Have You Seen What’s Happening in Thailand?

Protester raise three fingers representing liberty, brotherhood and equality during an anti-coup demonstration in Bangkok (Photo Credit: Piti A Sahakorn/LightRocket via Getty Images).

Protester raise three fingers representing liberty, brotherhood and equality during an anti-coup demonstration in Bangkok (Photo Credit: Piti A Sahakorn/LightRocket via Getty Images).

By Claudia Vandermade, Amnesty USA Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair and Action Network Coordinator

Despite the sunny resorts and hot weather, current events in Thailand are far from a Thai Spring.

The Thai military declared martial law on May 20. A military junta, calling itself the National Council on Peace and Order (NCPO), led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, announced on May 22 that it was taking over the administration of the country. Thai Winter descends.

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Escalating Attacks on Religious Minorities in Indonesia

A man looks on at a temporary shelter after being driven from his village following a deadly clash with Sunnis (Photo Credit: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images).

A man looks on at a temporary shelter after being driven from his village following a deadly clash with Sunnis (Photo Credit: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images).

Imagine a mob of 500 people with sickles and stones descending on your neighborhood, setting fire to houses, and driving you away from your jobs and community. This occurred in August 2012 in East Java, Indonesia, leaving one member of a Shi’a community dead and injuring dozens. At this time 168 people, including 51 children, are living in a temporary shelter. In the last two weeks, they have been denied clean drinking water and food supplies.

Some of the villagers had previously been harassed by local government officials who told them to convert to Sunni Islam if they wanted to return to their homes.  Now, after eight months, the Sampang district administration has agreed to the demands from anti-Shi’a groups to forcibly evict the Shi’a community from their shelter in a sports complex and remove them from Madura Island in East Java.

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Show Your Solidarity: Fold a Crane for the Birthday of Disappeared Activist James Balao

Newly-elected members of the Phillipine

Join Amnesty International USA and call on the Philippine government to expedite the investigation and resolve the disappearance of activist James Balao (Photo Credit: Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images).

April 19, 2013 marks the 52nd birthday, of indigenous people’s activist James Balao. James is just one of at least 200 to have disappeared in the Philippines over the past decade. James has not been seen or heard from since he disappeared from his hometown on September 17, 2008 when he was taken by armed men, claiming to be law enforcers.

James is a part of the Igorot ethnic group, an indigenous minority from the Cordillera region in the northern Philippines. He is a founding member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), a grassroots organization advocating for the rights of indigenous people. The military has vilified the CPA as a communist organization, and labeled James a communist.

The CPA feels James may have disappeared as a result of the government’s anti-terrorism measures (Operation Plan Bantay Laya or Freedom Watch), which has unfairly targeted legitimate organizations that resulted to a series of extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances throughout the country.

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The Crackdown on Democracy Activists is “Trampling on the Eternal Good Morals of the Vietnamese Nation”

Activists accused of plotting to overthrow the communist regime stand listening to verdicts at a People's Court in Vinh city, in the north-central province of Nghe An on January 9, 2013.  Vietnam on January 13 jailed 13 activists convicted of plotting to overthrow the communist regime, in a new crackdown criticised by the US as part of a "disturbing" trend in the authoritarian state.  (Vietnam News Agency/AFP/Getty Images)

Activists accused of plotting to overthrow the communist regime stand listening to verdicts at a People’s Court in Vinh city, in the north-central province of Nghe An on January 9, 2013. Vietnam on January 13 jailed 13 activists convicted of plotting to overthrow the communist regime, in a new crackdown criticised by the US as part of a “disturbing” trend in the authoritarian state. (Vietnam News Agency/AFP/Getty Images)

I sit at my desk and write about human rights with ease, yet in Viet Nam, blogging can land you in prison. Last week, Vietnamese authorities convicted 14 activists for plotting to overthrow the government under article 79 of the criminal code. The sentences range from three to thirteen years. The activists were all linked to the US-based, pro-democracy group Viet Tan, which the Vietnamese government labels a terrorist organization. Five of the sentenced activists are bloggers who wrote about freedom of expression. Before the start of the trial, one of the bloggers, Dang Xuan Dieu, said, “I have done nothing contrary to my conscience” and that in punishing him, the government was “trampling on the eternal good morals of the Vietnamese nation.”

The defendants were all charged after attending a Viet Tan training course held in Bangkok in 2011. Viet Tan led a resistance movement in the 1980s, but has more recently called for democracy and peaceful change in Viet Nam. A spokesperson for the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that none of the activists were alleged to have used violence.

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