June’s Pride Month becomes one to Remember as Thailand legalises same-sex marriage

June 2024 will become a month cemented into South East Asian history after Thailand officially legalises same-sex marriage. The move has come after decades of campaigning by activists and has been seen as a “momentous step forward” for queer rights campaigners.  The bill that has officially legalised gay marriage was voted in with an overwhelming majority within the countries upper house. It grants all the same legal, financial, and medical rights as heterosexual marriages. Speaking on the bill, Plaifah Kyoka Shdladd who was a member of the same sex marriage committee said: “We are very proud to make history. Today love triumphed prejudice…after fighting for more than 20 years, today we can say that this country has marriage equality.” (HJ)

Court overturns ban on Israeli firms at Paris arms fair

Earlier today many of us were cheered by a headline featured on Al Jazeera’s website: “Israeli companies banned from world’s largest arms fair in Paris.” The story referred to the ‘Eurosatory 2024’ arms exhibition which is being attended by more than 2,000 military and security companies, who will be selling to representatives from more than 100 countries, including Israel. There were 74 Israeli firms who were planning to exhibit weapons. The ban was the result of protesters against Israel’s genocide in Gaza convincing a court to ban both employees and representatives of Israeli companies from the arms fair. The ban on operating booths came as a result of a deadly Israeli strike in Rafah, one of many of course. Protestors claimed the ban did not go far enough and challenged the decision, and the court agreed to extend the ban to all employees “and representatives who might evade the ban as intermediaries”. Israeli arms firms reacted with disappointment. They made accusations of antisemitism against the French government and trotted out the tired false argument that, as a result of 7th October, they are the victims and have a right to defend themselves and should therefore be participants in the arms fair.  So now a French court has ordered the organisers of the arms exhibition to suspend the ban. The Paris Commerce Tribunal said that the decision to impose a ban was ‘discriminatory’. It has always been clear that Israel has friends in high places. There does not seem to be a challenge to the ban on Russia and Belarus, countries which are prohibited from attending. (JB)

Mixed Messages from Thailand

Progressive parties keep winning elections but the conservative ruling elite are using lawfare to keep them out of office. When the Future Forward Party did well in 2019 it was dissolved by the Constitutional Court. Now its successor, the Move Forward Party, is also threatened with dissolution after the court ruled that its proposals for reform threatened the monarchy. There is a strict law of lèse-majesté, which makes it illegal to criticise the royal family. It is increasingly being used to silence any criticism of the state. One time leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has just been bailed after he was indicted for insulting the royal family. The decision on Tuesday that the influential billionaire would not be held in pre-trial detention indicates that the ruling elite is not united. This was reinforced by another court ruling approving the selection of candidates for elections to the Thai upper house that could clear the way for 200 new politicians to take over from the military-appointed senate later this year. (MS)

Message from a refusenik

“I support humanity. I support all of us living in peace and security. I’m not pro-Palestinian and I’m not pro-Israeli; I’m pro-all of us as people and our right to live well.” These are the words of 19-year old Israeli army refusenik Sofia Orr as told to Haaretz. Like all teens in Israel, Orr was called for national service in the IDF. Unlike most teens Orr refused. She was sentenced to an initial 20 days in military jail. There are very few refuseniks in Israel, in an environment which is unforgiving of those who do. Orr says, “Inside Israel, the absolute majority of reactions are very, very violent. Whether it’s simply calling me a traitor or cursing me in all kinds of creative ways, or saying that they should send me to Gaza and bombard me there – all kinds of threats against my life, rape threats.” For Sofia Orr the point of her refusal is very definitely political: “There is no us and them. It’s not that one person needs to defeat the other side, or a matter of who is our enemy. I don’t see any enemy. The enemy of goodness and the future, of peace and security, isn’t a ‘side’ or a nation, but the violent mind-set of war and of continuing to use violence as a solution.” (DM)

Allegations of murder of asylum seekers by Greek coastguards

We know that those seeking asylum have not had the best of welcomes in the UK. They have been threatened with deportation to Rwanda, forced to live in substandard accommodation and are given a paltry £7 per day to help with food, toiletries, clothes and travel.

The problem is, of course, that in creating a hostile culture people in positions of authority often feel vindicated in breaking the already harsh laws that exist around asylum

A documentary on BBC this week, titled ‘Dead Calm: Killing in the Med’ alleges shocking details as to how the Greek coastguards have treated people seeking asylum in their country.

Journalists analysed 15 incidents since May 2023 in which victims claim they were thrown overboard into the sea or cast afloat in damaged inflatable rafts. Greece has long denied accusations of pushing people back towards Turkey where they crossed
One of the most chilling accounts was from Mohamed from Syria who said the Greek coastguard returned them to Turkish waters and put them in a life raft where the valve had not been closed. He said “we immediately began to sink, they saw that… they heard the screaming and yet they still left us” he told the BBC “the first child who died was my cousin’s son…..after that it was one by one. Another child, another child, then my cousin himself disappeared.  “By the morning seven or eight children had died. My kids didn’t die until the morning….right before the Turkish coastguard arrived.”

The Greek coastguard denied the documentary’s findings, telling the BBC its staff worked “tirelessly with the utmost professionalism”. Shown footage of a forced return near Lesbos in which women and children were among a group put aboard a raft, abandoned and later rescued by the Turkish coastguard, the former head of special operations with the Greek coastguard refused to speculate on what the footage showed. (MT)

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