Lese majeste in 2018

16 01 2019

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have a useful analysis of the use of lese majeste in 2018.

They begin with the background:

Since late 2016, in the aftermath of the passing of King Rama IX and the accession of King Rama X, prosecutions of lèse majesté cases or the violation of the Penal Codes Section 112 spiked sharply. The witch huntor vigilante actions taken against people who hold different views led to prosecution of dozens of lèse majesté cases.

In fact, since the 2006 military coup, there have been several “spikes.” After that coup, during the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime and then since the 2014 coup.

For 2018, there’s not just been a precipitous decline in cases, there’s been none:

The year 2018 saw a number of changes to the enforcement of Section 112. No new cases invoking Section 112 have been prosecuted in 2018 (as far as we know). Meanwhile, several ongoing lèse majesté cases have been dismissed, particularly cases under the review of civilian courts, though this does not necessarily indicate more freedom to exercise the right to free expression in Thailand. Even though the authorities are now reluctant to press lèse majesté charges, charges invoking other laws including the Computer Crime Act or “sedition” per Section 116 continue to be an important tool to restrict freedom of expression and purge dissenters.

TLHR see the cause of this decline as being in the palace:

These changes can be directly attributed to the royal succession. It has not stemmed from the authorities or personnel in the justice process realizing the many protracted problems caused by the enforcement of Section 112. It has also not stemmed from more respect for human rights in Thailand.

Remember all those royalists who used to make excuses for that nice old man, good King Bhumibol, lamenting that he really disliked 112, but those nasty politicians and military types just wouldn’t listen? King Vajiralongkorn has shown how much buffalo manure that propaganda line was.

Sulak Sivaraksa wrote that Vajiralongkorn “instructed the Chief Justice and the Attorney General to bring to an end to prosecutions invoking Section 112 and to not allow it to be used as a political tool.” It seems that on this point, Vajiralongkorn has more sense than his father. That’snot to say that there weren’t dozens of lese majeste cases directly related to Vajiralongkorn such as the spate around his separation from his consort in late 2014 and early 2015.

One result of Vajiralongkorn’s intervention is outlined:

The Attorney General’s directive dated 21 February 2018, addressed to high-ranking officials of all levels in the Attorney General’s Office, instructs all units of the public prosecutor’s department to receive and review immediately investigation reports filed by inquiry officials regarding Section 112 cases. The public prosecutors are then instructed also to furnish the Office of the Attorney General a copy of the police investigation report in each case and not to make any decisions about these cases. They are informed that it is the Attorney General who will decide as to whether the cases will be filed in Court or not. Now the rank-and-file public prosecutors no longer have the power to order prosecution of 112 cases.

The other impact that this change from the top has brought has been that several cases have been dropped, even when those accused have entered a guilty plea. Sometimes the defendants have been convicted of other offenses or were already serving long jail terms.

TLHR conclude:

Amidst changes in the status, role and content of the laws concerning the monarchy in 2018, any expression of thought in public, including any criticisms based on factual information, could be construed as a sensitive comment and could be deemed “crossing the line” in Thailand.

Change seems to have taken place in ‘form’, though the ‘substance’ of the law remains the same.





NACC missing in inaction

21 12 2018

The National Anti-Corruption Commission is a politicized and partisan organization. Meant to be an independent agency, it is a tool of the military junta and other anti-democrats.

The Bangkok Post reports that a legal pressure group has pushed the NACC “to speed up probes into irregularities in police station construction projects, saying the anti-graft agency would be held to account if they failed to do so.”

“Speed up” is a euphemism for “do something!”

The case referred to is the “construction of 396 police stations in question, worth 6.67 billion baht, was part of a project endorsed by cabinet members during the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration.” Of course, this (non)investigation by the NACC involves then “deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban was accused of not having consulted fellow ministers regarding changes made later to the project. He allegedly granted PCC Development & Construction the right to be the sole contractor, which was accused of abandoning the project later.” THe question is, who pocketed the money. No prizes for guessing.

So, exactly how long has the NACC been (not) investigating? The report states the “NACC in 2013 set up a panel to determine whether Mr Suthep had breached Section 157 of the Criminal Code by committing misconduct or dereliction of duty regarding his handling of the project.”

Sometime in some junta-inspired fairy tale, the NACC said it would wrap up “the case by the end of this year.” They have another 10 days.

We wonder if the (non)investigation of Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s dead man’s watches is going on for another four years? We guess that if the junta pulls of its stolen election, four years would be just about enough for another junta-led government to see out its term.

But there’s a twist to Suthep’s (non)investigation. Just a few days ago, completely out of the blue and following two acquittals, Tharit Pengdit, formerly of the Department of Special Investigation, changed a plea to guilty in a defamation suit against him by Suthep, lodged in 2013.How’s that work? Who threatened Tharit?

We can only marvel at how the “justice system” works so well for the great and the good, implementing double standards and protecting big shots in business, politics and the civil and military bureaucracies.

The junta just adores such pliable non-independence.





Updated: Things that make you go, hmm

15 12 2018

There’s a lot going on, so this is a catch-up on a few media stories worth considering. And these are all from the Bangkok Post!:

Watana gets off: The Criminal Court has found Puea Thai politician and junta critic Watana Muangsook not guilty in a quite ridiculous charge related to comments he made about the vandalism associated with the stealing of the 1932 plaque from the Royal Plaza.

The court said Watana’s comments:

were opinions that could not be deemed a computer crime. They posed no threat to security…. The court said his messages could be considered in the context of academic freedom and his criticism of authorities did not reflect ill intent.

The ridiculousness of the charge is that the junta has never done anything to find those responsible for stealing the plaque and replacing it with a royalist plaque that could easily have been composed in the palace. Of course, the authorities have done nothing because they know exactly who ordered its removal and replacement.

EC makes false promises: By now readers know that we think the Election Commission is totally compromised. So a promise to be clear about the election is simply impossible. Where it is closer to the truth it is in stating: “This is all about establishing credibility by generating information that is reliable and correct for the international community.” What EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong might have said was that the EC’s job is establishing credibility for the junta’s election by generating information that obfuscates. After all, that’s its track record to date. That impression of the EC’s bias is reinforced when Ittiporn mumbles that “foreign envoys did not appear to have any concerns about predictions by some critics of that the poll would be ‘less than free and fair’.” Of course, no one expects a free or fair election. Even the Bangkok Post has been forced to question the EC’s “independence” and “credibility.” Is the EC’s task just to give “credibility” to the junta’s rigged election?

Parliament has no home: The parliament building has been closed and will be given to the king. So the bureaucracy of the parliament and the puppet National Legislative Assembly is homeless. Why the Royal Household Bureau can’t wait for a few months is never explained by the fearful Thai media. Consider the fact that the NLA seems to have been caught unaware by this move and has only just begun to look for a expensive, temporary home. Why’s that?

The Eel jailed: The exceptionally slippery Tharit Pengdit and Suthep Thaugsuban used to be tight, at least when Suthep was managing the crushing of the red shirts. They later fell out and became enemies as DSI led investigations into Suthep’s role in the gunning down of protesters. The enmity was further deepened when Suthep accused Tharit of defamation in February 2013. This had to do with corruption over police buildings under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. In two court cases in 2015 and 2016, Tarit was found not guilty. Suthep appealed to the Supreme Court. So the question is why Tarit suddenly decided to plead “guilty” before the case was concluded and why is he now jailed for a year. That makes you think.

Guess who?: In a two horse race between consortia of some of the biggest and best-connected Sino-Thai tycoons for the contract to build a high-speed railway connecting three major airports, the one led by CP has won. As well as winning, they get a state subsidy of almost 120 billion baht. Makes you wonder how rich the richest non-royals can get.

Update: The authorities have assured Thailand that CP didn’t “win” the bid for the HSR. They just had the lowest bid and negotiations are now needed with the CP consortium in order to determine whether they will win. Funny way to do tendering, but we are willing to bet on the outcome, as we were before the two bids were opened.





Military responsible for torture and murder in its own ranks

10 11 2018

Under the military dictatorship, the National Human Rights Commission is a neutered agency. Its fall into non-independence can be traced to a series of events over the period of political conflict, but most notably its alliance with the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime in 2009-11 when stewarded by Amara Pongsapich,. Her tenure at the helm of the NHRC was a disaster for human rights in Thailand.

Even so, there are odd rays of light from the NHRC. Most recently, The Nation reports that the military’s “beating of military draftees is a violation of their rights” according to the NHRC. It has “called on the Army to set guidelines for appropriate ways to punish infractions.” It also called for “regulations establishing the level of aid and remedial measures given the families of soldiers injured or killed while being punished.”

That last bit is an admission that the military continues to kill recruits in using enhanced disciplinary measures that have been most recently defended by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. Essentially, they have claimed that recruits who die are simply not tough enough.

The NHRC findings result from “an NHRC probe into two recent cases – the caning and kicking of a soldier at the Royal Thai Army Cavalry Centre in November 2016 and the fatal beating of conscripted Private Yuthinan Boonniam at a military detention facility in Surat Thani in April 2017.”

These cases amount to torture and murder.

The military brass involved is protected by the impunity attached to the men with weapons.





Judiciary, military, impunity

20 09 2018

Under the military dictatorship the judiciary has been less interventionist that it was when it opposed elected governments. The royalist elite charged the judiciary with drawing lines in the political sand and protecting it against uppity elected governments.

But the loyal servants of monarchy and military on the bench can still be quite royally repugnant when they are told to enforce the military’s will or charge themselves as enforcers.

Sawai Thongom was shot in a 2009 protest against the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. That left him disabled. Later, a “court ruled the armed forces must pay him 1.2 million baht…”.

Not long after that an appeals court “overturned the judgment on appeal, ruling that the bullet wounds sustained by Sawai and another injured plaintiff were caused by a type of gun not issued to soldiers.” [As far as PPT can recall, this is not the case, and the Army does have the weapon in question.]

The case went to the Supreme Court, which decided that not only was Sawai up for “over 300,000 baht in fees and damages for harming the military’s reputation.”

Yes, we know, the military’s reputation is as murderous thugs, but one of the judiciary’s tasks is to save the face of big bosses in state positions maintain the impunity of the military.

The latest twist is that not only has impunity and face been maintained, but the junta has decided to further punish the disabled Sawai; they have seized his land and his money.

In June, “all the money in his bank account, just over 5,000 baht” was grabbed by the military’s thugs. More recently, Sawai received a letter “telling him he must surrender the deed to his 8 rai (1.3 hectare) of land in … Surin province.”

The letter said his land was valued “at 460,980 baht, the letter said it would be auctioned off to compensate the military.”

Interestingly, Sawai is fighting back and is now supported by “[v]eteran political activist and former lese majeste prisoner Somyot Prueksakasemsuk [who] is helping him raise funds and file petitions.”

Somyos said:

Will citizens dare to sue the state in the future if there’s such a crackdown?… You get shot and become physically handicapped. Then you go to the court and end up having to pay the army.

Sawai is unwilling to hand over his land title. He also realizes the government can sell it regardless. He knows that he’s merely buying time for what he fears is the inevitable outcome.

The Army has been prancing about in red shirt-dominated electorates intervening in “loan sharking” and returning land to farmers. But when it comes to the “dignity” of the murderous thugs of the Royal Thai Army, there is no sympathy. Rather there is just punishment.

Justice in Thailand excludes the poor as it protects the rich, the monarchy and the military.

Sawai has another mark against him. He holds political views that irk the royalist elite. On joining the rallies in 2009, he says of the Abhisit regime: “I did not join the protest due to hatred. I just oppose a party with minority seats forming a government on a military base…”. He continued: “I am just a normal person who, unarmed and wearing a Redshirt, exercised my rights to sue the armed forces…”.

It seems that no such right exists. Impunity remain intact.





Remembering two Mays

19 05 2018

The Bangkok Post had a report recently on politicians being asked to remember the bloody days of 1992.

They seemed to conclude, as the Post put it, that “politics is now in a more backwards state than it was before the Black May uprising of 1992…”, when like today’s big boss, another general tried to hold onto power after repeatedly saying he wasn’t intending to do that and that he abhorred politics. To maintain his power that general, Suchinda Kraprayoon, ordered civilians shot down and beaten by police and military.

Why is “politics” more “backward” now? The junta’s rules, constitution and “roadmap” are “designed to prolong its grip on power…”, say the speakers at the event.

But it is more than that. In fact, the 1991 coup group wasn’t nearly as ruthless following the coup as The Dictator has been. For one thing, it didn’t rule directly as this junta has done following its coup, putting a pliable, royalist businessman in the premier’s chair.

That 1991 coup group changed some rules, but didn’t successfully undermine and infiltrate civilian institutions in the way this junta has. It didn’t arrest and jail hundreds of persons and stalk opponents nearly as routinely as this dictatorship has. There’s more, but the picture is clear.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva claimed that “the public has not fought back with as much gusto as it did in 1992.” He added that people “harbour fears that parties may wreak havoc if they ascend to power…”.

Of course, Abhisit himself and his party has much to answer for on this. They deliberately undermined civilian politicians by behaving abominably, supporting rightist and royalist mobs, boycotted elections and ordered the military to shoot down demonstrators.

PPT has posted on the events of May 1992 several times and readers can view these posts.

Remembering May 1992 is useful in the current political circumstances. Then, people did rise up against generals seeking to maintain control. The military response was to shoot them.

Yet it is April and May 2010 that should also be remembered for the utter brutality of a military that views electoral democracy and people’s sovereignty as a threat to the order it prefers and defends.

Many pictures have been reproduced over the years of the results of Abhisit’s regime ordering the military to shoot demonstrators; PPT has a few reproduced here.

These pictures are from both sides of the battle as the military gradually surrounded and then cleared the Rajaprasong area in May 2010.





Party pilfering I

4 05 2018

Pilfering politicians has a long history in Thailand. Interestingly, as the junta seeks to peel politicians away from the major parties, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, while a “technocrat” rather than a political mastermind, gets it right when he says pilfering is a “very outdated” approach.

The Bangkok Post reports the unlikely party manipulator for the junta and his boss Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, has “slammed political parties for criticising the government for allegedly trying to poach their members, saying they should focus instead on formulating better policies…”.

In this context, Somkid “denied that the regime would try to lure veteran politician Newin Chidchob into its fold during next week’s mobile cabinet meeting in Buri Ram…”. Somkid stated: “[d]on’t just think that this or that political camp is out to [poach politicians] to bolster its power…”.

For his part, Newin “said he is ready to receive Gen Prayut and his ministers at Chang Arena, the stadium of the football club he owns. They will reportedly be joined by up to 30,000 people.”

The report states that many are suspicious that “the regime is out to court the Bhumjaithai Party.”

Somkid denied it all, including the efforts being made to “lure Suchart Tancharoen, chief of the Ban Rim Nam group within the Bhumjaithai Party, into working with the regime.”

Newin and Bhum Jai Thai need little convincing. For example, Newin is one of the country’s most experienced vote buyers and a local dark influence, joined with the military and judiciary to overthrow an elected government in late 2008 which brought Bhum Jai Thai into the ministry. He was also an enforcer for the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime when it needed “blue shirts” to oppose red shirts in 2009. Later, Bhum Jai Thai was a proxy military party in the 2011 election.

So Somkid is right. Bhum Jai Thai, with its history as military opportunists will likely sign up with The Dictator, so there’s no pilfering. The only issue to be worked out is how much its support for Gen Prayuth will cost.