Australian illusionist and escapologist Paul Cosentino has come to Bangkok to entertain us with his tricks and optical illusions. Cosentino, aged 31, was the winner of last year's Dancing with the Stars and the runner-up of the 2011 series of Australia... Read more...
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The authorities on Monday morning transferred most of the red-shirt political prisoners who were arrested after the 2010 political violence in Bangkok from Laksi temporary prison to more crowded permanent prisons where conditions are worse. 
 
The Laksi Prison for political prisoners was initiated during the Yingluck Shinawatra government. In early 2012, a building in the Special Branch Police Headquarters compound was modified to detain about 50 prisoners, mostly involved in the 2010 political violence in Bangkok when about 90 people were killed during the military crackdown on the red-shirt protesters. 
 
Before the prison was abandoned on Monday, there were 22 prisoners, 20 men and 2 women. Most of them were charged with serious offences such as arson, terrorism and illegal possession of weapons
 
Most of the male prisoners were moved to the Bangkok Remand Prison and one female prisoner was transferred to the Central Women Correctional Institution. Six prisoners, five men and one woman, remain at Laksi, according to a prison officer.  
 
The wife of Boonchai, who was convicted by the Court of First Instance for attacking the Bangkok Bank Headquarters with a molotov cocktail, cried after learning that her husband was moved to the Bangkok Remand Prison, since the prison is very crowded and there are more restrictions. 
 
At Laksi, families can visit prisoners for up to one hour, while at other prisons, visits last only 15 minutes. Moreover, only Laksi Prison allows families to send prisoners food from outside. At other prisons, only food bought at the Prisoners’ Welfare Shop or authorised shops is allowed to be sent inside the prison. 
 
Wittaya Suriyawong, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Corrections, said the Department decided to abandon Laksi Prison because it has been proved that these prisoners are not political prisoners but prisoners who have committed ordinary crimes. Moreover, there were very few prisoners but it cost the Department about one million baht per year. 
 

 

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Thailand's crackdown on people living and working on tourist visas will have far-reaching effects in several sectors, not the least of which is education. English teachers who have not been able to secure work permits may soon face unemployment or an uphill battle to get the documents needed to work there legally. Read more...
BANGKOK, 28 July 2014: Tourists planning a visit to Thailand can now buy additional online insurance cover, known as Thailand Travel Shield from three leading Thai insurance companies. The scheme designed to restore confidence and fill a gap for visitors who cannot insure their trip to Thailand has been established by the Tourism Authority of [...] Read more...
PATTAYA, 28 July 2014: Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau has hatched its latest strategy to turn Pattaya into an international meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions destination in Asia. Some veteran travel and hotel executives would raise an eyebrow as the resort pioneered the country’s MICE market expansion to resorts that had up to the 1980s [...] Read more...
Harrison George

Permanent Secretary and Acting Minister of Education Suthasri Wongsamarn has announced plans to introduce ‘good deeds passports’ for all Thai students to encourage ‘goodness and ethics’ among the nation’s youth.  Students are to keep daily records of their good deeds and these will be signed off by the schools’ directors.  (It is well known that school directors have oodles of free time because administrative paper-shuffling in the nation’s schools is virtually non-existent; I can’t think what they get up to all day.)

Acting Minister Suthasri, who, it has been noticed, bears something of a resemblance, both physical and pedagogical, to Harry Potter’s Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Dolores Umbridge, originally said that the passports would be used as one of the criteria for university entrance.  But she seems to be backing off that suggestion in the face of widespread derision for the whole idea.

In her defence, Dr Suthasri says that a sort of pilot programme called the ‘Nakhon Pathom model’ has worked well.  She is being far too modest.  The idea has in fact been in use for years and years in various schools around the country, as the following extracts from the Ministry archives attest.

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Good Deeds Passport

Nakhon Ratchasima Presumption Primary School, 1966

Dek Chai Prayuth Chan-ocha

Monday:  Today I wrote a patriotic song about ‘Returning Discipline to Prathom 6 King Class’ so that my classmates will do what they are told.

Tuesday:  Because of their corruption, lack of respect for the institution and smelly uniforms, I ordered all students in my class to follow my rules from now on, or else.

Wednesday:  Today I wrote another patriotic song about ‘Returning Order to Nakhon Ratchasima Presumption Primary School’ so that all students will wear the correct uniforms and hairstyles.

Thursday:  Today I removed the Class Head Student and took over as Leader with a group of my friends (boys only) who have the biggest fists in the class.  This is to bring an end to conflict and division and enforce unity.

Friday:  Today I wrote another patriotic song about ‘Returning Happiness to the Thai Education System’ which is the best one yet.  I asked the Deputy School Director (Student Activities) for money for happiness activities, i.e. free tickets to Khorat United’s next game, free haircuts, and very short dresses for the girl students (not the fat or ugly ones) to wear when they perform for us.  He says he will think about it but I reminded him who my father is.

Endorsement by School Director:  Excellent good deeds and don’t worry about the money.  Have you thought about a future career in music?  Or perhaps the Army?

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Good Deeds Passport

Chulalongkorn Demonstration Primary School, 1972

Dek Chai Mark Vejjajiva

Monday:  Had to trundle Jane into school in the jolly old wheelchair because the driver (stupid oaf) trapped his hand in the car door (well he shouldn’t have put it there if he knew I was going to close it).  She will keep telling me to be careful, as if I’d tip her out at the corners (well, only twice, yuk-yuk!)

Tuesday:  Woke up with a bally awful ache in the old tum.  Mater was awfully concerned and got me a sick note from the doc (Pater, naturally).  Stayed at home, telling the gardeners how to mow the lawn in the proper English way, the thick oiks.

Wednesday:  Handed in my composition on ‘Everything that all the parties that are not the Democrats are doing wrong’.  This is to win the competition for best essay and get a picture of the jolly old phyzog in the local rag.  Super wheeze because Uncle Nissai gave me all the guff for it.

Thursday:  Frightful pain in the old brainbox this am.  Mater had the doc (Pater) write me another sick note.  Spent the day practising leg breaks on the back lawn.

Friday:  Today the school organized an outing to an orphanage.  Not exactly my cup of tea but put on a good front.  Learning how to chat to the common man at their level may prove useful in my future career in public life. 

Endorsement by School Director:  Another splendid week’s worth of good deeds, Master Mark.  Have you considered broadening your experience by studying in a foreign country?  This will be of great benefit to the school because we will then be able to sell your place to someone else.

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Good Deeds Passport

Nawaminthrachinuthit Triam Udomsuksa Phatthanakan School, 2013

Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal

Monday:  At lunch time I joined the Thailand Educational Revolution Alliance study group on Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’ and planned a campaign on using this text and UN Human Rights instruments to question the requirements for Thai students to wear uniforms and military haircuts.  This is in keeping with the Ministry’s stated objective of teaching human rights by a participatory method.  In the afternoon civics class, I challenged the teacher about why the entire semester has been spent on studying the personal characteristics of ‘good citizens’ (obedience, respect for elders, parents and teachers, etc.) to the neglect of any mention of the duty of ‘good citizens’ to participate in peaceful protests, political parties and non-government organizations, all of which is specified as an integral part of the Ministry’s curriculum.  In response the teacher threatened me with physical punishment, banned me from the classroom and confiscated my ‘Good Deeds Passport’.

Endorsement by School Director:  You’ve been warned about this kind of thing before.  Can’t you get it into your thick head that ‘good deeds’ means what we say it means, not this republican communist anarchist filth?  I don’t know why the country can’t get rid of people like you.  That would be one really good deed.


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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Thantawut Taweewarodomkul
 
“I have no regrets, at all, that I decided not to report myself to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).” Even though many people told me to reconsider, I remain firm in my original decision.
 
As soon as the broadcast of Announcement No. 5/2557 [2014] of the military dictatorship of the NCPO on the afternoon of Saturday, 24 May 2014, which ordered 35 individuals to report themselves, was finished, I did not hesitate. I collected necessary items and instruments and immediately rushed out of the building where I had lived since my release from prison.
 
To tell the complete truth, I was nervous and a little bit afraid then. I was afraid that I would not hide myself in time. I did not know [what would happen]. All I wanted was to be safe.  As for what I would do next, I would think about it again. Then I began to step out of my place. Without any hesitation.
 
I cut off all forms of communication, including mobile phone and internet. I was severed from the outside world completely. This was my first experience in having to flee. I did not know what I was fleeing. Two questions were constantly on my mind: “What did I do wrong?” and “So why do I have to flee?”
 
I waited and watched the news on Facebook. But I only read and did not dare to post anything. And one day I learned that many of my friends, especially friends with Article 112 cases, had reported themselves and been released. At one point, I thought that perhaps I ought to report myself along with them, so that I could live my life in tranquility. That was a good option as well. 
 
But that option was tightly closed off [to me] when friends sent me news after they reported themselves and were released and said, “You chose correctly not to report yourself.” Nearly every friend was asked questions about me and [their interrogators] tried to link me with “Anek San Fran” who is in the United States. This is what they wanted from me. 
 
Until now, the answer that I have come to is that the military dictatorship is trying to once again use the “overthrowing the monarchy mind map”! (*)
 
I am deeply affected and grief-stricken. The unceasing action by the military dictatorship to take revenge on and destroy me completely is like a deep wound. Even though I was already punished with three years of imprisonment on an accusation that barely exists elsewhere in the world, they still do not stop. They do this to ordinary people like me simply because they want to create legitimacy for their actions to destroy those who oppose them and think differently.  They are truly ruthless with ordinary people like me.
 
As I posted on Facebook many times, the information of the opposite side was very  speculative. Perhaps they still believed that after I came out of prison, I was still messing around in the circle of people that they called the “the movement to overthrow the monarchy.” There is no truth in this. After I got out, similar to other political prisoners who were pardoned and released, I faced hardship in my life. There was no assistance. There was no support from the people in the “overthrowing the monarchy mind map” that I was placed onto at all. In addition, I had given information to the media [while in prison] that I was not impressed with the path of the struggle of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), especially how they abandoned ordinary people and left them to face their fate alone inside the prison. I was one among these ordinary people. Later, I deiced to create the movement of the “Former Political Prisoners Group” in order to assist the people who met with political dangers, in particular people who were abandoned and did not receive assistance.
 
From this account, anyone would know why I did what I did. Was it related to politics? If you have a brain, think a little. You will realize that I tried to remove myself from politics by returning to stand side-by-side with the “people” and to place greater importance on “human rights.” I did this as one citizen who was awakened to human rights. I was also trying to make my way [financially] because I have a child for whom I am responsible, and I was building my family again.
 
If they are not prejudiced or too suspicious of me, even only this … why, I don’t know. 
 
I participated in political activities and various seminars as I remained somewhat interested in politics since I believe that political expression is a fundamental right of every citizen. In addition, I counted myself as a person whose long experience living in prison and in a cell meant that what I faced were of value for people who wanted to learn, especially from various accounts from the prison that I reflected on in many articles and seminars.
 
These things that I did … how are they frightening? How are they a danger to the nation?
 
All right. We have arrived at the reasons why I did not report myself. What exactly were they? The first reason is that I could not accept the seizure of power by the junta, the NCPO. I cannot accept any seizure of power without the necessary agreement from the people. The seizure of power this time was no different from that in 2006. That incident caused me and many other people to become politically awakened and to come out to exercise our political rights. This is the primary reason why I did not report myself to the NCPO.
 
Because who are they? How conceited are they? They plundered the power from the representatives of the people. It was too easy!!
 
Another reason is that I could perhaps no longer trust the Thai judicial process. After I had once withstood and struggled to call for justice in a lèse majesté case in which I was sentenced to 13 years with no release on bail [for appeal], I could perhaps no longer trust the process. I fought and called for the right to bail and asked for fairness of different kinds. But I never received any compassion. What was once faith [in the system] became resentment. And I no longer placed any trust in the Thai judicial process from then on out. But that … that was in the civilian court. This would be even more [unfair] because it was military court, which is much more absolute. If they pressed charged, if they framed me in any way, I might not have any right to counter it.
 
If I go and report myself, there is a 50% chance I will be free and survive. At that time, I did not want to test anything at all … I wanted to survive for certain. A 100% chance is better … 
 
If you were me, and a crowd of prisoners had stomped on you with their feet with the connivance of the wardens simply because you opened your mouth to excuse yourself, you would well understand my feelings. I was slapped and kicked simply for opening my mouth, because they did not listen. If you were me, you would well understand my feelings.
 
If you were me, and tens of soldiers and police had surrounded you as if you were  a murderous criminal you would well understand my feelings. In 2010, when they came to round me up and arrest me, they thronged around me. They threatened me in every which way with no consideration for human rights. If you were me, you would well understand my feelings. 
 
These are the reasons why I decided not to report myself. And today, I have again chosen loss. I have lost my family, my child, and the people I love because I cannot accept any more oppression and persecution. I blundered once already in 2010 when I was attacked under an absurd law. But this time, it is not going to happen again. I will not again allow myself to be persecuted by an inferior and unlawful authority.
 
I decided that I will go to a third country after this in order to begin a new life. I have left my son, who I love with all my heart, with my parents. They have been threatened every day. Police and soldiers have visited them in the morning and evenings, until my mother had to go to the hospital because of the strain. This is the depravity of the military junta that has seized the power from the people.
 
I realize that I have made a mistake with my family and the people I love very much. But I had no choice. I hope that everyone will forgive me.
 
Farewell, Thailand that I love. Today, this country is still not truly of the people, of us. When the country is a (real) democracy, when it is truly of the people, then I may have the opportunity to return and set foot in the country of my birth once again.
 
Tell the military junta that seized the power: you have no chance of changing our lives and spirits. All you can do is make us afraid, and flee and be motionless. This is because you have the guns and the weapons. But one day when it is time, you will see the coalescence of the people once again. And at that time, you will realize that … fate is real.
 
This article is written and published in Thai here 
 
(*) Translator’s Note: The “overthrowing the monarchy mind map” (“ผังล้มเจ้า”), which dates from April 2010, was an attempt by the Center for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation, set up in April 2010 prior to the crackdown on the red shirt movement by the military under the Democrat Party-led government of PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, claimed that that there was a conspiracy across society to topple the monarchy. A number of different people were named on the map, including Noom Rednon. See Bangkok Pundit here for a drawing of the map and early analysis. The map, which was later revealed to be false and without any basis in evidence, was used to target various dissidents, red shirt politicians, and others. Noom Rednon was one of these people, and was sentenced on 15 March 2011 to 13 years in prison under the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. He was granted a royal pardon on 5 July 2013.
 
 
Thatawut has written widely about his experience in prison and his articles can be read in English translation on Prachatai:
 
Translated by Tyrell Haberkorn.
 
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Prayuth on Friday per the Bangkok Post: The interim charter is now in effect following the declaration of its promulgation in the Royal Gazette on Tuesday. “Everyone should be happy that there is a balance of power between the government and the NCPO,” he said. He was responding to criticism that Section 44 of the Read more...