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Human Rights Watch talks protests, democracy and foreigners attending protests

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The Thaiger spoke to Brad Adams, the Asia Director for Human Rights Watch about some of the challenges of the current Thai government and the protests that are showing no signs of abating.

Do you think the student movement, alone, will be enough to press the Thai government to make meaningful changes?

The students are playing a leading role in the protests but they have plenty of support from urban community groups, lawyers, NGO activists, farmers groups, trade unions and many others – and importantly, that solidarity for the students’ call for political reform is growing. This is the heart of the students’ strategy to move from a movement of “Free Youth” to a wider coalition of “Free People” who will have both the depth and experience to carry the campaign forward.”

The fact they are succeeding is shown by the reaction of the authorities to arrest various activists like the secretary-general of the Assembly of the Poor, which is an organisation with the potential to mobilize groups across the country. The authorities’ resorting to abusive tactics explain why it is so important to demand basic civil and political rights – such as the right to peaceful, public assembly and freedom of expression – be respected.

How far do you think the protesters will be “allowed” to go before the police and army crackdown or violently break up the demonstrations?

Any action by the police or army to resort to violence against the students would be a massive mistake that would likely cause even larger demonstrations. A military government in October 1973 tried to arrest and abuse student leaders, and more than a million Thais turned out at Sanam Luang and Democracy Monument to successfully demand, and win, an end to a 10 year dictatorship.

It’s worth recalling that 1973 mobilisation was years before there was an internet or social media. The Thai government appears to recognise they are on a political tightrope and cracking down too hard on the students could result in the situation getting out of their control. So for now, we’re expecting more of the same tactics of arresting leaders, and harassing efforts to mobilise people, but no larger crackdown or violence yet.

How would Human Rights Watch like to see democracy in Thailand progress? How could it happen under the current regime and politicians?

Human Rights Watch is first and foremost concerned with ensuring the Thai government respects human rights, and calling out the authorities when they fail to do so. How the Thai people reform their democracy is really up to them, as is the question of who is in the room to negotiate constitutional reforms and changes in laws and regulations.

Our yardstick is article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Thailand, which sets out that people shall have the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs and have elections. But it’s worth noting that arbitrarily dissolving political parties like the Future Forward Party on contrived, bogus grounds is not democratic or rights respecting, nor was allowing a military junta to hand-pick unelected Senators who can block reforms without any accountability to the people.

Are the students wandering into dangerous territory by involving the Thai monarchy in their list of changes they are demanding?

Freedom of expression should not be truncated just because the topic of the monarchy comes up. Governments aren’t permitted to violate human rights just because they unilaterally designate a particular issue as somehow ‘sensitive.’ The students should be able to discuss, debate, and put forward their demands as they see fit, and the government should not unilaterally dismiss them just because they are not happy with what the students want.

How this plays out will have implications not just for the reputation of the Thai government but also for the monarchy as well.

Should foreigners get involved in Thai politics? Some people would say it’s “none of our business”.

Foreigners who live and work in Thailand, or who have settled in the country and have Thai spouses and families, have the same rights to speak out on issues that affect their lives as anyone else. Basic civil and political liberties are not limited by nationality. To claim otherwise is to play into an unfortunate trend of increased xenophobia that has been on the rise in Thailand since the military coup in 2014.

More about that last issue HERE.

Human Rights Watch talks protests, democracy and foreigners attending protests | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Brad Adams, the Asia Director for Human Rights Watch

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    August 28, 2020 at 5:27 pm

    Well put.
    And I hope the police do turn violent, because when darling student Nang gets a police baton over her head, the next protest will include her parents, and her brothers.
    The government are only enduring disapproval at the moment. They need rocks thrown through the government premises to drive them out.

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Protests

5 protesters to be charged over a rally in front of the Thai Army’s headquarters

The Thaiger

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5 protesters to be charged over a rally in front of the Thai Army’s headquarters | The Thaiger

With impeccable timing, Nang Loeng police have summoned 5 protest leaders to appear before the Special Prosecutor’s Office at the Dusit District Court in Bangkok. They will be formally charged over their roles in a protest in front of the Army’s headquarters on July 20. At the time it followed an online exchange from an Army official criticising the students who had been protesting at the Democracy Monument days before.

The protest targeted Colonel Nusra Vorapatratorn, deputy spokesperson of the Army. Posting on her Facebook page about the Saturday protest, the Colonel said that rally’s participants should “focus on doing their jobs rather than joining the protest.” The Colonel later deleted the social media post.

Another army spokesman, Colonel Winthai Suvaree, spoke to the media at the time and stated that Nusra “had expressed her personal opinion” and that “she is no longer the deputy spokesperson”.

After protesting outside the Army over the contents of the post, 5 protest leaders face official charges of “violating the Emergency Decree, the Traffic Act and use of loudspeakers in public without permission. The 5 protagonists facing charges are human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Piyarath “Toto” Jongthep, Suwanna Tarnlek and Panupong Jardnok (Mike Rayong).

All 5 deny the charges and say they will defend their roles in court.

The charges follow a weekend of protests, with up to some 30,000 people gathering in the Bangkok rain to rally against the government and confirm a 10-point manifesto which includes demands to reform Thai politics and the country’s monarchy. Specially the demands include the dissolution of the Thai parliament, standing down of the current PM and a new constitution to replace the 2017 Thai charter.

Today the Fine Arts Department has also says it will file charges of “trespassing on an archaeological site” after protesters yesterday embedded a symbolic brass plaque to replace another plaque that dates back to the 1932 Siam Revolution (when a bloodless coup overthrew the ‘absolute monarchy’ in Thailand). That plaque mysteriously disappeared in 2017.

The protesters responded this afternoon by saying that Sanam Luang is not an archaeological site, but a “public space for recreation and for vendors and hawkers”.

Following on from the support of the crowd over the weekend, the protesters are planning to stage another protest in front of Parliament this Thursday. A House debate on constitutional amendments is due to start this Wednesday.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Thailand

Protesters’ plaque damaged historical site – Thai Fine Arts Department

Caitlin Ashworth

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Protesters’ plaque damaged historical site – Thai Fine Arts Department | The Thaiger
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The Thai Fine Arts Department claim the pro-democracy protesters, who installed a symbolic brass plaque in an area next to the Grand Palace yesterday morning, broke the law. The department filed a complaint saying the installation of the plaque damaged a historic site, a violation of the Archaeological Site Act.

Protesters cemented the plaque in the perimeter of the Royal Field, known locally as Sanam Luang. It read “At this place the people have expressed their will, that this country belongs to the people and is not the property of the monarch as they have deceived us.”

Sanam Luang is a registered archaeological site. Entering the area to install a plaque without permission is an offence under the Historical Sites, Archaeological Objects, Art Objects and National Museum Act 1961, according to the department’s director general Prateep Phengtako.

“Those who invade a historic site or destroy or depreciate it can face up to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to 700,000 baht.”

The department says since the plaque was illegally installed at Sanam Luang as part of the weekend’s protests.

“It is considered destruction and depreciation of a historic site.

Less than 24 hours after the plaque was installed, it was removed and covered with concrete. The plaque was to replace a brass plaque that commemorated the end of Siam’s absolute monarchy and the introduction of constitutional democracy for Thailand in 1932. The original plaque mysteriously disappeared in 2017 and was replaced with a new plaque with a pro-monarchist slogan.

The Fine Arts Department made no comment at the time of the removal of the old historical plaque in 2017.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Thailand

Protesters place plaque declaring Thailand “belongs to the people”

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Protesters today have placed a plaque, in the area next to the Grand Palace, declaring Thailand “belongs to the people”. The declaration comes after anti-government sentiment has risen prompting rallies to take place in the capital hoping to oust the government and demand constituional changes. The plaque was cemented in the perimeter of the Royal Field, known locally as Sanam Luang, reading, “At this place the people have expressed their will: that this country belongs to the people and is not the property of the monarch as they have deceived us.”

The provocative wording is likely to elicit a response, probably much the same as the commemorative plaque it replaced, which mysteriously vanished in 2017. The missing plaque, embedded in the Royal Plaza, commemorated the 1932 Siam Revolution when citizens led a bloodless coup against the out-of-country monarch, and declared the new “Thailand” as a constitutional democracy.

The removed plaque was replaced with one bearing a pro-monarchist slogan and remains in place now.

The protests and plaque come despite a long-standing lese majeste law which makes it illegal for anyone to criticise the monarchy or the Royal Family. However, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri noted that the police would not use violence against the protesters, but it was up to them to determine and prosecute any illegal speech.

The protesters swarmed Bangkok’s historic Thammasat University Tha Prachan Campus yesterday calling for the ousting of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, former coup leader and now current PM.

Police stayed back from the protest and didn’t intervene. Police and security wore coloured bandanas tied around their necks and were reportedly unarmed. Neither the police or the Palace has issued a statement in regards to the current events as of yet.

The Thaiger will have a full video report in tomorrow’s Thailand News Today. Here’s the most recent episode.

SOURCE: VOA News

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