Still detained, law ignored

28 06 2017

Prachatai reports that what PPT calls the torture of lese majeste “suspects” continues unabated and is being applied to human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul.

For the sixth time, the Criminal Court has “refused to release a human rights lawyer facing up to 50 years in prison for royal defamation and sedition.” [Actually, as the report later states, he faces 171 years on lese majeste and sedition, but there’s a 50 year sentencing limit.]

On 26 June 2017, the Criminal Court in Bangkok renewed the pre-trial detention period for Prawet. He has now been held for two months, while the police “investigate.”

Of course, the aim is to wear down Prawet, forcing him to plead guilty.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) argued that “the case’s interrogation process is already complete.” It was also argued that “prolonging of the detention is against Article 29 of the 2017 Constitution, which in brief states that suspects of crimes have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

The error here is in thinking that any lese majeste case will be considered on the basis of law. As many cases have demonstrated, law is strikingly absent from these acts of political intimidation and repression.

As expected, the court ignored law and statements by the prosecution that the case was investigated and kept Prawet locked up.

Prawet was one of six people arrested by police and military officers on 29 April 2017. We have no further information on the other five.

All are accused of a variety of lese majeste, computer crimes and sedition offenses for “sharing a Facebook post about the missing 1932 revolution plaque by Somsak Jeamteerasakul…”.

The claim now heard is that “Prawet allegedly posted Facebook comments asserting that Thailand should become a republic.”

Thailand should be a republic.





Junta, YouTube conspire to repress 1932

24 06 2017

The military dictatorship seems to have convinced YouTube that four minutes of Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator with Thai subtitles, denouncing dictatorship and praising the people, unity and dem0cracy, is against the law in Thailand. The video of the movie’s closing speech  was reported as geo-blocked for Thailand.

The Dictator wanted it blocked because it showed a replica of himself and was attached to the memorialization of 1932.

Try this version:

This situation shows the stupidity and preciousness of the gang of thugs monopolizing power in Thailand. And, if the reports are accurate, as we predicted, it shows the gross stupidity and/or gross profit motivation of YouTube and other online outfits that agree to geo-block anything a that comes from any ruling gang with a court order.

As we said, writing of Facebook, Thailand’s military junta can order up anything it likes from its courts, all of them the junta’s tools.

That is Facebook’s [and YouTube’s] problem, and not just for Thailand. Many governments, just like Thailand’s junta, have little legal legitimacy and can get a court order as easily as a home delivery pizza. Thailand’s Dictator gorges and it seems YouTube cleans up for him.

This makes Facebook [and YouTube] a pawn in the hands of governments, both legitimate and illegitimate. They do the dictatorship’s work.

The full movie, without Thai subtitles, Chaplin’s Great Dictator is available in full.





Farming digital politics

15 06 2017

Many readers will have seen reports that a group described as Chinese were arrested with 474 mobile phones and 347,200 SIM cards.

The police grabbed the team in Sa Kaew and stated that this was a social media farm. The initial reports stated that the “three suspects confessed that they earned Bt100,000 [per month, presumably] for using the WeChat app to generate Internet traffic that could have misled vendors of Chinese products…”.

This scam was said to have not been used in Thailand. In any case, as one digital business “leader” explained, why would Thai businesses or other use these Chinese when “many Thais were also hired to click likes on certain posts in huge quantities but they got much lower fees than their Chinese counterparts.”

There were some oddities. One was that the photos showed most of the SIMs unused. Then it was said police found another farm with more than 100,000 SIM cards, although the “two Chinese men [who] had rented the place … left suddenly on Sunday night.”

Enter The Dictator. He “ordered police to extend their investigation … to determine if there was a hidden political or business agenda behind such crimes.” General Prayuth Chan-ocha “wanted police to find out whether people were using similar methods for political purposes, such as inciting the public or insulting the monarchy, in addition to commercial or other illegal activity…”.

One reason for this turned out to be that The Dictator is irked that all those people he hates – politicians – have millions of “likes” and “followers.” He particularly complained about Yingluck Shinawatra. But he was also thinking of those “nasties” he thinks are behind all the lese majeste he sees in every nook and cranny of the web.

Perhaps he should have asked how it was that some of these farmers were tipped off about the raid.

Perhaps he should have asked how these “illegal foreigners” could by up to half a million SIM cards from Thailand’s mobile network operators and other firms.

Perhaps he could have asked why it is claimed there “no Thai laws [that] can be used to prosecute them for manipulating social media, as they reportedly targeted only Chinese products.”

Perhaps he could have asked which officials are protecting the farmers and raking in the baht.





Mad at Facebook or just mad?

9 06 2017

Colonel Natee Sukonrat is the vice chairman of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission. We are not sure he’s all that bright, but that’s not uncommon when a military junta appoints based on loyalty rather than any skill, ability or capacity.

In a report at Bloomberg, it is reported that the dunces in the junta and at the Commission have decided that they will be able to “impose financial penalties on Facebook Inc. and other companies with video-sharing platforms if they fail to swiftly remove what they deem to be illegal content, including insults to the royal family.”

In fact, it mainly about the paranoia involving lese majeste in Vajiralongkorn’s Thailand.

The junta’s view is that it wants Facebook and others to remove lese majeste material “without waiting for a court order…”. Colonel Natee said “[d]etails will be released as early as this month, he said, and companies would have about a month to comply.”

Colonel Natee sniggered that he was going to do this by “touch[ing] the way you make money…”. Natee gloated: “I think they will cooperate because they make a lot of money from Thailand.”

Colonel Natee complained that “Facebook asked for the orders to be translated into English before they could comply with them — a process that can take weeks.” Really? Perhaps under the junta where they use dopes in the military as translators.

Colonel Natee declared that the “new framework would force broadcasters to comply with requests immediately and then petition the courts if they think the order was illegal…”. This twist on legal process – again, not unusual under a regime that is itself based on an illegal act – “would also compel them to have a senior manager in the country who is able to understand Thai…”.

It seems that the incapacity of the junta’s flunkies to translate or even find decent translators results in a twisted linguistic nationalism: “We will not talk in English to them…. They have to have someone to talk to us. When we give the order we will talk in Thai.”





Facebook and lese majeste

26 05 2017

As we predicted, it seems that the military dictatorship has been able to convince Facebook to block the remaining 131 sites/URLs/posts that the junta deemed as containing lese majeste content.

We say “seems” because the reporting in The Nation is poorly written.

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society claims it “has managed to have Facebook block 131 remaining posts deemed illegal under a sweeping court order since Tuesday.”

When there was much lambasting of the Ministry and junta for its failed “deadline” threat to Facebook, we posted (linked above):

Of course, the junta can order up anything it likes from its courts, all of them the junta’s tools. That is Facebook’s problem, and not just for Thailand. Many governments, just like Thailand’s junta, have little legal legitimacy and can get a court order as easily as a takeaway pizza.

This makes Facebook a pawn in the hands of governments, both legitimate and illegitimate.

We assume that the garbled report at The Nation is saying that the royalists courts dutifully provided the court orders and Facebook, acting as if an algorithm, complied.





The king’s laundry II

21 05 2017

Immediately after writing our last post and wandering off for a bowl of noodles, we saw the Bangkok Post’s front page story of the day. We delayed this new post a couple of hours, and assume that many readers will have already seen this story. That said, it is such a display of political madness that we simply have to post on it.

The story claims that the police believe they are going to be “clamping down on lese majeste offences by shifting their focus to viewers of illegal content even if they do not post or share it.”

According to Pol Lt Gen Thitirat Nongharnpitak, “lese majeste cases involve three groups of people: the producers of illegal content; the viewers who leave comments, share content or click Like; and those who read or view without interacting.”

It was only a few days ago that the cops agreed that merely clicking “like” did not necessarily constitute lese majeste. But following the Facebook debacle, it seems that the dragnet is being thrown much wider. So wide that whatever skerrick of legality remained with lese majeste cases will be completely erased.

The Central Investigation Bureau chief warned that “users of social media will be treading a narrow path as police plan to target viewers in the crackdown even if they do not interact with those illicit webpages.”

If they can’t get at those overseas producing anti-monarchy content, the police plan to threaten every Thai using Facebook.

The police threaten: “The third group simply follows and watches. They leave no comments. Police are acquiring tools to identify this group of viewers and investigate why they like watching [the content]…”.

Yes, the police are now claiming that they are going to be “investigating” psychological motives, online accidents and curiousness because “[w]atching lese majeste content may be deemed wrongdoing.”

Of course, this sounds legally ridiculous, but that is the nature of lese majeste under the military dictatorship seeking to launder the internet of material on the king that is considered officially unacceptable.

Law and logic are no part of lese majeste. It is a tool for extreme political repression and for getting rid of those the king no longer finds acceptable

Given that even the dopes at the CIB are not going to throw hundreds of thousands into jail – at least not yet – they say they will “warn them first.”

This seems unlikely. It is claimed for example that hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions have viewed recent material on the king that the military dictatorship wants to scrub and erase from the collective Thai mind. If they are to be “warning” them all, the police would have to forget murder, rape, drug trafficking, traffic problems and several other areas where they make money.

However, the police corrected their statement just a few words later, saying “not all viewers will be warned.” Who won’t be warned? Political opponents will be at the top of the list. But the police, presumably with training in clairvoyance, will “screen those who have the potential to commit offences.” They claim that this “procedure will be conducted on a case-by-case basis and information from an investigation will be taken into account.”

Burglars and bank robbers will be free to commit their crimes because, if this police horse manure was true, no cop will be available for any other work. They will all be the king’s internet slaves.

Again, what the military dictatorship is doing is creating a climate of fear. They do this by declaring that every Facebook user in Thailand a potential criminal.





The king’s laundry I

21 05 2017

Thailand’s military dictatorship is expanding its already frantic efforts to create a political landscape cleansed of anything that shows the real king as other than the “official king.” Like slaves and handmaidens of centuries past, the junta is busy laundering the king’s image and cleaning up his own messes.

The laundered image is the often grim, sometimes seemingly bemused man in business suit and more often a military uniform, trailed by a daughter or officials appropriately bowed or slithering.

The only concession to a more real view is that the junta’s version does allow for the now most senior consort to be regularly seen.

His earlier and third wife, Srirasmi, had been thrown into house arrest and her family jailed in late 2015 as the then prince prepared for his reign.

The new, apparently official, number one consort is also often in the military uniform of a general. She was promoted by the king to this position. Her only “qualification” is that she is the king’s consort.

The image the junta launderers don’t want seen is that of the king trailing around his beloved Munich, dressed like fashion moron, sporting mail-order tattoo transfers and accompanied by another of his girlfriends, a legion of servants and a fluffy dog.

PPT doesn’t think fashion is a necessary qualification for being king. After all, that has to do with blood. Yet his “style” says something about the man. His desire to keep this side of his life from his Thai audience is also telling. (We do not believe that the military junta would be so frantic about these images if it wasn’t being pushed by a king known to be erratic, wilful and menacing.)

The seemingly demented efforts a week ago to threaten Facebook may not have been entirely successful, but they are again revealing. The Economist reflects on these bizarre and dangerous efforts to repress for the king:

Thailand has always treated its royals with exaggerated respect, periodically clapping people deemed to have insulted the king behind bars. But some thought the death of the long-reigning King Bhumibol in October and the accession of the less revered Vajiralongkorn might curb the monarchists’ excesses. Instead, it seems to have spurred them on. The military junta that runs the country is enforcing the draconian and anachronistic lèse-majesté law with greater relish than its predecessors.

We are not sure who could have thought that a new king, often secretive and with a reputation for vindictiveness, might have eased up.

Indeed, this king has a long history of lese majeste cases in his name. One of the first cases we wrote about at PPT was of Harry Nicolaides, an Australian who wrote a forgettable novel that included these lines:

From King Rama to the Crown Prince, the nobility was renowned for their romantic entanglements and intrigues. The Crown Prince had many wives “major and minor “with a coterie of concubines for entertainment. One of his recent wives was exiled with her entire family, including a son they conceived together, for an undisclosed indiscretion. He subsequently remarried with another woman and fathered another child. It was rumoured that if the prince fell in love with one of his minor wives and she betrayed him, she and her family would disappear with their name, familial lineage and all vestiges of their existence expunged forever.

Harry was probably writing of second wife, Yuvadhida, but the words could also be applied to the treatment  of Srirasmi.

Those words must have enraged somebody. They earned Harry a sentence of six years  in jail on 19 January 2009 (reduced to three years on pleading guilty). This for defaming the then crown prince now king.

If not in Thailand, where it is illegal, read Nicolaides’ novel here. Note that this scanned version of the book bears the stamp of the National Library of Thailand but should not be downloaded in Thailand.

The Economist continues:

At least 105 people have been detained or are serving prison sentences for lèse-majesté, compared with just five under the elected government the junta overthrew in 2014. Many of them posted critical comments about the royal family on social media; some simply shared or “liked” such comments. Other arrests have been on even pettier grounds. Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, a student activist, is on trial for sharing a profile of King Vajiralongkorn published by the BBC’s Thai service. Police have warned that those agitating for his release could themselves face charges. A well-known academic, Sulak Sivaraksa, remains under investigation for several instances of lèse-majesté, including questioning whether a 16th-century battle involving a Thai king really took place.

As we have said, this number of lese majeste cases is too low. Quoting the low number allows the prince-now-king too much latitude. The lese majeste arrests and charges have been swelled by various palace purges by Prince, now King, Vajiralongkorn. Lese majeste has been widely used against those he dislikes. Give him the “credit” he deserves and for this nastiness and vindictiveness.

The Economist mentions the (almost) latest set of six cases (we will post separately on another set of cases):

This month security forces arrested Prawet Prapanukul, a human-rights lawyer best known for defending lèse-majesté suspects. He risks a record 150 years in jail if convicted of all ten counts of lèse-majesté he faces. Several recent sentences for insulting royals have exceeded 50 years; the standard for murder is 15-20 years.

All of this is followed by a banal claim by the newspaper: “Thai kings have a long history of fostering democratic reform…”. There is simply no adequate historical evidence for such a claim. It is a royalist fabrication based on notions of Thai-style democracy that is “democracy with the king as head of state,” exactly what the current junta is promoting: no democracy at all.

That Vajiralongkorn is going to be ruthless and anti-democratic should not be a surprise to anyone. He comes from a long line of anti-democratic kings who have protected privilege by working with the military. The only threat to the continuing of this monarch-military dictators alliance is if the junta gets so ticked off with the king that it decides to do away with him. That possibility seems somewhat remote.

The more likely outcome for the short to medium term is more censorship and ever more maniacal efforts to police the king’s image and wash his dirty laundry.