22 07 2014

Now in jail for six years, Darunee is essentially held at the king’s pleasure. Her case is outlined here.

Lese majeste cases piled high

25 07 2014

As has been said previously, the military dictatorship, as well as embedding itself, has been engaged in a widespread witch hunt on lese majeste. The witch hunt is part and parcel of a lese majeste repression that marks this regime as fascist-royalist.

Over the past couple of days, there have been several lese majeste reports deserving of widespread attention.

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that the daft authorities beholden to the military junta have recommended that the British citizen, Rose Amornpat,  be indicted by prosecutors.

Apparently, being “Thai-born” is sufficient for these dipsticks to waste their time with legal shows for the edification of royalist dolts. Or maybe they think that making a show of Rose’s “case” will deter others from point out that the Thai monarchy is an anti-democratic and fabulously wealthy bunch of parasites who suck up taxpayers’ funds for the amusement of a bunch of really rather strange royal family and sundry hanger-on.

If the Office of the Attorney-General indicts the British citizen, it will then cooperate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “to bring back” Chatwadee Rose Amornpat to be “prosecuted in Thailand…”. Silly, yes, but that’s how mad monarchists are.

At Prachatai an important report notes that lese majeste detainees continue to be denied bail under the military junta. It mentions three cases:

Akradet E., a third-year engineering student at Mahanakorn University of Technology, is alleged to have posted remarks on Facebook against the monarchy. A complaint was made against him in March 2014.

He has been denied bail four times since 18 July.

The Criminal Court states “there was no justification to change the refusal of bail since the defendant was an educated adult who knew of his acts and detention would prevent possible flight.”

Chaleaw J. is a 55 year-old tailor born in Chaiyaphum. He is reportedly a resident of Bangkok and a self-taught computer geek who was arrested for allegedly lese majeste materials he stored at, a free file sharing and storage website.

Amongst the hundreds of clips stored were online red-shirt radio programmes and a few speeches by the exiled Banphot who specializes in radical anti-monarchist diatribes.  “I mostly forgot what I had stored there,” said Chaleaw.

He was detained by the junta on 3 June and charged on 9 June on lese majeste and computer crimes charges.

He has requested bail twice, and was refused, and now hoped he might get it after a third time. He said he “planned to confess once the trial began and hoped to seek royal pardon as soon as possible.”

Rung Sila is the penname of a 51-year-old poet and cyber activist. He said he was apprehended on 24 June 2014 while on his way to a neighbouring country to wait for his application for “Person of Concern” status to be processed by the UN refugee agency.

Some 40 fully-equipped officers raided and arrested his daughter, niece and nephew in Songkhla trying to grab Rung. He tried to make contact with the UNHCR to seek asylum status but was then intercepted and arrested in Kalasin.

Rung’s poems and his online articles and comments are “passionate and critical of the elite establishment.” He urges the people’s movement to move beyond the United Democratic Front Against Dictatorship. He says the UDD is “finished and the future of the country lay in the hands of individuals.”


AMM at VICE on lese majeste madness

25 07 2014

Andrew MacGregor Marshall has a story, Thailand’s Military Government Thinks John Oliver Is a Threat to Its Monarchy at VICE.  Well worth a read.  Snippets:

An official document seen by VICE News and marked “highly confidential” shows that the junta that seized power in May is paranoid about Oliver’s activities after he mocked the government and made fun of Thailand’s Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn during the June 22 episode of his HBO show.

He quotes the remarkable Slavoj Žižek:

These absurdities have provided ample fodder for mockery on social media — which the junta has also banned, of course. But while comical, the paranoia of Thailand’s military dictators about seemingly innocuous satire is well founded. As Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek has observed, when ordinary people lose their fear of laughing at the ridiculousness of authoritarian regimes, dictatorships can quickly crumble.

“We all know the classic scene from cartoons: the cat reaches a precipice but goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is no ground under its feet; it starts to fall only when it looks down and notices the abyss,” he wrote. “When it loses its authority, the regime is like a cat above the precipice: in order to fall, it only has to be reminded to look down.”

Ditching refugees

24 07 2014

So far, the military dictatorship’s record as a heartless bunch of fascists. Coup, jailings, lese majeste repression and stamping on any whiff of anti-coup sentiment is the domestic record. When it comes to international matters, the junta has sucked up to other authoritarian regimes, chased tens of thousands of Cambodian workers out of the country, all it seems for the repatriation of an ultra-nationalist, and it is now ditching tens of thousands of refugees.

On the latter, just to make the refugees more uncomfortable, the regime is even punishing “[t]housands of Burmese at the Ei Htu Hta refugee camp in eastern Burma [who] are struggling to feed themselves as monthly food supplies from non-governmental organizations have been interrupted by Thai authorities…”.

Ei Htu Hta is just across the river from Mae Hong Son Province, and holds about 4,000 Burmese refugees. The secretary of the Karen Office of Relief and Development (KORD) states that “refugees who live in the camp have seen food rations dwindle beginning late last month, as supply lines to the camp, which come from Thailand, have been monitored and sometimes interrupted by Thai authorities.” That’s only since the military coup and the advent of the military dictatorship, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who sees refugees as a threat to Thailand.

The report states that the advent of the junta has brought “changes that have restricted refugees’ movement and sent tens of thousands of migrant workers back to their home countries, fearing detention or worse.”


HRW on military dictatorship and the media crumbles

24 07 2014

Human Rights Watch recently released the following statement, including an update. After reproducing its report below, PPT comments on a media response:

The Thai military junta should immediately revoke rights-abusing martial law powers, end censorship, and stop persecuting dissidents and critics, Human Rights Watch said today. The junta should urgently restore democratic, civilian rule.

After seizing power in a coup on May 22, 2014, the Thai military created the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), consisting of all branches of the armed forces and the police. It has enforced widespread censorship, detained more than 300 people – most without charge, banned public gatherings, and issued repressive orders targeting activists and grass-roots groups.

“Two months of military rule in Thailand has brought alarming setbacks in respect for basic human rights,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “While the military junta claims it’s returning ‘happiness’ to the nation, the junta is actually enforcing a regime of forced smiles by prohibiting criticism, imposing aggressive censorship, and arbitrarily putting hundreds in detention.”

Censorship and Restrictions on Free Expression

Censorship and restrictions on the media that began after the coup have intensified in recent days, in an apparent effort to silence any critics of military rule. On the evening of July 18, shortly after the weekly address by the army chief and NCPO leader, Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, all television broadcasts were interrupted for the junta’s announcement 97/2557, “Cooperating with the Work of the National Council for Peace and Order and the Distribution of News to the Public.” The order effectively prohibits any criticism of the military authorities. The NCPO directed print media, as well as TV, radio, cable, and online media operators, not to publish or broadcast any information critical of the military’s actions. The restrictions also apply to online social media.

In addition, the NCPO instructed print media, TV, and radio programs not to carry any critical commentaries or invite as guests on their programs anyone who might make negative comments about the NCPO. The military authorities also banned any information they consider “distorted” or likely to cause “public misunderstanding” in broadcasts and printed publications, and on social media and websites. Determining what information falls within these prohibited categories is solely within the discretion of the NCPO. Soliciting individuals to undertake any acts to resist NCPO rule or do anything else that could “cause the public to panic” is also outlawed.

Failure to comply with the NCPO order could result in the military, provincial governor, or provincial police chief shutting down the offending news outlet. Offenders also could face prosecution in a military court under provisions of the Martial Law Act of 1914, which General Prayuth invoked two days before the coup.

The NCPO has also strictly banned public gatherings of more than five people and prohibits activities that oppose the military authorities and their actions. The Bangkok acting deputy Metropolitan Police commissioner, Maj. Gen. Amnuay Nimmano, told the media that people are not allowed to assert their rights to stage a political gathering or oppose the sovereign authority of the NCPO. Protesters who have expressed disagreement with the junta – such as by showing a three-finger salute as an act of defiance, putting duct tape over their mouths, reading the novel 1984 in public, or playing the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” in public – have been arrested and could face a possible two-year prison term.

Arbitrary and Secret Detention

Since the May 22, 2014 coup, the NCPO has detained more than 300 ruling party and opposition politicians, activists, journalists, and people accused of supporting the deposed government, disrespecting or offending the monarchy, or being involved in anti-coup protests and activities.

The NCPO has placed those people in incommunicado lockup in unofficial places of detention, such as military camps, in some cases holding them for more than the seven-day limit for administrative detention under martial law. For example, soldiers arrested Kritsuda Khunasen, a well-known activist with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), in Chonburi province on May 28. The military authorities did not admit until June 21 that she was in their custody in an undisclosed location. Only after intense advocacy by rights groups did the NCPO say they were holding her, and on June 24, paraded her in front of TV cameras. She was released without charge shortly thereafter.

The military authorities continue to arbitrarily arrest and detain people despite publicly asserting that the practice has stopped. In an apparent response to international condemnation, on June 24 the NCPO announced that everyone being held without charge in military custody had been released. Yet, the NCPO has provided no information about those it claims to have released, and did not provide evidence of their release.

Two days later, the military authorities announced that the formal summons procedure – used to call in a wide range of people for questioning – would be discontinued. However, on June 30 the NCPO issued at least one summons without any public announcement to Jom Petchpradab, an outspoken news anchor, and 17 other people.

The NCPO compels those released from military detention to sign an agreement that they will not make political comments, become involved in political activities, or travel overseas without NCPO permission. Failure to comply is punishable by a new round of detention, a sentence of up to two years in prison, or a fine of 40,000 baht (US$1,250).

Thanapol Eawsakul, the editor of Fah Diew Khan (Same Sky) magazine, was detained for the second time between July 5 and July 7 after he continued to post critical comments on his Facebook page. On July 18, Natthapong Bunpong, a student from Mahasarakham University, was summoned to report to the provincial military command in Buriram province for posting anti-coup comments online after he was released from a previous detention. He was then placed in incommunicado detention in an unknown military camp until July 21.

Defying the NCPO’s summonses can also lead to severe consequences. Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a well-known lecturer at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies, faced an arrest warrant for failing to report when summoned. The NCPO ordered the Foreign Affairs Ministry to cancel his passport when he refused to return to Thailand to surrender to the military authorities. Pavin faces a military trial, and possible punishment of two years in prison, or a fine of 40,000 baht ($1,250), if found guilty.

Repressive Actions Against Vulnerable Groups

The NCPO has enforced repressive measures that deny transparent and participatory processes seeking fair solutions to problems concerning vulnerable groups. For instance, in Buriram province, the military authorities have justified aggressive actions to evict more than 1,000 residents of six villages from forest reserve areas by citing NCPO order 64/2557, which instructs government agencies to end deforestation and encroachment on forest reserves nationwide. Despite the NCPO’s assurance that military operations carried out on the basis of the order should not impact the poor, people with low incomes, or the landless who have lived on the land prior to the order, these promises were disregarded in the Buriram case.

The villagers – from Kao Bart, Saeng Sawan, Talat Khwai, Pa Mamuang, Klong Hin Mai, and Sam Salueng villages in Non Ding Daeng district – have had a longstanding conflict with the Thai authorities over land ownership and their right to live in officially designated forest areas. On June 28, soldiers ordered them to leave their villages or face forcible relocation and the destruction of their homes. A series of human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests and detention of community leaders, followed the eviction orders.

By July 12, residents of Talat Khwai and Pa Mamuang villages had already vacated their houses. Forced eviction efforts have been under way in the four other villages. The military authorities did not provide compensation or financial assistance to villagers who vacated their houses or to those whose houses were dismantled by soldiers.

“Thailand’s generals have discarded the country’s democratic rule in favor of repressive orders, policies, and practices, showing dangerous signs of a longer term dictatorship,” Adams said.

UPDATE: After meeting with major Thai media associations, on July 21, 2014, the ruling military National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued order 103/2557, which amends the prohibition on all forms of criticism of the NCPO’s actions. The new order clarifies that the ban targets criticisms made with “malice” and “false information” that “aim to discredit” the NCPO. However, determining what content violates the provisions of order 103/2557 remains solely at the NCPO’s discretion. Order 103/2557 also sets out that instead of facing a shutdown as provided in NCPO order 97/2557, a media outlet that violates the ban on criticisms of the NCPO and military actions will face an ethics inquiry by relevant media associations.

 The response to this from the military dictatorship is to be expected as they are a prickly, intolerant and nasty bunch of fascists.

What surprised even PPT was the headline making of the Bangkok Post at its website which amounted to quite a deal more than the usual supine position before the military junta.

We recognize that the Post has had some excellent reports and a bunch of pulp from junta propagandists, but our observation is about the online headlines.

Post pulp

As can be seen in the graphic, not only does the headline writer come up with a ridiculous claim about a fascist interim constitution, but the comments on “snide accusations” from HRW turn HRW’s factual account into something else. The Post seems to not just in bed with the junta, but enjoying it.

As the actual report in the Post makes reasonably clear, without stating it, it is the junta that is full of lies. For example, the junta’s mouthpiece from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs proclaims that there is “no policy to censor the media and martial law was imposed to reconcile conflicting groups.”

Of course, on media censorship, there is not only a policy but a junta announcement on extreme censorship.

Updated: Another political lese majeste case

23 07 2014

Yes, we know, they are pretty much all political cases, and we recognize that lese majeste is an essential tool in the the military dictatorship’s kitbag.

The newest case amongst the junta’s swathe of political lese majeste cases involves “Pheu Thai executive and red-shirt co-leader Col Apiwan Wiriyachai for an alleged lese majeste offence committed at a political rally.”

The initial report states:

The warrant was issued after a complaint was filed with Chana Songkhram police station, accusing the former deputy House speaker of making offensive remark about the monarchy when he delivered a speech to supporters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) in Phetchaburi on Jan 29, 2011.

Col Apiwan was among 155 people summoned by the military a day after the May 22 coup. The junta banned the group from travelling outside of Thailand.

Expect more of this kind of political repression.

Update: Prachatai states that Apiwan spoke in his speech “about people who ‘ordered the killing’ and ‘ordered the shooting’ in the military crackdown on red-shirt protesters in 2010.” There was graffiti about this too.

The search for the anti-monarchist conspiracy

23 07 2014

Claudio Sopranzetti is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford University All Souls College has a story at Al Jazeera on the military dictatorship’s renewed search for an anti-monarchy cabal and plot. The military junta has been on the hunt for mythical beast since the May 2014 coup.

The previous royalist regime under the puerile Abhisit Vejjajiva produced a “diagram” of a plot. It might have been drawn by elementary school children but was probably military-inspired and drawn.

Sopranzetti  begins:

Two months after the military coup, the Thai junta continues to interrogate, detain, and persecute activists, journalists, and academics. The period of “attitude adjustment”, as the military dictatorship calls these arbitrary detentions, may vary from a few hours to seven days, depending on how far removed the victims are from the fairy tale of peace, unity, and happiness that the junta wants them to repeat.

While these “conversations” have been quite effective in silencing opposition, they also reveal the army’s paranoid belief in the existence of an organised plot to bring down the Thai monarchy. Many among the summoned reported that the interrogators attempted to identify and expose such an organisation. Pitch Pongsawat was among them. A professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University and the host of the popular satellite TV programme “Wake Up Thailand”, Pitch wrote of being called up to meet with the army and hearing about an alleged plot to take down the monarchy put together by a structured organisation.

The military dictatorship believes that there is an “organisation revolving around former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, republican intellectuals, and fringes of the Red Shirts” that is seeking to bring down the monarchy.Prayuth planking

We wish there was….

In fact, though, whether the military dolts believe their own nonsense or not, their conspiracy theory is “providing both legitimacy and urgency for unprecedented repressive measures by the Thai military, which has historically presented the protection of the monarchy as their top priority.”

“Historically” is not entirely accurate as the “mission” can only be dated to 1957-8, when General Sarit Thanarat ran his coups and made the monarchy his legitimizing force. The current lot seem to have a 1957-8 model in mind. As the article notes,

The revival of the idea of “enemies of the state” to describe anybody who voices criticism, an important tool for violent military repression of progressive forces during the Cold War, is a sign of Thailand’s slow descent into a new dark era. Once the monarchy and the nation are perceived to be under attack, any form of dissent can be deemed by the military as a real challenge to Thai identity and repressed with any means possible.

Discussing lese majeste, Sopranzetti notes that:

Since the coup on May 22, the junta led by General Prayut Chan-ocha has elevated this strategy to an unprecedented degree and set out to crush the imagined plot against the monarchy. Only in the last  few months, 13 lese majeste cases were filled [filed]. In the military paranoia, enemies of the state are everywhere, from students protesting the coup to media commentators, from vocal taxi drivers to academics advocating for a reform of the law.

Sopranzetti observes that “human history is dotted with similar authoritarian regimes and the disastrous consequences of their quixotic fights against imagined conspiracies.” They may be imagined, but the results for those harrassed, tortured, arrested and killed are real enough.

The author states that it “is undeniable that the Thai monarchy has lost popularity since the palace has been seen as taking sides in the present political crisis, and often voiced to be the mind behind it. However, this discontent is a dispersed murmur rather than an actual conspiracy.”

Things look dark indeed.



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