democracy

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.

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Irish socialist republican party eirigi chairperson Brian Leeson has labelled the Dublin government’s four-year fiscal adjustment plan “a criminal charter for the wrecking of working class communities”.

Among the measures contained within the plan are:
• A €2.8 billion cut in the social welfare budget.
• The gradual increase of the pension age to 68 by 2028 and the reduction of the pension rate for retired public sector workers.
• The reduction of the minimum wage to €7.65 an hour.
• The raising of university registration fees to €2000.

Irish election officials said on November 26 that Sinn Fein candidate Pearse Doherty had won a long-awaited by-election in Donegal with an overwhelming 40% of the vote.

The election was blocked for months before it was forced on Prime Minister Brian Cowen by the Irish courts.

Cowen faces a struggle to win votes on raising taxes and cutting spending when the 2011 budget is unveiled in parliament on December 7.

The Socialist Alliance’s Socialist Ideas Conference on November 20 featured informative presentations and spirited discussion. It reviewed the political situation in Australia and globally.

One of the speakers was Greens MLC Mark Parnell. The most animated discussion was about the Greens' political perspectives and relation to community campaigns and grassroots activism.

This followed an online debate before the event, about whether a Greens parliamentarian — particularly from the right of the party — should have been invited to speak at a conference promoting socialist ideas.

Afghan feminist and anti-war activist Malalai Joya urged 400 people at the University of Technology Sydney to get the Australian government to pull the troops out of her country. The Afghan people were capable of winning against the fundamentalist warlords, but not while Western occupying troops rehabilitated the Taliban, she said.

Burma’s November 7 elections — held under an undemocratic constitution in an atmosphere of repression and with the result crudely rigged — have been overshadowed by the release from house arrest of opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi on November 13.

Thousands of supporters lined the streets to her house and flocked to NLD offices to hear her speak.

Suu Kyi’s release has been compared to that of Nelson Mandela in 1990. However, unlike Mandela, Suu Kyi was not released from detention by a regime seeking negotiations.

The crackdown by Moroccan occupation forces on the protest camp at Gdeim Izik on November 8 may have brought more attention to the plight of Western Sahara than was intended.

The 20,000-strong camp at Gdeim Izik, 15 km from the Western Saharan capital, El Aaiun, was established on October 9 to protest against the discrimination and oppression experienced by Saharawi people living under Moroccan occupation.

Labor special minister of state Gary Gray must be stupid if he thinks we should feel sorry for him. Gray’s pay went from $675,000 a year to $130,000 when he left Woodside Petroleum to become a politician.

Gray wants to close the pay gap between corporate CEOs and politicians — and not by cutting obscene CEO pay. He would prefer to widen the gap between politicians and the people they represent.

Thousands of supporters of Thailand’s Red Shirt movement (the popular name for the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship) once again turned Bangkok’s busy Ratchaprasong Intersection into a sea of red on November 19.

Protesters turned out in their thousands to mark six months since the military attacked and dispersed a mass protest camp that occupied the area in April and May. More than 90 people were killed and thousands injured. Hundreds of protesters are still imprisoned.

Remembrance Day, on November 11, was celebrated again this year in the Australian media with pictures of red poppies and flag-draped coffins and historic photos of Australian soldiers who gave “the ultimate sacrifice” from the human-made wasteland of Flanders to the stony deserts of Afghanistan.

Paying tribute to the ten soldiers killed this year in the long war in Afghanistan, Governor-General Quentin Bryce said that Australians were good at remembering: “We seem to know what we ought to hold onto and what is best let go.”

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