More on Port Faiyen

28 04 2021

Port FaiyenThai Lawyers for Human Rights has more information on Port Faiyen, Parinya Cheewinpatomkul, a lese majeste political prisoner.

Listen to the Life Song of Port Faiyen, an Artist Who Uses Music and a Pen as a Weapon to Fight the Dictatorship” is based on an interview with his mother, father, and his best friend. It clarifies how sick he is and reveals that not even his parents are allowed to visit him. There is no word on how he is doing.





Parinya Cheewinpatomkul (Fort Faiyen)

20 04 2021

Parinya Cheewinpatomkul, known as Port Faiyen, was arrested sometime in early March 2021 and charged with lese majeste.

On 5 March 2021, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that Port was arrested at his house and charged with lese majeste and the Computer Crimes Act. The police had a warrant and seized mobile phones and notebooks.

Port stated that although he remains ill, he was refused bail, and has been jailed since then.

There is concern that his illnesses – including nerve inflammation, pancreatitis, diabetes – will worsen in jail.

Following the 2014 military coup, Port was a member of the Faiyen band that fled to Laos and eventually received asylum in France. Port’s illness convinced him not to travel to France and returned to Thailand for medical treatment. For a time, to protect him, there was an illusion created that he was in France. When he returned to Thailand, he deactivated his Facebook account, and it took the authorities some time to track him down.

Media accounts of Port’s case:

World Today News, 6 March 2021: “Police arrested ‘Port Wong Fai Yen’ at a home in the 112 case after several years of refuge in Laos

AFP, 5 August 2019: “Dissident Thai band arrives safely in Paris





On Port Faiyen’s 112 case

19 04 2021

Readers may recall the #SaveFaiyen campaign. Faiyen was a band that fled to Laos and eventually received asylum in France.

One member was ill and decided not to travel to France and returned to Thailand. Port Faiyen (Parinya Cheewinpatomkul) is now among those arrested, charged with lese majeste, and refused bail. His case has received too little attention.

For his time in Laos, see this Facebook post.Port Faiyen

On 5 March 2021, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that Port was arrested at his house and charged with lese majeste and under the Computer Crimes Act. The police had a warrant and seized mobile phones and notebooks.

Port stated that he is still ill but was refused bail and has been jailed since then. There is concern that his illnesses – including nerve inflammation, pancreatitis, diabetes – will worsen in jail.

More details are from this Facebook page. It says Port was arrested on 3 March for three Facebook posts from 2016.

His most famous song is “พ่อ” (Father) where he rejects the ideology that people should see the king as their father.

When he returned to Bangkok he deactivated his Facebook account, and underwent medical treatment. It took the authorities some time to track him down.





More threats against Faiyen

13 07 2019

More death threats, claiming to be from elements of the Thai military, have been received by members of the anti-monarchy, pro-democracy band Faiyen, who live in exile. Read about it here. Whether true or not, you get the picture of the constant harassment endured by those who have fled royalist Thailand.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website





Faiyen’s fears

21 05 2019

An article by James Buchanan at VICE is well worth reading. It continues the Faiyen story and begins with the group: “That’s now eight activists who have gone missing. We’re on their ‘wanted’ list too and with all the other targets eliminated, we could be next. We are like calves, waiting to be sent to the slaughterhouse.”

The musicians now feel scared and trapped. In Thailand, some of them face serious charges brought by the military junta. One, Jom, says he has “four counts of breaking the notorious lèse majesté law, which severely punishes anything that ‘defames, insults, or threatens’ the monarchy.”

Faiyen Band (Clipped from a BBC Thai story)

Jom and the band “opted to escape by slipping over the border. But the neighbouring country [Laos] they sought refuge in has offered scant protection and many activists like them are now missing, presumed dead. Shaken by rumours of a ‘kill list’, they too fear for their lives.”

As the article explains, “at least eight Thai dissidents in neighbouring countries have disappeared.” The article details these “disappearances.” The most gruesome, because the bodies were found floating in the Mekong River, were Chatchan Bupphawan and Kraidej Luelert. They had been tortured, garotted, disemboweled and, weighted down with cement in their stomachs, thrown in the river.

The murderers are obviously determined and skilled in their evil, black arts. The lese majeste law may have outlived its usefulness for the senior royalists in Thailand, and they are now using torture and murder to “protect” the monarchy.

Jom is reported to believe that “the orders for the killing came from the Thai government, with assistance from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs and business connections in the neighbouring country.”

The most recent enforced disappearance of three more exiles s adding to Faiyen’s fears. They feel trapped. They need a third country to help them, but even with the recent deaths and disappearances, this is proving impossible. And, even those being assessed for political refugee status are not safe.





Save Faiyen

20 05 2019

Readers may have seen several social media memes referring to saving the exiled Faiyen band, who are in Laos. They went into exile following the 2014 coup and are regarded as anti-monarchist. One meme is attributed to the band itself:

The band members fear that they are now being hunted by those who are responsible for the forced disappearance and murder of several of their fellow exiles. Most are assuming that Thai paramilitary forces responsible for these extra-judicial actions against those considered “threats” to the monarchy and its political regime.

In fact, these exiles should pose little threat to a powerful military and a wealthy and increasingly powerful monarch. However, it seems both have come to the view that their ideological hold over the population through the promotion of the monarchy is now somewhat shaky and that drastic action is necessary. Before Vajiralongkorn became king, the lese majeste law was vigorously used to eradicate growing anti-monarchism. After he came to the throne, this use of lese majeste ended. What we now see is enforced disappearances and brutal murders.





Updated: The rising toll

10 03 2021

While most of the world watches Myanmar and counts the toll of dead, injured and arrested, the regime in Bangkok is quietly and ruthlessly decapitating its opponents.

There are several efforts by local NGOs to tally the arrests and charges, but it is a difficult task as the police and military often operate secretly and not all cases come to public attention.

Prachatai has tried to bring this together. It says Amnesty International has released a statement claiming the arrest and/or charging of “382 protest leaders and demonstrators in 207 cases since 2020…”. This, it says, is “tantamount to systematic suppression of freedom.” We are unsure whether this total includes “another 47 We Volunteer (WeVo) members [arrested] by a SWAT police team who used force and did not produce an arrest warrant on 6 March prior to the protest at the judicial court complex.”

PPT had thought there were at least 10 protest leaders are held without bail, some of them now for a month. However, as of 8 March, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported 18:

  • 7 leading figures of Ratsadorn, one of the protest organizing groups: Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Patiwat Saraiyaem, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Jatupat Boonbattararaksa and Panupong Jadnok. The first 4 have been detained since 9 February.
  • 5 people who have been charged with damage to police vehicles in October 2020: Nathanon Chaimahabut, Thawat Sukprasoet, Sakchai Tangchitsadudi, Somkhit Tosoi and Chaluai Ekasak. They have been detained since 24 February.
  • Chaiamorn ‘Ammy’ Kaewwiboonpan, lead singer of the The Bottom Blues band, detained for allegedly burning a portrait of King Rama X in front of Klong Prem Central Prison.
  • Parinya ‘Port’ Cheewinkulpathom, a member of the self-exiled band ‘Faiyen’, charged under the lèse majesté law over his Facebook post in 2016 and detained since 6 March.
  • 3 people detained since 29 January for allegedly throwing a homemade ‘pingpong’ bomb at the protest at Samyan Mitrtown on 10 January. .
  • Piyarat Chongtep, arrested on 6 March and detained 2 days later.

Add in those arrested and/or charged in the second half of 2020, and we’d guess the figures are nudging 1,000. So many, in fact, that the Ministry of Justice is reportedly considering a special prison for political prisoners!

Update: Turns out speculation about the special prison for political prisoners. AP reports that the regime is going to split up the political prisoners, integrating them with regular prisoners. The idea seems to be to prevent them supporting each other and to make them less of a focus for rallies for their release.

Somsak Thepsuthin, the Minister for (In)Justice, concocted a story that “Bangkok Remand Prison and Klong Prem Central Prison, where most recently detained political prisoners are held, [had] become congested when families and supporters come to visit.”

He then lied, saying: “Everyone should be treated equally…”. That’s observably false in royalist Thailand.





Reviving 112 cases

4 01 2021

Thai Alliance for Human Rights reports on a disturbing development in the avalanche of lese majeste cases.

On September 22 of 2020, after attending a mass protest at Sanam Luang, Mr. Issaret, age 45, was arrested and prosecuted on an old lese majesty charge from 2016. He believes he was the first person prosecuted for lese majesty in 2020, this after a semi-official break from new lese majesty cases in 2018 and 2019. He was held in jail 4 days and released on bail.

The original charge relates to a Facebook post that pointed “out an unconstitutional delay in the succession from King Bhumipol to King Vajiralongkorn:

“Please don’t lie anymore. Open [things] up so the citizens can know. What are those [horrible] guys bargaining together about? I suggest all you bananaheads of this beautiful world [the phrase rhymes in Thai] study the Constitution sections 23 and 24 . Clear your brains. So why haven’t they announced the 10th monarch yet? Politics is a matter for all the citizens, every one of them, not excluding the trash collectors. Don’t be stupid. It’s been over 24 hours. They haven’t appointed a king because there is a fight for the throne.”

Whether Issaret was right or wrong – we happen to think the latter – is not the point. Clearly a 112 charge for this post is ludicrous.

A laborer, Issaret reportedly “briefly fled to Laos because of the charge in 2016, and says he knew the other lese majesty refugee there, including one who would later be assassinated, as well as all the members of Faiyen band. He says life was very difficult for all the refugees.”

He returned to Thailand when lese majeste charges were no longer being laid. Now, the situation has changed. But, as far as we can tell, his case is the first one from the past to be reactivated.





Updated: Preempting regime and king

20 06 2020

When we first posted on Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s apparent enforced disappearance, we understood that the rumors would be about assumptions regarding the king’s role. We suggested some caution:

Most observers would likely consider the criminals at work in this enforced disappearance are working for Thailand’s military and its regime. PPT’s guess would be that they work under orders from Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who has oversight of “national security.”

Whether Gen Prawit is acting on the orders of the vengeful king is likely to remain unknown, but the enforced disappearance does coincide with heightened protests in Germany about the truant king, which have been widely viewed in Thailand. The palace and regime probably see these protests as the result of cooperation between anti-monarchists and political activists.

Coincidences do not amount to facts. When it comes to the king, however, verifiable facts are hard to come by and circumstantial evidence and extrapolation are used in their place.

Yet it is a remarkable fact that so many Thais seem to have heard the rumors and concluded that the king is at work on these disappearances. This is evidenced by a sudden surge in social media support for Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome:

The twitter hashtag #saveโรม (#saveRome) began trending on Friday morning after rumours circulated online that powerful people within the Thai establishment were unhappy with the conduct of Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome.

Readers may recall that it was Rangsiman who poked the regime on the disappearance and on the lese majeste law. This brought a regime response and warnings along with claims about an anti-monarchy plot.

Thais on social media used the “saveRome” hashtag “to voice their encouragement and support for Rangisman Rome and also to criticize the establishment and the state for using violence and fear as intimidation tactics.” It was a preemptive strike based on fears and on rumors that Rome and several other activists were under threat.

This is a political strategy previously used. Back in 2019, as several Thai exiles were “disappeared,” members of the Faiyen band feared that they were being hunted by those responsible for the enforced disappearances and murders of fellow exiles. At the time, many observers assumed that Thai paramilitary forces were responsible for these extra-judicial actions.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

That so many fear the king is telling. That they believe that the regime is prepared to condone or engage in illegal acts for the king and to protect their regime is equally revealing.

These fears and assumptions are reasonable. After all, throughout his life, the king has displayed erratic behavior and disdain for symbols of the 1932 revolution is reasonably considered evidence of hatred of those who favor a monarchy limited by constitution and law. This fear is reinforced by the regime’s public statements since the 2014 coup and its efforts to “protect” the monarchy. Indeed, the regime has been actively promoting fear to enhance its repression.

Update: Interesting, PPT has received a letter that is sent to the Embassy for the Federal Republic of Germany in Thailand, pointing to Germany’s responsibility under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit. Appropriately, it notes that the facts are hard to come by but that the German government needs to ensure that the disappearance is not associated with actions taken in Germany.





With 3 updates: Campaigning for Wanchalearm

9 06 2020

Update 1: Apologies to readers. Some of our earlier version of this post was left unedited. We have fixed that now.

Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s enforced disappearance has been taken up by Thai activists and some of the international media.

In a story with worldwide impact, Thomson Reuters reports that the exile’s kidnapping has sparked protests. These aren’t just about Wanchalearm but all of the now “missing” or deceased exiles. As the report explains, the agitation has expanded “reignit[ing] protests against Thailand’s military-royalist elite, with some online questioning a law banning criticism of the monarchy.”

There were protesters at the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok: “Dozens of protesters outside the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok demanded an investigation into the disappearance and accused the Thai state of orchestrating his kidnapping, which Thailand’s police and government have denied.” According to Khaosod, the “protesters submitted a petition to the mission’s secretary and placed posters calling for justice on the embassy’s wall.”

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and other protesters at the Cambodian Embassy

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan deflected criticism, saying the matter is one for Cambodia. Previous disappearances have seen no action at all from the Thai authorities, convincing many that the perpetrator/s are protected.

Posters “labelled ‘Missing’ appeared around Bangkok featuring photos of Wanchalearm and other [disappeared] critics of military governments…” appeared around Bangkok. Claimed to be “the work of the Spring Movement, a small group of students at Bangkok’s elite Chulalongkorn University…”, officials working hard to remove them.

One group member told Reuters: “We do not know who directly ordered the abduction, but we can see the ruling elite of this country does not care about this issue.”

Suddenly, there seemed a general “feeling” about “who directly ordered the abduction,” with the hashtag “#abolish112” trending on “Twitter, used or retweeted more than 450,000 times by midday on Monday.” The reporters involved sought a response from the palace! An official said: “The palace has no comment on this issue…”.

Oddly, according to Khaosod, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees also responded saying “the organization cannot give any opinion or information about the disappearance of activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit.” We assume this reflects the royalist domestication of UN agencies in Bangkok.

Some celebrities – presumably of some significance in Thailand – have taken up Wanchalearm’s case, with Maria Poonlertlarp, a “former Miss Universe Thailand … add[ing] her voice to the growing campaign for the Thai and Cambodian governments to explain the disappearance of Wanchalerm…”. On Instagram she used the #SaveWanchalerm hashtag “calling for  answers from authorities about his disappearance.”

Often timid on such matters, the Puea Thai Party “also called on the government to use diplomatic channels to find his whereabouts.” Sudarat Keyuraphan stated: “He is a Thai citizen that the government is duty bound to protect…”.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee is asking questions. Move Forward Party MP Rangsiman Rome, who serves as the committee on law and human rights spokesman, “said the government must be held accountable for the incident.” He stated that the committee “will summon the national police commissioner [Gen Chakthip Chaijinda] to testify about … [Wanchalearm’s] fate…”. He also said others like Special Branch Police commissioner Maj Gen ‎Sarawut Karnpanit and consular affairs department chief Chatri Atjananan would be called to meet the committee. Rangsman observed: “It is the obligation of the government to protect its citizens. On top of that, Wanchalearm has contributed to many youth welfare and other charitable organizations.”

The Bangkok Post reports that the Active Thai Citizen group, led by Kan Wattanasupang, also a member of the Move Forward Party, submitted a petition to the House of Representatives. Kan said “the government must seek to protect all Thai citizens regardless of differences in political ideology.” He added: “We cannot let such gross human rights violations happen to those with political different ideas. In the past, political dissidents have been victims of intimidation, assault or even enforced disappearance,” raising the “mysterious disappearances of other political dissidents including Wuthipong … Kochathamakun and Surachai Danwattananusorn.”

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

Remarkably, there’s also a report about the decrepit, regime-controlled National Human Rights Commission, claiming some role:

Thailand’s state-sanctioned human rights agency on Monday denies turning a blind eye to the spate of abduction targeting Thai dissidents living overseas.

In a phone interview today, What Tingsamitr, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, said his organization has acknowledged the latest case of disappearance, that of activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit. However, What said no formal investigation opens yet because no one has filed a complaint with them.

“We are keeping our eyes on the issue,” What said. “We can’t take action right away since it happened outside the country. We admit that we don’t have power beyond our boundary, but we can coordinate with the foreign ministry and forward the case to Cambodian authorities.”

The case is certainly a “grave violation” of human rights if it has been proven to be an enforced disappearance, he added.

To date we have seen nothing at all of significance from the supine NHRC on any of the disappearances and murder.

What said:

“We have already published reports on many abductees in the past,” What said. “But it’s up to the government and legislators to take the issue seriously. Thailand has signed the UN convention against enforced disappearance since 2012, but it never became a law.”

But its done nothing else. Writing a report does not imply investigation.

Fellow exile Ji Ungpakorn has commented, pointedly observing: “No one should be under the illusion that Thailand has returned to democracy, despite recent elections. The military is still very much in charge and the repression continues.” So has Yammy Faiyen, who recently fled Laos for asylum in France, although her comments will probably be blocked.

At the Bangkok Post, columnist Atiya Achakulwisut bravely speaks some truths. We reproduce in full:

It might be because “it could happen to you”.

It could also be an accumulation of bitterness and frustration, built up over decades of hearing about this or that person suddenly dying or disappearing without a trace or explanation.

It could even be a paradigm shift at long last when the new generation is no longer tied to old norms or affected by traditional fear and dares to express in public what was once considered taboo.

It could be a bit of everything but the day has come when a forced disappearance which would generate only quiet whispers in the past is now causing a genuine public uproar.

The disappearance of anti-government activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who was allegedly abducted outside his apartment in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, last Thursday, has been covered by mainstream media.

Chulalongkorn as well as Thammasat University student organisations issued statements condemning the alleged forced disappearance and urged the Thai government to take a stance.

The incident has been widely discussed on social media, especially Twitter where the hashtag #save has drawn hundreds of thousands of tweets.

The outrage and demand for the Thai government to take action are welcoming for the human rights cause although they can be considered surprising considering Wanchalearm was not that well-known.

The Ubon Ratchathani native was against the coup and military rule. He was also wanted by authorities for defying a National Council for Peace and Order summons to report after the 2014 putsch.

In 2018, Wanchalearm was subject to another arrest warrant for violating the Computer Crime Act by operating a Facebook page critical of the government.

The activist has been living in self-imposed exile for more than six years, claiming his political stance led to harassment and other threats to his life.

Now that he has gone missing, a seemingly small player unlikely to affect a sea change in the grand scheme of things, his plight has struck a chord with many people.

Alongside news of his disappearance, photos of Wanchalearm, almost all of them showing the bespectacled 37-year-old grinning, have also surfaced everywhere. A little-known name has become a real person. Wanchalearm has become not just an anti-whatever activist but a son, a brother, a friend.

Indeed, he could be any one of us.

Wanchalearm may harbour anti-coup thoughts. He may have voiced disapproval of military rule or other forms of suppression. But do these thoughts constitute a crime?

Do people deserve to “disappear” because they are critical of something powerful?

Wanchalearm had left the country, yet he could be made to disappear in broad daylight in Phnom Penh, taken by a group of armed men according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) citing witnesses and CCTV images. Cambodian police said they knew nothing about it.

Who could be capable of executing such an operation?

As Wanchalearm’s sister Sitanan begged the Thai government and international agencies to help find her brother, Cambodia’s Interior Ministry suggested the HRW report could be “fake news” while the Thai government has made no response.

Today marks the sixth day since Wanchalearm “disappeared”.

Since the 2014 coup, about a hundred political activists exiled themselves to other countries. Of these, at least six have gone missing while two were found dead, according to BBC Thai.

Wanchalearm is definitely not the first suspected of being “carried away”. The UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances reports 82 unresolved cases of enforced disappearances in Thailand since 1980.

These include Somchai Neelapaijit in 2004, Karen land rights defender Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen in 2014 and political activists Siam Theerawut, Chucheep Chivasut and Kritsana Thapthai during 2018-19.

It is possible that the #save trend and collective anger against the alleged forced disappearance could end up like other save someone or something hashtags before it — making no difference to the oppressive, unaccountable power culture in Thailand and becoming just another footnote in the country’s decades-long political struggle.

But one thing is clear — his plight has roused the public like never before. His story has been openly discussed, and not just in a quiet whisper. The fear usually associated with such a “disappearance” is gone.

Will this awakening turn out to be a real force for change? For once, it may be the turn of the other side to be fearful.

There may be whispering about the case and even some high-profile expression in Thailand. But that which can only be written about outside Thailand is speculation that “the operation to seize activist Wanchalearm Satstaksit was ordered by King Vajiralongkorn.”

Update 2: AP reports that “Cambodian authorities say they are willing to investigate the reported abduction of an exiled Thai dissident in Cambodia’s capital, though they claim to have been unaware of his presence for several years.” We won’t be holding our breath on that one. Meanwhile, in Bangkok, the regime repressed those raising awareness of the case, with police arresting four students … tying white ribbons at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument in protest against the apparent forced disappearances of Wanchalearm and other victims. They were accused of violating littering and traffic laws.”

Update 3: Khaosod reports that officials are busy in Bangkok erasing murals and tearing up posters that were raising awareness of Wanchalearm’s disappearance. Such actions will be seen by many as admissions of the regime’s complicit role in the enforced disappearance.