Monarchy reform rejuvenated

27 01 2023

As a follow-up to our previous post, here we reproduce a post from Prachatai’s FB page:

Anon Nampa gives a speech, saying that he has received a phone call from a high-ranking figure in Pheu Thai party that, on Friday, every opposition party will make a statement to support Tantawan and Orawan. Their demands will be to amend the royal defamation charge at the minimum, and abolish the law at the maximum.

He went on, saying the new wave of pro-democracy movement starting in 2020 defies those who said it had won nothing. Examples given were the emergence of activist groups like Thalufah, Thaluwang, or Thalugaz, the anti-torture bill’s approval, and the lawmakers scrutinies over the Royal Office annual budget.

Clipped from Prachatai FB (photo credit Chana La)

Moreover, the authorities’ retaliation to the movement has consolidated them and created more allies across generations, and the fights between democracy and authoritarianism have sparked everywhere.

“Let us pass the message to Tawan and Bam that. This day, this place, we have awakened and ready to fight side by side with the two of them and those who are in prison…This is the clash between the old and the new idea, democracy and authoritarianism. This clash will take place in every fibre, every class.”

“We talked in 2020 with due truth. They took us to the Court, the conservatives said ‘prove yourself in the Court’, but when we tried to prove by asking for the travel document [of King Rama X to Germany], the Court did not issue [the document request]. Are they scared of the truth?” said Anon.

Anon asked the demonstrators to come out, raise their voice to the Court over the injustice the political detainees have received. If the political prisoners are all released, the political parties respond to the two’s pleas, it would be more reasonable to tell them to save their own lives to see the justice reform demands being done.





Rallying for Tantawan and Orawan

26 01 2023

There has been a strange and limited social media argument that Tantawan Tuatulanon (Tawan) and Orawan Phuphong (Bam) should not be on a hunger strike. It seems that some middle class liberals feel that this action is akin to political violence.

Frankly, events show that this view is perverse. The brave stand by Tantawan and Orawan has quickly reignited protest and discussion of lese majeste. They deserve huge credit for their brave stance.

Over the past 24-48 hours, things have developed quickly. Here, PPT summarizes from social media posts. To follow events, look for Khaosod and Prachatai on Facebook.

Tantawan and Orawan were taken to Thammasat University Hospital on Tuesday. They are now in their 9th day of dry hunger strike.Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that a lawyer who visited them at Thammasat University Hospital yesterday (25 January) said that the two activists have lost a lot of weight, to the point that they can see the shape of Tantawan’s skull.

The lawyer said that, when the two activists arrived at the hospital, it was found that Tantawan has low potassium level and was at risk of cardiac arrest, so she was given a potassium supplement. However, the two activists insist on continuing their hunger strike, and will not be receiving IV fluids or other vitamin supplements.
The pair are staying in the same hospital room, and are constantly guarded by 4 corrections officers.

Food delivery rider Sitthichok Sethasavet, convicted of lese majeste on 17 January 2023, accused of setting fire to a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida and detained pending appeal has gone on a hunger strike to protest his detention.

Today, protesters gathered at the Pathumwan Skywalk in support of activists Tawan and Bam.

Clipped from Khaosod FB page

The Chiang Rai Provincial Court has thrown gas on the 112 fire by sentencing Mongkol Thirakhote or “Bass” to a mammoth 42 years in prison, reduced from 28, for 27 seditious and lese majeste FB posts on Thursday. A bail application is pending.

Monarchy-reform protest co-leader Arnon Nampa called for a major demonstration in front of Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre at 5.12pm Thursday in support of lese majeste detainees Tawan and Bam. People are marching out from Chulalongkorn University (CU) to Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) to show their support. The judiciary is criticized for bias on lese majeste cases.





Repression of monarchy reformists

20 11 2022

DW recently had a story that sought to assess where the democracy/monarchy reform movement is more than two years after the movement spectacularly burst on the scene.

In essence, the story is that the monarchy reform movement has been so repressed that it is difficult for activists to engage in political advocacy.

Clipped from Prachatai

The youth-led protest movement, “calling for constitutional reforms to rein in far-reaching powers of the country’s monarchy” and for the resignation of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, “inspired hundreds of thousands of people across Thailand…”.

But, over two years later, the military-backed, pro-monarchy regime has managed to silence many and drain the movement of energy.

The repression that has dogged activists has resulted in lese majeste charges in the hundreds, long jail terms for some, and the development of a surveillance state that weighs China-like on anyone deemed a “threat.” The regime increasingly relies on cyber snoops and ultra-royalists, many of them with links to the military and ISOC, to bring complaints that result in charges, arrest, and detention.

Arnon. Clipped from Prachatai

For example, human rights lawyer and activist Arnon Nampa, faces at least 14 lese majeste charges, and was detained for more than 200 days without bail. Other activists are kept busy fighting a myriad of charges.

Democracy activist Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon explains: “Many of our friends are still detained…. Some have been held for more than 200 days.” As DW has it, “there are [now] at least 11 political detainees, including three on lese majeste cases.”

Patsaravalee reckons “the government had made people ‘numb and accustomed’ to protesters being detained.”

Even when bailed, there are sometimes ludicrous conditions that amount to house arrest, “along with a hefty bond and vague conditions that limit their freedom of expression and movement.” For example, Arnon “is prohibited by court order from encouraging others to protest and is not allowed to share posts on social media about demonstrations.”

Activist Chonthicha Jaengrew said “these conditions forced people into self-censorship, as ‘even voicing opinions in good faith could put us at risk of our bail being revoked’.”

Chonthicha said such “bail conditions had blunted the protest movement.” As she explained: “We don’t know when these conditions will be used as a tool to revoke our bail, which forces us to be more careful [in our speeches and actions]…”.

Several activists have fled Thailand.

But it is not all a gloomy story. Clearly, the discussion of the monarchy is now more widespread, and activists know that there has been a groundswell of broad support. Arnon thinls “more politicians in the future would be emboldened to question the Thai monarchy.” As he observes: “Discussing the monarchy has caught on…. We might not see a radical change like a revolution … but one thing is for sure: Thai society will not backtrack.”





Protest II

19 11 2022
Here’s several more links to the Anti-Prayuth/APEC demonstrations:

Bangkok Post, 18 Nov 2022: “Police fire rubber bullets at protesters

The Nation, 18 Nov 2022: “Ratsadon protesters fume over arrest of leader after being blocked from marching to QSNCC

Clipped from Bangkok Post

Bangkok Post, 18 Nov 2022: “Police under fire for assault at anti-Apec rally

Thai Newsroom, 18 Nov 2022: “5 injured as police fire tear gas, rubber bullets at protesters” (plenty of pictures)

Clipped from The Nation

Thai Newsroom, 18 Nov 2022: “Move Forward MP slams Prayut govt for using force against anti-Apec protesters

Thai PBS, 18 Nov 2022: “Protesters disperse from Bangkok’s Lan Khon Mueang Town Square

Bangkok Post, 19 Nov 2022: “Rubber bullets used to quash rally, 25 cuffed

Clipped from Thai Newsroom

Thai PBS, 18 Nov 2022: “At least 25 protesters arrested, others injured in clashes in Bangkok”

Thai Newsroom, 18 Nov 2022: “Chadchart regrets Apec protesters got injured, trying to help detainees

The Nation, 19 Nov 2022: “Arnon threatens police with legal action over assault on protesters

Clipped from Thai PBS

The Nation, 19 Nov 2022: “Police chief warns media to stay away from protest clashes” (as might be expected from the regime’s despots)

Thai Enquirer, 19 Nov 2022: “Opinion – APEC leaders fail to raise their voice for democracy despite violence used by authorities against protesters

Thai Newsroom, 19 Nov 2022: “PM could face legal action over quelling anti-Apec protesters: Academic

Bangkok Post, 19 Nov 2022: “23 of 25 detained protesters get bail





Royalists courts play royalist politics II

2 09 2022

Arnon Nampa, facing up to a dozen lese majeste charges, and himself a lawyer with long experience of defending political prisoners, has asked the Judicial Commission, an in-house board meant to keep the judiciary in order, and the Chief Justice of the Criminal Court “to investigate Attakarn Foocharoen, Deputy Chief Justice of the Criminal Court, whom he accuses of meddling in his [lese majeste and computer crimes] court case without having any authority to do so.”

The case goes back to a protest on 8 November 2020 calling for monarchy reform. Anon received a letter on 4 August 2022,” calling an additional [previously unscheduled] hearing, and stating that the witnesses examined in the previous hearing were not related to the event at issue.” That letter was “signed by Attakarn and dated 21 July.” Attakarn is not a member of the committee considering the case, and “[b]y law, it is the responsibility of the judge who oversees the case to plan the trial process and approve what witnesses shall be heard.”

Arnon reckons “Attakarn’s intervention would infringe the judge’s independence.”

Legal niceties and the law itself seldom impinge on lese majeste cases.

Arnon (L). Clipped from The Nation

Arnon “insisted that the trial must be free from interference by Court administrators.” It was revealed that Attakarn had used his position to intervene in “many other political cases…”.

The justice system, always worrisome for its corruption, has been blatantly politicized and instrumentalized since the dead king’s intervention in 2006. The judges now at the top of the judiciary have been eager to serve king and regime.





Updated: Thanapol arrested

30 06 2022

Thai Newsroom reports that on 29 June 2022, Technology Crime Suppression Division police arrested Fa Diaw Kan Publishing House editor Thanapol Eawsakul. He is charged with “disclosing documents and other material related to national security and violating the Computer Crime Act…”.

Clipped from Prachatai

The police took Thanapol to Technology Crime Suppression Division headquarters “without waiting for a lawyer to show up but a lawyer is now following up the case.”

In January 2022, “more than 30 policemen had brought a warrant to search the publishing house and in doing so went through the books and confiscated mobile devices and computers belonging to Thanapol.”

Later, on Facebook, Thanapol explained the situation (with apologies for hurried translation).

He explains that it has more or less been normal for the police to “visit” the offices of Fa Diaw Kan since the journal was established some two decades ago. Following the 2014 military coup, the “visits” increased, then dropped off around the time of the 2019 election, but then expanded again as the monarchy reform-democratization movement expanded. In this latter period, the police became interested in various books published by Fa Diaw Kan, most of them associated with aspects of the monarchy, historical and contemporary.

This heightened police “interest” meant that Thanapol was being closely monitored.

On 21 November 2020, Thanapol posted a message about a National Security Council document ordering to tracking down of a former ambassador. The police filed a complaint on 31 December 2020 and then went quiet.

On 20 January 2022, some 30 police and officers from the Technology Crime Suppression Division searched the publisher’s office, seizing including Arnon Nampa’s The Monarchy and Thai society (which is not a Fa Diew Kan book), computer equipment and Thanapol’s mobile phone. The officers presented two search warrants and an order granting access to computer data, issued by the Nonthaburi Provincial Court.

On 18 April 2022, the Technology Crime Suppression Division said the earlier document seized was classified and disseminated illegally. An arrest warrant was sought even though Thanapol had agreed to report to police. He says: “On June 23, 2022, I made an appointment to go to the TCSD on July 4, 2022 at 1 p.m., but during that time, on June 28, the TCSD requested the court’s approval to issue an arrest warrant….  As a result of issuing an arrest warrant, The police came to arrest me today, 29 June 2022, when I was taken to the police station and to the TCSD…”.

Lawyers from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and efforts by Move Forward Party, MP Rangsiman Rome led to bail being granted.

So far, few details of the charges are available.

Update: Thai Enquirer has a story on the arrest and bail.





Updated: 90 years after 1932

24 06 2022

On this day, like may others, PPT remembers 24 June 1932. On that day, the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed a well-planned Revolution to end the absolute power of the monarchy.

The inspiration of 1932 for the monarchy reform movement of recent years is crystal clear.

The palace, royalists and military have worked long and hard to erase it from the national historical memory. Indeed, much of the 9th reign was about erasing this memory and Vajiralongkorn and his regime cronies have obliterated statues, changed names, and more in an effort to bury memory of a time when monarchy wasn’t paramount.

Back in 2009 on 24 June, PPT marked the 1932 Revolution by reprinting the first announcement of the khana ratsadon or People’s Party. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Banomyong. We have done it on most anniversaries since then. We won’t today, but readers can click the link above to see it.

That proclamation recalls the thirst for democracy that is the essence of today’s anti-monarchism.

The 24 June used to be celebrated. Now, the event is barely noticed in any official way. After all, democracy is the antithesis of the monarchy in Thailand.

This point is made by social critic and intellectual Sulak Sivaraksa in an interview with BenarNews. He states: “Before 1932, the monarch was above the law, and he was the only one. After the 1932 [revolution], everybody became equal, everybody was under the law, and that was the first victory…”.

But, looking back, Sulak is despondent: “In these 90 years, we are currently [at] the lowest point…”. He adds: “Gen. Prayuth [Chan-ocha] claims this is a democracy, but it’s a sham democracy…”.

He points to the military takeover in 1947 as an inflection point, where Thailand turned back towards monarchism: “the coup leader praised the monarch, who was until then still under the constitution. They turned the monarch to God-like and above the constitution because they thought only the monarch could fight against the communists…”.

Any hope Sulak has is with the young: “I’m only an old man, looking forward to young generations. I’ve seen young generations who are so brave to fight against dictatorship…. I hope that Thailand, while celebrating 100 years of democracy, will go forward and not backward as is happening nowadays.”

One of those associated with the contemporary monarchy reform movement is Arnon Nampa. He affirms that the 1932 revolution “was the beginning of the call for democracy and the start of the fight for democracy. It was precarious because those involved in the 1932 revolution risked their lives…”. Today it is Arnon and other activists and thousands of sympathizers  who “are willing, too, to risk losing their freedom or lives…” in the struggle for democracy and the reform of the monarchy.

Update: A reader writes about expanding authoritarianism in the West, noting examples of censorship of social media and harassing Julian Assange for showing the US state as murderers – and worries for his daughter’s future.





Intimidate, repress, and control II

30 01 2022

The repression of heavy suppression of protesters and activists has been intense. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights recently published a report that states “at least 1,747 people in 980 cases have been prosecuted due to political protests and expression since the Free Youth Rally on 18 July 2020 until 25 December 2021.”

Only 150 of these cases have been concluded, meaning that hundreds of people are tied up in various legal procedures or are being held without bail. This reflects the regime’s use of lawfare.

In 2021 alone, “1,513 new people in 835 cases have been politically accused, accounting for an almost 7-fold increase compared to the number in the second half of 2020.”

Notably, there was a sharp rise in arrests and prosecutions “during the three-month period between August to October. The period coincided with a heightened political tension as a result of car mob events in various provinces, almost daily protests by various groups in Bangkok, and series of “Talu-Gas” protests at Din Daeng Intersection and the surrounding areas.”

Lese majeste charges were filed against at least 127 “new” people in 104 cases, while sedition charges were filed against at least 55 “new” people in 16 cases. As for the “key political leaders accused between 18 July 2020 and 25 December 2021 …[TLHR] found that:

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak has 43 cases.

Panupong “Mike” Jadnok has 30 cases.

Anon Nampa has 24 cases.

Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul has 24 cases.

Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa has 19 cases.

Benja Apan has 19 cases.

Another TLHR report states that “at least 291 activists and citizens, 39 of whom concerned youths under 18 years old, received house visits or were summoned for talks by authorities. These numbers do not include cases where authorities went to deliver summon warrants or make an arrest as part of a prosecution.” Most of this surveillance was in the northeast.

The repression continues and deepens.





Precarious political prisoners

7 01 2022

We have repeatedly referred to the mistreatment of political prisoners as lese majeste torture. It continues unabated.

The most recent report is that “pro-democracy activist, Arnon Nampa, 37, is currently ill with a high fever in Bangkok Remand Prison…”.

His legal team from Thai Lawyers For Human Rights (TLHR) “are urgently seeking medical attention for him as they are concerned that his condition could continue to worsen.” Fellow political prisoner Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa confirmed that Arnon is struggling with a high fever. They do not know what his illness is.

Clipped from Prachatai

His lawyers demand that the “Bangkok Remand Prison … allow medical workers to check on his illness and to find out if he has Covid or not…”. They add that “Arnon was a healthy person before his first entering prison in 2021. But now he has difficulty breathing and is easily vulnerable to fatigue due to a previous lung infection brought on from Covid.”

Prison authorities are notoriously corrupt and hopeless and several lese majeste prisoners have suffered health issues in hospital – and, several years ago, one died – and with palace and regime spitting venom at these political prisoners, their health situation is always tenuous. And that seems to be what the callous, royalist regime wants.





Criticism, monarchy, and lese majeste torture

29 12 2021

Jatuphat in jail on an earlier 112 charge

Khaosod reports that monarchy-reform protesters Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa and Panupong Jadnok “will no longer apply for bail after repeated refusals to grant them bail while they face multiple lese majeste charges.”

Their attorney, Krisadang Nutcharus said that it is “now be up to the criminal court to consider whether to let the four be released so they could have a fair chance to fight the cases or not.”

Krisadang explained: “The court has the power to end the temporary detention. I will continue to assist [the defendants] but they think the court no longer wants to let them out on bail…”.

The four state that the repeated bail denials means that they are unable to “prepare themselves to fight a fair trial and goes against the international obligations Thailand has to the international community.”

The report quotes former lese majeste political prisoner, Akechai Hongkangwarn. He believes the four now know that:

Penguin during an earlier period in jail. Clipped from Prachatai

they won’t be released before the verdicts are handed [down]. They have requested for bail many times and the repeated denials left them with bitterness. They will probably spend next year in prison if not longer. I understand them and those outside the prison must carry on. If they don’t come out onto the streets, the chance of the four being forgotten would increase…”.

That’s exactly what the regime, palace – with the spendthrift and erratic king back in Thailand – and courts wants: to silence them and to keep them locked up so that the protests lose momentum and leadership. It is also the well-used tactic of keeping those accused of lese majeste locked up until they plead guilty, thus avoiding a proper trial. Several former political prisoners suffered under this neo-feudal system for several years.

Clipped from The Nation

Meanwhile, Thai PBS has a year-ender on criticism of the monarchy and calls for change. It gets some things wrong. For example, it claims: “Before the birth of the youth-led protest movement in 2020, criticism of the monarchy and calls for changes to the institution [monarchy] were only limited to academia.” Only the historically dimwitted could make such a claim. It demeans earlier criticism of the monarchy. Think of some of the red shirts and the students of 1973-76 as two examples. At the same time, it should be noted that academics calling criticizing the monarchy were thin on the ground.

In many ways, as they acknowledge themselves, the current reformers draw on a legacy going back to 1932. And, it is true that this round of questioning the monarchy has meant that the monarchy has been “widely discussed in Thai society.” That’s a real achievement but has come at great cost to the reformers as the lese majeste and other repressive laws have been used and police have attacked and arrested demonstrators (and others).

As the Thai PBS article observes, the judiciary has become crucial in opposing the reformers. Not only does it lock them up, but the “Constitutional Court verdict last month seemed designed to silence the discussion [about the monarchy and reform].”

In a ludicrous verdict, the court ruled that speeches on monarchy reform “amounted to attempts to overthrow the country’s democratic system with the King as head of state.” But the threat of lese majeste charges against those reporting accurately about monarchy and reform has silenced critical voices and made the media compliant. So much so that the mainstream media barely even reports on lese majeste cases.








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