Hunger strikers resolute but health deteriorates

6 02 2023

Activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong, who are undergoing a hunger strike to demand the release of political prisoners and judicial reform are in danger (see below).

Prachatai reports that on Saturday, the two vowed to continue their fast. In that report, Krisadang Nutcharus, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), said that:

he and the two activists’ parents met Tantawan and Orawan on Friday (3 February), and reported that they were alert and were able to hold a conversation. Krisadang said he informed Tantawan and Orawan that the National Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Justice have issued a joint statement promising reform of the judicial system, while several political parties have agreed to discuss issues related to the royal defamation law [Article 112] and sedition law in parliament. He also told them that the Court of Justice held a press conference on bail on that Friday (3 February), and read them the press release, which Tantawan and Orawan said did nothing and said nothing.

Krisadang said that he also told them that many activists have been allowed to take off their monitoring bracelets, and that the court is considering bail requests for many political prisoners. Nevertheless, the two activists said they will continue with their hunger strike until every political prisoner is released and asked TLHR to post bail for everyone still detained again on Monday (6 February).

“[Tantawan and Orawan] believe that, the Ministry of Justice, the National Human Rights Commission or political parties tend to listen to the people,” Krisadang said, “… but the court has never listened. They have asked me to tell you that they will continue their hunger strike, but they are not trying to pressure the court. They wanted to prove whether what the court spokesperson said, that the court uses human rights principles when ruling on cases was true.”

The report also notes that Orawan’s father Suchart Phuphong said:

the medical team told him to wait until Monday to be told what can be done, but he said that Orawan’s condition is considered critical to her parents although her doctors say they need to keep monitoring her, and that they are concerned that she may not make it to Monday.

Suchart called on the powers that be to have sympathy when someone is using a method the two activists are using to demand the rights Thai people should already have, and to keep someone who is the nation’s future healthy and strong.

Later, Prachatai has tweeted:

Parents of hunger striking activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong have been contacted by their doctors, who said that they have gotten worse and asked that the families and lawyers visit them tomorrow morning {Monday].#ตะวันแบม





More on 112 charge for 14 year-old

5 02 2023

Oddly enough, it is Thaiger and the Laotian Times that have picked up the case of the 14 year-old girl – the youngest ever – charged with lese majeste. Here’s what Thaiger reported about the royalist  vigilante-inspired charge:

Thai police summoned a 14 year old girl to a police station for questioning after an ultra-royalist accused her of royal defamation, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

She is the youngest person ever to be charged with royal defamation, also called lèse-majesté.

Arnon Klinkaew, a core member of an ultra-royalist group, accused the child of violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code over her alleged involvement in a protest at the Giant Swing in Bangkok on October 13, 2022.

 The legal summons from Samran Rat Police Station in Bangkok was dated January 23, 2023….

 Arnon accused the high schooler of attending the protest at the Giant Swing near Bangkok City Hall on October 13 and participating in the writing of a placard calling for the abolition of Section 112.

 Thai Rath reports that a lot of people attended the protest, where the media and police were also present. Undercover police officers allegedly joined the protest to take photos and film demonstrators….





The political murders of 2010

4 02 2023

The Bangkok Post reports on a case that recalls the political murder of red shirts in 2010.

The Supreme Court is reported to have “issued an arrest warrant for former Department of Special Investigation (DSI) director-general Tharit Pengdit … in a malfeasance case brought against him and three other parties.”

PPT has never been much of a fan of the man we called The Eel.

This malfeasance case has been lodged by “former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who was also in charge of the now-defunct Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation when handling anti-government protests in 2010, which led to political mayhem and violence.”

The good old days at the Army Club

Abhisit and Suthep accuse Tharit and three others of “malfeasance over their roles in unfairly pushing to press murder charges against them in connection with their handling of the 2010 violence.”

Of course, Abhisit and Suthep were running a government that unleashed the murderous military, resulting in up to 100 deaths, almost all red shirts. Various courts, in the few cases taken on, confirmed that the military did the killing.

The investigations came under the government led by Yingluck Shinawatra and one of the outcomes of the 2014 coup was the end of any serious investigation of the murders.

The report states that the other three defendants are all senior police involved in the investigation of the murders.

You get the picture. Tharit and the police are being pilloried for their betrayal of the ruling elite and threatening their impunity to murder to protect its regime.





Courts caught (in a bind)

3 02 2023

A couple of days ago we had a post that raised a question regarding judicial double standards on actress Savika “Pinky” Chaiyadej who won approval from the Criminal Court to remove an electronic monitoring (EM) device.

In that post we mentioned that there had been no such leniency for lese majeste and other political prisoners.

That has suddenly changed.

Bailed on lese majeste and sedition charges, several activists seized on Pinky’s case.  Thai PBS reports that the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court “agreed to the request of five anti-establishment protesters yesterday (Wednesday), to have electronic monitoring (EM) tags removed.”

The report says the “five protesters are Chonthicha Jaengrew, Panupong Jadnok, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Weha Saenchonchanasuek and Nawapon Ton-ngam.”

As well as the Pinky precedent, it may be that the sustained criticism of the judiciary from the hunger strikes has had an impact.





Pushing forward on 112

2 02 2023

Those who have opposed the hunger strike by Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong in favor of glacial change (maybe) might be scratching their heads as the regime realizes that the hunger strikers – now four and with a third taken to hospital – are a threat, especially as an election looms (maybe).

The Move Forward Party is also pushing for the regime to get off its collective fat butt as it “renewed calls for bail to be granted to political detainees…”. Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat “lodged a motion requesting a debate on what he described as the urgent need for Thailand to strictly follow the international principle of the presumption of innocence.” He’s implying that 112 suspects are presumed guilty.

The regime has moved. Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin finally suggested that a response is possible. Thai Newsroom reports:

Somsak who yesterday visited the hunger strikers at the hospital vowed to take his part in averting sort of a political crisis and to see to it that bail will be finally granted by court for the political detainees, most of whom being adolescents, whilst those who may not be given bail could probably be held in house arrest in lieu of jail.

According to the justice minister, EM bracelets might no longer be used with such a type of detainee after they have been released under bail or probably put in house arrest.

Somsak also confirmed that the authorities will consider amending laws and regulations pertaining to the judicial process applicable to lese majeste and sedition cases but stopped short of elaborating.

Responding to the opposition he said: “It touched me deeply that young persons are so determined to risk their lives…”. It is reported:

Somsak said his ministry will hold talks with the National Human Rights Commission and related agencies to address problems in justice system, especially when it comes to granting bail to those awaiting trial. The ministry will also set up a fund to help those who cannot afford bail, he added.

Small but necessary steps.





Pressuring a privy pivot point

2 02 2023

It was recently reported that Thammasat University’s Sociology & Anthropology professor Anusorn Unno has submitted a letter of petition endorsed by 91 university lecturers, university students and others to Privy Council President Gen said Surayud Chulanontseeking his/palace intervention to save lese majeste political prisoners Tantawan Tuatulanond and Orawan Pupong.

He was “petitioned to immediately help put an end to a life-and-death crisis involving a couple of young women on a severe hunger strike.”

The act is said to be “unprecedented.”

Separate petitions including one endorsed with signatures of some 5,000 people have already been lodged in support of calls of human rights groups for reform of the judicial process and abolition of the lese majeste law in addition to the immediate, unconditional release of those political detainees.

It may seem odd to seek intervention from the very institution that is opposed by the hunger strikers. We guess that the idea is to point to the palace as the pivotal point in Article 112.





14 year old slapped with Article 112

1 02 2023

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reports that the youngest known victim of lese majeste is a 14-year-old schoolgirl.

The girl received a 112 summons from the Samranrat Police Station. She is said to have participated in political rallies during  2022. The summons dated 23 January 2023. The exact nature of the charge is still unclear with the summons stating that the incident occurred on 14 October 2022 in Bangkok.

TLHR reports that there are at least 18 cases of juveniles aged under 18 charged with lese majeste, in 21 cases. Of these, there are four 14-year-olds, with this girl being the youngest known accused, at 14 years and seven months.





Managing the corruption system

1 02 2023

As often happens when authoritarian governments are in place for a long time, corruption becomes embedded, systemic, and necessary for keeping the corrupt together and supportive.

Of late, reports of corruption have been legion. Yet the Bangkok Post has a jubilant headline, “Thailand improves in corruption survey.” Seriously? It turns out that Transparency International has ranked Thailand 101 out of 180 in its ranking. The Post says the country’s score went up one point and adds:

In 2014, the year Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha staged a military coup, the country was ranked 85th, an improvement from 102nd in 2013. Its ranking rose to 76th in 2015 but plunged to 101st place the following year. It recovered to 96th in 2017 but then began a downward move to 99th in 2018, 101st place in 2019, 104th in 2020 and 110th in 2021.

Let’s be realistic. This is a ranking that puts Thailand among a bunch of dubious places. We’d guess that if perceptions were surveyed today, they’d plummet, largely thanks to the mafia gang known as the Royal Thai Police and the mammoth horse trading by the coalition parties.

Rotten to the core

While on the corrupt cops, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has mumbled something about a few bad apples in the police. He has “insisted that any police officers involved in extorting money from a Taiwanese actress during her trip to Thailand early this month must face legal action.” He added: “Don’t let the issue ruin the reputation of the whole police organisation.”

We are not sure which reputation he refers to. As far as we can tell, the organization is rotten to the core.

Gen Prayuth reckons “we must get rid of rogue ones…”. Our guess is that if he was serious – he isn’t – just about every senior officer would be gotten rid of. The corruption system siphons money up to the top. There’s been little effort to follow up on data revealed when the regime established its post-coup assembly. Back then, the average declared assets for the top brass in the police was a whopping 258 million baht.

Even when senior police display their loot, nothing is done. Who remembers former police chief Somyos Pumpanmuang? He stacked loot in public! He’s still wealthy.

The Post has another headline: “Court lets ‘Pinky’ remove electronic tag.” It reports:

Actress Savika “Pinky” Chaiyadej on Tuesday won approval from the Criminal Court to remove an electronic monitoring (EM) device she was required to wear after her release from jail on Nov 30 last year.

She is on bail, accused of defrauding millions in the Forex-3D ponzi scheme.How did her lawyers convince the judge?

Her lawyer lodged a request for the court’s permission to remove the EM device, saying it was an impediment to her show business career.

Of course, there’s no such leniency for lese majeste and other political prisoners when they eventually get bail (some, of course, never do). Double standards? You bet!

Double standards and corruption are a feature of the monarchy-military regime. Part of the reason for this is mutual back-scratching. Much that the regime does makes the bureaucrats more or less untouchable. The judiciary is always there in support on the important issues.

We note that another junta and Prayuth supporter, former charter writer Udom Rathamarit, has been appointed to the Constitutional Court. That is an important part of the whole corrupt system.





Puea Thai and lese majeste

31 01 2023

Reuters reports that activists have been pressuring the Puea Thai Party to develop a spine on Article 112.

The report notes how draconian the law is and notes that it “has long been a taboo topic in Thailand…”. Depending on how “long” is defined, that is not entirely accurate, at least according to historians of lese majeste.. Reuters is correct that “calls for it [112] to be reformed have also led to arrests.” That may seem absurd, but in royalist Thailand it is “normal.”

The eight activists who met “with the Pheu Thai party … said scrapping Article 112 must be a priority.”

Activist Somyos Prueksakasemsuk said he believed that revoking 112 is an electoral asset.

Naturally enough, “[a]ll 17 ruling coalition parties have vowed not to touch the law, while the ultra royalist Thai Pakdee party has started a petition to make it even stricter.”

Following the meeting, it was stated that “Pheu Thai gave no firm answer on abolishing article 112.” Party secretary-general, Prasert Jantararuangtong, however, “encouraged public discussion on the way it was being enforced as a means of addressing problems in the short term.” He warned: “There are many opinions and polarised views in society on the amendment of this law, which could lead to more conflict…”.

And, while the military remains resolutely royalist, Puea Thai knows that there always the threat of the royalist coup. No doubt they also know that the palace has learned that the law is necessary to maintain the luxury, taxpayer supported lifestyles of royals. They also know that the king covets the political power he has accrued in recent constitutional and administrative changes.

The fact remains, that without pressure from activists (and political parties), royalist feudalism will continue to dominate and smother modern Thailand.





Updated: LM is just alright, oh yeah

30 01 2023

We read this from Pravit Rojanaphruk and were dismayed. Pravit writes of the hunger strike by Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong. He states:

The two young activists issued three lofty demands: justice system reform, release of all political prisoners, and for all political parties to call for the abolition of both the lese majeste and sedition laws.

Ten days have passed and none of their demands have been met. Yet as of press time, they insist on continuing their hunger strike, adamant that, if need be, they are willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause they believe in.

He continues, pleading:

Time is of the essence and people who have good ties with the two and their respect should immediately meet them at the hospital to try to convince them that their demands will most unlikely be met in the foreseeable future and they should end the hunger strike and carry on a fight in a more protracted manner.

And he opines:

It may take many years, no, decades more, but we cannot expect Thai society to produce an immediate consensus particularly on the status of the lese majeste law by having someone threaten to sacrifice their live, if all political parties do not support the abolition of the law. We need more talks to convince the unconvinced and it cannot be achieved through a hunger strike. This is where Tawan and Bam, no matter how well intended, got it wrong.

Talks for decades….

Hunger strikes are a longstanding political protest, used by many. Nelson Mandela went on a hunger strike when imprisoned and he also intervened to seek a negotiated settlement with the apartheid government in another instance of a hunger strike by political prisoners.  Gandhi is listed as having used it at least 18 times.

Ironically, Mandela and Gandhi sometimes got far better responses from the racist South African and British colonial state than these brave and principled young women get from the military-monarchy regime.

We recall a recent book on the history of hunger strikes, Refusal to Eat A Century of Prison Hunger Strikes by Nayan Shah. Its promotional material states:

The power of the hunger strike lies in its utter simplicity. The ability to choose to forego eating is universally accessible, even to those living under conditions of maximal constraint, as in the prisons of apartheid South Africa, Israeli prisons for Palestinian prisoners, and the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay. It is a weapon of the weak, potentially open to all. By choosing to hunger strike, a prisoner wields a last-resort personal power that communicates viscerally, in a way that is undeniable—especially when broadcast over prison barricades through media and to movements outside.

It is an expression of exasperation, often when other means of protest and negotiation are closed or unavailable. It is often a last-ditch effort for change.

By intervening in this manner, it seems another media capitulation, handing the regime a free pass for “years, no, decades…”. The result was that we had an old song ringing in our ears, with apologies to the Doobie Brothers and Arthur Reynolds:

… LM is just alright with meLM is just alright, oh yeahLM is just alright with meLM is just alright
I don’t care what they may sayI don’t care what they may doI don’t care what they may sayLM is just alright, oh yeahLM is just alright….
LM is just alright with meLM is just alright, oh yeahLM is just alright with meLM is just alright
I don’t care what they may knowI don’t care where they may goI don’t care what they may knowLM is just alright, oh yeah
LM, He’s my friendLM, He’s my friend….
Update: Above, we made a few changes to spacing and finished a couple of sentences. Sadly, our point about wretched regimes negotiating with hunger strikers on their demands, but not in Thailand, Thai PBS reports that the “Criminal Court has rejected bail applications for ten ‘political’ prisoners and detainees on the grounds that most of them have been charged with serious offenses, which range from possession of explosives, arson and causing damage to public property to inciting unrest and lèse majesté…”. We note the newspaper’s unwillingness to acknowledge political prisoners.







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