On top of a giant yellow inflatable duck, a rebel Buddhist monk in saffron robes displayed a defiant three finger salute at a pro-democracy protest in central Bangkok.

Mighty ducks: Thai protesters flip the bird at authorities

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by Lisa Martin and Montira Rungjirajittranon

On top of a giant yellow inflatable duck, a rebel Buddhist monk in saffron robes displayed a defiant three finger salute at a pro-democracy protest in central Bangkok.

Scores of the pool toys bobbed through a crowd some 20,000 strong on Wednesday as activists descended on the Thai national police headquarters to throw paint and scrawl obscene anti-royal slogans on the streets.

The cute yellow birds are fast becoming a symbol of the Thai protests after demonstrators used them a day earlier as shields against the burning spray of police water cannon and tear gas at a rally near parliament.

Tuesday saw the most violent confrontations since the rallies kicked off in July — six people were shot during scuffles between royalists and democracy activists.

The youth-led movement is demanding a new constitution, making unprecedented calls to reform the untouchable monarchy, and for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who came to power in a 2014 coup.

Footage of Thailand’s so-called “rubber duck revolution” has gone viral on social media this week.

“If the politics are good, ducks will only be used in the pool,” one Twitter user remarked.

“Here you go, the most terrifying weapon from the protesters’ side: an inflatable duck,” a Facebook user wrote.

“Duck is a fighter, no matter how much people bully him, he still keeps smiling,” a Thai man tweeted alongside a picture of a battered and slightly deflated duck.

The duck protest appearances have also inspired a bevy of artwork.

Thai artist Wannasin “Matthew” Inpin used a tablet computer to whip up a cartoon of a part-duck part-strong man figure protecting protesters.

“Rubber ducks are very fragile and I think it is not a fair fight at all but I think this act shows the protesters’ fearlessness and strength to fight back,” he told AFP.

“That’s why I drew the duck as a strong animal who protects protesters and is not afraid of dictatorship.”

The inflatable pool ducks are retailing on Lazada Thailand, an online shopping portal, for 499 baht ($15).

– Ducks gone global –
It’s not the first time the bathtime buddies have been used as symbols of defiance and protest.

In 2013 Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s 16-metre inflatable duck sculpture floated in Hong Kong’s harbour but swiftly became mired in controversy.

A Weibo user edited a famous image from the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, replacing tanks with ducks prompting a Chinese government internet search ban on “big yellow duck”.

Giant inflatable rubber ducks featured in protests in Brazil in 2016 during a push to impeach then-president Dilma Rousseff and highlight the economic “quackery” of her government amid a downturn.

And they also became a symbol of protest in Russia in 2017 when it emerged then-prime minister Dmitry Medvedev had multiple luxury estates including one that featured a special house for ducks on a pond.

Agence France-Presse

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Videos of abuse taken out of context? Dismissed envoy says case mishandled

Former ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro, who was dismissed for supposedly maltreating her helper said Wednesday she was denied due process and her case was “railroaded” and “mishandled.”

In a 5-page statement, Mauro claimed “there were heavy deficiencies committed by the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) Hearing Panel.”

“For some reasons, the DFA Hearing Panel totally disregarded the documentary evidence that my lawyers and I have painstakingly gathered, reviewed and submitted to them,” Mauro said.

She added: “The case was railroaded to the point that important pieces of evidence were deliberately not given due attention.”

Mauro was caught on video while assaulting her 51-year old Filipina helper inside the diplomatic residence.

Over the weekend, President Rodrigo Duterte said he has approved the dismissal of Mauro from the Philippine Foreign Service, and the recommended accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, perpetual disqualification of holding public office and bar from taking civil service examination.

Mauro said she was deeply saddened to learn about her dismissal through media reports and that it “pains” her that the penalty was recommended and imposed “despite the explanation and contextualization of what actually transpired.”

“I completely regret the incidents in the videos and the shame it has brought upon the Department of Foreign Affairs… I want to reassure the public that I have made amends and have deeply regretted my behavior,” she said.

“I have asked my kasambahay’s forgiveness, which she has given.”

She went on to claim that she has been treating her helper as a family member as has been in her family’s employ on and off for over 30 years.

“My kasambahay has always considered this a family matter to be resolved within the family. Her silence and refusal to appear before the public despite heavy encouragement to do so is testament to her desire to keep this matter within the family,” she said.

Despite the helper’s refusal to lodge formal charges, Mauro said the still actively pursued the helper and recommended her dismissal.

The diplomat also claimed that the videos were “taken out of context and created a negative public impression” that judged her character.

She also disclosed her plan to bring her case to the court to “obtain an unbiased judgment.”

Gatchalian presses for urgent start to learning recovery

Senator Win Gatchalian on Wednesday urged the government to implement immediately the pilot testing of localized limited face-to-face classes to “hasten learning recovery.”

“Kahit tuluyan na nating masugpo ang Covid-19, patuloy pa rin tayo sa pagtugon sa mga pinsalang dinulot ng kawalan ng face-to-face classes,” the chair of the Senate basic education committee said.

“Bukod sa pag-urong ng kaalaman, kabilang din dito ang pag-akyat ng mga kaso ng karahasan, pang-aabuso, at ang pagdami ng mga batang ina,” Gatchalian said.

On Tuesday, the Senate adopted Senate Resolution 663 recommending the resumption of physical learning through the immediate launch of the pilot testing of localized limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas identified by the Department of Education (DepEd).

The adopted resolution notes that the participation of learners will be voluntary and with express permission by their parents or guardians.

It will also help the DepEd, in coordination with the Department of Health (DOH) and the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), in setting specific standards and health protocols.

These include the provision of safe learning facilities and public health supplies such as adequate supply of safe water, sanitation areas, hand washing stations, soap, alcohol, and other cleaning materials.

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