59 PMPrachatai

Voice TV’s online platforms are facing suspension after the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) obtained a court order for its suspension, claiming that it has violated the Computer Crimes Act and the order of the chief official under the severe state of emergency.

According to The Reporters, Putchapong Nodthaisong, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the DES, said that the Ministry submitted video clips and photographs of the recent protests published by Voice TV, The Standard, The Reporters, and Prachatai, as well as the student activist group Free Youth’s Facebook page, to court on 16 October and has now obtained a court order to suspend all of Voice TV’s online platforms.

The DES claimed that the content they submitted to court is considered false computer data and therefore violates Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act. It also said that the content violates the order of the chief official under the severe state of emergency.

Declared in the early morning of 15 October, the severe state of emergency bans mass gatherings as well as the publication of information that “could create fear”, affects national security, or damages public morals.

Putchapong said that the court order will now be delivered to each platform, and that Voice TV can continue broadcasting, but must make a new account and must not spread information that is against the law. However, he said that the DES has not obtained a court order for the suspension of The Reporters, Prachatai, The Standard, and Free Youth.

Voice TV’s chief executive officer Makin Petplai issued a statement on Monday after it was reported that there was a police order for the investigation into and possible suspension of the four media outlets, as well as Free Youth’s Facebook page, saying that Voice TV did not spread misinformation or damage security or public peace and order.

“Throughout the past 11 years, Voice TV has been a media organization that stands by democratic principles. We have given space for the people’s ideas openly, transparently, and we have always taken responsibility for the facts from every sides. We insist that we have presented information which is valuable and beneficial to the society, and we call on the relevant persons to exercise their power and responsibility to society fairly,” said the statement.

The journalist and media academic group Media Inside Out also issued a statement condemning the order for Voice TV’s suspension without giving the chance for an appeal and questioning the claim that Voice TV’s reporting violated the Computer Crimes Act and the order under the Emergency Decree.

“The order to suspend a media outlet is an infringement of the rights and freedoms of the press and freedom of expression, which are basic rights of the people in a democratic system, and is a threat to the rights of the people which are recognized in the constitution,” says the statement.

“This suspension order was issued even though many sides involved with freedom of the press have already make it known that they disagree with the use of measures to shut down the press, because it is held to be tantamount to violating the rights and freedoms of the press and the people’s freedom of expression. This kind of action equals sending a signal that the government is still not using a political approach to solving problems, and could therefore be interpreted as meaning that they are ready to use force to suppress dissenters. Our group calls for an urgent reconsideration of this order, as well as an end to harassment of the press, no matter which outlet.”

At 9.00 on 21 October, Voice TV announced on their Facebook page that the order has yet to be enforced, and that all of the outlet’s online channels, including website, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are still available, as well as their Twitch channel VOICETV x TWITCH.

 

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Thai academic network calls on authorities to stop blocking dissent

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-10-21 12:43
Submitted on Wed, 21 Oct 2020 - 12:43 PMThai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANC)

The Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANC) has issued a statement following the crackdown on the Pathumwan protest on 16 October, calling for the authorities to stop using force to crack down on protesters, cease using the legal system to block dissent, and find a resolution for the country. 

Representatives of the TANC submitting their statement at the Government House 

The statement, signed by 1,118 academics said:

Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights Statement:

Stop Cracking Down on the Protesters, Ceasing Eradicating the Dissidents, Building an Exit for Thailand

Recent demonstrations by students and the People across Thailand since the beginning of 2020 demonstrate that Thailand has continuously faced multiple issues that are complex and interconnected, and that must be properly addressed at the core to gradually and effectively solve them. At many demonstrations, the People have presented the government with reasoned resolutions based on facts and principles, with the interests of the People and the country as the foundation. The demonstrations have been fully peaceful and non-violent. Yet, the regime has ignored the voice of the People, and has tried to block the legal and peaceful protests by many different means. Many protesters have been arrested. Worse, the government has declared the State of Severe Emergency, and on the evening and night of 16 October 2020 violently dispersed the protests using force claiming authority under the State of Severe Emergency. Many protesters were injured and the situation continues to escalate, while there is no indication that a resolution is being sought.

The issues faced in Thailand are rooted in longstanding inequality and injustice. Various groups of people in the country including along the lines of birth, race, religion, ideology, occupation, gender, and places have never had equal access to benefits, rights, and power. The only way to resolve these issues is to create a space where the People can openly and equally deliberate and negotiate for equitable benefits. To not offer such a space, but instead to distort the problems or suppress the dissidents with force, will not find a resolution, as witnessed in Thailand over the past decade.

The Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights, together with the listed 1,118 academics and other signatories of this Statement, hereby stand with the People and the demonstrators, and requests the Government to acknowledge and act as follows:

1. We condemn the use of force to disperse the student demonstration at Patumwan intersection on the night of 16 October 2020. The suppression and dispersal of the protest did not follow the principles and steps of international practice. This action was inflicted against unarmed and peaceful protesters, many of whom were students. The Government must stop cracking down on the protest and must be held responsible for the mistake.

2. The Government must cease using the legal system to suppress the People who the Government now sees as its opponents. The peaceful demonstration was conducted in compliance with Thailand’s Constitution and international agreements that Thailand has signed. The Government must cease using such a law as the Computer Crime Act to sue the People who express different opinions and criticize the Government. In particular, the government must immediately lift the State of Emergency and stop the legal suppression that restricts the Rights of the People.

3. The Government must demonstrate its sincerity in listening to the People’s voice, and take the People’s resolutions into account, be they the resignation of the Prime Minister, the constitutional amendment, and especially the need to reform the Monarchy to comply with democracy. The Government should establish a Committee to collaborate on this matter, taking account of the voices of academics, the public, and most importantly the students. Core rules should be agreed by stakeholders at the beginning of this process, as if there is not an equal distribution of power and benefits that is the basis of a just society, then there is little chance that Thailand will overcome the complex difficulties it has faced for decades.

Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANC)

20 October 2020

Anusorn Unno, lecturer and former dean of the Faculty Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University, along with representatives of TANC members also marched from Thammasat University's Tha Prachan campus on 19 October to the Government House to submit the statement.

The TANC also said that the government has to act on their demands within 7 days, or they will be escalating and may go on strike.  

Pick to PostThai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANC)student movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020freedom of expressionfreedom of assemblyEmergency DecreeState of emergency
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Cartoon by Stephff: Disobedience Day

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-10-20 15:28
Submitted on Tue, 20 Oct 2020 - 03:28 PMStephffCartoon by Stephff: Disobedience Day

 

MultimediaStephffStudent protest 2020Victory Monument
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Disobedience Day

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-10-20 15:28
Submitted on Tue, 20 Oct 2020 - 03:28 PMStephffCartoon by Stephff: Disobedience Day

 

MultimediaStephffStudent protest 2020Victory Monument
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Water cannons mark deeply alarming escalation in policing protests, says Amnesty

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-10-20 15:17
Submitted on Tue, 20 Oct 2020 - 03:17 PMAmnesty International

The Thai police's use of water cannons to disperse protesters on 16 October was unwarranted and excessive, says Amnesty International, who calls on the Thai authorities to release peaceful protesters and lift restriction on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. 

A man standing before the line of border patrol police before the 16 October crackdown.

Responding to the dispersal of protesters by Thai police using water cannons with irritants and dye, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, Ming Yu Hah, said:

 “The excessive force used to disperse tonight’s peaceful protests was unwarranted and in no way complied with the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality, as the Thai authorities claim.

“The use of water cannons and irritants not only poses serious risk of injury, the use of dye is indiscriminate and could lead to the arbitrary targeting and arrest of peaceful protesters, journalists, or simply local residents who were marked with the coloring.

“In policing assemblies, Thai authorities should respect, protect and ensure the exercise of the human rights of organizers and participants. They must also ensure the safety and security of journalists, observers, and other members of the public observing the protests.

“We urge the Thai authorities to comply with their international obligations and facilitate the right to peaceful assembly. They must let peaceful protesters express their views – not exacerbate tensions further.”

Background

Ahead of demonstrations expected at Ratchaprasong junction at 5pm today, following the gathering of an estimated 10,000 people at the same location the previous day, police closed roads and established barricades with multiple rows of barbed wire in order to prevent people peacefully assembling at the central Bangkok intersection.

Protesters then announced another rallying point further down the same road instead, at Pathumwan junction. Later in the evening, police repeatedly used water cannons in attempts to disperse the crowd, estimated to be in the thousands.

According to a police spokesman, seven protesters were arrested and taken into custody. The spokesman confirmed that the water contained irritants and blue dye “to mark protesters for further legal action.”

Kitti Pantapak, a journalist with Prachathai was arrested, his equipment confiscated and is currently detained, according to a statement from Prachathai*.

On Thurday 15 October 2020, the Thai authorities ordered a 30-day ban on gatherings of five or more people in Bangkok, the capital, under emergency measures to stop escalating protests. The order also bans the publication of news or online messages that “could create fear”, affect national security or damage public morale.

Amnesty International called the order "drastic" and reiterated its call on authorities to release peaceful protesters and lift arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

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Four online media outlets threatened with suspension over protest coverage

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-10-20 14:43
Submitted on Tue, 20 Oct 2020 - 02:43 PMPrachatai

The Thai authorities have issued an order under the Emergency Decree for the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) to investigate and possibly suspend four online media outlets: Voice TV, Prachatai, The Reporters, and The Standard, as well as the Facebook page of the student activist group Free Youth, for their coverage of the recent protests in Thailand.

A protester at the Lad Phroa Intersection held up a sign saying "we are here to reclaim true democracy & free speech." 

The order, dated 16 October 2020, was issued by police chief Pol Gen Suwat Chaengyodsuk, who was appointed the chief official in the severe state of emergency, and states that “it appears that there was a broadcasting of content that affects state security, peace and order, or the good morals of the people”, and that the NBTC and the DES have been ordered to investigate and to stop the broadcasting or order the removal of such content.

However, as of 9.50 on 19 October, the order had yet to be published on the Royal Gazette website.

The Reporters reported at 10.40 today (19 October) that DES Minister Puttipong Punnakanta confirmed that there was an order for the Ministry to investigate the four media outlets and the Free Youth Facebook page.

Puttipong also said that he has tasked the DES Permanent Secretary with pressing charges against social media users who have broken the law between 14 – 18 October 2020, and that the DES is investigating at least 300,000 URLs.

At 12.36, The Reporters reported again that DES Deputy Permanent Secretary Putchapong Nodthaisong said that the Ministry has already requested a court warrant and is ready to shut down any media outlet that violates the Emergency Decree if it receives an order. He also said that the Ministry may request to check an outlet’s equipment, suspend it, or confiscate its equipment, but whether a journalist reporting the content in question would also face charges has to be decided based on the journalist’s intention.

However, assistant national police chief Pol Lt Gen Jaruwat Waisaya told the Reporters that the order to investigate the media outlets mentioned above is not currently enforced, but that the police have asked the NBTC and the DES to investigate some of the content published by Voice TV, Prachatai, The Reporters, The Standard, and Free Youth’s Facebook page, as there was a complaint that these outlets published content that affected national security, peace and order, or the good morals of the people. He claimed that the authorities are not trying to obstruct press freedom or shutting down media outlets, but are only notifying relevant agencies to investigate information that could violate the Emergency Decree.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) issued a statement this morning (19 October) expressing concern about the order to investigate the media outlets and the threat to suspend these outlets.

“A free media is an essential element in any democratic society, and bona fide journalists should be allowed to report important developments without the threat of bans, suspensions, censorship or prosecution hanging over them,” says the statement, which also criticized the use of national security as a justification for such threat as “overly broad, and can easily be abused to silence reporting that is accurate but makes the government uncomfortable.”

The statement also says that such move is “likely to be ineffective and counterproductive in an age of social media” and that “it makes the government appear heavy-handed and unresponsive to criticism, and could stir up even more public anger.

“The professional membership of the FCCT urges the Thai authorities to reconsider censorship of media reporting, and drop the threats made against these particular media organisations,” concludes the statement.

The editorial board of Thai Enquirer, another Thai online media outlet, also issued a statement saying that “instead of dialogue, opening up discussion and press, the government has chosen to embrace its authoritarian roots and censor, shutdown, and intimidate journalists working to present the news” and called on the authorities to “rescind the gag order immediately and to engage in dialogue with the press, the opposition and the people.”

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Thai pro-democracy protesters defy ban for fourth straight day

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-10-20 03:15
Submitted on Tue, 20 Oct 2020 - 03:15 AMPrachatai

Anti-government protests persisted in Bangkok for the fourth straight day despite the severe state of emergency which bans mass gatherings, the order to shut down Bangkok’s electric rail systems, and the use of water cannons to crack down on the protest at Pathumwan intersection on 16 October, with at least 20 parallel protests taking place in other provinces.

The protest at Victory Monument on 18 October. 

At around 14.00, the student activist group Free Youth asked all protesters to be on standby at any BTS or MRT station at 15.00, cheekily asking “where shall we meet today?”, before announcing at around 15.10 for people to meet at the Victory Monument and the Asoke intersection.

They also announced locations of parallel protests in Pathum Thani, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Nonthaburi, Saraburi, Sing Buri, Suphan Buri, Prachinburi, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima, Yasothon, Udon Thani, Sisaket, Kalasin, Chachoengsao, Chonburi, Rayong, and Phuket.

These provinces are not under the severe state of emergency, which was declared only in the Bangkok area.

Prior to the protests, the MRT announced the closure of five stations on the blue line: Hua Lamphong, Lumphini, Sukhumvit, Pahon Yothin, and Chatuchak Park. Meanwhile, the BTS announced that the government has issued an order under the Emergency Decree to close 10 stations on both lines: Phahon Yothin 24, Ha Yaek Lat Phrao, Mo Chit, Asok, Udom Suk, and Bang Na on the Sukhumvit line, and Chong Nonsi, Surasak, Krung Thon Buri, and Wongwian Yai on the Silom line.

At 16.00, protesters were already gathering at the Victory Monument, while the Victory Monument BTS Station had closed. Police officers were seen on the skywalk around the Monument.

By 17.30, protesters had filled the roundabout on the south side heading towards Phaya Thai, the east side heading to Din Daeng, and the west side in front of Rajavithi Hospital.

In a move reminiscent of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, protesters were carrying umbrellas and were seen wearing raincoats, face masks, helmets, and goggles. Those who would be on the frontlines in a crackdown were given helmets, goggles, and bottles of water. Protesters also formed a human chain to pass umbrellas to the people at the front of the rally. They also learned hand signals to communicate with each other across the protest site.

Protesters could be seen holding up pictures of arrested activists, including Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa, Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Ekkachai Hongkangwan, and Chaiamorn “Ammy” Kaewwiboonpan, to demand their release.

A protester holding a picture of Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul

At 18.20, protesters were heard shouting for the volunteer protest guards to come to the Ratchawithi Road side of the intersection, as they had been told a water cannon truck was coming. However, a Prachatai reporter in the area checked and did not see any truck or police units. Protesters also said they saw around 50 police officers standing on Phaya Thai Road.

There was a report at 19.00 that 6 water cannon trucks were spotted on Phitsanulok Road, but they were not moving. Police officers were also reported to be standing by in buses.

The protest at the Victory Monument ended at around 20.20 with no use of force from the authorities.

Parallel protest at Asok intersection

Protesters at the Asoke Intersection

Meanwhile, at the Asok intersection, protesters gathered on the street near Terminal 21. Volunteers were seen reviewing various hand signals with protesters, such as crossing their middle and index finger and holding their hand above their head, which means that they are being assaulted or arrested, or pointing their index finger up and moving their hand in a circle, which is a signal telling other protesters to run.

Activist Sombat Boonngamanong was present at the protest at Asok, and said that the protests which had taken place in the last two or three days showed some characteristics of horizontality, and that they are more self-managed protests.

A piece of paper stating the movement's three demands was taped to a pole. 

A piece of paper was found taped to a pole, stating the three demands of the pro-democracy movement: Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha's resignation, a new people's constitution, and monarchy reform.

By 18.00, traffic on the Asok Montri Road was blocked as protesters occupied the entire street. However, Terminal 21 remained open. Protesters also sang the national anthem while flashing the three-finger salute, before shouting "Fuck you Tuu!" and "Prayut get out!"

At 18.35, there was a report of around three units of crowd control police and Border Patrol Police as well as police cars carrying shields and other equipment seen near the Benjakitti Park.

The protest at Asok intersection ended at 19.50 with no use of force from the authorities and within ten minutes, traffic had resumed.

Protesters flashing the three-finger 'Hunger Games' salute as they march from the Imperial World Samrong shopping centre to the Bangna Intersection.

Another protest took place at the Bang Na intersection. At 15.45, protesters began gathering in front of the Imperial World Samrong in Samut Prakan, and later walked to the protest site at Bang Na intersection.

At 17.35, 16 police vans with dark windows containing crowd control units were seen heading towards the protest site at Bang Na, but the protesters formed a line to block the road and shouted at them to get out. The vans then headed back towards Udom Suk.

At 20.10, a small clash took place at the Bang Na intersection when the street lights were turned off. Protesters shouted for the lights to be turned back on and someone threw a bottle at the nearby police post, breaking a window. Many protesters cheered, while others tried to stop the confrontation.

At 20.20, a representative of the protesters read out the movement’s three demands. They also thanked the polytechnic students who joined the protest, and stated that the protest was peaceful.

The protest at Bang Na intersection ended at 20.35 with no further incident.

In addition to the provinces mentioned above, protests also took place in Amnat Charoen, Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Tak, Chanthaburi, and Phitsanulok.

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At least 81 arrested during mass protests 13-18 Oct

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-10-19 17:25
Submitted on Mon, 19 Oct 2020 - 05:25 PMPrachatai

By 18 October, 81 protestors, activists, guards, students and truck drivers have been arrested in connection with pro-democracy protests, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR). 

Protesters raising postesr rallying for releasing of people who were arrested and put in detention. Those in the posters are Jatupat Boonpattararaksa and Parit Chiwarak.

TLHR records that as of 12.00 on 18 Oct, 80 people had been arrested and 1 more was added to the count after a voice amplifier truck driver was arrested later that night as he returned from the protest at Victory Monument. He was charged the next morning and his voice amplifier equipment and truck were seized.

76 have been charged, 27 are currently in temporary detention and 8 are still in police custody.

As a result of the 13 October protest: 21 people and activists were arrested trying to set up camp outside Satriwithaya School, close to the Democracy Monument, in preparation for the protest the next day. 20 were denied bail by Dusit Municipal Court. The other, aged 17, was allowed bail by the Juvenile Court.

The 14 October protest: 26 people arrested, including Anon Nampa, Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, and Panussaya Sitthijirawatthanakul, leading protest figures who have repeatedly called for monarchy reform. They, plus Prasit Karutarote, another activist, were denied bail. 

Anon and Prasit are now under detention in Chiang Mai Prison while 3 others are in Thanyaburi District Prison.

The 15 October protest at Ratchaprasong: 7 people arrested, 6 of whom were voice amplifier truck crew. They were allowed bail of 20,000 baht each by Pathumwan Municipal Court. The 7th person was arrested for shouting “Dictator’s lackeys” at the police. Pathumwan Municipal Court allowed bail at the same amount.

The 16 October protest at Pathum Wan intersection where the police dispersed protesters using riot control and high-pressure water cannon: 12 were officially arrested including a Prachatai reporter, Kitti Pantapak, whose Facebook live report was interrupted as police grabbed his device. Kitti was released with 300 baht fine for defying a police order.

Another 3 were arrested and/or charged on 16 October for an incident on 14 October. Boonkueanoon Paothong and Ekkachai Hongkangwan were charged with harming Her Majesty the Queen's liberty under Section 110 of the Criminal Code. They were accused of blocking the Queen’s royal procession. Another was Somyot Prueksakasemsuk for his participation in the 19 September protest.

Somyot and Ekkachai, former lèse majesté prisoners, were denied bail and remanded at the Bangkok Remand Prison. Boonkueanoon was allow bail.

The 17 October protests: 8 people were arrested. 6 were charged in Bangkok and taken for questioning at the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Pathum Thani. 1 was charged over his participation in a 22 August protest in Ubon Ratchathani, and another was charged and questioned at Pattaya Police Station for violating the Computer Crimes Act.

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Protesters accused of harming the Queen, royal motorcade route questioned

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-10-19 11:50
Submitted on Mon, 19 Oct 2020 - 11:50 AMPrachatai

The Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Ekachai Hongkangwan and Boonkueanoon Paothong, who were at the 14 October protest where they found themselves in the middle of a police blockade and the royal motorcade of the Queen and the King’s son.

A moment when the royal motorcade passing through Phitsanulok road.

As of 18 October, Ekkachai, a former lèse majesté prisoner were denied bail and remanded at the Bangkok Remand Prison. Boonkueanoon was allowed to be bailed.

They were charged with violating the Section 110 of the Criminal Code for harming Her Majesty the Queen’s liberty. If found guilty, the two face 16-20 years in prison or life sentences. As of 11.00 on 16 October, Ekachai was reportedly arrested while on the way to turn himself in at Dusit Police Station.

Ekachai will be taken to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Khlong Luang, Pathum Thani, where protesters have been taken en masse to hear the charges from 13 October. Boonkueanoon managed to turn himself in at Dusit Police Station.

Matichon reported that the police are ready to submit to the court requests for arrest warrants for 5 more people on the same charge.

The incident took place at around 17.50 on Phitsanulok Road during the march by anti-dictatorship protesters from the Democracy Monument to Government House. The police had blocked the road, but some of the protesters, including the two accused, managed to make it through and were sandwiched by the police from behind.

As the main bulk of the protesters were negotiating with the police to open up the street, a royal motorcade passed by on Phitsanulok Road where there were police, anti-dictatorship protesters and some pro-monarchy people wearing yellow who were already there.

The Queen, representing King Rama X and accompanied by Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, was on her way to offer robes to monks in kathin ceremonies (an annual Buddhist merit offering ceremony) at Wat Arun Ratchawararam (the Temple of the Dawn) and Wat Ratcha Orasaram.  The motorcade passed protesters shouting and raising the 3-finger salute. One person also threw a bottle of water at the motorcade.

Ekachai and Boonkueanoon insisted that they were not informed in advance of the appearance of the royal procession.

According to BBC Thai, Ekachai said he and other protesters reacted to the sudden formation of police in the form of a human blockade that walked toward them. They were concerned that this could be a crackdown. He insisted that the authorities there did not inform protestors that a royal procession would be passing by.

Ekachai said he did not know where the people were from who were shouting and raising 3 fingers. He felt that his arrest was not fair because the police had not given him any warning about the procession.

Boonkueanoon told Prachatai that he and other protesters rushed at the police out of concern for a crackdown. He also reaffirmed that there were no prior announcements at all about the procession and that he had intention at all to harm any royal family members.

He said that at the time, he was sitting with many friends until they saw police officers lined up in formation. He thought that it may be an operation to clear the protestors. So he went to stand in front of them to tell the police not to do it.

“After that, I saw a crowd come to form a barricade.  Another thing I saw after that, at that time, there were clashes with the police but looking across there was a royal motorcade already there.  And the police had not informed us that there would be a royal motorcade.  There was nothing at all said about a royal motorcade coming that way.

“As soon as I saw it, I walked away and tried to get out of the blockade. I tried to use my megaphone to tell the protesters to move back, to get out of the way of the royal procession and move away so that it could proceed. After that, there were fingers raised as symbols but I did not shout anything and after that I went back to my original spot.”, said Boonkueanoon.

Questions raised over procession route

Many pro-monarchy social media channels saw the confrontation at the royal procession as an assault on and harassment of the royal family. The severe state of emergency in Bangkok that was announced on 15 October also referred to the incident as unlawful and a threat to national security.

The Thai Move Institute, a conservative and pro-monarchy online influencer, interviewed people wearing yellow who were there to greet the royal procession. One of them said he was informed from news sources that there would be a royal procession there. So he moved from Makkhawan bridge where another royal procession had already passed by.

He said he and 20 other like-minded people tried to block the protesters while shouting “long live the Queen”. Another interviewee said that he did not know who was in the procession.

News reporters who were there also gave their views of the incident. Pravit Rojanaphruk from Khaosod English stated that he was there reporting via Facebook live. According to his observation, he did not see anyone trying to stop the procession or hitting the vehicles.

Live footage (sound muted due to improper language) from Teeranai Charuvastra, another Khaosod English reporter, confirms Pravit’s observation that no announcements were made as the police formed up the blockade. Ekachai and Boonkueanoon can be seen raising 3 fingers but neither of them blocked or got close to the procession at all.

“And importantly, there was no announcement from the police at all that there would be a royal procession along Phitsanulok Road, in front of Government House which the first group of protesters had occupied so easily that Francis (Boonkueanoon) told me that it was so easy that it felt ‘fishy’,” stated Pravit on Facebook.

Noppakow Kongsuwan, another reporter from Khaosod Online who was reporting on the pedestrian bridge across Phitsanulok Road, which would normally be cleared of people if there was a royal procession, stated on his Facebook post that there were no announcements or attempts to clear the pedestrian bridge.

He also questioned why the royal motorcade travelled via this route where the main bulk of the protesters were. Even though all alternative routes like Ratchadamnoen Avenue were almost completely cleared of protesters, the police responsible for arranging the motorcade route still decided to use Phitsanulok Road.

“I raise the question with no intent to provoke, based on available facts which many media agencies reported or even from many video clips or many of those who were there. There is collective agreement that in this case “there was no blocking” at all,” stated Noppakow.

NewsEkachai HongkangwanBoonkueanoon PaothongHer Majesty the QueenThailandmonarchyStudent protest 2020Prince Dipangkorn RasmijotiSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/10/89969
Categories: Prachatai English

Defying crackdown, ‘The People’ occupy Bangkok’s streets

Prachatai English - Sun, 2020-10-18 16:44
Submitted on Sun, 18 Oct 2020 - 04:44 PMPrachatai

The 16 October police crackdown has not deterred the people’s will to express their anti-dictatorship ideas and criticisms of the monarchy. They turned from single protests to mobile leaderless ones.

Protesters could be seen at many BTS skytrain stations on the afternoon of 17 October in line with the strategy after the 16 October crackdown posted by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, the Thammasat University student group protest organizers. The message stated ‘Everyone is a leader’.

In response, at 13.30, the police held a press conference warning against protests which obstructed transportation routes. The BTS skytrain stations were ordered closed from Ari to Phromphong from 14.30 onward. Phayathai Station on the Airport Link was closed, As were 4 access points to the Victory Monument. All access to Asok intersection were also blocked.

Most police resources seem to have been deployed at the Victory Monument.  But no protestors turned up. 

The police said that no teargas would be used against protesters, only water with chemical substances will be used to mark protesters' clothes for future arrests. The doctors confirmed that these chemical substances cause no harm.

However, all BTS skytrain stations and MRT subway stations were closed by the authorities as protesters started gathering.

A closed MRT station and people who raised 3 fingers at the BTS gate.

Closing skytrain and subway stations was a tactic which the authorities hoped would discourage protesters who, over the last several days, had demonstrated against the government, calling for constitutional amendments, respect for human rights and monarchy reform.

Nevertheless, people started gathering at many spots. At Asok station, protesters handed out sheets of papers for signs to be written on. Protesters gave anti-government speeches: release our friends, release our children. Some said they were going to Lad Phrao intersection.

People sharing their experience regarding the 16 October crackdown. Some said they had to take care of another protesters who cannot go back home as their family hate what the protests are calling for.

At 15.35, at Lad Phrao intersection, people came down from the platform to the street in front of Central Plaza Lad Phrao and gradually took over the interesection.

The people formed protest groups at 3 main spots around the city: Udom Suk BTS station where protestors later moved to nearby Bang Na intersection; Lad Phrao BTS station which occupied Lad Phrao 5-way intersection; and Wongwian Yai BTS station.

An additional gathering point was at Samyan Mitrtown shopping mall, opposite Chulalongkorn University, announced by the Spring Movement, an activist group of CU students. Protesters exchanged their experience of the previous night’s crackdown.

People gathering at Sam Yan Mitr Town.

"There is no more staying neutral, either you side with democracy or side with dictatorship that uses power unfairly," said a protester. Another protester also called for a boycott of graduation ceremonies presided over by members of the royal family in order to change the cultural structure.

The mall announced that it would close at 17.00

Standing in the centre: Sombat Boonngam-anong giving a speech.

At 16.35, activist Sombat Boonngam-anong gave a speech along with other people on the Asok station skywalk as they could not go anywhere else due to the transportation shutdown. There was also a protest at Ramkamhaeng University.

Protesters raising 3 fingers at Wongwian Yai.

At Wongwian Yai, protesters asked "Who killed King Taksin?"  King Taksin ruled in the Thonburi era and died in mysterious circumstances that allowed King Rama I of the current Chakri dynasty to come to power. 

Thonburi, the former capital, is where the protesters were standing.  An equestrian statue of Kong Taksin is situated at Wongwian Yai.

At 16.40 at the Lad Phrao intersection, occupying protesters organized a guard and arranged barriers in preparation for a potential crackdown. Some came prepared with masks and helmets.

Meanwhile, protesters occupied Udom Suk intersection.

At 18.00, protesters at the various locations gave the 3-finger salute while singing the National Anthem. Raising 3 fingers during the National Anthem has become a regular protest action as one peaceful way to fight against dictatorship proposed by Parit 'Penguin' Chiwarak, a student activist who is now in police custody.

Left to Right: "[I] pay taxes. [I] don't want tear gas from your father & We come peacefully. Why do we have to be cautious? Why must [you] hurt us?

The protests went on with no reports of any clashes or crackdowns. They one by one, the protests separately dissolved at around 18.45-19.45.

The anti-dictatorship protesters have come up with an even more mobile mindset than the day before. On 16 October, they changed the protest site to Pathumwan after the police heavily deployed forces to occupy Ratchaprasong intersection, the original protest venue.

But because it was only a few hundred yards from the original spot, it did not take long for riot control forces to redeploy and disperse the protesters with high pressure water cannon, riot shields, batons and water mixed with a chemical irritant.

The protest raised the political temperature as new state of emergency was announced after the overnight protest on 14 October. This ‘severe’ emergency decree covers Bangkok and is aimed at quelling the ongoing protests which the government can now call unlawful, claiming that they endanger public safety.

The new emergency decree prohibits the gathering of more than 5 people, enables detention for 7 days without charge, authorizes high-ranking police officers to conducts searches without court orders and prohibits people and the media from publishing or broadcasting information which threatens stability.

On 17 October, Pol Maj Gen Yingyot Thepchamnong, deputy spokesperson of the Thai National Police, said during a press briefing that political gatherings violate the emergency decree. The police have to respond according to the law. As the protesters have adjusted their tactics, the police will have to change their tactics too.

NewsStudent protest 2020crackdownBangkokAsokBang NaLad Phraopolitics
Categories: Prachatai English

Police fire water cannon at pro-democracy protesters in Bangkok

Prachatai English - Sat, 2020-10-17 10:42
Submitted on Sat, 17 Oct 2020 - 10:42 AMPrachatai

Police in full riot gear have used water cannons to crackdown on thousands of protesters gathering at the Pathumwan Intersection, defying the ban on mass gatherings imposed during the severe state of emergency.

Lines of police officers blocking the Ratchaprasong Intersection

The protest, which was scheduled to begin at 17.00 on 16 October, was originally planned to take place at the Ratchaprasong Intersection, where a mass protest also took place yesterday (15 October) following the crackdown on the protest at the Government House in the early morning of 15 October.

However, by 15.00, police officers have already set up barriers at the Ratchaprasong Intersection and the Pratunam Intersection, blocking off the area. They also blocked smaller streets and stopped pedestrians and vehicles from going into the area.

Police officers also raided the offices of the Progressive Movement, a group formed by banned members of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, during Piyabutr Saengkanokkul’s press conference.

Barriers at Ratchaprasong Intersection

At 16.30, police in full riot gear were seen lining up at the Ratchaprasong Intersection, blocking off traffic. Officers carrying batons were also seen near the police headquarters.

Officers carrying batons seen near the police headquarters

The student activist group Free Youth then announced that the protest will be moving to the Pathumwan Intersection.

Protesters began occupying the Pathumwan Intersection at 17.00 

By 17.00, protesters have already occupied half of the intersection, and Phayathai Road was closed from the MBK shopping centre towards the Ratchatewi BTS Station.

Prior to the protest, the BTS Sky Train announced that the Ratchatewi Station and Ratchadamri Station have been closed. After the location change, the Siam Station and the National Stadium Station were also closed. The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority also announced that all public bus and van will not be traveling close to the protest area and will not stop at any stop within the 5-kilometre radius of the Ratchaprasong Intersection. The Samyan MRT Station was also later closed.

A line of shield-carrying police under the Siam BTS Station

Water cannon blasts firing into protesters, who shield themselves with umbrellas. A video clip was also circulating on social media of people on the Pathumwan Skywalk dropping umbrellas down for people on the street to shield themselves. 

At 18.50, as it began to rain heavily, police officers in full riot gears moved into the area near the Siam BTS Station and fired water cannons at the protesters, as well as pushing into them with their shields. There were reports that the water contained chemical irritants and was stained blue with long-lasting paint, as well as reports of the police using a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).

On Phayathai Road, a large crowd of protesters, many of whom were high school students in uniforms, ran out from the Pathumwan Intersection and into the nearby Chulalongkorn University, where the student group Nisit Chula Party have designated a safe zone and have been on standby in case of a crackdown. Student representatives stood by the gates with megaphones telling protesters to come inside the campus.  

Protesters running out of the Pathumwan Intersection onto Phayathai Road, heading towards Chulalongkorn University. 

People gathered at the Faculty of Political Science, where student volunteers and several lecturers were handing out bottles of water and organizing people into groups so they can leave through the nearest gate to the closest BTS and MRT stations. They also provided ammonia and water for people who got sprayed with the blue paint to clean themselves, as well as handing out shirts for them to change.  

At 18.57, police officers were ordered to drop their shield and arrest the protesters. There were also reports of officers preparing use tear gas on the protesters.

At 19.20, the police reportedly used tear gas in the Siam BTS Station area, according to a nearby Prachatai reporter and an observer from iLaw, who said they were hit with some kind of chemical irritant. A reporter from PPTV who was doing a live broadcast nearby also said that they felt some irritation on their face and in their eyes, and that the water the police fired at the protesters may have some chemical mixed in.

At 21.05, the police ordered all protesters and reporters to leave the Pathumwan Intersection area or be arrested. Five minutes later, they were firing water cannon at protesters on the Rama 1 side of the intersection and moving towards the National Stadium BTS Station.

At 22.25, shield-carrying officers marched to the Hua Chang bridge, near the Ratchatewi BTS Station, where a group of people are still gathering and announced that everyone must leave in 20 minutes. However, at 22.30, police officers fired water cannon at the group. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) also reported there was an announcement for the protesters, who were pushed back to the Ratchatewi Intersection, to be arrested.

TLHR also said that officers were running after protesters who ran into Soi Phaya Nak and arresting them, and that they also arrested a number of protesters closest to the police line.

At 23.15, traffic resumed at the Pathumwan Intersection.

Protesters at the Pathumwan Intersection before the crackdown

TLHR said that at least 12 protesters were arrested during the 16 October crackdown and were brought to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Pathum Thani, including student activist Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, a leading member of Free Youth, activist Anurak “Ford” Jentawanich, and Prachatai reporter Kitti Pantapak.

One of those arrested was an employee at a restaurant near Hua Chang Bridge. He was arrested at around 22.00 and also taken to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters.

Under the severe state of emergency, the government imposed a ban on gatherings of more than five people, allows state officials to arrest people and detain them for 30 days without informing them of the charges against them, and banned the publication of information that “could create fear,” affect national security, or damage public morale.

The protest organisers issued a statement condemning the use of force against the protesters, and announced that there will be another demonstration on Saturday (17 October) at 16.00 at a location that is still unspecified.  

NewsStudent protest 2020student movementYouth movement14 - 15 October 2020 protestPathumwan Intersectionstate violencecrackdownfreedom of assembly
Categories: Prachatai English

Prachatai's reporter, 24, arrested while covering police crackdown

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-10-16 22:19
Submitted on Fri, 16 Oct 2020 - 10:19 PMPrachatai

Kitti Pantapak, Prachatai's multimedia reporter arrested in front of MBK center while covering Facebook live video of the crack down in Thailand capital's downtown on 16 October night.

During the arrest, he was wearing a press armband from the Thai Journalist Association, a symbol that separate the protesters and media.

Kitti was handcuffed on a detention truck.

Around 22.00, the team was able to find him sitting in the police's detention truck. He was brought to Pathum Wan police station nearby and would be brought to Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Khlong Luang, Pathum Thani.

A footage from Kitti showed that he was asking a police officer about where would he be able to stay and cover the news. A police then approached him and grabbed away his device.

Kitti said "I have been detained already" and the live video was cut.

This is an updating situation, we will keep updating the information.

Newspress freedomcrackdownStudent protest 2020Kitti Pantapak
Categories: Prachatai English

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