Al Jazeera English Philippines
Al Jazeera English
NASA probe leaking asteroid samples due to jammed door - Al Jazeera English
Images beamed back to ground control revealed it caught more material than scientists anticipated.
A US probe that collected a sample from an asteroid earlier this week retrieved so much material that a rock is wedged in the container door, allowing rocks to spill back out into space. On Tuesday, the robotic arm of the probe, OSIRIS-REx, kicked up a debris cloud of rocks on Bennu, a skyscraper-sized asteroid some 320 million kilometres (200 million miles) from Earth and trapped the material in a collection device for the return to Earth. But images of the spacecrafts collection head beamed back to ground control revealed it had caught more material than scientists anticipated and was spewing an excess of flaky asteroid rocks into space. The leakage had the OSIRIS-REx mission team scrambling to stow the collection device to prevent additional spillage. Time is of the essence, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASAs associate administrator for science, told reporters on Friday. Zurbuchen said mission teams will skip their chance to measure how much material they collected as originally planned and proceed to the stow phase, a fragile process of tucking the sample collection container in a safe position within the spacecraft without jostling out more valuable material. Good news: on Oct. 20, our @OSIRISREx spacecraft captured more than enough material from asteroid Bennu to meet mission requirements! The team is now focused on stowing the sample for return to Earth in 2023: https://t.co/4etvnJzXfn#ToBennuAndBackpic.twitter.com/ILUzEJZHD8 NASA (@NASA) October 23, 2020 NASA will not know how much material it collected until the sample capsule returns in 2023. The troubleshooting also led mission leaders to forgo any more chances of redoing a collection attempt and instead commit to begin next March the spacecrafts return to Earth. Quite honestly, we could not have performed a better collection experiment, OSIRIS-RExs principal investigator Dante Lauretta said. But with the door lodged open by a rock and the concerning images of sample spillage, were almost the victim of our own success here, he added. The roughly $800m, minivan-sized OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, launched in 2016 to grab and return the first US sample of pristine asteroid materials. Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar systems formation some 4.5 billion years ago. A sample could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists say.
American Voter: Lila Ann Weller - Al Jazeera English
Al Jazeera asks the same key questions about the presidential election to voters across the United States.
US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States. Trump has been focusing on law and order, Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement, and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president. As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why. Lila Ann Weller [Courtesy of Lila Ann Weller] Age: 23 Occupation: Bookseller Residence: Salt Lake County, Utah Voted in 2016 for: Hillary Clinton Will Vote in 2020 for: Joe Biden Top Election Issue: Getting COVID Pandemic Under Control Will you vote? Why or why not? Yes, I will absolutely vote in the upcoming election. I consider voting very important. But I think its safe to say this is one of the most pivotal elections that Ill see in my lifetime. I know that in my nation where were very attached to the Electoral College, we just flat out know that not every vote counts. But that doesnt mean that its not important to exercise that right at this, like I said, a very crucial moment in our history. What is your number one issue? That is such a tough question. I struggle with it every time! Usually, I try to narrow it down into my top three, and if I were to do that today, it would come down to the umbrella issue of resource equity, because that branches off into everything. But as things are in the US, right now, my number one issue is getting the pandemic under control in our nation. I dont think that we have the capacity to focus on anything else when were just literally trying to survive day-to-day. I work in retail Im the fourth generation in a local independently owned bookstore, and service workers and retail workers were feeling it right now everyone is. Its a daily struggle for those of us who are dealing with the public on the front lines. Who will you be voting for? I will be voting for Joe Biden. Is there a main reason you chose your candidate? He is not my ideal candidate by any means. I always hoped for a more progressive candidate who better represents my ideals and demographics who arent heard or served. But that said, he isnt Donald Trump. He is a person who can speak in coherent sentences, at least a large portion of the time. Hes a person who stands up for the rights of people who are neglected by our system presently. Im a genderqueer person Im a sapphic queer, sexually, genderqueer, gender-wise. And that does make me one of those demographics that is very much in danger right now. I know that [Biden] is a person especially with Kamala on his side as VP who will be able to stand up for our rights, at least a little bit. A lot of these questions feel very different than they would have a couple of years ago. I used to have this feeling that the US moves more slowly than other nations, but we are moving in a productive direction. And I felt that way up until, like I said, a couple of years ago. And now I am just hoping that we can eventually get back on that track. And I know that while Joe Biden doesnt represent me in a number of ways that I hoped for, he is our only hope to getting there. Are you happy with the state of the country? I am incredibly demoralised by the state of the country right now. Like I mentioned, that false progression narrative that I had in my head is totally obliterated now. And I struggle to see a way out of this. Honestly, there are a lot of things that need to change rapidly in order for us to be able to consider ourselves even a developed nation, if that makes sense. Its such a big question. Ive never been more unhappy with the state of our nation. Im shaking in my boots. Ive been talking with my partner and my co-workers, in particular, over the past couple of days, as were listening to the hearings to find out who our new Supreme Court Justice will be and I think we know at this point. If she does get into the Supreme Court, were about to see a lot of rights that we have spent our foreparents have spent their entire lives not to mention our entire lives, fighting for just out the window like that. Were going to be back to back-alley abortions. I might lose the right to get married someday. Its very scary. Queer people, LGBTQ folks, in my community, were losing our medical protections, we are losing our right to public services like access to homeless shelters you can be turned away on the basis of your gender now its very frightening. And these things are all happening so rapidly, that its hard to focus on any one thing and really find a concrete way to address it. What would you like to see change? A big one for me is our healthcare. I know in our nation that the top two expenses for people are housing and healthcare. And as a person who works in retail and an independent business, I dont get healthcare through my job the Affordable Care Act has been incredibly important to my survival, and thats yet another thing that we might have to say goodbye to very soon. And thats also very scary. Getting socialised healthcare, like every other developed nation in the world has at this point, it would be a huge thing for us [to get] affordable housing where I live, the cost of housing has gone up, just hugely in my lifetime. I dont know anyone in the Salt Lake Valley who can live by themselves unless theyre living in low-income housing, specifically. And then just going back to what I mentioned before, I would really, really like to see the human rights that we have fought so hard to have maintained. I would really like to be able to marry my partner someday and both raise a child together legally. I would really like to have access to safe, legal abortion if I need one in the next few years. And I would really like to see qualified immunity end for police officers its something else that we can hope for in our future. Do you think the election will change anything? I do believe its going to change a lot, but not in the clean, issue-oriented way that you might hope for like weve been discussing right here. I dont believe that were going to see immediate change on any of these specific issues. What Im really thinking about right now is fingers crossed that Biden wins and we dont get another four years of what we have now. I cant even visualise what we would be if thats what ends up happening. But even if that does happen, what really scares me now is the backlash that we see in American culture. We saw it after Obama was elected, and I am one of the folks who believes that that conservative, alt-right backlash is largely what led us to the political state were in now. So trying to imagine what thats going to be if we do get our best-case scenario is another one of those things thats weighing on me heavily right now. What is your biggest concern for the US? I think that once again, I have to say it is getting the coronavirus under control. For those of us who in particular are working class, it is very hard to take action in other spheres when you are just trying to survive. All of these wonderful political movements and uprisings and community rallies that are going on across the nation its powerful and surprising considering these circumstances and the risk that people are taking to stand up for these values its amazing. It warms my heart to see us come together like this, but its so supremely unfair that we have to fight for these rights that we should already have in this era of well, its not only the sociopolitical issues, but its literally that youre putting your life at risk when you take the time to get out and organize with your community. Whether thats at a rally whether youre working the polls, whether youre voting yourself, you are putting your life at risk right now to do that. And thats really commendable and very unfair. Is there anything we havent asked about the election that you want to share? One thing thats really interesting about this election, I think, is that the millennial generation in numbers has outstripped the boomer generation. And we know from the previous presidential election that there is a very strong cultural divide there. For instance, a very, very high percentage of white women over 50 voted for Donald Trump. You dont see the same numbers [with] the millennials. And so what Im really hoping right now is that you can tell that Im demoralised, and frustrated and tired by whats going on but Im hoping that we collectively, as a generation, can maintain our momentum and energy through the election, and show up. Because I cant tell you what it is about us that makes it so hard for us to actually show up and vote. That is a huge issue! And if we can manage to do it, itll make a really big difference. We have a lot of power there. Im so frustrated, but at the same time, its not time to get lackadaisical about it. We just need to keep powering forward.
China threatens retaliation over US-Taiwan arms sale - Al Jazeera English
China says US move sends ‘a very wrong signal to separatist forces advocating for Taiwanese independence’.
China has threatened to make legitimate and necessary responses after the United States approved the potential sale of $1.8bn worth of advanced weapons systems to Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own. The Chinese foreign ministry on Thursday said the US in approving the arms sale was violating agreements signed in the 1970s that established diplomatic relations between the two countries. The weapons sale includes 135 air-to-ground missiles that Taiwans defence ministry said would build its combat capabilities amid increasing threats by China to annex the territory by force if necessary. The US move is sending a very wrong signal to separatist forces advocating for Taiwan independence, and seriously damages China-US relations, Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said at a regular news briefing. Zhao said China would make a legitimate and necessary response depending [on] how the situation evolves. Beijing has ramped up diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China, since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, who views the island as a de facto sovereign nation and not part of the One China policy. Chinese fighter jets and bombers have entered Taiwans air defence zone with increasing frequency in recent months, while propaganda films have shown simulated attacks on Taiwan-like territories. China has also launched a diplomatic offensive aimed at courting Taiwans few official allies, and Taipei now has diplomatic relations with just 15 national governments globally. Taiwans Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa welcomed the latest US arms sale earlier on Thursday, saying while Taiwan did not want to get involved in an arms race with China, it needed a credible military. Speaking to reporters, Yen said the sales were to help Taiwan improve their defensive capabilities to deal with the enemy threat and new situation. This includes a credible combat capability and asymmetric warfare capabilities to strengthen our determination to defend ourselves, he added. This shows the importance attached by the United States to security in the Indo-Pacific and Taiwan Strait. We will continue to consolidate our security partnership with the United States. The previous three US administrations were wary of big-ticket arms deals with Taipei for fear of incurring Beijings wrath. But President Donald Trump has stepped up pressure on Beijing in the run-up to his re-election bid on November 3, in which he has made a tough stance against China a central theme. As well as seeking closer ties with Taiwan, the US has tightened restrictions on Chinese media and imposed sanctions on Chinese officials, companies and government agencies for their actions in Tibet, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.
US-Russia crew back to Earth in first post-lockdown space mission - Aljazeera.com
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russia’s Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner touch down safely on Kazakhstan steppe.
An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts have touched down safely on the Kazakhstan steppe, completing a 196-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) that began with the first such launch under coronavirus lockdown conditions. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner landed approximately 150km (90 miles) southeast of the Kazakh city of Zhezqazghan at 02.54 GMT on Thursday, footage broadcast by the Russian space agency Roscosmos showed. Visuals from the landing site showed a seated Cassidy bumping elbows with one member of the crew at the recovery site and saluting another after they exited the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft. They were then taken to medical tents ahead of their onward journeys to Moscow and Houston. How are things? asked Cassidy in Russian, smiling. The three-man crew had blasted off minus the usual fanfare in April with around half the worlds population living under lockdowns imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus. They did not face questions from reporters in the Baikonur space launch facility and were not waved off by family and friends both time-honoured traditions before the pandemic. Their pre-flight quarantine was also intensified as they eschewed customary sightseeing trips to Moscow from their training base outside the Russian capital. The mission, carried out by tycoon Elon Musks SpaceX company as part of NASAs Commercial Crew Program, has helped heighten talk of a new space race between a number of countries. But Russias Roscosmos, which enjoyed a monopoly on travel to and from the space station from 2011, remains the fastest player in the game in terms of travel to and from the ISS. Robert Behnken and Doug Hurleys journey in May to the space station and return to Earth in August in the SpaceX craft saw the pair spend the best part of the two days in transit. Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagners touchdown on Thursday by contrast came less than three-and-a-half hours after undocking, while a three-person crew reached the ISS from Baikonur in just three hours and three minutes last week, setting a new absolute record. Prior to returning from his third mission in space, former US Navy SEAL Cassidy, 50, tweeted a picture of blood samples that astronauts have to submit at various points in their mission, including just before undocking. What is the price of a return ride back to Earth? 8 tubes of blood!! The 7 shown in this picture were taken in the morning to be placed in our deep freezer, and the 8th will be drawn just prior to undock for ground processing soon after landing, Sudoku puzzle fan Cassidy wrote. First-time-flyer Vagner was a rare Roscosmos presence on the micro-blogging platform, where most NASA astronauts have a profile. Mama, Im coming home, the 35-year-old tweeted on Wednesday. Ivanishin, 51, wrapped up his third mission, after NASAs Kathleen Rubins, with whom he launched to the ISS in 2016, arrived for a second stint on board the station last Wednesday along with Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos. The ISS has been a rare example of cooperation between Moscow and Washington. Members recently reported issues with the oxygen production system, a toilet and the oven for preparing food. But Roscosmos said in a statement on Tuesday that the issues had been fully resolved by the crew. All the systems of the station are working well and there is no danger to the crew or the ISS. Next month will mark the 20th anniversary of the orbital lab being permanently occupied by humans, but the station is expected to be decommissioned in the next 10 years due to structural fatigue.
Trump campaign cries foul on final debate topics - Al Jazeera English
The US president says he will participate in Thursday’s debate, despite decrying the lack of a foreign policy topic.
The campaign for United States President Donald Trump has objected to the chosen topics for Thursdays election debate in Nashville, Tennessee, declaring the final face-off between the candidates was meant to be the foreign policy debate and accusing organisers of pro-Biden bias. Trumps campaign manager Bill Stepien, in a Monday letter to the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates, said that debate was always billed as the Foreign Policy Debate' as was agreed to by both the Trump campaign and Biden campaign many months ago. On Friday, the debate moderator, NBC News Kristen Welker, announced the debate topics would be fighting COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership. It was unclear if there had ever been a formal agreement on what the topics would be, although, in past elections, foreign policy has factored prominently in final presidential debates. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will face off in Nashville, Tennesee on Thursday [File: Morry Gash/EPA] In the letter to the debate organisers, Stepien decried the commissions pro-Biden antics and said the foreign policy omission stood to benefit the Democratic challenger. We understand that Joe Biden is desperate to avoid conversations about his own foreign policy record, especially since President Trump has secured historic peace agreements among Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, he wrote, alleging the commission had intentionally sought to benefit Biden in the first debate and in the cancelled second one. The campaign has also slammed the commissions decision, announced on Monday, to mute the candidates during portions of the debate when the other candidate is speaking a response to the chaotic first debate in Cleveland, Ohio that often devolved into a shouting match. A second debate scheduled for October 15 was cancelled after Trump refused to agree to a digital format following his COVID-19 diagnosis. The candidates instead were featured in dueling prime-time town hall events on separate US TV networks. Trump, for his part, has continued to attack the framework of the debate, while accusing moderator Welker of being a radical left Democrat during a rally in Arizona on Monday. These people are not good people, he said of the debate commission on Tuesday, in an interview on Fox News, adding there was nothing fair about the upcoming event. Despite the harsh words, Trump and his campaign have said he will participate in the debate, hoping the final face-to-face meeting between the candidates will give the president a bump amid lagging polls going into Election Day on November 3.
Thailand: Protesters back on the streets despite police ban - Al Jazeera English
Hundreds on Bangkok streets defying ban on protests against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and the powerful monarchy.
Hundreds of anti-government protesters have demonstrated against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and the powerful monarchy in Bangkok on Sunday, defying once again a ban on protests. Demonstrations have persisted despite the arrest of dozens of protesters and their leaders, the use of water cannon and shutdowns on much of Bangkoks metro rail system in a bid to quell over three months of street action. Protesters moved quickly from point to point, posting different sites for possible demonstrations on social media. We will stay until its over or move to another location with other activists, said Dee, 25, one of several dozen protesters at Asok, one of the busiest interchanges in Bangkok. Hundreds gathered at the Victory Monument, nearly five kilometres (three miles) away. Protesters at Asok put up handwritten notices on the shuttered station that read Does licking the boots of the dictator taste good?. A few police officials gathered on the other side of the interchange but did not immediately intervene. We are committed to maintaining peace and order. In order to do so we are bound by laws, international standards and human rights, police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen told a news conference. The government banned demonstrations in Bangkok on Thursday [Sakchai Lalit/AP] Protesters say Prayuth engineered last years election to keep the power he seized in a 2014 coup an accusation he denies. The demonstrations have also become more openly critical of King Maha Vajiralongkorns monarchy, breaking a long-standing taboo, demanding curbs to its powers despite potential jail terms of up 15 years for anyone insulting the king. The Royal Palace has made no comment on the protests but the king has said Thailand needed people who love the country and the monarchy. The government banned demonstrations in Bangkok on Thursday. During demonstrations by tens of thousands of people at multiple points across Bangkok on Saturday, protesters painted a flag on the road with Republic of Thailand written across it. The writing was painted out overnight. Across Thailand, demonstrations were being organised in at least 19 other provinces on Sunday. Solidarity protests were also being held or planned in Taiwan, Denmark, Sweden, France, the United States and Canada.
Paris heads into curfew as Europe battles soaring COVID caseload - Al Jazeera English
World Health Organization says a 44 percent rise in European cases in a week is ‘very concerning’.
Millions of Europeans are facing tough new coronavirus restrictions as governments try to combat spiralling infections. On Saturday, Paris and other French cities will be placed under a nighttime curfew which will last for at least a month. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is banning mixed household gatherings in the capital city of London, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged citizens to stay at home whenever possible after 7,830 cases emerged over 24 hours. We have to do everything to prevent the virus from spreading out of control. Every day counts, Merkel said in a weekly video podcast on Saturday. Cases of the disease, which has upended life across the globe and wreaked social and economic havoc, have been soaring beyond levels seen in the first wave earlier this year when many countries sought to stem the tide with lockdowns of varying degree. The World Health Organization (WHO) dubbed a 44 percent rise in European cases in a week as very concerning. In the face of the surge, governments have been forced to implement ever tighter measures to control the viruss spread, while trying to avoid full-on lockdowns. Separately, Belgiums foreign minister, Sophie Wilmes, became the latest politician to test positive for the novel coronavirus. My COVID test result is positive. Contamination probably occurred within my family circle given the precautions taken outside my home, she said on Twitter. About 20 million people in Paris and several other cities are under a nighttime curfew [File: Thomas Coex/AFP] The virus has now killed 1.1 million people across the planet since it first emerged in China in December, with the United States suffering the most deaths of any country at more than 218,000. About 20 million people in Paris and several other French cities were facing the start of a 9:00pm-6:00am (19:00-04:00 GMT) curfew after the country on Thursday saw a new high of 30,000 cases in 24 hours in one of Europes major hot spots. Its terrible. It feels to me like being back in March, Hocine Saal, head of emergency services at the hospital in the Paris suburb of Montreuil, told AFP adding that rising numbers of non-coronavirus patients made coping really difficult. In the UK, which has Europes highest death toll at more than 43,000, restrictions are being ramped up with bans on indoor meetings between members of different households in London and several other English cities. About 28 million people almost half of the population of the UK are now subject to tight social restrictions. But some cities have seen angry protests at what some people see as a return to a virtual lockdown. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said local restriction policies, designed to spare a new full-scale lockdown, cannot be pain-free. In Italy, the wealthy northern region of Lombardy has ordered all bars to shut at midnight as the area where Europes first virus cases emerged in February battles a second wave. Elsewhere in Europe, Poland, the Czech Republic and Belgium all announced daily record caseloads this week. Belgian authorities said on Saturday they had reached 200,000 cases less than a month after surpassing 100,000.
American Voter: Millie Brigaud - Al Jazeera English
Al Jazeera asks the same key questions about the presidential election to voters across the United States.
US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States. Trump has been focusing on law and order, Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president. As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US, asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why. Millie Brigaud [Courtesy of Millie Brigaud] Age: 19 Occupation: Student Residence: Williamsburg, VA Voted in 2016 for: N/A Will Vote in 2020 for: Joe Biden Top Election Issue: Polarisation Will you vote? Why or why not? Ive actually already voted by mail. And this is super exciting for me because this is the first presidential election that Im eligible to vote in. Its super exciting to just think about how even if my vote is one out of millions, once its combined with all these other votes that have similar values to my own or the same objectives for the future of this country all of a sudden, it becomes this actually impactful force. What is your number one issue? This is a tough question because theres a lot that I care about. But I would say that the most important thing to me is the polarisation in our country right now. I think that diversity is so important, but at the point that were at now, where defending or asserting your point of view is oftentimes synonymous with hating someone else, or isolating yourself from other viewpoints is just harmful. Its super concerning to me. I dont think that we can address any of the other serious issues were facing, like climate change and racial injustice, until we are more united and able to have constructive conversations. Who will you be voting for? I voted for Joe Biden. Is there a main reason you chose your candidate? I feel that Bidens policies align most with my values and my goals for this country. I think that his language also treats us as the US as a whole, rather than specific groups. And thats really important to me. To be more specific about his policies, Im very much drawn to how clear and strong his position is on climate change relative to Donald Trumps. And I also like how hes addressing it in a comprehensive way thats also working on spurring the economy so creating jobs that are about changing our infrastructure to adapt to the environment that were in, and will be for the rest of our lives, and also creating jobs that work in renewable energy. Thats the future, and its also a way of educating the population on the climate crisis. So I think that thats a really comprehensive way of addressing everything, and I appreciate that. Are you happy with the state of the country? This depends because part of me is actually very encouraged by this spirit of political advocacy among my peers, and our parents and mentors. I think that thats really important to our democracy. I think that its a healthy motivation to be a part of politics and governance. So thats what I like. Im not happy with our position the USs position abroad, our relationships abroad, or the unrest and general unhappiness and distrust in our country domestically. What would you like to see change? I think that in general, I would like the US to move towards an attitude of building. So whether thats like literally building new infrastructure and new policies that can better adapt to this climate were in now, or [fitting] the opinions of the people in the country, or building stronger relationships abroad and within the country definitely building a forward-thinking attitude. Do you think the election will change anything? Absolutely. I think that every single presidential election is so important well, every single election but every single presidential election is so important because youre not just picking who is representing your country, but youre deciding what values the US will reflect for the next four years, and maybe beyond that. So, absolutely, I think this election is so important. What is your biggest concern for the US? I know Ive been saying [it], over and over again: Im really concerned about the polarisation in this country. I hope so strongly that we can change these norms in our country so that our conversations are possible constructive conversations are possible, where people acknowledge the diversity and realise that thats so important, and something that we can all learn from, and also dont use it as a reason to fear others or hate others. Is there anything we havent asked about the election that you want to share? I would love that spirit I was talking about this mobilising spirit that we have in this country right now I would really like that to continue past November 3. I think its a really wonderful thing. I mean, I dont know, Im pretty young, but I think that its a spirit that ebbs and flows throughout history. And I think that right now, its so strong, and I hope it doesnt die down after November 3, regardless of whos elected, because theres so much to be done all the time, and its a really inspiring attitude.
Thailand: Protesters take to Bangkok streets despite warning - Al Jazeera English
Protesters demand the removal of PM Prayuth Chan-ocha who first took power in a 2014 coup.
Hundreds of protesters took to streets across Thailands capital Bangkok on Saturday in defiance of a crackdown on three months of demonstrations aimed at the government and the powerful monarchy. After police used water cannon for the first time against a protest by thousands in central Bangkok on Friday, protesters agreed to assemble at different points across the city on Saturday. Several hundred, many in black T-shirts, staged a rally at the Lat Phrao station in northern Bangkok. Protests were also reported from several other parts of the city as police said rail services were shutting in much of central Bangkok to thwart the demonstrations. Prayuth, get out, the protesters chanted, in reference to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former military ruler they accuse of engineering an election last year to prolong the hold of the army. Al Jazeeras Tony Cheng, reporting from Bangkok, said organisers called on protesters to gather at three different locations in the city. Protesters appear to have out-foxed the police who have effectively shut down Bangkok. Some of the protesters have come out wearing hard hats. They are expecting heavy-handed response this evening from the police, Cheng said. In the past week, police have arrested more than 50 people, including several protest leaders. Violent or not, all gatherings are illegal, police spokesman Yingyos Thepjamnong told a news conference. Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri told Reuters news agency that there is no win or loss for any side, its all [causing] damage to the country. The government would like to ask protesters to not gather and remain peaceful. Thousands rallied on Friday, pushing against police who responded by firing chemically-laced water that was dyed blue [File: Diego Azubel/EPA] On Thursday, Thailand ordered a ban on protests which have become the biggest challenge in years to the government and have brought unprecedented criticism of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. Immediately after the ban, tens of thousands of people protested in Bangkok in defiance. Thousands more rallied on Friday, pushing back against riot police who responded by firing chemically-laced water that was dyed blue. I condemn those who cracked down on the protesters and those who ordered it. You all have blood on your hands, protest leader Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, said after being freed on bail following his arrest on Friday. Protesters demand the removal of Prayuth, who first took power in a 2014 coup. He rejects protesters accusations that he engineered last years election to keep power. Breaking a long-standing taboo, protesters have also called for curbs on the power of the monarchy.
Thailand’s lese majeste law: A weapon to silence dissent? - Al Jazeera English
Since the 2014 coup more than 90 people have been prosecuted under the lese majeste law and 43 have been sentenced.
Earlier this week, hundreds of Thai protesters shouted at the royal motorcade of King Maha Vajiralongkorn in a show of unprecedented open dissent towards the monarchy as anti-government sentiment is on the rise across the country. The continuing protests have prompted the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to declare a state emergency on Thursday, and order the arrest of activists and their supporters. For months, the demonstrators have been demanding the resignation of Prayuth, a former military general and coup leader, and reforms to the countrys centuries-old monarchy, including an amendment, if not the abolition of the controversial lese majeste law. So, what is Thailands lese majeste law, and is it being used by the government to silence dissent? Section 112 The Thai monarchy is protected by Section 112 of the countrys Penal Code, which says whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years. The law against royal insults has been present in Thai criminal codes since the early 1900s when Thailand was known as Siam. In June this year, Prayuth suddenly announced the law has been suspended upon the instructions of the new king. But that has not stopped the protests, nor the arrests. According to a Bangkok Post report, since Prayuth led a coup in 2014, more than 90 people have been prosecuted under the lese majeste law, and at least 43 of them have been sentenced. Constitutional monarchy The king is described in Thailands constitution as enthroned in a position of revered worship. Thai royalist traditionalists see the monarchy as a sacred institution. The monarchy has deep roots in Thailand, where kings held absolute power for hundreds of years before a 1932 revolution. Since then, Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy with the king as the head of state, although King Maha retains a powerful and influential role. The current kings father, the highly-revered Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016, had also remarked in 2005 that the government should stop invoking the lese majeste law, saying it damages the monarchy as an institution. The monarchy has deep roots in Thailand, where kings held absolute power for hundreds of years before a 1932 revolution [Jorge Silva/Reuters] On Tuesday, King Maha made a public appearance to mark the fourth death anniversary of his father the event that sparked the latest anti-government protests. Prosecution under the law There were only occasional prosecutions before 2014, when Prayuth took power in a coup, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group. Many of those convicted at the time were pardoned by the then-King Bhumibol. But between the 2014 coup and early 2018, at least 98 lese majeste charges were filed, according to a legal database by Thai watchdog iLaw. Human rights groups said many of those cases were used to persecute opponents to the military government, an allegation the military government denied. Among prosecutions was one for defaming the late kings pet dog. A pro-democracy protester, right, scuffles with a pro-monarchy one, centre, during an anti-government protest at the democracy monument in Bangkok on Wednesday [Rungroj Yongrit/EPA] In a high-profile lese majeste case in 2011, a 61-year-old Thai man, Ampon Tangnoppakul, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for allegedly sending four text messages deemed to have been offensive to the royal family. The following year, Ampon died of liver cancer in prison, still claiming he was innocent of all charges. Royal insult The most recent royal insult case was prosecuted in March 2018 against two men for trying to burn pictures of the king, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. A local court dropped the royal insult charge but found both guilty of being part of a criminal organisation and arson. According to the lese majeste law, anyone can file a complaint against others without being the damaged party, a provision that critics say is being abused by royalists and the current government. Rights groups also said opponents of the government have recently been charged under other laws such as those against sedition and computer crimes. Last year, three exiled Thai activists facing charges of insulting the monarchy disappeared in Vietnam after reportedly being arrested over there. According to Human Rights Watch, the three were reportedly turned over by Vietnam to Thai authorities. The Thai government has denied the report. Also in January of 2019, the concrete-stuffed bodies of two exiled critics of the military and the royal family were discovered along the Mekong River border with Laos. The government has said it does not target opponents and that it is the responsibility of the police to uphold the law. But with protests growing even larger, the government is scrambling to find ways to contain dissent, raising fears of more crackdowns.