Geopolitics

Gaza Truce Holding, Massive Russian Cybercrime, IKEA Slumber

Perth commuters team up to free a trapped passenger
Perth commuters team up to free a trapped passenger
Worldcrunch

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

GAZA CEASEFIRE HOLDS FOR SECOND DAY
The Israel-Hamas ceasefire that began yesterday is still holding, ending at least temporarily a month of war in the Gaza Strip, Reuters reports. Negotiations for a more permanent truce between Israel and Hamas are expected to take place in Cairo in the coming days with the help of Egyptian mediators.

AP reports that among Hamas’ negotiating points is an internationally funded reconstruction plan that would be overseen by a Palestinian unity government led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

According to Haaretz, the month of fighting between Hamas and Israel has cost the two sides a combined $8 billion, with most of the damage in Gaza.

Israel has announced the arrest of Hossam Kawasmeh, a Palestinian suspected of leading the group that kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers in June, AFP reports. The West Bank incident triggered an escalation of violence between Hamas and Israel. Kawasmeh told investigators that he received financial help from Hamas to recruit and arm the kidnappers.

SNAPSHOT
Dozens of commuters helped free a passenger whose leg was trapped between a train and a platform at Perth's Stirling station this morning.

ROSETTA SPACECRAFT SUCCESS
Ten years after the European Space Agency (ESA) launched it from French Guiana, the spacecraft Rosetta is now in orbit around the comet affectionately known as “Chury.” Scientists in the Netherlands say this technical feat is a first, The Guardian reports. ESA tweeted “Hello, Comet!” in different languages this morning, as the probe — which cost 1 billion euros — arrived within 100 kilometers of the rubber-duck-shaped comet that is tearing through space at up to 83,000 miles an hour.

VERBATIM
Poor bastard. The smack was too strong? Yeah. And he died.” British singer Marianne Faithfull told Mojo magazine that her drug-dealing ex-boyfriend was responsible for the accidental 1971 “killing” of Jim Morrison, who she claims died of a heroin overdose. Read more here.

LEBANON CEASEFIRE BREACHED
A 24-hour ceasefire between the Lebanese army and Islamist militants was breached this morning as machine gun fire and shelling broke out between both parties, Reuters reports. The truce came into force Tuesday and was intended to end five days of clashes that have killed dozens of people in what is the most serious spillover of the Syrian civil war into Lebanon. According to the Saudi Press Agency, Saudi Arabian King Abdullah has granted $1 billion to help the Lebanese army. Islamist militants have seized the town of Arsal on the Syrian border.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD


EMERGENCY EBOLA SUMMIT STARTS
A two-day Ebola crisis summit gathering experts from the World Health Organization opened today in Geneva, Switzerland. They are discussing new measures to tackle the outbreak of the deadly virus in West Africa and will ultimately decide whether to declare a global health emergency, the BBC reports. Nearly 900 people have died from the virus since February.

1.2 BILLION
In what is believed to be the largest ever theft of confidential Internet information, a Russian crime ring has been accused of stealing 1.2 billion passwords and 500 million email addresses. Read more here.

IKEA SLUMBER
The Telegraph knows just exactly how to make our day — with a photo galleryof Chinese IKEA shoppers asleep in the store’s room displays.

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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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