April gets underway today and all over Southeast Asia, thoughts are turning to how to spend the upcoming holiday as the old year gives way to another new circle. April is also the month when the Sun God ramps up the thermometer from hot to extremely ho... Read more...
Posted in Okategoriserade.
Ambassador Calvert meeting with 
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha
 
BANGKOK - Embassy of Canada press release following bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha
 
H.E. Philip Calvert, Ambassador of Canada to the Kingdom of Thailand, met today (31 March 2015) with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to review key elements of the bilateral relationship, encompassing commercial, political, security and people-to-people ties.  During the meeting, Ambassador Calvert reiterated Canada’s expectation that the Thai military will return Thailand to democratic governance as soon as possible through free and fair elections, and highlighted the importance of a transparent, inclusive and democratic reform process. Ambassador Calvert also raised human rights concerns and urged Thailand to respect its international human rights obligations.
 
Ambassador Calvert noted the considerable potential in bilateral commercial relations and opportunities for expanding two-way trade and investment. 
He stressed the importance of a predictable business climate and the rule of law to current and future trade partners.  He also noted the importance of the ASEAN region to Canada.
 
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BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's prime minister and junta leader has asked the king for formal approval to lift martial law, which the military imposed ahead of a coup last May that overturned an elected government. The monarch's approval is considered a formality. Read more...

The criminal court on Tuesday postponed for a second time the preliminary hearing against a suspect, known as "popcorn gunman" accused of shooting at red shirt protesters during a confrontation between the red shirts and anti-election protesters in February 2014.

According to Matichon Online, Bangkok’s Criminal Court on Tuesday morning granted the prosecutor’s request to postpone the preliminary hearing against Wiwat Yodprasit, the 24 years-old suspect indicted with attempted murder and carrying weapons during the political unrest at Laksi, northern Bangkok, on 2 February 2014.

The preliminary hearing was rescheduled to 18 May because the prosecutor wanted to escalate an attempted murder charge in the case file to murder charge after the death of Akaew Sae-Liew, a 72-year-old street vendor, who was allegedly shot by the suspect.

This is the second time that the preliminary for Wiwat was postponed.

On 19 January, the prosecutor requested the court to reschedule the preliminary hearing on the case because the collection of forensic evidence on the death of Akaew was incomplete.      

Wiwat is accused of being the so-called ‘popcorn gunman’, who used a popcorn sack to conceal an M16 and shot at the anti-establishment red-shirt demonstrators during the confrontation between the red shirts and anti-election People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters on 2 February 2014 at Laksi intersection in Bangkok.

He was arrested by police on 20 March 2014 and was indicted by the prosecutor on 11 June 2014 for murder and carrying weapons and ammunition in public, including breaking the emergency decree which was declared during the political unrest in 2014.

In March 2014, several sources reported that Wiwat confessed during a police press conference that he was the popcorn gunman and the police charged him with illegal possession of weapons and attempted murder. However, according to Khaosod, Wiwat only confessed that he was a PDRC guard.

Contrary to the police findings, Puangthip Boonsanong, the lawyer from the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand (NSPRT), a group allied to the PDRC, claimed that Wiwat was a scapegoat who was tortured by the police into admitting that he was the popcorn gunman. 

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BANGKOK, 31 March 2015: Thai authorities Monday said they would use special powers under junta rule to “urgently” improve airline safety as several carriers face bans on new international flights following concerns raised by a UN aviation agency. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations body, recently reported “significant safety concerns” to Thailand’s […] Read more...
The military court sentenced a red shirt businessman accused of posting messages defaming the monarchy on Facebook to 50 years imprisonment, in camera trial, but the jail term was halved because the suspect pleaded guilty. 
 
The man who wants to remain anonymous, whose given name begins with T and surname with S, was accused of using two Facebook accounts under “Yai Daengdueat” (ใหญ่ แดงเดือด), an anti-establishment red shirt businessman, was found guilty on five counts under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, nicknamed lese majeste law, for posting five messages. 
 
The court sentenced him 10 years for each court. 
 
The verdict was read in camera because the case is related to the revered Thai monarchy and might affect public morale, the court reasoned. 


The man who wants to remain anonymous, whose given name begins with T and surname with S, was accused of using two Facebook accounts under “Yai Daengdueat” (ใหญ่ แดงเดือด) to post five messages deemed to defame the King, according to the police custody petition submitted to the military court on Thursday.  

 
According to the police custody petition submitted to the military court in December 2014, the first alleged message, posted on 25 July, mainly criticized the King’s sufficiency economy. It also compares the Bhutanese monarchy to Thailand’s.
 
The man has been detained at Bangkok Remand Prison for about three months. 
 
The second alleged message talked about a behind-the-scenes story of the coup d’état. It was posted on 13 September.
 
The third message, published in early November, talked about the fate of “Uncle Somchai,” of which the police say “The use of Uncle Somchai is widely known among Internet users and red shirts to refer to His Majesty the King.” Defaming Uncle Somchai is therefore lèse majesté.
 
Other messages attacked the royal projects. 
 
The military arrested the man, 58, and his wife on 18 December. The man was detained for interrogation at a military base in Bangkok for five days, while his wife was detained for one night. The military court issued an arrest warrant on the fifth day of military detention when he was transferred to the custody of the Crime Suppression Division.
 
During the military interrogation, the man confessed and was forced to provide passwords to email and social network accounts.
 
After 48 hours in police custody, the police on Thursday submitted a custody petition to the military court. The family of the suspect also submitted a 400,000 baht bail request.
 
The court, as expected, denied the bail request, saying that the charges carry a high penalty and that the suspect might flee.   
 
The man graduated from a Faculty of Engineering with second class honours and lives in northern Bangkok. 
 
On 25 December, his wife submitted 400,000 baht (12,270 USD) bail for Sira and informed the military court that the suspect never committed any crime before and suffers from sinusitis, allergy, and gastritis. The military court, however, denied bail, citing the severity of the charges and flight risk.    

 

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Bundit Aneeya, a a 74 years-old writer charged with lese majeste for the second time, decided not to plead guilty to the military court and fight the case.  
 
Bangkok Military Court on Tuesday morning held a disposition hearing for a man known by his pen name as Bundit Aneeya, an elderly independent writer and translator who was charged with lese majeste.
 
Bundit, however, pleaded innocent and will fight the case.
 
“I believe that I’m innocent and didn’t do anything wrong,” the defendant told Prachatai.
 
The court scheduled the preliminary hearing for Bundit at 8.30am on 22 June 2015. 
 
Bundit was indicted of offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Crime Code, nicknamed lese majeste law, on 19 February for making comments that allegedly defamed the monarchy during a seminar.
 
Due to the severity of the jail terms given by the military court in lese majeste cases, most of the suspects decided to plead guilty so that the court will reduce the jail term by half. 
 
The seminar, organized by Waranchai Chokchana, was held on 26 November 2014, in Bangkok and was attended by about 15 people. Bundit was arrested at the seminar while he was not even finish his speech.
 
According to the case filed by the prosecutor, the alleged lese majeste comment was made after the panel ended. 
 
“My point is now Thai people are separated into two sides: The one which is in favour of a monarchy which does not abide by the law, as the head of the state,” said Bundit. Then Bundit asked about two choices concerning the monarchy.  "which one...” Bundit was arrested by police before he could finish his sentence. (The phrase in italics is a paraphrase in order to avoid repeating the alleged lèse majesté content.)
 
Bundit has been released on 400,000 baht (12,270 USD) bail due to his age and poor health. He is one of the few lese majeste suspects granted bail by the military court. 
 
The writer, who has been diagnosed with psychosis, has only one kidney and has to carry a urine drainage bag with him all the time. 
 
The old man had earlier been convicted of lese majeste with the jail term suspended due to his mental illness. If convicted again, his jail terms will accumulate. The allegedly lese majeste comment that he made pointed out the general opinion of Thais toward the monarchy.   
 
In February 2014, the self-taught writer and translator, who has written and translated over 30 books, was found guilty by the Supreme Court under Article 112, the lese majeste law, for his comments at a seminar and sentenced to four years in jail, but the jail term was suspended for three years. 
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The Isaan Record

KHON KAEN – In late January, about 250 Northeasterners from six provinces gathered at the conference room of the Petcharat Garden Hotel in Roi Et to participate in the drafting process of Thailand’s twentieth constitution. The military government claims to be seeking citizen participation in drafting the constitution, but these public forums to gather input from Thais across the country seem to be nothing but a false front in the Northeast.

Last November the military government appointed a 36-member committee headed by legal scholar Bavornsak Uwanno from the conservative King Prajadhipok’s Institute (KPI) to draft a new charter. This so-called Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) was given a four-month window to propose a draft before sending it for approval to the National Reform Council (NRC). And Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha stressed that the drafting process would focus on the public’s participation.

In a country that cannot seem to seriously commit to one constitution, the military government’s announcement that it would scrap the 2007 constitution and start anew startled no one. However, their stated commitment to draw input from the voices of everyday Thai citizens seems peculiar for a regime that has suspended all democratic processes and put a lid on public opposition.

 

The logo of the public forums “Finding a Solution for Thailand”.

 

Under the title “Finding a Solution For Thailand: Weaving People’s Power to Reform Thailand” the CDC and the NRC launched a series of public forums to engage citizens. These two-day events toured ten cities across the country, including the three Northeastern provinces of Roi Et, Udon Thani, and Surin.

Early announcements indicated that villagers would be randomly picked through the house registration system. But in Khon Kaen fewer than ten villagers accepted the invitation to join the forum in Roi Et and the bulk of participants were recruited through the personal connections of the organizers. Sompong Pratoomthong, Chairman of the KPI’s Center for Civic Development in Khon Kaen and an organizer of the forums, suggested public interest in the event was low.

At the event in Roi Et, Chairman Wanchai Watanasap urged the attendants to respect each other’s opinions and warned that there cannot be any conflict among the participants. Then he divided the crowd into eight discussion groups and sent them off with a moderator and a notetaker.

In one of the small groups, the moderator kicked off the discussion by asking about the participants’ vision for Thailand after the new constitution was in place. The room remained silent until a young man raised his hand and said, “I don’t want any more coups.” The moderator quickly responded that such concerns would require private conversations with the organisers.

Among the most prominent civil society groups in the Northeast, many are debating the merits of participating in the public forums at all. Some, like Suvit Kulapwong, General-Secretary of NGO CORD Isan, reject the legitimacy of the military-installed government and the charter drafting process.

“They talk about reform, but this is just gibberish. This reform process is not for the people, but for the elites in power who are trying to reorganize their relationships and clear their conflict,” said Mr. Suvit, referring to the prolonged rivalry between the country’s conservative establishment and the camp of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Among those who oppose the constitution drafting process, the belief prevails that without lifting martial law and allowing freedom of expression, there cannot be an open dialogue on the contents of the new charter. Under the current circumstances all participation is to no avail.

“The main point of a democracy is to acknowledge the voices of the people,” said Jakrapong Thanavorapong, an activist working to protect natural resources in Isaan. “We are not participating in the public forums because we don’t believe a new constitution can offer any solutions to the problems in Isaan.”

But Wipattanachai Pimhin, a civil society leader from Khon Kaen’s Nam Phong District, is not convinced that participation is futile. He chose to participate in the public forums. “We are not obeying the military junta, but the forums are the only channel for us and the people to give input to drafting process,” he said. However, he admits that the chances of the CDC considering civil society’s suggestions are low.

Each public forum concludes with a list of suggestions purportedly compiled by the participants to be considered for the constitution. However, some participants in Khon Kaen voiced concerns that the government has already finished drafting a constitution and will ignore public opinion.

Supot Thongnerkhaw, one of six group chairmen of the public forum in Roi Et, said that he has zero hope that any of their suggestions will make it into the constitution. “In my opinion, the whole process is just window-dressing. The CDC and the NRC most likely already have a draft in the drawer. If our suggestions fit in, fine, but if not, they will just ignore them,” Mr. Supot said.

While the forums convey to the public that the constitution drafters are interested in broad-based participation, Titipol Phakdeewanich, Political Scientist at Ubon Ratchathani University, believes their main purpose lies elsewhere. “The goal is to give legitimacy to the drafting process,” Mr Titipol reasons, “so they can show the international community that the constitution is based on popular will.”

Political observers have noted that the CDC is composed of members of the conservative elite who were involved in the drafting of the military-backed 2007 constitution. Some members reportedly participated in or supported last year’s anti-government protest, which raises concerns over the nonpartisanship of the drafting body.

Mr. Titipol argues that the members of the drafting committee mainly represent Thailand’s old generation. He is trying to engage students through public seminars at his university, but many of them believe that their voices do not matter, and they fear potential repercussions from the authorities if they express dissenting opinions.

“There are people in their sixties and seventies writing Thailand’s new constitution, but any drafting process should include younger people. After all, this charter is mainly written for the younger generation. We live in the 21st century and we don’t want see Thailand move backwards in time, do we?”

Source

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Thailand’s northeasterners and the northern ethnic minority group who have been affected by the junta’s forest protection policies urged national rights agencies to take actions in cancelling the junta’s policies and allowing more public participations in forest management.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the committee of rights on land and forest resources from 19-20 March organised a public forum on people’s sustainable forest and land management in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen.

At the forum, about 100 representatives of civil society group of Thailand Northeast, Isan Region, urged Niran Pitakwatchara, a NHRC commissioner and resource rights committee member to suggest to the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to nullify the Order 64/2014 .

In June 2014, the junta issued Order No. 64/2014 to protect and increase the national forest cover, which states that encroachers of protected areas and poachers of illegal forest goods shall face severe legal actions. Nonetheless, according to junta’s Order No. 66/2014, the poor and people who settled on protected areas prior to the enactment of Order 64/2014 shall not be affected.

The group recommended that the policies should be replaced by policies that encourage the establishment of community forests, which would allow communities to protect and utilise resources from the forests sustainably at the same time.

Moreover, the government should establish clear ‘zoning’ in order to divide protected areas which overlap with settlement areas apart from each other, the group added.

According to Pramote Ponpinyo, the coordinator of the Land Reform Network of Isan (LRNI), since the junta’s forest protection policies were enacted, many marginalised communities in the region have been affected by the continuous efforts of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) and the Royal Forestry Department personnel to evict people from protected areas.

He pointed out that the current forest protection policies of the junta is the monopolisation of natural resources by the state that is similar to the forest protection plan in 1992, which faced widespread public opposition and had to be withdrawn.

Santiphap Siriwattanapaiboon, an academic from the Science Faculty of Rajabhat University in the northeastern Ubon Ratchathani Province added at the forum that the centralised state policies on resource management would only fail because they were formulated without local participations and clear understanding the local environment and cultures.  

At a similar forum held in the northern province of Chiang Mai last week, ethnic minority group in northern Thailand submitted a letter to Niran, one of the NHRC commissioners and resource rights committee member, in order to point out that the junta forest protection policies harm their livelihoods.

According to the group, on 26 November 2014, about 50 officers from the Royal Forestry Department arrested a 26 years-old Lisu tribesman in Ban Huay San of Muang District in Chiang Rai Province for possessing illegal logs under junta’s Order No. 64/2014.

The tribesman claimed that he infact inherited the logs from his father for building a new house. However, he had to submitted 30,000 baht bail after his arrest, the group added in the statement.

In another case, officers of Sri Lanna National park in Mae Taeng District of the northern Chiang Mai Province on 17 February confiscated a plot of land which was occupied by a Lisu tribesman. The authorities claimed that the tribesman encroached on protected areas. However, the man said that he had utilised the land plot for 25 years.

According to the NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD) of the Northeast, since last year, 103 small-scale farmers have already been accused of encroaching protected areas and almost 1,800 people in the Northeast have now been prohibited from using their farmland and are about to receive court summons for alleged encroachment.

NGO-COD added that if this trend is allowed to continue, approximately 1.2 million people who are living on land that overlaps protected areas could be affected.

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BANGKOK, 30 March 2015: Bangkok Airways’ outlook brightens as expansion at Samui Airport begins, according to an assessment made by Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation. According to the CAPA report, Bangkok Airways is pursuing expansion at Samui Airport, using some of the additional slots made available after Thai authorities agreed to raise the cap on aircraft movements by almost […] Read more...