Ecuador Wades Into Chile-Peru Maritime Dispute

A recent treaty between Peru and Ecuador could complicate matters for Chile, which is involved in a drawn-out border dispute with authorities in Lima over Pacific water rights.

Fishermen in northern Chile, near the border with Peru
Fishermen in northern Chile, near the border with Peru
Martin Delfin


A historic maritime border between Chile and Peru that is currently before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague took a new turn last week when a third country, Ecuador, decided to demarcate its sea boundaries with the government in Lima.

Peru filed a formal complaint with the ICJ in 2008, demanding its southern neighbor drop its claim to 14,500 square miles of contested, fishing-rich Pacific water.

The dispute dates back to the 19th century War of the Pacific, which involved not only Chile and Peru, but also Bolivia. During the five-year conflict Bolivia – allied at the time with Peru – lost access to the ocean. Chile and Bolivia are currently engaged in their own border dispute. Bolivian President Evo Morales threatened in March to take the Chilean government to court if negotiations faltered.

Chile cites border accords signed in 1952 and 1954 between its government, Peru and Ecuador to claim that the maritime border matter was settled long ago. But Peruvian President Alan García says those early agreements were only drawn up to establish fishing boundaries and nothing else.

The dispute heightened last week when Peru announced that it signed a new agreement with President Rafael Correa of Ecuador. The deal reaffirms the Peru-Ecuador sea border as a straight horizontal line that runs parallel to the equator and stretches out from where the two countries meet. The new treaty also contains a controversial clause whereby Ecuador formally aggrees with Peru that the 1950s accords were fishing agreements – not a three-way border deal.

Peru is now hoping to use the agreement with Ecuador as a legal fodder to finally settle its dispute with Chile.

"Our theory has always been that Peru, Ecuador and Chile signed fishing agreements in 1952, but our Chilean friends have always said that these were maritime accords," President García said last Thursday. "What does it mean 60 years later now that we have signed a maritime boundary agreement with Ecuador? It means that the agreement in 1952 wasn't a maritime border accord."

Chilean lawmaker Jorge Tarud, a member of the lower house foreign relations committee, says the deal with Ecuador has nothing to do with his government's own dispute with Peru. "The judges at The Hague aren't stupid. They know the history well, and this treaty won't have any effect," said Tarud.

In an interview Sunday with the Santiago daily La Tercera, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said that in signing the agreement with Ecuador, the Peruvian government accepted the way the boundaries were originally demarcated in the 1950s. In fact, it was only recently that Peru – after respecting those accords for decades – suddenly "began to ignore" them, according to Piñera. "President Correa told me that Ecuador's position has not changed in any way."

The justices in The Hague could issue a ruling by 2013, according to Peruvian Foreign Minister José Antonio García Belaunde. Chile is expected to file its answer to the Peruvian lawsuit in July.

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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

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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