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Brexit – a personal diary

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PHOTO: The UK charts a new course into unknown waters, but today the flags wave - USA Today
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Opinion by David Skelcey

Friday, June 24, 2016

I woke up in my caravan at Glastonbury Music Festival, headed to the toilet and while doing my business read the news I was dreading. The Leave campaign had won the Brexit referendum by 51% to 49%. After getting dressed and kissing my sleeping partner and kids goodbye I headed off to work in the beautiful Somerset fields. At our office my colleagues were standing around in stunned silence, staring at their phones and shaking their heads in disbelief. No-one could believe it.

Still, there was work to be done. Stages to finish, sound systems to tweak, lights to be focused – all to get ready for another year of high-profile artists from around the world to perform at the biggest and most international festival of contemporary arts on the globe.

My youngest son was little more than a year old at the time. Over the next year as he began to talk, one of his earliest words was ‘Brexit’. He confused it with ‘breakfast’ – most likely due to hearing it on the radio all the time, as well as the regular conversations his Italian mother and I were having about it. ‘Want Brexit!’ ‘More Brexit!’ ‘Where’s Brexit?’ Oh how we laughed, while we searched for details on how my partner was going to get ‘settled status’ even after living in the UK for 25 years, owning a property, paying UK tax and having British born children.

January 2017

We left the UK for a 4 month trip to SE Asia while the news was reporting government figures showing a 29% increase in hate crime since the referendum. British social media was in meltdown with long standing friendships falling apart and families refusing to talk to each other over their opposing stances on Brexit. Things started to look bleak, and while sitting on Ao Yon beach in Phuket, we decided to make a permanent exit from the UK.

September 2017

We arrived back in Phuket to start a new life, leaving behind our friends and family in the UK and Europe. Having lived in London for nearly 30 years, a huge amount of our friends are European. Many have now left the UK for reasons such as job security, difficulty obtaining settled status, or just through fear of the rise in hostility that the UK now offers to non-Brits.

On the flip side, we have many British friends who have made their lives in Europe and are now scrambling, amidst huge uncertainty, to secure their chosen life paths in Germany, Austria, Spain, France, Poland, Bulgaria, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic and more. It’s a total mess – and that’s just friends that we know.

Going back to the music industry – one of Great Britain’s finest assets – we now have titans of the business tearing their hair out at the problems being faced in dealing with international artists performing in the UK. In fact, even before any Brexit legislation has been implemented. The ‘hostile environment’ forged by former Home Secretary turned PM Theresa May led Peter Gabriel, co-founder of the WOMAD festival of world music to say in 2018.

“Musicians travel for a living, and almost everywhere I have travelled I have been met with kindness and generosity. Do we really want a white-breaded Brexited flatland? A country that is losing the will to welcome the world?”

Non-Brits may well be wondering how a slight majority of the UK electorate came to the conclusion that we would be better off outside the biggest and most successful trading bloc in history. And it’s a very good question.

The simple answer is that the UK population has been drip fed anti-EU propaganda for the best part of thirty years. Starting back in the 80s with nefarious stories about rules on the shape of bananas to more recent hysteria about limiting the power of vacuum cleaners and kettles, the British public have succumbed to a relentless portrayal of ‘foreign interference’ and ‘Brussels meddling’ which has manifested a narrative that the UK no longer has any power and has lost its ‘sovereignty’. It only took a few extra lies on the side of a bus to tip the vote.

That the UK has been instrumental in drawing up vast swathes of EU legislation seems lost on many Leave voters, along with the fact that all EU member states abide by the same laws. Perhaps it is island mentality and paranoia that has convinced many Brits that the EU exists just to punish the UK, rather than to provide an even playing field for trade by way of fair and equal product standards, common safety protocols, human rights, worker’s rights, environmental legislation and 2-way freedom of movement.

And who was behind this constant anti-EU rhetoric you might wonder? Could it possibly be our very own journalist-turned-politician and now Prime Minister Johnson? Conclusively YES – as former colleague Martin Fletcher adamantly points out in this pre-referendum quote

For 25 years our press has fed the British public a diet of distorted, mendacious and relentlessly hostile stories about the EU – and the journalist who set the tone was Boris Johnson.”

Add to this some lashings of good old xenophobia and the stage is all set. And no – not all leavers are racists – just a third of them according to a 2017 edition of the generally conservative London Evening Standard.

February 1, 2020

Union flags have been waved and the Kingdom is once again sovereign. Free sausages and chips have been devoured in pubs up and down the country and Brexit has been done, as promised by PM Johnson before his victorious election in December. Huzzah! But, of course, nothing changes for anybody yet.

Nothing has been ‘done’ at all – this is just the start. The UK will remain aligned to EU rules until the end of the year, but without any political representation in Brussels or Strasbourg. Workers in the manufacturing heartlands of the north will be hoping they did the right thing by backing Boris as they watch the upcoming negotiations unfold while their European bosses weigh up their options.

All I can hope for is an end to the mud-slinging and that the country can start moving forwards again, regardless of who is in charge. I for one will be spending the weekend reaching out to some friends who I fell out with over these last awful 3 and a half years.

Life is short and the world is too small to allow the bitterness of politics to divide us.

David Skelcey

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Protests

Protesters suing Thai PM, police and officials over State of Emergency in October

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Protesters suing Thai PM, police and officials over State of Emergency in October | The Thaiger

Protesters and human rights lawyers are officially suing the Thai PM, a deputy PM and other members of the government and police for 3.5 million baht in damages. The lawsuits cover the declaration of a state of emergency that was imposed for a week during October following a major protest where a royal motorcade drove into the path of a protest near the Democracy Monument in Bangkok.

Police claim that protesters “blocked” the path of the royal motorcade, but video of the incident shows the protesters were gesturing at the yellowRolls Royce and yelling at the occupants as it passed by, without obstruction. Her Majesty the Queen and the King’s youngest son were in the vehicle at the time.

There are seven complainants, each demanding 500,000 baht in compensation.

The State of Emergency was announced for Bangkok on October 15, at 4am in the morning following the protest.

Representatives of the Human Rights Lawyers Association filed the lawsuit with the Civil Court yesterday. It lawsuit also targeted the Prime Minister’s Office, national police officials and the Royal Thai Police Office.

Nuengruethai Kijakansuparoek, of the lawyers’ association, claims the declaration violated rights to freedom of politics, transport and expression of opinion. The Association also warns that there are more lawsuits on the way.

“The closure of electric train service was ordered, some demonstrators were arrested and some people were affected by tear gas, and people were unable to voice their political opinions.”

yesterday some 5,000 gathered at the Lad Phrao intersection in an “anti coup picnic” to enjoy food, including Isaan dishes, with protest leaders speaking and musicians keeping the crowd entertained. Protest organisers said it was “a rehearsal protest against coups”.

Protesters handed the “flock” of yellow inflatable ducks over the heads, of the crowd “to represent the military passing over the people” to by-pass democratic rule and be the defacto government of Thailand. An inflatable Santa also made his way into the festivities for no apparent reason (well, Christmas is approaching).

Yesterdays rally was just 2 days after another gathering outside the Siam Commercial Bank HQ, where HM the King is the largest single shareholder in Thailand’s oldest bank, founded in 1907.

Today’s rally will start at the Imperial World Samrong shopping centre, south of central Bangkok, and march to Bang Na intersection. Then tomorrow protesters plan to hold another rally in front of the . Imperial World Samrong shopping centre.

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Protests

More protest rallies today and tomorrow around Bangkok

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More protest rallies today and tomorrow around Bangkok | The Thaiger

If you think the current spate of rallies are ruling out of steam, think again. Yesterday’s large protest around the Lat Phrao intersection on Phahon Yothin Road was just the first of 3 days of planned protests around Bangkok and Samut Prakan. Protesters yesterday described their action as an “anti-coup drill”, claiming that the coup “chatter” continued and that they would strenuously protest against another Army-led action against Thai citizens.

The yellow ducks and a few other inflatable animals were again taking front stage in a rally that was described more like a picnic than a political demonstration.

Today’s rally will start at the Imperial World Samrong shopping centre, south of central Bangkok, and march to Bang Na intersection.

Then tomorrow protesters plan to hold another rally in front of the . Imperial World Samrong shopping centre.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police says there will be up to 500 crowd control police attending to each of the protests, adding that the rallies had been given formal permission to go ahead and police will be ensuring that no laws are broken.

The government has come under a barrage of criticism from NGOs and rights groups about some of the heavy-handed responses and baiting at rallies to “create” the appearance of conflict. Yesterday the Foreign Ministry issued a statement via their spokesperson, Tanee Sangrat in response to the criticism.

13 international organisations – including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Asia Democracy Network, and the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development – have made official submissions about the response from police and handling of the rival protest groups, which resulted in the shooting of 6 people and other protesters injured by the high power water cannons and tear gas deployed by riot police..

The Ministry spokesman maintained that Thailand had “upheld the rule of law and respected the judicial process with transparency. In handling recent protests, the authorities have enforced the law in line with international standards, with the appropriate response to the situation.”

The spokesperson said that participants in the November 17 outside the Thai Parliament broke through concrete barricades and tried to reach an “off-limits area”, forcing police to take action to bring the situation under control. Protesters told police that they wanted to get to the front of the parliament buildings to protest the debates that were being conducted inside.

“The operation was proportional to the situation and was not excessive. Those who want to exercise their right to assemble must follow the law and consider the safety of others.”

Organisers of yesterday afternoon’s rally, the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, called the rally “an anti-coup drill”.

“Undeniably, speculation about a coup has been rife. It should not happen. But history teaches us that we cannot trust. Therefore, all are welcome for a drill to cope with another possible coup”.

Current Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, as head of the Thai Army before the May 2014 coup, maintained that the army would not intervene and oust the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

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Protests

Shooter from Bangkok SCB protest surrenders to police

Maya Taylor

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Shooter from Bangkok SCB protest surrenders to police | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook / Free Youth Movement

A man accused of shooting at anti-government protesters at a rally in Bangkok on Wednesday has admitted the charge and surrendered to police. Peerawut Kunamonkan delivered his 25 year old son, Passapong, to police at Phaholyothin station in the capital yesterday. He faces charges of attempted murder, shooting in public, and illegally carrying a gun and ammunition.

According to a Nation Thailand report, Passapong is accused of shooting 20 year old Prachakorn Saksritao, a former student of Pathumthani Technical College, but claims he did it for personal, not political, reasons. It’s understood Prachakorn was at the rally as a member of the protesters’ security team. The shooting took place as activists were dispersing at the end of a rally at the headquarters of the Siam Commercial Bank.

The accused, a former student at Min Buri Polytechnic Technology College in Bangkok, says he was reacting to sarcastic social media posts from Prachakorn. The posts were made after Passapong and the group he was with voiced their disapproval of activists insulting the Monarchy. Passapong is taking full responsibility for the shooting, saying nobody paid him to do it and that he will pay for the victim’s medical treatment.

Following speculation on social media that the shooting was carried out by a yellow-shirt royalist, Thanadech Srisongkram, from the Minburi vocational student guards, has denied the claims. He says the shooting had nothing to do with the protests or the Monarchy, adding that his group is not affiliated with any particular political group. He says he has apologised to the security detail from Pathumthani Technical College, promising that such an incident will not happen again.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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