Prachatai English

Outrage, disappointment expressed in Rayong at Covid-19 lapse

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-16 16:57
Submitted on Thu, 16 Jul 2020 - 04:57 PMPrachatai

Rayong people have expressed disappointment that an Egyptian military officer was found positive for Covid-19. Police have arrested protestors without charge before a visit by the PM, while business representatives urge 14 days quarantine for all incoming passengers.

A police forced a protester into a car without any charge declared. (Source: Live stream/ Thai PBS

On 15 July, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, along with Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, made a hasty trip to Rayong province after a visiting Egyptian air force officer was tested positive for Covid-19.

Gen Prayut went to the DVaree Diva Central Rayong Hotel and Laem Thong Department Store which the officer had visited and also visited the Star market to meet the people. 

At the DVaree Diva Central Rayong Hotel, 2 activists from the Eastern Youth Leadership Group livestreamed on Facebook a protest with the banner “Don’t let your guard down, dad”, a satirical reference to the repeated warnings from the Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

8 minutes into the protest and before the PM’s arrival, the protesters were arrested and taken to a police station. They were later released without being charged.

Pol Col Thapana Khlosuwanna, Superintendent of Mueang Rayong Police Station, said he did not know what offence the protestors will be charged with. The investigators will look into the matter on 16 July.

On 16 July, Pol Col Kritsana Phattanacharoen, a Royal Thai Police deputy spokeperson said the two were charged with violating the Emergency Decree and the Diseases Control officer in organizing an infection-risk gathering, unreasonably disobeying the authorities and escaping the arrest. (Source: Thairath)

The 2 protesters also filed a complaint to the police for committing 4 offences; false imprisonment, abduction, abuse of power and physical assault.

The video footage from Thai PBS showed that the protesters resisted the police attempt to force them into the police car. Pol Col Kritsana said the protesters ran away from the police station to the Star Market after the arrest.

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Secretary-General of the dissolved Future Forward Party, posted on Facebook a criticism of the police action. He asked whether the police’s claim of “orders from higher up” would give the police impunity and whether the country was ruled by orders or the law.

On the same day, entrepreneurs and people’s representatives from Rayong submitted a letter opposing visits by foreigners without 14 days in state quarantine which had let infected people into Thailand as was found in Rayong. They urged state quarantine for every foreign arrival without exception.

Group representative Thachaya Chuangsanthat said Rayong people have been enduring an economic struggle and applying public health measures to the point that there had been no infections in the province for more than 100 days. 

But the decision by the government and CCSA to let an infected person into the country was unacceptable. What privileges are such people entitled to? Is there a double standard when the public was being told not to let their guard down?

Thachaya said that the government and CCSA acceptance of responsibility was not enough. They should resign if they cannot solve the problem. 

Thairath reported that the incident has dealth a huge blow to Rayong people hope to get back on their feet after the lockdown. Almost all of hotel bookings for vacations or conferences were canceled as people concerns are increased.

Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoen, Director-General of the Department of Disease Control, said that the head of international disease control and all officials at U-Tapao International Airport have been replaced with officials from the Office of Disease Prevention and Control from Chonburi Province.

Suwanchai said the investigation revealed 2 mistakes: the Egyptian officers had violated regulations and the hotel lacked the proper means to comply with state regulations. Provincial Communicable Disease Committees are assigned to provide quarantine accommodation by designating a supervisor to make on-the-spot decisions on quarantine, strictly enforcing quarantine laws and regulations, and emphasizing disease control measures.

NewsRayongPrayuth Chan-o-chaCOVID-19Egyptian Air ForceSource:
Categories: Prachatai English

123th anniversary of Phibun’s birth celebrated

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-16 14:57
Submitted on Thu, 16 Jul 2020 - 02:57 PMPrachatai

15th July was marked by a celebration of the 123th anniversary of the birth of Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, a leader of the People’s Party which instigated the 1932 Siamese Democratic Revolution. Despite his later transformation into a fascist, activists urged the new generation to learn from the successes and mistakes of the revolution.

Demonstrators were celebrating Plaek's birthday with a cake.

Around 30-50 people attended the event at the Democracy Monument, watched over by around the same number of uniformed and plainclothes police. A police officer had warned demonstrators to observe measures to avoid Covid-19 infection.

The Democracy Restoration Group, an activist group that organized the event, hosted an on-site dinner of phat Thai (literally ‘Thai stir-fry’), a noodle dish which was allegedly invented as a Thai version of Chinese noodles by Phibun’s nationalist government. They also had a cake with Phibun’s face on it.

Demonstrators were chanting and raising phat Thai.

Participants sang Happy Birthday and chanted “Dictatorship shall fall, long live phat Thai”, a pun in Thai on “Dictatorship shall fall, long live democracy”. They then danced the ramwong, a folk dance patronized by Phibun to counter the influence of western dances like the waltz and foxtrot.

Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer and one of the organizers, said that the entertainment was to commemorate the good legacy of the days of the People’s Party. In the past 4-5 years, a growing number of attempts have been made to annihilate the legacy of the Party through narrative changes and the physical destruction of monuments. 

Anon Nampa

Conservative historians have tried to label the People’s Party as premature or overly ambitious for daring to overthrow the absolute monarchy. Symbols of the People’s Party have been removed, like the plaque in the Royal Plaza commemorating the proclamation of the first constitution which was replaced with a royalist plaque, and military sites named after People’s Party members have been renamed after the late King Rama IX and his Queen. 

Anon  said that Phibun’s name was removed from a learning centre in Chiang Rai province. His statue at the National Defence College of Thailand was also removed. The Constitution Defense Monument at Laksi which marked the triumph of the People’s Party government against the royalist Boworadet rebellion in 1933 was also removed.

A wide view from the commemoration venue.

Anon underlined that this commemoration of Phibun and the People’s Party was held to mark ordinary people, not to worship nobility or the elite. The new generations must learn the successes, failures and mistakes of the People’s Party and its leaders.

Phibun, a member of the military wing of the People’s Party, was first elected Prime Minister after the resignation of Phraya Phahonphonphayuhasena in 1938 and was responsible for a modernization campaign which included a series of cultural mandates aiming to ‘civilize’ Thai culture.  The country’s name was changed from “Siam” to “Thailand”.

Demonstrators were practicing ramwong at the event.

Phibun’s first term in office lasted from 1938 to 1944 when he allied the country with Japan in the Second World War. He returned to power after a coup in 1947 when he aligned Thailand with anti-communism in the Cold War, entered the Korean War, and attempted to transform Thailand into a liberal democracy. He was overthrown in 1957 and went into exile in Japan. To date, he is the longest serving Prime Minister of Thailand.

Phibun’s politics oscillated between democratic revolution and fascism, making his political background controversial. However, he introduced many features that transformed Thailand, like increasing women’s access to education, establishing development agencies in the bureaucracy, and organizing ‘Hyde Park’ public discussions for people to express themselves. (Source: BBC Thai)

A cake with Plaek's face.

Phi, one of the speakers at the commemoration, said Phibun’s administration contributed many things to Thailand economically and culturally. The revolution that transformed Thailand from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy did not put citizens at a disadvantage as the more the system was connected to the people, the more benefits the people would get.

NewsPlaek PhibunsongkhramAnon Nampapolitics1932 Siamese revolution
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Foreign VIP

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-07-14 23:30
Submitted on Tue, 14 Jul 2020 - 11:30 PMStephffCartoon by Stephff: Foreign VIP

Categories: Prachatai English

Shan community groups demand justice for killed villagers

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-07-14 23:27
Submitted on Tue, 14 Jul 2020 - 11:27 PMShan Human Rights Foundation

36 Shan community organizations and individuals issued a statement on Monday (13 July) in support of the protest in Kyaukme township in northern Shan State on 10 July, demanding justice for the villagers who were wounded, torture, and killed by the Burmese Army and call for the charges against protest leaders to be dropped as well as for the international community to pressure the Burmese government to take action against the Burmese Army for their ongoing crimes against ethnic minorities.

Shan Community groups’ statement

Charges must be brought against the Burma Army for their crimes, not against protesters demanding justice in Kyaukme

July 13, 2020

We, the undersigned Shan community groups, support the mass protest on July 10 by Kyaukme residents demanding justice for their fellow villagers who were killed, tortured and wounded by the Burma Army on June 29, 2020, in Kyaukme township, northern Shan State.

Over 15,000 people gathered in Kyaukme to protest against the Burma Army and demand accountability for the crimes against their fellow villagers.

Protesters came from different directions by truck and on foot to Kyaukme town, holding banners stating in Shan, Burmese and English: “We don’t need military (Tatmadaw) that kills innocent people”, “Tatmadaw  (Burmese military) beats and kills innocent civilians.” Kyaukme police put up a blockade to stop the protesters entering the town, but later allowed them in. 

The banners showed pictures of Loong Su, the elderly farmer from Pang Gaen village who was shot dead, as well as 55-year-old Pa Hsai, who was injured by gunfire, and 56-year-old farmer Loong Maung Kay, who was beaten unconscious. These crimes were committed by Burma Army troops of IB 23, IB 22 and IB 147.

In response to the mass protest, the Burma Army announced in the evening of July 10 that they were filing charges against three villagers for leading the protest: U Sai Than Maung, U Jotika and U Aria. They were charged under Section 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law and Section 18 of the Communicable Disease Prevention Law.

We strongly support the Kyaukme protesters’ demands for justice, and urge that charges against the protest leaders are immediately and unconditionally dropped.

We urge the international community to pressure the Burmese government to take action against the Burma Army for their ongoing crimes against the ethnic peoples, and to end the impunity they have enjoyed for decades.

  1. Shan Human Rights Foundation
  2. Shan State Farmers’ Network
  3. Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization
  4. Shan Student Union (Thailand)
  5. Shan Youth Organization (Pong Pa Kaem)
  6. Tai Youth Network
  7. Overseas Shan Europe
  8. Shan National Organization (Thailand)
  9. Lin Mork Mai
  10. Toom Toan Tai
  11. Yawnghwe Office in Exile
  12. Shan State Refugee Committee (Thai border)
  13. Kong Moong Murng IDP Camp Committee
  14. Loi Tai Laeng IDP Camp Committee
  15. Loi Lam IDP Camp Committee
  16. Koung Jor Refugee Camp Committee
  17. Loi Sam Sip IDP Camp Committee
  18. Loi Kaw Wan IDP Camp Committee
  19. Ho Yarn villagers (Kunhing township, in Thailand)
  20. Na Hla villagers (Kunhing township, in Thailand)
  21. Woh Long villagers (Kunhing township, in Thailand)
  22. Nam Poon villagers (Kunhing township, in Thailand)
  23. Na Koon villagers (Kunhing township, in Thailand)
  24. Ho Na villagers (Kunhing township, in Thailand)
  25. Keng Kham villagers (Kunhing township, in Thailand)
  26. Hsai Khao villagers (Kunhing township, in Thailand)
  27. Shan Youth Network (Thailand)
  28. Hern Hoam Hark
  29. Koon Pang Koon Khoang
  30. Hoam Heng Jai Tai
  31. Hsen Tang Mai Htung Mao
  32. Hark Nam Jai (Shan migrants, China)
  33. The One Mai (Mong Khun, China)
  34. Tai Public Media
  35. Shan Association Mahachai (Thailand)
  36. Foung Mod Band
Pick to PostMyanmarShan StateTatmadawShan Human Rights FoundationBurmese Armyhuman rights violation
Categories: Prachatai English

Egyptian pilot allowed to leave quarantine tests positive for Covid-19

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-07-14 23:05
Submitted on Tue, 14 Jul 2020 - 11:05 PMPrachatai

An Egyptian air force pilot who tested positive for Covid-19 was part of a group allowed to leave quarantine and visit public venues in Rayong, says the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on Monday (13 July).

CCSA spokesperson Taweesin Visanuyothin

CCSA spokesperson Taweesin Visanuyothin said that the patient landed at U-Tapao International Airport with 30 other members of the Egyptian Air Force and was allowed to enter the country “under a special exemption” as part of a military mission.

Taweesin said that the group reportedly made brief stops in the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan before their stay in Thailand between 8 – 11 July for a replenishment stop before flying back to Egypt.

The group reportedly stayed at the DVaree Diva Central Rayong Hotel before leaving for a day trip to Chengdu, China on 9 July before returning to spend two more nights in Thailand. Taweesin also said that members of the group left the hotel, where they were supposed to be held in quarantine for 14 days, and went to the Laem Thong Department Store on 10 July from 10.00 – 15.00. Four other members of the group also went to Central Rayong from about 14.00 – 18.00.

The group was tested for Covid-19 on 10 July, but the results came back on 12 July, after they had left the country.

The hotel announced that it will be closed from 14 July onwards for cleaning and disinfection and that hotel employees have to be tested for the virus and quarantine themselves for 14 days.

Khaosod English reported that mobile testing units were dispatched to the Laem Thong Department Store, where the public could take Covid-19 tests for free. Taweesin also said that 394 people who logged visits to the department store on the Thai Chana platform on 10 July will be notified.

The Rayong City Municipality announced that 6 municipal schools and 2 child development centres will be closed from Tuesday (14 July) onwards to prevent the spread of the virus. Taksin Rayong College of Technology and the Mathayom Taksin Rayong School also announced that they will be closed from 14 – 17 July, while Anuban Taksin Rayong International School will be closed from 14 – 18 July.

Taweesin said that the crew had previously been expected to land at Suvarnabhumi Airport, but instead landed at U-Tapao, where he said measures were still lacking. “We apologize for what happened,” he said at today’s press conference. “We will take it as a lesson.”

Meanwhile, a 9-year-old girl who travelled to Bangkok as a member of a Sudanese diplomat’s family also tested positive for Covid-19. Taweesin said that the girl is now being treated at a hospital, while the rest of her family is staying at a condominium in downtown Bangkok.

Taweesin said that the family was tested for Covid-19 before they left Sudan, but tested negative. They show no symptoms when they passed through screening, but the girl tested positive for the virus on 11 July. He also said that the group was allowed entry as they are members of a diplomatic mission and are therefore allowed to either self-quarantine or go into quarantine at a place arranged by their embassy.

According to ThaiPBS, the diplomat and his family did not leave their residence and did not use the condominium’s public space between 10 – 11 July. On 12 July, they moved from the condominium to a residence in the Sudanese Embassy. 

NewsCOVID-19coronavirusRayongEgyptian Air ForceSudanese Embassy
Categories: Prachatai English

Picnic protest to support the National Pensions Bill

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-07-14 12:43
Submitted on Tue, 14 Jul 2020 - 12:43 PMPrachatai

Before a march from the United Nations building to Government House on 13 July to demand that the Prime Minister endorse the National Pensions Bill, the Welfare Watch Network hosted a picnic, with representatives from parliament and a Deputy Prime Minister joining in.

The demonstrator marched toward the Government House.

At around 9:00, over 200 people gathered in front of the United Nations building before a march to Government House. Everyone was handed a shirt that read “Change allowances to pensions for all” and a mask that said “Pensions for all, now.”

Demonstrators brought their own pinto (stacked food containers) with rice, chili paste, fried pork and oranges. The prepared pinto consisted of three layers, each layer symbolizing different things — the lowest layer symbolizing a 3,000 baht basic monthly allowance for the old, the middle layer symbolizing pensions for all and the top layer symbolizing personal savings. Demonstrators said everyone over 60 must have the basic assurance of a 3,000 baht monthly pension.

Their picnic in front of the United Nations building included speeches from network representatives and performances from civil society organizations including a Thai musical band, Commoner Thailand, and dancers from Swing Thailand.

Before the activity started, Nang Leong Police Station told Nimit Tienudom, a representative from the Welfare Watch Network, that it might violate the Emergency Decree and that he and others might later receive a police summons.

Nimit said the purpose of the activity was to get the signature of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to back the National Pensions Bill. The bill was signed by over 13,000 people and has been under the Prime Minister’s consideration for over five months.

“If we have basic pensions, it would be a guarantee that no one would go bankrupt from poverty when they turn 60. It is like an important basic structure in life, like the basic health insurance system, which is another pillar of social support,” Nimit said.

“And If we have a government that listens to people, we hope that the Prime Minister signs off on this bill to let it go for consideration by the House of Representatives. As regards political parties that campaigned on pensions for all, we would like them to quickly reconcile their drafts with the people’s.”

Jurin (left) received a letter from the demonstrator representative.

Jurin Laksanawisit, Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister, met the demonstrators in front of Government House at 11:35 to receive the letter and a pinto. Jurin said he will make sure to pass the people’s concerns to the Prime Minister, Finance Ministry, Social Development and Human Security Ministry and his party, the Democratic Party.

As a Deputy Prime Minister and Democratic Party leader, Jurin said pensions for all is something his party has obviously been advocating. Jurin said the existing allowances for the old started under a Democratic Party administration . He also said that one of the policies which the party registered with the Election Committee of Thailand was pensions for all, which he authored.

President of Four Regions Slum Network Nueangnit Chitnok  said a 3,000 baht monthly pension would be a good beginning to narrowing the gap between the wealthy and the poor. The elderly would have better lives in retirement. Their children would not have to worry about working to support their parents or grandparents.

A 3-storey banner stated "Savings, welfare, pension).

At around 11:00, the demonstrators started making their way along Ratchadamnoen Nok and Phitsanulok roads from the United Nations building to Government House .

The demonstrators arrived at Government House at 11:30. The Deputy Prime Minister came out to receive the letter and a pinto and ate from it. The two demands of the demonstrators were from the Prime Minister’s endorsement of their draft and drafts from political parties that campaigned on pensions for all during the election.

The demonstrators then had lunch together from their pinto near Government House.

During the picnic, members of parliament, including the chairperson and spokesperson of the National Pension Bill Subcommittee, joined, showed support for the people and assured them that the legislative branch is ready to look into the bill once the prime minister signs it.

NewsWelfare Watch NetworkNational Pensions BillJurin Laksanawisit
Categories: Prachatai English

To end of injustice in schools adults must join the struggle

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-07-13 22:02
Submitted on Mon, 13 Jul 2020 - 10:02 PMChatchai Mongkol

Adults must listen to student voices against authoritarianism in schools rather than attempt to censor them, an education expert says. All stakeholders should join in fighting the deep-rooted problems to make the students’ voices louder.

Student heads that were shaved as punishments for their haircut. 

Oppression in schools has long been a controversial issue among students. Many school-related hashtags have trended on Twitter. According to The Matter, students talk about these through hashtags: the authoritarian culture among teachers, teaching approaches used, sexual and verbal harassment by teachers, primitive school rules, pointless activities, unfair tuition fees and other facts about their schools.

Due to authoritarianism in schools in the form of regulations, students lose their rights — including the right over their own bodies, the right to online privacy and the right to sexuality. Students chose social media, especially Twitter, to expose enforcement of outdated school policies and oppressive harassment by teachers.

Asst Prof Athapol Anunthavorasakul, a lecturer from Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Education, explained that the online movement reflects frustrations of digital-era youth, who have been oppressed by adults with an old-fashioned mindset, the mindset that older people and teachers are always right.

Athapol said speaking up now is a good beginning for students to grow up and become politically active citizens.

Anonymity on social media

A group of high school student activists known as Bad Student has been active as a platform to project other students’ voices both on Twitter and in reality.

Laponpat Wangpaisit, a member of Bad Student, said he has been advocating student rights and is disheartened to see that students from different schools are experiencing the same problems. From what Laponpat has noticed, most of the things students say on social media are doable but schools choose not to compromise; instead, they attempt to violate students’ freedom of expression.

When sending out tweets about experiences in schools, most students choose to remain anonymous. Laponpat believes the reason for this is that Thai people were not encouraged to speak out against what they believe is wrong. When it comes to students speaking out, Laponpat said they are more vulnerable to pressure from those in charge at schools.

Bad Student has reported teachers’ attempts to censor students from expressing their thoughts — including deducting behaviour points, verbal harassment, death threats, threats of legal action, telling students to quit and rewarding witch hunts.

Athapol said when the authorities are challenged, it is normal that they will exercise their power to maintain their authority, even if it means abusing others. Athapol explained that attempts at censorship reflect their fear of losing power. If they keep doing this, Athapol said they are at a disadvantage.

Laponpat said most teachers do not acknowledge that students have the right to express their thoughts on their social media accounts.

“Most teachers will think that it discredits the school’s image. So, they are not okay with it,” Laponpat said. “Teachers will only look from that perspective, which makes them see every comment as their enemy. So they will try to eradicate them.”

Virtuality to become reality

Their movement is in two worlds, virtual and real. Athapol said the messages students are trying to convey to the public send a very clear signal that they are ready to bring their virtual movement to reality.

Athapol explained that students in this generation have grown up in an obviously abusive political atmosphere, in which those in power use their power to oppress others. As school is a simulated and miniaturized society, students will experience the same thing as people in real society are experiencing, which makes them realize that the problem is closer to them than they thought, according to Athapol.

Athapol also said the movement should not be only virtual but should be brought into reality, which he said he is starting to see happen.

“Students standing up and raising their voices more, not only at one place but in many schools, is something adults have to acknowledge,” Athapol said, “because children’s voices that are getting louder and louder are making adults wake up.”

Earlier this year, Athapol said society got to see the movement of the digital-age generation when they brought their messages on Twitter to reality. Athapol said the movement was ignited and they were ready to fight, but it was put on hold by Covid-19. He believes once the Emergency Decree is lifted, they will come out and continue advocating their causes in the real world.

Another example is the movement of the Education for Liberation of Siam group — Education is Killing Me.

People watched one of a performance in the Education is Killing Me activity in 2019.

It is a very interesting transition where Thai society will, again, transform into a more democratic society, Athapol said. He said the voices of students are very loud now compared to voices of students who spoke out for their rights many years ago.

However, to make this transition effective and beneficial for everyone, everyone must be included in the process.

Effective transition by all stakeholders, especially students and teachers

Laponpat believes the majority of students have expressed their concerns in person with their institutions but their voices were not heard, so they turned to the virtual world.

Athapol sees that this reflects a lack of dialogue between those who rule and the ones under their power. Athapol said most teachers do not feel the need to discuss.

Change cannot be brought about only by the students in the fight. Athapol said teachers need to listen, and this must include all the schools’ stakeholders —students, teachers, administrators, parents and alumni — in the discussion.

Athapol gave Bangkok Christian College as an example. The school allowed its students to dress casually to school, Athapol said, because the administration developed a plan with input from students, parents and alumni.

However, the most important stakeholders remain students and teachers.

“Quite a lot of schools which allow students to participate would have smooth transitions and lead to teachers and students being friends . But if it happens that people on each side keep pushing against the other side, just trying to win, those schools will have bad relationships,” Athapol said.

While most students are ready to fight, Athapol said, teachers who share the same beliefs should stand by their side in fighting the problem.

Athapol believes that the majority of teachers are ready to move on from the authoritarian culture in schools, but they fail to use their role to support their students’ voices. Athapol said this group of teachers is a part of the problem.

“Actually, if we really try talking to teachers, quite a lot of the new generation are no friends of authoritarianism. But if they see this as an issue for the children, an issue for a few teachers in this struggle, this amounts to a green light for authoritarianism in schools to continue,” Athapol said.

Athapol pointed out that this is not a fight against individuals but against collective thinking. He said the adults who agree with the students must join them in projecting their voices to show that the majority of the people no longer value authoritarianism in schools.

FeatureeducationhaircutauthoritarianismAthapol Anunthavorasakulschool
Categories: Prachatai English

Human rights defender faces 50-million-baht lawsuit; vows to keep fighting

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-07-13 20:13
Submitted on Mon, 13 Jul 2020 - 08:13 PMProtection International

Mr Sumeth Rainpongnam, a 48-year-old farmer, and the Khon Rak Kroksomboon group are upholding their community’s right to a safe environment, in spite of violence and Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP)

Sumth Rainpongnam (Source: Protection International)

Though the latest attempt at mediation made from the Prachin Buri Court, last Wednesday (8th July 2020), yielded no agreement, Mr Sumeth Rainpongnam, a community environmental human rights defender (EHRD), is determined to keep upholding his community’s right to a safe environment.

“Even though we feel discouraged sometimes, we cannot just back out, because this is to protect our lives and communities. We exercise our rights according to the constitution to protect our homeland, our environment, our health, and our communities, so that we can pass these along to the next generation,” said Sumeth.

Leader from the Khon Rak Kroksomboon group, Sumeth is fighting for clean air and water in Prachin Buri Province, eastern Thailand, despite facing a 50-million-baht lawsuit from an industrial waste disposal company. The lawsuit came after the residents of three sub districts in Srimahaphot and Kabin Buri District, Prachin Buri Province, reported the presence of toxic smells, Sumeth and his community group filed a complaint with the Provincial Governor.

The group requested an official inspection whether the nearby industrial waste disposal company operates according to industrial regulations and runs landfill operations safely, without contaminating local water-sources. Sumeth and his group also requested the Prachin Buri Provincial Industry Office and the Pollution Control Department to examine local water sample, whose findings show dangerously elevated levels of arsenic (6.057 mg/litre). Nonetheless, the company has sued Sumeth twice for defamation and asked for compensation totalling 50 million baht (approx. US$1.6m) since November last year.

“The number of lawsuits against environmental human rights defenders by companies has been increasing in recent years,” reports Ms Supaporn Malailoy, a member from the ENLAW Foundation, an environmental human rights organisation offering legal assistance to people and community affected or to be affected by problems related to pollution, natural resources, the environment and health. “These lawsuits aim to shut down the work of those leaders who are upholding their community’s right to live in a healthy environment, as they burden them with high financial costs, require a lot of time for the court procedures and engender fear in the community.”

Also known as Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), Supaporn said, these lawsuits can be averted by judicial procedures since, according to Thailand’s Criminal Procedure Code, the court can dismiss a case if it is ascertained that a lawsuit was filed in bad faith, simply to harass the defendant. However, the requests made to the court in such cases faced by women and men human rights defenders (W/HRDs) are often rejected, even though this point is within the UN Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights that Thailand adopted last year.

She also stressed the vital role played by local authorities and regulating bodies, such as the Provincial Industry Office and the Pollution Control Department, in ensuring that industrial operations do not cause harm to nearby communities. “And if a dispute occurs, the state must intervene to ensure companies are effectively regulated to prevent environmental problems, which is also relating to supporting the work of W/HRDs,” Supaporn added.

Protest banners by the group. The upper one reads: "A 50 million lawsuit to shut down people." (Source: Protection International)

Besides SLAPP litigations, Sumeth and other community leaders are also target of violence by unknown perpetrators. On the very night after they submitted their complaint to the Provincial Governor, for example, hand grenades were thrown at the group leaders gathered at one of the members’ house. Other violent episodes occurred in September 2019, when Sumeth and his wife survived uninjured three different shootings.

“It is encouraging that Sumeth receives legal aid from the Justice Fund Office for the first case, and hopefully also for the second case too,” said Pranom Somwong, Protection International’s representative in Thailand. “However, violence directed at him, his family and other community leaders is upsetting, as perpetrators are yet unknown. It is a state’s duty to ensure safety for every W/HRD.”

“Thailand has the obligation to abide by the UN Declaration on Human Right Defenders, as the country adopted it two decades ago already,” Pranom added. “It is urgent that the authorities investigate the violence towards him and his family, and punish those involved.”

As a human rights defender upholding his right to live in a healthy environment, Sumeth needs the authorities’ protection to carry on his work safely. The Thai government claims putting great importance in protecting human rights defenders. For example, Thailand’s Ministry of Justice has included protection of human rights defenders in the current draft of the National Human Rights Plan.

However, at least four W/HRDs lost their lives defending their communities against toxic waste in eastern Thailand, according to the information collected in “For Those Who Died Trying”, a project led by Protection International in collaboration with British photographer Luke Duggleby. Among them, Prajob Nawa-opas, a community Environmental W/HRD from Chachoengsao Province, who was killed in 2013.

In order to stress the need for the Thai government to protect W/HRDs who face judicial harassment and SLAPP cases such as Sumeth, Protection International, along with 53 organisations and 23 individuals, submitted a letter to the UN agencies organising the UN Annual Meeting on Business and Human Rights on 7th June 2020. The next mediation meeting between Sumeth and the industrial waste disposal company is planned for 11th August 2020 at the Prachin Buri Provincial Court.

Pick to PostProtection InternationalSumeth RainpongnamKhon Rak Kroksomboon groupSLAPPStrategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP)environment
Categories: Prachatai English

Facebook user behind viral ‘lost faith’ shirt committed to psychiatric hospital

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-07-13 19:44
Submitted on Mon, 13 Jul 2020 - 07:44 PMPrachatai

Tiwagorn Withiton, a Facebook user who went viral for posting a picture of himself wearing a shirt printed with “I lost faith in the monarchy,” was forcibly taken by police officers and admitted to the Khon Kaen Rajanagarindra Psychiatric Hospital last Thursday (9 July).

Tiwagorn Withiton

Tiwagorn’s mother said that she was summoned by a high-ranking police officer and a psychiatrist and asked to give her consent to have her son admitted to the hospital, telling her that he will only get worse if left as he is. Since the family agreed that this would be the best course of action for Tiwagorn, she gave her consent. 

She said that around 10 police and hospital vehicles came to their house around 19.00 pm on Thursday (9 July). She did not see Tiwagorn being taken away, but another family member said that a group of police officers and nurses went into the house, but Tiwagorn refused to be taken and was carried out by a group of 6 officers.

This family member was in the same vehicle as Tiwagorn as he was taken to hospital, and said that the officers tied Tiwagorn’s hands with a piece of cloth and gave him an injection in both arms.

Tiwagorn’s mother said that after Tiwagorn was taken away in an ambulance, police officers searched the house and took Tiwagorn’s computer and smart phone. They also took photos of these belongings before taking them, and made his mother sign a document, the content of which is unknown.

Tiwagorn told Prachatai he is currently safe. However, one of his family members said that officers from the Khon Kaen Provincial Police Station stay with him around the clock while he is in hospital, and that they check the ID of every visitor and keep watch at all time when Tiwagorn’s family visit him.

According to the 2008 Mental Health Act, Tiwagorn has to be diagnosed within 30 days of his admission, and if a charge is filed against him, a psychiatrist has to assess and notify the inquiry official whether Tiwagorn is capable of defending the case within 45 days.

Tiwagorn previously went viral for posting a picture of himself on his Facebook profile page wearing a shirt which said “I lost faith in the monarchy.” As a result, he was summoned by the authorities who asked him to stop wearing the shirt. However, he continued to wear the shirt and posted about wearing it in public. He also published a post explaining that losing faith does not mean that he wants to abolish the monarchy.

He was among those who joined the Red Shirt protests in 2009 – 2010. His family said that he experienced stress and depression following the 2014 military coup and that they have asked him to consult a psychiatrist.

Tiwagorn’s last Facebook post before he was taken to the hospital said that he was visited by 6 medical personnel and an officer from Internal Security Operations Command, who asked him questions to assess his mental health. He said that the conversation lasted around 30 minutes, and that he told the psychiatric official that “I well understand that it is political to have to make people think I’m insane. I won’t hold it against the officials if there is a diagnosis that I’m insane, because I take it that they have to follow orders.”

NewsTiwagorn Withitonfreedom of expressionharassmentKhon Kaen Rajanagarindra Psychiatric Hospital
Categories: Prachatai English

Thai Covid-19 vaccine will be ready for testing in humans in October

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-07-13 19:09
Submitted on Mon, 13 Jul 2020 - 07:09 PMPrachatai

Chulalongkorn University’s Vaccine Research Center (Chula VRC) along with University of Pennsylvania are developing a vaccine for Covid-19. The vaccine has worked well on mice and primates. It will be ready for testing on humans this October.

The Covid-19 treatment and screening operation at Phayao University Hospital and Medical Centre (File photo).

On 12 July, Prof Suttipong Wacharasindhu from Chulalongkorn Hospital and Prof Kiat Ruxrungtham from Chula VRC held a press conference at Chulalongkorn Hospital to update the public on the development of an mRNA vaccine for Covid-19 called CU-Cov19.

Prof Suttipong said CU-Cov19 was developed from some parts of the genetic material of Covid-19. He said when this genetic material is injected into bodies, they would transform into proteins, which will boost the creation of antibodies that can fight the virus.

In April and May, the vaccine was tested in mice. They said they had positive results.

Between May and July, the vaccine was tested with primates from the National Primate Research Centre of Thailand. Prof Kiat said the results in primates after injecting a second dose of the vaccine were impressive. Two weeks after the injections, Prof Kiat said the levels of immunity of all primates that were tested increased. Primates that received higher doses had higher levels of immunity, which he said was unexpected. Prof Kiat also said that all the primates are healthy with no side effects.

In two weeks, Prof Kiat said the team will send two types of vaccine with slightly different genetic material to two factories in foreign countries. The first factory is expected to produce the first vaccine samples by the beginning of October, while the second factory will continue producing the lipid of the vaccine in November.

Prof Kiat said they planned for three phases of vaccine testing on humans starting before the end of 2020.

During the first phase, a total of 75 volunteers aged between 18-60 will be tested in 3 groups. The first group of 45 will be injected with doses of 10, 30 or 100 micrograms. 15 people will be tested with 10 micrograms, and if at least six of them show positive results, another 15 volunteers will be injected with 30 micrograms, and if that also goes well, another 15 will be injected with 100 micrograms.

The second group will be given an injection of 30 micrograms followed by one of 10 micrograms. The third group will first be given 100 micrograms and 10 micrograms in the second injection.

If the testing with people aged between 18-60 goes well, another 75 volunteers aged between 61-80 will be tested.

The first phase is expected to take two months, October to December. If the results of the first phase are positive, another 500-1,000 volunteers will participate in the second phase. By mid-2021, they expect to know the results of the vaccine.

If the second phase of the experiment goes well, the third phase will test the vaccine with actual Covid-19 patients in other countries because Thailand has had no new domestic transmission for many weeks now. This will have to be discussed with other countries but they have not thought that far ahead.

Opportunities for volunteers will be announced between August and September after approval from the Food and Drug Administration and the National Ethics Committee Accreditation System of Thailand.

Besides Chula VRC, there are 18 other mRNA vaccine developers and four of them are 6 months ahead of the CU team. If one of the four vaccines is successful and receives approval by the American and European food and drug authorities by the beginning of 2021, the Chula VRC could move to the third phase of testing which could cut 9-12 months from the development process.

Source: Dailynews

NewsCOVID-19vaccineChulalongkorn University
Categories: Prachatai English

Student rights groups demand abolition of haircut regulations

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-07-10 21:34
Submitted on Fri, 10 Jul 2020 - 09:34 PMChatchai Mongkol

Three groups of student rights activists have demanded that the Ministry of Education (MOE) abolish haircut regulations and institute more effective procedures against teacher misconduct.

Student activists submitting the petitions to representatives of the MOE.

On 10 July, 8 student activists from the Education for Liberation of Siam group went to the MOE to submit 58 petitions each signed by 58 students from every part of the country calling on the Education Minister to abolish the current haircut regulations.

Prasert Boonruang, Permanent Secretary of the MOE, received the petitions.

Representatives from the group said that the haircut regulations have not only deprived students of the right over their own bodies but are also used as an excuse for teachers to violate other rights of students. They said they acknowledge that the current regulations are not as strict as before but still give full authority to each school to determine its own rules.

As a platform for students to share their experiences, the group said that within only 10 days since schools reopened, they received information about many forms of punishment that violate MOE regulations. Schools have punished students who violate the haircut policy by, for example, shaving their heads or giving them bad haircuts.

They pointed out that most of the time when students complained, no one listened, and the severe punishments continued. The group said if the MOE cannot even punish teachers who violate MOE regulations, it means that the Ministry cannot enforce its rules effectively.

The group suggested that the MOE just abolish all haircut regulations.

“Haircut regulations have never guaranteed educational success. No one can say that students with short hair will study well; no one can say that students with long hair will be bad people,” the group said.

They said this activity is a part of their project to file a lawsuit on the haircut issue at the Administrative Court on 26-30 July.

The MOE Permanent Secretary said the Ministry will take their complaints into consideration. Prasert said he acknowledges that there are schools that do not follow the current MOE regulations but he said it is up to each school and its community members to determine the rules, and he has no power to make everyone follow regulations.

While the Education for Liberation of Siam demanded abolition of the rules, Nuttaa Mahattana and Eastern Youth for Democracy demanded that the MOE effectively enforce punishment for teacher misconduct.

Nuttaa, a political activist, said there have been many examples of abusive behaviour by teachers in schools as seen in the news, including severe punishments and sexual, physical and mental harassment. Even though there are regulations preventing teachers from such misconduct, Nuttaa said it is obvious that school principals and the MOE are not enforcing them effectively, as such behaviour continued in schools.

In order for the MOE to make sure that student rights are well protected, Nuttaa suggested four policies:

  1. Implement strict disciplinary procedures against all teachers whose actions affect student’s physical and mental well-being
  2. If an action constitutes a crime, the MOE must help the victim in the legal process
  3. Raise awareness of the 1579 hotline number, which is for students to complain about misconduct
  4. Review MOE regulations to include punishment for misconduct by principals and teachers

“School should be a safe space for every student,” Nuttaa said.

Prasert said there are existing enforcement procedures to handle teacher misconduct, but they usually take time because of the bureaucratic system. He explained that provincial education authorities would normally handle cases in their provinces and he has no power to intervene. The only thing he said he could do is to urge them to follow the proper procedures.

NewsStudent rightsstudent activiststudent movementMinistry of EducationSchool cultureDresscodeHaircut regulationsTeacher misconduct
Categories: Prachatai English

#AbolishProstation: Bodindecha community demands change

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-07-10 00:29
Submitted on Fri, 10 Jul 2020 - 12:29 AMPrachatai

Over 1,000 members of the Bodindecha (Sing Singhaseni) School community signed a petition asking the principal to abolish mandatory prostration.

Students prostrating during the ceremony.

On 2 July, the Bodin Democracy group launched a campaign to demand that the school end the practice by encouraging netizens who agree with the cause to use the hashtag #AbolishProstration (#ยกเลิกหมอบกราบ) until it trended on Twitter.

On 4 July, the group wrote a petition to the school’s principal calling for prostration to be replaced with the ‘wai’ as the way to greet and show respect. 1,276 people, including current and former students, signed the petition.

Historical Immaterialism

Thai teacher worshipping ceremony questioned for indoctrinating inequality

According to the petition, students at the school are forced to prostrate themselves as a way to show respect to others. The group sees that as a way for teachers to oppress students as some teachers said they would not let students look up until they were satisfied.

The petition details six reasons and justifications for the change:

  1. Due to Covid-19, it is not safe to prostrate oneself as it requires direct physical contact with the ground, which is a source of germs and dust.
  2. Due to limited space, prostration is not convenient for students, especially girls with skirts.
  3. There are other ways of showing respect besides prostration without oppressing students.
  4. The act of prostration dehumanizes students.
  5. King Chulalongkorn abolished the tradition of prostration.
  6. It is not a long-practiced tradition of the school as claimed, but was adopted in 2013.

The group pointed out that they are not against acts of showing respect but they are against acts of dehumanization.

Not only students at Bodindecha (Sing Singhaseni) School but students at Bodindecha (Sing Singhaseni) 2 School and Satri Rachinuthit School are signing similar petitions.

Prostration has been a gesture of respect and hierarchy in Thai society for a long time. It can be seen in religious, family and monarchy-related activities.

Categories: Prachatai English

People march and file a lawsuit against the Emergency Decree

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-07-10 00:17
Submitted on Fri, 10 Jul 2020 - 12:17 AMChatchai Mongkol and Pattanun Arunpreechawat

From a subway station to a court then a police station, the People GO Network led a public march on 9 July, filed a lawsuit, hosted a parade and accompanied four activists to answer summonses for violating the Emergency Decree.

On 9 July, the People GO Network, a group of civil society organizations and people affected by the Emergency Decree gathered at 9:00 at Exit 4 of Lat Phrao MRT station before setting off from the station to the Civil Court at 9:30.

Around 50 people joined in the march, including four activists who had received police summons for violating the Emergency Decree. Participants held signs with messages such as “Time is up for strong medicine,” “Emergency Decree solves problems or creates problems?” and “Stop citing the pandemic to shut people’s mouths.”

“Lift the Emergency Decree now,” protesters chanted while marching.

Today’s demonstration problematizes the use of Emergency Decree. For example, the Prime Minister holds the sole authority to issue orders, and many working-class people cannot earn money as they have to stop working. People who wish to express their dissent and call for justice have been prevented from assembling by the police.

Police reported that 40 investigative and traffic officers from Phahonyothin Police Station facilitated the march and the traffic. Apart from taking photos, police officers did not appear to intervene in the march.

Prior to the march, it was reported that Phahonyothin Police had tried to stop the activity by citing the Emergency Degree as it was considered a large gathering.

At 9:50, the march arrived at the Civil Court. Five representatives of those affected by the Decree filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha calling for the lifting of the Emergency Decree which he imposed in March and extended three times despite zero domestic Covid-19 infections for over a month.

The Civil Court scheduled an emergency hearing on the case on the same day at 13:30. Nimit Tienudom, Director of the Aids Access Foundation and one of the five plaintiffs, presented the case in the court that afternoon. The judicial order will be announced on 10 July at 13:30.

At around 11:20, the protesters regrouped at Lat Phrao MRT station to organize a parade to Wangthonglang Police Station to show support for the four members of Coordinating Committee on Development (COD) who had been summoned on Emergency Decree charges for attending a demonstration in front of the Cambodian Embassy calling for progress in the disappearance of activist in exile Wanchalerm Satsaksit

Arriving at 12:30, the demonstrators were prevented from gathering in front of the police station, despite having informed the police of their schedule, by tactical police practice taking place at the same time

Following negotiations, they were allowed only limited space to hold the gatherings. Their truck was at first not allowed in front of the station but later was allowed to park.

The four accused announced the reasons why they were summoned and why the Decree is not necessary. They tore up copies of the Emergency Decree and threw them in a trash can before entering the police station.

They listened to the allegations and rejected them all. They will submit a clarification letter within 20 days. Police then will file the case with the prosecutor within 30 days.

NewsPeople Go NetworkEmergency Decree
Categories: Prachatai English

Missing activist’s family files complaint with Cambodian authorities

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-09 22:00
Submitted on Thu, 9 Jul 2020 - 10:00 PMPrachatai

The family of missing activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit has filed a complaint with the Cambodian authorities calling for legal proceedings against the group of armed people who abducted Wanchalearm.

Wanchalearm Satsaksit

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that the family’s lawyer in Cambodia informed Wanchalearm’s sister Sitanun yesterday (8 July) that the public prosecutor at the Phnom Penh District Court has accepted their complaint and request to launch an investigation and legal proceedings against Wanchalearm’s kidnappers.

TLHR also reported that the family’s lawyers in both Thailand and Cambodia previously faced difficulties with the paperwork and that the Covid-19 situation has made it difficult to them to travel. Sitanun also previously mentioned that the family had a difficult time finding a local lawyer in Cambodia to represent them due to the high cost and because some lawyers have withdrawn from the case as they did not want to take the risk.

The family also filed a complaint with the Cambodian Ministry of Interior on 3 July and with the Cambodian Ministry of Justice on 8 July, both of which have been accepted.

“I’m doing everything to find my little brother. I want an answer about what happened,” Sitanun said at an event organized by the family and Amnesty International Thailand on Saturday (4 July), one month after Wanchalearm went missing. “No matter what condition he’s in, I want him back safe. I want confirmation. If he’s dead, I want to know. I want to have him back for religious rites. No matter where he is, I want to bring him home.”

“Please let Ta go. No matter what condition he’s in, I only want him to be safe. If he’s dead, please confirm that he is dead, or my family and I will not be able to continue living. We don’t know how long we are going to have to keep searching. Of the 8 refugees who went missing previously, only 2 bodies were found. We don’t know with the fate of the rest. If Wanchalearm is alive, then release him. If he’s dead, then tell us that he is dead,” Sitanun said.

Wanchalearm was abducted from in front of his condominium in Phnom Penh on 4 June by a group of armed kidnappers and taken away in a black car. He has now been missing for over 35 days.

NewsWanchalearm Satsaksitenforced disappearanceabductionCambodiapolitical refugee
Categories: Prachatai English

Janjira Sombatpoonsiri: violent and non-violent protests explained

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-09 15:12
Submitted on Thu, 9 Jul 2020 - 03:12 PMPattanun Arunpreechawat

The binary thinking that places violent and nonviolent protests at opposite ends of a spectrum limits the possibilities of protest, according to a Chulalongkorn University political scientist, many movements have used both approaches simultaneously, although they may bear different political costs. While comparing red shirt and student protests, she suggested future protesters use a broad-based approach to attract broader support in bringing change.

As the media often fails to provide enough context and analysis of protests, people often perceive them as violent. Dr Janjira Sombatpoonsiri of Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Asian Studies and the author of “Humor and Nonviolent Struggle in Serbia” explains how word choices affect the audience’s perception and clarifies why nonviolent protests sometimes morph into vandalism. 

Following the 2010 protests, dozens were killed and injured. This led to a great deal of propaganda and discourse causing fear among Thai dissidents. The function of protest is to allow direct engagement of the people especially the underprivileged, the voiceless and the marginalized. Dr Janjira, therefore, debunked myths while outlining how students could conduct a more constructive movement.

Different terms, different connotations

“Protests can be both an expression of emotion and a vehicle for change,” Dr Janjira said.

She said the word “protest” is a generic term that conveys subversion, dissent and disobedience, which implies dissatisfaction with the status quo or change to that status quo. Take as an example the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests against white supremacy that gained worldwide engagement.

Meanwhile, “unrest" implies chaos and disruption of the existing status quo. “Social unrest” reflects a rather negative understanding of protests mostly espoused by some onlookers, journalists or power holders such as the government,” like the large protests in Hong Kong beginning in June 2020 that partially involved violence.

“Civil unrest” is similar to “social unrest” but highlights actors as citizens.

Although the term “unrest” is often portrayed as involving violent incidents, this is not necessarily the case, says Dr Janjira. Most of the time, citizens organize protests to express their grievances in a nonviolent way even though their activism is subversive.

Violence and nonviolence in protests

Dr Janjira categorised violence into two types — visible and invisible violence.

Visible violence is direct or physical violence, which includes looting, arson and breaking windows. Invisible violence consists of structural violence and cultural violence.

Structural violence may not be bloody but economic inequality or racist laws, for instance, can undercut live chances. It can limit a person’s access to good education, therefore curtailing their chances at employment and leaving their cycle of poverty. Structural violence is, in other words, results from socio-economic injustices.

Cultural violence refers to culturally-based justifications of direct or structural violence via cultural forms such as language use, aspects of religion or tradition, assumptions, and stereotypes. An example of such violence seen recently is when a woman is at fault for being raped as parts of the society dominated by patriarchal culture judged her for inappropriate clothing, she stayed out late at night or she ‘asked’ for it.

According to Dr Janjira,  sometimes protesters think that the use of vandalism helps them fight against structural violence. But in fact, these tactical choices also determine how the public perceive protesters. Violent vandalism can be counterproductive as protests need public support and damaging public property or hurting the police can provoke public disagreement with protesters.

In this sense, Dr Janjira argues that nonviolence can be a more effective method of struggle as it might be easier for protesters to earn public support if they are faced with violence from the state.

“Nonviolent protests” are sometimes used interchangeably with civil resistance which denotes a series of actions planned to convey popular grievances, disrupt power relations in society, and eventually alter them in terms of discursive/cultural, policy and governmental changes.

Dr Janjira elaborated theoretical arguments within the studies of violence and nonviolence. On the one hand, a scholar argues that nonviolence tends to be both means and a goal.

While movements use nonviolence for social change, that change as the goal is also inherently nonviolent (e.g. democracy, just society), violence, however, serves as a mere instrument as no movements have ever claimed that they want to achieve a more violent world. Therefore, the reasons for using violence need to be provided. Meanwhile, the power of nonviolence lies it the fact that it needs no justification.

Strategically speaking, scholars contend that nonviolence can be more effective because of its ability to increase the incredibility of movements in the eyes of the public and create shifts from the allies of the opponent’s side.

On the other hand, political historians see violence as sometimes necessary to instigate systemic changes. Wars, for instance, were an important stepping stone for statebuilding and economic modernisation. Violent revolution, as happened in 1917 Russia, is deemed a critical juncture for the transformation from agrarian and feudal to modern and republican Russia.

Dr Janjira reminds that both violence and nonviolence yield advantages and disadvantages. Movements would need to make a strategic decision.

“The movement, if wants to be successful, depends on strategic decision making. The better strategies you have, the more people join the movement, the more political leverage. Most likely this is an outcome of an effective nonviolent strategy.”

Reflections on Thai protest history

Dr Janjira compared the red shirts and student protests in terms of tactical choice related to public perception. 

The language used in the media created among the publica negative perception towards the red shirts protesters. The terms “the unwashed,” “downtrodden” and “barbarians at the gate” were used. She explained that these terms marginalized and alienated the protesters while labelling them as invaders, which led to misconceptions that they would become violent.

The CU protest expert, however, draws on a research paper done by the Strategic Nonviolence Committee under the Thai Research Fund, and argues that 60 percent of Red Shirts’ protest repertoires were featured by nonviolent rallies, symbolic demonstrations (e.g. blood pouring) and non-cooperation. Nevertheless, these attempts were eventually overshadowed by the overuse of disruptive actions and vandalism in response to military suppression. Occupying buildings, main roads and business intersections made up for 10 percent of total protest actions.

“The image of barbarians invading Bangkok and the presumptions that they would become violent were so embedded in Thai people. The incident such as the burning of Central World was interpreted as a violent incident when we did not know who the culprit was,” she added.

The photos and narrative reproducing the discourse “burning down the homeland” misled the public perception on violence in the 2010 protest. The Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand reported that “around 20 protesters who were equipped with slingshots, molotov cocktails, and homemade explosives started the fire and threw in about 10 gas tanks resulting in explosion-like sounds.”

It was also reported that before the Central World fire, fires broke out at least in 7 places after the evening of 18 May 2010, and at least 30 places after the protest leaders declared the protest. (BBC Thai)

Although the red shirt movement has given the public the legacy of “ta sawang” seeing the truth) as Dr Janjira believes, the protest that left more than 90 dead and thousands injured, mostly caused by the military crackdown, serves as a discourse of “dying in vain, nothing changes” to prevent people from protesting.

This discourse has become one of the controversial topics among student activists who rose to the stage in the unprecedented protests by thousands of students against the social injustice of the dissolution of the Future Forward Party (FFP) in February 2020. The movement subsided during the Covid-19 outbreak but some have got together and designed a collective direction.

Twitter user @gundamkeyboard said “I am one person who does not agree with going onto the streets. There are so many disadvantages to the people. Use the parliament system to change the game. I really think this govt will give orders to shoot without giving it a thought.”

Another user @makamkaaa said, “If you think that dying is not in vain, then let me ask you if they have received justice yet. Do you really think that going onto the streets at this time is something we should do? I can understand you're angry and want justice. But think a little, about who are going to be the leaders of the people? Even Thanatorn (ex-FFP leader) can do nothing at all.”

Dr Janjira expressed her concern that the debate among the student group is not going in a constructive direction as there is a lot of morality or claims about whose ideological stance is more superior.

Unlike the red shirts, the student movement does not have a violent image. Students also have social status despite their different backgrounds. They are viewed as innocent, untarnished, and, therefore, beneficial to a public image which Dr Janjira suggested using as an advantage in creating the movement.

Dr Janjira suggested using a broad-based approach to attract nationwide support as it can bring about change. “Communicate with people, especially common people and the grassroots. Find commonalities and democratic struggles that cut across various communities.

“Students should start thinking about how they want to construct the movement and find a consensus for what we want for our future,” Dr Janjira recommended.

InterviewJanjira Sombatpoonsiriprotestsocial movementNonviolencestate violence
Categories: Prachatai English

The cotton (or coconut) picking truth

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-09 14:43
Submitted on Thu, 9 Jul 2020 - 02:43 PMHarrison George

Richmond Enquirer

Verité sans peur

July 5, 1862

Govt backs ‘slave business’

The government of the Confederate States of America, cotton farmers and slave traders have dismissed claims by a human rights group that black slaves used to pick cotton are maltreated and announced plans to take foreign diplomats on a visit to see the slaves at work for themselves.

Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter, Secretary of State, said the slave owners did not abuse or exploit the negroes, which have been humanely trained to pick cotton.  ‘I own 100 slaves myself, so I know.’ said Secretary Hunter.

‘The Confederate government is ready to invite foreign diplomats to visit cotton plantations and see how the slaves pick cotton so they will realise this is not human exploitation’ said Secretary Hunter.

He also said he has instructed Confederate agents overseas to provide an explanation to cotton buyers in foreign countries.

Simon Legree, the owner of a slave market which supplies Negroes in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, said the practice of capturing blacks from Africa to pick coconuts ceased a long time ago. 

The costs of transporting slaves from West Africa had become too burdensome, especially when about one-third died during the so-called ‘middle passage’.  Conditions on board slave ships were so harsh that on arrival, the poor health of many slaves meant that they fetched only low prices on auctioneer’s blocks throughout the South.

Currently, slaves are bred and raised before being put to work, Mr Legree said. ‘Foreigners may not understand our livelihood. White people are not built to bend over to pick cotton. They get a pain in the back, unlike Negroes which have the natural ability to do so,’ he said.

‘There is no cruelty. Actually, the Niggras are looked after well. They are fed well three times a day. They are treated like family members.’

Other cotton-growing regions -- including India and Egypt -- harvest cotton without slavery and the Confederacy’s fear is that one of its main exports funding the war effort will lose out to competitor producers. 

One human rights organization claimed ‘The slaves on these plantations -- many of whom are illegally captured as babies -- display stereotypic behaviour indicative of extreme stress. Slaves are kept in chains or confined to cages that are barely large enough for them to turn around in.’

Whites in the South have founded their breakaway country on a belief in white supremacy. Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens described its ideology as being based ‘upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition’.

Observers believe that even if the South loses the war and is forced to abolish slavery, its ideology of racism will persist and blacks will not be treated equally for generations to come. 

‘I can even foresee statues to southern leaders like Jefferson Davis and Robert E Lee being erected all across the South in future days,’ said one historian.  ‘Thousands of schools, streets and military bases will be named in honour of our leaders who rebelled against their government, initiated the bloodiest war in our nation’s history, and enslaved people for no other reason than the colour of their skin.  These are our heroes.’

Asked what he thought about the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’, one southern politician, general and slave-owner replied ‘Of course black lives matter. Have you seen the price of a good slave these days?’

Alien ThoughtsAlien thoughtsHarrison George
Categories: Prachatai English

Statement on the Appreciation in Pushing Anti-torture and Enforced Disappearance bill

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-09 14:09
Submitted on Thu, 9 Jul 2020 - 02:09 PMCross Cultural Foundation

The committee submitted the bill to the parliament representative. (Source: file/ Thai News Agency)

On 8th June 2020, the House of Representatives Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice and Human Rights has deliberated on and passed the Protection and Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Bill B.E … (the Committee’s Bill) to the House of Representatives for further legislation. 

The bill is a product of cooperation among a number of Thai human rights NGOs as representatives of civil society and members of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Justice Reform, which consists of representatives from both the government and the opposition parties, along with human rights law practitioners. 

The bill is to fulfill the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) which Thailand ratified in 2007 and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) which Thailand signed in 2012. As the bill seeks to cover all dimensions of access to justice, compensation, and remedy from torture and enforced disappearance, it criminalizes torture and enforced disappearance by state authorities to erase the culture of impunity. 

The bill lays out mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability, along with preventative measures against torture and enforced disappearance such as laying out the right to be visited by families or independent investigating committee members, and the right to counsel. It also states that the place of detention and detainees’ physical condition must be reported. 

Furthermore, the draft bill lays out mechanisms to file a complaint should torture be found, no matter by which law or on whose authority the individual is detained. The bill also compensates and remedies the victims of torture and enforced disappearance, which also covers spouses, descendants, parents, life partners, and relatives, both legally and in practice, of the tortured or the disappeared. This serves those categories of people in representing the victims in court. 

The statute of limitations of a case starts only when the fate of the disappeared is known. Moreover, good citizens who report cases of torture or enforced disappearance, if done with good intent, will be protected by witness protection.

The Committee’s version of the bill has been adapted from the people’s version which was submitted by representatives of human rights NGOs to the House of Representatives Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice and Human Rights on 20th February 2020. 

The draft was later amended and underwent a deliberation process in the subcommittee on 18-17th and 24-25th June 2020.

On 8 July, the Committee deliberated on, approved , and submitted the bill to the Speaker of the House. It will now be introduced to a select committee alongside drafts by the Ministry of Justice and other political parties. The bill then will be introduced to the House. 

The Cross-Cultural Foundation is grateful to the shared vision of the Committee members on the need for Thailand to have such a law that protects the rights of the people. This is a promising sign showing that representatives are aware of the problems of rights violations at the hands of the authorities.

The commitment of the Committee to protect the interests of the people is much appreciated as this can be taken as a sign of the effectiveness of democracy which respects the voices of the people and seeks to protect their rights and liberties. 

As such, we, the civil society, with media, affirm the importance of the rule of law and of taking up rights as citizens in monitoring and advancing the draft into a law as a mechanism to guarantee the security of life and that such cruel and dehumanizing acts will not again be committed in Thai society. Cross-Cultural Foundation, 8th July 2020

Pick to PostProtection and Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Bill
Categories: Prachatai English

Stop silent coup: protest against prolonged Emergency Decree

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-09 00:25
Submitted on Thu, 9 Jul 2020 - 12:25 AMPrachatai

The Student Union of Thailand (SUT) has organized an act of civil disobedience in front of Pathumwan Police Station to oppose the fourth month of the state of emergency. The Union also called for an end to state harassment of dissidents.

Protesters led by Parit and Panusaya (in the front) raised three fingers - an anti-authoritarian gesture in front of the Pathum Wan police station.

On 8 June, the Student Union of Thailand led by former President Parit Chiwarak and spokesperson Panusaya Sithijirawattanakulwent organized a public gathering of about 20 people at Pathumwan Police Station against the prolonged implementation of the Emergency Decree.

The police set up a temperature screening station and separate spaces for the media and participants. Dozens of plainclothes and uniformed officers were at the scene.

Parit and Panusaya insist that they will not hear charges for disobeying the Decree, arguing that it is illegitimate.

The messages on the boards calling for a stop to the emergency decree.

Protesters carried signs and spoke against the government decision to use the Emergency Decree to suppress dissent. Some signs read “Stop using the Emergency Decree to shut people up” and “Stop Medical Coup”

Parit and Panusaya read a statement saying that Union members had received 2 summonses over charges that they violated the Emergency Decree by holding 2 public gatherings in June, despite social distancing measures being observed.

Many incidents have shown that the Emergency Decree, initially implemented to control Covid-19, is being used to suppress people who criticize the government. The Decree also centralizes power with Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, and can be characterized as a 'silent coup' using a medical pretext.

The Emergency Decree allows the government to make urgent procurements and reimbursements without accountability. The people are suffering economically while relief policies are poorly implemented.

As Thailand has registered no domestic infection in more than a month, the government has lost all legitimacy in prolonging the Emergency Decree. If the government fails to uphold the interests of the people, they will rise to overthrow them.

The protesters separately left the venue after their symbolic action in front of the Police Station. No arrests were made.

In Thai law, individuals must report to hear charges from the police after receiving a summons. The police will re-issue the summons if the recipients fail to show up. If again they fail to show up, an arrest warrant is issued.  

The leading SUT figures also said that the student movement had been seriously threatened and harassed by the security authorities, especially in June, a month which marks many important anniversaries in Thai political history. They urged the authorities to cease these operations immediately.

“Most recently, our friends yesterday [7 July] who went to shine a light at the Democracy Monument were followed by the police. House visits continue, especially in the past month [June]. We all experienced this.

“I would like to pass a message to the security authorities: please stop, stop now. Threatening us like this will not scare or stop us. It will further kindle our resistance to you because we will see ever more clearly how much your depraved behaviour oppresses people,” said Parit.

The Emergency Decree prohibits people from holding any public gathering that increases the risk of Covid-19 contagion. On 30 June, the cabinet agreed to extend enforcement of the Decree for 1 more month since its first enforcement in March.

iLaw, a legal watchdog NGO, reported that since the Decree was implemented on 26 March, 23 people have been prosecuted in 6 cases of violating the Decree.

The Decree centralizes national command and control to an ad hoc committee led by the Prime Minister. Many MPs from opposition parties and critics have decried the lengthy enforcement because it has been politically abused to control opposition parties and public protests.

On 30 June, Parit and Panusaya tore up their summons in front of Pathumwan Police Station. They were accused of violating the Emergency Decree by organizing a public gathering on 5 June. The event was a tribute to Wanchalearm Satsaksit, the Thai activist in exile who was kidnapped in Phnom Penh on 4 June.

NewsParit ChiwarakPanusaya SithijirawattanakulEmergency DecreeCOVID-19Source:
Categories: Prachatai English

Civil Partnership Bill to go before parliament

Prachatai English - Thu, 2020-07-09 00:21
Submitted on Thu, 9 Jul 2020 - 12:21 AMPrachatai

The Thai Cabinet today (8 July) approved the Civil Partnership bill, which was proposed by the Ministry of Justice to allow for same-sex couples to register their partnership, and has submitted the bill to the House of Representatives Coordination Committee for consideration before it goes before Parliament.

The bill defines “civil partnership” as a union between two people of the same gender who have registered their union according to the bill, and states that both persons must be at least 17 years old to register as civil partners, and that one or both must be a Thai national.

The bill allows civil partners to adopt children, and gives them the power of attorney to act on behalf of their injured or dead partner in a legal proceeding according to the Criminal Procedure Code.

The bill also includes a section on properties between civil partners, which is separated into personal property and property acquired after entering into a partnership.

It also states that the articles in the Civil and Commercial Codes relating to inheritance apply to civil partners, and that Articles 1606, 1652, and 1563 of the Civil and Commercial Code may also apply to life partners. 

The Cabinet also approved another bill to amend the Civil and Commercial Code, so it says that a marriage or partnership cannot occur if the person is already the spouse or partner of another person and to include one spouse giving maintenance to or honouring another person as wife or husband or partner as a ground for divorce. The bill also proposes to amend the Civil and Commercial Code so that the right to receive alimony is extinguished if the party receiving the alimony remarries or registers a civil partnership.  

While these bills have been approved by the Cabinet, they will still have to be approved by Parliament before they become law.

However, these bills are different from the bill to amend the Civil and Commercial Code proposed by Move Forward Party MP Tunyawat Kamolwongwat, which proposes that the terminology used in the law be changed to use “spouse” instead of “husband” and “wife” and “person” instead of “man” and “woman” to allow individuals to be legally married regardless of gender and ensure they receive equal rights, duties, and protection under the law.

This bill is still currently up for public consultation on the parliament’s public consultation platform and, so far, 51637 people have participated in the survey.

Tunyawat, along with another Move Forward Party MP Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, issued a statement today stating that “civil partnership is not marriage equality” and that, because the term “civil partner” has not been used in Thai legislation before, the Civil Partnership bill does not give civil partners the same rights and protection as spouses.

Tanwarin also said that, if the Civil Partnership bill passes, it will deepen the stigma against the LGBT community in Thailand. She also asked why there is a need for separate legislation.

The Civil Partnership bill has previously been criticised by NGOs and LGBT rights activists for not giving LGBT couples the same rights as heterosexual couples and for focusing mostly on property, inheritance, and the right to act on behalf of one’s partner in a criminal proceeding.

It is also criticized for being unclear about whether a person in a civil partnership is allowed to make medical decisions on behalf of their partner, whether they are allowed to take their partner’s last name, receive benefit from their partner’s social security fund, or whether a civil partner who is a foreign national will be eligible for a marriage visa. The bill is also seen as relegating the LGBT community to the position of second-class citizens.

The hashtag #ไม่เอาพรบคู่ชีวิต (#SayNoToCivilPartnershipBill) also trended on Twitter today as netizens have spoken out against the two bills approved by Cabinet today, with many calling it “fake equality” and an act of discrimination against LGBT people. They also use the hashtag #สมรสเท่าเทียม (#MarriageEquality) to call on each other to support the bill to amend the Civil and Commercial Code proposed by Tunyawat.

Newsmarriage equalitycivil partnershipCivil Partnership BillLGBT rightsDiscrimination against LGBT peopleLGBTLGBT familyRight to found a family
Categories: Prachatai English

Government parties signal cabinet reshuffle

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-07-08 17:32
Submitted on Wed, 8 Jul 2020 - 05:32 PMThammachart Kri-aksorn

Signs of a cabinet reshuffle show an attempt by the establishment to solve disputes within the government coalition. Facing a crisis of legitimacy, they also want to buy time. 

  Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha paid a visit to Phra Nakhon Khiri historical park, Phetchaburi Province in March 2020.

There have been several developments in mainstream politics recently. On June 28, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan became the leader of Phalang Pracharat Party.  The party has installed 27 new board members after the old ones resigned in early June. This is the party that had engineered the nomination of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader, as Prime Minister after the questionable election in 2019.

Meanwhile, parties in the government coalition are making moves to prepare for a possible cabinet reshuffle. Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health, said that the government has not signalled anything yet. If so, his Bhumjaithai Party will have time to think about it.

Chatumongol Sonakul, the Minister of Labour, resigned as leader of the Action Coalition of Thailand (ACT) party. He will remain the Minister of Labour, but his resignation from the party automatically dissolved the current party board. A party meeting proposed Anek Laothamatas, a former board member, as the next Minister of Labour when the government launches a cabinet reshuffle. Chatumongol said that people in the party disagreed with him, so he resigned. However, he held no grudges and did not feel forced to resign.

Mongkolkit Suksintharanon, leader of the minor Thai Civilized Party, has been selected by 7 fellow "micro-parties" to represent them in the new cabinet. Even if the micro-parties do not get a seat, they will stick with the government coalition. Mongkolkit said he is interested in being a part of the new economic team. Recently, he said in parliament that he would like to see legalization of casinos in Thailand for foreigners and 6 percent of the Thai population in order to increase government income and restore the economy after the COVID-19 outbreak.

Despite signals from the government coalition, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha said that it was absurd to anticipate a cabinet reshuffle now. Prayut said the government was focusing on the 3.3 trillion baht budget for 2021, which won approval from parliament a few days ago. His remarks came after an unconfirmed report about the government's invitation to its coalition partners to submit ministerial candidates on 7-9 July.

There are two main explanations for recent developments: internal tensions within the government coalition and the crisis of legitimacy.

Let us start with the first one. Prayut’s allies consist of 19 political parties. Cobbled together to form a parliamentary majority, each has its own interests and motives. Allocating cabinet seats in this setting is difficult as it is easy for coalition partners to be dissatisfied with the cabinet list. For example, some Democrat Party MPs are dissatisfied with Thamanat Prompow, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, after it was exposed that he had served a jail term in Australia for drug trafficking. He was also accused of having a connection with a person responsible for massive mask-hoarding during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Phalang Pracharat, the leading party in the coalition, itself contains at least 7 factions. Since last year, there has been a major dispute between the Three Friends (Sam Mit) and Four Children (Si Khuman) factions. The conflict began when Sontirat Sontijirawong, then Secretary-General of the Phalang Pracharat Party, was chosen after the election to be Minister of Energy, a cabinet seat which had been promised to Suriya Juangroongruangkit of the Three Friends group. Even though Suriya was given the Ministry of Industry, Phalang Pracharat MPs went on to campaign against Sontirat claiming that he was incompetent as Secretary-General, and thus a "threat" to the party's stability.

Many believe that incompetence is not the real issue. It is rather that Sontirat is part of the Four Children faction which also includes Uttama Savanayana, Kobsak Pootrakool, and Suvit Maesincee. This group of technocrats served as ministers in Prayut’s unelected government before the election last year and continued to work in Phalang Pracharat’s leadership until the recent resignations. Some of them also currently serve as cabinet members. But without representation in the party's executive board, it is doubtful how long they can remain in the cabinet.

The pressure point is that they joined the cabinet without having been elected. This channel was made possible by the current constitution. It gave rise to the Three Friends faction which believes that cabinet seats should be allocated according to the number of MPs of each political group. Led by Suriya Juangroongruangkit and Somsak Thepsuthin, these former Thaksin MPs came together to back Prayut Chan-o-cha as Prime Minister last year and believe that they should have a bigger quota in the cabinet.

The complication is that Somkid Jatusripitak, the one who brought the Four Children together, is also one of the Three Friends. The conflict between the two factions puts Somkid in a no-win situation. He has also been widely criticized over his leadership of the government’s economic team. Thai economy was not ding very well even before the Covid-19 outbreak and many in government circles anticipate a new economic team to revive the economy.

With Gen Prawit as Phalang Pracharat’s "charismatic" leader, the dispute inside Phalang Pracharat was reportedly solved with the ultimate defeat of the Four Children faction. The list of new executive board members of the Prawit-led party has no members from the Four Children group at all. Even so, we will have to wait and see if there is a cabinet reshuffle and if the Three Friends faction will have more members in the new cabinet and the new economic team.

These developments point to some progress and some challenges for democratization in Thailand. First, the defeat of the Four Children faction means that Thai democracy has slightly improved. Elected politicians are exerting their influence against unelected technocrats. It can be argued that these politicians are part of the Thai oligarchy and that the Thai electoral system is flawed. But the fact that they were elected at all means that their appointment to the cabinet would still be better than a complete absence of democratic control.

However, this reflects a larger problem. Thai politics is still dominated by the idea that might is right. When Phalang Pracharat had internal conflict, they resorted to a father figure to give the final say. In this case, it was Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. This approach is the same as when politics was highly polarized and the establishment resorted to the military coup of 2014. Conflicts were not resolved, but suppressed. Even though many propose that Phalang Pracharat should dissolve factions and unite as one, the possibility is unlikely because the stick alone is not enough.

It is truism to say that these internal disputes and dealings do not benefit the Thai people at all. The conflicts are over the cabinet seats, not public policies. The underlying reason is that Thai politics is still largely driven by pragmatism. The absence of any political ideology means that political parties lack a coherent rationale for public policies. Most political parties campaign on the same nice promises with differences only in emphasis. This makes it more difficult for ordinary citizens to question and participate. Thai people are expected to receive good things from the government but do not have to know about their policies and how they should be implemented.

The second reason for the signals of a possible cabinet reshuffle is that the establishment is trying to buy time with the general public. They know too well that they are facing a crisis of legitimacy. Time after time they have crushed the opposition through manipulation of supposedly independent agencies and people are getting fed up. Thanks to the Covid-19 crisis, the student protests have largely been deterred, but the government needs to seize this opportunity to prolong their stay in power.

Prayut Chan-o-cha announced in mid-June that he was inviting all sectors to “Unite the Thais, Build the Nation (รวมไทยสร้างชาติ)” His campaign aims to lay a new framework for how the government should run after the Covid-19 outbreak. By setting up channels for citizens to comment on and evaluate the government’s work, he believes that the government will function better in a “new normal” society and “creative politics” will benefit all Thais.

His welcoming gestures have to be juxtaposed with the fact that Thai activists are still under threat of prosecution and enforced disappearance. How Prayut is viewed is for the people to decide. If they are okay with Prayut, tension will not build and the cabinet may remain unchanged. If they express a desire for change, Prayut will launch a cabinet reshuffle to buy time, depending on his assessment of the situation. In both cases, Thais still have a lot of work to do to improve democracy in Thailand.

Round UpGen Prayut Chan-o-chaGen Prawit WongsuwanPhalang PracharatAnutin CharnvirakulBhumjaithai PartyCabinet ReshuffleAction Coalition for ThailandCOVID-19
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