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May Day Aftermath, Deadly Indian Fires, Bitcoin Founder Revealed

May Day Aftermath, Deadly Indian Fires, Bitcoin Founder Revealed

MAY DAY PROTESTS TURN VIOLENT

Photo: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters/ZUMA

While the United States reserves Labor Day for early September, the rest of the world marks International Workers’ Day on May 1, which was actually originally established in the U.S. to mark the 1886 Haymarket affair. Take it as a sign that the world is growing both smaller and less happy that violent May Day clashes across several countries also included the United States this year. In Seattle, anti-capitalist protesters clashed yesterday with the police, with five officers wounded and nine arrests, The Seattle Times reports. Reports of violence popped us elsewhere:

  • In Paris, the police fired tear gas on a small group of protesters who broke away from a 17,000-strong demonstration against a controversial labor reform and hurdled bottles on security forces. According to Le Figaro, 18 people were arrested across France, including 10 in Paris. Later in the evening, clashes erupted on the capital’s Place de la République, where young opponents to the labor reform have been gathering at night to protest.
  • In Turkey, 207 people were arrested, including some allegedly carrying Molotov cocktails and hand grenades, after they tried to breach a ban on accessing the symbolic Taksim Square in Istanbul. A 57-year-old man died after he was run over by a police water truck. Also on May Day, in the country’s southeastern parts, five soldiers and two police officers were killed in separate attacks, Hürriyet reports.
  • At least one country is left that still boasts to be working first and foremost in the interest of workers: Cuba. See how the official Communist Party daily Granma marked the day in our Extra! feature.

KERRY: NEW SYRIA CEASEFIRE CLOSE

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Geneva that ongoing talks with allies and Russia are “getting closer to a place of understanding” on renewing a U.S.-Russia brokered ceasefire in Syria, Reuters reports. The Syrian government introduced on Friday a temporary "regime of calm" around Damascus and Latakia after fighting resumed last week. Kerry is however pushing for Aleppo, which has witnessed most of the latest violence, to be included in a potential ceasefire.


SHIA TARGETED

ISIS has claimed responsibility for twin bomb attacks in Iraq’s Shia southern city of Samawa yesterday, killing at least 33 people and wounding dozens more. This came after another attack against Shia Muslim pilgrims in Baghdad on Saturday, when a suicide car bomb killed 19 people. According to the UN, 741 Iraqis were killed and 1,374 injured in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in April alone.


â€" ON THIS DAY

Happy birthday, Becks! That, and more, in your 57-second shot of history.


VERBATIM

“We can't continue to allow China to rape our country,” Republican front-runner Donald Trump told a rally in Indiana, ahead of a crucial winner-take-all primary tomorrow. The real estate mogul has repeatedly lamented the U.S.’ trade deficit with China, as well as use language that is particularly offensive to women. According to the latest polls, Trump holds a 15%-lead over his rival Ted Cruz in Indiana.


MALIA OBAMA HEADS TO HARVARD (BUT FIRST...)

The eldest daughter of Barack and Michelle Obama has settled on what university she will attend: Harvard â€" where both her parents went to law school. But Malia Obama will first opt for a so-called “gap year,” doing something else before entering in the fall of 2017. Read more in Slate.


TTIP LEAKS

Greenpeace has leaked 240 pages of secret documents from U.S.-EU negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that reveal “irreconcilable” differences between American and European negotiators. Washington is said to be pressuring the European Union into quickly signing the free trade deal, which President Barack Obama promoted during his visit to Germany last week. Among the many revelations, the U.S. allegedly threatened to block easier European car exports if the EU doesn’t open up its agricultural policy and drop its so-called precautionary principle.


â€" MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Every Amazonian Vote Counts â€" Belém, 1992


NORTHERN INDIA HIT BY DEADLY BLAZES

Thousands of people in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand are currently battling against massive and multiple forest fires that have already destroyed close to 3,000 acres of forest and killed seven people since the first blazes started, in February, India Today reports. Meanwhile, in the eastern part of the country, temperatures have soared so high that daytime cooking has been banned to avoid accidental fires, which have already killed at least 79 people.


6,050 DAYS

The bodies of American climbers Alex Lowe and David Bridges have been found in Tibet, more than 16 years after they disappeared under a Himalayan avalanche in 1999. Lowe, who was considered to be the world’s greatest climber, and his cameraman were climbing the 26,291-foot Shishapangma mountain in Tibet.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

A new book making waves in France by the writer-provocateur Pascal Bruckner takes on the French relationship with wealth. The Paris-based business daily Les Echos delves in: “Our ‘money taboo’ has harmful side-effects. French egalitarianism not only targets income and property gaps, it also extends to entrepreneurial and professional success, and even education: Academic success in France, Bruckner says, is a form of insider trading, because it is entirely determined by the position of a person’s parents on the social scale. This blanket denunciation of generalized egalitarianism is admittedly overblown, but it’s also frequently on the mark. The increasingly negative connotation of the word ‘elite’ is a case in point.”

Read the full article, France Has A Problem With Money And Wealth.


BITCOIN FOUNDER REVEALED

The founder of digital currency Bitcoin has finally revealed his true identity, ending years of speculation. Meet Craig Wright, an Australian entrepreneur worth one million Bitcoins, or $450 million.


CIA “LIVE” TWEETS BIN LADEN RAID

The CIA decided to tweet the raid that eventually killed Osama Bin Laden as if it was happening live, to mark Operation Neptune Spear’s fifth anniversary. Judging by the reaction on social media, the PR stunt wasn’t to everybody’s taste.


â€" MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH

THE HUNT FOR THE LOST IPAD

An investment banker’s hunt for his lost iPad last month had his followers hooked. The New York Times tells you all about it.

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Geopolitics

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.


But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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