- Thailand held its first election since its most recent military coup in 2014.
- The Pheu Thai Party won the most seats in the lower house of Parliament, while the PPRP won the popular vote, but both have declared themselves victorious.
- Several individuals and organizations have accused the military-backed Election Commission of fraudulent behavior.
How Does Thailand’s Election Work?
Preliminary election results were released in Thailand, resulting in two parties declaring victory, and claiming the right to form a coalition with other parties in the government.
Sunday’s elections were the first since the most recent coup by the military junta in 2014, the twelfth of which since the 1930’s. It is also the first under the country’s new constitution, unveiled in 2017, which was criticized for being made to keep the military party, Palang Pracharath (PPRP), in power.
In Thailand, people don’t vote for the Prime Minister directly. They vote for a section of the parliament seats.
Parliament has 750 seats in total. Of those seats, 500 are elected, and make up the lower house. Then of those 500, 350 come from direct votes. The remaining 150 are chosen by proportional party lists.
The other 250 seats are part of the upper house, which are appointed by the military. The two houses then vote for the Prime Minister.
376 votes are needed to elect a prime minister, and assuming the military-appointed members vote for the PPRP candidate, the party already has 250 locked votes. Which means they only need 126 out of the 500 seats in the lower house to elect a Prime Minister, making it difficult for another party to rise to power.
The PPRP is currently in power right now, with Prayuth Chan-ocha as Prime Minister. There are several political parties in Thailand, but the Phue Thai is the other large one, and was the party ousted back in 2014. Two of its most recent leaders, siblings Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra, are currently in a self-imposed exile, as they face charges in Thailand on abuse of power. The Pheu Thai candidate for Prime Minister is Thaskin ally Sudarat Keyuraphan.
Who Won the Election?
Election results were delayed several times by the Election Commission of Thailand. The EC was initially supposed to release preliminary results Sunday night, but delayed until Monday afternoon. They also only released the 350 directly-elected seats, and will not release the other 150 until Friday. An official count will be released in May.
Currently, the Pheu Thai party has 137 seats, while the PPRP got 97. The Bhumjaithai party, which aligns with neither, came in third place with 39. The Democratic party, which has only said it does not align with Pheu Thai, collected 33 seats. A new party, Future Forward, which primarily attracted younger voters and leans anti-military, got 30 seats.
However, both the Pheu Thai and PPRP are declaring victory. While Pheu Thai has more seats, PPRP won more popular votes. Both parties claim that they have the right to form coalitions with other parties in the government to take a majority.
Pheu Thai says they are already doing this, and projects that they will hold command of the lower house.
“Parties in the democratic front gained the most trust from the people,” Sudarat Keyuraphan said in a press conference. “Although right now numbers are still moving, we’re certain we will have at least 255 seats among ourselves. We declare that the democratic front who opposes military rule commands the majority in the House.”
The 255 seats is not enough for them to elect a Prime Minister, so the PPRP would still likely get to control that. However, having a stronghold in the lower house does it make it more difficult for the party to govern.
Accusations Against the Election Commission
The EC, which is appointed by the military, is also facing accusations of election fraud. The Asian Network for Free elections released a statement calling the tabulation process “deeply flawed.” They also claimed there were 1.9 million invalid ballots.
Thaskin Shinawatra wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled The Election in Thailand Was Rigged.
“In some areas, the number of ballots seemed to exceed the number of voters,” he wrote. “In others, voter turnout was reported to be 200 percent…There also were reports that some ballots, although marked improperly, were counted as votes for Palang Pracharat, the military’s proxy party.”
Other issues in the election included counting ballots from abroad. The EC confirmed that over 1,500 ballots from New Zealand will not count because they were not delivered in time. A former leader of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, Tida Tawornset, is demanding a recount. Tawronset says that volunteers at polling places saw people turned away, and other concerning behavior from election workers.
The EC defends their vote count, and says any inconsistencies in the reports were the media’s fault.
“It’s the media organisations themselves which applied the data and presented it in graphics,” the commission’s Deputy Secretary-General told reporters. “If you noticed last night, each channel reported the data differently and that depends on each outlet’s ability.”
See What Others Are Saying: (Bangkok Post) (Al Jazeera) (BBC)
English Soccer Players Boycott Social Media for 24 Hours
- English soccer players are boycotting social media until 9:00 a.m. local time Saturday.
- The purpose of the boycott is to take a stand against the racism that players are experiencing during games and online.
- Teams like Manchester United have expressed support, as well as FIFA and retired player David Beckham.
Soccer Players Log Off Social Media
Professional soccer players in England are taking a stand against racism by boycotting social media for 24 hours.
The boycott began at 9:00 a.m. on Friday and will end on Saturday at 9:00 a.m local time. This boycott is part of a campaign by the Professional Footballer’s Association. The organization is using #Enough in response to recent incidents of racism both on and off the field.
“The boycott is the first step in a longer campaign to tackle racism in football,” the PFA said in a statement on their site. “The PFA will continue to work closely with The FA and government to ensure more is done to tackle racist abuse, while also seeking to put pressure on both FIFA and UEFA through FIFPro.”
Right before going offline, several players, as well as PFA, posted this image on Twitter and Instagram announcing why they would be taking a brief break from the sites. Many reported the caption, “We recognise that our platforms come with responsibility, and so we are using our voice to stand against racist abuse. Together, we are calling on social media platforms and footballing bodies to do more!”
Racism in Soccer
In the past couple of months, players have reported hearing people make racist remarks from the stands and online. Some of the comments include spectators making monkey noises, and being told to “go back” to their country.”
“My teammates and I have been on the receiving end of well documented abuse from a minority of narrow-minded, ignorant people both on social media and on the pitch,” said Troy Deeny, a captain for Watford, who is participating in the boycott. “Any racism in football is too much, and it’s essential that we fight it wherever and whenever we see it.”
Other players participating include Gini Wijnaldum, Jesse Lingard, Hector Bellerin, Lucas Perez, Marcus Rashford, and Alexander Iwobi.
Support for the Movement
FIFA has announced that they are supporting the movement. The organization, which has come under fire itself for not doing enough to combat racism in soccer, gave a statement applauding the players participating.
“We support the initiative of the PFA,” the statement read. “FIFA is fully engaged in combating racism and any form of discrimination not only in football but society in general.”
The organization also said that it is preparing its own campaign against discrimination.
Manchester United is also trying to take strides in fighting discrimination in the sport. While the team’s account is not participating in the boycott, it has retweeted the accounts of its players who are.
The team also posted this video where male and female players outlined instances of discrimination. They are using the phrase #AllRedAllEqual to spread awareness.
“Football is going through a time where we’re still seeing discrimination throughout our game,” the players in the video say. “There’s just no place for that. It’s ignorant.”
David Beckham also posted his support for the boycott. The former soccer superstar shared the “Enough” photo on his Instagram and posted it to his story as well.
Teen Burned Alive After Accusing Principal of Sexual Harassment
- An 18-year-old-girl in Bangladesh accused her principal of sexual harassment.
- An Officer filmed her accusation without her consent and leaked the video online.
- After refusing to take back her allegations, supporter’s of the principal murdered her by setting her on fire on campus.
- Organizations are demanding justice, and for sexual assault laws in the country to change.
Several organizations are demanding justice after an 18-year-old victim of sexual harassment was burned alive.
Nusrat Jahan Rafi studied at an Islamic school, called a madrasa, in Feni, Bangladesh. She met with the principal of the madrasa, Siraj Ud Duala, on March 27. Nusrat claimed that he repeatedly touched her inappropriately until she finally was able to leave the room. She reported the incident to police that same day.
The officer she reported the harassment to had recorded a video of her allegations without her consent and posted it online. In the recording, she is crying and tells Officer Moazzem Hossain that this is not the first time Siraj had made unwanted and inappropriate advances on her. According to translations by the Dhaka Tribune, Moazzem tells her these accusations are “nothing major.”
On April 6, Siraj’s supporters attacked Nusrat, and were allegedly encouraged to do so by Siraj. Four unidentified individuals took her to the roof of one of the madrasa’s administrative buildings and set her on fire after she refused to take back her allegations.
About 80 percent of her body was covered in severe burns. After spending four days in Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Nusrat died. According to the BBC, police have arrested 15 people, including Siraj, people potentially related to her murder, and people involved in protests on-campus in support of Siraj. Officer Moazzem has been transferred. There are also reports that he is being sued under the Digital Security Act for posting a video of Nusrat without her consent.
The Fight for Justice
Several organizations are fighting for justice. The Human Rights Campaign has called for a full investigation to be made into Nusrat’s murder. In a statement, they said this crime should “spur the authorities to take concerted action to combat sexual violence in the country.”
Transparency International Bangladesh also released a statement, asking that Officer Moazzem specifically be investigated by the Department of Justice for not doing enough about the case.
“We are scared of the allegation raised over inaction of the respective police officer and his connivance in the incident centering the brutal killing,” the statement read.
Thousands of people attended Nusrat’s funeral, and protests are being held all over the country demanding justice, and for laws regarding sexual assault in the country to change.
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, has responded to Nusrat’s murder.
“None of the culprits will be spared from legal action,” she said during a meeting with Nusrat’s family.
Sexual Assault Cases in Bangaldesh
Bangladesh does not have a strong history of punishing sexual abusers. A human rights organization in the country said there were 732 reported cases of rape in 2018, though they say the number is likely much higher, as a culture of blame encourages women to not report. Of those cases, just over 500 had cases filed.
In Bangladesh, there is also a clause in the Evidence Act of 1872 that states: “When a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character.” This allows the defense to use the reputation of the victim against them, and potentially defame them to clear the defendant of charges.
See What Others Are Saying: (Dhaka Tribune) (Daily Star) (BBC)
North Korea Tests Weapons, Wants Pompeo Out of Nuclear Talks
- North Korea conducted its first weapons test since Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump met in February.
- It is unclear what kind of weapon was tested, but it is not believed to have been nuclear.
- A Director General in North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced that the country no longer wants to negotiate with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
- In a statement, the Director General said they wished to work with someone “more mature.”
North Korea Conducts Weapons Test
North Korean state media announced Thursday that the country tested a new weapon, and no longer wants to conduct nuclear talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Korean Central News Agency announced that Kim Jong Un “supervised and guided a test-fire of a new-type tactical guided weapon conducted by the Academy of Defence Science on Wednesday.” This is the first known test the country has conducted since President Donald Trump met with Kim in February. The two did not reach any deals on nuclear negotiations.
While KCNA did not specifically say the type of weapon that was tested, the New York Times reports that there are no signs it was a nuclear weapon or an intercontinental ballistic missile.
According to their statement, Kim thought the test was “great work.”
“Our scientists, technicians and workers are, indeed, great,” KCNA added. “And there is no weapon impossible to make when they are determined to do.”
The White House reported to multiple news outlets that they are aware of the test, but gave no additional comments.
Pompeo Cut Off From Negotiations
After publishing the news of their test, KCNA also announced that, going forward, they do not want to discuss nuclear negotiations with Pompeo. The news came from a statement from North Korea’s Director General of the Department of American Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kwon Jong Gun.
In his statement, Kwon said that Pompeo made “reckless remarks,” talked “nonsense,” showed his “mean character” and accused him of “fabricating stories.”
“We cannot be aware of Pompeo’s ulterior motive behind his self-indulgence in reckless remarks,” Kwon said. “Whether he is indeed unable to understand words properly or just pretending on purpose.”
At the end of his statement, Kwon concluded that he wants to work with not with Pompeo, but with someone “who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.”
North Korea’s decision on Pompeo follows comments the Secretary of State made during testimony to a Senate subcommittee. When asked if he would consider Kim a “tyrant,” Pompeo responded, “I’m sure I’ve said that.”