Repression of monarchy reformists

20 11 2022

DW recently had a story that sought to assess where the democracy/monarchy reform movement is more than two years after the movement spectacularly burst on the scene.

In essence, the story is that the monarchy reform movement has been so repressed that it is difficult for activists to engage in political advocacy.

Clipped from Prachatai

The youth-led protest movement, “calling for constitutional reforms to rein in far-reaching powers of the country’s monarchy” and for the resignation of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, “inspired hundreds of thousands of people across Thailand…”.

But, over two years later, the military-backed, pro-monarchy regime has managed to silence many and drain the movement of energy.

The repression that has dogged activists has resulted in lese majeste charges in the hundreds, long jail terms for some, and the development of a surveillance state that weighs China-like on anyone deemed a “threat.” The regime increasingly relies on cyber snoops and ultra-royalists, many of them with links to the military and ISOC, to bring complaints that result in charges, arrest, and detention.

Arnon. Clipped from Prachatai

For example, human rights lawyer and activist Arnon Nampa, faces at least 14 lese majeste charges, and was detained for more than 200 days without bail. Other activists are kept busy fighting a myriad of charges.

Democracy activist Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon explains: “Many of our friends are still detained…. Some have been held for more than 200 days.” As DW has it, “there are [now] at least 11 political detainees, including three on lese majeste cases.”

Patsaravalee reckons “the government had made people ‘numb and accustomed’ to protesters being detained.”

Even when bailed, there are sometimes ludicrous conditions that amount to house arrest, “along with a hefty bond and vague conditions that limit their freedom of expression and movement.” For example, Arnon “is prohibited by court order from encouraging others to protest and is not allowed to share posts on social media about demonstrations.”

Activist Chonthicha Jaengrew said “these conditions forced people into self-censorship, as ‘even voicing opinions in good faith could put us at risk of our bail being revoked’.”

Chonthicha said such “bail conditions had blunted the protest movement.” As she explained: “We don’t know when these conditions will be used as a tool to revoke our bail, which forces us to be more careful [in our speeches and actions]…”.

Several activists have fled Thailand.

But it is not all a gloomy story. Clearly, the discussion of the monarchy is now more widespread, and activists know that there has been a groundswell of broad support. Arnon thinls “more politicians in the future would be emboldened to question the Thai monarchy.” As he observes: “Discussing the monarchy has caught on…. We might not see a radical change like a revolution … but one thing is for sure: Thai society will not backtrack.”





Silencing MPs on 112

6 11 2022

Prachatai reports that yet another ultra-royalist vigilante group is seeking to silence critics of the lese majeste law. This time, they are targeting an elected member of parliament for a speech made in parliament, later posted online.

Move Forward party MP Amarat Chokepamitkul recently “posted a video clip on Twitter of herself speaking about court neutrality issues in royal defamation [Article 112] cases.”

Amarat. Clipped from Prachatai

The “King Protection Group posted on its Facebook page on Thursday (3 November) that its President Songchai Niamhom went to Phatthalung Provincial Police Station to file a royal defamation [lese majeste] and sedition complaint against Amarat, claiming that she defamed the monarchy in a Twitter video of herself speaking during Wednesday’s parliamentary session.”

In her speech, Amarat “discussed the court’s neutrality when dealing with royal defamation cases and how courts refused to summon documents to be used as evidence in these cases, such as records of King Vajiralongkorn’s travel to and from Germany and records of the transfer of shares in Siam Commercial Bank.”

In the meeting, conservative House Speaker Chuan Leekpai “told her to keep her discussion to what benefits the public and not to talk about the monarchy. He eventually cut off her microphone.”

As is usual, the “the police accepted Songchai’s complaint and said that they will investigate the matter and submit the case to their superiors.” That usually leads to a charge.





Depths of 112 repression

27 10 2022

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has an accounting of lese majeste charges from 24 November 2020  to 20 June 2022.

In summary, at least 215 people have been charged in a total of 234 lawsuits.

These cases have increasingly been filed after “complaints” by vigilante “citizens” – at least 108 cases. Another 11 complaints were from the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, 9 from a committee of the Deputy Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, one complaint was from administrative officer, and the rest filed by police.

At least 17 minors have been charged in 20 lawsuits.

The listing of cases is revealing of the depths of repression.





Nine-year 112 sentence

22 10 2022

Clipped from Prachatai

Based on Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reporting, Prachatai has an account of the quite bizarre case of Pakpinya (last name withheld), 31, a  hospital librarian, singer, and model living in Bangkok.

Bizarre is the right term for the whole “case,” cobbled together on yet another complaint by ultra-royalist vigilante Pasit Chanhuaton. He has filed Article 112 complaints against at least eight people with the police in Sungai Kolok.

On 19 October 2022, a court in Narathiwat sentenced Pakpinya “to 9 years in prison on charges of royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act for sharing Facebook posts about the use of violence to disperse pro-democracy protesters in 2020 and the public being prohibited from using Sanam Luang.”

Phasit searched for and identified six posts he attributed to claiming they constituted lese majeste. He claimed these shared posts were from Facebook pages belonging to activist groups.

Some of these posts criticized police crowd control when they used water cannon against protesters, He claimed that Pakpinya “added a caption saying that people would be able to enter if they wear a yellow shirt.”

The royally deranged Pasit also accused her of sharing a post from คนไทยยูเค claiming that the king ordered the use of violence against protesters. He alleged that she also shared a post critical of the royal use of Sanam Luang while the people were locked out.

Three other posts were about enforced disappearances and the regime’s mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccine production.

TLHR point out that while the police did little investigation and Pasit lied, the court still founf Pakpinya guilty in three of the six instances.

Pasit said:

… he has never met Pakpinya, but insisted that she is the owner of the Facebook profile he filed a complaint against.

During cross-examination, Phasit claimed that he was not involved with the royalist group Citizens’ Network to Protect the Monarchy, even though he stated when he filed his complaint that he was a member. He also claimed not to know who the group’s leaders or members were, and that he knew that the network has been filing royal defamation complaint against people in various provinces, but did not know where.

Phasit said that he took screen captures of the posts from his mobile phone and did not print them out from Facebook, so there was no URL for each post, and that he adjusted the size of each picture before putting them into Microsoft Word and printing them out.

The police apparently didn’t investigate any of Pasit’s claims or his “evidence.” For instance:

Pol Maj Natee Chansaengsri, an inquiry officer at Su-ngai Kolok Provincial Police Station, also testified that he did not ask to see Phasit’s mobile phone, or for the original files of the photos he printed out. The police also did not confiscate Phasit’s mobile phone and laptop, so he could not confirm whether the content used to file the complaint matched with what is on the Facebook profile.

He also said during cross-examination that it was not possible to determine the IP Address that uses the profile, and that identity could not be determined from a YouTube account. He admitted that it is possible for Facebook accounts to share names and that he does not know if information on Facebook can be changed by another person.

After the verdict, Pakpinya was later granted bail with a 200,000-baht security. She said: “I want to know how twisted the Thai justice system can be…”.

The answer is very twisted indeed.





112 charge for Facebook post

4 12 2021

Via Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Prachatai reports that Warunee (family name withheld), aged 30 and from Phitsanulok was arrested on 2 December 2021 for lese majeste.

Warunee’s charge stems from a Facebook post that included “a picture of King Vajiralongkorn changing the seasonal decoration of the Emerald Buddha, edited so that the Buddha is wearing a dress.” The accused is alleged to have posted an edited photo that had “the Buddha is wearing a purple ball gown with a Yorkshire terrier sitting next to the base of the Buddha, along with the message ‘Emerald Buddha x Sirivannavari Bangkok’.”

The photos in this post are not the photo referred to but illustrate the point being made in the accusation of lese majeste.

King Vajiralongkorn had briefly returned from Europe for this ceremony.

TLHR said that Warunee was arrested at her Phitsanulok home at about 7AM “on an arrest warrant issued by the Criminal Court and taken to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) headquarters in Bangkok.” She had not received a police summons before she was arrested.

As is becoming the norm, the “complaint against her was then filed by Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Centre for Cyberbullying Victims, an online royalist group…”.

From Wikipedia

Nopadol complained “that the edited image insulted and made fun of the King, and that the post was rude and inappropriate and could affect national security, as well as insulting the religion.” He has managed the trifecta of royalist “national identity.”

Warunee was charged under Article 112, Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act, and “insulting an object of religious worship under Section 206 of the Criminal Code.”

Warunee has denied all charges and “asked the inquiry officer to summon Nopadol to explain his accusations and to point out which component of the image was offensive.”

The police confiscated her phone and laptop. She was detained overnight at the Thung Song Hong Police Station before being taken to court on 3 December. Her lawyer “requested bail for Warunee on the grounds that she has bipolar disorder and needs to receive continuous treatment. She was later granted bail using a 100,000-baht security.”





Vigilantes and cops

28 09 2021

A few days ago, Prachatai reported that student activist Panupong Jadnok – known as Mike – has “again been detained after being denied bail on a royal defamation charge [they mean Article 112, lese majeste] filed against him by a royalist activist for a Facebook post about monarchy reform.”

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights state that Panupong met with the public prosecutor on 23 September 2021 to be “informed that the public prosecutor had decided to indict him and he was taken to court.”

While Mike’s lawyer filed a bail request, as is common, it was denied.

The denial “was signed by judge Chanathip Muanpawong, Deputy Chief Justice of the Criminal Court, who earlier this year denied bail to several pro-democracy activists detained pending trial.” Prachatai also recalls that it was:

Chanathip … who sentenced Ampon Tangnoppakul, or “Uncle SMS,” to 20 years in prison on a royal defamation charge under Section 112 in 2011, after Ampon was accused of sending messages to Somkiat Krongwattanasuk, who was at the time the secretary of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, which were deemed offensive to the King and Queen.  Ampon died in prison.

Panupong has now been charged under Article 112, and an “offense to national security under Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act.”

Ultra-royalist bully Nangnoi

As we have posted several times previously, it is an ultra-royalist cyber-vigilante group that has made the complaint leading to the charges. It is again cyberbully royalist Nangnoi Assawakittikorn, a leader of the misnamed royalist group Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims:

The complaint was based on a Facebook post on 8 November 2020 which said “Do you think that you will look dignified standing on the ruins of democracy or on the corpses of the people?” along with the hashtag #ปฏิรูปสถาบันกษัตริย์ (#MonarchyReform).

It is claimed that the “original post also reportedly refers to the [k]ing by name.”

Panupong is detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison. He is now “facing 9 charges under Section 112; he has already been indicted on 3. He was previously detained pending trial on charges relating to the 19 September 2020 protest, and was in detention for 86 days before being released on 1 June 2021.”

One of the “lessons” of this case is to reinforce how much the police work hand-in-glove with ultra-royalist vigilantes. The cops are effectively royalists’ processing terminal for royalist repression.





112 bail denied

16 07 2021

112Quoting Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Prachatai reports an the lese majeste case against Prasong Khotsongkhram.

The 26 year-old has “been denied bail for the third time after being charged with [lese majeste] for three Facebook posts made in May and June 2021.” This despite “using 250,000 baht as security and ask[ing] the court to allow him release while wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet and for a supervisor to be appointed.”

As has been the case in about half of recent Article 112 charges, the complaint came from a royalist vigilante:

Thitiwat Tanagaroon

Royalist Thitiwat. Clipped from Reuters

The complaint against Prasong was filed by Thitiwat Tanagaroon, a royalist protester who was praised by King Vajiralongkorn for raising a portrait of the late King Bhumibol at a pro-democracy protest. TLHR reported that Thitiwat filed the complaint against Prasong after seeing three public posts on Prasong’s Facebook profile, one of which was made on 21 May 2021 and the other two on 7 June 2021, which Thitiwat said were insulting to the King.

This royalist complaint led to Prasong being arrested on 8 July by Bangplat Police Station. The following day, the court approved his continued detention, denying a bail request. A second bail request, lodged on 11 July, was also rejected.

As is all too often the case in royalist courts, the “Taling Chan Criminal Court ruled to deny him bail on the grounds that the charges are serious, that he might try to flee, and that there is no reason to change previous court orders” to deny bail.

Prasong “is currently detained at the Thung Noi Temporary Prison, which is on the same premises as the Military Circle 11 Prison.” Using the virus crisis, the Department of Corrections has ruled that Prasong “will have to be in quarantine for 21 days, during which time his family and lawyer will not be allowed to visit him. After he has completed his quarantine period, he will be transferred to the Thonburi Remand Prison.”

The royalist repression continues.





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.





Updated: Ultra-royalist cartography

29 06 2021

In recent days there has been justified alarm regarding royalist vigilantism mapping the names, addresses and photos of about 500 people, many of them children.

Reuters reports that in this Google-based mapping some of the photos showed students in their university and high school uniforms.

Google has taken “down two Google Maps documents on Monday that had listed the names and addresses of hundreds of Thai activists who were accused by royalists of opposing the monarchy…”. According to Reuters, a spokesperson for Alphabet’s Google said “the issue is now fixed”, adding: “We have clear policies about what’s acceptable for user generated My Maps content. We remove user generated maps that violate our policies.” But these maps had received at least 350,000 views while they were available.

The maps showed the “faces of those named had been covered by black squares with the number 112, in reference to the article under the country’s criminal code [lese majeste] which makes insulting or defaming the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in prison.”

Songklod as Fascist

Rightist vigilante Songklod

Reuters located one ultra-royalist, rightist, activist claiming to be running this vigilante operation. “Retired” army captain Songklod Chuenchoopol said “he and a team of 80 volunteers had created the maps and planned to report everyone named on them to police on accusations of insulting the monarchy.”

Songklod said that he and his team “sought to highlight those they accused of breaking that law.” He said that his “volunteers” hunt “something offensive posted on social media,” and they then log it to the map. He referred to his vigilante work as a “psychological warfare operation,” was meant “to dissuade people from online criticism of the monarchy.”

He described his “operation targeting opponents of the monarchy” as a “massive success.”

Songklod has a history of rightist/royalist activism. He was previously reported as being the “founder of the right-wing ‘Thai Wisdom Guard’ [and] spends most of his day trawling for evidence to file a case under the strict computer crimes act or other laws.” He was said to have then brought a case “against more than 100 people for sharing a post he deemed critical of the Constitutional Court.”

His history suggests that he probably has support from military groups like ISOC, which has a history of supporting rightist/royalist vigilante groups.

These vigilante operations are meant to silence critics through fear of attack and violence, an outcome seen several times in recent years.

Update: A report at Prachatai links Songklod to the so-called Thailand Help Centre for Cyber-bullying Victims. THis seems a reasonable link to rightist, royalist, child abusers.





Maintaining the monarchy’s secrets

12 12 2020

As lese majeste charges pile up, Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta – one of Suthep Thaugsuban’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee men – seems to think that the best way to douse the flames of anti-monarchism is to cut off sources of information.

That’s about what we’d expect from a rightist with a track record of censorship for the monarchy. His last effort was against Pornhub, where Buddhipongse declared “that the decision was not related to a clip featuring an important Thai personality that was posted on the website.” Everyone knew he was talking about the king and his former wife, the latter having been treated loathsomely by the former, and that the clip of her near naked was the reason for the ban.

This month, Buddhipongse is seeking to censor critics of the monarchy and those who provide information on the monarchy that the regime and palace would prefer remained secret.

DES claims to have sent “evidence” to police and to be seeking “legal action against social media platforms that fail to remove URLs deemed inappropriate.” The PDRC minister said “the ministry has asked the Royal Thai Police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) to take action against a total of 496 URLs which violated the Computer Crime Act and security laws between Oct 13 and Dec 4.”

Marshall

Of these, “284 URLs are on Facebook, 81 on YouTube, 130 on Twitter, and the rest on other platforms,” with DES identifying “19 account owners — 15 on Facebook and four on Twitter…”.

The ministry is after “Andrew MacGregor Marshall, who faces 74 court orders to block 120 URLs; Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who faces 50 court orders to block 66 URLs, and Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who faces 194 court orders to block 439 URLs.” This time, the PDRC minister is also going after anti-government protesters, with court orders to block two of Arnon Nampa’s URLs and four of Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak.

Pavin

Um, that’s already 631 URLs…. Something is wrong with the numbers, but let’s just say that the regime reckons these social media activists are lighting the fire under the protesters, so dousing them, they mistakenly think, will put out the anti-monarchism. In a sense, to mix metaphors, the DES and the regime are trying to put the horses back in the barn after thousands of them have bolted.

This time, the PDRC minister is also going after anti-government protesters, with court orders to block two of Arnon Nampa’s URLs and four of Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak.

Somsak

The ministry’s public cyber vigilantes are continuing to report anything and everything. Last month alone, these royalist screenwatchers reported, via the “Volunteers Keep an Eye Online” webpage, 11,914 URLs. Of these, even the ministry could only deem 826 of them “illegal” while the pliant courts found 756 were to be blocked. The ministry and police must be inundated with work for the monarchy.

Buddhipongse is furious that the social media platforms don’t follow his orders, with Facebook blocking 98 of the 487 links he wanted blocked. Twitter removed 8 of 81 URLs. YouTube is far more pliant, blocking all 137 links the ministry flagged.

It is deeply concerning that these social media giants take seriously court orders from a judiciary that is a tool of the regime in political cases and on the monarchy’s poor PR. All the same, the information and the monarchy’s secrets are out there, and the regime will not be able to sweep it away.








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