Tag Archives: La-migra

Gov. Greg Abbott Criticized (Rightfully So) for Lifting Mask Mandate & ‘Opening Texas 100%’

politics over care for risks to citizens.

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On March 10, Texas will become the biggest state to lift its face mask mandate, this according to Gov. Greg Abbott who made the announcement Tuesday (March 2) stating that mandates “are no longer needed” but that removing them “does not end personal responsibility.” NEW: Issuing an executive order to lift the mask mandate and […]

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Pfizer Vaccine Shows New Results After First Dose & More in Today’s News

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Las Notis is a daily news column that gets you up to speed on the political, media + other going ons in Latin America and the diaspora—all in one quick digest. Here’s your glimpse at what’s going on today: As countries, including the U.S., try to ramp up their vaccinations, new research shows that the […]

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Thailand: Prominent Activists Held in Pre-Trial Detention

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Activists Somyot Pruksakasemsuk (left),  Parit Chiwarak (center), and Arnon Nampha (right) raise a three-finger salute, a symbol of resistance, at the Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand on Tuesday, February 9, 2021.
© 2021 AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit

(New York) – The Bangkok Criminal Court has denied bail requests and ordered four prominent democracy activists into pretrial detention on lese majeste charges, Human Rights Watch said today. The order could condemn them to detention for years until their trial is concluded.

On February 9, 2021, the attorney general indicted Arnon Nampha, Parit Chiwarak, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, and Patiwat Saraiyaem for violating penal code article 112 on lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) charges for their onstage speeches during a September 19, 2020 political rally. Each accused faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. The activists were also charged with sedition under penal code article 116, which carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

“To respond to persistent public protests, authorities are abusing Thailand’s draconian lese majeste law to aggressively clamp down on speech they don’t like,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Holding people in pretrial detention for peaceful expression portends a return to the dark days when people simply charged with this crime end up spending years in jail while their trials drag on interminably.”

The number of lese majeste cases in Thailand is rapidly increasing with no end in sight, Human Rights Watch said. After almost a three-year hiatus in which lese majeste prosecutions were not brought before the courts, in November 2020 Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered Thai authorities to bring back lese majeste prosecutions as a response to growing criticisms of the monarchy by student protesters, civil society activists, and ordinary members of the public who call for democratic reforms. Since then, officials have charged at least 58 people with lese majeste crimes in relation to various activities at democracy rallies or their comments on social media. Past practice has repeatedly shown that Thai authorities, particularly the police, are unwilling to reject allegations of lese majeste, no matter how specious, for fear of being seen as disloyal to the monarchy.

In a statement on February 8 regarding the situation in Thailand, United Nations human rights experts said that lese majeste laws have no place in a democratic country. They also expressed serious concerns about the growing number of lese majeste prosecutions since November and harsh prison sentences meted out to some defendants, including an 87-year sentence (halved to 43 years since she pleaded guilty) on January 19 to a retired civil servant, Anchan Preelert. Unless the sentence is commuted, Anchan, who is 65 years old, will most likely spend the rest of her life in prison, Human Rights Watch said. The ruling has had a chilling effect on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified, encourages bail for criminal suspects. Article 9 states that, “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.” Those denied bail need to be tried as expeditiously as possible, Human Rights Watch said.

The ICCPR protects the right to freedom of expression. General Comment 34 of the Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors compliance with the covenant, has stated that laws such as those for lese majeste “should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person that may have been impugned” and that governments “should not prohibit criticism of institutions.”

“The Thai government should address the demands of critics and protesters instead of putting them in jail for long periods before they are tried on flimsy charges,” Adams said. “The authorities should immediately end their heavy-handed enforcement of the lese majeste law and engage in a dialogue with United Nations experts and others about amending the law to bring it into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations.”

Drinks Giant Kirin Cuts Ties with Myanmar Military After Coup

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Plastic crates containing Kirin brand beer at the Kirin Brewery Co. factory in Yokohama, Japan, June 2019. 

© 2019 REUTERS/Issei Kato

Nearly one week after Myanmar’s military seized control of the government in a coup, it is facing a long-overdue consequence.

On February 5, Japanese beverage giant Kirin Holdings Company, Ltd announced it would “terminate” its partnership with Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL), the country’s military-owned conglomerate. Kirin described the military’s “recent actions” as against the company’s “standards and Human Rights policy.” Kirin said it would be “taking steps as a matter of urgency to put this termination into effect.”

For years, Kirin has been widely criticized for owning two joint ventures with MEHL. Even after the military carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim-minority population in 2017, killing thousands and forcing 750,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, Kirin continued with business as usual. Organizations including Human Rights Watch repeatedly called on Kirin to cut ties or else it would continue to drag its reputation through the mud as its partnership with MEHL helped fund the military’s grave rights violations.

Kirin should not have waited until the arrests of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other elected officials to determine that doing business with an abusive military is an extremely high risk to both human rights and its global standing. Nonetheless, considering that Kirin’s joint ventures Myanmar Brewery and Mandalay Brewery dominate the beer market in Myanmar, its move should set the ball rolling toward a global effort, called on by the United Nations-backed Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar in 2019, to financially isolate the Myanmar military and weaken its ability to commit further atrocities.

Japanese businesses and government-owned entities participating in projects with military ties in Myanmar should immediately re-evaluate their involvement and suspend commercial relationships until the military is removed from economic and political spheres and brought under civilian control. The Japanese government should also assess its policies more broadly and prevent companies from partnering with abusive actors in Myanmar and elsewhere. Otherwise, the commitments it has laid out in its five-year National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights will be meaningless.

Myanmar: End Crackdown on Media, Communications

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Protesters in Yangon raise their phones in demonstration against the military coup in Myanmar, February 4, 2021.
© 2021 Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet / SOPA Images/Sipa USA via AP Images

Myanmar’s military junta should immediately lift internet restrictions, release all persons detained since the February 1, 2021 coup, and end harassment and threatened arrests of journalists, Human Rights Watch said today.

Journalists in Myanmar have reported credible threats of an imminent, broader-sweeping crackdown on media workers, and several have told Human Rights that they fear for their safety.

“A news and information blackout by the coup leaders can’t hide their politically motivated arrests and other abuses,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The military should immediately release those arrested, restore access to online information, and protect the right to free expression.”

On February 4, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) in Myanmar said that in addition to 133 officials and lawmakers whom the military detained at the onset of the coup, 14 activists had also been detained. On the morning of February 4, the authorities arrested 4 among about 20 protesters who had gathered outside the University of Medicine in Mandalay to oppose the coup. It is not yet known if those arrested have been charged. On February 5, the authorities detained Aung San Suu Kyi’s senior aide, Win Htein, 79, in Mayangone township. He is facing charges for his comments denouncing the coup.

Human Rights Watch called for the lifting of the February 3 and February 5 orders issued by the Transport and Communications Ministry, now fully under the control of the military, directing the blocking of social media services. The government said it was barring the use of the service because people were using it to “trouble the country’s stability.”

On February 3, the ministry ordered all mobile communications operators, international gateways, and internet service providers to cut off access to social media services owned by Facebook at least until February 7. The order went into effect on February 4, when Facebook, its Messenger app, as well as Instagram and WhatsApp, which Facebook owns, all became inaccessible on mobile data networks for people with SIM cards from the telecommunications company MPT. Telenor, a Norway-based telecommunications company, issued a statement saying that it had complied with the order that had a “legal basis in Myanmar law,” but expressed “grave concern regarding the breach of human rights.” Facebook is the main source of news and information in the country and for many Myanmar people is synonymous with the internet.

On February 5, the Council broadened the restrictions, ordering mobile communications operators, international gateways, and internet service providers to cut access to Twitter and Instagram. Disruptions to Twitter services were reported throughout the country and for numerous services providers. According to Netblocks, the service disruptions began on February 6 around 3 a.m. Instagram was already subject to restrictions under the previous directive at the time of the announcement.

On February 5, Telenor issued another statement saying it also complied with the February 5 directive, which it noted did not have a date of expiration, stating it had “legal basis in Myanmar’s telecommunications law” and that Telenor had challenged “the necessity and proportionality of the directive.”

Under international human rights standards, any internet-based restrictions must be provided for in law and be necessary and proportionate and pursuant to a legitimate aim. Internet shutdowns fail to meet these standards and hinder access to information and communications needed for daily life, which is particularly vital during times of crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic. Restrictions also provide cover for human rights abuses, and complicate efforts to document government violations.

Internet service providers should uphold their responsibilities under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which says that companies should “[s]eek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.” This means resisting unjustified internet shutdowns. Service providers should insist upon a legal basis for any shutdown order, interpret requests to cause the least intrusive restrictions, and restore access as soon as possible, Human Rights Watch said.

On February 4, the United Nations Security Council members issued a statement expressing deep concern over the declared state of emergency and the arbitrary detention of the members of the democratically elected government in Myanmar. In calling for the release of those detained, the Security Council also urged Myanmar to “refrain from violence and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.” The council also expressed concern over restrictions on civil society, journalists, and other media workers.

“The Myanmar military has engaged in a naked power grab that if not reversed will set back democracy and the protection of human rights for a generation,” Adams said. “The coup was so appalling that even China, which has consistently protected military from condemnation at the Security Council, signed onto a call for the respect of fundamental freedoms. Governments should be clear-eyed about the military’s appalling human rights record and together demand the military abandon its wholesale assault on civilian rule, human rights, and the rule of law.”

Singapore Spying on Students’ Laptops

The Singaporean government should reverse the rule, which poses significant risks to children’s freedom of expression, privacy, and access to information. Instead, the government should consider investing more resources into strengthening digital literacy to empower children to navigate the internet critically, confidently, and safely.

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A student uses a laptop for schoolwork while participating in remote learning, September 7, 2020.
© 2020 Press Association via AP Images

Singapore’s Education Ministry has made it mandatory for secondary school students to install tracking and remote access software on all laptops issued under a national digital literacy program, and on students’ personal devices that are used to attend classes online during Covid-19 related school closures.

The software allows school officials and teachers to go through a student’s web search history and remotely “view student screens [and] close distracting tabs” in order to “restrict access to objectionable material,” both during and outside of school hours. It also allows teachers to restrict the amount of time students use their devices.

The rule lacks safeguards to protect against intrusions into children’s private lives. Schools have broad discretion in deciding which websites to block or search terms to flag, without needing to inform parents or students. In a country known for its severe restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, including on issues of race, religion, and LGBT rights, the lack of definition over what constitutes “objectionable material,” and the lack of transparency in how these decisions are made, undermines children’s ability to speak freely and access information.

At a time when children and families have increasingly gone online to support children’s learning, socialization, and play, the compulsory installation of digital surveillance tools on personal devices is a deep reach into students’ homes and personal lives, at all hours. It also risks disproportionately affecting the privacy of low-income families, where children often share a single device with parents and siblings for work, study, and connection.

More than 6,500 students, parents, and others have joined a student-led petition calling on the Education Ministry not to install the software on students’ personal devices.

The Singaporean government should reverse the rule, which poses significant risks to children’s freedom of expression, privacy, and access to information. Instead, the government should consider investing more resources into strengthening digital literacy to empower children to navigate the internet critically, confidently, and safely.

Is Your Business Funding Myanmar Military Abuses?

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A convoy of army vehicles patrol the streets in Mandalay, Myanmar, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. In the early hours of Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, the Myanmar army took over the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup.
© AP Photo

The military coup in Myanmar this week should sound alarm bells in corporate boardrooms around the world. Since Myanmar’s transition from decades of military dictatorship to a civilian government began in 2011, transnational businesses have cautiously reentered the country. But the coup highlights the question company directors should already have been asking: “Is our company directly or indirectly funding the Myanmar military?”

The human rights, reputational, and legal risks of continuing to do business with Myanmar’s military are immense. The Tatmadaw, as it is known, has been accused of genocide and crimes against humanity against Rohingya Muslims, and war crimes against other ethnic minorities.  And now it has overthrown a civilian government that won a massive re- election, with over 80 percent of the vote, in November 2020.

Companies doing business in Myanmar have long had access to credible information about the military’s grave abuses and corruption. A 2019 United Nations report found that companies with commercial ties to the Myanmar’s military and its conglomerates, Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), “are contributing to supporting the Tatmadaw’s financial capacity.” The report said these companies are at “high risk of contributing to or being linked to, violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.” The UN team’s recommendation was clear: companies operating or investing in Myanmar should not do business with “the security forces of Myanmar, in particular the Tatmadaw, or any enterprise owned or controlled by them, including subsidiaries, or their individual members.”

All companies—parent holdings and subsidiaries—should now re-evaluate their commercial ties in Myanmar and suspend any relationships with businesses linked to the military—some of which may soon be subject to targeted sanctions by the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, and other countries. They should also publicly disclose the names, addresses, ownership, and other relevant details about whom they do business with in the country. No consumers or investors should be directly or indirectly supporting the denial of the right of Myanmar’s people to choose their government and other military abuses, but it’s the companies themselves who have a responsibility to ensure they have no ties with Myanmar’s security forces, their individual members, or entities owned or controlled by them. Without these steps, company executives risk not only complicity with Myanmar military abuses, but losing the trust of their customers and investors as well.

 

Myanmar Military Blocks Internet During Coup

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Myanmar Times newspaper with the headline ‘State of Emergency’ among other newspapers for sale are seen on display a day after the Myanmar’s military detained the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s president in a coup. 
© (Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

This is not the first time Myanmar’s military leaders have rounded up civilian leaders and taken power. But this time, bad old habits have come with new rights abuses.

Myanmar’s military began detaining senior government officials and activists across the country on February 1, seizing control of the government. Communication networks were shut down through the use of disruption techniques targeting cellular services and so-called “kill switches” to cut off internet traffic – tactics the government has already used in conflict-wracked Rakhine and Chin States. The shutdown across large swaths of the country for several hours —including throughout Naypyidaw, Yangon, Mandalay and Sagaing Regions, and Shan and Kachin States—raises serious concerns of more prolonged and dangerous military shutdowns in the future.

Under international human rights standards, internet-based restrictions must be necessary and proportionate. Blanket internet shutdowns are a form of collective punishment. They hinder access to information and communications needed for daily life, which is particularly vital during times of crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic. Shutdowns can also endanger lives in humanitarian crises, an acute concern in Myanmar where over 1 million people require some form of humanitarian assistance. Restrictions also provide cover for human rights abuses, and complicate efforts to document government violations.

Besides rescinding the state of emergency, recognizing the duly elected government, releasing all those arbitrarily detained and ending all unlawful deprivation of fundamental rights, the military authorities need to ensure access to information through the internet and mobile networks. Internet service providers should uphold their responsibilities under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which calls on companies to “[s]eek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.” This means pushing back against unjustified internet shutdowns. Service providers should insist upon a legal basis for any shutdown order, interpret requests to cause the least intrusive restrictions, and restore access as soon as possible.

Governments around the world should take joint action in response to the coup to ensure the rights of Myanmar’s people are respected. Among the front burner issues should be their access to information through the internet and cellular services.

‘Chicano Squad’ Podcast Explores All-Latino Homicide Team Formed in Late 1970s

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Hosted by actress, writer and advocate Cristela Alonzo (TV’s Cristela), Chicano Squad is a new podcast that revisits the formation of an all-Latino homicide team in Houston, Texas, in the late 1970s, prompted by the brutal murder of a young Latino veteran at the hands of local police officers. In 1979, Houston was in the […]

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Cuban American Proud Boys Leader Worked as Informant for FBI

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Enrique Tarrio, 36-year-old Miami-based, Cuban American leader of the extremist group the Proud Boys, worked undercover for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, this according to a former prosecutor and a 2014 federal court transcript obtained exclusively by Reuters. According to the former prosecutor, and FBI agent and Tarrio’s lawyer, Tarrio helped the Bureau prosecute 13 […]

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