Framing activists

1 04 2021

AP reports that prosecutors have “indicted five pro-democracy activists on Wednesday on changes of attempting to harm the queen during a street demonstration last October in which some protesters shouted slogans critical of the monarchy.”

The five stand “accused of violating Section 110 of the Criminal Code, which says that whoever attempts an act of violence against the queen or the royal heir faces 16-20 years’ imprisonment.” This is another law “protecting” the monarchy, and this is, as far as we know, its first use in recent years.

As AP points out, there was no violence and “Queen Suthida … was not in any evident danger in the incident, which occurred when a limousine carrying the queen and the king’s son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, passed through a small crowd of protesters mixed with supporters of the royal family.”

In other words, the protesters may have been set up and they are certainly being framed.

They include Akechai Hongkangwarn and Bunkueanun Paothong. It is reported that all “five deny any wrongdoing. After their indictment, they were released on bail of 200,000-300,000 baht ($6,400-$9,600) each.”





Further updated: Yuletide lese majeste

22 12 2020

There’s been quite a lot of commentary on the protests, some motivated by the avalanche of lese majeste cases and some by the fact that the end of the year begs for reviews.

One that caught our attention is by Matthew Wheeler, Senior Analyst for Southeast Asia at the International Crisis Group. It is quite a reasonable and careful rundown of events prompting the demonstrations and the call for reform of the monarchy.

The lese majeste cases pile higher and higher. In a Bangkok Post report on people turning up to hear lese majeste charges, eight are listed: Arnon Nampa, Intira Charoenpura, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Nattathida Meewangpla, Shinawat Chankrachang, Phimsiri Phetnamrop, and Phromson Wirathamchari.

We can’t locate the latter two on the most recent Prachatai graphic that listed 34 activists charged under 112, but that graphic does include five with names withheld. For us, this brings the total charged to 34-36, but it may well be more.

There was some good news on lese majeste. It is reported that, after more than 4.5 years, a ludicrous 112 charge against Patnaree Chankij have been dismissed. The mother of activist Sirawith Seritiwat, the Criminal Court on Tuesday dismissed the charge. Her one word “jah” in a chat conversation was said to be the cause of the charge but, in reality, going after her was the regime’s blunt effort to silence her son.

A second piece of reasonable news is that the Criminal Court also dismissed charges of sedition brought by the military junta against former deputy prime minister Chaturon Chaisaeng on 27 May 2014 six years ago under Section 116 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act. This was another junta effort to silence critics.

As seen in recent days, equally ludicrous charges have been brought against a new generation of critics.

Update 1: Thai PBS reports that the Criminal Court acquitted nine members of the Pro-Election Group who had been charged in late January 2018 with poking the military junta: “Section 116 of the Criminal Code, illegal public assembly within a 150-metre radius of a Royal palace and defying the then junta’s order regarding public assembly of more than five people.”

The defendants were Veera Somkwamkid, Rangsiman Rome, currently a party-list for the Kao Klai party, Serawit Sereethiat, Nattha Mahatthana, Anon Nampa, a core member of the Ratsadon Group, Aekkachai Hongkangwan, Sukrit Piansuwan, Netiwit Chotepatpaisarn and Sombat Boon-ngam-anong.

The court ruled that:

… protesters complaining about the postponement of general elections cannot be regarded as incitement to public unrest. It also said that the protesters had no intention to defy the ban against public assembly within 150-metres of the Royal palace.

Of course, the charges were always bogus, but the junta’s point was to use “law” for political repression.

Update 2: The Nation reports that there were, in fact, 39 defendants who were acquitted.





Updated: Vulture cops

2 11 2020

Compromise? No.

Thai PBS reports that the hospitalized prominent protesters, jailed for some time already, are set for more jail time. The cops, vulture-like, are waiting to re-arrest them as soon as the doctors discharge them.

Panasaya “Rung” Sitthijirawattanakul, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak will be dragged off to the courts “with the … police seeking to have them held on remand on more charges, which were filed against them while they were recuperating at Rama 9 Hospital.” They will end up in remand in several provinces.

The Bangkok Post reports that, in fact, two have already been “officially rearrested” while in hospital. This is reminiscent of actions taken in the lese majeste case against Thanet Anantawong who was dragged out of a hospital ward by junta thugs. Tghe Post reports:

Officers from Rayong showed up at Praram 9 Hospital to file a charge against Panupong “Mike” Jadnok over his protest against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during the premier’s visit to the province in August ahead of the mobile cabinet meeting there.

Similar scenes occurred when Ubon Ratchathani police also showed up to detain Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak over his role in an Aug 22 demonstration in the northeastern province. He faces sedition charges under Section 116 of the Criminal Code which he refused to acknowledge.

On Saturday night, city police had filed charges against Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul over her involvement on June 5 and June 22 in protests at the Pathumwan Skywalk in Bangkok.

Rung is now “under a 24-hour watch and police will reportedly seek a Pathumwan District Court order today to put her back behind bars for the time being.”

Get the picture? No compromise. As Mike and Penguin are being taken out of Bangkok, there are fears for their safety.

Update: In some good news, the Pathumwan District Court “rejected a police request to detain protest leader Panusaya … for further questioning in two cases in which she is charged with violating the Public Assembly Act of 2015.” The two cases relate to “demonstrations on the skywalk over the Pathumwan intersection on June 5 and June 22 demanding justice for Wanchalerm Satsaksit, … abducted by a group of men from in front of a condominium in Phnom Penh.” The court found no reason for detention. The same court also “refused a police request to detain Panupong “Mike Ranong” Jadnok, who was charged over his role in protesting the Prime Minister on July 15 in Rayong province,” finding no reason for further detention.

That good news is made better when the Criminal Court “dismissed a police request to extend the detention period for protest leaders Somyod Pruksakasemsuk, Ekkachai Hongkangwan, Suranat Paenprasert and Arnon Nampa…”. Somyos and Arnon are “facing charges stemming from their participation in the rally at Thammasat University on September 19-20,” while Akechai and Suranat have been “charged with attempting to harm … the Queen’s liberty by allegedly obstructing the royal motorcade … on October 16.”





Updated: The political judiciary

28 10 2020

From long being a pretty somnolent part of the bureaucracy, in the 21st century, Thailand’s judiciary has shown that it can move politics in particular directions. The judiciary has demonstrated a capacity for politicized decision-making that has supported rightist, royalist and military interests. Its double standards are now legendary.

Sure, sometimes a court makes a decision that goes against the political grain, but these are exceptions to what is now a rule.

The most politicized of judges, who do as they are required, get rewarded. The most recent is the appointment of Nurak Mapraneet as a privy councilor. He is a former president of the Constitutional Court. He became court president in 2007 following the 2006 military coup. During his tenure there, the Court dissolved six political parties, removed two prime ministers, nullified the 2014 election, banned scores of politicians, and accepted a king’s announcement as law. Quite a record and now he’s rewarded.

All of this is a preamble to an observation that the judicial system and the courts are again being used by the regime as a political weapon.

A couple of days ago, Thai Enquirer published a list of Thailand’s latest political prisoners. It is a list of list of university students, activists, and musicians who have been charged, since 18 July 2020, under Article 116 with sedition (21 persons) and Article 110 for committing an act of violence against the queen or her liberty (3 persons). It notes that “at least 60 other protestors have been charged for joining the pro-democracy protests between October 13 and October 24, according to TLHR and Amnesty International.” Many of these were charged with violating the emergency decree. Astoundingly, that number includes “two children, aged 16 and 17, and they will be prosecuted even though the severe state of emergency decree was lifted…”.

The courts get involved in these cases almost from the beginning. From a phase where those arrested were soon bailed by the courts, that has now ceased for those deemed to be “leaders.” It is as if an order has come from higher up, telling the judges not to release them. For example, there have been several instances where the political detainees have been granted bail and then immediately arrested on other charges. The most recent example is human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa. He was bailed by a Chiang Mai Court and then immediately re-arrested and transported to Bangkok by road to face another period in detention.

As was the pattern in lese majeste cases, we see the judiciary, police and corrections being used to punish, detain, and harass. We refer to this as “lese majeste torture.” The most awful example was the treatment meted out to Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. He’s now in jail and denied bail again. Also well aware of this tactic, having also been a lese majeste prisoner, is Akechai Hongkangwarn. He’s now denied bail on a spurious Article 110 charge.

Then there are the young “leaders.” Not only are they repeatedly denied bail, but the system ensures that they are treated to all the feudal rules of the prison system. While they have not yet had their heads shaved, they are given king-approved haircuts and made to wear prison uniforms and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul has been made to “dye her hair natural black,” if those words from the Bangkok Post make any sense at all.

But none of this makes much sense. It is just a dictatorial regime acting under orders.

Update: Khaosod reports that police are looking to charge some 16 persons: “Deputy Bangkok police chief Piya Tawichai told the media yesterday the police were gathering evidence to prosecute the embassy protesters…. Maj. Gen. Piya said a number of laws were violated, such as the public assembly act and libel.” Pro-democracy activists Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa are among those being “investigated.”

It is not reported whether the police are taking similar action against the yellow shirts who protested at the same embassy before the pro-democracy thousands.





Updated: Another night, more protests

17 10 2020

Another afternoon and night of protests. The regime thought that shutting down the train system would prevent protesters massing again, They particularly concentrated on the Victory Monument, and closed it off, with not a protester in sight.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters gathered at various spots around Bangkok and in Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen and several other provincial towns. Our pictures are clipped from social media.

Some of the signage was interesting.

Update: The Bangkok Post has some details on those arrested, still detained, and some bailed. Among those refused bail are former lese majeste victims Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa and Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. While there is some information on arrests, the regime is opaque, and Thai Enquirer says “security forces may have arrested up to 100 demonstrators for violating the government’s emergency decree…”. It also says that some demonstrators are “missing.”

In the royal car case, Bunkueanun Paothong has been bailed, while Akechai Hongkangwarn, another lese majeste victim, is awaiting bail.

Among those recently arrested are student leaders Panupong Jadnok (Rayong Mike) and protest leader Tattep Ruangprapaikijseree.





Updated: Car trouble II

16 10 2020

The Bangkok Post’s reporting on recent events in Bangkok has been abysmal. Worse, it has appeared as a mouthpiece for the regime. Compare its reporting with that at Khaosod English and understand how regime-grovelling and spineless the Bangkok Post has become. Are the owners running the show?

Which brings us to the almost unprecedented use of Article 110 of the Criminal Code. The Bangkok Post has almost nothing to say about this. Other outlets have already shown that the charges are a complete fabrication. Worse, the Post fails to read Article 110 accurately, downplaying it.

Francis. Clipped from TLHR

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, who are exceptionally busy just now, dealing with dozens of arrested activists, have a report on the royal  car debacle.

Both Bunkueanun (Francis) Paothong and Akechai Hongkangwarn have appeared before police, accused of “jointly attempted to commit an assault against the Queen’s liberty…”.

Both men are accused of having “incited demonstrators surrounding the procession to block the front of the procession and to crowd around the queen’s car.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

Akechai is accused of shouting, raising three fingers, and that he tried to push police officers.

The demonstrators are accused of causing the royal car to stop, allowing a group of demonstrators to shout insults accompanied by the three finger salute.

This “fit up” is necessary for the regime because it used the event as an excuse for a coup-like declaration of a state of emergency.

Such fabricated “criminal” cases were a defining feature of the military junta under Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. As arrests continue, the whole judicial system is a tool of the regime.

Update: The Bangkok Post’s editorial today, after two nights of historic rallying in Bangkok, is about the zoo. Hopeless.





Updated: Car trouble I

16 10 2020

There are lots of rumors and plenty of speculation on why the royal cavalcade on October 14 ended up in among the pro-democracy protesters. That error/provocation/royal order/dirty trick (as it variously appears) led to the hurling of abuse at these leeches on the taxpayer.

We have no idea why the regime allowed this to happen, but the scapegoating has been furious. Khaosod reports that “[t]hree police commanders, including an officer who oversaw the crowd control division, were transferred to an inactive post pending investigation on Thursday after a royal motorcade encountered a group of protesters…”.

Police spokesman Maj Gen “Yingyot Thepchamnong said three senior officers are under investigation into why they did not clear the route.” Maj Gen Yingyot observed: “It didn’t go according to plans…. They might have forgotten or misunderstood the details of the plans.”

He was asked the obvious question: “why the royal motorcade was not diverted to a different route”? Maj Gen Yingyot “declined to answer…”.

The report notes that “… reporters at the scene confirmed that they saw no protesters standing in the way of the convoy or throwing any projectiles to the vehicles, which were protected by layers of police officers…”.

That observation becomes critical when it is learned that:

… two prominent pro-democracy activists on charges of using violence on … the Queen.

Ekachai Hongkangwan and Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothong were identified as the suspects in the most serious charge filed by the authorities so far since the waves of anti-government protests began in February. If guilty, they face life in prison.

Both of them were charged under Article 110 of the Criminal Code….

PPT has never heard of this article previously. It turns out that there are six articles on crimes against the monarchy. Article 110 states:

Whoever commits an act of violence against the Queen or Her liberty, the Heir-apparent or His liberty, or the Regent or his/her liberty, shall be punished with imprisonment for life or imprisonment of sixteen to twenty years. Whoever attempts to commit such offence shall be liable to the same punishment.

If such act is likely to endanger the life of the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, the offender, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

Whoever makes preparations for committing an act of violence against the Queen or Her liberty, the Heir-apparent or His liberty, or the Regent or his/her liberty, or does any act to assist in keeping secret any intention to commit such offence, shall be punished with imprisonment of twelve to twenty years.

Akechai has a long history with the police for his opposition to military authoritarianism and has been attacked by “unknown” assailants several times. His arrest and detention, along with Bunkuenun, brings the known total of arrests over the last three days to more than 50.

Update: Thai Enquirer has more on the framing of Akechai and Bunkuenun. It states:

If you saw the videos, you will see that no one was blocking the royal motorcade; the protestors did not even know that they were coming….

If you watched live around 5.30 p.m. on Wednesday, you would have seen that Ekkachai Hongkangwan and Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothon were not doing anything to harm the Queen’s liberty at all….

Without warning, the police then charged at the protesters before people realized that it was the royal motorcade behind the police.

By that time, Ekkachai and Francis have already been pushed aside along with other protestors as the police formed a human chain to make way for the motorcade.

They were not near the car, and they were not throwing anything.

The opinion piece adds: “So to say that somehow the student protesters were responsible is laughable…“.





Thammanat’s never ending lies III

4 03 2020

The deputy minister for lies and buffalo manure is now being pursued by anti-government activists. Akechai Hongkangwarn and Siriwit Chuangsaen “petitioned the Election Commission (EC) to ask the Constitutional Court to disqualify Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow, over his past criminal record in Australia.”

They want section 98 of the junta’s constitution to be used to expel the junta’s bagman from the north. It says:

(10) having been convicted by a final judgment of a court for committing wrongful conduct in official duties or justice affairs, or committing an offence under the law on the wrongful acts of officials in State organizations or State agencies, or an offence against property in bad faith according the Criminal Code, or an offence under the law on fraudulent acts related to loans of the people, or an offence of being producer, importer or exporter or trader under the narcotics law, an offence of being the owner or keeper of a gambling house under the law on gambling, or an offence of money laundering under the law on prevention and suppression of human trafficking or the law on prevention and suppression of money laundering;…

There’s an odor in parliament. Clipped from the Bangkok Post.

On the face of it, that seems a reasonable petition, but they are dealing with the junta’s toadies who would do anything for the current regime. The EC is hopelessly biased, so we expect they will take their lead from the reprehensible Wissanu Krea-ngam. Wissanu, who who now looks like a cross between Carl Schmitt and a Reich Minister of Justice, publicly proclaimed that Thammanat’s “eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.” Only Thai law counts it seems. This seems to mean that even a person convicted of mass murder overseas could become Thailand’s minister of justice or even prime minister (some may suggest that there have been murderers who have been PM, and we wouldn’t disagree).

The activists are reported to have “previously petitioned the EC to disqualify Thamanat but … every time they asked the EC about the progress of their petition against Thamanat, they were informed that the EC’s panel was investigating the matter.”

The activists claim that “the EC must seek a Constitutional Court’s ruling on Capt Thamanat’s eligibility.” But the government apparently needs this creep and he seems to have higher protection as well, so we expect the EC will continue to cover up for him.





Rabid royalists battle “liberalism”

7 09 2019

This Reuters report has been widely distributed, but deserves attention.

It notes the rise of a rightist ultra-nationalism as those who are insufficiently royalist are attacked as “chung chart” which “translates roughly as ‘nation-hater.’ Here, nation equals monarchy and support for the military and its current political regime.

Opposing that regime, the military or being considered insufficiently royalist means being seen by royalist-rightists “as a threat in a kingdom…”.

Royalist-rightists are identified as “waging an increasing battle against the opposition on social media and in the courts, illustrating the deepening political divide in the southeast Asian nation.”

Sound familiar? It should. Nothing much has changed in this royalist-rightist agitation since recently-released Sondhi Limthongkul and the People’s Alliance for Democracy signed up with the monarchy for ousting Thaksin Shinawatra in 2005. He and PAD were followed by royalist-rightist groups such as the Dhamma Army and Santi Asoke (since 2005), No Colors/Multi Colors (from about 2010), Green Politics Group (since 2007), Thai Patriot Network (since 2008), Siam Samakkhi (since 2011), Network of Citizen Volunteers to Protect the Land (2012), Pitak Siam (2012), Sayam Prachapiwat (2012), the White Mask group, People’s Army Against the Thaksin Regime (2013), the so-called Rubbish Collection Organization (2014), and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (2013-14).

This is just a selection of ultra-rightists, many associated with the military’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC). All have been anti-Thaksin. The current lot say:

they are acting in the name of the palace and the army also say they get no direct support from those institutions. Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat declined comment on the issue and said Thailand is a free country.

We are sure that there are ultra-rightists who act independently in the cause of promoting the world’s wealthiest monarch, a grasping playboy as a symbol of “the nation,” but we doubt that the military and ISOC are uninterested. After all, they’ve manipulated or arranged most of these groups over five decades.

Claims by by Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich that the “military is not behind any groups…. The military does not support anyone engaged in activism outside parliament” are false.

The report claims that “chung chart” was made popular by The Democrat Party’s Warong Dechgitvigrom, who says:

I see this as liberalism that destroys traditions and the monarchy by claiming to be democratic…. We need to fight them through ideology. The New Right is a political ideology.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

The ideological fight usually leads to legal actions and violence. Indeed, there was plenty of political violence in the last days of the junta. Think of the repeated attacks on Sirawith Seritiwat and Akechai Hongkangwarn, among others.

As the report notes, “army chief Apirat Kongsompong … has described Thailand as being in a ‘hybrid war’ against enemies of tradition” and the rightist-royalists are working in support of his “war.”

The current targets of rightist-royalist angst and wrath include the Future Forward Party – who Warong considers false democrats and nasty “liberals.” That party also worries Gen Apirat as they are too popular; the military fears popularity that translates into votes.

The report cites former PADista and Democrat Party minister Kasit Primya as saying: “The two sides are becoming more entrenched…”. There might be more than two “sides,” but as far as we can tell, the “sides” have been deeply entrenched since PAD.

So it is that Future Forward and its supporters are painted by ultra-nationalist rightist-royalists as “want[ing] to destroy the Thai system [monarchy] and change it to the Marxist-Socialist system…”.

On social media, hatred of identified opponents is fanned. Such hatred has long proved useful of the military when it mobilizes violence to support military-backed regimes or to destabilize elected governments.





Updated: Silencing critics

8 07 2019

The recent attacks on anti-junta and pro-democracy activists and the murder and enforced disappearance of anti-monarchy activists are meant to silence these critics by threatening (or murdering) them and sending a threatening message to anyone else who might be critical of monarchy or regime.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

And, it seems that it works. Anti-monarchists are now fearful and cowed. And those anti-junta and pro-democracy activists who have been repeatedly attacked and assaulted are forced to agree to periods of “quietness.”

Sirawith. Clipped from VOA News

The Nation reports that after his most recent assault by “anonymous” thugs – known to the authorities – left him hospitalized with severe injuries, Sirawith Seritiwat has sought police protection.

However, in a damning indictment of the state’s involvement with the cowardly attacks, he has been “told he would get none unless he gave up his activism.” For us, that’s as good as an admission that the thugs work for the police and regime!

That report states that “Sirawith has yet to decide whether he will agree to the deal.”

He’s not the only activist to be offered such a “deal” by the complicit state authorities. Khaosod reports that Akechai Hongkangwarn and Anurak Jeantawanich received similar “offers.”

Such “offers” of “deals” to silence critics go right to the top of the military regime, with deputy junta chairman Gen Prawit Wongsuwan seeming to endorse such mafia-like protection rackets.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

Of course, none of those in the gangs who attacked the three has been identified by the police or regime. Why would they be identified when they are doing the junta’s work?

It seems that Akechai has agreed to such a “deal,” saying he had no choice. He had been attacked seven times in a year. His “60-day agreement, which he signed a month ago, dictates that he can neither post political messages on social media nor join political rallies.” He hasn’t been attacked since, but he has also engaged in activities that are meant to be forbidden.

Anurak. Clipped from TAHR

Anurak states that “he declined the same offer…”, but “negotiated with local police to receive some protection.” At the same time, he said “he is toning down his public campaigns in order to be on the safe side.”

He rightly “questioned whether the military government is dangling personal safety as a reward for not resisting.” He added: “What the dictator wants is for us to stop political activism…”.

It seems all too clear that the junta continues to repress its political opponents and that the use of violence is a part of that “strategy.” That’s not surprising given that it is a regime of political thugs.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that Sirawith has refused the mafia-like offer from the police of protection if he stopped his political activities and, it is revealed, the activist was also required to report to police his plans and whereabouts at all times…”. Sirawith explained that “he will not allow police to ensure his safety because he believes the government was behind the attacks.” Indeed, the offer by police is the equivalent of a confession of its involvement.