When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Geopolitics

After The Coup, Giving Voice To Thailand's Political Exiles

Banner in Bangkok instructing residents not to share anti-government views on social networks, under direct threat of prison
Banner in Bangkok instructing residents not to share anti-government views on social networks, under direct threat of prison
Kannikar Petchkaew

Martial law has brought calm but not peace to Thailand.

A report released this week by the International Crisis Group warns that the military regime’s stifling of dissent could ultimately lead to greater turmoil. The military claims that the coup d'etat last May was staged to maintain order after six months of street unrest by anti-government protests.

They took TV channels and radio stations off the air, and only heavily censored versions have been allowed to return. Several hundred academics and activists have been detained. Many others have fled to the west where they are applying for asylum.

From his temporary new home in an undisclosed location in the United States, Jom Petpradab makes a Skype call home to his nephew. He assures him that he's doing just fine in the U.S.: "Don’t worry about me," he says. "Just go to school and do your best."


Jom Petpradab — Photo: Kannikar Petchkaew

After he hangs up he says he was just putting on a brave face. “It is not fine at all but I prefer to stay here where I can have freedom of expression and can do my work without any interfere or suppression.”

Petpradab, who'd fled right after the military coup, has worked as a journalist for more than 20 years in Thailand. Because he had given air time to controversial figures —including former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra — he feared he would be jailed.

“I can’t help feeling nervous about what’s going to happen now if my asylum claim is not granted," he said. "But I have heard that my case is being processed and I can stay here even when my tourist visa runs out.”

The fight goes on

Jarupong Ruangsuwun, the former Minister of Interior in the party Thaksin founded,
fled Thailand with his family weeks after the coup, and now lives in San Francisco, where he is waiting for his asylum claim to be processed.


Jarupong Ruangsuwun — Photo: manager.co.th

He says he spends his time online talking to people back in Thailand, and quips that he's "addicted" to the Internet. "With freedom of expression here I can research anything and talk about any topic," he says. "Thais can’t do this.”

The military junta has put out an arrest warrant for him, and Ruangsuwun is facing three charges: disobeying the junta’s summon, violating the computer act and libel. If he returns to Thailand he will likely be jailed.

“I’m 68 now but I will go on fighting. I don’t mean in the radical way, we will just keep speaking out and letting the whole world know the truth and push for change," he says. "The world won’t tolerate dictatorships. Thai people have never tolerated dictators — they just can’t say the truth because guns are pointed at them. Guns and weapons paid for by the people’s sweat and hard work.”

Kritsuda Khunasaen was an anti-government protestor who was detained by the military for 30 days. She says she was blindfolded and then beaten and sexually harassed. Once released she was helped out of the country.


Kritsuda Khunasaen — Photo: menschenrechte.eu

Now she is Norway and is living in an asylum seekers transit home. “When I arrived four months ago I felt so depressed and overwhelmed with fear and anger. I can’t speak their language. I don’t know what will happen and what life will be like here," Khunasaen says.

She says that her state of mind is improving, as she is getting settled into a new, if hopefully temporary existence, so far from Thailand. "I was very fortunate that I could flee so quickly," Khunasaen recalled. "What I gained here is a new life. I have freedom here. It’s amazing that another country has helped me even when my own country has done the opposite to their people.”

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Ideas

Joshimath, The Sinking Indian City Has Also Become A Hotbed Of Government Censorship

The Indian authorities' decision to hide factual reports on the land subsidence in Joshimath only furthers a sense of paranoia.

Photo of people standing next to a cracked road in Joshimath, India

Cracked road in Joshimath

@IndianCongressO via Twitter
Rohan Banerjee*

MUMBAI — Midway through the movie Don’t Look Up (2021), the outspoken PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) is bundled into a car, a bag over her head. The White House, we are told, wants her “off the grid”. She is taken to a warehouse – the sort of place where CIA and FBI agents seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in Hollywood movies – and charged with violating national security secrets.

The Hobson’s choice offered to her is to either face prosecution or suspend “all public media appearances and incendiary language relating to Comet Dibiasky”, an interstellar object on a collision course with earth. Exasperated, she acquiesces to the gag order.

Don’t Look Upis a satirical take on the collective apathy towards climate change; only, the slow burn of fossil fuel is replaced by the more imminent threat of a comet crashing into our planet. As a couple of scientists try to warn humanity about its potential extinction, they discover a media, an administration, and indeed, a society that is not just unwilling to face the truth but would even deny it.

This premise and the caricatured characters border on the farcical, with plot devices designed to produce absurd scenarios that would be inconceivable in the real world we inhabit. After all, would any government dealing with a natural disaster, issue an edict prohibiting researchers and scientists from talking about the event? Surely not. Right?

On January 11, the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), one of the centers of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), issued a preliminary report on the land subsidence issue occurring in Joshimath, the mountainside city in the Himalayas.

The word ‘subsidence’ entered the public lexicon at the turn of the year as disturbing images of cracked roads and tilted buildings began to emanate from Joshimath.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest