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Debate continues in Thailand over new NGO law

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: New law may label many organizations as NGOs required to follow strict rules.

With a new draft law to allow closer government scrutiny of NGO funding and activities, Thailand has been tightening its grip on non-governmental organisations operating within their borders. There’s much debate over whether these restrictions are an effort to limit foreign influence and act in the interest of national security, or an attempt to silence critics of Thailand’s government.

Amnesty International has observed in their 2020-2021 annual report that NGO legislation aiming to restrict or limit these organisations’ effectiveness has been seen in Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, and Russia in recent years.

But a spokesperson for Thailand’s government said that the goal of this law was just to ensure that money received by NGOs in Thailand is put to use correctly and that objectives are truly for the public benefit. Many of the approximately 100 NGOs operating currently in Thailand receive overseas fundings, and not all of them offer up information about where this funding comes from. The government says the stricter regulations are designed for national security and to limit foreign intervention politically or financially into local Thai matters.

This assertion comes with allegations that organisations with ties to the American CIA may be growing their influence in Thai politics. A Khon Kaen University academic recently lost his visa and work permit after being accused of links to anti-government protesters and the CIA, charges which he denies.

The Bill on the Operations of Not-For-Profit Organisations was originally approved by the Thai Cabinet in late February and requires stricter reporting by NGOs regarding how much money they are receiving and from who. The bill would allow the government to audit their accounts and investigate the legality of their actions. The review on this law is almost completed and it’s expected to go to Parliament for approval by the end of this month.

Those opposed to this new bill believe that it gives the Thai government authority to harass activists and civil society groups that speak out against the government by broadly categorising them under the NGO title. They believe that the definition is purposely broad in order to require many groups in Thailand to register as an NGO and follow these strict requirements. Penalties for violating these restrictions can be up to 5 years in jail or 100,000 baht in fines. This punishment was labelled as disproportionate by an advisor from the Union for Civil Liberty, saying that this move could essentially scare off organisations that were working to benefit society.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Slugger

    Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    NGO’s are the quiet way in. Flush out the intelligentsia!!

  2. Avatar

    Mister Stretch

    Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at 3:52 pm

    “Amnesty International has observed in their 2020-2021 annual report that NGO legislation aiming to restrict or limit these organisations’ effectiveness has been seen in Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, and Russia in recent years.”

    All strong-man countries. Prayut is punching above his weight class here.

  3. Avatar

    Comicus

    Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at 11:33 pm

    You guys think this is just it?

    More to come, you can count on it, This government are fully aware that there is no need for them to answer to any western countries anymore.

    How many farangs lost most of their money/saving to Thai prostitutes? Thai prostitutes seems to be young and stupid but they know how to take farangs’ money, yes?

    So which one is more aggressive, more intelligence, Thai prostitutes who have low education but still couldn’t be controlled by expats or educated people in BKK?

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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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Politics

Confirmation of Deputy Minister Thammanat, despite drug conviction, draws derision

Neill Fronde

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FILE PHOTO: The decision to reaffirm Thammanat Prompow has drawn frustrated criticism.

Though not unexpected, the decision on Tuesday to allow Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompow to keep his status in spite of an Australian drug conviction in the 1990s still drew plenty of outrage and backlash. In what some called Thailand’s lowest point, allowing the minister to keep his post may set a damning precedent regarding Thailand’s international obligations such as extradition and recognising the laws of other countries.

(Mr. Thammanat was deported from Australia after serving 4 years for a 6 year heroin trafficking conviction.)

Many argue that allowing a convicted drug criminal abroad to hold public office in Thailand may damage Thailand’s international reputation. Political scientists point to the verdict of the Constitutional Court on Tuesday as undermining Thailand’s legal system and validating loopholes available to the rich and powerful, especially in government.

The controversial deputy minister has been under scrutiny before his conviction, with a no-confidence motion failing last year in Parliament, but his infamy has not seemed to hamper his popularity. He has managed to maintain popularity amongst voters, even being put to work campaigning in the north of Thailand for the Palang Pracharat Party of whom he is a member (after defecting from the Pheu Thai Party in 2016). With success in that region, he was put to work by Palang Pracharat (the political party representing the conservative and ‘military’ views in Thailand) in the south, helping to secure a victory in March in Nakorn Sri Thammarat.

Still, controversy persists, and online Thai people raged and mocked the lack of justice. The deputy minister had defended the heroin smuggling conviction by claiming “it was flour” and the online community turned that phrase into a viral hashtag. Online commentators posited that his confirmation opens the floodgates for all sorts of convicted criminals abroad to run for public office in Thailand as if what is done outside of the country doesn’t count domestically.

Foreigners, coming to Thailand, are expected to hold to a different standard – a foreign drug conviction would prevent you from being able to enter the Kingdom.

One commenter even mentioned this corruption as a reason that a new Facebook group for Thai people interested in moving abroad saw over 850,000 members join when it was launched.

The ridicule of the decision to allow confirmation of the MP, despite his conviction and served 4 year sentence, comes with melancholy, however, as the Thai population employ dark humour to cope with the feeling that nothing can be done about the corruption of those in power.

Changing anti-drug campaign slogan “let’s fight against drugs” to say “let’s sell drugs”, making references to the “say my name” phrase on TV’s Breaking Bad, and political cartoons paraphrasing the tourism slogan of Las Vegas to “what happens in Australia, stays in Australia” have been popularly shared online.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

 

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