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Duncan McCargo: Trends in Southeast Asian Politics Mediated Populism, Electoralism, Authoritarianism?

Thu, 2018-10-04 16:57
Submitted on Thu, 2018-10-04 16:57

Duncan McCargo: Trends in Southeast Asian Politics: Mediated Populism, Electoralism, Authoritarianism?

By Prof. Duncan McCargo (The School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), University of Leeds)

Moderator: Asst.Prof. Prajak Kongkirati, Thammasat University

Wednesday, 26th September 2018 @Room 102, Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University (Thaprachan) Organised by Direk Jayanama Research Center

MultimediaDuncan McCargopoliticsSoutheast AsiaauthoritarianismCambodiaThailand
Categories: Prachatai English

Thais’ retirement insecurity: small pensions, medical treatment (maybe not) free

Wed, 2018-10-03 01:51
Submitted on Wed, 2018-10-03 01:51Nutcha Tantivitayapitak

Overall there are about 37,340,000 Thais of working age, divided into: 1) about 2,842,000 government officials, or 7.6% of the total workforce; 2) about 10,940,000 private company employees (29.3%); and 3) about 21,300,000 workers in the non-formal sector (57%), of whom only 3,900,000 or 18.3% are in the social security system.

Thailand is now beginning to turn into an aging society and will gradually have greater number of retirees.  Those who are not government officials must start paying attention to the pension which they will receive from the social security system, which is facing the challenge that in not too many decades there will not be enough money and in future the public health security system will have to charge users part of the cost in a ‘co-pay’ system.

(1) Social security system pensions and concerns about future insolvency

A research study by the Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy, Chulalongkorn University, took a sample of 762 retirees of 55 years or older who had worked in private companies or state enterprises and found that these retirees had average expenses of 10,116 baht a month.  But when they looked at the amount of their social security pensions, it was found that these were less than 10,000 baht a month, whether for private company employees under Article 33, former private company employees who had resigned and paid their own insurance contributions under Article 39, or non-formal workers under Article 40.

For example, Rosana received a monthly salary for her last 16 months of 40,000 baht and had worked for a total of 30 years.  She will receive a social security pension of 6,375 baht a month.

Furthermore, even in 2018, the accumulated investment figure of the Social Security Fund was around 1.8 trillion baht, but the ILO estimates that in another 30 to 40 years, if there is no change in policy in collecting contributions to the Social Security Fund, there may be insufficient money to pay pensions.

At present the rate of contribution that is collected is less than the rate of pensions paid.  Employees, employers and the state contribute 5%, 5% and 2.5% respectively, totalling 12.5%.  This money is deposited in the Fund in 7 categories. Old age pensions get 6% of the Fund (of the 12.5% above) but the pensions received begin at 20% of the average of the last 60 months salary. Pensions can be received from age 55 onwards with a minimum of 15 years employment. For each year worked more than 15, the pension is increased by 1.5%.  So the longer one works, the higher the pension, while pension contributions are assessed at a constant rate.

2014 is considered the first year when the Thai state began paying pensions to the people because we started making contributions to old age pensions in 1998 and in 2014 the 15 year criterion was achieved and 21,739 people became the first pension recipients.  In 2018 this has increased to 133,868.  Those receiving a bonus averaged 250,000-300,000 per year and approximately 11,500 million baht in total was paid in bonuses and pensions and the trend will be for this to increase.

Niyada Seneemanomai, an expert on social security at the Social Security Office, explained that the first reason was the ‘aging society’ problem.  In 2036, Thailand will reach the final stage of the aging society, where the aged will be 30% of the total population.  The number of the aged increases, while the number working decreases.  The Social Security Fund therefore will have to shoulder the burden of paying higher pensions.

The second reason is that the rate of contributions is less than the rate of pensions paid.  Of the 12.5% contributions (2.5% from the state, 5% from the employer and 5% from the employee), 6% goes into the pension fund, but the amount that retirees receive begins at 20%.

To solve the problem, the ILO suggested the following tentative approaches. 1) Extend the pensionable age from 55 to 60.  This method will have the greatest effect.  2) Increase the rate of contributions and/or raise the ceiling from 15,000 to 20,000 baht, thus raising the maximum 5% contribution from 750 to 1,000 baht per month (A monthly salary of 19,000 will incur a contribution of 950 baht; salaries of 21,000 baht and above are calculated as 20,000 baht.)

Another method is to increase investment in risky assets with high returns and spread risk appropriately through a law to allow investment of no more than 40% in risky assets, such as shares.  At present, the Social Security Office invests only 22% in risky assets.

 ‘All methods must be done in parallel so that the problem can be solved and the fund stabilized in a sustainable manner’ Niyada explains.

From old age welfare benefits to the concept of a national pension

Sureerat Treemanka, a leading or core activist on the national pension system, explains that this idea was sparked by the health security system.  The important principle is to make pensions a basic right and a universal form of welfare where everyone receives a comprehensive basic pension at age 60.  But this does not mean that all citizens receive equal pensions.  These are divided into levels.  The lowest level is the basic pension which everyone receives equally.  Then there are compulsory and voluntary (social security) pensions, and welfare pensions for those with low incomes. 

The basic pension is the lowest amount of money to allow a quality of life based on the ‘poverty line’.  At present it is 2,500 baht.  So everyone should receive a basic pension of 2,500 baht.  This is not the ‘old age welfare benefit’ which at present depends on age and ranges from 600 to 1,000 baht a month.

Sureerat says that in 2007, 20,000 people signed a petition to push for a national pension law, but it did not pass.  2 years ago, signatures were again collected.  If there is an elected government, a law will be proposed again.

(2) The Universal Health Coverage may have to introduce ‘co-payments’ in the future

The concept of Universal Health Coverage is that medical care is a basic right of all humans which the state must provide without cost and is not a form of welfare for the poor.

In Thailand, credit for bringing this about must go to Dr Sanguan Nittayaramphong, who initiated the idea of Universal Health Coverage.  He began his research in 1990 to study its feasibility even though before then ‘free treatment’ was something that was almost impossible.  Before the 2001 election, Dr Sanguan went to propose the policy to political parties.  Thaksin Shinawatra, as the head of the Thai Rak Thai Party at the time, believed in this approach and campaigned on a Universal Health Coverage policy.  After Thai Rak Thai won the election, the National Health Security Act was passed.

Research showed that Universal Health Coverage helped reduce catastrophic illness from 5.7% in 2000 to 2.3% in 2013 and alleviated poverty caused by medical expenses from 2.01% in 2000 to 0.47% in 2013.

The administrative principle of this system is to separate those buying medical services from those using them in order to prevent overlapping benefits. So it was necessary to set up the National Health Security Office (NHSO) with the responsibility of being the budget holder to buy medical services instead of the people.  The Ministry of Public Health is the service provider with its hospitals all over the country.

The budget which formerly was totally held and administered by the Ministry of Public Health now had for the most part to be passed to the National Health Security Fund, administered by the National Health Security Committee or NHSO Board.

Increasing public power by a ‘superboard’

The National Health Policy Committee, called in short the ‘superboard’ was set up in the National Public Health Reform Plan published at the beginning of 2018 after the submission of the National Health Policy Committee Bill.  This is under the consideration of the Ministry of Public Health for submission for cabinet approval.

The issue that attracts attention is that this committee has the authority to set the direction of basic health policy for the country and the people in accordance with the national strategy of the NCPO.  Kannikar Kijtiwatchakul, a member of the National Health Security Committee gives the opinion that this bill drags power back to the Ministry of Public Health through Article 3 which has the interpretation that if any agency has a strategy that conflicts with the policy of the superboard, it has to follow the superboard which is overseen by the Ministry of Public Health.

Co-payment at the point of service

In 2017, one point of great dispute, even though it was not in the amendment to the health coverage law, was the issue of co-payment at the point of service, since the expression ‘co-payment’ was already in the original act.

Normally the state will hold that all the people have a part in ‘pre-contributions’ from their various tax payments but because of the budget shortfall problem there has been a proposal for a 30-50% contribution at the point of service from people who are not ‘indigent’.  But the people’s sector strongly oppose this issue because this destroys the essence of a universal health coverage system.

 ‘Our question is, people who are not in the group of indigents, but who think they are almost poor or even middle class, if they have an illness that requires high expenses, what happens?’  This is the voice of groups who love health security.  After that, co-payment seemed to go quiet, but there is a rumour that the co-payment issue is slowly becoming the origin of the questions about whether there is really a budget shortfall in universal health coverage.

A look at the latest WHO statistics shows that the overall world public health budget reaches almost 10% of GDP.  The average figure for developed countries is 12% and for developing countries is 6%.  In Thailand it is found that total public health expenditure is calculated at 4.6% of GDP, of which the government carries the burden of 80% or 17.5% of the national budget, making it 90th in the world.

If we compare the healthcare system for government officials and the gold card we find that the costs of government official welfare continuously increase.  Payments in 2017 totalled 73,658.86 million baht to care for just 4.97 million people, or a per capita expense as high as 14,820 baht.  Meanwhile the gold card system expense per head was just 3,028.94 baht.  It can be concluded that the government official welfare system is spending almost 5 times more per head than the Universal Health Coverage.

 (3) What is a welfare state?  Is it possible in Thailand?

A ‘welfare state’ is one that manages a welfare system that insures society against the risks or uncertainties in life and responds to the basic needs of the people so that they have an ever improving quality of life and reduces the burden on society.

At present, despite Thailand’s growing economy, inequality is also increasing. Research shows that the increasing number of people employed in the nonformal sector is now more than 10 million.  More than half are a group with a monthly income of less than 10,000 baht with no social insurance or private insurance.  This group has to rely on state welfare.  What can be done for us to create a comprehensive, quality state welfare system that covers everyone?

Tax reform, the essence of securing income which the Thai state still cannot do.

Pasuk Phongpaichit of the Economics Department of Chulalongkorn University conducted research on increasing the revenue of the Thai government by tax collection and found that at present, the Revenue Department can fully collect taxes on the income of ordinary people, but very little tax is collected on income from capital, i.e. profits, interest, dividends and rent, which is the income of the rich, even though the rich are better able to pay taxes.

A country that fully collects taxes from capital will be using a unitary system known as an ‘integrated tax system’ including all forms of income, both income with tax deducted at the point of payment and income with tax not deducted at the point of payment, reported for tax to be calculated at the same rate based on levels of net income.  This makes tax easy to collect, is fair, reduces political interference and generates more tax revenue.

Pasuk raised the example of Turkey which has rapidly reformed its entire tax system into an integrated system.  This has greatly raised tax revenue to 30% of GDP, close to the OECD figure of 34%.  Meanwhile Thailand collected 18%.

In Thailand, amending the tax collection system into a integrated system and revoking unnecessary deductions and exemptions will enable total tax revenue to rise by as much as another 5% of GDP.

Cancel the LTF tax exemption and increase wealth taxes

Information from research shows that the 83% of those who exercise the right to LTF deductions are among the wealthiest group.  So this policy is of no benefit to low-income people.  In the past, the government has lost almost 9,000 million baht in revenue from LTF exemptions.

Pasuk proposes that if we begin to have new taxes such as a wealth tax together with a land tax at a rate that is not very high, and if value-added tax is raised to 10%, the government will gain additional revenue from these taxes of about 1.2% of GDP.

Pasuk concludes that the issue is not that the money to pay for welfare cannot be found, but rather whether the government is determined to set up a welfare system.  Countries with authoritarian political systems which are not democratic tend to promote large-scale businesses without any effective laws against monopolies, which will definitely be an obstacle to a welfare state.

Initial proposal: use a budget of 400-600 billion to create a welfare state

Sustarum Thammaboosadee of the College of Interdisciplinary Studies, Thammasat University, mentions a quick calculation of 400-600 billion baht to make Thailand into a welfare state.  Initially this will be welfare for raising poor children up to the age of 18 at 1,500-2,000 baht a month, then an increase in the per capita budget for Universal Health Coverage from 3,000 to 8,000 per person per year, similar to that for government officials, in order to bring all systems into a single health coverage.

At present the maximum social security pension is 8,000 baht per person per month.  This will increase to a maximum of 15,000 baht per person per month.  The government must supplement social security and support a National Pension Act.  With the current 2,500 baht a month, Thais will have a maximum pension of 17,000-18,000 baht a month, similar to the 16,000 baht that the Bank of Thailand calculates as necessary for a quality life as a pensioner.  Another issue is reform of free quality education, a reduction of competition, and specification of a ceiling on term fees for non-compulsory education.

When a welfare state is in place, some ministries will be able to reduce expenses.  If the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence fully decentralize to local self-management, expenses will decrease by about 50%, equivalent to 200 billion baht.  A capital gains tax of 30% a year will bring in 270 billion baht and cancellation of BOI tax exemptions will increase tax revenue by about 200 billion baht.  Cancellation of LTF RMF deductions will yield another 100 billion baht.

Finally, a land tax and a progressive inheritance tax initially may raise 200 billion baht.  Even if this is not a lot, the important thing is that it will reduce the power of capital and reduce political power.  But it may shift money into government bonds, giving the government more money in this form and holding bonds will have different bargaining power from holding land.

Highlightuniversal healthcarepensionwelfareSocial Securityretirement
Categories: Prachatai English

Human rights lawyer’s 5 observations on ISOC declaration of Nong Chik as a special control zone

Wed, 2018-10-03 00:50
Submitted on Wed, 2018-10-03 00:50Prachatai

Poonsuk Poonsukchareon, a human rights lawyer, made 5 observations on the authority of the agency which made the announcement, the inconsistency in the enforcement of laws in the locality and the principle of proportionality in ISOC Region 4’s declaration of Bang Khao and Tha Kamcham Subdistricts, Nong Chik District, Pattani Province as a temporary special control zone.

2 rangers were killed and 4 others injured in an ambush while returning to their base in Nong Chik District, Pattani Province on 11 September.  Later, on 16 September, Lt. Gen. Piyawat Nakvanich, 4th Army Commander and Director of ISOC Region 4, held a press conference at the 46th Military Circle.  ISOC Region 4 Forward Command Announcement No. 86/2018 declared Ban Khao and Tha Kamcham Subdistricts, Nong Chik District, Pattani Province, as a temporary special control zone, under the authority of the 1914 Martial Law. All residents in the area were to bring all guns, bullets, cars, motorcycles and boats to the military for examination from 17 – 23 September 2018 at the Nong Chik District Office.

The announcement made by ISOC Region 4 Forward Command, declaring Bang Khao and Tha Kamcham Subdistricts as special control zones

 

On 20 September 18, Poonsuk Poonsukchareon, a human rights lawyer, made 5 observations on the ISOC Announcement.

  1. This announcement is not an announcement using martial law.  The truth is that the area had already been declared as an area under the martial law before this announcement was made. The announcement declared the area a special control zone from 16 September – 23 September and when the specified time has passed the announcement will cease to be in effect, but the area will remain under martial law.
  2. Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 Forward Command’s Announcement No. 86/2018 signed by Lt. Gen. Piyawat Nakvanich as the Director of Internal Security Operations Command Region 4, the person responsible for finding solutions in emergencies, contains an interesting point. The position of ISOC Regional Director, whose authority is established under the 2008 Internal Security Act, has no relation to the authority provided by the 1914 Martial Law Act. The announcement reflects an inconsistency of law enforcement in the area which has up to 3 laws related to security in effect, so that even those in charge themselves lack an understanding of their own roles and authority.
  3. “Special control zones” are not specified in the 1914 Martial Law Act, thus it is not a legal term. When the “special control zone” has not been determined, it would have no legal effect. Nevertheless, the announcement should be examined as to whether the military has the authority to enforce this power or not.
  4. According to Articles 8 and 9 of the 1914 Martial Law, military officials are given the authority to carry out a search but the search must only be for things that will be requisitioned, are prohibited, are to be seized or billeted in or are illegally possessed. Ordering persons to act for the sake of an aimless search with the purpose of punishing the guilty may therefore not fall within this criterion.
  5. Even though the violence from the ambush led to the deaths of 2 military personnel and injuries to 4 others, the measure of requiring all residents in the 2 subdistricts to bring in all their guns, bullets, cars, motorcycles or boats for the authorities to examine has affected and created fear among many people not related to the violence. This measure may go against the principle of proportionality since it affects the rights and freedoms of the people more than appropriate, which contravenes Article 26 of the 2017 constitution.

 

“The issue of violence in the southern border provinces is complicated and has multiple dimensions. The use of authority under security laws began in 2004 when martial law was enforced, followed by the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in a State of Emergency in 2005 and the Internal Security Act in 2008. In this area, apart from having no results and seeing no end to the problem, it is in fact found that the judicial process and law enforcement has had an effect on people and further complicated the solution to the problem. Only a judicial process that respects the right to fair trial and the principle of the rule of law will be one of the paths leading to peace,” Poonsuk concluded.

 

  NewsPoonsuk PoonsukchareonPattaniInternal Security Operations Command (ISOC)Martial Law
Categories: Prachatai English

Mae Sot Provincial Court sentencing two defendants to 12 years in jail in a human trafficking case

Tue, 2018-09-25 20:25
Submitted on Tue, 2018-09-25 20:25HRDF

On 17  September 2018 at 10.00am. the Mae Sot Provincial Court ruled in the case filed against Mrs. Zarabi Abdullah, defendant no 1 and Mr. Charlie (unknown last name), defendant no. 2. Both are prosecuted for breaches of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act 2008 and the Child Protection Act 2003, in the Black Case no. 1/2561 and are asked to provide compensation to victims of human trafficking. The Mae Sot Provincial Court convicted both defendants for the violations of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act 2018’s Sections 6 (1), (2), and 10 first and third paragraphs coupled with the Penal Code’s Section 83 and are each sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment. Invoking the Civil and Commercial Code’s Sections 444 and 446, they are also ordered to provide compensation to the victims for the amount of 1,256,240 baht, as determined by a multidisciplinary team. 

Background

On 22 January 2008, the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)’s Mae Sot Labor Clinic and the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM) with a migrant worker have reported the case to the Mae Sot Police Station alleging that Min (pseudonym), the migrant worker’s 14-year-old-nephew, had been lured by brokers from Myanmar to work in Thailand. Min had allegedly been transferred to work for an employer in Nonthaburi since 2014 during which time he along with several other children were forced to sell flowers during night time to tourists on the Khao San Road. Once while selling flowers on Khao San Road, he managed to escape and had sought help and complained about the abuse by the employer. 

· On 4 February 2018, police from Nonthaburi, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATPD) and the Mae Sot Police Station have carried out the arrest of the employers (the defendants) at their residence in Nonthaburi. Only one of the employers was found there and no other children who had been forced to sell flowers including Min could be found during the raid. The officials only found objects used for committing physical abuse including baseball clubs and rulers according to account of Min, an injured party in this case. Another perpetrator was also taken into custody; the person who drove the children to work and pick them up after work. After an initial investigation, the case has been proposed for prosecution against the employers.

The verdict illustrates a pervasive form of trafficking in person in Thailand including the use of child labor and their being forced to sell flowers in the street. This happens in places including red light districts and tourist attractions in Bangkok. HRDF urges the Thai government to pay more attention to this problem and come up with policies for effective prevention of all forms of trafficking against children. Regarding legal remedies, it is utmost important that all steps in the justice process be designed most friendly to the underage victims, from rescue to investigation and social reintegration. After this verdict, the authorities should place an importance on the children’s social reintegration and promoting their access to education which can effectively prevent them from becoming a victim of trafficking or to get involved with trafficking rings. HRDF shall offer legal assistance and collaborate with the authorities based on the best interest of the child and international human rights laws regarding the rights of the child.

Pick to Posthuman traffickingMae SotHuman Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
Categories: Prachatai English

Hey, is it worth running?

Tue, 2018-09-25 14:32
Submitted on Tue, 2018-09-25 14:32Prachatai

Infographic19 September 2006 coupdemocracyelectionvicous cycle
Categories: Prachatai English

Lèse majesté charges dismissed on appeal against 6 teenagers for burning arches; other sentences reduced

Tue, 2018-09-25 10:45
Submitted on Tue, 2018-09-25 10:45

In the case of 6 teenagers accused of burning arches, the Court of Appeal dismissed charges under Article 112 and reduced the jail terms for criminal association and arson, without suspension. All 6 individuals and their relatives expressed their joy after the verdict. Two of the accused had their prison sentences reduced to 9 years, 3 received 6 years and 2 accused in only one case to 3 years.

On 20 September 2018, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that on 18 September, the Provincial Court of Phon District summoned the 6 accused teenagers involved in the case of burning royal arches in Khon Kaen Province from Phon Provincial Prison to read the 11 September 2018 verdict reached by the Court of Appeal, Region 4, in 2 cases of arson in Ban Phai District and in Chonnabot District. In both cases charges under Article 112 of the Criminal Code were dismissed, but the verdicts on criminal association and arson were upheld.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights also reported that the 6 accused and their relatives expressed their joy at the dismissal of the Article 112 charges and the reduction of their sentences by the Court of Appeal. Fluk (alias), the 2nd accused in both cases, received a total of 9 years imprisonment. The sentences of Traithep, Film and Bell (aliases) were reduced to 6 years. Tan and Toei (aliases), who were accused in only 1 of the cases, received 3 years. Currently, the 6 have served a little over 1 year and 2 months.

On 18 June 2018, Phon Provincial Court, the Court of First Instance, returned a verdict dismissing the charges of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code against Pricha and Sarot for the burning of royal arches in 3 cases. These are the same incidents of which the 6 teenagers were accused. Pricha and Sarot were arrested and prosecuted after the 6 teenagers and 2 others who did not appeal the verdict of the Court of First Instance.

After the verdict reached by the Court of Appeal, Region 4 was delivered, Phon Provincial Court ordered the four accused in the second case to comply with the verdict of the civil court within 30 days, otherwise their assets may be seized, and they may be imprisoned, detained, fined or have their property forfeited according to the Civil Procedure Code.

On 31 January 2018, the Phon Provincial Court read the verdict of the Court of First Instance on the 2 cases. On 11 April 2018, the lawyer for the 6 accused in the Ban Phai case and the 4 accused in the Chonnabot case made an appeal to the Court of Appeal, Region 4, to amend the verdict of the Court of First Instance and to delay the sentence of imprisonment so that the 6 accused have the opportunity to change their behaviour and be able to live in society, as well as look after their families, which will be more beneficial to society than imprisoning the six of them for a long time.

 

NewsArticle 112Royal Arch Arsoncriminal justicethe Provincial Court of Phon DistrictThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)
Categories: Prachatai English

NBTC pressures Voice TV into suspending 2 news commentators and a cartoonist

Mon, 2018-09-24 14:54
Submitted on Mon, 2018-09-24 14:54

Voice TV station has decided to suspend Wake Up News commentators Sirote Klampaiboon and Viroj Ali and cartoonist Sia from 17 September to 17 October.

Prateep Kongsib, the Director of Voice TV, later made a statement through his personal Facebook account.  “If there are no changes at all, Voice TV’s situation will be in a dangerous spot,” since “those with power” to decide its fate are strongly dissatisfied with the analysis and criticisms of the two commentators and the Wake Up cartoons.

The Voice TV Director explained his decision by saying that “he had to force himself to suffer this pain to support the organisation in the future”.

 “We still believe what Voice TV did is the freedom to carry out the duty of the mass media within a democratic system and did not violate any law. The only reason it’s wrong is because it wasn’t to the liking of those in power. In the end, we still reserve the right to fight in the judicial process,” Prateep stated.

On Monday (17 September), Viroj Ali, in an interview with Khaosod English, stated that the NBTC accused him and the other commentator of prejudice and talking too much about Thaksin Shinawatra. The NBTC did not provide options but said that the station has repeatedly committed offences and threatened to revoke their license.

According to data from iLaw based on NBTC meeting reports, since the coup on 22 May 2014, the NBTC has penalized Voice TV no less than 20 times. It is the highest number of punishments among the mass media. The measures taken include 1 talk, 9 warnings, 2 adjustments of content, 2 broadcasting suspensions for 7 days, 1 suspension of commentators for 10 days, 1 suspension of commentators for 7 days and a 50,000 baht fine, 1 suspension of the whole station for 7 days, 1 suspension of programmes for 15 days and 2 suspensions of programmes for 3 days.

For 7 days from 27 March to 2 April 2017, the NBTC ordered Voice TV's license suspended, forcing the whole station off the air. The NBTC claimed that Voice TV had repeatedly offended by providing information leading to confusion, and provoking and instigating conflict and dissension in society.

In March 2018, the NBTC suspended “Tonight Thailand” for 15 days and in July 2018, ordered the suspension of “The Daily Dose” and “Wake Up News” for 3 days.

The NBTC is an agency with the authority and responsibility to control and penalize TV stations. It has 11 members, with NTC (National Telecommunication Commission) responsible for telecommunications operations and NBC (National Broadcasting Commission) responsible for broadcasting and television.

NBC has a sub-committee overseeing content and programming, which looks after the content of all television channels. They have the power to inflict various penalties:

1. Written warnings

2. 50,000-500,000 baht fines

3. License suspension (temporary closure of a station)

4. License withdrawal (permanent closure of a station)

This power is exercised under Article 37 of the 2008 Broadcasting and Television Businesses Act which states "broadcasting of programmes containing any content that brings about the overthrow of the democratic form of government with the King as head of state or affects state security, public order or the good morals of the people, or constitutes obscenity or has the effect of causing serious deterioration of the people's minds or health shall be prohibited."

The NBTC has the power to order appropriate changes and even "suspension or withdrawal of the license" to broadcast.

In addition, after the coup d’état, the NCPO issued many announcements to control the media.  NCPO Announcement No. 97/2014 prohibits all persons and media from interviewing academics, former government officials and members of independent organisations in a manner that could lead to conflict or violence and bans criticism of the operations of the National Council of Peace and Order, National Council of Peace and Order officers and related persons. In the case of a violation, the dissemination shall be suspended immediately and the officer/official, as determined by law, shall proceed to take legal action.

After severe criticism by the media, NCPO Announcement No. 103/2014 amended Announcement No. 97, allowing the media to criticise some of the operations of the NCPO but not in bad faith so as to destroy the NCPO’s credibility with false information. In the case of a violation, the offence will be reported to the professional organisation for ethical investigation.

Also NCPO Announcement No. 27/2014 allowed 23 digital TV channels to air normally after being shut down under martial law immediately after the coup, with the exception of Voice TV among the digital television channels and TNews among the satellite channels. These two channels were allowed to broadcast almost a month later than other channels.

After the coup, NCPO Announcement No. 15/2014 also resulted in the suspension of satellite television channels, cable channels, digital TV channels and community radio stations, including Voice TV. Before they were able to air again, they had to sign a joint agreement or MoU specifically with the NCPO stating that, in addition to refraining from content that violated NCPO Announcements No. 97/2014 and 103/2014, they have the duty to publicise news and information as provided by the NCPO. In the case of a violation, their license may be revoked.

 

NewsVoice TVcensorshipmedia freedomNBTC
Categories: Prachatai English

American Heroes

Wed, 2018-09-19 15:20
Submitted on Wed, 2018-09-19 15:20L. Fritz

John McCain (front right) with his squadron.
(Source: Library of Congress/US Navy)

United States Senator John McCain died on 25 August of 2018. Former Presidents and colleagues praised him as a bipartisan role model for civility in discourse, an exemplary American, and a war hero. Commemorations in Washington D.C. lasted several days. Sincere condolences to his family and friends.

It’s normal to show empathy while a family is mourning. Many Americans took comfort in the idea of McCain as a symbol of unity. Or they used his reputation to point out the failings of the current President from his same political party.

Words and history are important. They shape culture, beliefs and future actions. With all due respect for his service, suffering and his family – since a story about his life and legacy is being used for political purposes we can ask some questions of the people using him as a symbol.

What did McCain do throughout his life? What is a hero? And what is the purpose and impact of Americans from both political parties lionizing him?

John McCain grew up at the start of the Cold War. He was son and grandson of Navy Admirals. In 1958 he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. In a speech to Academy students in 2017 he said, “I wasn’t too thrilled” to be there at the time and, “was relieved to graduate – fifth from the bottom” out of 899 students.

As a 31 year old pilot in Vietnam McCain flew 23 bombing missions in ‘Operation Rolling Thunder’. From 1965 to 1968 it killed at least 72,000 Vietnamese civilians.

In 1967 his plane was shot down over Hanoi. It broke both his arms and a leg. Civilians rescued him from a lake. As a prisoner of war he was tortured, beaten, and forced to make propaganda statements. He was returned to the U.S. after 5 years and hailed as a war hero. 

The details of those early life events events and the historical context are worth digging into. 

The year McCain was shot down a 25 year old Muhammad Ali was national boxing champion. Ali was African-American and grew up under segregation – without full American freedoms or Admiralty in his family.

Ali refused to join the military. He was convicted and sentenced to 5 years in Federal prison. He lost his title, his income, and could not leave the country. 

Also in 1967 civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech titled ‘Beyond Vietnam’. He called for ending the war. And he connected racism, war, and the worst aspects of American capitalism. 

He once quoted Ali. “We are all — black and brown and poor — victims of the same system of oppression." King was killed early in 1968 while John McCain was also suffering as a prisoner in Hanoi. 

McCain served in the U.S. Congress for 36 years starting in 1982. He supported President Reagan’s proxy wars in Central America. He was caught in a scandal supporting bankers who had supported his campaign. And he opposed a law honoring civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. 

But he also supported lifting U.S. sanctions on Vietnam, co-sponsored a law regulating campaign donations, and supported appointment of African-American, women, and liberal Federal Court judges.

Twice he failed to be elected President. Despite praise for his bipartisan work reportedly some aids and colleagues claimed his temper disqualified him from that highest office.

Given that history - what is the purpose of calling John McCain a role model for civility, an exemplary American, and a (war) hero?

The U.S. is in a crisis of government. The current President is being investigated for possible business and political crimes. New reports claim even his senior officials see him as unfit for the job and a danger to the U.S. and the world. 

Oversimplified - there is anxiety and fear on both sides of an ideological divide. Some people elevate McCain to shame the President. Some truly believe McCain is a bipartisan hero and beacon of unity. Some hope focusing on McCain’s best moments will lure Americans towards a political center.

Words and history are important. What are the risks and impacts of calling John McCain a hero?

The racism, militarism and policy failures that exist in American history are not John McCain’s sole fault or responsibility. He grew up immersed in them himself. And at times he appeared to step outside that worldview. He claimed the freedoms and privileges he enjoyed should be available to all.

Calling McCain a political hero is inseparable from his status as war hero. In American culture ‘war hero’ carries more weight than ‘civil rights hero’ or ‘peace hero’. He leveraged his war hero title for political advantage. 

Using ‘war hero’ also means ‘don’t question war policy.’ In that context invoking McCain’s hero title makes it harder to critique any policies he championed and discounts the experiences of those continuing to live with the impacts. 

Most often McCain treated military action and punishment as solutions, and discounted claims they might be symptoms and causes.

In the 1990’s McCain worked with both parties to push stronger laws and longer jail times for drug and gang crimes. The laws were sometimes written and often enforced disproportionately affecting “black and brown and poor” people. The U.S. now has the largest most expensive prison system on earth.

In the early 2000’s he was a loud, early and influential voice in support of President Bush’s attack on Iraq. The pretenses for invasion have been proven false, and the costs to Iraqis and Americans continue to be large. 

Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos together are the most bombed countries in history. At the time of the war they were largely agrarian countries with peasant populations. The people still suffer from unexploded ordnance and the impact of chemical agents. The U.S. did not normalize trade relations with them until 1992, 1994, and 2004 respectively. 

Words and history are important. 

John McCain gets credit for the times he exceeded the ideology of his upbringing, acknowledged mistakes, forgave and collaborated with political opponents, and spoke and acted against the position of his political party. He served in the military and Congress all his life. Undoubtedly he suffered in Hanoi. 

And Vietnam is the underlying context for McCain being referred to as a political, war, and true American hero throughout a week of commemorations. The term was used by his family in mourning. Nearly everyone else was using it at least in part as a tool in a political context.

From Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech. “A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war - This way of settling differences is not just. “ American writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde cautioned, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

The current call for American unity includes a call to nationalism. American culture can demonstrate unity when it inherently includes and validates the lived experiences of fellow humans and all the ongoing impacts of America’s history – both positive and negative. 

America can move “Beyond Vietnam” and dismantle the cultural remnants of a 1950’s Cold War worldview after it recognizes and addresses the deep cultural assumptions and values tied to the terms ‘hero’ and ‘war hero’.

The U.S. is facing a crisis of government. It can address one of the roots by redefining heroism.

OpinionJohn McCainVietnam War
Categories: Prachatai English

DIY Policing

Sat, 2018-09-15 11:25
Submitted on Sat, 2018-09-15 11:25Harrison George

The tourist had left his mobile phone in a Bangkok taxi.  This kind of thing happens on a daily basis so you would think that when he reported it to a police station, they would have a procedure in place to deal with it.

And they do.  But it’s not what you might think.

First there is the rigmarole of the bai chaeng khwam, the police report.  Did you note the licence number of the taxi, which is helpfully stencilled inside the cab?  Of course not.  Did you note the driver’s name on the dashboard card?  Even less likely.

OK, so where did you take this taxi?  It turns out he got off outside a hotel.  At last, a spark of hope.  Many hotels have CCTVs covering their forecourts, and more importantly, the images are clear enough to decipher car number plates.  (Police traffic cameras don’t have the resolution and the BMA cameras – well, how many days does the average tourist have left in Bangkok?  Likely not long enough to get access.)

 

So the tourist is told that with the police report, he can go and view the hotel’s CCTV footage.

He can go.

So he sets off on his own investigation.  He is lucky.  The hotel lets him look, he finds the relevant images and he learns the taxi licence number.  He now returns to the police station.

And again he is lucky.  He has to deal with the officer who signed his police report.  No other officer will touch the case, and fortunately the officer concerned is on the premises (but off duty) but he goes to the trouble of punching the licence number into the vehicle database.

More luck.  That licence number is actually registered to a taxi (a surprising number of cabs seem to be cruising round on false plates) and the taxi belongs to a ‘cooperative’.  Sounds nice and I am sure there is some legal finesse that allows this, but to all intents and purposes, it is a taxi rental company.  The officer even tries calling the cooperative, but alas, like so many of its cabs on the road, there is no response.

No matter.  The tourist is now given the name and address of the cooperative and told he can go and see them and find out what they know.

He can go.

I don’t know the end of this story.  But the chances of a non-Thai-speaking foreigner turning up at a taxi garage and finding out anything, let alone getting his phone back, are pretty close to zero.

Far lower than, say, him going home phone-less and telling all his mates that in Thailand, they have do-it-yourself policing.

But not the worst blemish on the image of the Royal Thai Police of late.

This has been besmirched by the Ko Tao alleged rape story.  A tourist claims to have been raped and alleges that police refused to record her allegations.  Pol Maj Gen Surachate ‘Big Joke’ Hakparn, deputy chief of the tourist police and investigator of any crime that makes the front page, claims that the alleged rape could not have happened because of the tide and crowds watching the world cup.

Cue outraged self-importance and charges against 2 websites reporting the alleged rape and 11 hapless souls who also ‘reported’ it by clicking ‘share’ (and no charges against the dozens and dozens of other media reporting the alleged rape).

Now these prosecutions are being ridiculed all over the international media, which does nothing for the image of Thailand and the Thai justice system.

But let us return to this allegation that an attempt to report the rape was thwarted, first by the victim going to the wrong police station and second by the wrong person, a friend of the victim and not the victim, going to the right police station.  Could this be true?  Is there anything in Thai police procedures that might discourage victims of rape or sexual assault from filing a report?

It is claimed that there is a law or a regulation that all such cases involving a female victim must be investigated by female police officers.  I have personally witnessed 2 such cases handled by male officers.  If there is any such rule, then the simple fact is that the police don’t follow it.

And in future they will be even less likely to do so.  On the same day they were cracking down on malicious websites, the RTP, without the slightest embarrassment, compunction or explanation, and in blatant violation of the Gender Equality Act and Thailand’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, announced that the Royal Police Cadet Academy will accept no women as of next year.

It was later explained that this decision came from the Ministry of Defence, which is odd, since the MoD has no jurisdiction over the RTP.  It turned out to be one of those weaselly ‘no, we’re not discriminating; it’s just that you need certain qualifications that women can’t get’ arguments that once blocked the possibility of female governors.

And that is another news story with the legs to go all round the world and heap more ignominy on the RTP.

It is undeniably true that the image of the Thai police has been severely damaged in the recent past.  But mostly by people wearing brown uniforms.

About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).

Alien ThoughtsRoyal Thai Police (RTP)Pol Maj Gen Surachate ‘Big Joke’ HakparntouristsKo Taofemale policeDIY
Categories: Prachatai English

A Country Beginning with T

Fri, 2018-09-07 16:34
Submitted on Fri, 2018-09-07 16:34Harrison George

So who are we talking about?

  • Between World War 1 and World War 2, this country underwent a major change in its system of government, although of late there have been signs that some vestiges of the old system are being quietly reintroduced.
  • Despite this major change, ‘the state bureaucracy, the military corps and the basic social order never really died, preserving status and property for those ready to serve the new government’ according to one recent analysis.
  • The founder of the new system decreed a cultural revolution that ordered changes to dozens of features of daily life, such as what people should wear on the heads and how the language should be used.
  • The person behind these things went by a name they weren’t born with.
  • The military has taken over the government many times, always claiming to protect the most sacred institutions of the state.
  • Nationalists maintain a belief in an erstwhile empire that the more chauvinist hope one day to revive.
  • There is a long-standing and unresolved separatist movement in the most distant region of the country that has repeatedly erupted into violence.
  • Despite being nominally secular, the state is under pressure from religious militants to formalize the status of the dominant religion.
  • The current leader declared a ‘new’ country in 2014.
  • Because of the deterioration of democracy and worrying human rights violations, the traditional alliance with the US and the European democracies has recently been weakened, and the country has instead strengthened its ties with another major power.
  • The current government has been rattled by protests over a park.
  • Any and every national problem is routinely blamed on a former politician now in exile.

Well, all these statements are true of Thailand (and I am sure my well-informed readers have already spotted this and require no further explanation).  But they are also true of Turkey.

The collapse of the Ottoman Empire after its defeat in World War 1 led in the 1920s to Mustafa Kemal and his Young Turks taking over the government, abolishing the sultanate and declaring a republic.  The new state was resolutely secular and banned all manner of symbols associated with the old regime, like the fez, but there are indications of a creeping re-Islamization of society.  The state language, Turkish, was imposed on everyone, linguistic minorities be damned, but it now uses the Roman alphabet with loanwords from Arabic and Persian patriotically purged.

Just like Plaek Khittasangkha, who became Field Marshal P (he hated the ‘Plaek’) Phibunsongkhram, Mustafa Kemal started life as Ali Rıza oğlu Mustafa, was given the ‘Kemal’ bit (meaning ‘perfection’ or ‘maturity’) by a teacher and later had ‘Atatürk’ (‘father of the Turks’) added by a grateful parliament.

Turkey’s history as a republic has been punctuated by tensions between Atatürk’s military descendants, who have regarded themselves as the guardians of his memory, and two competing forces.  On the one side, urban cosmopolitan liberals have looked toward democratic western Europe; on the other, a more deeply religious conservatism in the Anatolian hinterland has chafed at the absurdity of pious university co-eds with their hair under a headscarf, worn for their religion, and the headscarf hidden under a wig, worn for their education.

The Kurds of southeastern Turkey remain a bête noire for a Turkish state that has never thought much of diversity.  The human rights violations visited on them, and others who have come into the regime’s crosshairs, may have held back Turkey’s admission to the EU (though there were other factors at work as well) but never really got in the way of acceptance by western powers until Turkey got embroiled in regional conflicts.  The US fights ISIS but not the Kurds; the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds fight ISIS; Turkey fights ISIS, but also the Kurds (inside and outside the country).  A recipe for tension that has suddenly made Putin a friend of Ankara.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was far more shaken by the widespread protests against turning Gezi Park in Istanbul into yet another shopping mall than was Thailand’s military junta by the minor scuffles over Rajabhakti Park.

And while Thaksin remains the Voldemort of Thailand, Turkey’s equivalent is Fethullah Gülen, Erdoğan’s one-time ally and a current resident of Pennsylvania, accused of being the mastermind behind the 2016 coup attempt and much, much more.

While the similarities, from the broad-brush to the picayune, are striking, there are important differences.

On the days when the Thai military’s ignorant vindictiveness is getting you down, you might take some comfort from the fact that the centre of Pattani town, unlike Diyarbakir, has not been reduced to rubble by airstrikes, and there have been no mass purges of the bureaucracy, academia and the judiciary that have left courtrooms bereft of lawyers, prosecutors and judges who actually know the procedures for conducting a trial.

And there is one more contrast that is still to be seen.

Instead of endlessly postponing elections like the NCPO, Erdoğan actually brought forward elections scheduled for November 2019 and held them last June (after repeated promises that he wouldn’t do this – sound familiar?)  Despite mass arrests of his perceived enemies, a state of emergency and evidence of ballot stuffing traced to Erdoğan himself, his party’s vote actually fell.

I wonder.

About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).

Alien ThoughtsThailandTurkeyErdoğanmilitaryNational Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)
Categories: Prachatai English

2 women arrested over pro-republic t-shirts

Fri, 2018-09-07 15:45
Submitted on Fri, 2018-09-07 15:45

The authorities have arrested two women for possessing a pro-republic t-shirt. One of them was already released while the other is being detained incommunicado. 

On 6 July 2018, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Bangkok authorities in the morning arrested Surang (pseudonym) and her daughter, 11. According to Surang’s niece, over 10 officers including four soldiers, about 5 men in black and some female officers, emerged from a grey van and arrested the two after they came back from a market.

Without a search warrant, the authorities searched her house for a black t-shirt with a red-and-white logo on its left chest. The problematic t-shirt was produced by a pro-republic movement called “Organisation for Thai Federation” and the red-and-white logo is a symbolic flag of the organisation. 

The controversial t-shirt

They confiscated the t-shirt and Surang’s cellphone. In the meantime, Surang’s daughter was having breakfast and preparing to go to school. The authorities then took the daughter to the van and dropped her at the school, telling her that Surang would return by 3 pm.

However, TLHR revealed that Surag was sent home at 8.30 pm. She said that authorities detained her at the 11th Army Circle and questioned her about the controversial t-shirt. They asked her neither to wear it nor buy it more, adding that the producer and distributor of the t-shirt had already been arrested. Surang was released after signing an agreement that she will not participate in any political activity.

On the same day, the authorities also arrested Wannapha (pseudonym) from Samut Prakan Province and detained her incommunicado. Her mother told TLHR that at around 7.30 am, about 7 military officers arrested Wannapha at her house without telling her family where she will be detained. They also confiscated many of the controversial t-shirts.

At around 5.45 pm, Wannapha’s son, 12, told TLHR that a soldier visited his house and gave him 400 bath, saying that Wannapha asked him to do so. The officer told the son that Wannapha will be sent to an “Attitude Adjustment Session” but did not say when she will be release.

The current location of Wannapha remains unknown. 

Newsarrestsdetentionarbitrary detentionarbitrary arrestThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)
Categories: Prachatai English

Press Release: Thai Women’s Group Oppose Thailand Joining CP-TPP

Wed, 2018-09-05 17:20
Submitted on Wed, 2018-09-05 17:20Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)

5th Sept 2018

Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Thai Department of Trade Negotiations on 4th September held the second public hearing on the Comprehensive Progressive-Trans Pacific Partnership (CP-TPP), which the Thai government expressed interest to join in March this year. About 170 participants from local farmers associations, business sector, and women’s groups from Chiang Mai and surrounding provinces attended the meeting. The government heard many concerns raised by farmers and civil society organisations, including issues such as access to seeds and farmers’ livelihood.

Vice Commerce Minister, Sakon Waranyawattana stated that the purpose of this public hearing is to collect opinions and concerns from stakeholders in various regions regarding the CP-TPP. As Thailand is still studying the opportunities and challenges of this trade agreement, one of the activities is to organise public hearing to gather the public opinion. The issues raised during the public hearings would be compiled along with other studies and shared with the government for decision-making process.

Dr. Rachada Jiasakul, a representative from Bolliger & Company, a private consulting firm, made a presentation about opportunities and challenges of CP-TPP as a third-party impact assessment research provider. She also mentioned that Charoen Pokphand Group, or CP, is also another third-party researcher. It is not clear whether a government research on this issue was carried out or made available. The panelists of the public hearing disproportionately comprised of representatives from private sectors and government agencies while there no representative from civil society organisation were given the opportunity to present their views.

“It is alarming to note that all the ‘impact assessments’ of CP-TPP have been conducted by large corporations, and it makes quite clear that for Thailand to join CP-TPP, only big businesses and corporations will benefit from this trade agreement. It will further corporate monopolies in agriculture and marginalise women, peasants and the majority of people. For this reason we, the women’s groups, labour rights groups, and civil society, reject the UPOV 1991 as well as the CP-TPP,” said Matcha Phorn-in, President of APWLD’s Thai Association.

A great numbers of local farmers from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lamphun, and Lampang who attended the public hearings have repeatedly expressed concerns regarding farmers’ access to seeds and their rights to exchange and collect seeds for community use. Various farmers groups also raised concerns regarding dumping of agricultural products from other countries.  In response, Thidakun Saen-udom, director of Plant Variety Protection Office, Department of Agriculture claimed that the farmers would still have the rights to collect seeds, as long as they are not under patent from seeds companies.

“I feel that this public hearing is not about hearing the people’s voices and concerns, but more like a forum to defend and propagate how great CP-TPP is,” said Sugarnta Sukpaita, a labour rights activist who attended the hearing. “CP-TPP will ultimately kill small-scale farmers and only support those who have big capitals who will also exploit the workers.”

Suluck Lamubol, APWLD’s Programme Officer said that the CP-TPP is all about amplifying the power of corporations to set trade rules that will negatively affect domestic policies to endorse corporate governance.

“When questions were asked about people’s access to seeds, food sovereignty or access to medicine, the response from the government representatives were identical: as far as they are not patented everything will be okay.  It is such a disrespectful and disguisive response when it is so clear that the CP-TPP is with strengthened intellectual property to put profit over people’s lives. CP-TPP is not about generating best welfare for the people as the government has come here and claimed,” said Suluck.

Earlier in July, Thai government led by Deputy Prime Minister, Somkid Jatusriphitak committed Thailand to join CP-TPP following support from Japan, saying that CP-TPP will boost competitiveness for Thai entrepreneurs. Soon after, the Department of Trade Negotiations announced the  public hearings in five provinces. Public hearings in Chonburi and Chiang Mai were recently completed and hearings in Songkhla, Bangkok, Khon Kaen are to take place on 13, 16, and 26 September respectively.

In March, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development issued a statement, along with over 50 feminist allies from 10 of the 11 TPP countries, opposing this mega Free Trade Agreement as it would only put power and privilege in the hands of large multinational corporations and the wealthiest few. CP-TPP would require countries to treat foreign companies in the same way they treat local ones, pushing women, who are the majority of small scale, subsistence farmers to compete against huge agro-businesses. With the tightened intellectual property rights, it will prohibit seed sharing amongst farmers, impacting women who are the custodian of seeds, forcing them out of their farms and the local economy.

APWLD will continue to monitor the scheduled public hearings and work with other social justice and people’s movements to stop Thailand from joining CP-TPP against people’s will.

About APWLD

Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), a leading network of feminist organisations and grassroots activists in Asia Pacific. Our over 230 members represent groups of diverse women from 27 countries in Asia Pacific. Over the past 31 years, APWLD has actively worked towards advancing women’s human rights and Development Justice. We are an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organisation and hold consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Facebook:apwld.ngo Twitter:@apwld, Instagram: apwld_
 

APWLD's rallies in Manila during 2015 APEC summit (Photo from APWLD)

Pick to PostAsia Pacific Forum on WomenLaw and Development (APWLD)Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)women
Categories: Prachatai English

Witness of 2010 massacre released on bail, banned from travelling abroad

Tue, 2018-09-04 19:02
Submitted on Tue, 2018-09-04 19:02

Despite an objection from the prosecutor, the key witness of the 2010 massacre charged with royal defamation was released on bail with 400,000 baht as surety.

On 4 July 2018, Winyat Chatmontree, a lawyer from United Lawyers For Rights & Liberty, posted on Facebook that the Bangkok Military Court released Nutthida Meewangpla on bail from after serving three years and five months for royal defamation and criminal association. She had to pay 400,000 baht as surety.

According to Winyat, the court stated that although the prosecutor opposed the release, the offered surety was credible enough to make the judge believe that Nutthida will not escape the prosecution. However, the judge prohibited her from travelling abroad without court permission. 

Waen, a former volunteer nurse, is a crucial witness in the extrajudicial killing of six individuals by state authorities at Wat Pathum Wanaram temple during the crackdown operation against the red-shirt protesters in Bangkok on 19 May 2010.

Arrested and accused of terrorism and royal defamation, Waen has been detained for over three years, and the court had repeatedly denied her bail requests.

Waen was accused of being involved in the 2015 bombing of the Criminal Court in Bangkok. The accusation stems from a transfer of 5,000 baht from Surapol Iam-suwan, another terrorist suspect, into Waen’s bank account. Waen argued that she merely borrowed the money from Surapol to pay the rent for her laundry business.

In July 2017, the Bangkok Military Court released her and three other suspects charged with terrorism on bail. However, Waen was further detained for violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law. The evidence was a screenshot of her chatroom in the Line Application.

Nutthida Meewangpla is being transferred to the Central Women Correctional Institution after a witness hearing today (Photo from Banrasdr Photo)

NewsNattatida MeewangplaWinyat Chatmontreelese majesteArticle 112Source: ทัช 1
Categories: Prachatai English

Rights groups call for immediate release of Reuters journalists in Myanmar

Mon, 2018-09-03 19:03
Submitted on Mon, 2018-09-03 19:03Amnesty International & FIDH

The Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights have launched statements demanding the Myanmar Government unconditionally release the two Reuters journalists. 

Myanmar: Guilty verdict against Reutrs journalists sends stark warning on press freedom
(Statement by Amnesty International)
 

Responding to the news that Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, have been sentenced to seven years in jail after being found guilty of breaching Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director of Crisis Response, said:
 
“Today’s appalling verdict has condemned two innocent men to years behind bars. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo face lengthy jail terms simply because they dared to ask uncomfortable questions about military atrocities in Rakhine State. These convictions must be quashed, and both men immediately and unconditionally released.    
 
“This politically-motivated decision has significant ramifications for press freedom in Myanmar. It sends a stark warning to other journalists in the country of the severe consequences that await should they look too closely at military abuses. This amounts to censorship through fear.
 
“Today’s verdict cannot conceal the truth of what happened in Rakhine State. It’s thanks to the bravery of journalists like Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, that the military’s atrocities have been exposed. Instead of targeting these two journalists, the Myanmar authorities should have been going after those responsible for killings, rape, torture and the torching of hundreds of Rohingya villages.”
 
Background
 
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in Yangon, Myanmar’s main city, on 12 December 2017. At the time, the two men had been investigating military operations in northern Rakhine State. These operations were marked by crimes against humanity targeting the Rohingya population, including deportation, unlawful killings, rape, torture and burning of homes and villages.
 
The two journalists were held incommunicado for two weeks before being transferred to Yangon’s Insein prison. The Official Secrets Act – one of anumber of repressive laws in Myanmar – carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

Myanmar: Baseless imprisonment of two Reuters journalists decried

(Statement by FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights and its member organization for Burma Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma - ALTSEAN-Burma)

Bangkok, Paris, 3 September 2018: FIDH and its member organization Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma) condemn the conviction and harsh prison sentence handed down to two Reuters journalists today and call for their immediate and unconditional release.

At approximately 10:30am, the Yangon Northern District Court handed down a seven-year prison sentence to Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo under Article 3.1(c) of the British colonial-era 1923 Official Secrets Act. The charges stem from allegations that the two had collected and obtained secret documents detailing the movements of security forces with the intention to harm national security. The two reporters remain detained in Yangon’s Insein Prison.

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been arbitrarily detained on trumped-up charges for uncovering a massacre of Rohingya civilians, which has been acknowledged by Myanmar’s military. Today’s prison sentence against the two Reuters journalists is baseless and marks a massive setback for press freedom and the rule of law in Myanmar,” said FIDH Secretary-General and ALTSEAN-Burma Coordinator Debbie Stothard.

On 12 December 2017, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on suspicion of violating the 1923 Official Secrets Act almost immediately after meeting police officers at a restaurant in Yangon and being handed documents allegedly linked to security operations in Rakhine State.

One of the witnesses for the prosecution, a senior policeman, admitted in court that a senior officer had ordered his subordinates to “trap” the journalists by handing them the classified documents. He was subsequently sentenced to a one-year prison term for violating police discipline.

At the time of their arrest, the two had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in September 2017 during military ‘clearance operations’ in Inn Din Village, Maungdaw Township, Rakhine State.

During the trial, Kyaw Soe Oo told the court that immediately after their arrest, they were hooded and brought to the Aung Tha Pyay special police interrogation site in Yangon’s Mayangone Township for interrogation. They were subsequently held incommunicado by police for two weeks and their right to legal counsel withheld until their first hearing on 27 December 2017. They also reported being subjected to sleep deprivation and forced to kneel for hours during interrogation during the early stages of their incommunicado detention. Wa Lone testified that during the interrogation an officer offered a “negotiation” over the journalists’ arrest if they agreed not to publish the story – an offer he rejected.

FIDH and ALTSEAN-Burma reiterate their call for the repeal of the 1923 Official Secrets Act and other draconian laws that are not in line with international standards. The two organizations also urge the immediate and unconditional release of the 85 political prisoners that remain incarcerated in jails across Myanmar.

Reuters journalist Wa Lone (Photo from Associated Press)
 

Pick to PostAmnesty International (AI)International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)ReutersMyanmar
Categories: Prachatai English

NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015 and Public Assembly Act: the systematic limitation of freedom

Mon, 2018-09-03 18:12
Submitted on Mon, 2018-09-03 18:12iLaw

“Article 12. Political gatherings of five or more persons, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding 10,000 baht, or both, unless permission has been granted by the Head of the NCPO or an authorized representative.”

This is the content of Article 12 of Order No. 3/2015 of the Head if the NCPO which prohibits political gatherings. It became the excuse for the state to interfere or limit the freedom of expression since its announcement more than 3 years ago. No less than 421 people have been charged with violating this Order. Most of the content that has been prohibited had a significant effect on the absolute power of the NCPO, such as expressing an opinion on the draft constitution for the referendum and calling for the NCPO to hold elections by the group of People that Want an Election), etc.
 
In the past, NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015 prohibiting political gatherings has been used in conjunction with the 2015 Public Assembly Act that was promulgated later on. Even though according to legal principles, if there is a new law in force dealing with the same issue as an existing law, the existing law must be by implication cancelled, no court has announced the cancellation of NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015 . In fact, it has all this time been used systematically as an important “weapon” to limit freedom of expression along with the Public Assembly Act.
 
Data collected show three trends in enforcing the laws concerning assemblies by officers.

Citing the Order to cut off the exercise of freedom

NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015 has become a tool that state officials use to “warn” anyone who uses freedom that if they insist on using their freedom to express their opinions on these matters, they may be within the scope of violating NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015.  An atmosphere of fear was created amongst those exercising freedom that expressing their opinions may result in a lawsuit that gives them “problems with the military” or cause trouble in the future, leading some people to choose to stop expressing their opinions and some to try to find other ways to continue their fight against power. Examples follow.
 
First, on 25 April 2015, at the ceremony to open the Uncle Nuamthong Praiwan meeting room , officers requested the date of the event to be postponed since permission to host the event had not been sought and the name of Uncle Nuamthong is one of the political symbols that risk violating NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015.
 
Second, on 28 September 2016 in a ‘New constitution, what’s up?’ conference, soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Regiment King’s Guard and police from Pathumwan Police Station called the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre (BACC) and sent a letter informing them the event may be within the scope of NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015 and asking the organiser to request permission in advance. When the organiser submitted an explanation in writing, the military did not consider it in time. So the BACC had to cancel the event, resulting in the organiser changing the format of the event to a recording of a public stage programme at Thai PBS.
 
Third, on 19 September 2016, in the ‘Singing for Uncle’ activity on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the coup, police came to negotiate, claiming their authority under NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015 and the Public Assembly Act. They prohibited the activity and asked all artists to leave the area, which they all consented to, and they immediately left.

Using the NCPO Head Order to resolve instances of enforcing the Public Assembly Act incorrectly

Enforcement of NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015 and the Public Assembly Act together led to the arbitrary choice of a law to prohibit assemblies. State officials are able to choose citing any law that facilitates their goal of obstructing narratives that the state doesn’t want to listen to. It also reflects the misunderstanding of state officials in the enforcement of the Public Assembly Act, so they have to refer to NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015 in correcting arrests that do not comply with what the law prescribes, as can be seen from the protest against the coal power plant in Krabi. 
 
On 17 February 2017, after the coal power plant protestors moved from the area around Government House, officials filed a complaint with the Civil Court, requesting the cancellation of the assembly under the procedures of the Public Assembly Act. The next day, officials arrested, one after the other, five core members, 12 participants and 2 Rangsit University students without charge or explanation of their authority to make arrests. The next day, 19 February 2017, the military made a statement claiming the protestors had violated the Public Assembly Act for gathering outside the area of the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission (OPDC) as they had earlier requested permission. 
 
However, the Public Assembly Act authorizes officials to make arrests only when a court issues an order to stop the assembly and announces the assembly area as a controlled area; it does not state that officials have the authority to arrest people and then take them inside military camps for talks. When lawyers made inquiries with military officers at the 11 Military Circle, which was where the core members were held, they were notified that the arrests were carried out under the authority of Article 44 (NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015), which allows the arrest and detention of those who violate orders or announcements of the NCPO.

Using the NCPO Order with a broader scope than the Public Assembly Act

According to Article 3 of the Public Assembly Act, enforcement of the Act is exempted within educational establishments and academic assemblies, meetings or seminars of educational institutions or agencies with academic purposes. However, it appears that in many cases state officials have used NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015 to restrict activities in educational establishments which the Public Assembly Act does not authorize, such as accusations of violating NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015 made against the participants of a Thai studies seminar at Chiang Mai University and the conference on Joint Consideration of whether to Vote Yes or No on the Draft Constitution before the Referendum by the civilian seminar group “citizen forum” at Dusit University. The University cancelled the event, because of fears that it would be within the scope of a political gathering according to NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015.
 
In addition, it was found that claims of authority under NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015 have been made in a confusing way along with court investigations under the Public Assembly Act, as can be seen in the activity “‘Pour out your hearts for Thepha’. About 80 participants went by foot from Thepha District, Songkhla Province, to Rajamangala University of Technology Srivijaya, Mueang District, Songkhla Province, to submit a letter of protest concerning a coal power plant to Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. On 27 November 2017 at around 12.00 noon the Songkhla Civil Court was investigating whether the march had acted correctly according to the Public Assembly Act or not, and as long as the court had not ruled that the gathering was unlawful, the police had no authority to use force to break up the march.  But in fact, when approximately 80 Thepha villagers reached the vicinity of Songkhla Rajabhat University by foot, they were faced with a police barrier and were unable to pass.
 
Ekachai, one of the protestors, negotiated with Pol Col Prapat Srianant, Deputy Commander of the Songkhla Provincial Police, and Col Uthit Anantananon, Deputy Commander of the 42nd Military Circle. In one part of the talk, Pol. Col. Prapat told Ekachai not to allow the villagers to continue walking to the city of Songkhla since it was an area where a special person was coming. If the villagers entered, there may be disorder . Col Uthit’s explanation was that “Article 44” had been used to declare the area as a special area. It can be understood that he meant NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015, which came into effect through using the power of Article 44 of the Constitution.

In the case of the ’We Walk friendship walk’ activity on 20 January 2018, the protestors had informed the authorities beforehand and acted completely within the terms of the Public Assembly Act, but police still used force to obstruct them, not allowing the protestors to leave Thammasat University, Rangsit Campus, on foot. The police claimed that the assembly had characteristics that made it political and a violation of NCPO Head Order No. 3/2015. Therefore, it was an unlawful gathering and continuation of the activity was prohibited.  

The pro-election protest at Thammasat University on 24 March 2018 (Photo from Banrasdr Photo)
 

Round UpiLawfreedom of assemblyPublic Assembly ActNCPO Head Order No. 3/2015
Categories: Prachatai English

Amnesty International: Thailand must release Montagnard asylum seekers and refugees immediately

Mon, 2018-09-03 14:20
Submitted on Mon, 2018-09-03 14:20Amnesty International

Amnesty International is alarmed by the detention and treatment of at least 168 Cambodian and Vietnamese asylum seekers and refugees in Thailand, and urges the Thai authorities to release them immediately pending the assessment of their asylum claims. Amnesty International has raised the issue of the treatment and deportation of asylum seekers and refugees with the Thai government in the past1, but regrettably we have seen the absence of concrete improvements in the protection of people seeking asylum in Thailand.

The arrested Montagnard (Photo from Jonathan Head's Twitter)

On 28 August 2018, the Special Branch Bureau, Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), Immigration Bureau, Volunteer Defense Corps, and other agencies under the Ministry of Interior raided a residential complex in Nonthaburi province’s Bang Yai district and arrested at least 168 asylum seekers and refugees – including people from the Montagnard ethnic minority group who have fled from political and religious persecution in Cambodia and Viet Nam – then transferred them to Bang Yai district office. Among those arrested, Amnesty International observed that at least 63 children from the age of three months old to 17 years, and two pregnant women were detained there. Many of the people arrested and detained told Amnesty International that they had been recognized as refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and provided their refugee status card to the Thai authorities, while others carried asylum seeker cards. However, arresting authorities claimed there were no UNHCR-recognized individuals.

On the same day, Thai authorities transferred 34 refugees and asylum seekers of Cambodian nationality, including 14 children, to Suan Plu Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok where they risk deportation or indefinite detention. This centre is well known for its horrendous conditions, including but not limited to a poor sanitary environment, lack of medical assistance and excessive overcrowding.

Another 38 refugees and asylum seekers of Vietnamese nationality were then taken to the Provincial Court of Nonthaburi on 29 August to hear their charges of illegal entry and illegal stay under Articles 11, 62 and 81 of the Immigration Act, and were found guilty and sentenced to a 5,000 Baht (approx. 152 USD) fine. The rest of the refugees and asylum seekers were subsequently taken to the Court on 30 August and were sentenced to the same amount of fine. Both groups are currently serving prison term in lieu of fine at Pathumthani Central Detention near Bangkok. Amnesty International notes that, before being taken to court, all parents reported being coerced into signing documents consenting to the separation from their children in a language they do not understand and the content of which they have not been adequately informed.

The 47 Vietnamese children, some of them with health issues that require medical assistance, are currently held in separate locations in Bangkok and its outskirts under the care of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. Upon serving the full sentence, all Vietnamese refugees and asylum seekers will be transferred to Suan Plu Immigration Centre, where the children will be returned to their parents. All could be detained indefinitely or forcibly returned to Viet Nam.

Children held in these centres are particularly vulnerable to irreversible psychological and physical distress and human rights violations. Placing children in immigration detention is always a violation of their human rights and may amount to cruel and degrading treatment. The detention of a child because of their or their parent’s migration status contravenes the principle of the best interests of the child. The Thai government is primarily responsible for implementing the best interests principle of child protection, set out in Article 3 of the Convention for the Rights of the Child, to which Thailand is a state party. Given the work-in-progress to secure a memorandum of understanding to end all detention of children at immigration detention centres, the current detention of 56 children, including the Cambodian refugee children, at the Suan Plua centre proves more palpable efforts are urgently needed.

Under International law a refugee is a person who has been forced to flee his or her country due to imminent or real threats of persecution, war or violence. Refugees have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons including race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

Montagnard is a term loosely used to refer to many Christian ethnic groups living in Viet Nam’s Central Highlands and Cambodia. They are among the most persecuted ethnic groups in Viet Nam, having faced a systematic, ongoing campaign of suppression against their religious and political beliefs. Their displacement and dispossession as a result of land disputes and land acquisitions has also left many with no other choice but to flee to a neighbouring country. In Cambodia, the government refers to Jarai people, one of the Montagnard tribes who live in Cambodia, as an “ethnic minority of Viet Nam”. More than a hundred Vietnamese Montagnards who sought asylum in Cambodia were forcibly returned to Viet Nam2. If returned to Viet Nam, they will face grave risks of being persecuted and imprisoned indefinitely.3

Even though, the Thai government has not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention, it still has other obligations under International law to comply with the principle of non-refoulement by ensuring that people are not returned to a country where there is a risk of serious human rights violations, and the prohibition on torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

The Thai government has repeatedly violated its obligations under customary international law of non- refoulement. In February 2018, Thailand forcibly returned Sam Sokha, a Cambodian political opposition supporter who fled to Thailand in April 2017 and was recognized as a refugee by UNHCR. She has been imprisoned by the Cambodian authorities since her return. In July 2015, 109 asylum seekers identified as people of the Uighur ethnic group were forcibly returned to China, where they were likely to face severe persecution and possibly torture. The Thai officials also deported Chinese activists Jiang Yefei and Dong Guangping in November 2015 as they awaited resettlement as refugees. A Court in China later sentenced them to six and a half years and three and a half years in jail, respectively.

Despite Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s pledge to develop a national screening mechanism for people claiming asylum in Thailand at the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in September 2016 and a cabinet resolution to do so issued in January 2017, the Thai government has yet to translate its commitment into practical actions and results.

We urge the Thai authorities to take the following steps as a matter of priority:

• Until such time as the Thai government establishes its own fair and prompt asylum assessment process, support UNHCR to exercise its mandate to conduct refugee status determination for all individuals with asylum claims, regardless of nationality or ethnicity, and ensure all asylum- seekers have access to a full, fair and efficient asylum procedure;
• Ensure that asylum-seekers are only detained as a last resort and when strictly necessary, following an individualized assessment of their humanitarian needs and the risks if they remain at liberty, and for the least amount of time necessary;
• Establish formal alternatives to detention for refugees and asylum-seekers, possibly including regular reporting requirements, bail opportunities or sponsorship;
• Ensure that the children are never detained solely for migration-related purposes, since such detention can never be in the child’s best interests. Halt the forced separation of children from their parents or guardians, in all migration-related circumstances;
• Do not, under any circumstances, return individuals to a country where they face risk of persecution, torture, violence or other serious human rights violations or abuses;
• Accede to the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, and ensure these instruments in law, policy and practice, including by establishing a national screening mechanism for asylum seekers.

Yours sincerely,
Minar Pimple Senior Director, Global Operations Amnesty International

Endnote
1 Amnesty International, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 28 September 2017 (ASA 39/7031/2017).

2 See more information at Amnesty International, “Cambodia Must Stop Refoulement of Montagnard Asylum Seekers to Viet Nam”, 24 September 2015 (ASA 23/2516/2015) and Amnesty International, “Cambodia: End Refoulement of Montagnard Asylum Seekers”, 4 March 2015 (ASA 23/1126/2015)

3 Amnesty International, “Thailand: Imminent Risk of Deportation of Cambodian and Vietnamese UNHCR- Recognized Refugees”, 23 January 2018 (ASA 23/7778/2018)
 

Pick to PostAmnesty International (AI)Refugeeasylum seekersVietnamCambodiaMinistry of InteriorGen Anupong PaochindaUnited Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
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Call for Government sincerity and transparency in drafting of the National Action Plan on Business & Human Rights

Thu, 2018-08-30 19:11
Submitted on Thu, 2018-08-30 19:11Thai Business and Human Rights Network

Thailand: Call on the Government to be sincere and transparent in the drafting process of the National Action Plan on Business & Human Rights
With Respect to the process and content

We, the Thai Business and Human Rights Network, express our serious concern about the lack of sincerity and transparency displayed by the Thai authorities in the drafting process of the National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights. Although we welcome today’s initiative taken by the Thai government, together with the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT), UNDP and OHCHR, to host a CSO Consultation on the Draft NAP, we strongly urge the Thai government to ensure transparency in the process of drafting the NAP and sincerity towards the adoption of community input on priority issues, challenges, recommendations and action towards implementation.

The Royal Thai Government, in response to a recommendation during its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2016, committed to developing a National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights by September 2018. In this context, we organised various consultations for the development of an independent shadow national baseline assessment (NBA) between January 2017 and March 2018. At these meetings, we shared concrete recommendations from our organisations and the concerned communities for consideration in the NAP and formed the Thai BHR Network, to collectively engage in the NAP process in line with Manushya Foundation’s strategy to guarantee that voices of local community members and others directly affected by the action of businesses, are at the centre of the NAP. 

However, despite issues repeatedly raised with the Government during the consultations, two successive NAP drafts from the government ignored affected communities, disregarded their key areas of concern, and simply reproduced recommendations claiming they were actions that would aid in the realization of human rights in the business context in Thailand and thus do not reflect our participation in the process or any interest from the government to make an actionable document. More importantly, the Government authorities lately have blocked any efforts for meaningful participation in the process due to communication of information on consultations through unofficial channels or not at all, particularly with respect to the content of draft NAPs, with little to no advance notice to review the draft NAP completely disregarding the contribution of affected communities. Attempts to revise a draft NAP, with omission of challenges faced, absent of clear action steps to implement recommendations, and carried out through a single day consultation fail to remember the importance of a National Action Plan to the Business and Human Rights processes in the country.

We thus call on the Thai government particularly the Ministry of Justice, which is leading the NAP drafting process, to take the following steps in order to guarantee full and effective participation in the process and the drafting of a credible NAP:

  • Ensure information of consultations, particularly the drafts of the NAP, are circulated widely and well in advance so that the concerned communities and civil society groups can provide comments and meaningfully participate in the drafting process.
  • Include representation of the concerned communities and civil society groups in the NAP drafting committee, so as to secure sincere participation and transparency in the process.
  • Undertake additional regional consultations with meaningful engagement of all relevant stakeholders on successive draft NAPs developed, to ensure the formulation of a NAP that addresses all relevant concerns and adopts concrete actions with respect to the actual situation on the ground.

To ensure the participation of concerned communities and civil society groups, we, the Network have released thematic summaries of the independent CSO national baseline assessment on business and human rights developed through consultations with concerned communities and experts that identify priority issues, outline detailed challenges and providing clear actionable steps, to help inform the process. 

The Network strongly demands that Government authorities live up to their claims of having engaged with civil society groups in the NAP drafting process, by creating a space for meaningful engagement with affected communities at the regional level on all successive draft NAPs, by means of a process that accepts feedback through constructive dialogue with sufficient time provided to review each draft NAP. 

We thus urge the government not to approach community engagement just as an exercise to ‘tick a box’ but to empower those who need to be heard by actually engaging them constructively, in order to produce a NAP that responds to the concerns of communities and civil society with concrete actions. While we understand that the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights has to be released by September 2018, it is more important that the process of finalisation of the NAP is not rushed; and that communities, as well as involved government authorities and individuals are educated about the rights and processes of business and human rights to contribute to the development and future implementation of the NAP.

For more information on the community contributions to the independent national baseline assessment of the Manushya Foundation, see the thematic briefs outlining clear challenges, recommendations and actionable steps available at: 
https://www.manushyafoundation.org/new-publications 

About the Thai BHR Network

The Thai Business and Human Rights Network (TBHRN) is an informal, inclusive and intersectional coalition of human rights defenders, community leaders, researchers, academics, and non-governmental organisations from the local, national and regional spheres, who are joining hands to ensure local communities are central to the business and human rights response in Thailand. The Network engages in advocacy, dialogue, and monitoring of business and human rights commitments made by the Royal Thai Government, in particular in engaging in the development and monitoring of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. More information on the TBHRN and its role can be accessed at https://www.manushyafoundation.org/coalition-building-workshop-report 

About Manushya Foundation

Manushya Foundation is an Asia regional foundation promoting community empowerment to advance human rights, social justice and peace through a process of engagement, mobilisation and empowerment. With concern emerging on Business and Human Rights in Thailand, the bottom-up strategy of Manushya Foundation guarantees the empowerment of communities through a process of community led evidence-based research; the development of a national baseline assessment on BHR; and building capacity on BHR knowledge through the TBHRN, a unified national network comprising communities, academics and experts. For further information on the work of Manushya Foundation, visit
https://www.manushyafoundation.org 

The TBHRN campaign for transparency in the law drafting process

 

 

Off the PressLabourbusinessNational Human Rights Commission (NHRC)Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
Categories: Prachatai English

Thailand Must Release Ethnic Minority Refugees, Asylum Seekers: Human Rights Watch

Thu, 2018-08-30 13:44
Submitted on Thu, 2018-08-30 13:44Human Rights Watch Uphold Pledge to End Immigration Detention of Children

(Bangkok, August 30, 2018) – Thai authorities should immediately release 181 ethnic minority refugees and asylum seekers, most with UN refugee status, who were recently arrested, Human Rights Watch said today. Those detained come mostly from the Montagnard population in Vietnam and Cambodia and were arrested on August 28, 2018, on the outskirts of Bangkok.

“Thailand’s frequent claims about improving refugee rights ring hollow when officials detain dozens of families who are protected under the mandate of the UN refugee agency,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These Montagnards face harsh persecution if they are returned to Cambodia and Vietnam, which Thailand should not do under any circumstances.”

In the early morning of August 28, the district chief of Bang Yai district led a team of Ministry of Interior security officers (Or Sor), police, immigration police, and army soldiers to arrest 181 Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees and asylum seekers, including over 50 children, at their homes in Nonthaburi province. Officials claimed they were responding to complaints filed by local Thai residents.

Many Montagnards have fled Vietnam to Cambodia and Thailand in recent years to escape religious and political persecution. Cambodia’s ethnic Jarai population, many of whom are Christian, have faced land confiscation and intensifying government pressure after Vietnamese Jarai fled into Cambodia’s Ratanakiri province. 

The arresting officers appeared to have little understanding about Thailand’s obligations to protect refugees. One refugee said: “Many people [officials] come to me to ask why I came here, how I came here, and how much I paid. They asked who helped me to get the [UN refugee agency] card and how much I paid to get the card. Many people were asked about our journey to Thailand … A Thai person [plainclothes officer] said we are here illegally, and we have to comply with the law."

Officers transferred the refugees and asylum seekers to the Bang Yai district office and charged them with illegal entry or illegal stay under articles 11, 62, and 81 of Thailand’s Immigration Act. Representatives from the Thailand office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) traveled to Bang Yai district office to seek the release of all “persons of concern” recognized by UNHCR but were unsuccessful.

Interior Ministry officials at the Bang Yai district office questioned refugees, lawyers, and refugee agency officers about the authenticity of their UNHCR cards. The officers showed little knowledge about refugees, their status, or Thai government obligations to protect refugees and asylum seekers, and asked how those arrested could claim they were refugees when there was no war in their home country.

On the evening of August 28, the Thai government sent 34 refugees and asylum seekers with Cambodian nationality to Bangkok’s Suan Phlu Immigration Detention Center to await possible deportation. Thai officials took 38 refugees from Vietnam to the Nonthaburi provincial court on August 29 to hear charges against them, but the proceedings were hampered by the failure of the Thai authorities to ensure the presence of a proper Jarai language interpreter to enable the refugees to understand both the charges against them and the court proceedings.

“Prosecuting these refugees and asylum seekers for illegal entry misunderstands their reason for coming to Thailand,” Adams said. “And it raises major concerns they may be sent back to persecution.”

Thailand indefinitely detains refugees and asylum seekers in squalid conditions pending deportation. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention requires asylum seekers to be “brought promptly before a judge or other authority” to assess the legal basis for their detention.

Thailand is legally bound to respect the international law principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits states from returning individuals to a country where they may face torture or other serious human rights violations. Non-refoulement is explicitly prescribed by article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture, to which Thailand is a party, and is considered part of customary international law.

In 2016, Thailand announced its commitment to end the immigration detention of children. In January 2017, the Royal Thai Government issued a cabinet resolution that supports passage of a law that would set up a national screening mechanism for asylum seekers. 

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Thailand ratified in 1992, requires that “the arrest, detention, or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.” The convention also requires “a child who is seeking refugee status or who is considered a refugee in accordance with applicable international or domestic law and procedures shall, whether unaccompanied or accompanied by his or her parents or by any other person, receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance in the enjoyment of applicable rights set forth in the present Convention and in other international human rights ... instruments.”

“Thailand is violating its international commitments by detaining over 50 children of refugees and asylum seekers,” Adams said. “Their UN refugee status should ensure that none of these families are detained. Thai authorities should release them immediately.”

Pick to PostHuman Rights Watch (HRW)Refugeeasylum seekersethnic minorityUnited Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Categories: Prachatai English

168 refugees, asylum seekers arrested in Nonthaburi

Wed, 2018-08-29 14:53
Submitted on Wed, 2018-08-29 14:53

Nonthaburi authorities have arrested 168 refugees and asylum seekers from Vietnam and Cambodia, even though 154 of them are recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

On 28 August 2018, administrative officers and the Migrant Police in Nonthaburi raided a house in Bang Yai District to arrest 130 Vietnamese and 38 Cambodians. The raid took place at dawn after the authorities received a report that the 168 were connected to human trafficking networks. 60 of the arrested are children. 

Local media have reported that the refugees are illegal migrants who were arrested for not having work permits. But an officer from a refugee rights organisation has confirmed to Prachatai that they are asylum seekers and that 154 out of 168 hold a refugee-status card granted by the UNHCR. 

Most of them are ethnic minorities who are escaping persecution in their home countries due to land and religious conflict. Some remain in the process of obtaining refugee status.

According to the source, 34 out of the 38 arrested Cambodians are recognised by UNHCR. 12 are children, out of which 8 have a UNHCR card. 120 out of 130 Vietnamese have the card, and 43 are children. 3 out of the 10 who do not have the card are children. 

The authorities will detain the Cambodians at Suan Phlu Immigration Bureau, Bangkok, and the Vietnamese refugees will be charged for illegal immigration. Prachatai will provide updates on this case.

According to Jesuit Refugee Service, around 4,000 to 5,000 refugees who are recognised by the UNHCR are living in urban areas in Thailand. Around 3,000 other individuals are requesting refugee status. Another 2,000 either have been denied refugee status or have decided to live without a visa. In total, Thailand has over 10,000 urban refugees. 

The UNHCR card of an arrested
 

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Embattled lèse majesté lawyer released after 16 months in jail

Mon, 2018-08-27 14:26
Submitted on Mon, 2018-08-27 14:26

On 26 August 2018, Prawet Prapanukul, 57, was released from Bangkok Remand Prison after serving a jail term for 16 months. The human rights lawyer was arrested on 29 April 2017 for violating Article 112 of the Penal Code, the royal defamation law.

Prawet faced up to 50 years in prison for posting messages on Facebook that landed him 10 lèse majesté charges and three sedition charges. The Court of First Instance on 27 June 2018 dismissed his royal defamation charges but sentenced him to 15 months in prison for sedition, plus one extra month for refusing to be fingerprinted. 

Prawet’s prosecution is related to the disappearance of the 1932 Revolution Plaque in April 2017. Prawet shared Facebook posts of Somsak Jeamteerasakul, an exiled critic of the Thai monarchy, which discussed the controversial issue. On 29 April, soldiers raided his house and arrested him, as well as five other individuals, and detained them at a military camp in Bangkok.

Initially, the military held him incommunicado and he was not allowed to contact anybody. In response, Prawet staged a hunger strike on 30 April. A day later, the authorities allowed him to make a phone call to his friend. That was the first time the public knew about his whereabouts.

In early May, the military transferred the six to the police and pressed lèse majesté charges against five of them for sharing Somsak’s Facebook posts about the missing plaque. The court granted the police custody and rejected their bail requests. But the public prosecutor eventually decided not to indict and released them all, except Prawet.

In July 2017, when the court held a witness hearing for Prawet’s case, Prawet decided to dismiss all his defence lawyers and announced that he did not recognise the court’s authority in the case. He refused to sign all documents and did not call any defence witnesses. The reason he gave was that the Thai justice system was not sufficiently impartial to rule on royal defamation prosecutions.

After his release, Prawet said in an interview that the case is not over yet since the general attorney is appealing the case. He vows to keep fighting the case but will rest for a few weeks.

Prawet Prapanukul (Photo from Facebook Banrasdr Photo)

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