Monday, November 20, 2017

Valuing the Sacrifice of Soldiers: How Thailand Could Fix a Corrupt Military System so Everybody Wins

By Ann Norman, Research by Red Eagle

If General Prayut Chan-ocha wanted to reform something and eliminate corruption, why didn’t he reform the military, which is something he was actually responsible for and is corrupt to its core?

The corruption in the military begins at the very start of a soldiers’ service. There is a draft for those young men who do not volunteer, and 1/3 of all those who go to the draft are selected for two years of service. This amounts to 100,000 conscripts per year. You can go the YouTube to see videos of the celebrations of those who are not selected and the tears of those who are. Incredibly, the rich will tell you very openly that they can avoid the risk entirely with a bribe.

I meant to write this article in April, after Private Yutthakinun Boonniam had been beaten and tortured while imprisoned in a military jail. In pictures taken at the hospital just before he died, his face was so swollen he was unrecognizable.

Then on November 12, 2017, yet another Thai conscript was beaten to death, 21-year old Adisak Noiphitak, just 10 days after he began his service. The autopsy report said he died of a sudden heart attack, but the family doesn’t believe it because when they received the body of their son, there were big bruises all over him. Pictures clearly reveal the lie by the army.

While we don’t know for sure Adisak Noiphitak was beaten to death, Private Yutthakinun Boonniam was beaten as a punishment. While corporal punishment of soldiers may be officially forbidden, it is prevalent and quickly excused.

Today’s social media regularly reveals shocking sadistic abuses of whole companies of Thai soldiers by their superiors. There are hazing rituals in which lines of naked soldiers are forced into mass sexual positions. And there are sadistic beatings, both of whole companies and individuals. Pictures and videos show masses of soldiers with welts on their backs with fish sauce, salt, or mustard being poured on the wounds). It is unsurprising that in such an abusive climate, several times a year, someone’s child is viciously beaten to death after being called up to serve their country.

On Legends and Enlightenment: King Naresuan, King Mongkut, and Sulak Sivaraksa


Legendary Elephant Battle from Mural at Wat Suvandaram. From Wikipedia

The world is shaking its head again at the Thai government. The draconian lese majesty law is being used to defend a popular movie version of a legendary elephant duel between its own King Naresuan and Burmese Prince Mingyi Swa, which happened (if happened at all) in the 1500s. Charges of royal defamation (which threaten a possible 3-15 year sentence), have been brought against a famous intellectual, 85-year-old Sulak Sivaraksa, who apparently made some skeptical comments at a seminar in 2014. Sulak Sivaraksa is standing his ground. "My point is, if you want to learn history, you have to get all facts from the past as much as you can, and I just state the facts," he said. It may strike you as ironic that Sulak Sivaraksa, the latest victim in the escalating lese majesty witchhunt, actually describes himself as a royalist.

One is reminded of Galileo’s house arrest in 1634 after the Catholic Church charged him with heresy for arguing that the Earth goes around the Sun, contradicting the prevailing view that the Earth is the center of the universe. Not everyone knows the historical detail that Galileo was actually a devout Catholic. Galileo’s interest in correcting the Catholic Church was in part motivated by his fear that the Catholics would soon look foolish insisting that everything in the sky revolves around the Earth when people throughout the world would soon be looking up through their own telescopes and seeing, as he could see, the several moons revolving around Jupiter.

I’m also reminded that in the 1800s, King Mongkut, promoted the teaching of geography in Siam in a campaign to correct the then-prevalent belief in a flat Earth. This was a religious crisis for those Siamese who thought the Buddhist scriptures described a flat Earth. It was similarly obvious to King Mongkut that flat-Earth beliefs would appear foolish and backward to the many Westerners who were then beginning to flow into the country, and so King Mongkut actively promoted science throughout the Kingdom, most notably geography and astronomy.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

APEC/ASEAN: Prioritize Rohingya Crisis Address Deteriorating Rights Situations in Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia

For Immediate Release

APEC/ASEAN: Prioritize Rohingya Crisis
Address Deteriorating Rights Situations in Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia

(New York, November 9, 2017) – World leaders meeting for summits in Asia on November 10-14, 2017, should address Burma’s Rohingya crisis and the deteriorating human rights situations in Vietnam, the Philippines, and Cambodia, Human Rights Watch said today.

Heads of government from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), including the United States, China, Japan, Russia, Canada, Australia, and Mexico, will be meeting in Da Nang, Vietnam, on November 10. Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will be meeting in Manila, Philippines, on November 12, along with associated ASEAN side-summits with the US, European Union, Japan, and South Korea, among others. Most of these leaders will then attend the annual East Asia Summit in Angeles, north of Manila, on November 13-14.

Since August 25, the Burmese military has carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State. Security forces have committed massacres, rape, looting, and mass burnings of homes and property, causing the flight of more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh. Human Rights Watch has determined that the atrocities amount to crimes against humanity. The campaign has led several countries to suspend military engagement with Burma and reimpose targeted sanctions and travel restrictions on high-level military leaders. Tougher measures are needed to press Burma to end the abuses, acknowledge rampant rights violations, ensure the safety of the internally displaced, and give access to independent fact-finders.

“The Rohingya crisis is among the worst human rights catastrophes in Asia in years and demands concerted global action,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “World leaders shouldn’t return home from these summits without agreeing to targeted sanctions to pressure Burma to end its abuses and allow in independent observers and aid groups.”

Meet Thai reporter Pravit Rojanaphruk as he picks up the International Press Freedom Award at Columbia

Anyone in the New York City area should totally check this out. Fearless Thai reporter Pravit Rojanaphruk is in the US to pick up his International Press Freedom Award and you can see him oi this panel discussion."มหาวิทยาลัยโคลัมเบีย มหาลัยที่มีชื่อเสียงด้านสอนวารสารศาสตร์มากที่สุดในโลกติดประกาศงานเสวนาที่เชิญผมไปร่วมเป็นวิทยากรแล้วในวันที่ 14 พฤศจิกายนนี้ที่ World Room ของพูลิสเซอร์ฮอล - สำหรับนักข่าว ผู้ถือเป็นเกียรติอันสำคัญยิ่งอีกครั้งหนึ่งในชีวิต #ป #เสรีภาพ #สื่อ #โคลัมเบีย #อเมริกา
Greatly honoured to b a panelist next Tuesday at Columbia University. #Juntaland #Thailand #pressfreedom #IPFA" - Pravit Rojanaphruk

The soft re-opening of Music of Thai Freedom

We're BACK with lots of new songs and all the old songs of Thai Freedom!!! This one "เผด็จเกิร์ล" ("Dictatorship-Girl") also has an English language title: "No Reason." This is a slick mainstream pop song, with the criticism of the junta very thinly disguised as a criticism of a dictatorial girlfriend. YOU WILL ENJOY IT!!!!