Abortion in Thailand

Last week in Thailand, people were shocked when they heard news on the discovering of 2000 aborted embryos kept hidden in one of the Buddhist’s Wat Pai-ngern temple morgue. The ending of pregnancy or abortion have been a problem for the Thai Buddhist society as a whole. Even when it is legal in the cases of rape and risk of the pregnant women’s health,Thai doctors often refused to perform abortion in the hospital. That is why Thai women have to look elsewhere for help on this matter. Because abortion is illegal in Thailand, women took high risk to their own health and life when they sought to get service for unsafe abortion. Many poverty-level women had to continue on with unwanted pregnancy to delivery, then they would abandoned the baby. This sad situation does not need to happen at all in Thailand where government-run hospitals are well-equipped to handle safe abortion whenever the women need in early stage of pregnancy. Since abortion is illegal in Thailand, no one keeps record of how many abortion were done. One hospital gave an estimated guest that over 40 percent of all abortions in the country are intentional. Thailand could do better by respecting the rights of women to be in control of their own bodies. Government and law associations are looking for ways to legalize abortion – to give pregnant women themselves freedom to choose whether or not to keep or end pregnancy. Legalized-abortion will make it possible for women to get appropriate medical assistances and services. The fact that there are high rate of abortion in Thailand is due to the ineffective teaching of adolescent and youth on reproductive rights/health, sex education and contraceptive use. The sexual irresponsible behavior of Thai men should also be blamed for the high rate of abortions in the country. I am amazed that very few people and the media talk about the role that Thai men played that brought about unwanted pregnancies. The women did not get pregnant by themselves. The 2000 embryos founded in the temple morgue were the results of irresponsible sexual behavior of both the men and the women.

Getting On The Twitter Bandwagon

Twitter is very popular in Thailand. Thais love to twit, passing on to their friends and social network, news that they hear or events that happens on a daily basis. During the April-May of this year’s Red Shirts’crisis, Bangkok people used Twitter to connect with one another. They shared information about safe and unsafe locations to hang out in the city. They warned their friends of dangerous locations where street fightings were going on in the city. Thanks to Twitter, many people had managed to avoid getting hit by bullets by not walking into a crossed-fire when shooting began between Red Shirts’ guards and soldiers. On the night that the Government lifted the curfew in Bangkok, Twitters (Tweeples as they named themselves in Thailand) connected with their friends to meet for a celebration at Q bar/restaurant on Sukhumvit.
More and more young people in Thailand follow news from famous twittering journalists @suthichai and/or @tulsathit. They also get breaking news on politics, business, traffic and weather from key TV and newspapers Twitters, @ktnews, @nnanews, @nattha_tvthai and @noppatjak, before anybody else. By June of this year, 178,181 people twitted one another in Thai language. My estimation is that about half of the these Twitters/tweeples are women. For example: “Venus”, one of the well-known female columnists of the Nation wrote in her June 5 column that at first she was skepticle, because it was almost impossible for her to speak her mind in 140 characters. But last May, she jumped on the bandwagon and opened an account with Twitter. She twittted sparingly at the beginning. She did not know why people were following her, and she rejected a few of them.
Without Thailand’s Red Shirts criisis, she would never have discovered what Twitter really means and does. She had become a changed person. She twittedt at home, in the office, in the car and train. She joined women who took make-up away from carry bag and replaced it with a charger. She had come to appreciate that Twitter can also save lives. During the Red Shirts crisis, on April 11, Phra Monkutklao hospital received enough blood from donors through Twitters. She then came to the conclusion that “Twitters makes you think better and becomes a better writer. It teaches you to keep training and trying for more concise messages – no more beating around the bush. Your vocabulary and abreviations will be enriched. So many new creative terms to learn. And for meeting among Tweeple, it is called “tweet ups”. And #ff means “follow Friday”. You learn new items almost everyday.”

Lessons For Peace In Thailand

Many people who demonstrated with placards and signs in the streets of Bangkok during the last two months were quite bored with the messages promoting peace and non-violence; insisting that the “red shirts” leaders and Prime Minister Abhisit’s cabinet must sit down and talk to each other to find a middle ground and compromises. Pragmatists and politically-inclined people of all sides in the conflict considered the peacemakers as “naive and idealistic” — living in a world of dreams. With so much work done, why did peacemakers fail in producing results to end the recent crisis in Thailand? Peace and human rights activists, known as the “ white shirts”, failed to see the anti-government “red shirts” protesters for what they really were. A group of people the majority of whom came from the rural areas of the North and the Northeast, were paid by their Party’s MPs and millionaire cronies of the former PM Thaksin. These people were also left-leaning educated elites and business community members, retired army and police officers who were card carrying members of the Puea Thai Party. They put political pressure on PM Abhisit’s cabinet to dissolve the parliament. Their real objective was to overthrow PM. Abhisit’s coalition Government and have new elections. Right from the beginning of the protest, the “red shirts” leaders had threatened to use force. In their public speeches they had said that if PM Abhisit did not meet their requests, according to their own terms; they would raise the intensity level of the street protest. Peace and human rights activists organized two unsuccessful peace talks between the “red shirts” leaders and the Government. There were protests from other groups of demonstrators; namely the “multi-color shirts” who in turn protested against the “red shirts” demands. They did not want PM Abhisit to dissolve the parliament. Then, the “Yellow Shirts” protesters came out to confront PM Abhisit, that if he and his Government did not want to do their job in enforcing the law to clear the “red shirts” out of Ratchaprasong, they would take the matter into their own hands to move the “Red Shirts” protesters out. All these stakeholders should’ve been asked to participate in peace talks with the Government. It was a strategic mistake to arrange peace talks only between the leaders of the “Red Shirts” and the government. When the fully-armed “Red Shirts” anti-government protest at Ratchaprasong had already been declared “illegal” by the Court, the peace and human rights activists should have insisted that the police do their duty in enforcing the law. That, would have been helpful to prevent the further violence that ended up happening. The police could have used the help of the NGOs, and the peace and human rights activists to persuade the “red shirts” protesters to leave Ratchaprasong and head home. Peace efforts were doomed to fail when there was no trust between the parties involved.The anti-government “Red shirts” protesters came to the peace talks with a rigid position – demanding that PM Abhisit “dissolve the parliament immediately or else”. Their rigid position was confrontational. It had turned into “a test of will” which usually destroyed good relationships between both sides. It was then that there was confirmed evidence that the “red shirts” did not really come for a “peace mission” with the Government. They were paid to create violence and mayhem in the capital city to trap the government into the political objectives of the former PM Thaksin and his regime to correct the past mistakes of the protests of April 2009. They planned this latest protest to reach the goal of overthrowing the present government by force. It has now been reported widely that the weapons of war, namely the M79’s, RPG’s, bullets and grenades were stored underneath and around the protest area podiums while the propagandist slogans of “peaceful protest” were fed to the media at large. No legitimate government in the world would tolerate having an armed militia camped in its capital cities, taking over its parks and junctions for weeks on end. PM Abhisit was incredibly patient with these protesters. In complying with international standards in warfare, he did his duty well to protect the innocent citizens from the dangers that could erupt. Useful roles, that peace-makers or human rights activists in this particular kind of conflict resolution simply do not apply. The “red shirts” leaders used women and children as shields putting them at deadly risk. They had turned themselves into organized “Urban Terrorists” with the aim of provoking military action by the government. In matters of national security or citizen’s safety, it is the job of the armed forces and the Government to deal with these events. PM Abhisit’s achieved this by using the armed forces alongside very strategic support from the most recent social media networks like Twitter, Facebook and blogs. This new era of instant communication definitely affected the outcome of these insurrections. NGOs, peace and human rights activists can now play a useful role in giving full support to the the reconciliation process, especially in peace education.

No Foreign Interference

I am convinced that Thailand is capable of solving political and security problems without interference from outsiders. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is a well-educated political leader with experiences in Parliamentary Democracy. He had been elected many times by the Thai people in the past national elections as Member of Parliament from the Democratic Party. Last year, he was again elected as Prime Minister, with majority of votes by Members of the Parliament. The Kingdom of Thailand is a Parliamentary Democracy, with the King as Head of State ruled under the Constitution. Past Prime Ministers had all been elected by Members of the Parliament, just like Prime Minister Abhisit. Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra did not speak the truth when he and his followers told the foreign press that Prime Minister Abhisit was not elected by the people. They twisted the fact of Thai political history and the Constitution for their own political agenda. Thaksin was also elected by the Parliament and then driven out of office by the Thai people who did not accept his dictatorial and corrupting way of governing the country. A crony capitalism. To avoid political turmoils of fights between different groups of people for or against Thaksin, and the massive corruption by Thaksin and followers, the armed forces chased him out in 2006 by a Military Coup. I am not a supporter of a coup d’etat to solve political and corruption problems, but I was glad that Thaksin and his cronies are no longer in power, and allow to continue to do harm to Thailand. I condemn Thaksin’s behavior in running away from jail sentence; in not accepting Court’s ruling and then in using his (dubiously accumulated) wealth to fund his followers, the Red Shirts, to create havoc to destroy Country’s economy and its international reputation. Prime Minister Abhisit and his coalition government are doing the right thing by not giving in to their threats, intimidations and violent demonstrations in many parts of Bangkok and the country. I have been upset for weeks seeing what the Red Shirts have done to Thailand. But I am a bit encouraged to hear from the Prime Minister Abhisit on Friday the 30th of April that he and the coalition government have made some progress in seeking political solution to end the ongoing political crisis. I do hope to see more progress made on the security front by a more resolute action taken by the Center for Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES). Last week, His Majesty the King asked Thais to do their duty for the Country. If the police and the soldiers would do their duties by enforcing the law and providing security for the people, I think, Thailand should be able to solve this crisis very soon. At this point, foreigners, no matter how good their intentions are, not even the United Nations officials should interfere with the internal affairs of Thailand. On this, I agree with Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya in his warning to representatives of foreign government that they should not interfere in Thailand internal affairs and problems which the government is trying to solve.

Justice Is Served In Thailand

After a long wait, Thailand Supreme Court made a historic ruling on the 26 of February 2010 that the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is guilty as charged of policy corruption to aid his family’s companies and businesses while in office. He was also found guilty of illegally concealed his assets, and abusing his power. The judges voted to confiscate Bt46.37 billion of his money gained during his four years that he was in Prime Minister’s office. But the judges decided to return to him Bt30.24 that belonged to him before 2001. I think the verdict is fair and just for Thaksin himself who will get nearly half of his frozen assets back. And as for the country especially the Thai taxpayers, they will get the money gained illegally by Thaksin to return to the country’s coffer. Not big amount comparre to the lost in billions during the time when Thaksin was leading the government. I am glad that the verdict explained in details how it is against the law for the Prime Minister, while in office, to run his own business through nominees such as his wife, children, relatives and servants with the intention of concealing his holding of 1.41 million shares in Shin Corp. and that it is wrong for Thaksin to use his authority in the cabinet to pass laws that converted telecom concession fees into excise tax to benefit his own company. I also want to ask what kind of a father is he to use his children, at their very young age, as business nominees that gets them into a legal quagmire of tax evading problems with the authority? It is sad to see this kind of a family tragedy of parents, such as Thaksin and his former wife Pojaman, leading their three children into many more criminal and perjury cases that will follow the Supreme Court verdict in many years to come. This bad experience will effect them for the rest of their lives.

The “C” rated Accord

“We have a deal in Copenhagen,” UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon said, referring to the Copenhagen Accord. I rated the “deal” as a “C” Accord. But many world leaders had exaggerated the importance of the Climate Deal. They came up with a new deal at the end of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (Dec-7-18) and called it an “unprecedented breakthrough” or “a major step forward.” The fact is, this “deal” was whipped up by only five countries, Brazil, China, India, United States and South Africa for fearing that there would not be any agreed outcome from the Copenhagen Conference. Leaders of other countries (outside of those fives) were divided on how to end the Conference without an agreed negotiated text. They wanted a legally binding treaty to replace the soon-to-be-expired “Kyoto Treaty” which 187 delegations voted for in Kyoto, Japan in 1997. Reluctantly, those leaders decided to “take note” of the “Copenhagen Accord”instead of formally approving it. The text of the agreement includes a method for verifying each nations reduction of green-house gases, an emergency aid to poor developing countries and a reduction of carbon emission to keep the increase in average global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius. The accord failed on a binding deal to reduce green-house gases and on a concrete plan to protect the tropical forests. Most of the Conference’s participants were disappointed that they did not have legally binding treaty. After two years of negotiations, in several UN meetings venues in Indonesia, Thailand and Germany, I am also disappointed that in the end of the negotiation process, we did not have a new treaty on Climate Change. From reading the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) on “Climate Change 2007”, we know that in the absence of mitigation policies, there is a possibility of disappearance of sea ice by the end of the 21st century. That there will be increase in frequency of hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation, and in tropical cyclone intensity. Scientists have predicted the decrease in water resources due to climate change in the Mediterranean Basin, western United States, southern Africa and north-eastern Brazil. There is also a possibility of Greenland ice sheet disappearance resulting in the rise of sea-level of about 7 meters. While 20-30 percent of species assessed so far will be at risk of extinction if increases in global average warming exceed 1.5 to 2.5 degree Celsius. Climate change is expected to exacerbate current stress on water resources from population growth and economic land-use change. And there will be a significant future increase in heavy rainfall, resulting in flooding of many regions of the world. Climate change increases atmospheric carbon dioxide that will make the oceans become acidic. The consequences of which could be serious for all forms of marine organisms and other forms of life. I agree whole heartedly with Tara Buakamsri, a campaign manager of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, that the World must take decisive action on climate change. I don’t think we should allow world leaders to continue wasting of time making ineffective deals after deals based on their narrow local political and economic interests, thus compromising the safety of us and future generations.

Climate Change & Progress On Clean Energy

Government officials at several recent regional and inter-regional meetings held this month from cities of Stockholm to Singapore, promised to take action together on climate change. This is good news to me, for those who are working to prepare the big United Nations meeting in December this year in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Climate Change. At the Russia – EU Summit on 18 November, Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev promised to reduce its greenhouse gas emission by 25% from 1990 levels. The European Union and Russia also agreed on the two-degree target and the need for emission reductions. Two days earlier on 15 November, the First ASEAN – US Leaders” Summit, held in Singapore Co-chaired by Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Chairman of ASEAN, and US President Barack Obama, leaders stressed the importance of access to diverse, reliable, and affordable clean energy to sustain economic growth. They agreed to diversify energy supplies and strengthen energy security. They said that ways will also be found for future cooperation in renewable and alternative energy such as hydropower and biofuels. The Joint Statement – 1st ASEAN – US Leaders’ Meeting indicates future close-working relationships on Climate Change, especially on the improvement of research on climate impacts, the development, and action on appropriate policies and measures. The US – China Clean Energy Announcement of 17 November also is a good sign that there will be active cooperation and future cooperation on the clean energy front between these two big powers.

Women Access & Control of Resources

The World Survey on the Role of Women in Development this year focuses on women’s lack of access to and control over economic resources: land, water, various types of property, financial and social protection. The Survey gives us clear insight into the gender inequality of macro-economic policies and structures in the world in key areas of employment and labour-market. Global financial crisis exacerbates this problem that we should solve it by drawing-up the new national development strategy. Gender analysis must first be done to find out how the economic growth or recession effected men and women differently. Experts recommended the new monetary policy of gender-responsive budgeting to deal with existing inequality. They also underscored the importance of the under-representation of women in finance and economic Institutions in most member countries of the United Nations. The Bank of Thailand is one of the few exceptions of solving this “male-dominated/under-representation of women” problem. It now has the female Central Bank Governor for the first time in the Bank’s history, Mrs.Tarisa Watanagase. Central Bank of any country is one such economic/financial structure that determined macro-economic policy. I find the Survey useful in giving me additional knowledge concentrating on women in the informal and non-standard forms of employment, and the unequal distribution of unpaid care work in the household. Without pay, or almost no community support system, a large number of women around the world continue to endure the burden of being the only sex that care for the sick, handicapped, and/or aging family members, and in many cases, in addition to their income earning jobs in the labour market. The 2009 Survey predicted that the promotion of women’s access to economic and financial resources would become an investment on the welfare of the next generation. I think that the problem of “women lack of control and access to resources” is urgent enough that we should solve it right now so women of this generation can enjoy better quality of life.

Elephants On City Street

When I went to visit my mother in Bangkok, I often saw young men (mahout) taking the elephant for a walk on the main Sukhumvit road and in a small narrow lane passing by her house. I was unhappy to see the poor elephant walking on a hot cement road in the mid-day Sun along side motor cycles and cars, but I could not do anything about it. I am appall to learn that there are as many as 100 elephants roaming the street of the Thailand’s capital! Elephants are taken by their owners out of the natural habitat in the forest to walk and beg in the city for food and money. Cruelty to animal is often ignored in Thailand. Despite years of pleading and protesting by various groups of people, the previous Thai governments did nothing about it. Now, thanks to the present Bangkok Governor, Sukhumbhand Paribatra and his Deputy, Theerachon Manomaipiboon, we can see some progress in solving the problem of elephant exploitation. Last week, they dispatched polices to patrol the street of Bangkok in search of wandering elephants and their mahouts. When founded, the the city inspector embedded the elephants with microchip under their skin for registration, and for the future control of elephants’ population. The City Hall also conducted a campaign “Cash for Elephant” to send the elephants back to its natural habitat in reserve forest. They urge people for help in buying these elephants from the mahouts/owners who are poor and cannot afford to send the elephant back to the forest. The cost of buying an elephant from the mahout is about $30,000. The Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation bought the elephants but pleaded with mahouts/owners not to overprice their elephants. Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra set up a hotline for the public to give information on the exploitation of elephants. He also assured people that the streets of Bangkok will be elephantfree in less than a year. Good news, indeed!

Religious Fanaticism Is A Danger To Peace

Fanatic religious believers of words from sacred books, or people who blindly follow the teachings of religious leaders without using their analytical/reasoning brain are dangerous to other human beings. Recently, we have seen two kinds of fanatic behavior – one crazy violent man who killed abortion doctor, George Tiller, while serving in the service of the Kansas Church, and another, a religious group at the brawl at a Sikhs Temple in Vienna. Religion tends to divide people – pitching one group against the other, than unites them. I consider fanatic followers of any religion, cult or ideology as enemy of peace. Religious/Spiritual leader (Ghuru) often enjoy having influence over worshippers. To gain power, they use emotional preaching style to incite young people into having frenzy mood so the leader can easily lead them on to action (in the name of a God or gods or what was written in the holy book). This common tactic is being used to increase membership of the group. The temple full of frenzy worshippers turned into a brawl. Violence followed. Shooting and stabbing began with kirpans (Sikh’s ceremonial daggers) right in front of the eyes of spiritual leaders. One of the Sikh Guru ended up dead in Austria. In the United States, the shooting of an abortion doctor is not a separate aggressive event against abortion. Mobilization of conservative Catholics on abortion issue has been going on for some time by the Church leaders. Some priests who lead worshippers in protest against doctors in front of several abortion clinics around the country have to take responsibility in the killing of Doctor Tiller. Lack of tolerance – non-acceptance of the fact that people can think differently about the question of “When Life begins” or “the rights of women to be in charge of their own body or their reproductive organ” is at issue here. Deadly competition among religious followers exists everywhere, even among the “supposedly” peaceful Buddhists. In Thailand, different Buddhist sects compete every day for followers, especially those with political connections and money to contribute to the temple. Friendship can also end between people who quarrel among themselves as to those who worship a monk from the Thammakaya sect, and those who worship the leader of Santi Asoke sect. We also hear news of Muslims killing Muslims (Sunnis and Shi’ites) in the Middle-East, and fanatic Islamist martyrs killing thousands of other people including Muslims (9/11 plane crashing into World Trade Centre). Fanatic worshippers of Hindu religion also kill ordinary Muslims and vice versa. They then burned each other temples and mosques. In Indonesia, there were fights in Aceh Province between Muslims and Christians. Because there are too much conflict and violence that happens on account of religion, the UN General Assembly made a Declaration on the Elimination of All forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion and Belief, and passed a resolution 36/55 on the same topic in 1981. NGOs have also organized many meetings at the UN Headquarters and elsewhere to bring religious leaders together for an Interfaith dialogue. But the outcome of these dialogues does not seem to help much in eliminating intolerance. When facing each other at interfaith meetings, religious/spiritual leaders tended to “talk at each other” (preaching), instead of “talking with one another”. Arrogance and feeling of religious superiority over the others often get in a way of good communication.