Regime vs. students

20 10 2021

Over the past 18 months, political conflict has revolved around students opposing the regime and its royalist supporters. The student challenge has waned, in part because of the virus, but also because of the regime’s repression strategy, which has included virus emergency provisions used mostly for political purposes.

Much of the repression has been delegated to the purged police. Of course, the military has also been involved and continues to provide its backing for the regime and monarchy.

Political repression has extended from the streets to universities and to the judicial system. The latter has made heavy use of laws on lese majeste, sedition, computer crimes, public health mandates, and some charges dredged from a feudal Thailand.  For example, in a case from a year ago, several protesters were accused of violating Article 110 of the Criminal Code, which has to do with attempts an act of violence against the queen or the royal heir.  Those charged face 16-20 years’ imprisonment, making this an even more serious crime than lese majeste.

Of course, not one of those charged attempted any violence. But the repression of using the law hangs on, as one of them, Bunkueanun Paothong, explained in a recent op-ed.

In universities, administered by royalists doing the bidding of the regime, struggles continue. Prachatai reports on the royalists at Chiang Mai University where students from the Media Arts and Design Department in the Faculty of Fine Arts have been prevented from showing their final arts projects allegedly because “some pieces deal with social and political themes.” The censorious and fearful royalist Faculty administrators even locked students out of buildings. Some students and their parents are worried that the kids will not be allowed to graduate.

Such actions are common at universities across the country. Thasnai Sethaseree, an artist and Faculty of Fine Arts lecturer observed:

What happened during the past week is a common occurrence in Chiang Mai University, but the people who are affected have never spoken out…. Things like this happen in Chiang Mai University every day. This case like a volcano that will make the lava in other places erupt….

Back in Bangkok, where working class kids are facing off against police, Talugas protesters continue to be pushed into prisons. Thalugas, is causing a royalist stir:

Soldiers will step in to handle political protests only when the situation is considered a rebellion or a riot, Defence Forces chief Gen Chalermpol Srisawat said on Tuesday.

He said the announcement by the Thalu Gas group, now renamed the People’s Revolutionary Alliance (PRA), about aiming to overthrow the constitutional monarchy was a lawful expression of the group’s opinion.

The responsibility of the police is to ensure law and order, he said. So if the group were to act in any way that threatens Thailand’s sovereignty, it would then be time for the military to take action, he said.

While the statement that issuing an anti-monarchist statement is legal might bring some relief, the military defines the monarchy as a matter of “national security,” suggesting that the general’s statement is really a threat. Indeed, the police are already “investigating” a “Facebook page operated by the Thalu Gas group over content related to the monarchy…”.

The police admit they cannot eliminate anti-monarchism. The plan seems to be to silence it with thousands of legal charges and the jailing of hundreds.

The struggle continues.





Framing activists

1 04 2021

AP reports that prosecutors have “indicted five pro-democracy activists on Wednesday on changes of attempting to harm the queen during a street demonstration last October in which some protesters shouted slogans critical of the monarchy.”

The five stand “accused of violating Section 110 of the Criminal Code, which says that whoever attempts an act of violence against the queen or the royal heir faces 16-20 years’ imprisonment.” This is another law “protecting” the monarchy, and this is, as far as we know, its first use in recent years.

As AP points out, there was no violence and “Queen Suthida … was not in any evident danger in the incident, which occurred when a limousine carrying the queen and the king’s son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, passed through a small crowd of protesters mixed with supporters of the royal family.”

In other words, the protesters may have been set up and they are certainly being framed.

They include Akechai Hongkangwarn and Bunkueanun Paothong. It is reported that all “five deny any wrongdoing. After their indictment, they were released on bail of 200,000-300,000 baht ($6,400-$9,600) each.”





Legal repression

10 12 2020

A uniformed King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida were present for the dedication ceremony “to open a new Supreme Court Office in Bangkok’s Phra Nakhon district on Monday.” The link between the palace and the judiciary is remarkably feudal.

Since 2006, when the dead king activated the judiciary into public judicial activism, the courts have been loyal allies of coup-makers, generals and the right and royalists. and has been significant in political repression and ensuring Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime remained in office.

Since student-led protesters rose again in July, the judicial system has been the regime’s principal institution in repressing the protesters.

Keeping up with the avalanche of charges against protesters is difficult indeed. One summary, at Prachatai, is from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and they:

reported the case statistics from the first protest on 18 July to the night of 7 December. In the past 4 months and 20 days, 220 people have faced 119 charges. Most are related to unannounced protests under the Public Assembly Act.

149 people have been charged with violations of the emergency decree, and 18 charges are related to the withdrawn severe state of emergency. There are also 56 people who were arrested on the spot during the 16 October crackdown.

Among all those charged, 5 are under the age of 18 who face 7 charges. The lowest age is 16. The sedition law has been used against a 17-year-old youth.

24 people have been charged under Section 112 of the Criminal Code (the lèse majesté law), 53 under Section 116 (the sedition law), and 5 under Section 110 (violating the Queen’s liberty).

Now that lese majeste is back in a big way, protesters and commentators are again targeting the law for abolition and/or revision.





Updated: The political judiciary

28 10 2020

From long being a pretty somnolent part of the bureaucracy, in the 21st century, Thailand’s judiciary has shown that it can move politics in particular directions. The judiciary has demonstrated a capacity for politicized decision-making that has supported rightist, royalist and military interests. Its double standards are now legendary.

Sure, sometimes a court makes a decision that goes against the political grain, but these are exceptions to what is now a rule.

The most politicized of judges, who do as they are required, get rewarded. The most recent is the appointment of Nurak Mapraneet as a privy councilor. He is a former president of the Constitutional Court. He became court president in 2007 following the 2006 military coup. During his tenure there, the Court dissolved six political parties, removed two prime ministers, nullified the 2014 election, banned scores of politicians, and accepted a king’s announcement as law. Quite a record and now he’s rewarded.

All of this is a preamble to an observation that the judicial system and the courts are again being used by the regime as a political weapon.

A couple of days ago, Thai Enquirer published a list of Thailand’s latest political prisoners. It is a list of list of university students, activists, and musicians who have been charged, since 18 July 2020, under Article 116 with sedition (21 persons) and Article 110 for committing an act of violence against the queen or her liberty (3 persons). It notes that “at least 60 other protestors have been charged for joining the pro-democracy protests between October 13 and October 24, according to TLHR and Amnesty International.” Many of these were charged with violating the emergency decree. Astoundingly, that number includes “two children, aged 16 and 17, and they will be prosecuted even though the severe state of emergency decree was lifted…”.

The courts get involved in these cases almost from the beginning. From a phase where those arrested were soon bailed by the courts, that has now ceased for those deemed to be “leaders.” It is as if an order has come from higher up, telling the judges not to release them. For example, there have been several instances where the political detainees have been granted bail and then immediately arrested on other charges. The most recent example is human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa. He was bailed by a Chiang Mai Court and then immediately re-arrested and transported to Bangkok by road to face another period in detention.

As was the pattern in lese majeste cases, we see the judiciary, police and corrections being used to punish, detain, and harass. We refer to this as “lese majeste torture.” The most awful example was the treatment meted out to Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. He’s now in jail and denied bail again. Also well aware of this tactic, having also been a lese majeste prisoner, is Akechai Hongkangwarn. He’s now denied bail on a spurious Article 110 charge.

Then there are the young “leaders.” Not only are they repeatedly denied bail, but the system ensures that they are treated to all the feudal rules of the prison system. While they have not yet had their heads shaved, they are given king-approved haircuts and made to wear prison uniforms and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul has been made to “dye her hair natural black,” if those words from the Bangkok Post make any sense at all.

But none of this makes much sense. It is just a dictatorial regime acting under orders.

Update: Khaosod reports that police are looking to charge some 16 persons: “Deputy Bangkok police chief Piya Tawichai told the media yesterday the police were gathering evidence to prosecute the embassy protesters…. Maj. Gen. Piya said a number of laws were violated, such as the public assembly act and libel.” Pro-democracy activists Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa are among those being “investigated.”

It is not reported whether the police are taking similar action against the yellow shirts who protested at the same embassy before the pro-democracy thousands.





With 3 updates: The Dictator’s response I

21 10 2020

The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, is tone deaf. So hard of political hearing that he’s doubling down against the students and other protesters, seemingly prepared to risk clashes and extreme violence.

Voice TV has been defiant on the court ordered shutdown. But Gen Prayuth has ordered state authorities to crackdown hard, especially on anti-monarchy statements and images, stating: “We are duty-bound to protect the country and eliminate ill-intentioned actions aimed at creating chaos and conflict in the country…”. He’s talking about the monarchy.

In a piece of good news, and in an act that goes against the judiciary’s pro-authoritarian bent, the Criminal Court on Wednesday “repealed a government order to close down a TV channel [Voice TV] who’s been broadcasting live coverage of the student-led protests…”.

Voice TV “representatives argued to the court that the shutdown order breached the constitutional protection of media freedom…. The argument was accepted by the court, who noted that the order did not cite any clear wrongdoing.”

But other parts of the judicial system acted against democracy. Many will have seen reports that several of those arrested had been bailed. Not so fast. A Bangkok Post report states:

Two protest leaders, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, were taken to the Criminal Court on Wednesday as Bangkok police pressed charges against them for their part in an anti-government rally at Sanam Luang on Sept 19.

Samran Rat police took the two pro-democracy activists from the Region 1 Border Patrol Police camp in Pathum Thani province to the court, ariving around 10.50am on Wednesday.

The two Thammasat University students were released on bail by Thanyaburi court on Tuesday afternoon, before police took them to the Region 1 Border Patrol Police camp in Khlong Luang district.

Mr Parit and Ms Panusaya were also wanted on arrest warrants from other police stations for their roles in anti-government rallies in Bangkok and other provinces.

In other words, the police and regime can continue to keep them on political ice.

More than this, the arrest continue, even in the fake case of “royal endangerment.” Suranat Paenprasert, a coordinator for children’s welfare and anti-drug advocacy group “Active Youth,” was charged with Article 110 of the Criminal Codes, which bans committing acts of violence against the Queen or [h]er [l]iberty.” It is a fit up, but the regime want to raise the temperature of ultra-royalists, while removing activists.

Meanwhile, the royalists are getting organized, with support from the state. Seeing the students and other protesters as “misled” and “duped” – terms also use when denigrating red shirts – Warong Dechgitvigrom warned of “the plot”: “pro-democracy protesters’ demands were not legitimate, especially those concerning the monarchy.” And, he added that there were hidden backers: “group leaders did not want to show themselves to avoid legal action.”

Helping him out, “Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin yesterday spoke about his Facebook post urging people in Chon Buri to exercise their power to protect the monarchy.” That’s a call to action and probably arms.

The state is now actively engaged in mobilizing royalists. The Bangkok Post reports:

Crowds estimated to number in the tens of thousands led by local administrators gathered in several in provinces on Wednesday in a show of loyalty to the royal institution.

The royalist demonstrations, staged in response to recent calls by some student protesters for reform of the monarchy, took place in provinces including Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Lampang, Nan, Narathiwat and Songkhla….

Similar gatherings were planned in provinces before the end of this month.

Bangkok Post: An estimated 20,000 yellow-clad people march in Sungai Kolok district of Narathiwat on Wednesday morning to show their loyalty to the royal institution. (Photo by Waedao Harai). The Post always downplays and vastly underestimates the size of student rallies.

The states involvement is a dangerous turn of events and The Dictator seems to be digging in. We are not sure that can save him. How desperate can he become?

Update 1: The Bangkok Post appears to be aiding the regime. One of its latest “stories” is about continuing protests and the ultra-royalist marches mentioned above. It reports that “authorities are worried about possible clashes between the two groups in the future.” Again, the post goes full ultra by not pointing out that it is the authorities who are mobilizing the royalists. Indeed, many of those who marched were in civil service uniforms! The Post, by playing dumb, is aiding and abetting any violence that the state unleashes.

Update 2: The Nation makes it clear that the royalists were mainly officials.

Update 3: Social media reports that the first attacks on protesters by yellow shirted royalists took place at Ramkhamhaeng University around 5-6pm today.





Updated: Car trouble II

16 10 2020

The Bangkok Post’s reporting on recent events in Bangkok has been abysmal. Worse, it has appeared as a mouthpiece for the regime. Compare its reporting with that at Khaosod English and understand how regime-grovelling and spineless the Bangkok Post has become. Are the owners running the show?

Which brings us to the almost unprecedented use of Article 110 of the Criminal Code. The Bangkok Post has almost nothing to say about this. Other outlets have already shown that the charges are a complete fabrication. Worse, the Post fails to read Article 110 accurately, downplaying it.

Francis. Clipped from TLHR

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, who are exceptionally busy just now, dealing with dozens of arrested activists, have a report on the royal  car debacle.

Both Bunkueanun (Francis) Paothong and Akechai Hongkangwarn have appeared before police, accused of “jointly attempted to commit an assault against the Queen’s liberty…”.

Both men are accused of having “incited demonstrators surrounding the procession to block the front of the procession and to crowd around the queen’s car.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

Akechai is accused of shouting, raising three fingers, and that he tried to push police officers.

The demonstrators are accused of causing the royal car to stop, allowing a group of demonstrators to shout insults accompanied by the three finger salute.

This “fit up” is necessary for the regime because it used the event as an excuse for a coup-like declaration of a state of emergency.

Such fabricated “criminal” cases were a defining feature of the military junta under Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. As arrests continue, the whole judicial system is a tool of the regime.

Update: The Bangkok Post’s editorial today, after two nights of historic rallying in Bangkok, is about the zoo. Hopeless.





Updated: Car trouble I

16 10 2020

There are lots of rumors and plenty of speculation on why the royal cavalcade on October 14 ended up in among the pro-democracy protesters. That error/provocation/royal order/dirty trick (as it variously appears) led to the hurling of abuse at these leeches on the taxpayer.

We have no idea why the regime allowed this to happen, but the scapegoating has been furious. Khaosod reports that “[t]hree police commanders, including an officer who oversaw the crowd control division, were transferred to an inactive post pending investigation on Thursday after a royal motorcade encountered a group of protesters…”.

Police spokesman Maj Gen “Yingyot Thepchamnong said three senior officers are under investigation into why they did not clear the route.” Maj Gen Yingyot observed: “It didn’t go according to plans…. They might have forgotten or misunderstood the details of the plans.”

He was asked the obvious question: “why the royal motorcade was not diverted to a different route”? Maj Gen Yingyot “declined to answer…”.

The report notes that “… reporters at the scene confirmed that they saw no protesters standing in the way of the convoy or throwing any projectiles to the vehicles, which were protected by layers of police officers…”.

That observation becomes critical when it is learned that:

… two prominent pro-democracy activists on charges of using violence on … the Queen.

Ekachai Hongkangwan and Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothong were identified as the suspects in the most serious charge filed by the authorities so far since the waves of anti-government protests began in February. If guilty, they face life in prison.

Both of them were charged under Article 110 of the Criminal Code….

PPT has never heard of this article previously. It turns out that there are six articles on crimes against the monarchy. Article 110 states:

Whoever commits an act of violence against the Queen or Her liberty, the Heir-apparent or His liberty, or the Regent or his/her liberty, shall be punished with imprisonment for life or imprisonment of sixteen to twenty years. Whoever attempts to commit such offence shall be liable to the same punishment.

If such act is likely to endanger the life of the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, the offender, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

Whoever makes preparations for committing an act of violence against the Queen or Her liberty, the Heir-apparent or His liberty, or the Regent or his/her liberty, or does any act to assist in keeping secret any intention to commit such offence, shall be punished with imprisonment of twelve to twenty years.

Akechai has a long history with the police for his opposition to military authoritarianism and has been attacked by “unknown” assailants several times. His arrest and detention, along with Bunkuenun, brings the known total of arrests over the last three days to more than 50.

Update: Thai Enquirer has more on the framing of Akechai and Bunkuenun. It states:

If you saw the videos, you will see that no one was blocking the royal motorcade; the protestors did not even know that they were coming….

If you watched live around 5.30 p.m. on Wednesday, you would have seen that Ekkachai Hongkangwan and Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothon were not doing anything to harm the Queen’s liberty at all….

Without warning, the police then charged at the protesters before people realized that it was the royal motorcade behind the police.

By that time, Ekkachai and Francis have already been pushed aside along with other protestors as the police formed a human chain to make way for the motorcade.

They were not near the car, and they were not throwing anything.

The opinion piece adds: “So to say that somehow the student protesters were responsible is laughable…“.








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