Cracking down III

19 09 2021

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has recently reported statistics on people arrested or detained, accused of involvement in protest activities during the first three weeks of August:

It is found that from 1 to 25 August 2021, at least 260 persons have been arrested. This number includes at least 13 children younger than 15 years old, 57 youths within the age range from 15 to 18 years old, and 190 adults. However, it excludes the key protest leaders and activists who reported to the authorities per their arrest warrants.

Arresting and detaining 57 kids under 18 may seem excessive, but the point of these operations is to frighten and repress.

So it is that the cops harass:

Clipped from The Nation

All the arrested persons had been detained and interrogated in different places, depending on the authorities’ order each day. The documented detention venues included the Region 1 Border Patrol Police Headquarters (BPP 1) in Pathum Thani Province, the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) inside the Royal Thai Police Club, and other police stations across Bangkok. The majority of detention was unlawful because the police officers often did not bring the arrested persons to a police station in the locality of where they were arrested or the station in charge of processing the arrested persons’ charges in line with the Criminal Procedure Code.

Unlawful arrest and other unlawful activity seems to define police operations.

Read more on these arrests here.

Meanwhile, the regime’s thuggish police are running dragnets across the protest movement. Prachatai reports that on 17 September, “police officers raided the house of members of the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), confiscating mobile phones and computers and arresting one person.” According to TLHR, the arrest warrant did not say why it was issued.

That’s probably unlawful as well, but these thugs have become the law; whatever they do seems okay.

According to Thai PBS, Deputy Police Spokesman Pol Col Krisana Pattanacharoen stated that the cops “have 20 targets of investigation, including the UFTD leaders, who are suspected of committing illegal acts related to national security.” That’s usually code for lese majeste and/or sedition.

Pol Col Krisana claimed “[s]imilar raids and searches have been conducted outside Bangkok and at least five suspects have already been arrested…”.

Clipped from Prachatai

The person arrested was university student Niraphorn Onkhao, a third-year liberal arts student at Thammasat University, on charges of sedition and computer crimes. TLHR say the arrest warrant did not say why it was issued and contained the wrong citizen ID number. Niraphorn also protested during the arrest that she had never received a summons.

Niraphorn denied all charges and refused to sign the arrest record and was later released on bail of 25,000 baht.

TLHR reported that the complaint leading to Niraphorn’s arrest was filed “by Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims, an online royalist group whose members have filed numerous lèse majesté charges against many netizens and activists…”. Ultra-royalist Nopadol claimed the student was “involved with running the UFTD’s Facebook page, which contain messages calling for people to join protests, which said were not peaceful protests and at risk of spreading Covid-19.”

Showing how close the links are between regime cops and ultra-royalists, police claimed they “found that the Facebook page contain[ed] what they consider to be seditious messages calling for people to rebel against the authorities, as well as accusations that officers used excessive force on protesters.”

Thailand’s political space narrows by the day.





With 3 updates: Deadly serious II

18 08 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that “protesters gathered at Ratchaprasong intersection and tried to pelt pink dye at the nearby Royal Thai Police Office…. Around 100 protesters of the Thalu Fa group showed up at Ratchaprasong intersection at about 3.30pm to demand that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha resign.” They were also protesting the use of live ammunition in the previous day’s rally:

Police were the target on Tuesday as the protesters believed they had reacted violently during previous crackdowns. Three boys, aged 14-16, were shot by live rounds during the clash at Din Daeng on Monday night. The 15-year-old was in critical condition.

On that use of live rounds, the Thai Enquirer reports that on Monday evening, “police once again clashed with protesters which saw two demonstrators shot with live ammunition.” Later, the number was three.

The Nation also reported the shootings in “a clash with police in Bangkok’s Din Daeng area on Monday.” It added that one young protester “was shot in the back of his head. He fell immediately and was later taken to Rajavithi Hospital…”, and that at “around 9.30pm another protester was reportedly shot in his right arm and is being treated at the King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital.”

The report continued to state that “police representatives insist only barriers and rubber bullets were used during the clash.”

The Bangkok Post took up the police claims, reporting that they “denied firing live ammunition at protesters of the Thalu Fah group during chaotic scenes in front of Din Daeng police station on Monday night, saying only rubber bullets were used…”.

Meanwhile, “Rajavithi Hospital announced on Tuesday morning it had found a bullet lodged in the head of a seriously wounded young protester rushed there by ambulance on Monday night. He remained in a coma.”

The report adds: “Pol Col Rathachai Sriwichai, the Din Daeng police chief, on Tuesday denied his men used live rounds against the protesters.” He was reportedly “responding to a video clip posted on the social media with a voice-over alleging that about 8.45pm Din Daeng police opened fire at the protesters with live ammunition and some protesters were hit.”

The policeman stated that “[p]olice were gathering evidence to take legal action…”. That’s kind of definitional of the regime’s political police. They are not collecting evidence about the shootings, but to charge social media users with computer crimes:

Pol Col Rathachai said he would prepare a report for his superiors on the posting of the online video and voice-over allegation.They would decide whether it constituted a violation of the Computer Crimes Act.

In total, at least:

… [s]ix protesters were reported injured…. Three of them reportedly had bullet wounds. They were an unidentified man, about 20 years of age, who was admitted to Rajavithi Hospital; Supat Wathanakul, age not known, admitted to Petcharavej Hospital; and, Thanapol Homya, 14, admitted to Chulalongkorn Hospital.”

The three others were injured in a running brawl. They were Apichok Narongchai, 22, who was admitted to Petcharavej Hospital; Krisda Janjamras, 18, admitted to Rama Thibodi Hospital; and Ukrit Photia, 17, admitted to Rama Thibodi Hospital….

Rajavithi Hospital announced on Tuesday that a 20-year-old man was brought to the hospital by a Ruam Katanyu Foundation ambulance on Monday night. He did not have any identification documents on him.

According to the announcement, the young man was not breathing on arrival at the hospital. There was a bullet wound in the left side of his neck. Doctors performed emergency CPR and after about six minutes he started showing vital signs again.

A computerised brain x-ray showed a bullet lodged in the man’s brain stem. The first and second neck vertebrae were fractured.

As of 9.40am on Tuesday, he was still in a coma and on a ventilator. His vital signs were steady.

Unconfirmed social media reports are that the police have now admitted to the use of live ammunition. We’ll update later.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post now reports that “[f]orensic police were to inspect the scene where the protester was shot yesterday. No experts so far have been able to establish where the shot that injured the protester came from.” Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner Pol Lt Gen Pakkapong Pongpetra said: “Live ammunition was fired [at the protester] but it did not come from police…”. This suggests that the social media accounts remain unconfirmed.

Update 2: Another Bangkok Post report tells readers that the boy in a coma is indeed just 15. He remains in a critical condition.

Update 2: Police now say they are investigating the shootings.





Making 112 connections

10 08 2021

Since the 2006 military coup, rightist regimes have made lese majeste a charge that can be used internationally. The result has been that several persons outside Thailand have been charged.

Most recently, Thai PBS reports that serial yellow-shirt complainer and attention seeker Srisuwan Janya has taken a new path to lese majeste repression when he combined the international and the national. ,”lodged a complaint with the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) police … seeking legal action against administrators of the ‘Youth & Direct Democracy TH’ Facebook page for posting images of Thai protesters in a German town, allegedly containing messages deemed to insult and intimidate the Thai monarchy.”

In addition, he demanded that the police charge “45 other individuals who, he alleged, had shared the content on social media.”

Srisuwan said the protesters in Germany, who he alleges are “Thais,” with “some of them living in exile to escape lèse majesté prosecutions … staged the rally on Saturday in Kirn … to coincide with the protests in Thailand, organized by the Free Youth movement…”. He claimed he had a list of names for the police.

Srisuwan, seems to be the self-appointed secretary-general of the Complain About Everything Association or the Thai Constitution Protection Association, with the report stating he is a “solo activist.”

He has also “submitted a petition to the National Human Rights Commission … to rule on whether the Saturday’s protest at Din Daeng intersection was peaceful, creative and without arms, as claimed by the Free Youth movement and its supporters.”

He said that, before the protest on Saturday, the Free Youth movement sent a letter to the NHRC asking the commission to send officials to observe the protest, which the movement claimed to be peaceful and in line with the principle of free expression.

The NHRC assigned commissioners Preeda Kongpaen, Asst Prof Suchart Setthamalinee, Sayamon Kaiyurawong and Wasant Paileeklee and some officials to observe the protest.

Of course, Srisuwan reckons the protesters were violent and “wants the commission’s ruling to be used as a basis to take action against the movement, in accordance with the computer crime law.”

We can only think that the last words are in error, for as far as we know, the violence was physical rather than digital. However, Srisuwan often comes up with loopy legal interpretations, so who knows.





Vigilante 112

4 07 2021

In a deepening of Thailand’s fascism, ultra-royalist vigilantes continue to lay complaints against netizens, which police convert into charges.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights report on another such case. We do not think we have previously posted on this case. TLHR states:

On 22 June 2021, at 08:00 am, Ms. Kanlaya (Pseudonym), a 27-year-old employee of a private company in Nonthaburi province, close to Bangkok, reported to Su-ngai Kolok District Police Station in Narathiwat province, Thailand’s Deep South, to acknowledge her charges under the “lese majeste” provisions of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, as well as Article 14(3) of the Computer Crimes Act. Mr. Pasit Chanhuaton filed these charges against her with the inquiry officer at this police station due to four of her online activities in which she posted, shared, and commented on Facebook about the monarchy.

The report does not provide further details regarding the alleged offenses.

Police state that Pasit “has accused at least five persons of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code and filed the charges at this police station in Su-gnai Kolok.” This suggests that he may be in the employ of state agencies, a member of a vigilante cyber-spy group funded by the state or an eager ultra-royalist.

Whatever his particular location as a snitch, police say they “have gradually started to issue summonses for these accused persons to acknowledge their charges.”

Kanlaya’s summons was “from Acting Pol. Maj. Natee Chansaengsri, an inquiry officer from Su-ngai Kolok District Police Station. Dated 17 May 2021, the summons required her to acknowledge her charge in person on 7 June 2021.” She managed to postpone this given that her abode was hundreds of kilometers away in Nonthaburi and her official residence in Phayao. She reported on 22 June 2021.

Snitch Pasit claimed to have been “using Facebook when he came across one Facebook user posting images and four messages referring to the monarchy. The messages include a criticism of the monarchy’s role in relation to the political protests…”. Pasit also claimed Kanlaya shared a post from another Facebook user which urged that Article 112 be revoked to permit free expression on the monarchy.

An outraged Pasit “claimed that these messages maliciously referred to the King in an accusatorial manner.”

Kanlaya has denied all charges.

The police requested that the Narathiwat Provincial Court remand Kanlaya in custody. The court did this but granted a bail application on a surety of 150,000 baht.

Kanlaya is  scheduled to report to the Court again on 9 August 2021.

According to TLHR, there are now “at least 101 persons have been charged under Article 112 in 98 cases since the enforcement of this article has resumed in late November 2020.” Fully 45 of these cases result from vigilante-like complaints.





20 lese majeste cases

18 06 2021

At one time it was Thaksin Shinawatra who was the military and royalists considered the devil and faced the most lese majeste charges. We think that he faced somewhere between four and six charges and several more accusations and investigations.

The record for lese majeste charges is, as Prachatai reports, now held by Parit Chiwarak or Penguin. He is “now facing 20 counts under the lèse majesté law, after complaints were filed against him for Facebook posts he made about King Vajiralongkorn’s divorce from his ex-wife Sujarinee Vivacharawongse [Yuvadhida Suratsawadee], and the use of Sanam Luang for funerals.”

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) are the source for information on the new charges. They report that “Parit went to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) on Tuesday (15 June) to hear the charges…”.

These charges resulted from complaints by “Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims, an online royalist group whose members have filed numerous lèse majesté charges against many netizens…”.

Readers will recall that it was only a few days ago that the same group of royalist, right-wing, fascists showed up at the very same TCSD more charges against those they claimed  violated lese majeste and computer crime laws. AT the time, police said Nangnoi Assawakittikorn and her royalist minions were  calling for charges against another 90 individuals. The new report adds that these 90 all made posts that they claim insulted Queen Suthida on her recent birthday.

Prince, Yuvadhida, and kids in earlier times

The complaints against Parit, however, “were filed on 11 January 2021 and are related to two Facebook posts he made in December 2020. The first was on 8 December 2020 about King Vajiralongkorn’s divorce from his ex-wife Sujarinee Vivacharawongse, who now lives in the United States in exile with her four sons.”

He also stands accused of “called for Princess Sirivannavari, the King’s younger daughter, not to use taxpayer’s money to promote her fashion brand…”. She’s not covered by Article 112. However, it is also alleged that Parit “included in the post a link to a voice clip rumoured to be that of the king saying ‘I know I’m bad’.” We guess if he’s convicted on that, then the rumor is proven.

In another post on 31 December 2020 it is alleged he “mentioned how funerals are allowed to be held at Sanam Luang but people are not allowed to sell shrimp, referring to the shrimp sale organized by the volunteer protest guard group We Volunteer on 31 December 2020 which was dispersed by police.”

In addition to the 20 lese majeste charges Parit now faces, he also has outstanding charges under the Computer Crimes Act, sedition, and more.

In these two most recent cases, Parit denied all charges. Startlingly, he reportedly “requested that Sujarinee and her sons be brought in as witnesses and to have them testify on why they had to leave the country, who is involved in their exile, and whether they wish to return to Thailand.” That may result in more charges.





Updated: “Fake” news, state news

13 06 2021

Anyone who struggles through the blarney posted by the regime’s PR outfits must wonder about the meaning of “fake news.”

But when the regime’s bosses talk “fake news” one can expect they are talking about others and their news. Mostly, they are worried about news on the monarchy and criticism of themselves.

All kinds of political regimes have taken up “fake news” as a way of limiting criticism, but it is authoritarian, military and military-backed regimes that have been most enthusiastic in using it to roll back and limit criticism. In Thailand, repression has been deepened through all kinds of efforts to limit free expression and to silence opponents.

With laws on computer crimes, defamation, treason, sedition, and lese majeste, a reasonable person might wonder why the regime needs more “legal” means for repression. But, then, authoritarian regimes tend to enjoy finding ways to silence critics.

It is thus no real surprise to read in the Bangkok Post that Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has ordered “the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) and security agencies to take tough action against those who spread fake news.” He included the “Anti-Fake News Centre, the Royal Thai Police, the Justice Ministry and the DES” telling them to “work together to respond swiftly to the spread of fake news on social media platforms, and take legal action accordingly.”

I Can't Speak

His minions “explained” he was worried about virus news, but when Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “instructed the Council of State, the government’s legal advisory body, to study the laws and regulations, including those in foreign countries, dealing with the spread of fake news” the focus was much broader and was clearly about anti-monarchy news. After all, officials added that the Computer Crime Act was insufficient for curbing “the damage speedily enough.”

The Thai Enquirer sensed an even broader regime agenda. They saw the use of the Council of State as a path to a “law that would control the online media in Thailand.”

They recognize that the aim is to strengthen “national security,” code for the monarchy. But, they also note a desire to limit “the criticism that the government has received over its Covid-19 response program from online platforms” including by Thai Enquirer. Of course, that criticism has also involved the monarchy.

They rightly fear that the online media “would be targeted under the new law.” They say:

This law, as commentators have noted, is an affront and a threat to free and fair press inside this country. It would make our job thousands of times harder and open us up to lawsuit and the threat of legal harassment by the government.

As we have been saying at PPT, Thai Enquirer believes:

we are being taken back to the dark days of military rule because the government believes criticism aimed at them is a threat to the entire nation. That they are unable to differentiate between a political party, its rule, and the fabric of the nation is arrogant and worrying.

But here we are, even as Deputy Prime Minister and legal predator Wissanu Krea-Ngam thinks of an excuse to shut us down, we promise to you that we will keep reporting to the end.

They call for opposition to tyranny, adding that “this new onslaught against press freedom” will be opposed through their reporting.

In a Bangkok Post op-ed by Wasant Techawongtham acknowledges that fake news can be a problem but notes that a new law “Bootis aimed at silencing critics of the ruling regime.” He adds:

Since democracy was banished from Thailand following the 2014 military coup d’etat, a number of laws have been enacted purportedly to protect the Thai people against the harmful effects of computer crimes. But it is crystal clear that the real purpose of these laws is to suppress the voice of the people.

Authoritarians tend to go to great lengths to ensure their stay in power through silencing dissent.

Under this regime, Wasant observes that regime opponents have been “harassed, or even put in jail” and several have been dissappeared and others killed.

He recognizes that a range of repressive laws have:

done quite a remarkable job of suppressing free speech. Those who insisted on speaking their minds against the current rulers have been severely dealt with. Those who were put in jail were allowed back to their families only after they agreed to seal their lips.

Not only regime and monarchy critics are silenced, but the “media — broadcast, digital and print — have felt compelled to screen their offerings very carefully, which in many cases leads to self-censorship.”

But none of this is enough! The regime wants more! There can be no freedom. There can only be the regime’s “truth.”

Update: Thinking about fake news from the regime, the royal propaganda machine is pumping out some real tripe. The latest has the king and his number 1 consort cooking meals allegedly for “medical professionals,” although in the story at The Nation, Sineenat isn’t even mentioned.

Royal cooks

Clipped from The Nation

As they often are, the couple appear in identical kit with minions groveling around them. We are told that “King … Vajiralongkorn on Saturday cooked a variety of food at the kitchen of Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in Dusit Palace…”. He’s the cleanest cook in history, with not a stain to be seen, suggesting that its fake news or, in other words, a photo op meant to deceive the public. And, their gear changes in several of the pictures.

To add to the “news,” the “Royal Office” is quoted as saying:

These foods have nutrition values of five food groups with fingerroot as a key ingredient…. Fingerroot or Krachai is a Thai traditional herb that has various medicinal benefits and could help strengthen the body’s immune system and help prevent Covid-19. Furthermore, eating freshly cooked meals is one of the recommended ways to stay safe from the virus.

We have to say that we at PPT must have wasted our time getting vaccinated because, as the royals have, hot food protects us, and we eat “freshly cooked meals” at least twice a day! Krachai may well be the king’s favorite ingredient as it is said to help with male sexual performance. But how to explain the erect chef’s hat is beyond us.

That aside, this palace propaganda must rank as “fake news.”





Updated: Blind 112 complaint

11 06 2021

Longtime readers of PPT might remember a lese majeste case from 2016, where Nurhayati Masoh, a then 23 year-old unemployed Thai-Malay Muslim from Yala who was convicted on 4 January 2018 and sentenced to three years in jail.

At the time, we commented that, under the military dictatorship, lese majeste cases had become increasing bizarre and cruel. Students, journalists, academics, workers, red shirts and many more have been charged and sentenced. In recent months this purge has included juveniles and the aged. 112 logo

Nurhayati ‘s case marked another sad milestone in that she is blind. Worse still, she had been reported by Pipathanachai Srakawee, President of the Thailand Association of the Blind and a fervent royalist. Not only did he lodge his complaint, but he repeatedly and obsessively pursued senior officials, police and prosecutors to ensure that she was charged, tried and convicted. She was eventually sentenced to one year in jail for violating the Computer Crime Act.

As Prachatai reports, Pipathanachai (now Phatanachai) and still President of the Association is back, “protecting” the monarchy. In this case, the king’s fourth wife Queen Suthida.

Phatanachai told the Thungmahamek Police in Bangkok to report “an allegedly lèse majesté comment posted by someone older who also has a visibility impairment.” Prachatai reports:

Khumklao Songsomboon of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the lawyer in the new case, said on 9 June that the police summons had been delayed until 25 June because the notice was too short and the suspect was a blind person in another province.

Khumklao said that he could not reveal any details without the permission of the suspect. Prachatai is trying to reach the person for more detail.

All Khumklao could say was that TLHR received a request for help from a blind person. And apart delaying the police summons, he was preparing a bail request in case of detention.

The evil Phatanachai “told Prachatai that the suspect was his senior when he was studying in a school in Surat Thani.” He claimed to have been motivated to snitch “because in 2020 the suspect shared a comment critical of Queen Suthida in a post by Nipit Intarasombat, a former MP of the Democrat Party.”

Remarkably this royalist snitch went on to “explain” his perspective on Article 112:

He thought that criticism of the monarchy, including calls for monarchy reform, was okay, but it should also have boundaries. He agreed that 3-15 years in jail was long, but the jail term should be reduced in proportion to the criticism of the monarchy – that is it should be based on reasons, facts, and politeness.

Making the regime’s and palace’s point for them, he added that 112 “has no effect to people who keep quiet…”.

Presumably he also thinks that snitching and vigilantism is rewarded.

Update: Prachatai has a lengthy article that reflects more on Phatanachai’s perculiar perspective on lese majeste. In it he claims “he is not keeping track of this complaint” as he did in the previous case he instigated. He also compares prison for the blind as being “just the same as boarding school…”.





Updated: The anti-monarchy virus

5 06 2021

Seemingly worried that the nation lacks herd immunity, the royalist regime is increasing its efforts to prevent infection by the anti-monarchy virus. The latest effort involves enlisting the royalist courts to ban eight social media pages.

The Ministry  of Digital Economy and Society which only seems to work on banning free expression and thought, has had the courts order these pages closed “because their content allegedly violates the Computer Crime Act.” We assume it is not “alleged” as they have been banned.

The Ministry “announced that the Facebook pages of Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Andrew MacGregor Marshall, Royalist Marketplace, Suda Rangkupan, ป้าหนิง DK, Aum Neko, KTUK and Pixel HELPER will be removed.” The Nation report says “[t]hese pages carried politics-related content and were critical of the Thai government.”

This is not entirely accurate. They have been banned for their anti-monarchy content.

The Bangkok Post reports that the Ministry describes these sites as having “posted fake news…”. Some might suggest that these sites do sometimes post rumors and guesses about the monarchy. But that reflects the medieval secrecy associated with a monarchy that gulps taxpayer funds, regularly intervenes in politics, has an unsavory reputation, and has a nasty, symbiotic relationship with the military.

Thai PBS gets the reason for the ban right, adding that the Ministry “summoned internet providers to acknowledge a court order to block or delete eight Facebook accounts, groups and fan pages, known for their criticism of the Thai monarchy.”

The court order apparently also applies to “[a]ny new or other accounts related to the same users, providing similar content…”.

This is one step in a process of getting Facebook to take down these pages. In an increasing ly authoritarian capitalist world, it seems likely that Facebook will fold. In seeking to enforce royalist silence on the monarchy, a “working committee has also been set up to pressure platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, to ban accounts which feature content which violates Thai laws…”. You see the issue here. A mad or medieval regime can have all kinds of regressive laws and thus pressure the huge internet businesses.

In Thailand, the Ministry announces that it “…

© Shutterstock

now gives importance to prosecuting violators to the fullest extent of the law…”. The court order requires ISPs “to remove or block information posted by the individuals on websites and social networks, along with their passwords and IP addresses, from their computer systems.”

The Bangkok Post story cites Sunai Pasuk of Human Rights Watch, who “called the court order a censorship order instructing Facebook to ban critics of the monarchy. That will put a chokehold on people’s ability to express themselves as well as on the social media platform’s open space…”.

The royalist regime believes such a chokehold will prevent the anti-monarchy virus from spreading further.

Update: Prachatai reports:

On 2 June, the Minister of Digital Economy and Society (DES) Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn invited Internet Service Providers to acknowledge a court order to restrict access to or delete computer data of 8 allegedly illegal users on Facebook within 24 hours. Four days on, the pages of the targets remain accessible.





Updated: Chulabhorn lese majeste

2 06 2021

A property appraiser is facing prosecution for alleged lese majeste and computer crimes associated with comments reportedly targeting Princess Chulabhorn’s recent political and business intervention over vaccination.

As is becoming usual, it was Seksakol Atthawong and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s lawyer Apiwat Khanthong who “filed a formal complaint with Nang Loeng police in Bangkok against Sophon Pornchokchai…”, a man working in real estate.

They allege that “Sophon violated the lèse-majesté law and uploaded false information into the computer system.” Seksakol claimed Sophon “posted a message on social media that offended the ‘institution’ [he means monarchy]…”, even if the post had since been removed. Because the “post attracted public attention,” the rabid and official royalist protectors declared “[l]egal action was in order…”.

Apparently no names were mentioned in the post, but Seksakol declared “[p]eople who read the message understood straight away what it meant…”. He added that a “part of the message also defamed the government…”.

We are not quite sure why, but Seksakol lied that “he and Mr Apiwat, as ordinary citizens, asked the police to press charges against Mr Sophon.”

Seksakol urged vigilante action across the country, saying “[a]nyone who comes across statements or messages that violate lèse-majesté can lodge a complaint with police…”.

Sophon denied the accusation, “saying he and his family have always been loyal to the monarchy.” He said his post “about a vaccine issue and the Chulabhorn Royal Academy should not be misinterpreted because he has never had bad thoughts about the monarchy…”.

As a footnote, it is of some interest that the Bangkok Post recently reported that the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society took “legal action against architect Duangrit Bunnag and Accap Assets Co, a real estate company, for allegedly fabricating documents about the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine and spreading fake news about it. It says the claims discredit the government.” What’s happening in real estate and why their flap over Chulabhorn’s intervention?

Update: Of course, we should have observed that the lese majeste law does not apply to Chulabhorn. But as others have been investigated and charged with lese majeste for all kinds of offenses not covered by the 112 law, perhaps this is no surprise.





Updated: Judges and Toyota II

1 06 2021

Thailand’s judiciary is rotten. It is politically biased, engages in acts of double standards, and has been shown to be inhumane in its sentencing. Underneath all of this, it is corrupt, long “protected” by is association with the monarchy.

However, a bribery case in the USA and involving Toyota is shining a light on corruption alleged to be at the very top of the judiciary. For an earlier post on this developing case, see here.

About a week ago, Law 360’s Frank G. Runyeon reported that:Law360

“U.S. authorities are ramping up their Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation of Toyota, with federal prosecutors impaneling a grand jury in Texas as they seek any evidence the carmaker bribed top Thai judges to overturn a $350 million tax judgment, according to a U.S. law enforcement official and documents related to the investigation.

Ongoing investigations by both the USA’s Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission are poring over documents from Toyota, which self-reported, an internal company investigation conducted by WilmerHale, presented to American authorities by Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in April 2020.

Toyota suspected senior attorneys working for Toyota Motor Thailand “funneled bribes through a private Thai law firm to Thailand Supreme Court judges in an effort to influence the decision on a still-pending appeal of the tax judgment…”.

The grand jury proceedings are secret, but more details have been released regarding the internal investigation at Toyota:

The internal Toyota investigation found that TMT contracted with Annanon Law Office to help establish a backchannel to Thailand’s highest ranking judge via a former chief judge and an advisor, law enforcement documents show. TMT paid nearly $18 million on the $27 million contract, according to the documents, with $9 million to be paid if Toyota won the appeal, which relates to import taxes on Prius car parts.

Those potentially involved in the alleged bribery are named: “… Annanon law firm, … former Supreme Court of Thailand President Direk Ingkaninan and Supreme Court senior advisor Chaiyasit Trachutham…”. They were “to persuade high court president Slaikate Wattanapan to accept Toyota’s argument and have the court rule in its favor within a year, sometime after Slaikate’s term began in October 2019…”.

Runyeon reports that:

Thai government records indicate that around the time of the alleged bribery scheme Direk was a sitting senior judge and Slaikate was president of the Supreme Court. While the duration of Chaiyasit’s alleged tenure as a high court advisor is unclear, records show he was a senior judge on the Court of Appeal for Specialized Cases until at least October 2019…. Mr. Direk assisted TMT with the Prius case in the Primary Court and has been involved again in the current possible Supreme Court appeal.

Direk, 70, was the top ranking senior judge on the Supreme Court as of May 2020, government records show, and is eligible to serve until he ages out next September. Records show Chaiyasit, 70, reached mandatory retirement age in September 2020 after various judicial posts on Thailand’s appellate and supreme courts. Slaikate, 66, stepped down as Supreme Court president in September 2020, but retained senior judge status.

… The long-serving Toyota attorneys who law enforcement documents claim allegedly organized the scheme — General Manager Wichien Hirunmahapol, his deputy Sathit Tungjitpreechatai and Pornchai Saetachantana — left TMT in the midst of Toyota’s internal corruption probe and opened a boutique law firm, according to online biographies, the firm’s website and sources familiar with that investigation.

… A court official confirmed on Monday that Direk and Slaikate remain sitting senior judges on Thailand’s Supreme Court but did not immediately confirm Chaiyasit’s employment status. He referred Law360 back to an earlier public statement.

Soon after this report was noticed in Thailand, the Bangkok Post reported that the “Thai Court of Justice has vowed to take action against wrongdoers following a report the US Department of Justice is taking the Toyota bribery probe involving three top Thai judges to a grand jury.”

As always happens in such international cases of bribery and corruption, Thai authorities sought “information.”

Usually the “information is delayed, lost, misplaced for long enough that it fades away.

Suriyan Hongwilai, spokesman of the Court of Justice, stated that “if the Court of Justice found or could verify that the bribery had taken place, it would take disciplinary action, regardless of who the wrongdoers were or what positions they held by submitting the finding to the Judicial Commission.” He added that no one should “not to jump to conclusions before the cases were concluded in both countries.”

As we know, even if convicted of a crime in the US, the judges could turn to politics and become ministers.

LaughingAnother Law 360 report follows Suriyan’s media outing, claiming he stated that “[s]ince becoming aware of the matter, the Court of Justice has been trying to follow, verify, and gather all related information and facts both in the country and abroad…”. It seems they found nothing, knew nothing for Suriyan said: “Now that there has been a news report mentioning names and positions of some individuals, the Court of Justice will proceed to verify with the related affiliated agencies.” He added: “Further action would depend on the details of the obtained information…”.

It won’t be just PPT who will find such statements laughable. After all, as another Law 360 report says, it is “[m]ore than six months before Toyota disclosed concerns to U.S. authorities about possible foreign bribery in Thailand…” and two months since it was publicly reported.

Law360 says that the “protocol for the internal [Toyota] investigation was laid out in a 22-page document dated Sept. 30, 2019.” It was that document that “appeared to show that Toyota was concerned about possible corrupt payments to current and former Thailand Supreme Court judges, as well as to the country’s top finance and justice officials.”

It is stated that:

Toyota’s internal investigation focused on whether its employees made payments to any of eight Thai law firms or 12 individuals who may have played a role in the Prius litigation as the company was challenging the tax judgment in Thai courts. In addition to understanding if and how payments were made, the probe sought to confirm the amounts and whether any such payments were hidden, made indirectly, diverted to others, or “used or intended to be used for an improper purpose, and in particular, to influence the outcome of the Prius case.”

Another key question for reviewers was whether the recipients of any such payments had any connection to, influence over, or ex parte contact with sitting Thailand Supreme Court judges who might rule on Toyota’s case. WilmerHale also asked its team to flag any evidence that Toyota Motor Corp., the global parent company, knew about any “potentially improper payments to consultants.”

The response from the named judges began with threats of defamation cases. The aim was to keep their names out of reports in Thailand, including on social media. Isra News Agency reported:

that three Thai judges mentioned in a Law360 article about the possible bribery would ask the Court of Justice … to file a computer crime complaint with police to take legal action against those who mentioned them by name or shared such news on social media.

Thai PBS reports that “[f]ormer president of Thailand’s Appeals Court, Professor Chaiyasit Trachutham, has categorically denied allegations, reported by Law360, that he was among three senior judges implicated in Toyota Motors Thailand’s (TMT) bribery scandal.” He added that:

he was directly involved in the legal dispute between TMT and the Thai Customs Department, over import taxes on Toyota Prius hybrid cars,when he was a senior judge at the Appeals Court and was responsible for handling 10 case files…. After having carefully studied the case, he said that he felt that TMT had only a slim chance of winning the case….

The Bangkok Post reports that the Court of Justice moved a little further, and “has set up a 10-member panel to follow up on the Toyota bribery scandal…”. It was set up last Friday. So what the judiciary was doing before probably amounted to a hope that the story could be kept quiet.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reported that “Salaikate Wattanaphan, former president of the Supreme Court, has [also] denied any involvement in the bribery case…”. He “insisted that since he wasn’t in a position to make any decisions on Toyota’s appeal against the Appeal Court’s ruling in the tax dispute case, it is impossible that he would be offered as much money as claimed.”

Salaikate said “he was president of the court back then but wasn’t directly involved in the decision.”He reckons “… accusations that senior judges were paid US$19 million and later US$27 million were sketchy … who would ever be silly enough to pay that much money to them while not knowing how the decision [on the appeal] would turn…”. It seems he’s semi-serious in this observation.

Meanwhile, cases against those mentioning the report and judges are moving faster than any investigation of the bribery allegations.

Update: How fast can a judge move when named in a corruption case? In the kill-the-messenger sprint, it is with Olympic record speed. The Bangkok Post reports that former Supreme Court president Direk Inkhaninan and Chaisit Trachutham, a former senior judge in the Appeal Court, have already “filed a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division against Law360, a US-based legal news website, for defamation.”