June 28, 2012
Thailand may have chaired the UN’s Human Rights Council but no case more clearly demonstrates Thailand’s total disregard for human rights than that of PULO.
The Patani United Liberation Organisation was founded in 1968 although there had been an active separatist movement since at least 1941. PULO’s demand was for separation of the five Southern Muslim provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani, Songkhla and Satun.
These provinces were part of the autonomous sultanate of Patani which was divided by King Chulalongkorn when he sold four lower Patani provinces (Saiburi, renamed Kedah; Kelantan; Perlis; and Terengganu) to England in 1910 in order to finance a railway unifying Thailand from north to south. It goes without saying that this division was accomplished with no representation by Malays.
The principal target of PULO for bombings was this very railroad; the bombings were always announced and very few were ever hurt. The principal effect was delay and inconvenience to passengers giving them ample time to contemplate the resentment and frustration of Patani. Patani has become the very poorest region in Thailand not least due to the horrific body count.
Despite a massive military and police presence under continuous martial law, since 2004, 4,800 have been killed, 6,000+ wounded, more than 5,000 arrested, 21 executed by death penalty and 21 serving life sentences. While the causes to resort to violence are abundantly clear, unbelievably, govt ‘intelligence’ has not been able to identify the actual insurgents (which they number between 500 and 15,000!) or the sources of their weapons.
Patani’s recent violent insurgency has nothing whatsoever to do historically or logistically with PULO. Yet Thai govt is making Useng a scapegoat for the violence they have been unable to stop by brute military force. In fact, Useng appears to have been sentenced simply for his opinions; the Criminal Court would not have dropped his charges were he accused of any violent act.
Should be be inclined to trust such matters to judicial fairness, note that the Criminal Court of First Instance dropped all charges against Useng. The Public Prosecutor appealed the ruling (of course) and the Appeals Court was inclined to the death penalty. This was precisely the same judicial scenario as that against the three Palace servants accused to regicide in the death of King Ananda.
Keep them coming back to court until we get the right verdict: Guilty!
FREE USENG! FREE PATANI!
June 24, 2012
Bangkok Post: June 9, 2012
Amidst the ballyhoo of black-screen TV, broadcast-rights rivalry, football fracas, reconciliation war and constitution horror, we return to visit the most beloved media agency of all: the Cultural Surveillance Office, aka the Rottweiler, the guardian of Thainess, or the Department of Propriety.
Last month, the Culture Ministry made a surprising move: they transferred (“promoted”) Ladda Tangsupachai, the controversial head of the surveillance office whose past record inspires shudders among artists, singers, actors, and anyone who dares test the limits of official appropriateness. Ms Ladda’s new post is analyst and supervisor of the southern cultural policy, an appointment that has sparked an impromptu joke about the South bearing the brunt, once again, of Central prejudices and conservatism.
Whether or not there’s a political angle to this move is a moot point, one can never judge the depths of such a labyrinth. Ms Ladda’s latest involvement was to push for the new bill to drum up the funding for “safe and creative media” – a name that evokes either easy optimism or necessary caution, for “safe”, in linguistic cartwheeling can be a euphemism for censorship. The details of the law, which has been proposed to parliament, are not available, but the earlier draft contains a clause that the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission should inject money into the fund which will be distributed to “producers of safe content”, whatever that means. It was widely expected that Ms Ladda, a senior officer, would supervise the funding once the law had been passed. But now, no more.
While parliament, which has recently adopted the lively bar-room brawl and thuggish tournament style, is embroiled in the reconciliation mess, the “safe media” bill is likely to wait. But let’s make sure we keep an eye on it. Not that we don’t want safe TV, but we shouldn’t confuse precaution with prohibition, and protection with moral paranoia.
That last term is what we often attribute to a surveillance agency. Ms Ladda’s transfer ended her long tenure at the cultural watchdog marred by resentment, scandals, and even T-shirts bearing her infamous quote. To be honest, there have been sighs of relief at the news of her move. But to be fair, Ms Ladda, to whom I talked personally on a few occasions, is a steadfast believer in her cause: to protect the nobility of Thai culture and weed out unpleasant surprises, from short skirts to TV bitchfests. She’s a crusader on the eternal horseback to Jerusalem – her war cry is authentic, and her dogmatism is transparent. Her run-ins with the more liberal sections of society illustrate the wider contest to own, or define, the meaning of Thai culture in the 21st century.
It’d take hours to revisit her high-profile outcries at media “indecency’, but here are the two most infamous cases: in 2008, Ms Ladda gave an interview to Time magazine [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1670261,00.html] and described Thai film audiences as “uneducated” and thus needing parenting from the ministry (somebody made T-shirts featuring the quote); then last year, she angered many by speaking out against a hit soap series and the portrayal of its men-lusting female lead, which led to an episode of national hysteria.
Symptomatic though not necessarily emblematic, Ms Ladda is easily villainised, sometimes unfairly. The problem is not her; the problem is the fact that the government blithely believes that something called the Cultural Surveillance Office is even necessary. As if we were a mansion so susceptible to cultural vandalism, or a terminal patient in need of 24-hour vigilance, or an ungodly girl under perpetual threat of demonic possession. The fact that we still need to spend tax money on this agency is an issue worthy of public hearing. And that the government still relies on the watchdog’s (dis) service betrays the feudal mindset that it believes the people are so weak they can’t think for themselves.
Society should be trusted to be its own watchdog. Top-down control isn’t working any more in the new environment of great flux, of rapid advances in technology, and of heady, global interconnectedness that keeps redefining “culture”. Civic bodies, consumers organisations, industry associations – say, TV producers or filmmakers – and the audiences themselves should be encouraged to have the power to control the media’s performance and to decide what’s appropriate and what’s not in an organic way. Governmental parenting is as dated as last week’s football results, and the Culture Ministry is too valuable to spend its time, like East German thought police, carrying out surveillance on the people. It’s a shame that they still don’t realise this at this hour.
Kong Rithdee is Deputy Life Editor, Bangkok Post
An atheist pianist is charged with insulting Islam.
Newsweek: June 11, 2012 1:00 AM EDT
Fazil Say, a 42-year-old Turkish pianist and composer, was only 17 when he moved to Germany to study music. At 21 he was teaching at the Berlin Academy. His success carried him to New York, where he lived for seven years; during that time he performed with major orchestras like the New York Philharmonic. He eventually moved back to Turkey, “partly because I missed my country, and partly because I wanted to contribute to the art environment there,” he wrote in an email.
Yet he did not find peace at home. Last week the Turkish court accepted an indictment against him for allegations of insulting Islam. About two months ago, the openly atheist Say wrote a tweet mocking the muezzin, a person who leads the call to prayer in a mosque. “The muezzin finished the azan in 22 seconds. What’s the rush? A lover? A raki table?” he asked. He also retweeted a verse attributed to the 11th-century poet Omar Khayyám: “You say rivers of wine flow in heaven, is heaven a tavern for you? You say two houris await each believer there, is heaven a brothel to you?”
He no longer tweets and recently disabled his account. “First I have to clear these charges against me. I’ve been libeled,” he says. “I did not insult Islam. I just retweeted a verse that I thought was funny. 165 others retweeted that verse the same night but I am the only one being tried.”
The Say incident did not spark a much-needed freedom-of-expression debate in Turkey due to the systematic disparaging of the pianist by many pro-government commentators. But he received support from international media and pro-secular Turkish columnists, and a Turkish classical-music magazine organized a petition. Say, a persona non grata in the eyes of the followers of the AKP, the hugely popular governing party, is no stranger to isolation in Turkey. In 2007, when the AKP came into power for a second term, he announced his plans to leave the country. AKP officials often target him, and most recently one Parliament member wrote on Twitter: “Which brothel were you born in Say?”
At the same time, Say is a superstar among secularists in Turkey’s highly polarized environment. In 2010, when his Istanbul Symphony debuted in Istanbul, the crowd cheered him with a 17-minute standing ovation. His political comments and occasional flings with famous women polish his celebrity status, while classical-music experts admire his talent. He tours approximately 250 days of the year. But he did mark on his calendar Oct. 17—the date his trial is to begin—to be in Istanbul.
“Everybody knows that separating musicians from an instrument for more than three-four months will ruin their career,” he says about the possibility of imprisonment. “But I don’t want to think about it now.” Would he consider leaving Turkey again? “I’ve lived abroad for 17 years, and perhaps it’s time to move on,” he responds. “Moving to Tokyo is a possibility, I think living in the Far East will be good for me.”
Oray Egin is a Turkish journalist based in New York. His latest book was published in April 2011 in Turkey.
For inquiries, please contact The Daily Beast at email@example.com.
June 24, 2012
Agence France-Presse: June 19, 2012
Irshad Manji: https://www.irshadmanji.com/
A Malaysian Islamic court on Tuesday charged a bookstore manager with selling a book by a Canadian Muslim lesbian activist that was recently banned in the South-east Asian country.
Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz, who manages the bookstore chain outlet in the capital Kuala Lumpur, is accused of distributing Irshad Manji’s Allah, Liberty And Love. The Home Ministry banned the book last month after it was deemed offensive to Islam, contained ‘elements that could mislead the public’, and was ‘detrimental to public order’.
According to Manji’s website, the book ‘shows all of us how to reconcile faith and freedom in a world seething with repressive dogmas’.
Nik Raina faces up to two years in jail and a fine if the Islamic court finds her guilty, her lawyer Rosli Dahlan said. No plea was recorded on Tuesday with the next court date set for Sept 19.
June 24, 2012
Global Voices: June 21, 2012
A group of Salafists attacked an art exhibition, Le Printemps des Arts, in La Marsa, (north suburb of Tunis) destroying some of the art works deemed blasphemous to Islam. The small, yet grave incident, soon grew in proportion when hundreds of Salafists – or thugs – attacked a police station in La Marsa, burnt a tribunal in Sidi Hussein (south of Tunis) and stopped police and firefighters from intervening. Clashes with police were reported in two neighborhoods throughout metropolitan Tunis and coastal city Sousse.
The aftermath led to a curfew, starting from Monday, June 12th, after the escalation of violence, in Metropolitan Tunis, Sousse, Monastir, Tabarka, and in other inland regions, including Gabes and Ben Guerdane.
An Interior Ministry official was quoted by the media as saying 162 people had been detained and 65 members of the security forces wounded in the incident.
Since a photography exhibition started such unprecedented hatred and upheaval in the country, the course of the events will be reported in photographs as well. Dozens of pictures were shared among Tunisian citizens who couldn’t hide their astonishment – or perhaps amusement – regarding this strange incident.
The controversial photos
Netizens shared the photographs, deemed both blasphemous and insulting to Muslims in Tunisia, on social networks. Their exhibition permitted some hardline Islamists to call for the murder of the young artists who created them. Another fatwa (religious edict) was also issued to murder prominent politicians.
Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni captured the damages created by the Salafi riot on two police stations in La Marsa and Carthage Byrsa.
The government condoned the allegations against the artists, fueling more tension and division among the Tunisian society. The minister of culture reiterated that there were indeed art works, offensive to Islam, and criticized the artists “lack of knowledge” and “amateurishness”. He publicly undermined the meaningfulness and beauty of the photos at the exhibitions. Meanwhile, calls for more protests and violence did not stop.
The government’s reaction triggered the outcry of Tunisian netizens who preferred to express themselves with caricatures and photos.
Willis Fromtunis, shared caricatures to stress the irony of the situation:
The irony in these two lines is while artists – or writers – accused of blasphemy in the Muslim world are often tried under charges such as disturbing public order, it is usually other people who cause this trouble to the public order and who go unpunished.
Other citizens couldn’t hide their frustration with the government, the current situation, and the increasing Salafi phenomena.
Mehdi Mabrouk: Minster of non-Culture and Ignorance. [Caroline Law]
[Facebook page “United Pages for Gossip.”]
We wish a safe trip to he/she, that wishes for the Saudi/Afghan model. We are in Tunisia here.
Salafi n°1: AAA, How ugly! This painting hurts my feelings! Destroy it now! Salafi n°2: Boss, it’s a mirror. [Facebook page Flask.]
[Facebook page VTV Villains TV]
A new flash mob has reappeared in social media. The flash mob was originally made some months before by two Tunisian civil society associations, Engagement Citoyens and ACTIF.
There are not two Tunisias; One for the rich and one for the poor.
There are no two Tunisias; One for the youth and the other for the elderly.
There are no two Tunisias; One for the university graduates and another for those who don’t have university degrees.
There aren’t two Tunisias; One of the coastal regions and another of the inland regions.
There aren’t two Tunisias; One for the liberals and another for the conservatives.
There aren’t two Tunisias; One for the employed and another for the unemployed.
One for those who live in Tunisia and another for those who live abroad.
One for the governors and another for the governed.
There aren’t two Tunisias; One for Men and one for women.
Women’s rights in Tunisia is a prerequisite.
Halt to division.
Today, we need to fight for the right of employment, freedom and dignity.
The video exists in both French and Arabic.
Other photos have appeared to reunite Tunisians, those who are religious and those who aren’t.
If you pray, good for you. If you don’t, then may God help you. However, don’t forget; Tunisia is for me and you.
The curfew was lifted on Friday, June 15th, and the situation is now under control.
June 22, 2012
Conservatives strike blow for freedom
Tories yank Section 13 of human rights act like noxious weed
QMI Agency: June 11, 2012
To understand how Canada got an Internet censorship law, also known as Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, you must go back in time to 1913.
That’s when John Ross Taylor was born in Toronto.
Something about Taylor just wasn’t right. In his 20s, as the world lurched towards the Second World War, Taylor openly sided with the Nazis. He was interned during the war. After the war, despite the absolute repudiation of Nazism, Taylor didn’t give up hope. He continued to call for Canadians to throw off our liberal democracy in favour of dictatorship. And, of course, he seasoned that with a dose of anti-Semitism and anti-black racism, too.
It was pitiful: He’d print up some pamphlets, climb to the top of an office tower, and dump them off the roof, like confetti, hoping that would foment a revolution. What a deluded loser. But Taylor was never violent. If you turn the sound off when watching reels of him on the news, you’d mistake him for a banker — always dressed in a three-piece suit, the kind of thing you’d expect from the grandson of a Toronto alderman. But he just wanted an all-white Reich here in Canada.
Obviously this bothered right-minded people after the war, especially Jews in Canada, many of whom were survivors of the Holocaust. Canada’s Official Jews — the bosses of the now-defunct Canadian Jewish Congress — pressed their friends in the Liberal Party for laws banning Taylor’s anti-Semitic rants. And in 1966, a committee appointed by the justice minister proposed new laws to ban hateful speech. The Cohen Commission specifically mentioned Taylor by name as a rationale.
Using this harmless buffoon as an excuse, they recommended infringing on freedom of speech for all Canadians. “There is an evident distinction between ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’ public discussion, and the state has as great an obligation to discourage the latter as it has to maintain the former,” they wrote.
So in 1977, Parliament passed the Canadian Human Rights Act, and Section 13 made it illegal to publish anything “… likely to expose a person … to hatred or contempt.”
Well, around that time, telephone answering machines were all the rage. And Taylor, now a senior citizen, saw this as his magic weapon for convincing Canadians to go fascist. He would stand around street corners in Toronto, handing out cards inviting people to get a racist message by calling his answering machine. Seriously.
Taylor was charged — and convicted — of having a mean answering machine message. He appealed it all the way to the Supreme Court — which heard the case in 1990, when he was 80. They ruled against him, four to three.
Gentle reader, do you think after such a stubborn life Taylor complied and unplugged his answering machine? He did not. And thus he served nine months in jail — more than most Canadian rapists do.
For more than 30 years, Section 13 had a 100% conviction rate for the thought crime of hurting someone’s feelings.
What an abusive law. What an un-Canadian law. What a ridiculous law in the age of the Internet.
Last week that law was pulled out, like a noxious weed. In 20 years time, I predict it will be regarded as one of the Conservatives’ greatest legacies: Freedom.
RedOrbit: June 10, 2012
Protesting regulations that they say are tantamount to online censorship, members of the hacking collective known as Anonymous gathered in more than a dozen cities throughout India Saturday — though according to some reports, the results of those assemblies were mixed.
According to Rajini Vaidyanathan of BBC News, members of the group organized their gatherings across 16 cities nationwide, including Mumbai, where an estimated 100 protesters donned their trademark Guy Fawkes masks in order to voice their disapproval of federal Internet laws.
“I’m here for internet freedom. There’s restrictions on speaking online. That’s why I’m here,” a 19-year-old student named Amisha, who attended the Mumbai event, told Vaidyanathan.
“India is following China and Iran. They don’t want the right information to reach people,” added a 20-year-old student Nishant, whose identity was obscured by sunglasses and a scarf. “There are some sites they’ve blocked for information which is relevant to us. Information which is useful to us as citizens of this country.”
Thousands had agreed to participate in the rallies, but far less actually turned out on Saturday, with members being “for the most part invisible” during the first hour, Abhimanyu Chandra of the weekly news magazine Tehelka reported. Furthermore, Chandra added that journalists, policemen, and tourists joined the actual protestors during the gathering, and that not everyone in attendance agreed with the group’s methods.
“I am unsure about their means of seeking their ends. Systematic taking down of websites… I’m not sure how I feel about that,” a Mumbai-based college student, who wished to remain anonymous, told Tehelka. Likewise, another referred to the group as “hypocritical” and adding, “You cannot fight authoritarianism by yourself being authoritarian. Hacking is a sort of violence,” while others expressed doubt that the protests would change anything.
“The Saturday evening protest included the distribution and presentation of Anonymous paraphernalia. Leaflets were distributed and Guy Fawkes masks were also available,” Chandra said. “A banner read: ‘The Corrupt Fear Us. The Honest Support Us. The Heroic Join Us.’ Posters proclaimed: ‘You can censor the internet, but not my mind;’ and ‘If the government shuts down the internet, keep calm and shut down the government.;”
“While it teemed with activity and conversation, the event was marked with some disorganization and a low turnout,” the Tehelka writer added. “Initially scheduled to take place at the Gateway of India, it was eventually held at Azad Maidan [and] the Delhi protest too saw a low turnout at Jantar Mantar.”
In related news on Saturday, officials from India’s top agency for dealing with cybersecurity contingencies told the Times of India that their website had not been attacked or taken offline, despite claims made by hackers affiliated with Anonymous earlier in the day.
The cyberattackers had claimed to have brought down the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) homepage with a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, but officials with the organization told the newspaper that those claims were “without any basis and at complete variance with the facts. The fact is that the website has been running continuously & uninterruptedly — including the whole of today.”
Despite those claims, reporters with the Times said that they were unable to access the CERT-IN website on Saturday morning for “a few hours,” and that “a check with http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com, a tool that can tell a web user if a website is down or not, revealed that CERT-IN was inaccessible.”
Last Wednesday, Anonymous also claimed that they had attacked the corporate website of state-owned telecommunications provider Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited.
The hackers claiming responsibility for the attack, which took down the company’s homepage for a minimum of six hours, said that they were targeted because they censored online content by blocking several file sharing websites, the Associated Press (AP) reported on June 6.