Bail double standards

26 02 2021

A couple of days ago we posted on the limp response on bail by one who should do better. The observations there become even more stark as yellow shirts, found guilty of sedition, stroll away with bail while four lese majeste defendants are repeatedly refused bail and may be kept in jail “indefinitely.”

The former People’s Democratic Reform Committee leaders, including three serving ministers, given their posts as “repayment” for paving the way to the coup in 2014, were sentenced on Wednesday. As Khaosod had it, those convicted were:

… former Democrat Party executive Suthep Thaugsuban and five others on charges of insurrection for their roles in street protests against the elected government back in 2013 and 2014.

Suthep was sentenced to 5 years in prison for the protests, which culminated in the military coup that toppled Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration in May 2014. The court declined to suspend their sentences, though it is not clear as of publication time whether Suthep and others would be granted a bail release while they appeal the verdict.

Defendants who were given jail sentences alongside Suthep include Digital Economy Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, and Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senniam.

Buddhipongse and Thaworn were sentenced to 7 and 5 years in prison, respectively, while Nataphol got 6 years and 16 months.

In all, 25 PDRC leaders and members were sentenced for treason and sedition. Other key PDRC leaders were given jail sentences were:

  • Issara Somchai – eight years and four months
  • Suwit Thongprasert, formerly Buddha Isra – four years and eight months
  • Chumpol Julsai – 11 years
  • Suriyasai Katasila – two years

Today, the Appeals Court granted bail to at least eight: “Suthep Thaugsuban, Issara Somchai, Chumpol Julsai, Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, Suwit Thongprasert and Samdin Lertbutr.”

But, for those who have not been convicted of anything remain in jail as further charges are piled on. They are detained pending trial which means they are detained indefinitely until the trial is over or until bail is granted.

Double standards? You bet.





Clubhouse panic

19 02 2021

Minister for Protecting the King and Royal Family Buddhipongse Punnakanta, who doubles as Minister of Digital Economy and Society, has another digital platform to worry about in performing his main duty. Clubhouse has landed in Thailand and exploded.

As Thai Enquirer puts it:

Clipped from Vox

Clubhouse is a golden opportunity for free, open discussions to flourish in Thailand. Through the new voice-based app, Thai users are able to now access information and debates that are otherwise controlled and sometimes punishable by the state.

Of course, the topic that is bringing thousands into Clubhouse is the monarchy:

A large number of Thai users have joined Clubhouse in recent days after Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a … critic of the Thai palace, started discussing the monarchy, with some of the thousands of listeners chiming in with questions and opinions.

Buddhipongse said “authorities have followed Clubhouse usage in Thailand and warned legal action could be taken against those who violate laws,” suggesting that he has state spies in the system or plans to. He fumes and threatens:

Political groups and others have used the application to express opinion and give distorted information, create damage, and potentially violate laws.… Authorities are ready to proceed according to the law, the same as with other social media platforms.

More lese majeste charges coming…. By our count, the regime has now charged more than 60 persons under Article 112.





Updated: Siam Bioscience and national security

1 02 2021

In yet another mind-boggling legal decision, The Nation reports that the “Criminal Court ruled on Sunday to block the Progressive Movement’s statement on Thailand’s Covid-19 vaccination plans under Section 14 (3) of the Computer Crime Act.”

Not only has the Digital Economy and Society Ministry filed a lese majeste case against the movement’s leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit “for his statement on Thailand’s Covid-19 vaccination plans and linking it to a royally-owned pharmaceutical company [Siam Bioscience],” but it has now finagled a court to block access to the statement.

The court ruled that the statement “could affect the Kingdom’s security.”

Of course, this is nonsensical, but it does more or less confirm that the regime has much to hide.

Update: You have to wonder why Minister of Digital Economy and Society Buddhipongse Punnakanta is working so hard to shut Thanathorn up. Is it mad monarchism or is it that the regime has much to hide on this? We are betting on the latter.

The Criminal Court has, according to the Bangkok Post, “ordered the Progressive Movement (PM) to erase Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s video that criticises the government’s Covid-19 vaccination plan while police are considering a lese majeste charge against him.” We do not recall such an erasure order previously, but maybe we haven’t been following the politicized courts closely enough.

Buddhipongse continues to cheer on lese majeste charges against Thanathorn, saying “police are bound to take action in this case.”

The report states:

Progressive Movement executive Pannika Wanich yesterday tweeted that the group had not yet received the court’s order to pull down Mr Thanatorn’s video. She insisted the video contained no lies or threats to national security and did not clarify if the party would comply with the court ruling. Ms Kannikar also urged YouTube and Facebook to protect the right to freedom of speech.

Good for her. But such statements make her a bigger target for the military-monarchy regime.





Mad dog minister

8 01 2021

Lese majeste repression is deepening, getting towards levels seen following the 2014 military coup. There are now at least 40 cases and perhaps 60 charges.

The Bangkok Post reports that, the regime “will summon nine suspects charged with posting content contravening the lese majeste law on social media last year for interrogation this month, says the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES).”

Mad dog Buddhipongse as anti-democrat

Minister and anti-democrat Buddhipongse Punnakanta declared his ministry was full on lese majeste rabid in “pursuing prosecutions against those responsible.”

It was Buddhipongse’s ministry that “first alerted the Royal Thai Police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) in November, which began the process of making contact with the administrators of the social media sites to warn them they were hosting material violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code.”

The ministry demands that the sites “hand over details of those accounts responsible.”

The DES claims to “have identified nine individuals who are owners of … accounts” responsible for anti-monarchist content.

Buddhipongse stated: “They are not new faces and have been charged with similar offences many times before…”.

An anti-democrat and rabid royalist is working to stem the tide of anti-monarchism.





More censorship for monarchy

31 12 2020

COVID spreading? Not as important as the monarchy. Crap economy? Forget about it and “protect” the monarchy.

The Bangkok Post reports the frenzied and angry efforts of the censorious Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta to censor the internet. He wants to sweep it clean of material that reveals the monarch’s notoriety.

Between August and December, Thai internet users have had 5,025 URLs blocked by the minister. He wants 8,440 URLs discussing the monarchy removed.

Buddhipongse proudly declared that some of these URLs were “linked to the social media accounts of … Pavin Chachavalpongpun and Somsak Jeamteerasakul…”.

Buddhipongse new year present is to the king, not the people.





Maintaining the monarchy’s secrets

12 12 2020

As lese majeste charges pile up, Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta – one of Suthep Thaugsuban’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee men – seems to think that the best way to douse the flames of anti-monarchism is to cut off sources of information.

That’s about what we’d expect from a rightist with a track record of censorship for the monarchy. His last effort was against Pornhub, where Buddhipongse declared “that the decision was not related to a clip featuring an important Thai personality that was posted on the website.” Everyone knew he was talking about the king and his former wife, the latter having been treated loathsomely by the former, and that the clip of her near naked was the reason for the ban.

This month, Buddhipongse is seeking to censor critics of the monarchy and those who provide information on the monarchy that the regime and palace would prefer remained secret.

DES claims to have sent “evidence” to police and to be seeking “legal action against social media platforms that fail to remove URLs deemed inappropriate.” The PDRC minister said “the ministry has asked the Royal Thai Police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) to take action against a total of 496 URLs which violated the Computer Crime Act and security laws between Oct 13 and Dec 4.”

Marshall

Of these, “284 URLs are on Facebook, 81 on YouTube, 130 on Twitter, and the rest on other platforms,” with DES identifying “19 account owners — 15 on Facebook and four on Twitter…”.

The ministry is after “Andrew MacGregor Marshall, who faces 74 court orders to block 120 URLs; Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who faces 50 court orders to block 66 URLs, and Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who faces 194 court orders to block 439 URLs.” This time, the PDRC minister is also going after anti-government protesters, with court orders to block two of Arnon Nampa’s URLs and four of Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak.

Pavin

Um, that’s already 631 URLs…. Something is wrong with the numbers, but let’s just say that the regime reckons these social media activists are lighting the fire under the protesters, so dousing them, they mistakenly think, will put out the anti-monarchism. In a sense, to mix metaphors, the DES and the regime are trying to put the horses back in the barn after thousands of them have bolted.

This time, the PDRC minister is also going after anti-government protesters, with court orders to block two of Arnon Nampa’s URLs and four of Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak.

Somsak

The ministry’s public cyber vigilantes are continuing to report anything and everything. Last month alone, these royalist screenwatchers reported, via the “Volunteers Keep an Eye Online” webpage, 11,914 URLs. Of these, even the ministry could only deem 826 of them “illegal” while the pliant courts found 756 were to be blocked. The ministry and police must be inundated with work for the monarchy.

Buddhipongse is furious that the social media platforms don’t follow his orders, with Facebook blocking 98 of the 487 links he wanted blocked. Twitter removed 8 of 81 URLs. YouTube is far more pliant, blocking all 137 links the ministry flagged.

It is deeply concerning that these social media giants take seriously court orders from a judiciary that is a tool of the regime in political cases and on the monarchy’s poor PR. All the same, the information and the monarchy’s secrets are out there, and the regime will not be able to sweep it away.





Updated: Going to the dark side

3 11 2020

Two seemingly odd stories today, both with political implications.

First, PDRC’s Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta is reported at the Bangkok Post as being under attack “after his ministry blocked access to Pornhub, a well-known adult website based outside the country.” According to the report:

The ministry on Monday ordered all internet providers and mobile phone operators to ban all access to the website after the Criminal Court gave the ministry the green light to take action, because porn websites are illegal in Thailand.

Of course, there are millions of porn sites that might be banned in Thailand, so why this one? Social media chatter is that Pornhub is banned because it has the video of the king’s former wife, almost naked at her 30th birthday. For those who want to watch it, it is revealing of the former Princess Srirasmi, but far more revealing of the king’s weirdness.

Second, after he went bonkers royalist a few weeks ago, Jatuporn Promphan’s latest rant suggests that the former United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leader  has been bribed, is being blackmailed or has gone completely nuts.

According to a media report, he’s “raised questions about the construction of a new US consular office in Thailand’s northern capital of Chiang Mai…”. His claims are bizarre and place him in the camp of the most extreme yellow shirts. That camp is the dark side.

Update: In a sign of how much things have changed, it is reported in The Nation that Buddhipongse has declared “that the decision was not related to a clip featuring an important Thai personality that was posted on the website.” Everyone knows he’s talking about the king and his former wife, the latter having been treated loathsomely by the former.





Updated: Army lies

12 10 2020

Army trolls

A few days ago, we posted on Twitter’s revelations that the Royal Thai Army has at least 926 accounts used in “information operations” against anti-government figures and opposition politicians. Naturally enough, the military and its regime responded. And, this bunch of dullards did so only they can.

The Bangkok Post reported that the regime and Army “have slammed Twitter, accusing it of unfairly linking them with nearly 1,000 accounts which the social media giant took down for being propagandist.” Yeah, right. Remember that this is a regime that has jailed hundreds for posts on social media. They claim they can track social media accounts, but, apparently, the company Twitter can’t. Seriously, how stupid are they and how stupid do they think Thais are?

The Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta went on the attack, seeming to acknowledge that the Twitter accounts belonged to the military, but blasting Twitter for not complying with orders issued by the regime’s tame courts “to take down accounts which contained defamatory content against the monarchy.” Some dolt must have told the minister that attack was the best form of defense.

It’s always about the monarchy when these dopes try to repel criticism, reverting to Pavlovian responses.

As it so often does, the Army simply denied it had any “information operations.” How thick are these people? It was only in February that official budget documents revealed such information operations.

To “help” out, deputy army spokeswoman Col Sirichan Ngathong decided to deny by stating something that’s true but irrelevant: “Unidentified user accounts had nothing to do with any official account of the army.” Ah, that’s the point of these operations; they are not meant to be official.

Khaosod reported that the accounts “were using randomized usernames and they had zero to 66 followers. The oldest account was created on May 27, 2014, five days after the coup which brought PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to power, while most of the accounts were created between Nov. 2019 to Feb. 2020.” It added that the majority of the 21,386 tweets by the accounts “promoted the works of the army and praised the monarchy with messages such as ‘Great work!,’ ‘I’m with you,’ and ‘Long live the king’.”

They became particularly active after “the mass shooting in Korat by a disgruntled soldier in February, in which they tried to disassociate the army from the shooter and honored the military’s role in bringing down the shooter.” Many of the messages attacked “opposition politicians, such as Thanathorn Juangruangroongkit and Pannika Wanich, the former executives of the now-disbanded Future Forward Party.”

Khaosod also pointed out that the Army’s cack-handed effort to distance itself from “Twitter’s accusations do not sit well with multiple reports that show army units routinely engaging in online information campaigns aimed at discrediting the opposition and upholding the Royal Family.” Back in 2016, “then-army chief Gen. Chalermchai Sittisart confirmed the force is engaging in information operations to suppress distorted information and create ‘better understanding’ with people on social media.”

In other words, they are liars. Indeed, damned liars.

Update: When they are not lying, they are shutting down stuff. Prachatai reports that its “video of human rights lawyer Anon Nampa in which he addresses monarchy reform is inaccessible…” on YouTube.  A “YouTube spokesperson has stated via email that it is operating in line with a Thai government request.” In other words, YouTube is working hand-in-glove with liars, trolls and dictators. In fact, the regime seldom uses a court order when requesting blocking: “According to the Google Transparency Report … during 2009-2019 the Thai government submitted 964 requests to delete content…. Of the requests, only 62 were endorsed by the Thai courts…”. Shameful that YouTube goes along with such rubbish.





Taunting the regime II

11 08 2020

As King Vajiralongkorn prepares for his third flying visit to Bangkok, courtesy of the taxpayer and Thai Airways, pressure on the regime and the monarchy is rising.

Taxpayers fleeced

The Nation reports on Sunday’s rally in Chiang Mai. It refers to Arnon Nampa’s speech, noting that he “continues speaking out about the role of the monarchy despite facing the risk of being thrown behind bars again and getting his bail cancelled.”

Arnon maintains that “he was exercising his basic constitutional right to join a peaceful demonstration and make comments about the monarchy.”

In Chiang Mai, Arnon is reported to have:

reiterated that the junta-sponsored charter gave excessive power to the King, which is not in line with the principles of a democratic and constitutional monarchy as it allows the King to directly supervise some military units and control the Crown Property Bureau.

Anon also pointed out that His Majesty spends most of his time in Germany at the expense of Thai taxpayers, and urged MPs to raise the issue in Parliament as part of moves to amend the charter.

Interestingly, Arnon was given support by historian Nidhi Eowsriwong. He said “the public has every right to debate the monarchy’s role, as the institution belongs to the country and its people under a democracy.” He added:

military dictatorships, both in the past and present, have tried to separate the monarchy from democracy and use the institution* for their own benefit, which actually puts the monarchy in danger. He also said that military dictators also often use the institution as a tool to destroy other political groups.

Other protest rallies have been held in various places, including in Phitsanulok, where several reports say that student leaders were detained. Khaosod states that officials “detained six anti-government protest leaders…”.

Five leaders “were seized at a protest site close to a temple, and taken to a bizarre ‘attitude adjustment lecture’ deep inside a jungle.” They were taken “to a house inside a forest, where officials questioned them on who funded or supported the protests…”.

The group, who were all released without charge, said they “were given a lecture on history and supernatural forces in the province.”

“They talked about many Thai kings and how they were related to Phitsanulok, what good deeds they did for the country, as well as the sacredness of various supernatural spirits in the province,” the group wrote in an online post.

“They told many other illogical, unprovable myths about the place that we were going to hold the protest at as well.”

Police denied everything, saying: “It’s all fabricated news. It’s all false news…”.

Meanwhile, on Monday, protesters rallied in front of parliament, while at Thammasat University students “launched an anti-government rally under the theme ‘Thammasat will not tolerate’ at their Rangsit campus.”

The regime is also responding, threatening protesters and seeking to promote pro-government/pro-monarchy counter-rallies.

The Bangkok Post reports that Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta protesters that “they must not violate the rights of others nor offend the highest institution* in the country.” He said that “[p]rotecting the monarchy was not only the duty of the government but of the people too…”.

The Post neglects to mention that Buddhipongse is a former leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. As Thai PBS notes, the PDRC “engineered the mass protests against the administration of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra about six years ago” and promoted the 2014 military coup.

Buddhipongse reportedly “dismissed allegations that the PDRC is linked to the royalist protesters.” He did not say anything about his links to the group “led by retired Lieutenant General and a former PDRC core leader Nanthadet Meksawat, [who have] vowed to protect the [m]onarchy.”

Other rightists and ultra-royalists have been busy warning and rallying with regime support. Suwat Liptapanlop sponsored an “event” supposedly “marking Kamnan and Village Heads Day, which was attended by more than 700 kamnan and village heads…”.

The president of the military-backed Association of Kamnan and Village Heads, Sakchai Chartphudsa,  also called on protesters to stop “insulting” the monarchy. He said: “We don’t want them to speak in a way that offends the institution.”*

*”Institution” is a royalist terminology for the monarchy, meant to imply it has a status above law and constitution.





Facebook and the censors

2 08 2020

A couple of days ago we mentioned a report that “Facebook has admitted to an error in its automatic translation, from English to Thai, and has offered a profound apology to the Thai people.” As the error was not detailed, we assumed it involved the monarchy.

Several readers have now told us that the translation for the king’s birthday made it his death day.

But even after Facebook had made its apology, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society sprang into royalist action. It:

sent an urgent letter to Facebook in Singapore and Thailand, demanding the social media giant take responsibility over a mistranslated headline from English into Thai about the live broadcasting ceremony to celebrate the King’s birthday seen on several media Facebook pages on Tuesday.

At lightening speed, the police have begun “collecting evidence for an investigation into the matter following a complaint made by Thai PBS TV station on Wednesday.” Comparisons with the farce of the Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya case. The regime’s priorities are all too evident.

The panicked Thai PBS groveled, contacting ” the Royal Household Bureau, the DES Ministry and various agencies about the incident.”

DES Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, one of Suthep Thaugsuban’s men, “confirmed the letter was sent to Facebook” while “at a meeting with National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) together with internet service providers (ISPs) about efforts to deal with the violations of the Computer Crime Act.”

In other words, the Minister and the regime he serves are more broadly concerned about social media and the monarchy and to declare that the Ministry has been active, “gather[ing] evidence and fil[ing] complaints to the courts, which were asked to issue an order to close websites or delete information which breached the law.”

Buddhipongse said the Ministry had “received complaints about 8,715 URLs. Of them, the courts issued orders for action against 7,164 URLs.” Apparently this is for the first seven months of the year. The Minister added that “YouTube removed 1,507 out of 1,616 URLs [93%] on the court orders from its platform. Facebook took down 1,316 out of 4,676 URLs [28%] as ordered by the court.”

This caused him to criticize and threaten Facebook: “Facebook gave little cooperation although it operates a service in Thailand and Thais generate fruitful benefits to the company…”.

We decided to look at the data. While not yet available for the period the Minister rants about, Google (including YouTube) reports that for the whole of 2019, it received 4,684 requests for removal of specific items from Thai officials. It removed 3,945 or about 84%.

Facebook reports data that is only This report details instances where it has “limited access to content based on local law.” While we can’t find data for the number of requests received, the data do show how blocking has expanded over time (see our first post on this).

As the Thai Enquirer observes, this action coincides with “heightened tensions over the treatment of the Thai monarchy, in recent weeks, with ardent royalists becoming increasingly more active in protecting the [monarchy]… from becoming embroiled or linked with political commentary…”.

It might have added that it coincides with the long absence of the king from the country. As far as we can remember, since early this year, he’s only been in Thailand for a few hours. This has led to considerable muttering.