Welcome to Monday, where China ends its two-child policy, Netanyahu risks losing his job, and Darth Vader's house is up for sale. We've also zoomed in on a single photo to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre in our This Happened video.
• China bumps two-child policy up to three: China announces that married couples may have up to three children, after data showed a steep decline in birth rates in the country. The move puts an end to the existing limit of two, in place since 2016, which itself replaced the 1979 one-child policy.
• Netanyahu vs. coalition: Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that a proposed coalition would be "a danger to Israel's security and future," a day after nationalist Naftali Bennett announced he would join forces with a centrist party to form a unity government by Wednesday, which would end the rule of the country's longest-serving prime minister.
• Canada mourns 215 indigenous children: Flags were flown at half-mast across Canada yesterday, in homage to the 215 children whose remains were found on the grounds of a former boarding school in Kamloops, British Columbia, earlier last week. The preliminary findings of the investigation into what was part of a nationwide effort to force-assimilate Indigenous children into Canada, are expected to be published in a report this month.
• Denmark helped NSA spy on Merkel: A European media investigation reveals how Denmark's secret service helped the U.S. spy on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European officials from 2012 to 2014. The report confirms NSA wiretapping allegations originally made by whistleblower Edward Snowden back in 2013.
• COVID Vietnam variant: Vietnam has started a mass COVID-19 testing campaign and toughening lockdown measures to respond to a new spike in COVID cases and the discovery of a new hybrid discovered in the country, said to combine features of the Indian and UK variants.
• Tarzan's Joe Lara presumed dead in plane crash: American actor Joe Lara, known for his role as Tarzan in the 1990s TV series Tarzan: The Epic Adventures, is presumed dead after a plane crash in Tennessee along with his wife and five other people.
• Living like Darth Vader: An ominous-looking home, nicknamed "the Darth Vader House," in Houston, Texas, is now on the market for $4,3 million. At 7,000 square-foot, it has plenty of breathing space ...
British daily The Independent features a photograph of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds, who got married in secret at Westminster Cathedral. Johnson is the country's first PM to get married while in office in nearly 200 years.
The Tulsa Race Massacre, 100 years later
May 31 marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, believed to be the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.
On May 30, 1921, a young Black man named Dick Rowland was arrested for an alleged assault on a White woman in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The next morning, in retaliation, a mob of white residents attacked the Greenwood district, known as "Black Wall Street" at that time for its prosperity and thriving businesses. The shootings, looting and lynchings only ceased 24 hours later: dozens of city blocks were destroyed and an estimated 300 people were killed. In the wake of this violence, thousands of Black residents were displaced.
A black and white photograph, taken in June 1921, shows the extent of the damages in the Greenwood district.
The Tulsa Race Massacre had been absent from most history books and newspapers for decades and was long referred to as the "Tulsa Race Riot." But as the U.S. is engaging in a new reckoning with its history of racist violence, led by the Black Lives Matter movement, a new light has been shed on this particularly violent episode. In October 2020, an investigation launched two years before by Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum unearthed a mass grave believed to hold victims of the massacre at the Oaklawn Cemetery. A full excavation is scheduled on June 1, in the hopes that some of the victims of this massacre can finally be properly laid to rest.
25 hours, 50 minutes
Ada Tsang Yin-hung, a former middle school teacher from Hong Kong, has set a new record for the fastest ascent of Mount Everest by a woman. The previous record (39 hours 6 minutes) set in 2018 was held by Nepali climber Phunjo Jhangmu Lama.
Whether you change the policy five children or eight children, housing prices are still the best sterilization tool.
— A user on the Chinese social media platform Weibo reacted to the country's recent decision to allow families to have up to three children, instead of two. The policy is intended to reverse the current decline in birth rates, but many Chinese refrain from having more children due to economic constraints and high cost of living.
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.
Activist in front of democracy monument in Thailand.
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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