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Archive for February 2009

Myanmar jails opposition MPs ahead of U.N. envoy visit

February 14, 2009

YANGON (Reuters) – A Myanmar court handed 15-year jail terms to two senior opposition politicians on the eve of a visit by a U.N. human rights envoy, the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) said on Saturday.

NLD members Nyi Bu and Tin Min Htut were convicted of various charges on Friday in a court session held at the high-security Insein prison in Yangon without lawyers or family members present, NLD spokesman Nyan Win told Reuters.

Both politicians won seats in parliament when the NLD scored a landslide win in a 1990 general election. The ruling military junta ignored the results. “They did not get any legal assistance from their lawyers at all … I can’t imagine how the hearing was conducted,” Nyan Win said.

The two men were arrested in August after they wrote an open letter to the United Nations criticizing the ruling military regime’s seven-step roadmap toward democratic political reforms.

The court’s decision, not reported by state-run media, came a day before the arrival of U.N. special rapporteur for human rights, Tomas Ojea Quintana, who hopes to meet political prisoners and detained opposition leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi.

“We do welcome Mr. Quintana as the human rights situation here is getting worse and worse,” the NLD spokesman said.

During his 5-day visit, Ojea will try to assess human rights developments in Myanmar after a previous trip last summer, the United Nations said in a statement.

Ojea hopes to meet military officials to discuss the implementation of several human rights practices which he has recommended be in place before elections due in 2010.

Last week U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari failed to make headway in efforts to bring the former Burma’s military junta and Suu Kyi’s NLD closer to talks on reform. Gambari met Suu Kyi, who insisted the 1990 election must be the basis for any settlement. The most senior junta official he met was Prime Minister Thein Sein, number four in the military hierarchy.

Written by Kham

14/02/2009 at 8:49 pm

Thai prime minister acknowledges Myanmar migrants were sent back to sea

Associated Press

2/13/2009

Bangkok: Thailand’s prime minister acknowledged Friday that authorities towed migrants from Myanmar back out to sea, but insisted that their human rights were not violated.

Many Rohingya, who are denied citizenship in their native land, have tried to land in Thailand after treacherous sea journeys in recent months, only to be turned away.

Rescued migrants have charged that they were towed out to the high seas in boats with no engines by the Thai navy. Officials in the Indian navy, who rescued some in the Andaman Sea, believed on the basis of survivors’ accounts that hundreds may have perished.

There also were allegations that Thai authorities had beaten some Rohingya who made it ashore before they were sent on their way and ended up in Indonesia. The plight of the Rohingya boat people has recently gained the world’s attention, and actress Angelina Jolie, touring a refugee camp in northern Thailand last week, added her voice to the call for Thailand to respect their human rights.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Friday boats carrying Muslim Rohingya migrants “were towed out so they can land at a different destination.” Abhisit had previously said he could not confirm any accounts of the migrants being sent away. Other Thai officials had said their policy is to detain and repatriate migrants.

On Friday he remained unclear about whether the boats that were pushed out had engines and said he did not know exactly who had towed the boats to sea, but did not deny that sending them away was government policy, saying, “It happens in many countries.” “From the information I have, there was no intention to cause loss of lives,” he said, adding that accounts of abuses came solely from migrants and had not been independently confirmed. “The nature of these push-outs means they were given water and food, and it was calculated when and where they will wash up on (other) shores,” he told reporters.

Speaking separately, the army officer directly in charge of handling the Rohingya migrants acknowledged freely that the migrants had been pushed out and insisted it was Thailand’s legal right to do so. Col. Manat Kongpan insisted that the migrants were not cast adrift.

Speaking at a seminar in Bangkok on the Rohingya issue, he said that if “they come without engines or their boats don’t look like they will make it to the open waters again, we help them fix it and we give them a little food and supplies so they can go on.”

He also denied physically mistreating the migrants.

At the same seminar, Raymond Hall, regional representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said Thailand has been asked to open a temporary shelter for Rohingya migrants — a solution informally opposed by Thai officials — but that the long-term solution was to improve living conditions for them in their area of western Myanmar

Written by Kham

14/02/2009 at 8:38 pm

Rama IX, Lord of Smiles

Interview: Giles Ji Ungpakorn

09/02/2009

giles_ungpakorn1

Fear or Fear ME not
Fear or Fear ME not

Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a refugee from Thailand’s lèse majesté laws. He spoke to Index on Censorship about the government and military’s campaign against dissent

Academic and journalist Giles Ji Ungpakorn fled Thailand last Friday, shortly before he was due to face charges of lèse majesté. Ungpakorn was one of the latest in a series of writers who found themselves prosecuted under the law, including Australian Harry Nicolaides, who is currently serving a three-year jail sentence after being found guilty of insulting the king.

Ungpakorn says he never expected to face lese majeste charges. ‘I wrote my book [A Coup for the Rich], as an academic text, raising questions about the role of the king in the 2006 coup. Everything in the book was common knowledge and fact, reported at the time’ he told Index on Censorship.

‘But when you put everything together, you get to see the big picture. I examined whether the monarchy had done its duty, as it should in a constitutional monarchy, or whether it had been manipulated in to positions by the military.’ The professor, who holds Thai and British citizenship, is scathing of his employer Chulalongkorn University’s role.

‘The university acted disgracefully in terms of academic freedom,’ he says. First, they refused to sell my book in the university bookshop, and then, when the authorities were seeking to prosecute me, they handed it over without question.’

Ungpakorn sees the charges against him as very much a part of a wider crackdown on dissent, led by the military. ‘The military is using the courts as instruments,’he says. ‘They, along with the People’s Alliance for Democracy, are attempting to create a climate of fear. They have set up a website for people to report suspected lèse majesté. They’re also tracking people down via their IP numbers, and then sending soldiers round to intimidate them.’

The current crackdown is a direct result of last year’s quasi-coup by the People’s Alliance for Democracy and its military backers, says Ungpakorn: ‘The military has no legitimacy except through the monarchy. If the king were to die, and be succeeded by the unpopular crown prince, they would be in crisis.’

Ungpakorn is angry at the obsession with pursuing lèse majesté convictions: ‘Huge amounts of government money is being spent on all this, when Thailand is suffering the same economic crisis as the rest of the world. They are wasting money while the Thai people are losing their jobs and their pensions.

Written by Kham

11/02/2009 at 3:25 am

“Red Siam” and Populism:Not enemy of democracy

“Red Siam” Manifesto by Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The enemies of the Thai people and Democracy may have their army, courts and prisons. They may have seized and rigged parliament and established the government through crimes like the blockading of the airports and other undemocratic actions by the PAD. Yet those that love democracy, the Redshirts, have strength in numbers and are waking up to political realities. Disorganised and scattered, this movement of ours will be weak, but a party that is organised and self-led can create a democratic fist to smash the dictatorship.

While world leaders such as Obama struggle to solve the serious economic crisis, the Democrat Government in Thailand is allowing thousands of workers to lose their jobs. The government sees its priority only in cracking down on opposition using les majeste, it has even created a web-site where citizens can inform on each other. Troops have been sent into communities and villages to stifle dissent.

The enemies of democracy have guns, an army and shadowy bosses in high places. But their weakness is that they are united around an absurd and un-scientific ideology: the ideology of the Monarchy. This ideology seeks to make Thais into grovelling serfs. They want us to believe that an ordinary human being, just because of an accident of birth, can be transformed into a God, when the true abilities of the king are no different from millions of ordinary engineers, artists, farmers or skilled workers.

The conservative elites want us to believe that the king loves and takes care of the people. But the Thai population are quite capable of looking after themselves. All that is beautiful and honourable about Thai society has been created by working people.

This king:
• grew in stature under the corrupt military dictators: Sarit, Tanom and Prapass.
• allowed innocent people to be executed after they were falsely accused of killing his older brother.
• supported the blood bath at Thammasart University on 6th October 1976 because he felt that Thailand had “too much democracy”. He was also the patron of the violent gang that were called the “village scouts”.
• allowed the army to stage a coup in September 2006. Furthermore he allowed his name to be used by the army, the PAD protestors and the Democrat Party, in the destruction of democracy.
• has been an advocate of economic views which reveal his opposition to state social welfare for the poor. But what is worse, as one of the richest men in the world, the king has the arrogance to lecture the poor to be sufficient in their poverty (through the notion of the Sufficiency Economy).

Finally, this king allows his supporters to proclaim that he is “the father of the nation,” and yet his own son is not respected by anyone in Thai society!

The elites in Thailand, who claim legitimacy from the king, are exploiters and blood-suckers. They are not the real owners of society. They should remember that their wealth and status is as a result of the hard work of those ordinary citizens whom they despise.

For the millions of Thais who know all this to be true, it is only fear and intimidation that stops us all from speaking this truth out loud.

If we are alone, we will be frightened. If we are together we will have courage. It is time to bring into the open our anger, courage and reason in order to destroy the fear in Thai society and to bring light back to our country. We must all ask questions about the present regime, which after all is nothing other than a dictatorship which shrouds us in darkness. When we all stand up and ask questions, they cannot jail us all.

So long as we crawl before the ideology of the Monarchy, we shall remain no better than animals. We must stand up and be humans, citizens in a modern world.

The red, white and blue Thai flag, copied from the West in order to indoctrinate us to be loyal to “Nation Religion and King”, the same slogan which was recently last used by the PAD protestors who blocked the airports. Yet during the French revolution, the red white and blue meant “Liberty Equality and Fraternity”. This is the slogan we must use to free Thailand from the “New Order” which the PAD and the army have installed.

How can we organise?

Stop dreaming that ex-PM Thaksin will lead the struggle to free society. We cannot rely on the politicians of Pua Thai, either. They will only fight within the confines of present structures of society while thousands of citizens wish to go further. Fighting outside the confines of present day Thai society does not mean taking up arms. It means arming ourselves and the masses of pro-democracy people with ideas that can lead to freedom. We must set up political education groups and form ourselves into a party. This party must be led from below by people in all communities, workplaces and educational institutions. Yet we must be coordinated. We must be firm and confident that all of us can be empowered take a lead and determine our policies. This will be our strength. Our weapons will be mass demonstrations, strikes and spreading ideas to all sections of society, including the lower ranks of the army.

As a movement for genuine democracy, our party must act openly. But in the face of repression through violence and legal means such as les majeste, we shall also have to organise secretly. They must not be able to destroy our movement by arresting top leaders. This is another reason why we want self-leadership from below.

What should our common platform look like?

It is not for one person to determine the common platform, which must of necessity be a collective decision. But as a staring point I offer the following ideas, the ideas of one red-shirted citizen.

1. We must have freedom of expression and the freedom to choose our own government without repression and fear.
2. We must have equality. We have to abolish the mentality of “big people-little people”. We must abolish the practice of crawling to the royal family. Politicians must be accountable to the electorate, not to shadowy conniving figures beyond popular control. We need to build a culture where citizens respect each other. We must have freedom and equality of the sexes and among different ethnicities. We must respect women, gays and lesbians. We must respect Burmese, Laotians, Cambodians and the Muslim Malay people in the south. Women must have the right to chose safe abortions. Refugees should be treated with friendship and dignity as any civilised society would do.
3. Our country must be a Welfare State. Taxes must be levied on the rich. The poor are not a burden, but are partners in developing the country. People should have dignity. The present exploitative society stifles individuals and destroys personal creativity.
4. In our country the king should honour his constitutional role and stop intervening in politics. But the ruling class in Thailand gain much from using the Monarchy and they will not easily stop doing this. Therefore the best way to solve this problem is to build a Republic where all public positions are elected and accountable.
5. For too long Thai society has been under the iron heels of the generals. We must cut the military budget and abolish the influence of the army in society ensuring that it can no long be an obstacle to democracy.
6. We must have justice. The judges should not claim power from the Crown in order to stop people criticising their decisions. We must change the way that “Contempt of Court” laws are used to prevent accountability. We need to reform the justice system root and branch. We need a jury system. The police must serve the population, not extract bribes from the poor.
7. Citizens in towns and communities must take part in the management of all public institutions such as state enterprises, the media, schools and hospitals.
8. Our country must modernise. We need to develop the education system, transport and housing. We should create energy from wind and solar power to protect the environment.
9. Our country must be peace-loving, not start disputes with neighbouring countries or support wars.

The dinosaurs of Thai society, the Yellow Shirted Royalists, will froth at the mouth in anger at this manifesto, but that is merely the symptoms of people who carry superstitious beliefs from the past, seeking to cling to their privileges at all costs. Their time is finished. We, the pro-democracy Redshirts will move forward to build a new society.

The elites have no right to rob the people of their dignity in order to prop up their own statuses. This sacrifice of the poor for the benefit of the elites must stop.

Those that say that Thailand is “a special case because we have a king”, are merely confirming that the special status of Thailand, which they want to protect, is barbarism and dictatorship. Statements about “National Security” are only about the security for those who exploit and oppress the rest of us. It is not about peace and security for citizens.

This manifesto is just a proposal for a joint platform among Redshirts. My own view is that our country should move even further to a Socialist society, democratic and without class exploitation. But that is a long term goal.

The ruling class only appears powerful because we are crawling on our knees. What we need to do is to stand up, think and act for ourselves. Then we will see how weak and pathetic they really are!

In the past, whether it was during the 1932 revolution or the 1970s struggles against dictatorship, people dreamt of freedom, democracy and social justice. It is time to turn this dream into reality.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn
9 Feb 2009

Written by Kham

11/02/2009 at 3:17 am

Lese Majeste witch hunt laws infringing human rights

Thai professor flees to England after alleged insult to monarchy

AP 9/02/2009

Bangkok: A prominent academic facing 15 years in prison for allegedly insulting the Thai monarchy has fled to England, saying Monday that he did not believe he would receive a fair trial.

Ji Ungpakorn, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, was charged last month under a Thai lèse-majesté law over a book about the country’s military coup in 2006. His case is the latest in a spate of prosecutions and increased censorship of Web sites deemed to be critical of the royal family.

“There is no justice in Thailand,” Ji said in an e-mail sent to The Associated Press. “The regime seems to be inching toward a police state.”

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy but has severe lèse-majesté laws, mandating a prison term of 3 to 15 years for “whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the regent.”

Until recently, prosecutions under the law were uncommon in the country, where 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej – the world’s longest-serving head of state – is almost universally revered.

Lieutenant General Wacharapon Prasatrachakit, a police spokesman, denied the charge that Ji would not receive a fair trial.

“There is no reason to believe he will not receive a fair trial,” he said. “We have to look into the complaint, like every other complaint, and give everyone their chance to defend themselves. This case is no different.” He declined to elaborate on the case. Ji, who holds both Thai and British citizenship, has led a campaign to abolish the law.

He said he was targeted for political reasons because his book “A Coup for the Rich,” published in 2007, criticized the military for ousting then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. In the book, he indirectly questioned the palace’s role in Thai politics during the period.

Written by Kham

09/02/2009 at 8:30 pm

Kasit, ASEAN head,name calling a fledgling,insane rogue communist Hun Sen

Kasit and Jakrapob: Abhisit’s double standard?

Prachatai
03 February 2009

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya appears to be a lightning rod for the current government, due to his previous active roles both on and off the PAD stage.

Piphob Thongchai, a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), lauded Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for his courage in including Kasit in his Cabinet, as ‘Kasit has shown the guts to protect the country, and has been a diplomat accepted by other countries.’

Piphob insisted that Kasit’s ministerial job was not in any way the PAD’s ‘quota’: ‘Kasit did not get the post because the PAD sent him. He’s not got the wounds like some in the Cabinet. It’s good to have him as Foreign Minister to explain to other countries what Thaksin has done to Thailand.’

Deputy Prime Minister and the Democrat’s Secretary-General Suthep Thaugsuban also insisted that Kasit had to be distinguished from the PAD, but, perhaps, rather was a Democrat who joined PAD activities.

After retirement in 2004, Kasit joined the Democrats as shadow Deputy Prime Minister, and in August 2006 was a party-list candidate for the mid-October elections which never happened because of the coup on September 19.

Kasit was Ambassador to Indonesia, Germany, Japan, and the US where he retired. According to him, in 2001 he worked for the Thai Rak Thai government which transferred him to the Prime Minister’s Office, and he once was an admirer of Thaksin’s before taking a vow to topple him and joining hands with the PAD.

‘Dangerous attitudes’

Kasit was a target of criticism after he made comments to foreign reporters on Dec 19, 2008, on the PAD seizure of Suvarnabhumi Airport, saying he found it to be fun and, ‘the food was delicious and the music was good.’ Later he denied saying this, and blamed foreign reporters for getting him wrong.

It has also been cause for concern that his personality and recent record with the PAD might pose a threat to Thailand’s relations with Cambodia. At PAD rallies during the dispute over Prear Vihear, Kasit helped fan the flames by addressing Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen with a variety of derogatory words and phrases, some of which could be translated as ‘the rogue next door to Thailand’, ‘a bum’, or ‘a scoundrel’, when he was on The Nation television channel on Oct 14, 2008.

But when he became Foreign Minister, and made a visit to Phnom Penh on Jan 26, 2009, he was quick to shake hands, and call Hun Sen ‘a decent senior’ in the ASEAN community.

‘I think His Excellency Hun Sen is mature and respectable. He greeted me with, “We met 20 years ago”. So he is mature enough, a gentleman, and the most senior political figure in ASEAN. I think he also looks ahead to strengthening the relationship. I think he’s not childish or likely to make trouble. And I think you [reporters] should not make a stir. We should move forward, and help make the relation constructive,’ said Kasit.

Double standard?

Prime Minister Abhisit said on Dec 24, 2008, that Kasit’s comments had been made before he became a minister. Wiping the slate clean, the PM vowed from then on to keep his ministers in line with what his government had pledged.

Previously in 2008, Abhisit himself attacked then Prime Minister’s Office Minister Jakrapob Penkair of the now dissolved People’s Power Party, accusing him of holding ‘dangerous attitudes’. Abhisit called on Jakrapob to take responsibility for the latter’s speech at an event hosted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, alleging that he was alluding to the highest institution when he mentioned the patronage system in Thailand. With mounting pressure from the PAD, Jakrapob finally decided to call it quits.

In comparison, Kasit openly went on PAD stages at Government House and Suvarnabhumi Airport, making scathing speeches against political opponents, including a neighbouring nation and its leader. He even unwittingly confessed his crimes by proudly bragging about the fun of the airport seizure plus the appreciation of the food and music there.

Kasit still insists his joining with the PAD was the right thing, ‘What has the PAD done wrong? I mean the PAD is not an organized crime group or anything of that sort, but an expression of democracy, because they are the majority of the people, 60-70% being housewives, who come out to call for justice and governance, against corruption. I think being involved with the PAD is not a sin’

Both of them committed the alleged offences before they took office. One was called on to resign by Abhisit, while the other has come clean.

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Thug Diplomat, Kasit Cry wolf on Khmer Preah Vihear Temple and Hun Sen

Thug Diplomat, Kasit Cry wolf on Khmer Preah Vihear Temple and Hun Sen

 

Kasit ‘s Words on Hun Sen

Quotes of Kasit Piromya on the PAD stage at Government House

Oct 15, 2008

(Source:mms://tv.manager.co.th/videoclip/11News1/Footage/Kasit_151008_H.wmv)

‘…Our politicians and generals have made a mistake that seriously jeopardizes the dignity of Thailand, by allowing Hun Sen, a fledgling, a rogue across the border, to give his ultimatum. Who the heck do you think you are, Hun Sen?’

‘Hun Sen has fought with us for 20-30 years since he was Khmer Rouge, gave in to the Vietnamese, and turned against us. He has always been hostile to us. Maybe it’s a feeling inherent in his blood. He can’t help it as he was born to kill Thais, and dislike Thais. So when there’s a chance to humiliate Thais, he won’t hesitate to do so. And, secondly, he might be insane. He‘s a Cambodian warlord who doesn’t know what peace is, or what negotiation is. He’d only gain from the dispute. The UN should be advised to send psychiatrists to cure Hun Sen.’

‘[Hun Sen] is the Vietnamese Communist Party’s underling. He might have been told to keep meddling with Thailand so that foreign investment would pour into Vietnam, instead of Thailand.’

 Translated by Ponglert Pongwanan

Written by Kham

05/02/2009 at 8:35 pm

Excellency Thaksin (ET) phones home

Jatuporn plans Thaksin’s phone-in

By: BangkokPost.com

Published: 5/02/2009 at 03:55 PM

Puea Thai MP Jatuporn Prompan said he plans to contact ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra to invite him to phone-in to speak to his supporters on Valentine’s Day.

Mr Jatuporn said he would like his former boss to clarify the statement made by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who claimed that Mr Thaksin would like to become “President of Thailand.”

If Mr Thaksin agrees, he will phone-in to political talk show called Kwan Jing Wannee (The Truth Today) on Feb 14, the day when members of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) plans to hold another anti-government rally.

On Sunday, ex-premier Somchai Wongsawat, brother-in-law of Mr Thaksin, will also make a phone-in to the political talk show and explain why he did not take action against People’s Alliance for Democracy, which occupied the Government House during his administration.

Written by Kham

05/02/2009 at 7:48 pm