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Nepal Toll, Philly Train Crash, Cannes Opens

Nepal Toll, Philly Train Crash, Cannes Opens

RESCUE OPS RESUME AFTER SECOND NEPAL QUAKE EPISODE

Rescue teams have resumed their quest to find survivors in devastated Nepal, after yesterday’s 7.3-magnitude earthquake. It came less than three weeks after an even more violent one that destroyed part of the impoverished country and killed more than 8,000 people, AFP reports. Reports say at least 65 people have been killed east of Kathmandu from the new quake, with another 17 victims in neighboring India. While rescuers are once again struggling to reach remote areas in the mountains, a U.S. helicopter that was delivering aid has gone missing.


5 DEAD IN PHILADELPHIA TRAIN CRASH

Photo: Tom Gralish/TNS/ZUMA

An Amtrack train from New York to Washington derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least five passengers with 65 others injured, including six in critical condition, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Investigators thus far have not said what caused the accident.


VERBATIM

“This is a critical moment for action by Russia, by the separatists to live up to the Minsk agreement,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said this morning at a NATO meeting in Turkey, one day after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Sochi. Both sides sought to ease tensions over the situation in eastern Ukraine. “This is an enormous moment of opportunity for the conflict there to find a path to certainty and resolution,” Kerry added.


NORTH KOREAN DEFENSE MINISTER REPORTEDLY EXECUTED

North Korea’s Defense Minister has reportedly been publicly executed by anti-aircraft fire for treason and showing disloyalty to Kim Jong-un by falling asleep during a meeting the leader was attending, South Korea’s intelligence agency told Parliament. Hyon Yong Chol was said to be executed on April 30 in front of hundreds of military officers, but The Washington Post says this couldn’t be independently verified.


ON THIS DAY


Thirty-four years ago, Pope John Paul II survived an assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square. Time for your 57-second shot of history.


SHIA MUSLIMS TARGETED IN DEADLY PAKISTAN ATTACK

At least 43 people were killed and another 13 injured after a group of gunmen attacked a bus carrying Ismaili Shia Muslims in Karachi, Pakistani daily Dawn reports. Six gunmen entered the bus and started firing at the 60 passengers before they fled, a police inspector explained. “One young girl hid and survived. Three or four others who were brought to the hospital have survived ... the rest are all dead,” a hospital source said. A Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked group has claimed responsibility for the attack.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Swiss photographer Yves Leresche has a real passion for the Roma. He has photographed them across Europe for more than 20 years, getting inside an often impenetrable community and emerging with a portrait that both shines and confounds, Le Temps’ Etienne Dubuis reports: To grasp the Roma’s lives, he shared it, traveled, ate and slept over long periods of time with those who accepted him. This was, for him, a key condition to carrying out photographic work capable of avoiding two classic pitfalls: the stereotyped reactions of Roma people when a stranger arrives, with gestures that are as spectacular as superficial, consisting in ‘showing your muscles and taking your knives out;’ and the prejudices that are in each and every one of us, and lead many photographers to search for what they know, or think they know, to the detriment of what they could discover. Sharing the lives of the Roma was the opportunity to let reality appear in all its complexity.”

Read the full article, Yves Leresche, Capturing The Dazzling Mystery Of The Roma.


253,617

It’s been one year since the European Court of Justice ruled in favor of the controversial “right to be forgotten rule,” which forces search engines to remove from their results information that is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive.” According to Google’s transparency report, the Mountain View giant has received 253,617 removal requests and approved just over 40% of them. Read more from The Daily Telegraph.


WILL ASSAD FACE WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL?

An international investigative commission said they had gathered enough smuggled officials documents from Syria to indict President Bashar al-Assad and 24 of his closest allies over the suppression of the protests in 2011 that initiated the conflict, The Guardian reports.


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD



PRINCE CHARLES’ “BLACK SPIDER MEMOS” TO BE PUBLISHED

After a 10-year legal battle, Prince Charles’ secret letters to British government ministers are to be published today, Business Insider reports. The government is fiercely opposed to the publication of the so-called “black spider memos” (because of Charles’ handwriting), fearing it could undermine the official political neutrality of the heir to the British throne.


CANNES FESTIVAL

The 68th Cannes Film Festival kicks off today and it looks like it’s going to be a difficult one for jury co-presidents Joel and Ethan Coen. Here’s Vanity Fair’s selection of 18 movies to keep an eye on. Read more about it in our Extra! feature here.

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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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