Having travelled twenty-five thousand kilometres across Europe, Czech artist Patrik Proško is known to be the creator of nineteen large-scale realisations at unconventional locations set in the landscapes of eleven states ranging from Finland to Gibraltar, of which a selection was presented in an exhibition called On the Edge of Reality at the Illusion Art Museum Prague in the Czech Republic. The most remarkable, — cliff-hanging — adventurous, aspect of this exhibition was Proško’s painting on a melting iceberg (Svartisen), as well as one of his largest realisations: the thirty-metre-wide rock art at the northernmost point of mainland Europe, the Norwegian Nordkapp. A painter who paints on the edge and transports us to the brink of breathless reality, that is what one might think of Patrik Proško.
Having travelled twenty-five thousand kilometres across Europe, Czech artist Patrik Proško is known to be the creator of nineteen large-scale realisations at unconventional locations set in the landscapes of eleven states ranging from Finland to Gibraltar, of which a selection was presented in an exhibition called On the Edge of Reality at the Illusion Art Museum Prague in the Czech Republic. The most remarkable, — cliff-hanging — adventurous, aspect of this exhibition was Proško’s painting on a melting iceberg (Svartisen), as well as one of his largest realisations: the thirty-metre-wide rock art at the northernmost point of mainland Europe, the Norwegian Nordkapp. A painter who paints on the edge and transports us to the brink of breathless reality, that is what one might think of Patrik Proško.
When it comes to a prolific artist whose cutting-(on-the)-edge artwork has been featured in the French Graffiti Art Magazine and the English LSD Magazine (London Street-Art Design), viewers’ attention is drawn to art in its “raw state”, pervading our everyday lives and transcending the highly stratified and organised world of our contemporary times. Since Proško works exclusively with biodegradable paint, mutability and transience are, in a unique way, translated from abstract notions to most tangible experiences.
Now Patrik Proško’s creativity compass has led him to Asia. He is currently travelling across Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar, engaging in land art projects in each country he visits. And what a treat for people living in Thailand to know that Proško’s project called Intermundia, a selection of artworks created across Europe and Asia, will be featured at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) from 17 November to 30 November 2018!
The Czech Embassy in Bangkok, therefore, cordially invites you to the Intermundia Exhibition Opening Ceremony, which will be held at BACC on Saturday 17 November 2018 at 18.00 hrs. The exhibited images, which are part of the project named Journey to ARTASIA, will also be available for purchase. It costs 6,000 THB minimum for one installation item. Proceeds will go to charity in the form of material assistance to children and adults affected by unexploded ammunition in Laos and now living in poverty. Purchased works can be collected at the Czech Embassy in Bangkok (Address: 71/6 Ruam Rudee, Soi 2, Ploenchit Road, Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330) after the exhibition has ended.
Those who wish to make donations or purchases can contact Mr Tomáš Ledajaks at 0841915440 or email@example.com. Please kindly provide us with your contact information as the organisers will afterwards send photographs taken at the donation ceremony to all donors and purchasers.Assistant Professor Verita Sriratana, PhD Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University firstname.lastname@example.org OpinionPatrik ProškoCzech EmbassyArtExhibition
Waen : From a medical volunteer and key witness in Wat Pathum massacre case to defendant in two national security cases
Amidst the searing heat of March 2010 which competed with the incumbent political heat, a massive number of members of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) took to the street in downtown Bangkok to demand a house dissolution while the country was ruled under the Abhisit Vejjajiva-led coalition. They claimed the government had been formed in a military barrack with military backing and hence the nickname of the incumbent Prime Minister.
The then government responded by establishing the “Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES)” mobilizing military forces from various divisions to contain the situation. Two armed operations were launched in a bid to disperse the demonstrations. CRES called the operations ‘reclamation of public spaces’, the first of which took place on 10 April and the second of which, the ‘tightening of spaces’, from 13 -19 May. It has led to nearly 100 deaths including the UDD supporters, local residents and some public officials and more than 1,000 injuries.
In its finale, the evening of 19 May 2010 which saw the impending end of the months-long demonstrations and the use of lethal military forces against the people, Natthathida Meewangpla aka ‘Waen’, a medical volunteer, was busy tending to the wounded demonstrators who were gathered inside Wat Pathum Wanaram about to be evacuated and return home. The reasons they were there was an announcement had been made earlier to declare the Buddhist temple a ‘sanctuary’ making the demonstrators think it was safer to take a refuge therein. The surrounding areas saw deployment strong military forces since 13 May and rows of the troops were squeezing the main demonstration site at the dawn of 19 May to disperse the demonstration.
Waen bore witness when military officials stationed on the BTS Skytrain track between Chid Lom and Siam started firing lethal shots from their war weapons into Wat Pathum Wanaram. She has thus later become a star witness in the ensuing inquest hearings concerning the deadly incidence that happened inside the temple.
Waen (woman in nurse uniform, on the left), tending to Atthachai Chumchan, photo courtesy of Steve Tickner
Waen bore witness two of the six deaths inside the temple. She was the person who attempted a resuscitation on Atthachai Chumchan and saw Kamolket Akhad, another medical volunteer being shot down under the medic tent. In her testimonies to the Court, Waen said that evening she spotted military officials on the BTS tracks in front of the temple while they were shooting at the demonstrators inside the temple. Her evidence coupled with evidence from other eye witnesses and other convinced the Court of what happened and eventually, the Court ruled that the six individuals inside the temple were gunned down by military officials and there were no “men in black” (armed men clad in black suit as claimed by the prosecution) in the temple.
3 years 5 months and 18 days
Six years later, from a star witness in cases concerning the dispersal of the 2010 demonstrations, Waen has been tuned into a defendant in a conspiracy behind an attempted terrorist offence. She was accused of being part of the plotters to throw a hand grenade into the Bangkok Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road on 7 March 2015. The only incriminating evidence against her was her being part of a Line group chat of the Red Shirt supporters.
Moreover, Waen has been charged for royal defamation, an offence against Article 112, after she had just been arrested in the first case. This subsequent charge was believed to be a tactic to continue holding her into custody after she had been bailed out from the first case.
Most importantly, the two cases are tried in the Military Court, which has been used against civilians since the day after the May 2014. And it was later decreed that defendants in terrorist cases would be barred from appealing to the court of higher instances as the offences took place while Martial Law was still effective.
3 years 5 months and 18 days were the number of days recounted by Waen for the time she was incarcerated pending trial in the two cases. The Military Court eventually granted Waen bail but demanded as high as 900,000 baht for bail bond. No one is sure if she would be put into another custody again or not.
Waen told us that unlike several other people, prior to these prosecutions by the NCPO, she had never been summoned by the NCPO. There were just uniform and plainclothes officials being sent to approach her. Some came brandishing their ID cards, while others approached her claiming faintly that they knew her from someone. Some approached her claiming to collect information that could be useful for solving the nation’s problems. After all, they tended to focus on inquiring her about her experience during the dispersal of the Red Shirt demonstrations and whether she sighted the ‘men in black’ or not.
“A lot, dozens of times. They called to ask for an appointment, they called just to talk, they called to threaten me, they called asking me to meet with them. I declined and insisted that I would only meet them with the presence of a lawyer. I was so scared.” Replied Waen, when asked how often she got contacted by the officials. She also revealed how they asked to meet with her at home, but she refused to do so out of her fear. Still, the officials seemed knowledgeable about her personal information; how many children she had, where they were studying, etc.
On 11 March 2015, it took Waen by surprise that she was nabbed by around six or seven uniform military officials and plainclothes officials inside her cousin’s home in Pra Pra Daeng. The officials simply invoked Martial Law to have her arrested. But during the arrest, they did ask her if she knew anything about the bomb attack at the Bangkok Criminal Court. Waen said she was only aware of it from news report.
“They said it’s good, then let’s go. Please cooperate with the police. But they showed me no arrest warrants or anything. They just barged into my residence and abducted me. They asked me to pack up my clothes and seized my five mobile phones I used for my emails, Facebook, and Line. They took all of them away and even forcefully asked for the passwords while I was driven away.”
Inside the car, they blindfolded me, so tight. I had no idea where we were heading to and what they were doing inside the car. One of the men tried to roll up my short sleeve and I remonstrated ‘You can’t do this to me’. He then said “Don’t act like you have never had a husband. I just wanted to see your tattoo.’ I felt it was not right and tried to protect myself since then, but I was unable to do so. They infringed on my body. They just pulled open any part of my body. I was a clown to them. I was there and treated as an object to fulfill their gratification. They could do whatever they wanted.”
Waen said she was driven for nearly 30 minutes. Upon arrival at the destination, she was taken down and brought to a detention cell. The condition of the room was far removed from the term ‘convenient’. What stressed her out even more was inside this square room lied two beds side by side with a fan and CCTV. All the windows and doors were locked down. She could not get a glimpse of light outside and there was no clock in the room. The fluorescent bulbs were put on 24 hours and there was not built-in bathroom. When nature called, she had to knock on the door for the official and then would be blindfolded and escorted by an official with a schematic mask to the restroom. This holding cell was also used when they questioned her.
“About four or five men came to sit by me. Leading questions were everywhere ‘You must know. You must give us everything we want to know. You have no right to know who we are.’ No one was there to help remove the blindfold for me. They tied the clothe so tight around my nose jobs, so much so I could see nothing and could not hear clearly.”
Every question asked was a leading question and I was compelled to answer them. ‘You must know this’ they said. ‘If you don’t answer, if you don’t know, your family, your children, your relatives, your parents are doomed.’ ‘Watch them out.’ They threatened me.
‘I could invoke NCPO Orders, Martial Law. I could do anything.’ The questions were like who was the perpetrators? Where did they do it? How many target sites? Who do you know? I was bombarded with leading questions, like, do you know Dear? Do you know Suraphon? (One of defendant charged with terrorist case) Do you know this or that guy? When my blindfold was removed, I was instructed to look down on the floor. Then, they would show me photos of three or four persons. I just said I knew none of them.
I told them if you want to ask me about paracetamol or antihistamines or wound dressing or even about snake bite, I can give you an answer as to how to treat the wound. But if you ask me about a bomb, I could give you no answer. Then they said ‘Let’s not quibble, how come you know nothing about this.’
The interrogation Waen subject to continue into wee hours. I had no idea what time it was, I only knew I was so exhausted and was overcome by my allergy. My eyes started to get swollen. They threatened me in every way, restlessly. They took a dig at me on this and that issue. I was allowed to rest for about 20 minutes to one hour at a time, then got woken up and blindfolded again. It happened like that on and on and sometime I would only get to rest 2.00 or 3.00 in the morning. The inquiry started from one o’clock in the afternoon and each round lasted about 3-4 hours.”
Apart from being blindfolded during the interrogation to prevent her from seeing the whole surrounding, she was also subject to intimidation and threat.
“Their hitting was not meant to kill me. They patted me on my shoulder to remind me that they had guns in their hands. They tapped me on my neck with a gun. ‘Just give us all the information. Tell us who they are. How much did Thaksin give you? Why did not you speak?’ I just said no, I have never received anything from him, I have never talked to him, I have not even known him personally.”
“They threatened to harm my family, my close friends and all the older persons I respected if I refused to cooperate with them. They said they would bring trouble to all those names in my phonebook. They would charge all of them invoking Martial Law. My family, my children would not be spared. They said they could not even guarantee if I got to see their dead bodies.”
According to Waen, during the first three days, she was subject to the same old questions. They were repeatedly asked dozens of times to make her confused. Still, she insisted she knew nothing. On Day 4, she was transferred to another room she would share with Wassana Buddi, another suspect in this case. Even though the questioning time was reduced, still, she was slapped with the same questions time an again.
Waen being transferred from the 11th Military Circle to the Metropolitan Police
From her arrest until 18 March 2015, it was reported that Waen was then transferred from the 11th Military Circle to the Metropolitan Police Bureau where she would be formally charged by the inquiry official. Her request to have access to a lawyer was denied. Even though there was a lawyer present during the charging procedure, he was arranged for by the authorities, not the lawyer of her choice or the one she could trust.
“The questioning took place without a lawyer even though Pi Winyat (Winyat Chartmontree; a human rights lawyer and Secretary General of the United Lawyers for Rights & Liberty) was there already. They (the police) refused to let him in, and only allowed their own lawyer to be there. I was forced to sign off a paper, in front of the lawyer arranged by them, declaring that I had not been subject to intimidation. They said they had never threatened me, but I dd need to sign my name there in front of the lawyer arranged by them. They said they would not let the lawyer of my choice come in. This is the reality in Thailand and how a government official has treated the person who pays them their salaries!”
Waen recounted how she was verbally abused in many ways by a police general who was present during her answering to the charges and when she was forced to sign off many papers prepared by the inquiry official. She insisted on signing none of them since she had not committed any offence. Eventually, they asked her to sign a paper that reads ‘I do not know.” And they told me to fight the charge in the Court. After signing all the papers handed over by the police, she was allowed to meet her lawyer briefly while she was brought for arraignment at the Military Court.
Since then, Waen has been remanded in prison from the police level to the trial. After being incarcerated for some time, the police visited her in the prison asking for information regarding the case in which she was accused of sending a message to defame the King, an offence against the Penal Code’s Article 112.
On 24 July 2017, after being remanded in prison for over two years, Waen was bailed out along with three or four defendants accused in the terrorist case. But that very night, when she was about to step into temporary freedom, Waen just realized that she was to be further remanded for another case when plainclothes officials identified themselves at the Central Women Correctional Institution where she was remanded in custody.
“Waen was handcuffed and then put into a black Toyota Fortuner by four individuals in civilian clothes, two of whom looked more like junkies and the other two with guns in their hands. They did not look like police officials. They handcuffed me claiming they came from the Crime Suppression Division. En route to CSD, they asked me ‘will your relatives be there to meet you?’. When I said no, I have no idea if anyone would be waiting for me there. I felt I could not say anything since it might bring trouble to more people.”
Accidentally, we ran into Ball and Tol (the nickname of Lawyer Winyat Chatmontree), my two lawyers, at the security guard box. The officials drove me from inside the prison. Attorney Tol waved for the car to pull over, then he brandished his attorney card at the windshield. ‘Is this guy your relative?’ I said no, he was not my relative, but my lawyer. They then said ‘Well, if he is not your relative and is a lawyer, I cannot let you talk with him.”
Lawyer Tol then said “My name is Winyat Chatmontree. ‘Could I see if the person in the car is Ms. Natthathida Meewangpla, my client, or not?’ ‘If you get out, I will surely shoot you. Don’t pound the car like this.’ The attorney was patting the car by his hand asking to see inside the car. When the car was about to accelerate, I decided to tap the side of the car with the handcuff and shouted ‘Pi Tol, I am in here. Pi Ball, I am in here. After tapping the car one time, they dragged me inside again.”
The incidence when the police took Waen from the Central Women Correctional Institution, the night of 24 July 2017, video by NOPPAKOW KONGSUWAN
Waen continued that she was extremely upset and aggrieved to have been brought back to the prison. She cried for two days before she could make do with it. She had never thought she would have been brought back in. Luckily, the prison wardens seemed to understand her, while some fellow inmates showed her their sympathy.
Being remanded again has further extended Waen’s incarceration to more than a year. Altogether, she had been languishing in jail during the remand in custody for nearly three and a half years before the Military Court allowed her another bail which she had to place nearly one million baht as a bail bond on 4 September 2018.
After being temporarily released, Waen recalls how she has to rely on sleeping peels to put herself to sleep. The experience while being held in custody in a military barrack still haunts her. She could not bring herself to stay in an apartment without very good security system.
The Red Shirt supporters were there to wait and welcome Waen who was released from the Central Women Correctional Institution the night of 4 September 2018 after the Military Court granted her another bail. Photo courtesy of Banrsdr Photo
Why are you interested in politics?
Prior to her exposure to politics which has brought her all these bad predicaments, Waen was working as an assistance to a pharmacist in a drug store for four years. It helped her to acquire knowledge about drugs and medical equipment. After quitting the job, she found a friend of her was working as a medical volunteer, so she decided to help her friend. She did not do the job every day. She only worked on certain occasions, i.e., during floods, on important days like Father’s Day, Mother’s Day. She did not join any group and was not affiliated to any of them. She and her friends just formed their own group calling themselves “Green General Group” using red as its symbol.
Waen recalls that she had never participated in any political gathering prior to March 2010, a few days after the UDD supporters started taking to the street. She happened to go to the demonstration site as her mother asked her to look for her brother who had vanished into the sea of the demonstrators for several months. Even though, she could not find her brother, she happened to have visited the demonstration site several times getting to meet her relatives or people from her hometown who joined the demonstrations there. It was an opportunity for her to make use of her skill.
“The more I have gone there, the more I have sympathized with them. I know that what they need is medical treatment and first aid to tend to wounds, snake bite, bruises, headache, fever, allergy, and diarrhea. Waen spent her own money to buy basic drugs, paracetamol, and antihistamines to give to the people there.”
“I did not know exactly who they are, Nattawut Saikua, Jatuporn Prompan, Veera Musikhapong, even on 10 April, I had no idea who these people are. I was there just to talk with people who came from my hometown; I have been back to my hometown for some time. I have gone back to the province once every two or one year. So I felt elated getting to meet up with them and started to sympathize with their difficult living. I was impressed by their determination and felt bad for the way they had been treated. It was not that I had had no knowledge in politics. But I had no idea what they were fighting for. I only knew they were treated so unfairly and I could not tolerate their being abused. They just wanted to cast their votes in the ballot box and did not want a funerary box. Why did they have to fire tear gas from helicopter? Why did they shoot at people this way? I started to feel the bond with them and worry about my relatives and teachers.”
After the event in 2010, she has become more engaged in politics becoming a board member of a Red Shirt village in Udon Thani, joining the People Power Network (PPN), offering training to community leaders and other core members countrywide. The training was meant to nurture their leadership and educate them about democracy and Thailand’s constitutions. She insists that these activities have been conducted legally. But right after the 2014 coup, all these activities have been banned by the coup makers.
Asked how did she become interested in politics? Waen said she had had some idea about politics, but not so engrossed with it. She has found the most concrete policies being developed during the reign of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Them she ran three businesses and employed many workers. With good cashflow, she even had enough to hire a babysitter to look after her two sons. It enabled her to have free time to use to acquire more working skill.
The 2012 deluge left her businesses in tatters. She started to have some quarrel with her husband as she has since come out to speak about what really happened during the dispersal of the demonstrations.
“In 2012, all my businesses were gone. Businesses of the whole family were devastated by the floods. The floods spared nothing in my beauty salon. I could manage to sell nothing after the water subsided. I could not rent the shop out, too. I managed to sell my cosmetic business to a friend. I ran into a problem with my friend on our joint investment in a milling factory with bounced checks. I could manage to keep just some machine. My mother in law was not so happy with my outspoken personality and publicity. She and my husband’s sister were mad at me for speaking out too much. They offered to pay me one hundred thousand baht to sever relationships with my husband. I refused to take it but wanted to talk this over peacefully. But my husband refused to break up with me. I eventually had to tell him I was seeing another guy, he then decided to break up with me in 2012. But he denied my visit to our two sons, 16 and 8 then, who were living with him then. I also broke up with my second husband who was not so helpful and even criticized me.”
Even she can now enjoy freedom outside, all the prior events have estranged her and her ex-husband even more. As her ex’s family refused to allow her to contact her sons, she is too scared to contact them. It is not possible for her to restore her stable job. Travel expense incurred from the legal cases also takes its toll on her.
The two cases against her proceed slowly. In the bomb attack case, the military prosecutor has failed to get their witnesses to give evidence on time and the hearings have to be postponed more than ten times. Unlike the civilian court, the Military Court cannot fix the hearings to take place consecutively. Witness examination can take place probably two times a month, each lasts half a day. The procedure is so protracted and as the prosecutor often fails to get witnesses to give evidence on time, it has even caused more delay and incurred even more expenses for defendants in such cases.
As to the lese majeste case against Waen, the first witness examination only commenced on 20 July and in this case, she is barred from appealing to a Military Court of higher instances. It is likely that it will take some more time to complete all witness examination given that there are 20 persons to be examined by both parties. Until now, only three persons have given evidence to the Court. So the second case against Waen will certainly last not a long time, just like the first case.
Pick to PostWinyat ChartmontreeNatthathida MeewangplaWaenArticle 112Wat Pathum Wanaram Ratcha WorawiharncrackdownwitnessNCPOSource: https://www.tlhr2014.com/?p=9496&fbclid=IwAR0eR_AB6Fp2T9Ng-9XwSEb5guao7us3JXVb0ifGz8z43K7XWKhRNvihDx4
After being detained for almost 4 years, Anchan P. , facing 29 charges under Article 112 for releasing voice clips of Banpot allegedly containing lèse majesté material against the late King, has been granted bail of 500,000 baht. She was released from the Central Women’s Correctional Institution. The court ruled that despite objections by the prosecutor, it believes the accused will not escape or tamper with evidence.
On 2 Nov 2018, it was reported that Anchan, 60, a former government official at the Revenue Department charged under Article 112, has been bailed using as collateral savings certificates and government bonds totaling 500,000 baht.
The court said that despite objections by the prosecutor, after careful consideration of reliable bail collateral. the court believed that the accused will not escape, tamper with evidence or cause other dangerous incidents. and permitted temporary release on bail.
Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, former Article 112 detainee (left), congratulates Anchan (right)
Anchan was arrested on 5 Jan 2015, accused of uploading and disseminating voice clips of Banpot which contained material that allegedly defamed the late king. She was detained incommunicado in a military camp for 5 days before the police announced that she and others had been arrested one by one, all accused of being part of the “Banpot network”. Anchan faced 29 charges under Article 112.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that Anchan has been remanded in custody since 30 Jan 2015. Relatives had made repeated requests for bail, but these were rejected by the military court. The most recent request in April 2017, using a deed valued at 1,000,000 baht, was again rejected, the court claiming that penalty in the case is severe and there were fears that the accused would escape.
The judicial process in Bangkok Military Court continued slowly after Anchan decided to fight the case, while most of the Banpot network confessed. It has been almost 3 and a half years since the military prosecutor filed charges against Anchan on 23 April 2015. Seven of the 11 prosecution witnesses have been questioned, with 2 defence witnesses yet to be heard.
It is worth noting is while Banpot was accused of producing more than a hundred clips, he faced only one charge under Article 112, Anchan, alleged by the police to be involved in “managing the finances of the Banpot network”, faced 29 charges for separate acts of sharing Banpot’s clips on Facebook and uploading them on YouTube.
NewsAnchan P.Banpodj Networklese majesteArticle 1122007 Computer Crime ActSomyos PrueksakasemsukSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2018/11/79418
(Bangkok, November 6, 2018,) The Thai government should ensure that recently arrested Pakistani asylum seekers are not returned to face persecution, torture, or other serious abuse in Pakistan, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the Thai prime minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha. Almost all of the dozens of detained asylum seekers are from Christian and Ahmadiyya communities that have been prosecuted under discriminatory laws or attacked by religious extremists in Pakistan.
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) should have constant and unimpeded access to the Pakistani asylum seekers to help ensure that no one is deported to a place where their lives or freedom are threatened, under the international customary law principle of nonrefoulement.
“The Thai government may not fully appreciate the grave dangers facing Pakistani Christians and Ahmadis back in Pakistan,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s critically important for Thai authorities to free Pakistanis recognized as refugees from detention and not to return any into harm’s way in violation of international law.”
Pakistani refugees and asylum seekers have been targeted for arrest and prosecution for illegal entry or visa overstays as a part of a Thai immigration crackdown called Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner in which thousands of people have been detained. In a number of instances, immigration raids have targeted buildings where Pakistani and other South Asian community members live.
Thai authorities should not detain recognized refugees under any circumstances, Human Rights Watch said. The Thai authorities should recognize the critical importance of careful case-by-case consideration of asylum claims and abide by UNHCR determinations to ensure respect for the principle of nonrefoulement. They should also ensure compliance with Thailand’s obligations under the UN Convention against Torture.Pick to PostPakistaniasylum seekersChristiansAhmadisUNHCRdetentiondeportationSource: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/11/05/thailand-dont-deport-pakistani-asylum-seekers
Bangkok, Paris, 5 November 2018: FIDH and its partner organization Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) today petitioned the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) to seek the release of lèse-majesté defendant Siraphop Kornaroot. Since August 2012, the WGAD has found the detention of seven other individuals detained under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (lèse-majesté) to be “arbitrary.”
Siraphop, 55, has been detained for more than four years and four months - the longest time for a person currently charged or serving a prison sentence under Article 112. Siraphop was arrested on 1 July 2014 in Bangkok and is currently incarcerated at the Bangkok Remand Prison. Since July 2014, the Bangkok Military Court has rejected Siraphop’s bail applications seven times, the most recent today, 5 November 2018. His trial before the Bangkok Military Court has been ongoing since 24 September 2014.
“The detention and prosecution of Siraphop Kornaroot violate his fundamental rights to liberty, freedom of expression, and a fair trial – all rights guaranteed by international treaties to which Thailand is a state party. It is very disturbing that after more than four years there is no end in sight for Siraphop’s trial and the military court, which should not try civilians in the first place, continues to deny him bail,” said FIDH Vice-President Adilur Rahman Khan.
Siraphop has been detained and prosecuted for the exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression. He was charged with violations of Article 112 of the Criminal Code and Articles 14(3) and 14(5) of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act in connection with three posts he had made online on 7 November 2009, 15 December 2013, and 22 January 2014. Police deemed these posts (which included a poem and two caricatures) to be offensive to the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away on 13 October 2016. Siraphop was held in pre-trial detention for the maximum period allowed by Thai law (84 days), before the start of his trial on 24 September 2014.
“The case of Siraphop shows that there are still many individuals who continue to languish in jail as a result of the abuse of lèse-majesté since the May 2014 military coup. Until Article 112 is reformed and brought into compliance with international law, the risk of arbitrary detentions and unfair prosecutions for lèse-majesté remains high,” said TLHR Head Yaowalak Anuphan.
Article 112 imposes jail terms for those who defame, insult, or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent. Persons found guilty of violating Article 112 face prison terms of three to 15 years for each count.
FIDH and TLHR call for the immediate and unconditional release of Siraphop and for all the charges against him to be dropped. FIDH and TLHR also urge the government to end the abuse of lèse-majesté and immediately and unconditionally release those detained or imprisoned under Article 112 for the mere exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.
Since the 22 May 2014 coup, at least 127 people have been arrested for violating Article 112. Fifty-seven of them have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 35 years. At the time of the military takeover, there were six individuals behind bars on lèse-majesté charges.
In the last several years, many UN bodies have repeatedly expressed their concern over the prosecutions, the prolonged detentions, and the lengthy prison sentences under Article 112. They have called for the amendment of Article 112 and the release of lèse-majesté detainees, emphasizing that the deprivation of liberty stemming from the enforcement of lèse-majesté is inconsistent with Thailand’s obligations under international law with regard to the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The International Federation for Human Rights, known by its French acronym FIDH, is an international human rights NGO representing 184 organizations from 112 countries. Since 1922, FIDH has been defending all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as set out in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.Pick to PostFIDHThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD)United NationsSiraphop KornarootArticle 112lese majestearbitrary detentionSource: https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/thailand/un-body-petitioned-over-the-longest-ongoing-detention-of-a-lese
‘Rap Against Dictatorship’ says that politics, for them, is posing questions about the things happening in daily life. An interest in politics is a way to change for the better things that you don’t like and dictatorship isn’t only the military, but the election that’s about to happen can also be held in a dictatorial way. We also a talk with Teerawat Rujintham, the director of the MV, who is behind many pro-democracy groups.
After the release of a music video of the rap song ‘Prathet Ku Mi’ (Which is My Country) by the rapper group ‘Rap Against Dictatorship’, YouTube views rocketed past 600,000 within 2 days. The song takes political situations and arranges them in a way that is easy to understand, immediately arousing empathy among listeners. The music video shows one of the memorable photos of 6 October 1976 taken by Neal Ulevich, of a man taking a chair to hit a corpse hanging from a tree; a crowd watches, one boy with a smile on his face. This photo received the Pulitzer Award in 1977 and is used as a background in the last part of the video.
Prachatai interviewed a representative of Rap Against Dictatorship about how the basic idea of the project started, how they composed the song, and about the meaning of politics. They said that to them politics is asking questions about things happening in daily life. An interest in politics is a way to change things you don’t like for the better. Also the meaning of dictatorship covers not only military dictatorship but also the upcoming election which is still going to be done in a dictatorial manner.
We also interviewed Teerawat Rujintham, one of Thailand’s leading cinematographers, who directed this video. He was the one who proposed using the images of 6 Oct as a background. For him, this is the first time that he has revealed his real name after working behind the scenes for many pro-democracy groups, such as Resistant Citizen. Now it’s Rap Against Dictatorship, and he’s ready to answer the question “Are the images that clearly show a corpse and chair-hitting near the end of the music video a reproduction of violence?”
RAD’s Starting Point
The Prathet Ku Mi song has an intro by Liberate P, released since 2016. At that time, he started to compose the political songs Oc(t)ygen, Capitalism, Prathet Ku Mai Mi (Which Is Not My Country) and Prathet Ku Mi as an 8-bar intro. The musical steps hadn’t fallen into place yet, so the project was put on hold.
Near the end of 2017 there were talks between the 4 of us; Liberate P, Jacoboi, ET and Hockhacker about the Rap Against Dictatorship project. We then invited other interested parties to collaborate. However, it is mainly the 4 of us that control the ideas, the song’s direction and promotional methods.
The singers have a common position, which is anti-dictatorship, but may hve different ideas about other things. Was there any conflict when you were working together?
There weren’t any conflicts, since we all already knew that each of us have different approaches. But before we started to make the song, we had an internal workshop. All the rappers talked to each other and discussed what they each wanted to talk about, the method and all the content, as a way of adjusting everyone’s basis in understanding politics of each person which may not be the same. In the group there are people who understand politics very deeply, right to the structure of it, as well as people who are dissatisfied with the current situation but still haven’t looked as deep as the structural issues. After talking about it, people understood more. After the workshop we let them decide whether to participate or not. In the end, everyone decided to do it, just that the content of the song differs depending on the person’s interests.
What audience is the content intended for?
The general public. But how much the content will impress different groups depends on the listeners. We had intended to create a mainstream song. Maybe it’s not that mainstream, but we made a song with content that general people without any basic politics could listen to and get it without having to interpret it, or we didn’t use comparisons since it’d be hard to understand. The song then came out with content that people would feel, “yeah, this is the thing, this is the thing”. It can make them feel dissatisfied. We’ve done a fair amount of of homework on whether the content is too deep, too difficult, too many comparisons, what makes people who listen be with us;. We would then choose that. And our purpose doesn’t want to attack people or criticise them for not protesting, but we’re attacking the state, attacking dictatorship.
This means even though the team discussed things deeply as far as structural problems, when you made the actual song, you didn’t intend it to be that deep, but rather easier to listen to?
Yes, but we also secretly included something that people who have a deep understanding may be able to catch. Since some things we do know, but we really can’t talk about them, or if we don’t need to say something in this song we won’t say it. If we listen to the content in the song, they will see that it is not the same depth.
When composing this song, did you crystallise your thoughts first or was it putting into the song things people in society have already been criticizing ?
Personally, if it’s a party song or regular song about presenting oneself, it wouldn’t be so hard, since it’s something we feel and can express straight away. But if it’s a song about social and political ideologies, there needs to be some crystallisation or understanding of the topic at a certain level. We did quite a lot of homework. Some spent more time on their lyrics than others, some were able to compose them straight away from what they had experienced, because the foundation of perceptions and political experience of each person are different.
Actually it’s something everyone already knows. Like one of the verses that says “the end of the barrel pointing at [the end of] our Adam’s apple” (plai krabok cho thi plai kradueak). It’s a play on words in rap song language. A symbol was hidden there; the end of the barrel means a gun and the Adam’s apple is our chin or mouth. It’s a way to say that we’re in an era where the governing system has guns. It’s something common that everyone knows, but the rappers’ choice of words raised the power of the song. The importance is that what everyone has narrated is what they really feel, and they really do believe in opposing dictatorship, so there is a lot more power. This is a good thing about rap songs; if we talk about something we really have experienced, a lot more power will be sent out.
What is the politics that your group has experienced?
For us politics is posing questions about things that happen in in daily life. Why is it like this? Why can’t we solve these problems? Then at the end it comes back to politics. All power comes from politics. If we don’t care about politics, we won’t be able to change anything. An interest in politics is looking for a way to change things we don’t like for the better. For example, we don’t like traffic jams. If we’re not interested in politics, we may say that the traffic jams are caused by police turning on the traffic lights but if we look at it more deeply, it’s because of national city planning. It depends on how you think of the problem you are faced with. You can just complain or try to find solutions to improve them for the better.
Politics is all around us. Why is it that for the 20 years we’ve walked on the footpath by the road, it has never improved? The bricks on the footpath are still broken. It’s all about administering and managing the city. Politics isn’t only about coming out to protest on the streets or dividing into sides or colours . It’s about livelihoods, what we’re experiencing. It’s not only politicians. In schools, agencies, companies, there are also internal politics. Everyone already knows this. Approaching someone else for certain benefits is politics.
But in the end when you start to look at problems from things near us, the answer leads to political structural issues anyway.
Yes. Our common ground is opposition to dictatorship. It doesn’t only refer to military dictatorship since the military is the most obvious for using power, weapons and fear to interfere with normal people’s lives. But we still have dictatorship in local administration, dictatorship in parliament. People in parliament are all on the same side; there isn’t any opposition.
There are people who see politics as something boring and that whether the government is elected or a dictatorship, life is no better than before. Do you think that your song will communicate with them?
In our group, we believe that we can communicate and inform them, but we don’t expect that you’ll listen to this song and change your behaviour,. because it takes time to believe in something and change behaviour. But we let many people know and when it becomes a trend it’ll open their ideas, that we can talk about these things. People who have listened to the song and commented or shared, we already think that’s awareness. Or if they’re bored and not interested, then that’s their right, because they may have experienced something that makes them doesn’t want to be involved. But some people who live in fear or do not have the courage, come out to criticise us for making this song. We also consider them as already being politically aware, since at least they stood up to express their opinions about this. This is already an ideological movement in this age.
Your feelings when composing this song were anger, refusal to submit?
Everyone feels anger and boredom already, but how will we transfer these feelings into musical aesthetics, so that people would feel what we feel. I think it’s a contemporary song that allows the new generation to listen and feel moved with the content. For us the new generation doesn’t refer to age, but refers to people who are living in the current era, in the current era that has changed. How we understand things better, how much we can keep up with the things that are happening, how do we adapt to the changes in this era; that’s the new generation.
If there’s an election, will RAD continue? Or while waiting for an election, will there be anything else other than criticising dictatorship?
An election may mean democracy, but actually in this election, we know from the news, such as the nominated Senators being appointed, that is still a form of dictatorship. In fact there will be other songs that will be released and after this if there is an election, we’ll talk to each other again about what form the group will take in the future.
Teerawat Rujintham (centre)
How did the idea of Oct 6th in the MV come about?
The idea of Oct 6th came from my curiosity. The first film I produced was The Moonhunter; in the script there is a scene about Oct 6th. There were preparations about how we would film this scene, but in the end the director Bhandit (Rittakol) decided to cut it because he didn’t know how to present it. At that time he said that if it wasn’t presented well, it would turn into exposing a corpse. I didn’t really understand his reason at that time.
Last year I had a chance to help in the Documentation of Oct 6 Project, helping to direct a short film, ‘The Two Brothers’. I read more information about the Oct 6th incident. Recently they wanted me to help find the place where the tree was where the corpse had been hanged . During that time, the idea of contributing to this song came up. I thought about this, mixing them together, and eventually it came out as the scene where the corpse is hanging from the tree with a crowd cheering for the mutilation of the corpse. Normally we only look at photos, but if we place the camera in the middle of the event, the audience will feel something. I think that Oct 6th is a physical symptom of this country’s illness that is still relevant.
The idea of the camera is that I wanted to do a long take with the rappers swapping in for each verse, walking around in a circle. I thought that designing a camera path that goes around in circles stands for Thailand’s situation that’s going nowhere but around in circles. People don’t learn, those with power don’t learn and so history repeats itself. This is a concept only for the producers; the audience doesn’t need to understand it.
With a length of 5 minutes, I had to design it so that it started with a rapper rapping, with people clapping as a background, without knowing what they are clapping about. Maybe they’re just having fun with the singers that are singing, but in the end when we see the Chair Man who’s using a chair to hit the corpse, the audience would understand what event it is and it becomes a highlight at the end.
Behind the scenes of the MV
The photo of the corpse and chair hitting is clear at the end. Is it a reproduction of violence?
This is a topic I’ve been debating with myself. I told my friend who’s a researcher in the Documentation of Oct 6 Project of this concept, and asked what he thought if we used photos of violence from Oct 6th . Would it be like we’re using the photo to rape the audience again? He said sometimes the photos of violent events can’t be denied. For example, two years ago I only just found out that it wasn’t just 2 people that got hanged on Oct 6th but at least 5, some we don’t even know the names of.
We were surprised that something like this has been overlooked for over 40 years. From listening to various people, people in that era thought that they were photos of violence and cruelty and didn’t have the courage to look at them directly. I understand that this lack of courage to look at them directly creates misunderstandings. Another example is that people think that the photo of a person being hanged and hit with a chair is of Wichitchai Amornkul, but we actually don’t know his name. Wichitchai was hanged in a different photo.
The point is that sometimes we have to stare directly at what is happening in front of our faces. That’s why I feel, after weighing it up, the issue of reproducing violence was pushed aside. Sometimes we also have to present violence using a straightforward method, so that people will feel and see certain truths.
Behind the scenes of the filming
Lastly, would you like to leave a few words?
I would like to thank all my friends and others that have helped in this project. Some people would like to remain anonymous. Without them, this MV wouldn’t have been born.
Normally I work as a part of the entertainment industry, but after the coloured shirts, I have always worked behind the scenes. I was behind Resistant Citizen which I’ve always kept a secret. This time I’ve decided to reveal my real name because today many of my fears have disappeared. I feel that if you do something secretly even though you have the same thoughts or ideas for the people, democracy should be the solution for this country. I don’t have anything I need to fear anymore, so I would like to call for other artists have the courage to step out. Society that lives under fear and self-censorship doesn’t work. If we believe in something, we must be brave enough to fight and take a stand for it.
Rap Against Dictatorship is still open for the general public to participate in their activity for 8 bars per person for Prathet Ku Mi. Most recently there have been so many participants it’s become impossible to see with our eyes alone.InterviewRap Against Dictatorship (RAD)Thai rappersfreedom of expression
(Multimedia) Asian relatives show there were more than white men involved in the construction of the Death Railway
Relatives of Asian workers who participated in the construction of the Death Railway have retraced their state-forgotten stories in Thailand 75 years after its completion. The head of the group wants a proper official commemoration and a detailed history to recognize the victims and their countries.
Kanchanaburi’s famous hot sunshine failed to stop tourists from many nations from visiting the Death Railway on 15 October, just one day before the 75th anniversary of the completion of one of the most oppressive wartime railway projects of the Japanese Empire.MultimediaDeath RailwayPrisoners of War (PoWs)Death Railway Interest Group (DRIG)P. ChandrasekaranAsian workersHellfire Pass Memorial Museum
Relatives of Asian workers who participated in the construction of the Death Railway have retraced their state-forgotten stories in Thailand 75 years after its completion. The head of the group wants a proper official commemoration and a detailed history to recognize the victims and their countries.
Kanchanaburi’s famous hot sunshine failed to stop tourists from many nations from visiting the Death Railway on 15 October, just one day before the 75th anniversary of the completion of one of the most oppressive wartime railway projects of the Japanese Empire.
Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum Audio Guide recounts:
“On the 16th of October 1943, 15 months after work first begun, both ends of the Burma-Thailand Railway were joined at Kointaka [Kaeng Khoi Tha, Sangkhla Buri District, Kanchanaburi Province] – not far from the Three Pagodas Pass. With much pomp and a fair amount of ceremony, a well-fed Japanese soldier drove the final spike into a sleeper. The finished railway wound around 415 kilometres of jungle track, and included 688 steel and timber bridges. The cost in human life was savage. It is estimated that approximately 12,800 Allied prisoners of war and up to 90,000 Asian labourers died working on the railway.
Kointaka [Kaeng Khoi Tha, Sangkhla Buri District, Kanchanaburi Province] where the opening ceremony was held on 16 October 1943 (Source:The Australian War Memorial)
Asian workers also worked on the railway (Source: The Global Review)
75 years since the completion of the Death Railway
The Thailand-Burma railway was finished on 16 October 1943 with the aim of transporting troops and supplies of the Japanese Empire to Burma for a planned strike into British India.
The railway was built from 2 ends; one began in Ban Pong, Ratchaburi Province, in Thailand and the other began in Thanbyuzayat, Mon State, in Burma. The tracks met at Konkoita station (now under the Vajiralongkorn dam reservoir).
It took only a year to complete the 415 km railway over rough terrain. Some estimates say that 50% of the Asian workers died from starvation, disease and maltreatment; about 20% of the PoWs died which is outnumber the death toll from Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum, reflecting the variation of the information.
61,811 Allied Prisoners of War are known to have worked in the railway. Some made it back alive and some did not; some are remembered but some are not. Most were recognized and later given a proper burial. On the other hand, over 300,000 Asian workers or “Romusha” as called by the Japanese also worked on the railway, only for many to lose their lives and pass forgotten.
The Romusha mostly came from Vietnam, Java (Indonesia), Malaya, Singapore, Burma, India and Thailand. (The ‘Chinese’ were almost all from Thailand, Malaya and Singapore). Some were drafted in by the Japanese and some came after rumours of good wages.
Sadly, the dead Romusha are commemorated by nothing more than a mass grave by a Buddhist temple and a Japanese cenotaph.Their deaths went unrecognized by the governments where they came from after they became independent.
Despite this lack of recognition, some relatives of dead Romushas came from Malaysia to the site in Thailand this year in order to retrace and pay tribute to their loved ones.
P. Chandrasekaran, Chair of the Death Railway Interest Group (DRIG)
P. Chandrasekaran, Chair of the Death Railway Interest Group (DRIG) brought a group of 13 people to remember their loved ones who lost their lives in the construction. The trip was recorded by his Indian colleagues and will be broadcast in India and Malaysia.
(The purpose is) to bring the family members of victims who built the railway. They have never had a chance to come and see the place. If they come by themselves, they will not know where to go.
We try to retrace the journey of our workers who were brought here. We understood from some survivors that workers were originally taken from various towns in Malaya and brought to the railway.
The DRIG Chair said that 2 of the survivors came with him on the previous trip last February. The next trip will be in the December when Thai officials will hold a commemoration ceremony for the dead.
The primary aim of this trip is basically to tell the world that there is no commemoration held except for the prisoners of war. For the Asian workers who died, there is no commemoration. Not by the Thai, Indian, or Malaysian governments, in fact any government whose people worked on the railway. They’re totally forgotten.
We are trying to make a point. The governments may have forgotten but the people who are affected have not. Six Malaysians came with me; every one of them is affected. Either their grandfather, father, uncle or somebody is affected.
We all are the affected. There are no tourists in this. We’re all affected people. For us it’s an emotional trip.
He also said that the tourist spots and history are all about the white men. And Thai officials tend to narrate the story in the same way.
They (some group members who travelled to the site before) are very disappointed that there is nothing in Thailand to shows that any Asian worker was involved. Everything is about the white man. Even the commemoration is for the white men. Also when the Thai government stages the special programme in December, they make it look like only the white men built the railway.
I have also seen some fliers produced by the Thai Tourism Authority saying that there is a special museum built for the railway. It’s called the JEATH museum. They say it’s named after the 5 countries that built the railway: England, Japan, Australia, Thailand and Holland. They only mentioned that. All of other Asian countries are forgotten.
If you ask me, it is a gross misrepresentation of the facts, because the Asians who worked on this railway far outnumbered the Europeans or Thais. The Thais formed very small number. The Europeans may have formed a 1/3 or a quarter but you forgot the other 3 quarters.
And it is not a private company or enterprise which overlooked it for commercial reasons (which) I can understand, but the Thai Tourism Authority which is a government body is promoting this misinformation.
Although the JEATH War Museum was the initiative by the Abbot of Wat Chaichumpol. However, the TAT promoted its misinformation about the international involvements on its website.
I think they should correct it and give due recognition to the Asian workers. So what I tell them is; if you cannot have the cemetery for these workers, the least you can do is to have a proper monument for the Asian workers.
HighlightDeath RailwayPrisoners of War (PoWs)Death Railway Interest Group (DRIG)P. ChandrasekaranAsian workersHellfire Pass Memorial Museum
Singapore should follow Malaysia in Abolishing Death Penalty as we strive for a Death Penalty free ASEAN Region.
MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is very disappointed that Singapore, which is just one of 4 countries, still conducting execution for drug offences in 2017, has on 26/10/2018 went and hanged 31 year old Malaysian, Prabu Pathmanathan.
Prabu was sentenced to death for committing several acts preparatory to and for the purposes of trafficking 227.82g of diamorphine or heroin into the island state on Dec 31, 2014.(Malaysiakini, 26/10/2018).
According to The Online Citizen(TOC) report, Prabu is just one of a possible 4 persons who were executed this week. TOC reported that ‘Ali Bin Mohamad Bahashwan was executed alongside his co-accused Selamat Bin Paki on Wednesday afternoon (24 October 2018)…. Irwan Ali, a Singaporean, is the other inmate who is set to be executed this Friday…’(TOC, 26/10/2018)
The Singapore Prison Service 2017 annual report showed eight people were executed in 2017, up from four in 2016. Actual statistics of executions carried out in 2018 cannot be confirmed, as Singapore continuous be ‘secretive’ and not transparent with such data. It is believed that there may have already been about 8 executions to date in 2018.
Many a time in Singapore, one becomes aware of upcoming executions, only when immediate family is informed days before, take the trouble to inform anti-death penalty advocates and groups.
The death sentence is provided for drug-related crimes in about 15 countries, but according to Amnesty International only four countries recorded drug offence executions in 2017 – Singapore, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China.(South China Morning Post/SCMP, 26/10/2018)
In reality, the majority of those executed for drug trafficking will not be “kingpins” but are just low-level offenders.
Many may have been driven to crime by reasons of poverty, which really highlights a failure of governments in ensuring the wellbeing and livelihood of its people. Singapore, Malaysia and other States must really look into the link of poverty to crime, and maybe the solution to crime reduction a maybe a caring government policy that will ensure that no one will ever needs to resort to crime out of desperation for the wellbeing of themselves and their families.
Singapore also need to strive to become a more caring and civilized nation, and do away with this archaic ‘death penalty’ just like neighbouring Malaysia, who has already made the decision to totally abolish the death penalty. In Malaysia, the necessary Bills will be tabled at this current Parliamentary Session, that will give effect to the Cabinet decision to abolish the Death Penalty.
MADPET calls on Singapore to follow neighbouring Malaysia and abolish the death penalty, as we strive forward for a more caring and civilized ASEAN where there is no more Death Penalty and Torture.
MADPET also calls on Malaysia to immediately identify Malaysians on death row at risk of being executed in Singapore prisons, and proactively act now to save them from being executed by Singapore. This is a priority, as knowledge about impending executions only come to light at the eleventh hour, and that too in only certain cases.
MADPET further calls on Singapore to impose a moratorium on executions, and abolish the death penalty’Pick to Postdeath penaltySingaporePrabu PathmanathanabolitionMalaysia
The draft cyber security law has raised the concerns of netizens that the state will have more power to seize data from the private sector and individuals. Some fear the law, which still has no clear limits, will be used on a daily basis.
On October 11, the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) organised a public hearing on the Cyber Security Bill. The details triggered fears among Thais that their privacy will be breached.
Netizens and stakeholders expressed concern that ambiguous wording on protecting ‘cyber security’ gives too much power to the state to monitor and collect data across many sectors. Many also fear that it could be used to eliminate political opponents.
As the wave of criticism grew stronger, junta leader Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered a review of the law. But he insisted that a law is necessary in the present day.
Introduction to the Cyber Security Bill: What, Who, How?
What: Defending against incoming cyber threats.
The draft’s general concept is to have a law that allows the state to address, solve and decrease the risk of cyber threats. It calls for cooperation between the public and private sectors by establishing an office and committee to act as policymaker.
There are 4 definitions that you need to know before we dig into more details: Critical Information Infrastructure (CII), Critical Infrastructure (CI), cyber threat and information assets.
CII: A computer or computer system operated by the public or private sector. The system has to be related to the state, the public, or economic security.
CI: IT infrastructural services provided by public or private organizations. The draft defines 8 areas:
- state security
- important public services
- IT or telecommunications
- energy and public utilities
- logistics and transportation
- public health
- Others as deemed necessary by the NCPO
Cyber Threat: An action or event that takes place via a computer or electronic means in order to disrupt or gain access to information assets or attempt to do so, resulting in damage to or destruction of the information assets.
- Computer networks, computer systems and IT systems
- Computers computer equipment, backup tools etc.
- IT data, electronic and computer data.
For example: A hospital (CI) uses a computer network (CII) to store and manage patient records (Information assets). Cyber threats may include activities that damage the functioning of the CII by, for example, hacking, viruses, or DDOS.
Who: A committee and office to be established, with seemingly unlimited oversight of data.
The draft states that a National Cyber Security Committee (NCSC) will be established, along with a supporting office, chaired by the Prime Minister with 13 members: the Ministers of Defence and of Digital Economy and Society, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, the Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, the Secretary-General of the National Security Council, the Governor of the Bank of Thailand and 6 experts in cyber protection, IT technology and communication, privacy data protection, science, engineering, law or other related fields. One member will be appointed Secretary-General.
The position will be given a wide-range power from the draft.
The NCSC Office will coordinate cyber security, through surveillance, warnings, and assistance in defending against, dealing with and decreasing the risk of cyber threats, and disseminating information, studies and research and development.
The Office has the status of a juristic person, not a government agency. It receives an annual budget from the state, but it does not have to send any income from its services or assets back to the treasury as government income.
Article 17 grants the office power to serve as a joint venture or partnership with private companies or other juristic persons with the same objectives, to borrow money in order to achieve its objectives and collect fees, subscriptions, compensation and service charges in its operations.
How: Broad powers to enter homes and seize computers without court orders but low accountability
The draft grants are worrying powers to the Office with reference to ‘cyber threats’ that are vaguely defined. Article 46 empowers the Secretary General to issue letters requesting cooperation in accessing information on:
- the architecture and configuration of the CII and information on related networks
- the function log of the CII or its related networks
- any other data deemed necessary for CII cyber protection
When the Office recognizes or predicts a cyber threat, the draft empowers them to:
- call relevant people to give information about the threat
- request data, documents or copies of these that are in the possession of other people
- question thise who have information on or an understanding of the situation
- access property or premises that is implicated or thought to be implicated with the permission of the owners.
The draft does not specify or give examples of cyber threats, so it cannot be said that sending e-mails, posting on Facebook or the content of videos are not cyber threats. It also pays little attention to the potential misuse of the data it acquires, saying only that the Office has to take care that the data is not used in such a way as to cause damage.
The draft contains preparations for worst case scenarios or serious cyber threats, which means incidents which:
- risk significant damage to IT assets or disrupt CII services
- threaten national security, national defence, international relations, the economy, public health, public safety or public order
- are severe enough to damage or have the potential to cause serious damage to individuals or essential IT assets.
In such cases, the Secretary-General ias empowered to command or direct relevant state agencies to protect against, address and mitigate the threats.
Article 57 empowers the Secretary-General to order owners or users suspected of involvement with cyber threats to:
- monitor computers or computer systems for a certain period.
- check computers or computer systems to look for security breaches.
- take action to resolve threats; clear examples given of this include deleting malicious commands, improving software, temporarily disconnecting computers, changing the routing of malicious data or commands.
- shut down computers or computer systems.
- if necessary, officers can ask for assistance in accessing the suspected computer or computer systems.
Article 58 gives the Secretary-General oppressive powers to protect against, address and mitigate cyber threats by accessing people or physical equipment without a prior request to the court in the following case.
- check facilities with a warning letter to the owners.
- access and make copies of IT assets, screening for suspected IT data or computer programmes.
- test suspected computers or computer systems
- seize any computers or equipment believed to be related to cyber threats for examination and analysis within 30 days, extended for up to 90 days with a request to the civil court.
In emergency cases, the Secretary-General has the authority to request real time data from relevant persons.
The punishments for violating the law are also heavy. Those who fail to act according to orders of the Office and Secretary-General may be fined 100,000-300,000 THB (about 3,000 - 9,000 USD), and a maximum 10,000 THB daily fine from the date of the order to the date action is taken and/or a maximum of 3 years in jail.
The draft barely mentions punishment for the Secretary-General and other officials. Since the Office does not have the status of a state agency, it is not clear whether it is subject to criminal law on the abuse of official power (Article 157).
During the public hearing on Oct 11, many people raised concerns that the law gave the Office and Secretary-General powers that are broad and excessive. Its legal status is also a problem allowing officials to benefit from operations without the restrictions that apply to other state agencies.
Participants also said that the Secretary-General should get permission from the courts before accessing data, facilities and seizing the computer equipment, because the same powers under the Computer Crime Act require court approval.Newscyber security billNational Cyber Security Committee (NCSC)OrwellianElectronic Transaction Development Agency (ETDA)
2-3 years ago, the Thai media paid more interest to the issue of the disabled, judging from the content appearing on television and in online media. I myself became immersed in this issue with the creation of the ThisAble.me website to pose questions about the lives of the disabled, and to explore the doubts of society about the ability and rights of this group and the misconceptions that they have to face. Like ethnic minority women, hidden misconceptions force them to face many forms of inequality, from gender inequality to misunderstandings created from ethnic cultures, as seen in many studies. But how much are disabled ethnic minority women recognized?
I went to Chiang Mai Province with a knowledge about ethnic women from books I had read. For example, they are unable to communicate in Thai, and have no nationality and cannot access health care. The culture is patriarchal. With a broad perspective on disability, I spent 9 days with 2 groups, the Pga K'nyau and the Hmong.
There are now around 1.9 million registered disabled people in Thailand and there is still a large number that have not registered. Many have no work and rely on a living allowance of 800 baht. They still encounter problems of ill-treatment and discrimination, like ethnic minority women who in the past suffered various kinds of oppression, leading to ongoing efforts to change some customs so that the lives of ethnic minority women are made equal, such as creating the custom for Hmong daughters to return home when they are separated from their husbands.
The nonexistent ‘disabled’ Pga K'nyau women
‘Pga K'nyau men think that they must marry a disabled woman out of pity and some Pga K'nyau parents offer their daughters to men without having to go through the traditional ceremony.
Most disabled Pga K'nyau women in the Mae Wang area have a hearing disability. Almost all communicate through sign language that they use in and around their homes. People here do not see disability as something unusual but just the inability to use some organ of the body.
Baeri (pseudonym), 54-years-old, was on her way to gather passion fruit when I interviewed her. She and her brother are deaf because of a ceremony that went wrong at birth. She lives a normal life through sign language. Normally women here marry when they are around 18-20, but Baeri fell in love with her husband ‘Thuan’ when she was 24 and was thought of as being ‘old enough to be a spinster’ in Pga K'nyau society. The couple met because Thuan came to work with Baeri’s brother and got to know her and felt sorry that ‘she had no one who wanted her’ (in the sense that she did not have a family to look after her) so they decided to marry.
Earlier the Pga K'nyau often had arranged marriages but now after the introduction of Buddhism and Christianity, people understand about gender equality because they have had more education. Gender oppression has therefore been reduced but there is still more rape and premarital sex with disabled women than with women in general. This is the case of Tima (pseudonym), a woman with a hearing and intellectual disability, aged 28, who was married eight years ago. Her husband ‘Jaded’ says that he loved and pitied her and wanted to look after her because Tima had no father and her family almost didn’t care about her. He and Tima had sex before they were married eight years ago and she became pregnant. Because they were not married, Tima’s mother gave their son away to someone outside their village and had her sterilized because she thought that she would not be able to look after a child.
Being a disabled Hmong = no access to education
Data from the TCIJ website shows that there are 800,000 disabled children of school age throughout the country but there are few special schools and they are remote. So disabled children who live far away cannot access education, like Tima. She copies the behaviour of those around her, from eating, washing clothes and scooping water to learning to use a washing machine. She uses her free time to practice writing Thai. She never went to school like her brothers and sisters, who went to school normally. These days, her son and Jaded are studying Primary 2 at another village. Tima has never forgotten her child and is always telling Jaded to bring him back.
Even though there are few disabled in proportion to the number of ethnic minority people, most disabled women are told to get sterilized, because there is a risk that they will be raped or get pregnant before marriage. If they don’t know who has raped them and no one takes responsibility, the village will condemn them. They will be accused of having HIV, as in the case of Jarungjit (pseudonym), 26, who has a learning disability. She was raped by someone from another village. The rape made her afraid and upset, but worse than that was that people in the village looked at her as if she had AIDS and was about to die. Everyone beat her to keep her away. A doctor recommended that she be sterilized as protection against pregnancy if she was violated again. But she refused and asked only for a contraceptive injection after an examination showed she did not have HIV. Jarungjit’s mother and stepfather had her married and she moved to be with the man because it was believed that he could look after her. A month later, the man abandoned her and she came back to live with her mother and stepfather again.
Earlier there was very little sexual violence among the Pga K'nyau, but it has slowly increased. Villagers believe that it has happened because of more outsiders coming to settle and the village has become a thoroughfare for surrounding villages. Incidents of rape happen a lot, especially among intellectually disabled women and women with a hearing disability. After a rape, the woman will be married off to the man in accordance with their culture and they often live together for a long time. Only 2 couples have separated.
The scar of what happened to Jarungjit caused depression and she suffers repeated relapses because she has no medicine. Since she separated three years ago, Jarungjit has had no other lover because she is afraid she will not be able to raise a child and she is happy that she may remain unmarried.
4 days is certainly not enough to relate everything that is happening but the signs of change from spirit worship to belief in religion makes people’s beliefs changeable as with the Hmong people. This is in line with the observations of Angsurak Phromsuwan, a student of Hmong women, that Hmong women themselves choose to believe in religion as a way to access education and to form a bargaining group to deal with patriarchal beliefs that they have to face. ‘In the Hmong culture that we see today, even though Hmong families had a good status, boys and girls are not sent to study equally. There is the practice of bride kidnapping and then asking for permission. A Hmong can have an unlimited number of wives for labour. When a woman disappears, the family will know that she has been kidnapped. In the morning, the parents will come to an agreement,’ Angsurak said.
The strong belief in spirits and ancestors among the Hmong is evident when there is a disabled person in the village. Other people will think that disability is caused by something that the ancestors have done in the past rather than an abnormality in pregnancy or an illness that can be explained by medicine. Disabled Hmong people have never been mocked or had their disability talked about because they believe this would anger the ancestors and affect their children and future generations of families with disabled people. So disabled Hmong people are treated well and tradition requires that if a family has a disabled person, the younger brother must become the lifelong caregiver to his older sibling.
Young disabled Hmong woman who has no wedding day
‘Young Hmong women who are disabled will not marry no matter how minor their disability.’
Choen (pseudonym) is a Hmong woman who was born with a small body and rigid legs because of a brain infection at birth. Choen can speak central Thai clearly because she studied from films and plays every day. Even though she is very much into love scenes in plays, she repeats that she is single, has never had a boyfriend and wants to live with her parents. Choen’s younger brother who is sitting nearby interrupts by saying that according to Hmong traditions, disabled women will not marry and will stay with their family all their lives.
As I have said, a belief in religion gives an opportunity to access education and increase one’s networks in the area. The Hmong have relationships with Lao and Phetchabun and even the US, like Chinese families. They have many networks and are expert traders. They stick to their traditions of having children to carry on the family name, like Wichai Phusiriphathanon, who has been married for a long time but has no children. He therefore decided to adopt Malai (pseudonym). Malai, now 17, was adopted when she was 4 days old. There was nothing at all to show that Malai was disabled but when she reached primary school age, she refused to go to school because she was slow and she couldn’t do anything. Her father therefore sent his daughter to a school for the disabled in Chiang Mai city. She left 2 years ago because her petulance meant she did not want to go to school.
Generally Hmong women will marry at about 16-17 years of age, or at Secondary 3 or 4, which is Malai’s age. But this will not happen with Malai. Her father says that his daughter will be the responsibility of the males in the family and he does not want her to leave the house for fear that she will suffer harm if no one is looking after her.
These days even though the custom of bride kidnapping still sometimes happens, it is gradually disappearing. The way of life of young Hmong women is beginning to change as a result of education. When they send their children to study, they follow a city lifestyle. Their attitudes are changing to resemble those of the middle class. Children of the new generation study in good schools, and their parents pick them up and send them. However, city thinking is not all reflected in the village where there are elders who still strictly regulate Hmong culture. Many people may think that accepting city culture may cause problems for the Hmong and make them lose their identity. But for the Hmong, cultural integration is happening harmoniously. Even if accepting city culture makes the Hmong more flexible in their lives, this flexibility makes many disabled women feel that they themselves do not have to stay in the culture of marriage which has been instilled in them.
The ability and opportunity to have to wait for an offer
‘When I was a kid, I could not sit, could not crawl, could not stand, but I wanted to walk so I tried, which was very painful. In the end I could stand and walk but not like other people because my knees are smaller than normal. My mother used to have to carry me around until I was eight or nine when I could help myself and to do daily chores’ Phetkamon said.
Phetkamon (pseudonym), is a 29-year-old woman with a physical disability resulting from diplegia (a condition which makes the muscles rigid, especially in the hips and legs; the knees are bent inwards and walking is difficult). Phetkamon has 5 younger siblings, 4 sisters and the youngest is a brother. Even though Phetkamon is 29, she is still single and lives with her family. In a disrespectful voice she says she doesn’t have to have a family because living alone is more relaxed. She is afraid of thieves, of men, of everything, and she is still building the confidence to live with someone else. She keeps repeating throughout the interview that school was like a second home. English was her favourite subject. As soon as she finished studying she wanted to study languages further but now she is old, she hesitates however much in her heart she wants to be a language teacher.
Phetkamon has lots of things she wants to do from visiting a waterfall and the sea to leaving home and going to work alone. She wants to study more and to learn to drive because she wants to get around without bothering anyone. But people in the family put the brakes on this by telling her she’s raving. ‘How can a disabled person drive?’ ‘You walk just a little way and you get tired; where can you go?’ During the interview the voice of her mother, her sister and her brother gradually got louder in opposition to the things Phetkamon was saying, like wanting to study further, live her own life or learn to drive.
The interviewer felt uncomfortable with this situation, unlike the interviewee. Phetkamon said that these ideas are ‘normal’ in ethnic minority communities. They don’t know anything about disability, they don’t understand or believe in their potential. She is determined, as a disabled person, to study and doesn’t think about love.In earlier days a Hmong man could kidnap a woman that he wanted to marry and raise a family with, by asking his friends to carry the woman off to his home. When the people in the woman’s home saw that their daughter was missing, they knew this was a sign that she had been kidnapped. The next day the man’s side had to bring the woman back home and ask for her hand as the end of the ceremony. When a woman has undergone kidnapping, she must be cut off from her former home and go to live in her husband’s home. Even if they separate, she cannot back to her parents’ home out of the belief that a daughter is like water in a bowl which, once it has been poured out, cannot be put back. At present there are efforts to bring these women home by means of the so-called Phum ceremony or ‘accepting daughters back home’, which has two stages. ‘Likai’ is notification to the elders and the ancestors that the woman has come back as a member of the household and encouragement through a welcome ceremony and blessing from the elders and tying a thread around the wrist so that the woman can return to her former home.
In earlier days a Hmong man could kidnap a woman that he wanted to marry and raise a family with, by asking his friends to carry the woman off to his home. When the people in the woman’s home saw that their daughter was missing, they knew this was a sign that she had been kidnapped. The next day the man’s side had to bring the woman back home and ask for her hand as the end of the ceremony. When a woman has undergone kidnapping, she must be cut off from her former home and go to live in her husband’s home. Even if they separate, she cannot back to her parents’ home out of the belief that a daughter is like water in a bowl which, once it has been poured out, cannot be put back. At present there are efforts to bring these women home by means of the so-called Phum ceremony or ‘accepting daughters back home’, which has two stages. ‘Likai’ is notification to the elders and the ancestors that the woman has come back as a member of the household and encouragement through a welcome ceremony and blessing from the elders and tying a thread around the wrist so that the woman can return to her former home.
The many days I spent with the Hmong and Pga K'nyau were just a short time that challenged the assumptions I had had about disabled women, both on the issue of building a family life and whether they have an identity. Before, it was hard even to imagine what the life of disabled women from ethnic minorities was like.
This exploration of their world tour taught me that the disabled women in this area do not have no access to, or do not know about issues of sex, but they have ways of belief and ways of sex in a pattern of their own. Also the ways of the ethnic minorities themselves do not obstruct the disabled from having relations, but this is a difficult matter for the disabled who want to leave their current path because they have little opportunity to study further, to work, or to tell their story to others.
 Study finds ethnic minority women most exploited, oppressed by ethnic culture-beliefs. 4 still waiting for nationality – no access to law.
 Identity increases one’s power to set one’s own way of life: the disabled leading a free life in Thai society. Kamolpun Punpuing, 2010.
 Study finds ethnic minority women most exploited, oppressed by ethnic culture-beliefs. 4 still waiting for nationality – no access to law.
 Traditional beliefs that repeatedly oppress those who are sexually abused - the voice of ethnic minority women
 Special report: ‘Disabled women (1)’ Jinxed life, raped-sterilised
 Sexuality of the disabled: illusion and attitude
HighlightHmongPga K'nyauethnic minoritydisabilitiesRightsmarriagegenderSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2018/10/78993
Looking at the answers of past Commanders-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army when asked if they would lead a coup or not, after Apirat promises nothing
On 17 Oct 2018, Gen Apirat Kongsompong, Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, gave an interview on the political situation where he insisted that neutrality depends on people’s views, and he is confident that he is neutral. While a question the Commander-in-Chief is often asked is whether the current situation would lead to a coup or not, the Commander-in-Chief asked what would have happened to the country if on that day, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha had not made a decision. He had great hopes that violence would not happen again in Thailand because the military would never defeat the people, while the people came out to set houses on fire or set off explosions. That is what makes the country lose.
“I am confident that if politics is not a reason for riots, then nothing will happen,” the Command-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army said.
‘Those who defame the Institution, if they are not crazy, have to seek asylum.’
To a question about his role in protecting the monarchy, Gen Apirat stressed that the army is the servant of the monarchy, out of both its duty and its respect. The army will protect the monarchy to the utmost of its ability. Lèse-majesté many times occurred because people were mentally abnormal. Others were normal but had strange thoughts and could not stay in the country and had to flee to other countries.
“The people who commit lèse-majesté are mostly mentally abnormal. The people who are normal just have strange thoughts but they cannot stay in Thailand. They have to flee abroad because they can’t stay in Thailand. In our country we have lived under royal protection since the times of our grandparents. Why don’t they realise the debt they have to the country of their birth? There is no one who doesn’t love the country of their birth. The government changes but the monarch has to be with Thailand forever. This is the duty of the army, and I will protect the monarchy with everything that I have,” Gen Apirat said. (Sources: Voice TV and Khaosod)
Turning back to answers by Commanders-in-Chief about coups
Early last year, the Washington Post published an analysis “Where, of all the countries in the world, are coups most likely to occur in 2017?” and Thailand was ranked 2nd, behind Burundi, as the country where a coup is most likely to occur. 3rd was the Central African Republic, 4th Chad and 5th Turkey. At that time (2 Feb 2017), Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart, then Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, asked, so does the media believe it? Westerners can talk. The Thai people have brains; we are the ones here in the area. We know what is what and for this matter I already talked about it on 3 Oct 2016, on the day that I announced my policy to the army when I took up the position of Commander, and I said there won’t be one.
Chalermchai insists “there won’t be one”
When we turn back to 3 Oct this year, Gen Chalermchai said that, if we talk about a coup, then we must ask for what purpose, since in the current situation, we can’t stage a coup. Also, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Prime Minister and NCPO chief, already said that the last coup was the last one and wouldn’t have happened if the people didn’t agree. We can see that in the last 2 coups, the military has become involved in politics and their control of the situation has received an overwhelming response from the people. He said that he is a professional soldier. Whatever the commander says, goes. There aren’t any problems and no one has to worry about a coup because he guarantees that there won’t be one. “A double coup is impossible and won’t happen. I want to erase these words. Don’t worry. Whatever happens is up to the majority of the people in the country. If the government rules with virtue, nothing can happen. I want everyone to forget about a coup and don’t ask me again,” Gen Chalermchai said. (Source: Manager Online)
Teerachai smiles, but doesn’t answer
On 30 Sept 2015 after the Commander-in-Chief transition ceremony, Gen Teerachai Nakwanich, the then new Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, answered the question whether there was going to be a coup during his term. Gen Teerachai only smiled without saying anything before immediately returning to the Royal Thai Army headquarters. (Source: Manager Online)
Udomdej affirms that there definitely won’t be one
On 8 June 2015, Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, then Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army and Minister of Defence, answered a question about rumours concerning another coup after news concerning the monarchy. Gen Udomdej said that there definitely wouldn’t be one. The army was still sticking to the government’s policy and the Prime Minister. Everything was going according to his wish to make the country stable. Organisations under the government were also cooperating well. The army was fully ready to help the government and the Prime Minister. (Source: Bangkokbiznews)
Prayut gave answers that started as chaotic to a question that can’t be answered.
Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister and Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), when he was still the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, talked of matters concerning coups at least 10 times in interviews. The first time was on 8 Oct 2013 when there was a movement to push forward the Amnesty Bill. Gen Prayut said not to demand that the military come out. If they come out, it’ll be chaotic. Up till 20 May 2014, the day Martial Law was enforced throughout the country, he said in interviews that a coup is a question that can’t be answered. Two days later, the NCPO announced it was taking over from the acting government at that time and it has been in power for more than 4 years.
28 Oct 2013 – Don’t demand that the military come out. If they come out, it’ll be chaotic. (In response to the media, on concerns about the Amnesty Bill.)
4 Nov 2013 – Every time the military comes out, they come out under a legal order, not when they want to. (In answering the question whether the military come out if the protests against the Amnesty Bill continued to drag on.)
8 Dec 2013 – If the military carries out a reform (coup) again and solves the issue the wrong way, other problems will recur. How will Thailand stand among the world community then? (Confirming that no matter happens at the People's Democratic Reform Committee’s major protest on 9 Dec 2013, the military will not come out.)
7 Jan 2014 – Rumours are news that isn’t true. So don’t believe them. (Denying rumours that military movements at that time were for a coup.)
22 Jan 2014 – Today we have to abide by the rules. We cannot do anything outside the rules because the armed forces carry weapons. (In response to the government announcement enforcing the Emergency Degree in Bangkok and surrounding areas.)
24 Feb 2014 – What the military is doing right now must abide by the constitutional law. (Reading a statement on the position of the army towards the political situation on Channel 5, the Royal Thai Army Radio and Television Station)
25 March 2014 – By what rules would I become Prime Minister? (A question back to Nattawut Saikua, who stated that Gen Prayut is also one of the candidates to become a compromise Prime Minister)
9 April 2014 – The military’s position right now is to not side with those that break the law. (In response to a speech by Suthep Thaugsuban, Secretary-General of the PDRC, on sovereignty.)
10 May 2014 –The military should be kept as a last resort. I believe that a coup wouldn’t end anything. (Leaving a message on the show Lab Luang Prang, insisting that the army has to be resolute and cannot act according to others’ demands.)
20 May 2014 – A coup d’état is a question that cannot be answered. (As Director of the Peace and Order Maintaining Command, in answer to a question on the concept of appointing a Prime Minister under Article 7 after the declaration of Martial Law.)
Anupong insists that there definitely won’t be one
On 27 Dec 2009 Gen Anupong Paochinda, then Commander-in-Chief, answered a question about whether it is possible to close the door on coups d’état. If next year something occurs and blood is shed, Gen Anupong said “if I issue an order that is wrong, I think they wouldn’t follow it. The military doesn’t take sides. Anything that allows the country to continue moving forward and exist. Thai people cannot fight each other. The military won’t allow that to happen. At the same time, don’t do anything illegal because we can’t live like that. I will confirm that next year there won’t be any bloodshed and definitely no coup. We have many other ways to solve the issues of the nation and I think that most people wouldn’t consent. I believe that no one would. I won’t let it reach that point. I believe that. Anyone who thinks that there will be a coup can forget it. I think there’s no way.” (Source: Prachatai)
Sonthi ‘There probably won’t be one.’
“There probably won’t be one. We have to be resolute. Don’t believe these trends that will diminish our unity.” Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin answered a question on rumours of a coup before a real coup occurred later (19 Sept 2006).
On 25 Nov 2005, Gen Sonthi also said not to be worried about a coup since a coup would cause damage to the country.
Many years after Gen Sonthi left power , Maj. Gen. Sanan Khachonprasat asked him a question on 21 March 2012 about who was behind the coup on 19 Sept 2006. Gen Sonthi answered “Some questions cannot be answered even after death”. (Source:HighlightCommander-in-ChiefRoyal Thai ArmGen Apirat KongsompongGen Prayut Chan-o-chacoup makersspeech
Thailand has always been a diverse place of people of different racial, cultural, physical and mental backgrounds. Unfortunately, we seem to forget to include this vital concept in our social policies.
Indeed, diversity is more than a mere buzz word. With expanding regionalism, Thai businesses’ greater incorporation of individuals with different conditions and abilities into their workforce can enhance their productivity while helping contribute to social and economic progress as a whole.
Unfortunately, when we examine how Thais learn about diversity or how to manage workforce of diverse backgrounds, it seems that the centrality of ‘Thai identity’ can distort the issue. It has remained unspoken and under-utilised, thanks to the growing sentiment of ‘Thainess’ and the rising trend of nationalism in this society!
But Thailand’s greater adoption of diversity management can happen and it can start at schools.
Thailand needs people who understand this concept and practice it. We need business operators, owners, managers, educators, and leaders who are fully aware of the challenges of diversity in the current global and local context.
The creation of ethical and diversity sentinels at school level is truly important. Thai educators need to commit themselves more to teach and promote diversity management in their curriculum.
Diversity gives all organisations access to a greater range of ideas and global connectedness, not just the talent that belongs to a particular world-view or some other restricting definition. Management of diversity will provide insight into the needs and motivations of all of stakeholders.
The dilemma in learning and teaching of diversity in Thai schools is to move or not to move beyond the nationalist sentiments. At present, two scenarios have emerged.
Known as “continued globalisation,” the first scenario is a positive one that has been widely discussed among the ‘globalists’. Emerging economies and/or hyper growth in trade have been a major conduit of overall world growth and reduction in poverty. We believe in the power of diversity.
Research shows that promotion of diversity in developed countries, such as Australia and Germany, is related to higher political participation among their citizens, people engagement in social policies, and decreases in poverty and upgrades in economic and technological capabilities. Good education can accelerate the level of diversity worldwide.
On the other hand, we are still experiencing Thais who criticise diversity and mobility of people as the negative consequence of globalisation. We still witness issues such as nationalism, homophobia, sexist, discrimination among migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, lack of legal and social systems to promote equality among migrant workers in Thailand.
In the current climate, we have seen actions that explain the lack of understanding of diversity from the Governmental policies such as threatening unregistered migrant workers with long prison terms and large fines. This poor understanding of basic diversity leads to corruption among officials and unscrupulous employers to abuse and exploit the workers.
Obviously, we do not comprehend the concept of diversity.
The debate on diversity management in Thai education remains sluggish, although almost all universities offer business and management degrees aiming at producing managers of global standard.
There are two important points that Thai schools should consider when they develop their management curriculum.
The first issue is “how to teach high-level diversity management in the curriculum?” There are, in fact, a wide range of learning and teaching activities that can help students recognise the essential humanity and value of different types of people. This is a good starting point.
If we start from the classroom level, our business students will be able to design a strong organisational framework on diversity management, which is still lacking in Thailand. This framework can be developed after the introduction of national legislation designed to promote equal opportunity in society at all levels. We need more role models when to comes to diversity in Thailand.
We should encourage both public and provate organisations to be the role models in issues such as skills promotion for people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and interest (LGBTQI)staff and their rights, equality among men and women at work, older workers in the Thai workforce, and acknowledgements of migrant workers in the contemporary Thai economy.
Role models who demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities from diverse backgrounds, and make social contributions in a non-stereotypical way will help students recognise the meaningful and limitless ways in which they can have a positive impact on society.
More importantly, we need to teach the future business leaders to be clear on “what they want to achieve” in developing diversity policies.
There are a number of lessons-learnt on the fundamental error of failing to align corporate’s diversity practices with their goals. Some Thai business organisations aim to promote potential of diverse teams, by then implement diversity policies, primarily designed to foster the representation of certain social groups in leadership positions. Without understanding a clear objective of diversity, they will fail and give up on such policies. Only by understanding what the ultimate goal is can they have a chance of reaching it.
Diversity policies must be researched, assessed for effectiveness, and implemented with care so that everyone in our society can feel valued and supported. Socially, we are becoming more knowledgeable about, and accepting of, individuals with unique conditions and abilities, which is generating an ecosystem of inclusiveness. Thai schools will need to serve the real change when it comes to diversity in our society.
Nattavud Pimpa is an associate professor in international business at the College of Management, Mahidol University.OpinioneducationdiversitypovertyNattavud Pimpa
On the morning of 9 August, a bus stopped in the market area of the town of Dahyan in northern Yemen, close to the border with Saudi Arabia. People at the scene reported that warplanes had been circling the area for an hour or so, a common occurrence. The area was crowded with civilians. Well, it is a market.
A Saudi Arabian fighter jet then made a direct hit on the bus. CNN claimed to have found a fragment of the bomb. This has markings that identify it as a 500-pound laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin and sold to the Saudi government with the approval of the US government (earning valuable export income, well done).
The bodies of some of the victims were so pulverized that an accurate count of the number of casualties is not possible, but the best guess is 51 dead and about the same number injured, maybe more.
The identity of the occupants of the bus is not in doubt. A video clip was taken from a mobile phone inside the bus just before it was hit. It shows a bunch of schoolboys, mostly under 10, having a whale of a time. They were on a rare school outing and had stopped at the market for a drink.
The phone survived. Its owner did not.
The reaction of the Saudi government to news of the bombings was forthright and unapologetic. They had attacked enemy missile launchers that had been used to fire rockets into southern Saudi Arabia (none of which hit any school bus, by the way).
The Saudi Press Agency put out a quote from Col Turki Al-Malki, official spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition that dominates one side of the Yemen civil war and a US-trained pilot of the Royal Saudi Air Force. He said the bombing was ‘a legitimate military action, conducted in conformity with the International Humanitarian Law’. (Don’t you love the way they put that in capitals?)
When he was appointed spokesman, Col Al-Malki said that he would ‘continue to transparently and openly communicate about its military campaign to support the legitimate government of Yemen’. Yes, of course, that’s what military spokesmen do the world over. Like in Thailand. He’s since gone on to complain, transparently and openly, about ‘biased’ UN reports of civilian casualties.
As footage of small corpses started appearing in the international news, there was a slight shift in the Saudi story. It accused the Houthis (the other side in the civil war) of deliberately using children as human shields.
By September 1, the story had changed again. Lt Gen Mansour al-Mansour, head of the ‘Joint Incidents Assessment Team’ of the Saudi-led coalition, apologized for the ‘collateral damage’ and promised compensation to the families of bystanders who were killed and injured.
Bystanders? Ah, no, you see, they were still claiming that the bus contained Houthi military personnel. You know, those people who were hiding when the video was taken and whose corpses must have vaporized into thin air. So they did hit the right target, but unfortunately in the wrong spot, i.e. the middle of a crowded market.
Lt Gen al-Mansour may not be an altogether reliable source. He is a Bahraini military lawyer (and we in Thailand well know what an oxymoron that can be). His main claim to fame, apart from lying for the Saudis, was running a tribunal in Bahrain in the wake of the Arab Spring protests. Hundreds of non-violent protestors were handed lengthy jail terms (some got life). Claims of torture and sexual assault in detention were routinely ignored. He also regularly closed his court to the media and human rights monitors.
In his role as head of the Joint Incidents Assessment Team, Lt Gen al-Mansour has looked into Saudi airstrikes against civilian targets like hospitals, weddings, funerals, the list goes on and on. And blow me if they didn’t all turn out to be perfectly legitimate and in conformity with whatever he thinks ‘international humanitarian law’ might be.
Now at the time of the Dahyan attack, there were calls for some kind of international action to be taken against the Saudi government in the hope of preventing the murders of even more children. These came from the regular bleeding-heart suspects: the human rights and aid agencies, the UN, the Red Cross.
The US asked for ‘an investigation’. (Well, they got one, didn’t they? All nice and freshly whitewashed.) The UK, who alongside the US dominates arms sales to the Saudi government, expressed ‘concern’. No, I do them a disservice. It was in fact ‘deep concern’. End of story.
Now fast forward to 2 October.
A US-resident Saudi national goes into the Royal Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and never comes out again. The Turkish authorities, citing surprisingly detailed evidence that has not been made public, say he was murdered by a group of government and military ‘tourists’ who flew in from Riyadh on private jets and flew out again a day later, carrying, it is alleged, a bone saw in their luggage.
And all hell breaks loose.
Well, not quite all. As I write, Trump and his apologists are still trying to stitch together some flimsy fig leaf for his autocratic friends in Riyadh.
But the shine has suddenly come off Crown Prince Mohammad ‘MBS’ bin Salman. Even the corporate sector has found enough conscience to start deserting in droves his forthcoming ‘Davos in the Desert’ Future Investment Initiative conference. There was not a peep out of the lot of them when 40-odd kids got incinerated by the same guilty party.
Why the difference?
Well putative assassinee Jamal Khashoggi is no hick from some dusty Arabian desert town.
Under previous management, he was advisor to the Saudi royal family. His father was royal doctor to the first king of the Sauds. One of his uncles was Adnan Khashoggi, an arms trader and general wheeler-dealer who accumulated US$4bn, numerous charges of fraud and racketeering, and a starring role in the Iran-Contra scandal. A cousin is Mohamed Al-Fayed, erstwhile owner of Harrod’s and Fulham football club, which automatically means Khashoggi was also a relative of Mohamed’s son Dodi Al-Fayed, who died in a high-profile high-speed car crash in Paris with his girlfriend whose name escapes me for the moment.
Translation: he is a fully-paid-up, card-carrying member of the 1%.
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman can kill as many ordinary Yemenis as he likes, either directly by dropping bombs on them or indirectly death by starvation or disease. And the 1% – government, corporate or hiso – will turn not a hair.
Just don’t touch one of their own.
About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).Alien ThoughtsSaudi ArabiaYemenJamal KhashoggiCrown Prince Mohammad bin SalmanArab Spring
The Supreme Court has dismissed the charges against 6 Kalasin police officers over the hanging of a 17-year-old youth, who allegedly stole a motorcycle during the drug war. It stated that witness testimony was unreliable, unconvincing and not credible, and gave the accused the benefit of the doubt.
On 11 Oct 2018, the Criminal Court, Ratchadaphisek Road, read the verdict of the Supreme Court for the murder of Kiattisak Thitbunkhrong and its cover-up during the war on drugs. The case was brought by the Public Prosecutor of the Department of Special Litigation 1 against 6 defendants, former police officers of Kalasin Provincial Police Station, on charges of first degree murder, moving a corpse for the purpose of concealing the cause of death and acting improperly in their position as officers with the power to investigate criminal cases to help a person or persons to escape punishment.
Thaipost newspaper reported that the court summoned from prison the first 3 defendants, Pol Sen Sgt Maj Angkhan Khammunna, aged 54, Pol Sen Sgt Maj Sutthinan Nonthing, 49, and Pol Sen Sgt Maj Phansin Uppanan, 48. The 4th defendant, Pol Lt Col Samphao Indi, 57, former Inspector (Suppression), Kalasin Provincial Police Station, and 6th defendant Pol.Lt.Col. Sumit Nansathit, 51, former Deputy Superintendent of Kalasin Provincial Police Station, who had been given bail, were also summoned to court, while the 5th defendant Pol. Col. Montri Sibunlue, 68, former Superintendent of Kalasin Provincial Police Station, is on the run (all ranks at the time).
The Court read the verdict of the Supreme Court, which stated that the prosecutor had only one witness and no eyewitness. The testimony was scrutinized many times, and was found to be unreliable and not credible. Moreover, the 6 defendants have always denied the offence. It is therefore doubtful if they really committed the offence, and so were given the benefit of the doubt. The prosecuting statement and prosecutor sounded unreasonable. The court ordered the case against all 6 defendants dismissed.
This killing occurred on 22-23 July 2004. The 1st-3rd and 6th defendants together allegedly killed Kiattisak Thitbunkhrong, aged just over 17, accused of stealing a motorcycle, by taking him out of Kalasin Provincial Police Station, strangling him to death and hanging the corpse to cover up the crime. All 6 defendants denied all charges.
On 6 September, the Court issued an arrest warrant for Pol. Col. Montri, the 5th defendant and confiscated his bail of 1 million baht because he did not attend the verdict of the Supreme Court.
The Court of First Instance issued its verdict on 30 July 2012, sentencing the 1st-3rd defendants to the death penalty for murder and moving a corpse for the purpose of concealing the cause of death. The 6th defendant received a life sentence for murder. The 5th defendant was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment for acting improperly as an officer with the power to investigate criminal cases and the 4th defendant was acquitted. The prosecutor, joint prosecutor, and the defendants appealed. The Court of Appeal examined the case, held a consultation meeting and issued an amended verdict. The 1st-3rd defendants were found guilty of first-degree murder and moving a corpse for the purpose of concealing the cause of death. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Court of First Instance’s sentence of death for the 1st and 3rd defendants, but the testimony of the 2nd defendant was beneficial to the case and his sentence was reduced to 50 years imprisonment. In addition, the 4th defendant was guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death, but the defendant gave testimony beneficial to the case and the sentence was mitigated to life imprisonment. The 5th and 6th defendants were found guilty of acting improperly as officers with the power to investigate criminal cases but the Court of First Instance’s sentence of 7 years imprisonment was judged too heavy and was reduced to 5 years imprisonment.
This killing occurred in 2004, while the drug suppression policy of the government of Thaksin Shinawatra was being implemented. Many deaths and disappearances occurred at that time.
The Human Rights Lawyers Association stated that this case is an example reflecting the improper conduct of police officers and is rare in that the state officials were brought before the judicial process, but it was not easy. During the 12 years that the case was being heard, the relatives of the victim had to travel and file complaints with many agencies. There were repeated threats made against relatives and witnesses. Important witnesses disappeared, and some died in mysterious circumstances.Newswar on drugsKiattisak ThitbunkhrongKalasin Provincial Police StationSupreme Courtcriminal justiceSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2018/10/79102
Since Thailand declared war on drugs 15 years ago, harsh suppression measures have been imposed and at the same time proven themselves ineffective. The number of drug offences continues to rise. Given the limited resources of the Thai justice system, Thai prisons are overcrowded, and over 70 per cent of inmates are convicted for drugs. In March 2018, the Department of Corrections revealed that Thailand had 334,279 inmates, 247,344 of whom were convicted for drug offences and most are merely users or retailers while the drug lords are rarely punished.
Policymakers in recent years have therefore proposed the slogan “a user is a patient,” the idea that drug users should be taken care of by hospitals or other healthcare agencies, rather than prisons. One genuine attempt by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is NCPO Announcement 108/2014 on the Treatment for Drug Suspects. The order allows suspects who caught in possession a small quantity of drugs to undergo rehabilitation in exchange for having their charges withdrawn.
Also, the NCPO is drafting a new Narcotics Act which, according to one drafter, will treat drug users more humanely. Jitnara Nawarat a member of the National Legislative Assembly responsible for revising the Narcotics Act, stated that the current rehabilitation is wasteful because it treats users as criminals as soon as the process begins.
Jitnara explained when users are arrested, they will immediately be sent to prison and detained there for up to 45 days. During detention, the authorities classify users based on their level of addiction and send them to receive treatment at appropriate agencies, which could be hospitals, military camps or private rehabilitation centres. Drug users have to undergo the whole process, which could take over a year; otherwise they receive criminal punishment. But even if they finish the session, their criminal records remain.
“Users are not really patients because they have to be detained in prison for at least 15 to 45 days. For them, entering the prison is equivalent to being arrested. The places of detention are also seriously overcrowded. It is like this because, by the time the law came into force, no extra budget was provided for the new measures. So prisons have had to be used instead of hospitals during the process of classification before rehabilitation. As a result, those who were prosecuted are ready to escape at any time. This is the waste of rehabilitation,” Jitnara stated.
Although the drafter confirms that the new law will improve the treatment of drug suspects, the readiness of Thai agencies to embrace the new measure remains questionable.
Net cast wide to find “patients”
One of the police methods to search for drug users is to set up security checkpoints and ask people passing by to take urine tests. If the test is positive, the user will be sent to a rehabilitation course regardless of their level of addiction.
Legally, police officers have no authority to perform a urine test unless they hold a certificate granted by the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB). The urine test can be done only after a person is accused of a drug offence or driving under the influence. In practice, however, even taxi passengers have to undergo urine tests if the authorities ask.
Veeraphan Ngammee, of the Ozone Foundation, an NGO which promotes harm reduction in drug use, pointed out that the urine test is the easiest way for the authorities to find drug users as they have to meet annual quotas set by their commanders.
“The state believes that those who possess narcotic substances must be rehabilitated which leads to quotas in terms of numbers. They predict how many drug users each year should be the target for arrest to be sent to rehabilitation,” Veeraphan said.
However, Niyom Termsrisuk, Senior Narcotics Control Advisor at the ONCB, argued that although the police set a quota of around 62,000 drug cases per year, they only target drug dealers.
But the problem comes with the legal definition of “drug dealers”. Thai law distinguishes users from dealers based on the amount e they possess. To illustrate, those who carry more than five methamphetamine tablets are considered dealers although they have no intention to sell.
When the strict legal definition combines with the annual drug offence quota , many users every year are unnecessarily subject to rehabilitation without consent which leads to further ineffectiveness and a waste of resources.
Problems stemming from lack of consent
Dr. Lumsum Lukanapichonchut, Deputy Director of the Thanyarak Institute, explained that when patients do not consent to undergo rehabilitation in the first place, they are less likely to give true information to avoid unnecessary treatment.
“The urine test only tells whether at that time a person has narcotic substance in their body or not. To tell whether they are just a user or an addict, we have to talk in detail and the addict must tell the truth which is an issue where they have an interest one way or the other. They don’t tell the truth. They say things that make them look OK,” Lamsam said.
More importantly, not all users will be taken care by healthcare officials. Thai rehabilitation has three systems for different types of users. The first is the voluntary system for those themselves who choose to walk into a hospital to receive treatment. The second is the compulsory system for those who are arrested for minor drug offences and decide to undergo rehabilitation instead of criminal punishment. The last is the punishment system for those convicted for any crime who have a history of drug use.
According to the Public Health Ministry, in 2017, the voluntary system provided treatment for 67,413 cases, the compulsory system 24,834, and punishment system 20,700. Only those who voluntarily go to a hospital are certain to be treated by professional physicians while either security or administrative agencies take care of the other two systems. Patients under the compulsory system can be divided into two groups -- rehab with and without detention.
Patients in the first group will be detained for four to six months at a Drug Addict Rehabilitation Center (DARC). The second group also have to undergo a 12-day-long rehabilitation programme at this centre. After finishing the DARC session, both groups also have to report and pass a urine test every month for one year. If they fail to report for the urine test just once, they will receive criminal punishment. This reflects that the system end-goal is to force these people to stop using drugs, instead of helping them to use drugs safely.
Thailand has 90 DARCs across the country, 57 of them under the supervision of the military and the police, 20 under the Public Health Ministry, 11 under the Ministry of Interior and the other two under the Justice Ministry. This means that health experts are not involved in the care of nearly 80 per cent of the patients.
Shortage of resources and social stigma
Lastly, the punishment system is for inmates convicted of any crime who have a history of drug use. They will undergo rehab in the prison which detains them. With the current shortage of resources in overcrowded prisons the Department of Corrections cannot provide proper treatment to all inmates.
Pornpan Sinlapawuttanaporn, a psychologist from the Corrections Department (CD), revealed that Thai prisons have over 100,000 inmates with a record of drug use, but the Department has the capacity to take care of only some 20,000 cases per year. Most of the rehab programme uses Buddhist meditation and therapeutic communities conducted by wardens who receive training by CD psychologists.
Pornpan stated that CD only has 22 professional psychiatrists to take care of over 300,000 inmates in 142 prisons nationwide. The CD, therefore, has to hold annual training sessions to educate wardens about drug addiction therapy, but the problem remains as prison staff are reshuffled every year. For instance, a warden who currently works in drug rehab section might next year be shifted to the education section.
Untreated side-effects of drug use can also lead to more severe mental disorders, Pornpan added. She said the CD has provided treatment to about 3,000 inmates with mental illness and 300 of them were diagnosed as the result of drug use.
These stories show that Thailand still lacks the readiness to treat ‘users as patients’ which is what it tries to promote. According to Dr. Lamsam, the problem stems from the fact that the social stigma that sees drug users as threats and criminals remains very strong. This stigma is reflected in the healthcare system; for example, the social security fund does not cover drug addiction treatment.
Non-government employees who want to withdraw from addiction have to rely on 30-baht universal healthcare scheme, where the NCPO is trying to limit the budget. Although government employees’ welfare includes drug addiction treatment, fewer people use it since a record of drug treatment might sabotage their future careers.
“People in general still see drug users as criminals. In western countries, they don’t see drug use as a serious matter. It can be solved. They view drug users the same as people addicted to alcohol and tobacco. They see it as a personal problem, not a criminal problem. In Thai society, it’s not like that. So if we gradually fix this attitude, when people finish rehab, they can have a job and continue a normal life,” Lamsam added.Highlightdrug policy reformOffice of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB)Ozone FoundationDrug Addict Rehabilitation Center (DARC)rehabilitationNarcotics Actcriminal justice
Everyone around the world is becoming aware of artificial intelligence (AI) or robots because their ability is constantly developing and they are likely to replace many jobs in the near future. What is the situation in Thailand? Are workers losing their jobs? Does Thai labour law provide adequate protection? Is the government keeping up? This report will take a look at the state of the problem and the calls for solutions.
Illustration by Nattapon Kaikeaw
Types of robots
Let us first establish an understanding that automation is divided into 3 levels.[i]
1. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are robots with simple automatic software that can do the regular or routine work of humans, such as basic accounting. 2. Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) is technology that helps repetitious human work or work that needs strength. These robots can do easy technology, but humans ultimately must still decide. 3. Artificial Intelligence or AI is the final stage of automation. Robots can learn, develop and decide on the best alternative from the specified variables. One example is a chatbot or a digital person who can communicate with customers and manage complaints about services.
In 2017[ii], the use of robots and automation in Thailand had an overall import value of 266 billion baht and the trend was increasing, while exports were valued at 134 billion baht.
Human development strategy and Thailand 4.0
In the middle of 2017, Mom Luang Puntrik Smiti, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate in the establishment of a Manufacturing Automation and Robotics Academy (MARA)[iii] between the Director-General of the Department of Skill Development and the Chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries to develop the capacity of the labour force so that it has up-to-date skill standards for technological change and to support the economic development policies of the government such as the Thailand 4.0 policy. A cabinet resolution approved a new Amata University programme for a Master of Science (M.S.) in Engineering (Intelligent Manufacturing Systems) of the National Taiwan University in Thailand, emphasizing the use of robots to assist in automated production lines and autonomous vehicles.
If we take an overall view, the Fiscal Policy Office (FPO)[iv] reveals that AI will help increase the GDP of developed countries by 1.7 times by 2035 and will help increase global labour productivity by about 30-40%. It will help increase profits in all branches of production. In these studies, about 100 million low-skilled domestic and construction workers in ASEAN are at risk of losing their jobs in the next 20 years.
Research also shows that 44% of the workforce in the automobile and automobile parts industries are at high risk of unemployment.
Are no workers losing jobs because of robots?
However, if we look at official data, the Ministry of Labour[v] says that there have not yet been layoffs from the introduction of robots, but it cannot be known if there will be mass layoffs in the future. Thailand cannot be complacent about this trend, but if we look at the latest 2016 Welfare and Labour Protection Statistical Report on its website, and data collected on cases of workers submitting appeals and visits to companies, we find that in 2016, there were layoffs at 41 companies involving 2,778 workers, an increase of 68.9% from the previous year. The layoffs were mostly caused by technological change and downsizing. ‘Technological change and downsizing’ may come in many forms, but the introduction of automation is believed to be among them.[vi]
Bank of Thailand research
The future for labour is still a matter of concern. The March 2018 research study ‘Industrial Robots and Their Impact on the Labour Market’[vii] from the Bank of Thailand (BOT) helps to confirm this by stating that even if automation does not have any immediate severe effect on labour in the industrial sector overall, it will have the effect of laying off people doing repetitious work, making work harder to find and reducing wages.
From these examples studies it is found that (1) workers affected by robots are those doing clear rule-based work; (2) new factories using fully automated systems will affect the hiring of new entrants to the labour market, for example, making it more difficult for holders of Vocational Certificates of Education in commercial subjects to find work compared with the past; (3) existing outsourced workers will become unemployed. Some workers will have to learn new skills demanded by new machinery, and younger workers can adjust quickly while older workers will find it difficult to adapt.
How much protection can the labour laws give?
Legal protection related to layoffs due to the introduction of robots or technology or changes in technology is enacted in Articles 121, 122 and 118 of the 1998 Labour Protection Act which require the employer to pay more compensation than normal. Has this legal process actually been used to protect labour? This is an important question.
Chokedee Kaewsang, Deputy Secretary General of the Board of Investment, states that the automobile industry, especially car producers, and the electronics industry have invested in converting production lines completely to the use of robots and automated systems and producers of parts in the supply chain for the 2 industries have also begun to convert.
The voice of the Federation of Thailand Automobile Workers Unions
Thailand is a primary base of the global automobile industry and has introduced a large number of robots in production. The Federation of Thailand Automobile Workers Unions has 54 unions as members with a total of around 30,000 workers.
Visut Ruangrit Sirijunyaporn Jangthonglang
An interview with Visut Ruangrit, Deputy President of the Federation and Sirijunyaporn Jangthonglang, Deputy President of the Women’s Section of the Federation, revealed that at present, this industry has not yet had very many layoffs as a result of conversion to robotic or automated systems. But as far as these systems are used out of necessity, there are two issues. First, buyers increase production quantity or buyers choose to use technology or robots in production. Second, it is work that is dangerous.
Visut said also that if many robots are introduced on a continuous production line such as car assembly, the workers have to keep up with the robots, so there is pressure to manage the work in front of them so that the process can continue to function. But if the workers are placed at separate points, the robots cannot exert much pressure.
The case of Toyota and voluntary layoffs programme
The interesting case study is the Toyota Motor Thailand Company’s change of production technology by using a ‘voluntary layoff programme’ so that workers did not receive special compensation payments according to the Labour Protection Act.
Photo from voicelabour.org
In 2009, a programme called ‘Leaving Happily’ was offered to about 800-1,000 sub contracted workers. About 40% all those in the production process of a total of 750,000 employees volunteered to leave.
The Deputy President of the Federation of Thailand Automobile Workers Unions stated that when there was news of releasing workers, the employers told the media that this programme came about because of few buying orders. It was necessary to reduce the number of people to survive. But when the Ministry of Labour[viii] gave an interview to the media, they instead said that the reason was the introduction of robots or technology and up to date machinery to replace labour. Some employees who were laid off came to the Federation because they had not received their rights under the law and insisted that robots had sometimes been introduced into the production line. Robots had not been introduced suddenly but in succession.
Visut pointed out that employers used programmes that avoided voluntary resignation because if the layoffs were because of the introduction of robots or technology to replace them, workers would then have the right to compensation under Sections 121 and 122 of the Labour Protection Act.
The position of the Federation on the Toyota case was to demand[ix] that employees should at least get their rights according to the law because these programmes make employees lose the right to social unemployment insurance since they get only 3 months unemployment benefit instead of 6 months because social insurance specifies that they themselves have resigned and not been laid off.
The President of the Federation of Thailand Automobile Workers Unions stated that this case had the effect of beginning to alert workers. Groups of workers in the Federation began to make demands in negotiations if there were layoffs of employees for unusual reasons, including the introduction of robots and up to date technology.
The President of the Federation raised the case of the Thailand Auto Part and Metal Workers Union which called for and on 20 December 2017 got an agreement with the company on higher compensation than stipulated in the law. The Union had workers from 13 companies and submitted the demand to all 13, but only 4-5 companies accepted the demand.
Illustration by Nattapon Kaikeaw
When robots do not join the union!
Another interesting case is Thai Suzuki Motor Co. Ltd. in Thanyaburi District, Pathum Thani Province where robots were introduced more than 20 years ago. Thongchai Romyenpensuk, President of the Thai Suzuki Workers Union, who has worked for the company for almost 28 years, reported that the factory introduced robots in the welding department in 1997 and was able to reduce the number of people on the assembly line. That may be the reason why the employer began more negotiations with the labour union at that time, because the main bargaining method used by workers were slowdowns. But when the employer introduced more robots, the slowdown tactic was difficult to practise, as the robots kept going all the time.
From this, proposals were made to the state, the private sector and even organizations responsible for protecting the rights of labour like unions and the labour movement itself.
BOT proposes emphasis on supporting 3 labour groups
The BOT research study ‘Industrial Robots and Their Impact on the Labour Market’ proposes that the state pay special attention to 3 groups of workers doing repetitive work: (1) labour that cannot adjust and so is laid off; (2) labour that cannot adjust and even if not laid off must raise their skill level; (3) school leavers for whom it will be harder to find work in many fields from now on.
What is required is: (1) More directly relevant skills training and learning for workers; (2) Compiling data on labour by increased surveys from the entrepreneurs’ side stressing the participation of all sides in amassing and applying information directly with target groups; (3) Provision of social protection by alleviating the impact only on laid-off workers as a mechanism of last resort to give short-term help, such as the Government Jobs Guarantee by making the state the employer of last resort with the responsibility of hiring the unemployed especially in creating work in professions where labour is short such as caring for the elderly or the arts, by paying a wage high enough to allow people to live.
Proposal from civil society
A collaborative policy project to strengthen civil society organizations supported by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (THPF) organized a forum at the beginning of 2018 to develop public policy proposals from the civil society sector. It drafted public policy proposals to create well-being in an aging society. One of the many proposals related to cases where companies introduced labour-saving technology, specifying that:
- The state must amend the 1998 Labour Protection Act by specifying a special layoff compensation fund and make the compensation payments fair.
- For increased productivity, the state and employers must cooperate to promote the opening of non-formal education centres in industrial zones.
- Companies must be required to set up a fund for the protection of labour rights with employers contributing to the fund as insurance so that when businesses are given up, employees have a definite right to compensation without the need to bring a legal suit.
The politics of the celebrated robot wave
Finally, Kriangsak Teerakowitkajorn, a researcher from the Just Economy and Labour Institute and a labour expert of long-standing, points out that the wave of robotics technology or automated systems did not come about by itself naturally. We have been made to believe that this is a path that we cannot avoid. But in fact, there has been a serious campaign by industrial groups over the last 4-5 years to change the attitude of the industrial sector into thinking that they must start using robots, they must use automated technology. And if we look at the growth of robot and electronic systems producers, we will see that it has increased very much in the past 5 years, with large-scale producers in just a handful of countries: Switzerland, Germany, South Korea and the US.
Kriangsak says that for Thailand it does not really make sense to introduce robot technology or automated systems because it involves more capital than labour and introducing robots is not easy. There has to be a long-term business plan. An analysis of preparedness studied whether the change was worth the investment, but it appears that Thailand has the Thailand 4.0 policy and a cabinet resolution[x] of 29 August 2017 which clearly specifies that the use of robots will be greatly increased. So the state has the initial plan to stimulate demand or need for the use of robots in the country. The next target is to increase supply. The target of the third phase is to build utilities for a digital economy sector.
‘There is a great risk because the first target is to stimulate demand. Right now, the government is the first to invest, ordering or importing robots to use in some administrative agencies. But the question here is not when or how the Thai industrial sector uses automation. The main point now becomes the efforts to create an artificial demand for automation with a policy and a huge budget,’ said Kriangsak.
The labour movement must create its own narrative
Kriangsak’s proposal to the labour movement for dealing with these changes is for labour itself to keep up to date with the changes. To slow things down or to use a development plan so that labour benefits, negotiations need a strategy.
If you look at examples of the labour movement in Europe, you will see that their campaigns are not just on legal issues but the thing that the European labour movement can do well is creating a narrative for society to understand that the 4.0 issue is not science as the capitalist side are trying to campaign, but it is an issue about politics, about political economy. It is an issue about deciding which way to develop.
Robot taxes and universal basic income
Apart from these proposals by Kriangsak, another interesting issue that is a big challenge in western countries is the idea of the robot tax, whether it is the idea of Bill Gates[xi], the billionaire, who proposes that this tax will help to compensate for the loss of work of many millions of people and also help maintain a welfare system for children and the elderly.
Jane Kim, a lawyer from San Francisco, has conducted a study[xii] on whether a robot tax would increase inequality or not. Kim plans to set up by a working group on this issue with the participation of people from IT, education and labour to find answers to the questions of how much income people will lose from being replaced by robots, and which industries will be affected. She also wants to see the robot tax used for investment in the education sector. However Kim has not thought that a robot tax is the best alternative because it must go together with a universal basic income and other policies.
Yanis Varoufakis[xiii], an economics professor from the University of Athens and former Greek Finance Minister, expressed his opinion on a robot tax by stating that it could be used with a universal basic income, which means giving an equal basic income to the people who can look for work to increase their income. He proposed that there is another alternative, which is a universal basic dividend. These are ideas about the future which are becoming questions that challenge all of us.
[iii] The Director-General of the Department of Skill Development further explained the establishment of MARA, stating that the government was implementing the Eastern Economic Corridor project in the 3 provinces of Chachoengsao, Chonburi and Rayong in order to develop the eastern seaboard as a production base for 10 target industries driving a ‘New Engine of Growth’ through the introduction of a greater role for technological innovation, robots, robotic arms, artificial intelligence and automation in the business and industrial sectors in accordance with the Thailand 4.0 policy. The Department of Skill Development (DSD) is the core agency in developing human resources to have ‘Brain Power’ over the next 20 years according to the 20-year strategy. The Ministry of Labour has responded to this project by driving several mechanisms. Most recently, it has joined with the Federation of Thai Industries to establish the Manufacturing Automation and Robotics Academy (MARA) as an agency under the DSD, the Skill Development Institutes and the 3 provincial skill development offices. (For more information see Department of Skill Development, 29 May 2017, Labour Min joins Federation of Thai Industries to Establish Manufacturing Automation and Robotics Academy for EEC [in Thai])
[iv] An FOP study by Sanhanat Satetasakdasiri ‘Opening the wide world of Artificial Intelligence …?’ uses information from Accenture (the IT consulting company of Apple), the International Labour Organization (ILO) of the UN and the McKinsey Global Institute. (For more details see Khaosod Online ‘Finance reveals unemployment in 10 professions replaced by AI’ [in Thai].)
[v] Ministry of Labour, 19 April 2018, ‘Labour Min notes leading countries using more AI instead of human workers, affirms not complacent about setting policies to cope’ [in Thai].
กระทรวงแรงงาน, 19 เม.ย.2561, ก.แรงงาน ระบุประเทศชั้นนำ ใช้ AI แทนแรงงานมนุษย์มากขึ้น ยันไม่นิ่งนอนใจวางนโยบายรับมือ
[vi] For details see ‘Welfare and Labour Protection Statistical Reports, 2013-16’ [in Thai].
[vii] Patcharaporn Lipipatpaiboon and Nuntanid Thongsri, 2018, Research Study ‘Industrial Robots and Their Impact on the Labour Market’
[viii] At that time (February 2016), the Deputy Director General of the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare stated that at present the layoff situation was normal. Overall the automobile production industry was changing production methods or production models as well as raw materials in automobile production. At the time it was a matter of Industry 4.0. Each company was adapting to using high technology so that industry could operate with appropriate quality and investment. (See here for further information. [in Thai])
[x] The cabinet resolution of 29 August 2017 approved ‘Development Measures for the Robot and Automated Systems Industries’ with 5 basic measures. 1) Marketing measures to stimulate demand in industrial production/business to change production systems to use robots and automated systems. A target group are entrepreneurs who must change to use robots and automated systems because the investment costs are high, at 80-90% more than the machinery being replaced. So measures are needed to encourage the change to robots and automated systems. 2) Measures to increase the competitiveness of System Integrators (SI) in Thailand in order to increase the number sufficient to meet the future expansion of the robot and automated systems production industry (at present there are only 200 potential SI). 3) Supply measures to raise the robots and automated systems production process to a globally accepted level. 4) Measures to create a Centre of Robotics Excellence (CoRE) to develop robot technology and promote their use in various fields as a mechanism to support and accelerate the development of a robots and automated systems industry by integrating the participation of leading agencies in the country. 5) Other measures
[xi] Post Today, ‘Bill Gates calls for a tax on robots which replace workers’ [in Thai].
[xii] blognone, Politicians support idea or of robot tax, may solve problem of income gap [in Thai]Highlightlabor rightsautomationArtificial IntelligenceAIVisut RuangritSirijunyaporn JangthonglangThe Federation of Thailand Automobile Workers UnionsKriangsak Teerakowitkajornthe Just Economy and Labour Institute
Almost 20 police officers from Bowon Mongkol Police Station went to close down the punk concert hosted by the Facebook page ‘It’s almost 4 years already, I Sadd’’ at The Overstay, Charan Sanitwong, on 21 September, on the grounds that it was a political event and permission had not been requested from the authorities.
Photo from Facebook Page: Banrasdr Photo
The Facebook page ‘It’s almost 4 years already, I Sadd’ is a gathering of punk musicians who wish to communicate to the general public that we’ve been with the NCPO for a long time and we want an election. They were preparing to hold a music event called BNK44: 4 years and We only Get to Eat Fortune Cookies, a reference to “Koisuru Fortune Cookie”, a song performed by the idol group BNK48. The group’s 22-year-old captain, Cherprang Areekul, was invited to be one of the commentators of Thailand Moves Forward programme to help promote the work of Gen Prayut’s government. The ‘44’ stands for Article 44 of the 2014 interim constitution which gives unrestricted power to the head of NCPO to issue executive, legislative, and judicial orders which are absolute and subject to no legal accountability. Even though the 2017 constitution has come into force, it still upholds this authority.
The BNK44: 4 years and We only Get to Eat Fortune Cookies event was advertised through a Facebook page which has around 10,349 followers. Police stated that the music event is a political activity. There was singing, speeches and use of political symbols, for which the venue did not seek permission from the authorities.
The organisers tried to negotiate the possibility that the event could still be held by guaranteeing that there would no speeches or any display of political symbols on stage. But the authorities did not agree and asked in detail to see the business license for the venue. Photographs of participants were taken and their ID cards were checked. Photographs of news reporters were also taken and their ID cards checked. The organisers eventually announced the cancellation of the event at around 7.00 pm.
“The officers told us to stop the activity even though we hadn’t done anything wrong at all. The reason we had to cancel the event was because we didn’t want to see people that didn’t know anything and had nothing to do with us get into trouble, like the owner of the venue where we held the event,. We’re just kids that like punk music, borrowing their place to play some music.” ‘Niranam’ (‘Anonymous’), one of the organisers, said in an interview with Prachatai.
Earlier on 12 May, on the 4-year anniversary of the 2014 coup d’état, the Admin of the ‘It’s almost 4 years already, I Sadd’ Facebook page hosted a punk music event at the 14th October Memorial. Niranam said that they have been holding this kind of event for a while, doing the rounds of various places, mostly large pubs. However, in May they wanted it to be a little special, so they held it at the Memorial, the first outside event.
“This is also a very normal event for underground punk people. Political punk or Crust Punk are songs related to political criticism. If they don’t play their own songs, they would cover songs played by other bands such as the Sex Pistols, Green Day,” Niranam said.
“As for punk, we may view it only through its form; Mohawk cuts and dyed hair, piercings, tattoos, looking at it superficially. Our style is Crust Punk, so it would be skinhead, black clothes and talks about politics. But seen from a punk’s viewpoint, there is criticism in everything. In Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia, it’s almost mainstream to use punk music as a tool to speak to the state. Even in Myanmar, we can see it in the documentary ‘My Buddha is Punk’ (2015); it is a way of life, a tool used to speak to the state. Therefore, punk is not something superficial that is only about clothes but is a kind of culture and in content, often talks about politics. The heart of punk is to take apart old things and create new ones, to rebel against the old ways.”
Nevertheless, before the event, the page changed the name to ‘It’s almost 4 years’ after officials of the 14th October Memorial contacted them, requesting the event name be changed. The reason given was that when their request to use the Memorial was submitted, there was no ‘I Sadd’, so there was no problem and it was sent to the higher-ups. Later on, they found out that there was also ‘I Sadd’. From experience, they felt that the may be a great risk, state officials would appear and it would affect their image, since many children visit the Memorial.
On the evening of the event, police officers, both in uniform and plain clothes, were scattered across the area, keeping watch. The performance continued until around 11.00 pm. After the music band “Batso” finished playing, one of the 3 musicians, “Kuea PurePunk” and 4 of his fans were summoned to Chana Songkhram Police Station for an investigation of their backgrounds, because during the performance violent words were directed towards Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and a poster with Prayut’s picture on it was burned.
At first, police asked for urine samples and looked for drugs. The musicians objected, saying that they would not refuse but would not submit until their lawyer arrived. Police then decided only to investigate their background in detail before releasing them.Newspunk musicfreedom of expressionNational Council for PeaceBNK48BNK44Article44 and Order (NCPO)
Duncan McCargo: Trends in Southeast Asian Politics Mediated Populism, Electoralism, Authoritarianism?
Duncan McCargo: Trends in Southeast Asian Politics: Mediated Populism, Electoralism, Authoritarianism?
By Prof. Duncan McCargo (The School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), University of Leeds)
Moderator: Asst.Prof. Prajak Kongkirati, Thammasat University
Wednesday, 26th September 2018 @Room 102, Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University (Thaprachan) Organised by Direk Jayanama Research CenterMultimediaDuncan McCargopoliticsSoutheast AsiaauthoritarianismCambodiaThailand
Overall there are about 37,340,000 Thais of working age, divided into: 1) about 2,842,000 government officials, or 7.6% of the total workforce; 2) about 10,940,000 private company employees (29.3%); and 3) about 21,300,000 workers in the non-formal sector (57%), of whom only 3,900,000 or 18.3% are in the social security system.
Thailand is now beginning to turn into an aging society and will gradually have greater number of retirees. Those who are not government officials must start paying attention to the pension which they will receive from the social security system, which is facing the challenge that in not too many decades there will not be enough money and in future the public health security system will have to charge users part of the cost in a ‘co-pay’ system.
(1) Social security system pensions and concerns about future insolvency
A research study by the Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy, Chulalongkorn University, took a sample of 762 retirees of 55 years or older who had worked in private companies or state enterprises and found that these retirees had average expenses of 10,116 baht a month. But when they looked at the amount of their social security pensions, it was found that these were less than 10,000 baht a month, whether for private company employees under Article 33, former private company employees who had resigned and paid their own insurance contributions under Article 39, or non-formal workers under Article 40.
For example, Rosana received a monthly salary for her last 16 months of 40,000 baht and had worked for a total of 30 years. She will receive a social security pension of 6,375 baht a month.
Furthermore, even in 2018, the accumulated investment figure of the Social Security Fund was around 1.8 trillion baht, but the ILO estimates that in another 30 to 40 years, if there is no change in policy in collecting contributions to the Social Security Fund, there may be insufficient money to pay pensions.
At present the rate of contribution that is collected is less than the rate of pensions paid. Employees, employers and the state contribute 5%, 5% and 2.5% respectively, totalling 12.5%. This money is deposited in the Fund in 7 categories. Old age pensions get 6% of the Fund (of the 12.5% above) but the pensions received begin at 20% of the average of the last 60 months salary. Pensions can be received from age 55 onwards with a minimum of 15 years employment. For each year worked more than 15, the pension is increased by 1.5%. So the longer one works, the higher the pension, while pension contributions are assessed at a constant rate.
2014 is considered the first year when the Thai state began paying pensions to the people because we started making contributions to old age pensions in 1998 and in 2014 the 15 year criterion was achieved and 21,739 people became the first pension recipients. In 2018 this has increased to 133,868. Those receiving a bonus averaged 250,000-300,000 per year and approximately 11,500 million baht in total was paid in bonuses and pensions and the trend will be for this to increase.
Niyada Seneemanomai, an expert on social security at the Social Security Office, explained that the first reason was the ‘aging society’ problem. In 2036, Thailand will reach the final stage of the aging society, where the aged will be 30% of the total population. The number of the aged increases, while the number working decreases. The Social Security Fund therefore will have to shoulder the burden of paying higher pensions.
The second reason is that the rate of contributions is less than the rate of pensions paid. Of the 12.5% contributions (2.5% from the state, 5% from the employer and 5% from the employee), 6% goes into the pension fund, but the amount that retirees receive begins at 20%.
To solve the problem, the ILO suggested the following tentative approaches. 1) Extend the pensionable age from 55 to 60. This method will have the greatest effect. 2) Increase the rate of contributions and/or raise the ceiling from 15,000 to 20,000 baht, thus raising the maximum 5% contribution from 750 to 1,000 baht per month (A monthly salary of 19,000 will incur a contribution of 950 baht; salaries of 21,000 baht and above are calculated as 20,000 baht.)
Another method is to increase investment in risky assets with high returns and spread risk appropriately through a law to allow investment of no more than 40% in risky assets, such as shares. At present, the Social Security Office invests only 22% in risky assets.
‘All methods must be done in parallel so that the problem can be solved and the fund stabilized in a sustainable manner’ Niyada explains.
From old age welfare benefits to the concept of a national pension
Sureerat Treemanka, a leading or core activist on the national pension system, explains that this idea was sparked by the health security system. The important principle is to make pensions a basic right and a universal form of welfare where everyone receives a comprehensive basic pension at age 60. But this does not mean that all citizens receive equal pensions. These are divided into levels. The lowest level is the basic pension which everyone receives equally. Then there are compulsory and voluntary (social security) pensions, and welfare pensions for those with low incomes.
The basic pension is the lowest amount of money to allow a quality of life based on the ‘poverty line’. At present it is 2,500 baht. So everyone should receive a basic pension of 2,500 baht. This is not the ‘old age welfare benefit’ which at present depends on age and ranges from 600 to 1,000 baht a month.
Sureerat says that in 2007, 20,000 people signed a petition to push for a national pension law, but it did not pass. 2 years ago, signatures were again collected. If there is an elected government, a law will be proposed again.
(2) The Universal Health Coverage may have to introduce ‘co-payments’ in the future
The concept of Universal Health Coverage is that medical care is a basic right of all humans which the state must provide without cost and is not a form of welfare for the poor.
In Thailand, credit for bringing this about must go to Dr Sanguan Nittayaramphong, who initiated the idea of Universal Health Coverage. He began his research in 1990 to study its feasibility even though before then ‘free treatment’ was something that was almost impossible. Before the 2001 election, Dr Sanguan went to propose the policy to political parties. Thaksin Shinawatra, as the head of the Thai Rak Thai Party at the time, believed in this approach and campaigned on a Universal Health Coverage policy. After Thai Rak Thai won the election, the National Health Security Act was passed.
Research showed that Universal Health Coverage helped reduce catastrophic illness from 5.7% in 2000 to 2.3% in 2013 and alleviated poverty caused by medical expenses from 2.01% in 2000 to 0.47% in 2013.
The administrative principle of this system is to separate those buying medical services from those using them in order to prevent overlapping benefits. So it was necessary to set up the National Health Security Office (NHSO) with the responsibility of being the budget holder to buy medical services instead of the people. The Ministry of Public Health is the service provider with its hospitals all over the country.
The budget which formerly was totally held and administered by the Ministry of Public Health now had for the most part to be passed to the National Health Security Fund, administered by the National Health Security Committee or NHSO Board.Increasing public power by a ‘superboard’
The National Health Policy Committee, called in short the ‘superboard’ was set up in the National Public Health Reform Plan published at the beginning of 2018 after the submission of the National Health Policy Committee Bill. This is under the consideration of the Ministry of Public Health for submission for cabinet approval.
The issue that attracts attention is that this committee has the authority to set the direction of basic health policy for the country and the people in accordance with the national strategy of the NCPO. Kannikar Kijtiwatchakul, a member of the National Health Security Committee gives the opinion that this bill drags power back to the Ministry of Public Health through Article 3 which has the interpretation that if any agency has a strategy that conflicts with the policy of the superboard, it has to follow the superboard which is overseen by the Ministry of Public Health.Co-payment at the point of service
In 2017, one point of great dispute, even though it was not in the amendment to the health coverage law, was the issue of co-payment at the point of service, since the expression ‘co-payment’ was already in the original act.
Normally the state will hold that all the people have a part in ‘pre-contributions’ from their various tax payments but because of the budget shortfall problem there has been a proposal for a 30-50% contribution at the point of service from people who are not ‘indigent’. But the people’s sector strongly oppose this issue because this destroys the essence of a universal health coverage system.
‘Our question is, people who are not in the group of indigents, but who think they are almost poor or even middle class, if they have an illness that requires high expenses, what happens?’ This is the voice of groups who love health security. After that, co-payment seemed to go quiet, but there is a rumour that the co-payment issue is slowly becoming the origin of the questions about whether there is really a budget shortfall in universal health coverage.
A look at the latest WHO statistics shows that the overall world public health budget reaches almost 10% of GDP. The average figure for developed countries is 12% and for developing countries is 6%. In Thailand it is found that total public health expenditure is calculated at 4.6% of GDP, of which the government carries the burden of 80% or 17.5% of the national budget, making it 90th in the world.
If we compare the healthcare system for government officials and the gold card we find that the costs of government official welfare continuously increase. Payments in 2017 totalled 73,658.86 million baht to care for just 4.97 million people, or a per capita expense as high as 14,820 baht. Meanwhile the gold card system expense per head was just 3,028.94 baht. It can be concluded that the government official welfare system is spending almost 5 times more per head than the Universal Health Coverage.
(3) What is a welfare state? Is it possible in Thailand?
A ‘welfare state’ is one that manages a welfare system that insures society against the risks or uncertainties in life and responds to the basic needs of the people so that they have an ever improving quality of life and reduces the burden on society.
At present, despite Thailand’s growing economy, inequality is also increasing. Research shows that the increasing number of people employed in the nonformal sector is now more than 10 million. More than half are a group with a monthly income of less than 10,000 baht with no social insurance or private insurance. This group has to rely on state welfare. What can be done for us to create a comprehensive, quality state welfare system that covers everyone?
Tax reform, the essence of securing income which the Thai state still cannot do.
Pasuk Phongpaichit of the Economics Department of Chulalongkorn University conducted research on increasing the revenue of the Thai government by tax collection and found that at present, the Revenue Department can fully collect taxes on the income of ordinary people, but very little tax is collected on income from capital, i.e. profits, interest, dividends and rent, which is the income of the rich, even though the rich are better able to pay taxes.
A country that fully collects taxes from capital will be using a unitary system known as an ‘integrated tax system’ including all forms of income, both income with tax deducted at the point of payment and income with tax not deducted at the point of payment, reported for tax to be calculated at the same rate based on levels of net income. This makes tax easy to collect, is fair, reduces political interference and generates more tax revenue.
Pasuk raised the example of Turkey which has rapidly reformed its entire tax system into an integrated system. This has greatly raised tax revenue to 30% of GDP, close to the OECD figure of 34%. Meanwhile Thailand collected 18%.
In Thailand, amending the tax collection system into a integrated system and revoking unnecessary deductions and exemptions will enable total tax revenue to rise by as much as another 5% of GDP.Cancel the LTF tax exemption and increase wealth taxes
Information from research shows that the 83% of those who exercise the right to LTF deductions are among the wealthiest group. So this policy is of no benefit to low-income people. In the past, the government has lost almost 9,000 million baht in revenue from LTF exemptions.
Pasuk proposes that if we begin to have new taxes such as a wealth tax together with a land tax at a rate that is not very high, and if value-added tax is raised to 10%, the government will gain additional revenue from these taxes of about 1.2% of GDP.
Pasuk concludes that the issue is not that the money to pay for welfare cannot be found, but rather whether the government is determined to set up a welfare system. Countries with authoritarian political systems which are not democratic tend to promote large-scale businesses without any effective laws against monopolies, which will definitely be an obstacle to a welfare state.Initial proposal: use a budget of 400-600 billion to create a welfare state
Sustarum Thammaboosadee of the College of Interdisciplinary Studies, Thammasat University, mentions a quick calculation of 400-600 billion baht to make Thailand into a welfare state. Initially this will be welfare for raising poor children up to the age of 18 at 1,500-2,000 baht a month, then an increase in the per capita budget for Universal Health Coverage from 3,000 to 8,000 per person per year, similar to that for government officials, in order to bring all systems into a single health coverage.
At present the maximum social security pension is 8,000 baht per person per month. This will increase to a maximum of 15,000 baht per person per month. The government must supplement social security and support a National Pension Act. With the current 2,500 baht a month, Thais will have a maximum pension of 17,000-18,000 baht a month, similar to the 16,000 baht that the Bank of Thailand calculates as necessary for a quality life as a pensioner. Another issue is reform of free quality education, a reduction of competition, and specification of a ceiling on term fees for non-compulsory education.
When a welfare state is in place, some ministries will be able to reduce expenses. If the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence fully decentralize to local self-management, expenses will decrease by about 50%, equivalent to 200 billion baht. A capital gains tax of 30% a year will bring in 270 billion baht and cancellation of BOI tax exemptions will increase tax revenue by about 200 billion baht. Cancellation of LTF RMF deductions will yield another 100 billion baht.
Finally, a land tax and a progressive inheritance tax initially may raise 200 billion baht. Even if this is not a lot, the important thing is that it will reduce the power of capital and reduce political power. But it may shift money into government bonds, giving the government more money in this form and holding bonds will have different bargaining power from holding land.Highlightuniversal healthcarepensionwelfareSocial Securityretirement