Lese majeste punishment

20 11 2017

In a recent post, PPT commented on the delays to lese majeste trials where defendants refuse to plead guilty. We said this as a form of torture. In addition to strenuous efforts to force defendants to plead guilty, those who don’t see their trials dragged out for years, while they remain in jail.

A report at Prachatai reminds us that even after sentencing, whether having enter a guilty plea or not, punishment involves more than just being held in a jail.

Student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, one of several thousand singled out for a lese majeste charge for sharing a BBC Thai story on the king, convicted and jailed, “has revealed that a prison staff ordered him to take off clothes and rubbed his genitals five times in a search for drugs [sic.].”

He “told media at the court that he has experienced a series of harassment[s] after being transferred to Phu Khiao Prison. When he arrived the prison, one staff [member] search[ed] his body for drugs…”. He was ordered to strip and the officer spread his anus “and rubbed his genital [s] five times.”

This could represent a sexual harassment by an officer, but it is also a repeated act of degradation perpetrated by prison staff. This is unceasing degradation. We have seen other acts of degradation and humiliation perpetrated against lese majeste victims in jail.

We know this because he made the comments on 16 November 2017, when Jatupat “was summoned to Phu Khiao Provincial Court to attend a trial on violation of 2016 Referendum Act.” That means he failed to abide by the military dictatorship’s demand that no one campaign against it constitution. The regime accuses him and “another student activist Wasin Prommanee …[of] inciting chaos during the junta-sponsored constitutional referendum in August 2016.” Inciting chaos means “distributing leaflets” urging the rejection of the junta’s hand-crafted and illegitimate constitution.





Updated: Making monarchy

19 11 2017

Sport360.com is not usually the subject of a post at PPT. Yet we felt there’s one point in an article about a middle-ranked Thai golfer that reflects something being seen more broadly in Thailand.

Readers will recall the widespread criticism of now King Vajiralongkorn as his father declined and his succession became a reality. There were suggestions that there was a succession crisis that might even split the country or bring down the monarchy.

We are not sure that the succession crisis was all it was said to be. Even so, thanks in part to the repressive military regime and its displays of loyalty to the monarchy, and despite the king’s grasping and threatening personality, he seems to be settling in.

This isn’t all that different from his father’s experience in the period when the royalist General Sarit Thanarat grabbed power and managed the early period of the royal restoration.

Part of the process of creating this new monarch is making a public image that can be used in propaganda.

This process has begun. He’s a “concerned” monarch: he reportedly expressed concern for people waiting for the funeral; he wanted more done for flood victims. We have no idea whether these “concerns” were real or concocted; the point is that they become part of building the image.

So how does golf fit? Under the deceased king, it became almost mandatory for athletes to display excessive loyalty, often handing over their trophies to the king and dedicating their victories to him and his claimed “inspiration.”

Many royalist Thais have come to see this propaganda as “normal” and even expect such displays. Some athletes seem to understand the requirement for regular expressions of loyalty, contrived or otherwise.

So when golfer Kiradech Aphibarnrat turned in a reasonable score in a recent tournament, it became a monarchy story: “Thailand and its proud people have gone through emotional turmoil this year [apparently because the king died last year] – but one of the country’s most beloved sportsmen has risen above it.”

The article claims that Kiradech “has flown the Thai flag high” and hopes for a good score in an event “to honour the late king’s memory.”

That’s all about the dead king, but then this from the golfer: “I’ve tried to do my job. It hasn’t been a good year for Thailand after we lost the king, even though we have a new, fantastic one…”.

There it is. The more it is repeated, the more likely it is to ingrained. Vajiralongkorn has many traits that saw him ridiculed. The military has banned ridicule and has tried to limit the reports. More statements like Kiradech’s will pile on the propaganda that the military and palace hope will overwhelm the negative past.

Update: A reader tells us that we should have mentioned Khaosod’s story of about a week ago, on the king getting in on the charity run for hospitals by Toon Bodyslam. The king is said to be Toon’s “biggest fan.” It was reported that: “To show his appreciation for Toon’s ongoing runathon for 11 hospitals across the country, … the [k]ing has arranged gifts to be sent to the 38-year-old singer on Wednesday when he arrives in Surat Thani province…”. He sent one of his top officials, a general, to hand over the gifts. There’s no news on how much money Thailand’s richest man is donating…. There’s probably a reason for that.





Marking its political territory

19 11 2017

A Bangkok Post editorial declares that the “Prayut Chan-o-cha government” or, more accurately, the military dictatorship, “has this week made itself look increasingly like the highly authoritarian administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping — intolerant to dissent and obsessive about repression.”

Really? Only this week? And, despite the authoritarianism of the regime in China and its increasing elevation of Xi, it remains a civilian government.

The Post is referring to the junta’s “latest move to tighten surveillance of certain groups of people could further infringe on their personal liberties,” and declares that the regime’s “branding of these groups as ‘high-risk political elements’ is needlessly overdone and generates concern about what its next steps may be.”

In fact, and as the Post admits, the regime has been doing this since it seized power in a coup in May 2014. Then, its political repression was deeper than it is now.

The regime, says the Post, “seems to be trying to fear-monger by planting seeds of doubt about threats to safety and the risk of ‘disturbances’ in the public’s mind.”

Its present moves are a mopping up of limited opposition, further silencing the few dissident voices. It is also an effort to provide (weak) justifications for continuing its dominance of all other political groups. It is animal-like behavior as a dominant beast marks its territory and is intolerant of all others.

And, as the Post observes, “the timing of the surveillance mission and the government’s questionable motive for spreading news about its fear of ‘unrest’ have set a grim tone for Thailand’s already dim-looking political future…”. Marking its territory is also likely to be “be used as grounds for the regime to tighten its grip on power, to keep the political ban in place and delay the poll, and, at the very worst, to widen its suppression of its critics and opponents.”

While the Post says “there is no reason for the state to mobilise such resources for surveillance purposes,” that misses the junta’s psychology as a military dictatorship. Its animal instincts mean that it is wary and savage in protecting its political territory.





Naughty Democrat Party and rubber rats

18 11 2017

The military regime has has warned the Democrat Party to behave itself.

The dictatorship considers that its (former?) political allies has been using “the plight of rubber planters, who are facing hard times given falling prices of the commodity, for political gain.”

Government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd warned against “lambasting” the regime, and declared the “Democrat Party could have helped by giving useful advice on how to help rubber farmers.”

The farmers are from the Democrat Party’s stronghold in the south, and the Party has complained about the regime’s failure “to shore up rubber prices, and for violating freedom of expression by summoning leaders of a rubber farmer network for ‘attitude adjustment’ at military camps last weekend” when the farm leaders threatened a demonstration.

The junta’s spokesman lied when he “insisted the government [he means junta] has never barred people from expressing opinions or voicing proposals about the issue.” He said those detained faced “no threats or abuses…”. They were simply detained for “re-education.”

It prevented “a large group of rubber farmers from travelling from the southern provinces to Bangkok…”.

He was absolutely truthful when he stated: “No rallies or gatherings should be carried out…”.

The Democrat Party is usually supportive of the military regime, but fearing a military political party and needing to shore up its political base, “deputy spokeswoman Mallika Boonmeetrakul said that summoning leaders to military camps was not the right approach.”

She declared the junta ineffective “in dealing with crop prices. It should stop sweeping the rubbish under the carpet because it is not constructive to do so…”.

Former Democrat MP Watchara Petthong said the junta’s “penchant to summon critics for attitude adjustment in military camps was a threat to people’s rights and freedom of expression.” Of course, when it is red shirts or anti-coup activists he tends to ignore the repression. We call that double standards.





Lese majeste and enforcing silence

18 11 2017

PPT has posted over several years on the delaying of lese majeste trials where defendants refuse to plead guilty. We have referred to this as a form of torture. In addition to strenuous efforts to force defendants to plead guilty, those who don’t see their trials dragged out for years, while they remain in jail.

When trials begin, they are deliberately delayed and, in the case of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, he was dragged all over the country in chains and shackles, often kept in cages, as he was tortured for fighting his case.

Those who refuse to plead guilty are then sentenced to many years in jail – almost no one if found innocent.

The most recent case of this essentially lawless efforts by the courts on lese majeste is reported at Prachatai. It concerns Rung Sila, a poet and cyber activist whose first name is Sirapop.

(We need to add that our page on Rung Sila, having him already convicted on lese majeste, is mistaken, and we’ll fix that shortly.)

He has now been “imprisoned for three years and four months,” and has faced yet another postponed witness hearing as a military court drags out his lese majeste case. His lawyer makes the obvious point:

According to Anon Nampa, human rights lawyer representing the defendant, since he was arrested in June 2014, the court completed only one witness hearing in the case out of 6-7 plaintiff witnesses.

He added that one of the defendant witnesses, Surachai Yimprasert, has already passed away.

The lawyer said that it is as if Sirapop is being pressured to plead guilty….

Sirapop maintains his innocence.

Thailand’s courts, both military and civil, are disgraceful and pervert justice.





Political loosening now a political tightening

17 11 2017

All of that talk about local elections and loosening the restrictions on political activism turns out, as we had suggested, to be a steaming pile of buffalo manure.

Prachatai: reports that the military dictatorship “has ordered the police to tighten surveillance on anti-government groups and report about their activities every 15 days.”

All police have been ordered “to tightly monitor anti-government groups…”. By “anti-government” they mean anti-junta and so-called anti-monarchy groups, which the royalist junta sees as one in the same.

The junta conspiracy concoction magicians reckon that “certain groups of individuals are trying to incite conflict and stir up chaos against the government [junta] through social media and other means, adding that the groups are active both domestically and abroad.”

The Bangkok Post adds some further detail. The orders for this intensified repression have come from General Udomdej Sitabutr and Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan. The orders apply to all security agencies.

The police say they “have not yet detected any suspicious activities from leaders of anti-coup elements…”. The police helpfully added that many in the anti-junta movement “have already been detained.”

Those concocting another plot imagine that “anti-coup groups both in Thailand and abroad were attempting to undermine the government’s stability by using various online and other media to spread false information to local communities and villages.”

The targets of increased suppression are “networks of people who provide ideological and financial support…”. We think they are making this up (again).





A decade of lese majeste

17 11 2017

We highly recommend the report published at Prachatai on lese majeste investigations from 2007-2017. It is one of the best we’ve seen in recent years.

The graphic summarizes the sorry tale. (We do wonder if the palace-related and vindictive cases are included.)

The military dictatorship’s 300 cases is by far the largest number for any regime in Thailand’s history.