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Students gather at Education Ministry, issue ultimatum

Maya Taylor

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Students gather at Education Ministry, issue ultimatum | Thaiger
PHOTO: Another recent student protest -AP/Sakchai Lalit

“Thai education has made us puppets. We are not robots of the system; we are the youth and have the right to express ourselves.”

The Education Ministry in Bangkok has been chosen as the stage for another student rally, with around 300 young people, from 50 schools, gathering there yesterday afternoon. The students have been repeating their 3 key demands, and saying Education Minister, Nataphol Teepsuwan, must go if he cannot grant them. The demands include an end to the harassment of students, the abolition of outdated school and university regulations (including haircut guidelines), and reform of the country’s education system.

Addressing the second and third demands, the students say they’re fed up conforming to regulations they had no say in creating, adding that the current education system and teaching methods are outdated.

“We should have the right to dress the way we want because it doesn’t affect our ability to learn in any way. We’re in a system where we’re programmed to obey. Today we come to demand things that we should have had because of the flaws at the ministry.”

One student, 18 year old Supicha Chailom, criticises the current system and the restrictions placed on students.

“Thai education has made us puppets. We are not robots of the system; we are the youth and have the right to express ourselves.”

The students wore the customary white ribbons, a symbol of ongoing anti-government protests, and blew whistles to mock the Education Minister, whose former party, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, is known for blowing whistles to shame those it objected to.

The Bangkok Post reports that the students also used speakers to play a modified version of a traditional song known as “Children, Good Children”, which praises 10 good qualities required of young people.

In the revised version, the lyrics became “Adults, Good Adults”, with a list of 10 qualities required of adults, including valuing other human beings, listening to the younger generation, not limiting experiences, respecting those with other views, and learning to apologise.

Some speakers warned the media about using the photographs of those in attendance, pointing out that many young people were there without their parents’ knowledge. Another speaker criticised teachers for abusing their power.

“They always claim students who are beaten are less than 1%, which is not true. Some even persuaded students to have sex in exchange for good grades. And they are teachers under the ministry.”

The students summoned the Education Minister to come talk with them by blowing their whistles at 5pm, after which Nataphol spoke with a group of students, and later addressed reporters, saying he respected the rights of the young protesters.

“The issues that the youth raised are things we can come to an understanding on as long as we respect each other and the rules.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Myanmar junta leader to attend ASEAN summit, activists appalled

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Myanmar junta leader to attend ASEAN summit, activists appalled | Thaiger
Stock photo via Wikimedia Commons

Myanmar’s junta or military leader, Min Aung Hlaing, is expected to attend an ASEAN summit in Jakarta where representatives of the bloc are expected to discuss Myanmar’s situation. Thailand’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Tanee Sangrat, made the announcement.

“I can confirm that the Brunei Chair has proposed the date April 24 with the venue at the Secretariat in Jakarta. Several leaders have confirmed their attendance including Myanmar’s MAH [Senior General Min Aung Hlaing]. Some leaders have yet to confirm.”

The military has consistently justified the putsch by alleging widespread fraud in November’s elections, which Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.

The country’s New Year started yesterday, but it was a somber scene as activists traded celebrations for more protests. According to an AFP-verified video filmed by a resident, the New Year holiday saw soldiers crouched on a street as their commanding officer shouted that he wanted “deaths.” A rescue worker told AFP at least 1 person had died.

“He was shot in the stomach.”

The junta has also issued nightly arrest warrants on state-run media, targetting celebrities, influencers, journalists and prominent activists with large social media followings. Doctors refusing to work under the regime — leaving hospitals unstaffed in a pandemic — have also drawn the wrath of the junta. By last night, the arrest warrants totalled 420.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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New NGO law could target anti-governemnt activists

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New NGO law could target anti-governemnt activists | Thaiger
PHOTO: The Office of the Council of State drafted the controversial law.

A controversial new NGO law was drafted with critics arguing it targets activists and the Thai government saying it ensures transparency. The Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations was written by the Office of the Council of State in February and debated in the second half of March, but could be passed into law soon. Human rights groups claim the law has provisions that would allow the Thai government to harass civil society groups and activism leaders by qualifying them as non-government organisations, or NGOs. The new law would require NGOs to re-register following new guidelines the government claims will cut down on dubious organisations claiming money but not working for the public interest.

The problem arises because the protests that have plagued the Thai government for that last year often receives backing from foreign groups. A statement from 3 UN Special Rapporteurs worried that the broad language of the law could restrict non-profits working for human rights, with a vague definition of what qualifies as an NGO potentially including any group and enforcing strict NGO regulations on them. Section 1 of the draft states a sweeping goal for the bill.

“[…]to regulate the operation of not-for-profit organizations in the Kingdom to ensure propriety, morality, openness, transparency, and the genuine serving of public and national interest without any hidden and fraudulent agenda.”

This broadness could be used to classify anti-government groups as NGOs and then punish them with little legal recourse. Another section allows authorities to circumvent warrants and advance notice to enter organisations’ offices and copy their emails or other sensitive documents. Equally worrisome are the harsh penalties of up to 100,000 baht in fines and 5 years in jail for those who break the law.

The Union for Civil Liberty stressed that the heavy-handed punishments could dissuade organisations that benefit society by stifling non-profit organisations and prosecuting those that do not sufficiently meet the government’s demands. The Centre for the Protection of Children’s Rights Foundation noted that the NGO law had become much more extreme than the original drafted version. The Bangkok Post suspected the bill is intended to intimidate protest groups calling for democratic reform and rallying against the lese majeste laws.

“The bill will clip the wings of civic agencies that challenge unjust laws and law enforcement. The government must be open to scrutiny. If it practises good governance, there is no reason for concern and the new law should not be used in a dubious way.”

The law has not been enacted yet but is expected to go to parliament later this month after a cabinet review.

SOURCE: Global Voices

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Myanmar could descend into a civil war comparable to Syria- UN

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Myanmar could descend into a civil war comparable to Syria- UN | Thaiger
Stock photo of UN via Jurist.org

A top UN official is warning that Myanmar could follow that of Syria in terms of descending into a bloody civil war, unless the violence subsides. Michele Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights is calling on all countries with influence to apply concerted pressure on the ruling military junta to end its campaign of repression and the slaughtering of its people. Bachelet says neighbouring countries are especially being called upon.

She says the military has committed, what amounts to, crimes against humanity, and the human rights violations must be stopped. Ravina Shamdasani, who is Bachelet’s spokeswoman, says the high commissioner feels that a continuation of such crimes could lead to a civil war.

“The high commissioner states that there are clear echoes of Syria in 2011. There too, we saw peaceful protests met with unnecessary and clearly disproportionate force. The state’s brutal, persistent repression of its own people led to some individuals taking up arms, followed by a downward and rapidly expanding spiral of violence all across the country.”

Shamdasani said the country’s armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, attacked civilians last weekend with rocket-propelled grenades and mortar fire, killing at least 82 people. She said credible reports also indicate that people are fighting back by using makeshift or primitive weapons with clashes between the military and ethnic armed groups in Kayn, Shan, and Kachin states are picking up steam.

“As arrests continue, with at least 3,080 people currently detained, there are reports that 23 people have been sentenced to death following secret trials — including 4 protesters and 19 others who were accused of political and criminal offenses. The mass arrests have forced hundreds of people to go into hiding.”

She added that the country’s economic, education and health infrastructure are at the point of collapse, making the situation untenable. She said nations must cut off the supply of arms and finances to the military leadership that allow it to kill and seriously violate its people’s human rights.

Myanmar’s military took over in a coup on February 1, arresting the democratically-elected leader of National League for Democracy and Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Since then, other top leaders have been arrested over what the junta says is fraudulent election results, without giving any evidence.

Suu Kyi has not been seen since her arrest, and is now facing even more charges that could see her barred from political office or worse. The junta military has been accused of killing innocent civilians and peaceful protesters since the coup began, censoring the media, and shutting down the internet.

The US, UK, and other nations have imposed sanctions against the military, but to no avail. Neighbouring countries, including Thailand, are expecting an influx of refugees to cross the border, but conflicting reports point towards Thailand turning away such asylum-seekers.

SOURCE: VOA News

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