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Missing Karen activist ‘filed petition with Palace’ before disappearing

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Missing Karen activist ‘filed petition with Palace’ before disappearing
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Missing Karen activist Pholachi “Billy” Rakchongcharoen made a heartfelt plea for a return of his home in the forests of Phetchaburi to His Majesty the King in a petition sent before he went missing, his wife said.

The petition, which requested royal intervention to stop alleged oppression by forest rangers of Karen-Thai people, contained an impassioned plea from Billy, asking for a return to his home and traditional indigenous lifestyle.

Pinnapa Preuksapan said she is considering lodging a petition with junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha to ask for his help in seeking her husband Billy. Pinnapa suspects that Kaeng Krachan National Park’s former chief Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn could have been behind Billy’s disappearance, after a conflict sprang from the activist’s campaign against efforts by forest rangers to drive Karen people from the park.

She said Billy and Chaiwat knew each other well for a long time. However, conflict soured their relationship and Billy was accused of being involved in the poaching of wild elephants. Billy went missing after his motorcycle was pulled over at a checkpoint and he was accused of unlawfully possessing wild honey. Forest rangers claimed that he was briefly detained and later released.

Chaiwat was transferred before he was accused of masterminding the murder on September 10, 2011, of Thaskamol Ob-om, a Pheu Thai Party candidate who helped out with Karen activism.

A number of Karen people are granted an audience with His Majesty under a protocol as indigenous people. Billy had planned to lodge his complaint during a Coronation Day ceremony at the King’s Klai Kangwon Palace in Prachuap Khiri Khan province on May 5.

Reading out text in Billy’s petition in tears, Pinnapa said Karen people based in upper Bang Kloy were told to move down to lower Bang Kloy when the upper part was incorporated into Kaeng Krachan National Park in 1981. She said families were not provided with farmland as promised initially. And when they finally were, several plots were not cultivatable because they were located on a rock foundation.

The petition accuses forest rangers of secretly using violence and scare tactics to drive Karen out of upper Bang Kloy, including torching of their homes and barns in 2011, felling trees and making arrests. The petition claims that a number of Karen died from starvation and malnutrition and a few women suffered miscarriages after escaping and hiding from the oppression.

Six Karen people accusing park rangers of torching their homes and other unlawful acts have lodged a petition with the Central Administration Court. The petition asks that all relocated Karen be allowed to return and resettle in upper Bang Kloy and are protected from oppression. It also calls for a clear-cut designation of lands for farming and crop plantations.

“We just want to live our lives as jungle people in a peaceful way,” Pinnapa said. “I believe that the petition should have reached its destination by now.”

Suraphong Kongjanthuek, a senior official with the Lawyers’ Council of Thailand, who is in charge of the petition lodged with the Central Administrative Court, said he would work tirelessly on behalf of the Karen. He said he would prove that all Karen people based in Kaeng Krachan had acquired Thai nationality and possessed identity cards, and that the torching of their homes and barns had really occurred.

When His Majesty learned of the torching, he had the military hand Bt5,000 in initial aid to 20 affected families. The Karen were later granted permission to have an occasional audience with His Majesty along with other groups of indigenous people.

On June 5, a group of academics and human-rights activists, acting under supervision from the National Human Rights Commission, made an inspection visit to both Bang Kloy areas and met with the Karen villagers.

Commissioner Nirun Phitak-watchara said most of the 300-rai (48-hectare) area designated as farmland was not cultivatable and expansion of their homes to accommodate new family members was disallowed under forestry restrictions.

Three working panels have been set up to sort out the problem, with the Phetchaburi provincial governor and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) being invited, Nirun said.

The chief of a forestry area office, Saratcha Suriyakul na Ayutthaya, said farmland in three new locations, totalling 200 rai, was under consideration to be designated as for the Karen. This proposal would be made to the DNP soon and it would take about another 30 days to be concluded.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Crime

Facebook, Twitter may face charges for allegedly allowing lèse majesté content

Caitlin Ashworth

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Facebook, Twitter may face charges for allegedly allowing lèse majesté content | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Standard

Facebook and Twitter could face charges for failing to block so called lèse majesté posts that allegedly violate Thailand’s Computer Crime Act. The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society says the social media platforms were warned about Thailand’s laws regarding content that insults the Thai Monarchy or threatens national security and peace, but failed to remove all the illegal posts.

Letters were sent out to the operators of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube giving them 15 days to take down the illegal posts or charges would be pressed, according to Minister of Digital Economy and Society Buddhipongse Punnakanta. Since not all the posts were removed, the ministry has asked the Technology Crime Suppression Police to step in and prosecute the social media platforms.

The Thai government has been using the blunt tool of “shooting the messenger” in its battle against content deemed disrespectful of the Thai Monarchy under its lèse majesté laws.

“It is the first time in Thailand that the (computer crime) law is exercised to prosecute the service providers. Charges will go to the parent company of all the organisations. The police will use Thai laws because the offences happened in Thailand. I believe the police can do it.”

The minister says Facebook was told to take down 661 posts, but they only removed 225. Twitter was told to remove 69 posts, he says, but only took down 5. YouTube was told to remove 289 posts and all of them were blocked. Social media platforms that violate the Computer Crime Act could face an up to 200,000 baht fine per illegal post and a daily fine of up to 5,000 until the content is removed.

Buddhipongse filed the complaint which also cited nearly 1,000 social media posts that allegedly violate the act. They say the posts offending the Thai Monarchy were made during the pro-democracy protest in Bangkok last weekend.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Thailand News Today | Visa amnesty, sealing Burmese border, Thai airways creditors | September 24

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | Visa amnesty, sealing Burmese border, Thai airways creditors | September 24 | The Thaiger

Latest update for September 26 deadline of visa amnesty.

Deadline set for THAI creditors

A date has now been set for creditors to recover their money from Thai Airways. Applications for debt repayment through corporate bonds started yesterday. Applications filed by private individuals are being received at the Securities and Exchange Commission office in Bangkok. The deadline for applications is November 2. It’s ben reported that there are some 10 million creditors. The airline’s total debt stands at 352.4 billion baht.

Thailand seals its 2,000 kilometre border with Myanmar

Thailand’s Department of Disease Control remains on alert, and patrols increased along the Thai/Myanmar border, as Thailand’s western neighbour continues to register a spike in new Covid 19 cases. Between 430 and 670 people each day, over the past 4 days, have tested positive for Covid-19. The DDC’s director-general says that Thai “business operators should stop hiring foreign workers, especially Burmese people, to help prevent a second wave of Covid-19 infections in Thailand.” Myanmar’s number of confirmed cases has now reached 7,177 with 129 Burmese succumbing to the virus at this stage. Yesterday the four national papers suspended circulation, waiting out the sudden surge of cases. In some border districts, police have placed barbed wire along the leaky jungle border to deter people from crossing the 2,000 kilometre-long border illegally.

Deputy PM says “Big Joke” transfer not necessarily unlawful

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam says former immigration chief, Surachate Hakparn, shouldn’t assume his transfer to an inactive post in the PM’s Office was unlawful. Surachate, known by the nickname “Big Joke” headed up Thailand’s Immigration Bureau until he was unceremoniously side-lined by the PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha early last year. It’s understood he is now planning to sue the PM, claiming that the lack of any investigation against him shows there were no grounds for the transfer. For his part, Deputy PM Wissanu says Surachate has the right to sue the PM if he so wishes but shouldn’t assume his transfer is similar to that of the former National Security Council chief, who was transferred under former PM Yingluck Shinawatra in 2011. That transfer was subsequently deemed unlawful by the Supreme Administrative Court. Wissanu doesn’t rule out the possibility of Surachate being re-instated. For his part, Surachate claims his petitions to the PM have fallen on deaf ears.

New army chief declares he’ll protect Thailand’s monarchy and restore peace

Thailand’s new army chief says he pledges to restore peace and protect the country’s monarchy. In a ceremony formerly saying farewell to retiring generals, incoming army chief Narongphan Jitkaewtae (jit-gow-tear) said he would restore peace and be loyal to the Thai Monarchy. His statement comes at a time when many people are speaking out against Thailand’s military-run government, and calling for changes to the constitution (voted for by referendum in 2017). He said… “Protecting the monarchy with absolute loyalty and supporting the government to resolve national problems and working to advance the country are tasks for which the generals deserve the honour.”

Thailand’s Social Security Office forced to explain investment in Sri Panwa Phuket Resort trust fund

The Social Security Office, a department under the direction of Thailand’s Ministry of Labour, is being asked to explain its investment in the trust fund of Phuket’s Sri Panwa Phuket Resort. The demand comes as members of the opposition and political activists call for an investigation into the property’s ownership of the land. The owner of Sri Panwa Phuket, Vorasit Issara, has faced flak online recently, with his property attracting multiple negative reviews as a consequence, after he criticised one of the student anti-government protest leaders. Thai PBS World reports that the Civil Society for State Welfare is calling on the SSO to clarify its investment in the Sri Panwa Hospitality Real Estate Investment Trust, thought to be worth around 500 million baht. Meanwhile, review site Tripadvisor has had to suspend reviews for the Sri Panwa resort, as the travel review website has been flooded with negative reviews.

Bangkok officials issue advice to motorists to avoid parliament area due to protest

Bangkok motorists have been told avoid the roads around Thailand’s new parliament building today, with a political rally taking place there as we speak. The rally was announced by anti-government protesters at the end of their weekend demonstration. The Metropolitan Police Bureau advise drivers to avoid Kiak Kai Road, in front of the parliament building, as well as a number of other roads in the vicinity. The Thaiger will bring you some of the latest vision from the protest this afternoon which you can watch on our Facebook page with a full report on tomorrow’s Thailand News Today.

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Thailand

982 lèse majesté social media posts cited in police complaint

Caitlin Ashworth

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982 lèse majesté social media posts cited in police complaint | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Line Today

Nearly 1,000 so called lèse majesté posts on social media have been cited in a police complaint for allegedly violating Thailand’s Computer Crime Act, some allegedly criticising and insulting the Thai Monarchy. The complaints were filed by Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta.

The police report says the social media posts were shared during the pro-democracy protest over the weekend. Altogether, 982 social media posts allegedly violate Thailand’s Computer Crime Act. The ministry has also applied for a warrant to block content on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter at violate the act.

In Thailand, lèse majesté (insulting the monarch) is criminalised by Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code… Since 2018, there have been no known new (lèse majesté) cases, but the authorities have invoked other laws, such as the Computer Crimes Act and sedition laws, to deal with perceived damages and insults to the monarchy. – Wikipedia

The complaints and subsequent legal threats, are a rear-guard action by a government and officialdom rattled by the number of protesters and by the extent of their demands, touching on the culturally taboo topic of Thailand’s revered monarchy. Another protest is on today at the front of the Thai parliament in Bangkok.

Out of the 982 posts, 661 were on Facebook, 289 were on YouTube, 69 were on Twitter and 5 were on other websites. Buddhipongse says 2 Facebook posts and 3 Instagram posts violate an Article 14 in the Computer Crime Act which regards posts that many cause damage to the country’s national security or cause a public panic. Those who violate Article 14 face up to 5 years in prison and an up to 100,000 baht.

Social media platforms could also face charges for violating the act’s Article 27 for failing to comply with orders from the court to take down the posts. They could face a fine up to 200,000 baht and a daily fine of 5,000 until the posts are taken down.

Other posts allegedly violate the act’s Article 20 which prohibits the spread of information online that might have an impact on national security, or that might be contradictory to the peace. The Nation Thailand says each post that violates Article 20 could face a 200,000 baht fine.

Click HERE to read an unofficial English translation of the Computer Crime Act.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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