Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rohingya men still in custody of army authority in Northern Maungdaw

Maungdaw, Arakan (Kaladan Press): More than 200 Rohingya people were arrested and are being kept in custody by army personnel in Balukhali, under the Burmese border security force (Nasaka) section number 3, suspecting them of being involved in the clash between Rohingya villagers and army personnel on April 22, an aide of the Nasaka said.

“These Rohingya villagers were not involved in the clash, they are innocent. The Rohingya, who were involved have fled from the village and are hiding somewhere they think is safe,” said the aide.

On April 21, five soldiers in civilian clothes, who were stationed for the fencing project, went to Balu Khali village of Maungdaw Township and took away vegetables and chilies from the farms and also took betel leaves from villagers’ betel farms. At that time, the villagers asked them not to take such a lot of vegetables and betel leaves, but no untoward incident occurred as the villagers were tolerant, a businessman from the locality said.

On April 22, at about 10:00 am, 10 soldiers without arms, but in uniform went to Balukhali Village of Maungdaw Township. After arriving there, without asking the villagers, they started throwing water through open slice gates of fishing projects, and catching the fishes for their own. Seeing this, the villagers rushed to the spot and asked them not to catch the fishes from the fishing projects. However, they did not comply with the request of the villagers, a village elder from the locality said.

As a result, there were clashes between the soldiers and villagers, which is near the fencing project site, where the fencing project labors joined the fight. These labors had been forced to work at the site without wages day by day. They had been starved and were weak and were angry with the soldiers for beating Rohingya villagers, so the villagers and labors severely beat up the army personnel. After the incident, the wounded soldiers went to their station at Kurkhali village, where their army officer is stationed. The wounded soldiers told him the incident in detail, but the army officer immediately did not go to the village for revenge, said a close aide of the Nasaka.

The soldiers were taken to the Nasaka section number 4, where they were given medical treatment, the aide added.

Hearing the news, some Nasaka came to the spot and asked the soldiers not to indulge in such action as villagers had lost a lot of money, to establish the shrimp projects, the aide added.

However, on April 23, at about 1:00 pm, many groups of soldiers with guns went to the village to take revenge. Hearing the news, the nearby villagers also marched to the spot to help the villagers, who were being victimized by the army. Seeing more villagers marching to the village, the army fired two rounds into the air to stop them.

After that more than 200 villagers were arrested by the army and brought to their camp. No one knows what the fate of the arrestees will be. A tense situation has been prevailing in the area since Sunday morning, said a schoolteacher from the locality.

According to information from a person, who was involved in the clash, after the clash, all the adults ran into the jungle to escape persecution. The army arrested 18 young women from the village, who were detained for some hours and kept in the water, but released later. The women were innocent but it is the habit of the brutal Burmese forces, to harass the innocent when they do not find any of the actual culprits.

READ MORE---> Rohingya men still in custody of army authority in Northern Maungdaw...

Minister calls attention to plight of exploited women

The Call

BURRILLVILLE — When Lauran Bethell was working as a missionary in Bangkok in the 1980s, she’d walk every morning to language school where she spent hours each day learning the Thai language.

To get to her class, she had to pass through Patpong Road, one of the world’s most notorious red light districts and, in those days, a center for Thailand’s prostitution industry.

What she saw on her daily walks — gogo bars, massage parlors, sex shows and prostitutes as young as 12 years old — shocked and saddened her. Later, as she began befriending the Bangkok prostitutes of Patpong Road and teaching them English, Bethell began to realize there was a common thread in how these girls ended up in the heart of Bangkok’s sex industry.

“What I found out shocked me,” says Bethell, an American Baptist missionary and global consultant with International Ministries of the American Baptist Churches, based in Prague, Czech Republic, and former director of the New Life Center in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

“What I discovered is that these girls were working to support their families,” she said. “In that culture the female is economically responsible for the family. These girls knew they were sacrificing themselves for their families.”

Rev. Bethell, one of the world’s leading authorities on the problems of international sex traffic, spoke to a group of about 40 people Thursday at the Berean Baptist Church in Harrisville. The talk was arranged by Donna L. Landry, a member of Berean Baptist Church, American Baptist Women of Rhode Island, and the Coalition Against Human Trafficking in Rhode Island.

Bethell says it soon became apparent to her that she had to do her small part to help fight the trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation. “I thought to myself who is offering alternatives to these young women?”

Bethell would end up answering her own question when she became the first director of the New Life Center, established in 1987 in Chiang Mai, north of Thailand. In that role, Bethell pioneered projects in Southeast Asia that specifically addressed the issue of child prostitution and trafficking of women and children, offering care for them “in Christ’s name.” The Center was started with 18 residents in an effort to offer young tribal women an opportunity to receive an education and vocational training which provided alternatives to prostitution and other forms of exploitation.

“I often tell the story of a 12-year-old girl from Burma whose mother had died, leaving the father to raise her and her siblings,” Bethell said. “The father would eventually give the children away to a family in Thailand because had they stayed in Burma they would have starved.”

“At the time, the girl was thinking, ‘what can I do as the oldest daughter to help my family,’” she continued. “A man came to the village and told her he could get a job for her in the city. She trusted him and ended up in a brothel where she served five to 10 men every day and night.”

That girl would end up at the New Life Center, which Bethell directed for 14 years. At various times, there have been as many as 200 girls and young women in the center’s houses in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. The center also sponsors at-risk girls who are attending schools in their villages or living in hostels and operates an adult school in Chiang Rai.

Though the New Life Center primarily focuses on preventing girls with high-risk factors from being exploited, the ministry also offers rehabilitation and life alternatives to those who have come out of prostitution and other exploitative situations.

“These girls do heal,” Bethell says.

The New Life Center has received international recognition and awards for its work, and has been the subject of many television documentaries as well as newspaper and magazine articles. In 1995, Bethell received an award on behalf of the New Life Center from the Prime Minister of Thailand.

While the sex industry and human trafficking in Thailand has improved dramatically over the years due to media exposure and pressure by human rights advocates, “it is still a huge situation that plagues Thailand and other Asian countries,” Bethell says.

“In Cambodia, child prostitution is huge,” she said.

Just this week, for example, U.S. senators urged Malaysia to probe claims by refugees from Myanmar that Malaysian immigration officials handed them over to human traffickers on Malaysia’s border with Thailand. The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations released a report Thursday that claimed illegal Myanmar migrants deported from Malaysia were often turned over to human traffickers and forced to work in brothels, fishing boats and restaurants in Thailand if they had no money to purchase their freedom. The report was based on a yearlong review by committee staff who spoke to migrants from military-ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma, and human rights activists.

What Bethell says she has come to realize over the years is that trafficked people are usually the most vulnerable and powerless minorities in a region. They often come from the poorer areas where opportunities are limited, they often are ethnic minorities, and they often are displaced persons such as runaways or refugees.

“Trafficking is exploitation of vulnerabilities,” said Bethell, who travels extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, teaching, preaching and consulting.

Trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation in developing countries, she says, typically grows out of economic need where teenage girls are required to help their families earn income to help provide for food and basic necessities. In developed countries, a majority of women in prostitution are victims of childhood sexual abuse.

Women are particularly at risk from sex trafficking, she said. Criminals exploit the lack of opportunities, promising good jobs or opportunities for study, and then force the victims to become prostitutes. Through agents and brokers who arrange the travel and job placements, women are escorted to their destinations and delivered to the employers.

Upon reaching their destinations, some women learn that they have been deceived about the nature of the work they will do. Most have been lied to about the financial arrangements and conditions of their employment and find themselves in coercive or abusive situations from which escape is both difficult and dangerous.

Trafficking of children often involves exploitation of the parents’ extreme poverty. The latter may sell children to traffickers in order to pay off debts or gain income or they may be deceived concerning the prospects of training and a better life for their children. In West Africa, trafficked children have often lost one or both parents to the African AIDS crisis. Thousands of male (and sometimes female) children have also been forced to be child soldiers.

The United States, Bethell said, is principally a transit and destination country for trafficking in persons. It is estimated that 17,500 to 18,500 people, primarily women and children are trafficked to the U.S. annually. The Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act of 2000 enhances pre-existing criminal penalties, affords new protection to trafficking victims and makes available certain benefits and services to victims of severe forms of trafficking. On December 10, 2008 the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victim’s Protection Reauthorization Act was signed and really strengthened many of these provisions from the 2000 TVPA.

While trafficking has often been thought of as a problem occurring in other countries, it is rampant in the United States, as well, and American women and children are increasingly used in trafficking, she said.

Sex trafficking linked to Rhode Island’s ‘prostitution loophole’

According to Donna Landry and the Coalition Against Human Trafficking in Rhode Island, circumstances or evidence found in a number of localities indicate that sex trafficking exists in Rhode Island. Some officials claim that trafficking is linked to the decriminalization of prostitution indoors, which has been referred to as Rhode Island’s “prostitution loophole.” The “loophole” originated 28 years ago when female prostitutes sued, claiming they were discriminated against by the police based on their sex.

With no law against prostitution indoors, Landry says, the number of traffickers has only increased, mostly since it is difficult to prosecute, and there have been no successful trafficking cases to date.

Bethell is originally from California. After graduating with a Bacherlor of Arts degree in psychology, religion and education from the University of Redlands, she taught elementary school in Central California for six years and then at the Hong Kong International School for four years. She returned to the U.S. to complete a Masters of Divinity from the American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley, California, from which she was later awarded a Doctor of Divinity for her pioneering work with women and children in Southeast Asia.

In 2004, she founded and directed the first International Christian Conference on Prostitution bringing together the leaders of faith-based organizations involved in this work. Second and third similar conferences were held in 2006 and 2008 with representatives from more than 40 countries. From the ICCP, the International Christian Alliance on Prostitution has developed, networking and providing resources for Christians involved in ministry with people in prostitution.

Bethell was honored in 2005 with the Human Rights Award of the Baptist World Alliance, which was presented to her by President Jimmy Carter. She was given the Courage Award by the Whitsitt Society in 2007. She serves on the Anti-Trafficking Committee of the European Baptist Federation (EBF), providing resources to EBF churches in an effort to both prevent trafficking and offer after-care to victims.

Bethell has collaborated with governmental agencies, non-government organizations, and a broad spectrum of Christian ministries. Because of her personal contact with hundreds of women involved in prostitution and victims of trafficking and her experience of pioneering new projects, she was invited to testify before U.S. House of Representatives and Senate committees as they drafted and revised the U.S. trafficking legislation in 2000 and 2007.

In her presentation Thursday, Bethell called on all Christians to address the international crisis of women and girls who are trafficked into prostitution.

“Because this is such a huge and complex issue doesn’t mean you can’t get involved,” she said. There has to be a grass-roots effort to fight this because laws and legislation can only go so far.”

READ MORE---> Minister calls attention to plight of exploited women...

'Don't Forget Burma' urges Zoya Phan

Karen State (Myanmar), (New Kerala): The humanitarian situation in Myanmar remains desperate a year after cyclone Nargis slammed the country, the author of a new memoir
of Burmese life has warned.

Prominent campaigner Zoya Phan, 28, told Sky News that locals were struggling to rebuild their lives following the devastating storm, which hit Myanmar on May 2 2008, leaving nearly 140,000 people dead or missing.

"It has been a year since Nargis hit Burma, but when we spoke to the local people who were affected, they told us there hadn't been any international humanitarian aid in many parts of the area," she told Sky News.

"They said when some aid organisations were delivering aid into Burma, the regime just made a show - building up temporary shelters and asking people to come, then taking pictures before they left," she added.

Aid and food from international agencies found its way onto Burmese markets after being seized by the regime, while survivors were forced into unpaid construction work, she said.

Cyclone Nargis saw Burma make headlines, but while media attention on the country has since waned, Zoya warns that everyday suffering continues for many Burmese.

She hopes the release of her new book, Little Daughter, will help counter that by raise awareness of the country's ongoing crisis.

Little Daughter is a memoir of Zoya's early years growing up in Burma and subsequently fleeing - first to refugee camps and later to Britain.

Mixed in with warm anecdotes - of her smuggling mangoes and creating mud slides - are the grim reminders of the horror that begins to invade her young life.

She recalls vividly the episode in which she and her siblings discover the body of a man beaten by the Burmese army floating lifelessly in the river where she played.

The book tells of Zoya's unique position as the daughter of guerrilla soldier (her mother) and a freedom activist (her father), both of the Karen tribe - who have opposed the Burmese military junta for decades.

Following in their campaigning footsteps, Zoya knows the danger of speaking out so publicly against the military regime.

--- ANI

READ MORE---> 'Don't Forget Burma' urges Zoya Phan...

The Thai Divine Comedy

By Thanong Khanthong
The Nation Blogs

Have you ever experienced Paradise, Hell and Purgatory in the City of Angels? Let me show you around Bangkok because I do at times venture beyond my home in the Sukhumvit area to visit Old Bangkok.


You start at Phanfah Leelas Bridge, a distinct point that leads you to the gateway of Paradise. King Rama III statue offers you a golden key for you to enter into the realm of the Paradise, where at the night time the angels descend to dance and pick up flowers. You can smell Paradise, the fragrance that is not of this world, as you watch the Stupas and the Loha Prasath behind.

There Paradise interacts with you in several dimensions, with the lure of aesthetics. If you could make your way up to Paradise, the background scenary behind the Rama III statue would have been the physical structure where the Angels take their residence.

Rama III built most of the permanent structures of Bangkok so that angels and the Thais mingle together in harmony. Here is the gateway and corridor to the inner parts of Paradise that is Bangkok.

The grandeur of Loha Prasat (the Iron Castle).

That's the outer layer of Paradise. But Paradise is also hidden in your consciousness. As you experience the beauty of the Stupas and the Loha Prasat and the temples which moves your yearning for Paradise, that Paradise gradually permeats your own consciousness in a struggle for self-realisation. You finally come to terms with your self, your elusive self.

That which is Paradise is your process of understanding or the denial of all happiness, which charaterises the self, so that you confront the self in the most critical moment.

Between the self and no-self, which path do you choose?

Then you walk on along the Rachadamnoen Road. It is about midnight. You pass the Democracy Monument. How many people have died in futile for this worthless landmark that signifies greeds and crude power in this land? How many military strongmen come and go as the Democracy Monument is forever cursed with their arsenals buried around? How many politicians have promised us with the loots before ending up with rampant corruption? How many times do the poor have to shed their tears just to get a fair share of their life on this earth?


Along the pavements, you see Hell and all the sufferings that go with it. Homeless people lie on the benches or on the tiny space close to the shop glass. They do not have any other places to sleep.

Prostitutes, in their forties or fifties, gesture to you with their sign language. This is their turf. When dark night descends on Rachadamnoen, they come out to reclaim their territory. They perform the oldest trade of this world just to survive, with a heart that is beyond the sufferings of any human descriptions until it becomes normal.

You see people getting lost with their way because they cannot afford even Bt200-bt300 for a night say in one of the cockroach motels in the dark backstreets, where rats are scurrying around looking for their stench food.

A homeless man resting in front of Silapakorn University.

The sufferings you encounter manifest Hell in its physical form. But Hell is also your obsession with the self. The homeless and the prostitutes suffer from all kinds of physical abuse. They struggle to keep their self moving. They only have the will to live, to protect the self. The Hell in your consciousness is your denial of the sufferings from the outside and the struggle of for the maintaining of your happiness from the inside.

But as an observer of Hell, you at once set yourself apart from the sufferings before your eyes. You start to doubt whether your comfortable life in a four-cornered office room is better than theirs? Your continuation to have obsession with the self does not make you having any status any better than them. For we all are born and have to go through the cycle of birth and death, in an eternal struggle for existence.

Those people in rags and ruins have no more strength left to have obsession with the self as they only need a few breath of strength to keep their sheer existence. The Hell that is in your consciousness returns to haunt you as the self perpetuates the state of ignorance and comparison between good and bad, peace and suffering.

You have almost forgot the Paradise, the real Paradise that you have walked past almost a kilometre behind, the real Paradise that points to redemption.


The Triology would not come full cycle without your final confrontation with Purgatory. Purgatory signifies your aimless travelling through time. You are now in the human world, lying perhaps on the edge of this world.

In Buddhist terminology, Purgatory is a region where you place three circles together. You see vendors of fake Buddhas and second hand or third hand garments and electronics products. You can also buy a mobile phone there, with the service excellence of a mouth-to-teeth technician. You can have your future read by the palm of the astrologers of the land. You can eat a plate of phad thai or khai dao with garlic pork at Bt15 or Bt20. You can buy a buay drink to water down your thirst after a long walk. This is the medieval market of Siam, cut off from the Finance Ministry's tax arm. Prices are in the low range. You can buy an antique clock or watch for a couple of hundred baht.

Street vendors are normal sight in your peripatetic travel through Purgatory in Old Bangkok.

You aren't sure how these people can make a living with their medieval trade because in the afternoon of that day, you just have a nice meal at Siam Paragon. As you pass the court buildings opposite Sanam Luang, you feel tired with the weighing down of the sights on your mind.

After Paradise and Hell, you could have thought that you find the answer to your true self. But no, you're still wandering without any direction. If you're not sure with Paradise and reject Hell altogether, you'll be left in a state of flux, of not knowing where else to go to or what else to do.

Finally, you stop at the City Pillar at the corner opposite Wat Phrakaew. You pay homage to the City Pillar, that provides strength and power to the longliveity of this Kingdom. You glance at Wat Phrakaew, which stands as a testimony of the ultimate Paradise. You pay your utmost respect to the ultimate sacred site of Bangkok, while the nihilism that goes around Wat Phrakaew is intensifying on the bedrock of ignorance.

The Emerald Buddha Temple: Paradise lost, and Paradise regained.

There, you at once come to term with your self for the third critical moment of your brief travel in search for the lost meanings. Between Paradise, or the redemption of your soul, Hell, your preoccupation with the ignorant self, or Purgatory, your travelling through time without any meanings or purposes, what path would you choose?

As you return home, you feel tired with the dark vision, your confused mind and also your realisation of your potential to break away from your consciousness. The interplay between Hell, Purgatory and Paradise allows you to at once realise the sufferings, the peripatetic travelling through time before you arrive at the crucial juncture of whether you will enter the gate of absolute serenity, where the self is no longer what it is.

The final destination is to laying down, like the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, in a state of absolute serenity.


If you find my guided tour of the City of Angels of some thought, then you may see the light of how we all can break away from this sufferings by helping the poor first. Helping the poor does not mean that you have to demolish Paradise. You have to get it right at the Purgatory level first. This has to do with the police, politicians, military, prosecutors. When the poor is better, we all have shared meanings in the Purgatory as we look for the final exit to Paradise.

With this, I lay my case. I have taken you all to the epic journey in the spirit of Dante's Divine Comedy and Milton's Paradise Lost. I have to pay tribute to my deceased teacher Montri Umavijani and the Illustrious One, my beloved uncle, who both gave me the wisdom to see through the Three Worlds.


How the concept of Three World provides a way out for Thailand.

In Hell, we have 40 million Thais living in tough conditions and engaging in agriculture. If we can improve their standard of living, we'll get rid of yellow, red and blue or any shades of colour. We'll achieve unity or political symmetry.

But so far the businessmen, politicians, traders, financiers, bureaucrats or local authorities take advantage of them so that they remain poor. It is very difficult for legislation aimed at improving the welfare of the poor get passed by Parliament. The poor are being taken advantaged by the modern sector, which is far smarter.

The Monarchy can only involved in development projects and provide moral guideance. But it does not have the resources nor is it a direct job of the Monarchy to engage in economic development. So the poor Thais are cursed to live in Hell.

Thaksin does not see it through, he only tries to take advantage of the poor for his own political gain. Much worse, there has been a smear campaign to suggest that the Monarchy has been taken advantage over the poor.

The rest of us are moving about in Purgatory, including all the systems of government and the institutions and the modern sector. We fight for the resources, for the concessions, for a larger pie of the GDP. We go about to get rich and to take advantage over others. We do not care how the country will suffer in the end. We blame each other because we don't know the roots of the problem. Power play occurs at this level in the pursuit of self-interest and greeds. All the problems happen here in Purgatory.

Thailand does not now where it is going, except to serve the short-term greeds.

Paradise is in our heart. His Majesty the King is already there by virtue of Detachment.

To enter Paradise, you must have detachment. Everybody can enter Paradise. Detachment is self-less or not craving for materialism or wanting something that does not belong to us, or not wanting to take advantage over other people, other animals, or refraining from harming the natural resources and environment.

Once you have detachment, you have concentration to see through the Three Worlds. Concentration is the process of learning, of discerning, of separating reality from illusion, of understanding the essence of nature, of seeing Dharmma.

Non-detachment stands in the way of everything, the worst of all is ignorance.

Once you have the detachment (not me, not mine) and concetration (process of learning and discerning) to see through the Three Worlds, you'll achieve wisdom (complete understanding). You may call this wisdom as enlightenment or nirvana, depending on the gradation of your own barami or intelligence or perseverance or your pure heart.

This is the Thai Utopia, a universe of ideas complete in itself.


READ MORE---> The Thai Divine Comedy...

Thailand: Emergency decree lifted

By Piyanart Srivalo
The Nation

PM vows peace, normalcy without special measures Abhisit insists he can keep order with existing laws and regulations

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday pledged he would ensure peace and normalcy by relying on relevant laws following the lifting of emergency rule yesterday.

"It is the duty of my government to keep the peace, and I pledge to allay public concerns about security by invoking relevant laws without taking any extra measures," he said.

Abhisit said the cancellation of the state of emergency was a clear signal to the world that normality had been restored.

The next step after emergency rule is for the legislative branch to take the lead in trying to dissipate fractious politics, he said, referring to the outcome of the two-day general debate on the Songkran mayhem.

The speakers and the House and Senate whips have been entrusted with two tasks, he said.

First is to form a special committee to convene a hearing that will compile a report on the mayhem and anti-riot operations. The second task is to draft a report on issues attributed to the turmoil.

The prime minister said the emergency measures and related mechanisms would end immediately, including detention of suspects under the emergency mandate.

The legal proceedings imposed under emergency rule will revert to normal procedures under the Criminal Procedure Code, Abhisit said.

He said his government did not intend hot pursuit of red-shirt leaders remaining at large, but any rally organisers involved in instigating disturbances and inciting violence would be prosecuted.

Abhisit is optimistic that the authorities can keep the peace if the red shirts revive their street protests. Deployment of soldiers will continue in certain sensitive areas, such as Government House, in order to assist police with peacekeeping.

He dismissed speculation that the drafting of new legislation to regulate street protests was meant to curtail basic rights that were enshrined in the Constitution.

The draft is meant to distinguish between peaceful demonstrations and those relying on non-peaceful tactics, in order to ensure protesters do not stray from their basic rights, he said.

Responding to a question on whether without emergency rule his government would last until year-end, Abhisit said he was determined to do his job and not focus on how long he would last in office.

Government Spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the government-appointed panel to assess the outcome of anti-riot operations would replace the emergency operation command that ceased after the lifting of emergency rule yesterday.

Panitan said foreign countries had been very cooperative in trying to extradite fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said that since emergency measures had been completed it was unnecessary to continue the state of emergency.

At Government House and selected areas, soldiers will continue to assist police as a precaution, but none will have the special powers granted under emergency rule, he said.

Suthep said the people were entitled to their basic right to peaceful assembly but they should not cross the line and turn unruly or incite violence. He was responding to reports that the red shirts might resume their rally.

READ MORE---> Thailand: Emergency decree lifted...

Red shirts move rally to Bangkok

Emergency rule ends, UDD defies city order

(Bangkok Post) -The anti-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship has moved its planned mass rally to Bangkok after the government on Friday lifted the state of emergency.

Today's rally was originally scheduled for other provinces which were not affected by the state of emergency with Samut Sakhon tipped as being the most likely venue.

The protest was relocated to Sanam Luang after Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared the lifting of emergency rule at the end of the joint parliamentary meeting in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Parliament wrapped its two-day special joint sitting to debate the crackdown on UDD red shirt demonstrators.

A government source said Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban called a meeting with security authorities to discuss the lifting of the state of emergency as parliament was about to adjourn on Thursday night.

The source said Mr Abhisit was concerned that emergency rule, if it was prolonged, would backfire on the government.

The source said national police chief Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwon pledged to speed up criminal cases against leaders of the UDD and of the People's Alliance for Democracy in efforts to return peace to society.

Hundreds of cases are being processed in connection with street protests by both camps.

UDD leader Somyos Prueksakasemsuk said the planned rally would not be prolonged. It would begin about 5pm and disperse about 11pm.

It would tackle alleged government intimidation of UDD leaders, pressure the government to unblock the signal of its television broadcaster, D Station, and ask it to guarantee freedom of expression of red shirt protesters.

Like ASTV which supports the PAD, the UDD's satellite TV station is a communication channel and has been the mouthpiece of the red shirt supporters.

"The government should stop violating our rights of free speech. Blocking D Station's signal will only make red shirts more upset and force us to hold street protests," said Mr Somyos, who is one of the UDD's "second-generation" leaders.

All pro-UDD community radio stations must also be allowed to resume broadcasts, he added.

Mr Somyos said today's rally had nothing to do with other UDD leaders. "The decision to rally was made by the second-generation leaders, who felt upset with the Abhisit government's attempt to suppress the red shirt movement," he said. "It's now purely a people's movement."

Mr Somyos shrugged off City Hall's order to ban the UDD from using Sanam Luang for today's gathering. He said the protesters had no choice but to resist it .

According to Mr Somyos, there will be no phone-in by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin is in Liberia this week scouting for business opportunities in Africa, Reuters reported yesterday.

"I have come to visit Liberia to explore business opportunities in the areas of mining, agriculture and gas exploration," Thaksin said after meeting the West African country's vice-president earlier this week.

Small UDD rallies were also expected to take place today in Udon Thani, Chiang Mai and Phatthalung.

Mr Suthep said he instructed police to step up security for the main UDD rally but threatened to take legal action if the rally turned ugly or was deemed to be inciting fresh unrest.

Puea Thai MP and UDD leader Jatuporn Prompan, however, said he was unlikely to join the rally. He would talk to other UDD leaders first.

Mr Abhisit said the lifting of emergency rule was an indication of the government's determination to reconcile differences in society.

"By lifting the state of emergency we are sending a signal to the international community that normalcy has been restored," he said.

However, troops would remain deployed in certain locations where there was still public concern about security.

The UDD protest at Sanam Luang could proceed as long as it did not cause trouble, he said.

Mr Abhisit reiterated that he was ready to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections but it should not happen before the charter is amended.

The political crisis would worsen if elections were organised when those rules that were seen as problematic had not been revised.

He said constitutional amendments would address the UDD's demands for democracy and reconciliation.

Meanwhile, the opposition Puea Thai party yesterday pressed on with its accusations that the military resorted to violence to disperse the UDD supporters during recent street protests.

Puea Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said the party would lodge complaints against Mr Abhisit with police and the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

During the two-day debate, Puea Thai MPs submitted to parliament "proof" of military violence.

Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn yesterday warned the government not to rush into charter amendments.

He said a panel should be first set up to review the charter.

He also welcomed the government's proposal for a parliamentary committee to investigate the military crackdown on the red shirt protesters.

READ MORE---> Red shirts move rally to Bangkok...

Thailand: If London saw red

Chiang Mai

(Bangkok Post) - Here's a thought for those believing the reds have a legitimate right to try to "mob eject" an apparently illegal government. Britain's Gordon Brown was not elected by the people (nor was Tony, Maggie or John for that matter since it's not a republic), and what Labour did was effectively stage manage a leadership change so that their man would be the incumbent at the next election. Is this illegal?

Brown's not very popular in Britain and nearly called a snap poll which he would have surely lost; the opposition aren't happy, so should they start protesting? Can we imagine their supporters surrounding Whitehall, terrorising Leicester Square and blocking the traffic around Trafalgar Square? What were the odds of them causing a cancellation of the G20 summit in London? How would the common man react if a group had occupied Heathrow and ruined their 40-million-visitors-a-year tourist industry? Just think of the outrage in the papers and on the high street if a bunch of dreadlocked, unemployed thugs rioted in the streets, financed by some rich baron calling for a revolution from his hideaway in Monaco.

Now, consider that politics in Britain is still dominated by the elite, mostly public school-educated from wealthy backgrounds, and that the income gap between them and the poor is quite immense. Britain, like Thailand, remains a deeply class-structured country in which the system works better for some. There are some similarities between these two constitutional monarchies but the difference of course is that one of these two is civilised about its democratic values, and its citizens have a lot more respect for, and benefit from, law enforcement. Ultimately, it has resulted in a more stable and prosperous nation.

READ MORE---> Thailand: If London saw red...

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