Lese majeste detainee gets human rights award

15 04 2017

Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa has been awarded South Korea’s prestigious 2017 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.

Jatuphat or Pai is held in jail without bail for sharing a BBC Thai story that accurately reported on Thailand’s tenth Chakri king, a report that was shared by thousands of others and has been viewed by millions. In other words, Jatuphat is singled out and framed by the junta because he is an activist.

The selection committee of the May 18 Memorial Foundation announced the award to the jailed law student and member of the New Democracy Movement for his “brave and noble actions against dictatorship and violations on human rights…”.

The letter to Pai further stated: “We also noticed that your struggles have aroused attention about political conditions and the importance of their improvement among your citizens, especially among the young and have contributed to bringing democracy to Thailand…”.

He was nominated by Mahidol University’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies.

The award ceremony will be held on 18 May in Gwangju, South Korea, and it is certain that Pai will sit it out in a junta dungeon in Khon Kaen, where he awaits what will be an unfair and secretive trial as the “first person to be arrested for lèse majesté under the reign of the new [k]ing.”





The BBC dancing with the junta

7 04 2017

PPT has posted on stories about the BBC and its dance with Thailand’s dictators. There were the lese majeste rattlings, then Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa’s fit-up lese majeste case for reposting a BBC Thai story that has now been was read by more than three million people. And who can forget the “failed” negotiations on the transmitter.

The Bangkok Post reports that the dictator’s dance has become a little more complicated, requiring what we hope is fancy footwork.

The Post reports that the Beeb “is ready to move forward as a digital news content provider in Thailand and it is also ready to adjust its work culture to suit Thai laws and audiences…”. That’s Francesca Unsworth, “director of the BBC World Service Group and the BBC’s deputy director of news and current affairs…”.

Sounds like self-censorship is the next dictator’s waltz. But then she adds: “But we still need to serve all audiences in a way that we feel they are best served. We have to find a balanced operating environment.”

A two-step? Unsworth had one dance with with deputy junta spokesman Lt. Gen. Werechon Sukhondhapatipak. He spun her around with talk of the “lessons arising from incidents that prove sensitive for Thais…”.

To be honest, we have no idea what he’s babbling about, but when he states: “I think we can form common ground where we can work together,” anyone interested in the BBC and a free media should be very, very worried.

The General stated: “We now have communication channels through which [the BBC] can verify or check comments from the government so the stories will be balanced and well-rounded.”

Really? That sound dangerously like manipulating the news to suit a military dictatorship. Would the BBC stoop to such low levels? Well, yes, it has bent to governments in the past, but usually prides itself on editorial independence. Fortunately, Unsworth “insisted the BBC team would stick to its strong editorial values to tell the truth accurately, impartially and reporting from all sides.”

At the same time, Unsworth twirled around the BBC as business conundrum: “It [Thai market] is important to us. It’s a big country, it’s a very vibrant country. It’s a young country and they say the 21st Century belongs to Asia. So it is important for us to be in Asian markets…”. We can hear the self-censors and corporate bosses sharpening their scissors to cut content when markets are “threatened.”

When Unsworth says that “Thailand already have very lively local media scenes in newspaper, broadcasting and increasingly in digital space,” you have to wonder which Thailand she is in and which band she’s listening to.

Hopefully the BBC two-step is a way of allowing the dictators to save face and that adequate to good journalism will be the BBC’s future when reporting on Thailand, including reporting on lese majeste, the monarch and the monarchy.





Tens, thousands, millions and billions

5 04 2017

How many extrajudicial killings have there been? No one seems to know precisely, although Prachatai has a story about some of them. One issue with the story is that the author repeats inaccurate figures on Thaksin Shinawatra’s War on Drugs, almost doubling the number killed in that grisly campaign. We would think the more accurate figure of about 1,300 was brutal enough and demonstrated the capacity of the police and military for extreme violence.

How many conscripts are slaves? With the recent attention to conscripts being treated to “strict discipline” involving inhumane beatings, torture and murder, and with the unusually wealthy Army boss doling out chump change of 100,000 baht to the family of the latest murdered conscript, the feudal system of conscription has come under scrutiny.

One interesting observation is at Prachatai, reporting a former Democrat Party MP, who states that “more than half of Thailand’s military conscripts end up as servants for high ranking military officers.” Compared with the men who die from “strict discipline,” these 40,000-80,000 guys are lucky. That said, they face the degradation of having to grovel before military thugs and their families. Anyone who lives near an officer knows that he or she will have 3 to 6 servants provided to them.

How much can they spend on military kit? Thinking about the commissions, there’s the 36 billion baht about to be forked out on Chinese submarines and then there’s the two billion baht spent on 10 extra VT-4 tanks from China to replace the decades-old M41 tanks from the USA. The earlier purchase of 24 tanks at about 5 billion baht. Expect more as the top brass cash in before an “election.”

How many read the BBC on the king? Readers will know that student activist Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa has been singled out for a lese majeste charge and rots in a junta cell awaiting his further framing. He was charged after sharing a BBC Thai story on the king, (some) warts and all. The BBC now says that its story “broke records as the site’s most popular story, accumulating millions of views despite the article’s eventual censorship.” It says it has “received over 3 million views and counting…”. Tell us again why the military dictatorship singled out Jatuphat? It can’t have much to do with this story! Watch a documentary on Jatuphat here.





BBC on a triple transition

23 03 2017

Jonathan Head’s recent report on Wat Dhammakaya is worth reading. We won’t go through it all and will just post some clips from it. It skillfully weaves a story that ends with this:

Thailand is in the midst of a complex and potentially dangerous, triple transition; a delicate royal succession, a battle over the future of Buddhism and a still uncertain political transition to a military-guided democracy.

Given that, a sect as controversial as Wat Dhammakaya was perhaps bound to be caught up in the turbulence.

 It begins by noting the smoke and mirrors of Thailand’s (in)justice system:

Over the past month what is often cited as the world’s largest Buddhist temple, on the outskirts of Bangkok, has been the scene of an extraordinary stalemate.

Police officers, in rows three deep, blocked the gates to the Wat Dhammakaya temple compound. Around the back, helmeted soldiers guarded alleyways, with some crawling through surrounding rice-fields. It was, they explained, a restricted military zone….

The official reason for this siege was that the elderly abbot, Phra Dhammachayo, was wanted on multiple criminal charges related to a collapsed credit union and police believed he was being hidden inside the temple….

But then, after three weeks, the operation was suddenly called off…. Even now it remains unclear what exactly the police wanted to achieve.

As so often in Thailand, the official explanation is misleading. Allegations of financial malpractice have hung over the temple and its charismatic abbot for decades. They also hang over many other institutions and individuals in Thailand, many of whom are neither investigated nor prosecuted. To be pursued by the state with this much commitment suggests that much larger issues are at stake.

The military dictatorship is said to have several motives for its odd behavior on the temple. One observation is that:

… it should come as no surprise that a military government bent on restoring traditional values, and backed by ultra-conservatives who want to see the Buddhist clergy cleansed of corrupting, modern influences, dislikes Wat Dhammakaya.

Then there’s the weapons “seized” a few days ago.

… the government continues to push its argument that there is something sinister about Wat Dhammakaya.

Last weekend the police showed off a large cache of weapons seized, they said, from the home of a now-exiled dissident. Although many of the weapons were ancient, the police argued that there was a plan to arm the temple’s supporters and even to assassinate top government officials.

One of PPT’s readers, with decades of military service has also pointed out that the cache of weapons was made up of mostly old and some pretty useless guns and accessories. The BBC seems to find the link as wondrous as we do, but points to the junta’s political motives and makes a good point:

Indeed the temple is the largest institution in the country not under the military’s control, and its refusal to hand over its abbot is the most sustained defiance of military rule since the coup.

Then there’s the “triple transition,” with the monarchy going through change as the new king stamps his reign as fundamentally different from his father’s.

Just as the monarchy is seen by Thailand’s [military] rulers as the essential institution holding the country together and legitimising governments, so the monarch’s official role as protector of Buddhism gives each occupant of the throne a unique, sacred stature. Kings preside over the most important Buddhist rituals at the most prestigious temples. The two institutions reinforce each other.

… King Vajirakongkorn’s command to strip the royal monastic titles from Phra Dhammachayo and his de facto replacement as abbot also signals royal support for the government’s move against the temple.

It is an interesting read.





Release Pai XI

22 03 2017

Thailand justice system is a mess. In fact, it has become and injustice system, crippled by the junta and warped by monarchism. A corrupt judiciary does not interpret the law but seeks to determine legal outcomes according to the whims and needs of its masters.

In that linked post, we had information regarding the Khon Kaen Provincial Court going after student activists who had the temerity to support lese majeste victim Jatuphat (Pai) Boonpattaraksa.

Jatuphat is the sole person of more than 2,000 who shared a BBC story on the new king who is accused of lese majeste and is currently sweating in a junta jail.

The Khon Kaen court accused several supporters of Jatuphat of contempt of court for participating in a peaceful gathering to demand for Pai’s release.

Not content with that, like a stormtrooper’s dog, the court is now going after others. Prachatai reports that “three more youth activists [are accused] of contempt of court for joining a peaceful gathering demanding Pai Dao Din’s release from prison.”

On 20 March 2017, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that the well-known anti-junta activist Sirawit ‘Ja New’ Serithiwat; Panupong Sritananuwat, an activist from the Dao Din group based at Khon Kaen University; and another law student who requested anonymity had received court notices.

The notices state that the three are accused of contempt of court for gathering in front of the court on 10 February 2017 to demand the release of Jatuphat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa, a law student and key member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM).

The pathetic and disgraceful excuse for a judiciary that sits in Khon Kaen has “ordered the activists to appear in court to hear the charges against them on 24 April 2017.”

Pai’s case now sees him in jail and facing a trial, refused bail for an eighth time and seven students from activist groups charged. The junta and its legal minions are seeking to smash a moderate and engaged group of youngsters who want a better Thailand.

When Pai gets to court again, he’ll see that its judges and administrators have new rules for lese majeste cases:

The Khon Kaen Provincial Court also announced a strict code of conduct as the initial lese-majeste proceedings against the pro-democracy activist began.

In a large banner placed near the front gate, the court announced that it was prohibiting any misbehaviour or disorder around its compound.

The court also banned documents, leaflets, banners and any other objects that contained messages deemed insulting to the court and the justice system, or which provoked others to do so.

The court also forbade any symbolic action and photo-taking intended to show disrespect to the court and the justice system.

You get the idea. These judges are reprehensible.





An example to other activists

14 03 2017

A Prachatai story on the continuing refusal of bail to activist student Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa begins:

While the government was humiliated at the UN’s ICCPR meeting in Geneva for serious human right violations, at home a Thai court has again refused to release a student activist who has become a posterchild of the pro-democracy movement.

He’s also a “posterchild” for the junta; an example of what can happen to anyone who opposes the junta’s regime.

Of course, there are plenty of others who deserve to have their lese majeste and sedition and computer crimes and anti-junta charges and jailing protested and given a political stage, not least those who are from classes other than those represented by student activists.

Jatuphat’s case is highlighted because he’s a university student of the middle class but also because it is clear that lese majeste is a tool being used by the military dictatorship to repress its political opponents. Joined at the hip to an unpopular king, the junta’s legitimacy and longevity is tied to that of the new monarch. Jatuphat’s jailing is a constant reminder to others of the middle class and other students that they should shut up and accept authoritarian royalism.

On 13 March 2017, for a seventh time, Khon Kaen’s Provincial Court “rejected a 700,000 baht bail bid by Jatuphat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa, a law student and key member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM).”

The court remains miffed that “the activist had mocked the authority of the state without fear of the law” and added that he “faces other charges for violating the Public Referendum Act and the junta’s political gathering ban in connection with his previous political activities.”

He is an example to others: don’t mess with the military junta!

As a reminder, the story adds these details:

Jatuphat is accused of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, for sharing on his Facebook account a controversial biography of King Vajiralongkorn published by BBC Thai. He is the first person to be arrested for lèse majesté under the reign of the new King.

Shortly after he was arrested for lèse majesté on 3 December 2016, the court released him on bail. However, his bail was revoked on 22 December after he posted a satirical message mocking the authorities on his Facebook account. The message read, “Economy is poor but they (authorities) took my money for bail.”

Despite the fact that more than 2,000 people shared the same article on Facebook, he was the only one arrested for lèse majesté.





More junta maneuvering

8 03 2017

Several reports today show the slithering maneuverings by the junta promise more junta, more censorship and more corruption.

The first story follows from another a couple of days ago on more “delays” to the “election” schedule. Now the chief constitution launderer Meechai Ruchupan has apparently agreed that it may be late 2018 before there’s an “election.” Our view is that the military dictatorship intends to stay put for as long as possible and then ensure that it continues as an “elected” government. While even well laid plans get skittled, it looks like Thailand is under the military boot for a lot longer.

The second story is about the junta shutting down the BBC. It seems the “BBC World Service has stopped broadcasting from one of its major global transmission stations situated in Thailand … after talks broke down with a junta riled by its uncensored coverage.”

The BBC’s transmitter in Thailand and is the “network’s main shortwave broadcast station for Asia.” It is clear that the 20-year lease has not been renewed because the junta wants BBC and BBC Thai to be censored. The junta is a bunch of knuckle draggers who want to control Thailands past and present. It will only get worse as the junta has to cover-up its own corruption and clean the palace’s dirty laundry.

The third story, totally predictable, is of the continuing failure to do anything serious about the Rolls Royce corruption. The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) “will decide on Thursday whether to set up a subcommittee to investigate allegations of bribery involving UK-based jet-engine maker Rolls-Royce and some Thai companies.” How wonderful! No other progress…. We assume that’s the way the junta prefers it.