The Global Digest

Asia Pacific

VII Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies in Mongolia launches Asia Democracy Network

VII Community of Democracies Ministerial Conference, Ulaanbaatar, 27-29 April 2013

ULAANBAATAR, 29 April 2013 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) – Foreign Ministers, parliamentarians, global media representatives, democracy and human rights activists from over 100 countries gathered in Ulaanbaator, for the VII Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies from 27-29 April 2013, hosted by Mongolia, the Community’s current President. Opened by Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, government participants included UN Under-Secretary-general Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, US Deputy Secretaty of State William Burns, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, Vice President of Costa Rica Alfio Piva Mesen, Vice President of Nigeria Namadi Sambo and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, as well as with two special guests, Nobel Peace Prize laureates Tawakkol Karman from the Yemen and Aung San Suu Kyi from Burma/Myanmar. The Ministerial Meeting was preceded by four two-day forums of Civil Society, Parliamentarians, Women, Youth and Corporate democracy.

The presence of Aung San Suu Kyi, who had addressed a video message to the Community of Democracies at its creation in Warsaw in 2000 whilst she was under house arrest, was especially symbolic of the democratic changes taking place in Asia today, and reflected the Mongolian Presidency’s emphasis on supporting democracy in the Asia-Pacific region. Maria Lessner, former Swedish Ambassador for Democracy and current Secretary General of the Community of Democracies, stressed this aspect in her opening speech: “Democracy is on the rise in Asia. Democracy is winning, not with a big bang, but in the traditionally Asian way, step by step”. In particular, the Conference announced the establishment of an Asian network of democratic countries, and a civil society counterpart, the Asian Democracy Network (ADN) to mark the legacy of Mongolia’s Presidency of the Community of Democracies. This network will bring together civil society movements in countries all over Asia, from democratic countries as well as transitional or non-free regimes, linking them with region-based think tanks to develop a knowledge-based understanding of democracy issues. It will also seek to engage with established Asian democracies to support democratic progress in the region.

Mr. Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights and Que Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam, and member of the nongovernmental International Steering Committee of the Community of Democracies welcomed the creation of the Asian Democracy Network: “The creation of this unique network is extremely important. For Vietnamese, it is particularly timely. Tomorrow, 30th April, we mark the 38th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, when Vietnam was united under communist rule. For almost four decades, the Vietnamese people have been calling for democracy and basic human rights, and many have sacrificed their freedom in this struggle. Today, 32 bloggers and online journalists as well as scores of peaceful democracy activists, many of them very young, are serving prison sentences of up to 16 years simply for expressing their democratic ideals. Vietnam continues this crackdown despite its international commitments. I believe that the Asia Democracy Network can contribute significantly in supporting and strengthening the emergence of a democratic process in Vietnam, and I will do my utmost, as a member of this network, to contribute to this effort”.

Mongolian Foreign Minister Luvusanvadan Bold

Participating in the Civil Society Pillar of the Ministerial Meeting, Vo Van Ai alerted the Community of Democracies (CD) to the escalation of violations of freedom of expression in Vietnam, both online and off-line, as well as repression against religious bodies such as the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, and the detention of UBCV leader Thich Quang Do. He called on the CD to set up Working Groups on Media Freedom and Freedom of Religion or Belief. Amongst the Civil Society Recommendations submitted to the Ministerial Meeting, the International Steering Committee “specifically, urge[d] all CD governments to publicly condemn the increased pressure on civil society organizations, particularly those in Russia, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Iran, Vietnam, Venezuela, China, Bahrain, Zimbabwe and Egypt, where NGOs are harassed by governments who accuse them of acting as “foreign agents” and for “undermining national sovereignty.” CD governments should condemn those who stigmatize and persecute NGOs for their legitimate human rights and democracy work on the grounds that they receive funds from or work with international partners”.

During the Ministerial Meeting, several government representatives called for democratic progress in Vietnam. The President of the CD’s Parliamentary Forum for Democracy Emanuelis Zingeris from Lithuania, commended Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership role in Burma which had “opened the door” to dialogue with the democratic community. “It is extremely important, and I hope Vietnam will follow this example”.

Mongolian Foreign Minister Luvusanvadan Bold, expressed Mongolia’s willingness to support democratization in Vietnam: “23 years ago, Mongolia was a communist country. Now we have moved from totalitarian rule to democracy. We can share with the Vietnamese people these democratic values that we have re-invented in Mongolia. Democracy is about people, about empowering people. It’s about giving people the rights they should enjoy. I think the process in Vietnam is advancing step by step, and I hope they will accept to share these common values, and become a democracy one day soon”.

The Community of Democracies is a global intergovernmental organization founded in Warsaw in 2000 that works to strengthen democracy worldwide. It has a government component made up of government representatives and a nongovernmental component of civil society representatives, with an International Steering Committee of civil society representatives from five continents. worldwide. Since 2004, CD governments have also created a Democracy Caucus at the United Nations, and a UN Democracy Fund to support civil society movements working for democratic change.

Whither Annihilation of Caste?

Special Contribution
By Ram Puniyani
Apr 23, 2013

Bhimrao Babasaheb Ambedkar

When on this (14th April 2013) anniversary of Dr. Bhimrao Babasaheb Ambedkar, we pay tribute to his yeomen services towards the cause of social justice and bringing to fore the values of democracy; we also need to think as to how his dream and vision of annihilation of caste can be taken further. Where do we stand in this direction six decades after the Independence and after the formal implementation of Constitution of India, which gives us the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity?

Caste has been the major marker of Indian, particularly Hindu, society. While world over the serfs were under the bondage of feudal lords, we had religiously ordained system of Varna-Jati (Caste). Many theories of caste prevail, the racial theory, superior Aryans versus the natives, now stands debunked. The hypothesis of Morton Klass argues that it was a way of adjusting of tribal to the system of production, which generated surplus. This understanding indicates towards the understanding that caste evolved with the particular system of production in India. Kosambi looks at origin of caste as being due to the continuous process of fusing of tribal into general society. The major contribution to the understanding of genesis of caste comes from Ambedkar as per whom caste-varna came into being due to ideological-religious factors. According to him caste system came into being as the result of ideologies of Dharmshatras, which was part of Brahmanism.

In Indian society the interesting point is that caste is prevalent not only amongst Hindus, it also prevails in other religious communities. The difference being that amongst Hindus, the caste is prescribed in the holy books, while in other religious communities; it is a social phenomenon, like Ashraf, Ajlaf and Arzal amongst Muslims and different denominations amongst Christians and Sikhs. The first challenge to caste system came from Lord Gautam Buddha, who talked of Samta, equality. This concept of Samta, equality became very popular and was accepted by large number of people till Buddhism was attacked and wiped out from India in eighth century by those who wanted to restore the varna-caste. During medieval period the Bhakti saints in particular talked against and questioned the system of graded inequality, but their voice though a powerful articulation of the plight of the low caste, remained just an expression of pain and sorrow of the poor, and was strongly opposed by Brahmin clergy.

The rule of Muslim Kings and British did not change the social structure of the subcontinent, though during British rule due to the industrialization and introduction of modern education, the caste system started being questioned, opposed and socially challenged. The edifice of caste started loosening up. During the rule of Muslim kings the social structure remained intact. With the British rule the half way process of industrialization and modern education came in. At the same time the caste-varna also continued on the side, though its legitimacy started being questioned in a more serious way. In the changed situation starting form Jotirao Phule the movements for caste abolition found grounding in society, though they were not able to uproot the phenomenon of caste in the full measures as the feudal production system ran side by side with the process of modernization. The process of secularization, abolition of the hold of landlord and clergy, remained incomplete and so the process of caste transformation remained half way through.

All the struggles started by Ambedkar aimed for social justice, social equality and democratic values. He led the movements like Chavdar Talab, for right to have access to public drinking water, Kalaram Mandir, right to enter temples and also the burning of Manusmriti, as symbolic of the rejection of religiously ordained caste hierarchy. The resistance to these led to his conclusion that he had to leave the Hindu fold, which is dominated by Brahmanical values of Varna. The social political base to his movements was provided by the national movement, which was aspiring for throwing away the British colonial power and also struggling for democratic values. Here Ambedkar rook off from this movement, but the national movement was not adequate to give him total social justice as this movement also had upper castes in good measure. So here we see the dilemma of Mahatma Gandhi versus Ambedkar. Gandhi was not able to go beyond the limits posed by the participation of all castes in freedom movement. He kept talking of varna system in a more refined form while taking up cudgels against untouchability.

Gandhi also opposed the separate electorate, provided by communal award of MacDonald in 1932. The Poona pact between Gandhi and Ambedkar led to the reserved Constituency and the provisions of reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Ambedkar’s vision was that reservations and inter-caste marriages will be steps towards annihilation of caste. Today both these face serious obstacles on social ground. The rigidity of caste is increasing and inter-caste marriage is facing serious obstacles from conservative forces. While freedom movement led by Gandhi was half way conceding to the needs of dalits, the other ideology, the one of religious nationalism was waiting in the wings with the concept of Hindu Rashtra, Hindu nation. Ambedkar did realize that acceptance of religious nationalism, formation of Pakistan on that ground will be a disaster for dalits as it will pave the way for Hindu Rashtra, the slavery of dalits. Today while most of the commentators are attacking Gandhi, they need to focus more attention to the impact of the politics and ideology of Hindu religious nationalism, which is a major obstacle to caste abolition today.

The reservations for dalits led to newer caste equations. On one hand the section of rising middle class stood to oppose these reservations, tooth and nail. The anti reservation violence has been witnessed in the Gujarat in particular in 1980s. Also since the overall development process is not accommodative of all, the inner competition for reservation has led to a strange situation where different communities are vying for status as a particular reserved category. The overall future for the youth is dismal and it gets reflected in the form of movements for particular castes getting recognized in this or that category. The other major obstacle to caste transformation is the politics of Hindutva. On one hand it talks of Samajik Samrasta (social Harmony), that all castes should have harmony amongst them. The Hindutva’s concept of ‘Integral Humanism’ emphasizes on different castes continuing their professions for smooth social functioning. The social engineering by religious political forces is co-opting the low caste through various mechanisms, to the extent of using them as foot soldiers of their anti minority violence. A section of dalits also is influenced by the process of Sanskritization, aping at upper caste and imitating them for their future trajectory. As a logical corollary; the cultural mechanisms, the TV serials, the preaching’s of hoards of God men are promoting the values of Manusmiriti in a more sophisticated form.

At the same time a serious layer of progressive and dalit intellectuals are trying to restore the core values and principles of struggles against caste-varna. The situation today is very complex and caste as a social phenomenon is far from extinct. Today’s political scenario is a conflict between the values of democracy on one hand, and the values of religious nationalism; the politics representing the defense of caste and gender hierarchy; on the other. The process of social equality; caste annihilation and values of democracy need to be brought in through a fresh series of multilayered struggles for a truly democratic society. That alone will be a tribute to the life and work of the legend of this great visionary, Bhimrao Babsaheb Ambedkar.

THAILAND: Legal actions against Finnwatch researcher are an attack against human rights defenders and freedom of expression

Apr 18, 2013

Andy Hall(L)

1st of April 2013- Legal actions against Finnwatch researcher are an attack against human rights defenders and freedom of expression. Thailand's authorities must immediately launch an investigation into the operations of Natural Fruit and its parent company NatGroup. Human rights issues must be tackled also in the ongoing free trade agreement negotiations between Thailand and the EU.

Natural Fruit, a maker of tinned pineapple and juice concentrate, has submitted two lawsuits in Thailand against Andy Hall, the migration expert who recently coordinated Finnwatch's field research in Thailand.

If found guilty, Mr Hall could face seven years in prison. Natural Fruit is also demanding seven million euros for damages. The accusations relate to research commissioned by Finnwatch and conducted by Mr Hall in October-November 2012 and the communication of its results to the public.

The most alarming findings were based on interviews with Natural Fruit's employees. The workers, some of whom were undocumented migrants, reported poor working conditions, unlawfully low wages, confiscation of official documents, use of child labour and excessive overtime. Interviews were documented and can be verified.

Finnwatch communicated the findings to relevant Thai ministries in December 2012. Natural Fruit was also contacted repeatedly during the research process. The company did not respond in any way or display any interest to comment on our findings. Despite strong evidence indicating serious wrongdoings, Natural Fruit or its parent company NatGroup have not been held accountable and are allowed to continue their operations.

Our understanding is that the lawsuits filed against Andy Hall are not only unfounded but also a part of a wider attempt to limit the activities of human rights defenders and the freedom of expression in Thailand. In recent months alone, several situations have been reported in which the fundamental human and labour rights of workers in Thailand's key export industries, such as shrimp, tuna and pineapple processing, have been grossly violated. Thai authorities' responses have in many cases been inadequate and ineffective.

Thailand recently finalised lengthy negotiations on a partnership cooperation agreement with the European Union, its third largest trading partner. According to José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, respect for human rights and the fight against corruption are essential elements of the agreement. In March, the EU and Thailand launched negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement. It is important that the EU, in the context of the ongoing negotiations as well as in its other interactions with Thailand, raises the above-mentioned human rights issues and uses all the means in its power to encourage Thailand to respect human rights and the freedom of expression.

Thailand must step up its efforts to protect human rights defenders and to ensure that organisations, researchers, activists and journalists promoting human rights may carry out their work free of harassment. All legal actions against Andy Hall must be dropped, and Thailand's authorities must immediately launch an investigation into NatGroup's operations.

Contact: Sonja Vartiala, Executive Director, +358 44 568 7465, Finnwatch ry

International Students Open Forum held in Seoul

Salai Thang
Staff Reporter
Apr 12, 2013

Organizers and Speakers of the forum

The 2nd International Students’ Open Forum on Policy Development held at National Assembly in Seoul City, on April 10, 2013. Hundreds of students and faculties from various universities and policy makers attended at the forum. Such as Ambassadors from Afghanistan, Hondura, Nepal and First consular and secretary from Embassy of Philippines, Venezuela and Timor-Leste and staffs from Embassy from Sweden were attended.

Open Forum on Policy Development for International Students is a forum where professors, researchers, administrative staff and international students come together to discuss the limitations and problems in existing policies on international students in Korea and discuss solutions. There are approximately 87,000 international students in Korea.

The forum was organized by Korea International Student Support Association (KISSA). The Forum’s president and secretary, both of them is Korean. Leader explains about the event, followed by speech by Jasmine Lee, a non-Korean Member of National Assembly and other National Assembly members. By organizing this program, KISSA aims to bring to light the difficulties faced by international students and propose solutions to establish global standard to facilitate the academic and social life of international students in Korea.

Vice speaker of National Assembly

International Student described and highlights various issues of undergraduate and research students in Korea and brings to light the problems of higher education in Korea. Also viable solutions to address the problems in academic, research and social life of international students will also be suggested. Students have also reported several difficulties ranging from difficulties in understanding lectures, misguided information of lectures being conducted in English, indifferent attitude of fellow Korean students and professors, lack of co-operation in doing report or projects etc.

Especially in professor student relationship, where most of professors are lack the experience or aptitude to deal with international students, and unrealistic demands on students to understand Korean ways and language, no proper lectures or guidance on related subject matter or lectures in broken English, miscommunication between student and professor due to language barrier that directly affects research work, huge differences among various types of scholarships and students on professor’s scholarships receive minimum amount just to get by with. And Professors are stingy and just give 20-30% of the intended project fund originally meant for the research student. Students have difficulty in Part time jobs: Discrimination and discrepancy in payment.

Moreover, Pressure on graduate students to pass or score high on Korean language tests to acquire government scholarships, professors delay the graduation of students who have completed all requirements for graduation asking the student to write more research articles or join PhD, violating ethics by adding a third person’s name in research paper who is not directly involved with the research and inability of the university administration to really help a student even when a professor is found to be the perpetrator of a misdeed to a student.

Member of National Assembly of the ruling party

A Vietnamese student said I came to Korea with a great enthusiasm and prospect to do my masters in the field of nanotechnology. But despite the fact my professor got his degree from US, his bossy attitude and inability to communicate made my research experience terrible. He delayed my graduation again and again and finally resorted to force me to sign a contract to join Phd under him to get my hard earned master degree. I lost some good years of my life struggling to get my masters degree and it left an indelible impact in my academic and personal life.

Kyle David Wardwell, a student from America, said Student of Social Sciences at SKKU “Inadequacies Plaguing Korean Higher Education System” The Pressing Need for Reform to Bring Korean Universities to International Standards, including Academic System, Academic Culture, Grading System and Plagiarism.

Eva Marie Ranay Wang, a student from Philippines, said Internationalization of Research in South Korea and the Need for Quality Consolidation, such as Internationalization of Korean Higher Education, Internationalization of Research in South Korea, Impacts of Rapid Quantitative Expansion of Internationalization, Implications on Quality Consolidation to Internationalization and she suggests for Three-Point Recommendation for Quality Consolidation.

South Korea has a Study Korea Project 2020, which aims to bring in 200,000 international students by 2020. Many students suggest to train faculty - how to deal with International students and also put some foreign faculties in order to be globalized.

Trial of Doan Van Vuon and family is a travesty of justice

Doan Van Vuon

PARIS, 4 April 2013 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) - The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) strongly denounces the grossly flawed legal process and unfair trial of fish farmer Doan Van Vuon and his family which began on 2 April and ends on 5 April in the northern province of Hai Phong. Doan Van Vuon and three male relatives, Doan Van Quy, Doan Van Sinh and Doan Van De are accused of “murder of persons on public duties” under Article 93, paragraph 1(d) of the Criminal Code, which carries penalties of up to twenty years in prison, life imprisonment or the death penalty. Doan Van Vuon’s wife and sister-in-law, Nguyen Thi Thuong and Pham Thi Bau are accused on lesser charges of “resisting persons in performance of their official duties”, and risk up to seven years in prison.

“The trial in Hai Phong shows the hypocrisy and fraudulence of both the judicial and political systems in Vietnam” said VCH President Vo Van Ai. “Whilst the use of violence cannot be condoned, these farmers face the death penalty for defending land that was rightly their own. Moreover, where else but in Vietnam can citizens be accused of “murder” when there is no dead body to be found!” The case of Doan Van Vuon and his family, who used landmines and a shotgun to resist forced eviction from their farm in Tien Lang District in the outskirts of Hai Phong in January 2012 triggered off widespread protests in Vietnam, and became a symbol of deep popular discontent over state confiscations of land. The family had been allocated swamplands in 1993 which they had worked hard to transform into a flourishing fish and shrimp farm. In 2009, the authorities told Doan Van Vuon that they were taking back the land without compensation. On 5 January 2012, some 100 police and soldiers stormed his lands. He and his family resisted, wounding four police officers and two soldiers in the process. The four men have been held in detention, unable to meet their families, since January 2012.

Vo Van Ai enumerated several gross irregularities which invalidate the whole legal process, and called for the immediate release of Doan Van Vuon and his family;

a/ Doan Van Vuon and his three relatives risk the death penalty for murder. Yet no one was killed in the incident. On 2 April 2013, the Vietnamese Communist Party’s online newspaper said that the men had been heard to say “let’s shoot the bastards” as the Police sought to evict them. “Although they did not realize their plan, this is enough evidence to convict them of murder”, the VCP official paper said. This is a gross violation of the Criminal Procedures Code, which requires the prosecution to produce tangible evidence of the crime (Article 10);

b/ In January 2012, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung commissioned an inquiry into the incident. Based on the finding of the report, he concluded that “the decision to take back the land and the forced eviction of the farm were both illegal”. The Prime Minister also declared that the destruction of Doan Van Vuon’s home was illegal. Doan Van Vuon was thus legitimately defending his property, and the case against him should have been dropped;

c/ The criminal investigation was confided to the Hai Phong local authorities and Security Police, the very state organs who were accused of wrong conduct during the eviction. Indeed, the head of the Tien Lang District People’s Committee Le Van Hien and his deputy Nguyen Van Khanh were fired, scores of officials in Hai Phong have been disciplined and five are awaiting trial. This procedural irregularity alone is sufficient to invalidate the whole legal process, as the Criminal Procedures Code stipulates that investigating bodies must be “objective” (Article 10).

Mr. Vo Van Ai called upon the judges at the trail in Hai Phong to ensure that justice is done: “The judicial system is not independent in Vietnam. But the judges have the opportunity to prove that they are not mere tools of the Party and state. They should live up to their ethical and legal responsibility and acquit these people who have done nothing other than struggle against injustice and defend their fundamental rights.”

The case of Doan Van Vuon is but one illustration of a widespread pattern of forced evictions and state land-grabbing in Vietnam. Under Vietnam’s socialist system, “land is the property of the entire people”, but it is “uniformly managed by the State”. The state thus leases land to the farmers, who are issued with “Land Use Rights Certificates” (LURCs). This system, coupled with endemic official corruption and power abuse has resulted in mass abuses of land rights. Farm lands are increasingly confiscated with little or no compensation to build golf courses and tourist resorts for the rich, leaving the rural population, where three quarters of the population live, in abject poverty. Women are a major victim of this policy, as LURCs are mostly made out in the husbands’ name. After years of work on their husband’s land, many women suddenly find themselves homeless, expropriated without the slightest compensation when their husband dies. Also, if their name is not on the LURC, they cannot obtain loans from the bank. In recent years, a mass protest movement of dispossessed farmers has formed, many of them women, named Dân Oan (Victims of Injustice). They march regularly to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to seek a remedy for their grievances, often camping outside government buildings for months. They have filed millions of complains to the local authorities, but few have obtained satisfaction, and many have suffered harassments and detention by Police because of their peaceful protests. ----

THAILAND: Children’s legal and immigration status under threat from draft ministerial regulation

Mar 29, 2013

Migrants' kids in Thailand

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received deeply concerning information from Stateless Watch for Research and Development Institute of Thailand (SWIT) regarding a recent draft ministerial regulation proposed by the Ministry of Interior. If it enters into law, the draft Ministerial Regulation Specifying the Status and Conditions of Residing in the Kingdom of Thailand for Persons Born in the Kingdom of Thailand Who Are Not Thai Nationals, currently under examination by the Council of Ministers, will dispossess children born to non-Thai parents of citizenship. Under the draft regulation, children, and adults born in Thailand, to non-Thai parents will be deemed to have entered and resided in Thailand without permission under the Immigration Act B.E. 2522 (1979). This will be the case even though they were born in Thailand and have not left the country, and so therefore have not entered the country, whether legally or illegally. The draft regulation is contrary to domestic and international law, including that specified in conventions to which Thailand is a state party and is therefore legally bound to observe.

The Ministry of Interior recently drafted a ministerial regulation which prescribes the legal status and conditions of residing in the Thailand of persons born in Thailand who have not yet acquired Thai nationality. At present, the draft regulation is waiting for approval from the Council of Ministers. If the Council of Ministers approves this draft, it will be subordinate legislation, or legislation made by executive order under powers granted by the legislature to the Ministry of Interior. Under the draft regulation, many children and adults born in Thailand to non-Thai parents will not acquire Thai nationality. This means that their legal status will be that of an illegal immigrant, and they will be cast as those who have entered and resided in Thailand without permission.

The draft Ministerial Regulation Specifying the Status and Conditions of Residing in the Kingdom of Thailand for Persons Born in the Kingdom of Thailand Who Are Not Thai Nationals is contrary to law in the following ways:

1. The draft ministerial regulation is contrary to the spirit of Section 7. bis. paragraph three of the Nationality Act (No.4) B.E.2551 (2008). Section 7. bis. paragraph three aims to recognize the right to reside in Thailand of children and others born on Thai territory who have not acquired Thai nationality. By assigning these persons the status of illegal immigrants, the draft ministerial regulation is directly contrary to the spirit of the law.

2.The draft ministerial regulation is contrary to Section 2 of the Criminal Code, Section 39 of Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand B.E. 2550 (2007), Article 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article11(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Each of these laws protect individuals from being charged or punished for criminal acts that they did not commit. The draft ministerial regulation provides that the individuals in question shall be deemed to have entered and resided in the Kingdom of Thailand without permission under immigration law, even though they were born in Thailand. They will be criminally punished even though they have not committed criminal acts.

3. Article 2 of the draft ministerial regulation specifies that in line with Section 7 bis paragraph one of the Nationality Act, B.E.2508 as amended by the Nationality Act (No.2), B.E. 2535(1992), a person born in Thailand does not acquire Thai nationality if his or her father and mother, or father or mother did not lawfully enter Thailand. The person shall be deemed to have entered and resided in the Kingdom of Thailand without permission. As most of the people potentially affected by this draft ministerial regulation are children, the AHRC would like to point out that it is in conflict with Section 22 of the Child Protection Act, B.E.2546 (2003), which notes that, “The treatment of a child in any case shall give primary importance to the best interests of the child and any discrimination of an unfair nature shall not be allowed”; a similar protection of the best interests of the child is contained in Article 3 (1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Thailand is a state party. Remaining with his or her parents is clearly in the best interests of a child, yet this draft ministerial regulation attempts to punish children for doing so.

4.Given that as noted above, the draft ministerial regulation is contrary to both Thai and international law, if it is passed, the Ministry of Interior will have committed an unlawful act. The AHRC also notes that the Ministry of Interior would be acting beyond its scope, and given the probable effects noted, would therefore constitute an abuse of power.

5. Section 3, paragraph two of the 2007 Constitution mandates that “The National Assembly, the Council of Ministers, the Courts, other Constitutional organizations and State agencies shall perform duties of office by the rule of law.” The draft Ministerial Regulation Specifying the Status and Conditions of Residing in the Kingdom of Thailand for Persons Born in the Kingdom of Thailand Who Are Not Thai Nationals is in clear and direct tension with the rule of law; by declining to approve it, the Council of Ministers will show their clear commitment to upholding the rule of law.

The Asian Human Rights Commission would like to remind the Government of Thailand that in addition to obligations under domestic law, as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Thailand is legally-bound to uphold the human rights principles named therein. If the draft Ministerial Regulation Specifying the Status and Conditions of Residing in the Kingdom of Thailand for Persons Born in the Kingdom of Thailand Who Are Not Thai Nationals goes into force, children will be dispossessed of citizenship and the exclusion present within ultra-nationalist versions of Thai-ness will be legally codified by the state. The AHRC calls on the Council of Ministers to withhold approval of this draft ministerial regulation and the Ministry of Interior to work to strengthen, not dismantle, the rights of stateless children and people in Thailand.

Political prisoner Nguyen Huu Cau is seriously ill in Z30A Prison

Nguyen Huu Cau in Z30A prison camp

PARIS, 25 March 2013 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) - The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) is extremely disturbed by reports that political prisoner Nguyen Huu Cau is seriously ill in Z30A Xuan Loc prison camp in Dong Nai Province. According to his daughter, Nguyen Thi Anh Thu, he is suffering from a heart condition, low cerebral blood flow (ischemia) and is virtually blind in both eyes. He is also very deaf and extremely weak as a result of harsh detention conditions and inadequate medical care in prison.

“Subjecting prisoners to inhuman treatment – especially persons who should never have been detained at all – is inadmissible”, said VCHR President Vo Van Ai. ”I call upon UN member states not to support Vietnam’s candidature for membership of the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 which will be voted at the UN General Assembly in New York in September this year”.

Nguyen Huu Cau, 66, is one of Vietnam’s longest detained political pris­oners. He has spent a total of 37 years in jail. A former officer in the South Vietnamese army, he was arrested in 1975 after Vietnam was united under Communist rule and spent six years in ”re-education camp”. In 1982, he was arrested again for writing poetry and songs about power abuse and corruption of high-ranking Communist Party officials in the province of Kien Giang. He was charged with “sabotage”and sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison, and he has been detained in Z30A prison camp since then.

Nguyen Huu Cau has been frequently held in solitary confinement, and his health has deteriorated seriously over the past few years. Despite this, he has continued to challenge the camp authorities over his unfair detention. Over the past 30 years, Nguyen Huu Cau has written over 500 letters to the authorities demanding a re-trial, but has never received a reply. He refuses to demand clemency or seek early release.

Although Vietnam denies that it detains any political prisoners, only people who have “violated the law”, Nguyen Huu Cau and other dissidents are detained in the political section of K2 in Z30A prison camp and subjected to a particularly harsh regime. Their food and utensils are stamped with the letters “C.T.” (chính trị - political), and their rights to receive visits, food parcels or communicate with their families are severely restricted in comparison to those of common criminals (see VCHR report “From Vision to Facts: Human Rights in Vietnam under Vietnam’s Chairmanship of ASEAN”).

Many political prisoners in Z30A prison camp are currently in very bad health because of poor detention conditions and lack of adequate medical care. The VCHR is deeply concerned for the health of political prisoner Do Van Thai, 53, who is suffering from HIV-AIDS after being forced to shave with the sole razor used by all the other prisoners. He is receiving no medical treatment. Nguyen Tuan Nam, 77, a former officer in the North Vietnamese army, is also very ill. He suffers from lung inflammation and chronic back pain, and cannot walk without help. Nguyen Tuan Nam was arrested in 1996 in Cambodia and sentenced to 19 years in prison for “fleeing abroad with a view to opposing the people’s administration” (article 91 of the Criminal Code).

The VCHR strongly denounces the ill-treatment of prisoners in Vietnam which is grossly inconsistent with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”. Vietnam should release all those detained for the peaceful expression of their opinions and beliefs and improve the detention conditions of all prisoners in Vietnam, in conformity with its pledges as a state party to the ICCPR.

THAILAND: Nine years without justice for Somchai Neelaphaijit

Mar 20, 2013

Somchai Neelaphaijit

On March 12, 2013, the ninth anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Somchai Neelaphaijit passed. The Asian Human Rights Commission chooses to note this anniversary with continued sorrow for the enforced disappearance of Somchai Neelaphaijit and deep concern for the persistent failure to secure justice in this case. This is nine years in which the perpetrators of his abduction, assault, and murder have walked free. This is nine years in which his family has courageously struggled to hold the specific perpetrators of his enforced disappearance to account while also fighting for them to secure accountability in other enforced disappearance cases in and beyond Thailand. This is nine years in which different parts of the Thai state apparatus have displayed a consistent lack of will to protect human rights and instead a willingness to violate them at the expense of individuals and the rule of law writ large.

Somchai Neelaphaijit was a noted lawyer and human rights defender. At the time of his enforced disappearance, Somchai was working on behalf of five men who had alleged that they were tortured by state security officials while they were in state custody in Narathiwat, one of the three southern-most Thai provinces, which has been under martial law since January 2004 and under emergency regulations since July 2005. On 11 March 2004, the day before his enforced disappearance, Somchai submitted a complaint to the court which detailed the forms of torture experienced by the five men. He argued that this was both a violation of their rights and the Criminal Code, which prohibits torture. He also spoke out publicly and passionately on the case, accusing the police of gross wrongdoing. On 12 March 2004, one day after he submitted the complaint, five policeman pulled Somchai from his car on a main road in Bangkok. He was never seen again.

The very form of the crime of enforced disappearance often makes redress particularly difficult. In the case of the disappearance of Somchai Neelaphaijit, after a labyrinthine legal case and courageous struggle by Angkhana Neelaphaijit, his children, and many human rights activists, the five police officers who pulled him from his nine years ago are still living outside prison, with no charges outstanding against them. At every stage of the investigation, there was obfuscation by police officers, a lack of will by many inside the state (including at the highest level of the then-prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra) to cooperate, and mishandling of evidence. Under Thai evidentiary rules, without a body – which could never be located – a murder charge cannot be levied, so the involved police officers were charged and prosecuted for theft (of his vehicle) and coercion. Only one police officer out of five was found guilty, and in 2011, additional evidentiary problems led to his acquittal on appeal. Yet what was even more striking about the appeal decision was the stringent dispossession of the rights of victims and families to seek accountability. In the case against the perpetrators, Angkhana Neelaphaijit and her children were joint plaintiffs with the public prosecutor. Under the Criminal Procedure Code, families can act on behalf of injured or dead person. The Appeal Court ruled that in this case, there was not sufficient proof that Somchai Neelaphaijit was dead, and therefore his family could not act on his behalf. In other words, the lack of the category of enforced disappearance within Thai law has made it incredibly difficult to hold the perpetrators accountable for their crimes. At present, the case is being examined by the Supreme Court. Please see the AHRC's campaign page for the Somchai case here.

As one attempt to redress the injustice of enforced disappearance, after a long struggle spanning 25 years, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on 20 December 20, 2006. The convention was opened it for signature on February 6, 2007, and entered into force on December 23, 2010. The convention specifies the crime of disappearance and also makes recommendations for how states should approach the investigation, prosecution, and redress of the crime, as well as recommends how to protect the rights of victims and families of the disappeared. Thailand became the most recent state to sign the convention on January 9, 2012, but has not yet ratified it.

The AHRC concludes by sharing part of an open letter to current Thai prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, released last week by Angkhana Neelaphaijit, Somchai's widow and the chairperson of the Justice for Peace Foundation (AHRC-FOL-005-2013). In the letter, Angkhana thanked the Yingluck government for their decision to provide financial compensation to the Neelaphaijit family and other victims of disappearance throughout Thailand and to sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Yet she simultaneously stressed the ongoing need for accountability: "I would like to express my sincere appreciation that your government has decided to provide remedies to people whose human rights have been affected by governmental officers including the enforced disappearance cases in the Southern Border Provinces. Remedies are an indispensible right of the victims. But apart from upholding the right to access truth, it is equally important to uphold justice and ensure that there shall be no recurrence of human rights violation. And monetary remedies alone are not enough to erase the trauma and wound in the hearts of the survivors. I fervently believe that only through access to truth and justice that dignity of the survivors shall be restored and it would lead to lasting forgiveness and reconciliation."

The AHRC joins with Angkhana Neelaphaijit and the Justice for Peace Foundation in continuing to call for justice in the case of the enforced disappearance of Somchai Neelaphaijit. Without truth and accountability, justice is impossible. Without justice, signing the convention and providing financial compensation to the families of the disappeared are hollow gestures.

Yatra reaches Indore: questions raised on food security

Special Report
By Krishnakant
Mar 16, 2013

Khajran Ganesh Temple at Indore

Indore, March 15: Mumbai Delhi DMIC Virodhi Sangharsh Yatra today reached Indore after traversing through Gujarat. Medha Patkar, Anil Trivedi, Tapan Bhattacharya and Narmada Bachao Andolan activists welcomed the yatris at the Indore railway station. The yatra visited Kali Billod village near Pithampur Industrial Area, where section 4 notices under the Land Acquisition Act have been issued without even intimating them. The farmers came to know of it from someone in Indore since notices were published in two lesser circulated newspapers. They challenged this, sent their reservations to the collector, and even met the Chief Minister. Mr. Chauhan promised them that not a single inch of land will be acquired without the consent of farmers. Even then, the collector passed the award at an extremely low rate for their land. The farmers approached the High Court, and finally got a stay on some portion of the land owing to some procedural irregularities, but the forceful acquisition is still hanging over their heads. The farmers pledged to join the Jantar Mantar Kisan Khet Mazdoor Mahapanchayat in Delhi on March 18.

Later in the evening during a public meeting with the intelligentsia of Indore, Medha Patkar, Bhupinder Singh Rawat, Nasreen Bi, Advocate Anil Trivedi, Tapan Bhattacharya, Ram Babu Agarwal, J. P Singh and others spoke about disaster being planned under the DMIC. B.S. Rawat said, “The time has come when we need to stop any further acquisition, and keeping in mind the growing population, fix a certain amount of land for food security, otherwise we are threatening the future of our generation”.

Medha Patkar speaking at the meeting said, “The Madhya Pradesh government has not yet been able to rehabilitate the lakhs of people affected by dams on the Narmada, and yet they are planning to displace thousands of people in the name of development again, under the DMIC”. Babu Singh Patel of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti said, “Acquisition of thousands of acres of fertile land will threaten and exposes the claims and seriousness of the Chief Minister in increasing food grain production in Madhya Pradesh.

Adv. Anil Trivedi said, “Legally speaking, the project planning is faulty in many ways and we need to challenge this. The challenge to illegal implementation is one thing, but the question of democratic development planning has to be addressed. DMIC is an attack on sovereign rights of citizens of a sovereign nation”. The yatra will tomorrow visit the knowledge city, Ujjain, affected project people and also those of Shewerkhedi Dam nearby, water of which will be diverted for industries. Another team of the Yatra will go to Jaipur, where they will address a press meet and a public meeting.

Krishnakant, Lingraj Azad, Rajendra Ravi, Prasad Bagwe, Yuvraj, Anwari, Vaibhav Joshi, Rahul Yadav, Meera, Madhuresh Kumar. Contact: 9818905316

XXIInd session of the UN Human Rights Council: Restrictive legislation, internment of cyberdissidents in psychiatric hospitals and repression of freedom of expression in Vietnam exposed at the UN Human Rights Council

Mar 8, 2013

Vo Van Ai speaking at the UN Human Rights Council, 8 March 2013

GENEVA, 8 March 2013 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) - Speaking today at the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva jointly with the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), Mr. Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) denounced systematic and organized violations of Internet freedom in Vietnam.

Citing the findings of the recent FIDH and VCHR report “Bloggers and Netizens behind bars in Vietnam”, Mr. Ai declared that the ongoing repression, supported by widespread Police violence and vaguely-worded, restrictive legislation, was grossly inconsistent with the provisions of Article 19 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam acceded in 1982.

Vo Van Ai expressed particular concern about the increasing use of internment in psychiatric institutions under Ordinance 44 to stifle cyber-dissidents. He also denounced a Draft Internet Decree currently under preparation which would increase state censorship and oblige Internet companies, including foreign firms, to collaborate with the government in “tracking down government critics” (see full text of the statement below).

Ms Penelope Faulkner, speaking on behalf of Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme also expressed concern about the government’s assault on freedom of expression in Vietnam and the arbitrary detention and harrasment of bloggers, citing the cases of bloggers Dieu Cay, Ms . Nguyen Hoang Vi and Buddhist monk Thich Quang Do. She said the release of bloggers and repealing of restrictive legiclation was “indispensable in the light of Vietnam’s bid for membership of the UN Human Rights Council in 2014” (see extracts from speech below).

Full text of the statement by Vo Van Ai:

“The FIDH and its affiliate organization, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, wish to draw the Council’s attention to the brutal campaign of repression on freedom of expression in Vietnam, in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This campaign is totally inconsistent with the Council’s 2012 Resolution (HRC/20/L.13) on “The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet” and the recommendations accepted by Vietnam at its Universal Periodic Review in 2009. “As revealed in our recent report, “Bloggers and Netizens Behind bars: Restrictions on Internet Freedom in Vietnam”, which we hold at the Council’s disposal, Internet users are harassed, intimidated, molested and imprisoned. There are currently 32 bloggers and netizens in prison in Vietnam, either sentenced or awaiting trial, with prison terms of up to 16 years.

“Such repression does not serve to protect “national security” as the Vietnamese authorities claim, but to stifle the voices of an emerging civil society speaking out on corruption, power abuse, the plight of dispossessed peasants and farmers, human rights and democratic reforms. “Cynically, the authorities are also repressing those who contributed to a recent public consultation on reforming the Constitution. Last week, journalist Nguyen Dac Kien was fired from the newspaper Gia đình & Xã hội (Family and Society) less than 24 hours after posting a criticism of the Communist Party and its Secretary-general on his blog.

“Vietnam does not only use violence and Police coercion, but also invokes a host of vague and broadly-interpreted laws to suppress freedom of expression, in flagrant violation of Article 19 of the ICCPR. Article 88 on “anti-Socialist propaganda” or Article 258 on “abusing democratic freedoms to encroach on the interests of the state” are routinely used to detain cyber-dissidents. “Ordinance 44 (2002), which authorizes the detention of suspected “national security” offenders without any due process of law, is increasingly used to detain bloggers, especially its provisions authorizing the internment of citizens in psychiatric hospitals, as was recently the case of bloggers Nguyen Trung Linh and Le Anh Hung.

“In the framework of legal reforms financed by the international community, this arsenal of restrictive legislation continues to grow. A new draft Internet Decree is under consideration which raises serious concerns. If adopted as such, it would legalize a whole system of content-filtering, censorship and sanctions against vaguely-defined “prohibited acts”. It would also oblige Internet companies and providers, including foreign companies, to cooperate with the government in the surveillance and tracking of cyber-dissidents. “Such repression is inconsistent with Vietnam’s international obligations as a state party to the ICCPR and the recommendations made by 13 states at its UPR to guarantee freedom of expression.

“We call upon the Council to press Vietnam to put an end to this repression; to abrogate Ordinance 44 and all other legislation incompatible with international human rights law, and review the draft Internet decree in order to ensure that it guarantees freedom of expression. Vietnam should also invite the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression to visit Vietnam at the earliest opportunity.”

Statement by Penelope Faulkner (extracts)

“Over the past year alone, scores of bloggers, online journalists and human rights defenders in Vietnam have been harassed, intimidated, subjected to Police abuse, or condemned to extremely harsh prison sentences simply for expressing their peaceful views on the Internet.

“The situation of blogger Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay) is particularly alarming. Charged with “circulating anti-socialist propaganda” (Article 88 of the Criminal Code), he was sentenced to 12 years in prison and five years house arrest at a trial in September 2012 which violated all international standards. The trial was closed to the public, and the Court cut off the microphone when Dieu Cay spoke to defend himself. Today, his safety and security is in danger. Senior Police official Lt.-Colonel Hoang Van Dung told Dieu Cay he would destroy his health and make sure that he died in prison.

“Netizens routinely suffer beatings, abuse and even sexual assaults by Police. On 28 December Miss Nguyen Hoang Vi, a 25-year-old blogger, was beaten savagely by Police, stripped naked and subjected to a humiliating body search which was videotaped by male Police officers. Police had arrested her on the pretext of an “identity check” as she stood outside the Court during Dieu Cay’s appeal trial. “Many Internet users are detained under house arrest without any due process of law. Buddhist monk and prominent dissident Thich Quang Do has been under house arrest at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery since 2003 because of his online appeals for democracy and human rights (1).

“Vietnam claims that it arrests government critics because they have violated Vietnamese law. However, in Opinion 27/2012 on Vietnam, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stressed that even if the detention is in conformity with national legislation, it must also be consistent with international law. The “Working Group also emphasized 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 ICCPR”.

“We therefore call upon Vietnam to repeal all domestic laws inconsistent with Article 19, to release all persons detained for their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, both online and offline, and to invite the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, and on Human Rights Defenders to visit Vietnam. This is indispensable in the light of Vietnam’s bid for membership of the UN Human Rights Council in 2014.”

TIED IN A KNOT- Cross-region Marriages in Haryana and Rajasthan

Special Contribution
By Reena Kukreja and Paritosh Kumar
Mar 5, 2013

A bride from Assam


In the last decade and a half, the male marriage squeeze in economically prosperous North Indian provinces such as Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Western Uttar Pradesh has led to men from these states to pay money to marry women, usually from underdeveloped or economically marginalized regions in Eastern India.

This study, focussed on Haryana and Rajasthan as receiving regions, sought to examine the everyday existence of such cross-region brides within the intimacy of the conjugal household and community. Some questions for the study included looking at intra-gender relations within the family, kin network and community; the subject of integration and assimilation of these women; whether their caste status impacted their lives; and what forms, if any, did gender subordination and gender based violence take vis-à-vis such brides. The research was conducted in three phases in the districts of Rohtak, Rewari and Mewat in Haryana and Alwar and Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan. 226 villages were surveyed with 1247 cross-region brides participating in the survey. Detailed qualitative research followed in 30 select villages with 54 brides participating in it. In the source region of Odisha, research was conducted on a cluster of 10 villages from Bhograi and Jaleswar blocks from Balasore district with 47 families participating in it.


Shortage of women is not common across all caste groups in the conjugal regions, but is endemic in dominant caste groups of Jats and Yadavs. While the well-off from these caste groups are able to marry within locally, men who are underemployed; poor; have little land; suffer from some deformity; are less educated or are old are the ones most often seeking cross-region brides. This practice, however, is slowly spreading to some lower caste groups and among Muslim communities. It is primarily a rural phenomenon where caste hierarchies and regulations governing marriage are more strictly enforced. Such marriages are non-customary as the women come from different ethnicity, region and sometimes, even religion. Families of these brides are extremely poor, often falling in the category of BPL (Below Poverty Line); have little or no land assets; and rely on seasonal low-paying agricultural wage work. Inability to meet the exorbitant dowry demands made by local grooms that compels them to long distance alliances is the main reason why they opt for ‘dowry-free, no wedding expenses’ offers made by Haryanvi or Rajasthani men.

These marriages are arranged in four ways with grave consequences for the brides depending on which route they get married through. These are: (a.) Trafficking (b) Alliances through marriage brokers or Dalals; (c) Husbands of brides; and (d) Brides as marriage mediators. Though there is trafficking of women for forced marriages, it isn’t as extensive and rampant as media makes it to be. The largest number of marriages are conducted by the cross-region brides themselves, usually of their female relatives in the immediate family or kin networks. Their motivations aren’t solely monetary as they also seek companionship in a culturally alien environment through such alliances. However, most marriages through all routes involve some degree of deception about the man’s economic ability, social status or health. The men seek alliances only when other female family members, such as mothers, are unable to support them. The brides are ‘needed’ solely for their ability to perform free reproductive and productive labour. They are also preferred over local women as loosening of natal family connections render them vulnerable to domination and abuse. New forms of gender subordination have emerged within conjugal families as extreme demands are made on the labour time of cross-region brides.

The most disturbing finding of our study has been the widespread intolerance exhibited by conjugal communities in Haryana and Rajasthan towards the cross-region brides. These take a number of different forms, the worst being caste discrimination. Caste councils or Khap Panchayats, though taking a tough stance on inter-caste marriages within Haryana, show a studied silence and tacit acceptance of inter-caste nature of these cross-region marriages. Oppression and discrimination experienced by the low caste groups and the Dalits from the dominant caste groups gets similarly reproduced within the family bringing in wives from other parts of India. They are segregated, isolated and shunned primarily because of their ‘unknown’ caste status though the families, overtly, insist otherwise.

Furthermore, the caste-based exclusion and humiliation is experienced both in public arena and the private space of the family. Caste discrimination is further amplified by exhibition of deep racism against the women and their natal communities. They are pejoratively called ‘Biharan’: a term implying poverty, desperation, filth and savagery. Their parents and natal communities are branded as ‘thieves’, ‘sellers of daughters’ and ‘primitive savages’. The continual denigration is internalized by the brides leading to lowering of their self-esteem and self-worth. As a survival strategy, they minimize social contact with others with negative impact on their mental health. Most cross-region brides are victims of colourism (darker pigmentation of their skin). Dark skin leads to their rejection in the local marriage market making them more likely to be offered for long-distance alliance, resulting in dislocation from their culture, community and family. Apart from casteist and racist slurs, these brides are considered and often taunted as ugly and dull in intelligence because of their dark skin tone.

Children of such unions face similar racial taunts from their peers and are not accepted as one of their own. These range from sidelining them in games or bullying them with name-calling. Such incidents were high in Rohtak district of Haryana and in Alwar region of Rajasthan respectively. Some older male children have faced difficulty in finding local girls because of their mother’s ‘questionable’ caste identity. More research needs to be done on this aspect to assess its long-term impact. The brides are subject to heightened surveillance, which varies from total confinement to restriction of their movement within the village. The degree to which this is enforced depends on the a) mode through which the bride has been sourced, i.e., whether she is trafficked, coerced or married with her parent’s approval; b) duration of the marriage; c) amount invested by the family in the marriage; and d) whether she has children or not from this marriage.


Registration of all marriages, notwithstanding any community or religion, should be made compulsory with the proposed bill on it passed as quickly as possible by the Indian Parliament. It will offer protection of gender rights of cross region brides, in case of trafficking; abuse during marriage; desertion by husband; or claiming maintenance or inheritance rights. The benefits of the marriage registration will extend to their children too.

An intensive and sustained awareness campaign outlining the correct process of registering marriages should be undertaken in both natal and conjugal regions. The benefits of the registration should be spelt out differently to each target group. Panchayati Raj Institutions in both conjugal and natal regions should be used to discuss cross-region marriages; gendered nature of violence that the brides face; and the need to desist traffickers. At least a minimum of one Gram Sabha, especially in conjugal areas, should be devoted to cross-region marriages and its linkage to girl dis-preference and male marriage squeeze.

Government scheme to encourage inter-caste marriages with a monetary incentive of Rs 50,000 should be extended to cross-region marriages with a clause that the wife has to be a non-resident and of low-caste status. Presently, both spouses have to be residents of the same state to claim the benefit. It will ensure that such marriages are registered by a Marriage Registration Officer; lead to reduction in incidences of trafficking; and offer legal protection of human rights of the brides and their children. The Centre and State governments should prioritize implementation of targeted and tailored prevention initiatives that address core contributing factors to cross region marriages. These should emphasize poverty alleviation schemes; anti-dowry campaigns; education; access to resources; and job opportunities for vulnerable women. Even though all such schemes do exist, tardy implementation prevents these from reaching those it is intended for.

Partnership between the Civil Society Organisations and the Government in conjugal regions on the issue of cross-region marriages and the treatment of brides should be established to allow tabling and discussion of region-specific strategies to protect human rights of the brides. Workshops specifically on the complexity of such alliances and the gendered nature of violence and discrimination should be held for CSOs in conjugal districts to increase awareness levels and to devise grassroots-based intervention strategies. Further research should to be undertaken to ascertain whether cross region wives are able to access and obtain the same sets of rights and privileges available to local brides. It will determine whether they face barriers in access to resources, be it property rights or government schemes. Similarly, further detailed and phased research on their children should be conducted to find out whether they face differential treatment in choosing marriage partners, access to resources, education, inheritance rights, amongst others.

Research also needs to be conducted to study the mental health status of cross-region brides and, on the basis of the findings, devise targeted interventions aimed at this group. Since a majority experience loneliness, isolation, psychological abuse and emotional violence, it has led to depression and suicidal thoughts apart from elevated levels of stress. Business cards with helpline information of local feminist advocacy organisations / AHTUs in conjugal regions should be undertaken in some key source-region languages. These can be distributed by Anganwadi and / or ASHA workers to cross region brides in conjugal communities.

About The Film Maker

Reena Kukreja defines herself as a feminist activist and as an independent documentary film-maker. Committed to ethical filmmaking and humane representation of the people in front of the camera, she is committed to a collaborative filmmaking process in which she dialogues with the people whose voice she attempts to articulate; a technique that she has evolved organically over two decades of her working with grass roots organizations. With over 50 documentaries under her belt, she is an accomplished director, scriptwriter, cameraperson and editor. Her documentaries are often used as tools for grassroots activism by communities and advocacy and human rights groups. To mention some, ‘Seeds of Burden’, ‘ Naka Naka DuPont Naka’ and ‘Whose River Is It Anyways?’ have all been used to focus on issues of girl child labor, environmental degradation or displacement of communities due to Transnational Corporations.

Her research interests focus on development, gender issues and migration in South Asia with special emphasis on the impact of globalization and new technologies on the rural poor. She has conducted studies for NGOs in India and in Canada on gender related themes. Her publications also include a detailed work on the portrayal of Muslim women in Indian Cinema. She has given key note addresses and spoken extensively in conferences and seminars on gender issues, conflict and women and ethics in filmmaking.

At present, she divides time between filmmaking, research and teaching at the Department of Film & Media Studies and Women’s Studies at Queens University, Kingston, Canada. She also guest lectures twice a year at the Centre for Conflict and Peace, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. Reena holds a degree in Master of Arts in Film and Communication from India.

My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of human personality. B.R.Ambedkar

Forced Organ harvesting conference held in Seoul

By Salai Thang
Staff Reporter
Feb 24, 2013

Prof. Jacob Lavee

International Association for Ethical Organ Transplants organized the Forced Organ harvesting conference at the Senate Building in National Assembly in Seoul, on February 22, 2013. Many human rights activists, medical doctors, lawyers, including some witness are attended at the conference.

It is found China is the most Forced Organ harvesting destination, approximately 70000 organs transplantation yearly took place in China alone, as the highest transplantation. It costs approximately $62,000 for an organ. China is not widely received organ from donation, but through execution of prisoner, those are mainly from Falungong religion, Tibetan and other prisoners. They were disappeared without trial. In 1999, China had 150 organ transplant centers, in 2005, China had increase 600 organ transplant centers. Since demands are so high from around the world, people can get easy organ transplantation in China only, but they don’t know where organ comes from? It is a kind of state involvement as a crime murder case. Whenever an organ transplantation takes place one person has to execute, similar like killing chicken. Everyday approximately 20 persons had to die through injection killing method.

At the conference, a special speaker Prof. Jacob Lavee presents the title on “The impact of the use of organs from executed prisoners in China on the new Organ Transplantation Law in Israel”. Prof. Jacob Lavee is a Director, Heart Transplantation Unit, Leviev Heart Center, Sheba Medical Center, Ramat Gan, Israel; The Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel; Israel National Transplant Center, Ministry of Health, Tel Aviv, Israel; and Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) – Advisory Board member.


In 2005 a new phenomenon was revealed in Israel of candidates for heart transplantation who were offered their transplant in China on a prescheduled date and eventually got it on that date. Together with the 2007 founded NGO Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), evidences were then gathered which have clearly shown the gruesome systematic use and sale of organs of executed prisoners and prisoners of conscience for organ transplantation. Transplant tourism from Israel to China has flourished in the following three years due to persistently low organ donation rate in Israel. These lower donation rates were the result of cultural and religious objection towards recognition of brain death among parts of the society, combined with “free riding” behavior of these elements regarding accepting organs for transplants, as well as generous reimbursement of transplant tourism by insurance agencies regardless of the legality of the transplant operation performed abroad (mainly in China). A unique new Organ Transplantation Law, drafted to counter-balance these phenomena, and a law defining brain death determination, made a marked impact on the Israeli organ transplantation scene.

Seoul Metropolitan City officer(L) and witness


In March 2008 Israel's Parliament passed into legislation two laws relevant to organ transplantation: (A) The Brain Death Law which defines the precise circumstances and mechanisms to determine brain death; (B) The Organ Transplantation Law which includes several unique clauses: (1) Total ban of reimbursing transplants performed abroad if they are performed under the definitions of organ trade or against local laws; (2) Granting prioritization in organ allocation to candidates for organ transplantation who have either been registered as organ donors for at least 3 years prior to being listed as candidates or have been live kidney or liver-lobe donors or have given their consent for actual organ donation of their deceased next-of-kin; (3) Removing disincentives for living donation by providing modest insurance reimbursement and some social supportive services.

Following an extensive multi-media campaign, the impact of the gradual implementation of these new laws has finally been witnessed in the 2011 annual results of Israel’s National Transplant Center.


In 2011 there were 89 deceased organ donors compared to 60 in 2010, which represents a significant increase in organ donation rate from 7.8 donors per million population to 11.4. In 2011 267 organ transplantations from deceased donors were performed compared to 157 in 2010. Consent rate for organ donation from deceased donors has risen from 49% in 2010 to 55% in 2011. The monthly number of new registered donors has risen from a mean number of 2889 in the years 1998 - 2010 to a monthly mean of 6273 in 2011, representing an increase in registered donors from 10% to 12% of the adult population. Kidney transplantations from living donors have markedly risen from 71 in 2010 to 117 in 2011. The annual number of patients who underwent kidney transplantation abroad has sharply dropped since 2008 from 155 in 2006 to an all-time low of 35 in 2011. Transplant tourism from Israel to China came to a complete halt. In parallel, in 2012 DAFOH ran a petition, which generated 250,000 signatures in U.S., Europe and Australia, to ask the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate on unethical organ harvesting in China. DAFOH directors testified before U.S. Congress and at a hearing in the European Parliament.


The implementation of the new Israeli Organ Transplantation Law, along with the Brain Death Law, has resulted in a significant increase in organ transplantations both from deceased donors, by prioritizing holders of donor cards, and from living donors, by removing disincentives for living donation. In addition transplant tourism from Israel to China was brought to a complete halt by banning its reimbursement.


Special Contribution
By Roland Watson (dictatorwatch)
Feb 17, 2013

Furious time of KNU leader Padoh Mahn Sha assassination

There are turning points in a nation's history, and many times they are not only not clear; they are missed completely. The death of ethnic leader Padoh Mahn Sha five years ago was an example of one such turning point. It was not only a tragedy for the Karen, it was a disaster for all of Burma.

At the time there was already a split in the KNU, following the decline and ultimately the death of long-time leader General Bo Mya. This created a power vacuum, between individuals who wanted to stick to the organization's policy to defend the Karen people, and others who had grown tired of waiting for the Karen Revolution to succeed, including in this group people who had become corrupted and who were making business deals with regime officers. Mahn Sha was a strong and principled leader, dedicated to the Revolution's goals, and destined for the top role of Chairman.

His death provided an opening for the opportunists, and ultimately, at last year's Karen Congress, they took over. Without additional action from Aung San Suu Kyi, though, this would have only marked a turning point for the Karen. At the time of Mahn Sha's assassination, she was still holding strong to the goal of real freedom for Burma, and her opposition to ending the sanctions.

But, Suu Kyi subsequently turned. She abandoned her positions, reversed course, and became an opportunist as well. So, the lead figure in Burma now backed making a deal with the generals, and which deal would not require them to give up power and permit real democracy. Karen and other ethnic opportunists then jumped on this, as the chance they had been waiting for for years, to end their own struggles in exchange for personal gain.

A precursor for all of this was another event, of which few people are even aware. "Pro-democracy" funder OSI had a conference in Washington, D.C. in October 2004, titled Managing Economic Transitions: The Role of Global Institutions and Lessons for Burma/Myanmar. I attended this conference. It's main point was that the time had come to start developing Burma, democracy be damned. Big money interests were also tired of waiting. The conference actually had as its agenda initiating the development, but a curious thing happened. Ethnic nationality participants made their voices heard, in no uncertain terms. Development would have to wait until real freedom for their peoples - for all of Burma - was achieved.

This remained the status quo until Suu Kyi changed. Of note, she has never properly explained her decision. Then, the broader significance of Mahn Sha's assassination became clear. Without it, he would have been leading the KNU. I can't say how he would have reacted to Suu Kyi's volte-face, but he certainly would never have abandoned the KNU's goals, much less permitted the Burma Army to totally militarize Karen State, as is now happening under the opportunists. The ethnic flank would have remained intact, and developments in the country, certainly corporate exploitation in ethnic areas, would have proceeded much more slowly, if at all.

Interestingly, another key participant at the 2004 conference was Harn Yawnghwe, of EBO. At the behest of his European funders, he has been one of the strongest proponents of development. It was under his influence that many of the ethnic opportunists rallied over more conservative voices, and signed ceasefires.

So, Suu Kyi surrendered, and Harn Yawnghwe finally could pursue his objective that the ethnic nationalities do the same, without the strong hand of Padoh Mahn Sha to counter his treachery. You’ll note that he and the Karen opportunists were with Aung Min at the KIO meeting in China.

Invisible World of Domestic Workers Exposed at the Public Hearing: Domestic Workers Demand Their Due Share and Labour Rights

Indian women protest

New Delhi, Feb 11 : The hand that feeds, cares for children, keeps the house clean and shining is often left unattended, uncared for and at times bruised and beaten. That's the world of domestic workers working in lakhs of Delhi homes, striving to earn a dignified living and raising a family in 21st century rising India. Domestic work, an increasing necessity in this era of globalisation, expanding horizons for women, opening up opportunities but also creating a class of working slaves in mills, offices and homes.

The emerging reality is contradictory like capitalism itself where a certain class of women have gained prominence, access to diversified jobs and equality in jobs and pay but on the other hand, the women in domestic work and in the unorganised and unprotected sector have to strive for basic facilities, from minimum wages, fixed hours of work, holidays, to bonus and most importantly value of their work, respect and recognition, something which workers of the world struggled to achieve in the 20th century. These issues were raised by nearly 30 women who deposed before a panel comprising of Kalyani Menon Sen, Kalpana Mehta, Subhash Lomte, Bilas Bhongade, Tarun Kanti Bose, Aneema and Neelima in a public hearing on the theme 'Women in the Unorganised (Unprotected) Sector in the Era of Globalization' organised by Shahri Mahila Kaamgar Union, an affiliate of National Alliance of People's Movements at Indian Social Institute.

The hearing was attended by nearly 250 domestic workers from Gautampuri, Rohini, Faridabad,and other colonies of Delhi and some others from Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. “I have been working for 28 years and only get Rs. 1200. When I fell sick, my employers did not give me leave to go to a doctor. I am close to 50 years and find it difficult to continue doing this work. I do not get any medical benefits nor pension. What will happen to me I wonder? How will I survive?” asks a disillusioned Asha, one of the deposer’s in the gathering.

Anita who is now part of the Shahri Mahila Kaamgaar Union narrated how she was brought to the city by a placement agent. “I come from a poor family. In 2011, a placement agent convinced my parents to send me to Delhi for a better life. I was only 14 years and had to leave school. I did not want to do this work but had no option. Many times I wanted to leave but the agent forced me to continue working. Finally, I was rescued by the Union” From the panelists, Subhash Lomte throwing light on how young girls are brought from villages to city with the promise of a better life and education said that “we must continue to fight for equal wages and pension”. The minimum wage should be adjusted to inflation and the pension amount should be atleast Rs. 2000. The age for women pensioners should be 50 years and for men it should be 55 years. The pension amount for women should get directly transferred to her bank account so that it is not misused by her husband. He urged the domestic workers from Delhi to all gather at Jantar Mantar on 6th March and raise the issue of a ‘minimum wage’ with the government.

“We all have to sell our labour but we cannot sell our labour without your labour “said Kalpana Mehta, a panelist from Indore as she addressed the gathering. “Always remember that the work you do is extremely important without which other homes will not function” she was quoted saying while stressing the need to give value and respect to domestic work.

The gathering passed the following resolutions at the end of the hearing: A uniform law needs to be made for the welfare of domestic workers. Untill then Minimum Wages Act and other Labour laws must be applied to this category of workers too. A body comprising of representatives from the government and domestic workers needs to be set up to monitor their real situation.

The minimum wages, working hours and time of remuneration should be fixed for Domestic Workers. Strict measures should be taken against those who flaunt it. Complete profiles of all urban workers, their employers and all organizations linked to them should be done. A government agency should be set up for this purpose.

Other than weekly, monthly, yearly and sick leave, provisions should be made for emergency leave also for domestic workers. Pregnant workers should be given special leave of three months. All these leaves should be paid. Strict punishment should be given to all those employers, placement agents and police personnel who subject domestic workers to physical, sexual and other kinds of abuse.

Other than financial aid, the government should provide other kinds of human support to those domestic workers who are crisis-struck. All kind of middlemen and contractors should be removed between domestic workers and their employers. To ensure security of livelihood, domestic workers and their families should be given insurance by the government

Along with an annual bonus and future investment options, annual wage increase adjusted with inflation should be given to these workers. Shahri Mahila Kaamgaar Union also resolved to continue their struggle for decent work and ensure rights of the working women and take forward the recommendations of the public hearing to the authorities concerned.

Anita Kapoor, Poonam, Madeena Begum, Mudra, Lakshmi, Asha, Seela Manswanee on Behalf of Shahri Mahila Kaamgaar Union. Mob. 09810787686

Talking with a South Korean locksmith Kim Chang Sik

By Salai Thang
Special Report
Jan 29, 2013

Kim Chang-sik(L) and Oh Sung-gon

A locksmith and key shop owner Mr. Kim Chang-sik has a special talent of unlocking various keys, even tight security lock and box. He lives in Ansan City of Gyeonggi Province in South Korea. Due to his talent, sometime, the local people called him a key doctor. He is popular and has many customers from Ansan, Seoul, Siheung, Incheon, Suwon and other places.

He worked as a manger for Zipper Company, YKK foundation, from 1991 to 1995 at Banwol industry complex in Ansan. Now he has his own shop “Ansan-Gyeonggi key Safer Doctor”. He was a chairman of Ansan branch Korea Locksmiths Association from 2007 to 2009, it has approximately 200 members, but now he is just an adviser, and still he is a member of Korea Locksmiths Association.

Kim's contact

He was born in Gangwon Province, Hoengcheon-up, at Upsangri 123; it is near Taegi mountain, which is famous in cow product, and a vegetable called “deodeok.” He and his wife Lee Yeong-hui have a son Kim Seong-min and a daughter Kim Seon-yeong.

He loves and supports Dokdo islets as Korean territory and he is a member of Korea-Dokdo-Love campaign group. Mr. Kim said "Dokdo" is a Korean territory longtime ago in history. Korean name "Dokdo" is sometime called "Takeshima" by Japanese, which is disputed between the two countries.


Special Contribution
By Roland Watson (dictatorwatch)
Jan 23, 2013

War in Kachin state

Burma’s military dictatorship announced on Friday that it will stop attacking the KIA. This announcement is false. It is a lie. It is propaganda.

It is no different from Thein Sein’s earlier orders to the Burma Army to stop fighting, which orders the Army refused to follow. Now, days after the announcement, the Army is still attacking. It is using artillery in a number of areas, which strikes are threatening Kachin villagers. Many land battles are also underway.

With this being the dry season, the Army will unquestionably extend its offensive. It will also continue to attempt to shift the blame for its murderous aggression to the Kachin.

The ceasefire announcement is intended to corner the KIA politically, to make it look like they are the ones who are the aggressors, not only to the international community, but to Burman people as well.

This is a propaganda war. The real turning point will be if - when - the United States and other members of the international community blame the victims, too: When they absolve the real terrorists, the Sit-tut, of its crimes.

The Burma Army positions in Kachin (and other ethnic) areas are unacceptable. The regime uses them to commit war crimes. The Kachin resistance is fully justified in fighting the Burman dictatorship's colonial aggression towards their people.

EPDP accuses occupying Sri Lanka military for inaction on child rape

Special Contribution
By Muthamizh Vendhan
Jan 15, 2013

Children protests against rape

In a strange turn of affairs, SL minister Douglas Devnanda’s Eelam People Democratic Party (EPDP), a paramilitary collaborating with Sri Lanka government, demonstrated on Thursday against the rape and murder of a 4-year-old child in one of the islets off Jaffna, shouting slogans against the occupying SL military. Why the Sri Lankan forces that were quick in arresting those who were hoisting Tiger Flags is unable to arrest the culprit behind the heinous crime, the EPDP demonstrators questioned. The girl child, Chudarini Gunasegaram reported missing from her house at Ma’ndai-theevu in Jaffna on 27 December, was found slain and dumped into an abandoned well the following day, with traces of rape in brutal ways.

A similar killing took place in another one of the islands, Nedun-theevu (Delft), sometimes back. The EPDP, which has been controlling political and civil affairs in the islands divisions of the Jaffna district, mobilised the protest against the Sri Lankan forces in the name of a proxy front organisation called Rojavanam Chi'ruvar Kazhakam (Rose Garden Childrens' Congregation).

More than 300 people, including the officials at the government offices and civic bodies, took part in the protest. Mr Devananda had personally phoned several officials instructing them to participate in the protest, informed sources in the island told TamilNet.

School children also took part in the protest. The protestors who marched from the St. Peter’s Church towards the Sri Lankan police station at Ma'ndaitheevu shouted slogans against the Sri Lankan forces.

Meanwhile, news sources said that the SL police had arrested a 31-year-old EPDP supporter on the allegation of suspicious movement at the site of the crime at that time. But the SL police, when contacted by media, denied any arrest.

Recently, the collaborating EPDP is found sidelined by the occupying Sinhala military that favours direct collaborators who have joined Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

5th Day of the Relay Fast and 9th Day of GBGB Andolan at Azad Maidan - Still Waiting for guaranteed Assurance from Government

Special Report
By Medha Patkar
Jan 9, 2013

Medha Patkar went to talk with the Chief Minister

Notice to Demolish Ganpat Patil Nagar Served, People Determined to Fight Mumbai, 9th : On the 5th day of the relay fast by representatives of poor and lower middle class localities, the Andolan completed 9 days of agitation to demand a dignified right to shelter for more than 60% of Mumbai’s population that lives in slums and is deprived of the very basic amenities that are required to lead to a dignified life.

After having sent the comments, along with recommendations and suggestions, on the minutes received from Mantralaya, people await the next response from the Government. Meanwhile, delegations are continuously meeting officials of different departments to put forth the issues and their demands. Today, meetings were held with the Principal Secretary, Housing as well as with the Municipal Commissioner who gave a patient hearing to the presentations of the delegates and agreed to most of the demands verbally, however, the Andolan demands written time-bound guaranteed commitments on different issues.

Even though the officials, including the CM categorically agree to the rightful demands of the people, notices are still being served to demolish houses of thousands living in slums. On 7th January, notice to demolish Ganpat Patil Nagar in Dahisar was served and it is to begin tomorrow. During our meeting yesterday, the Municipal Commissioner had said that only those housed will be demolished that are vacant or available for sale. However, changing his stand today, he said that all those houses that are coming in the radius of 50 meter of the Mangroves will be demolished, which will destroy almost 4500 houses. People, on the other hand, are determined to fight for their homes and livelihood till their last breath.

Support from the civil society as well as others is strengthening the Andolan with each passing day. Shri Asghar Ali Engineer from Centre for Study and Society and Secularism, Shri Somaiya T. R. K from Mumbai Sarvodaya Mandal, Shri. Yatish Mehta from Ekta Parishad, Shri Ulhas Rathod from Indian Environment Movement, Shri. Virendra Kumar from Forum Against Commercialisation came out in support of the Andolan. Shri Anand Ambedkar from Bhim Sena also came to support the Andolan. The famous documentary maker and supporter of the Andolan, Shri Anand Patwardhar showed “humara shahar” which deals with the whole issue of demolition and its effects. Before showing it, Anand decided to have a showing of Sion Koliwada’s short satirical film on their fight against builder’s Sahana Developers which was made by the residents themselves, which had the crowd in raptures. He also showed his work in progress film, on the fight for the right to education in Mandala.

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