Swiss Locals Lose Patience As Davos Private Jet Traffic Multiplies

By some accounts, private jet traffic around the Swiss mountain resort of Davos has doubled for this year's edition of the World Economic Forum. Airport parking spots for lear jets are running out...just like the locals' patience.

A private jet approaches landing at St.Gallen-Altenrhein Airport, one of several arrival points for Davos (Kecko)
A private jet approaches landing at St.Gallen-Altenrhein Airport, one of several arrival points for Davos (Kecko)


ZURICH - The preferred mode of transportation for arriving at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos is, unsurprisingly, private jet. But this year there appears to be an unprecedented overflow of private planes arriving in Switzerland's airports.

Zurich airport spokeswomen, Sonja Zöchling, said they were counting on 1,000 extra flights coming in and out during the forum, which runs through Jan. 29. There is space to park 54 planes. "Anything over and above that has to be distributed to other airports," Zöchling said.

One of the alternative parking spots in past years has been the military airport in Dübendorf. Stefan Hofer, head of communication for the Swiss army's high command, said demand for space has risen. "We usually make space for 15 planes available," said Hofer. "This year, depending on the size of the plane, we're making room for 25 to 30 planes."

Normally, the planes would stay parked until the end of the five-day meeting, "but there are exceptions." Normal operations at the airport are not affected by the extra traffic, Hofer said.

As they have been in the past, communities near the Dübendorf airport were informed that there would be extra traffic during Davos week. But locals, who tolerated air traffic for military necessities, are losing patience with all the WEF air and noise pollution. In nearby Volketswil, town clerk Beat Grob expressed astonishment that traffic at the airport had doubled during the WEF meeting, but said that only after the meeting was over would they be able to establish exactly how much extra traffic there had been.

The town clerk of Wangen-Brüttisellen, Christoph Bless, said that when the army starts using the field again in 2014, with the exception of Rega rescue helicopters, "there should be no civil aviation at all there."

Read the full story in German by Tina Fassbind

Photo – Kecko

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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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

"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.

Activist in front of democracy monument in Thailand.

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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