Masks and managing media

13 04 2020

Khaosod reports that there’s considerable online support for the whistle blower Facebook page that exposed a mask hoarding scandal. Why is the support needed? Of course, because the hopeless police are seeking to charge the owner of the site.

One of those near useless political police, Pol Maj Gen Panya Pinsuk, who doubles as political puppet and deputy chief of the Central Investigation Bureau, said:

A puppet cop

investigators are seeking the owner of the Facebook page “Queen of Spades” after it posted photos showing what appeared to be a sale of up to 200 million face masks to buyers in China admit an acute shortage in the country.

Police said the posts, which implicate businessman Sornsuvee Puraweeratwatcharee in the alleged deal, are false.

The (not) super sleuths claim that by posting information from Sornsuvee, they page posted “false information.” And, as the ridiculous police state: “Therefore, the page is punishable under the Computer Crime Act.”

Why is this “false information”? Well, it seems because “Sornsuvee later said that he didn’t actually possess 200 million masks and claimed that he was boasting to attract investors.”

The corrupt cops seem intent on demonstrating time and time again that there is no justice in Thailand.

Naturally enough – for the political police – the events involved the now invisible Deputy Minister for Agriculture, inveterate liar and convicted heroin trafficker Thammanat Prompao.

The cops claims get more tortuous in terms of law and logic: “Metropolitan police’s chief investigator Santi Chainiramai said Sornsuvee is only a middleman in the mask hoarding ring which is linked to Paradonraphab Party’s chief strategist Phanyot Akkhara-amornpan.”

But not a word on Thammanat!

The cops say that “Phanyot set up a company called Thai Health International to illegally sought the masks from Sornsuvee before repacking and selling them at higher prices.” All the mask dealing, they say “yield[ed] more than 14 million baht in cash.”

Yes, Phanyot and Sornsuvee were dealing in masks and profiteering. Both are well-connected to political leaders. But the dopes in uniform must crack down on those who expose the crime. This is what people now expect from the police and regime.

And, as expected in the (in)justice system, Phanyot was arrested on Wednesday and released on bail on the same day.

What happend to aide to minister Thammanat, Pitinan Rak-iad, who was shown in a video on the offending Facebook page, “discussing the sale of masks with Sornsuvee.”

Convicted heroin smuggler

Nothing it seems. He’s “distanced himself from the allegations, saying that it was merely a negotiation which has nothing to do with the controversial stockpile.” Of course, like his boss, Pitinan is unable to speak any truth.

As for Thammanat, after claiming he had the virus and was going into hiding, which he said was isolation.

Meanwhile, the Thai Enquirer has a story on a “high-priced international ‘public strategy firm’ [that] has been sending out press releases defending the Thai government’s coronavirus response.”

Mercury LLC has apparently been hired to provide some order to the regime’s inept and contradictory virus response. Seemingly engaging in propaganda and fake news, Mercury claims that the regime “has kept infection rates low through a combination of top-down government measures, bottom-up social changes,” and as the report points out, “most strangely” that there have been “high levels of testing.”

In fact, Thailand’s rate of testing is 1,030/1 million of population. That’s lower than Vietnam and Malaysia, among others. According to the report, “Thailand has only conducted 71,860 tests since the outbreak began despite having the capacity to conduct 20,000 tests per day.”

Despite Mercury’s claims for the regime, no one admits to hiring them.





Updated: Judiciary exposed

6 10 2019

Thailand’s judiciary has been a pliant and willing arm of the ruling class, and courts like the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court have been politicized. Most Thais understand that the judiciary’s standards are double standards. Justice is certainly not blind.

These aspects of the (in)justice system have been tragically on display after a judge shot himself in court. This is how Khaosod reported that event:

Yala senior judge Khanakorn Pianchana pulled out a handgun and shot himself in the chest inside a courtroom moments after he acquitted five defendants of murder and firearm charges. In a court filing leaked on social media after his suicide attempt, Khanakorn said he was pressured by his supervisor to find the men guilty despite lack of evidence.

Khanakorn’s statements were written inside a full court verdict, which is typically released to the press after a ruling.

The judge said he was threatened by regional justice chief Permsak Saisrithong to deliver a guilty verdict on the five defendants, or Khanakorn himself would be placed under a disciplinary hearing if he disobeys.

Khanakorn said he could not bring himself to condemn the men due to lack of hard evidence. If found guilty, the defendants would have faced death penalty.

The Bangkok Post reported that Khanakorn earlier posted a 25-page ruling online:

The document states the case he was hearing concerned national security and was related to secret association, conspiracy and gun-law offences.

The document allegedly described disagreements among senior judges over the case ruling, in which Mr Khanakorn reportedly decided to acquit all five defendants.

Messages reading “Return the ruling to the judges” and “Return justice to the people” were repeated three times in the document. The Court of Justice has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the circulated document.

The initial response of the Office of the Judiciary was to blame Khanakorn, saying he “had apparently acted out of stress from personal issues.” As ever, it said it would launch an investigation (read this as “launch a cover-up”).

Those who have seen the injustice of the judicial system were quick to point out the apparent meddling in the case, seemingly for political reasons. But the defense of the judicial system was strong and perverted.

Poramate Intarachumnum, chief of the Department of Thonburi Criminal Litigation, cited in the Bangkok Post, “said the public should withhold their criticism for the time being because what they read might turn out to be true.” That’s also a kind of blaming the victim. It was also part of a developing and truly bizarre deep yellow conspiracy theory-cum-plot. Supporters of the junta-cum-government claimed a political plot, masterminded by the Future Forward Party. The “evidence” being that that opposition party chairs a parliamentary committee on justice and, most grotesquely, that the judge, now recovering, had deliberately not intended to kill himself…. This lot seem ready to believe any concocted “plot.”

Meanwhile, the Court of Justice has insisted that nothing is wrong in the (in)justice system. Its Secretary-general Sarawut Benjakul said “his office … would submit the case to the Judicial Commission, a panel of judges who make decisions concerning themselves by voting.” That is said to be an “independent agency” being “independent.” In fact, it is analogous to cases where the military vets itself – a cover-up results.

Of course, the judiciary is anything but independent. Rather, it is a part of the bureaucracy.

It is known that as the case was “deemed important, Mr Khanakorn had to send it to the Region 9 chief judge’s office for a review.”

When the ruling reached the regional chief judge’s office, two senior judges reviewed it first and wrote on the memo that they disagreed with it. The regional chief judge then allegedly stamped “confidential” on the memo and ordered Mr Khanakorn to rewrite the ruling based on the opinions of his superiors.

Mr Khanakorn pointed out one of the two high-ranking judges who reviewed his ruling had checked it out before and made changes only in minor details. He said he could not help but suspect he might have agreed with his ruling but something had changed his mind later.

A Bangkok Post picture

Mr Khanakorn wrote that by law, if a chief judge disagrees with a ruling, he must put it in writing in the document. It didn’t happen in this case and instead Mr Khanakorn was told in confidence to reverse the ruling to convict the five defendants.

“If I complied with his request, there would have been no evidence in the case files showing that the conviction, instead of the acquittal, was the result of the chief judge’s order. Instead, it will be on me and my panel of judges who signed the ruling,” he wrote.

“If I complied with the order, three of the defendants would have been executed for first-degree murder — there’s no lesser penalty to choose from — and two others would have been imprisoned as accomplices.

“The confidential memo also said if I insisted on acquitting them, I must detain them during an appeal, which makes no sense to me.”

He added that if he defied the order, he would be investigated and eventually he would have to quit.

In Khanakorn’s view, “the case was not related to national security or terrorism. Yet all evidence and witnesses were acquired while the five were detained under martial law and emergency laws which allow detention of up to 30 days without charges, although the laws are intended for security or terrorism cases only.” He seemed to consider that the defendants had been framed by the police. That’s not unusual for Thailand’s police and nor for the military.

Suspiciously, “a spokesman of for the Region 4 Forward Command of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), said security officials had never interfered with the justice system…”. He’s lying.

Update: As usually happens in regime cover-ups, those protecting themselves and their comfortable and powerful position have decided to “investigate” for so-called disciplinary offenses, and will probably charge the judge who shot himself. This blames the victim and takes the heat off those who make the problems. These are quite awful and exceptionally nasty people who have learned from their peers and their predecessors that they have impunity, so long as they line up with the great and the good.





Wealth and impunity

30 09 2019

Fugitives from justice were mentioned by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in his inept talk at the Asia Society. He only means Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra. But there’s also the long story of billionaire fugitive Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya that The Dictator ignores.

In a story for The Walrus, Martha Mendoza recalls how the rich get away with murder.

It was back in early September 2012, when playboy Vorayuth “roared his Ferrari down Sukhumvit Road” and “slammed into motorcycle cop Sergeant Major Wichean Glanprasert, dragging the officer, along with his tangled bike, down the block.” Vorayuth fled the scene and hid in a family compound. His family have accumulated a wealth of more than$13 billion through their Red Bull enterprises and by hoovering up all kinds of other investments that almost magically fall into the copious laps of the tycoons in Bangkok.

Party time for Boss (clipped from The Daily Mail)

Police followed a trail to the family mansion but were initially denied entry. The family tried to have a chauffeur take the blame, “but Boss later admitted to being the one behind the wheel.” He turned himself in, was granted bail and fled the scene again. So far none of the court cases have gone anywhere as Vorayuth is “unavailable.” The police, government and the family’s friends seem unconcerned. No one is held responsible for the death. Boss lives the high life with impunity.

Having set the scene, we just cut-and-paste from Mendoza’s excellent story:

… Within weeks of the incident, Boss was back to enjoying his family’s jet-set lifestyle: he flew around the world on private Red Bull jets, cheered the company’s Formula One racing team from Red Bull’s VIP seats, and kept a shiny black Porsche Carrera in London with custom licence plates—B055 RBR, or Boss Red Bull racing.

… Boss is reported to have at least two passports and a complex network of offshore accounts, and with these tools, he’s able to travel the world with impunity. More than 120 photos posted on Facebook and Instagram, as well as some racing blogs, show Boss visiting at least nine countries…. He’s cruised Monaco’s harbour, snowboarded Japan’s fresh powder, and celebrated his birthday at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London. This means that while authorities say they’ve had no idea where Boss was, his friends, family, and all of their followers seem to have had no doubt about his whereabouts and the good times he’s been having.

… During the time Boss hid in plain sight, an Associated Press (AP) investigation into his whereabouts simultaneously exposed how the Yoovidhya family has spent decades hiding its assets in offshore accounts.

… As the business expanded, Chaleo Yoovidhya began hiding his assets. In 1994, he set up a shell company called Golden Falcon Trading Company in the British Virgin Islands. The Panama Papers, an international collaboration among journalists that began in 2016 to sift through leaked documents that identify the offshore financial dealings of the world’s wealthy, disclosed that ten of Chaleo’s children were shareholders.

The Yoovidhya family’s efforts to hide assets show how billions in private wealth can be moved around the world with minimal regulation to avoid tax and other legal constraints. The extent of the family’s confidential deals was inadvertently exposed by Boss and his social-media-loving cousins during his time on the run: they had posted photos of Boss walking into a London townhouse, and they even included the address….

An investigation into the five-storey brick home showed that it is the address Boss’s father, Chalerm Yoovidhya, gave when incorporating Siam Winery Trading Plus in the UK in 2002, and that his mother, Daranee Yoovidhya, used when opening a food-related business there in 2006. But, according to AP, the listed owner of the home, and at least four other multi-million-dollar properties in London, isn’t the Yoovidhyas—it’s Karnforth Investments, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, according to the Panama Papers.

… [T]he main shareholder of the energy drink’s UK business is another British Virgin Islands company called Jerrard Company.

Here’s where it gets complicated: an investigation by AP revealed that Karnforth has just one shareholder, which is Jerrard. And Jerrard is held by a third offshore company, which controls a fourth, called JK Fly. Who owns JK Fly? Karnforth. The Yoovidhyas’ offshore companies overlap with nominee directors—people legally paid small amounts to sign forms and attend directors’ meetings in lieu of the true owners, whose names remain confidential.

According to AP, documents from the Panama Papers show that, for years, money has flowed back and forth between these various entities. For example, in 2005, Jerrard loaned Karnforth $6.5 million US to buy two London properties. In 2012, Jerrard cancelled the mortgages, giving Karnforth ownership of the properties. Since 2010, JK Fly has owed Karnforth, its sole shareholder, about $14 million US in an interest-free loan to purchase aircraft.

… In 2010, and again in 2013, the papers [Panama Papers] show that auditors at Mossack Fonseca’s head offices in Panama—the company that arranged the Yoovidhya’s network of companies—raised concerns about Karnforth and Jerrard. Documents verifying the true owners were missing.

[W]hile other governments were swift and aggressive in responding to Panama Papers revelations, that has not been the case in Thailand. More than 1,400 Thai individuals were identified in the documents, but according to AP, the government calls the reports rumours….

Law professor Viraphong Boonyobhas, director of Chulalongkorn University’s business-crime and money-laundering data bank in Bangkok, would not speak directly about the Yoovidhyas or any other Thai person or company, saying he feared for his legal and physical safety….

Corruption is defined by the abuse of power for private gain. It erodes public trust and undermines institutions. In Thailand, many residents assume the wealthy elite can break the law with impunity. Over generations, people have grown used to giving mandatory “gifts” of cash to judges, police, and government officials in exchange for building and business permits, as well as favourable court decisions. They’ve watched as rich and influential families win lucrative contracts and avoid prosecutors.

Here’s who gets arrested in Thailand: citizens gathering for nonviolent protests to denounce the coup-installed junta government, bloggers posting social-media messages critical of the king, journalists carrying bulletproof vests and helmets for protection at riots that at times turn deadly.

The policeman’s family grieved but figured at least there would be justice.

They didn’t get it and they know the justice system “runs on a ‘double standard’…”. In Thailand, “the justice system has two tracks: one for the elite and one for everybody else.”





With two updates: Open-mouthed disbelief VI

12 09 2019

It just gets worse and worse. Thammanat Prompao’s lies and deceit multiply by the day. Now, some readers might think he’s just a dope rather than a convicted dope trafficker.  But this would be to misunderstand how the rich and powerful “think” in Thailand. The right to impunity is simply taken for granted that they seldom ever have to “think.” When they do, this is often because they have ticked someone even more powerful, and Thammanat still seems to have the highest backing.

By the way, police and military being involved in crime is common, as a case against a senior cop, reported today, confirms.

But back to things getting worse with the loose-with-the-truth Thammanat. The Bangkok Post reports on a parliamentary speech by Thammanat, where he’s gone the route of doubling down on his lies.

He now “insists he was not jailed in Australia in a drug smuggling case, nor did he confess to any drugs charge as claimed in an Australian newspaper report.”

Invited to speak by The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thammanat went full on bonkers. The Post has an excellent graphic, which we reproduce here, but treating his “version” as in any way believable stretches credibility.

A Bangkok Post graphic

The report states that “Thamanat said he had spoken to the media several times about the 1993 drug case in Australia, and that he was treated as a witness in connection with a suspect who was later acquitted.” He unbelievably adds: “The Australian court suggested that as a witness he stay in Australia until the case was concluded, which took four years…”.

And he then played the injured party, saying that this had “happened more than two decades ago” and it had been “dogging him…”. He added that he “would take legal action against whoever was trying to defame him.” Really? Well, perhaps, anything is possible in Thailand’s (in)justice system.

Being “injured” is more often associated with Thammanat’s victims, in lottery politics and murder investigations.

We can’t help wondering if this case is somehow linked to a set of lese majeste accusations (clicking downloads a PDF) in late 1993 involving the then crown prince. Recall that in early 1993 the Vajiralongkorn was again publicly denying that he was connected with illegal activities (Far Eastern Economic Review, 14 January 1993), but that might be just a coincidence.

And, as an aside, the site associated with the Gen Prawit Wongsuwan watch scandal that was laundered, CSI LA, has revealed that Thammanat’s public CV includes a PhD from a sham university. Presumably Thammanat has a mai lorder, sham PhD.

Update 1: While the military-backed regime “seems pretty cool with convicted heroin smuggler in cabinet,” the Australian newspapers involved have responded to Thammanat’s bogus claims by publichsing extracts from his court cases in Australia and by creating a short video that lays out the “discrepancies” between what the minister claims and what the court records show.

Responding to “government enforcer” Thammanat’s incredible claim that “he spent eight months in lock-up but the rest of the four years in ‘state-sponsored accommodation’ as a witness,” the newspapers make it clear that he was jailed for heroin trafficking and being involved in the racket in Thailand and in Australia. As noted above, Thammanat again engaged in fictitious spinning when he “again denied pleading guilty then said he entered a plea-bargaining arrangement.”

The documents show this is utter nonsense and that Thammanat pleaded guilty and gained a sentence reduction by providing useful information to the police and prosecutors:

Court documents show the young soldier Manat and his co-accused half-brother Sorasat Tiemtad were arrested in Bondi on April 15, 1993, and charged with conspiring to import $4.1 million of heroin. When told by a judge in November 1993 he faced up to nine years’ jail, Manat began co-operating in return for a lesser sentence. He pleaded guilty on November 15, 1993, and was sentenced in the NSW District Court on March 31, 1994, to six years’ jail with four years’ minimum and a two-year non-parole period.

Interestingly, the newspapers add some information about the case in its most recent incarnation:

The Herald and The Age can also reveal that Thai opposition politicians sought information from the Australian embassy in Bangkok about Thammanat’s past legal problems, but did not receive assistance.

The Thai government has confirmed it sought information from Australia about Thammanat before his appointment in July, but did not say whether it was informed of his crimes.

The Australian Federal Police did not deny that it shared information with Thai counterparts about Thammanat’s conviction under the usual police information sharing arrangements between the nations.

Thammanat and his half-brother were “released from Parklea prison on April 14, 1997, and deported.”

The report notes that Thammanat would not be allowed to enter Australia: “The Home Affairs website warns: ‘You will not pass the character test if you hold a substantial criminal record. If you don’t pass the character test, you will not get a visa to enter Australia’.”

Update 2: Above we mentioned Thammanat’s fake PhD degree. Demonstrating that he knows nothing about his degree or where he purchased it, Thammanat proudly displayed his “degree certificate.” In showing off an “accreditation” certificate from a dodgy accreditation business that “accredited” a dodgy “degree” from a dodgy “university.

Thammanat stated: “I received the degree from US-based California University Los Angeles, not from the Philippines [as some claimed]…”. But he gets the name wrong. Apparently, his House website had to be quickly changed. It “showed he holds a  doctor of philosophy degree in public administration from Calamus International University’.” This was changed ” to show he obtained the same degree from California University FCE…”.

But this is not a university but a semi-commercial operation that “accredits” degrees for use in legal transactions such as immigration. Thammanat displayed a certificate issued by CUFCE. Thammanat paid a fee for or someone paid for him. No one studies for a doctorate at CUFCE.

That Thammanat doesn’t even know the details of his “degree” shows that his lies simply overwhelm him.





Yellow “justice”

5 03 2019

After the Supreme Court finally upheld finally upheld the sentencing of six leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy to eight months in jail for actions during its occupation of Government House in 2008 it was thought by some that this was a late but appropriate judicial recognition of PAD’s illegal actions.

However, that seems to have been a foolish conclusion when writing about the judiciary in Thailand. As reported by Khaosod and the Bangkok Post, a “court on Monday found a group of anti-government protest leaders not guilty of multiple charges for their siege of the parliament in 2008 which turned fatal.”

That protest by PAD sought to topple a pro-Thaksin Shinawatra elected government and laid siege to parliament seeking to prevent it meeting. Police were ordered to clear the parliament entrance, and fired rounds of tear gas at the protesters in the morning of Oct. 7, 2008. Two people died in the clashes and about 380 were injured, including police. One of the PAD dead blew himself up in his car bomb.

In 2012 prosecutors charged 21 PAD leaders and argued that the protesters caused serious unrest in their resistance to the police and using various weapons against police. They were also accused of using threats to block members of the parliament from entering the building, injuring several policemen, locking all gates of the parliament, detaining officials inside the parliament for hours, and threatening to detain MPs.

The Criminal Court now declares that the demonstration “was protected by the constitution and did not constitute sedition despite confrontation with riot police…”. The court flocked to support PAD, ruling “that the leaders of the rally briefed followers on the extent of then-government’s corruption and mentioned attempts to amend the constitution in favour of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra…”. In other words, the court ruled that PAD supported the 2007 constitution and was protected by that constitution. The court also declared that “violence only broke out after officers fired tear gas at the crowd.”

No court seems to apply the same ruling in the case of red shirt protesters, preferring double standards.

For an accounts of the events, including PAD’s violence, see Nick Nostitz at New Mandala. At Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook page there’s an assessment of the ruling and events of the day.





Anti-democrats and twisted justice

24 01 2019

We are not lawyers. However, we do think that some of the odd legal decisions emanating from Thailand’s courts would baffle the best-qualified lawyers.

The Bangkok Post reports that the Supreme Court:

upheld the suspended one-year jail sentence and 50,000-baht fine handed down to three Democrat [Party] politicians for defaming former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra during their TV programme.

In February 2012, on the anti-democrat Blue Sky Channel, run by the Democrat Party, Sirichoke Sopha, Chavanont Intarakomalyasut and Thepthai Senapong, all MPs, accused then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of missing parliament to engage in an extra-marital affair at a Bangkok hotel.

Of course, there are the usual double standards involved in suspending a sentence for these misogynists. Those on the other side of politics have quite often spent periods in jail for defamation.

The Supreme Court ruled that the comments “were unfair.” But then the tremendous bias of the courts was revealed:

The court suspended the jail term because Yingluck, as a national administrator, should have shown transparency but had never explained the matter to the public. Only during the trial did she reveal she had a business meeting with a property developer.

If true, there was no reason to keep the activity secret and raise suspicions, the court ruled. The court saw the three men had good intentions and therefore suspended the jail term for two years.

The courts have effectively confirmed that misogyny is an acceptable political weapon. That’s to be expected as both the civilian anti-democrats and military misogynists have been comfortable attacking Yingluck as a woman and women in general.

Justice in Thailand is riddled with and twisted by politicized injustice.





NACC missing in inaction

21 12 2018

The National Anti-Corruption Commission is a politicized and partisan organization. Meant to be an independent agency, it is a tool of the military junta and other anti-democrats.

The Bangkok Post reports that a legal pressure group has pushed the NACC “to speed up probes into irregularities in police station construction projects, saying the anti-graft agency would be held to account if they failed to do so.”

“Speed up” is a euphemism for “do something!”

The case referred to is the “construction of 396 police stations in question, worth 6.67 billion baht, was part of a project endorsed by cabinet members during the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration.” Of course, this (non)investigation by the NACC involves then “deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban was accused of not having consulted fellow ministers regarding changes made later to the project. He allegedly granted PCC Development & Construction the right to be the sole contractor, which was accused of abandoning the project later.” THe question is, who pocketed the money. No prizes for guessing.

So, exactly how long has the NACC been (not) investigating? The report states the “NACC in 2013 set up a panel to determine whether Mr Suthep had breached Section 157 of the Criminal Code by committing misconduct or dereliction of duty regarding his handling of the project.”

Sometime in some junta-inspired fairy tale, the NACC said it would wrap up “the case by the end of this year.” They have another 10 days.

We wonder if the (non)investigation of Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s dead man’s watches is going on for another four years? We guess that if the junta pulls of its stolen election, four years would be just about enough for another junta-led government to see out its term.

But there’s a twist to Suthep’s (non)investigation. Just a few days ago, completely out of the blue and following two acquittals, Tharit Pengdit, formerly of the Department of Special Investigation, changed a plea to guilty in a defamation suit against him by Suthep, lodged in 2013.How’s that work? Who threatened Tharit?

We can only marvel at how the “justice system” works so well for the great and the good, implementing double standards and protecting big shots in business, politics and the civil and military bureaucracies.

The junta just adores such pliable non-independence.





Two interesting reads

12 11 2018

For quite different reasons, PPT recommends two recent stories as worthwhile reads:

The first is a story at The Nation on the “cool responses and sometimes heated confrontation” that Suthep Thaugsuban is getting.

The second story is at Prcahatai and concerns Nattathida Meewangpla, charged with lese majeste and being a part of a “bomb plot.” This is an account of her arrests and detention, and while the English is not always easy to follow, it is revealing of much about “justice” under the military dictatorship.





Suppressing information on lese majeste trials

24 10 2018

Our second post on information missed earlier is from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and is about a Military Court’s direction to suppress publication of witness testimonies and court dockets in the case against lese majeste detainee Thanakorn:

The Bangkok Military Court has conducted a hearing on a probable case against Anon Nampa, an attorney on 3 October 2018 at 13.30. It stemmed from the publication of evidence given by the prosecution witness, Maj Gen Wijarn Jodtaeng, in the case against Mr. Thanakorn (last name withheld) who was accused of sharing Rajabhakti corruption diagram and clicking ‘like’– deemed offensive to a royally adopted dog. The Court also ordered Anon Nampa to inform the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) to have the information removed from the published article “Military official, who reported the case against a person for sharing Rajabhakti corruption diagram and clicking ‘like’– deemed offensive to a dog, actually did not know how to use Facebook, but he insisted that by just clicking ‘like’ on a page offensive to the monarchy is in itself the commission of royal defamation” (http://www.tlhr2014.com/th/?p=8950). The article to be removed by the Court’s order has been published on TLHR’s website. The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) who is not a party in this case, would like to take this opportunity to explain to the public as follows;

1. The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has been providing legal and litigation assistance to vulnerable people whose rights have been affected by the exercise of the state power as a result of the coup in 2014, including cases concerning the freedom of expression and cases of civilians who are prosecuted in the Military Courts.

According to the statistics collected by the Judge Advocate General’s Department, from 25 May 2014 to 30 June 2018, civilians have been indicted with the Military Court in over 1,723 cases and at least 281 cases are pending the review. TLHR has been assisting in 58 cases in which the civilians stand trial in the Military Court, of which 12 cases have been “secretly” conducted by the court’s order. Furthermore, the Military Court also prohibited any observer from recording the court proceeding. Recently, the Military Court banned a public dissemination of dockets in two cases, namely, the case concerning a call for election on 24 September 2018, and the case against Mr. Thanakorn on 3 October 2018.

2. According to Section 30 of the Civil Procedure Code, “The Court shall have power to give to any party or any third person present in the Court such directions as it may deem necessary for the maintenance of order within the precincts of the Court and for the fair and speedy carrying out of the trial.” Nonetheless, the latest direction to suppress the public dissemination of the docket in this case is unrelated to the maintenance of order within the precincts of the Court. Besides, the dissemination of the docket shall not affect the justice to be served in the case. Thus, it cannot be deemed a violation to the Section 30 of the Civil Procedure Code.

3. A public trial is one of the core elements to ensure the right to the fair trial according to the Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). As a state party to the Convention, Thailand is obliged to implement its provisions. According to the principle, a person is entitled to a fair and public trial. The public trial does not only involve those in the court room, but it must be open and accessible to every individual.

Moreover, the public trial can ensure the transparency of the justice process and can guarantee the rights and the freedoms of the people. Therefore, apart from being important in itself, the public trial is an entitlement– necessary to ensure other elements that constitute a fair trial and to build trust in the justice process among the public.

4. TLHR has been reporting details of every hearing that the Court did not order the trial to be conducted secretly and suppressed the dissemination of the docket. The information has derived from a summary of evidence given in the Court and from the trial observation.

The publication of contents summarized from the witness testimonies is not tantamount to the publication of the court documents. After all, such publication has been granted a consent by the defendants. This is to ensure transparency in the justice process, particularly the trial of civilians in the Military Court, where the defendants are supposed to enjoy less safeguards that protect their right to fair trial, compared to trials in the Court of Justice.

Therefore, the dissemination of information concerning the court proceeding does not only affect the trial, but also helps gracing the image of the Military Court itself. It is a better alternative than ordering the hearing to be secretly conducted and the suppression of the docket dissemination.

TLHR is determined to provide legal assistance to civilians tried in the Military Court and to inform the public of related information. This is to ensure the transparency and the safeguard of the right to the fair trial amidst the extreme deterioration of democracy and the rule of law.

With respect in people’s rights and liberties

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)





Murder and the failure of the justice system

11 08 2018

In our first post on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae on 17 March 2017, we made several points. We began by saying no one has any reason to believe the police or the military on this tragic event.

The junta immediately defended the soldiers who shot the young man:

National Council for Peace and Order [junta] spokesman Winthai Suvaree yesterday said authorities performed their duties according to a code of conduct and none of them would have fired their weapons had it not been necessary.

The courts have decided that the military shot Chaiyaphoom, but no more than this.

The police initially insisted that Lahu activist Chaiyaphoom was linked to drug trafficking. They also stated, immediately, that the killing was in self-defense. They claimed Chaiyapoom was shot after he tried to attack the soldier with a hand grenade while fleeing. Another version of the police story also had him threatening the soldier with a knife. It later emerged that the military used exactly  the same “defense” in a case a month earlier and at the very same military checkpoint.

The story became more bizarre when it emerged that in neither case did the “grenade” explode! It was being alleged that the two used the grenade like throwing a rock.

You’d think the story could be better than this if you were concocting it. But these officials and the military are so sure of their impunity that they can come up with ludicrous, improbable and dumb excuses and just get away with it.

Immediately after Chaiyaphoom’s one-shot death, the police insisted there was no foul play.” And they also claimed that a large number of meth pills were “found” in the car that Chaiyaphoom allegedly ran from. Shut the door, close the books and go home. There’s nothing to see or investigate.

Locals were aghast and knew there was a cover up. When the military suddenly showed up in villages and strong-armed potential witnesses and a few who spoke out, it was clear there was a cover-up.

More covering up followed. The Army boss Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart said his men “had to protect themselves as the suspect had intended to throw a grenade…”. Deputy Dictator Prawit Wongsuwan said much the same.

Local witnesses of the shooting told a different story. They were soon silent, no doubt intimidated.

By the end of March, the military and police had refused to release CCTV footage of the killing. Third Region Army chief Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop said the military had sent CCTV evidence to the police.

Gen Chalermchai also “stated that he had already watched the CCTV recording of the scene. He said the controversial evidence does not ‘answer all questions.’ Releasing the footage might lead to confusion in the investigation process and arguments among society.”

Then in mid-April it was reported that the generals were lying:

Pol Col Mongkhon Samphawaphon revealed to BBC Thai that the police have not received CCTV footage at the checkpoint where the Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae was killed on 17 March.

The police submitted a request to the military for the footage. However, the military unit whose personnel is responsible for the killing has not yet sent it to the police investigator.

Intimidation continued.

In mid-May 2017, it was reported that police had received the CCTV video. The police stated that they had “spent a week unable to view critical footage because they didn’t have a computer with the necessary software to watch it.”

Then, almost six months after Chaiyapoom was killed and over five months after the military first stated it had handed the CCTV footage to police investigators, a lawyer for Chaiyapoom’s family said he was concerned about the CCTV footage which was prime evidence. He said he did not know whether the military has given the footage to prosecutor.

Later still, the CCTV video remained “unavailable”:

Although the trial in the killing of ethnic Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae began over seven months ago, the court has not yet received the Army’s CCTV footage, critical evidence which recorded soldiers shooting the activist.

According to Sumitchai Hattasan, the lawyer for Chaiyapoom’s family, the Army had already sent the CCTV hard disk to the police, but the file cannot be opened. The lawyer said that he would ask the court to order the Army to resend the footage early next year.

As court proceedings continued, it was reported:

After the incident, the army delivered the camera footage in a hard disk drive to the police who proceeded with the case at Chiang Mai Provincial Court. A number of hearings have taken place since September last year.

However, human rights lawyer Sumitchai Hattasan, who represents Chaiyaphum’s family, said recently that it is unlikely that the prosecutor will refer to the CCTV camera footage as evidence. The Central Police Forensic Science Division has submitted a report on its examination of the army’s hard disk drive to the prosecutor, saying there was “no footage of the time of occurrence” even though the drive was running normally.

In June 2018, a Chiang Mai court’s “verdict” on Chaiyapoom’s killing was delivered, concluding that “the young Lahu activist … was killed by army bullets…”. And that’s it.

Again, Chaiyaphoom’s lawyer and family petitioned the Army to reveal the CCTV footage at the military checkpoint where the activist was slain. The court did not see the footage which the military claimed vindicated its men.

Now it is reported – some 17 months after the extrajudicial killing – the Army would have the public believe that there is no footage. That’s what they have now told the family.

This is breathtakingly dumb. Those generals, then, were simply lying. They cannot be believed on anything at all. They are scoundrels of the lowest order.

More importantly, they may have engaged in malfeasance justifying legal proceedings against them.

Now it is claimed the tape was erased. It is claimed it was never there having been erased to create space on the tape/disk for additional recording.

So what did the generals view? Porn perhaps? Family holiday videos? Blank screens? We think not. We actually think the generals did not lie. Rather, they saw the events, realized it was incriminating its troops of an extrajudicial murder, and after hiding the evidence, it has now been erased.

That’s a criminal act. The Bangkok Post’s editorial doesn’t say anything about that, but says this:

Thailand has been unable to hold state officials accountable for extrajudicial killings, torture or forced disappearances due to a flawed and biased justice process.

The missing footage once again will prevent the justice system from fulfilling its mission of getting to the bottom of yet another mysterious killing.

Its time to say that the justice system under the military dictatorship is incapable of delivering anything resembling justice.