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  • Asia Centre Launches Journalism for an Equitable Asia Award.

    On Friday (8 November)the Asia Centre launched the new Journalism for an Equitable Asia Award.

    Nominations for the award will be open starting November 15, and closed on January 31. The award ceremony will be held from March 27-28.

    The award aims to recognize “journalists who report to fight the injustice of inequality and poverty.”

    The launch included a panel discussion by four journalists and academics about the role of journalism and media in promoting more equitable societies in Asia.

    The first panelist was Dr. Jessada Salathong, a lecturer at the Faculty of Communication Arts at Chulalongkorn University. Salathong’s primary area of interest discussed was reporting on climate change, and why marginalized communities and women are most impacted by it.

    Supinya Klangnarong (source: Asia Centre)

    The second panelist was Supinya Klangnarong, a media rights advocate. Klangnarong spoke about the decline of traditional media, and the disconnect between activists and social media, which she said must be fixed. Specifically, she said that many of her colleagues who tried to “be a voice for the voiceless” were not experienced in using platforms such as Twitter, and therefore had trouble getting their message across society.

    The third panelist was Shaikh Ashfaque Zaman, a Bangladeshi journalist and researcher at BRAC, a research NGO. Zaman spoke about the need for researchers to compile data into facts that the public can understand.

    The final panelist was Max Lawson, head of Inequality Policy at Oxfam International. Lawson joined the panel via Skype from his location in Nairobi, Kenya. Lawson spoke about the need for journalists who cover inequality to not only cover the lives of the poorest people, but also the richest. He argued that in order to fight poverty, the world’s wealthiest people must be held accountable. Facts about how much money the wealthiest people have in proportion to the poorest must be publicized, he said.

    The panel was followed by a Q&A session. Questions included, “How can journalists avoid romanticizing poverty?” and, for Dr. Salathong specifically, “What are you teaching your students while we are in such a fragmented time for journalism?” Salathong explained that many traditional departments of media are losing popularity. For three years, he said, zero students have enrolled in print media, and the second least popular field of study is broadcast. He had to change the name of the broadcast department to, “on-screen performance.” Currently, Salathong said, he has a student who told him, “I want to be a beauty influencer.” Salathong said that students no longer want to work for big media companies, and it was exhausting for him as a faculty to continuously update curricula based on aspirations of young people in modern-day journalism. He said, “We have to disrupt ourselves to keep up with this trend.”

    The panel concluded with each panelist except for Lawson, as he did not attend in person, being presented with gifts as a token of appreciation for their time.

    13 November 2019
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  • Victory for trans students at Chulalongkorn University

    Chulalongkorn University has finally amended its uniform regulations to allow students to dress according to their gender identity, after a group of students earlier this year filed a request for this and a complaint against a Faculty of Education lecturer.

    Jirapat Techakijvekin (second from right) when she went to file the petition with the Committee on Consideration of Unfair Gender Discrimination

    An announcement from Chulalongkorn University dated 7 November 2019 said that the University has approved the amendment to its uniform regulations, which now clearly states that “students may wear the uniform according to the gender they have been assigned at birth or according to their gender identity,” allowing students to dress accordingly in class, in examinations, or at formal events.

    Prior to this amendment, Chulalongkorn University had no official protocol for transgender students wishing to dress according to their gender identity. Students had to file individual requests with the University in order to graduate in the clothing that matches their gender identity or to dress according to their gender identity in class and in examinations. While the University has been allowing students to graduate in the dress that matches their gender identity, it is rare for students to file requests to do this for class or examinations. The request process is also complicated, requiring a large amount of paperwork, including a medical certificate stating that they have a “gender identity disorder.” Students are also often unaware that it is possible to make such a request or how to go about it.

    While many lecturers will not punish or pressure trans students into dressing according to the gender they were assigned at birth, students still face discrimination or transphobic comments from some members of staff, especially in faculties which are perceived as more ‘conservative’, such as the Faculty of Education, where students have often been threatened with disciplinary action. The amendment to the uniform regulations may mean that trans students can no longer be accused of violating university regulations and will no longer have to file individual uniform requests. However, it may not end discrimination on the individual level.

    In January 2019, Jirapat Techakijvekin, a student at the Faculty of Education, filed an appeal with the University’s grievance committee after the Faculty Board of Administrators overturned permission for her to wear the uniform for female students and ordered her to dress as male or face extreme penalties. Jirapat said that she filed a formal request with the Faculty in September 2017, and in December of the same year, she was informed by the Faculty that permission has been granted only for it to be overturned on 11 January 2019.

    Jirapat also said that she faced transphobic comments from Niran Sangsawat, a special instructor, in November 2018. Niran reportedly told her to either dress as male for his next class, or not come to class at all. He also told her that being transgender is just like being insane, and said to her: “it is good enough that we’re allowing you to study instead of sending you to an asylum.” He also allegedly told Jirapat that he would be asking the Faculty to reconsider her case, after which the Faculty’s decision on her request was overturned.

    Other students also came forward on social media to say that generations of students for the past 35 years have faced discriminatory behaviour while in Niran’s class. Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal also launched a Change.Org campaign calling for the Faculty of Education to take disciplinary action against Niran. However, it is unclear whether the Faculty will be taking any action.

    Jirapat and two other students also went to the Department of Women’s Affairs and Family Development (DWF) on 29 January 2019 to file a formal complaint with the Committee on Consideration of Unfair Gender Discrimination. Under Section 18 of Thailand’s Gender Equality Act, any person who thinks that they have suffered from gender-based discrimination may file a complaint with the Gender Discrimination Committee, which has the authority to ensure that appropriate actions are taken to end and prevent discrimination, and to ensure that there will be compensation and remedy for the injured party.

    A letter dated 18 February 2019 from the University to Jirapat stated that, while the University’s Office of Students Affairs is in the process of amending the uniform regulations so that it will be in accordance with the Gender Equality Act, the university granted Jirapat permission to wear the uniform for female students. The amendment to the uniform regulations was finally announced yesterday (11 November).

    The Thai LGBT community faces daily cases of discrimination and inequality, most living under strong pressure not to bring shame to their family, while the country’s tourism authority advertises Thailand as being a queer-friendly destination, even launching the “Go Thai, Be Free” campaign, hoping to attract LGBT tourists. Bangkok has been called “Asia’s gay capital” and is known for its gay nightlife scene, transgender beauty queens, and gender confirmation surgery. However, even with the Gender Equality Act of 2015, there is very little legal support for the LGBT community.

    And even if homosexuality is no longer a crime under Thai law, the LGBT community still faces discrimination in the workplace, school, and in the home. There are reports of LGBT people being denied promotion or fired from their jobs after disclosing their sexuality, or questioned inappropriately about their sexual orientation and gender identity during interviews. LGBT students face harassment and bullying from their teachers and peers based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Transgender inmates in Thai prison have difficulties accessing hormone treatment, and many faced a condition known as “double imprisonment” when transwomen who have not undergone gender affirmation surgery are held in a segregated area inside men’s prisons.

    Thailand currently lacks a gender recognition law, preventing transgender people from changing their title. It also does not have a marriage equality law, meaning that same-sex couples cannot be legally married, leading to other issues, such as not being able to adopt children or to make medical decisions on behalf of one’s partner.

    On 22 August, parliament also voted not to support a proposal to set up a separate Standing Committee on LGBT rights. Instead, LGBT rights will be subsumed under the Standing Committee on children, young people, women, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and ethnic groups.

    13 November 2019
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  • The Lam Phaya attack and the peace talk– what was the signal?

    Abu Hafez Al-Hakim is the spokesperson for MARA Patani who is directly involved in the peace talk. This article reflects his personal views and not the official view of MARA Patani.

    Royal Thai Army Region 4 joined the funeral of 15 people killed on 5 November 2019.

    When we gathered to discuss the latest issues and development in the Deep South a fortnight ago, someone casually asked: why has there been no (violent) incidences lately? Everything seems quite. Another person answered: usually, there’s a calm before the storm.

    Then the answer was confirmed on the night of 5th November 2019  at  Lam Phaya, a village in  Yala province, 18 kilometres from the city centre. The incidence was widely reported. It was a storm indeed, of firepowers and blood.

    That was not the first time a security unit manned by ill-equipped and ill-trained personals being targeted. The previous one was in the Muang District of Pattani a few months ago.

    Some considered the village volunteers as soft targets while others considered them legitimate ones since they were trained and armed. Whatever they may be, they seemed to be “easy targets” by the armed group to top up their arms supply, compared to regular or specially trained soldiers. The policy of training and arming civilians (farmers by day soldiers by night) by Thai security apparatus on the pretext of village self-defence has backfired.   

    Naturally, all fingers point to the BRN (Barisan Revolusi Nasional), the most dominant liberation movement for Patani independence. Based on the modus operandi and the previous track records, I tend to agree, pending official investigation result by the authorities.

    The next FAQ is, if it was the work of BRN, apart from the “business goes as usual” operation, what signal was the BRN trying to send across to the other party i.e. the Thai state? Was it a mere retaliation or has it got anything to do with the current dwindling peace process and the ongoing new initiative to resume/revive another round of peace dialogue? 

    We now know that when the first official dialogue started at Kuala Lumpur in February 2013 (dialogue 1) the Patani Malay movements were represented by Ustaz Hassan Taib from the BRN as the chief negotiator. Unfortunately, the much publicised peace process lasted for only nine months when both sides faced internal problems: The BRN was not happy with the process when its five demands were ignored, prompting them to stripped Hassan off his post, while Thailand was in a political turmoil that led to military takeover months later. 

    The peace talks resumed (dialogue 2) when the military-led government initiated the so-called “Happiness process” rather than the peace process, in December 2014. This time around the Patani movements grouped themselves to form MARA Patani (Patani Consultative Council) consisting of five liberation movements. The mainstream BRN stayed away from the pact and the dialogue table while some of its members participated in the process. Another member of BRN, Ustaz Shukri Hari was appointed as the head of the MARA Patani dialogue team.

    Both sides started with the confidence-building measures: drafting the Terms of Reference (TOR), jointly designed the General Framework for Safety Zones (SZ), the establishment of The Safe House (SH) and the formation of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) at the ground level. All had been accepted and agreed.

    By April 2018 the Safety Zones at the district of Cho Ai-Rong as the pilot project was ready to kick start. However, the Thai side was not ready to sign the agreement for certain “reasons” while MARA Patani opined that signing was necessary for the safety and security of its members.  It was a deadlock. The implementation of SZ was put on hold.

    When there was a change of government in Malaysia after the May 2018 general election, the facilitator was replaced. Thailand also appointed a new chief negotiator, General Udomchai Thammasarorat, who then sought for direct engagement with the Patani movements, especially the mainstream BRN.  However, at least on two occasions, the mainstream BRN turned down General Udomchai’s request for a preliminary meeting. As the effort proved futile he had to return to face MARA Patani at the table.

     A misunderstanding occurred on the first proposed meeting date in early February at Kuala Lumpur. It prompted Ustaz Shukri to call off the meeting and postponed it until after the upcoming Thai election scheduled in March 2019. Another deadlock. Finally, the process stalled and stopped. General Udomchai would be remembered as the chief Thai negotiator who had never sat at the dialogue table.  Nevertheless, the technical teams met briefly in early August 2019.      

    All these while, the mainstream BRN, who was not on board, has been closely monitoring the dialogue through its proxies. From time to time its Information officer issued statements affirming their stance and opinion on the peace process. Among others, they stressed on international norm and standard of the peace process with foreign involvement, the credibility and the impartiality of the mediator, a road map and the design of the process mutually drawn and the sincerity of the Thai government to officially recognise its dialogue partner.

    As usual, Thailand ignored them. Whenever there was any violent incidence in the Deep South, or sometimes outside, it was usually interpreted as the BRN trying to flex its muscles and sending a constant reminder to the Thai state to be committed and sincere in the peace talks. Could the Lam Phaya attack be another signal?

    Of late there have been rumours that the mainstream BRN is ready to return to the table in Kuala Lumpur after MARA Patani and Thailand had relatively failed to make significant progress in the dialogue.  It is too soon, however, to ascertain whether the BRN will come solo or will let other groups tag along. Internal communication amongst the ranks and files of liberation movements’ high officials is supposedly underway. Whether a new coalition is expected to surface, or the existing MARA Patani will continue its role remains to be seen. 

    As a person who is directly involved in the peace talks, I personally do not see the political will and sincere commitment from the government of Thailand (especially the military guided administration) for real peace in the Deep South. Recently General Udomchai was dismissed and General Wallop Raksanoh has been appointed in his place. I would like to suggest that Thailand reviews and revaluates its stance and policy pertaining to its limitation and concern in certain issues that hinder the peace process from moving forward. Perhaps this article by a Thai academic could be an eye-opener towards the realistic approach the government can adopt if it wants true peace. 

    A few days ago a statement was posted in the Facebook by “BRN Barisan Revolusi National” (National instead of Nasional) clarifying its stance and motive behind the military operations.

    Although it was not issued by the usual Information Department of BRN through its spokesman (Abdul Karim Khalid), I think it is authentic based on its content and timing. Lam Phaya was not specifically mentioned but in between the lines, the BRN has indirectly acknowledged its involvement in the attack. The message and the signal were clear.

    The cards now are in the hands of the Thai administration whether they would respond accordingly to the BRN’s proposals and give the peace process a momentum to move forward or trash them away and let the Deep South burn in flame. If that is the case Lam Phaya will not be the last.

    10 November 2019


    12 November 2019
    8271 at
  • Climate of Apathy

    On Nov 5 another climate change report came out.  Yawn.

    But this one made the news.  Not because of the information it contained.  This was just a distillation of countless earlier papers, many of them compilations of yet more reports.

    But there were 2 newsworthy features in this report.

    One was the language used.  Science reporters noted that this was not the dispassionate prosaic prose of academia but more like the language of advocacy.  The first sentence, for example, ends with “tell it like it is” (the quotation marks are theirs – they don’t get that uncorseted), a phrase straight from the discourse of the reality-challenged Trump base.

    The other was the number of signatories.  The paper is just 5 pages, including lots of graphs (and soon to appear in a Thai translation, I am told, so you have no excuse for not reading it).  But the list of people who signed it runs to 324 pages.  There are 11,258 scientist signatories from 153 countries. 

    And basically the message is: We’ve been telling you for 40 years that everything’s going whoopsy.  If anything, we’ve downplayed the problem.  But collectively you’ve done eff all about it and look where you have got us now.  There’s still a slim chance that things can change but you must act now and here are 6 areas when you can still make a difference.

    Thailand is listed among the countries with signatories.

    So is Cambodia with 2 names; Lao with 3; Viet Nam with 7; the Philippines with 10; Malaysia with 14; and Indonesia with 18. 

    Thailand has 4. 

    And 2 of them are farangs. 

    Only 2 Thai climate scientists could be bothered to sign?  2?  TWO??  What the proverbial?

    Now I have to admit, I did not scan every name and there may be Thais affiliated with institutions outside Thailand who also signed.  As there could with Cambodia and Lao.

    But 2?  With hundreds of universities, thousands of tertiary education programmes and hundreds of thousands of university-level students, this is the best that the country can do?

    Next time you read some PR puffery about a Thai university crawling up one of these international league tables of educational excellence, keep this in mind.  However well they manage to game the algorithm that will determine their ranking, by hiring more PhD teachers, by bullying them into more publications or whatever, they couldn’t really give a left-handed about what more than 11,000 scientists claim is the greatest existential threat that this planet has ever faced.

    As goes the education system, so goes the nation.

    The UK is about to have an election, caused by the Brexit conundrum.  And while Brexit is naturally a lead issue, already the climate crisis is emerging as major concern of voters.  Now compare Thailand’s election last March.  Remember how much the climate crisis featured in that campaign?  No, neither can I.

    Or how about the budget which has just been debated in parliament?  Do you recall global heating being discussed?  They did discuss boosting spending on tourism and roads, both of which will directly increase greenhouse gas emissions.  The general mindset was ‘growth is good’ so let’s engineer as much of it as we can and the environmental consequences be damned. 

    This past week, hands have been wrung over the layoffs in the manufacturing sector, and this is awful news for those suffering the consequences.  But the biggest hits have been taken in the automotive sector.  And the knee-jerk reaction has been how to get the same workers back into the same factories producing the same products that will ultimately make this planet uninhabitable.

    Institutionally, it begins to look like this country just doesn’t really care about the climate crisis.  Or at least only to an infinitesimal degree.  How infinitesimal?

    Sometime Thailand resident Malcolm Pryce has written a series of Welsh noir novels about a fictional private detective in the real Welsh town of Aberystwyth.  They have spoof titles like ‘Aberystwyth Mon Amour’ and ‘Don’t Cry for Me Aberystwyth’ and I strongly recommend them for anyone who enjoys Welsh humour.  Or noir.

    Aberystwyth has 16,000 inhabitants and a university.  I checked the list of signatories to the climate change report.  Aberystwyth University has 2, or exactly as many as Thailand with a population of 69 million and 170 universities.

    ‘Don’t Cry for Me Aberysctwyth’, but please cry for Thailand.

    12 November 2019
    8270 at
  • Cartoon by Stephff: Berlin wall anniversary

    Stephff's cartoon on occasion of the 2019 Berlin wall anniversary date. 

    8 November 2019
    8273 at
  • [Event] Living in Truth amidst the Lies: The Life and Ideas of Václav Havel

    Office of Academic Resources, Chulalongkorn University, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Bangkok, cordially invites interested public to attend a panel discussion on the topic of


    Living in Truth amidst the Lies: The Life and Ideas of Václav Havel


    held as part of the launch of the Thai translation of Václav Havel’s Letter to Dr Husák and as part of the opening ceremony of an exhibition commemorating the 25th anniversary of Václav Havel’s visit to Chulalongkorn University


    Monday 25 November 2019


    14.00-16.00 hrs


    Office of Academic Resources, Chulalongkorn University [Central Library]


    13.00 - 14.00 hrs Registration

    14.00 - 14.20 hrs Opening Speeches

    – Associate Professor Amorn Petsom, PhD, Director of the Office of Academic Resources

    – His Excellency Mr Marek Libřický, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Kingdom of Thailand

    14.20 - 14.35 hrs “Remembering Václav Havel” – Sulak Sivaraksa

    14.40 - 15.30 hrs

    Panel Discussion on “Living in Truth amidst the Lies:

    The Life and Ideas of Václav Havel” – Pitch Pongsawat, Nuttaa Mahattana, Chayangoon Thamma-un & Verita Sriratana

    Moderated by Anna Lawattanatrakul

    15.30 - 16.00 hrs Q&A

    *This public event will be conducted in Thai. Faculty of Arts student volunteers may offer simultaneous interpretation upon request. Walk-in registration is free of charge.

    For more information, please contact Sam Nak Nisit Sam Yan Publishing (SCPH) at or

    Tel. 091 – 720 – 8998 or 098 – 825 – 6861

    8 November 2019
    8269 at
  • AI calls for Cambodia to stop pressuring regional neighbours to harass opposition figures

    Cambodian authorities should stop pressuring neighbouring governments to harass, intimidate, arrest and detain Cambodian citizens with links to the outlawed political opposition, Amnesty International said today (7 November).

    Sam Rainsy (center) holding a bouquet of flowers

    “The last few days have seen a wave of brazen harassment and intimidation of Cambodians throughout the region. It is appalling that Hun Sen’s government is trying to co-opt regional neighbours to collude in this blatant abuse,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s East and South East Asia regional director.

    Several members of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have been detained or threatened across the region in recent days, including in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

    Mu Sochua, deputy leader of the CNRP and a dual Cambodia-US citizen, was detained for most of the day by the Malaysian authorities upon arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport this morning. She was later released.

    Ngoeum Keatha and Heng Seang Leang, two other Cambodian citizens, were detained by the Malaysian authorities since Monday. After days of uncertainty regarding their possible deportation to Cambodia, where they faced certain serious human rights violations, it was announced that they would also be released by the Malaysian authorities.

    “The Malaysian authorities have ultimately done the right thing – but the three should never have been detained in the first place. Other ASEAN states must follow suit and refuse to collude in Cambodia’s human rights abuses,” said Nicholas Bequelin.

    According to documents seen by Amnesty International, the Cambodian authorities yesterday arbitrarily revoked the passports of 12 Cambodian citizens affiliated with the CNRP.

    Amnesty International has received further reports that Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand have been subject to increased surveillance and intimidation in recent days. On 6 November, in Thailand’s Samut Prakan province, a group of 60 or so Cambodians was dispersed by Thai police and two individuals were arrested and interrogated for hours before being later released. On 4 November, in Pathum Thani province, a dozen police surrounded the house of a Cambodian man, though he had already fled his home.

    On 6 November, before flying to Malaysia, Mu Sochua was addressing a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, when the Cambodia ambassador to Indonesia disrupted the event and called for her arrest. In October, Mu Sochua was also denied entry to Thailand by Thai immigration officials, after the Cambodian authorities issued warrants for the arrest of CNRP leaders to fellow ASEAN states.

    The Cambodian authorities have taken other steps to thwart the return of CNRP leaders. On 1 November, the Cambodian civil aviation authority threatened airlines with prosecution for supporting “a coup d’état” should they allow Sam Rainsy, the acting leader of the CNRP, to board a flight to Cambodia.

    Earlier today, Sam Rainsy was denied checking in to a flight from Paris to Bangkok. Yesterday, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said that Rainsy would not be allowed to re-enter Cambodia via Thailand.


    This spate of intimidation, harassment, arrests and other threats follows a pledge by Sam Rainsy, who resides in France, to return to Cambodia this Saturday 9 November. The CNRP have called for mass demonstrations on the same day. In response, the Cambodian authorities have labelled the planned return an attempted coup d’état and undertaken a heavy-handed crackdown against individuals affiliated with the CNRP.

    Since August, when Rainsy made this pledge, at least 45 former CNRP members have been jailed and 92 have been subject to politically-motivated charges including “plotting against the state” and “attack” for allegedly supporting the return to Cambodia of CNRP leaders living abroad. Arrests have typically been conducted without due process and in the absence of arrest warrants.

    The ongoing crackdown has already had deadly consequences in Cambodia. On 30 October, Sam Bopha, a CNRP activist, was killed while in police custody after being arrested at her home in Svay Rieng province. Another CNRP activist, Tith Rorn, died in detention soon after he was arbitrarily arrested in April. No independent investigation into the circumstances of his death has yet been carried out, despite the presence of injuries on his body consistent with beating.

    These recent developments have been accompanied by the militarisation of Cambodian border provinces, while Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has publicly ordered the military to attack any opposition gatherings that are held on 9 November. Live-fire military exercises and troop deployments in towns and cities adjacent to the Thai border have further contributed to significant concerns about the potential for violence on 9 November.

    CNRP President Kem Sokha remains detained on charges of “conspiracy with a foreign power” since his arrest in 2017. After spending one year in a maximum-security prison, he was transferred to house arrest under highly restrictive conditions in September 2018.

    8 November 2019
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  • Cartoon by Stephff: popemobile is ready

    Stephff cartoon illustrating what Pope Francis may look like when visiting Thailand from 20-23 November. Actually, it is not going to be a Tuk Tuk, but a locally produced Nissan with a diesel engine.  

    7 November 2019
    8272 at
  • 15 killed in deep south, government stuck in coercive approach

    In the wake of the killing of 15 people in the Deep South, there is still no sign of the government changing course. 

    source: ISOC Region 4

    On Tuesday (ุ5 Nov) at midnight, an unknown number of assailants attacked two security checkpoints in Yala Province, killing at least 15 and injuring at least 4. The Reporters said that 8 guns were stolen. 

    One security checkpoint under attack where no damage was caused was at Village No.4 of Lam Phaya Subdistrict, Mueang District, Yala Province, but the checkpoint at Village No.5 saw many dead and injured bodies when rescue teams arrived. 

    The assailants also put nails on Highway 409 and tires were set alight, disabling 3 rescue vehicles. Security units were sent in to contain the area but there is still no confirmation if the assailants have been found. 

    Khaosod English reported Pol Col Thaweesak Thongsongsi, superintendent of a police station in Yala Province, saying that the assailants used heavy weapons in the attack. A small explosive was found near an electricity pole to shut down electricity. 

    Many sources reported that 11 died at the security checkpoint. And at least 4 died at the hospital while another 4 were injured. 

    All of them were volunteers, including civilians who joined the Peace Through Development programme under Royal Auspices of Sirikit the Queen Mother launched in 2006. Three are civilians who underwent paramilitary training arranged by the Royal Thai Army. 

    Among them were also a police officer, a deputy village head , and a paramilitary unit doctor. Together they formed a joint security unit, one among many which volunteer to patrol the area.  

    According to Isara, a total of around 95,000 civilians have undergone training, working with around 35,000 police and military officers. It reports the authorities as saying that the incident occurred when there had been no violence for a long time, giving the insurgents an opportunity for a surprise attack. 
    The analysis also said that officers had been re-assigned to cover the ASEAN summit. At the summit, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia, which has played a role in negotiations between the Thai government and the insurgency groups, declared an anti-separatist stance and offered more cooperation in joint patrols. 

    It also said that the incident was in the context of news about a meeting between Thai and Malaysian facilitators to start negotiations with BRN, an insurgency group, which wanted to show its capabilities to increase its bargaining power.  

    Is the military approach effective? 

    The incident is part of the chronic conflict in the Deep South of Thailand. Some of the insurgency groups have claimed in public statements that it is a conflict which has lingered for decades between the Thai state and Patani, a centre of political power before the realization of the Thai nation state under the absolute monarchy of King Rama V. 

    Thai governments have tried for years to establish peace in the Deep South, and have repeatedly failed. The post-election government led by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has continued to use a coercive approach just like before the election, but many question its effectiveness. 

    During a parliamentary session in October, Dr. Petchdau Tohmeena, a Bhumjaithai Party MP, said that in the last 15 years, there have been 20,376 incidents or 3.64 per day with 7,017 deaths and 13,673 injuries. 3,075 became widows, or 0.54 per day, and 6,575 became orphans, or 1.17 per day. 

    She also said that this year the budget allocates 10,865.5 million baht for an integration plan to solve the conflict in the Deep South. 36.4% of the budget goes to the military, 24.5% goes to development projects, and 16.5% goes to road construction. She asked if there was an effective use and evaluation of the 20 million baht secret budget transferred to the Office of Deep South Administration every year. 

    Pannika Wanich, a Future Forward Party MP, also said that during the 5 years of Gen Prayut's premiership, 81,924 million baht or 56 million baht per day was spent to solve the conflict in the Deep South. This year the aim was "adjustment in people's attitude, beliefs, perception, and cultivation of nationalist awareness, patriotism, and good feelings towards the military." She asked if the approach was effective when a survey showed that 65% of people in the Deep South see peace talks as a primary approach to a solution. 

    This year the budget was cut 20 per cent with the goals of reducing the insurgency by 20%, growing the local economy by 10%, and successfully holding 90% of events with the local people. According to BBC Thai and Isara, the last 17 years saw spending of 313,792 million baht by 8 governments. 

    Martial law, the Emergency Decree, and the Internal Security Act have remained in force in the Deep South for years, enabling the authorities to make questionable arrests and treat thousands of people with impunity, reflected in the recent death in custody of Abdullah Isomuso and the attempted suicide of judge Khanakorn Pianchana.  Recently, the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), the main agency assigned to solve the conflict in the Deep South, required mobile phone users there to register facial identification for their SIM cards, triggering concerns over a violation of privacy guaranteed by law. 

    ISOC is also responsible for the military approach to many development projects, attitude adjustment, and training to establish peace in the Deep South. The dead and injured volunteers were also part of these initiatives. ISOC made clear earlier this year that it will continue the work of the NCPO, which staged the military coup in 2014 and which still remains in power in the disguise of an elected government. 

    It is questionable if this approach is effective as the peace talks between the representatives of the insurgency and the government have been at a halt since February. Mara Patani, the umbrella group which claims to represent the insurgency, said the peace talks may continue after the general election in March with new government representatives. With the possibility of a new round of negotiations, the future of the Deep South remains clouded. 

    6 November 2019
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  • End Impunity, Free Expression!

    Imagine a world without impunity, where everyone is free to exercise their right to freedom of expression and information and able to access, generate and share ideas and information in any way they choose, without fear. We do. 

    On this International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, it's important to recognize the essential link between the right to freedom of expression and the right to information. Journalists are too often the direct targets when either right is under attack, and ultimately — we are all victims. 

    Two weeks ago, the UN General Assembly voted to declare 28 September the International Day for Universal Access to Information. A significant victory, following a decade of sustained advocacy by numerous civil society groups, including many African members of the IFEX network. 

    Some people — but probably no one involved in the struggle to promote and defend freedom of expression — might have greeted this news of a new UN Day with a shrug.  But they should think again, for our right to information is inseparable from our right to expression, and both are increasingly under attack.

    Threats to information are coming in many forms — from attacks on journalists, to deliberate disinformation, to the obstruction of newspapers — and the impacts are far-reaching: keeping people from the information they need to engage with the issues they care about, exacerbating political polarisation, and undermining democracy.

    Let’s take a recent high-profile example of the power of expression, and its reliance on access to information. 

    Last month, an estimated 6 million people took to the streets in response to the climate change crisis. The creativity of their protests inspired many as they marched; expression in action, emboldened by facts.  

    Swedish climate activist Greta Thurnberg implored us to “listen to the scientists” — but what if the voices we need to listen to are silenced, directly or indirectly? 

    Voices can be silenced through censorship, or drowned out in a sea of disinformation. But in a growing number of instances, the silencing tactic used is murder. Murder without consequences. Murder with impunity.

    A comprehensive study released in August 2019 revealed that killings of environmental activists have doubled over the past 15 years. In 90% of those cases no one has been convicted — a shocking level of impunity, matched by those of murdered journalists.

    As we mark another International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, this deadly form of censorship is never far from our thoughts.

    UNESCO’s list of journalists who have been killed around the world — over a thousand since 2006 — is a sobering reminder. The proportion of women among fatalities has also risen, with women journalists facing increased gender-specific attacks.

    Of the 207 journalists killed between January 2017 and June 2019, more than half were reporting on organized crime, local politics and corruption. 

    Their right to expression was ended, forever, to stop them from sharing information. 

    Every time such a crime goes unpunished, it emboldens others. Those who would share information in the public interest rightfully ask themselves – is this worth my life?  Is it worth putting my family at risk? And if they decide that it is not, who can blame them? The ripple effects of impunity are endless.

    That is why, for over eight years, the IFEX network has campaigned to end impunity for crimes against journalists and all those exercising their right to freedom of expression.

    It's not work that lends itself to quick successes. As the expression goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The work does not end with finding the perpetrators; states must be held accountable for allowing or encouraging a climate of impunity in which such crimes flourish. 

    We embrace every win, large and small. The good news is that at IFEX we are seeing creative, collaborative, and powerful new strategies, and tangible progress. 

    In the past 12 months, we’ve seen the truth finally coming to light in The Gambia about the 2004 killing of journalist Deyda Hydara; a landmark ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that found the government of Colombia culpable in the 1998 murder of Nelson Carvajal Carvajal, and the historic decision by the Inter-American Commission to take to the Court the case of the brutal attack in May 2000 that nearly took the life of investigative journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima. 

    Just two weeks ago, we welcomed the decision by Kyrgyzstan to re-open the 12-year old case of the murder of journalist Alisher Saipov, following sustained pressure by IFEX and its local members the Media Policy Institute and Public Association Journalists. 

    Imagine, these cases represent a combined 66 years of impunity.

    So let those responsible for — or contemplating — violence against journalists, hear this loud and clear: long after the world’s attention may have moved on, you may think you have gotten away with murder. No. Those of us committed to fighting impunity are persistent. We do not give up. So you can never rest easy.

    For us, the culture of impunity surrounding attacks on journalists represents one of the single greatest threats to freedom of expression worldwide. The progress we have made toward ending impunity would never have been possible without the resilience, persistence, and tenacity of those who fight it.

    We must use our freedom of expression, to defend it. We must use it to call out crimes against journalists, and end impunity.

    The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists is one day, but this important work goes on year-round. I invite you to watch this short video and be inspired by the growing number of ways people around the world are working to end impunity and make it safer to be a journalist. 

    Annie Game is the Executive Director of IFEX, the global network promoting and defending freedom of expression and information.

    6 November 2019
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