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The Global Legal Monitor is an online publication from the Law Library of Congress covering legal news and developments worldwide. It is updated frequently and draws on information from official national legal publications and reliable press sources. You can find previous news by searching the Global Legal Monitor.

Thailand: Amendments to Firearms Law

(Oct. 23, 2017) On October 12, 2017, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly passed amendments to the 1947 Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, Fireworks, and the Equivalent of Firearms Act (the Act) at the third reading, with 201 legislators in favor, one against, and five abstentions. The amendments, made to keep pace with developments in weapons technology and changes in Thai society, will enter into effect upon publication in the Royal Gazette.  (New Legislation: Foreigners Can’t Own Guns, PHUKET GAZETTE (Oct. 13, 2017).)

The amended law will cover weapon silencers, electric darts, and new types of fireworks including bang fai (locally-made rockets) and talai (“rocket-like fireworks with a circular wing”).  (Id.)  There reportedly have been shooting contests with these two types of rockets that have resulted in injuries, deaths, and property damage.  (Id.)  The amendment further provides that anyone who creates a bomb scare may be subject upon conviction to up to three years of imprisonment and/or fined up to 60,000 Baht (about US$1,817).  (Id.)

Another significant change is that only Thais will be permitted to register a gun with the authorities. Formerly, foreigners residing in Thailand could also apply for weapons permits.  (Id.)

Some Other Features of the Current Firearms Act

The Act already prohibits the manufacture, purchase, ownership, use, ordering, or import of firearms or ammunition, except by persons who have been granted a license from the local registrar. (The Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, Fireworks, and the Equivalent of Firearms Act, B.E.2490 (1947) (as amended)) § 7, THAI LAW FORUM (uploaded Mar. 11, 2013).)  Violation of this provision is punishable upon conviction with imprisonment for a period of between one and ten years and/or fines of between 2,000 and 20,000 Baht (about US$61-$606).  (Id. § 72.)

In addition, no one may possess ammunition without a license to possess and use firearms.  (Id. § 8.)  It is also prohibited for anyone to carry firearms without a license within a town, village, or public thoroughfare, except in cases of necessity or emergency.  (Id. § 8 bis.)  Carrying firearms in the open or to sites of worship, merriment, entertainment, or the like is also not permitted.  (Id.)

People may only be issued a license to own and use firearms and ammunition for purposes of self-defense, protection of property, or use in sports or hunting, and a license must be obtained for each firearm.  (Id. § 9.)  Applicants for a firearms license must be at least 20 years of age (the age of majority under the Civil and Commercial Code), have a record of good behavior, have an occupation and receive income, and have a permanent address in Thailand with a name “listed in the house registration specifically in the area where you are applying for a license, for at least six months.”  (Chaninat & Leeds, Gun Law of Thailand (Sept. 30, 2011), THAI LAW FORUM; Firearms Act, § 9; Thai Civil and Commercial Code, Title 2: Persons, § 19, THAILAND LAW LIBRARY (last visited Oct. 17, 2017).)

The application fee for most firearms licenses is 1,000 Baht (about US$30) for each license or unit; a license for possession and use of air rifles is 200 Baht per license/unit.; carry licenses are also 1,000 Baht per license. (Chaninat & Leeds, supra.)  The price of a firearm was said to be about US$600 in 2016.  (Gabriel Domínguez, A Look at Thailand’s Fervent Gun Culture, DW (Feb. 19, 2016).)

Use of firearms, ammunition, or explosives other than those specified as permissible according to ministerial regulations in the commission of certain crimes pursuant to the Penal Code is punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty.  (Firearms Act, § 72bis ¶ 4.)

Gun Culture

Thailand is said to have “the highest reported rate of gun-related deaths in Southeast Asia – almost 50 percent more gun homicides than the Philippines,” and, based on 2013 data compiled by the Institute for Health and Metric Evaluation of the University of Washington, “the rate is also twice as high as that of the US, which had 3.55 deaths per 100,000 people” as opposed to Thailand’s rate of 748 per 100,000 people. (Domínguez, supra.)  The same year, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for Diplomatic Security characterized Thailand as having “a fervent gun culture on par with the United States and … [being] a world leader in firearms-related homicides.”  (Id.)  As reported in early 2016, the gun-ownership ratio in Thailand is also high, with more than six million registered guns among the population of 66.7 million, according to Ministry of Interior figures, or one in ten people legally owning a gun.  (Id.)  There is also a black market in which weapons are sold illegally, which could push the estimates of the actual number of civilian-held firearms in circulation, legal and illegal, to about ten million.  (Id.)

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Mexico: Fiscal Benefits Relief for the Populations Affected by the Earthquake

(Oct. 20, 2017) In a decree published on October 2, 2017, the Mexican government granted  fiscal benefits to taxpayers who were affected by the September 19, 2017, earthquake in municipalities in the states of Mexico, Guerrero, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, and Tlaxcala, but not in Mexico City. The Secretary of the Treasury, José Antonio Meade, explained that the capital of the country will separately receive relief; the Treasury and the local government will jointly design a  package of fiscal stimuli focused on the needs of reconstruction or repair of houses in the capital.  (Hacienda Otorga Beneficios Fiscales por Sismo del 19-S, EL FINANCIERO (Oct. 2, 2017); Decreto por el que se otorgan diversos beneficios fiscales a los contribuyentes de las zonas afectadas que se indicant por el sismo ocurrido el 19 de Septiembre de 2017, DIARIO OFICIAL DE LA FEDERACIÓN (Oct. 2, 2017).)

Among the measures included in the Decree are deferral of the payment of taxes and the immediate deductibility of investment in new assets in the affected areas for the period from September 19 to March 31, 2018, applicable to 100% of the amount above the original amount of the investment. (Hacienda Otorga Beneficios Fiscales por Sismo del 19-S, supra.) Legal entities in the affected areas are exempted from making estimated income tax payments for September, October, November, and December 2017. (Id.) Individuals may defer the obligation to file tax returns the fifth and sixth bimonthly periods of fiscal year 2017, but must file them by January 2018 at the latest. (Id.)

Taxpayers will be able to remit the value-added tax (VAT, locally known as IVA) and excise tax (locally known as IEPS) in three equal installments from September to December 2017. In addition, applications for VAT refunds submitted before October 16, 2017, will be processed within a maximum of ten business days. (Id.)

Luís Madrazo, head of the unit of Economic Planning of the Treasury, said in an interview that the fiscal incentives granted to the affected people and communities will inject more liquidity into the economy and enable commercial and economic activity to recover more quickly. (Id.)

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China: Regulators Ban Companies from Raising Money Through Virtual Currencies

(Oct. 19, 2017) On September 4, 2017, seven government administrations in China – the People’s Bank of China, the Office of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the China Banking Regulatory Commission, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, and the China Insurance Regulatory Commission – jointly issued the Announcement on Preventing Financial Risks from Initial Coin Offerings (the Announcement.) (Zhongguo Renmin Yinhang, Zhongyang Wangxinban, Gongye he Xinxihua Bu, Gongshang Zongju, Yinjian Hui, Zhengjian Hui, Baojian Hui Guanyu Fangfan Daibi Faxing Rongzi Fengxian de Gonggao (Sept. 4, 2017), People’s Bank of China website.)

The Announcement provides that initial coin offerings (ICOs) are an unauthorized illegal fundraising activity and will be banned by the authorities. (Id. Item I.)

Definition of ICO Financing Activities

According to the Announcement, “ICO financing” is defined as the financing subjects’ raising of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other “virtual currencies” from investors through the illegal sale and circulation of tokens, activities that by their nature are  unauthorized public financing tools. ICO financing activities are suspected by the authorities of involving the illegal sale of tokens, illegal issuance of securities, illegal fundraising, financial fraud, pyramid sales, and other illegal and criminal activities. (Id.)

The Announcement points out that tokens and other virtual currencies involved in ICO financing are not issued by monetary authorities, are not legal tender, and are not mandatorily accepted. Therefore, they do not have equal legal status with fiat currencies, and should not be circulated or used in the market as currencies. (Id.)

Provisions on Organizations and Individuals

From the date of issuance of the Announcement, all kinds of ICO financing activities will immediately be halted. The organizations and individuals that have completed ICO financing will withdraw from ICO financing activities and make relevant arrangements to return funds, with the purpose of protecting the interests of investors and properly dealing with risks. ICO financing projects that fail to cease operation and illegal activities found to have occurred in connection with completed ICO financing projects will be subject to investigation and punishment.  (Id. Item II.)

Trading Platforms

The Announcement indicated that all ICO financing trading platforms are prohibited from engaging in the following businesses:

  • providing exchange services between fiat currencies and virtual currencies;
  • purchasing or selling tokens and virtual currencies themselves or as central counterparts; or
  • providing pricing, information intermediary, or other services for tokens and virtual currencies. (Id. Item III.)

For any ICO financing trading platform that has violated the abovementioned provision, the administrative department will close its website platform and mobile APP, remove its mobile APP from APP stores, and revoke its business license in accordance with the law. (Id.)

Financial Institutions and Non-Bank Payment Institutions

According to the Announcement, financial institutions and non-bank payment agencies are prohibited from carrying out the following related businesses:

  • directly or indirectly providing products or services involving tokens and virtual currencies, such as account opening, registration, trading, liquidation, and settlement; or
  • underwriting any insurance business relating to tokens and virtual currencies, or including tokens and virtual currencies in any insurance coverage. (Id. Item IV.)

Investor Awareness and Self-Discipline of Industry Organizations

The Announcement also emphasizes the importance of enhancing public awareness of the financial and legal risks involved in ICO financing activities and of maximizing the  role of industry organizations in disciplining themselves and educating the general public. It states that investors must assume investment risks by themselves and should be on high alert for all kinds of illegal financial activities involving tokens and other virtual currencies. (Id. Item V.) Financial industry associations, on the other hand, must effectively interpret policies, urge members to voluntarily resist illegal ICO financing activities, and strengthen investor education. (Id. Item VI.)

Prepared by Yichao Zhang, Law Library intern, under the supervision of Laney Zhang, Senior Foreign Law Specialist.

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Indonesia: President Signs Decree on Character Education

(Oct. 19, 2017) On September 6, 2017, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo signed a presidential decree issuing a regulation on education designed to strengthen character. Widodo stated that the regulation had been prepared following input from a variety of interested parties across the country and that it would be followed up with the provision of technical guidance on its implementation. (Maryati & Ani Hasanah, President Joko Widodo Signs Decree on Character Strengthening Education, VOICE OF INDONESIA (Sept. 7, 2017); Moses Ompusunggu & Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jokowi Signs Amended Regulation on Character Education, JAKARTA POST (Sept. 7, 2017); Peraturan Presiden Republik Indonesia Nomor 87 Tahun 2017 Tentang Penguatan Pendidikan Karakter [Regulation of the President of the Republic of Indonesia No. 87, 2017, on Strengthening Character Education] (Character Education Regulation) (Sept. 6, 2017), Cabinet Secretariat website.)

Widodo added that he is pleased that Islamic clerics and community leaders supported the decree and attended the signing. He stated that it will provide a legal umbrella for the budget to finance character education in public schools, madrasahs (Islamic religious schools), and communities. (Maryati & Hasanah, supra; Moses Ompusunggu & Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jokowi Signs Amended Regulation on Character Education, JAKARTA POST (Sept. 7, 2017).) 

The Regulation

The regulation defines “strengthening character education” (penguatan pendidikan karakter in Indonesian, abbreviated PPK) as “the education movement under the responsibility of the educational unit to strengthen the learner’s character through harmonizing the heart, taste, thought, and body, with the involvement of and cooperation between educational units, family, and society … .”  (Character Education Regulation, art. 1.)  It goes on to list three purposes of the PPK program:

  • by 2045, to build learners into a generation of Indonesians who have experienced good character education, with the soul of “Pancasila,” the Indonesian political philosophy that stresses national unity, democracy, and social justice;
  • to develop a national education platform incorporating character education, with public engagement through formal and informal educational organizations and with respect for cultural diversity; and
  • to strengthen the competencies of educators, the community, and the family to implement PPK. (Id. art. 2.)

The program will be overseen by the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Cultural Affairs and implemented by the ministries that manage education, culture, religion, and domestic affairs, as well as by local governments. (Id. art.  12.)

Implementation of Dual Report Card System

The Ministry of Education and Culture has directed schools to use a “double report card” system, beginning in 2018.  The cards would report on both academic achievement and personal progress.  Some teachers are already evaluating students on qualities related to the new character education, in addition to their school work.  Muhadjir Effendy, the Minister of Education and Culture, stated that the new cards “force teachers to scout and look out for the talents of each child.”  (Schools Begin to Adopt ‘Dual Report Card’ System, JAKARTA POST (Oct. 7, 2017).)

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Israel: Establishment of the Council for Preschoolers

(Oct. 19, 2017) On July 26, 2017, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the Council for Preschoolers Law, 5777-2017 (SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, official gazette, SH] 5777 No. 2658 p. 1129, available at KNESSET NATIONAL LEGISLATION DATABASE (in Hebrew).) The Law will enter into effect on February 7, 2018, six months after its August 7, 2017, publication. (Id. § 21(a).)

The Law declares as its objective to provide preschoolers (children from birth to first grade) the care necessary to support their physical and mental health and development, address their educational and social needs, and offer appropriate conditions for attaining equal opportunities in their adult life. (Id. § 1.) The Law defines an area affecting preschoolers as education and special education, health (including preventive care), infant clinics and programs for child development, welfare, education, treatment centers for preschoolers, nutrition, guidance for parents, safety, or reduction of poverty. (Id. § 2.)

Duties of the Council for Preschoolers

The Law establishes the Council for Preschoolers (CP) as a unit within the Ministry of Education tasked with fulfilling the following duties (id. §§ 3-4):

  • preparation of a multi-year national plan, for a period of at least three years, to promote areas affecting preschoolers as determined by the CP and recommending priorities for implementation of the said plan;
  • coordination between government offices and local authorities of the preschool age activities they oversee, including for prevention, detection, and early identification of preschoolers in danger; for handling difficulties in parental functioning; for addressing infant/child developmental delay; and for reduction in preschoolers’ poverty;
  • coordination between government agencies and local authorities with regard to the needs of preschoolers with disabilities;
  • recommendation of standards for policies affecting preschoolers and ways to implement or enforce them;
  • adoption of recommendations on the professional training required of preschool-area professionals, including for preschoolers with disabilities;
  • promotion of informational activities;
  • recommendation of qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods of activities of preschool-age institutions and professional training;
  • establishment and management of a national center for information and research on preschool education and care;
  • recommendation of programs for creating continuity between programs designed for preschoolers and children in schools, including in special education; and
  • submission of recommendations on the ministerial committee (see below).

Organization of the Council for Preschoolers

The Law authorizes the CP to appoint consultative committees and invite experts to its hearings. (Id. §§ 5-6.)

The CP will be chaired by the Minister of Education and include 22 additional members, including an expert in preschool education and care; employees with relevant experience from the Ministry of Education, Health, Interior, Justice, and Treasury; academics; a pediatrician; a day care operator; and public representatives, including at least one person with knowledge or experience in mainstreaming children with disabilities. (Id. § 12.)

The Law also requires that the CP will reflect the diversity of Israel’s population, with at least one member from the Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Jewish community and one from the Arab community. (Id. § 13.)

Ministerial Committee

The Law establishes a ministerial committee for preschool-age matters that will be chaired by the Minister of Education and include the Minister of Health; the Minister of Labor, Welfare and Social Services; the Minister of the Treasury; and the Minister of the Interior. (Id. § 18(a).) The committee will deliberate on the multi-year national program to be prepared by the CP and approve it, subject to any changes the committee deems necessary. (Id. § 18(b)(1).) The budget for implementation of the program will be allocated as an additional item in the annual budget provision for the Ministry of Education, unless otherwise determined by the ministerial committee. The CP will oversee implementation of the budget. (Id. § 18(b)(2).) The CP’s activities and other expenses under the Law, excluding the budget for implementing the national multi-year program for preschoolers, will be paid for from the budget allocation for the Ministry of Education in the annual budget law. (Id. § 19.)

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