Further updated: 112 in Chiang Rai

15 04 2021

Mongkol Thrakhote was arrested on Wednesday during a “solo protest in front of the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court to demand the release of Ratsadon leaders…”.

A resident of Chiang Rai province and aged 27, he was arrested while “facing a lèse majesté charge in his home province…”.

He was taken to “Pahonyothin police station for questioning, before he is to be sent back to police in Chiang Rai province.” Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said “Mongkol had insisted on giving his statement to police in Pan district of Chiang Rai … adding that a lawyer from the centre there will provide the suspect with legal counsel.”

Update 1: The arrest of Mongkol is looking suspiciously like a fit-up by the police and their masters. Prachatai reports that Mongkol arrived from “Chiang Rai on 12 April to join the hunger strike while sitting in front of the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road, Bangkok, to demand the release of activists currently detained pending trial and denied bail.”

Court officials immediately placed “metal barriers in front of the Criminal Court sign and told him that his action might be considered contempt of court, so he went to sit just next to the sign.” Other officers demanded his personal information and questioned and asked to search him. He was “told him that a ‘higher-up’ in the Court is unhappy and would like him to go away…”.

Soon, “uniformed and plainclothes police officers from Phaholyothin Police Station, along with some officers dressed like a commando unit, arrived to question him for another hour.” This questioning continued over several hours, on-and-off, and they pressured him to leave the area.

The next day, “a large number of officers” arrived as other protesters joined Mongkol. The, at “13.20 on 14 April, Mongkhon was arrested by police officers from Phaholyothin Police Station. The officers presented an arrest warrant from Phan Police Station in Chiang Rai, which stated that he was being charged under Section 112, or the lèse majesté law, and the Computer Crimes Act.”

It seems that “that police officers from the Muang Chiang Rai Police Station went to search Mongkhon’s house” on the morning of 14 April, with a search warrant.

This sounds suspicious to us. It gives the impression that the police were in search of a charge as a way to remove Mongkol.

Update 2: Prachatai reports that Mongkol “has been granted bail after two days in detention.” A surety of 150,000 baht was required. The report adds further information on the case. Officers searched his house and confiscated several items:

pieces of paper with messages written on them, a declaration by the activist group Ratsadorn, an armband with the three-finger salute symbol, and a red ribbon, and had his mother sign documents to acknowledge the search and confiscation. It is not clear how the objects confiscated by the officers are related to the case. Mongkhon’s mobile phone was also confiscated when he was arrested in Bangkok.

According to the police, the charges “to 25 Facebook posts he made between 2 – 11 March 2021, including messages referring to the King’s images, sharing video clips and foreign news reports about the Thai monarchy, and sharing posts from Somsak Jeamteerasakul’s Facebook page while adding captions.”





Vendor held on 112 charge

9 04 2021

Prachatai reports data from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights who say that “at least 82 people are facing charges under Section 112 since November 2020.” Several face multiple lese majeste charges and a slew of other charges.

One of the most recent cases to become known involves a 22 year-old online vendor from Chiang Mai, identified only as Phonphimon or Pholpimol.  She faces both a 112 charge and a charge made under the Computer Crimes Act. The charges are reportedly related to a Facebook post from October 2020.112

Phonphimon was arrested on 31 March 2021 “by a team of 5 – 6 uniformed and plainclothes police officers who presented an arrest warrant issued by the Chiang Mai Provincial Court…”.

She was taken to Chang Puak Police Station and “held overnight before being taken to court for a temporary detention request.”

On 1 April, she was told that “the charges were filed by Thikhathat Phrommani, who claimed he saw a Facebook post which was an insult to the King.”

The same day, the “Chiang Mai Provincial Court ruled to detain Phonphimon for 12 days, on the grounds that the penalty for the charges is high and that the accused is likely to flee or tamper with evidence.” As the police already had here electronic devices and she had given them access, this is ridiculous claim by the court.

Phonphimon has denied all charges and denies the Facebook profile is hers.

The Court denied bail and she was taken to the Chiang Mai Woman Correctional Institution. She remains in detention.

She is “being held alone with a prison guard in a cell with no window, and that there was no light other than in front of the cell.”





Another 112-like conviction

11 03 2021

AP reports that:

On Wednesday, the Criminal Court sentenced a 22-year-old man to 4 1/2 years in prison for violating the Computer Crime Act by creating several accounts on Facebook on which he allegedly made nine posts criticizing the monarch in April 2020.

The man, a waiter, had his sentence halved from the original nine years because he pleaded guilty, a standard practice in Thai courts.

Thai Enquirer reported:

Thai courts sentenced, on Wednesday, a man to four years and five months in jail for photoshopping photos that were deemed to be disrespectful to the monarch.

The Criminal Court in Thonburi said Supakorn Pinijbuth, 21, used two Facebook accounts to post several photoshopped posts between April 10 and 23 that violated the country’s strict lese majeste laws.

The court said his social media posts have caused social conflict and threatens stability of the nation.

Initially, the court had sentenced him to one year in jail for each of the social media post. However, Supakorn confessed so the sentenced was reduced to 6 months for each post.

Rights legal group, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said on Tuesday that Supakorn’s case happened before Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha’s government said it would reuse the lese-majeste law in November.

Human rights organizations have condemned the Prayut government’s uses of various laws such as the Computer Crime Act, the state of emergency decree, sedition and the lese-majeste law to suppress dissidents and anti-government protesters.

We are trying to verify if the conviction was for lese majeste. computer crimes or both.





Another busy 112 day

4 03 2021

Clipped from Prachatai

In yet another day of Article 112 action, Thailand’s royalist protection police – 20 of them – descended on Tiwagorn Withiton, “a Facebook user who went viral in 2020 for posting a picture of himself wearing a shirt printed with ‘I lost faith in the monarchy,’ was arrested again…”, in Khon Kaen, “on a warrant issued by the Khon Kaen Provincial Court on 3 March 2021 on charges under the lèse-majesté law and sedition law, or Sections 112 and 116, as well as the Computer Crimes Act.”

The charges stemmed from “Facebook posts he made on 11 and 18 February 2021.” The police seized three “I lost faith in the monarchy” t-shirts, computers and smart phones.

Tiwagorn denied the charges.

After a couple of hours in prison, the “Khon Kaen Provincial Court has granted Tiwagorn bail, with a security of 150,000 baht.”





Dead dog lese majeste

17 01 2021

A few days ago, The Nation reported that, after more than five years, including seven days of interrogation and physical assault at an Army camp and three months held in prison, a court had finally dismissed the most ludicrous of lese-majeste charges that royalist Thailand has ever mounted. Along with equally mad sedition and computer crime charges associated with the Army’s corrupt Rajabhakti Park royal project, the Article 112 charges against Thanakorn Siripaiboon were all dismissed.

The lese majeste and computer crimes charges resulted from Thanakorn clicking “like” on a Facebook page featuring a satirical picture of King Bhumibol and for a Facebook post about that king’s mutt, Thong Daeng. It is reported that the “court dismissed that charge … ruling that the evidence was not proof that he intended to defame the monarchy.”

The court dismissed the other charges, “upholding Thanakorn’s legal right to air his suspicions of corruption. It also ruled he had not violated the Computer Crime Act because it could not be proved the information he shared was false.” According to a more detailed Prachatai report, the court ruled that “the Court said that a call for transparency in the project was not an act of sedition.

While good news, the court’s “reasoning” on the lese majeste case indicates that the judiciary remains royalist mad:

With regard to liking the problematic Facebook page, an act which put him under lèse-majesté and computer crime charges, the Court said that there was no “following button” on Facebook at the time, so a user had to click “like” to follow a Facebook page.

Clicking “like” to follow the news on a Facebook page in September 2015 was not the same as clicking “like” on an allegedly lèse majesté picture which was posted in December, so the Court acquitted him of the lèse majesté charge.

And since the defendant only followed the page, and did not share it, he did not spread any false information from the page. Facebook may have promoted any public post or pages randomly on anyone’s newsfeed, but it was not Thanakorn’s doing. So the Court also acquitted him of the computer crime charge.

Thanakorn has since ordained as a monk.





Further updated: Yuletide lese majeste

22 12 2020

There’s been quite a lot of commentary on the protests, some motivated by the avalanche of lese majeste cases and some by the fact that the end of the year begs for reviews.

One that caught our attention is by Matthew Wheeler, Senior Analyst for Southeast Asia at the International Crisis Group. It is quite a reasonable and careful rundown of events prompting the demonstrations and the call for reform of the monarchy.

The lese majeste cases pile higher and higher. In a Bangkok Post report on people turning up to hear lese majeste charges, eight are listed: Arnon Nampa, Intira Charoenpura, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Nattathida Meewangpla, Shinawat Chankrachang, Phimsiri Phetnamrop, and Phromson Wirathamchari.

We can’t locate the latter two on the most recent Prachatai graphic that listed 34 activists charged under 112, but that graphic does include five with names withheld. For us, this brings the total charged to 34-36, but it may well be more.

There was some good news on lese majeste. It is reported that, after more than 4.5 years, a ludicrous 112 charge against Patnaree Chankij have been dismissed. The mother of activist Sirawith Seritiwat, the Criminal Court on Tuesday dismissed the charge. Her one word “jah” in a chat conversation was said to be the cause of the charge but, in reality, going after her was the regime’s blunt effort to silence her son.

A second piece of reasonable news is that the Criminal Court also dismissed charges of sedition brought by the military junta against former deputy prime minister Chaturon Chaisaeng on 27 May 2014 six years ago under Section 116 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act. This was another junta effort to silence critics.

As seen in recent days, equally ludicrous charges have been brought against a new generation of critics.

Update 1: Thai PBS reports that the Criminal Court acquitted nine members of the Pro-Election Group who had been charged in late January 2018 with poking the military junta: “Section 116 of the Criminal Code, illegal public assembly within a 150-metre radius of a Royal palace and defying the then junta’s order regarding public assembly of more than five people.”

The defendants were Veera Somkwamkid, Rangsiman Rome, currently a party-list for the Kao Klai party, Serawit Sereethiat, Nattha Mahatthana, Anon Nampa, a core member of the Ratsadon Group, Aekkachai Hongkangwan, Sukrit Piansuwan, Netiwit Chotepatpaisarn and Sombat Boon-ngam-anong.

The court ruled that:

… protesters complaining about the postponement of general elections cannot be regarded as incitement to public unrest. It also said that the protesters had no intention to defy the ban against public assembly within 150-metres of the Royal palace.

Of course, the charges were always bogus, but the junta’s point was to use “law” for political repression.

Update 2: The Nation reports that there were, in fact, 39 defendants who were acquitted.





Judicial intimidation and repression

6 12 2020

We have known for some time that the loyalist Constitutional Court brooks no criticism. However, its recent political decision allowing Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s free gifts from the Royal Thai Army, despite the words against this in the constitution, means the court and the regime are going to be busy dousing the critical commentary of the kangaroo court.

A story at Thai Enquirer is worth considering. It points out that, after the court’s decision, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, a secretary to the Office of the Prime Minister, warned protesters associated with the new People’s Party and the Move Forward Party “to not create trouble and respect the high court’s decision.” In addition, the Constitutional Court “issued a statement urging people to avoid criticism that could lead to prosecution…”. It stated that “a person shall enjoy the liberty to express opinions, but criticism of rulings made with vulgar, sarcastic or threatening words will be considered a violation of the law.”

It is difficult not to be sarcastic when characterizing the decisions made by this cabal of politicized regime crawlers and fawners.

The story observes that the “impermissibility of judicial criticism … is a growing concern and has been on the rise since the May 2014 coup d’etat…”. It notes that “[t]hreats to critics have become commonplace.”

Recent high-profile cases include “two academics were summoned by the Court for making comments critical of court decisions.”

Sarinee Achavanuntakul, an academic wrote an opinion piece in Krungthep Turakit arguing that judges were “careless” in their interpretation of election law after disqualifying a Future Forward Party candidate from running in the March 2019 election. Kovit Wongsurawat, a lecturer at Kasetsart University, also received a letter from the Court over an “inappropriate” tweet.

This trend is described as “alarming,” and makes the case that charges of contempt of court are “used in the same fashion as other draconian and authoritarian laws such as lese majeste and the Computer Crime Act to curb dissent.”

The use of courts for political repression is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes.

In the case of the Constitutional Court, its powers are more or less unbounded; it has the power to issue summons to anyone without due process. Guilt is determined on the spot.” The story adds that “[u]nder Section 38 of the Organic Act on Procedures of the Constitutional Court, judges have the power to limit criticism–and have the authority to remand the accused to as much as a month in prison.”

Described as “a thuggish attempt to call dissenters before the Court,” this power to repress is likened to the junta’s  “attitude adjustment sessions.”

It concludes that “[t]ogether, the Court and the regime are demanding no less than silence before, during and after a case appears before it.”

By seeking to intimidate, the article suggests that the Constitutional Court “risks the further erosion of public legitimacy, as their actions chip away at what remains of democratic mechanisms in Thailand,” adding that this “growing intolerance of judicial criticism is another painful reminder of how far Thailand has fallen and that this behavior by the Court has become normalized.”





Further updated: The monk and lese majeste

16 11 2020

Many readers will know that the regime has banned monks from protesting. It did this after increasing numbers of monks were showing up at protests.

As one report has it:

Thailand’s National Office of Buddhism (NOB) ordered Buddhist monks to abstain from participating in anti-government protests, adding to rules prohibiting monks from political activity, Buddhistdoor Global reported. The announcement was prompted by photographs of Buddhist monks at ongoing protests….

The NOB has threatened that monks who continue to participate in the protests could be defrocked.

Clipped from Khaosod

But not many – including PPT – will have heard of a monk who has fled into exile, first in December 2019 until May 2020 and again more recently, fearing a lese majeste charge. The story begins:

Phra Panya Seesun glanced at the police summons that had been delivered to his temple outside Bangkok. Within seconds, he grasped that he was being accused of defaming the powerful monarchy, which can carry up to 15 years in prison. It was the start of a painful process that would see him flee Thailand and seek asylum in an undisclosed country, a rare collision of politics and religion in the Buddhist-majority kingdom.

“They’re trying to put me in jail,” Panya told VICE News from the undisclosed location abroad. “If they don’t shut my mouth, there could be a second, a third, ten, or a thousand monks.”

The monk claims it was his “Facebook posts from last year that first attracted attention from the police.” In these posts he shared information about King Vajiralongkorn’s controlling shareholding in Siam Cement. This was and is public knowledge and available in the SCG’s annual reports. But he also pointed out that “some monks were rising through the ranks because they were affiliated and personally selected by the monarchy,” and he “criticized links between the royals and the military-backed government…”. He was especially “outspoken over the fact that Vajiralongkorn has the authority to appoint the Supreme Patriarch, the top position in the Sangha, or Buddhist clergy. The change was adopted in 2017 to keep rules in line with a ‘long tradition’ where the monarch has been responsible for picking the candidate.”

VICE News says that “Panya’s case is unusual,” but insists that it sighted “the original summons for royal defamation.” However, when the monk “reported to the police station, he was told that the charges had changed to violating the country’s computer crimes act…”.

Panya states that the response from royalists to his posts was rabid as they bombarded “him hate messages and physical threats.” He adds that:

Many of the messages came from hugely popular royalists groups led by Thai celebrities. His name spread rapidly online from page to page. Panya estimates that there could have been thousands of hateful comments directed at him from numerous pages.

The monk is now in limbo and seeking asylum. His situation is uncertain. He says returning to Thailand is too dangerous: “I’ve seen that many people are missing. Some have been abducted, some were killed…”.

Update 1: Related, an article by Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang at New Mandala on monks supporting contemporary protest rallies, is well worth reading. He argues that:

The activism of young monks is impressive. Contrary to the conventional view that monks are detached from worldly sufferance, these progressive monks are aware of the Sangha’s role in upholding the status quo and injustice. They want to reinterpret the role of the Sangha anew to serve the people and be the voice of public morality.

Update 2: Khaosod has now covered this story. It says the monk “left the country a month ago.” He states that his decision to flee was because “he stood little chance to prove his innocence…”. Panya stated:

From what I saw on the news, no one won lese majeste cases, no matter how nonsensical the charges may be…. The rulings were mostly abnormal and the interpretation ever more vague.

He won’t say where he is residing, “citing fears that he could end up like so many other exiles marked as critics of the monarchy who ended up dead or missing.”

Phra Panya “is now trying to travel to Europe and seek political asylum status; he believes he is the first Buddhist monk in political exile in recent history…”.





Lese majeste-like arrests continue

25 09 2020

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reports that on 21 September, Narin (surname withheld) “was arrested on suspicion of violating the Computer Crime Act…”.

The 31-year-old has been accused of “publishing 4 posts on a Facebook page ‘GuKult’ in August 2019, satirising and attacking the monarchy.”

Eight officers raided his home  seizing phones, computers and other electronic devices. Narin was taken to a police station and was detained for two nights before being released on bail, which the police opposed.

Narin denied all charges. Under the Computer Crimes law, Narin faces up to 5 years in prison on each charge in addition to fines.





HRW on arrests

20 08 2020

Human Rights Watch has issued a note on some of the recent arrests of political activists:

Thailand: Drop Charges, Free Democracy Activists
Thailand: Drop Charges, Free Democracy Activists Authorities Disregard Own Pledge to Allow Dissent

(New York) – Thai authorities should immediately drop all charges and unconditionally release prominent pro-democracy activists arbitrarily detained for their role in peaceful protests, Human Rights Watch said today. On August 19, 2020, Thai police separately arrested Arnon Nampha, Baramee Chairat, Suwanna Tanlek, and Korakot Saengyenphan, charged them with sedition and other offenses, and jailed them.

“The Thai government’s repeated promises to listen to dissenting voices have proven meaningless as the crackdown on pro-democracy activists continues unabated,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The authorities should right their wrong and immediately drop the charges and release Arnon and other detained activists.”

Police arrested Arnon, a defense lawyer with the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, outside the Bangkok Criminal Court after he finished his day’s cases. He was charged with sedition, which carries a maximum seven-year prison term, assembly with an intent to cause violence, violating the ban on public gatherings, and other criminal offenses related to his involvement in a pro-democracy protest in Bangkok on August 3. At the protest, he wore a Harry Potter costume and publicly demanded reforms to bring Thailand’s monarchy into conformance with democratic constitutional principles. The police detained him at the Chanasongkram Police Station in Bangkok.

Three other activists – including Baramee from the Assembly of the Poor in Bangkok, Suwanna from the June 24 for Democracy Movement, and Korakot from the Democracy Restoration Group – also face sedition and other charges similar to those brought against Arnon. They have been detained at Bangkok’s Samranrat Police Station.

The police previously arrested Arnon on similar charges together with another pro-democracy activist, Panupong Jadnok, on August 7. A week later, on August 14, the police arrested a well-known student leader, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, bringing similar accusations.

These six activists are among 31 people whom the police were purportedly seeking to arrest for speaking onstage at a protest sponsored by the Free Youth Movement in Bangkok on July 18. Since the Free Youth Movement held that peaceful protest in front of the Democracy Monument demanding democracy, political reforms, and respect for human rights, youth-led protests by various groups have spread across in Thailand. The largest protest was in Bangkok on August 16, with more than 20,000 participants calling for the dissolution of parliament, a new constitution, respect for freedom of expression, and reforms of the institution of the monarchy to curb the current monarch’s powers.

Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has denied that he ordered the police to arrest the activists and has maintained his pledge to listen to the youth protests. “There has been no order from the prime minister to target those activists,” General Prayuth said during a media interview on August 15. “The police simply use their own judgment and carry out their duty to uphold the law. In the current situation all sides should be reasonable and listen [to each other]. We need to avoid provocation and confrontation.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand ratified in 1996, protects the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. However, Thai authorities have routinely enforced censorship and gagged public discussions about human rights, political reforms, and the role of the monarchy in society. Over the past decade, hundreds of activists and dissidents have been prosecuted on serious criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) for the peaceful expression of their views.

Government repression has intensified in Thailand over the past five months as the authorities used state of emergency powers assumed by the government to help control the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to ban anti-government protests and harass pro-democracy activists.

International pressure is urgently needed to press the Thai government to end the crackdown on pro-democracy activists and peaceful protests, and release those arbitrarily detained, Human Rights Watch said.

“The United Nations and concerned governments should speak out publicly against the rolling political repression in Thailand,” Adams said. “Thai youth are increasingly demanding real progress toward democracy and the rule of law so they can freely express their visions for the future of the country.”