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Draft law on NGOs still cause for concern for activism groups

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Many groups could be classified and regulated as an NGO under a proposed law.

Tension continues to build over Thailand’s proposed draft law that broadly defines and strictly regulates NGOs that government officials tout as bringing transparency, but critics say stifle activism and freedom. The Draft Act on the Operations of Not-For-Profit Organisations would broadly define what constitutes an NGO and require many activism organisations and groups that may speak out in opposition to the Thai government to register as an NGO and adhere to the rules of the new law. Groups would register with the Interior Minister and declare funding sources, as well as open themselves to financial audit.

A government spokesperson explained that this law brings transparency and accountability, pointing out that only 87 of the many NGOs operating in Thailand are even registered so most have no oversight. But human rights groups like Amnesty International criticise the law as giving the government overreaching power to restrict activities and funding and investigate groups and members with little oversight and harsh punishments like heavy fines and even jail sentences.

Activists call this pending law a blow against free speech for any group that is critical of the government by defining them as NGOs and pushing arbitrary rules that make roadblocks for their opposition. With pro-democracy protests growing and critics of the current government that took power in a 2014 military coup, a law like this could be abused to stifle growing anti-government sentiment.

By wording the NGO law vaguely, the government leaves the door open to broad enforcement. Sections require compliance to conditions that are not defined in the document at all, leaving room for open interpretation. Violators can be charged up to 100,000 baht and jailed for up to 5 years.

The law was proposed February 23 and was opened to public debate from March 12 until the end of the month before being moved to legislators for eventual approval. Some argue this timeframe was far too short to rush through such a powerful bill.

SOURCE: DW

 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Slugger

    Friday, April 30, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    The NGOs cause problems around the world, most of them American. Ban anything linked to the NED.

  2. Avatar

    Dynamo Dave

    Friday, April 30, 2021 at 4:12 pm

    Reading between the lines of what the govt touts as the reasons for these NGO regs, I can only see a bunch of generals and similar who feel some sort of threat by the freedom of Thais to speak with one another and want to take the army-bully route to eliminating such freedoms.

    They’re tired of sitting round the cabinet table and acknowledging their nil progress on what really matters to Thailand – vaccine provision, of course, having already had their shots . . . they’re now safe from the Corona threat and, seeing another wave of dissent possibly brewing, want to safeguard their arses that way, too. A truly shameful and shameless shower.

  3. Avatar

    Ian

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 5:24 pm

    I have zero respect for the Thai dictators but so much respect for the people This is another way of control ,tale care precious Thailand

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

Politics

Royal Thai police say new uniforms will help in pursuit of criminals

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Stock photo via US National Archives

The Royal Thai Police say new uniforms will help them be more “agile” in their pursuits of criminals. The uniform’s prototype is still under trials and has yet to be launched. The move to change uniforms has been attempted in the past, with tourist police once seeing their usual long-sleeved khaki shirt with shoulder pads and metal badges morph to short-sleeved shirts and blue shorts. But previous modifications to their attires was short-lived.

Somprasong Yenthuam, the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau has been assigned by the police chief to oversee the uniform change this time around. A committee has been formed to study the input gathered from officers across the country, as well as the public. But the police chief wants the new uniforms to be suited to patrol operations with a final decision being made after a 10-day trial period of the uniforms.

The new style of uniform is currently being tested at the 3 police stations of Chakkrawat, Bang Yi Khan and Bukhalo in Bangkok. The trial started on May 3 and will run until this Thursday, with 10 active-duty officers, at the operational level, trying out the new uniforms.

“The three police stations were chosen because they are ready for the trial as the areas under their jurisdiction are fairly large with many residents.”

The uniforms feature a baseball-style cap, which is much lighter than the traditional police helmets, and a shirt with 2 panels. The upper panel is made of khaki while the lower is made from a more breathable fabric which is easy to launder. The new badges are made of cloth, taking into account previous complaints by officers of the badges’ jagged edges injuring them while working. The new pants feature an elastic waistband and multiple pockets. The new shoes are designed for running without causing foot pain.

“The committee has studied police uniforms from around the world before deciding on the prototype. But what is most important is the opinion of police officers who use it, and the public. Whether the proposed new police uniform will convey less power or authority remains to be seen. It is not finalised yet and can still be changed.”

The new uniforms cost around 2,000 baht but Somprasong says the department will use its annual provision to pay for the uniforms without needing to add more money. Krisanaphong Poothakool, an associate professor of criminology and assistant president at Rangsit University, says the new uniform must help officers be more agile.

“However, how the officers perform their duties and behave themselves in public is more important than their uniforms. Changing the uniform will be useless if the officers fail to improve their behaviour.”

Royal Thai police say new uniforms will help in pursuit of criminals | News by ThaigerSOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Thailand

Thailand to remain on US Trade watch list over online piracy and intellectual property violations

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Stock photo by Christin Hume for Unsplash

Thailand is to remain on the US Trade Representative’s watch list as it tackles intellectual property violations and online piracy. Director-general of the Intellectual Property Department, Vuttikrai Leewiraphan, says the USTR made the announcement in its annual report that was released April 30. The report includes findings for more than 100 trading partners after engaging with stakeholders and further research.

“The US government admires the Thai government’s and Commerce Ministry’s progress in preventing IP infringement, the continuous development of IP protection and crackdowns on violations in both the offline and online markets.”

The report indicated that Thailand continues to make progress by seizing counterfeit and pirated goods and has increased efforts to combat the sale of those goods online, and publishing its efforts. It also noted that Thailand increased its efforts against online piracy, through intra-agency coordination, but concerns still remain as counterfeit and pirated goods are still readily available in markets and online.

In addition, the US has urged Thailand to ensure that amendments to its Copyright Act address concerns expressed by the US and other foreign governments and stakeholders, including overly broad technological protection measure exceptions, procedural obstacles to enforcement against unauthorised camcording, and unauthorised collective management organisations.

Vuttikrai has pledged to work with US agencies to build an IP work plan to remove Thailand from all US lists in the future. He said IP rights protections should lead to more Thais benefitting from IP, leading to an increase in the country’s competitiveness and economic development. But he has not released details on the counter-measures to be taken that would ensure the government is continuing to make strides towards addressing the issue of counterfeit and pirated goods even further.

Last year, the USTR released its annual report on Intellectual Property Protection and Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy, with Thailand being included among 22 other countries on the Watch List:

  • Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam

SOURCE: Bangkok Post/USTR.gov

 

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Politics

Deputy PM declares Thammanat Prompow controversy finished

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Thailand's Deputy Agriculture Minister Prompao talks to reporters after a government cabinet meeting in Bangkok (via Reuters)

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam says that the debate is over regarding Thammanat Prompow, the controversial Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives and influential Palang Pracharath Party ‘fixer’.

The Constitutional court has already ruled that he is qualified to hold office under Thai law and will keep his position, though a huge backlash followed the ruling, and the public wondered how his 1993 heroin trafficking conviction in Australia. Then using the name ‘Manat Bophlom’, he was convicted of conspiring to import a traffic able amount of heroin, serving 4 years of a 6 year sentence.

According to Wikipedia, Thammanat parliamentary declaration of assets in August 2019 listed “2 wives, 7 children, and a net worth of about $42 million, including a Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Tesla, and Mercedes-Benz along with 12 Hermès and 13 Chanel handbags, luxury watches, and Thai Buddha amulets.”

Thai law says that no one who has been convicted of an indictable offence is eligible to hold public office, but the new decision seems to imply that anything that happens outside of Thailand’s border does not qualify. A legal expert, the Deputy PM says that this ruling is not in opposition to the rules about convicts holding office.

He says that a conviction by Australia’s New South Wales Court is not legally binding in Thailand and therefore does not disqualify Thammanat. Only a jail sentence from a Thai court would be considered a roadblock to a candidate being confirmed to hold government office.

Thai immigration law, however, determines that convictions in home countries will bar people from entry into Thailand. The decision also calls into question the legitimacy of the Australian/Thailand extradition treaty which saw Thammanat deported back to Thailand after serving 4 years of his 6 year sentence.

But the Council of State had declared that someone in jail for 2 years cannot hold office within 5 years of release, regardless of whether the jailing was in Thailand or in another country. The 4 year jail term Thammanat served in Australia ended in 1997 so the 5-year grace period has already passed.

The Deputy PM says that this ruling by the Constitutional Court does set a new precedent for future issues of possible MP candidates that may have been in trouble with the law outside of Thailand. But he stopped short of supporting Thammanat’s prior conduct unconditionally, declining to comment.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission has been under pressure to investigate Thammanat and whether his conduct has been ethical. The Deputy PM said that the Constitutional Court ruling does not whitewash any other issues Thammanat may face.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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