Another busy 112 day

4 03 2021

Clipped from Prachatai

In yet another day of Article 112 action, Thailand’s royalist protection police – 20 of them – descended on Tiwagorn Withiton, “a Facebook user who went viral in 2020 for posting a picture of himself wearing a shirt printed with ‘I lost faith in the monarchy,’ was arrested again…”, in Khon Kaen, “on a warrant issued by the Khon Kaen Provincial Court on 3 March 2021 on charges under the lèse-majesté law and sedition law, or Sections 112 and 116, as well as the Computer Crimes Act.”

The charges stemmed from “Facebook posts he made on 11 and 18 February 2021.” The police seized three “I lost faith in the monarchy” t-shirts, computers and smart phones.

Tiwagorn denied the charges.

After a couple of hours in prison, the “Khon Kaen Provincial Court has granted Tiwagorn bail, with a security of 150,000 baht.”





Further updated: Three more 112 complaints

2 03 2021

Thai PBS reports that the Corrections Department has lodged lese majeste complaints with police, “seeking legal action against a group of people who torched the portrait of … the King in front of Khlong Prem prison early Sunday morning.”

An official cabal of 112 accusers was composed of Justice (yes, we know, there’s no real justice when it comes to king things) Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, Director-general of the Corrections Department, Ayut Sinthoppan, and Pol Col Panudet Sookwong, deputy commander of Second Division of Metropolitan Police Bureau.

Somsak said there are “three suspects, two men and one woman, after they examined footage from the CCTV system in front of the prison, which shows a white MPV at the scene at about 3.10am Sunday morning.” He added that the three had been tracked down “and further investigation shows that the trio have political connections…”. He did not explain.

We are reminded of earlier 112 arson cases.

The Bangkok Post reports that they will also be charged with ” charged with arson, trespassing on state property…”.

Somsak ordered tightened security and warned officials to “never let a similar incident happen again.” That should stand as a call for the burning of royal portraits across the country.

Update 1: We should have added the observation that the Bangkok Post decided headline arson charges rather than lese majeste cases. The Post is becoming an ever less reliable newspaper because of its bending to royalism. We think there are now 62-63 persons charged with lese majeste is the latest round of anti-royalist repression.

Update 2: Reports soon appeared that one of those being tracked by the police was Chai-amorn Kaewwiboonpan, better known as Ammy The Bottom Blues. There was considerable apprehension when Ammy was reported arrested on social media but saw police denying this. Later, it was confirmed that he was arrested in Ayutthaya. He now faces several charges:

The charges carry severe penalties — 5-20 years, life in prison or death for arson; 3-15 years for royal insult; and five years each for trespassing on a state office and for computer crime.





Lese majeste and cruelty II

28 02 2021

The Bangkok Post has a story about yet another bail refusal for lese majeste defendants and monarchy reform advocates Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem.

The Post says this is a “[t]hird setback in efforts to secure release of foursome awaiting lese majeste trials.” We know it is difficult keeping up with the number accused of lese majeste (is it 59 or 60?), but the number of bail applications and repeated refusals by royalist courts should be easier to count.

Going by the information in the story, we count five, including the most recent that begins the Post story:

Clipped from Khaosod

They have been in the Bangkok Remand Prison since Feb 9 when they were formally indicted on charges including lese majeste in connection with rallies at Sanam Luang on Sept 19 and 20 last year. The Criminal Court rejected their initial bail request.

The Court of Appeal on Feb 15 upheld the Criminal Court decision, citing the defendants’ disrespect for the monarchy and saying they posed a flight risk. Subsequent requests to the Criminal Court on Feb 17 and Feb 22 were also rejected, with both decisions upheld by the Court of Appeal.

The grounds for the appeal were entirely reasonable:

The first was a cash bond of 400,000 baht for each defendant, which was higher than the previous bail request. Charnvit Kasetsiri, a former rector of Thammasat University, and Panas Tassaneeyanon, a former dean of the university’s Faculty of Law, had agreed to act as guarantors for the defendants, said the lawyer.

The three other issues were that the defendants posed no flight risk, they had not yet found been guilty by a court and thus they were considered innocent, and all had permanent residences…

All to no avail. The establishment is busy protecting the king and punishing its opponents.





Updated: Limp royalistness

24 02 2021

Vitit Muntarbhorn is a Professor Emeritus at the Faculty of Law at Chulalongkorn University and was formerly UN Special Rapporteur, UN Independent Expert and member of UN Commissions of Inquiry on Human Rights.

His op-ed at the Bangkok Post, “Thailand’s bail system — is it made for the rich?“, was recently presented at a web-conference organized by Thammasat University.

“Discussing” lese majeste

Given the fact that lese majeste defendants were more-or-less routinely refused bail for the years from 2006 to 2017 and that four defendants – all political activists – have been denied bail three or four times in quick succession, and you’d think that Vitit and his publisher would have something to say. But you’d be wrong.

Not a word. Sure, there’s limp comments about “the chasm between power derived from the coup d’etat and the aspirations of a democratic and just society” and “the spate of cases in relation to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” and some appropriate statements about access to bail. But nary a word on lese majeste and the bizarre actions of the courts.

Vitit’s work with the UN and on international law means he knows truth. Does he dare not speak it?

Update: A reader drew our attention to a second statement (added later?) to the Post op-ed, stating:

Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn teaches at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. He has helped the UN in a variety of positions and is currently a member of a UN Human Rights Commission of Inquiry. This article is derived from his speech at the recent Conference on Asean Traversing 2015: Challenges of Development, Democratisation, Human Rights and Peace, organised by Mahidol University, Bangkok.

Yet the original attribution to a February web-conference remains. Work it out. Something very limp going on.





The royal elephant in the room

20 02 2021

Reading a report at the Thai Enquirer on Move Forward’s Rangsiman Rome and his speech in parliament requires insider knowledge.

Reporting that he “showed the four-page document from 2019, when the Royal Thai Police force was under the leadership of [Gen] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and of current Deputy Prime Minister [Gen] Prawit Wangsuwan,” it is left to the reader’s imagination and inside knowledge to work out what this is about, adding:

The so-called chang or elephant ticket is allegedly a list of police officers assured of promotion. The ticket, according to Rome, is a vehicle for positions and connections within the police, bypassing the official merit-based system for promotion.

Immediately the hashtag #ตั๋วช้าง began trending, used millions of times.

Like an earlier politician forced into exile, Rangsiman spoke of the patronage system. Rangsiman implied “Prayut and Prawit were aware that such corrupt practices were taking place, accusing the administration of allowing the police to indulge the ‘godfathers’ operating gambling dens and the drug trade, while cracking down on pro-democracy protestors like criminals.”

The closest the newspaper gets to talking about the elephant in the room is when it reports that the MP said “he was aware that he was breaching a dangerous taboo against some of the country’s most powerful vested interests.” That’s code for the monarchy and that he was speaking of the involvement of the palace in police promotions and corruption was clearer – but still unstated – when he said:

This is probably the most dangerous action I’ve ever taken in my life,” he said during the hearing. “But since I have been chosen by the people, I will fight for the people…. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I have no regrets over the decisions that I have made today.

It is Khaosod that reports the speech more directly, helped by the slimy lese majeste bully Suporn Atthawong.

According to this report, Rangsiman’s “bombshell revelation” was that “a handful of government favorites and a royal aide can dictate appointments and removals within the police force at their whim…”.

He went further, saying that the documents showed that “police officers can gain immediate promotions without going through the formal route if they manage to obtain a ‘Ticket,’ a document signed by Maj. Gen. Torsak Sukvimol, the commander of the Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904.” That’s the younger brother of the king’s most important official.

The link to the palace is clear:

The MP said the scheme is run by Torsak’s brother, Sathitpong Sukvimol, who serves as Lord Chamberlain to the royal palace. Documents shown by Rangsiman shows that Sathitpong in 2019 wrote to a certain institution asking for 20 police officers to receive either new ranks or titles.

The slimy Suporn has rushed in with Article 112 allegations:

We have transcribed every word and letter of the speeches that Mr. Rangsiman Rome referenced the monarchy…. Our legal team has looked into it and concluded that the information is sufficient for prosecution under Article 112.

Of course, the king’s previous interference in police promotions has been well-documented. A recent academic piece, drawing on Wikileaks, summarizes this, stating that Vajiralongkorn twice “intervened in matters to do with the appointment of the national police chief, in 1997 and 2009, both seemingly with personal motives…”. We also know that there were several periods when the king was crown prince that there were rumors that he was involved with crime figures.





Clubhouse panic

19 02 2021

Minister for Protecting the King and Royal Family Buddhipongse Punnakanta, who doubles as Minister of Digital Economy and Society, has another digital platform to worry about in performing his main duty. Clubhouse has landed in Thailand and exploded.

As Thai Enquirer puts it:

Clipped from Vox

Clubhouse is a golden opportunity for free, open discussions to flourish in Thailand. Through the new voice-based app, Thai users are able to now access information and debates that are otherwise controlled and sometimes punishable by the state.

Of course, the topic that is bringing thousands into Clubhouse is the monarchy:

A large number of Thai users have joined Clubhouse in recent days after Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a … critic of the Thai palace, started discussing the monarchy, with some of the thousands of listeners chiming in with questions and opinions.

Buddhipongse said “authorities have followed Clubhouse usage in Thailand and warned legal action could be taken against those who violate laws,” suggesting that he has state spies in the system or plans to. He fumes and threatens:

Political groups and others have used the application to express opinion and give distorted information, create damage, and potentially violate laws.… Authorities are ready to proceed according to the law, the same as with other social media platforms.

More lese majeste charges coming…. By our count, the regime has now charged more than 60 persons under Article 112.





112 bullies

19 02 2021

Reuters reports that one of the regime’s clown princes, turncoat red shirt, and highly rewarded political opportunist, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and lese majeste bully, Suporn Atthawong, has “reported Amarat Chokepamitkul from the Move Forward Party to the cybercrime police on suspicion of breaking the [lese majeste] law with her Facebook posts.”

Ratting out those the regime considers political opponents and branding them with lese majeste accusations seems to be the dullard Suporn’s main work. We wonder if, like a gig worker, he gets paid per charge?

112 bully-in-chief Suporn claimed Amarat was “posting offensive things and we have found evidence that this lawmaker is involved with other 112 offenders by providing funding and joining demonstrations…. We also found many posts related to the monarchy or mocking the king…”.

In response, Amarat “told reporters she was not worried about the complaint.” She said: “I am doing my duty as a member of the opposition, and I want the prime minister to answer the accusations inside parliament rather than resorting to this tactic…”.

It is no coincidence that the allegation against Amarat following her speech in parliament that “accused {Gen] Prayuth [Chan-ocha] of abusing his power…”.

 





Updated: Lese majeste torture

16 02 2021

In the past, we used the term “lese majeste torture” to refer to the ways in which those detained on Article 112 charges were denied bail, had their trials drawn out, and were shuttled around various courts. One of the aims of this seemed to be to get the defendant to plead guilty so that the trial became unnecessary.

Somyos caged

One particularly nasty example of lese majeste torture involved Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, who was refused bail at least 16 times. He was put in cages, transported around the country to various court proceedings, some of which were canceled, and was repeatedly chained.

Of course, Somyos is now back in detention, refused bail and accused of lese majeste and other charges. With Arnon Nampa, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, and Patiwat “Mor Lam Bank” Saraiyaem, lawyers asked for temporary releases and bail for a second time. The Appeal Court dismissed that appeal citing “as reasons the severe penalties of the offences, their brazen behaviours which tarnish the highly respected monarchy and hurt the feelings of all loyal Thais without fear of the law, their past records of similar offences and flight risks.”

Such statements indicate the extreme political bias of the court, make prejudicial judgements and resort to moral and royalist shibboleths rather than legal grounds for refusing bail. About as close as the court got to legal reasoning was declaring them “flight risks,” which contradicts an earlier court ruling that declared them likely to re-offend, so not flight risks.

All of this is congruent with the measures used by the military junta after its 2014 coup.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that “the Criminal Court had rejected their latest plea for bail, ruling that the Court of First Instance and Court of Appeal had already denied their release and it saw no reason to overrule their decisions.” We count that as the third rejection.





Bail inequality

13 02 2021

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both expressed “concern over the bail denial of the 4 prominent activists as an abuse of the judicial process to silence peaceful critics.”

Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat ‘Bank’ Saraiyam have been charged with lese majeste and sedition and banged up in pre-trial detention, denied bail. As has happened before:

After the court denied them bail, four of them were taken to the Bangkok Remand Prison to be held in custody pending the trial. They shall remain in custody until the court grants them bail or until the trial is concluded or until the cases against them are dismissed by the court, the length of time which is undeterminable.

Clipped from Khaosod

In response, the Bangkok Post reports that “126 law academics and legal experts have issued a statement condemning a court decision denying bail for protest leaders.” They declared:

We are of the strong opinion that a person’s right to bail is a crucial principle that the judicial institution — which has legal, social and humanitarian duties and is the final beacon of hope for the people — must uphold to support the basic rights and freedom of the people….

This action by the Criminal Court is in sharp and stark contrast to the bail swiftly granted to Somchai Jutikitdecha aka Longjoo Somchai “who is accused of being the man behind illegal casinos linked with a recent Covid-19 outbreak in the eastern provinces…” The court is said to have “brushed aside police objections and granted Mr Somchai bail on Thursday night.”

Double standards? You bet!





Further updated: 112 detentions

10 02 2021

After all the arrests, the detentions have begun.

On Tuesday, The Nation reported that the “Office of the Attorney-General announced  that it will file charges against four leaders of the Ratsadon pro-democracy movement, namely Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat ‘Bank’ Saraiyam.” They are each charged with lese majeste and sedition, stemming from “a rally in Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus in September last year. The rally had also spilled over to Sanam Luang nearby.” That rally was on 19 and 20 September 2020.

Clipped from Khaosod

Thai PBS adds that the four Ratsadon leaders also face charges of “illegal assembly, violation of Emergency Decree … blocking traffic and destruction of archaeological sites.”

It adds that “Parit was also indicted for lèse majesté and incitement of unrest, under Sections 112 and 116 of the Criminal Code, and illegal assembly in violation of the Emergency Decree in a separate case in connection with a protest on November 14th [2020].”

That report also states that “Parit was present at the press conference this morning when Prayuth Petkhun, deputy spokesman of the Office of the Attorney-General, announced the prosecutors’ decision. He asked Prayuth about their request that prosecutors question two defence witnesses.” In response, this legal official saying “public prosecutors … insist that there is no need to question additional witnesses…”. Not hearing witnesses for the defendents has been common under the junta’s judiciary and apparently continues.

When the four accused “appeared before the Criminal Court, where they were formally indicted.”  They were denied bail. That is also common for lese majeste cases. The court “rejected the application on the grounds that some of the charges against them are serious and carry severe penalties,” and thought that if “they were to be released on bail, they may continue to commit similar offences.”

People protested online and in the city. There have been calls for their release.

The usual pattern is for cases to drag on as the defendants are pushed to plead guilty. In these cases, however, we wonder if the order to the judiciary will be to move quickly and make an example of these four anti-monarchy/democracy activists.

Update 1: According to The Nation, taking a lead from anti-coup protesters in Myanmar, “[p]ro-democracy Ratsadon protesters gathered on Bangkok’s Pathumwan Skywalk today for a demonstration dubbed hitting pots to banish dictators’.” Livestreamed, the demonstration included attacks on Article 112, the regime and the king.

Update 2: Thai PBS reports that after the rally at the Pathumwan Skywalk and a march to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, “protesters marched to the Pathumwan district police station, after they learned that a few protesters were being held in custody there.” The report adds:

They laid siege to the police station to demand the release of their fellow protesters by 8.30pm or they said they would storm the station.

During the standoff, at about 8.20pm, several explosions, believed to have been giant firecrackers, were heard behind the police station. A tear gas canister was later found on the road.

At about 9pm, police released all the detainees.