Thursday, March 19, 2009

Caught between insurgents and soldiers

* photo copyright *
Laila Pohetaedaoh and daughter in Yala's Krong Pinang district on 19 August 2008. Bottom right is a photo of Laila's husband who was shot and killed by insurgents.

In 2008, I had the honor to interview Laila Pohetaedoh in her home in Krong Pinang, Yala for a forthcoming documentary on the southern conflict.

At the time, she told me that she had already lost her husband and two sons to insurgent attacks.

Insurgents accused her family of working with the government.

She told me that she felt trapped between two hostile forces. The militants who were making death threats against her, and the military who treated the villagers like terrorists.

Tragically, it appears that insurgents carried out their threats.

Her death was scarcely reported in the mainstream press: from the Bangkok Post on 12/03/2009:

"In Yala's Krong Pinang district, Laila Pohetaedaoh was shot. She was taken to Yala Hospital. She recently received an award for being among the most outstanding women of the district"

From a Human Rights Watch report titled Insurgents Target Leading Muslim Woman Activist:

"On March 12, 2009, an eyewitness saw an insurgent fatally shoot Laila Paaitae Daoh, a prominent Muslim women’s rights activist and peace advocate, in broad daylight in Krongpenang district, Yala province.
She was rushed to Yala Hospital Center, but died of her wounds the next day. Laila and her family had long received threats and had been targets of insurgent attacks. Alleged insurgents killed her eldest son in 2004 and her husband and second son in 2006."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Abhisit and Giles at Oxford

Over at the New Mandala there is thorough coverage of Abhisit's speech at Oxford. And Thanks to New Mandala reader, Somsak Jeamteerasakul, for providing the link to the video above.

Also, at the Times Online, Richard Lloyd Parry makes some interesting comments about the exchange between Abhisit and Giles and the lack of open debate in Thailand:

"And such an open, unfettered and fearless debate could never take place in Thailand at the moment. Giles Ungpakorn wouldn't be there, for a start: he'd be locked up, for writing a book. And no Thai who wished to stay out of jail would dare to stand up and ask the frank questions about lèse-majesté which the Oxford audience put on Saturday. Abhisit may have said that he wants to promote democratic debate in Thailand, but whether he really intends to, or even has the power to do so, is another question yet to be settled. Perhaps his hands are tied by his PAD/military supporters; perhaps, having achieved power, he now finds that a certain amount of fear and hesitancy on the part of the population is an advantage."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Southern paradise lost to a phantom war

Despite calling Southern Thailand "one of the most dangerous places on earth" - which i dont agree with - this report from France 24 is rather good.

Of particular note is the work of the Muslim Attorney Centre (MAC) which provides a much needed service in the South.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Police arrest Web director of Prachatai for lese majeste

From the Nation:

"Web director Chiranuch Premchaiporn was arrested on a charge of committing a computer crime, because she allowed the offending comments to be posted on Prachatai's Web board.

The official said there was no clear criteria for judging what kind of comments and content on the Web might be deemed to constitute lese majeste. Police did not show the posted comments in question.


The authorities have launched a crackdown on websites accused of posting lese-majeste content. Many websites based inside and outside the country have been blocked."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Update: International Scholars Call for Reform of Thailand's Lese Majeste Law

* photo copyright*
Royal Guard on parade. November 23rd, 2008.

PRESS RELEASE (in full is attached)

March 4, 2009

International Scholars Call for Reform of Thailand's Lese Majeste Law

Over fifty international scholars and dignitaries have signed a letter to the Thai Prime Minister calling for reform of the lese majeste law. The letter comes after a spate of lese majeste cases in Thailand and moves by the Thai government to restrict internet discussion of the royal family.

The letter urges the Thai government to consider the following:

1. Please stop seeking more suppressive measures against individuals, web sites, and the peaceful expressions of ideas.

2. Please consider suggestions to reform the lese majeste law to prevent further abuses and to prevent the possibility of further damage to the international reputation of Thailand and the monarch.

3. Please consider taking action to withdraw the current lese majeste charges, and working to secure the release of those already convicted under the lese majeste law. They are charged for expressing their ideas. This should not be a crime.

The letter argues that frequent abuse of the lese majeste law against political opponents undermines democratic processes? and generates heightened criticism of the monarchy and Thailand itself, both inside and outside the country.

Signatories to the letter include:

- World leaders in human rights and civil liberties, such as Lord Eric Avebury, Dr. Caroline Lucas, Senator Francesco Martone, Smitu Kothari, Walden Bello;

- Prominent scholars who are famous throughout the academic world across fields and disciplines like Noam Chomsky, Stuart Hall, Arjun Appadurai, Jim Scott, Arif Dirlik, Stanley Tambiah, Immanuel Wallerstein, and many more;

- Presidents, former presidents and leaders of several internationally prestigious academic associations, namely the Associations for Asian Studies , the American Political Science Association, the American Sociological Association, the Asian Studies Association of Australia, and

- Leading legal scholars such as a former judge in the International Court of Justice, a former President of the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law, and leading scholars on human rights law;

- Leading international scholars of Southeast Asia and Thailand in many fields including political science, history, anthropology, literature, geography, economics, environmental studies, most of whom have long term experience in Thailand and the region.

Additional signatories are currently being collected. The letter will be delivered to the Honorable Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in late March or early April. Those who want to include their name on the letter are invited to send their name, title/ rank/position and affiliation to one of the
following Coordinators of this campaign.

Thongchai Winichakul, Professor, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison,

Andrew Walker, Senior Fellow, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

Jim Glassman, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of
British Columbia, 217 - 1984 West Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2 Canada.

Larry Lohmann, The Corner House, Station Road, Sturminster Newton, Dorset
DT10 1YJ, United Kingdom.

Adadol Ingawanij, Post-doctoral Researcher, Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media, University of Westminster, Harrow Campus, UK.

The web site New Mandala will be the window of this campaign, and will provide updated news and information on the progress of the campaign.

Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Accidental ‘Jihadist’

* all photos copyright*

Military check stop in Yala in August.

Despite often criticizing military policy in the southern border provinces for their heavy-handed and human rights violating habits, there is a genuine effort to win the people's hearts and minds.

The soldiers in the South are usually friendly, polite, and working hard to both do their jobs and keep themselves safe.

Yet the notoriety of past events like Tak Bai keep coming back to dismiss efforts to win hearts and minds.

More troublesome is the possibility that the military's violent antics will start to attract regional or even global jihadists to the cause.

From Philip Golingai:

"In my interviews (three 12-minute prison visits) with Muhammad Fadly, he related that Ustaz Muhammad, a secretive religious teacher in his early 30s, had convinced him to slip into southern Thailand to help Thai Muslims oppressed by the government.

The final year mechanical industry student believed the ustaz after watching video footage of the massacre in Tak Bai, a Thai border town on Malaysia-Thailand border, where 78 Thai Muslim protesters – who were packed like sardines – died of suffocation and injuries while being transported in military trucks on Oct 25, 2004.

Thai authorities are often very worried about internationalizing the southern conflict as they fear increased attention from the international community would ultimately lead to calls for international intervention.

But this is certainly another type of international attention that Thailand could best do without.

And, of course, it is just another in a long line of reasons for the military to maintain strict adherence to the country's laws and international conventions on human rights.

International Scholars Call for Reform of Thailand's Lese Majeste Law

* photo copyright*

Royal Guard on parade. November 23rd, 2008.

Over that the Foreign Corespondents Club Thailand (FCCT) there will be a very interesting press conference on lese majeste reform.

Notably, the speakers are only there via internet link, and not actually in Thailand.

From the FCCT:

Wednesday, March 4, 10:00 am

Thailand's lese majeste law has been abused for political purposes. Even Dr. Tej Bunnag, an advisor to the Office of His Majesty's Principal Private Secretary, said recently that the lese majeste law is a problem.

More than 50 international scholars and dignitaries have signed a letter to the Thai Prime Minister calling for reform of the lese majeste law. The letter comes after a spate of lese majeste cases in Thailand and moves by the Thai government to restrict internet discussion of the royal family.

Initial signatories to the letter include leaders in human rights and civil liberties, world class scholars, leading legal scholars, and leading international scholars of Southeast Asia and Thailand. The press conference will be conducted via internet (Skype).


  • Dr. Thongchai Winichakul from Madison, Wisconsin

  • Dr. Andrew Walker from Canberra, Australia