Sri Lanka’s 2018 Gratiaen Prize Winning Play Put On Hold For Pride Celebration

A playwright’s determination, despite censorship in Sri Lanka, to stage an immersive play dealing with LGBT issues in Colombo wins a prestigious award.
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Arun Welandawe-Prematilleke is a Sri Lankan playwright living in Colombo. Courtesy of Facebook.

COLOMBO — A sense of calm has returned to the capital, two months after the Easter Sunday bombings. Traffic has returned to the streets and even gay pride events will go ahead, although it will be a somber celebration.

Two shirtless Sri Lankan men kiss and fool around in their underwear in a Colombo apartment. No, this isn’t a sensational news story. It’s a scene from the 2018 Gratiaen Prize-winning play The Ones Who Love You So.

The play was to be staged in Colombo for Pride celebrations, and for the first time in Jaffna. But it has been put on hold due to the continuing state of emergency following the terror attacks that killed 258 and injured 500 people.

The Gratiaen Prize is an annual literary award recognizing the best in Sri Lanka. This is the first win for Sri Lankan playwright Arun Welandawe-Prematilleke.

“It seems ludicrous to go out and ask for money to do the show after the attacks,” he said. “I pushed back my timeframe to stage the show at a later date.”

Welandawe-Prematilleke, 31, is known for his immersive style of theatre where the audience chooses which narrative in the story to follow. He calls it “a live action choose-your-own-adventure novel.”

“I wrote the play about dating and hook up applications like Grindr,” Welandawe-Prematilleke said. “It’s not autobiographical by any means. It is certainly based on a lot of truth. I wanted to talk about the specific experience of a gay man for the first time.”

In Sri Lanka, censorship is commonplace. The script for The Ones Who Love You So was submitted to the government’s Public Performance Board last year. It was rejected twice before being approved by a panel of judges and allowed to go into production last August.

The Ones Who Love You So was written in fits and starts two years before neighbouring India shed its colonial era law decriminalizing homosexuality. Welandawe-Prematilleke hoped his play would force a discussion in Sri Lanka on LGBTIQ+ rights, but he admits it has only had nominal impact.

“We don’t have a theatre culture that talks about this in the way [that] it’s talked about in the west,” wrote Sri Lankan performer Sumathy Sivamohan.

Welandawe-Prematilleke will publish the script to The Ones Who Love You So. In Sri Lanka, only five English theatre scripts have been published to date. Colombo’s most prolific theatre is produced not in English but in the Sinhala and Tamil languages.

Tracy Holsinger is artistic director at Colombo’s Mind Adventures Theatre Company. She met Welandawe-Prematilleke when he was 18. The two began working together on writing original English language theatre.

When Welandawe-Prematilleke returned to Sri Lanka after six years of studies and acting in the U.K., he went from one hit play to the next with Mind Adventures. He decided to leave the company last year to work independently, culminating in his winning the 2018 Gratiaen Prize.

“Arun is a really good storyteller and he has a great ear for dialogue,” Holsinger said. “I would come up with a concept and the dialogue would come from him. The more he wrote, I could see there was unlimited potential.”

Welandawe-Prematilleke is now working on a new script, but he admits it will be hard to top The Ones Who Love You So. The looming threat of a Public Performance Board arbitrarily denying productions from being staged for the public, or of having a play cancelled mid-run, scares most playwrights, but Welandawe-Prematilleke views it as a challenge to skirt the censors.

“I have Sri Lankan friends who write in Sinhala and they receive approval from the censor board and have the play revoked in the middle of a run because it upset someone upstairs,” he said.

“I’m like a child. If you tell me no I’m going to do it anyway [laughs]. I’m just a brat basically.”

Holsinger believes despite censorship, the government doesn’t view English language theatre as a threat to Sri Lanka’s conservative values and culture.

“We have a lot more license because the audience is small compared to Sinhala and Tamil theatre,” she said. “In terms of original Sri Lankan theatre dealing with LGBTIQ issues, no, I can’t say it’s been done before.”

Sivamohan believes The Ones Who Love You So is an example of a Sri Lankan playwright challenging social customs and norms in the South Asian country.

“The moment I read Arun’s script I told him to edit and submit it [for the Gratiaen Prize]. I knew it make the shortlist and would win,” Holsinger added.

Welandawe-Prematilleke expects The Ones Who Love You So to return to a Colombo stage this October. He’s also in talks with a Canadian director about taking the prize-winning play on the road from Colombo to Toronto.

Published @Medium

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Sri Lankans ‘Rise Up’ After Easter Sunday Bombings in Colombo – CBC The World This Weekend

COLOMBO – It’s been two months since a series of bombs exploded at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, killing more than 250 people. A small group of Islamist militants were behind the attacks.

Since then life for Sri Lanka’s minority Muslims has gotten harder. Their shops and homes have been damaged and mosques attacked. But as Adam Bemma tells us, some in Sri Lanka are standing up for their fellow citizens. This story aired on CBC The World This Weekend Saturday, June 22, 2019.

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Sri Lankans Unite to Stop the Spread of Hate and Violence – CBC News

COLOMBO – Two months after Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings, Sri Lankans gathered at Colombo’s central park. They held a moment of silence before they denounced the country’s political leaders for spreading hate and communal violence.

Rise Up Sri Lanka was held Saturday at Colombo’s Galle Face Green to commemorate the two month anniversary of the attacks that claimed the lives of 258 people. This story aired on CBC News Friday, June 21, 2019.

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Thailand’s Future Not Looking Forward – CBC The World This Weekend

BANGKOK – This week, Thailand’s 2014 coup leader Prayut Chan-ocha was re-appointed prime minister – completing his transition from military to civilian leader.

The leader of the pro-democracy party that challenged him — now faces charges that risk the party’s future. But as Adam Bemma reports, he remains defiant. This story aired on CBC The World This Weekend Sunday, June 16, 2019.

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Life as Afghan Refugees, depicted on Malay Stage

Popular Parastoo Theatre group gives voice to the refugee experience.

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An Afghan refugee group finds its voice as the Parastoo Theatre group, which performed last week at Malaysia’s Refugee Fest and is likely to go on regional tour including Bangkok later this year.

BANGKOK – Live at this year’s Refugee Fest in Malaysia is Parastoo Theatre group. In the Dari language of Afghanistan, “Parastoo” means swallow bird.

“They are birds who fly and never find [a] home,” said Saleh Sepas, playwright and director of Parastoo Theatre in Malaysia. “It’s a similar situation for most refugees.”

Sepas fled Kabul, Afghanistan with his family in 2016 because of the war. He arrived in Kuala Lumpur and found support to establish his own theatre group.

Sepas said his aim was to introduce to the refugee community “Theatre of the Oppressed.” This is a technique using theatrical performance to promote social change. He had experience working on a similar project with the BBC, on the radio, in Kabul.

Parastoo Theatre is now a household name, performing for thousands at schools and concert halls in Kuala Lumpur over the last three years. Next month, it will have its first show in Penang.

“When I arrived I didn’t have a job and there was little opportunity,” Sepas said. “I wanted to show everyone the dream of the Afghan people, those who don’t have power and have lost everything in the war.”

Lilianne Fan is international director of Geutanyoe Malaysia, a foundation supporting refugees in both Indonesia and Malaysia.

She’s seen the impact Parastoo Theatre has had on Malaysians, helping them understand what Afghans face on a daily basis in their home country and now as refugees in Malaysia.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, Malaysia hosts 170,460 refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and Myanmar. The country’s new Pakatan Harapan government pledged to ratify the UN Refugee Convention.

This would give refugees the legal right to work and study in Malaysia. Up until now, they can’t do either legally. Refugees also need to pay foreigners’ rates for health care.

It’s nearly impossible for most refugees to be able to afford a visit to a doctor, or the hospital. Costs can be exorbitant for refugee families with no income.

“[During] the last government the police had checkpoints on the road to check documents. They did it for money. It was corruption,” Sepas said. “Now we have better conditions. We don’t see checkpoints anymore.”

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An Afghan refugee group finds its voice as the Parastoo Theatre group. The group is now a household name in Malaysia, where the Afghans who make it up settled as refugees. They bring the experience of Afghan refugees in that country to life for audiences, depicting the problems they face every day and helping forge a better future for themselves.

Local and international organisations do provide support to refugee schools and provide low cost health care to many in need. But these groups’ resources are scarce.

Sepas believes his performers have used theatre to help deal with their own mental health issues. This is why he wrote the most recent play “Screaming in Silence.” It’s believed many Afghans suffer from depression and low self-esteem.

“Parastoo members are powerful now. They believe in themselves. They have a role to play and are trying to improve life for their families and community,” Sepas said.

The Parastoo Theatre group rehearses and performs regularly in a Kuala Lumpur suburb – home to the majority of the country’s refugees.

The UN states, 1,970 Afghans live here, the majority of which are ethnic Hazara from the mountainous region of central Afghanistan. This ethnic group has been persecuted by the Taliban.

Abdul Aziz Fazel is former director at Afghan Learning Center in Kuala Lumpur. He was recently resettled with his family to Australia, but keeps in contact with leaders in the Afghan refugee community.

“I believe that [Sepas] can do a lot better. He needs to concentrate on the real issues faced by Hazara in Malaysia or Afghanistan,” Abdul Aziz Fazel said. “I want him to help our community. We’re very desperate.”

Following next month’s performance in Penang, Sepas has set his sights on taking Parastoo Theatre on a regional tour. He hopes to book performances in Singapore and Bangkok sometime later this year.

“Before Parastoo we didn’t have a connection between the refugee and local or international communities. Now we know each other and we work together. We show them the challenges [faced by refugees] on the stage,” Sepas said.

The Refugee Festival runs until today in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Parastoo Theatre will perform “Screaming in Silence” on July 14 at the Georgetown Arts Festival in Penang, Malaysia, with the possibility of a regional tour including Bangkok later this year.

This article is part of the Displaced and Uprooted in Southeast Asia initiative by SEA Junction and the TIFA Foundation.

Published @BangkokPost

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Thailand’s parliament meets, but military retains upper-hand

Elections took place on March 24 under a complicated new system that empowered small parties – and the military.

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General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup, seems most likely to become Thailand’s next PM [Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]

Bangkok, Thailand – Thailand’s newly-elected parliament sits for the first time on Friday, as pro-military and pro-democracy parties manoeuvre for power two months after controversial elections that ensured the armed forces the upper hand in the country’s fractious politics.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the coup that took place five years ago this week and headed the military government’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), seems most likely to become the country’s next prime minister because the position requires a majority across both houses of parliament.

There are 500 seats in Thailand‘s lower house – 375 directly-elected and the rest allocated according to a party list – and 250 in the upper house whose members have already been chosen by the military government.

Phalang Pracharat, the military-backed party created to support Prayuth, won the second highest number of seats in the lower house in the March 24 election, and is now trying to scrabble together a workable coalition with the smaller parties to achieve a majority.

A record 27 parties won seats in the poll thanks to a new formula that meant a party only needed to get 30,000 voters overall to secure a seat.

No party has an overall majority in the lower house, but the three biggest parties are Pheu Thai, which is backed by exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, with 136 seats; Phalang Pracharat, with 115; and Future Forward, with 80. Pheu Thai and Future Forward have agreed to work together already.

Phalang Pracharat “will need to secure only 11 more votes in the house to win the premiership for Prayuth with the support of all the 250 senators,” Termsak Chalermpalanupap, of Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, wrote in a commentary earlier this month. “As things stand now, Phalang Pracharat will be able to find more than enough votes to accomplish this crucial mission.”

Key will be the votes of the Democrats, with 52 seats, and Bhumjaithai, with 51 seats.

The two parties are also being wooed by the pro-democracy grouping led by Pheu Thai, which was leading the government at the time of Prayuth’s 2014 coup.

“We would like to call for the last two big parties to make the right decision,” said Tida Yingcharoen, Pheu Thai’s deputy spokesperson, referring to the Democrats and Bhumjaithai. “This is a critical time for Thailand. We ask them to respect the voice of their voters who support democracy.”

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Thais celebrate the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn at the Grand Palace in Bangkok earlier this month [Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters]

Bhumjaithai’s leader Anutin Charnvirakul is meeting both sides, and the number of cabinet seats on offer is likely to be a key consideration in his deliberations.

Under former leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Democrats ruled out ever working with Pheu Thai, but now that Abhisit has resigned and the party has a new leader – Jurin Laksanavisit – it is unclear which side they will support.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the leader of Future Forward, which wants the military reformed and out of public life, has put himself forward as an alternative prime ministerial candidate in an attempt to reconcile Pheu Thai and the Democrats.

But Phongphisoot Busbarat, a lecturer at Chulaongkorn University’s faculty of political science, expects both the Democrats and Bhumjaithai will – eventually – fall in with Phalang Pracharat.

“Perhaps [they] will try to play this game as long as they can, but I think their voters are not patient enough for them to drag this on,” he said. “I think the longer they drag this on the more they lose their support. The smaller parties have sided with Phalang Pracharat, so the Democrats and Bhumjaithai will too.”

Reform call

Future Forward faces troubles of its own thanks to a slew of cases filed since its strong showing in the election.

Late on Thursday, the Constitutional Court blocked Thanathorn from taking up his seat in parliament while it investigates allegations that he violated election rules.

On May 28, the attorney general will also decide whether to proceed with charges against Thanathorn and two other party leaders under the Computer Crime Act for “uploading false information” in a speech about the military.

“We need to abolish the legacy of the NCPO, reform the military and amend the constitution,” said Pannika Wanich, spokeswoman for Future Forward. “This has made us an enemy of the NCPO and the old elites. No more coups in Thailand.”

King Maha Vajiralongkorn, whose coronation took place earlier this month, has already approved the appointment of the 250 senators, bringing Prayuth’s next stint as prime minister a step closer.

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Thanathorn speaks to supporters last month as he arrives at a police station to hear a sedition complaint filed by the army [File: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]

“If this happens I think people will [continue to] be living in fear,” said Nada Chaiyajit, a Thai human rights activist, who backs the democractic coalition. “There is no more freedom of expression in Thailand.”

Pro-democracy parties hope the upper house, which starts sitting later on Friday, will honour the outcome of the election.

“At this point, we’re calling on the 250 senators to respect Thai voters. The majority [of Thais] want democracy,” Pheu Thai’s Tida Yingcharoen said.

Whichever side manages to form a government, they will need to control unwieldy coalitions of parties and are unlikely to have the numbers in the lower house for a clear majority, Phongphisoot said.

Politicians fear the military could use any paralysis as an excuse to deepen control over the country.

“It’s dangerous when people believe that the parliamentary system can’t solve the country’s problems because that opens the door to military intervention,” said Future Forward’s Pannika Wanich.

“I think we’ll see the shape and face of the new government within this week. And we’ll know whether we can move the country forward or whether we will be under the NCPO regime for the next three to four years.”

Published @AlJazeera

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Thailand: The Uphill Battle to Repeal NCPO Decrees

Thai PM Prayut Chan-ocha

Prayuth Chan-ocha casts his ballot during the March 2019 elections in Thailand. He’s expected expected to remain at the helm through his handpicked senate and military proxy Palang Pracharath Party.  thanis / Shutterstock.com

Stepping off the elevator and into the famed penthouse at downtown Bangkok’s Maneeya Center, Chonthicha Jangrew takes a seat close to the bar.

The chairs and tables at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand begin to fill up around her with foreign embassy staff, humanitarians and journalists.

They’ve all gathered 10 days ahead of the election to catch a glimpse of the much-anticipated International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) report More Shadows than Lights: Thailand’s political parties and their human rights commitments.

Chonthicha, 26, is a founding member of Democracy Restoration Group. She was hoping to share some of her story with those in attendance, but remained silent as journalists monopolised the question-and-answer session.

“If you have mental health problems it’s hard to get help. We don’t talk about this,” she’d said to me before the event. “Human rights defenders are affected by the numerous court cases against them, [and] by police intimidation. But nobody talks about how this has affected our lives.”

“Attitude adjustment” and the use of the law

After Thailand’s 2014 military coup that brought the National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO) to power, “attitude adjustment” sessions became the order of the day. Failure to report was a criminal offence.

During these sessions, soldiers sought to intimidate politicians, activists and journalists from using their platform to criticise the NCPO or call for a return to democracy. While not all have reported abuse, some say they had been mistreated by the authorities.

These sessions were usually followed up by police visits to family homes to convince loved ones to get the opponent of the regime to cease all political activity, or face arrest and court martial.

“Human rights defenders are affected by the numerous court cases against them, [and] by police intimidation. But nobody talks about how this has affected our lives”

In 2016, Chonthicha was jailed for violating a NCPO ban on political assembly for staging a protest calling for elections. She was held for two weeks in a military prison and still lives with the scars of the trauma inflicted upon her inside.

“After I left jail I started having serious mental health problems. I was the only woman in the cell and everyone was threatening me,” she tells New Naratif.

In 2017, the Computer Crimes Act was revised to silence the regime’s most outspoken critics online. It was intended to cover only lese majeste, Thailand’s strict royal insult law. But it immediately became apparent it would be used to pursue critics of the NCPO.

Cybercrime investigations act as a way to deter dissidents from making any further public statements against the regime on social media.

The NCPO often claims that dissidents’ social media posts are against Thailand’s national security and strict public morality laws. The investigations are often enough to cause the desired chilling effect; it’s rare that any actual charges are filed in the courts.

But for those using Thailand’s two most popular online applications—Facebook and Line—to distribute information about street protests, some have been targeted with strategic lawsuits against public participation.

Lengthy court dates and expensive legal fees keep activists tied up with their cases, taking time and energy away from coordinating further action.

This kept many Thais away from street protests and ensured that the numbers of those publicly demanding the NCPO step aside and hold elections were kept low—allowing the junta to postpone elections five times and buy enough time to rewrite the constitution in a way that gives them the chance to remain in power through an elected mandate.

In its 2019 World Report, Human Rights Watch documented 130 arrests for violating the political assembly ban. It also noted that laws relating to royal insult, cybercrime and sedition were used against dissidents.

The ban was lifted in December 2018 to allow political parties to organise and contest the March 2019 election. But the charges filed in military court against activists for violating this ban have yet to be dropped.

“The junta has failed to transfer 369 criminal cases, involving more than 1,800 civilians, from military courts to civilian courts as international law requires,” stated the Human Rights Watch report.

Chonthicha is one of 92 Thais facing charges of sedition; she faces three counts in civilian court. As in many countries, sedition is a law meant to prosecute treasonous activity, essentially “traitors” against their own state or monarch.

The maximum sentence is seven years per count. This means Chonthicha could be sentenced to 21 years in prison for participating in peaceful protests. In Thailand this law was revived to prosecute human rights defenders like Chonthicha and members of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

Even lawyers haven’t been immune to this type of rule by law. Sirikan Charoensiri has been accused of sedition for representing 14 student activists in court—all arrested for violating the same NCPO ban on political assembly.

She has won human rights awards for her legal work in Thailand. Her colleague Prawet Prapanukul was sentenced to 16 months in prison for sedition last June.

What happens after the election?

Now that the 9 May official election results have been announced, the NCPO will step down to be replaced by a civilian government. But will charges filed by the regime in military and civilian courts be dropped before then? Chonthicha is waiting for answers.

Pro- and anti-NCPO political parties are vying to form the next government. Pheu Thai—the party overthrown in the 2014 coup—and seven others have secured 245 seats in parliament according to the Election Commission.

A majority of 251 seats is required to form a government. This means that, under the EC final count, the democratic front won’t have quite enough seats to form the next government.

FIDH’s report states only 25 out of 77 Thai political parties have committed to abolishing laws associated with the outgoing regime. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is expected to remain at the helm through his handpicked senate—as outlined in the military-backed constitution—and military proxy Palang Pracharath Party.

Thai civil society groups are ramping up efforts to overturn all NCPO orders and decrees so they don’t remain on the books

Thai civil society groups are ramping up efforts to overturn all NCPO orders and decrees so they don’t remain on the books. In the final days of the election campaign, iLaw—Thailand’s internet dialogue on law reform—collected signatures for a petition to abolish the remaining orders not lifted by the NCPO.

“There were more than 500 decrees made by the Thai military junta,” says Anon Chawalawan, documentation officer at iLaw. “The constitution states if you gather 10,000 Thai voters’ signatures you can submit a draft law to parliament.”

iLaw reached its mark of 10,000 signatures two days before the election but a few thousand extra will be needed, Anon says, before submitting it to the lower house of parliament. The government is expected to strike several thousand names from the petition on the basis that many names may be illegible or contain incorrect personal data.

But Anon worries that, if pro-military political parties form the next government, then this draft law may never even make it on to the floor of parliament.

Students versus the junta

In northeastern Thailand, as the wind sweeps over open fields near the University of Khon Kaen, a group of six Thai students sit at a table littered with clear plastic bags containing the remnants of the evening’s meal. Books are stacked along the walls with posters reading “No Dam.”

This is Dao Din house. Wisally Ngamna, 21, and Payu Boonsophon, 24, sit at the table discussing their next steps following the election.

Dao Din gained national attention by protesting the appearance of Prayuth in Khon Kaen shortly after the 2014 coup. They wore T-shirts that read “No to coup d’etat” and famously made the three-finger salute—a form of protest from The Hunger Games trilogy and now a symbol of resistance against the NCPO—in his presence.

The stage was set for a David versus Goliath battle between the student group and the NCPO as it began its crackdown on any form of dissent using their arsenal of laws. Dao Din House has been raided several times by police.

In 2016, Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa was found guilty and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for committing lese majeste and cybercrime. Pai—along with 2,600 other Facebook users—shared a BBC Thai story about the new King Vajiralongkorn to his Facebook page. Nobody at the BBC was charged.

Last year, 25-year-old pro-democracy activist Chanoknan Ruamsap fled Thailand for South Korea—where she has since been granted political asylum—to escape the accusations of lese-majeste levelled against her for sharing the same story on social media.

“Any attempt to challenge the regime or to hold it accountable has in every case failed”

Pai has since been released under a royal pardon. But because he’s also one of the 130 facing charges in a military court for violating the same NCPO ban, nobody is certain if he’ll be allowed to remain free.

All Dao Din members signed the petition to abolish the remaining 65 NCPO orders once and for all, but they haven’t gone as far as signing up to a campaign to hold the military junta accountable for the human rights violations committed over the last five years.

“Any attempt to challenge the regime or to hold it accountable has in every case failed. That all of them failed is noteworthy and tells us where the judicial system is and that it doesn’t provide the last resort for justice in Thailand,” said David Streckfuss, an independent academic based in Khon Kaen and the author of Truth on Trial in Thailand.

“Check bill NCPO”

In the northern city of Chiang Mai, 24-year-old Prasit Krutarot heads to a Future Forward Party rally to mark the end of the election campaign.

The history student teaches others on campus about each political party’s stance on ending NCPO rule and reversing its policies. Future Forward Party’s co-founder Thanathorn Joongroongruangkit was charged with sedition, aiding fugitives, and violating the political assembly ban. These charges stem from a 2015 protest he allegedly attended. This means he could possibly face a military court.

Thanathorn may also face cybercrime charges for allegedly sharing “false information” about the NCPO in a Facebook Live video last year.

Future Forward Thanathorn

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit greets supporters outside a police station in April 2019. feelphoto / Shutterstock.com

According to unofficial results, Future Forward Party came in third place behind Palang Pracharath and Pheu Thai. It did extremely well with young Thais, and especially with human rights defenders who found its core policy of reversing the endless cycle of military coups appealing.

Prasit is helping Chonthicha with plans to present a laundry list of human rights violations and corruption allegations made against NCPO leaders. Some of these include Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan’s failure to declare 25 luxury watches not declared as assets that led to a huge backlash on social media, and a government housing project constructed in a protected forest that led to street protests in Chiang Mai.

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 scored Thailand 36 out of 100—showing an annual decline in tackling corruption since the military took power.

Prasit and Chonthicha call their nascent campaign “Check bill NCPO”—a commonly used colloquialism in Thailand to refer to receipts. They will also request for all charges to be dropped against former political prisoners like Pai.

But both have realised that presenting this sort of human rights checklist to a pro-military government will be a challenge. Following the outcome of the election, the campaign appears not to have moved forward.

But this is unlikely to be that surprising a turn of events for Thai activists. Even back at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club event that took place before the elections, any talk of military crimes, corruption or accountability would surely bring the police to shut down the event, which has happened several times in the past when discussing Thai history.

No time was given to hear from human rights defenders like Chonthicha, so at the end of the event she quietly walked around to greet her friends, then headed to the elevator and exited on to Sukhumvit Road.

“How can we bring justice to people like Pai? I think we really need to talk about this once all political prisoners are released. We have to help them come back and live in society again,” Chonthicha said after the event. “We can’t just leave them to suffer by themselves.”

Published @NewNaratif

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