Posts tagged ‘human rights’

October 1, 2014

Laos Joins Southeast Asian Neighbors in Imposing Stricter Internet Controls

Advocacy Global Voices

Laos Joins Southeast Asian Neighbors in Imposing Stricter Internet Controls

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2014/09/28/laos-joins-southeast-asian-neighbors-in-imposing-stricter-internet-controls/

Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong has signed a new decree imposing stricter Internet control in the country. Signed last September 16, 2014, the new regulation promotes responsible and “constructive” use of the Internet among Lao netizens.

A few months ago, Lao officials announced that they were studying the experience of other Southeast Asian nations as a guide in drafting an Internet law which they plan to implement this year. They chose the restrictive cyber laws of Myanmar and Vietnam as models in formulating the framework of Laos’ Internet law. Laos officials also reportedly looked at the approach used by China in regulating the Web.

As expected, the result is a law that claims to support the growth of the Internet but actually contains numerous contradictory provisions that undermine free speech and other citizen rights.

Provisions that recognize the privacy rights of Internet users, the protection of intellectual property, and prohibitions on pornography may be less controversial for Laotians. But the law also prohibits sharing photos that “contradict Lao traditions and culture.” The question is this, who will decide whether an obscene image insults Laotian heritage?

The same decree also identified several so-called “cybercrimes” whose definitions are unclear and very broad. They include:

- Disseminating false information against the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party;
– Circulating information that encourages citizens to be involved in terrorism, murder, and social disorder;
– Supporting online campaigns that seek to divide solidarity among ethnic groups and between countries;
– Spreading information that distorts truth or tarnishes the dignity and rights of individuals, sectors, institutions and organizations;
– Sharing of comments whose contents are in line with the abovementioned prohibitions.

Internet service providers are ordered not to provide service to individuals, legal entities or organizations whose movement seeks to undermine the Party and government policies.

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From this week’s top stories: government issues decree to control internet activity http://wp.me/p45NBN-Ur 

Based on these guidelines, it seems that legitimate criticism of government programs and policies can be interpreted as a criminal act if it creates division, confusion, or “disorder” among the public. It is easy to see how authorities could use the law to prosecute journalists, activists, and other critics of the government.

The law also prohibits the creation of anonymous or pseudonymous accounts online, purportedly in an effort “to ease the efforts of authorities in regulating the Internet.” This is a big blow to citizens who seek to expose wrongdoings in the government through the Internet.

The government believes that this kind of Internet regulation is necessary to prevent abuse and misuse of the Internet as a space for communication and connection. While acknowledging the positive contributions of the Internet to the local economy, Lao officials also warned that it can be used to cause panic in society. They cited the spread of inaccurate information about the Lao Airlines crash and a recently online rumor of human organ trafficking in Attapeu province. In both cases, the Laos government was forced to make official statements to clarify the wrong information.

Despite these excesses, however, the Laos government previously vowed not to block the Internet, believing that it is essential to the “modernization and industrialization” of the country. But the new Internet law will undermine the commitment of Laos officials to keep the Internet open and free. It will discourage netizens from maximizing online spaces to engage public officials and challenge public policies.

The law could also impede the growth of the IT sector. In 2011 there were only 60,000 Facebook users in Laos. Today, more than half a million Lao citizens use the popular social networking site. According to news reports, there are now five telecommunications companies, seven Internet service providers and about 900 computer shops in the country. At this time, what Laos needs is a law that will boost this industry and not something that will unfairly penalize critics, activists, and even ordinary Internet users.

It is unfortunate that Laos has aligned itself with its neighbors in the region that are implementing repressive Internet laws to stifle dissent, intimidate the opposition, and even punish critical citizens. Laos should strive to distinguish itself in the region by adopting a human rights-based framework in regulating the Internet.

May 23, 2014

Laos “land grabs” drive subsistence farmers into deeper poverty*

humanitarian news and analysis

a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Laos “land grabs” drive subsistence farmers into deeper poverty*

By Dana MacLean
Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100116/laos-land-grabs-drive-subsistence-farmers-into-deeper-poverty

Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Laos is one of the poorest countries in the region


“When these lands [are given] to companies and converted to industrial agriculture or other uses, it destroys the foundation of rural people’s lives, livelihoods and knowledge systems, as well as their access to food, nutrition, medicines and incomes,” Shalmali Guttal, a senior analyst with Focus on the Global South, a Bangkok-based NGO which campaigns for social justice in Laos, told IRIN.

Large-scale land leases in Laos – or “land grabs,” as campaigners call them – are driven by foreign investment projects brokered between the government and private companies, which have increased in frequency in the past decade and encroached on the land occupied by hundreds of communities, according to researchers at the University of Bern’s Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) in Switzerland.

Ethnic minorities, which make up about 70 percent of the population, mostly live in resource-rich upland areas, which are often the target of land purchases by international corporations.

Because of where they live, they are disproportionately affected.

“Since many of Laos’s ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples’ traditional lands are in areas coveted for conversion into development projects, they have been targeted for relocation projects, largely without their free, prior or informed consent,” says Nicole Girard, senior campaigner for Minority Rights Group (MRG).

Corporations usually promise prosperity. For example, mining operations in Laos have claimed to create thousands of jobs and contribute to local development: The proponents of such schemes would probably point to the fact that between 2005 and 2012, Laos’ GDP increased from US$2.7 billion to 9.3 billion.

However, increased poverty and higher mortality rates are often the lot of those displaced following a government-brokered land deal.

“As most [ethnic farmers] have no education, if they are forcibly displaced, they have very few livelihood options,” said Debbie Stothard, executive director of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), a coalition of human rights NGOs.

Researchers and activists point to the impossibility of continuing traditional farming practices, coupled with lack of work skills, as driving resettled communities into poverty. Land deals in Laos, they say, despite decent laws, are carried out with little transparency or accountability.

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Higher mortality
“There are certain indications that there is a new poverty happening in Laos with the landless poor,” said Andreas Heinimann, senior lecturer at CDE, who co-authored a 2012 land report with the Laos Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) .
Most people depend on the land for their livelihoods
UN Development Programme research found that populations from upland villages that are resettled can suffer mortality rates of up to 30 percent when they are forced to abandon their traditional livelihoods and move to other places.“The impacts [of so many rural poor moving to urban areas] have included significant rises in mortality rates, conflict between communities, and a lack of access to education and health facilities, despite promises of such things,” said MRG’s Girard.When the government relocates farmers to consolidated villages near towns and cities, families in some cases have been given as little as 0.75 hectares of land – roughly half what they traditionally use for farming.Most ethnic groups in rural areas practice shifting cultivation, which requires large plots of land to allow some soil to lie fallow to regenerate while other sections are planted – a system that is “completely different” from the settled farming of the lowland areas where they are resettled, according toHeinimann.In June 2012 the government issued a moratorium on new land concessions for rubber and eucalyptus farming, and mining. However, researchers say, murky land deals continue to drive ethnic communities off their land without adequate consultation or compensation.
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Lack of transparency
Official data show 1.1 million hectares of land – 5 percent of the country’s arable land – has been the subject of roughly 2,600 land deals since 2010 (when the government started keeping track) for large-scale development projects, though some activists suspect leased land could be more than three times that amount. In 2012 the International Food Policy Research Institute listed Laos among seven countries in the world in which international land deals account for more than 10 percent of the total agricultural area.
Photo: Martin Abbiati/IRIN.  An ethnic Hmong woman in Ban Houythao, northern Luang Prabang
“Decisions are not made in public because [the government] doesn’t have proper procedures, and companies are operating in a vacuum of rule of law and policy,” said Michael Taylor, the programme manager for Global Land Policy at the International Land Coalition (ILC), a Rome-basedsecretariatforNGOs and UN agencies working on land issues worldwide.All land in Laos officially belongs to the state, leaving citizens with few options in terms of legal redress when land deals are brokered between the government and companies.“The government sometimes just tells people to move. Of course, we don’t want to go, but what can we do?” saidVong (he uses one name), a 25-year-old ethnic Hmong farmer in BanHouythao village in northernLuangPrabang Province.The most recent domestic analysis shows that 72 percent of all land development projects in Laos are run by foreign investors – mostly from China, Vietnam, and Thailand.Investors target resource-rich and fertile land, especially forested areas, which ILC’s Taylor calls “winning twice” – meaning the companies are “harvesting timber and selling it before using the land [for other projects].”“In the rush to attract overseas capital, the Laos government has made concessions [renting out areas for intensive land use projects] extremely favourable for foreign investors,” said Taylor.

While a 2005 government decree requires investors to compensate and resettle villagers whose land is appropriated for projects, loose monitoring means implementation has been piecemeal.

“The legal framework is good, but enforcement is the issue,” said CDE researcher Oliver Schoenweger. “Most of the time, no compensation is provided to individuals.”

For example, a lignite mining project in the northern Hongsa District launched in 2010 to provide electricity to Thailand will expropriate roughly 6,000 hectares of rice paddy fields cultivated by 2,000 farmers there. However, according to the Land Issues Working Group, a consortium of international NGOs based on Vientiane, the Laos capital, no negotiation with communities has taken place.

The government, in the report it co-published with CDE, acknowledged the lack of proper oversight allows such cases to occur.

“Weaknesses in national land planning and the enforcement of investment regulations have generated concerns,” admitted Akhom Tounalom, vice-minister of MoNRE, explaining: “This case and several others reveal the severe disadvantages local populations have in land negotiations, especially where they are poorly educated, illiterate, or simply under-exposed to tenure or business-related standards or practices.”

“There is a lot of scope for abuse,” said Taylor.

* The corrected percentage of the population comprised of ethnic minorities is up to 70 percent

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[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
January 27, 2014

Press Release: Laos, Hmong Human Rights Advocate Honored With Medal of the Order of Australia

Laos, Hmong Human Rights Advocate Honored With Medal of the Order of Australia

Washington, D.C., and Canberra, Australia, January 26, 2014,

Center for Public Policy Analysis

info@centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

Human rights and humanitarian advocate Kay Danes, who suffered imprisonment and torture in Laos at the hands of communist officials, is being honored today on Australia Day with the prestigious Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).  She is one of Australia’s 2014 OAM recipients for service to the community through social justice and human rights.

For over a decade, Mrs. Danes has repeatedly traveled to Washington, D.C., on official invitation, to speak in the U.S. Congress about human rights violations in Laos and the plight of the Lao and Hmong people, including imprisoned political and religious dissidents.  She has testified about the status of refugees facing forced repatriation, foreign prisoners tortured in Laos, religious persecution, and three Hmong-Americans from St. Paul, Minnesota, still imprisoned and missing in Laos, including Mr. Hakit Yang. Mr. Congshineng Yang, and Mr. Trillion Yunhaison,

“Kay Danes had provided critical and important research, evidence and testimony to the U.S. Congress, government policymakers and the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), over the years, regarding ongoing human rights and religious freedom violations in Laos, Vietnam and elsewhere in Southeast Asia,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the CPPA.  http://www.centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

“This vital information, and Mrs. Danes’ courage to give voice to the voiceless, has been invaluable in helping to understand the hidden reality of the situation under the communist regimes in Laos and Vietnam, especially in light of the recent abduction of civic activist and Magsaysay Award winner Sombath Somphone by Lao security forces in Vientiane, and the international outcry for his release,” Smith commented.

Smith continued:  “Joining with many U.S.-based non-governmental organizations, including Lao and Hmong-American human rights and refugee groups, and victims’ families, we wish to sincerely congratulate Mrs. Kay Danes for being honored today with the Medal of the Order of Australia by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the government and people of Australia. We are very happy for Kay Danes as well as her husband Kerry Danes and family, especially after the horrific human rights abuses they both suffered and witnessed in Laos during their terrible imprisonment and abuse by the Lao government.”

“Among other important humanitarian efforts, Kay Danes also provided crucial evidence and testimony about the Lao government’s recent and unfettered role in human rights abuses, torture, extra-judicial abductions and killings as well as its role in the forced repatriation of Hmong refugees and the brutal persecution of Lao student dissidents and religious believers, especially minority Christians,” Smith observed.

“The Medal of the Order of Australia is the principal and most prestigious means of recognizing outstanding members of the community at a national level and nominations are encouraged from all members of the Australian public,” states the Australian Honours Secretariat of the Australian government.

“I am grateful to be a recipient of this award and hope that the human rights conversation continues to strengthen throughout the world,” said Mrs. Danes.  “Human rights are the foundation of civil societies and set the guidelines on how we ought to act towards one another.”

Danes states further: “My long-standing relationship with the Centre for Public Policy Analysis and in particular, with Mr. Philip Smith, has very much played an important part of this award to which I am recognized today. Together, and with other humanitarians and U.S. Government officials, we hope to secure greater human rights freedoms for the thousands of those still oppressed by totalitarian regimes.”

Queensland’s Bayside Bulletin and The Redland Times (Fairfax Media Limited – Australia) helped to announce the news of the award today and cited Danes’ “…passion for social justice.”

“The Lao and Hmong community are very pleased and also grateful to Kay Danes, and her husband Kerry Danes, for their important human rights and humanitarian work,” said Sheng Xiong, of St. Paul, Minnesota, whose husband was also imprisoned and tortured in Phonthong Prison along with other Hmong-Americans.

“We want to thank Kay Danes for helping to bring awareness about terrible human rights violations in Laos and the suffering in the prisons, detention centers and refugee camps of Laos, including Phonthong prison; We commend Australia’s government, and Queen Elizabeth II, for awarding the Medal of the Order of Australia to Mrs. Danes,” said Bounthanh Rathigna, President of the United League for Democracy in Laos (ULDL).

Two Lao-American members of the ULDL from St. Paul, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, who participated in public policy events with Kay Danes in Washington, D.C., disappeared last year in Savannakhet Province, Laos and are feared dead in an incident involving Lao security and military forces.  Three Lao-Americans were traveling together during the incident including Souli Kongmalavong, Mr. Bounma Phannhotha and Mr. Bounthie Insixiengmai.

Kay Danes has authored several books on human rights violations in Laos and the plight of foreign prisoners unjustly abused, tortured and killed abroad including: Standing Ground and Families Behind Bars.  Philip Smith was asked to write the preface and Foreword to her most recent book, Standing Ground (2009, New Holland Publishers Australia).

According to the Australian government, the Order of Australia also serves to define, encourage and reinforce community standards, national aspirations and ideals by acknowledging actions and achievement and thereby identifying role models.  The award was established by the Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth nations, Elizabeth II.  HM Queen Elizabeth II is the Sovereign Head of the Order.

###

Contact:

Maria Gomez, Jade Her or Philip Smith

Tele  (202)543-1444

info@centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA)

2020 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, DC   USA

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Related:

Scoop.co.nz   Jan 28 05:11pm

Kay Danes, who suffered imprisonment and torture in Laos at the hands of communist officials, is being honored in Australia with the prestigious Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her social justice and human rights work.
January 5, 2014

A year on, the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone continues with impunity in Lao PDR

A year on, the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone continues with impunity in Lao PDR

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:   http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14103&LangID=E

GENEVA (16 December 2013) – A group of United Nations human rights experts today urged the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) to increase its efforts in the investigations into the enforced disappearance on 15 December 2012, of Sombath Somphone, a prominent human right activist working on issues of land confiscation and assisting victims in denouncing such practices.

“Mr. Somphone has been disappeared for one year. We are deeply concerned about his safety and security”, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said. “We urge the Government of Lao PDR to do its utmost to locate Mr. Somphone, to establish his fate and whereabouts, and to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The human rights experts noted that Mr. Somphone was held in police custody following his reported disappearance, according to additional information received that sheds new light on the case. A few days after his disappearance, he was seen inside a police detention centre with his car parked in the police compound.

Two days later, he was reportedly moved to a military camp outside Vientiane, and then transferred again to an unknown location one week later. It was further reported that, a few days following his disappearance, relevant Government officials said that Mr. Somphone would be released.

It has also been reported, the experts pointed out, that the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, which recorded the incident of the abduction of Mr. Somphone on 15 December 2012, has not been analysed by any independent body. “We call on the Government of Lao PDR to accept external technical assistance to analyse the original CCTV footage of the incident,” they said.

“Defenders play a key role in promoting human rights and their legitimate work should be fully respected,” the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, said. “Mr. Somphone’s disappearance might have a chilling effect on human rights defenders operating in the country, owing to his high profile at the national and international levels.”

The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, called on the Government of Lao PDR “to fully cooperate with the Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures, particularly as it seeks election to the Human Rights Council for 2016.”

Mr. Maina Kiai expressed deep regret over the lack of response of the Lao PDR to his letters dated 12 December 2011 and 30 October 2013 requesting an invitation to visit the country.

The United Nations Special Rapporteurs are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are charged by the Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on human rights issues. Currently, there are 37 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 72 mandate holders. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

For more information log on to: Enforced disappearances: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disappearances/Pages/DisappearancesIndex.aspx Freedom of peaceful assembly and of association: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/AssemblyAssociation/Pages/SRFreedomAssemblyAssociationIndex.aspx Human rights defenders: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx Freedom of opinion and expression: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Lao PDR: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/LAIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Karen Blanc (+41 22 917 9400 / kblanc@ohchr.org).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

UN Human Rights, follow us on social media: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unitednationshumanrights Twitter: http://twitter.com/UNrightswire Google+ gplus.to/unitednationshumanrights YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/UNOHCHR Storify: http://storify.com/UNrightswire

Watch Navi Pillay’s Human Rights Day message: http://youtu.be/dhX-KbVbEQ0

November 22, 2013

Thailand’s War of Attrition

 

Thailand’s War of Attrition

As the government and opposition forces take to the streets, an exiled billionaire waits in the wings, and battle lines are drawn.

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/11/21/thailand_s_war_of_attrition?page=full

BY STEVE FINCH | NOVEMBER 21, 2013

BANGKOK — With his sister in office, a majority in the lower house, and billions in the bank, Thailand’s self-exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had every reason to feel confident he might soon return home. But an attempt by the ruling Pheu Thai party to ram a sweeping political amnesty through parliament has backfired. As the government he influences from overseas fights for survival, Thailand’s latest political crisis threatens longer-term damage to Thaksin’s support base. And it leaves him a long way from home.

Portrayed by the Shinawatras as an attempt to draw a line under nearly a decade of bruising political encounters, the amnesty bill would have cleared Thaksin of a two-year prison term for graft in absentia after his ouster by coup in 2006. Murder charges against Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the opposition Democrat Party, over his role in crushing Bangkok street protests by Thaksin supporters, known as “Red Shirts,” when he was prime minister in 2010 would also have been quashed.

“Should we reset and move on or should we continue to fight?” Thaksin said in a last-ditch attempt at convincing his opponents that the bill could lead to political reconciliation during an interview published in Thai and English on Oct. 24.

Eight days later, the Pheu Thai-dominated lower house unanimously passed the bill amid an opposition walkout. By the time it reached the upper house on Nov. 12, however, the bill had become so toxic that senators had little choice but to reject it 141-0.

As it reached the Senate, almost every corner of Thai society was livid. Office workers in the central Silom district of Bangkok left their desks and poured into the street blowing whistles; university staff and students marched together on campuses, and opposition supporters set up tents around the capital’s Democracy Monument near the seat of government.

A bill that was designed to “reset” the country’s long-running political feud by clearing everyone’s name thereby — in theory, keeping everyone happy — had achieved the opposite. For Thaksin supporters, many of whom were killed and injured at the hands of the military in 2010, the amnesty would clear main opposition Democrat Party leader Abhisit, a man they commonly refer to as “the murderer.” For his opponents, the bill is seen as a cynical attempt by the government to sweep graft under the carpet and smooth the return of a hated and divisive figure. There are also fears that Thaksin’s assets worth $1.47 billion could be unfrozen.

Following a coup in September 2006, Thailand’s political divide has widened in a cyclical series of political crises typified by protests and clashes involving the “Yellow Shirts,” self-proclaimed defenders of the monarchy, and the Red Shirts, opponents of the coup. As a result, chaos has become a regular feature of life in the Thai capital: In November 2008, Yellow Shirts seized both Bangkok airports to protest a new government deemed a proxy of Thaksin; less than two years later, parts of Bangkok were turned into free-fire zones as the army clashed with encamped Red Shirts. Amid the battles, the Reds have aimed to overturn the constitutional legacy of the coup in the name of greater democratic reform. For the Yellows, the goal remains the end of Thaksin’s influence, a man deemed a threat to the monarchy, an enduring symbol of graft and greed.

“Corruption is the No. 1 problem with the government,” says Chao Chaonarich, a real-estate agent from Bangkok. One of the thousands of Yellow Shirt protesters who continue to rally in Bangkok as the opposition aims to topple Yingluck, Chao complained the government’s record was far from stellar even before the amnesty bill.

Government critics argue that a populist rice-pledging scheme which guarantees farmers a fixed price per kilo is costing the country dear, guaranteeing prices above market rates while sapping overseas demand. The Shinawatras have pursued an election-winning strategy of “Thaksinomics,” playing to the rural poor — the majority — by providing subsidies on everything from health insurance to energy in recent years, with mixed results. The rice-pledging scheme left taxpayers with a bill for 136 billion baht ($4.3 billion) during Yingluck’s first year in office and an estimated $9.6 billion in the 18 months since. The government has refused to disclose recent losses but the state budget is hemorrhaging funds by most accounts: In recent weeks, some farmers have been told they must wait months before they will receive payment with debt as percentage of GDP climbing to 44.3 percent.

To add further damage to the Pheu Thai government, the International Monetary Fund called for the rice policy to be scrapped on Nov. 11. That was the same day the Senate shot down the amnesty bill and the International Court of Justice in The Hague mostly sided with Cambodia in a ruling on a territorial dispute over land around Preah Vihear, a 1,000-year-old Hindu temple.

If policies like the rice scheme were supposed to lock-in voters for Yingluck and Thaksin in Thailand’s agricultural heartland in the north, the amnesty debacle has mobilized opponents, particularly in Bangkok, while turning off rural supporters.

A Bangkok University poll conducted a few days before the Senate killed the bill put opposition leader Abhisit ahead of Yingluck for the first time since she easily defeated him in June 2011 elections. Her approval rating has slumped to 26.7 percent against 37.2 percent for Abhisit — in June of this year, Yingluck was nearly nine percentage points clear according to the same pollsters.

Her policies have remained strictly Thaksin-centric: Economically with the rice policy and a first-time car-buyers financing scheme, and politically in attempting to nullify constitutional changes made following the coup against her exiled brother.

Thida Thavornseth, chairman of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), a core Red Shirt group, estimated the government had lost “at least 10 percent” of its support in the past few weeks. Key supporters who want to see rule of law, democratic reform, and Abhisit on trial for murder are “angry” she says.

Thida was among four key Red Shirt leaders were removed from a scheduled appearance on Asia Update, a television channel financially backed by Thaksin’s son Panthongtae, a week before the crucial Senate vote. Their message wasn’t what Thaksin wanted people to hear, she said: All were against the bill. In response, the UDD is set to launch its own TV channel next month.

Other former Thaksin supporters have spoken of more drastic moves away from him, and his sister. Among the Red Shirt protests against the amnesty bill, some leaders of the movement spoke of setting up a political party to rival the Shinawatras.

“Many people don’t feel the same about Yingluck and Thaksin anymore,” says Thida.

An increasingly fractured group, the Red Shirts represent a number of factions who all share one thing in common: Since his first election victory in 2001, most have jumped on the Thaksin bandwagon. In a country where King Bhumibol Adulyadej has reigned from behind closely guarded palace gates since 1946 (the longest-serving monarch in the world), the Red Shirts have considered Thaksin a breath of fresh, democratic air to mix up the old elite. To his detractors, the telecoms billionaire-cum-politician has instead been viewed as nouveau-riche, a young upstart prepared to upset the regal status quo to his own end.

He hinted at reforming what is known as Article 112, Thailand’s draconian lese majeste law; so too did his sister when she took office. But with an escalating number of Red Shirts behind bars in recent years, “Pheu Thai has been singularly unresponsive in the effort to bring up this issue,” says David Streckfuss, a leading academic on lese majeste. The controversial amnesty bill was described as a “blanket amnesty” by most news media for everyone from Thaksin down to the lowest-ranking Red Shirt behind bars. But the only Thais who wouldn’t get a clean slate under the proposed law were those behind bars on lese majeste convictions, says Streckfuss.

With antagonism running high and the number of cases rising to about 150 every year, Article 112 is for the time being too politically explosive for the government to handle in the current political climate, adds Streckfuss.

In a country where this draconian law makes free political discussion impossible, Thailand’s latest political quagmire has raised even more questions than usual as the impasse rumbles on. Why did Thaksin risk such a disastrous political move? And where does it leave supporters who have for the first time openly protested in the streets against him?

Mutterings of a back-room deal between Thaksin, the military, and even the “network monarchy” (the royals and their associated offices including the Privy Council) provide a plausible explanation as to why Thaksin felt confident enough to push the amnesty bill so hard from exile through his supporters. But we don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes, says Duncan McCargo, author of The Thaksinization of Thailand.

“The amnesty issue relates to what the state of play is over a deal between the two sides,” he says. “It’s not simply about what Thaksin is doing.”

Audio tapes of a supposed conversation appeared on YouTube in which Thaksin discussed a military reshuffle and his possible return to Thailand with Deputy Defense Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha emerged in July fueling conspiracy theories over a backroom deal. Yuthasak’s roles in previous Thaksin administrations added an appearance of authenticity.

But those close to the billionaire tycoon in recent years — including exiled UDD founding member Jakrapob Penkair — remain adamant that he was not party to any discussions with the military, opposition or any other senior establishment figure in the lead up to the amnesty bill.

“There’s no such deal. But I admit that there might be some deal among those in high places in Thailand that our side is not involved in,” says Jarapob, alluding to a deal among other power factions.

As leaders of the opposition Democrat party appeared on stage in front of thousands of supporters in Bangkok during a final push to topple the government this week, Yingluck has called for talks with the opposition. It’s the first public mention of dialogue since Thailand’s latest political battle began.

The “unpalatable” opposition is resurgent but cannot expect to win an election anytime soon, says McCargo. With Thaksin recoiled and no closer to a return, his position has weakened. And although Yingluck remains vulnerable in the short term and far from in full control, she is likely to emerge further distanced from her divisive older brother and therefore stronger, adds McCargo.

Thailand, though, remains no closer to a settlement, much less in possession of a leader to help end the cycle of mutually assured political destruction.

“For Thai people, you don’t have any other choice,” says Thida of the UDD. “If you don’t choose Pheu Thai, but you support democracy, who do you choose now?”

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สื่ออินโดฯถาม’ทักษิณ’ไม่ผิดแล้วหนีทำไม

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บทความสื่ออินโดฯ ถาม

“ทักษิณ” มั่นใจว่าไม่ผิด ทำไมไม่สู้คดี เหน็บ “ยิ่งลักษณ์” เดินเกมผิด หรือไร้เดียงสา เร่งช่วยพี่ชายจนถูกต้านเกือบล้มทั้งกระดาน

จาการ์ตา โพสต์ สื่อดังของอินโดนีเซีย เล่นแรง เขียนบทบรรณาธิการชื่อ “A dangerous sister’s love”
โดยระบุว่า น.ส.ยิ่งลักษณ์ ชินวัตร นายกรัฐมนตรีของไทย เดินเกมผิดพลาด หรือ ไร้เดียงสา จากการพยายาม
หาทางช่วยพี่ชาย (พ.ต.ท.ทักษิณ ชินวัตร) กลับประเทศ ในเวลานี้ ด้วยการออกกฎหมายนิรโทษกรรม จนนำมา
ซึ่งการประท้วงต่อต้านครั้งรุนแรงตามท้องถนน

บทบรรณาธิการของจาการ์ตา โพสต์ ระบุด้วยว่า “ยิ่งลักษณ์” อาจจะต้องจ่ายค่าตอบแทนของบทเรียนราคา
ที่สูงลิ่ว จากความผิดพลาดในครั้งนี้ แม้ว่ากองทัพ ซึ่งมีประวัติศาสตร์อันยาวนานในการขับไล่รัฐบาลที่มาจาก
การเลือกตั้งยังคงนิ่งเฉยในเรื่องดังกล่าว แต่ก็จะประมาทไม่ได้ เพราะครั้งก่อน กองทัพ เคยใช้ข้ออ้างเรื่อง
ความมั่นคงในการปฏิวัติ “ทักษิณ” มาแล้ว และซ้ำร้าย จะยิ่งไปกันใหญ่ หากทหารได้รับอนุญาต อีกครั้ง เพื่อ
ฆ่าประชาธิปไตย ในนามของการรักษาความปลอดภัย และความมั่นคง เหมือนปี 2010 ที่ทหาร ปราบปรามผู้
สนับสนุนของ “ทักษิณ” จนมีผู้เสีนชีวิตกว่า 90 ราย

จาการ์ตาร์โพส ยังระบุอีกด้วยว่า “ทักษิณ” คือต้นเหตุความแตกแยกในประเทศไทย ได้รับความนิยมสูงจาก
เกษตรกร และประชาชนในชนบท แต่เป็นศัตรูหมายเลข 1 ของชนชั้นกลาง ในเขตเมือง ชนชั้นสูง ทางการ
เมือง ทหาร และที่สำคัญที่สุดคือ พระราชวงศ์ ถูกตัดสินว่ามีความผิดข้อหาคอร์รัปชั่น ต้องติดคุก 2 ปี และ
ยึดทรัพย์จำนวนมาก ซึ่งจากความผิดดังกล่าว ทำให้น้องสาวต้องออกกฎหมายนิรโทษกรรม จนนำมาซึ่งความ
วุ่นวายจนต้องยอมถอย และถอนกฎหมายออกจากสภา แต่ผู้ประท้วงยังไม่ยอมหยุด แม้ว่า “ยิ่งลักษณ์” จะ
ร้องขอให้ยุติการชุมนุมก็ตาม

ทั้งนี้ บทบรรณาธิการของจาการ์ตา โพสต์ ทิ้งท้ายว่า ทักษิณ อาจจะไม่สามารถกลับมาเหยียบประเทศไทยได้
อีกครั้ง แม้ว่าขณะนี้จะเป็นนายกรัฐมนตรีโดยพฤตินัยก็ตาม จึงตั้งคำถามกลับไปว่าหาก “ทักษิณ” มีความมั่นใจ
ในความบริสุทธิ์ของตน ทำไมไม่เผชิญหน้ากับความยุติธรรมโดยตรง และคำถามนี้ “ทักษิณ” เพียงคนเดียวที่
สามารถตอบได้

THE JAKARTA POST
Editorial: A Dangerous Sister’s Love

The Jakarta Post

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/11/14/editorial-a-dangerous-sister-s-love.html

Read the Jakarta Post’s Editorial of November 14 inside

JAKARTA: — Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, wrongly or naively, assumed that time has come for her government to welcome back elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra. Her intention to grant amnesty to Thaksin backfired, as evident from the massive protests waged by anti-Thaksin groups and even by many of the former prime minister’s supporters.

Yingluck and the country may have to pay dearly for her wrong calculation and over-confidence.

So far the military, which has a long history of ousting democraticaly elected governments, has remained quiet about the political uproar. But knowing their resentment with Thaksin, it is just a matter of time before the army generals use this “national security threat” as a pretext to stage a coup.

It would be a nightmare for the whole nation if the military was allowed, again, to kill democracy in the name of security and stability. In 2010, a military crackdown on Thaksin’s supporters resulted in 90 protesters being killed.

Thaksin is a divisive figure in Thailand. He is highly popular among farmers and people in the countryside, but he is the public enemy No. 1 for middle class in urban areas, political elites, the military and most importantly, the royal family. He was sentenced to two years in prison for corruption in 2006 and many of the multi-billionaire’s assets were seized.

Yingluck’s Puea Thai Party backed off from the amnesty bill on Monday, but the main opposition Democrat Party seized the opportunity and gained the momentum to organize a three-day nationwide strike starting Wednesday. The prime minister realized her mistake and called on protesters to back down too.

“I would like to ask the people to call off the protests,” Yingluck appealed to the nation on Tuesday. “I am pleading for [protesters] to have patience. We don’t want to see any violence.”

According to the Associated Press, the original draft of the bill did not extend amnesty to the leaders of either the pro or anti-Thaksin groups, but a House committee in mid-October suddenly changed the bill to include both. The last-minute change led to criticism that it was planned all along to include Thaksin.

Thaksin probably will never be able to return to Thailand again, although he is now a de facto prime minister of Thailand.


— The Nation 2013-11-15

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