Updated: Another 112 incarceration

24 03 2021

The Bangkok Post reports on yet another lese majeste incarceration.

Chukiat  Saengwong, also known as Justin, a member of the Ratsadon group, has been arrested on lese majeste and a slew of other charges including sedition.The charges relate to several protests, with the most recent being on March 20.

Clipped from Prachatai

Police allege that at last Saturday’s protest near the Supreme Court, “Chukiat affixed a piece of paper on which were written offensive words to a portrait of … the King erected outside the premises.”

The police claim his “action was recorded by a security camera…”. Soon after, “protesters allegedly set fire to the portrait…”.

Chukiat has denied all charges.

The court approved a police request to detain Chukiat for 12 days. A bail application was rejected, with the court claiming that, if released, Chukiat “may commit similar offences again.”

The royalist judiciary continues to carry out its orders.

Update: Prachatai also reports on Chukiat’s case. It states that his bail was refused because of “the seriousness of the charge, the heavy penalty, and the fact that the accused committed similar offences after previously being allowed bail…”. A Thai Lawyers for Human Rights lawyer met “Chukiat at 00.54 on 23 March, tweeted that the police tried to interrogate Chukiat with a lawyer that they assigned to him and confiscated his phone. Because he objected to this, the police had him handcuffed [him]…”. Chukiat sent a message to supporters “to fight on and not to worry about him.”

Among protesters, “Chukiat became well known for his speeches and public appearances in protests where he wore a crop top. The nickname ‘Justin’ comes from Justin Bieber, a famous singer who wears crop tops.”





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: 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.





Further updated: Yuletide lese majeste

22 12 2020

There’s been quite a lot of commentary on the protests, some motivated by the avalanche of lese majeste cases and some by the fact that the end of the year begs for reviews.

One that caught our attention is by Matthew Wheeler, Senior Analyst for Southeast Asia at the International Crisis Group. It is quite a reasonable and careful rundown of events prompting the demonstrations and the call for reform of the monarchy.

The lese majeste cases pile higher and higher. In a Bangkok Post report on people turning up to hear lese majeste charges, eight are listed: Arnon Nampa, Intira Charoenpura, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Nattathida Meewangpla, Shinawat Chankrachang, Phimsiri Phetnamrop, and Phromson Wirathamchari.

We can’t locate the latter two on the most recent Prachatai graphic that listed 34 activists charged under 112, but that graphic does include five with names withheld. For us, this brings the total charged to 34-36, but it may well be more.

There was some good news on lese majeste. It is reported that, after more than 4.5 years, a ludicrous 112 charge against Patnaree Chankij have been dismissed. The mother of activist Sirawith Seritiwat, the Criminal Court on Tuesday dismissed the charge. Her one word “jah” in a chat conversation was said to be the cause of the charge but, in reality, going after her was the regime’s blunt effort to silence her son.

A second piece of reasonable news is that the Criminal Court also dismissed charges of sedition brought by the military junta against former deputy prime minister Chaturon Chaisaeng on 27 May 2014 six years ago under Section 116 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act. This was another junta effort to silence critics.

As seen in recent days, equally ludicrous charges have been brought against a new generation of critics.

Update 1: Thai PBS reports that the Criminal Court acquitted nine members of the Pro-Election Group who had been charged in late January 2018 with poking the military junta: “Section 116 of the Criminal Code, illegal public assembly within a 150-metre radius of a Royal palace and defying the then junta’s order regarding public assembly of more than five people.”

The defendants were Veera Somkwamkid, Rangsiman Rome, currently a party-list for the Kao Klai party, Serawit Sereethiat, Nattha Mahatthana, Anon Nampa, a core member of the Ratsadon Group, Aekkachai Hongkangwan, Sukrit Piansuwan, Netiwit Chotepatpaisarn and Sombat Boon-ngam-anong.

The court ruled that:

… protesters complaining about the postponement of general elections cannot be regarded as incitement to public unrest. It also said that the protesters had no intention to defy the ban against public assembly within 150-metres of the Royal palace.

Of course, the charges were always bogus, but the junta’s point was to use “law” for political repression.

Update 2: The Nation reports that there were, in fact, 39 defendants who were acquitted.





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: Vulture cops

2 11 2020

Compromise? No.

Thai PBS reports that the hospitalized prominent protesters, jailed for some time already, are set for more jail time. The cops, vulture-like, are waiting to re-arrest them as soon as the doctors discharge them.

Panasaya “Rung” Sitthijirawattanakul, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak will be dragged off to the courts “with the … police seeking to have them held on remand on more charges, which were filed against them while they were recuperating at Rama 9 Hospital.” They will end up in remand in several provinces.

The Bangkok Post reports that, in fact, two have already been “officially rearrested” while in hospital. This is reminiscent of actions taken in the lese majeste case against Thanet Anantawong who was dragged out of a hospital ward by junta thugs. Tghe Post reports:

Officers from Rayong showed up at Praram 9 Hospital to file a charge against Panupong “Mike” Jadnok over his protest against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during the premier’s visit to the province in August ahead of the mobile cabinet meeting there.

Similar scenes occurred when Ubon Ratchathani police also showed up to detain Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak over his role in an Aug 22 demonstration in the northeastern province. He faces sedition charges under Section 116 of the Criminal Code which he refused to acknowledge.

On Saturday night, city police had filed charges against Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul over her involvement on June 5 and June 22 in protests at the Pathumwan Skywalk in Bangkok.

Rung is now “under a 24-hour watch and police will reportedly seek a Pathumwan District Court order today to put her back behind bars for the time being.”

Get the picture? No compromise. As Mike and Penguin are being taken out of Bangkok, there are fears for their safety.

Update: In some good news, the Pathumwan District Court “rejected a police request to detain protest leader Panusaya … for further questioning in two cases in which she is charged with violating the Public Assembly Act of 2015.” The two cases relate to “demonstrations on the skywalk over the Pathumwan intersection on June 5 and June 22 demanding justice for Wanchalerm Satsaksit, … abducted by a group of men from in front of a condominium in Phnom Penh.” The court found no reason for detention. The same court also “refused a police request to detain Panupong “Mike Ranong” Jadnok, who was charged over his role in protesting the Prime Minister on July 15 in Rayong province,” finding no reason for further detention.

That good news is made better when the Criminal Court “dismissed a police request to extend the detention period for protest leaders Somyod Pruksakasemsuk, Ekkachai Hongkangwan, Suranat Paenprasert and Arnon Nampa…”. Somyos and Arnon are “facing charges stemming from their participation in the rally at Thammasat University on September 19-20,” while Akechai and Suranat have been “charged with attempting to harm … the Queen’s liberty by allegedly obstructing the royal motorcade … on October 16.”





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.





Sedition = lese majeste

22 08 2020

The Nation reports that the regime is accused of falsely charging pro-democracy protesters with sedition as if they are lese majeste charges.

The report states that Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has said several times that the king had ordered that lese majeste not be used.

However, the Democracy Restoration Group has pointed out that “the detainees’ police files [are] … are similar to those of lese majeste.”

It says that the police report on human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa states: “On August 3, Arnon delivered a speech inciting hatred toward the monarchy. The accused also used Facebook to post messages persuading people to gather and undermine the monarchy. The protestors are showing the intention of overthrowing the crown.”

In other words, the sedition charge has replaced lese majeste but the impact is the same.





Arnon arrested (again)

19 08 2020

Democracy activist and human rights lawyer Arnon Nampahas again been arrested. This time, the arrest reportedly relates to the Harry Potter-themed rally on 3 August.

At that rally, protesters “demanded changes to the monarchy and called for its powers to be curbed in unusually frank public comments.”

He was arrested at the Bangkok Criminal Court, where he was working.

It is reported that the arrest “warrant accused him of seditious acts under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail. He was also charged for violating the Computer Crime Act.”





Political arrests I

7 08 2020

The challenge posed to the regime (and monarchy) by the student- and democracy activist-led has been met by an expected crackdown.

Most readers will know by now, as reported by Prachatai, that:

Anon Nampa and student activist Panupong Jadnok are now under arrest on sedition charges under Section 116 [sedition] of the Criminal Code and for violating the Emergency Decree after they took part in the mass protest on 18 July.

Recall that when last extending its emergency decree, the regime took time to explain that it was not to be used for preventing protest. That was a lie.

Arrested at about 2 pm on 7 August, the warrant:

… accuses Anon of sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code; of organizing an assembly of ten or more people and threatening to cause violence or a breach of peace under Section 215 of the Criminal Code; violating the Emergency Decree, which bans large gatherings; obstructing the public way without permission under Section 385 of the Criminal Code; violating Section 19 of the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness of the Country Act; and of using loudspeaker without permission under the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act.

Panupong was arrested at about 3 pm. at Ramkhamhaeng University. He is “a Rayong-based student activist who previously face harassment from the authorities after he attempted to hold up a protest sign during … Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s visit to Rayong last month…”.

Depending on the report read, it is clear that this is a wider crackdown, with the police going after somewhere between 7 and 31 protesters, with “[s]tudent activist Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak said on the phone he was informed by his lawyer that he was among the wanted list.”

As is usual in such cases, the police ignore law and constitution:

At 17.40, both Panupong and Anon are being taken to the Bangkok Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road. TLHR [Thai Lawyers for Human Rights] said that, if both are detained and are unable to post bail in time, they will be send to prison.

TLHR also reported that the inquiry officer at the Samranrat Police Station has forced Panupong to sign a statement without waiting for his lawyer to arrive. He was then taken to court without his lawyer.

They appeared before the court outside court hours, considered an unlawful act.

Move Forward party MPs reportedly attended the Criminal Court and were said to be “using their positions as security to post bail for the pair.” However, as a political act, both men withdrew their bail requests. Arnon explained:

“The dictator is using the judicial process as a tool in shutting the people up. Being granted bail with the condition of being prohibited from protesting or raising questions about the monarchy is something we cannot accept.

“I am willing to sacrifice my freedom to stand by my principles. I ask all of you to come out and fight for our goals. Don’t waste your time on freeing Anon. Use your time to fight for the goals we are fighting for.

I believe in my friends who are outside.

In the latter, he was referring to the crowds assembled outside the court and at the Bangkhen police station.

Panupong explained why he withdrew his bail request:

“When the law becomes a tool for the dictatorship, it probably is time for the people who fight for democracy. I ask you to stand and keep fighting with the strength of your beliefs. When I get my freedom, I will be fighting and I won’t back down.”

At about 10 pm, the Criminal Court decided that it would “not accept the temporary detention request for Anon … and Panupong … as the request was submitted outside of working hours and ordered the officers to bring them in for detention again within 48 hours.”

According to reports, this meant that the police could not hold the two men. Again, the police ignored the law and detained them overnight, planning to return them to the Criminal Court in the morning.

Clipped from Prachatai

Protesters unsuccessfully tried to block the forcible transfer of Arnon and Panupong and crowds grew outside the police station where they were detained.