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Updated: 33 นาที 56 วินาที ago

Socialist worker group proposes democracy movement expansion

5 ชั่วโมง 12 นาที ago
Submitted on Mon, 28 Sep 2020 - 03:05 PMThe Socialist Workers Thailand Group

The Socialist Workers Thailand Group proposes additional actions to expand democratic movement after the mass protest on 19 September 2020.

Protesters raising 3 fingers at Sanam Luang during the 19-20 September 2020 protest.

The huge protest on September 19 2020 at Thammasat University, Tha Pra Chan campus, organized by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, determined to push 3+10 political demands. The protest is of great importance in the transition to a modern Thai society where all people are equal under the same law.

The Socialist Workers Thailand group strongly supports the 3+10 demands and has some additional proposals to exchange with the masses and activists in the movement.

It is known that the problem of Thai politics is excluding people’s participation in shaping the future of the country, even the process of drafting the 2017 Constitution. This problem led to countless other problems under the administration of a military-dominated regime, conservative forces and big corporates whom we can call the "elite class".

The politics of the elite set up political structures that generate sustainable wealth for their class. The current structure they have built is a highly unequal system which accumulates capital that comes from the exploitation of working people; appropriating the national budget to live in luxury; building its own masses; buying weapons to threaten the people; and reproducing the privilege system for their own children to be born rich and succeed to political and economic power while millions of people are unemployed. That’s why joining the huge protest today is an attempt to undermine the system of privilege.

Furthermore, the system of privilege and monopoly is being challenged by ordinary people around the world. For the past two years, we have seen a new generation of people who “are not afraid” of protesting against global warming and cracking the consciousness of the politicians in parliaments who are great only at bickering.

We see revolutions and general strikes to overthrow dictatorship in Sudan and Algeria, and large protests for freedom of self-determination by millions of young people and workers in Hong Kong. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese people are also extremely angry with a selfish government that neglects solving problems and causes people to live unsafe lives. We see a large struggle of black people in the Black Lives Matter movement against racial oppression in America at the time of the Covid-19 outbreak linked to the ongoing crisis of economic and social inequality.

The recent protests in Thailand are no different. General Prayut Chan-o-cha's parliamentary dictatorship is trying to use the epidemic to empower him to crack down on arrests. The opposition politicians in parliament were unable to stop them.

However, the fight for democracy may not be successful anytime soon. We should expand spaces to campaign for the establishment of a welfare state by organizing community groups and people at work to gain more political momentum because we need to see hundreds of thousands or up to a million demonstrators, people’s resistance in daily life, in public areas, and in workplaces of all sectors, including general strikes to achieve our victory.

What the Socialist Workers Thailand Group wants to propose in addition to the 3+10 political demands is the establishment of a welfare state and the means of expanding democratic space.

Currently, there are two big campaigns for rewriting the constitution to democratize the system, and for the establishment of a welfare state. Students, workers, farmers, women, academics, NGOs, and other groups comprising a large number of participants are involved in these campaigns. There are still some important points about the welfare state, i.e. progressive taxation of income and property of the rich. Taxing the rich more is a key measure in creating a universal welfare system and unemployment insurance and reducing the influence of the rich and capitalists. It is no different from reducing the influence and budget of the monarchy.

The way to expand democratic space is to strengthen the conditions and measures that facilitate the establishment of politically progressive trade unions, which is one of the strategies for the next phase of struggle because if there is no progressive trade union organization, working people cannot confront the power of capitalists and executives to stop them violating workers’ rights and freedoms in the workplace.

Establishing political groups outside parliament will further drive progressive political ideologies and inequality reduction policies. According to Thai political history, the overthrow of the military dictatorship on October 14, 1973 relied on the presence of a left-wing political group, the political party of the working class. The students’ movement also cooperated with ordinary people and the labour movement.

Summary of 5 additional proposals

  1. Create a welfare state by collecting more revenue from progressive income taxes, and inheritance and property taxes on the rich. This measure is required to provide comprehensive welfare and unemployment insurance to all people.
  2. Student organizations should expand their coalition by encouraging blue-collar and white-collar workers to unite to fight and go on strike to support the political struggles.
  3. Create democracy at work by establishing trade unions among soldiers, police, civil servants, and employees in the public and private sectors. Working people must be involved in administration and negotiation at work.
  4. Establish political organizations/groups with internal unity and in the form of mass organizations. There should be a membership system starting from holding more meetings among various groups and expanding study groups.
  5. In the future, establish a left-wing political party outside parliament to be a tool in political and economic democratization for the working class.

The influence of the dictatorship prevails not only among leaders, but also in networks throughout Thai society. We have to campaign to build a deep culture and values of freedom, equality, and participation in small units of society and overcome dictatorship in this generation.

In solidarity,

Socialist Workers Thailand Group

September 19, 2020

------------------------------------

*Note 3+10 means:

3 demands: stop harassing people, dissolve parliament, and re-write the constitution to end military dictatorship

10 demands concern reform of the monarchy, including abolition of Section 6 of the 2017 Constitution that bans accusations against the King and the addition of a section to allow parliament to examine wrongdoings of the King; abolition of Section 112 of the Criminal Code that criminalizes criticism of certain members of the Royal Family; cancellation of the 2018 Crown Property Act and a clear division between the assets of the King under the control of the Ministry of Finance and his personal assets; and an end to royal endorsements of any future coups.

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Complaints filed against 19 Sept protest leaders, supporter

Fri, 2020-09-25 10:49
Submitted on Fri, 25 Sep 2020 - 10:49 AMPrachatai

Several police complaints have been filed against the leaders and a supporter of the 19 September protest, including a lèse majesté complaint.

Student protest leader Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul (centre) standing in front of a row of police officers, backed by a group of volunteer protest guards on the morning of 20 September 2020, as she submitted a letter detailing the protesters' demand for monarchy reform to a representative of the Privy Council. 

Pro-establishment activist Tul Sitthisomwong on Monday (21 September) filed a lèse majesté complaint against the student protest leaders following the mass protest during the weekend (19 – 20 September).

Tul, a leader of the “multi-coloured shirt” movement and former member of the royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), filed the complaint at Chana Songkhram Police Station against human rights lawyer Anon Nampa and student activists Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Parit Chiwarak, after they give speeches calling for monarchy reform during the weekend protest.

Tul said that the speeches were inappropriate and caused many Thai people to feel uncomfortable, and that he doesn’t want the activists to go to jail and expected them to be pardoned, but he doesn’t want them to talk about the monarchy in public.  He also said that he did not intend to harass the activists, but felt it was a duty as Thai citizens.

Another complaint was filed against actor Inthira “Sai” Charoenpura, who supports the student movement and often provides food and toilet facilities at protests, including the protest on Saturday (19 September).

The complaint against Inthira was filed by former Palang Pracharath Party MP candidate Sonthiya Sawasdee, who accused Inthira of supporting a movement to overthrow the monarchy and said that, as a celebrity, she should remain impartial. He did not, however, specify the offense of which she was guilty.

Sonthiya has previously filed lèse majesté charges against the US Ambassador, and a charge of violating the monarchy against Future Forward Party leaders.

Inthira later posted on Twitter that she never called for donations and is confused as to why she is being scrutinized.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) also filed a complaint against the protest leaders for damaging barriers and fences at Thammasat University and the concrete surfaces around Sanam Luang, while the Fine Arts Department filed a complaint accusing the protest leaders of vandalizing a historic site after they broke up the concrete ground at Sanam Luang to embed the second People’s Party plaque.

Khaosod English reported that police spokesperson Pol Lt Gen Piya Uthaiyo said that the authorities will press all relevant charges against the protest leaders and supporters, including the lèse majesté charge, despite Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha saying previously that King Vajiralongkorn has advised the authorities not to use the lèse majesté law.

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Categories: Prachatai English

Arrest for running satirical FB page

Thu, 2020-09-24 15:30
Submitted on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 - 03:30 PMPrachatai

On 21 September, Narin (surname not revealed) was arrested on suspicion of violating the Computer Crime Act, says Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. The 31-year-old has been accused of running a Facebook page which produces political memes involving the monarchy.

He went live on Facebook to defend himself when police raided his home in Bang Sue District.

The eight officers in the raid from the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) were led by Pol Lt Col Phakhin Kraikittichan. Only one was wearing a uniform.

Pol Capt Charat Milam read out a search warrant saying that the court authorized the police to search from 14.30-18.00 on 21 September. They pressured Narin to open the door when they arrived at 16.30.

The cell phone he used to go live on Facebook was seized along with his other phone.  A tablet, a security camera and its sim card, and three portable computers were also confiscated. One of the computers in his home does not belong to him.

Narin has already been detained for two nights.

On 21 September, he was brought to the TCSD Office in the Government Complex at 19.00. The process went slowly while his lawyer claimed that the police had no authority to confiscate Narin’s electronic devices.

The police only had a search warrant, but the seizure required a separate court order under the Computer Crime Act.  

Narin was accused of violating Section 14 (2), (3), and (5) of the Computer Crime Act for publishing 4 posts on a Facebook page ‘GuKult’ in August 2019, satirising and attacking the monarchy.

Section 14 of the Computer Crime Act can put Narin in prison for a maximum of 5 years and make him pay a fine of up to 100,000 baht for posting anything which threatens Thai security, the economy, or public safety.

Narin denied all the accusations. He was taken to Tungsonghong Police Station where he spent one night.

On 22 September, the investigation officers went to court to request a confiscation authorization after they had already seized the devices. They also requested the court’s permission to access the devices, invoking Sections 18 and 19 of the Computer Crime Act.

The police asked him to give them the passwords after Pol Col Phichet Khamphiranon read the court order to him. With regard to the computer which does not belong to Narin, he said the owner must also go through the same process as Narin.

Pol Col Phichet Khamphiranon said the police were unable to request in time a court order to transfer Narin to prison, so he had to spend another night at Tungsonghong Police Station. 

 

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Hopes and wishes reflected in night talks with protesters

Thu, 2020-09-24 12:08
Submitted on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 - 12:08 PMYiamyut Sutthichaya

Protesters who stayed overnight in the occupation of Thammasat University and Sanam Luang on 19 September exchanged opinions with strangers as all prepared to sleep in the open.

People started to lay down as the speech went on in Sanam Luang, 19 September night.

At around 20.30 in TU, people could be seen queueing up to use the bathrooms, some brushing their teeth in the bushes. Some were already asleep, preparing for the march the next day.

The protest was the biggest overnight protest since the 2014 coup. The overnight protest allowed people from other parts of the country to attend a political event in the capital as they could stay at the protest site. Many more protesters from other provinces could be seen than at previous flash mobs.

Jane (pseudonym), 33, a factory worker from Khon Kaen, travelled to Bangkok with her friends to join the protest. She was preparing her sleeping spot on the footpath in front of the activity building. As we spoke, her friends were still listening to speeches at Sanam Luang.

Jane's belonging for an overnight stay.

Jane explained the reason for sleeping at the protest site. “To save money, I came here with full support. As I told you, brother, the economy is not good lately. There is no OT.”

She does not like the current government as the economy, living costs and many other things had not changed for the better. The Covid-19 pandemic also has threatened her livelihood as the factory already allows no overtime (OT) work, extra income which Thai factory workers usually depend on to improve their quality of life.

She wants the government to resign.

Across the football field from Jane stands the TU Business School (TBS) where dozens of people were sleeping.

“We want democracy,” said Phawat Hiranphon a salesman from Samut Prakan who decided to spend the night with some friends under the TBS building after failing to book rooms in nearby hotels before they were fully booked with other protesters. 

Things Phawat and his friends brought for their overnight stay included an electric fan, pillows, a power bank, a cooler, extension cord, mosquito repellent, toiletries and skin lotion.

Phawat and his sleeping spot.

Phawat started to attend political protests in July. He said he formerly hated protests because he felt like it was an act of force or mob rule. The true democracy must be implemented through elections. But as he saw the one-sided legal prosecutions of those who opposed the government, including students, he changed his mind.

Jay (pseudonym), then joined the conversation. By coming to the protest, Jay hoped that the people of this country would be able to have a better regime where the monarchy is regulated under democratic principles as with the 10 demands that the students made. Jay also wants to put a stop to enforced disappearances.

Nathakan Kamkaeo, a graduate from England, also spent the night at TU due to the fully booked hotels. She said she wants the monarchy to be regulated under a legal framework without political influence.

People queuing up to use TU bathrooms.

The night in the open was not comfortable. Phawat and his friends complained about the inadequate toilets and questionable red tape like having to wait for police permission to open the public toilet truck. But Phawat hoped these difficulties would be worthwhile.

“We want our difficulties to end in our generation. Nobody will have difficulties like us again. If they are not in trouble, they won’t have to come and protest, will they?” said Phawat.

An old protester and the same old struggle

During the interview with Phawat and his friends ,Saritphon Yotphayung, 74, a now retired former TU student, stopped by to share his political experiences in that very place in 1973 and 1976. 

“I studied at the TU Law faculty in 1965, I went to the march [in October 1973]. I did not want my grandchildren to live like that. I thought it must end in our generation.”

Saritphon said the 1973 protest only wanted democracy, a constitution, elections and the ousting of the 3 dictators (Field Marshal Thanom and Col Narong Kittikachorn and Field Marshal Praphas Charusathien). 

The protest was successful but merely served as a prelude to the October 1976 massacre when people and students were brutally killed after they staged protests against Thanom’s return to Thailand as a monk. The movement at that time was misrepresented by the conservative, royalist media and society as a communist, anti-monarchy movement.

In that year, Saritphon worked at the Ministry of Justice, formerly located near Sanam Luang, where he saw people being killed and hanged. He realized that the dictators had been chased out, welcomed back and then had people killing each other. 

“In the year 1976, I came to know that we were the tools for I don’t know who,” said Saritphon, who saw the incident as his moment of enlightenment.

The old timer also shares the same sentiment as the young people in changing Thai politics for the better.

“Meeting the kids in this generation again, I don’t want them to be 74 and still having to come and sit like this again. I want it to end already.”

Saritphon, who bicycled his way to TU, said he would go back home late.

The Night Owls

Volunteers were responsible for overseeing the situation and safety in the protest. As people lay down in Sanam Luang and TU, the process to safeguard the protesters went well .

Piyarat Chongthep, a former political activist and MP candidate for the Future Forward Party, was responsible for over 270 volunteers overseeing the situation outside TU. Volunteers could be recognized by their blue armbands. 

Piyarat Chongthep

Piyarat said 170 people had registered as volunteers, then 100 protesters and former red shirt protest guards also joined. He was concerned about the possible incompatibility but it eventually turned out just fine.

Piyarat has been organizing the volunteers since the protest on 18 August at the Democracy Monument. They are responsible for public order at protests, traffic management and ensuring that protesters do not bring weapons to the protests by checking their belongings.

The volunteers on one hand work with the police in overseeing safety and on the other, they are also look out for a police crackdown. At night, the volunteers were divided into 3 shifts, taking turns to monitor safety and the movements of riot control police.

Piyarat was involved in the overnight protest at TU in 2018. He said that riot control police usually make their move at around 3-5 in the morning.

The volunteer guards were divided into 2 groups, independent from each other. Piyarat’s group oversaw the situation outside TU, while a group made up of TU students looked after the situation inside TU.

The TU guard team can be recognized by armband with a TU abbreviation in Thai.

Prachatai was unable to contact the TU group leader, but TU volunteers said that their basic job was to keep the situation safely under control, screen vehicles will entering TU, patrol the perimeter and look after the well-being of protesters sleeping inside TU.

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Foreigners tell of their hopes and interests at the 19 Sept protest

Thu, 2020-09-24 11:12
Submitted on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 - 11:12 AMBamaejuri Sohkhlet

Foreigners attended the protest at Thammasat University to show their support for the people of Thailand and their fight for democracy. The use of social media has greatly contributed to the expansion of foreign participation in protests.

A protester with a Guy Fawkes mask at the 19 Sept protest.

Protests have gained a lot of traction in Thailand over the past two months and the one on 19 September 2020 is considered to be the biggest yet since the 2014 coup. The two-day protest saw about 50,000-100,000 protesters in attendance, bringing together people from all walks of life, including foreigners.

James Buchanan, a political risk consultant and current lecturer at Mahidol University International College, talked about the issues faced by the LGBTQ community in Thailand, particularly two types of obstacles; legal, and social and cultural.

(Right) James Buchanan

“Firstly, legal, because obviously some of the laws are not LGBT-friendly at the moment. So that’s one obstacle. And obviously with the government that’s in power at the moment, they’re less likely I think to make fairer laws than a more progressive government.”

“Even for example, the more kind of left wing or more progressive people, like even activists in the activist community, there are still some adjectives towards the LGBTQ issues that are not so progressive,” said Buchanan.

David Pfizenmaier, a protester from Germany, attended the protest dressed as Superman.

David Pfizenmaier

“It's important as a human being, for human rights, living here and supporting society, to stand together. If you’re Thai or not Thai, if you’re living here and you want to have progress for society, [to move] in a good direction, it's good to stand together.”

Pfizenmaier has been living in Bangkok for 10 years with dual citizenship. He has a foundation called Superman Bangkok which does a lot of social and charity work. After seeing a lot of positive feedback about the Superman costume, David decided to take the positive effect that the costume has on people and use it for a good cause.

“The most important thing I hope is it stays safe and non-violent. And I hope it will be a development in a good direction”, Pfizenmaier said.

He adds that he is optimistic with the direction the movement is headed in because even though it started with only young people leading the protest, there are now people from all parts of society taking part in the protest.

Some of the foreign protesters had their own personal reasons for attending the protest. One of the protesters from the US said he only attended the protest to see people’s behaviour and to “see girls too”. Another protester from the US said that he was there to support his Thai friends and witness history being made.

Napathsakorn ‘Neal’ Seraneeariyaporn, a 29-year-old Thai architect, said she appreciates that foreigners are taking part in the protest because it means that the country is ‘moving in the right direction’. An example that Neal gave to show the growth of foreign support of protests in Thailand is the Milk Tea Alliance, an online pro-democracymovement that includes Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The rally was initially opposed by Gen Prayut Chan-o cha who said that the protest would delay the economic recovery of the country and “create uncertainty among tourists who will come to Thailand”. He also said that the protest would undermine the government’s efforts to curb the rise of Covid-19 in the country. The speech was made two days before the protest but people disregarded it and attended the rally anyway.

Bamaejuri is a Prachatai English intern from Mahidol University International College (MUIC)

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Nongbua Lamphu community right defenders now facing death threats

Wed, 2020-09-23 14:50
Submitted on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 - 02:50 PMProtection International

Leaders of the community human rights defenders in Nongbua Lamphu Province, northeastern Thailand, are facing repeated death threats as they continue the struggle to permanently shut down quarry mining that has impacted their health and environment.  

Since 13 August 2020, the Community human rights defenders (W/HRDs) of Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Conservation Group have been occupying the entrance of the quarry mine situated in Dong Mafai Sub District, Suwannakuha District, Nongbua Lamphu Province. They have declared their intent to permanently shut down the mining operation as the project lacks lawful community consent as well as the legal health and environmental assessment from the relevant agencies.

On 4 September 2020, the community reclaimed 175-Rai from the mining area and successfully declared it the ‘community forest zone’. Their actions came one day after the forest utilization permit expired and due to prior permit  illegalities,  the company could not renew their lease.

On Friday, 25 September 2020, the W/HRDs group plans to reclaim a further 50-Rai of land where the stone mill is in place. The action will take place one day after the mining permit expires on 24 September 2020. The community has declared it will uproot this last remnant of the mining project that has faced opposition from the community since 1994.

Between 1995-1999 four members of the community were killed, namely Boonrawd Duangkota, Sanan Suwan, Thongmuan Khamjaem, and Som HomPromma, for opposing the construction of the mine.

Lertsak Kumkongsak

In the past month since the blockade of the mining entrance, there has been a repeated death threat against the organization supporting the community. Mr.Lertsak Kumkongsak, Environmental rights defender  and an advisor to the Campaign for Public Policy on Mineral Resources (PPM), coordinator of the Ecological and Cultural Study Group and the Network of People Who Own Mineral Resources, has received repeated messages hinting that he is on ‘a hit list’

Anecdotal evidence leads many to believe that the planned killing of Lertsak has been commissioned by the owner of the mining company perhaps with the involvement of the government Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC)

Lertsak has received verbal threats specifically that his assassination has been commissioned and he will be shot if he does not back down from protesting against the mining operation.  In recent days as the protest action nears, he was repeatedly approached by men carrying weapons such as guns. In multiple incidents Lertsak has been monitored and surveilled closely by various people suspected to have close ties with ISOC.

It is believed that he is to be executed between the dates of September 22 - 25 September 2020.  

Protection International, Thailand has documented more than 70 cases of killing and enforced disappearances of community based women/human rights defenders in Thailand from the past 50 years.

Most of the perpetrators remain free and have never been brought to justice. There had been little or no progress in the investigating of attacks and threats made against community based women/human rights defenders.

The primary responsibility for protecting human rights defenders rests with the State. Four lives have already been taken in this struggle and it is the duty of the state to guarantee that no more harm is done to the W/HRDs.

Protection International calls on the Thai authorities and National Human Rights Commission to ensure the safety and protection of Mr.Lertsak Kumkongsak  and other staff of  the Campaign for Public Policy on Mineral Resources (PPM) as well as other community W/HRDs in Dongmafai who continue to defend their community and environment.

The Thai authorities , especially the Royal Thai Police , the Ministry of Justice , ISOC and The Provincial Governor of Nong Bua Lamphu must ensure that both administrative and security authorities exercise their utmost power to provide safety and protection to the Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group during the blockade and their activities. They are simply exercising their rights according to the Constitution and they must be able to do so without fear of reprisals.

Protection International calls on The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UNOHCHR ,UN Working Group on business and human rights , and all  stakeholders to take urgent and concrete  action to ensure the Thai government and  its agencies protect Lertsak Kumkongsak while there is still time.

 In the longer term they must use their resources to ensure the Thai Government and all relevant enterprises immediately end practices which encourage killings, intimidations and judicial harassment.

We urge all stakeholders to strengthen their methods of work and develop a more proactive strategy to reach out to human rights defenders in need of protection. The diplomatic community and UN agencies should be more vocal and publicly call for action when human rights defenders are at risk or are murdered.

Background

Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group is an environmental W/HRDs community-based group struggling against quarry mining in Dongmafai Subdistrict, Suwannakuha District, Nong Bua Lamphu Province. They have been struggling for over two decades in an attempt to stop the mining operations that lack the due process required for such mining projects.

Sadly, this has led to the killing of four members of the group between 1995 and 1999. No perpetrator was held responsible for the crimes.

It is estimated that the daily explosions from the mining sites, which cause noise pollution and damage to households due to falling debris, affect around 4,000 people residing in six villages close to the mining sites. Mining activities are also hindering the villagers’ access to food in the nearby community forest, since 175 out of 200 hectares are marked as mining areas.

The group demands for the rehabilitation of the forest into a conservation zone. Thailand’s Department of Fine Arts, under the Ministry of Culture, have registered some parts of the area as an important archaeological site, since mural paintings – estimated to be 2,000-3,000 years old – were found in the caves of a local cliff. According to the new 2017 Mining Act, a forest area containing watersheds or archaeological sites must be exempted from mining. However, although the reserve in Dongmafai Sub district has both, authorities are still allowing the company to continue its mining operations.

In 2004, due to unsatisfactory fulfilment of regulatory requirements, the Administrative Court revoked the company’s permit to exploit the forest and its mining license. However, the Supreme Administrative Court later overturned this decision in 2010 – when the mining permit was about to expire – and, instead, the company’s license was renewed for 10 years. It is now due to expire on 24th September 2020.

In 2018, after the local residents filed a lawsuit, the Udon Thani Administrative Court revoked the company’s second mining permit and ruled that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, as well as other government agencies, had failed in ensuring public participation, as required by the constitution, before granting the mining permit to the company. However, the company appealed the decision and the mining operations are still ongoing today.

Despite the local residents’ strenuous opposition to exploit the forest, which goes against the legal principle of obtaining a mining license, the company still sees its permit renewed. The Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group has found a number of illegalities. Stratagems were used for the renewal procedures at the sub district administrative level, so to get the forest reserve approved for mining exploitation despite the villagers’ opposition. A mark designating an area as minable was found in a cave containing an archaeological site.

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Red shirt crackdown victims remembered at anti-govt protest

Wed, 2020-09-23 14:33
Submitted on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 - 02:33 PMPrachatai

A group of volunteer actors staged a play in memory of the 99 people killed during the crackdowns on red shirt protests in 2010 during the anti-government protest on Saturday (19 September), now said to be one of the largest protests in Thailand since 2014.

The play, titled “#99dead”, was staged on the street in front of the Supreme Court building, next to Sanam Luang, by an all-volunteer group of actors. The names of those who died during the 2010 red shirt protest crackdowns were also read out during the play.

Wawa, 20, a student from the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, said that she wanted to take part in something that will lead to more visibility to create some kind of phenomenon. She said that she has been to protests before, but only to attend.

Wawa said that she was very young when the crackdowns happened, and did not pay much attention to politics. She said that she heard about it from the adults in her family or from the news, but her family did not really take political sides, so she only learned about the crackdowns when she was older. She said that she felt it was cruel and is saddened by the fact that such a thing happened and that people were injured or killed.

“It’s not a normal thing we can overlook, like it’s just happened and that’s it. We should be aware of it and it should not happen again, so we should know already that this is something that impacts society. It happened. It was cruel, and it was not right,” Wawa said.

Wawa’s friend also said that, back then, she thought it was terrorism, but found out later that the red shirts were wrongly accused. She said that the truth is out now, but not as much as the wrong accusations against them, so she felt that participating in the play helps reveal another perspective that was not seen before. She said that in the past, information only came from one side and the victims never got to tell their stories. She said that participating in the play helped her understand their perspective better.

Aom, 18, said that he was still in primary school when the crackdowns happened. He heard of it from his red shirt father who watched the red shirt TV channels, but at that time, he only wanted to watch cartoons and argued with his father about it.

Aom said that they are all humans, and so should be equal. Shooting one person is not just a matter of killing them, but it also affects the families they are responsible for. 

Aom’s friend, on the other hand, said that he was very young at the time and none of his family were red shirts, so he didn’t know that the crackdowns happened. He found out about it through the internet, and thinks that violence should never be used.

Phayao Akhad (front) holding the blue Red Cross vest her daughter was wearing when she was killed during the 19 May 2010 crackdown on Red Shirt protests

Phayao Akhad, whose daughter Kamonked was one of the six people who were killed at Wat Pathum Wanaram on 19 May 2010, also participated in the play, wearing the blue Red Cross vest Kamonked was wearing on the day she died.

Phayao said that no progress has been made in her daughter’s case. She said that the case got passed around from the special public prosecutor to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to the military prosecutor, who dismissed the case, claiming a lack of evidence.

Phayao said that she is very happy that young people know about the crackdowns, and that even though they did not take part in the event, once they know about it, they would like to bring the truth to light. She said that they are happy to be able to participate in the play, and that the actors did well even though they only started rehearsing that day. She found the performance touching, even though the crackdowns were ten years ago, and she would like to leave it to the young people, who can definitely bring change, and state authorities will no longer get away with murder.

Phayao said it is not easy for the state to murder citizens anymore. The people won’t let it happen.

“They are braver than my generation. They are brave enough to start a discussion about how it should be,” Phayao said. “Where Thailand has problems, there needs to be changes and the structure needs to be adjusted, which makes me amazed with young people, and I am happy that they are not like my generation, who are oppressed and kept in the dark, but it’s more open in their generation. They won’t let anyone ruin their future. They choose their own future. This is what I’m happy about.”

Newsstudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020red shirtPhayao Akhad19 May 2010 political violencemilitary crackdown 2010state violencetheatrePerforming art
Categories: Prachatai English

Draft Constitution submitted to parliament with 100,732 signatures

Wed, 2020-09-23 10:12
Submitted on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 - 10:12 AMPrachatai

iLaw, the legal watchdog NGO and its allies, has led a march to parliament to submit their amendments to the constitution, 1 day before the parliament holds a debate on 2 amendment bills one from the government and one from the opposition, on 23-24 September.

(Right) Jon Ungphakorn, the director of iLaw submitting the amendment  petition with the signatures to the secretary of the House Speaker.

The iLaw version was submitted on 22 September in line with Section 256 of the 2017 constitution that empowers 50,000 people to submit an amendment to the constitution. Due to the pro-democracy wave, it surprisingly took only 43 days to gather double the required number.

iLaw’s version has 10 parts, amending various sections of the 2017 constitution. It mainly aims to abolish the legacy and political leverage of the junta who staged the 2014 coup. The draft abolishes the appointed senate and its powers, the 20-year national strategy, and parliament’s ability to nominate an unelected person to become Prime Minister. 

It also removes the immunity of the coup-makers’ past orders and actions protected under Section 279, and unelected local administrations, and revises of the selection process for independent government agencies. 

iLaw also does not exempt from amendment Chapters 1 and 2 which deal with general principle governing the country and the king. It also stresses that the constitution drafting assembly must be entirely elected with the country as one constituency.

Chuan Leekphai told the media that the iLaw draft may not make its way into the parliament debate on 23-24 September as parliament staff need time to check the hundreds of thousands petition documents.

Yingcheep Atchanont, the manager of iLaw, gave a speech in front of parliament. He thanked the 100,732 people who signed the amendment and those who supported iLaw along the way. He demanded that the draft be submitted for parliamentary debate in this session, which will end after the 24 September meeting.

Yingcheep Atchanont

Yingcheep said that the draft they were submitting contains proposals that no political party has made, including the removal of the appointed senate and its powers, no outsider PM, and calls for the senate-appointed Constitutional Court, National Anti-Corruption Commission, Ombudsman, and National Human Rights Commission to be disbanded and re-elected without any interference from appointed bodies.

Amendments may be proposed either from the cabinet, not less than one-fifth of the total existing members of the House of Representatives, not less than one-fifth of MPs and Senators of both houses, or 50,000 people who have the right to vote. 

The march went 2.2 km, starting from Tao Poon subway station. Around 10 uniformed police officers were present. Around 500 people joined the march with some passers-by and bystanders giving support by raising 3-finger salutes, an anti-dictatorship gesture inspired by the Hunger Games film.

The petitions were submitted to Somboon Uthaiwiankul, secretary of the House Speaker, Sutin Klungsang, chief opposition whip, and Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the Move Forward Party.

After the petition was submitted, Netnapha Amnatsongsoem of the Free People Movement read a declaration that parliament must respond to the people's proposal for constitutional amendment.

“The mechanisms of the 2017 constitution such as 250 senators appointed by the NCPO, possibility of an unelected PM, and the co-optation of accountability organizations to the point where they have lost credibility, all have come about to prolong the power of the NCPO and ensure that the current balance of political power does not truly reflect the people’s will.

“Although MPs from many political parties will propose approaches to amending the constitution by using the rights of MPs, they lack amendments to the important issues mentioned above, especially the proposal from the government parties which plans to co-opt the constitution drafting committee to work as the parties themselves wish. So such proposals as exist are not enough to correct the abnormalities in the present political regime,” the declaration states."

As of now, 2 proposals have been submitted to parliament.

  1. Opposition coalition led by Pheu Thai Party
    1. The establishment of a constitution drafting assembly, whose members, consist of 200, will be entirely elected with each province as a constituency, by an amendment of Section 256.
    2. Cancellation of Sections 270 -272 relating to senators’ powers in national reform plans, amendment of penalties in corruption cases committed by officials and voting for the PM
    3. Cancellation of Section 279 relating to legitimizing actions and orders of the NCPO in the past.
    4. Cancellation of Sections 83, 85, 88, 90, 91 and 94 relating to the electoral system in favour of one that allows 2 ballots (for constituency and party-list) as in the 1997 constitution. 
  2. Government coalition
    • The Senate left untouched, although a few members of the Democrat Party want to limit the Senate’s powers. 
    • A drafting committee consisting of 200 members; 150 elected and the other 50 appointed from among legal experts, academic experts, political experts and students.
NewsiLawconstitution amendmentYingcheep Atchanontpolitics
Categories: Prachatai English

May 18 Memorial Foundation Support for Thailand Democratization Protests

Tue, 2020-09-22 23:10
Submitted on Tue, 22 Sep 2020 - 11:10 PMThe May 18 Memorial Foundation

The May 18 Memorial Foundation expresses solidarity with the young protesters in Thailand. We respect their peaceful call for greater democracy.

However, the Thai government, which has disbanded the pro-democracy party (FFP) early this year, is suppressing the peaceful demonstrators’ rights by arresting and intimidating them

These young advocates are brave citizens who call for a free and fair society and are contributing to Thailand’s democratization. Their demands should be listened to and discussed by the government.

These calls for greater democracy in Thailand resonate with people in Korea, where students have been deeply involved in the process of democratization. Many of the young protestors in Korea lost their lives in the protests. This should not happen in Thailand.

A fully democratic society listens to the voices of all members. The Government in Thailand should respect the right to peaceful protest and stop resorting to violence.

Date: 22 September 2020

The May 18 Memorial Foundation, Gwangju, South Korea

Pick to PostThe May 18 Memorial FoundationGwangjuSouth KoreaStudent protest 2020politicsfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Police seize booklets on monarchy reform, harass would-be protestors

Sun, 2020-09-20 00:49
Submitted on Sun, 20 Sep 2020 - 12:49 AMPrachatai

Police stopped the vehicles of students transporting equipment and booklets to the protest at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus ahead of the afternoon’s protest.

Two of the police officers who stopped the students

Student activist Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak went live on Facebook at 10.40 on Saturday (19 September) as a group of police officers from Khlong Luang Police Station stopped the car transporting equipment and 50,000 copies of a booklet containing the transcription of the speeches on monarchy reform given at the 10 August demonstration at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus which were to be given out at the protest on Saturday afternoon.

The police claimed that the content of the booklet is illegal and an attempt to overthrow the government and told the students that they will be taken to the police station if they do not cooperate. They also claimed that the operation is due to reasons of national security.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that the five students sat with their arms linked together as police officers tried to bring them along with their car and the booklets to Khlong Luang Police Station.

The students tried to negotiate with the police, telling them to take only one pack of booklets for inspection, and that they can come confiscate the booklets at the protest later if they find anything illegal, but the police insisted on taking the car, claiming that there are other objects in the car. 

The police then transferred the booklets to their car, and took the students with them to the police station. As officers took the booklets, the students said “We are not willing, but we have to surrender to force. The officers are all over the soi where our dorm is.” 

At 15.25, TLHR reported that the police had confiscated the booklets, claiming that the content could be considered an insult to the monarchy. However, the students also gave testimony to add to the police’s confiscation record that there has been no court ruling that the booklets are banned or that it is illegal to own them.   

In addition, Parit also posted on his Facebook page that four other students have been arrested on sedition charges, two of whom were scheduled to take the stage at Saturday’s protest. However, TLHR said that the police spokesperson insisted that there was no arrest. 

There were also reports of protesters traveling to Bangkok from northern provinces such as Lamphun and Phayao being stopped at police checkpoints last night (18 September) and having their ID cards photographed by officers. Police officers in Srisaket also attempted to follow protesters traveling to join the protest in Bangkok, telling them that if the protesters don’t let them ride on the same vehicle, they will follow them.

Meanwhile, Parit posted last night (18 September) that a traditional drum teacher from Chiang Mai and his students who were previously scheduled to perform at the protest can no longer come to Bangkok after they were visited by police officers who asked them not to join the protest.

Newsstudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020judicial harassmentUnited Front of Thammasat and Demonstration
Categories: Prachatai English

Police threaten toilet trucks against joining protest

Sat, 2020-09-19 23:06
Submitted on Sat, 19 Sep 2020 - 11:06 PMThammachart Kri-aksorn

Caption: Toilet trucks eventually arrived at Thammasat University at 16.00 after they successfully managed to get away from the police. Source: Pakorn Porncheewangkun

In their mastery of methods to halt the political momentum of student protests, the Thai authorities have turned to a most unexpected tactic: to make it as hard as possible for protesters to defecate by threatening toilet truck drivers not to come to the protest sites on 19 September.

To hold a two-day protest at Thammasat University, the organizers had multitudinous items to prepare, ranging from food, water, a stage, electricity and sanitation. On 19 September it was expected that 50,000-100,000 protesters will come, so their job was not easy. But the police have made their job even more difficult by trying to obstruct the protest.

Pakorn Porncheewangkun, one of the organizers of the 19 September protest, told Prachatai that police tried to prevent toilet trucks from coming to the protest sites by threatening their drivers and staff.

He said that before the protest, he originally wanted to hire toilet trucks from the one company he has always been using, but then he felt that something might go wrong. So he hired toilet trucks from another company as well. Pakorn did not give us permission to specify the name of the companies for the sake of their safety.

To make sure that protesters have ‘luxury experiences’ when using the toilets, he said he paid 361,000 baht for the toilet trucks, water trucks, and vacuum trucks. The money came from people’s donations. However, his concerns started to become real.

Caption: Porncheewangkun and bottles of water with Kai Meaw’s ‘Ta Sai’ stickers which he prepared for the protesters on 19 September. Source: Pakorn Porncheewangkun

Pakorn said police went to threaten the owners of both companies, but they did not give in to fear because they believe in democracy. So instead they went to threaten their drivers and staff at their homes and asked them not to come to the protest site.

Out of fear for their safety, employees of one of the companies decided not to come to work on 19-20 September. So the company owner said they wanted to give a refund.

Even though 5 trucks withdrew out of fear, the other 10 from the other company said they would come anyway. Pakorn hired additional vacuum and water trucks to support the existing toilet trucks and make sure protesters get timely access to toilets.

Even then, police still tried hard. On the day of the 19 September protest, they tried to block the toilet trucks from coming to the protest sites. Some of them were blocked on Phra Pin Klao Bridge.

On September 19, the Royal Thai Police has deployed 8,550 policemen and policewomen at 14 spots including Thammasat University, the Royal Palace, the Democracy Monument, the Jo Po Ro intersection, Makawan Rangsan bridge and other junctions close to the protest sites.

Luckily, protesters were able to get access to toilets after they successfully managed to get into Thammasat University before noon. Our reporter said that they could access toilets at the Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy.

Toilet trucks finally arrived at 16.00 after they successfully managed to get away from the police. Pakorn described that the protesters quickly lined up to use the toilets. 

   

According to Sanitation First, an organisation that focuses on the right to sanitation and hygiene, “in 2015, the United Nations General Assembly declared sanitation a universal human right. This means that everyone, everywhere, has the right to a toilet.”

Pakorn Porncheewangkun is a former red shirt supporter. Recently, he announced that he was ready to support any group of student protesters in the democratic cause. He believes that the government is allowing the protests because they know in the long run the students cannot afford to keep holding protests. So he supports the students to help increase their chance of success.

In a recent protest where the Bad Students debated with Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, Pakorn told PPTV that he had spent almost 200,000 baht to help the students organize the protest. The money came from people’s donations.

Pakorn became widely known after he bought one of a set of controversial paintings that depicted Lord Buddha as the superhero Ultraman for 4,500 baht in 2019. They were painted by a student at Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University who later had to apologize to hardline Buddhist groups for tarnishing their religion after they asked the Crime Suppression Division to prosecute her.

Despite a request from the University, he refused to return the paintings knowing that they would be destroyed. Instead, he put them up for auction and donated some of the money to the young painter and hospitals in Nakhon Ratchasima. The first painting raised 600,000 baht while the second raised 2 million baht.

NewsPakorn Porncheewangkun19 September 2020 protest
Categories: Prachatai English

Conscript dies after serving 15 days; opposition calls for change.

Sat, 2020-09-19 15:57
Submitted on Sat, 19 Sep 2020 - 03:57 PMPrachatai

A conscript Seri Butwong died after serving for only 15 days. The hashtag #Abolish conscription hit the twitter top trend as opposition MPs questioned the Armed Forces over their failures in taking care of personnel.

Pvt Seri Butwong, a conscript in the Directorate of Joint Communications, died at the Royal Thai Air Force Hospital, Bangkok, on 14 September. Heart arrhythmia has been given as the cause of death.

Nathasa Rochai, a relative of Seri posted on Facebook that a military general informed him of Seri’s death on 14 September, after Seri started service on 1 September.

Maj Gen Theerapong Patamasing Na Ayutthya), Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters spokesperson, said that the Commander-in-Chief had been informed about the death and ordered a thorough fact-finding process to give justice and clarification to the family. He also ordered the Directorate to provide the best funeral.

At 12.00 on 14 September, Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital reported that heart arrhythmia was the cause of death by following sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS). Seri had not been assaulted. Seri’s father was informed by medical staff and viewed his body. His father does not believe that the death was suspicious.

The Directorate of Joint Communications will be responsible for all funeral expenses. The Directorate will also pay Seri’s father compensation of 200,000 baht.

After the death was reported on media, the hashtag #ยกเลิกเกณฑ์ทหาร (#Abolish conscription) hit the twitter top trend.

Thailand experiences repeated deaths of conscripted soldiers. Many result from the violent corporal punishment that recruits suffer, including assaults by officers or senior recruits.

On 16 September, Rangsiman Rome and Viroj Lakkana-adisorn, MPs from the Move Forward Party (MFP), questioned the Armed Forces over their failures in taking care of personnel.

Rangsiman questioned the military for not being able to screen the health of recruits before service, which led to this death. Many conscripts were assigned as the personal servants of senior officers. He said it is time to abolish conscription.

Rangsiman also said that on 14 November 2019, MFP had submitted a Military Service Bill, which replaces conscription with a volunteer force. The draft is still under consideration by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Prime Minister and Defence Minister.

Viroj questioned the necessity of recruiting almost a hundred thousand soldiers this year as the prospects of Thailand being involved in a war appear remote. The last declared war was the Indo-China War of 1940. Military personnel these days are made personal servants of their commanders, harassing each other and the people. He insisted that recruitment must become voluntary in order to develop the Armed Forces’ professionalism and welfare.

According to the 1954 Military Service Act, it is obligatory for Thai males to serve in the military at the age of 21. Recently, 97,324 men were recruited in the 2020 draft.

Newsmilitary reformMove Forward partymilitary conscription
Categories: Prachatai English

Tough fight before 19 September protest

Sat, 2020-09-19 12:25
Submitted on Sat, 19 Sep 2020 - 12:25 PMThammachart

Summary

- It is anticipated that 50,000-100,000 protesters are coming to Thammasat University today to call for constitutional amendments, freedom of expression and monarchy reform.

- The protesters are becoming better organized as they get help from public figures, celebrities and experts.

But the police are just as sophisticated as they have come up with a new plan to deal with the protesters.

- To prepare for the fateful day, they have moved documents out of Government House, closed two universities, targeted protest organizers, and deployed 8,550 policemen at 14 spots surrounding the protest sites to secure traffic routes and crowd control.

- Both sides are facing a tough fight in the hours to come.

Caption: People started gathering at Thammasat University to protest against the government. Source: Prachatai

19 September is another big day in Thailand. The United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration have announced that they will hold a large protest at Thammasat University’s Tha Pra Chan campus to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the 2006 military coup.

They anticipate that 50,000-100,000 will join as they call for constitutional amendments, freedom of expression, and monarchy reform. It is planned that they will stay overnight at Sanam Luang and go to Government House the next day.

They have been getting more and more organized through the experience of protests over the past several months. Buses from Khon Kaen province arrived one day in advance. Red shirt protesters are coming from 17 northern provinces. The organizers have asked older people to join over the issue of delayed pensions. Traditional allies including trade unions and LGBT groups are also expected to join.

With the help of public figures, celebrities and experts, students have mobilized their sources of power.

  • The 6 political parties in the opposition held a press conference on 17 September to announce that they will send MPs from the Committee on Administration to observe the situation and help the protesters by guaranteeing bail if they are arrested.
     
  • Pakorn Porncheewangkun, a campaign fundraiser, said on 15 September that he has spent 438,000 baht for electric generator trucks, toilet trucks and bottles of water for the student protests.
     
  • Inthira ‘Sine’ Charoenpura, a pro-democracy celebrity, said on 15 September that she has prepared 7 dinner menus and 1 dessert for the protesters on 19 September. Boiled rice with chicken will be served on the morning of 20 September. Ovaltine, coffee, 24,000 bottles of water, 20,000 cookies, and 50 buckets of ice cream will be available throughout the two-day protest.    
     
  • iLaw, an independent organization which has successfully collected more than 50,000 signatures to launch a people’s constitutional amendment, will open a booth asking for more signatures at the protest site for the last day on 19 September.
     
  • Dr Tossaporn Serirak, former spokesperson in the Yingluck Shinawatra government, a member the Pheu Thai party and a doctor, said that he has gathered a group of democratically minded doctors to provide three medical units at the protest site.

However, the Thai authorities have also prepared for the upcoming protest.

  • On 17 September, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha gave a speech on TV stating that people should refrain from joining protests in order to prevent the return of Covid-19 and worsen the economy. He said he has asked the authorities to “treat the protesters with gentleness.”
     
  • Thammasat University has announced the cancellation of all classes on 19-20 September. A document from the Faculty of Law said that security agents have asked the University to close the campus on the day of the protest.
     
  • Silpakorn University’s Wang Tha Phra Campus, next to Thammasat University’s Tha Pra Chan Campus, will also be closed. The university’s announcement claimed that certain areas are under construction and the protest may endanger people’s lives and properties.
     
  • On 17 September, government documents were moved out of Government House. Parking is also not allowed at Government House. Pol Col Vacharavee Thamsema, commander of the 4th Sub-Division of the 3rd Special Branch Division said they will install more security cameras in the area and deploy 300 policemen at Government House.
     
  • Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that protesters must respect the 2015 Public Assembly Law which allows the Royal Thai Police Chief to prohibit protesters from getting nearer than 50 metres of Government House.
     
  • On 16 September, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Pakkapong Pongpetra said that there will be 4 checkpoints surrounding the protest sites to check for weapons and temperatures before people can enter the protest sites. He asked for cooperation from the protesters, as the measures are also to ensure that no violence will come from third parties. 
     
  • The government has deployed 8,550 policemen and policewomen at 14 spots including Thammasat University, the Royal Palace, the Democracy Monument, the Jo Po Ro intersection, Makawan Rangsan bridge and other junctions close to the protest sites. Bangkok Insight reported the police as saying that the measure was to secure critical transportation routes from the protests. But it can also be seen as a deterrent against riots.

While the measures above are more or less legitimate, other actions by the Thai authorities are outright harassment of the organizers.

  • On 16 September, the Constitutional Court accepted a complaint against three protest leaders for their monarchy reform statement on the protest stage on 10 August. The complaint claims that they used their rights and freedom to overthrow a democracy with the monarch as head of state.
     
  • On 17 September, police raided the residence of Jatupat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa and confiscated 17 banners with messages about monarchy reform. The banners were to be used at the protest on 19 September. Police said they came to collect evidence with a search warrant.
     
  • Pakorn Porncheewangkun told Prachatai that police have tried to prevent 15 toilet trucks he hired from coming to the protest sites by threatening the drivers and staff at their homes. 5 trucks withdrew out of fear but 10 will come anyway. Pakorn has hired additional vacuum and water trucks to support existing toilet trucks and make sure protesters get timely access to toilets.
     
  • Student leader Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul posted on Facebook that a company engaged to install the protest stage has been surrounded by the police trying to prevent the organizing team from taking things into their own vehicles. The police did not give any explanation for their actions but kept asking the organizing team if they were going the protest.

Even though these examples of suppression are crystal clear, it remains uncertain how police assess the situation. According to a leaked document, they estimate that only 6,500 protesters will join, but a Pol Maj Gen said that the number could range from 10,000 to 100,000.

A report by Matichon Online said that the security forces think that this protest is just a rehearsal for major events in October when constitution amendment proposals reach the floor of parliament, so the use of violence is unlikely.

The police strategy is also difficult to read. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Pakkapong Pongpetrasaid police would use a “July 2009 Plan” which enables activists to anticipate the next steps taken by the police.

But just one day before the protest Pol Col Kritsana Pattanacharoen, Deputy Spokesperson of the Royal Thai Police, said they would no longer use this plan because it is already obsolete. Instead, they would use a “2020 Protest Plan” for the upcoming protest to adapt to the Covid-19 situation and the 2015 Public Assembly Law. The principle remains the same in that measures will be taken “from light to heavy”.

The new plan will put the protesters in a tough spot. However, the protesters have also become more organized thanks to the help they have received from their supporters. If all of this says anything, it is that both sides are facing formidable opponents as they enter a tough fight in the hours to come.

Round Up19 September 2020 protest
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: The final battle

Fri, 2020-09-18 23:42
Submitted on Fri, 18 Sep 2020 - 11:42 PMCartoon by Stephff: The final battle

MultimediaStephff
Categories: Prachatai English

Constitutional Court accepts treason complaint against protest leaders

Fri, 2020-09-18 23:34
Submitted on Fri, 18 Sep 2020 - 11:34 PMPrachatai

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday (16 September) accepted a complaint against three leaders of the 10 August demonstration at Thammasat University, accusing them of attempting to overthrow the government.

Student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, a member of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, the student activist group who organized the 10 August protest, was among those accused.

The complaint was filed by lawyer Nattaporn Toprayoon, who accused three speakers at the 10 August demonstration, namely human rights lawyer Anon Nampa and student activists Panupong Jadnok and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, of attempting to overthrow the “democratic regime with the monarch at the head of state” under Section 49 in the 2017 Constitution.

Nattaporn previously filed his complaint with the Attorney General under Clause 2 of Section 49 on 18 August, before filing the complaint with the Constitutional Court directly.

The Constitutional Court accepted the complaint and will deliver a copy of the complaint to the three accused, so that they can submit a statement within 15 days. The Court also ordered the Attorney General to deliver the evidence filed by Nattaporn to the Court within 15 days.

Nattaporn, a staunch royalist, is a former advisor to the Chief Ombudsman and has previously acted as a lawyer for the PAD, the Thai Patriots Network and other right-wing groups. In June 2019, he filed the same complaint against the now-dissolved Future Forward Party (FFP), claiming that the party was linked to the Illuminati, a fictitious secret organization believed by conspiracy theorists to be seeking world domination. The Constitutional Court ruled to acquit the party in January 2020, citing insufficient evidence.

NewsPanusaya SithijirawattanakulPanupong JadnokAnon NampaNattaporn ToprayoonConstitutional courtUnited Front of Thammasat and DemonstrationStudent protest 2020student activiststudent movementYouth movement
Categories: Prachatai English

Thailand: Protect fundamental freedoms in the upcoming protests

Fri, 2020-09-18 16:55
Submitted on Fri, 18 Sep 2020 - 04:55 PMFORUM-ASIA

International human rights organisations are calling on the Government of Thailand to observe international human rights laws and standards ahead of a planned protest expected to attract tens of thousands to Bangkok this weekend. 

A placard held by a protester at the mass protest on 16 August

"We urge the Thai government to observe its commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to facilitate a peaceful assembly and to take all steps necessary to ensure the protection of all participants. Any restriction that the Government imposes must fall under permissible restrictions as defined by international human rights standards," the rights groups said.

The statement was jointly issued by the Asia Democracy Network (ADN), the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and the World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS).

Having ratified the ICCPR in 1996, Thailand is duty bound to protect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Article 21 of the ICCPR reads: The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognised. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. 

The date of the rally, 19 September, coincides with the anniversary of the 2006 military coup which toppled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s government. The intended location, Thammasat University, also holds significance as it has a long history linked to Thai civil society’s struggle for democracy.

‘The Government’s obligation to respect and protect fundamental freedoms extends beyond ensuring these protests are held safely and free from unwarranted interference. Civil society should be free to gather and express their views, free from reprisals by the Government,’ they said.

This weekend’s mass protest follows months of mostly student-led peaceful demonstrations that have erupted across the country, where Thailand’s youth have aired grievances and called for change. Repressive laws limiting the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association remain in place. For many activists, the post-elections period has only been a continuation of the junta, with the same authoritarian leaders and systems in power.

Additionally, the Asia Democracy Network (ADN) said that “the struggle of the Thais to demand reforms and expansion of civic space serves as a beacon of hope for all those working to defend democracy in Asia. We urge the Thai government to fulfill its human rights obligations and engage the protesters constructively.”

Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) also said that “Students, activists and civil society have the right to express their views, individually and as a collective, and the Government should enable safe spaces for people to discuss issues of concern.”

Charles Santiago, Chairperson of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and Malaysian Member of Parliament, said “peacefully voicing your opinion in public is not a crime. Those participating in peaceful protests should not do so at the cost of their liberty. The Thai authorities should know by now that their repeated attempts at silencing calls for greater democracy are not only illegal but also counterproductive. Thai youth in particular are hungry for change, and the authorities’ threats will merely strengthen their determination. Instead, Thai leaders might find that listening to those willing to peacefully discuss Thailand’s future will in fact be of greater benefit to the country.”

David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead for the World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS), “peaceful protest is a legitimate form of dissent. Instead of disrupting the protest or harassing organisers as we have seen in the past, we urge the Thai authorities to listen to the grievances of the protesters and take meaningful steps to address them.”

Pick to PostAsian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)freedom of expressionfreedom of assemblystudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

Economy comes first, says Prayut.

Fri, 2020-09-18 14:56
Submitted on Fri, 18 Sep 2020 - 02:56 PMPrachatai

Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has given a speech on nationwide TV discouraging people from joining protests in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and worsening the economy. In one week, the Thai government has launched several economic relief measures.

On 17 September, the Prime Minister of Thailand, in a message carried by the TV pool, said that he heard what the protesters say, but combating Covid-19 and reviving the economy should come first.

His speech came two days before the upcoming protest on 19-20 September at Thammasat University, Tha Pra Chan Campus, where it is expected that 50,000-100,000 people will join to call for constitutional amendments, freedom of expression, and monarchy reform.

“I would like to tell everyone who wants to come out and protest clearly that I hear what you say. I acknowledge your frustration with politics and dissatisfaction with the constitution,” said Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. “I respect your opinions and your feelings. But today, Thailand is facing immediate pain which we need to address first, that is, alleviating the economic damage which the Covid-19 has caused all over the world. We should not make the situation worse.”

“Protests will delay the economic recovery because they will destroy business confidence and create uncertainty among tourists who will come to Thailand,” he said. “When we come to the time when we are ready to receive foreign tourists again, the protests will create turmoil in the country and undermine the government’s focus on its work in managing Covid-19 and the economic problems, the mouths and stomachs of the people. So I want to ask us to defeat Covid-19 and get through this global crisis together first. After that, we can gradually return to politics.”

Recently, the Thai government has announced several economic measures. On 10 September, the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) agreed to issue visas for up to 270 days to tourists with high-purchasing power to boost the economy. Tourists with this special visa have to undergo a 14-day quarantine period before they can travel in Thailand and even then, they cannot travel farther than 1 km from their residence.  

In August, the government launched the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA), an economic team with a similar structure to the CCSA. Yesterday (17 September), it approved 21 billion baht in additional relief for 14 million people who will receive an additional 500 baht per month from October to December. Those with an income of less than 30,000 baht per year will receive 800 baht per month (up from 300 baht) and those with more than 30,000 baht income will receive 700 baht per month (up from 200 baht). The money will not be paid in cash, but stored in state welfare cards which can be used for payment in participating stores.

CESA has also approved a co-pay programme which will provide 3000 baht to 10 million people. Registration will on 16 October at 6.00-23.00 and continue after that until registration reaches 10 million. People who register successfully will be notified via SMS in two days. They will receive money via an application which can be used for payment in 100,000 participating stores. The government will pay half of the price of purchases up to 100 baht per day. People who register for the co-pay programme will not be eligible for other relief programmes and vice versa.

Gen Prayut’s speech echoes earlier statements by other ministers. On 13 September, the Bangkok Post reported Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul saying that the protesters should wear masks to prevent Covid-19 infections. On 14 September, Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin said that even though it is the beauty of democracy that people have diverse opinions, millions of people still struggle to find jobs and incomes. He asked who will be held responsible if protesters come out to worsen the economy as in Hong Kong.

Suchart’s speech came after he announced Job Expo Thailand 2020 from 26-28 September at BITEC in Bang Na. 1 million jobs will reportedly be available at the expo. Earlier the government also announced subsidies for businesses to hire 260,000 graduates. They will help pay half the salary up to 7,500 baht per month.  The government measures are responses to a report by the Department of Employment in July that new 500,000 graduates are at risk of being permanently unemployed.

Gen Prayut also said in his TV pool message that in other countries, governments have taken decisive actions against protesters to prevent the spread of Covid-19. For example, in Germany, 38,000 people gathered to protest against Covid-19 regulations and 300 protesters were arrested. “However, what I have ordered is a request to officials to treat the protesters with gentleness,” said Prayut,  “because I still believe that the people who will come out to protest will have awareness about the things which they should be careful about and stay within the boundaries.”

NewsGen Prayut Chan-o-chaAnutin CharnvirakulSuchart Chomklin19 September 2020 protest
Categories: Prachatai English

Centralized Covid-19 control added salt to wounded border lives

Fri, 2020-09-18 14:35
Submitted on Fri, 18 Sep 2020 - 02:35 PMYiamyut Sutthichaya

If the curfew in Bangkok during the lockdown period was tiresome enough, imagine being allowed to travel for only 3 days a week. The border shutdown ordered from the central authorities is needlessly affecting livelihoods in the north that are highly dependent on trans-border activities.

The Mekong river border at Chiang Saen district.

Mae Sam Lap, a small village bordering Myanmar on the Salween River in Mae Hong Son Province, has faced worrisome changes since the first wave of Covid-19 infections hit Thailand. The nationwide border shutdown has affected the temporary checkpoint in this port town.

Pongpipat Meebenjamas, a coordinator of the Salween villagers’ network and Salween Civil Society Organizations Network said the area is heavily affected as people mainly depend on the river for travel, trade and fishing. The situation seems to have improved as the local authorities informally allow people to travel one day a week, later increased to 3 days.

This relaxation took effect after Pongpipat, as the villager representative, made a complaint to the Member of Parliament, local administration, and media.

But a sudden outbreak of Covid-19 in Myanmar in August in Rakhine state is giving Mae Sam Lap people the bad feeling of a setback to a square one due to a 15-day border shutdown starting on 3 September, despite Rakhine state being on the other side of Myanmar.

What has happened in Mae Sam Lap is a small example of a huge hole in Thailand’s centralized disease control policy that succeeded in saving lives at the expense of huge economic losses.

Virus control at a dire cost to local trade

25 August was a very quiet day at the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge 4 in Chiang Khong District, Chiang Rai Province. The border lockdown prohibits this port town from trading across the Mekong River, leaving the bridge the only trading spot available. Despite being open for trade, no activity seemed to be taking place that day.

A quiet day at the Chiangkhong customs house, Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge 4

Chiang Rai is geographically significant for trans-border trade from its border that connects with both Myanmar and Laos. Beyond the Lao border, there is an economic corridor all the way to southern China via the R3A road.

Sa-nguan Sonklinsakul, Vice President of the Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce, said trans-border trading accounts for 80-90% of the trade in Chiang Rai Province. The border lockdown affects traders in the province a lot, especially the small- and medium-size ones that conduct their trade with the locals across the river from port to port.

Sa-nguan Sonklinsakul

He said the small and medium traders used to conduct trade and logistics via the Mekong River to bypass the complex customs procedures at the official border checkpoint due to their small trading amounts. After the lockdown, traders adapted by bundling their goods together by car to the border, where the goods will be transferred to the other side.

Unfortunately, according to Sa-nguan, the Lao authorities at the Houayxay immigration post, Bokeo Province, decided to increase the customs tax by 100%, causing the traders to give up trading as they feared losses from the skyrocketing cost. He asked his friends who conduct trans-border trade and found no other immigration post has acted similarly.

The shrinking local trade benefits bigger Thai companies that benefit from Free Trade Agreements or other tax subsidies at the international level on trade which is mostly conducted at the Lao capital, Vientiane.

He said some of the entrepreneurs in Chiang Kong have petitioned the Provincial Governor to open up 2 small ports for local trade, but as of August no decision has been made as it has to be agreed by the Lao side as well.

Decentralized, systematic solutions needed

Sa-nguan said the policy should be made in consideration of local context. Small traders should be allowed to conduct trade via the river. Land transfers can also be made with health regulations from both sides to allow some people to pass through. He fears that mismanagement will lead to the loss of export market share as China and Vietnam are potential competitors in this region.

“Small traders like us ask only for opening the river route, then you can dock at our port and unload the goods. Lao people do not have to disembark. Both sides can communicate which goods they want and then bring a boat across to carry it.

“I think that alone should not lead to shutting down every border post and every route in every province … the small traders are dying, [but] the big ones can survive,” said Sa-nguan.  “But ask if the big traders are local.  They’re not.”

Pongpipat also holds the same opinion, that well-managed local measures can still handle the river traffic in Mae Sam Lap. He said the distance from Rakhine to Mae Sam Lap is very far and blocked by many ongoing conflicts.

He wants the authorities to allow domestic river trade and travel to be operated regularly. Any necessary public health measures like wearing face masks or temperature screening can be enforced to keep livelihoods going.

“Boats should be used for convenience in travel. Boats have to be docked anyway. Sop Moei and Mae Sai already have the security posts and health officials already. Just temperature screening or checking names to confirm that no one really did cross the border.” said Pongpipat.

Pol Maj Gen Supisarn Bhakdinarinath, an MP from Move Forward Party and Chair of House Sub-committee charged with studying, improving, amending security-related laws, said the border closures have affected local grassroots trading and contributed to lack of labour on both sides. Thousands of Thai people who work in the entertainment sector at Tachileik, one of the towns in Myanmar bordering Mae Sot, have already lost their jobs because of the closures.

Pol Maj Gen Supisarn Bhakdinarinath

He said the economy at the local level along the border is still not making a comeback. Despite infections on the Myanmar side, the government should allow authorized labour imports, with additional enforcement of public health measures. 

Supisarn gives an example: migrant workers would be screened by the authorities and put in quarantine. If no disease is found, they can be put to work in a limited area. If anybody has Covid-19, they will be segregated for treatment and others in the group will be put into complete quarantine.

The state and private sector should work together to check and report on the situation daily. Judging from past disease control capacity, Thailand already has the preparedness in terms of local public health human resources.

“Use the tools of the state such as the provincial and district public health officials, military and police for quarantine by bringing these workers to work in quarantined areas in each company and make work sites as in Singapore”, said Supisarn.

“In Singapore, infection spread among groups of workers, but they used the quarantine method. When they find someone, they pull them out and put them a quarantine area like a small island or community. If they cannot be treated, it deports them.

“14-days quarantine is the foundation that companies can be allowed by the state. But it is necessary to build competitive tools and have a comprehensive system of public health. This will make these workers enter legitimately. Smuggling or secretly entering across the natural border will not happen. Minivans won’t be discovered.  It will be dangerous if state officials along the border, especially the military, let them through. It means spreading all over an area in a way where we cannot trace the origin,” said Supisarn.

Supisarn said the military has replaced the border police for border protection and patrols since the 2014 coup. On Covid-19 security-related matters, they send their opinion to the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), a quasi-military civilian state organization, then to the regional army commander and to the National Security Council and to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

Featureborder tradeChiang RaiCOVID-19Supisarn BhakdinarinathSa-nguan SonklinsakulPongpipat Meebenjamas
Categories: Prachatai English

Occupy Thammasat: What to expect at 19 September protest

Thu, 2020-09-17 18:00
Submitted on Thu, 17 Sep 2020 - 06:00 PMThammachart Kri-aksorn

Thammasat University, Thammasat University’s Tha Phra Chan Campus

19 September is the day another large protest is planned in Thailand. The organizers say there may be 50,000-100,000 protesters gathered at Thammasat University’s Tha Phra Chan Campus. However, the university administration has prohibited them from entering the campus, claiming the students will not follow its rules. With its liberal tradition at stake, members of the Thammasat community and public figures debate what is the right thing to do.

Thammasat University was founded on 27 June 1934, the same day that the interim democratic constitution first came into force after Khana Ratsadon (People’s Party) staged a democratic revolution on 24 June 1932. Pridi Banomyong, the university’s founder and the leader of the civilian wing of the People’s Party, wanted to popularize higher education in Thailand because at that time it was exclusively for the royal elite. In his own words, “[a] university is figuratively an oasis that quenches the thirst of the citizens.”

Thammasat has been a major venue for political freedom following its founder’s intention. It has been the site of important protests throughout Thai political history and produced statesmen like Puey Ungphakorn and Sanya Dharmasakti. Praised for its liberal tradition, the university has a motto that Thammasat has freedom in every square inch. Students and professors also often say “I love Thammasat because Thammasat teaches me to love people.”

However, it is questionable if Thammasat University will continue this tradition.

On 9 September, the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration held a press conference saying that they would hold a protest on 19 September at Thammasat University, Tha Phra Chan Campus. Student leader Parit Chiwarak said that they will not lower their demands about monarchy reform. “We have opened the sky wide for society,” said Parit. “And we will not let anyone put a limit on our movement again.”

United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration held a press conference saying that they would hold a protest on 19 September. Source: Voice TV

The student group had earlier held a controversial protest on 10 August at Thammasat’s Rangsit Campus. Calling for monarchy reform, they read a 10-point proposal and displayed parody memes of political exiles along with adapted texts, fonts, colours, and frames normally used for the monarchy. Student leaders at the protest that day were facing arrest warrants for violating the sedition law, including Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, Natchanon Phairot, Thanawat Chanphluek, and Sitnon Songsiri.

Some of them have been detained but later released on bail. They continue to fight while they still have time outside prison. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul said there may be around 50,000-100,000 protesters who will join the demonstration. The student leaders have asked protesters to prepare to stay overnight. If they have enough people, they will occupy Sanam Luang and at 8.00 am they will march to Government House to hand in their demands to the government. They will also prepare to close Ratchadamnoen Klang Road between Thammasat University and the Democracy Monument for people to hold protest activities.

They said they were seeking permission from the university. The group said they will not negotiate with the police as requested by the university administration. However, a group of professors has approved the protest as required by the university’s conditions. “I hope that the university administration will not forget the spirit of Thammasat University,” said Parit. “But if they do forget, the students themselves will remind them.”

However, on 3 September the Rector of Thammasat University Assoc Prof Gasinee Witoonchart released an announcement that the University will allow political protests on condition that:

(1) They are within the scope of the law and the constitution.

(2) They are organized by activity groups belonging to the university or by outside or ad hoc groups guaranteed by advisors on the faculty.

(3) There is a written agreement between the students, the organizers, the police or responsible state authorities, and the university specifying the content and method of the protest under the law and appropriate measures to guarantee the welfare and safety of the students.  

Because the students said they would not negotiate with the police, the university released a second announcement on 10 September saying that they would not allow the students to hold the protest in the university unless they accept the conditions outlined in the university’s 3 September announcement.

On 10 September, Parit responded that they will continue to protest anyway. “Even though the university administration will not allow use of the space of Thammasat University, Tha Phra Chan Campus, for protest, we will still hold the protest at Thammasat,” Parit posted on Facebook, “because Thammasat belongs to people, not a handful of lackies who serve a dictator.”

On 11 September, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul laid a wreath before the statue of Pridi Banomyong, the founder of Thammasat University, to mourn the lost democratic spirit. She was ready to talk with the university administration. But if there was no response, they would “cut the chains” and “break down the doors” to get into the university to hold the protest on September 19. “We will not negotiate over any prohibition against speaking about monarchy reform,” said Panusaya. “And we will not stop speaking just because someone comes to prohibit us from speaking.”

Assoc Prof Dr Anusorn Unno, a sociology lecturer at Thammasat, said on 11 September that he disagreed with the university administration. As an advisor who approved the protest, he said the students have explained the content and method of protest in written form. And in practice, negotiation with the police cannot start unless the university first gives permission.

Also, the university did not contact the students for additional information before publicly rejecting their request. Anusorn said that this meant the university saw the students as ‘other people’ or had made up their mind before the request was made. The sociology lecturer also said that disapproval of the protest meant the university has kicked the students out to face risks and dangers alone. And it may pave the way for confrontation and violence before the protest starts. 

The university’s new measure was a response to the protest on 10 August at Thammasat’s Rangsit Campus, which called for monarchy reform for the second time in 6 days after a student group from Kasetsart University first called for monarchy reform at the Harry Potter-themed protest at the Democracy Monument, Ratchadamnoen Avenue.

Thammasat University set up a committee to look into the events on 10 August. At the end of August, the committee’s findings said that the university and police did not know in advance about the demands for monarchy reform. The university and police had tried to avoid direct confrontation by collecting evidence for later prosecutions for illegal activities.

The committee also suggested the university should come up with detailed and strict guidelines so that students can exercise freedom of expression under the law and the constitution. It also suggested that all parties should avoid using the term “Thammasat” in a stereotypical way to prevent any widespread controversies.

The ability to speak about monarchy reform is still a subject of political debate. While the Thai authorities and pro-monarchy supporters see it as illegal under the sedition law, other sections of Thai society think that it should be open for discussion. On 12 August, more than 140 lecturers said that the opinions of the protesters are within the boundaries of the constitution and the basic principles of universal human rights and democracy.

Support and opposition

Alumni and former professors also got involved in the debate. Four hours after Panusaya laid the wreath, a group of 30 Thammasat alumni gathered at the Faculty of Liberal Arts to discuss drafting a letter in support of the university’s decision. Kaewsan Atibodhi, a Thammasat alumnus from the Faculty of Law, said the meeting was about whether there should be a discussion about monarchy reform or whether the prime minister should resign. They just thought that the upcoming protest was unconstitutional.  

Kaewsan Atibodhi 

“In our status as people of Thammasat, we do not want to see Thammasat as the headquarters of constitutional violations and the destruction of the country,” said Kaewsan.

He claimed that the purpose of the protest was ‘to throw a mob into Government House’ and was not an exercise of the right to freedom of assembly according to the intention of the constitution. He also said that the protesters were not peaceful as they spread hatred online and became more aggressive when they went into the street. “If they do it well, they’ll be the Red Guard or Nazi Youth [probably a reference to the Hitler Youth (Hitler-Jugend)].”

Kaewsan also said that if the protests continue, there may be violence like in May 1992. He also suspected that there is someone behind the student movement as they may be using the university to avoid coming under the Public Assembly Act only to protest at Sanam Luang and Government House later on.

On that day Kaewsan talked Rector Gasinee, saying that he would come back to hand her a letter on 16 September. As promised, he returned to hand Gasinee a letter with the signatures of 2,924 supporters . He also laid a bunch of flowers before the statue of Pridi Banomyong. Then he asked the press not to report that the university was not neutral.

Kaewsan Atibodhi is a former lecturer at the Faculty of Law and a former Vice Chancellor of Thammasat University. He was also a former member of the Assets Scrutiny Committee, an independent body established after the military coup in 2006 to investigate corruption in the Thaksin Shinawatra government. In 2014, he made an appearance on stage at a protest of the People's Democratic Reform Committee which led to the latest military coup. 

Other public figures have sided with Kaewsan, including Suvinai Pornavalai, a former Thammasat economics lecturer and current academic head of the Thai Move Institute. Senator Somchai Sawangkarn who never studied at Thammasat also posted on Facebook that the administration should close the university for 4 days like Chulalongkorn University when red-shirt protesters threatened to occupy it in 2010 (when at least 92 people were killed on the streets). 

Katerut Laothamatas, a government MP, also posted on Facebook that people should not monopolize Thammasat for political gain. He claimed to be a member of the Thammasat community despite not graduating or teaching at Thammasat. His father, Anek Laothamatas, once taught at the University’s Faculty of Political Science however, before he left to join the establishment and become the Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation in Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government.

Kaewsan’s move also faced much criticism, however. Opposition MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn did not claim to be a member of the Thammasat community when he jumped into the debate. He said that Kaewsan should explain the use of Thammasat by a group of alumni to hold protests which led to the military coup in 2014, because the upcoming protest is much more in order. He also said Kaewsan’s group should apologize to the spirits of Prof Pridi Banomyong and Prof Puey Ungphakorn.

On 14 September, a former dean of the Thammasat’s Faculty of Law and Pheu Thai party-list MP candidate Panus Tussaneeyanont wrote a letter countering Kaewsan’s accusations and saying that he should not be seen as representing all Thammasat alumni. Opposition to the university decision also came from former rector Prof Charnvit Kasetsiri and alumni who were students during the 6 October incident.

The debate among the Thammasat community and public figures is a preliminary struggle over the legitimacy of the upcoming protest which will be tested on 19 September. The result will be revealed in the protest outcome. How many will join? Will they be seen as legitimate? Will they be strong enough to get into the campus? How will the authorities react? The Thammasat community is just one group contributing to these questions. Ultimately, it is up to the Thai people to decide.

 

Round Up19 September 2006 coup19 September 2020 protestThammasat UniversityUnited Front of Thammasat and Demonstration
Categories: Prachatai English

Police search activist’s house at Khon Kaen, seize banners about coup and monarchy

Thu, 2020-09-17 16:20
Submitted on Thu, 17 Sep 2020 - 04:20 PMBamaejuri Sohkhlet and Thidatep Piboon

Caption: “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa and his friends raised three fingers to protest as police entered their house to seize banners with statements relating to the coup and reform of the monarchy. 

Police officers have searched the house where activist Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa and his friends are staying and seized 17 banners to be used on 19 Sep.

Jatupat livestreamed the search on his Facebook page on 17 September 2020. The police refused to let the activist group take a photo of the search warrant. They seized 17 banners with statements relating to the coup and reform of the monarchy that were to be brought to the protest on 19 Sep. 

The police with a search warrant explained that the activists had not been charged but the police needed to find the evidence for an investigation. The police also told them that charges might be pressed later. 

On 16 September 2020, Prachatai was informed by Local Democracy, a student activist group from northeastern Thailand, of which Jatupat is a member, that a red car without license plates was parked, with the engine running, in front of their rented house. 2 men, one with short hair and one with long hair, were sitting in a restaurant next to the house. 

Jatupat believes that this harassment is due to their previous political action in front of Khon Kaen Mueang Police Station on 10 Sep. However, the banners seized were not related to that case, which means that no offence relating to the banners has yet been committed. 

Jatupat is a student activist who was jailed for 870 days on a lèse majesté charge after he shared a BBC Thai biography of King Rama X. During his time in prison, his parents accepted the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, South Korea’s most prestigious human rights award, on his behalf and after his release, he has continued his activities with the Free People movement. 

Human Rights Watch reports serious concerns about the harassment of student activists and has called for the Thai authorities to stop arresting activists for their peaceful protests and to unconditionally drop all charges such as sedition. 

Apart from leading protest figures, students who participated in protests this year face harassment in their schools, which claim that their activities affect the school’s reputation and disappoint their parents. Four university students and a high school student were also summoned by the police for alleged violations of the Emergency Decree and the Public Assembly Act.

Not long after the 18 July protest, the existence of a police list of 31 targeted people was revealed, including leading figures of the student movement, such as Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikijseree. 30 people in the list have so far been charged.

The case causing most concern is the arrest of lawyer Anon Nampa and student activist Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, who were detained for 5 days over a holiday weekend after they gave speeches on reform of the monarchy. However, they will continue their fight until they reach their dream, according to Anon and Panupong. 

 

News19 September 2020 protestJatupat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa
Categories: Prachatai English

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