South-east Asian group urged to act tough on Burma over Rohingya refugees, but principle of non-interference means emergency summit could prove short on answers

An emergency international summit called to tackle the migrant boat crisis in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, convening in Bangkok on Friday, may prove long on talk and short on answers if regional countries shy away from coordinated joint action to address the “root causes” in Burma and Bangladesh, diplomats and aid groups say.

The summit’s Thai hosts – who have invited 17 countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, other Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) members and Australia – say they want immediate, collective steps to deal with the recent surge in Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing Burma and economic migrants leaving Bangladesh.

Related: Malaysian police arrest own officers over involvement in migrant death camps

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Embattled villagers in Thailand’s Northeast Isan region have urged the Thai authorities to consider the environmental impacts of oil drilling before it is too late.

According to the Environmental Conservation Group of Na-moon-Doon Sad Facebook page, about 30 villagers from Ban Na-moon, Kranuan District, Khon Kaen Province at 11 am on Thursday came to the Damrongdhama Centre, established under the Interior Ministry to accept complaints, to issue a letter to the Governor of Khon Kaen.

In the letter, the villagers urged provincial administrators to thoroughly study the potential impacts especially on especially and the environment and come up with mitigation measures for oil-drilling activities near to their villages.

Na-moon-Doon Sad villagers submit a letter to the Khon Kaen Governor, urging the authorities to think of the environmental impacts from oil-drilling on 28 May 2015 (Photo from Neo E-Saan Movement)

The villagers also demanded that the authorities hold forums to inform the public about the potential impacts of petroleum extraction activities.

In early February, about 200 military and police officers escorted a convoy of 45 trucks of Apico (Korat) Limited, a US-based oil and gas exploration company, into a potential oilfield in Kranuan District of Khon Kaen.

The villagers have long opposed the plan to explore the oilfield because the plan and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) were conducted without the involvement of local people who will be directly affected.

Prior to the transportation of drilling equipment, the villagers collected names to submit a petition to Khon Kaen Administrative Court and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in an attempt to stop the drilling, resulting in the NHCR issuing an order to halt the company’s operations.

Despite the NHRC order, however, the company continued drilling activities with the aid of the military and police.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), in early February, military officers from Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Khon Kaen came to talk to village leaders and a local environmental conservation group and threatened to use martial law if the villagers obstructed the company’s operations because the Department of Mineral Fuels had permitted the company to explore the field.

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The criminal court sentenced a man alleged for making an anarchist symbol in front of Bangkok’s criminal court to one month in jail with a jail term suspended for one year.

Bangkok’s Ratchada Criminal Court on Wednesday afternoon sentenced Nattapon (surname withheld due to privacy concerns), a man accused of making a graffiti of a single ‘A’ letter, which seemed like an anarchist symbol on the plate of Ratchada Criminal court to a month in jail for destroying public properties and breaking the Public Cleanliness Act.    

The jail term was suspended for one year because Nattapon pleaded guilty as charged and he had never committed crime prior to the case.

At the court, he said that the letter ‘A’ was not meant to symbolise anarchism, but was first letter of a name of a foreign music band ‘Anti-Flag’.

Nattapon added that he was not motivated by politics for his action, but only wanted to call for justice for his friend who was shot while riding a motorcycle in northern Bangkok by a military officers in early February. The military officer has been arrested, but there has been no further progress on the case.

The The defendant has to remain under detention in Bangkok Remand Prison for at least one night because the court demanded at 90,000 Baht (about 2,660 USD) as security for bail, but the defendant could not find enough money for bail in time. 

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Human Rights Watch

Demand End of Abuses in Burma, Access for Refugee Protection

(Bangkok, May 28, 2015) – Governments gathering in Bangkok on May 29, 2015, to discuss the Southeast Asia boat people crisis should reach binding agreements to save people at sea, permit them to disembark without conditions, and ensure unimpeded access for United Nations agencies to protect the rights of asylum seekers, Human Rights Watch said today. 

The governments should also demand that Burma and Bangladesh take specific steps to end human rights abuses against the Rohingya that are causing them to flee on dangerous boats to escape persecution. 

The Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean will include representatives from 17 countries, including AfghanistanAustraliaBangladesh, Burma, CambodiaIndiaIndonesiaIranLao PDRMalaysia, New Zealand,PakistanPapua New Guineathe PhilippinesSri LankaVietnam, and Thailand, with observers from the United States and Switzerland, and senior officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). 

“Regional governments should work with the United Nations and others to agree on binding solutions to this human tragedy – not sweep it under the rug as they have done for years,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The ending of human rights abuses in the source countries of Burma and Bangladesh needs to be matched by Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, with support from other countries, taking humanitarian action to receive and protect refugees fleeing persecution.”

Over the past 15 months, international agencies estimate that as many as 88,000 men, women, and children have traveled from Bangladesh and Burma in boats to Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Many of these are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Burma, although a significant number are also Bangladeshi nationals. Most have traveled in boats to Thailand, where they are then transported overland into jungle camps in Thailand and Malaysia. The camps are used as holding facilities in which victims are detained, extorted, and abused, with mass graves found in recent weeks on both sides of the border of Thailand and Malaysia.

Human Rights Watch urges participating governments in the special meeting to prioritize the following issues:

  • Emphasize urgent need for search and rescue – now and in the future. The participating governments should accept international offers to provide search and rescue support and seek ways to better coordinate search and rescue efforts, share intelligence, and pool resources. Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia should agree to take proactive efforts to mobilize their marine search and rescue operations to seek out the remaining boats possibly still at sea;
  • Ensure unimpeded and unconditional access by UNHCR and IOM to rescued boat people – now and in the future. Transparent, impartial, and professional assessments of individuals who arrive on land or are rescued at sea are needed to determine who is entitled to refugee protection, who should receive services as a trafficking victim, and how appropriate services should be delivered. UNHCR should be permitted to exercise its mandate in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia – none of which are parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention – to screen boat arrivals for refugee status and other protection needs. These governments should abide by UNHCR refugee status determinations and scrupulously ensure that refugees and asylum seekers are not forcibly returned to persecution or other serious harm and that no one is prevented from fleeing threats to their life or freedom. This is especially important in the case of Burma, where Rohingya have been targets of persecution for decades, and whose denial of citizenship rights makes any return impossible as long as Burma denies their national identity;
  • Demand that Thailand permit disembarkation of boat people, and ensure that Malaysia, Indonesia, and other countries make long-term commitments to allow disembarkation. While Malaysia and Indonesia recently agreed to allow boat people to land on their soil, the Thai government has thus far refused to allow boat people to land on Thai soil. The Thai government should commit to allow boat people to disembark in safety and dignity and grant access to UNHCR to assess their protection needs. The special meeting should reject any variation of so-called help along policies that result in stranding boat people in deadly conditions or shifting responsibilities to other countries;
  • Exert pressure on Burma as the main source of the problem. Call on Burmese officials to immediately end the repressive measures and denial of basic rights that have driven Rohingya to flee their native Arakan (Rakhine) state over many years. The meeting should exert pressure on Burma to admit that Rohingya should be considered citizens of Burma whose rights should be respected, and end all discriminatory policies against them. The national government’s denial of the status of the Rohingya only makes solutions harder to formulate. For instance, Zaw Htay, the spokesperson of President Thein Sein’s office, stated last week that “we will not accept the allegations made by some [governments] that Myanmar (Burma) is the source of the problem.” Burma should amend the 1982 Citizenship Act and do away with discriminatory restrictions on the right to movement, livelihoods, right to own property, right to marriage and have children, and other basic rights that all persons of Burma should enjoy; and
  • Exert pressure on Bangladesh to stop its pushback policy and end its persecution of Rohingya. The Bangladesh government should cease its own publicly acknowledged policy of engaging in pushbacks of Rohingya to Arakan state and recognize them as refugees deserving protection and support services. Dhaka should also agree to accept international offers of assistance, previously rejected, to provide basic health, education, and other services for Rohingya and its own citizens residing in the same border region with Burma so no one will feel compelled to get on boats.

“This regional meeting will only be a success if every government commits to effective search and rescue operations, meeting the protection needs of refugees, prosecuting traffickers, and resolving the root causes that drive these desperate people onto boats,” Adams said. “International burden sharing, including resettling refugees, is also important, but will only be a lasting solution if all governments agree that human rights must be at the center of all current and future policies.” 

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  LAMPANG – Three people have been killed and 29 others, including seven students, were hurt when a Chiang Mai-bound passenger bus slammed into a school van, another vehicle and three houses in Lampang Province early today. Pol Maj Kamol Khid-arn, a duty officer at Muang police station said the passenger bus traveling from Udon […] Read more...
    MUKDAHARN – Thai Custom officials have arrested two Laotian nationals Wednesday morning when they tried to smuggle 26 million baht in bulk cash out of the country to Laos. The two Laotian nationals were identified as Thao Banluesak Sipakdi, 31, and Thao Santichai Chanto, 25. Custom Chief Soraj Sangkawan said the two Laotians […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 27 May 2015: Thailand’s top-of-the-line tour operators are adamant they are not promoting the controversial Tiger Temple, or Wat Pa Luang Ta Maha Bua temple in Kanchanaburi. They claim to have stopped offering tours to the so-called Tiger Temple for safety and animal rights reasons. The temple was first promoted by a BBC documentary […] Read more...

Tablecloths were being clipped down at breakfast this morning as another squall zipped through the anchorage and the stunning Centara Grand Beach Resort Samui with someone claiming “30 knots for breakfast again”. The wind strength then dropped and settled in around 10-12 knots by start of racing on Day 2 of the 2015 Samui Regatta. […]

The post All change at the top on Day 2 of Samui Regatta 2015 appeared first on Samui Times.

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BANGKOK, 27 May 2015: Loei province in Northeast Thailand will welcome some 300 cyclists from Thailand and around Asia for the “Tour of I-san Loei Classic”  7 June. Organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand in cooperation with Loei Provincial Administration, Life and Living Bikenet, and Nok Air, the event aims to promote green tourism in […] Read more...
Denial of Rights in Burma, Bangladesh Lead to Trafficking and Dangerous Sea Voyages
 

(Bangkok, May 27, 2015) – Rohingya and other survivors of dangerous boat voyages fromBurma and Bangladesh describe horrific treatment by unscrupulous smugglers and traffickers in Burma, and abuse and neglect aboard ships, Human Rights Watch said today. Aregional meeting scheduled on May 29, 2015, in Bangkok must find solutions to the so-called boat people exodus. 

Rohingya explained to Human Rights Watch how they endured two months at sea, packed below decks in cramped conditions with limited food and water and very poor sanitation. Boats carrying approximately 100 mostly Rohingya men and women each abandoned passengers at an undisclosed location along Thailand’s coast, leaving them to fend for themselves until they were found by the Thai authorities. According to international agencies, 3,000 to 4,000 people may still be aboard ships at sea.

“Survivors describe how they flee persecution in Burma only to fall into the hands of traffickers and extortionists, in many cases witnessing deaths and suffering abuse and hunger,” saidBrad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Interviews with officials and others make clear that these brutal networks, with the complicity of government officials in Burma, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Malaysia, profit from the desperation and misery of some of the world’s most persecuted and neglected people.”

Regional states and other governments with the ability should make commitments to redouble search-and-rescue efforts and ensure that thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi asylum seekers and migrants have full access to procedures for seeking international protection and humanitarian assistance, Human Rights Watch said. 

“Burma and Bangladesh need to stop persecuting Rohingya, while Thailand and Malaysia urgently need to shut down camps where boat people are held to end abuses and ensure that no more mass graves are created on their soil,” Adams said.

In recent weeks scores of boats carrying thousands of Rohingya asylum seekers and migrants from Burma and Bangladesh have arrived in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The three governments responded by pushing the boats back out to sea, leading to domestic and international condemnation and forcing them to reconsider these policies. In response to pressure, the foreign ministers of the three countries met in Kuala Lumpur on May 21. Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to permit boats to land, but only with the proviso that the international community provide humanitarian assistance and help resettle or repatriate all the passengers within one year. 

Conditions for Rohingya in Burma are extremely dire, with limited access to education, employment, and the freedom to travel or observe their own religion cited as reasons for flight. Some flee voluntarily to escape these abusive conditions, but Rohingya also told Human Rights Watch that in some cases, smugglers lured and duped people to make the sea journey without disclosing what was involved, and sometimes handed them over to traffickers. 

One 13-year-old Rohingya girl told Human Rights Watch how men grabbed her in front of her family: “They dragged me to the boat, they had sticks, and threatened to beat me. I screamed, I cried loudly. My parents were weeping, but they couldn’t do anything.”

Another 16-year-old Rohingya girl said:

There was a group of six men, they were Rakhine Buddhists from Bangladesh, they had knives and guns. They forced me to get on a boat, they told me I was leaving Myanmar [Burma]. They pushed me to the small boat, I fell into the water up to my shoulders. Fifteen other Rohingya were on that boat. All the people were forced onto the boat.

A third Rohingya girl told of being grabbed by traffickers along with her husband and child: “I was on the way to my father-in-law’s house with my husband when a broker and many men took us. They forced us onto the big boat. On the boat I couldn’t understand their [the traffickers’] language, I cannot speak Burmese or Rakhine, I don’t know who they are.”

In all instances, the conditions on the boats were terrible. One Rohingya girl told Human Rights Watch:

We spent two months on that boat, more people kept coming to the big boat, small boats all the time. We [the women] were under the boat, it was so small. I couldn’t see outside the boat, just feel it go up and down. People were throwing up, I felt dizzy and uncomfortable the whole time.

Another Rohingya girl said: “When I got to the big boat … I cannot explain my feeling I was so scared. We were about 16 people in one small room. The doors were always locked. The smugglers put the food and water through a small hole, we never saw them.”

The abuses continued on land. On May 25, Malaysian government authorities announced they had discovered as many as 139 similar graves in a series of 28 camps on the Malaysian side of the border. This followed the discovery of mass graves in Thailand in May. Thailand and Malaysia need to act immediately to close any remaining camps of victims and offer aid and protection to any survivors found.

Rohingya and Bangladeshis described how they have been held in camps in Thailand and Malaysia until they could pay a ransom. They were beaten and abused if they could not pay. One Rohingya woman who was held in such a camp on the Thai side of the border told Human Rights Watch that she was severely abused to force her relatives to pay up: “The brokers beat me with sticks and bamboo and put out cigarettes on my legs and ankles because I could not raise the money.”

The current crisis was in part sparked after the discovery of mass graves of peoplesuspected to be Rohingya and Bangladeshi. Pretending that the government did not know that Rohingya and others were regularly trafficked and smuggled to camps in Thailand on their way to Malaysia, the Thai authorities began a crackdown on transit camps on May 1. 

The poor treatment of the Rohingya has been accompanied by callous remarks by regional leaders. Burma’s political leaders deny the existence of Rohingya, denouncing them as “illegal Bengalis.” Burmese officials initially denied any of the people in the boats came from Burma. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh said the migrant workers from her country were “mentally sick” and vowed to punish anyone leaving the country illegally. Prime Minister Tony Abbot of Australia called the boat people “reckless” and when asked if Australia would consider resettling any Rohingya found to be refugees, replied, “Nope, nope, nope.” 

Ahead of the regional meeting on “Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean” convened by the Thai government on May 29 in Bangkok, the leaders of Burma, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia should show greater recognition of and respect for the rights of the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis on these boats. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, and other international agencies should be permitted access to survivors of boat voyages to assess their claims for protection in accordance with international standards and to help identify people who are fleeing persecution, those who were trafficked, and those who are migrating for economic reasons. Burma and Bangladesh should hold to account anyone found to be abusing Rohingya and others by coercing them or deliberately deceiving them to embark onto boats, where they are held in atrocious conditions. 

“Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia need to agree to never again engage in pushbacks of people stuck at sea, find any remaining boats, bring the people on board to safe ports, and ensure that their rights are respected,” Adams said. “Just as important, there will be no long-term solution unless Burma ends its rights-abusing and discriminatory policies toward the Rohingya and joins other countries in taking action against smugglers and traffickers who abuse and prey on them.”

Source

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On Tuesday Night a joint operation involving Pattaya’s Tourist Police and a team from the Chonburi Provincial Police Special Operations Unit took place and targeted two shops which were reportedly selling Penis and Breast-shaped soap to locals and Tourists. Both shops are located on the South Pattaya Road and owned by the same person and […] Read more...
The Bangkok military court on Tuesday held the first witness hearing in the case where Worachet Pakeerut, courageous law academic from Thammasat University, was accused of defying coup maker’s order twice for not reporting in. 
 
Observers from Thai and international human rights organizations, US and German Embassies came to observe the trial. 
 
The public prosecutor filed two charges against Worachet for defying the coup makers’ order No.5/2014, issued on 24 May 2014, and No.57/2014, issued on 9 June 2014. On 10 June 2014, Worachet’s wife reported in on his behalf and reported that Worachet was sick and would meet with the military later. On 16 June 2014, the police arrested Worachet when he voluntarily flew back from Hong Kong. 
 
Worachet complained to the court that the prosecutor should have filed only one charge for defying Order No.57. The law academic said by issuing the new order, the old one was automatically nullified. 
 
Facing two charges, Worachet face maximum jail term of four years. 
 
Lt Col Burin Thongprapai of the military's Judge Advocate General's Office testified at the court as a plaintiff witness. Burin said on behalf of the Army he filed complaint against Worachet without knowing that Worachet’s wife had reported about the health issue.  
 
After the hearing, about ten Thammasat University students gave him moral support. 
 
 
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BANGKOK, 26 May 2015: Airports of Thailand reports its April data showed a 21% increase in passenger movements at six airports under its management. AoT reported, Monday, that all of its supervised airports recorded 9,229,347 passengers up 21.27% from 7,610,519 visits during the same month last year. Overall aircraft movements also increased by 14.87% from […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 26 May 2015: To increase domestic travel awareness the Tourism Authority of Thailand has organised “One and Only” contest for Thai citizens. Participants can upload their video clip creations, no longer than one minute duration, and adhering to the  theme “Discover Thainess” to www.tourismthailand.org/discoverthainess. Winners and runners-up will be eligible to win cash and accommodation […] Read more...

OZO Chaweng Samui joins ONYX Hospitality group in support of UNICEF’s Nepal Earthquake Children Appeal. The goal is to provide emergency relief to 1.7 million children and their families. About that many children are now in urgent need of aid in the areas that were worst hit by the earthquake. The 7.9 magnitude earthquake has […]

The post Join in a Good Cause: Help Stop the Tears of Nepali Children Affected by the Earthquake with Ozo Chaweng appeared first on Samui Times.

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Following a lively opening to the 14th Samui Regatta last night at Zico’s Brazilian Grill & Bar, it was down to the serious stuff of racing today and with 30 knots blowing at breakfast time, the signs were good. By the time the fleet was out at the startline and IRC Zero into sequence, the […]

The post Changing fortunes on Day 1 of Samui Regatta 2015 appeared first on Samui Times.

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IT'S a hot, oppressively humid summer evening in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s northern capital. British actor Miltos Yerolemou, who plays Syrio Forel, master sword-fighter in Game of Thrones, and will play something, or someone, in the upcoming Star Wars film, has just sat down with me at a wine bar off the city’s recently requisitioned trendy hub, Nimmanhaemin. Read more...

The criminal court held a preliminary hearing of a man accused of defaming the monarchy on facebook in camera after six months of detention although the defendant claimed that the alleged lese majeste facebook was not his.

Bangkok’s Ratchada Criminal Court on Monday held a preliminary of Piya (surname withheld due to privacy concerns), a 46 year old man, who was accused under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, lese majeste law, in camera.

The prosecutor reasoned that the hearing needed to be trial in camera because the case is related the revered Thai monarchy and might affect public morale.

“Because the case is related to the Thai monarchy which is revered by all people, the publicisation of the fact on the case during the proceeding is in appropriate,” said the prosecutor.

Piya was arrested on 11 December 2014. He was charged for allegedly posting lese majeste comments along with the pictures of the King on 27-28 July 2013 under the Facebook profile named Pongsathorn Bantorn, after individuals on the northern province of Nan and the central province of Nakhon Prathom filed lese majeste complaint against him to the Technology Crime Suppression Division.

At the hearing, Piya denied the allegations and said that the alleged lese majeste facebook profile was not his. Since his arrests, he always denied his involvement the lese majeste Facebook profile was not his although the picture on the profile was his picture, which was taken from the defendant’s Twitter and Google Plus account .

The defendant vowed to fight the case to prove his innocence.   

In addition to Article 112, Piya is also charged under Article 14 of the Computer Crime Code, which forbids the importation of illegal computer contents.

The defence lawyer, said that the court will hold a preliminary hearing on the case again in 17 August and that, from 17-20 November, 20 plaintiff's witnesses will testify on the case.   

 

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Animal rights activists have long pushed for the closure of Thailand's infamous 'Tiger Temple'. However, a new and unrelated incident may lead to the tourist attraction's closure more than those detractors' critiques ever could: the temple's abbot was mauled by one of the very creatures that he has fought so steadfastly to keep. Read more...
FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights

Paris, Bangkok, 23 May 2015: Yesterday’s arbitrary arrests of students and activists are the latest example of the Thai military junta’s relentless repression of all forms of peaceful dissent, FIDH and its member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) said today.

“Yesterday’s arbitrary arrests confirm that Thailand is ruled by a brutal dictatorship that has no respect for human rights and no tolerance for dissent,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “The international community must vigorously condemn the crackdown.”

On 22 May, authorities arrested about 50 students and activists during three separate peaceful demonstrations against the May 2014 coup - two in Bangkok and the other in the northeastern city of Khon Kaen.

In Khon Kaen, authorities arrested seven students from the Dao Din group for demonstrating against the coup at the city’s Democracy Monument. The seven were detained at the local Sri Phatcharin Army Camp and charged under junta Announcement 7/2557, which prohibits gatherings of more than five people. They were all released on bail this morning.

In Bangkok, 11 members from the Young People for Social Democracy Movement were briefly detained in the early afternoon at the Chana Songkhram police station after they attempted to hold a political forum at the October 14 Memorial.

In the evening, police and unidentified men wearing civilian clothes arrested at least 30 students who had gathered outside the Bangkok Arts and Cultural Centre (BACC) to mark the one-year anniversary of the May 2014 coup. Many of the students were forcefully dragged into the BACC before being transported and taken into custody at the Pathumwan police station. Two injured students received treatment at nearby hospitals. All the detained students were released without charges this morning.

“As General Prayuth was reiterating he would return happiness to the people during his weekly televised speech, dozens of peaceful student demonstrators were detained in Bangkok. This perfectly illustrates the contrast between the junta’s empty words and its repressive actions,” said UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn.

FIDH and UCL call on the authorities to end the arbitrary arrests of peaceful protestors. The two organizations also urge the authorities to respect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in line with Thailand’s obligations under international law.

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Harrison George

International pressure is building on Bangladesh and Myanmar to take urgent measures to save boatloads of stranded asylum seekers in danger of death by drowning or starvation in the Bay of Bengal.  The ramshackle boats, thought to be loaded with Riphab refugees from Thailand, are organized by people smugglers, who prey on the migrants, often selling them into virtual slavery if they manage to make landfall undetected. 

The exodus of asylum-seekers has been going on for years, amid allegations that officials were bribed to turn a blind eye to the trafficking if they were not actively complicit.  But public awareness was raised a month ago by the discovery of mass graves in abandoned makeshift ‘transit camps’ on both sides of the porous Myanmar-Bangladesh border.  The graves are thought to contain the bodies of victims who failed to survive the hazardous journey, though there is evidence that a number had been summarily executed by their captors.

While Bangladesh and Myanmar have come under criticism for their obvious reluctance to allow the boat people ashore, fearing a burden that may last for months if not years, most observers agree that the problem cannot be solved without addressing the root causes of the mass migration in Thailand itself.

The Riphab are a minority group from Thailand, although the government there, now in its fifteenth year under military rule, disowns them and says categorically that they are not Thai and are ‘politically foreign’.  They are denied Thai citizenship, suffer severe discrimination and often see a perilous boat journey to Myanmar or Bangladesh as the only alternative to a wretched existence in their country of origin.

The name ‘Riphab’ is used by the Thai authorities as part of the proof that these people are not truly Thai.  They claim it is an abbreviation of ‘Riphablikan’, which is not a Thai word, demonstrating their non-Thai origin.  The Riphab themselves says that this name is in fact a term of abuse invented by their opponents, and that their true name derives from ‘Sathanarat’, a term of unimpeachably Thai origin.

The Thai authorities have, over the past few years, gone to extraordinary lengths to prove that the Riphab are not Thai.  Physically they are indistinguishable from other Thais and they speak the same language.  Most Riphab claim to have been born in Thailand into families that have lived there for centuries.  Interestingly, the Thai authorities seem to acknowledge that some Riphab have ancestors, or even parents, who are Thai.

Mainstream Thai thinking, however, claims that their political beliefs mark them out as ‘others’ and argue that co-existence between ‘true Thais’ and Riphab is inconceivable.  The most obvious difference between Riphab and Thais turns on their alleged attitude to national institutions.  Most Thais find intolerable their insistence on thinking for themselves and questioning beliefs that most Thais accept automatically. 

While some Riphab clearly hold political views that the Thai establishment wants to extirpate, many have testified that anyone can instantly be classified as Riphab solely on the basis of a denunciation by a ‘right-thinking’ Thai.  ‘If someone wants you out of the way,’ said one victim, ‘they just call you a Riphab, whether you deserve it or not.  Your fate is then sealed.’

Questionable genetic research claims to show that the Riphab are ‘mutants’, which is used to explain why some Riphab seem to spring from otherwise true-blooded Thai families.  The True Thai Eugenics Institute, based for historical reasons in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, claims to have proved that Riphab lack certain genetic material that is required to qualify as real Thais.  Internationally, this research is regarded as suspect and the conclusions have been scientifically challenged.

Others, more pointedly, claim that the Riphab are nothing more than ‘human trash’, a term that has entered the national discourse since it was used by long-standing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.  The Thai National Human Rights Commission uses this argument to justify its lack of interest in the plight of the Riphab, saying that it is responsible for protecting the rights of humans and it is not clear that the Riphab are human.  ‘Trash has no rights,’ one Commissioner is quoted as saying.

Riphab who choose to remain in Thailand can expect to suffer repeated prosecutions under draconian anti-Riphab legislation, social ostracism, and denial of virtually all rights due to citizens.  Importantly, they have been barred from voting in the never-ending series of constitutional referenda, where 27 progressively authoritarian draft constitutions have been submitted by the supposedly interim military government and consistently rejected by the voters.  This explains the impressive longevity of the current administration which has remained in power for over 15 years.

 


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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BANGKOK, 25 May 2015: If you dream of becoming a new fresh persona, you have until 31 May to register for Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Thailand Extreme Makeover Session 2. TAT issued its final call over the weekend to boost applications for Season 2 following the huge success of Season 1. Contestants gain a chance […] Read more...

Zico’s Brazilian Grill and Bar is owned and operated by Centara Hotels & Resorts. This popular dining venue opened its doors thirteen years ago after the Centara brought specialist consultants all the way from Brazil to ensure their dining experience was as authentic as possible. They certainly succeeded in their wish and have brought authentic […]

The post Zico’s in Chaweng selected for inclusion in Thailand’s Tatler’s Best Restaurants 2015 appeared first on Samui Times.

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Asia’s top yachts have come together at the Thai tropical island of Samui to battle it out for the 14th Samui Regatta honours – the curtain-closing event of the prestigious 2014/15 AsianYachting Grand Prix championship. Held 23rd to 30th May off Chaweng Beach, Samui Regatta comprises five days of racing in the tropics with six […]

The post Samui Regatta 2015 to close out the 2014/15 regional sailing circuit appeared first on Samui Times.

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The sophistry of politicians in the face of the Rohingya crisis is astounding. It mainly consists of reality-denial, blame-shifting and creative word play. Now, one Singapore academic has joined in the fray with a supposedly insightful commentary that is really a tragic failure in discursive analysis and a veiled attempt to justify half-hearted responses to the crisis. Read more...
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights
For release on 22 May 2015
 
Today many students groups gathered to express their political views and opposition to the coup. This led to the detention of a large number of students and activists, including the following:
 
  1. 11 members of Young People for Social-Democracy Movement, Thailand (YPD), who organized a seminar on the topic of "22-22: Community Rights, Liberty, Education,” on the one-year anniversary of the coup, who are detained at Chana Songkhram police station.
  2.  7 students from the “Dao Din” group from Khon Kaen University were first detained at the Sripatcharin Army Camp (23rd Military Circle) and then taken for further detention at the Khon Kaen police station from 3 pm continuing until the present (10 pm). They have been charged with violating Head of NCPO order 3/2558 (2015) forbidding political demonstrations.
  3. 34 students have been detained at the Pathumwan police station from 6:30 pm until the present (10 pm) following participation in a symbolic art event entitled “1 year in which ...” in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center in  order to express their feelings and thoughts from the year that has passed since the events of 22 May 2014.
The view of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights is that the aforementioned detention is arbitrary and derives from the unlawful use of power for the following reasons:
 
  1. News reports indicate that many students were assasulted by state officials[1] and state officials used unnecessary force in carrying out arrests, to the degree that some had to go to the hospital for treatment.[2] These actions constitute the use of injurious force against peaceful, unarmed protestors. The arrests and detention are arbitrary.
  2. Officials refused to allow lawyers or those trusted  (by the detained) to meet with those detained, which is a right of  arrested individuals per Article 7/1 of the Criminal Procedure Code. They claimed that they had to wait for the order from their commander, but they photocopied the legal licences of the lawyers who asked to be allowed to enter to provide legal assistance. These actions constitute a threat to the lawyers’ carrying out of their duties. Further, to exercise power solely on the basis of the order of the commander is a denial of the durability of the law.
The aforementioned exercise of power by the police and military constitutes a lack of respect for the rule of law and the legal system. To take actions which rely solely on a commander’s orders or the junta’s authority creates terror among the people, as it is the use of power without consideration for the law.
 
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights therefore calls on the authorities to reveal the names ofthose detained and the immediate and unconditional release of the students and activists being detained. We call for the immediate provision of remedies for these actions, including holding the police and military to account under the law.
 
With respect for the rights and liberties of the people
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights
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Amnesty International
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE
 
22 May 2015
 
The arbitrary arrests of students and anti-coup activists in at least three separate incidents today in Thailand’s capital Bangkok and the north-eastern city of Khon Kaen come as a stark reminder of the ongoing intolerance of peaceful dissent a year into military rule, Amnesty International said today.
 
“A full year since the Thai military declared martial law and took power, we are seeing how peaceful dissent is still being steamrolled in the streets,” said Richard Bennett, Asia-Pacific Programme Director at Amnesty International.
 
“Peaceful protesters must not be arbitrarily arrested or detained just because they raise uncomfortable topics or defy military rule. Anyone held merely for peacefully exercising their human right to freedom of expression must be released immediately and unconditionally and all charges dropped.
 
“The authorities must respect and even protect peaceful dissent and lift draconian restrictions on expression and assembly in Thailand – in law and practice.”
 
At around 6:20 pm local time, police detained 20 students and activists in Bangkok, who were about to carry out a peaceful, symbolic protest against the 2014 coup at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, one of the first sites of spontaneous anti-coup protests last year. Police have denied the group access to lawyers, stating that they are awaiting orders from senior officers. At least two activists are reported to have sustained injuries during the arrest and require medical attention. 
 
In a separate incident in Bangkok at 3 pm today, soldiers and police arrested a student, a pro-democracy activist and a taxi driver at a metro station. They were held at a Bangkok police station and later released.
 
All three belong to Resistant Citizen, a political protest group, and were on their way to file a criminal complaint at the capital’s criminal court against General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the current Prime Minister, for staging last year’s coup. The group had made their plans public in days preceding the anniversary of the coup. Other members of the group have been detained before for peaceful acts of symbolic protest in the country – including university student Sirawit Serithiwat, Pansak Srithep, whose son was killed by the army during the crackdown on protests in 2010, and taxi driver Wannakiet Chusuwan.
 
In a third incident, at least seven people were arrested in Khon Kaen, north-eastern Thailand, at the city’s Democracy Monument at around 1 pm, after seven protesters staged a peaceful protest against the coup and forcible evictions of rural communities in extractive and developmental projects. The protesters all belong to Dao Din, a student activist group, and are believed to include members previously arrested for flashing the three-finger “Hunger Games” salute during a speech by General Prayuth in Khon Kaen in November 2014.
 
News footage shows plainclothes officers breaking up today’s protest before the activists’ arrest. The Dao Din activists were first taken to a military camp and are now being held at a police station in Khon Kaen.
 
“These are just the latest episodes in the Thai authorities’ continuing repression of public dissent in the country, where many people face imprisonment if they engage in political activities. Authorities have granted themselves extensive powers to restrict and deny rights in the name of security – it is high time that they allowed people to peacefully exercise their rights to dissent,” said Richard Bennett.

 

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Kim has come a long way in her fight to kick cancer, her family, friends and the local as well as international community have come together to give her the financial resources she needs to wage her battle. Here is her lasest update. (To read more about Kim’s journey click here) Hello from Bangkok! Today, […]

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