Hear, see no anti-royalist “evil”

14 11 2022

Efforts to silence anti-royal protesters have been expanded. This is not the silencing that comes from the use of Article 112, but the physical efforts by police to prevent royals for hearing or seeing protests that might offend their delicate ears and eyes.

For the latest effort, read Prachatai.

In fact, if anyone wants to know anything at all about such events or Article 112 cases, one must go to Prachatai or social media because the main news outlets simply no longer report on such events. We assume they have been ordered not to report, and suspect that the owners and managers of the major news companies are only too happy to accede to such censorship. It is not so much self-censorship or state censorship, but jumping on the royalist/palace/regime wagon.

Back to Prachatai, which reports on an effort to bring attention to monarchy reform in Nakorn Ratchasima:

On Wednesday (9 November), the activist group Korat Movement went live on their Facebook page while they were holding protest signs saying “Free our friends” and “Person = person. Everyone is equal” while surrounded by a group of plainclothes police. The protest took place while Princess Sirindhorn, King Vajiralongkorn’s younger sister, was traveling to visit nearby Boonwattana School. The 15-minute video clip also showed the police trying to pull signs out of the activists’ hands.

The protesters were mainly very young, One of them stated:

… while Princess Sirindhorn was visiting Nakhon Ratchasima, the activists had been followed by plainclothes officers and that officers were stationed near their homes. She also claimed CCTV cameras were put up near the house ahead of the Princess’ visit.

Updated: Music that offends royalists

10 07 2022

The royalist Criminal Court has banned Rap Against Dictatorship’s song “Patiroop” (Reform/ปฏิรูป).

The song criticizes the royalist-military government’s performance and, probably more significant for the court, it supports demands for reform of the feudal monarchy.

The fascist functionaries at the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society earlier suspended the “posting of this music video’s URL and then appeal[ed] to the court to halt its distribution.”

The court objected to “profanity” used in the song and declared that “its lyrics conveys a message that affects state security.” They mean the monarchy and its hangers-on.

The crusty judges declared the song “is not a creative contribution to society.” The court probably prefers the dead king’s musical detritus.

The court used the Computer Crimes Act Section 14 (3) in conjunction with Section 20″ to ban the song. It is now geo-blocked on YouTube. Try Vimeo.

Update: Prachatai has a longer account of this case and more detail on the royalist judiciary.

National security censorship

5 07 2022

“National security” is a term that authoritarian regimes love. Why? Because invocations of “national security” censors and shuts down debate and limits dissent.

We know, for example, that the monarchy (and, hence, lese majeste) is considered a matter of “national security.” Judges regularly deny bail on the basis that the alleged crime is a matter of “national security.” The regime goes to UN bodies declaring Article 112 a matter of “national security.” Doing so covers up the failures of the monarchy and the repression of the regime.

In an interesting case of shutting down debate, the regime’s politicians are threatening opposition politicians with legal sanction if they debate a matter of “national security.” This time, it’s not the monarchy, but the border.

Clipped from Thai PBS

Thai PBS reports that the “Government chief whip Nirote Sunthornlekha has warned the opposition that the plan by some of its MPs to question the government over last week’s incursion by a Myanmar MiG-29 jet into Thai airspace, over Tak province, may undermine the country’s national security…”. Nirote declares that parliament discussing matters of “national security” “could be deemed a criminal offence.”

Given that the prime minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha declared the incursion as no big deal, and Nirote agrees, it would seem that parliament discussing the matter is, somehow, a big deal. What is it that Nirote and political masters want covered up?

Intimidate, repress, and control I

26 01 2022

The 1932 People Space Library is at Wat Tong Noppakun in Khlong San, Bangkok. It was officially opened on Saturday. On Sunday, it was raided by the regime’s police.

According to Pravit Rojanaphruk, the police later denied they raided the library. In Orwellian terms, it was stated: “We went to talk with the staff.” They went with “5 plainclothes officers from Somdej Chao Phraya Police Station…”.

Why would cops threaten librarians? The library “was previously curated by writer Sulak Sivaraksa, who invited students from various universities in to help develop the space into a social sciences library and a space for discussion about political and social issues.”

And there it is. Troublemaker Sulak, with students, darting to talk about issues and politics. Not permitted in the royalist regime’s state, where independent political space is being squeezed.

Police also denied that “they confiscated a cartoon book praising the monarchy-reform movement and other items at a newly-opened library…”. They “seized a copy of ’10 Ratsadorn,’ one of the picture books in the ‘Nithan Wad Wang’ (‘Dream of Hope Tales’) series about the pro-democracy movement, freedom of expression, diversity, and what young people dream they want the world to be.”

The librarian made comments suggesting that, as usual in such cases, the cops were lying. Feebly, “an officer [said he] took the book to give to his son.”

The librarian “insisted items removed include a volume of cartoon praising the monarchy-reform movement, some 20 to 30 anti-lese majeste law stickers and a red socialist flag with a fist in the middle.”

Another staff member “said one officer used a foul language” as they demanded to know why the police had not been informed of the new library.

Sulak later said that “police acted unlawful without a search warrant.” He added: “This shows they demonstrated how barbaric they were…”.

A few hours later, “police arrived to return … the items, adding that they had to pay a visit because the boss asked them to check the library out.”

An activist explained:

If we are reading quietly, that is allowed, but if we talk about it in public, the state tries to make this into something scary, to make it seem something we cannot do. Does it have an effect? There may be hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people like me. Some people may not be brave enough to express themselves….

The regime hopes that measures like this intimidate, repress, and control.

Silencing the media II

17 01 2022

If any confirmation of the regime’s efforts to silence any media that it doesn’t like or trust was needed, it is now provided.

Thai Enquirer reports that the regimes bullyboys have “raided the homes of multiple reporters, accusing them of being involved in the ongoing anti-government protests…”. Three “journalists who were targeted have been covering the political unrest since July, 2020, when anti-government demonstrations broke out.”

Observers believe the “raids were conducted under a new decree signed on July 29, drafted to allegedly stop the spread of ‘fake news,’ and information that incites fear or causes instability to the state.”

Sirote. Clipped from Thai Enquirer

This is another state effort “to muzzle free press and infringe their rights, effectively blocking their ability to publish.”

Voice TV’s Sirote Klampaiboon regularly reported from the rallies and demonstrations. His home was raided. He released a leaked document which had his name on a regime watch list.

Sirote revealed that he has been previously charged with participating in a rally when he was doing his job as a reporter. And, he stated this “is not the first time police raided his home,” and pointed out that this “police intimidation has created an atmosphere of fear for his family.”

The state deliberately targets aged parents of those it wishes to silence.

As pointed out by Pravit Rojanaphruk, the media is is serious danger in Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime.

Silencing the media I

16 01 2022

The regime has congratulated itself on its ability to repress anti-government/anti-monarchy protests. The king must feel confident returning to Europe later in the month.

But at what cost? In its annual report, Human Rights Watch says:

Thai authorities have prosecuted dissenters, violently dispersed peaceful protests, and censored news and social media…. Respect for human rights in Thailand has gone from bad to worse while the government’s promises of reform remain unfulfilled.

Read HRW’s World Report 2022. We assume that HRW is in the regime’s sights for repression next year.

The regime’s moves to shut down political expression has been going on for several years, and much of this has been posted by PPT. Of late, we have had several asides regarding the apparent constricting of the media. Some of this has to do with business decisions – look at the Bangkok Post where the “news” is obliterated by advertorials and “stories” that are promotional. Some of it has to do with the political proclivities of owners.

But much of it has to do with repression, censorship and self-censorship. That screw has been being wound down for some time, but the Constitutional Court’s support of the regime in its ludicrous judgement on political reform now seems like a turning point, sending the country further down the repressive royalist rathole. That decision silenced much of the media reporting on monarchy reform.

With that stimulus, as Khaosod recently reported, the regime has conjured “a draft law that would allow suspension of media license on grounds of publishing contents deemed against ‘good morals of the public’.”

The bill,  formally called “Draft Media Ethics and Professional Standards Promotion Act,” was proposed by the government’s Public Relations Department and approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday. The department is chaired by Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who served as the spokesman for the junta….

We all know how the regime defines “good” and “good people.” It has nothing to do with goodness, but with supporting the regime and monarchy. And, we also know that morals have no meaning for a regime full of shysters and murders, not to mention a convicted heroin trafficker. Of course, they are all “good.”

The new law establishes a new licensing and watchdog agency called “Press Profession Council.”

The law will limit press freedom: “It stipulates that while freedom of the press is guaranteed, ‘the exercise must not go against the duties of Thai people or good morals of the people’.”

The Bangkok Post reports that the “draft bill on the promotion of media ethics and professional standards has cleared the cabinet…”.

Supporters of media repression

Regrettably, the Post is already under control, choosing to suggest, in Orwellian style, that an obvious effort to silence the media is, about “the rights, freedoms and independence of media organisations and practitioners.” This is buffalo manure, and the Post’s owners know it, but they have chosen to support repression.

Chavarong Limpattamapanee, chairman of the National Press Council of Thailand, is equally supine, describing “the bill as the best media-related piece of legislation to date.”

With the backbones of jellyfish, such support bodes ill for Thailand’s political future.

Cinema, politics, censorship

12 01 2022

We thought readers might be interested in The New Yorker’s piece on director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. It is a beautiful story about beautiful cinema, and which is only tangentially about politics. Here’s some clips on politics:

Apichatpong, from Wikipedia

“Uncle Boonmee,” like all of Weerasethakul’s films before “Memoria,” was shot in rural Isaan, in northeastern Thailand, the director’s childhood home. Although he was born in Bangkok, in 1970, he grew up in the provincial northern city of Khon Kaen, where his parents, Aroon and Suwat, both ethnically Chinese, worked as doctors. The area, as the scholar Lawrence Chua observes, is “a historically obstreperous place . . . the site of several anti-state rebellions,” which is still rebellious “due largely to its historical isolation, poverty, and lack of infrastructure.”

“I am from this region that is very looked down on from the center,” Weerasethakul told me. “So there is this feeling of—how do you call it?—that you’re like a second-class citizen or something.”

… Weerasethakul had been hitting a wall in Thailand for some time by then. In 2007, in a brilliant essay titled “The Folly and Future of Thai Cinema Under Military Dictatorship,” the director described how he had taken part in a seminar with members of the Ministry of Culture and other groups to discuss the content of Thailand’s new Film and Video Act, which would replace one that had been passed in 1930. Weerasethakul, who had just been told by the censorship board that he needed to cut four scenes from “Syndromes and a Century,” was, he wrote, “enthusiastic to read the draft of the new law, which was supposed to represent our new hope for freedom of artistic expression.” But that hope was soon dashed. Reading the new Film Act, Weerasethakul said, he came across “a number of issues” that disturbed him, including the stipulation that “filmmakers must not make films that undermine social order or moral decency, or that might have an impact on the security and pride of the nation.”

Following the 2014 military coup,

Disturbed by his government’s shaky situation, Weerasethakul felt that he needed to get away. When we met in Chicago, he told me that he was eager for a new challenge. “Partly because I’m getting older, coupled with the fact that Thailand has become a dictatorship,” he explained. “There’s many things I want to do in Thailand, but, at the same time, they won’t let me. Maybe it’s time to go somewhere.”…

“I can’t help but think that the gentleness and the smile is an evolution to survive under the oppressive regimes,” he told me. “Thailand always promotes itself as a sole country in the region that has never been colonized. But to me the people [have] been operating with fear, in full awareness of the power from above, central government, and even from the invisible forces like ghosts and karma. Living here is a complex compromise. Sometimes you don’t even notice that you do [a] particular action out of fear. You sometimes feel free[d] by the spell, the propaganda, and you are actually happy. But when you ask what you cannot do in this country, the list can be long. Sometimes I feel like I am an obedient dog.”

He’s back in Thailand.

Screwing down activism

10 01 2022

The screwing down associated with repressive regimes is an ongoing task for Thailand’s royalist regime, with Prachatai providing recent examples of how this political repression seeps across the political landscape.

In one report, Prachatai looks at cultural matters, focusing on the 29th annual Bangkok Critics Assembly film award ceremony. The video recording removes “references to imprisoned pro-democracy activists … from the speeches of awardees from ‘School Town King’, a film that took home seven awards.”

According to one report, “references to the detainees in the speeches of every awardee but one were cut from a nearly five-hour long video of the award ceremony, held on 24 December 2021 at Lido Connect in Bangkok.  The only speech not  ‘edited’ was given by Sinjai Plengpanich, who accepted an award on behalf of M.L. Pundhevanop Dhewakul.”

In all, “seven speeches were cut, including one by his film’s editor Harin Paesongthai, who received an award for his work.” In making his speech, Harin said “the film sought to address inequality and oppression in society,” adding: “not only in the education system … [but the social] system where we are dominated from the smallest unit to the largest, by the people on top.” In supporting political prisoners he stated that he wanted to: “… use this opportunity to support and stand with the fighters who are being unfairly detained. Free our friends. There are still people suffering, detained because of the injustice of the system … I believe that there will be a better day for us. Justice must take place.”

In another Prachatai story, union activist Thanaphon Wichan was recently prosecuted for attempting “to give a Labour Minister a petition calling for assistance for labour[er]s amidst the pandemic.”

Back on 29 October 2021, Thanaphon, a representative of migrant workers, together with several labor groups, went “to the Ministry of Labour to submit a letter to the Minister of Labour to follow up on their previous petition to demand a solution to construction workers and migrant workers amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and to demand a solution to other concerned issues including expenses incurred from entering the registration process which still lacked the clarity.”

This visit had been coordinated “with representatives of the Ministry of Labour beforehand.”

That action was disrupted when “the Cambodian migrant workers who accompanied her were arrested right in the premises of the Ministry of Labour.” The Ministry the authorized a complaint to police, claiming Thanaphon committed offences against the Immigration Act. No evidence was found, so another charge was concocted: “being complicit in the organization of a gathering and an illegal assembly in a manner that risks spreading the disease in the area designated by an announcement or an order as a maximum and strict control zone and an area under strict surveillance except for permission has been obtained from competent officials, an act of which is a breach of the Regulation issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005).”

We have lost count of how many times this emergency decree on health has been used to silence activists.

Thanaphon and her lawyers say the case “is tantamount to a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or SLAPP.”

Because of the prior coordination with the Ministry, her lawyers argue that “the Ministry of Labour was obliged to act to ensure the enforcement of the disease prevention protocol to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

She was allowed bail, but the message is broadcast to all activists: the screws are being tightened, the regime is out to silence you. If you refuse, face state lawfare.

Controlling and repressing NGOs

9 01 2022

A week ago we mentioned a terrible piece by a regime stooge on the conspiricist-authoritarian effort to further control NGOs. His view was that “both local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) … perpetuate fake news against and negative views of the government.” He added the ludicrous claim: that “some of them, with funding from abroad, have reportedly tried to topple the current political system under the constitutional monarchy.” And, he seemed to imply that the measures for Chinese-style “national security” were not a big deal for NGOs.

However, in a joint statement, more than 1,800 NGOs and unions condemned the regime’s draft bill to control NGOs. They explained that the bill  is “a draconian infringement on basic rights and freedoms.” They accused the government of seeking “to control and intimidate people who form NGOs to help others.” They also pointed out that the bill was “superfluous since laws were already in place to deal with foundations, associations and organisations…”.

Signatories to the joint statement included: “Impulse Bangkok, Non-Binary Thailand, P-Move, WeMove, the Campaign for Democracy, Bangkok Rainbow, Transportation for All, the Sisters Foundation (Pattaya), HealthNet, and the HIV Foundation Asia.”

They rejected claims by the regime and its conspiricist supporters that NGO activities “had ulterior motives, lack good governance or may be involved in money laundering,” and the view that “NGOs need to be regulated for the sake of national security and order.”

The statement said “the government had ignored NGOs’ reasoned arguments against the draft legislation.” It added that the “bill would hinder people’s freedom to form groups, to join public demonstrations, and to express and access public information…”.

Worringly, the NGOs observed that the bill allowed authorities “to bypass courts and halt NGO activities on the pretext of endangering national security…”. Not that the courts aren’t mostly in bed with the regime.

They correctly detect that the regime’s motive is “totalitarian … to control the public sector and deter democratic progress and universal human rights…”.

The signatories explained that they were “not opposed to being monitored for transparency but were opposed to legislation that seeks to control civil society with ulterior motives.”

Parliamentarians under threat

3 12 2021

A couple of days ago we posted on a then upcoming launch of an ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights report.

The report is now available and it makes grim reading. Today, authoritarian repression hangs over the region like the annual haze, choking the vestiges of democracy and restricting political freedoms.

Get the report Parliamentarians at Risk: Reprisals against opposition MPs in Southeast Asia in 2021 and read it. There’s a chapter on Thailand.

The launch press release emphasizes that: “The number of Members of Parliament (MPs) detained in Southeast Asia has dramatically risen this year, from just one in 2020, to 91 in 2021…”. In addition, there have been “threats to lawmakers for doing their jobs, as well as orchestrated campaigns of judicial harassment and disinformation, aimed at both discrediting and silencing them…”.

On Thailand, the release states:

… the government and its allies continued to level trumped-up criminal cases against Move Forward Party (MFP) lawmakers, while opposition MPs were also the target of widespread abuse online, often through highly coordinated “information operations” orchestrated by state-affiliated actors.

In the report, the “systematic judicial harassment against the Move Forward Party” is detailed, along with the regime-inspired “threats and coordinated online disinformation campaigns.”

The chapter on Thailand concludes:

The continued harassment against the MFP lawmakers and former lawmakers of the FWP [Future Forward Party], whether through the judiciary or through online targeting, appears to be part of a concerted and systematic effort by the government to discredit and silence the party. Despite the personal costs involved and the ever-present threat of arrest and even imprisonment, its MPs have continued to challenge the role of the military in Thai politics and promote a human rights agenda in parliament. The most recent example of this is the proposed Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act, which is currently being debated in parliament.

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