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Thailand: Proposed Law to Place Restrictions on Tobacco Sales

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(May 28, 2015) On May 26, 2015, Thailand's Cabinet approved a draft law on tobacco control; the legislation was first sent to the Cabinet by the Ministry of Public Health in December 2014. The provisions include raising the minimum age for the purchase of cigarettes from 18 to 20 and banning the sale of individual cigarettes, thus requiring sales by the pack. The law would also outlaw tobacco companies, whether manufacturers or importers, from sponsoring social activities and from using models to promote their products. (Patsara Jikkham & Saritdet Marukatat, Bill to Raise Minimum Age of Cigarette Buyers to 20; Sale of Individual Smokes to Be Outlawed, BANGKOK POST (May 26, 2015); Tobacco Products Control Act, BE 2535 (Mar. 29, 1992), § 4, THAILAND'S TOBACCO CONTROL LAWS, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance website [scroll down to locate text of Act].)

In addition, the proposed law would define tobacco products broadly, to encompass any item containing nicotine, including hookahs and electronic cigarettes. (Public Health Min to Propose Stricter Anti-Smoking Law, THAI VISA FORUM (Dec. 19. 2014).)

According to Major General Sansern Kaewkumnerd, a government spokesman, the draft legislation will now go to the Council of State for review to determine whether the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization have been met. (Jikkham & Marukatat, supra.) Thailand is a participant in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, having signed the document in 2003 and ratified it the following year. (Status as at: 26-05-2015 05:03:16 EDT, WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (May 21, 2003), UNITED NATIONS TREATY COLLECTION.) The Council of State, a department under Thailand's Prime Minister, produces codified versions of laws and regulations, in addition to advising state offices. (Council of State Thailand Website, PRACTICAL LAW (last visited May 28, 2015).)

Smoking is a major health problem in Thailand, with the average current age of addiction to tobacco at 17.4 years of age, just below the legal age to purchase cigarettes. (Jikkham & Marukatat, supra.) The Ministry of Public Health has noted that 70% of those who start smoking at a young age are never able to quit the habit and those who do eventually stop smoking can do so only after decades of addiction. (Public Health Min to Propose Stricter Anti-Smoking Law, supra.)

Reaction to the Draft Law

The Executive Secretary of the non-governmental organization Action on Smoking and Health Foundation of Thailand, Dr. Prakit Vateesatokij, expressed the opinion that the new law would deter young people from smoking. (Jikkham & Marukatat, supra.) Somsri Pausawasdi, the head of the National Alliance for a Tobacco-Free Thailand, approved of the Cabinet action, stating "[t]his is an important present that the prime minister has given to the youth and Thai people … ." (Id.)

Author: Constance Johnson More by this author
Topic: Health More on this topic
 Tobacco and smoking More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Thailand More about this jurisdiction

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United Nations: Revised Standards for Treatment of Prisoners Approved by Commission

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(May 26, 2015) On May 18, 2015, Juan E. Méndez, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, sent an open letter to the U.N. Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, calling for the adoption of the amended version of the U.N.'s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. The standards are recommended, non-binding provisions that the United Nations suggests that member states follow. (Open Letter to the Chair of the 24th Session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (May 18, 2015), Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) website; Matt Belenky, UN Rights Expert Calls for Adoption of Revised Standard for Treatment of Prisoners, JURIST (May 20, 2015); Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (adopted in 1955 & approved by the Economic and Social Council by resolutions in 1957 and 1977), U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime website; Press Release, OHCHR, UN Expert Calls for Adoption of a Minimum Set of Fundamental Human Rights for Those in Detention (May 18, 2015).)

The revision was approved on May 22. ('Mandela Rules' on Prisoner Treatment Adopted in Landmark Revision of UN Standard, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL (May 22, 2015).)

Méndez's letter was addressed to the Chair of the 24th Session of the Commission and noted that the process of revising the Rules was begun by the adoption of a U.N. General Assembly Resolution in December 2010. (Open Letter, supra.) The Resolution invited the Commission to review and, if necessary, update its criminal justice standards. (Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, G.A. Res. 65/230, U.N. Doc. A/RES/65/230 (Dec. 21, 2010), ¶ 4, U.N. website.)

The changes include increased protection from torture and mistreatment for detainees; among the specific amendments is an added prohibition on the use of solitary confinement for more than 15 days. The new Rules include an absolute ban on cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and an insistence that independent healthcare professionals, who have a duty not to participate in such treatment, have a role in observing and reporting offenses related to treatment of prisoners. (Press Release, supra.)

Speaking about the updated version of the Rules, Méndez stated,

The time is now to adopt the revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners; anything less would send a negative signal to the international community. … The adoption and implementation of these rules reinforces human rights principles and provides greater protection for persons deprived of their liberty, updated procedural safeguards, and more effective guidance to national prison administrations. (Open Letter, supra.)

Future Steps

Now that the Commission has approved the revised Rules, the next step is for them to be reviewed by the U.N. General Assembly, in December 2015. (Belenky, supra.) In recommending that the new Rules move forward for review in the U.N. and that all countries adopt them, Méndez has suggested that they be referred to as the "Mandela Rules." He noted that "[s]uch a title would honour the great Statesman and inspirational leader who served many years in prison in the name of freedom and democracy, by ensuring that all those deprived of their liberty are guaranteed a minimum set of fundamental human rights." (Open Letter, supra.)

Author: Constance Johnson More by this author
Topic: Correctional facilities and imprisonment More on this topic
 Human rights More on this topic
 International organizations More on this topic
Jurisdiction: United Nations More about this jurisdiction

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Kenya: Many Prospecting and Mining Licenses Cancelled; New Mining Law Considered

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(May 22, 2015) Kenya's Ministry of Mining has cancelled 65 licenses for prospecting and mining; some of the revoked permits were held by individuals and others by companies. The moves have raised concern that investors will lose confidence in the viability of the industry in Kenya, and some have threatened lawsuits over the issues of licenses and royalty rates. (Kennedy Senelwa, Kenyan Ministry Revokes 65 Mining Licenses for Violating Laws, EAST AFRICAN ONLINE (May 16, 2015), Open Source Center online subscription database, ID No. AFN2015051861715551.)

According to Najib Balala, the Cabinet Secretary who heads the Ministry of Mining, the licenses were cancelled either due to their having reached their dates of expiration or due to breaches of licensing conditions and of the Mining Act. He stated on May 8, 2015, "[h]enceforth, any mining or prospecting activities by these persons or companies over the areas that are subject of [sic] the revoked licence shall be illegal." (Id.; Mining Act, 306 LAWS OF KENYA (rev. 2012), FAOLEX [website of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization].)

The cancelled licenses covered a number of regions in the country and a variety of types of mines, including some for bauxite, gemstones, gold, gypsum, iron ore, and nickel. Cliff Otega of the mining consultancy firm Standard & Mutua notes that the "law allows the Cabinet Secretary to cancel licences but how the issue is handled matters, as Kenya is competing for investment with other countries and investors require a predictable environment." (Senelwa, supra.)

Possible Increase in Royalty Rates

In addition to revoking some licenses, the Ministry has said it wants to raise the amount of royalties that Base Resources Ltd. of Australia must pay for titanium, in contradiction to the existing agreement. The royalty rate in effect in February 2014, when Base Resources obtained its mining lease, was 2.5% for the first five years of production, according to a gazette notice quoted by the East African. The Ministry now would like to base the rate on the charges in South Africa and Australia, which charge a 5% mining royalty. The comparable rate in Mozambique, Senegal, and Sierra Leone is 3%. (Id.)

New Mining Law Under Consideration

Kenya is now in the process of considering a new law on mining, based on draft legislation from 2014. The expectation, according to Balala, is that the law will provide policy stability and make Kenya more attractive to potential investors. Speaking in March of this year, Balala expressed the hope that the new law could be enacted by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. (Ilya Gridneff, Kenyan Mines Minister Sees Law Boosting Investment Interest, BLOOMBERG BUSINESS (Mar. 23, 2015); The Mining Bill 2014, Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution website (last visited May 20, 2015).)

Kenya has been given a low ranking on an investment attractiveness index produced by the Fraser Institute of Vancouver, based on taxation and regulation uncertainty and a lack of transparency, in addition to the threat of terrorist action. (Gridneff, supra.)

In addition to improving the investment climate, the revision is aimed at increasing the share of revenue the state receives from the mining industry. Royalty rates will reportedly vary based on the product mined, including:

  • 1% of gross sales value for minerals such as gypsum and limestone;
  • 10% for coal, titanium, niobium, and rare-earth elements; and
  • 12% for diamonds. (Id.)

Commenting on the draft law, Balala said "[t]here have been bad practices before, so we want to change that. … This bill is good not only for the government, but also for the industry as it guarantees them stability, it guarantees them their rights. It also brings transparency to the process." (Id.)

Author: Constance Johnson More by this author
Topic: Mineral resources and mines More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Kenya More about this jurisdiction

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Taiwan: Long-Term Care Legislation Adopted

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(May 22, 2015) On May 15, 2015, the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan's main legislative body, passed a draft law on long-term care services. Passage of the law clears the way for legislation on long-term care insurance to be adopted. (Alison Hsiao, Legislature Passes Long-Term Care Bill, TAIPEI TIMES (May 16, 2015); Long-Term Care Services Act [Act] (May 15, 2015), Legislative Yuan website (in Chinese).)

Passage of the new law, which was authored by the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT), was achieved only after a controversial provision on funding was put to a floor vote as a last-ditch measure. The provision states that the funding of long-term care should come from five sources: "public coffers, health surcharges on tobacco, donations, interest from the fund, and other sources." (Hsiao, supra; Act, art. 15, ¶ 3.) The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had instead recommended that inheritance and gift taxes be increased to fund the services. (Hsiao, supra.) The same provision authorizes the establishment of a Long-Term Care Services Development Fund, with a minimum amount of NT$12 billion (about US$394.8 million), to be developed by the government over a five-year period. (Act, art. 15, ¶¶ 1 & 2.) The limits on and sources of the Fund should be reviewed after the law has been implemented for two years. (Id. art. 15, ¶ 4.)

While DPP legislator Yu Mei-nu noted that the new law "is progressive as it guarantees universal, plural and affordable services and the dignity and rights of both care-receivers and caregivers" and clearly prohibits discrimination, she found it regrettable that the Act "lacks the funding to be extensively and substantively enforced," given that it works out to be "only NT$2.4 billion per year." (Hsiao, supra.)

Features of the Act

The Act defines long-term care as life support, assistance, societal involvement, and care and the related medical services to meet the needs of individuals whose mental or physical incapacity has lasted for or is expected to last more than six months or of their caregivers. (Act, art. 3(1).) The Act distinguishes between the services to be provided by central institutions (art. 4) and by local institutions (art. 5). The types of long-term care services include home care; community care (in a certain community place or facility), including daytime care, household support, temporary accommodation, group housing, and small-scale multifunctional and other integrated services; institutional residency, providing the care recipient with full-time or night-time accommodation; household caregiver support services, provided at a specified time, at the home, etc. to a family care giver; and other types that may be announced by the central authorities in charge. (Act, art. 9 ¶ 1.)

KMT Legislator Alicia Wang pointed out that the four main pillars of the Act are "personnel management and training; management of institutions; protection of the rights of the care-receivers[;] and encouraging and rewarding measures for the development of services." (Hsiao, supra.) She added that the new law also provides for "employed, personal and family caregivers to be systematically incorporated into the long-term care system framework, with the former group, including migrant caregivers, provided with training and the latter with respite care services." (Id.)

Minister of Health and Welfare Chiang Been-huang indicated that there are nearly 800,000 disabled people in Taiwan in need of long-term care, so that in effect more than two million people would benefit if those who need the services and their families are included. (Id.)

Author: Wendy Zeldin More by this author
Topic: Health More on this topic
 Health insurance More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Taiwan More about this jurisdiction

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Egypt: State Litigation Authority Rejects Request to Suspend a TV Show

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(May 22, 2015) On May 19, 2015, Egypt's State Litigation Authority rejected a petition submitted by Al Azhar (the main religious institution in Egypt) to suspend a television program. The petition accused the show's host of deliberately criticizing religious symbols and influencing Muslims to doubt their beliefs. (A Memo of the State Litigation Authority Rejects the Al Azhar Petition to Suspend El-Behiry Show, AL YOUM 7 (May 19, 2015) (in Arabic).)

In April 2015, Al Azhar filed petition No. 48059 before the administrative court against the Prime Minister and the Minister of Investment to order TV show host Islam El-Behirey to shut down his program on Islamic heritage and the science of religious jurisprudence. (Al Azhar Files a Lawsuit to Suspend El-Behirey Show, AL-BAWABA (Apr. 22, 2015) (in Arabic).)

In its petition, Al Azhar accused El-Behirey of attacking religious institutions, doubting the "pillars" of Islam, and attempting to influence other Muslims to doubt their religious beliefs. Furthermore, the Al Azhar legal representatives argued that El-Behirey violated and deliberately ignored article 7 of the Egyptian Constitution of 2014 by discussing religious concepts without obtaining the prior approval of the Al Azhar religious institution. (April 26: When the Court Will Hear the Lawsuit Filed by Al Azhar Against the El-Behirey Show, AL YOUM 7 (Apr. 23, 2015) (in Arabic).) Article 7 identifies Al Azhar as "the main reference" for religious science and Islamic affairs in the country. (Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt 2014 [unofficial English translation], State Information Services website.)

Finally, Al Azhar also claimed that El-Behirey disregarded the common interpretation of the Qur'an and preached his own personal understanding of the holy text, without any consultation with Al Azhar. (April 26: When the Court Will Hear the Lawsuit Filed by Al Azhar Against the El-Behirey Show, supra.)

In response, El-Behirey stated that he defended the moderate version of Islam. He also alleged that his criticism focused only on the extreme religious views that helped in forming terrorist groups like the Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda, and ISIS. (Adham Youssef, Al-Azhar to Prosecute TV Presenter over 'Critical' Content, DAILY NEWS EGYPT (Apr. 07, 2015).)

After reviewing the petition submitted by Al Azhar, the State Litigation Authority rejected the request. The Authority stated in its legal memorandum that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Investment are not authorized to order the suspension of the program. The Authority elaborated by saying that the only entity that is authorized to suspend the show is the Egyptian Satellite Company (Nilesat). (The State Litigation Authority Rejects the Al-Azhar Petition to Suspend El-Behiry Show, AL-WASAT (May 19, 2015) (in Arabic).)

Author: George Sadek More by this author
Topic: Church and state relations More on this topic
 Freedom of speech More on this topic
 Television and Film More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Egypt More about this jurisdiction

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