Updated: Junta-style business (as usual) IV

24 04 2020

Two more reports show that despite the junta/post-junta regime is conducting (political) business as usual.

Amnesty International has issued a report – They Are Always Watching – denouncing the regime’s continuing persecution of “social media users who criticize the government and monarchy…”. It says this is “a systematic campaign to crush dissent which is being exacerbated by new COVID-19 restrictions…”.

The military-backed authorities have”increased the use of vague or overly broad laws to bring criminal charges against dozens of peaceful critics since being elected [sic.] last year.” It refers to a “climate of fear designed to silence…”, with “[m]any of those targeted for their online posts are currently awaiting trial and could face up to five years in prison and heavy fines.”

The restrictions that follow from the regime’s declaration of emergency powers have further limited freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Of course, all of this is a continuation and deepening of political repression that came with the 2014 military coup. Thailand is now coming up to sixth year of military repression.

The report provides numerous examples of the most recent efforts by the military, police and regime to silence dissent.

Noting the “pause” in the use of lese majeste – an effort by the king to bolster his damaged reputation –  critics of the monarchy now face the Computer Crimes Act and sedition charges.

Business as usual for the junta/post-junta regime.

Adding to the weight of evidence for decline, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom Index shows how Thailand’s ranking has declined further. Thailand now ranks 140th of 180 countries, ranked below Myanmar, and having fallen four places in the global ranking. Being in the press basement puts Thailand in some very dubious company.

RSF states:

… the long-promised elections held in March 2019 made no difference to the total control wielded by the elite surrounding Gen. Prayuth [Chan-ocha], who is now prime minister, defence minister and chief of the Royal Thai Police.

Any criticism of the government is liable to lead to harsh reprisals facilitated by draconian legislation and a justice system that follows orders.

Business as usual for the junta/post-junta regime.

Update: For the junta/post-junta’s view, read the letter to the New York Times by an official. It essentially takes The Dictator’s line that “life trumps liberty.” Thailand’s officials are becoming increasingly combative with the international media – except on the king, where there’s a stunning and incriminating silence. Perhaps they are being advised by the Chinese and  Singaporean regimes.





Erase the junta’s “law”

29 04 2019

Prachatai recently reported on an important intervention by the International Commission of Jurists, seeking to “the repeal or amendment of Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and NCPO orders and announcements in line with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations.”

While this approach to the Council of State is likely to be ignored, it is responding to Ministry of Foreign Affairs advice that the Council of the State “had been tasked to review the necessity and relevance of announcements, orders, and acts of the NCPO and of the Head of the NCPO (HNCPO) in February 2019.” That review is responding to “Thailand’s declaration to the UN Human Rights Committee in its Follow-Up to the Concluding Observations of the Committee, submitted on 18 July and published on 10 August 2018.”

To read the ICJ’s recommendations, download its 15-page document. Importantly, it urges:

… that Thailand immediately end the use of special powers, including those enshrined under Article 44 of the 2014 interim Constitution, and retained through Article 265 of the 2017 Constitution.

And, it goes on to list the junta’s contraventions of the country’s international obligations: military involvement in civilian law enforcement, arbitrary detention and arrest, lack of judicial oversight for detainees, the inability to legally challenge detention, the use of military courts, the restriction of peaceful assembly, restrictions on the media, and the infringement of community and environmental rights.





Academics in court III

25 12 2018

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights report that the court in Chiang Mai has dismissed the ludicrous case against five academics, students and others who attended the International Conference on Thai Studies.

That’s good news.

The court’s dismissal stated that The Dictator’s recent Order No. 22/2561 meant that the charges brought against the five no longer constitutes an offense.

At the same time, the Court declared that the prosecution of similar cases executed under junta Announcements and Orders were not affected by this decision.

We at PPT are not lawyers or legal experts, but this court’s decision strikes us as bizarre. Its “reasoning” is entirely opaque. How this particular case can be declared to no longer exist because of Order No. 22/2561, why does this legal logic not apply to other, similar cases? If anyone knows, be in touch with us.

At present, we can only think that the decision by the court is a way to avoid an embarrassing case around the time of an “election.”





Begging the junta to do the right thing

9 12 2018

Begging the junta to do the right thing might seem about as useful as talking to a brick wall, especially when it has almost no track record on human rights or basic humanity. Think of the lying that still goes on about the 2010 massacre perpetrated by the Army.

Even so, a couple of human rights protectors have stepped up.

The first is the very honorable National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit. She’s about the only person on the NHRC who ever does anything much about human rights. The rest of the NHRC makes up a part of the junta’s brick wall.

She has requested that junta “respect international standards and refrain from extraditing a former national team footballer to stand trial in Bahrain.” This refers to Hakeem Al-Araibi’s detention in Bangkok. He’s been detained for 13 days now, despite being recognized and registered as a refugee by the UN and Australia.

Angkhana said she wanted to see Hakeem “treated fairly because he has refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Due to his status, he should be protected under international law.” She added that the junta’s government “does not have to extradite him.”

As we know, however, such international norms are ignored by the junta. In any case, the “Attorney-General’s office on Friday submitted an extradition request to the Criminal Court on Bahrain’s behalf as the Gulf state has an outstanding arrest warrant for him.” He goes before one of the junta’s courts on Tuesday, and FIFA, the UN and human rights groups all have their fingers crossed that the junta may do the right thing (for a change).

Usually meek before the junta, the Australian government’s Foreign Minister has finally demanded that “Thailand release … Hakeem al-Araibi from detention and return him to Australia, setting the stage for a diplomatic clash.” In some media in Thailand this was crippled by the use of “urge” rather than “demand.”

The second instance of begging the junta to do the right thing is like spitting into the wind.

Amnesty International, noting that the military thugs have only said they will lift some restrictions, it has “issued a call for the “junta to end all restrictions on human rights before the next election tentatively scheduled for February 24.” It emphasized that the junta “must fully lift the arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association…”.

Looking to the elections, AI stated that the junta:

… allow people to receive and distribute information online and from the media, engage in public debate and campaigns, gather peacefully and demonstrate, criticise politicians and express diverse or dissenting viewpoints without fear of imprisonment or persecution.

And AI went further:

The authorities should also send a clear signal of their commitment to uphold these rights by dropping charges – and repealing convictions – of all individuals targeted solely for peacefully exercising their rights….

The junta is as unlikely to accept such “radical” proposals as it would admit its murderous role in 2010 when it shot dozens of demonstrators.





Planning massive electoral fraud

3 11 2018

In a bizarre defense of lese majeste and the military dictatorship, Foreign Minister and junta slitherer Don Pramudwinai has not only defended the feudal lese majeste law, but rejected the idea that the junta’s rigged election could be observed by foreigners.

We have posted a couple of times that the junta seems willing to engaged not just in election rigging but perhaps to engage in old-fashioned election theft, including ballot box stuffing.

Don’s rejection of foreign election observers as “inauspicious” seems to us to confirm the junta’s willingness for massive election cheating.

The foreign minister bleated that having such independent observers would be an affront to Thailand’s “dignity.” He means the junta’s “face.” He then went further.

Claiming independent election observers are unnecessary, Don stated that Thailand “is not a problematic country…”. While the junta seized power through an illegal coup, Don defended this claiming what we term Thai-style authoritarianism:

The current government came from a coup but is different from other coups in the world, because we don’t forbid or remove rights excessively to the point where it affects the majority….

In other words, a regime that has railed against the “majoritarianism” of electoral politics now defends repression of political “minorities.”

Don then claimed that “elections” are an “internal affair” and said he favored “local observers…”. We know that the regime has already “trained” and indoctrinated thousands of “local observers” who will work for the military regime.

The foreign minister went on and on in defending his military superiors, defending their laws that ban on political assembly. He then got caught in his own deceptions and lies, saying that such restrictions were not restrictions: “there had been no restrictions in expressing views over the past four years.”

The only conclusion to be drawn from such maniacal contradictions is that the military junta is considering massive electoral fraud.





Commentary on the junta’s rigged election I

19 10 2018

There have been several recent articles on the junta’s rigged election. We will look at some of these in this and further posts.

PPT kind of liked a piece at Deutsche Welle that begins with a statement of fact that has been neglected by other media: “Thailand’s military government says it wants to hold elections early next year, after the generals cemented their control over the state and its institutions.”

Academic Wolfram Schaffar says there’s “growing discontent even among sections that have been traditionally close to the military” over its repeated failure to keep its promises on elections and to stick in power.

We are not convinced that the 2014 military coup was “met with widespread approval,” or that the DW characterization of the period prior to the coup is accurate.

It is on stronger ground when quoting Schaffar as saying that the “military took over not to repair democracy, but to stay in power indefinitely…”, or at least to ensure that no real electoral democracy emerged.

It notes the rigging of the rules via an anti-democratic constitution, approved in a rigged referendum where “all sorts of restrictions were imposed, including barring any public discussion over the constitution as well as curtailing the freedom of expression, assembly and the press.”

The resulting rules mean “a weakening of the Thai parliament and strengthened the hand of the prime minister.” Schaffar says the “military is now closely intertwined with the country’s political bodies and institutions…”.

He correctly observes that the “next elections will not be free and fair.”

DW also notes that the “military stands above everything and will likely retain its dominant position…”. It also notes the unfairness of the current regime that campaigns for elections while banning its opponents from organizing and campaigning.

Free election? No. Fair election? No.





HRW on The Dictator’s European holiday

18 06 2018

Reproduced in full from Human Rights Watch:

UK Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron should press Thailand’s junta leader to respect human rights and ensure a rapid transition to democratic civilian rule, Human Rights Watch said today. Prime Minister Gen. Prayut[h] Chan-ocha is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister May on June 20, 2018, in London and President Macron on June 25 in Paris.

“Prime Minister May and President Macron should strongly express their deep concerns about the deteriorating state of human rights under military rule in Thailand,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “They should make clear to General Prayut that there will be no return to business as usual until Thailand holds free and fair elections, establishes a democratic civilian government, and improves respect for human rights.”

The UK and France are among major allies of Thailand that have repeatedly stated that bilateral relations will only be normalized when democracy is fully restored through free and fair elections.

Thailand has made no progress toward becoming the rights-respecting, democratic government that General Prayut promised as the country enters its fourth year after the May 2014 coup. As chairman of Thailand’s ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), General Prayut wields power unhindered by administrative, legislative, or judicial oversight or accountability, including for human rights violations. NCPO Orders 3/2015 and 13/2016 provide military authorities with powers to secretly detain people for up to seven days without charge and to interrogate suspects without giving them access to legal counsel, or providing safeguards against mistreatment.

General Prayut’s much touted “road map” on human rights and the return to democratic civilian rule has become meaningless. The junta’s promised election date continues to slide, making the timing wholly uncertain, and it has provided few reasons to believe that an election, if held, will be free and fair. Unless the junta lifts its severe restrictions on fundamental freedoms, Thailand’s political parties, media, and voters will not be able to participate in a genuinely democratic process.

The junta has routinely enforced censorship and blocked public discussions about the state of human rights and democracy in Thailand. Hundreds of activists and dissidents have been prosecuted on criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) for the peaceful expression of their views. Public gatherings of more than five people and pro-democracy activities are prohibited.

More than 100 pro-democracy activists have recently faced illegal assembly charges, some of whom have also been accused of sedition, for peacefully demanding that the junta should hold its promised election without further delay and that it should immediately lift all restrictions on fundamental freedoms. Over the past four years, the military has summoned thousands of people to have their political attitudes “adjusted” and pressured to stop criticizing the junta.

Trying civilians in military courts, which lack independence and do not comply with fair trial standards, remains a major problem. In response to criticism, General Prayut in September 2016 revoked NCPO orders that empowered military courts to try civilians. But the order is not retroactive so it does not affect the more than 1,800 military court cases already brought against civilians, many of them pro-democracy activists, politicians, lawyers, and human rights defenders.

The junta has disregarded Thailand’s obligation to ensure that all human rights defenders and organizations can carry out their work in a safe and enabling environment. Government agencies have frequently retaliated against individuals who report allegations of abuses by filing criminal charges, including for criminal defamation.

Prime Minister May and President Macron should recognize that the UK and France stand to benefit far more from a partnership with a country that respects human rights and rule of law. They should urge the Thai government to urgently:

– End the use of abusive and unaccountable powers under sections 44 and 48 of the 2014 interim constitution;

– End restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly;

– Lift the ban on political activities;

– Release all dissidents and critics detained for peaceful criticism of the junta;

– Drop sedition charges and other criminal lawsuits related to peaceful opposition to military rule;

– Transfer all civilian cases from military courts to civilian courts that meet fair trial standards; and

– Ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders to work, including by dropping criminal lawsuits against them.

“Business deals should not come at the expense of serious discussions on human rights and the junta’s tightening grip on power,” Adams said. “The UK and French governments need to press the junta to end repression so that Thailand can move toward democratic civilian rule.”





Beware talk of a “third hand”

20 05 2018

Just over a week ago PPT posted about several dire warnings made by the likes of National Security Council chief Gen Wanlop Rugsanaoh who publicly worried that pro-election campaigners would resort to violence. That was about a rally on 22 May.

We at PPT wondered and worried about this warning. None of the many small protests by those involved in the anti-junta campaign had ever resulted in violence. Mostly they led to arrests and charges by the authorities acting to protect the military junta and The Dictator.

We wondered why the general made such a statement. Was he thinking of a “third hand”? As we said after an ISOC “warning,” along the same lines, ISOC has, in the past, often provided the “third hands.”

As another set of small rallies is held and looms, a Bangkok Post report states that police “have begun implementing stringent security measures to deter attempts to smuggle weapons into Bangkok ahead of the planned march by anti-regime groups on Tuesday…”.

In making such claims, even the usual blather about “intelligence reports” is missing. The police simply appear to be concocting plots. But to what end? Again, we worry about the “third hand” provided by the state. We have seen it too many times in the past.

This time it is Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul who talks of the need to “deter any attempts by a third party to stir up unrest during the demonstration…”.

The police general said “several hundred police officers are set to be deployed on Tuesday” when a 4-year anniversary of the 2014 coup rolls around.

For good measure, “Pol Gen Srivara has threatened legal action against the protesters if they march to Government House.”

In this context of threat, we are pleased to note that groups identifying themselves as civil society organizations have come together to launch today a “Public Assembly Observation and Documentation for Human Rights” monitoring coalition that will “monitor and document what happens at a public assembly using a human rights based approach.” Its operation are said to have begun on 19 May. Piyanut Kotsan, a spokesperson for the Public Assembly Observation and Documentation for Human Rights, explained:

the network has been banded together with an aim to streamline and justify the roles of observers making their roles distinct from those participating in a public assembly. They are there simply to document the realities utilizing human rights indicators and to practice their skills in observing a public assembly professionally.

The Network is likely to risk criticism by the junta and its thugs, used to impunity in their actions.





Updated: A sorry story of military repression

24 04 2018

We all know that Thailand is under the military boot. The US State Department’s 2017 human rights report is now out and chronicles some aspects of the natur of military repression. We summarize and quote some parts of the report below. A general statement worth considering is this:

In addition to limitations on civil liberties imposed by the NCPO, the other most significant human rights issues included: excessive use of force by government security forces, including harassing or abusing criminal suspects, detainees, and prisoners; arbitrary arrests and detention by government authorities; abuses by government security forces confronting the continuing ethnic Malay-Muslim insurgency in the southernmost provinces…; corruption; sexual exploitation of children; and trafficking in persons.

As the report notes:

Numerous NCPO decrees limiting civil liberties, including restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and the press, remained in effect during the year. NCPO Order No. 3/2015, which replaced martial law in March 2015, grants the military government sweeping power to curb “acts deemed harmful to national peace and stability.”

The military junta continues to detain civilians in military prisons. Some prisoners are still shackled in heavy chains.

Impunity and torture are mentioned several times as a major issue. This is important when it is noted that the number of “suspects” killed by authorities doubled in 2017.

Approximately 2,000 persons have been summoned, arrested and detained by the regime, including academics, journalists, politicians and activists. There are also “numerous reports of security forces harassing citizens who publicly criticized the military government.” Frighteningly,

NCPO Order 13/2016, issued in March 2016, grants military officers with the rank of lieutenant and higher power to summon, arrest, and detain suspects; conduct searches; seize assets; suspend financial transactions; and ban suspects from traveling abroad in cases related to 27 criminal offenses, including extortion, human trafficking, robbery, forgery, fraud, defamation, gambling, prostitution, and firearms violation. The order also grants criminal, administrative, civil, and disciplinary immunity to military officials executing police authority in “good faith.”

Too often detainees are prevented from having legal representation and are refused bail.

The use of military courts continues:

In a 2014 order, the NCPO redirected prosecutions for offenses against the monarchy, insurrection, sedition, weapons offenses, and violation of its orders from civilian criminal courts to military courts. In September 2016 the NCPO ordered an end to the practice, directing that offenses committed by civilians after that date would no longer be subject to military court jurisdiction. According to the Judge Advocate General’s Office, military courts initiated 1,886 cases involving at least 2,408 civilian defendants since the May 2014 coup, most commonly for violations of Article 112 (lese majeste); failure to comply with an NCPO order; and violations of the law controlling firearms, ammunition, and explosives. As of October approximately 369 civilian cases involving up to 450 individual defendants remained pending before military courts.

On lese majeste, the reports cites the Department of Corrections that says “there were 135 persons detained or imprisoned…”.

Censorship by the junta is extensive, with the regime having “restricted content deemed critical of or threatening to it [national security and the monarchy], and media widely practiced self-censorship.” It is added that the junta “continued to restrict or disrupt access to the internet and routinely censored online content. There were reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.” In dealing with opponents and silencing them, the junta has used sedition charges.

Restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression are extensive against those it deems political activists. This repression extends to the arts and academy:

The NCPO intervened to disrupt academic discussions on college campuses, intimidated scholars, and arrested student leaders critical of the coup. Universities also practiced self-censorship…. In June [2017] soldiers removed artwork from two Bangkok galleries exhibiting work depicting the 2010 military crackdown on protesters, which authorities deemed a threat to public order and national reconciliation.

It is a sorry story.

Update: The Bangkok Post has a timely editorial on torture in Thailand. Usually it is the police and military accused and guilty. This time it is the Corrections Department, which runs almost all of Thailand’s prisons. All these officials are cut from the same cloth.





(Still) not free

13 04 2018

Freedom House produces a yearly report on media and political freedom in the world. The ranking and definitions have some issues, but for Thailand it has been a reasonable assessment of where the country sits on these scores and which countries rank about the same as Thailand.

In the latest ranking, Thailand is considered “Not Free.” No surprise there as the country has had a similar standing since the 2014 military coup. Thailand’s dismal performance since 2001 is listed in the following table:

Year

Political Rights

Civil Liberties
2018               6             5
2015               6             5
2012               4             4
2007               7             4
2005               2             3
2001               2             3

The report for 2018 is summarized in the following clip from the Freedom House website:

As bad as this score and decline are, the ruling elite prefers it when Thais are not free.