AI on shooting kids

23 08 2021

We reproduce in full a note by Amnesty International on the shooting of several children in recent rallies:

Thailand: Urgent investigation needed after live rounds fired at child protesters

The Thai authorities must urgently investigate the shooting of protesters in Bangkok that has left one child in a critical condition, Amnesty International said after confirming that three children were injured by live rounds of ammunition during a demonstration outside a police station on Monday.

The mother of a 15-year-old protester told Amnesty that her son is in a coma and that a bullet – believed to be live ammunition – remains lodged in his skull. The organization confirmed that another protester, aged 14, suffered a bullet wound in the shoulder from live ammunition while a third protester, aged 16, was shot in the foot.

The Thai police have denied using live ammunition and it is unconfirmed who fired the shots.

“The use of live ammunition against protesters is a deeply concerning development. The Thai authorities must urgently investigate the shootings of these child protesters, including any unlawful use of firearms,” said Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.

“Thailand’s government must also investigate all reports of excessive and unnecessary force by police against protesters over the past year, and bring to justice anyone found responsible of causing physical harm to protesters.”

Over recent weeks, protesters have flocked to Bangkok’s streets and around Thailand to voice concerns over the official handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and other political grievances. The authorities have ramped up their use of rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas to disperse protests – even when protests have been peaceful.

In its recent report, Amnesty International called on Thai authorities to prioritize non-violent means, such as negotiation, mediation and dialogue, to de-escalate situations that might lead to violence.

The organization has also called on authorities to ensure that devices such as tear gas or water cannon are used only in situations of more generalized violence for the purpose of dispersing a crowd, and only when all other means have failed to contain the violence.

“Recent policing of assemblies, coupled with Thailand’s history of impunity for excessive and sometimes even lethal force against protesters, highlights the need for Thai authorities to change their approach. If they genuinely want to prevent human rights violations, they must stop repressing peaceful protest and instead facilitate and protect it,” said Emerlynne Gil.

“The police’s handling of protests, including those which are not peaceful, must be necessary and proportionate. Security forces must refrain from using the type of excessive force that has been seen repeatedly during protests since 2020.

“Police authorities must protect the rights of all peaceful protesters from disruption or violence by third party actors.”

Background

On the night of 16 August 2021, live ammunition was fired at protesters near the Din Daeng police station in central Bangkok as police tried to disperse peaceful demonstrators. The police have denied using live ammunition.

Ratchavitee Hospital, which is treating the injured protesters, said on 17 August that a 15-year-old is in a coma after a bullet struck him in the head. The 14-year-old protester who was shot in the shoulder has now been released from hospital.

Tens of thousands of Thais took to the streets to demand democratic reforms in largely peaceful protests throughout 2020 and into 2021 in Bangkok, the capital, and in provinces across Thailand. Amnesty International has found that authorities responded to protests with escalating arbitrary use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other less-lethal weapons and have used unnecessary and excessive force, with an apparent lack of accountability. The Thai Civil court has called on police to exercise restraint in their policing of assemblies.

As protests have reignited in recent weeks, police have fired tear gas and water cannon at demonstrators and arrested and detained numerous peaceful protesters – including under emergency provisions ostensibly put in place? to tackle Covid-19 and despite the country’s prisons reporting thousands of infections in recent weeks.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, from July 2020 to August 2021, at least 800 individuals have faced criminal charges – including sedition, royal defamation, computer-related crime, violation of the emergency provisions – in 374 lawsuits for joining peaceful protests, 69 of them children.





Trampling remaining freedoms IV

10 08 2021

PPT is late getting to this story and we thank a reader for bringing it to our attention.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International issued a statement about the regime’s police issuing fines to “an Amnesty International staff member, along with three speakers and a panel moderator, for taking part in a panel discussion on 4 July focusing on the enforced disappearances of Thai activists, including Wanchalearm Satsaksit…”.

The police managed to conjure charges “under the Road Traffic Act and the Act on the Maintenance of Cleanliness and Order,” and under the Control Act B.E. 2493 for the use of an amplified speaker to advertise the event. The police issued “an administrative fine in response to their involvement at an in-person panel discussion on 4 July…”.

The other four who were fined were “a panel moderator and three other panelist speakers: a protestor, an 18-year-old student, and a lawyer who was friends with an individual who was forcibly disappeared.”

As Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra put it:

Our member of staff was simply doing her job to raise awareness in Thailand of international human rights law. The Thai authorities should not be fining her, the organizers or other panelists for simply speaking about the Thai authorities’ human rights obligations and the long history of enforced disappearances in this region….

Human rights defenders play a crucial role in protecting freedoms within society. To intimidate and fine them represents a threat not only to these activists but to anyone seeking to bravely defend the rights of others.

Amnesty International argues that the fines are a part of “ongoing efforts by the Thai authorities to silence criticism and repress freedom of expression.” It added: “The Thai authorities must stop issuing fines to people for peacefully exercising their human rights, and stop using the pandemic as an excuse to ramp up their repression.”





Regime’s judges deepen repression

11 03 2021

Human Rights Watch:

Thailand’s Bangkok Criminal Court has ordered three prominent democracy activists to pretrial detention on charges of insulting the monarchy, Human Rights Watch said today. The order could leave them detained for years until their trial is concluded….

“There is a growing pattern of Thai activists charged with lese majeste being sent to long periods of pretrial detention,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Courts should uphold the right to the presumption of innocence and ensure all fair trial procedures are observed.”

… The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified, encourages bail for criminal suspects. Article 9 states that, “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.” Those denied bail should be tried as expeditiously as possible, Human Rights Watch said….

“Thai authorities should immediately end their heavy-handed enforcement of the lese majeste law and allow a broad-based discussion to bring the law into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations,” Adams said.

Amnesty International:

The denial of bail for four protest leaders on Monday (8 March) is “tantamount to a systematic suppression of freedom of expression and freedom of opinion” in Thailand, says Amnesty International, who calls on the government to end legal prosecution against dissenting voices….

Piyanut Kotsan, Director of Amnesty International Thailand said:

“It is profoundly worrying that the Thai authorities are systematically prosecuting a large number of protest leaders and demonstrators. In certain cases, the suspects may face up to 15 years of imprisonment. This is a severe and disproportionate punishment. Given the normally protracted period of trial, the prosecution of dissenters or critics of the government is being weaponized to silence and retaliate against those who dare to challenge the state power.”

“Mass prosecutions and denial of bail demonstrate how the justice process is being used as a tool to brazenly attack the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. People are entitled to legitimate rights to express themselves and participate in activities concerning social issues.

“The Thai authorities must stop treating critics as if they are criminals or a threat to national security. They must be released and the charges against them must be immediately dropped in the condition where there is an insufficient evidence under international criminal standard.”

Should anyone thinks that the courts are involved in anything other than “lawfare,” we suggest a careful reading of a Prachatai report, where it refers to the “[b]izarre treatment of pro-democracy protesters…”. It mentions several anomalies:

The court’s rejection of bail for 4 pro-democracy activists on 8 March is raising questions about procedural irregularities as 3 of them were taken from court before they were allowed the opportunity to complete bail requests, while another was sent to a prison other than the one designated by the court.

Corrections Department Director-General Ayut Sinthoppan said that several political prisoners were transferred from Bangkok Remand Prison to Thon Buri Remand Prison to “ease overcrowding.” Lawyers and families were left in the dark.

At least 58 people now face lese majeste charges and none of them will be treated fairly or legally.





Updated: Still missing

5 10 2020

It is now four months since the disappearance of activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit. He was snatched off the street in Phnom Penh in what was probably a black ops by the Thai military.

Where is Wanchalearm? Clipped from Prachatai

Prachatai reports that Piyanut Kotsan, director of Amnesty International Thailand says “there has been no progress in Cambodian authorities’ investigation of his abduction.” Nothing.

Both the Thai and Cambodian governments refuse to do or say anything, suggesting the two governments collaborated in ignoring international law and “disappearing” Wanchaleam.

AI states:

We urge Cambodia to set up an investigation team to carry out a prompt, effective, thorough and transparent investigation and to ensure justice is served for the victim and his family. Four months on, there is still no progress in the investigation.

Further, we urge Thai authorities to provide all necessary assistance to facilitate Ms. Sitanan Satsaksit, Mr. Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s older sister’s travel to Cambodia to give evidence to public prosecutors there.

The Nation has a story reporting on Wanchalearm’s former girlfriend. She spent time with him in exile in Cambodia.

Update: Khaosod interviews Wanchalearm’s sister, Sitanun. Sadly but predictably, “she’s given up any hope on government actions,” and has “decided not to rely on either Thai or Cambodian government because both of them have not given her any satisfactory answer” on her brother’s abduction. Sitanun explained a Cambodian cover-up: “Cambodian authorities told her in August that Saksit was not found in the accommodation list of the apartment.” For them, he did not exist: “They said there was no Wanchalearm there on that day. That the license plate of the van which abducted him wasn’t real…. They are now trying to clean up any traces.”

Tellingly, she adds, the “person ordering it is not ordinary…”. Like everyone else, Sitanun “believes the Thai authorities were behind the abduction…”.





Updated: Arrests mount, protests continue

4 09 2020

On Thursday, the Criminal Court heard and partially granted “a police request to revoke the bail of two top leaders of the burgeoning anti-government protest movement who refuse to stop their public political activities.” Human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa and Free People movement activist Panupong Jadnok had been “granted bail last month for charges including sedition arising from a protest rally in Bangkok in July.” The two have continued to be politically active and police say this is against their bail conditions and asked the “court to order them back into custody.”

Arnon said he hoped their “imprisonment could serve as an inspiration for those who will continue fighting.”

Clipped from The Nation

The court proceedings were somewhat complicated, with Arnon’s bail withdrawn but the court demanding that Panupong’s bail surety be doubled to 200,000 baht. Rayong Mike refused “and agreed to be held in detention with Anon.” The two were sent to the Bangkok Special Prison.

In addition, Arnon refused to exercise his right for another bail hearing and “released a note through his representatives which have been posted online.” In it, he stated:

“I am happy to have fought alongside everyone. We have come a long way so keep on moving forward with bravery,” the note said. “My duty outside the jail cell has ended and will now believe in the necessary changes.”

“Please come out on September 19 to confirm that we have come on the right path. I believe in everyone.”

Panupong posted a similar message:

“When everyone knows that society is ruled by the elite, our duty is to fight against the injustice and inequality undermining democracy. … Do not wait for others to stand up for you. Keep fighting to bring victory to our movement. Even though I am no longer free, others will stand up and find victory at last,” he said.

Khaosod states that “authorities have taken legal actions against more than 30 key figures in the movement in an apparent attempt to decapitate it and stall its momentum.”

This approach is in line with the forms of political repression used by the regime in the past, from the time the junta seized power in 2014. It seeks to take out those it identifies as “leaders” and to threaten their families (as they have recently done in targeting Arnon’s aged grandmother). Yet the regime seems not to have grasped the decentralized nature of the ongoing protests, its new methods and its radicalism.

Update: Amnesty International has established a campaign calling for the regime “to stop harassing protesters, and critics of the administration, and to repeal laws deemed to be suppressing free expression and peaceful public gatherings.” AI is “urging its 8 million members, supporters and pro-democracy activists around the world to write to Thailand’s Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha, asking him to drop the charges arising from their roles in the July 18th protest…”. The campaign runs until 21 October and includes a downloadable letter that can be a basis for writing to the general.

Meanwhile, Wasant Techawongtham, a former news editor at the Bangkok Post, has an op-ed that includes this observation:

Supporters of the dictatorship have fewer and fewer arguments for the status quo.

The regime is now engaging in a “legal war” against dissenters, trying to eliminate leading voices by slapping them with dubious charges.

This tactic may have caused some uncertainty among protesters in the beginning. But the unjust use of the law has now caused the opposition to be more determined.

And just like the military-inspired constitution that has created a political dead-end, this suppression campaign will also come to a dead end when no one is afraid anymore.





Talking to a brick wall

12 08 2020

It may be like talking to a brick wall yet it remains important that Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s family and Amnesty International Thailand are keeping the pressure on Cambodia over his enforced disappearance on 4 June 2020.

Young Thais continue to campaign for information on his fate.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Prachatai reports that they have asked for “a meeting with … Ouk Sorphorn, Ambassador of Cambodia to Thailand, to discuss and acknowledge investigation progress…”. THe call came on what would have been Wanchalearm’s 38th birthday.

Amnesty International Thailand “states that it has been two months since Wanchalearm has disappeared and there is no progress on his whereabouts either from Thai or Cambodian authority.” Most observers would consider this lack of progress to be reflective of official involvement and cover-up by both regimes. AI also notes that Cambodia is a state party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and has a responsibility to respond on the case. Of course, this assumes that the regime takes such an obligation seriously, and the evidence is that it does not.

Clipped from Prachatai

Wanchalearm’s sister, Sitanun Satsaksit, states that her family still lives in hope that there will be “answers both from Thai and Cambodian authority on Wanchalearm’s fate and whereabouts.”

As the disappearance is probably related to the absent monarch in Thailand (well, Germany), the Thai regime is going to remain mum. The Cambodians are supporting the semi-dictatorship in Bangkok.





Political arrests II

8 08 2020

From Amnesty International:

Responding to the arrest of two prominent activists today, and reports of further arrest warrants against other protestors, ahead of planned anti-government protests over the weekend, Piyanut Kotsan, Amnesty International Thailand’s director, said:

“This is yet another entirely disproportionate response from the Thai police to peaceful activism, clearly intended to intimidate and dissuade protestors from taking to the streets this weekend.

“Having endured months of harassment, Arnon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok now face a repressive new set of criminal charges simply for exercising their right to protest.

“As well as dropping these groundless charges, Amnesty International is calling on the Thai authorities to stop what appears to be a new crackdown on freedom of expression and to ensure the protection, safety and security from reprisals of any individuals whose names have been linked to ongoing demonstrations over the past week.”

Background

On Friday 7 August, police arrested lawyer Arnon Nampa in front of his residence in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, and student activist Panupong “Mike” Jadnok at Ramkhamhaeng University. The two are currently being held at Bangkok Criminal Court. Another student activist Parit Chiwarak, member of the Student Union of Thailand, also has an arrest warrant against him.

Arnon and Panupong face up to seven years in prison. Charges against them include sedition, assembly intended to do act of violence, and obstructing the public way under Articles 116, 215, 385 of the Penal Code, respectively; violation of the Emergency Decree; offence under the Communicable Diseases Act; obstructing the traffic under Article 114 of the Land Traffic Act; Article 19 of the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness Act; and the use of an amplifier without permission under Article 4 of the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act. Reports indicate that five other demonstrators have pending warrants with the same charges. Since the imposition of the Emergency Decree on 26 March 2020, officials have continuously detained and initiated criminal complaints against individuals engaged in peaceful protests and activities. Demonstrators have also reported numerous incidents of harassment and intimidation by police officers solely for their involvement in peaceful protests since then, including ongoing student-led peaceful demonstrations calling for a new constitution, resignation of the government, and an end to harassment of the police opposition.

Amnesty International calls on the Thai government to guarantee that its law enforcement arm avoids the use of force as far as possible and adhere to non-violent means.





Updated: Virus, crisis, repression reflex

17 07 2020

No one seems to quite understand why Thailand has not been ravaged by the virus. The New York Times and The Economist have both suggested multiple possible explanations.

While the regime’s response was initially chaotic and riddled with contradictions and errors, not least by a Minister for Public Health who sometimes appeared balmy. Perhaps one reason for Thailand’s virus success has had to do with sidelining Anutin Charnvirakul.

With the recent errors and initial attempts to cover-up and shift blame, the regime again seems prone to chaos and manic decision-making. When this happens, the regime resorts to repression:

Police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen said two men, identified as Nutchanon Payakaphan and Panupong Jadnok, were arrested Wednesday [in Rayong] for failing to comply with police orders. The pair, who said they were there to protest [Gen] Prayut[h Chan-ocha]’s handling of the coronavirus, said they did not do anything wrong.

“I didn’t find my action to resist police functions,” Panupong said. “When I asked why they were taking me, they didn’t say anything. They took me into the car and left me without taking me into custody, so I walked out…”.

The two were protecting as a prime ministerial motorcade was passing. Clearly, when pressed, The Dictator doesn’t need to see dissidents and so the repression reflex kicks in.

Update: As usual, the cops have been told to concoct charges against the two protesters in Rayong. The “two youth leaders from the Eastern Youths for Democracy (เยาวชนตะวันออกเพื่อประชาธิปไตย) … the police [belatedly] responded with the four following allegations against the protesters:

  • Violation of Emergency Decree
  • Violation of the Communicable Disease Act
  • Defying official orders
  • Escaping detention/arrest…”

This is the usual buffalo manure and Amnesty International Thailand has called the regime out: “Piyanut Kotesan, director of Amnesty International Thailand, said that the state officials have a duty to protect citizens’ rights and not silence and punish them merely on the grounds of exercising their freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.”

Not this regime and not its cops. Their task is repression.





Updated: Junta-style business (as usual) IV

24 04 2020

Two more reports show that despite the junta/post-junta regime is conducting (political) business as usual.

Amnesty International has issued a report – They Are Always Watching – denouncing the regime’s continuing persecution of “social media users who criticize the government and monarchy…”. It says this is “a systematic campaign to crush dissent which is being exacerbated by new COVID-19 restrictions…”.

The military-backed authorities have”increased the use of vague or overly broad laws to bring criminal charges against dozens of peaceful critics since being elected [sic.] last year.” It refers to a “climate of fear designed to silence…”, with “[m]any of those targeted for their online posts are currently awaiting trial and could face up to five years in prison and heavy fines.”

The restrictions that follow from the regime’s declaration of emergency powers have further limited freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Of course, all of this is a continuation and deepening of political repression that came with the 2014 military coup. Thailand is now coming up to sixth year of military repression.

The report provides numerous examples of the most recent efforts by the military, police and regime to silence dissent.

Noting the “pause” in the use of lese majeste – an effort by the king to bolster his damaged reputation –  critics of the monarchy now face the Computer Crimes Act and sedition charges.

Business as usual for the junta/post-junta regime.

Adding to the weight of evidence for decline, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom Index shows how Thailand’s ranking has declined further. Thailand now ranks 140th of 180 countries, ranked below Myanmar, and having fallen four places in the global ranking. Being in the press basement puts Thailand in some very dubious company.

RSF states:

… the long-promised elections held in March 2019 made no difference to the total control wielded by the elite surrounding Gen. Prayuth [Chan-ocha], who is now prime minister, defence minister and chief of the Royal Thai Police.

Any criticism of the government is liable to lead to harsh reprisals facilitated by draconian legislation and a justice system that follows orders.

Business as usual for the junta/post-junta regime.

Update: For the junta/post-junta’s view, read the letter to the New York Times by an official. It essentially takes The Dictator’s line that “life trumps liberty.” Thailand’s officials are becoming increasingly combative with the international media – except on the king, where there’s a stunning and incriminating silence. Perhaps they are being advised by the Chinese and  Singaporean regimes.





Updated: Military sadism

25 03 2020

PPT has long posted criticized Thailand’s murderous military. One of these criticisms is the impunity the military enjoys that allows it to act illegally and with great savagery.

On impunity and the belief that the Royal Thai Army can ignore the law and public safety, see a recent report at Khaosod. (These days, the “Royal” bit is important as it is the Army’s constant pandering to the monarchy that it believes provides it with its legitimacy.)

In that report, it is stated that the Army’s “Lumpinee Boxing Stadium … declined to explain why it proceeded with the match on March 6, two days after the venue was told to shut down.”

It is added: “Of about 800 people infected with the coronavirus so far, the Ministry of Public Health traced at least 132 to the fateful boxing match at the stadium on March 6.”

So propaganda photos of Army commander Apirat Kongsompong swabbing streets count for nothing when his commanders act in dangerous ways.

Then there’s the disturbing new report by Amnesty International that “exposes how the Thai military routinely subject[s] new conscripts to a barrage of beating, humiliation and sexual abuse that often amounts to torture.” The sexual abuse includes rape.

The report is difficult to read for the horrid acts it details.

Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research, Advocacy & Policy states:

Abuses of new conscripts in the Thai military have long been an open secret. What our research shows is that such maltreatment is not the exception but the rule, and deliberately hushed within the military….

It is added: “The full chain of command bears responsibility for this culture of violence and degradation.”

Conscripts are repeatedly abused:

Not a single day passed by without punishment…. Every time the trainers have an excuse to punish you: you’re not chanting loud enough, you’re too slow in the shower, you failed to follow orders strictly, you smoked.

Sexual abuse is rampant:

Eight conscripts, trained in four different cycles in camps located in eight different provinces, told Amnesty International that they and dozens of fellow conscripts were collectively forced by commanders to masturbate and ejaculate in public.

In response, the military has engaged in its usual arrogant responses, lying to Amnesty International. Deputy Chief of Staff Air Chief Marshal Chalermchai Sri-saiyud “stated that the military follow a policy of ‘treating new conscripts as family members and friends’.”

This pathetic response is what we have come to expect of Thailand’s officer corps.

We doubt that reform of the military is possible until it is placed under civilian oversight, with that oversight by elected civilians, and it is detached from the corrupt monarch. In addition, investigations of serving and retired military responsible for murders, coups and torture must face real and independent courts.

Update: Belatedly, General Apirat has ordered “an investigation into the alleged involvement of senior army officers in organizing the “Lumpini Champion Kiatpetch” Thai boxing event at the Lumpini boxing stadium…”.

We are not at all sure why “alleged.” It is sure that the event was held and that dozens were later found infected.

But the report continues with the nonsensical kowtowing to the military’s impunity, saying Apirat:

ordered General Ayuth Sriviset, head of the Army Personnel Department, to form a committee to investigate the boxing event and the any involvement by army officers.

Seriously? The joint is owned by the Army. This is the usual buffalo manure. Impunity reigns supreme.








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