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, […]

The post Help Kim Kick Cancer – an update from Kim appeared first on Samui Times.

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Police Major General Nittipong, the Provincial Police Commander, held a press conference at Banglamung Police Station on Friday Morning to announce the results of a province-wide Crime Suppression operation. The operation held over the past 4 days resulted in a total of 74 arrests and the seizure of drugs and firearms. The General confirmed that […] Read more...

Thai military officers arrested anti-junta activists on their way to file a criminal charge against the Thai junta leader for staging coup d’état against the 2007 constitution during the first 2014 coup anniversary.

According to Resistant Citizen, an anti-junta activist group, the police and military officers in uniform and plainclothes on Friday at around 3 pm, arrested Sirawit Serithiwat, a student activist from Thammasat University, Pansak Srithep, a pro-democracy activist and the father of a boy killed by the military during the 2010 political violence, and Wannakiet Chusuwan, a pro-democracy activist and taxi driver, key members of Resistant Citizen, at Lat Phrao Bangkok’s Metro Station.

Sirawit and Wannakiet at Lat Phrao Bangkok's Metro Station on 22 May 2015

The three were arrested while they were on their way to Bangkok’s Ratchada Criminal Court to file criminal charge under Article 113 of Thailand’s Criminal Code against Gen Prayuth Chan-o-chan, the junta leader and prime minister, and other associates, who were involved in staging the 2014 coup d’état.

At around 4 pm, however, the officers brought them to the court to let them submit the complaint against the coup-maker before bringing them to Phahonyothin Police Station.

According to Article 113 of Thailand’s Criminal Code, whoever commits act of violence or threaten to do so in order to overthrow the constitution, legislative, executive, and judiciary power, seizing the administrative power or attempting to separate the kingdom shall face death penalty or lifetime imprisonment.

On Thursday, Pansak and Wannakiet were briefly detained at Lumpini Police Station after they went to the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok to give an invitation letter to the embassy personnel, inviting the them to observe the planned activity at Ratchada Criminal Court.

Pansak arrested and loaded into a van by the police officers on 22 May 2015

The letter was received by Taishi Akimoto, the First Secretary of the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok.

Natchacha Kongudom, another prominent student activist from Thai Student Center for Democracy (TSCD), was also with the group at the metro station to participate in the planned activity.

Last month, the three, including, Anon Numpa, another member of the group who is a human rights lawyer who volunteers for Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), were charged with defying the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 7/2014 for holding a political gathering of more than five people on 14 February. If found guilty the four could be jailed for one year and fined up to 20,000 baht. 

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Yesterday in Samui the two men accused of involvement in the April the 10th bombing in the underground car park of the Central Festival shopping mall denied all charges and said that they will fight in the court to clear their names. In the Koh Samui Provincial Court police applied for their first twelve day […]

The post Suspects in Samui bombing say they are innocent appeared first on Samui Times.

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Thaweeporn Kummetha and Pinpaka Ngamsom
 
The boat people from the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh have become a hot potato among the countries of Southeast Asia. Malaysia and Indonesia say they will temporarily shelter for one year the migrants who land on their shores. Thailand, now ruled by a military dictatorship, has remained firm on its stance that the boat people cannot set foot on Thai soil, but the kingdom will host a multi-national summit on the issue on May 29.
 
The boat people comprise Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar fleeing state-sponsored ethnic persecution by the Buddhist majority and poverty, and Bangladeshis who are also fleeing poverty. 
 
Prachatai talked with Vivian Tan, the spokesperson of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Regional Office in Bangkok, about the role of UNHCR in the issue.  
 
 
 
Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia have been urged to shelter the Rohingya. Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to shelter them for one year. What can the UNHCR do to help or support the camps?
 
UNHCR welcomes the commitment announced on Wednesday by the Foreign Ministers of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to resolve the issue of the thousands of refugees and migrants stranded in boats in the Bay of Bengal and off the coast of Southeast Asia. This is an important initial step in the search for solutions to this issue, and vital for the purpose of saving lives.
We’re talking to the governments to find out more about the proposed shelters. What we have been helping with – and will continue to do so – is to screen and interview people among the arrivals who are refugees, to assess their protection needs and seek solutions for them.
 
Are some of the Rohingya boat people refugees from the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar that they fled because the UNHCR and Bangladeshi government did not take good enough care of them?
 
The people getting on smugglers’ boats in the Bay of Bengal are a mixed group. We estimate that roughly half are Bangladeshi nationals and half are Rohingya from Myanmar and Rohingya who have been living in Bangladesh for many years.
 
With regards to the Rohingya in Bangladesh: There are two official government-run refugee camps for Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. UNHCR works in these camps to ensure the protection of 32,000 registered Rohingya refugees originating in Rakhine state, Myanmar.
 
In these two camps UNHCR teams coordinate with the local authorities and NGOs to provide shelter, relief supplies, health care, water and sanitation services, education and self-reliance activities. We also ensure that refugees’ documentation is up-to-date, and work on issues related to child protection and gender-based violence in the camps.
 
These refugees have been in exile for more than 20 years. Many were born in the camps, where movements are restricted and prospects are limited. Many Rohingya feel that there is no future in Bangladesh and no home to return to in Myanmar, especially after the June 2012 inter-communal violence in Rakhine state. 
 
In addition to the 32,000 Rohingya registered in the two camps, there are an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 unregistered Rohingya living outside the camps – in makeshift sites and local villages. UNHCR, which is not authorized to work outside the camps, is concerned about their protection as they have no legal documents or status. 
 
Years of desperation and hopelessness have driven many Rohingya in Bangladesh to risk their lives on smugglers’ boats. Many have joined Bangladeshi nationals as well as Rohingya from Myanmar on dangerous journeys in the Bay of Bengal to find safety and stability elsewhere.
 
Is the UNHCR looking to improve the conditions at the Cox's Bazar camps instead of establishing new camps in other countries as one of the solution?
 
UNHCR has been working with the Bangladesh authorities to improve living conditions for Rohingya refugees since the early 1990s. In the two government camps, our activities and interventions are done in consultation with the government, i.e. we cannot change structures or start projects without authorization. In addition to the services (health care, water/sanitation, etc.) outlined in the previous answer, in recent years we’ve successfully advocated for more durable shelters to be built and for refugee students to be able to study up to Grade 7 – the first time secondary education has been offered to the refugee population in 20 years. We’ve also been working with refugee committees to empower the community and help them become more self-reliant through vocational training and livelihood projects.
 
So the registered refugees benefit from these services in the camps but there are few prospects for them to lead productive lives due to the limitations. They cannot return to Myanmar and many are finding it hard to survive in Bangladesh. 
 
As mentioned above, UNHCR cannot work outside the camps but we have continuously expressed concern about the 200,000-500,000 unregistered Rohingya living in makeshift sites or local villages as they have no documents or legal status to protect them against exploitation, arrest or deportation. 
 
To stem the outflow of Rohingya from both countries, there is a need to address the root causes of flight. It will involve improving conditions in south-eastern Bangladesh and in Rakhine state.
 
I can’t speak much for the Bangladeshis who are leaving as economic migrants as that is outside UNHCR’s area of expertise.
 
There are reports that some of the boat people are not victims of human trafficking. They have instead voluntarily paid agencies to smuggle them to find jobs in other countries, especially Indonesia and Malaysia. From UNHCR findings, are most of the Rohingya boat people the victims of human trafficking? 
 
UNHCR is not mandated to conduct screening for victims of trafficking. The Thai government has a national system in place and has screened some Rohingya as victims of trafficking. 
 
There is a fine line between smuggling and trafficking victims. From our interviews with Rohingya who have survived the journey, some pay the smugglers to go to Thailand/Malaysia but are then held captive for ransom along the way. They are beaten until their family members can pay for their release. Increasingly we are also hearing about people who were abducted off the streets in Myanmar and Bangladesh and forced into the boats. Some were lured by false promises by the smugglers.
 
What does UNHCR think is the solution to the problem? 
 
The top priority is to save lives, to rescue those people still stranded at sea and bring them to shore for urgent assistance.
 
UNHCR and other agencies are ready to support governments in their response, including by helping to screen the arrivals into different groups – refugees, economic migrants, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied children, etc. From there we can assess their different needs and different solutions. 
 
While it’s important to crack down on the smuggling trade and bring perpetrators to justice, it’s equally important to make sure the victims of their exploitation and abuse get the help they need. 
 
To address the problem of irregular movements, there is a need to address the root causes in a comprehensive way. In Myanmar there is a need to promote reconciliation among communities, socio-economic equality, the realization of rights for all, and to address issues related to citizenship.
 
Another way to reduce incentives for people to risk their lives on boats is to create safe and legal alternatives for them to move, including through labour migration schemes, family reunification programmes, humanitarian visas, etc.

 

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A group in Koh Samui are knitting for a good cause and looking for your help. We are a group of “knitters” who are supporting the Sarnelli Orphanage in Northern Thailand by knitting garments for the children. The orphanage has 17 little ones from 6 months to 5 years old and their cold months are […]

The post Group in Samui knitting a better future for an orphanage appeared first on Samui Times.

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BANGKOK, 22 May 2015: Buoyed by increased spending from Chinese visitors and strong domestic travel the up coming Amazing Thailand Grand Sale should yield better than expected results this year, according to the latest Visa Card assessment. Significant growths were witnessed in both interrnational tourist spend volume and domestic spend through Visa cards at 15% […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 22 May 2015: A real-time test of an electric bus developed by Thailand’s King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology and the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority was introduced, Thursday. The experimental electric bus will serve a route that runs between the KMITL campus to the Ladkrabang Airport Link station. The campus is close to Suvarnabhumi airport. […] Read more...
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

JAKARTA, 22 May 2015 – In the year since the Thai military staged a coup to overthrow the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand has witnessed the entrenchment of authoritarianism and its new leaders have increasingly reneged on their international human rights obligations, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said today.
 
“This unelected military government has pursued policies that restrict fundamental freedoms and limit the space for political pluralism,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of parliament in Malaysia. “Such an approach will not promote reconciliation. It will only deepen political polarization and further undermine the rule of law.”
 
The collective of parliamentarians called on Thai authorities to repeal all laws that violate international human rights norms, reinstate all human rights provisions in the previous constitution, and quickly return Thailand to an elected civilian government. APHR also demanded an end to trials of civilians in military courts, the investigation of allegations of torture, and the investigation of military involvement in forced evictions.
 
Parliamentarians also expressed concern over the relative silence of other regional governments on Thailand’s regression. They called on the broader international community to take a stronger stand against rights abuses by the Thai junta and to push harder for a return to democracy.
 
“The free pass the Thai military has received from the international community runs the risk of emboldening other governments in the region to pursue similar anti-democratic and human rights restricting policies,” Santiago said. “Regional and international leaders must press the Thai government to answer for the wide range of allegations of human rights violations levied against it.”
 
In the past year, the military has demonstrated few signs that it intends to prioritize the protection of basic human rights or return the country to democracy anytime soon, APHR said. It has banned political activity, instituted severe media censorship, detained protesters voicing any opposition, and made moves to consolidate and make permanent the military’s control over politics.
 
Allegations of torture of detainees while in military custody have been particularly concerning, APHR argued, as has the lack of progress in investigations into killings and disappearances of human rights defenders, including Chai Bunthonglek and Pholachi Rakchongcharoen (a.k.a. Billy).
 
The decision, announced this week, to further delay planned elections until August 2016 represents yet another concerning sign of the junta’s lack of commitment to transitioning back to democracy, APHR said.
 
“When the military took power last May, we were promised a speedy return to an elected civilian government,” said Santiago. “One year later, we are still waiting on the junta to fulfill its promise. And in the meantime, we have seen a complete erosion of basic rights protections.”
 
While the government revoked martial law in early April, APHR argued that its replacement—Article 44 of the interim constitution—is even more problematic. Article 44 gives National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) leader Prayuth Chan-ocha unilateral authority to pursue any policy and to override the other branches of government. In its order lifting martial law, the NCPO used Article 44 to maintain its prohibition on public gatherings, extend the ability of military courts to try civilians, and provide military officers with sweeping powers to detain individuals without charges.
 
“The invocation of Article 44 makes the decision to lift martial law essentially meaningless, ” said Walden Bello, a former congressman from the Philippines and current APHR board member. “It gives Prayuth ultimate power and sets an incredibly dangerous precedent, which goes against the rule of law and international norms of good governance.”
 
Since it took power one year ago, the NCPO has also displayed increasing contempt for dissenting voices, APHR warned. Statements by junta leaders have exhibited a lack of faith in the ability of public discussion and consultation to produce positive outcomes. The military has also worked actively to silence opposition voices through arbitrary arrests and detentions and the forced closure of select media outlets.
 
“What military leaders fail to realize is that dissenting voices strengthen the ability of government to safeguard human rights and act in the interest of the public,” Bello said. “To prioritize silencing those voices over preserving fundamental freedoms is not only shameful, it is counterproductive.”
 
Parliamentarians noted that the NCPO’s actions have gone against its international obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the ASEAN Charter, Article 1 of which states that among the 15 key purposes of the regional grouping is to “strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
 
“Thailand once served as a model for the region,” Santiago added. “It is sad to see how far it has fallen from this mantle. Within the span of one year, Thailand has moved rapidly toward a disturbingly permanent form of dictatorship that ignores the rights of the majority of its citizens.”

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Thaweeporn Kummetha
Since the coup on 22 May 2014, about a hundred pro-democracy activists have fled the country. Most were involved in the red-shirt movement. Most decided to flee after they were summoned by the junta. Most also face lèse majesté charges. Seeing the military court handing down severe verdicts in lèse majesté cases with little likelihood of getting bail and no appeals allowed, their chance of walking free in the Kingdom of Thailand is slim and it is no wonder that leaving the country is a better option. But abandoning life, jobs, education, property, and loved ones in Thailand and starting all over in a new country is very difficult. 
 
The exiles went to a few destinations in Southeast Asia, Europe, New Zealand and the USA. France is one. In the first of a series, Prachatai’s Thaweeporn Kummetha tells the story of a provocative transgender student activist who goes by the name ‘Aum Neko.’ Thaweeporn visited Aum in a city in France she asked not to be revealed and spent some time with her in April along with two other Thai exiles -- Jaran Ditapichai, a leftist and veteran political activist, and Somsak Jeamteerasakul, former Thammasat University historian and fierce critic of the lèse majesté law. The following article is written from Thaweeporn’s perspective and you can watch a video of the interview below. 
 
 
 
 
Aum’s real name is Saran Chuichai, a male name she is not proud of. Closure of the infamous “Aum Neko” Facebook page was forced after the social media company found that Aum Neko was not her real name. Aum opened a new Facebook profile with a name cannot be revealed here due to the lèse majesté law. Aum became well-known to the public in 2012 when she posted a picture of herself in a sexually provocative pose at the Pridi Banomyong statue at Thammasat University with a message “What is love and infatuation? Thailand has no law barring us from insulting Pridi because everyone is equal.” The picture caused an uproar and sanctions by the Thammasat community. She caused an uproar again in September 2013 with a poster advocating the abolition of university uniforms by portraying students in uniform simulating various sexual acts. 
 
 
Aum Neko in a sexually provocative pose at the Pridi Banomyong statue at Thammasat University in 2012.
 
 
Aum Neko was behind the posters advocating the abolition of university uniforms by portraying students in uniform simulating various sexual acts. The university ordered the posters to be taken down a day after they were placed around the campus
 
 
As a transgender, the 21-year-old activist has been forced to wear a male student uniform almost all her student life. At Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Education, her gender, sexual orientation and expression were not considered acceptable for future teachers and she was forced to wear a male uniform. She left Chula for the relatively greater freedom of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts where she majored in German. At Thammasat, she challenged the conservative forces who were advocating compulsory uniforms by wearing sexy and provocative outfits around the campus. Because of her provocative acts and Facebook posts, there was a campaign within the Thammasat Community to fire her. The last straw was when she and fellow student activists in December 2012 tried to raise a black flag to replace the Thai national flag at the iconic Dome building of Thammasat to symbolically protest against Thammasat Rector Somkid Lerdpaitoon’s alleged support for the anti-election movement. This led the university to suspend her from studying for two years. 
 
 
Aum, Sirawit and other student activists try to raise a black flag in December 2012 to replace the Thai national flag at the iconic Dome building of Thammasat to symbolically protest against Thammasat Rector Somkid Lerdpaitoon’s alleged support for the anti-election movement
 

Aum Neko, Sirawit Serithiwat (left) and Kittisan Utsahapradit (right) are leading members of the Dome Front Agora student activist group from Thammasat University. After the coup, Aum fled Thailand, while Sirawit faced charges for protesting against the coup makers.

 

Outside the university, she was very active in advocating the abolition of Article 112 and other pro-democracy activities. In 2013 a yellow-shirt TV host filed a lèse majesté complaint against her.
 
After the coup, on 9 June 2014, the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) summoned her to report in along with other red-shirt activists, many of them also now in exile. The risk of a harsh jail term handed down by a military court for lèse majesté and the fact that she would be forced into a male prison made her decide to leave the country. This was a tough choice for her because she had to abandon her undergraduate study where only a year was left.
 
 
Aum Neko joined a gathering in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, Siam Square, Bangkok, against the military and the prospect of a military coup on 20 May 2014 after Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, then Army Chief, imposed martial law in the country.
 
 
An arrest warrant for her was issued for not reporting on 13 June 2014. 
 
She fled to neighbouring countries before flying to France in late October. During a transit stop in Seoul, South Korean immigration police were waiting for her at the airbridge from the plane. The police held a roster of Thai ‘criminals’ wanted by the Thai authorities. Besides her name on the S list are, Somsak Jeamteerasakul and Suda Rangkupan, a former Chulalongkorn University lecturer and red-shirt activist. Aum said she explained to the police about Thailand’s political situation and compared the situation of the dictatorship in Thailand to that of North Korea before the police let her board the flight to France. 
 
After Aum arrived safely in France, she produced several video clips attacking the Thai Royal Family. In one clip, Aum performed an activity defaming Thai King and Queen at the spot where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed by guillotine at Place de la Concorde.
 
I had met Aum once but never talked to her. After knowing that she would pick me up at the airport, I felt a bit afraid of her because of her fierce and provocative character that I saw in the media. However, that seemed to be just what she is on TV and social media. In person, she was sweet and polite. 
 
Aum has adapted very well to life in France. She is an expert on public transportation and the routes in the city where she lives. She can also speak basic French which is enough for everyday use. 
 
Aum gives top priority to learning languages. Although she lives on a very modest income and has to think about every euro she spends, she chose to invest in language courses because that will determine her future in a French university and jobs afterward. She studies French every workday in the morning and studies German in the afternoon. She is now at the A2 level in French and C1 level in German. 
 
Moreover, Aum seems to enjoy living in a country where there is such a vibrant activist community and regular demonstrations. She energetically told me about French politics and the political activities she has joined. Unsurprisingly, she is very active on migrants, women and gay issues and has joined activities held by the activist groups there. 
 
 
Aum Neko (right) and Jaran Ditapichai (second left) joined the May Day demonstration in Paris on 1 May 2015. Aum’s placard (in French) reads “Free Somyos (Prueksakasemsuk) and lèse majesté prisoners. Jaran’s placard reads “Save the Thai workers from military dictatorship.”
 
 
Nevertheless, among the three exiles, Aum is in the most difficult financial situation. Unlike the other two whose partners are supporting them, Aum has very few contacts with her family in Bangkok due to safety concern and she has to work hard to feed herself. In the first few months in France, Jaran helped her connect with red shirts in France who let her stay at their places for free. Aum stayed at one place about a month or two before moving to another. After things settled down, Aum started to find jobs, such as babysitting, to be able to stand on her own feet.
 
Aum is very strict about her budget. She eats only McDonald's and French bread that costs her about three euros a meal. “Aum likes McDo,” she told me when I asked if she got bored with eating junk food every day. She said she could eat anything and she liked junk food. I however think she is trying to economize. She just moved in to a shared apartment a few weeks before I visited her and she just started to learn how to cook to save even more money. 
 
 
Aum Neko holds placard (in French) reading “Feminist against Dictatorship in Thailand” during a demonstration to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March 2015 in Paris. 
 
I found that Aum is attractive to French guys after I spent some amount of time with her. There are a couple of times when French waiters came to flirt with her. One of them asked for her phone number. Aum will tell them her name is ‘Mimi’ because Francophones have difficulty pronouncing Aum. She told me her Mimi is short for ‘mignon’, which means ‘cute’ in French. Thai men can tell that she is, and see her as, katoey, but French men maybe can’t, and see her as a woman. I also believe something about her character attracts French men, but I haven’t lived long enough in France to tell.  
 
Although Aum does not live a comfortable life, and has it rather tough, she looked cheerful all the time we were together. She also keeps the “Aum Neko” concept by imitating a cat’s crawl and uttering “meaw meaw” occasionally, even in the metro. 
 
Aum looks thin and her skin looks very dry. I was afraid that she was being too thrifty that she hadn’t bought any moisturizer, so I gave her a bottle. Despite the cold weather of France’s early spring, Aum wore quite a revealing outfit, but less sexy than when she was in Bangkok. On some nights she was shaking from the cold, but she still walked me to the hotel. 
 
Aum told me she wants to study French literature in a French university which requires a high proficiency in French. She believes her ability to speak four languages will in the future be a valuable asset in finding a job in France. 
 
Aum Neko’s photo for Femen Sweden
 
 
Talking about her long-range plans, I asked if there was any prospect of her coming back to Thailand.  Aum said she may think about it after the next King’s reign and when Article 112 or lèse majesté is abolished. 
 
“Aren’t you missing home?” I asked. “Not really,” she said. “It was the right decision to run because to live in a society where you have to keep your own eyes and ears closed is something I couldn’t stand; it’s repulsive.”
 

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Human Rights Watch

(New York, May 22, 2015) – One year after seizing power, Thailand’s military junta has used dictatorial power to systematically repress human rights throughout the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), led by Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, has prosecuted critics of military rule, banned political activity, censored the media, and tried dissidents in unfair military courts.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the date for a new election continues to be pushed back. Earlier this week the Thai government said that it would not keep its commitment to an election in early 2016, saying it would not take place at least until August or September 2016.

“One year since the military coup, Thailand is a political dictatorship with all power in the hands of one man,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The date for elections continues to slide, with no certainty when they will happen. Backsliding on respect for basic rights and democratic reform seems to have no end in sight.”

Sweeping and Unaccountable Military Powers

Unable to find other ways to sideline the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra – the sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a 2006 military coup – on May 22, 2014, the Thai military deposed her, and formed the NCPO under Prayuth. On July 22, the NCPO promulgated an interim constitution that grants the military authorities broad and unchecked powers, including immunity from prosecution for committing rights violations. The interim constitution provides that NCPO members and anyone carrying out actions on behalf of the NCPO “shall be absolutely exempted from any wrongdoing, responsibility and liabilities.”

Key constitutional bodies set up by the NCPO – such as the National Legislative Assembly, the National Reform Council, and the Constitution Drafting Committee – are all dominated by military personnel and other junta loyalists, meaning that there are no effective checks and balances on military rule.

On March 31, 2015, nationwide enforcement of the Martial Law Act of 1914 was replaced with section 44 of the interim constitution, which allows Prayuth as the NCPO chairman to issue orders without administrative, legislative, or judicial oversight or accountability. As a result, the lifting of martial law brought no improvement in respect for human rights in Thailand. Section 44 states that “where the head of the NCPO is of opinion that it is necessary for the benefit of reforms in any field, or to strengthen public unity and harmony, or for the prevention, disruption or suppression of any act that undermines public peace and order or national security, the monarchy, national economics or administration of State affairs,” the head of the NCPO is empowered to “issue orders, suspend or act as deemed necessary… Such actions are completely legal and constitutional.”

No oversight mechanism exists to review the use of section 44 powers by Prayuth, Human Rights Watch said. He only needs to report his decisions and actions to the National Legislative Assembly and to the prime minister, a position he also holds.

“By replacing the 100-year-old Martial Law Act with legal provisions that are even more repressive, the military junta has effectively tightened its dictatorial rule,” Adams said.

Arbitrary, Secret Detention and Military Courts

The NCPO has summoned at least 751 people to report to the junta in the year since the coup. Most of these were affiliated with former Prime Minister Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), known as the “Red Shirts.” Others were politicians, activists, and journalists accused by the military of involvement in anti-coup activities or insulting the monarchy (lese majeste). Under the provisions of martial law, and later section 44 of the interim constitution, the military can secretly detain people without charge or trial. Military personnel have also been empowered to interrogate detainees in military facilities without providing access to their lawyers or ensuring other safeguards against mistreatment. The military prosecuted at least 22 people – six of them for lese majeste – after first summoning and interrogating them.

The NCPO continues to refuse to provide information about people in secret detention, Human Rights Watch said. The risk of enforced disappearance, torture, and other ill treatment significantly increases when detainees are held incommunicado in military custody. The use of military courts, which lack independence and fail to comply with international fair trial standards, to try civilians has also increased, Human Rights Watch said. Three days after seizing power, the NCPO issued its 37th order, which replaced civilian courts with military tribunals for lese majeste offenses, crimes against national security, and sedition. Military courts have tried hundreds of people, mostly political dissidents and those violating NCPO orders, since the coup.

“The Thai junta has done nothing to assure families that those taken into military custody won’t be tortured or mistreated,” said Adams. “Instead the government issues harsh denials and lashes out angrily at journalists and activists who raise questions about torture cases.”

Censorship and Restrictions on Free Expression

Immediately after the coup, the NCPO forced satellite TV channels and community radio stations from all political factions off the air. Some were later allowed to resume broadcasting provided they excluded programs on political issues. The NCPO also ordered print media not to publicize commentaries critical of the military. TV and radio programs were instructed not to invite guests who might give negative comments about the situation in Thailand. In April 2015, Thai authorities suspended the broadcasting of Peace TV and TV 24, two satellite TV stations affiliated with the UDD after accusing them of violating the NCPO’s two announcements that prohibit criticism of the military authorities.

More than 200 websites, including Human Rights Watch’s Thailand page, have been blocked by the junta as threats to national security. The NCPO has banned public gatherings of more than five people and prohibits anti-coup activities. Protesters who have expressed disagreement with the junta – such as by showing a three-finger “Hunger Games” movie salute as an act of defiance, putting duct tape over their mouths, reading George Orwell’s novel 1984, or playing the French national anthem “La Marseillaise” in public – have been arrested and sent to be prosecuted in military courts, where they face up to two-year prison terms. On May 19, Bangkok’s Lumpini district police arrested a Red Shirts activist, Anurak Jentawanit, and detained him for 10 hours after they saw him at a restaurant wearing a T-shirt with the quote “ I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul” from William Earnest Hensley’s novel Invictus. Police later searched Anurak’s house and confiscated similar T-shirts that were produced to raise funds for political prisoners.

The junta has also prevented and disrupted perceived political discussions and differences in political opinions that it considered a threat to stability and national security. During the past year, military units in Bangkok and other provinces have cancelled at least 30 political events and academic panels. The military has also banned at least 12 seminars and public forums on issues related to land and community rights. At least 22 other public gatherings were blocked by the military.

The NCPO’s announcement no. 7/2014 bans political gatherings of more than five people, subject to a year in prison and a 20,000 baht (approximately US$600) fine. At least 63 individuals have been arrested since the coup for organizing or taking part in public gatherings.

Criticizing the monarchy is a serious criminal offense in Thailand. Persons charged with lese majeste are routinely denied bail and held in prison for many months awaiting trial. In most cases, convictions result in harsh sentences. Prayuth gave a policy statement setting out that a top NCPO priority is to prosecute critics of the monarchy. Since the coup, at least 14 new cases have been brought against suspects in the military courts and criminal courts around Thailand.

Military courts have generally imposed harsher sentences in lese majeste cases than had the civilian courts. Penal Code article 112 provides for imprisonment of 3 to 15 years forlese majeste crimes. Previously, civilian courts often sentenced a guilty person to 5 years per count. But since the coup, military courts have often delivered harsher sentences. In the case against a Red Shirts blogger, Thiansutham Suttijitseranee (known as “Yai Daengduad”), the Bangkok Military Court sentenced him to 10 years per count. For his five allegedlese majeste Facebook postings, Thiansutham received 50 years in prison, later reduced to 25 years when he pleaded guilty. Human Rights Watch is unaware of any longer sentence under article 112.

“Governments around the world need to press the military junta to end repression and restore fundamental rights, which are essential for a genuine return to democratic civilian rule,” Adams said.

 

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When Pink Floyd’s vocalist and bassist Roger Waters wrote the 1979 rock classic ”Another Brick in The Wall”, he was thinking about the authoritarian teaching and rote learning he encountered in his school days that would produce, in his opinion, more proverbial bricks in the wall of mental detachment. Read more...
Chonburi Immigration Police announced on Thursday the arrest of a Russian and British National wanted in connection with a case of theft and extortion from March 2015. Police Colonel Prapansak, the Superintendent of Chonburi Immigration, based in Jomtien, announced the arrest of Mr. Denis Zabodaev aged 31 from Russia and Mr. Thor Hallan aged 45, […] Read more...