GLOBO ESPORTE, FOLHA DE S.P. (Brazil), FOX SPORTS, THE WASHINGTON POST (USA)
SAO PAULO – With less than two years before the kick-off of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, things are not looking good for Brazilian soccer.
Local team Sao Paulo FC were crowned the winners of the Copa Sudamericana final Wednesday, after Argentinan side Tigre refused to return for the second half, reports Brazilian sports website Globo Esporte.
Tigre players claimed they were attacked by Sao Paulo's armed guards in the dressing room area following clashes between players on the pitch at Morumbi Stadium.
"They pulled two revolvers," Tigre's coach Nestor Gorosito told Fox Sports, referring to unspecified security officials. "We’re not going to play anymore."
Tigre defender Lucas Orban added: "They ambushed us and one of them pulled out a revolver and put it against (goalkeeper) Damian Albin's chest. Their security and police also hit us, there were around 20 of them."
What happened in the dressing room area remains unclear, but Argentine television showed what appeared to be blood-spattered walls. Argentine television also showed several Tigre staff members with bruises and bloody faces, reports The Washington Post.
"We came to play a game, not to fight a war. We are a small Argentinean team, we admire Brazilian football, Sao Paulo FC is a great club," Sergio Massa, President of Tigre, told Folha de Sao Paulo. "Our attitude (not to return on the field) was based on safety issues."
As the Argentinean players failed to return on the field, Chilean referee Enrique Osses decided to abandon the match after a 30-minute delay. Sao Paulo FC had been leading 2-0 following a goalless first match in Buenos Aires.
Newspapers in Argentina called the incident "shameful" and "outrageous." British tabloid The Sun also reacted to the troubled soccer final.
It was Brazilian soccer's rising star Lucas Moura's last appearance wearing the colors of Sao Paulo FC as the young player is due to join French team Paris Saint-Germain in January. Moura scored the first goal of the game.
Sao Paulo FC, one of Brazil's strongest squads, is a three-time winner of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s most prestigious club tournament.
This is the club’s first Copa Sudamericana title, the equivalent of Europe's UEFA Europa League.
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.
"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.
Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release
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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