Arbitrary 112 detention

1 01 2022

Prachatai reports that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has urged the royalist regime to immediately release lese majeste detainee Anchan Preelerd.

Anchan, who is 65, is serving a prison sentence of 43 years and six months for violating Article 112. In fact, she was sentenced on 19 January 2021, almost six years after her arrest, to a mammoth 87 years in prison, with the sentence reduced because she finally agreed to plead guilty because she had already spent three years in prison pending her trial – what PPT calls lese majeste torture, waiting for her to plead guilty.

The “reduced” sentence was said to be the longest sentence ever under Article 112.

Clipped from Prachatai

The report states:

The WGAD opinion was issued in response to a complaint filed jointly by FIDH [International Federation for Human Rights] and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) to the UN body on 7 July 2021. In its opinion, the WGAD found the deprivation of liberty of Anchan under Article 112 to be “arbitrary” and called on the Thai government to “release her immediately,” taking into account the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic in places of detention, and to “accord her an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations.”

… The WGAD expressed its grave concern about the pattern of arbitrary detentions under Article 112, particularly those involving online expression, and the “serious harm to society” caused by the enforcement of the law.

The WGAD also called on the Thai government to bring Article 112 into conformity with Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law….

The WGAD declared Anchan’s imprisonment arbitrary because it contravened Articles 3, 8, 9, 10, and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Articles 2, 9, 14, and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party. The referenced provisions of the UDHR and ICCPR guarantee the fundamental right to liberty, the right to a fair trial, and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

… The WGAD found that Anchan’s deprivation of liberty lacked legal basis, because it stemmed from an arrest without a valid arrest warrant issued by a competent, independent, and impartial judicial authority. Anchan’s initial detention at the military base without being brought before a judge was also in violation of her right to challenge the lawfulness of her detention, guaranteed under Articles 8 and 9 of the UDHR and Articles 2 and 9(3) of the ICCPR. In addition, Anchan was detained pursuant to Article 112, a legislation that the WGAD has consistently found it “expressly violates international human rights law.”

The WGAD also ruled that Anchan was detained as a result of her “peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression.” The WGAD considered the audio clips concerning members of the Thai royal family that Anchan uploaded onto social media platforms to “fall within the boundaries of the exercise of the right to freedom of expression” under Article 19 of the UDHR and Article 19 of the ICCPR.

FIDH Secretary-General Adilur Rahman Khan stated:

The UN opinion on Anchan’s case underscores the supreme injustice to which she has been subjected and the recurring and serious human rights violations associated with the enforcement of Article 112. It’s time for the Thai government to break the chain of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions and heed the growing domestic and international calls for the reform of Article 112….

FIDH and TLHR called “for the immediate and unconditional release of Anchan and all other individuals detained under Article 112.”

This is the ninth time since 2012 that the WGAD has found that lese majeste detainees were arbitrarily deprived of their liberty.





Updated: Arbitrary detention

2 12 2021

On 26 November 2021, law NGO Destination Justice (Facebook page) filed an Urgent Action to the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Thai activists Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

The submission asks the Working Group to “declare Parit and Panusaya’s current arrest and detention as arbitrary and in violation of international law.” In addition, Destination Justice “called upon the United Nations to request the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Parit and Panusaya and terminate all prosecutions and cases against them.”

From Destination Justice

Here’s the information from Destination Justice:

GENEVA, Switzerland, Friday, 26 November 2021 // Destination Justice has today filed an Urgent Action to the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Thai human rights defenders Mr. Parit Chiwarak (also known as “Penguin”) and Ms. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul (also known as “Rung”).

The Urgent Action requests the United Nations body to declare Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya’s current arrest and detention as arbitrary and in violation of international law.

Destination Justice has also called upon the United Nations to request the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya and terminate all prosecutions and cases against them.

Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya are amongst the highest profile, most outspoken protesters in a mass protest movement in Thailand calling for socio-political change, including monarchic reform.

They have been repeatedly arrested and detained for participating in peaceful protests, expressing opinions, and otherwise exercising fundamental freedoms protected under international law.

Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya are currently being detained pending trial on charges including for lese-majesty under Criminal Code section 112, which has a sentence of up to 15 years.

Overall, Mr. Parit faces 43 trials and up to 300 years’ imprisonment and Ms. Panusaya faces 25 trials and up to 135 years’ imprisonment.

Moreover, a recent Thai Constitutional Court decision means that they may eventually charges of attempted insurrection for their human rights work, a crime which carries the death penalty.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is a Special Procedure of the United Nations Human Rights Council that investigates deprivation of liberty around the world. It can also intervene urgently where a person is detained arbitrarily in dangerous conditions or where there are other unique circumstances.

The Urgent Action has also been sent to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on freedom of assembly and association, freedom of expression and opinion, and human rights defenders. All of these officials, together with the Working Group, have already expressed concern over the treatment of Thai protesters participating in the ongoing movement.

ENDS //

For media inquiries, contact info@destinationjustice.org.

ANNEX: Executive Summary of the Urgent Action

Mr. Parit Chiwarak and Ms. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul are 22-year-old Bangkok-based Thai university students. They are being detained over their peaceful exercise of fundamental freedoms as amongst the highest profile, most outspoken protesters in a mass protest movement in Thailand calling for socio-political change, including monarchic reform.

Both have been arrested and indicted on charges including lese-majesty for participating in a protest on 19-20 September 2020 at Sanam Luang, with Ms. Panusaya also being detained over a 20 December 2020 protest at Siam Paragon that Mr. Parit also attended. For breaching bail conditions prohibiting them from exercising fundamental freedoms, they were detained and remanded in custody while their trials are ongoing. This is scheduled to be until at least December 2022. Taking into account past periods of detention, Mr. Parit has now been detained for 219 days overall and Ms. Panusaya for 81 days.

Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya’s human rights activities are situated within a broader movement of mass civilian protests. The Thai authorities have responded by shrinking the space for fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly (including by using Covid-19 as a pretext), which many States remarked upon at Thailand’s recent Universal Periodic Review.

Human rights defenders who peacefully call for socio-political change are also being judicially harassed through strategic lawsuits against public participation initiated by public and private actors. Mr. Parit faces 43 trials and up to 300 years’ imprisonment and Ms. Panusaya faces 25 trials and up to 135 years’ imprisonment (for lese-majesty alone). Moreover, following a 10 November 2021 Constitutional Council decision, future attempts by Mr. Parit or Ms. Panusaya to exercise fundamental freedoms may be met with charges such as attempted insurrection, which is a capital offence. Therefore, Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya could face the death penalty over their human rights work and a real possibility of actual execution.

Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya’s arrest and detention are arbitrary as they result from lawful exercise of fundamental freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly and association, and public participation (category II arbitrary detention). Their detention is also arbitrary due to partial non-observance of their right to a fair trial, including violations of the principle of legality, presumption of innocence, right to confidential communications with counsel, and right to adequate time to prepare a defence (category III arbitrary detention). Moreover, their arrest and detention are arbitrary as they represent discrimination based on their political opinions and status as human rights defenders advocating views deemed offensive by the authorities, for which they have been discriminatorily persecuted (category V arbitrary detention).

Finally, there are three unique circumstances warranting your intervention in this case as an urgent action. First, Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya may be imminently charged with capital offences, for which they could be expeditiously tried and even executed, posing a serious danger to their lives and representing an irreversible and egregiously unjust outcome. Second, their physical integrity is in danger due to detention conditions which expose them to the risk of contracting Covid-19 (which both have contracted in prison previously) and to attacks, surveillance, and harassment. Third, the apparently State-sponsored campaign of judicial harassment against them and prospect of interminable litigation and constant uncertainty over one’s fate also creates a significant threat to their psychological integrity amounting to inhumane treatment.

For the above reasons, Destination Justice calls on the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, together with other relevant UN special procedures, to, among other things, declare Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya’s detention arbitrary and ask the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them and terminate all prosecutions and cases against them.

Update: Panusaya has been granted bail. On 30 November 2021, “the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court granted her bail on charges relating to the 19 – 20 September 2020 protest and the 2 December 2020 protest at the Lat Phrao Intersection.” During her bail hearing, “Panusaya told the court that she is still enrolled at the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University, and is required to complete class projects and take her final examinations between 2 – 17 December 2021. She also said that in the next semester, she will have to complete an independent research project in order to graduate…”. She had been held for 17 days.

The Criminal Court granted bail on strict conditions and for a limited period:

… on the grounds that her education has been damaged by her detention, and set the conditions that she must not leave her residence without court permission unless for a medical emergency, to go to classes or take exams, or to contact the courts.

She is also prohibited from participating in activities that are damaging to the monarchy or cause public disorder and from leaving the country. She must also wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

The Criminal Court’s temporary release order is also only valid until 12 January, coinciding with the final exam period at Thammasat University.

This was a coordinated effort by several courts:

Today (1 December), the South Bangkok Criminal Court granted her bail on charges relating to the 20 December 2020 crop top protest at Siam Paragon, while the Ayutthaya Provincial Court granted her bail on charges relating to the 21 August 2020 protest in Ayutthaya. Both courts also set her the same conditions as the Criminal Court.

Five other activists remain in the regime’s dungeons, denied bail.





Arbitrary detention of Panusaya

20 11 2021

From the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH):

Thailand: Arbitrary detention of Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul
Urgent Appeal
Human Rights Defenders
THA 004 / 1121 / OBS 120
Arbitrary detention / Judicial harassment
Thailand
November 18, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, aka Rung, a student and prominent pro-democracy activist with the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) [1].

On November 15, 2021, the Bangkok South Criminal Court denied bail to Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and ordered her detention in relation to charges under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”) [2] . These charges stem from her participation in a peaceful protest by a small group of activists who called for the repeal of Article 112 on December 20, 2020, at Siam Paragon shopping mall in Bangkok. Authorities accused Ms. Panusaya and the other activists of mocking King Rama X by wearing a crop top. [3]

The Bangkok South Criminal Court justified its decision to deny bail to Ms. Panusaya by arguing that the defendant had committed similar offenses and violated the conditions previously set by the Bangkok Criminal Court for her temporary release on May 6, 2021 [see below]. Ms. Panusaya is currently facing at least nine lèse-majesté charges, and could face 135 years in prison, if tried and found guilty in all cases. Ms. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul is currently detained at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul is arbitrarily detained for her legitimate human rights activities. On October 15, 2020, Ms. Panusaya was arrested and detained for 16 days after reading a 10-point manifesto calling for monarchy reform at a pro-democracy protest on August 10, 2020, at Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus in Pathumthani Province.

Ms. Panusaya was again detained from March 8 to May 6, 2021, in relation to another lèse-majesté case filed against her for calling for the reform of the Thai monarchy during a peaceful pro-democracy protest on September 19-20, 2020, in Bangkok. During that period of detention she was denied bail numerous times until she was granted temporary release by the Bangkok Criminal Court.

The Observatory underlines that the ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Panusaya and other human rights defenders in Thailand contradicted recent statements and commitments made by the Thai government. During the latest Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Thailand, which took place on November 10, 2021, the Thai government claimed that “human rights defenders have been highlighted as a specific group that needs appropriate protection” and that it “worked to create better understanding about the important role of human rights defenders.” The government accepted five recommendations that called for measures to guarantee civil society space, the protection of human rights defenders, and investigations into acts of harassment and attacks against them.

The Observatory also notes that between November 24, 2020, and November 16, 2021, 156 people, including many human rights defenders, were charged under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. In addition to Ms. Panusaya, five other human rights defenders – Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa and Benja Apan- are currently detained on lèse-majesté charges pending trial.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Benja Apan, Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa,which seem to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities and the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.

The Observatory calls on the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the six human rights defenders and to put an end to the judicial harassment against them and all other human rights defenders in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and all human rights defenders in Thailand, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Benja Apan, Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa,since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Benja Apan, Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa, and all other human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists in the country;

iv. Guarantee in all circumstances the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

v. Refrain from using Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists and amend all provisions of the Criminal Code used to repress fundamental rights and freedoms, and bring them into line with international human rights standards.

Addresses:

· Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Email: spmwebsite@thaigov.go.th
· Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Email: minister@mfa.go.th
· Mr. Somsak Thepsutin, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Email: complainingcenter@moj.go.th
· General Narongpan Jitkaewthae, Commander in Chief of the Army, Email: webadmin@rta.mi.th
· Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, Commissioner-General of the Police, Email: info@royalthaipolice.go.th
· Ms. Pornprapai Ganjanarinte, National Human Rights Commissioner of Thailand, Email: help@nhrc.or.th, info@nhrc.co.th
· H.E. Mr. Sek Wannamethee, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: thaimission.GVA@mfa.mail.go.th
· Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Email: thaibxl@thaiembassy.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Thailand in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, November 18, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

Footnotes
[1] The United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) is a student pro-democracy group from Bangkok’s Thammasat University, which was formed amid the wave of nationwide student-led pro-democracy demonstrations that began in Thailand in February 2020. Since then, UFTD has played a key role in organising pro-democracy protests and continued to make open criticism of the monarchy and calls for the reform of the institution.
[2] Article 112 of the Criminal Code imposes jail terms for those who defame, insult, or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent. Persons found guilty of violating Article 112 face prison terms of three to 15 years for each count.
[3] In July 2016, photos were circulated online of then-Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn appearing to wear a crop top in a shopping mall in Germany.





Release Rung Sila

7 06 2019

The United Nations, FIDH and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have all urged that the military government “immediately release lèse-majesté detainee Siraphop Kornaroot [Rung Sila], in accordance with a ruling made recently by a United Nations (UN) body [Human Rights Council, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention}…”.

He’s “been detained for almost five years on charges under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code – one of the world’s toughest lèse-majesté laws – and Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.”

His “trial” before a military court, in secret, in September 2014 and after 20 previous court hearings the next hearing is on 10 June.

He has been repeatedly refused bail. In other words, this is another example of lese majeste torture, seen in several cases, where the regime and courts and probably the palace demand a guilty plea.

The Human Rights Council has already declared his detention arbitrary and views his trial as unfair.

Rung SIla is the eighth lese-majeste detainee whose detention has been declared arbitrary by the UN since August 2012.





Erase the junta’s “law”

29 04 2019

Prachatai recently reported on an important intervention by the International Commission of Jurists, seeking to “the repeal or amendment of Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and NCPO orders and announcements in line with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations.”

While this approach to the Council of State is likely to be ignored, it is responding to Ministry of Foreign Affairs advice that the Council of the State “had been tasked to review the necessity and relevance of announcements, orders, and acts of the NCPO and of the Head of the NCPO (HNCPO) in February 2019.” That review is responding to “Thailand’s declaration to the UN Human Rights Committee in its Follow-Up to the Concluding Observations of the Committee, submitted on 18 July and published on 10 August 2018.”

To read the ICJ’s recommendations, download its 15-page document. Importantly, it urges:

… that Thailand immediately end the use of special powers, including those enshrined under Article 44 of the 2014 interim Constitution, and retained through Article 265 of the 2017 Constitution.

And, it goes on to list the junta’s contraventions of the country’s international obligations: military involvement in civilian law enforcement, arbitrary detention and arrest, lack of judicial oversight for detainees, the inability to legally challenge detention, the use of military courts, the restriction of peaceful assembly, restrictions on the media, and the infringement of community and environmental rights.





Unending lese majeste detention

6 11 2018

Adilur Rahman Khan is the Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights or FIDH. He has recently stated:

The detention and prosecution of Siraphop Kornaroot violate his fundamental rights to liberty, freedom of expression, and a fair trial – all rights guaranteed by international treaties to which Thailand is a state party. It is very disturbing that after more than four years there is no end in sight for Siraphop’s trial and the military court, which should not try civilians in the first place, continues to deny him bail.

This statement is in the context of the FIDH and its partner organization, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights having petitioned the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, seeking the release of lese-majeste defendant Siraphop.

The statement by FIDH observes:

Siraphop, 55, has been detained for more than four years and four months – the longest time for a person currently charged or serving a prison sentence under Article 112. Siraphop was arrested on 1 July 2014 in Bangkok and is currently incarcerated at the Bangkok Remand Prison. Since July 2014, the Bangkok Military Court has rejected Siraphop’s bail applications seven times, the most recent today, 5 November 2018. His trial before the Bangkok Military Court has been ongoing since 24 September 2014.

Also known as Rung Sila, Sirapop has been held for almost 1,600 days without his trial in a military court having been completed.

In petitioning the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, FIDH and TLHR called for:

the immediate and unconditional release of Siraphop and for all the charges against him to be dropped. FIDH and TLHR also urge the government to end the abuse of lèse-majesté and immediately and unconditionally release those detained or imprisoned under Article 112 for the mere exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Sirapop has refused to plead guilty. This often leads to not just arbitrariness on the part of the military junta and judiciary, but a vindictiveness that amounts to lese majeste torture.





Updated: Challenging arbitrary lese majeste

25 10 2017

Prachatai reports that the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded that lese majeste victims Sasiwimon S. and Tiensutham or Yai Daengduad are detained arbitrarily.

The UN has concluded that the detention and sentencing of the two was done arbitrarily. Each received sentences that amount to decades in jail.

In other words, “the detention of the two was against the international conventions in which Thailand is a state party of such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Some time ago the same U.N. body also “concluded that the detention of four lèse majesté convicts were arbitrary. The four are: Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Pornthip Munkong, Patiwat Saraiyaem, Phongsak S.”

The military dictatorship will more or less ignore this U.N. declaration as the use of the lese majeste law is critical for its suppression of opponents of the junta and the monarchy.

When it does reply to the U.N. it lies. Last time, in June 2017, the junta lied that “the state protects and values freedom of expressions as it is the foundation of democratic society…”. This is buffalo manure and no one anywhere believes it.

The regime added that freedom and democracy were only possible when they do not impact “social order and harmony.” Like fascist and authoritarian governments everywhere, they mean that freedom and democracy are not permitted in Thailand.

The regime also claims that lese majeste “is necessary to protect the … [m]onarchy as the monarchy is one of the main pillars of Thai society…”.

That’s why the regime sent Sasiwimol, a 31-year-old single mother of two to 56 years in jail for allegedly posting seven Facebook messages considered lese majeste. How she threatened to undermine the monarchy is unclear.

Yai Daengduad, who is 60 years old was sentenced to 50 years in a junta prison for lese majeste.

Neither could appeal as they were dragged before one of the dictatorship’s military courts.

Meanwhile, Khaosod reports that the iconoclastic former lese majeste convict, Akechai Hongkangwarn has been confronted by a squad of uniformed military thugs for saying that he’d wear red for the dead king’s funeral. The thugs demanded he “choose between spending a few days at what they described as a resort in Kanchanaburi province or a military base at an unspecified location…”.

Of course, in royalist and neo-feudal Thailand, saying one would refuse to wear black is considered unacceptable. Akechai has been subject to a barrage of threats and hate mail and posts declaring him “unThai.”

Akechai “said it was not about disrespecting the [dead] king but exercising his rights.”

Royalists cannot accept that anyone has rights when it comes to the monarchy; there are only (enforced) duties.

They have encouraged attacks on Akechai and his house.

This is royalist Thailand.

Update: An AP report states that Akechai has been arrested: “A lawyer for Ekachai Hongkangwan said soldiers arrested Ekachai at his Bangkok home on Tuesday morning and indicated they would detain him outside the city, in Kanchanaburi province.”





UN Human Rights Committee findings

29 03 2017

The UN Human Rights Committee has published its findings on the civil and political rights record of countries it examined during its latest session. These findings are officially known as “concluding observations.” They contain “positive aspects of the respective State’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and also main matters of concern and recommendations.”

All of the reports generated for Thailand’s review, including the Concluding Observations are available for download.

The Committee report begins by welcoming Thailand’s “submission of the second period report of Thailand, albeit 6 years late, and the information contained therein.”

There are 44 paragraphs of concerns and recommendations. There’s a lot in it: refugees, enforced disappearances, Article 44, freedom of expression, torture, constitutional issues, arbitrary detention, the National Human Rights Commission, military courts, problems in the south, repression during the constitutional referendum, defamation, computer crimes, sedition and much more.

We just cite the comments on lese majeste:

37. The Committee is concerned that criticism and dissention regarding the royal family is punishable with a sentence of three to fifteen years imprisonment; and about reports of a sharp increase in the number of people detained and prosecuted for this crime since the military coup and about extreme sentencing practices, which result in some cases in dozens of years of imprisonment (article 19).

38. The State party should review article 112 of the Criminal Code, on publicly offending the royal family, to bring it into line with article 19 of the Covenant. Pursuant to its general comment No. 34 (2011), the Committee reiterates that the imprisonment of persons for exercising their freedom of expression violates article 19.  





HRW chastised by military junta’s toadies

14 01 2017

The Nation reports that the junta’s government has “contested claims in a summary on the human rights situation in Thailand released by Human Rights Watch (HRW)…”. The junta reckons the “allegations were outdated and unfair.”

The junta’s toadies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared: “The authors have expressed their views with no updates of the latest status of each issue and, therefore, without taking into consideration progress and efforts made in the country…”.

The MFA’s lamentable statement continues:

There has been significant progress regarding the Government’s [they mean the military junta] efforts on the Roadmap towards restoring a strengthened and sustainable democracy [they mean the much delayed “election”], social harmony [they mean jailing opponents] as well as political stability [they mean repression]. Thailand is now in the second phase of the Roadmap where the Government is currently forging ahead [they mean delaying] with comprehensive reforms to lay a strong foundation in order to achieve a genuine democracy [they mean a Thai-style non-democracy] as well as undertaking legislative reforms. Over 190 laws have been promulgated with a view to addressing chronic problems from the past, including inequality and human rights issues such as gender equality, human trafficking, illegal fishing and labour rights. Such foundation will facilitate the proceeding to the third phase of the Roadmap, whereby the general elections will be held [they mean may be held], and ensure long-term political stability after the new Government [they mean a junta-friendly regime] takes office.

We’d like to be able to say that the folks at MFA are forced to make such silly and untrue statements because they are under the thumb of the junta. Unfortunately, we know that the MFA is populated by royalists and other anti-democrats who support the junta to the hilt.

Human Rights WatchThe HRW account is from its recently released World Report 2017. It begins:

Thailand’s military junta increased its repression and failed to restore democratic rule in 2016…. A new constitution, adopted in an August referendum that was marked by a crackdown against its critics, effectively entrenches unaccountable and abusive military rule.

That seems a reasonable summary of those events. It goes on, quoting HRW’s Brad Adams:

Thailand’s human rights crisis has worsened over the year as the military junta has tightened its grip on power and led the country deeper into dictatorship…. Rather than leading the country back to democratic rule, the junta has increasingly persecuted critics and dissenters, banned peaceful protests, censored the media, and suppressed speech in the press and online.

Again, there’s no argument on these points. The report continues, discussing the junta, saying it:

has banned political activity and public gatherings, made expression subject to criminal prosecution, censored the media, conducted hundreds of arbitrary arrests, and detained civilians in military detention.

That’s all certainly true and it adds that there remain 1,800 cases awaiting trial in biased and unfair kangaroo courts run by the military itself. Further,

The junta has arbitrarily and aggressively used the lese majeste … laws to prosecute people for any expression deemed critical of the monarchy. Since the May 2014 coup, Thai authorities have charged at least 68 people with lese majeste [we think this is too low an estimate as it seems to leave out all of the palace-related machinations associated with the prince-cum-king].

There is much more: “zero justice for past state-sponsored abuses,” the “killing and enforced disappearance of human rights defenders and other activists” and the increased use of “defamation lawsuits under the Penal Code and the Computer Crimes Act to retaliate against those reporting human rights violations.”

And the MFA bleats about “improvements.” The Ministry is a sad joke. The junta is further entrenched and human rights are down the drain. Thailand remains in a very dark and scary place.





Arbitrary detention of pro-democracy activists

3 09 2016

The following is a submission to the 33rd Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre:

ALRC-CWS-33-007-2016
August 29, 2016

THAILAND: End Arbitrary Arrest and Arbitrary Detention against pro-democracy activists

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to draw the attention of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to the fact that on 11 May 2016, in response to expressed concerns about freedom of expression and opinion, Thailand’s delegation to the Universal Periodic Review stated to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) that the Government “encourages exchanging of views including through public hearings, about national reform and drafting of the new Constitution by all sectors of the society, both at national and international level.”.

The ALRC would like to point out the manifest inaccuracy of this statement. The May 2014 Military coup, establishing the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the junta ruling body, has sent Thailand’s human rights situation into a free fall. Although the Government and the NCPO scheduled the date of 7 August 2016 for the constitutional referendum, the rights groups noticed that the referendum process was not “Free and Fair”. This is due to the fact that the government imposed the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2015, the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), Article 116 of Criminal Code (Sedition), and the Computer-Related Crime Act B.E. 2550 (2007) to restrict people’s right to discuss and criticise decisions about their country in the draft of Constitution and referendum process.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), from 29 April 2016 to 5 August 2016, at least 195 individuals have been arrested and detained. Of these, 149 individuals were charged with the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2015, 28 individuals were charged with the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E.2559 (2016), 13 individuals were charged with Article 116 of Criminal Code (Sedition), and one person was charged with the Computer-Related Crime Act B.E. 2550 (2007). Many of the charges against individuals, which include student activists, labor activists, reporters, and ordinary persons, involve denials of rights to freedoms of expression, association, and assembly in the referendum process. Apparently, the Government fails to recognize rights guaranteed by Articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Thailand in 1948 and 1996, respectively.

It can be clearly seen that the deprivation of liberty, especially arbitrary arrest and arbitrary detention result from the exercise of the rights to freedoms of expression, association, and assembly. Therefore, the government also fails to recognize rights guaranteed by Article 9 of the ICCPR. Moreover, the ALRC has found that the rights of individuals who were prosecuted by the authorities do not accord with Criminal Procedure Code and Article 14 of the ICCPR. The ALRC is gravely concerned with the violation of internationally protected fair trial rights, especially right to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence, and rights to fair hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal in the Military Court.

For instance, the police accused 13 pro-democracy activists of violating the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2015, which bans political gatherings. The activists were seeking to distribute campaign flyers for the upcoming draft constitution referendum. On 23 June 2016, at around 5:30 p.m., combined forces of police and Military arrested the New Democracy Movement (NDM), student activists, and members of the Triumph Labour Union. All 13 of them were arrested while they were distributing leaflets, fliers, and documents to passers-by. The documents give a little information about the draft Constitution and explain the reasons why people should reject it. All of them were apprehended and taken to the Bang Sao Thaong Police Station. They were detained in police custody overnight and six of them who requested bail during the police stage were denied bail.

On 24 June 2016, all the 13 were brought to the pre-trial remand hearing at the Bangkok Military Court. Although, the alleged offenders’ attorneys filed a motion to object to the remand request, citing that “the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2015 is not an applicable law and its Article 12 (ban on any political gathering of five persons or more) is a restriction on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are recognized in the ICCPR, to which Thailand is a state party. Also, the right to freedom of expression should not be criminalized. In addition, the NCPO Announcement no. 37/2014 which specifies the jurisdiction of the Military Courts states that the Military Court can only adjudicate cases relating to offences against the Announcements or Orders of the NCPO, not the Order of the Head of the NCPO. Therefore, the Bangkok Military Court has no power to review the case and to conduct the remand hearing in this case.

Nevertheless, the Military Court persisted to issue a writ to have the 13 alleged offenders remanded, claiming that they were just arrested and more time was needed for police investigation including several more witnesses to be interviewed and deeming that the objection of the alleged offenders was a legal defence. Thus, the Court dismissed the objection to the remand motion, and approved a 12-day pre-trial remand, as submitted by the police.

In addition, on 10 July 2016, the Ban Pong police searched the vehicle of the three NDM activists, and found campaign material about the Constitutional Referendum and “Vote No” fliers. They were then held in custody for questioning, together with a reporter from Prachatai. No charges were initially pressed against them, but afterwards the Commander of the Provincial Police Region 7 instructed the officer to charge them with violating the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016) for preparing to distribute the fliers.

The officials have thus seized the evidence and informed the arrestees of the charge against them for “having transmitted a text, or an image, or sound through the print media, or radio, or television, or electronic media, or other channels, which are inconsistent with the truth or are violent, aggressive, rude, inciting or threatening and aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot or vote in any direction shall be considered as disrupting the referendum”, which is an offence of the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61 Paragraph Two.

Of late, at 8:20 p.m., it was reported that four vehicles of police officials have laid siege to the residence of Mr. Panuwat Songsawatchai, student of Faculty of Political Science, Maejo University Phrae Campus, Maejo University. Mr. Songsawatchai was another suspect in the same case, who was summoned to turn himself in at the Ban Pong Police Station as a result of his activity at the referendum monitoring center in the morning. He was pressed with the same charge as the four individuals.

On 11 July 2016, at 9:00 a.m., all five were brought to the pre-trial remand hearing at the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi. The police investigator of Ban Pong Police Station asked the Court to have them remanded for 12 days and the Court approved what the police submitted. However, five alleged offenders have been released by the order of the Court, by placing bail bond at 140,000 Baht (around 3,975 $USD) each.

Lastly, only one day before the referendum, the Thai authorities arrested two pro-democracy activists in Chaiyaphum Province, northeastern Thailand, for distributing anti-Constitution flyers. One of the students, Mr. Jatupat Boompatararaksa, a core member of the Northeastern (E-Saan) New Democracy Movement (NDM) activist group, refused to apply for bail and had been on hunger strike in the District Prison of Phu Khiao. He preferred to affirm his innocence and to protest against the country’s broken justice system. The other student, Mr. Wasin Prommanee, has been bailed out.

According to the inquiry officials, the two alleged offenders were accused of committing an offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61 (1) and Section 61 paragraph Two, punishable by not more than ten years of imprisonment, a fine of 200,000 Baht, and against the Announcement of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) no. 2, the previous junta, punishable by not more than six months of imprisonment or a fine of not more than 1,000 baht or both.

In view of the above, the ALRC requests the Human Rights Council to urge the Thai government to immediately drop all charges against political activists, especially student activist and to release those jailed for voicing dissent on the draft charter in the run-up to the referendum. In addition, the Thai government should suspend the use of military courts and military orders in cases involving civilians. These measures are now urgently needed as Thailand moves towards an election in 2017 aimed at restoring democracy, as proposed in the government’s roadmap.

Finally, the ALRC believes that the election next year represents an opportunity for Thailand to meet the commitment it made at the UN Human Rights Council during its Universal Periodic Review in May 2016 to fully respect the freedom of expression, and therefore guarantee a more inclusive and participatory process that involves all political parties, civil society, and the media in an open and non-threatening environment.

# # #

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.








%d bloggers like this: