Patnaree’s lese majeste case begins

17 06 2017

Another ludicrous and vindictive lese majeste trial has begun. On 16 June 2017, testimony began to be heard in the lese majeste case against Patnaree Chankij.

The case is ludicrous for several reasons. For one thing, it is an attempt to silence Patnaree’s son, anti-junta activist Sirawith Seritiwat. Second, the charge appears to relate to one word in a Facebook conversation about the monarchy: “ja.”

While the report linked here says that the word is initially translated as “yeah,” this is a misinterpretation that the military regime knows will be the court’s understanding. In fact, “ja” is a word used for all kinds of responses to statements by others and does not always imply agreement with anything at all.

Yet ludicrous lese majeste charges are “normal” for the military dictatorship as it seeks to manage Thailand as a royalist anti-democracy.

Patnaree is a single mother and a domestic worker and for her “ja” now stands “accused of insulting the monarchy, a crime known as lese majeste for which she could serve three to 15 years in prison.” She also faces charges under the Computer Crimes Act, another “law” that represses free speech in Thailand.

So far, Patnaree has maintained that she innocent on all the junta’s charges. She has “denied she had any intention to join in or endorse criticism of the monarchy in the conversation.” She adds: “I am fighting this charge to prove my innocence… My intention, my thought and the text that I wrote have already shown that I had no such idea (to defame the monarchy).”

The report states that the only “witness” heard on Friday was “an army officer who filed the complaint against her, laid out the details of the prosecution’s case.” The case is, like so many other lese majeste cases, a political persecution.





Supreme Court upholds lese majeste sentence

10 06 2017

Chaleaw J. was 55 years old and a tailor when he was arrested in 2014. A resident of Bangkok and a self-taught computer geek who was arrested for allegedly lese majeste materials he stored at 4shared.com, a free file sharing and storage website.

He was accused of being a part of the Banpot network. Among the hundreds of clips stored were online red-shirt radio programmes and a few speeches by Banpot who specialized in radical anti-monarchist diatribes.  “I mostly forgot what I had stored there,” said Chaleaw.

He was detained by the junta on 3 June 2014 and charged on 9 June on lese majeste and computer crimes charges.

Chaleaw claimed that he did not distribute or intend to distribute the clips he saved and did not know that uploading the clips was a crime. At one time the authorities accused him of being Banpot, but Chaleaw insisted this was not so. He was intensively interrogated and was subjected to a lie detector test. Banpot was later arrested and jailed.

He was refused bail several times and stated that he “planned to confess once the trial began and hoped to seek royal pardon as soon as possible.”

On 1 September 2014, Chaleaw was found guilty under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act and sentenced to three years. This was halved and suspended for two years. He had already been held for 84 days. The suspension is a surprise in lese majeste cases, and PPT can only recall one other.

Prosecutors were aghast that a lese majeste conviction did not result in jail time and appealed.

In a secret appeals court hearing Chaleaw was sentenced to five years under Article 112 of the Criminal Crime Code and Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Code for importing illegal online content.

The jail term was halved to two years and six months because the defendant entered a guilty plea, but the court refused to suspend the jail term. The verdict was read in secret with no one allowed into the court except the defense lawyer and the prosecutors.

It was reported on 9 September 2015 that Chaleaw had been granted bail by the Supreme Court while he and his lawyers prepared an appeal.





Reporting successful internet censorship

12 05 2017

Khaosod reports that the “Royal Thai Army’s cyber unit claimed success Thursday in defending the monarchy online, saying it has gone after 820 offensive items since October.”

The report gets a little odd on the numbers, but essentially states that the “Army Cyber Center announced the figures at army headquarters in Bangkok, saying it was proof of progress in the crackdown against alleged online defamation of the royal family.”

We are guessing that almost all the references are to King Vajiralongkorn in the period since October, although we suppose some might have been critical of the dead king.

Assistant Army Chief Gen. Somsak Nilbanjerdkul was happy and “presented a plaque of recognition to those who performed [what he said were] excellent duties.”

Fascists like such symbols and recognition from big bosses.

The Director of the cyber snooping operation is Maj. Gen. Rittee Intravudh. He stated that “the center placed importance on cyber threats against the monarchy through social media.” The figures he provided were that “the 820 items targeted since October included 365 things posted to Facebook, 450 YouTube videos and five tweets.” He added that just “seven of the content creators were based outside Thailand..”.

The Major General did not reveal “how many led to actual blocking or removal.” Confusingly, the report then states: “435 sites defaming the monarchy have been shut down.” (That’s where the numbers get a bit screwy. Is it 435 or 820?)

Despite the huge crackdown and a whole-of-dictatorship effort at censorship, Rittee “said the center has discovered 274 new items, among them 120 made just last month.” Yet he reckons the trend is “that there will be less dissemination of content [defaming] the monarchy…”.

We are guessing, but perhaps the king’s fashions and the royal-inspired theft of the 1932 plaque are the things that the junta most wants to block and which it has been ordered to block.

He would he say if the snooping led to prosecutions. However, if they are getting awards for their work, we might assume prosecutions.

Rittee also revealed “some success in getting Facebook to block some posts from users in Thailand but acknowledged that some have learned how to circumvent such blocking.”

He said a “court has also recently ordered the blocking of 6,000 websites deemed critical of Thailand’s monarchy.”





Threatening Facebook for the king

12 05 2017

The military dictatorship is showing no signs of “transition” to anything other than political authoritarianism. Unless, that is, we include transition roads to feudalism and totalitarianism.

Like other authoritarian regimes, the military junta has decided that “protecting” the monarchy – indeed, the king – it want to control internationally-based internet sites and services it doesn’t like.

The Bangkok Post reports that the junta sees Facebook as “threatening,” at least to the monarchy, it has decided to threaten Facebook.

It has “given Facebook until Tuesday morning to remove 131 remaining posts by the Thai court order[ed offensive to the monarchy] or face legal action.”

That decision was said to have been “made by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DE).” In other words, the military junta has ordered this threat.

Representatives of the Thai Internet Service Provider Association told the censors that Facebook had “removed 178 of 309 posts on the Criminal Court’s blacklist. The remaining 131 posts were still accessible in Thailand and Facebook did not explain why.”

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the junta would “press charges if the deadline was not met since it is empowered to control illicit content on websites by using the Computer Crime Act.” He added that “legal action would first be against Facebook Thailand and its partners…”.

The regime does seem to have become frantic and maniacal in this effort to expunge all content it considers to constitute a “threat” to the monarch and monarchy. We might guess that this also reflects the palace perspective.

One “suggestion” is that the regime must become more China-like in controlling the internet: “If a government needs to block all illegal content, they will have to use the China model — shutting down the entire Facebook service, which can block 80-90%.”





Updated: Lese majeste as blasphemy

28 04 2017

Prachatai reports on yet another weird legal charge and conviction involving long dead royal figures.

On 25 April 2017, the Provincial Court in  Lamphun sentenced 23 year-old Songpol Phoommesri to one year in prison and fined him 5,000 baht for having “violated” the Computer Crimes Act. The court suspended the sentence.

He was accused of having posted a Facebook message deemed by some localist and royalist zealots as defamatory of a legendary “queen” of the ancient Hariphunchai “kingdom.”

Songpol was deemed to have violated Article 14 of the Act. That article states:

Whoever commits the following acts shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand Baht or both:
(1) input into a computer system wholly or partially fake or false computer data that is likely to cause damage to another person or the public;
(2) input into a computer system false computer data in a manner that is likely to undermine national security or to cause public panic;
(3) input into a computer system computer data that is an offence against national security or terrorism according to the Criminal Code.
(4) input into a computer system pornographic computer data that is accessible to the public;
(5) publish or forward any computer data with the full knowledge that such computer data is under paragraph (1), (2) (3) or (4).

As far as PPT can determine from the information available, Songpol did not violate any of these five items. There was no fake or false computer data, there was no threat of public panic or likely to create panic,no terrorism, and no pornography.

Rather, it seems that he has been convicted of something closer to blasphemy (“the action or offence of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk”).

His blasphemy related to a posting on “Facebook on February 2016 deemed defamatory to Chammathewi, the queen who is believed to be the founder of Hariphunchai Kingdom in the 7th century located in the present day Lamphun.”

Indeed, Prachatai confirms this when it states:

After he posted the message on his Facebook account, a group of local people in Lamphun filed a complaint against him, accusing him of using obscene language to defame the queen who is widely regarded as a matriarch of Lamphun.

In fact, is simply impossible to definitively prove that Chammathewi ever existed or that she was a “queen.” The only “evidence” is found in an ancient chronicle. No chronicle is necessarily reliable as they were repeatedly copied and re-written. Rather, the story of Chammathewi is a legend.

It seems that in royalist Thailand, even the legends of ancient “royals” and founding myths are to be protected. That is, blasphemy is effectively recognised by the royalist courts.

Update: A reader says our headline is misleading. We understand her point. The conviction discussed above was under the Computer Crimes Act. Yet many lese majeste charges are coupled with the computer crimes law. Both are used to repress and oppress.





UN Human Rights Committee findings

29 03 2017

The UN Human Rights Committee has published its findings on the civil and political rights record of countries it examined during its latest session. These findings are officially known as “concluding observations.” They contain “positive aspects of the respective State’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and also main matters of concern and recommendations.”

All of the reports generated for Thailand’s review, including the Concluding Observations are available for download.

The Committee report begins by welcoming Thailand’s “submission of the second period report of Thailand, albeit 6 years late, and the information contained therein.”

There are 44 paragraphs of concerns and recommendations. There’s a lot in it: refugees, enforced disappearances, Article 44, freedom of expression, torture, constitutional issues, arbitrary detention, the National Human Rights Commission, military courts, problems in the south, repression during the constitutional referendum, defamation, computer crimes, sedition and much more.

We just cite the comments on lese majeste:

37. The Committee is concerned that criticism and dissention regarding the royal family is punishable with a sentence of three to fifteen years imprisonment; and about reports of a sharp increase in the number of people detained and prosecuted for this crime since the military coup and about extreme sentencing practices, which result in some cases in dozens of years of imprisonment (article 19).

38. The State party should review article 112 of the Criminal Code, on publicly offending the royal family, to bring it into line with article 19 of the Covenant. Pursuant to its general comment No. 34 (2011), the Committee reiterates that the imprisonment of persons for exercising their freedom of expression violates article 19.  





And now lese majeste

27 03 2017

One of the things we should have predicted about the “weapons seizure” said to involve junta critic and renegade red shirt Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee was further lese majeste charges. We should have predicted this, but as Ko Tee already faces a charge, we became negligent of the junta’s modus operandi when dealing with such cases. After all, the dictators have claimed a “republican plot.”

Prachatai reports that the junta has “accused one of the nine people arrested over the alleged plot to assassinate the junta leader of lèse majesté over Line messages.” The report states:

On 24 March 2017, Maj Gen Wicharn Jodtaeng and Col Burin Thongprapai, legal officer of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) took nine people accused of involvement in the alleged plot to assassinate Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, to the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) in Bangkok….

Most of them, who are anti-establishment red shirts, are accused of terrorism and possessing unauthorised or illegal weapons, and involving in a criminal association. The nine were detained for seven days at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok after their arrest before being handed to the police.

One of those arrested, Suriyasak Chatphithakkun, 49, is now “accused of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law and Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act, a law against the importation of illegal content.”

According to the military snoops, Suriyasak is a “local red shirt leader from Surin Province…”. They claim that on “13 July 2016 allegedly wrote a message deemed defamatory to the Thai Monarchy in a Line chat group called ‘People Outside Coconut Shell’.”

He will go to a military court.