“Progressives — and other members of Thailand’s pro-democracy opposition parties — scored a stunning victory in the country’s elections.., dealing a major blow to military-backed incumbents. Their overwhelming success, which came as a shock to political observers of the region, indicated that Thai voters are interested in a change from the current military-led regime and sent a significant message in favor of a more representative government.
The progressive Move Forward Party, led by Pita Limjaroenrat, is projected to win 151 seats in the House — the highest of any group — while the populist opposition party Pheu Thai, aligned with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, will likely win 141 seats. Collectively, the two parties will now hold at least 292 of 500 seats in the House.”
“The military has long had a hold on Thai politics, a grip only strengthened by military coups in 2006 and 2014. That latter coup was led by current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who ushered in a new constitution that gave the military unprecedented power over government. One of those post-coup reforms threatens Move Forward’s coalition: 376 members of parliament are needed to elect a new prime minister, and the 250-person Senate was appointed by the military.
Move Forward said Monday that several parties have agreed to join its governing coalition, giving it control of 309 of parliament’s 500 seats. That leaves Pita Limjaroenrat 67 votes short of the majority needed to become prime minister. It’s unclear whether the Senate will work to cobble together a military-aligned minority government, or split its support between the two factions.”
“two years on, 3,000 civilians have reportedly been killed by the Tatmadaw, though the number of civilian deaths caused by both the junta and the resistance is likely higher. The airstrike is also indicative of the junta’s determination to retain power no matter the cost, despite its inability to maintain territorial control.
Though Myanmar has a long history of brutal and repressive military rule, the stunning violence of the current regime has made it “the worst regime in Southeast Asia since the Khmer Rouge,” according to former US Ambassador to Myanmar Scot Marciel, referring to Pol Pot’s murderous dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s.
The junta, or Tatmadaw as it’s called in Myanmar, has solidified the country’s status as a pariah state with its repressive tactics and scorched-earth military attacks. Yet it has stated its plans to hold elections this year in order to legitimize its control of the government on the international stage — or at least make an attempt to do so.”
“opposition to military rule has morphed from protests to outright conflict, as armed factions aligned with Myanmar’s many ethnic groups battle government forces for territorial control. Though many groups fight under the banner of the shadow government, the National Unity Government (NUG), the opposition has thus far proven ineffective at — and perhaps uninterested in — building the coalitions necessary to create a future democratic government, according to David Scott Mathieson, an independent analyst.”
“Given that the Tatmadaw controls all of Myanmar’s state enterprises, including the oil, mining, and timber industries, it can — and will — continue its horrific campaign as long as those resources hold out, even as that battle plunges the country into extreme poverty.
According to a 2022 report from the UN OHCHR, the Tatmadaw government “has collapsed in many areas nationwide, the public health system has effectively broken down, and more than half of all school-aged children have not accessed education for two academic years.” Ye Myo Hein, a global fellow at the Wilson Center and visiting fellow at the United States Institute of Peace, tweeted in late March regarding the fuel cuts and energy crisis affecting Myanmar, noting that, “The country has been experiencing increasingly frequent and disruptive power cuts — up to 14 and 15 hours a day in some areas.”
But neither side has the impetus to negotiate a solution so that Myanmar can rebuild its society and economy, nor does either have a particularly convincing vision for the future. If the Tatmadaw does manage to hold elections, they will be a sham and will convince few besides themselves of their mandate to govern.
Should the resistance somehow outlast or defeat the regime, it will have to grow from a symbolic government-in-exile to a unifying political force capable of not only rebuilding the nation and its economy, but also establishing a diverse governing coalition that reflects the Burmese people’s interests.”
“The members of the church, also known as the Mayflower Church, were granted refugee status by the U.N. agency after their arrival in Thailand last year. They say they faced unbearable harassment in China and are seeking asylum in the United States.”
“Human Rights Watch issued a statement on Saturday urging the Thai government not to deport the group due to “the grave dangers facing Christians back in China.”
In its annual report last year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom said the Chinese Communist Party requires religious groups to support its rule and political objectives, including by altering their religious teachings to conform with the party’s ideology and policy. “Both registered and unregistered religious groups and individuals who run afoul of the CCP face harassment, detention, arrest, imprisonment, and other abuses,” the commission said.”
“In fact, far-right parties have been slowly but steadily increasing their electoral support and political power in Europe since the early 1980s. Over that time, they have moved from the political margins into the political mainstream. As a consequence, far-right parties currently constitute the biggest threat to liberal democracy in Europe.
Five European countries in particular (but not exclusively) deserve attention on this front. Going from the most to the least acute level of threat, the world should keep an eye on Hungary, Poland, Italy, Sweden, and France. In all these countries, far-right parties are electorally successful and politically powerful, though their ability to weaken liberal democracy varies.”
“It was only in the third wave, 1980-2000, that far-right parties started to break into national parliaments in various European countries, such as the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the misleadingly named Center Party (CP) in the Netherlands. These populist radical right parties shared a core ideology of nativism, authoritarianism, and populism. Although not strictly single-issue parties, they mostly profited from a growing political dissatisfaction that centered in particular on immigration.
That paved the way for the fourth wave at the beginning of the century, in which far-right parties moved from the political margins into the political mainstream and increased their electoral support, from an average of just 1 percent of the vote in EU member states in the 1980s to close to 10 percent in the 2010s.”
“Most of the relevant parties in this fourth wave are part of the same populist radical right subgroup, focusing primarily on issues like crime, corruption, and immigration. Unlike the extreme right, which consists of a broad variety of small, neo-fascist parties — parties that, in terms of ideology and symbols, hark back to the fascist movements of the early 20th century — the radical right supports democracy per se. That is, they support popular sovereignty and majority rule, while opposing key institutions and values of liberal democracy, such as an independent judiciary and media, minority rights, pluralism, and the separation of powers.”
“the main impact is indirect, through the co-optation of the far-right agenda or the collaboration with far-right parties — by, mostly but not exclusively, mainstream right-wing parties — as is happening in France and Sweden, for example. What makes this process particularly problematic is that it is often not perceived as far-right or threatening; within the political establishment, many might deny or minimize cries of authoritarianism or nativism among insiders.”
“Supporters of populist former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the country’s Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential palace Sunday, a week after Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, commonly known as Lula, was sworn in as Brazil’s new president.
Thousands of people loyal to the right-wing Bolsonaro broke through police barricades and entered the Congress and Supreme Court buildings. Bolsonaro’s supporters — called Bolsonaristas — also surrounded the presidential palace, calling for Lula’s resignation, though the president was on an official state trip to Araquara and not in the capital, Brasília. Congress was also on recess, leaving the building mostly empty.
Lula made an official statement at 4 pm ET, saying he would sign an emergency decree, in effect till January 31, allowing the federal government to implement “any measures necessary” to calm the unrest in the capital.
“They took advantage of the silence on Sunday, when we are still setting up the government, to do what they did,” Lula’s account tweeted Sunday. “And you know that there are several speeches by the former president encouraging this. And this is also his responsibility and the parties that supported him.”
Videos of Bolsonaristas draped in yellow flags and sitting at the desks of lawmakers appeared on Twitter Sunday afternoon in a scene reminiscent of the January 6, 2021, storming of the US Capitol building by right-wing supporters of former US President Donald Trump. Throughout the afternoon, protesters destroyed windows in the Supreme Court building, flew the Brazilian imperial flag above the Congress building, set fire to a carpet in the lower house of Congress, looted gifts from foreign dignitaries, and reportedly attacked a photojournalist from the news outlet Metropoles.
Police forces at the capitol initially used tear gas against the protesters; however, that failed to deter protesters and drove the guards to seek cover behind the building. The Brazilian Armed Forces and anti-riot police, as well as the entire police force of the state of Brasília, have been called up in an attempt to quell the protests”
“the Bolsonaristas are animated by the belief that Brazil’s 2022 elections were rigged, and that Bolsonaro is the true winner of the election. Bolsonaro has been in the United States since Lula’s January 1, 2023, inauguration and has not yet publicly commented on the situation.
Lula won a runoff election against Bolsonaro last October, marking a return to power after a stint in prison on corruption charges. Lula, a left-wing former president who helped raise the standard of living for millions of Brazilians by strengthening the country’s social programs, first served as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010. He was in prison from 2018 to 2021.”
“Occupying the office without credibility will not lead to obedience. Chinese officials are very skilled at disobeying without getting caught. There is a Chinese saying, “There are policies from the top, and there are countermeasures at the bottom.” They have various ways to handle it. When others do not have faith in you, when you have no credibility and receive no acceptance, you are in big trouble. Your orders might not be carried out at all. Others might have ways to have your orders vanish into thin air.”
“The high-tech surveillance Xi Jinping employs to control society does lead to the belief that it is increasingly difficult, even impossible, to overthrow the regime using traditional tactics. But the problem is that high tech is not only accessible to Xi Jinping. The masses can master it, too. Resisters can also make use of these high tech means. Both sides enjoy equal opportunities. The key is whether there is enough confidence to take actions to overthrow the Communist Party. But of course Cai Xia and some other friends don’t always share the same opinions. They are anti-Xi, but not anti-communism. They oppose Xi Jinping, but not the Communist Party. They think such a stance can be accepted by more people. But I believe we not only need to oppose Xi Jinping, but also the Communist Party. If we could get rid of Xi Jinping, the Communist Party won’t last long either, the end will be near. At least, when it comes to that, the Communist Party might reform itself, thus creating an opportunity for democracy. I am still relatively optimistic. I don’t believe Xi Jinping could control everything. Especially when no one trusts you and you still need people to manage the surveillance system, would they be loyal to you? So, I think there are still opportunities.”
“The past 20-some years have proved that an open tyranny is even better at deceiving. During these 20-some years, major Western businesses have invested in China and painted a pretty picture of China for the outside world. A lot of the American people have come to believe it, thus letting down their guard against China. A lot of academics are also advocating for China. China’s infiltration of the U.S. has led to problems in the health of the American system. Now Americans are starting to realize how serious the infiltration is. It is close to taking control of our regime, our thinking. This situation, this is exactly the result of Deng Xiaoping’s open tyranny.
On the contrary, as Xi Jinping closes up the country, more and more people might be able to see the true face of the authoritarian regime, the danger it poses to the U.S. and its neighboring countries. Also, without the support of the people, it might grow increasingly weak, and it’s paradoxically not as dangerous as that of the open society under Deng Xiaoping. Therefore right now is the best opportunity for the people to confront the Communist Party.”
“I believe the overseas democracy movement has paramount importance. Mobilizing international pressure gives domestic dissidents some room to maneuver. The Communist Party fears global public opinion. They always have, right from the beginning. The party talks about how it fears nothing on the international stage, but it is terrified. This is a “merit” of the Communist Party — it knows it cannot alienate the whole world. So an important job for us overseas is to mobilize the international community to put pressure on the Communist Party.
Another important job is to facilitate the flow of information to the domestic audience, such as what democracy in America looks like, and why it is good. We utilize all channels. There are more and more channels nowadays, including social media. I have hundreds of thousands followers on my Twitter, and half of them are using Twitter through a VPN. They send their greetings so I know they come from within China. This is how we communicate information and discuss problems with people inside China, how we explain issues that they find perplexing. I think this is also very important to the future democratization. Because democracy in China can only be established by the people in China. It cannot depend on people overseas. The majority of those overseas are never able to return. The more the people in China know, the smoother the process of establishing democracy will be. So, this is an important part of our work. These two are our main tasks.”
“In the end, the insurrection was just the back-up plan. That’s one critical finding by the Jan. 6 select committee to keep in mind when digesting its sweeping criminal referrals of Donald Trump.
The former president floated the idea of marching on the Capitol with a “large and wild crowd” only after his White House advisers and lawyers aggressively tried to quash a quilt of crazy schemes to use federal courts, election administrators, state legislators and ersatz presidential electors to thwart the lawful, peaceful transfer of power. It was a last-ditch resort. And the violence of Jan. 6 would have had its intended effect only if some of those legal machinations had already put enough sand in the gears of the democratic process.”
“consider the sitting politicians who coordinated with Trump’s illegal efforts to thwart the democratic process. A facile take would be that election denialists allied with Trump were roundly defeated in the midterms. But this is just not so: Incumbent Republicans who denied the truth about the election, in fact, overwhelmingly won last month, and their voters continue to have low levels of trust in the election process. And as misinformation explodes afresh on Twitter, it would be reckless to imagine that candidates’ lies about how our democracy and laws are working will somehow abate.”
“there is no durable mechanism in place to forestall or punish elected representatives who violate the public trust in this way. Specifically, there is no clear, legislated structure to bar insurrectionists from holding office as required by Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
“consider those who participated in the fake slates of electors. The process of certification, and wide array of state officials and private citizens involved in it, remains vulnerable to wrongdoing at multiple points. The committee’s referral to DOJ on making false statements rightly homes in upon the fake presidential elector slates. Such prosecutions may well have real deterrence effects. This is important because so far, state prosecutors in six out of seven states are failing to investigate or bring charges after false slates were assembled, voted upon and transmitted to the U.S. Archivist.”
“the Jan. 6 committee has plausibly broken through to the broader public. It would be a profound shame if the committee’s vital work was misunderstood as a howl for revenge, rather than the more profound call for democratic renewal that it truly is.”
“the Islamic Republic, headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, executed 23-year-old Mohsen Shekari for the crime of “waging war against God,” or moharebeh in Farsi.
Shekari was the first prisoner to be executed due to the recent unrest, in what Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, head of the Norway-based organization Iran Human Rights, characterized as a “show trial without any due process.”
With Shekari’s execution — likely the first of dozens — the Iranian regime is reverting to a tried and tested playbook of executing political opponents and dissidents. But it’s not clear that the mass imprisonment, extrajudicial killings, and further possible state-sanctioned executions will deter the protesters who have for more than two months now defied crackdowns and curfews to call for an end to Khamenei’s regime.
It’s also not clear what success looks like for the protesters should they somehow manage to topple the regime that’s had an iron grip on the nation since the 1979 revolution — or how they would manage to do so in the first place.
The inciting spark for the now 11-week-long protests was the death of Mahsa Amini on September 16 while in the custody of Iran’s morality police. Amini, a 21-year old Kurdish woman, was arrested while in Tehran for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly; since her death, she has become a potent symbol of many Iranians’ contempt for the country’s oppressive theocracy.
The protests have gained momentum since they began in Amini’s hometown of Saqez, in Iranian Kurdistan, appearing in dozens of cities throughout the Islamic Republic despite the government’s efforts — including internet and mobile network disruptions, mass arrests, and civilian killings — to quash them.
There are some ways this protest echoes past movements, but there are also key differences — not just the longevity, but the degree of societal cohesion and solidarity, too. Women have led and become the public face of this movement — a particularly notable fact in 2022, given the ways that women have been repressed under the current regime.
All of that, however, doesn’t mean that this movement will bring down the Islamic Republic; decades of repression, a poor economic outlook, extremely limited opposition in the political establishment, plus the fact that the military and security service as well as the economic elite continue to throw their lot in with the regime make it difficult to imagine an alternative vision for the future of Iran.”