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Nepal Children Rescued, Yemen's Worst Fighting, Eurovision Contestants

Nepal Children Rescued, Yemen's Worst Fighting, Eurovision Contestants

TWO NEPAL CHILDREN RESCUED

Photo: Qin Qing/Xinhua/ZUMA

A 15-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl were rescued alive from the rubble in Nepal earlier today after being trapped for five days following Saturday’s devastating earthquake, Reuters reports.

  • But the chances of finding more survivors are obviously fading with time, officials say.
  • Search and rescue teams are being slowed by heavy rain, making it impossible right now for helicopters to reach the worst-hit and most isolated areas.
  • The death toll has reached at least 5,630, with 7,879 people injured, the Nepalese website My Republica reports.
  • The physical damage is estimated at billions of dollars, shattering Nepal’s already fragile economy, AP reports.

FRENCH SOLDIERS ACCUSED OF CHILD RAPE

French daily Le Parisien reacts to the revelation of accusations that 16 French soldiers sexually abused children in the Central African Republic between December 2013 and June 2014. Read more on our Extra! feature here.


ON THIS DAY


Saigon fell, ending the Vietnam War, on this day in 1975. Get more in today’s 57-second shot of history.


GERMANY “HELPED” U.S. SPY ON FRANCE

The BND, Germany’s national intelligence agency, helped the NSA spy on top French officials, the presidential Elysée palace, the foreign ministry and the EU commission, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported yesterday.The German daily quotes an apparently leaked BND document a week after Spiegel magazine revealed that the same agency conducted industrial espionage on European companies at the NSA’s behest. The affair goes back to 2002, when American and German authorities collaborated after 9/11 in an attempt to find illegal commercial activity. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has denied claims of a cover-up, but it has emerged that the German government knew about the spying since at least 2008. The revelations are embarrassing for Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany’s head of state since 2005 who declared in 2013, after learning that the NSA had monitored her phone, that “spying among friends cannot be.”


VERBATIM

“Am I being executed?” Moments before his death, this is what Rodrigo Gularte, the Brazilian man executed by firing squad along with seven other foreign prisoners in Indonesia yesterday, asked the priest who was counseling him, The Guardian reports. Father Charlie Burrows said he had tried in vain for three days to explain to the 42-year-old man that he was about to die. Gularte, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and a bipolar disorder, was arrested and executed for drug trafficking.


U.S. POLICE BRUTALITY PROTESTS CONTINUE

Thousands of people marched in major U.S. cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., Boston and Minneapolis Wednesday to protest police brutality. They follow the April 19 death in Baltimore of Freddie Gray, the latest unarmed black man to lose his life in police custody. The incident sparked major riots in Baltimore and prompted authorities to deploy the national guard and impose a curfew. Gray’s is just one in a recent series of cases in which black men pursued by white officers have died.

  • But according to a document obtained by The Washington Post, “a prisoner sharing a police transport van with Freddie Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray ‘banging against the walls’ of the vehicle and believed that he ‘was intentionally trying to injure himself.’”

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Technology will invariably change the way we experience health care, Les Echos’ Xavier Pavie writes. “It's already perfectly feasible to imagine a doctor sending a patient’s prescription directly to an Amazon-like service that would then deliver the medication — right to the person's doorstep — in under an hour. What’s more, the delivery person could very well be a pharmacist who would sit down for a few minutes with the patient to explain the instructions and doses.”

Read the full article, Aching For Pharmacies To Embrace The Amazon Model.


YEMEN’S “WORST FIGHTING YET”

Residents of Aden, Yemen, told Reuters they were witnessing the worst fighting yet in over a month of war between Houthi terror fighters and local militias backed by a Saudi-led coalition. The southern city of Aden has been bombed intensely by airstrikes and artillery fire today, as fierce battles rage around the port and airport.


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD



200 INJURED IN BRAZIL TEACHER PROTESTS

At least 200 people were injured as teachers protested in Curitiba, Brazil, yesterday over proposed changes to their pensions. According to the BBC, police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades when a group of protesters attempted to break through police lines.


NUCLEAR REACTOR ONLINE AGAIN IN N. KOREA

Amid rising concern about North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities, satellite images taken by a scientific think tank between January and April indicate a North Korean nuclear reactor that had been partially or fully shut down may again be operating. A report by the Institute for Science and International Security says the facility is capable of yielding material for atomic bombs.


HIT IT!

In the runup to the big night May 23, we’re still introducing all 40 Eurovision contestants, even though we’re still not too sure what it’s all about. Our latest entry, Italy and its trio Il Volo.

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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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