Thai dictatorship jails theatre makers for play


This video says about itself:

29 December 2014

Two Thai students have admitted insulting royalty in a play they performed about a 1973 uprising.

Patiwat Saraiyaem, 23, and Pornthip Munkong, 25, face up to 15 years in jail under lese majeste laws, which protect the royals from any insults.

The play called Wolf Bride featured a fictional king and his advisor.

Thailand’s lese majeste laws are the world’s strictest, but critics say they are often used to settle personal rows or silence political opposition.

The play was performed at Bangkok‘s Thammasat University in October 2013, but the pair were not arrested until August this year.

Both students have been denied bail, and have been held in custody since their arrest.

Several other people involved with the performance are also facing charges.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Two Thais jailed for ‘insulting’ royal family in university play

Activists sentenced to two and half years in jail as the junta intensifies its crackdown on slurs against the royals under controversial lese majeste law

Monday 23 February 2015 01.08 GMT

Two young Thais accused of insulting the monarchy in a university play were jailed for two and a half years on Monday as the ruling junta intensifies its crackdown on perceived royal slurs under the kingdom’s controversial lese majeste law.

Patiwat Saraiyaem, 23, and Porntip Mankong, 26, were sentenced after admitting defamation after their arrest last August, nearly a year after The Wolf Bride, a satire set in a fictional kingdom, was performed at Bangkok’s Thammasat University.

The pair were originally sentenced to five years in prison each but the term was reduced to two years and six months due to their confessions, said a judge at Ratchada Criminal Court in Bangkok.

“The court considers their role in the play caused serious damage to the monarchy and sees no reason to suspend their sentences,” he said.

They were each charged with one count of lese majeste linked to the play, which marked the 40th anniversary of a pro-democracy student protest at the university that was crushed by the military regime in October 1973.

Police are hunting for at least six others involved in the performance for allegedly violating “112” – the feared section of the Thai criminal code which carries up to 15 years in jail for each count of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent.

Of those on the wanted list, at least two have fled Thailand, joining dozens of academics, activists and political opponents of the coup in self-exile amid a surge in royal defamation cases since the military seized power in May.

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 87, is revered by many in the country as a demi-god and shielded by one of the world’s most draconian royal defamation laws.

The Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights said at least 40 people have been arrested since the coup – seven of them have already been sentenced to between three and 15 years in prison.

Rights activists as well as local and international media are forced to censor discussion of cases as even repeating details of charges risks breaking the law.

Under junta rule Thailand has seen a rapid deterioration in civil rights with the military crushing any criticsm of the coup from banning protests and censoring the media to arresting and detaining opponents.

The Wolf Bride was performed in October 2013, several months before the coup, but the case is just one of many driven through by the junta, which is bolstering its self-designated role as protector of the monarchy.

Critics say the lese majeste law has been used as a tool to suppress political dissent, noting that many of those charged have been linked to the opposition Red Shirt movement.

Before the ruling, Andrea Giorgetta from FIDH said the surge in lese majeste cases looked set to continue.

“We’re expecting a lot more people to go to jail in the next month. Almost all cases have been backdated (for alleged offences) before the coup,” he told AFP. “It’s a very grim situation for rights in Thailand.”

Recent 112 convictions include a taxi driver jailed for two-and-a-half years after his passenger recorded their conversation on a mobile phone, while a student, 24, was sentenced to the same period of time for defaming the monarchy in a message posted on Facebook.

Analysts say the most recent chapter of Thailand’s long-drawn political turmoil is fuelled by anxieties over who will run the country when the more than six-decade reign of the ailing king, the world’s longest-serving monarch, eventually ends.

Discussion on succession is also restricted in Thailand under the lese majeste law.

Snowdrops, wars and poetry in Britain


This video says about itself:

EARLY SPRING snowdrop flower time lapse. Sir David Attenborough‘s opinion

6 June 2013

This is a clip from “RHYTHMS OF NATURE IN THE BARYCZ VALLEY” movie.

This film tells the story about nature in the Barycz River valley and enormous Milicz ponds. This area is located in the south-western part of Poland (in the middle of Europe). I and my wife made it for 2 years.

Sir David Attenborough, a world-famous BBC nature documentary film maker, after watching the film “Rhythms of Nature in the Barycz Valley” wrote:

“I have viewed Rhythms of Nature with great pleasure.

A lovely place, beautifully filmed”

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Flower respite from the slaughter

Friday 13th February 2015

Snowdrops will soon be announcing the arrival of spring but the story of their origin bears witness to a not too distant tragic past, says PETER FROST

In October of 1854, in the rolling meadows of Crimea, 600 brave British soldiers were ordered to their death by ignorant and arrogant aristocratic officers. Those officers, just like Cameron and his mostly Eton-educated Cabinet believed they were born to rule.

Tennyson summed up the destiny of the common man in his famous poem: “Theirs not to reason why,/Theirs but to do and die:/Into the valley of Death/Rode the six hundred.”

This was the notorious Charge of the Light Brigade. The following Christmas and New Year were miserable times in the British army camps of the Crimea.

Memories of the horrendous defeat and the harsh winter weather of snow and gales contrived to make this a sad posting for British soldiers missing their loved ones at home.

Then at the end of January, in a curious parallel of the flush of blood red poppies that painted the fields of Flanders in another foreign war the hills of Crimea bought forth a huge beautiful display of tiny snow white flowers.

They covered the countryside so thickly that they could have easily been confused as a fall of fresh snow. British soldiers were amazed to see the battlefields covered in little, frail snowdrops.

The flowers were, in fact the Crimean snowdrop (Galanthus plicatus).

Many of the British soldiers took the tiny bulbs home with them, some even slipped the bulbs — little bigger than a grain of wheat — into letters to their wives and sweethearts at home.

Today snowdrops, both the Crimean species and our own native and slightly larger Common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) are a familiar and very welcome part of our mid-winter countryside.

For me the delicate nodding white flowers — brave little things — piercing the frozen earth are early heralds of the arrival of spring and the end of winter.

Did you know that there are over 2,000 different types of snowdrop, or Galanthus, growing wild in our countryside and in our gardens?

There are even snowdrop clubs and snowdrop societies and the rarest and exotic varieties change hands for hundreds of pounds for a single bulb.

The heritage of those Crimean snowdrops lives on today. You find them planted on the graves of soldiers of the Crimean war.

Huge naturalised swathes of the tiny flowers are found in areas with rich military history and traditions.

So if you can, try to get out to see the snowdrops. There are locations all over Britain which offer spectacular displays of the flower and there is sure to be one within easy reach of where you live.

As you marvel at these living snowdrifts pause to remember another group of British working men sent to die in a pointless foreign war in the hills above the famous valley of death.

The British Establishment has never had much respect for its old soldiers. It doesn’t today.

Forty years after Tennyson’s famous poem, Rudyard Kipling wrote The Last of the Light Brigade.

It commemorated the last 20 survivors of the charge of the Light Brigade who visited an 80-year-old Tennyson to lobby him for not writing a sequel about the way in which England was treating its old soldiers.

Kipling felt strongly on the subject and returned to it again in his poem to draw attention to the poverty in which the real survivors were living, in the same way that he evoked The Absent Minded Beggar.

“When you’ve shouted ‘Rule Britannia,’ when you’ve sung ‘God save the Queen,’/When you’ve finished killing Kruger with your mouth,/Will you kindly drop a shilling in my little tambourine/For a gentleman in khaki ordered South?”

Recently I walked through one of London’s royal parks to see the snowdrops. By the gate I came across a homeless ex-soldier. He was begging. And you thought we were supposed to learn from history.

African American writers spied upon by FBI for decades


This video from the USa says about itself:

This is a poetry reading of Claude McKay‘s poems “If We Must Die” and “The White House.”

Reading done by spoken word artist Cynthia Nicole Giles.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

FBI monitored and critiqued African American writers for decades

A new book reveals the extent to which J Edgar Hoover’s bureau kept files on well-known black writers between 1919 and 1972

Newly declassified documents from the FBI reveal how the US federal agency under J Edgar Hoover monitored the activities of dozens of prominent African American writers for decades, devoting thousands of pages to detailing their activities and critiquing their work.

Academic William Maxwell first stumbled upon the extent of the surveillance when he submitted a freedom of information request for the FBI file of Claude McKay. The Jamaican-born writer was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, author of the sonnet If We Must Die, supposedly recited by Winston Churchill, and Maxwell was preparing an edition of his complete poems. When the file came through from the FBI, it stretched to 193 pages and, said Maxwell, revealed “that the bureau had closely read and aggressively chased McKay” – describing him as a “notorious negro revolutionary” – “all across the Atlantic world, and into Moscow”.

Maxwell, associate professor of English and African American studies at Washington University in St Louis, decided to investigate further, knowing that other scholars had already found files on well-known black writers such as Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. He made 106 freedom of information requests about what he describes as “noteworthy Afro-modernists” to the FBI; 51 of those writers had files, ranging from three to 1,884 pages each.

“I suspected there would be more than a few,” said Maxwell. “I knew Hoover was especially impressed and worried by the busy crossroads of black protest, leftwing politics, and literary potential. But I was surprised to learn that the FBI had read, monitored, and ‘filed’ nearly half of the nationally prominent African American authors working from 1919 (Hoover’s first year at the Bureau, and the first year of the Harlem Renaissance) to 1972 (the year of Hoover’s death and the peak of the nationalist Black Arts movement). In this, I realised, the FBI had outdone most every other major institution of US literary study, only fitfully concerned with black writing.”

Maxwell’s book about his discovery, FB Eyes: How J Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature, is out on 18 February from Princeton University Press. It argues that the FBI’s attention was fuelled by Hoover’s “personal fascination with black culture”, that “the FBI is perhaps the most dedicated and influential forgotten critic of African American literature”, and that “African American literature is characterised by a deep awareness of FBI ghostreading”.

Princeton said that while it is well known that Hoover was hostile to Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, Maxwell’s forthcoming book is the first exposé of “the extent to which the FBI monitored and influenced African American writing” between 1919 and 1972.

Taking its title from Richard Wright’s 1949 poem The FB Eye Blues, in which the Native Son novelist writes that “every place I look, Lord / I find FB eyes / I’m getting sick and tired of gover’ment spies”, the work also posits that for some authors, suspicion of the surveillance prompted creative replies.

Digital copies of 49 of the FBI files have been made available to the public online. “The collected files of the entire set of authors comprise 13,892 pages, or the rough equivalent of 46 300-page PhD theses,” Maxwell writes in the book. “FBI ghostreaders genuinely rivalled the productivity of their academic counterparts.”

The academic told the Guardian that he believes the FBI monitoring stems from the fact that “from the beginning of his tenure at the FBI … Hoover was exercised by what he saw as an emerging alliance between black literacy and black radicalism”.

“Then there’s the fact that many later African American writers were allied, at one time or another, with socialist and communist politics in the US,” he added, with Wright and WEB Du Bois both becoming Communist Party members, Hughes a “major party sympathiser”, and McKay “toasted by Trotsky and published in Russian as a significant Marxist theorist”.

The files show how the travel arrangements of black writers were closely scrutinised by the FBI, with the passport records of a long list of authors “combed for scraps of criminal behaviour and ‘derogatory information’”, writes Maxwell. Some writers were threatened by “‘stops’, instructions to advise and defer to the Bureau if a suspect tried to pass through a designated point of entry” to the US.

When McKay went to the Soviet Union, a “stop notice” instructed that the poet should be held for “appropriate attention” if he attempted to re-enter the US. In Baltimore, writes Maxwell, FBI agents “paraded their seriousness in a bulletin sent straight to Hoover, boasting of a clued-in ‘Local Police Department’ on the ‘lookout’ for one ‘Claude McKay (colored)’ (23 Mar. 1923)”.

They also reveal how, with the help of informers, the agency reviewed works such as Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man before publication.

“What did the FBI learn from these dossiers? Several things,” said Maxwell. “Where African American writers were travelling, especially during their expatriate adventures in Europe, Africa, and Latin America. What they were publishing, even while it was still in press.” In the 1950s, he said, the FBI aspired to “a foreknowledge of American publishing so deep that literary threats to the FBI’s reputation could be seen before their public appearance”.

The bureau also considered “whether certain African Americans should be allowed government jobs and White House visits, in the cases of the most fortunate”, and “what the leading minds of black America were thinking, and would be thinking”.

But, he added, “the files also show that some FBI spy-critics couldn’t help from learning that they liked reading the stuff, for simple aesthetic reasons”.