WHILE YOU SLEPT

That Darker Paris Reality

SPOTLIGHT: A DARKER REALITY IN THE CITY OF LIGHTS

Paris has always had a dark side.

Uprisings, demonstrations, even revolution...the streets of Paris have been awash in blood time and again over the centuries. In far more recent months, terror attacks, floods and strikes have stamped the City of Light as the standing capital of tumult.

Now, a bit of that dark side has arrived in the reality TV world of the Kardashian clan. Kim Kardashian West, one of the most recognizable faces on the internet and wife of rapper Kanya West, was robbed at gunpoint in the early hours Monday at a luxury residence in central Paris. The thieves, disguised as policemen, stole a reported 10 million euros worth of jewelry from the star.

As paparazzi descend on Paris, no doubt someone will warn that even the high-end neighborhood where the reality TV star was robbed has become a “no-go zone.” Tourism is the city’s lifeblood, and though still the world’s most visited destination, Paris has lost some 750 million euros in tourism revenue from the first half of this year alone, following the November 2015 terror attacks.

Paris has long glittered bright in the world’s collective imagination, which has made it both a symbol and a target for those with nefarious intentions. When its darker side surfaces, the shadow extends far beyond the internet.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY


COLOMBIANS REJECT FARC PEACE ACCORD

Most people thought the hardest part of putting an end to more than 50 years of war was done when the Colombian government and the FARC rebels reached a peace agreement, but a narrow majority of voters (50.22%) rejected the deal in a surprise upset, El Espectador reports. Turnout was also at a 22-year-low, with just 37,4% of voters taking part in the referendum. Senator and former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, who campaigned for the “No,” said that the result expressed a wish for a renegotiation. “Nobody wants violence,” he said.

â€" ON THIS DAY

Which American football player was acquitted of two murders 21 years ago? Your 57-second shot of history has the answer, and more.

LOW TURNOUT DERAILS HUNGARY REFERENDUM

Only 43% of Hungarian voters cast their ballot in yesterday’s referendum on mandatory EU migrant quotas, falling short of the required minimum of 50% to be valid. But with close to 98% of those who voted opposing the quotas, the Hungarian government argued the outcome was “politically and legally” binding anyway. Read more from the BBC.

NOBEL PRIZE WEEK BEGINS WITH JAPANESE WINNER

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2016 was awarded to Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi for his “discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy."

VERBATIM

“Let's show the country we mean business,” British Prime Minister Theresa May told the Conservative party conference yesterday, in a speech outlining her Brexit strategy. May said Britain would trigger the process by March 2017, meaning that the country will have left the European Union by mid-2019.

$500 MILLION

The Pentagon allegedly paid a controversial British PR firm $500 million to secretly produce a propaganda campaign in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Sunday Times revealed. Part of the company’s mission was to produce fake al-Qaeda propaganda films.

TALIBAN ATTACK KUNDUZ

Taliban fighters have entered the city of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan after launching a coordinated attack from four different directions, in an apparent repeat of the assault that briefly gave them control over the city a year ago, Al Jazeera reports.

INDIAN TROOPS TARGETED IN ANOTHER KASHMIR ATTACK

Insurgents attacked an Indian army camp in the garrison town of Baramulla, in northern Kashmir, killing one soldier in the second such attack in two weeks, The Hindustan Times reports. India has accused Pakistan of supporting the militants, claims that Islamabad rejects.

â€" MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Palm Color â€" Elche, Aug. 1958

VIRTUAL ANIMALITY

Ever wondered what life’s like for a “doomed cow” or a “piece of coral”? Well, now you can (sort of) experience it.

â€" Crunched by Marc Alves and Sruthi Gottipati

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
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".

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ