Blood on their hands: remembering 2010

19 05 2019

19 May 2010 is remembered as marking the end of the Battle for Bangkok.

April and May 2010 are remembered for the utter brutality of a military that still views electoral democracy and people’s sovereignty as a threat to the order it prefers and defends.

It must be recalled that the leadership of the military dictatorship – Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prawit Wongsuwan, Anupong Paojinda, and Apirat Kongsompong – together with then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban have never been held accountable for the protesters shot down, injured and killed in those bloody events. Several of these men, blood on their hands, will be at the center of yet another military-backed regime for the next few years.

These pictures are from both sides of the battle as the military gradually surrounded and then cleared the Rajaprasong area. Blood flowed and no one has been held responsible.





Enforced disappearance and extrajudicial execution

13 05 2019

On 6 March, writing together four Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations wrote to Thailand’s government on the disappearance and murder of exiled political activists. The details are important, so we reproduce this letter in full. A report is also available at Prachatai:

Mandates of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

REFERENCE:
UA THA 3/2019

6 March 2019

We have the honour to address you in our capacity as Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions 36/6, 35/15, 34/18 and 34/19.

In this connection, we would like to bring to the attention of your Excellency’s Government information we have received concerning the alleged enforced disappearance and extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions in late 2018 of Mr. Surachai Danwattananusorn, Mr Chatchan Bubphawan, and Mr Kraidej Luelert. These three men are political activists affiliated with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), a political movement affiliated with the Pheu Thai Party. We also wish to bring to your attention information on a fourth man, Mr. Itthipol Sukpan, also affiliated with the UDD, who reportedly disappeared in 2016.

Furthermore, we would like to bring to your attention information received concerning recent amendments to the draft Bill on Suppression and Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance that appears to fall short of international standards.

Mr. Surachai Danwattananusorn (also known as Surachai Sae-dang), age 75, is a prominent political activist. He was a member of the now defunct Communist Party of Thailand. In 2009, he set up a political group called the “Power of Democracy of Dang Siam Network” while the other two political activists, Mr. Chatchawan Bubphawan (also known as Comrade Phu Chanah), age 54, and Mr. Kraidej Luelert (also known as Comrade Kasalong), age 47, were his followers and close friends.

Mr. Surachai Danwattananusorn was charged under the law of lèse majesté
(article 112 of the Criminal Code) along with several other individuals. They were the subject of communication ref. no THA 13/2012 sent by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in 2012. We thank you for your reply received on 26 December 2012 but remain concerned regarding the continued existence and use of lèse majesté legislation which curtails the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, in contravention with international human rights norms.

According to the information received:

Mr. Bubphawan, Mr. Luelert and Mr. Danwattananusorn

From 2009 to 2010, the three activists participated in protests organized by the UDD in Bangkok and Pattaya city. In April and May 2010, mass scale demonstrations were organized by the UDD in central Bangkok, calling for the then Government led by the Democrat Party to dissolve the parliament and hold a general election. Mr. Bubphawan served as the security guard of the UDD during the protest. In May 2010, there were clashes during the protests and the Royal Thai Army used excessive force against some protestors – more than 90 people were killed including eight soldiers. Many UDD activists were arrested and prosecuted in relation to their involvement in the demonstration.

In 2011, Mr. Danwattananusorn was imprisoned under article 112 of the Criminal Code (lese-majeste law) but was released by the Royal Pardon in 2013. Later, in 2014, Mr. Danwattananusorn and Mr. Bubphawan were charged by the Royal Thai Police under the 1947 Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, Fireworks and Imitation of Firearms Act of possession of illegal weapons and involvement in the UDD demonstrations in 2009 and 2010. Mr. Danwattananusorn faced an additional charge under Article 116 (sedition) and Article 209 (Participating in secret association) under the Criminal Code for playing a leading role in the protest in 2009 in Pattaya and in 2010 in Bangkok.

The three activists fled to Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) in May 2014 after the military assumed power and the establishment of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) military council. On 13 June 2014, Mr. Danwattananusorn was summoned under NCPO Order No. 57/2014 and Mr. Bubphawan was summoned under the NCPO Order No. 61/2014. The orders required them to report to the NCPO but both did not present themselves. As a result, in June 2014, the Bangkok Military Court approved arrest warrants against both activists for violating the Orders. These warrants remain active.

From August 2014 to 2018, the three activists ran an underground podcast programme called “Patiroob Prated Thai” (Thailand’s Reformation) criticising the military and the monarchy. The majority of the audience were reportedly Thai nationals who were sympathetic to the UDD. The podcast program was published twice per month on YouTube.

The three activists were last in contact with persons associated with them on the 12 December 2018 after they recorded a podcast for this programme. They decided to leave their home in Vientiane Province’s Tha Ngon area in the Lao PDR out of fear for their safety in connection with a visit to the Lao PDR on 13 December 2018 by the Prime Minister of Thailand and the Head of the NCPO.

Persons associated with the three men have lost contact with them since 12 December 2018. On 22 December 2018, a contact for the three men visited their home. He found the door unlocked and nobody in the house. The van that Mr. Danwattananusorn regularly used was parked on the premises and his belongings were untouched, including his manual sphygmomanometer (blood pressure monitor) which he always carried with him during his travels.

On 27 and 29 December 2018, the bodies of two unidentified men were found on the banks of the Mekong River bordering Thailand and Lao PDR in Nakorn Pranom Province in Northeast Thailand. The men appeared to have been killed in the same manner – handcuffed and strangled with a rope. Their bodies were then reportedly disemboweled, stuffed with concrete, wrapped in a net and sacking and dumped into the Mekong River.

On 22 January 2019, the official report of a DNA test from the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Bangkok’s Police Hospital indicated that the DNA samples collected from the family members of Mr. Bubphawan and Mr. Luelert matched the bodies that had been discovered.

On 24 January 2019, the Deputy Police Commissioner of the Royal Thai Police announced that the Royal Thai Police will conduct an investigation and will submit the two cases to the Provincial Criminal Court for post-mortem inquests. He denied allegation of enforced disappearances and killing of the three activists.

Mr. Danwattananusorn’s whereabouts, remain unknown. The Deputy Police Commissioner of the Royal Thai Police informed the public on 24 January 2019 that according to intelligence sources Mr. Danwattananusorn is still alive. It is unclear where the investigation into his disappearance currently stands. Unofficial information has been received indicating another body was found near Tha Champa village cluster in the Lao PDR. On 25 February 2019, persons associated with him filed a complaint to Tha Uthane District Police Station in Nakhon Phanom Province to investigate his disappearance.

Given the active arrests warrants and their involvement with the UDD, it is believed Thai officials may be responsible for the killing of Mr. Bubphawan and Mr. Luelert and the disappearance and possible killing of Mr. Danwattananusorn[.]

Mr. Itthipol Sukpan

In 2016, Mr. Itthipol Sukpan, a political activists also affiliated with UDD who also lived in exile in the Lao PDR, went missing there and his whereabouts remain unknown.

Mr. Ittipon Sukpan was a leader of the Chiang Mai 51, a Red Shirt group based in Chiang Mai Province and a radio host on FM. 92.50, a community radio station belonging to the group. On 27 May 2014, Mr. Sukpan received an order 25/2014 by the NCPO to report to the military in Bangkok. Mr. Sukpan had criticised the monarchy through comments made on Facebook. He did not report to the NCPO as summoned and instead fled to Lao PDR.

In 2014 and 2015 Mr. Sukpan criticized the military through YouTube videos and Facebook posts. During this period, persons associated with him were visited by Thai military officers and were informed that the authorities were investigating allegations of lèse majesté against Mr. Sukpan.

Mr. Sukpan last made contact with persons associated with him on 19 June 2016. He was last seen on 22 June 2016 while eating in a restaurant and then left on his motorcycle to return to his house at around midnight. Late that evening a man was heard crying out in that area. His motorcycle and one of his sports shoes were found the next day one kilometer from the restaurant.

Persons associated with Mr. Sukpan received information that Mr. Sukpan had been arrested by the Thai authorities and taken to the 36th Infantry Military Circle in Petchchaboon Province in Thailand but when they enquired about him at the Circle the military denied that he had been arrested. On 20 July 2016, a Spokesperson of the NCPO told the public that the NCPO had monitored Mr. Sukpan’s activities and acknowledged that he was in exile in a neighboring country, however, the NCPO’s Spokesperson denied acknowledgement of arrest and detention of Mr. Sukpan by Thai authorities. The NCPO Spokesperson said that the Crime Suppression Division of the Royal Thai Police together with the NCPO would investigate the case and he said that he suspected that Mr. Sukpan’s disappearance was a fake news which was made by the opponent of the NCPO to discredit the NCPO during the Constitution Referendum. The fate and whereabouts of Mr. Itthipol Sukpan remain unknown.

Another activist, affiliated with UDD, who had also been living in the Lao PDR reportedly disappeared in 2017.

Legislation criminalising enforced disappearances and torture

The crimes of enforced disappearance and torture are not currently codified within Thai law. A draft law on this topic has been pending since 2010. In May 2016, the Government of Thailand decided to enact the legislation rendering enforced or involuntary disappearance and torture criminal offences, but the legislation was put on hold in February 2017. A draft Bill on Suppression and Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance was re-submitted to the National Legislative Assembly for consideration and promulgation in December 2018. It is scheduled to be adopted on 7 March, ahead of elections which will be held on 24 March 2019.

It appears the bill may not be fully compliant with international standards: two key safeguard provisions were removed from the draft (Articles 11 and 12); the draft no longer contains an explicit and absolute prohibition of acts of torture and enforced disappearances in any circumstances, including during a State of Emergency; and there is no provision prohibiting the refoulement of individuals to countries where they would face a real risk of torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or enforced disappearance. These shortcomings are deeply concerning and seriously weaken the legal protection against torture and disappearances.

We express our most serious concern regarding the alleged abduction and killing of Mr. Bubphawan and Mr. Luelert, the alleged enforced disappearance and possible killing of Mr. Danwattananusorn and the alleged disappearance of Mr. Itthipol Sukpan and that these events may be directly linked to their political opinions and activities. Should these allegations be confirmed, they would be in violation of international human rights law articles 6, 7 and 19, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Thailand on 29 October 1996. The ICCPR guarantees the rights to life, to personal security, to freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and freedom of expression, association and assembly.

In its General Comment 36, the United Nations Human Rights Committee underscored that State parties are expected to take all necessary measures to prevent arbitrary deprivations of life by their law enforcement officials and to protect life from all reasonably foreseeable threats, including from threats emanating from private persons and entities. Furthermore, we highlight that thorough, prompt and impartial investigations must be undertaken for all suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions. Failing to take appropriate measures or to exercise due diligence to prevent, punish, investigate and bring perpetrators to justice could give rise to a breach of the Covenant (CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.13 and CCPR/C/GC/36).

In relation to the allegations that the fate and whereabouts of Mr. Danwattananusorn and Mr. Itthipol Sukpan remain unknown, the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance sets out necessary protection by the State. In particular, it states that no State shall practice, permit or tolerate enforced disappearances (article 2) and that each State shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent and terminate acts of enforced disappearance in any territory under its jurisdiction (article 3). The declaration underscores that investigations should be conducted for as long as the fate of the victims of enforced disappearance remains unclarified (article 13), and that states should take any lawful and appropriate action to bring to justice persons presumed to be responsible for acts of enforced disappearance (article 14).

While we welcome efforts to ensure that enforced disappearances and torture are codified as crimes within Thai law, we underline the importance of ensuring that any legislation in this regard is fully compliant with international human rights standards As matter of urgency we strongly recommend legislators enact a robust law that fully complies with the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which Thailand is a party to; the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), which Thailand signed in 2012, and which it has pledged to ratify including in several recommendations which it accepted during its universal periodic review in 2014; as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Several of the obligations laid out in these instruments are non-derogable, notably protection from torture and ill treatment and enforced disappearance even in a State of Emergency and the right of non-refoulement where a person may be at risk of torture or enforced disappearance. It is essential that these legal principles are fully articulated and incorporated into the domestic legislation and that the definition of all crimes be in line with international standards.

The full texts of the human rights instruments and standards recalled above are available on http://www.ohchr.org or can be provided upon request.

In view of the gravity of these matters, we would appreciate a response on the steps taken by your Excellency’s Government to safeguard the rights of the above-mentioned persons in compliance with international instruments.

As it is our responsibility, under the mandates provided to us by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to our attention, we would be grateful for your observations on the following matters:

1. Please provide any additional information and any comment you may have on the above-mentioned allegations.

2. Please provide the full details of any investigations which may have been undertaken into the killing of Mr. Bubphawan and Mr. Luelert. Have any perpetrators been identified and if so have any criminal prosecution been undertaken? If no investigations have taken place, or if they have been inconclusive, please explain why, and how this is consistent with Thailand’s human rights obligations under the treaties it has ratified.

3. Please provide information on the fate and whereabouts of Mr. Danwattananusorn and Mr. Itthipol Sukpan. If their fate and whereabouts are still unknown, please provide the details on any investigation or other queries which may have been carried out. If no investigations have taken place, or if they have been inconclusive, please explain why.

4. Given that the crime of enforced disappearance is not yet codified within Thai law, please elaborate on the legal framework which is being applied to investigate these cases and the disappearance of other Thai activists in Thailand or in neighbouring Laos.

5. Please provide an update on the status of the draft law criminalising enforced disappearance and torture and the measures being taken to ensure that it is fully compliant with international standards.

While awaiting a reply, we urge that all necessary measures be taken to protect the human rights to life, personal security, integrity and freedom of expression in Thailand and to prevent the violation of these rights, and in the event that investigations establish that the allegations described in this letter are correct, to ensure the criminal accountability of any person responsible for them.

Given the seriousness of the allegations, we may publicly express our concerns in the near future as, in our view, the information in our possession appears to be sufficiently reliable to indicate a matter warranting immediate attention. We also believe that the Government authorities at all levels and the wider public should be alerted to the adverse implications for the enjoyment and exercise of human rights of these allegations. Any public statement on our part would indicate that we have sought your Excellency’s Government’s information to clarify the issue in question.

This communication and any response received from your Excellency’s Government will be made public via the communications reporting website within 60 days. They will also subsequently be made available in the usual report to be presented to the Human Rights Council.

A communication on this case is also being sent to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration.

Bernard Duhaime
Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

Agnes Callamard
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

David Kaye
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Nils Melzer
Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment





Political murder and impunity

5 05 2019

Many readers will have already seen the Khaosod report that sadly but not unexpectedly tells of another coronation gift: “Soldiers who killed six people at a temple during a 2010 protest will not stand trial in the military court…”.

Phayao Akkahad, who lost a daughter, Kamonkade, when the nurse was treating the wounded at the “safe zone” at Wat Pathum Wanaram. Kamonkade was shot dead by soldiers, probably firing from the Skytrain elevated railway. They shot others in that so-called safe zone as well.

“Investigators” have now told Phayao “that the military prosecutors decided to drop charges against the eight soldiers…” a court inquest earlier held responsible. They  cited “a lack of evidence,” but as everyone in Thailand knows, this is buffalo manure. In fact, the military is just doing what it always does when it tortures or kills civilians. That is, granting impunity.

Phayao said the “military prosecutors announced there won’t be indictment…. The prosecutors reasoned the no-indictment that there was no evidence, no circumstantial evidence, and no eyewitnesses.”

This is simply false. There are still photos and video evidence of the soldiers involved. PPT has posted some of this evidence several times.

The Khaosod report has video reporting from the time showing soldiers firing into the temple.

The evidence is clear but no soldier is held responsible. More importantly, those who ordered the murderous crackdown – Suthep Thaugsuban, Abhisit Vejjajiva, Gen Anupong Paojinda and current military dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha – get away with murder.

To date, not a single person has been held responsbile for the more than 90 deaths in April and May 2010. Sadly, in royalist Thailand, that is normal.





Updated: Remembering red shirt murders

11 04 2019

Khaosod reports that some of the official red shirts held a religious ceremony to mark the anniversary of a crackdown that killed many of their supporters on 10 April 2010.

Weng Tojirakarn, Jatuporn Promphan, Nattawut Saikua and other red shirts met at “a temple in northern Bangkok under the close watch of police officers.”

Weng said that he wanted the truth to come out about these events and declared that “his organization will continue to pursue justice on behalf of those who lost their lives.”

Legal cases against those responsible have gone nowhere.

The awful events of that evening are available at our site (scroll down to Battle for Bangkok I), although many of the links no longer work.

Update: A reader pointed out that New Mandala has an excellent piece by Saowanee T. Alexander on red shirts and voting in the northeast.





Prayuth and the tangles of deception

26 02 2019

In seeking to rig its “election,” both The Dictator and the military junta seem to have tied themselves in some unexpected knots. Self-appointed prime minister-military dictator-coup leader-junta leader Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is seemingly stuck between his puppet Election Commission and the junta’s Palang Pracharat Party.

Just a few days ago, we posted on a report that the EC had declared that there “is no law barring Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha, as the PM candidate for Phalang Pracharat Party, from joining the electoral debate…”.

But is that a “decision” or not?

Now, EC chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong has said his commission “had not yet received a letter from the PPRP [Palang Pracharath] seeking clarification over whether Gen Prayut can join policy debates as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.” He said that the EC will only “consider the issue if and when the letter reaches the commission…”.

This is curious for a couple of reasons. First, the EC was earlier reported as making a determination. Second, shouldn’t the EC be proactive in matters related to the election it is managing?

Startingly, Ittiporn also said that the “EC will consider whether Gen Prayut, as the chief of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is qualified as a candidate for prime minister under the law on the election of MPs and the constitution.”

This time it does have a petition, some 10-11 days ago. Surely, a decision could have been made in that time. Isn’t this kind of important?

Much of this confusion is caused by the fact that The Dictator prefers to cheat in his election by controlling his junta and its puppet organizations while seeking to extend his own prime ministerial position.

This charade of what the Bangkok Post calls the need for The Dictator’s “neutrality” is further tangled by Gen Prayuth appearing in all the Palang Pracharath election campaigning as an image. Fore example, in addition to campaign posters, his party has now released a 157-page book “detailing his [Prayuth’s] achievements and touting him as a candidate fit to lead the country after the election.”

Party leader and recent junta minister Uttama Savanayana explained that “the book was written for the party’s MP candidates and their campaign staff so they have all the relevant information about their party’s prime ministerial candidate.” Presumably some of them would have had difficulty reciting the “correct” information regarding The Dictator.

Apparently, the propagandists – we assume in the Army and junta who authored Pracharath Sang Chart – have also listed “achievements before he came to power in May 2014.” That probably includes his record of commanding murderous troops in 2010 as they shot down red shirts.

Then Uttama got into serious lying when he “stressed that the book is not intended as election campaigning material, and as such, won’t be distributed to the general public.” He then added that the cost of producing the books – about a million baht – “was already included in the list of election campaign expenses…”. Yes, that’s right, the book is not for campaigning, but is claimed and reported as a campaign expense.

And, while not for campaigning, Uttama declared that Prayuth’s party “ordered a total of 10,000 copies.” That’s a lot of distribution for not campaigning.

What a bunch of dolts. They are campaigning so badly that even more cheating may be the only way the party could win most votes in the lower house, even with all the cheating and rigging that has already gone on.





Updated: Things that make you go, hmm

15 12 2018

There’s a lot going on, so this is a catch-up on a few media stories worth considering. And these are all from the Bangkok Post!:

Watana gets off: The Criminal Court has found Puea Thai politician and junta critic Watana Muangsook not guilty in a quite ridiculous charge related to comments he made about the vandalism associated with the stealing of the 1932 plaque from the Royal Plaza.

The court said Watana’s comments:

were opinions that could not be deemed a computer crime. They posed no threat to security…. The court said his messages could be considered in the context of academic freedom and his criticism of authorities did not reflect ill intent.

The ridiculousness of the charge is that the junta has never done anything to find those responsible for stealing the plaque and replacing it with a royalist plaque that could easily have been composed in the palace. Of course, the authorities have done nothing because they know exactly who ordered its removal and replacement.

EC makes false promises: By now readers know that we think the Election Commission is totally compromised. So a promise to be clear about the election is simply impossible. Where it is closer to the truth it is in stating: “This is all about establishing credibility by generating information that is reliable and correct for the international community.” What EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong might have said was that the EC’s job is establishing credibility for the junta’s election by generating information that obfuscates. After all, that’s its track record to date. That impression of the EC’s bias is reinforced when Ittiporn mumbles that “foreign envoys did not appear to have any concerns about predictions by some critics of that the poll would be ‘less than free and fair’.” Of course, no one expects a free or fair election. Even the Bangkok Post has been forced to question the EC’s “independence” and “credibility.” Is the EC’s task just to give “credibility” to the junta’s rigged election?

Parliament has no home: The parliament building has been closed and will be given to the king. So the bureaucracy of the parliament and the puppet National Legislative Assembly is homeless. Why the Royal Household Bureau can’t wait for a few months is never explained by the fearful Thai media. Consider the fact that the NLA seems to have been caught unaware by this move and has only just begun to look for a expensive, temporary home. Why’s that?

The Eel jailed: The exceptionally slippery Tharit Pengdit and Suthep Thaugsuban used to be tight, at least when Suthep was managing the crushing of the red shirts. They later fell out and became enemies as DSI led investigations into Suthep’s role in the gunning down of protesters. The enmity was further deepened when Suthep accused Tharit of defamation in February 2013. This had to do with corruption over police buildings under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. In two court cases in 2015 and 2016, Tarit was found not guilty. Suthep appealed to the Supreme Court. So the question is why Tarit suddenly decided to plead “guilty” before the case was concluded and why is he now jailed for a year. That makes you think.

Guess who?: In a two horse race between consortia of some of the biggest and best-connected Sino-Thai tycoons for the contract to build a high-speed railway connecting three major airports, the one led by CP has won. As well as winning, they get a state subsidy of almost 120 billion baht. Makes you wonder how rich the richest non-royals can get.

Update: The authorities have assured Thailand that CP didn’t “win” the bid for the HSR. They just had the lowest bid and negotiations are now needed with the CP consortium in order to determine whether they will win. Funny way to do tendering, but we are willing to bet on the outcome, as we were before the two bids were opened.





Begging the junta to do the right thing

9 12 2018

Begging the junta to do the right thing might seem about as useful as talking to a brick wall, especially when it has almost no track record on human rights or basic humanity. Think of the lying that still goes on about the 2010 massacre perpetrated by the Army.

Even so, a couple of human rights protectors have stepped up.

The first is the very honorable National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit. She’s about the only person on the NHRC who ever does anything much about human rights. The rest of the NHRC makes up a part of the junta’s brick wall.

She has requested that junta “respect international standards and refrain from extraditing a former national team footballer to stand trial in Bahrain.” This refers to Hakeem Al-Araibi’s detention in Bangkok. He’s been detained for 13 days now, despite being recognized and registered as a refugee by the UN and Australia.

Angkhana said she wanted to see Hakeem “treated fairly because he has refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Due to his status, he should be protected under international law.” She added that the junta’s government “does not have to extradite him.”

As we know, however, such international norms are ignored by the junta. In any case, the “Attorney-General’s office on Friday submitted an extradition request to the Criminal Court on Bahrain’s behalf as the Gulf state has an outstanding arrest warrant for him.” He goes before one of the junta’s courts on Tuesday, and FIFA, the UN and human rights groups all have their fingers crossed that the junta may do the right thing (for a change).

Usually meek before the junta, the Australian government’s Foreign Minister has finally demanded that “Thailand release … Hakeem al-Araibi from detention and return him to Australia, setting the stage for a diplomatic clash.” In some media in Thailand this was crippled by the use of “urge” rather than “demand.”

The second instance of begging the junta to do the right thing is like spitting into the wind.

Amnesty International, noting that the military thugs have only said they will lift some restrictions, it has “issued a call for the “junta to end all restrictions on human rights before the next election tentatively scheduled for February 24.” It emphasized that the junta “must fully lift the arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association…”.

Looking to the elections, AI stated that the junta:

… allow people to receive and distribute information online and from the media, engage in public debate and campaigns, gather peacefully and demonstrate, criticise politicians and express diverse or dissenting viewpoints without fear of imprisonment or persecution.

And AI went further:

The authorities should also send a clear signal of their commitment to uphold these rights by dropping charges – and repealing convictions – of all individuals targeted solely for peacefully exercising their rights….

The junta is as unlikely to accept such “radical” proposals as it would admit its murderous role in 2010 when it shot dozens of demonstrators.





Updated: Rajaprasong and Peterloo

23 11 2018

PPT has been slow in getting to the film Peterloo by Mike Leigh. Obviously enough, it is an epic about the Peterloo massacre, considered “one of the defining moments of its age” as ordinary people demanded parliamentary reform by the electoral law reform:

Constituency boundaries were out of date, and the so-called rotten boroughs had a hugely disproportionate influence on the membership of the Parliament of the United Kingdom compared to the size of their populations.

Representation was not vested in the people but in a few important and wealthy people.

We couldn’t help comparing England’s Peterloo of 1819 and Thailand’s Rajaprasong of 2010 and the rotten system that gave rise to the Peterloo rebellion and the rotten system now in place under the junta’s electoral system. No historical comparison is direct, but a lot of the movie had Thailand resonance.

Update: We just noticed that Ji Ungpakorn also had a post on Peterloo, a matter of a few days before our post here. We only check his blog every week or so, so hadn’t seen this, but it is interesting that we separately had the same thoughts.





Lese majeste used by the junta to silence a witness

22 07 2018

When she was arrested, Nattatida Meewangpla was a 36 year-old volunteer nurse, accused by the military dictatorship of terrorism and lese majeste. She was abducted by the military on 17 March 2015 and held incommunicado for six days, then charged with “terrorism,” and was later with lese majeste.

Not so uncommon you might think. Especially since the 2014 coup, as the military wanted to crush all anti-monarchy speech and thought, lese majeste victims were usually dragged off by the junta’s uniformed thugs.

But the arrest and continued jailing of Nattathida was unusual. The lese majeste complaint was made by Internal Security Operation Command Col Wicharn Joddaeng, who claims Nattatida copied a text that insulted the monarchy from one Line chat room and posted it in two other chat groups.

Who knows if she did anything of the kind, but this charge was devised to have her jailed as quickly as possible as a threat to the military dictatorship. The threat she posed was as a witness to the murder of six individuals at Wat Pathum Wanaram Temple by soldiers during the crackdown on red shirts on 19 May 2010.

More than three years later, still in jail and never allowed bail, Nattathida’s trial has begun. On 20 July 2018, a “first witness hearing was held behind closed door[s]…”.

Secret trials are not unusual for lese majeste, where laws and constitutions are regularly ignored, but in this case, the military wants nothing said in court to be public for fear that it may incriminate them.

The Bangkok Post’s editorial on her cases is a useful effort to get some media attention to this case of cruel incarceration and the military junta’s efforts to suppress evidence of its murderous work in 2010 under the direction of then military-backed premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, Army boss Gen Anupong Paojinda and the commander of troops Gen Prayudh Chan-ocha.

The Post describes Nattathida as “a key witness in the deaths of six people killed during the military’s dispersal of red-shirt protests in 2010…”.

The Post seems to get the date of her 2015 lese majeste charging wrong, but these charges and their details are murky, and meant to be. It reports:

Ms Nathathida was in March 2015 charged as a suspect linked to the blast and had been held in prison until July 24 last year when she was finally granted bail. But the police filed a lese majeste charge, an offence under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, against her on the same day resulting in immediate custody without bail.

The editorial notes that her “trial for another case involving a 2015 bombing at the Criminal Court is also moving at a snail’s pace,” describing the slow pace as “questionable.” It thinks the deliberate foot-dragging suggests the charges are based on shaky grounds. It adds:

The cases yet again raise doubts about the legitimacy of the prosecution of many politically-driven cases in the post-2014 coup era, especially lese majeste cases.

Her lawyer Winyat Chartmontri has told the media that “many witnesses, who are government officials, in the blast case had postponed court hearings several times resulting in the case being delayed.”

As the editorial noted, these “two cases not only kept her in jail but may also have reduced the credibility of her as a witness in court over the six deaths at Wat Pathum Wanaram near Ratchaprasong intersection.” More though, they prevent her testimony being heard.

Why is the military so concerned? As the Post observes:

In 2012, she testified at the South Bangkok Criminal Court as a paramedic volunteer stationed at the temple, giving a vivid account of how she saw from close range gunshots being fired from the Skytrain tracks where soldiers were on guard. She did not hear gunshots fired back by protesters, she said.

The editorial makes the mistake of believing that “criminal prosecution requires solid proof of both motive and the scale of damage their act could have caused,” but that is never the case when it comes to lese majeste. And, under the military dictatorship, the courts have generally acted as a tool of the regime, often ignoring law.

The Post knows this, limply proclaiming that “[l]aw enforcement officers should not overlook … universal legal rules when handling cases that could send someone to prison.” Yet in “politically motivated” cases under the military junta, law and procedure goes out the window.

In concluding, the editorial also mentions “that tragic day at Wat Pathum Wanaram,” noting that the courts are “supposed to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The problem with puppet law courts is that they work for the perpetrators.





Dumber than a bag of hammers II

7 06 2018

We at PPT have been critical of the justice system because it has been politicized, practiced double standards and enforced injustice. The system that runs from police to prosecutors to courts includes many nodes where the rich can pay bribes to avoid courts, charges and jail. The regime uses it to maintain impunity and to repress and jail political opponents. They make use of the lese majeste, sedition and other political laws and decrees.

The junta has worked hard to “cleanse” the so-called justice system of the “politically unreliable.” While the judiciary has long been a nest of royalists, the junta has re-made it as a bunch of clueless political automatons. That may be something of an exaggeration as some professionals remain at various courts, but it is essentially a judiciary that does as it is expected.

The result of the junta’s interventions is that the judiciary is looking as dumb as a bag of hammers. We say this based on two reports of the dumbest court ruling we have seen for some time. One report is in The Nation and another at Prachatai. They report on a Chiang Mai court’s “verdict” on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae on 17 March 2017.

The court “concluded that the young Lahu activist … was killed by army bullets…”. And that’s it.

How dumb can a court get? Or how politicized and corrupt can it be? Seriously? Everyone involved knew that the boy was killed by the military. The military has said it shot him. The media reported it. Witnesses said it.

So the court, after 14 months of the judicial system’s “investigations,” concludes the obvious and known. It concludes what was never in dispute.

An astute reader might say that this is just a part of a longer process. Yet, as we know from such “investigations” into the 2010 military murder of red shirts that such decisions can be an endpoint.

So this court didn’t just rule that a military bullet killed Chaiyapoom, it refused to confirm anything else. The court did not rule the killing illegal.

In essence, it has granted impunity for the military’s shooter and his commanders.

The court “refused to consider the argument made by Chaiyaphum’s relatives which claims that the activist neither possessed drugs or hand grenades nor attempted to stab the authorities as the army had accused him of doing.”

In response, the judge stated that “the court was only asked to find the cause of his death.” That is, of course, a reflection of what the police “investigated,” what the military brass and junta demanded and what the prosecutors did. It is a failure of the judicial system and shows that this judge is a little more than a dopey processing terminal for the military.

Lahu Chiang Mai Group president and Chaiyapoom’s mentor, Maitree Chamroensuksakul, said “he could not have imagined that the Chiang Mai Provincial Court would simply announce results that the public already knew.” He added: “I am disappointed, frankly speaking. In fact, one year should have been long enough to nail down the culprit…”.

Now that the court has confirmed what everyone knew, after 14 months of hidden evidence and intimidation of witnesses and others, its report will go “to a public prosecutor who will decide whether the soldier who killed Chaiyaphum will be indicted or not.”

More delays, intimidation, suppression of evidence and political interference will follow.

And, if the prosecutors decide to press charges, the case will probably be heard in a military court, where justice is almost never served and proceedings will likely be secret.

The family can file a civil suit, but that is the system’s way of ensuring that there will be likely be delays of years in hearing the case.

Again, “Chaiyaphum’s lawyer and family have also petitioned the Royal Thai Army to publicly reveal the CCTV footage at the military checkpoint where the activist was slain.” The court did not see the footage which the military claimed vindicated its men. Early on, when the military was justifying its actions, “there were widespread reports that video footage of the incident existed and that several military figures, including Army chief Chalermchai Sittisart, had already watched it.”

Cover-ups go right to the top in the impunity that the murderous military enjoys.

That’s why it is now “said the footage did not include what had happened at the time Chaiyapoom was shot.” How convenient that footage once claimed to vindicate the military is now said to not show anything at all about the case. Clearly the military leadership is full of scoundrels and liars. They can get away with murder, again and again.

The Prachatai report includes a timeline of the military’s role and intimidation, the judicial system’s failures and the stonewalling. But there’s much, much more to be learned in this case and the similar case of a Lahu killed a little while before Chaiyapoom, where the military used exactly the same “excuse” for the killing.

Judges overseeing dumb decisions for a murderous military are not dumb themselves. They are just doing their “duty” in protecting the state’s older brothers and enforcing the required impunity.