Monarchy reform

5 08 2021

AP reports that Arnon Nampa has renewed calls for the monarchy to be reformed.

At a recent rally, reprising Harry Potter themes of a year ago, Arnon stated:

This year shall be the last year that we will discuss monarchy reform. After this, whatever will happen, will happen. You can’t stop the sun rising. You can’t control what people believe in….

Clipped from The Nation. Arnon on the left.

The lawyer spoke to a group of several hundred to “mark …  one year since Arnon delivered a speech that shook the country with its unprecedented challenge to the status of the monarchy, which is widely considered [by royalists and the military] to be an untouchable bedrock element of Thai nationalism.”

The rally marked a reaffirmation that the monarchy remains a focus for protesters as Arnon promised a multifaceted strategy in pushing monarchy reform.

LIke many protesters, Arnon “is currently free on bail, faces more than 10 charges under a stringent royal defamation law [they mean lese majeste] that mandates prison terms of up to 15 years for perceived insults.”





Royalist “scum”

4 08 2021

A Reuters report explains that “103 people from Thailand’s youth-led anti-government protests now charged with insulting or threatening King … Vajiralongkorn or his immediate family, a crime punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment. Hundreds more face other criminal charges.” Knowing the exact numbers is difficult because not all cases come to public view.

Arnon on the left

Commenting on the charges and jail time, one of those charged, lawyer Arnon Nampa commented “I think it has been worthwhile. Now the society can move forward and people can talk about the monarchy…”.

While some might say that nothing much has changed and the king remains politically and economically powerful, a crack in the royalist hegemonic discourse has been established and anti-monarchism is more widespread than royalists wish to admit.

Indeed, royalists are fighting a battle seeking to paper over the cracks in the kingdom.

Thai Enquirer reports that an “ultra-royalist group [has] asked the criminal court to revoke the bail of pro-reform leaders … saying they are repeatedly breaking the conditions of their release by continuing to speak out against the monarchy.”

Jakkapong Klinkaew, the leader of the People’s Centre Protecting the Institution, says “The protestors have caused chaos within society, affecting the private sector and damaging public property…”. He added that “many business owners and royalists” consider the protesters “scum.”

Jakkapong went into a meltdown-like rant, admitting the regime was pretty hopeless, but railed against protesters causing “social conflict” and “unrest,” being “violent,” and spreading “fake news” and the virus (the latter being fake news).

His group demanded that courts revoke the bail of:

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, Arnon Nampa and Jatupat “Pai Daodin” Boonpattararaksa, who have all been charged with lese-mejeste and sedition for organizing pro-democracy rallies since June 2020.

The letter said the protest leaders have continued to join protests and making speeches against the royal institution in breach of their bail conditions.

The group is panicked by the support being gained by protesters, even in the lockdown.





Failure upon failure

2 08 2021

One of the things about a military and palace-backed regime is that, except in the most dire of circumstances, it tends only to get shaky when it loses the support of the upper crust. Is the regime led by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha reaching that point? It should be as failure after failure piles up, while the regime concentrates on political repression rather than virus suppression.

As infection numbers look set to go over 20,000 a day in the official tally, the government stumbles along like a drunk without shoes. Just this weekend, it has extended the lockdown after earlier extending emergency powers. The problem for many is that these powers seem to do nothing to stem the virus but do seem to add to repression. In addition, the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed swell by the day. The regime seems to lack a plan for any other measures to mitigate the virus or to help those impacted.

But the failures and fumbles keep increasing. The botched vaccine rollout continues to suffer supply constraints – thanks in part to the failures at the royal Siam Bioscience. On the weekend, a “shortage in supplies of Covid-19 vaccines led to the weekend closure of 25 vaccination centres in Bangkok, while the “Mor Prom” app also cancelled all bookings scheduled for Friday and Saturday and has yet to resume offering new appointments.”

This horrid effort is made worse by corruption. Most recently, it is reported that “[a]t least 7,000 people have bought Covid-19 vaccination slots at Bang Sue Grand Station that were illegally acquired through a loophole in the the national vaccine recipient’s database…”. Forgive our cynicism, but the cops said several days ago that they had cracked the case, so should anyone be surprised if this isn’t a higher-ups scam? It seems 7,700 shots have been sold at 1000 baht each.

Despite the increased repression, nationwide protests were held on the weekend, mainly involving people in cars and on motorcycles. On protester spoke for many:

“We can barely make a living now, all of my family members have been affected,” said a 47-year-old protester speaking from his car who only gave his first name “Chai”, for fear of government repercussions.

“The government failed to provide vaccines on time and many of us haven’t had any vaccine yet,” he said. “If we don’t come out to make our calls, the government will simply ignore us.”

Red shirts back. From Thai PBS

According to Thai PBS, the “car mob” rally saw:

the gathering together of well-known leaders of anti-government and anti-establishment groups, such as Nattawut Saikua, former secretary-general of the now defunct United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) or the Red-Shirt movement, Ratsadon leaders Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Anon Nampa, Chatupat Boonpatthararaksa, aka Pai Daodin of the “Thalu Fah” group, Sombat Boon-ngarmanong of Sombat Tour and Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, leader of the We Volunteer (Wevo) guards.

Nattawut said “the Red-Shirt movement is back in business and demanding the ouster of the prime minister.”

What will the powers-that-be do as the movement gains support as the government flails in failure?





A deluge of 112 charges

23 07 2021

People might be dying in the streets but the regime has its eye on what it thinks is most important: more and more lese majeste and other charges. It is desperate, not to stem the virus, but to stem any notion that the neo-feudals should be reformed.

Thai PBS reports that 13 protesters were formally indicted by public prosecutors on Thursday for lese majeste and sedition. The charges stem from the march and rally at the German Embassy on 26 October 2020. It states:

Mind

Among the accused named by the public prosecutors are Passaravalee “Mind” Thanakitvibulphol, Korakot Saengyenphan, Chanin “Ball” Wongsri, Benja Apan, Watcharakorn Chaikaew, Nawat “Am” Liangwattana, Atthapol “Khru Yai” Buapat, Akkarapon Teeptaisong, Suthinee Jangpipatnawakit, Ravisara Eksgool, and Cholathit Chote-sawat.

12 protesters reported to prosecutors at the Bangkok South Criminal Litigation Office at about 9.30am to acknowledge the charges brought against them by Thung Mahamek police. The other was due to report … [today]. They were escorted by police to the Bangkok South Criminal Court for arraignment and have been granted bail.

Fellow activist Arnon Nampa and others showed up to provide support, while “[t]hree “Move Forward” MPs, namely Rangsiman Rome, Thongdaeng Benjapak of Samut Sakhon, Suttawan Suban Na Ayuthaya of Nakhon Pathom, were present at the court to offer their parliamentary status to secure bail for the protesters.” In addition”six lecturers also volunteered to offer their academic status to support bail for the protesters.”

The Bangkok Post reports that “[t]hree officials from the German embassy were also present as observers.”





Masters of repression III

18 07 2021

A couple of days ago, Thai PBS reported on the ongoing efforts to suppress anti-monarchism and political opposition. It reported that public prosecutors “have decided to indict 14 core members of the anti-establishment Ratsadon group, in connection with the mass protest at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok in July last year.” It seems to us that “decided” is the wrong word here, for this is a concerted lawfare campaign to silence critics.

The list of the 14 is:

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, alias Mike Rayong, Anon Nampa, Juthathip Sirikan, Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, Nattawut Somboonsap, Korakot Saengyenphan, Suwanna Tarnlek, Thanayut Na Ayutthaya, Baramee Chairat, Tossaporn Sinsomboon, Dechathorn Bamrungmuang, Tanee Sasom and Panumas Singprom….

This group is targeted with charges of sedition (Article 116) and Article 215 of the Criminal Code as well as breaching the Emergency Decree “for their leading role in the mass protest, organized under the ‘Free Youth’ umbrella.” Article 215 states:

Whenever ten persons upwards being assembled together do or threaten to do an act of violence, or do any thing to cause a breach of the peace, every such person shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding six months or fined not exceeding one thousand Baht, or both.

Noraseth Nanongtoom, a lawyer of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, provided “35,000 baht in cash for each of them, to be used as bail surety. There are also five Move Forward party MPs and lecturers at Thammasat University who are willing to lend their status to bail them…”. There were 11 who attended, and as we understand it, all were bailed.

Several of the activists face scores of legal cases. The regime’s aim is to tie them and their supporters up in a myriad of legal proceedings while making their freedom conditional on the actions of royalist courts.





Monarchy reform protesters bailed

2 06 2021

After a very long time, Thai PBS has reported that the “Criminal Court has granted conditional release for three anti-establishment Ratsadon protest leaders, Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, alias Mike Rayong, and Chukiart ‘Justin’ Saengwong.”112 logo

That’s good news but questions remain why it took so long. We think it is because a groveling undertaking was required. Add in the virus raging through prisons and lese majeste repression has another meaning.

We make this observation because it is reported that the Criminal Court “was satisfied with Chukiart’s past record, in that he did not attempt to evade arrest nor were there any indications that he would try to escape if he were to be released on bail.” That would have been the same weeks ago when the court considered bail for him.  But, he also “gave a written undertaking to comply with the bail conditions [ imposed by the court and the court found the guarantor, who posted property worth about 200,000 for bail surety, to be trustworthy.”

The conditions are that “he does not get involved in activities which may deemed offensive to the monarchy, participate in a protest which may cause unrest, leave the country without authorization from the court and reports to the court as required.”

Anon and Panupong, were “released on the same terms and conditions.”





Further updated: “Justice” kills

6 05 2021

There’s increasing concern about hunger strikers and political prisoners Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, including well-meaning calls from some for them to not die when seeking justice.

Sadly, it is becoming clear that the regime is callous and savage. More, we know that the king has a say in whether the lese majeste is used or not. We also know that he is savage in dealing with those he thinks have been disrespectful – look at how he has treated his various wives and Vajiralongkorn’s mad and furious tone in his official declarations when he sacks people.

It gets worse. It is now confirmed that another political prisoner, Arnon Nampa, has fallen ill with the Covid virus “and been moved for medical treatment” at the Medical Correctional Institution. The virus appears to be infecting many inmates and may be out of control.

Coronation 1

Arnon is the second political prisoner to have contracted the virus while incarcerated. The first was Chukiat “Justin” Saengwong.

All prisoners are now under threat, but that these political prisoners are at risk is yet another example of the politicization and monarchization of the (in)justice system. After all, the junta’s constitution states at Article 29:

A suspect or defendant in a criminal case shall be presumed innocent, and before the passing of a final judgment convicting a person of having committed an offence, such person shall not be treated as a convict.

In lese majeste cases, there is a presumption of guilt.

The question must be asked again and again: why is that these activists are not receiving justice? What is it or who is it preventing justice? WHo is it who doesn not care if they die? Who is it that relishes this savage and feudal treatment of young Thais?

No wonder hundreds of thousands of young Thais have joined a Facebook group that displays their dismay and that they have lost faith in many of the country’s institutions.

The military, the mafia regime, and the monarchy are destroying the country while they and their friends eat it.

Update1 : Some good news: “The Criminal Court has approved bail for the temporary release of Rassadon co-leader Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul on condition that she must not get involved in activities deemed to dishonour the monarchy.” Who knows what the latter condition means.In addition, “she must not join any activity that may cause unrest in the country, leave the country without permission and must report to the court as scheduled.”

The court appeared unable to make a decision without getting advice-cum-orders from on high: “After an inquiry into her bail request on Thursday morning, the court first scheduled handing down the decision at 3pm but later rescheduled it twice to 4pm and 5pm.” We take that delay as confirmation that the court gets it order from the regime and/or the palace.

Update 2: Despite the virus outbreak in prisons and at least two political prisoners already infected, Parit Chiwarak has been transferred “from Ramathibodi Hospital back to prison … after his health improved.” The danger to him is made clear by the courts themselves, which refuse to hear these defendants for fear of the virus. Parit’s court appearance, and that for Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, have been postponed “because the two defendants will not complete their 14-day quarantine until tomorrow. Prison officials said both have to be screened again, to make sure they are clear of the virus, before they will be allowed to attend the hearing.” This amounts to protecting judges and other officials – which is reasonable – but keeping political prisoners in dangerous conditions.





Callous and savage

30 04 2021

While not unexpected, the report by Prachatai that the Criminal Court has again denied bail for seven activists detained on lese majeste charges is to be lamented as yet another demonstration that the judicial system is deeply flawed.

These political prisoners are Panupong Jadnok, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, Arnon Nampa, Chukiat Saengwong and Parinya Cheewinkulpahtom.

Penguin and Rung

Clipped from The Nation

Parit has now been detained for more than 80 days. He remains on a partial hunger strike that began some 45 days ago to protest the injustice of the system and the denial of bail for detained activists.

Lawyer Kritsadang Nutcharat of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said:

…one of the reasons for requesting bail is concern over the spread of Covid-19 in prisons, because even the court is concerned that the virus will spread among court officials. He also said that there is no more reason to keep the activists in detention, and that it would be acceptable if the court set a condition related with their trial. He also mentioned that the court previously granted bail for activists Jatupat Boonpattaraksa and Somyot Pruksakasemsuk.

Kritsadang expressed considerable concern for Penguin and “also requested that the court allow Parit to be taken to Rama 9 Hospital for 30 days, because the hospital is better equipped than the Medical Correctional Institution…”.

The court demonstrated its inhumanity by dismissing the request. It is as though the courts take their orders from savage and vindictive higher-ups.

Kritsadang revealed that:

he visited Parit on 28 April and spoke to him through teleconference. During the visit, Parit told Kritsadang that he has not been able to sleep, his skin is dry, and that he suffers from nausea and fatigue. Blood was also found in his stools, but he has not been sent to the Medical Correctional Institution to have his condition assessed.

The court exhibited a callous disregard for the detainee’s health.

Meanwhile the “Department of Corrections has denied that Parit’s condition has worsened…”.

The ruling to deny bail was “signed by judge Tawan Rodcharoen. Judge Tawan delivered the verdict in the Joe Gordon lèse majesté case in 2011.” Joe had repeated bail requests denied. When he finally agreed to plead guilty and he was sentenced to 5 years.

The Bangkok Post reports that the Corrections Department has said that Parit is “physically well.” It quotes Department deputy director-general Thawatchai Chaiwat from Thursday, stating that “Parit could talk and was well and conscious. He was tired and had dry lips, but was not dizzy.” Thawatchai added that Panusaya who is also rejecting “food and took only drinking water, minerals, juice and milk,” is also “well, conscious, looked normal, talked understandably and was able to do her routines…”.

The lie in this is demonstrated. Parit is now hospitalized. The very same Corrections Department now states that Parit “was admitted over concerns he could go into shock if his condition worsened and require specialised care.”

TLHR warns that both Parit and Panusaya “are in deteriorating health…”.

Parit faces 20 lese majeste charges “which could result in a sentence of 300 years.” Meanwhile, “Panusaya faces nine cases under the law, which could lead to a 135-year sentence if convicted.”





HRW on continuing detentions

21 04 2021

Human Rights WatchHuman Rights Watch has released a statement on the continuing detention of political activists. We reproduce it in full, including with links HRW had embedded:

(New York) – Thai authorities should immediately release pro-democracy activists detained on charges of insulting the monarchy, Human Rights Watch said today. Prominent Thammasat University students Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul have been on hunger strike to protest their pre-trial detention, for 35 days and 21 days respectively.

The charges against Parit, Panusaya, and others should be dropped for violating their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Until then, bail should be provided for all those detained under the lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) law. Hunger strikers should be transferred to a hospital for medical supervision.

“Thai authorities should immediately drop the cases against Parit, Panusaya, and others unjustly charged for their peaceful pro-democracy protests, but at a minimum they should be released on bail,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Holding activists in detention prior to trial and conviction, which could be years away, seems aimed to unfairly punish them rather than fulfill a legitimate state interest.”

On March 8, 2021, the Bangkok Criminal Court ordered Panusaya, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, and Panupong Jadnok into pre-trial detention on lese majeste charges connected to the speeches they made demanding reforms of the monarchy during a rally on September 19, 2020. The cases follow the court’s February 9 decision to order four other prominent democracy activists – Parit, Arnon Nampha, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, and Patiwat Saraiyaem – into pre-trial detention on similar charges.

Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code makes lese majeste punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The activists were also charged with sedition under Criminal Code article 116, which carries a maximum 7-year sentence. These cases are just the latest in which Thai activists charged with lese majeste have been detained for lengthy periods that could go on for years until their trial is concluded, Human Rights Watch said.

Except for Patiwat, who gave a statement in court on March 29 that he would no longer participate in rallies and other political activities or make public comments about the monarchy, the court has repeatedly denied the activists’ bail requests, saying they are likely to commit the alleged offenses again if released.

Holding those charged with lese majeste in pretrial detention violates their rights under international human rights law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified, encourages bail for criminal suspects. Article 9 states that, “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.” Those whose charges have not been dropped should be tried without undue delay, Human Rights Watch said.

The number of lese majeste cases in Thailand has significantly increased in the past year, Human Rights Watch said. After almost a three-year hiatus in which lese majeste prosecutions were not brought before the courts, Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, in November, ordered the authorities to restore lese majeste prosecutions, ostensibly because of growing criticisms of the monarchy. Since then, officials have charged at least 82 people with lese majeste crimes in relation to various activities at pro-democracy rallies or comments on social media.

In a February 8 statement on the situation in Thailand, United Nations human rights experts said that lese majeste laws have “no place in a democratic country.” They also expressed serious concerns about the growing number of lese majeste prosecutions and harsh prison sentences the courts have meted out to some defendants. On January 19, a retired civil servant, Anchan Preelert, received an 87-year prison sentence, later halved after she pleaded guilty.

The ICCPR protects the right to freedom of expression. General Comment 34 of the Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors compliance with the covenant, states that laws such as those for lese majeste “should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person that may have been impugned” and that governments “should not prohibit criticism of institutions.”

“The Thai government should stop this witch hunt against peaceful dissenters and demonstrate respect for human rights by permitting all viewpoints,” Adams said. “The government should engage with United Nations experts and others about amending the lese majeste law to bring it into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations.”





Protest=arrest

18 04 2021

There’s been considerable sympathy for the political activists detained without bail on lese majeste charges, some of them refusing solid food. In a situation where the virus is spreading rapidly, a lot of this has been seen on social media.

Yet, as Prachatai recently reported, for some time, the Resistant Citizen group has been arranging 112 minute daily “Just Standing” protests, targeting court buildings across the country, and attracting dozens to several hundred people.

Among those joining have been academics, lawyers and the mothers of some of the detainees, all holding banners. Some of the mothers are quoted:

The mother of Panupong Jadnok, one of the leading protest figures, told Matichon that the prolonged and strict judicial process and the rejection of bail have made her son guilty without a court ruling. The repeated travel to numerous proceedings have exhausted her.

Malai Nampa, mother of Anon Nampa, another leading figure, said the last time she met Anon was on 9 April when he walked past her but was not allowed to speak.

We know that Mongkol Thrakhote was arrested on Wednesday during a protest in front of the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court and that he has since been charged with lese majeste.

Protesters are now being harassed, with “leaders” being targeted by police. The Bangkok Post reports that police “are preparing to charge four key figures behind the political rally outside Government House on Thursday for organising a public gathering in violation of the Disease Control Act and the emergency decree…”.

The regime is seeking to harass all political opposition figures it identifies as likely to “lead” others.