Harder repression

18 01 2021

While the big protests are on hold, guerrilla-style actions have continued. Over the past few days, it has become clear that the regime is taking advantage of virus restrictions to take a hard line against protesters.

The reporting on this include stories on an action at the Victory Monument “organised for protesters to write their opinions on a long fabric banner about Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s failures in handling crisis situations, as well as urging the abolition of lese majeste law, also known as Article 112, as symbolised by the 112-metre long banner.” The police surrounded protesters and quite violently arrested two leaders “of the pro-democracy group Guard Plod Aek … on Saturday afternoon…”.

Those arrested were “taken to Phya Thai Police Station and charged with violating the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations and the Communicable Disease Act, before being sent to Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Pathum Thani province.” Other participants were aggressively dispersed by the police.

Demonstrators also gathered near the Samyan Mitrtown complex on Saturday evening. There were reportedly “about 10 anti-establishment protesters were rallying on the ground floor of Sam Yan Mitrtown, opposite Chamchuri Square, to demand the release of their colleagues, being held at the Region 1 Border Patrol Police Bureau … for various offences related to [the earlier] protests…”. They were targeted by unknown assailants who lobbed an ping-pong bomb that injured two – a citizen and a reporter – or four people – “anti-riot police officers and a reporter were slightly injured” – depending on the report read. A later report seemed more definitive stating that those injured were “two policemen, a reporter for The Standard online news site, and another civilian…”.

Prachatai reports a third “flash mob” at the Ministry of Education, and states that at least eight people were arrested at the two sites, for demonstrating, not bombing. It also reports on the aggressive policing, stating that the small demonstration at Samyan was met by “several hundred crowd control police arrived at the scene and took control of Sam Yan intersection. The police also brought in many detention trucks.”

Police later stated that the explosive “device was similar to the type used on November 25th in front of The Avenue Ratchayothin, following a rally by the Ratsadon protesters…”. They reportedly found “nails, wire and black electrical tape at the scene of the explosion.” Prachatai claims that the police have “detained 4 suspects, 2 men and 2 women…”.  iLaw reported “that their phones were seized and they were not informed where they would be taken.” It is unclear who these people are.

Prachatai refers to a change in police tactics:

The overwhelming police reaction involving the deployment of large numbers of officers, aggressive engagement, and the speedy arrest and despatch of suspects to Pathum Thani for interrogation is a shift in their modus operandi against pro-democracy activities.

This response was seen at the shrimp-selling activity staged by the WeVo group on 31 December, 2020, where around 500 police aggressively dispersed and arrested people who were trying to help struggling shrimp farmers sell shrimps.

No law currently allows the police to transfer arrestees for interrogation to the facility of their choosing. The severe state of emergency, which did enable them to do so, was withdrawn in October 2020. The Criminal Procedure Code authorizes police to detain and interrogate people only at the police station responsible for the area where the alleged offence occurred.

The regime is lawless and operates with total impunity.





With a major update: Another night, more protests

18 11 2020

As parliament convened to discuss charter amendment, first a small gang of conservative yellow shirts rallied and then a very large pro-democracy protest converged on parliament.

Before getting to the rallies, a comment on Parliament President and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai’s daft comment on charter change and parliament. He declared that “protesters from the two opposing sides in the political conflict to leave the politicians alone so they can get on with their job.” He said: “Don’t pressure them into voting one way or another…. Better to just let them vote independently.”

Chuan seems to misunderstand parliamentary democracy, where protesters regularly seek to influence parliamentarians. More revealing of a dull mind is the notion that this parliament can be “independent.” This is a parliament where the Senate was appointed by the junta and that, with the help of the judiciary and Election Commission, the junta rigged the parliament. There is strikingly little independence.

In any case, the regime is opposing constitutional change. Neo-fascist royalist and deputy leader of the Palang Pracharath Party, Paiboon Nititawan, “has urged fellow MPs who want to protect the Monarchy to reject the draft constitutional amendment proposed by … iLaw …, claiming that it is unconstitutional because the organization accepts foreign funding.”

Without being too flippant, we guess that Paiboon’s “logic” would mean that many of Thailand’s government of agencies “unconstitutional.” That would include the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Public Health, but we digress….

The day of rallies began with Warong Dechgitvigrom, leader of the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee group, arriving to present a letter to the president of the unelected, royalist, pro-regime Senate to oppose any changes to the current constitution.

Interesting, The Nation’s “timeline” on the protests (plural) does not say much about the yellow shirts. It doesn’t mention that the yellow shirts were welcomed at the parliament, but does note that “only three groups had been granted permission to protest: “the ultraroyalist Thai Phakdee, People Political groups, and a monarchy protection group.” The Nation does briefly mention yellow-shirted mobs attacking pro-democracy protesters. These attacks came from within the parliament precinct supposedly closed off by police.

The pro-democracy protesters were met with police barricades and repeated splashings of water and tear gas.

Clipped from Prachatai

Legislators began leaving the parliament by boats as government supporters and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed at nearby Kiak Kai intersection in Bangkok on Tuesday evening.

When the yellow shirted mob threw bricks, rocks and other things at pro-democracy protesters, at a police barricade at the Kiak Kai intersection, some of the latter responded. Police did not intervene. But, the yellow shirts melted away, as if supported by the authorities.

Meanwhile, legislators “began leaving the parliament by boats as government supporters and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed…”.

The pro-democracy protesters eventually made it to the plaza in front of parliament, made lots of speeches, urging change and withdrew about 9pm.

The Bangkok Post initially reported that 18 were injured, only one a policeman. Thai PBS later reported “[a]t least 34 people were injured…”.

Pro-democracy protesters called for a return to Rajaprasong today.

Update: Several reports have emerged regarding the protest at parliament. In out view, the most important is in a Bangkok Post report: “Six people were wounded by gunshots during the clashes.” Then there is this, in another Bangkok Post report:

A pro-monarchy supporter caught with a pistol and ammunition at the rally site in Kiak Kai area, near parliament, on Tuesday night told police he carried the firearm for self-defence.

Kasidit Leelamuktanan, 35, was detained by soldiers from the 1st Calvary Battalion. They seized a .357 pistol and 10 bullets from him and reported it to Tao Poon police around 8.30pm.

During police interrogation, Mr Kasidit admitted he took part in the pro-monarchy demonstration on Tuesday, but said he had the pistol with him only for self-defence.

Thisrupt reports:

According to Khaosod, one Ratsadon protestor was shot in the arm with a live bullet.  Meanwhile, citing the Erawan Emergency Center, Reuters reported at least 41 people injured, five with bullet wounds.

Other reports include an excellent Prachatai summary of the evening’s events and of the constitutional amendments being considered in parliament. It notes that:

Police water cannon began firing at protesters at around 14.00, an hour before the scheduled start time of the protest as announced by the student activist group Free Youth. The police reportedly warned protesters beforehand that they would fire a warning shot, and made an announcement while they were counting down that they had mixed a chemical irritant into the water….

At 19.44, after almost 6 hours of struggle, during which the police continuously fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters at both the Bang Krabue and Kiak Kai intersections, protesters broke through the police barricade at the Bang Krabue intersection, while protesters have already broken through at the Kiak Kai intersection….

There were reports of more than 10 waves of tear gas being used on protesters both in canister form and from the water cannon. Thairath also reported that gunshots and explosions were heard during a clash between pro-monarchy protesters in yellow and the pro-democracy guards.

On the use of tear gas and water cannon, former human rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit, who was at the protest site, said that “there was no violence from the protesters, but the authorities used tear gas anyway, and the police even told the protesters they were going to use rubber bullets, which does not comply with international human rights principles.”

Thai Enquirer observes that during the confrontation between police and protesters, something else was going on, with “police on one side of the street in front of parliament, the pro-democracy demonstrators were attacked and provoked by yellow-shirt royalist demonstrators on the other side.” It adds: “Most damningly, when the yellow shirt mob instigated violence, the police stood their ground tens of meters away and did nothing.”

As noted above, the royalists had special treatment. And, “[n]ot only did the police not do anything to stop the violence, at times, there seemed to be a dual-track approach to policing the two groups of rival protesters.” It points out:

The yellow shirts were allowed to march all the way to parliament to submit a letter to the president of the senate while the pro-democracy demonstrators faced chemicals, tear gas, and barbed wire….

The yellow shirt protesters were not herded and corralled by security forces. They were not blockaded by buses and makeshift-cement walls.

It makes one question the legitimacy of such a force that they would be so blatantly biased and in service of their paymasters.

There is little wonder that the protesters have been leaving behind dog food for the police because to the students, the security forces have been nothing more but lapdogs to the coup-makers.

In choosing to do nothing as royalist mobs continue to escalate an already bad situation, the police have shown their true colours. Can anyone really say they’re surprised?

Voranai Vanijaka at Thisrupt writes of: A day of shame: the police stood by as the people clashed.





Updated: Missing in (in)action

26 05 2020

For military leaders, parliament is unimportant as it has little influence over what the government does. That was one of the understandings of the junta’s constitution. While they gave themselves seats in the unelected Senate, the military brass almost never show up.

iLaw is cited in the Bangkok Post as it reports that “the leaders of the three armed forces have the worst track records when it comes to Senate voting…”.

and are the least involved senators in the military-appointed Upper House.

Out of 145 votes called by the Senate, Navy chief Adm Luechai Ruddit, missed all but one vote. Missing all of 143 was Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong, while retired and incumbent air force chiefs ACM Chaipruek Dissayasarin and ACM Manaat Wongwat missed a stellar 143 votes.

But, they still collect their Senate salaries as a nice top-up to their military salaries and all the other payments they receive from the meetings attended and boards they sit on.

Defence spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich said “the issue had not been raised during the Defence Council meeting chaired by Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. We guess that means everything is just fine and dandy. In any case, Lt Gen Kongcheep reckons his bosses “could explain for themselves if asked…”. We guess they’d rather be investing in EEC projects, getting kickbacks and shooting.

Update: Readers short of a good belly laugh can read Defence spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep’s hilarious “defense” of his bosses in the Bangkok Post. It seems military intelligence was brought to bear on the problem and the combined IQ of 22 came up with the biggest pile of buffalo manure seen for some time. We particularly liked the claim that whenever the top brass was not in parliament – and that was almost all the time – they watched it on television.

Brilliant! What bright spark thought of that completely moronic line! Promote him to general and give him a set of golf clubs and a bag of ill-gotten money.





Prachatai’s documentaries

15 03 2020

If readers haven’t seen them, we want to draw attention to three documentaries recently posted to Prachatai. They are:

Talk for Freedom by iLaw and Prachatai. Described as a new documentary that tells the story of Mafang and Pai Dao Din, two of the participants in the Talk for Freedom public forum on the draft of the 2017 constitution at Khon Kaen University on 31 July 2016, who were prosecuted by the NCPO for violating the NCPO 3/2558, which prohibited a political gathering of more than five people. Of course, Pai Dao Din went on to serve time for lese majeste.

Wound of the Soul is a documentary by The Pen that tells the story of the effects of national security laws, such as martial law, emergency decree and the Internal Security Act, on those who live in the Deep South.

Humans of Muang Phia is by the New Isan Movement and Prachatai and tells the story of the Hak Ban Koet group’s fight against the Mitr Phol sugar factory and biomass power plant project and for their right to take part in making decisions about what happens in their hometown.





Not criticizing The Dictator

13 06 2018

The puppet National Legislative Assembly has worked hard for the military junta. Passing laws, delaying laws, speaking the junta’s language and being loyally anti-democratic.

So deeply committed to their junta employers is this hotch-potch of lazy generals, rewarded anti-democrats and automatons that, as Khaosod reports, “[m]ore than three quarters of [all] the bills made into law by junta-appointed legislators have been passed without a single vote of opposition…”. As the report has it: “The Internet Reform Dialog group found that 77 percent of 292 bills have been passed in their third reading without a single nay…”.

One of the appointed marionettes says this is the wrong way to look at it. Wallop Tangkananuwat reckons the process of deliberation is important and that the vote represents just a decision on the NLA’s final outcome.

That may be true, but the lack of any opposing voices means that almost no bill is actually debated by the somnolent puppet legislators. Relatively few major changes to the junta’s bills, unless approved by The Dictator.

Even the Democrat Party’s Nipit Intarasombat, “an eight-time former MP with the Democrat Party, said those results would only appear normal before a parliament appointed by a dictator.” He adds: “That’s how the system work[s]. In a dictatorial system, it would be abnormal if there are voices of opposition.” He’s right.

The iLaw’s Narongsak Niamsorn says it is also a result of the simple fact that “of the current 248 NLA members, 144 are active-duty or retired military officers, 66 are government officials and 11 are from the police force. That adds up to 221 – 90 percent – of the body’s 248 members.”

It is a rubber-stamp parliament that dare not criticize the junta or The Dictator. But then the NLA has no reason to criticize, being peas of the same anti-democratic pod.





Lese majeste repression

16 02 2018

The Bangkok Post has an editorial on lese majeste, calling for the “misuse and abuse” of the law be ended. Essentially, the editorial calls for the law to be rewritten, citing both Sulak Sivaraksa (one of the few to get off) and Nitirat.

That’s about as brave as it gets in Thailand these days. Calling for amendment rather than the abolition of the feudal law.

Noting that since the 2014 military coup, iLaw, “at least 94 people were charged under the lese majeste law,” it is said many of those accused, charged and jailed have been “political activists, politically active citizens or merely internet users who happened to share articles deemed to offend the … [monarchy].” We think the figure is far higher (well more than 130), not least because the figure seems to omit dozens charged within Prince-cum-King Vajiralongkorn’s palace.

As well as the palace’s vindictive use of the law, the editorial might also have mentioned that the law has been used against juveniles.

The editorial concludes with the misguided claim the “late King Bhumibol Adulyadej once said he must also be criticised” as a claim that the lese majeste law be amended.

The Post is right on the need for change. Based on what we’ve seen of the prince-cum-king and lese majeste, we are not confident that the law will be amended for the better.

While on lese majeste and Vajiralongkorn, about a week ago we mentioned Tyrell Haberkorn’s East Asia Forum article on the junta’s use of political repression and lese majeste. A reader has drawn our attention to another article by the US-based academic, also on lese majeste, and in the magazine Dissent.

Her article refers to the lese majeste case against human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul. He’s multiple charges with “insulting” Vajiralongkorn and sedition. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to 171 years in prison.

We this is a reflection of Vajiralongkorn’s perception of lese majeste.





Extreme lese majeste secrecy?

16 06 2017

PPT had an email alert today about a lese majeste case. As it turned out, this was a link to an old Reuters story at the Jakarta Globe, from late May. That story referred to the arrest of “five people for allegedly setting fire to portraits of late King Bhumibol…”.

The report set us thinking. Has there been a change to the already significant levels of secrecy associated with lese majeste cases, coinciding with the new reign?

We can’t think of any recent reports regarding these five. Have they been brought before a court in the last three weeks? If so, was this in secret, with no reporting? Or have we just missed it?

Then we recalled the Stolen history 6 case. Their detention was approved on 3 May 2017, for allegedly sharing a Facebook post by Somsak Jeamteerasakul on the theft/official removal of the 1932 revolution plaque.

The last report PPT can recall on their cases was when, on 11 May 2017, the Criminal Court in Bangkok refused bail for human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul, one of those arrested, renewing his detention.

We checked at iLaw, and couldn’t find any more. We also had a quick look at Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, but no recent reports there either.

Again, we wonder if this is a case of extreme secrecy.

If this is the case – and we may have missed a report – then the military dictatorship has ditched all pretenses that lese majeste is a legal charge. It is more like an extreme purge by a gang. No law is necessary.

As a footnote, we wonder how all of those academics attending the International Conference on Thai Studies are feeling about the arrest of the six? One is a human rights lawyer and another is an academic, just like them, who has even had a paper accepted for the conference. They were arrested for sharing a social media post by a historian who has to live in exile. How’s that feeling?





The dictatorship’s history

24 05 2017

A reader drew our attention to an iLaw post that sets out the history of three years of military dictatorship in Thailand. It deserves to be read in full, even if it could be further extended.

We quote a couple of bits:

During the three years under the iron-fisted rule of the NCPO military regime, all mechanisms have been harnessed to create political culture that centralize executive power and grant sweeping and unaccountable power to the leaders without space for public participation. A legal culture, which the rule of law is disregarded by military-executive power, has been fostered through legislation process and law enforcement by judicial system. The media have been kept under tight controlled while independent organizations have been intervened and disrupted by the military. As a result, public officials are able to perform their duties with the culture of unchecked and unaccountable power….

It could be said that NCPO has transformed Thailand tremendously. The changes have been made unamendable when compared to the period before the coup….

The modus operandi of the NCPO in ruling the country is opposite to the principle of public participation. Power vested in Section 44 of the Interim Constitution has often been invoked to issue at least 152 orders and it has been escalated arbitrarily by the Head of the NCPO….

A major phenomenon in the justice process during the three years under the NCPO is how military power has permeated every aspect of the justice process….





Contemptible justice system

10 05 2017

Readers will know that we have posted more than a few items that have shown and declared Thailand’s justice system an injustice system.

The police have long been corrupt thugs. But they are now worse than ever thanks to the fact that a military dictatorship condones impunity. They have to repay the military junta with loyalty. So when the biggest shot orders a piece of national history stolen as he wipes the “hard drive” of history, the cops do nothing, zilch. Loyalty demands no less.

The military is above the law. They literally get away with murder, with the latest case being that of Chaiyapoom Pasae. He was gunned down and now there’s nothing. It is all quiet. It’s probably just another cover up. We notice that the media has conveniently forgotten the case. Nothing happened, you can all go home. Witnesses intimidated, evidence withheld. Forget it.

The courts, positioned to have more power by a coterie of royalists, meddlers, constitution drafters and two juntas, is now a disgrace.

Lese majeste cases are just one example, where even the letter of the law is ignored as political opponents and others are shoved into jail for long sentences after secret trials, many in military courts. Cases are concocted, confessions forces and arrests made for political purposes.

Judges apply double standards as if they are the only standards and justice is not blind, but meted out with a view to vengeance and no consideration of the merits of cases. Of course, we are not necessarily pointing at every single case, but the politically significant ones. Thailand’s courts have become political courts.

Rather than detail the contemptible actions of the courts, we draw attention to an article by iLaw at Prachatai. It is certainly worth reading.





On the junta’s use of lese majeste

8 05 2017

Reproduced in full from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw):

(Bangkok, Paris) The number of individuals arrested on lèse-majesté charges since the May 2014 military coup has passed the 100 mark, FIDH and its member organizations Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) said today.

“In less than three years, the military junta has generated a surge in the number of political prisoners detained under lèse-majesté by abusing a draconian law that is inconsistent with Thailand’s international obligations.”

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President

Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code (lèse-majesté) 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.

The number of people who have been arrested under Article 112 of the Criminal Code has reached 105, following the arrest of six individuals on 29 April 2017. Forty-nine of them have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 30 years. To date, at least 64 individuals are either imprisoned or detained awaiting trial on lèse-majesté charges. At the time of the 22 May 2014 coup, there were six individuals behind bars under Article 112. Eighty-one of the 105 cases involved deprivation of liberty for the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The remaining cases are related to individuals who were arrested for claiming ties to the royal family for personal gain.

“Many of those arrested are democracy activists and outspoken critics of the military regime. In some instances, they were kidnapped from their homes by military officers and interrogated in secret for several days in military camps before being formally charged. Lèse-majesté defendants are rarely granted bail, and so spend months or even years fighting their cases while in detention. All of this makes a mockery of ‘justice’ in Thailand’s justice system.”

Jon Ungpakorn, iLaw Executive Director

On 28 March 2017, following the review of the country’s second periodic report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Geneva, Switzerland, the UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR), expressed concern over the “extreme sentencing practices” for those found guilty of lèse-majesté. The CCPR recommended Thailand review Article 112 to bring it into line with Article 19 of the ICCPR and reiterated that the imprisonment of persons for exercising their freedom of expression violates this provision. The CCPR also demanded the authorities release those who have been deprived of their liberty for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

“The Thai government has run out of excuses to avoid reforming lèse-majesté. Article 112 must be brought into compliance with Thailand’s international obligations as demanded by numerous UN mechanisms.”

Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn, UCL Chairman