Friday, August 31, 2007

Thailand's battle with youtube is finally over, but the freedom of speech war rages on

The battle is finally over and there are no winners. On one side, Thailand has once again been exposed as run by anachronistic bureaucrats, with little or no understanding of the technology they manage or the psyche of their own nation's young. In the other corner, youtube has lost Thai customers for many months.

It all started when a user with a Thai sounding name from America posted a bad, offensive and crudely edited video that was highly insulting to Thailand's king. Thailand's MICT (Ministry for Information and Communication Technology) immediately blocked the site and demanded youtube remove the clip.

Youtube staff initially refused, citing freedom of speech. Later, they reneged and agreed to remove the video although due to technical glitches the very first frame was still visible. Sadly, the google staff failed to understand just how pathetic Thailand's military junta can be and accidentally caused them loss of face by offering to "educate" MICT on how to block specific videos instead of an entire site.

Red faced, MICT continued to block the site and played up nationalistic sentiment by branding youtube as "bullying a small country like Thailand". Yes, that would be the military junta who raped democracy accusing the entrepreneur google group - who donate millions of dollars into poverty relief projects - of 'bullying'. MICT also "demanded" that the American ISP company "reveal" the identity of the user who had posted the video and, best of all, threatened to make their lese majeste laws extra territorial (i.e. applicable to anyone in any country).

Of course, while all this propaganda was going on, Thais were denied access to the site. A message would appear on screen saying the site was "a threat to national security". Meanwhile any user based in any other country could view the trashy video, and its viewer rating increased rapidly.

The propaganda continued. Thailand's MICT threatened to sue youtube. Various other web sites fell under the censor despite MICT chairman Sittichai stating his team had invoked far less censorship than its predecessor. Appearing at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Sittichai promised that youtube would return to Thailand in one week. He announced that he had requested new legislation that all internet censorship would require a court injunction. When confronted with a FACTTHAI reporter who produced reams of paper that listed the name of each web site blocked by MICT, Sittichai declared the list to be "wrong". That night, most difficult and critical questions were fired at Sittichai by fellow Thais.

Nothing changed. Youtube, anti - coup sites and some discussion forums remained blocked. After several weeks, the blocking message changed. It seemed that (perhaps to save face) the MICT requested legislation had indeed come into effect and MICT were no longer blocking web sites but now the censorship was (ahem) 'voluntary' censorship coming from the ISP's themselves!!! In my case the censorship was enforced by TOT, a state telecom company who happen to have army general Saprang as their chairman.

But just as I had given up on my sinful wish to see the questions posed to the candidates for American presidency or the blunder made at the Miss Teen USA parade by Lauren Caitlin Upton , my dreams were answered as youtube magically reappeared. It seems youtube (not MICT) designed new software systems to filter offensive material.

Still, nobody has come out looking good. The MICT and the entire junta have exposed their hypocritical and outmoded way of thinking. The junta are so used to censoring and intimidating anyone who disagrees with their view, they had no method of communication or debate with an agency they could not control.

And while youtube is the most prominent example, it is far from isolated. MICT (or rather now "voluntary" censorship by ISP's) is huge. Web sites can be blocked for any number of reasons, all of which are classed as "a threat to national security". Midnight University, a chat forum for Thai students, was closed down after it was critical of the coup in Thailand. Many sites remain blocked and others are falling victim to the censors each day.

Rather than articulating the feelings and passion of the Thai people, MICT responds to offensive content like a child sticking his fingers in his ears when he hears a noise he doesn't like. And by labelling google as "bullies" the junta made a big error. Google are renowned pioneers of charitable research. The irony of a junta in a developing country labelling google as "bullies" was not lost on onlookers. Neither was the dual irony of MICT's threat to enforce lese majeste laws worldwide after their own protests that people worldwide should respect Thai laws and culture.

The Nation (or maybe it was the Bangkok Post, I forget) also did not escape blame. Their cartoonist created a picture with an internet user being shouted at by a monster on the monitor screen. The monster was shouting something like: "I'm the WESTERN concept of freedom of speech! What that means is that I'm just here to be OFFENSIVE and VULGAR! You should admire me".

That cartoonist should look at himself. Would he have a job in a dynamic English language media industry in Thailand if it were not for "western" influence? Personally, I found his cartoon offensive on that partcular day. The difference is that I would never dream of trying to stop other people seeing it just because it upset me. Freedom of speech does include the right to say something others might not like to hear.

Of course, we should make critical comments with reason and articulation, something the youtube clip maker did not do. The video was disgraceful and designed to shock. But what I've always said about shock merchants is that they thrive and bank on attention to their actions. If I see a video highly offensive to the Queen of England, I would say "The person who made this is obviously an uneducated idiot who should be grateful he lives in a country where he can express his feelings" and forget it. If I made a great big protest about the video, threatened to sue the ISP and the hosting company and tried to enforce my own English laws on internet users in Somalia then I would be effectively drawing great attention to an unworthy internet clip.

It's worth pointing out too, that "freedom of speech" is not a "western" ideal simply because it (arguably) originated in the west. Freedom of speech is a wonderful concept that allows us to employ critical thinking, which is crucial to academic progress and therefore, the development and well being of a country.

Imagine this experiment: you take two groups of students who are all trained in economics. To the first group you say "I want you to design an economic model to aid the entire nation. However, you must ONLY think about the KEYNESIAN model. You are NOT allowed to criticise this model! You are BARRED from viewing information or statistics on welfare economics! Now go and do your best." To the second group you say simply: "Study what you like. Feel free to weigh up the merits and drawbacks of each model." Which group will produce the better model? Why?

I love Thailand. My son is Thai. But sometimes I wonder if Thai people really understand that in many ways, they are facing a culture clash. They want to be recognised as a major figure internationally. They want FTA's , Premier League football, big time cinema and all the comforts of modern technology and a free market. On the other hand, they also want to keep their traditional values and identity which is great and admirable. However, such values cannot be enforced on others , nor should they be pushed on all Thais without giving them the right to decide for themselves.

Like I said before , freedom of speech does not include freedom to shout "fire" in a theatre, but it does include the right to say things we sometimes don't like to hear.

Restrictions on freedom of speech are simply a form a thought control and involve a huge amount of power. Thailand must accept that if it wants to be a fore - player in the modern world, it must at least accept that other nations allow freedom of speech.

What's more, Thailand's powers that be should perhaps consider allowing Thai people to decide for themselves what is allowed to be said and thought about, rather than employing themselves as moral guardians and thought police for millions of people who never invited them to do so.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Officer Red and White on patrol

"Kort tawt khrap , shuay long jak lot duay khrap"

It's something I've been thinking about for over a year. I've always been a socially conscious person but the police was never something I really considered whilst I was living in England. But ever since the realisation came to me that my son will need to return to England for schooling, I've decided to join the Hampshire Police.

I do have experience. I worked as a part time police assistant at Wembley Stadium for three years. I don't make an ideal policeman in physical terms. I'm five foot six inches and slim built. I've got martial arts training in Taekwondo, Hapkido, Muay Thai and Ju Jitsu but I'm no Bruce Lee and I think the latter will be the only one to really help me in arrest situations. Police officers don't get into boxing matches but they do often end up rolling on the floor in arrest situations and a choke hold or wrist lock can be of practical use then.

Still there are more challenges. For a start the forces are weary of recruits who have been overseas for a long time. So what is the solution? What can I do here to show the coppers back home how good I am? Answer? Join the Thai police! So I have. I am now a Tourist Police volunteer!

No word on if I get my uniform yet. Some farangs do, some don't. Maybe it will depend on how many doughnuts I bring for my superior. The areas for patrol are mainly based around tourist spots in Bangkok such as Nana Plaza and Silom (for some reason my wife wasn't keen on me working there) , JJ Market and both airports. Don Muang looks to be my best bet. My spoken Thai is poor but I can understand enough to get by and help out.

I'm looking forward to getting on the beat and getting some kind of experience. My main hope is that by helping out (it's unpaid) my friends at the Thai Police will give me a reference when I apply to the Hampshire Constabulary. My next hope is that Hampshire Constabulary don't respond by asking me "How much did you take?"..........

Meanwhile though, I have to face up to improving my life out here. To that end, I've just applied for position of head teacher at a very well respected school. Apparently my chances are good. Wish me luck.

The constitutional referendum

Thailand went to its first public referendum this weekend on its new constitution.

I didn't blog here because I had done so much "serious" stuff lately. However, I did write a piece on the prestigious New Mandala site about it. Results were as expected. The new draft was apporved but Thailand is still divided. Thaksin's Isaan people rejected it, other regions told their own tale. I will write more about this later on.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Truethaksin watch pts 3+4 : The final chapters (but for whom?)

(Sorry this piece is long. I put two articles into one to avoid 'bombarding' , I wanted truethaksin watch to be no more than three pieces.)

So ends Truethaksinwatch, at least for now.

When I first scanned the truethaksin site, I was expecting rebuttals to be painstakingly exhaustive. I really thought I'd have to re-read a lot of books, dig up old newspapers, make calls all over the FCCT and basically re-live my studies of the last few years. In fact, the whole thing was easy, disappointingly so.

It reminded me that Thaksin and his site are all about propaganda. It doesn't matter to him that it's mostly polemics disguised as fact. Despite its motto, the site was never meant to be about truth. It was designed to incite and encourage supporters in Thailand who have already decided he is wonderful and to overseas viewers who are already expecting a clear cut case of a nice, honest democratically elected leader unseated by nasty generals.

When viewed from this angle, the site does well except for its awful use of English.

One final point. I don't normally use article quotes and then interject my own comments. To me, this can come across as a 'cheap shot' or a debate where one side cannot respond. I have only done it here because there are so many untrue or misleading statements on the site, this is the only way to deal with them properly.

Enough waffle, let's find the "legal facts" as the site calls it........


The junta claims Dr.Thaksin a corrupted politician, but no single fact can be proven and now they want to do more worse things to Thailand. Here it from one of their own supporter!

Luckily, the rest of the article is not written by Mr Thaksin or a crony, so the English is comprehensible.

Bangkok Post, 9 August 2007, by, M.L. Natakorn Devakula

M.L. Nattakorn Devakula is a news analyst and he is the son of the former Governor of Bank of Thailand and former Deputy Prime Minster of the military-appointed government; M.R. Pridiyathorn Devakula.

Aha! So this should be a highly educated, well cited and very difficult to rebuke defence right?

ASC's life extension is extra-constitutional

If you try to call up one case where the Assets Scrutiny Committee ( ASC ) has concluded all its findings and where there has been a victorious prosecution of the accused in a court of law, you will find yourself at a loss.

This is because up until this point there has not been a single case originating from the ASC where former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his colleagues have been found guilty by a panel of judges. If you do not believe this, you are welcome to look up the details.

What? This reminds me of the 'South Park' parody of the OJ Simpson trial and the lawyer's "If Chubacca lived on Endor you must acquit" defence. The writer's "you can look it up" defence seems to suggest some kind of exoneration of Thaksin because the judicial process is not complete. Of course, if the cases HAD been rushed through there would be an uproar of people accusing Thailand of being a "kangaroo court".

The furthest a case has gone is the Ratchadapisek Road land deal that has been accepted by the court. Prosecution has not even begun, and even if Mr. Thaksin is eventually found guilty it would be indirect redemption, since it was his wife who purchased the land from the Financial Institutions Development Fund. It is not necessarily comparable to catching someone with their hand actually in the cookie jar.

Ah, but what khun Devakula forgot to mention is that Thaksin has signed a consent form for the purchase. He is forbidden to do this by law when dealing with a government office transaction involving a spouse or relative. Thaksin can only defend himself by trying to convince the judges he did not directly control the FIDF and didn't even feel it necessary to check any concerns before signing the form. This defence in my amateur opinion looks weak given that three of the nine committee members of the FIDF are from the MOF and another from the OAG.

In any case is "no hand in the cookie jar" really the best defence statement available from a prminent figure to post in defence of Mr. Thaksin?

Upon learning that the National Legislative Assembly had, quickly and without warning, passed the bill which extended the ASC's life-term till June 2008, I was shocked.

Not as shocked as I was at reading some of this nonsense masquerading as "legal facts" on Thaksin's own web site!

First, the original cabinet-proposed term extension was for the ASC to continue operating until the termination of the current cabinet. Or, at the longest, the ASC would continue to exist until a newly-elected administration came in. It is beyond a democratic citizen's comprehension how a body that derives all its powers from military edicts has been granted tools equivalent to that of organisations created by a constitution. As part of the ASC's term-extension bill, the anti-graft body's status was also lifted to the level of National Counter Corruption Commission ( NCCC ).

There is another side to this. Thaksin and his family have stalled and procrastinated at every turn. The family have had a whole wealth of unfortunate illnesses sweep over them that have endlessly delayed testimonies. The AEC were honest enough to allow deadline extensions.

If the role of the AEC was unable to be fulfilled due to these delays, what would be the point? How would justice be served and tax money justified? The only formal objection was made by Klanrong, and AEC member who happened to be head of the NCCC? Now for ten points, can anyone tell me why the head of a slow and inefficient graft commission might have a vested agenda protesting the AEC term extension?

One must seriously consider the extensive powers of the ASC. It has the ability to apply laws within the confines of the NCCC and the Anti-Money Laundering Office ( Amlo ) . This means it has the ability to temporarily seize assets and prosecute even when the attorney-general decides not to take cases. The near-limitless powers of the ASC constitute some of the most egregious violations of legal practice itself.
Does anyone actually understand this last sentence?

It can act without constitutional logic, institutional check and popular accountability. Its decisions cannot be questioned by other constitution-born agencies, while its powers cannot be shrugged off by anyone -- from low-level bureaucrats to even members of the present administration. This has been seen in the ASC's attempt to purge a gargantuan number of senior-level officers of the Ministry of Finance.

Who were suspected of stalling and providing cover for tax evasion.

This particular example of an attempt emanates simply from a difference of opinion on what income is deemed taxable.

No it doesn't. It originates from suspicion of collusion and incorrect process in tax collection due to coercion.

Another case emanates from the Finance Ministry officials' following of a cabinet resolution to sell above-ground two-and three-digit lotteries. The ASC has shown its potential to perhaps abuse CNS-granted powers.

That last sentence is an oxymoron. So many AEC protesters state that the group is unfair or can abuse power. The same group then point to Thaksin's innocence by saying "Look! None of the cases have gone to court yet!". The reason for the second point being true is because the first point is untrue. Genuine judicial process in graft cases takes time.

Thailand needs to look at itself in the mirror and picture this ad-hoc agency, and ask itself the following questions: What has a democracy come to (this is if we are one in the first place) when bodies arisen out of a coup d'etat last beyond the lifespan of the very executive apparatus that ruled in power during the post coup -- aftermath? What happened to the idea that once a new constitution has been drafted and elections have been set in place, coup -- makers must head back to the barracks and coup -- related agencies back to their benches? What happened to the idea of holding agencies constitutionally and popularly accountable?

I question the linearism of this writer's logic. The reason the AEC needed to exist in the first place is because the agencies in place were simply inept. They had been rendered impotent by a political juggernaut called Thai Rak Thai. If the independent checking bodies had been truly independent and honest in their work, the AEC would never have been required to exist.

The ASC has to date gone after state bureaucrats who are, for some reason, held at fault for following politicians' orders and the dictates of cabinet resolutions.

Because it against the law to follow orders to break the law. Any state bureaucrat should know that and if they were intimidated, their defence should be accepted.

The ASC has to date gone after friends, relatives, wife and children of Thaksin Shinawatra. The ASC has to date gone after ministers and high -- level executives, which due to a sense of over -- imagination and obsessiveness are thought to be cronies of the former PM.

I can't help but wonder what gives this journalist his overwhelming since of sympathy for the Thaksin family. Notice he gives himself leeway by declining to name the other chargees, thus allowing his "over -- imagination and obsessiveness" to go unchallenged.

While loathing anyone seen to be associated with the former administration -- real or imagined -- hawkish and obsessive ASC members have let their eyes off the ball. The original goal was to handle Mr Thaksin, not purge hardworking and low salary -- earning state officers or bystanding businessmen.

Nonsense. Utter propaganda designed to depict the AEC as bullies of corrupt millionaires.

The ASC's job, since its inception, was to rein in Mr Thaksin on corruption and prove the cases in a court of law before placing him in jail.
Actually it was to forward cases to the relevant body (usually the OAG) for prosecution, not to prove the cases in court themselves.

Instead, it has sidetracked by going after alleged cronies and relatives, To compound these mistakes, the junta -- created body has illegitimately frozen assets of the former PM, thus pushing him further into a desperate position.
Did this writer not state earlier in this article that the AEC had power to freeze assets? Now it's " illegitimately" ? Make your mind up Natakorn!

In desperate times men resort to desperate measures, and the ASC will, in addition, be held partially accountable for Mr Thaksin's political retaliation. The book by Sunisa Lertpakawat, Thaksin:Where Are You?, sheds light on the impact the assets seizure has had on the former PM and how it may play a role in pushing him back to fight in the political arena.

He'd need to return to Thailand to do that. The "return to politics" was an impetuous threat during a game of bluff between Thaksin and the junta. Nothing more.

A term extension is not what the ASC deserves.
I really wonder about this writer's impartiality. The AEC needs a term extension because it has been unable to complete its duties due to stalling by people heavily charged with corruption.

A censure motion and closer scrutiny -- in other words, a little bit of their own medicine -- are rather more appropriate, considering the sweeping and indiscriminate application of NCCC and Amlo powers to those who had nothing much really to do with the previous regime's corrupt ways.

The AEC can now be charged so they are accountable. Notice the repeat of the previous tactic "nothing much really to do with the previous regime's corrupt ways." is devoid of names or examples. The writer protects his own made up nonsense.


Junta's Intervention of Justice Part II

The Military knew the coup would not be acceptable by any civilized and democratic society. They have to push so hard to justify all their actions and also to pave the way to power for the junta's leaders.

So if the Democrats win the election, is Abhisit a junta leader?

The military knew they could not run the country for long nor can they control other branches of sovereign power, particularly, the judicial. They knew their time was running out. They also knew it is impossible to leave the power to the public without bearing the consequences of their abuse of power. So many wrongful acts and allegations have occurred, so many laws have been violated; consequences of these actions will follow.

I love that prescient last sentence. It is so true in more than one way.

That is the rationale for Section 309 of the junta's proposed draft constitution:

Section 309: Any and all actions which have been confirmed or acknowledged by the provisions of the Interim Constitution of 2006 to be legitimate and constitutional including any and all actions relating to those matters whether occurring before or after the date of this Constitution, shall be deemed legitimate, lawful and constitutional.

Very true. It's sad fact that the junta were always going to project themselves and their attack on democracy. However, this text is all based around "they are more wrong than me" argument

Further, the military and their servants knew well their acts were illegal and unconstitutional, and many of these can be classified as "crime". The "universal" amnesty provision is good but may not be enough if in the future, certain judges would find the amnesty provision "unconstitutional"

Then, what shall the junta do?

Simple answer: The junta needs to make sure their servants remain in charge of the Constitutional Tribunal for the next nine years. All lawsuits filed against the junta and their servants, like the lawsuit of the Asset Examination Committee which issued various illegal assets freezing orders, and any future lawsuits by those harmed by the coup, will be heard by the junta's selected group of obedient servants. Just like the tribunals which followed the orders of the junta's leader to ban the Thai Rak Thai Party.

Constitutional judges are appointed by the king up senate advice. How does Thaksin prove they are "obedient servants"? My Thai wife finds such a statement highly offensive.

Don't just listen to us.

Don't worry. We won't.

Hear what the leading independent law lecturers of Thailand have to say about this issue:

The following are English language summaries of the statements on Rejection of the Proposed Draft Constitution issued on July 6, 2007, by six law lecturers of Thammasat University, namely Assistant Prof. Dr. Vorajet Pakeerat, Assistant Prof. Prasith Piwawattanaponich, Assistant Prof. Dr. Janjira Iam-mayura, Dr. Thapanan Nipithkul, Piyabutra Sangkanokkul and Teera Sutheewarangkul:

"3.5 It is eminent that the Proposed Draft confers extensive and additional power and authority on the Judiciary. For example, all selections of personnel for those independent government bodies setup by virtue of the Constitution will require approval by the President of the Supreme Court or his designated person as well as the approval by the President of the Administrative Court and the Chairman of the Constitutional Tribunal or their designees. In regard to the judiciary, the Proposed Draft involves the judiciary in politics through the nomination and selection process. Further, all political disputes shall now be subject to the judicial branch through its "criminal division for politicians". Any disputes in relation to the election will also be decided by the judiciary, not by holding a new election. It is clear that the judiciary will monitor and balance the political activities but there is no mechanism to monitor and balance the power of the judiciary!

In the '97 version the selection for independent bodies was made by HM The King upon advice from the senate.

I would not be so foolish as to question a law lecturer but I would ask them: What is the massive difference between appointments by the judiciary and by HM The King with senate advice?

If the reply to this was "The senate are elected" I would ask : given the huge problems in senate elections and the general public acceptance that the senate is far from impartial, is it not better to have a panel of judges make a decision?

The senate was described by one of its own members as "only twenty to thirty percent truly impartial" and by an MP as "a slave house". The Constitutional Court has a reputation for being almost unlobbiable.

3.6 It is worth mentioning that this is also the very first time in Thailand that the provision of the Constitution provides specifically for the extension of retirement age of the judges, from 60 to 70. The issue is not whether the retirement age of the judges shall be extended or not but why is it so important or critical that such provision has to be stated in the constitution!

Is the retirement age an issue of human resource management? If so, the issue shall be dealt by the legislature to decide according to the policy of the government. We have to record our note here explicitly that this extension of retirement age has not been addressed at the public hearing

Again, I cannot question but I wonder what the big del is? Retirement age for judges was stated in the '97 and '91 constitutions. The age has been extended and stated as such.


3.8 The specific provisions of the Constitution provide for the succession of power, duty and personnel appointed by the junta. Especially, these appointed to various independent government bodies under the Constitution will remain in their positions for the complete term after the upcoming general election.

These people have no rights nor justifications to remain in these positions once there is a general election, which will happen in the near future. If necessary, these appointees shall remain in their position but just for a certain period so that the people's representatives can select new qualified persons for those offices after the general election. This means the people will have no power to direct these independent bodies for the next decade.

There is no provision in the Constitution that limits or restrict the military's appointees to run for parliament or to be selected as senators.

True. The final point was a major issue after the previous coup when Suchinda enacted a constitutional clause allowing him to become PM. I am also not a fan of this clause but it's worth noting that Sondhi doesn't seem to be a popular candidate even if he does run!

Section 308 of the Proposed Draft also empowers the military-appointed cabinet to setup "Law Performance Commission" without any explanation nor clarification as to terms or purposes or scope of duty.

There is no other way for us to comprehend these matters but to conclude that this is the succession mechanism designed by the junta to preserve their rights and power against the interests of the people"

This clause has not yet been translated. If we are to take it as stated here, such an ambiguous term is slightly alarming.

After all these facts, when one seeks to gain personal benefit, can that one still perform his/her functions for the public? Can one look at this extension of retirement age as a 'bribe'? Can we still have faith in the justice of Thailand ?

OK just one argument. Bribe for what? For following the law to the hilt? Being highly articulate when doing so? For incriminating a party that broke constitutional law?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Violence on the pitch

Readers may remember that a while back, I wrote an entry describing the juvenile behaviour of the Thai football (soccer) team as they walked off the pitch during a game with Singapore.

A similar incident happened at my school this week and - trivial as it was - I felt it exposed the mindset of some locals.
My school is a large school with a high number of Thai and foreign teachers. The PE teachers of the bunch (Those who can't do....teach. Those who can't teach......teach PE) are of the traditional stereotype jock variety. Stocky, loud guys with a brash and innocent sense of humour. One is an ex pro football player for Hereford United and Shrewsbury Town FC , another played for the Bulgarian under 18's squad.

The two arrived around the same time and sparked a good natured rapport with the Thai PE teachers who love to talk to farangs about football in broken English. After a few weeks , the Thai teachers challenged us to a game. I love football myself. I've never been too good at playing it because I'm pint sized yet lacking the quickness of the small strikers. I can hold my own though and playing Thai players obviously doesn't present me with such a great size difference. I agreed to play as did many of the other teachers.

In our first game, we won two - one with a sizeable crowd of onlooking parents and students. We were pleased to win (I played poorly though and went off in the second half) and took it as fun. A large number of the Thai players did not. Many of them refused to shake hands after the game.

The following few weeks were difficult for he farang PE teachers. Several complaints from the Thai teachers on all kinds of petty subjects (often untrue) caused some level of stress. I suspected the Thai staff had not taken our game in the right spirit but I didn't want to add to the tension by suggesting so.

This week we played them again, with another sizeable crowd. My ex Hereford friend had recovered from a recurrence of a knee injury that forced him to retire from playing pro. The knee was bandaged. Midway through the second half, our Bulgarian player had a quick row with a Thai player over a free kick. The kind of quick flare you see often in football. However, as I walked back to my own half I overheard a Thai teacher say "Tae farang". I thought he was joking, I was wrong.

As my Hereford friend (I shall now call Steve) received the ball, he was whacked on the knee. He ignored it and continued to dribble downfield, another teacher ran in with no intention to get the ball and hit him again. Steve bravely played on and was tackled by the same Thai player, he responded by winning the ball back with hard but clean tackle.

The it flared up. he Thai player pushed Steve, who turned round and yelled at him. Then - and I could scarcely believe my eyes at this point - not less than four Thai players charged at Kim. One of the had his eyes bulging out of his face as he literally screamed "This is Thailand you m***** f*****R! You do what WE say!!! You understand m***** f*****?!"

I'm not embellishing, those were his exact words. Steve - a stocky and well built ex pro player - was completely unfazed and gladly squared up to the player. Our Bulgarian colleague was also entering the fray. For my part I wanted to restrain Steve but being the smallest guy on the pitch and seeing the tempers so flared - not to mention some watching parents - I figured it was best to back off.

Just as things seemed to be settling down, one Thai rushed forward and swung for Steve. It was pathetic really, his run up and swing were so long he knew full well he was going to be held back. Had there been nobody to hold him back, he would have wanted no part of Steve, I'm sure.

After some raised voices, we decided to call off the game. I later spoke to Steve and calmed him down, but my friend was a new ex-patriate and perhaps wasn't aware of a few points:

1) Some Thai teachers resent farang presence. They don't like the fact we get paid more and are seen to have special treatment. They become resentful and overly competitive. (However, just as many welcome us, support us and become friends).

2) Some teachers, especially PE teachers, can behave in a shockingly juvenile manner. A friendly game of football that both sides play to win becomes a big issue of keeping face for them.

3) The teacher who had swung for him was related to the school owner. That's why he knew he could get away with his actions even in front of parents. Nepotism.

4) Sorry if this sounds nasty but the type of Thai male who likes to fight will NEVER fight fair. They ALWAYS fight in uneven numbers. That's why so many rushed to Steve at once. That's the mentality of this type of Thai male. Yes, this exists in every country but I think it's more prevalent in the Thai yob. In England for example, the type of guy who always fought when it was four on one would quickly be labelled as a coward.

He seemed to understand more after that. We agreed the best thing to do was to apologise. We didn't feel we had done anything wrong but it was important to keep the peace. The apology was accepted with a super macho "Sure , sure no problem no problem!" response by the Thai PE head. Luckily, the incident seemed to go unreported by those who saw it.

It was a shameful incident to be involved in, but I can honestly say that we didn't knowingly do anything to instigate it. We were searching for a friendly game of football to improve relations with our Thai colleagues. Sadly, it didn't turn out that way and it reminded me that Thai footballers do seem to have a lot of growing up to do. Then again, so do many ex-pat farangs.

Let me stress the comments about fighting, etc are only related to the sort of moron who would want to fight. Most Thais - like most English - are far better educated and moral than that.

Friday, August 03, 2007

PETA in Bangkok: know the truth

They're back again. Semi - naked women in cages outside KFC in Bangkok. They will most likely shock or offend some people but they don't feel remorse. In fact, shock is what they want. PETA love to shock and upset people. Intimidation and violence is what they do best. Luckily, their campaigns in Thailand have had little effect. Thai people treat PETA activists in exactly the right way: they look at them, laugh, and walk into the restaurant.

About a year ago I wrote a piece on PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). The piece was prompted by a TV show and a PETA protest in Bangkok. Sadly, I inadvertently deleted the article. The sight of women in cages (without enough room to dance) outside KFC in Bangkok jogged my memory but for some reason, I find it tedious and difficult to re-write any article.

So here is a greatly abridged and sloppy (my apologies) re-typed version of an article on PETA:

The sight of almost naked females enclosed in tiny metal cages was confusing to most Thais. Doubtlessly the traditionalists found it offensive or shocking. Youngsters probably found it sexy and amusing while others just exercised the traditional Thai tolerance and looked the other way. I'd be surprised if few got the real message: PETA was back in town.

PETA are ostensibly an animal rights group. They enjoy wide membership and popularity in the US, with a number of Hollywood stars and pop singers jumping on board to lavish in the trendy left wing section of the political spectrum. Many youngsters follow the group, politicians pay them lip service and their campaign adverts are hard to miss yet even harder to forget. But how many people know the real truth?

PETA's advertising campaigns can tell us a lot about them. They seek to shock and cause offence. It doesn't matter if you are scared, insulted or outraged as long as they have your attention. And no, this isn't an anti-smoking or anti drink driving campaign that uses shock value to bring the safety message home, this is purely their own self righteous extremist agenda.

PETA approve of drink driving. They launched a
"Got beer?" campaign aimed at encouraging university students to drink beer instead of milk (do students need the encouragement?). The crusade was scrapped after complaints from anti - drink driving groups. PETA then switched to campaigns comparing the slaughter of chickens to the holocaust (with juxtaposed pictures to boot) and a children focused campaign called "Your daddy kills chickens!". The latter featured pictures of a "evil scientist" looking man wringing a chicken's neck. How well the young children must have slept at night thanks to the warm message from the kind PETA gang.

PETA take some hard line stances. The organisation actually oppose ownership of any domesticated animals. Founder Ingrid Newark repeatedly claimed the goal of her group is total "animal liberation". If you own a goldfish - and PETA class that as an animal - than you are the enemy. The group are also completely opposed to all animal testing, despite the fact that vice president Mary Beth Sweetland is insulin dependant diabetic. Yes, you read that correctly. The vice president of the extremist mob who oppose all animal testing is still in this world thanks to a drug derived from experiments on dogs.

It gets darker still. Despite the claim on their website that "the animal rights movement is non violent" PETA have a history of direct involvement in terror. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to call PETA a terrorist group. Animal Liberation Front (ALF) member Rodney Coronado was given no less than seventy thousand dollars in grants (tax free, the group are a charity) from PETA while he was under FBI investigation for arson. He has since been convicted of arson of a university research laboratory and openly confesses to six other acts of the same crime. Coronado was described by Ingrid Newark as a "fine young man" just a month after the ALF firebombed McDonald's in Chicago using a milk jug recipe given to them publicly just a few days earlier by Coronado.

The group frequently advocate acts of terrorism and violence in public speeches.
Jerry Greenwalt of the L.A.'s Department of Animal Services saw his family and himself suffer death threats, mob protests outside his home, vandalism of his home and car and insults delivered over loudspeakers in his neighbourhood, all delivered by PETA terrorists. His wife suffered a heart attack after the first protest.

What was his crime? Running an animal shelter that was too small to take in all the stray animals in LA. The group strive to take care of as many as possible and last year they achieved a six percent decrease in euthanasia killings. Sadly, twenty five percent of animals still need to be put down. Compare that percentage to PETA's dirty little statistic we shall soon discover.

But the most revealing fact of all about PETA is stunning: they kill animals. They slaughter them in mind number quantities. The TV show "Bulls**t!" featuring the duo of Penn and Teller revealed that PETA killed ....wait for it.....fourteen thousand four hundred animals at its headquarters in Virginia. The group also claimed a tax refund on a giant freezer clearly purchased to store the bodies in. The animals had been taken into the "care" of PETA after being "rescued" from animal centres. In one year, almost two thirds of animals taken in by PETA were killed.

PETA members were charged in 2005 for leaving eighty dead animals in a dumpster. The animals had been taken from shelters and euthanised by PETA employees.

PETA take nearly twenty nine million dollars per year in donations.

A selection of PETA quotes from Activistcash:

“I love fire, be it around a campfire with friends or when consuming an empty fur farm, animal laboratory or luxury condominium built on the homes of my animal relations.”
— Former ALF member and PETA grantee Rodney Coronado in Earth First! Journal

“Arson, property destruction, burglary, and theft are ‘acceptable crimes’ when used for the animal cause.”
— PETA co-founder Alex Pacheco lists the “acceptable” tactics to fight for animal rights, Associated Press

“I plan to send my liver somewhere in France, to protest foie gras (liver pate) ... I plan to have handbags made from my skin ... and an umbrella stand made from my seat.”
— PETA President Ingrid Newkirk speaking to

“I have very conflicted views on everything. I'm a proud member of PETA and I got leather boots on my feet, you know what I'm saying?”
— Singer Pink's nuanced support of animal rights, on

“Did we euthanize some animals who could have been adopted? Maybe.”
— PETA's Domestic Animal Issues & Abuse Department director Daphna Nachminovitch, in The Virginian-Pilot

“Crimes of compassion that every animal advocate should support.”
— Coronado’s description of two 1991 arsons at Oregon State University and the Northwest Farm Food Cooperative in Edmonds, Washington, as described in his 1995 Federal Sentencing Memorandum

“[I see] a spark of hope in every broken window, every torched police car.”
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“I will be the last person to condemn ALF [the Animal Liberation Front].”
— The New York Daily News

“Getting together three or four friends of mine, we came back a week later to that farm, we broke into the main laboratory, we trashed every single piece of equipment, we stole documents and lists of fur farms across the nation. And we started a fire in an experimental fur farm, an experimental feed building, where they manufactured the experimental diets which were the focus of research at this farm. And that fire destroyed all the equipment, and in the ensuing raid, the raid that happened caused enough damage that six months later that lab was forced to shut down. That was five people, folks -- once again maybe like twelve hundred dollars, a couple weeks of planning, five people. But that wasn’t the end. I knew I had to continue, and for the next -- oh gosh, a little over a year -- we took out, one by one, every recipient of what’s called the Mink Farmers Research Foundation. It’s a foundation whose sole purpose is to aid research to benefit the fur farm industry.”
— SHAC rally, Edison, New Jersey

“Throughout the late ‘80s, me and a handful of friends just like you people here, we started to break windows, we started to slash tires, we started to rescue animals from factory farms and vivisection breeders, and we graduated to breaking into laboratories … As long as we emptied the labs of animals, they were still easily replaced. So that's when the ALF in this country, and my cell, started engaging in arson.”
— SHAC rally, Edison, New Jersey

“When you see the loss of 9 billion [animal] lives each year, it's inappropriate to hold a sign or pass out a petition. It's appropriate to go out and burn down the factory farm.”
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Damaging the enemy financially is fair game.”
— Washington City Paper

“Humans have grown like a cancer. We're the biggest blight on the face of the earth.”
Washingtonian magazine

“Probably everything we do is a publicity stunt ... we are not here to gather members, to please, to placate, to make friends. We're here to hold the radical line.”
USA Today

“Would I rather the research lab that tests animals is reduced to a bunch of cinders? Yes.”
New York Daily News

“As a direct-action warrior, it made a lot of sense to me to attack institutions in the fur trade … We need to destroy them by any means necessary.”
— "Conference on Organized Resistance," American University

“A lot of people think that -- Oh my god, that’s going too far, you know. People can support bringing animals out of labs, but they can’t support arson. Well, I’m sorry. I’m not here to, to please people. I’m not here to win the support of people. I’m here to represent my animal relations who are suffering this very second. And I don’t care what anybody says about what I do to achieve their freedom.”
— SHAC rally, Edison, New Jersey

“More than anything we applied arson, and effectively we destroyed -- um, let’s see -- the Northwest Fur Breeders Cooperative in Edmonds, Washington, which we hit a week later after OSU. We hit Washington State University’s Eastern Washington experimental fur farm. We did get seven coyotes out of there, six mink, and ten mice … We burned down a fur farm that was on the market to be sold, in Oregon also. We went to the Michigan State University’s experimental fur farm program and destroyed thirty-two years of research, by using fire once again, and rescued two mink from there.”
— SHAC rally, Edison, New Jersey

“Here’s a little model I’m going to show you here. I didn’t have any incense, but -- this is a crude incendiary device. It is a simple plastic jug, which you fill with gasoline and oil. You put in a sponge, which is soaked also in flammable liquid -- I couldn’t find an incense stick, but this represents that. You put the incense stick in here, light it, place it -- underneath the ‘weapon of mass destruction,’ light the incense stick -- sandalwood works nice -- and you destroy the profits that are brought about through animal and earth abuse. That’s about two dollars.”
— "Conference on Organized Resistance," American University

“Every time a police agency pepper-sprays or uses pain-compliance holds against our people, their cars should burn.”
— "Conference on Organized Resistance," American University

“I think [food producers] should appreciate that we’re only targeting their property. Because frankly I think it’s time to start targeting them.”
— "Conference on Organized Resistance," American University

“There is no hidden agenda. If anybody wonders about -- what’s this with all these reforms -- you can hear us clearly. Our goal is total animal liberation. [emphasis added]”
— “Animal Rights 2002” convention

“[Eating meat] is not your personal decision, any more than, you know, whether somebody beats their child is their personal decision.”
— “Animal Rights 2002” convention

“We feel that animals have the same rights as a retarded human child because they are equal mentally in terms of dependence on others.”
The New York Times

“In the end, I think it would be lovely if we stopped this whole notion of pets altogether.”

“I don’t use the word 'pet.' I think it’s speciesist language. I prefer 'companion animal.' For one thing, we would no longer allow breeding. People could not create different breeds. There would be no pet shops. If people had companion animals in their homes, those animals would have to be refugees from the animal shelters and the streets. You would have a protective relationship with them just as you would with an orphaned child. But as the surplus of cats and dogs (artificially engineered by centuries of forced breeding) declined, eventually companion animals would be phased out, and we would return to a more symbiotic relationship – enjoyment at a distance.”
The Harper's Forum Book, Jack Hitt, ed., 1989, p.223

“The bottom line is that people don't have the right to manipulate or to breed dogs and cats... If people want toys, they should buy inanimate objects. If they want companionship, they should seek it with their own kind.”

“One day, we would like an end to pet shops and the breeding of animals. [Dogs] would pursue their natural lives in the wild ... they would have full lives, not wasting at home for someone to come home in the evening and pet them and then sit there and watch TV.”
The Chicago Daily Herald

“Pet ownership is an absolutely abysmal situation brought about by human manipulation.”

“Perhaps the mere idea of receiving a nasty missive will allow animal researchers to empathize with their victims for the first time in their lousy careers. I find it small wonder that the laboratories aren’t all burning to the ground. If I had more guts, I’d light a match.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Even if animal tests produced a cure for AIDS, we’d be against it.”
— PETA president and co-founder Ingrid Newkirk, in the September 1989 issue of Vogue

“Six million people died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses. [emphasis added]”
The Washington Post

“I am not a morose person, but I would rather not be here. I don’t have any reverence for life, only for the entities themselves. I would rather see a blank space where I am. This will sound like fruitcake stuff again but at least I wouldn’t be harming anything.”
The Washington Post

“There’s no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They’re all animals.”
Washingtonian magazine

“I wish we all would get up and go into the labs and take the animals out or burn them down.”
— "National Animal Rights Convention"

“We’re looking for good lawsuits that will establish the interests of animals as a legitimate area of concern in law.”
Insight on the News

“I openly hope that it [hoof-and-mouth disease] comes here. It will bring economic harm only for those who profit from giving people heart attacks and giving animals a concentration camp-like existence. It would be good for animals, good for human health and good for the environment.”
ABC News interview

“Eating meat is primitive, barbaric, and arrogant.”
— Washington City Paper

“[I]t’s like letting the World Bank or the Ku Klux Klan open up a booth here.”
— Bruce Friedrich complaining about meat being served at the 2004 World Social Forum

“McVeigh's decision to go vegetarian groups him with some of the world's greatest visionaries.”
— Bruce Friedrich praising Oklahoma City bomber and mass-murderer Timothy McVeigh, for choosing a vegetarian last meal

“Our campaigns are always geared towards children and they always will be”
— PETA vice president Dan Matthews, on the Fox News Network

“We are complete press sluts.”
— Ingrid Newkirk, in The New Yorker

“It may have been ELF, but then, I sometimes get them confused with ALF, the Animal Liberation Front. And then there's Earth First! and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). There's a lot of cross-pollination between them, and some people here are probably members of two of those groups, or more.”
— Santa Cruz Police Lt. Joe Haebe, speculating about those responsible for a crime spree, in the San Francisco Chronicle

“Our nonviolent tactics are not as effective. We ask nicely for years and get nothing. Someone makes a threat, and it works.”
— Ingrid Newkirk, in the April 8, 2002 issue of US News & World Report

“… the Shining Path of activist groups.”
— CNN "Crossfire" host Tucker Carlson

“Serving a burger to your family today, knowing what we know, constitutes child abuse. You might as well give them weed killer. ”
— Toni Vernelli, then-coordinator of PETA’s European operations

“If we really believe that animals have the same right to be free from pain and suffering at our hands, then, of course we’re going to be, as a movement, blowing things up and smashing windows … I think it’s a great way to bring about animal liberation … I think it would be great if all of the fast-food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories, and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow. I think it's perfectly appropriate for people to take bricks and toss them through the windows ... Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it. [click here to listen]”
— Bruce Friedrich, PETA’s vegan campaign coordinator, at the “Animal Rights 2001” conference

The 'no' vote

One of the side effects of political upheaval in Thailand is that my wife - who usually has just passing interest in politics like most normal humans - actually has her interest aroused enough to discuss it with me. Instead of the usual pleas for me to refrain from discussing the finer points of constitutional reform, my better half actually discusses, debates and reasons with me. She does it rather well, too.

So after the arrival of the new draft constitution in the mail, I waited a couple of days for my spouse to reach her verdict, then I asked her to explain.

My wife is going to vote "no" for the following reasons:

1) She felt the constitution was basically a re-hash of the 1997 one. This was a good constitution but she wanted more improvements to be made. She believes a genuine attempt at a new constitution would be greater in its enhancements. She doubts the sincerity of the drafters.

2) She felt the CDC and CDA selection was tainted. The fact that a virtual unknown who happened to be a close friend of General Sondhi received the most nominations was highly dubious. She feels that a 'yes' vote condones this.

3) She also mentioned that a large number of voters in rural areas would be unable to understand the constitution and would be easily manipulated. If the draft were to be accepted, it would legitimise a referendum on a document that some people cold not or would not wish to read.

4) She disliked what she believed be veiled threats from the junta that a no vote would delay reform.

She wasn't all critical. She liked the idea of an appointed senate, the abolition of a required bachelor degree for all politicians and media protection, though she felt the latter didn't go far enough.

I was actually hoping my wife would vote 'yes' but she made an excellent argument for her decision, as you see above. If you disagree with any of the above, complain to the wife, not me, and she'll probably ignore you as she does me! :-)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Truethaksin watch pt II

I know it's ultra dry but somebody needs to put the record straight. Here is the second of three (probably) Truethaksin watch articles.

It's worth stressing again that this is no defence of Sondhi. As it happens I find him to be a typical developing country's cop rather than a soldier. He is irrational and looks like he has had too many trips to Mr Doughnut.

Steps to Power by General Sonthi (here)

Bangkok , June 27, 2007: Excerpt from "Politic Team" Column of Thai Rath newspaper. Since General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Chairman of the Council of National Security ("CNS") and Army Commander in Chief, announced to the public his 4 step plan, he claimed that the ousted government will not be able to return to power because the final day of democratic reform has already been set!

Two articles cite this conversation and yet if it really happened, it passed without mention in the English language media and went unhighlighted in the Thai media. Did it really happen or do we see the behaviour one often sees from a defensive man: facts made up on the spot?

Step by step, he laid down details of his plan:

Step 1: Political Party will be dissolved for the obvious guilt.

Well yes, it's true that there was obvious guilt but when do Sondhi proclaim this before the event? Reports suggested he seemed a little bullish about the trial but he never assured it would happen.

Step 2: The public will be made aware of more corruption and wrongdoing of last government.

Yes. This was promised and delivered.

Step 3: Political Parties will be ruined, ex-members of parliament will need a new party for next election.

This comment is nonsense. Maybe it loses something in translation.

Step 4: Then there shall be a final verdict. We will have the referendum on the new constitution and then the general election.

Yes. Two out of four, well done!

Obviously, it seems all is going well according to the steps he laid down, especially various actions were completed gradually by the AEC.

By necessity. It must be painstakingly hard to trace the trail of a man who held so much power over so many in government and bureaucracy. A smart man, too.

General Sonthi also mentioned about the set-up of new government post-election: "In the next election, we will see only 2-3 major political parties that will run the country. That also means any political party running against those major parties will not survive."

Seems more like a prediction rather than a dark pledge.

Our political analysis team views that from a national security standpoint, such statements about a 4 step plan and how to deal with the ousted government may be acceptable and understandable.

He may want to give the public peace of mind that everything is under control and we will have a general election real soon.

But if we look at it from a democracy standpoint, this revelation by General Sonthi really shakes the foundation of democratic society. Whether it is done we do not know.

But clearly, it indicates that somehow all the actions taken by the AEC, the Attorney General as well as the Constitutional Tribunal have been orchestrated by the Council of National Security!

If it was true, then yes it would. However, the actions orchestrated to the AEC required evidence. That evidence has been found. It is genuine and adduceable.

This may lead to new resistance because the people do not want dictatorship.

True. We can tell this article is quoted, because some of the commentary is actually agreeable.


Rule of laws in Thailand: New Development by Junta (here)

In any civilized country, citizens need to obey laws or they have to be responsible for consequences. The legislative power enacts the laws but the administrative power (normally from democratically elected means) ..........

That second clause is the only buffer from criticism of legislative powers. Of course, judges in Thailand are approved by HM The King.

............can also issue certain laws and orders but in any case within the scope of the Constitution.

In a state where rules of laws is respected, the Court will decide cases according to the laws, not demand or desire of any group of persons.


In Thailand, the Court not only have to apply the laws but, at the same level as the constitution the Court must also follow any order of the junta: Link to Democratic Reform Order No.3 Do you still believe there is a fair trial in Thailand?

The reform order combined with the rhetoric is deceptive. Even my grade nine students know Thailand's courts are modelled on western systems. There are courts of first order (civil and criminal, with some subdivisions) , appeals court and supreme court. The Constitutional Court stands alone legislatively and (ahem) constitutionally. Since the constitution was scrapped, it stands to logic - albeit coup logic - that the court can no longer function. So in fact, this order is allowing 80% of the judicial process to continue.

And and yes I do believe in fair trials. Look what happed to the slimy, cowardly ECC officials who tried to use every trick and trapping of power to be vitiated of their crimes.

In a state where rules of laws is respected, the Court will never allow any citizen to be punished by the laws enacted after the date of a crime. No retroactive laws will be accepted any where in civilized world but Thailand. Link to Comment on Tribunal Decision

Again not true. A quick check on wikipedia will confirm many countries use these laws although they are not popular and scarce. Again we see the polemics are geared towards judicial process, not abolition of guilt.

What's in it for these people to do all those things for the junta? Please see Section 208 and 300 of the draft Constitution prepared by group of junta lovers: Two of the Constitutional Tribunal appointed by junta get 9 years extension of their offices!
The first time ever the extension of terms of services of certain Judges be fully recognized in the Constitution! Link: Section 208 and 300 of the draft Constitution.

Too bad judge Issara Nithithanprapas who claimed he was "unsuccessfully lobbied" in the 2001 Thaksin assets concealment trial was already mandatorily retired. Surely a judge of that calibre would have returned a fair verdict?

Yet again, we need to notice that there is no argument against the constitutional courts articulate and precise ruling, only arguments that one judge was "rewarded".

In a state where rules of laws is respected, there will never be a law issued just to penalize and to be applied specifically to a particular group of individuals especially in case where all actions derived from political differences. Link to Democratic Reform Order No.30

And that law would be......?