Updated: Murder, impunity

4 09 2019

PPT has only mentioned the enforced disappearance of Karen rights activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen twice.

Clipped from Khaosod

One post came soon after his “disappearance” after being detained in Kaeng Krachan National Park by park officials on bogus charges. The post noted that Billy’s “disappearance” came after he filed a lawsuit that accused Kaeng Krachan Park authorities of damaging the property and homes of more than 20 Karen families living inside the park, suggesting that state officials were (again) solving “problems” by enforced disappearance. (We have seen this again recently with the murder and disappearance of several anti-monarchy activists.)

Several years ago the Asian Legal Resource Center made the UN’s Human Rights Council aware of the importance of continued action to end enforced disappearance in Thailand. It pointed out that “[d]ocumented cases indicate that enforced disappearances of citizens, including human rights defenders, dissidents, and ordinary people, have been carried out by Thai state security forces for over forty years.”

Two years after our first post, we noted a Human Rights Watch communication that observed that:

Thailand signed the Convention against Enforced Disappearance in January 2012 but has not ratified the treaty. The penal code still does not recognize enforced disappearance as a criminal offense. Thai authorities have yet to satisfactorily resolve any of the 64 enforced disappearance cases reported by Human Rights Watch, including the disappearances of prominent Muslim lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit in March 2004 and ethnic Karen activist Por Cha Lee Rakchongcharoen, known as “Billy,” in April 2014.

As usual, the official “investigation” was hopeless. However, on Tuesday, the Department of Special Investigation announced that it had found and identified “bone fragments of a Karen community rights activist [Billy] missing since 2014…”. The bone fragment DNA, said to “match those of his mother,” were “found in May inside a 200-liter oil tank submerged in water near a suspension bridge inside Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi province…. The tank that was found was burnt. The bones were also burnt…”. (This raises the specter of the Red Drum murders.)

This discovery came after Billy’s relatives “filed a request with the Phetchaburi Provincial Court to have Porlajee declared legally dead on 27 August…”.

Will anyone be brought to justice? Probably not. Impunity remains the norm for murderous officials, police and military.

Update: Sounding odd indeed, in the Bangkok Post, Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, the former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park, “who was among the last people to see the late Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen before he disappeared five years ago” has decided to publicly question the “DNA test that led authorities to conclude the Karen rights activist was murdered.” Speculation on why he might do this is warranted, but the ex-chief was quick to say that “he had nothing to do with Porlajee’s disappearance and death.”





The coup is illegal

24 06 2014

We reproduce this, sent out by the Asian Legal Resource Centre:

Date: June 23, 2014
Document id: ALRC-COS-26-21-2014
HRC section: Item 4, General Debate
Speaker: Mr.MOON Jeong Ho

Oral Statement to the 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), NGO with general consultative status and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, NGO with special consultative status

THAILAND: The Council must declare the coup illegal

Thank you Mr. President,

On 22 May 2014, a military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), usurped power by force and overthrew the democratically elected government of Thailand. The ALRC and LRWC are concerned that since the coup, human rights have suffered a serious setback in Thailand.

First, freedom of expression and political freedom have been severely curtailed. The NCPO has used intimidation, surveillance, and military force to create fear and prohibit peaceful protest. Civilians have been chased and apprehended by soldiers, and then detained, and, in some instances, formally charged for peacefully holding up blank A4 sized paper signs. The junta has banned the holding up of three fingers – a symbol of dissent in the movie The Hunger Games – in public.

Second, using public summons, arrests orraids, the NCPO has arbitrarily detained over 500 peopleincluding several human rights defenders. The junta has not released the names or number of detainees or their whereabouts. This lack of transparency creates terror and the likelihood of grave human rights violations such as enforced disappearances. Those released are forced to sign a pledge that they will not engage in politics or leave the country.

Third, military courts have been activated to prosecute civilians for violations of junta orders and crimes against the crown and state, including the draconian lèse majestélaws. These courts allow long pre-charge and pre-trial detention, prohibit appeal, and can be closed to public observation.

Mr President, the sovereignty of a state is expected to be exercised by a legitimately elected government. The ALRC and LRWC therefore urge that Council members declare that the coup is illegal and insistthat Thailandrespect itshuman rights obligations.

Thank you.





Updated: Impunity and violence

24 04 2014

Recent events suggest the importance of understanding violence and the impunity of its perpetrators who are usually state officials or goons associated with state and royalist projects, often in the name of protecting nation or monarchy.

The disappearance of “Porchalee Rakchongcharoen, an ethnic Karen also known as “Billy,” is involved in a lawsuit that accuses Kaeng Krachan Park authorities of damaging the property and homes of more than 20 Karen families living inside the park” again raises questions about state officials solving “problems” by enforced disappearance.

Of course, this is almost a “standard practice” condemned by human rights organizations for many years, but producing little change amongst officials and the military. More than a year ago, the Asian Legal Resource Center made the UN’s Human Rights Council aware of the importance of continued action to end enforced disappearance in Thailand. It pointed out that “[d]ocumented cases indicate that enforced disappearances of citizens, including human rights defenders, dissidents, and ordinary people, have been carried out by Thai state security forces for over forty years.” Somchai Neelaphaijit’s case is just one of dozens that has received considerable attention but no action.

State violence is made more likely because of impunity, and we can mention state violence against protesters in Bangkok in 2010, 1992, 1976 and 1973 and add to the sorry list the cases of state murders at Kru Se, Tak Bai and in the so-called War on Drugs in the fourteen short years of this century as examples. The assassination of political opponents has been unfortunately common, highlighted by the recent murder of anti-lese majeste activist Kamol Duangphasuk.

In all of this, PPT was pleased to see that Tyrell Haberkorn raised these issues at the International Conference on Thai Studies, with a panel on “The State, Violence and the Unspeakable in Thailand.” Dr. Haberkorn has a list of publications that address all of the issues raised above. Unfortunately, the papers in this session do not appear amongst those available at the Conference website.

Update: We added some additional links to the post.





More MFA claptrap

30 06 2012

In a recent post PPT commented on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs defense of monarchism and the lese majeste law.

In other posts earlier in the month, we reproduced the Asian Legal Resource Center’s statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council on continuing attacks on freedom of expression in Thailand and the death in custody of lese majeste convict Ampol Tangnopakul.

We now have the response of the government via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. PPT won’t detail it all. Find the text here and the video here (in Thailand, we found it very slow). It’s a deathly boring piece of propaganda, so we won’t go into detail and provide just a few comments.

The statement has it that:

Like in other democratic societies, the people in Thailand enjoy the rights to freedom of opinion and expression. Differing views are aired widely and there are vibrant debates on all aspects of life.

This is a misrepresentation. No one engages in uncensored debate on the monarchy. While there has been more discussion of the monarchy under huge popular pressure, debate remains anything but vibrant. No one can criticize the judiciary in any “vibrant” way.

The statement continues:

… what has become the challenge for us as well as many others is how to strike the right balance between the right to freedom of expression and the rights of the rule of law.

We would have thought this a slip of the tongue as we can’t think of how a concept like “rule of law” has “rights.” However, we think the interpretation is that the Thai delegation is saying that the “democratic society” that the MFA calls Thailand, where “the people in Thailand enjoy the rights to freedom of opinion and expression,” is a fiction because the laws don’t allow freedom of expression.

The MFA continues:

As regards to Thailand’s lese majeste law, the Thai delegations would like to stress that the law itself is not aimed at curbing the rights and the legitimate exercise of academic freedom, including debates about the monarchy and the institution. Issues that have arisen with regard to the lese majesté law lie not in any fundamental problem with the law itself, but in the abuse of the law for political gain in the context of political conflicts which have been ongoing in Thailand for the past few years.

Of course, this statement, by moving the goalpost, immediately contradicts the earlier statements. “Vibrant” discussion is not limited to “academic debate.” The statement that the law is good but is used by political actors to curb rights and limit expression. The most significant actors are ultra-royalists, the Abhisit Vejjajiva government and the military. Other plaintiffs have included the Privy Council. The law is the problem; get rid of it and it can’t be abused.

The last statement in this paragraph is:

Indeed, an ongoing lively public debate has been taking place on the lese majesté law to which the Thai people will find an appropriate solution for themselves.

Of course, the government, the military, the palace, the opposition, and many more have stated that there will be no change to the law, ever. So much for “lively debate.” The royalist elite want no debate on Article 112 at all!

We are not sure if the MFA enjoys looking stupid and deceitful to international audiences.





ALRC on Ampol’s death in custody

14 06 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2012
ALRC-CWS-20-09-2012

Language(s): English only

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Twentieth session, Agenda Item 4, General Debate

A written statement submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organisation with general consultative status

THAILAND: Dehumanization and death in custody of a Thai citizen accused of lese majesty: The case of Amphon Tangnoppakul

On 8 May 2012, Mr. Amphon Tangnoppakul (also known to his family as “Ah Kong” or “grandfather,” and to the public as “Uncle SMS”), a 61-year-old man, was found dead in prison custody. At the time of his death, Amphon was serving a 20-year sentence received upon being convicted of four violations under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act in Black Case No. 311/2554 on 23 November 2011. Amphon was convicted for allegedly sending four SMS messages to Mr. Somkiat Klongwattanasak, personal secretary of the former prime minister, Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva. These four SMS messages allegedly contained vulgar language defaming the Thai queen and insulting the honour of the monarchy. Amphon’s conviction rested on questionable electronic evidence presented by the prosecution. The circumstances surrounding his death suggest the presence of, at best, gaps within the prison healthcare system and, at worst, gross negligence.

While it is too late for action to be taken which will save Amphon’s life, the ALRC brings this case to the attention of the Human Rights Council in the hope of raising awareness of problems within the Thai justice and prison systems. While these problems are relevant to all those in custody in Thailand, the ALRC would like to note the additional dangers faced by those in custody who are accused or have been convicted of the crime of allegedly insulting the monarchy. In present-day Thailand, the social and political crisis surrounding the monarchy and the fraught relationship between the institutions of the monarchy and those of democracy mean that alleged insults to the monarchy are categorized formally as crimes of national security and informally as crimes of sedition. Within this context, it then becomes possible for those charged with or convicted of insulting the monarchy to be treated as less than human, and for their persecution to be naturalized.

On 3 August 2010, a group of 15 police officers raided Amphon’s house and arrested him over the four SMS. He was detained for 63 days without being charged, before being granted bail on 4 October 2010. Amphon entered detention again upon being formally charged with violations of section 112 and the Computer Crimes Act on 18 January 2011. At the time he was charged, he was already suffering from oral cancer for which he had been receiving regular treatment, and his counsel immediately requested bail while awaiting trial on this basis. The court denied this request, as it did seven subsequent requests made before his trial, at the time of his conviction, and up until several months before his death. At the time of Amphon’s last request for bail, in February 2012, the Appeal Court ruled that this frail and sick elderly man with little money or resources was a flight risk, and that his illness, which constituted one of the grounds for the request, did “not appear to be life-threatening.”

When questioned about the repeated denial of bail in Amphon’s case, Mr. Sorawut Benchakul, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Office of the Judiciary, noted that while the right to bail is a fundamental human right, section 108 of the Thai Criminal Procedure Code allows for its denial when the court fears that the defendant might flee. Sorawut claimed that when Amphon requested bail, the medical certificate presented did not indicate grave illness. While Sorawut claimed that the vast majority of those charged under section 112 and the Computer Crimes Act are granted bail, in the absence of full statistics released by the judiciary on these cases, the claim cannot be confirmed. No explanation has been given as to why the court might have perceived Amphon to be a flight risk but—if the deputy secretary-general is to be believed—why the vast majority of applicants in similar cases obtain bail.

The ALRC would like to take this opportunity to remind the Government of Thailand that under article 9(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party,

“Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment.”

The ALRC concludes that in the case of Amphon, the state in Thailand clearly and flagrantly violated this section. Amphon spent 63 days in pre-charge detention, and then 310 days detention prior to and during his trial. This is a total of 373 days in detention prior to being convicted, which represents a period of time in detention and trial length that is neither prompt nor reasonable.

Three months after the assessment by the Appeal Court that Amphon’s illness was not a threat to his life, he died in prison custody. While the full details have not yet been made available, the partial information made publicly available about the conditions surrounding his death point to significant problems of capacity and routine negligence, which together amount to a grave threat to the human rights of prisoners.

As reported in Khao Sod newspaper, several days after Amphon’s death, Police Colonel Dr. Supol Chongphanichkulthorn, spokesperson for the Police General Hospital, said that the preliminary results from the autopsy indicated that he died as a result of liver cancer that had metastasized throughout his body and caused respiratory failure. Dr. Cherdchai Tantisirin, a member of parliament from the majority Pheu Thai Party who was also present for the autopsy, commented that,

“We have to separate the issue of what is human from the issue of the case. If a person in detention is found to have cancer, he should be released in order to be treated outside . Moreover, in the case of Amphon, as far as I have seen, there are no indications of the actions of physicians or nurses trying to resuscitate him or otherwise help him.”

The ALRC would like to express concern over both the presence of metastatic cancer found in Amphon’s body as well as the observation by Dr. Cherdchai that there appears to have been no attempt to resuscitate him, which the ALRC would further note may have been due to a lack of adequate staff to closely monitor patients. Whether the failure to take action was an intentional decision to explicitly harm Amphon or the result of negligence or lack of capacity, the resultant violation of his human rights is the same. The ALRC would like to remind the Thai Government of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and in particular section 22(2) of the rules, that mandate that:

“Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. Where hospital facilities are provided in an institution, their equipment, furnishings and pharmaceutical supplies shall be proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and there shall be a staff of suitable trained officers”; and, to section 25(2), that:

“The medical officer shall report to the director whenever he considers that a prisoner’s physical or mental health has been or will be injuriously affected by continued imprisonment or by any condition of imprisonment.”

On 16 May 2012, Dr. Sunai Chulpongsatorn, a member of parliament from the majority Pheu Thai Party and the chair of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, convened a meeting with representatives from relevant parties, including the Department of Corrections, the Prison General Hospital, the Office of the Judiciary, the National Human Rights Commission, as well as Amphon’s family and lawyers, to discuss his life and death. The comments made during the meeting suggest that the treatment of Amphon is not unusual and rather is representative of gross inadequacies that place Thailand far from meeting the guidelines outlined in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

In particular, Dr. Bunmee Wibulchak, a doctor at the general hospital of the Department of Corrections, acknowledged that the conditions in the hospital were not as good as hospitals outside the prison system: they did not have a full staff, and on the evenings and weekends, there were no doctors on duty, only nurses. If a prisoner was in need of medical treatment that a nurse could not provide, then she would call the doctor, who would provide orders via telephone. He further noted that several months earlier, when Amphon had come to the prison clinic complaining that he felt as though his cancer had returned, the conclusion by the prison physician and the ear, nose, and throat specialist who examined his mouth and throat was that it was not cancer. When Amphon entered the prison clinic and then the hospital in the days before he died, he had a painful stomachache. By Friday, 4 May 2012, the decision had been made for further examination and testing, but could only take place during normal working hours and days. By Tuesday, 8 May 2012, Mr. Amphon Tangnoppakul was dead. Sickness and death frequently do not observe working hours.

In light of the above, the Asian Legal Resource Centre calls on the Government of Thailand to:

a. Conduct a special investigation into the death of Amphon Tangnoppakul and again table the findings publicly with a view to taking criminal legal action against the persons responsible for his death and administrative action against those officers who failed in their duty of care for a person in state custody, including prison officials, doctors and judicial officers, and ensure that compensation is given in accordance with international standards to his family.

b. Release statistics on the number of persons charged with lese majesty and offences under the Computer Crimes Act since the military coup of 2006, providing details on the average days spent in pre-charge detention, average days spent in pre-trial detention, average days spent in detention during trial, numbers of application for bail accepted and rejected and grounds for rejection, in order that the unsubstantiated and unverified claims on cases like those of Amphon be subject to public scrutiny.

c. Conduct a complete review of the current procedures and instructions to judges concerning the granting of bail, and in particular, the provision of bail in cases where detainees are elderly, infirm or sick and make the findings of the review known publicly and what action is taken on the basis of the review to ensure that bail is granted in accordance with the terms of international human rights law.

d. Conduct a complete review of the provision of medical services to persons in state custody, taking into account statements by the doctors in the case of Amphon both with regards to the circumstances of his death and conditions in prison medical facilities in general, again make the findings and recommendations of the review known publicly, and indicate what steps are taken to implement recommendations to ensure that no further tragic deaths in custody occur as in the case of Amphon.

e. Revoke section 112 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act, both of which are vehicles for the abuse of human rights by state agents and neither of which serves its ostensible purposes of protecting Thailand’s national interests.





Freedom of expression (still) under attack

12 06 2012

A written statement submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organisation with general consultative status

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 11, 2012
ALRC-CWS-20-06-2012

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Twentieth session, Agenda Item 3, Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression

THAILAND: Freedom of expression under attack

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to bring the crisis of freedom of expression in Thailand to the attention of the Human Rights Council. This statement is the third on this topic that the ALRC has submitted to the Council since May 2011. During the seventeenth session of the Council in May 2011, the ALRC highlighted the rise in the legal and unofficial use of section 112 of the Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act (CCA) to constrict freedom of expression and intimidate citizens critical of the monarchy (A/HRC/17/NGO/27). In February 2012, the ALRC detailed some of the threats faced both by those who have expressed critical views of the monarchy, both legal and extralegal, as well as those who have expressed concern about these threats (A/HRC/19/NGO/55).

The ALRC is again raising the freedom of expression to stress the persistence of the threat present, foreground the intensification of the dangers to human rights in Thailand broadly, and to acknowledge the continued courageous actions by citizens to revise or revoke section 112 and the CCA, despite these threats and dangers. As the ALRC has continually stressed, within the context of the political crisis that began with the 19 September 2006 coup and greatly increased with the violence of April-May 2010, the protection of fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, is essential if there is to be the possibility of successful democratization and widespread access to justice in Thailand.

Section 112 criminalizes criticism of the monarchy and mandates that, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” Statistics provided by the Office of the Judiciary indicate a sharp rise in lese-majesty charges filed since the 19 September 2006 coup, with 33 charges filed in 2005, 30 filed in 2006, 126 filed in 2007, 77 filed in 2008, 164 filed in 2009, and an extraordinary 478 charges filed in 2010. While statistics released for the first five months of 2011 indicate a reduction in the number of charges filed, information for the second half of 2011 and 2012 to date has not been made available publicly. The failure of the Government of Thailand to provide information itself raises many unanswered questions about the use of the law to diminish space for freedom of expression through the use of secrecy and generating of uncertainty.

Court judgments in cases of individuals charged and prosecuted under a combination of section 112 and the CCA are similarly resistant to scrutiny and ready comprehension. Section 14 of the CCA notes that anyone can be jailed for five years if found to have imported to a computer “false computer data in a manner that it is likely to damage the country’s security or cause a public panic… any computer data related with an offence against the Kingdom’s security under the Criminal Code.” As section 112 also is classed as a crime related to national security, it can be powerfully combined with the CCA to punish dissent, or perceived dissent, carried out via electronic means. Two recent cases, of Mr. Amphon Tangnoppakul and Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, illustrate the dangers to freedom of expression posed by categorizing criticism of the monarchy as a crime against national security and the lacunae in the CCA, which makes it a ready vehicle for enhancing these dangers.

On 8 May 2012, Mr. Amphon Tangnoppakul, a 61-year-old man, was found dead in prison custody. At the time of his death, Amphon was serving a 20-year sentence received upon being convicted of four violations under section 112 and the CCA on 23 November 2011. Amphon was convicted for allegedly sending four SMS messages defaming the Thai queen and insulting the honor of the monarchy. In this submission, we concentrate on the legal ambiguities and lacunae in the case that go to the criminalizing of free speech through the use of section 112 and the CCA in Thailand:

a. Similar to other court decisions in cases of alleged violations under section 112 and the CCA, the judges in this case had to infer the meaning of the four SMS messages in question (which was imprecise), the alleged intention of the defendant, and speculate on any potential damage caused to the monarchy and national security. At best, the court’s interpretation could be described as legally inexact. At worst, it can be described as complete fiction.

b. The court’s logic in finding the four SMS messages in question criminal rested on an argument about the validity of the information contained within them and on what this might cause readers of the messages to believe. More specifically, the judgment reads that the messages were

“… the import to a computer system of false computer data, that was defamatory, insulting, and threating to the king, queen, heir-apparent, and regent. would cause those who saw it to believe that the content of the messages was the truth, which would damage the nation’s security. As a result, some of the aforementioned actions of the defendant are likely to damage the honor and reputation of the king, queen, heir-apparent, and regent and to cause them to be insulted and despised. With an intention to cause the people to dishonor, fail to venerate, and threaten the king, queen, heir-apparent, and regent.”

Throughout the decision the adjective “likely” is used; in other words, damage was not caused by the SMS messages, but was probable in the opinion of the court. The ruling was not one that found the defendant guilty beyond doubt, but rested on a highly uncertain balance of probability.

c. In addition, to interpret under the CCA the sending of a rude SMS message as “the import to a computer system of false computer data” is to stretch the category of “false computer data” beyond the already broad ambit provided by the law. Several pages later in the court decision, “false” is elaborated in political, rather than scientific or legal terms. The judges write that the four SMS messages in question

“… are entirely false because the truth reflected for the people around the country is the king and the queen are full of compassion. They are concerned for every person in the land and perform their royal duties for the benefit and happiness of the Thai citizenry.”

While this may be the judges’ opinion of the monarchy, to categorize it as truth is an ideological stance inappropriate for an ostensibly independent judiciary to take, and does not constitute any form of grounds for conviction under law. Further, given the increased frequency with which section 112 is being enforced, this statement is difficult to appeal against, either in law or in public debate, without also risking being charged under the law.

d. Finally, even if the accused in this case had committed the offences as alleged, the 20-year sentence raises significant concerns about the proportionality of punishment for crimes of defamation in Thailand and speaks manifestly to an imbalance in the law of Thailand as written and as currently enforced between protecting the sovereign and protecting the human rights of people residing in the country.

On 30 May 2012, Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, a 44-year-old human rights defender and webmaster of Prachatai, an independent online news site, was found guilty of one count out of ten alleged charges of violating the CCA. The charges against her in this case stemmed from her alleged failure to remove comments deemed offensive to the monarchy from the Prachatai webboard quickly enough. The prosecution alleged that this indicated her support of and consent to the comments, which constituted a violation under the CCA. She was sentenced to one year in prison and a 30,000 baht fine, which was reduced to a suspended sentence of eight months and a 20,000 baht fine.

a. In the decision, the judges responded with an assessment of the appropriate length of time. The decision notes that in nine of the ten comments in question, they were removed within one to eleven days, and that this indicates that Chiranuch did not intentionally support or consent to them. In the instance of the tenth comment, which remained online for twenty days before she removed it, however, the court concluded that this duration indicated “implied consent.”

b. Of particular concern to the ALRC was a statement in the ruling that while apparently endorsing freedom of expression in fact does precisely the opposite by imposing on the public the obligation to self-censor or be subject to criminal actions:

“The court acknowledges that freedom of expression is a basic right of citizens that is guaranteed and protected in every Thai Constitution. This is because freedom of thought and expression reflects good governance and the democratization of a given entity or nation. Criticism from the people, both positive and negative, provides an opportunity to improve the nation, given entity, and individuals for the better. But when the defendant opened a channel for the expression of opinions within a computer system, she was the service provider and it was within her control. The defendant had a duty to review the opinions and information that may have impacted the country’s security as well as the liberty of others which deserves similar respect. the defendant cannot cite freedom of expression in order to be released from liability.”

This statement, far from being an endorsement of free expression, is a direct attempt of the Court to disavow the right to freedom of expression found both in the Constitution of Thailand and in the ICCPR. The role of the Court and the judiciary in a broad sense should be to aid the development of justice and the rule of law, not aid in its dismemberment.

The ALRC is concerned that the cases of both Amphon Tangnoppakul and Chiranuch Premchaiporn are both indicative of how the judiciary in Thailand is marshaling spare evidence to convict persons of offences under political laws, and in so doing, of its role in eroding institutions and structures that are supposed to guarantee human rights and protect freedom of expression.

The ALRC also wishes to draw the Council’s attention to the courage of human rights activists, media advocates, and citizens in Thailand who continue to call for reform of section 112 despite the growing legal and extrajudicial threats they face. Under the 2007 Constitution, if at least 10,000 citizens sign in support of a proposed amendment to law, then it must be examined by the parliament. On 28 May 2012, the Campaign Committee for the Amendment of Section 112, a coalition of human rights and media activists, writers, artists, and citizens, presented 26,968 signatures in support of an amendment to section 112 limiting its use and reducing the punishment for violations. It is essential that in the coming months, the 26,968 citizens who signed in support of the draft amendment do not experience harassment or other repercussions for doing so.

The Asian Legal Resource Centre expresses solidarity with those persons in Thailand working to have laws aimed at narrowing the freedom of expression revoked or amended, and calls upon the Human Rights Council and also Special Procedures of the Commissioner for Human Rights to contribute to their efforts by urging the Government of Thailand to make the necessary changes to protect this fundamental human right. In this regard, the ALRC calls on the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to continue to monitor the situation on the ground in Thailand and to request the government to make an official visit to the country at the nearest possible opportunity to meet with concerned persons and produce a report with recommendations to the Government of Thailand for legal and institutional changes to the same end.





Political repression, disappearances and lese majeste

22 03 2012

The following is a reproduction of an oral statement to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre, which as an NGO has consultative status.

THAILAND: Political repression, disappearances and attacks on activists highlighted during Thai UPR outcome adoption

Thank you Madam President,

The ALRC welcomes Thailand’s UPR, which has highlighted many shared human rights concerns, including torture, forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, freedom of expression and lèse majesté, prison conditions, corruption, impunity, violations in the southern provinces, as well as the need for review of problematic laws, institutional reform, and a standing invitation to Special Procedures.

The ALRC welcomes the government’s signing of the international convention on disappearances in January, but this is only a first step, with effective legislation that defines and criminalises disappearances an urgent must. Eight years this week after the disappearance of renowned human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit, his family have been prevented from achieving truth, justice and remedies in court, in large part due to the lack of such legislation. They continue to face grave threats and harassment. That Somchai’s is the only case of forced disappearance to have reached prosecution in court in Thailand speaks to the need for action by the government concerning disappearances and protection of witnesses and family-members.

The ALRC has noted with concern in a written submission, the growing threats to political freedom in Thailand. Following a number of lengthy sentences having been handed out abusively concerning lèse majesté under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crime Act, including several since Thailand’s UPR review in October 2011, in recent months, academic and human rights defenders who have called for reform of Article 112, have been threatened by high-ranking state and military officers and received explicit death threats from vigilante actors. There has been a dramatic increase in lèse majesté cases since the 19 September 2006 coup, and despite numerous domestic and international calls for action, the government has refused to review these laws to date. The ALRC calls on the government of Thailand to halt the afore-mentioned threats and abusive use of lèse majesté, and to allow a country visit by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression as a priority.

The ALRC also notes with concern that the UPR process has not addressed the increasingly grave problem of rights violations connected to development projects, as well as land and natural resources grabbing. In addition to concerns for the numerous affected communities, the ALRC condemns the reported threats and attacks, including abusive legal attacks and a number of extra-judicial killings, to which human rights defenders working on environmental issues are increasingly being subjected.






Continued impunity for enforced disappearance

23 02 2012

The following is a written statement submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organisation with general consultative status:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 21, 2012
ALRC-CWS-19-05-2012

Language(s): English only

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Nineteenth session, Agenda Item 3, Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances

THAILAND: Continued impunity for enforced disappearance in Thailand

The Asian Legal Resource Center wishes to bring the importance of continued action to end enforced disappearance in Thailand to the attention of the Human Rights Council. While the signing of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on 9 January 2012 by the Government of Thailand is a positive step, the Convention must be ratified and domestic laws must be passed and implemented if its provisions are to be made concrete. As disappearance is one form of violence routinely used by Thai state security forces with impunity against citizens, the opportunity to secure accountability represented by the ratification and full implementation of the Convention is significant.

Documented cases indicate that enforced disappearances of citizens, including human rights defenders, dissidents, and ordinary people, have been carried out by Thai state security forces for over forty years. Like the murder of citizens by state security forces, enforced disappearance is both a clear violation human rights of individuals and one with lasting effects on the families and communities of victims. Yet in the case of enforced disappearance, the suffering caused by the loss of the victim is compounded by the fear and uncertainty created by the lack of resolution which the conditions and aftermath of death that the crime of enforced disappearance engenders. For families, colleagues, and communities of victims, the message from state security forces is clear: one can be taken from one’s family and community, brutally killed, and then the material evidence hidden so that neither proper mourning nor legal processes which rely on material evidence of murder can take place.

The Justice for Peace Foundation has documented over 90 cases of enforced disappearance that took place between 1991 and 2010 in Thailand, and there are likely many more cases that remain unknown. In only one of these cases has a prosecution taken place, and to date, the prosecution has been unable to hold the perpetrators to account. This case, the disappearance of Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit, is indicative of the challenges to ending impunity for enforced disappearance and the need for ratification and full implementation of the Convention, including the passage of domestic legislation, in Thailand.

Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit was forcibly disappeared on the evening of 12 March 2004 in Bangkok. He was pulled from his white Honda Civic near a busy intersection on Ramkhamhaeng Road in Bangkok by five plainclothes police officers. At the time of his disappearance, Mr. Somchai was working on behalf of five men who had alleged that they were tortured by state security officials while they were in state custody in southern Thailand, which had recently been placed under martial law. The five men had been accused of being involved in the theft of over 300 guns and burning of schools which had taken place in Narathiwat Province on 4 January 2004. The five men confessed to the police during the initial period of their detention, after being suspended from the ceiling with ropes, having urine put into their mouths, and being electrically shocked on their genitals. On 11 March 2004, the day before his disappearance, Mr. Somchai submitted a complaint to the court that detailed the forms of torture experienced by the five men. He argued that this was both a violation of their human rights and the Thai Criminal Code.

As a result of concerted action by the Neelaphaijit family and human rights activists, five police officers from the Crime Suppression Division were arrested in April 2004 in connection to his enforced disappearance. In the absence of domestic legislation specifying enforced disappearance as a crime, the police could not be tried for his disappearance. As Mr. Somchai’s body was never recovered and given evidentiary rules in the Thai Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), the police could not be charged with murder, and so were instead changed with robbery and coercion with the use of violence.

In the nearly eight years since Mr. Somchai was forcibly disappeared, the case has moved slowly through the Thai justice system. In January 2006, one out of the five police officers, Pol. Maj. Ngern Thongsuk, was convicted and sentenced to 3 years in jail. The other four police officers returned to work without sanction. Pol. Maj. Ngern appealed the decision and remained out on bail. After a long delay, the appeal verdict was set to be read in the Criminal Court in Bangkok in September 2010. The failure of Pol. Maj. Ngern to appear in the court for the reading caused the reading to be delayed for several months.

When the appeal verdict was finally read in the Criminal Court on 11 March 2011, its results were gravely disappointing for those concerned with securing accountability in the case of the enforced disappearance of Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit as well as those concerned with broader questions of the court’s ability in aiding in the securing of accountability for enforced disappearance in Thailand. The results indicated the inability within current Thai law to hold perpetrators of enforced disappearance to account in two significant ways:

a. The Appeal Court ruled that the family of Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit could not be joint plaintiffs in the case. The Appeal Court ruled that they could not be joint plaintiffs because legally they could not act on behalf the “injured person or death person,” to institute a criminal prosecution based on the conditions provided by sections 5 and 28 of the CPC. Under section 5 of the CPC, it notes that the “wife” and “descendants” of the injured person in the prosecution of criminal offenses “may act on (his/her) behalf” if they could show that “the injured person had died or is unable to act by himself.” A similar condition also applies under section 28 of the CPC, which defines those who “are entitled to institute the criminal prosecution in the Court.” The verdict argued that Mrs. Angkhana and her children did not show that Somchai has been assaulted to death or that he was disabled and had died, and so could not be joint plaintiffs. This decision both denies the rights of families of victims of enforced disappearance to seek justice and also indicates the problems created by the failure to specify disappearance as a crime within Thai law. Given that the purpose of enforced disappearance is to remove all traces of a human being, it is impossible for the court to expect that the evidence needed to prove death would, or could, be available.

b. The Appeal Court ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict the five police officers prosecuted, including Pol. Maj. Ngern Thongsuk, who had been convicted by the Court of First Instance. In the case of Pol. Maj. Ngern, as well as the 2nd (Pol. Maj. Sinchai Nimpunyakampong), 3rd (Pol. Serg. Maj. Chaiweng Paduang) and 4th (Pol. Serg. Rundorn Sithiket) defendants, the verdict noted that there was not enough evidence that could link them or involve them in the incident because the eyewitnesses did not identify the defendants when they were testifying in court. The verdict noted that with regards to the 5th defendant (Pol. Lieut. Col. Chadchai Liamsanguan), there was not sufficient evidence proving that he was present at the place where the incident happened. Even though there were phone records of his communications with other defendants when the incident happened, the verdict noted that it was insufficient because the mobile phone records submitted were only a photocopy of the original document, despite having been certified as a true copy.

At this time, the verdict of the Appeal Court in the case of the Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit is being reviewed at the Supreme Court and the Department of Special Investigation continues to investigate his case as a murder case. The difficulties of evidence and procedure faced in the court case to date indicate the need for domestic legislation specifying the crime of enforced disappearance and providing for appropriate paths to securing accountability and ending impunity.

In addition, during the nearly eight years since Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit was forcibly disappeared, and in particular since they began to struggle to secure justice, his wife, Mrs. Angkhana Neelaphaijit, and the rest of the Neelaphaijit family have faced constant harassment and threats to their lives and safety. Formal recognition of the crime of enforced disappearance and the passage of domestic legislation that provides for specific protection for witnesses and families of victims of enforced disappearance is urgently needed.

In closing, the Asian Legal Resource Center wishes to commend the Government of Thailand for signing the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and indicating its support for ending impunity for state violence. In order to make the provisions for accountability and protections for victims concrete for those who have suffered from enforced disappearance, the Asian Legal Resource Center calls for the Council to:

a. Urge the Government of Thailand to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Person’s from Enforced Disappearance and promulgate domestic legislation in line with its provisions.

b. Urge the Government of Thailand to proceed with urgency in the investigation and prosecution of ongoing cases of enforced disappearance to end impunity and foster the respect for human rights.

c. Urge the Government of Thailand to ensure that witnesses and families of victims of enforced disappearance are fully protected.





ALRC: การคุกคามที่เพิ่มขึ้นต่อเสรีภาพทางการเมืองในประเทศไทย

17 02 2012

สำหรับเผยแพร่ทันที
16 กุมภาพันธ์ 2555
ALRC-CWS-19-02-2012-TH

คณะมนตรีสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งสหประชาชาติ
สมัยประชุมที่ 19 วาระที่ 4 การอภิปรายทั่วไป

แถลงการณ์อย่างเป็นลายลักษณ์อักษรจากศูนย์ข้อมูลกฎหมายเอเชีย (Asian Legal Resource Centre: ALRC) องค์กรพัฒนาเอกชนที่มีสถานะที่ปรึกษา (general consultative status)

ประเทศไทย: การคุกคามที่เพิ่มขึ้นต่อเสรีภาพทางการเมืองในประเทศไทย

1. ศูนย์ข้อมูลกฎหมายเอเชีย (Asian Legal Resource Centre: ALRC) ต้องการรายงานให้คณะมนตรีสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งสหประชาชาติ ได้รับทราบถึงการคุกคามที่เพิ่มขึ้นและเข้มงวดของรัฐในหลายด้านต่อเสรีภาพทางการเมืองในประเทศไทย การคุกคามดังกล่าวเกิดขึ้นโดยเฉพาะต่อผู้แสดงความเห็นในเชิงวิพากษ์วิจารณ์ต่อสถาบันพระมหากษัตริย์ รวมทั้งผู้ที่แสดงความกังวลต่อการคุกคามเหล่านี้ ในช่วงหลายเดือนที่ผ่านมา นักวิชาการและนักปกป้องสิทธิมนุษยชนได้เรียกร้องให้มีการปฏิรูป มาตรา 112 แห่งประมวลกฎหมายอาญาไทย ที่เอาผิดทางอาญาต่อการพูดเกี่ยวกับสถาบันพระมหากษัตริย์ พวกเขาได้ตกเป็นเป้าการคุกคามในทางอ้อมของเจ้าหน้าที่รัฐและเจ้าหน้าที่ทหารระดับสูงในประเทศไทย และยังมีการข่มขู่เอาชีวิตจากกลุ่มที่ใช้อำนาจแบบศาลเตี้ยนอกเหนือจากรัฐ แม้ว่าหน่วยงานของรัฐและทหารจะไม่คุกคามชีวิตของนักวิชาการและนักปกป้องสิทธิมนุษยชนที่เรียกร้องให้มีการปฏิรูปกฎหมายโดยตรง แต่การที่รัฐไม่เข้ามาแทรกแซงลงโทษผู้ที่ทำการข่มขู่เช่นนั้น ประกอบกับบรรยากาศการเมืองที่อ่อนไหวในประเทศไทย เป็นสาเหตุให้เกิดข้อกังวลที่จริงจัง

2. แทนที่จะใช้กฎหมายหมิ่นประมาททั่วไป กฎหมายไทยมีบทบัญญัติพิเศษที่กำหนดความผิดฐานหมิ่นพระบรมเดชานุภาพ เพื่อปกป้องสถานะของสถาบันพระมหากษัตริย์ มาตรา 8 แห่งรัฐธรรมนูญ พ.ศ.2550 ระบุว่า “องค์พระมหากษัตริย์ทรงดำรงอยู่ในฐานะอันเป็นที่เคารพสักการะ ผู้ใดจะละเมิดมิได้ ผู้ใดจะกล่าวหาหรือฟ้องร้องพระมหากษัตริย์ในทางใด ๆ มิได้” มาตรา 112 ประมวลกฎหมายอาญากำหนดโทษสำหรับการละเมิดดังกล่าวไว้ว่า “ผู้ใดหมิ่นประมาท ดูหมิ่นหรือแสดงความอาฆาตมาดร้ายพระมหากษัตริย์ พระราชินี รัชทายาท หรือผู้สำเร็จราชการแทนพระองค์ ต้องระวางโทษจำคุกตั้งแต่สามปีถึงสิบห้าปี” พระราชบัญญัติว่าด้วยการกระทำผิดเกี่ยวกับคอมพิวเตอร์ พ.ศ.2550 ซึ่งมักมีการนำมาใช้ควบคู่กับ มาตรา 112 กำหนดโทษจำคุกไม่เกินห้าปี ต่อความผิดหนึ่งกระทง กรณีที่ศาลตัดสินว่ามีส่วนเกี่ยวข้องกับการเผยแพร่ข้อมูลทางอิเลคทรอนิกส์ หรือการครอบครองข้อมูลสนเทศที่ถือว่าเป็นภัยต่อความมั่นคงแห่งชาติ โดยตามกฎหมายแล้ว สถาบันพระมหากษัตริย์ถือว่าเป็นส่วนหนึ่งของความมั่นคงแห่งชาติ

3. แม้ว่า มาตรา 112 จะได้รับการกำหนดเป็นตัวบทกฎหมาย ตั้งแต่การชำระประมวลกฎหมายอาญาไทยครั้งใหญ่ เมื่อปี 2500 แต่ในช่วงหลังรัฐประหาร 19 กันยายน 2549 มีการเพิ่มขึ้นอย่างมากของคดีหมิ่นพระบรมเดชานุภาพ จากสถิติของสำนักงานศาลยุติธรรม มีการเพิ่มขึ้นอย่างมากของการฟ้องร้องคดีดังกล่าวในช่วงห้าปีที่ผ่านมา โดยในปี 2548 มีการแจ้งข้อหาดังกล่าวจำนวน 30 ครั้ง ปี 2549 จำนวน 30 ครั้ง ปี 2550 จำนวน 126 ครั้ง ปี 2551 จำนวน 77 ครั้ง ปี 2552 จำนวน 164 ครั้ง และในปี 2553 จำนวน 478 ครั้ง การขาดการเปิดเผยข้อมูลต่อสาธารณะ เป็นเหตุให้ไม่สามารถตรวจทราบความคืบหน้าของการฟ้องร้องคดีดังกล่าว บุคคลทั่วไปสามารถแจ้งความต่อบุคคลอื่นในข้อหาละเมิด มาตรา 112 ได้ และตำรวจมีหน้าที่ต้องสืบสวนสอบสวน และใช้ดุลพินิจว่าควรมีการเสนอฟ้องคดีต่อพนักงานอัยการหรือไม่ จากนั้นพนักงานอัยการจะใช้ดุลพินิจว่าจะฟ้องคดีต่อศาลอาญาหรือไม่ ความคลุมเครือของมาตรา 112 เป็นเหตุให้มีการใช้ขั้นตอนปฏิบัติดังกล่าวไปในทางมิชอบได้ง่าย นาย Frank La Rue ผู้รายงานพิเศษด้านสิทธิที่มีเสรีภาพในการแสดงความเห็นและการแสดงออก (UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression) รวมทั้งรัฐบาลประเทศสเปน สวิตเซอร์แลนด์ สโลวีเนีย แคนาดา สหราชอาณาจักร ฝรั่งเศส นอร์เวย์ และนิวซีแลนด์ ได้แสดงความกังวลหลายครั้งเกี่ยวกับมาตรา 112 และพระราชบัญญัติว่าด้วยการกระทำผิดเกี่ยวกับคอมพิวเตอร์ พ.ศ.2550 ในระหว่างการประชุมเพื่อทบทวนสถานการณ์สิทธิมนุษยชน (Universal Periodic Review) ของประเทศไทยเมื่อปี 2554

4. คำตัดสินลงโทษในหลายคดีเมื่อเร็ว ๆ นี้ สะท้อนถึงความรุนแรงของบทลงโทษที่กระทำได้ตาม มาตรา 112 และกฎหมายที่เกี่ยวข้อง

ก. วันที่ 15 มีนาคม 2554 นายธันย์ฐวุฒิ ทวีวโรดมกุล ได้ถูกลงโทษจำคุก 13 ปี ตามมาตรา 112 และพระราชบัญญัติว่าด้วยการกระทำผิดเกี่ยวกับคอมพิวเตอร์ พ.ศ.2550 สำหรับความผิดฐานเผยแพร่ข้อความต่อต้านสถาบันพระมหากษัตริย์ทางอินเตอร์เน็ต และฐานที่ไม่ลบข้อความต่อต้านสถาบันพระมหากษัตริย์จากเว็บไซต์ที่เขาดูแลโดยเร็วเพียงพอ เขาให้ข้อมูลว่า ได้ถูกตำรวจบังคับให้สารภาพ

ข. วันที่ 23 พฤศจิกายน 2554 นายอําพล ตั้งนพกุล ได้ถูกลงโทษจำคุก 20 ปี ตามมาตรา 112 และพระราชบัญญัติว่าด้วยการกระทำผิดเกี่ยวกับคอมพิวเตอร์ พ.ศ.2550 เนื่องจากถูกกล่าวหาว่าส่งข้อความสั้นทางโทรศัพท์มือถือ ที่มีเนื้อหาต่อต้านสถาบันพระมหากษัตริย์ 4 ครั้ง

ค. วันที่ 8 ธันวาคม 2554 นาย Joe Gordon ได้ถูกลงโทษจำคุก 2.5 ปี ตามมาตรา 112 และพระราชบัญญัติว่าด้วยการกระทำผิดเกี่ยวกับคอมพิวเตอร์ พ.ศ.2550 ในข้อหาใส่ลิ้งค์ไปที่เว็บไซต์ซึ่งมีบทแปลของหนังสือที่จัดพิมพ์โดยสำนักพิมพ์มหาวิทยาลัยเยล (Yale University Press) เมื่อปี 2550 โดยเป็นเว็บไซต์ซึ่งเขาเป็นผู้ดูแลระหว่างพำนักอยู่ที่รัฐโคโลราโด ซึ่งอยู่นอกเขตอำนาจศาลไทย

ง. วันที่ 15 ธันวาคม 2554 คำพิพากษาคดี น.ส.ดารณี ชาญเชิงศิลปะกุล ที่ถูกเพิกถอน เมื่อปี 2552 ได้ถูกพิพากษาใหม่ หลังจากที่ศาลรัฐธรรมนูญมีคำสั่งว่า การไต่สวนคดีแบบลับในกรณีนี้ ไม่เป็นการละเมิดสิทธิขั้นพื้นฐานจำเลย โดยในคำพิพากษาใหม่ได้มีการลดโทษจำคุกจาก 18 ปี เหลือ 15 ปี สำหรับความผิดสามกระทงที่มีตามมาตรา 112 โดยเป็นผลมาจากการพูดรณรงค์ในที่สาธารณะเป็นเวลา 55 นาที เมื่อเดือนกรกฎาคม 2552

5. สืบเนื่องจากสถานการณ์ดังกล่าว เมื่อเดือนมกราคม 2555 คณะนิติราษฎร์ (ซึ่งหมายถึงกฎหมายสำหรับประชาชน ตามภาษาไทย) ซึ่งเป็นกลุ่มอาจารย์นิติศาสตร์เจ็ดคนจากมหาวิทยาลัยธรรมศาสตร์ (รศ.ดร.วรเจตน์ ภาคีรัตน์ ผศ.ดร.จันทจิรา เอี่ยมมยุรา ดร.ฐาปนันท์ นิพิฏฐกุล ดร.ธีระ สุธีวรางกูร ดร.สาวิตรี สุขศรี ดร.ปิยบุตร แสงกนกกุล และอาจารย์ปูนเทพ ศิรินุพงศ์) และคณะกรรมการรณรงค์แก้ไขประมวลกฎหมายอาญา มาตรา 112 (ครก.) ซึ่งเป็นกลุ่มปัญญาชน นักกิจกรรมสื่อสารมวลชน นักกิจกรรมสิทธิมนุษยชน และอื่น ๆ ได้จัดรณรงค์อย่างเปิดเผยเพื่อเรียกร้องให้แก้ไข มาตรา 112 คณะนิติราษฎร์ได้จัดทำร่างแก้ไข มาตรา 112 โดยยังคงรักษาสถานะของสถาบันพระมหากษัตริย์ในระบบรัฐไทยแบบปัจจุบัน แต่มีเนื้อหาที่มุ่งลดโอกาสที่จะนำกฎหมายไปใช้อย่างมิชอบในลักษณะที่รุนแรง ข้อเสนอเพื่อแก้ไขกฎหมายจะทำให้บทลงโทษต่อความผิดฐานหมิ่นพระบรมเดชานุภาพเป็นสัดส่วนเหมาะสม มีการเสนอให้เฉพาะสำนักราชเลขาธิการเป็นผู้แจ้งความร้องทุกข์ แทนที่จะปล่อยให้คนใดก็ได้สามารถแจ้งความ มีการแยกแยะระหว่างคำวิจารณ์อย่างสุจริตและเป็นจริงออกจากการกล่าวอาฆาตมาดร้ายต่อสถาบันพระมหากษัตริย์ และมีการจำแนกความผิดตาม มาตรา 112 โดยให้ถือเป็นการหมิ่นพระเกียรติแทนที่จะเป็นความผิดต่อความมั่นคงแห่งชาติ ตามรัฐธรรมนูญ พ.ศ.2550 ในกรณีที่มีผู้เข้าชื่อเสนอแก้ไขกฎหมายครบ 10,000 ชื่อ จะมีผลให้รัฐสภาต้องนำร่างกฎหมายนั้นไปพิจารณา ซึ่งตั้งแต่วันที่ 15 มกราคม 2555 คณะนิติราษฎร์ และ ครก.ได้เริ่มรณรงค์รวบรวมรายชื่อทั่วประเทศ

6. ผลจากการรณรงค์ครั้งนี้ เป็นเหตุให้เกิดการวิพากษ์วิจารณ์จากหลายภาคส่วนของรัฐบาลและกองทัพ รัฐบาลพรรคเพื่อไทยซึ่งเป็นเสียงส่วนใหญ่จากการเลือกตั้ง ได้ประกาศหลายครั้งว่า จะไม่สนับสนุนการแก้ไขมาตรา 112 นายเฉลิม อยู่บำรุง รองนายกรัฐมนตรี และ สมาชิกสภาผู้แทนราษฎรพรรคเพื่อไทยหลายคนแสดงจุดยืนว่า จะไม่รับพิจารณาร่างแก้ไขกฎหมาย หากถูกเสนอเข้าสภา พลเอกยุทธศักดิ์ ศศิประภา รองนายกรัฐมนตรี เรียกร้องให้ผู้นำการรณรงค์ยุติการดำเนินงานเพื่อไม่ให้เกิดความแตกแยกของชาติ พลเอกประยุทธ์ จันทร์โอชา ผู้บัญชาการทหารบก กล่าวหาว่า สมาชิกคณะนิติราษฎร์ไม่ใช่คนไทย และเสนอว่าคนที่ต้องการให้แก้ไข มาตรา 112 ควรไปอยู่ต่างประเทศ และยังเตือนอย่างจริงจังว่า “เมื่อท่านรุนแรง ผมก็รุนแรงกับท่าน” พลเรือเอกสุรศักดิ์ หรุ่นเริงรมย์ ผู้บัญชาการทหารเรือ เสนอว่า การรณรงค์ครั้งนี้เป็นภัยต่อความมั่นคงแห่งชาติ พลตำรวจเอก เพรียวพันธ์ ดามาพงศ์ ผู้บัญชาการตำรวจแห่งชาติ ประกาศต่อสาธารณะว่า จะมีการตรวจสอบอย่างใกล้ชิดต่อการทำงานของคณะนิติราษฎร์ และผู้สนับสนุน และจะมีการฟ้องร้องดำเนินคดีหากทำสิ่งผิดกฎหมาย สิ่งที่น่ากังวลอย่างยิ่ง คือ การปฏิบัติต่อข้อเสนอให้มีการแก้ไขกฎหมายราวกับเป็นภัยต่อความมั่นคงแห่งชาติ ทั้งยังกล่าวหาว่าผู้จัดทำร่างแก้ไขกฎหมายไม่ใช่คนไทย และไม่ได้เป็นส่วนหนึ่งของรัฐไทย ถือได้ว่า คำพูดของผู้นำในหลายภาคส่วนของกองทัพเป็นภัยคุกคามต่อเสรีภาพทางการเมืองของสมาชิกคณะนิติราษฎร์และผู้สนับสนุน

7. พร้อม ๆ กับการแสดงความเห็นและการคุกคามอย่างเปิดเผยของเจ้าหน้าที่รัฐต่อคณะนิติราษฎร์ ยังมีกลุ่มพลเมืองที่หลากหลาย ที่ได้คุกคามและข่มขู่แบบศาลเตี้ยต่อผู้รณรงค์เช่นกัน ในวันที่ 27 มกราคม 2555 กลุ่มที่เรียกตัวเองว่า “เครือข่ายคนไทยหัวใจรักชาติ” ได้จัดประท้วงต่อต้านคณะนิติราษฎร์ ที่บริเวณหน้าคณะนิติศาสตร์ มหาวิทยาลัยธรรมศาสตร์ มีการเผาหุ่นของ รศ.ดร.วรเจตน์ ภาคีรัตน์ แกนนำของคณะนิติราษฎร์ และมีการถือป้ายเรียกร้องให้นำสมาชิกกลุ่มมาประหารชีวิต นับแต่เริ่มต้นการรณรงค์ คณะนิติราษฎร์ได้รับคำขู่คุกคามจากบุคคลที่ไม่เปิดเผยชื่อมากมาย รวมทั้งความเห็นที่ผู้เขียนในเว็บไซต์ในหนังสือพิมพ์ผู้จัดการ มีทั้งเสียงเรียกร้องให้ตัดหัวและเอาหัวไปเสียบประจานนอกประตูมหาวิทยาลัย และเสียงเรียกร้องให้นำพวกเขาและครอบครัวไปเผาทั้งเป็นที่นอกบ้าน แม้ว่า การถกเถียงอย่างเผ็ดร้อนที่หลากหลาย จะช่วยส่งเสริมประชาธิปไตยและการปฏิบัติตามสิทธิมนุษยชน แต่การขู่ฆ่าเป็นสิ่งที่อยู่นอกเหนือการถกเถียงในลักษณะเช่นนั้น

8. การคุกคามทั้งโดยทางตรงและทางอ้อม ทั้งที่มาจากภายในและภายนอกของรัฐไทย ถือเป็นการคุกคามต่อสิทธิที่มีการรับรองตามกติการะหว่างประเทศ ว่าด้วย สิทธิพลเมืองและสิทธิทางการเมือง (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights-ICCPR) ซึ่งประเทศไทยเป็นรัฐภาคี โดยเฉพาะข้อ 19 ที่ระบุว่า

“1. บุคคลทุกคนมีสิทธิที่จะมีความคิดเห็นโดยปราศจากการแทรกแซง
2. บุคคลทุกคนมีสิทธิในเสรีภาพแห่งการแสดงออก สิทธินี้รวมถึงเสรีภาพที่จะแสวงหา รับ และเผยแพร่ข้อมูลข่าวสารและความคิดทุกประเภท โดยไม่คำนึงถึงพรมแดน ทั้งนี้ ไม่ว่าด้วยวาจาเป็นลายลักษณ์อักษรหรือการตีพิมพ์ ในรูปของศิลปะ หรือโดยอาศัยสื่อประการอื่นตามที่ตนเลือก
3. การใช้สิทธิตามที่บัญญัติในวรรค ๒ ของข้อนี้ ต้องมีหน้าที่และความรับผิดชอบพิเศษควบคู่ไปด้วย การใช้สิทธิดังกล่าวอาจมีข้อจำกัดในบางเรื่อง แต่ทั้งนี้ข้อจำกัดนั้นต้องบัญญัติไว้ในกฎหมายและจำเป็นต่อ

(ก) การเคารพในสิทธิหรือชื่อเสียงของบุคคลอื่น
(ข) การรักษาความมั่นคงของชาติ หรือความสงบเรียบร้อย หรือการสาธารณสุข หรือศีลธรรมของประชาชน”

การกล่าวหาของเจ้าหน้าที่ความมั่นคงว่า การกระทำของคณะนิติราษฎร์เป็นภัยคุกคามต่อความมั่นคงแห่งชาติ เป็นสิ่งที่ไม่ชอบธรรมและไม่มีเหตุผลสนับสนุน การอภิปรายข้อเสนอให้แก้ไขกฎหมาย เป็นเพียงส่วนหนึ่งของการปฏิบัติตามสิทธิทางพลเรือนและการเมืองเท่านั้น คำให้สัมภาษณ์ของเจ้าหน้าที่ความมั่นคง การไม่คำนึงถึงการคุกคามต่อคณะนิติราษฎร์ และการแสดงความเห็นในเชิงไม่สนับสนุนพวกเขา จึงถือเป็นความล้มเหลวในการคุ้มครองสิทธิที่บัญญัติไว้ใน ข้อ 19

9. ศูนย์ข้อมูลกฎหมายเอเชียจึงต้องการแจ้งให้คณะมนตรีทราบถึง ภัยคุกคามที่ชัดเจนที่มีต่อ คณะนิติราษฎร์ ในปัจจุบัน และยังส่งผลกระทบกลายเป็นวิกฤตของเสรีภาพทางการเมืองและเสรีภาพแห่งการแสดงออก ศูนย์ข้อมูลกฎหมายเอเชียเรียกร้องให้คณะมนตรี:

ก. กระตุ้นรัฐบาลไทย โดยเฉพาะเจ้าหน้าที่ความมั่นคง ให้ยุติการคุกคามคณะนิติราษฎร์และพลเมืองคนอื่น ๆ ซึ่งใช้สิทธิทางพลเรือนและการเมืองของตน

ข. กระตุ้นรัฐบาลไทยให้แสดงความเห็นแย้งอย่างชัดเจนต่อการคุกคามทางกายและการขู่ฆ่าที่กระทำต่อคณะนิติราษฎร์และพลเมืองคนอื่น ๆ ซึ่งใช้สิทธิทางพลเรือนและการเมืองของตน

ค. เรียกร้องให้รัฐบาลไทยอนุญาตและสนับสนุนการใช้เสรีภาพทางการเมืองและเสรีภาพแห่งการแสดงออกอย่างเต็มที่ในช่วงเวลาวิกฤตเช่นนี้ รวมทั้งกำหนดมาตรการที่เฉพาะเจาะจงเพื่อคุ้มครองสมาชิกคณะนิติราษฎร์และคนอื่น ๆ ที่ตกเป็นเป้าโจมตีเช่นกัน

10. โดยย้ำเตือนถึงข้อเสนอแนะต่อรัฐบาลไทยที่มาจากผู้แทนประเทศ บราซิล แคนาดา ฝรั่งเศส ฮังการี อินโดนีเซีย นิวซีแลนด์ นอร์เวย์ สโลวีเนีย สเปน สวีเดน สวิตเซอร์แลนด์ และสหราชอาณาจักร ในระหว่างการทบทวนสถานการณ์สิทธิมนุษยชน (Universal Periodic Review: UPR) ในส่วนที่เกี่ยวกับเสรีภาพแห่งการแสดงออก กฎหมายหมิ่นพระบรมเดชานุภาพ และ/หรือพระราชบัญญัติว่าด้วยการกระทำผิดเกี่ยวกับคอมพิวเตอร์ พ.ศ.2550 ศูนย์ข้อมูลกฎหมายเอเชียกระตุ้นรัฐบาลให้ยอมรับข้อเสนอแนะเหล่านี้ และให้แจ้งข้อมูลว่า มีการแก้ไขปัญหาดังกล่าวอย่างไร โดยถือเป็นส่วนหนึ่งของการรับรองรายงานสถานการณ์สิทธิมนุษยชนของรัฐบาลไทยโดยคณะมนตรีสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งสหประชาชาติในสมัยประชุมที่ 19 และให้ส่งจดหมายเชิญผู้รายงานพิเศษว่าด้วยเสรีภาพแห่งการแสดงออกและการแสดงความเห็นให้มาเยือนประเทศ

11. การที่รัฐบาลไทยยอมรับข้อเสนอแนะของนิวซีแลนด์ที่จะประกันให้มี “ผลในเชิงบวกด้านสิทธิมนุษยชนเกี่ยวกับเสรีภาพส่วนบุคคล รวมทั้งเสรีภาพแห่งการแสดงออกและเสรีภาพที่จะไม่ถูกลงโทษแบบแก้แค้นและนอกกระบวนการกฎหมาย” นับเป็นสิ่งสำคัญยิ่ง เมื่อพิจารณาถึงความถดถอยดังที่กล่าวถึงข้างต้น รัฐต่าง ๆ ที่ได้กล่าวถึงยังได้แสดงข้อเสนอแนะเกี่ยวกับกระบวนการ UPR ก็ควรถูกกระตุ้นให้กดดันรัฐบาลไทยให้ยอมรับข้อเสนอแนะเหล่านี้ และประกันว่าจะมีการปฏิบัติตามโดยไม่ชักช้า





ALRC: Growing threats to political freedom in Thailand

17 02 2012

The following is re-posted from the Asian Legal Resource Centre, an independent regional NGO holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and linked with the AHRC.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 16, 2012
ALRC-CWS-19-02-2012

Language(s): English only

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Nineteenth session, Agenda Item 4, General Debate

A written statement submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organisation with general consultative status

THAILAND: Growing threats to political freedom in Thailand

1. The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to bring the growing range of state and vigilante threats to political freedom in Thailand to the attention of the Human Rights Council. These threats have been concentrated around those who both express critical views of the monarchy, as well as those who express concern about these threats. In recent months, academic and human rights defenders who have called for reform of Article 112, the section of the Thai criminal code criminalizing speech about the monarchy, have become the target of ambiguous threats by high-ranking state and military officers in Thailand and explicit death threats by vigilante actors outside the state. While state and military actors have not threatened the lives of academic and human rights defenders calling for reform, the absence of state sanction of those who have explicitly done so, combined with the volatile political climate in Thailand, is a cause for serious concern.

2. Instead of using regular defamation law, the position of the monarchy within the polity, and the sanctions for the crime of lèse majesté are specifically described within Thai law. Section 8 of the 2007 Constitution notes: “The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action.” Article 112 of the Criminal Code then prescribes punishments for violations: “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished (with) imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The 2007 Computer Crime Act, which has often been used in combination with Article 112, then prescribes penalties of up to five years per count in cases which are judged to have involved the electronic dissemination or hosting of information deemed threatening to national security, of which the institution of the monarchy is identified as a constituent part.

3. While Article 112 has been law since the last major revision of the Thai Criminal Code in 1957, there has been a dramatic increase in lèse majesté cases since the 19 September 2006 coup. Statistics provided by the Office of the Judiciary indicates a sharp rise in charges filed over the last five years, with 33 charges filed in 2005, 30 filed in 2006, 126 filed in 2007, 77 filed in 2008, 164 filed in 2009, to 478 filed in 2010. A lack of public, open information means that the outcomes of all of these charges filed is unknown. Any citizen can bring a complaint of alleged violations of Article 112 to the police, who are then obliged to investigate and decide whether or not to send the case to the prosecutor. The prosecutor then decides whether or not to bring the case to the Criminal Court. Combined with the vagueness of Article 112, these procedures easily lend themselves to abuse. Concerns about Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act have been repeatedly raised by Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression as well as by the governments of Spain, Switzerland, Slovenia, Canada, UK, France, Norway, and New Zealand during the Universal Periodic Review of Thailand’s human rights in 2011.

4. Several recent convictions indicate the severity of penalties that can be meted out under Article 112 and allied laws.

a. On 15 March 2011, Mr. Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul was sentenced to 13 years in prison under Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act for the alleged crime of posting online content with anti-monarchy messages and for not removing an anti-monarchy comment from a website he managed quickly enough. He reported being forced to confess by the police.

b. On 23 November 2011, Mr. Ampon Tangnoppakul was sentenced to 20 years in prison under Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act for allegedly sending 4 SMS messages with allegedly anti-monarchy content.

c. On 8 December 2011, Mr. Joe Gordon was jailed for 2.5 years under Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act for the alleged crime of posting a link to a translation of book published by Yale University Press in 2007 on a website that he managed while living in Colorado, outside Thailand’s jurisdiction.

d. On 15 December 2011, the 2009 conviction of Ms. Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul was upheld after the Constitutional Court concluded that a closed trial did not violate her basic rights. Her sentence has been reduced from 18 to 15 years, for conviction on three counts of violating Article 112 during 55 minutes of public speech in July 2009.

5. Within this context, in January 2012, the Khana Nitirat (which means “Law for the People” in Thai), a group of seven law lecturers at Thammasat University (Worachet Pakeerut, Jantajira Iammayura, Thapanan Nipithakul, Teera Suteewarangkurn, Sawatree Suksri, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and Poonthep Sirinupong), and the Campaign Committee for the Amendment of Article 112, a coalition of intellectuals, media activists, human rights activists, and others launched a public campaign to amend Article 112. The Khana Nitirat drafted a possible amendment to Article 112, which leaves the position of the monarchy within the Thai polity as it is currently, but aims to reduce the potential for abuse under Article 112 in several significant ways. The proposed amendment would make the punishment for alleged lèse majesté proportionate to the crime, limit who can file a complaint to the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary rather than any citizen, differentiate sincere and truthful criticism from threats to the monarchy, and categorize violations of Article 112 as about the honour of the monarchy, rather than national security. Under the 2007 Constitution, if at least 10,000 citizens sign in support of a proposed amendment, the Parliament is obliged to examine it. Beginning on 15 January 2012 the Khana Nitirat and the Campaign Committee for the Amendment of Article 112 began a nation-wide campaign to gather signatures.

6. In response to this campaign, there has been a backlash from many sectors of the government and armed forces. The elected majority Pheu Thai government has repeatedly indicated that they will not amend Article 112; Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung and many Pheu Thai MPs have indicated that they will not examine the amendment should it enter Parliament. Deputy Prime Minister General Yutthasak Sasiprapa urged the leaders of the campaign to stop before they created division in the country. General Prayuth Chan-ocha, commander-in-chief of the Army, has accused the members of the Khana Nitirat of being un-Thai, suggested that those who want to amend Article 112 should go live abroad, and ominously warned, “If you guys play hard ball, I’ll have no choice but to do so, too.” General Surasak Roonruangwong, commander-in-chief of the Navy, has suggested that the campaign is detrimental to national security. General Priewpan Damapong, Police commander-in-chief, has made a public statement indicating to the Khana Nitirat and their supporters that they are under close surveillance and will be prosecuted if they commit illegal acts. What is of particular concern is that a proposal to consider amending a law is being treated as though it is a threat to national security, an indication that the drafters of the amendment are not-Thai and do not belong to the polity. These statements by the leaders of different sectors of the security forces should be understood as threats to the political freedom of the members of the Khana Nitirat and their supporters.

7. Simultaneous to the public statements and threats by state officials against the Khana Nitirat, a wide range of citizens have harassed and made detailed vigilante-style threats against them as well. On 27 January 2012, a group who call themselves “Thais with Patriotic Heart” held a protest against the Khana Nitirat in front of the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University, burned an effigy of Professor Worachet Pakeerut, the leader of the group, and held placards calling for the members of the group to be executed. Since the launch of the campaign, many anonymous threats against the Khana Nitirat have been posted in the comments on the website of Manager (Phuchadkan) newspaper online, including calls for them to be beheaded and their heads placed on stakes outside the university gates and calls for them to be burned alive with their families outside their homes. While vigorous debate from all points of view enhances democracy and the exercise of human rights, making death threats is outside the purview of vigorous debate.

8. The implicit and explicit threats from inside and outside the Thai state represent a threat to the rights guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a State Party, notably article 19, and specifically that,

“1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.”

The allegations by state security officials that the actions of the Khana Nitirat pose a threat to national security are illegitimate and unsubstantiated. Discussion of a proposed amendment to a law is an ordinary part of exercising one’s civil and political rights. The statements of state security officials, as well as their lack of concern regarding the threats made against the Khana Nitirat, and tacit support of them as indicated by their own statements, therefore represent a failure to protect the rights guaranteed in Article 19.

9. The Asian Legal Resource Centre therefore wishes to draw the Council’s attention to the specific threats faced currently by the Khana Nitirat, as well as the broader deepening of the crisis surrounding political freedom and freedom of expression signalled by these threats. The Asian Legal Resource Centre calls for the Council to:

a. Urge the Government of Thailand, and particularly members of the state security forces, to cease threatening the Khana Nitirat and other citizens who are exercising their civil and political rights.

b. Urge the Government of Thailand to show its strong disapproval for the bodily and death threats made against the Khana Nitirat and other citizens who are exercising their civil and political rights.

c. Request that the Government of Thailand allow and support the full exercise of political freedom and freedom of expression at this critical time, including taking specific action to protect the members of the Khana Nitirat and others who have been targeted for doing so.

10. Recalling the recommendations to the Government of Thailand made by Brazil, Canada, France, Hungary, Indonesia, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, during the Universal Periodic Review concerning the freedom of expression, lèse majesté and/or the 2007 Computer Crimes Act, the Asian Legal Resource Centre urges the government to accept these recommendations and provide information on how it will address these issues as part of the Thai UPR report’s adoption during the Human Rights Council’s 19th session, including by issuing an invitation for the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of expression and opinion to conduct a country visit.

11. The fact that the government accepted the recommendation made by New Zealand to ensure “positive human rights outcomes in the areas of personal liberty, including freedom of expression and freedom from reprisal and extra judicial punishment,” is of particular significance given the current back-sliding that has been detailed above. The afore-mentioned states that have made relevant UPR recommendations are urged to press the government to accept these and ensure their implementation without delay.