The Global Digest

Asia Pacific

Stormy struggle against Land Scams, Evictions and deprivation, for self- reliant housing by urban poor in Mumbai

Special Contribution
By Medha Patkar
Dec 31, 2012

Mumbai city - Ghar bachao ghar banao andolan

Thousands to march from Mankhurd on January 1st... JANUARY 2ND- Indefinite action at AZAD MAIDAN

Thousands of hard-working, poor families in Mumbai are facing brutal atrocities in violation of their legal and human right to housing and livelihood. On one hand are the wealthiest and consumerist rich elites in Mumbai, displaying the material well-being in this financial capital of India while 30 to 40 % people live in the poor localities even when they are the ‘real builders’ of the houses and infrastructure and real producers in Mumbai.

With least of the burden put on the city’s administration and the society at large and without begging before the Government, they live the life of simplicity and make maximum contribution in public interest. However, the Government doesn’t seem to be concerned about fulfilling their basic rights and needs and is making them face the builders’ illegal attacks and anti-poor urban projects bringing in unconstitutional eviction and deprivation.

In this context, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan has been active since 2005 and has exposed the illegality, corruption and injustice as in the cases of Adarsh, Hiranandani, Golibar, Sion-Koliwada and a number of slum eviction drives and slum rehabilitation projects and yet, the State and the police administration continue to support builders against poor and resort to unjust repression on non-violent agitations, quelling the rights of hundreds’ years old habitants as well as generations old fish-workers in Mumbai.It is as known fact that more than 30,000 acres of land has been illegally retained against the ceiling limit, when the Urban Ceiling Act existed and even after the Act was withdrawn, with a claim to release the land, the same is not being allotted even to the cooperative societies of the middle class, leave aside to the homeless poor.

GBGB Andolan has raised these issues along with other peoples’ organisations in Mumbai and demanded Rajeev Awas Yojana (RAY) as self-development towards right to shelter. However, it is the builders-politicians nexus, with bureaucrats and police force to support, that is not permitting RAY to be undertaken in Mumbai. A declared proposal of RAY to one Mandala community in Mankhud is not granted approval since last 4 years. On the other hand, going against its manifesto and the rights of people, eviction of slums continues with bulldozers at doorsteps all the time. Umpteen number of court cases and complaints in police are being managed by the builders through their political manoeuvring.

It was during the 9 days long fast by Medha Patkar and relay fast by 1200 women and men at Golibar-Khar, Mumbai, that the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary of Maharashtra had promised in writing and also brought out notifications appointing two fact finding committees under chairmanship of Justice (Retd.) H. Suresh Declaration of slums and providing amenities such as water, toilets, drainage, electricity, rationing etc was one of the promises. However, even notifications were withdrawn, taking false resort to court orders with deliberately wrong interpretations. As a result, eviction and corruption as well as deprivation continue.

After a number of dialogues and discussions, memoranda and appeals as well as non-violent protests, facing lathis and jails, the poor and those who face illegal impeachment on their housing rights are determined to start a renewed struggle, called Mumbai ke Gareebon ki nayi Jung.

On January 1st 2013, thousands of poor will take to the streets of Mumbai and will begin their march in afternoon from Mankhurd to Mantralaya. They would reach Azad Maidan on 2nd January and demand fulfilment of their rights and a complete end to all atrocities by the builder-state nexus. Expecting your support and co-operation, as always.

THAILAND: Call for trial observers for Somyot

Free Somyot poster

Next week, the Criminal Court will resume its schedule on Somyot's case on 19 December 2012 after it has been delayed for three months without informed explanation. Prior to this, the Constitutional Court also ruled that Article 112 is not against the constitutionality. Both information made the lawyer as well as the family grave concerns about the negative development of the case. According to the lawyer, if the Criminal Court decided on penalty, Somyot may face a sentence of maximum 10-year imprisonment.

While there are neither confirmation nor details about the next court schedule informed by writing, fear of prolonged detention as well as sudden verdict announcement has been worsen among family members.

In this regards, the 112 Family Network would like to draw your attention as well as ask for your participation on the trial observation on 19 December 2012. Due to experience of other freedom of expression cases, we learnt that both Thai and international observers play very important role to ensure fair trial to happen.

Venue: The Criminal Court, Ratchada Rd. Room: TBC, Timing: 9am. Volunteer Interpretation is provided, please feel free to inform your request to this e-mail.

Lastly, we would encourage you to send a letter informing your attendance to the court. Although the practice is non-mandatory, it is very useful to prove the case attention from groups of diverse interest. Instructions on how to write a letter is attached herewith. Thank you so much and we hope to see you at the court.

Best Regards, 112 Family Network

Instructions on how to write a letter to the court informing them of your intent to observe:

Dear Sir/Madam,

The next court schedule for Mr. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, editor and labor rights advocate, who has been on trial against article 112 of the criminal codes, is arranged on 19 September 2012. If you are interested and planning to conduct the observation, here are the following procedures:

• Based on the discussion with the lawyer team, organizations are recommended to send official letters to Mr. Thawee Prachuaplarb, the Director-General of Criminal Court Judges requesting for the trial observations on the particular dates. The letter, if in English, should be accompanied by a copy of a Thai translation. The letter should be addressed to Criminal Court Building, Rachadapisek Road, Jompon District, Chatuchak Sub-district, Bangkok 10900 (Calling/Faxing in Thailand: Tel. 02-541-2284-90, Fax 02-541-2142and 02-541-2141, Calling/Faxing outside Thailand: Tel. (662) 541 – 2284 to 2290, Fax (662) 541 – 2142, 541 - 2141) (in Thai: นายทวี ประจวบลาภ อธิบดีผูพิพากษาศาลอาญา อาคารศาลอาญา ถนนรัชดาภิเษก แขงวงจอมพล เขต จตุจักร กรุงเทพฯ 10900).

• The letter should address given that issue of freedom of expression and fair trial are concerns among the international communities. The letter should not address directly that you are concerned with the lack of impartiality in the Thai court as this could forbid you from participating in the trial observation, as the court is extremely sensitive on criticisms.

• You are strongly requested to provide your own simultaneous interpreter, but if you are unable to, please contact and we would try to provide volunteer interpreters for you. Yours sincerely, 112 Family Network


Human rights defender Mr. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk charged under Lèse majesté law Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, 50, is an editor of Voice of Taksin (translated as "Voice of the Southerners/ Voice of the Oppressed") magazine and a prominent Thai labour rights activist. He is known for his tirelessly efforts in supporting the empowerment of the workers movement and the establishment of democratic trade unionism in Thailand. In 2007, he began to edit the "Voice of Taksin" magazine, a publication that covers political issues and analysis. Somyot is also the chair of the Union of Democratic Labour Alliance and the leader of the 24th June democracy group. Prior to his arrest, he played an active role in the campaign to repeal the lèse majesté law (Article 112 of the Criminal Code). Somyot was detained for 21 days in May – June 2010 under the Emergency Decree on the Public Administration in Emergency Situations.

Somyot was arrested on 30 April 2011 in Aranyaprathet district, Sa Kaeo Province, and later charged with violating Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code which states that "whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years". According to the Public Prosecutor, Somyot is alleged to have allowed the publication of two articles in the Voice of Taksin that make negative references to the monarchy. The articles were written by Jit Pollachan, a pseudonym made up of the names of two Thai left-wing thinkers – Jit Pumisak and Asanee Pollachan. If found guilty, he could face a maximum of 30 years imprisonment.

His arrest came only five days after The Democracy Network, in which Somyot is involved, launched a campaign to collect 10,000 signatures to petition a parliamentary review of Section 112 of the Criminal Code. Previously, his name was also included in a chart published by Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the Center for the Resolution of Emergency Situations (CRES) spokesperson, on 26 April 2010. The chart contained numerous names of individuals whom the CRES accused of being 'anti-monarchy.' However, no credible evidence has been presented to substantiate this vague allegation.

Somyot has been arbitrarily detained since 30 April 2011, for a period of 15 uninterrupted months. Requests for his release on bail have been repeatedly rejected by the court, as is the usual practice with lèse majesté suspects. The last request was denied on 5 September 2012, the eleventh refusal. This is in violation of the constitutional guarantee for a right to bail under Section 40 (7) of the 2007 Thai Constitution, the right to a fair trial under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Thailand ratified in 1996, and Principles 36-39 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (1988). Prolonged pre-trial detention undermines the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, a universal rights protected under the Thai Constitution and the ICCPR; it also affects Somyot's and his lawyer's ability to adequately prepare for his defense.

Somyot's trial started on 21 November and took place in different provinces of Thailand. For the hearings involving the witnesses for the prosecution, Somyot was transferred to the provinces of Sa Kaeo (21 November 2011), Petchabun (19 December 2011), Nakorn Sawan (16 January 2011) and Songkla (13 February 2012). The last hearing was postponed at the last minute although Somyot had already travelled there and re- scheduled to take place in Bangkok due to the absence of witnesses. Despite the fact that all prosecution witnesses work and live in Bangkok, the court ordered the hearings to take place in the provinces based on the witnesses' house registration. Such practice has been criticised for hindering the full presence and participation of trial observers, diplomatic corps as well as journalists and undermined his right to a fair trial.

Somyot suffers from hypertension and gout. Due to the scheduling of hearings in provincial courts between November 2011 and February 2012, Somyot was transferred from prison to prison and had to stand up in a crowded truck. His ankles were shackled with a chain weighing10 kilograms and he was denied access to rest room facilities during the journey. The total distance travelled under such conditions was 4,000 kilometres across the country. He is currently detained in the Bangkok Remand Prison, which is also notorious for its overpopulation and inadequate healthcare. Long-distance transfer and prolonged pre-trial detention aggravate Somyot's health conditions, which could worsen if the taking off medicine for hypertension and gout is interrupted.

The witness hearings were completed on 3 May 2012, but the verdict has not yet been issued. On 24 April 2012, Somyot's lawyer submitted a request to the Criminal Court, asking it to request the Constitutional Court to rule on the constitutionality of Article 112. The Criminal Court did not immediately agree to do so. On 27 April, his lawyer submitted the request directly to the Constitutional Court, which decided on 18 May to reject this request on the ground that Somyot had not exhausted other means to exercise his rights, as required by Section 212 of the Constitution and the court's rules. However, on 7 June, the Criminal Court decided to forward his lawyer's initial request to the Constitutional Court. On 26 June, the Constitutional Court informed his lawyer that it has received both requests and also attached its 18 May decision in full. The Criminal Court decided to announce the date of the verdict only on 19 September 2012, awaiting the decision of the Constitutional Court on the request forwarded by the Criminal Court. On 18 September 2012, Somyot's lawyer received a telephone call from the Criminal Court informing the postponed issuance of the verdict date to 19 December 2012. Until now, additional explanation as well as confirmation for the new arrangement has not been provided in writing. On 10 October 2012, the Constitutional Court finally rules that Section 112 of the Penal Code is not contrary to Section 3 paragraph two, Section 29 and Section 45 paragraphs one and two of the Constitution. According to this, the lawyer is expecting the verdict date to be scheduled sooner.

The UN has raised serious concerns regarding the pre-trial detention of those accused on lese majeste and more specifically regarding Somyot's case. On 9 December 2011, Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that the office is "concerned about the extended periods that accused persons are being held in pre-trial detention".

On 20 December 2011, El Hadji Malick Sow, Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapportuer on the promotion and protection of the rights of freedom of opinion and expression; and Margaret Sekkagya, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders wrote a joint letter of allegation to the Thai government raising concerns about the psychological integrity of Somyot and that his detention may be related to his human rights work and his legitimate exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Somyot was one of the five human rights defenders shortlisted for Somchai Neelaphaijit Award for outstanding human rights work in July 2012. The award, which was given out by the Somchai Neelaphaijit Memorial Fund, aims to honour human rights defenders who have fought to protect human rights bravely and vigorously, and who have at times put themselves in danger to defend human rights like the disappeared human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit.

Another deadliest typhoon kills impoverished people in Southern Island Philippines

By Neil Paul Valentino
Staff Correspondent
Dec 10, 2012

Bopha typhoon

MINDANAO, Philippines – Another super and deadliest typhoon destroyed almost seventy percent of the province of New Bataan, Compostela Valley, Philippines. There were almost 500 deaths and more than 400 people are still missing as of yesterday left by typhoon “Pablo” codename Bopha in , Southern Islands of Mindanao. Meanwhile, Rescue workers managed to pull several dead bodies out of the rubble or wreckage in the devastated areas of Compostella Valley and other part of Davao region in Mindanao.

Unfortunately, it was the worst day for the helpless and poor residents of the vulnerable areas mostly in New Bataan and Davao Oriental in Compostela Valley province, who did not even expect in their dreams that one day killer floods would come, as tall as the height of a coconut tree and would ravage their town. One of the survivors said to a reporter, “ We did not expect that this kind of heavy floods would come like this, which caused hundreds of people died in our town.” Victims of the monstrous typhoon were impoverished people including adults and children and more or less 400 people are still missing and are still under the search and rescue operations.

Coffins for the victims' dead bodies

Ironically, before the disaster occurred Philippine government and its local municipality have knowledge that the place was a highly susceptible to flooding and landslides, but residents are still living in the vulnerable place and risking their lives despite the area is risky and any typhoon can ruin them anytime- known as impoverished and poor people in the Philippines, they do not care their lives if when the deadliest hurricane would come, hence the national and local government obviously did nothing for the welfare of impoverished residents beyond warning of the endagerment and harm.

According to the report, it was learned that the damage of the typhoon to agriculture of the devastated province alone reached to P4 billion ( $100 million) and the livelihood of the people of the Compostela Valley province was hugely damaged. Also, more than 400,000 residents particularly in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley have suffered hunger, some of them underwent diseases, whereas houses and means of subsistence were scourged by the killer typhoon. On the other hand, the areas of New Bataan in Compostela Valley as seen in the photo, was ground zero due to terrible winds and rains that ruined the area. So far, the biggest problem of the residents are lack of clean water and temporary shelter to stay as well as the food to eat that the majority of the unprotected victims are seeking for.


Special Contribution
By Roland Watson (dictatorwatch)
November 28, 2012

North Korean cargo ship in Yangon port

There was a small news item in August, from Kyodo news agency, about a ship with North Korean cargo that had been stopped in Japan. I wondered at the time if the cargo was bound for Burma. Asahi Shimbun has now released a detailed article about the interdiction, and which discloses that the cargo was indeed headed for the country. My comments below are intended to help people read between the article’s lines.

“North Korea tried to ship materials suitable for uranium enrichment or missile development to Myanmar via China this year...” As Dictator Watch has pointed out, the “reform” in Burma does not mean that the nuclear weapon and ballistic missile program has been shut down. The regime’s statements saying that it has are lies.

The program is directly under the real source of power in the country, the Burma Army and Senior General Than Shwe. As Aung San Suu Kyi pointed out during her trip to India, Thein Sein is separate from the military. (At least on paper - he no doubt retains his rank of Lieutenant General, and is the titular head of the National Defense and Security Council). It is unlikely that he, and of course his spokesperson on this subject Hmu Zaw, have any idea about the real status of the program.

There is, though, the question of the recent announcement that Burma would sign the “additional protocol” with the IAEA, which nuclear guru David Albright called a “remarkable decision.” How can the program still be underway, which the blocked shipment seems to demonstrate, in the face of this decision? Won’t IAEA inspections immediately reveal it?

I hope Mr. Albright understands a basic feature of Asian culture, and which certainly applies to Burma’s dictatorship. When you ask someone in Asia a question, and which the person cannot or does not want to answer, they will generally respond by saying what they think you want to hear. This is done to preserve face, and also, if there is an ulterior motive, to deceive.

Thein Sein and the regime have been saying a lot of things, including that their reform is sincere, that they want to stop the civil war against the Kachin, that the press will be free, and that the regime will release all the political prisoners. The West, including America, Germany, and Norway, as well as Japan and international businesspeople, have lapped it up. However, I wouldn’t expect the actual signing of the new protocol anytime soon (there is already talk that it must first be approved by the USDP/military dominated Parliament), and, even if and when it is, that inspections, certainly the surprise inspections that it permits, will be forthcoming.

“The shipment included about 50 metal pipes and 15 high-specification aluminum alloy bars, at least some of them offering the high strength needed in centrifuges for a nuclear weapons program.” And, “Japan seized the items aboard a cargo vessel docked at Tokyo Port on Aug. 22, a raid which took place at the request of the United States ...”

It is ludicrous to think that the ship would be stopped for such a meager cargo. The real manifest has to be much more extensive, and dangerous. What Asahi Shimbun stated was obviously carefully vetted by intelligence: American intelligence. Indeed, it is probable that the limited release of information was itself designed to deceive. If the full cargo contents were known, there would be outrage and the business-driven reform, including President Obama’s public embrace of it, would be stopped dead in its tracks.

Dictator Watch and others have published extensive intelligence for Burma about both nuclear materials and ballistic missiles. There are also a number of things that we haven’t revealed, because they were anecdotal and we didn’t have independent confirmation. In the face of the new interdiction, we feel obliged to disclose this information, particularly in the area of uranium enrichment. We too have heard stories about centrifuge experiments, which is the most well-known enrichment technology (witness the programs in both North Korea and Iran). However, we were also told about an accident at Thabeikkyin (the site of the Nuclear Battalion): An explosion and fire involving a laser and in which a female Defense Services Academy scientist reportedly was killed. Laser isotope separation is another basic technique of uranium enrichment. We also heard that three Pakistani scientists had been seen at Thabeikkyin. (Pakistan is believed to have used this technique to develop its own nuclear weapons.) There are of course many other sites that are suspect. And, there is the question of the thousands of officers who trained in Russia, and the dozens who trained in North Korea: Where are they now and how are they applying their advanced technical know-how?

“Japanese officials from several government agencies agreed that the Chinese military—which ultimately controls its defense industry—must have approved North Korea's exporting the materials to Myanmar.”

This new ship interdiction is the third that has been made public. We have also heard about other sea shipments from North Korea to Burma that got through, particularly before the widely-reported interception of the Kang Nam 1. Dictator Watch has been told that following the Kang Nam 1 affair, materials from North Korea for the program were to be sent first to China, for onward transport to Burma using trucks. Since the new incident involves a ship, it seems likely that it was carrying materials either too large for trucks, or too sensitive and dangerous for a long overland transit. This new incident also confirms what we have been told for years and from many different sources: China is helping orchestrate Burma’s nuclear and missile program (perhaps to offset Russian influence). It fully backs Than Shwe’s goal to acquire an atomic bomb, and is happy to offer hands-on help with materials and as a liaison with North Korea as required. (Let’s not forget that senior Burmese officers arrived back from a China arms fair hours after President Obama left Burma.)

“The United States and South Korea learned that Myanmar signed contracts to purchase military supplies from North Korea when Shwe Mann visited the country in November 2008 as joint chief of staff.”

And “The U.S. and South Korean intelligence agencies have stationed personnel at airports and ports in Myanmar to monitor traffic, but North Koreans are apparently traveling by land through China, sources said.”

And “Japan, the United States and South Korea have refrained from disclosing details about military ties between North Korea and Myanmar. If we went public with that, we would thrust Myanmar closer to China and North Korea," said one Japanese government source.”

The United States has a major intelligence program directed at North Korea, and it seems clear that it extends to Burma. The statement that North Koreans are traveling through China confirms what I just said. Also, it is amazing that the intelligence gathering includes stationing “personnel at airports and ports in Myanmar to monitor traffic,” although if you think about it, this is what a sophisticated spy effort would require.

The idea though that going public would drive Burma closer to China is absurd. The military regime is already so involved with the CCP that other than by acquiring a nuclear weapon outright, from either China or North Korea, their conspiracy can’t get any deeper.

It is disturbing that the U.S. will not reveal what it knows. Under the 2008 Tom Lantos JADE Act, the Administration is required to disclose a wide range of information, including on weapons of mass destruction. Please see Section 10 of the law in the following link.

The State Department refused to follow the law: It would not publish the Report on Military and Intelligence Aid to Burma. It only relented after I filed a Freedom of Information Act request. Even then, however, the Administration only released sketchy one page reports, for 2009 and 2010. (2011 is not yet published, although it should have been by now.) By doing this, the U.S. again failed to uphold U.S. law, in this case the FOIA. 2009: 2010: The Obama Administration is being dishonest, and this has a number of important implications.

First, the people of Burma should understand this. Obama’s visit was just public relations. Clearly there is much, much more going on, and it is by no means certain that the United States, under this President, is your friend. Contrary to Thein Sein’s lies, it is obvious that the program is still in active development. There is way too much smoke for there not to be a fire.

Everything would be much less opaque if the State Department would just follow the JADE Act, but C Street is stonewalling. This is the most shocking and worrisome aspect of all. It implies that U.S. intelligence, which seems to have infiltrated Burma’s regime, has learned something so damaging that it is afraid to make it public, and instead the Administration is doing behind the scenes diplomacy, including by offering lucrative bribes in the form of suspended sanctions, to try to defuse the threat.


By Neil Paul Valentino
Staff Correspondent
Nov 23, 2012

Maguindanao Massacre in Philippines

Maguindanao, Philippines – Today will mark the third year anniversary of unforgettable “Maguindanao Massacre” that occured on November 23, 2009 wherein 58 people had been mercilessly killed including 34 Journalists in Maguindanao, Southern Philippines. It has been exactly three years as of today since the massive killings of 34 media practitioners, whereas relatives and immediate families are begging the assistance of the Supreme Court Chief Justice Sereno to speed up the case of the century. One family member said; ” I am facing difficulties and hardships in attending the trials and I couldn’t almost support my daughter’s (victim) children because of financial difficulties.”

One of the victim’s mother told reporters that the evidence is very strong as well as the testimonies of the witnesses against the suspects, namely Maguindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, Mayor Andal Unsay Ampatuan Jr, Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and their private armies. At present time, 92 of the 195 suspects are still at large and authorities are still persistently hunting down their whereabouts, meanwhile other suspects are allegedly hiding in the vicinity of Moro International Liberation Front (MNLF) and protected by Bangsa Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and other group factions in the area of Maguindanao, Philippines. Only 9 out of 203 suspects were already been accused of 56 counts of murder case so far.

Exactly three years from now, the prosecution of the case has finally presented evidences against one of the principal suspects, Andal Ampatuan Jr. who was also the mastermind of the inhuman killings. Moreover, included in the evidences, are the testimonies of many witnesses, wherein the slow moving of the case, prompted the victims' families and relatives directly asked the assistance of the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and also the Office of the President Aquino through the social media in order to speed up the trial of the said case. However, Incumbent Maguindanao Governor Mangungudadatu said, that the remaining suspects who are still at large were hid and protected by MILF 106th Commander Datu Itim Ampatuan.


By Neil Paul Valentino
Staff Correspondent
November 12, 2012

Julius Cauzo, before he was killed

Cabanatuan City – Philippines was tagged as the most dangerous country in the world for media practitioners’ killings. Julius Cauzo, a radio commentator of Dwjj radio station who was on his way to work in Cabanatuan, Philippines, ambushed while riding in his own motorcycle and was mercilessly gunned down three times on the road by an unidentified hired killer.

The fifth pressman who was killed this year under the regime of President Aquino of the Philippines, believed that the news anchor death’s was work-related, he also had been receiving death threaths due to his criticisms on local politician’s corruption and comments on the Cabanatuan province plebiscite issues to be converted into a highly urbanized city. In many cases, authorities had always failed to identify any perpetrators, of the journalist’s killing, whether they were masterminds or hired killers, as murderers continue to silencce the pressmen for them they become a bad press and hindrance to their illegal deeds.

Ironically,” only in the Philippines” are words to describe why press people was easily murdered in the Philippines, Journalist was just doing what was supposed to be done as media practitioners, informing people , public was supposed to be informed and anomalies shall be exposed. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) had repeatedly reminded authorities that putting murderers behind bars is the best way to stop the killings of helpless journalists that continues to lose the lives of media practitioners in the Philippines.

In fact, the killing of Cauzo was 14th since President Aquino assumed power since 2010. Worse, most of the killings that involved journalists have not been solved due to Journalists lack of support from authorities . Every family of the victims are hoping that every crime must be solved and the petpetrators or masterminds must be identified and be brought to justice. In addtition, the NUJP condemned the brutal and senseless killing of journalists and Cauzo’s death would be 154th victim of media killings in the Philippines since 1986.

UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention pronounced detention of pro-democracy activists in Vietnam a violation of international law

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

PARIS, 8 November 2012 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) – The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention informed the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights by fax today that it considers the detention of four pro-democracy activists, Le Cong Dinh, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Nguyen Tien Trung and Le Thang Long to be a violation of international law. The UN Working Group calls on Vietnam to release the four men and grant them compensation in accordance with the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam acceded in 1982.

The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights submitted the case of the four activists to the UN Working Group in Geneva following their arbitrary condemnation in January 2010 at an unfair trial in Ho Chi Minh City to sentences ranging from five to sixteen years in prison followed by 3-5 years house arrest on charges of “subversion” (article 79 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code). The defendants, whose “crime” was to call peacefully for political reforms, all appealed against their sentence, except Nguyen Tien Trung (condemned to 7 years in prison). On 11 May 2010, the Ho Chi Minh City Appeals court upheld the sentences against human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh (5 years in prison) and Tran Huynh Duy Thuc (16 years in prison). The sentence of Le Thang Long was reduced from 5 to 3 ½ years in prison, and he was released in June 2012, six months before completing his sentence.

In March 2012, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights met with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and other “Special procedures” at the Office of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, including the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Freedom of Religion or Belief and Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly to press for the release of a number of human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists detained in Vietnam.

Following UN procedures, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention communicated this information to the Vietnamese government on 15 March 2012. In a letter dated 13 July 2012, Vietnam denied the allegations and claimed that the men were imprisoned because they had violated Vietnamese law. Meeting on 29 August to examine the case, the Working Group adopted Opinion 27/2012 declared that the detention of the four men was “arbitrary and in contravention of articles 9, 19 and 21 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a party”. In Opinion 27/2012, the UN Working Group rejected Vietnam’s claim that their detention was justified, since “even if the detention is in conformity with national legislation, the Working Group must ensure that it is also consistent with the relevant provisions of international law”.

The UN Working Group condemned the broad wording of certain provisions in Vietnam’s Criminal Code, such as “taking advantage of democratic freedoms and rights to abuse the interests of the State” (article 258), which is “so vague that it could result in penalties being imposed not only on persons using violence for political ends, but also on persons who have merely exercised their legitimate right to freedom of opinion or expression”. The group found no evidence of the men’s involvement in violent activities to justify their conviction for “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” (article 79 of the Criminal Code), and stressed that “the holding and expressing of opinions, including those which are not in line with official Government policy, are protected under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”. In conclusion, the UN Working Group called on Vietnam “to release Le Cong Dinh, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Nguyen Tien Trung and Le Thanh Long and to accord them compensation in accordance with article 9, paragraph 5 of the the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”.

The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights welcomes Opinion 27/2012. The Committee has consistently denounced the vaguely-worded “national security” provisions in Vietnam’s Criminal Code since 1994, when the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention made a visit to Vietnam. The Committee reiterates the UN Working Group’s call for their release, as well as that of all others detained for the peaceful expression of legitimate political opinions or religious beliefs, such as bloggers Dieu Cay, Ta Phong Tan, Phan Thanh Hai and songwriters Viet Khang and Tran Vu Anh Binh, and UBCV leader Thich Quang Do who is under arbitrary detention without any justification or charge (UN Working Group Opinion 18/2005).---

US Consulate official visits UBCV monk Thich Thanh Quang in Danang

A Security agent twists Thich Thanh Quang’s arm. Photo IBIB

PARIS, 30 October 2012 (IBIB) – Venerable Thich Thanh Quang, head of the Quang Nam-Danang Provincial Committee of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) received a visit from Ms. Kathleen Peoples, Political Outreach Officer of the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City at the Giac Minh Pagoda in Danang on 25 October 2012. This is the first visit by a U.S. diplomat to the Giac Minh Pagoda, which is the central office of the UBCV’s Buddhist Youth Movement (Gia Định Phật Tử) as well as the head office of the UBCV Quang Nam-Danang Provincial Committee, has been the target of consistent government harassments and repression for several years.

In a report sent to the UBCV and the International Buddhist Information Bureau on 29.20.2012, Thich Thanh Quang said that Ms. Peoples, accompanied by political assistant Pham Anh Vu stayed for almost an hour. She asked many questions about the pagoda’s activities – was it able to conduct activities normally like other Buddhist pagodas, could it receive financial support and offerings, what access to medical care did the monks and nuns at Giac Minh Pagoda have?, etc..

Thich Thanh Quang, 75, described the events in August 2012, when he and a member of the Buddhist Youth Movement were brutally beaten by thugs under the eyes of the Police. Giac Minh Pagoda had suffered harassments since 1981, he said, when the State-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Church was created and the independent UBCV was effectively banned. However, repression became significantly more intense after UBCV leader Thich Quang Do launched a series of statements on China in 2007, including protests against Chinese encroachments on the Spratly and Paracel islands, Bauxite mining by Chinese firms and an appeal to boycott Chinese products.

Since then, and particularly over the past two years, the authorities had intensified repression, he said, maintaining round-the clock surveillance on the pagoda, banning the monks from celebrating Buddhist festivals such as the Vesak (Birth of Buddha) or Vu Lan, and preventing Buddhists from entering the pagoda to pray. Young monks from Giac Minh Pagoda who went to study in Saigon were denied residence permits hộ khẩu on their return, and thus became illegal citizens. The Pagoda could not receive donations and offerings because Police threatened Buddhists with reprisals if they showed support for the “reactionary monks”. Police also prohibited doctors from coming to the Pagoda, obliging monks who fell ill to seek treatment outside. Even animals were denied treatment. Thich Thanh Quang said he had a sheep-dog who kept guard on the pagoda. When the dog fell ill, he was too heavy to be carried outside for treatment and Police refused to let the veterinary come inside. “The state says it will take care of everything”, said Thich Thanh Quang, “but the dog died anyway”.

Thich Thanh Quang said that Police surveillance outside Giac Minh Pagoda was lifted on the day of the US diplomat’s visit for the first time in several years. Nevertheless, he showed Ms. Peoples the office of the civil defence police (dân phòng) just opposite, where plain-clothed officers could be seen behind the windows filming their meeting. He also told IBIB that Police resumed their surveillance immediately after the visit, with 4-5 officers posted permanently outside the Pagoda’s gates.

Thich Thanh Quang called on Ms. Peoples to urge the US government to support the Vietnamese people in their quest for religious freedom, human rights and democracy, and to press the Vietnamese government to guarantee the rights enshrined in the UN treaties that it has signed. In his report to the UBCV, he also said that he hoped this first visit from a U.S. diplomat was a sign of an increased awareness from the United States on the situation of the repressed UBCV.

Indeed, in August 2012, U.S. Ambassador David Shear visited UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Saigon. On this occasion, Thich Quang Do gave the Ambassador a memorandum in which he criticised the US for underestimating Vietnam’s repression against the UBCV. He said that State Department’s 2011 Report on International Religious Freedom portrayed “but a pale picture of the systematic Police pressures, harassment and intimidation faced by UBCV Buddhists in every aspect of their daily lives”. Ms. Peoples was present at this meeting.

Protest singers Viet Khang and Tran Vu Anh Binh condemned to harsh prison sentences at an unfair trial in Vietnam

Vietnamese singer Viet Khang

PARIS, 30 October 2012 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights strongly condemns the harsh sentences imposed on two Vietnamese singers and songwriters at an unfair trial at the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court today. Vo Minh Tri, known as Viet Khang and Tran Vu Anh Binh (Hoang Nhat Thong) were sentenced respectively to four and six years in prison followed by two years probationary detention. They were charged of “circulating propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code.

“Once again, Hanoi has displayed its utter contempt for its citizens’ rights and its international obligations”, said Vo Van Ai, President of the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights. “Just last week, Vietnam held its annual human rights dialogue with the European Union. Its dialogue with the United States is in November. Between these two rounds of dialogues, Hanoi sentences two young people who have done nothing but to sing of freedom and the love of their country. This hypocrisy should cease and these two people should be immediately set free”.

Viet Khang, born in 1978, and Tran Vu Anh Binh, 37, were arrested in September 2011. Viet Khang was briefly released, then re-arrested on 23 December 2011. They were detained at the Security Investigation Office (PA-24) at 4 Phan Dang Luu Street in Ho Chi Minh City. The two were arrested after songs written and sung by Viet Khang were posted on YouTube and became wildly popular amongst young Vietnamese. The songs protested human rights violations, social injustice and the China-Vietnam relationship. One song, “Who are you” asked the Vietnam’s leaders:

“Where is your nationalism? Why consciously take orders from China? …, I cannot sit still, While Vietnam collapses, And my people sink, Into a thousand years of eternal darkness, I cannot sit still, My children and the next generation deserve a future, Where will our roots be, When Vietnam is no longer in this world?

In February 2012, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights submitted the case of Viet Khang and Tran Vu Anh Binh to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression.

“Vietnam is seeking a seat on the UN Human Rights Council for 2014-2016. UN member states who truly care about human rights and the credibility of the UN should not let this happen” said Vo Van Ai.

World food day & we the people resolve

Special Contribution
By Soheb Lokhandwala
Oct 23, 2012

Painting by Dhanaraj keezhara on World Food Day 2012

To those who are hunger, God is bread this is what Mahatma Gandhi said before Independence i.e. in 1946, is this notion finding weight even after 65 years of our Freedom? Unfortunately, Yes. Even after high growth and even after many good welfare schemes.

What is the statistics regards to hunger and malnutrition? And we need to find why so? And the way forward on the Occasion of World Food Day which is observed on 16th Oct every year by United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).FAO defines food security as ‘when all people at all times, have excess to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for active and healthy life’. We need to go and achieve extra miles from Food Security to Food sovereignty by making long term productivity and sustainability in Agriculture policy. This must ensure a universal access and guarantee regards to ‘nutritional Food Security’ which must be incorporated accordingly by law. The aspect of conditional cash transfer must only be supportive but not as replacement to ‘nutritional food system’ existed in the form of PDS(ration shop) system, Which need to be strengthen and reformed to prevent leakages and diversion.

Matter related to statistics?

On statistics report released by the International Food Policy and Research Institute shows India ranked way below its South Asian neighbours Pakistan, Sri Lanka and China in the global hunger index 2011.South Asia fared worse than Sub-Saharan Africa netting a score of 22.6 on the global hunger index, or GHI. While, India stood 67th amongst 81 countries, Pakistan ranked 59, China ranked fourth, Vietnam ranked 25 and Sri Lanka ranked 36 in the GHI. According to Action Aid, India is ranked seventh, ahead of Pakistan, Nigeria and 21 other countries, for its vulnerability in growing food and feeding its poor.

UNICEF 2011 Report naming ‘Committing to Child survival: A Promise Renewed’ shows very unfortunate and bad report card to India on Children under five mortality where nearly 17 lacs children deaths. India’s Child mortality rate under 5years is 61 per 1000 births rank 49 where as our neighbors Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh are better performing 54-48-46 per 1000 births and ranking 51-57-60 respectively inspite of their low GDP growth. The 'Child Mortality Estimates Report 2012' released by UNICEF reports around 50 per cent of global under-five deaths occurred in just five countries of India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and China.

The Global Food Security Index (GFSI), a scoring tool that measures the drivers of food security in 105 countries, says that the undernourished in India consume, on an average, 240 kcal below the minimum requirement, indicating that food deprivation in the country. India is ranked 66th in GFSI, scoring moderately across the four categories of affordability, availability, quality and safety.

Why so?

Hunger and malnourishment are related to un-employment, inadequate healthcare facilities, lack of clean drinking water, no access to sanitation and gender inequality basically regards to girl child. There is lack is proper governance, bureaucratic hurdles in implementation of various Govt.welfare schemes. The UN Special Rapporteur, Right to Food noted that due to commodity speculation on food price, there were food crises and riots all over World in 2008.

The Way Forward

45% children who are malnourished and near 70% of the population who still live life less than dollar a day. Their silent voice must be protected by providing them access to nutritious foods and social security and overall a holistic approach in food security. The grains which rot and eaten by rats must be distributed to needy and hungry. Marginalized farmers and poor landless must have the right to produce food with dignity, control over their traditional seeds, land and their food which will ensure the way forward to food justice. Structural reforms must be ensured towards Food Sovereignty so as to make agriculture more viable and profitable directed towards farmers. More powers must be rested on Gram panchayat and sabhas to local agri--resources and co-operative farming which can create a food economy. To mooted out long term sustainability plan to remove hunger and malnourishment we must opt for Universalisation of Food, Health, Clean drinking water, Sanitation and Education.(there is always possibility for making injustice by exclusion criteria of marginalized and deserving individuals and groups).The GDP growth and Social sector welfare measures must be reflected and perceived across all section of societies specially among poor- marginalized groups. Speculators and hoarders must be kept at bay from ‘Future Commodity Market’ to ensure price stabilization.

All we need to save children’s lives, working at the global, national and sub national levels, in the remaining years until the 2015Millenium development Goals(MDG )deadline. The second is to leverage the MDGs as a driving force, with 2015 as a stepping stone, to sustain sharp reductions in under-five deaths during the following two decades and provide universal access to essential health and nutrition services for the world’s children.

On World Food Day we the people of India resolve:-

To eradicate the tag of ‘Sub-Saharan Africa’ related to child mortality, hunger and malnourishment. To make agriculture sustainable, viable, affordable and profitable for farmers by protecting traditional seeds, lands and biodiversity. We resolve to make our food and nutritional welfare schemes ‘mother and child centric’ by means of empowering them in gram panchayat,sabhas,agriculture and other allied activities.

We resolve proper implementation& monitoring Welfare schemes like PDS system which need to be strengthen,ICDS(Anganwadis)schemes,Mid-day meal,MNEREGA and all other schemes related to Mother and Child development . We resolve to make the trickledown effect to take place by way of transparency and proper accountability in matter of governance. We resolve to protect small food producer from all sides and at all cost(those who having land less than one acres)

We must also try to achieve and adhere to Millennium development Goals (MDG) Sep 2010 which seeks empowerment of women, eradicating poverty key to economic and social development with regard to Food Security. We as signatory to MDG Goals reaffirm, reiterate and resolve the following:-

To eradicate extreme poverty by half on or before 2015 deadline. Promoting the empowerment and participation of rural women as critical agents for enhancing agriculture and rural development and food security and ensuring their equal access to productive resources, land, financing, technologies and markets. Reaffirming the International commitment to eliminating hunger and to securing access to food for all and reiterating, in this regard, the important role of relevant organizations, particularly United Nation system.

Supporting small scale producers, including women, to increase production of a wide spectrum of traditional and other crops and livestock, and improving their access to markets, credits and inputs, herby increasing income-earning opportunities for poor people and their ability to purchase food and improve their livelihoods. Reaffirming the Right of everyone to have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, so as to be able to fully develop and maintain his or her physical and mental capacities.

Making special efforts to meet the nutritional needs of women, children, older persons and persons with disabilities as well as those living in vulnerable situation through targeted and effective programming. Accelerating progress on the challenges faced by indigenous peoples in the context of food security, and in this regard taking special actions to combat the root causes of the disproportionately high level of hunger and malnutrition among indigenous people.

Under UNICEF banner of A Promise Renewed, a potent global movement, led by governments, is mobilizing to scale up action on three fronts: sharpening evidence-based country plans and setting measurable benchmarks; strengthening accountability for maternal, newborn and child survival; and mobilizing broad-based social support for the principle that no child should die from preventable causes. Concerted action in these three areas will hasten declines in child and maternal mortality, enabling more countries to achieve MDGs 4 and 5 by 2015 and sustain the momentum well into the future.

Let’s hope the better World prevails-‘where no person dies or sleep due hunger and malnutrition’ and those who are hungry bread become reality not a dream.

Six Millions Filipino children suffer undernourishment

By Neil Paul Valentino
Staff Correspondent
Oct 13, 2012

Philippine kids in hunger

Mindanao, Philippines – According to United Nation Children’s Fund ( UNICEF), an estimated of 6 million Filipino children are suffering undernourishment amid shortage of foods 60, 000 of them are malnourished since the typhoon sendong devastated the town in Mindanao last year. Malnutrition has been one of the issues particularly in remote areas and elsewhere in provinces of Philippines and it is increasing due to typhoons which affect the regions of southern part and elsewhere in the Philippines.

“Malnutrition is an especially serious concern for Mindanao, where a significant number of children are already undernourished. Sendong dealt an additional blow to these children’s health. That is why we need to keep a close eye on the situation of these vulnerable young children,” Abdul Alim, a UNICEF country representative, said It is also reported that the enormous majority of the hungry was 852 million more specifically in Asia and Africa.

Meanwhile, 870 million people in the world, or one in eight people, are suffering chronic malnutrition most of them are poor children in the Philippines and in other part of Africa as well, especially in least developed countries.

“A child dies in every 6 seconds because of malnutrition, feed a Filipino child today to give him a good life” A slogan says. Moreover, childhood malnutrition is a cause of death for more than 2.5 million children every year and more than 100 million children under five year-old are underweight because of faulty nutrition and inadequate or unbalanced intake of foods.

On the other hand, it is ironic that while many malnourished children are suffering health and food problems. Today, national and local government officials in the Philippines are keeping busy with their political campaigns and spending people’s money for their self-interest and political will in the coming 2013 election campaign period, instead of prioritizing the important issues on malnourishment, they set aside it and pretending that they will do such things if they are elected. Presently, it is clear that “corruption” plays a serious obstacle to the social and economic development of the Philippines, the biggest losers are the poor people and unfortunately poor children will be automatically affected by the worsening corruption which has eaten up the right of every citizen to enjoy simple and decent life and living and more significantly to provide children with a happy childhood.


By Neil Paul Valentino
Staff Correspondent
Oct 5, 2012

The massacre in Ampatuan town

Since the massacre happened on November 23, 2009, the killing of the victims of massacre of 58 people including 34 media persons was still unresolved up to this date despite of yielding of the suspects of the crime. It just happened in one day in Ampatuan town, Province of Maguindanao, in Mindanao, Philippines that the families and relatives of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu and media people were on their way to file a Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) at about 9:00 in the morning when more than 100 armed men of then incumbent Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. blocked the victims’ cars and gunned down all the passengers of six cars, no one survived in the inhuman attack.

The victims of the massacre were wife of vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, who was the main target of the butchery, Esmael’s sisters, lawyers, journalists and motorists who were just mistakenly distinguished as convoy during the attack. No one survived that time of carnage and due to a text message of Esmael’s wife, vice mayor Mangudadatu informed and asked the help of press and authorities about the incident and it became the biggest news of that day. This is the worst and deadliest single attack to mediamen, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and likewise, that the” Philippines is the second most dangerous land for journalists, second to Iraq, “ CPJ added.

Before the murder, vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu said that he received reports that his political rival, Ampatuan’s clan had threatened him to chop him into pieces if he was going to file his candidacy as governor of Maguindanao province so he invited journalists to cover his filing of Certificate of Candidacy at the Commission on elections at Sheriff Aguak. So vice mayor Mangudadatu’s filing of candidacy was about to file by his wife accompanied by his sisters, lawyers, and journalists with a convoy of six vehicles at around 9:00 in the morning when the killing took place.

The wife of Vice mayor was able to send text message before she was killed saying that Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. slapped her that time before the Ampatuan’s 100 armed men were sorrounded them. Worst, some of the female victims were raped before being killed and Esmael sister and aunt were pregnant before being shot in their genitals and beheaded.

However, the greediness of power and moneygrubbing were reasons why there was such killing like this, political rivalry is always part of the game among politicians who want to stay in power and could do some crimes and abuse just to stay in power and remain the king of their place and be a ruthless leader of helpless and poor people. Some politicians now show that if they are in power they become abusive and inhuman and heartless instead of becoming a” Servant of the People” as what the Constitutional Law has stated.

Until now, the families of the victims are still seeking for justice, despite the suspects of the crime have already put in jail but not still sentenced for the crime they committed. Even though, the families are calling for the President’s help,” justice is still denied and delayed.”

Who is in Whose Land? Thackeray Family’s Bihar Connection

Special Contribution
By Ram Puniyani
Oct 2, 2012

Hinduism religion-politic supermo Bal Thackeray

India is facing lot of communal-ethnic strife where the place of origin and religion of people is the marker due to which they are attacked. Many a retrograde political ideologies are based on the ‘first comer’ assertions. The deeper problems related to social resources, economic deprivations and socio-political inequalities are being presented as problems related region or religion of people. In Mumbai, one can see this in its extreme form, in the politics of Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). Both these outfits have a regional-religious chauvinist agenda. They switch from region to religion at the drop of the hat. They also keep combining the two in the aggressive street politics.

The rising star of this sectarian politics, Raj Thackeray, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, threatening ‘others’ with his usual ‘methods’ of ‘direct action’. Why the state lets the ‘direct action’ of these sectarian outfits go unpunished, is another side of the coin of the story. Recently (Sept 2012) when the Bihar official wrote to Maharashtra police authority that Maharashtra police should have informed the Bihar police before arresting the two criminals who had broken Amar Jawan Jyoti in August 11, 2012 violence, Raj Thackeray retaliated by saying that MNS will declare all the Biharis as infiltrators. As such what Bihar police was asking was a mere routine followed by police of one state while acting in the other state. Thackeray, in order to bake his political bread made it an issue.

While he was talking in this language, an interesting point came up. Congress General Secretary Mr. Digvijaya Singh dug out some history from the writings of grandfather of Raj Thackeray and father of Bal Thackeray, Mr. Prabodhankar Thackeray (?Thakre). Incidentally the spelling Thakre was changed to Thackeray not too far back in History. Singh quoted Thakre senior’s collected works, Prabodhankar Thackeray Samagra Vangmay: Khand (Volume) 5, published by the Maharashtra Rajya Sahitya Ani Sanskritik Mandal when BJP-Shiv Sena was ruling the state. This quote is about the geographical background of the community from which Thackeray’s come, Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu (CKP). Singh quoted page no. 45 of the volume 5, which says that Magadha’s corrupt Kshatriya king Mahapadmanand was persecuting his subjects by levying various taxes on them. Many a families from CKP community left Magadha to escape the persecution and greed of Kshtriya ruler and left for Nepal, Kashmir and Bhopal.

The same book mentions that out of those who left Magadh (now Bihar), around 80 families settled in Taal Bhopal and Prabodhankar’s family was one amongst them. As per Singh, Prabodhankar mentions that the Muslim ruler of Bhopal was very kind and was great help to the Thackeray family. This Thackeray family later migrated to Mumbai. Uddhav Thackeray, cousin of Raj and son of Bal Thackeray, said his grandfather is generally talking about the CKP and not his family in particular. Still Uddhav did not give the alternate version of their families past. Interestingly Parabodhankar’s account breaks another myth. Today his descendents and the practitioners of sectarian politics propagate that the medieval period was a dark period of India as there were many Muslim kings and Nawabs, who were doing atrocities on Hindus. Their version also glorifies Hindu Kings in general. Here in Prabodhankar’s account, a Khstriya (Hindu, warrior caste) king is tyrannical forcing the subjects to leave his kingdom while the Muslim Nawab is helpful for Thackeray family. Stereotyping the kings as per their religion, communal historiography has played a very negative role in the history of our society. In Pakistan and India both, even today such perceptions are part of popular understanding. There is a need to learn from what Thackeray senior writes in his book.

How do we judge citizenship today? Do we have a right to go from one state to another or not? Theoretically it will be accepted by all that it is legally correct. Still in various places and more particularly in Mumbai, Shiv Sena and its clone MNS have been creating havoc on this issue. Their sectarianism is not restricted only to region, but also to religion. In both matters their basic understanding is also totally fabricated and far from truth. As migrants have been taking place in to Metros, big cities, depending on survival opportunities. In pre independence times major migration took place amongst other places to Kolkata in particular. In Mumbai in the decade of 1960s to 1980s, when industrial production was booming here major migrations took place. And the major migrations to Mumbai did not take place from outside Maharashtra. They were from mainly Konkan region of Maharashtra. Even today the migration is taking place, the major migration is to Delhi and Punjab, Mumbai is third on the list. The latest Tata Institute of Social Sciences report tells us that 70% of immigrants to Mumbai are from within Maharashtra itself. In these migrations employment is the reason only for 15% of those coming here to Mumbai. The major reasons for coming to Mumbai are related to such migration being a post marriage relocation and education.

Currently Thackeray family, the original inhabitants from Bihar in the past, are pursuing their spewing of venom against Biharis in particular. Their targets have been changing. The Shiv Sena was propped up by the Mumbai industrialists to break the strength of workers unions. Shiv Sena was then subtly helped by the ruling Congress. Shiv Sena initially attacked the South Indians, with the slogan ‘Uthao Lungi Bajao Pungi’ (Beat up the lungiwallahs, South Indians). Then their targets shifted to Gujarati’s for time being. In between Shiv Sena also postitoned itself on the bandwagon of Hindutva politics of RSS, and took the lead in 92-93 Mumbai violence with slogans like ‘Muslaman ka Do hi Stan: Pakistan ya Kabristan’ (Muslims can have only two abodes: Pakistan or graveyard). They demonized the Muslims, all this has come out in the Srikrishna report, which is yet to be implemented in letter and spirit.

Lately, North Indians are the major targets of the politics of regionalism. This Shiv Sena-MNS politics is totally against the norms of our Constitution. The aggressive politicians also need to present the reality in an honest manner. If 70% of immigrant to Mumbai are from Maharashtra are Marathi Manoos,(Marathi speaking people) what do you do with them? There are problems. But the problems are not with Biharis or Nepalis coming here to explore survival options. The whole concept of development and the state polices need to be organized in a way where some areas don’t get burdened by the pressure of population. The victims of politics based on region and religion are the poorer lot, while in later case the poor rich divide has been abolished during last two decades.

At another level, religion, nation state, and regions are concepts which should help the humanity grow. Spencer Wells has shown that genetic lineage of the human race goes to Africa! Nation state is the concepts, which came to overcome the tyranny of the kingdoms. Nation states have a contribution for human society, only in so far as they bring in democratization of society and do away with feudal values. Regions in a nation state are meant to provide mechanisms for regional growth and barring that they should be fluid and inclusive in all sense of the word. The ilk of Thackeray needs to learn the moral of story from their lineage. It will do us good if they can also learn a bit from Tagore’s universalism and Spencer Wells theories about migrations of human race.


Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(dictator watch)
Sep 29, 2012

Kachin woman was raped by Burma soldiers

The United States has now ended its economic sanctions on Burma. The Embassy in Rangoon is open for business - literally! This means American companies will accelerate their push to get into the country, alongside their competitors from China, Thailand, Japan, Singapore and Europe.

This is terrible news. Economically, it means that the best business opportunities in Burma will be stolen, from the people of the country, and divided between the corporate raiders and regime cronies. The only crumbs that will be left will be to work as disenfranchised wage slaves, and in a devastated natural environment.

Even more worrying, Burma is in no way ready for economic development. What the country requires is (1) political development, including ending the attacks by the Burma Army against the Kachin and other ethnic groups, and the freeing of ALL political prisoners; and (2) social development, to address the devastating shortage that exists in satisfying the people’s basic human needs.

These are infinitely higher priorities than the quest for corporate profits, and which many people, including 88 Generation leader Min Ko Naing, and Karen National Union General Secretary Naw Zipporah Sein, fully understand. However, the only Burmese voice that has any currency at all with the international community, Aung San Suu Kyi, does not see it this way. After consultations with Hillary Clinton and Derek Mitchell, she apparently was persuaded to reverse her support for the sanctions and to embrace commercial development openly.

Suu Kyi made a mistake, but given her lack of experience with international business and trade, it is not that surprising. She has been under house arrest. She does not understand how the world really works.

All major economic developments in Burma will begin with one commodity, land. Whatever a multinational company wants to do, be it build a factory, or an electrical transmission line, or dig a mine, it will need land. But, there is no land law in Burma. The people do not even have title to land that their families have owned for generations. This means that there is no proper mechanism by which to transfer land, including judicial procedures through which to resolve disputes.

Burma, economically, is a corrupt and savage place. International companies are being courted by the regime, which promises to supply the land. The regime is also using incentives - bribes - to pervert ethnic leaders that have influence in the minority homelands. Reports of inducements to such leaders (e.g., Karen traitor Mutu Say Poe) are widespread, for example from Myanmar Egress and Dawei Princess for the multi-billion dollar Tavoy Port development. In summary, a terrible corporate rape appears primed and ready to go.

While Suu Kyi may support this, it doesn’t have to happen. The people have a number of ways that they can block the economic and ecological destruction of their country.

The first of these is to protest. When the regime, through the Burma Army or other security apparatus, attempts to steal villagers’ land, the people should launch massive local and even nation-wide protests. For example, this is exactly what is being done at the Letpadaung expansion for the Chinese Monywa copper mine, where 8,000 acres of land was stolen. The regime is finding it exceedingly difficult to control these protests. While Suu Kyi will never participate in or even support them, they are a rallying cry for many groups, from the affected villagers to political groups such as 88 Generation and also ethnic nationality organizations. This creates a strong alliance, which the regime is afraid to confront.

Therefore, in the face of new land seizures, similar protests should be launched. Furthermore, if the land is being stolen for a Western company, the protestors should rage against it. When the international business press learns that local people are protesting, the companies, to save face, will have to reverse course (witness Apple’s travails with Foxconn in China). Protest alone will stop most if not all major land thefts, and through this halt the corporate juggernaut in its tracks.

Secondly, many likely projects involve resource extraction in ethnic areas that are at least partially under the control of ethnic resistance forces. In these cases, one example right now is the Shwe gas pipeline to China, the land theft is always conducted by the Burma Army and accompanied by gross human rights abuses. Just as the Kachin and the Shan have been fighting the Army in and beyond the pipeline route, so too should all of Burma’s two dozen or so ethnic forces defend other economically strategic areas from regime offensives and land thefts.

Lastly, there is the problem alluded to above of confronting ethnic leaders who have been persuaded to turn against their people and to back land theft and exploitation. Said another way, this is the ongoing challenge of maintaining allegiance to the goal of real freedom in the face of an exceedingly long struggle, and with an aggressor which has great resources at its disposal with which to offer bribes, and which has also proved adept at using the tactic of divide and conquer. In such cases, leaders who remain true to their people can bolster their support by encouraging the people, and most importantly their revolutionary soldiers, to continue the fight until real freedom is achieved, and not to settle for surrender and a false peace.

Through working on all three of these approaches, the people of Burma, and the leaders who have their best interests at heart - who are not just out to make a quick buck - can provide level after level of resistance such that the corporate executive fantasies of Burma treasure soon evaporate. One thing that Aung San Suu Kyi definitely does not understand is as follows:

The business opportunities in Burma will require huge amounts of what are known as capital expenditures. Mines, factories and the like need investments of tens of millions, hundreds of millions, and even billions of dollars.

Corporations do not make such expenditures unless they expect a reasonable return, which they further attempt to forecast using sophisticated computer models and such measures as the internal rate of return and net present value. This return, in addition to being large, must also be secure. Companies are unwilling to accept little in the way of uncertainty.

A capital project is evaluated over its term, and for large projects this will usually extend to twenty or even more years (think of the lifetime of a building). What no one has commented on publicly, although the corporations are unquestioningly thinking about it, is that Burma does not provide certainty as an investment home over this long a period. It is very risky to assume that the country will be stable even three to five years into the future.

The only exceptions to this are for offshore natural gas production, which operations the companies generally can control, even in the face of a local revolution, and projects such as Monywa and the Shwe pipeline, where the Burma Army is guaranteeing (or attempting to guarantee) security and the end of the local resistance.

There are many identifiable, upcoming events, though which Burma’s facade of peace may shatter, and which would spell the loss of all such investments. These include:

- An expansion of the Kachin conflict, including with the possible participation of other ethnic armies, if they renounce the ceasefires that they have and which the regime is already breaking, which expansion may not only unsettle the entire country but actually lead to the dictatorship’s collapse.

- The possibility that Aung San Suu Kyi will not only not succeed with her “negotiation,” but that she may in some way become incapacitated or unable to contribute. Burma without her will instantly become more unstable. (If she continues to deny the regime’s crimes, Burma will also become more unstable.)

- This risk also includes the scenario where she is denied a larger role in the 2015 election, which election on its own may become a trigger for unrest.

- And, the fact that a national census has to be conducted in advance of the election. The military regime falsified the last census in 1983 by registering Buddhists as Burmans, even when they were members of ethnic minority groups. The new census will be hyper-sensitive, and any similar fraud will certainly be met with strong resistance.

No matter how rosy you try to portray it, even in the near term the prospects for Burma are full of uncertainty, and to many if not most hard-nosed executives contemplating spending huge sums of money, this will prove to be too great a risk to take. After all, when Suu Kyi is no longer around, and Burma truly is free, the people may decide to nationalize all extant multinational operations, as punishment for their support of the regime’s tyranny. And, in the world of international law, such companies will have no standing on which to protest. They took a gamble working with the dictatorship, and lost.

WORLD: Combating torture

Special Contribution
By Eric Bailey
Sept 24, 2012

The Torture title book's cover page

The third issue, volume one, of Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives has hit the presses and has several unique twists that will make it stand apart from other issues for some time to come. Due to an unusual set of circumstances, this issue was actually published jointly by both the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the Danish Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT). The reason for this was because of an Asian Alliance Against Torture and Ill-treatment summit that was held, by these two organizations, in Hong Kong, that gathered ministers of parliament and other experts from several different countries in Asia for the purpose of discussing human rights abuses and the means of combating them – both through legislation and implementation of existing laws.

As a result, parliamentarians and other experts from the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal have had their speeches printed in this issue, giving considerable insight into the state of affairs in these countries, in regards to human rights abuses, as well as a sense of the challenges facing law makers in those countries that must be overcome to effectively combat problems like torture.

Additionally, interviews with experts and editorial articles from others have added input from Sri Lankan Tamils, members of lower level castes in India, a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury under the Reagan Administration, and human rights activists from both the AHRC and the RCT.

This wealth of experts and the diverse knowledge they’ve shared continues to elevate the quality of this young magazine and, while reputations take time, Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives is off to an amazing start and is establishing itself as a credible and well written publication.

Being an American myself, I was especially interested in the interview with Paul Roberts. In this interview, Mr. Roberts did something that is unfortunately rare among American politicians these days: he made no distinction between the George W. Bush and Obama Administrations. Despite coming from the most famous and celebrated Republican Party administration in recent decades, he firmly condemned the Bush Administration for torturing prisoners that had been taken in conflicts since the 9/11 Attacks and he articulated his opposition to the Iraq and Afghan Wars. He explained the constitutional, statutory, and international laws and treaties designed to prevent the Federal Government of the United States from committing acts of torture. He explained, in detail and with historical examples, why such actions are not only immoral, but largely ineffective. And he clearly showed the ultimate danger of such actions for the American people – not in the form of revenge attacks from enraged Muslims or what have you, but through the erosion of American civil liberties and the further consolidation of government power.

Then, in the very next sentence, he condemned Obama for doing the exact same thing. In an era of intense political partisanship, where each political faction does its utmost to misrepresent and demonize the other, Paul Robert’s straight shooting was a breath of fresh air. He condemned Obama for ordering the assassination of American citizens without judicial review. He condemned the codifying into law of unjust and repressive powers, which now includes the power of the military to directly arrest American citizens, indefinitely, without charge, trial, warrant, or any other form of judicial review, and argued that both administrations were fundamentally responsible for the erosion of American civil liberties and the establishing of a regime that conducts routine, unwarranted, searches and regular domestic spying.

Mr. Roberts continued by calling for The West to be held accountable for its actions over the years, as a necessary step towards that dream of a torture free world, as well as towards the restoration of civil liberties in those Western countries (specifically in this interview, the United States). His arguments were thoughtful and articulate, and it is my hope that he will make additional appearances in future issues of this magazine.

Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives is a new initiative which is focuses mainly on torture and its related issues globally. Writers, who interested in having their views of this subject published, may submit their articles to

VIET NAM: Trial against three pro-democracy bloggers to open on September 24

Blogger Ms. Ta Phong Tan

BANGKOK-PARIS-GENEVA, September 21, 2012. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), together with the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), are deeply concerned at the judicial action against three pro-democracy bloggers. The trial against Mr. Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay), Mr. Phan Thanh Hai and Ms. Ta Phong Tan before the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court is due to start on September 24, 2012, after several postponements.

On September 15, 2012, Dieu Cay’s lawyer was officially notified that Ms. Ta Phong Tan and Messrs. Dieu Cay and Phan Thanh Hai would be tried on September 24, 2012. The three outspoken bloggers were charged with “conducting propaganda against the state” under Article 88.2 of the Criminal Code that has been frequently used to criminalise peaceful criticisms. If convicted, the bloggers could be sentenced to up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

The trial has been re-scheduled on several occasions (April and August 2012). Meanwhile Dieu Cay has been in prison pending his trial for 23 months (1). Mr. Phan Thanh Hai and Ms. Ta Phong Tan have also been in pre-trial detention in Ho Chi Minh City for 23 and 12 months respectively. This prolonged pre-trial detention is a violation of national and international law, including Article 120 of the Vietnamese Criminal Procedures Code (2).

The Observatory and VCHR are extremely concerned that the bloggers will not receive a fair trial. In addition, the family of Dieu Cay has been put under pressure. Indeed, in the afternoon of September 16, 2012, Dieu Cay’s ex wife, along with the sister of Ms. Ta Phong Tan, were reportedly arrested and interrogated at the police station on accusations of causing a traffic incident after they got out of the taxi that drove them to a ceremony to commemorate the 49-day of Ta Phong Tan’s mother’s death. The same day, they were also assaulted by thugs in front of the police. It is to be recalled that on July 30, 2012, Ta Phong Tan’s mother, Ms. Dang Thi Kim Lieng, immolated herself outside the People’s Committee headquarters in Bac Lieu to protest against her daughter’s unfair imprisonment.

Dieu Cay, one of the founders of the Club of Free Journalists, is known for his writings calling for greater respect for human rights and democratic reforms. He is also known for his criticisms of China’s claims over disputed islands in the South China Sea. In January 2008, Dieu Cay and other activists staged an anti-China demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City. Before their arrests, Phan Thanh Hai had published a number of articles on his blog, including one that criticised and called for the repeal of Article 88 of the Criminal Code, while Ms. Tan had blogged about police abuse and violations of human rights by the State.

This crackdown on Internet activists has been continuous since 2008, including numerous arbitrary arrests and detentions (3). In addition, the Vietnamese government has drafted a new Decree on Management, Provision, and Use of Internet Services and Information on the Network that, if passed in its current form, would grant the authorities expansive discretionary power to censor, control and possibly criminalise Internet use in Viet Nam. Moreover, last week, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung ordered a crack down on three prominent blogs advocating for pro human rights and pro democratic reforms and denouncing corruption cases and called for the arrest of those associated with these sites. In June 2012, the UN Human Rights Council adopted by consensus a resolution affirming that the right to freedom of expression on-line must be protected, and called on States to “promote and facilitate access to the Internet”.

The Observatory reiterates its call on the representatives of the diplomatic and international community in Hanoi to send observers to the trial of the three bloggers and to publicly and privately urge Viet Nam to drop all charges against Ms. Ta Phong Tan, Mr. Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay) and Mr. Phan Thanh Hai, and release them immediately and unconditionally.

Press contact: VCHR: Vo Tran Nhat: +33 1 45 98 30 85, FIDH: Arthur Manet: + 33 1 43 55 25 18, OMCT: Isabelle Scherer: +41 22 809 49 39

'The government will realise we can do without nuclear energy'

Special Contribution
By Sreelatha Menon
Sep 16, 2012

Protest in India, beside nuclear victim's photo

"I meet him once every month. Since the past few months it has been like that. I would go to Idinthakarai with my two sons and meet him. I have commitments here. My mother is sick. Things are not easy. People at home are upset. I find myself responsible for two sets of parents.

"A week ago, he called me urgently. I went with children to Idinthakarai. He said something bad was coming. He was certain he was going to be arrested. There were first information reports against him. He said he will surrender to the police as it will be good for everyone. If he surrendered to the police, they will stop harassing people. "I was shocked. What will happen if he gets arrested? My children were worried for his life. My younger son, who is 12-year old, asked me if he would ever come back after he was arrested. My elder son, who is two years older, asked if his father would be beaten.

"People told me that I was naive. They said that what they wanted was that no one should ask questions and the plant should go on. The day he decided to get a court arrest, he said it was the ground reality that was forcing him to do so and that I should explain it to the children. He spoke to them, too. "Arvind Kejriwal came on Tuesday night at 10 pm. People had by then taken him away so that he won't surrender. Kejriwal said it was decided that he will not surrender.

"Now things have changed. It is very scary. I have no idea for how long would he remain underground. He has no idea either. "Kejriwal said the intention of the state is to bring everything to an end. That is, if he is separated from people, all will come to an end. The movement would be finished.

"But, that is wishful thinking. It is too simplistic. It will only intensify feelings. He has to worry about it, too. He was training people for a peaceful protest. "There are FIRs against me, too, under three sections for unlawful assembly. On Saturday, the police came here, about 25 of them and gave me summons asking me to appear in the court.

"It all started a year ago. We were getting ready for school when we got a call. It was the day after the hot run. (The Russianp-designed Kudankulam nuclear plant conducted the hot run -- testing various equipments in the plant with dummy fuel -- in August last year). Anxious people gathered outside the church and he had to go. "Everything changed after that. They branded him a Naxal. Then, they said he was getting money from foreign countries for this struggle. All that has been proved false. He never got any money from anybody.

"We run this school, where 90 per cent of students are first generation learners. Yes, they know what is happening around them. They watch TV. On Saturday, a four-year old came to me and asked me about him. "My children want him to come back. I want him back. I want him to come out and pick up his life from where he left it. I know that would happen.

"The government will realise we can do without nuclear energy. All will understand the fact that this energy is not what we want. "I remain positive always. I am sure there is a stronger force up there. This whole thing was led, despite obstacles, not because of one person but a collective spiritual power, whatever is leading this universe. There will be an end. A win-win solution will be there. I believe it. Idinthakarai wants alternative energy policy. They are lobbying for altrernative policy for the whole country. The government will be there for the people. They are people, too. They are not bad people. I hope that people will see a reason in having a safer alternative."

Krishnakant, Gujarat , India, Ph: ++91- 9427849310

M.P. Govt must stop betrayal of thousands of project-oustees and respond to the Jal and Jammen Satyagraha

Sardar Sarovar dam

The farmers, labourers, potters and fish workers in the Sardar Sarovar affected areas, many of whom are also affected by the canals of the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar Projects and those affected by the Jobat Dam warn the Government of Madhya Pradesh against its totally insensitive attitude and illegal moves, destroying the lands and livelihoods of thousands of oustees affected by the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar Projects. We stand by the nature based communities, the women and men who on the 14th day of the Jal Satyagraha, are facing the waters, protesting against the Government’s plan to make their villages a watery grave and evict them by the watery force. About 2,500 land holder families in Omkareshwar and thousands of families in Indira Sagar are pushed, not merely into ‘submergence’, but ‘destruction’ zone, that too without prior and legal rehabilitation.

It is absolute injustice meted out to the adivasi and non-adivasi farmers and the Madhya Pradesh Government has violated all norms, both its own Rehabilitation Policy and Judgements of the Supreme Court. In total contempt of the communities living in the Narmada valley since generations, the Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan and his cabinet is refusing to acknowledge not just the gross illegalities but also the truth and non-violence expressed through the Jal Satyagraha of the oustees and the activists of Narmada Bachao Andolan, Chittaroopa Palit and Alok Agarwal.

They refuse to take note of the scenario wherein not one but all dams in the Narmada valley are pushed ahead illegally, with scant respect for environment, law and justice. The two Ministers, as envoys of the CM, who visited the site of the Satyagaraha yesterday, failed to put forth any concrete proposal before the Satyagrahis and the oustees. The Centre too, through the Narmada Control Authority and the Ministry of Water Resources and Ministry of Environment have not promptly intervened in this critical situation, appearing to be beyond control when not one but at least waters from 8 dams are released and the downstream areas are flooded, destroying hundreds of acres of standing land and houses.

In Sardar Sarovar, the oustees of ISP and OSP have flooded more than 300 houses, along with a few shops in Nisarpur and hundreds of acres of standing crop in dozens of farms, across villages. The SSP is however, stopped and no permission is granted for any further raise in height, since 40,000 families are still residing in the submergence zone and huge scandal of Corruption in the Rehabilitation is unearthed and is under scrutiny by Justice Jha Commission.

However, while in SSP, for the last 27 years of struggle including Jal Satyagraha to Jal Samadhi, agitations have led to the land-based rehabilitation of 11,000 families in Maharashtra and Gujarat, but not one is rehabilitated in Madhya Pradesh. The situation is same in all the large dams in the Madhya Prdaesh part of the Narmada valley - Bargi, Maheshwar, Omkareshwar, Indira Sagar, Maan, Jobat, Veda, Goi etc. This is self-evident of the state government’s disrespect for the adivasis and farmers. Madhya Pradesh is locating and allocating land for investors across the globe but denies the same to the project – affected and only forces them to accept rocky, uncultivable or decades-old encroached land from its ‘Waste Land Bank’.The same insensitivity is reflected in its silence in dealing concretely with the 10 month long Jobat Zameen Haq Satyagraha by the SSP oustees, mostly the hilly adivasis, displaced since 1994. The oustees who are on the verge of reaping the second crop on the government seed farm land they have ‘occupied’ since 10 months is another slap in the face of the State!

It is this callous attitude that is being challenged, staking lives and livelihoods in Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar dam affected areas today and the same must be responded to immediately. We appeal to all the agencies, including the NHRC, the Commission for Scheduled Tribes to intervene, at least now, after 15 days of the Satyagraha. The High Court and the Supreme Court can also take suo moto notice of the crisis and intervene to protect the rights and lives, with due respect to those sacrificing their land and village communities from the oldest of the civilizations, i.e. Narmada in ‘public interest’. If not, an intensified struggle all over will challenge the power holders on the entire issue of the Narmada valley.

Medha Patkar Devram Kanera Khema Vestha Shrikanth Ghokru Bhilala Ph: 09423965153 / 09179148973

THAILAND: AFAD & JPF joint statement on the International Day of the Disappeared

Burmese migrant workers at a police station in Ranong province

Bangkok, Thailand and Manila, Philippines: JPF and AFAD call on the government to ensure remedies for victims of Enforced Disappearances and ratify the UN Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance

Bangkok, 30 August, 2012: On the occasion of International Day of the Disappeared, the Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF) and the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) commend the Thai government for signing the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance in January this year. Both the JPF and the AFAD further express appreciation to the Thai government for committing to provide reparation to victims of enforced disappearances by the end of this year to victims from the southern boarding provinces from 2004. This commitment is seen as an integral part in the whole process of the government’s commitment to respond to the victims’ families’ need for truth and justice.

Enforced disappearance is not only a problem in Southern Thailand. In the year 2011, JPF has documented 40 incidents of enforced disappearances involving 59 people. 12 people were from northern Thailand, five from the west, seven from Isaan (north east) and 33 from the Deep south. JPF found out that men from minority ethnic groups, such as Malayu, Hill Tribe communities or migrant workers are disproportionately more vulnerable to enforced disappearances. In the cases documented by JPF, 94\% of the victims were male, 86\% of whom -are from ethnic minorities. JPF believes that two government policies directly contributed to increasing enforced disappearances in Thailand such as the highly militarized counter-insurgency approach adopted in southern Thailand by various governments and the War on Narcotic Drugs beginning in 2003. In addition to these two policies, JPF concludes from its investigation that particular categories of people are vulnerable to enforced disappearances throughout Thailand. These are: (i) people with close relationships with officials and /or come into conflict with officials; (ii) activists engaged in human rights, political or corruption activism; (iii) witnesses of crimes or human rights violations; and (iv) migrants.

In all of the cases, the right to truth and the right to justice for enforced disappearances remain largely denied by the state in Thailand. The failure to define enforced disappearance as a crime in Thailand blocks prosecutions. Compounding this are weak investigatory and prosecutorial bodies that lack independence. The right to truth is systematically denied as government agencies seek to hide, rather than reveal the truth about enforced disappearances. Provision of reparations to relatives of the disappearances has been extremely limited in Thailand.

“Decades of impunity have created a context in which administrative and security officials know that their illegal actions are condoned by the state and that the likelihood of legal action against them is extremely low”, said Angkhana Neelapaijit, President of JPF. “Families, including myself, have even been denied the right to know the truth and justice about our loved ones”.

"The government of Thailand is to be commended for its act of signing the Convention, which is indeed, a good example of the Thai government to other ASEAN countries. Its ratification of the treaty and its recognition of the competence of the UN Committee Against Enforced Disappearances will be a breakthrough in Southeast Asia, making Thailand to be the first Southeast Asian country to have acceded to the treaty, thus making itself a model for other countries in the region to imitate.“ said Mary Aileen D. Bacalso, AFAD Secretary-General.

JPF and AFAD today, made the following recommendations: The Government to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and to recognize the competence of the UN Committee -Against Enforced Disappearances.

The Government to adopt a piece of legislation that criminalizes the act of enforced -disappearance, creates appropriate investigation mechanisms and ensures the full rights of the victims and their relatives.

The Government to institute improvement of investigation and prosecution procedures, including immediate filing of first information reports, immediate investigation, rapid referral to Department of Special Investigation (DSI), involvement of independent forensic experts, provision of witness protection, and respect for the rights of the relatives.

Where necessary commissions of inquiry be established into particular categories of enforced disappearances and other human rights violations such as (i) ongoing disappearances related to suspicion of involvement with drugs; (ii) human rights violations in northern Thailand in 2003; and(iii) killings and disappearances of activists.

A national level reparations mechanism should be established. Until this is established in all cases of enforced disappearance relatives should receive interim compensation. The Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF) was established in June 2006 to protect human rights, promote access to justice and to end impunity in Thailand.

AFAD was established on 4 June 1998 to forge solidarity among organizations working on the issue of enforced disappearances in Asia and to effect a strong impact in the search for truth, justice, redress and the reconstruction of the historical memory of the disappeared.

Signed and authenticated by:

ANGKHANA NEELAPHAIJIT, President, Justice for Peace Foundation MUGIYANTO, Chairperson, AFAD

THAILAND: Two young persons awarded 100,000 baht each for compensation as a result of being physically abused while being searched by security officer

Aug 16, 2012

The Songkhla Administrative Court

On 9 August 2012, the Songkhla Administrative Court ordered the Office of Prime Minister as the agency in charge of Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Region 4 to provide compensation to Mr. Mazaofi Kwangbu, 20 years and Adil Samae, 14 years. The two young persons have filed charges stemming from physical abuse by security officers during a search and patrol operation. Invoking Martial Law, the search operation was conducted on 11 May 2009 around the bank of Pattani River, Tambon Sateng, Muang District, Yala Province.

The Court ruled that though military officers are authorized by Martial Law to conduct searches of persons and vehicles at night, but during this operation, the two young persons were subjected to physical abuse and sustained injuries. Such an act was therefore considered unlawful and tortuous. And since the military officer belonged to ISOC Region 4 which falls under the charge of the Office of Prime Minister, the Office is therefore held liable to provide compensation for the damage claim. Mr. Mazaofi Kwangbu shall be compensated for the lack of labour force in his family and a lack of benefits from work and the compensation shall be based on the minimum wage applicable in Yala for 250 baht/day, and since he was told by doctor to stop working for five days, he shall be entitled to receiving 1,200 baht as compensation. Meanwhile, Adil Samae, a boy, was studying, so there shall be no damage claim on this end. However, in light of compensation for a breach of the right and freedom of body, health and mental quality, since the military’s act has infringed on the right and freedom to body and mentality of the two persons, and since Section 32 of Thailand’s Constitution provides for rights and liberties of people, the Court decided to award each of the plaintiff 100,000 baht as compensation to damage claim as per Paragraph 5 of the section

The case took place on 11 May 2009. The military officers back then physically abused both Mr. Mazaofi Kwangbu and Adil Samae by hitting their heads with gun handles and smacked them in the stem of their ears and occipital bones causing injuries to them. Later, the public prosecutor of the Army Military Court of Pattani criminally prosecuted the officer for physically abusing other persons and causing them to sustain injuries. On 26 April 2010, the accused confessed to the charges and was convicted by the Army Court to six month imprisonment and a fine of 2,000, but since he had never been found guilty before and since he had been behaving well, the imprisonment was suspended for two years, but he was still obliged to pay the fine. The case has reached its final verdict and it has given rise to the tort claim damage.

Note: The Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand B.E. 2550 (2007)

Section32. A person shall enjoy the right and liberty in his or her life and person. A torture, brutal act, or punishment by cruel or inhumane means shall not be permitted; provided, however, that punishment by death penalty as provided by law shall not be deemed the punishment by cruel or inhumane means under this paragraph.

The arrest and detention shall not be made without Court order, Court writ or other causes as prescribed by law.

The search of person or act affecting the rights and liberty under paragraph one shall not be made except by the necessities as prescribed by law.

In the case of the act affecting the right and liberty under paragraph one, an affected person, a public prosecutor, or another person acting on behalf of the affected person has the right to seek court action to stop or withdrawal such an action including to determine proper measure or remedy for the accrued damage.

For more information, please contact; Ms. Pawinee Chumsri, Attorney, CrCf , 083-189 6598


Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(dictatorwatch)
August 18, 2012

Dictator Gen. Than Shwe

Burma is still ruled by a military dictatorship. Senior General Than Shwe and the Tatmadaw are still absolutely in charge. Thein Sein remains his puppet, the titular head of a parallel fake democratic apparatus.

All that has really changed is the regime’s approach to its control of the country’s public. Formerly, the junta used gross tools of repression. The population was premeditatively kept in abject poverty, to reduce the possibility of uprising. Community spies instilled fear, to silence free speech. All activism, and also free media, was punished with long prison terms and torture. And, the Burman-led junta indulged its racism by committing crimes against humanity against the country’s ethnic nationalities.

Seeing a new risk from the pro-democracy revolutions in the Middle East, and desirous of even greater proceeds from his armed robbery of an entire country, Than Shwe changed his strategy. He enlisted the United States, and “pro-democracy” leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as allies in a fraudulent process of reform.

The control and repression is still there. It is now for the most part just smaller in scale, meaning that Daw Suu, the U.S., and the regime’s other pro-development allies will find it even easier to ignore. The following are recent examples of this type of repression. The regime will escalate these acts, and then back off, indefinitely, to perpetuate its deceit.


The issue of poverty reflects the most subtle, and ingenious, shift in Than Shwe’s strategy. First, the “reform” is focused exclusively on development, on promulgating new investment laws and regulations as a prelude to signing dozens of commercial development deals. Than Shwe is actually emulating Ronald Reagan’s discredited trickle down theory of economics, and, amazingly, Barack Obama accepts it. This is the idea that the development ultimately will benefit everyone. The regime’s inner circle and closest cronies will profit enormously, of course (there is no doubt also a tithe for the Senior General from every major deal), but some crumbs will be left over to trickle down to the poor.

However, international agencies and parties are attempting to address directly the widespread malnutrition in the country, and the extraordinary neglect of the educational system and medical care. This is where Than Shwe’s strategy is most devious. First, the regime will flaunt these programs, as proof that its reform is sincere. But, and as with so many international aid efforts in the past, they will be allowed only grudgingly and in a piecemeal fashion. And secondly, as occurred after the Nargis Cyclone, the dictatorship will continue to steal a significant percentage of the aid.

This is evidenced by the recent concern over the World Bank’s plan to fund community projects, and also the non-transparency of the Norwegian peace initiative. Aid agencies operating in Burma have historically done a terrible job helping the impoverished population, since they inevitably channel great funds to local parties that are sympathetic to the regime. This in turn leads to widespread and well-funded crony networks that are opposed both to real freedom, and to open, fair, and sustainable development. When agencies do their best to fulfill their stated mission, as with the public they are repressed. As an example of this, witness the recent arrest of fourteen U.N. and NGO workers in Arakan State.

The regime’s overall treatment of Burma’s massive population of poor has actually not changed at all. This is apparent from its approach to the most destitute. Irrawaddy recently reported that in Pegu Division officials arrested a group of homeless families, including orphans and pregnant women, and trucked them to the Yoma Mountains, where they were unceremoniously dumped. Burma’s military dictatorship continues to consider its citizens literally as garbage.

If the regime truly had changed, it would repeatedly advocate, and enforce, an entirely new philosophy towards the public, that the people of Burma are not the enemy, and that they should be helped, and treated with respect. Also, regarding the commercial development that now dominates the country, it is difficult to see how the plague of land thefts that are being perpetrated by the developers will in any way assist the country’s poor, whose land it is that is being stolen.

Basic freedoms

Ordinary people now feel free to speak their minds, at least to close friends and family. There is still an overall climate of fear, though, in particular with any interaction with officials. Indeed, Karen News reported that Karen villagers were afraid to talk to the staff at the new KNU liaison offices, because they were passing the villagers’ personal information and complaints on to Military Intelligence. Hopefully this has been corrected, but if not, and even more, if the practice is common at all the ethnic nationality liaison offices, not only will villagers be afraid to speak their minds, or even use the offices, it constitutes an extraordinary betrayal of them by the organizations that are supposedly dedicated to their freedom.

A feeling of fear is also evident for the different people and groups that are attempting to work with the regime, starting with Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD. It is obvious that they are censoring themselves, by refusing to address publicly not only national crises, like the civil war against the Kachin and the internecine conflict in Arakan State, but even their stated goals, starting with to create a new, democratic Constitution. No one, beginning with Daw Suu, has been willing to say anything concrete about any issue of substance (e.g., following her recent meeting with Thein Sein, where presumably these topics were discussed). Ironically, the Parliamentary Rule of Law Committee, to which she has been nominated, “will be responsible for monitoring and ensuring that parliamentary representatives, judicial bodies, civil servants and the media abide by the law.” (Source: Democratic Voice of Burma) This mission statement says nothing about protecting the people or prosecuting the Tatmadaw and the regime’s other security organs. What it means in practice is that the Committee will be used to keep the democratic forces in check, to stop them from pressing for real freedom, and with its legitimacy guaranteed through having Daw Suu as an unassailable figurehead.

Disturbingly, one form of speech that is being permitted is hate speech. Regime officials, pro-regime media outlets, and even some monks and supposed pro-democracy figures have called for the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people from Burma. This is an amazing and completely unwanted change. It is noteworthy that hate speech is vigorously condemned in many countries in the West, which are still dealing with their own legacies of racism.

Freedom of assembly and protest

After free speech, the next basic right is freedom of assembly. Here, the regime has passed a protest law, which allegedly guarantees this right. However, the law has many undemocratic provisions, including that the authorities must approve the assemblies in advance, and that the organizers have to supply a list of speakers, the content of their talks, and their biographies.

Even with this law, the regime continues to suppress free assembly: - Twenty student activists around Burma were arrested as they planned to commemorate the dictatorship’s attack in 1962 on Rangoon University. - NLD members were barred from celebrating Martyrs’ Day in Pegu. - A labor activist was arrested in Mandalay. - Young Kachin education activists were arrested in Myitkyina. - Permission was denied for a protest in the Kaw Taung District of the Tenasserim Division, against a coal-fired power plant.

These and other such incidents are not random or unconnected. They document a concerted, well-planned strategy by the regime to prevent organized dissent. Proof of this strategy can also be found in the continuing detention of political prisoners. AAPPB has verified the location of 448 confirmed political prisoners. The total number is undoubtedly much higher. Political prisoners are also still subject to torture and other forms of abuse. DVB recently reported that prisoner Aung Thu was assaulted at Insein Prison, after he had been moved from Sittwe Prison and had the temerity to protest the guards stealing the prisoners’ food.

Free media

The situation is similar with the media. Although Burma’s media does have greater latitude now, this freedom is in some cases being abused. Irrawaddy for instance labeled Burma’s new media “irresponsible” for being “openly partisan, nationalist and aiding a deadly war against the already disenfranchised Rohingya minority...” Meanwhile, repression is continuing when media outlets diverge from the party line, including by giving a fair portrayal of the Arakan crisis, when covering crony-connected development projects, and when investigating regime officials. On these subjects, publication suspension by the censorship board, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), is a regular penalty. A recent Irrawaddy editorial documented the suspensions of the Voice Weekly and Envoy, and harsh warnings against Venus and the Yangon Times.

The two suspensions were dropped after journalists protested. This is a perfect example of the type of cat and mouse game to which the junta has shifted. We should expect a never-ending series of small-scale repressions, followed by reversals, all to the end of keeping everyone distracted from the bigger picture: that Burma is still a dictatorship; that it will continue to be a dictatorship for the foreseeable future; and that large-scale corporate rape of the country is now underway, including with the extensive involvement of companies from countries that supposedly back freedom (e.g., the U.S. companies General Electric and Pepsico - Derek Mitchell is nothing more than a trade ambassador). Interestingly, the greatest media freedom now seems to be reporting on Daw Suu. However, this is actually not that surprising, given her open support for the Tatmadaw.

In summary, the media picture in Burma has become a mixed bag. Freedom is allowed when the outlets promote the regime’s campaigns of hate against the ethnic nationalities, give unqualified support to the “reform,” and when they glorify the junta’s partner and Burma’s demigod, Aung San Suu Kyi. Otherwise, the media is repressed.

In addition, the regime has yet to pass a new media law, to end pre-publication censorship. It further formed the Myanmar Core Press Council, supposedly to draft the law, although the decision to establish the Council too was reversed - for the time being - following journalist protests. Like the Rule of Law Committee, the MCPC was designed to get its participating members to conduct their own censorship. In the absence of the Council, pre-publication censorship by the PSRD continues.

Large-scale repression and abuse

While the regime has shifted its strategy to small-scale tyranny, massive crimes continue - as always - in the remote ethnic nationality homelands (to which both domestic and foreign journalists are unwilling to travel). The major crimes now in progress include the Civil War with the Kachin; ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya; and large-scale displacement for the Tavoy deep-sea port.

One basic question about the Kachin crisis is why the Tatmadaw won’t follow Thein Sein’s multiple orders to halt its offensive. The answer to this is simple. Thein Sein is not in charge. Than Shwe is. Thein Sein, as a leading General (he never lost this rank), in private with his fellow generals on the National Defense and Security Council (the supreme institution in Burma), fully supports the offensive.

The offensive is about resources, in this case the land controlled by the KIO through which the new natural gas pipeline to China passes. The regime has promised China that it will open the pipeline by September 2013. It cannot do this, though, until the KIO is defeated and the pipeline corridor is “sanitized.” The offensive will continue, until this is achieved. (The Myitsone Dam will be resumed as well if and when this victory is achieved, although personally I don’t believe there is any chance that the Tatmadaw will ever be able to conquer the Kachin.)

Also, military dictatorships always engage in war, even when there is no underlying reason to do so. War justifies their existence, and it ensures that the lower ranks will not rebel. Soldiers left with nothing to do may turn against their senior officers. The Rohingya crisis is an example of this type of war. There is no military rationale for the regime to demonize and attack the Rohingya, but this is what it has done. Although the scale of the crime is different, this is the same sort of targeting that the Nazis did with Jews, Gypsies, and gays.

Creating a common enemy, as a means to divert a population from its own oppression, was memorialized in George Orwell’s work, 1984. While reprehensible, it is nonetheless extremely effective. Focusing on the Rohngya has recruited Rakhine nationalists, Buddhist monks, and even some “pro-democracy” activists, to the regime’s side, apparently joining an unexpectedly large number of Burman nationalists. This is perhaps the military dictatorship’s most successful targeting of an ethnic nationality since it seized power fifty years ago. Its rule has been reinforced, and everyone has been distracted from the many small crackdowns that are taking place and also the new corporate rape.

(Note: It is astonishing that the U.S. immediately concluded that the acts against the Rohingya did not constitute ethnic cleansing. How was it able to do this? Even if it is pointing satellites at Sittwe and Maungdaw, there is still no way to determine the extent of what is actually taking place on the ground, e.g., the number of Rohingya bodies that have been dumped in rivers. In fact, it appears that the arrests of the U.N. and NGO workers were designed to ensure that no systematic appraisal of the atrocities could be prepared.)

A final major repression, although still in its early stages, is the massive Tavoy project, which the regime will partner with its long-standing friend, Thailand. (It seems clear that the project was personally agreed between Than Shwe and Thailand’s wannabe dictator, Thaksin Shinawatra.)This development, when completed, will force a huge number of villagers from their land. It will also be an environmental catastrophe. Unless the Karen resistance reinforces its opposition, the project - like the Total/Chevron Yadana Pipeline - will inevitably lead to increasing land thefts and forced relocations.

The regime will no doubt extend its Rohingya model to eastern Burma as well. Just as the Rohingya are now called terrorists, Burman and other nationalists will be incited to view any ethnic groups that oppose development as terrorists as well. The Rohingya strategy is not limited to Arakan State. The regime will redirect it to ensure its goal that the country always remain a unitary state, under the control of Burmans, and that federalism and ethnic nationality self-determination are never permitted. In summary, Than Shwe is an absolute political genius.


This is what is happening in Burma now. The country is neither free, nor democratic. Furthermore, this will not change. The people of Burma have a choice: To resist, and keep up the fight until their country truly is free; or to accept, and learn to live with, a “semi-free” Burma that at its heart, like its regional neighbors China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and - if Thaksin ever gets his way - Thailand, is completely authoritarian.

Burma’s fate is up to the people. They do have the power - the power of numbers - to win their freedom. If this is ever to happen, though, they need to consider why they have failed to achieve it up to this point. More generally, why does this failing extend to so many other peoples in East Asia? One Arab people after another has successfully achieved real political freedom. What is wrong with Asia?

It is this writer’s opinion that the ultimate, deepest reason of all is that East Asian peoples have consistently been indoctrinated since childhood to accept dictatorship. Everyone is taught that the community is paramount compared to the individual; that everyone’s specific role is carefully prescribed, in both the family and society at large; and that in the interests of preserving “face” it is impermissible to criticize any of this. Furthermore, these attitudes are reinforced by the idea of karma as it is commonly preached in regional faiths, that one’s position in this life is predetermined by the merit of your prior life, and that if you now have poor circumstances this is a just punishment for your prior life misbehavior, and which current conditions you should willingly accept.

I really don’t know the answer to this, at least in the short term. What these points make clear is that the problem is not only fear. These cultural beliefs, since they have been imposed from childhood, are actually programmed into the brain. (The technical process is called LTP - long-term potentiation.) People simply find it impossible to think of a different life. Freedom and democracy are “unthinkable” concepts.

The only possible solution is education, to train the publics to think in a new way (and for accompanying neural networks to be established). But this requires a complete shift in the educational curriculum, which such regimes will never permit. It is not only freedom of speech and assembly that are denied, other basic rights including freedom of education, and also to be free of religious persecution, are prohibited as well. It is very significant that without educational freedom, the most elemental freedom of all, freedom of thought, is itself unattainable. A country like Burma is effectively an authoritarian cult. Indeed, this also extends to the Arab States, and their enforced devotion to Islam, where renunciation of the faith is an act of apostasy and punishable by death. The Arab peoples are achieving political freedom, but they have a long way to go to realize religious freedom.

(Note: Don’t get me wrong. There are many cults in the U.S. as well, including fundamentalist Christians; the cult of money and greed on Wall Street; and the cult that the Republican Party has become, where its leaders are engaging in massive voter suppression to try to win the upcoming election, and through this move one step closer to their goal to establish a single party “benevolent” dictatorship, controlling all three branches of government, which they believe is justifiable because “they know what’s best.”)

The only way to escape a cult is to be deprogrammed, which is a difficult and lengthy process. It requires that you accept that you have been brainwashed, after which - with assistance - you willingly pursue the education that you need to learn to think in a new and realistic way. The assistance is crucial. It is extremely challenging to change one’s mind, all the way down to the established patterns in the electro-chemical formation of your thoughts, on your own. It is much, much easier if you have a good teacher.

For Burma, the assistance that the people need takes the form of leadership. The people of the country need leaders to help them understand their situation, the cultural conditioning to which they have been subjected and which they must escape. They need to be presented with as good an education as possible, about what real freedom and democracy are like, including why the changes that are now underway will never lead to it.

The problem here of course is that Burma does not have such leaders. Everyone defers to Daw Suu. To the people, she is the ultimate leader. But, while she has lived abroad and does understand freedom and democracy from real life experience, she refuses to lead! (When she toured Burma before the by-election, this was campaigning, not leading.)

I and others have criticized her in the past for being a poor leader, for instance, for not standing up for both the Rohingya and the Rakhine. However, I have now come to realize that she isn’t really leading at all. She may think that having private conversations with Thein Sein every six months; sitting in Parliament next to war criminals such as Colonel Aung Kyaw, who led the crackdown on the Saffron Revolution; or joining a regime-stacked committee, constitutes leadership, but this is not what the people need. Burma needs a forceful individual who is detail oriented and who will confront the country’s deepest problems, including by speaking out regularly about the Kachin, the Rohingya, large-scale development, and everything else mentioned in this article.

It will be a travesty if the U.S. awards Daw Suu the Congressional Gold Medal next month, if this is all that she is going to do. If this happens, the award will be a payoff for opening Burma to exploitation by U.S. corporations, and for tacit complicity in covering up ethnic cleansing.

THAILAND: Five police convicted of murder in landmark ruling

Aug 8, 2012

A guilty verdict to five policemen for their involvement in the extrajudicial killing

The Asian Human Rights Commission greets with cautious optimism the landmark ruling of the Criminal Court in Bangkok to convict five police officers for the murder of a teenager during the "war on drugs" in 2004, and hopes that it will serve as a precedent of sorts for other cases of police and state officials accused of similar crimes.

On 30 July 2012, in Black Case No. 3252/2552, 3466/2552, the Criminal Court found five out of the six police officers accused of murdering Kiettisak Thitboonkrong, age 17, in 2004. The six defendants were Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Angkarn Kammoonna, Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Sutthinant Noenthing, Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Phansilp Uppanant, Pol. Lt. Col. Samphao Indee, Pol. Col. Montree Sriboonloue, and Pol. Lt. Col. Sumitr Nanthasathit, all officers stationed in Kalasin Province, northeast Thailand. The police had arrested Kiettisak on 16 July 2004 for allegedly stealing a motorcycle. When his family heard this news, they went to the police station and attempted to talk to him. After returning multiple times, his grandmother was allowed to witness his interrogation on 22 July 2004 and told to wait for him to be bailed out later that day. But Kiettisak never came home and several days later his mutilated body was found in a neighbouring province. Following his death, his family launched a campaign to campaign to investigate and hold the police in Kalasin accountable for his murder and the murders of 27 other individuals by police of the same station during and following the so-called "war on drugs". After an extraordinary effort on their part to bring the killers of Kiettisak to justice, the court finally reached its verdict just over a week ago. It sentenced three police officers to death for their actions, while one it sentenced to life imprisonment, and one to seven years in prison.

It took Kiettisak's relatives seven years to secure this outcome. At their urging, in 2005, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) in the Ministry of Justice began investigating the case. It spent three years. On 18 May 2009, the public prosecutor charged six police officers with premeditated murder and with concealing Kiettisak's corpse to hide the cause of death. Because this case was investigated under the Special Investigation Act it was sent to the Criminal Court in Bangkok. The public prosecutor conducted the case and Mr. Kittisapt Thitboonkrong, father of Mr. Kiettisak, successfully sought and obtained permission from the court to act as a joint plaintiff, represented by lawyers from the Lawyers' Council of Thailand working pro bono. The hearings took another three years. Observers for the AHRC attended many of the hearings throughout the duration of the trial.

In its verdict, the Criminal Court found Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Angkarn Kammoonna, Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Sutthinant Noenthing guilty of premeditated murder and hiding a corpse. It sentenced them to death. Pol. Lt. Col. Sumitr Nanthasathit it found guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Pol. Col. Montree Sriboonloue it found guilty of abusing his authority to aid in protecting his subordinates from criminal prosecution and sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment. The Criminal Court found Pol. Lt. Col. Samphao Indee innocent of involvement in the murder of Mr. Kiettisak.

With some reservations, the AHRC considers this ruling an important step towards ending impunity for state violence in Thailand. It is the first case of which the AHRC is aware in which police responsible for killings during the "war on drugs" under the government of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have been held to account for their crimes. It is also the first case arising from the so-called "war" that the DSI investigated. In February 2003, Thaksin announced the beginning of the "war" with an unequivocal message to police and other state officials--that any and all necessary actions should be taken to free the country of the drug menace, including killing. Over the next three months, it became clear that the message served as a carte blanche for the use of murderous violence against citizens, rather than using the provisions of the Criminal Code to investigate and prosecute. By May 2003, an estimated number of over 2500 people had been killed. Kalasin Province was the first province in the country that the government declared had "won" the war. This ephemeral victory was achieved at the cost of many lives taken illegally, at the hands or bidding of state agents. Kiettisak was but one victim.

Rather than holding state officials who used extrajudicial violence against these citizens to account, in the worst cases, perpetrators of crimes have been rewarded. In most cases they have been tacitly and conveniently ignored. One of the long-term effects of this approach has been the further consolidation of impunity for state violence in Thailand. Therefore, this case stands out among other cases of extrajudicial killing in Thailand over the last ten years, in which courts have been unwilling to hold state officials to account, notably in the cases of the mass deaths in custody following the Tak Bai incident, and the April-May 2010 killings. Even in cases in which courts have ruled that a citizen has died while in state custody due to the actions of state officials, such as the March 2009 torture and death of Imam Yapa Kaseng, the actions of state officials have been classed as matters of official "duty" and they have been exempted from allegations of murder. This is the larger context in which Kiettisak was murdered, in which his relatives and other Kalasin residents struggled to secure justice and accountability, and against which the Criminal Court gave its ruling.

Given that this is also the first case in which a court decision has been reached, the AHRC welcomes the guilty verdict as a clear sign that the judiciary is willing to hold police to account for their use of extrajudicial violence against citizens. At the same time, the AHRC as a matter of principle opposes the death penalty under all circumstances, and calls for the sentences in this case to be reviewed, such that the convicted police officers instead receive appropriate prison terms.

Additionally, the AHRC is gravely concerned that the convicted officers have obtained bail pending appeal. The convictions for these sentences are of such gravity that good reason exists to expect that the convicted police will attempt to evade punishment by absconding or other means. They may also seek to obtain revenge against one or more persons who testified against them. In the well-known case of disappeared human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit, the one officer convicted of an offence in connection with his disappearance himself subsequently disappeared, and is suspected to have faked his own death; he was subsequently acquitted on appeal. In the meantime, Somchai's family received frequent threats against their own lives. The AHRC fears that in this case too the convicted police if allowed to walk free pending appeal may yet find ways and means to pervert the course of justice and undermine this hard-fought result. Consequently, it urges that the granting of bail be revoked and the five convicted officers be imprisoned while awaiting appeal outcomes.

Finally, the text of the court decision was not read in its entirety on the day the decision was announced in the Criminal Court, and the Asian Human Rights Commission is awaiting the release of the full judgment by the Criminal Court. We call on the Criminal Court to make this important decision available to the public as soon as possible. In the coming weeks, the AHRC will undertake a detailed analysis of the court decision in the case of the murder of Kiettisak Thitboonkrong with respect to the political and legal context and history of impunity for state violence in Thailand as well as the relevant international human rights standards.

Viet Nam: Pro-democracy bloggers face harsh penalties in upcoming trial

Aug 1, 2012

Vietnamese pro-democracy blogger Mr. Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay)

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint FIDH and OMCT programme, together with the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), call on the Vietnamese authorities to drop all charges against three pro-democracy bloggers and release them immediately and unconditionally. Mr. Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay), Mr. Phan Thanh Hai and Ms. Ta Phong Tan are scheduled to be tried by the Ho Chi Minh People’s Court on August 7, 2012 at 8am.

Putting these bloggers on trial during summer holidays behind closed doors reveals the government’s fear of media and international scrutiny. On July 31, 2012, the Observatory and VCHR wrote to the European Union delegation to Viet Nam and to 31 embassies of African, Asian, European, and Latin American states (1), urging them to call on Viet Nam to drop the charges against the bloggers and to send high-level observers to access the courtroom in order to attend the trial on August 7. The three outspoken bloggers have been charged under Article 88.2 of the Criminal Code for “conducting propaganda against the state” for their online writings and criticisms of the government. They face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted. Article 88 is among several repressive provisions in Vietnamese law that are routinely used to criminalise free speech and imprison peaceful dissidents.

During his detention, Mr. Dieu Cay has reportedly faced intense pressure from the authorities to plead guilty to the charges laid against him, which he has consistently refused. His lawyers also stated that Mr. Dieu Cay went on hunger strike in prison in March 2012 to protest his detention, and had to be hospitalised. He was previously convicted on trumped-up charges of ‘tax evasion’ after a manifestly unfair and closed trial in 2009 and the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared his detention to be arbitrary and in violation of international law (2). His current prolonged detention began on October 19, 2010, the same day he completed the prison terms he received in 2009. Mr. Phan Thanh Hai and Ms. Ta Phong Tan have also been in pre-trial detention in Ho Chi Minh City since their arrest, respectively on October 18, 2010 and on September 5, 2011.

In his online writings, Mr. Dieu Cay, one of the founders of the Club of Free Journalists, calls for greater respect for human rights and democratic reforms. He is also known for his criticisms of China’s claims over disputed islands in the South China Sea. In January 2008, Mr. Dieu Cay and other activists staged an anti-China demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City. Before their arrests, Mr. Hai has published a number of articles on his blog, including one that criticised and called for the repeal of Article 88 of the Criminal Code, while Ms. Tan has blogged about police abuse and violations of human rights by the State. “Vietnam plans to run for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, but it no longer even makes an effort to put up a façade of compliance with international human rights law, as it regularly parades human rights defenders before kangaroo courts and makes a crime out of free speech”, said Mr. Vo Van Ai, President of VCHR.

In addition, on July 30, 2012, Ms. Ta Phong Tan’s mother (Mrs. Dang Thi Kim Lieng) immolated herself outside the People’s Committee headquarters in Bac Lieu to protest her daughter’s unfair imprisonment. She had suffered repeated Police harassments and interrogations since her daughters’ arrest. She died later the same day. Since 2009, Vietnamese human rights and pro-democracy bloggers have been harassed, intimidated, arrested and jailed for their online writings and activism. Those imprisoned for their Internet activities include Mr. Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Mr. Nguyen Tien Trung, Mr. Le Thang Long, and Mr. Tran Kim Anh (3). On July 13, Government agents attacked bloggers Nguyen Hoang Vi, Bui Thi Minh Hang and Lee Nguyen while they were driving back after a birthday party in Ho Chi Minh City. Mrs. Duong Thi Tan, Mr. Dieu Cay’s wife, was also in the car when the attack occurred. Bloggers and other netizens who participated in or tried to attend anti-China demonstrations in several cities in early July also faced intimidation.

On July 1, a group of knife-wielding men, allegedly led by the son of a local official, entered the house of outspoken blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh in Hanoi and attacked him, after he came home from the demonstrations. Bloggers Ms. Nguyen Hoang Vi and Ms. Huynh Thuc Vy were among several people briefly taken into police custody and interrogated during or after the anti-China demonstrations in Ho Chi Minh City. Following an appeal to support the July 1 demonstrations launched by Venerable Thich Quang Do, leader of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), Police forcibly impeded Thich Quang Do and at least sixteen UBCV monks from joining demonstrations in Ho Chi Minh City and Hue. Several monks were assaulted by Police. Blogger Nguyen Xuan Dien, whose online writings focus on abuses of land rights, has recently been questioned by the authorities over his Internet activities. It also appears that his blog had been attacked by hackers. As of writing, articles no longer appear on Mr. Dien’s blog (4). The escalation of crackdown on online dissent comes amidst a government effort to adopt a new Decree on Management, Provision, and Use of Internet Services and Information on the Network that, if passed in its current form, would grant the authorities expansive discretionary power to censor, control and possibly criminalise Internet use in Viet Nam. In June 2012, the UN Human Rights Council adopted by consensus a resolution affirming the right to freedom of expression must be protected online, and that States are called on to “promote and facilitate access to the Internet”.

"Such prosecution of ‘speech crimes’ will only worsen if the new draft Internet decree is adopted, and the international community must urge Viet Nam to break away from its already atrocious record in respecting freedom of expression”, warned Debbie Stothard, Deputy Secretary-General of FIDH. “Judicial proceedings behind closed doors not only violate Viet Nam’s obligations under international law, they also clearly indicate that the judicial authorities have no intention to try the defenders according to international fair trial standards. But the bloggers’ pleas for justice will be heard even behind those doors”, said Gerald Staberock, Secretary-General of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

Press contact:VCHR: Vo Tran Nhat: +33 1 45 98 30 85FIDH: Karine Appy +33 1 43 55 14 12 / + 33 1 43 55 25 18OMCT: Isabelle Scherer: +41 22 809 49 39

LETTER OF APPEAL: Urgent action needed to stop torture of Pakistani 'prisoners of climate change crisis'

Pakistani prison

Dear friends and comrades

Baba Jan and four comrades — all members of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) and the Progressive Youth Front (PYF) — have been imprisoned since September last year for standing up for the rights of his people from the Hunza Valley, in the remote province of Gilgit-Baltistan, after their villages and farmlands were flooded in 2010. Collectively they have come to be known as the Hunza Five.

A leading Pakistan newspaper, Dawn, reports that Labour Party Pakistan comrades Baba Jan and Iftikhar Hussain are being tortured by special "anti-terrorist police" unit in an undisclosed location now: See also Radio Australia report: The Hunza Five are among a growing number of those who could be termed “political prisoners of the global climate crisis”.

In 2010, one fifth of Pakistan was flooded after extremely heavy monsoonal rains. Two thousand people died as a result of this extreme weather event and 20 million people suffered displacement and/or destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure. People around the world donated millions of dollars in emergency aid but not all of that aid got to the real victims of the devastating floods.

Baba Jan and his comrades were arrested for leading protests of victims of flooding who had been cheated of compensation and assistance by corrupt officials. The Hunza Five have been assaulted, tortured and denied their rigts (including visiting rights and medical treatment) during their imprisonment.

There has been an international campaign of solidarity and here in Australia, we organised for numerous letters of protest and concern to be sent the Pakistani government. This international campaign helped force the authorities to allow Baba Jan and his comrades visits and some medical treatment – which they had been previously denied.

Then, last month, there was word that they were finally about to be granted bail – nine months after they were arrested!

But when Baba Jan’s lawyer went to the magistrate with the bail application the public prosecutor said that the magistrate was not allowed hear this case the police has now inserted new charges under draconian anti-terrorist laws and so his case could be heard only by a special anti-terrorist court.

On July 19, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), consisting of police and intelligence officials, came to Jutial Jail, Gilgit, where Baba Jan was being held, in order to take him into their custody.

Fearing that the team had not actually obtained judicial remand from the Anti-Terrorist Court, which would authorise them to take custody of Baba Jan, and further, fearing that the intention would be torture – either as a last-ditch attempt to extract a confession from Baba Jan or as a vindictive expression of their frustration at not being able to break him so far – the ordinary prisoners rose up in solidarity with Baba Jan and resisted the attempts of the team to shift Baba Jan out of the prison.

The JIT was turned away on July 19 but they returned the following night of July 20 and Baba Jan and one of his comrades Iftikhar Hussain were removed from the Gilgit jail by JIT personnel and taken to an unknown location.

Baba Jan’s lawyers and comrades did all they could to resist any move to hand over custody of Baba Jan to the police or the JIT and demanded that Baba Jan be questioned by the JIT in Jutial Jail. His supporters, especially his family, are said to be extremely worried that giving physical custody of Baba Jan to the crime police or the JIT will inevitably lead to further torture. Given the two previous instances, in October 2011 and April/May 2012, and the fact that the Anti-Terrorism Act admits confessions of the accused as evidence and that torture is an accepted means of “investigation” in our law enforcement paradigm, this is a well-founded fear.

The JIT is composed of police and intelligence agents representating the same establishments that previously abducted and tortured Baba Jan and his comrades in violation of judicial remand.

LPP and PYF comrades in Gilgit are unanimous in their assessment that now that the ruling clique of the region know that their attempts to manipulate the judicial system to pressurise the Hunza Five have almost failed. The authorities are extremely fearful about what will happen when the Hunza Five are at liberty and free to talk of their experiences and expose the reality of the collaborationist, anti-people elite to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

On July 23 more than 800 locals demonstrated in Hunza valley breaking through the fear imposed by the authorities after they fired on protests last August. This was the first mass protest in the valley for months. The elders of the area gave three days warning to the government to release Baba Jan in three days or face a march to their offices. The younger brother of Baba Jan said they had expected only 50 to 100 to join the march and were awed by the numbers that turned out. See open letter signed by Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky and others here:

Please act urgently to show your solidarity to these brave political prisoners of the global climate change crisis.

Yours in solidarity, Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance National Co-convener

India: Party and dissent?

Special Contribution
By Thomas Kocherry
Jul 24, 2012

450 years old Ancient Catholic Church

This is becoming a very serious` matter in the CPI(M). I do not want to go into persons. But I want to discuss this issue in a conceptual level in a historical context. Party is an institution and a structure. Dissent is by an individual or by a small group. These are historical and applicable to any institution, or party. This is applicable to Religions, Political Parties. Two institutions that are very powerful are Catholic Church and CPI(M). Both have very strict dogmas, obedience, structure, Hierarchical etc. Disobedience is not tolerated. However both have to learn from each other historically. Deviation and Dissent , and Prophetical dimensions are deeply rooted in both. Historically they are part and parcel in each one. Both create prophets and murders them.

As the years pass by both become more and more stand for quantitative change rather than qualitative change. Both become more and more Dogmatic and Ritualistic rather than true to their original call to radical, revolutionary, and prophetical call. Party stands for stability and quantitative change. But need growth principle or change principle which is there through DISSENT, PROPHETICAL, and PROPHETICAL principle. Both party and Catholic Church should learn these two principles go side by side. One of the persons playing this role is Mr.V.M. Sudheeran in the Congress party. He intervenes even he is not a formal leader. He is taken seriously by the formal leaders. Nobody is threatened by Mr. Sudheeran. Party needs constant revolutionary change like Mao wants to bring this value through Cultural Revolution. Dissent should not become a threat to any formal leader but it should be made use for the qualitative change in the Party. This dissent role is `played by the Religious orders in the Catholic Church. But the religious orders also get into the same rot, you need individuals playing the role of dissent.

But one should be very clear that this dissent or radical stand, or prophetical stand is possible only if one is prepared to pay the price for it. This was what happened to Jesus Christ. He was a prophet and he paid the price for it by getting the biggest political punishment. Mahatma Gandhi was a prophet in Congress party. He opposed the first Globalization-Colonialism. He organized the biggest opposition to Bristish Colonialism through Dandi March. He did not want any power. But he had to pay the price for it. Today the same congress party is `supporting the second globalization. If Congress Party is consistent with Dandi March and Mahatma Gandhi, Congress should oppose the second globalization. They need more dissents in this context. Martin Luther King was a `prophet and he had to pay the price for it. A.K.G was a revolutionary in CPI(M). Fr. Vadakkan was a prophet in Catholic Church. This is the way both Stability and growth principles work in history. Both are important.

Sree Narayana Guru was a prophetical principle in Eezhava Community. Swami Vivekandan was a prophetical principle in Hindu Religion. However these prophetical persons are used by the Institutions for their own interest and selfish reasons for quantitative change like creating dogmas and rituals. This is what we see in history. This is a vicious circle. We need to come out of this by finding a structure that is consistently revolutionary, a constant cultural revolution is needed. This is the challenge before us. We need to respect Stability Principle side by side with growth principle. This is achieved through a democratic process of achieving Consensus and Dialectical process. Here we need to respect gender balance, a class less society, casteless society and environmental respect. Ultimately we want a society that is all inclusive and all are equals. This is what we are trying to achieve. The life of the Planet and the dependent health of the Whole Humanity should not be sacrificed by the greed of a Few.

Regional Meeting of Asian Parliamentarians against Torture and Ill-Treatment

Jul 21, 2012

Jan Ole Haagensen

Speech by Jan Ole Haagensen, Director of International Department of Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims, Denmark. The speech was delivered at the Meeting of Asian Parliamentarians in Hong Kong on the 21 July 2012 as part of the Asian Alliance Against Torture and Ill-treatment.

Honourable parliamentarians, government officials, researchers, members of the judiciary, colleagues in the Asian Human Rights Commission and colleagues from other human rights organisations.

First, I would like to greet all participants warmly. A special welcome goes to the parliamentarians and for my colleagues among the human rights organizations. It is a great pleasure for me to see you all here and for me to be together with you in the coming days’ elaborations. You cannot imagine how much I have looked forward to this event where two entities - crucial for having a vibrant and living democracy - are present; parliamentarians and civil society organizations. We are here together to explore how we can best eradicate the gruesome and anachronistic practice of torture.

Torture is not only a tragedy for the victims; it is also degrading for those who perpetrate it and to societies which tolerate such outrage. Today, we have international instruments in place, primarily the UN Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol. Freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is an inalienable human right. The prohibition of torture is a fundamental principle of international human rights law. This prohibition is absolute and allows no exceptions. Yet today torture constitutes a huge problem in the world with torture taking place in more than half of all the countries in the world, among these many are Asian countries.

Torture an indicator of fundamental system failure

The last 12 years, I have been working at the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims in Copenhagen, Denmark. At present, we support activities against torture in more than 20 different countries so I have had the opportunity to travel quite a lot and meet interesting people, politicians, government officials and human rights defenders who work relentlessly on stopping torture and for the alleviation of the sufferings of torture victims. I have participated in productive meetings, but also numerous meetings with many good words and intentions, but these have not always turned into the expected actions. Often the work to stop torture is rather risky and dangerous. Despite hard work, the great efforts seem never to be sufficient. Over the years, we have met competent and committed government officials who eagerly want to work towards the rule of law society, but they are often entangled in institutions and systems that are seriously flawed and malfunctioning. The malpractice of torture is commonly found thriving together with another practice that is hindering development – corruption.

Torture is preventable - changing practices and attitudes

Over the years - many trainings on human rights law and standards for police officers, prison staff and the judiciary have taken place - and I regret to say that the impact of these trainings are much too often quite meagre. People are trained but when the police officer, prison officer or the like returns to his or her job after the training - they seem to return to their old practices as well. The institutional practices seem so deep-rooted and institutionalised. The value of not torturing people who are in custody seems not to have been internalised despite the trainings. When the system and the society tolerate torture - something more is needed for ending the practice of torture – it is about changing practises and attitudes.

Human history has shown that it is possible to eradicate torture, for instance, in Denmark and Scandinavia where I come from, but also in Asia. Among the areas is Hong Kong where we are gathered today. I look forward to hearing more about this particularly experience and to see whether there are some insights which can be used elsewhere. Thus torture is preventable in Europe as well as in Asia. What seems to be missing in the equation on ending torture is the political will! Which is why I am so happy to see the parliamentarians here today and hear from them how they see ways of eliminating the practice.

The group of parliamentarians is the most central group of all groups involved in this work. If parliamentarians are not solidly behind the absolute prohibition of torture, we will never succeed in preventing torture effectively.They are legislating, but they are also representatives of people and at the same time they are role models and as such they have an obligation of influencing the public opinion.

Example from Denmark

Here I feel obliged to return to the experience of my own country related to my own organisation, the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT).

RCT was founded 30 years ago to undertake rehabilitation of torture survivors who had fled their own countries and who were in need of specialized treatment due to torture. From the beginning, RCT also took upon itself the task of preventing torture using the knowledge gained from the treatment and thorough medical documentation of the consequences of torture on the individual, the family and the community. So we know quite a lot about the evil practices that human beings can do against other human beings.

RCT was born out of the general value of condemning torture deeply entrenched in the Danish society. This resistance to torture was amplified during the second world War was when Denmark was occupied by the Nazis who used torture when dealing with potential Danish resistance fighters. I will give you an example of when this attitude against torture materialised.

In the late 1960s Danish parliamentarians took strong initiatives to support Greek politicians severely tortured by the Greek Military regime – (1967-74). Professor in international law Dr. Ole Espersen, who is presently a legal consultant of RCT, was one of these Danish Politicians.1 Later he became the chairmen of RCT in the 1990s. Although Ole Espersen was a Social Democrat, the Danish right wing government supported the public pressure on the Greek regime. Due to pressure from Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries the Greek regime had to leave the Council of Europe because of the harsh critique and became increasingly diplomatically isolated. Eventually, the military dictatorship collapsed.

Afterwards, the Danish Government has been very supportive of attempts to heal torture survivors and to prevent torture globally – expressed for instance by its many years of support to the work of our organization, internationally and nationally where the rehabilitation of torture survivors (people who live exile in Denmark) is part of the Danish public health system. Today the parliament’s support to the work against torture cuts across party lines.

The Danish Police also distance themselves from the idea of using torture. For good reasons the police finds that the gains from undertaking torture is highly questionable and they know that they as police would have to pay directly for the consequences. Today, we have so much literature on the negative effects of undertaking torture. Few remain unaffected by this. Although the human value of not accepting torture is so entrenched, still, even in Denmark we have to harness it – otherwise people forget. It seems that younger generations are less aware of torture and the impacts of torture – so human rights organisations like ours still have an educational role in our respective societies.

Not only ‘bad’ people torture – it is SOP

Torture is a barbaric practice which is much too common despite the international conventions prohibiting it. Regrettably, this is also the case in Asia where torture in some countries is so common that it can be seen as SOP (standard operating procedures). There is so much ignorance in relation to torture and the tremendous consequences of torture on the individual, the family, the local community and the society at large. Basically, torture is often just a way of covering up bad institutional performance – and a gross indicator of severe system failure in respect of the state and its living up to the attainment of human rights. We are not talking about a few bad apples, but about system failure. Central research has given evidence to the fact that under the wrong conditions almost all of us can become torturers.2 Man or woman is not born evil and are not born to be torturers. It is systems that create torturers. Torture is a tragedy for the person who is tortured, a tragedy for the perpetrator, because hardly anybody is unaffected undertaking torture, and a tragedy for society, because gross human rights violations have severe negative consequences for the society. If you then add the fact that there is a clear overrepresentation of poor and otherwise marginalised people among those who are tortured – also here the poor pay the brunt of the burden.

What is the role of parliamentarians?

First, it is necessary to accept that the problem is huge and to accept that solving this immense problem is not done over a few days or by ratifying a few conventions. We have lots of documentation. You just have to look into the website of Asian Human Rights Commission and its many publications documenting numerous cases of people who have been tortured. It demands thorough analyses of the problem and then the preparation of well-developed strategies to eliminate torture. It requires a lot of political courage from first and foremost the parliamentarians who should ensure an enabling political environment where we without risks can work against torture. Lack of political will, lack of transparency and accountability due to lack of respect for the rule of law and high levels of corruption all increase the risk of torture. Related to this, parliamentarians are obliged to secure

a) that the necessary legislation is in place. Here many stops – if all the countries who had ratified the conventions had also eradicated torture – then the world would have looked much different and we could have concentrated our work on the countries who have not ratified the relevant conventions and passed the accompanying legislation – but this regrettably far from the case.

b) that sufficient funds are available and not less important - a common practice is to fail to ensure the relevant institutions have the funds necessary to undertake the tasks.

c) to oversee that the implementation is going as intended. Here cooperation with human rights defender and the press is central.

Often it is not more funds which are needed, but change of attitudes and practices – - practices which are institutionalized – and hard to eliminate. It will require political courage as there is substantial resistance to change in the various institutions, but also in the society at large where a politician can come under pressure for being soft on criminals and in some countries during people’s call for expectance of instant justice (one of democracies weaknesses is that it can fall prey to populism). Almost no one is publicly accepting torture (some may try to redefine the concept of torture – like US under Bush), but quite many in high places on this continent seems to put a blind eye to the practice of torture taking place in their countries. It is convenient, because it is such a controversial and sensitive issue.

So, therefore political courage is required from the parliamentarians working for the prevention of torture. In the short run – few medals may be won on championing this issue, but it is necessary – not only to avoid critique from the respective UN treaty bodies - but because of the simple fact that a country with torture and impunity is a country of fear and a lack of trust in public institutions. Torture is very costly which I will discuss more in-depth tomorrow and the results are poor. Finally, there is the ethical argument – torture is a non-human practice – it is for that reason that, an absolute prohibition of torture has been put into international law. It is a fundamental human right. In some countries – to be a politician is to belong to the risk group of people who can be tortured (if you belong to the opposition then you in special risk – this is also in these countries that it is particularly difficult to prevent torture because torture is sometimes used as a mean in the political struggle). Therefore, co-operation between politicians from different countries can be a very valuable activity as in the case where Danish politicians supported Greek colleagues who had been tortured or risked being tortured. See this is the personal interest, but we shall not forget that for every special or celebrity case, there are 1000 of cases of poor ordinary people who are tortured. The overwhelming majority of people tortured are poor marginalised people as mentioned earlier.

The role of AHRC

This meeting is the first of its kind in Asia and we from the RCT feel privileged to be invited into this by the AHRC who relentlessly, diligently and with great competencies have been working for the prevention of torture for many years now. On the flight we read the last issue of International Herald Tribune where there once more was a reference to the work of AHRC. I would like to greet the Asian Human Right Commission with this pertinent initiative.

Once more I am happy to be herewith youall and we are grateful that you could find time for taking part in this meeting. I hope that exchange views and discuss what is realistic, pragmatic and ambitious for the elimination of torture.We are not expecting miracles but we are only working for them to them to happen. Hopefully, we can at the end of this regional meeting come up with some ideas which can make Asia a continent much less prone to torture. Because Torture is preventable.

I have discussed the content of this regional meeting with some reputable Danish politicians who would be feel honoured to be part of an exchange of experiences and ideas across continents and cultures.

Thank you.

Jan Ole Haagensen, 21 July 2012, Director of International Department of Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims, Denmark


Jal Satyagraha in Wang-Marathwadi Dam, Dist. Satara, Maharashtra

Jul 14, 2012

The rising water level due to the dam being built

The Wang Marathwadi Dam project may sound like one of the many government projects that start in the name of development but often fail to fulfill the basic and minimum requirements that must be fulfilled in the process of building of a dam. The people of the area have, however, started an exemplary movement against these unjust policies of the government and challenged the repeated false promises of rehabilitation made by the government of Maharashtra. The Wang Marathwadi Dharangrast Kruti Samiti, affiliated to NAPM, have started the Jal Satyagraha by planting seeds on the fertile river bed and refusing to let the crops drown in the water of the river. The ‘Jal Satyagraha’ started from the 11th of June 2012 near Mendh village.

Wang Marathwadi Dam is situated in the Patan tehsil of the Satara district in Maharashtra. Mendh is one of the nine villages affected by the construction of the dam. The dam project has affected the area in more than one ways. Four villages will be fully submerged and five villages will be partially submerged after the completion of the dam. The villages that were once flourishing with fertile lands, schools and all the basic amenities and infrastructure have been vacated for the construction of the dam. According to the rehabilitation policy of the State Government, the people who are to be displaced in the process must also be rehabilitated in the command area of the dam with all the basic infrastructural facilities and amenities by the government. More than 1800 families are affected by this project, are to be rehabilitated by the government.

In April 2012, State Forest and Rehabilitation Minister Patangrao Kadam had announced in a meeting attended by district collectors of Pune, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Solapur and the representatives of the dam-affected sections, Medha Patkar and Suniti S R that the process of rehabilitation would be completed within six months. It may also be noted that the areas affected by the dam include Satara district, the native district of the present Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chauhan, who has repeatedly expressed his concern for the project affected people. Despite its many promises, the government has failed to rehabilitate the affected people completely. The Maharashtra government is compelling the people of the dam-affected areas to accept the land in the belt of draught-prone areas in Sangli District. The rehabilitation has affected not just the lives of the people but also their means of livelihood. Rehabilitation to a different district and in a draught-prone area has made life even more difficult for the people of the area. Around 70% of the project affected people are still waiting for rehabilitation.

The people of the dam-affected villages have been struggling for their rights and lives for the past 15 years. In spite of the strong protest of the people to complete the dam without rehabilitation and in spite of many assurances by the Government to that effect, the first phase of the dam is complete and the Maharashtra Krushna Valley Development Corporation have decided to fill the dam in this monsoon. This unjust move of the MKVDC and Maharashtra State Government has now added vigor to the movement of the people to get their rightful rehabilitation with the land. The Jal Satyagraha has reached its culmination point with hundreds of people sitting on the banks of the river in mass protest. The people of the area have been protesting with the slogan ‘Aadhi Punarvasan, Magach Dharan’ [rehabilitation first, then only the dam].

The people also met the Chief Minister and Rehabilitation Minister of Maharashtra on 8th of July to communicate their plight to the government. The project affected people have decided to stand in solidarity despite the Monsoon rains and have refused to give the Satyagraha up till their voices are heard and the process of proper rehabilitation is completed.

Your support is needed to this people’s struggle against unjust displacement. Be there with us! “Ladenge, Jeetange!” For details contact : Suniti S.R. 09423571784

Vietnam - Clampdown on peaceful protests: another illustration of the Government’s disregard of its international human rights obligations

PARIS/BANGKOK, 4 July 2012 (FIDH & VCHR) - The heavy-handed interference in the peaceful protests in several locations across Vietnam on Sunday 1 July 2012, including restrictions on freedom of movement and intimidation of participants, especially followers of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), is yet another indication of Vietnam’s flagrant disrespect for the internationally protected right to freedom of peaceful assembly, said the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organization, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR).

The peaceful protests took place on 1 July in Hue, Ho Chi Minh City and the capital Hanoi, following calls made by bloggers as well as by the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, Supreme Patriarch of the UBCV, for a nationwide demonstration to peacefully protest China’s recent incursions into areas in the South China Sea that Vietnam considers as its territory.

In Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, there have been reports of police harassment, surveillance and brief detention of bloggers before and during the peaceful protests. Blogger Nguyen Hoang Vi told reporters that she and about five to six people in Ho Chi Minh City were detained by the police and released later on 1 July.

Restrictions on followers of the outlawed UBCV are especially harsh leading up to and on the day of the protests. On 30 June, police forces tightly surrounded the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City, where the Patriarch Thich Quang Do is under de facto house arrest, and the Giac Hoa Pagoda, Secretariat of the UBCV and residence of its Deputy leader Venerable Thich Vien Dinh. In the evening of the same day, police also broke into the private quarters of Venerable Thich Thien Hanh, head of the UBCV’s provincial committee in Hue, and demanded that he calls off a protest planned for the next morning at the Buddhist Martyrs Memorial. On 1 July, police surrounded Thich Thien Hanh’s pagoda to prevent him from leaving, and set up road-blocks around the memorial.

All monks, nuns and Buddhists in Hue attempting to join the protest in Hue and Ho Chi Minh City were either intercepted on their way or prevented from leaving their pagoda or homes. Police forces assaulted a group of UBCV followers at the An Cuu Bridge in Hue, injuring one monk on the head.

The right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed by article 69 of the Vietnamese Constitution of 1992 and by article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Vietnam has acceded to since 1982.

“Vietnam has a long trail of record in disregarding its human rights obligations under domestic and international law,” said Ms. Souhayr Belhassen, president of FIDH. “Vietnam’s intention to run for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council is its latest attempt to embellish a façade of legitimacy over its human rights record, which is one of the worst in Asia.”

“The demonstrations of 1 July mark a turning point in Vietnam’s movement for human rights. Thich Quang Do’s appeal has inspired a new generation of Vietnamese, and for the first time in Vietnam, young people, Buddhist monks and people from all walks to life are joining together to express in public their opinion on an issue of public interest. Vietnam should heed the people’s voices rather than stifling them.” said Mr Vo Van Ai, President of VCHR.

FIDH and VCHR call on the government of Vietnam to conduct a prompt, effective, independent and impartial investigation into the conduct of the police and other government officials before and during the 1 July protests, with a view to holding to account all those responsible for actions that violated both Vietnamese and international laws protecting the right to peaceful assembly.

Press contact:

FIDH: Arthur Manet/Karine Appy, +33 6 72 28 42 94 / +33 1 43 55 90 19 (Paris); Shiwei Ye: +66 89 673 5265 (Bangkok), VCHR: Vo Tran Nhat, +33 1 45 98 30 85 (Paris)

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