The Nation on latest lese majeste case(s)

11 05 2017

The Nation has an editorial on the latest lese majeste cases:

The monarchy will only suffer when so many dubious actions are carried out in its name….

When the current crop of junta leaders came to power three years ago they made it a priority to go after violators of the lese majeste law. The high number of arrests since then shows how serious this military government is about it, but, as was clear enough even before the coup, protecting the monarchy is too often nothing more that an excuse for suppressing regime opponents.

Thus, when human rights lawyer Prawet Prapanukul was seen as suggesting that the limits of the lese majeste law be tested, the military wasted no time in silencing him. For more than a week he was held incommunicado until he and five others were charged on Monday with violating that very law.

Prawet was arrested at his home on April 29 and not seen in public again until Monday. The junta has long had an axe to grind with this defender of anti-junta red-shirt leaders. He also represented Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul (“Da Torpedo”) before she was convicted on lese majeste charges.

It is a sad state of affairs when national leaders who claim to be defending or restoring democracy instead show disrespect for due process and a law solely intended to protect the monarchy. In fact their action places the monarchy in an unwanted spotlight, dragging it into the mundane realm of politics. The spike in the number of arrests carried out since the coup is no coincidence. It is part of a strategy. And the climate of fear that results further undermines Thailand’s international standing.

The United Nations Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia has reiterated a call for the government to stop arbitrarily detaining political activists and to release those now in custody. “I am concerned at the sharp increase in the use of the lese majeste law after the 2014 coup, with more than 70 people detained or convicted,” said acting regional representative Laurent Meillan.

The authorities seem heedless of the fact that their actions violate international conventions that Thailand is obliged to honour. Human Rights Commissioner Angkana Neelapaijit said Prawet’s arrest violated both the “human rights principle” and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. It can “be considered a forced disappearance and illegal, because the officers arrested him [and took him] to an unknown place without notifying his family”. Angkana pointed out that, while the authorities can arrest anyone who commits illegal acts or harms national stability, forced disappearance is prohibited under any circumstances by the UN convention.

Five others were charged along with Prawet after allegedly sharing Facebook posts by Paris-based Thai historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul. The postings were supposedly about last month’s replacement of a historic marker in Bangkok’s Royal Plaza. The original plaque commemorated the 1932 revolution that ended absolute monarchy. It was replaced under mysterious circumstances with another that praises the monarchy and makes no reference to history.

The authorities had warned last month that anyone sharing Somsak’s social media posts would face legal action. Prawet et al fell victim, but it is Thailand’s government that’s suffering a self-inflicted wound to the foot.

We would point out that there are far more than 70 lese majeste cases. More than 100 cases. Readers are invited to look at our pages on these. If the junta has shot itself in the foot, that foot must have disintegrated by now.

What is hidden in this is who ordered and arranged the removal of the plaque. We have said enough on that, but the problem we think that faces the junta is that it has no choice but to cover up.

Darunee, Pornthip and Thitinant released

27 08 2016

Some good news. As several sites and sources, including the Bangkok Post, it has been reported that Daranee Charnchoensilpakul (Da Torpedo), Pornthip Munkong (Golf) and Thitinant Kaewchantranont have been released from prison. Each was imprisoned for lese majeste.

Darunee was initially convicted and jailed for 18 years on lese majeste. Her appeal was upheld, but she was held in jail until a new trial was held. That trial again found her guilty and sentenced to 15 years. She was arrested on 22 July 2008 after delivering an exceptionally strong 30-minute speech denouncing the 2006 coup and the monarchy. She served more than eight years.

Pornthip was a 24 year-old activist when arrested on 15 August 2014 and charged with lese majeste. She was convicted on 23 February 2015. Pornthip, along with a separately arrested and detained activist, Patiwat Saraiyaem, for their involvement in a political play, The Wolf Bride (เจ้าสาวหมาป่า), about a fictional monarch and kingdom. She was denied bail several times. She eventually entered guilty please on lese majeste charges and was sentenced to 5 years, reduced by half for the guilty plea. She served just over two years.

Thitinant was arrested on 17 July 2012, accused of lese majeste. The details of her case and how and where she was held in not clear. Dating back to 2003, the New Zealand resident had been found to suffer mental illness. This was confirmed by court doctors. She was initially found guilty on 21 May 2014, and sentenced her to two years in jail. The prison term was commuted to one year for her confession. The jail term could be suspended for three years. This suspension was overturned by the Appeals Court sentenced Thitinant to jail for a year. It is not clear how long she was detained in prisons and hospitals.

It is good that these women have been released. None of them should have been in jail.

Into his 5th year

16 02 2016

iLaw and Prachatai have a story well worth reading on Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, who has entered his fifth year in prison for lese majeste. His case, and that of Darunee Charnchoensilpakul, are terrible indictments of Thailand’s incapacity to deal with freedom of expression. The story begins:somyos

January 2016 marked more than four years since Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, social activist and former editor of Voice of Taksin magazine, lost his freedom for the publishing of two articles in the magazine which were deemed to fall within the domain of lèse majesté.

It ends with this:

Even though requesting a royal pardon would likely mean that Somyot would be released and would return to his family more quickly, Somyot is firm in his decision not to take this path. This is because Somyot is sincere in his belief that he has not done anything wrong. If he were to request a royal pardon, he would have to write an appeal in which he explained that he realized his crime and deeply regretted his actions.

We recommend reading the article in full.

Ji on international failure on lese majeste

7 09 2014

As downloaded from Ji Ungpakorn’s website:

International Organisations fail on Lèse-Majesté

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

 Despite the fact that Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has stated that “the threat of the use of the lèse majesté laws adds to the chilling effects on freedom of expression observed in Thailand after the coup”, the track record of international organisations and Western governments in supporting Thai political prisoners jailed under this draconian law is exceedingly poor.

     For years Amnesty International failed to campaign on the issue, claiming that it preferred to carry out “quiet lobbying” of the Thai government. Locally based AI officials even supported the use of the law. Eventually AI took up the case of Somyot Pruksakasemsuk. But the AI campaign has been weak and half-hearted.

     Western governments have shown a token interest over the oppressive effects of lèse majesté. The U.S. government sent an embassy official as an observer to some seminars on the subject which I helped to organise before I was forced to leave Thailand because of this law. But the U.S. government has done nothing of any significance since. The Canadian ambassador to Thailand informed me that his government was “concerned” about lèse majesté and was involved in “quiet lobbying”. But nothing positive has resulted.

     Western governments, including E.U. governments, could make public statements opposing lèse majesté and they could ask to send embassy observers to lèse majesté trials. That kind of pressure helped to release student political prisoners after the 6th October 1976 blood bath in Bangkok.

     I do not have utopian illusions in the commitment of Western governments to freedom and democracy, but citizens of those governments could put pressure on politicians to raise the issue.

     Some academics who are involved in Thai Studies have published good public statements against lèse majesté, but things need to be taken further. Lèse majesté is also an infringement of academic freedom and Thai academics and students have fallen foul of the law. It is time for a boycott of official Thai academic institutions and conferences which are linked to the Thai government. So far nothing has happened.

     Lèse majesté is not just about censorship, violence and intimidation by the state. The widespread use of the law and the manic promotion of the monarchy by the military and others is a green light for royalist thugs and other non-state actors to commit violence or make threats against citizens. It applies to all those who are merely accused of lèse majesté by anyone, whether or not they are actually charged or found guilty. This is clear in the cases of academics Somsak Jeamteerasakul and Worajet Pakeerat.

     Given that the military junta is increasing its use of lèse majesté, with those facing trials automatically being refused bail, and given that people like Somyot and Da Torpedo have been locked away under appallingly stiff sentences, it is a matter of urgency that there are more campaigns for the abolition of lèse majesté.

     In Thailand, while state officials who shoot down unarmed demonstrators and destroy democracy go free, people who merely express opposition to the status quo, in a totally non-violent manner, are deemed to be “serious criminals”.

Da Torpedo to seek pardon

25 07 2013

Prachatai reports that long-serving lese majeste convict Darunee Charnchoensilpakul is to finally seek a pardon.

After more than fiver years of incarceration, this stoic woman, mistreated by the justice system and arguably jailed in circumstances that repeatedly violated her constitutional rights and certainly her human rights, has agreed that she will drop her appeals against her grubby conviction.da torpedo

It will be recalled that her last appeal was declined in mid-June this year. At the time, PPT reiterated that it was the so-called People’s Alliance for Democracy and its supporters who originally brought media attention to Darunee’s fiery speeches at an anti-coup rallies, baying for her incarceration on lese majeste charges. Repeatedly refused bail and dragged through secret trials and a series of appeals, the royalist courts have repeatedly made it clear that Darunee is to be punished. At the same time, it is noted that the charges were laid – under huge political pressure – by the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra government led by the late Samak Sundaravej.

In her last appeal, the royalist court reportedly “saw that Daranee’s behaviour had caused damage to the reputation of Their Majesties and she deserved to be punished to warn others not to follow her example.” The current report acknowledges that there is no hope that any other appeal will elicit a fairer result. In addition, it explains that prison conditions are harsh, and that Darunee’s health has been poor.

On the day of this announcement, Darunee was visited by Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul, who received a pardon on 5 July this year, seven months after he lodged his request for a pardon.

News on Somyos and Surachai

23 07 2013

In the all too depressing lese majeste cases of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Surachai Danwattananusorn, The Nation reports on some developments, neither likely to reduce the gloom.

Somyos is about to apply for bail again on Wednesday. This is his 15th application.

His wife Sukunya Prueksakasemsuk says that this time his application is supported “by signatures of members of the public who support the request along with an increased bond to guarantee that her husband will not run away.” The family is now putting up 3.7 million baht, being all the property they own.

In Surachai’s case, the situation is especially bleak. At 71, Surachai is not in great health, and has been awaiting a royal pardon.

However, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has now said “they were waiting to press another lese majeste charge against him.” His wife reports that:

… Surachai, leader of Red Siam faction of the red shirts, was very upset and felt betrayed by the ruling Pheu Thai Party, whom he had supported. The possible charge relates to a speech by Surachai in Chiang Mai province in February 2011.

In these cases it is impossible to discern why it is that these two men – along with Darunee Charnchoensilpakul – have been selected for especially harsh punishment on lese majeste charges. PPT suspects it is because, as radical leaders, they are singled out as examples of the punishment that awaits political activists who challenge the monarchy and its role anchoring elite rule in Thailand.

Ji Ungpakorn on Ampol’s passing

9 05 2012

Pumipon, Abhisit and Yingluk killed Aa-Kong

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The death in prison of the poor odd-job man “Aa-Kong” is an outrage and it is yet another indication of the barbarity of the lèse majesté law, the injustice of the Thai legal system and the brutality of the Thai ruling class. The fact that he was refused bail to get medical treatment, and the fact that the prison authorities waited 3 days after he became ill before sending him to the prison clinic, is an indication of the terrible conditions in Thai prisons. He was convicted of lèse majesté for supposedly sending an SMS message to ex-Prime Minister Abhisit’s personal secretary. The evidence given by the state proved nothing.

In Thailand, generals and politicians who ordered repeated killings of unarmed demonstrators on 5 occasions since 1973 have never been charged and never been punished. But criticising the ruling class is considered to be a “grave offense”. Long prison sentences are handed down for lèse majesté.

As progressive Red Shirts gathered to light candles and place flowers in Aa-Kong’s memory, some held up posters which asked the question “Who killed Aa-Kong?” The simple answer is that King Pumipon, Abhisit Vejjajiva and Yingluk Shinawat are collectively responsible for Aa-Kong’s death.

King Pumipon has limited powers. He cannot order the military to stage coups or to gun down pro-democracy demonstrators, although he provides legitimacy for such vile actions afterwards. But one thing that Pumipon HAS the power to do is to say that lèse majesté must no longer be used and all lèse majesté prisoners should be immediately released. After all, the Thai ruling class claim that this barbaric law is there to protect Pumipon. Yet Pumipon said not a word about releasing the prisoners. He does not care a fig about ordinary Thai people, and shows more affiliation with his pet dogs. This is not the first time that Pumipon has remained silent and allowed innocent people like Aa-Kong to die. He remained silent when 3 innocent palace servants were executed for his brother’s death. Pumipon knew they were innocent because he was there when his brother died of a gun-shot wound.

Pumipon lacks any basic morals. He has never carried out his duty to protect Democracy and the Constitution and therefore he is unfit to be the Head of State. His actions and those of the military prove that Thailand urgently needs to become a republic.

Abhisit became Prime Minister only because the army put him in office. He has never won a majority in any election. While he was Prime Minister in 2010 he ordered the killing of unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators. Aa-Kong was put in prison because of Abhisit’s actions.

Yingluk won a huge majority in the 2011 election. Red Shirts voted for her on mass. Yet she has betrayed all those who are in prison for political reasons and all those who died for Democracy. Yingluk could have spoken out against any further use of lèse majesté and she could have called for the release of all lèse majesté prisoners. Yet she and her loathsome government ministers insisted that they would increase prosecutions under lèse majesté and they set their faces against any reform of the law. Instead of building democracy and justice, Yingluk has spent her time loving up to the military. She is responsible for Aa-Kong’s death in prison.

Aa-Kong is dead. Let us all make sure that the other lèse majesté prisoners such as Somyot, Surachai, Da and all the others are quickly released.