Police vs. the people

17 10 2021

The regime’s political “strategy” for controlling anti-government and monarchy reform movements involves repression and arrests, with the latter involving jail time.

Police Maj Gen Jirasan Kaewsangek, the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, recently stated that “since July 2020, 683 anti-government protests have been held in Bangkok, and 366 of the cases are still under investigation.” Independent sources have the figure topping 800. Not a few of them are children.

Many scores of these protesters are being kept in detention.

The regime couples these mass arrests with targeted harassment of those they think are leaders. Thai Enquirer reports that the most recent student leader to face “a flurry of legal charges for his political activism” is Hudsawat ‘Bike’ Rattanakachen, 22, a critic studying political science at Ubon Ratchathani University. He is “facing multiple charges from the police including the violation of the Emergency Situations Act and violation of the Communicable Disease Act.”

He says: “I think the government charged me because they want to slow down the pace of our movement and make things more difficult…”.

The impact for him and others facing charges is that become entangled in time-consuming legal actions and responses.

He went on to explain that the regime “is raising the bar when it comes to suppressing regional movements like his in Ubon Ratchathani. He fears the authorities are increasing their level of surveillance.”

Academic Titipol Phakdeewanich “agrees that the state is exercising a dangerous campaign of legal harassment, one that clearly violates the rights of students.” He added that “there are a significant number of cases like this where ordinary people, villagers, rural people, people defined by the government as opposition, have told me stories that they’ve been monitored or followed as well…”.

Titipol observes that the regime “hang these cases over them indefinitely as a way to control students…”.

Hudsawat explains the sad fact that “we live in a society where the process of law or justice in Thailand is not normal,” adding, “anyone can be accused of having a different opinion from the government’s and then it’s decided that they pose a security threat to the state.”

Another facing charges is Sitanun Satsaksit, the sister of missing activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit. She’s now “charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for giving a speech at a protest on 5 September 2021 at the Asoke Intersection.”

She’s one of a dozen now “charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for participating in the same protest…”. Her case is tragic:

Sitanun said that she feels hopeless that not only are the Thai authorities not helping her find her brother and bring the perpetrators to justice, they are also trying to silence her by filing charges against her, even though she is fighting for the rights of her brother and other victims of enforced disappearance.

She adds:

Is it such a threat to national security that I join the campaign for the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance bill that you have to file charges to silence a victim? I am just calling for justice for someone in my family, but the government sees me as an enemy….

The regime protects the monarchy and its own position for fear that even individual protesters can bring the whole corrupt system down. Both police and military are now little more than the regime’s political police. THe enemies are the people, democracy, and proposer representation.





A pandemic of political repression

29 07 2021

Forget the thousands of ill people. What’s important, for the regime and its cops, is charging every political opponent.

The  Bangkok Post reports that Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) is on the hunt for “nine groups … facing prosecution for staging protests and ‘car mob’ rallies in defiance of the emergency law this month.” By “emergency law” it means the emergency decree, which in various forms and guises, has been operating almost continuously since the 2014 military coup.

The nine groups are:

the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration which held a rally on July 2; the Thai Mai Thon protests on July 3, 10, 11; the Prachachon Khon Thai rallies on July 3 and 10; the car mob rallies organised by red-shirt activist Sombat Boonngamanong on July 3 and 10…. The others are the Mok Luang Rim Nam group rally on July 3; the Bangkok Sandbox protest on July 6; the rally led by vocational students on July 9; the Free Youth gathering on July 18; and the protests engineered by the Mu Ban Thalufa on July 22 and 24…. [and] the …”Harley motorbike mob” on July 23 and 25.”

Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai, the MPB deputy commissioner, said a total of “172 protesters are facing charges under the decree in connection with protests in Bangkok.” But it isn’t just the emergency decree, with the protesters facing dozens of charges.

It seems the police have nothing better to do than to do legal battle with protestors.

The police are engaging in a myriad of legal contortions. For example, they have suddenly decided that honking horns is illegal. Really? In Bangkok? Yep, they reckon that “vehicles honked their horns, disturbing people nearby and other motorists. The rally participants are also accused of causing heavy traffic congestion.” Yes, again, that’s in Bangkok.

They are brazen in their twisting of law and spreading the virus of injustice in a pandemic of political repression.

 





Masters of repression I

14 07 2021

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have published their June update. It makes for sorry reading, from using the virus emergency decree for political repression to the use of lese majeste against political activists.

According to the TLHR “at least 695 people in 374 cases have already been affected as a result of their political involvement and opinions since the ‘Free Youth’ rally on 18 July 2020 until the end of June 2021.” This includes “43 youths of under 18 years old…”.

In total, lese majeste charges have now been laid against more than 100 people.

Contempt of court and insulting the court cases case have grown. For the former, there have been at least 18 people in 14 cases “for participating in assemblies criticizing the judiciary since the Free Youth Rally until the end of May 2021.” Strikingly, “the Court can conduct a contempt trial and pass a judgment directly bypassing the investigation or prosecution process.”

TLHR also reports that the courts have routinely “imposed overly strict measures in courtrooms, including limiting the number of audience or requiring a preapproved permission. In all trials, the Court forbade notetaking claiming it was to keep order.” Such measures “were likely to undermine the principle of a free and fair trial.”

In addition to court and judicial processes, TLHR states that “[s]tate authorities continuously monitor and harass people who posted monarchy-related content and political activists…”. In June alone, the “authorities approached least 18 citizens who expressed monarchy-related or political opinions at their homes. These incidents occurred in all of the regions of the country…”.

TLHR also found that “at least 511 people in 162 cases had been accused of breaching the Emergency Decree provisions…”.

The regime may not be very good at virus mitigation, but it is highly skilled in acts of political repression.





Updated: Arrogance rewarded

2 07 2021

Anyone following social media will have noticed the flood of complaints and invective associated with the photo below, clipped from The Nation. It shows Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and “his entourage dining at a beachside restaurant in Phuket on Thursday.”

Corrupt and arrogant

While the regime brings charges against protesters, almost all masked up, for flouting the emergency decree that is lodged in virus control, he and his “entourage” can flout the decree with impunity.

The photo shows these arrogant men “eating and sitting close together, while some members of the party are without a mask.”

Meanwhile, today authorities reported 61 virus-induced deaths – a record – and 6,087 new infections – the second highest recorded for the country.

Of course, Phuket is not currently a red zone, but these are people who are meant to set an example. In any case, many are from Bangkok, which is a red zone.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul stumbled along, defending the miscreants boss, blabbering about “everybody in the photo was actually sitting a fair distance from one another and that they have all been vaccinated against Covid-19.” So we guess that the message is that anyone who is vaccinated can skip off to Phuket, avoid quarantine, and do as they wish.

The general/prime minister is arrogant. He obviously knows he is untouchable. After all, the Constitutional Court has again let Gen Prayuth off a case on a technicality. The Constitutional Court seems to belong to Prayuth. His control of parliament and “independent” institutions fertilizes his arrogance.

Update: For the seriousness of the situation in Bangkok, see a couple of stories in the Bangkok Post. One begins:

While the government is upbeat about its Phuket reopening scheme, health personnel in Greater Bangkok are struggling to deal with a surge of new Covid-19 infections and deaths.

Another story slams the regime and Siam Bioscience:

The Rural Doctors Society yesterday called on the government to enforce the law to require Siam Bioscience, a local authorised pharmaceutical manufacturer, to deliver vaccine supplies as planned.

On its Facebook page, the network claimed Siam Bioscience was likely to deliver only 4 million doses of vaccine this month, instead of 10 million doses as planned by the government.

That’s the king’s company, and we guess the situation is dire if normally royalist doctors make such calls. Just in passing, we note that the monarch is scarcely seen.

That rises to 10 million doses per month from July until November, with the last 5 million jabs arriving in December.

The society said “the government was deemed reluctant to negotiate with the company or enforce any legal tools to secure the delivery of 10 million doses per month.”

That’s because it is the king’s company.

So, in the end, we have a failed vaccination strategy, a king’s company seemingly unable to communicate or deliver, a regime unable to pressure it, and a prime minister off with the fairies in Phuket.





Protesting on 24 June

22 06 2021

cropped-1932-plaqueThe regime’s police are warning protesters that they should not rally on 24 June. They are relying on the Emergency Decree but will also be looking to arrest rally leaders for lese majeste and sedition.

Protest groups are lining up to rally on the day that marks the 1932 revolution.

The New Generation of Democratic People of Nonthaburi is planning to demonstrate at the Democracy Monument at about 11am, demanding that the government resign. Another group – Samakkhi Prachachon – is led by red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, which plans to rally at Government House. A third group is planning to demonstrate at the October 14 Memorial at about 1pm. A fourth group – Prachachon Khon Thai – led by yellow shirt Nittithon Lamlua, also plans to rally in front of Government House at about noon. The latter group is calling for Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to stand down.

In warning protesters, Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai said:

Those taking part in the protests should avoid gathering in large numbers. They might benefit from the political protests but the country as a whole will suffer from their action.

They should consider staging the rallies after the pandemic has subsided….

We doubt they would let anyone protest then, either.

Interestingly, Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen, a deputy police spokesman, has revealed “that since July 2020 a total of 150 people have been arrested on charges in connection with political rallies. They included people who instigated illegal gatherings over social media.”





With 3 updates: Violence and double standards I

15 02 2021

There has been some banter about students, protesters and violence, mainly on social media. For example, Cod Satrusayang has an op-ed at Thai Enquirer stating:

On Saturday, student protesters confronted police officers in front of the Bangkok City Shrine. Led by vocational students and the We Volunteer protest guards, the protesters hurled rocks and homemade firecrackers at the police.

The police responded with batons, mass charges, and mass arrests. The security officials were indiscriminate in their response – infamously beating high school students, volunteer medics, and journalists in their bid to get to the agitators.

There was no excuse for the action of the police that night. Numerous “international norms” were violated by the security operations.

But there was no excuse for the student guards to needlessly confront and provoke the officers either….

There has been an increasing and alarming tendency in recent weeks by protesters to resort to violence or threaten violence in their confrontations with the police.

Is this reasonable? Should protesters simply remain punching bags and targets for arrest and jails? And is it reasonable to compare “student guards” tactics with those of heavily armed and aggressive police and military, including the use of plainclothes officers on the student side, provoking and arresting?

The protesters “reiterated its peaceful stance but said protesters had a right to retaliate against violence by authorities.”

Even the conservative royalist commentator Veera Prateepchaikul refers to Saturday as involving “a minor scuffle during in which stones, smoke bombs and firecrackers were hurled at the police by the protesters.” Did such a “minor scuffle” need a violent response? Should a volunteer medic have been attacked, kicked, beaten and arrested? These are, of course, rhetorical questions.

Others have been more willing to question the imbalance of power. For example, the Rural Doctor Society demanded “an explanation and legal action against the officers involved [in the beating of the volunteer], saying it was a violation of human rights.” Why is it that mainstream media aren’t showing some of the truly violent police responses?

Pravit Rojanaphruk has posted a considerable amount of it on Facebook, but none of it has yet appeared at his newspaper. Why does Cod post a link to video of a few rocks being thrown, most of them not even reaching the main police line, but nothing of consequence about police violence?Newspapers report 20-25 police officers injured but say little about protesters, some of who have been dragged off to a secret prison.

Double standards? We think so.

Prachatai has a report worth reading. It is balanced, covers the whole event and is a useful account of the ways that the authorities provoke and how protesters respond.

Update 1: Khaosod finally has some updates posted. One report is of the top Bangkok cop saying “a police officer was behaving properly when he shot live rounds over the weekend in a bid to fend off a crowd of pro-democracy protesters.” Of course he does. But, the same cops have charged the volunteer health worker they beat to unconsciousness and arrested at the same rally. The charge is that he breached the virus emergency decree. The cops really are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Double standards? You bet!

Update 2: Further to our point above about the inequalities in comparing protesters and state authorities, Prachatai has a useful report on the events of the rally and confrontations, with numerous examples of “crowd control police carrying firearms,” contradicting claims by “Pol Lt Gen Phukphong Phongpetra, the Metropolitan Police Chief, that the police did not use tear gas or rubber bullets against protesters on 13 February.”

Update 3: For a video showing the large numbers of military/police infiltrators and “third hands,” look at this video at Facebook.





HRW on Thailand’s human rights decline

16 01 2021

When you are near the bottom, going deeper requires particular skills in dark arts.

Human Rights Watch has recently released its World Report 2021. The summary on Thailand makes for depressing reading, even after more than six years of military junta and now a barely distinguishable post-junta regime.

The full report on Thailand begins:

Thailand faced a serious human rights crisis in 2020. Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha’s government imposed restrictions on civil and political rights, particularly freedom of expression, arbitrarily arrested democracy activists, engineered the dissolution of a major opposition political party on politically motivated grounds, and enforced a nationwide state of emergency, using the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext.

And the rest of the report is pretty much a litany of repression. There’s discussion of the State of Emergency, restrictions on freedom of expression, torture, enforced disappearance, impunity on state-sponsored rights violations, the persecution of human rights defenders, a continuation of human rights violations in the south, mistreatment of migrants and refugees, and more. Surprisingly, there’s only a paragraph on lese majeste, which is now the regime’s main weapon in silencing dissent.

Readers of PPT will know all of the sordid details of the regime’s efforts to stifle criticism, but read the report to be reminded of how dark things have remained despite the rigged election and the existence of a parliament. The latter has, in 2020, been pretty much supine as the regime has used its ill-gotten majority and its unelected Senate to stifle the parliaments scrutiny of the regime.





With 3 updates: Voice TV shut down (but not quite)

20 10 2020

While not unexpected, the regime has decided to shut down media broadcasting about and in support of the demonstrators. The first victim is Voice TV.

The government claims “a court backed its order to close down ‘all platforms’ of … [Voice] TV channel…”. Ministry of Digital Economy and Society Deputy Permanent Secretary Putchong Ntethaisong “said Voice TV must now shut down all of its broadcasts, whether on air or social media, due to violations of the emergency decree.”

He added that “the court is also deliberating on the shutdown order for three other media sites: The Standard, The Reporters, and Prachatai.”

Putchong went on to accuse “Voice TV and three other media agencies of spreading information that could cause unrest in the country, which is banned under the Severe State of Emergency imposed by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha…”. Of course, by “spreading information,” the regime means news that for several nights via YouTube has been a largely uninterrupted and without much editorial comment.

The regime does not want people to see what’s happening. Worse, it could be that it wants to prevent the broadcast of any further state crackdown.

Update 1: Thai Enquirer quotes The Dictator:

Speaking after the cabinet meeting, Prayut said that a much-reported gag order on some news agencies were to prevent the spread of “fake news” which has exacerbated the conflict within the country.

Prayut said the order was necessary to maintain peace.

“Any agency that has to be shut down will be shut down as according to the continuous police procedures and I am not violating anyone’s rights,” he said.

“My job is to prevent any harm done on the country and to stop the efforts to incite unrest and create a rift within the society,” he said.

Of course, he’s lying. There’s been no “fake news” that we have seen, except from the likes of Nation TV. And, he’s violating everyone’s rights to protect himself, the king and his regime.

Update 2: Voice TV continues to broadcast, vowing to defy the military-backed regime.

Update 3: The broadcaster continued last evening, with several live broadcasts from spots where protesters congregated. In one of these, a vigorous statement of commitment to the promotion of democracy was a message to the regime.





HRW on arrests

20 08 2020

Human Rights Watch has issued a note on some of the recent arrests of political activists:

Thailand: Drop Charges, Free Democracy Activists
Thailand: Drop Charges, Free Democracy Activists Authorities Disregard Own Pledge to Allow Dissent

(New York) – Thai authorities should immediately drop all charges and unconditionally release prominent pro-democracy activists arbitrarily detained for their role in peaceful protests, Human Rights Watch said today. On August 19, 2020, Thai police separately arrested Arnon Nampha, Baramee Chairat, Suwanna Tanlek, and Korakot Saengyenphan, charged them with sedition and other offenses, and jailed them.

“The Thai government’s repeated promises to listen to dissenting voices have proven meaningless as the crackdown on pro-democracy activists continues unabated,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The authorities should right their wrong and immediately drop the charges and release Arnon and other detained activists.”

Police arrested Arnon, a defense lawyer with the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, outside the Bangkok Criminal Court after he finished his day’s cases. He was charged with sedition, which carries a maximum seven-year prison term, assembly with an intent to cause violence, violating the ban on public gatherings, and other criminal offenses related to his involvement in a pro-democracy protest in Bangkok on August 3. At the protest, he wore a Harry Potter costume and publicly demanded reforms to bring Thailand’s monarchy into conformance with democratic constitutional principles. The police detained him at the Chanasongkram Police Station in Bangkok.

Three other activists – including Baramee from the Assembly of the Poor in Bangkok, Suwanna from the June 24 for Democracy Movement, and Korakot from the Democracy Restoration Group – also face sedition and other charges similar to those brought against Arnon. They have been detained at Bangkok’s Samranrat Police Station.

The police previously arrested Arnon on similar charges together with another pro-democracy activist, Panupong Jadnok, on August 7. A week later, on August 14, the police arrested a well-known student leader, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, bringing similar accusations.

These six activists are among 31 people whom the police were purportedly seeking to arrest for speaking onstage at a protest sponsored by the Free Youth Movement in Bangkok on July 18. Since the Free Youth Movement held that peaceful protest in front of the Democracy Monument demanding democracy, political reforms, and respect for human rights, youth-led protests by various groups have spread across in Thailand. The largest protest was in Bangkok on August 16, with more than 20,000 participants calling for the dissolution of parliament, a new constitution, respect for freedom of expression, and reforms of the institution of the monarchy to curb the current monarch’s powers.

Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has denied that he ordered the police to arrest the activists and has maintained his pledge to listen to the youth protests. “There has been no order from the prime minister to target those activists,” General Prayuth said during a media interview on August 15. “The police simply use their own judgment and carry out their duty to uphold the law. In the current situation all sides should be reasonable and listen [to each other]. We need to avoid provocation and confrontation.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand ratified in 1996, protects the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. However, Thai authorities have routinely enforced censorship and gagged public discussions about human rights, political reforms, and the role of the monarchy in society. Over the past decade, hundreds of activists and dissidents have been prosecuted on serious criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) for the peaceful expression of their views.

Government repression has intensified in Thailand over the past five months as the authorities used state of emergency powers assumed by the government to help control the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to ban anti-government protests and harass pro-democracy activists.

International pressure is urgently needed to press the Thai government to end the crackdown on pro-democracy activists and peaceful protests, and release those arbitrarily detained, Human Rights Watch said.

“The United Nations and concerned governments should speak out publicly against the rolling political repression in Thailand,” Adams said. “Thai youth are increasingly demanding real progress toward democracy and the rule of law so they can freely express their visions for the future of the country.”





Squashing anti-monarchy sentiment

19 08 2020

As mentioned in an update to our previous post, we considered the “light touch” by the regime to be a ruse. And so it is.

The Bangkok Post reports that “[a]rrest warrants have been issued for six activists who took part in a demonstration at which students issued a 10-point call for reform of the monarchy last week…”. This refers to the rally at Thammasat.

It seems that the charges are not about the demands for the reform of the monarchy but “for breaching internal security and measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus as well as computer crimes.”

Police “explained”:

Pathum Thani police chief Pol Maj Gen Chayut Marayat said on Wednesday the Thanya Buri Court approved the arrest warrants on Friday after police had conducted an investigation following complaints registered at Klong Luang police station.

Pol Maj Gen Chayut did not give details on who filed the charges with the police. Other charges can be filed against them later if police have evidence….

In addition, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who sent a video into the rally, is also causing the authorities worries:

The Ministry of Digital Economy will file a complaint against exiled academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun for creating a Facebook group deemed critical of the monarchy, ministry spokesman Putchapong Nodthaisong told Reuters. The group, called Royalist Marketplace, has more than one million members.

“We have filed a request to Facebook to delete the entire group, but the platform hasn’t been cooperative,” Mr Putchapong said. “So the ministry is now going to use the Computer Crime Act.”

Expect more as the regime seeks to squash anti-monarchy sentiment.








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