Asaree Thaitrakulpanich
Amnesty International and the National Human Rights Commission visited the 14 embattled anti-junta activists at Bangkok prisons on Thursday, while about a hundred people gathered to offer moral support to the jailed activists.
 
The activists, mostly students, protested against the junta and had been arrested for their nonviolent protests on 26 June. 
 
On Thursday, two representatives from Amnesty International visited the activists and issued an urgent action to call for the activists’ release.
 
The arrested students are “prisoners of conscience deprived of their liberty solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights,” states Amnesty International.
 
The urgent action also calls on people worldwide to write to the Thai authorities calling on authorities to 
drop charges against the activists and release them immediately,
urge that the jailed activists are not tortured or ill-treated, have access to lawyers of their choice as well as visits from family members and adequate medical care,
and to repeal laws which restrict right to peaceful assembly “in accordance with Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law.”
 
After visiting the 13 jailed activists at the Bangkok Remand Prison, in the afternoon a commissioner from the National Human Rights Commission visited Bangkok Remand Prison (male prison) and the Central Women’s Correctional Institution to see the activists. 
 
Chonthira Jaengrew, or Lukkate, being the only jailed female activist, is detained in a separate facility from her other friends but in the same Bangkok Remand Prison compound. 
 
Commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara said that the NDM is completely unrelated to violence and is protesting for the common good of society.
 
Niran said that nonviolence is one of the NDM group’s five democratic principles, so the group is calling for a space to peacefully express political views different from the current authorities. “The government must allow different political thought to be expressed without being faced by soldiers,” said the commissioner.
 
After his visit with Chonthira, Niran confirmed that she, like the rest of her friends, would not be pleading for bail. Refusal of bail shows that the junta is illegitimate in its incarceration, he states. 
 
However, the commissioner expressed concern about Chonthira separation from her peers, since it prevents the group from discussing their goals together and raises questions of safety. He said that Chonthira had been physically wounded ever since the anti-junta protest at the BACC on May 22.  
 
Chonthira has reportedly been moved to Prison Hospital this morning due to her spinal cord compression. 
 
Niran also mentioned that when the activists were students, they held activities in Isaan. Their down-to-earth experience with local farmers and miners had made them aware of the problems in Thai society, and inspired them to do what they could to criticize the powers-at-be. 
 
As for further action in freeing the activists, Niran states that on Friday activists’ parents and lawyers as well as academics will meet at the prison to investigate further. Next Wednesday, representatives from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights will arrive to investigate with related police and military officials. 
 
Worachet Pakeerut, law professor at Thammasat, was one of many visitors to the jailed activists.
 
Worachet says that no one can prevent the students from their peaceful expression of different political views, and that even their parents respect their decision to do so. "Therefore, the media's role is to look to Thailand's painful history, help the public understand why the students have been arrested, and find the solution to this situation," said the law academic. 
 
The professor also relayed the health concerns faced by some of the jailed activists. Worachet told media that a couple of the students have diarrhea up to eight times a day due to their stay here, but most are in good health.  
 
“I’m visiting them and speaking on their behalf as their teacher," said the professor. "In fact, one of the students in there just got his grades and it turns out he passed my class, so I'm really happy about that.”
 
Meanwhile, about 300 academics under the Group of Teachers Concerned about the Arrested Students released a statement calling for 
  1. the junta to release of the 14 activists without condition, since the arrest is undemocratic and unlawful, 
  2. for authorities to move the activists from Bangkok Remand Prison to be held at the Bang Khen Police School instead, since they are political prisoners and not criminals, and 
  3. for the junta to cease intimidation of family, friends, and teachers of the arrested 14. Forms of intimidation include unofficial house calls and summons as well as pressure to cease all political activity. 
 
The New Democracy Movement (NDM) also distributed a statement at the Bangkok Remand Prison Thursday morning, detailing the intimidation faced by the NDM and the academics group. 
 
According to their statement, since the arrest of their groups activists on 27 June, men dressed in military garb had been continuously harassing and intimidating students at their houses, professors at their workplace, and spying on citizens, causing fear for citizens’ safety. 
 
Furthermore the NDM insists that this strain of intimidation has been happening since the military coup on 22 June 2014. The  junta has been “sharpening their knife” against the flesh and blood of citizens, states the statement. 
 
The NDM demands that such intimidation cease, as well as the release of their comrades. “Citizens must rise up and protect their basic rights against the junta’s unbounded power, the use of which has shown that the junta has no intention of returning democracy to the people,” states the report. 
 
Jutamas Srihutthaphadungkit, an NDM member who as at the prison supporting her group members, confirms that the activists will not post for bail, since public awareness is gaining ground. She states that universities nationwide are already holding activities calling for the release of the activists.
 
“If you think the state is misusing their authority and you agree with our five democratic principles, please come out and support our friends to fight on.” 
 
Moreover, a representative from the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), a human rights organization, based in Bangkok, also visited the activists at the cell and said that the hasty arrest at night and the unsolicited confiscation of phones and cars, abused power in such a way that made it difficult for human rights organizations to step in and help.
 
“The exercise of these unlawful charges is just flat-out bullying,” says the CrCF representative a human rights organization, based in Bangkok. “To push such harsh punishments onto human rights activists is just an example of the strong bullying the weak.”
 
 
Around 100 supporters gather to visit the jailed anti-junta student activists at the Bangkok Remand Prison on 2 July. 
 

Worachet Pakeerut, Thammasat professor and law academic from the Nitirat Group, speaks to media eafter his visit with the 13 activists at Bangkok Remand Prison on 2 July. 
 

Niran Pitakwatchara, National Human Rights commissioner, speaks about the conditions faced by the only jailed female activist, Chonthira Jaengrew after his visit at the Central Women’s Correctional Institute on 2 July. 
 
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BANGKOK, 3 July 2015: Association of Thai Travel Agents says its members must ensure their Chinese visitors are never alone and that they are escorted throughout their trips by registered Thai tour guides. Speaking at meeting, Thursday attended by tour operators handling tours from China, ATTA president Charoen Wangananont identified three requirements for members to […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 3 July 2015: Manathai Hotels and Resorts opened its latest boutique property, on Samui island 1 July. The 148-room beachfront resort, located opposite a fishing village on Lamai Beach, has 46 suites including six family suites with bunk beds and amenities for children. In addition there are 102 deluxe balcony rooms, a fitness centre, […] Read more...

The Thai authorities put 13 of the 14 embattled anti-junta activists in separate prison cells while the activists under detention protested the decision saying that it has political implications.

On Thursday, 2 June 2015, Bangkok Remand Prison have divided the 13 male anti-junta activists under custody into separate groups of 2-3 and detained them in different compounds of the prison.

According to Rangsiman Rome, one of the 13, the authorities’ decision to separate the them has political implications. He said that the measure must have been handed down from the junta who intended to pressure the activists into giving in.

Worachet Pakeerut, a law academic from the courageous Nitirat Group and Niran Pitakwatchara, a commissioner of political and citizen rights of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC) at Bangkok Remand Prison on 2 July 2015.  

He added that other suspects of crimes who came to the remand prison at around the same time with the activist group have not been put into separate compounds.  

Another young activist detained, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, aka. Pai, one of the 13 who is from Dao Din Group, a student activist group based in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen, believed that the authorities want to obstruct them from communicating with each other.

All the 13 decided to shave their heads to protest the authorities’ decision to separate them from each other.

On the same day, Niran Pitakwatchara, a commissioner of political and citizen rights of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC) came to Bangkok Remand Prison to visit the embattled activists.

He expressed concerns about the safety of the 13 activists once they are being separated and the fact they will not be able to communicate as a group.  

He added that the authorities should have been more concerns about their safety.

Beside Niran, many academics and activists also came to the prison to give moral support to the 14 anti-junta activists, such as Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and Worachet Pakeerut, law academics from the courageous Nitirat Group, a group which has been campaigned for the reform of Thailand’s lese majeste law, from Thammasat University.

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CENTARA RECOGNIZED FOR GREEN INITIATIVES Three Centara Properties Received Green Hotel Award, Gold Level Bangkok, Thailand – July 1, 2015 – Centara Hotels and Resorts is honored to announce that three Centara properties – Centara Grand Beach Resort Samui, Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin and Centara Hotel & Convention Centre Udon Thani […]

The post CENTARA RECOGNIZED FOR GREEN INITIATIVES appeared first on Samui Times.

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Thai authorities visited a house of one of the 14 embattled anti-junta activists to ask about his recent activities.   
 
On Wednesday, 1 July 2015, a facebook page of Dao Din Group, a student activist group based in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen, posted a video interview of Wiboon Boonpattararaksa, the father of Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, one of the 14 anti-junta student activists now under detention.

In an interview, Wiboon said that the recently 10 officers five of whom were police in uniforms and the other half officers in plain clothes came to his house in Phu Khieo sub-district of the northeastern of Chaiyaphum while he was away.

He added in the interview that this week the sub-district chief phoned him to ask about his activities after his son was arrested and asked when he will return to Chaiyaphum.

Wiboon told the sub-district chief that him and his wife have come to to Bangkok to visit Jatupat, who is now detained in Bangkok Remand Prison.

ข้อมูลจากพ่อไผ่ ดาวดิน

Posted by ดาวดิน สังกัดพรรคสามัญชน on Wednesday, 1 July 2015

 

Since the arrest and detention of the of his son and 13 other anti-junta activists last week, Wiboon has been actively participated in campaigns to support the 14 embattled activists.

On Monday, he submitted a letter to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC), urging the rights agency to investigate the arrests and the charges against the 14 activists.

“The expression of political ideas is the basic freedom and rights of the democratic political system and principle of human rights, which the state is obliged to protect and support not obstructing,” stated Wiboon’s letter to the NHRC.

The military court detained the 14 embattled anti-junta activists most of whom are students at an early hours on 28 June 2015.

They are  accused of violating the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 7/2014, which prohibits any political gathering of more than five persons for holding symbolic events to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état on 22 May.

In addition, the 14 are also charged under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, the law on sedition, for holding anti-junta political activities. If found guilty, the activists might face prison terms up to seven years.

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The Thai military officers in plainclothes have visited  Prachatai’s Office in Bangkok to ask about Prachatai’s activities.

At around 11 am on Thursday, 2 July 2015, three military officers in plainclothes from the First Infantry Regiment of Bangkok came to Prachatai Office.

The plain-clothed officers spent about 20 minutes to discuss about Prachatai’s recent  activities. The officers, however, did not enter into the office.

The officers also requested to have contacts of Prachatai personnel and took pictures of the office and surrounding areas.

They are still deployed in front of the office. However, the officers have not requested to search the office as rumours on social medias.

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BANGKOK, 2 July 2015: Airports of Thailand reports its May data showed increases in both aircraft movements and passengers at the six airports under its management. AoT reported, earlier this week, that all of its supervised airports handled 8,605,741 passenger movements up 29.13% from 6,664,287 during the same month last year. The overall airports’ aircraft […] Read more...

Thai police summoned a human rights activist for interrogation over an academic seminar involving discussions about the Thai monarchy.  

On Wednesday, 1 July 2015, Prateep Ungsongtham Hata, a human rights activist known for her works with slum dwellers in Bangkok, told media that the police officers from Pak Khlong Rangsit Police Station of Pathum Thani Province summoned her for an interrogation over a seminar titled ‘83 Years of Thailand’s Development after the 1932 Revolution of Siam’.

The seminar on the post-absolute-monarchy Thailand was held at Rangsit University in Pathum Thani on 22 June 2015. It was participated by Sulak Sivaraksa, a well known critic of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majeste law, Olarn Chaiprawat, the former advisor to an ex-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Prateep, and other high profile academics.    

The summoned letter was issued by the police station on 26 June 2015, ordering her to report to Pak Khlong Rangsit Police Station on 9 July. It mentioned in the summon letter that the seminar’s content involved references about the Thai King.     

According to Matichon Online, Prateep suspects that participants of the seminar might have filed a lese majeste complaint against certain speakers of the event .  

She added that the complaint might be against Sulak Sivaraksa, a royalist who is known for his firm stand against the lese majeste law.

Last year, Sulak was accused of defaming King Naresuan, an ancient king of the Ayutthaya Kingdom who reigned about 400 years ago, by raising doubts at the seminar on Thai history about the historical battle between the ancient Thai king and a Burmese general.

Suluck told Prachatai in a video interview that Article 112 is only for the protection of the present monarch, the Queen and the Crown Prince

The notorious lese majeste law or Article 112 of the Criminal Code clearly states "Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, Heir-apparent or Regent shall be punished (with) imprisonment of three to fifteen years."

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The Isaan Record

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – On Monday morning, employees of the Royal Thai Consulate-General of Los Angeles and nearby pedestrians were greeted by protesters standing in support of the 14 students who were arrested in Bangkok on June 26.

On Monday, June 29, ENGAGE, a non-profit network called for a return of democracy in Thailand through a protest outside the Thai Consulate in Los Angeles. (Photo credit: Jeremy Starn)

The event was organized by the Educational Network for Global and Grassroots Exchange (ENGAGE), a non-profit network of community activists based in the United States that has been campaigning alongside students from the Neo-Democracy Movement in Thailand and rural groups in the Northeast to support people’s movements and community rights.
 
The protesters expressed their solidarity with Thai students and villagers as they protested Article 44 of the military-imposed 2014 Interim Constitution and the general suppression of human rights since the May 2014 coup.
 
Seven members of the Khon Kaen University student group Dao Din were detained briefly on May 22 after holding a protest against the military junta’s one-year anniversary in power. They were detained again on June 26 after holding a protest on June 25 and formally charged for disturbing public peace and violating NCPO Order 3/2558 which bans political gatherings of five or more people. An additional seven activists from the Neo-Democracy movement are also being detained. All are awaiting a military trial where they face up to seven years in prison if found guilty.
 
Fourteen pairs of shoes symbolize each student arrested in Bangkok for peaceful protesting. (Photo credit: Jeremy Starn)
 
“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Thailand. Everyone, regardless of where they are born, should be allowed basic human rights and the freedom to organize,” said Jude Peckinpaugh, a member of ENGAGE who recently returned from Thailand. “This action is to show that we support the students’ recent non-violent civil disobedience and demand that they are released from prison.”
 
Jude Peckinpaugh announced the demands of ENGAGE in solidarity with the Neo-Democracy Movement. (Photo credit: Jeremy Starn)
 
The protesters delivered six demands to Consul General Jesda Kataventin in order to show support for the detained Thai students and Na Nong Bong villagers in Thailand’s Loei Province. Among their demands are the repeal of Article 44, an end of military court trials for civilians, release of the student protesters, and an investigation of the activities of the Tungkum Limited Company gold mine activities in Loei Province.
 
Protesters also called for an end of military harassment of villagers in the Northeast fighting for their right to livelihood and a safe environment.
 
ENGAGE received a response from the Consular General in Los Angeles on June 30 confirming that their demands had been passed on to the government in Bangkok.
 
Zoe Swartz and Cat Darin, ENGAGE members, discussed the goals of the protest with an onlooker originally from Chiang Mai. (Photo credit: Jeremy Starn)
 

 

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Young activists entered a cage installed in front of Thammasat University to support the 14 anti-junta activists

The students activists from the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD) on Wednesday, 1 July 2015, placed a cage as a replica of prison cells on the pavement in front of the wall of Thammasat University, Tha Prachan Campus, in Bangkok.

At 14:40 pm several students started to enter the cage to take pictures and post it on social medias to start a viral campaign to support the 14 anti-junta activists who are now in prison for participating in peaceful gatherings to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état on 22 May.      

According to the LLTD, every one can enter the cage to symbolically show support for the activists under custody.

“Under the current circumstance, when our freedom of expressions is limited in public spaces. It is as if our lives outside prisons are being controlled under an invisible cage at all times without noticing it to the point that we might think that it is normal,” the LLTD group’s wrote on the group’s facebook profile.

Students enter a cage in front of the Tha Prachan Campus of Thammasat University to show support for the 14 embattled anti-junta activists under custody on 1 July 2015 (courtesy of LLTD)

On Sunday, 28 June 2015, academics, activists, students and many others came to the same wall at Thammasat University and attached placards and post-it with messages to support the 14 activists.

One of the placards is a message from Kasian Techapeera, a renowned anti-junta political scientist of Thammasat and Chulalongkorn University, which reads ‘I’m proud to have been your lecturer’.

Some other placards attached to the campus wall read ‘Release the 14 student activists unconditionally’, ‘Nobody is behind this [anti-junta activities] except ordinary people who love democracy’, ‘Dictatorship will be destroyed and democracy will triumph’.

Bangkok’s Military Court on 28 June granted custody permission to detain 14 student activists who are accused of violating the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 7/2014, which prohibits any political gathering of more than five persons for holding symbolic events to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état on 22 May.

In addition, the 14 are also charged under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, the law on sedition, for holding anti-junta political activities. If found guilty, the activists might face prison terms up to seven years.

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The Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS), a public media outlet supported by the state, might face 50,000 Baht fine from the Thai authorities for broadcasting a program about the backgrounds of the 14 embattled anti-junta student activist.

According the Nation Breaking News, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission of Thailand (NBCT) summoned the executive board members of the Thai PBS over a TV news program called “Before becoming a New Democracy Group: Looking Back to the Movements of the 14 Student from Dao Din and in front of Bangkok’s Art and Culture Center”, which was broadcasted on June 28, for a discussion.

The TV program presented the backgrounds of the 14 embattled anti-junta activists most of whom are students, such as the Dao Din Group from the northeastern Khon Kaen Province, who has long been engaged in activities against a gold mine in Loei Province together with the locals.

The program pointed out that the 14 anti-junta activists were also engaged in activities against the Amnesty Bill, a bill aimed to give impunity to people involved in the 2010 political violence and Thaksin Shinnawatra a controversial ex-Prime Minister, proposed under the last elected government under Yingluck Shinawatra, the former PM before the coup d’état.

A source in NBTC told Prachatai that the NBTC’s broadcasting committee has not made any decision regarding the measures which the Thai PBS might face and that the committee might finalise the decision on the matter next week.      

There not been any official response from the Thai PBS. However, Nattaya Wawweerakhup, a Thai PBS program host, on Tuesday, 30 June 2015, posted the content of Article 37 of the 2007 Act to Assign Radio Frequencies and Regulate Broadcasting and Telecommunication Services on her facebook profile and urged her colleagues to study it.

Last year, the Thai junta pressured Thai PBS to remove Nattaya from a TV program she was hosting called “Voices of the People that must be heard before the Reform” because she asked questions, which led people to make negative remarks about the 2014 coup d’état.

In brief, Article 37 of the act states that the NBTC shall refer to Article 27 of the act to issue notifications or fine TV stations, which broadcast inappropriate content prior to suspending broadcasting licenses. Media establishments which act against the broadcasting act are liable to face 50,000 Baht fine (1,481 USD).     

In early May 2015, the NBCT issued an order to shutdown Peace TV, a TV station affiliated with United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), a red-shirt group.

According to Natee Sukonrat, the chair of the NBCT’s Broadcasting Committee, the decision shutdown Peace TV to was made because the TV station repeatedly broadcast inappropriate programmes which are sensitive to national security.

Supinya Klangnarong, one of the members of the NBTC’s Broadcasting Committee, however, posted on her twitter account that she voiced opposition against the NBTC’s measure.

"I agree that, in principle, the NBTC should increase its efforts to regulate TV channels to prevent the problem of reproducing hatred and incitement, but it should be proportionate," Supinya wrote. "We should not just jump from never using power to using power to the maximum extent," Khaosod English quoted Supinya as saying in late April.

"From what I have seen, Peace TV does not use rude language like another channel that belongs to the same political group. The content may be seen as criticizing state power from a sceptical viewpoint," Supinya wrote on twitter.

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Thikan Srinara

“What is your relation to Supot Jaengrew?”

“He is my grandfather.”

I asked the question after I called out the names of the students in my third-year Contemporary Thai History class. A loud voice answered from the back of the classroom.  It was the first time that I had taught and that was the first moment that I met Lukkate, or Chonthira Jaengrew. She is a very slender young woman with a high voice who wears large, round glasses. She is the only woman among the fourteen students from the Neo Democracy movement who were arrested and imprisoned on 26 June 2015.

I asked her, “Do you know that your grandfather is an important intellectual?” She looked surprised and said that she did not.

Lukkate's answer indicated that until then, she was like any other third-year university student whose daily life was comprised of studying and getting together with friends. She was not at all interested in politics or political activism. I do not know whether what I did, telling her how important her grandfather is within Thai political history, was right or wrong. But it became a turning point in her life.

Lukkate came to class early the next week and told me that she had talked to her grandfather. He answered some of her questions but not others, and spoke briefly on some issues and went on for a long time about others. She told me that her grandfather had many books, and that she filched one to read. I took a glance at the book in her hands, Duay Rak Haeng Udomkan (A Love of Ideals), by Wat Wanlayangkul. I told her, “Hey! I adore that book. When I was studying at Ramkhamhaeng, I read it over and over again. Activist students liked to read it.” We chatted for a bit longer, and then she deserted me to go sit at the back of the classroom and I started the class.

Lukkate had another fifteen weeks, or one term, with me. After a bit, she began to change. She liked to raise questions about this and that in the classroom. She liked to read books and sometimes I saw her sitting and reading novels under the Srinakharinwirot University Social Sciences Building. Once it was Pisat (The Specter) and another time it was Fa Bo Kan (The Sky is No Barrier).

Most of Lukkate’s friends at university were fairly progressive. They were interested in politics and understood her, even though they did not always join her in political activism. But I recall one day when she and her friends awakened and organized a candlelight vigil at Srinakharinwirot University to oppose the violent political protest of the Peoples’ Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC). Many people joined that vigil.

After that, an older friend that I respect called me and said that he wanted to invite the students from Srinakarinwirot University who organized the candlelight vigils to meet and share experiences with other student groups. I remember the day that Lukkate, Khao (a second-year student), and I went to join the meeting. It was late when the meeting was finished and Lukkate invited me to go eat dinner with her new activist friends from other universities. “Eh, you should all go,” I said.  She smiled and raised her hands to wai me goodbye. Then she turned back to continue chatting and laughing cheerfully with her friends. I stood and watched until they disappeared into the shadows. A waft of cool air passed, and I felt a sense of hope.

From that day forward, Lukkate’s political activism continued to intensify. We still chatted, but less so than before.  Then, on the day that she was arrested by soldiers when she ate sandwiches in opposition to the coup, she asked me to appear as her guardian. She did not want her parents to know what had happened.

In 2015, she was frequently missing from the classroom and doing activism instead. But she finished her studies. She took her final exam on 22 May and then, with no time to change out of her student uniform, she went to express resistance to the coup in front of the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center (BACC). This time though, a police notice was sent to her house and her parents severely reprimanded her.

She told me that, “Being arrested does not bother me at all. Being rebuked by my parents is far more upsetting.”

A few days later, she left home and went to stay with friends. She told me that on 24 June, the students planned to file a complaint at the Pathumwan police station against the police officers who used violence against them at the BACC. And then she and her friends really and truly did so.

On the evening of 26 June, I was out at a meeting outside Bangkok. Lukkate texted and asked me to call her and so I did. Her voice was cheerful and held not even a trace of fear. She asked me, “Do I have to go in person to receive my diploma? I want to quickly go get it and keep it with me.” I recommended this and that to her and we said goodbye. A few minutes after we hung up, she was arrested.

I no longer know what else to say at this moment other than:

“Release Lukkate and her friends! They have done nothing wrong!”

Source: จากครูถึงศิษย์ 'ธิกานต์ ศรีนารา' เขียนถึง 'ลูกเกด' นักศึกษาหญิงที่ถูกคุมขังในทัณฑสถานหญิง


Translated by Tyrell Haberkorn.

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Rachata Thongruay
On 25 June, the Democracy Monument was once again the venue of a political movement. The New Democracy Movement (NDM), led by the 14 embattled anti-coup activists from Bangkok and Khon Kaen, gathered at the Monument to declare their stance against dictatorship and urged the Thai junta to return democracy to Thailand. Around 100 people joined this rally. The event was a reminder of the popular uprising in 14 October 1973, when the gathering of students and people at the Monument led to the end of the military dictatorship of Thanom Kittikachorn. The Democracy Monument has always been part of the struggle for democracy in Thailand.
 
Nevertheless, interpreting the Democracy Monument as a symbol of democracy is a controversial subject. Since 2010, both pro- and anti-establishment groups, the so-called yellow shirts and red shirts, claimed that they support democracy (and the other side does not), and both liked to stage rallies close to the Democracy Monument. Even the anti-election People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) used the Democracy Monument as its rally venue to affiliate itself with the symbol of democracy. 
 
The red shirts gather at the Democracy Monument on 10 October 2010
 
The PDRC rallies at the Democracy Monument on 22 December 2013. Photo courtesy of Matichon Online
 
Another living symbol that has been used and appropriated by both sides of the Thai political conflict is the Khana Ratsadon mark. This is a metal mark, embedded on the surface of the Royal Plaza, Dusit, Bangkok. It is a memorial to the forced change from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy 83 years ago. The so-called Siamese Revolution on 24 June 1932 was followed by the abdication of King Rama VII. 
 
At about 6 am on 24 June at the Royal Plaza, a group of anti-establishment, anti-junta activists and poets came to polish and decorate the mark. Four days before, a pro-establishment group came to the mark and attempted to destroy it by holding a black magic ceremony. There were also attempts to cover the mark with asphalt by an anonymous group.
 
The Khana Ratsadorn mark is decorated with flowers on 24 June 2015.
 
Sombat Boonngam-anong, an embattled pro-democracy activist also known as Nuling and Polka Dot Editor, said that the ceremony has been held at the mark only in the past few years after Thailand has been divided by colours. Nevertheless, because the ceremony organizers have never explained or communicated the story behind the symbol to the people, the symbol of the Siamese Revolution is not as powerful as it should be. 
 
The Democracy Monument is a strong symbol and was used many times because the picture of the monument is seen on every work concerning democracy, including children’s textbooks, Sombat said.
 
Puangthong Pawakapan, an associate professor at the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, said that nobody could monopolize the meaning of symbols. Even in academic circles, the Khana Ratsadon mark is still a debatable subject between the pro-democracy view and the pro-establishment view. 
 
Puangthong commented about the Democracy Monument that nowadays every movement claims to be democratic. The Democracy Monument can easily signify that a movement is democratic and their action is righteous. So every movement, whether the Redshirts in 2010 or the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) in 2013-14, used the Monument as their venue.
 
Symbolic acts have also had an important role in the anti-coup movements in Thailand over the past years. A lot of symbols were developed and used as expressions of opinion. There is the Three-finger Salute, a popular anti-junta symbol derived from The Hunger Games movies. There are Sandwiches for Democracy and eating at McDonald's at Ratchaprasong intersection. Some gathered to read the dystopian classic 1984, along with playing La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, in public. Less subtle acts are exemplified by holding placards, and wearing t-shirts with the slogans ‘Peace Please’ or ‘Respect My Vote’. As most of the users of symbols are apprehended and detained, still more symbols are developed and more symbolic acts are performed.
 
Puangthong said that symbols are used because they make it easy to communicate.  Furthermore, symbols convey both ideas and emotions and it is easy to use the body as a symbolic gesture.
 
“In a place that does not allow space for discussion, symbols allow people who share the same ideas to communicate,” said Puangthong. 
 
Sombat said that symbols are an esoteric form of communication. It is limited to those who already know the meaning. The symbols spread when people who are curious go find out the meaning. 
 
Sombat said that expressing a defining idea by symbolic acts is generally safer. By suppressing expression on politics, the current military regime is unintentionally forcing people to express their ideas through symbols. 
 
Although symbols are quick and concise, they also have limits. Symbols cannot communicate details or explain ideas clearly. Therefore, many political movements have both symbols and expressions of their ideas. 
 
“The junta is like a giant who wants to sustain its power. So they stopped both symbols and discussions.” Puangthong said.
 
Sombat said using symbols and expressing ideas must be coordinated. “They are each other’s tools.” They also need to be coordinated with the social context.  The three-finger salute was once a powerful symbol in Thailand, nowadays it has become a cliché and the police are apathetic about it.  Sombat concludes that symbolizing is to put meanings and strong emotions into one picture so that the symbol is powerful enough to shaken the authorities.
 
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Asaree Thaitrakulpanich
A red-shirt bomb suspect in the March Criminal Court bombing condemns the police’s dismissal of his torture allegations as “unfair and unlawful.” 
 
Sansern Srioonreun, a red-shirt accused of involvement in the 7 March Criminal Court bombing, was captured and held in military detention under martial law in early March. He claimed he was beaten repeatedly on his torso and electrocuted on his thigh over thirty times. 
 
The Metropolitan Police Bureau released on 13 May a report into torture allegations of Sansern on stating that the cause of Sansern’s bruises on his torso could not be determined. The bruises could be from any sort of blunt object impact or even an accidental falling, said the report.
 
The police investigator goes on to claim that that Sansern’s torture allegations are “unfounded” due to three reasons: “Sansern’s testimony that he was not harmed, the medical reports, and photos taken of Sansern during the medical check ups.”
 
Sansern claims the police investigation was unlawful, since it ignored medical reports of his checkups on 15 and 18 March by prison medical staff which clearly state the multiple burn marks 0.6 cm in diameter along his upper right thigh. 
 
In early April, Prachatai found that Sansern has bruises on his upper torso and arms, as well as burn marks on his upper right thigh. Suspiciously, the police investigation does not mention any burn mark wounds, only his bruises. Furthermore, the copy of the medical reports obtained by Prachatai clearly mention the burn marks. 
 
In his refuting letter sent to Metropolitan Police Bureau, Sansern claims that his testimony given during his stay in the Bangkok Remand Prison about being unharmed was a misunderstanding. He thought the document he signed stated that he was not assaulted by prison staff, not military officers. In fact, he was assaulted and electrocuted by “men in military uniform.”
 
Sansern said dismissal of the medical reports indicate police being extremely remiss in neglecting to mention the burn marks. 
 
The 54-year old red shirt says a fair investigation would be a “great kindness” to him and his family, because he, an aging man, had endured “extremely harsh physical and mental abuse.” 
 
The bomb suspect is urging for Pol Maj Gen Srirah Rangsiprahomkul, to oversee a reinvestigation.
 
Sansern, a red-shirt activist and suspect in the Criminal Court bombing on 7 March, claims he was tortured during his interrogation after he was captured on 9 March. 
 
Nevertheless, Sansern continues to stand firm on his allegations of torture. He claims that military officers cuffed his hands behind his back, covered his eyes with a black cloth and his head with a plastic bag. Sansern claims officers punched him in the face, base of the sternum, and ribs, and trampled on him repeatedly. Officers also took off Sansern’s pants and electrocuted him on his upper right thigh at least forty times, Sansern said to Prachathai. He insists he only received a medical check up from the prison medical staff eight days later, on 18 March. 
 
Despite the alleged physical and verbal abuse, Sansern did not confess to involvement in the bombing and was released. 
 
Sansern is one of the 14 suspects in the Criminal Court bombing and one of the four accused, which include Sansern, Chanwit Jariyanukul, Norapat Lueapol, and Wichai Yoosuk, who have appealed to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights for torture allegations under martial law detention.
 
Since the 2014 coup, political prisoners arrested by the junta have been accusing military officers of alleged torture methods during interrogation. For example, red-shirt activist Kritsuda Khunasen, who was detained for over 20 days in June 2014, claims she was beaten, suffocated, and sexually harassed. The UN inquiry into her allegations has been ignored by the junta. 
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50 delegates from 10 ASEAN countries along with China, the United States and Russia, attended a seminar in North Pattaya on Tuesday to discuss international cooperation with infectious disease control. Military Medical Experts attended the seminar at the A1 Royal Cruise Hotel which was chaired by Police Lieutenant General Dr. Dairort, Director of the Royal […] Read more...

Experts on energy, state officials, and entrepreneurs in southern Thailand call on the Thai authorities to scrap a plan to build a coal-fired power plant in the region, saying that the lucrative tourism industry could suffer in a long run.

Transborder News reported that many energy experts, environmental activists, state officials, and business owners in the southern province of Krabi on Monday, 29 June 2015, participated in ‘Andaman Talk: 300 Billion Baht Disaster of Tourism Industry from Coal’, a discussion on the possible impacts of the proposed coal-fired power plant in the province.

Since early 2014, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has proposed a plan to build a controversial 60 billion Baht (about 1.8 billion USD) coal-fired power plant with 870 megawatts (MW) capacity and a coal seaport adjacent to it in Nua Khlong District of Krabi Province.     

The plan is favorably viewed by the junta. However, it is much criticised by many environmental groups the local residents who fear future environmental impacts from the plant. According to Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, the power plant will guarantee Thailand’s energy security.

On 28 May 2015, he complained “in the future if there is no electricity then don’t complain. Don’t complain if the electricity bill goes up. I would like to make it clear now that if you do nothing then just don’t complain”.   

At the discussion on Monday, Amarit Siripornjutakul, the presendent of the Tourism Industry Council of Krabi Province, said that the tourism sector in Thailand should galvanise effort in opposing the construction of the proposed power plant because it might has serious impacts on the province’s pristine coastal areas, which draws in billions of Baht of revenue from tourists annually.   

He mentioned that unlike the neighboring Malaysia which has made environmental conservation a priority in order to draw in more tourists, Thailand is losing its competitiveness in the tourism industry in the region because of the weak environment protection frameworks.

Wattana Thanasakcharoen, the president of the Southern Thailand Commerce Chamber, pointed out at the seminar that the tradeoff in energy security and the possible impacts that it might has on the environment is not worthwhile.

Wattana added that Krabi’s revenue accounts for about 10.7 per cent of the national GDP most of which comes from the lucrative tourism industry of the province. Therefore, the government’s claim that the coal-fired power plant would be a good investment for the development of the regional industries is a lie.

At the end of the discussion, 13 organisations, such as the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) and the provincial commerce chambers of Krabi, Phuket, and Phangnga Province read a joint statement to campaign that the government should choose the regional tourism industry over the coal-fired power plant.

“The government must choose between the preservation of the beautiful Andaman Coast that the world is jealous of to keep 300 billion Baht worth of revenue from the tourism industry and the coal-fired power plant which the rest of the world is now closing,” said the group’s statement.

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A group of almost 300 academics denounced the junta’s arrest of 14 anti-junta activists, mostly university students, as “barbaric.”
 
The Network of Academics Concerned about Arrested Students, consisting of educators from all across Thailand, declared in a statement released Tuesday, June 30, that “only a tyrant would react using brute force and enforcement of barbaric laws on students using their citizens’ rights to call for reinstatement of internationally-held values and governance.”
 
The statement praises the activists’ pro-democracy protests over the past month, saying that they are “bravely fulfilling their roles as students in creating a true democracy for Thai society.” Moreover, the group denounces the arrest as “unlawful and illegitimate, since the junta is unlawful and illegitimate in the first place.” Finally, the report calls for the immediate release of the activists without condition.  
 
On 26 June, the military issued arrest warrants for the 14 activists of the anti-junta Neo Democracy Movement. They are charged with the disturbing peace and/or violating NCPO Order No. 3/2558 which bans any political gathering of more than five. The activists are currently detained at Bangkok Remand Prison. (See the timeline of events relating to the NDM here.)
 
The Network of Academics Concerned about Arrested Students currently consists of 281 educators and counting. The Network includes notable academics from local and foreign universities such as Chulalongkorn, Thammasat, Chiang Mai, Burapha, Mae Fah Luang, Silapakorn, Ramkamhaeng, Columbia, and the University of Sydney. 
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KOH SAMUI, Thailand – June 29, 2015 – Conrad Koh Samui has taken part in Careers@Hilton Live: Youth in Hospitality Month, Hilton Worldwide’s largest ever global career event showcasing to young people, the many opportunities available in the hospitality industry. Throughout the month, Hilton Worldwide hotels and corporate offices around the globe are hosting hundreds […]

The post Conrad Koh Samui Joins Hilton Worldwide Largest Global Career Event appeared first on Samui Times.

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Rehabilitation centers, clinics and facilities conjure up many different images for many different people. For some the vision is some sort of concentration camp where you are under constant surveillance and lock-down, some may envisage something akin to a mental hospital with aggressive staff in white coats, some may think of some sort of new […]

The post Samui addiction clinic attracting guests from around the globe appeared first on Samui Times.

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United Nations Human Rights Office for South East Asia (OHCHR)
BANGKOK (30 JUNE 2015) - The United Nations Human Rights Office for South East Asia (OHCHR) urges the Government to promptly drop criminal charges against students who have been arrested in Bangkok for peacefully demonstrating in public and release them from custody. It further urges the Government to review its use of laws that limit freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in line with its obligations under international human rights law.
 
On  26 June, police and soldiers arrested 14 students in Bangkok based on a warrant  issued  by  the military court for allegedly inciting unrest under section  116  of  the  Criminal Code. The charges relate to a demonstration held  by  the  students  at  the  Democracy Monument in Bangkok on 25 June. Section 116 carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
 
The  students  already  had  arrest warrants issued against them for having conducted  peaceful  demonstrations  in  Bangkok and Khon Kaen on 22 May to mark the first anniversary of the coup d’état, allegedly in breach of Order No.  3/2015  of  the  National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The NCPO Order  prohibits  political  gatherings  of  more  than  five people with a maximum sentence of six months in prison.
 
Another  two  students appeared at the military court in Bangkok on 29 June for   breaching   the   NCPO   order   for  participating  in  the  22  May demonstrations. One reported himself to the police on 22 June and was later released  on  bail.  The  other student was arrested at hospital based on a warrant while she was receiving medical treatment.
 
As  a  state  party  to  the  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,  Thailand  has  the  obligation  to  uphold the right to freedom of expression  (article  19)  and  the  right  to freedom of peaceful assembly (article 21). Although both articles allow the rights to be restricted, any restriction  has  to  be  by  law,  necessary  for a legitimate purpose and proportional  to  achieve  the  need.  OHCHR  is  concerned  that  criminal prosecutions  for  peaceful  assembly and expression that carry long prison terms are not necessary or proportional.
 
On  23  May  2014,  a  day  after  the coup d’état, the United Nations High Commissioner  for Human Rights publicly expressed serious concern about the restrictions  on  fundamental  freedoms  imposed  by  the NCPO, adding that freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are particularly important in resolving  difficult political issues through dialogue and debate. Now more than one year on, despite pledges by the Government to promptly restore the rule of law, restrictions on fundamental freedoms remain in place.
 
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An Australian family appealing for urgent assistance in locating two backpackers who were in the popular Green Mango Club on the 9th of June 2014 hopes newly received iphone footage help with their search. On the night in question Jack-Hansen-Bartel was attacked, his family is now requesting world-wide help from the public in locating two […]

The post Family appeals for URGENT assistance in locating two witnesses to a crime in Koh Samui appeared first on Samui Times.

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BANGKOK, 30 June 2015: Professional Tourist Guide Association of Thailand says the Department of Tourism should delay a plan to dress all registered guides in Thailand in uniforms. Last Friday, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ Department of Tourism announced it would introduce uniforms to help identify registered guides and add more pressure on those […] Read more...

The online community has been buzzing recently with the discovery ancient wreckage buried on Ban Thai beach. Some guess that it’s a World War II warship; some say it’s a ship’s mast, and some think it’s a chimney of a ship’s boiler. However, everyone agrees on one thing, and that is they want the authorities […]

The post 100 Year old wreckage found buried in the sand on a Koh Samui Beach appeared first on Samui Times.

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European Union
The European Union Delegation issues the following statement in agreement with the EU Heads of Mission in Thailand.
 
Bangkok, 30 June 2015 – The arrests of 14 students on the basis of charges brought against them for peacefully demonstrating on 22 May is a disturbing development.
 
The EU believes in the right of all to express peacefully their opinions and calls upon the Thai authorities to abide by Thailand's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms must be upheld, and military courts should not be used to try civilians.
 
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Despite the risk of being sent to seven years in jail by the military court and harassments from the Thai junta, the 14 embattled anti junta activists, most of them university students, from the Neo Democracy Movement (NDM) still stand firm on their demand for democracy against the Thai military regime. 
 
The 14 are: 
1 Rangsiman Rome
2 Wason Setthasit
3 Songtham Kaewpanpruk
4 Phayu Boonsopon
5 Apiwat Soontararak
6 Rattapon Supsopon
7 Supachai Phuklongploy
8 Abhisit Suebnapa
9 Panupong Sritananuwat
10 Suwicha Pitangkorn
11 Pakorn Areekul
12 Jatupat Boonpattararaksa
13 Pornchai Yuanyee
14 Conticha Jangreaw 
 
The following is the timeline of the struggle for democracy of the fourteen activists. 
 

See larger image

 

22 May 2015

Students gathered in two places in Thailand (Bangkok and Khon Kaen) to stage peaceful protests to commemorate the first anniversary of the coup when the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) took control of Thailand on 22 May 2014.
 
In Bangkok, anti-coup activists and students faced a crackdown by police (in uniform and plain-clothes) in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC), leaving at least 3 injured and hospitalized. The police detained 37 activists after the clash. Over 100 people then gathered in front of Pathumwan Police Station to give moral support to the detainees. 8 anti-coup activists were summoned to hear charges, but only one reported to the police and was released on bail. 
 
Meanwhile, in Khon Kaen, 7 student activists from the student-led human rights and environmental group Dao Din also held a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the coup d’état. They too were detained by the police for their peaceful act at the Democracy Monument in Khon Kaen. The students were released on bail the next day.
 
19 June 2015
 
3 Dao Din students were arrested and detained for drawing paintings with anti-coup messages.
 
24 June 2015
 
Student activists showed up in Samyan District of Bangkok, near Pathumwan Police Station, to bring charges against police for using unnecessary force to crack down on activists' peaceful commemoration of the coup's first anniversary in front of the BACC. They were later joined by Dao Din students who arrived to show moral support. Together they read a manifesto of the Neo Democracy Movement and called on people to join the movement.
 
The police refused to accept charges brought by the activists. 
 
After the crowd dispersed at night, one female activist was arrested on her way home, but then released after the officer talked to his supervisor.

25 June 2015

Officers and undercover police surrounded Suan Nguen Mee Ma, while activists read a statement showing resistance to the coup and military edicts. They said they would not resist officers if they are to be arrested. They also called for action in front of the Democracy Monument in Bangkok at 17:00.
 
26 June 2015
 
The military court had issued arrest warrants for 14 activists of the Neo Democracy Movement. They are charged with disturbing social peace and/or causing social conflict and/or violating NCPO Order No. 3/2558 which bans any political gathering of 5 or more persons. These 14 activists are the same activists who were previously detained on 22 May 2015.
 
At 17:15, 14 activists were arrested (for provoking or stirring up unrest in society, violating Articles 116 and 83 of the Criminal Code) and brought to Phra Ratchawang Police Station. They were now detained at Bangkok Remand Prison.
 
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Khaosod English: Three people have reportedly been arrested for their suspected connection to a brief pro-democracy demonstration in front of the United States Consulate in northern Thailand today. 

Around ten masked activists gathered in front of the US Consulate in Chiang Mai province this afternoon and held signs pledging their support for human rights, democracy, and non-violence. 

The consulate was presumably chosen as the location for the rally because of the US government’s criticism of the 2014 May coup and the junta’s ongoing suppression of civil rights. 

Read full story from Khaosod English

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The Thai Military Court sent an anti-junta transgender student activist to face sexual harassment in male prison before releasing her.  

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), on Monday noon, 29 June 2015, the staff judge advocate of the Military court of Bangkok indicted Natchacha Kongudom, a well known transgender anti-junta student activist and Tatchapong Kaedum, her fellow activist.

The two were indicted for breaking the Thai junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s Order No. 3/2015, an order which gives military officers full power to maintain national security, for participating in a gathering to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état in downtown Bangkok on 22 May.

After the indictment, the military court sent the two to Bangkok Remand Prison before granting bail under 10,000 Baht surety to the anti-junta activists and released them.

For Natchacha, however, the court sent her to face sexual harassments in the male compound of Bangkok Remand Prison before the release despite the fact that she has already had a sexual reassignment operation.

Natchacha, an anti-junta student activist, in front of Bangkok’s Military Court on 29 June 2015 (courtesy of TLHR)

Natchacha said that she felt extremely uncomfortable while she had to undergo physical examination in the male prison compound whose staff were all male.

She added that she felt sexually harassed by the prison staffs who performed the examination on her while she was forced to reveal her body during the examination and by other male inmates who verbally harassed her.

Prior to being sent to Bangkok Remand Prison, Natchacha asked the military court to send her to female prison instead because she is a transwoman. However, the court lifted the request, saying that in accordance to the law the suspect is still ‘male’ and there is no law, which stipulates that transwomen are female in Thailand.

According to the Coalition on Democracy and SOGIE Rights (CDSR), the court’s decision is against the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which states that the dignity and rights of LGBT shall be protected under custody.

“In cases which LGBT persons are under detention, the detained must be protected under custody in accordance to their sexual and gender identifications and that in any circumstance transwomen should not face physical examination performed by male prison staffs,” CDSR wrote in it’s statement.

On 24 June, Natchacha was arrested while she was hospitalised by security officers in plainclothes and brought to the Pathumwan Police Station in central Bangkok for interrogation together with the 14 anti-junta student activists, who are now under custody.

In December 2014, two men who were thought to be military officers in plainclothes assigned to follow her threaten her with rape at the human rights event.

 

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A brand new monthly publication has hit the newsstands of Pattaya and promises to be the most informative publication aimed at Tourists that Pattaya has ever seen. To celebrate the launch of the “Buzzin Lifestyle” magazine, Buzzin Media Group, which incorporates Pattaya One, invited over 100 children from the Ban Jing Jai Orphanage onto Pattaya’s […] Read more...
John Draper

The story of embattled human rights activist Sombat Boonngam-anong, aka Nuling or the Polka Dot Editor, is now reaching the international media. Currently being persecuted by the Thai state in what has become an absolute military dictatorship due to General Prayut invoking Section 44 of the Interim Charter, Sombat is facing approximately five charges, including the possibility of lèse majesté (Section 112).

General Prayut himself has hypothesized that Sombat’s latest venture, selling rice, is politically motivated, with the assumption appearing to be that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is funding his venture. An obsession with a plot is characteristic of this government due to its (hopefully unintentional) fascist tendencies, as explained here. However, it should be pointed out that Sombat used to host TV shows on the Peace TV channel, which used to be the UDD Channel, which was connected to Thaksin.

But, how is the concept of selling rice in itself subversive? What Sombat is doing is buying rice direct from farmers, bagging it in a small operation under the Polka Dot brand, and then selling it. What appears to be so rebellious is buying rice at 15,000 baht per ton, as under the Yingluck rice scheme of a guaranteed minimum price, and then running a form of social enterprise which cuts out the middle men, i.e., the rice mills and the bureaucracy (Ministry of Agriculture etc.) and selling direct to customers.

At the same time, bag deliverers are being paid 15 baht per bag above the going wage. The above-market price combined with an above-market delivery per bag payment are the two aspects of the venture which make it a social enterprise, therefore falling into the same category as the Doi Kham brand founded by His Majesty the King, rather than pure capitalism.

Colonel Sansern Keawkamnerd, the NCPO’s spokesman, has suggested Polka Dot Rice buy all the rice from all the farmers and therefore take over the management of the country’s main agricultural product. This appears to be an attempt at ridicule. But, why shouldn’t all Thailand’s rice be sold as a social enterprise using direct-to-customer marketing?

There are two main groups who may be not particularly happy with this idea. The first is the rice millers and silos owners, who have their own associations and have traditionally served as middle men. They are mainly ethnic Sino-Thais who had few opportunities when Thailand was still called Siam to find employment other than in state-mandated occupations, including rice trading. However, there would still be a need for their services – except that instead of the government paying for them to mill and store rice, the farmers’ associations would do it.

The other group which may be unhappy with this idea would be corrupt officials who make money from monitoring, supervising, and adding red tape to each movement and transaction involving the rice. However, is that not one of the problems that the dictatorship is trying to solve?

But, what about the fact that farmers’ associations are not market experts? The answer is for the farmers’ associations to hire domestic and international rice traders who know what they are doing. In other words, the workers hire the management instead of the management hiring the workers.

Gradually, you have a completely new economic model. Traditionally, at the bottom of the food chain are the farmers, the poorest ones being mainly Thai Lao people farming marginal land affected by all sorts of problems such as salination and over-use of pesticides. In this model, supply is dictated by the state. But, if the farmers operate cooperatively and democratically elect the leaders of their farmers associations - which many already do - who then directly buy in experts to manage the interface with buyers ranging from individuals to companies, thereby cutting out the state, you have the basis of economic democracy.

Some may state that this sounds like communism. However, it is not. A communist state would, via a central bureaucracy, dictate supply, manipulate demand and direct by committee all economic operations via a single party. The fact that the Thai state already controls the supply of rice is, in fact, an aspect of socialism - the command economy - which has sometimes been borrowed by forms of authoritarian government, particularly in developing countries. But, Thailand’s economy overall also has a large private sector, which is why it is a hybrid economy. And, introducing economic democracy in one sector will not change Thailand’s model from being a hybrid one overnight.

The role that Sombat has created for himself as a social entrepreneur is along the right lines. However, he is still essentially a manager hiring staff. And, the thinking is too small, which is why Colonel Sansern Keawkamnerd’s suggestion for Sombat to think bigger is, in fact, an excellent one. Obviously, there is no quick fix for Thailand’s rice problems. The agricultural sector poses socio-political and ethnic questions of concern to all Thais. But, the Colonel should advise General Prayut to start the process towards economic democracy via disintermediation – cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy – immediately.

The farmers and their representative associations should then directly hire talented people like Sombat to put together a management team in order to negotiate what bureaucracy remains and create a business plan. Then, the associations’ hired management, now responsible to the associations, who become the Board of Directors, function as an executive. This executive obtains loans from organizations such as the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives and forges business partnerships. Through this process, the farmers’ associations can supervise the milling, storing, marketing and then selling of their rice, potentially via online platforms for mass sales such as alibaba.

Mistakes will be made, managers will be fired, and things will go wrong. So yes, it may need some regulation, and it should definitely involve independent auditing and state insurance against disasters. But at this stage in the game, there is nothing to lose from the military supporting an approach which allows farmers to take control of their own lives and futures.

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