When an all-female army of journalists, dressed as schoolgirls, burst into laughter at a “lunch party” with the Thailand's military junta chief Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House on January 8, it became the talk of the town. Commentators took to social media to lament the wretched state of Thai media. A senior Thai journalist, Pravit Rojanapuruk, labelled the journalists as “lapdogs” in a column in the progressive daily Khaosod English.
Lee Yu Kyung
Je yang camp, located a 30 minutes drive on often unpaved or rocky road from Laiza, the capital of rebels in Kachin State in northern Burma, accommodates about 8000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The wild landscape around the camp suggests the scenery would have been far more stunning without the presence of humans.
Jani Alam, a 25-year-old, is walking slow and painfully. Having slightly swollen feet, this “exercise” is the only treatment available from 60-year-old traditional doctor, Guramia Saiyid. Both Alam and Saiyad are stateless refugees from the Rohingya ethnic minority from Arakan state in western Burma. They now live in Malaysia. Saiyad has lived in the country for 11 years, while Alam has arrived four months ago. “In the past months, dozens of refugees arrived almost every day,” said 41-year-old Jamar Udin, a neighbor and also a Rohingya.
“Mum’s dead”. The gloomy faced Sujendran Gunesekaram greeted me, as we met in person for the first time. His mother died of a heart attack on September 5, after suffering for three years. Sujendran is a 27-year-old Sri Lankan Tamil originally from Muttur in Trincomalee, the war-hit town in the east. He was one of 254 asylum seekers on the Australia-bound boat Jeya Lestari that moored off at the port in Merak, Indonesia in October 2009.
Sombat Boonngamanong is a long-time NGO activist in Thailand and has been of great help to renewing public Red Shirt activity following the bloody April-May military crackdown. Lee Yu Kyung spoke to him about the prospects for the democracy movement in Thailand. * * *
“The whole process was a fake!”, said Khin Maung Swe, a 68-year-old leader of the National Democratic Force (NDF), a breakaway from the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi. “We just won 16 seats [out of the 163 the NDF contested] because of the so-called advance votes.” Khin Maung Swe expressed outrage at the process of counting votes in Burma’s elections held on November 7 for the first time in 20 years. Opponents of the military junta said it rigged many “advance votes” — votes cast before the official date of the election — through threats and bribes.
Men in uniform, mainly young soldiers holding AK 47 rifles, are seen all around northern Sri Lanka, from Mannar in north-west to Mullaitivu, the last battlefield in the north-east. In Mullaitivu, there are said to be more soldiers than civilians. This is the situation in the largely Tamil north of the island one-and-a-half-years after the end of the Sri Lankan Army’s war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed by the SLA in the last months of the conflict.
It seems no one bothers about “them” in Sri Lanka. No lawyer or rights groups in the country dare to talk of “their” basic rights. Do they deserve to be abandoned or “disappeared”? Alleged former members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE — popularly known as the Tamil Tigers), an armed group that fought for an independent state for the Tamil ethnic minority, have become indefinite “prisoners of war” ever since the LTTE was militarily defeated by the Sri Lankan state in May 2009.
On July 6, the Thai government approved the extension of an emergency decree in 19 provinces, which includes many in the heartland of the pro-democracy Red Shirts in the country’s north-east. The extension came a day after the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) recommended the government immediately lift the decree and hold fresh elections. But Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva, who came to power through the army’s intervention, crushed hopes for new elections weeks ago.
“There’s no village”, 75-year-old Sam Telly said. “I’m from a hiding place.”