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Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Violence stakes rise as red shirts ordered to protect poll; Chiang Mai named coup retreat capital; Govt fails to secure loans to pay rice farmers

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Violence feared as red shirts ordered to protect poll
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The likelihood of a volatile confrontation during this Sunday’s snap election has increased after a red-shirt leader yesterday urged government supporters to help ensure the voting would not be interrupted.

Thida Tavonseth, chairperson of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), made her appeal to the red shirts nationwide after the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) threatened to besiege all 50 district offices in Bangkok. This would make it difficult to transport ballot boxes, ballot papers and other voting equipment to the more than 6,500 polling stations in the city.

Thida said the red shirts should observe the election and help make sure that the voting can take place properly. “UDD [supporters] and democracy lovers must examine, push and lessen damage to the election to the least without confrontation,” she told the red shirts during her daily press conference. However, she did not mention how they would do that, saying the local and central leaders would plan and cooperate with political parties locally.

Thida said the UDD’s main rally in Samut Prakan’s Bang Pu today was cancelled as the leaders had learnt some people might instigate the situation. The UDD leaders should not gather but stay scattered instead, she said.

UDD coordinator Salaktham Tojirakarn said Thida did not tell the red shirts to gather in groups “to protect the polling booths”. He added that people who would camp out at polling stations to protect the venues are not red shirts, but they are “white shirts” who support the election.

Some critics claim many of the “white shirts” are actually red shirts.

Meanwhile, the authorities responsible for holding the Sunday election yesterday also took precautions against possible violence on voting day.

The Election Commission has asked the national police chief and the Metropolitan Police commissioner in writing to provide police personnel to help maintain law and order and protect officials at the polling stations.

A letter signed by deputy EC secretary-general Somsak Suriyamongkol, acting on behalf of the secretary-general, asked the police bosses to instruct police stations to deploy personnel to guard polling stations.

The police would focus on areas where there have been conflicts between local residents over Sunday’s voting, according to Royal Thai Police spokesman Pol Maj-General Piya Uthayo. He said rapid-deployment units would be sent out in case of an emergency.

He said national police chief Pol General Adul Sangsingkaew has instructed police personnel to help the EC in providing security during transportation of ballot boxes and papers, as well as during voting at the polling stations.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration also has sought assistance from the Army in providing security to its officials manning the polling stations, according to Ninnart Chalitanont, the BMA’s permanent secretary. She said the Army has promised to dispatch soldiers to all polling stations in Bangkok.

“The BMA is worried over the safety of our officials. This is the top priority. We instructed our officials to bring back the voting equipment and leave the polling stations if there is violence. Our officials are worried that they may be at risk,” she said yesterday.

In response to the PDRC threat to besiege all of the city’s district offices in a bid to block the voting, Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra said yesterday that it was not the BMA’s responsibility to talk with the protest leaders. He added that the EC should take care of the matter.

In a related development, the red shirts have prepared a retreat for caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra should the military stage a coup d’etat to overthrow her government.

The plan is to relocate the Yingluck government to Chiang Mai, the home province of the Shinawatra family, with the northern city becoming the capital.

Red-shirt activist Mahawan Kawang said their movement is large enough to challenge the military, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported. “We are not afraid. All the red groups will unite. We are willing to sacrifice our lives,” said Mahawan, president of the alumni association of Yupparaj School in Chiang Mai where Yingluck was once a student.

“It is likely the government will move to Chiang Mai. We can defeat tanks because we have the numbers,” he added.

Red-shirt supporters spread rumours that the military would intervene to quell the ongoing chaos in the country caused by anti-government protests.

UDD vice chairman of Chiang Mai, Supon Fumuljaroen, a former classmate of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, said: “The majority of red shirts really like the idea of a separate state. If they stage a coup, we can live without Bangkok.”

Pinkaew Laungaramsri, a sociologist at Chiang Mai University, said the north-south divide meant that Thailand was breaking up. “If the government is kicked out, then Yingluck will be invited to set up a government here in Chiang Mai,” she said.

However, some experts consider the government relocating as an unlikely prospect, the Post reported.

Red shirts in Chiang Mai in favour of new capital in case of coup
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The red shirt movement in Chiang Mai province has prepared a retreat for caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra should the military stage a coup d’etat.

In that case, Yingluck government can be relocated to Chiang Mai, the home province of the Shinawatra clan, with the Northern city becoming the capital.

Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted red shirt activist, Mahawang Kawang, as saying that their movement is large enough to challenge the military.

“We are not afraid. All the red groups will unite. We are willing to sacrifice our lives,” said Kawang, president of the alumni association of Yupparaj school in Chiang Mai where Yingluck was once a student.

“It is likely the government will move to Chiang Mai. We can defeat tanks because we have the numbers,” Kawang added.

Red shirt supporters have spread rumours that the military will intervene to quell the ongoing chaos in the country caused by antigovernment protests led by former Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban.

Suthep has led ‘Bangkok Shutdown’ campaign since January 13, seeking national reform.

The Post reported that some experts consider the government relocating as an unlikely prospect.

Red shirt organiser Supon Fumuljaroen, a former classmate of Thaksin, is now vice chairman of the UDD in Chiang Mai province. They both hail from the small town of San Kamphaeng, about 30 minutes’ drive from the city of Chiang Mai.

The Post quoted Supon, a former policeman as saying, “The majority of redshirts really like the idea of a separate state. If they stage a coup, we can live without Bangkok.”

Pinkaew Laungaramsri, a sociologist at Chiang Mai University, said the northsouth divide meant that Thailand was breaking up.

“If the government is kicked out then Yingluck will be invited to set up a government here in Chiang Mai,” she said.

Govt fails to secure loans to pay for rice

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Protests

University student carves “112” into chest after being charged with violating lèse-majesté law

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Stock photo via Thai PBS World

A Chiang Mai University student now has the numbers of “112” carved across his chest after using a razor blade on himself in defiance of the Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lèse-majesté law. The student took to cutting himself after arriving at the police station to face charges of violating the law. He was also charged with breaching the National Flag Act.

The 23 year old student and his colleague, are facing charges brought by political activist Srisuwan Janya after the duo allegedly placed an altered Thai national flag, featuring critical words against the monarchy, at an exhibition site at the university. Police tried to prevent him from harming himself further, as Vitthaya claimed it was an act of freedom of expression, but he was taken to the police station for first-aid treatment. The other student told reporters that he did not amend the Thai flag as police alleged, citing again, that it was a work of art. Both students are now released, but must come back to report themselves on May 31.

Thasanai Sethaseree, a university lecturer at the Faculty of Fine Arts, says the use of the Thai national flag in a work of art does not constitute a violation of the Thai National Flag Act. However, the lecturer didn’t comment on whether the words adorning the flag would constitute a violation of the lèse-majesté law, or Section 112 of the Criminal Code of Thailand.

Last Thursday, jailed student activist leader Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul was granted bail of 200,000 baht after repeated denials of bail requests over the last 2 months. Rung was detained on charges using Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté laws that carry a 15-year maximum sentence for insulting the royal monarchy and has been held without bail since March 8.

She joined her fellow activist leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak on March 30 in his hunger strike to protest the bail denials. Penguin was recently hospitalised over health concerns due to his hunger strike that began March 16.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

 

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Thailand

3 journalists from Myanmar arrested in Chiang Mai

Tanutam Thawan

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Stock photo / Photo by Macau Photo Agency for Unsplash

Police in Northern Thailand arrested 3 senior journalists who had fled Myanmar due to orders from the military junta to stop reporting, the director and editor of the news agency Democratic Voice of Burma said in an email to the Associated Press.

The journalists, along with 2 associates, were arrested yesterday in Chiang Mai for allegedly illegally entering Thailand. Police were doing a random search, the editor says.

Since the February military coup in Myanmar, ousting state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi who had won the election in a landslide, more than 750 people have been killed by security forces. The military takeover also led to a clash with ethnic armies who support the anti-coup movement, including the prominent armed wing of the Karen National Union. Around 2,000 Karen refugees have fled to Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province due to violence between the Karen troops and the state military.

The junta has attempted to silence independent news media by arresting dozens of journalists and by revoking licenses that had allowed agencies to report in Myanmar. The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, or FCCT, says more than 70 journalists have been arrested since February. The Associated Press says there are currently around 40 journalists in detention in Myanmar, including at least 2 that work for DVB.

Many of the journalists arrested by the military junta are being held for violating Myanmar’s Penal Code which prohibits comments that “cause fear,” spread “false news, agitates directly or indirectly a criminal offence against a Government employee.” The charge carries a punishment of up to 3 years in prison.

The editor of DVB is urging Thai authorities not to deport the detained journalists and activists, saying “their life will be in serious danger if they were to return.” Photos in Thai media shows what looks like a video production studio set up at a home.

“They have been covering the demonstrations in Burma until March 8 – the day the military authority revoked DVB’s TV license and banned DVB from doing any kind of media work.”

The FCCT also released a statement calling on Thai authorities to release the journalists and offer them protection in Thailand.

These 5 individuals would face certain arrest and persecution, if not worse, for their work and association with the DVB, and under no circumstances should they be deported back to Myanmar.

Rather, the DVB journalists and their associates should be released from detention, urgently offered protection, and granted the right to remain temporarily in Thailand.

SOURCE: Associated Press

 

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Crime

Murder of Thai wife may have been 2nd attempt by US man

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Jason Balzar, pictured with his wife before he murdered her, and during his arrest. (via uk.granthshala.com)

The American man accused of the murder of his Thai wife in Chiang Mai has now confessed to the brutal crime. And it may not have been the first time he tried to kill her. The 32 year old man, who was a computer programmer in the United States, admitted that he killed his wife while she was 3-months pregnant. Jason Matthew Balzar is now in custody at Muang Nan police station and has reportedly told police that he stabbed his wife Pitchaporn “Som O” Kidchob in the chest with a knife while she slept.

Police said after stabbing his wife, Jason put her body in a plastic bag and dumped it on the side of the road on Ban Srikerd-Samun Road, about 10 kilometres from their rented home at Tambon Chaiyasathan in the Muang district. A crime re-enactment was held at their home, a common occurrence in Thailand for police to piece together criminal acts and record details.

The murder was not Jason’s first accusation of violent crime, with details surfacing of his 2019 conviction for threatening to murder a woman in the US. There is unconfirmed speculation that the victim of that attack was the same Thai wife murder victim, but in Colorado domestic violence cases withhold the names of victims.

He was sentenced to 2 years of probation after an attack in Longmont, Colorado that was originally charged as attempted murder, but lessened due to a technicality. According to the arrest report, Jason attacked her after she refused sex, hitting her head and pointing a gun at her, which fired near her head. He was again arrested for violating his probation by possessing 73 guns in December 2020.

After confessing to killing his pregnant Thai wife, Jason is being charged with the murder and with concealing her body. The American man claimed that he decided to kill her in her sleep because he was upset that she wanted to leave him. The couple had plenty of rough patches with frequent arguments being common in their household.

The victim’s family don’t believe the murder was a sudden crime of passion. Her sister and mother said they have often seen him carrying a knife.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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