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.





Outcome of the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review

16 05 2016

Justice Ministry permanent secretary and junta mouthpiece  Charnchao Chaiyanukit is reported in the Bangkok Post, justifying the junta’s rotten human rights record and its pathetic performace before the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.

He is reported as saying that Thailand had “accepted 181 out of 249 recommendations, while 68 were noted for further consideration.” He explained that “[s]ome of the recommendations Thailand needs to consider include limits on rights that would affect national security, the lese majeste law, amendments to the Computer Crime Act and the ending of death row and the use of the military court against citizens.” He added that a “meeting will be held between state authorities and cabinet members to put forward the 68 recommendations following which the cabinet will be asked to make comments on each.”

In other words, the junta is going to reject recommendations in all of these areas. Yet a perusal of the 68 recommendations that have effectively been rejected is, in fact, defining of the military junta. We list some of these:

Twelve recommendations relate to the abolition of the death penalty. Thailand has not officially executed anyone since 2009, but the military regime is unlikely to accede to the abolition. Many die in extrajudicial killings by the military and police.

Three recommendations relate to conventions on Genocide, International Criminal Court and Rome Statute. Thailand under a military regime that came to power trampling the bodies of civilian protesters is not about to allow itself to be subject to international scrutiny on these matters.

Four recommendations variously called on the junta to comply with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and put an immediate end to the use of arbitrary detention. The Czech Republic and New Zealand makes several recommendations for the end of the practice of forced detention of dissenters in the “re-education camps” and “attitude adjustment” and recommended the government investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment associated with such detentions. New Zealand wants all those arrested in such circumstances to “have access to justice and a fair trial…”. The military junta uses arbitrary detention on almost a daily basis so is never going to agree to this recommendation. As all PPT readers know, “re-education” and “attitude adjustment” are critical elements of the junta’s regime and so these recommendations will be ignored.

Canada recommends that the junta “[c]reate an independent body to investigate all torture allegations…”. As torture is a standard operating procedure in the military and police, this recommendation will be rejected.

Two recommendations relate to ILO Conventions that have not been ratified by Thailand. Workers’ rights are not on the junta’s agenda. The military has long repressed labor and considers that the subordinate classes should know their position.

Four recommendations directly address the junta’s restrictions on freedoms and its manipulation of law. Australia recommends the “[r]epeal all orders of the National Council for Peace and Order that are inconsistent with its international human rights obligations.” The USA directs attention to the referendum law and its restrictions. The Netherlands recommends the junta “[r]estore the protection of civil and political rights by ensuring that the Constitution meets Thailand’s international human rights obligations and end the present prosecution of civilians in military courts.” Each of these recommendations restricts the junta’s capacity to act arbitrarily and so will be rejected.

Botswana, Brazil, Finland, Italy and the UK specifically addressed freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and called for all legislation affecting freedom of expression to be “compatible and implemented in line with Thailand’s international obligations…”. This will be rejected, perhaps with pathetic claims about the cultural content of the junta’s repression.

Norway recommended that the junta “[p]ropose concrete dates for visits by the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of association and assembly respectively…”. The junta doesn’t want international scrutiny, so this recommendation will be ditched.

Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay and the USA all called for an end the prosecution of civilians in military courts. Not only did the junta’s representatives lie about this central element of its regime before the Human Rights Council, but the junta has already “explained” that it will continue to put civilian opponents in military courts before unqualified military judges.

Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Spain and the US called for abolition or reform of the lese majeste law. Several of these states and Sweden also demanded the end of or reform to the computer crimes, public assembly, slander and defamation laws. There is no chance that the royalist junta, managing succession, will do anything along such lines.

For those interested in the review’s draft report and lists of recommendations, this is available at the UPR Extranet (https://extranet.ohchr.org/sites/upr/Sessions/25session/Thailand/Pages/default.aspx) logging in [username:  hrc extranet (with space); password: 1session]. We include a PDF of the report A.HRC.WG.6.25.L.13 – After adoption here.





Lese majeste lies, nonsense and repression

7 02 2016

The lese majeste conviction train has been traveling at a speed that makes everything else the military junta does seem like extra-slow motion. We use this post to catch up on some recent lese majeste stories.

At Prachatai: lese majeste lunacy is reported, yet it is unclear who is suffering mental illness. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights “the military Judge Advocate General’s office has scheduled a hearing on 20 April 2016, when military prosecutors will decide whether to indict Sao (surname withheld due to privacy concerns) under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.

Sao, “who claims that he has telepathic powers to communicate with Thaksin Shinawatra,” was assessed by psychiatrists from the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute and they concluded that” Sao is fit to stand on trial in a military court…”.

It is bizarre that trained psychiatrists would come to such conclusions. Perhaps they suffer some kind of royalist psychosis.

In another story of lese majeste oddities, we note that Pavin Chachavalpongpun has a remarkable ability to get under the skin of the royalists who currently rule over Thailand. Almost everything he writes gets a high-level response and royalists are sometimes showing up when he speaks to provide usually crude responses to his views, if they don’t get to shout him down.

Usually for op-eds in foreign newspapers, Thailand’s ambassadors are tasked with responding with cliched royalisms, usually bending and breaking the truth. However, in responding to a recent Japan Times op-ed by Pavin, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs does him the honor of having Sek Wannamethee, Director-General of its Department of Information respond.

Sek says he wants “to clarify some points” but actually muddies and muddles the royal waters.

His first attempt to alter history is to assert that “the monarchy has been and always remains above politics.” By now, almost everyone with even a smidgen of interest in Thailand knows this is a steaming pile of horse manure.

His second to alter history is to assert that “the main purpose of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [he means the junta] to take control of national administration were to provide a cooling-off period for all sides, and to prevent further violence, restore stability, as well as to put the country back on track toward full democracy.”

This is clearly nonsense and a lie that the junta and its flunkies trot out to in the face of facts that say something quite different.

To assert that there is no “association between the monarchy and the operation of the [junta] is completely misleading and totally out of context,” is to deny the junta’s own claims about its raison d’etre. It proclaims its loyalty, it capacity to “protect” the monarchy and Prem Tinsulanonda supports the junta for its loyalty. It is clear that the military is hoping to manage succession.

His next claim, that “the lese majeste law is part of Thailand’s Criminal Code, giving protection to the rights or reputations of the king, the queen, the heir apparent, or the regent in a similar way libel law does for commoners” is one repeatedly made. It is repeatedly denied by academics and activists. For a start, the law has been applied far more widely than the persons mentioned. That’s a fact. When was the last time that libel saw a person sentenced to 60 years in jail?

To argues that the law “is not aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression nor the legitimate exercise of academic freedom, including debates about the monarchy as an institution” is simply a lie.

In another lie, when he denies that “the current government has tightened up its measures against lese majeste charges as the cases become more politicized is an overstatement of the current situation.” Again, its a fact. Mammoth jail sentences, scores of cases and military courts say Sek’s a propagandist.

Some international bodies do recognize the arbitrariness and politicized nature of lese majeste. A Prachatai report tells us that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention “has requested that Thailand immediately release lèse-majesté detainee Pornthip Munkong aka Golf and award her compensation for the arbitrary detention she has been subjected to…”. Apparently, this opinion was adopted on 2 December 2015, arguing that Pornthip’s

… detention is arbitrary because it contravenes Articles 9 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Articles 9(3) and 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Thailand is a state party to the ICCPR. The referenced provisions guarantee the fundamental right to liberty, the right to a fair trial, and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

PPT suggests that almost all lese majeste incarcerations fall into this category.

Dare we say it, but military prosecutors have shown some sense on lese majeste. For the first time, “have dismissed lèse majesté charges against three suspects accused of defaming the Thai monarchy on Facebook.”

The Judge Advocate General’s Office “decided not indict Jaruwan E., 26, Anon, 22, and Chat, 20, accused of using a Facebook page under the name of Jaruwan to defame the King.” Police had charged them with lese majeste  and computer crimes in mid-November 2014. They were imprisoned for almost three months.

Jaruwan denied all charges and claimed an unhappy suitor was responsible for the Facebook account. It seems the prosecutors have finally agreed.





Arbitrary detention and threats to human rights defenders

28 08 2014

Reprinted in full:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-OLT-008-2014
August 28, 2014

An Open Letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission

THAILAND: Arbitrary detention and threats to human rights defenders and their families
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion

Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations

CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland

Dear Special Rapporteurs and Working Group Members,

You will be aware of the significant threats to human rights which have followed the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) in Thailand. During the first eleven weeks since the coup, there have been severe restrictions placed on freedom of expression and political freedom, ongoing formal and informal summons to report to the junta, extensive use of arbitrary detention, the activation of military courts to process dissidents (the dangers of which the Asian Human Rights Commission detailed in a prior open letter to a number of special procedures holders), and the creation of a general climate of fear detrimental to human rights and the rule of law.

Under the terms of martial law, which were put in place two days prior to the coup, soldiers can detain and interrogate anyone for up to seven days without having to provide evidence of wrongdoing or bring formal charges. People arrested can be held at irregular places of detention, including permanent or temporary military bases or other sites designated as places of detention. Detention in irregular places means that the possibility for rights violations, including torture, forced disappearance and extrajudicial execution is greatly increased.

The junta has refused to provide full details of the number of people detained and the places of detention, but according to the Internet Dialogue on Law Reform (iLaw), a Thai nongovernmental organization collecting information about detentions and arrests following the coup, noted that by the first week of August, at least 570 people were summoned by the junta, and at least 235 were arrested. While the junta has repeatedly claimed that those who are summoned and then held are not being detained, but are instead being offered “accommodation” and “attitude adjustment,” the penalty for not responding to the summons is possible processing within the military court system and a punishment of a prison sentence of up to two years and/or a fine of up to 40,000 baht. In addition, although the junta has repeatedly stated that all those in their custody are being well-treated, Kritsuda Khunasaen, who was detained for 27 days shortly after the coup, left Thailand to seek asylum abroad and then released an account in early August to the public of her mental and physical torture during her detention. Her account prompted calls from the OHCHR as well as a number of Thai and international human rights organizations including the Cross Cultural Foundation, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, and the Asian Human Rights Commission, for an independent investigation. Thus far, the response of the junta has been to first attempt to discredit Kritsuda Khunasaen, and then subsequently to press criminal charges that would result in her extradition to Thailand.

Despite the potential prison term and fine for not reporting, many of those summoned by the junta have elected not to report. One of these persons is Thanthawut Taweewarodomkul, a former political prisoner. Thanthawut was accused of defaming the monarchy through his work as a web designer and webmaster, and was sentenced to 13 years in prison under the 2007 Computer Crimes Act on 15 March 2011. He was granted a royal pardon on 5 July 2013. Following his release, he was engaged in building a small business, setting up a support network to protect human rights and aid the families of current and former political prisoners, and taking care of his son as a single father.

Thanthawut was summoned two different times by the junta, in Order No. 5/2557 [2014] issued on 24 May 2014 and in Order No. 43/2557 [2014] issued on 7 June 2014.  He has elected not to report following the summons and has gone into exile outside the country. In an essay published in both Thai and English at the end of July, and included as an appendix to this open letter, he explained why he decided not to report. In this article, he explains that the primary reason why he did not report is as follows, “ …I could not accept the seizure of power by the junta, the NCPO. I cannot accept any seizure of power without the necessary agreement from the people.” In addition, he explained his prior experience with the judicial and prison systems, his keen sense of the politicized nature of the charges against him, and the use of military courts to process civilians caused him to be concerned that if he reported, he would not be treated fairly. It is the assessment of the Asian Human Rights Commission that his concerns are well-founded given the unlawful nature of the coup and the deterioration of human rights protections subsequent to it.

Following Thanthawut’s decision not to report himself to the junta, his family has been subject to daily harassment from the authorities. Police and military soldiers have visited his parents’ home to inquire about his whereabouts and to threaten that they will continue to visit the family until he reports himself. Thanthawut wrote an open letter detailing this harassment and sent it to various human rights organizations, including the Asian Human Rights Commission, and it is appended to this letter as an appendix. The ongoing harassment and threats from the authorities have taken a significant toll on his family, and his mother had to be hospitalized due to the strain. This is a clear instance of intimidation by the junta. The Asian Human Rights Commission is further concerned that this may not be an isolated case of intimidation of families of those who have not reported following summons by the junta.

In view of the above facts, the Asian Human Rights Commission urges you through your respective mandates to raise these matters with the Government of Thailand, such that the authorities cease their harassment of the family of Thanthawut Taweewarodomkul and other families of those who have been summoned by the regime and have declined to report themselves. The AHRC also asks that you call for the restoration of civilian government in Thailand as quickly as possible, and expresses its view that the temporary constitution put in place by the National Council for Peace and Order is unacceptable, an affront to the rule of law, and will likely have disastrous consequences for human rights in Thailand.

Yours sincerely,

(signed)

Bijo Francis

Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

Copies to:
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Regional Office, Bangkok
Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations, Geneva

Appendixes