Bombs and investigations

16 08 2016

As we often do, we re-post from Asian Human Rights Commission:

Dear Friends,

We wish to share with you a statement from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), Community Resources Centre Foundation (CRC), Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA), Union for Civil Liberty (UCL), and the ENLAWTHAI Foundation (EnLAW)

Asian Human Rights Commission
Hong Kong

————-
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-FST-017-2016
16 August 2016

A Statement from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), Community Resources Centre Foundation (CRC), Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA), Union for Civil Liberty (UCL), and the ENLAWTHAI Foundation (EnLAW), forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

THAILAND: Condemning Bomb Attacks in Southern Thailand, Demanding Fair Trials after transparent Investigations

From 11-14 August 2016, 17 explosions took place in seven provinces in Southern Thailand causing a number of deaths and property damages. On 13 August 2016, the Thai authorities responded. They invoked Section 44 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand (Interim), B.E. 2557 (2014). It allows them to hold several suspects in custody, allegedly involved with the bomb and arson attacks. According to information reported to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), more than ten individuals have been held in custody following the blasts. Since 15 August 2016, relatives and lawyers of at least four suspects have been unable to communicate with them. They have been denied access to those who are said to be held in military custody at the Bangkok’s 11th Military Circle.

There is a compelling reason for the authorities to act promptly to bring the perpetrators to justice. The undersigned human rights organizations have found the process of identifying the perpetrators not in compliance with the rights to a fair trial, as provided in Articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). As a state party, Thailand is obliged to comply, i.e. a person cannot be subject to arbitrary arrest or detention. The individual must be informed of why he is being arrested and promptly charged. A person alleged to have committed a crime must be guaranteed basic rights, including the right to access to a lawyer. In addition, the deprivation of liberty of individuals in an undisclosed place and the denial of access by their relatives may amount to a breach of their obligations. These are under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which has been acceded to by Thailand. The Cabinet Resolution has been made to ratify the Convention as well.

The undersigned human rights organizations have the following opinions and put forth the following requests regarding the situation;

1. We condemn the perpetrators of violence, including the bomb and arson attacks in various places in the South of Thailand. We would like to offer our deepest condolences to the families who have been affected, regardless of what prompted such violence.

2. We urge the law enforcement officials, as they collect evidence, to use the normal processes of justice in their investigations. Perpetrators need to be brought to justice without delay. All procedures must be carried out with respect for the principles of human rights. Trials must be conducted in a civilian court.

3. We urge the military officials to stop invoking power either from the Head of the NCPO Order No.3/2558 (2015) or Section 44 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand (Interim), B.E. 2557 (2014). The places of remand, where individuals who have been deprived of their liberty are held over, need to be disclosed to their families. Suspects must be allowed to have visits by their families and access to their lawyers in private meetings.

With respect in the rights and freedoms of the people

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)
Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
Community Resources Centre Foundation (CRC)
Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)
Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)
ENLAWTHAI Foundation (EnLAW)





End judicial harassment against student activists

12 08 2016

As usual, we re-post an Asian Human Rights Commission appeal:

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-099-2016

10 August 2016
THAILAND: End judicial harassment against student activists

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding student activists who have been arrested in Thailand. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), only one day before the referendum, the Thai authorities arrested two pro-democracy activists in Chaiyaphum province, northeastern Thailand, for distributing anti-constitution flyers.

CASE NARRATIVE:

The Provincial Court of Phu Khiao ordered the remand in custody of two student activists for distributing vote-no leaflets in Phu Khiao market, Chaiyaphum, claiming a grave offence had been committed. One of the students ‘Pai’, a core member of the Northeastern New Democracy Movement (NDM) activist group, has refused to bail himself and is on hunger strike now. The other student, Palm, has been bailed out.

On 8 August 2016, at 12:20 p.m., in the pretrial hearing room of the Provincial Court of Phu Khiao, police officials from the Phu Khiao Police Station, Chaiyaphum province, had filed a request for remand in custody of 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. The two suspects were arrested while distributing leaflets relating to the referendum in a market in Phu Khiao municipality in the late afternoon of 6 August 2016. They were initially held in custody at the Phu Khiao Police Station, and refused to bail themselves.

According to the police’s motion of pre-trial request, it was described that the arrest was made on 6 August 2016 at around 17:00, after police from the Phu Khiao Police Station, police investigators, and administrative officials of the Phu Khiao District had been informed that some individuals were distributing leaflets urging people to reject the Draft Constitution on Satharana Road, Ratbamrung, Moo 1, Tambon Phak Pang, Phu Khiao District, Chaiyaphum province. At the crime scene, they found the alleged offender no. 1 and the alleged offender no.2 distributing the leaflets and other documents on the road. The officials identified themselves and then asked to conduct the search which had led them to the discovery and seizure of incriminating evidence including (1) 128 copies of the vote-no leaflets, (2) 16 copies of the statement by the Nitirat Group, and (3) one copy of a booklet explaining the reasons against the Draft Constitution. The alleged offenders no.1 and 2 were then arrested with the evidence and both had denied the charges.

According to the inquiry officials, the alleged offenders were accused of committing an offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61 (1) and Section 61 paragraph 2, punishable by not more than ten years of imprisonment, a fine of 200,000 Baht and against the Announcement of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) no. 25 punishable by not more than six months of imprisonment or a fine of not more than 1,000 baht or both.

The inquiry officials claimed the investigation was not done and they needed more time to examine four more witnesses and to wait for the criminal background check of the suspects, so the remand in custody should not be granted. In addition, it was indicated in the remand request that since the offences carry a high penalty rate, there is a fear of flight and the tempering with evidence or the commission of other harmful acts. The alleged offender no. 1 (Jatupat) also had a pending arrest warrant by the Muang Khon Kaen Police Station for his previous violation of the Head of the NCPO Order, and should the Court grant him a temporary release, the police should be notified.

Both Jatupat and Wasin pleaded against the remand, claiming the information from the four witnesses had no major bearing on the investigation and the background check could have been done by the officials without having them remanded. Also, they have no reason to flee since they both need to go to school. As to the outstanding case at the Muang Khon Kaen Police Station as claimed by the inquiry officials, they explained that the case has not been indicted and it is a politically motivated case as well.

Based on the remand request of the inquiry officials, the Court has found the two alleged offenders had committed a grave offence carrying not more than three years of imprisonment and therefore granted the remand in custody as requested for 12 days from 8-19 August 2016.

After the remand was granted, Wasin asked to apply for bail, while Jatupat refused to do so. The bail bond worth 150,000 baht was placed with the Court as sureties to have Wasin released. Meanwhile, Mr. Wiboon Boonphatthararaksa, father of Jatupat and attorney for both Jatupat and Wasin, revealed that prior to his arriving at the Court this morning, the police had further interrogated the two suspects and pressed more charges against them for refusing to have their fingerprints taken. They refused to have their fingerprints taken claiming they had done nothing wrong. Both also had refused to bail themselves while in police custody and had started a hunger strike since 10:00 a.m. on August 7. Jatupat asked Wasin to bail himself out in order to resume his study, while he himself insisted on not applying for bail and would continue to be on hunger strike while in custody at the prison. He wants to affirm his innocence and wants to test the integrity of the law enforcement process and the justice process.

Around 15:00, the Provincial Court of Phu Khiao had Wasin released and he would be discharged at the Provincial Court of Phu Khiao, while Jatupat would be brought to the District Prison of Phu Khiao. After the release, Wasin was asked to report to the Court on 22 August 2016. Wasin revealed that Jatupat wanted it known to the powers that be that “arrest us if you can, lock us up if you can, but we shall continue to fight”.

The offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61(1) relates to an act to cause disturbance to the referendum voting and against Section 61, paragraph 2 having transmitted a text, or an image, or sound through the print media, or radio, or television, or electronic media, or other channels, which are inconsistent with the truth or are violent, aggressive, rude, inciting or threatening and aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot or vote in any direction shall be considered as disrupting the referendum.

The same documents had previously landed the NDM activists in jail in two other occasions already, including the distribution of the documents at Kan Keha Bang Pli Community, Samut Prakan, and the search of a pickup truck in Ban Pong District, Ratchaburi. Cases have been reported against other students for organizing the activity “speak for freedom, the Constitution and the E-san people?” in Khon Kaen. The NDM members have all denied the charges and insisted that their documents are neither distorted nor rude.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The following are the names of the arrested activists:
1. Mr. Jatupat Boonphatthararaksa, 25 years, currently detained at the District Prison of Phu Khiao
2. Mr. Wasin Prommanee, 20 years, on temporary release with conditions imposed by the Phu Khiao Provincial Court

And, the following are the details of the charges:

1. THE CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM ACT B.E. 2559 (2016)
Section 61 states any person who commits following acts;
(1) To cause confusion to affect orderliness of voting
(2) […]

Anyone who publishes text, images or sound, through either newspaper, radio, television, electronic media or other channels, that is either untruthful, harsh, offensive, rude, inciting or threatening, with the intention that voters will either not exercise their right to vote, or vote in a certain way, or not vote, shall be considered as a person causing confusion to affect orderliness of voting.

Any person commits the act to cause confusion to affect orderliness of voting shall be
punished with imprisonment of not exceeding ten years and a fine of up to 200,000 Baht.
The Court may order to revoke his/her right to vote of not exceeding five years.
If the offences are committed by a group of five persons or more, each person shall be punished with imprisonment of one to ten years, a fine from 20,000 to 200,000 baht and a10-year revocation of voting right by court.

2. THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE COUNCIL FOR DEMOCRATIC REFORM (CDR) NO. 25 ON THE PROCEDURE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM DECLARED ON 29 SEPTEMBER 2006

Any person who is accused of committing criminal offences has a duty to give fingerprints or footprints in criminal proceedings as ordered by prosecutors, judges or police investigators. Whoever violates such order shall be punished with imprisonment of not exceeding 6 months and/or fine of not exceeding 1,000 Baht for disobeying the order of the officials by refusing to give their fingerprints.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately withdraw the case and end any ongoing investigation into 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.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

THAILAND: End judicial harassment against student activists

Name of victim: 1. Mr. Jatupat Boonphatthararaksa and 2. Mr.Wasin Prommanee
Names of alleged perpetrators: Police Officers
Date of incident: 6 August 2016 to the present
Place of incident: Phu Khiao District, Chaiyaphum province, Thailand

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the Thai authorities’ arrest of two pro-democracy activists in Chaiyaphum province, northeastern Thailand, for distributing anti-constitution flyers. All of them are charged with violating Section 61 of the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016) and the Announcement of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) no. 25/2549 (2006). They are subject to the Phu Khiao jurisdiction and, if found guilty, could face up to ten years of imprisonment, a fine of 200,000 Baht, and also have their right to vote revoked by the Court.

With regards to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) s’ plan, the date 7 August 2016 was scheduled for the constitutional referendum by the Thai Military government. Before the date, the New Democracy Movement (NDM), a group of student activists and other activists, formed at the first anniversary of the coup d’état in late June 2015, started their campaign to encourage people to cast their votes to reject the draft constitution as they are of the opinion that the draft is undemocratic.

In using the Order of the NCPO no.3/2015 and the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), the authorities have restricted anti-draft groups from expressing their views. The NCPO no.3/2015’s original intent was to prosecute actions intended to undermine or destroy peace and national security while the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016)’s intent was to ensure “Free and Fair” concept in the referendum process. However, I wish to point out that, both legislations are being used to prevent the NDM and other pro-democracy groups from running campaigns from distributing anti-constitution flyers. As a result, according to a Thai lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), as of 5 August 2016, 195 people have been prosecuted for publicly opposing the draft constitution.

In the case of Mr. Jatupat Boonphatthararaksa and Mr. Wasin Prommanee, I wish to note that they are an example of pro-democracy activists in Thailand who continue to struggle with rights to freedom of expression. After distributing leaflets to the general public, the two individuals were bought to the Phu Khiao District Police Station. Then, as the subjects of an unfair trial process, they were taken into custody and charged with violating the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61 and the Announcement of the Council for Democratic Reform (CDR) No.25/2549 (2006).

Therefore, I would like to urge:

1. The Commander of Royal Thai Police to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against the two student activists who were trying to campaign for the referendum on the draft constitution;

2. The Commissioner-General of Royal Thai Police and the Attorney General of Office of Attorney General to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the two student activists and unconditionally drop all charges against them;

3. The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission to urge the Royal Thai Police and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to take prompt action to protect the two student activists who were trying to campaign for the referendum on the draft constitution.

Yours Sincerely,

……………….

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Prime Minister
Head of the National Council for Peace and Order
Rachadamnoen Nok Road
Bang Khun Phrom
Bangkok 10200
THAILAND
Tel: +662 283-4000
Fax: +662 282-5131
Email: panadda_d@opm.go.th

2. Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda
Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police
Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan,
Khet Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Tel: +662 2516 831
Fax: +662 2053 738

3. Pol.Sub.Lt. Pongniwat Yuthaphunboripahn
Deputy Attorney General.
The Office of the Attorney General
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December, B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +662 142 1444
Fax: +662 143 9546
Email: ag@ago.go.th

4. Mr. What Tingsamitr
Chairman of National Human Rights Commission
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December
B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +662141 3800, +6621413900
E-mail: help@nhrc.or.th

5. Pol.Capt. Rangsan Eiamtaisong
The police investigator of the Phu Khiao District Police Station
Phu Khiao District, Chaiyaphum province 36110
THAILAND
Tel: +66 44 878 128
Fax: +66 44861 563

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)





Repression and the referendum

28 07 2016

We recommend a careful reading of this article by the Asian Human Rights Commission:

FOR PUBLICATION
AHRC-ART-041-2016
27 July, 2016

THAILAND: Structural and legal threats to free expression in referendum process

By Phattranit Yaodam and Samira Saran

August 7, 2016 is scheduled for the constitutional referendum by the Thai Military government and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the junta-ruling body. 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 is free to exercise its civil and political rights. Providing the conditions for free and open political communication is the basic element of ensuring fair and democratic referendum processes.

This concept is mentioned in international standards. It is the right to freedom of opinion and expression, as articulated in articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It is fundamentally interrelated with article 25 of the Covenant, on the right to participation in government through free and fair voting.

Under Thai law, the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 paragraph two and its implementation along with The Head of NCPO Order No.3/2015 have shown contradictory results. It intends to restrict the people’s rights who need to discuss and to critically evaluate decisions about their country.

The NCPO Order No.3/2015, which the government claims is needed, to maintain a “certain degree of restriction, to protect the rights or reputations of others and to uphold national security and public order,” is not an applicable law. Its Article 12 (ban on any political gathering of five persons or more) is a restriction on the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly which are recognized in ICCPR to which Thailand is a state party.

Moreover, Section 61, paragraph two of the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), states that “having transmitted a text, or an image, or sound through the print media, or radio, or television, or electronic media, or other channels, which are inconsistent with the truth or are violent, aggressive, rude, inciting or threatening and aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot or vote in any direction shall be considered as disrupting the referendum”. It has not been crafted with care to ensure that it complies with paragraph 3 of Article 19 of ICCPR. They do not serve, in practice, to stifle freedom of expression (as provided by the Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No. 34, CCPR/C/GC/34).

Therefore, both the Head of NCPO Order No.3/2015 and Section 61 paragraph two of the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 threatens society’s enjoyment of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

As of July 2015, according to a Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), 113 people have been prosecuted for publicly opposing the draft constitution— many of them from the capital, Bangkok. As the opening day of the Centers to Combat Referendum Fraud neared, the NCPO suppression escalated.

On 23-24 June 2016, student groups and activists, who demonstrated in public opposition to the referendum, were arrested. An example is the following incident. After distributing leaflets to the general public, 13 individuals, were bought to the Bang Sao Thaong Police Station. They were taken into custody and charged with violating The Head of NCPO Order No.3/2015 and the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61.

On 10 July 2016, the Ban Pong police searched the vehicle of 4 activists, and found campaign material about the Constitutional Referendum and “Vote No” fliers. They were then held in custody for questioning, together with a reporter from Prachatai. No charges were initially pressed against them. But afterwards, the Commander of the Provincial Police Region 7 instructed the officer to charge them with violating the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 for preparing to distribute fliers.

Moving on to Northern Thailand, authorities cited The Head of NCPO Order No.13/2015 as a premise to conduct search and seizure of all materials remotely related to the Center of Combat Referendum Fraud. As a result, in over 43 provinces, residents were prevented from exercising their right to freedom of expression. Civilians’ homes were raided by police, individuals were summoned by authorities without explanation, and banners and symbols were banned. On June 27, 2016, forces that were originally intended to suppress dangerous societal organizations, like the mafia, burst into homes searching for opposition supplies. Individuals have been arrested for wearing apparel that reads “vote no” or gathering in groups greater than 5.

By arbitrarily pressing charges, the police impair the people from freely expressing their views on the Draft Constitution. Through misconstruing The Head of NCPO Order No.13/2015 and the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61, the government and its organizations intend that individuals be discouraged from opposing the draft. Regardless of the voters’ opinion on the referendum, the results will not be the product of a democratic society that is able to exercise its right to free speech and expression.





Military must end judicial harassment of human rights defenders

26 07 2016

Torture, intimidation, repression and oppression are the stock-in-trade of the military in Thailand, under all regime types. As we often do, we reproduce an urgent appeal from the Cross Cultural Foundation, forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-FUA-006-2016

25 July 2016

THAILAND: Military must end judicial harassment of human rights defenders

ISSUES: Human rights defenders; Military; Rule of law; Threats and intimidation; Torture

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to forward an appeal from the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) regarding the three human rights defenders who are to meet with an inquiry official at the Muang Pattani Police Station on July 26 in the defamation case filed against them by the ISOC Region 4 Forward as a result of their launching a torture report about the Deep South.

For more information, please contact:
1. Mr. Abdulawae Puteh +66 81 898 7408 Attorney of the three alleged offenders
2. Mr. Preeda Nakphew +66 89 622 2474 CrCF’s attorney
3. Ms. Nutthasiri Bergman +66 85 12 08077 CrCF’s attorney

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
—————————— —————————— ———–
THAILAND: Military must end judicial harassment of human rights defenders

On 17 May 2016, the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC 4) has reported a case with the inquiry official at the Muang Pattani Police Station alleging that Mr. Somchai Homlaor, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Ms. Anchana Heemmina, three human rights defenders, had committed criminal defamation and a violation of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.

The three rights defenders were accused of publishing and distributing a report on the torture and ill, degrading and inhumane treatment in the Deep South between 2014 and 2015 and for bringing into the computer system false information via the website https://voicefromthais. wordpress.com/. The summons were issued for them since 8 June 2016, and they were supposed to turn themselves in on 26 June 2016, though they had asked to postpone it to 26 July 2016.

On 26 July 2016, the three defenders will meet Pol Lt Col Winyou Thiamrat, inquiry official of the Muang Pattani Police Station to hear the charges against them and carry with their defence later on.

The report “Torture and ill treatment in The Deep South Documented in 2014-2015” was an attempt to echo the situation in the local area and by doing so, the three HRDs hope it will help to solve the problem of torture in the Deep South. Since the start of unrest, a range of special laws have been enforced including Martial Law and the Emergency Decree on Government Administration in States of Emergency B.E. 2548 (2005) to bestow on the authorities extra power to carry out the arrest and detention of people. Even though it aims to quell insurgency, but undeniably, it has also led to the situation in which some officials have executed their power arbitrarily giving rise to the acts of torture and/or violations of rights and liberties in various forms. The facts are attested to be incidences of tortures committed by state officials as reported now and then including some suspects in security related cases have been found dead while in military custody or other official custody. If the problem fails to be tackled, it will simply ramp up more violence in the Deep South.

This case has attracted extensive attention from national and international rights organizations since the three activists have been playing important roles in the protection of human rights in the Deep South for a long time. Still, they are being taken to court by the authorities. It will also be another test of the Thai judicial system as to how much understanding they have toward the roles of HRDs and the issue of torture in Thailand.

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)





End judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and reporter

18 07 2016

This is a post of an Asian Human Rights Commission appeal. It refers to the now well-known detention of students and a Prachatai reporter. We reproduce the appeal in full, not least because it includes significant detail on the case. The original is here.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-089-2016

18 July 2016

———————————————————————
THAILAND: End judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and reporter

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

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) regarding the arrest of activists who attempted to exercise their right of expression. On 10 July 2016, the Ban Pong police searched the vehicle of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) activists, and found campaign material about the Constitutional Referendum and “Vote No” fliers. They were then held in custody for questioning, together with a reporter from Prachatai. No charges were initially pressed against them, but afterwards the Commander of the Provincial Police Region 7 instructed the officer to charge them with violating the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 for preparing to distribute the fliers.

CASE NARRATIVE:

On 10 July 2016 at around 11:30 a.m., police officials from the Ban Pong Police Station, Ratchaburi, searched the vehicle of Mr. Pakorn Areekul, aka “Man”, an activist of the New Democracy Movement (NDM). Mr. Pakorn had gone to Ban Pong District earlier to give moral support to some residents who had been summoned to acknowledge their charges. The local people there have been charged as a result of opening a referendum monitoring center. In the back of the activist’ pickup truck, the officials have found documents featuring reasons against the Draft Constitution, ‘Vote No’ stickers, and fliers made by the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT). Mr. Pakorn, along Mr. Anan Loket and Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot, his fellow NDM activists as well as Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha, a reporter from Prachatai, were about to board the vehicle when they were summoned for questioning. Mr.Thaweesak was interrogated, despite showing his press ID card.

Initially, the officials did not press any charges against, simply informing them that they had to put the information into the daily record and had to seize the documents. But later, at around 12:00 p.m., the police informed them that they had just sent the information to the Provincial Election Commission and local military authorities for review. During the initial questioning, Mr. Thaweesak revealed that the officials tried to establish that Prachatai online news has been the funder behind the NDM, including giving the activists money to print the material to campaign against the Draft Constitution.

Then, the Deputy Superintendent of Ban Pong Police Station had made the phone call to the Election Commissioner on electoral affairs, Mr. Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, who informed the police that if the documents were simply in the possession and not yet distributed, the activists could not be held accountable. But if they had distributed them, whether it would violate the Order of the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2558 or not, this would be subject to the discretion of the police on a case by case basis. Nevertheless, according to the police, the Commander of the Provincial Police Region 7 insisted that the act could be actionable as the activists were getting prepared to distribute the material and hence decided to press charges relating to the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61, paragraph two against them. Mr. Somchai also added that the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) was still reviewing the referendum campaign material of the NDM, but insofar could not determine if by simply having them in possession would constitute an offence or not.

In the Arrest Memo, the police noted that around 11:00 a.m the arresting police have received a report from people who acted in good faith and via the police scanner of the Ban Pong Police Station that a group of individuals were driving a pickup truck carrying with them documents and gears in the back of the truck. From their behavior, it was believed they were there to distribute the documents, the fliers, and brochures to campaign against the vote to endorse the Draft Constitution in Ban Pong District. From further investigation, it was found that the vehicle had pulled over on Songphon Road, Ban Pong Municipality, Tambon Ban Pong, Ratchaburi. The officials have thus identified themselves and asked to search the vehicle.

From the search, the evidence no. 2-14 were recovered, and from asking Mr. Pakorn Areekul, they have learned that he had travelled there with Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha, Mr. Anan Loket and Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot in order to visit their friends who have been summoned in the case of the unlawful assembly of five persons and upward or a political gathering without permission and to run the campaign about the Draft Constitution. Regarding the evidence no. 2-14, Mr. Pakorn accepted that they belonged to the New Democracy Movement (NDM) and they had been loaded into his vehicle.

The officials have thus seized the evidence and informed the arrestees of the charge against them for “having transmitted a text, or an image, or sound through the print media, or radio, or television, or electronic media, or other channels, which are inconsistent with the truth or are violent, aggressive, rude, inciting or threatening and aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot or vote in any direction shall be considered as disrupting the referendum”, which is an offence of the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 paragraph two.

The 14 items of evidence seized by the officials include the pickup truck, Vinyl banner reading “Any Thai Prime Minister is subject to mocking” (one copy), a loudspeaker and microphones, ‘Vote No’ bookmarks, document ‘Seven reasons why the Draft Constitution should be rejected’. brochure “How to cast your votes”, document “A dissenting opinion”, document ‘Release the Seven Referendum Prisoners’, public statement of the Nitirat Group on the Referendum, document “How to apply to vote outside your constituency” and ‘Vote No’ stickers.

The four suspects pleaded not guilty to the charge and refused to sign their names in the Arrest Memo. Later at 16.00, the police also searched in the passenger cabin and seized five more items on top of the documents already seized including a NDM donation box made of paper with 2,571 baht inside and a booklet “In the name of the NCPO’s (in)justice” by the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

Around 18:00 p.m., the police have brought the four suspects to a holding cell at the Ban Pong Police Station and denied them bail at the police level. They were informed that the interrogation shall take place that night and they would be brought to the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi for a remand hearing on 11 July 2016 which TLHR attorneys filed a motion objecting the remand then.

Of late at 20.20 p.m., it was reported that four vehicles of police officials have laid siege to the residence of Mr. Panuwat Songsawatchai, student of Faculty of Political Science, Maejo University Phrae Campus – Maejo University, another suspect in the same case who was summoned to turn himself in at the Ban Pong Police Station as a result of his activity at the referendum monitoring center in the morning. He was pressed with the same charge as the four individuals.

On 11 July 2016 at 9:00 a.m., all five were brought to the pre-trial remand hearing at the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi. The police investigator of Ban Pong Police Station asked the Court to have them remanded for 12 days and the Court approved as submitted by police. However, six alleged offenders have been released by the order of the Court, by placing bail bond at 140,000 Baht (around 3,975 $) each.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Previously, on 23 June 2016, other NDM activists and union activists, 13 of them, were arrested while distributing campaign material in the public to urge them to vote during the Constitutional Referendum in Samut Prakan province. They were pressed with charges relating to the violation of the Order of the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2558 and the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61 (please see Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-075-2016 for more information). In addition, seven other student activists from the Kasetsat Liberals were apprehended while organizing a ceremony to mark the anniversary of Thailand’s democracy “24 June: Dusting off Democracy” at the Lak Si Monument on 24 June and their ‘Vote No’ campaign material of their car were also seized. The seven activists were pressed with charges relating to the political gathering of five persons and upward, the violation of the Order of the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2558, though they were not charged for violating the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately withdraw the case and end any ongoing investigation into the 4 activists and 1 reporter from Prachatai.

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.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

THAILAND: End judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and reporter

Name of victim: 1. Mr. Pakorn Areekul 2. Mr. Anan Loket 3.Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot 4.Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha 5. Mr. Panuwat Songsawatchai

Names of alleged perpetrators: Military Officers and Police Officers

Date of incident: 10 July 2016 to the present

Place of incident: Ratchaburi province, Thailand

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the arrest of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) activists and a reporter on the offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act as a result of the documents recouped from their vehicle, even though they were not yet distributed, emerged in the wake of puzzlement by the suspects in the case.

While the international community has frequently described freedom of expression as one of the essential foundations of a democratic society because it guarantees the right of every person to exchange information, debate ideas and express opinions, the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 paragraph and its implementation have shown contradictory results. Because it intends to restrict people’s right who need to discuss – and to criticise – decisions about their country.

Moreover, generally Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) prohibits the state from interfering with freedom of expression. This would prevent, for example, the government attempting to ban particular forms of political or artistic expression. The prohibition is not limited to the government but also includes all public bodies such as local authorities, schools and universities which Thailand, as a State party, should respect it.

Therefore, I would like to urge:

1. The Commander of Royal Thai Police to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against the 4 activists and 1 reporter who were trying to campaign and report around the referendum on the draft constitution;
2. The Commissioner-General of Royal Thai Police and the Attorney General of Office of Attorney General to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the 4 activists and 1 reporter and unconditionally drop all charges against them;
3. The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission to urge The Royal Thai Police and The National for Peace and Order (NCPO) to take prompt action to protect the 4 activists and 1 reporter who were trying to campaign and report around the referendum on the draft constitution;
4. The NCPO to cease obstructing, threatening, and arresting those who campaign around the referendum and express differing views about the draft constitution in an orderly, peaceful and open manner, and allow the free presentation of views to accept or reject the draft constitution through various channels.

Yours Sincerely,

……………….

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Prime Minister
Head of the National Council for Peace and Order
Rachadamnoen Nok Road
Bang Khun Phrom
Bangkok 10200
THAILAND
Tel: +662 283-4000
Fax: +662 282-5131
Email: panadda_d@opm.go.th

2. Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda
Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police
Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan,
Khet Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Tel: +662 2516 831
Fax: +662 2053 738

3. Pol.Sub.Lt. Pongniwat Yuthaphunboripahn
Deputy Attorney General.
The Office of the Attorney General
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December, B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +662 142 1444
Fax: +662 143 9546
Email: ag@ago.go.th

4. Mr. What Tingsamitr
Chairman of National Human Rights Commission
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December
B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +662141 3800, +6621413900
E-mail: help@nhrc.or.th





Drop charges against pro-democracy activists

30 06 2016

The Asian Human Rights Commission has launched an appeal for the release from prison of 13 pro-democracy activists accused of violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings when they were distributing flyers about the upcoming draft constitution referendum, urging a No vote.

The appeal letter and other appeal information can be accessed here.

THAILAND: Drop charges against pro-democracy activists

30 June 2016

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) regarding military officers and police officers harassing activists who exercise their right to expression and peaceful assembly. On 23-24 June 2016, the police have accused 13 pro-democracy activists of violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings by distributing campaign flyers for the upcoming draft constitution referendum.

CASE NARRATIVE:

The date 7 August 2016 is scheduled for the constitutional referendum by the Thai Military government and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the junta-ruling body. In the run-up to the referendum, the New Democracy Movement (NDM), a group of student activists and other activists, formed at the first anniversary of the coup d’état in late June 2015, has started their campaign to encourage people to cast their votes to reject the draft constitution as they are of the opinion that the draft is undemocratic.

On 23 June 2016, at around 5:30 p.m., combined forces of police and Military arrested the NDM student activists and members of the Triumph Labour Union. This arrest took place in the market of Kan Keha Bang Pli Community in Samut Prakan Province. All 13 of them were arrested while they were distributing leaflets, fliers, and documents to passersby.

The documents give a little information about the draft Constitution and explain the reasons why people should reject it. All of them were apprehended and taken to the Bang Sao Thaong Police Station. Their campaign materials were confiscated including: large fliers bearing the text “Vote No”; booklets, titled the “Arguments and explanations about the essence of the Draft Constitution, the ten things you should know”; large fliers titled “Kao Kham” (Transcending) by the New Democracy Movement (NDM); brochures explaining how to register to vote outside one’s constituency; a form to register or to unregister to vote outside one’s constituency; as well as one megaphone. They were detained in police custody overnight and six of them who requested bail during the police stage were denied bail.

On 24 June 2016, all the 13 were brought to the pre-trial remand hearing at the Bangkok Military Court. Pol Cap Withoon Pengbuppha, the police investigator of Bang Sao Thaong Police Station, asked the Court to have them remanded for 12 days, claiming it necessary for questioning ten more witnesses and fearing the reoccurrence of the crime, which he argued may post an obstacle or jeopardize the investigation.

Meanwhile, the alleged offenders’ attorneys filed a motion to object to the remand request, citing that the Order of the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2015 is not an applicable law and its Article 12 (ban on any political gathering of five persons or more) is a restriction on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are recognized in the Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party. Also, the right to freedom of expression should not be criminalized. In addition, the NCPO Announcement no. 37/2014 which specifies the jurisdiction of the Military Courts imply states that the Military Court can only adjudicate cases relating to offences against the Announcements or Orders of the NCPO, not the Order of the Head of the NCPO.

Therefore, the Bangkok Military Court has no power to review the case and to conduct the remand hearing in this case. Nevertheless, the Military Court persisted to issue a writ to have the 13 alleged offenders remanded, claiming that they were just arrested and more time was needed for police investigation including several more witnesses to be interviewed and deeming that the objection of the alleged offenders was a legal defence. Thus, the Court dismissed the objection to the remand motion, and approved a 12-daypre-trial remand, as submitted by police.

However, six alleged offenders have been released by the order of the Military Court, by placing bail bond at 50,000 Baht each. They, however, have to comply with the conditions set forth by the Military Court, including to “not get involved with any act aimed to instigate, disrupt public order, persuade, compel people to rise up by any means possible in order to make possible any public assembly which may bring about public disorder or cause any harm or infringement on peace, order or the moral high ground of the people or any act which may induce people to commit a legal offence”.

At present, the other seven students and activists are held in custody at the Bangkok Remand Prison. They all refused to apply for bail, stating that they had done nothing wrong and should not be subject to the jurisdiction of the Military Court. They did not want to accept the conditions attached to the release, as dictated by the Military Court. On 5 July2016, when the first period of remand ends, their attorneys shall file another motion to object further remand.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The following are the names of the arrested activists:
1. Mr. Rangsiman Rome, 24 years, currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison
2. Mr. Korakoch Saengyenpan, 23 years, currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison
3. Ms. Tueanjai Waengkham, 43 years, on temporary release with conditions imposed by Military Court
4. Mr. Anan Loket, 21 years, currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison
5. Mr. Thirayut Napnaram, 28 years, currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison
6. Ms. Pimai Ratwongsa, 43 years, on temporary release with conditions imposed by Military Court
7. Mr. Rackchart Wong-arthichart, 25 years, on temporary release with conditions imposed by Military Court
8. Mr. Yuttana Dasri, 27 years, currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison
9. Mr. Somsakol Thongsuksai, 20 years, currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison
10. Ms. Konchanok Tanakhun, 45 years, on temporary release with conditions imposed by Military Court
11. Mr. Worawut Butmat, 23 years, on temporary release with conditions imposed by Military Court
12. Ms. Phanthip Saengathit, 22 years, on temporary release with conditions imposed by Military Court
13. Mr. Nantapong Panmat, 24 years, currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison

And, the following are the details of the charges:

1. THE HEAD OF THE NCPO ORDER NO.3/2015 ON MAINTAINING PUBLIC ORDER AND NATIONAL SECURITY

Article 12. Political gatherings of five or more persons shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding ten thousand Baht, or both, unless permission has been granted by the Head of the NCPO or an authorized representative.

Anyone who commits an offence under paragraph one who voluntarily agrees to receive corrective training from Peacekeeping Officers for a period not exceeding seven days may be released with or without the conditions stipulated in Article 11 paragraph 2 at the discretion of Peacekeeping Officers. The case will then be considered closed according to Section 37 of the Code of Criminal Procedure as amended by the Criminal Code Amendment Act (No. 16), 1986. Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with conditions of release shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding ten thousand Baht, or both.

2. THE CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM ACT B.E. 2559 (2016)

Article 61 states any person who commits following acts;

(1) To cause confusion to affect orderliness of voting
(2) […]
Anyone who publishes text, images or sound, through either newspaper, radio, television, electronic media or other channels, that is either untruthful, harsh, offensive, rude, inciting or threatening, with the intention that voters will either not exercise their right to vote, or vote in a certain way, or not vote, shall be considered as a person causing confusion to affect orderliness of voting.

Any person commits the act to cause confusion to affect orderliness of voting shall be
punished with imprisonment of not exceeding ten years and a fine of up to 200,000 Baht.
The Court may order to revoke his/her right to vote of not exceeding five years.

If the offences are committed by a group of five persons or more, each person shall be punished with imprisonment of one to ten years, a fine from 20,000 to 200,000 baht and a10-year revocation of voting right by court.

3. THE NATIONAL IDENTITY CARD ACT B.E.2526 (1983)

Section 17 states that a holder of a national identification card who fails to produce the card or equivalent document upon an official request shall be punished with fine not exceeding to 200 Baht.

4. THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE COUNCIL FOR DEMOCRATIC REFORM (CDR) NO. 25 ON THE PROCEDURE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM DECLAREDON 29 SEPTEMBER 2006

Any person who is accused of committing criminal offences has a duty to give fingerprints or footprints in criminal proceedings as ordered by prosecutors, judges or police investigators. Whoever violates such order shall be punished with imprisonment of not exceeding 6 months and/or fine of not exceeding 1,000 Baht for disobeying the order of the officials by refusing to give their fingerprints.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately withdraw the case and end any ongoing investigation into the20 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.





Junta and the undermining of law I

28 06 2016

PPT has been harping on the junta’s destruction of law and rule of law because of its capricious use of laws and its announcements, orders and decrees that are used as laws in the interests of the junta and always against those it thinks are its political opponents.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has issued a Statement on the issue, reproduced below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-100-2016
28 June 2016

THAILAND: How coup d’état undermined fair trial concept

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, where the king serves as head of state and has traditionally exerted political influence. In May 2014, military and police leaders, taking the name of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) led by General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, overthrew the interim government led by the Pheu Thai political party. The NCPO replaced the 2007 Constitution with an interim constitution.

The NCPO has maintained control over the security forces and all government institutions since the coup. With regards to the justice system, prior to the coup, the Thai justice system was recognized as independent and the government generally respected it. Since the NCPO overthrew the interim government, declared martial law, issued a series of NCPO orders and announcements and imposed Article 44 of the interim constitution however, both the civilian and military court systems have been affected.

According to Article 44 of the Interim Constitution, 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.

This article affects civilian law enforcement directly due to the fact that even though martial law was revoked on 1 April 2015, it was replaced by NCPO Order No. 3/ 2015, which was issued under the authority of Article 44. In practice, the effect is no different from martial law as the order permits the 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 7-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.

As a result, many forms of human rights violations have occurred throughout the country. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), since 22 May 2014 until 30 April 2016, at least 1,006 individuals were summoned to report to authorities for questioning and attitude adjustment, while 130 academic discussions and public forums were prohibited and intervened by the authorities. Moreover, at least 579 individuals were arrested and sized under NCPO Order No. 3/ 2015.

Further, the prosecution of some civilians by military courts for offences stipulated in NCPO Announcements Nos. 37, 38 and 50 is of grave concern. Although the Thai government processed civilians in military courts due to the charge under the Anti-Communist Activities Act B.E.2495 (1952) and during the political conflict on 6 October 1976, the AHRC views the present use of the military judicial system in civilian cases to be graver and more expansive than in the past.

This is due to the fact that under Announcement No. 37/2557 of 25 May 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 lese majeste, offences concerning internal security, and any offences deemed to be contrary to the orders of the NCPO. In Announcement No. 37/2557, 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. Moreover, on 30 May 2014, the NCPO issued Announcement No. 50/2557, which placed weapons-related cases within the jurisdiction of the military court, retroactive to 4:30 pm on 22 May 2014.

According to the Judge Advocate General’s Department (JAG), from 22 May 2014 – 30 September 2015, there have been 1,408 civilians tried in the military court including 1,629 alleged offenders/defendants, most commonly for violations of Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (lese majeste, defaming or insulting the king, queen, heir-apparent, or regent), failure to comply with an NCPO Order, and violations of the law controlling firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

The AHRC and other rights groups are particularly concerned by the practice of prosecuting civilians in military courts, due to the lack of legal rights. In ordinary criminal courts, defendants have a broad range of legal rights, including access to a lawyer of their choosing, prompt and detailed information of the charges (including no-cost interpretation if needed), and adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence. These are not provided in the law for the establishment of military courts. For example, military courts do not afford civilian defendants rights to a fair and public hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal. Also, civilians have to seek private counsel from among the limited number of lawyers able and willing to take their cases in military court. In addition, civilians facing trial for offenses allegedly committed from 22 May 2014 to 1 April 2015–the period of martial law–have no right of appeal.

With regard to Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) and TLHR, there are some particular cases in military courts that should be noted. On 26 June 2015, police arrested “the 14 student activists” from the New Democracy Movement group, who carried out a symbolic action at the Democracy Monument on 25 June 2015. They were charged with violating NCPO Order No. 3/2015 banning gatherings of more than five people and Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code (sedition).

It is worth noting that the remand hearing of the 14 student activists took place at night. Normally, the Military Court’s office hours are until 16:30, but on that day, the Military Court was open at 22:00 when the inquiry officers handed in the request for the remand. The whole process for the remand hearing finished at 00:30. It was the most late-at-night remand hearing known to have taken place, and according to critics, it reflected the military court’s clear lack of independence and impartiality.

In addition, when an accused person decides to fight the charge in the Military Court, they fall into the trap of delays, as in the case of “Sirapop, Anchan, and Tom Dundee”. Since the announcement has been made in 2014 to authorize the Military Court to have jurisdiction over cases against civilians, the military court has scheduled the hearings in a drawn-out, staggered fashion. During some hearings, the prosecution witnesses were simply absent without informing anyone in advance. Therefore until the end of 2015, none of the trials in the cases in which the accused has decided to fight the charge have been completed.

Furthermore, the military court also meted out hefty punishment in the case against “Thiansutham”. He was found guilty by the military court on five counts from posting five Facebook messages, and sentenced to altogether 50 years, prior to a reduction to 25 years. “Pongsak” was found guilty on six counts by the military court from posting six Facebook messages and was sentenced to 60 years prior to the reduction to 30 years, and “Sasiwimon” was found guilty on seven courts by the Chiang Mai military court and was sentenced to 56 years prior to reduction to 28 years.

It is therefore clear that the military courts do not accord the same rights as Thailand’s civilian courts, while also violating 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 and appeal. The AHRC thus 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 end all forms of violations and harassment to ordinary people.





Torture and “honor”

14 06 2016

The Royal Thai Army sometimes claims to defend the country’s reputation. As all readers of PPT would know, the Royal Thai Army is the prime reason for Thailand being seen as backward-looking, erratic, corrupt and repressive. After all, it is the Royal Thai Army that regularly murders its citizens, acts as a gang of thugs for the plutoctratic elite, and repeatedly throws out elected governments. We may have lost track, but the last time we looked, Thailand was the only military dictatorship in the world.

It is this same gang of thugs that the Bangkok Post reports has brought defamation charges against them under the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act against three human rights defenders for their report on torture and ill-treatment in the far South by soldiers during 2014-2015. The report documented “54 cases of inhumane treatment in detention, [and] was published in February this year. The research and report were partly funded by the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.”

Earlier, in February, the thug-army had threatened the activists over their report. Some other reports of intimidation are here.

The human rights activists threatened are Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Anchana Heemmina and Somchai Homlaor.

The thugs are represented by the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4. They have claimed “their decision to file legal complaints against human rights advocates in the restive Deep South, saying that they have to defend the honour of the country…”. This would be hilarious if it wasn’t so revealing of the way in which the military dolts consider Thailand belongs to the Royal Thai Army. If there is no difference between the country and this gang, then the Royal Thai Army has no honor to “defend.” There is no honor in a hierarchical and murderous organization that even kills its own recruits in the name of some crippled notion of “honor” and “discipline.”

In response, the Asian Human Rights Commission has issues an urgent appeal:

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-065-2016

13 June 2016

THAILAND: Military must end judicial harassment of human rights defenders

ISSUES: Torture; human rights defenders; military; threats and intimidation; rule of law

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) and Protection International Thailand (PI) regarding military harassment of human rights defenders in Thailand. On 17 May 2016, the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 sought power of attorney from the Royal Thai Army and submitted a complaint to Yala Mueang Police Station for criminal defamation and computer-related violations by three human right defenders, due to them being co-editors of a report detailing torture practiced by the Thai Army.

CASE NARRATIVE:

The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) is an organization that monitors and documents cases of torture and ill-treatment in Thailand. In 2002, The CrCF was registered under the Ministry of Culture, and since then the group has worked closely with its partners, such as the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, Lawyer Council of Thailand, and Thai Volunteer Services, to facilitate legal aid and access to justice for vulnerable groups, and promoting understanding amongst diverse communities through research and information dissemination.

From 2014 to 2015, the CrCF and Duay Jay Group, a local organization based in Thailand’s Deep South region which supports people who suffer from the justice system, worked together to produce a torture report by monitoring and documenting cases of torture and ill-treatment in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces, southernmost Thailand.

The report was partly funded by the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, established under the UN General Assembly resolution 36/151 in 1981. Mr. Somchai Homlaor as president of the CrCF, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet as a director of the CrCF, and Ms. Anchana Heemmina as a director of the Duay Jay Group, worked as co-editors of the report.

On 8 January 2016, one month before its publication, the CrCF and the Duay Jay Group sent the report to Army Lt. Gen. Wiwat Pathompak, the director of the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC 4). In response, high-ranking military regime officials publicly dismissed the accuracy of the report and vilified the intentions of the organisations involved in its compilation.

On 10 February 2016, the CrCF and the Duay Jay Group launched the report, ‘Torture and ill treatment in The Deep South Documented in 2014-2015’, which documented 54 cases of inhuman treatment in detention. Then the Thai Royal Army started to threaten all three editors and the human rights groups who supported them in the documentation.

As noted by the Asian Human Rights Commission statement (AHRC-STM-019-2016), one day after the CrCF and the Duay Jay Group released the report, Major General Banpot Poonpien, the ISOC spokesperson, accused the human rights groups of fabricating accounts of torture to obtain funding from abroad. He also asked whether or not the groups had the mandate to investigate the work of state officers. He ended with the threat that they could be committing defamation by issuing a report referring to international law.

After that, on 8 June 2016, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet was given information through a phone conversation by ISOC 4, that ISOC 4 sought the power of attorney from the Royal Thai Army and submitted a complaint to Yala Mueang Police Station on 17 May 2016 for criminal defamation under Section 328 of the Thai Criminal Code, and violation of the Computer Crimes Act B.E.2550 (2007), Section 14 (1). Authorities have already interrogated six witnesses and the police case file number is 704/2559.

This is not the first instance that the Royal Thai Army have attempted to sue the three human right defenders. In September 2014, both Mr. Somchai Homlaor and Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, as well as their organization, faced a criminal defamation and computer-related crimes charge filed by Paramilitary Unit 41. The case was eventually dropped by the decision of the public prosecutor in June 2015, following an international campaign denouncing the Royal Thai Army’s harassment and intimidation of these human right defenders for their legitimate and crucial human rights work. (See AHRC-UAC-133-2014 and AHRC-STM-164-2014 for more details.)

At the time of the release of this Urgent Appeal, the AHRC has received information from Mr.Somchai Homlaor that all three editors are waiting for summoning from the police. After that, they have to present themselves to the investigator at Yala Mueang Police Station in Yala province. All three have affirmed that whether they are charged or not, the CrCF and Duay Jay Group will continue to monitor and document cases of torture and ill-treatment in Thailand.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

According to the statement of Protection International Thailand, released on 13 June 2016, Mr. Somchai Homlaor is a seasoned and respected human rights lawyer in Thailand, who has been fighting to defend people’s human rights for the past 25 years. He was a Commissioner for the Law Reform Commission of Thailand until it was disbanded by the current military regime. Furthermore, as president of the Cross Cultural Foundation, he has been a key figure forging bridges across Thai society. The Cross Cultural Foundation organises educational activities, as well as research and legal support to promote people’s human rights, especially in Thailand’s southernmost provinces, which are in a state of prolonged armed conflict.

Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet is a leading human rights defender in Thailand who has been involved in various human rights issues both in Thailand and the region, including women’s rights, indigenous rights and preventing forced disappearances. Her work serves the public interest by ensuring that authorities are held accountable and pressuring authorities to unconditionally respect the human rights of all.

Ms. Anchana Heemmina is Director of Duay Jai Group, which has been working with victims of ill-treatment in national security cases since January 2010, in Thailand’s southernmost, conflict-affected regions. Following the release of the report on torture cases, on 14 February, Col. Suratep, Head of the Civil Society Organisations unit under the ISOC, contacted Ms. Anchana Heemmina and other activists who were involved in compiling the report and summoned them for a discussion. Ms. Anchana Heemmina presented herself at Sirinthon Army Camp in Yala Province for the discussion with seven security officers. The meeting lasted two and a half hours, during which the officers questioned Ms. Anchana Heemmina about the cases in the torture report. The officers expressed their discontent with the report and requested the human rights defender to henceforth submit all of her publications to the ISOC prior to their release. Ms. Anchana Heemmina refused to do so.

On 19 February 2016, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that a group of ten men in green uniforms visited the home of Ms. Anchana Heemmina, in Songkhla Province, but only Ms. Anchana’s mother was home. Without presenting any warrant, they claimed to be border police officers and asked about Ms. Anchana’s work and her personal information. The activist’s mother reported that the men took pictures of her and the house. She added that before they left they told her to inform Ms. Anchana not to use Line, a chat application, or Facebook.

All three human right defenders have been charged with Section 328 of the Thai Criminal Code and Section 14 (1) of the Computer Crimes Act B.E.2550 (2007). Under Section 328 of the Thai Criminal Code, they were faced with imprisonment not exceeding two years and fined not exceeding two hundred thousand Baht and under Section 14/1 of the Computer Crimes Act B.E.2550 (2007), they were also faced with imprisonment not exceeding five years or fine not exceeding one hundred thousand baht or both.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately cease the judicial harassment and end any ongoing investigation of Mr. Somchai Homlaor Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Ms. Anchana Heemmina for their work defending human rights.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

THAILAND: Military must end judicial harassment of human rights defenders

Name of victim: 1. Mr.Somchai Homlaor 2. Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet 3. Ms. Anchana Heemmina
Names of alleged perpetrators: 1. The Royal Thai Army 2. The Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC 4)
Date of incident: 17 May 2016 to the present
Place of incident: Yala province, Thailand

I am deeply disturbed to learn of the judicial harassment of three human rights defenders in Thailand. A legal complaint of criminal defamation and computer related crime has been filed against Mr. Somchai Homlaor, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, and Ms. Anchana Heemmina alleging that they have caused damage to the reputation of the Thai Royal Army by documenting torture cases in southern Thailand and launching a report, “Torture and ill treatment in The Deep South Documented in 2014-2015”. This complaint against all three human rights defenders is a clear instance of the judicial harassment of a human rights defender. They should be lauded for their work in support of human rights, not persecuted.

From 2014 to 2015, the CrCF and Duay Jay Group, a local organization based in Thailand’s Deep South region which supports people who suffer from the justice system, worked in partnership to produce a torture report by monitoring and documenting cases of torture and ill-treatment in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces, southernmost Thailand. The report was partly funded by the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, established under the General Assembly resolution 36/151 in 1981. Mr. Somchai Homlaor as a president of the CrCF, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet as a director of the CrCF, and Ms. Anchana Heemmina as a director of the Duay Jay Group, worked as co-editors of the report.

The judicial action has been taken despite the human rights defenders’ best effort to engage with state authorities. On 8 January 2016, one month before its publication, the CrCF and the Duay Jay Group had sent the report to Army Lt. Gen. Wiwat Pathompak, the director of the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC 4). However, high-ranking military regime officials have publicly dismissed the accuracy of the report and vilified the intentions of the civil society organisations who compiled the report.

In addition, after the CrCF and the Duay Jay Group had released the report on 10 February 2016, the Thai Royal Army started to threaten all three editors and human rights groups who supported them in documenting the torture cases.

After that, on 8 June 2016, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet was given information through a phone conversation that ISOC 4 sought the power of attorney from the Royal Thai Army and submitted a complaint to Yala Mueang Police Station on 17 May 2016 for criminal defamation under Section 328 of the Thai Criminal Code, and violation of the Computer Crimes Act B.E.2550 (2007), Section 14 (1). Regarding to the CrCF and the PI, authorities have already interrogated six witnesses and the police case file is No. 704/2559.

With regard to this case, I am concerned over the use of outdated criminal defamation law in Thailand as means to attack human rights defenders and other persons speaking in the public interest. Such laws and actions have no place in a modern justice system. Moreover, this judicial harassment of the three human rights defenders is not an isolated incident, but is symptomatic of a broader pattern of Thai state action to conceal the perpetration of torture by state officials. This is in direct conflict with Thailand’s obligations as a state party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which not only criminalizes torture, but also includes provisions for the protection of those who speak out in support of victims of torture.

Moreover, I wish to point out that on 24 May 2016, the Thai military regime also issued a Cabinet Resolution stating that they will pass a Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act but I found that the same military regime has now sued human rights defenders who have been supporting survivors as well as pushing for policy reform to prevent torture and provide legal assistance to survivors and their families.

Therefore, I would like to urge:

1.The Commander of Royal Thai Army to immediately withdraw the complaint against Mr. Somchai Homlaor, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Ms. Anchana Heemmina and end its harassment of them for their work defending human rights. In addition, the Commander of Royal Thai Army should take action to defend victims of torture, protect those defending their rights, and set up an independent investigation complaint of torture perpetrated by state officials and make systematic change to end the use of torture by state security officials. This is a clear opportunity for the Royal Thai Army to both preserve their own reputation and act in support of the principles of human rights.
2. The Prime Minister, Chair of the National Council for Peace and Order and Commander in- Chief of the Royal Thai Army to urge the commander of the Royal Thai Army to withdraw the complaint against Mr. Somchai Homlaor Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Ms. Anchana Heemmina and take prompt action to defend victims of torture and protect those defending their rights, and set up an independent investigation complaint of torture perpetrated by state officials.

3. The Commissioner-General of Royal Thai Police and the Attorney General of Office of Attorney General to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Somchai Homlaor Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Ms. Anchana Heemmina and unconditionally drop all charges against them.

4. The Chair of the National Human Rights Commission to urge The Royal Thai Army to take prompt action to protect victims, witnesses, and human rights defenders working on the issue of torture and set up an independent investigation complaint of torture perpetrated by state officials and make systematic changes to end the use of torture by state security officials.

Yours Sincerely,

……………….

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Prime Minister
Head of the National Council for Peace and Order
Royal Thai Army Commander-in-Chief
Rachadamnoen Nok Road
Bang Khun Phrom
Bangkok 10200
THAILAND

2. Lt. Gen. Wiwat Pathompak
Director of the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC 4)
Sirinthon Army Camp
Khoatum sub-district Yarang district
Pattani Province 94160
THAILAND
Tel: +667 326 2668 Email: isoc4hr@gmail.com

3. Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda
Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police
Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan,
Khet Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Tel: +66 1 599

4. Pol.Sub.Lt. Pongniwat Yuthaphunboripahn
Deputy Attorney General.
The Office of the Attorney General
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December, B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +66 2 142 1444
Fax: +66 2 143 9546
Email: ag@ago.go.th

5. Mr. What Tingsamitr
Chairman, National Human Rights Commission
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December
B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
E-mail: help@nhrc.or.th

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)





Travel bans “lifted”

9 06 2016

As we usually do, we reproduce an article from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission. We note that the first paragraph seems to have words missing:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AHRC-FAT-025-2016
08 June, 2016

THAILAND: TLHR opinion concerning NCPO no. 25/2016

Not long after the second round of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Thailand. On 11 May 2016, several questions from member states concerning human rights situations in Thailand, including the military jurisdiction, the enforced disappearance, and the restriction of freedom of expression, have resulted in the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s attempt to appear as more open to people’s exercise of rights and freedoms. The Head of NCPO Order no. 25/2016 regarding the revocation of the overseas travel ban on individuals, announced in the Royal Gazette on 31 May 2016 and it’s effective from 1 June 2016.

However, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has found that, although the Head of NCPO, through Order no. 25/2016 regarding the revocation of overseas travel ban on individuals, may appear to present an easing of government’s restriction of rights and freedoms, it benefits only a limited number of persons, and may even impose additional restriction, such as the following;

1. People directly benefit from the Head of NCPO Order no. 25/2016Travel bans and

The Head of NCPO Order no. 25/2016 revokes the Announcement of NCPO no. 21/2014, i.e. the announcement that prohibited individuals who reported themselves to Military as summoned by the NCPO Orders no. 1/2014, 2/2014 and 3/2014 from travelling out of the country, 155 names on the lists. The three Orders were issued before the Announcement of NCPO no. 39/2014 about conditions of release of individuals summoned by the NCPO, announced on 25 May 2014. Therefore, the persons listed in the three Orders were not bound by the conditions in the annex to the Announcement no. 21/2014, which ban overseas travel.

The TLHR states that the persons who were summoned by the NCPO Orders after 25 May 2014 –at least 300 names on the lists – do not benefit from the Head of NCPO Order no. 25/2016, because those who reported themselves to the NCPO had to sign a document which contains the conditions of release in the annex of the Announcement no. 39/2014. In addition, some people included in the list of 155 names, mostly politicians, will not benefit from the revocation of the Announcement no. 21/2014 as they have pending lawsuits or have been summoned by Military more than once, such as Mr. Pichai Naripthapan, Mr. Chaturon Chaisang, or Mr. Watana Muangsook.

2. People who seemed to benefit from the Order, but in fact do not

The Order no. 25/2016 stipulates that any person who defies or fails to comply with the Announcement of NCPO no. 39/2014, 40/2014, 41/2014, and the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2015, must seek permission from the Head of NCPO when they are to travel overseas. On the other hand, this means that a person who does not defy the Announcements and Orders can leave the country without permission from the Head of NCPO.

In fact, a person who has never defied the Announcements and Orders but has signed the conditions upon release, which prohibits travelling abroad without the Head of NCPO’s permission, will not be affected by the Order no. 25/2016. They are still bound by the conditions and are obliged to seek permission to leave the country.

3. People who do not benefit and may be disadvantaged

Apart from not benefitting people under the restriction according to the Announcements of NCPO no. 39/2014, 40/2014, 41/2014 and the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2015, by stating that “any person who defies or fails to comply with the aforementioned Announcements and Order must be granted permission from the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order before travelling out of the Kingdom” could be interpreted that any person who did not sign the release conditions but has defied the Announcements or the Orders may have to seek permission as well sic. For instance, people who participated in a political gathering of more than 5 people, but did not sign the release conditions that prohibit leaving the Kingdom under the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2015, may be considered to have to seek prior permission under this new Order, even though they were not bound to the said conditions.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights considers that the Head of NCPO Order no. 25/2016 is an attempt to put on an act that the NCPO has loosened its strict stance on rights and freedoms, but does not evoke any difference in practice due to the limited number of benefitted people and other conditions, Announcements, and Orders that remain effective in overseas travel bans. In addition, citizens could be at risk of the sweeping law enforcement by the NCPO because of word choice in the Order that can be broadly interpreted.

Related links: English translation of NCPO Announcements: https://thaicoup2014. wordpress.com/2014/06/15/ thaicoup-all-ncpo- announcements-in-one-place/





Torture and the state

20 05 2016

As readers will know, PPT has often stated that torture is a standard operating procedure for police and the military when dealing with “suspects.” Many cases depend on “confessions” extracted under such pressure.

Recently, one of those accused of the Erawan Shrine bombing bitterly complained of torture while Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan scoffed at the claim, saying the man had injured himself.

It is in this context that a decision by the Supreme Administrative Court of Songkhla is potentially important. This is how the Asian Human Rights Commission reports it:

May 18, 2016 marks an important date in the fight against torture in Thailand. The Supreme Administrative Court of Songkla read the official verdict ordering The Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) to pay 101,200 baht to Plaintiff no. 1 and 100,000 baht to Plaintiff no. 2 (with 7.5 % interest calculated from 2012) in damages for two victims who suffered torture/ill treatment in Yala Province. This will result in both Plaintiffs receiving approximately $5000 USD each. The verdict stems from an incident that took place over 7 years ago in 2009, when the injured parties were then 14 and 20 years old respectively. The case sets an important precedent, extending the right to claim for damages beyond the torture victims themselves to the family members who were also unduly affected as a result of the abuse.

Mr. Adil Samae, then 14 years old, and Mr. Mafoawsee Kwangboo, then 20 years old, were detained by a military patrol force on 11 April 2009. The arrest took place around Pattani River, Tambon Sateng, Yala district in the Yala province. During detention, the soldiers physically and verbally abused the young men.

A civil case was subsequently filed with Songkhla Administrative Court, demanding that the Defense Ministry, the Army, and Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) compensate the men for the harm suffered by the soldiers in their line of duty.

Prior to the commencement of the civil case, one of the accused officers pleaded guilty and was indicted on criminal charges by the Pattani Military Court for the physical assault that he launched against the two men. In light of his guilty plea, what would have otherwise been a two-year sentence was reduced by more than half to a six-month imprisonment and a 2,000 baht fine. This sentence was later suspended due to the actions of the first offender.








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