Royal secrecy deepens

13 12 2017

King Vajiralongkorn’s reign has been characterized by fear and secrecy.

The fear has spread throughout society. Fear of getting on the wrong side of a powerful man said to be vicious and cruel. Fear of his enforcers, including the junta. Fear of doing the wrong thing. Fear of the royalists patrolling royal boundaries. Fear of not knowing what those boundaries are and how they move.

Secrecy has surrounded all official dealings, from the raft of laws (including the constitution) that have been changed to suit the king and give him vastly increased power to the cremation of the dead king.

Put all of this fear and secrecy together and it means that officials are petrified.

Prachatai reports on how this petrified state has played out in yet another bizarre lese majeste case.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the Office of the Council of State (OCS) has denied lawyers access to a document required to defend a client charged with lese majeste for allegedly defaming Princess Sirindhorn.

Sensible readings of Article 112 are clear that she is not covered by the law. Yet that has not stopped courts from ruling on lese majeste cases about her.

The document is requested because “Sirindhorn’s official title in Thai before King Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne included ‘Crown Princess’.” This leads to “dispute as to whether she was considered an heir apparent of the Thai monarch,” and thus covered by the law.

We think this is buffalo manure because, from 1972, there was only one heir apparent. But as the courts apply the law willy-nilly and in cases involving dogs and long dead kings, we see why the lawyer seeks it.

The report states:

The lawyer first requested access to the document in June 2017 but the OCS declined the request citing the Rule on Maintenance of Official Secrets 2001 and Article 14 of the Public Information Act 1997.

The OCS claims the document “is classified because information in the document could damage the monarchy if it is published.” The TLHR counters that “the document was accessible on the OCS website until at least June 2017.”

In August 2017, the court trying the lese majeste case to allow access, but this was rejected, with the court “stating that it can rule on the case regardless of the OCS document.” It also ruled that the “OCS does not have authority over the document.”

All things royal are becoming even more opaque than they were in the past. Neo-feudal Thailand is a dark, dangerous, unpredictable and daft administrative space.





Burning arches lese majeste “guilty” pleas

22 11 2017

About a week ago we posted on the sentencing of two men, held in jail until they pleaded guilty, for allegedly torching dead king arches in Khon Kaen province. They were said to be two among eight suspects and a 14-year-old who are accused of being involved in the burning.

Prachatai reports that “[f]ive teenagers and one adult facing royal defamation [lese majeste] charges for burning royal arches in northeastern Thailand have pleaded guilty.” Previously, the six had only agreed to plead guilty to destroying public property. They denied charges of criminal association and lese majeste.

Why did they change their plea?

One of the six said that they chose to plead guilty because the trial would be lengthier if they continued to fight the case, adding that he hopes that the sentence can be halved and that they will receive a royal pardon.

Nothing new there. This is now standard operating procedure in the Thai (in)justice system.

On 20 November 2017, the Provincial Court of Phon District “held a preliminary hearing for six suspects indicted for violating Article 112 … criminal association, and destruction of public property…”. The court is scheduled to sentence them on 31 January 2018.

The unusual thing in this case is that five of the defendants are teenagers.

In other words, the Thai state is prepared to keep children and youth in jail, without bail and limited access to lawyers in order to get its guilty pleas that avoid having anyone challenge the “sanctity” of the horrid monarchy, even in a real court case.

There is no such thing as a fair trial on lese majeste in Thailand. Legal procedures are fake and a farce.

The 14 year-old who is also charged will face the Khon Kaen Juvenile and Family Court later. We are unable to confirm if he is detained.





Updated: Absurd defenses of feudalism

16 10 2017

Update: A reader rightly points out that our headline is potentially misleading. Let us be clear: the absurdities are all on the side of those implementing, using and defending the feudal lese majeste law.

PPT has had several posts regarding the efforts of a couple of retired generals, public prosecutors and a military court’s decision to go ahead with investigations of a lese majeste charge 85 year-old Sulak Sivaraksa. He dared to raise doubts about a purported historical event from centuries ago. (In fact, the prosecutors have until 7 December to activate the charge or let it lie.)

We have been interested to observe how parts of the media seem to far braver in pointing out the absurdities of this case than when it is workers, farmers, labor activists or average people who are charged in equally absurd cases. If these people are red shirts or fraudsters, there’s often barely a peep from the media.

Conservative, middle class, aged, royalist and intellectual Sulak, who has also been anti-Thaksin Shinawatra, is far easier to defend than those in more uncomfortable political and social locations for some reporters and writers.

His case also generates more international attention, as his cases have always done since 1984, when international academics supported him (and an alleged communist) under the administration led by General Prem Tinsulanonda.

Just in the Bangkok Post, there have been three op-eds and one editorial that each point out the ridiculousness of the case against Sulak. These include:

Yellow-hued, anti-Thaksinist Veera Prateepchaikul writes that the latest case is “unique in its absurdity.” He says he sees two troubling issues with the case:

First, … why did it take police three years to decide to send this case to the prosecutor — a military prosecutor in this case because we are now under the junta regime?

The second issue concerns the police interpretation of the lese majeste law or Section 112 of the Criminal Code in a way which makes the law look like it has an infinitely long hand which can delve into an event which took place some 400 years ago. The land on which the elephant duel was said to take place was not even called Siam.

Kong Rithdee, who has been pretty good and brave in calling out the lese majeste fascists, points out the absurdities of the case:

Another day, another lese majeste story. This time the interpretation of the contentious law goes back much further, to 1593 to be precise, to a dusty battlefield somewhere before “Thailand” existed.

The use of a military court to possibly sentence an 85 year-old to 15 years in jail is also mentioned as absurd.

Kong makes some connections that warrant more attention:

The scope of interpretation of Section 112 has been one of the central bristles of modern Thai politics, and while there have been cases that raised your eyebrows and body temperature (that of Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa, to name just one), this wild reading of the law to cover an event from 400 years ago borders on dark comedy.

He asks if the absurdity of Sulak’s case tells Thais that they must not discuss or adopt a critical perspective on history. It seems Thais are expected to accept schoolbook nationalism and the jingoism of royalist film-makers.

Ploenpote Atthakor takes up the blind royalist nationalism. She observes that, in Thailand, there is no “dialogue” about historical events, “especially the parts concerning historical heroes or heroines, or even villains, hardly exists. Anyone who dares to question particular historical episodes may face trouble.” She notes how the history that got Sulak into trouble has changed several times and is disputed by historians.

Ultra-nationalism blinds Thais. The red hot pokers have been wielded by feudal-minded royalists and military dictators.

The Bangkok Post editorial extends the discussion to law and injustice:

In what appears to be an attempt at law enforcement, authorities in the past two weeks have taken legal action against two prominent public figures by resorting to what appears to be a misuse of both the law and its principles.

One is Sulak’s case and the other person is Thaksin, one of his lese majeste cases and the retroactive application of a law. The Post states that the cases “not only put the Thai justice system under the global spotlight but will also jeopardise law enforcement in the country.”

The editorial questions the police’s interpretation of the law, saying it:

is worrisome and has prompted questions about how far such a law should be applied. If Mr Sulak is indicted, it would create a chilling climate of fear and hurt the credibility of Thailand’s justice system….

In proceeding legal actions against the two men, the authorities must realise any abuses of the law can set bad precedents with a far-reaching impact on Thai citizens.

All these perspectives are right. We applaud these journalists for daring to defend Sulak and, in one instance, even Thaksin. At the same time, it would be brave and right to point out the absurdities that face many others charged with lese majeste. The military dictatorship has gotten away with being absurd for too long.





Lese majeste expanding madly

15 10 2017

Since the 2006 royalist military coup, the use of the lese majeste law has been expanded and deepened. Under the military dictatorship its use has become downright bizarre. By the month ever more absurd cases are being pursued.

Some of the downright absurd charges and allegations have involved: “insulting” a dead king’s dead dog, expressing doubt about an ancient king’s elephant battle, juveniles, jailing the family of the new king’s ex-wife, “insulting” a long dead king, a palace associate who sold oversized chilli paste to the new king’s household, fraudsters and grifters charged under Article 112 and much more.

None of these cases have anything much at all to do with the law as written. All of these cases have been assessed by an unstated royalist judicial view of what might, possibly, perhaps, cause others to think less of the existing monarchy. (Yes, we know the current monarch is starting pretty low.) There’s also a lot of unexpressed fear of not being royalist enough. And, there’s the requirement to be seen to be doing the required posterior polishing.

In a recent story, Khaosod reports that a lese majeste charge “might be filed against a construction company that allegedly defrauded 300 million baht from its victims…”.

The Department of Special Investigation has nabbed the Hujjee Group for having “solicited investment by claiming to have won major contracts in Myanmar from bogus royal family members of the Mon ethnic group there.”

Bogus royals? In Myanmar? DSI is “considering” whether to file a lese majeste charge against the seven people already in custody other suspects still being pursued.

This seems like just another group of garden variety of fraudsters who are so common in Thailand, but their alleged claims are about Myanmar and a bogus royal family that has no relationship with Thailand’s monarchy.

Should the DSI file lese majeste charges, the next step might be to charge companies like King Power, Hotel Royal Bangkok, Royal Coffee, Royal Airport Services, Royal Skyways, Royal Foods and even similar companies in other countries for using allusions to the monarchy in their trading names!

It’s getting that risible.





Royalist myth-making

12 10 2017

A story at The Nation caught our attention. It is about the absurd lese majeste case facing conservative royalist Sulak Sivarasaka.

As we know, Sulak is being charged under Article 112 for daring to “wonder aloud whether King Naresuan’s famous elephant duel in defence of 16th-century Ayutthaya actually occurred.”

The possibly mythical battle between Naresuan and a prince from what is now Myanmar “is regarded in Thai mainstream history as a momentous event that freed Ayutthaya from the threat of Burmese rule.”

The modern military, which has no relationship at all to Ayutthaya thinks that the date of the “battle” was 18 January and makes this Armed Forces Day.

Thais are taught that Naresuan was “Great” and they are told that he is to be “revered” as a “national hero.”

The Nation states that the “reality [is] that the combat took place centuries before the Thai nation-state came into being and thus cannot be confined within modern political boundaries.”

It then tilts at other elements of “Thailand” and “Thainess,” including muay thai which is regional as is Songkran.

It says “monopolising the story surrounding King Naresuan is especially damaging because it misguides everyone, especially Thais, into believing there is only one version of history.”

It adds that the elite “discourage[s] any further study of history because for them the official version – or the version that supports the powers-that-be – is the correct one and everything thing else is wrong.”

Examples of similar ultra-nationalist furors stage-managed by the elite include the “graduate student questioned whether the historical figure of Lady Moe had actually existed.” She was threatened with being lynched.

Back to Naresuan, “Thailand’s history textbooks criticise many Ayutthaya monarchs for failing to protect their kingdom. Why should King Naresuan be an exception? The dismal answer is that he is admired by the military, and the military are now in power.”

Naresuan did ally with the (now) hated Burmese for a considerable period, if chronicles are to be believed.

On Sulak’s case, it observes:

The fact that the case was not thrown out the minute it was raised three years ago is a strong indication that Thailand’s authorities and many of its citizens have lost any sense of that normality.





Thaksin denies lese majeste

10 10 2017

Lese majeste has become the military dictatorship’s weapon of political choice in attacking opponents. Because it has to do with monarchy, yellow shirts immediately jump on board and support the junta, no matter how absurd the allegations and charges (historical myths and events, the dead king’s dead dog, use against a juvenile, etc.). When this political charge is used against Thaksin Shinawatra, the gleefulness of junta and royalist supporters is palpable.

So when the military dictatorship reactivated a lese majeste accusation against Thaksin (one of many such charges and allegations), the yellow-hued royalists again clapped and cheered the military regime.

In this instance, Thaksin has responded.

Thaksin denied “that he has ever defamed the royal family and threatened to sue anyone who accuses him of the crime.” He took to Twitter to state that he was “emotionally troubled” by reports that “the new attorney general had vowed to prosecute him for the crime.”

He condemned the use of lese majeste against him and declared that he “will take all legal action against those who continue implicate him, regardless of whether he knew the person. He did not name names.”

The newly appointed attorney general Khemchai Chutiwong wants to prosecute Thaksin for a “crime” of stating, quite reasonably, of the 2014 military coup, that:

The military listened to the Privy Councilors…. When they didn’t want us to stay anymore, they made Suthep [Thaugsuban, leader of anti-government protests] come out, and then had the military help him. Some people from the palace circle also provided help, which made us powerless.

Of course, as in many cases of lese majeste, this statement cannot possibly be lese majeste if any sane person reads Article 112. But like many of his ilk, Khemchai is insane when it comes to Thaksin and sees no problem in contorting an already absurd law to the political purpose of the anti-Thaksin coteries of royalists, coup-makers and anti-democrats.





Lese majeste vs. historical debate

6 10 2017

PPT’s page on the various  lese majeste cases brought against conservative social critic Sulak Sivaraksa is rather long. Unfortunately, we will be adding to it.

Sulak

The fifth of these cases (that we know of) has these details. On 16 October 2014, Lt Gen Padung Niwatwan and Lt Gen Pittaya Vimalin, retired and deeply royalist generals, filed a complaint at Chanasongkram Police Station accusing Sulak of lese majeste for a speech he made about King Naresuan. This long dead king, surrounded by myth, is considered important for royalist mythology about Thailand.  Sulak made a public speech on “Thai History: the Construction and Deconstruction” on 5 October 2014, at Thammasat University, where he allegedly claimed the legend of an elephant battle between Naresuan and a Burmese king was constructed. He is also reported to have criticized the king of some 412 years ago for being cruel. Both claims have been the subject debates among historians.

It might be considered that “defaming” a figure from ancient history, for who there is only  scant reliable historical information, must be a nonsense. Yet the madness of the royalist judicial system knows no bounds, either in law or in insanity.

On 24 December 2014, police issued this statement: “… Sulak Sivaraksa has referred to Somdej Phra Naresuen the Great and Somdej Phra Chomklao Chaoyookhua (Rama IV) in a way that insults, defames, or threatens His Majesty the King…”. The police appear confused about present and past tenses and about past and present in general. Yet they pushed the case forward.

Khaosod reports that the police have told the 84 year-old Sulak that he must “report Monday morning to police who will take him to a military court to meet with prosecutors preparing a case against him for allegedly criticizing” Naresuan.

Sulak commented: “If the country was normal and there existed rule of law in this country, then there won’t be problems. The lese majeste law protects the current monarch and if someone is charged for criticizing a king who reigned 500 years ago, then something is not normal…”.

As everyone knows, Article 112 of the criminal code “forbids defaming, insulting or threatening the current king, queen, heir apparent or regent” not some dead king of centuries past. Yet in the recent past the courts have convicted persons for lese majeste against other dead kings. The prosecutors and courts simply make the law up as they go along and now seem to bizarrely interpret any critical comment against any royal, real or imagined, as constituting lese majeste of the current monarch, who wasn’t even on the throne when Sulak made his comments.

So now we have a case of an elderly man accused of “defaming” a long dead monarch and thus causing a transference of “defamation” to a monarch who died a year ago. Thailand’s judicial system has become entirely maniacal as well as ultra-royalist.