More judicial harassment

15 12 2017

The military dictatorship has repeatedly used the judiciary to harass its political opponents. It has also repeatedly used this harassment against individuals. It is at it again.

One such case is Arnon Nampa, a human rights lawyer who is also anti-junta and a member of Resistant Citizen. He is associated with Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) and has defended numerous individuals accused of lese majeste and the Computer Crimes Act since 2010. His high profile cases have included Ampol Tangnopakul, the aged lese majeste victim who died in prison in 2012 and the case of a man accused of lese majeste for mocking the then king’s dog.

Arnon has faced several situations identified as judicial harassment. In 2015, the military accused him of “importing into a computer false information which may damage national security” under the Computer Crimes Act for five Facebook posts that criticized the military regime’s administration of “justice” under martial law. Then he faced up to 25 years in jail and a fine. In 2016, he was charged with “standing still.” This was a public protest against the junta’s detention of anti-coup activists. The public prosecutor filed charges under Public Assembly Act.

The junta is again using the judiciary to harass Arnon. Is the EU following this case?

According to Prachatai, police have summoned Arnon “over his 2 Nov 2017 Facebook post, accusing him of contempt of the court and importing false information into a computer system under Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act.”

His “crime” was to question the Khon Kaen court’s 2 November verdict “which found seven anti-junta activists guilty of contempt of the court for their activities in front of Khon Kaen Court on 10 Jan 2017.” This case had accused a “peaceful symbolic activity was organised to give moral courage to Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, alias Pai Dao Din, a pro-democracy activist who has been sentenced to 2 years and six months in jail for lèse majesté.”

Arnon copied a news story and wrote a comment, questioning if it is fair or even possible for a court to prohibit those convicted “from associating with each other.”

For this he gets slapped with a charge that could result in many years in jail.

The harassment of political opponents continues. The junta brooks no opposition.

Ah Kong’s case

19 08 2015

We at PPT wanted to post this update on Ampol Tangnopakul’s case earlier, but the bombings took up our space and reading time.

Ampol and grandchildren

Ampol and grandchildren

Sadly, Ampol (known as Ah Kong) has departed this life, having died of cancer while in custody in 2012. He was in jail because he had been sentenced for lese majeste. Some might have thought that that would have been the end of the case.

However, as reported at Prachatai, Ah Kong’s wife Rosmalin Tangnopakul has continued to “pursue a case against the Department of Corrections of Thailand at the Civil Court over her husband’s death.”

On Monday, a pretrial hearing on Ah Kong’s death in custody, with Rosmalin”demanding compensation of 2,070,000 baht (about USD 58500) from the Department of Corrections over the death of her husband.”

In her complaint, she “accuses the prison authorities of negligence over the health conditions of prisoners resulting in the death of her husband, which violates Article 51 of the 2007 Constitution on the rights to public health provisions and Article 32 on the rights and liberty of individuals.” She has also requested compensation for the cost of Ah Kong’s funeral.

The case will be back in court on 19 October 2015 when the court will decide whether to hear the case.

A Kingdom in Crisis reviewed I

5 10 2014

Readers will probably be eager to digest the first review (that PPT has seen) of A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century. The review of Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s book is by David Eimer at the South China Morning Post. A book cannot be understood by its cover or by its reviews, and had PPT has yet to receive a copy, we will do no more than point out some of the interesting bits of the review.

Kingdom in crisisThe first point to make is that this book will probably sell well and be widely read. Marshall has produced some explosive and well-researched material in recent years at Zen Journalist, and he has worked hard to promote it through his extensive use of social media. The publishers at Zed Books are also likely to be strongly promoting it.

The review begins by noting that Thailand’s recent politics has been chaotic and “has veered from one political crisis to another,” and the country is now in the hands of “a junta with the Orwellian-sounding name of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).” Eimer asks: “How did a country once regarded as a model of stability and economic growth for the rest of Southeast Asia come to this?” Obviously, a book that tries to make sense of the political roller-coaster come to a political dead-end is welcome.

Eimer states that this “new book pins the blame partly on the one man in Thailand no one is supposed to associate with politics, or even talk about in public: King Bhumibol Adulyadej.” He explains that, “[f]or Marshall, though, Bhumibol is little more than a stooge of the military and business elite.” Marshall’s book is said to reveal” how pliant and essentially powerless Bhumibol has been throughout his reign,” and reliant on the military.

That statement alone would have it banned in Thailand, although it will already be banned under the royalist military dictatorship that considers Marshall toxic for monarchist Thailand.

Marshall is said to argue that “the king has been deliberately elevated to his exalted position so that the traditional ruling classes can maintain their hold on power while denying true democracy to their fellow Thais.”

Most controversially – “incendiary” is another word used by the reviewer – “Marshall believes the political turmoil of recent years is intimately connected to the question of who will succeed the 86-year-old ailing sovereign, who has spent much of the past five years in hospital. Bhumibol’s official heir is Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, more noted in Thailand and elsewhere for his playboy image than his regal status.” Marshall reckons they want the dumpy Princess Sirindhorn to succeed to the throne.

Eimer mentions the lese majeste law, but his claim that “[n]o one knows the power of the lese majeste laws more than Marshall” is overdone and surely one that Marshall would reject given his support for the anti-lese majeste cause and the plight of those imprisoned under the law and the death in custody of Ampol Tangnopakul.

The May 2014 coup has left “Thailand’s future is deeply uncertain…”. That may seem like an odd characterization given that the military is intent on creating certainty and managing succession. Yet the intervention has not altered the fault lines or the essential conflicts that rumble deeply and underpin all that the military does. According to the review, Marshall thinks nothing much will change “until the king passes away” today or perhaps in a decade.

Eimer criticizes Marshall’s lack of attention to “the growing grass-roots opposition to the establishment – Thaksin’s most lasting legacy may be politicising a formerly placid population in just a decade” but says this “is still a timely analysis of Thailand’s dysfunctional system of government.” He says it is also a “brave book,” for  throwing “a harsh light on the political role played by the royal family in a country where it has long been allowed immunity from criticism, and that is a unique achievement.”

PPT can’t wait to read it.

Don’t forget the lese majeste prisoners

23 03 2014

112.jpgreport at he Bangkok Post: of a timely gathering of relatives and students in support of lese majeste prisoners has “called on the public to pay attention to the plight of people convicted of violating lese majeste laws.”

Some 50 activists as well as relatives of lese majeste prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk “gathered at the Bangkok Remand Prison where they paid a visit to Somyot, the former editor of the Voice of Thaksin magazine.”

As well as supporting lese majeste prisoners and drawing attention to the repressive lese majeste law, the activists campaign for the release of Somyos who was sentenced to 11 years in prison and is still appealing his conviction.

Aum Neko, who is about to front police on a politically-inspired summons on lese majeste attended the protest, highlighting case like Somyos, Darunee Charncheonsilapakul, serving 15 years and in prison since 2008, and the death in jail of lese majeste prisoner Ampol Tangnopakul.

Notes from the news

31 12 2013

PPT is catching up on some news and blog posts that may be of interest to readers:

1) As PPT posted earlier today, the anti-democracy crowd have been concocting quite a few myths meant to sustain anger and hatred. At Bangkok Pundit, another of these is explored: the idea that the government employs Cambodians against the protesters. Pundit says:

The clear implication from this inflammatory rhetoric is that it makes it easier for the protesters to feel justified in physically attacking the police because the police are not Thais; they are just Cambodian mercenaries (no doubt paid personally by the evil one, and of course, paid in Cambodian money because that is the only type of money that Cambodian mercenaries would accept). Expect to see a continuation of this rhetoric as the protesters up the ante…

It also panders to the perspective that Cambodians are Thaksin allies. Readers may recall a PAD rhetoric about Cambodian black magic. The link here is to Guardian article “Shuffling towards fascism,” which still makes good reading five years after it was written.

2) We note an AP report that police protested on Monday “to show their frustration after weeks of dealing with aggressive and often violent anti-government demonstrators, with officers saying that the order for them to show restraint has left them vulnerable and humiliated.”

At least eight people have been killed in sporadic violence since the demonstrations began about two months ago. At the government’s orders, police have responded with relative restraint despite severe provocation.

Police Col. Niwat Puenguthaisri, who led the gathering, said police were worried for their own safety because of lack of protective gear for many and poor riot control planning. Most police are allowed to carry only batons and riot shields, while selected officers are equipped with tear gas canisters and guns to fire rubber bullets.

Orders to show restraint has resulted in police several times being trapped by demonstrators and forced to bargain for their release.

3) In Siam Voices excellent series of posts on 2013, part 2 looks at lese majeste. It notes the bizarre and frightening expansion of the definition of lese majeste in 2013, to cover alleged offences against dead kings and the current dynasty, a crime of thinking about acts that might be lese majeste if committed, for insulting the monarchy without actually mentioning it or its incumbents, for editing something someone else wrote that was considered lese majeste, and so on. While there have been fewer cases in 2013 than, say, in 2010, these expansions of the law are threatening and dangerous.

4) In another lese majeste story, Prachatai reports that the “Human Rights Lawyer Association overseeing the case of Ampon Tangnoppakul, a 61-year-old man who passed away last year while imprisoned for lèse majesté, said it is raising funds to help Ampon’s wife with the legal fees for a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections in the Administrative Court.” The case aims to “improv[e] the standards of healthcare in the prison infirmary.”

5) Related, we note the quite boneheaded attempt by the Royal Thai Navy to sue and silence journalists at Phuketwan by using defamation charges related to a story published in July 2013 that “quoted a Reuters news agency investigation alleging that some members of the Thai military were involved in networks smuggling Muslim Rohingya boat people from Myanmar.” It’s really another military impunity story dressed up as something else.

6) The Red Shirts blog includes an updated and detailed report on the five dead supporters from the events near Ramkhamhaeng University on 30 November and 1 December 2013. It also lists the 30 injured red shirts.


Updated: “Inadequate evidence of negligence”

30 10 2013

In an AFP report, the results of an inquest into the death in custody of lese majeste convict Ampol Tangnopakul are set out. The impunity available for state officials is maintained.

The report states that the “court on Wednesday ruled out negligence in the treatment” of  for cancer and “who died in jail of cancer while serving a controversial sentence for defaming the monarchy.” It is added that the court “said there was insufficient evidence of negligence.”

The court ruled that “Ampon died due to the spread of liver cancer.” That is hardly news to anyone and is an insult to Ampol’s memory.

Despite the evidence of “[f]ellow prisoners had told the court that Ampon had not received enough food or health care while he was in jail…” the judge “concluded that his treatment was in line with other inmates.”

His family’s lawyer, Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen, noted that “the prison hospital had inadequate staff and equipment.” Poonsuk added:

“He was bedridden for three days before he died. If the health care was up to standard, he should have been diagnosed earlier…”.

That point seems clear to all except the courts.

Update: A report at the Bangkok Post reminds readers that the evidence of negligence was hardly “inadequate”:

The court rejected testimony by Thantawut Taweewarodomkul, a lese majeste prisoner who shared the same living quarters with Ampon, and Kittiphum Juthasamit, a Phusing Hospital director, that improper treatment at the prison hospital and inadequate equipment at the correctional facility contributed to his death.

During the inquest which began seven months ago, Mr Thantawut told the court the prison authorities did not give Ampon enough food and restricted his meetings with doctors. Prison officials also abused him verbally because he was a lese majeste prisoner. The court said yesterday the authorities did not discriminate against Ampon.

Dr Kittiphum’s evidence that the “prison hospital should have done more” was rejected by the court: “the doctor’s opinion did not prove the prison’s hospital caused his death.”

Senior nurse Ratchanee Harnsomsakul, who was working at the hospital on the day of Ampol’s passing, said:

medical staff provided the inmate with the standard treatment…. However, she admitted the prison hospital was not properly equipped to treat cancer patients.

It seems that the courts continue to insist on punishing lese majeste, even in death.

The Normalization of the Violation of Human Rights in the Name of Protecting the Monarchy

1 09 2013

As usual, the Asian Legal Resource Centre gets it right and PPT can do no better than post their statement. Our only question is the number of known cases in jail (convicted or awaiting trial). Our count is six. In addition, we do not know what has happened in the case of Thitinant Kaewchantanont, who was held in a mental hospital. Nor do we know how many cases there are that remain secret or unreported:

August 30, 2013

Language(s): English only


Twenty-fourth session, Agenda Item 3, General Debate

A written statement submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organisation with general consultative status

THAILAND: The Normalization of the Violation of Human Rights in the Name of Protecting the Monarchy

1. The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to raise concerns about the normalization of the violation of human rights in the name of protecting the monarchy in Thailand with the Human Rights Council. This statement is the seventh on this topic that the ALRC has submitted to the Council since May 2011. During the seventeenth session of the Council in May 2011, the ALRC highlighted the rise in the legal and unofficial use of Article 112 of the Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act (CCA) to constrict freedom of expression and intimidate citizens critical of the monarchy (A/HRC/17/NGO/27). During the nineteenth session in February 2012, the ALRC detailed some of the threats faced both by those who have expressed critical views of the monarchy, both legal and extralegal, as well as those who have expressed concern about these threats (A/HRC/19/NGO/55). During the twentieth session in June 2012, the ALRC raised concerns about the weak evidentiary basis of convictions made under Article 112 and the CCA (A/HRC/20/NGO/37) and the concerning conditions surrounding the death in prison custody of Amphon Tangnoppakul on 8 May 2012, then serving a 20-year sentence for four alleged violations of Article 112 and the CCA (A/HRC/20/NGO/38). During the twenty-second session in March 2013, the ALRC highlighted the January 2013 conviction under Article 112 of human rights defender and labour rights activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk (A/HRC/22/NGO/44). During the twenty-third session in June 2013, the ALRC emphasized the regularization of the crisis of freedom of expression in Thailand, and noted that constriction of speech had become constitutive of political and social life in Thailand (A/HRC/23/NGO/42).

2. Over the course of the prior six statements, the ALRC first noted with surprise the active use of measures to constrict speech, then tracked the expansion of this use, and finally, the entrenchment of the foreclosure of freedom of speech. The ALRC is again raising the issue of freedom of expression with the Council in order to ensure that the regularization of this threat to human rights does not lead to it being normalized or forgotten. In the statement submitted to the Council in June 2013, the ALRC cautioned that current conditions threatened to normalize the routine denial of bail to individuals awaiting trial and appeal, the provision of substandard medical care in prisons, and the use of secrecy to restrict the openness of trials and public information about ongoing cases. In this statement, the ALRC wishes to alert the Human Rights Council to ongoing developments that lend weight to these concerns and underscore the urgency of addressing the crisis of freedom of expression in Thailand.

3. Article 112 criminalizes criticism of the monarchy and mandates that, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The 2007 CCA, which was promulgated as part of Thailand’s compliance as a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, has been used to target web editors and websites identified as critical of the monarchy or dissident in other ways. The CCA provides for penalties of up to five years per count in cases which are judged to have involved the dissemination or hosting of information deemed threatening to national security, of which the institution of the monarchy is identified as a key part. While Article 112 has been part of the Criminal Code since the last major revision in 1957, available statistics suggest that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of complaints filed since the 19 September 2006 coup; how often these complaints become formal charges and lead to prosecutions is information that the Government of Thailand has continuously failed to provide up to the present. The CCA has often been used in combination with Article 112 in the four years since its promulgation; similar to the use of Article 112, complete usage information has not been made available by the Government of Thailand. This failure to provide information creates fear and diminishes the space for freedom of expression through the use of secrecy and creation of uncertainty.

4. At present, there are 4 persons known to be serving prison terms for alleged violations of Article 112 and/or the CCA and 1 person behind bars while undergoing trial.

a. Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul was convicted of violations of Article 112 related to 55 minutes of speech and sentenced to 18 years in prison on 28 August 2009. Following examination of her case by the Constitutional Court, her sentenced was reduced to 15 years in December 2011. The Appeal Court upheld her conviction and sentence in May 2013.

b. Surachai Sae Dan (Danwattananusorn) was convicted of a series of violations of Article 112 related to political speeches he made and sentenced to a total of 12.5 years in prison in a series of cases in 2012. He has submitted a request for a royal pardon and is awaiting the outcome.

c. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk was convicted of violations of Article 112 related to his work in editing and publishing Voice of Taksin magazine, which was deemed to include two anti-monarchy articles (written by someone else) and sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison on 23 January 2013 (10 years on Article 112-related charges and 1 year related to a prior case). He has submitted an appeal to the Appeal Court and is currently awaiting a decision.

d. Ekachai Hongkangwan was convicted of violations of Article 112 related to selling VCDs of an ABC Australia documentary and copies of WikiLeaks material and sentenced to 3 years and 4 months in prison on 28 March 2013. He has submitted an appeal to the Appeal Court and is currently awaiting a decision.

e. Yutthapoom (last name withheld) has been held in the Bangkok Remand Prison since 19 September 2012 on charges of violating Article 112 following a complaint submitted by his older brother related to a conversation they had while watching television at home. The witness hearings in his case began on 20 August 2013, after he endured 333 days of pre-trial detention.

6. Common to these 5 cases is that the individuals involved have repeatedly been denied bail, always on the grounds that their crimes are too grave a threat to national security to permit even temporary release, despite full cooperation of all parties in investigation and prosecution. Although some individuals were granted bail while awaiting trial, upon conviction they were all denied bail, despite ongoing processes of appeal. This is in contravention to Article 9(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party, which specifies: “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. 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, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment.”

7. To raise one notable example of the denial of bail, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk (5c above), submitted his 15th request for bail on 24 July 2013. Along with the application, approximately 152,000 USD of property deeds were submitted as security with the request. On 26 July 2013, the Appeal Court denied the request. The justification offered was that as Somyot had been sentenced to a prison term greater than 10 years, if he was released, there was a danger that he might flee. The Appeal Court further noted that, “The actions of the defendant impacted public order and the feelings of the people,” and so his release on bail was not warranted.

8. Bail is routinely granted during trials and after conviction while awaiting appeal in cases of committing violent crimes in Thailand, but routinely denied for cases involving freedom of speech. To offer one example, on 30 July 2012, in Black Case No. 3252/2552, 3466/2552, the Criminal Court found five police officers guilty of brutally murdering Kiettisak Thitboonkrong, age 17, in 2004 as part of the so-called “War on Drugs,” in which close to 3000 people were extrajudicially killed across Thailand. Three of the police offers were found guilty of premeditated murder and hiding a corpse and sentenced to death. One police officer was found guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. One police officer was found guilty of abusing his authority to aid in protecting his subordinates from criminal prosecution and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. All five police officers were granted bail while they appeal their conviction. In all but one of these instances, the police were sentenced to longer prison terms than Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, yet they were granted bail. Given the explanation by the Appeal Court when they denied Somyot’s request that the length of his sentence meant that he might flee and that his crime impacted public order, granting the police officers bail seems strange. In the absence of an explanation from the Court, this collection of actions suggests that constricting dissident speech and protecting the monarchy are more important to the Thai state than ensuring accountability for extrajudicial violence committed against citizens by state actors.

9. The ALRC is gravely concerned about the effects of the ongoing entrenchment of the constriction of freedom of expression on human rights, justice, and the rule of law in Thailand. The frequency of the exercise of the draconian Article 112 and CCA risks the naturalization and normalization of violations of rights and the constriction of speech and political freedom. The ALRC would like to remind the Government of Thailand that under Article 19 of the ICCPR, restrictions on the right to freedom of expression are only permissible under two circumstances: “for respect of the rights or reputations of others” and “for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.” While measure 112 is classified as a crime against national security within the Criminal Code of Thailand, and this, along with the need to protect the monarchy, is frequently cited by the Government of Thailand when faced with the criticism that the measure is in tension with the ICCPR, a precise explanation of the logic for categorizing the measure as such has not been provided to date. Until this explanation is provided, the constriction of freedom of expression is arbitrary.

10. In view of the above, the Asian Legal Resource Center calls on the UN Human Rights Council to:

  1. Call on the Government of Thailand to release all those convicted or facing charges under Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. At a minimum, those currently being held should immediately be granted bail while their cases are in the Criminal or Appeal Courts.
  2. Demand that the Government of Thailand revoke Article 112 of the Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.
  3. Urge the Government of Thailand to allow and support the full exercise of freedom of expression and political freedom, consistent with the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which it is a signatory, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a state party.
  4. Request the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of opinion and expression to continue ongoing monitoring and research about the brought situation of constriction of rights and individual cases in Thailand; and, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to continue to monitor and report on those cases of persons arbitrarily detained under Article 112.

# # #

About the ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at the local and national levels throughout Asia.

Read this online from AHRC

24th Session of the UN Human Rights Council – AHRC

Read this online from ALRC

24th Session of the UN Human Rights Council – ALRC


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