Sources

As U.S. Postal Cuts Saturday Service, How Mail Gets Delivered In Other Countries (MAP)

AP, EL UNIVERSAL (Mexico), NEWS.COM.AU (Australia), INDEPENDENT.IE (Ireland)

Worldcrunch

The big news arrived in America's mailbox on Wednesday: the U.S. Postal Service will end Saturday delivery service starting this summer, responding to budget cuts and the growing use of the Internet for long-distance communication. AP has the news from Washington.

Not surprisingly, changes to postal service are happening elsewhere in the world for similar reasons. But the situation is hardly uniform. Here's how your local postman rings "round the world.

1. NEW ZEALAND
The small island nation of 4.4 million people announced last month plans to cut down mail delivery to as few as three days a week in the face of Internet competition for correspondences. Lucky for them, they've also got Kim Dotcom to figure out a way to upload it all for free.

2. MEXICO
Unlike its northern neighbor, Mexico has no plans to cut down from its six-days-a-week service, though locals will tell you not to necessarily count on everything arriving promptly on Saturday, or arriving promptly any day, or ... arriving. To spruce up its image for said inefficiency, then Mexican President Felipe Calderón changed both the name and symbol of the postal service in 2008. What used to be called “Servicio Postal Mexicano” (Mexican Postal Service) is now known as “Correos de México” (Mexico Courier). The old logo looks vaguely Yankee...the new one is kind of cute.

3. IRELAND
Irish postman Michael Gallagher from County Donegal has been delivering the mail for 40 years -- he also happens to be the country's most trusted weatherman. Gallagher studies the behaviour of animals and plants to determine what the weather will be. He first came to national attention in 2007 when he predicted that the seemingly endless rain that summer would cease. There is massive interest from Irish media predictions. After he correctly predicted a “white Christmas” in 2009, Mr Gallagher forced betting agency Paddy Power to pay out more than €70,000 in winnings, says the Irish Independent.

4. CHINA
While America cuts service to five days a week, the national postal service in the People's Republic of China holds steady with delivery... SEVEN days a week. With business booming and no shortage of available labor, some have suggested upping that to eight.

5. JAPAN
If you miss a home delivery in Japan, you can call up the post office and ask the mailman to swing back around. Right away. Almost as good as sushi express.

6. JORDAN
In ancient times, letters traveled across the deserts of the Middle East by camel. Now, Jordan's innovative postal service allows you to keep track of packages every step of the way with regular SMS messages. Of course, sooner or later, the package itself is likely to arrive through your telephone..

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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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