Military regime must go

9 12 2016

To mark Human Rights Day on 10 December, the Asian Human Rights Commission has called on Thailand’s military dictatorship to dissolve itself via an “election.” To be honest, while we agree with this call, it is all too tepid:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to draw attention to the situation in Thailand on this momentous day, December 10, which is observed as Human Rights Day. Unfortunately, in Thailand, the day will be eclipsed by the Military regime that is in power since May 2014, when it overthrew the last elected government. It is the rudimentary nature of the Thai legal system, and a weak Constitutional Court that has led to 13 military coups in Thailand since 1932. Despite 16 new constitutions having been promulgated since the first coup and the first Constitution, Thailand could not prevent a Military dictatorship from declaring and “taking over administration of the country” yet again.

Soon after the 13th successful Military coup, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) replaced the country’s Judiciary with Military courts, for all practical purposes concerning fundamental human rights and freedoms. Three NCPO announcements: No. 37/2014, No. 38/2014, and No. 50/2014, expanded powers, and retained Military court jurisdiction over civilians, in cases of lèse majesté, national security crimes, weapons offences, and violations of NCPO orders. The result of these three measures has been to extend the control of the Military judicial system to civilians and civilian cases.

According to information received from the Judge Advocate General’s Department (JAG) on 12 July 2016, 1,811 civilians have been tried in the Military court in 1,546 cases from 22 May 2014 to 31 May 2016.

The AHRC has found that the Military courts do not accord the same rights as Thailand’s civilian courts and violate internationally protected fair trial rights, especially rights to fair and public hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal, and the rights to legal representation.

On 12 September 2016, the NCPO also issued the NCPO Order No. 55/2016, under Article 44 of the Interim Constitution; it states that all cases involving offences covered under NCPO Order No. 37/2014, No. 38/2014, and No. 50/2014, will no longer be tried in Military courts. However, this Order does not cover cases initiated before the Order was issued; it also fails to cover cases under Article 12 of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015, the junta’s public gathering ban, and the NCPO Order No. 13/2016, which gives Military officers extrajudicial power. Therefore, crimes involving these laws still have to be tried in Military court.

For example, Ms. Sirikan Charoensiri, human rights lawyer and legal and documentation officer at Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), is now facing accusations of sedition under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code, as well as violation of Article 12 of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015. The inquiry officer informed Ms. Sirikan that she was charged with being an accomplice in the coup commemoration organized by the New Democracy Movement (NDM) at the Democracy Monument on 25 June 2015. These charges stemmed from Ms. Charoensiri not letting her car be searched and for her carrying the activists’ belongings. If indicted, she will be tried in Military Court.

The NCPO also issued a series of their orders and announcements and imposed Article 44 of the interim constitution, according to which General Prayuth Chan-ocha, as the junta leader and Prime Minister, has absolute power to give any order deemed necessary to “strengthen public unity and harmony” or to prevent any act that undermines public peace. As a result, the status of the Order issued under the power of Article 44 is equal to an act passed by the Legislature.

To illustrate, the NCPO Order No. 3/2015, issued under the authority of Article 44, permits boundless exercise of power and also inserts Military officials into the judicial process and provides them with the authority to carry out investigations along with the police. In addition, the Order gives authority to Military officials to detain individuals for up to seven days. During this seven-day period of detention, detainees do not have the right to meet with a lawyer or contact their relatives, and the Military officials further refuse to make the locations of places of detention public.

With two years having passed, 7 August 2016, was scheduled for the constitutional referendum by the Thai Military government and the NCPO. Providing the conditions for free and open political communication was the basic element of ensuring fair and democratic referendum processes. It is during times of political change that the right to freedom of expression is most essential, ensuring that a well-informed and empowered public was free to exercise its civil and political rights. However, under Thai law, the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 paragraph two and its implementation, along with NCPO Order No.3/2015, have shown contradictory results. It intends to restrict the rights of people, who need to discuss and to critically evaluate decisions about their country. As of August 2016, 165 people had been prosecuted for publicly opposing the draft constitution— many of them from the capital, Bangkok.

In addition, when the constitutional referendum passed, rights groups still expected the Military government and the NCPO would allow people to exercise their rights. However, the AHRC has witnessed how the right to freedom of expression and opinion has been muzzled, with critics having to eventually face lèse majesté or Section 112 under the Thai Criminal Code.

The AHRC would like to point out the permanent case of a 71-year-old writer arrested for the third time under lèse majesté law. On 15 November 2016, police officers from Chanasongkram Police Station, Bangkok, arrested a writer known by his penname Bundit Aneeya from his house in Nong Khaem District. At the Police Station, the police informed Bundit Aneeya that he was accused of committing an offence under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code for allegedly making comments about the Thai monarchy at a political seminar about the junta-sponsored constitution drafting process, on 12 November 2016. After his lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights filed a second petition asking for bail from the Military court, he was released on 400,000 bath (around $12,270 USD). He is one of the few lèse majesté suspects granted bail by a Military court. This trial is still ongoing.

The AHRC is deeply concerned that the Thai Military government and the NCPO are not serious about abolishing the Military courts and are tending towards continuing to restrict the people’s rights, in particular freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, even more so than in the past.

On Human Rights Day, 2016, the AHRC again calls for the NCPO to revoke Article 44 of the Interim Constitution and the NCPO orders and announcements that place civilians in Military courts, and to end all violations and harassment of ordinary people. In addition, the NCPO and Military government must arrange for elections and peaceful transfer of power to a civilian government, i.e. back to the people of Thailand.

This is where military dictatorships get the upper hand. Because they control everything, the best that liberal activists can do is request an “election.” As we have pointed out time and again, this hardly seems likely to change anything much. What is being missed is the purge of opposition in all of Thailand’s institutions and civil society. What is being missed is the deep repression revolving around the lese majeste regime that changes the nature of politics for years to come, if there is no rupture. What is being missed is how an “election” will be unfair, not free and will be an exercise in embedding authoritarianism.

Thailand is in a dark place.





Beware the interventionist privy council

8 12 2016

In very many ways, the Privy Council has become one of Thailand’s most important political institutions. It isn’t meant to be this way.

The Privy Council is appointed by the king and has been a relatively unknown group of old men. That changed under the presidentship of General Prem Tinsulanonda. He was always meddlesome and was always bitter that “politicians” had forced him from the premiership.

When he got the chance as a privy councilor, he asserted his and the council’s power, particularly with the military as Prem continued to “manage” promotions. The council’s power  that came from their proximity to the king, himself a political meddler, whose status was promoted by successive governments.

The council became most politically noticeable with the 2006 military coup and Prem’s role in planning it. After that, with the king beginning his terminal decline, it was the Privy Council that became the locus of royalist politics.

We don’t recall the “swearing in” of new privy councilors as having been newsworthy in the past. However, it is now. The Bangkok Post reports that the king has “granted the 10 newly appointed members of the Privy Council an audience to make an oath of allegiance at the Ambara Villa at the Dusit Palace.”

Under the constitution, the councilors are required to make “a solemn declaration before the King.”

They are required to state:

I, (name of the declarer), do solemnly declare that I will be loyal to His Majesty the King and will faithfully perform my duties in the interests of the State and the people. I will also uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.

As we know, in the recent past, the privy councilors have not upheld or observed the constitutions. First and foremost, they are royal servants and as mostly military men, they are disdainful and destructive of constitutions. Indeed, the current council includes several who have been involved in recent coups that have torn up and trampled constitutions.

We are told that the king “extended his thanks to the privy councillors for their intention to help with his work.” He indicated that the “privy councillors will be given assignments, as well as an opportunity to provide him with advice.” That means they will remain interventionist.

The king then stated that the councilors “will also help to maintain the security of the country in line with policies regarding the royal institution.”

That’s scary indeed, suggesting that the king is going to be having his posterior polishers acting as royalist police. More lese majeste repression is going to be managed by the Privy Council. (We guess they have already been doing this.)

The king also said “the privy councillors have his full trust.” Hmm, doesn’t he choose them? In any case, we may expect churn on the council as he seldom trusts anyone for long.





Another lese majeste case under new king

8 12 2016

The neo-feudal regime is being set in place. Following the recent lese majeste case against Neo-Democracy/New Democracy Movement activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, there has been the junta-palace agitation over the BBC.

Now, as reported at Prachatai, the military dictatorship “has threatened a prominent anti-junta activist from the New Democracy Movement (NDM) with the lèse majesté law over her Facebook post.”

Chanoknan Ruamsap states that “the military contacted her family while she is in Brazil.” Apparently the military’s goons are policing a post on the monarchy that they determine may constitute lese majeste.

Her family warns her that she “might be detained at the Airport” when she returns to Feudal Thailand.

It seems that on “3 December, she shared on Facebook the biography of King Vajiralongkorn, Rama X, published by the BBC Thai and on 5 December she shared another article published by the Telegraph about King Rama X.”

The military goons are using lese majeste to mop up student activists and to ensure that the new king’s dastardly and violent history can be erased. We don’t doubt that the “new” palace is in cahoots with the fascist goons on this.

Chanoknan already faces a trial at a military court of Bangkok on 23 December on a “charge of defying the Thai junta’s ban on political gatherings.”

neofeudalism





BBC on BBC Thai lese majeste allegations

8 12 2016

The junta’s goons have been chasing the BBC’s office in Bangkok on allegations that its stories on the new king constitute lese majeste. No formal charges have been laid as yet.

BBC News reports that The Dictator has declared that the “BBC could be prosecuted in Thailand if a profile it published of the new king is found in breach of lese majeste laws…”.

Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha states: “As they have an office in Thailand and Thai reporters work there they must be prosecuted when they violate Thai law…”. In fact, being “Thai” has nothing to do with the law, but we can’t expect legal dunces like Prayuth to understand the draconian and feudal law.

Prayuth is angry that the BBC had reports that were accurate, factual and rather meek on the new king’s dark past.

A BBC spokesperson stated:

BBC Thai was established to bring impartial, independent and accurate news to a country where the media faces restrictions, and we are confident that this article adheres to the BBC’s editorial principles.

The report reveals details about the “investigation”:

It began after complaints about the article – which was published in the UK and has since been blocked online in Thailand – by royalists who accuse the BBC of defaming the king.

We are in no doubt that this is the future of Thailand under the new king and the royalist military junta. That future is feudal, repressive and regressive.

We leave in the BBC’s links in the story:

Profile: Thailand’s new king

Thai crown prince proclaimed new king

Thailand’s lese majeste laws explained





More of the same II

7 12 2016

The new reign is just like the old reign in terms of lese majeste repression. Indeed, we think the two overlap considerably. If one looks at the lese majeste cases over the last year or so, it is clear that the focus had shifted to the then prince. We fear that the repression is now going to be deeper and darker.

The cases of lese majeste are likely to be many as the palace and junta attempt to erase all critical commentary on the new king.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “government [they mean the military junta] plans to take legal action against the Thai team of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for its recent online report on the profile of … King … Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun.”bbc

General Prawit Wongsuwan said “the target was people behind the report on the BBC Thai website.” This is the report that has caused a lese majeste charge against activist student Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa.

The pudgy royalist general “confirmed he ordered authorities to investigate into the matter.” He also stated that the military junta is “monitoring them [foreign news agencies] and check[ing] the accuracy of such reports” that offer critical commentary on the new and prickly king.

The junta’s minions have been hard at work blocking “stories both in Thai and English on the BBC and BBC Thai websites…”. The BBC Thai Facebook page is still operating.

PPT has also noticed considerable effort to block us.

It is also reported that police goons have been to the “BBC Thai office at Maneeya Building on Phloenchit Road in Bangkok on Tuesday and found it closed.” The Post has an unnamed source saying that “the Technology Crime Suppression Division under the Royal Thai Police said the division was gathering evidence regarding the BBC Thai report, which could be deemed violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law, and the Computer Crime Act.”

It will only get worse.





More of the same I

6 12 2016

There’s a report on Vajiralongkorn’s Thailand in the Chinese Global Times, attributed to Xinhua. It begins:

Thailand’s Crown Prince … Vajiralongorn formally ascended the throne on Thursday and made his first royal decree to reappoint Prem Tinsulanonda as head of Privy Council within 24 hours after the ascension, both of which reassured those who worry that the country would be thrown into uncertainties and instability.

On Prem it states:

Observers say the reappointment of Prem indicates the new king’s reluctance to make political changes and his determination to maintain the late king’s legacy to stablize the country and to keep everything normal.

There’s considerable inaccuracies regarding Prem’s own history, but stays true to a palace narrative.

Then it’s added:

Some said that the appointment of a new Privy Council will give observers a better indication of how actively King Vajiralongkorn intends to reign as well as to reshuffle the country’s political center.

He’s done that, appointing a Privy Council full of mainly military men who have been associated with the 2006 and 2014 royalist coups. The prescient suggestion was that joining hands with the military would “ensure stability.” The report observes:

The military has long been loyal to the king, sticking with the crown through six decades and eight putsches. The alliance between military and monarchy dates back to 1957-1958, when twin coups eviscerated the country’s young democracy, and they have since dominated the nation together.

The next step in embedding the new reign and the military dictatorship is that “the new king will sign the junta-backed draft constitution to promulgate it…”. As the report states, “[k]ey elements of the new constitution will entrench military control.”

Remarkably, this account of increasing military control is then moderated by quotes from an obedient commentator, Chulalongkorn University’s Thitinan Pongsudhirak. His language is both tepid and pro-junta. He says: “The military is putting in mechanism to be empowered for some time, certainly, there will be military supervision over Thai politics…”. At best, that’s a remarkable understatement of the junta’s intent. At worst, it is a misrepresentation.

The new reign is going to look much like the repressive post-2014 dictatorship: repression, censorship, more lese majeste cases and increased palace propaganda, whitewashing everything royal and military.





The new privy council

6 12 2016

It was widely expected that the new king would put his stamp on the Privy Council. He’s done that in very quick time.

The Bangkok Post reports that the king has appointed an 11-member Privy Council.

The new members are: “Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan, the current Education Minister; Gen Paiboon Koomchaya, currently the Justice Minister; and Gen Teerachai Nakwanich, who retired as army commander-in-chief on Sept 30.”

We surmise that they will need to give up their current positions.

Those who “retired” are, including the dates they took their positions: “Tanin Kraivixien [1977], Chaovana Nasylvanta [1975], ACM Kamthon Sindhavananda [1987], Gen Pichitr Kullavanijaya [1993], Ampol Senanarong [1994], Rr Adm ML Usani Pramoj [1984], MR Thepkamol Devakula [1997] and Adm Chumpol Patchusanont [2005].”

Persons with more knowledge than us will have to read these tea leaves and explain the possible reasons for sending these men on their way.

This means the current 11 members of the Privy Council are: “Gen Surayud Chulanont, Kasem Watanachai, Palakorn Suwanarat,  Atthaniti Disatha-amnarj, Supachai Phungam, Chanchai Likitjitta, ACM Chalit Pookpasuk, Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan, Gen Teerachai Nakwanich and Gen Paiboon Koomchaya.” General Prem Tinsulanonda is president of the Privy Council.

This means six are military men, all from the post-2006 politicized forces and several of them having been actively involved in coups overthrowing elected governments.

Three are for presidents of the Supreme Court. One is a former education minister and another is Former Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Interior. Except for Prem, all have been appointed since 2001.

The king can have up to 18 members, so there’s plenty of empty chairs for him to add others. At the moment, this new Privy Council will be especially pleasing for the military junta. We can only wonder what the deal is for appointing three two serving ministers and a corrupt officer.