The royalist use of lese majeste

22 04 2012

How much effort has gone into finding, persecuting and prosecuting lese majeste? How much effort did the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration put into using lese majeste as a means of political repression?

The trial of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, reported by Prachatai, has provided a rare insight.

Prosecution witness Colonel Wijan Jodtaeng is said to be the Director of the Law and Human Rights Department of the Internal Security Operations Command. As odd as it might be that an arm of the state’s repressive apparatus has a section that is working on law and human rights, we at PPT think of it as an Orwellian department for repressing human rights and using the law for state repression.

Col. Wijan testified that:

during the time that the Emergency Decree was in force in 2010, the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) was the main body which dealt with lèse majesté offences.  Security agencies collected evidence and sent this case to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).  The DSI accepted it as a special case, and sent it back to the CRES which then assigned him to file a police complaint.

In other words, CRES, the special body established by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime to suppress the red shirt demonstrations, also became the body that made complaints of lese majeste in this period. If it wasn’t already clear, this statement shows that lese majeste was used as a political weapon for political purposes by the Abhisit government.

And, it is worth noting that the colonel later told reporters that, until he was ordered to make the complaint against Somyos, he had never read the articles involved.

When asked whether the lese majeste prosecution of Somyos “involved CRES spokesperson Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd and followed the CRES ‘diagram of the plot against the Monarchy’,” Col. Wijan said CRES was involved and stated:

that the team working on this case consisted of over 30 officers from several agencies, including, for example, the DSI and the Council of State, and Col Sansern was part of the team, if he remembered correctly.

Yes, that is 30 officials working on the case against Somyos!

More broadly about lese majeste, the colonel was asked if any case was dropped under CRES. His answer: no, not a single case was ever dropped.

Prachatai also reports on the extraordinary effort that the Abhisit government put into hunting down red shirts and using lese majeste charges to repress them and freedom of speech. It cites evidence by a prosecution witness:

Col Nuchit Sribunsong from the Army’s Directorate of Operations told the court that since 2006 the security situation had apparently grown intense, and security agencies had monitored lèse majesté content in the media, on the internet, and in political public speeches.  Three magazines which were particularly monitored included Thai Red News, Voice of Taksin and Truth Today.

Colonel Nuchit adds further to the long list of government agencies involved in the great lese majeste hunt:

Information would be collected and analyzed jointly by the National Security Council, ISOC, the Police Special Branch, the National Intelligence Agency, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, etc.

And all of this “information and opinions would be submitted to the CRES for consideration.” And this colonel also stated that the concocted and now discredited CRES “anti-monarchy plot” diagram was “used as a tool in their planning and analysis.” That is, a fictional plot was used to concoct evidence and charges against political opponents.

Who was directing all of this political repression and the use of the draconian and politicized lese majeste law? Charges were stated to be:

up to the CRES, which was chaired by Suthep Thaugsuban, then Deputy Prime Minister of the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, to decide whether the articles were offensive to the monarchy.  He and the rest of the team just presented the CRES with information and a preliminary opinion.

It is absolutely clear that both Abhisit and Suthep were heading the CRES campaign of repression. They used lese majeste against political opponents. They funded it extravagantly to enable that it repressed opponents, with one reliable estimate being that between 7 April and 25 May alone, CRES spent 1.9 billion baht, with with ISOC spending a further 2.08 billion.

More than this, CRES included significant others, including the military brass, who regularly told Abhisit what to do. Army commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha simply over-ruled Abhisit through CRES. For some time, the CRES director was General Prawit Wongsuwon, who was defense minister. The military called the shots, in cooperation with Suthep and Abhisit, all concocting plots against the monarchy as a way of maintaining the royalist regime.