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Thailand’s democracy protests reflect rising dissatisfaction over the monarchy

By Winston Chiu / Global Voices

Despite the announcement of an emergency decree on October 15 and police crackdown on October 16, tens of thousands of Thai protesters continued protesting in the streets over the weekend demanding democratic reform.

A major grievance was directed at the monarchy as reflected in a global Change.org petition demanding the Thai king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, “permanently return to Thailand” and “discharge his royal duties as the reigning monarch in his country”.

The petition appealed specifically to authorities in Germany:

We request that The Federal Republic of Germany, pursuant to the first paragraph of Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, declare Vajiralongkorn a persona non grata within the territories of The Federal Republic of Germany. Thus, disallowing the King to continue any further residence in Germany.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who ascended to the throne in 2016 has been a controversial figure; he has direct control over two army units and multi-billion-dollar holdings, and he spends most of his time in Germany.

A Thai activist, Junya Yimprasert, who is now residing in Europe told DW News:

The Thai people are getting angrier because he is not in Germany just as a tourist and hasn’t stopped intervening in Thai politics…He is here in Germany and continues to have influence.

The petition was blocked from Thai access by three major Internet operators since October 15 according to a report from Thai Netizen Network on Facebook. In Thailand, any critical comments about the King and the royal family could be charged under criminal code section 112 and result in a sentence of 3 to 15 years in jail.

The King has recently returned to Thailand from Germany in order to attend the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s memorial day on October 13. The declaration of the state of emergency was announced two days later on October 15, after a peaceful confrontation between pro-democracy protesters and royal family supporters near the Grand Palace on October 14.

At the confrontation spot, peaceful pro-democracy protesters were chanting with the three-finger salute as Queen Suthida’s vehicle passed. At least two activists were arrested for allegedly attempting violence against the Queen, a charge that could lead to life imprisonment if found guilty.

The three-finger salute also signifies three key protest demands: the dissolution of parliament, ending intimidation of the people which includes the abolition of royal defamation law, and the drafting of a new constitution that would lead to the reformation of the monarchy.

These demands are reflected in the following parody:

@minimonilogist translated the Thai lyrics in the Twitter thread:

King Vajiralongkorn spends most of his time in Germany with his concubines living in luxuries while the people of Thailand is facing the economic crisis which got worse than before due to COVID-19. He travels back and forth on Thai airway which is currently in bankruptcy – But with the government’s support, it continues to survive using people’s taxes. Many Thai businessmen, who have been exploiting their workers, support the King’s reign, offer their money for the king to spend as he pleases. Thailand’s annual fund goes mostly to support the monarch and the rest of the royal family (approx. $641M). This is why the people protest, we are having a crisis, many live in poverty. Yet the king is spending our taxes and abusing his power through the government and the police. We ARE ANGRY! Both the monarchy and the coup need to end! We want real democracy for the people and only for the people. Not dictatorship in a democracy disguise!

The King’s residence in Germany is a major target of complaints:

As pointed out by Bangkok-based writer Tyler Roney, Thailand is going in a historical moment of political change:

Support from the ‘Milk Tea Alliance’ and Hong Kong-based activists

To support Thai pro-democracy protesters, Milk Tea Alliance, a Southeast Asia pro-democracy netizen network, has helped raise attention from international communities using hashtags #standwiththailand and #milkteaalliance on different social media platforms.

The Thai demonstrations share similarities with last year’s Hong Kong anti-extradition protests and Hong Kong netizens are vocal in expressing their support for Thai protesters. Prominent activist Joshua Wong posted a Thai protest video made by a Thailand-born Taiwanese:

Exiled Hong Kong activist Nathan Law wrote:

Hong Kong-based freelance journalist Frances Hui wrote:

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Kodao publishes Global Voices reports as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Teachers hold sit-down protests all over Metro Manila

Teachers from all over Metro Manila are holding a sit-down protest today to call for higher salaries and benefits in light of recent spikes in inflation.

Seeking relief from their dire economic conditions, public school teachers from more than 350 schools in the National Capital Region stopped regular lessons and instead staged sit-down protests to dramatize their call for urgent salary increases and higher budget for education.

“For public school teachers, it is our instrument to jolt the regime into heeding our cry that it should take care of its workers who toil everyday to deliver the mandate of the State,” Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) chairperson Joselyn Martinez said.

ACT members gathered thousands of students in school quadrangles and hallways to explain the economic crisis they say undermine the teachers’ economic wellbeing.

Support actions are also being held in several regions, ACT said.

NCR teachers are also holding simultaneous protest actions in front of the Quezon City Hall and in Mendiola.

“While in protest, we continue to fulfil our duties to our youth by educating them on the national situation and the people’s rights,” Martinez said.

The ACT leader said that the students’ social awareness and critical thinking are developed when public issues are explained to them.

Martinez blamed the Rodrigo Duterte government for its failure to fulfill its promise for a substantial salary increase at a time when their salaries have been drastically eroded by inflation.

Martinez also defended their sit-down protests against threats by Department of Education secretary Leonor Briones that their action may face legal implications.

“We have nothing to fear because our protest is well within our rights and in line with the performance of our duties. We are not abandoning our responsibilities. In fact we are doing this for the love of teaching,” Martinez said.

“We fight because we want to stay and continue teaching, especially our underprivileged students,” Martinez explained.

Martinez said the protest is being held in view of the plenary deliberations of the Senate on the 2019 national budget next week.

ACT Philippines lobbies that salaries of entry-level teachers be adjusted to the level of Police Officer I at Php30,000 monthly; that of Salary Grade 1 employees’ be increased to Php 16,000 a month; and an entry-level salary of Php31,000 for college instructors.

It also pushes for the adjustment of the Php2,000 Personnel Economic Relief Allowance to Php5,000 due to the steeply rising cost of living.

They assert for higher education budget to fill in the shortages in the education system and enable the granting of better benefits for the teaching and non-teaching personnel # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bahag ang buntot

Tula ni Ron Magbuhos Papag

 

Bahag na ang buntot ng asong ulol

Dati lahat ay inaangilan, kahol ng kahol

Ngayo’y bumubula ang bibig at umaalulong

Nambu-buladas kung hindi nagmamaktol

 

Hoy, tuta, bistado na ang iyong istilo

Istayl mo bulok, istayl mo bulok!

Hoy, tuta, bistado na inyong gubyerno

Gubyerno niyo bulok! Gubyerno niyo bulok!

 

Nagkukunwang kaliwa at makabayan

Isa daw sosyalista at maka-mamamayan

Habang hina-hagupit ang taumbayan

Pinapatay ng walang pakundangan

 

Reporma at pagbabago, ipinagsisigawan

Galit sa mayayaman, negosyante at dayuhan

Habang sakmal tubo ang negosyanteng gahaman

At patuloy ang pangangamkam ng lupa’t likas yaman

 

Huwag paloloko sa pangakong pagbabago

Ng isang doble-karang tuta’t berdugo

Huwag palilinlang sa salitang mababango

Ng presidenteng himod-pwet sa dayuhang amo

 

 

Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khaled speaks at anti-APEC protest in Manila

Leila Khaled, iconic Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFB) freedom fighter, speaks at a protest rally against the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit being held in Manila.

Khaled is in Manila along with several global activists to attend the just concluded 5th General Assembly of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle. She also represented PLFP in the formation of a new Filipino-Palestinian solidarity alliance aimed at campaigning for the liberation of Palestine against Israeli occupation.

Khaled successively took over two passenger airlines in the late 1960s to help launch their struggle to global prominence. She has since become one of the leading campaigners for Palestinian liberation.

Watch Khaled’s well-applauded speech at the anti-APEC rally.

WEBSTREAMING: Martsa Amianan and Manilakbayan 2015 meet at Mendiola

Indigenous peoples from Northern Luzon have arrived in Metro Manila to meet with indigenous peoples from Mindanao Island at Mendiola to start their protest actions against the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Manila.

Indigenous tribes in the Philippines are resisting foreign and large-scale mining encroachments in their ancestral domains that bring with them killings, harassment and other human rights violations.

Watch this Kodao Productions web-streaming of the events as they unfold since before dawn today.