Refugee status for political activist charged under 112

13 11 2018

Khaosod reports that 25 year-old political activist Chanoknan Ruamsap “has become the first Thai political refugee in South Korea.” She was previously charged with lese majeste.

Now in Gwangju in South Korea, Chanoknan said “she was surprised by the speed of Friday’s decision to grant her status, coming as it did 10 months after she fled Thailand.” That’s good news.

Chanoknan fled Thailand “in mid-January after learning she was wanted for insulting the monarchy.” Her charge related to sharing on Facebook a BBC Thai story on then new King Vajiralongkorn. That sharing saw student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa charged, convicted and sentenced to 2.5 years in jail in Khon Kaen.

We can now wait to see how the slitherers at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs respond.





Escaping the junta and rabid royalism

8 06 2018

Korean journalist Lee Jae-ho has written a poignant account of the plight of those hunted by the junta on lese majeste charges. It is a long story that deserves to be read in full.

After the coup, dissidents sought by the military junta and accused of various charges but including especially lese majeste, flooded across borders to Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. Laos and Cambodia may have seemed safe for a time, but seem less so now as the junta does deals with regimes there. The relationship between the military in Myanmar and in Thailand makes it less safe.

Some well-connected political refugees went to France, New Zealand, the U.S., Sweden, U.K. and elsewhere, but those in Asia have been living an often precarious life.

Lee’s story is of Chanoknan Ruamsap who arrived in South Korea in January this year.

She arrived in Seoul as a “tourist.” But she had a contact who took her to Gwangju.

She had been accused of lese majeste for sharing the now famous and widely known and widely shared BBC Thai article on new King Vajiralongkorn. It included truthful comments on his past and alleged “philandering, gambling, his extravagant lifestyle and his involvement in illegal businesses.”

It was that story that has Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa in jail. Chanoknan’s summons came two years after she shared the article, but she was targeted as a political activist with the New Democracy Movement that the junta wanted to silence.

She’s from a well-to-do family, so she may be better off than other refugees. She’s in South Korea, because UNHCR has a presence there and with a 90 day visa it gave her time to deal with international officialdom, hoping to end up in Europe.

In Gwangju, an extensive set of human rights groups helped her. The May 18 Memorial Foundation covered “her living expenses until she gained approval as a refugee.” That Foundation has a history of involvement on lese majeste cases.

Now she waits….





From exile

30 01 2018

Readers should take a look at the translation of Chanoknan Ruamsap’s account of the day she received her lese majeste summons for sharing a BBC Thai profile of King Vajiralongkorn, her decision-making and her flight into exile. Some of it has been available in previous reports, but this narrative is her statement to friends:

When people ask me how I am, my answer is not quite right. A multitude of emotions. Irritated. Angry. Irate. Regretful. Resentful. Frustrated. Disappointed, very disappointed with many people and many things that have taken place. But I am hopeful about the new things entering my life as well.

The junta will not let exiles alone. It usually seeks to bring pressure on them via their friends and family. It is a cruel regime. Cruel in the name of the monarchy.





Vajiralongkorn, lese majeste and the repression of political activists

28 01 2018

Readers will know that out of the thousands who shared BBC Thai’s accurate profile of the new King Vajiralongkorn only Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, also known as Pai, was the only one arrested, charged with lese majeste and eventually sentenced to 5 years jail on 15 August 2017.

It might have been forgotten that, at the time, one other activist was accused of the same “crime.” Chanoknan Ruamsap, an New Democracy Movement activist, also shared the profile on her Facebook page on 3 December 2016.

Also known as Cartoon or Toon, she was also one of six key members of the NDM who were arrested in late 2015 for organizing a field trip to Rajabhakti Park (or the military’s Corruption Park). She was also arrested on 24 June 2016 for commemorating the first efforts at democracy in Thailand when the absolute monarchy was removed.

More than a year after he Facebook share, she “received the summon on 16 Jan to meet the police at Khan Na Yao Police Station, Bangkok, on 18 Jan. A military officer named Sombat Dangtha filed a lese majeste complain against her…”. She believes the long delay was due to the “inefficiencies” of the police, but come for her they did.

As Chanoknan explains, realizing that she faced years in jail, “she decided within 30 minutes after learning about the charge to flee Thailand to an Asian country.”

She is the second person of the almost 3000 who shared the profile to be charged with lese majeste. And it is no accident that both are anti-junta activists.





Updated: Lese majeste punishment

20 11 2017

In a recent post, PPT commented on the delays to lese majeste trials where defendants refuse to plead guilty. We said this as a form of torture. In addition to strenuous efforts to force defendants to plead guilty, those who don’t see their trials dragged out for years, while they remain in jail.

A report at Prachatai reminds us that even after sentencing, whether having enter a guilty plea or not, punishment involves more than just being held in a jail.

Student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, one of several thousand singled out for a lese majeste charge for sharing a BBC Thai story on the king, convicted and jailed, “has revealed that a prison staff ordered him to take off clothes and rubbed his genitals five times in a search for drugs [sic.].”

He “told media at the court that he has experienced a series of harassment[s] after being transferred to Phu Khiao Prison. When he arrived the prison, one staff [member] search[ed] his body for drugs…”. He was ordered to strip and the officer spread his anus “and rubbed his genital [s] five times.”

This could represent a sexual harassment by an officer, but it is also a repeated act of degradation perpetrated by prison staff. This is unceasing degradation. We have seen other acts of degradation and humiliation perpetrated against lese majeste victims in jail.

We know this because he made the comments on 16 November 2017, when Jatupat “was summoned to Phu Khiao Provincial Court to attend a trial on violation of 2016 Referendum Act.” That means he failed to abide by the military dictatorship’s demand that no one campaign against it constitution. The regime accuses him and “another student activist Wasin Prommanee …[of] inciting chaos during the junta-sponsored constitutional referendum in August 2016.” Inciting chaos means “distributing leaflets” urging the rejection of the junta’s hand-crafted and illegitimate constitution.

Update: The Nation adds to this story of using courts and prison to double-up punishment.





Time to stand up

14 11 2017

It has been said that it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees. We wonder if this wouldn’t be better for Thailand’s media, which is traditionally on its knees before military regimes (and palace propaganda).

We notice that the Bangkok Post has demanded that the lese majeste accusations against Sulak Sivaraksa be dropped.

The Post’s editorial states that:

… the police formally charged the internationally famed 85-year-old Mr Sulak with lese majeste. An alleged violation of the Computer Crime Act was tacked on, as it so often and lamentably it is. A military court prosecutor will decide on Dec 7 whether to proceed with the charges.

Of course, the charge is a nonsense. But so are all lese majeste charges. The Post reckons that “the four previous charges had a tiny shred of substance.” Really? If so, why were all of them ditched?

This statement implies that the Post thinks some lese majeste charges are valid and it supports this feudal law. Which charges does it feel are “valid”? The one against a 14 year-old child jailed in Khon Kaen and awaiting sentencing? The man who “insulted” a dead dog that had something to do with a now dead king? The young law student jailed as one of thousands who shared a BBC Thai story? The mother jailed for decades? The family of the king’s former wife jailed in spite? The woman jailed for selling chilli paste to the palace at inflated prices?

Sulak is easy enough to support. He’s a royalist, he’s a middle class iconoclast and he’s a conservative.But all of this lese majeste stuff is a nonsense and makes Thailand a sad country seemingly stuck in some period in the 17th century.

It is long past time for the mainstream media to find its feet. Abolish this ludicrous law and free all political prisoners.

 





Pai’s 5 years on lese majeste fit-up

16 08 2017

The British refer to the police framing of suspects as a “fit-up.” It means that a person is incriminated on a false charge or is framed. That is what’s happened to student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, or Pai.

After almost 8 months – 237 days – of detention and continual pressure to plead guilty to lese majeste and computer crimes, he decided yesterday to take that route. He was immediately sentenced to 5 years in jail. As usual, for the guilty plea, his sentence was reduced by half.

As Prachatai explains, the “sentence was read swifty in an in camera trial, on the same day Jatuphat abruptly recanted his innocence.”

His lawyer stated that “Jatupat chose to confess due to the prolonged trial.”

Prachatai states:

Jatuphat is accused of lèse majesté for sharing on his Facebook account a controversial biography of King Vajiralongkorn published by BBC Thai.

He was the first person to be arrested for lèse majesté under the reign of the new King. Despite the fact that more than 2,000 people shared the same article on Facebook and millions read it, he was the only one arrested for lèse majesté.

The Bangkok Post says it was some 2,800 people who shared the same post. That Pai is the only person charged is evidence that he was fitted up, framed.

He was fitted up because he was “a member of Dao Din, a human rights student activist group based in the Northeast, which had joined activities with villagers affected by development projects.”

Worse, his crime was that his group “staged protests against the junta.” When he was arrested on this “crime,” he “was facing four other lawsuits, all for opposing the military junta.”

He was fitted up by the military:

He was arrested in Chaiyaphum on Dec 3 last year on a warrant based on a complaint filed by Lt Col Phitakphon Chusri, deputy chief of the Operations Directorate at the 33rd Military Circle in Khon Kaen province.

We don’t doubt that the military dictatorship saw Pai’s case as killing two birds with one stone. They got him, silenced him and threatened all other activists and also made it clear that the junta would vigorously attack anyone who dared to be critical of the new king and his tainted past.





Release Pai XVIII

4 08 2017

As has become standard for lese majeste cases, Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa’s case began in secret at the Khon Kaen provincial court.

On 3 August 2017, the court heard the first plaintiff witness. No one from the public was permitted in the court room to hear this.

The usual buffalo manure “explanation” was that the secrecy was required because it involved “national security and the monarchy.” Of course it involves the monarchy, that’s why it is called lese majeste. Yet in the not too distant past, trials were open.

The national security claim is mad. Ask the more than 2000 other people who did the exact same Facebook share that Pai did. They are somehow outside the national security dragnet.

The first “witness” is the thug military officer, Lt Col Pitakpol Chusri, who filed the lese majeste complaint against Jatuphat.

We don’t expect the court to make any contribution to justice in Thailand. Rather, this is a fit-up and the court is complicit.

Jatuphat is accused of “sharing on his Facebook account a controversial biography of King Vajiralongkorn published by BBC Thai.” In fact, because it was truthful, it is “controversial.” Truth and monarchy are two words that can’t be used together in Thailand.





When the military is on top VI

10 06 2017

It is a while since we used this headline. Yet an editorial in the Bangkok Post draws us back to it.

That editorial is about a hot social media story about a traffic jam in Khon Kaen. The editorial states:

the wedding of Lt Col Pitakpol Chusri and his bride, a young woman from a wealthy family in Khon Kaen, on June 8 has drawn numerous complaints, mostly from commuters.

This was because part of the busy Mittraphap Highway was sealed in order to pave the way for the groom’s traditional procession in which a groom and his entourage make their way to the bride’s house to propose formally. The convoy reportedly resulted in heavy traffic congestion as it took place during rush hour. The tailback was said to have stretched over 10km and this caused an online uproar over the past few days.

The editorial doesn’t seem to mind this. After all, it is “traditional.” And, they want “to be fair” to the groom and his wealthy bride.

What gets the editorial’s author hot under the collar is:

the reaction from Col Winthai Suvaree, the spokesman of the National Council for Peace and Order, in his dire attempt to defend the groom, is unacceptable. Without properly investigating the matter, he simply denied the highway was partially closed for the groom’s procession. Col Winthai said the congestion occurred because there were so many guests who arrived in their own cars and it so happened that some of them had no choice but to park their vehicles along the road.

That is not the truth.

It isn’t true, and the editorial got irate:

The regime spokesman seemed to ignore the suggestion that authorities should look into the matter and probe why such a request [to close part of the highway] by state personnel was accommodated.

As the regime spokesman, we expect Col Winthai to carefully check information before making any statement. We also expect him to stick to the facts. The spokesman may have acted out of goodwill and dismissed the allegations, thinking the problem is trivial. But that can hurt his credibility.

The wedding case shows we have to question Col Winthai’s “no problem” attitude. It may bring into question whether anything he says in the future is truth or propaganda.

That’s where our headline comes in. It is propaganda that Colonel Winthai is hired to propagate. It is a military dictatorship.

That point is made by op-ed writer Kong Rithdee. He explains clearly and emphatically that life is changed by military dictatorship.

Yet neither Post article makes what we think is a critical point, found in a story by Khaosod.

Lt Col Pitakpol Chusri or “Seh Pete” is the “commander of the junta’s provincial security wing.” He is a junta thug:

After the junta seized power in May 2014, Phitakphon’s unit imposed a curfew that forced all concerts to end before 1am. The ban led to protests from mor lam folk musicians who said their traditional performances last until early dawn.

Phitakphon was also the officer who filed royal defamation [lese majeste] charges against pro-democracy activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, or Pai Dao Din, for sharing a BBC Thai article about the king. Jatupat has been jailed since December.

As a senior military thug, Pitakpol can do more or less anything he wants. If you don’t like it, he can arrange for you to be jailed. That’s what happens when the military is on top.

That’s why the Rolls Royce corruption “investigations” disappear, that’s why senior military can accumulate huge wealth, that’s why no one can ask what happened to the 1932 plaque, that’s why torture is not investigated, that’s why deaths in custody are not properly investigated, that’s why soldiers can kill with impunity, that’s why referendum and elections can be fixed, that’s why civilian protesters can be murdered; that’s why weapons and human trafficking can thrive. It just goes on and on.








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