Monarchy critic gets refugee status

28 05 2022

The New Zealand Herald reports that Sinchai Chaojaroenrat, 57, an independent scholar and author “critical of the Thai monarchy has been granted refugee status on the grounds that he could face serious harm if he returned to Thailand…”.

The report also states that “despite inconsistencies in his claims,Immigration New Zealand stated that Sinchai’s “fear of being persecuted is … considered to be well founded…. There is a real chance of Dr Sinchai being persecuted if he returns to Thailand now.”

It is reported that “Sinchai believes that he was targeted by people close to the royal family and faced a risk of being kidnapped, imprisoned assassinated by the Thai authorities for his views.”

Sinchai was born in Chon Buri and “believes strongly in secularism despite being raised as a Christian. His interest in politics began at high school and he became more politically involved when he studied political science at university.”

It is claimed that by 2013, his “Facebook page and over time attracted more than 200,000 followers.” In 2019, he was a vigorous media commentator. New Zealand authorities concluded that Sinchai’s criticisms “centred on the country being undemocratic and the fact that the King’s personal conduct consumed a lot of the national budget. He also posted about the King’s sexual misconduct as he had many mistresses…”. It added that: “He also critiqued that the monarchy was treated as demi-gods and believed this was an outdated and obsolete tradition and that it was degrading to the people of Thailand to have to bow down before them.” He criticized the king’s “volunteers – the 904 program – as part of a “strategy in merging the monarchy with every government agency.”

Sinchai received multiple warnings and threats before fleeing Thailand.

But he claimed that what followed was a direct message sent on Twitter by a follower who said her father was a high ranking general in the military who had been assigned to take action against him.

This was one of several claims made by Sinchai that INZ did not accept to be credible.

The authorities concluded: “Country information unequivocally demonstrates that those who are publicly critical of the monarchy in Thailand, including on social media, can be subject to criminal charges…”.

Sinchai says “he was extremely grateful to New Zealand for letting him stay here as a refugee” and states that he feels safer. He vows to continue his criticism.





Release political prisoners III

27 05 2022

Tantawan Tuatulanon has been sent to house arrest, but there remain many political prisoners held in pre-trial detention, with bail refused. Several are charged under Article 112. Helpfully, Thai Enquirer has published the list, which we reproduce here:

  • Weha Sanchonchanasuk – 78 days in pretrial detention – He was arrested on March 10 for lese-majeste and the alleged violation of the Computer Crime Act. It was his second royal defamation charge. In the latest case, the police said he shared a post about the government’s procurement of Covid-19 vaccines and a message about his previous lese-majeste charge which were both deemed to have insulted the royal institution.
  • Kataporn and Kongphet – 47 days in pretrial detention – The two are members of a vocational-student-led protest group who were arrested while they were making their way to a protest site on April 10. The police said they were arrested for carrying knives and small homemade explosive devices and charged accordingly.
  • Patima – 47 days in pretrial detention – She was arrested on April 11. The police said she and her boyfriend, a rapper name Book Eleven Finger, threw an explosive device in front of the 1st Infantry Regiment’s camp.
  • Pornpoj Chaengkrachang – 46 days in pretrial detention – He turned himself in to the police on April 11 and was detained the next day. The police said he was involved in an incident where a group of people threw a small homemade explosive device (ping pong bomb) in front of the 1st Infantry Regiment’s camp after a protest on April 10.
  • Sophon “Get” Suraritthamrong – 26 days in pretrial detention – The youth activist was arrested on May 1 while traveling to join a May Day protest. He was charged with lese-majeste. The police said he insulted and threatened the royal family while making his political speech. He is now on his 23rd day of hunger strike in protest of political prisoners’ right to bail.
  • Bai-Por and Pak-Bung – 25 days in pretrial detention – The Bangkok Shouthern Criminal Court revoked the bail for the two youth activists who were charged with lese-majeste on May 3. The police said they insulted the royal intuition by conducting street polls about the institution. The court said the bail was revoked because they have continued to conduct street polls while on bail which was against their bail condition. The court said they denied the new round of bail requests because they will disrupt peace within the society. Bai-Por is 20-year old.

It adds:

  • Ekkachai Hongkangwan – The activist was sentenced to one year in jail on April 19 for posting about his sex life in prison. This was the fourth time he was imprisoned in his life and he is still facing other political-related charges including life in prison for allegedly threatening the Queen’s liberty by standing near a royal motorcade in October 2020.
  • Sombat Thongyoi – The former head of volunteer guard groups during the Red Shirts protests in 2010 and the latest pro-democracy movement was sentenced to six years in jail after his social media posts were deemed to have defamed the royal family. The Criminal Court said Sombat posted three social media posts between October and November 2020, including one with the phrases “very brave”, “very good” and “thank you” that was posted along with a news article about university students who refused to accept their diploma from members of the royal family. The court said the ceremony is sacred so for Sombat to make fun of it by using the phrases was equal to royal defamation.




Buffalo manure bail

26 05 2022

The Criminal Court is behaving badly. In recent times, various courts have “granted” bail to monarchy reform protesters that is so restrictive as to be appropriately termed bullshit bail.

On Thursday, the court “granted” bail to Tantawan Tuatulanon but only for 30 days. In previous cases, the courts have given bail to monarchy reform activists charged under the lese majeste law, usually for limited terms of several months. This is quite a legal “innovation.” For Tantawan, a 30 day bail is ludicrous.

It seems her temporary release is simply a way for the prison system to temporarily deal with her hunger strike. As we understand it, Tantawan went straight to hospital.

That she is out of jail is perhaps cause for some joy, but the court is actually granting bail for continuing detention. This ludicrous court has set other conditions, including electronic monitoring and has restricted her to her home, except in medical emergencies.

In other words, she has been moved from jail to house arrest.

Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat posted bail and agreed to supervise her.

The courts have reached a new low in their “protection” of the monarchy.

 





Release political prisoners II

25 05 2022

Coconuts Bangkok reports on political prisoner Tantawan Tuatulanon:

Human rights campaigners and pro-democracy activists are calling for Thai authorities to release a young activist who has been on a hunger strike for over a month.

The authorities have been holding a number of young monarchy reform campaigners, and in recent days calls have grown for them to drop the case against a 20-year-old activist who has been on a hunger strike for over a month and reportedly requires medical attention.

Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon has not eaten anything except milk or water since April 20 to protest her ongoing pre-trial detention and should be immediately transferred to a hospital, legal reform group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said yesterday. It said her life was in danger as her hunger strike continues, adding that the activist could barely move and faints several times a day. She also suffers from bleeding gums and weight loss.

The Manushya Foundation said: “This is unacceptable injustice and another example of the government waging war against pro-democracy students. Tawan must be released!”

Sunai Phasuk, Senior Thailand researcher at Human Rights Watch stated: “The lengthened pre-trial detention of Tawan and other activists is brutal and shows Thailand’s disregard of human rights and fair trial standards…”. He added that Tantawan’s hunger strike is “a display of Tawan’s bravery and commitment to civil disobedience to resist abusive authoritarian powers…”.

Sunai thinks the regime “believes that those who support the reform movement will eventually dissipate from public attention if they are held in prison.” We at PPT think that this is only part of the story. The regime wants to silence them, punish them, torture them.

Pornpen Khongkanchankiet, the director of Cross Cultural Foundation,observed that “detention without a guilty verdict and hefty bail fees amount to a violation of human rights.”

She ads that “Tawan’s activism is one step forward for the movement in unveiling the government’s problematic response to those who disagree with the status quo.” Her hunger strike by Tawan and others amounts to “sacrificing themselves to conduct an autopsy on our judicial system…. And it’s showing something ugly, something primitive, uncivilized. So now they are sacrificing themselves to show the international community, and the elder generation, this broken system.”

 





Release political prisoners I

24 05 2022

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement against the pre-trial detention of activists and the failure to provide bail:

Thai authorities should immediately drop the charges and release pro-democracy activists detained for insulting the monarchy [PPT: they mean Article 112]…. Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon, who has been on a hunger strike since April 20, 2022, to protest her pre-trial detention, should be transferred to a hospital for urgent medical supervision.

“Thai authorities should drop the cases against Tantawan and others unjustly charged for their peaceful protests demanding reforms, or at least be immediately released on bail,” said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Holding activists in lengthy pre-trial detention for the peaceful exercise of their rights is punitive and unjust.”

Tantawan, 20, who is affiliated with the pro-democracy Draconis Revolution group, has advocated reforming the monarchy and abolishing Thailand’s draconian lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) law. She has been charged with various criminal offenses, including lese majeste under article 112 of the Criminal Code for conducting a public opinion poll about royal motorcades on February 8, and posting a live Facebook broadcast criticizing the monarchy on March 5. Since April 20, the authorities have held her in pre-trial detention, which the Bangkok Criminal Court has repeatedly extended.

Other critics of the monarchy charged with lese majeste offenses in connection with the same public opinion poll are Netiporn “Bung” Sanesangkhom and Nutthanit “Bai Por” Duangmusit from the Thalu Wang group. The authorities detained them both on May 3. The authorities also arrested Sophon “Get” Surariddhidhamrong, an activist from the Mok Luang Rim Nam group, on May 1 on lese majeste charges for giving a speech at a political rally on April 22 criticizing the monarchy. He also has been put in pre-trial detention….

The Thai government should stop punishing peaceful dissenters and demonstrate respect for human rights by permitting all viewpoints,” Pearson said. “The authorities in Thailand should engage with United Nations experts and others about amending the lese majeste law to bring it into compliance with international human rights law obligations.”





Further updated: The 2014 political disaster

22 05 2022

It is now 8 long years since Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda colluded with rightists to seize power from an elected government.

The 2014 military coup was not unexpected. After all, the military brass had been planning it and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee had been demonstrating for months in support of a military intervention. The generals knew they had palace support.

Three army generals in 2019. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Here we recall some of our posts at the time of the coup, with some editing, to recall yet another dark day in Thailand’s political history.

The story of how it happened, from the Bangkok Post is worth recalling:

At 2pm on Thursday, representatives of seven groups began the second day of peace talks hosted by army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The general began by asking all sides what they could do about the five issues he had asked them to consider on the previous day, a source at the closed-door meeting told Matichon Online.

Armed soldiers stand guard during a coup at the Army Club where the army chief held a meeting with all rival factions in central Bangkok on May 22. (Reuters photo)

Wan Muhamad Nor Matha of the Pheu Thai Party said the best his party could do was to ask ministers to take leave of absence or vacation.

Chaikasem Nitisiri of the caretaker government insisted cabinet members would be breaking the law and could be sued later if they resigned.

Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party disagreed, citing as a precedent Visanu Krue-ngam, who had previously resigned as acting deputy prime minister, but Mr Chaikasem stood his ground.

Veerakarn Musikapong of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) said this debate was useless and a person would need a mattress and a pillow if they were to continue with it.

This was like discussing a religious faith in which everyone was firm in his belief. The army chief had a lot on his shoulders now because he came when the water was already waist-high.

If he continued, Mr Veerakarn said, he would be drowned. The army chief should walk away and announced there would be election. That way, his name would be untarnished.

At this point, Gen Prayuth snapped back: “Stop it. Religious issues I don’t know much about. What I do know is I’ll hunt down each and every one of those ‘infidels’. Don’t worry about me drowning. I’m a good swimmer and I’ve studied the situation for three years.

“Back in 2010, I didn’t have absolute power. So don’t fight me. I was accused of accepting six billion baht in exchange of doing nothing. I insist I didn’t get even one baht.”

At this point, Jatuporn Prompan of the UDD appeared more appeasing, saying since an election could not be held now anyway, the best solution was to hold a referendum on whether national reform should come before or after the next election.

The debate went on for a while before Suthep Thaugsuban of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee said political parties were not involved in this.

“This was a problem between the UDD and the PDRC,” he declared.

He proposed the two groups meet in a separate session.

Mr Abhisit said the government should also join in, but Mr Suthep insisted on only the people’s groups.

Gen Prayuth allowed the two groups to meet separately.

In the meantime, Mr Abhisit suggested other participants should go home now that the two sides were in talks, but Gen Prayuth insisted on everyone staying where they were until a conclusion was reached.

The UDD and PDRC sides talked for 30 minutes.

After that, Gen Prayuth led them back to the meeting, saying he would announce the results of the talks.

At that point, Mr Suthep asked for a minute and walked over to say something with Gen Prayuth, with Mr Jatuporn present.

When they were done, Gen Prayuth said: “It’s nothing. We talked about how the restrooms are not in order.”

After that, the army chief asked the government side whether it insisted on not resigning.

Mr Chaikasem said:” We won’t resign”.

Gen Prayuth then declared: “If that’s the case, the Election Commission need not talk about the polls and the Senate need not talk about Section 7.”

He then stood up and spoke in a loud voice: “I’m sorry. I have to seize the ruling power.”

It was 4.32pm.

At that point some of the attendees still thought he was joking.

They changed their minds when the general walked to the exit and turned back to tell them in a stern voice: “You all stay here. Don’t go anywhere.”

He then left the room.

After that armed soldiers came to detain the participants in groups. Notably, Prompong Nopparit who came in the government’s quota was detained with the UDD group in a separate room.

Mr Veerakarn had a smile on his face and forgot his cane.

Mr Abhisit told Varathep Rattanakorn and Chadchart Sittipunt of the government: “I told you so”.

A pale-faced Chadchart snapped:”So what? What’s the point of saying it now?”

The military put the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties in the same room while the rest were put in different rooms.

The senators and election commissioners were let out first.

The rest is history.

The mainstream media essentially welcomed the coup. We observed that the controlled media dutifully announced the junta’s work – arresting people, grabbing control of even more of the media, implementing a curfew and the usual things these military leaders do when they take over.

Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Pratimaprakorn, Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, Navy chef Adm Narong Pipattanasai, Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew became Prayuth’s deputies in the junta, but it was the Army that was in control.

Weng

The establishment Bangkok Post published two op-eds supportive of military intervention. One was by Voranai Vanijaka, who congratulated the generals:

Voranai

The other op-ed was by a died-in-the-wool anti-democrat at the Post who declared felling safer:

Dopey shit

Following these two cheering op-eds for the military and its form of fascism, the Bangkok Post managed an  editorial that polished Prayuth’s ego and posterior and justified military intentions. It concluded with this: “The sad thing is it’s the very act of a military takeover that is likely to stir up stiff resistance, provoke acts of violence and possibly cause more loss of life. This coup is not the solution.” Well, of course it is not the solution, but the Post has been part of the problem, failing to clearly stand for democratic process.

Kasit Piromya, former foreign minister under a fully anti-democratic Democrat Party, propagandized and defended the coup at the BBC. He noted the anti-democrat call for the military to intervene “for quite some time.” He lied that the caches of arms found “amongst the red shirts” meant there was going to be great violence. It has to be said that the Army suddenly finding caches of weapons is a propaganda device they have regularly used in the past. He was fully on board with the military.

His comment on the “problem” of democracy is that his side can’t win, and the majority always win. That’s our interpretation of his anti-democrat tripe. He reckons this is the military resetting democracy. He sounds like he’s still in the yellow of 2006; it was the same story then.

Some of these commentators took years to learn that the military intervention was a huge disaster. Others continue to support military, monarchy and fascism. But really, looking back, no one could possibly have thought that this set of military dinosaurs was going to be interested in anyone other than themselves and the monarchy.

The past 8 years are lost years. For us, the only positive is the widespread questioning of the monarchy and its political, economic and social role.

Update 1: The massive Bangkok electoral victory by former Puea Thai minister Chadchart Sittipunt, with a 60% turnout, Chadchart receiving 1,386,215 votes, ahead of the Democrat Party’s Suchatvee Suwansawat with a paltry 240,884 votes. Some of the early commentary refers to the lost years since the 2014 coup – see here and here. It seems clear that the Chadchart landslide marks a rejection of Gen Prayuth and his regime. It is also a rejection of yellow-hued rightists, no more so than the abject failure of the PAD/PDRC eccentric and toxic Rosana Tositrakul with a minuscule 78,919 votes. Sadly, we might predict that the radical royalists and their military allies will interpret the results as a prompt for more vote rigging and even coup planning.

Update 2: Chadchart’s election was no fluke. As Thai PBS reports, the Bangkok assembly election delivered an emphatic vote for the Puea Thai (19 seats) and Move Forward (14 seats) parties. The hopelessly flawed Democrat Party got 9, while the regime’s fracturing Palang Pracharath won just 2 seats. That’s a landslide for the opposition.





A battle of ideas

21 05 2022

Thai Enquirer counts that Tantawan Tuatulanon has been in prison for 30 days. The newspaper declares her a “prisoner of conscience.”  She is indeed. She’s yet another political prisoner kept in the regime’s prisons.

She’s a prisoner of conscience because she wants change and believes change is impossible until Article 112 is gone: ““For me, I want to engage in a battle of ideas…. But for that to happen, we have to abolish 112.”

She’s a 20 year-old woman challenging a hierarchical regime of old men. Those old men deem that she must be punished as  disrespectful and, indeed, dangerous.

The newspaper wobbles as it discusses Tantawan’s work. They say she’s been involved in “provocative street surveys on sensitive matters including taboo topics in Thai society.” What they are trying to say is that the group has been running surveys in public places asking questions about the monarchy.

Thank the Constitutional Court – a court of old men – for this self-censorship.

“Even the group name we discussed, and what kind of legal charges we could face for the name,” Tawan said.

Tantawan’s critical views on the monarchy are no longer unusual: they “echo many other Thai youths who demand change to a system that has seen opportunity move abroad and an education system stuck in the past. Thousands of young Thais view her as a non-threatening individual who has merely gone into the public space to ask questions.”

Her arrests, jailing and “the rejection of her bail requests …[are] an indictment of Thailand’s judicial system.”

In detention, “Tawan still protests today from behind prison walls. She has been on hunger strike since April 20.”

The report adds that “three other women who represent Tawan’s group have also been detained without bail, including a 17-year-old girl. ”

They are brave and the hope of a better Thailand.





12 years ago

19 05 2022

It was 12 years ago that then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban cooperated with General Anupong Paojinda and General Prayuth Chan-ocha to crush the several months long red shirt protests in Bangkok.

Abhisit is now toxic, although there are efforts by the mainstream media to ignore this and make him a “statesman.” Suthep lurks, while Prayuth and Anupong remain at the country’s helm, fixing, rigging, and conniving.

Crackdown 2

The 2010 crackdown, extending over some six weeks, was concluded with a bloody crackdown at Rajaprasong that resulted in numerous deaths and injuries, including several murders at Wat Pathum Wanaram, known to have been perpetrated by soldiers.

In the weeks after the crackdown, PPT produced several posts that linked to accounts of witnesses. We called these accounts of the dead (I, II, III, IV, V).

In memory of these bloody events and the lack of justice for those killed and injured, we think that readers may find it useful to revisit some links from that time, some of which are no longer working. These photos are a sad reminder of those events.





Lese majeste torture for the monarch

18 05 2022

As we have posted several times over several years, the judiciary and regime have co-operated to make the lives of those charged with lese majeste as difficult as possible. Indeed, so vicious has this been that we consider it amounts to lese majeste torture, with judges, prosecutors, and jailers united in “protecting” the monarchy. In other words, they torture for the king.

The most recent example of the vicious decision-making that keeps a person accused under Article 112 locked up involves Tantawan Tuatulanon. This 20 year-old is considered a dangerous threat to one of the world’s most powerful monarchs simply because she questions his some of the privileges he’s accrued.

Thai PBS reports that her most recent bail application, yesterday, was rejected. The Criminal Court dismissed Move Forward Party Leader Pita Limjaroenrat’s offer as the guarantor for bail “because Pita’s MP pay slip was not submitted with the application.” The court required “a pay slip to prove he [Pita] receives a salary…”. Yes, seriously. Obviously, the court intends to punish and seeks any loophole to continue to deny bail.

The political court also said “there were no other special reasons to grant bail.” Political prisoners in Thailand are treated as “evil” and not deserving of the bail that is usually provided to murderers, rapists, and torturers.

Pita actually did submit “a letter of certification of his salary issued by the Office of the Secretary-General of the Parliament, as a bond for the bail of Tantawan…”. But the court apparently wanted the pay slip. Yes, seriously.

Police opposed bail, saying they were still investigating. The court “granted permission for the police to detain the accused for only five more days, pending further investigation.”





What’s happened to royal consort Sineenat?

17 05 2022

King and Sineenat in happier times

Back in mid-February, we were asked about the whereabouts of official consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi.

We asked because the previous time she disappeared from public view she was jailed by the king.

After a few months, she was released, declared clean and unimpeachable and taken back to the king’s bosom.

When the king’s household returned to Bangkok to see off the student uprising, Koi was involved in every event. Indeed, she was reasonably high-profile in this palace pushback which saw the king and immediate royal family doing public appearances to boost royalists and royalism.

Campaigning for royalism

If her initial rise, demise and resurrection was very strange stuff, her current situation is even odder. There have been no announcements. She’s just disappeared from public view. By our calculation, her disappearance is now about 6 months.

Of course, plenty are wondering what’s going on. There are rumors. She’s jailed again, she’s dead, she’s pregnant, or she’s stuck in Germany.

We have no idea.

So where is Sineenat?








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