Geopolitics

Why The Worldwide “Occupy” Movement May Be Here To Stay

Op-Ed: The “Occupy” protests that took this past weekend across Europe could very well be here to stay – in large part because the David vs. Goliath standoff that is brewing on both sides of the Atlantic is neither typically right-wing nor typically left-

Why The Worldwide “Occupy” Movement May Be Here To Stay

MUNICH -- Globalization's children are waking up with a wave of protests that are going to resist the old lassoes used to rein them in. That's because this uprising cannot be dismissed as just a "left-wing" movement, even though the protestors are clearly expressing indignation about social inequality – a classic theme of the Left.

The protests are also being driven by a fatal feeling that governments are too weak, and that they're being choked and manipulated by the financial markets. The markets, in other words, are challenging government sovereignty, which is a typical conservative, right-wing theme. The bottom line is that people on the right and left are developing a shared position, which is that the marauders of the international financial economy need to be restrained.

The anger and disappointment began with the 2008 financial crisis, when governments pumped an ungodly amount of money into the banks. Many people thought that we were experiencing a kind of reformation of capitalism. That was, and has remained, deceptive. The big banks just went right on using the same means and methods that brought the financial crisis about in the first place. And they were allowed to go right on doing so, because none of the strict rules that had been announced by the world's politicians came into effect. Financial capitalism did not become one bit more humane, it just juggernauted on as turbocharged as ever.

New rules of the road

And here we are with the results: global protest. It's not the first time. In 2003-2004, the Iraq war triggered massive protests in Berlin, Rome and Paris, and helped form a European body of public opinion that is now, with the support of digital social networks, in the process of going international. This time around, however, the protests are not likely to go away so easily.

If this movement works, global capitalism is no longer going to be able to operate as before – wander to the places where it can get away with whatever it wants without the people responding. "Occupy" protesters don't put much stock in national politics anymore; they've experienced how unaware and directionless their governments are in the face of the financial crisis. International protest demands international politics.

Simply put, the Davids of the world are no longer willing to watch the Goliath banks being shored up with millions and billions while the potholes in the autobahn of financial capitalism are repaired so that the marauders can just keep speeding by. The Davids want new traffic rules, different speed limits – new everything from A to Z for all vehicles travelling these international highways.

Germany has been defending its democracy for 10 years in the Hindu Kush. Now it needs to defend its democracy against the greed of the markets. Surely, a world that can take on the Taliban has nothing to fear from a bunch of stock brokers?

Read the original story in German

Photo - Ben Fredericson (xjrlokix)

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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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