Silencing the media I

16 01 2022

The regime has congratulated itself on its ability to repress anti-government/anti-monarchy protests. The king must feel confident returning to Europe later in the month.

But at what cost? In its annual report, Human Rights Watch says:

Thai authorities have prosecuted dissenters, violently dispersed peaceful protests, and censored news and social media…. Respect for human rights in Thailand has gone from bad to worse while the government’s promises of reform remain unfulfilled.

Read HRW’s World Report 2022. We assume that HRW is in the regime’s sights for repression next year.

The regime’s moves to shut down political expression has been going on for several years, and much of this has been posted by PPT. Of late, we have had several asides regarding the apparent constricting of the media. Some of this has to do with business decisions – look at the Bangkok Post where the “news” is obliterated by advertorials and “stories” that are promotional. Some of it has to do with the political proclivities of owners.

But much of it has to do with repression, censorship and self-censorship. That screw has been being wound down for some time, but the Constitutional Court’s support of the regime in its ludicrous judgement on political reform now seems like a turning point, sending the country further down the repressive royalist rathole. That decision silenced much of the media reporting on monarchy reform.

With that stimulus, as Khaosod recently reported, the regime has conjured “a draft law that would allow suspension of media license on grounds of publishing contents deemed against ‘good morals of the public’.”

The bill,  formally called “Draft Media Ethics and Professional Standards Promotion Act,” was proposed by the government’s Public Relations Department and approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday. The department is chaired by Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who served as the spokesman for the junta….

We all know how the regime defines “good” and “good people.” It has nothing to do with goodness, but with supporting the regime and monarchy. And, we also know that morals have no meaning for a regime full of shysters and murders, not to mention a convicted heroin trafficker. Of course, they are all “good.”

The new law establishes a new licensing and watchdog agency called “Press Profession Council.”

The law will limit press freedom: “It stipulates that while freedom of the press is guaranteed, ‘the exercise must not go against the duties of Thai people or good morals of the people’.”

The Bangkok Post reports that the “draft bill on the promotion of media ethics and professional standards has cleared the cabinet…”.

Supporters of media repression

Regrettably, the Post is already under control, choosing to suggest, in Orwellian style, that an obvious effort to silence the media is, about “the rights, freedoms and independence of media organisations and practitioners.” This is buffalo manure, and the Post’s owners know it, but they have chosen to support repression.

Chavarong Limpattamapanee, chairman of the National Press Council of Thailand, is equally supine, describing “the bill as the best media-related piece of legislation to date.”

With the backbones of jellyfish, such support bodes ill for Thailand’s political future.





Tenure trouble

4 01 2022

Bubbling away in the background of recent politics has been the very large question mark hanging over the regime’s plan to keep Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in the premier’s seat for another 4 years following the next “election,” which the military-backed rulers think is already in the bag.

Yesterday the Bangkok Post had an editorial on the matter, observing that “a legal team [sic] from the House of Representatives claimed that he is entitled to serve as premier until 2027.”

That team reckons “Gen Prayut’s term technically began when his premiership received royal endorsement under the 2017 constitution on June 9, 2019.” They say this means his constitutionally-limited term could run another 4 years. How convenient!

This bunch “rejected the views of those who argue that Gen Prayut’s tenure began in 2014, when he took over in a coup as the head of the National Council for Peace and Order. Under this interpretation, his term would end in August this year.”

The 2017 constitution bars an individual from remaining in office for more than eight years: “The Prime Minister shall not hold office for more than eight years in total, whether or not holding consecutive term., regardless of whether the four-year terms are served back-to-back or not.”

The 2007 constitution simply stated: “The Prime Minister shall not serve in office more than eight years.”

There’s considerable guff in the editorial for it is perfectly clear that both constitutions limit the premiership to 8 years.

It seems likely that the question will go to the partisan Constitutional Court. Based on its previous capacity for fudging the constitution and supporting the regime, we can expect the coup master to be around until 2027.





Criticism, monarchy, and lese majeste torture

29 12 2021

Jatuphat in jail on an earlier 112 charge

Khaosod reports that monarchy-reform protesters Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa and Panupong Jadnok “will no longer apply for bail after repeated refusals to grant them bail while they face multiple lese majeste charges.”

Their attorney, Krisadang Nutcharus said that it is “now be up to the criminal court to consider whether to let the four be released so they could have a fair chance to fight the cases or not.”

Krisadang explained: “The court has the power to end the temporary detention. I will continue to assist [the defendants] but they think the court no longer wants to let them out on bail…”.

The four state that the repeated bail denials means that they are unable to “prepare themselves to fight a fair trial and goes against the international obligations Thailand has to the international community.”

The report quotes former lese majeste political prisoner, Akechai Hongkangwarn. He believes the four now know that:

Penguin during an earlier period in jail. Clipped from Prachatai

they won’t be released before the verdicts are handed [down]. They have requested for bail many times and the repeated denials left them with bitterness. They will probably spend next year in prison if not longer. I understand them and those outside the prison must carry on. If they don’t come out onto the streets, the chance of the four being forgotten would increase…”.

That’s exactly what the regime, palace – with the spendthrift and erratic king back in Thailand – and courts wants: to silence them and to keep them locked up so that the protests lose momentum and leadership. It is also the well-used tactic of keeping those accused of lese majeste locked up until they plead guilty, thus avoiding a proper trial. Several former political prisoners suffered under this neo-feudal system for several years.

Clipped from The Nation

Meanwhile, Thai PBS has a year-ender on criticism of the monarchy and calls for change. It gets some things wrong. For example, it claims: “Before the birth of the youth-led protest movement in 2020, criticism of the monarchy and calls for changes to the institution [monarchy] were only limited to academia.” Only the historically dimwitted could make such a claim. It demeans earlier criticism of the monarchy. Think of some of the red shirts and the students of 1973-76 as two examples. At the same time, it should be noted that academics calling criticizing the monarchy were thin on the ground.

In many ways, as they acknowledge themselves, the current reformers draw on a legacy going back to 1932. And, it is true that this round of questioning the monarchy has meant that the monarchy has been “widely discussed in Thai society.” That’s a real achievement but has come at great cost to the reformers as the lese majeste and other repressive laws have been used and police have attacked and arrested demonstrators (and others).

As the Thai PBS article observes, the judiciary has become crucial in opposing the reformers. Not only does it lock them up, but the “Constitutional Court verdict last month seemed designed to silence the discussion [about the monarchy and reform].”

In a ludicrous verdict, the court ruled that speeches on monarchy reform “amounted to attempts to overthrow the country’s democratic system with the King as head of state.” But the threat of lese majeste charges against those reporting accurately about monarchy and reform has silenced critical voices and made the media compliant. So much so that the mainstream media barely even reports on lese majeste cases.





Silencing reformists and media

12 12 2021

Activists Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Attapon Buapat of the Ratsadorn Group for Abolition of Section 112 have submitted a petition to the Office of Attorney-General calling on it to “consider taking steps to rescind the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the sustained calls for monarchical reform, specifically pertaining to the sought-after abolition to the Criminal Code Section 112, better known as the lese majeste law, were allegedly designed to ‘undermine democratic rule with the monarch as head of state’.”

Attapol observed that the Court’s “ruling would be merely used as a legal, political tool against any opponents to those who may have been supportive of the lese majeste law, which, he said, has obviously stifled the people’s freedom of expression and violated the human rights for them to take part in peaceful gatherings and demands for an end to it.”

He’s right, but it does far more than that.

Former Constitutional Court president has recently stated that:

the media can be considered as an accomplice in crime if they published messages about the monarchy that are outlawed. However, t[h]e question of intent would also be taken into account when considering the case.

So he suggested that the media avoid reporting what may be regarded as illegal. The ten demands for monarchy reform can be reported with care. The parts that infringe the monarchy will have to be censored.

The mainstream media is likely to be tamed and silenced even further, with the regime relying on self-censorship by journalists, editors, and media companies. It is already happening.





Feudal court, old men and the end of reform

6 12 2021

We have taken a while to get to this post, but it remains important: the Constitutional Court’s determination of same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. Indeed,this decision is definitional of Thailand as a country for old men, a theme at PPT that goes back to 2009. The old men might be recycled through as some die, but the deeply conservative ideological disposition remains and is, it seems, hardening.

We say this based on the release of the Constitutional Court’s detailed decision as discussed in several reports, including at Thai PBS.

The frustration with the Court’s ruling has become “with the full content of the court’s long ruling being released.” The ruling states that:

Marriage is when a man and a woman are willing to live together, to build a husband and wife relationship to reproduce their offspring, under the morals, traditions, religion and the laws of each society. Marriage is, therefore, reserved for only a man and a woman.

Other parts in the verdict also mention that members of the LGBTQIA+ community cannot reproduce, as it is against nature, and that people of those communities are no different to other animals with strange behaviours or physical features.

The Nation adds: “The verdict cites LGBTQ as a different ‘species’ that needs to be separated and studied as it is incapable of creating the ‘delicate’ bond of human relationships.” Indeed, the Court referred to the “different species” who should be “treated differently” because “same-sex marriage defies the laws of nature and family.” In the Court’s feudal wording:

…The purpose of a marriage is to allow a man and woman to live together as husband and wife, so they can establish a family unit to have children, to maintain the human race according to natural order and to further allow the passing of wealth, inheritance and bonds between father, mother, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles. But marriage between LGBT+ persons cannot establish such delicate bonds or relationships….

All very feudal and resembling the things Thais were taught about race in the late 19th century. But it gets even worse, reflecting Nazi thought:

However, when advanced technology in the future finds more details that certain species have different behaviours or biological traits, then they shall be categorised into a different group for further studies. The same applies to the State or the Legislature treating or acknowledging people of different sexual orientations differently….

The Court concluded:

… After weighing the benefits of making marriage a possibility for couples of the same sex, there is a net loss of benefits for both traditional unions between men and women, and same sex-couples.

Along with the loss of benefits, there will also be the destruction of the laws of nature and family unity, which are important foundations for society and the survival of mankind….

These judges demonstrate that the old men of Thailand’s conservative ruling class are troglodytes, incapable of change, and implacably opposed to reform. Indeed, even reforms that have been seen throughout the world seem unable to penetrate the moribund minds of the elite. They really do need to be swept aside.





A royalist ode

21 11 2021

According to Royal World Thailand, King Vajiralongkorn, his queen and his favorite consort have been briefly back in Thailand before returning to Switzerland and Germany. In Thailand:

… King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida of Thailand, with … Princess Bajrakitiyabha, … Princess Rajsarini Siribajra​ and Princess Sirivannavari, along with the Royal Noble Consort Sineenat Bilaskalayani presided over the ceremony of changing the seasonal attire for the Emerald Buddha into winter attire. The tradition of changing the robes seasonally; Rainy, Winter, and Summer, held at the Temple of Emerald Buddha….

There is quite a lot to think about in this event. First, why did he and his huge entourage decamp to Europe just a little more than a week ago, to return for just day? Was he trying to be out of the country when the Constitutional Court was promoting absolutism? Or is he just being his usual erratic and dull self? Second, why is the royal family unmasked, especially when they have been in Germany, where the virus is raging. Third, who pays for these expensive jaunts to and from Europe? Finally, why do royalists continue to turn out and support a king who has made it clear he’d rather not be in Thailand? The latter question sent us to poets, with apologies to Thomas Ford:

There is a king erratic and (un)kind,

Was never a face so pleased my mind;

I did but see him passing by. And yet I’ll love him till I die. His gesture, motion, and his grimaces,

His lack of wit, but his voice my heart beguiles,

Beguiles my heart, I know not why,

Yet, I will love him till I die.





Dinosaurs or the living dead?

18 11 2021

Following last week’s absurd Constitutional Court ruling that seeks to prevent all criticism of the monarchy and to further pave the way to absolutism, the court has managed another decision that makes the judges look even more like the walking dead or dinosaurs reincarnate.

Yesterday, the Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. In doing so, the court determined that Section 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code, which states “that a marriage can be held when a man and a woman are 17 years old…” did not infringe Sections 25, 26 and 27 (paragraphs 1,2 and 3) of the constitution.

Among those sections, the constitution actually states:

Section 26

The enactment of a law resulting in the restriction of rights or liberties of a person shall be in accordance with the conditions provided by the Constitution. In the case where the Constitution does not provide the conditions thereon, such law shall not be contrary to the rule of law, shall not unreasonably impose burden on or restrict the rights or liberties of a person and shall not affect the human dignity of a person, and the justification and necessity for the restriction of the rights or liberties shall also be specified.

Section 27

… Unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of differences in origin, race, language, sex, age, disability, physical or health condition, personal status, economic and social standing, religious belief, education, or political view which is not contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, or on any other grounds shall not be permitted.

Any reasonable person living in the 21st century would interpret these provisions as being against discrimination based on gender/sex.

It used to be three strikes and your out, but this court of the undead has dozens of strikes against it. It is the court of the royalists, rightists, moralists, murderers and torturers.

Not surprisingly, this further descent into darkness came as the dinosaur senate, appointed by the undead military junta, joined with the military junta’s parties to vote down any amendment to the constitution.

Thailand’s political future looks bleaker now than at any time since the fake 2019 election.

 





Further updated: Pushing back against absolutism II

15 11 2021

The pushback continues, with protesters taking “to the streets of Bangkok on Sunday to voice their disapproval and anger over efforts to curb the campaign for royal reforms…”. As Deutsche Welle put it: “On their way, they marched to the German embassy in an attempt to send a signal to Thai King … Vajiralongkorn, also called King Rama X, who frequently travels to Germany on lavish trips.”

It explains that “hundreds of people took to the streets of Bangkok’s main shopping district to criticize the [Constitutional Court] ruling…”.

Protesters occupied Pathumwan intersection rejecting the Constitutional Court’s absurdity and demanding reform of the monarchy.

At the rally, Thatchapong Kaedam told fellow protesters: “We are not overthrowing this country. The reform is to make it better…”. DW reported that may of those rallying had signs asserting “reform does not equal overthrow…”. Others “tossed effigies of Constitutional Court judges off a bridge, later burning them…”.

Clipped from VOA News – a Reuters photo

As the protesters “began moving toward the German embassy in the Thai capital. Police tried to stop protesters from nearing the embassy, with authorities firing rubber bullets…. Three people were injured, and at least one protester sustained significant wounds and was brought to a local hospital…”. Even so, three representatives from the rally “were allowed into the embassy premises to hand in the [anti-absolutism] statement.”

VOA reported that a statement made when the demonstrators reached the German Embassy insisted: “The king’s increased powers in recent years are pulling Thailand away from democracy and back to absolute monarchy…. This is a fight to insist that this country must be ruled by a system in which everyone is equal.”

This may be just the start of renewed confrontations.

Update 1: Several outlets, including The Nation, report 2-3 injuries, including: “At 5.10pm, a gunshot sound was heard. One male protestor was reportedly shot at the chest with a rubber bullet. He was rushed to the hospital by medic staff.” There was some debate about the bullet – rubber or lead.

Update 2: Prachatai has a detailed report on Sunday’s rally that deserves attention. One element of it that caught PPT’s attention related to shootings:

As the march moved through the Chaloem Phao Intersection, it was reported that a protester was shot in the chest while standing near the Institute of Forensic Medicine on Henri Dunant Road. The protester was reported to be around 20 years old and was taken to Chulalongkorn Hospital.

It is unclear who shot the protester and which type of bullet had been fired. However, according to a member of the We Volunteer protest guard group, gunfire was seen coming from inside the police headquarters, and a protester retrieved a casing of what seems to be a 12 gauge shotgun bullet.

Meanwhile, former Pheu Thai MP Dr Tossaporn Serirak said that he saw a crowd control officer raising his gun, after which there were several loud bangs and the protesters dropped to the ground. Hearing a shout that someone has been shot, he went to the scene and found that 2 protesters were shot. He said that the protester who was shot in the chest could not breathe as the bullet had penetrated his lung, and that both were taken to the Chulalongkorn Hospital and are in stable condition.

iLaw reported that a total of 3 people were shot at close range, and at least 2 were injured. One person was shot in the chest and another in the shoulder….





Pushing back against absolutism I

14 11 2021

Student councils across the country have rejected the Constitutional Court’s ruling that pro-democracy leaders aimed to overthrow the system of government. Their joint statement said:

The 23 student organisations disagree with the court’s ruling. We insist that the 10-point manifesto for reforms of Thailand’s monarchy will help the monarchy remain in Thailand graciously under the democratic regime. Proposals for the reform of the royal institution [monarchy] will also help free it from criticism that would otherwise tarnish it.

Contrary to the kangaroo court’s statements, the students insisted that “protesters were exercising their right to freedom of expression and demonstration, which is protected by the Constitution.”

Pointedly, the statement observed: “The protesters never had any intention of overthrowing the government like the coups d’etat in the past…”.

A Bangkok Post editorial observed that the Constitutional Court’s decisions are politicized:

It’s undeniable that such a verdict, which has intensified sentiments against the court, has raised fears about what comes next as both royalists and factions in the opposite political spectrum roll up their sleeves as divisiveness grows.

Interestingly, that editorial turns on Article 112 and challenges royalist interpretations and cheering about the court’s ultra-royalist decision:

The court verdict should by all means not derail a motion to amend Section 112 or lese majeste before parliament that is being pushed by the Move Forward Party.

The highlight of the party’s proposal is the removal of the infamous law from the chapter of national security to a new chapter on the King’s honour, which if effective, will see the penalties significantly reduced.

The court verdict, stringent as it is, should not hamper the right to freedom of expression, as mentioned in the constitution.

As change is unavoidable, it’s necessary all involved parties realise the need for mechanisms that allow healthy and constructive debates over the amendment of Section 112 and also reform of the monarchy.

Like it or not, all, including the royalists, must realise the lese majeste law in its original form, not bare-handed activists, is a threat to the revered [sic] institution.

Of course, royalists, the current palace (albeit mostly based in Germany), and the military-backed regime all know that their political dominance demands political repression based on monarchy.

Actions demanding political and monarchy reform are indeed likely to continue. As ever, these activists test the waters of repression before plunging in.

Immediately after the court’s ridiculous decision, someone hacked that court’s website, labeling it a kangaroo court. The site was quickly taken down, and the last time we looked, was still offline. Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn “said that the Court outsourced its website maintenance to a private company, which may not have set up adequate security measures, allowing outsiders to obtain the site username and password.” He added that “the authorities know who is behind the incident…”. Another account by the minister was less sure: “We believe the hacking was done to discredit the court and had been planned in advance…. The investigators are checking on the IP addresses of those who logged into the system during that period.” They soon arrested a man in Ubol who they alleged was responsible.

Immediately after the court’s decision, small rallies and actions began.

Protesters gathered in front of the Criminal Court under the name “Ratsadon” on Friday to “push their demands for reform of Thailand’s monarchy” and to demand the release of protesters held in custody without bail. They “read a statement in English, in an attempt to communicate with the international community. It highlighted their desire to reform the royal institution’s budget allocation, to allow criticism of the monarchy and to reform the country’s controversial lèse majesté legislation.”

Meanwhile, on “11 November, 4 people were arrested for attaching a ‘Reform does not equal overthrow’ sign and a ‘Repeal 112’ sign to the shop door of Sirivannavari Siam Paragon.” This is a pointed linking of royal wealth and privilege to the Constitutional Court’s absurd ruling and a rejection of the base use of taxpayer funds for subsidies to royal businesses.

Another rally begins shortly in central Bangkok.





Down the royalist rathole

12 11 2021

With the king having decamped back to Germany, the judiciary has stepped up. Some saw this as the deep state at work. However, the judiciary is both obvious and shallow. That said, it is certainly playing the role allocated to it by the regime and its masters.

At Thai Enquirer, Sunai Phasuk from Human Rights Watch is quoted: “The ruling today is essentially a judicial coup that replaces constitutional monarchy in Thailand with absolute monarchy…”. That’s exactly what regime and palace have been working for since the mid-2010s.

On the Constitutional Court’s decision, the same paper quotes academic Tyrell Haberkorn on “a fundamentally dangerous moment”:

“The Constitutional Court’s sleight of hand in equating the activist’s call for reform with revolt — defined in Article 113 of the Criminal Code and punishable with up to life imprisonment or the death penalty — is legally and politically dangerous,” she said.

“To put this in the starkest terms, if the Office of the Attorney General were to bring charges on the basis of this ruling, [the pro-] democracy activists could face the death penalty for the peaceful expression of opinion. That the Constitutional Court has made this ruling with the stated goal of the preservation of democracy is both cynical and incorrect. Democracy and criminalization of peaceful expression of opinion are not compatible.”

What is clear is that with all discussion of the monarchy now made illegal – apart from royalist honey and tripe – the most ultra of royalists are buoyant and calling for more. More repression, more charges, more jailings, less bail, longer sentences and more.

Thai PBS reports that ultra-royalist stooge Paiboon Nititawan, currently with the junta-invented Palang Pracharat Party is jubilant, declaring that the “Constitutional Court’s ruling will strengthen the monarchy [as if it needed it!] and is legally binding on the police, prosecutors and courts, as well as the Election Commission in taking legal action against individuals or political parties whose activities or conduct are deemed to be a threat to the constitutional monarchy.”

Expect, he implies, more charges and the dissolving of opposition parties. The first targets will be the Move Forward Party and Puea Thai (again).

Meanwhile, Senator Somjet Boonthanom “warned any legislator advocating amendments to lèse majesté law or reform of the monarchy to exercise extreme caution as they may now be accused of attempting to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.” He added that “amending the lèse majesté law in parliament … is doomed as a consequence of the court’s ruling.”

Jade Donavanik, said to be a legal scholar, told Thai Enquirer “that if a political party is found guilty of supporting an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy system, they could be dissolved and the Constitutional Court’s ruling could be used to support a petition for the dissolution.”

In the Bangkok Post, Deputy Prime Ministers Wissanu Krea-ngam and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan warned student protesters. They were “warned … to be careful as they can no longer cite their rights and liberties for their actions as they did previously because the court ruled that such actions were not an exercise in rights and freedom under the constitution.”

The police are now hard at work and it is expected that more lese majeste, sedition and treason charges will follow.

It is pretty clear where this is all going: down the royalist rathole.

The response from students has been to firmly reject the court. Let’s see where that leads. Royalists tend to react in nasty ways and the students are now left with few avenues for peaceful and legal protest into the future.

 








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