Watching and repressing for profit

30 07 2017

The National Human Rights Commission is not known for protecting human rights. For the past few years, despite the efforts of a couple of commissioners who tried to do their job, the NHRC has been a sinecure for junta buddies and has ignored the military dictatorship’s abuses.

That’s why it is surprising to see a newspaper report where the NHRC actually seems interested in human rights abuses.

The report states that the NHRC has warned local opponents of a “new potash mine in Sakon Nakhon’s Wanon Niwat District” that they are “being monitored by the police and military…”.

We guess that the locals already know this, but the fact that the NHRC confirms it is worthy of note for this moribund clique.

The NHRC notes that state officials and business people are teaming up against locals “throughout the region, and urged the government to change their stance on local activism and assure public participation for the sustainable development of the region.”

There’s little chance of that under the junta but it is worth saying it out loud.

The “NHRC and Amnesty International Thailand on Wednesday led a media tour of the potash exploration site in Wanon Niwat District, as they said it was a vivid example of the freedom of expression and communal rights violations in North Eastern Region.” Just in this one district, according to “Sakkaphon Chaisaengrat, a lawyer for local people,… 120,000 rai of land … is currently granted to China Ming Ta Potash Corporation to survey for the possibility of opening a new potash mine in the area.” Locals know almost nothing of the firms operations.

It turns out that this is an official Chinese enterprise: “We are the representative of China’s Mineral Resources Department, so the people can trust our mining standards,” said a company representative. Mining is polluting and dangerous in China and has a poor reputation in dealing with locals, but is expert in teaming up with local officials to get its way.

The report continues:

He said that activism during the administration of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was not easy, as the people in the North Eastern Region were usually seen by authorities as the main supporters of the former government Pheu Thai Party. Activism in the region is often treated by officers with great concern.

He said local authorities are friends of the investors, so they usually protect the interest of the company rather than the people’s rights, which has caused many lawsuits against local activists.

There are at least two defamation and Computer Crime Act violation cases against local people and another case of violation of the Public Assembly Act. Local resident Satanont Chuenta said that the company has already violated people’s rights by intruding into the private land to make a potash survey without the landowner’s consent and protesters were also terrified by the military personnel.

Both officials and the company threaten anyone they think may be activists or threats to their “work.” The lawyer stated: “The military officers often visit our communities and their presence makes the people feel insecure and makes them distrust the authorities.”

NHRC commissioner Angkana Neelapaijit, one of the few serious commissioners, “said that the agency has received many complaints on the issues and the NHRC has already made recommendations to authorities to improve the situation.” No one is interested it seems. She makes the mistake of thinking that it “is the government’s duty to protect the people’s rights and ensure that they can participate in managing local resources.” The military dictatorship has no such role. It sees its job as making loot for its tycoons and allowing its minions to get on the gravy train.

Angkana said that NHRC “statistics showed complaints about rights violations in the justice system were highest in the North Eastern Region, as 26 per cent of all complaints in this region were about unfair treatment by officers, planting false allegations, or injustice in the justice system.”

The military junta is defined by such acts.





There is no justice III

2 04 2017

We recently posted on the death of Private Yuthinan [Yutthakinant] Boonniam who was was initially hospitalized with a swollen face and bruises before his death on Saturday. He is one of several army recruits who have died from beatings and torture by soldiers and officers.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “army chief has ordered a probe into the death of a 22-year-old private…”.

Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree warned stated: “Please have confidence. If it is concluded that any officer did this, he will surely face legal and disciplinary actions to the full extent…”.

That’s an “if.” As in other “investigations,” the recruit might be found to have fallen…. As if to calm the social media speculation, Winthai bleated that the “army chief would monitor the issue closely to ensure fairness…”. He means “fairness” to the army.

And who is to conduct the “investigation”? Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisat “ordered the 45th Military Circle to conduct the investigation and promised severe punishment if any officer was found responsible for it…”. That’s another “if.” In case readers hadn’t noticed, the 45th Military Circle is the owner of the prison of the 45th Military Circle, where the unexplained death occurred.

So, again, the military not only investigates itself but the very military unit responsible is investigating itself.

That, we suppose, represents military “justice.”

Frighteningly, Colonel Winthai states: “In the meantime, a concerned army unit is taking good care of the family of the victim to ensure that all parties are fairly treated…”.





There is no justice II

1 04 2017

It isn’t that long ago that PPT commented on the odious case of Naritsarawan  Keawnopparat and defamation charges against her, brought because she wanted some accountability for the Army’s murder of her uncle, a conscript.

The details of that case deserve repeating:

According to an Army investigation, in 2011, her uncle, Wichian Puaksom, was tortured by other soldiers and officers. They accused of running away from military training. The Army report said Wichian was stripped down to his underwear and dragged him over a rough cement surface before being repeatedly kicked and beaten for several hours. The tormentors then applied salt to his wounds to increase his pain, wrapped him in a white sheet, tying his hands together as for a corpse and read funeral rites, before engaging in further beatings. He later died.

The Army seems to think that bringing attention to their murderous behavior is defaming them. The fact that the Army is a bunch of murderous thugs is to be taken for granted but must not be pursued as this might limit the military’s impunity.

The fact is that this brutal behavior is not unusual or the fault of a few “bad eggs.” Rather it is institutionalized and protected by those at the top because it maintains the hierarchy that allows power and wealth to be accumulated by the tycoons running the military.

The brutality of the Army is again in the news. The Nation reports that yet another conscript has apparently been beaten to death by his fellows and superiors:

An Army conscript has been beaten to death at Vibhavadi Rangsit Military Base in Surat Thani after violating military rules, it was reported in the social media on Saturday.

Private Yuthinan Boonniam was hospitalised with a swollen face and bruises before his death early on Saturday.

It is alleged that:

… the young man was imprisoned in military jail for violating military rules and that he was severely beaten…. It was further reported that Yuthinan seriously suffered from injuries of his internal organs. The medical team performed cardiac resuscitation four times but failed to save his life. He passed away at 5 am on Saturday.

The Nation adds:

Yuthinan was not the first serving conscript to be beaten to death. In April last year, Private Songtham Mudmad was beaten to death at a military base in Yala’s Bannang Sata district. In 2011, Private Wichian Phuaksom was tortured to death at a training camp in Narathiwat.

Wichian is Naritsarawan’s uncle. His niece has received no justice. We doubt Yuthinan’s relatives can expect justice from the corrupt system that brutalizes and kills recruits.

The reported cases are the tip of the iceberg. There are many more incidents of degradation, beatings, injuries and murder, all conducted against their own.

This brutalization is meant to ensure discipline and adherence to the hierarchy. Such brutality also means that the Army bosses can be sure that when it needs to murder citizens, as it has done regularly, it has a band of men who will follow the Army tycoons’ orders.





UN Human Rights Committee findings

29 03 2017

The UN Human Rights Committee has published its findings on the civil and political rights record of countries it examined during its latest session. These findings are officially known as “concluding observations.” They contain “positive aspects of the respective State’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and also main matters of concern and recommendations.”

All of the reports generated for Thailand’s review, including the Concluding Observations are available for download.

The Committee report begins by welcoming Thailand’s “submission of the second period report of Thailand, albeit 6 years late, and the information contained therein.”

There are 44 paragraphs of concerns and recommendations. There’s a lot in it: refugees, enforced disappearances, Article 44, freedom of expression, torture, constitutional issues, arbitrary detention, the National Human Rights Commission, military courts, problems in the south, repression during the constitutional referendum, defamation, computer crimes, sedition and much more.

We just cite the comments on lese majeste:

37. The Committee is concerned that criticism and dissention regarding the royal family is punishable with a sentence of three to fifteen years imprisonment; and about reports of a sharp increase in the number of people detained and prosecuted for this crime since the military coup and about extreme sentencing practices, which result in some cases in dozens of years of imprisonment (article 19).

38. The State party should review article 112 of the Criminal Code, on publicly offending the royal family, to bring it into line with article 19 of the Covenant. Pursuant to its general comment No. 34 (2011), the Committee reiterates that the imprisonment of persons for exercising their freedom of expression violates article 19.  





There is no justice I

18 03 2017

Back in January, referring to a Prachatai story, we felt that the “fact” that public prosecutors had dropped defamation charges against Naritsarawan  Keawnopparat suggested that someone in the regime was displaying something approaching good commonsense.

Naritsarawan had campaigned for justice over the torture of her uncle who was tortured and killed by the military, while he was enlisted as a conscript.

According to an Army investigation, in 2011, her uncle, Wichian Puaksom, was tortured by other soldiers and officers. They accused of running away from military training. The Army report said Wichian was stripped down to his underwear and dragged him over a rough cement surface before being repeatedly kicked and beaten for several hours. The tormentors then applied salt to his wounds to increase his pain, wrapped him in a white sheet, tying his hands together as for a corpse and read funeral rites, before engaging in further beatings. He later died.

Police arrested Naritsarawan on 26 July 2016 for publishing details on the internet about the death of her late uncle. Major Phuri Phueksophon of the 4th Army Region, the unit responsible for the torture of her uncle — accused Naritsarawan of violating the Computer Crime Act and defaming him by exposing the torture.

The prosecution is now back on as police have overridden the prosecutor’s decision.

Naritsarawan has received a letter after Pol Maj Gen Ronnasin Phusara, Interim Commander of the Southern Border Provinces Police Operation Center, stating “that she should be charged under the Computer Crime Act and Criminal Defamation for for publishing details on the internet about the death of her late uncle.”

It seems there’s no justice.





Updated: Lese majeste incompatible with international human rights law

7 02 2017

From the United Nations:

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, today called on the Thai authorities to stop using lèse-majesté provisions as a political tool to stifle critical speech. In Thailand, defaming, insulting or threatening the royal family carries a penalty of three to fifteen years’ imprisonment.

“Public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority, may be subject to criticism, and the fact that some forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify restrictions or penalties,” the expert underlined.

“The lèse-majesté provision of the Thai Criminal Code is incompatible with international human rights law,” Mr. Kaye said, “and this is a concern that I and my predecessors have raised on numerous occasions with the authorities.”

The expert’s call comes as law student activist Jatupat Boonpatararaksa awaits trial for defaming the crown. Mr. Boonpatararaksa is the first person charged with lèse-majesté since the new King, Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, acceded the throne on 1 December 2016.

On 2 December 2016, Mr. Boonpatararaksa was arrested and charged under the lèse-majesté provision of the Criminal Code and under the Computer Crimes Act, after having shared a BBC news article on the new King and quoted content of the news on his private Facebook page.

Mr. Boonpatararaksa is currently in detention after his bail was revoked by an appeals court on 27 December, reportedly justified by the case’s sensitive matter and on public order and national security grounds. “I concerned about reports that the court hearing on his bail took place behind closed doors, in contradiction to the right to a fair and public hearing,” the Special Rapporteur said.

Earlier this month, on 1 February, his remand was extended for another 10 days. His next appearance before the court to hear whether there will be a new extension or not is on 10 February. No trial date has been confirmed.

In September 2016, the Thai Prime Minister revoked a previous order that granted military tribunals the authority to try lèse-majesté cases. All lèse-majesté acts committed after September 2016 will be tried at civilian courts.

However, actions committed before September 2016 continue to be brought before military tribunals, which have applied harsher penalties on lèse-majesté cases. In 2015, a military tribunal sentenced Phongsak Sribunpeng to 30 years, Ms. Sasiwimol Patomwongfa-ngam to 28 years and Mr. Thiansutham Suttijitseranee to 25 years imprisonment for criticizing the monarchy on Facebook.

“Lesè-majesté provisions have no place in a democratic country. I urge the authorities of Thailand to take steps to revise the country’s Criminal Code and to repeal the law that establishes a justification for criminal prosecution,” the human rights expert stressed.

He let them off the hook a bit. Thailand isn’t a democratic country. It’s a military dictatorship.

Update: Thailand’s military dictatorship’s minions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have responded or, as they say, “clarified.” PPT’s “response” in brackets:

With regard to the news release issued by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression voicing concerns over the use of the lèse-majesté law, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to clarify as follows:

1. The Thai monarchy has always been a pillar of stability in Thailand [Not accurate. Since 1932, royalists and the palace have consistently destabilized governments]. The Thai sense of identity is closely linked to the monarchy [Palace propaganda], an institution that dates back over 700 years [More palace propaganda and historically inaccurate]. The institution, to this day, continues to play a unifying role and symbolizes the unity of the Thai communities [well, for the royalist elite, certainly]. Enacting appropriate legislation to protect the highly revered institution is a common practice in Thailand as in other nations [Not true].

2. The lèse-majesté law is part of Thailand’s Criminal Code that gives protection to the rights or reputations of Their Majesties the King and Queen, the Heir-apparent, or the Regent in a similar manner that libel law does for commoners to uphold national security and public order [the law has also been used to attack political opponents and protect dead kings, jail fraudsters, manage a royal “divorce” and protect a royal dog]. It is not aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression [Blatant lie]. Similar protection is provided for the King, Queen and Heir-apparent of other States as well as official representatives thereof as enshrined in article 133 – 134 of Thailand’s Criminal Code [This is an innovation in these kinds of claims. As far as we know, the law has never been used for foreign heads of state]. Cases proceeded under the lèse-majesté law are in no way politically motivated [Blatant lie].

3. While Thailand supports and values freedom of expression, these rights are not absolute and shall be exercised within the boundary of the law in a manner that does not disrupt public order and social harmony or infringe upon others’ rights or reputations, as stipulated in Article 19 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. [This is accurate] Hence, the application of the lèse-majesté law is not incompatible with international human rights law [The point is that lese majeste is used against political opponents and to restrict them in ways that defy Thai law and constitutions].

4. As with other criminal offences, proceedings on lèse-majesté cases are conducted in accordance with due legal process [This includes secret trials and military courts, all “legal” in the junta’s Thailand]. Those convicted for lèse-majesté are entitled to the same rights as those convicted for other criminal offences, including the right to file an appeal and the right to seek royal pardon [True enough. However, they are routinely denied bail, treated badly in prison, have lawyer access limited and proceedings are dragged out to gain “guilty” pleas].

5. Regarding the legal proceedings against Mr. Jatupat Boonpattararaksa who has been charged under the lèse-majesté law and the Computer Crimes Act, the case is being independently deliberated by the Court of Justice [No court in Thailand is “independent”]. The government is not in a position to intervene in the proceedings while the judiciary exercises its power in accordance with the law. The accused’s bail was granted on 23 December 2016 and was later revoked as he was repeating his offense, thereby violating his bail conditions [Jatuphat is a political opponent and is being framed].





The way of the military

24 09 2016

Prachatai reports that on 22 September 2016, Naritsarawan Keawnopparat was indicted under the Computer Crimes Act “for disseminating information deemed defamatory to the Royal Thai Army…”.

Her alleged crime is making information available on her uncle, Wichian Puaksom, then aged 26, who was a conscript “tortured to death by other soldiers in 2011.”

Naritsarawan “is accused of defaming the Thai military and violating the Computer Crime Act by posting information in February 2016 about the torture of her late uncle.

While Wichian’s family sued “the Ministry of Defense, the Royal Thai Army and the Prime Minister’s Office for malfeasance,” and received “7 million baht in compensation for their loss,” none of the 10 soldiers involved has been prosecuted.

As previous PPT posts and media reports have made clear, the torture of recruits to ensure their blind obedience and acceptance of social and military hierarchy is essentially normalized in the Army.

The Army has acknowledged this and defended it. Naritsarawan’s “crime” is in challenging this murderous and hierarchical organization.

The details of Wichian’s torture are horrific:

An investigation by the 4th Army Region found that Wichian was severely tortured by other soldiers and his superiors after he was accused of running away from military training. The Army report said that on 1 June 2011, a number of soldiers, on the orders of Sub Lt Om Malaihom, stripped Wichian down to his underwear and dragged him over a rough cement surface before repeatedly kicking him with military boots and beating him for several hours.

The report added that the soldiers applied salt to the wounds of the torture victim to increase the pain and wrapped his entire body in a white sheet, tying his hands together as for a corpse and reading the funeral rites, before engaging in another round of beating.

Rather than abide by the law and reform, the corrupt Army chooses to protect criminals and maintain its traditional feudal practices and attack a whistle blower.





The junta-gang and its thuggishness

13 06 2016

It is a week since Prachatai published this (and, yes, yet another) disturbing report and almost a week since another story at the same place that point to the military junta’s thuggish attempts to oppress. We have used the words “thuggishness” and “thugs” quite often, and consider it appropriate as the junta acts in the manner of a criminal gang, threatening some, offering protection to others and reaping the material and other rewards of its brute power.

The first story is about an ongoing intimidation of “Benjarat Meetian, the lawyer for Thanakrit Thongngernperm, a suspect in the alleged Bike for Dad terrorist plot who is also charged under the lèse majesté law…”.

Thanakrit is the man alleged to have been involved in the so-called Khon Kaen model or plot to carry out attacks after the 2014 coup. As far as we can recall, this was a junta beat-up that led to men and women being accused and arrested but little more has been reported since then. Later, a warrant was issued for Thanakrit, accused of a plot to attack a royal event and/or The Dictator at the Bike for Dad propaganda event. At the time, while claimed by the junta to be “on the run,” Thanakrit was actually incarcerated in a Khon Kaen jail and had been there since mid-2014.

Benjarat filed a complaint on 29 November 2015 under Articles 172, 173, 174, 181, and 328 of the Criminal Code against Maj Gen Wicharn Jodtaeng, head of the junta’s legal office and Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the Deputy Police Chief, “for allegedly filing false charges and defaming her client.” The response from the military and police officers was to file a criminal defamation complaint against Benjarat.

On 3 June 2016, the Criminal Court held a conciliation hearing but Maj Gen Wicharn and Pol Col Mingmontree did not attend. Instead, Mingmontree “filed an additional criminal defamation charge against an embattled defence lawyer.” She has “been summoned to report to police investigators … on 8 June 2016.”

In the second story, as expected, a “District Court has confirmed that the Military Court has jurisdiction over trials of anti-junta activists charged with violating the junta’s political gathering ban…”. The case involves “Natchacha Kongudom, an anti-junta youth activist indicted for violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head’s Order No. 3/2015.  The order prohibits any political gathering of five or more persons.”

The Military Court “read the ruling of Pathumwan District Court of Bangkok, which confirms the jurisdiction of the Military Court in the case, citing NCPO Announcement No. 37/2014 which states that cases related to national security, the Thai monarchy and violations of NCPO orders shall be tried in Military Courts.”

According to the report, the “ruling also states that although the announcements and orders of the NCPO were not endorsed by the King or parliament, the coup-makers have successfully gained control over the country since the 2014 coup. Therefore, their orders and announcements are lawful.”

Thuggish behavior is accepted in Thailand, as law.

Natchacha’s defence lawyer has asked the “Constitutional Court to consider jurisdiction over the case.”





Libel, defamation and double standards

4 06 2016

Remember this from the Bangkok Post on 25 May?

The Appeals Court on Wednesday upheld the Criminal Court’s acquittal of former Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut of a charge of defaming former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra in comments about her meeting with businessmen at the Four Seasons Hotel in 2012.

Chavanond’s claims were meant to imply several things and all were meant to denigrate Yingluck.

The Criminal Court dismissed the suit against Chavanond. An appeal was lodged and the “Appeals Court ruled that in his press interviews Mr Chavanond had not accused her of disclosing official secrets, but rather had made an honest criticism of her.”

Then what about this?

The Appeals Court on Thursday upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a defamation suit brought by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra against Peoples Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leader Sondhi Limthongkul and his two media businesses, Thaiday.com and ASTV Co.

Thaksin alleged Sondhi defamed him while addressing PAD supporters at a rally at Government House on Oct 14, 2008. Sondhi accused Thaksin of infringing on the monarch’s powers, buying grass-roots voters, taking control of the police and bribing certain high-ranking military officials to weaken the royal institution.

His speech was broadcast live on ASTV News 1 satellite TV channel and also published on the website of the Manager daily newspaper.

The judge declared that while Sondhi’s words “were defamatory towards Thaksin, the defendant argued that there were other suspicious individuals who had political ties with the former premier as well as his close aides and henchmen such as Robert Amsterdam, Thaksin’s former lawyer who was accused of violating lese majeste law.”

The court decided that “Sondhi’s suspicions about Thaksin were genuinely felt and not therefore deemed an act of defamation.”

And what about this?

The Supreme Court Thursday reversed a ruling by the Court of Appeal and upheld the lower court’s ruling sentencing red-shirt co-leader Jatuporn Prompan to six months in jail, suspended for two years, and fining him 50,000 baht for defaming former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Jatuporn made some remarks “accusing the then prime minister of wrongfully sitting in a chair that put him on the same level as His Majesty the King during a royal audience.” He accused Abhisit of failing to show due respect to the king.

The Criminal Court “ruled in Mr Abhisit’s favour, finding Mr Jatuporn’s remark was not made in good faith as it violated Section 328 of the Criminal Code.”

Jatuporn appealed and was acquitted by the Appeal Court, which “ruled his remarks were not defamatory.” Abhisit appealed to the Supreme Court. That court has decided that “Jatuporn had the intention to defame Mr Abhisit” and “reinstated the lower court’s ruling” and the jail sentence.

Readers might notice some similarities in these cases. Like a sore thumb, it sticks out that one side wins in each case.





Ridiculing The Dictator not sedition

19 05 2016

In a tiny piece of news that suggests that someone, somewhere in the military junta’s network has an ounce of sense still lurking, the military court “has dismissed a sedition charge against a red shirt who posted a rumour about the junta head [The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha]…”.

At the time we called this sedition charge the equivalent of lese dictateur, with Prayuth seeming to allocate a royal-like status to his own person.

Rinda Parichabutr isn’t off scot-free, however, as the court seems to have ruled that her post “constitutes defamation, not the instigation of violence.” Rinda was “arrested on 8 July 2015 for spreading a[n allegedly] false rumour through social networks that Gen Prayut … and his wife had deposited about 10 billion baht in a secret bank account in Singapore…”.

She was “charged on 3 counts: sedition, under Article 116 of the Criminal Code [sedition]; spreading rumours that might cause public panic, under Article 384 of the Criminal Code; and importing false information into the internet, under Article 14 (2) of the Computer Crimes Act.” Presumably she still faces that latter two charges and possibly a defamation case.

At least these cases are likely to be before a civilian court.