1932 plaque back in the news

11 10 2017

Prachatai reports that the Puea Thai Party’s Watana Muangsook has been “accused of sedition for posting on Facebook about the missing 1932 Revolution Plaque…”.

That plaque “mysteriously” disappeared around the time that the military dictatorship’s “constitution” was promulgated by the king.

That was no coincidence. No one ever investigated the disappearance, suggesting that the authorities were the vandals and thieves or that they knew who was responsible for an act meant to further erase 1932 from Thailand’s collective memory.

Watana has said he will fight the sedition charge. On Monday he appeared for a deposition hearing that also includes a charge under the Computer Crimes Act.

The report states that the “Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) accused him of posting false information on the internet in claiming that the 1932 Revolution plaque is a ‘national asset’ in order to call for people to demand its return, adding that the post might also incite chaos.”

This is a very large pile of buffalo manure, but the regime’s exaggerated response suggests that it is protecting a very powerful thief.





Challenging the courts on lese majeste

18 09 2017

One of the Stolen history 6, human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul (57) has challenged the courts on lese majeste.

Prawet is one of six persons detained on 29 April 2017 for alleged lese majeste for apparently sharing a Facebook post by Somsak Jeamteerasakul on the theft of the 1932 revolution plaque on about 5 April 2017. The junta has “blacklisted” the exiled Somsak and considered the post to favor republicanism. Other charges thrown at Prawet included computer crimes and sedition.

He has been in custody since the military grabbed him.

While little is known of the fate of the other five, Prawet, who has been critical of the military dictatorship and the lese majeste law and has defended lese majeste victims, faces a total of somewhere 171 years in jail, depending on the charges finally brought (although maximum sentencing in Thailand is 50 years).

According to the Bangkok Post, Prawet “has told the court [on 18 September] he did not accept the Thai judicial system and forfeited his right to examine witnesses and evidence against him.” Prawet said that as he did not accept the judicial system on lese majeste, then he “did not wish to examine witnesses and evidence against him.”

Prachatai states that Prawet’s challenge is to the court’s “impartiality … in his case, as it is related to the monarchy.” It reports that he prepared a statement on this lack of impartiality:

“Thai courts do not have the legitimacy to try the case. Therefore, I declare that I do not accept the judicial process in the case,” Prawais wrote, adding that he will not participate in the case nor grant authority to any lawyer to represent him.

Facing 50 years in prison, he believes that it will not make any difference whether he pleads guilty or innocent because he will not be able tell the truth anyhow.

The court, seemingly flummoxed, fell back on its usual approach on recalcitrant lese majeste victims and decided to drag things out and punish-torture Prawet. His next scheduled hearing will be on 8 May 2018.  Presumably, the court hopes that having him jailed will change his mind and he will plead guilty. If not, the court seeks to silence his criticism.

Prawet’s stand is brave and he’s undoubtedly correct. As far as we can recall, he is the first to challenge the courts in this way.





The Economist on the military dictatorship

25 08 2017

Bits from The Economist’s latest edition:

Having been one of South-East Asia’s freest countries two decades ago, Thailand is now among the region’s most repressive….

Since its introduction, Section 44 has been invoked more than 150 times. A constitution adopted a little over a year ago allows the junta to keep using the legislation until a new government is formed after a general election due to take place next year. Other statutes ban gatherings of more than five people, prevent critics of the regime from travelling and allow civilians to be tried in military courts for sedition. Computer-crime regulations curb online activity. And more than 100 people have been arrested under lèse-majesté laws since the junta took power. More than half of them are now either awaiting trial in prison, or serving jail terms for peccadilloes such as “liking” things on Facebook deemed by the junta to be offensive to the royal family. (At the time of the coup in May 2014, just six were behind bars for lèse-majesté.)

The persecuted include activists, journalists, academics and even formerly powerful politicians….

The suppression of civic life bodes ill for Thailand’s democratic prospects. Even if the thrice-delayed general election is held, politicians will be fearful of expressing themselves openly and challenging the junta’s policies.

That seems to be one of the points of the extensive political repression.





Criticism is not contempt

24 08 2017

Don’t criticize the monarchy, their pets or dead kings (and any other body the royalists get exited about). They are protected by the lese majeste and computer crimes laws.

Don’t criticize The Dictator or the military junta. They are protected by defamation, sedition and computer crimes laws.

Don’t criticize the judiciary. It is protected by contempt and computer crimes laws.

Perhaps because these three groups and bodies have, by their own actions, been so politicized the invention, re-invention and application of these laws has been so crucial for Thailand’s turn to feudalism and authoritarian rule.

Khaosod has a long story on the judiciary’s use of contempt laws to protect its tarnished reputation.

We won’t do more than quote a couple of parts of the story.

On Monday, a court fined prominent transparency activist Srisuwan Janya 700,000 baht. He was found guilty of the same offense that in the past week alone has seen a former politician given a suspended jail term and a media agency cowed into self-censorship….

Contempt of court, a law once limited to maintaining order in court proceedings, is now being interpreted to cover a broad range of offenses in the kind of creeping legal expansion that have reshaped other draconian laws, such as the Computer Crime Act and lese majeste, into powerful weapons against dissent.

The trend has alarmed a number of lawyers who fear the integrity of the justice system is in jeopardy….

Thammasat University law professor Piyabutr Saengkanokkul warned that an unchecked power to punish alleged violators could lead to a completely unaccountable judiciary….

Now the law is being used for crowd control. The authorities are anxious about an outpouring of support for former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra when the verdict in her malfeasance trial is read Friday – a verdict many expect to not be in her favor.

On Sunday, police announced supporters – or gatherings of any kind – would not be allowed outside the court that day.

… Piyabutr said punishing criticism of any institution is contrary to the principle of accountability.

“Since the court exercises sovereign power that belongs to the people, the people are entitled to the right to scrutinize, criticize and disagree with the court,” he wrote.

The courts, with double standards and politicized rulings, has much to “protect.” In fact, criticism of courts is permitted in most non-authoritarian polities. Contempt is something different.





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.