WHILE YOU SLEPT

UK Downgraded, Diploma Mills, Icelandic Screams

SPOTLIGHT: CAMERON & CORBYN, STANDARD & POOR’S

What a difference a week makes. Britain’s two leading political figures, Prime Minister David Cameron and opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared to be cementing their power in their respective parties last week. But Thursday’s verdict to leave the European Union spurred Cameron’s decision to resign. And now Corbyn faces a no-confidence ballot in his party leadership later today. Cameron spoke before the British Parliament yesterday â€" the first time since Thursday’s vote to leave the bloc â€" and called for calm as his country readied itself for its EU departure. Five days after the so-called "Brexit," the stunning decision continues to shake Britain, the European continent and markets around the globe.

  • Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded UK’s stellar AAA debt rating to AA. Fitch Ratings followed suit.
  • In his Parliament address, Cameron said that Britain must already start implementing its decision to withdraw from the bloc. Here’s the video.
  • Despite the exit, UK leaders hope to retain access to the common EU market but European heads may not be so forgiving.
  • Uncertainty still reigns on what Brexit actually means for the UK and Europe. European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker urged Britain to clarify its position on the referendum as soon as possible.
  • Opposition leader Corbyn was forced to face a no-confidence vote after scores of party colleagues resigned, accusing the 67-year-old leftist of conducting a half-hearted campaign to try and convince voters to keep Britain in the EU.
  • Spikes in racist abuse have been reported after the Brexit vote, and have spurred the hashtag #PostRefRacism on Twitter.
  • Recommended reading on what it all means for Europe, from French daily Les Echos.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY

  • Brexit top of agenda in European Council meet.
  • Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook holds fundraiser for House Speaker Paul Ryan despite pulling support from Republican convention over nominee Donald Trump.


$15 BILLION

Carmaker Volkswagen agreed to pay $15 billion to settle lawsuits that emerged from its rigging of diesel emissions tests. And that’s just in the U.S. While $10 billion will go to car owners, $5 billion is for fines and investment, Bloomberg reports.


â€" ON THIS DAY

Warning: Today’s 57-second shot of History contains real pieces of a boxer’s ear.


U.S. STRIKES DOWN TEXAS ABORTION LAW

The U.S. Supreme Court tossed out an abortion law that it said placed an undue burden on doctors and facilities in Texas, in one of its strongest decisions in the last two decades to uphold women’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy as established under the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Trump University isn't the only questionable American higher education institution. Other self-proclaimed universities are virtual scams and, as Dong Dengxin writes for Caixin, China is a prime customer: “According to data published in March by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, out of 1.2 million international students in American colleges and universities, 353,000 are Chinese, making China the number one country of origin for foreign students. But two problems lie behind this figure: Chinese students are likely becoming the accomplices of America’s ‘Yeji universities’ â€" the Chinese term for so-called ‘diploma mills.’ (‘Yeji’ means ‘wild chicken.’) And these youngsters are unlikely to be integrated into America's mainstream society, and will instead remain isolated.

Read the full article, How U.S. "Diploma Mills" Are Duping Chinese Students.


VERBATIM

“You have this infinity inside of you that feels like it could go on forever,” tennis star Venus Williams said yesterday after winning her opening-round match at Wimbledon. The 36-year-old American is the oldest player in the women’s draw.


MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Easy Way Up â€" Paris, 1967


â€" MORE STORIES, BROUGHT TO YOU BY WORLDCRUNCH

TURN THE VOLUME DOWN

The crazy Icelandic soccer commentator’s voice cracked again after his country’s 2-1 win over England in the European championship last night. And here’s also how victory looked in this morning’s newspaper in Iceland.

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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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