Verbatim: 2015's Most Notable Quotes

Verbatim: 2015's Most Notable Quotes

From politicians to entertainers and ordinary citizens, we take a quick look at some of the words that made news in 2015.

"Je suis Charlie" is both a slogan and logo created by French art director Joachim Roncin in the wake of the Jan. 7 shooting at the Paris offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which left 12 dead.

In an interview with the BBC, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stressed that he was not opposed to joining the fight alongside other countries at war with the Islamic State (ISIS) â€" but that he refused to be "a puppet," an apparent reference to Western- and Gulf Arab-backed opposition leaders.

"Stalin is like me. The moustache is exactly the same. Comrade Stalin who beat Hitler," Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said during a visit to the Caracas Book Fair in March.

At a ceremony in Yerevan marking the 100th anniversary of the start of the genocide of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan declared: "I am grateful to all those who are here to once again confirm your commitment to human values, to say that nothing is forgotten, that after 100 years we remember.”

That's how legendary American talk-show host David Letterman wrapped up 33 years of The Late Show on May 20.

Anthony Thompson, a relative of one of the nine people killed during the June 17 Charleston, S.C., church massacre, confronted the shooter Dylann Storm Roof during his initial court hearing, asking for God's mercy on his soul.

Although he acknowledged that the deal was not perfect, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hailed a nuclear accord with world powers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was widely hailed for her moral leadership in the face of Europe's escalating migrant crisis. She called on Germans to stand up to xenophobic behavior as she visited a migrant shelter in Heidenau, eastern Germany, after far-right opponents of asylum seekers rioted Aug. 22, wounding 35 police officers.

Becoming the first African-American to win an Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama, Viola Davis gave a powerful acceptance speech about the lack of diversity in Hollywood, adding, "You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there."

Speaking at the 37th World Zionist Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that it was a Muslim â€" Jerusalem’s then-Mufti â€" who convinced the Nazi leader to exterminate European Jews. His comments, which contradict historical evidence, sparked criticism from both Muslim and Jewish leaders around the world.

Calling on the U.S. and Russia to combine forces against ISIS after the Nov. 11 terror attacks in Paris that left at least 130 dead, French President François Hollande declared that the country was at war "against jihadist terrorism” that is “threatening the whole world.”

Real estate mogul and Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump responded to the Islamic terrorist attack that killed 14 in San Bernardino, Calif., with a proposal to ban all Muslim immigrants until American political leaders can "figure out what is going on." Trump's statement was sharply criticized by many in his own party as well as world leaders of several key U.S. allies.

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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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