50 year old Bob from the Netherlands was a man who lived a very healthy life, never drinking or smoking. So after 15 years working as a GM in Samui he was horrified to find he needed an operation on his heart. Not long later he was even more horrified to find he had cancer […]

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Patranit Jitsamruay

Editor’s note: While expatriates regularly complain about Bangkok's tricky taxi drivers, Bangkokian Thais are facing much worse -- the poor bus services, offered by both the Thai government and private companies. Most of the complaints from passengers direct to the private-run bus lines. The common problems are that buses do not stop at the appointed stops and buses are driven in a frightening manner. From 2011 to 2013 there were 29 road accidents in Bangkok involving buses, with 30 deaths and 100 injuries 

The most notorious bus line is the No. 8 Bus which drives through Bangkok’s worst traffic from Bang Kapi in eastern Bangkok to King Rama I Memorial Bridge (Saphan Phut) in central Bangkok. Last June, three people were injured when a speeding No. 8 Bus hit a BTS skytrain pillar. In March 2014, a No. 8 Bus hit and crushed a motorcycle, instantly killing a 13-year-old boy. In 2011, one person was killed and another injured while waiting at a bus stop when a No. 8 Bus was competing with another bus for space to stop at the bus stop.   
 
“We speed for our customers, terrifying all in Ladprao, dashing all the way to King Rama I Memorial Bridge! Running straight ahead like we are fleeing a disaster!  Yelling out “duck” to all that we pass! Giving way to every motorcycle! Striking every curve and lane around Victory Monument! Even before the bus stop, the door opens! Rushing crazily to Central Ladprao! Cutting off the police cars! Checkpoint? No need to stop! 8 baht all along the route - if you don’t pay, get the fuck off!,” wrote a dissatisfied customer on social media.
 
To find out the source of the poor service, the author studied the quality of public transportation services and found that unfair working conditions for drivers and ticket collectors are the main source of poor service. 
 
Patranit Jitsamruay is a third year student in journalism at Silpakorn University. This report, originally published in Thai on Prachatai, is part of her Prachatai 2014 fellowship for youth, and translated into English by Andrew Alan Johnson. 
 
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People get in and out of Bus Line 8 at Victory Monument, one of the busiest bus stops in Bangkok
 
Public transportation is the most common means of travel for the population of Bangkok. According to Bangkok’s Mass Transit Authority (BMTA), around three million people use mass transportation each day. Underneath the BMTA are also a variety of state-run enterprises affiliated with the Ministry of Transportation, arranging motorized transport within Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Pathum Thani, Samut Sakhon and Samut Prakan; altogether 114 routes with 7,253 vehicles, including 3,509 BMTA vehicles and 3,744 private vehicles. But today, the number of vehicles in service is declining. According to the latest BMTA report (June 2014), there were only 5,226 vehicles in service, including 2,526 from the BMTA and 2,700 private.
 
Outside of the problems of having too few cars in service, traffic accidents also pose a problem. Statistics on cases of traffic accidents from the National Police Headquarters (December 2013) revealed that, within Bangkok, large, public passenger vehicles had 520 accidents between October of 2011 until May of 2013. Data from the Foundation for Consumers identifies 374 incidents, with 512 fatalities and 5,208 injuries. Of these, buses were involved 29 times, with 30 deaths and 100 injuries. 
 
Complaints, as well, are common. Statistics in a 2014 report on bus transportation from the Land Transport Department indicate that the receipt of complaints to the Passenger Control Center’s emergency 1584 number, there were about 7,029 total complaints. The BMTA received 2,003 of these, up 330 from the previous year’s total. The complaints received by the BMTA can be grouped into three basic categories: the first being that the bus did not stop at the appointed stop (768 complaints), the second being that the bus was driven in a frightening manner (609 complaints), and the third being that the bus staff were rude (308 complaints). Within the private bus sector, there were 5,029 complaints, up 811 from the previous year’s total. Within the three categories of complaint, there were 2,161 complaints that the driver drove in a frightening manner, 1,184 complaints that the driver did not stop in the correct place, and 909 complaints that the staff were rude. 
 
Other studies also support these varied kinds of complaints against private buses (both regular and air-conditioned). These complaints (collected between 2010 and 2014) can be divided into five distinct categories, in order, that 1) drivers drove in a frightening manner, 2) the bus did not stop at the appointed stop 3) the staff were rude, 4) passengers were made to exit before the correct stop, and 5) drivers and ticket collectors smoked cigarettes on duty. 
 
Bus Line 8: First in problems
 
Complaint statistics about problems on private bus lines from 1 October, 2013 until 30 September 2014 (collected from emergency phone line 1384) revealed that, amongst private, regular buses, Bus Line 8 (Bang Kapi – Rama I Memorial Bridge) was amongst the top three bus lines receiving complaints for 11 months and received the most complaints for 10 months. On average, Bus Line 8 received about 20 complaints per month.
 
 
Passengers of the 8 line claim vehicles are old, while employees are afraid that they are unfit for service
 
Wirapong Natapatanapong is a student at Kasetsart University and uses the 8 line regularly. He says that “The condition of the buses are old. You can’t open some of the windows. The driver and the ticket collectors scold the customers and don’t care about them or their safety as much as they should. They drive fast - frighteningly fast. They hit the brakes hard and don’t stop at the bus stops. They don’t close the door of the bus and talk on the phone when they should be on duty – this is a problem that has been going on for a long time. And, regarding the complaint box, the lax manner in which this is done shows the thinking of the operators of Bus Line 8 – some of them you can’t even use, they’re so battered.” 
 
Using Bus Line 8, the writer noticed a number of issues along the route. For one, Bus Line 8 confronts traffic jams, as the route goes past a lot of important places, like government sites, tourist sites, BTS stations, and subway stations. Additionally, there are a number of issues on the road itself, such as roadside stalls spilling out onto the street, or private cars, taxis, and box trucks parking on the street, so that it is impossible for the bus to stop at the bus stop.
 
This video, showing a driver and a ticket collector of Bus Line 8 are yelling at a passenger and forcing the passenger off the bus after the passenger complained of poor service. (See 0.28)
 
The broadcast on social media of this video, showing drivers and ticket collectors of Bus Line 8 using impolite language and forcing passengers off the bus, was a reason for the Ministry of Transportation to open a special investigation into Bus Line 8. The issue of service problems on Bus Line 8 had already been popular in mainstream media. But this video reinforced the impression that there was a problem with the service along Bus Line 8, along with a popularly-shared image of people packing into the bus until the wheels lifted off of the road, or a case where Bus Line 8 struck and killed a 13-year old bicyclist. In this last case, even though the driver of the bus was not found to be directly responsible, it later emerged that he did not yet have a driver’s license valid for public buses. He had been working only three weeks, and was still in the process of changing his license from an ordinary one to one valid for buses. Normally such a driver wouldn’t be working, but on the weekend there were simply too few drivers. 
 
This case became widely cited, and it led to Bus Line 8 becoming a key point of criticism and investigation from the online community and infamy amongst the general population. But this case in turn led to a greater desire to understand the problematic service conditions of Bus Line 8. With this in mind, this writer interviewed employees of Bus Line 8.
 
Lacking regular pay, employees of Line 8 lack rely upon commissions from ticket sales
 
Somchai (pseudonym), a driver of Line 8, reported that the company paid drivers a daily wage of about 100 baht. In addition to this, they were able to keep a 10 per cent commission on ticket sales. Ticket collectors brought home a daily wage of 50 baht in addition to a five per cent commission. On average, Somchai is able to drive the route about four times a day, selling on average 5,000 – 6,000 tickets per day. This amount has fallen in previous years on account of an increase in other buses in service along Line 8’s route, especially private and air conditioned buses - AC Bus Line 8 (Romklao Housing – King Rama I Memorial Bridge), normally gets the most passengers. 
 
Congested traffic: Employees of Line 8 work 15 hours a day
 
Now, Somchai is beginning to fear that he must work on average 15 hours per day. This time is uncertain, as the time that it takes to travel one route differs depending on a number of factors, including: the condition of the traffic on the roads, the condition of the buses (bus drivers and ticket collector cannot choose on which bus they will work), and the time of departure. These all influence the experience of each bus driver and ticket collector and have an influence on how many hours they daily work. 
 
Bearing a heavy burden, employees still try to avoid lashing out at customers in order to avoid complaints. 
 
Somjai (pseudonym), a ticket collector on Bus Line 8, said, “I am under a lot of pressure from the recent press on service issues. This has led to new training measures from the Department of Land Transportation as well as criticism directly from passengers. I have to be extremely patient in my work, and am now trying to keep from speaking back to passengers in order to avoid risking a complaint.”
 
Chatchat Sitthipan, then Minister of Transport, tested the No 8  Bus service himself. 
 
Chatchat Sithiphan, former Minister of Transportation, uploaded pictures and posts onto his own fanpage (Facebook page: Chatchat Sinthiphan), on the 15 August, 2013, when Chatchat was still the Minister of Transportation and after he had learned of the problematic conditions of service along Bus Line 8. Chatchat said that he had invited those business owners overseeing Bus Line 8 to come together to think about how to correct its problems in both the short and long term. He asked if repairs, extra tolls, or more studies might be needed. The group concluded that there was indeed one pressing issue that needed correction: posting the number of the bus in large letters in order that passengers and the general population would be able to see it more clearly, so that they could mark down the number and make more clear complaints about the service. Additionally, the group recommended that the business owners be more strict with their employees, especially in terms of uniforms, manners of the drivers and ticket collectors, and, finally, they installed a complaint box. 
 
Athit Maikaew, a passenger of Bus Line 8, reported that “I use the Bus Line 8 service regularly. The service on this line has some good points and some bad points, but it all depends on the behavior of the bus driver and ticket collectors”
 
In order to see better the various conditions, problems, and implications for service on Bus Line 8, the author interviewed employees of other bus lines for comparison, especially those lines that travel along the same route, from Romklao Housing, in Eastern Bangkok, – King Rama I Memorial Bridge. 
 
Nongyao Wangthaphan, 48 years old, is a ticket collector on Air-Conditioned Bus Line 8 and has worked there for six years. She receives a monthly salary from the business  and is able to get a commission on tickets according to the rate that the company sets, which means that she has a monthly income as well as a daily one. Drivers and ticket collectors receive about 28,000 baht and 15,000 baht, respectively, each month – a good base salary beneath a good rate of profits so long as one worked hard. Nongyao works on average 10-12 hours per day or more, each hour in the middle of traffic. The company sets very clearly the times for departure and the numbers of trips that the bus makes, and for their part, the vehicles come with GPS and stick to the route strictly. 
Krektchai Khongthong, a passenger of Air-Conditioned Bus Line 8, reports that “I’m satisfied with the service of AC Bus Line 8. The employees are fairly committed to polite service. I changed to taking AC Bus Line 8 instead of the ordinary Bus Line 8 because of the air conditioning – it makes it easier to travel. The conditions of the cars are better, too, and it makes me feel more confident about safety.”
 
Aside from those mentioned above, the author interviewed employees of AC Bus Line 29, from Rangsit Center School – Hua Lamphong, a private, air-conditioned bus that has the highest service issues, receiving 1 out of every 3 complaints within the past 11 months. 
 
Private bus employees make stressful plans in order to pull in passengers 
 
Buses, minibuses and taxis compete for parking spots and passengers at BTS Chatuchak
 
Phaithun Samniangdi, 42 years old, is an employee of AC Bus Line 29. He worries that being a private bus line employee means a high level of everyday stress. He spends time planning and worrying about each trip himself. As having a lot of passengers means that the amount of money that he is able to bring home also increases, he drives fast and tries to close the intervals between himself and vehicles on the same bus line, or other bus lines who drive the same route, or the free buses (paid for by tax money), all in order to get the most passengers from other vehicles onto his own bus.
 
With wages not quite 300, daily profits are also cut if drivers do not drive according to the company’s orders
 
Pangsi Phonok, 48 years old, is a ticket collector on AC Bus Line 29 and has been a bus employee 20 years. She reported that drivers and ticket collectors on her line don’t have a salary from the company. Instead, they receive a sum of about 300 baht per day, but drivers and ticket collectors have to make at least four rounds each day if they are to get the complete sum. If drivers and ticket collectors are unable to make four rounds, they must cut their profits. For instance, for one round, they will receive 75 baht; for two rounds, 150 baht; and for three rounds, 200 baht. In addition to this 300 baht, they are able to collect a special amount for selling over the number of tickets set by the company. For instance, if they sell 8,000 baht worth of tickets, they are able to claim 100 baht. If they sell 9,500 baht worth of tickets, they can claim 150 baht, and so on. Outside of this, they additionally collect a profit per ticket sales every 15 days or one month. For instance, after employees sell 6,500 baht worth of tickets, the driver can collect four per cent of subsequent sales and the ticket collectors can collect two per cent each. So profits slowly increase with ticket sales – each day they sell approximately 8,500 baht worth of tickets.
 
Drivers and ticket collectors can make at most five round trips each day. On average these trips last about 3.5 hours each, meaning that employees work on average about 14 hours per day. Normally, drivers and ticket collectors are able to select one particular bus on which to work, something that allows them some degree of control over the conditions of the bus and the ability to choose their fellow co-workers, except when workers are not able to show up to work or when the bus is under repair. Each day, before the bus leaves on its route, bus drivers must inspect the starting condition of the bus themselves. 
 
What we find here is that the difference in the conditions of employment has an effect upon the number of complaints received. A very clear example of this connection was seen when the author interviewed the employees of Bus Line 45 (Samrong, Samut Prakan – Si Phraya Pier) and Bus Line 522 (Rangsit – Victory Monument), one ordinary BMTA bus and one air-conditioned private bus, in order to see the difference between public and private buses in service.
 
Employee salaries start low, compensation can’t be controlled. The work is hard, many risks
 
Nawaphon Wangsakul, a bus driver on line 45 (Samrong– Si Phraya Pier), reports that he came back to work as a BMTA bus driver not long after he quit his private business. The starting monthly income for a bus driver or ticket collector is very low: only 6,080 baht or 4,880 baht, respectively. The starting daily profits are only 50 baht and 20 baht (respectively), and the overtime costs are 30 and 26 baht per hour (respectively). Profits from ticket sales are one and 0.5 satang per ticket, all told amounting to about 13,000 baht per month. Nawaphon works on average about 14 hours per day, completing about three round trips. In ordinary traffic, he takes about three hours per round trip, but if the traffic is congested, he takes up to seven hours per round trip. Thus, between the varied ticket commissions, his daily work, and the constant risk of accident on the highways, he finds the working life as a bus driver as an uncertain one.
 
Employees of free buses bear a heavy burden of servicing all kinds of passengers
 
Somphong Sribanthao, 42 years old, is a ticket collector on Bus Line 45. She has worked for the bus company for 17 years, and reports that the drivers and ticket collector on tax-funded buses must meet with all kinds of passengers, including the mentally disabled, the handicapped, and others who cannot help themselves and who come to use the free services. Passengers often ride the bus without getting off, urinating and defecating on the seats. Because of the public nature of these buses, employees are unable to deny them service as private bus employees can. 
 
Employees of the BMTA are afraid that their buses are operating at only 60 per cent effectiveness. Private buses cut them off and compete for passengers. They are not as safe as they should be. 
 
Somphong continued, saying that the conditions of the buses entering public service at present are at about 60 per cent of what they should be, as the buses entering service are over 20 years old. The conditions of the buses are a constant obstacle for employees to face, and these poor conditions create unsafe conditions for the passengers as well. Aside from this, the employees face problems from the private buses, taxis, private cars, and delivery trucks that cut them off in traffic or park at bus stops. This in turn prevents buses from picking up or dropping off passengers at the stop and thus creates problems with complaints from passengers. 
 
Employees of BMTA buses have a regular income, while the employees of private buses do not – a much worse system. 
 
Amnuay Phutthasuwan, 57 years old, is a ticket collector on AC Bus Line 522 (Rangsit – Victory Monument). She reports that her income is about 27,000 baht each month, between salary and a five per cent commission on ticket sales. After she sells 4,500 baht worth of tickets, the commission falls to one per cent (the standard commission in the old system). She works on average 14 hours each day and makes at most 2.5 round trips. For employees in this new system, they get a regular salary along with their daily commission and hourly wage.
 
Amnuay has been a bus employee for 30 years for the BMTA. She claims that one can see the difference very clearly between the welfare of those working for the BMTA and those working for private bus lines: the BMTA workers are under a governmental system:  there is a regular salary, one can have leave from work, health care, family support, and retirement. This differs from employees of private bus lines, who do not have a regular income; who, if they do not work, do not get paid; and most of whose money usually comes from commissions on ticket sales, causing them drive fast in order to get the maximum number of passengers. As all of these factors contribute to an increasingly precarity in labor, causes private bus line employees to work more hours than BMTA workers. All of these factors ultimately contribute to the difference in service between BMTA and private bus lines. 
 
 
We can see that the problems for bus employees are connected. For drivers, ticket collectors, workers of BMTA and private lines alike, congested traffic poses one particular problem as it prevents workers from being able to predict how many hours they will work in a day, and causes them to be crammed together in traffic jams more than eight hours per day. Parked vehicles blocking bus stops prevent buses from picking up passengers at marked stops. In addition, problems in service stem from a lack of concern for the welfare of the workers, such as not having a place for workers to rest, shops, bathrooms, etc. The time that the workers spend on board the buses is exhausting: they cannot eat at regular hours, and they are not able to choose the time that they use the restrooms. When they reach the starting and ending point of the route, they still do not have a good place to rest. All of this makes employees have to search for their own means of maintaining their personal comfort, something that takes time away from their work and contributes to health problems (especially digestive problems and muscle problems). 
 
In addition, drivers and ticket collectors from the BMTA and the various private lines all receive different commissions. Some commissions depend upon the length of time each employee has spent working, and others differ by the various agreements set by each company. For the most part, employees of private bus lines do not receive a regular salary, meaning that their income largely rests upon commissions on tickets, something which means that they must try to find the most passengers in order to glean the most profits. 
 
Bus supervisor: employees’ welfare is overlooked, something that leads to accidents for both employees and passengers. 
 
Air Force Squadron Leader Prachub Okfu, the supervisor of the bus hangar of Bus Line 45 (Samrong – Si Phraya Pier), reports that the welfare of the employees is often overlooked. Every day, he uses his own money to purchase water for the drivers and ticket collectors to drink. For Squadron Leader Prachub, at the beginning and end of routes there must be a restroom and enough water to drink for the employees, but now these services are lacking.
 
As he lets the buses out of the gate, he stresses that it is necessary to let them go at proper intervals: neither bunched up too tight nor leaving long intervals between them. Today, the total numbers of buses on line 45 has dropped to 23 (whereas it had been 30) owing to the number of buses undergoing repairs. Now, there are few drivers and ticket collectors, as the burden of this line of work is heavy and the commissions are low, making for a lack of people coming to apply to be drivers or ticket collectors.
 
According to Squadron Leader Prachub, accidents involving buses have various causes. These include: poor conditions of the buses, which often lack critical parts; drivers and ticket collectors who are negligent in their duties; passengers who are not mindful of their own safety (using the phone when they are boarding or exiting the bus, for instance); and the conditions of traffic along the route of travel. To try and minimize these accidents, the company carefully investigates the permits of drivers and ticket collectors before hiring them, and makes sure that these various permits are renewed in a timely manner. Also, employees are given a physical examination before departing on a route, including a check for alcohol levels. They have a transportation inspector as well as a special inspector who looks after workers from the BMTA and vehicles from private companies on the road constantly.
 
Union says hourly employees working too long for too small commissions, something that leads to service problems
 
Chutima Boonchai, the Secretary-General of the Bangkok Transport Worker’s Union, reports that the work-related problems that arise in Bangkok’s transportation sector can be grouped into two categories. The first of these has to do with working overly long hours: many drivers and ticket collectors work over 8 hours a day. But correcting this issue would be quite difficult, because of the often snarled traffic conditions and the poor quality of the buses for service. In turn, these factors especially worry drivers and ticket collectors, creating stress that can cause a lot of health problems. Also, the number of buses on the road has decreased because of the large number of buses under repair, which causes buses to enter public service that are not fully functional – creating unsafe conditions for employees, passengers, and those along the road. Along with the decrease in buses, the number of drivers and ticket collectors has also decreased, as old workers retire and the BMTA does not have sufficient new workers applying. This deficit in turn is largely because the starting salary is low while the workload is heavy. What all of this means is that the BMTA has too few cars in service relative to the needs of the public, and forces those drivers and ticket collectors that are working to work more hours. Finally, those workers that the BMTA does have lack proper toilets and places for drinking water. Chutima said that the Bangkok Transport Worker’s Union has submitted these problems to the BMTA, and is now waiting for the result.
 
Chutima Boonchai, the Secretary-General of the Bangkok Transport Worker’s Union
 
Chutima continued, saying that there still is not a system of welfare for bus employees. If employees are considered important, they should be provided with basic needs: there should be a rest stop at the start and end of a route that has a toilet, drinking water, a store with supplies and food, etc. Currently, employees have to find these things themselves, something that takes away time from their work and adds to their personal expenses. Were the system fair, the numbers of new employees would increase. 
 
Finally, Chutima spoke about the wages that employees rely upon, saying that one can see a clear relationship between these wages and the quality of service. Even though the union considers wages for drivers and ticket collectors to be quite small, employees can rely upon a steady income and as a result try to give the best service to the public. For public employees, wages come out of a mutual agreement amongst union employees and thereby set a standard for service and compensation. But for private bus line employees, this system is lacking, leading to a sense of uncertainty. Compensation amongst private bus line employees rises and falls depending on the numbers of tickets sold. If there are many passengers, then employees can collect a high wage - therefore private bus drivers drive fast and aggressively, cutting off other cars, and only stop at bus stops where many potential passengers are waiting., so that they can claim a higher commission and reduce the amount of time that they are working. In this way, it is not that private bus line employees have problems fundamentally different in nature from union employees, but rather they lack a system that they can rely upon. They lack basic welfare – most companies don’t even have insurance for their employees. The responsibility of owning companies and the rules that they establish for vehicle maintenance and the welfare of their employees is quite low, something that is a factor behind many of the accidents, service problems and passenger complaints.
 
Road Safety group points to drivers, cars, and the conditions of the roads as causes of traffic accidents, and proposes to make data available to the public
 
Thanapong Jinwong, the Manager of the Centre for Road Safety Project, reports that road accidents from public vehicles arise from three main causes. The first of these lies with the drivers: drivers drive too quickly, are exhausted, they hug the right side of the road, and they pass other vehicles too closely. Secondly, some vehicles have been modified to pack in more passengers than is safe. And lastly, on the road there are 85 roads that have not been investigated for safe infrastructure – some with a grade of over seven per cent, (linked up, these roads would stretch over three km). These all have a bearing on the duties of the drivers, including commissions given per round trip or numbers of passengers, and the safety of the vehicles that they are given to drive (managers mostly have only on average one to two vehicles, thus decreasing their readiness for safety). The basis of bus accidents stems from these, from drivers who drive too quickly, other drivers who park in the middle of the road and at the bus stops, and having vehicles that are not up to the basic standards of service.
 
To decrease the number of accidents, Thanapong suggested that the Ministry of Transportation work more closely with the BMTA union in order to increase the efficiency of issuing licenses to work on public transportation. As for private bus lines, Thanapong would work on improving the system of management, establishing clear standards of responsibility for repeated problems. Finally, he suggests that the Ministry of Transportation should collect and make public data on each quarter in order to raise public concern and awareness and thereby have public help in creating these systems of standards. This database would have both drivers’ and managers’ records, thus improving the issuance of permits and making a better system minimizing risk. 
 
Labor researchers and employees of private buses work together to improve working conditions
 
A BMTA bus. The blue banner reads "Free bus from the people's taxes"
 
 
The Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation recently conducted an investigation of the lives and work of female employees in the BMTA, collecting data from 761 women’s employee groups within the BMTA and on routes in 8 districts between 1 December 2013 until 31 January 2014. They found that female employees often had issues relating to family care: 334 women surveyed were the sole caretakers of a family, and 466 women surveyed were indebted for more than 100,000 baht. Over 90 per cent of female employees experienced some of the following: stress from being in traffic jams for most of the day, exhaustion, muscle inflammation or weakness, and working too-long hours without rest. 80 per cent of employees experienced issues related to holding back urine, including kidney stones, excretory problems, or urinary infections. 70 per cent of employees reported a variety of problems, including: problems with superiors; sexual harassment; unwelcome teasing or other problems with co-workers; arranging inappropriate schedules; stress from work; gastrointestinal problems, etc. 50 per cent of drivers reported back pain from driving for too-long periods of time. 40 per cent of employees experienced a traffic accident or reported pinched nerves from uncomfortable seats, and 28.4 per cent reported wearing adult diapers because of the lack of availability of toilets. 
 
Jaded Chaowilai, the director of the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation and the researcher behind the above study, reports that the base costs of hiring and employment at the BMTA are extremely low. This is because of the low minimum wage. Ideally, the minimum wage should be enough to support a family, but in capitalist system takes advantage of minimum wage workers, assuming that a minimum wage should only be enough for one person, not a person and their family. For some employees, both women and men, they are the only people working within their family, and must support the entire family with their wages. This makes these employees work harder and harder in order to make additional wages from overtime. This in turn leads to health problems for these employees as well as problems within their families. For women, if they must work late, this also presents a safety problem in travelling back home, as they risk sexual assault. 
 
Jaded continued, saying that the case of hiring conditions for both the BMTA and private companies, where employees did not bring home the minimum wage of 300 baht per day, formed a natural point of comparison. The low wages in private companies meant that employees had to work overtime, clearly showing that they were not earning enough. Jaded asserted that this study showed that there indeed exists a problem that should be addressed. 
 
Bus employees from the BMTA and private bus lines shared many problems. For instance, their long working hours lead to health problems (e.g. urinary tract diseases,  strokes, kidney stones), so much so that some employees must wear diapers to work. Employees of private bus lines do not have any collective organization through which they can voice complaints, study solutions to their problems and find just solutions, or protect their individual rights. This reduces the numbers of employees available and means that the welfare for those employees who do remain with the company does not improve. This is the weakest point in hiring employees for private bus lines, as the owners of private bus businesses continually look for their own benefit, seek to maximize their own profit. Thus, to correct these issues, Jaded argued that his group must investigate the business and hiring practices, and transportation labor unions must help this investigation by calling for the rights of employees of private bus lines. If private bus line employees are taken advantage of in this way, the problems that follow include stressful service and reckless driving. 
 
Jaded concluded that the BMTA – the organization that brings in outside, state-owned businesses that run private bus lines - must look into why their employees are not doing well. They must ask if their employees are being taken advantage of or not. They must see that their employees are working hard for little money, that their working hours are unjustly long, longer than the law allows. Because, if employees of Bus Line 8 made a just hourly wage, they wouldn’t have to work overtime, they wouldn’t have to fight for a larger number of passengers and the commission on their tickets.

 

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Sunday the 2nd August saw hundreds of supporters of the Special Needs School gather at the construction site in Bangrak where prayers and blessing ceremonies were carried out by monks from the local temple. This coincided with donations being presented to the Foundation. Samui Special Needs Foundation’s heartfelt gratitude goes to Bangkok Airways for their […]

The post Bangkok Airways donate one million baht to the Special Needs School appeared first on Samui Times.

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City Hall is examining ways of restricting the volume of tourist business on Koh Larn because of the environmental damage being inflicted by too many visitors. Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn, spokesman for Pattaya businesses, said that uncontrolled growth is producing serious problems with garbage and waste water. “Pattaya’s tourist image is in danger of being eroded,” he [...] Read more...
Asaree Thaitrakulpanich
Human rights defenders from varous civil society groups gathered to address issues for the next UN Human Rights Council report. 

 
Participants included representatives and activists from fields ranging from minority tribes’ rights, migrant worker rights, stateless peoples’ networks, religious groups, LGBTIQ groups, peasant groups, student activist groups, and environmental groups. They gathered to brainstrom in Bangkok on July 29-30.
 
Since Thailand is a member of the UN, it is submitted every four and a half years to an international review to the UN Human Rights Council on its human rights conditions. This Universal Periodic Report (UPR) review allows for civil society groups to submit recommendations to the UN stage. 
 
Thailand’s next UPR is slated for 21 September, and will follow-up on issues addressed in its last UPR in 2011, as well as bring up new issues. The aim of this seminar was to train civil rights groups to submit effective recommendations. NGOs are recommended to choose their issues of focus and keep their issues alive by contacting stakeholders such as government departments and journalists. 
 
Democracy and freedom of speech groups such as the New Democracy Movement and the Free Political Prisoners of Thailand called for these recommendations: demand for political participation, which the junta does not allow; lift of the junta’s ban on political gatherings; abolishing the lese-majeste law; and for the junta to conduct itself according to the international standard of human rights. The junta must also cease and desist all torture, unlawful incarceration, and nontransparent justice procedures. 
 
Labor groups such as the Informal Workers Network pointed out the lack of stable social security for laborers, as well as workers being taken advantage of by subcontractors and in special economic zones. Laborers should also be able to hold union activities, which the junta has also banned since it falls under the ban on political gatherings.
 
Migrant labor groups such as the Shan Migrant Worker Rights Network addressed issues such as the lack of checks against employers taking advantage of migrant workers, unjust work conditions and employment contracts, and how migrant labor groups are completely banned from forming trade unions under the junta. Migrant workers, under the drafted constitution, will also lost medical rights such as being able to give birth in a hospital. 
 
Kriangkrai Cheechaung from the Karen Network recommends issues regarding minority and land rights.
 
Refugee groups, such as the Stateless Person Status Foundation talked about how in recent years, the junta has confused the issues of national security and human security, expelling groups based on arbitrary fears.
 
Environmental groups such as the Mekong Youth Network and groups concerned about dams pointed out how there has never been de facto enforcement of environmental laws, nor have they ever been brought into Parliament. Dams along the Mekhong have also blocked 74 per cent of fish from swimming into the Mun River, endangering local food supply. Locals, especially newborns, living near toxic factories have no protection against the pollution and subsequent sickness. In addition, military seizure of land surrounding elites’ private property, such as royal villas, restrict land access for locals. 
 
Disability groups, such as the Association for Career Advancement of the Blind Thailand, brought up issues such as how the unenforced unemployment quota forces Thai disabled people into begging, how public education has no handicapped access, and how employed disabled people have no labor protection. 
 
Aree Arif from the Ummatee Group. 
 
Religious groups, such as the Ummatee Group and the Church of Christ in Thailand, as well as non-religious participants brought up the following recommendations: that Thailand has no official or de facto state religion; that religions other than Buddhism have a right to religious holidays; that women are allowed equal religious participation by lifting some temples’ bans on becoming nuns; and the implementation of mechanisms to check and balance religious figures. 
 
That is, politically and morally problematic individuals must be checked from becoming religious leaders or figures. “Certain figures should not be able to escape into a temple to avoid investigation,” said Aree Arif from the Ummatee Group. “If religious groups cannot even check the morality of their public figures, then what does that say about the society’s level of morality?” 
 
LGBTIQ groups such as the LGBTI Surin group called for rights of LGBTIQ rights of partnership, family, legal issues, insurance, and surrogacy be sanctioned in the Constitution being drafted. Public education should also include gender education in the syllabus, as well as preventing bullying of LGBTIQ youth. LGBTIQ and religious groups also discussed peaceful ways of coexisting through tolerance and understanding. 
 
Forum Asia representatives stated that at the moment, international interest in Thai human rights situations is still low, so civil society groups have an opportunity to submit grievances through the UPR mechanism.
 
Thailand’s last UPR in 2011 accepted 134 of 172 recommendations other countries addressed to Thailand. This year’s review will see to what extent these recommendations have been followed up upon. Recommendations accepted in 2011 include “the protection needs of vulnerable peoples, such as the Rohingya, in accordance with international law.” 
 
Suwanna Tarnlek, talking about freeing political prisoners.
 
Rejected ones include the United Kingdom, France, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and Canada’s recommendations regarding the lese-majeste law and its convictions. 
 
Chalida Tajaroensuk: “The UN is not just a stage for diplomates to say pretty things. It is a mechanism that the people need to utilize so that they can be heard.” 
 
Chalida Tajaroensuk from the People Empowerment Foundation encouraged civil society groups to continue drafting recommendations. “The UN is not just a stage for diplomates to say pretty things. It is a mechanism that the people need to utilize so that they can be heard.” 
 
Forum Asia and the People Empowerment Foundation hosted the seminar, "UPR Training for Community Based Organizations in North, Northeast and Central Thailand," at Ibis Sathorn Hotel on 29-30 July. 
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A 21 year old soldier was arrested by Banglamung Police on Sunday Afternoon, accused of murdering his girlfriend. Initially Private Tawatchai took his unconscious girlfriend, Khun Wassana aged 24, to Banglamung Hospital and claimed she had attempted suicide by hanging herself at the back of their apartment. Doctors were unable to save her and also […] Read more...

Despite becoming notorious for road traffic accidents residents and visitors to Koh Samui are still seen every day riding motorbikes around the island with no helmets. The death toll on the roads of Koh Samui is one of the highest in the world however a large proportion of those statistics could have been avoided by […]

The post Not looking ‘cool’ no longer a reason not to wear a bike helmet in Koh Samui appeared first on Samui Times.

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On Thursday Pattaya celebrated Asanha Buscha Day. Asanha Buscha anticipates Kao Pansa, the three month period of Buddhist penitence and fasting also known as Buddhist Lent which started on Friday. Buddhist Lent starts on the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month. The tradition of Buddhist Lent or the annual three-month […] Read more...

Dear Animal Lovers on Koh Samui,                                                                                           July 2015 GREAT NEWS! Finally we made it and finished the new monkey cage for LingLing. It’s been a much longer process than expected. Thankfully we managed to get the donation for the cage quite quickly and were hoping to get started with the building straight away. We had […]

The post Dog and Cat Rescue Samui Foundation update on Lingling and operation list appeared first on Samui Times.

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John Draper

Nattanan Warintawaret is a Thai high school student from one of Thailand’s finest public schools: Triam Udom Suksa. She is also an enemy of the state, with a school administrator accusing her of being ‘mentally ill’ for the past two years and even the Minister of Education, Admiral Narong Pipattanasai, accusing her of being ‘abnormal’. Her crime? Criticizing the fact that Thailand’s 12 Core Values have become a state ideology.

Taking a leaf out of Psychological Warfare 101, the Minister also sought to isolate Nattanan, pointing out that she is only one student out of millions. Nevertheless, Nattanan is not alone, and a Facebook petition she launched to point out the injustice of a state-imposed ideology has received over two thousand likes. And, since the May 20, 2014 coup, over 700 people have been summonsed for ‘attitude adjustment’ at military camps, including academics, activists, university students, rubber farmers, village chiefs, and writers. A further 14 students have been arrested for ‘sedition’.

Crucially, the physical and psychological harm of harassment of designated enemies of the state and of ‘attitude adjustment’ has already been recognized by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, citing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – and both the US and the EU have also expressed concern at this aspect of the state apparatus.

This psychological element is critical to understanding what ‘attitude adjustment’ is – a systemic response to political dissidents and free thinkers. By branding perceived ‘enemies’ as abnormal, the state is able to create a discourse implying that they need ‘treatment’ – re-education at a military camp.

Thus, we are also beginning to see the blurring of lines over ‘mental illness’. In addition to the ‘attitude adjustment’ camps, we have recently witnessed two genuinely mentally ill people being incarcerated for lèse majesté: Samak P. from Chiang Rai and Thitinan K. The imprisonment of mentally ill prisoners for a thought or word crime is a recent development under the junta and is relatively rare in the modern era except in totalitarian states. Disturbingly, it has parallels in the early-Nazi period persecution of the disabled and ‘unfit’, which led to the July 14 1933 Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases.

However, perhaps the best parallel for what appears to be emerging comes from the Soviet experience of ‘political psychiatry’. Political psychiatry was the targeted and systematic use of allegations of mental illness to target dissidents of state socialism during the period of the USSR. As Nikita Khrushchev stated in 1959, “Of those who might start calling for opposition to Communism on this basis, we can say that clearly their mental state is not normal.” This concept of “politically defined madness” was applied to a minimum of 20,000 people, with other estimates suggesting that in 1988, of 5.5 million registered mentally ill, 30% were actually political dissidents.

In the more independent Hungary during the same time period, there were approximately a dozen cases in total. It was therefore not a systematic and institutionalized form, one of the reasons perhaps being that Stalinist ideology never caught hold in Hungary, which had its own strong and independent history of political and philosophical thought. Some of the Hungarian cases were relatively high profile, including that of 2014 Memory of Nations Awards nominee Tibor Pákh, who had been ‘treated’ using electroshock therapy and insulin coma.

This Hungarian dissident was slurred as having an incurable mental illness, yet psychiatrist Charles Durand noted that Pákh had “achieved the full harmony of his ideological, religious and moral beliefs, and has a realistic approach to the outside world… Tibor Pákh remains true to his political convictions and his hunger strike is a legitimate protest against the regime.”

In ‘political psychiatry’ we can see a direct parallel with ‘attitude adjustment’ and Ms. Nattanan’s case, with the Thai experience appearing to be more extensive than the Hungarian one but as yet less intensive than either the Hungarian and USSR experience. Nonetheless, the media reports a school administrator saying that she has been sick for two years now and, and that her parents have asked the school to ‘look after her’. In addition, the Minister of Education described the 12 Core Values as “flawless” – in other words, a complete ideology – one of the pre-requisites of totalitarianism as compared to the more common authoritarianism.

Ms. Nattanan expresses a comprehensive understanding of the situation facing her, as did Pákh. The Civic Duties exam subject she chose not to answer a question forcing children to denounce the widely-supported 14 students of the New Democracy Movement, who were characterized as undermining ‘Thainess’. Given that Ms. Nattanan had actually signed a petition for their release, she refused to answer. Another question asked her how children could implement the 12 Core Values of Thai people – a state ideology which is fast becoming a ‘political theology’ along the lines described by Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt. The 12 Values also appears to be being used as a ‘loyalty test’ for children, together with mandatory monarchism. Ms. Nattanan saw the questions and the 12 Core Values as a rigid totalitarian ideology and chose to reject the entire paper, following it up with a Facebook letter to General Prayuth.

Crucially, Ms. Nattanan has a comprehensive ideology of her own, one quite possibly supported by millions of people in Thailand – she is secretary-general of Education for Liberation of Siam. This group wishes to promote “the belief that an educational reform in Thailand is a necessity, and the philosophy of the group believes that education should emphasize at human aspects, student and teachers’ beliefs, respect towards humanities and the knowledge inside individuals, as in not seeing us as empty vessels to force foreign ideologies into or exercising authorities (creating rules to name one) without consulting the principals of logic, democracy and human rights. In essence, this group's existence is a testament to the Thai youths' dedication and determination to oppose the usage of education system as an instrument for propaganda or usage with hidden political agendas.”

The use of ‘Siam’ refers to the period prior to the Phibul Songgram military dictatorship of 1938-1944 and its 12 Cultural Mandates. These mandates renamed Siam ‘Thailand’ and created a nation-state or ‘ethnocracy’ founded on a race-based nationalism centering on the Central Thais, only approximately 30% of the population; a Bangkok-directed cultural and religious hegemony of ‘Thainess’; and a totalitarian system of how to dress, work, and think.

The concept of ‘liberating Siam’ therefore has considerable symbolic meaning. It has also been championed by Charnvit Kasetsirim former Rector of Thammasat University, who in 2009 wrote a public letter to the then Prime Minister, Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva. The first suggested reform reads as follows: “First: To amend the words ‘Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand’ to read either ‘Constitution of the Kingdom of Siam’ or ‘Constitution of Siam,’ in order  to  promote  ‘unity,’  ‘harmony,’ and ‘reconciliation’ in our country,  whose more than sixty million citizens include over fifty distinct ethnic groups with their own languages:  Thai,  Tai, Yuan, Lao, Lue, Melayu, Mon, Khmer, Kui, Teochiu, Cantonese, Hokkien, Hailam,  Hakka, Cham, Javanese, Sakai, Mokhaen, Tamil, Pathan, Persian, Arab, Ho, Phuan,  Tai Yai, Phu Tai, Khuen, Viet, Yong, Lawa, Hmong, Karen, Palong, Museur, Akha, Kammu, Malabari, Chong, Nyakur,  Bru, Orang Laut, Westerners of various kinds,  people of mixed descent, etc, etc.” The implication of this point is formal recognition of ethnicities – self-identification, pluralism, and autonomy, in what would necessarily have to be a complex socio-political approach, perhaps a consociational social democracy.

Reform of the education system in the spirit of old Siam therefore implies Ms. Nattanan possesses a sophisticated ideology. In addition, Ms. Nattanan’s dream is a worthy one. Moreover, she does not reject the 12 Core Values themselves but the way that they have been mandated by a man who has become an absolute dictator. Like Pakh, she has a “full harmony of… ideological, religious and moral beliefs, and has a realistic approach to the outside world.”

Ms. Nattanan has been persecuted while a minor and a schoolchild, for protesting the overlap of religion and political theory. Her case, in other words, must be the first to be championed by Thailand’s new National Human Rights Commissioners. If they are incapable of this, Thailand’s march towards totalitarianism will only continue. And when the hundreds of cases of ‘abnormal people’ become thousands – or more worryingly, fade to a handful because the political theology of the 12 Core Values becomes all-embracing and any protest is stifled by the emerging ‘political psychiatry’ – we will be able to look back at this case and remember. We thought it could never happen in Thailand. But it did. It started in 2015, with a schoolchild.

"Freedom of expression and free thinking should prevail in society, or we have no future."

Nattanan Warintawaret

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kongpob Areerat

More than two-thirds of the committee responsible for screening the candidates to Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) are high-ranking military officers.

A leaked classified document listing the members of the committee authorized to screen the behaviour and ethical backgrounds of the candidates to the NHRC shows that 12 of the 17 are four-star military offcers.

Four other members are civilians and the remaining member is a police general.

The source of the document requested Prachatai not to show the real copy of the document and to respect their anonymity due to privacy concerns.

According to the leaked document, Gen Oud Buangbon is chair of the NHRC screening committee while three other four-star military officers, namely Gen Sophon Silpipat, Air Chief Marshal Siwakiat Chayema, and Admiral Taratorn Kajitsuwan serve as first, second, and the third deputy chairs.

The chief advisor of the committee is Gen Lertrit Wechsawarn.  As a Senator and chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Studying and Monitoring Problems Concerning Law Enforcement and Measures for the Protection of the Royal Institution, Gen Lertrit last year was reported by the Bangkok Post to have agreed with a group of ultra-royalist senators to build up a strong network of pro-monarchists using social networking to protect the monarchy.

On Tuesday, 21 July 2015, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand announced a list of seven candidates to replace the incumbent commissioners who have been in office since June 2009.  The candidates to the NHRC are now waiting for the approval of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) in about 30 days.

One of the seven candidates, Baworn Yasinthorn is the leader of an ultra-royalist group calling itself Citizens Volunteer for Defence of Three Institutes Network.

In April 2010, the ultra-royalist group filed charges under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, against Wuttipong K., aka Ko Tee, a hardcore red shirt leader from Nonthaburi Province, for allegedly defaming the Thai King during an interview with Vice News.

Prior to the 2014 coup d’état, Baworn was also a prominent supporter of People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

Sunai Phasuk, a researcher from Human Rights Watch (HRW), told Prachatai that the inadequate selection process for NHRC commissioners results in the appointment of unqualified people to the Commission.       

“The selection process of the NHRC in a way picks people who do not have solid backgrounds in human rights and who are not independent as commissioners. This results in a lot of limitations of the rights commissioners,” said Sunai.

Last year, the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) of the International Coordinating Committee on National Human Rights Institutions (ICC), an independent international association of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) which monitors the performance of national human rights institutions worldwide, downgraded Thailand’s NHRC from A to B, citing the agency’s poor performance and partiality.

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Harrison George

Examination on Civic Leadership and General Sense of Superiority

To be taken by Prime Ministers, Test Writers for Civic Duty classes, Administrators of Triam Udom Suksa School who are not psychiatrists but can still diagnose mental illness from test answers, and True Believers in True Thainess.

You must answer all questions by marking the correct choice with a B2 pencil only.  Any attempt to give an explanation for your answers, any comments on the questions, or any other expression of intelligence will automatically lead to a failing score.  The decisions of the test administrators are final and any dissent will lead to prosecution in a military court. 

  1. The one and only proper way of testing, whether you are trying to test memory, physical or mental skills, reasoning (both inductive and deductive), judgement and discernment, wisdom, aesthetic sensibility, or mental attitudes such as patriotism, obedience, and a preference for communal ignorance, is:

A         multiple-choice tests, no matter what the subject is, where any number of the alternatives is correct (including none).

B         training teachers to become aware of their students’ various competencies, (intellectual, emotional, physical, etc.) and to be capable of producing an insightful, comprehensive and unbiased written assessment of each student.

C         a battery of tests, each appropriate to the ability being measured, without the results necessarily being quantified numerically and definitely without them being aggregated and averaged into a meaningless ‘overall score’.

D         multiple-choice tests, no matter what the subject is, where any number of the alternatives is correct (including none).

  1. A true Thai student is:

A         someone who can recite flawlessly the 12 core values, wear the correct uniform and keep their blasted hormones under control.

B         someone who believes exactly what good people tell them they should believe.

C         someone who can think for themselves and who refuses to answer test questions that imply that conformity with the beliefs of those in authority is the only correct thing to believe.

D         a piece of make-believe.

  1. Strict obedience to the rule of law means:

A         violating the supreme law of the land, the constitution, while demanding that everyone else observe laws that you yourself write.  And then re-write.

B         observing all laws, rules and regulations, except the ones that relate to driving motorcycles on the footpath, using mobile phones while driving, submitting to breathalyser tests, or any other traffic law that might make driving less of a privileged convenience.  Especially if you drive an illegally imported supercar and/or have a certain kind of family name on your driving licence.

C         ignoring all the international laws which Thailand has ratified whenever these do not conform to Thailand’s commercial interests, the normal way that Thais do things, or the need for the country’s leadership to save face.

D         something that your political opponents must do but from which you and your political allies are exempt.

  1. Psychiatric illness can be diagnosed by:

A         trained medical professionals based on a careful and studied diagnosis of the patient’s behaviour which is analysed in terms of clinical definitions.

B         the fact that the flaming lunatic in front is driving like a drain.

C         any supervisor, superior officer, teacher or person wearing a uniform based on a single action by a subordinate, student, member of an ethnic minority or foreigner which fails to conform to popular prejudice.

D         that fact that I am the Prime Minister which means I am in charge and you will do what I say and if you keep criticising all the time, then don’t blame me if the lights go out or there is no water in the taps while you are flooded out of house and home and the country gets invaded and taken over by somebody with a whole fleet of submarines, for heaven’s sake, I’m doing my very best here and if you don’t like it, you can find somewhere else to live and can’t you see we’re all good people, are you all mad?

  1. Reading the Alien Thoughts column is:

A         good way for Thai student practice Engilsh such as spellings, grammar and reading comprehension as well as grammar etc.  Moreover.

B         well he’s got to be funny eventually so might as well give it another go.

C         not advised unless under the supervision of a responsible adult.

D         prohibited for all censors, military or otherwise.

 

Warning: Candidates who fail to answer all 6 questions correctly will suffer immediate promotion.


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).

 

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Thaweeporn Kummetha
 
The struggle for freedom and independence of the Muslim Malay in Thailand’s three southernmost province and four districts, namely Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and four districts of Songkhla, has been incessant for a century since the annexation of Patani to Siam in 1902, The annexation, or “colonization” as the insurgents call it, was followed by Bangkok’s forced assimilation policy, which led to discrimination, suppression of local identity, and the enforced disappearances of local leaders. As the insurgency was dying down during the 1990s, the latest round of violence erupted in 2004, followed by serious human rights violations committed by the Thai state.  In the past 11 years, there have been over 14,700 violent incidents and more than 6,300 killngs, according to Deep South Watch. There are on average 3.6 incidents per day, in the form of car bombs, road-side bombs, and drive-by shootings from motorcycles, among others. The movement, composed of various groups, has never come out to claim responsibility for attacks nor announce its demands. The insurgent leaders barely come into view and the movement remains faceless to most of the locals and the public.
 
Abu Hafez Al-Hakim
 
The Thai state has responded to the violence by investing about 206 billion baht or 5.9 billion USD from 2004-2014 to solve the conflict. Hundreds of checkpoints have been set up, whether on main or local roads. Sometimes one can encounter two checkpoints less than 100 metres apart.   
 
Several talks between Bangkok and the insurgent groups have been held behind closed doors. 
Critics say Bangkok has never been sincere towards the insurgents, and saw the meetings as a way to identify key movement members. However, the first ever public talks were held during the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra in 2013 in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia as facilitator. The representative of the movement is Hassan Taib, leader of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the leading insurgent group which has control over most of the on-ground fighters. Unfortunately, after the BRN announced its five-point proposal, the talks were interrupted by the anti-government protests in Bangkok, followed by the coup on 22 May 2014. 
 
Under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader, the peace talks idea is on the table again. The insurgent groups, composed of BRN, Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO), Barisan Islam Pembehbasan Patani (BIPP), and Gerakan Mujahidin Islam Patani (GMIP), founded an umbrella organization called the Majlis Syura Patani (MARA Patani) to represent the movement in the talks. Two unofficial meetings have been held in Malaysia. MARA has revealed important demands as a prerequisite before the real peace talks can continue.    
 
Prachatai’s Thaweeporn Kummetha interviewed Kamaludin Hanapi, better known as Abu Hafez Al-Hakim, a key member of BIPP and one of the MARA representatives at the discussion table with the Bangkok authorities, in Malaysia. 
 

You can track the following questions on the video to at the times given.

  1. How does the movement see the violence in the past 11 years? (0.29)

  2. What do you think about the human rights violations and crimes committed by the Thai state? What are your concerns about that? (1.30)

  3. Civil society groups have called for the movement to refrain from attacks on soft targets, namely civilians. Has the movement heeded these demands? (4.30)

  4. Duncan McCargo, an English academic, has termed the structure of the insurgency movement as a liminal lattice or "a network without a core”. What do you think about his analysis? (7.30)

  5. Why have the movements never come out to claim responsibility for each attack? (11.25)

  6. In your opinion, what is the biggest mistake of the Thai state toward people in Patani? (12.10)

  7. What is the movement's strategy in gaining support from the local people? (16.00)

  8. Do you find the demand for merdika, or independence, still relevant? (18.41)

  9. Has the movement done its best to listen to local people’s demands? (20.00)       

  10. The Deep South student movement ‘PerMAS’, which has been very active lately has been accused of being a wing of the movement? Is that true? (21.37)

  11. What is MARA Patani? What is its status? What organizations does it represent?  (24.20)   

  12. What are your demands? Are they different from the five-point proposal made during Yingluck government? (25.50)

  13. Does the movement consider the Thai junta as a legitimate representative of the Thai state since they came to power illegally? (32.29)

  14. How many talks have taken place since the coup? What has been discussed? How has it gone so far? (34.54)

  15. If Patani becomes an autonomous or independent state, will Islamic law be implemented? (40.40)

  16. The Deep South has been home of people with Chinese and Thai ancestry for generations. What is the movement’s stance toward cultural and ethnic diversity? (43.33)

  17. Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha is very conservative on national-level policies. What do you think about his style in tackling the problem of the Deep South? (44.12)

  18. What do you think and feel about Thai national politics?  (48.25)

  19. What do you think about the Thai mainstream media’s coverage of the Deep South conflict? (50.18)

Muhammad Dueramae from Deep South Journalism School contributed to this report. 

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PHUKET, 29 July 2015: Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau has signed a pact with Phuket province to boost the events business on the popular holiday island. TCEB strategic and business development vice president, Supawan Teerarat,  said Phuket is already popular destination for events but the business can grow. “We will formulate strategies that will encourage […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 29 July 2015: Thais and foreign residents will enjoy a four-day holiday break starting this Thursday thanks to two Buddhist holidays that fall on Thursday and Friday. The Friday holiday heralds the start of the three-month Buddhist Lent. Devout Buddhists abstain from physical pleasures and alcohol. Some participate in meditation courses. When the weekend […] Read more...

Bangkok dismayed as report maintains lowest tier 3 status, with US pointing to lack of progress in tackling modern-day slavery and corruption

Thailand has hit back after being blacklisted in a US report for the second consecutive year for not combatting modern-day slavery, arguing it has made serious steps to tackle human trafficking.

The ministry of foreign affairs said the US state department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report, released on Monday, “does not accurately reflect the significant efforts undertaken by the government”, which had made “tangible progress”.

We commend many committed indivs w/in THgov,law enf &civ soc who are working hard to eliminate #HumanTrafficking(4/4) http://t.co/YizFXzHtgN

Continue reading... Read more...
BANGKOK, 28 July 2015: Bangkok’s Don Mueang made it into the record books as the world’s largest LCC airport, overtaking Kuala Lumpur International airport, Barcelona and Las Vegas, according to a Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation analysis. CAPA said Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport saw passenger traffic surge by 50% in the first half of the year, enabling it to […] Read more...
ENGAGE
Protestors Fight Thai Military Rule From The U.S.
 
American Thais and Thais supporters demand
 
political rights for students in Thailand.
 
 
Los Angeles, CA - Fifty protesters gathered at the Royal Thai Consulate today to denounce Thailand’s military junta and advocate for Thai political rights. Members of ENGAGE, an LA-based nonprofit with close ties to the Thai New Democracy Movement, organized the action demanding that all charges be dropped against the fourteen Thai students who were arrested last month for speaking out against the military coup, and demanding the release of all political prisoners currently detained under the military junta. Under the controversial Article 44 of the interim constitution, Thai civilians cannot assemble in groups larger than five individuals to discuss politics, cannot express discontent with the military coup or current political situation in Thailand, can be detained for seven days without charges or bail, and are tried in military court, as opposed to civil court with no possibility for appeals.
 
This is the second time this month that a group has gathered here in Los Angeles, adding to a growing movement of Thais and Thai supporters in the U.S. mounting international  pressure on the Thai military to stop its crackdown on citizens. “Our Thai friends are subject to military prison for what we are doing here,” said Rachel Karpelowitz an organizer with ENGAGE who lived in Thailand working alongside the New Democracy Movement. “We are here using the political rights we have to fight for democracy there.” Similar protests have been staged in San Francisco and New York.
 
The demonstration had a diverse attendance, including members of both the Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts, political factions in Thailand that have clashed in often bloody struggles for power in Thailand. Today, however, members of both sides came together to put their country first. “Right now Thailand is under dictatorship and with this situation people cannot do anything to protect themselves or their community. Even though my friends are no longer in prison, under the dictatorship Thai people are not allowed freedom of speech or assembly,” stated Chutiphong Pipoppinyo, a San Francisco based member of the New Democracy Movement. “It makes little difference whether they are in jail or not, we still aren’t free. In order to free all people we have to release all political prisoners and bring democracy back to Thailand, that is why I have to keep fighting.”
 
 
Letter of Demands:
 
We stand today in solidarity with Thai students and villagers who have been deprived of democracy, excluded from political participation, subject to injustice, and stripped of human rights, despite engaging in nonviolent action to have their voices heard under the oppression of Article 44.
As a result of Article 44, absolute authority is granted to a single entity, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. This authority has been permitted to retain the Military Courts’ jurisdiction over civilians in cases of national security crimes and violations of NCPO orders. Consequently, Thai civilians cannot assemble in groups larger than five individuals to discuss politics, cannot express discontent with the military coup or current political situation in Thailand, can be detained for seven days without charges or bail, and are tried in military court, as opposed to civil court with no possibility for appeals.
Since the 2014 coup, the junta has detained hundreds of politicians, activists, journalists, and citizens that it accused of supporting the deposed government or being involved in anti-coup protests and activities. Many of the detainees were and are held without charge, and many political prisoners continue to await trial. Persons released from military detention are forced to sign an agreement that they will not speak out about the political situation, become involved in political activities, or leave the country without permission from the junta.
We are specifically concerned with the injustices faced by our friends, students in the New Democracy Movement, facing charges related to NCPO Order No. 7/2014 and Article 116 of the Criminal Code, and similar minded political detainees. These groups have attempted to organize in support of human rights, but have faced oppression from the Thai government under the provisions of Article 44.
Thai citizens do not have the right to speak freely for themselves. It is important to utilize international accountability to ensure the students' concerns are heard. Therefore, we present the following demands in solidarity with the work of the New Democracy Movement:
 
  1. Rescind your support for Article 44
  2. Demand civil, not military, trials for all civilians
  3. Renounce NCPO Order No. 7/2014, and Article 116 of the Criminal Code
  4. Demand an end to military harassment of community and student groups
  5. Submit a request for charges to be dropped against all political prisoners including the following 14 students from the New Democracy Movement:
1.   Mr. Rangsiman Rome;  นายรังสิมันต์ โรม
2.   Mr. Wason Sethsitthi;  นายวสันต์ เสดสิทธิ
3.    Mr. Songtham Kaewpanpruek;  นายทรงธรรม แก้วพันพฤกษ์
4.    Mr. Payu Boonsopon;  นายพายุ บุญโสภณ
5     Mr. Apiwat Soontararak;  นายอภิวัฒน์ สุนทรารักษ์
6.    Mr. Ratthapol Supsopon;  นายรัฐพล ศุภโสภณ
7.    Mr. Supachai Phuklongploy;  นายศุภชัย ภูคลองพลอย
8.    Mr. Abhisit Sapnaphana;  นายอภิสิทธิ์ ทรัพย์นภาพันธ์
9.    Mr. Panupong Srithananuwat;  นายภาณุพงศ์ ศรีธนานุวัฒน์
10.  Mr. Suwitcha Thipangkorn;  นายสุวิชา พิทังกร
11.  Mr. Pakron Arrekul;  นายปกรณ์ อารีกุล
12.  Mr. Jatupat Boonpatararaksa;  นายจตุภัทร์ บุญภัทรรักษา
13.  Mr. Pornchai Yuanyee;  นายพรชัย ยวนยี
14.  Ms. Chonticha Chaeng-rew;  น.ส.ชลธิชา แจ้งเร็ว
 
We expect a timely response from the junta government regarding the demands stated above.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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International Labor Rights Forum

Washington, DC: The U.S. Department of State maintained Thailand’s Tier 3 ranking, the lowest category, in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which was released this morning. The ranking accurately reflects Thailand’s lagging efforts to combat human trafficking and will incentivize the Thai government to make greater strides in the coming year, according to a global coalition of 25 human rights, environmental and labor groups, who sent an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today.

“The Thai government seems to be realizing it must address its significant labor trafficking problem or face economic consequences,” said Abby McGill, campaigns director for the International Labor Rights Forum. “Unfortunately, the changes it has made so far are largely cosmetic. We hope this decision will underscore the urgent need to reform immigration and labor laws so they uphold the human rights of migrant workers, one of the populations in Thailand most vulnerable to human trafficking.”

There are an estimated 3-4 million migrant workers in Thailand, many of whom labor in the most dangerous jobs in Thailand’s booming export economy. Several high-profile global media exposés last year brought significant international attention to the problem of human trafficking among migrant workers in Thailand’s fishing industry in particular. The European Union issued Thailand a “yellow card” for its failure to adequately monitor its fishing industry in April, which gave the Thai government six months to improve oversight, or face sanctions.

The letter also condemned Thailand’s use of criminal defamation to prosecute journalists and human rights defenders who uncover cases of human trafficking, claiming such prosecutions inhibit the ability of victims to speak out and seek justice. This month, Phuketwan journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, and migrant rights defender Andy Hall, faced court proceedings in separate cases related to accusations of human trafficking, the former in the seafood sector and the latter at a pineapple canning facility.

“While there have recently been positive moves forward, Thailand has still not yet demonstrated enough political will, translated into effective implementation of actions, to change the systemic nature of its human trafficking,” said Sein Htay, president of the Migrant Workers Rights Network. “It’s important that government, industry and civil society all work together to push the Thai government toward greater enforcement against the drivers of human trafficking, and accountability for the people guilty of supporting this egregious form of exploitation.”

 

Source

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Nidhi Eoseewong

Prefatory note to the English translation: During the crackdown on red shirt protestors during April-May 2010, at least 94 people were killed and over 2000 injured. In an unprecedented event in Thai political history, the leaders who presided over the crackdown -- former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban (now a monk) – were indicted in October 2013 for premeditated murder under Articles  80, 83, 84 and 288 of the Criminal Code. The indictment was unprecedented because this was the first time that state officials – either those at the level of command or those who carried out orders in the field – were indicted for their role in a massacre. The criminal case came amidst ongoing inquests into the deaths, the majority of which have concluded that soldiers were responsible for the deaths of civilians. 

However, the indictment and accompanying hope for accountability, was short-lived. On 28 August 2014, the Criminal Court ruled that they did not have the jurisdiction to examine the case and it would be transferred to the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions. The only penalties this court can impose are a restriction on an individual’s ability to participate in formal politics. Thanong Senamontri, the chief justice of the Criminal Court, wrote a dissenting opinion in which argued that this decision violated the rights of the families of those who were killed during the April-May 2010 crackdown to seek justice [for readers able to read Thai, the dissenting opinion can be read in its entirety as part of this article in ข่าวสด].

Shortly after the Criminal Court dismissed the case, noted historian Nidhi Eoseewong wrote a critique of the decision to do so and placed it within the contexts of both the historical failure to hold perpetrators of state violence to account and its potential effects on the future. In this essay, “The Past-Present-Future of the Court’s Decision”/ “อดีต-ปัจจุบัน-อนาคต ของคำพิพากษา”, Ajarn Nidhi offered an acute, and unsettling observation on the meaning of the political: “The Criminal Court’s view is that the massacre of people in the centre of the city by the people who held political office is merely a crime of politics. And when it becomes a crime of politics, the soldiers who carried out the actions have nothing to do with the crime at all.” What this means is that through their refusal to examine the case, the Criminal Court gave a legal and institutional gloss to the already normalized use of violence as a strategy of political rule.

I read this essay as a companion to the earlier one. In “The Murderous State,” originally published in early July in Matichon Weekly, Ajarn Nidhi links the court decision to a discussion of the strength of the state, the ease of state murder when the state is weak, and the normalization of state murder over time. Writing in the context of the arrest of the fourteen student activists of the New Democracy Movement at the end of June, and addressing the people rather than the Criminal Court, he traces the histories of state murder and the presence, or lack, of restraint upon the state. He concludes by urging his readers against complacency and writes, “every one of us of every political persuasion must work to make the choice of murder by the state into one that cannot be chosen, or one that if it is chosen, will cause the state to be worse off and fall to pieces.” —translator.  

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After the massacre of the people in 2010, I heard some say, “If [we] had not killed [them], [they] would have been left to cause greater damage to the country.”

At that time, the inquiry into the matter of the “burning down of the city,” the setting fire to one large shopping center in particular, had not yet begun. Therefore, the speaker perhaps meant that, if left loose, the red shirts might engage in further “burning down of the city.” But even supposing that the subsequent inquiry and judicial process had substantiated that the red shirts were those who set fire to both private and state buildings, I still think that the state murder of the people caused greater damage to the country than the loss of the buildings that were burned down.

This is because when the state kills the people indiscriminately, no reason remains for us to assemble as a state. At a very fundamental level, each one of us is part of the state because we trust that this form will provide us with the greatest freedom from harm. Outside the boundaries of the state, we may easily be violated and our lives easily taken. Outside the boundaries of the state, there are no mechanisms to punish the act of murder and therefore no instruments to suppress murder.

The state therefore cannot murder. Or there must, at a minimum, be detailed regulations governing the act of murder by the state in order to serve as a check and restraint on it. Murder by the state is more dangerous to the masses than a man killing his wife, a robber killing his victim, or even a terrorist killing a crowd.

This matter is unrelated to either the color of one’s shirt or whether a regime is democratic or dictatorial. If the state is to retain a sufficient threshold of existence, then it cannot engage in the murder of the people.

I am thinking about this issue due to the recent movement by the students from Dao Din, the Liberal League of Thammasat for Democracy, and other groups. If you believe that the student movement has (odious) people behind it, then you may believe that the arrest and detention of the students and the hunting down of those behind them will perhaps subdue the movement. You may believe that they will be unable to find additional people to stand behind them.  But if you believe that student movement is born out of conscious, freely-chosen actions, then you will know well that the arrest and detention of the students or those who are accused of being behind them will fail to halt their open and direct opposition of dictatorial power. This is likely only the beginning and the future is forbidding for all sides.

I believe the latter.

Therefore, I worry that as this movement expands, the state will again murder as it has done many, many times prior. This is not because the state is stupid, or has not learned the lesson that public mass murder severs every last remaining iota of the foundation of their legitimacy completely. But they may murder because they have no other choice. Those who hold power, whether they are soldiers or civilians, tend to turn to murder when they run out of other political choices.

Think about it: faced with the choice of announcing the dissolution of parliament and holding new elections or murdering the people, the civilian government [of Abhisit Vejjajiva] still chose murder. In spite of this, when they lost the elections [in 2011], they did not have to face accountability for any of their crimes. Will a government that has come from a coup accept the end of their rule along with a multiplicity of punishments to account for their crimes?

Murder is the therefore a frequent choice of the Thai state. Murder is too easily chosen and the aspects of Thai culture that may restrain the state’s impulse to murder grow weaker and weaker in turn.

Murder is an instrument of power of outmoded states, including the Thai state. A state is not able to kill people as it wishes because it is strong. On the contrary, ancient states killed people as they wished because they were weak. They used public murder as a pedagogy of tyranny to teach their subjects to be afraid of the state. A range of horrible killing methods was used to ingrain fear into the hearts of the subjects.

In what way is the murder of the people an instrument of a weak state? Let me offer the revolt of the Isaan people, or as it is known, the Phi Mi Bun Rebellion, as an illustrative example. During the fifth reign, a group separated themselves off to make a new village with a new social order not under the control of the state. They were very easily suppressed, particularly in comparison with the Saya San rebellion in Burma, which involved a larger number of people. The state could have simply dispatched soldiers to surround them until they ran out of provisions. They would have had to willingly accept defeat. But the government during the fifth reign did not possess sufficiently modern forces to act in this fashion. In addition, they had to swiftly put down the rebels in order to avoid giving the great powers a reason to intervene.  These reasons all emanate from the weakness of the state, and therefore they chose to use violent suppression.

The violent tactic they selected was to send their small modern army to suppress the rebels. They fired large modern weapons upon them and the strength of the explosions caused bodies to bound up into the air and fall to the ground as corpses. The villagers were out of avenues of struggle and fled in chaotic disorder.  All that remained was for the soldiers to chase and capture them in groups  … the end.

Even though having a modern army means that the state has a monopoly on violence, public execution still takes place. Public execution is used to make the citizen-subjects afraid. Once the transformation [from absolute to constitutional monarchy] took place, execution moved into private.  But public execution returned as a method to intimidate and create once again when Sarit Thanarat [1958-1963] seized power.  

The people were once again massacred in October 1973. But Thai culture had developed to a point at which open murder by the state was no longer accepted. Those who ordered the killings became known as the “three tyrants” [Thanom Kittikachorn-Narong Kittikachorn-Praphat Jarusathien].

Perhaps because that cultural power remained in Thai society, those who planned the massacre three years later [on 6 October 1976] attempted to paint it as the work of loyal citizens. This is notwithstanding that the attack and taking over of Thammasat University necessarily depended on state officials and state weapons. For example, there is a photograph of a uniformed police officer who has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and is pointing a gun in front of him (the Thai Health Promotion Foundation would oppose his smoking as more dangerous to health and society than murder by the state). Those who seized power during the coup on the evening of 6 October 1976 denied any involvement in the massacre that took place that morning (Yet they raced to immediately issue an amnesty bill).

At least until 6 October 1976, state murder still had to be carried out in a concealed fashion. They did not dare to do it brazenly in the open.

The massacre by the state in May 1992, even though it was not concealed, resulted in those who were involved having to cease their political role entirely. Further, the event created a realization among the Thai public that made it possible for the government of Anand Panyarachun to expediently remove high-ranking soldiers.

I should also mention that ever since the Communist Party of Thailand turned to armed struggle, the state has continuously murdered the people. These murders were not open, or were made to look as if there had been armed struggle with an “enemy” who also had a weapon. In truth, a large number of unarmed people were brutally killed. This included bombing hill tribe villages with napalm, throwing people out of helicopters in order to silence those who were tortured while they were interrogated, and arresting and burning people alive in red drums. But when these murders were revealed after 1973, they were not accepted by Thai society. This indicated that the culture that had restrained murder by the state in Thai society still retained some strength.

But the power of that culture was weakened greatly during the state massacre in April-May 2010. At the very least, the view of a large number of citizens was that the killing of the people by the state caused less harm to the country than the burning down of a shopping mall. Murder by the state was not a bad thing in and of itself. There were still some conditions under which it was not considered depraved to kill. Therefore, there are conditions under which the state may perhaps massacre the people in whatever which way.

The Court of Justice ruled that the murder by the state in 2010 was not within its jurisdiction. This then made the murder a political offence rather a criminal offence, as it is normally. This is tantamount to expanding the conditions under which the state may kill. The political conditions inevitably stretch to give the state the legitimacy to kill in many other situations … until restrictions can hardly be found. This ruling therefore amounts to the placing of a curse on Thai society that the day of wriggling free from perpetual state murder will be permanently deferred.

In sum, the Thai cultural and the judicial apparatuses have grown weaker and weaker in the struggle with state murder. This constitutes a profound loss for our country.

The modern state possesses a great amount of incomparable power. The doctrine of Dhammaraja may be a bridge to nirvana or may have had the power to restrain the vile exercise of power by the ancient state that was unable to amass power in the overflowing fashion practiced by the modern state. But because the modern state has surplus power, and there are not solid regulations to keep the state under control, either regulations about the accession to power or the exercise of power, the people must cooperate to force the state to strictly follow the rules. They must not easily surrender to justifications offered by the state. If they surrender easily, it will lead to another massacre of the people in order to prevent a building from being set on fire.

This is the reason why the Attorney General must appeal the ruling of the Court of Justice regarding the case of premeditated state murder in 2010. This matter has become quiet and I do not know whether or not the Attorney General appealed as they announced they would. If they did not appeal, I do not know if they have run out of time to do so. If this case is not appealed and it falls away, jurists need to think together about how to bring this case back to trial within the judicial process.

Even though this unfinished case may not be able to reach those who ordered the brutal killings, it is important. This case could be a starting point to be able to reach them in the future. It would count as the first case of murder by the state in which we are able to use the judicial process to hold the perpetrators to account. Each soldier who took action during the massacre in 2010 held power in his hands. Consequently, if all of them get off scot-free, they will become those who will order murder once again without any thought or hesitation.

My view is that by the same principle, we should abolish the death penalty. Statistics from various societies around the world prove that the death penalty does not aid in suppressing violent crime. We should not allow there to be any conditions under which the state is permitted to kill the people. Murder by the state is a crime under every circumstance. If state officials kill people to protect their own or other peoples’ lives, there must be a process of strict auditing by an outside agency to determine whether or not it was a situation beyond control that could not be avoided.

A person who carries a knife into a police station in order to attack an official does not need to be shot and killed. Instead, the person can be shot in order to disable his capacity to attack.

In every instance in which the state kills, it must be proven without a doubt that legal murder is truly lawful and there was no way to avoid it. If the state no longer retains the authority to murder, I believe that state officials can lawfully kill, but if and only if they are circumspect and employ careful judgment.

In a critical time like this, every one of us of every political persuasion must work to make the choice of murder by the state into one that cannot be chosen, or one that if it is chosen, will cause the state to be worse off and fall to pieces. There is nothing more important than this. State murder in the hands of a dictator poses a grave danger [to society].

Source: นิธิ เอียวศรีวงศ์: รัฐฆาตกรรม : มติชนออนไลน์

Translated by Tyrell Haberkorn.

 
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