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.





Army trolls

9 10 2020

Thai Enquirer reports that Twitter has revealed that the Royal Thai Army has at least 926 accounts used in “information operations” against anti-government figures and opposition politicians.

Since the 2006 military coup and more intensively since the 2014 coup, huge budgets have gone to “cyber security,” including the use of cyber vigilantes. State agents have long targeted “opponents,” disrupted and trolled.

Twitter’s report on state-backed “Information Operations” is about “attempts to manipulate Twitter to influence elections and other civic conversations by foreign or domestic state-backed entities.”

The most recent Twitter report disclosed “five distinct networks of accounts … of state-linked information operations.” The accounts were “attributed to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Thailand and Russia.” Twitter states that it has “permanently suspended all 1,594 accounts associated with the five networks, for various violations of our platform manipulation policies.”

On Thailand it states:

Our investigation uncovered a network of accounts partaking in information operations that we can reliably link to the Royal Thai Army (RTA). These accounts were engaging in amplifying pro-RTA and pro-government content, as well as engaging in behavior targeting prominent political opposition figures.

We are disclosing 926 accounts today and continue to enforce against small-scale activity associated with this network, as we identify it.

At the Twitter pages the data on Thailand can be downloaded.

Meanwhile, a report on the operations associated with the 926 accounts has been released by the Stanford Internet Observatory. This report provides some “relief” as it found the Army was not very good at this information operation:

Of the 926 accounts, only 455 actively tweeted, producing a total of 21,385 tweets in the takedown. The network was used primarily to promote pro-government and pro-military positions and accounts on Twitter and to attack political opposition, particularly the Future Forward Party and Move Forward Party (FFP and MFP, respectively). This was a coordinated but low-impact operation: most accounts had no followers and the majority of tweets received no engagement (calculated as the sum of likes, replies, retweets, and quote retweets). This might be due in part to the operation’s limited duration: most of the accounts were created in January 2020 and the network largely stopped tweeting by March 2, 2020. Activity was heavily concentrated in February 2020 with notable spikes around the Korat shooting, a mass shooting in which a soldier killed 30 people, and the dissolution of the FFP.





Updated: ISOC’s political campaigns

29 02 2020

The regime seems in a pickle regarding “fake news.” Last week, Khaosod reported that the regime’s Anti-Fake News Center at the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society declared one of its stories as “fake news” for citing a Facebook post by the Thai Embassy in London.

Later, red-faced officials babbled a bit and finally blamed “procedural errors,” that meant an incorrect rating of the Khaosod story as false. But there was no online correction when the Center’s false fake news post was removed.

Khaosod notes that “critics [have] raised concerns that the center could be weaponized against legitimate news coverage deemed unfavorable by the government.”

This bit of state incompetence or over-zealous policing came as the regime’s broader efforts to manipulate a political advantage from fake news and paid trolls came to light.

Using documents from a parliamentary budget committee, Thai PBS reported that MP Viroj Lakkana-adisorn of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party identified a “network of social media that have been waging a cyber war against critics of the government and the military by spreading fake news and damaging materials against them.”

It was revealed that:

[a]mong human rights activists often targeted by the [network] … are Angkhana Neelapaijit, a former human rights commissioner, and academics critical of the government’s handling of the situation in the region.

This network “includes websites and social media platforms targeting leaders and supporters of the political party and human rights activists in the violence-hit south.” It is taxpayer funded via the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).

ISOC stands accused of hiring dozens of IO operatives:

toiling day and night to sow hatred only to reap 100 baht a day. Pity those soldiers proud of serving their country only to be reduced to the task of trolling, mudslinging, and spreading dark propaganda against their own countrymen….

The trolls are paid – allegedly as little as 100 baht a day, which is a separate labour crime in itself – and are also eligible for a monthly outstanding performance award of 3,000 baht, according to the dossier.

ISOC is claimed to be a “civilian” organization, but this is fake as it is born of and controlled by the military. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is its director  and Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong is deputy director. Its “mission it to suppress threats to national security, defend the monarchy, promote unity, and protect the public from harm…”.

Apparently this now includes lies, fake news, inciting violence and more. In the case cited by Viroj, it also included insinuations that activists “were either sympathetic or associated with the insurgents responsible for unrest … in the south.” He accused ISOC of seeking to “denigrate these people. To sow seeds of hatred…”.

While Viroj’s revelations were about ISOC actions in the south, there can be little doubt that this kind of “Information Operation” (IOs) has been used against all the political opponents of the military junta and its bastard child regime, both led by Gen Prayuth.

The Bangkok Post reported that Gen. Prayuth’s response was to deny “having a policy to use social media against his critics.” He then accused Future Forward of social media attacks upon himself and his regime/s. He vowed to find those responsible for the attacks on himself and his regime/s. And, for good measure, he turned the attack on Viroj for revelations that were a “witch-hunt was causing rifts within society,” and had damaged ISOC’s reputation.

ISOC’s boss

While it is difficult to “damage” ISOC’s reputation as a bunch of political thugs, but we suspect Gen Prayuth has been taking lessons from heroin smuggler and minister Thammanat Prompao on how to divert attention from facts with lies and by attacking messengers.

Gen Prayuth promised an “investigation” that would demonstrate which “political parties are involved…”. Action would be taken against them. Sounds like Thammanat’s threats to sue all and sundry.

ISOC’s response was predictably nonsensical. Yes, the parliamentary documents were correct and, yes, ISOC does conduct IOs. But, ISOC spokesman Maj Gen Thanathip Sawangsaeng “also dismissed claims the command was given a budget by the government to fund information operations (IOs) in the restive region.”

Yes, “the command did spend some of its budget on IOs — albeit not for waging a ‘cyber war’, but on IOs aimed at countering the spread of fake news.”

Maj Gen Thanathip “said the money cited in the expenditure reports was used to fund public relations activities to correct public misunderstandings about security operations in the southern border areas.” He then went full-on bonkers, claiming it was ISOC that was “ensuring justice and promoting human rights with the ultimate goal of restoring peace in the deep South…”. ISOC and the military it supports is usually associated with murder, torture and enforced disappearances in the south.

The response lacks any logic, but we know that making sense and truth counts for nothing among members of this regime.

Vila Krungkao writing at Thai Enquirer observes:

When IO is funded by the state budget – as documents revealed at the censure debate on Tuesday night showed – it means a serious disabuse of taxpayer’s money and trust. It’s a betrayal of your own citizens. To paint them as enemies of the state for merely having different views, to systematically fire up hostility by pitting one group of Thais against another, is to destroy the last semblance of democracy the government still has left. Simply it’s just one of the worst things they could do to their own people….

Troll army

The government (or the Army, we can’t make a distinction) is throwing fuel into the fire when they resort to black propaganda against their own people and amplifying the conflict with malicious intent. Losing the war on legitimacy, they try to win the virtual war on (fake) approval.

Update: The Bangkok Post has an editorial expressing shock about Viroj’s revelations. It concludes:

Isoc and the army should never be involved in information operations as such campaigns necessitate the kind of political affiliation from which they must remain free. State-sponsored operations that aim to spread hate speech against certain groups of people must not be tolerated.

We are not sure why the Post is shocked or thinks that the military or its evil spawn, ISOC, are apolitical. They should be, but they never have been, and ISOC was created to do damage to opponents of the military and its authoritarianism. And, the hiring of cyber spies and trolls being paid by the state has been announced several times in the period since the 2006 coup.

No one should be surprised that “military officers have been mobilised to post abusive comments using fake social media accounts from 2017-2019 as a means to discredit the government’s opponents.”  That as “many as 1,000 officers stationed in about 40 army units across the country” have been used will not surprise those on the receiving end of Army trolling and threats.





Deep harassment for the monarchy

13 06 2019

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have released a report that must be read in full. “Silent Harassment: Monitoring and Intimidation of Citizens during the Coronation Month” is a brave and important account of how royalism is enforced.

Of course, there are many loyalists and royalists in Thailand, with the most fanatical ever eager to harass, attack and slander. But this is a report of how perceived “opponents” are identified and repressed.

Here, we simply quote some bits of this seminal piece of work on “violations of personal freedom through constant monitoring and intimidation by state authorities … [conducted] in secret throughout the course of the [coronation events” for King Vajiralongkorn.

Authorities involved in harassing included “police, military, and special branch police…”. They “identify” groups categorized as “target groups” or “monitor groups” and “track their movements and restrict their political activities…”.

TLHR reports at least 38 instances “of monitoring and intimidation…”. In addition, activists have also been harassed.

In fact, “the groups of people being monitored during this period were quite diverse, as they had not necessarily previously expressed anything about the monarchy.”

The harassment has included home visits by authorities who ask about travel plans, take photos and are seen by other family members and neighbors. They are:

warned by the authorities not to do anything during the coronation period. Some were threatened by the police and told that if they did not comply, they would be handed over to the military and that the military might “abduct” them. In some cases, if the wanted person was not home the authorities talked to his/her family member instead.

Monitored groups get more regular harassing visits and are tracked and followed. For some “special” individuals, the harassment is continuous and involves family and harassing phone calls often from an officer assigned to trail and monitor. Former Article 112 prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk found his residence monitored around the clock. On 5 May 2019, activist Akechai Hongkangwarn revealed that “police took him to the cinema in order to keep a close watch on him all day.”

All were warned not to do or say anything during the coronation period.

Vigilantes were also at work, on the internet, tracking “people who posted their opinions about the coronation online” and reporting them to the authorities.

Royalist Thailand in 2019 is a dark and fearful place.





More on the digital Panopticon

18 05 2018

Yesterday we posted on the construct a digital Panopticon. The Bangkok Post military affairs reporter Wassana Nanuam has more on the military’s plans for more intensive cyber scrutiny and snooping.

She reports that the Defence Ministry is recruiting civilians and military reserve force members to work as so-called “cyber warriors.” This “special unit” apparently adds to the military’s already extensive “cyber security” capacity.

The bit about using the military reserve is important as Lt Gen Ritthi Intharawut, head of the Defence Ministry’s cyber team, compares its use to the Cold War:

During the Cold War era, the military reserve force was seen as a militia that was very important to the armed forces. But now in the era of cyber warfare, ‘cyber warriors’ are an important asset for the nation….

What Wassana does not mention is that the snooping plan, as in the Cold War, was one of the military’s means for surveillance and for threatening political opponents. Those actions came with associated secrecy and an impunity for the gross acts committed by the military and its semi-trained and armed vigilantes.

Cyber surveillance, threats and legal harassment will assist the military’s continued domination of Thailand’s politics and society.





Constructing the junta’s digital Panopticon

17 05 2018

Anyone who has watched the junta’s boot grinding down political activism, one of the most noticeable and distasteful of its repressive efforts has been to establish vigilantism supporting military hired spies who police the internet for content the military dictators feel is threatening. This usually means online lese majeste although the junta has also bee watchful of its own egos and has also policed the Thai world for political dissidents.

It seems that its “successes” in political repression and censorship have prompted the military and the junta to seek to construct a digital Panopticon. Initially devised by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century, the idea was to construct a prison where the inmates could be observed without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. The idea was to impose order and passivity because the inmates cannot know when they are being watched meaning they become motivated to act as though they are being watched at every single moment.

The junta wants all Thais and others in Thailand to believe they are under surveillance all the time. In other words, the whole society becomes, in everyone’s mind, a political prison.

An editorial at the Bangkok Post states that the junta “plans to recruit civilian so-called ‘cyber warriors’ … it needs to ensure they target the right groups of people.” The military dictatorship is hiring and training another 200 cyber spies, with a goal of having 5,000 by 2023. Such a massive spying mission is in the hands of the Minister of Justice – of which there is little – ACM Prajin Juntong.

The plan announced by the junta “leaves room for worries on whether they will be mainly used as a political tool to suppress freedom of expression and hunt down political dissidents.” Fascists will be fascists.

And, as the editorial notes, “a cyber security bill has been drafted pending approval by lawmakers. If enacted into law, it will allow the authorities to take broader control of online activity, including snooping on individuals’ personal computers.”

Another Bangkok Post story refers to the military – not a regular, civilian ministry – is developing ways of tracking tourists, investors and migrant workers, among others. Such tracking is used in other countries but it is only in the darkest of authoritarian regimes that it is the military doing it.

Be very concerned at how broadly the military has defined its role in Thailand. It has seeped and oozed into every arena and level of civilian administration. Even if a junta party doesn’t “win” the junta-granted “election,” the military thugs will be everywhere. The Panopticon is in place.





Fakery and quakery

2 12 2017

The military dictatorship’s recent claims about “fake news” have been taken up by their bossy and yellow-hued acolytes in the Ministry of Public Health

An AP report says the MOPH has announced the launch of a trial period for a smartphone app called Media Watch “that will allow users to flag media content they find ‘inappropriate’ so it can be forwarded to government authorities.”

The snitch app will “help guard, observe, investigate and support the process of having safe and positive media to benefit our youth, families and society in general…”. The MOPH seems to be into quackery.

This appears one more step in making lese majeste snitching even easier for the cyber vigilantes. It will also allow pro-junta anti-democrats to report any critical commentary on the military regime.

(As an aside, PPT has noticed intense blocking in recent days. Interestingly, the heaviest censorship of PPT is now on our posts about the regime rather than anything we post on lese majeste or the monarchy. It seems that the censors are less interested in the monarchy.)

We can’t help wondering if wags won’t use the app to report the junta’s mouthpieces who regularly concoct the information they release.

For example, The Nation reports that junta spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd was assigned to denigrate one of the anti-coal protest leaders who was, for a time, out of communication with his family.

He decided that a personal attack was the “news” to be manufactured. Sansern referred to “a man who ran away with a woman.” He said:

There was one key protester named Mustarseedeen Waba. There is a photo of him being escorted by police or military officers that is being circulated online, saying that he has not returned home yet…. I’ve asked the 4th Army Area commander and provincial police commander. Neither of the authorities said that they had caught him.

He then added that Mustarseedeen’s disappearance probably involved a tryst with a woman who wasn’t his wife.

Sansern was heavily criticized. His response was junta-esque: “We need to speak the truth today. The government always talks rationally…”.

That’s another lie. “Government spokesman” seems to mean “official liar.” Or maybe he’s the regime clown.