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New ‘Progressive Movement’ party plans to take on local elections

Caitlin Ashworth

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New ‘Progressive Movement’ party plans to take on local elections | The Thaiger
PHOTO: time.com

Thailand’s elections may look a bit different as some candidates, who normally campaign in local elections, are banding together to form a new ‘Progressive Movement.’ The move comes despite the Constitutional Court banning its founder, Thanathorn Juangroogruangkit, along with other executives, for 10 years after being involved with the Future Forward Party that was disbanded earlier this year.

The banning hasn’t swayed Thanathorn’s determination to continue the campaign to help Thailand move towards further democratic reform as he is now aligning himself under the new Progressive Movement. He reportedly is planning to field candidates in local elections such as tambon administration organisations and provincial administration organisations. Thanathorn made the announcement in Phuket with many former Future Forward Party members.

“We are in Phuket today to persuade the Phuket people to walk together with us. We will field our candidates in the election of 5,320 TAOs, 76 PAOs, 2,454 municipalities, the BMA and Pattaya City.”

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Nation Thailand

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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Freedom House downgrades Thailand to “not free”

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Freedom House downgrades Thailand to “not free” | The Thaiger

US based Freedom House, a democracy advocacy group, has downgraded Thailand from being “partly free” to “not free” in its latest global rankings. The Freedom in the World 2021 report released this week assigned Thailand a total score of 30 out of 100, dropping from 32 out of 100 in the previous survey conducted in 2019.

Before, Thailand was deemed “not free” in the years of 2017 and 2018, but then was upgraded after elections were held after 5 years of military rule. But, the NGO has deemed the election process to be flawed.

The reasoning for the current downgrade is partly due to the court-ordered dissolution of the Future Forward Party in 2020 and the recent crackdown on pro-democracy groups, which have seen young students being charged with lese majeste, or defaming the monarchy, which is a crime in Thailand. As for the elections that were considered as flawed by Freedom House, the NGO issued a statement explaining their take on the supposedly democratic process.

“The results, announced 6 weeks after the polls, were tainted by irregularities, with ballots ‘lost’, and initial vote tallies changed. Additionally, the formula for distributing party seats was altered after the election in order to reduce seats won by opposition parties and redistribute them to military-aligned parties.”

The report also noted that “a combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy” had provoked the country’s largest anti-government demonstrations in a decade.

“In response to these youth-led protests, the regime resorted to familiar authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse-majesté charges, and harassment of activists.”

“Freedom of the press is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.”

Freedom House rates countries based on 10 political rights issues and 15 civil liberties issues. It gave Thailand 5 out of 40 for political rights and 25 out of 60 for civil liberties in 2020.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand classified as a “not free” country in Freedom House report

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thailand classified as a “not free” country in Freedom House report | The Thaiger
October protest at the Asok-Sukhumvit intersection in Bangkok / Photo by Caitlin Ashworth

On a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being absolute freedom, Thailand scores at 30, a “not free” country, according to the nonprofit Freedom House. Each year, the organisation reviews the political rights and civil liberties of countries around the world. According to their recent assessment, Thailand has declined in terms of rights and liberties, dropping on the scale from “partly free” to “not free.”

The main reason for the drop on the freedom scale, the organisation says, is “due to the dissolution of a popular opposition party that performed well in the 2019 elections, and the military-dominated government’s crackdown on youth-led protests calling for democratic reforms.”

The Future Forward Party was dissolved in February 2020 after the court found that the founder, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, had made a large donation to the party that exceeded the legal limit. The party’s leaders were then banned from politics for the next decade.

Youth-led protests started in February, but the demonstrations were put on pause due to Covid-19 restrictions banning large public gatherings. Protesters gathered in July as restrictions lifted, but some leaders then faced charges for holding a public gathering, which was still banned under emergency orders.

In October, the prime minister imposed what Freedom House calls a “severe” State of Emergency order in Bangkok that banned gatherings of more than 5 people. Some protesters were arrested for violating the order nearly immediately after it was imposed.

With activists pushing for monarchy reform and an end to the military’s involvement in government, raising subjects considered taboo and unprecedented in Thai society, the Thai government has increased its use of the draconian lèse majesté law. Since November, dozens of activists have faced charges for insulting or defaming the Thai Monarchy.

Freedom House scores countries on topics like the electoral process, questioning if politicians and leaders were elected in free and fair elections, as well as freedom of expression and individual rights.

Thailand’s military seized power in 2014 in a bloodless coup. The 2017 constitution was drafted by a committee appointed by the military’s National Council for Peace and Order. In 2019, the country transitioned to what Freedom House calls a “military-dominated, semi-elected” government.

The 2019 elections were overseen by the Election Commission of Thailand, whose members were appointed by the military. All 250 senators were appointed by the military in 2019 to serve 5 year terms.

In 2020, the combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy provoked the country’s largest anti-government demonstrations in a decade. In response to these youth-led protests, the regime resorted to familiar authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse majesté charges, and harassment of activists. Freedom of the press is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.

SOURCE: Freedom House

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Myanmar’s representative to UN urges strong action against military after increasing violence against protesters

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Myanmar’s representative to UN urges strong action against military after increasing violence against protesters | The Thaiger

A representative to the UN for Myanmar is urging the “strongest action to be used against the military after it has used increasing amounts of violence against anti‐coup protesters. The latest round in violence occurred as riot police violently broke up peaceful protesters, arresting over 100 people in 3 major Myanmar cities.

Kyaw Moe Tun made the appeal to the UN General Assembly in New York asking for the international community to end the junta’s rule in his country, while displaying the 3 finger salute that has been adopted from the Hunger Games as a symbol of resistance from anti‐coup supporters.

“We need… the strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup, to stop oppressing the innocent people, to return the state power to the people, and to restore the democracy.”

Former UN ambassador for the US, Samantha Power, also tweeted her support for the movement.

“It’s impossible to overstate the risks that #Myanmar UN ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun just took in the UN General Assembly.”

UN envoy to Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, also agreed saying the use of lethal force against protesters was “unacceptable.”

So far, at least 5 people have been killed since the overthrow, which has seen police open fire on protesters. Thandar Cho, a street food vendor, says she saw police point their guns in a threatening manner towards apartments during the rallies.

“They beat young protesters with rods and cursed them while doing it.”

A Japanese journalist, Yuki Kitazumi, was also allegedly arrested according to a Facebook post by his assistant, Linn Nyan Htun, during the crackdown.

He “was beaten on the head by baton but he was wearing a helmet.”

The military has justified the coup by alleging that the 2020 November democratic elections, which saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy elected by landslide, were fraudulent.

Suu Kyi was arrested, along with other leaders, and is now facing 2 charges of illegally posessing walkie-talkies in her home and for breaking Covid-19 rules. But her lawyer, Khing Maung Zaw, is concerned as he has still not made contact with her, saying it is dire to get her permission for him to represent her in court.

“It’s very important to get her signed power of attorney before the hearing starts on March 1 because we won’t be allowed to act as her defence counsels if we cannot file (it).”

“Then Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be rid of her right of fair trial without a legal counsel.”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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