Update October 9, 2015: “Entrenched elite” in Thailand and Egypt continue blocking dissent to control power

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to National Dialogue Quartet in Tunisia

  • The Norwegian Nobel Committee hailed the group known as the National Dialogue Quartet for its “decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia” in the five years since a popular uprising toppled a longtime authoritarian ruler — and helped set off similar upheavals across the Middle East.
  • ..the committee appeared to argue that Tunisia’s model of pursuing inclusive democracy offers a powerful counter-narrative to the collapse into chaos of countries such as Syria and Libya — or the reversion to authoritarian rule in Egypt in the aftermath of region wide revolts. » The La Times article – October 9, 2015.

While in Thailand:

Another Thai constitution to be drafted

  • Kan Yuenyong, an analyst at Siam Intelligence Unit think tank, said the junta’s aim of a constitution that gives the military overarching powers remained unchanged.
  • “At the end of the day, the junta has the same aims it did before, namely, it believes the political system doesn’t work and they need an umbrella organization to oversee the country and to weaken the electoral process but how they will do that and make it more palatable to people remains to be seen,” he said.
  • Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said Meechai Ruchupan, an adviser to the junta, would head the new committee.
  • Meechai led a junta-appointed panel that drafted the 2006 constitution, dubbed the “anti-Thaksin” charter because it appeared aimed at preventing the return of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. » The Reuters article – By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Panarat Thepgumpanat – October 5, 2015.
  • Related: Democracy in Thailand – “It’s my country/I can do what I want!”LFS Lesson Simplified Mock Trial

Coup government plan to send all internet traffic through one choke point

  • Protesters have blocked access to several Thai government websites over a plan to route all Internet traffic though a single gateway, which would make it easier for the military junta to monitor and censor communications.
  • The websites of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and other agencies were temporarily knocked out Wednesday and Thursday after activists accessed them repeatedly, overwhelming their servers. » The AP article – October 3, 2015.

EU calls on Thai gov’t to allow critical voices to be heard

  • “Only a full and free public debate in which also critical voices can be heard will allow for true reform and reconciliation,” the EU delegation in Thailand said. » The AP article – September 24,
  • 2015.

Pro-democracy protesters defy Thai junta with rare rally

  • Saturday’s protest also appeared designed at least in part to embarrass the current leader, army chief-turned-Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is scheduled to make an address this month at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
  • Critics at home and abroad say the junta has made little effort toward reconciliation, and has focused on clamping down on dissent and civil liberties.
  • After initially promising quick elections to restore democracy, Prayuth now says polls will not be held until at least 2017. » The AP article – September 20, 2015.

    Thailand’s reluctant leader prolongs his grip on power

  • He repeatedly presents himself as a reluctant leader, and yet Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is now on track to become his country’s longest-ruling strongman since the 1970s.
  • Prayuth seized power in May 2014 to, as he put it, rescue his turmoil-racked nation and “return happiness to the people”.
  • puppets Image source

  • But the scuttling of a draft constitution this month has prolonged military rule and cast further doubts on the former army chief’s professed allergy to high office.
  • It could also erode rather than consolidate Prayuth’s power, say experts, as public discontent grows with a junta that has curbed basic freedoms and failed to energize the economy. » The Reuters article – By Andrew R.C. Marshall – September 15, 2015.

  • A Learning Foundation Lesson – Similarities and differences between Egypt and Thailand – Go to this ESL Compare and Contrast Lesson.

  • respect-my-vote

    Thai Voter trying to reach the poll for the February, 2014 election – Image source and article

    Bombing the latest of many challenges for Thailand’s ruling military junta

    • Charles F. Keyes, an American anthropologist who has studied Thai culture for half a century, says military leaders, in alliance with other conservative forces, seek a throwback to the “despotic paternalism” of the past.
    • “It is becoming clear that the vast majority of people in upcountry Thailand and the majority in Bangkok are not willing to be compelled to accept a hierarchical order such as existed through the 1950s,” he said, predicting that such opposition could “lead to more political turmoil in the kingdom of nolonger- smiling Thai.” » The Ap article – By Denis D. Gray – August 22, 2015 –
      Denis Gray has covered Thailand for more than 30 years.

    Five years after a bloody military crackdown on Thailand’s pro-democracy ‘Red Shirts’

    • relatives of those killed say unrepentant army rulers have failed in their promise to heal the country’s deep divisions.
    • Red Shirts are also alive to the reality that those “who had their hands in the killings have today returned to rule the country,” says Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai politics expert at Kyoto University in Japan.
    • Simmering with anger, the movement remains in lockdown. But relatives of the those killed remain defiant and say they are not finished yet.
    • As Suriyan Pholsrila, whose husband Chanarong was gunned down on May 15, 2010, puts it: “Silence does not mean defeat.” » The AFP article – By Jerome Taylor- May 13, 2015

    Updated August 29, 2015 – Egypt:

    Politics in Egyptian Court rulings

      Egyptian court sentences three Al Jazeera journalists to prison

    • An Egyptian court sentenced three Al Jazeera TV journalists to three years in prison on Saturday for operating without a press license and broadcasting material harmful to Egypt, a case that has stirred an international outcry.
    • Amnesty International called Saturday’s verdict “farcical”.
    • “The fact that two of these journalists are now facing time in jail following two grossly unfair trials makes a mockery of justice in Egypt,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa. » The Reuters article – By Ahmed Aboulenein – August 29, 2015.

  • CAIRO (Reuters) – The prosecution’s evidence in a trial this month of 51 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt relied on the testimony of one police officer, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.
  • HRW said the prosecution had presented little evidence to show the defendants did anything other than spread news about a mass sit-in in Rabaa square in 2013 and organize peaceful protests.
  • The court on April 11 had condemned 14 men to death and 37 others to a life sentence for their actions in opposition to the ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in 2013 by the military under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is now president.
  • HRW’s criticism of Egypt’s judiciary comes two days before a separate trial involving Mursi in which he could face a possible death sentence. » The Reuter article – April 19, 2015.
    • An Egyptian court’s decision to sentence 14 men to death and jail 37 others accused of ties to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood was “politically motivated” and “blatantly unjust”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Sunday.
    • “It appears that the case against Muslim Brotherhood members leading to death sentences of 14 men is politically motivated,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s executive director for the Middle East and North Africa, calling it a “a sham proceeding”.
    • “The fact that those who publicized the mass killings of 2013 could go to prison for life while those who did the killings receive official accolades perfectly symbolizes the abject failure of transitional justice in Egypt,” she said. » The Reuters article _ By Sylvia Westall – April 13, 2015.

    • An Egyptian court sentenced a prominent activist to five years in jail on Monday for violating limits on demonstrations, part of one of the toughest crackdowns on dissent in Egypt’s history.
    • After the verdict was read out, chants of “Down, down with military rule!” rang out from supporters of Alaa Abdel Fattah crowded into the courtroom.
    • The blogger and software engineer is one of several activists to have been jailed since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in mid-2013 and launched a crackdown not only on his Muslim Brotherhood but also on secular democracy activists. » The Reuters euronews article – By Shadi Bushra and Ali Abdelaty – February 23, 2015.

    • Egypt killings were ordered by top officials – report

    • The killing of hundreds of Egyptian demonstrators at two protest camps last year was systematic, ordered by top officials and probably amounts to crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, calling for a UN inquiry.
    • Hundreds of supporters of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood have been killed and thousands arrested since he was ousted, with the largest number of deaths taking place during the storming of two protest camps by security forces on August 14, 2013.
    • The report said 817 protesters were killed during the clearing of the Brotherhood sit-in at Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya and compared it to the 1989 massacre of protesters around China’s Tiananmen Square.
    • The report called on the U.N. Human Rights Council to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate ‘‘the mass killings of demonstrators since June 30, 2013’’.
    • ‘‘Criminal charges should also be brought against those implicated in these acts, including in courts that apply the principle of universal jurisdiction,’’ it said.
    • The report calls Sisi (the current Egyptian president) a ‘‘principal architect’’ of the violence, sitting at the top of the army’s chain of command. » The Reuters article – By Maggie Fick – August 12, 2014.

    • The Islamic character of Egypt’s ousted government should not obscure the way the country resembles Argentina, Venezuela, Turkey, Thailand and other developing nations in which free elections after decades of autocracy have brought a new elite to power. The new rulers typically represent previously disenfranchised poor and rural populations, who often don’t share the cultural values of the capital’s middle and upper classes.
    • Applauders of military coups have in common two illusions: that the generals share their agenda and that their hated opponents, despite their electoral victories, can be politically nullified. Invariably, neither turns out to be true. Armed forces aren’t good at convening roundtables or implementing liberal platforms; they are good at using force. Even if they don’t torture and kill, they sweep up nonviolent political leaders, shut down media they regard as troublesome and try to impose political rules protecting their own political and economic interests.
    • Oh, and by the way, those removed from power sooner or later have returned. » The full Washington Post Opinion article – By Jackson Diehl – July 04, 2013
    • Related article: Thailand, Egypt, and the “good coup” – By the Bangkok Pundit – updated: August 16, 2013.

    Thailand should drop charges against 4 anti-coup activists

    • Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said all charges should be dropped immediately.
    • “The Thai military junta should immediately stop arresting and prosecuting peaceful critics and end the trial of civilians in military courts. Every arbitrary arrest shows Thailand descending deeper into dictatorial rule,” he said.
    • He added: “The rolling crackdown on civil and political rights in Thailand continues without letup. Promises to respect human rights and restore democracy are constantly contradicted by the junta’s actions.” » The Asian Correspondent article – March 17, 2015

    Thailand’s post coup troubles grow

    • The Thai economy, Southeast Asia’s second-largest, is stagnating.
    • It grew just 0.2 percent in the first nine months of this year. The central bank has cut its economic forecasts for 2014 and 2015.
    • Thailand is still under martial law following the coup, something that has kept visitors away and dented tourism, which accounts for around 10 percent of the economy.
    • Earlier this week the U.S. called a plan to delay a Thai general election to February 2016 “unwise and unjustified”. » The Reuters article – By Amy Sawitta Lefevre – December 25, 2014.
    • Shipments abroad, which make up the equivalent of about 70 percent of the economy, have shrunk in six out of nine months this year and will probably contract in 2014, according to the central bank.
    • “It’s possible that exports will lag behind other countries in the region like Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines which used to trail us in the past,” said Santitarn Satirathai, a Singapore-based economist at Credit Suisse Group AG. “We have obsolete technology and other structural problems that we must fix. The question is, can Thailand do enough to keep attracting foreign and domestic investment. It is quite worrisome.”
    • Thailand’s ranking for innovation in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index fell to 67 in 2014 from 33 in 2007, even as the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia rose.
    • Foreign direct investment applications approved from January to October fell 38 percent from a year earlier, according to the Board of Investment. » The Bloomberg article – By Suttinee Yuvejwattana and Supunnabul Suwannakij – November 17, 2014.

    Thailand’s coup-leader-turned-premier Prayuth Chan-ocha and 25 of the 33 military appointed cabinet are also millionaires

    • Asset disclosures by members of Thailand’s military-dominated post-coup Cabinet reveal they are quite well-off, a trait shared with the civilian politicians they accused of corruption.
  • The state National Anti-Corruption Commission on Friday released the asset declarations of the 33 Cabinet ministers, 25 of whom are millionaires in dollar terms.
  • Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who as army commander led a May coup d’etat, listed 128.6 million baht ($3.9 million) in assets and 654,745 baht ($20,000) in liabilities. He also reported the transfer of 466.5 million baht ($14.3 million) to family members. » the AP article – November 1, 2014.
    • The new council is dominated by people close to the country’s traditional ruling elite. It shuns supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who challenged the elite and dominated Thai politics for much of the past 13 years.
    • The new National Reform Council was officially endorsed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej. » The Associated Press Article – October 6, 2014.

    • “The interim constitution attempts to give legal justification to the sweeping and unaccountable power taken by the military junta,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
    • “Instead of paving the way for a return to democratic, civilian rule, the Thai junta has granted itself unchecked authority to do almost anything it wants, including committing rights abuses with impunity.”

  • Since the military coup on May 22, Human Rights Watch has documented numerous violations of human rights by junta.
    • Red-shirt activist Kritsuda Khunasen reveals military tortured her to link Thaksin to hard-core red shirts

    • In the interview via Skype, Kritsuda said she was blindfolded and her hands were bound on the first seven days of the detention. During this period, a female officer would help her when eating, taking a bath, and when she wanted to go to the toilet. She said while she was naked during taking bath, she heard a male voice. “I consider this sexual harassment.”
    • (…) She said she was beaten several times during the interrogation. She was also suffocated when a plastic bag and a piece of fabric was placed over her head until she lost consciousness.
    • She added that on 15 June she was forced to sign a paper stating that she had asked the military to allow her to continue staying in the camp for longer than the period allowed under martial law for pre-charge detention, and she had to also state that she felt safer inside the camp. “I had to write that statement because I wanted to survive.” » This Prachatai.com link of the transcript and video still seems to be available in Thailand. – By Taweporn – August 2, 2014S.
  • The NCPO, which consists of all branches of the armed forces and police, has enforced widespread censorship, detained more than 300 people—most without charge, banned public gatherings, and issued repressive orders targeting activists and grassroots groups.
  • Section 47 of the interim constitution legalizes those abuses by providing that all announcements and orders of NCPO since the coup are deemed to be “completely legal and constitutional.” » Human Rights article – July 25, 2014.

  • Looking Back

  • BANGKOK (AP) — Police in Thailand arrested eight people Sunday for demonstrating against the nation’s increasingly repressive military junta, including a man who was dragged away by undercover officers for reading a copy of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” outside one of Bangkok’s most luxurious shopping malls.
  • The arrest was the first known case of anyone being detained for reading as a form of protest since the military seized power last month. » The AP article – By Thanyarat Doksone and Todd Pitman – June 22, 2014.
    • Hunger Games salute becomes symbol of Thai resistance

      Anti-coup protesters flash a three-finger salute on June 1 in Bangkok. (AFP Photo)
    • The gesture has become the unofficial symbol of resistance against a military regime that has suspended democracy and severely curtailed freedom of expression.
    • The military — which has imposed martial law, controls on the media and a night-time curfew — has warned that people flashing three fingers could face arrest under its ban on public protests.
    • The army has warned protesters that they — and even their families — face punishment under strict martial law, which has imposed sweeping curbs on freedoms.
    • The harsh response “reveals a totalitarian mindset that discounts respect for human rights as a hindrance to exercise of power,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch.
    • “The Bangkok street protesters’ three-fingered Hunger Games salute is a symbolic act of peaceful defiance by those who recognize — like those in the rebellious districts in the movie — that they face overwhelming odds but decide to bravely raise their voices nonetheless.” » The full AFP article – By Daniel Rook – June 3, 2014.
    • Last week, Amnesty International also condemned what it called the “systematic and widening crackdown on key human rights” by Thailand’s military.
    • In statement, the London-based group said the army’s course of action in arresting critics “is looking increasingly like a purge.” » The full VOA article – June 11, 2014.

      Thai troops detain gov’t minister who blasted coup

    • Armed troops detained a Thai Cabinet minister who defiantly emerged from hiding on Tuesday to condemn last week’s military coup and urge a return to civilian rule, in the first public appearance by any member of the ousted government.
    • When the news conference was finished and Chaturon was being interviewed by a group of Thai journalists, soldiers entered the room, surrounded him, and escorted him out through a crowd of reporters. He was calm and smiling as he was taken away.
    • Before being hustled into an elevator, Chaturon said: “I’m not afraid. If I was afraid, I wouldn’t be here.”
    • “I still insist to use my own rights and liberty to call for returning the country to democracy,” he said. » The full AP article – By Todd Pitman and Thayarat Doksone – May 27, 2014.

    WSJ: Royalists who can’t win an election stage a judicial coup (then a military coup) – Confirming again: “Laws mean whatever we want them to mean!”

    • Royalist forces struck another blow against Thai democracy Wednesday when the country’s Constitutional Court staged a judicial coup and removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office. Her supposed crime: having impure motives when she transferred a bureaucrat three years ago. For the third time in a decade, this unaccountable institution controlled by the aristocracy has removed an elected leader for dubious reasons.
    • That leaves the aristocracy with institutional power centers guaranteed by an undemocratic constitution created by the military junta in 2007. The Anti-Corruption Commission and several other bodies can also stymie the will of the voters, but the Constitutional Court is the key because it has blocked all attempts so far to revise the constitution. » The full Wall Street Journal Editorial – May 7, 2014

    Ex Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva did not have history on his side in the election he lost.

    Abhisit’s coup sponsored government, even after loosing the election, continues to undermine democracy in Thailand:

    • Thai Inquiry Into Violence against protesters Falters: Teera Suteewarangkurn, a law professor at Thammasat University in Bangkok, said the military leadership feared it would face a public outcry if it admitted that soldiers had killed civilians.
    • “The legal process here has had unusual delays,” said Jaran Cosananand, a professor of law at Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok. “Political power undermines the law in Thailand.”
    • The military’s refusal to cooperate in the investigations underlines the ascendance of military power in Thailand.
    • The military’s budget and overall influence in Thai politics have risen sharply since 2006, when the army took power in a coup, removing the prime minister at the time, Thaksin Shinawatra, and angering his millions of supporters. » The full New York Times article – By Thomas Fuller – Published: January 24, 2011

    Thai Legal Maze After Coup Delays Investments

    • “This just highlights the economic cost of the coup and the legacy of military rule that the country is still paying for,” said Andrew Yates, head of foreign sales at Asia Plus Securities Pcl, Thailand’s third-biggest brokerage by market capitalization.
    • The biggest loser is the customer.”Government and policy instability were cited as the biggest concerns for doing business in Thailand among 13,000 executives surveyed in the World Economic Forum’s 2010- 2011 Global Competitiveness Report. » The full Bloomberg article – By Daniel Ten Kate – Published September 23, 2010.

    • WWS – World Wise School – The Blind Men and the Elephant
      Overview | Students will develop sensitivity to others’ points of view.
      – Students will understand the importance of having as much information as possible before coming to conclusions. Go to this Building Society Lesson Worksheet.
    • The Learning Foundation Making Good Laws: “Is the Thai Constitution credible?”
      Go to this Building a Healthy Society and Law Lesson.
    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Examining Military Coups Around the World
      Overview | Students consider military coups and their aftermaths, research famous coups… illustrating those events, and write letters from the perspectives of ousted leaders examined during class. Go to this Law and Society Lesson.
    • The New York Times – Learning Network – Democracy in Action
      Overview | Students consider words that reflect their knowledge and opinions about democracy. Go to this Building a Healthy Society and ESL Lesson.

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    LFS Lessons The Learning Foundation as an American non-profit organization developed programs to encourage independent thinking for over 35 years. My name is Keerock Rook and I have been involved with the Foundation since its inception. I edit most of the lessons.