Updated: Masters of repression II

16 07 2021

Lawfare is a tool authoritarian regimes use for political repression. Thailand’s military-backed/monarchist regime has become particularly adept at this means of silencing criticism. There’s been a blizzard of cases of late, even excluding the obvious and odious lese majeste cases.

Just in the past days or so, there have been several cases that warrant attention.

One case involves the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, reported by Reuters to have “initiated a defamation suit against the prominent chairman of a private hospital operator over his criticism of its procurement of Moderna (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccines.” He’s been a critic so he’s targeted. Interestingly, after this criticism, the GPO seemed to suddenly get moving on procurement. All vaccine procurement – and not just in Thailand – remains incredibly opaque.

A second case is reported by The Nation and involves the Royal Thai Army. Army chief General Narongpan Jittkaewtae has bellowed that “eight Facebook users and one Twitter user will be arrested over defamation charges” and can expect jail time, fines or both. His anger is because they shared information suggesting that “Thai soldiers were being flown to the United States for Covid-19 booster shots.”

censorship-1

The army claims that the soldiers were not heading off for the “Strategic Airborne Operation at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.” The army didn’t help its case by initially declaring that the soldiers were involved in Cobra Gold, which has nothing to do with travel to the USA.

A third case is reported in two related stories at Thai Enquirer and Prachatai. The toady National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission has ordered Voice TV “to take its programs off the Video To Home 9 TV (V2H9TV) channel…”. The NBTC claims the channel infringed “regulations when it aired … programs on April 27 which covered the protests Standing Still to Stop Incarceration (ยืนหยุดขัง), the White Ribbons (ผูกโบว์ขาว) and the Let Our Friends Go (ปล่อยเพื่อนเรา)…”. Other live protest broadcasts are reportedly being “investigated.”

In other words, the regime is using the NBTC to prevent Voice TV from providing live coverage of protests.

The NBTC has fined the MVTV company 50,000 baht for airing Voice TV’s “Voice Go” programme, “claiming that the content of the programme affects national security.”

The broadcast on the PSI satellite network on 27 April “was a report on the protest in front of the Supreme Court, in which a group of student activists from Thammasat University occupied an area on the footpath to demand the release of student activists then under detention. The programme also featured interviews with protesters on the reasons for their activities.”

The NBTC “stated that the content of the programme affected national security, peace, and public morals.” In fact, the reason for these moves is to remove opposition criticism.

A fourth case involves more defamation and sedition charges as the regime seeks to shutdown critical commentary on its botched vaccine rollout.

In this case, the regime has gone after veteran politician Sudarat Keyuraphan, with red shirt traitor and now regime flunky Seksakol [Suporn] Atthawong and spineless regime doormat, Sonthiya Sawasdee, adviser to the House committee on law, justice and human rights filing charges.

Sudarat’s Sang Thai Party has been campaigning to sue the “murderous government” for “mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis.”

She’s accused sedition and defamation.

The regime’s mouthpiece Seksakol claims that Sudarat has been “wrongly accusing the government of poorly managing the Covid-19 crisis. This was defamatory, according to Mr Seksakol.” He’s an idiot working for a ridiculous regime, making ridiculous claims while botching the crisis. Only diehard regime supporters would think that the regime’s recent virus work has been anything other than a deadly farce.

The execrable Seksakol made it clear that the charges were to prevent “disharmony in society.” In other words, support the regime or else.

Update: On the attack on Sudarat, consider the commentary by Thitinan Pongsudhirak, which is highly recommended as a full read:

Thailand’s vaccine rollout is evidently a complete shambles due to questionable procurement, supply shortage, and misallocation amid a deadly surge of the Covid-19 “Delta” variant. The situation has been going from bad to worse with no end in sight as a poorly conceived strategy unfolds into a national calamity. As public anger mounts with fast-spreading calls for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s ouster, the Covid-19 pandemic is becoming Thailand’s political game-changer more than anyone could have anticipated.

Instead of the youth-led political movement or the parliamentary opposition’s demands for reform, fundamental political change in this country will likely cascade from the Prayut government’s gross mishandling that is claiming lives, inflicting daily hardships, and causing unhappiness nationwide. When the time comes to pick up the pieces with more abundant and efficacious vaccines with virus control under way, a national inquiry for public accountability will be imperative….

What sets Thailand apart are what appears to be inherent nepotism and vested interests where people suspect there is more than meets the eye behind the country’s vaccination procurement. For inhabitants of this country, it matters less that other countries are suffering the same conditions, but that the country they live in can and should be doing much better. What’s worse, the Prayut government keeps repeating the same mistakes and making matters worse by the day.

Is he up for a state defamation action too?

 





Updated: “Fake” news, state news

13 06 2021

Anyone who struggles through the blarney posted by the regime’s PR outfits must wonder about the meaning of “fake news.”

But when the regime’s bosses talk “fake news” one can expect they are talking about others and their news. Mostly, they are worried about news on the monarchy and criticism of themselves.

All kinds of political regimes have taken up “fake news” as a way of limiting criticism, but it is authoritarian, military and military-backed regimes that have been most enthusiastic in using it to roll back and limit criticism. In Thailand, repression has been deepened through all kinds of efforts to limit free expression and to silence opponents.

With laws on computer crimes, defamation, treason, sedition, and lese majeste, a reasonable person might wonder why the regime needs more “legal” means for repression. But, then, authoritarian regimes tend to enjoy finding ways to silence critics.

It is thus no real surprise to read in the Bangkok Post that Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has ordered “the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) and security agencies to take tough action against those who spread fake news.” He included the “Anti-Fake News Centre, the Royal Thai Police, the Justice Ministry and the DES” telling them to “work together to respond swiftly to the spread of fake news on social media platforms, and take legal action accordingly.”

I Can't Speak

His minions “explained” he was worried about virus news, but when Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “instructed the Council of State, the government’s legal advisory body, to study the laws and regulations, including those in foreign countries, dealing with the spread of fake news” the focus was much broader and was clearly about anti-monarchy news. After all, officials added that the Computer Crime Act was insufficient for curbing “the damage speedily enough.”

The Thai Enquirer sensed an even broader regime agenda. They saw the use of the Council of State as a path to a “law that would control the online media in Thailand.”

They recognize that the aim is to strengthen “national security,” code for the monarchy. But, they also note a desire to limit “the criticism that the government has received over its Covid-19 response program from online platforms” including by Thai Enquirer. Of course, that criticism has also involved the monarchy.

They rightly fear that the online media “would be targeted under the new law.” They say:

This law, as commentators have noted, is an affront and a threat to free and fair press inside this country. It would make our job thousands of times harder and open us up to lawsuit and the threat of legal harassment by the government.

As we have been saying at PPT, Thai Enquirer believes:

we are being taken back to the dark days of military rule because the government believes criticism aimed at them is a threat to the entire nation. That they are unable to differentiate between a political party, its rule, and the fabric of the nation is arrogant and worrying.

But here we are, even as Deputy Prime Minister and legal predator Wissanu Krea-Ngam thinks of an excuse to shut us down, we promise to you that we will keep reporting to the end.

They call for opposition to tyranny, adding that “this new onslaught against press freedom” will be opposed through their reporting.

In a Bangkok Post op-ed by Wasant Techawongtham acknowledges that fake news can be a problem but notes that a new law “Bootis aimed at silencing critics of the ruling regime.” He adds:

Since democracy was banished from Thailand following the 2014 military coup d’etat, a number of laws have been enacted purportedly to protect the Thai people against the harmful effects of computer crimes. But it is crystal clear that the real purpose of these laws is to suppress the voice of the people.

Authoritarians tend to go to great lengths to ensure their stay in power through silencing dissent.

Under this regime, Wasant observes that regime opponents have been “harassed, or even put in jail” and several have been dissappeared and others killed.

He recognizes that a range of repressive laws have:

done quite a remarkable job of suppressing free speech. Those who insisted on speaking their minds against the current rulers have been severely dealt with. Those who were put in jail were allowed back to their families only after they agreed to seal their lips.

Not only regime and monarchy critics are silenced, but the “media — broadcast, digital and print — have felt compelled to screen their offerings very carefully, which in many cases leads to self-censorship.”

But none of this is enough! The regime wants more! There can be no freedom. There can only be the regime’s “truth.”

Update: Thinking about fake news from the regime, the royal propaganda machine is pumping out some real tripe. The latest has the king and his number 1 consort cooking meals allegedly for “medical professionals,” although in the story at The Nation, Sineenat isn’t even mentioned.

Royal cooks

Clipped from The Nation

As they often are, the couple appear in identical kit with minions groveling around them. We are told that “King … Vajiralongkorn on Saturday cooked a variety of food at the kitchen of Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in Dusit Palace…”. He’s the cleanest cook in history, with not a stain to be seen, suggesting that its fake news or, in other words, a photo op meant to deceive the public. And, their gear changes in several of the pictures.

To add to the “news,” the “Royal Office” is quoted as saying:

These foods have nutrition values of five food groups with fingerroot as a key ingredient…. Fingerroot or Krachai is a Thai traditional herb that has various medicinal benefits and could help strengthen the body’s immune system and help prevent Covid-19. Furthermore, eating freshly cooked meals is one of the recommended ways to stay safe from the virus.

We have to say that we at PPT must have wasted our time getting vaccinated because, as the royals have, hot food protects us, and we eat “freshly cooked meals” at least twice a day! Krachai may well be the king’s favorite ingredient as it is said to help with male sexual performance. But how to explain the erect chef’s hat is beyond us.

That aside, this palace propaganda must rank as “fake news.”





Ammy and Phromsorn face more 112 charges

9 06 2021

Ammy

An earlier photo of Ammy

Prachatai reports that Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan or Ammy, the lead singer of band The Bottom Blues, is facing yet “another royal defamation charge for singing a modified version of his song ‘1 2 3 4 5 I love you’ at a protest in front of the Thanyaburi Provincial Court in January 2021.”

Along with the already reported case against and activist Phromsorn Weerathamjaree

, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights report that Ammy faces another lese majeste charges for “participation in the 14 January 2021 protest in front of the Thanyaburi Provincial Court to demand the release of student activist Sirichai Natueng, who was arrested in the middle of the night on 13 January 2021,” also for lese majeste involving the “spray-painting portraits of members of the royal family.”

It seems that this may also be a second case against Phromsorn for participation in this event – one for a speech and this one for joining Ammy in singing the song where the “I love you” is replaced with “Fuck you Too [Prayuth Chan-ocha]” or “Free our friends.” This time, however, the police claim the words were replaced with words against the king:

TLHR reported that according to the police, participants during the 14 January 2021 protest replaced “I love you” with “Fuck you […].” TLHR did not disclose what the final word was, but said the police deemed that the modified lyrics were insulting to the king.

Phromsorn

Phromsorn

Phromsorn reported to Thanyaburi Police Station on 7 June and denied the charge and Ammy reported on 8 June, also denying the charge.

The public prosecutor has now filed 112 cases against the two activists.

It is stated in the report that this “is the 17th royal defamation case in which the public prosecutor has ordered an indictment since the law began to be used against pro-democracy protesters in November 2020.”

The Thanyaburi Provincial Court granted bail to both men, “with a security of 300,000 baht each. The court also required them to sign a letter promising not to run or tamper with evidence.”

Ammy stated that this is “the first pop song to be charged under Section 112” and “that he was notified of the charges while he was still being detained pending trial in another royal defamation [lese majeste*] charge at the Thanyaburi Remand Prison.” He was detained for 69 days before being bailed on 11 May 2021 “on condition that he does not participate in activities which are damaging to the monarchy…”.

So far, Phromsorn is “facing a total of 3 counts of royal defamation [lese majeste] relating to political expression…”.

*PPT is becoming concerned that reporting of lese majeste is replacing the term with “royal defamation.” That plays into the arguments of the military-backed and royalist regime that argues for the draconian lese majeste charge being just another defamation charge. Clearly it is not.





End Harassment of Suchanee Cloitre

29 10 2020

PPT had earlier posted on the legal harassment of journalist Suchanee Cloitre. This is just one more example of how the rich and powerful benefit from Thailand’s warped judicial system. We reproduce the joint letter by human rights groups:

Thailand: End Harassment of Suchanee Cloitre
Baseless criminal defamation cases undercut labor rights protections

Suchanee (clipped from LePetitJournal.com)

Joint Letter

26 October 2020

We, the undersigned twelve human rights organizations, call on Thailand’s government to immediately end the harassment through the judicial system of journalist Suchanee Cloitre and to take concrete steps to protect journalists and human rights defenders from frivolous criminal proceedings. On 27 October, the Lopburi Court of Appeal will deliver the verdict in an appeal by Suchanee, who was convicted last year in a case initiated by Thammakaset Company Limited. The case underscores the need to repeal criminal defamation provisions in Thailand’s Criminal Code, which have frequently been used by businesses and powerful individuals to silence their critics.

The charges against Suchanee stem from a tweet concerning alleged labor rights violations at a chicken farm operated by Thammakaset in Lopburi Province. According to a complaint filed by workers with the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, the company failed to pay minimum wage or overtime, did not provide adequate rest time and holidays, and confiscated identity documents, among other abuses. In 2016, the Lopburi Department of Labor Protection and Welfare ordered Thammakaset to pay THB 1.7 million in compensation to the workers, a penalty that was later upheld by Thailand’s Supreme Court.

At the time of her tweet in 2017, Suchanee was a journalist for Voice TV and reported on the allegations. In March 2019, Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint against Suchanee under sections 326 and 328 of the Criminal Code, concerning defamation and libel, respectively. In December 2019, the Lopburi Provincial Court convicted Suchanee under both provisions and sentenced her to non-probational two years’ imprisonment.

Suchanee is only one of many individuals targeted by Thammakaset. Since 2016, Thammakaset has initiated civil and criminal cases against 22 individuals and Voice TV for speaking out about the company’s alleged labor right violations. Among the accused are former Thammakaset employees, labor rights activists, an academic, women human rights defenders, and a former commissioner from the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand.

In March 2020, four United Nations Special Rapporteurs and the chairs of two UN Working Groups wrote to the Thai government to express concern about the “continued judicial harassment by Thammakaset Co. Ltd (Thammakaset), of human rights defenders, migrant workers, journalists and academics for denouncing exploitative working conditions of migrant workers”.

The Thai government’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, adopted in 2019, set combatting “strategic lawsuits against public participation” (SLAPP) and preventing prosecution of human rights defenders as major priorities for the government. However, the government has failed to act decisively to achieve this objective. Earlier this month, the Thai government further undermined its commitment to ensuring a rights-respecting business environment by awarding a human rights prize to Mitr Phol Co. Ltd, a sugar company facing a class action lawsuit over alleged human rights abuses in Cambodia.

In December 2018, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly amended the Criminal Procedure Code to include two provisions, sections 161/1 and 165/2, that could be used to dismiss criminal cases against those acting in the public interest. This reform was cited in the National Action Plan as evidence of the government’s attempt to prevent SLAPP lawsuits. However, to date, judges have refused to consistently apply these provisions in spurious criminal cases filed by Thammakaset and other private actors against journalists and human rights defenders.

While the proactive application by judges of sections 161/1 and 165/2 to dismiss abusive cases against human rights defenders and others acting in the public interest would be a positive step, more far-reaching reforms are necessary.

We call on the Thai government to decriminalize defamation, including by repealing or amending sections 326-333 of the Criminal Code and section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act. There is growing international consensus in favor of decriminalizing defamation, as recognized in the UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No. 34, which emphasized that custodial sentences are never an appropriate penalty for defamation.

We also call on the government to take immediate steps to end frivolous criminal proceedings against journalists, human rights defenders, and whistleblowers, including those accused by Thammakaset.

Signed:

Amnesty International
ARTICLE 19
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and development (FORUM-ASIA)
Community Resource Center (CRC)
Civil Rights Defenders
Fortify Rights
Human Rights Lawyers Association
Human Rights Watch
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)
World Organisation against Torture (OMCT)





Military, palace, regime and repression

6 06 2020

With the enforced disappearance of military and monarchy critic Wanchalerm Satsaksit, it seems appropriate to post, in full, a recent story from The Economist. It seems to PPT that the “disappearance” of the activist probably has much to do with the palace, the military and the regime in Bangkok wanting to silence criticism:

Voice of treason
The Thai government tries new ways to curb online critics
But the critics are feeling emboldened, too

RUNNING A COUNTRY is much easier if you can silence naysayers. Just ask Thailand’s prime minister, [Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha. Having seized the job after leading a coup in 2014, he clung to it through an unfair election last year. One of the secrets to his success has been the severe restrictions on what Thais can say about both their government and the monarchy. More than 900 people endured “attitude adjustment” in the years after Mr Prayuth came to power, according to iLaw, a Thai NGO. Approval of a new constitution in a referendum in 2016 was eased by a ban on criticising the draft. As of 2017 at least 100 people were either detained awaiting trial or serving prison sentences for lèse-majesté. But the authorities are not content with the same old gags. They are always coming up with new ways to silence dissent.

The lèse-majesté law, for example, has fallen from favour. It attracted censure from abroad, as anachronistic and repressive. Since last year those writing rude things about King … Vajiralongkorn … or criticising the government have been targeted instead under laws on sedition, computer crimes or defamation. In November the government also inaugurated an anti-fake news centre. An emergency decree passed in March gives the authorities power to prosecute those deemed to be spreading misinformation about covid-19. At the time Mr Prayuth warned Thais against “abuse of social media”.

Online rabble-rousers are sometimes summoned by police or other officials, but not prosecuted for any crime. The intimidating process is often enough to shut them up. One Thai student describes how local authorities contacted his university last month to complain about his Facebook posts querying government spending, before asking him to visit the police and eventually hand over his iPad and Facebook account details. He doesn’t yet know whether he will face charges. But he believes he attracted attention for helping to lead student protests on his campus earlier this year. “If the most active figures are suppressed by the government then this might also result in the ending of the student movement,” he says.

Even as the government’s approach evolves, disgruntled Thais are also changing how they use social media. Frustration over the miserable state of the economy, the king’s antics and the handling of the coronavirus are boiling over online. In recent months netizens have expressed views that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. “We have never seen this level of open defiance, towards the monarchy in particular, before,” reckons Andrew MacGregor Marshall of Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland.

Notable outbursts include rage on Twitter over traffic jams in Bangkok caused by road closures linked to the movements of royal motorcades. So vehement was the criticism that in January a government spokeswoman announced that the king “has acknowledged the traffic problem and is concerned for the people”. Roads are no longer fully shut for royal motorcades. Another bold move was the creation in April of the “Royalists Marketplace” on Facebook. Its members advertise satirical services to lampoon the monarchy. Its founder, Pavin Chachavalpongpun of Kyoto University, offered pet grooming with a picture of the king’s late poodle, Foo Foo. (In life the animal was made an Air Chief Marshal.) The marketplace has attracted 500,000 members in less than two months. Mr Pavin says at least two of them have lost their jobs for being in the group.

Other Thais are cautious almost to paranoia. Fears last month that Twitter might in some way be sharing information with the Thai government led tens of thousands to switch to an alternative social platform called Minds. “The assertion we’re in co-ordination with any government to suppress speech has no basis in fact whatsoever,” says Kathleen Reen, who works for Twitter in the region.

That will come as a relief to the many Thais who have been using such hashtags as #WhyDoWeNeedAKing and #RIPThailand. “[Thais] have the platforms to release their frustrations,” explains Titipol Phakdeewanich of Ubon Ratchathani University, “but it is not easy to translate that to a real movement.” That suits Mr Prayuth.





Patrolling boundaries I

27 04 2020

Over several decades, Thailand’s royalists have been prompted by palace and state propaganda to patrol all manner of images, names, positions and readings of history that are considered to define “being Thai” and “Thainess.”

One of the odder elements in this has been a development of a protectiveness about the monument to Thao Suranari, a statue created by an Italian sculptor and put in place in January 1934. The legend of Thao Suranari, known as Ya Mo in Korat, is exactly that, a legend, with little reputable historiography behind it. What is odd about this statue and the legend is that it has become a part of a royalist “protection” racket and the royalist legend has been widely consumed in the province.

So it is that officials jump into action when a transgression is imagined.

According to Khaosod, the “legal office of this northeastern province has been instructed [by the governor] to track down a man for legal action after he pasted an image of his own face over a picture of the monument to Thao Suranari, the province’s heroine, and posted it on his Facebook page…”.

The report states that the “post was shared on the Facebook page of a public group called “Ruang Lao Khao Korat”, drawing wide criticism and condemnation from the people of Nakhon Ratchasima and other provinces.” Well, some criticism and certainly not from all “the people” of the province.

We imagine that the charges to be used will relate to computer crimes. However, this is not the first case this year. Back in January, a similar Facebook post was considered “illegal,” and caused Korat governor Wichian Janotai declare the “culprit” to be “mentally deficient” and stated that she “would face criminal charges for posting the photoshopped image on social media…”. Then, Wichian said “provincial lawyers are already looking at using defamation law to prosecute…”.

Presumably he meant that the “people” of Korat felt defamed as an inanimate object can’t be defamed. We have not seen any actual legal action taken on this case and we are left to wonder what happens to the latest “case.” Perhaps it is sufficient to “protect” the boundaries of “Thainess” by expressing “outrage” and threatening.

Thao Suranari is “revered” because legend has it that she helped the Bangkok-based Chakri monarch maintain his control over Korat and against an invading Lao army.

As so often happens, this story is not easily defended when historians look at the legend. Back in 1996 there was another kerfuffle when a History Masters dissertation became a book and questioned the legend. The “protectors” at that time were quite threatening indeed and the whole story was deeply politicized.

Quite a bit of the story is recounted by Charles Keyes in a chapter in Cultural Crisis and Social Memory: Modernity and Identity in Thailand and Laos edited by Charles F. Keyes and Shigeharu Tanabe and published in 2002. We found we could read a bit of it at Google Books.

When it comes to approved versions of “national” identity, the stakes are high because it is only the royalist story that is permitted.

 

 





Defining 2019

1 01 2020

Several recent topics, actions and reports have defined 2019 under the junta, its military-backed “elected” government and the ever more powerful monarchy:

Law for the rich and powerful

Suchanee Cloitre (clipped from LePetitJournal.com)

Reporters Without Borders has condemned a “draconian two-year jail sentence that Thai journalist Suchanee Cloitre … received for allegedly defaming an agribusiness company [Thammakaset] in … Lop Buri in a tweet more than three years ago…”.

This is the maximum sentence given and its for an old tweet in an old case, where the journalist for Voice TV told the truth – the company was treating its workers as if they were slaves.

Her tweet was about a court “ordering Thammakaset to compensate 14 migrant workers who had been forced to work up to 20 hours a day on the company’s chicken farms while being paid less than the minimum wage and no overtime.”

When she referred to “slave labour,” the company sued.

In criminal defamation cases, truth is irrelevant. These cases flutter about like confetti as the rich and powerful use their law to silence critics. This includes the current regime. The media is so cowed by such cases that almost no one is prepared to tell the truth.

Going backwards

Khaosod reports on yet another effort directed by King Vajiralongkorn to erase all symbols of the 1932 revolution. This is the latest in a string of secret, then semi-secret and now brazenly open efforts by the palace to de-memorialize 1932 and replace it with symbols of the monarchy.

History is being re-constructed as we watch.

In this instance, memorials to two leaders of the 1932 revolution – Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena and Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram – “are due to be removed from public view…” at a military base in Lopburi.

Apparently, the statues will be sent to a museum. We fear they will be destroyed.

It is no surprise that the statues will be replaced by “a new statue depicting the late King Bhumibol…”. No one will be permitted to contest the palace’s actions. A military spokesman stated that the two statues were “commoner statues [and] have to make way for the new [royal] statue…”.

In addition, the military base which “bears the name of Phahol Pholphayuhasena, will also be renamed to King Bhumibol Base per an instruction from the current monarch…”.

When will Thais stand up for their history?

Royal Household Bureau via Khaosod

An op-ed writer in Manila has bought the monarchist nonsense piled high in Thailand. He seems to believe that Thailand is “stabilized” by a “revered” monarchy.

Vajiralongkorn hopes this monarchism infects the citizens of Thailand to facilitate his reign, rule and grasping.

So far, he’s getting his way. And the king seems very intent on getting his way: land, money, laws, constitution, wives (who come and go) and much more. The more he gets the more he wants.

The missing … and “protecting” monarchy and regime

Vajiralongkorn and his henchmen in the military seem to have gotten his way on disappearing some of his opponents – probably meant as a “message” to anyone who dares speak against the monarchy. They should not be forgotten.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

When they are not being murdered, political opponents are bashed .It is this regime of fear seems to have replaced the use of lese majeste.

Clipped from VOA News

We feel that this strategy has been devised by the palace in an effort to maintain both monarchy and military-backed government.

Regime gangsters

All of this “protection” serves monarchy and regime well (at least for the moment).

After manufacturing an election “victory,” the razor-thin majority that allowed the military junta to steal government, it has protected ministers and members who are needed to maintain the huge, unwieldy and Election Commission manufactured coalition.

Perhaps the best example of protection is deputy minister Thammanat Prompao, a convicted heroin smuggler. He also flaunts fake university degrees. But he’s not just a political fixer for the government’s Palang Pracharath Party who is being protected. He claims connections to the top.

When under arrest in Australia, he “told police he had worked as a bodyguard for the then crown prince of Thailand, had been an army spy…, and ran a side business while serving as an assistant to a top general.” That’s how it works in Vajiralongkorn’s Thailand.

Then there’s Palang Pracharath MP Pareena Kraikupt and her father. Her recent case of acquiring and using land that is supposed to be for poor farmers and/or national park seems unlikely to go anywhere as a cover up goes on.

The only thing keeping the issue in the cowed media is her father’s penchant for hit-and-run driving and mad media conferences, filled with lies. Once he’s quiet, watch Pareena squeeze out of her own problems. The regime prefers no criticism of it or its MPs.

Again, the rich and powerful can get away with murder (probably literally in Thammanat’s case), heroin smuggling, theft and other misdemeanors.

Make overs for the evil

Perhaps the weirdest of all news reports in late 2019 was when local “anti-corruption agencies awarded the Thai army for having the highest score on transparency and integrity among government agencies at an event held to commemorate the International Anti-corruption Day on Dec 9. It scored 97.96 points out of 100.” Weird, unbelievable and very silly. However, the point is the whitewashing. The powerful seem to relish whitewashing almost as much as it relishes ill-gotten gains.

Eating the state

Corruption is a bit old-hat these days as there are plenty of ways to feed at the breast of the private sector as it exploits the state and Thai taxpayers.

We couldn’t help noticing that on 15 December it was reported: “Airports of Thailand (AoT) is likely to scrap bidding to run duty-free pick-up counters at Don Mueang airport after only one company [King Power] expressed interest in the contest.” Of course, AoT didn’t. A few days later it was reported that the “board of Airports of Thailand Plc has awarded a 10.5-year duty-free concession at Don Mueang airport to King Power Duty Free Co, which offered a yearly 1.5-billion-baht minimum return…”. King Power, the current monopoly duty free store at all airports now has new 10-year contracts for all those airports.

There must be many in various military and state offices – right to the top – who will benefit from these new contracts.

Somehow we doubt that 2020 will be better than 2019.





Judiciary hopeless on royals

2 01 2019

Prachatai reports on a lese majeste case that began life in 2012 and where a final decision has been handed down by the Supreme Court.

It was claimed that on 26 October 2012 Anan (family name withheld), now aged 70, defamed Princess Sirindhorn and Princess Soamsawali in Pathum Thani Province. He was eventually charged under Article 112. The defendant denied the accusations.

When the accusation was investigated in 2012, no charge was filed. However, following the 2014 coup, prosecutors were ordered to trawl over previous 112 cases, and Anan’s was taken to court after a “committee of the Royal Thai Police ordered that the case be prosecuted and the officer who did not file charges be subject to disciplinary punishment.”

The first verdict was given on 29 September 2016. It was complicated. The court found Anan committed the acts he was prosecuted for. However, the court, having advice from the Royal Household Bureau, ruled that Article 112 did not cover Sirindhorn and Soamsawali.

Thus, unable to convict Anan under the lese majeste verdict, the court itself cobbled together a conviction, reasoning that the defendant defamed Sirindhorn and Soamsawali. Despite the fact that neither of the two royals had lodged a defamation complaint, the court “found the defendant guilty of violating of Article 326 of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to 1 year in prison for each offence, totalling 2 years.”

In other words, Anan was convicted of a crime for which he had not been charged, which had not been investigated and for which he was not tried.

An Appeals Court considered Anan’s appeal and issued its verdict on 20 May 2017. The article doesn’t clearly state the outcome but it appears that it found for the defendant, presumably leading to a prosecution appeal to the Supreme Court.

On 27 December 2018, the Thanyaburi Provincial Court read the Supreme Court’s verdict. It “found Anan guilty on 2 charges of personal defamation, and sentenced him to 1 year in prison for each offence, suspended for 3 years, and a fine of 20,000 baht for each offence.”

Defense lawyer Thitiphong Sisaen made the following observations:

1) The Supreme Court has set a standard for defamation cases (Article 326). Even if the victim does not file a complaint, if there is an investigation into the offence, the prosecutor may file a lawsuit….

2) The Supreme Court referred to the 2017 Constitution as the criterion for the legitimacy of the investigation (the state has the duty to protect and preserve the monarchy and national security), but this case occurred in 2012 and the charges were filed in 2015. This means the Supreme Court has set down a new legal principle, stating that laws are effective retrospectively in order to punish the accused.

When it comes to royals, the judiciary is simply hopeless, makes stuff up and promotes injustice.





Senior policeman denies association with philosophical thought

1 03 2018

Here we refer to the policeman’s intelligence and a report in Khaosod.

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal and two of his colleagues have translated and published “Messages to Our Century: Three Essays of Isaiah Berlin.” Sir Isaiah Berlin died in 1997 and was one of the 20th century’s most respected intellectuals. He was a social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas, often associated with ideas of political liberalism.

Back in early February, Netiwit met with deputy police commissioner Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul when he and other activists “heard charges against them at Pathum Wan Police Station.” Netiwit later posted a photo of himself handing Srivara the book. He added: “He even asked me to sign the book for him…. I thought that he would actually read it…”.

Later, Netiwit posted that “multiple police officers had called him to order the book on Srivara’s recommendation,” claiming that the top cop said: “this is a good book, guys [police officers]. Do you have it [the book] yet?”

Pol Gen Srivara has now gone ballistic. For “allegedly using a false anecdote about him to promote the sale of a book he translated,” he’s filed a complaint against Netiwit claiming defamation and computer crimes. Srivara has stated that while he kept the book he didn’t read it.

The policeman has clearly thought shallowly about this and decided it would be unprofessional for any police officer to be caught engaging in deep thought about ethics, philosophy or liberty. Clearly, philosophy is not something that Thailand’s police can afford to be associated with. The force’s defining characteristics are anti-intellectual and involve nepotism, corruption, murder and torture, and such characteristics should not be tainted by association with philosophy.





Incessant double standards

7 08 2017

In his weekly column at the Bangkok Post, Alan Dawson looks at the double standards that define the military dictatorship’s (in)justice system.

In it, he mentions national deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul’s chagrin at not being able to arrest Yingluck Shinawatra supporters last week that “he has their transport dead to rights. He captured 21 taxi and van drivers who drove the fans to the court because they were not licensed to drive in Nonthaburi province where the court is.” He suggests this action was vindictive and petty.

He turns to lese majeste:

On Thursday, the first witness hearing was held in the case of The Regime vs Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, aka Pai Dao Din. The prosecutors call him “that man who liked a Facebook post”.

Which he did, of course. He fully admits it and it’s there on the BBCThai.com website if you need prove it. The “like” was for a biographical news report. It’s a report on which 3,000 other people in Thailand clicked like — but aren’t being prosecuted for lese majeste and computer crime with 30 years of free room and board at state expense in the balance.

As others have, he compares this with the situation of hugely wealthy and influential Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya:

That’s a double standard [Pai’s case]. But the pursuit and persecu… we always get that word wrong, the prosecution of Pai is in stark, massive contrast to the case of a playboy and bon vivant from a family with 10 dollar billionaires. The chase doesn’t even rise to the description of trivial pursuit.

In just a few more days, the rich guy’s case expires. Cop dead, run over and his body dragged along the road by the expensive car, but never mind, attack rural students for being a political activist.

Dawson could have gone on and on.

What of those accused of lese majeste and sentenced for “crimes” against royal personages not covered by the law? Then there are the political activists picked off by junta using lese majeste charges.

Then there are those sent to jail, like Jatuporn Promphan, for defamation of leading anti-democrats, while anti-democrats defaming their opponents remain free. Then there are those who are slapped with sedition charges for pointing out some of junta’s failures (of which there are many).

What of those identified as opponents who are prevented from meeting when “allies” like the members and leadership of the People’s Alliance for Democracy can. And we hardly need to mention the jailing of red shirts for all manner of “crimes” while PAD leaders walk free.

And then there are the double standards when it comes to corruption. The junta is considered squeaky clean, always. “Evil politicians” are always considered corrupt.

Finally, for this post, there is impunity, which is the grossest of double standards. Who stole the 1932 plaque? No investigations permitted. Chaiyapoom Pasae’s murder has disappeared into official silence, so that usually means impunity via cover-up by simply ignoring it as a case against soldiers. The enforced disappearance of Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee is unlikely to be mentioned much at all as the military junta quietly congratulates itself on a “job” well done. It seems a bit like the murder of Kattiya Sawasdipol or Seh Daeng by a sniper in 2010.

Not only is the junta operating with double standards, its sanctions the murder of its opponents. Meanwhile, the justice system in Thailand is broken.








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