Thai PM defends appointing airport siege leader as adviser

AFP

Jan-13-2009

BANGKOK (AFP) — Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva has defended his decision to appoint as adviser to the government a member of a protest group that was behind a siege of Bangkok’s airports last year.

The appointment risks causing further divisions with supporters of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, whose allies were driven from government partly as a result of the crippling week-long blockade in late November.

Abhisit, who came to power after the last government fell in mid-December, said Prapanth Koonmee, a member of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), had not committed any crime by giving speeches during the movement’s rallies.

“Whoever was on stage, if they didn’t violate the law then there is no problem. Whoever has broken the law will be prosecuted,” Abhisit told reporters.

Prapanth was appointed as an adviser to the deputy commerce minister at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Local media reported earlier that two other leading PAD members, Samran Rodpetch and Phichet Pattanachot, would also be given advisory posts but there was no immediate confirmation from the government.

The royalist PAD occupied the airports at the peak of their protest movement against the previous, pro-Thaksin government, stranding hundreds of thousands of foreign travellers and costing the economy billions of dollars.

They abandoned the siege after the Constitutional Court disbanded the former ruling People Power Party on December 2. Democrat Party leader Abhisit won a parliamentary vote to become prime minister on December 15.

Suthep Thaugsuban, deputy prime minister and Democrat Party secretary general, said earlier that the three PAD members were not “core leaders” of the movement.

The prime minister is already facing calls from Thaksin’s supporters — known as “red shirts” because of their favoured attire — to sack Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya over his own ties to the PAD.

The government however dismissed their threats to disrupt next month’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in the Thai beach resort of Hua Hin if Kasit is not removed from the government.

“The red-shirt people allege that Kasit is a terrorist, but Kasit is a diplomat who can benefit our national interests,” Suthep said.

Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and is living in exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption imposed in absentia. The PAD accused the previous government of being a corrupt front for him.

His supporters say Abhisit’s rise to power is illegitimate and have demanded that he call elections. A “red-shirt” protest forced the premier to move his inaugural policy speech from parliament in late December.

Thai Critic Ungpakorn to be Charged with Lèse Majesté

AsiaSentinel 

Written by John Berthelsen    Monday, 12 January 2009

ImageThe government goes after a prominent academic and government gadfly

Recent Articles by Giles Ungpakorn:

Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a political science professor at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, has been ordered to appear tomorrow at a Bangkok police station to be charged under the country’s stiff lèse majesté laws for insulting the country’s monarchy.

Ungpakorn wrote a series of flame-throwing articles which appeared in Asia Sentinel, among other publications, charging that a royalist and anti-democratic alliance made up of what he called the “fascist” People’s Alliance for Democracy, the military, the police, the judiciary, most middle-class academics and especially Queen Sirikit of perpetrating a royalist coup that kicked two democratically elected governments out of power.

As Thailand emerges gingerly from two years of political chaos that began with an September 2006 military coup against the democratically elected government of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the government is increasingly using lèse majesté laws, the most restrictive known anywhere in the world, to stifle dissent. Since the 1970s, the laws have grown progressively stricter. Although the law is ostensibly designed to protect King Bhumibol Adulyadej or his family, it is increasingly being used to go after government critics, warranted or not. Charges have been filed against several individuals including the BBC correspondent in Bangkok, Jonathan Head, for reporting on the political situation.

In a first email, Ungpakorn said he had not been told which articles or speeches had resulted in the charge against him, but later said he was being charged over his book, “A Coup for the Rich”and added that he is prepared to fight any charges “in order to defend academic freedom, freedom of expression and democracy in Thailand.”

The book was withdrawn from sale by Chulalongkorn and Thammasat Universities. However, Ungpakorn said all 1,000 copies had sold out.  He directed readers to his blog http://wdpress.blog.co.uk/ where the book is available in its entirety.

“The monarchy has been quoted and used by various political factions in Thailand to legitimize their actions,” he wrote. “The most notable cases are the 19th September 2006 military coup and the illegal protests by the yellow-shirted PAD, which included shutting down the international airports. Lèse majesté charges in Thailand are notorious for being used by different political factions to attack their opponents. Many believe that this law is actually counter-productive to defending the monarchy. This is why it is very important that political scientists attempt to analyze the real role and nature of the Thai monarchy in an atmosphere of freedom and democracy.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists has protested the use lèse majesté laws against the press, particularly against BBC reporter Head. But use of the laws goes well byond just journalism. In September, Australian novelist Harry Nicolaides, 41, was arrested at Bangkok’s airport on charges that he had defamed the royal family in a 2005 novel when he tried to fly out of Bangkok to Australia. He said he was unaware of the arrest warrant.

He remains in jail despite four appeals.

The blogger Bangkok Pundit in November wrote that police are handling another 30 lese majeste cases including one against social critic Sulak Sivalak, who was arrested at his home in Khon Kaen in November for remarks he had made the previous December. Among the most prominent charged was former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Jakrapob Penkair, who in a speech to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in August of 2007 criticized Thailand’s patronage system and particularly criticized Prem Tinsulanonda, the president of the Privy Council, a former prime minister and army general who is particularly close to the king.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Thailand 124th among 173 countries for restricting press freedom, recently expressing concern because 2,300 Internet websites were blocked in 2008, in most cases for lèse majesté. Ranongrak Suwanchawee, appointed information minister in the new Democrat government headed by Abhisit Vejjajiva, said on December 29 that blocking lèse-majesté websites would be her ministry’s main task.

Ungpakorn comes from a family with an illustrious history of protest. His father, Puey Ungpakorn, joined the Free Thai movement in the United Kingdom and parachuted into Northern Thailand in 1944 but was captured by the Japanese. Later, he became governor of the post-war Bank of Thailand before returning to the Faculty of Economics at Thammasat University. He was ultimately branded a communist and destroyer of unity by the political right. He resigned as rector at Thammasat in protest against the October 1976 massacre of students by rightists and was forced to flee the country.

Giles Ungpakorn urged opponents of the charges against him to write a letter of protest to the prime minister at Government House, Bangkok, Thailand  Fax number +66(0)29727751, to write letters of protest to the ambassador of the Royal Thai embassy in opponents’ own countries, and to ask that Amnesty International take up all lèse-majesté cases in Thailand.

Thais block ‘anti-royal’ websites

British Broadcasting Corporation

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva prostrates himself before a portrait of the King Dec 08

The government of new PM Abhisit, pictured, contains many ardent royalists

The new Thai government has ordered ministries to act more decisively against those who violate laws protecting the image of the monarchy.

The new minister for information and technology said the government was already blocking 2,300 websites deemed offensive to the monarchy.

It was seeking permission to block 400 more.

The authorities in Thailand have become increasingly sensitive to perceived slights against the monarchy.

This sensitivity in recent years comes as King Bhumibol Adulyadej grows older and the end of his 62-year reign draws closer.

The information ministry says it has set up a round-the-clock “war room” to combat websites containing content critical of the monarchy.

The army commander has also ordered military units to be more vigilant in tracking anti-monarchy activities.

Web targeted

The number of websites being targeted by the information ministry has increased sharply, from around 1,200 four months ago to 2,300 today – and the ministry still wants to block another 400.

The current government – which replaced one led by allies of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra last month – has many more ardent royalists among its backers.

They argue that the monarchy’s image is under attack as never before, despite the almost god-like public adulation for 81-year-old King Bhumibol.

Certainly there is plenty of salacious gossip on the internet about certain members of royal family.

But in their attempts to prevent such material being seen in Thailand, overzealous officials have been blocking relatively innocent sites that, for example, merely refer to the strict lese majeste statutes that outlaws criticism of the monarchy.

And no amount of internet censorship can prevent the growing, though still very discreet, discussions among ordinary Thais over the monarchy – some of which can be surprisingly frank.

googleNews

Thailand blocks 2300 sites deemed insulting to king
Reuters UK, UK –
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand has blocked 2300 Web pages deemed insulting to the country’s revered monarchy and plans to block another 400,
Thailand shuts down 2300 websites for insulting monarchy
Sify, India
Bangkok: Thai officials on Tuesday said the government recently blocked 2300 websites for allegedly insulting the monarchy and is seeking court approval to
Thais block ‘anti-royal’ websites
BBC News, UK
By Jonathan Head The new Thai government has ordered ministries to act more decisively against those who violate laws protecting the image of the monarchy.
Thailand blocks thousands of websites for ‘insulting’ king
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom
The Thai government has blocked 2300 websites deemed insulting to the country’s monarchy and is planning to block 400 more. By Thomas Bell in Bangkok King
Thailand blocks 2300 websites in charge of insulting monarchy
Xinhua, China –
BANGKOK, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) — Thai authorities have blocked 2300 websites for allegedly insulting monarchy and are waiting for court approval to take action
Thailand Blocks 2300 Web Sites It Says Insult King Bhumibol
Bloomberg –
By Rattaphol Onsanit and Daniel Ten Kate Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) — Thailand has blocked 2300 Web sites it says insult King Bhumibol Adulyadej and is
Thailand blocks 2300 websites for insulting monarchy
AFP
BANGKOK (AFP) — Thai authorities have blocked 2300 websites for allegedly insulting the country’s revered monarchy and are waiting for court approval to
Government officials in Thailand confirm the government banned
DailyTech, IL
A government official in Bangkok confirmed the Thai government has banned access to more than 2300 web sites throughout 2008, citing multiple reasons why
Thailand censors websites defaming royalty
Radio Australia News, Australia –
A statement issued by the ministry of information and communication, says that they are awaiting court approval to restrict 400 more sites under laws to

Thailand blocks thousands of websites for ‘insulting’ king

The Thai government has blocked 2,300 websites deemed insulting to the country’s monarchy and is planning to block 400 more.

telegraph

By Thomas Bell in Bangkok
Last Updated: 11:29AM GMT 06 Jan 2009

Thailand blocks thousands of websites for 'insulting' king

Thais have long been offended by insults against their king but the issue has become particularly sensitive during the political upheaval of recent months Photo: BLOOMBERG

King Bhumibol is worshipped by many Thais as the semidivine father of the nation. There are also acute sensitivities about what some people see as the palace’s role in politics. Strict lese majeste laws, which make “insulting” the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in jail, effectively prohibit any public discussion of the subject.

“The blocking of websites that disseminate content and pictures which insult the monarchy is one of the government’s crucial policies,” the information and communication minister Ranongruk Suwanchawee said on Tuesday.

He added that the law would be strengthened to increase the power of officials to block websites as soon as parliament reopens after the new year holiday.

Among the web pages blocked is a recent article in the Economist magazine which claimed that the monarchy frequently involves itself in political affairs. Thai officials insist that the king’s role is purely ceremonial and are extremely sensitive to any suggestions otherwise.

Many of the blocked sites have message boards where Thais discuss politics and the monarchy.

Thais have long been offended by insults against their king but the issue has become particularly sensitive during the political upheaval of recent months.

Protesters who overran Bangkok’s airports at the end of last year and helped bring the current government to power claimed they were acting to protect the monarchy. The former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, and his supporters in the former government were portrayed as somehow opposed to the monarchy – an allegation they denied.

Some observers believed the anti-Thaksin movement had the backing of figures close to the palace but King Bhumibol made no comment on the events.

The army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda recently told an audience of 800 battalion commanders to monitor the internet for attacks against the king. Members of the new government have called for tougher penalties for lese majeste.

An Australian author, Harry Nicolaides, has been in jail awaiting trial for 4 months over passages of a self-published novel that were deemed to refer to the real-life crown prince.

Protesters force Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva to move maiden speech

googleNews

30-Dec-2008 14.30 (Bangkok Time)

 

Thai Premier Abhisit defies protesters for maiden speech
Times Online, UK – 1 hour ago
Thailand’s new premier Abhisit Vejjajiva delivered his maiden speech today in defiance of the thousands of protesters who have blockaded the parliament
Thai PM finally sets out policy, not in parliament
Forbes, NY – 1 hour ago
By Darren Schuettler BANGKOK, Dec 30 (Reuters) – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva finally made his maiden policy speech on Tuesday, but the venue was
Thai Premier Vows to Aid Growth, Heal Nation’s Rifts
Bloomberg – 1 hour ago
By Rattaphol Onsanit and Anuchit Nguyen Dec. 30 (Bloomberg) — Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he would restore investor confidence,
Thai Premier Evades Protesters to Deliver Maiden Policy Address
Bloomberg – 2 hours ago
By Rattaphol Onsanit and Anuchit Nguyen Dec. 30 (Bloomberg) — Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was forced to switch his maiden policy address from
Thai protesters hold Parliament blockade
International Herald Tribune, France – 2 hours ago
By Seth Mydans BANGKOK: Attempting to replicate the tactics of their opponents, antigovernment protesters blockaded Parliament for a second day,
Thai protesters keep pressure on PM
Aljazeera.net, Qatar – 3 hours ago
Anti-government protesters in Thailand have continued to blockade the country’s parliament for a second day, forcing the prime minister to consider moving
Protesters force Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva to move maiden speech
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom – 3 hours ago
Thailand’s prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has been forced to deliver his maiden policy speech at the foreign ministry instead of parliament after
New Thai PM to deliver policy speech at Foreign Ministry
Deutsche Welle, Germany – 3 hours ago
The new Thai prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, is now expected to deliver his first policy speech at the country’s foreign ministry.
Policy delivery takes place at Foreign Ministry
Bangkok Post, Thailand – 4 hours ago
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and cabinet members decided to deliver the policy statement to the parliament at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Thai protesters maintain vigil
BBC News, UK – 4 hours ago
Crowds opposed to Thailand’s new Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva are rallying outside parliament for a second day. Mr Abhisit was due to make his first
Thai premier tries to enter parliament amid protests
AFP – 4 hours ago
BANGKOK (AFP) — Thousands of Thai protesters demanding new elections blockaded parliament for a second day Tuesday as riot police tried to clear a path for
Thai protests stop address by new PM
Financial Times, UK – 5 hours ago
By Tim Johnston in Bangkok Red-shirted demonstrators prevented Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thailand’s new premier, from presenting his agenda to parliament yesterday
Thai protesters blockade parliament for second day
Reuters – 5 hours ago
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Anti-government protesters blockaded Thailand’s parliament for a second day on Tuesday hours before Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was
Thai Police Try to Shove Aside Parliament Protesters
Bloomberg – 5 hours ago
By Rattaphol Onsanit and Anuchit Nguyen Dec. 30 (Bloomberg) — Massed ranks of Thai police failed to clear a path through anti-government demonstrators who
Protesters delay new Thai PMs policy address
Radio Australia, Australia – 7 hours ago
The new Thai government under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is facing its first major test since coming to power a fortnight ago, with street protests
Thaksin supporters begin siege
AsiaOne, Singapore – 8 hours ago
Thousands of red-shirt pro-Thaksin Shinawatra members of the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD) began what may be a long siege, blocking entry

Thai PM delivers key speech amid large protests

clip_image001

30-Dec-2008

ANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) — Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva delivered the first policy speech of his term Tuesday despite the blockade of Parliament by thousands of supporters of Thailand’s former premier.

Backers of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra protest at Parliament in Bangkok on Monday.

Backers of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra protest at Parliament in Bangkok on Monday.

The protesters had kept Abhisit and his ministers out of the Parliament building and forced the delay of his speech since Monday.

Abhisit delivered the constitutionally-required speech from the foreign ministry. He focused on improving the nation’s economy, promoting tourism and dealing with Thailand’s troubled southern provinces.

The Thai constitution requires an incoming prime minister to address parliament with a formal policy speech within 15 days of taking office.

Abhisit has until January 7 to fulfill the obligation, although the government can request an extension. The constitution does not specify where the prime minister must deliver the speech.

Abhisit said negotiations with the protesters were ongoing and that he would not authorize violence or a special law to deal with the demonstrations.

“The government will not use force to disperse the demonstrators. We will continue to negotiate. What has happened today will not affect the government’s plans,” he said, according to the Thai News Agency.

Abhisit’s supporters, also numbering in the thousands, gathered outside his Democrat Party headquarters in Bangkok in a show of solidarity.

The Parliament named the 44-year-old, Oxford-educated Abhisit as prime minister on December 17 after some members of the former ruling coalition broke ranks to support him.

But his accession was met with angry protests by supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who threw rocks and chunks of pavement at lawmakers leaving the session.

Thailand’s recent woes date back to a 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin. They culminated with a December 2 court ruling that found the ruling party — former Thaksin backers — guilty of electoral fraud and threw his brother-in-law out of the prime minister’s office.

That ruling came after more than two months of sit-ins by opponents of the ruling People Power Party, which regained office in 2007 elections.

Demonstrators occupied the headquarters of the government and blockaded Bangkok’s major international airport, stranding hundreds of thousands of tourists who provide much of the country’s revenue.

Abhisit has pledged to work toward an economic rescue for Thailand, which teeters on the edge of recession.

Since the 2007 elections ended 16 months of military rule, the country has had three prime ministers

Government policy debate further postponed amid protest in Thailand

clip_image001

29-Dec-2008 : 20.12

Government policy debate further postponed amid protest in Thailand
Xinhua, China – 47 minutes ago
BANGKOK, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) — A planned government policy address by Thailand’s newly-elected Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and a following parliament
Protests Delay New Thai Government’s Policy Statement
Voice of America – 53 minutes ago
By Ron Corben Thailand’s new prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has been forced to day a key policy statement after several thousand anti-government
Thousands of protesters surround Thai Parliament
International Herald Tribune, France – 1 hour ago
By Seth Mydans and Mark McDonald BANGKOK: Politics returned to the streets in Thailand on Monday as thousands of anti-government demonstrators surrounded
Parliament delayed by protest
Scotsman, United Kingdom – 1 hour ago
THOUSANDS of supporters of exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra surrounded Thailand’s parliament today, daring MPs to pass through for a speech
Pro-Thaksin Demonstrations Delay New Premier’s First Policy Speech
Wall Street Journal – 1 hour ago
By JAMES HOOKWAY BANGKOK — Demonstrators allied with former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra blockaded Thailand’s parliament building Monday, delaying new Prime
Protesters stop Thai PM from addressing parliament
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom – 1 hour ago
Thailand’s new prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was forced to postpone his maiden policy speech on Monday after protesters surrounded parliament to protest
Thai protests force PM to delay speech
Radio Netherlands, Netherlands – 1 hour ago
Thousands of protesters blockading Thailand’s parliament in the capital Bangkok have forced new Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to delay his inaugural
In pictures: Protests thwart Thai PM
BBC News, UK – 2 hours ago
Thousands of anti-government protesters blockaded Thailand’s parliament, forcing new Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to delay his opening policy speech.
Thai PM delays maiden speech again due to protests
Forbes, NY – 4 hours ago
By Darren Schuettler BANGKOK, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Thousands of anti-government protesters blockaded Thailand’s parliament on Monday, forcing Prime Minister
Thailand’s Premier Abhisit Delays State Address Amid Protests
Bloomberg – 5 hours ago
By Rattaphol Onsanit and Anuchit Nguyen Dec. 29 (Bloomberg) — Thailand’s new government was forced to delay the prime minister’s maiden parliamentary
Pro-Thaksin protesters ring Thai Parliament
The Associated Press – 5 hours ago
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Thousands of supporters of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ringed Thailand’s Parliament on Monday, vowing to remain
Thaksin supporters close parliament
The Press Association – 6 hours ago
Thousands of supporters of exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra surrounded Thailand’s parliament on Monday. They dared MPs to pass through their
Protesters force new Thai PM to delay maiden speech
Times Online, UK – 7 hours ago
Thousands of anti-government protesters have surrounded Thailand’s parliament, forcing newly installed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to postpone his
Protesters blockade Thai parliament
Aljazeera.net, Qatar – 8 hours ago
Anti-government protesters in Thailand have forced officials to delay a maiden policy speech due to be given to parliament by the country’s new prime
Protests cause Thai speech delay
BBC News, UK – 8 hours ago
Thailand’s new prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva has had to delay his opening speech to parliament due to anti-government protests.
Protests delay Thai PM’s maiden policy speech
Reuters – 9 hours ago
By Darren Schuettler BANGKOK, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Hundreds of anti-government protesters blocked entrances to Thailand’s parliament on Monday,
Protests delay Thai PM’s policy speech, official says
Reuters – 9 hours ago
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