Lese majeste and the repression of political opposition

22 12 2017

Thailand’s lese majeste law has long been used as a means to repress political opponents of royalist, usually military-dominated regimes. More recently it has been used by the palace to “clean” its own house, but that is another story.

As a case study in expanding political repression, Cambodia provides a lens on lese majeste that is sometimes neglected for Thailand.

Cambodia’s current regime is certainly descending into deeper political repression as Hun Sen, born of U.S. bombing, the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese invasion, grasps power ever more to himself and a coterie of supporters and the tycoons he has created. His disdain for dissidents is deep and his authoritarian proclivities well known.

It is reported that, despite there being no obvious threat to Cambodia’s weak monarchy, Hun Sen’s regime “is considering the implementation of strict lese majeste laws such as exist in neighbouring Thailand, which would criminalise perceived criticism of the Southeast Asian nation’s monarchy.

This law is being conjured “amid a crackdown by Hun Sen’s government against political opposition, the media and the NGO sector. Last month, the government successfully dissolved the major opposition force, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).” It has also “shuttered the US-funded NGO the National Democratic Institute and forced closure of the Cambodia Daily newspaper. The Bangkok Post reported on Monday that the Cambodian Information Ministry had shut down a further 330 print media outlets.”

In fact, the law would not be to “protect” the monarchy, but would be to trample Hun Sen’s political opponents. Indeed, the “country’s ex-Deputy Prime Minister Lu Lay Sreng already faces a lawsuit, filed by Hun Sen in October, for insulting King Norodom Sihamoni…”. The former DPM referred to the king as a “castrated chicken,” blasting him “for not getting involved in Cambodia’s political situation during a secretly recorded phone conversation.”

Clearly, Hun Sen seeks to ensure that his political opponents can’t use the monarchy against him. He’d rather use the monarchy for his own political purposes.

The parallels with Thailand can be drawn noting the way in which an alliance of palace and authoritarian regimes was created and maintained.





The hunt for dissidents

21 12 2017

Almost a month ago PPT posted on potential trouble for Thai dissidents in Cambodia. At the time, we noted that the military dictatorship has been particularly challenged by red shirt dissidents who decamped following the 2014 military coup for Laos and Cambodia.

We know that the group located in Laos has been troubling for the junta and it has repeatedly sought to convince the Lao government to send Thai dissidents back. Frustrated, the junta is the likely culprit in the still “unexplained” enforced disappearance/murder of red shirt Ko Tee in Vientiane.

In a sign that Thailand continues to pressure Laos on this, the two nations have seen defense minister agree “to increase bilateral cooperation against people threatening the other’s security…”. As much as Thailand’s military dictatorship might bleat about cross border trafficking, the primary aim of this “cooperation” is to get red shirts back from Laos and jail them in Thailand. In a human rights climate where authoritarians have a political picnic, this trade in dissidents is likely to expand.

Deputy Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Minister for Time, General Prawit Wongsuwan and Lao Defense Minister Chansamone Chanyalath met in Vientiane and “discussed improving cooperation on overall security issues and agreed to seriously increase cooperation against illicit drugs and ‘groups of people who threaten the security‘ of either country…”.

They agreed they “would take serious action against people threatening the other’s security, and exchange intelligence reports for the purpose.”

That’s bad news for the dissidents currently based in Laos.





Trouble for dissidents

30 11 2017

The military dictatorship has been particularly challenged by having to deal with dissidents who decamped following the 2014 military coup for Laos and Cambodia.

We know that the group located in Laos has been troubling for the junta and it has repeatedly sought to convince the Lao government to send Thai dissidents back. Frustrated, the junta is the likely culprit in the still “unexplained” enforced disappearance/murder of red shirt Ko Tee in Vientiane.

However, it is Cambodia that has been a safe haven for many red shirts and has challenged the junta, who have been suspicious of Hun Sen as pro-Thaksin Shinawatra.

Now it seems that the junta may have an opening. The Phnom Penh Post reports that

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday raised the spectre of Thailand deporting members of the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party who have fled the country….

Hun Sen declared that “Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should … ‘chase’ those people ‘staying in Bangkok’, in an apparent reference to ex-CNRP members who have fled.”

As Hun Sen destroys his opponents he will be keen to see those in Thailand deported. He is likely to be willing to make deals with Thailand’s military junta.





The Ko Tee “plot” and extradition

20 03 2017

In our last post on the military junta’s marvelous story about a mammoth plot to accumulate war weapons, assassinate The Dictator using a sniper rifle and cause a rebellion based on Wat Dhammakaya, we stated:

While Ko Tee [Wuthipong Kachathamakul] has denied the arms belonged to him, the cops admit he’s been on the run since early 2014…. “Pol Gen Chakthip said police had tried to contact … Cambodia … for Mr Wuthipong’s extradition, but had received no helpful reply.”

Now the police can claim that Ko Tee “allegedly played a leading role in gathering weapons to support the temple and as such must be considered a threat to national security…”. This “plot” will presumably help with gaining his extradition.

Bingo! The Bangkok Post reports that the junta “has vowed to seek the extradition of hardcore red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun, alias Kotee, from Laos following the discovery of a huge cache of weapons by authorities in a house in Pathum Thani.” (Like everyone else, we thought he was in Cambodia.)

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said “he wanted Mr Wuthipong brought to justice given the weapons were found in his home, adding officials will contact Laos authorities to seek Mr Wuthipong’s extradition.”

They really want him for lese majeste and seem prepared to go to extreme devices to get him.

In our earlier post we also stated:

The next step for the police will be to parade the “suspects” before the media where they will presumably admit their guilt and “confirm” the “plot.” They may even be made to re-enact some “crime.” That’s the pattern.

Bingo! The same Bangkok Post story quotes a senior policeman as stating; ” The nine arrested suspects were questioned by military officers and they confessed to keeping the weapons for a particular mission…”.

Now we await the parade of “suspects.”

As a footnote to this story, readers might recall earlier posts, beginning in early February, about a junta desire to extradite anti-monarchists from Laos. This morphed into an alleged “death threats” against The Dictator, which were then said to come from republicans, and which saw attempts to push the Lao government to extradite the alleged conspirators. This effort went on for some time.

Does it seem like too much of a coincidence that yet another plot has suddenly been “revealed”?





Death of democracy and those complicit in it

16 03 2017

PPT decided to post about this event, even though it is on Cambodia. Promoted by ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), it sounds like a reasonable event and we think readers will be interested.

Yet two things struck us about this event. First, that it is held in Thailand, which is a country under a military dictatorship. That’s kind of ironic and quite sad.

Second, a listed speaker and APHR Board Member is Kraisak Choonhavan, who is advertised as a “Former Thai Senator.” Another irony of this event is that Kraisak is a member of the Democrat Party, which has boycotted several elections, and he has supported two military coups, several anti-democrat movements and the actions of the current junta. He’s been very selective when it comes to human rights. That’s hardly the record of a parliamentarian who is serious about human rights.

Media Advisory: Report Launch and Press Conference

DEATH KNELL FOR DEMOCRACY
Attacks on Lawmakers and the Threat to Cambodia’s Institutions

Monday, 20 March 2017, 10:30am at the FCCT in Bangkok

In February 2017, Cambodia’s Parliament approved a set of new amendments to the Law on Political Parties, which grant unprecedented powers to the executive and judicial branches to suspend and dissolve parties. The move marked a culmination of nearly two years of escalating persecution of Cambodian lawmakers. These attacks have come in the context of a renewed, broader crackdown on dissent, which has targeted nearly all segments of Cambodian civic life, as well as similar growing threats to other legislators across Southeast Asia.

In Bangkok on 20 March, members of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), including lawmakers from Malaysia and the Philippines who will have just returned from a fact-finding mission to Cambodia, will present the organization’s latest report: Death Knell for Democracy: Attacks on Lawmakers and the Threat to Cambodia’s Institutions. The report documents and analyzes the recent wave of attacks against parliamentarians in Cambodia, including judicial prosecutions, violations of procedure surrounding parliamentary immunity, and physical violence. APHR members will also share observations from their recent fact-finding mission, as well as discuss wider regional parallels and implications. Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson will also join the panel to comment on the report and provide his perspective on recent events in Cambodia.

Featured Speakers:

Hon. Charles Santiago, Member of the Parliament of Malaysia, APHR Chairperson
Kraisak Choonhavan, Former Thai Senator, APHR Board Member
Rep. Tomasito Villarin, Member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines, APHR Member
Phil Robertson, Asia Division Deputy Director, Human Rights Watch

Where: Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT)
Penthouse, Maneeya Center
518/5 Ploenchit Road (connected to the BTS Skytrain Chitlom station)
Patumwan, Bangkok 10330

For more information or to request an advance (embargoed) copy of the report, contact: Oren Samet at oren@aseanmp.org

About APHR: ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) is a human rights intervention force of current and former parliamentarians, who use their unique positions and innovative means to prevent discrimination, uphold political freedom, and promote democracy and human rights throughout the region. APHR supports the work of civil society and human rights defenders and encourages sustainable solutions that increase pressure on governments and multilateral bodies to ensure accountability and uphold and enforce international human rights laws.





Learning from the dictatorship

4 02 2017

Some analysts have argued that Thailand’s junta is learning from the authoritarian leaders of China. There’s debates about that, yet we don’t doubt that, among other things, The Dictator would love to control the internet as tightly as his Chinese counterparts.

We now know that other authoritarian leaders are learning from Thailand’s military dictatorship. At The Cambodia Daily, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, reckons “authoritarian ideas ‘spread like the flu among ASEAN leaders’.”

While we get the point, we’d observe that authoritarian ideas have long dominated in ASEAN countries.

The reason for his observation follows Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen promising “sweeping changes to Cambodia’s law governing political parties in a move that could eliminate the CNRP and remove opposition leader Sam Rainsy or any other politician convicted by Cambodia’s courts—from a leadership position.”

His model? He says, “I think that we should follow Thailand, which means anyone committing serious mistakes would cause their party to be dissolved…”. He added:

“The People’s Power Party was dissolved just because Samak Sundaravej appeared as a chef on television,” Mr. Hun Sen said, referring to a side gig that Thai courts deemed a conflict of interest. “He then lost his position as prime minister and they also dissolved his party.”

“So we follow it,” Mr. Hun Sen said of the Thai example, saying he sought to “dissolve parties and then ban the political rights for not just a few leaders, but all the party’s board of directors.”

Authoritarian leaders are always looking for more ways to solidify their hold on power. The Dictator may well have looked at Hun Sen’s ability to manipulate elections and learned from that too.





Seeking more political prisoners

7 11 2016

The military dictatorship insists it is still seeking lese majeste extraditions. According to a report at The Nation a few days ago, it seems that the junta is hoping that, like them, the governments of Laos and Cambodia will ignore their own laws:

Legally speaking, the extradition of lese majeste fugitives from Cambodia and Laos is impossible, since treaties signed by Thailand with its two immediate neighbours don’t allow it. But legal loopholes can be found in such cases.

In fact, they are not legal loopholes, but bringing political pressure on those governments.

The military dictatorship is seeking the extradition of “three of the suspects … in Cambodia and six … in Laos,”

Treaties with Cambodia and Laos “contain grounds for mandatory refusal of extraction if there is a political offence involved.”

As the report makes clear, “[l]ese majeste is a political crime by nature, since the law in question effectively prevents any debate on the Kingdom’s head of state, rendering them ‘untouchable’.”

It makes the excellent points that:

Thai governments and their supporters routinely abuse Article 112 by using it to gag political opponents. Exploiting the monarchy’s high status in society, authorities enforce the lese majeste as if the country were still ruled by an absolute monarchy.

The hopes that both countries can be convinced to use “loopholes” to deport the junta’s political opponents back to Thailand for certain jail terms of many years.