(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.





Amnesty International on systematic and arbitrary restrictions on human rights

24 02 2018

Amnesty International has released its annual report on the state of the world’s human rights. It’s a 400 page PDF that makes for grim reading.

The report had a launch in Thailand and there are reports at Khaosod and The Nation.

Amnesty International Thailand Director Piyanut Kotsan is quoted in The Nation saying:

“The situation of human rights violation in Thailand under the administration of the Prime Minister and head of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the military junta] is still considered very poor, as the junta still exercises the absolute power of Article 44 of the interim Charter to stop any political activists exercising freedom of expression…”.

“Many citizens are still being held in unofficial custody, civilians are still being prosecuted in the military court, and freedom of expression and gatherings in public are limited by the use of NCPO order 3/2558, which bans the gathering of more than five persons for political protest.”

Khaosod quotes Antima Saengchai, deputy director of Amnesty Thailand:

Despite having declared human rights a national priority, the military government still prosecutes activists, practices extrajudicial killings, allows torture of people in custody, deports asylum-seekers and suppresses online freedoms….

“Despite promises, there has been no process on passing laws to prohibit human rights violations such as torture and enforced disappearances…”.

On lese majeste in 2017, the report states:

Authorities continued to vigorously prosecute cases under Article 112 of the Penal Code – lèse-majesté provision – which penalized criticism of the monarchy. Individuals were charged or prosecuted under Article 112 during the year, including some alleged to have offended past monarchs. Trials for lèse-majesté were held behind closed doors. In June, the Bangkok Military Court sentenced a man to a record 35 years’ imprisonment − halved from 70 years after he pleaded guilty − for a series of Facebook posts allegedly concerning the monarchy. In August, student activist and human rights defender Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa was sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment after being convicted in a case concerning his sharing a BBC profile of Thailand’s King on Facebook. Authorities brought lèse-majesté charges against a prominent academic for comments he made about a battle fought by a 16th century Thai king.

The latter case was dropped a few weeks ago. We are surprised AI didn’t mention the lese majeste cases brought against juveniles.

On the still unresolved case of the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyaphum Pasae the report states:

In March, Chaiyaphum Pasae, a 17-year-old Indigenous Lahu youth activist, was shot dead at a checkpoint staffed by soldiers and anti-narcotics officers, who claimed to have acted in self-defence. By the end of the year, an official investigation into his death had made little progress; the authorities failed to produce CCTV footage from cameras known to have been present at the time of the incident.

This seems a case of impunity for soldiers. Another, mentioned in  the report under the heading “Impunity” states:

In August, the Supreme Court dismissed murder charges against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban. The charges related to the deaths of at least 90 people in 2010 during clashes between [red shirt] protesters and security forces.

It might have also noted that Gen Anupong Paojinda, who was then army commander and is now Interior minister also got off. And, current prime minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha commanded troops who conducted some of these murders.

The report on Thailand is only a couple of pages long and should be read.





Junta gets a slap

27 01 2018

The activists on the “We Walk” march have been handed an important if  temporary victory by the Administrative Court.

It has ruled that they may “continue their peaceful campaign without interference from the police” as they walk to Khon Kaen.

The Court on “issued a court order to the Royal Thai Police to facilitate members of People GO Network to carry on their long march…”.

The court order states that “police should refrain from conducting any operation against the exercise of freedom of expression by the activists until the end of the march on February 17.”

To be frank, this is not unexpected given the coalition of activists and intellectuals involved. At the same time, the military junta is highly embarrassed.





The Dictator’s “human rights”

27 01 2018

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs thinks it can “refute” Human Rights Watch report on the dire situation of human rights under the military junta.

Junta toadies at the Ministry declare that the HRW report “generally contains sweeping and ungrounded allegations as well as politically biased accusations. Like last year’s report, the narrative missed the prevailing facts on the ground and intentionally ignored progresses, positive developments and efforts undertaken by the Thai Government.” They mean the military dictatorship.

The Ministry seems particularly miffed that HRW has not accepted junta propaganda:

In fact, since last year, the Foreign Ministry has set up a regular channel to interact with a number of civil society organizations, including HRW in Thailand. At the meetings, representatives from National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) as well as agencies concerned participated and sincerely exchanged views and information. Regrettably, information provided at those meetings which can readily clarify many points raised in the report have not found its way to HRW writers who may sit elsewhere across the world drafting the report, ignoring once again positive developments on the ground. Worse, in reality, it is more often than not disregarded.

The idea the Ministry toadies are purveying is that HRW doesn’t understand Thailand because it is not “on the ground” and its writers “sit elsewhere.” This is nonsense, but the minions are promoting Thai-ism.

And it is a Thai-ism that is promoted as a form of human rights. Presumably only Thais of the appropriate political color will recognize Thai-style human rights in a developing Thai-style democracy.

Then the Ministry propagandists provide instances of the military dictatorship’s promotion of human rights:

The new Constitution of 2017, which passed national referendum at 61% approval rate in August 2016, reaffirms Thailand’s human rights commitment by underlining the principles of equal rights and protection under the law, non-discrimination, prohibition of torture, and freedom of religious beliefs, among others. It also upholds the rule of law, stipulates the administration of justice and the provision of legal assistance to ensure better access to justice for all.

Need we say that the referendum was neither free nor fair? Should we point out that the regime banned any campaigning against the referendum? Should we add that some people are still in court and charged with offenses meted out to them for even reporting and observing opposition to the junta’s constitution? Is it necessary to point out that “on the ground”there is discrimination, torture by police and military and that the rule of law is a hastily cobbled together sham and joke underpinned by double standards? Is it necessary to observe that freedom of expression and assembly are highly and bluntly repressed?

The Ministry is right that cases previously before the “Military Court have all been transferred under the Judicial Court of Justice, if committed on or after 12 September 2016.” But that last phrase is important as military courts continue to hear cases from before that date. Military courts are often held in secret and are a travesty of justice.

The Ministry claims that:

… under the instruction of the Prime Minister, the Committee to Receive Complaints and Investigate Allegations of Torture and Enforced Disappearance was established in June 2017 with the mandates to receive complaints, perform fact finding, provide assistance and remedies, and protect the rights of people affected by acts of torture or enforced disappearance.

But it just doesn’t happen.The military repeatedly rounds up individuals and spirits them away. Even if this is only for a few days, it is a practice that reeks of despotism.

Worse than enforced disappearance is extrajudicial murder. The sad case of Chaiyapoom Pasae is just one where the military, involved in the murder, conceals evidence. We probably don’t need to mention the many cases of military recruits and serving junior soldiers being beaten, tortured and killed. For the military and the junta, such things are “normal.”

The toadies then talk about the “enactment of the National Human Rights Commission Act.” The NHRC is dismissed by most observers as a now meaningless institution.

We could go on and on, but let’s just observe that the junta and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs actually condone human rights abuses and that their record is deplorable. For an accurate account of the junta’s human rights abuses in 2017, supported with numerous examples, read the HRW report.





Support for We Walk

25 01 2018

It is good news that The Nation reports that 144 “organisations have released a joint statement demanding that authorities stop exercising their absolute power to intimidate ‘We Walk’ marchers.”

This was something of a response to the issue of “arrest warrants against eight prominent members of the demonstration movement on allegations of gathering more than five persons for staging a political protest, which is banned by the National Council for Peace and Order [the military junta].”

The statement issued on Tuesday denounces “the oppression of the campaigners of the long march for protecting citizens’ rights and demanding that the authorities respect freedom of expression.” Part of the statement said that the 144 organizations “commonly view that this march is the rightful exercising of freedom of expression, which is protected by the current Constitution and does not affect national stability, but it will disturb legislation and policy planning of NCPO to benefit some capitalists, so we support this campaign, as it alerts the public to this problem…”. The junta is lambasted as “unjust.” It also called for a “return full democracy to Thai society.”

That would require the trashing of the junta’s constitution (that the organizations appear to accept) and a a review and necessary revision of related laws that the junta has enacted through decree and its puppet assemblies.





Naughty Democrat Party and rubber rats

18 11 2017

The military regime has has warned the Democrat Party to behave itself.

The dictatorship considers that its (former?) political allies has been using “the plight of rubber planters, who are facing hard times given falling prices of the commodity, for political gain.”

Government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd warned against “lambasting” the regime, and declared the “Democrat Party could have helped by giving useful advice on how to help rubber farmers.”

The farmers are from the Democrat Party’s stronghold in the south, and the Party has complained about the regime’s failure “to shore up rubber prices, and for violating freedom of expression by summoning leaders of a rubber farmer network for ‘attitude adjustment’ at military camps last weekend” when the farm leaders threatened a demonstration.

The junta’s spokesman lied when he “insisted the government [he means junta] has never barred people from expressing opinions or voicing proposals about the issue.” He said those detained faced “no threats or abuses…”. They were simply detained for “re-education.”

It prevented “a large group of rubber farmers from travelling from the southern provinces to Bangkok…”.

He was absolutely truthful when he stated: “No rallies or gatherings should be carried out…”.

The Democrat Party is usually supportive of the military regime, but fearing a military political party and needing to shore up its political base, “deputy spokeswoman Mallika Boonmeetrakul said that summoning leaders to military camps was not the right approach.”

She declared the junta ineffective “in dealing with crop prices. It should stop sweeping the rubbish under the carpet because it is not constructive to do so…”.

Former Democrat MP Watchara Petthong said the junta’s “penchant to summon critics for attitude adjustment in military camps was a threat to people’s rights and freedom of expression.” Of course, when it is red shirts or anti-coup activists he tends to ignore the repression. We call that double standards.





Updated: Challenging arbitrary lese majeste

25 10 2017

Prachatai reports that the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded that lese majeste victims Sasiwimon S. and Tiensutham or Yai Daengduad are detained arbitrarily.

The UN has concluded that the detention and sentencing of the two was done arbitrarily. Each received sentences that amount to decades in jail.

In other words, “the detention of the two was against the international conventions in which Thailand is a state party of such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Some time ago the same U.N. body also “concluded that the detention of four lèse majesté convicts were arbitrary. The four are: Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Pornthip Munkong, Patiwat Saraiyaem, Phongsak S.”

The military dictatorship will more or less ignore this U.N. declaration as the use of the lese majeste law is critical for its suppression of opponents of the junta and the monarchy.

When it does reply to the U.N. it lies. Last time, in June 2017, the junta lied that “the state protects and values freedom of expressions as it is the foundation of democratic society…”. This is buffalo manure and no one anywhere believes it.

The regime added that freedom and democracy were only possible when they do not impact “social order and harmony.” Like fascist and authoritarian governments everywhere, they mean that freedom and democracy are not permitted in Thailand.

The regime also claims that lese majeste “is necessary to protect the … [m]onarchy as the monarchy is one of the main pillars of Thai society…”.

That’s why the regime sent Sasiwimol, a 31-year-old single mother of two to 56 years in jail for allegedly posting seven Facebook messages considered lese majeste. How she threatened to undermine the monarchy is unclear.

Yai Daengduad, who is 60 years old was sentenced to 50 years in a junta prison for lese majeste.

Neither could appeal as they were dragged before one of the dictatorship’s military courts.

Meanwhile, Khaosod reports that the iconoclastic former lese majeste convict, Akechai Hongkangwarn has been confronted by a squad of uniformed military thugs for saying that he’d wear red for the dead king’s funeral. The thugs demanded he “choose between spending a few days at what they described as a resort in Kanchanaburi province or a military base at an unspecified location…”.

Of course, in royalist and neo-feudal Thailand, saying one would refuse to wear black is considered unacceptable. Akechai has been subject to a barrage of threats and hate mail and posts declaring him “unThai.”

Akechai “said it was not about disrespecting the [dead] king but exercising his rights.”

Royalists cannot accept that anyone has rights when it comes to the monarchy; there are only (enforced) duties.

They have encouraged attacks on Akechai and his house.

This is royalist Thailand.

Update: An AP report states that Akechai has been arrested: “A lawyer for Ekachai Hongkangwan said soldiers arrested Ekachai at his Bangkok home on Tuesday morning and indicated they would detain him outside the city, in Kanchanaburi province.”