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Controversy over university’s plan to demolish Chinese shrine

Caitlin Ashworth

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Controversy over university’s plan to demolish Chinese shrine | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Netiwat Ntw Facebook

A Bangkok university plans to demolish a historic Chinese shrine on the property to build student dormitories. The shrine’s caretakers have until next week before they are evicted to make way for Chulalongkorn University’s new buildings. But the caretakers and student activists say “no.”

Apparently the university has been pressing keepers of the Thapthim Goddess Shrine to move for about 2 years, a staff member told Khaosod English. The shrine’s caretaker, who lives in a housing unit on the shrine’s property, refuses to leave.

“I won’t allow them. No way.”

Students are also adding their voice. Some were holding signs in front of the shrine. An online petition was started and now has nearly 1,000 supporters.

The Thapthim Goddess Shrine houses a statue known as Ama. The shrine’s keeper says her great grandparents brought the Ama statue to shore after it was “floating against the currents” in a river for 3 days. She says the statue is sacred after withstanding the river’s currents and the temple was built by her family to allow the public to pray to Ama.

“People who come to the shrine asked Ama for wishes to be granted such as love, relationship and fertility … People also pray to Ama for protection. This is faith.”

One Thai-Chinese worshipper at the temple said destroying a sacred place to build housing units doesn’t seem right.

“Call me old fashioned if you will but are they not afraid? This land belongs to the deity. It may not be a mausoleum but how can you occupy a sacred place? It’s inappropriate.”

SOURCES: Khaosod| Bangkok Post

ผมและเพื่อนๆขอร่วมคัดค้านสำนักงานทรัพย์สินจุฬาฯที่จะรื้อถอนศาลเจ้าแม่ทับทิม สะพานเหลืองในวันที่ 16 มิถุนานี้…

Posted by Netiwit Ntw on Wednesday, June 10, 2020

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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.

Protests

Pro-democracy activists ignore emergency decree warning to hold weekend rallies

Maya Taylor

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Pro-democracy activists ignore emergency decree warning to hold weekend rallies | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook / People GO network

Ignoring a police warning not to violate the emergency decree, pro-democracy activists gathered in their hundreds at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument yesterday. The Bangkok Post reports that members of the People Go network came together to call for 4 fellow activists to be released from Bangkok Remand Prison. The 4, Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, and Patiwat Saraiyaem are being held on charges of violating section 112 of the Criminal Code (more commonly known as lèse majesté). All 4 have been denied bail.

Officers from Samran Rat and Songkhram police stations issued statements to say the rally was in violation of the emergency decree. On Saturday, the government used the all-encompassing Covid-19 umbrella to issue a ban on political rallies across 6 provinces, including Bangkok.

Activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, aka, Pai Dao Din, ignored a police order for the rally to disperse and proceeded with setting up a stage at the Democracy Monument. He also gave assurances that the gathering would remain peaceful.

“We are not fighting the police deployed in front of us. We are fighting against dictatorship.”

Activists had walked 250 kilometres, from the north-eastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima (also known as Korat), reaching Bangkok’s Kasetsart University on Saturday. Yesterday, they ended their mammoth trek with a walk to the Democracy Monument.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Protests

Motorists told to avoid certain areas in Bangkok as protests planned for today

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Motorists told to avoid certain areas in Bangkok as protests planned for today | The Thaiger

Bangkok motorists are being told to avoid areas where protests are planned to take place today. Kasetsart intersection, Lat Phrao intersection, Rachaprasong shopping district’s Central World shopping mall and 11th Infantry Regiment barracks in Bangkhen are the sites where demonstrators are set to infiltrate.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner says he is most concerned about the Lat Phrao intersection, due to the Redem or Restart Democracy group planning to hold a leaderless protest, which has been prone to violence in the past as demonstrated last Sunday. The group is an offset of the Free Youth movement, which is one of the main groups that have been demonstrating against the military-backed government.

The Redem protesters plan to march from the Lat Phrao intersection to the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road, despite a law announced in the Royal Gazette last night which banned protests, mass gatherings and assemblies. The law stated the reasoning was not political, citing fears over Covid-19 instead.

The newly announced law would give the government a wider range of power in enforcing such public gatherings, with law-breakers being subjected to up to a 40,000 baht fine or up to 2 years in jail. The Redem group is expected to demand the release of core Ratsadon leaders and others being held in jail without bail.

The Ratsadon group reached the outskirts of Bangkok yesterday, after a nearly 250 kilometre-long march from the Thao Suranaree statue in Korat province’s Muang district province. But they were met by police who tried to prevent them from marching further into Bangkok, but eventually allowed them to keep marching until they reached the Kasetsart intersection. The group is expected to end the march tomorrow, at Democracy Monument.

Despite the groups’ plans to ignore the recent law that bans protests, police have warned that they will face charges if they defy the new order. 32 companies of anti-riot police have been placed on standby in light of the expected protests taking place in Thailand’s capital today.

SOURCE: Thai Pbs World

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Thailand

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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