Burning down the house III

17 08 2017

Prachatai reports that on 16 August 2017, the prosecutor of the Provincial Court in Phon District of Khon Kaen Province “has charged eight people of [lese majeste]… for burning royal arches.” They were arrested on 17 May 2017.

It is alleged that:

… six of the eight, who are between 18-20 years old of age, burned several arches erected in honour of the late King Bhumibol and King Vajiralongkorn in Chonnabot District of Khon Kaen on 3 May 2017. While the two other are accused allegedly preparing to burn another similar arch in Pueai Noi District.

In addition, they face charges of criminal association and destruction of public property.

It is reported that four have confessed and said they were hired and paid 200 baht each to burn the arch.

When arrested, a 14-year-old boy was “also allegedly involved in the burning…”. He was sent to the “Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection of the province for detention. At press time, there has been no information whether he has been released or still been detained.”





Pai’s secret trial

17 08 2017

Two of the defining characteristics of lese majeste under the military dictatorship have been the use of secret/in-camera trials and the use of delays to force defendants to plead guilty, meaning that there is no trial, just a sentencing.

We have seen both in the most recent case involving anti-coup activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa.

According to his lawyer, cited at Prachatai, the young Pai “chose to plead guilty because he was being tried in camera, meaning observers and media were not allowed into the courtroom.” In jail for almost 8 months,the lawyer stated that “Jatuphat initially intended to have people witness injustices in the Thai judicial system, but his goal could not be met if the court chose to hold his trial in secret.”

We are sure that this is something the military dictatorship knows and that’s why they hold secret faux trials in the (in)justice system.

Another motivation for Pai’s confession cited in the report is that “Jatuphat and his family was also informed by the court that he does not stand much chance to win the case as the king was protected by the constitution although he was accused of lèse majesté for merely sharing a BBC biography of King Vajiralongkorn.”

That makes little sense to us, for no-one accused of lese majeste has much chance of winning a case.

Amnesty International is cited on the sentencing:

This verdict shows the extremes to which the authorities are prepared to go in using repressive laws to silence peaceful debate, including on Facebook. It is outrageous that Pai Dao Din is now facing more than two years behind bars just for sharing a news article….

That’s entirely true.

We must also remember the cases of others when we think of injustice. Here are two of many:

Somyos Pruksakasemsuk, a journalist and labor activist, was arrested on 30 April 2011, and he remains in jail. When he was on trial, he was usually kept in chains and cages. On 23 January 2013, Somyos was sentenced to 5 years on each of two lese majeste charges, with an extra year added from a previous suspended sentence for insulting General Saprang Kalayanamit, a leader of the 2006 royalist coup. He refused to plead guilty and is serving his time.

Burin Intin, a welder and an anti-coup political activist, was arrested about 27 April 2016. He was taken from the police by soldiers and detained at a military base before the military court eventually sentenced him on 27 January 2017. Having been held for almost nine months, Burin changed his plea to guilty on lese majeste and computer crimes charges. Burin got 11 years and 4 months in jail on two lese majeste charges.

Secret trials, injustice and politicized and military courts. That’s dictatorship at work.





Junta repression deepens II

16 08 2017

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement on the charging of five academics and attendees at the International Conference on Thai Studies.

We can only wonder if the foreign academics who attended will mobilize to protest this new low by the junta.

The keynote speakers should be the first and loudest voices: Katherine Bowie, Duncan McCargo, Thonchai Winichakul and Michael Herzfeld. After all, they made very particular and careful decisions to attend amid some calls for a boycott because the junta has been repressive of academics in Thailand (not their yellow-shirted friends and allies, of course).

Here’s the HRW statement:

Thai authorities should immediately drop charges against a prominent academic and four conference participants for violating the military junta’s ban on public assembly at a conference at Chiang Mai University in July 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. The International Conference on Thai Studies included discussions and other activities that the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta deemed critical of military rule.

Professor Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, who faces up to one year in prison if convicted, is scheduled to report to police in Chiang Mai province on August 23. Four conference attendees – Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Chaipong Samnieng, Nontawat Machai, and Thiramon Bua-ngam – have been charged for the same offense for holding posters saying “An academic forum is not a military barrack” to protest the military’s surveillance of participants during the July 15-18 conference. None are currently in custody.

“Government censorship and military surveillance have no place at an academic conference,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “By prosecuting a conference organizer and participants, the Thai junta is showing the world its utter contempt for academic freedom and other liberties.”

Since taking power after the May 2014 coup, Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha has asserted that the airing of differences in political opinions could undermine social stability. Thai authorities have frequently forced the cancellation of community meetings, academic panels, issue seminars, and public forums on political matters, and especially issues related to dissent towards NCPO policies or the state of human rights in Thailand.Frequently, these repressive interventions are based on the NCPO’s ban on public gatherings of more than five people, and orders outlawing public criticisms of any aspect of military rule. The junta views people who repeatedly express dissenting views and opinions, or show support for the deposed civilian government, as posing a threat to national security, and frequently arrests and prosecutes them under various laws.

Over the past three years, thousands of activists, politicians, journalists, and human rights defenders have been arrested and taken to military camps across Thailand for hostile interrogation aimed at stamping out dissident views and compelling a change in their political attitudes. Many of these cases took place in Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand, the hometown of former prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra.

Most of those released from these interrogations, which the NCPO calls “attitude adjustment” programs, are forced to sign a written agreement that state they will cease making political comments, stop their involvement in political activities, or not undertake any actions to oppose military rule. Failure to comply with these written agreements can result in being detained again, or charged with the crime of disobeying the NCPO’s orders, which carries a sentence of up to two years in prison.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party, protects the rights of individuals to freedom of opinion, expression, association, and assembly. The UN committee that oversees compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Thailand has also ratified, has advised governments that academic freedom, as an element of the right to education, includes: “the liberty of individuals to express freely opinions about the institution or system in which they work, to fulfill their functions without discrimination or fear of repression by the State or any other actor, to participate in professional or representative academic bodies, and to enjoy all the internationally recognized human rights applicable to other individuals in the same jurisdiction.”

“Academics worldwide should call for the trumped-up charges against Professor Chayan and the four conference attendees to be dropped immediately,” Adams said. “Thailand faces a dim future if speech is censored, academic criticism is punished, and political discussions are banned even inside a university.”





Updated: Junta repression mounts I

16 08 2017

A report at The Nation suggests that the yellow-shirted paranoia over Yingluck Shinawatra’s court appearance is reaching fever pitch among the members of the military junta. That Yingluck fever leads to deepening political repression.

The nine judges hearing the case at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders are under guard, as are their residences. Rumor has it that some decamped to hotels but now worry that Yingluck supporters may stay in the same hotels. Horror!

Army boss General Chalermchai Sitthisart “called a meeting of security forces to assess expectations about the situation on the day of the verdict.” His task is to ensure that as few Yingluck supporters as possible are able to get to the court. His men reckon “1,000 to 2,000 people will show up to support Yingluck at the court.”

The military dictatorship has been “closely monitoring movements by Yingluck’s supporters ahead of the verdict” and this surveillance is being ramped up.

The surveillance is concentrated on the northeast and Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan and Ayutthaya, “where there are strong bases of Pheu Thai Party and red-shirt supporters…”. It is stated that “security officers had been instructed to closely monitor local leaders in other areas in the North and Northeast who might mobilise supporters.”

They are searching for a “plot.” Usually the junta is able to manufacture “evidence” of one. This time they are saying that “the total cost of all the passengers in a single van visiting the capital would amount to Bt100,000,” implying that there’s a plot.

In fact the figure is ludicrous. We think the military is using its own experience of arranging travel and supporters to come to this figure.

The surveillance is being expanded to cover trains and regular tour buses.

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha continues to fluster and bluster, threatening to “punish” anyone who broke the law. But, as we know, the junta makes up law on the run, using it for repression, so this is likely meant to threaten.

Interestingly, as we predicted, Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda “said there had not been any irregularities found in the spending of local administration organisations in connection with possible trips to support Yingluck.” We did say that the Attorney General’s office was just reflecting yellow shirt social media fluff.

Update: Reliable social media reports from various provinces in the north and northeast show photos of armed soldiers being deployed in urban areas and entering villages to further intimidate any person considering traveling to Bangkok for 25 August.





Pai’s 5 years on lese majeste fit-up

16 08 2017

The British refer to the police framing of suspects as a “fit-up.” It means that a person is incriminated on a false charge or is framed. That is what’s happened to student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, or Pai.

After almost 8 months – 237 days – of detention and continual pressure to plead guilty to lese majeste and computer crimes, he decided yesterday to take that route. He was immediately sentenced to 5 years in jail. As usual, for the guilty plea, his sentence was reduced by half.

As Prachatai explains, the “sentence was read swifty in an in camera trial, on the same day Jatuphat abruptly recanted his innocence.”

His lawyer stated that “Jatupat chose to confess due to the prolonged trial.”

Prachatai states:

Jatuphat is accused of lèse majesté for sharing on his Facebook account a controversial biography of King Vajiralongkorn published by BBC Thai.

He was the first person to be arrested for lèse majesté under the reign of the new King. Despite the fact that more than 2,000 people shared the same article on Facebook and millions read it, he was the only one arrested for lèse majesté.

The Bangkok Post says it was some 2,800 people who shared the same post. That Pai is the only person charged is evidence that he was fitted up, framed.

He was fitted up because he was “a member of Dao Din, a human rights student activist group based in the Northeast, which had joined activities with villagers affected by development projects.”

Worse, his crime was that his group “staged protests against the junta.” When he was arrested on this “crime,” he “was facing four other lawsuits, all for opposing the military junta.”

He was fitted up by the military:

He was arrested in Chaiyaphum on Dec 3 last year on a warrant based on a complaint filed by Lt Col Phitakphon Chusri, deputy chief of the Operations Directorate at the 33rd Military Circle in Khon Kaen province.

We don’t doubt that the military dictatorship saw Pai’s case as killing two birds with one stone. They got him, silenced him and threatened all other activists and also made it clear that the junta would vigorously attack anyone who dared to be critical of the new king and his tainted past.





Pai “confesses”

15 08 2017

A Bangkok Post report states that Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa “has confessed [to lese majeste and computer crimes] and the Khon Kaen Court will hand down the sentence on Tuesday afternoon…”.

The student activist “was brought to court at 9am on Tuesday for the second round of prosecutor witness hearings which like the first round was to be conducted in-camera.” The report continues:

Shortly after Mr Jatupat entered the courtroom, his lawyer came out to tell his parents that the ruling would be read in the afternoon because Mr Jatupat had confessed before the examination of the witnesses.

His parents declined to comment.

He had earlier denied all charges. Under the royalist (in)justice system, enormous pressure – amounting to torture – is placed on defendents to plead guilty. This allows the courts to not have to deal with lese majeste cases in any substantive way.





I’m not a dictator, just ahead of the curve

15 08 2017

With apologies to The Joker, it seems The Dictator has adopted his line in getting cranky with those who call him out as The Dictator.

A report at Global Voices suggests that Peace TV has been shut for a month for a show that referred to General Prayuth Chan-ocha as a dictator.

We are prepared to believe that The Dictator has again gotten personally ticked off and used his power to have the whole station shut down for a month. However, we think that the real reason for the closure has to do with silencing an outlet that is seen by the junta as oppositional.

But back to the notion that Prayuth doesn’t like being labeled a dictator.

Wikipedia says that a “dictator is a political leader who wields absolute power. A state ruled by a dictator is called a dictatorship.” It adds that a dictatorship is “often characterised by some of the following traits: suspension of elections and civil liberties; proclamation of a state of emergency; rule by decree; repression of political opponents without abiding by the rule of law procedures; these include one-party state, and cult of personality.”

On all of that, if Prayuth isn’t The Dictator, then he’s ahead of the curve.