|Thai Conference: End|
By Leonard Novarro and Rosalynn Carmen
They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
A conference held there over Labor Day weekend to restore democracy in Thailand, is expected to have reverberations 8,200 miles away. Not only did it call for an end to the abuse of political and human rights in that country. Many called for an end to the monarchy, a move that would guarantee imprisonment in Thailand, or worse.
Books criticizing the monarchy are banned in that country; anyone possessing one faces a minimum of three years in prison. Western journalists have also been kicked out for writing anything negative about the king or his family.
More recently, the general who led the last military coup in 2014 told a roomful of journalists that he will "probably just execute" any journalist who doesn't "report the truth," and before that, in June, the military government announced a special meeting for 200 local and foreign journalists to teach them how to ask "constructive questions."
According to several human rights watchdog groups, anywhere between 4,000 and 10,000 people, citizens and foreigners, have been jailed for speaking out against the current military regime, which has the support of the Thai royal family.
But that didn't stop more than 100 people of Thai descent – some like former Minister of Transport Charupong Ruangsuwan, recently exiled for speaking out against the current regime, and many attending from as far away as Denmark -- from criticizing the iron rule of the current government. A military coup ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 and his sister, Yingluck, eight years later. Both were elected to office by sizeable majorities.
Themed "Bring Democracy Back to Thailand," the conference was hosted by the Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy, which claims followers in 29 countries, 68 provinces in Thailand and nine U.S. states.
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