AI Thailand on political prisoners

11 08 2022

Amnesty International Thailand has delivered a petition of 4,701 Thai citizens “to call for the release, dismissed the allegations and restored bail rights to activists who are being held in custody pending trial. As well as, to demand that Thailand’s government uphold its commitments to international human rights standards, including the right to bail, freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.”

The petition “was delivered to Mr. Somsak Thepsuthin, the Minister of Justice, by Mr. Wallop Nakbua, the Deputy Permanent Secretary for Justice, who also served as the Minister of Justice’s representative…”.

AI’s news release states:

Piyanut Kotsan, Director of Amnesty International Thailand said that according to the Amnesty International Secretariat in London, United Kingdom has launched an urgent operation inviting members, activists, and supporters to send a letter to Mr. Somsak Thepsuthin, the Minister of Justice, demanded the release of the activists and the withdrawal of all accusations. Additionally, they urged Thai authorities to adhere to their commitments under international human rights law, which mandate that they should protect citizens’ rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly and minimize detention pending review. This campaign was in effect until August 9th.

Since 2 June 2022, two women have been on hunger strike calling for their right to bail. They have been detained since 3 May 2022. Authorities have started criminal proceedings against them and one other, who is on bail under house arrest, for conducting street polls. The Thai government is required by international human rights commitments to effectively protect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and to minimize pretrial detention. All allegations against the three must be dismissed, and they must be released right away.

Thai authorities have carried out a wide-ranging crackdown on peaceful protest and online discussion since overwhelmingly peaceful pro-democracy reform protests started in July 2020. Officials are using vaguely worded provisions of laws – on security, the monarchy and computer crimes – as instruments of repression and are interpreting the peaceful exercise of rights as a threat to security or public order, or offence to the monarchy, and subsequently file criminal proceedings against activists which may result in up to life imprisonment.

The Director of Amnesty International Thailand also announced that over the course of more than a month through Amnesty International has campaigned to compile names under urgent action that are campaigning around the world. Calling for the release of two protest activists who have been on hunger strike including Bung, Netiporn Sanesangkhom and Bai Por, Nutthanit Duangmusit who demand their rights to bail. Both were detained on May 3, 2022 and released on August 4, 2022. Despite being given bail, authorities have launched criminal prosecutions against the two. However, as a result of the 64-day hunger strike has resulted in health ramifications for the body, which now requires hospitalization to recover. While Tawan, Thantawan Tuatulanon, who had previously been granted bail, is being sentenced to home detention for 24 hours after conducting street polls.

Clipped from AI Thailand

Since May 3, 2022, Netiporn and Nutthanit have been detained, with their requests for bail repeatedly denied. They have been on hunger strike since 2 June 2022 in protest of their detention. After going on a 36-day hunger strike in detention after authorities revoked her initial/earlier bail on 20 April 2022, Tantawan is currently on bail under house arrest

Prominent protesters have also faced months of arbitrary pre-trial detention, often compromising their rights to education and access to a livelihood. They are currently subject to increasingly restrictive bail conditions which stringently limit their human rights to freedom of movement, expression and peaceful assembly, including requirements to stay within their places of residence for up to 24 hours daily, unless for medical treatment, and wear electronic monitoring bracelets 24 hours a day.

During 2022, Thai authorities have filed criminal proceedings against protesters in connection with their public peaceful activism. Officials continue to increase their judicial harassment of people engaging in acts of perceived public dissent, including children, and are escalating measures to stifle public expressions of opinion and peaceful protest and are imposing excessive restrictions on people’s right to peaceful protest and expression.

Amnesty International has the following requests for the Thai government in this regard:

    • Immediately release and/or withdraw charges and excessive bail conditions against people targeted for peaceful exercise of their rights and drop all criminal proceedings against them;

    • Pending the release of people targeted for peaceful exercise of their rights, ensure they have adequate access to medical treatment;

    • Instruct officials to uphold Thailand’s international human rights obligations, including on the right to bail, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.





Be careful what you wear and don’t sing

30 07 2022

A campaign targeting the monarch on his birthday is a big deal. And that’s just what a group of political activists started when they asked supporters to wear black on Thursday, Vajiralongkorn’s birthday.

According to The Nation, their “messages contain the hashtag #28กคแต่งดําทั้งแผ่นดิน, which means “wearing black throughout the land on July 28”. It was among the top hashtags trending in Thailand, with over 200,000 tweets.

It also reports that “[s]mall groups of black-clad demonstrators gathered at certain locations in Bangkok and Chiang Mai on Thursday.” One of the photos we saw on social media suggested that the crowd in Bangkok was actually quite large.

Royalists, including regime leaders, were stunned. Minor prince and mad monarchist MC Julajerm Yukol, “said that the campaign to wear black on the King’s birthday was like ‘stomping on the hearts of Thais throughout the Kingdom’.”

The police sprang into action, with a “meeting chaired by the Police Chief on 26 July called on police around the country to monitor a movement to wear black on 28 July…”. The top cops decided that wearing black was “improper.” Police “were ordered to be cautious and monitor public activities. In cases of legal violations, police were also told to take a suspect’s outfit colour into consideration.”

The linked article goes into some of the recent history of colored clothing.

Perhaps more threatening to the status quo than colored clothing is singing. The Economist has a paywalled story worth reprinting in full about singer “Pyra … driven out by Thailand’s conservatism:. Here’s the story:

A Thai pop star uses her music to critique her homeland

Known for her “dystopian pop”, Pyra has been driven out by Thailand’s conservatism

Jul 28th 2022 | BANGKOK

The video is captioned “UGLY TRUTH ABOUT THAILAND”. Peeralada Sukawat—better known by her stage name, Pyra—looks into the camera and rolls her eyes. “Bangkok babies in Mercedes,” she raps over looping drums and a synth beat. “Rich gets richer, poor gets poorer,/Inequality’s a bitch, this place is gettin’ shittier.” Unable to perform during lockdown, the musician took to TikTok to release short clips in which she criticised her country’s inequities and what she called the “dictatorship regime”:

Where tax is spent on submarines,
People dying in the street,
Health care is not a priority.

Pyra didn’t think anyone “would care about my sarcastic videos”. She was wrong: they were watched and shared by hundreds of thousands. In their comments on the clips, many viewers expressed similar feelings of disillusionment with Thailand or with other countries’ governments.

But abuse flooded in, too, not just on TikTok but on all Pyra’s accounts. She feared she had been designated a threat to national security by Thai officials, and that the online barbs were the work of government-paid trolls. In any case, the conservatism of Thai society had become too much for her. Wary of further retribution, she announced in March that she had moved to London. “U can’t be the best version of yourself living in an environment that you’re tryin’ to outgrow,” she wrote.

The singer has earned plaudits for her unique brand of “dystopian pop” and idiosyncratic fashion sense, as well as for her determination to expose Thailand’s ills. In January NME, a British music website, chose Pyra as its Best Solo Act from Asia. Forbes recently selected her as one of its emerging Asian entertainers under 30.

Ironically, her first hit was a nationalist song—a hymn to Thai mothers on which she was chosen to sing at the age of nine. That precocious success instilled a passion for music, and she taught herself music production as a teenager. While studying at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Pyra became interested in politics and the media and, she says, developed a sense of righteous anger. “When I realised that everything is tied to politics, it became about me living in an oppressed society. I started to develop a sense of how to stand up for myself and other people.”

Her music became an outlet for this discontent. Her first adult single, “Stay”, a brooding hip-hop song, was independently released in 2016. Two years later came “White Lotus”, a single blending lyrics about mental health and Taoist and Buddhist philosophy with hip-hop, pop, dance beats and traditional Thai instruments. After a tour of Asia and a gig at Burning Man festival in Nevada, Pyra had a recording stint with Warner Music Thailand.

In collaboration with Sean Hamilton, a Grammy-nominated producer, she released “Bangkok” in 2020. Though she has called the song a tribute to the “political activists who have fought bravely and sacrificed so much for the cause of freedom and democracy”, the lyrics are deliberately oblique. At that point, she was still “careful not to produce material that would eliminate me straight away”.

She had good reason to be cautious, as Thailand’s government has often sought to silence critics. For instance, Rap Against Dictatorship, a hip-hop collective, attracted the ire of the authorities with tracks such as “Prathet Ku Mee” (“What My Country Has Got”), which lambasted corruption and the stifling of free speech. In 2020 Dechathorn Bamrungmuang, one of the group’s members, was arrested and charged with sedition after appearing at a pro-democracy protest.

He was released; but a report compiled by a clutch of NGOs suggests his phone may have been infected by spyware. (This month Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, the minister of digital economy and society, seemed to admit that the government has used spyware to monitor some individuals, though he later backtracked.) A Thai court recently banned Rap Against Dictatorship’s latest song because it criticises the monarchy. More drastically still, Faiyen, a folk band, fled abroad in 2014 after speaking out against Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws, an act that can itself incur a prison term. The musicians have since been granted asylum in France.

“We don’t have the laws to support creative freedom. Anybody can accuse us of criminal defamation,” says Pailin Wedel, a Thai-American journalist and film-maker. “When we can’t make stories about reality, it really limits us.” Natapanu Nopakun, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, insists that the government is “very supportive of Thai arts and culture in any form and any kind of content”. At the same time, “there is a line, everything has a line.”

Pyra understood the risks, from both official and freelance sources, when releasing her denunciations on TikTok. “They come for you when you’re specific about things,” she notes. Yet coded language or allusiveness wouldn’t have resonated with youngsters on the social-media platform, she suggests. “To make a TikTok clip go viral, the approach is the opposite of making music [and] art. You need to be direct.”

Now safely ensconced in Britain, she says she can focus on bringing her creative ideas to fruition. “I can finally breathe. I have stopped feeling heavy political oppression.” Her adopted country is by no means a paradise: her latest videos on TikTok condemn its immigration policy and poke fun at its crisis of leadership. But a weight has lifted: “Here in the UK, everyone dresses as they like, everyone is free to express themselves, and no one questions me. I feel I belong here.”





Silencing the media II

17 01 2022

If any confirmation of the regime’s efforts to silence any media that it doesn’t like or trust was needed, it is now provided.

Thai Enquirer reports that the regimes bullyboys have “raided the homes of multiple reporters, accusing them of being involved in the ongoing anti-government protests…”. Three “journalists who were targeted have been covering the political unrest since July, 2020, when anti-government demonstrations broke out.”

Observers believe the “raids were conducted under a new decree signed on July 29, drafted to allegedly stop the spread of ‘fake news,’ and information that incites fear or causes instability to the state.”

Sirote. Clipped from Thai Enquirer

This is another state effort “to muzzle free press and infringe their rights, effectively blocking their ability to publish.”

Voice TV’s Sirote Klampaiboon regularly reported from the rallies and demonstrations. His home was raided. He released a leaked document which had his name on a regime watch list.

Sirote revealed that he has been previously charged with participating in a rally when he was doing his job as a reporter. And, he stated this “is not the first time police raided his home,” and pointed out that this “police intimidation has created an atmosphere of fear for his family.”

The state deliberately targets aged parents of those it wishes to silence.

As pointed out by Pravit Rojanaphruk, the media is is serious danger in Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime.





Arbitrary detention of Panusaya

20 11 2021

From the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH):

Thailand: Arbitrary detention of Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul
Urgent Appeal
Human Rights Defenders
THA 004 / 1121 / OBS 120
Arbitrary detention / Judicial harassment
Thailand
November 18, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, aka Rung, a student and prominent pro-democracy activist with the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) [1].

On November 15, 2021, the Bangkok South Criminal Court denied bail to Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and ordered her detention in relation to charges under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”) [2] . These charges stem from her participation in a peaceful protest by a small group of activists who called for the repeal of Article 112 on December 20, 2020, at Siam Paragon shopping mall in Bangkok. Authorities accused Ms. Panusaya and the other activists of mocking King Rama X by wearing a crop top. [3]

The Bangkok South Criminal Court justified its decision to deny bail to Ms. Panusaya by arguing that the defendant had committed similar offenses and violated the conditions previously set by the Bangkok Criminal Court for her temporary release on May 6, 2021 [see below]. Ms. Panusaya is currently facing at least nine lèse-majesté charges, and could face 135 years in prison, if tried and found guilty in all cases. Ms. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul is currently detained at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul is arbitrarily detained for her legitimate human rights activities. On October 15, 2020, Ms. Panusaya was arrested and detained for 16 days after reading a 10-point manifesto calling for monarchy reform at a pro-democracy protest on August 10, 2020, at Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus in Pathumthani Province.

Ms. Panusaya was again detained from March 8 to May 6, 2021, in relation to another lèse-majesté case filed against her for calling for the reform of the Thai monarchy during a peaceful pro-democracy protest on September 19-20, 2020, in Bangkok. During that period of detention she was denied bail numerous times until she was granted temporary release by the Bangkok Criminal Court.

The Observatory underlines that the ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Panusaya and other human rights defenders in Thailand contradicted recent statements and commitments made by the Thai government. During the latest Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Thailand, which took place on November 10, 2021, the Thai government claimed that “human rights defenders have been highlighted as a specific group that needs appropriate protection” and that it “worked to create better understanding about the important role of human rights defenders.” The government accepted five recommendations that called for measures to guarantee civil society space, the protection of human rights defenders, and investigations into acts of harassment and attacks against them.

The Observatory also notes that between November 24, 2020, and November 16, 2021, 156 people, including many human rights defenders, were charged under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. In addition to Ms. Panusaya, five other human rights defenders – Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa and Benja Apan- are currently detained on lèse-majesté charges pending trial.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Benja Apan, Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa,which seem to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities and the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.

The Observatory calls on the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the six human rights defenders and to put an end to the judicial harassment against them and all other human rights defenders in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and all human rights defenders in Thailand, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Benja Apan, Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa,since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Benja Apan, Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa, and all other human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists in the country;

iv. Guarantee in all circumstances the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

v. Refrain from using Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists and amend all provisions of the Criminal Code used to repress fundamental rights and freedoms, and bring them into line with international human rights standards.

Addresses:

· Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Email: spmwebsite@thaigov.go.th
· Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Email: minister@mfa.go.th
· Mr. Somsak Thepsutin, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Email: complainingcenter@moj.go.th
· General Narongpan Jitkaewthae, Commander in Chief of the Army, Email: webadmin@rta.mi.th
· Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, Commissioner-General of the Police, Email: info@royalthaipolice.go.th
· Ms. Pornprapai Ganjanarinte, National Human Rights Commissioner of Thailand, Email: help@nhrc.or.th, info@nhrc.co.th
· H.E. Mr. Sek Wannamethee, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: thaimission.GVA@mfa.mail.go.th
· Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Email: thaibxl@thaiembassy.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Thailand in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, November 18, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

Footnotes
[1] The United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) is a student pro-democracy group from Bangkok’s Thammasat University, which was formed amid the wave of nationwide student-led pro-democracy demonstrations that began in Thailand in February 2020. Since then, UFTD has played a key role in organising pro-democracy protests and continued to make open criticism of the monarchy and calls for the reform of the institution.
[2] Article 112 of the Criminal Code imposes jail terms for those who defame, insult, or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent. Persons found guilty of violating Article 112 face prison terms of three to 15 years for each count.
[3] In July 2016, photos were circulated online of then-Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn appearing to wear a crop top in a shopping mall in Germany.





Pushing back against absolutism I

14 11 2021

Student councils across the country have rejected the Constitutional Court’s ruling that pro-democracy leaders aimed to overthrow the system of government. Their joint statement said:

The 23 student organisations disagree with the court’s ruling. We insist that the 10-point manifesto for reforms of Thailand’s monarchy will help the monarchy remain in Thailand graciously under the democratic regime. Proposals for the reform of the royal institution [monarchy] will also help free it from criticism that would otherwise tarnish it.

Contrary to the kangaroo court’s statements, the students insisted that “protesters were exercising their right to freedom of expression and demonstration, which is protected by the Constitution.”

Pointedly, the statement observed: “The protesters never had any intention of overthrowing the government like the coups d’etat in the past…”.

A Bangkok Post editorial observed that the Constitutional Court’s decisions are politicized:

It’s undeniable that such a verdict, which has intensified sentiments against the court, has raised fears about what comes next as both royalists and factions in the opposite political spectrum roll up their sleeves as divisiveness grows.

Interestingly, that editorial turns on Article 112 and challenges royalist interpretations and cheering about the court’s ultra-royalist decision:

The court verdict should by all means not derail a motion to amend Section 112 or lese majeste before parliament that is being pushed by the Move Forward Party.

The highlight of the party’s proposal is the removal of the infamous law from the chapter of national security to a new chapter on the King’s honour, which if effective, will see the penalties significantly reduced.

The court verdict, stringent as it is, should not hamper the right to freedom of expression, as mentioned in the constitution.

As change is unavoidable, it’s necessary all involved parties realise the need for mechanisms that allow healthy and constructive debates over the amendment of Section 112 and also reform of the monarchy.

Like it or not, all, including the royalists, must realise the lese majeste law in its original form, not bare-handed activists, is a threat to the revered [sic] institution.

Of course, royalists, the current palace (albeit mostly based in Germany), and the military-backed regime all know that their political dominance demands political repression based on monarchy.

Actions demanding political and monarchy reform are indeed likely to continue. As ever, these activists test the waters of repression before plunging in.

Immediately after the court’s ridiculous decision, someone hacked that court’s website, labeling it a kangaroo court. The site was quickly taken down, and the last time we looked, was still offline. Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn “said that the Court outsourced its website maintenance to a private company, which may not have set up adequate security measures, allowing outsiders to obtain the site username and password.” He added that “the authorities know who is behind the incident…”. Another account by the minister was less sure: “We believe the hacking was done to discredit the court and had been planned in advance…. The investigators are checking on the IP addresses of those who logged into the system during that period.” They soon arrested a man in Ubol who they alleged was responsible.

Immediately after the court’s decision, small rallies and actions began.

Protesters gathered in front of the Criminal Court under the name “Ratsadon” on Friday to “push their demands for reform of Thailand’s monarchy” and to demand the release of protesters held in custody without bail. They “read a statement in English, in an attempt to communicate with the international community. It highlighted their desire to reform the royal institution’s budget allocation, to allow criticism of the monarchy and to reform the country’s controversial lèse majesté legislation.”

Meanwhile, on “11 November, 4 people were arrested for attaching a ‘Reform does not equal overthrow’ sign and a ‘Repeal 112’ sign to the shop door of Sirivannavari Siam Paragon.” This is a pointed linking of royal wealth and privilege to the Constitutional Court’s absurd ruling and a rejection of the base use of taxpayer funds for subsidies to royal businesses.

Another rally begins shortly in central Bangkok.





Never ending “emergency”

30 10 2021

On Friday, “[s]tudent activists Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Seksit Yaemsanguansak filed a lawsuit with the Civil Court … against the Prime Minister and the military commander-in-chief to repeal emergency decree order 15 on the grounds that the ban on public gatherings unlawfully limits people’s rights and freedoms.”

The petitioners rightly state that “the ban, which was ostensibly imposed to prohibit unnecessary gatherings that risk the spread of disease during the pandemic, has been used instead to limit freedom of expression and assembly.”

Hundreds have been charged.

Panusaya observed that:

while the Emergency Decree has been repeatedly used to end pro-democracy protests, pro-establishment groups have been allowed to hold their gatherings without interference from the authorities. She noted that although pro-democracy protesters have always been peaceful, their protests have been blocked by means such as razor wire and shipping containers, which are not listed as part of the legal protocol.

“The country is reopening in three days. Why are you still prohibiting us from gathering? If you reopen the country, there will be gatherings all over the country. People will come out to live their lives normally, so we think that there is no reason to continue banning gatherings,” Panusaya said.

The activists petitioned the court to “impose a temporary injunction suspending the ban ahead of the protest this Sunday, 31 October, at the Ratchaprasong Intersection.” The court, however, quickly dismissed the request “on the ground that the 31 October protest still risk spreading disease and the order is still needed to prevent the spread of Covid-19…”. Nothing else could really be expected of the regime’s courts.

At about the same time, in the Royal Gazette, the regime “issued a fresh order banning rallies and activities deemed at risk of spreading Covid-19 across the country ahead of the kingdom’s upcoming reopening to international travellers.” The order takes effect on Monday and “was issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree and signed by Gen Chalermpol Srisawat, chief of defence forces, in his capacity as the person responsible for solving security emergencies.”

Tourism trumps freedom of expression.

We at PPT have lost track of how long the regime has been operating with emergency powers, but it seems that it has been pretty much since it seized power in 2014. Since then, the country has been defined as in a state of emergency so that the regime can bolster its position and repress political activists.





Trampling remaining freedoms IV

10 08 2021

PPT is late getting to this story and we thank a reader for bringing it to our attention.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International issued a statement about the regime’s police issuing fines to “an Amnesty International staff member, along with three speakers and a panel moderator, for taking part in a panel discussion on 4 July focusing on the enforced disappearances of Thai activists, including Wanchalearm Satsaksit…”.

The police managed to conjure charges “under the Road Traffic Act and the Act on the Maintenance of Cleanliness and Order,” and under the Control Act B.E. 2493 for the use of an amplified speaker to advertise the event. The police issued “an administrative fine in response to their involvement at an in-person panel discussion on 4 July…”.

The other four who were fined were “a panel moderator and three other panelist speakers: a protestor, an 18-year-old student, and a lawyer who was friends with an individual who was forcibly disappeared.”

As Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra put it:

Our member of staff was simply doing her job to raise awareness in Thailand of international human rights law. The Thai authorities should not be fining her, the organizers or other panelists for simply speaking about the Thai authorities’ human rights obligations and the long history of enforced disappearances in this region….

Human rights defenders play a crucial role in protecting freedoms within society. To intimidate and fine them represents a threat not only to these activists but to anyone seeking to bravely defend the rights of others.

Amnesty International argues that the fines are a part of “ongoing efforts by the Thai authorities to silence criticism and repress freedom of expression.” It added: “The Thai authorities must stop issuing fines to people for peacefully exercising their human rights, and stop using the pandemic as an excuse to ramp up their repression.”





Trampling remaining freedoms I

30 07 2021

Earlier this month, six of the country’s media associations called upon the regime to reconsider the new media measures, worried that they would be use “to censor media coverage and infringe on the public’s freedom of expression.”

Those demands were not just ignored, but Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, as premier, has instructed “relevant authorities to strictly enforce the new measures against the media, influencers and social media figures, among others.” As a result, the associations concluded:

1. The Prime Minister’s insistence on enforcing the new measures, along with the recent attempts by his government to intimidate and take legal action against members of the public who simply exercise their constitutional rights to criticize the administration during the Covid-19 pandemic, clearly reveal an intent to crack down on the freedom of expression enjoyed by the media and the public.

2. The government’s assertion that the new measures are necessary to tackle what it terms “fake news” shows its refusal to acknowledge the administration’s failure in its communications with the public….

3. We call upon all professionals in the media and news agencies to stand in unison and oppose the government’s new measures. We also urge the media establishment to take utmost care to ensure that their news coverage is accurate and compliant with the highest journalistic standards — in order to deny the government any excuse to interfere with media operations, which will in turn affect the public’s right to information.

The regime’s response is to “double … down in its campaign against so-called ‘fake news’, shrugging off complaints by Thai media organisations…”. Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakmanusorn said “the anti-fake news committee has set up a special working group to combat misinformation on social media via administrative, tax and social measures.”

Essentially, the regime has “barred media from disseminating [so-called] fake or distorted news and news that could stir fear regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, effective from today (Friday), with a threat of censorship if violations are made.”

Gen Prayuth has “signed the restriction order, which was published in the Royal Gazette yesterday. According to the order, the media are banned from publishing and broadcasting information that incites fear or with intent to twist the information and cause confusion, which may affect national security and stability.” In other words, the regime has given itself the power to ban all reporting and social media commentary it does not like.

Like the dark days under military dictatorships of previous decades, the regime is deliberately vague in its definitions so as to instill fear:

Fears for journalists and news organizations are real and the consequences of the new decree can be existential. News organizations must now navigate—not only a vaguely worded definition of what is considered fake news—but a hostile regulatory environment where an array of agencies could be actively targeting them in a bid to silence legitimate critique of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thai journalists, who often work long hours for low pay, could be swayed by the possibility of a lengthy prison term and a substantial fine. Self-censorship among journalists … is likely to increase.

Most worrisome for news editors is the second guessing that might accompany editorial decision-making on pandemic-related news or information that is critical of the government. A severe consequence is that the government clearly wants to silence and penalize any news organization or journalist that publishes information that runs contrary to the government’s sensibilities—even if the information has been verified and deemed wholly accurate.

The regime’s “new decree doesn’t differentiate between the truth and fake news…”.

Cod Satrusayang states that this is “the move of a desperate government that has lost much of its legitimacy and all of its trust with the people that it has failed.” He continues:

This is Prayut now, defeated but still defiant (or perhaps oblivious) to the truth. We should not expect any better because this was a government that seized power through a military coup. It is run by military men – incapable of any governance that relies on consent and not conscription. This latest move shows the Thai military is not one of strength but subjugation.

We, the media and the people, can and must resist this latest proclamation.

The decree, he says, is Orwellian. Sadly, it is far worse than that. A desperate regime appears willing to do everything it can to stay in power, trampling freedoms and again standing on the bodies of the innocent dead.





HRW on Thailand’s human rights decline

16 01 2021

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

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

The full report on Thailand begins:

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

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

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





Floating on air

3 01 2021

Tanee Sangrat is a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and, in a now familiar defense of the indefensible, recently wrote to the South China Morning Post. He decided/was ordered to do this in response to critical reporting of demonstrations.

The letter has a measured tone, hitting the right notes, but full of distortions and fabrications. We won’t go through them all. but we will comment on the position taken on the monarch.

After babbling about the regime “respecting” freedom of expression, the monarchy comes in when Tanee says this is limited “to ensure that the exercise of such rights does not infringe upon the rights, safety or dignity of others.” Of course, those final words are code for censorship of discussion of the monarchy, which has now led to some 40 lese majeste charges.

How high?

Referring to the “demands of the protesters” as “political by nature,” the usual buffalo manure is dumped: “It would be wrong to involve the monarchy, which is above politics.”

And it gets piled higher:

The monarchy does possess moral authority built on mutual trust and respect between the institution and the people. This moral authority is so deeply recognised and revered that some political factions have tried to take advantage of it for their own gains. This must be avoided.

In other words, the monarchy cannot be discussed because it is somehow cultural, floating in some rarefied air, rather than a significant power in Thailand’s political economy.

This kind of disingenuous response to critical commentary is deadly, boringly familiar. It does suggest that not much has changed for the regime or for the palace.








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