With a major update: Infantile politics

17 12 2013

The Bangkok Post reports that a “former Pheu Thai MP for Lop Buri on Monday lodged a lese majeste complaint against Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the anti-government [they mean anti-democratic] People’s Democratic Reform Committee.” This is about as dumb as it gets in Thailand’s politics. The report is that:

Suchart Sainam and his lawyer Singthong Buachoom argued that Mr Suthep had defamed Thailand’s monarchy by calling on the public to boycott the general election and demanding that the caretaker government step down and the poll be deferred.

Apparently the “complaint was received by Crime Suppression Division deputy chief” who said they would investigate.

Now, Suchart might be a mad monarchist or may just think it is a bit of reverse royalism to hit Suthep with a charge he happily bandied about in the past against his political opponents. But, really, isn’t it time that politicians became adults on lese majeste and assigned it to the dustbin of history.

Update: Of course, it is the mad monarchists who use lese majeste most often to attack, threaten and frighten opponents. Not long after we criticized the Puea Thai politician above, the rabid royalists have another charge to lay. Khaosod reports that the “coordinator of an anti-government network has urged the government to prosecute a Redshirts student activist for allegedly insulting the monarchy.” A related story is available at Prachatai.

The report is that:

Uthai Yordmanee, leader of Student and People Network For Political Reform of Thailand, said in a press conference that Mr. Ekkaphob Lueangra, a self-described vocational student who supports the Redshirt movements, has gravely defamed the monarchy in his speech at Rajamangala Stadium, where the Redshirts were holding mass rallies, on 28 November 2013.

PPT doesn’t know why, but while not identifying any particular item of lese majeste in the press conference, he “called on Mr. Jarupong Ruangsuwan, chairman of Pheu Thai Party, and Mr. Chaturon Chaisang, Minister of Education, to take legal responsibility for Mr. Ekkaphob′s remarks.” Guilt by association, perhaps, using the very broad and nasty lese majeste brush to smear many. Uthai seems to think that the two politicians allowed Ekkaphob to speak, so if he is committing lese majeste as alleged, then they are guilty too.

Of course, the yelling yellow also demanded that “Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra would also have to show her responsibility for the incident…”. Again, Uthai seems to be bonkers on this, but even the raving loonies can use lese majeste for ill purposes; and Uthai seems ill-tempered and ill of purpose.

Prachatai reports that:

police have charged an anti-establishment red-shirt supporter with lèse majesté for his coded speech at a red-shirt gathering at Rajamangala stadium on Ramkhamhaeng Road in late November.

A video clip of the speech was widely circulated on social media sites before it caught the attention of the law. A group of Internet users also disclosed his photo, home address and phone number as an act of political cyber bullying. They also found that he worked for a motor company and pressured the company via its Facebook page to punish him to show its “moral and social responsibility”.
The report states that the speech was at “a sideline red-shirt stage around the Rajamangala stadium…”, and that: Eakachai [note the different name used in the two reports] told a story of a family headed by “Uncle Somchai and Auntie Somjit” and the offspring of the couple. The speech attracted a loud acclaim and applause.At the end of the story, Eakachai spoke to the audience. “You guys feel a thrill of fear, but also like [the story]. But for me, I’d have to ask myself if I’ll be able to get through this. But I don’t care, because I didn’t refer to anybody. My speech isn’t illegal.” Apparently the police do not think so. Prachatai goes on to note that:
The fictional characters of Uncle Somchai and Auntie Somjit first appeared on the hard-core anti-establishment Same Sky web forum around 2010. The characters are known among people critical to the monarchy as code names used in a society where a speech can land a person in jail for several years or get them fired from their job because of political cyber bullying. The couple also feature in a song of Faiyen, an anti-establishment red-shirt pop band. The song is very popular among red shirts.
We think that Same Sky / Fa Diaw Kan is hardly more anti-establishment or hard core than Prachatai itself, so we are unsure why Prachatai chooses this description.
The anti-democratic movement has reason to hate Ekkaphob / Eakachai because he is a member of the progressive Red Siam group and “recently founded Gear of Red, which is a group of red-shirt vocational students and former vocational students.” The anti-democratic group has relied heavily on vocational students as their fighters, in the front line of demonstrations by rubber “farmers” in the south and in recent actions in Bangkok.
Vocational students are known for their violent clashes between schools and for their access to hand guns. THey are remembered for their brutality in the 6 October 1976 massacre at Thammasat University.

Updated: Busy day in Bangkok II: reform, rice, old kings, censorship and impunity

10 08 2013

As we noted in the first part of this post, it has been a busy few days in Bangkok, with more stories than PPT can possibly comment on, so we are now posting a second  combination of stories.

In another story that cites PPT, Asia Sentinel had a story a couple of days ago regarding the politics of amnesty. PPT is cited as an “NGO,” which is probably rather too much of a grand title for our small effort to shine a light on aspects of politics and political prisoners in Thailand. The story also seems to erroneously suggest that Thaksin Shinawatra put the 1997 constitution in place. Even so, it is true that: “Any time amnesty or constitutional reform looms, the protesters take to the streets. Pheu Thai leaders have been waiting for almost three years to attempt to push through a series of constitutional reforms…”. It would be even more accurate to notice that when the military junta’s 2007 constitution was put in place, all of the old conservatives said it could be changed by elected governments, and even made this an article of the constitution. Since then, this pledge has been shown to be a lie. In fact, then, elected governments have been waiting six years to make changes.

Also worth reading is Robert Amsterdam’s post on the Wat Pathum inquest findings. This note caught our attention:

Without truth there is no justice. And without justice there can be no real workable amnesty. Some might argue a de facto legal amnesty already exists for the extremist anti-democratic People’s Alliance for Democracy and the groups aligned with them, including Abhisit’s Democrat Party. Abhisit and his former deputy PM, Suthep Thaugsuban, have both been charged with the murder of civilian protesters in 2010, yet arrogantly strut around, even dismissing the court’s bail conditions, assured of their own impunity.

Prachatai has a post regarding censorship of books – an unofficial removal from sale – at Asia books. Of course, the books relate to the monarchy. But not the current king. These two books relate to past kings and the royalist response to the 1932 revolution. Prachatai says: “The books concern the history of the 1932 revolution and the controversial relationship between King Rama VI and his palace servants.” So why the “ban”? Asia Books withdrew the two academic titles reportedly for reasons of “political sensitivity” but declined to comment further. The book by Dr. Nattaphol Chaiching studies the “counter-revolution led by the royalists” following the 1932 revolution. Readers without Thai skills can get an idea about the book through the author’s chapter in Saying the Unsayable. The book was published by Fa Diaw Kan as part of its “Monarchy Studies Series.” The second book by Chanun Yodhong is about “Gentlemen-in-waiting”, and deals with the relationship between the gay King Vajiravudh and his palace flunkies. Prachatai states that the book “poses questions about King Rama VI and his projects such as the Boy Scouts and Vajiravudh College, a private boys-only boarding school he founded in 1910.” It is published by Matichon.

While on censorship, we feel compelled to add to the outcry about the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology’s continuing stupidity regarding Facebook posts and its use of the draconian Computer Crimes Act. Minister Anudith Nakornthap has lost his marbles if he thinks social media users should be charged and locked up for “sharing and clicking ‘Like’ on social media posts, since they could be deemed as damaging to the country’s security.” His view that “postings that are political in nature or meant to stir up public confusion might be in breach of the Internal Security Act and Computer Crime Act” is utter nonsense but clearly neanderthals can use the law to censor and stifle. Interestingly, the cyber-cops have declared the warning as a successful scare tactic. Update: Asked if clicking “like” is now against the law, Police Maj Gen Pisit Pao-in, commander of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, says: “It will be if you ‘like’ a message deemed damaging to national security. If you press ‘like’, it means you are accepting that message, which is tantamount to supporting it. By doing so, you help increase the credibility of the message and hence you should also be held responsible.” Officials like this are appallingly dull and through their dullard actions, dangerous to Thais and their rights to free speech.

PPT also wants to draw attention to a couple of posts at Bangkok Pundit. The first is not that different from what PPT said on the story/retracted Bangkok Post story on Anand Panyarachun. The second explains what happened, and comes from a source that we also had, but since Pundit has it posted, there’s no need for us to do the same.

Finally, we want to give a few lines to a report in The Economist, which identifies the rice policy as an economic millstone for the government. We agree, but then the politics of reducing the guaranteed price saw farmers protesting just a few weeks ago. An economic millstone is becoming a political millstone, and the government’s policy wonks need to find a way out.

With a major update: Royalist courts make another conviction for the monarchy

25 12 2012

The Bangkok Post (the original story is deleted and now here) reports yet another conviction on the draconian lese majeste-like computer crimes charge. This conviction is significant for the way in which it makes a rumor a case of “national security.” For a Thai/ภาษาไทย version of this verdict, see here.

On 14 October 2009 there were a series of rumors circulated that the aged king, ensconced in a hospital, was seriously ill or had died. In fact, the king had been in hospital since 19 September 2009 and almost every report since 23 September 2009 had stated that he is recovering or that his “condition has improved significantly.”  The reports from the Royal Household Bureau on royal health are almost never more than propaganda, so rumors are easily created and circulated.

This particular death rumor caused a sell-off on the stock exchange. Immediately, the then Abhisit Vejjajiva-led coalition government, already engaged in a lese majeste witrch hunt against political opponents, began a search for those responsible for the rumors.

On 1 November 2009, it was reported that two suspected rumor mongers had been arrested. Both were initially held under the Computer Crimes Act. One of those arrested was Khatha Pachachirayapong (คทา ปาจริยพงษ์), then an employee in the trading a securities trading firm KT Zmico Securities. He was eventually charged on the health rumor case and another was added, related to an earlier message, in April 2009.

The Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced Khatha. He was given “four years imprisonment for posting online information sabotaging the monarchy and national security in 2009.” This sentence was reduced from a “six-year sentence … due to his confessions upon arrest and during the investigation.

Khatha “crime” related to “two messages posted in Samesky aka Fahdiewgan webpage on April 22 and Oct 31, 2009.” He was convicted under the Computer Crime Act’s article 14 (2).

The court revealed that the April 2009 post “referred to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn as if she sided with the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD)…”. Again demonstrating that the courts are a fount of royalist ideology, the court concluded that such a claim was impossible: “it was not true as the monarchy was above politics and loved all sides to no exclusive satisfaction.” Any sensible person knows that this is a nonsense.

PPT assumes that the Computer Crimes Act was used in this case in order to expand the reach of the courts to Sirindhorn as she is not covered by  the lese majeste law.

The court concluded that the October post “made people believe the King, who was then hospitalised, might have passed away.” It seems that this rumor, partly due to the Royal Household Bureau’s own opacity, somehow either sabotaged the monarchy or was a threat to national security. Somehow the royalist court believes that the the royalist propaganda state is so fragile that 30,214 “hits” at a web board can shake it to its tender core or even bring it down.

As is usual in such cases, the court dismissed all evidence that might have assisted Khatha. He is now seeking to appeal and has applied for bail.

This is yet one more case that shows the political nature of lese majeste charges. This one also demonstrates the presumed weakness of the monarchy such that it is unable to withstand even a rumor. The improbability of this is Thailand is awash with rumors about the monarchy. Of course, a rumor about a constitutional monarchy should never be considered a matter of “national security.”

Update 1: The Bangkok Post removed the original and more detailed story on this conviction. The revised story is here.

Update 2: At Prachatai, more details of the verdict are provided, together with the news that Khatha has been granted bail for an appeal. The details are significant so we cut-and-paste most of the story here:

According to the court verdict, the defendant’s first comment posted on 22 April 2009 led the general public to understand that HM the King favoured the yellow shirts and Princess Sirindhorn also did the same, and the other post on 14 October 2010, which concerned rumours about the King’s health, led the general public to understand that HM was seriously ill.  The comments were false, damaging national security and causing panic among the public, the court said.

During the trial, Aree Jiworarak, an official from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, testified that the defendant used an alias ‘wet dream’ on the webboard, and had an e-mail account stamp816@hotmail.com.  The official checked this e-mail with banks and found that the defendant had used it to open bank accounts.  The National Intelligence Agency acquired his IP address through its investigation, and Aree did a recheck by sending an e-mail to this e-mail account and acquired the same IP address when the defendant clicked on a link in the e-mail.  After checking with CS Loxinfo, an internet service provider, Aree found that the IP address belonged to a company which the defendant worked for.

According to an IT expert who testified as a prosecution witness, the hard disk which the defendant used with his computer at work was found to have the word www.sameskybooks.org over 29,000 times and the user name ‘wet dream’ over 240 times.

Pol Lt Col Phiraphat Siriworachaikun testified that the defendant was informed of the charges and his rights during the arrest in the presence of several reporters, and the defendant confessed that he had used the e-mail account to register at the webboard and used the alias.

As several documents seized from the boot of the defendant’s car had content similar to what had been posted on the webboard, the court was convinced that the defendant held the same view and posted accordingly.

In response to the first post about HM the King favouring the yellow shirts, the court argued that it was not true, as ‘HM the King and all members of the royal family love the people equally and are above political conflict.  HM the King and Princess Sirindhorn are politically neutral.  The posting of such a comment will result in ever more serious political conflicts, likely to affect state security and public peace.’

As for the post about rumours about the King’s health, the court said that HM the King was the centre of the spirit of people of all groups, as evident in the recent 5 December event when a lot of people came out to wish HM well, so it could not be denied that public panic would not happen [as a result of the comment].

It is remarkable how the courts simply co-opt royalist propaganda and make a “legal” case of it.

Lese majeste updates

1 12 2012

Prachatai has published some useful updates on a series of lese majeste cases. PPT will summarize here and will 112.jpgupdate our specific pages on each case as well:

  1. In its first story, Prachatai refers to the truly bizarre case of two of the Royal Health Rumor 4. Back in October 2009 there were rumors that the king was seriously ill or had died. This caused a huge sell-off on the stock exchange, and the ridiculous Abhisit Vejjajiva-led coalition government began a witch hunt for those responsible for the rumors. Many observers considered the whole case so silly that it had been quietly brushed under the carpet. Not so. The Criminal Court is said to be “likely to deliver its ruling by the end of this year on a case” involving Katha Pajajiriyapong, then an employee in the trading a securities trading firm KT Zmico Securities (the firm sacked him). Katha is said to have posted comments on Same Sky or Fah Diew Kan web board. Apparently there is another charge against him from April 2009. He is charged under the 2007 Computer-Related Crimes Act. He has been on bail since his arrest in 1 November 2009. He is expected to get a verdict on 19 December 2012.
  2. Also one of the Royal Health Rumor 4, Thiranan Vipuchanun, a former director of a finance and securities trading firm, is “accused of posting on the Prachatai webboard her translation of a Bloomberg news article which reported the slump of the Thai stock market on 14 Aug 2009 due to the widespread rumours about the King’s health. Her case is now pending a decision by the prosecution.”
  3. Somyos Prueksakasemsuk is also scheduled to re-appear in court on 19 December 2012, and it seems that he may get a verdict then, having been held in prison since 30 April 2011 on lese majeste charges.
  4. Akechai Hongkangwarn who was arrested on 11 March 2011 and charged under Article 112 – lese majeste – for being in possession of illegal VCDs of an Australian television documentary that presented an accurate picture of the state of the Thai monarchy and 10 Wikileaks documents. He is expected to appear in court on 22 February 2013.
  5. One of the Bangkok 19 who were accused by the Army and its boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Yoswaris Chuklom or Jeng Dokchik, “a comedian turned red-shirt activist and politician, will appear in court for witness hearings on 11-12 Dec [2012]. He is being prosecuted for alleged lèse majesté comments in his public speech during a red-shirt rally at Phan Fa on 29 March 2010.”
  6. In the first week of November 2010, Sqn Ldr Chanin Khlaikhlung became the first casualty of then Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan’s warning that the military needed to weed out anti-monarchists in its ranks. This was also a part of the Abhisit regime’s royalist witch hunt. He will likely appear in a military court (closed to the public) in February 2013, facing lese majeste and computer crimes charges related to 24 comments on his Facebook page.
  7. Finally, Prachatai mentions a case PPT has not previously heard of when it lists Aswin (family name withheld) as likely to appear in Chiang Mai Court in February 2013 “to face accusations by an acquaintance of making lèse majesté remarks.”
  8. In its second story, Prachatai mentions another case previously unknown to PPT. The case goes back to the days of high alert on lese majeste by the royalist regime under Abhisit and refers to an unnamed Malay Muslim man whose case is outlined at the iLaw database. The Pattani resident is accused of “hanging banners with the picture of HM the Queen on a pedestrian bridge in the town” also allegedly “containing messages about violent incidents in the south and other parts of Thailand, together with a picture of HM the Queen, on 12 Aug 2009, the Queen’s birthday…”. It seems that this may be another case pursued by the military who are also accused of beating and torturing the man to get a confession on a crime he was not even aware of (standard military practice). He has been on bail. It seems this case has been kept secret.
  9. A third story refers to well-known Thammasat historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul who is said to be “pessimistic” and “both surprised and appalled by the decision of police to forward his lese majeste police complaint case to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).” He is due to appear before the prosecutor sometime this month.

The last story also refers to there being “currently at least seven people detained under the law with hundreds more in the process of possibly being charged or having received police complaints made against them.” PPT knows of eight currently detained, although we assume there are more we don’t know about. We are not aware that there are “hundreds more in the process of possibly being charged or having received police complaints made against them.” That said, there are two cases above we had never heard of before, suggesting that the case load and backlog that is inestimable. The opacity associated with this most political of charges lends itself to both under-reporting and exaggeration.

In late 2010, based on data related to charges laid, prosecuted and known conviction rates, we had guesstimated that there may have been some 350 jailed following lese majeste convictions or related computer crimes charges. We have no idea how many accusations there are or how many cases are winding there way through the system. In any serious judicial system, this law would be declared unconstitutional and scrapped. Until that happens, Thailand can never be a truly democratic country.

Further updated: Nitirat academic attacked

29 02 2012

Leading Nitirat academic Worachet Pakeerut was set upon, punched and injured by two unidentified men in a parking lot at Thammasat University. The Nation reports that Worachet was talking to a fellow academic from Mahidol University “when two men sneaked from behind to deliver several punches in his face.” He commented: “I was hit and everything happened so suddenly that I could not even remember the profile of my attackers…”.

A Nation photo

Metropolitan Police are said to be investigating but “had not drawn conclusion on the motive behind the attack.” PPT thinks the motive is as clear as day: Worachet was attacked as a royalist warning to him and Nitirat to shut up. The kind of intimidatory tactic is one that has been commonly used in the past, most usually by dark elements within the security forces.

Interestingly, editor of Fa Diaw Kan magazine Thanapol Eawsakul witnessed the attack and saw “two attackers fleeing by a motorcycle.” That motorcycle was also seen by activist Sombat Boonngamanong who “tweeted that the motorcycle license plate was Mo Tho 684.” That should make it somewhat easier for police, assuming that they actually want to track down the aggressors.

This kind of attack is reminiscent of the dark days of authoritarian regimes, usually associated with the military when engaged in regime-maintaining violence, and is very worrying as there have been earlier instances of hate speech targeting Nitirat and Worachet. The nature of this kind of political attack is exemplified in The Nation’s own report, which is misleadingly stated:

Worachet is the core leader of Nitirat academic group spearheading a campaign to amend the lese majeste law. He is seen as a controversial figure due to his outspokenness in opposing the coup. His political views are often favouring the pro-Thaksin [Shinawatra] camp.

In fact, in earlier days, Worachet was a leading anti-Thaksin critic writing chapters in books attacking Thaksin edited by Chirmsak Pinthong. He was also anti-coup in 2006. That he has now suggested discussions of reforms of the draconian and internationally condemned lese majeste law, sees some – and apparently The Nation reporter and editors – as somehow simply “pro-Thaksin.” This kind of loose and/or politicized reporting makes the media culpable in political violence.

Update 1: Readers should look at Prachatai’s stories following this event. The first story refers to the despicable comments of ASTV/Manager readers. In fact, none of this is surprising and is pretty much par for the course. The second story is a statement from Human Rights Lawyers Association, Union for Civil Liberty, Human Rights and Development Foundation, Campaign Committee for Human Rights, Environmental Litigation for the Wants, Cross-Cultural Foundation, Center for Protection and Recovery of Local Community Rights, Community Resources Center deploring the attack. They state that they are “gravely concerned that the reason behind the attack could stem from the lecturer’s taking the lead as a core member of the Nitirat Group.” They add that the incident will “spur a climate of fear in society.” Of course, that is exactly what the attack is meant to do. The groups condemn the attack.

Update 2: Both the Bangkok Post and The Nation report that the two men who attacked Worachet have surrendered to the police. The “twin brothers told investigators that they are members of the anti-Nitirat group that opposes any move to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majeste law.” Meanwhile, in the Bangkok Post it is reported that: “Members of the Nitirat law group at Thammasat University say they will continue with their activities to disseminate their opinions, in the spirit of academic principle, despite the attack…”. The Thammasat University rector “condemned the attackers…”.

Updated: The missing headline: Lese majeste

22 02 2011

There is currently a storm of lese majeste activity in Thailand but very little of it is in the English-language media (except for the ever reliable Prachatai). Self-censorship would be the usual explanation, but the Thai press reports such cases, so we think it is a case of cleaning the headlines for international consumption.

The Manager keeps reporting these lese majeste cases as victories for the forces of good against evil while failing to notice that lese majeste repression is easily turned on anyone deemed an opponent of the amart’s regime.

PPT has posted on several lese majeste cases and issues in recent days: Chiranuch Premchaiporn‘s court case, Surachai Sae Dan‘s most recent arrest, Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul‘s court case, and the threat to track down lese majeste internationally. To this incomplete list we can add the lese majeste accusations raised against Thaksin Shinawatra, Robert Amsterdam and editor of the Fa Diew Kan/Same Sky magazine Thanapol Eawsakul. The accusations are made by a Democrat Party member of parliament.

Back in November, the MP, Watchara Petthong, called for charges against those involved with the Amsterdam & Peroff “White Paper,” on the violence of April and May 2010, which Watchara said was “offensive to the monarchy and the courts.” At the time, the Thai version of the book did not name of the author, but listed Amsterdam & Peroff as the publisher and Kled Thai Co as the distributor.  Its first edition ran to 5,000 copies and each sold for 100 baht. It became a best seller.

Watchara has reportedly lodged the complaints calling for charges with the Crime Suppression Division late last week. He did this because he says that his calls last November were ignored. He filed the charges himself and gave police copies of the book as “evidence.”

It remains unclear why Thanapol is included as he is not listed as the publisher of the book. Both Thaksin and Thanapol have faced earlier charges related to lese majeste.

Robert Amsterdam, who now joins the ever-lengthening list of those facing lese majeste charges at PPT’s page on Pending Cases, has responded at his blog. Amsterdam makes the point that this is “not the first time accusations of this sort are leveled against us {he and Thaksin] by Democrat Party politicians. In the wake of the White Paper’s release in July, Democrat Party spokesperson Dr. Buranat Samutrak made similar charges.”

Amsterdam states: “the White Paper does not contain any instance of lese majeste.”He says that Watchara raises objections to two points:

First, Mr. Watchara resents that the White Paper pointed out that His Majesty the King did not publicly intervene in the wake of the 1976 and 2010 demonstrations, as he did in 1973 and 1992. That, of course, is factually true; besides, the White Paper does not make any value judgment about this historical fact. Second, Mr. Watchara suggests that simply pointing out that many people are being arrested and jailed for lese majeste constitutes an insult to the monarchy. Again, it is an empirically verifiable fact that an unprecedented number of people have been thrown in jail for lese majeste since the Democrats cheated and bribed their way into power (a 1500% increase of cases in 2009). Condemning the arrests certainly does not constitute an insult to the King, but rather an attack on those, like Mr. Watchara and his party, who constantly invoke the King’s name for their own political gain.

Watchara with the "evidence"

Amsterdam suggests that:

… [t]he odd timing of his attack betrays a transparent attempt to stifle free speech, as international awareness of the unlawful conduct of the Democrat Party during the Bangkok massacres increases day by day. The White Paper, in both English and Thai versions, online and print, have reached a circulation surpassing approximately 50,000 copies and downloads at this point, which may explain why the junta saw fit to invent an LM claim out of thin air. It already seems apparent that Mr. Watchara’s main goal is stop the sales of the book in Thai bookstores.

It seems that Watchara is prompted to this act of lese majeste repression by the fact that Amsterdam & Peroff have a new and updated version of the White Paper available for download. He is attempting to limit the impact of the second report, but the horse has already bolted. More insidious, though, it is likely that the current wave of lese majeste repression is both an attempt to secure political advantage for the current government and to repress while the world’s attention has shifted to the Middle East.

Update: Amsterdam has more at his blog.

Securing the internet

26 05 2010

The Bangkok Post (26 May 2010) reports that the “unrest in Bangkok and several other provinces nationwide last week raised concerns that cyber security has become of paramount importance to the kingdom.” So-called security expert Prinya Hom-anek of ACIS Professional Centre where he is president and founder, says that “cyber warfare signified how technology can be abused when there are no appropriate regulations or controls. Yet the government has not yet established a national-level cyber security policy in terms of human resources, budget allocation and threat understanding, especially in the matter of Information Operation (IO) and Information Assurance (IA).” At least he argues for an “independent” agency.

Another Bangkok Post article, however, makes a more sinister set of points. It argues that the red shirts were “bolstered by a surprisingly sophisticated media campaign to make sure its followers were kept informed – and emboldened – over cyberspace…”. It adds somewhat dramatically: “While the protests might be over, no one can guarantee our safety in cyber space.”

It warns about “anonymous proxy applications, viewers can access blocked websites such as http://www.norporchorusa.com through the browser.” The government’s blocking has not worked with many of these red shirt sites it complains and sort of tells the government how to improve its cyber snooping..

It notes that the “UDD has effectively employed the Internet as tool to spread its ideology and increase the psychological impact of the information it distributes. The group has trained its followers to access its broadcasts and media across several channels, such as Internet, GSM, 3G, VoIP, Wi-Fi, terrestrial television, satellite TV, cable TV, IPTV, analogue radio and Internet radio.” Terrestrial television, really?

Then this: “Based on in-depth correlation technical analysis of the UDD network, it was found that Norporchor IPTV transmissions have been made via different Prachathai domains registered with the GTLD (general top-level domain), including prachatai.com, prachatai.net, prachatai1.com, prachatai.org, prachatai board.com, prachathai webboard.com and sameskyboard.com.” For PPT, this seems bizarre, for the UDD media are identified directly with Prachatai and Fa Diaw Kan. Such claims are patently ludicrous. Yes, web boards can be used by UDD supporters, but not several of the claimed sites and neither organization is UDD.

But the frenzied cyber censors claim this: “At mail relay server level, they found the UDD technical team had applied Web 2.0 technology via Google applications, with only one big group and one small group, and they identified the webmaster of Prachatai and finally the correlation with the Norporchor network.” Again, the claimed link is ludicrous, unless you are a frothing yellow shirt seeing conspiracies all over.

And here’s the “logical” outcome: “To tackle the matter, the government’s security team suggested using a new technique called ‘In-depth intelligence information gathering’ and the established in-depth IP package analysis technique. It has been suggested to the government that it considers setting up a cyber security intelligence team to support in-depth correlation analysis and also implement Common Lawful Interception Architecture (CALEA) at Thailand Internet Core to facilitate in-depth analysis of malicious Internet communications. This would be carried out under the umbrella of the national-level cyber security council.”

In other words, more and deeper censorship. The Abhisit government is wanting to become the most repressive government ever to rule Thailand.

Fa Diaw Kan on lese majeste, Da Torpedo, and the future

8 12 2009

In late November, the most recent issue of ฟ้าเดียวกัน/Fa Dieu Kan magazine was released in Thailand.  The issue, titled “ข้อมูลใหม่,” or “New Information,” contains a signficant amount of information and analysis about lèse majesté, and particularly the case of Darunee Charnchoengsikpakul, also known as “Da Torpedo.” The text of the court decision is printed, along with a chronology of events related to her case and a range of commentaries, including those by Thanapol Eawsakul and David Streckfuss.

In the coming weeks, PPT will summarize and blog English-language summaries of the court decision and the articles.

For PPT readers in Thailand, we recommend that you run, not walk, to the nearest bookstore to buy your own copy of “New Information.” In Bangkok, you can find it at the Suksit Siam near Wat Rajabophit and the Odeon Bookstore in Siam Square. In Chiang Mai, you can find it at Raan Lau.

Health rumors a ruse for closing web sites

4 11 2009

Also available as หาเรื่องปิดเว็บไซต์จากข่าวลือเรื่องพระพลานามัย

It is ever clearer that the  Democrat Party-led government is using the royal death and/or health rumors saga as a means to control or close moderate web sites that it feels are not pro-government.

Led by a prime minister who once tried to make people believe he was a political liberal and by a party that should be ashamed to include the word “democrat” in its name, the government has now played its hand.

In Prachatai (4 November 2009: “ICT to close ISPs for allowing offending websites to continue”), the Thai Rath newspaper is cited on a story about the Minister of Information and Communications Technology Ranongruk Suwunchawee, who has now explained that the “Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has told Internet Service Providers to deal with offending websites, saying if they fail to do so, the Ministry will close them.”

Who does the minister mean? It seems that “MICT has contacted the ISPs which provide services to the websites [Prachatai and Fah Diew Kan] and informed them that if they still allow these websites which have had records of being ‘subversive to national security’ to continue, the Ministry will close down those ISPs.” PPT added the emphasis but the names in square brackets are in the Prachatai report.

The rest of the report shows how this crackdown is being manipulated. The Minister explained that it was found that Thiranan Vipuchanun had indeed only posted a translation to the Prachatai webboard. However, Khatha Pachachirayapong, “was found to have posted the ‘inauspicious’ content on many websites, and forwarded it to his stock-brokering friends, of whom at least two people had further forwarded the message.” Apparently the authorities are seeking to use the Computer Crimes Act against these people as well.

This approach to “getting” web sites considered anti-government (translated as “threats to national security”) is confirmed in a Bangkok Post story.

The government and the press is now using this term “inauspicious” to describe the rumors, as if claiming the king is dead is somehow a crime. If it wasn’t so serious and being used as repression, one might be tempted to laugh along with Not the Nation or with Monty Python.

The Abhisit Vejjajiva government is ever more repressive in the name of “national security.” Where does it stop? Where are the defenders of human rights? Why are they allowing the royalist government to get away with such blatant repression?

Political crimes, rumors, repression

3 11 2009

Also available as อาชญากรรมทางการเมือง ข่าวลือ และการกดขี่

The story on the Democrat Party-led government’s attempt to further crackdown on political activity through the opportunity created by the king’s health rumors is developing remarkably rapidly.

Bangkok Pundit has an excellent summary of the development of the arrests and asks about government strategy that draws conclusions similar to those of  PPT.

Meanwhile, The Nation (3 November 2009: “Use of Computer Act questioned”) has a special report that sees the use of the Computer Crimes Act against the two bailed suspects as an attack on political web-posting.

It cites Sarinee Achavanuntakul, a “committee of Thai Netizen Network (TNN)” who “insisted she was commenting in her personal capacity, not on behalf of TNN,” who said that “[i]Invoking the law was unwarranted and violated the freedom of speech…”.

Referring to Fa Diaw Kan and Prachatai, where the allegedly offending posts were made by Khatha Pachachirayapong and Thiranan Vipuchanun , the Nation report states: “Both websites are renowned for its constantly critical content to the monarchy institution – especially after the coup. The Nation has learned that both suspects, especially Thiranan, had been active posters for some time before the October incident.”

Chiranuch Premchaiporn, “the webmaster of Prachataiwebboard.com, said ‘bbb’ [Thiranan] was the regular poster since the Sep 19 Coup and most of her posts were the translation of English news on Thai politics.” Chiranuch added that “the police had never contacted her to ask for any information about the case and she did not delete the post.”

Thanapol Eawsakul, the editor of Fa Diaw Kan” said he didn’t acknowledge anything about the post as the smeskyboard.org had been separated from the journal. He added, “This is nonsense. How could the police prove that the posts were false information anyway as it said that there was a rumor that . . . , not the fact was . . .”. He added, “The government needed to find a scapegoat for this rumor thing…”.

PPT thinks Thanapol is being too generous to the government. We think the government is taking the oppostunity to increase its media repression.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the webmaster of Prachataiwebboard.com, said “bbb” was the regular poster since the Sep 19 Coup and most of her posts were the translation of English news on Thai politics.

Also on October 17, “bbb” also had a post containing many translation pieces of news from various foreign press agencies related to the rumors of the King’s health.

Chiranuch said the police had never contacted her to ask for any information about the case and she did not delete the post. However, as Prachataiwebbaord.com was under maintenance, the exact page of the post and information about webboard users were inaccessible.

Thanapol Eawsakul, the editor of the “Under the Same Sky” journal said he didn’t acknowledge anything about the post as the smeskyboard.org had been separated from the journal.

“This is nonsense. How could the police prove that the posts were false information anyway as it said that there was a rumor that . . . , not the fact was . . .”

“The government needed to find a scapegoat for this rumor thing,” Thanapol said.

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