The Global Digest

Press Release

NDA’s National Budget Pushes for Foreign Investment, Privatisation and Offers Nothing for Aam Aadmi - Aurat

Narendra Modi

New Delhi, July 10 : The very first budget of the NDA Govt. is certainly brought nothing very special to the voters. As against promise of strong government and good governance Narendra Modi and his colleagues are just continuing economic reforms agenda of UPA government. No doubt budget is an exercise of allocating financial resources not just for one year, but with both short and long term, but certainly speaks out the direction and New govt. It is clearly pushing the agenda of PPP and privatisation, including the dangerous provisions of FDI in Defence and Insurance sectors. There is no concern of the natural resources of the country – land, water, forests nor any mention about the impacts of huge projects; nor is there any consideration for needs of aam aadmi and aurat.

Govt. and Modi seem to be in an unprecedented haste to transfer resources from common people to the investors to bring in money capital but take away sources of livelihood. Who will be the real beneficiaries and to what magnitude is not disclosed as yet, although the signs of the same have been revealed. This is certainly not what was promised. Provision of money without any realistic assessments or mandatory clearances for the riverlinking and Sardar Sarovar statue doesn't show either prudence or seriousness to development planning. Unless the projects are allowed to go through a scanner the test would be as to whether these projects would lead to income generation opportunity and how much ? The skewed priorities of the government are visible from the fact that they allot 200 Cr for Sardar Sarovar statue and 100 Crore for girl child education and 50 Crore for women safety in public transport. Its political gimmick and nothing much.

The budget clearly indicates that those who would invest money will benefit and that extent the government is surely to take forward Manohan Singh’s agenda, but with much more of political and economic expediency. They have continued the practice of revenue forgone and in this Budget total revenue (direct and indirect taxes) foregone from central taxes is Rs. 5,72,923.3 Crore for 2013-14, which is whopping 36% of total expenditure of Government and can actually fund 20 NREGA programmes. The emphasis on industrial corridors, SEZs, higways, waterways, high speed trains will all need large scale land acquisitions, which will severely impact the food security. On the otherhand, Budget is short on addressing the agrarian crisis and livelihood insecurity for the farmers, its pro agri business and will offer no respite. We can't expect anything better from this government but continuation of the same old neo-liberal economic policies, price rise and high inflation.

OUR RESPONSE ON RAIL BUDGET BELOW Will the Bullet Budget hit the common commuters? FDI with Disinvestment in the name of Development cannot be Beneficial, Hence Unacceptable Commerce is the priority, not Commuters!

New Delhi, July 10 : NDA Government’s 'Bullet Budget' will not only avoid stoppages en route but it also indicates no halts to take in the common people - Aam Aadmi & Aurat- across the country. Not just the language but priorities to privatization as a goal clearly suggests that the Modi model is going to knock off the social, environmental as well as antyodya criteria with courage, confidence but also callousness towards the large majority of people, not only the downtrodden but even middle class… Not inclusive but exclusive approach towards the toiling masses of this country will be furthered by shocking inclusiveness towards the private investors, not just Indian but also foreign. Both opening up of Railways - the profit making public sector through disinvestment on one hand, and warning us about the need to raise fares, if not today, (though they did raise the fares a few days before budget, with contempt for the people and parliament) but tomorrow, when the organized strength in the Railways will not be there to question these decisions. What would this mean, no one knows but can be imagined. Disinvestment from the sector and investment from the private corporates in a big way is in the offing. It won't be limited to infrastructure alone then, although it’s reported that Home Ministry has warned the government against going beyond!

When Sadanand Gowda to Narendra Modi has already set priorities by ‘bullet targets’ for bullet train, to be met with foreign (in this, Japanese) investment, the real cost is going to be paid by the people of this country. The elitist priority may shine today but it can be furthered only with a compromise against employment generation, other common facilities, more trains, more space for lower classes, cheaper transport to the needy & disadvantaged etc. Railway being one of the public sector corporation which we are proud of, Gowda has to take in consideration landmarks of social justice in dealing with this. A mere promise of social viability to be ensured along with commercial viability without any signs of the real balance can’t suffice nor can it satisfy those who can read between lines. What will happen to land oustees, when “foreign investors can acquire land themselves & government will only fix the rates” as declared by the Chairman, Railway Board, one has to ask? Mamta Banerjee’s budget was so much categorical on such issues, promising job to the oustees & no forcible acquisition. Gowda is quiet on this, as also on environmental aspects. One, however, knows that bullet train, dedicated freight corridors have to go with large scale Industrial corridors such as DMIC targeting as large channels of agricultural land as 3,40,000 hectares in the first go! The budget presentation will not bring this out but we can’t wait till the bullet hits us all!

Cleanliness on the stations, good food through branded companies, high tech services etc are no doubt attractions for varied sections, especially the aspirants of American Western paradigm in every sector of Indian economy and governance. How will this be achieved has to be our concern; here and now. We, the people have to keep an eye on every action and decision that would tell us very soon whether there is heavy retrenchment of present workers to bring in huge inflow of contractors and contract laborers, beyond what is at present. We have to wait to see whether the decade old caterers who have served commuters without a ‘brand’ get a blow due to railways favoring brand and grand corporates, more than McDonalds, Comesum & Food Plazas. Appointment of 4000 women in Railway Police Force, cleanliness as focus and no new large projects announcement, can be welcomed provided all this also do not prove to be moves towards disinvestment by the state and entry of the private players. No doubt there is a need to curtail bad politics in Railway, as for that matter, every public sector yet this very first budget brings out reactions from labor unions to commuter organizations, and points to a danger that democratic rights of workers will be trampled in name of governance and efficiency.

Medha Patkar - Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Prafulla Samantara - Lok Shakti Abhiyan, NAPM, Odisha; Dr. Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava - Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, MP; Gautam Bandopadhyay – Nadi Ghati Morcha, NAPM, Chhattisgarh; Suniti SR, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe - NAPM, Maharashtra; Gabriel Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN; C R Neelakandan – NAPM Kerala; Saraswati Kavula, P Chennaiah – NAPM Andhra Pradesh, B S Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini, Rajendra Ravi, Sunita Rani – NAPM, Delhi; Arundhati Dhuru, Richa Singh - NAPM, UP; Sister Celia - Domestic Workers Union, NAPM, Karnataka; Sumit Wanjale – Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao Andolan, NAPM, Mumbai; Manish Gupta - Jan Kalyan Upbhokta Samiti, NAPM, UP; Vimal Bhai - Matu Jan sangathan, NAPM, Uttarakhand; Vilas Bhongade - Gosikhurd Prakalpgrast Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, Maharashtra; Ramashray Singh - Ghatwar Adivasi Mahasabha, Jharkhand; Anand Mazhgaonkar, Krishnakant - Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat; Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, NAPM Bihar; Mahendra Yadav – Kosi Navnirman Manch, NAPM Bihar For details contact : Madhuresh Kumar 9818905316

Any Changes in the new Land Acquisition Act is UNACCEPTABLE to People's Movements and will Face Stiff RESISTANCE

SEZ in Polepally

Consent and SIA Provisions are the Most Important Features of the Act. NDA Government Should Ensure Strict Implementation of the New Act. Ministry of Environment must Back Off from making amendments to the FC and EC Processes. Environment and Development are Matters of Livelihood and Basic Survival...

New Delhi, June 28, 2014 : The news that two of the key provisions, 'consent' and 'Social Impact Assessment' of the Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, 2013 is to be amended by the NDA government is completely unacceptable to the people's movements and will face tough opposition across the country. It may well be reminded that the new Act was framed in the wake of protests across the nation at places like Nandigram, Singur, Kalinganagar, Kakrapalli, Bhatta Parsaul, where many people died and years of struggle by Narmada Bachao Andolan, Niyamgiri Suraksha Parishad and Anti SEZ protests in Raigarh, Jhajhar for repeal of the colonial act and enactment of a new development planning act marking people's participation and provisions for livelihood based R&R.

The consent and SIA provision was introduced to do away with the anomalies in the colonial act, since farmers and those dependent on the land were never consulted or made a participant in the process of development planning. Huge tracts of fertile land were acquired at throw away prices and given to private and public corporations in the name of public purpose and industrialization. The stiff opposition to the land grab has led in past to cancellation of numerous SEZs and other projects and any discussion on the question of land for industrialization has to take in account. Ministry of Rural Development should work on implementing the Act by drafting the rules for its implementation and get States to do the same. It is shocking that most of these states demanding an amendment have not even bothered to frame the rules for the new Act. As of now, Karnataka and Maharashtra are the only two states who have framed draft rules for the same, how can they demand an amendment?

It will be a retrograde step if we were to go to back to the colonial process of forced land acquisition and no regard for impact of land acquisition on the people, environment and democratic institutions which need to be consulted and their consent taken in the process of SIA. If any amendment has to be made to the act then it needs to be made more stringent in following terms : 1. Consent for the public purpose projects to be mandatory for the government projects too. 2. Limited definition of the 'Public Purpose'. Infrastructure doesn't equal development. We have seen how Reliance has been creating infrastructure for nation, they work for profit alone and in the process loot the citizens and arm-twist the government, prime example being Delhi and Mumbai Metro and KG Basin Gas projects ?

3. Mandatory SIA provisions for the irrigation projects as well, given the huge displacement, in case of Sardar Sarovar dam the sword of displacement is hanging on 2.5 lakh people even after three decades. 4. Urgently establish a National resettlement and Rehabilitation Commission to deal with the grievances of 10 crores of people who have sacrificed their land and livelihood in the process of development. Since, the time NDA government has come to power a slew of changes have been proposed to the existing provisions of environment and forest clearances, as if Ministry of Environment and Forests sole job was to clear projects and allow destruction of forests, wildlife, rivers and so on in the name of development. The government seems to be in a hurry but this mandate from people need not be confused as a license to trample upon the rights of the people and tinker with the existing laws which are to protect life, livelihood and environment.

NAPM calls upon progressive forces, people's movements and political parties to join this fight against corporate loot of the natural resources at the cost of livelihood of the millions. The corporate designs of loot of the natural resources will not be allowed to succeed by the people's movements and every move will be resisted by the farmers, workers, fisherfolks, forest dwellers, adivasis, urban poor of this country. The NDA government will do itself good to remember that the power of people have forced radical changes and overthrown parties from power in past, the good days will not last forever!

Medha Patkar - Narmada Bachao Andolan - National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Prafulla Samantara - Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Lingraj Azad – Niyamgiri Suraksha Parishad, NAPM, Odisha; Dr. Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava - Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, MP; Gautam Bandopadhyay – Nadi Ghati Morcha, NAPM, Chhattisgarh; Suniti SR, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe - NAPM, Maharashtra; Gabriel Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN; C R Neelakandan – NAPM Kerala; Saraswati Kavula, P Chennaiah – NAPM Andhra Pradesh, B S Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini, Rajendra Ravi, Sunita Rani, Madhuresh Kumar, Seela M – NAPM, Delhi; Arundhati Dhuru, Richa Singh, Nandlal Master - NAPM, UP; Sister Celia - Domestic Workers Union, Maj. Gen (Retd) Sudhir Vombatkere - NAPM, Karnataka; Sumit Wanjale – Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao Andolan, NAPM, Mumbai; Manish Gupta - Jan Kalyan Upbhokta Samiti, NAPM, UP; Vimal Bhai - Matu Jan sangathan, NAPM, Uttarakhand; Vilas Bhongade - Gosikhurd Prakalpgrast Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, Maharashtra; Ramashray Singh - Ghatwar Adivasi Mahasabha, Jharkhand; Anand Mazhgaonkar, Krishnakant - Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat; Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, NAPM Bihar; Mahendra Yadav – Kosi Navnirman Manch, NAPM Bihar For details contact : 9818905316 | email :

ASIA: Parallel event on Rule of Law in Bangladesh

Jun 17, 2014

Lawless in Bangladesh

Parallel Event: UN Human Rights Council 26th Session 'Rule of Law in Bangladesh' Thursday 19 June 2014, 16:00-18:00 Room XXIII, Palais des Nations

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation along with the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) invite you to a parallel event on "The Rule of Law in Bangladesh." The event is scheduled for 19 June 2014 from 16:00 to 18:00 along-side the 26th session of the Human Rights Council.

Bangladesh acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on 6 September 2000. The country is also a party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and eight other important international human rights conventions. Bangladesh was a member of the UN Human Rights Council during the first six years after the formation of the Council. During this period the Council reviewed Bangladesh under the Universal Periodic Review in 2009 and in 2013. The Constitution of Bangladesh guarantees a democratic administrative framework that ensures fundamental rights to all its citizens. The ALRC over the years have gathered extensive documentation that proves, unfortunately that these promises are not realised within Bangladesh.

Basic institutions that are required to uphold the rule of law in Bangladesh, like the judiciary and the country's entire administrative framework today lacks moral, intellectual and infrastructural capacity to undertake their mandate. The justice apparatus in particular is unable to protect rights and guarantees to the citizens. Hence, what prevails in Bangladesh today is the culture of impunity. The parallel event will discuss substantively the reasons for the prevailing and appalling situation of the rule of law in Bangladesh.

Programme details: Topic: "Rule of Law in Bangladesh" Date & Time: 19 June 2014, from 16:00 to 18:00 Venue: Room XXIII, Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland Chair: Ms Renate D. Bloem, UN Representative (Geneva), CIVICUS.

Speakers: 1. Mr. Md. Ashrafuzzaman, Programme Coordinator, Urgent Appeals Programme of the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) will speak to the reasons for the inability of the criminal justice institutions in Bangladesh to uphold the rule of law; 2. Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of Odhikar, a human rights organisation based in Bangladesh, will speak about the abuse of the Information and Technology Act, 2006 to suppress human rights and fundamental freedoms in Bangladesh; 3. Mr. Jerald Staberock, Secretary General, OMCT, will speak about the practice of torture and human rights activism in Bangladesh.

Gang-rape of a Mute and Adivasi Minor Girl in Chhindwara (M.P)

Handicapped adivasi girl

Inaction, Negligence and Shielding of Accused by District Administration – Says Fact Finding Team Report

June 10, Chhindwara / New Delhi : On 13th April 2014, a 15 year old mute and handicapped adivasi girl was kidnapped and gang-raped, but for more than one and a half months, no action has been taken by the district administration or support of any kind reached the rape survivor. Inaction by the district authorities, police blaming the survivor and her family for the incident and complete suppression of the case and little support from media has not helped the situation.

A fact finding team was constituted by civil society groups to investigate the matter. The team constituted of human rights activist Daya Bai, Advoctae Aradhana Bhargava, Ms Kranti and Ms Jyoti (members of Jan Sahas – Womens rights group, Dewas) and Ms Kanika Sharma (social worker, TISS). The team findings point towards problematic handling and fabrication of the case by the police - such as making it a case of rape by one person, while it is in fact a case of gang rape involving four accused, and violations of legal as well as medical protocols such as subjecting the survivor to the banned ‘two finger test’. The FIR was lodged by the mother of the victim, who is not literate and therefore, the complaint was recorded by police, where on four occasions they have mentioned that the girl is “mand-buddhi” (mentally “slow” or developmentally disabled). However, in course of interactions with the girl,the team found that she understands and remembers everything and tells the same points about the incident each time. Therefore, we feel that this over-stressing on her being “mand-buddhi” and being “unable to tell much specifically” about the incident, has been done to weaken the case.

In course of investigation, the team learnt the identities of the four accused who have not been caught or even considered suspects by the police, thereby pointing out to the complete lack of investigation and action by the police. The fact that one of the accused is son of an ASI and other of Patel, lead us to believe that police is trying to hush up the matter. The team met the SP of the Dsitrict, who initially narrated the police version of girl being mentally challenged but when confronted with our findings, he has promised to change the investigation officer. Meanwhile, the team has also approached the National Commission for Women, who have issued notices to the administration.

Based on the investigation done and facts collected by the fact-finding team, we demand the following: Regarding the case: Immediately initiate the procedure for identification of accused by the survivor and arrest them. Record the statements of the girl again in a sensitive manner. Ensure that she is comfortable while recording the statement or enquiring. Prepare a map of the location of the crime and record the statements of people living near the two houses Immediately file the charge-sheet against the four accused. It is a clear case of kidnapping and gang-rape of a minor. Ensure fast track trail of the case, so criminals are punished and justice is done to the girl.

Regarding efforts for reparation and rehabilitation for the survivor: Medical help to the survivor Immediate and rightful monetary compensation Future security of the survivor. Efforts must be taken for her education.

Advocate Aradhna Bhargav- 09425146991, Kanika Sharma – 07588480386, Daya Bai, Ms Kranti and Ms Jyot

WORLD: Government’s failure leads to a pregnant woman being stoned to death

May 29, 2014

Police collect evidence near the body of Farzana Parveen, who was killed after being set upon by members of her own family outside a court in Lahore, Pakistan

The world is once again shocked by the news of the stoning to death of a 25-year-old pregnant woman, Farzana Parveen Iqbal, in Pakistan. The stoning took place before the Lahore High Court where she had attended due to a summons. The stoning was carried out by 20 members of her own family including her father and two brothers. The reason for the stoning was that Frazana had married a person of her own choice and she was pregnant with a child from that marriage. Her family did not approve the marriage and was forcing her to marry another person of their choice who happened to be her cousin. The father who was aware of Farzana’s marriage filed a false complaint of abduction against her husband. The police filed charges on the basis of the father’s complaint. It appears that the filing of the complaint was done with the purpose of bringing her out from hiding with the intent to kill her.

It is evident that the police have been a part of this conspiracy as they should have investigated the complaint before filing such a charge. Bringing persons to court with the intent to kill them, particularly in cases relating to honour killings and blasphemy cases is a common practice in Pakistan and the police would have naturally been aware of the situation in this instance. It was when Farzana arrived at the court in order to present her case to the judge that she was already married that the brutal killing took place. The culprits who took part in the stoning did so in broad daylight and in full view of crowd of people and then manage to escape as there was no attempt to stop or arrest them. As the incident took place before the High Court of Lahore the police would have been present in large numbers at the scene as they are always present when the High Court is in session. In fact, Mr. Iqbal, Farzana’s husband told the BBC that the police stood by and did nothing to prevent the stoning. He stated, “We were shouting for help, nobody listened. One of my relatives took off his clothes to capture the attention of the police but they did not intervene. They watched Farzana being killed and did nothing”.

No attempt whatsoever was made to protect the victim or to obstruct the perpetrators. Farzana’s father later surrendered to the police but as is usual in such instances showed no regret no remorse and admitted openly that he has done this murder. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the number of women falling victim to the so-called “honour killings” is enough to dispel all illusions about any interest in saving their lives. In 2013 alone, the HRCP recorded the deaths of nearly 900 women in “honour” crimes from media reports. These women were killed because the state did not confront this feudal practice supported by religious fundamentalism and bigotry. The Aurat Foundation, a NGO working on the rights of women, states around 1,000 Pakistani women are killed every year by their family members in honour killings. The true figure is probably many times higher since the Aurat Foundation only compiles figures from newspaper reports. The government does not compile national statistics.

In any case, the killing of persons who marry against the consent of the family, which is usually identified by the term ‘honour killings’ is a frequent and a common phenomenon in Pakistan. Furthermore, using a summons of a court as a subterfuge to bring persons out of hiding so that such killings can take place is also a frequent phenomenon. Such situations have arisen both in terms of honour killings and killings relating to allegations of blasphemy. The most famous incident of protest against this whole manipulation of law in order to kill victims involved Bishop John Josephs, who as a symbolic act of protest shot himself to death. Thus the government of Pakistan is fully aware of this horror that is being regularly perpetrated but has failed to take any meaningful action in order to bring this practice to an end.

The issue is not about arresting a few persons after the incident. The fundamental issue is the lack of a comprehensive plan on the part of the government of Pakistan to deal with the problem. As long as the government fails to develop a comprehensive plan and implement it, with the cooperation of the law enforcement agencies, honour killings will continue to take place in Pakistan. The Asian Human Right Commission (AHRC) over a long period of time has consistently drawn the attention of the government of Pakistan about this practice and on every incident of this sort renewed calls to the government to give due consideration to this abominable practice. Similar calls have also been made to the government from the local sources as well as from the international community. Following the killing of Farzana Parveen Iqbal the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, issued a comprehensive statement in which, among other things, she has stated that the Pakistani government must take urgent measures to put an end to the continuous stream of so called honour killings and other forms of violence against women. They must also make a much greater effort to protect women like Farzana. The fact that she was killed on her way to court, shows a serious failure by the state to provide security for someone who – given how common such killings are in Pakistan – was obviously at risk.

In 2004, former President Pervez Musharaf, defined honour killings as murder, and brought in a law to that effect. However, the eradication of such heinous criminal acts cannot be achieved only by public announcements or through the enactment of laws. Any genuine and effective action lies in the area of the implementation of the law. It is in this area that the government of Pakistan has proven itself completely ineffective. The system of policing and law enforcement in Pakistan is a law unto itself and even the government is unable to move it even for the purpose of dealing with the worst of the crimes. The failure of the government to carry out its responsibility lies in its unwillingness and incapacity to exercise control over the policing establishment. If the government proves powerless to move its police to implement the law, and in particular, to deal with the such heinous crimes then no one can feel safe within the territory of Pakistan.

The AHRC also wishes to highlight the need that greater pressure must be brought on the government by the international community to ensure that it takes suitable action to end the police neglect relating to honour killings and all other forms of violence against women. Mere ritual condemnation after honour killings take place is unlikely to bring about any improvement in the situation at present. The international community including the UN agencies must engage with the government of Pakistan in order to come with an agreement on a practical scheme of action to deal with this situation once and for all. If no such serious attempt is made by the international community it will not convince the persons who are threatened with future attacks of this nature as well as the population of Pakistan which faced with a powerless situation in the face of such horrendous crimes. The failure of the law enforcement agencies to deal with such crimes will only increase the vulnerability of women in the country. The AHRC calls upon the government of Pakistan not to let Farzana Iqbal’s death be in vain. The people of Pakistan and people of goodwill throughout the world have a right to expect that the government will show its moral indignation and outrage against the horror perpetrated by way of honour killings and other severe violence against women and vulnerable groups.

THAILAND: Army begins arrests

May 24, 2014

Thanapol Eawsakul

At 3am on May 20, 2014, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, announced that martial law was immediately in force. After two days of uncertainty, in which martial law co-existed with the constitution and the caretaker government remained nominally in power, General Prayuth led a coup at approximately 5 pm on May 22, 2014. A military junta, acting in the name of the National Order Maintenance Council (NOMC), abrogated the 2007 Constitution and installed itself as the government. Under martial law, there were already significant restrictions on freedom of expression and political freedom in place, and the military possessed extensive power to arrest and detain arbitrarily. Prior to the coup, there were severe restrictions on political demonstration put in place; subsequent to the coup, all political gatherings are illegal. The coup has intensified the power of the military. After over six months of increasing political contention during which the military remained largely silent, they have spoken through the violence of the coup.

One day after the coup, citizens began to peacefully express their opposition to the coup in defiance of martial law and the junta’s orders. Beginning at 5 pm on May 23, 2014, hundreds of Thai citizens began peacefully demonstrating against the coup in front of the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center in Siam Square in central Bangkok. Citizens lit candles and stood in groups and held signs criticising the coup and the imposition of military rule. Similar gatherings were held in other cities throughout the country. After allowing the protest to take place for several, the military then took action to arrest peaceful demonstrators and end the event. Prachatai online newspaper has reported that 7.30 pm, at least five persons, two women and three men, were arrested by the soldiers in front of the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center. The identities of the two women are not known, but Prachatai has reported that the three men who were arrested and taken are Thanapol Eawsakul (editor of Same Sky magazine), Apichat Phongsawat, and Bunyarak Wattanarat (age 20) (A video of the arrest was made by Matichon TV and can be viewed here) By 8.10 pm, the soldiers had taken control of the area and the demonstrations had dispersed. At this time of this statement, the location and conditions of the five people taken by the soldiers is not known.

Under the terms of martial law, which have been in place since two days prior to the coup, soldiers can detain and interrogate anyone for up to seven days without having to provide evidence of wrongdoing or bring formal charges. People arrested can be held at irregular places of detention, including permanent or temporary military bases or other sites designated as places of detention. Detention in irregular places means that the possibility for rights violations, including torture, forced disappearance and extrajudicial execution is greatly increased. In southern Thailand, where martial law has been in continual force since January 2004, the instrument has been used to arbitrarily detain and activists as well as ordinary citizens. In the years of political turmoil since the September 19, 2006 coup, a strong and robust culture of human rights protection and criticism of injustice has grown in Thailand. Scholars, intellectual and writers outside universities, human rights lawyers and nongovernmental organization activists, students, and others have publicly written, spoken, and demonstrated against state violence, the lack of accountability for state abuses, the unequal application of law and the constriction of freedom of speech. This awareness and action in the service of human rights is behind the peaceful protests against the coup on May 23, 2014. These protests are likely to continue. The AHRC is concerned that human rights defenders and dissidents who peacefully protest, or who have expressed criticism in the past eight years, will be targeted by the junta. The AHRC is further concerned that given the extensive powers granted to the military under martial law and in absence of a constitution, the actions taken by the junta will lack transparency and accountability, and will function to create an atmosphere of fear that is detrimental to human rights and the rule of law.

The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the coup and crackdown on rights and liberties in Thailand. The AHRC is gravely concerned about the safety of Thanapol Eawsakul, Apichat Phongsawat, Bunyarat Wattanarat and others who were arrested and taken by the military following the peaceful demonstration on May 23, 2014. They are citizens who were expressing their opinion peacefully and are a danger to no one. The AHRC calls on the National Order Maintenance Council to immediately release them and any others who are being arbitrarily detained.

NCDHR strongly condemns “calculated” expulsion of three marginalised EFLU students

May 9, 2014

English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) in Hyderabad

New Delhi: The National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) strongly condemns the calculated expulsion of three marginalised students from the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) in Hyderabad on Tuesday for their alleged role in breaking the glass door of the university library on March 11 during a protest against the closure of the 24-hour reading room on campus.

The three targeted students, Mohan Dharavath, Satheesh Nainala, and Subhash Kumar, were rusticated by the university administration without any probe. While Dharavath is an Adivasi, Nainala and Kumar belong to the OBC community. “It is shocking that no inquiry was conducted before the university issued orders. The students were not even given a chance to give their version. The decision to rusticate the three students for two years without any probe is extremely undemocratic and unethical,” said Paul Divakar, Dalit activist and general secretary, NCDHR.

Dharavath is the president of the Dalit Adivasi Bahujan Minority Students’ Union, Nainala is the general secretary of the Telangana Students’ Association, EFLU, and Kumar is a senior member of the Democratic Students Front (DSF). When NCDHR spoke to the rusticated students, they said they were not even present when the incident occurred. “I was hospitalised in Chennai and returned only a week after the vandalism while Satheesh was at the police station filing a case against the university administration for curtailing our right to education at the time of the incident,” said Dharavath. According to Nainala, there were around 400 students present. “The glass door broke when there was a scuffle between the administration and the students. Nobody knows how the glass door broke.”

The students said that the agitation was carried out by the Students’ Council and they were only expressing solidarity. “We have been targeted for speaking against discrimination, corruption and authoritarianism of the university administration,” they said. Dharavath, who did his diploma and MA from the university, said that even at the time of his admission in PhD in 2009, the university didn’t even have seats reserved for SC/ST and OBC candidates. He had to the take the university to court to ensure that there were reserved seats for SC/ST and OBC candidates. “Ever since then the university has filed many cases against me and I have to appear in court almost every month,” says Dharavath.

Unfortunately, EFLU has a history of caste-based discrimination, exclusion and violence. On 16 November 2011, R Jayamurugan, a Dalit student pursuing BA second year in German was harassed by professors and a complaint was filed with the National Human Rights Commission. Another Dalit student Kush Kumar attempted suicide at the university. On 2 March 2013, PhD scholar Mudasir Kamran from Kashmir committed suicide. The discrimination ranges from deliberately failing Dalit and Bahujan students in certain subjects to verbal abuse and to rustication to physical violence to denying them basic rights on the campus. The recent round of expulsions happened because they had taken up the suicide case of Kamran, who was unnecessarily harassed by the administration and even handed over to the police. “We even started exposing the university vice chancellor of other financial scams she is involved in and that really irked her,” said Nainala.

Following the suspension orders, protests broke out at the university campus. Student groups supporting the agitation said that the suspensions were an act of revenge and the decision was illegal. As per orders, the students will not be able to step inside the campus until December 31, 2015. Such a move will be devastating as Dharavath and Nainala are close to completing their PhD courses and due to submit their thesis this year, while Kumar is pursuing MA in Spanish. The drastic step is bound to put the students and their families in great distress as the students are the first in their families to pursue higher education. The students have not even told their parents about the expulsion because they fear that the news will leave them shattered. Dharavath’s father is an agricultural labourer from Warangal while Nainala’s father is a coal mine worker from Adilabad.

“Such targeted and deliberate discrimination is not unique against a wide pattern of caste-based bias that exists in our society. Therefore, we demand immediate withdrawal of the rustication order,” added Asha Kotwal, general secretary, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch. For more information, contact: Orchie Bandyopadhyay Media Manager, NCDHR M: 9650170077 Bina Pallical National Campaign Coordinator, NCDHR M: 9958797404

Over sixty religious figures, Nobel Peace Prize laureates, legislators and civil society leaders call on Vietnam to cease religious repression and release Thich Quang Do on UN Vesak Day

UN Vesak Day

PARIS, 7 May 2014 (Vietnam Committee) – As Vietnam hosts celebrations of the United Nations Day of the Vesak (Birth, Enlightenment and Passing away of the Buddha) at the Bai Dinh Temple in Ninh Binh from 7-11 May, sixty prominent international personalities have launched a joint appeal to the Vietnamese leadership to cease repression against the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and release its Supreme Patriarch Thich Quang Do.

The signatories include four women Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchu Tum and Tawakkol Karman, Roman Catholic Bishop Vaclav Maly of Prague, US Congress members Frank Wolf, Chris Smith, Loretta Sanchez and Zoe Lofgren, Vice-President of the European Parliament Edward McMillan-Scott and prominent MEPs from the UK, Italy, Portugal, Spain and France, Lord David Alton and Lord Eric Avebury (UK House of Lords), laureates of the Norwegian Rafto Prize from Estonia, Hungary, South Africa, Mexico, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Azerbaijan, Nigeria and Bahrain, as well as civil society leaders from the USA, Europe, Burma, Mongolia, Taiwan, Tibet and Japan.

In their joint letter to Vietnamese government and Communist Party, the 60 international personalities expressed concern at the stark contrast between the grandiose celebration of Buddhism’s most sacred festival and the renewed intensity of State repression against Buddhists in Vietnam. “We are deeply disturbed by recent reports of grave repression against Buddhism, the very faith you claim to celebrate”, they wrote, noting that “UBCV monks, nuns and lay-followers all over the country are routinely harassed, and Security Police are preventing Vesak celebrations in UBCV temples in Danang, Hue and elsewhere”. Only the State-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Sangha is involved in the ceremonies, whereas UBCV leaders remain “prisoners in their own pagodas”. They urged Vietnam to celebrate Vesak more meaningfully by releasing Supreme Patriarch Thich Quang Do, 86, who has spent the past three decades in detention, re-establishing the legitimate status of the banned UBCV and ceasing all repression against the UBCV. (Full text below).

Joint Letter to the Vietnamese Government and Communist Party on the occasion of UN Vesak Day

H.E. Truong Tan Sang, President, Socialist Republic of Vietnam H.E. Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister H.E. Nguyen Phu Trong, Secretary General, Communist Party of Vietnam H.E. Nguyen Sinh Hung, President of the National Assembly

Paris, 5 May 2014


From 7-11 May 2014, your government will host the 2014 United Nations’ Day of the Vesak at the Bai Dinh Temple in Ninh Binh province. This sacred festival, which commemorates the Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment and Passing Away, is a world-recognized religious and cultural event. It should be a joyful occasion, a day to remember Buddha’s message of tolerance and peace, and to inspire all people, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, to work together towards mutual understanding and harmonious coexistence in our world. However, we are deeply disturbed by recent reports of grave repression against Buddhism, the very faith you claim to celebrate. Only the State-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, controlled by the Communist Party’s Fatherland Front, is involved in these celebrations, whilst the independent, historical Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) remains banned and its leaders are prisoners in their own pagodas.

Today, the UBCV’s Supreme Patriarch Thich Quang Do, aged 86, a renowned scholar and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, is under house arrest at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City. He has spent more than three decades in detention for his peaceful advocacy of religious freedom and human rights. UBCV monks, nuns and lay-followers in twenty provincial sections all over the country are routinely harassed, and Security Police are preventing Vesak celebrations in UBCV temples in Danang, Hue and elsewhere. In the light of these grave abuses against Buddhists, as well as Catholics, Protestants, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai and other religious communities, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended in its 2014 report that Vietnam be re-designated as a “Country of Particular Concern”.

We appreciate the progress Vietnam has made in the economic domain, but we believe that progress is only sustainable if it is built upon tolerance and respect. Vietnam is a member of the UN Human Rights Council and a signatory to key UN human rights treaties. As such, your government has a binding obligation to uphold human rights, including the universal and inalienable right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief. We, the undersigned, call upon you to mark this 2014 UN Day of the Vesak by ceasing all repression against the UBCV, releasing Supreme Patriarch Thich Quang Do and restoring the UBCV’s legitimate status. By this gesture, you will uphold the noble aims enshrined in the UN Vesak Day Charter, and honour the 2,000 year heritage of Buddhism in Vietnam.

Sincerely, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, (Northern Ireland) Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate (Iran) Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Nobel Peace Prize laureate (Guatemala) Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize laureate (Yemen) Bishop Vaclav Maly, Auxiliary Bishop of Prague, President of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Czech Bishops Conference Congressman Frank R. Wolf, Co-Chair, Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights, USA Congressman Christopher H. Smith, Chairman, House International Relations Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations Subcommittee, USA Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez Co-Chair, Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, USA Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren Co-Chair, Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, USA Lord David Alton House of Lords, UK Lord Eric Avebury House of Lords, UK The Hon. Kim Campbell, former Canadian Prime Minister, Chair of the Steering Committee of the World Movement for Democracy Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, USA Emma Bonino, Former Foreign Minister, Italy Hon. David Kilgour, former Canadian minister for Asia-Pacific, Canada Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice-President of the European Parliament, UK Baroness Sarah Ludford Member of the European Parliament, UK Charles Tannock Member of the European Parliament, UK Niccolo Rinaldi Member of the European Parliament, Italy Sofia Alfano Member of the European Parliament, Italy Ramon Tremosa I Balcells Member of the European Parliament, Spain Corinne Lepage Member of the European Parliament, France Ana Gomes Member of the European Parliament, Portugal André Gattolin, Senator, France Noël Mamère, Member of the National Assembly, Mayor of Bègles, France Bob LaGamma, President, Council for a Community of Democracies, USA Nina Shea, Director, Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, Former Commissioner, US Commission on International Religious Freedom, USA Trivimi Velliste, Member of Estonian Parliament, Rafto Prize Laureate 1988 Peter Molnar, Senior Research Fellow, Hungary, Rafto Laureate 1989 Paulos Tesfagiorgis, Eritrean Human Rights Activist, South Africa, Rafto Laureate 2003 Rev. Bulambo Lembelembe Josué, Vice President of the Protestant Council of Churches, Rafto Laureate, Democratic Republic of the Congo Malahat Nasibova, Journalist, Rafto Laureate 2009, Azerbaijan Fr. José Raul Vera Lopéz, Bishop of Saltillo, Mexico, Rafto Laureate 2010 Nnimmo Bassey Poet, environmental and human rights activist, Rafto Laureate 2012, Nigeria Maryam Al-Khawaja, Acting President Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Rafto Laureate 2013, Bahrain Judge Essa Moosa Judge of the High Court of South Africa, Chairperson of the Kurdish Human Rights Action Group Dr. Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, UK Therese Jebsen, Executive Director, Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, Norway Arne Liljedahl Lynngård, Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, Norway Dr. Michael Kau, Taiwan Foundation for Democracy Vo Van Ai, President, Vietnam Committee on Human Rights Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam Zanaa Jurmed, Citizens Alliance Center, Mongolia Dieudonné Zognong, Humanus Foundation, Cameroon Matteo Meccacci, President, International Campaign for Tibet, former MP, Italy Debbie Stothard, Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma Reiko Suzuki, Catuddisa Sangha, Japan Vincenzo Olita, Director, Cultural Association Società Libera, Italy Marco Pannella, Leader of the Nonviolent Radical Party transnational and transparty, former MEP and MP, Italy Maurizio Turco, Treasurer of the NRPtt, former MEP and MP, Italy Marco Perduca, Vice President of the Senate of the NRPtt, former Senator, Italy Filomena Gallo, Luca Coscioni Association for Freedom of Scientific Research, Italy Marco Cappato, former MEP, Italy Sergio D'Elia, Secretary, Hands Off Cain, former MP, Italy Elisabetta Zamparutti Hand Off Cain, former MP, Italy Rita Bernardini, Secretary, Radicali Italiani, former MP, Italy Matteo Angioli, Member of the General Council of the NRPtt, Italy Kariane Westrheim, Chair of EU Turkey Civic Commission Olivier Dupuis, Journalist, Belgium Vanida Thephsouvanh, President, Lao Movement for Human Rights Jackie Campbell, Human Rights Activist, Saltillo, Mexico Gian Luca Terragna, Architect, Italy

THAILAND: Demanding Immediate Explanation and Investigation by Relevant Officials Regarding the Disappearance of a Karen Hill-Tribe Human Rights Defender Cross Cultural Foundation

Apr 25, 2014

Mr. Billy or Por Cha Lee Rakcharoen

Demanding Immediate Explanation and Investigation by Relevant Officials Regarding the Disappearance of a Karen Hill-Tribe Human Rights Defender... ​According to a news report, Mr. Billy or Por Cha Lee Rakcharoen has disappeared since the afternoon of April 17th 2014. At the time of his disappearance he was believed to be travelling from his village in the mountains to Kaengkrachan district. Mr. Billy has been helping his fellow Karen villagers in their struggle for recognition of indigenous land rights in the Kaengkrachan National Park, specially in the case against the authorities that at present is pending before the courts. ​On April 18th, the Head of Kaengkrachan National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Office Mr. Chaiwat Limlikitaksor admitted that Mr. Billy had been detained and taken for interrogation as a wild honeycomb and six bottles of wild honey had been found in the possession of Mr. Billy. Mr. Limlikitaksor also claimed that Mr. Billy had been released.

​However, activists allege that neither the report of detention nor any evidence of release of Mr. Billy from detention had been disclosed by the authorities. ​It is almost 73 hours since Mr. Billy's disappearance. His fellow villagers have made several attempts to contact Mr. Billy, but there is no information about his whereabouts and well being. On April 19th 2014, the villagers filed a complaint with the local police regarding his disappearance.

​According to information received, at the time of his disappearance Mr. Billy was travelling from his mountain village to the Kaengkrachan District in order to meet with his fellow villagers and activists and prepare for the upcoming court hearing in the lawsuit filed by the villagers against the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment, and the Head of Kaengkrachan National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Office. In the lawsuit the villagers have claimed that in July 2011, the authorities were responsible for the destruction and burning of houses and property of more than 20 Karen hill-tribe families who were living in the Bangkloybon Villages in Kaengkrachan National Park. Research studies have confirmed that the villagers belong to an indigenous Karen ethnic group who has been living in the area near of Bangkloybon Villages since many generations for more than 100 years.

​The case between the authorities in Kaengkrachan National Park and the Bangkloybon villagers is a clear example of the structural problems, which lead to lawsuits demanding recognition and protection of indigenous rights to land and traditional ways of life. This struggle has also led to the assassination of a human rights defender Mr. Tassanakamol Aobeaom on 10 September 2011. Although Mr. Chaiwat, the Head of Kaengkrachan National Park Office was accused of hiring someone to kill Mr. Aobeaom and the case is pending court decision, Mr. Chaiwat continues to hold office as the Head of the Kaengkrachan National Park Office. No action was taken to suspend him from his official duties pending investigation as required under disciplinary regulation and practice governing state officials under Thai law.

​Mr. Billy is a human rights defender and a witness in the case villagers' lawsuit against the National Park Office as above mentioned. His disappearance is a matter of grave concern as it may affect the case and the struggle of the villagers for rights and justice. ​Enforced disappearances often occur when authorities refuse to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons arrested and detained by them. Such an act violates the fundamental rights and freedoms, most importantly the rights to life and security of a person as well as human dignity. The State, therefore, has the obligation under international law to ensure full respect for and protection of such rights.

​Cross Cultural Foundation demand immediate explanation from relevant authorities regarding the disappearance of Mr. Billy. We also urges all parties throughout the line of command of responsible authorities including police to investigate the matter such that information about the whereabouts of Mr. Billy is disclosed promptly. ​It is universally respected principle of human rights which demands that no States shall practice, permit or tolerate enforced disappearance. As reaffirmed in the Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 18th, 1992, that States shall take effective action to prevent, terminate and investigation the acts of enforced disappearance and, most importantly, to find and rescue victims and bring perpetrators to justice as soon as possible. Furthermore, any persons alleged to have committed any acts of enforced disappearance shall be suspended from any official duties during the investigation.

The Death of Vietnam's Teacher Dinh - As Hanoi was opposing a U.N. human rights resolution, activist Dinh Dang Dinh died of medical neglect

Specila Report
Apr 14, 2014

Dinh Dang Dinh

The United Nations Human Rights Council last month extended the mandate of a special rapporteur to monitor abuses of human rights defenders around the world. While that vote was happening, one of Vietnam’s respected human rights defenders, Dinh Dang Dinh, was dying of stomach cancer in his modest home in Dak Nong. After serving two years of a six-year sentence for “anti-Socialist propaganda,” being denied medical care, and receiving beatings rather than treatment when he complained of pain, Dinh Dang Dinh was suddenly “amnestied” by the Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang on March 21. He died two weeks later, on April 3.

Dinh, aged 51, was a former officer in the People’s Army and a high school chemistry teacher. As the Soviet Union crumbled in the early 1990s, he dreamed of similar changes in Vietnam. In 2005, with Vietnam’s rapid opening to the Internet, he began posting articles calling for political pluralism and human rights on independent blogs. He became a leading critic of bauxite mining in his home region, the Central Highlands. Tendered to Chinese firms using obsolete technologies which produced mountains of toxic red sludge, the project was an ecological disaster, polluting the waterways and threatening the environment thousands of ethnic tribes people. Dinh, known affectionately as “teacher Dinh” actively mobilized local residents to sign petitions opposing this “ambitious and foolish project.” His activism drew the support of many local residents and also made him a target of harassment from the authorities. In October 2011, he was abruptly arrested and sentenced to six years in prison at a summary trial in Dak Nong, with no lawyer to represent him. The sentence was upheld on appeal in a hearing that lasted only 45 minutes.

Dinh experienced severe stomach pains during his detention at An Duong Prison Camp in the southern province of Binh Duong. Instead of granting him medical treatment, the prison wardens beat him and detained him in solitary confinement. His family was horrified by the rapid deterioration of his health. In September 2013, he was taken to a hospital belonging to the Ministry of Public Security, where three-quarters of his stomach was removed. Doctors announced he was suffering from advanced stomach cancer. Despite his critically poor health, he was taken back into prison after surgery. Hanoi’s inhumane treatment of this peaceful environmentalist triggered strong international protests, including letters from the U.S. and E.U. ambassadors to Vietnam. When Dinh was hospitalized again in January this year and his cancer was pronounced beyond treatment, Vietnam’s leaders allowed themselves to be magnanimous, knowing they had nothing to lose. The presidential amnesty, delivered in March, did not even pretend to be on humanitarian grounds. It was granted with the purpose of “meeting the requirements of domestic and foreign affairs of State.” In Hanoi-speak, this means giving in to foreign pressure when it fits the needs of the regime.

With a consistency typical of the Hanoi regime, while human rights defender Dinh was dying quietly at home, Vietnam’s delegation to the U.N. was vociferously opposing a resolution at the Human Rights Council to support human rights defenders world-wide. The resolution would renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. The post was created after the adoption of the landmark “U.N. Declaration on Human Rights Defenders” in 1998, which defines the rights of all people to engage peacefully to defend the rights of others, and specifies the responsibility of states in enabling such activists to conduct their activities without fear of repression or imprisonment. Joining with Belarus, China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other partners, Vietnam, now a member of the Human Rights Council, sought to block the resolution and proposed amendments – which fortunately were overturned – to undermine the mandate. “People who are so-called human rights defenders are not a vulnerable group,” a Vietnamese diplomat said at a closed-door meeting, according to one of our sources, and besides, “the word human rights defender does not exist in my country.”

These claims echoed the words of Deputy Foreign Minister Ha Kim Ngoc at Vietnam’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in February, who asserted that Vietnam has a “consistent policy” to respect, protect and promote all fundamental human rights and promised that Hanoi would “expand democracy.” The word “human rights defenders” may not exist in the vocabulary of Hanoi’s communist leaders, but courageous people have made it a reality in Vietnam. With his last words, Dinh Dang Dinh asked nothing for himself, but urged international scrutiny into detention conditions in Vietnam’s prisons and camps, the torture and systematic denial of medical care : “This is the first thing the international community must pay attention to,” he said. Indeed, it certainly should.

Mr. Ai is president of the Vietnam Committee for Human Rights and Quê Me : Action for Democracy in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese Buddhist leader whose temple is his prison – Francis Wade writes on Thich Quang Do in Vietnam

Thich Quang Do, inside the temple compound in Ho Chi Minh City where he has been under house arrest since 2003

PARIS, 11 April 2014 (IBIB) – In March, Bangkok-based journalist Francis Wade made a trip to Vietnam to document the situation of religious freedom and other issues. During the trip, he visited the Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam Thich Quang Do. We reprint below the article he wrote on his return from Vietnam, for it paints a telling picture of the restrictions faced by the UBCV leader and all those who seek to follow their religious convictions in Vietnam today.

The Vietnamese Buddhist leader whose temple is his prison by Francis Wade, reporter, Ho Chi Minh City, 27 March 2014 Thich Quang Do’s only crime against the state is his religious belief

The small temple compound on the edge of downtown Ho Chi Minh City is Thich Quang Do’s world, and has been for more than a decade. The men who perch on motorbikes across the road from the temple are there every day, plain-clothed spooks who keep watch on his every move, logging details about the handful of visitors who come and go each year, and trailing the 87-year-old on the rare occasions he is permitted to leave for hospital. The famed leader of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) pities the men. “Many of the secret police have families to support so they are compelled to follow the communists. I think some of them don’t support the government’s ideology; they just support their families.” He’s grown used to the round-the-clock surveillance. His ongoing spell under house arrest in the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery is just the latest in a long line of incarcerations beginning in 1975, when the communist government consolidated control over South Vietnam, rounded up critics and put them behind bars.

The relationship between communism and religion has always been a hostile one, and no less so in Vietnam, where the government touts the merits of atheism above all other belief systems. It’s had a hard job enforcing this, however – the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life counts 16 percent of the population as Buddhists, and eight percent as Christians; religions like Hoa Hao and Cao Dai that evolved locally are also popular. Yet believers need a thick skin – in its annual report last year, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom found freedom of belief to be “very poor” in Vietnam, with the government using a “specialized religious police force and vague national security laws” to suppress the ability to worship. That apparatus of intimidation and surveillance, refined over nearly half a century of communist rule, has kept Thich Quang Do, as well as his colleagues, in a never-ending cycle of detention. The UBCV, formed in 1964, has been consistently critical of the government, and unlike the officially sanctioned Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam, has never been able to exist as an official entity. Other attempts by religious groups to organize beyond the government’s reach have been snuffed out: in January, the leader of the Buddhist Youth Movement, Le Cong Cau, boarded a plane bound for Ho Chi Minh City, where he planned to meet Thich Quang Do, and was detained. He is now under house arrest.

Although considered a dissident, Thich Quang Do is steadfastly apolitical. Yet with the line between politics and religion in an atheistic, authoritarian state forever thin, the government considers him a thorn in the elite’s side. “I must have the right to carry out our religious activities, but here, the Communist Party does not allow us to do as we want. I am not allowed to speak to the Buddhists, to explain Buddhist doctrine. They want to control everything we do, but we refuse.” Driving around Ho Chi Minh City and its satellite towns, one could be forgiven for thinking that religious freedom is flourishing. In nearby Bien Hoa, a large Christian community makes use of the dozen or so gaudy and cavernous churches that line the main strip, some of which were built after the Communist Party took power. Worshippers breeze around the grounds of the Most Holy Redeemer church in central Ho Chi Minh City, seemingly at ease with the state of affairs in the country. In his office inside the church compound, however, Father Joseph Thoai, a Redemptorist priest, gestures towards the men at the main gate, who also quietly record who enters and leaves.

“No one has ever been able to destroy religion, because wherever man exists, religion exists,” Father Joseph says. Instead, the government seeks to curb its development. “They are afraid that when a religion becomes a big organization it will have a large impact on people. They have a dictatorial party, and they don’t want any other forces that have the ability to govern people.” The Redemptorists have had a similarly acrimonious relationship with Hanoi, and for decades have been vocally critical of government-sanctioned confiscation of church-owned land and property. Outside his office, a group of 20 or so people, all victims of land grabs, queue to seek advice on lodging complaints. Reports of police assaults and arbitrary arrests of Redemptorists are common – Father Joseph has been arrested twice recently, in 2011 and 2013, the latter when he attended the trial of blogger Dinh Nhat Huy. His colleague, Father Anthony, has been severely beaten by police in the past.

The government faces an uphill struggle in containing the spread of dissent, whether it be from a religious source or a political one. Freedom of religion is written into Vietnam’s constitution, Father Joseph notes, but that document unraveled long ago. Religious and political leaders are regularly slandered by the government in an effort to discredit them in the eyes of followers: in February, a court in Hanoi upheld the conviction of Le Quoc Quan, an anti-government Catholic blogger and lawyer, on highly spurious charges of tax evasion. Rights groups across the world have called for his release. But the upsurge in arrests of dissidents over the past few years can be read as a sign that people are growing increasingly outspoken, and utilizing resources like the internet that the government struggles to control. Ten years ago, no one dared speak out, says Thich Quang Do, but that’s beginning to change.

“Time has passed, and people can use TV and know so much about the rest of the world; 20 years ago they only knew about what was happening in Vietnam. They were like birds in a cage,” he says with a smile and air of nonchalance that belies the stoicism that has kept him sane during his 40 years as a prisoner. “The government cannot control all the people easily, although they know that if they use their freedom to express their own ideas regarding politics, economics, religion, and so on, they must accept to go to jail.” Rather than fearing the punishments the government could mete out to him for talking to visiting journalists, he welcomes the opportunity to speak. “They can put me in prison any time they want. I’m not afraid, so they need not send me to jail. I’m too old – if I die in prison it will not look good to the outside world.”

The government appears now to recognize this. The iconic monk has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on numerous occasions; already feeling the weight of pressure over the spate of jail terms handed to dissidents in the past year’s crackdown, the government would rather a globally recognized figure be given at least the veneer of limited freedom in his temple compound. Thich Quang Do may well remain in the temple until he, or the government, moves on. He’s just not sure who will go first. “Willy or nilly they must loosen political control – many people now are asking for democracy in Vietnam, and in the end, if the Communist Party wants to exist, it must change. Everything is changing each day – politics especially, always changing. Some day in the future they must accept other views, other parties. I think so, I want so.”

Political Statement - from the meeting of groups in Delhi on the 22/23-02-2014

Jashn-e-Azadi celebrated at Patna

As a follow up of the Jashn-e-Sangharsh of movements, activists and community leaders along with cultural groups, held in Chirala (Andhra Pradesh) in January 2014 a political meeting of people’s movements, organised and unorganised sector trade unions and traditional natural resource based community representatives was held on the 22nd and 23rd February 2014 in Delhi.

The existence of social movements and trade unions dates back to the history of left movement in India itself. The mass organisations and trade unions in the country, affiliated to a party or otherwise, have played very important role in deciding the future of government formation at the centre and the states and it is important that we take this historic opportunity to assert our militant unity and radical positions and re-emphasise the importance of social movements and its political views outside of the electoral politics. Discussions within social movements, trade unions and the larger left constituency, in the context of the 2014 parliament elections in India, must bring in debates and dialogues around the leading political parties along with an analysis of the emerging political trends.

Some of the main positions taken during the meeting were to recognise that: The times demand new political coalitions and alliance-building amidst social movements and between people’s movements and trade unions, bringing together the diversity of our political history as represented through the Red, Green and Blue flags! New political formulations that weave through class, gender and caste, organised and unorganised, environment and human must be found.

This coalition must be built on the basic ideological premise of our collective opposition against global capitalism, brahmanism, feudalism, patriarchy, religious fundamentalism and jingoistic nationalism. The need to effectively tackle and take forward the political resurgence of the past ten years, since 2004 WSF Mumbai, Sangharsh 2007 and the new political uprisings since 2000s, like; Nandigram, Singur, Mundra, Raigad, hilly terrains of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, Latehar, Chengara, Haripur, Nayachar, POSCO, Niyamgiri, Odisha and Andhra coastal regions, Kudankulam, Kalinga Nagar, Jashpur, and Sonbhadra, Maruti workers, unorganized labour struggles led by the communities and workers themselves, which are exemplary examples of this

At a time when people’s struggles are directed against the state-corporate nexus, there is a need for building a national joint platform of social movements and trade unions especially in the context of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections 2014. The battle against patriarchy, and its manifestations in the physical and structural violence against women, should be strengthened through strengthening women’s role in family, society, movement and political dialogue There is a historical need to re-assert the lives of leaders of political resistance and social change, like: Birsa Munda, Tilka Majhi, Sidhu Kanu, Ayyankali, Periyar, Savitribai Phule, Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Ambedkar, Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayan

It was decided that the efforts to build this sort of a political alliance must be made immediately, especially in the run up towards General Elections 2014. 1. The need for evolving a joint agenda and rationale in the political dialogue with political parties, in the run up to the elections 2. The participation of critical mass-based movements in the election process – focus being agenda-setting with movement demands 3. The realisation that movements and groups must engage with greater clarity, in a multi-party political democracy, to put forth our issues, concerns and ideological demands to a cross-spectrum of political groups 4. The realisation that some of the movement groups and leaders have decided to join the electoral process and to contest elections themselves. The situation needs understanding, but should not be allowed the space of political interpretation that all social movements and trade unions are with one political party 5. The realisation that the decades old struggles of social movements & trade unions and centuries old struggles of natural resource-based traditional communities – especially Dalits & Adivasis, have a collective strength that is rooted in the politics of being in the opposition, asserting the rights of people in the fight against the state. This must not be diluted.

Hence, there is a need to unite our demands and assert the fact that we are not pleading for legislations or to have our people in parliament or for our demands to be heard but we are wanting a political dialogue on each of these issues and will soon be aiming towards drafting a people’s charter on these lines. It was decided to give a call for a national level mobilisation of representatives, leaders, activists and cultural movements to assemble in Delhi on the Shaheed Diwas, the commemoration day of the martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his comrades. The day will mark a political rally of Adivasi and Dalit groups, forest workers, fishworkers, handloom weavers, domestic workers, street vendors and hawkers, women’s groups and organisations that have been working in the country for social and political change.

The rally on March 23, 2014 will start from Shaheed Park in Delhi, and will culminate in Jantar Mantar, in front of the Parliament. Leaders from other peoples’ organizations and from Political parties will also be invited. The group is going to do this action as SANGHARSH 2014. A brainstorming and strategy action planning meeting of activists, community leaders, solidarity groups, etc. will be held on the following day, 24th March, 2014 in Delhi.Inquilab Zindabad! Long live the victory of Working Peoples’ Movements! All India Union of Forest Working People AIUFWP, National Fish Workers’ Forum NFF, National Hawkers’ Federation NHF, Krishak Mukti Sangharsh Samiti (KMSS) Asom, Handloom Workers’ Co-operative Union, A.P.; All India Tribal Youth Movement, Gujarat; Voices of Youth ,Gujarat; Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG)


By Neil Paul Valentino
Staff Correspondent
Mar 16, 2014

Rallyists ask Pres. Aquino to be ousted

Ansan South Korea - Greediness, selfishness, massive corruption, political partisan, deceits and many others, these are all the characters of present leaders in the Philippines. Hence, Filipino people showed their sentiment and anger about the nation' s fortune such as corrupts, thieves, plunderers, human traffickers, smugglers, druglords, murderers etcetera. The political leaders of democratic nation are incompetent to elevate the lives of the poor in society more than five decades ago since the time of dictator Marcos until the regime of President Aquino had not solved rampant poverty, unstoppable and unsolved killings of journalists, slow justice system and the peace and order are getting worst, that is why the nation would not be seen in the list of nations with advanced, developed and safe place to visit.

The people are fuming mad against corrupt and shameless political leaders for the undying corruption, power rate hike, high price of basic commodities and low wage income and asked to be cut off from the service and must be sent to jail for stashing the nation's treasure and brought to overseas accounts. The traitors nor thieves are hated and despised by the majority of Filipinos locally and abroad who voted and trusted them but in the end the nation of rich of mineral-resources turned into ruins and misgoverned by few greedy and uncompassionate leaders, allies and partisan groups. Another unreasonable thing in the land of Filipinos is that our past qnd corrupt Presidents involved in hoarding the taxpayers' money were not convicted, charged, and prosecuted thus acquitted by the successor for they become friends after their terms. For instance former President Estrada was accused of plunder, ousted by the people's revolt corroborated by a witness and sound evidence of a bank executive one foot away from him who signed for a dummy account in his expense. Arroyo who succeeded Estrada acquitted him during her term.

The present administration of Aquino are criticized by citizens, social media netizens, militant groups, women's society for letting the country in disorder and undying poverty. Aquino was even asked to step down or be ousted for being negligent most particular to the unfortunate victims of super typhoon in the province of Leyte due to late response of National government, People surge, a women's group rallied in front of Malacanang Palace for the victims of super typhoon Yolanda that horrifically devastated the province of Leyte, Central part of the Philippines. Mr. Aquino is being flogged by the netizens even in the press for his failure to take necessary action for the victims of killer hurricane.

The Filipinos said they have voted a wrong and incompetent leader of the land whose biased governance went only to few business oligarchs and mostly self- indulgent chinese descent capitalists. According to Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of World Economic Forum, “ A great leader has brains, vision, soul, values and a heart. ” The Philippines is still one of the underdeveloped nations until today governed by traditional politicians who are incompetent to serve the nation and its people , the whole world knows that it is the place on earth that you will see murderers killed political rivals, journalists and innocent civilians in broad daylight without knowing their identities and they kill again and again either, demons and devil advocates live in the Philippines even the chinese smugglers and human traffickers and drug lords come here as they are free to manufacture and transact illegal drugs and stashed their laboratory everywhere in a country which tagged as “Place of drug dealers and smugglers and Gates of Hell ” either because the government officials and authorities would be easily bribed and would not be executed for any heinous crime committed.

Furthermore, many foreign nations provided great supports for the poor Filipino victims in typhoon tragedy in 2013 and one of which is the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Unicef stressed "Children are amongst the worst affected by the disaster, and they are at the center of our response.” Another great technical help given by Canadian Red Cross to the Philippine Red Cross by providing operational training and support for future emergencies. CRC also provided a field hospital that can really accomodate basic health care for victims and survivors. CRC, on the other hand provided a huge supports to the province of leyte more than of the local and national government had provided, whereby until now victims of disaster are desperate with the slow response of the national government and the unfortunate people are still recovering from the ruins of super typhoon Yolanda. Another unreasonable things that can be seen in Filipino's land is that some politicians have become rich and own mansions and luxurious cars.

Ma. Elene Santos, a commentator in the page “Scrap the Pork Barrel, the Father of Corruptions and Political Dynasty” said that a particular Constitution Act No. 6644 Sec. 42 must be revised. “This is the reason why we have so many dumb and stupid public officials who become liability and crooked in this country”, she stressed. Another problem the citizens are facing is the high cost of electicity in the Philippines that the govenment cannot control the power supplier Meralco which believed Mr. Aquino main supporters, by which the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order against power increase rate for the consumers but Meralco warns the nation for unexpected brownouts that already happened in Mindanao and later in Metro Manila which may cause chaos throughout the country.

In the latest news and survey, jobless Filipinos are increasing in metro manila from 9.5 to 11.2 percent in the first quarter of the year, 6 out of 10 are jobless experiencing difficulties due to lack of adequate jobs, while the present administration and other shameless political parties are preparing for their early election campaign in 2016. The netizens in social media are criticizing these people who are irresponsible and making the nation in confusion and trouble. Unlike in other countries like South Korea, Hongkong, Singapore even in middle east countries have lots of job opportunities except here by which the government has nothing to do with it for the sake of poor unfortunates by providing enough and gainful employment for the unemployed.

Moreover, it is not good that the present government of Aquino is very partial to their political allies and parties, wealthy oligarchs and even chinese conglomarates as Mr. Aquino has a blood of chinese, while depriving the Filipinos of comfortable and better standard of living. In his campaign in 2010 presidential election he promised to work the passage of FOI bill, elevating the lives of the poor but Aquino was criticized by the people for not making the said bill urgent while 22 out of 24 senators already have signed the most awaited and necessary bill that is why netizens are urging him to pass the controversial bill into law for a total transparency . Networking sites netizens on the other hand were urged by a senator Santiago, one of the authors of the bill, to pressure the President as he did not certify the bill urgent amid peoples' request .

According to People Surge, a women's group had said “The Aquino government is useless.” Mr. Aquino must hear the cry of his people as he called and said them the “ Filipino people are my Bosses ” so he must see to it that he will fulfill his promise to the people by providing adequate jobs to the unemployed, by protecting and stopping Journalists' killings, abolishing the lawmakers's funds such as PDAF and DAP and fighting against rampant graft and corruption in any government agencies and implementing death penalty against foreign drug dealers and smugglers.

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