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




Money for nothing I

16 02 2017

Many readers will have already seen Prachatai’s report on the iLaw study of the apparently unconstitutionality of some members of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. We say “apparently” because the details of “leaves” taken are considered “secret.”

The point made by iLaw – Prachatai’s report doesn’t seem to get it quite right – is that the stipulated requirements of the Assembly are that in order to receive the substantial salaries they receive, the puppets are mandated to attend one-third of voting sessions in the Assembly. The requirement to attend a stipulated number of voting sessions is mandated by the military’s interim constitution at Article 9(5).

Clipped from iLaw

Clipped from iLaw

The big noise in all of this is that, yet again, The Dictator’s brother, General Preecha Chan-ocha, features. Preecha appears to play by his own “rules,” engaging in all kinds of nepotism, while pocketing the loot of his relationships and his military position, with impunity. Preecha is included in the graphic above, with 4 + 1 attendances.

We can also extrapolate a little on these findings. By not attending for the stipulated proportion of voting meetings, prima facie, membership of the Assembly is ended. Thus, by continuing to receive a salary for doing nothing or very little, such members are potentially engaging in an act of corruption. It can also be suggested that any Assembly actions they take are also unconstitutional. In essence, decisions the Assembly has taken, that these members have been involved in – when they managed to attend – may also be deemed unconstitutional.

We can surmise that, because “leaves” are secret, because The Dictator’s brother is involved, and because the junta’s work is at stake, that an announcement will be made that the non-attendees were “on leave.”





Further updated: Against the junta and its draft charter

23 05 2016

Khaosod has a good report on yesterday’s protest that was held on the 2nd anniversary of the 2014 military coup, with pictures and links to video. The report states that “[s]everal hundred people marched from Thammasat University to Bangkok’s Democracy Monument…”.

The march to the monument was led by the Neo-New Democracy Movement.No campaign

With police and undercover officers everywhere, “the event was also monitored by staff of local and international right groups such as iLaw, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.”

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch observed: “In this climate of fear, where the junta has been putting hundreds and hundreds of people into military tribunals, detaining them for their dissent opinion…. The fact that hundreds showed up today is a positive sign for people to realize the aspiration for the return to democratic rule.”

He is right to note that “Democracy is not dead in Thailand…. It takes root among the people.”

A mock referendum rejected the military’s draft constitution.

While this demonstration is all that Sunai says, as a reader reminds us, a people’s constitution would undercut the military’s draft. Alternatives to the military’s domination and suffocation are necessary.

Update 1: Fixed some typos and a missing line above.

Update 2: Prachatai reports on the rally and march. This story includes a number of images of the rally. The last photo appears to shows some conflict. The story states that “a group of around 20 pro-junta people shouted to the rally participants ‘the NCPO is not a dictatorship, get out! you all’.” It is added that”[n]o serious physical skirmishes between the two groups has been reported.” On social media, there are photos of the “pro-coup” group and some of its individuals circulating. It seems that the group was “sponsored.”





The Dictator’s law

5 02 2016

Article 44 has been extensively used by the military dictatorship since the end of the martial law on 1 April 2015. It was immediately criticized by a range of commentators, law lecturers, activist groups and even the National Human Right Commission for allocating General Prayuth Chan-ocha absolute power.

Reuters reports that critics complain that The Dictator “is relying increasingly on a security measure [Article 44] dubbed ‘the dictator’s law’ to push through unpopular policies and kickstart stalled reforms…”.

Prayuth has used Article 44 for all manner of things: to remove seven officials from a government health promotion foundation, fast-tracking projects ranging from power stations to special economic zones, for detaining scores of opponents, breaking up meetings and seminars, “reforming” air transport and the fishing industry and more.

According to iLaw, Prayuth has used Article 44 more than 50 times since the 2014 military coup, “and increasingly so since the middle of last year…”.

Reuters says that Colonel Winthai Suvaree, the junta’s loudmouth, says The Dictator is “using Article 44 more often to get things done more quickly, before an election promised for 2017, to the advantage of all.” The cagey colonel declares: “There is limited time left to govern and reform the country…. All orders have benefited the people.”

A Western diplomat observes that: “The junta feels that it came in on a platform of reform and very little has been reformed…. So they have used Article 44 to…show they are reformers.”

In fact, it shows they are military men with few clues about public administration and the use of Article 44 proves their power and their incompetence.

Naturally, the reprehensible and failed academic Panitan Wattanayagorn, again “a senior government adviser,” seeks to deny that “reforms had stalled and said Prayuth and his team had laid ‘complicated’ groundwork for lasting change.” As you’d expect from a rightist anti-democrat in the pay of the military, Panitan declares that: “They [the junta] see a real opportunity to move the country forward…”.

Remarkably, Reuters quotes Panitan, then ignores him and his statements, declaring that “reforms appear stalled, [and] the economy is a major worry.” Perhaps they should stop asking for this lugnut‘s paid opinion.

Whatever way it is looked at, the use of Article 44 is a statement of political failure. The military junta stays in power because it has guns and can threaten with impunity. It is incapable of administering anything that requires actions more complex than torture, commission payments and murder.