Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Things in my inbox today

Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn will fight charges of les majesty over his academic book "A Coup for the Rich"

I have been summonsed to Pathumwan police station for questioning and the new date and time is at 10.00 am on Tuesday 20th January 2009. The summons was issued as a result of a charge filed by Special Branch Police Lt Col. Pansak Sasana-anund. I have been accused of les majesty. The charge arises from my book "A Coup for the Rich", published in 2007, just after the 19th September 2006 military coup.

I have now sold all 1000 copies of "A Coup for the Rich", but it is available to download from my blog http://wdpress.blog.co.uk/ and from the International Socialist Tendency website in the U.K. Just after publication, the book was withdrawn from sale by Chulalongkorn University bookshop and later by Thammasart University bookshop. This is a gross attack on academic freedom. I encourage people to read my book and judge for themselves whether I should face criminal charges over this book. Relevant passages can be found in Chapter 1, pages 15, 23-27 and Chapter 2. (files also attached)

My most recent academic paper on the Monarchy appears on my blog. It argues that the Monarchy is not all powerful and that political and military factions claim Royal legitimacy in order to boost their own power and interests. Their recent actions may be bringing the institution of the Monarchy into crisis because they created an image of the Monarchy being directly involved in politics. I presented a Thai version of this paper at the National Thai Political Science Conference at Chulalongkorn University in December 2008.

The Monarchy has been quoted and used by various political factions in Thailand to legitimise their actions. The most notable cases are the 19th September 2006 military coup and the illegal protests by the yellow-shirted P.A.D., which included violent protests and the shutting down the international airports. Les Majesty 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 analyse the real role and nature of the Thai Monarchy in an atmosphere of freedom and democracy.

I am prepared to fight any les majesty charges in order to defend academic freedom, the freedom of expression and democracy in Thailand.

Since this accusation was filed by a Special Branch officer, the present Democrat Party Government should be questioned about its role in this and many other cases. The new Prime Minister has stated that he wants to see a firm crackdown on les majesty and many recent cases have been filed by the police.

Press Conference: Tues 13th Jan, 12.30, Chulalongkorn University, Faculty of Political Science building 2 .

Giles Ji Ungpakorn
Faculty of Political Science
Chulalongkorn University
Bangkok 10330, Thailand
UK mobile:+44-(0)7817034432
see YOUTUBE videos by Giles53

128 Academics, intellectuals and members of parliament from around the world call for charges against Giles Ji Ungpakorn to be dropped

128 academics from U.K, Canada, France, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, South Korea, Greece and the U.S.A., including those from Oxford University and SOAS London University, have signed an open letter calling for charges of lese majeste, made against Giles Ji Ungpakorn, to be dropped. Among those signing are also famous writers such as Susan George and China Miéville. The list also includes members of parliament from New Zealand and Britain.

A seperate petition in Thai and English, for the scrapping of all les majeste cases is being circulated and discussions are taking place among communities and citizens' groups throughout Thailand.

We wish to express our deep concern at the decision of the Thai Police Special Branch to prosecute Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn,of the Political Science Faculty at Chulalongkorn University, with lèse majesté – that is, with insulting King Bhumibol. Mr Ungpakorn is a well-known commentator on Thai politics, widely quoted in the international media. The charge arises from his book A Coup for the Rich, published in 2007. In that book he criticized the coup of 19 September 2006, in which the military seized political power in Thailand. Mr Ungpakorn argued that the army, along with the rest of the Thai establishment, used the monarchy to legitimize its political interventions. This is the kind of analysis that political scientists make as a matter of course, but various bookshops withdrew A Coup for the Rich from circulation, forcing Mr Ungpakorn to make it available on the Internet.

Now his academic freedom and basic citizenship rights have come under much more serious attack with this prosecution. Lèse majesté has fallen into disuse in most of the world as a relic of the pre-democratic past. Thailand is an exception. The Economist commented on 14 August 2008: 'The king said in 2005 that he could be criticised and was not afraid of this. But those posing as his majesty's protectors conveniently forget his words. So, despite their democratic institutions, Thais are not free to debate matters regarding their head of state, including appropriate limits on criticizing him.'

Lèse majesté carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, and MPs from the government party headed by Abhisit Vejjajiva, which came to office thanks to the connivance of the army, want to increase this to 25 years. The prosecution of Mr Ungpakorn therefore represents the most fundamental attack on freedom of speech. We demand that the charges against him are unconditionally withdrawn.

1. Dr. Geoff Abbott, Newcastle University

2. Professor Gilbert Achcar, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

3. Dr Talat Ahmed, Goldsmiths, University of London

4. Dr Kieran Allen, University Collhe Dublin

5. Dr Sam Ashman, University of East London

6. Dr Miryam Aouragh, University of Oxford/University of Amsterdam

7. Hans Baer, University of Melbourne
8. Professor Abigail Bakan, Queen's University, Canada

9. Chris Bambery, Editor, Socialist Worker

10. Colin Barker, Manchester Metropolitan University (Emeritus)

11. Dr John Baxter, Open University

12. Dr Tom Behan, University of Kent

13. Professor Jacques Bidet, University of Paris 10 – Nanterre (Emeritus)

14. Dr Sue Blackwell, University of Birmingham

15. Professor Luc Boltanski, École des hautes études en sciences sociales

16. Professor Patrick Bond, University of KwaZulu-Natal

17. Helen Bowman, Manchester Metropolitan University

18. Pat Brady, Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards

19. Professor Dennis Brutus, University of KwaZulu-Natal

20. Professor Alex Callinicos, King's College London

21. Dr David Camfield, University of Manitoba

22. Mark Campbell, London Metropolitan University, National Executive Committee, Universities and College Union

23. Dr Steve Cannon, University of Sunderland

24. Joe Carolan, Editor, Socialist Aotearoa, New Zealand

25. Agger Carsten, Denmark

26. Jim Casey, Vice President, Fire Brigade Employees Union, New South Wales

27. Dr. John Charlton

30. Professor Simon Clarke, University of Warwick

31. Paul Coates, President, University of Melbourne Graduate Student Association

32. Dr Alejandro Colas, Birkbeck College University of London

33. Petros Constantinou,,Campaign GENOA 2001 Greece

34. Adrian Cousins, UNITE rep, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

35. James Cussens, University of York

36. Bernice Daly, National Executive Committee, Universities and College Union

37. Neil Davidson, University of Strathclyde

38. Dr Jonathan Davies, University of Warwick

40. Dr Andy Durgan, Barcelona University

41. James Eaden, Chesterfield College, National Executive Committee, Universities and College Union

42. Manfred Ecker, Vienna

43. Professor James Fairhead, University of Sussex
44. Dr Sue Ferguson, Wilfrid Laurier University

45. John Fernandes

46. George Galloway MP

47. Panos Garganas, National Technical University of Athens

48. Susan George

49. Lindsey German, Convenor, Stop the War Coalition (pc)

50. Professor Mike Gonzalez, University of Glasgow (Emeritus)

51. Dr Peter Goodwin, University of Westminster

52. Sarah Gregson, Vice President Academic, National Tertiary Education Union, University of New South Wales

53. Dr Phil Griffiths, University of Southern Queensland

54. Sylvia Hale, Member of Parliament, New South Wales

55. Professor Nigel Harris, University College London (Emeritus)

56. Professor Barbara Harriss-White, Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford

57. Marion Hersh, University of Glasgow

58. Tom Hickey, University of Brighton, National Executive Committee, Universities and College Union

59. Brian Ingham, Richmond-upon-Thames College, National Executive Committee, Universities and College Union

60. Feyzi Ismail, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

61. Nick James, University of Leicester and UCU NEC

62. Professor Seongjin Jeong, Gyeongsang National University, South Korea

63. John Kaye, Member of Parliament, New South Wales

64. Paul Kellogg, Trent University, Peterborough, Canada

65. Dr Anna Laerke, Open University

66. Jens Laerke, United Nations, Nairobi

67. Councillor Michael Lavalette, Liverpool Hope University

68. Maeve Landman, National Executive Committee, Universities and College UnionMelanie 69. Lazarow, Secretary, National Tertiary Education Union, University of Melbourne

70. Dr Elizabeth Lawrence, National Executive Committee, Universities and College Union

71. Professor Michael Lebowitz, San Francisco University

72. Craig Lewis, National Executive Committee, Universities and College Union

73. Dr Nancy Lindisfarne, School of Oriental and African Studies, London (Emeritus)

74. Professor Domenico Losurdo, University of Urbino

75. Dr Steve Ludlam, University of Sheffield

76. Alan Maass, SocialistWorker.org, USA

77. Professor David McNally, York University, Toronto

78. Judith McVey, Coursework Education Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate
Student Association

79. Georges Menahem, University of Paris-13/Dalhousie University, Canada

80. China Miéville

81. Laura Miles, Bradford College

82. Dr Sally Mitchison, Consultant Psychiatrist

83. Professor Colin Mooers, Ryerson University

84. Dr Carlo Morelli, University of Dundee

85. Dr Tim Morris

86. Pablo Mukherjee, University of Warwick

87. Antony Nanson, Bath Spa University

88. Dr Jonathan Neale, Bath Spa University

89. Jakob Nerup, National Board, Red-Green Alliance, Canada

90. Professor Alan Norrie, King's College London

91. Allison O'Toole, Joint Queer Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate
Student Association

92. Dr George Paizis, University College London

93. Jamie Parker, Mayor of Leichhardt, New South Wales

94. Dr John Parrington, Worcester College Oxford

95. Dr Diana Paton, University of Newcastle

96. David Pejoski, Joint Queer Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate Student

97. Professor Malcolm Povey, University of Leeds, National Executive Committee, Universities and College Union

98. Dr Nat Queen, University of Birmingham

99. Maloti Ray, Research officer, University of Melbourne Graduate Student

100. Lee Rhiannon, Member of Parliament, New South Wales

101. Dr. Elaheh Rostami-Povey, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

102. Professor Alfredo Saad Filho, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

103. Dr Alison Sealey, University of Birmingham

104. Dr Alan Sears, Ryerson University, Toronto

105. Dr Claude Serfat, Université de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

106. Anwar Shah, International Student Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate
Student Association

107. Yiannis Sifakakis, Stop the War Coalition Greece

108. Sasha Simic, USDAW Shop Steward, Central Books (pc)

109. Professor Beverley Skeggs, Goldsmiths, University of London

110. Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM)

111. Professor Colin Sparks, University of Westminster

112. Maria Styllou, editor, Socialism from Below (Greece)

113. Dr. Viren Swami, University of Westminster

114. J.G. Taylor, Leeds Metropolitan University

115. Jennifer Toomey, University of Newcastle

116. Dr Alberto Toscano, Goldsmiths, University of London

117. Charles-André Udry, Editions Page deux, Switzerland

118. Universities and College Union, Branch Committee, University of Dundee

119. Turkan Uzun, Antikapitalist, Turkey

120. Professor Kees van der Pijl, University of Sussex

121. Vegard Velle, member of national executive committee, Red Party, Norway

122. Sean Vernell, City & Islington College, National Executive Committee, Universities and College Union

123. Christine Vié, Manchester Metropolitan University

124. Dr. Max Wallis, Cardiff University

125. Dr Vron Ware, Open University

126. Tony Williams, Activities Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate Student

127. Dr Jim Wolfreys, King's College London

128. David Streckfuss, Khon Kaen University THAILAND


Please sign this open letter and ask others to sign (there is a Thai version going round)

Stop the use of "lese majesty" in Thailand. Defend freedom of speech

We, the undersigned, oppose the use of lese majeste in Thailand in order to prevent freedom of speech and academic freedom. We demand that the government cease all proceedings in lese majeste cases.

The 19th September 2006 military coup in Thailand claimed "Royal legitimacy" in order to hide the authoritarian intentions of the military junta. Lese Majeste charges have not been used to protect "Thai Democracy under a Constitutional Monarchy" as claimed. The charges are used against people who criticised the coup and disagree with the present destruction of democracy. They are used to create a climate of fear and censorship.

One obvious case is that of Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn, from the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University. He is facing Lese Majeste charges for writing a book "A Coup for the Rich", which criticised the 2006 military coup. (Read the book at http://wdpress.blog.co.uk/). Others who have been accused of Lese Majeste are former government minister Jakrapop Penkae, who asked a question at the Foreign Correspondent's Club in Bangkok, about exactly what kind of Monarchy we have in Thailand. There is also the case of Chotisak Oonsung, a young student who failed to stand for the King's anthem in the cinema. Apart from this there are the cases of Da Topedo and Boonyeun Prasertying. In addition to those who opposed the coup, the BBC correspondent Jonathan Head, an Australia writer names Harry Nicolaides, social critic Sulak Sivaraksa are also facing charges. The latest person to be thrown into jail and refused bail is Suwicha Takor, who is charged with Lese Majeste for surfing the internet. The Thai Minister of Justice has called for a blanket ban on reporting these cases in the Thai media. The main stream Thai media are obliging. Thus we are seeing a medieval style witch hunt taking place in Thailand with "secret" trials in the courts. The Justice Ministry is also refusing to publish figures of lese majeste cases.

We call for the abolition of les majeste laws in Thailand and the defence of freedom and democracy.


Please send your full name to : Giles.LesseMajeste@gmail.com , ji.ungpakorn@gmail.com

Friday, January 16, 2009

Why I switched to Linux, and why you should, too.

If all you've ever known - or at least ever used - for your computer is
Windows, then the words "Linux" , "Unix", "Open Source" and so on might conjure up grey images of techno-geeks typing in long commands on some old, text based computer system.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Last month I finally decided to make a permanent switch to Linux on every computer in my house,bar the wife's. It wasn't even hard. In fact after a day or two it was easy, and I'm no computer geek, I'm just your average computer literate user.

So I'm now going to try and persuade people to try and switch to
GNU/Linux. Hopefully by the time you're done reading, you'll understand my motivation.

1) It's free.

Linux is part of the GNU GPL group. Indeed the full name of the system should be "GNU/Linux". What this means is that Linux is "free". It's important to note that in terms of the licence, we are talking about "free" as in "free to edit, copy, change and use', as opposed to 'free' like 'free beer', which is why there are so many different, customised versions of Linux out there (each version is called a 'distribution').

Yet most versions of Linux are also free of charge to download and use. Yes, yes I know most copies of Windows (any version) in Thailand are cheap, pirated copies but even if we ignore the ethics of pirating, wouldn't you rather have a system that didn't make constant security checks and piracy warnings against you? Ditto all the software that comes with it.

2) It's far more efficient.

Windows and much of Microsoft's software is both bloated and cumbersome. Applications tend to squeeze in as many features as they can whilst hogging your diskspace and doing their best to control your system to make sure you do everything the "right" way.
I detest that. It's not just a matter of resources - RAM is cheap these days - it's a matter of principle.

Typical Linux software packs just as many features as its Windows
counterparts. Indeed, a lot of software - like Firefox, for example - works just as well on Linux - but runs far more efficiently.

What does this mean? Well, take out that old desktop PC you stored in the garage because it couldn't run Windows XP, and install a lightweight version of Linux - such as the very popular Puppy Linux - and watch it spring back to life. Lightweight versions of Linux can get old machines running almost as fast as that new one you bought last month.

For newer computers, users can install a large scale version of Linux such as Ubuntu and get all the features of Vista running more quickly and with fewer crashes and bugs.

The Linux file system and architecture make systems far less prone to viruses and crashes, too.

3) It's easy

If you can edit and post a blog, you can install and run Linux.
There are many user friendly distributions of Linux out there that will talk the user through every step of installation and set up. It really is as easy as downloading a large file and putting it on CD. In fact - and here's the best part - you can try Linux without any risk at all or without making a single change toy our computer!

How? You use what's called a live CD. This is where you download and burn a CD image,
stick it in your CD drive and let it work from there without any changes to your hard drive. Once you're done, open the CD drive, reset your computer and everything is back to normal! Nothing has been touched.

So you can try it out risk free. You can also have a dual install - i.e. both Windows and Linux on your system - and choose which one to boot when your computer switches on. You could even install and run Linux from a USB pendrive.

4) It's a good cause.

The whole GNU free software movement is helld in good spirits. For example, a lot of old computers have been shipped out to less developed countries complete with Linux to enable more people to get online and get educated. A lot of people have worked hard on Linux out of motivation and challenge rather than greed. This feeling shows up in the Linux community, which is full of helpful and resourceful people. If you have any problems, there is always someone willing to offer some help.

My colleagues have been surprisingly intrigued by my Linux install.
You see, Linux is far more customisable than Windows, so my desktop has caught attention. One colleague asked me about any drawbacks to using Linux. The only one I could think of is that many PC games can't be run on Linux, but then, that's what Xbox 360's are for!

But there certainly is an initial learning curve for most people - simply because most are so used to doing things a certain way inside Windows that they will try and do the same in Linux. Things need to be unlearned as well as learned, but it didn't take me more than a couple of days to get over this. It just takes a little patience and perseverance.

You may have trouble getting online if you have a USB modem. I have a web configured wireless modem/router which connects with minimum hassle.

And yes, it is possible - though by no means certain - that you have a certain essential programme that will not run in Linux. You have two solutions here. The first is to find an equivalent programme in Linux that will probably do the job better once you get used to it, the other is to use WINE, a programme that allows Windows software to run inside Linux.

So that's it. I just wanted to post that in the spirit of the Linux community. I'll be happy to answer any questions but there are far more knowledgeable people out there for this topic. A goggle search for 'Linux' is all that is needed.

For Brits - here is a familiar face telling it better than I ever could!

Friday, January 09, 2009

How the law works in Thailand

Is the offender poor?

If so, charge them.

If not, then equivocate, obfuscate, find technicalities, point the finger and hope that eventually people will forget, and murderers can walk free.