AHRC urgent appeal on lese majeste case

20 12 2016

As usual, we reproduce an urgent appeal from the Asian Human Rights Commission. This appeal refers to the case of third time lese majeste victim Bundith Arniya.

An appeal letter is available here.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-155-2016
December 20, 2016

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THAILAND: Third arrest for 71-year- old writer under lèse majesté offence

ISSUES: Freedom of expression; military court; administration of justice; rule of law

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The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the latest limitation of freedom of opinion and expression in Thailand.  According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), on 15 November 2016 at 3:40 p.m., police officers from Chanasongkram Police Station arrested 71-year-old Bundit Aneeya from his house. The police informed the elderly writer that he was accused of committing an offence under Article 112 of the Criminal Code (lèse majesté offence), for allegedly making comments about the Thai monarchy at a political seminar about the junta-sponsored constitution drafting process on 12 September 2015. After his lawyer from TLHR filed the second petition asking for bail to the military court, he was released on a surety bond of 400,000 Baht (approximately 12,270 USD). He is one of the few lèse majesté suspects granted bail by a military court.

CASE NARRATIVE:

On 15 November 2016, police officers from Chanasongkram Police Station arrested a 71-year-old writer known by his pen name Bundit Aneeya, from his house in Nong Khaem District, Bangkok, Thailand. The police informed Mr. Bundit Aneeya that he was accused of committing an offence under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lèse majesté offence. This is because one year ago, he was making comments about the Thai monarchy at a public political seminar, namely “The Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand?” at Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand.

However, the police had not yet issued any summons before they arrested Mr.Bundit Aneeya. In addition, after the inquiry official informed the charge and received statement from Mr.Bundit Aneeya, he was detained under police custody for one night.

On 17 November 2016, Mr. Bundit Aneeya was brought to the Bangkok Military Court. The police claimed that the alleged comment was made before the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the junta ruling body, abolished the trial of civilians in military court.

For more information, please follow this link http://www.humanrights.asia/ news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-142- 2016

The inquiry official stated that on 12 September 2015, Mr. Bundit Aneeya was participating in a public political seminar, namely, “The Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand?” This event was organized by the New Democracy Movement (NDM), the pro-democracy activists which formed after the coup 2014, at the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University, Tha-Prachan campus. The police from Chanasongkram Police Station also attend the seminar, to maintain ‘peace’ and looking for any ‘news’.

During the seminar, participants were allowed to make comments. As a participant, Mr. Bundit Aneeya commented about impunity, human dignity, justice, and democracy, and how they should all be included into the new constitution. According to the police, this comment threatened the Thai Monarchy and violated Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code.

The inquiry officials had been collecting evidences and requesting for issuing an arrest warrant from the Bangkok Military Court on 14 November 2016. Then, the police presented the arrest warrant for arresting Mr. Bundit Aneeya at his house on 15 November 2016. Mr. Bundit Aneeya denied all charges against him.

The inquiry official of Chanasongkram Police Station asked the court to have him remanded for 12 days, claiming his case involved national security. Mr. Bundit’s attorney filed a motion to object to the remand request, citing that Mr. Bundit Aneeya was not committing any crime, but he just exercised his right to freedom of expression for reforming the country. Mr. Bundit Aneeya was an independent writer who had no regular income. He was 71 years old, therefore, it was very difficult for him to flee or jeopardize the investigation process. Moreover, he has been diagnosed with psychosis, has only one kidney and has to carry a urine drainage bag with him all the time.

However, the court dismissed the attorney’s motion because of the inquiry official’s request. The court also confirmed that his case was deemed to threaten national security and the amount of money was not enough for granting bail (300,000 baht or approximately 8,400 USD).

Although the court persisted to issue a writ to Mr. Bundit Aneeya, his lawyer decided to ask for bail by submitting 400,000 baht or approximately 12,000 USD to the court. This was accepted, and on 17 November 2016, he was released on the conditions of not travelling abroad, no involvement in political activities or making political comments.

At the end of the public seminar, the police and military officials invited Mr. Bundit Aneeya to participate in an “Attitude Adjustment Program”. At that time he was not charged with any offence.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

According to Prachatai, this is the third accusation of lèse majesté filed against Mr. Bundit Aneeya. In the first case, the self-taught writer and translator, who has written and translated over 30 books, was found guilty by the Supreme Court in February 2014 for comments at a seminar he attended and sentenced to four years in jail, but the jail term was suspended for three years due to his mental illness. The allegedly lèse majesté comment that he made also pointed out the general opinion of Thais toward the monarchy.

In the second case, military prosecutors indicted Mr. Bundit Aneeya in March 2015 for allegedly making comments about the Thai monarchy at another political seminar. Bundit pleaded innocence and vowed to fight the case. He told Prachatai then “I believe I’m innocent and didn’t do anything wrong.”

According to the case filed by the prosecutor, the alleged lèse majesté comment he made was:

“My point is now Thai people are separated into two sides: one which is in favour of a monarchy which does not abide by the law, as the head of the state, …”

He was arrested by the police before he could even finish the sentence.  He was released on 400,000 baht (12,270 USD) bail due to his age and poor health. He is one of the few lèse majesté suspects granted bail by a military court. This trial is still ongoing.

In the latest case, if convicted again, his jail terms will accumulate.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to drop all charges and prosecutions of Mr. Bundit Aneeya, since his alleged acts were nothing more than the exercise of freedom of expression and were consistent with the Thai Constitution.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.





Human dignity and lese majeste

17 11 2016

Bundith Arniya or Jerseng Sae Kow, now 71 years old or 75 years old, depending on the source, has faced a series of lese majeste for several years. He is a reasonably well-known translator, mainly of books about socialism. He claims that the first time he was accused of lese majeste was in 1975.

As far as we can discern, this is the third lese majeste case he has faced since 2003.

His first case is important because the plaintiff was the secretary of the Privy Council. This shows that repeated claims that the palace doesn’t use the law is buffalo manure. In those somewhat easier days, when Bundith was found guilty  in the case, the secretary of the Privy Council appealed the case to a higher court, not wanting Bundith to have probation. That appeal was heard in a closed courtroom. That appeal saw him sentenced to almost three years in jail. Budith appealed and the case closed in 2013, with the Supreme Court finding him guilty of lese majeste and giving him a suspended sentence of three years in prison.

The second case was in November 2014, when the military brought charges against him.

The third case is the subject of current action. Prachatai reports that police have arrested the writer “for allegedly making comments about the Thai Monarchy while talking about human dignity at a political seminar.” The seminar on 12 September 2015 at Thammasat University was reportedly “about the junta-sponsored constitution drafting process.”

Police agitation over the comments at the seminar concerns Bundith’s “proposed five important principles” for the draft constitution, “one of which is about human dignity.” The royalist police allege “that the comment about human dignity allegedly contained references to the … [m]onarchy.”

Police officers and soldiers who spied on the seminar were not amused with Bundith’s suggestion that “the new constitution should contain the idea that Thai people of all classes shall be equal and all are equal owners of the country.” Initially, the comments did not result in a lese majeste charge. Now, however, the mood has changed and this statement, which would be entirely unremarkable in modern and civilized nations, is considered to insult the dead king that the military junta will honor as King Bhumibol the Great.*

We guess the junta and/or the palace is behind the change of position on Bundith’s case. However, Khaosod reports that: “Police explained that they sent a transcript of the video to a police committee…. They deliberated on it and ordered prosecution.” A one-year deliberation period seems unlikely and we suspect pressure from on high.

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, “the Military Court of Bangkok on 16 November 2016 has denied the bail request for Bundit Aneeya. He will be detained in Bangkok Remand Prison for the first custody period from 16-29 November 2016 with the possibility of the custody permission being renewed.” Bundith has long been “diagnosed with psychosis, has only one kidney and has to carry a urine drainage bag with him all the time.”

When he gets to court, Bundith will be in a military court because, as ludicrous as it sounds, the military junta deems “insulting the royal family is deemed a matter of national security and tribunals will continue hearing such cases.”

Lese majeste strips everyone of all dignity.

 

*In fact, this was already done many years ago under… guess who? Yep, royal toady and palace favorite General Prem Tinsulanonda. As one of the documents [opens a PDF that infringes Article 112] we have had posted for several years states:

The powerful Ministry of Interior even held a nationwide ‘vote’ on what title should be allocated to the King – ‘the Great’ or some similar honorific – with the results being published (everyone was said to have voted), and a shrine erected to house the books of votes. In other places such displays by government would probably be seen as ‘authoritarian’, ‘sickening’ (by republicans), or just silly; but not so in Thailand.

He became “the Great” in that “election.” The junta seems to be in Groundhog Day mode.





Up yours

17 07 2016

A few days ago, PPT posted on a letter endorsed by the ambassadors of Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden and the US as well as the head of the European Union delegation. That letter urged the junta “to allow the Thai people to engage in open dialogue, forge common links, and find the consensus needed to build a strong and sustainable future for all.”

The junta has responded with lies and continuing repression.

The Bangkok Post reports that Deputy Prime Minister and deputy junta boss General Prawit Wongsuwan “brushed off” this call, essentially saying, “Up yours!

Prawit lied that the junta “never suppressed free speech.” He was supported in his lie by junta spokesman Colonel Piyapong Klinpan who said “the regime did not do anything that would violate freedom of expression, noting critics could still proceed with their activities if they were not deemed against the law.”

He knows, as does everyone else, that the junta deems all activities it doesn’t like against the “law.”

Piyapong also declared that the junta “was not concerned about the latest stance by foreign envoys.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee repeated the nonsensical Orwellian claims that “the draft charter and the referendum process were part of the “roadmap to democracy” and the government took legal measures necessary to ensure peace and order and a smooth transition.” He became bizarre, declaring that these “legal measures would never restrict freedom of expression as long as it was not disruptive to peace and order, adding the government was also open to opinions from all stakeholders in the reconciliation and reform process.”

The threats were also multiple. General Prawit “denied the military was behind the distribution of several thousand letters containing allegedly distorted information on the draft charter,” adding: “Some groups want to see the referendum collapse. I know who they are and actions will be taken.”

Other threats are more immediate. We have posted on two of the most recent threats to the media and actual threats to expression. The threats to red shirts are ongoing and unrelenting, with Prachatai reporting that 19 northeastern red shirts have been summoned for joining shortlived/abortive UDD plan for a referendum watch campaign. According to lawyers, a total of “[a]t least 96 red-shirt supporters in seven provinces across the country have so far been prosecuted under NCPO Order No 3/2015 for joining the red-shirt referendum watch campaign.”

But the junta never restricts freedom of expression. Malarky, nonsense and horse manure rolled up hill are all terms that come to mind.





Dumb III

22 06 2016

This is another story of how dumb the military dictatorship is. It also proves that being dim means that repression is the preferred mode of political action.

Khaosod reports that a cartoonist for Matichon has been “summoned today to explain why he penned cartoons critical of a junta-backed draft constitution…”.

Most readers will consider this another example of the extensive repression that has accompanied the junta’s efforts to control the outcome of the current draft, about to go to a military-controlled referendum.

But, no, this is about last year’s draft that the junta itself canned.

For “lampooning that … draft, … the Election Commission said cartoonist Arun Watcharasawat must report himself next week to explain his action.”

Arguably the dopiest man in Thailand, anti-election Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn declares:

The cartoonist and online editors of Matichon Weekly must meet us on June 30 to explain whether the incident was a misunderstanding, and explain the intentions behind it…. If it was a misunderstanding, they must show responsibility and fix it, so that there will be correct understanding.

It seems that “Matichon Weekly re-published a collection of Arun’s cartoons from August 2015 on its Facebook page” and Somchai posted them on his own page.

This is why Somchai has been booted into more dopey action. Silly Somchai reckons “both Arun and Matichon Weekly might have violated the recently [April 2016] imposed referendum law by republishing the cartoons.”

Readers will recall that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, recently “explained” that “people throughout the country have been given a chance to voice their opinions…”.

Cartoonists drawing on a previous draft charter are apparently excluded from “people.”





Junta’s referendum guardians

18 06 2016

Over the past week or so, we have made several comments on the Election Commission and disparaging comments on anti-election Election Commissioner, the ridiculously clownish and politically biased Somchai Srisuttiyakorn.

Somchai’s at it again. He says the EC “will monitor electronic media around the clock to stop any attempt to ‘sabotage’ the Aug 7 referendum by opponents of the draft constitution.”

He may be looking in the wrong place. It is more likely that it will be the junta itself will “sabotage” its own referendum, just as it sabotaged its previous draft charter.

But, of course, the biased election commissioner and the partisan EC are pointing at the the Puea Thai Party and red shirts.

The EC, as guardians of the Yes vote for the military junta, dismiss the red shirt support of the referendum because they also support a No vote. By EC definition, this makes them “saboteurs.”

Somchai in junta supporter's silly hat

Somchai in a silly hat

Somchai, the military junta’s champion, disguised as an election commissioner, “said the EC, the Technology Crime Suppression Division and the Information and Communication Technology Ministry would form a working group to monitor the spread of ‘rude, false and provocative messages’ via electronic media to influence voters.”

He means any messages or posts that support a No vote.

Somchai revealed that the junta wants to control the “electronic media” as it “would be the main battlefield of opinion in the run-up to the referendum…”.

In a message meant to threaten referendum and charter opponents, he said there would be 24/7 monitoring. He threatened immediate legal action against opponents.

Election commissioner Boonsong Noisophon dismissed the red shirts, accusing them of political bias.

The military and the EC are apparently politically neutral. Yes, really. Maybe this post should have been “Dumb III.”





Dead on arrival

1 02 2016

We assume that some members of the military junta must like the draft constitution Meechai Ruchupan had drawn up. We know that those involved in concocting it have been told not to criticize it. Yet it seems that, as people read it and consider its potential impacts, it has even less support than the previous junked version. A Bangkok Post editorial called it a “mess.”

One former MP reckons the whole thing is a plot, with the draft charter “written in such a way that it would be rejected in the referendum.” This would allow the junta to stay in place for even longer.

The Post editorial says:

No political party or politician has had a kind word for his work. Newspaper headlines run along the lines of “Thumbs down for charter”. The prime minister already believes voters may reject it at the planned referendum.

Despite all of the above, the governing National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha intends to push ahead with the draft. It is not clear why. The government and military spokesmen have told the country it is all about the political roadmap controlling the return to civilian government.

But it is all a shambles. Gen Prayut’s original roadmap has been torn up and continually rewritten. The roadmap produced shortly after the May 22, 2014, coup promised elections would be held in 2015. A subsequent roadmap promised elections in mid-2016. That then became 2017 — and last Friday when Mr Meechai presented his draft constitution, 2017 looks like becoming 2018.

The editorial laments the lack of participation: “The lack of participation by the real stakeholders means a draft charter without support.” Even if there were some participation, this wouldn’t have changed the draft. Why the junta wants such a mess is anyone’s guess, but it does point to an intense desire to hold onto power.

So intense has been the criticism that Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has already had to engage in constitutional calisthenics to defend its most controversial sections.

Don’t worry about the junta’s charter, he says, because “no constitutions anywhere were completely democratic.” Wissanu went on to defend some of the most undemocratic elements of this draft: further empowering and politicizing the courts and “independent” bodies and the continued use of Article 44, saying the Article “could help make an election more free and fair.” Naturally, he was unwilling or unable to explain how a despotic power could be used in such a manner.

Conservatives and anti-democrats seem unhappy. Well-known yellow shirt Rosana Tositakul seems disturbed by the whole thing now, even though she was imploring the military to intervene and throw out an elected government just a short time ago. She reckons that this is a charter for tycoons and nobles, potentially worse than the Thaksin regime. She seems unwilling to lie in the political bed with the monster she helped create.

Others who are regime supporters are tossing out lines that were also used in 2007: Kamnoon Sidhisamarn “said people appear to be left with few choices. If they want ‘certainty’, they will be compelled to vote for the draft charter as a way to ensure a general election is held in the latter half of next year under the NCPO’s roadmap.” However, it is clear that “certainty” is just being sure that the elections will mean nothing much at all, with political power in the hands of unelected elites and the military brass.





Constitution propaganda

16 10 2015

After canning its earlier draft version of the constitution, the military dictatorship is taking no chances on the supposedly yet to be written constitution, currently in the hands of military toady Meechai Ruchupan.

A report at The Nation reveals that the junta has ordered that Army Reserve Force students to propagandize for the new constitution before it faces a national referendum.

The Army will “train” some “300,000 military reserve students nationwide would garner a greater understanding of the constitution and its writing process.”

In fact, these students will be used to campaign for a “yes” vote on the constitution in that referendum.

Back in 2007, when the last constitution was sent to referendum, the military organized a huge campaign for the “yes” vote while attempting to ban and restrict any other views.

Under this junta, the campaign will be bigger and nastier than in 2007. As is well known, this set of generals brook little dissent.