censorship

BURNING ISSUE
Is Thailand becoming a censored society?
By Pravit Rojanaphruk
The Nation

In a sign of continued resistance, red-shirt print media is starting to lift its head again, with at least four publications now available in some parts of Bangkok and beyond. However, the government appears determined to suppress them, or at least stifle the most vocal ones.

At press time yesterday, Red Power magazine editor Somyos Phrueksakasemsuk had reportedly gone into hiding. Somyos’ colleague Sriatsara Titali told this writer yesterday that the editor was scheduled to speak at a symposium on the future of the media on Wednesday afternoon in Lat Phrao.

However, he allegedly fled when he heard news of some 10 plainclothes police officers keeping an eye out for him. The charge against Somyos is not clear yet, but the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) warned last week that the publishers of Red Power might be guilty of defaming the royal institution, though no evidence has been produced so far.

The future of the fortnightly magazine hangs in the balance, since according to Sriatsara, the police “shut” the printing house and the distribution office, though another red-shirt source said the officers merely “visited” it in search of the left-leaning editor.

Another new red-shirt publication is the Bt30 People’s Channel weekly. Launched in August, the front page of the second edition (August 5-11) read: “We must confess, we are not sure if the government will allow us to continue. If we are not bullied by the government, we strongly believe the People’s Channel will grow by leaps and bounds in a short period of time.”

A third publication surfaced last week called the Mahaprachachon Sudsapda (The Great Mass of People Weekender), with red-shirt co-leader Veera Musigapong as its adviser. This is a reincarnation of the Truth Today weekly magazine, now trumpeting “peace and non-violence” in order to thwart possible censorship.

It’s no longer like the “good old days”, because since May 19 many bookstores and newsagents are refusing to carry red-shirt titles either out of fear of upsetting the authorities or because of their anti-red stance.

A red-shirt supporter said it is only the red-shirt sympathisers and supporters who dare carry these publications.

As a clear sign of the great political divide between the rich and poor, most of these red-shirt publications are found in the periphery or the poorer parts of the capital. There is only one bookshop in the Siam Square area known to this writer that dares carry these magazines and newspapers. However, some red shirts say the content of these publications is not as strong as it was in the past.

It appears as if the censorship of red-shirt media is partially legitimised by society approval, especially those who are against the movement, including many mainstream media outlets that initially accepted and even supported the reds. Not only will this anger the red shirts, but it will also deepen the culture of censorship, which will most likely be exploited by those in power in the future.

Thailand is steadily becoming “a censored society” where some trains of thought can be illegal, or even a crime, making speaking about certain taboo topics an exercise in political courage.

Censorship is prevalent in societies that cannot deal with differences openly and peacefully. If those in power can’t accept your views, they try to shut you up. If you refuse to shut up, then you end up in jail either over charges of violating the emergency decree, the lese majeste law or the computer crime law. In extreme cases, you can die just like the red-shirt protesters did earlier this year. Killing can be a form of censorship too, you know.

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bhumjai polticans bought for 40 million

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/home/2010/09/07/opinion/Reconciliation-is-nice-to-talk-about-but-hard-to-a-30137425.html

Reconciliation is nice to talk about, but hard to achieve
By Sopon Onkgara
The Nation
Published on September 7, 2010

Amid wild rumours about possible attempts on the lives of key political and military figures, grenade attacks on vital installations and government offices, and another round of red-shirt activities, suddenly there is talk about reconciliation among the parties to the political conflict.
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http://www.bumrungrad.com/KneeReplacementNobody knows exactly which side has proposed reconciliation, for what purpose and to what end. There has been a guarded and lukewarm response from the parties concerned, possibly worrying that they might lose leverage and positioning if they seem too enthusiastic.

Even those with the highest degree of optimism have been quick to cast doubt that reconciliation will ever materialise, simply because it would require long negotiation and eventual consent from many groups.

First of all, the proposed reconciliation, no matter who initially made the offer, is between arch rivals Pheu Thai and the Democrats. If the two agree to sit down after all basic rules are set, there is the question of whether the coalition parties should also be asked to join.

The key coalition partner, Bhum Jai Thai, led de facto by Newin Chidchob, is despised by Pheu Thai, which is losing a number of MPs to the former’s financial seduction, widely estimated at Bt80 million per pair. This is not a deal to buy livestock. It’s an offer for MPs to switch camp. At present Bhum Jai Thai is cash rich, and a tempting offer of Bt40 million is difficult to turn down for MPs.

Prime Minister Abhisit has set a precondition that for any reconciliation talks to take place, Pheu Thai must display true intent and sincerity, and cease and desist from supporting subversive movements by the red shirts. Other Democrats simply believe that the goal is beyond reach. This condition is conceivably impossible for the red shirts to comply with because they can argue that they have nothing to do w

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‘Farang cannot know’ – even if they do understand

‘Farang cannot know’ – even if they do understand
Published: 31/08/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

James, a 60-year-old American who lives in Khon Kaen with his Isan wife, still cannot get over the deadly incident in Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong area on May 19, 2010. He has expressed his anger over the state’s “crackdown” on red-shirted demonstrators and the arrest of the core leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).

CNN’s award-winning correspondent Dan Rivers was savaged for his reporting on the protests.
James believes that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government is not sincere about pushing for political reforms and that it only aims at preserving the power of the traditional elite.

Meanwhile in Bangkok, Brian, 45, an Australian expat working at a private bank on Silom Road, applauded the government for its decisive operation against the red shirts who had paralysed Bangkok’s upscale shopping district for three months. Brian thought most of the protesters were uneducated and had been manipulated by an evil man, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and that they simply did not understand democracy.

These are just two examples but they show that stereotypes on both sides of the expat fence are as crude today as they are entrenched. While some farangs who have settled in the North and Northeast with their Thai wives wish to identify themselves as part of the red shirt movement spearheading an agenda to eliminate double standards and social injustice, other farangs who work in the capital seem to support the elitist politics, probably as it corresponds better with their values and interests of resisting a shift in the status quo.

Clearly, not only is the political fault-line running deep among the Thai people, but it also cuts through foreigners residing in Thailand whose lives have been affected one way or another by the current conflict.

For farangs who have become sympathetic with the red shirts, their political opinions have often been construed as something of a threat to the traditional elite. When this threat grows large, the Thai elite find ways to discredit their views, humiliate their status in Thai society, even label them as “the other” in the perfect world of Thai nationhood.

Traditionally, the general Thai view is that some farangs may know a lot about Thai politics, culture, way of life and so on, but they will never be able to reach the core of Thai-ness.

Australian Conor David Purcell, a staunch red shirt activist who incited the crowds.
Farang professors might have spent years studying Thailand, but they will never understand the country in the same way the Thais do. It is with this assumption that the Thai elite continue to build protective walls against the interference from resident foreigners.

As the political conflict became increasingly brutal, the traditional elite embarked on stirring up a sense of xenophobia among the Thais.

As a result, some members of the Thai public have shown their disapproval of those certain farangs whose political viewpoints are different from theirs.

The case of the CNN reporting on the Thai crisis exemplifies how the discourse of “farangs-who-know-little-about-Thailand” has been played up in order to conceal the ugliness of Thai politics.

Most Thais who have access to CNN, particularly those who have been well-exposed to international media, were quick to bring into disrepute the credibility of the American global news network.

CNN was criticised for its allegedly biased coverage of the military operation to contain the red shirts’ protest. Its correspondent, Dan Rivers, bore the brunt of criticism for his alleged “misinformation, generalisation and prejudice” as he reported the story of Thailand’s conflict to the outside world. Some Thai patriots condemned Mr Rivers for failing to properly explain the political context prior to the violent clashes of May 2010.

For Thais, although Mr Rivers may be an award-winning correspondent for CNN, he “obviously lacks knowledge of Thai politics”.

But all these allegations obscured the fact that some local media openly adopted a pro-government stance and rarely published any statements from the red shirt movement.

Mr Rivers was undoubtedly reconstructed into a threat to the elites’ view of the world, their power and their reputation on the global stage.

There was even an ungrounded rumour going around that Mr Rivers had an Isan wife and was thus prejudiced in favour of the red shirts.

Mr Rivers refuted the rumour in one of his tweets: “To those who say I am married to a northeasterner – yes that’s true, my wife is from the northeast: Australia, not Thailand! And she ain’t a red shirt.”

The CNN correspondent is not the first and will not be the last casualty of Thailand’s political polarisation. Some of his journalist colleagues were branded “ill-equipped” to report on the Thai situation. Others were investigated for violating the lese-majeste law, including BBC correspondent Jonathan Head.

Outside the media world, a few pro-red shirt farangs have been prosecuted, jailed and deported. In this process, their intelligence was insulted not only by Thais but also by other farangs who stood on the opposite side.

Thai and farang alike did not protest when Australian Conor David Purcell and Briton Jeff Savage, who were seen at the anti-government rally, were arrested. They probably believed Mr Purcell and Mr Savage knew nothing about the Thai conflict but had agreed to support the red shirts because they wanted to become famous.

This Thai aspect regarding expatriate foreigners unveils an irony that has long persisted in Thai society. In retrospect, the traditional elite have always viewed themselves as being caught in the dilemma of whether to wipe out the threatening farang culture or to welcome its modernity. Domestically, such a dilemma emerges as a challenge to Thai leaders, either to pursue a highly nationalistic policy in order to defend something “Thai”, or to celebrate a pluralistic society. Today, the mounting Thai xenophobia has the potential to deconstruct the country’s image as a land of great hospitality and open-mindedness towards foreign residents and guests.

More quintessentially, the discourse on the “impenetrable Thai world” has continued to arbitrarily serve as a political shield for traditional leaders to undermine any threat that arises from the supposedly incompatible farang world.

——————————————————————————–

Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

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unpleasant truths Seminar says reporting on red rally self-censored

MEDIA

Seminar says reporting on red rally self-censored
Published: 3/07/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

Local media exercised self-censorship in reporting the red shirt demonstrations because of the divisive nature of the conflict, journalists and activists say.

Thepchai: ‘Media censored itself’
Thepchai Yong, managing director of the Thai Public Broadcasting Corporation (TPBS), said it was difficult for both Thai and foreign media to report on the 2-month-long red shirt rally because citizens, especially those in Bangkok, were highly emotional about the issue.

“With society split about the legitimacy of the red shirt protest, the media had to walk a fine line and that resulted in them censoring themselves in their coverage,” Mr Thepchai told a seminar on “Trends and Dynamics of Media Freedom in Thailand’s Political Context” organised by Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Security and International Studies and the European Union.

He said the media were not afraid of the power of the state, but did not want to further polarise society so unpleasant truths went unreported.

“There’s nothing much to say about media freedom; the problem is about how the media chooses to explain things,” he said.

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch said the Thai media had not adequately represented the red shirts’ side of the conflict.

There was also hostility against foreign media unlike after May 1992 when journalists from abroad were lauded for their investigative work.

Critics of the red shirt movement fiercely criticised foreign media coverage of the political unrest, saying outlets such as the BBC and CNN gave little coverage in their reporting on the political situation to violent acts committed by red shirt protesters.

Mr Sunai said that government propaganda had created fear among professionals in the media and lessened its role as a watchdog, a situation that worries human rights activists.

Alastair Leithead, a Bangkok-based BBC correspondent, said that despite their years of experience many foreign news organisations are still struggling to achieve balance and accuracy in their reporting.

He said both sides of the political divide had used propaganda effectively on social networking websites such as Twitter.

“Foreign media such as CNN and BBC might be highly criticised during the past few months because the Thai people felt their country’s image as a land of smiles has been hurt. But whatever the case, don’t shoot the messenger,” he said.

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reportes without borders

http://en.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/REPORT_RSF_THAILAND_Eng.pdf

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http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/investigation/185910/reform-or-repression

Reform or repression?
Early signs are that media reform – named as one of four government priorities for national reconciliation – may run counter to guarantees of media freedom unless mechanisms for independence are built in
Published: 11/07/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Spectrum

Since the lead-up to the suppression of red shirt protesters on May 19, the media – both local and international – have come under scrutiny and criticism as never before.

A STAR IS BORN: Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the spokesman for the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations, shows off an M79 grenade launcher at a news conference.
At the same time the government has accelerated attempts to get its own message across. This was particularly obvious in announcements from the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations (CRES) at the height of the unrest, when CRES spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd became the heartthrob of countless females through his many appearances on the TV screen to update the situation. The successful branding of Col Sansern reflects the role of the media, especially the many state-owned outlets, in instilling images, ideas and beliefs, and in effect engaging in the manufacture of consent for the government’s actions. Indeed, even many of the terms the colonel used became popular catch phrases.

The suppression of the red shirt protesters resulted in 90 dead and more than 1,800 injured, but many television channels and newspapers opted to give priority to the story of Col Sansern. Thai PBS carried an interview with him only a day after the dispersal of the protesters.

The media’s attention has likewise been diverted from the coverage of many other important issues, including amendments agreed to by the Senate on May 30, to the draft bill on Frequency Allocation, Radio, Television, and the Telecommunication Regulatory Agency (FARTTRA), which sets up an independent agency to oversee the allocation of all frequencies. The bill was drafted in 2008 to replace an earlier “people’s” draft bill on frequency allocation.

THE OFFICIAL LINE: In May the government’s public relations department gave community radio stations these ‘scripts’ to read, urging red shirt protesters to go home.
The Senate amended two crucial components of FARTTRA. The first amendment allowed the addition of commissioners from the security sector and also allowed representatives from the security sector to take part in the committee selection process for the independent agency – the National Broadcasting and Communications Commission (NBCC), which will replace the present National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

The second amendment stipulated that the security sector be allocated an “adequate” number of frequencies.

Suthep Wilailert of the Campaign for Popular Media Reform (CPMR) expressed concern that the Senate amendments violate the principles of the draft people’s media reform bill and the constitution.

He said the Senate used the present conflict situation to justify giving the military the right to intervene in the legislative process and control the proposed independent media agency and the allocation of frequencies.

The CPMR has been campaigning for more than a decade to take frequencies back from the army and other state agencies for the public use. In the past the majority of the frequencies were concentrated in the hands of the army and associated organisations. The army still holds 201 radio frequencies and owns TV Channel 5; it also oversees the concession for TV Channel 7.

The CPMR, which believes it will not be possible for frequency allocation to be fair and independent in the future if army representatives are allowed on the NBCC, has called on members of Parliament to take another look at the draft bill and the proposed amendments. “We would like to call on all media to follow up on the issue as well,” Mr Suthep said, adding that the media should place priority on the interests of the people.

TAMING THE AIRWAVES

WAR ZONE: Reporters and photographers covering the protest in the Silom area. The recent unrest put the media in the crossfire both literally and figuratively. PHOTO: APICHIT JINAKUL
Wicha Oonoak of the Community Radio Federation discussed another major media freedom issue – the shadow of the CRES over community radio stations and the internet.

“This has been done to weaken democracy and political awareness. Community radio stations now must avoid discussing political issues. I was summoned before the CRES and asked not to discuss politics. They even gave us a script to read at our station,” said Mr Wicha.

The director of the CRES, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, has often maintained that the government has never tried to place restrictions on media coverage and freedom of expression. But the reality, said Pisit Sriprasartthong of the Citizen-net Network, is that more than 9,000 websites have been blocked by the CRES since the declaration of the emergency decree, and many remain blocked.

“There is no clear reason given for blocking them,” he said, adding that the online alternative media site Prachatai, which is very popular among intellectuals in the country, was blocked for many months.

Under the emergency law the CRES has authority to shut down any radio and television stations it considers to be a threat to national security.

The best information available is that 5,874 community radio stations have been allowed to renew their licences under the emergency decree, but renewal has been delayed in the case of 743 stations and 14 have had their licences revoked.

Many hosts at community radio stations which are still on the air say they are in a state of self-censorship and don’t discuss politics at all, as the CRES can send its people to raid any station it deems is violating the nebulous emergency law at any time. “We are now turning into tame people who dare not speak about anything, even if we are not red shirt supporters. We discuss general issues for a short period of time and then turn to popular music,” said the host of a community radio programme who asked not to be named, adding that the present situation is contrary to the intent of the broadcasting services allocation act.

“We know that we should not become propaganda machines but there is no other way that we can survive under the decree; we have no power and no say.

“The CRES has sent their men to crack down on many of our friends’ stations. They tore down all the signal poles and seized their equipment,” said the programme host.

His station has also been shut down, although no equipment was destroyed or seized. He said the CRES exercised its authority by different means.

“First, it accused us of operating without a licence, but we showed them that under the NBT [National Broadcasting Telecommunications Act] we were allowed to operate for 300 days. Then they raised another law, the BE 2498 [1945] Telecommunication-Radio Act. They can find any reason to suppress us,” said the host.

Another programme host at a community radio station in a province near Bangkok, who also asked not to be named, expressed his reasons for submitting to the CRES after his station was ransacked and shut down.

“I think they are showing mercy in only charging us with violating the BE 2498 law. They are kind enough not to charge us with terrorism,” said the man, who was once an outspoken advocate for freedom of expression. He then said he is not affiliated with the red group and admitted that deep down he does not agree with the CRES’ charge. He also cannot understand why his station was torn apart. He said that he and the other hosts did not discuss any political issues or anything that would harm national security, but only agricultural issues and the economy.

“We have to accept our fate. We live under an emergency decree, we have no say. If we say too much, we will be charged with more. Who will help us?” he asked.

Under the emergency law even the NBTC cannot exercise its mandate to oversee the airwaves. When Commissioner Pana Thongme-arkom was asked why many community radio stations had been shut down, his answer was that the country is under the emergency law. He added that the agency had only sent people to assist the CRES.

“The BE 2498 Telecommunication-Radio Act is among the 18 acts that are under the control of the emergency decree,” he said.

Many red shirts say they can’t understand why ASTV is still allowed to broadcast, given its obvious bias toward the yellow camp. Mr Pana responded that the station’s operation is protected by an Administrative Court ruling from Nov 14, 2008.

TOO MUCH POWER
In shutting down community radio stations, websites and the People’s TV Channel (PTV) the government makes it harder for the red shirt leaders to put their message out, but the downside is that it may actually be helping their cause in the long run. Ironically, a number of red shirt protesters claimed that the reason they joined the Bangkok rallies is that their lines of communication, especially PTV, were put out of operation by the government.

“We felt that it was unfair to prevent our right to know,” said a red shirt who is now back home in a Northeastern province.

Ms Jintana, who works at a private company, said she began to have sympathy for the red shirts when she learned that the CRES was screening their text messages. “I think the government is using too much of its power,” she said.

Many media professionals agree, and say Deputy PM Suthep’s claim that the CRES has never interfered with the media is unacceptable.

Thapanee Aiemsrichai, a member of a TV Channel 3 crew who covered the protests intensively, shared her experiences at a seminar held recently at Chulalongkorn University. She said that she has become more aware of the limitations on media since “we are asked to give co-operation to the government”.

She said she was unable to report everything that she learned, and only managed to get information out on some of the incidents she witnessed by sending Twitter messages to friends.

In some seminars since the May 19 crackdown the media has become the target of attacks.

Recently Chulalongkorn University issued a letter of apology to media personnel who were verbally abused by red shirt supporters after sharing their experiences at a seminar at the university.

Meanwhile, media organisations are becoming involved in the media reform plans which the Abhisit Vejjajiva government has named as one of four priorities for national reconciliation. Many media professionals see this as merely an attempt to buy time, but others have been co-operative and even helped organise meetings with the government.

Supinya Klangnarong of the CPMR said that the best path to media reform is to accelerate the selection process of the independent NBCC as stipulated by the 2007 constitution and let this organisation take the lead. As noted above, frequency allocation is presently under the NBTC. Ms Supinya said that when there is no independent regulatory body to determine the designation of frequencies and other important issues, these issues become more complicated.

Saying that the media cannot do its job properly under the emergency law, she added: “The government should not host the reform as it does not have the trust of all sectors.” She suggested that the NBCC should be in charge of public hearings and receive input from all sectors in the reform effort.

Wasan Paileeklee, the president of the Radio and Television Council, agreed that all sectors should be involved in the process of reform. He said: “If we want to achieve media reform, we need to look at both media organisation and content. The media should be able to send a high-quality, well-rounded and unbiased message.”

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http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/192052/teaching-our-kids-about-democracy-and-dictatorship

Opinion » Opinion

LET IT BE

Teaching our kids about democracy and dictatorship
Published: 20/08/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

In July, police served arrest warrants on 5 university students from the Rajabhat University’s Chiang Rai campus and a high school student, for organising and participating in an anti-government protest. At the time, Chiang Rai was under the emergency decree and the students were charged with “gathering in public with more than 5 people, stirring public unrest, presenting and distributing news through print and other messages that could cause fear among the population, or distorting news and information that leads to misunderstanding about the emergency situation which affects national security”.

All the students did was write up cardboard signs which stated: “I saw dead people at Ratchaprasong”, “Prime Minister, don’t revoke the Emergency Decree because the government will collapse”, “The Emergency Decree must be maintained to conceal the truth”.

They were also wearing surgical masks on which were written the words “Reconciliation” and “No love for a dictatorial government”. They walked around the local market and all the way up to the provincial governor’s office before they were arrested.

Police said they were monitoring the students’ Facebook folios which contained messages considered to be of a similar offence. The high school student’s notebook computer was confiscated.

Later, it was reported in Thai-language newspapers that the mother of the high school student and another local businessman who was seen talking to the protesters were also called in to report to police. The high school student was also asked to join a psychological treatment programme but the mother refused and told reporters there was nothing wrong with her child, that he was healthy physically and mentally.

It remains uncertain how the case will proceed since the emergency decree has since been lifted in Chiang Rai. At least the police have decided to return the student’s computer notebook after it had been sent to Bangkok for examination by the police forensics department.

The paranoia, however, is widespread.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education circulated a memo to all universities asking for cooperation in supervising the students’ political activities. Education Minister Chinaworn Boonyakiart explained that this did not mean the ministry would prohibit the activities as students could decide on their own what they would like to do, but that their activities should coincide with the government’s initiative on national reform and reconciliation.

The memo is viewed by many as part of a planned campaign by the government to suppress any differences in opinion.

In a separate incident two days ago, at a function organised by the Political Science Department of Chulalongkorn University, 6-7 students held signs to protest against Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who had been invited to speak. The 7 signs included previous statements by Mr Abhisit when he was leader of the Opposition, such as: “The government must listen, whether to one person or a hundred thousand”, “I would like to see the government protecting the people more”, “Dissolving the House and returning power to the people is better than continuing on the path of destruction”. These are words Mr Abhisit seems to have forgotten once he became prime minister.

Other phrases, in English, displayed the immortal words of President John F Kennedy, such as “Political action is the highest responsibility of a citizen” and “Justice delayed is democracy denied”.

The students were stopped by security guards and a university professor, who confiscated the signs. It was reported the professor also told the students, “This is my place, sue me!”

He later explained that the students had at first refused to give him the placards, and since this was an academic and not a political function, he had to ensure a “peaceful environment” for everyone, not just the prime minister.

Another student who intended to hand Mr Abhisit a protest letter was also barred, but she cried out “Mr Prime Minister!” and caught his attention. She was successful in submitting the letter, which basically called for the PM to dissolve the House and call fresh elections, to accept differences in opinion and to be accountable for wrongdoings.

All the three incidents are disturbing.

The emergency powers are designed to ensure peace and stability in the face of violent acts from rioting to terrorism. It is designed as a tool to protect democracy and freedom, not to be abused and used to infringe upon citizens’ basic rights and liberties.

In disregard for democratic principles, this government adopted the emergency decree as a rule book in political suppression of the opposition. The hardline attitude is signalled through interviews and press conferences to the bureaucracy and government political sympathisers which in turn implement it as policy and/or start a witch-hunt, online and off.

Why shouldn’t university or high school students be allowed to express their political views? Of all the places, the Political Science Department of Chulalongkorn University should be the hotbed of freedom of expression. The university should take pride that its students have the courage and conscience in proclaiming their beliefs through democratic means. They should be allowed to protest.

Academic and political freedom go hand in hand. Intolerance by a professor is unacceptable.

Instead, he could have been more accommodating by setting a clear boundary and rules of engagement so that both sides learn to tolerate differences and take in a lesson in democracy.

The Ministry of Education should rescind its memo on the supervision of political activities since this sends the wrong signal. Reconciliation and reform can only occur through building trust, with a willingness to listen and work out the roots of the conflict. If people are not allowed to express themselves other than the official version of the truth, there is no use in calling for public participation – it will only enforce the view that the whole process is just a charade played by the government.

One of the signs held up at Chulalongkorn University carried JFK’s warning: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Heed those words, for it is a choice for the future we all will have to live with.Suranand Vejjajiva served in the Thaksin Shinawatra cabinet and is now a political analyst

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