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.





Ousting Yingluck and Prayuth’s campaigning

21 09 2017

At the Asia Times Online, Shawn Crispin says that Yingluck Shinawatra’s flight – yes, we know, it still isn’t confirmed – has been good for The Dictator and his regime. Crispin says:

[General] Prayuth [Chan-ocha]’s proponents view Yingluck’s impromptu departure as a third big recent win for the authoritarian leader, following last August’s resounding passage by referendum of a military-drafted constitution that solidified a future political role for the armed forces and his perceived as smooth management of the royal succession after … King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death last October.

He adds:

Whether Yingluck’s flight has put the country more firmly on a path to new elections, long promised by Prayuth’s junta, is less certain. While junta representatives tell foreign envoys and business representatives the country is on a track back to democracy [he means a junta-controlled election], Prayuth continues to question the wisdom of holding polls that return to power the same corrupt elected politicians he overthrew in a coup.

On Yingluck’s case and “justice,” Crispin states:

An eventual guilty verdict against Yingluck is a foregone conclusion. According to one well-placed diplomat with access to the Shinawatra family, senior junta members were in contact with Thaksin as early as May advising that the court would rule against Yingluck – a verdict that carries a possible ten-year prison sentence – and that his clan should begin to make arrangements for her departure into exile.

He seems to be suggesting that the junta may have forced her to leave for exile. And, he adds: “Some analysts and diplomats believe the royal palace may have signaled for the junta to allow for Yingluck’s unmolested passage into exile to avoid instability…”.

The broader claim is that the military junta has essentially won. There’s no hint of royal discontent with the junta or of factionalism within the military and/or junta. Yet some social media commentary sees General Anupong Paojinda under unusual pressure – we mentioned this a couple of days ago.

Certainly, Prayuth campaigning is going at full tilt. Whether this is a sign of weakness (ie., the junta is split or splitting) or a sign that the splits are a myth and the junta is forging ahead, the calls from anti-democrats like Anek Laothamatas for a “national government” suggest that there is still concern that all the “work” done does not guarantee a Thaksin-free “election” outcome.

A “national government” would have General Prayuth as premier well into the future. This prospect has seen jellyfish politicians lining up to support continuing military Guided Democracy/Thai-style democracy.

A national government under The Dictator

The Nation reports that The Dictator, Thaksinizing his campaigning in rural areas of Suphanburi and Ayutthaya, has been promising all kinds of benefits and handouts to farmers if they support him and his dictatorship.

The two-day trip by Prayuth and his junta and a couple of civilian toadies was a massive PR exercise promoting military government.

Prayuth again warned potential voters to only “elect” those he considered the right people.

More significantly, The Dictator met with the owners of parasite political parties. In this case it was the Chart Thai Pattana Party, owned by the Silpa-archa family. They have created a franchise of gravel haulers and dumpers that can only politically prosper when attached to a dictator or a larger party or coalition of parties.

Prapat Pothasuthon polished Prayuth’s already shiny posterior: “I would only ask the government to distribute some of the budget from high-speed railway projects to help farmers. As long as people’s wellbeing is sustained, you can stay for another eight or 10 years and I won’t blame you for anything.”

Warawut Silpa-archa lapped at Prayuth’s boots: “The election will be decided by you. We’ll just wait to play by rules.”

This concocted meeting with politicians has been used to further Prayuth’s ambitions for ongoing political control. The Bangkok Post reports: that The Dictator is picking off the little parties, presumably to create a military party/national government.

Prayuth explained “democracy”:

We are making Thailand a democratic country, and special means are needed to achieve that goal. If we use normal means, is it really possible? I am well aware that the method to reach the goal is not democratic, but the problem needs to be fixed in this way….

Keeping the pressure on the Shinawatras and their supporters, The Dictator “warned Ayutthaya residents not to become pawns of some political groups encouraging them to gather in the capital.” He seems worried that they may disrupt the dead king’s funeral:

You can go to Bangkok to pay respect to the late King, but if you are going for other purposes or if anybody tries to persuade you to go, don’t go. Please stop it, in every province….

His persistent talk of threats permits deepening militarization and suppression, which makes the “election” a foregone conclusion.





Journalist charged after angering The Dictator

9 08 2017

The military dictatorship has has again demonstrated its capacity for sullen and vengeful (mis)use of what passes for law and the justice system in Thailand.

Khaosod journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk has been charged under Article 116 of the criminal code (sedition) and computer crimes for criticizing the junta. Yesterday he met police to actually learn what it was in his social media account that annoyed the junta. Before then, the police had refused to explain.

Both charges carry penalties of up to seven years in jail. Facing up to fourteen years in jail, Pravit revealed that one charge relates to a post from February 2016, “when he criticised the junta-drafted constitution.”

The second charge is revealing of the reason for these charges and why the junta’s police had to trawl back to 2016. Last month, Pravit posted a critical comment on The Dictator’s “handling of floods and the trial of ousted premier Yingluck Shinawatra.”

From Wikipedia’s article on lese majeste

Clearly, The Dictator went into yet another rage and demanded action against the impertinent journalist.

This is confirmed in Khaosod’s report that “a representative from the military filed complaint against Pravit … on July 28. The source … said the charges under the Computer Crime Act would rely on its provisions covering online defamation.”

Quite obviously, criticizing General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand’s dictatorial leader since May 2014, is now an act of treason. The sedition and computer crimes law are now The Dictator’s equivalent of lese majeste. He is so thin-skinned that he can brook no critical comment. His arrogance is monarchical and maniacal.

Pravit has “vowed to continue to speak out against the junta…”. He added, “I’m not surprised by the charge…. Anyone who criticizes them [the junta] must pay the price.” He might have added that criticizing The Dictator means angry and concocted uses of the law as punishment.





Keeping the repression lock on

8 07 2017

After more than three years, the military dictatorship is not about to allow critics much space. This doubling down on repression is likely to continue until the junta decides it can hold its “election” and be assured of an outcome that suits it.

In a recent piece at Prachatai, readers get a clear idea of the repressive tasks it has allocated itself, in addition to making sure that the Shinawatra clan is hobbled and nobbled.

The story of the mopping up those who identified themselves as junta enemies by daring to discuss the junta’s constitution as it was mixed, rolled and roasted by various well-paid junta flunkies, sometimes considered lawyers and law “scholars.” Eventually they came up with the 2017 constitution, which the king and junta still changed after it was “approved” in a wobbly junta referendum.

A year after the constitution “referendum” Khon Kaen police – who have become especially politically active – have decided “to press charges against 11 people accused of breaking the junta’s political gathering ban for participating in a discussion about the 2017 Constitution.”

Heavens, not a discussion! How threatening! Lock ’em up!

They have been ordered to report to the 23rd Military Circle in the province (not the police). The police decided “to press charges against them and submit the case file to the military prosecutor.”

The 11 are: Cherdchai Tantisirin, former Member of Parliament for the Pheu Thai Party, Panwadee Tantisirin, lecturer in the Nursing Faculty of Khon Kaen University, Rangsiman Rome, key member of the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG), Panupong Sritananuwat and Akhom Sributta, activists from Dao Din Group, [the jailed] Jatuphat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattararaksa, Narongrit Uppachan, Nattaporn Ajharn, an environmental activist, Duangthip Khanrit and Niranut Niamsap, staff of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), and another person who requested anonymity.

The junta’s thinking seems to be that these activists could annoy them when it decided to hold its “election.”