Iconoclast escapes a 112 charge

26 01 2021

Prachatai’s Facebook page has announced that a court has found aged writer Bundith Arniya not guilty in another of the lese majeste charges he has faced over several years.

As far as we can ascertain, this refers to Bundith’s third case of lese majeste that began on 12 September 2015, when police detained him for making comments about the need for equality of all classes in a new constitution during a seminar at Thammasat University. Apparently, equality frightened Thailand’s military bosses of the time, especially when discussing the junta’s draft constitution, and it must threaten the palace because king’s and royals are not equal with the plebians, an issue that Bundith raised.

Bundith proposed five principles for the draft constitution, one of which is about human dignity. The royalist police allege that the comment about human dignity contained references to the monarchy: “The value of humanity and dignity of humanity of the Thai nationwide, must be higher than dust…”.

Now 80 years old, the court determined that his comments did not directly refer to the monarch “as he did not use the royal words. Therefore, people can interpret his comment in many ways.”

Bundith has now beaten two lese majeste cases in the courts and was convicted of one.





Military regime must go

9 12 2016

To mark Human Rights Day on 10 December, the Asian Human Rights Commission has called on Thailand’s military dictatorship to dissolve itself via an “election.” To be honest, while we agree with this call, it is all too tepid:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to draw attention to the situation in Thailand on this momentous day, December 10, which is observed as Human Rights Day. Unfortunately, in Thailand, the day will be eclipsed by the Military regime that is in power since May 2014, when it overthrew the last elected government. It is the rudimentary nature of the Thai legal system, and a weak Constitutional Court that has led to 13 military coups in Thailand since 1932. Despite 16 new constitutions having been promulgated since the first coup and the first Constitution, Thailand could not prevent a Military dictatorship from declaring and “taking over administration of the country” yet again.

Soon after the 13th successful Military coup, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) replaced the country’s Judiciary with Military courts, for all practical purposes concerning fundamental human rights and freedoms. Three NCPO announcements: No. 37/2014, No. 38/2014, and No. 50/2014, expanded powers, and retained Military court jurisdiction over civilians, in cases of lèse majesté, national security crimes, weapons offences, and violations of NCPO orders. The result of these three measures has been to extend the control of the Military judicial system to civilians and civilian cases.

According to information received from the Judge Advocate General’s Department (JAG) on 12 July 2016, 1,811 civilians have been tried in the Military court in 1,546 cases from 22 May 2014 to 31 May 2016.

The AHRC has found that the Military courts do not accord the same rights as Thailand’s civilian courts and violate internationally protected fair trial rights, especially rights to fair and public hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal, and the rights to legal representation.

On 12 September 2016, the NCPO also issued the NCPO Order No. 55/2016, under Article 44 of the Interim Constitution; it states that all cases involving offences covered under NCPO Order No. 37/2014, No. 38/2014, and No. 50/2014, will no longer be tried in Military courts. However, this Order does not cover cases initiated before the Order was issued; it also fails to cover cases under Article 12 of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015, the junta’s public gathering ban, and the NCPO Order No. 13/2016, which gives Military officers extrajudicial power. Therefore, crimes involving these laws still have to be tried in Military court.

For example, Ms. Sirikan Charoensiri, human rights lawyer and legal and documentation officer at Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), is now facing accusations of sedition under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code, as well as violation of Article 12 of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015. The inquiry officer informed Ms. Sirikan that she was charged with being an accomplice in the coup commemoration organized by the New Democracy Movement (NDM) at the Democracy Monument on 25 June 2015. These charges stemmed from Ms. Charoensiri not letting her car be searched and for her carrying the activists’ belongings. If indicted, she will be tried in Military Court.

The NCPO also issued a series of their orders and announcements and imposed Article 44 of the interim constitution, according to which General Prayuth Chan-ocha, as the junta leader and Prime Minister, has absolute power to give any order deemed necessary to “strengthen public unity and harmony” or to prevent any act that undermines public peace. As a result, the status of the Order issued under the power of Article 44 is equal to an act passed by the Legislature.

To illustrate, the NCPO Order No. 3/2015, issued under the authority of Article 44, permits boundless exercise of power and also inserts Military officials into the judicial process and provides them with the authority to carry out investigations along with the police. In addition, the Order gives authority to Military officials to detain individuals for up to seven days. During this seven-day period of detention, detainees do not have the right to meet with a lawyer or contact their relatives, and the Military officials further refuse to make the locations of places of detention public.

With two years having passed, 7 August 2016, was scheduled for the constitutional referendum by the Thai Military government and the NCPO. Providing the conditions for free and open political communication was the basic element of ensuring fair and democratic referendum processes. It is during times of political change that the right to freedom of expression is most essential, ensuring that a well-informed and empowered public was free to exercise its civil and political rights. However, under Thai law, the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 paragraph two and its implementation, along with NCPO Order No.3/2015, have shown contradictory results. It intends to restrict the rights of people, who need to discuss and to critically evaluate decisions about their country. As of August 2016, 165 people had been prosecuted for publicly opposing the draft constitution— many of them from the capital, Bangkok.

In addition, when the constitutional referendum passed, rights groups still expected the Military government and the NCPO would allow people to exercise their rights. However, the AHRC has witnessed how the right to freedom of expression and opinion has been muzzled, with critics having to eventually face lèse majesté or Section 112 under the Thai Criminal Code.

The AHRC would like to point out the permanent case of a 71-year-old writer arrested for the third time under lèse majesté law. On 15 November 2016, police officers from Chanasongkram Police Station, Bangkok, arrested a writer known by his penname Bundit Aneeya from his house in Nong Khaem District. At the Police Station, the police informed Bundit Aneeya that he was accused of committing an offence under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code for allegedly making comments about the Thai monarchy at a political seminar about the junta-sponsored constitution drafting process, on 12 November 2016. After his lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights filed a second petition asking for bail from the Military court, he was released on 400,000 bath (around $12,270 USD). He is one of the few lèse majesté suspects granted bail by a Military court. This trial is still ongoing.

The AHRC is deeply concerned that the Thai Military government and the NCPO are not serious about abolishing the Military courts and are tending towards continuing to restrict the people’s rights, in particular freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, even more so than in the past.

On Human Rights Day, 2016, the AHRC again calls for the NCPO to revoke Article 44 of the Interim Constitution and the NCPO orders and announcements that place civilians in Military courts, and to end all violations and harassment of ordinary people. In addition, the NCPO and Military government must arrange for elections and peaceful transfer of power to a civilian government, i.e. back to the people of Thailand.

This is where military dictatorships get the upper hand. Because they control everything, the best that liberal activists can do is request an “election.” As we have pointed out time and again, this hardly seems likely to change anything much. What is being missed is the purge of opposition in all of Thailand’s institutions and civil society. What is being missed is the deep repression revolving around the lese majeste regime that changes the nature of politics for years to come, if there is no rupture. What is being missed is how an “election” will be unfair, not free and will be an exercise in embedding authoritarianism.

Thailand is in a dark place.





Human dignity and lese majeste

17 11 2016

Bundith Arniya or Jerseng Sae Kow, now 71 years old or 75 years old, depending on the source, has faced a series of lese majeste for several years. He is a reasonably well-known translator, mainly of books about socialism. He claims that the first time he was accused of lese majeste was in 1975.

As far as we can discern, this is the third lese majeste case he has faced since 2003.

His first case is important because the plaintiff was the secretary of the Privy Council. This shows that repeated claims that the palace doesn’t use the law is buffalo manure. In those somewhat easier days, when Bundith was found guilty  in the case, the secretary of the Privy Council appealed the case to a higher court, not wanting Bundith to have probation. That appeal was heard in a closed courtroom. That appeal saw him sentenced to almost three years in jail. Budith appealed and the case closed in 2013, with the Supreme Court finding him guilty of lese majeste and giving him a suspended sentence of three years in prison.

The second case was in November 2014, when the military brought charges against him.

The third case is the subject of current action. Prachatai reports that police have arrested the writer “for allegedly making comments about the Thai Monarchy while talking about human dignity at a political seminar.” The seminar on 12 September 2015 at Thammasat University was reportedly “about the junta-sponsored constitution drafting process.”

Police agitation over the comments at the seminar concerns Bundith’s “proposed five important principles” for the draft constitution, “one of which is about human dignity.” The royalist police allege “that the comment about human dignity allegedly contained references to the … [m]onarchy.”

Police officers and soldiers who spied on the seminar were not amused with Bundith’s suggestion that “the new constitution should contain the idea that Thai people of all classes shall be equal and all are equal owners of the country.” Initially, the comments did not result in a lese majeste charge. Now, however, the mood has changed and this statement, which would be entirely unremarkable in modern and civilized nations, is considered to insult the dead king that the military junta will honor as King Bhumibol the Great.*

We guess the junta and/or the palace is behind the change of position on Bundith’s case. However, Khaosod reports that: “Police explained that they sent a transcript of the video to a police committee…. They deliberated on it and ordered prosecution.” A one-year deliberation period seems unlikely and we suspect pressure from on high.

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, “the Military Court of Bangkok on 16 November 2016 has denied the bail request for Bundit Aneeya. He will be detained in Bangkok Remand Prison for the first custody period from 16-29 November 2016 with the possibility of the custody permission being renewed.” Bundith has long been “diagnosed with psychosis, has only one kidney and has to carry a urine drainage bag with him all the time.”

When he gets to court, Bundith will be in a military court because, as ludicrous as it sounds, the military junta deems “insulting the royal family is deemed a matter of national security and tribunals will continue hearing such cases.”

Lese majeste strips everyone of all dignity.

 

*In fact, this was already done many years ago under… guess who? Yep, royal toady and palace favorite General Prem Tinsulanonda. As one of the documents [opens a PDF that infringes Article 112] we have had posted for several years states:

The powerful Ministry of Interior even held a nationwide ‘vote’ on what title should be allocated to the King – ‘the Great’ or some similar honorific – with the results being published (everyone was said to have voted), and a shrine erected to house the books of votes. In other places such displays by government would probably be seen as ‘authoritarian’, ‘sickening’ (by republicans), or just silly; but not so in Thailand.

He became “the Great” in that “election.” The junta seems to be in Groundhog Day mode.





Lese majeste news

8 05 2016

In the current situation of abductions and hostage-taking by the military regime, a couple of recent stories worth reading on lese majeste deserve mention here.

The first is an long and reflective article by Nanchanok Wongsamuth in the Bangkok Post. The article provides some interesting background on Bundith Arniya, who is currently on trial for his second lese majeste charge. He was first accused of lese majeste in 1975.

The second is an important article by Pravit Rojanaphruk at Khaosod English on the efforts of Akechai Hongkangwarn to raise funds for those incarcerated on lese majeste. Akechai was arrested in March 2011 on lese majeste allegations and was convicted in March 2013. He was released on 15 November 2015. The website of the For Friends Association has details on how to make donations.





Chronic mental illness no bar to lese majeste trial

14 02 2016

Prachatai and iLaw have details on the lese majeste case facing Bundith Arniya or Jerseng Sae Kow. Bundith has faced several lese majeste cases over several years. In the latest case, a seeming statement of fact is made a crime. The case filed by the prosecutor states that Bundith uttered these words in March 2015:

“My point is now Thai people are separated into two sides: one which is in favour of a monarchy which does not abide by the law, as the head of the state, …”

It is added that he “was arrested by the police before he could even finish the sentence.”

A couple of months ago, a military court, which had been hearing a case against Bundith, decided to seek expert testimony from a psychiatrist on the 75 year-old’s capacity to stand trial.

On 11 February 2016, a psychiatrist from the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute testified that Bundith “suffers from chronic mental illness which causes him to have anxiety, strange logic, and behave in bizarre ways.”

That seems clear enough.

But despite this clear statement, “the doctor said that Bundit can still continue to stand on trial. Therefore, the Military Court ruled to proceed with the trial.”

In an unusual decision, Bundith was released on 400,000 baht bail “due to his age and poor health.”

There are no limits on the bastardry associated with lese majeste cases.





Ruling inequality

15 09 2015

Bundith Arniya or Jerseng Sae Kow faced an ongoing case of lese majeste for several years. He was eventually found guilty on 17 February 2014. However, he was again charged with lese majeste on 19 February 2015 for an alleged offense following his suspended sentencing on the first case. Thai police officers detained an elderly writer after he made comments about the new constitutional draft, which they said might affect national security.

Prachatai reports that police have again dragged this 74 year-old off. On 12 September 2015, he was detained “after he made suggestions at a seminar on the new constitution drafting process at Thammasat University…”.

More lese majeste? Apparently not. It seems Bundith made a statement that the military dictatorship considers heinous.

Bundith suggested that any “new constitution should contain the idea that Thai people of all classes shall be equal and all are equal owners of the country.”

After this blasphemy, “several police and military officers at the event, reportedly including some in plainclothes,” who claimed to be maintaining “security,” demanded that the old man attend the Chanasongkram Police Station when the seminar ended. Bundith “was detained at the station for the about three hours…”.

He was eventually released without charge vowing to keep his mouth shut, probably as ordered by the authorities.

It seems that Thailand’s military dictatorship and its ruling class are petrified by the notion of equality.





Bundith again charged with lese majeste

21 02 2015

PPT is sorry to have to report a second case of lese majeste against 74 year-old Bundith Arniya.

At Prachatai it is reported the military’s Judge Advocate General’s Office file charges against the now 74 year-old for asking questions about the constitutional monarchy at a seminar.

The seminar, organized in Bangkok by Waranchai Chokchana, was on 26 November 2014. It attracted just over a dozen people. Bundith was reportedly arrested at the seminar before he had even finished his speech, although the prosecutor alleged that the lese majeste comment was made after the panel ended. Prachatai reported that Bundith stated:

“My point is now Thai people are separated into two sides: The one which is in favour of a monarchy which does not abide by the law, as the head of the state…. I have a question: between keeping the monarchy and XXXX, which one…” Bundit was arrested by police before he could finish his sentence. (The phrase in italics is a paraphrase and the black highlight covers words that are censored in order to avoid repeating the alleged lèse majesté content.)

According to the military’s prosecutor, saying that the monarchy does not abide by the law and to ask about the two choices constitute contempt of the king and lese majeste.

As in his previous case, Bundith has been released on bail. This may be because of his poor health. As noted above, he has mental health problems and he has only one kidney and has to carry a urine drainage bag.

In his first case, Bundith faced an ongoing case of lese majeste for several years for alleged comments made on 22 September 2003 when he apparently objected to the display of the king’s photo in a meeting and distributed documents promoting democracy. The case was eventually finished with found guilty on 17 February 2014. In that case, it was the secretary of the Privy Council,  who was the plaintiff. Some of the case was reportedly heard in a closed courtroom. He was eventually found guilty and handed a suspended sentence of three years in prison.

The royals seldom forgive or forget.





Recent lese majeste case updates

30 11 2014

The lese majeste avalanche continues under the military dictatorship, and it is Prachatai that is maintaining a watch on these cases. Here is a listing of recent lese majeste news:

1. The sensational use of lese majeste by Crown Prince Vajirlongkorn and the police, with military junta support, has been widely reported, here, here, here and here.

2. Prachatai reports that amilitary court “made the unprecedented decision to grant bail to a lèse majesté suspect” when it bailed Bundith Arniya, “a 73-year-old writer and translator, who was arrested on Wednesday for making a comment during a seminar that allegedly defamed the King.” Bundith, a writer, was previously released on a suspended lese majeste charge, suffering “psychosis, [and who] has only one kidney and has to carry a urine drainage bag with him all the time.” His most recent case involves “allegedly lèse majesté comment that he made on Wednesday [that] pointed out the general opinion of Thais toward the monarchy.”

3. Prachatai reports that a lese majeste and computer crimes Facebook case against Jaruwan E. has resulted in “two more people fac[ing] the same charges.” They are males named Anon and Chat. All three have denied all charges. Jaruwan is a factory worker, Chat is a fisherman and Anon a welder. Police say they have not finished collecting evidence. None has any possibility of raising funds to seek bail.

 

 





Lese majeste verdict

17 02 2014

PPT noted that Khaosod reports on the judgement in the case of Bundith Arniya on lese majeste charges that had gone back to the Supreme Court. It is reported that the court found the “73 year old writer guilty of insulting the monarchy and handed him a suspended sentence of three years in prison.”

He had previously been “convicted of the crime by the Court of Appeals, which also handed the defendant an unsuspended two year jail term. Mr. Bundit contested the verdict, arguing that he was not mentally sane at the time of his alleged wrongdoing. His plea was accepted by the Supreme Court today”

But for the harassed defendant, all this decision did was take him back to the situation where the Court of First Instance, having given him a jail sentence of four years saw that reduced by the High Court to a suspended sentence of three years in jail.

Bundith’s reaction to the verdict was said to be “mixed. He voiced his disappointment that the court found him guilty of the alleged crime, but expressed relief that the prison term has been averted.” He added: “I am glad that I didn′t have to die in prison…”.

The case goes back to 2003 and Khaosod reports that the “trial of Mr. Bundit had been largely conducted in secrecy, and the media had been dissuaded from reporting about the case thanks to strict lese majeste laws.”

 





Lese majeste this week

11 12 2013

Despite the political crisis, the royalist courts continue to prosecute ridiculous lese majeste charges.

The Asian Human Rights Commission reports on one case:

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-154-2013

11 December 2013
———————————————————————
THAILAND: Court to read verdict in freedom of expression case

ISSUES: Freedom of expression, right to fair trial
———————————————————————

Dear friends,

On 11 December 2013, at 9 am in the Bangkok Southern Criminal Court on Sathorn Road, the Supreme Court verdict will be read in the case of Bantit (last name withheld), charged with violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code in Black Case No. 725/2548 (Red Case No. 1483/2549), will be read. The reading of the verdict, which had been scheduled initially for September 2013, was postponed due to illness of the defendant. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges all concerned persons to attend the court as observers, and calls on other interested persons to follow the case closely.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Bantit (last name withheld) is a 73-year-old writer and translator of over 30 books who has been accused of violating Article 112, the measure in the Thai Criminal Code that stipulates that, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished (with) imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” His case is a clear example of the use of Article 112 to constrict freedom of information and contribute to the creation of a climate of fear.

During an academic seminar on 22 September 2003, Bantit Aneeya made comments and distributed leaflets containing his opinions and ideas. Subsequently, General Wassana Phermlarp, a former member of the Election Commission and General Secretary of the Anti-Money Laundering Office, filed charges with the police accusing his speech and leaflets of containing material that defamed the monarchy.

In March 2006, the Court of First Instance judged Bantit to be guilty and sentenced him to four years in prison. However, the Court chose to suspend this sentence due to his claim of schizophrenia. In 2009, the Appeal Court reversed the suspension of the sentence on the basis that Bantit was aware of the illegality of his actions and sentenced him to two years and eight months in prison. Unlike many other Article 112 cases, throughout the appeal process, Bantit has been permitted bail by the Appeal Court. This decision by the Supreme Court could then result in Bantit being forced to serve a prison term for his ideas.

Khaosod reports on this case and two others in the courts this week. In addition to Bundith’s case, it notes that on 12 December, the Criminal Court “will decide the case in which Mr. Kittithon (surname withheld), a 51 year old retail shop owner in Samut Prakarn province, is accused of posting contents on internet that insult the monarchy.”

PPT has not hear of this case previously. Kittithon was reportedly “arrested at his home on 30 August by dozens of police officers who also raided his house…”. The case is interesting because the police claim they found “materials defaming members of the Thai royal family stored by Mr. Kittithon in his computer.” The prosecutor concluded and told the court that he “intended to post these materials on the internet later.”

In other words, this is supposition. However, as in many lese majeste cases, the defendant is said to have “confessed.”

The third case is to be heard on 13 December in Chiang Mai. It involves Mr. Asawin (surname withheld) who is “alleged of claiming the name of His Majesty the King in business dealing.” Asawin contests the charge, claiming that “he has been falsely implicated by rival business owners.”

With the monarchy in decline, the demands for enforcing lese majeste expand.

Meanwhile, some of the politically inept in the Puea Thai Party are trying to use lese majeste against their opponents:

Pheu Thai Party spokesman has accused the leader of the anti-government protests of disrespecting the monarchy in his campaign to unseat Prime Minister Yingluck.

In a press conference, Mr. Prompong Nopparit criticised the secretary-general of People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King as Head of State (PCAD), Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban, for refusing to stop his protests even though the Prime Minister has already dissolved the parliament and called new election.

Again, PPT has to question the political judgement of such dopey politics. Have people like Prompong learned nothing over the past decade? This is dumb politics, politically regressive, and the stuff of Puea Thai’s opponents. Prompong should be ashamed of himself.








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