Political arrests III

9 08 2020

Yesterday, the big news was that the Criminal Court “approved bail for a lawyer and a student activist [Arnon Nampa and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok] who were arrested on Friday on multiple charges including sedition in connection with their involvement in a recent anti-government rally.” Both men say they will fight the charges.

Clipped from The Nation

Interestingly, Arnon immediately taunted the military and regime, “saying that he would travel to Chiang Mai for a rally on Sunday as planned earlier. There, he said he would speak on the same topic he raised last Monday, when comments he made about the constitution and the monarchy touched on some highly sensitive matters.” That’s Postspeak, tiptoeing around the absent king (watch out for another flying visit of about 24 hours over the next week) and his gorging on the public purse and power grabs.

Equally significant was the gathering of “hundreds of their supporters … at the Skywalk across from the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, where they flashed three-finger salutes and chanted ‘We are not afraid‘.”

They seemed to be responding to Mike, who wrote to supporters saying:

Our arrests are a clear testimony that the dictators don’t want people to assemble…. If, having seen that, we still don’t fight, we’ll be enslaved by dictators and bullied by a judicial system that is not just. The time is up for fear. Let’s fight like brave people…. Let’s end it in our generation.

A couple of days ago, Thai Enquirer referred to the regime’s political strategy against mounting student protests as “decapitation arrests,” meaning that it sought to remove or repress those it considers the protest leaders. Hence the arrest of Arnon and Panupong.

That report also quoted anonymous “sources inside the police, the government has made clear to the police leadership that the student movements should not be allowed to expand beyond its current size prompting the police to move against the student groups.” It cites political analyst Arun Saronchai as observing:

By removing the leadership, they want to see if the students can regroup quickly or whether the momentum will die. The government can litigate all these student leaders until the end of time…. However, it may backfire on them and galvanize the movement even more.

Police have been increasing their activities on university campuses: “security forces increasingly taking an interest in the student bodies that were becoming politically active.” As one academic explained: “They want names, they want numbers and they want to know who is leading the protests…”.

The Bangkok Post reports:

The pair were taken into custody by police armed with warrants on Friday afternoon. Samran Rat police have sought arrest warrants for 15 more demonstrators and were told to apprehend them all by Monday….

Police are also reported to be in the process of collecting evidence to seize 16 more people, bringing the total number of suspects from the July 18 rally to 31.

The Post’s reporting comes with a weasle-worded editorial headline: “Police need a slap on the wrist.” Seriously? What dope came up with that? The editor, it seems. The editorial itself is better, describing the arrests as “ill-thought, excessive.” It says the charges are “disproportionate given that the previous rallies — or flash mobs — in Bangkok and the provinces were peaceful…. [T]he alleged offence against the Emergency Decree is nonsensical.” It adds:

The heavy-handed approach by police is equal to a crackdown on political activism as well as freedom of expression, all civic rights endorsed in the 2017 constitution. Such a blatant act would make the country and the [Gen] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] administration subject to international criticism.

And, presumably domestic criticism? It concludes with the weasle-words:

Thailand cannot afford another political crisis, a factor that would see the country trapped in an economic abyss.

Last week, the premier even stressed the need for unity that will enable the nation to move forward. A suppression of activism would not bring the nation to that goal. An open talk between the government and the activists about how to avoid political crisis is necessary. Before that, the prime minister must give the police a slap on the wrist.

That’s the same police who are corrupt, gun-toting thugs who can’t follow a snail trail and repeatedly lie to the public. But, heck, the Post seems okay with all of that when the political order is under pressure. The Post has a habit of weak support for democracy and it seems it is a hard habit to shake.

Better to return to the Thai Enquirer report, where Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch observed the regime’s actions as amounting to a “total disregard for fundamental rights.” He said:

We have prominent human right lawyer and we have student activists facing sedition charges for peacefully holding a political rally to demand a democratic vote and good governance, this should not be a criminal offence…. If such peaceful actions are considered by the Thai authority to be criminally offensive, it would tell the world that Thailand is not a democratic state, it is a pariah authoritarian state to the core….

Of course, Thailand has not been democratic since the 2014 military coup. And the military and regime plan to keep it authoritarian.


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