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1976 Massacre: Thailand to Mark 40th Anniversary of its Darkest Day

In 1976, the violence was seen as a backlash by right-wing groups and ultra-royalists after student protests of October 1973

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FILE - In this Oct. 6, 1976 file photo blood streaming down his face, a leftist student, center, wounded and captured by police is helped to an ambulance at the Thammasat University campus in Bangkok, Thailand. VOA

In Bangkok’s predawn light Thursday, activists and former students will give alms to Buddhist monks, an act of remembrance for the dozens of students killed and injured in a bloody massacre by right-wing thugs and authorities on October 6, 1976.

The events surrounding the 40th anniversary of the tragedy, seen by many as the darkest day in modern Thai political history, includes conferences, art works, plays and cultural events and come amid heightened political sensitivities in Thailand under a ruling military government since May 2014.

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Overall the military government is allowing most events to proceed, although under careful watch. But authorities at one of Bangkok’s international airports blocked the arrival Wednesday of Hong Kong democracy advocate Joshua Wong.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, center, shows the letter from Thailand Immigration office after arriving at Hong Kong airport from Bangkok, Oct. 5, 2016.
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, center, shows the letter from Thailand Immigration office after arriving at Hong Kong airport from Bangkok, Oct. 5, 2016. VOA

Pandit Chanrochanakil, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, said the authorities’ move to block Wong from attending a conference was disappointing.

“This morning Thai authorities detained Joshua Wong, who was invited to give a talk at Chulalongkorn University tomorrow, which is so sad because he is someone people had been waiting to hear what we can do for the current situation for democratization,” Pandit said.

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Amnesty International said Wong’s detention highlighted the Thai Government’s willingness to suppress the right of freedom of expression. Amnesty added it also raised concerns over China’s influence over Thai authorities.

1976 massacre

In 1976, the violence was seen as a backlash by right-wing groups and ultra-royalists after student protests of October 1973 that had led to the overthrow of former military dictator Thanom Kittikachorn, who fled into exile. But students rallied again in 1976 to protest of Thanom’s return to the country.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, said the events for Thailand in 1976 came amid the conflict in Indo-China as the nation’s traditional institutions were challenged by the Cold War. “But it came at a high cost and the cost was the killing and maiming of many dozens of young men and women on the 6th of October at Thammsat University,” Thitinan said.

“It was a scar on the Thai collective psyche and at the time the leftist movement was initially an anti-military movement. But then it warped into a kind of anti-establishment movement because the establishment was seen siding with the military dictatorship from 1973 by letting in a military dictator,” he said.

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The brutality of the day has become etched in the public domain with the publishing of an Associated Press (AP) photo depicting a dead student hanging from a tree and being beaten while a crowd of onlookers watched.

Former student, Thongchai Winnichakul, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin, told Thai media the events of 40 years ago continue to haunt him. “There’s not a single day that October 6 doesn’t cross my mind,” Thongchai said.

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Kraisak Choonhavan, a former senator and rights advocate, said the images had a profound impact on the global community. “This one area should be noted that after the violence the horrific shock that the world felt, how the opposition that was particularly young, was treated,” Kraisak said.

FILE - In this Oct. 6, 1976 file photo, police stand guard over leftist Thai students on a soccer field at Thammasat University, in Bangkok, Thailand. For some Thais, the bloody events of October 6, 1976 are still a nightmare. On that day, heavily armed s
FILE – In this Oct. 6, 1976 file photo, police stand guard over leftist Thai students on a soccer field at Thammasat University, in Bangkok, Thailand. For some Thais, the bloody events of October 6, 1976 are still a nightmare. On that day, heavily armed. VOA

Chris Baker, a commentator and writer on Thai history, says the 1976 events highlighted the coming together of conservatives in Thai society.

“Conservative figures in Thai society joined forces in a way they probably hadn’t done before in opposition to what they saw as a combination of not just the left wing, the students and the communists in the jungle, but also the new liberal side of Thai society in emerging politics,” Baker said, including a “frightened middle class.”

Baker says there are parallels between the events of 1976 and those leading up to the May 2014 coup and ouster of the populist government led by Yingluck Shinawatra.

“That moment is really very important now in retrospect because it’s very much the precursor of 2014, of the coup that we have just seen and which we are still living under, which in some ways it really does mirror and mimic many of the events and forces and underlying currents at that time,” he said.

He said in recent years the importance of the 1976 events have been played down but, “Since 2014 it’s been realized just how important and formative it was.”

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Analysts say Thailand’s political evolution appears caught in a cycle of elections to eventually see governments toppled by military takeovers.

The current government recently received public backing through a referendum for a new constitution, with promises of elections in late 2017.

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks during a news conference after his meeting with National Security Council as Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan looks on at Government House in Bangkok, Aug. 15, 2016.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks during a news conference after his meeting with National Security Council as Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan looks on at Government House in Bangkok, Aug. 15, 2016. VOA

Chulongkorn University’s Pandit said not all Thais agree with the holding of commemorations, given the unsettling knowledge of the bloodshed 40 years ago.

“It’s hard to tell people that we have no other choice, we have to remember what we have done as a society,” he said.

“So for us, those who support the idea of commemoration, we believe that [remembering] the history of the October 6 massacre will teach us something, will give us some light to get out of the darkness,” he said. (VOA)

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India is The Most Corrupt Nation in Asia with Highest Bribery Rates of 69 %

More than half the respondents have had to pay a bribe in five of the six public services in India

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India is the most corrupt nation
India Against Corruption - Protesters in Bangalore - 22nd August 2011. Wikimedia
  • India has surpassed Pakistan, Myanmar, Vietnam and, Thailand concerning bribery rate with 69 percent, the highest on the list
  • Vietnam stood second on the list after India at 65 per cent bribery rate
  • India also holds account for the highest bribery rates in public schools and healthcare sector, with 58% per cent 59 per cent bribery rate respectively

Sep 03, 2017: Indian government is struggling hard to defeat the evils of corruption, but there is still a long way ahead to fulfill the objective of corruption free India. According to a survey released by the Transparency International (TI) in March 2017,  an anti-corruption global civil society organization reveals that India stands as the most corrupt country in Asia with 69 % bribery rate. In the survey, approximately 22,000 individuals spanning across 16 Asian countries participated over a period of 18 months starting in July 2015.

As reported by ANI which further cited Forbes’ article “Asia’s Five Most Corrupt Countries”, the issue of corruption is pervasive across Asia. The TI report says that India has surpassed Pakistan, Myanmar, Vietnam and, Thailand concerning bribery rate with 69 percent, the highest on the list.

It was mentioned that more than half the respondents have had to pay a bribe in five of the six public services namely-  hospitals, schools, police, utility services and, ID documents.

The article by Forbes also hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for persistent efforts to eradicate corruption from India.

Also Read: Not Just Journalist Ram Chandra Chhatrapati, these 9 People too Bore the Brunt of Speaking Truth to Fight Corruption 

“However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fight against corruption has made a mark: 53 per cent of the people think he is going it fairly or very well. And it has led to people feeling empowered, as 63 per cent believe ordinary citizens can make a difference,” it stated.

Vietnam stood second on the list after India at 65 per cent bribery rate.

Pakistan stands fourth on the list with 40 per cent bribery rate. About three-fourths of respondents in Pakistan consider mostly the policemen to be corrupt. It said that seven in ten people had to cajole police officers or the courts for a bribe. When asked about the change in the situation, people sounded dejected when it comes to wiping out bribery from the nation. Only one third feel that ordinary citizens can make a difference.

Last year, India was placed 76th out of 168 countries surveyed by the Berlin-based corruption watchdog in its Corruption Perception Index, mentioned ANI.

India’s corruption perception has been the same consecutively for two years 2015 and 2014’s  as 38/100, which shows no improvement in the scenario.

According to the March 2017 statistics, Pakistan most likely of all was the country to have higher bribes legal institutions. While in India, the police bribery rate was 54 per cent.

India also holds an account for the highest bribery rates in public schools and healthcare sector, with 58% per cent 59 per cent bribery rate respectively.


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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)

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India’s Textile and Fashion Heritage now part of Google project

Google's project 'We Wear Culture' is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India and its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago

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we wear culture
Google's new art project 'We wear Culture' digitizes fashion, Wikimedia
  • Google’s project ‘We Wear Culture’ is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India
  • It intends to trace the story and importance of Indian textiles from ancient sculptures
  • Its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago

June 15, 2017: To a certain extent, a culture is defined by what is worn by its people. In a country as diverse as India, vast and varied spectrum of cultures and clothes is one of the specialties. Google’s latest virtual exhibition project now provides us the opportunity to explore and know more about it.

Google’s project ‘We Wear Culture’ is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India and its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago, from the ancient Silk Road to the unmatched elegance of the Indian Saree,  from the courtly fashion of Versailles, to the Victorian ballgowns with intricate thread work.

According to Amit Sood, director of Google Arts and Culture,”We invite everyone to browse the exhibition on their phones or laptops and learn about the stories behind what you wear. You might be surprised to find out that your Saree, jeans or the black dress in your wardrobe have a centuries-old story. What you wear is true culture and more often than not a piece of art.”

Culture is defined by what is worn by its people. Click To Tweet

The company also mentioned that noteworthy collections from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) and varied weaves from across India, from Gharchola to Patola to Temple to Ikat sarees will be included in the online project, as it intends to trace the story and importance of Indian textiles from ancient sculptures.

ALSO READ: New Google Project Digitizes World’s Top Fashion Archives.

According to PTI reports, the world fashion exhibit also includes designs from north-eastern India including the weaves of tribes such as the Nagas, Meitis. it will showcase the traditional attire from Meghalaya called ‘Dhara’ or ‘Nara’ worn by the Khasi women as well.

As a part of the exhibit, Sewa Hansiba Museum has brought the unique colorful and rich embroidery arts, applique and mirror work from different communities such as the Ahir, Rabari, Chaudhury Patel and many others from the western part of India online.

The exhibition conducted by Salar Jung Museum brings to light the Sherwani and its journey of becoming the royal fashion statement of the Nizams from 19th century Hyderabad. Fashion and textiles enthusiasts can revisit Colonial Indian attires with Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum. Over 400 online exhibitions and stories sharing a total of 50,000 photos, videos and other documents on world fashion are open to exploration as well.

The ‘We wear Culture’ initiative highlights significant events in the growth of the world fashion industry; the icons, the movements, the game changers and the trendsetters like Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Versace, Audrey Hepburn and many more.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang