Updated: Lese majeste punishment

20 11 2017

In a recent post, PPT commented on the delays to lese majeste trials where defendants refuse to plead guilty. We said this as a form of torture. In addition to strenuous efforts to force defendants to plead guilty, those who don’t see their trials dragged out for years, while they remain in jail.

A report at Prachatai reminds us that even after sentencing, whether having enter a guilty plea or not, punishment involves more than just being held in a jail.

Student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, one of several thousand singled out for a lese majeste charge for sharing a BBC Thai story on the king, convicted and jailed, “has revealed that a prison staff ordered him to take off clothes and rubbed his genitals five times in a search for drugs [sic.].”

He “told media at the court that he has experienced a series of harassment[s] after being transferred to Phu Khiao Prison. When he arrived the prison, one staff [member] search[ed] his body for drugs…”. He was ordered to strip and the officer spread his anus “and rubbed his genital [s] five times.”

This could represent a sexual harassment by an officer, but it is also a repeated act of degradation perpetrated by prison staff. This is unceasing degradation. We have seen other acts of degradation and humiliation perpetrated against lese majeste victims in jail.

We know this because he made the comments on 16 November 2017, when Jatupat “was summoned to Phu Khiao Provincial Court to attend a trial on violation of 2016 Referendum Act.” That means he failed to abide by the military dictatorship’s demand that no one campaign against it constitution. The regime accuses him and “another student activist Wasin Prommanee …[of] inciting chaos during the junta-sponsored constitutional referendum in August 2016.” Inciting chaos means “distributing leaflets” urging the rejection of the junta’s hand-crafted and illegitimate constitution.

Update: The Nation adds to this story of using courts and prison to double-up punishment.





No internet freedom

16 11 2017

Thailand remained a black hole for internet freedom in 2016. Freedom House reports that the key developments have been:

  • In August, voters approved a referendum on a draft constitution that would weaken political parties, strengthen unelected bodies, and entrench the military’s presence in politics.
  • Authorities placed severe restrictions on free expression ahead of the vote, including through the 2016 Referendum Act, which criminalized the expression of opinions “inconsistent with the truth.” Over 100 people were arrested for offenses related to the referendum.
  • In September, the government issued an order that halted the practice of trying civilians accused of national security, lèse-majesté, and certain other crimes in military courts. However, the order is not retroactive and does not cover cases that had already entered the military court system.
  • Following the death of [the king]… in October, the military government intensified restrictions on speech deemed offensive to the monarchy as it worked to manage the period of transition.

Read the whole sorry tale of the military dictatorship’s repression.





An illegitimate constitution

8 11 2017

In a nasty reminder that the 2017 constitution was born of the military junta and is its construction of the political and legal rules, Wichan Phuwihan was sentenced by the Ubon Ratchathani Provincial Court to six months in prison and a 30,000 baht fine for having “attempted to dissuade people from voting in the referendum on the junta-sponsored constitution.”

Because Wichan cooperated with court, police and prosecutors was during the trial, his sentence was reduced by one third and his jail term suspended for two years.

Wichan “was charged with violating the controversial Article 61 of the Referendum Act for shouting to passers-by at a market on 26 July 2016, telling them not to turn up for the public referendum on the 2017 Constitution.”

The Article essentially prevented anyone from campaigning against the junta’s draft constitution in the referendum. The junta and military controlled the referendum process in order to get a Yes vote, and thus claim legitimacy for its political rules.

Of course, the whole process was a farce and the constitution is illegitimate.





Sanctioning and campaigning II

18 10 2017

In an earlier post, we mentioned the case of a military court having accepted a case against several people who participated in seminar last year discussing the junta-backed charter.

The point we didn’t make, and should have was that three of those charged are human rights lawyers who, it is reported, “merely observe the event”

In Khon Kaen, the Military Court accepted the case against five student activists,  Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, Phanuphong Sithananuwat, Akhom Sibutta, Chadthai Noiunsaen and Narongrit Uppachan. Two other charged are staff of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), Duangthip Karnrit, Neeranuch Niemsub. The final person charged was local human rights activist, Natthaphon Athan.

The report states:

This is the first case that authorities have ever pressed charges against those merely observing an anti-junta seminar. Duangthip and Neeranuch were at the seminar to observe and record human rights violations. However, they were accused of the same offence as the event’s organizers.

Amnesty International is cited in another report stating:

The two TLHR staff did not directly participate in the event, but rather attended as observers. They wore badges displaying their affiliation with TLHR and informed senior police and military officials present at the event that they were attending in an observational capacity….

The charge and case “will prevent Duangthip and Niranut from fully doing their jobs, according to Thai Lawyers chairwoman Yaowalak Anuphan.” She states:

Instead of working 100 percent to help other people, they must take care of their own cases…. And the military court is very slow. They arrange a hearing every three or four months. And the officers like to cancel. So people must travel there again and again.

The junta doesn’t want human rights activists bothering its people as they prepare for an “election.”





Updated: Sanctioning and campaigning I

17 10 2017

While calling for “social sanctions” against Puea Thai Party’s Sudarat Keyuraphan for “political campaigning” in the name of remembering the dead king, The Dictator continues his own political campaigns.

Forget the floods. They are unimportant as the military regime prepares to reap political benefit from its ownership of the funeral.

The recent claim of a red shirt/republican plot to disrupt the funeral is now triumphantly waved away. There are now threats at all (thanks to the regime) but everyone has to help the regime watch for threats while mourning (appropriately).

Meanwhile, the campaign against what remains of opposition to the regime continues to be pushed and squeezed, with a military court in (flooded) Khon Kaen charging seven people for defiance of a junta ban on political gatherings dating back more than a year.

They and four others actually “took part in a discussion on the then draft constitution at Khon Kaen University on July 31 last year ahead of the Aug 7 referendum.”

This was before a referendum where the junta demanded a positive outcome, so obviously the junta did not want any serious discussion of the proposed basic law.

The court accepted the case for trial and sent the seven defendants to local prisons. They were later bailed.

One of the missing defendants is Jatuphat Bunpattararaksa, who is already serving a 2½-year jail term for having shared a BBC Thai article on the king on his Facebook page. He was one of thousands who did this and was singled out for jail because of his political activism.

Two others are a former Puea Thai MP and his wife “who confessed and agreed to an attitude-adjustment session” by the military dictatorship. The fourth is “anti-coup student activist Rangsiman Rome, who had not come to meet interrogators and faced an arrest warrant.”

Campaigning by the military dictatorship is in full tilt. The next big campaign event is the coronation.

Update: Khaosod now reports contradictory statements regarding the position of Rangsiman. He claims he was not charged in this case.





Protecting the “referendum”

26 09 2017

A few days ago we posted on the case of Piyarat Chongthep who, wearing a No Coup t-shirt, ripped his ballot in half while shouting “Down with Dictatorship, Long Live Democracy.” This was at a Bangkok polling booth when the junta managed, directed and controlled referendum on the military dictatorship’s constitution took place.

He faced from one to 10 years in jail when he faced court earlier today. Prachatai reports on the outcome of that appearance.

Interestingly, the court “acquitted him of the offence under the Public Referendum Act in which he was accused of obstructing the referendum, reasoning that the action of the accused was peaceful.” As he pleaded guilty to three other charges, his sentence was halved and then suspended.

Similar cases against “Jirawat Aekakkaranuwat and Thongtham Kaewpanpruek, were also acquitted and were not given any jail term or fine.”

That might be a reasonable outcome, yet it stands in stark contrast to the 2010 case of yellow-shirted Chulalongkorn University political science lecturer Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, who was acquitted on a technicality after he tore up ballot papers in 2006.

The message seems to be that, whenever the junta decides to hold its “election,” civil disobedience is to be illegal.





Justice system no longer makes sense

22 09 2017

Double standards rule in the justice system. Sure, some yellow shirts get to courts for their actions, but their cases are slowed to a crawl, subject to seemingly endless appeals and so on. But when it comes to those who are accused of lese majeste or actions the military dictatorship considers threatening or unsettling, the cases sail through courts.

Khaosod reports on the case of Piyarat Chongthep who, wearing a No Coup t-shirt, “stared down a security officer as he ripped his ballot in half while shouting ‘Down with Dictatorship, Long Live Democracy’ at a Bangkok polling station.”

He soon goes to court and is facing 10 years in jail.

While the court outcome is not yet known, there are several things worth considering in this case.

Piyarat declares that he “engaged in civil disobedience,” but he was “charged with obstructing the referendum, causing a disturbance at a polling station and destruction of state property for tearing the 25 satang ballot.”

His aim “was to draw attention to suppression of the public’s right to oppose the junta-sponsored draft charter in an unjust process that give it the veneer of democratic legitimacy.”

As Khaosod reminds us, the military dictatorship enacted “a special referendum law … that criminalized campaigning against it [the referendum].” This draconian law “criminalized all forms of campaigning, but the airwaves were filled with pro-charter messages from the regime while only opponents were arrested.”

Like others we have recently posted on (here and here), Piyarat is disillusioned by the (in)justice system:

After learning the referendum passed by a sizeable margin, he felt the law had been so twisted by the junta that Thailand’s justice system no longer made sense. As a result, when he was released from the police station, he quit his evening law classes.

It is also worth remembering that, back in 2010, in a case that went back to the 2006 election, rightist and yellow-shirted Chulalongkorn University political science lecturer Chaiyan Chaiyaporn was acquitted after he tore up ballot papers. The court found a technicality that meant it could let Chaiyan off the hook as he used the courts to highlight his anti-Thaksin Shinawatra campaign.