Thailand -Farmers to rally at Govt House and round the country

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CONSUMER rights and organic farming advocates will rally at Government House today – and in 43 other provinces – to protest against the Biological Safety Bill, which will allow use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for commercial purposes.

GMO

Biothai official Kwanchai Muanying said yesterday his non-governmental organisation planned a symbolic protest to express their objection to the bill, which recently received Cabinet approval, and to “jointly protect their food sovereignty”, at their respective city halls at 10am today.

Biothai (www.biothai.net) had earlier put out a poster on Thai social media inviting people to join this movement.

Kwanchai said the demonstrators in Bangkok would submit a petition to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and National Legislative Assembly President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai demanding that approval of the bill be postponed, so all sides can present information and concerns over possible impacts.

“If this government just passed this bill, it would mean the granting of freedom to grow GMO plants,” he explained.

He said farmers were concerned most about the fact that the bill has no measures to prevent contamination.

“In Thailand, the requirement for GMO plants to be 200 metres from other farms would make it impossible to say there was no contamination to crops outside,” he said. Biothai and its allies would continue to provide information to farmers about the bill because many had very little knowledge about it.

Nanthawan Handee, from an alternative farmers’ group in Sanamchai Khet district in Chachoengsao, said her group, established over a decade ago, would join people from public, private and civil sectors in a rally at Chachoengsao City Hall under the banner “Paed Rew Muang Yang Yeun Assembly”.

She said if the bill was implemented, it would seriously affect her group, which grows organic plants and rice for export to Europe.

“We obtain a high-class standard certification from the International Foundation for Organic Agriculture and we export rice to food-processing companies to make pasta for sale in Europe,” she explained.

“Organic agriculture is the future of the world and Thailand. If the government passes this bill, it will destroy Thai farmers. GMO plants should only be in experimental labs,” she said, adding that Thailand had already been affected by GMO papaya contamination and this move would bring about more serious damage.

Foundation for Consumers director Saree Aongsomwang wrote on Facebook that she and network members would certainly attend the symbolic protest at Government House against the bill, which she said had many weak points. They included allowing GMO plant production for commercial purposes and no punishment for biotech businesses whose products turn out to be environmentally harmful.

Meanwhile, Democrat Party member and former Science and Technology Ministry secretary Pumsan Seniwong na Ayuthaya urged the government yesterday to be more sensitive in handling this matter because of public opposition – it should postpone approval for this controversial bill.

He said he would be disappointed if the Science Ministry had made a claim, circulating in media, that GMO plants could exist with normal plants. He urged ministerial executives and people in science not to prioritise research and economic gain while disregarding social impacts and people’s health.

He also raised questions for the government and ministry to answer, including who would carry the burden of creating a 200-metre-wide buffer zone and managing the rotation of GMO plants, grown apart from normal crops, and whether there would be a law to control that.

Source: The Nation

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Close watch on reds ahead of ‘show of support’ for Yingluck, #Thailand

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Yingluck

 THE authorities are closely following the moves of red shirts in different provinces ahead of a planned symbolic show of support for former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra scheduled for tomorrow.

However, some red-shirt leaders denied yesterday that planned gatherings of red shirts in different provinces had any political implication.

Earlier, there was a campaign on social media calling for Yingluck’s supporters to wear red on November 1 to give her moral support, as she faces legal action over her government’s corruption-plagued rice subsidy scheme.

Former premier Yingluck posted a photo on her Facebook page yesterday of her with a new book written by her brother, the ex-PM, entitled “Thaksin Shinawatra: Life and Work”.

“Let me hug this book in place of him. I miss my brother. Don’t forget to find this book for your reading, and you will know why I want to hug this book,” she wrote.

Yingluck has no specific plans for tomorrow, but a source close to her said she might go shopping.

Colonel Jatupong Bokbon, deputy head of the Internal Security Operations Command’s Khon Kaen office, said yesterday the authorities were concerned that a “third party” may try to abuse the wearing-red campaign by creating unrest, despite local red-shirt leaders’ promises that they would not hold any such event in the northeastern province.

“The authorities want to maintain peace and order, so we will have to take legal action against anyone who breaks the law,” he said.

In Khon Kaen, police, military and administrative officers met at the Provincial Hall yesterday to assess the situation and discuss preparatory measures. Colonel Jatupong was among the participants.

Meanwhile, Kanchanaburi police deputy commander Colonel Chinnapat Tansrisakul said yesterday there were no reports that red shirts would gather in his province tomorrow and he did not think they would. However, police were closely monitoring the situation and following relevant movements in all villages of the province, he said.

Earlier, the Metropolitan Police said they were also closely monitoring the situation – and preparing to deal with any rally by the red shirts.

Jakkrawut Traiwallop, a red-shirt leader in Nakhon Ratchasima, said yesterday it was possible some red-shirt groups might get together normally tomorrow but he did not think they would “cause unease” for the authorities.

He said red-shirt leaders had often been under watch by the authorities following the coup in May last year.

In regard to the campaign to wear red this Sunday, Jakkrawut said red was synonymous with Sunday so it was not unusual for people to wear red on that day. “Please don’t try to link this to politics, so that reconciliation can be achieved in a concrete way,” he added.

In a related development, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said last night that reconciliation could not be achieved if accusations continue to be made.

“I must ask dissenters not to point fingers at people and demean others. The kind of democracy everybody wants is coming in the future. Everybody has had strong motivations, which has lead to some people taking actions that have endangered themselves and others. Come forth and talk. I have been informed of promises for dialogue and participation in reforms, and I must thank these parties in advance,” he said.

“I have asked people to have a dialogue with students and lecturers, and to ask for their understanding and to do what is best for the country,” the PM told his audience during his weekly address in the TV programme “Returning Happiness to People in the Country”.

“I have asked officials to talk to teachers and students at Thammasat University and appealed for them to understand the circumstances Thailand is facing at the moment and that democracy is returning while reforms are underway. If everyone thought reform is unnecessary, then I would be discouraged,” he said.

Source: The Nation

Yingluck decries ‘death of democracy’ after impeachment

Yingluck 26-1

Embattled former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra decried the “death of democracy” in Thailand on Friday after the junta-stacked parliament impeached her and prosecutors announced corruption charges that could see her jailed.

The successful impeachment of Yingluck, the kingdom’s first female premier and the sister of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, carries an automatic five-year ban from politics, while the criminal charges could see her sentenced to a decade in prison.

She swiftly denounced the decisions as an assault on democracy and vowed to fight the new corruption charges.

“Democracy has died in Thailand today, along with the rule of law. That move to destroy me is still ongoing and I face it now,” she said in a statement published on Facebook after plans to hold a press conference were called off on the advice of junta officials.

Experts say the impeachment and criminal charges are the latest attempt by the country’s royalist elite, and its army backers, to nullify the political influence of the Shinawatras, whose parties have won every election since 2001.

But the junta’s pursuit of the family could also disturb the uneasy calm that has descended on Thailand since the military took over.

The Shinawatras’ ‘Red Shirt’ supporters, who have lain low since the coup, were enraged by the twin decisions — but leaders warned against widespread street protests in a country where political gatherings are banned under martial law.

“Today’s impeachment is the highest provocation, aimed at encouraging the Red Shirts to come out so they (the government) can shift the blame for all their failures onto the Red Shirts,” Jatuporn Prompan, the movement’s leader, told viewers on his Peace TV programme.

Both the impeachment and corruption charges revolve around her administration’s controversial rice subsidy programme, which funnelled cash to her rural base but cost billions of dollars, and inspired protests that felled her government and led to a military takeover in May.

“The primary aim is to prevent her and the Shinawatras returning to politics should the military be forced to step down and call an election. They simply cannot compete when it comes to electoral politics,” Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai academic at Kyoto University, told AFP.

Loved and loathed

Both Thaksin and Yingluck are loathed by many Thais in the upper and middle classes but still command huge loyalty from much of the rural poor, particularly in the Shinawatras’ northern strongholds, where rice farming is a mainstay of the local economy.

The rice subsidy scheme, which purchased the crop from farmers at around twice the market rate, was hugely popular among the Shinawatras’ vote base but economically disastrous.

Prosecutors had spent months deciding whether Yingluck should face separate criminal corruption charges over the scheme with the Office of the Attorney General finally confirming Friday that an indictment for negligence would be handed down in early March.

During the impeachment hearings Yingluck defended the rice scheme as a necessary subsidy to help poor farmers who historically receive a disproportionately small slice of government cash.

She also attacked the legality of impeaching her from a position from which she had already been removed.

Analysts said it was always unlikely that the parliament — which is stacked with junta appointees — would save Yingluck’s political career.

And while imminent street protests are unlikely, observers say the moves against Yingluck will do little to foster the kind of political reconciliation the military claims it is seeking.

“In the medium to longer term, the grievances within the Yingluck/Thaksin side will accumulate and become more virulent when they eventually surface,” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, told AFP.

“Little by little, the move could crystallise into a willingness by Red Shirts to demonstrate,” added Paul Chambers, a specialist on Thai politics at Chiang Mai University.

Since Thaksin swept to power in 2001, Shinawatra governments have been floored by two coups and the removal of three other premiers by the kingdom’s interventionist courts.

Story: AFP

Full English Text of Yingluck’s Post-Impeachment Statement, #Thailand

YingLuck 23-1-2015

A Khaosod English translation of the statement posted by former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on her official Facebook account this afternoon.

Statement from Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra
The 28th Prime Minister of Thailand
23 January 2015

To all the dear people,

As expected, the National Legislative Assembly has reached its decision to impeach me as a Prime Minister and ban me from politics for five years, while the Attorney-General has taken up a case against me in the Supreme Court’s Division for Holders of Political Office. I have these statements to make:

I insist on and express confidence in my innocence, and I would like to thank the principled minority votes that upheld fairness. The procedures have violated and abridged my basic rights that I, as a Thai citizen, deserve to have.

Let me insist that the rice-mortage program is a good program. It did not cause damages. As for the number of damages that they have tried to press on me, it is prejudice against me, and an attempt to use farmers as instruments of political destruction.

As I said about Thailand’s democracy on 29 April 2013 at Ulan Bator, Mongolia, “I would like to see reconciliation and democracy gain strength. This can only be achieved through strengthening of the rule of law and due process. Only then will every person from all walks of life feel confident that they will be treated fairly.”

I still insist on those words I said, even though today Thai democracy is dead, along with the rule of law. There is still a movement constantly bent on destruction, as I am suffering right now. 

It is saddening and unbelievable that there are so many coincidences, as I said in my final hearing yesterday, and they are coincidences that are not coincidences. Just only one hour before the National Legislative Assembly began its impeachment vote, the Attorney-General announced that it would prosecute me on charges of dereliction of duty leading to corruption in the rice-mortage program, even though the head of the Office of Attorney-General stressed that there is still need to consider incomplete points in the case.

The attorney institution, which has long been a credible institution in the justice system, is now questioned because of this incident. 

My performance of duty as a Prime Minister throughout two years, nine months, and two days was dedicated to solving problems in every group of people without discrimination. I am proud that, once in my life, I helped farmers and poor people escape from the depth of their poverty, and improved their lives. 

Today, I have no [political] office left. The only thing left for me are charges that they have forcefully pressed against me, which I will fight in court. 

Reconciliation cannot take place by hunting down certain individuals. It has to come with impartiality that provides justice to all sides. When there is fairness, there will be justice. Acceptance, peace, and unity will then follow suit in Thai society.

We are all Thais. Instead of turning to each other and joining hands to strengthen our country, we create hatred against each other, hunting down [opponents] and not giving them quarters. In the end, the one who is damaged is our own country. 

I am saddened, not because I have been bullied and am suffering unfair fate, but because I feel sorry for farmers and all the Thai people who lost their opportunity and were forced back to live in the endless cycle of poverty, debt, and exploitation. They also lost the basic [rights] of democracy, and the laws are being distorted. 

Finally, I hope that the individuals who administer justice of the country will not allow any group who disrespects democratic rules and disregards rules of law to be influential ever again. As an academic has said: “if there is no Yingluck, Thai people can still live on. But, more importantly, if there is no justice left in the governance of Thailand, no one can live on.”

‘Van laatste nummer Charlie Hebdo druipen tranen af’

Ik ben Charlie

In Frankrijk is een vanochtend vroeg een ware run ontstaan op het nieuwste nummer van het satirische tijdschrift Charlie Hebdo. Ondanks de aanslag van vorige week op de redactie van het blad, waarbij acht medewerkers onder wie de hoofdredacteur omkwamen, ligt er nu toch een nummer in de Franse kiosken. Een emotioneel exemplaar, zo meldt AD-correspondent Frank Renout. ,,De tranen druipen er vanaf.”

Renout meldde zich vanochtend in alle vroegte op de Champs-Élysées in Parijs bij een krantenkiosk die al om 5 uur open ging. Binnen een mum van tijd waren de 50 stuks uitverkocht. Het verkooppunt zal in totaal 700 exemplaren krijgen. Normaal gesproken heeft het Franse blad een oplage van 50.000, maar vanwege de enorme Franse én wereldwijde interesse worden er maar liefst vijf miljoen exemplaren gedrukt.

Vanochtend werd bekend dat er bovenop de oorspronkelijke drie miljoen exemplaren, nog eens twee miljoen extra exemplaren worden gedrukt. In Nederland zijn er vanaf morgen mogelijk 500 Hebdo’s verkrijgbaar. Of deze oplage ook wordt verhoogd, is niet bekend.

De nieuwe editie van Charlie Hebdo is dus nog nog niet in Nederland te krijgen. Toch worden er op internet al verschillende exemplaren aangeboden. Op Marktplaats loopt de prijs uiteen van 10 tot 100 euro. Op Ebay vragen verkopers meer dan 300 euro voor één exemplaar.

Maagden
Nadat eerder deze week al de voorpagina werd vrijgegeven – een tekening van een huilende profeet Mohammed met een bordje ‘Je suis Charlie’ en de tekst ‘Tous est pardonné’ (alles is vergeven) beschikt Renout over een van de eerste volledige exemplaren. ,,Het is een emotioneel nummer, een nummer waar de tranen vanaf druipen. Voorop dus Mohammed en binnenin staan tekeningen van president Hollande, joden en Jezus, maar ook van de terroristen die in de hemel aankomen. Zij vragen waar nu die 70 maagden zijn. Ze krijgen als antwoord: bij de journalisten die jullie hebben vermoord.”

Twee zwaar bewapende mannen vermoordden woensdag 7 januari op de redactie acht medewerkers. Ook werden en passant nog vier andere mensen, onder wie twee politiemensen, neergeschoten. Na twee dagen op de vlucht te zijn geweest, werden ze elders in Frankrijk door de politie doodgeschoten, toen ze na een gijzeling het gijzelpand verlieten. De aanslag zou een wraak zijn geweest op de satirische tekeningen die regelmatig in het blad opdoken, waar ook de islam of Mohamed op de hak werd genomen.

Diezelfde vrijdag vond er nog een gijzeling plaats in Parijs, waarbij vier mensen incluisief de gijzelnemer omkwamen. Deze gijzelnemer had eerder, mogelijk met een handlanger, al een agente doodgeschoten.

‘Islamitisch fascisme’
De makers van dit nummer van Charlie Hebdo bedanken iedereen die hen de afgelopen week heeft gesteund. Ze hopen dat iedereen zich ook zal afzetten tegen wat zij noemen het ‘islamitisch fascisme’.

Volgens onze correspondent hebben inmiddels ook moslimorganisaties kennisgenomen van het nieuwste nummer. Zij doen er het zwijgen toe, maar laten wel weten dat iedereen waardig en rustig op het nummer moet reageren en vinden het niet leuk dat Mohammed is afgebeeld, maar hebben begrip voor de vrijheid van meningsuiting die er in Frankrijk is.

Marine Le Pen: “De EU zal instorten zoals de Sovjet- Unie”

Marine Le Pen: “De EU zal instorten zoals de Sovjet- Unie”.

Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen bekritiseerde de EU als een “globale afwijking”

Marine Le Pen is van plan om een radicale, anti-EU fractie in het Europees Parlement op te richten met hulp van Geert Wilders, het Nederlandse parlementslid.

De leider van Frankrijks uiterst rechtse partij heeft verklaard dat de Europese Unie zal “instorten zoals de Sovjet-Unie” toen ze zwoer om de tot nu toe meest radicale fractie in het Europees parlement op te richten.

Marine Le Pen gesterkt door een weekend  deelverkiezingen in het zuiden van Frankrijk, bekritiseerde de EU als een “globale afwijking” en eiste een terugkeer naar een blok van “samenwerking van soevereine staten”. Ze zei dat de bevolking van Europa “geen controle” heeft over haar economie of munt, noch over de beweging van mensen in en op haar grondgebied. “Ik denk dat de EU nu zoiets is als de Sovjet-Unie: niet voor verbetering vatbaar”, zei ze. “De EU zal instorten zoals de Sovjet-Unie instortte”.

Mevrouw Le Pen, 45, zal volgende maand Nederland bezoeken om gezamenlijk met Geert Wilders de te volgen route uit te stippelen, wiens anti-islamitische Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV) overigens momenteel in de nationale peilingen bovenaan staat voor de Europese verkiezingen in mei. Samen willen ze een pan-Europese, uiterst rechtse parlementaire groep gaan oprichten, die gebaseerd zal zijn op een anti-immigratie en anti-integratie standpunt. Eenmaal in functie zal het zijn voornamelijk doel zijn om zo ondermijnend mogelijk bezig te zijn.

Zelfs vurige Europese federalisten geven nu toe dat zo´n 30% van het nieuwe parlement uit Euro- sceptici zal bestaan en zich zal richten op de economische misère en de enorme werkloosheidscijfers in heel Europa. “Als Eurosceptische partijen in 2014 succes hebben zal er sprake zijn van het meest extreme Europees Parlement ooit”, zei Sarah Ludford, een liberaal democraat in het parlement. “Ik ben niet alleen verontrust door hun racistische en discriminerende attitudes, maar ook door hun protectionisme en hun vijandigheid tegenover de Europese binnenmarkt waar drie miljoen banen aan verbonden zijn.”

Guy Verhofstadt, een voormalige Belgische minister-president, drong er bij mainstream partijen  door geheel Europa op standvastig te blijven tegen de krachten van het extremisme die de Tweede Wereldoorlog voedden. “Als we toestaan dat deze krachten op ons continent weer een voet aan de grond krijgen, hebben we een eeuw verspild bij het aanhalen van nauwere banden en die vervloekte geschiedenis zal zich herhalen”, zei hij.

President François Hollande van Frankrijk waarschuwde deze week dat het vooruitzicht van een beslissende anti-Europa groep kan leiden tot “achteruitgang en verlamming” in Europa, en hij voegde er aan toe dat dit het vermogen van het continent om zich te herstellen van de nawerkingen van de crisis in de eurozone kan aantasten.

Mevrouw Le Pen heeft al contact gelegd met Oostenrijks uiterst rechtse partij FPÖ, die 21% van de stemmen behaalde in de Oostenrijkse algemene verkiezingen de afgelopen maand.

Meneer Wilders, wiens partij tot vorig jaar de regerende coalitie in Nederland gedoogde, heeft banden met Vlaams Belang in België, de ZwedenDemokraten en Lega Nord in Italië. “We zullen alles doen wat we kunnen om de komende Europese verkiezingen te veranderen in een politieke aardverschuiving tegen Brussel”, zei meneer Wilders.

Het nieuwe anti-EU blok zou rechts staan van de bestaande groep eurosceptici in Brussel, Europa voor Vrijheid en Democratie, die gedomineerd wordt door de UK Independence Party. Nigel Farage, de leider van UKIP, heeft elke alliantie met FN of de PVV uitgesloten, daarbij zeggend dat de standpunten op de gebieden van ras en religie te extreem zijn.

Men voorspelt dat de partij van mevrouw Le Pen 20 of meer zetels in mei kan winnen. Een officiële groep heeft 25 leden uit van tenminste zeven landen van de 28 lidstaten van de Unie. De vorming van zo’n officiële fractie brengt belangrijke voordelen met zich mee, zoals gegarandeerde spreektijd in debatten en aanzienlijke subsidies.

Ludovic de Danne, de adviseur van Marine Le Pen voor Buitenlandse Zaken, zei: “Zij dwaalt niet alleen in de woestijn. Als ik een federalist was, zou ik heel, heel bang zijn”.

In het verleden weigerde Geert Wilders met het Front National in verband te worden gebracht, omdat hij het oneens was met de antisemitische opmerkingen van de vader van Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Sinds zij in januari 2011 haar vader verving, heeft mevrouw Le Pen geprobeerd het “imago” van de partij te verbeteren en is naar links opgeschoven voor wat betreft sociale zaken en economisch protectionisme. Eerdere pogingen tot samenwerking tussen rechtse partijen zijn mislukt door nationale rivaliteit en politieke onenigheid.

In 2007 vormden 23 uiterst rechtse en nationalistische leden van het parlement een groep die zich “Identiteit, Traditie en Soevereiniteit” noemde. Binnen enkele maanden was de groep uiteengevallen, nadat Allessandra Mussolini, een Italiaans lid van het Europees Parlement, de Roemenen beledigde.