Military authorities can still arbitrarily detain civilians

13 07 2019

The following is produced in full from the Asian Human Rights Commission website:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-FST-003-2019
July 12, 2019

A Statement from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

THAILAND: Military authorities can still arbitrarily detain civilians

Analysis of the Head of the NCPO Order no. 9/2562 that repealed some Announcements/Orders that are no longer necessary

On 9 July 2019, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha in his capacity as the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued the Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562 to repeal 70 NCPO An­ nouncements/Orders and Head of NCPO Orders. Since staging a coup on 22 May 2014, the NCPO has issued a total of 557 decrees: 214 NCPO Orders, 132 NCPO Announcements, and 211 Head of NCPO Orders. Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562 repeals only some of the decrees, while most of the Orders, Announcements and Head of NCPO Orders remains in effect.

Below is the analysis by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) regarding the implications of Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562.

1. Military authorities retain the power to detain civilians without judicial oversight

Military authorities will retain the power to summon individuals to report themselves, to appre­ hend individuals who commits flagrant offenses, and detain them for up to seven days, to search, forfeit and freeze assets invoking the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and no. 13/2559.1

On 1 April 2015, the NCPO issued the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2558, which authorized military authorities to detain individuals, most of whom had their liberties deprived of in military barracks.

The exercise of such power has been euphemistically defined by the authorities as “attitude adjustment.” Throughout the past five years, at least 929 members of the public have been summoned by the NCPO and detained in military barracks for “attitude adjustment” (for more
detail, please see 6 years under NCPO, enough is enough? Recommendations to rid the coup’s remnants).

TLHR finds the exercise of such power should be restricted to emergency situations when an imminent harm against the nation is impending and should be confined to certain areas – which has not been the case over the past five years.

The retention of the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and no. 13/2559 to continue authorizing military authorities to detain an individual up to seven days in an undisclosed place without access to family or lawyer and without judicial review, increases the risk of arbitrary detentions in breach of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and may result in other forms of human rights violations, such torture and enforced disappearance.

In its Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Thailand, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that Thailand amend Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2558 to ensure that it complies with all the provisions of the ICCPR, including with the guarantees against incommunicado detention.

2. Disobeying and showing defiance to NCPO summons are still criminalized

Despite the NCPO’s repeal of the ban against political gathering of five or more persons, disobeying and showing defiance to NCPO summons are still criminalized under NCPO Announcement no. 41/25572. To date, the NCPO has summoned 2 at least 472 individuals to report themselves, and at least 14 of them who have defied such summons have been issued with arrest warrants that remain effective.

Once individuals report themselves to the NCPO, they are often held in incommunicado detention in military barracks. Their fate and whereabouts are unknown to people outside. This makes them vulnerable to torture. Without judicial review and given that they would have to later stand trial in military courts, many individuals who were summoned decided to leave the country. As a result, since the May 2014 coup, 86 individuals have become political exiles (for more detail, please see Collapsed Rule of Law: The Consequences of Four Years under the National Council for Peace and Order for Human Rights and Thai Society, Part 3)

TLHR recommends that NCPO Announcement no. 41/2557, which criminalizes individuals’ defiance or disobedience to the summons to report themselves, be immediately repealed and that all prosecutions pursuant to this decree be stopped.

3. Transferring cases against civilians from military to civilian courts

The Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562 has led to the repeal of NCPO Announcements no. 37/2557, no. 38/2557, no. 43/2557, and no. 50/2557, and Head of NCPO Order no. 55/2559. As a result, cases against civilians that are being tried in military courts will be transferred to the Court of Justice. It would effectively make the previous proceeding in military courts part of the further proceedings of the Court of Justice, which would continue to hear the cases.

Over the past five years, at least 2,408 civilians have been tried in military courts nationwide (for more detail, please see 6 years under NCPO, enough is enough? Recommendations to rid the coup’s remnants). TLHR is offering legal assistance to defendants in 59 cases prosecuted in military courts, 21 of which involve 41 defendants.

TLHR remains concerned about the following ongoing negative impacts of prosecutions of civilians conducted by military courts under the NCPO.

3.1 Cases which have reached a verdict, but the right to a fair trial was not upheld

Ongoing cases as well as cases that have reached the final verdict in military courts, have not been heard in fair trials, and no remedy for the violation of this fundamental trial has been established.

The right to a fair trial is guaranteed by Article 14 of ICCPR, which underscores particularly the principles of judicial independence and impartiality. Military courts flout such principles because they operate under the authority of the Ministry of Defense and two thirds of their presiding judges are commissioned military officers who are not required to obtain a law degree.

In addition, over the past five years, military courts’ proceedings have been exceptionally protracted.

Some defendants prosecuted for alleged violation of Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (lèse-majesté) remain detained awaiting trial and their hearings were conducted behind closed doors. Those convicted by military courts for violating Article 112 have been sentenced to prison terms that have been twice as harsh as sentences imposed by civilian courts (for more information, please see 20 reasons why civilians should not be tried in the Military Court).

3.2 Defendants tried in military courts are barred from appealing their sentences

According to fair trial principles, defendants are entitled to have the right to appeal to courts of higher instance. Nevertheless, those indicted when Martial Law was imposed and whose cases fell under jurisdiction of military courts have been deprived of such right. To restore justice to the individuals whose cases have reached the final verdict, their right to appeal to courts of higher instance should be restored.

3.3 Arrest warrants issued by military court remain active

Apart from hearing the cases, military courts have also issued arrest warrants for suspects who remain large. As of 30 November 2016, over 528 individuals were still wanted by military courts nationwide (please see Why will Thanathorn have to stand trial in the Military Court?: Getting to know the Military Court under the NCPO Era). To ensure these individuals will stand trial in proceedings that uphold the principles of judicial independence and impartiality, TLHR recommends that the existing warrants be rescinded and new warrants be issued by the Court of Justice.

4. Offenses under NCPO decrees remain in place

Only 70 (12%) of the 557 decrees issued by the NCPO are being repealed. Most of the NCPO Announcements and Orders remain in effect and can only be repealed or amended by laws, except for the Announcements or Orders concerning the exercise of administrative powers, whose repeal and amendment are subject to the executive power of the Prime Minister or the
Cabinet.

In addition, all the Announcements and Orders and acts of the NCPO are made legal and constitutional by Sections 279 of the 2017 Constitution. Even after the imminent dissolution of the NCPO, the NCPO cannot be held accountable for violations that resulted from its Announcements, Orders or acts.

TLHR deems that NCPO decrees have no place in the legal system because they lack proper checks and balances. The retention of legal provisions that justify a lack of accountability in all circumstances contributes to fostering a culture of impunity in total breach of the principles of the rule of law.

5. TLHR’s recommendations

TLHR believes the Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562 repeals only some Announcements and Orders which are no longer useful for the NCPO, but it does not serve public interest because the military authorities retains significant powers, including the power to restrict people’s rights and freedoms, for example under the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and no. 13/2559, among others.

In addition, the NCPO is set to expand the power of military authorities in a variety of public affairs concerning civilians. In particular, the Head of the NCPO Order no. 51/2560 on the amendment of the Internal Security Maintenance Law increases the powers of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) and bolsters budget and structure of the regional and provincial ISOCs.

To address the coup’s remnants, the repeal of some NCPO Announcements/Orders is insufficient.

Rather, an effort has to be made to systematically restrict powers of the military as a whole. In addition, it is necessary to address the problematic NCPO Announcements/Orders, laws endorsed by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), court verdicts, justice system reform, and remedies for victims (for more detail, please see 5 years under NCPO, enough is enough? Recommendations to rid the coup’s remnants) Concerning the NCPO decrees and the judicial process, TLHR wishes to make the following recommendations to the House of Representatives;

1. Repeal Articles 265 and 279 of the 2017 Constitution, which make the decrees and acts of NCPO legal under Articles 44, 47, and 48 of the 2014 Interim Constitution to ensure that the NCPO Announcements, Orders, and acts comply with Thailand’s international legal obligations and the principles of the rule of law.

2. Review all NCPO Announcements/Orders and Head of NCPO Orders and all other laws adopted by the NLA and amend or repeal all those that violate the people’s rights and freedoms.

3. Immediately repeal the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and no. 13/2559. When any wrongdoings or public disruption take place, law enforcement officials can already resort to powers prescribed in the Criminal Procedure Code. It is not necessary to retain power offered by these orders.

4. Take all necessary measures to provide redress to civilians whose cases were heard in military courts and have reached the final verdict. Civilians convicted by military courts after the imposition of Martial Law in May 2014 should be allowed to appeal to courts of higher instance and be provided compensation.

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1 The Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and No. 13/2559 endow appointed officers with extensive police powers, including powers to arrest, detain and search suspects without warrants and hold them in places not officially recognized as places of detention for up to seven days.

2 This order prescribes a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of 40,000 Baht (approximately USD1,250) or both. The order also has a provision that prohibits financial or property transactions.

 





AHRC urgent appeal on lese majeste case

20 12 2016

As usual, we reproduce an urgent appeal from the Asian Human Rights Commission. This appeal refers to the case of third time lese majeste victim Bundith Arniya.

An appeal letter is available here.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-155-2016
December 20, 2016

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THAILAND: Third arrest for 71-year- old writer under lèse majesté offence

ISSUES: Freedom of expression; military court; administration of justice; rule of law

—————————— —————————— ———

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the latest limitation of freedom of opinion and expression in Thailand.  According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), on 15 November 2016 at 3:40 p.m., police officers from Chanasongkram Police Station arrested 71-year-old Bundit Aneeya from his house. The police informed the elderly writer that he was accused of committing an offence under Article 112 of the Criminal Code (lèse majesté offence), for allegedly making comments about the Thai monarchy at a political seminar about the junta-sponsored constitution drafting process on 12 September 2015. After his lawyer from TLHR filed the second petition asking for bail to the military court, he was released on a surety bond of 400,000 Baht (approximately 12,270 USD). He is one of the few lèse majesté suspects granted bail by a military court.

CASE NARRATIVE:

On 15 November 2016, police officers from Chanasongkram Police Station arrested a 71-year-old writer known by his pen name Bundit Aneeya, from his house in Nong Khaem District, Bangkok, Thailand. The police informed Mr. Bundit Aneeya that he was accused of committing an offence under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lèse majesté offence. This is because one year ago, he was making comments about the Thai monarchy at a public political seminar, namely “The Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand?” at Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand.

However, the police had not yet issued any summons before they arrested Mr.Bundit Aneeya. In addition, after the inquiry official informed the charge and received statement from Mr.Bundit Aneeya, he was detained under police custody for one night.

On 17 November 2016, Mr. Bundit Aneeya was brought to the Bangkok Military Court. The police claimed that the alleged comment was made before the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the junta ruling body, abolished the trial of civilians in military court.

For more information, please follow this link http://www.humanrights.asia/ news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-142- 2016

The inquiry official stated that on 12 September 2015, Mr. Bundit Aneeya was participating in a public political seminar, namely, “The Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand?” This event was organized by the New Democracy Movement (NDM), the pro-democracy activists which formed after the coup 2014, at the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University, Tha-Prachan campus. The police from Chanasongkram Police Station also attend the seminar, to maintain ‘peace’ and looking for any ‘news’.

During the seminar, participants were allowed to make comments. As a participant, Mr. Bundit Aneeya commented about impunity, human dignity, justice, and democracy, and how they should all be included into the new constitution. According to the police, this comment threatened the Thai Monarchy and violated Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code.

The inquiry officials had been collecting evidences and requesting for issuing an arrest warrant from the Bangkok Military Court on 14 November 2016. Then, the police presented the arrest warrant for arresting Mr. Bundit Aneeya at his house on 15 November 2016. Mr. Bundit Aneeya denied all charges against him.

The inquiry official of Chanasongkram Police Station asked the court to have him remanded for 12 days, claiming his case involved national security. Mr. Bundit’s attorney filed a motion to object to the remand request, citing that Mr. Bundit Aneeya was not committing any crime, but he just exercised his right to freedom of expression for reforming the country. Mr. Bundit Aneeya was an independent writer who had no regular income. He was 71 years old, therefore, it was very difficult for him to flee or jeopardize the investigation process. Moreover, he has been diagnosed with psychosis, has only one kidney and has to carry a urine drainage bag with him all the time.

However, the court dismissed the attorney’s motion because of the inquiry official’s request. The court also confirmed that his case was deemed to threaten national security and the amount of money was not enough for granting bail (300,000 baht or approximately 8,400 USD).

Although the court persisted to issue a writ to Mr. Bundit Aneeya, his lawyer decided to ask for bail by submitting 400,000 baht or approximately 12,000 USD to the court. This was accepted, and on 17 November 2016, he was released on the conditions of not travelling abroad, no involvement in political activities or making political comments.

At the end of the public seminar, the police and military officials invited Mr. Bundit Aneeya to participate in an “Attitude Adjustment Program”. At that time he was not charged with any offence.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

According to Prachatai, this is the third accusation of lèse majesté filed against Mr. Bundit Aneeya. In the first case, the self-taught writer and translator, who has written and translated over 30 books, was found guilty by the Supreme Court in February 2014 for comments at a seminar he attended and sentenced to four years in jail, but the jail term was suspended for three years due to his mental illness. The allegedly lèse majesté comment that he made also pointed out the general opinion of Thais toward the monarchy.

In the second case, military prosecutors indicted Mr. Bundit Aneeya in March 2015 for allegedly making comments about the Thai monarchy at another political seminar. Bundit pleaded innocence and vowed to fight the case. He told Prachatai then “I believe I’m innocent and didn’t do anything wrong.”

According to the case filed by the prosecutor, the alleged lèse majesté comment he made was:

“My point is now Thai people are separated into two sides: one which is in favour of a monarchy which does not abide by the law, as the head of the state, …”

He was arrested by the police before he could even finish the sentence.  He was released on 400,000 baht (12,270 USD) bail due to his age and poor health. He is one of the few lèse majesté suspects granted bail by a military court. This trial is still ongoing.

In the latest case, if convicted again, his jail terms will accumulate.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to drop all charges and prosecutions of Mr. Bundit Aneeya, since his alleged acts were nothing more than the exercise of freedom of expression and were consistent with the Thai Constitution.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.





AHRC urgent appeal for Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa

13 12 2016

The Asian Human Rights Commission has issued an urgent appeal for Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, arrested on numerous charges, most recently lese majeste. We reproduce it here and it may be accessed at the AHRC website:

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-152-2016

12 December 2016

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THAILAND: Young activist charged with lèse majesté offense after sharing news article

ISSUES: Freedom of expression; administration of justice; rule of law
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Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that the military in Khon Kaen province, northeastern Thailand, filed a new legal action against Mr. Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, a student at Khon Kaen University and a key member of the pro-democracy groups Dao Din and New Democracy Movement (NDM). Lt Gen Phitakphon Chusri accused him of allegedly defaming the Thai monarch under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, and imparting false information on the Internet under the Computer Crime Act, after he shared a BBC Thai article “Profile: Thailand’s new King Vajiralongkorn” with an excerpt. However, he did not comment on the article.

CASE NARRATIVE: (Based on documentation by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights)

Around 8 a.m. on 3 December 2016, plainclothes police from the Khon Kaen Provincial Police Station presented an arrest warrant issued by the Khon Kaen Court to 25-year-old Mr. Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, near Prong Chang Temple, Kaeng Khro District, Chaiyaphum province. The warrant, dated 2 December 2016, states that Mr. Jatupat is charged under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, or lèse majesté offence, by Lt Gen Phitakphon Chusri, Deputy Chief of the Operations Directorate at the 33rd Military Circle in Khon Kaen, Northeastern Thailand, after he allegedly shared a BBC Thai news article, “Profile: Thailand’s new King Vajiralongkorn,” as well as quoted some content of the news on Facebook.

While the authorities presented the warrant, Mr. Jatupat was participating in the Dharma Yatra walk to Lam Patao bank, an annual event organized by a famous monk Phra Phaisal Visalo at Sukato Temple in Chaiyaphum province. Mr. Jatupat, a well-known activist of the Dao Din Group based in the northeast and member of the NDM, was released on bail after 18 days in detention, with 13 days under hunger strike, in two different cases related to his organizing a peaceful assembly in August. He is now facing another political assembly charge for organizing a coup commemoration event on 22 May 2015 at the Khon Kaen Democracy Monument. The officials took Mr. Jatupat to the Kaeng Khro Provincial Police Station to file an arrest record. News reports state that he was later taken to the Khon Kaen Provincial Police Station. However, as of 2.30 pm, Mr. Jatupat’s exact whereabouts were unclear and no one could contact him.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) had arranged for a network lawyer to offer Mr. Jatupat legal assistance and wait for him at the Khon Kaen Police Station. However, the police seized the lawyer’s cell phone and drove him around in a pickup car, saying that they would take him to Mr. Jatupat. Instead, they took him around the place until finally they arrived at the Police Training Center Region 4, Khon Kaen. His cell phone was returned once he got out of the car. News reports note further that later Mr. Jatupat was brought to the said Training Center for investigation. Pol Col Wisate Phakdeewut, the chief inquiry officer, informed him of his charges under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which states that anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the HeirApparent or the Regent” shall be punishable by a maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment, and under the Computer Crime Act, for imparting false information on the Internet. Mr. Jatupat denied all charges.

Around 3:30 pm, the police explained that Mr. Jatupat would be taken and detained for investigation at the Nam Phong Police Station, Nam Phong District in Khon Kaen, not at the Khon Kaen Police Station. The reason given was that this particular case concerns national security, and was a sensitive case that dealt with other parties. It may pose a great threat to the public safety and order if he is detained at the Khon Kaen Station. Since the police finished the investigation after the usual opening hours (4:30 pm), Mr. Jatupat’s lawyer could not apply for bail. Thus, Mr. Jatupat was detained overnight at the Nam Phong Police Station.

On 4 December 2016, the following morning, the officials requested a pre-trial detention at the Khon Kaen Court, while Mr. Jatupat’s lawyer opposed that request. The Court indicated that it would skip the due process of investigation, since it would grant bail if applied. Mr. Jatupat’s lawyer, therefore, applied for bail with a 400,000 Baht surety (approx. 11,300 USD) which was granted by the Court. Mr. Jatupat was later released on unconditional bail at noon.

On 6 December 2016, Mr. Jatupat went to the Khon Kaen Police Station again and filed a complaint letter to the police because the police did not mention his cell phone in the memo of arrest. In fact, his cell phone was seized by the police since December 3.

The BBC Thai news article shared by Mr. Jatupat collected data on the new King Vajiralongkorn, and was released on 1 December 2016 to mark the royal succession. It has received a lot of public attention, with 27,000 likes and 2,600 shares on Facebook to date (2,800 shares before Mr. Jatupat’s arrest). Mr. Jatupat had shared the said article on the morning of 2 December 2016, along with an excerpt; however, he did not publish personal comments on the article.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Mr. Jatupat Boonpattaraksa is facing four different lawsuits, and is an example of a Thai pro-democracy activist who has opposed the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) administration and its staging of the coup on 22 May 2014.

For more information, please visit http://www.tlhr2014.com/th/ or follow these links;

1. http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAU-025-2016
2. http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAU-019-2016/
3. http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAC-099-2016

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to to drop all charges against and prosecutions of Mr. Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, since his alleged acts were nothing more than the exercise of freedom of expression and were consistent with the Thai Constitution.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.

To send an appeal letter, visit this page or the AHRC website.





Military regime must go

9 12 2016

To mark Human Rights Day on 10 December, the Asian Human Rights Commission has called on Thailand’s military dictatorship to dissolve itself via an “election.” To be honest, while we agree with this call, it is all too tepid:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to draw attention to the situation in Thailand on this momentous day, December 10, which is observed as Human Rights Day. Unfortunately, in Thailand, the day will be eclipsed by the Military regime that is in power since May 2014, when it overthrew the last elected government. It is the rudimentary nature of the Thai legal system, and a weak Constitutional Court that has led to 13 military coups in Thailand since 1932. Despite 16 new constitutions having been promulgated since the first coup and the first Constitution, Thailand could not prevent a Military dictatorship from declaring and “taking over administration of the country” yet again.

Soon after the 13th successful Military coup, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) replaced the country’s Judiciary with Military courts, for all practical purposes concerning fundamental human rights and freedoms. Three NCPO announcements: No. 37/2014, No. 38/2014, and No. 50/2014, expanded powers, and retained Military court jurisdiction over civilians, in cases of lèse majesté, national security crimes, weapons offences, and violations of NCPO orders. The result of these three measures has been to extend the control of the Military judicial system to civilians and civilian cases.

According to information received from the Judge Advocate General’s Department (JAG) on 12 July 2016, 1,811 civilians have been tried in the Military court in 1,546 cases from 22 May 2014 to 31 May 2016.

The AHRC has found that the Military courts do not accord the same rights as Thailand’s civilian courts and violate internationally protected fair trial rights, especially rights to fair and public hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal, and the rights to legal representation.

On 12 September 2016, the NCPO also issued the NCPO Order No. 55/2016, under Article 44 of the Interim Constitution; it states that all cases involving offences covered under NCPO Order No. 37/2014, No. 38/2014, and No. 50/2014, will no longer be tried in Military courts. However, this Order does not cover cases initiated before the Order was issued; it also fails to cover cases under Article 12 of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015, the junta’s public gathering ban, and the NCPO Order No. 13/2016, which gives Military officers extrajudicial power. Therefore, crimes involving these laws still have to be tried in Military court.

For example, Ms. Sirikan Charoensiri, human rights lawyer and legal and documentation officer at Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), is now facing accusations of sedition under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code, as well as violation of Article 12 of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015. The inquiry officer informed Ms. Sirikan that she was charged with being an accomplice in the coup commemoration organized by the New Democracy Movement (NDM) at the Democracy Monument on 25 June 2015. These charges stemmed from Ms. Charoensiri not letting her car be searched and for her carrying the activists’ belongings. If indicted, she will be tried in Military Court.

The NCPO also issued a series of their orders and announcements and imposed Article 44 of the interim constitution, according to which General Prayuth Chan-ocha, as the junta leader and Prime Minister, has absolute power to give any order deemed necessary to “strengthen public unity and harmony” or to prevent any act that undermines public peace. As a result, the status of the Order issued under the power of Article 44 is equal to an act passed by the Legislature.

To illustrate, the NCPO Order No. 3/2015, issued under the authority of Article 44, permits boundless exercise of power and also inserts Military officials into the judicial process and provides them with the authority to carry out investigations along with the police. In addition, the Order gives authority to Military officials to detain individuals for up to seven days. During this seven-day period of detention, detainees do not have the right to meet with a lawyer or contact their relatives, and the Military officials further refuse to make the locations of places of detention public.

With two years having passed, 7 August 2016, was scheduled for the constitutional referendum by the Thai Military government and the NCPO. Providing the conditions for free and open political communication was the basic element of ensuring fair and democratic referendum processes. It is during times of political change that the right to freedom of expression is most essential, ensuring that a well-informed and empowered public was free to exercise its civil and political rights. However, under Thai law, the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 paragraph two and its implementation, along with NCPO Order No.3/2015, have shown contradictory results. It intends to restrict the rights of people, who need to discuss and to critically evaluate decisions about their country. As of August 2016, 165 people had been prosecuted for publicly opposing the draft constitution— many of them from the capital, Bangkok.

In addition, when the constitutional referendum passed, rights groups still expected the Military government and the NCPO would allow people to exercise their rights. However, the AHRC has witnessed how the right to freedom of expression and opinion has been muzzled, with critics having to eventually face lèse majesté or Section 112 under the Thai Criminal Code.

The AHRC would like to point out the permanent case of a 71-year-old writer arrested for the third time under lèse majesté law. On 15 November 2016, police officers from Chanasongkram Police Station, Bangkok, arrested a writer known by his penname Bundit Aneeya from his house in Nong Khaem District. At the Police Station, the police informed Bundit Aneeya that he was accused of committing an offence under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code for allegedly making comments about the Thai monarchy at a political seminar about the junta-sponsored constitution drafting process, on 12 November 2016. After his lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights filed a second petition asking for bail from the Military court, he was released on 400,000 bath (around $12,270 USD). He is one of the few lèse majesté suspects granted bail by a Military court. This trial is still ongoing.

The AHRC is deeply concerned that the Thai Military government and the NCPO are not serious about abolishing the Military courts and are tending towards continuing to restrict the people’s rights, in particular freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, even more so than in the past.

On Human Rights Day, 2016, the AHRC again calls for the NCPO to revoke Article 44 of the Interim Constitution and the NCPO orders and announcements that place civilians in Military courts, and to end all violations and harassment of ordinary people. In addition, the NCPO and Military government must arrange for elections and peaceful transfer of power to a civilian government, i.e. back to the people of Thailand.

This is where military dictatorships get the upper hand. Because they control everything, the best that liberal activists can do is request an “election.” As we have pointed out time and again, this hardly seems likely to change anything much. What is being missed is the purge of opposition in all of Thailand’s institutions and civil society. What is being missed is the deep repression revolving around the lese majeste regime that changes the nature of politics for years to come, if there is no rupture. What is being missed is how an “election” will be unfair, not free and will be an exercise in embedding authoritarianism.

Thailand is in a dark place.





Free the students

17 11 2016

As we usually do when dealing with political cases and political prisoners, we pass on an appeal from the Asian Human Rights Commission:

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-025-2016

17 November 2016

[RE: AHRC-UAC-099-2016: THAILAND: End judicial harassment against student activists]
[RE: AHRC-UAU-019-2016: THAILAND: Student activists petition public prosecutor to acquit case]

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THAILAND: Drop all charges before trial against two student activists

ISSUES: Administration of justice; arbitrary arrest; freedom of expression; military

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Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding two student activists who have been arrested in Chaiyaphum province, north eastern Thailand, for distributing anti-constitution flyers. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the Phu Khiao Provincial Court postponed an evidence examination session. This is due to the fact that the two students, through their legal representative, had filed a petition with the Attorney General at the Phu Khiao Provincial Prosecutors’ Office. They requested an acquittal of the case. The public prosecutor now has to wait for the Deputy Attorney General’s decision as to whether he will indict the two students or not. A rescheduled evidence examination session is to be held on 20 January 2017.

UPDATED INFORMATION:

On 26 October 2016, the Phu Khiao Provincial Court scheduled an evidence examination session for two defendants, Mr. Jatupat Boonphatthararaksa, aka “Pai”, a student of Khon Kaen University and a member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM), and Mr. Wasin Prommanee, aka “Palm”, a student of Suranari University. Both were charged with committing an offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act, Section 61 (1) and Section 61 paragraph 2. Both refused to give finger or foot prints in the criminal proceedings as ordered by police investigators.

The public prosecutor notified the court that on 29 September 2016, the two defendants filed a petition with the Attorney General at the Phu Khiao Provincial Prosecutors’ Office, requesting an acquittal of their case. On 7 October 2016, the public prosecutor informed the Director General of Region 3 Public Prosecution regarding the petition. At the two defendants’ request, the petition- attached case file had been sent to the Deputy Attorney General, Pol. Sub. Lt. Pongniwat Yuthaphunboripahn. During the process, it is at his discretion, as to whether he will withdraw the case or not. As it is anticipated that it will take about two or three months, the public prosecutor requested the Court to postpone the evidence examination session. After hearing the public prosecutor’s statement, the two defendants gave additional statements that both of them had examinations at the end of this year.

Therefore, the Court allowed and rescheduled the evidence examination session to January 20, 2017 at 2 pm.

Mr. Jatupat Boonphatthararaksa and Mr. Wasin Prommanee are under trial for offences against Article 61 of the Constitution Referendum Act. This prohibits the dissemination of documents which are inconsistent with the truth or violent and inciting to the general public. On 6 August 2016, they had distributed leaflets with anti-referendum messages in the Phu Khiao market, in Chaiyapum province. The two students refused to have their finger or foot prints taken as ordered by police investigators. They insisted that their actions were legal. The inquiry official then charged them with another offence in accordance with the previous junta’s announcement of 2006. If found guilty, Mr. Jatupat Boonphatthararaksa and Mr. Wasin Prommanee can be imprisoned from one to five years and fined not exceeding 200,000 Baht (approx. USD 5,700).

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SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately drop the case and end any ongoing judicial harassment against the two student activists.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion expression and seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.

For more details go to the AHRC page.





Updated: No torture reporting

28 09 2016

The Bangkok Post reports that the military junta has prevented “an Amnesty International seminar today on torture and other abusive practices in Thailand, arguing that the foreign speakers do not have work permits.” The event was to launch a report on torture in Thailand covering the last two years.

The Amnesty International team said: “The authorities do not want to cancel the event but they asked that the foreign panelists do not speak during the panel discussion…”. Yet all the panelists were foreign nationals.

The report is said to provide “details [on] 74 cases of alleged torture of detainees, in the far South and [of] political activists, at the hands of Thai soldiers and police.”

The junta continues to use Cold War methods to “protect” itself and its murderous police and military.

The Asian Human Rights Commission produced a “press release from Prachatai.”

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FORWARDED PRESS RELEASE
AHRC-FPR-032-2016

THAILAND: Thai authorities prevent press briefing on state-sponsored torture

Police and public officials have prevented a press briefing of Amnesty International (AI)’s about state-sponsored torture, saying that AI speakers might be charged for not having working permit.

On 28 September 2016, at Four Wings Hotel in Bangkok, Special Branch police officers and officials from the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare intervened at a press briefing of an AI report titled “Make Him Speak by Tomorrow”: Torture and Other Ill-Treatment in Thailand.

The report documents 74 cases of torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of soldiers and the police, including beatings, suffocation by plastic bags, strangling by hand or rope, waterboarding, electric shocks of the genitals, and other forms of humiliation.

The Thai authorities said that they are not barring the press briefing, but the AI speakers from the UK might be arrested if the briefing continues because they do not have a work permit.

In the report, AI states that since seizing power in a 2014 coup, Thailand’s military authorities have allowed a culture of torture and other ill-treatment to flourish across the country, with soldiers and policemen targeting suspected insurgents, political opponents, and individuals from the most vulnerable sections of society.

“Thailand may claim to be tough on torture, but actions speak louder than words. Empowered by laws of their own making, Thailand’s military rulers have allowed a culture of torture to flourish, where there is no accountability for the perpetrators and no justice for the victims,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

Update: AI have made the Executive Summary of their report available in Thai and English.

 





Abolish trials of civilians by military courts

20 09 2016

The Asian Human Rights Commission has released a statement on the ongoing use of military courts by the military junta for its political opponents. While there are no new cases going to the military courts, hundreds of cases will still have to wend their way through the military courts:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-142-2016
19 September, 2016

THAILAND: Abolish all trials of civilians in military courts

On 12 September 2016, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued the NCPO Order No. 55/2016under Article 44 of the Interim Constitution; it states that all cases involving offences of the Announcement of the NCPO Order No. 37/2557 (2014), No. 38/2557 (2014), and No. 50/2557 (2014), will no longer be tried in Military courts.

However, this order does not cover cases initiated before the order was issued. In addition, it also fails to cover cases under Article 12 of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015, the junta’s public gathering ban, and the NCPO Order No. 13/2016, which gives Military officers extra-judicial power. Therefore, crimes involving these laws still have to be tried in Military courts.

Since the 2014 coup d’état, both local and international human rights organisations have condemned the Thai Military government; the NCPO, the junta’s ruling body, has since resorted to Military courts to silence all forms of opposition. Under Announcement No.37/2557 (2014), the NCPO made clear its intention to establish Military courts to process people accused of certain categories of offences. In particular, it listed offences of lèse majesté, offences concerning internal security, and any offences deemed to be contrary to the orders of the NCPO. In Announcement 38/2557 (2014), it added that persons brought before Military courts with cases pending against them from the ordinary criminal courts could have those cases dealt with simultaneously. (See AHRC-OLT-006-2014)

The NCPO Order No. 55/2016states that

“…Presently, it appears that the overall situation in the country during these past two years has become, step-by-step, better. The population has expressed their intention and provided good cooperation, which led to the country’s sustainable development; the proper reform of the country; and unity and reconciliation building conducted in a right and fair manner….”

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) would like to point out the manifest inaccuracy of this statement. What needs to be placed in context is the fact that from May 2014 until the end of May 2016, at least 1,811 civilians have been tried in Military courts in 1,546 cases.

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), there are 517 pending cases in Military courts and 1,029 have reached their final verdicts. Of these, 44 cases are concerned with the violation of NCPO Orders and Announcements (such as failures to report to NCPO summons and the ban on political gathering). There are 63 cases prosecuted for defamation of the monarchy, or lèse majesté, under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, and five cases of sedition-like offences under Section 116 of the Criminal Code.

In addition, the AHRC is deeply concerned that the NCPO Order No. 55/2016 is not a permanent order that aims to revoke the prosecution of civilians in Military court or one that will restore civilian judiciary. As a matter of fact, what Thailand requires is the annulment of the military rule in the country and the restoration of its civilian government. Orders like the one issued could only be viewed as the junta justifying the excesses committed so far and its justification of the promulgation of a constitution, that neither had popular support nor was drafted with the free and informed will of the people of Thailand.

As a result, there is little reason for human rights organisations to change their demand: revoke the announcement of the NCPO that place civilians in military courts, and return them to be tried in ordinary courts. In conclusion, at least 517 cases in Military courts still await being tried, something that is not in accordance with Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.(See ALRC-CWS-32-011-2016)

The NCPO Order No. 55/2016 also reiterates that officers under the NCPO Order No. 3/2558 (2015) and NCPO Order No. 13/2559 (2016) shall continue to have power and responsibility specified in these Orders.

Therefore, without permission having been granted by the Head of the NCPO or an authorized representative under Article 12 of the NCPO Order No. 3/2558 (2015), the political gatherings of five or more persons shall still be punished with imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding ten thousand Baht, or both.

Also, the NCPO Order No. 13/2559 (2016) permits the boundless exercise of power and also inserts military officials as “Prevention and Suppression Officers” into the judicial process and provides them with the authority to carryout investigations along with the police. In addition, the Order gives authority to military officials to detain individuals for up to seven days. During this seven-day detention period, detainees do not have the right to meet a lawyer or contact their relatives, and the Military officials further refuse to make the locations of places of detention public.

In the past two years since the coup, it is clear that Military courts do not accord same rights as Thailand’s civilian courts do. They also violate internationally protected fair trial rights.

The AHRC still calls for the NCPO to revoke Article 44 of the Interim Constitution, as well as all NCPO orders and announcements that place civilians in Military courts. The AHRC calls for returning citizens to be tried in ordinary courts and for ending all forms of violations and harassment of ordinary people.