The Global Digest



Press Release

JOURNALISTS COVERING BURMA: TIME TO GET IT RIGHT!

Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(dictatorwatch)
Oct 30, 2017

Suu Kyi and Min Aung Hlaing

One thing that is terrible about the situation in Burma is how international media coverage, including from excellent outlets such as the New York Times, the Guardian, and Channel News Asia, and who have reported on the Rohingya genocide fairly, misses other critical facts about the country, or implicitly gets them wrong.

The most important of these facts is this: The Burmans or Bamar ARE NOT the majority group. While they may be the largest group, they - especially pure Burmans, the recruits for Suu Kyi and Min Aung Hlaing’s campaign of nationalistic terror - do not comprise greater than 50% of the total population.

This is the only explanation for the refusal by Suu Kyi to publish the ethnicity date from the 2014 national census, and also part of the reason why the Rohingya were not even counted at all. Burma has many other ethnic groups, but not the inaccurate divisions used in the dictatorship’s 135 national races. While the major groups certainly have sub groups, the best way to view the country’s ethnic diversity is to simplify the analysis to the largest. These include the Karen, Shan, Kachin, Karenni, Mon, Palaung, Pa-O, Wa, Kokang, Naga, Lahu, Lisu, Akha, Chin, Rakhine, and Rohingya. (I’m not a human geographer, so I apologize for not including other smaller groups, and also perhaps listing some which might be considered to be subgroups of bigger families.)

It is no surprise at all that these groups, taken together, certainly when you count individuals who have parents or ancestors from multiple groups, including Burmans, are more than 50% of the population.

This is the dictatorship’s biggest conceit, and its greatest lie, that Burma is a majority Burman country: That, as their propaganda name “Myanmar” implies, it is “their” country. This view infects everything. It is the justification for: The colonial war by the Burma Army against the other ethnic nationalities; that the Burma Army itself, Parliament, and even the State governments, have no to very limited ethnic nationality representation; why Suu Kyi has historically refused to cooperate with the ethnic nationality resistance, and why she has no ethnic nationality staff or advisors; why she is pro-development - this means Burmans stealing the resources in the ethnic nationality homelands; and why there is a genocide against the Rohingya, and also their exclusion from the census. (The Rohingya population prior to all of their purges would have been going on two million. This would have been more than enough on its own to push the Burmans in the census to well under 50%.) There is a black hole in the country. For domestic media, they are almost all exclusively Burman, and repeat verbatim Suu Kyi and Min Aung Hlaing’s lies. Virtually everyone from outside in turn parrots the in-country outlets. This means, first and foremost, through acting as it if the ethnic nationalities, and their repression, do not count - that they do not even exist. Diplomats, for example, say that they have to keep backing Suu Kyi, even though they clearly understand that she is a co-conspirator in an actual genocide. But by doing this, they are focusing on an individual who DOES NOT represent the majority of the population. Foreign policy by other countries towards Burma is concentrated solely on accelerating resource and labor exploitation, and therefore backs the companies and other parties who are behind the exploitation.

Unfortunately, the international media, which does not have a money stake in the lies and repression, and which you would therefore presume would be fair, makes the same mistake. Consider Poppy McPherson’s article last week in the Guardian, “Rohingya crisis may be driving Aung San Suu Kyi closer to generals.”

Some quotes from the article: 1. “If Oxford University takes down one portrait of her, we want to create 2,000 more,” says the painter, who goes by the name K Kyaw.” Response: This is a Burman voice. The majority ethnic nationality voices disagree completely.

2. “In Myanmar, the condemnations [of Suu Kyi] are being met with both indignation and pleas for patience.” Response: Again a Burman complaint. The subtext is: “Let us finish the Rohingya genocide!”

3. “As longtime democracy activists fear a return to international isolation and military dominance, diplomats are torn between the need to stand on the right side of history and fear that stronger rebukes, such as sanctions, will further imperil the country’s fragile democratic transition.” Response: There is no genuine democratic transition. Diplomats don’t care about history, and are always on its wrong side, meaning that they do not support human progress and achieving human rights. They only care about money and power.

4. “The hope instilled in Aung San Suu Kyi – and fear of the alternative – has driven western policy towards Myanmar for years.” Response: Money - business interests, and geopolitical power, have been the only things driving Western policy, certainly not “democracy.”

5. “The state counsellor has been criticized for mulling over long-term solutions while neglecting to address the immediate crisis. Both publicly and privately, she is said to have echoed army rhetoric.” Response: the first part is complete bullshit. She’s not mulling over anything. She is a fully committed ally of the generals and is waiting - hoping - for the Rohingya genocide to be 100% completed.

6. “The EU has suspended invitations to Europe and is reviewing “all practical defense cooperation”. The US has promised to stop inviting senior army officials to events, but is considering imposing targeted sanctions.” Response: These are meaningless reactions to genocide. They are just for show, and only temporary. When the Rohingya genocide is completed and then forgotten in the international press, full on military cooperation including selling weapons to the Tatmadaw will resume.

7. “In the current situation, what the international community are doing is not supporting this government, what they are doing is putting the country back into the hands of authoritarian rule,” he says. “They are pushing the Lady and the military closer and closer.” Response: Again, total bullshit. The “government” is part and parcel of the dictatorship. Suu Kyi’s authoritarian “leadership” is now fully aligned with the genocidal generals.

In conclusion, Poppy McPherson did what literally almost every single journalist does. She ignored the ethnic nationalities completely - their voices, feelings and issues. She only quoted Burman voices, really, Burman racist ultranationalistic voices. Please journalists, you are intelligent. You were able to get your jobs in the age of media decline, and with the top remaining outlets. Don’t be lazy. Do your work. Understand the situation. Write the true story.
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Paediatric camp concluded at Guwahati Press Club



OPD clinic

Guwahati: Newly emerged Ayursundra Hospital conducted the last weekly evening OPD clinic at Guwahati Press Club (GPC) on 23 September 2017, where paediatrician Dr Sourav Gohain Duarah checked the health status of around ten children after calculating their their weight, height and blood pressures and advised their guardians accordingly.

Organized under the series of ‘Evening with a Doctor’ program, the Saturday camp also helped the guardians to get their blood pressure checked by the hospital nurses Jyotimoni Nath & Yashoda Rymbai with Govinda Keot. GM of the city based hospital Deepak Goayl and its PRO Satyabrat Barua were also present in the camp.

Earlier Dr K Appaji Krishnan from SIMS Hospital Chennai conducted the weekly camp at the press club premises. Till date, practicing doctors from Apollo Chennai Hospital, Manipal Bangalore Hospital, Fortis Hospital Bangalore, Medanta-the Medicity Hospital, GNRC Hospitals, Down Town Hospitals, Dispur Hospitals, Hayat Hospital, Nemcare Hospital, Sight First eye-clinic, Sun Valley Hospital etc have attended the camps.

On the occasion of World Physiotherapy Day (8 September), a daylong camp was organized, where senior physiotherapists namely Dr Kangkan Talukdar (PT), Dr Lopa Das (PT), Dr Pankaj Das (PT), Dr Pooja Saikia (PT), Dr Chinmoyee Boruah (PT) and Dr Lav Gahire (PT) checked the pain-related problems of the participants and offered free consultations.

Launched in August 2016 with initial supports from Dr Jayanta Bardoloi, managing director of Dispur Hospitals in raising a doctor's chamber at GPC premises, the series of weekly camps have already emerged as a ‘healthy hangout’ for the media persons with their family members. Some journalists with high blood pressure & sugar were diagnosed for the first time in these camps and advised for follow up actions.

Even though the camps are primarily organised for the benefit of press club members with their close relatives, any journalist of the region (also the country) with their family members may take the advantage of the clinics, said a statement issued by the GPC adding that similar initiatives are encouraged in other parts of the region as well.
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Four human rights defenders arrested for subversion in an escalating crackdown on dissent in Vietnam



Pastor Nguyễn Trung Tôn, Phạm Văn Trội, Trương Minh Đức and Nguyễn Bắc Truyển

PARIS, 31st July 2017 (VCHR) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) strongly condemns the arrests of four prominent human rights activists on Sunday 30th July, in an escalating crackdown on freedom of expression, assembly and religion in Vietnam. Phạm Văn Trội, Pastor Nguyễn Trung Tôn, Trương Minh Đức and Nguyễn Bắc Truyển are charged with subversion under Article 79 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code which carries sentences of up to life imprisonment or the death penalty.

On 30.7.2017, the Ministry of Public Security announced online that the four men are amongst a group of six who will be prosecuted in the case of “Nguyễn Văn Đài and his accomplices for activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s government.” The other two are human rights lawyer Nguyễn Văn Đài and his assistant Lê Thu Hà. Both have been in custody since December 2015 on charges of “spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (Article 88 of the Criminal Code). Following today’s announcement, however, they now face the much more serious charge of subversion under Article 79.

“Today’s arrests, coming on the heels of the harsh convictions of Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh and Trần Thị Nga, show Vietnam’s grim determination to suppress the human rights movement once and for all” said VCHR President Võ Văn Ái. “By detaining these dedicated human rights defenders, Vietnam is clearly aiming to nip the movement in the bud. Vietnam should immediately release these prisoners and cease this frenzied crack-down on dissent”.

The arrests on Sunday were made in a closely coordinated Police operation involving scores of Security Police. Phạm Văn Trội was arrested at his home in Hanoi, Pastor Tôn at his home in Thanh Hóa, and Trương Minh Đức in Ho Chi Minh City as he and his wife were buying medicines near their home. Police threw him into a car, and took the couple to the Security Police Investigations Bureau at 235 Nguyễn Văn Cư Street, where they read out an arrest warrant against Trương Minh Đức for “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s government.” His wife, Nguyễn Thị Kim Thanh said the warrant was dated 27th July. She asked the Police to give her a copy, but they refused. Nguyễn Bắc Truyển was also arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday. Police searched the men’s homes and confiscated documents and personal items.

All four are former political prisoners, detained for their human rights activities under vaguely-worded “national security” clauses in Vietnam’s Criminal Code. Phạm Văn Trội, born 1972, was sentenced to four years in prison and four years house arrest in 2009 for “spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (Article 88 of the Criminal Code) after he and others protested against Chinese encroachments on the Paracel and Spratly islands. Pastor Nguyễn Trung Tôn, born in 1971, was sentenced to two years in prison and two years house arrest in 2011 under the same charge. He is chairman of the unofficial “Brotherhood for Democracy” (Hội Anh Em Dân Chủ) founded by Nguyễn Văn Đài. In February 2017, Pastor Tôn was abducted and brutally beaten by hired thugs, and has suffered repeated harassments. Trương Minh Đức is a journalist, former correspondent for state-run newspapers such as Tuổi Trẻ, Thanh Niên and Pháp Luật, and a labour rights activist. Arrested in 2007 for writing articles denouncing official corruption, he was condemned to five years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State” (Article 258 of the Criminal Code). Nguyễn Bắc Truyển, born 1968, head of an association of former religious and political prisoners, served three and a half years in prison from 2006 - 2012 under Article 88 of the Criminal Code.

In 2009, following a submission filed by the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the detention of Phạm Văn Trội and Trương Minh Đức to be a violation of international law because their actions “merely represent the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of assembly and opinion and expression”.

This wave of arrests marks a new height in an alarming escalation of repression against human rights defenders, bloggers, civil society activists and followers of independent religions in Vietnam over the past few months. In June and July 2017 alone, Vietnam detained, deported and exported the following human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists: two prominent women, blogger Nguyện Ngọc Như Quỳnh and land/labour rights defender Trần Thị Nga were sentenced respectively to 10 and 9 years in prison (on 29th June and 25th July); dissident Lê Định Lượng was arrested in Nghệ An on charges of “subversion” (24 July); French-Vietnamese dissident and former political prisoner Phạm Minh Hoàng was stripped of his Vietnamese nationality and deported to France (25th June). Whilst the early release of Lutheran Pastor Nguyễn Công Chính on July 28th after serving five years of an 11-year sentence was a welcome development, his release was conditioned on his immediate departure for the United States. Pastor Chính must complete his prison sentence if ever he returns to Vietnam.

This crack-down is reinforced by Vietnam’s use of the law to reduce civil society space and criminalize the exercise of human rights. In July 2017, the Ministry of the Interior made public draft regulations regarding sanctions, including fines of up to 60 million VNĐ (US$ 2,640) on anyone who commits “administrative violations in the realm of belief or religion“. These regulations, if adopted as such, will virtually outlaw the activities of “non-registered” religious groups by exposing their members to penalties and exorbitant fines. “Vietnam uses repressive legislation to justify its relentless crackdown on dissidents and human rights defenders,” said VCHR President Võ Văn Ái. “The Government must use the ongoing revision of the Criminal Code to abrogate Articles 79, 88 and 258, and repeal all other laws and regulations that impede the exercise of freedom of opinion, expression, assembly and religion or belief”.
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Buddhist Youth Leader Lê Công Cầu goes on hunger strike to protest ban on visiting critically-ill UBCV leader Thích Quảng Độ



Hanoi has detained Thích Quảng Độ

PARIS, 15h May 2017 (VCHR) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) strongly protests the inhumane attitude of the Vietnamese government regarding Most Venerable Thích Quảng Độ, 89 year-old Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV). According to reports received from the UBCV, Thích Quảng Độ, who is in very poor health, called Lê Công Cầu, UBCV Secretary-general and head of the Buddhist Youth Movement yesterday (Sunday 14th May), asking him to come urgently to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to discuss his health situation and related UBCV affairs.

Lê Công Cầu, who lives in Huế, immediately purchased a plane ticket and was ready to travel to Saigon today, 15th May 2017. However, the Security Police, who monitor the telephones of both Thích Quảng Độ and Lê Công Cầu, intercepted the communication. Yesterday evening, Security Police came to Lê Công Cầu’s home in Huế and prohibited him travelling. Indeed, they forbade him from stepping outside his home on any pretext, even to buy food. The Police had no official orders, and refused to give any explication for this ban. Lê Công Cầu strongly denounces this arbitrary Police action, and is beginning a hunger strike from today until 22nd May in protest. As VCHR has reported, just last week Security Police harassed and interrogated Lê Công Cầu and other members of the UBCV’s Buddhist Youth Movement as they prepared to celebrate the Vesak (Birth of Buddha) in Huế.

“Hanoi has detained Thích Quảng Độ for decades, without any justification or charge”, said VCHR President Võ Văn Ái. “Today, when his health is failing, Police prevent him from receiving support from his followers. Vietnam should be ashamed of its base and inhumane treatment of Thích Quảng Độ, a Buddhist monk and scholar who is respected the world over for his life-long devotion to the cause of religious freedom, human rights and democracy in Vietnam”.

The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights calls on all governments, the United Nations, international institutions and civil society organizations to press Vietnam to lift all restrictions on Most Venerable Thích Quảng Độ and guarantee his right to communicate freely and receive visits from UBCV members; immediately lift the travel ban on Lê Công Cầu and enable him to visit Thích Quảng Độ, in conformity with Vietnam’s international obligations as a state party to the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
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Tripura web media forum launched



At the Forum

Agartala: Alternate media users among the practicing journalists of Tripura have taken a pioneering initiative to form an organization named Tripura Web Media Forum (TWMF) with an aim to pursue independent journalism from the alienated region of India.

The launching of the web media forum was initiated with a delegate conference and a dialogue on Web Media-Importance and Challenges on 20 February 2017 at Agartala Press Club. Veteran journalist of the State, Gautam Kar Bhowmik inaugurated the dialogue, where the key note address was delivered by senior journalist Nava Thakuria.

Agartala based senior journalist Pranab Sarkar was honoured with Justice SM Ali Award for Excellence in Journalism 2017 in the function. Syed Sajjad Ali, chief advisor of TWMF and Thakuria, who is the secretary of Journalists’ Forum Assam and Guwahati Press Club, handed over the award to Sarkar.

In his acceptance speech, Sarkar appreciated the forum for its endeavour and expressed happiness in receiving the award instituted in affectionate remembrance of Justice SM Ali, who was the first judicial officer from Tripura in Gauhati High Court, erstwhile the higher court for all northeastern States.

A tiny State of the region bordering Bangladesh, Tripura supports over 30 daily newspapers, few cable television channels and many news portals, mostly in Bengali with English and Kokborok language, where thousands are involved professionally. The State with an area of 10,492 sq km and population of 3.66 million (2012) has wide readership of print media outlets.

Presided over by the Tripura Chamber of Commerce & Industry chief ML Debnath, the dialogue witnessed vivid participations by the media persons including TWMF convener Santanu Biswas in response to Thakuria’s point of views on the alternate media. He termed it is the era of alternate media and the mainstream media outlets should (must) understand and reorganize to face the potential threats from the web media.

“There is no denying fact that the limitation, partiality and often biasness adopted by a section of mainstream newspaper and news channels have paved the way for the alternate media to grow in a faster pace. However, the web media is still lacking the credibility and it may need few more years to emerge the alternate media as a trusted medium,” said Thakuria.

An extensive user for the alternate media, Thakuria also pointed out that ‘today we are now living in a world of journalists as the number of citizen scribes has increased because of easy web access’. He however asserted that the committed journalist with professionalism would always remain the leader.

Thakuria also asked the young journalists to go for in-depth and analytical reports rather than merely reporting an event or incident. He also opined that a northeastern forum or even a national forum of web journalists is the need of the hour to deal with the growing influence and challenges faced by the new medium of mass communication.
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APFEJ asks for stern action against scribe’s killer



A dead body of journalist

Dhaka: Asia-Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists (APFEJ), while appreciating the Myanmar police for arresting three persons suspecting their role in the murder of Soe Moe Tun on 13 December last, urged the authority for stringent action against the culprits. The scribe’s forum argued that killing a journalist because of his reporting on environmental issues must not be ignored as it is against the Mother Nature.

It may be mentioned that the Sagaing region based Burmese journalist was targeted by the goons for his extensive investigation & coverage over the wood smuggling, illegal logging and mining in northwest Myanmar. The reporter, engaged with Daily Eleven newspaper, recently posted in his facebook account some details about the people involved with timber trades in his locality.

Soe Moe Tun (35) left behind his wife and a minor son. The family source claimed that he was popular in his locality with no enmity to anyone. Hence, they believe he was killed because of his works and that must be adored by the authority. Myanmar, which possesses some of the most important biodiversity areas in the world, also faces massive deforestations because of its prized teak wood. The southeast Asian country has lost two million hectares of its intact forest cover to illegal logging. The destruction of forests have implicated in rare wildlife species, including snub-nosed monkeys. Myanmar, which has recently adopted a multi-party democracy after decades of military rule, is yet to improve the safety & security scenario for working journalists. The idea of freedom of the press is new in the country, which is still identified as one of the most censored countries in the globe.

According to the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), not less than five reporters were murdered in Myanmar with impunity since 1999. Earlier the country lost Aung Kyaw Naing (also known as Ko Par Gyi in 2014), Kenji Nagai (2007), Hla Han & Tha Win (1999). The CPJ also asked the government in NayPieTaw to investigate the murder of Soe Moe Tun and punish the perpetrators. Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN), in a statement condoled the demise of the young journalist and urged the authority to investigate his death as a murder. The MJN revealed that Soe Moe Tun used to receive threats from the illegal logging traders prior to his death.

“Killing of a scribe is a serious offence, but the assassination of an environmental journalist should be recognized a major crime both against humanity and nature. We demand a fair probe into Soe Moe Tun’s murder and visible punishment to the culprits,” said an APFEJ statement.

Issued by the APFEJ chairman Quamrul Chowdhury and secretary Nava Thakuria, the statement also appealed to the Burmese government virtually led by Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to adequately compensate the family of the slain journalist and take care of his eight years old son in pursuing proper education. With regards, Quamrul Chowdhury, Chairman, Asia-Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists (APFEJ)
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EU must press Vietnam to address serious human rights violations at upcoming human rights dialogue



President Trần Đại Quang

PARIS, 7 December 2016 (VCHR) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) calls on the European Union to use the upcoming EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue to press Hanoi to address serious human rights abuses and commit to substantive, measurable progress in Vietnam. The dialogue will be held in Brussels on 8th December 2016.

As the dialogue takes place, Vietnam is pursuing a fierce crack-down on human rights defenders and independent civil society. In a submission to the EU prior to the dialogue, VCHR described 2016 as a “black year for human rights” with an escalation of police brutality and harassment of civil society activists; violent suppression of peaceful protests against land seizures or environmental degradation such as the Formosa pollution disaster; police violence against journalists; politically-motivated arrests and imprisonment; unfair trials and ill-treatment of detainees.

“As Vietnam’s diplomats sit at the table in Brussels, their Police and Security forces are assaulting and arresting peaceful citizens, and their government is passing laws to restrict human rights”, said VCHR President Võ Văn Ái. “The EU should impress upon Vietnam that the dialogue is not just words, but entails a genuine commitment to make concrete and measurable progress on the ground.”

The crackdown in Vietnam reflects the zero tolerance policy announced by the new leadership formed after the Communist Party’s 12th Congress in January 2016. President Trần Đại Quang, a former Minister of Public Security, said his government’s priority would be to combat “wrong and distorted allegations from hostile and reactionary forces” and mobilize the military, police, and public security forces in the fight against dissent.

At least 20 civil society activists were imprisoned in 2016, with seven activists condemned to a total of over 22 years in prison in the month of March alone. Particularly disturbing in 2016 is Vietnam’s increased use of Article 79 on “subversion” (‘carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration’), to detain peaceful critics. Activists Lưu Văn Vịnh and Nguyễn Văn Đức Độ, arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on 6 November 2016 are charged under Article 79 for their pro-democracy activities; Trần Kim Anh and Lê Thanh Tùng, arrested in 2015, will stand trial under Article 79 at the Thái Bình People’s Court on 16 December 2016. Article 79, which makes no distinction between violent acts such as terrorism and the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, carries penalties of up to life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Prominent activists detained or convicted in 2016 include influential blogger Nguyễn Hữu Vinh (Anh Ba Sam) and Nguyễn Thi Minh Thúy, condemned respectively to five and three years in prison for ‘abusing democratic freedoms to harm the interests of the State’ (Article 258 of the Criminal Code) in March (the sentence was upheld on appeal in September); human rights lawyer Nguyễn Văn Đài and Ms. Lê Thu Hà, arrested on 16 December 2015 on charges of ‘spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’ (Article 88); prominent human rights defender Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, aka Mẹ Nấm [Mother Mushroom], arrested on 10 October 2016 and medical doctor Hồ Văn Hải, arrested in Ho Chi Minh City in November 2016, both charged under Article 88 in connection with their peaceful protests on the Formosa pollution disaster. They risk prison sentences ranging from three to 20 years. Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church (UBCV) Thích Quảng Độ remained under house arrest at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City without any justification or charge.

Alongside arbitrary arrest and Police brutality, in 2016 Vietnam adopted extensive legislation to restrict human rights, in violation of its binding international obligations. A new Law on Belief and Religion, adopted in November imposes tight state control of religious communities and contains vague wording that virtually condones repression. The Government Board of Religious Affairs stated that the new law will help them suppress groups that “abuse religion to threaten the interests of the state”. An amended Press Law, a new Law on Access to Information and Circular 13 limiting the right to demonstrate are part of the arsenal of restrictive legislation adopted in 2016.

The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights expressed particular concern about “national security” provisions in the amended Criminal Code. Although the amended Criminal Criminal Code was adopted last year, its implementation has been delayed because of multiple errors in the text. The amended Code not only does not remove highly criticized provisions such as Article 88, 258 and 79 which are widely used to arrest human rights defenders and government critics, but imposes even harsher restrictions on the right to freedom of opinion and expression. For example, punishments for the “preparation of the offense” have been added to several crimes, such as Articles 79, 88 and 87. “Preparation” (“chuẩn bị” in Vietnamese) could mean anything from a thought process to the physical preparation to commit an act. These new provisions give the authorities greater leeway to punish perceived critics and stifle dissent. At the upcoming dialogue this week, the EU should press Vietnam to take the opportunity of this delay to bring these provisions into line with international law.

“The EU should make it clear that improved trade relations, such as the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, include greater demands for the respect of human rights”, said Võ Văn Ái. He urged the EU to demand that Vietnam release all political and religious prisoners, cease harassment of civil society activists and end restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, and religion.---
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Pink, Akira and Ten Years of Police Reform in India

Special Contribution
By Pushkar Raj



Pink and Akira, two recent Bollywood hit films, depict an ugly reality of the police in India. It seems much has not changed in country for the last ten years since the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh case ordered in September 2006 that the police must be made functionally autonomous and accountable by enacting new police laws. After 1947, Indian police have continued to be governed by the police laws framed in 1861 retaining its colonial character. Intriguingly, after gaining independence while democratic laws have been legislated, their instrument of implementation- the police –have continued to be authoritarian. This conflict plays out in a citizen’s life every day which is convincingly presented in Pink and Akira.

In Pink, police hound and frame three young women under false charge of prostitution at the behest of a political master. The case is illegally registered; backdating FIR and women are arrested without following service rules. In the film, police act under the influence of the politician and his henchmen flouting law, a routine event in the country, cynically accepted without much indignation. Political interference in policing is rampant in the country. Whether it is intimidating and arresting political opponents, firing on protesting citizens, fixing human rights activists or being inactive while mob kill selective ethnic or religious minority, police are ready to crawl where they are asked to bend by the politicians. Prakash Singh, a former Director General of police, highlighted this before the Supreme Court which after deliberating over plethora of documentary evidence for ten years expressed its disappointment at the situation and ordered the centre and the state governments to professionalize the police service from a rotten politicized force.

A politicized police is dangerous for a democratic society. The political patronage and interference in police promote culture of impunity and encounter killings, ghastly portrayed in Akira. In the film police rob huge cash from an injured person and kill him. They also execute a few potential witnesses in cold blood and pass them off as ‘encounters’. The film’s encounter scene has an uncanny resemblance with the recent killing of eight SIMI ‘under-trial’ activists in Bhopal where senior police officials are heard on phone instructing police on ground to ‘eliminate’ the escapee (Hindustan Times, 4 November 2016).

Encounter killings in India are endemic. In a press statement, National Human Rights Commission said in October 2016 that there were 206 cases of encounter killings in last twelve months. The majority of these deaths are questionable as reports of human rights organisations and independent citizens’ fact finding reports suggest. Needless to say, culprits go unpunished. Hashimpura massacre is one of the few examples. Indian police are plagued with serious structural malaise. An average policeman does not know his Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and Indian Evidence Act well. He does not get chance to develop and refresh his professional skills in service. He learns hands on and makes terrible mistakes that have serious repercussions on justice delivery in the society. The conviction rate, according to National Crime Research Bureau, was 45.1 per cent in the country in 2014, while the conviction rate in crime against women is merely 21.3 per cent. In other words, in 55 per cent cases either people were wrongly framed or they got away without punishment after committing a crime, thereby adding injustice in already unjust society. What is the use of having strict laws on crime against women when nationwide about 78 per cent accused get away with a crime?

Indian police is in such a pathetic state because there is no investment in basic infrastructure and human resource in policing. The police continue to lack basic amenities and support for performing their duties. For example, a right to information application revealed that 23 police stations in Jammu and Kashmir lack drinking water facility while 14 are without a toilet (Indian Express, 14 October). Average police personnel is over worked and lowly paid. Consequently, he becomes like the havaldar of Akira who counts on his share of booty to solemnize his daughter’s marriage. The Supreme Court judgment tried to address some of these structural issues in policing in the country. However, 17 states that have passed new laws have diluted them considerably. The centre has also not implemented the Supreme Court’s order in union territories. If it had, Delhi police would not be able to act in such a partisan manner, without facing tough accountability at different levels.

Clearly the establishment- the political elite- does not have an interest in reforming the police because control over it suits them. But their convenience is against the interest of the society. While common man experiences persecution and legal injustice, our police are getting dehumanized and brutalized. The police leadership must impress upon the political leadership that they can neither have job satisfaction, nor pride in service if they keep dragging resource starved mass of demoralized men who are setup to indulge in serious service aberrations. Home ministry 2016-17 budget is merely 30.2 per cent of defense ministry allocation while they have more or less same number of men to cater to. Even out of these 77,923 crores of home ministry budget, allocation for police modernization is paltry 11 percent. The police leadership must insist on greater resources for the internal security services from the political leadership to inject some oxygen to a listless body that the Indian police have become.

The leadership of social movements may also consider adding the issue of changes in policing structures in their demand for legal justice beside social and economic justice which is a major need, right and demand of the poor, dalits and minorities across the country. They should impress upon parties like AAP that it should commit to systemic changes in policing in the country rather than political control over it. A start can be made with coming elections in Punjab, where the party has a strong support. Pink and Akira present to us a distressing reality of policing in our society. It depends on us whether we continue to live with it or endeavor to change it. For a young nation on the path of so many changes, it is not a big ask
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THAILAND: Ongoing judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and Prachatai reporter



Taweesak Kerdpoka, a Prachatai journalist (far right), and four anti-junta New Democracy Movement (NDM) activists, Pakorn Areekul, Anucha Rungmorakot, Anan Loked, and Phanuwat Songsawadchai

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately end any ongoing judicial harassment of the 4 activists and 1 reporter from Prachatai. Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and seeking his urgent intervention into this matter. To support this case, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

THAILAND: Ongoing judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and Prachatai reporter

Names of victims: 1. Mr. PakornAreekul 2. Mr. Anan Loket 3. Mr. AnuchaRungmorakot 4. Mr. ThaweesakKerdpokha 5. Mr. PanuwatSongsawatchai Names of alleged perpetrators: Military Officers and Police Officers

Date of incident: 10 July 2016 to the present

Place of incident: Ratchaburi Province, Thailand

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the Ratchaburi Public Prosecutor indicting the New Democracy Movement (NDM) activists and a reporter on the offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), as a result of the documents recouped from their vehicle. The judicial action has been taken despite the activists not having distributed any material, much to the puzzlement of the suspects.

On 29 August 2016, the Ratchaburi Public Prosecutor indicted the five defendants, namely Mr. Pakorn Areekul, Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot, and Mr. Anan Loket (all members of the New Democracy Movement), Mr. Panuwat Songsawatchai (a Mae Jo University student), and Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha (a Prachatai reporter), in the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi. They have been indicted for the offences related to the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), Section 61, and the Announcement of Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) no. 25, on the arrangement concerning criminal prosecution.

Under Section 61 of the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), they face imprisonment not exceeding ten years and fine not exceeding 200,000 Baht. And, under the Announcement of Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM), no. 25, they also face imprisonment not exceeding 6 months and/or fine not exceeding 1,000 Baht, for disobeying the order of the officials by refusing to give their fingerprints. In addition, the Public Prosecutor has further asked the Court to revoke the right to vote of the defendants for ten years, in accordance with Section 61 of the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016).

I also wish to point out that the deprivation of liberty, arbitrary arrest, and judicial harassment, arises in this case wherein the five defendants attempted to exercise their right to freedoms of expression and opinion. It means that the government has failed to recognize the rights guaranteed by Article 9 of the ICCPR, ratified by Thailand in 1996.

Therefore, I would like to urge the Thai Government and authorities, including the Attorney General Office, the Judge Advocate General, and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to end all acts of judicial harassment against the five victims.

Yours Sincerely,

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO: 1. General Prayuth Chan-ocha Prime Minister Head of the National Council for Peace and Order Rachadamnoen Nok Road Bang Khun Phrom Bangkok 10200 THAILAND Tel: +662 283-4194 Fax: +662 288-4235 Email: panadda_d@opm.go.th

2. Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan, Khet Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330 THAILAND Tel: +662 2053 406 Fax: +662 2514 739

3. Pol.Sub.Lt. Pongniwat Yuthaphunboripahn Deputy Attorney General. The Office of the Attorney General The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December, B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3 Chaengwattana Road Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210 THAILAND Tel: +662 142 1444 Fax: +662 143 9546 Email: ag@ago.go.th

4. Mr. What Tingsamitr Chairman of National Human Rights Commission The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3 Chaengwattana Road Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210 THAILAND Tel: +662141 3800, +6621413900 E-mail: help@nhrc.or.th

5. Mr. Phattarasak Vannasaeng Secretary -General of Office of the Judiciary Criminal Court Building, 12 Floor Ratchadaphisek Road Chatuchak Bangkok 10900 THAILAND Tel:+662 5412307 Fax: 662 5412306 E-mail: phattarasak.v@coj.go.th

Thank you. Urgent Appeals Programme Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)
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I-Day celebrated at Guwahati Press Club

Special Contribution
By Nava Thakuria

At Guwahati

Guwahati, August 15: The 70th Independence Day was celebrated at Guwahati Press Club (GPC) with scribes, senior citizens and members of civil society congregating enthusiastically on the occasion. As senior journalist Anup Sarma hoisted the tricolor, Journalists’ Forum Assam president Rupam Barua spoke of the freedom movements that began earlier than the first nationalistic struggle of 1857, followed by the Mahatma Gandhi-led Non-Cooperation, Civil Disobedience and Quit India movements, Netaji led INA war and Navy Mutiny, all of which culminated in 1947 with India emerging as a free nation of immense promise.

It may be recalled that in 1998, challenging the terrorist threats, a few journalists with the support of handful patriotic citizens hoisted the national flag in the press club. Since then, the flag hoisting ceremony has become regular events on 15 August and 26 January every year. These events encouraged the people with inspiration which has culminated in today’s atmosphere of hoisting national flag without trepidation & fear.

“Our country’s independence came about through the supreme sacrifices of countless patriots and martyrs. It is in their honour that we observe Independence Day. It is their contributions we need to remember gratefully when we bow our heads under the Tricolor,” Barua said, adding that it is improper to raise demands or go on protest on such days when other days in the year are available. Veteran journalist Ranen Kumar Goswami then pointed out that these national celebrations are for every citizen, that it is wrong to label these as government organized jamborees.

Later, a doctors’ chamber was opened at press club premises on the occasion. Inaugurated by young citizens Dhiman, Kristi, Shantanava, Arya, Shambhavi, Nistha and Arunava, the chamber has been reconstructed by the city-based Dispur Hospitals. A qualified doctor will be available every Saturday evening (5 to 8 pm) for free medical consultation with scribes and their close relatives. “It is a dream comes true for the press club as we have seen journalists suffering from a host of ailments in the course of heir demanding work. Consultations with doctors will surely guide them about necessary preventive measures to stay healthy and fit,” said GPC secretary Nava Thakuria.

Dropping in at the press club on a goodwill visit, Guwahati Mayor Mrigen Sarania interacted with scribes and guests, with issues plaguing the city figuring in their freewheeling discussion. Dr Jagadindra Raichaudhury, Col. Ranjan Dutta, Girindra Karji, Pradip Thakuria, Kailash Sarma, Raman Bora, Pramod Kalita, Manoj Agasti, Pulin Kalita, Bipul Sarma, Bikash Singh, Nayan Pratim Kumar, Rajeev Bhattacharyya, Chinmoi Roy, Kiran Mukherjee, Ravi Ajitacharya, Baldev Pandey, Dilwar Hussain, Ujjal Saikia, Purabi Baruah, Mamata Mishra, Anita Kalita Goswami, Akshyamala Bora, Anjali Kumar, Namrata Dutta, Sewali Kalita, Tarali Chakravarty, Nabanita Mazumdar, Azlina Khanam, Rupen Sarma, Rajiv Bora with many others were present on the occasion.
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Sanitary napkin-vending machine installed at press club



At Guwahati

Guwahati: With an aim to address the periodical problems faced by lady member-journalists hygienically, a sanitary napkin-vending machine was installed at Guwahati Press Club (GPC) on 27 July 2016. The coin-based automatic Suraksha machine, sponsored by Junior Chamber International (JCI) Guwahati Angels under its national flagship Suraksha project was inaugurated by JCI India’s NE zone president Manish Khatuwala and GPC secretary Nava Thakuria.

JCI Guwahati Angels president Vinita Khakholia, while addressing the program informed that they had already installed 14 Suraksha machines at Cotton College (girls’ common room and hostel), Nichols School, Sisters Home, St Mary's School Maligaon etc.

It may be mentioned that JCI is a century old international organization of young people connecting over 100 countries in the world. The JCI India is an affiliated body for the country, which is registered under the Indian society registration act.

Inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hygiene & cleanliness drive, the JCI India launched the Suraksha program under its community development initiatives to address the issue of women’s hygiene and cleanliness. It has taken a target of installing 1000 sanitary napkin disposal & vending machines in various important places of the region.

The function, attended by JCI India’s active members like Silky Choudhury, Khakholia, Mitu Agarwal, Rajiv Ajitcharia, Manish Goenka, Gunjan Donthalia, Priyanka Gupta, Tina Aga etc also witnessed the assurance of installing an incinerator to destroy the used napkins by the JCI Guwahati at the press club premises very soon.
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Mumbai: No shelter for homeless in rains, BMC contempt Supreme Court ruling to construct night shelters



Shelter of homeless in Mumbai

Mumbai | 12th June, 2016: The most awaited monsoon has knocked the door in Mumbai. Hashtag #MumbaiRains has been on trend with celebration posts accompanied by cheerful photos. Who don’t wait for rains? It is a boon to farmers, healers to everyone who bathe in sweat while commuting in local trains, buses and in the annoying hot wait at traffic. It is also joyous to play various sports during rain and Mumbai knows the best ways to do it, it’s the most awaited time in the year. But rains have been scary at times.

Who can imagine that rains can even prove curse to someone? Rains are a scary ordeal for homeless persons to protect their children and infants, the sick and the aged. It proves risk to their lives. What is important to know that whether the government is bothered to take care of its poorest citizens to ensure them protection from any kind of life risk?

As per census of 2011, there are 57,416 homeless persons in Mumbai. The guidelines laid down under the National Urban Livelihood Mission of the Ministry of Housing and Urban poverty Alleviation clearly states that there should be a permanent community shelter for every one lakh population. Mumbai has a population of 12,442,373 as per 2011 census. As per the guidelines, there should be at least 124 community shelters. But it seems that neither the Maharashtra Government nor the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai is bothered about risk of life the homeless may face during rains in the absence of any shelter. A response received through an RTI has revealed that there is no shelter built by MCGM as per NULM guidelines and only 7 night shelters are in existence prior to NULM guidelines which do not match the standard inmates capacity. The Supreme Court of India and various High Courts have at several occasions clarified that the ‘right to shelter’ is part and parcel of ‘right to life’. This means that denying shelter to anyone is a clear violation of ‘right to life’.

Mumbai, which is a financial capital of the county, has always been a contest for space and accessibility to various services. The recent release of Development Plan of Mumbai has again reignited this discourse and various civil society groups sending suggestions and objections so as to make sure that maximum space remain in public domain and allotted in the interest of people with special focus on poor. In this contest the poor, especially the homeless leg most behind. They are least heard because there is no legislation which ensure them their ‘right to shelter’. This allows Governments to easily shed their responsibly towards its homeless citizens. But there are clear ruling from the Supreme Court which has made it mandatory for the state governments to construct shelter for homeless. In a latest affidavit filed by Under Secretary to the Government of India, (MHUPA) in the Supreme Court, it is revealed that a total amount of Rs. 15272.72 lakh has been allocated to the Maharashtra state in the current fiscal year to construct permanent shelters. It is startling to know that not a single rupee has been spent so far by the Maharashtra Government.

Prem Kishore Gaikwad, mother of a girl child, in her twenties has been living on pavement since her parent died twenty years back. She clean the gutters throughout the year except rainy season when they switch their job to rag picking. Gaikwad says that “I have built a temporary roof of plastic on the pavement but it leak badly during the rains, so, we move to sleep under the nearby bridge”. Her pavement dwelling along with more than 20 families is located at Santacruz Highway. The Supreme Court in an PIL filed by People’s Union For Civil Liberties has made it very clear that “The State owes to the homeless people to ensure at least minimum shelter as part of the State obligation under Article 21”.

The Maharashtra Government by not obliging to the ruling is a clear contempt of the apex court as well as violation of ‘right to life’ for which the government must be held accountable and appropriate action be taken. We urge to the Maharashtra Government as well as the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai to look into the matter with utmost urgency and provide all the possible relief to the homeless living in Mumbai keeping in mind the possible risk to life during rains.

The Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan is planning to file an affidavit in the Supreme Court in August when the related matter is schedule to be coming up. Medha Patkar Bilal Khan Santosh Thorat Subadra Kedare Uday Mohite
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Assam readies to welcome new CM

Special Contribution
By Nava Thakuria

Sarbananda Sonowal

The northeast Indian State of Assam prepares to welcome its new chief minister as Sarbananda Sonowal is going to take the responsibility on 24 May. Guiding his party for the victory in the recently concluded State Assembly elections, Sonowal sets to be the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister in northeast India.

Unlike the previous government led by the Congress, the swearing-in ceremony will be held at a public place in the outskirt of Guwahati, where over one hundred thousand audiences will be present. The function will also be graced by a number of VVIPs including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, many chief ministers of BJP ruled States, spiritual leaders Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Baba Ramdev, Satradhikars of many Satras (Vaishnavite monastery) etc. Assam witnessed a similar swearing-in ceremony three decades back in the city’s Judges Filed, when Asom Gana Parisahd (AGP) came to power for the first time at Dispur defeating the Congress. The AGP leaders, then fresh student activists belonged to All Assam Students’ Union, successfully concluded the historic Assam movement against the unabated Bangladeshi influx to the State.

The history here repeats as the Congress turned a heavy loser once again to the BJP and its allies including the AGP and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) in the Assembly polls held in April, where the saffron brigade succeeded in winning altogether 86 out of 126 seats. The BJP alone won 60 seats to pave the way for ending the 15 years of uninterrupted Congress rule in the State.

Assam’s outgoing chief minister Tarun Gogoi is also expected to grace the occasion, as the veteran Congress leader was personally invited by the CM-designate Sonowal. Accompanied by BJP’s national general secretary Ram Madhav and Parliamentarian Rameswar Teli, Sonowal met Gogoi at his official residence at Koinadhara on Sunday evening and invited him for the swearing-in ceremony slated for Tuesday afternoon. Need not to mention that an anti-incumbency wave to the Congress government, roaring assurances over curbing on Bangladeshi Muslim migrants and the fast-paced development etc by the BJP could influenced the electorate of Assam to vote for the saffron party in the polls, which witnessed 83 percent (out of 1.92 crore) turnout. After the poll debacles in Delhi and Bihar (also in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry & Kerala Assembly elections), PM Modi thus found a reason to smile.

Once termed as a party of Brahman and Bania (trader), the BJP has slowly strengthened its root in the region bordering Bhutan, Tibet, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The party had only five legislators in the last State Assembly and it won seven seats (out of 14) from Assam in the last Lok Sabha polls. Energized as the BJP’s alliance partner, the AGP won 14 seats (10 seats in 2011 polls) and the BPF succeeded in retaining 12 seats (same with last Assembly polls, though it allied with the Congress that time).

With the Congress, the other losing party was the Badruddin Ajmal led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), which could succeeded only in 13 constituencies in contrast to 18 seats in 2011 polls. A known sympathizer to Muslim migrants in Assam, Moulana Ajmal, who is a Parliamentarian from Dhubri Lok Sabha constituency, also lost from his Assembly constituency. Some of the important winners include outgoing chief minister Gogoi, Assembly speaker Pranab Gogoi, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Sonowal, AGP president Atul Bora, former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, former State ministers Brindaban Goswami, Pradip Hazarika, Chandra Mohan Patowary, Phani Bhusan Choudhury, former student leader Tapan Gogoi etc.

All four seats in greater Guwahati area were won by BJP candidates namely Atul Bora (senior) from Dispur constituency, Siddhartha Bhattacharya from Guwahati East, Ramendra Narayan Kalita from Guwahati West and Himanta Biswa Sarma from Jalukbari constituency. Guwahati’s BJP Parliamentarian Bijaya Chakrabarty’s daughter Suman Haripriya also won from Hajo constituency. Among prominent losers from the Congress include former Union minister Paban Singh Ghatowar, former State ministers Pradyut Bordoloi, Gautam Roy, Sarat Barkataki, Bharat Chandra Narah, Atowa Munda, Chandan Kumar Sarkar, Nurzamal Sarkar, Tanka Bahadur Rai, Prithibi Majhi, Bishmita Gogoi, Ajit Singh, Siddique Ahmed, Pranati Phukan etc.

The saffron party leaders already promised that it would urgently seal the border with Bangladesh, complete the NRC without a single illegal migrant, clear a huge volume of lands belonged to Vaishnavite Satras under encroachment, initiate for all round development with 24x7 power & water supply, ensure 100 percent irrigation coverage of arable lands, offer employment to 25 lakh youths, withdraw oral interviews for 3rd & 4th category government jobs in the State etc. Now they expect all possible help & cooperation from the Centre to the new government at Dispur to materialize all these promises.
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Dr. B.R.Ambedkar's 125 Birth Centenary National Bus Yatra of Safai Karmacharis



At Kurushetra District, Fatheabaad

Day: 107 Date: 25th March, Friday District and places covered: DC office at Ambala, Shahbad and DC office in Kurushetra District, Fatheabaad

After the night halt in the community hall in Ambala, we started our day at 9 am in the morning. Again Saroj and Bala the liberated manual scavengers prepared and served us breakfast. After a good breakfast, we went to the DC office of Ambala and met the Deputy Commissioner and submitted the memorandum along with a list of manual scavengers identified by SKA team. We told him about the Bhim Yatra and handed over the bhim yatra material. He assured us that he will cooperate in releasing the compensation money to the families of the persons who had died in sewer work. He said that he will also meet with other stake holders and speed up the process. We then boarded the bus and went on our way to the next destination.

We reached Shahbaad in Kurushetra district and held a community meeting in Ambedkar Bhawan. More than 200 safaikarmacharis were already gathered there to welcome and receive us. Most of them were women. They had a welcome ribbon stretched out. We were made to cut it and enter the Bhavan. They garlanded us and gave us sweets. We introduced ourselves and spoke about the Bhim Yatra, its purpose and culmination event on 13th April. at Delhi. We also explained the Act, the Supreme Court Judgment and the rehabilitation schemes. We gave them pamphlets of Bhim yatra and asked them to distribute in other areas and share the purpose of the Bhim yatra with other people. During the meeting we appealed to the people to come in large number for the culmination meeting in Delhi. After talking about the purpose and Supreme Court judgment, we had a sharing of our experiences. The safai karamcharis discussed in detail about the various government schemes and accessibility of the same. They made many queries including why government officials don’t visit the basti to survey.

Safai karamcharis also shared about the discrimination they face by the government officials. We were surprised and pleased to see many women in the meeting. It was a beautiful with their colorful clothes and dupattas. They came with their children and talked at length about the Bhim Yatra. One of the yatris shared that “it was beautiful to see women actively participating throughout the Public meeting though with their head and face covered with beautiful colored Dhupptas. We never expected that women will outnumber the men in all the meetings especially in Haryana”. After that the people gave us lunch and after eating and drinking tea we went to the DC office of Kurushetra. We met the Deputy Commissioner with the memorandum along with a list of manual scavengers and death cases with documents. The DC also met the families of the persons who had died in sewer work and assured that he will look into the case. Then we left for the next place.

We reached Fatehabaad via Kaithal and Jind around 8.00pm. We held a community meeting in valmiki dharamshala along with the support of other organizations namely kisan Andolan, Ambedkar Sabha. The meeting was supposed to start at 6 pm but due to the delay in reaching the place, some of the people had gone back to their homes. We started the meeting by introducing ourselves. We spoke about the Bhim Yatra, the purpose and the culmination of the Bhim Yatra on 13th April meeting at Delhi. After the meeting we visited some homes of manual scavengers who had left this occupation. Then we had dinner with the community and went to sleep. The Premrathi arranged our night stay and gave us bedding.
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THAILAND: Failure of justice for human rights defenders



Khlong Sai Pattana community

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learnt that the only person facing charges in the murder case of human rights defender Mr. Chai Boontonglek, has been acquitted by the Wieng Sra Provincial Court. Mr. Boontonglek was murdered on 11 February 2015, and is the fourth human rights defender killed in Khlong Sai Pattana community since 2010. His case highlights the persistent impunity in attacks on human rights defenders, as well as the urgent need for their protection.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Mr. Boontonglek was a land rights defender of Khlong Sai Pattana community, Chaiburi district, Surat Thani province, southern Thailand and a member of the Southern Peasants’ Federation of Thailand (SPFT). On 11 February 2015, Mr. Boonthonglek was shot six times and killed in front of his family in Khlong Sai Pattana community. On 21 May 2015, the Wieng Sra public prosecutor filed a charge against only the motorcyclist involved in the shooting, even though the police had arrested the shooter and target pointer as well. According to the prosecutor, “We had no concrete evidence to prove their guilt.”

The lack of charges led to the fear of threats, resulting in some of Mr. Boontonglek’s witnesses and their legal team filing a petition requesting witness protection in June 2015. They subsequently received protection from the Chai Buri police station, Surat Thani province. “The perpetrators – which the community believe may be linked to the local authorities in the area – are still out there, which means another killing could take place,” said some members of the SPFT Steering Group.

On 28 and 29 January 2016, the Wieng Sra Provincial Court examined the witnesses in criminal case no. 1273/2558 related to Mr. Boontonglek’s assassination. During the witness examination of January 28-29, Mr. Boontonglek’s relative called four witnesses for examination. These witnesses testified to the relation between the defendant, the shooter and the target pointer. The defendant's three witnesses only confirmed that they were with the defendant during Mr. Boontonglek's murder.

On 15 March 2016, the Wieng Sra Provincial Court acquitted the defendant, which means that no one has been held accountable for Mr. Boonthonglek’s killing. The trial court held that prosecution witnesses could not properly identify the defendant, and that a cap and gun collected from his house could not be positively identified as belonging to the man who had been involved in attacking Mr. Boontonglek. Mr. Boonthonglek’s relative intends to appeal the verdict, which must be done within 30 days.

Mr. Boontonglek is the fourth human rights defender from Khlong Sai Pattana community to have been murdered since 2010. On 11 January 2010, Mr. Somphom Pattaphum was brutally shot and killed inside Khlong Sai Pattana community land. Two years later, on 19 November 2012, two women land rights defenders, Ms. Montha Chukaew and Ms. Pranee Boonrat, were assassinated and their bodies mutilated on the road to Khlong Sai Pattana community, which passes through an expired palm oil concession land. Nevertheless, no charges were filed nor legal proceedings pursued against anyone involved in these murders.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The defendant, Mr. Santi Wanthong, was formally indicted on the following charges: murder of another person (section 288 of the Thai Criminal Code); jointly premeditated murder (section 289 of the Thai Criminal Code); possession of a firearm without a permit (section 371 of the Thai Criminal Code); and possession of ammunition for a firearm without a permit (sections 7, 8 and 72 of the Gun, Ammunition, Explosive Substance, Firework and Artificial Gun Weapon Act). The SPFT was formed in 2008 and campaigns for the right to agricultural land in the Khlong Sai Pattana community and Permsub area, in Surat Thani Province and other areas in the region.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write a letter to the following government authorities to urge them to ensure justice and effective remedies for human rights defenders. Please also be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders calling for their intervention into this matter.

SAMPLE LETTER: Dear ___________,

THAILAND: Failure of justice for human rights defenders

Name of victim: Mr. Chai Boonthonglek Names of alleged perpetrators: Mr. Santi Wanthong and two unknown persons Date of incident: 11 February 2015 Place of incident: Khlong Sai Pattana Community, Chaiburi District, Surat Thani Province, south Thailand

Case details: Criminal case no. 1273/2558, the Wieng Sra Provincial Court, Surat Thani province, southern Thailand

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the lack of accountability for killings of land rights activists in Thailand. On 15 March 2016, the Wieng Sra Provincial Court’s acquittal of the only person facing charges for the killing of Mr. Chai Boonthonglek highlights the urgent need for the Thai authorities to protect human rights defenders in the country. Mr. Boontonglek was a land rights defender of Khlong Sai Pattana community, Chaiburi district, Surat Thani province, southern Thailand. On 11 February 2015, he was murdered by gunmen but the Wieng Sra public prosecutor filed a charge against only the motorcyclist involved in the shooting, because they could not collect enough concrete evidence to against the shooter and target pointer.

During the witness examination on 28 and 29 January 2016, Mr. Boontonglek’s relative, as co–plaintiff with the Wieng Sra public prosecutor, called four witnesses for examination. These witnesses testified to the relation between the defendant, the shooter and the target pointer, while the defendant's three witnesses only confirmed that they were with the defendant during Mr. Boontonglek's murder. In addition, the lack of charges against the other suspects led to the fear of threats, resulting in some of Mr. Boontonglek’s witnesses and their legal team filing a petition requesting witness protection in June 2015. They subsequently received protection from the Chai Buri police station, Surat Thani province.

I was concerned to learn that on 15 March 2016, the Wieng Sra Provincial Court acquitted the defendant. Although Mr. Boonthonglek’s relative intends to appeal the verdict at the Appeal Court, it is clear that no one has been held accountable for Mr. Boonthonglek’s killing. At the same time, it represents the failure of the State in protecting those trying to uphold social and economic rights in Thailand. This failure is highlighted by the fact that Mr. Boontonglek is the fourth human rights defender from Khlong Sai Pattana community to have been murdered since 2010. Three other SPFT activists have been killed: Montha Chukaew and Pranee Boonrat in 2012 and Somporn Pattanaphum in 2010.

As a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Thailand has the obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights protected under these treaties. Moreover, Thailand will undergo review by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in early June 2016; I therefore reiterate the urgent call to the Thai authorities to address human rights violations, defend land rights of its citizens, and protect its natural resources.

I wish to point out that Article 12(2) of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders outlines the obligation for the State to “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.” I exhort the government of Thailand to pay serious heed to the rights of human rights defenders under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Hence, I urge the Thai authorities to: 1. Call on the Thai Royal Police to undertake exhaustive and independent investigations into the attack against Mr. Chai Boonthonglek and to punish the perpetrators, as a fundamental means of preventing such attacks;

2. Call on the Ministry of Justice, as coordinator for human rights defenders protection, to work with other state agencies such as the Department for Special Investigations to prioritize the cases of killings of SPFT and other land rights defenders. Given the gravity of land rights defenders being continually killed and the de-legitimisation of human rights defenders’ work by local authorities, it is necessary that national level authorities with a clear and comprehensive objective to work against the standard of impunity faced by land rights defenders in the South of Thailand take up this case and the case of other land rights defenders killed or forcibly disappeared;

3. Call on the Director General of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department to grant reparations for the families of the deceased human rights defenders; and

4. Call on the Thai authorities to urgently adopt effective measures to protect the life and physical integrity of human rights defenders who are threatened, and to ensure that these measures are decided on in consultation with the defenders;

I trust you will take prompt action in this matter. Yours Sincerely,

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. General Prayuth Chan-ocha Prime Minister Head of the National Council for Peace and Order Royal Thai Army Commander-in-Chief Rachadamnoen Nok Road Bang Khun Phrom Bangkok 10200 THAILAND E-mail: prforeign@gmail.com

2. Mr. What Tingsamitr Chairman, National Human Rights Commission The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3 Chaengwattana Road Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210 THAILAND E-mail: amara@nhrc.or.th

3. Mrs.Tuenjai Deetes National Human Rights Commissioner The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December, B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3 Chaengwattana Road Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210 THAILAND Email: niran@nhrc.or.th

4. Mr. Paiboon Khumchaya Minister of Justice The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December, B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3 Chaengwattana Road Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210 THAILAND Tel: +66 2 14-5100 Email: callcenter@moj.go.th

5. Mrs. Kannika Seangthong Director General Rights and Liberties Protection Department 120 Moo 3 Rajaburi Direkriddhi Building The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King´s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th Changwattana Road Tung Song Hong Laksi Bangkok 10210 THAILAND Tel: +66 2 1412707 +66 2 1412707 Fax: +66 2 1439660 Email: savestanan@yahoo.com

6. Mr. Wonnsiri Phormchana Surat Thani Provincial Governor Surat Thani City Hall Mueang Surat Thani 84000 THAILAND Tel : +66 7 727 2176 Fax : +66 7 728 5990

Thank you. Urgent Appeals Programme Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)
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After Hyderabad & JNU, its Allahabad University - Swaraj Abhiyan condemns the harassment of student union president Richa Singh

Special Contribution
By Swaraj Abhiyan
Feb 5, 2016

Richa Singh

Swaraj Abhiyan raises strong objection to the dirty games being played by Allahabad University administration, which is harassing the students union president Richa Singh by trying to cancel her admission. The first ever female students union president of Allahabad University, Richa is a Ph.D scholar who was admitted about two years ago in 2013-14 in the Globalisation and Development Studies Centre. It is surprising to see the sudden alacrity and promptness of AU, a central university, in raising this "technical" issue after she has been a Ph.D scholar for two years.

Swaraj Abhiyan would like to bring it to notice that Richa has been vigorously raising the issues of women’s safety and gender sensitisation on the campus and had opposed the vice chancellor's move to appoint as his OSD a man accused of sexual harassment, despite there being numerous candidates for the post. Incidentally, Richa had also opposed the invitation extended by the other four ABVP office-bearers in the students union to the BJP MP from Gorakhpur Yogi Adityanath, known for his divisive and polarising utterances. The ABVP, which has been finding it tough to come to terms with a female winning the post of president, has been up in arms against her right from day one when she got elected. She was been called names, attacked and harassed not only by ABVP goons, who had opposed the visit of Swaraj Abhiyan leader Prashant Bhushan to the campus, but also by the university administration which hands over one notice or the other to her on regular intervals.

Unfortunately, this is not a one-off case. A clear design of stifling the freedom of expression and muzzling democratic rights of thinking individuals can be seen. Be it the case of Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad or Kanhaiya Kumar in JNU, a clear pattern of furthering a dirty political agenda in educational institutions has come to the fore.

Pointing out the injustice being meted out to her, Richa Singh said, "I had been fighting a battle against the ABVP. I stopped the entry of Yogi Adityanath into the campus. I have raised questions on the wrong appointments made by the vice-chancellor. So for all this they are targeting me and trying to cancel my admission." The ABVP had won all the remaining seats in the panel and it is evident now that the plan is to remove her and install the ABVP Vice President as the President.

Swaraj Abhiyan national president, Prof. Anand Kumar said, "After Hyderabad and JNU now it seems is the turn of Allahabad university to be targeted by the ruling party. It seems that a conspiracy is being worked out to remove Student Union president Richa Singh and pave the way for replacing her with ABVP activist."

Swaraj Abhiyan has condemned this high handed attitude and warned the Allahabad university administration as well as the central government against any undemocratic and unconstitutional steps in the campus. Richa Singh has written a letter to the President of India, a copy of which is attached, complaining against the harassment by Allahabad University on the behest of ABVP and the ruling party. Swaraj Abhiyan appeals to the President to take note of this disturbing trend across university campuses.

For queries contact: Ashutosh / +91 9560602669
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Myanmar's Union Day campaign in Seoul

Feb. 14, 2016

Members of All Ethnics Democracy and Human Rights Network protest

We are a group of ethnic people from Myanmar and a collection of other human rights activists. Today, we are holding a democracy and ethnic freedom rights demonstration in front of the Myanmar Embassy. This is in commemoration of Union Day, which started in Panglong Town, Shan State, Myanmar on February 12, 1947.

The “Union Day” is the birthday of the Myanmar nation, which was formally formed a multi-nations state for the first time. On this day, 23 representatives from four territories, which comprised of the Shan state, the Kachin state, the Chin state and mainland Burma, signed an agreement in Panglong to form the Union of Myanmar. To honor this historical agreement, all Myanmar people celebrated the day as a “Union Day” across the nation on February 12th every year. This day is the most important day in modern Myanmar’s history.

These four territories are also representative of almost the entire territory of the current Myanmar region as drawn in the country’s map. Not only did the Panglong agreement pave the way for the formation of the Myanmar nation, it also enabled the country to gain independence from the British emperor.

Significantly, the Panglong agreement guaranteed the people freedom in both the ethnic minority territories and mainland Burma, and included such things as equality and justice, unity and sharing together resources for the country’s prosperity. The core issue of the Panglong agreement was to setup “a multi-nations state” to be a peaceful and prosperous country.

However, the country’s successive rulers, Myanmar military governments, have never implemented the Panglong agreement and have not respected the “Union Day” since 1962, when the country fell under the military government’s rule completely. From that time, the military abolished the Panglong agreement and the “Union Day” has never been honored in its original spirit since then. Instead, the military government wrongly represents “Union Day” and misleads the people from the real essence of its goal.

In 2008, the military government deliberately drafted constitution in order to keep military control over the country, which is against the principle of the Panglong agreement, such as a 25% limit on seats for the military in parliament. Several ethnic groups requested that the draft constitution be a genuine one ahead of its creation. However, the military government flatly rejected this proposal. Military government continued conflict with ethnic minority in peripheral areas and human rights violation. It is clear that the Myanmar military’s attitude has been shown to be deceitful with regards to its country’s people and before the international community.

Therefore, we, the All Ethnic Democracy and Human Rights Network (AEDHRN), demand that the Myanmar government: 1. Stop the military interfering in civil government. 2. Eradicate the constitution which guaranteed 25% military representation in the parliament and amend the constitution according to democratic and international human rights principle. 3. Immediately cease its human rights violations and religious repression in the peripheral of the country. 4. Provide humanitarian assistance to ethnic minority in conflict zone. 5. Relief the country from economic oppression.

Furthermore, we ask that the Korean people and the international community show staunch support the end of ethnic repression in Burma/Myanmar.
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The Supreme Court and the central government imposed state reprimand. Swaraj Campaign hearing on drought relief petition.



Insaan quote

Swaraj campaign for drought relief while hearing a petition filed by the Supreme Court today pulled strenuous states including Gujarat. They know that the state did not comply with the food safety law, Judge Madan Lokur and RK Agarwal's bench asked the Solicitor General of the Centre is not part of Gujarat, India? The law passed by the Parliament of the country will not apply in Gujarat?

Swaraj campaign in front of the Supreme Court demanded that the Food Security Act, 5 kg of grain per person per month, 2 kg lentils and 1 liter of edible oil have been in drought affected areas. Also in the mid-day meal to children egg or milk, which will help fight malnutrition. Drinking water and animal feed in drought affected areas, besides Swaraj campaign management is also sought employment guarantee.

Today's hearing took a tough stand in the country's top court said the big pity and sad that severe drought conditions, food safety legislation, some states still have not implemented yet. The court in this regard to the central government by February 10 to file a detailed affidavit that said, the next hearing will be on February 12.

Swaraj campaign, citing senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan on behalf of the Honourable Court Swaraj demands of the campaign is prima facie correct and justified, therefore, without any more delay now would be to appeal the order. He said that it is clearly visible that the governments are not serious on drought-like tragedy.

Last January 18, the court directed the central government deficit of rain in 12 drought affected states, the implementation of food safety legislation, MDM and the guarantee of employment status by Solicit was asked to present.

Swaraj campaign have suggested that the 12 drought-hit state of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana.

So far, Gujarat, Bihar and Haryana besides these states have officially declared dry. The court, Gujarat, Haryana and Bihar, the process of declaring the drought and rain is asked to figures by February 10.
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NFF Press Statement on GoI Gazette notification on amendment to CRZ 2011

Jan 7, 2016

Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal Award

The fisher communities of India are absolutely shocked and discomforted in the manner in which an amendment is made in the CRZ 2011 Notification and the content of the amendment. The amendment proposes to allow, other things, new roads on the coast in the CRZ1 region.

The Gazette Notification dated 30th December 2015, among other things, says that “road on reclaimed surface” can be permitted. That is the only addition for which the amendment is made. And then the amendment goes on in detail to say how it would ensure that no unpermitted development happens around it.

The whole amendment is ridicule on the fisher and the traditional coastal communities. Our communities worked so hard when in 2005, the government proposed radical changes such as displacement of the fisher communities in the name of protection.

The National Fishworkers’ Forum lead the protest against such unilateral decision and along with likeminded organizations and environment activists, held protest all over the coastal region of Indian main land, which resulted in the then government holding consultations among the coastal communities through Centre for Environment Education, based on which the Parliamentary standing committee met the stake holders and came up with a statement in support of the concerns of the fisher communities.

We need to say this elaborately here because the amendment in CRZ through the CRZ Notification 2011 very clearly mentioned that the fisher community settlements will not be displaced and that was due to the long process that went ahead of it and the supportive statement made by the parliamentary standing committee.

Now with the permission to have roads on the reclaimed lands within the CRZ 1, which is no development zone, is a total disrespect to the spirit of the CRZ2011, which is the result of such long process of consultation.

We do not need to say that no matter how carefully worded are the terms, such road will definitely encourage development not only the on the landward side of the road but also on the sea ward side. This will make the whole coast open to all kinds of development, which is against the spirit of CRZ 1.

We had been long demanding that the legislation should replace the notification, as the notification stands the possibility of amendment in the CRZ 2011, which is the result of such hard work. Such an important amendment could be introduced by the gazette notification signed by a joint secretary without consultation of the concerned communities is possible as long as it remains as a notification.

We demand that · The amendment by the Gazette Notification on 30th December 2015 be withdrawn unconditionally. · National level consultation in all the coastal states shall be held before making any amendment in the CRZ 2011, as done earlier. · The government shall start the process of introducing a legislation replacing CRZ 2011 notification. The National Fishworkers’ Forum will take stern step of nationwide agitations and hartals if the government does not adhere to our above mentioned demands.

M.Ilango, Narendra R Patil, Chairperson. General Secretary. National Fishworkers’ Forum
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