Posts Tagged ‘Thailand’

Thai Activist Jailed for Two and a Half Years for Posting BBC Article That May Have Insulted the King

August 15, 2017

BANGKOK — A Thai student activist was jailed for two and a half years on Tuesday for posting on Facebook a BBC article deemed offensive to Thailand’s king, his lawyer said.

Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, also known as Pai, an activist and critic of the ruling junta, was the first person to be charged with royal insult, known as lese-majeste, after new King Maha Vajiralongkorn formally ascended the throne on Dec. 1, following the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Jatupat, a former law student, was arrested on Dec. 3 and charged for posting a BBC Thai language profile of the king which some deemed offensive.

He was also charged with violating a computer crime law for posting a link to the BBC report, which was shared by more than 2,000 people.

He pleaded guilty to the charges against him earlier on Tuesday, prompting the court to bring forward its verdict.

 Image result for Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, photos
Jatupat Boonpattaraksa

“The court sentenced Pai to five years in prison, reduced to two and a half years,” Kissandang Nutcharat, Jatupat’s lawyer, told Reuters.

“Pai confessed … He knew that if he tried to fight the charges it would not be of any use.”

A representative for the BBC in Thailand said he could not immediately comment on the verdict.

Thailand’s military government took power after a 2014 coup against a democratically elected government.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn

Since then, the detention of people accused of royal insult has increased sharply.

Last week, a man was jailed for 18 years for posting six video clips deemed insulting to the monarchy.

International rights groups have accused the authorities in Thailand of using broad laws to silence critics. Some political commentators have said the laws have been used to shield governments and the military from criticism.

“It appears that Jatupat was singled out from the thousands of people who shared the BBC article, and prosecuted for his strong opposition to military rule more than for any harm incurred by the monarchy,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Anyone can file a lese-majeste complaint against anyone in Thailand and complaints are almost always investigated by authorities who fear falling foul of the law themselves.

The laws protecting members of the royal family from insult limit what all news organizations, including Reuters, can report from Thailand.

(Reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Additional reporting and writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Thai student leader and human rights activist pleads guilty of defaming Thailand’s royal family

August 15, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Activists standing behind makeshift bars wearing masks of Thai human rights activist Jatupat “Pai Dao Din”  Boonpattararaksa, who was arrested in early December 2016

BANGKOK (AFP) – A prominent student leader on Tuesday pleaded guilty to defaming Thailand’s royal family by sharing a news story about the kingdom’s new monarch on Facebook, his lawyer said.

Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpatararaksa, 25, is the latest anti-junta activist to be hit with the country’s draconian lese majeste law which bans any criticism of the monarchy.

The law, which carries up to 15 years in jail per charge, has been wielded with increased ferocity under Thailand’s military rulers.

He has been held in custody since his arrest in December for sharing a profile of King Maha Vajiralongkorn written by the BBC’s Thai-language service in London.

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King Maha Vajiralongkorn

On Tuesday he changed his plea to guilty, his legal team said, a stance that usually trims the sentence of alleged offenders.

“After Jatupat consulted with his family, he pleaded guilty this morning before the court for committing the alleged wrongdoing as charged,” Krisadang Nootjaras, one of his lawyers, told AFP.

The court in northeastern Khon Kaen province is expected to sentence him later on Tuesday, he added.

Those charged with lese majeste in Thailand are almost always convicted, often behind closed doors.

Many people arrested for the crime plead guilty hoping for a reduced sentence.

The severity of the charge makes real scrutiny of the wealthy and powerful royal family all but impossible inside the kingdom — including by the media.

Use of the lese majeste law has generated widespread international criticism, including from the United Nations.

A UN report earlier this year noted that the conviction rate under the law had gone from 75 percent before the 2014 coup to 96 percent last year.

Many of those jailed have been handed record-breaking sentences as long as 30 years, often for comments made on social media.

Jatupat hails from Thailand’s northeast, a poor and rural region where anti-military sentiment runs high.

He was awarded a prominent human rights award in South Korea earlier this year.

Vajiralongkorn ascended the throne after the death in October of his father, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for seven decades.

He has yet to attain his father’s widespread popularity.

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Bangkok Post

Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Booyapatraksa has confessed and the Khon Kaen Court will hand down the sentence on Tuesday afternoon, according to his lawyer. He was charged with lese majeste and violating the… computer law….

Mr Jatupat was awarded the prestigious 2017 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, selected by the May 18 Memorial Foundation of South Korea.

Read the rest:

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/1306575/lawyer-pai-dao-din-confesses-ruling-due-same-day

Cambodian PM Accuses Laos of Border Violation, Says Mobilising Troops

August 11, 2017

PHNOM PENH — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday accused neighbouring Laos of sending troops into Cambodian territory in April and set an Aug. 17 deadline for their departure, warning that he was mobilising soldiers to the border area.

Cambodia and Communist Laos are key allies of giant northern neighbour China, backing its “One Belt, One Road” drive to build regional infrastructure, but it was not immediately clear how their dispute would affect the plans.

Hun Sen said at a ceremony in the Cambodian capital he had been in touch with the government in Laos about 30 soldiers from Laos who had crossed into the area, where some remained during daytime.

“I can no longer keep patience,” Hun Sen added. “It’s not right that we fight each other, but if they don’t withdraw, we must do it … We don’t declare war, we just ask to get our own land back.”

Laos and Cambodia have a territorial and border demarcation dispute, an official at the Laos embassy in Phnom Penh told Reuters.

 Image result for Laos , Cambodia, border, photos

“We have not yet agreed the border line with each other,” said the official, who declined to be identified. “A border commission has not come to check it.”

Cambodia should stop clearing the area for road-building activities, in order to allow checks by inspection panels from both countries, he said.

China could help resolve the dispute, said an official from a Cambodian think-tank, adding that he feared it might provoke clashes.

“China has influence on the two countries, and if they want to solve it, only China can help solve it,” said Ou Virak of the Future Forum think-tank.

“This issue might lead to clashes, like when it happened with Thailand,” he told Reuters.

In a long-running dispute, land around an ancient temple on the Thai-Cambodian border was the scene of sporadic gun and artillery battles, with 28 killed in the worst incident in 2011.

In November 2013, a U.N. court in the Hague ruled that part of the land around the Preah Vihear Temple belonged to Cambodia and ordered Thailand to withdraw its forces from the area.

Last month, Thailand approved construction of the first phase of a $5.5-billion railway to link its industrial eastern seaboard with southern China through landlocked Laos.

In another land dispute, Cambodia accuses neighbouring Vietnam of encroaching on its territory. The two sides met last year in Phnom Penh but the dispute remains unresolved.

(Reporting by Chan Thul Prak; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Clarence Fernandez)

Hard-pedaling soft power, China helps launch $13 billion Belt and Road rail project in Malaysia — “Game Changer”

August 9, 2017

Reuters

KUANTAN, Malaysia (Reuters) – China and Malaysia broke ground on Wednesday on a $13 billion rail project linking peninsular Malaysia’s east and west, the largest such project in the country and a major part of Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure push.

The planned 688-km (430-mile) East Coast Rail Link will connect the South China Sea, large parts of which are claimed by China, at the Thai border in the east with the strategic shipping routes of the Straits of Malacca in the west.

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Malaysia — Prime Minister Najib Razak walks along the platform during the official launch of the MRT Sungai Buloh-Kajang rail line in Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2017. PHOTO by AFP

It is among the most prominent projects in China’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to build a modern-day “Silk Road” connecting the world’s second-largest economy by land corridors to Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Central Asia and maritime routes opening up trade with the Middle East and Europe.

“The ECRL is indeed yet another ‘game changer’ and a ‘mindset changer’ for Malaysia as it will significantly cut travel time to and from the east coast of the peninsula,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said at the ceremony half way along the route in Kuantan, which faces the South China Sea.

For China, the project is another expansion of its soft power in Malaysia, which also lays claim to some disputed South China Sea islands, and is critical for China’s geopolitical and strategic interests.

“The China government has attached great importance to the China-Malaysia relations and has always considered Malaysia a dear neighbor and trustworthy partner who is committed to seeking mutually beneficial cooperation and common development in the country,” Chinese State Councillor Wang Yong said at the ceremony, heading up a 100-strong delegation in Kuantan.

Najib said the project would be financed with an 85 percent loan from China Exim Bank and the balance through a “sukuk” Islamic bond program managed by local investment banks.

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China Exim Bank

The project is being built by China Communications Construction Co Ltd.

Beijing has repeatedly come to the rescue of Najib over the last year, as he sought foreign investment that would help him pay off a massive debt piled up by scandal-plagued state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Najib has announced a spree of infrastructure projects in the last few months, many funded by China, as he builds up momentum for a general election that he has to call by mid-2018.

A Nomura research report last month said foreign direct investment inflows from China into Malaysia surged by 119 percent in 2016 and continued to grow at 64 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2017.

The growing closeness to China has raised eyebrows among Najib’s opponents who have argued that the country has become too reliant on Chinese funds.

But Najib dismissed the concerns in a speech on Tuesday, saying turning away from Chinese FDI made “no economic sense”.

There have been protests in Sri Lanka and Thailand over the Belt and Road initiative. A planned rail link through Thailand hit some resistance with what critics said were Beijing’s excessive demands and unfavorable financing.

But Thailand’s cabinet last month approved construction of the first phase of a $5.5 billion railway project to link the industrial eastern seaboard with southern China through landlocked Laos.

Editing by Praveen Menon and Nick Macfie

Thailand Sentences Man to 18 Years in Prison for Insulting Monarchy

August 9, 2017

BANGKOK — A Thai man was jailed for 18 years on Wednesday for posting six video clips deemed insulting to the monarchy, his lawyer said, the latest conviction in junta-ruled Thailand where authorities have cracked down on critics of the monarchy and military.

Use of the country’s lese-majeste law has surged under the royalist junta that took power in a 2014 coup d’etat, with more than 100 people charged since the coup, according to legal monitoring group iLaw.

Tara, 61, whose last name was withheld by his lawyer, was arrested in 2015 for sharing online materials allegedly insulting to the monarchy.

He was charged with royal defamation and computer crime.

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Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn. Prosecutions for lese-majesty have continued since he took the throne in 2016. Photograph Chaiwat Subprasom – Reuters

A Bangkok military court sentenced Tara to 18 years in jail for violating Article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code, which says anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” will be punished with up to 15 years in prison, and the country’s computer crime.

“He accepted the charge against him and has been in custody since 2015 so the court sentenced him to 20 years in prison, minus two years,” Yaowalak Anuphan, head of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights Centre and Tara’s lawyer, told Reuters.

Tara cannot appeal his sentence, she said, because he was arrested while Thailand was under martial law.

Rights groups have accused the authorities in Thailand of intimidating critics through censorship and lawsuits.

The military government denies this and has said it acts to protect national security.

Last week Pravit Rojanaphruk, an award-winning Thai journalist, was accused of sedition over online comments critical of the junta.

He told Reuters that the charge created a “chilling effect” amid an ongoing government crackdown on critics.

Pravit was charged by police on Tuesday for posting comments on his Facebook page criticizing military rule and the junta’s slow response to flooding in the country.

“The Thai junta’s dictatorial reach has expanded well beyond traditional sources to social media like Facebook,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“These dubious charges for peaceful Facebook commentary should be dropped immediately,” he said, referring to the charges against Pravit and two former government ministers who were charged last week with sedition and computer crime.

Strict lese-majeste laws protecting members of the royal family from insult limit what all news organizations, including Reuters, can report from Thailand.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Panarat Thepgumpanat, Suphanida Thakral and Aukkrapon Niyomyat; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Michael Perry)

Thai Journalist Charged With Sedition for Online Comments

August 8, 2017

BANGKOK — A prominent journalist in Thailand has been charged with sedition and violation of the country’s computer law for online postings concerning politics.

The lawyer for Pravit Rojanaphruk said his client acknowledged the charges Tuesday at the police department’s Technology Crime Suppression Division. Pravit is very active on social media and outspoken in his criticism of Thailand’s military rulers, who took power after a coup in 2014 that overthrew an elected civilian government.

Pravit is a senior staff writer at Khaosod English, a website of a Thai newspaper. Police announced last week that they would bring sedition charges against him and two politicians, one a former energy minister. Sedition is punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment.

Thailand’s ruling junta has tried to clamp down on dissent, targeting especially social media.

Tillerson in Thailand to press junta on North Korea ties

August 8, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Sally MAIRS | Rex Tillerson, the highest level American diplomat to visit Thailand since a 2014 coup, met Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in Bangkok

BANGKOK (AFP) – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson landed in Bangkok on Tuesday with a plea to the kingdom to curb business ties with North Korea, as Washington rounds up allies for its bid to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

Tillerson is the highest level American diplomat to visit Thailand since a 2014 coup strained ties between the longtime friends and saw China cosy up to Bangkok with massive military sales and infrastructure deals.

Thailand is one of a raft of Southeast Asian countries that hosts a North Korean embassy and enjoys valuable bilateral trade with the reclusive regime.

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In 2014 the two countries shared trade worth $126 million, according to Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, nearly a three-fold increase since 2009.

America’s top diplomat will press Thailand to crack down on North Korean firms that open fronts in Bangkok and use the capital as a trading hub, said acting US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Susan Thornton.

He will also lean on the kingdom to tighten visa requirements for North Koreans entering Thailand and squeeze its diplomatic mission, Thornton added.

Tillerson’s one-day visit follows a regional forum in Manila, where the former ExxonMobil CEO hailed a tough new UN sanctions regime on North Korea over its growing nuclear arsenal.

Those sanctions could cost North Korea $1 billion a year.

They were levied — with the agreement of North Korean lifeline China — in response to the launch of two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month.

– ‘Ups and downs’ –

The US envoy will also urge Thailand to take in more North Korean refugees, said Thornton.

The kingdom has long been a transit route for defectors who make the arduous journey through China, then into Laos or Cambodia and Thailand, where they seek sanctuary at the South Korean Embassy.

Thailand does not grant official status to refugees.

After landing in Bangkok Tillerson, who visited Thailand often as an executive for ExxonMobil, told US embassy staff he wanted to “grow” the relationship between America and its oldest Asian ally, “even in its ups and downs”.

President Donald Trump’s administration is reshaping America’s approach to the Thai junta after relations hit the buffers following the 2014 coup.

The US condemned the takeover and distanced itself from the regime, trimming back military aid.

But relations are on a better footing under Trump, with the US president extending an invitation to junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

The thaw also comes amid Washington’s growing concerns over rival superpower China’s clout in the region.

Beijing entices its smaller neighbours by offering massive investment decoupled from human rights concerns, which appeals to leaders weary of US pressure.

Thailand is a lynchpin country in China’s massive trade and infrastructure ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy.

It was not immediately clear how firmly the former oilman would push the junta government on its crackdown on political rights.

The US wants Thailand to “emerge as a strengthened democracy that respects and guarantees human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said US embassy spokesperson Steve Castonguay.

Tillerson is also due to pay respects to Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has been lying in state at the Grand Palace since his death in October 2016.

Later he will travel to the Malaysian capital.

by Sally MAIRS
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Thailand’s Criminal Court Removes “Illegal” Websites, Even on Facebook and YouTube

August 8, 2017

But nearly 1,800 pages remain because of coordination errors

August 8, 2017, 1:53pm

8 Jul 2017

By Kosman Tortermvasana

Facebook and YouTube have confirmed that all web pages ruled as illicit by the Thai Criminal Court have been removed from their platforms.

From May 1 to July 16, 1,835 pages were removed. The removal of the remaining 1,786 pages has not been ordered by the court because of coordination errors among government agencies.

The mistake involving coordination has led to an inaccurate number of illicit pages, said Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

“The Digital Economy and Society [DE] ministry explained that they need to translate and manage details, including some slang words prior to sending the court orders to Facebook and YouTube,” said Mr Takorn.

The NBTC scrapped its previous deadline that ordered internet service providers (ISPs) and international internet gateway (IIG) providers to remove all 3,726 illicit web pages by August 7.

Mr Takorn held a press conference with representatives of Thai Internet Service Providers Association after they discussed the second phase of the crackdown on illicit web pages.

On Friday, NBTC threatened ISP and IIG providers with the revocation of internet licences and legal punishment if the latest lot of illicit web pages were in place yesterday.

http://www.scmp.com/tech/article/2105911/thailand-removes-illicit-webpages

http://www.bangkokpost.com/business/telecom/1302007/illicit-web-pages-removed

Tillerson in Thailand as U.S. ties improve — Thailand hopes to get off Trump’s trade hit list

August 8, 2017

Reuters

By Amy Sawitta Lefevre

Thais Hope to Get Off Trump’s Trade Hit List as Tillerson Heads for Bangkok

August 7, 2017

BANGKOK — Thai officials voiced hope ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of escaping U.S. pressure over the size of their trade surplus with the United States as their figures point to a jump in imports, but U.S. data shows little change.

A spokeswoman for the State Department’s East Asia Bureau said Tillerson, who will be the most senior U.S. official to visit Thailand since a 2014 coup, will discuss a broad range of issues including security, trade and investment.

Tillerson visits Bangkok on Tuesday after attending regional meetings in Manila at the weekend.

A narrowing trade gap would also reduce the risk of Thailand being labelled by Washington as a currency manipulator – the last thing Thailand wants as it struggles with a baht currency that exporters find uncomfortably strong.

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According to Thai customs-cleared figures, imports rose 35 percent from a year earlier in the first six months of 2017 while exports to the United States rose 7 percent.

That meant Thailand’s trade surplus over the six months narrowed from $6 billion (4.60 billion pounds) to $4.8 billion.

“We hope higher imports from the U.S. will help ease pressure on this issue… and the trend should continue,” Pimchanok Vonkhorporn, head of the commerce ministry’s trade policy and strategy office, told Reuters on Monday.

However, U.S. figures calculated using a different methodology showed little change in the gap during the first five months year on year. The U.S. estimate of a Thai trade surplus of $18.9 billion put it in 11th place on U.S. President Donald Trump’s list of countries to be investigated.

The growth in Thailand’s imports from the United States this year was led by planes and parts, circuit boards, chemicals, metal and machinery and parts, the Thai data showed.

It shows “we haven’t conducted any trade protectionist policy”, said Thanavath Phonvichai, professor at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.

After being put on the U.S. list, Thailand defended itself with a 22-page justification that covered everything from its support for the United States in the Korean War to investment by U.S. companies in Thailand.

About 40 percent of Thai exports to the United States come from U.S. firms, officials say. Thailand is the world’s No. 2 maker of hard drives, with U.S. firm Seagate Technology and Western Digital among big players.

Although the Trump administration has indicated no specific action against Thailand, Trump has ordered a study into the causes of U.S. trade deficits.

(Additional reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon in BANGKOK; and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON; Editing by Matthew Tostevin, Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Nick Macfie)