Frank G. Anderson and Lese Majeste

18 03 2010

Frank G. Anderson, a journalist who writes for UPIAsia, has been summoned to appear at Phahonyothin police station in Bangkok, after being accused of criminal defamation by Lt. Col. Wattanasak Mungkitkarndee. He will be appearing this afternoon at 1 p.m., and in a recent article, invited supporters to come listen.

Read Anderson’s article here: “Thailand still threatening journalists with lese majeste”

Lese majeste and the “new” measures

20 01 2010

Frank G. Anderson at UPI (19 January 2010) writes about Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s new Advisory Committee on National Security Cases Involving the Monarchy.

The new head of this body, Kittipong Kittayarak, who is permanent secretary of the Ministry of Justice, is “perceived as having the objective of ensuring justice in the investigation and prosecution of the lèse majesté cases that have been plaguing the kingdom over the last few years.”

While some hope that the new committee will sort out the mess created by the government’s political use of lese majeste, Anderson points out that “Kittipong seems not to have been chosen for his compassion or his embarrassment over injustice meted out to the undeserving as much as for his status-quo leanings.”

Anderson observes that with “near-unanimous consensus [sic.] that the monarchy is to be regarded as sacred – and indeed this is enshrined in the national charter – it is not logical to expect that the new advisory council will proceed to free what are essentially political prisoners.” He adds that “it is unlikely that anyone will be released or that major changes in the judicial process will be enacted.” Anderson says that because Kittipong “has established a public record of supporting the 1997 Thai Constitution” that there is some hope.

For PPT, the problem is that many who supported the 1997 charter were equally pleased to see it trashed by the military-palace coup in 2006 and supported the writing of the military’s 2007 Constitution. Here think, as examples, Chirmsak Pinthong, Borwornsak Uwanno, and so on. Anderson thinks reform will be limited, preserving “traditional ‘sakdina’ values to preserve national security.”

PPT thinks that another factor at work is Abhisit’s duplicitous approach to controversial issues. His statements can’t be trusted and no one should be fooled into thinking that he has a “liberal” political streak. Each time he speaks in public, especially to foreigners, he presents his “liberal face”. However, when one looks at the actions of his government, it is anything but politically liberal, especially on censorship, lese majeste and the monarchy as a national security issue.

Just two examples of this two-faces approach is seen in reports today on the print media and controlling the internet.

The first story is in the Bangkok Post (20 January 2010), where it seems likely that the usual political double standards are at work as the “Culture Minister Teera Slukpetch, a Democrat, said yesterday that Wilawan Sapphansaen, the director of the NLO, reported the office had lodged a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division on Thursday against Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, publisher and editor of Thai Red News, for publishing and distributing the newspaper without registering it as required under Section 11 of the 2007 Publishing Registration Act.” The NLO is the usually quiet National Library Office that has now “filed a formal police complaint against the editor of Thai Red News weekly newspaper, accusing the owners of failing to register the pro-Thaksin publication.”

Somyos “said that the legal action against the newspaper was politically motivated…. The government just wants to silence the red shirt members…”. He added that there “are hundreds of magazines and newspapers which have violated the publishing act. If the government closes our paper, others have to be closed too…”.

PPT agrees with Somyos’s assessment; this is another politically motivated action that will be dressed up as “rule of [by] law.”

The second story is also in the Post and refers to the need for vastly increased technical capacity to deal with cybercrime.

What’s the first example (no prizes for a correct guess). Yes, alleged crimes against the monarchy: “Asanee Kawtrakul, Deputy Executive Director at the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (Nectec), said in the past year in Thailand, there have been many big cases related to computer crimes, especially the posting of false information about His Majesty the King’s health which caused damage to national security and alarmed the public, causing the stock market to plunge during trading at that time.”

What is worse is that the government is successfully recruiting research agencies and universities to its cyber-censoring mission: “Concerns over cyber crimes have led government agencies, research agencies and educational institutions to join hands in building digital forensic resources in Thailand, as well as boosting research and confidence in electronic transactions through strengthening cyber security.”

As we said a couple of days ago, Orwell is resurrected in Thailand. More importantly, there needs to be serious scrutiny of Abhisit as the two-faced presentation on these matters. He continually misleads and lies on these matters. Watch his actions and forget what he says.

The judicial system’s failures

27 11 2009

An article by Frank G. Anderson at UPI (27 November 2009: “Recurring amnesia in Thailand”) is a useful reminder of the failures of the judicial system in Thailand. As Frank points out, “The country’s judicial system, from law enforcement to the final appeals court, is rife with lack of protection against violations of human and civil rights.” He also observes that: “Almost all members of society are aware that the only way to avoid injustice is to stay away from any type of cause to begin with.” And, PPT would add, everyone knows that “justice” is a essentially a commodity, with a political or monetary price tag.

Readers might also be interested in Harrison George’s “Thai rights” at Prachatai (27 November 2009).

Essential stories

2 06 2009

PPT has been struggling to keep up with a range of important human rights issues in Thailand in recent days. Here we list some of the stories we are reading:

Tak Bai: The court’s ruling clearing all officials involved in the 85 deaths on October 25, 2004 resulting from a demonstration at Tak Bai police station is a travesty (see Prachatai, 29 May 2009: “Thai Court Clears security officials of misconduct in Tak Bai massacre”). Following the army’s suppression of protestors, detained protestors were thrashed with batons, kicked and punched and 85 demonstrators died is a travesty. Of these deaths, 78 occurred when protesters were piled into military trucks and driven away, dying from suffocation.

The failure of the courts in this case is emblematic of the failure of the Thai state to deliver justice, not just in the restive south but throughout the country. Thailand’s justice system is corrupted, bought, politicized and serves the interests of a conservative elite. And, don’t forget, it is illegal to criticize a court’s decision.

We have a separate post that reproduces Ji Ungpakorn’s assessment.

Clearing out red shirt sympathizers: Prachatai (1 June2009: “Writer forced to resign from Amarin Printing’s book award committee for supporting the reds”) reports on the case of award-winning writer Wat Wallayangkur who has been forced to resign from a committee at Amarin Printing for being sympathetic to the red shirts. PPT has also heard that Amarin Printing has refused to print books for a long-time client considered to publicize anything to do with and the red shirts.

Continuing censorship: FACT (31 May 2009: “Same Sky page blocked by MICT”) reports that censorship of the internet is continuing to target sites that are considered “political.” In this case the “offender” is the well-known Same Sky or ฟ้าเดียวกัน.

Recruiting spies for the government: Frank G. Anderson (UPI, 29 May 2009: “Citizen spies and new political ties”) has a column that, amongst other things, continues the story at PPT of a few days ago.

Anderson points out that “Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva became the first of 50,000 ‘volunteers’ in the country to spy on fellow citizens and turn them in to the police or army for acting or speaking in a manner considered to defame the monarchy.” He concludes his column with this observation: “With 50,000 volunteers eager to spy on their fellow citizens, with one arrest after another popping up around the country based on Nazi-era reports of unacceptable fellow citizen behavior, with fear growing around the nation among subjects of a kingdom struggling to represent itself as a democracy, but whose rights go only as far as police power – the image of Thailand returning to ‘normal’ is Piccaso-esque at best.”

Frank Anderson on lèse majesté

10 05 2009

Frank G. Anderson at UPI (8 May 2009: “Respecting the Thai king – and others too”) continues to point to the broader human rights issues associated with lèse majesté. He notes that, “Although many agencies and nongovernmental organizations have already been active in documenting individual human rights cases, two major failings have persisted.”

The first is that “there is little to no protection from continued human rights abuses up to and including kidnapping, political harassment and murder. Secondly, the process for “closure” is too prolonged, with cases generally going on for years before they are concluded, if ever. At the heart of this process is the very institution that protects the Thai monarchy, the Royal Thai Police.”

Referring to LM watch, which PPT posted on a few days ago, Anderson says that, “Finally someone has begun a detailed compilation of lèse majesté.” While PPT is supportive of every move to highlight these cases, this observation is not entirely accurate. LM watch does list more than 30 cases, but the majority of these are yet to include much information. As the site builds, it will become an invaluable resource.

At PPT, we now have information on 14 pending cases and 3 recently concluded cases. The police have said that there are currently 32 active cases. LM watch lists 33, but this includes some old cases, so not all of the current cases being investigated seem to be listed anywhere yet. PPT is keen to know of more cases, and if readers email us with details that can be verified by at least one published source, we will post the details (email us at:

Anderson points to the most recent case of Papatchanan Ching-in and notes: “The crux of the matter in Chingin’s case is whether the Thai courts will view parody and mimicry as legitimate methods of expression when combined with the king’s unique title. She will have a chance to find out, since two days after the coffin burning a group of Yellow Shirts and Thai military, upset with the demonstration, dropped by police headquarters and filed lèse majesté charges against her. Currently out on bail after using a relative’s government position as guarantee, Chingin has denied all charges and insisted that ‘I was not the first’ to use ‘his majesty’ to describe [Privy Council President] General Prem [Tinsulanond].”

Anderson concludes with comments on the Democrat Party-led government’s “public relations campaign, both locally and internationally, to help rectify its image and prevent further deterioration of its credibility.” He says that overseas, the government is disseminating its version of “the truth” about the country so that “foreign diplomats and commercial partners ‘understand’ Thailand’s situation. Internally, the state machinery, comprising the army and a special Protect the King committee, police, Privy Council, government, hard-line traditionalists and a few well-meaning but ineffectual democracy activists, are clamping down on ‘undesirable’ dissent and ‘potentially damaging’ media reports.”

Thailand’s civil war?

20 03 2009

In his UPI column, Frank G. Anderson (20 March 2009) asks “Is Thailand headed for civil war?” This is a good question. As Prime Minister Abhisit assures foreigners that Thailand is getting back to normal (see this  BBC interview), Anderson asks good questions about Thailand’s political future. He outlines a series of changes and challenges that face Thai society and concludes: “At the crux of the current Thai government’s efforts to quash free speech is the fear that offensive ideas may take hold, and if they do, the old way will have to give way.”

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