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.

British Prince Charles visits Saudi Arabia, where beheadings continue


This video from the USA says about itself:

Saudi King Abdullah‘s Revised Human Rights History

27 January 2015

World leaders are paying tribute to late Saudi King Abdullah in spite of his seemingly deplorable human rights record, a tyrannical government that treated women as second class citizens, and an aggressive foreign policy. President Obama and Prince Charles, who went to Jeddah to pay his respects in person, are among the offenders with human rights advocates criticizing their sympathetic response. We take a look at the reverential reactions, in this Lip News clip with Elliot Hill and Mark Sovel.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Saudi Arabia executions ‘extraordinarily high’ as state executes 28 people in five weeks

The Syrian man was found guilty of smuggling amphetamines

Heather Saul

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Saudi Arabia has reportedly executed a Syrian man on the same day Prince Charles arrived in the Kingdom amid calls from campaigners to raise human rights concerns.

The Saudi Press Agency said Abdullah Mohammed al-Ahmed was executed Tuesday in the northwestern al-Jawf province after the Supreme Court confirmed his conviction and sentence for smuggling amphetamines into the country.

It does not say how he was executed, … although methods used in the Kingdom include beheading and firing squad. His death marks the 28th execution in 2015 alone, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Prince Charles has a good relationship with the Saudi royal family and has been under pressure to use his trip to raise the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison.

Amnesty International had expressed hope that Charles would use his unique position to “pass on a few well-chosen words” to King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and his royal hosts.

Read more:

Saudi Arabia explains difference between state executions and Isis’s

But this latest execution casts doubts as to how willing the Kingdom might be to listen to fears over human rights abuses. King Salman oversaw his first beheading just five days after succeeding his late brother King Abdullah.

The kingdom follows a strict interpretation of Islamic law and applies the death penalty on crimes such as murder, rape, apostasy and witchcraft. Rights groups have criticised executions carried out for non-lethal crimes.

Adam Coogle, a MENA researcher for HRW, said there are so many executions taking place in the Arab state that it is not unusual for one to take place on the same day as an international visit.

He told The Independent that out of the 28 executions which occurred in January and February 2015, 11 were for non-violent drug offences – an “extraordinarily high” figure he condemned as “particularly egregious”.

“Between 1 January and 4 August 2014, only 15 executions took place. They finished the year on 87, and that pace has continued,” he said. “If they keep on this pace it will be a record in the context of the past two years.”

Mr Coogle says he is unsure what is behind the surge in executions. “It could be that they are trying to appear as though they are tough on crime and willing to deliver ‘justice’, but I don’t know. I haven’t seen any official comments on this jump.

“The major point is that although executions are not prohibited under international human rights law, they are strongly discouraged and they should be reserved only for only the most serious crimes.

“It’s been made clear under international human rights law that people should not be killed for non-violent drug laws. Saudi Arabia, a member of the Human Rights Council, is clearly flouting this.”

Total number of executions in Saudi Arabia this year reaches 28: here.

FOREIGN DONORS AND THE CLINTON FOUNDATION: “The Clinton Foundation has dropped its self-imposed ban on collecting funds from foreign governments and is winning contributions at an accelerating rate, raising ethical questions as Hillary Clinton ramps up her expected bid for the presidency. Recent donors include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, Germany and a Canadian government agency promoting the Keystone XL pipeline.” [WSJ]

Saudi Arabia’s new king, already another beheading


This video says about itself:

Amnesty remains worried on human rights after Saudi King death

23 January 2015

The Secretary General of Amnesty International says in Davos that the death of Saudi Arabia’s King was not a surprise and that Amesty remains concerned with “the complete lack of basic human rights in that country.”

From daily The Independent in Britain:

King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia’s new king has already overseen a beheading

King Salman refused to intervene in the beheading of an alleged rapist

Heather Saul

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud has already overseen his first beheading just days after succeeding his brother, ignoring widespread claims that the case against the man was weak.

The controversial killing of Moussa al-Zahrani came shortly before President Barack Obama arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday to pay respects to the late King Abdullah.

Al-Zahrani, a teacher, was executed in the city of Jeddah. He had been convicted of sexually assaulting underage girls in a string of attacks in 2011. Al-Zahrani had maintained his innocence throughout two appeals and released a 20-minute video urging King Abdullah to intervene last year.

His case drew an unprecedented reaction from those living in Saudi Arabia on social media but King Salman, 79, refused to intervene and he was beheaded on Monday.

An Arabic hashtag on Twitter, “We are all Moussa al-Zahrani”, garnered thousands of comments by Saudis, with conflicting opinions over the case.

Al-Zahrani’s relatives had gone on Saudi talk shows and claimed the case against him was riddled with inconsitancies. They said several cases of assault against young girls took place while al-Zahrani was already jailed.

Amnesty International condemned news that an execution had already taken place.

Sevag Kechichian, Amnesty’s Saudi Arabia researcher, told The Independent: “It’s extremely distressing to see that the Saudi executioner has already been at work, just days after King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ascended the throne.

“The Saudi Arabian authorities should establish an immediate moratorium on executions with a view towards abolishing the use of the death penalty once and for all.”

Al-Zahrani’s brother, Hassan al-Zahrani, said after the execution that his brother, a father of six, could not have committed the crimes he was convicted of.

His death comes after the state publicly beheaded a woman in the holy city of Mecca last week for murdering her seven-year-old daughter. A gruesome video of her death marked the tenth execution in 2015, while 87 people were executed the year previous.

King Salman was governor of Riyadah for 48 years and had already taken on many duties as his brother’s health declined.

The King is believed to be less interested in social reform as King Abdullah was, who engendered a very moderate series of reforms during his reign.

President [Obama] addressed the Kingdom’s poor human rights record before embarking on his visit. He acknowledged that the US willingness to pursue close ties with Saudi Arabia despite human rights abuses often makes America’s allies uncomfortable.

“Sometimes we need to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns we have in terms of counterterrorism or dealing with regional stability,” he told CNN.

Mr Obama also suggested he would not be raising concerns about Saudi Arabia’s flogging of blogger Raif Badawi, who was convicted of insulting Islam and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.

Return of the Religious Police Worries Reformers in Saudi Arabia: here.

British government mourns Saudi King Abdullah, MPs critical


This video says about itself:

Manal al-Sharif: A Saudi woman who dared to drive

14 June 2013

There’s no actual law against women driving in Saudi Arabia. But it’s forbidden. Two years ago, Manal al-Sharif decided to encourage women to drive by doing so — and filming herself for YouTube. Hear her story of what happened next.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Whitehall’s King Abdullah half-mast flag tribute criticised by MPs

Decision to mark Saudi royal’s death at parliament and Westminster Abbey called ‘extraordinary misjudgment’

Andrew Sparrow, political correspondent

Friday 23 January 2015 14.35 GMT

A decision to mark the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia by flying flags in Whitehall at half-mast has been criticised by MPs.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it had asked government buildings to fly the union flag at half-mast for 12 hours in line with protocol that says this is appropriate following the death of a foreign monarch.

The Ukip MP Douglas Carswell said it was an “extraordinary misjudgment” in the light of the kingdom’s human rights record.

The houses of parliament and Westminster Abbey are among the buildings in London where the government guidance has been followed after King Abdullah’s death early on Friday.

The tribute was paid even though the sentencing of a Saudi blogger to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam has thrust Saudi Arabia’s dismal human rights record into the spotlight in recent weeks.

Carswell said the “Sir Humphreys who run British foreign policy” were to blame for the tribute and that they were out of touch with public feeling.

“It is an extraordinary misjudgment by the out-of-touch elite in Whitehall who think it is appropriate to do this,” he said.

“On the day that flags at Whitehall are flying at half-mast for King Abdullah, how many public executions will there be?”

Labour MP Paul Flynn said the tribute was “liable to bring infantile fawning over royalty into disrepute”. It was evidence of the establishment’s “extraordinary subservience” to foreign royals, he added.

In a statement, the DCMS said that it learned of the death of King Abdullah “with great regret” and that government buildings were “requested” to fly flags at half-mast from 8am this morning until 8pm.

It continued: “Any other UK national flags flown alongside the union flag when it is at half-mast should also be at half-mast. If a flag of a foreign nation is normally flown on the same stand as the union flag, it should be removed.”

A DCMS spokesperson said: “In line with long-standing arrangements, the union flag is flown at half-mast on government buildings following the death of a foreign monarch.”

One Westminster source said the decision to fly flags at half-mast, which was widely criticised on social media, was taken at the behest of Buckingham Palace.

Asked to justify its decision to fly its flag at half-mast, Wesminster Abbey said in a statement: “We always fly a flag. It is at half-mast because the government has decided to fly their flags at half-mast today.

“For us not to fly at half-mast would be to make a noticeably aggressive comment on the death of the king of a country to which the UK is allied in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

“Nor would it have done anything to support the desperately oppressed Christian communities of the Middle East for whom we pray constantly and publicly.”

January 23, 2015 – Washington, D.C. – Today, ADHRB released a report assessing the reign of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, who died today after more than a decade of rule. Despite his adopted status as a reformer and peacemaker, King Abdullah’s reign was marked by deterioration in civil, political and human rights in the kingdom: here.

Hypocrisy Dressed Up as ‘Realism’ Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship: here.