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.





Death and detention

3 05 2017

Prachatai reports on the military junta’s puppet National Reform Council (NRC) on the rightist plan to bring the media even further under the military boot.

The NRC “has given the green light to a controversial bill that would subject the Thai media to a licensing system.”

During what Prachatai euphemistically calls a “debate over the bill” – it was the usual back-slapping resulting in support for the bill – “NRC whip spokesperson Pornthip Rojanasunand declared: “The media nowadays make video clips to defame people. This is very difficult to control … and is destroying society…”.

She was trumped by Lt Gen Thawatchai Samutsakhon who decried Thailand’s “free” media, saying that Thailand needed to be more like “countries such as China and Singapore have similar media regulations…”.

Lt Gen Thawatchai, seemingly drunk on power or just drunk, trumpeted:

Pol Gen Seripisut Temiyavet, a former police commander, recently gave interviews condemning the military…. He has no respect [for the military]. Journalists who report these things should be executed by firing squad.

Reckless chatter from a puppet, perhaps, but we are sure his personal fascism is widespread among the puppets.

Meanwhile, the military dictatorship’s official thugs continue to abduct political opponents. Prachatai reports that the “military has reportedly detained incommunicado two political dissidents one of whom is a human rights lawyer who represented a former lèse majesté convict.” That was Darunee Charnchoensilpakul.

On 30 April 2017 human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul told a colleague that the junta had “summoned him.” He then “disappeared and could not be contacted further…”. Legally, this may be another case of forced disappearance by the junta.

Prawet is known for posting “messages critical of the Thai military government and the use of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.”

A day earlier, Prachatai states that “more than 10 police and military officers detained Danai (surname withheld due to privacy concerns), 34, a political dissident from Chiang Mai.”

His disappearance was confirmed by Danai’s father who “reported that the [military] officers searched their house and confiscated two of Danai’s mobile phones and informed him that his son would be taken to Bangkok, but did not disclose other details.”

The official thugs “did not present any warrant for the arrest and did not tell him [the father] why Danai was arrested.” However, the “local village headman later told Danai’s father that his son was arrested for posting political facebook messages critical of the junta.”

Military fascism defines the junta’s Thailand.





Sondhi “unconvicted” on lese majeste

12 02 2017

The lese majeste case involving People’s Alliance for Democracy boss Sondhi Limthongkul goes back to 2008.

Having made numerous complaints of lese majeste against others, the yellow-shirted anti-democrat found himself accused of lese majeste after he referred to a speech given by Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul (alias Da Torpedo) when he was criticizing her and calling on the police to act against her.

In February 2012, the Criminal Court sentenced Sondhi to 20 years for corporate fraud in a case dating back to the 1990s. He was eventually convicted and is serving jail time.

On 10 July 2012, Sonthi appeared in court on the lese majeste charge. He denied the charge. On 26 September 2012, Sondhi was acquitted on the lese majeste charge. The prosecution appealed, and in October 2013 he was convicted and sentenced to 2 years. He appealed.

Now The Nation reports that the Supreme Court “ruled in favour of Sondhi … saying he had no intention of repeating another activist’s insults that were made in a political speech in 2008. The ruling reversed the Appeals Court’s decision that saw Sondhi jailed for two years on the same charge.”

The charge was reportedly dismissed as the court was convinced that Sondhi “repeated the statements only to call for police to prosecute Daranee for what she said.” We don’t recall too much attention to intent in other cases. It seems royalists get preferential and special treatment from the courts, even for lese majeste charges.

(Darunee served more than eight years in jail.)





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.





Somyos and the law

26 05 2016
somyos

Somyos

Novelist and social and cultural critic Wad Rawee has an article reproduced at Prachatai on the case of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, sentenced under the lese majeste law, and held in prison since 30 April 2011.

As far as we are aware, only one other political prisoner has been held longer, and that is Darunee Charnchoensilpakul, jailed since 22 July 2008 for a mammoth 15 years in prison for her political speeches.

Wad observes that Somyos was not a speaker or a writer of any of the “offending” words that the authorities considered constituted lese majeste. Rather, Somyos was an editor of a popular oppositional magazine. He was also a labor activist and organizer.

PPT interprets this background as one that made Somyos threatening to and dangerous for the royalist elite.

Wad explains the legal nonsense at the heart of this lese majeste conviction:

Throughout the hearings and investigation, no other evidence was presented other than that which proved that Somyot was the editor of the aforementioned magazine. In the demonstration of Somyot’s guilt, no other evidence was presented other than the opinions of witnesses after reading the two articles in question.

Wad

Wad

Wad concludes:

This case must go down in history as one in which the court ruled an editor to be guilty of a crime on the basis of the belief that this editor read the articles in question and then could only reach the same conclusion about them as one particular group of witnesses. This ruling was made without any evidence at all and without any law that specifies that an editor must take responsibility for any crimes that arise in the materials that he publishes.

Somyos, Darunee and many more are Thailand’s political prisoners. They are jailed for daring to go outside the narrow rules that protect the royalist elite, it wealth and its power.





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.





Seven years of PPT

21 01 2016

Another year has passed for Political Prisoners in Thailand. As in previous years, we admit our disappointment that we are still active.

By this, we mean that PPT should have gone the way of the dinosaurs, being unnecessary as Thailand’s political prisoners would have been released and political repression gone.

When we began PPT on 21 January 2009, we hoped it would be a temporary endeavor. Instead, seven years later, we are still at it. The dominance of an illegal regime, founded in nonsensical royalism, a cult of personality, the death of the king/succession conundrum, the politicization of the judiciary and the resort to the military boot challenge all Thais. A better, more representative and more democratic politics remains a dream. The “reform” promised by the military junta and currently being embedded in a military-royalist constitution is a nightmare.

When we sputtered into life it was as a collaborative effort to bring more international attention to the expanded use of the lese majeste and computer crimes laws by the then Abhisit Vejjajiva regime and his anti-democratic Democrat Party. That regime’s tenure saw scores die and thousands injured in political clashes and hundreds held as political prisoners.

The royalism and repression that gained political impetus from anti-democratic street demonstrations that paved the way for the 2006 military coup and then for the 2014 military coup have become the military state’s ideology. Those perceived as opponents of the military and the monarchy are whisked away into detention, face threats and surveillance and some have died in mysterious circumstances. The 2006 and 2014 coups, both conducted in the name of the monarchy, have seen a precipitous slide into a new political dark age where the lese majeste law has been a grotesque weapon of choice in a deepening political repression.

Royalists have fought to maintain a royalist state that lavishes privilege, wealth and power on a few. The military junta is seeking to institutionalize this control and power.

On this anniversary, as in past years,  we want and end to political repression and the release of every political prisoner.

We especially remember the unconstitutional and illegal treatment of brave individuals like Darunee Charnchoensilpakul and Somyos Pruksakasemsuk. Their continued imprisonment – over seven years for Darunee and more than four years for Somyos – is a travesty of justice and their treatment has been inhumane.

Under the current regime, hundreds of people have been jailed or detained, subjected to military courts and threatened by the military. The military regime is not only illegal but is the most repressive since the royally-appointed regime under Thanin Kraivixien in the mid-1970s. Just last night, another opponent was whisked away into secret detention.

In recent years, lese majeste cases have grown exponentially. Worse, both military and civil courts have held secret trials and handed out unimaginably harsh sentences. And even worse than this,  the definition of what constitutes a crime under the draconian lese majeste law has been extended to include implied lese majeste and the “protection” of royals not cover by the law and even kings dead for several centuries.

PPT has now had more than 2.6 million page views at our two sites. We aren’t in the big league in the blogging world, but the level of interest in Thailand’s politics and the use of lese majeste internationally has increased. We are pleased that there is far more attention to the issue than there was when we began and that the international reporting and understanding of the issue is far more critical than it was.

In Thailand, however, political repression and the use of lese majeste has deepened. Unfortunately, we see very little light in this long, dark tunnel.

We want to thank our readers for sticking with us through all the attempts by the Thai censors to block us. We trust that we remain useful and relevant and we appreciate the emails we receive from readers.

As in the past we declare:

The lese majeste and computer crimes laws must be repealed.

All political prisoners must be released.

The military dictatorship must be opposed.