Pai’s secret trial

17 08 2017

Two of the defining characteristics of lese majeste under the military dictatorship have been the use of secret/in-camera trials and the use of delays to force defendants to plead guilty, meaning that there is no trial, just a sentencing.

We have seen both in the most recent case involving anti-coup activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa.

According to his lawyer, cited at Prachatai, the young Pai “chose to plead guilty because he was being tried in camera, meaning observers and media were not allowed into the courtroom.” In jail for almost 8 months,the lawyer stated that “Jatuphat initially intended to have people witness injustices in the Thai judicial system, but his goal could not be met if the court chose to hold his trial in secret.”

We are sure that this is something the military dictatorship knows and that’s why they hold secret faux trials in the (in)justice system.

Another motivation for Pai’s confession cited in the report is that “Jatuphat and his family was also informed by the court that he does not stand much chance to win the case as the king was protected by the constitution although he was accused of lèse majesté for merely sharing a BBC biography of King Vajiralongkorn.”

That makes little sense to us, for no-one accused of lese majeste has much chance of winning a case.

Amnesty International is cited on the sentencing:

This verdict shows the extremes to which the authorities are prepared to go in using repressive laws to silence peaceful debate, including on Facebook. It is outrageous that Pai Dao Din is now facing more than two years behind bars just for sharing a news article….

That’s entirely true.

We must also remember the cases of others when we think of injustice. Here are two of many:

Somyos Pruksakasemsuk, a journalist and labor activist, was arrested on 30 April 2011, and he remains in jail. When he was on trial, he was usually kept in chains and cages. On 23 January 2013, Somyos was sentenced to 5 years on each of two lese majeste charges, with an extra year added from a previous suspended sentence for insulting General Saprang Kalayanamit, a leader of the 2006 royalist coup. He refused to plead guilty and is serving his time.

Burin Intin, a welder and an anti-coup political activist, was arrested about 27 April 2016. He was taken from the police by soldiers and detained at a military base before the military court eventually sentenced him on 27 January 2017. Having been held for almost nine months, Burin changed his plea to guilty on lese majeste and computer crimes charges. Burin got 11 years and 4 months in jail on two lese majeste charges.

Secret trials, injustice and politicized and military courts. That’s dictatorship at work.





Pai’s 5 years on lese majeste fit-up

16 08 2017

The British refer to the police framing of suspects as a “fit-up.” It means that a person is incriminated on a false charge or is framed. That is what’s happened to student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, or Pai.

After almost 8 months – 237 days – of detention and continual pressure to plead guilty to lese majeste and computer crimes, he decided yesterday to take that route. He was immediately sentenced to 5 years in jail. As usual, for the guilty plea, his sentence was reduced by half.

As Prachatai explains, the “sentence was read swifty in an in camera trial, on the same day Jatuphat abruptly recanted his innocence.”

His lawyer stated that “Jatupat chose to confess due to the prolonged trial.”

Prachatai states:

Jatuphat is accused of lèse majesté for sharing on his Facebook account a controversial biography of King Vajiralongkorn published by BBC Thai.

He was the first person to be arrested for lèse majesté under the reign of the new King. Despite the fact that more than 2,000 people shared the same article on Facebook and millions read it, he was the only one arrested for lèse majesté.

The Bangkok Post says it was some 2,800 people who shared the same post. That Pai is the only person charged is evidence that he was fitted up, framed.

He was fitted up because he was “a member of Dao Din, a human rights student activist group based in the Northeast, which had joined activities with villagers affected by development projects.”

Worse, his crime was that his group “staged protests against the junta.” When he was arrested on this “crime,” he “was facing four other lawsuits, all for opposing the military junta.”

He was fitted up by the military:

He was arrested in Chaiyaphum on Dec 3 last year on a warrant based on a complaint filed by Lt Col Phitakphon Chusri, deputy chief of the Operations Directorate at the 33rd Military Circle in Khon Kaen province.

We don’t doubt that the military dictatorship saw Pai’s case as killing two birds with one stone. They got him, silenced him and threatened all other activists and also made it clear that the junta would vigorously attack anyone who dared to be critical of the new king and his tainted past.





Pai “confesses”

15 08 2017

A Bangkok Post report states that Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa “has confessed [to lese majeste and computer crimes] and the Khon Kaen Court will hand down the sentence on Tuesday afternoon…”.

The student activist “was brought to court at 9am on Tuesday for the second round of prosecutor witness hearings which like the first round was to be conducted in-camera.” The report continues:

Shortly after Mr Jatupat entered the courtroom, his lawyer came out to tell his parents that the ruling would be read in the afternoon because Mr Jatupat had confessed before the examination of the witnesses.

His parents declined to comment.

He had earlier denied all charges. Under the royalist (in)justice system, enormous pressure – amounting to torture – is placed on defendents to plead guilty. This allows the courts to not have to deal with lese majeste cases in any substantive way.





Journalist charged after angering The Dictator

9 08 2017

The military dictatorship has has again demonstrated its capacity for sullen and vengeful (mis)use of what passes for law and the justice system in Thailand.

Khaosod journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk has been charged under Article 116 of the criminal code (sedition) and computer crimes for criticizing the junta. Yesterday he met police to actually learn what it was in his social media account that annoyed the junta. Before then, the police had refused to explain.

Both charges carry penalties of up to seven years in jail. Facing up to fourteen years in jail, Pravit revealed that one charge relates to a post from February 2016, “when he criticised the junta-drafted constitution.”

The second charge is revealing of the reason for these charges and why the junta’s police had to trawl back to 2016. Last month, Pravit posted a critical comment on The Dictator’s “handling of floods and the trial of ousted premier Yingluck Shinawatra.”

From Wikipedia’s article on lese majeste

Clearly, The Dictator went into yet another rage and demanded action against the impertinent journalist.

This is confirmed in Khaosod’s report that “a representative from the military filed complaint against Pravit … on July 28. The source … said the charges under the Computer Crime Act would rely on its provisions covering online defamation.”

Quite obviously, criticizing General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand’s dictatorial leader since May 2014, is now an act of treason. The sedition and computer crimes law are now The Dictator’s equivalent of lese majeste. He is so thin-skinned that he can brook no critical comment. His arrogance is monarchical and maniacal.

Pravit has “vowed to continue to speak out against the junta…”. He added, “I’m not surprised by the charge…. Anyone who criticizes them [the junta] must pay the price.” He might have added that criticizing The Dictator means angry and concocted uses of the law as punishment.





Catching up on the monarchy

8 08 2017

PPT has been posting regularly and yet we have not been able to post on all the stories in the media we’ve found interesting on or related to Thailand’s most feudal of institutions. Thus, this post is a catch-up. We will list several of these stories, from the past week or so, with little comment and just a quote of interest from each one:

Thai dissident’s lonely fight to keep history alive

Carrying a bucket of cement and a heavy bronze plaque, Ekachai Hongkangwan set out across Bangkok’s heavily-policed Royal Plaza in late June to perform a solo act of D-I-Y dissent.

But the 42-year-old was quickly bundled into a police van before he could lay down the metal disc – an exact replica of a monument that was mysteriously removed in April, sparking fears officials were trying to whitewash history.

The attempted restoration was a dangerous and rare act of subversion in a country smothered by an arch-royalist military and where criticism of the monarchy is being purged at an unprecedented rate.

Silencing dissent: digital capitalism, the military junta and Thailand’s permanent state of exception (we are not exactly sure how an exception becomes permanent)

In the last three years of military rule in Thailand, arrests and prosecutions for defamation, sedition and offences under the Computer Crimes Act have soared. Human rights advocates, democracy campaigners and ordinary citizens have been threatened, harassed and detained in military camps. The junta have sought to silence public discourse on every conceivable aspect of their rule. Global social media platforms are ground zero in this repression, and each month citizens are arrested and detained for what they post, share and like on Facebook.

Thai King’s Birthday Celebrations Mark Consolidation of Power

Thailand to celebrate birthday of assertive new King

The new monarch has shaken up the palace. A law quietly passed in April by Thailand’s interim assembly allowed him to consolidate control over five agencies which handle palace affairs and security. These agencies, which previously reported to the prime minister and defence ministry, remain funded by the state, but need not return revenue to the treasury.

A Straits Times examination of over 100 notices published on the Royal Gazette website since January shows the palace has promoted over 200 employees, removed or demoted over a dozen, as well as appointed over 100 more – many of them senior government servants.

All these moves have taken place amid tighter enforcement of Thailand’s lese majeste law, under which individuals have been jailed not just for insulting or defaming royalty, but also for trying to profit from their connections to the palace. Open discussion about the king, already constrained under the previous reign, has withered.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn expands his territory – but at what cost?

Change is afoot in Thailand. Amidst continued instability and uncertainty, King … Vajiralongkorn asserts more control. This move puts the ruling military junta in check.

The king now has full control of the agency that manages the holdings of the monarchy. Details about the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) are shrouded in secrecy. But it is worth at least US$30 billion thanks to significant holdings and investments, estimates suggested.

The Frontlines of Cyber Repression: Thailand and the Crop Top King

This post is the first of many in which we will begin the process of documenting the digital frontlines of cyber repression. By building better awareness about cyber repression, we hope this blog series will help illustrate current examples from across a wide spectrum of states and highlight actions being taken to push back on repression.

Trial of Yingluck sparks deeper crisis for Thailand

Why must she be eliminated at this point in time? The political elites are increasingly concerned about their position of power now that King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away last October, is no longer on the political scene. Under Bhumibol, their political interests were firmly secured through the monarchy network, which had dominated political life for decades. Without Bhumibol, Thailand has moved into an uncertain phase under the new controversial king, Vajiralongkorn. Those political elites fear that the Shinawatras might exploit political uncertainties to regain power.





Watching and repressing for profit

30 07 2017

The National Human Rights Commission is not known for protecting human rights. For the past few years, despite the efforts of a couple of commissioners who tried to do their job, the NHRC has been a sinecure for junta buddies and has ignored the military dictatorship’s abuses.

That’s why it is surprising to see a newspaper report where the NHRC actually seems interested in human rights abuses.

The report states that the NHRC has warned local opponents of a “new potash mine in Sakon Nakhon’s Wanon Niwat District” that they are “being monitored by the police and military…”.

We guess that the locals already know this, but the fact that the NHRC confirms it is worthy of note for this moribund clique.

The NHRC notes that state officials and business people are teaming up against locals “throughout the region, and urged the government to change their stance on local activism and assure public participation for the sustainable development of the region.”

There’s little chance of that under the junta but it is worth saying it out loud.

The “NHRC and Amnesty International Thailand on Wednesday led a media tour of the potash exploration site in Wanon Niwat District, as they said it was a vivid example of the freedom of expression and communal rights violations in North Eastern Region.” Just in this one district, according to “Sakkaphon Chaisaengrat, a lawyer for local people,… 120,000 rai of land … is currently granted to China Ming Ta Potash Corporation to survey for the possibility of opening a new potash mine in the area.” Locals know almost nothing of the firms operations.

It turns out that this is an official Chinese enterprise: “We are the representative of China’s Mineral Resources Department, so the people can trust our mining standards,” said a company representative. Mining is polluting and dangerous in China and has a poor reputation in dealing with locals, but is expert in teaming up with local officials to get its way.

The report continues:

He said that activism during the administration of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was not easy, as the people in the North Eastern Region were usually seen by authorities as the main supporters of the former government Pheu Thai Party. Activism in the region is often treated by officers with great concern.

He said local authorities are friends of the investors, so they usually protect the interest of the company rather than the people’s rights, which has caused many lawsuits against local activists.

There are at least two defamation and Computer Crime Act violation cases against local people and another case of violation of the Public Assembly Act. Local resident Satanont Chuenta said that the company has already violated people’s rights by intruding into the private land to make a potash survey without the landowner’s consent and protesters were also terrified by the military personnel.

Both officials and the company threaten anyone they think may be activists or threats to their “work.” The lawyer stated: “The military officers often visit our communities and their presence makes the people feel insecure and makes them distrust the authorities.”

NHRC commissioner Angkana Neelapaijit, one of the few serious commissioners, “said that the agency has received many complaints on the issues and the NHRC has already made recommendations to authorities to improve the situation.” No one is interested it seems. She makes the mistake of thinking that it “is the government’s duty to protect the people’s rights and ensure that they can participate in managing local resources.” The military dictatorship has no such role. It sees its job as making loot for its tycoons and allowing its minions to get on the gravy train.

Angkana said that NHRC “statistics showed complaints about rights violations in the justice system were highest in the North Eastern Region, as 26 per cent of all complaints in this region were about unfair treatment by officers, planting false allegations, or injustice in the justice system.”

The military junta is defined by such acts.





Republicanism means 50 years in prison

27 07 2017

Talking or posting about a republic or republicanism is considered and act of lese majeste. Governments for sometime, including the ultra-royalist military dictatorship, once “defended” lese majeste by saying that it was just like defamation but for royals. The case of human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul, one of the Stolen history 6, clearly show that such bleating was a concoction and expressed as blatant lies.

On 25 July 2017, Bangkok’s Criminal Court “accepted charges filed against [the]… human rights lawyer facing five decades of imprisonment for royal defamation and sedition.” Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have said that Prawet is accused of posting Facebook comments that are deemed to have asserted that Thailand should become a republic.

Even Prachatai uses the term “defamation” when reporting this case. Clearly lese majeste is not defamation. Rather, it is a law that represses political opponents and jails them for daring to think about and discuss alternative forms of government.

Prawet stands accused of importing digital content “deemed defamatory to the [m]onarchy and seditious.” He is alleged to have done this from 25 January- 23 April 2017 and this probably relates to Facebook posts made by exiled historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul.

As well as being charged under Articles 112 (10 counts) and 116 (3 counts), Prawet is “also charged with Article 14(3) of the Computer Crime Act for importing illegal information online and violation of the Council for Democratic Reform (the 2006 coup-maker) Order for obstructing … the police [in]… obtain[ing] his fingerprints.”

It is easy to see that the military junta is determined to lock him away for decades, with 50 years being the legally maximum cumulative sentence. The lese majeste and sedition charges alone, if proven, amount to 171 years of jail. Few who go to court on these charges are ever exonerated by the royalist courts.

Prawet and the other five (for whom there is precious little information that PPT can locate) have been held in jail since 29 April 2017.