Archive for March, 2015

With the #KitaLawan rallies, and the swift crackdowns of opposition leaders and activists, the Malaysian police chief wasted no time. His warning was simple, the mass arrests, and one that is similar to what we see of regimes in Southeast Asia within a period of a decade or so.

Of course the main question is why the staggering number of 126,000 police personnel conducting surveillance activities on social media? And what of violent crimes and corruption, and the public’s concern of growing insecurity? I’m curious, how the top cop plans to conduct his mass surveillance program, if one could actually call it a program.

Its ridiculous, naturally. I would think that even Thailand’s junta do not have such a number monitoring the millions of Thais on the internet, particular those resisting the heavy-handed tactics of the army and police.

As it is, I would never underestimate the capabilities of the Malaysian police force, along with the thousands of online trolls the ruling elites have at their disposal for instigation and misinformation purposes. Push comes to shove, the cops are capable of intense perseverance and the occasional flashes of brilliance.

Its all about the politics, and the sustainability of power, as some would say. The rule of law, or what is perceived as ‘rule’, is bent on the interpretation of who is wielding it and who benefits from the existing state of affairs.

But then again, even politics and the status quo are subjected to the inevitable flow of time, when regimes of old fall thanks to their complacency and are replaced by something different. If educated officials and learned ones are good with the history of the region, then they’ll realise that even 100,000 uniformed personnel will not be able to stop the flow of change.

 

The meltdown in Thailand’s capital, with the blistering heat and humidity swallowing the elites, the bourgeois and the working class. The homeless are the most vulnerable in Bangkok’s population, thanks to the blatant neglect by city hall. The homeless, ostracised by the social pyramid, face the elements with some experience but with no resources to protect them.

Out of Sight

Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has yet again failed to mobilise NGOs, and has done nothing to develop social protection mechanism for the marginalized, homeless population. Urban poverty in the city seems to escalate in these uncertain times, and what more of unchecked urbanisation.

People who are homeless have been around for ages, and their existence did not materialise with the coup of 2014.

Yet under the junta, the homeless community has increased dramatically, particularly with the influx of (illegal) migrants, stateless people and refugees. No “roadmap” on improving quality of life for the poor, and no national action plan to reduce poverty. Seems the authorities are occupied with controlling the population, but then again Thailand is still under martial law.

Based on outreach, I’ve noted some issues affecting the homeless, something of importance to me but naturally one that is commonly ignored by society at large:

 

Among many factors in homelessness, the elderly wandering the streets are treated with some charity, of coins and 20 baht notes. There’s no societal understanding of chronic health conditions among the urban poor and the socially marginalized. This societal apathy or indifference could be blamed on the “Thainess” of the population, or the resignation to their Buddhist-infused karma. Either way, societal reaction to homelessness is often tokenism, and a quick opportunity to earn brownie-points for the afterlife.

What the NGOs and department of public health can do, is to prioritize the homeless people, which naturally should incorporate resources, funding and sustainable programs. The only program which is truly reaching out to the homeless is the soup kitchen “Food for Friends” and completely managed by concerned volunteers. However they have limited resources and Bangkok is a colossal city with increasing social problems. Anyway, accessibility, across the homelessness spectrum, to health care, housing, and such should go on the top of service-providers’ list. Programs need to be designed as rights-based, and assertive outreach done to cover the countless back lanes of Bangkok.

I grow weary, as the humidity further saps my strength, of the experiences and of the political fuckery of self-induced ignorance.

Disability and education. Somehow these two issues don’t blend well in Thailand. Whether its because of the lack of priority in the junta’s agenda or perhaps the military-dominated national legislative assembly is preoccupied with its political cleansing. Either way parents of children with disabilities are caught in a labyrinth of endless bureaucracy, and often surrender to their fate of loss, and shame.

Thailand_Children

Thailand is not without laws that enshrine the rights of people with disability. The country has the Persons with Disabilities’ Quality of Life Promotion Act 2008 and Persons with Disabilities Education Act 2008. On top of that, The Declaration on Rights for People with Disabilities in Thailand (3 December 1998), approved and signed by the government then, is a ‘pledge’ made by the people of Thailand to persons with disabilities. But what of the impact on the community now, under martial law, and how has all these references in the provision of services benefited people with disabilities?

Social protection mechanism, depending on the province and the relevant authorities, seems to be at a standstill. Thai parents often ask me about special education for their special children. As mental health is rarely discussed, and not a trendy topic among the mainstream, for example children with learning disabilities, such as ADHD, have no where to study. Despite the laws and policies affecting children and their right to education, disability is apparently not part of the equation.

How many special schools are there in Thailand, and are they accessible to the children with disabilities?

Based on my queries and discussions with some schools, the focus is the integration of special students with “normal” children. I view this odd as its common for schools to not have sufficient resources to implement special education or they lack the proficiency to teach in the specialised curriculum. Thus I feel the alternative is for the administrators to integrate. There are no indicators of successes with this approach, and within the present education system. There are many parents who tell me that their children are bullied by the “normal” students, and the teachers are unable to help the child cope.

Then there is the matter of children with disabilities from families that are stateless, migrants and refugees. What of their right to education and career prospects?

Children with disabilities want to be part and parcel of society, to be productive for themselves and others. Rather than dismantling barriers affecting them and their parents, Thailand holds firmly to the clueless belief, or simply to avoid talking about it. I find it difficult to meet someone who has the answer, that would perhaps enable children with disabilities to embrace empowerment.

Pansak Srithep was arrested by authorities on Saturday in Thailand’s capital for making a symbolic walk to a police station. His son was killed by an army sniper during the Red Shirt protests in Bangkok in 2010, and Pansak was one of the four activists from the Resistant Citizen, an anti-coup group, charged with violating martial law for organising a mock election on Valentine’s Day.

Obviously the authorities do not tolerate any forms of peaceful assembly, as defined in the past repression of rallies and the strict enforcement of martial law. So far, there is no indicator of pro-democracy reforms by the minority elites despite the promises from the junta and the military-controlled national legislative assembly. Even then Thais continue, sometimes almost haphazardly, in the attempt to bend the will of the military powers, until perhaps one day more will join in the quest for self-determination.

 

 

 

I walk, therefore i am
Crossing through injustice sand
Pathway holds no light
But together we will fight
I fight, therefore i am
Seeking for a justice land
Where people are all equal
Where rights promise to all individual
I shout, therefore i am
Calling for the rights of man
Voices will be heard on streets
the people will be taking the lead
I walk, therefore i am
Crossing through injustice sand
In the end there will be lights
Of the Resistant citizen who will rise.

Justice for Thailand

ฉันก้าวเดินฉันจึงยังเป็นฉัน
ฉันวาดฝันรุกมั่นสู่จุดหมาย
แม้ดาวดับลับเลือนไม่พรั่งพราย
หากในกายยังคงรุมสุมเชื้อไฟ
ฉันจึงสู้เพื่อให้ฉันยังรู้สึก
ในสำนึกที่ฉันยังต้องเรียกหา
คนเท่ากัน ฉันและเธอ มวลประชา
สิทธิสัญญาว่ารวยจนทุกคนมี
จะกู่ก้องร้องตะโกนด้วยตัวฉัน
ตะโกนลั่นร้องหาสิทธิถูกริดปล้น
เสียงจะดังด้วยพร้อมเพรียงเสียงมวลชน
เสียงของคนใช่ทาสหากเป็นไท
ฉันก้าวเดินฉันจึงยังคงอยู่
จงรับรู้ว่าฉันจะมิอาจเชื่อง
ประชาชนจะนำแสงเป็นฟันเฟือง
พลเมืองจะโต้กลับรุกเอาคืน