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Protesters add more demands as academics defend manifesto

Jack Burton

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PHOTO: Japan Today

Pro-democracy demonstrators yesterday called on schools and colleges to allow on-campus rallies as pressure grows on them to ban “risky” political activities. The leader of the opposition Move Forward Party posted on Facebook that safe places for students to air their views are dwindling and that youngsters “should be allowed to carry out activities there”.

Pita Limjaroenrat’s remark came after Thammasat University pledged to prevent a recurrence of Monday’s rally at its Rangsit campus, where comments made by protesters potentially violated Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lèse-majesté law, which criminalises criticism of the Royal Family. The students expanded their original 3 demands to include reform of the Monarchy, sparking fears that it could trigger violent confrontations between royalists and their opponents, similar to the Thammasat University Massacre of 1976

Pita said confrontations will not take place and the student activism won’t culminate in a bloody crackdown like the October 6, 1976 incident if those in power exercise restraint and don’t resort to violence.

“By refusing to hear them and dismissing their voice as a threat to security, the nation and the institution, means we are not actually listening to them. The PM promised to listen but authorities continued to harass them and make arrests. We’re killing the future with our own hands.”

He described the students’ expanded demands as “an inconvenient truth”.

Chaturon Chaisang, former chief strategist of the defunct Thai Raksa Chart Party, posted on Facebook that the public should remind authorities that the use of violence would only deepen the political crisis. He said the government should listen to the students and encourage talks while pointing out the government and the House of Representatives are on the right track by agreeing to a constitutional rewrite. However, he said, they must be sincere in the charter rewrite push and make the amendments timely.

Their views were echoed by former Democrat candidate Parit Wacharasindhu who called on all parties not to gag students and to create and protect safe space for them even though they may have differing views.

Thammasat University’s student organisation insisted Monday’s rally was not illegal and it had a good intentions toward the country. It also said university executives should not bow to public pressure and should adhere to the principles of democracy.

A total of 105 lecturers from various universities on Wednesday signed to support the students’ 10-point demand for the reform of the Monarchy and called on the public to face the challenge with patience and reason.

Proposals for reform of the monarchy by youth-led protests have met with both praise for their bravery and fierce criticism for touching on a taboo topic in Thai society. Monday’s rally ended with the reading of a manifesto containing 10 demands.

Among them was a proposal to nullify Article 6 of the Constitution which prohibits any legal action against the Monarch, and to scrap the lèse-majesté laws. They also urged the government to separate the Monarch’s personal wealth from assets under the Crown Property Bureau, which are estimated to be worth many billions of dollars. The manifesto also asked the government to cut the annual national budget of the palace in line with economic conditions, adding that donations for the Royal Family should come to an end. It also proposed an end to 1 sided education that praises the Royal Institution. Meanwhile, the Monarchy should not to endorse any coup and should refrain from expressing political views in public.

Protesters also called for investigations into the suspected forced disappearance of individuals who had been outspoken against the Thai Head of State.

More than 100 academics nationwide issued a statement on yesterday to voice their support. They say the proposal does not undermine the Palace:

“The 10 proposals do not violate the criminal law in relation to His Majesty, nor does any of the information in the manifesto aim to defame the King. On the contrary, it’s a straightforward proposal that aims to protect the constitutional monarchy and democracy.”

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Nation Thailand | Nation Thailand

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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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