Updated: June 16, 2017 – Controling what the public sees and hears

Soldiers Remove Artworks from Bangkok Gallery

  • BANGKOK — Soldiers visited two art galleries in downtown Bangkok Thursday and ordered one to remove three photographs from an exhibition without citing any reason.
  • Held in two adjacent art galleries, one exhibition depicted the lives and memories of political prisoners while the other was an homage to the 2010 military crackdown on Redshirt protests which left more than 90 people dead.
  • It’s the latest effort by the military to micromanage their ban on political activities, in place since the May 2014 coup. Soldiers have previously blocked film screenings, academic seminars and even university football parades. » The Khaosod english article – By Teeranai Charuvastra – June 16, 2017

Suppressing free press is ‘how dictators get started’: Senator McCain

  • The international order established after World War Two was built in part on a free press, McCain said in an excerpt of an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” that was released in advance of the full Sunday morning broadcast.
  • Senator John McCain, defending the media against the latest attack by President Donald Trump, warned that suppressing the free press was “how dictators get started”.
  • “I hate the press. I hate you especially,” he told interviewer Chuck Todd from an international security conference in Munich. “But the fact is we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital.”
  • “If you want to preserve – I’m very serious now – if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started,” he continued.
  • “They get started by suppressing free press. In other words, a consolidation of power. When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history,” McCain said. » The Reuters article -m February 19, 2017

.. with no light in view amid burgeoning uncertainty and continuing junta oppression.

  • After the May 2014 military coup, the palace was the only part of Thai society the military didn’t claim control over. Section 44 of the post-coup constitution grants the junta leader a legal carte blanche for any deed necessary to ensure “reform in any field and … national peace and harmony” and to suppress anything harmful to security, the monarchy, the economy, or the government. This section, which enshrines the junta’s right to dictatorship, does, however, implicitly exclude the monarchy from military control.
  • The media is crammed with propaganda heralding the return of happiness under the junta’s leadership. A new constitution (which would replace the post-coup 2014 one), set to be enacted before Thailand’s return to formal electoral rule, predictably passed on Aug. 7 by referendum after the military squelched any sign of opposition. The draft charter enshrines a whole set of new powers for the military, most notably immunity to civilian oversight of its personnel and budget and a 20-year plan impervious to later government intervention.
  • The next general elections are scheduled to take place in late 2017 or 2018. But despite all the junta’s attempts to keep power, it faces an array of potential threats to its longevity.
  • Indeed, it’s easy to imagine the scenarios that keep the generals up at night. The political turbulence following the 2014 coup has contributed to the distancing of investors from Thailand, slowing growth. The death of the king, followed by the crown prince’s decision not to immediately take the throne, could extend this uncertainty to a point where the economy plummets — along with public confidence in the generals. » The Foreign Policy Magazine article – By Paul Chambers – October 31, 2016.

How Thailand’s military junta has cracked down on dissent

  • Police and soldiers in Thailand have committed at least 74 cases of torture and other ill treatment since the military seized power in a 2014 coup, according to an Amnesty International report released on Wednesday.
  • “Empowered by laws of their own making, Thailand’s military rulers have allowed a culture of torture to flourish, where there is no accountability for the perpetrators and no justice for the victims,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific, in a statement accompanying the report’s release.
  • “An officer gets punished if he doesn’t get results,” a former junior commander told Amnesty International. “In the army, people use force to control, not thought. An order is final…. If you don’t get results, you will be punished.” » The Christian Science article

Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and the Thug Theory of Leadership

  • There have always been people in this world who get weak-kneed at the first whiff of authoritarianism. They think that the bullying bluster of self-styled strongmen makes them great leaders. They mistake heat for light.
  • Governing often requires dealing in gray areas, principled compromises that achieve a greater good. Particularly in geopolitics, it requires a balance between hard power and soft power. From Ike to George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, this wisdom is sometimes mistaken for weakness.
  • “Noise and impudence” is certainly one way to describe The Donald’s campaign style. Its nationalist, know-nothing appeal is emotional. Especially in times when people feel out of control—for example, when the forces of globalization are shaking every old tribal certainty—some folks gravitate to the guy who is strong and wrong. They are soothed by tough-guy theatrics that divide the world into us against them. They take comfort in the bully because they believe he’s got their back.
  • In a frightening world, thugs believe that raw power is the only way to get respect and terror is a tactic to that end. Putin learned it from the KGB. Trump learned it, at least in part, from his McCarthyite mob lawyer Roy Cohn: “Always attack, never apologize.” » The Daily Beast article – By John Avalon – September 10, 2016. »

State of denial: Thailand

  • The trial of two Uighur men accused of the Erawan Shrine bombing in Bangkok a year ago begins today in a military court. The bomb killed 20 people, mostly Chinese and other Asian visitors, and came a month after Thailand’s junta shoved 100-odd asylum-seeking Muslim Uighurs in black hoods on a plane to China.
  • The generals deny any link; they blame unhappy human-traffickers.
  • The trial follows a fresh attack on the Thai state: a string of bombings in southern provinces culminating on August 12th, the queen’s birthday.
  • The junta has ruled out terrorism and blames politicians it ousted in 2014.
  • Just about everyone else, including the national chief of police, thinks the culprits are Malay-Muslim rebels, long locked in a deadly fight with Thai rule.
  • Democracy, growth and sensible policing once doused extremism. Under the current dictatorship, none of these is on offer.
    » The Economist Article – August 23, 2016.

Thai junta accused of exploiting (recent) bombings for political ends

  • Critics of Thailand’s military government accused it on Sunday of taking advantage of last week’s spate of deadly bombings and arson attacks to crack down on its opponents.
  • Anthony Davis, a writer for Jane’s Defence Weekly, told The Associated Press that the Patani-Malay National Revolutionary Front separatist group was the sole opposition force that could carry out such a well-planned, well-coordinated operation in Thailand’s southern region.
  • With the Red Shirt movement being closely monitored by the security forces, “the theory that they could have organized such a complex operation under the noses of the military government makes no sense,” he said.
  • He added that if the supposed motive was anger over the recent referendum outcome, “the planning and preparation for these attacks would have had to take place within three days. And that makes even less sense.” » The AP article – August 14, 2016.

    Election Commission Report Shows 67% of eligible Thai voters did not vote for the Coup written Constitution, while 33% Voted “Yes”

    Coup written constitution vote

  • The country’s over 95,000 polling stations opened at 8am, and closed at 4pm. Though the EC predicted a turnout as high as 70 percent, this referendum reported a turnout even lower than the 2007 charter referendum, with only 55 percent out of 50.5 million eligible voters going to the polls compared to 2007’s 57.6 percent. » The Asian Correspondent article – August 8, 2016

  • More than 100 people who tried to campaign against the referendum on social media have been thrown in jail, and open criticism has been made punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
  • “If people cannot speak their minds freely or take part in political activities without fear, how can they meaningfully engage in this referendum,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. » The AP article – August 7, 2016.

  • Critics argue the constitution, to replace one torn up by the military after the coup, will entrench military rule.
  • The junta and the military-backed constitution writing committee say it is not aimed at perpetuating military rule.
  • Under the proposed charter, which would be Thailand’s 20th since the military abolished absolute monarchy in 1932, a junta-appointed Senate with seats reserved for military commanders would check the powers of elected lawmakers. » The Reuters article By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Panarat – Thempgumpanat – August 5, 2016

  • Thailand: 8-year-old girls charged for tearing voter list because they liked ‘pink paper’

    • Police told local media on Friday they had advised election officials in the central province of Kamphaeng Phet to press charges against the girls, who tore the paper off a board in Vachirasansuksa School.
    • According to Khaosod English, provincial police chief Maj. Gen. Damrong Phetphong decided to charge the girls with vandalism after receiving complaints from the local election commissioner that they had destroyed commission property.
    • He was quoted saying: “There is no such thing as excessive enforcement of the law. The law has different punishments for adults, children, and drunk people. We follow regulations. The judge will be the one who decides.”
    • Damrong said the girls, who now have a criminal record, would be further questioned to determine if they had any criminal intent.
      » The Asian Correspondent article – July 24, 2016.

    Thai journalist detained while covering referendum

    • In the referendum, Thai citizens will vote to either accept or reject the draft, which many have criticized for being “undemocratic”.
    • In Article 61 of the Referendum Act, it is illegal to publish or disseminate “false”, “vulgar”, “inciteful”, or “intimidating” information regarding the referendum.
    • Those found convicted of breaching the ban can be punished with a maximum jail sentence of up to 10 years, fined up to 200,000 Baht, and have their electoral rights suspended for five years.
    • Despite identifying himself as a journalist, Taweesak was still detained by police. He is the first journalist to be arrested under a new law criminalizing criticism of the referendum. » The Asian Correspondent article – July 7, 2016

    Thai military court orders release of student constitution protesters

    • Thai people will vote in August 7’s referendum on a constitution drafted under the military government that took power in a May 2014 coup.
    • Critics say the draft is undemocratic, but are restrained from campaigning against it by very restrictive laws that could send them to prison for up to 10 years.
    • Election Commission Report on Referendum

      Coup leader warns opposition not to monitor upcoming referendum Image source
      SEVEN student protesters who were arrested last month for distributing leaflets urging people to vote against a proposed new constitution in a referendum next month were due to walk free this morning after a military court ordered police to release them.

    • More than two years after Prayuth Chan-ocha’s military junta seized power, there is still no clear roadmap for a return to democracy. Elections have already been pushed back a number of times, and will now take place in 2017 at the earliest. » The Asian Correspondent article

    Thai Junta Leader Warns Opposition Not to Monitor Upcoming Referendum

      Coup leader warns opposition not to monitor upcoming referendum Image source

    • The generals have imposed rules banning campaigning over a new constitutional.
    • General Prayut Chan-ocha,the leader of Thailand’s ruling military junta has warned so-called “red shirts” that they must not set up centers to monitor for electoral fraud when the country goes to the polls to approve a new constitution on Aug. 7.
    • Thais are to vote on whether to accept a new charter, which critics say will entrench the military’s power. The generals have imposed rules banning campaigning on the constitutional plebiscite, both for and against. » The Time article – June 20, 2016.

    Moving away from military dictatorship

    • Naypyidaw (Myanmar) (AFP) – US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday hailed Myanmar’s transition from army rule to a civilian government steered by Aung San Suu Kyi as a “remarkable statement” of support for global democracy.
    • Kerry applauded the process as a “remarkable statement to people all over the world”.
      As a reward for holding the peaceful election, Washington last week lifted a host of financial and trade embargoes.
    • But it has kept the backbone of its sanctions as well as a blacklist of cronies and businesses close to the former junta as leverage.
    • Suu Kyi said she welcomed the “scrutiny” inherent in the remaining sanctions.
    • The army retains significant economic interests and political clout under a charter it scripted — including a quarter of all parliamentary seats and control of key security ministries. » The Yahoo news article – By Phyo Hein Kyaw – May 22, 2016

    Burma’s new president vows to release political prisoners

    • The statement described the pardon as designed to “make people feel happy and peaceful, and [promote] national reconciliation during the New Year,” reported Agence France-Presse.
    • Htin Kyaw recently took over as head of Burma’s (Myanmar’s) first freely elected government after more than 50 years of often brutal military domination or control.
    • In its first official act at the end of March, the new government freed more than 100 political detainees awaiting trial just before the new year holiday. It isn’t clear exactly how many still remain.
    • In a televised address to the nation, Htin Kyaw said, “In the New Year, in order to give satisfaction to the majority of the people, we will continue to try to release political prisoners, political activists, and students facing trials related to politics.”
    • “We also have to try to avoid such arrests in the future,” he said, according to the Associated Press. » The full Asian Correspondent article – April 17, 2016.

    Foreign investment in Thailand plummeted last year

    • … official data showed, the latest sign that the kingdom’s once-vibrant economy continues to falter under prolonged military rule.
    • Total investment applied for by foreign companies between January and November 2015 plunged 78 percent from a year earlier to 93.8 billion baht ($2.62 billion), according to figures from Thailand’s state-run Board of Investment (BoI) sent to AFP late Tuesday.
    • It also faces stiff competition from increasingly attractive neighbors like Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.

    • EU investment also plunged from 86.7 billion baht in 2014 to just 2 billion baht last year. Investment from the United States was also heavily down, while Chinese investment was only down slightly.
    • Nearby Vietnam, on the other hand, reported a record number of foreign investment in 2015 and the fastest growth rate in five years at 6.68 percent.

  • Earlier this month the World Bank forecast that Thailand’s GDP growth rate would slip from 2.5 percent in 2015 to just 2 percent this year, by far the gloomiest regional prediction.
    » The AFP article – January 13, 2016
  • Election in Burma also known as Myanmar sees Aung San Suu Kyi triumph

    • Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to pay “special attention” to ties with China when her party takes office after its election triumph, and said foreign investments would need public support to help improve relations.
    • China was Myanmar’s lifeline for two decades when sanctions prevented most Western businesses and financial institutions from engaging with the country during military rule from 1962 to 2011 that left the nation underdeveloped.
    • But the stakes are now far higher for Beijing, with business competition heating up and the NLD’s anticipated sweeping-out of the last remnants of the old military guard with which Chinese firms enjoyed a close bond.
    • Many European and U.S. companies are expected to set up shop after the clear mandate for change in the Nov. 8 election, the first free poll in a quarter century. » The Rueters article – By Hnin Yadana Zaw and Antoni Slodkowski – November 18, 2015.

    Thai cop who implicated officials in trafficking seeks asylum

    • The police general who led Thailand’s probe into human trafficking said Thursday he was seeking political asylum in Australia, after fleeing the kingdom fearing for his life for implicating senior officials in the grim trade.
    • “I am asking for asylum because living in (Thailand) at this time is very dangerous,” Paween told AFP Thursday.
    • Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Melbourne in comments broadcast Thursday, he said he felt “deeply sad” about the situation.
    • “There are some good soldiers, but in the police and the military, there are some very bad ones involved in running the human trafficking,” Paween said.
    • “I feel deeply sad. It is so unfair that people who did these things will not be punished.”
    • Paween’s unit was disbanded and he was transferred to Thailand’s three insurgency-hit southernmost provinces, and the probe was declared complete in early October.
    • He resigned from the police rather than take up a new post, after allegedly receiving death threats.
    • The belated Thai crackdown came after the United States last year relegated the kingdom to the bottom rung of an influential report ranking nations on their anti-trafficking efforts.
    • It has remained on the bottom tier for a second year in a row, alongside nations like Iran, Libya, North Korea and Syria. » The AFP article – December 10, 2015.

      AP investigation prompts new round of slave rescues

    • Authorities in Papua New Guinea have rescued eight fishermen held on board a Thai-owned refrigerated cargo ship, and dozens of other boats are still being sought in response to an Associated Press report that included satellite photos and locations of slave vessels at sea.
    • The men are part of a seemingly inexhaustible supply of poor migrants from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos who are forced to fish for the Thai seafood industry. When workers run away, become sick or even die, they are easily replaced by new recruits who are tricked or coerced by false promises of jobs in Thailand.
    • journalists followed their slave-caught fish back to Thailand and linked it to the supply chains of major U.S. food sellers, such as Wal-Mart, Sysco and Kroger, and American pet food companies, including Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. The businesses have all said they strongly condemn labor abuse and vowed to take steps to prevent it. » The AP article – By Margie Mason and Martha Mendoza – July 30, 2015.
  • Thailand has hit back after being blacklisted in a US report for the second consecutive year for not combatting modern-day slavery, arguing it has made serious steps to tackle human trafficking.
  • In recent weeks, testimony from survivors, human rights groups and the media have exposed appalling practices in Thailand’s export-oriented seafood business, suggesting the human trafficking trade is still in operation. Link to Video
  • The US report said the Thai government was not making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
  • “Thailand investigated and prosecuted some cases against corrupt officials involved in trafficking, but trafficking-related corruption continued to impede progress,” the report said. » The Guardian article – July 28,2015.
  • Special Report: Inside Thailand’s trafficking crackdown

    • Police Major General Thatchai Pitaneelaboot, who led early anti-trafficking efforts in southern Thailand was told his investigation was damaging Thailand’s image, though he declined to be more specific about who was telling him that.
      “No one cared,” he said.
    • The trials could be lengthy and convictions are far from certain, police said.
    • On June 16, three men were arrested for intimidating a witness not to testify in the trials. Other witnesses have been threatened by “subordinates” of the accused against testifying, said Aek, the deputy national police chief. “The suspects are powerful people,” he said.
    • the scores of arrests so far may only represent a fraction of those involved, police say. “There could be hundreds of people involved, including many officials,” Thatchai said.
    • And despite the investigation and crackdown that began in late April, the traffickers’ finances seem largely intact. The United Nations estimates people-smuggling across the Bay of Bengal has generated about $250 million since 2012. Thailand has so far seized assets worth only $3.5 million.
    • Aek said Thai authorities “only froze assets of those we suspected of wrong-doing”.
    • Sheltering in the backroom of a provincial Thai police station is a 35-year-old street vendor who triggered a human trafficking investigation that has reverberated across Southeast Asia.
    • The roti seller dares not leave his new home in the provincial police station. He recently stopped praying at a nearby mosque after he heard that some men had turned up to look for him there.
    • Many known traffickers remained at large, which was why he hoped to be relocated to another country after the trial. “Otherwise,” he said, “I will be killed.” » The Reuters article – By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Andrew R.C. Marshall – July 9, 2015.

    Thailand misses aviation safety deadline

    • The U.N. body regulating world air traffic says Thailand has failed to meet a deadline for addressing safety concerns about its oversight of its airlines, so it has been added to a list of nations whose aviation authorities fall short of international standards.
    • ICAO audited Thailand in January, and in March gave Thai authorities 90 days to rectify shortcomings it had found. Thailand failed to meet the deadline and joined 12 other nations found deficient in managing their airlines. » The AP article – June 20, 2015.

    Thai year-old coup imposes superficial calm but little else

    • The problem, critics argue, is that the junta may be sowing the seeds of more conflict by building that future on its own terms — with reform committee, a rubber-stamp legislature, and no input from the Pheu Thai party it toppled or their supporters, who likely still represent a majority of the electorate.
    • Thailand’s ruling junta has blocked a panel discussion scheduled to take place this evening on the state of human rights in post-coup Thailand.
      The event was organized by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), with Khaosod English reporting that it was still going to send its members to the event at the scheduled time, 6pm. » The Asian Correspondent article – June 4, 2015.

    • “Our differences have just been pushed under the rug by a junta that prohibits freedom of expression. Nothing has been done to address the root causes of Thailand’s deep divide,” said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch.
    • Last week, the military government announced it would subject the draft to a referendum. Sunai said that posed a dilemma. “If you vote yes, you end up with a Frankenstein constitution that undercuts liberal democracy.
    • If you vote no, they’ll have to go back to the drawing board, and Prayuth will just stay in power longer.” » The AP article – By Todd Pitman – May 23, 2015.

    Seafood from slavery: Can Thailand tackle the crisis in its fishing industry?

    • A chartered plane from Ambon, in eastern Indonesia, carried 125 men to Yangon on Thursday evening.
    • It was the biggest group repatriated following an Associated Press investigation that exposed labor abuses in the fishing industry involving hundreds of men being tricked or sold onto Thai boats and brought to Indonesian waters where they were forced to work nearly nonstop under brutal conditions. » The AP article – By Margie Mason – May 15, 2015.

    • But the problem of modern day slaves fishing for seafood that ends up on dinner plates on the other side of the world goes much further than these tiny Indonesian islands
    • The extent of the situation is hard to gauge. Thai government figures state that there are 145,000 working in its fishing industry, with 80% of those migrant workers, mainly from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. However, activist group Raks Thai Foundation suggests there are in excess of 200,000 trafficked, unregistered workers.
    • Crew manifests were not previously required.
    • “For the Marine Department we can check only a certain type of vessel, a certain size, too. But now the government is trying to reduce the size (of the vessel) that allows that we can check them,” said Chula Sukmanop, director-general to the Marine Department.
    • He added that enforcement is made more difficult because all too often ships will change crew once they leave port. » The CNN article – By Dean Irvine, Saima Mohsin, and Kocha Olarn – May 11, 2015.

    The Costs of Thai coup keep going up

    “There has been no sign of a strong economic recovery,” Benjarong Suwankiri, an economist at TMB Bank in Bangkok told Bloomberg News.

    “Growth will continue to be sluggish, as only the government’s spending has showed signs of picking up, while consumption, investment and exports are still very weak.” » The AFP article – May 18, 2015.

    • The country’s seemingly endless turmoil also finally seems to have deterred investors, who for years continued to pour money into the kingdom because of its natural attractiveness and history of liberal investment policies. At the same time as Thailand stalls, other countries in the region, like the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, and even Indonesia have promoted policies that have made them more attractive to foreign investment.
    • Japanese investors, the biggest group of foreign investors in the kingdom, have begun to shift new investments to Vietnam and other countries in the region. Other foreign investors have become increasingly cautious in approving new Thailand projects.
    • Thailand’s gross domestic product expansion has been about half that of its neighbors through much of the period amid political turmoil, including a coup last May and martial law since. » Bloomberg article – By Lee J. Miller
    • Household debt is particularly worrying in Thailand and Malaysia, but the official data may not capture the full picture for families around the region.
    • In Thailand, for example, household debt climbed to a record 85.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of 2014, data from the central bank showed.
    • The household debt of low-income earners is expected to surge this year, as the glum economic conditions and relatively high cost of living will lead them to rely more on both organized and unorganized loans. » The Thailand Business news article – By Boris Sullivan – May 4, 2015.

    Coup leader takes absolute power

    • The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said on Thursday that the Thai military government had replaced martial law “with something even more draconian” and called for a return to civilian rule.
    • The nation’s coup leader has said he will invoke a special security measure in its place that critics say gives him unchecked authority over all three branches of government and absolves him of any legal responsibility for his actions. » The AP article – April 2, 2015.
  • The U.N. High Commissioner said the decision “leaves the door wide open to serious violations of fundamental human rights” and “annihilates freedom of expression”.
  • Freedom of assembly also remains severely curtailed, with heavy punishment for protesters who gather in groups of more than five, he added.
  • “In effect, this means the sweeping away of all checks and balances on the power of the Government, rendering the lifting of martial law meaningless.” » The Reuters article – BY Stephanie Nebehay – April 2, 2015.
    • Human Rights Watch said the move “will mark Thailand’s deepening descent into dictatorship.”

    • “Thailand’s friends abroad should not be fooled by this obvious sleight of hand by the junta leader to replace martial law with a constitutional provision that effectively provides unlimited and unaccountable powers,” said Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director. » The Ap article – By Jocelynn Gecker – April 1, 2015.
  • “Article 44 essentially means Prayuth is the law. He can order the detention of anyone without charge, without having to put the person on trial and for as long as he desires,” Pravit Rojanaphruk, an outspoken columnist for The Nation newspaper, wrote Tuesday.
  • Thai media have referred to Article 44 as “the dictator law.” Under a similar law in the 1960s, a Thai dictator carried out summary executions.
  • The measure gives Prayuth power over all aspects of government, law and order, and absolves him of any legal responsibility for his actions.
  • The Geneva-based rights group, the International Commission of Jurists, expressed strong reservations about Article 44.

    “Article 44 violates the fundamental pillars of the rule of law and human rights, including equality, accountability, and predictability,” the group’s secretary general, Wilder Tayler, said in a statement posted on its website. He said the statute would not be a real improvement over martial law, which he said should be lifted in favor of returning to civilian rule. » The AP article – March 31, 2015

  • Human trafficking and Slave Labor

    • The AP reported earlier this week that slaves — some of them beaten and locked in cages — are forced to fish, and their catch ends up in the supply chains of American supermarkets and restaurants. The migration agency said Friday that the report follows several years of close work with Indonesian authorities to rescue hundreds of fisherman identified as victims of trafficking.
    • Many of the stranded are men from Myanmar who went to neighboring Thailand in search of work. They were taken by boat to Indonesia, which has some of the world’s richest fishing grounds. Others left behind on the islands are Cambodian and a few from the poorer parts of Thailand.
    • Major leaders in the U.S. seafood and retail industries sent a letter to the ambassadors of Thailand and Indonesia this week, demanding to know what will be done to free slaves in the seafood industry. Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, also urged Thai authorities to tackle the scourge.
    • “The Thailand government has made repeated verbal commitments to get tough with traffickers but every time real follow-up has been lacking,” Robertson said in an email. “The question now is whether the revelations in AP’s article will finally be enough to push Thailand to take long overdue action against fishing vessels that are systematically using slave labor to catch the seafood ending up in America’s kitchens.” The AP article – By Margie Mason and Robin McDowell – March 28, 2015.

    Coup government criticized

    • In a speech to students at Chulalongkorn University on Monday, Daniel Russel, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs — America’s highest-level diplomat to visit Thailand since the coup — said the perception of fairness is important to justice.
    • “I’ll be blunt here: When an elected leader is deposed, impeached by the authorities that implemented the coup, and then targeted with criminal charges while basic democratic processes and institutions are interrupted, the international community is left with the impression that these steps could be politically driven,” Russel said.
    • Russel also expressed concern over “significant restraints on freedom of expression” in Thailand today, and said the country’s political process does not represent “all elements of Thai society” — a reference to reforms, including the writing of a new constitution, which are going ahead without input from the popularly elected former ruling party. » The AP article– January 28, 2015.

    • “Thai democracy has died along with the rule of law,” Ms Yingluck, whose administration was ousted by the military in a coup last May, said in a statement posted on her Facebook page. “I will fight until the end to prove my innocence, no matter what the outcome will be.
    • “And most importantly, I want to stand alongside the Thai people. Together we must bring Thailand prosperity, bring back democracy and truly build justice in Thai society,” she added. » The Strait Times article – By Tan Hui Yee – January 23, 2015.

  • Yingluck defended the (Rice Subsidy Program) in an almost hour-long address on Thursday, and disputed all the charges against her.
  • “Banning me for five years would be a violation of my basic rights,” Yingluck said at the third and final hearing on her case on Thursday at Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA).
  • “This case that is aimed solely against me has a hidden agenda, it is politically driven.”
  • Yingluck said the rice scheme, which paid farmers above the market rate for their rice, was good for the economy. “It helped those with lower incomes earn more,” she said. “Farmers are the backbone of the country.” » The Reuters article – By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Aukkarapon Niyomyat – January 22,2015

      UN warns world could have 40 percent water shortfall by 2030

    • The U.N. is warning that the world could suffer a 40 percent shortfall in water by 2030 unless countries dramatically change their use of the resource.
    • Many underground water reserves are already running low, while rainfall patterns are predicted to become more erratic with climate change. As the world’s population grows to an expected 9 billion by 2050, more groundwater will likely be used in farming, industry and for personal consumption.
    • In a report issued in India on Friday, the U.N. says if current trends don’t change, the world will have only 60 percent of the water it needs in 2030, and demand will rise 55 percent by 2050.
    • The shortfall could cause crops to fail, industries to collapse, ecosystems to break down, and trigger violent conflicts over water rights. » The AP article – March 22, 2015

      Domestic stockpiling of rice as in Thailand and India wins US support

    • India won U.S. support for a massive domestic food stockpiling scheme on Thursday, rescuing the biggest global trade deal in two decades and giving new Prime Minister Narendra Modi a victory without major concessions.
    • Under the pact with Washington, India will lift a veto on a global agreement on streamlining customs rules that is likely to add $1 trillion to the world economy as well as 21 million jobs – 18 million of them in developing countries.
    • In talks to break the deadlock, India stressed the importance of ensuring that its 1.25 billion people, many of them poor, have enough to eat. It won an open-ended commitment from Washington to protect its food purchase and distribution scheme from any challenge under WTO disputes procedures.
    • Without the clause, India could have been vulnerable to attack by trade partners over exports of any surplus grain stocks accumulated in government warehouses.
    • India refused to bow to calls to scale back its scheme to buy wheat and rice from its farmers, despite criticism that this encouraged overproduction. A food security law passed by the last government actually expanded the number who were entitled to receive cheap food grains to 850 million. » The Reuters article – By Manoj Kumar and Krista Hughes – November 13, 2014.


      The Thai rice program under the Yingluck government did not loose money as alleged by political opponents.

    • Farmers that received payment for their rice helped the domestic economy as they spent what they had earned.
    • As the rice stockpiled is sold, the difference between the sales price and the amount paid to the farmers will determine how much the Thai government program will have subsidized the farmers.
    • Governments throughout the world provide subsidies to their farmers. The subsidies try to keep farmers farming to insure there is enough food on the table for the farmers and the rest of the world.
      • When farmers grow more food and earn more income, they are better able feed to their families, send their children to school, provide for their family’s health, and invest in their farms. This makes their communities economically stronger and more stable. » the full report from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Running Out of Rice?
      Overview of Lesson Plan | In this lesson, students learn about the reasons for Australia’s rice shortage and its impact on the rest of the world. They then individually identify the causes and effects of another agricultural commodity’s recent changes in the global marketplace. » The Science and Economy Lesson.

    Planting paddy rice in Laos Image credit – Photographer: Stuart Ling
    In Laos, an agriculture official recently said the method, called the System of Rice Intensification, or SRI, had doubled the size of rice crops in three provinces and would spread to the whole country because it had provided greater yields with fewer resources.

    • Related Background: Get More From Less With System of Rice Intensification (SRI) –
      Using SRI, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines have all recorded increases in rice yields from 60% to over 170% » The World Bank article and guide to planting.
    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Addressing Hunger Around the Globe
      Overview | In this lesson, developed in recognition of World Food Day, students consider the definition of hunger and where and how hunger most affects people, including children. They then consider the fact that hunger is “solvable” and create action plans to inform and engage their communities. Go to this Science and Economy Lesson.

    Coping with Disease on a Global Population

    Obama on Ebola crisis: ‘We must be guided by facts not fear’

    • President Barack Obama says the U.S. must be guided by science — not fear — as it responds to Ebola.
    • In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama says he was proud to give Texas nurse Nina Pham a hug in the Oval Office after she was cured of Ebola. He says the other nurse who contracted Ebola is also improving.
      President Barack Obama greets Nina Pham

    • Obama is praising New York’s quick reaction to its first Ebola case. He says he’s promised local officials any federal help they need.
    • Obama is reminding Americans they can’t contract Ebola unless they come into direct contact with a patient’s bodily fluids.
    • The president says the U.S. can beat the disease if it remains vigilant. He says the best way to stop it is at its source in West Africa. » The AP article – October 26, 2014

    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Fighting Disease: Researching the History and Biology of Vaccines
      Overview | What is a vaccine, and why do we need them? How do vaccines work, and how were they developed? In this lesson, students gauge their previous knowledge about vaccines. They then explore the history and biology of vaccines and create educational posters on the nature of vaccines and public opinions about them.
      Go to this Health and Building Society Lesson.
    • Related Lesson – Nothing to Sneeze At

      Enlisting (Thai) villagers in 2006 flu battle – set a global example  “Thailand ha(d) mobilized about 750,000 volunteers (under the Thaksin government) one for every 15 rural households.” ‘This is something that all over the world we’ve been trying to promote. And this is probably the best example that I’ve ever seen.’ said William Aldis, the representative of the World Health Organization in Thailand.” Go to the article – By Thomas Fuller – International Herald Tribune

    Cervical Cancer Vaccine

    HPV Vaccination

    • By aggressively vaccinating girls against HPV (which is responsible for 90 percent of genital wart diagnoses), Australia appears to have offered considerable protection not just to its female population but also its men as well.
    • Vaccine against cervical cancer.
      The cancer vaccine could be given to girls as young as nine. – Image and article

    • Commenting on the report, Dr. Jocylen Glassberg, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Scott and White Healthcare in Round Rock, Texas, said that “the take-home message is the vaccine is obviously working.”
    • “It will take many more years to see the same decline in cervical cancer rates due to the naturally slow progression of that disease process,” she said.
    • “But the vaccine works. The fact that genital wart rates were virtually zero after such a short time in women and men, even in a program just aimed at vaccinated women, is a phenomenal result.” » The full health news article – By Alan Mozes – April 19, 2013.

    In Thailand, a simple test for cervical cancer uses vinegar

    • Nurses using the new procedure, developed by experts at the Johns Hopkins medical school in the 1990s and endorsed last year by the World Health Organization, brush vinegar on a woman’s cervix.
    • It makes precancerous spots turn white. They can then be immediately frozen off with a metal probe cooled by a tank of carbon dioxide, available from any Coca-Cola bottling plant. » The full New York Times article – By Donald G. McNeil.Jr. – Published: September 26, 2011.

    The Cervical cancer vaccine – who needs it, and how it works:

    • The cervical cancer vaccine is the first vaccine ever designed to prevent a cancer. In the United States – where cervical cancer strikes about 10,000 women a year and causes up to 4,000 deaths – the impact of the cervical cancer vaccine will be tremendous.
    • Worldwide, the impact may be even greater. According to the World Health Organization, there were 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer in 2005. » Mayo Clinic: questions and answers article.

    • Related article: HPV Virus to blame for rise in throat cancer:
    • Cancer of the back of the mouth and throat is on the rise, primarily because of more cases stemming from a viral infection called human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a U.S. study.
    • The number of people who were diagnosed with HPV-related oral cancer in 2004 was triple the number diagnosed in 1988 — due largely, researchers suspect, to changes in sexual behavior that have helped spread the virus. » The full Reuters article – By Kerry Grens – October 4, 2011.

    • The New York Times – Learning Network – The Vaccination Question:
      Overview | Students share opinions about common vaccines, then consider facts and opinions about the HPV vaccine and hold a “fishbowl” discussion. They then survey members of the community to determine their perspectives on the issue. » Go to this Health and Science Lesson.

    Have we become Sugar Addicts?

    Are you a secret sugar addict?

      sugar addiction Image source

    • It makes us fat, rots our teeth and has been linked to heart disease and cancer, yet sugar is found in just about everything we eat – and in rapidly rising amounts.
    • Indeed, for many of us sugar has become our drug of choice, helping us through the afternoon energy crash in the form of a handful of biscuits, chocolate or cereal bars, and going without it makes us tired, grumpy and downright miserable.
    • To top things off, studies have suggested that sugar could be as addictive as drugs and alcohol, which earlier this year led academics in the journal Nature to call for sweet stuff to be taxed and restricted like booze and cigarettes. The full New research suggests excess sugar could be deadlier than fat and more addictive than heroin.» The full UK Mirror article – By Caroline Jones.

    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Investigating Science and Health Questions About Sugar and Our Bodies
      Overview | In this series of lesson ideas, which can be done individually or together as part of a larger unit, we’ll help students investigate the science and myths about added sugars. How unhealthy are they? What happens to sugar when ingested? How much sugar do we actually consume? Is there a real difference between sugar and corn syrup? And what has the public health response been, and how could it be better? » Go to this Health and Science Lesson.

    If You Feel O.K., Maybe You Are O.K.


    • For years now, people have been encouraged to look to medical care as the way to make them healthy. But that’s your job — you can’t contract that out.
    • Doctors might be able to help, but so might an author of a good cookbook, a personal trainer, a cleric or a good friend.
    • We would all be better off if the medical system got a little closer to its original mission of helping sick patients, and let the healthy be. » The full NYT – Op-Ed – By H. Gilbert Welch – February 27, 2012

    Tai Chi Makes Parkinson’s Patients More Steady on Their Feet, Study Shows

    • Tai chi, a Chinese martial art of precise, gentle movements, helps patients with mild-to-moderate Parkinson’s disease improve their balance, a study found.
    • Andrew Feigin, a neurologist specializing in Parkinson’s disease at the North Shore-LIJ Medical Group in Great Neck, New York, said the findings give scientific backing to doctor recommendations that patients try exercises like tai chi to improve balance.
    • “Balance and gait are problems that people with Parkinson’s disease have,” said Feigin, who wasn’t an author of today’s paper, in a Feb. 6 telephone interview. “Things like stretching and resistance aren’t really working on balance. Tai chi really focuses on improvements in balance. It’s nice to get some actual data that shows doing those things can be helpful.” » The full Bloomberg article – By Nicole Ostrow – February 9, 2012.

    The significance of bones. Yoga strengthens bones. Skeleton image source // Yoga posture Image.

      Bone is built of two basic components: flexible fibers of collagen and brittle chains of the calcium-rich mineral hydroxyapatite. But those relatively simple ingredients, the springy and the salty, are woven together into such a complex cat’s cradle of interdigitating layers that the result is an engineering masterpiece of tensile, compressive and elastic strength. “We only wish we could mimic it,” Dr. Ritchie said. Read the full New York Times article – By Natalie Angier.

    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
      Overview | Students gain a greater understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the muscular system, the skeletal system and connective tissue by researching joints in the body. They also reflect on the effects of injuries on their joints and learn about new treatment methods. Go to this Health and Science Lesson.
    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Investigating the Complex Significance of Bones
      Overview | Students examine the literal, physiological and figurative significance of bones through experimentation, then create their own skeleton-related exhibits for a “Bone and Skeleton Museum.” Go to this Health and Science Lesson.

    Getting ready for a world without antibiotics

    Subterranean bacteria are already resistant to at least one of the antibiotics we use to fight infections

    • Scientists have long believed that the ability of disease-causing bacteria to outwit antibiotic medicines was a man-made phenomenon, said Eileen Choffnes, director of the Institute of Medicine’s forum on microbial threats.
    • The growing use of antibiotics derived from plants and synthesized in laboratories was thought to have spurred adaptations that made many of these bacterial pathogens less vulnerable to drugs used to fight tuberculosis, malaria, gonorrhea, influenza, pneumonia and AIDS.
    • But the new research demonstrates that antibiotic resistance emerged millions of years before those medicines were used — and in an environment far too forbidding for the bacteria to have come into any contact with the drugs, Choffnes said.
    • The findings make it clear that humans will always have to contend with the problem of antibiotic resistance, no matter what steps are taken to prevent it, said Dr. Brad Spellberg, an infectious disease researcher at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center: “There’s never going to be a point where we can say, ‘OK, we’re up, we’re ahead, they’re done.’ ” » The full Los Angeles Times article – By Melissa Healy – April 11, 2012.

    Antibiotics are a bedrock of modern medicine.

    But in the very near future, we’re going to have to learn to live without them once again.
    “The emergence of antibiotic resistance is the most eloquent example of Darwin’s principle of evolution that there ever was,” says Dr David Livermore. “It is a war of attrition. It is naive to think we can win.”
    Dr Livermore, whose grandmother died for lack of infection-killing drugs in 1945, is director of the antibiotic resistance monitoring and reference laboratory of the Health Protection Agency. – Continued after the images….

    Antibiotic resistant bacteria

    Streptococcus pyrogens bacteria. Photograph: S Lowry/University of Ulster/Getty Images – image source

    Handwashing -  Alberta Gov. Health image source

    Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.» U.S. Center for Disease Control

    …. People of my generation were taught a lot about washing your hands before every meal, Professor Richard James, director of the centre for healthcare associated infections at the University of Nottingham, said. It was automatic that it was done. A lot of that has gone.”
    There are some innovative ideas about, he says, on ways of teaching children in school to wash their hands – in the hope that they will then go home and pester their parents to do the same. » Read the full Article – By Sarah Boseley – The Guardian, Thursday 12 August 2010.

    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Outbreak!
      Overview | Students reflect on and research drug-resistant bacteria and the use of antibiotics. They then use their research to make board games that focus on the microscopic interactions among bacteria, antibodies, antibiotics and the cells of the immune system. Go to this Health and Science Lesson.
    • The New York Times – Learning Network – It Might Come in Handy
      Overview | Students will learn about the latest study on routine hand washing practices. They will then research some of the possible communicable diseases that can be transmitted by having lax hygiene. Go to this Health and Science Lesson.

    To the Rescue! – Learn first aid responses to a variety of emergency scenarios

    Act F.A.S.T.
    • FACE
      Ask the person to smile.
      Does one side of the face droop? 
    • ARMS
      Ask the person to raise both arms.
      Does one arm drift downward?
    • SPEECH
      Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.
      Are the words slurred?  Can he/she repeat the sentence correctly?
    • TIME
      If the person shows any of these symptoms, time is important. 
      Call 911 or get to the hospital fast. Brain cells are dying.
      More from – Stroke.org

      Hospitals beating deadline for treating heart attacks

    • In a spectacular turnabout, hospitals are treating almost all major heart attack patients within the recommended 90 minutes of arrival, a new study finds. Just five years ago, less than half of them got the patients’ clogged arteries opened that fast. » The full Boston Globe article – By Marilynn Marchione – Published: August 23, 2011.

    Warning signs of a stroke Image source

    CPR Saves Lives Image source

    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Understanding Medical Responses to Emergencies
      Overview | Students review their understanding of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. They then learn about other types of medical responses to common emergency situations and evaluate the importance of CPR. » Go to this Health and Science Lesson.
    • The New York Times – Learning Network – To the Rescue!
      Overview | Students learn about the trial of an automated cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) machine. They then investigate and role play first aid responses to a variety of emergency scenarios. » Go to this Health and Science Lesson.

    British scientists crack killer cancer code

    An Immune System Trained to Kill Cancer

    • A year ago, when chemotherapy stopped working against William Ludwig’s
    • Doctors removed a billion of his T-cells — a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors — and gave them new genes that would program the cells to attack his cancer. Then the altered cells were dripped back into Mr. Ludwig’s veins.
    • At first, nothing happened. But after 10 days, hell broke loose in his hospital room. He began shaking with chills. His temperature shot up. His blood pressure shot down. He became so ill that doctors moved him into intensive care and warned that he might die. His family gathered at the hospital, fearing the worst.
    • A few weeks later, the fevers were gone. And so was the leukemia.
      A year later, Mr. Ludwig is still in complete remission. Before, there were days when he could barely get out of bed; now, he plays golf and does yard work.
    • Scientists say the treatment that helped Mr. Ludwig, described recently in The New England Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine, may signify a turning point in the long struggle to develop effective gene therapies against cancer. » The full New York Times article – By Denise Grady – Published: September 12, 2011.

    Eventually a simple blood test will lead to accurate “made to measure” treatments

    • to identify, attack and kill the causes of each patient’s own individual cancer, they claim.
    • Professor Mike Stratton, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, a world leading research centre in Cambridge who carried the studies, said: “What you are seeing today is going to transform the way that we see cancer.
      “This is a really fundamental moment in the history of cancer research.”
    • Cancer cells under microscope
      Grim beauty Deadly diseases under the microscope Photo: Wellcome Images

    • All cancers are caused by damage or mutations to the DNA of formerly healthy cells acquired during a person’s lifetime.
      This damage causes them to grow into abnormal lumps or tumors and spread around the body disrupting its normal processes and eventually – if unchecked – causing death.
    • In lung cancer the damage is almost entirely caused by smoking and in skin cancer or malignant melanoma by ultraviolet sunlight.
      The Sanger Institute studies used powerful new DNA sequencing technologies to decode completely the genome of both tumor tissue and normal tissue from a lung cancer and a malignant melanoma patient.
    • They then compared and contrasted the two to discover the differences and see what damage has occurred to cause the disease. » The full Telegraph Uk article » By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent.

    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Learning About Cell Renewal Throughout the Body
      Overview: Students learn about the latest research on cell and tissue renewal. They then explore the various internal body parts and systems examined in these studies.  Go to this Health and Science Lesson.
    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Talking about Breast Cancer:
      Students share words and associations related to cancer. They then investigate and participate in dialogues about the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Go to this Health, Science and Life’s Lesson.
    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Evaluating the Changing Perceptions of Cigarette Smoking
      Overview: Students learn about the changing public perception of cigarettes over the century. They design a survey on people’s views on cigarette smoking for homework. Go to this Health and Science Lesson.

    Does running a marathon push the body further than it is meant to go? (Update1)

    The significance of bones. Original image – Luis Escobar
    Arnulfo Quimare, a Tarahumara Indian who is a champion distance runner, laces up his sandals for a 50-mile race on canyon trails.

    The scientific evidence supports the notion that humans evolved to be runners.

    • In a 2007 paper in the journal Sports Medicine, Daniel E. Lieberman, a Harvard evolutionary biologist, and Dennis M. Bramble, a biologist at the University of Utah, wrote that several characteristics unique to humans suggested endurance running played an important role in our evolution.
    • Most mammals can sprint faster than humans — having four legs gives them the advantage.
    • But when it comes to long distances, humans can outrun almost any animal. Because we cool by sweating rather than panting, we can stay cool at speeds and distances that would overheat other animals. On a hot day, the two scientists wrote, a human could even outrun a horse in a 26.2-mile marathon. » The full New York Times article – By Tara Parker-Pope – Published: October 26, 2009.

    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Investigating the Complex Significance of Bones
      Overview | Students examine the literal, physiological and figurative significance of bones through experimentation, then create their own skeleton-related exhibits for a “Bone and Skeleton Museum.” » Go to this Health and Science Lesson.
    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Learning How the Body’s Skeletal Muscle Groups Work
      Overview | Students gain a greater understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the muscular system, the skeletal system and connective tissue by researching joints in the body. They also reflect on the effects of injuries on their joints and learn about new treatment methods. Go to this Health and Science Lesson.
    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Investigating and Discussing Darwinism … (Explaining Life’s Complexities)
      Overview | learn about theories of ‘intelligent design’ in evolutionary science…  Go to this Science Lesson.

    DNA could be faked by criminals, new study claims

    DNA can be faked?original dna-helix image and article
    New scientific research has shown that it is possible to fake DNA evidence, raising fears that people could “engineer crime scenes”. The findings threaten to undermine the key forensic technique, which has secured thousands of convictions in Britain and around the world.
    In experiments, a team of Israeli scientists were able to obliterate all traces of DNA from a blood sample and add someone else’s genetic material in its place.
    The process was so successful that it fooled forensic scientists who carry out DNA fingerprinting for American courts. The full Telegraph.co.uk article »

    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Evaluating How DNA Databases Are Used to Solve Crimes
      Overview: Students reflect on their opinions about the use of DNA databases in criminal investigations. They then generate a list of questions they have about DNA and its importance, prepare and give brief presentations, and then further discuss their positions on how DNA information should be collected and used by police.  Go to this Law and Science Lesson.
    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Analyzing Media Coverage of Crime
      Overview: Students will compare the coverage of two crime stories, analyzing both for objectivity, language, emotional impact, and local and national dissemination. Go to this Media and Law Lesson.