Shackling and fettering

20 12 2012
somyos

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk shackled in 2012

There’s a brief story at The Nation that caught PPT’s attention. In it, National Human Rights Commissioner Niran Pithakwatchara has “voiced concern about the use of fettering and its impact on human dignity.”

Apparently the “rules” that are currently used demand that “the fettering of all male inmates aged not over 60 to prevent any attempt at jailbreak or suicide.”

Niran seemed to think that  there was concern “[a]t the international level.” All lese majeste prisoners under 60 years are shackled on every court appearance.

Niran also raised issues regarding the health care provided to inmates, noting that lese majeste convict Ampol Tangnopakul died in jail earlier in 2012.

Joe Gordon in chains in 2011

Joe Gordon in chains in 2011

He also mentioned the case of Ampon Tangnoppakul, who died while serving a jail term for a lese-majeste offence earlier this year: “Niran pointed out that the Corrections Department might have failed to take care of Ampon’s health well enough.”

Harry Nicolaides in chains in 2009

Harry Nicolaides in leg irons in 2009

The Corrections Department’s senior executive Lawan Ornsamlee “explained that prisoners were only handcuffed at correctional facilities.” In 2011, the U.S. State Department stated: “Authorities also used heavy leg irons to control prisoners who were deemed escape risks or possibly dangerous to other prisoners.” She added that: “Only convicts held on grave offences are fettered by both ankles and wrists…”.

She continued to explain that: “Other prisoners were fettered in the same way only when they travelled out of correctional facilities.”

Lese majeste is deemed not a libel or a defamation but a “grave offense.” As the Constitutional Court has it, lese majeste is so serious that it threatens the very foundations of the state!





Ampol inquest

19 12 2012

The Bangkok Post reports that the Criminal Court has begun “an inquest into the death of lese majeste convict Ampon Tangnoppakul.” As most readers will know, in one of the most political of lese majeste cases, Ampol was accused and then convicted of insulting the queen in series of SMS messages. Ridiculously sentenced to 20 years in a farcical court case that failed to prove Ampol had sent any messages, he perished while in jail.

The report states that the “inquest is in response to a petition from Ampon’s wife, Rosmalin Tangnoppakul, who claimed her husband died under suspicious circumstances.”

A senior nurse “admitted the prison hospital was not properly equipped to treat cancer patients” and “confirmed no doctors were present when Ampon died about 9.10am.” Why were no doctors attending?

Dr Kittibun Techaporn-anan, 39, the resident doctor, said he was with the hospital director when Ampon died.

He said a ward nurse had contacted him to say Ampon’s heart had stopped and they were trying to revive him.

He could not attend to help because he had been instructed by the hospital director to welcome the director-general of the Corrections Department, who was visiting the prison.

The life of a lese majeste convict was clearly inferior to a visit by a big shot.





Updated: Failed on human rights

17 12 2012

In yet another op-ed, Pavin Chachavalpongpun comes to the conclusion that many drew at the time of her appointment as chief of Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) back in 2009:  the NHRC has been “rendered toothless by its Quisling chairwoman” Amara Pongsapich.

A Thai Rath cartoon of Amara's close relationship with Abhisit and the army

A Thai Rath cartoon of Amara’s close relationship with Abhisit and the army

Writing at the Asia Sentinel, Pavin is angered that Amara has not had the NHRC do much of anything on some of the major human rights issues that have emerged during her tenure as chair. He mentions lese majeste, the deaths at the hands of the Army of red shirts in 2010 and the death in custody of lese majeste victim Ampol Tangnopakul.

Back in mid-2010, PPT commented:

PPT has serious doubts about the NHRC and its effectiveness. We’re not even sure that the NHRC even has the capacity to understand the significance of, and deal with difficult, human rights issues in a society that is divided by political conflict. Amara has been totally ineffective and compromised by her links to royalists and Privy Councilor Prem Tinsulanonda.

Amara with CRES at an army base during the red shirt uprising in 2010

Amara gets chummy with the Democrat Party leadership at an army base during the red shirt uprising in 2010

Pavin notes that Amara has been especially supportive of Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was the premier who appointed her. PPT has no doubt that Abhisit appointed her precisely because he knew she was prepared to be a human rights charlatan.

Readers can view several posts over the past three years that are similarly critical of Amara: AHRC on the National Human Rights CommissionAHRC on the new NHRC, We do not lie. Of course they do, King, country, chaos?, NHRC compromised (again), How many are detained?, Somyos and another chance for the NHRC, Is dialogue possible on human rights?, and On the NHRC’s lese majeste procrastination.

Where Pavin’s piece is useful is in pointing out the double standards employed by Amara while she has been at the head of what is meant to be an important protector of human rights. He observes, as PPT has, that “Amara has never been politically neutral since the beginning. Her inclinations and sympathy toward the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the royalist Yellow Shirts…”.

One example of double standards is seen in her recent actions:

When the Yingluck Shinawatra government decided to employ teargas to disperse crowds in the latest anti-government rally led by an elderly former general in late November, Amara and her NHRC were fuming. She immediately released a statement reproaching the government’s measures in dealing with the demonstrators…. “The government was over-reacting and the use of teargas was unacceptable,” she said.*

NHRC head Amara Pongsapich and friend: opposing human rights

NHRC’s Amara with Abhisit: opposing human rights

Another is in the arena of political prisoners, of which there were hundreds during the Abhisit regime: “The NHRC has shown a marked lack of interest in many other cases involving political prisoners, as well as harassment against Thai academics in Thailand who spoke critically of the monarchy.”

Pavin concludes with an observation that is a perfect demonstration of Amara’s bias and disdain for real human rights. He notes that she:

has offered human rights awards to a number of dubious personalities, ranging from a celebrity monk, a controversial [royalist] forensic pathologist and a[n ultra-royalist and ultra-nationalist] detainee in a Phnom Penh prison who was arrested by Cambodia for provoking a conflict between the two countries.

The demise of the NHRC under Amara’s “leadership” is a travesty, but it was what Abhisit intended when he appointed her, and she has not disappointed Abhisit or the royalist elite.

Update: *Bangkok Pundit suggests this attribution to Amara is incorrect.





Further updated: Surapak acquitted!

31 10 2012

There’s good news today. The Bangkok Post reports that Surapak Puchaisaeng, accused of lese majeste, has been acquitted by the court, “ruling that the prosecution had failed to prove its case.” Surapak joins a very small list – 5% of those charged – who are acquitted. The last person acquitted was yellow-shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul, but for very different and politicized reasons.

A Bangkok Post photo

Surapak stood accused of posting defamatory Facebook messages and was arrested in 1 September 2011 and denied bail since then.

The Criminal Court “was convinced that the HTML files were not cached when browsing Facebook but were pasted into Mr Surapak’s computer.” This suggests that the computer used as evidence was tampered with, probably by the police.

In our page on Surapak, we had noted that, while the newspaper accounts of the evidence were incomplete, there certainly appears to be little substantial evidence in this case. We added that we hoped Surapak would be one of those in the tiny 4-5% who get off lese majeste and computer crimes charges, but the recent behavior of the courts suggest that acquittal is unlikely. We hope we are wrong.  We were wrong, and we are overjoyed that this case has been trashed by the court.

The Post notes the frame-up: “Asked if he would file a counter lawsuit against the people who framed him, [Surapak] said he would think about it first.” No doubt a year in jail on false charges is a bitter pill.

His aged mother Taem Phuchasaeng, 68, said: “It is a pity that certain other lese majeste defendants were not in a position to defend themselves. I was quite sorry, in particular, about the death of Ah Kong [Ampol Tangnopakul].”

The Post also reports that “Panitan Prueksakaemsuk, the son of another lese majeste defendant, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, was among those who attended Wednesday’s court session. He said Mr Surapak’s victory might be a good example and comfort to other lese majeste defendants.” He added: “We just hope for a political solution for other lese majeste prisoners…”.

Update: It is worth viewing The Nation’s website for seemingly malicious reporting of this case. In its first account of the acquittal, The Nation states and headlines: “Red shirt leader acquitted” and adds: “The Criminal Court on Tuesday acquitted a red shirt leader in a lese majeste lawsuit, giving the benefit of the doubt to the defendant.” PPT has never before heard claims that Surapak is or was a red shirt leader. In the next story it has posted, by Pravit Rojanaphruk, the account appears more factual. We wonder what The Nation is up to?





Ampol’s funeral book (part 2)

1 10 2012

Asia Provocateur has posted the second part of a translation of the funeral book for Ampol Tangnopakul. We won’t repeat the information there, but draw attention to the availability of this English-language translation. Producing a memorial book for those attending a funeral is common in Thailand.

Ampol died while in custody, convicted of the political crime of lese majeste.

Part 1 can be found here.





Surapak’s trial, anti-112 protest and injustice

20 09 2012

PPT thinks that the protesters who showed up at the Criminal Court on Wednesday to protest the further (deliberate) dragging out of the sentencing of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk on lese majeste charges deserve considerable praise.

These brave souls opposed to the lese majeste law and to the judicial system’s disgusting endeavors to punish Somyos as guilty from the very moment he was arrested on 30 April 2011. Since that arrest he has been refused bail nearly a dozen times, been dragged around the country in chains and cages, and had his trial delayed several times. They are opposing a justice system that operates unconstitutionally and illegally.

The Nation reports that 20 “opponents of the lese majeste law held a 112-minute vigil” at the court. They “wore black eye masks reading ‘release political prisoners’, while one placard read ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.”

The timing of the event coincided with the second day of the lese majeste trial of  Surapak Phuchaisaeng, “the first such prisoner to be prosecuted and tried under the Yingluck Shinawatra administration.”

Surapak is reported as telling The Nation that:

it is “disgusting” that he has to wear shackles and prisoners’ garb even though no concrete evidence has been produced linking him to the Facebook page, which is still active even though he is in prison. His bail request has been denied about half a dozen times now.

“Think about it. This is Thailand! The justice process never protects the people, only the elite,” Surapak said as prosecution witness Pol Major Niti Inthurak, an officer at the Computer Crimes unit, told the court that it was not the police force’s job to trace the suspect’s IP address.

Surapak …  said he had lost lots of job opportunities while in prison, adding that prosecutors would never be able to prove that he was linked to the Facebook account.

It sounds remarkably like another lese majeste stitch-up is under way. Not only is there no protection in this corrupt judicial system, but the courts are active in perverting the course of justice.

And as if to prove this point, The Nation also reports that People’s Alliance for Democracy leader Sondhi Limthongkul, convicted of libel against Thaksin Shinawatra lawyer Noppadon Pattama, went to the Court of Appeals and had his sentence reduced. Why did the politicized court do this? Apparently, due to “Sondhi’s old age and altruism as grounds for leniency, saying he did not seek self-serving gain by defaming legal adviser.” Of course, Sondhi was immediately granted bail of a paltry 100,000 baht to allow yet another appeal.

“Old age”? Sondhi is 64. PPT doesn’t recall any leniency for 62 year-old lese majeste convict Ampol Tangnopakul, not even when he was ill. Has there been any consideration of old age in the case of lese majeste convict Surachai Danwattananusorn, now 70 years old? Of course not. How about “altruism”? Most definitions suggest that “altruism is a motivation to provide something of value to a party who must be anyone but oneself…”. A quick read of his Wikipedia page, discussing Sondhi’s self-interested political and business flip-flops suggests anything but altruism as one of his motivations.

But he was attacking a political opponent aligned with Thaksin, so the royalist courts are simply and blatantly biased. The court appears to celebrate its double standards.





Lese majeste and elite (in)justice

18 09 2012

Achara Ashayagachat at the Bangkok Post has a worthy op-ed on a court appearance by a lese majeste prisoner. The article makes a point PPT has mentioned several times: the double standards involved when the political crime of lese majeste is involved. It can be read with a report of the trial, also in the Bangkok Post (PPT will post separately on the trial). The case involves 41 year-old computer programmer Surapak Puchaisaeng.

Surapak was arrested on 2 Sept 2011. Surapak’s case carries the dubious distinction of being the first lese majeste arrest under the Yingluck Shinawatra government, although investigations began under the Abhisit Vejjajiva government.

Achara notes that the “police have accused him of posting defamatory remarks about the royal family on Facebook several months ago. He was denied access to a lawyer on the day of his arrest.” And, of course, in the usual practice – unconstitutional to be sure – he has been “denied bail four times, even though, for his last request, the last bail guarantor was the Justice Ministry.” As PPT has pointed out before, the reason for this, as in many lese majeste cases, is that  Surapak refuses to plead guilty, so the royalist court uses the refusal of bail as a form of torture in trying to get a guilty plea.

Achara points out that Somyos Pruksakasemsuk, Darunee Charnchoensilpakul, the late Ampol Tangnopakul,  and Wanchai Saetan have suffered similar refusals of bail. She could have added Joe Gordon, Surachai Danwattananusorn and several others to the list.

In addition, Achara points out that others “who are routinely denied bail” are the “political prisoners” at the “Temporary Prison at Laksi _ most of whom are grass-roots supporters of the red-shirt movement facing hefty penalties and long prison terms _ face the same situation.”

She notes that “their legal battles for bail have rarely been brought up by the mainstream media.” And she makes the all too obvious point that rich kids get off, get bail, get slapped on the wrist, even when they are responsible for multiple deaths in, say, road crashes.  She makes the points for several cases over several years, showing political and class bias that is the stock-in-trade for the judiciary:

With so many cases pointing to a double standard, it is understandable and inevitable for the public to feel that the legal system is unfair to the poor, and unjust to prisoners of conscience. Justice delayed is justice denied. Sadly, this is not the exception in our our legal system, but the norm that routinely applies to the weak and poor.








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