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Thailand takes over the ASEAN chair for 2019

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Thailand takes over the ASEAN chair for 2019 | The Thaiger
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Thailand has taken over the ‘chair’ of ASEAN from Singapore, who has hosted the regional bloc for the past 12 months. The short ceremony took place yesterday following the two day ASEAN summit. The chairmanship is shared equally around the 10 member states of the south east asian trade and geo-political bloc.

Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha received the symbolic gavel from Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong. The actual chairmanship formally starts on January 1, 2019.

Gen Prayut says Thailand’s key priorities will include boosting connectivity in infrastructure, simplifying red tape and people-to-people links to make borders around ASEAN more transparent.

Prayut also called on all ASEAN member countries to “collaborate even more closely” on the principles of mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual benefit.

Thailand last held the position of ASEAN host in 2008.

The Thai PM also unveiled the theme of nest year’s chairmanship, ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability’. The ceremony concluded the 33rd ASEAN Summit at the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

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Crime

Rights groups call for government to act after abduction of Thai activist in Cambodia

Jack Burton

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Rights groups call for government to act after abduction of Thai activist in Cambodia | The Thaiger
PHOTO: VOD English

Following Thursday’s broad-daylight abduction of an exiled Thai political activist in Cambodia, both country’s police forces have bluntly refused to investigate, prompting calls by critics and human rights groups, including US-based Human Rights Watch, for swift action. Human rights defender Angkhana Neelapaijit warns that Thai authorities will be “seen in bad light” if they don’t actively investigate the case of 37 year old Wanchalearm Satsaksit.

“The government will be cast in a bad light – as an accessory to the disappearance – if it is not active in solving this case. Despite Mr Wanchalearm being critical of the government, he is a Thai citizen.”

The former human rights commissioner added that Thai authorities must work with the Cambodian government to solve this case. At least 8 Thai activists who fled after the 2014 coup and took refuge in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam have disappeared, according to friends and rights groups. Some have been found dead.

Angkhana believes the Cambodian government must take an active role in solving Wanchalearm’s disappearance, as the country ratified the UN International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2013.

According to media reports, Wanchalearm was living in exile in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. Prachathai reports that he was taken near his apartment while buying food on and was dragged into a black car, with the words “I can’t breathe!”

Cambodian authorities have yet to acknowledge Wanchalearm’s disappearance, ruling out an investigation into the incident, and the deputy spokesman for the Royal Thai Police yesterday said the RTP has not received any information about Wanchalearm.

“This did not take place on Thai soil. Thai authorities do not have the authority to meddle.”

A former deputy director of the Thailand’s National Intelligence Agency urged the public not to jump to conclusions.

“Isn’t it too early to conclude that this activist was abducted and has already been killed?” An abduction is a high risk operation and needs a superpower nation to do it. Thailand is not a superpower.”

Writing on Facebook, he expressed scepticism about allegations the activist was a victim of forced disappearance.

“His charge is for violating the Computer-Related Crime Act which carries a light penalty. Is he so important that he had to be abducted?”

A native of Ubon Ratchathani, Wanchalearm defied a summons by the National Council for Peace and Order, for allegedly violating Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté law, which makes it a crime to insult or threaten the monarchy. As a result, he was told to show up at a military court.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Southeast Asia

Exiled Thai dissident kidnapped in broad daylight in Phnom Penh

Jack Burton

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Exiled Thai dissident kidnapped in broad daylight in Phnom Penh | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Straits Times

In the latest in a string of mysterious disappearances of Southeast Asian dissidents living in exile, gunmen kidnapped a Thai political activist in Cambodia, rights advocates announced today. 37 year old Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who fled Thailand after 2014’s military coup amid accusations he broke the country’s strict lèse-majesté law, was abducted at gunpoint and bundled into a car as he walked in front of his apartment in the capital, Phnom Penh, on Thursday, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. With his final words “I can’t breathe!” Satsaksit was manhandled into an unmarked vehicle and driven away, according to a friend. It’s been 24 hours since the disappearance and no one knows where he is.

“The abduction of a prominent Thai political activist on the streets of Phnom Penh demands an immediate response from Cambodian authorities,” according Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director. A police spokesman told reporters authorities had not detained or arrested the Satsaksit and there was not enough information for police to open an investigation.

Satsaksit continued his political activism in exile and Thai authorities issued an arrest warrant for him in 2018 for violating the Computer Crime Act by operating a Facebook page critical of the military government. On Wednesday, he criticised PM Prayut Chan-o-cha online.

According to a 2015 Thai media report citing a security source, Wanchalearm was among 29 exiled activists accused of violating the lèse-majesté law that makes it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the monarchy.

At least 8 Thai activists who fled after the 2014 coup and took refuge in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam have disappeared, friends and rights groups say, and some have been found dead.

The hashtag #SaveWanchalearm is trending on Thai Twitter today, with more than 400,000 re tweets and some activists reportedly plan a demonstration later in the day.

Human rights groups have accused governments in Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, of helping each other to forcibly return several dissidents and asylum seekers in recent years.

Thai police have denied all knowledge and responsibility for the abduction. Reached by phone, police spokesman Kissana Phattanacharoen had this to say:

“Cambodia is not Thailand. You must ask the relevant country.”

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Khaosod English

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Crime

Fishermen abuse and slavery cases solved “off-the-record”

Caitlin Ashworth

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Fishermen abuse and slavery cases solved “off-the-record” | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

Many cases of alleged abuse and slavery at sea are not being reported to the Thailand government. The Thomson Reuters Foundation did an analysis on the claims of slavery and abuse on Thai fishing boats and found that the majority of complaints are not documented with labour ministry officials who solve issues “off-the-record”.

Many fisherman agree to mediation because they don’t want to waste time if the case goes to court, Suwanee Dolah from Raks Thai Foundation, a non-profit focusing on a variety of humanitarian and supports fishermen, mostly from Cambodia and Myanmar. Employers would rather not have a large number of complaints, Dolah says. One labour ministry official explained to Reuters that they encourage the employer and employee to mediate before submitting a complaint, if the case is minor.

Reuters obtained labour abuse complaints from 289 fishing workers lodged between 2o15 and 2020. Nothing was documented on the outcomes. Some fishermen seek help from charities rather than the government. Since 2015, charities have been helping out around 1,600 fishermen solve problems with their employer involving payment and abuse, according to Reuters.

Although complaints are supposedly getting resolved, a lawyer specialising in human trafficking told Reuters that labour inspectors tend to support the employers rather than the workers. He added that many workers are afraid of taking legal action.

“If the cycle of violations kept in the dark and solved one-on-one goes on without punishment, some say the employers may keep abusing the employees…. it will cause a never-ending cycle of rights violations.”

SOURCE: Reuters

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