Original articles

... ..., 11.5.2006

Your Help is Needed

Since last Summer I have also worked as a coordinating editor of Southeast
Asia for documenta 12 magazine, which is an ambitious project that will
bring magazines (both printed perodcals and on-line media ) into an art
context to connect theory and practise, and the audience and artists for
documenta 12, and beyond, as it is forming also a permanent network of
magazines from all over the world.

During my research in Southeast Asia, I've come across many brilliant and
intelligent editors who are striving to serve the community by providing
citizens with accurate information, critical analysis and educational
materials in a region
where democracy is not yet the norm??not one of the ASEAN nations has an
impeccable reputation for democracy, and freedom of expression is extremely

Thailand, however, has been on a good course toward developing a decent
democracy, especially after the big movements in 1973, 1976, and 1992??a long
battle that required many sacrifices and tremendous efforts of different
civic groups and people in the media and in education. These efforts made it
possible for people to grow up as educated and informed citizens. It is
these educated citizens, who have started to question the long-term effect
of what is called Thaksinomics under Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra. They
form the core of the recent campaign to oust the prime minister. At the same
time, these same citizens are debating what methods are appropriate, because
some methods would be counter to democracy. Debates, discussions and forums
have sprung up in numerous places. It was a great pleasure for me to meet
the editors of printed periodicals and online media who have provided the
citizens with the basis for those forums, and the basis for thought. The
team of "documenta 12 magazines" has been looking forward to work with them
for the documenta magazine project.

One of those magazine editors, however, has recently been charged by the
Thai police with lese majeste. His political quarterly, "Fah Diew Kan"
(Under the same sky), has been banned. The latest issue of the magazine is
about the Thai monarchy and this issue was targeted. Lese majeste has been
use as a political tool, but recently under the Thaksin government the
number of cases have increased. Most of the countries in the world today do
not prosecute their citizens for lese majeste. Thailand is thus an
exception, and this charge against the editor is an exceptional one as well.

When I researched the situation of printed periodicals and online media in
Thailand, I found that magazines that address thought-provoking topics and
contain serious articles of quality such as this are a strong asset of, and
for, the country. The same publisher publishes books on peace studies and
designed a highly educational exhibition about the political history of
Thailand. The issue focusing on the Thai monarchy was also intended to
educate citizens and to provide information on that institution from
perspectives very different from the very official one??a topic that is
usually avoided by most of the
publishers and editors, who prefer to play it safe. It was thus courageous
for the publisher to take on the issue, and now he is paying a price.

But does he have to? If we step up the pressure from the international
community, it will surely affect the decision of the
Thai Ministry of Interior. In the past, the case of lese majeste charges
against the prominent thinker and engaged Buddhist Sulak Sivaraksa, whose
interview article on the monarchy has been published in the banned edition
of "Fah Diew Kan," caught international attention and he won the cases with
the help of international pressure (the latest report says that because of
the interview article he is now facing a third charge of lese majeste). In
Thailand, four journalistic associations ??the Thai Journalists Association,
the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, the Press Council of Thailand,
and the Economic Reporters Association??have launched a campaign to bolster
press freedom and freedom of expression. And in this particular case of "Fah
Diew Kan," Asian Human Rights Commission has launched an urgent action (see
http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2006/1631/) and Reporters without
Borders (Reporters sans fronti??res) expressed dismay (http://
www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16956) over this and other similar cases
in Thailand. These recent cases of lese majeste charge against Fah Diew Kan
and other anti-Thaksin campaigners sparked into a movement for the
constitutional amendment on the clause of lese majeste.

Georg Sch?llhammer, the chief editor of the "documenta magazines" and I
agreed to form a campaign group "Friends of Fah Diew Kan" in an immediate
action. We would like to appeal to our fellow citizens to join the group in
order to exert pressure to the Thai government to lift the ban of the
magazine and the charge against its publisher/editor Thanapol Eawasakul.

What can you do:
Please collect the petitions in your circle. How you do it? After you
explain what it is for, your friend can send you a message "Please lift the
ban of Fah Diew Kan Oct-Dec 05 issue, and lift the charge of lese majeste on
Thanapol Eawasakul, the publisher/editor of the Fah Diew Kan" together with
his/her name and/or the name of the organization. If there is any further
statement to the Thai government, that's welcome and if there is any message
to the publisher/editor Thanapol Eawasakul, that's welcome, too. You can
collect them in your capacity, can be three, five, or ten. Usually an
organization is more effective than an individual name for an international
pressure like this, but if you cannot find any organization that agrees to
sign the petition, any individual who agrees with it is fine. After you
collect them, please send all to:
publications@documenta.de. publications@documenta.de>
Caution: When you do it, please write a subject as "Fah Diew Kan".

Zdroj: Nog

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