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The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

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Two years since Thailand’s military coup, country heading for turmoil

By: Daniel Besant - Posted on: May 20, 2016 | Current Affairs

This Sunday marks two years since a military coup in Thailand, and the junta’s promised stability seems a long way off

This weekend, Thailand’s military junta reaches a significant anniversary, but it is unlikely many – either within or outside its ranks – will be celebrating.

military coup
Thai soldiers keep watch in front of the military base in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo: EPA/Narong Sangnak

Two years ago on 22 May, the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council – its name changed 48 hours later to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) – wrested power from the civilian government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

Since taking the reins, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former general, has ruled under Article 44 of an interim constitution. This gives him absolute power to issue orders to “strengthen public unity and harmony” or to prevent any act that undermines public peace.

The military government keeps a watchful eye on social media, the press and any hints of protest. With draconian computer crime and lèse-majesté legislation to hand, the NCPO has imprisoned critics and issued compulsory summonses to several hundred dissidents to attend “attitude readjustment” sessions in military camps. All of which has induced a climate of fear.

“The media has faced intense censorship. Public protest against the government has been prohibited. Meanwhile, cases of lèse-majesté have skyrocketed,” said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor at Kyoto University’s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies. “On top of that, the military government has never been hesitant to intrude into private messages on the social media [accounts] of Thai users.”

On the 7 August, Thailand is set to hold a national referendum on a draft constitution. Drawn up by 21 NCPO-appointed writers, it specifies that a 250-member upper house is to be nominated by the junta. Six of those senate seats are designated for top military brass. Public criticism of the proposed constitution has been outlawed.

Commenting last month, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein was critical of the military’s increasing dominance. “Extending the military’s powers is not the answer to rebuilding Thailand’s political landscape,” he said. “On the contrary, Thailand has competent civilian institutions and should be looking to strengthen the rule of law and good governance, not undermine it.”

Much is at stake for the junta with the referendum, according to Chachavalpongpun. What it craves is “legitimacy, legitimacy, legitimacy”, he said. “The approval of the constitution would give legitimacy to the constitution in itself and equally important the legitimacy of the NCPO,” the academic added. “Internationally speaking, this would also compel Western nations to endorse the constitution and the general elections which will follow.”

Whatever happens, the referendum will be contentious. Many individuals and a large swathe of civil society groups oppose it, as do factions in the Puea Thai party, which includes supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra – Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother – and a faction within the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra Democrat Party. And the longer the military government stays on, the more likely it is to collapse in on itself.

“Generally speaking, the longer a military dictator rules, the more risk there is of internal dissent and factionalism,” said Lee Jones, a senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London. “This is why pure military dictatorships typically don’t last very long and why the NCPO doesn’t want to rule indefinitely. The risks are heightened in [Chan-ocha’s] case because he is so erratic and incompetent.”

Writing in the Straits Times on 14 May, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, said turmoil looms on the horizon. If the draft constitution is rejected, the prime minister has indicated another will be drafted – which would be the third during his time in office. If successful, “the consequent election will risk being rigged for a four-star general to take the premiership in a military-conceived ‘custodial’ democracy.”

“Either way, Thailand is heading inexorably towards tension and turmoil,” Pongsudhirak added. “The military will become increasingly heavy-handed as it loses control and dissent mounts, and pro-democracy forces are too scattered and divided on the Thaksin fault line to fill in the gap.”

In the meantime, support for Chan-ocha is haemorrhaging. Since launching two years ago with high popularity, one of the junta leader’s two TV shows, “Returning Happiness to the People,” has plummeted to the depths of the ratings. At the same time, the government’s Facebook page can barely muster 20,000 followers.

“This is an obvious indication of the deteriorating of popularity of the junta. We must understand that the junta has never been popular among the mass population anyway,” said Chachavalpongpun. “But when the [leadership] has shown no sign of seriousness about returning power to the Thai people, many of them see no point in why they have to continue to watch silly propaganda from the state again. Trust me, many Thais are so tired of him.”

The powers-that-be have completely failed in their stated aim to reconcile Thai society and create a stable political order, said Jones. “The NCPO has only succeeded in uniting Thailand’s political factions against itself,” he added. “Basic rights are being undermined, while the economy is suffering under military misrule. Thailand is going backwards.”