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Thai PM, army deny campaigns on social media to target political opponents – TheChronicleHerald.ca



BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s prime minister and the army denied on Wednesday opposition accusations in parliament that the military targets political opponents and rights activists with online propaganda campaigns run from fake accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

The accusations provoked Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to walk out of a heated parliamentary debate on Tuesday after a lawmaker of the outlawed opposition Future Forward Party presented documents that he said bore out the claims.

“I don’t know about this, I don’t have this type of policy,” Prayuth told reporters on Wednesday, referring to the documents.

“We will investigate, but there is no policy.”

The lawmaker, Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, had told parliament the documents showed Prayuth’s government was funding military-run smear campaigns to systematically harass opponents and praise the government on social media.

He read from what he said were two leaked military memos that ordered army personnel to create fake social media accounts to “offer counternarrative” for criticism of the government.

Reuters has not examined the documents.

“The army works in the open and we don’t use avatars,” Lieutenant General Thanya Kiatsarn, of the second army area command, a unit the opposition said figured in one of the memos, told the Khaosod newspaper.

Some soldiers may be using social media to defend the reputation of the military but the effort was not centrally organized, he added.

Facebook and Twitter did not immediately respond to emails to seek comment.

Prayuth’s coalition majority was strengthened by the disbanding last week of Future Forward, the third-largest party in parliament, on the grounds that the party breached the law when it took a loan from its founder.

The dissolution has sparked daily protests among university students who are among the party’s most vocal supporters.

Following Friday’s court ruling to dissolve the party, its members have launched a string of accusations against Prayuth and the former military junta he led for five years before elections in 2019.

The ruling banned from politics 11 party lawmakers who lost their seats, while giving the 65 remaining MPs 60 days to either form a new party or join an existing one.

(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Kay Johnson and Clarence Fernandez)

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Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, 2 others arrested on illegal assembly charges-media – National Post



HONG KONG — Hong Kong publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai, an outspoken critic of Beijing, and two other pro-democracy activists were arrested by police on Friday on charges of illegal assembly, local media reported.

Lai, a self made millionaire who has been a major financial patron of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, was picked up by police at his house, Cable TV and TVB News reported.

Apple Daily, one of the publications under media company Next Digital in which Lai is non-executive chairman, said he was accused of participating in an illegal march on Aug. 31.

Veteran democracy activists Lee Cheuk-yan and Yeung Sum were also arrested on Friday on the same charges, Cable TV reported.

Lai, Lee and Yeung could not be reached immediately for comment.

Hong Kong police would not confirm the arrests to Reuters and said they would not comment further.

The arrests come after a period of relative calm in the Asian financial hub following months of intense anti-government protests.

Authorities in Hong Kong have arrested more than 7,000 people for their involvement in the protests, many on charges of rioting that can carry jail terms of up to 10 years. It is unclear how many are still in custody.

Public anger has grown over the months due to perceptions of China tightening its grip over the city. Beijing denies meddling and blames the West for fomenting unrest.

Lai was previously arrested in 2014 for refusing to leave a key pro-democracy protest site in the center of the city. Following his arrest he resigned as editor in chief of Apple Daily. He has also come under scrutiny from Hong Kong’s anti-graft agency when they raided his home in 2014. (Reporting by Donny Kwok; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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Chinese-Canadian community using social media to co-ordinate self-quarantines to prevent spread of COVID-19 – National Post



While a group of 23 Chinese-Canadian doctors are calling on the federal government to require everyone flying in from China to enter a 14-day quarantine to avoid the spread of COVID-19, many in the community are already doing just that.

There’s a network of dozens of WeChat groups run by volunteers across the country that are facilitating self-quarantines, said Nelly Gong, a Mississauga, Ont., insurance agent who came to Canada more than two decades ago.

Volunteers on the Chinese social media app drop off groceries for people under self-quarantine and facilitate “no-touch” pick-ups from the airport, meaning they arrange for a running car to be waiting in the pick-up zone. Sometimes a volunteer will offer up their home for the returning person to stay in, or their family.

I don’t think we prepared enough

Gong said for those who have seen how serious the situation is in China, 14 days in quarantine is a small sacrifice to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to their friends, family members and neighbours.

“I don’t know how this virus will spread — how serious it will be in Canada,” Gong said. “I don’t think we prepared enough at this point.”

Dr. Stanley Zheng, one of the group of doctors calling for the quarantines, shares Gong’s concern. The Toronto family physician told the National Post’s Tom Blackwell on Wednesday that the federal government should make 14-day quarantines mandatory for all people arriving from China and the world’s other COVID-19 “hot spots.” The Public Health Agency of Canada currently only advises people travelling from Wuhan to isolate themselves.

Gong said the WeChat groups could be a model for how to manage more self-quarantines across Canada.

According to the World Health Organization’s daily report, as of Feb. 27 there were 82,294 confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world, 78,630 of them in China. The coronavirus has killed 2,747 people in China and 57 elsewhere. Canada has identified 13 cases — six in Ontario and seven in British Columbia.

“How are we going to manage if it bursts out?” Gong said.

As a community leader — Gong is a volunteer with United Way and co-chair of Peel Regional Police’s Chinese Advisory Committee — Gong often gets contacted directly by people returning from China who want to know what they should do. She connects them with the appropriate WeChat group and supports the process behind the scenes.

Each group has one or more leaders and a national one comprised of group leaders has 53 members, Gong said. The Montreal group has almost 300 members, Toronto has two groups with more than 200 members combined, and numerous other groups have more than 100 members. People use the app to keep track of how many people are in isolation, and for how long. Once someone exits quarantine, they often stay on as a volunteer, Gong said.

Some workplaces have been supportive, giving people time off, or shipping a laptop to their employees home. Others have been forced to take unpaid leave, Gong said.

A woman wears a surgical mask in Vancouver amid fears over the COVID-19 coronavirus. Seven of Canada’s 13 cases are in British Columbia.

Arlen Redekop/Postmedia

Han Dong, the Liberal MP for Don Valley North, said he’s heard of the Chinese-Canadian community’s efforts. People are “very concerned” and have experienced racist incidents in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Dong said. The community’s response has been to do everything they can to ensure the virus doesn’t spread.

“They don’t want to give it to their neighbours,” Dong said. “We see that a lot in Canadian society. People look after each other.”

Dong said that none of the people who have self-quarantined themselves have developed COVID-19 symptoms. But with reported cases of people who have transmitted the virus without showing any signs of being sick themselves, the quarantines may still have prevented additional cases.

“We have done quite well so far, considering the traffic from the U.S. and the world,” Dong said. “In the next couple of weeks we may have a tougher situation.”

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Trudeau minister says government WILL regulate online media, AGAIN – The Post Millennial



Kevin Geenen is a former Conservative Party of Canada staffer and third-year student at the University of Ottawa.

After almost three weeks of disruptions, the rail blockade in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs near Belleville, Ontario, was finally dismantled early Monday morning. It seemed that the #ShutDownCanada movement would finally come to an end. Right? Wrong.

The protestors are instead using the arrests to inflame the movement. Monday evening protestors near Hamilton blocked tracks leading to the cancellation of GO Train service to Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Hamilton, and West Harbour stations impacting thousands of GTA commuters.

Protestors near Caledonia have blocked a section of Highway 6. 

In British Columbia, there are new protests popping up yet again on rail tracks, at the Port of Vancouver, and at the BC legislature.

There have been reports of rail blockades in Quebec and Saskatchewan as well.

It seems that the whole country is in political turmoil. And it is Trudeau who has allowed the situation to become so bad. When the blockades first started Trudeau was on a trip pandering to foreign politicians for a seat on the United Nations Security Council even though the United Nations is becoming an increasingly irrelevant entity. 

When Trudeau should have been at home dealing with the protestors and directing the RCMP he was abroad shaking hands with the anti-gay Prime Minister of Senegal and bowing to Iranian regime officials who are responsible for the deaths of 57 Canadians on Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752.

Once Trudeau finally spoke about the blockades it was only to inform the Canadian public that there was essentially nothing he could do because “we are not the kind of country where politicians get to tell the police what to do.” 

Never mind the fact that the RCMP is actually under the authority of Public Safety Minister Bill Blair whose boss just so happens to be Trudeau.

In the early days of the blockades Trudeau wouldn’t even call them what they are: illegal. Instead, Trudeau used the blockades as an opportunity to talk about freedom of speech and how we must listen to opposing views. Trudeau then quickly forgot his words and shut Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer out of a meeting for daring to suggest that the rule of law must be upheld.

Something else that Trudeau and the radical left has trouble understanding is that the freedom to protest does not give one the right to do whatever one wants. Freedom to protest does not allow one to participate in illegal acts such as shutting down an entire railway corridor.

And yet Trudeau continued to pander to these environmental extremists, insisting that dialogue, not force, was the solution. And so, while CN laid off 450 workers and VIA Rail laid off 1,000 workers and while communities began experiencing propane shortages, Trudeau’s ministers were busy meeting with protestors to attempt “dialogue”.

What was the result of this dialogue? Nothing. Just blockades that continued to stand and Indigenous leaders that continued to issue ultimatums to the federal government. Let’s be honest, these protestors will only ever be happy once they get their way. They want to cancel the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a pipeline that has been approved by all 20 First Nation’s councils along its route, and will stop at nothing until they get what they want.

Trudeau’s weak stance on this issue has simply shown protestors that it is okay to block rail lines, highways and bridges. Trudeau is a juggler. He pretends to be on everyone’s side. He pretends to care about reconciliation by emphasizing dialogue between the government and First Nations. And he pretends to care about the economy and public safety by finally calling on the blockades to come down after nearly three weeks of unsuccessful “dialogue”. 

Trudeau’s hesitation is also to blame for the cancellation of Teck Resources Frontier oil sands mine. The project was cancelled due to the uncertainty of the political climate perpetuated by the #ShutDownCanada blockades and Trudeau’s decision to let the project’s proposal sit on his desk since July without making a decision on the matter.

The only thing that Trudeau has succeeded in doing is making everybody angry at him. The thousands of people, including First Nation’s people, who won’t have jobs because of the Teck Frontier cancellation are not happy. The small business owners losing money because of the rail blockades are not happy. And the #ShutDownCanada protestors certainly aren’t happy with Trudeau (and probably won’t be until every energy project in the country is shut down).

In seeking to please everyone, Trudeau once again has pleased no one. And it leaves one wondering what he’s actually prepared to take a stand on.

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