Dumber than a bag of hammers II

7 06 2018

We at PPT have been critical of the justice system because it has been politicized, practiced double standards and enforced injustice. The system that runs from police to prosecutors to courts includes many nodes where the rich can pay bribes to avoid courts, charges and jail. The regime uses it to maintain impunity and to repress and jail political opponents. They make use of the lese majeste, sedition and other political laws and decrees.

The junta has worked hard to “cleanse” the so-called justice system of the “politically unreliable.” While the judiciary has long been a nest of royalists, the junta has re-made it as a bunch of clueless political automatons. That may be something of an exaggeration as some professionals remain at various courts, but it is essentially a judiciary that does as it is expected.

The result of the junta’s interventions is that the judiciary is looking as dumb as a bag of hammers. We say this based on two reports of the dumbest court ruling we have seen for some time. One report is in The Nation and another at Prachatai. They report on a Chiang Mai court’s “verdict” on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae on 17 March 2017.

The court “concluded that the young Lahu activist … was killed by army bullets…”. And that’s it.

How dumb can a court get? Or how politicized and corrupt can it be? Seriously? Everyone involved knew that the boy was killed by the military. The military has said it shot him. The media reported it. Witnesses said it.

So the court, after 14 months of the judicial system’s “investigations,” concludes the obvious and known. It concludes what was never in dispute.

An astute reader might say that this is just a part of a longer process. Yet, as we know from such “investigations” into the 2010 military murder of red shirts that such decisions can be an endpoint.

So this court didn’t just rule that a military bullet killed Chaiyapoom, it refused to confirm anything else. The court did not rule the killing illegal.

In essence, it has granted impunity for the military’s shooter and his commanders.

The court “refused to consider the argument made by Chaiyaphum’s relatives which claims that the activist neither possessed drugs or hand grenades nor attempted to stab the authorities as the army had accused him of doing.”

In response, the judge stated that “the court was only asked to find the cause of his death.” That is, of course, a reflection of what the police “investigated,” what the military brass and junta demanded and what the prosecutors did. It is a failure of the judicial system and shows that this judge is a little more than a dopey processing terminal for the military.

Lahu Chiang Mai Group president and Chaiyapoom’s mentor, Maitree Chamroensuksakul, said “he could not have imagined that the Chiang Mai Provincial Court would simply announce results that the public already knew.” He added: “I am disappointed, frankly speaking. In fact, one year should have been long enough to nail down the culprit…”.

Now that the court has confirmed what everyone knew, after 14 months of hidden evidence and intimidation of witnesses and others, its report will go “to a public prosecutor who will decide whether the soldier who killed Chaiyaphum will be indicted or not.”

More delays, intimidation, suppression of evidence and political interference will follow.

And, if the prosecutors decide to press charges, the case will probably be heard in a military court, where justice is almost never served and proceedings will likely be secret.

The family can file a civil suit, but that is the system’s way of ensuring that there will be likely be delays of years in hearing the case.

Again, “Chaiyaphum’s lawyer and family have also petitioned the Royal Thai Army to publicly 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. Early on, when the military was justifying its actions, “there were widespread reports that video footage of the incident existed and that several military figures, including Army chief Chalermchai Sittisart, had already watched it.”

Cover-ups go right to the top in the impunity that the murderous military enjoys.

That’s why it is now “said the footage did not include what had happened at the time Chaiyapoom was shot.” How convenient that footage once claimed to vindicate the military is now said to not show anything at all about the case. Clearly the military leadership is full of scoundrels and liars. They can get away with murder, again and again.

The Prachatai report includes a timeline of the military’s role and intimidation, the judicial system’s failures and the stonewalling. But there’s much, much more to be learned in this case and the similar case of a Lahu killed a little while before Chaiyapoom, where the military used exactly the same “excuse” for the killing.

Judges overseeing dumb decisions for a murderous military are not dumb themselves. They are just doing their “duty” in protecting the state’s older brothers and enforcing the required impunity.





Prawet’s lese majeste defiance

12 05 2018

After the completion of one lese majeste hero’s sentence, another hero faces his accuses with heroic defiance.

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk completed his seven-year sentence at the end of last month, still challenging the authorities and the law used against him. Prawet Praphanukul remains incarcerated on lese majeste charges, facing three separate sedition charges, computer crimes and 10 counts of lese majeste, could be sentenced to 171 years in jail. The legal maximum is 50 years, but when you are in your late 50s, 171 years or 50 years make little difference.

His case is one of several involving the alleged sharing a Facebook post on the theft of the 1932 revolution plaque on or about 5 April 2017. He’s been held since then and has repeatedly been refused bail.

The twinning of sedition and lese majeste tell us that the military dictatorship is determined to prevent any criticism of the king for his presumed role in the theft of the plaque.

Prawet is a human rights lawyer and has been defiant from the beginning. When he appeared in court on 18 September 2017, he stunned the court by stating that he did not accept the judicial system and did not wish to examine witnesses and evidence against him.

Prawet’s challenge is to the court’s impartiality. He wrote: “Thai courts do not have the legitimacy to try the case. Therefore, I declare that I do not accept the judicial process in the case.”

According to a Prachatai update – read it in full here – on 8 May 2018, the case resumed. Before testimony began,

Prawet had a heated 30-minute argument with two judges. He said he did not believe the court will rule his lèse majesté case with fairness and impartiality, given that the court repeatedly rejected his bail requests. So he asked the judges to try him in absentia and hand him the maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.

The judges responded “that they would rule the case with justice and sympathy to the defendant, adding that nobody can influence the court.”

Nobody could possibly believe such lies. The courts have repeatedly and consistently handed out huge sentences, applied the law to persons not covered by it, refused bail and breached the law and constitution on lese majeste.

Prawet’s reply was short and to the point: “he will not accept the authority of the court to prosecute him but would not obstruct testimony.”

As if to confirm their previous statement was buffalo manure – actually of far lesser value than fertilizer – the judges then closed the court for a secret trial.

UN staff protested but were ditched out of the court.

A verdict will read the verdict on 23 May 2018.

Prawet’s aim is to reveal the shortcomings and injustice of this pathetic judicial system.

Prawet also dismissed his lawyers and refused to sign any documents saying the “justice system was not sufficiently impartial to rule on royal defamation prosecutions, so he decided to deny the authority of the court.”

We salute Prawet. His stance is courageous and principled, words that have little meaning in Thailand’s deeply flawed (in)justice system.





Update: A case to watch

7 02 2018

Back in May 2017, there was some media attention to this story:

How does justice work for the poor? Here’s an example:

KALASIN — A middle-aged couple appealing harsh punishment for picking mushrooms from a protected forest had their sentences reduced by 10 years by the Supreme Court on Tuesday

Udom Sirisorn and Daeng Sirisorn, 54 and 51 respectively, were handed down reduced sentences of five years by a court in Kalasin province, seven years after they were first convicted of illegal logging there.

In July, 2010, the couple had gone into Kalasin’s Dong Radaeng Forest to collect wild mushrooms for cooking. They were arrested by police and quickly sentenced to 30 years in prison, which was reduced by half because they had confessed.

They first appealed in 2014 but a court upheld their original sentences, and the couple served 17 months in jail before being freed on bail. The controversial sentences for the couple spawned a campaign calling for their release online and complaints about the nation’s double-standard justice system.

Yes,in a case that went back to 2010, two very poor farmers were sentenced to 30 years! They served almost a year and a half before being freed on bail.

As we know from bitter experience, rich people get away with much in Thailand. And the poor get jailed. The Red Bull case is just one of many that shows that wealth can buy much and that connections to the powerful and the paying off of officials begets impunity.

This makes the poaching case of construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta so interesting and a test for the junta’s (in)justice system.

Boss of of Italian-Thai is a big deal in the business world, with impeccable connections (read his CV). For a while he was listed in the Forbes richest 50 for Thailand.

He’s used to getting his way and when he was caught red-handed poaching wildlife in the World Heritage Thungyai Naresuan sanctuary, it was a surprise. It was certainly a surprise for him as he’d have thought all his connections would have prevented any authorities getting too interested in his illegal hunting. Perhaps he’s annoyed someone.

The press says he “could face a maximum of 28 years in jail if he is found guilty…”. Let’s see. Like many of these big shots who get caught up, the initial risk is that the case will be delayed and then go quiet. That’s the cover-up even if he was caught with gun in hand and animal corpses all around him.

Remarkably, he and his three employees have denied the charges.

Premchai then lied to reporters saying he went to the wildlife sanctuary “for leisure.” His lawyer said “he was not worried about the case as Mr Premchai had nothing to do with the alleged hunting.”

That must mean the rare animals committed suicide. But this is all a part of getting off. A ridiculous story never seems to bother the rich or the authorities. Premchai probably reckons a “deal” can be done.

Plenty of officials seem to have been involved and he may have even had “permission,” and the denials that he was a VIP guest are so strident they sound fake. The impetus for a cover-up is thus even greater.

Thungyai Naresuan  has “been notorious for decades as an area where rich and powerful people enjoy poaching and game hunting.”

The case brings back memories of the hunting scandal in 1973 that led tothe then military regime losing its remaining credibility and fed into the uprising against it. Veera Prateepchaikul recalls this event.

We can only wonder if the rich will again laugh off and/or buy off the justice system.

Update: Is it a coincidence that a seemingly bogus website claiming to support Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan is also about protecting forests? It says: “General Prawit Wongsuwan loves, protects and takes care of forests. That’s why we love General Prawit Wongsuwan…”.





The lawless regime

4 02 2018

PPT has long pointed to the lawlessness of the military dictatorship. It was an illegal and subversive act – a military coup – that brought it to power. The junta then enacted its own decrees and made itself and its illegal actions “legal.” Since then, the junta has regularly ruled by decree and martial law, used military courts for civilians, acted against its own constitution, failed to provide evidence in murder and torture cases, used the dubious and draconian lese majeste as a weapon against political opponents, concocting cases, arrested people on bogus charges, abducted others and much more.

As the regime digs in against political opponents (and even some supporters gone bad) it is now ignoring the courts it has previously able to direct as puppets. All in the cause of maintaining the military dictatorship and covering-up General Prawit Wongsuwan’s corruption on luxury watches.

Prachatai reports that “[d]espite a recent ruling from the Administrative Court ordering the authorities to facilitate the civil rights march, local authorities in Nakhon Ratchasima have pressured the civil rights march to leave the area two days earlier than planned.”

On 1 February 2018, about 10 local government officials visited participants in We Walk, A Walk for Friendship at a temple in Nakhon Ratchasima and asked them to leave the temple earlier than planned.

According to Eakachai Issaratha, one of the marchers, the participants planned to stay for three nights at Wat Non Makok temple in Non Sung District before continuing their journey to Khon Kaen and the abbot of the temple had agreed to shelter them. However, about 10 local government officials visited the temple and told the march organisers that they could stay for only one night.

The officials claimed that there was a resolution from a meeting of soldiers, police officers, district officials, village heads and subdistrict heads, to allow them to stay for only one night. The marchers could not stay in the area for 3 nights, because the district and provincial officials felt uncomfortable.  The decision to let them stay in the area was not for the abbot alone to make, but rested also with the local administration.

It seems the junta and its minions can just ignore the Administrative Court and its ruling that the We Walk march should continue under a notion of the right to freedom of assembly and its order that the authorities should not to obstruct the march.

Lawless regimes are dangerous.





Updates on two lese majeste cases

26 01 2018

Prachatai has reported on two lese majeste cases.

The first involves singer Tom Dundee or Thanat Thanawatcharanon.

A red shirt singer, Tom was sentenced in June 2016 in two lese majeste cases to a total of 20 years, reduced to 10 years and 10 months after he finally agreed to plead guilty to end cases that were dragging on interminably because he had refused to plead guilty. This has become the junta style in lese majeste cases and amounts to a travesty of justice and an infringement of basic legal rights. His cases were heard in secret, in closed courts.

In another twist in Thailand’s injustice system, it is reported that a” prosecutor in Ratchaburi has indicted a red-shirt country singer for lèse majesté, without giving prior notice to the suspect and his lawyer.” On 25 January 2018, Tom was “accused of making a speech deemed defamatory to the monarchy during a protest of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship — the redshirts.”

Apparently, this is an old case that Tom and his lawyers thought it had been dropped. As we have said before, lese majeste cases are seldom announced as dropped, but are held in abeyance and can be reactivated at any time.

With little notice, it seems the court urgently summoned Tom to appear. As a result, his “lawyer could not present at the court during the indictment.” Meanwhile Tom is held at Ratchaburi Prison.

In lese majeste cases, the injustice system never worries about things like rights under the law.

The second case involves Nurhayati  Masoh, a blind woman arrested some time in November 2016, accused of lese majeste. The 23 year-old unemployed Thai-Malay Muslim from Yala was convicted on 4 January 2018 and sentenced to three years in jail after she agreed to plead guilty.

In a bizarre twist to the case, it is reported that on 23 January, Nuruhayati’s relatives were told by an officer from Yala Provincial Court “that the convict was released on bail. The lawyer and her family confirmed that they did not know who is the bail guarantor or how much the bail cost.”

That her lawyers knew nothing of the bail application suggests something odd is going on and that someone very high up is involved.





Sulak, lese majeste and double standards

26 01 2018

Two prominent intellectuals, both aged, have been in the news of late. The different paths of their cases say something more about the double standards operating in the justice system.

The first is Sulak Sivaraksa, and we have posted on his case, here and here. Sulak has recently been reported as “explaining” his actions on his most recent lese majeste case and how the charge came to be dropped.

He has written that he “had no other choice but to petition the King to encourage the junta to end a prosecution against him for lèse majesté.” He refers to something he calls “royal grace” being involved. What he seems to mean is that the king told the junta “to end the lawsuit…”. This is not the first time that the palace has been involved in dropping charges against Sulak. The publicity his cases have generated are damaging for the throne although, as a reader who was involved tells us, the palace liked to let it be known that it was lenient because Sulak was a little mad.

The junta initially ignored or rejected pleas, many of them international, leaving Sulak “no choice but to ask Rama X for help.”

Sulak, who has previously taken a partisan approach to the law, claiming that the law should be used against those who do not have the interests of the monarchy at heart, this time “urged the junta to release those convicted under Article 112 during the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s reign.” But not the new king’s reign? Odd, as we thought he had supported Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa.

On the day he was acquitted, Sulak told media that, “I believe the barami (glory) of the King protected me. The King did so many things behind the scenes. In my case, if not for [the King’s] barami, I would not be freed, because the Prime Minister is a jerk and is someone who never thinks of doing anything courageous. He is scared. If not for royal barami, my case would never end.”

Bottom line: he got off. We would like to see other lese majeste victims treated in this manner.

The second is Charnvit Kasetsiri, a former rector of Thammasat University and a long-term junta critic. Police have issued a summons for “sharing a fake news report about a purse of Prayut[h Chan-ocha]’s wife.”

On 23 January, police from the Technology Crime Suppression Division summoned Charnvit Kasetsiri to report to police today. As the report explains, “Charnvit was accused of disseminating forged computer data likely to cause damage to a third party, a violation the Computer Crimes Act. If found guilty, he will face up to five years in jail, a fine of up to 100,00 baht, or both.”

The accusation involves a social media discussion that saw Naraporn Chan-ocha accused of carrying a two-million-bath Hermes handbag, “while it is, in fact, a product of Thailand’s Royal Folk Arts And Crafts Centre and costs no more than 10,000 baht.”

Bottom line: The junta can lie its pants off (think election dates) but sharing a post (later corrected) about The Dictator’s wife is a crime.

We think the charges against Charnvit should be dropped too. Will they be dropped or is this just another effort to silence critics (of the “wrong” kind)?

The justice system now operates with double standards at the core of its feudal-like operations.





Justice warped

26 12 2017

It has been a considerable time since PPT has seen any reporting on the court case on the killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae. We think the last report we posted on was back in September.

Then the Bangkok Post was pointing to the case being in the courts but that the events of the killing had been muddied by the authorities, with junta cabinet ministers defending the soldier who gunned down Chaiyapoom. The “evidence” the junta’s officials and the military claimed to have was hidden, unavailable or concocted and the long-promised and much discussed CCTV footage of the shooting had not been released to the courts.

Junta “investigations” were stagnant cover ups and the case risked disappearing into thin air, the state’s usual way of maintaining impunity for its illegal acts.

In a brief update, seven months into the court case, Prachatai confirms the ongoing cover-up.

Sumitchai Hattasan, the lawyer for Chaiyapoom’s family, said that the “evidence submitted by the Army … is unusable…”. This claim relates to the continuing failure to provide the CCTV footage. The Army mumbled something about having provided it to the police but that the latter being unable to open the file.

The lawyer is now required to get the “court to order the Army to resend the footage early next year.”

What will be the next excuse? This case is one more that displays the warping the justice system.





Warping “law”

25 12 2017

Reader will have noticed that PPT has had to use inverted commas for rather a lot of words used in Thailand where the meaning is not as it seems, This includes such seemingly important words as election when that “election” is manipulated for a particular outcome and justice where “justice” is actually injustice.

We have also long been critical of various aspects of the “justice” system as being feudal, subject to double standards and political manipulation.

Of course, our longest criticisms have been of the lese majeste law, which has long been (mis)used. Since the 2006 military coup this misuse has become farcical. By this we mean that the use of the law has been as a tool for palace and military regime in ways that have been increasingly absurd, feudal and, in fact and in law, lawless.

One aspect of this lawless use of the lese majeste law has been in the application of the law to figures not covered by the law.

A recent article, “Who is an ‘Heir(-Apparent)?’: An old issue that is still new today” by Metta Wongwat examines how the law has been used to “protect” Princess Sirindhorn. As explained,

the scope of the royal persons protected by the law has a … problematic interpretation, despite the fact that the law clearly specifies only four positions, namely, the King, the Queen, the Heir-Apparent and the Regent.

The article includes some cases not previously known to PPT. The article examines the proceedings of these cases and the decisions made by the courts.

These cases are worth reading for the efforts judges make to consider Sirindhorn and “heir apparent.”

In one case, in 2004, while the prosecutor initially lodged a defamation case, an initial court decision elevated the case to lese majeste with a banal Royal Institute dictionary definition being used and further interpreted. At that time, the higher courts rejected this interpretation and dismissed the lese majeste charge.

In a second case, the court seems to consider any defamation against any royal to constitute lese majeste. While the Royal Household Bureau responded to a court request stating that, in 2010, only then Prince Vajiralongkorn was heir apparent, as the case included other royals covered by the law, lese majeste stuck.

A third case involves a man accused defaming Princess Sirindhorn while in  private conversation with a friend. The case was initially dropped, but following the 2014 coup, the case was tried in 2014. The Provincial Court of Thanyaburi and Appeals Court dismissed the charge because the offense did not constitute lese majeste. The public prosecutor is appealing the case.

The fourth case demonstrates the manipulation of the law that has been definitional of the military junta’s misuse of lese majeste. Four were accused of misusing Sirindhorn’s name for profit. Two of the defendants were pressured to plead guilty to lese majeste and they were promptly jailed.

The other two defendants remain imprisoned challenging the charge. The two who pleaded guilty have been released, being “rewarded” for not challenging the court and the misused charge.

The lawyers for the still detained men have repeatedly run into illegal brick walls. They sought documents and testimony from the case heard in the Thanyaburi Provincial Court. In a surreal decision, the court ruled that the royal letter didn’t appear to exist, despite the lawyers citing the correspondence number of the Royal Household Bureau. The testimony from the investigating officer to the Thanyaburi Court was also ruled out with the court saying it would “not cross the line…”. It is clear that “the line” is real investigation and proper justice.

When the lawyers then found that the Council of State’s website had a “publicly displayed … consultation letter from the Royal Police Department in 1989, that [stated] the Crown Prince is the only heir-apparent,” they asked the court to issue a summons for the document. Surprisingly, the court did seek the document from the Council of State.

The response of the Council of State was to remove the document from its website and made it secret, saying that the “document is classified state information and its release could cause damage.” This Council is one of Thailand’s most important legal institutions. but is prepared to break and bend the law to allow courts to make decisions that flout the law.

The lese majeste law is warped by such manipulation while warping the whole justice system.





The “justice” system

14 12 2017

We at PPT have long posted on the injustices, illegal actions and double standards of the justice system. Usually our posts on this topic have to do with the manipulation of the lese majeste law for political ends. Sometimes we have posted on the other “legal” means that the junta has used to jail and silence those it considers political opponents,  or “dangerous” for the “reputation” of the military.

In this post, however, we look at the unexplained treatment of a suspect charged with “participation in premeditated murder, attempted murder and fatal bombing” that resulted in the death of 20 and injuries for 120 at the Erawan Shrine in 2015.

These charges did not prevent the “Bangkok Military Court on Wednesday released Wanna Suasan, the Thai suspect in the 2015 Erawan Shrine bombing, on bail of 1 million baht on the condition she remains in the country” and doesn’t tamper with evidence or witnesses.

This is is stark contrast to lese majeste cases where almost no one gets bail from the courts. Clearly, in the justice system, being accused of insulting a royal, a dead king, a dead king’s dog or a historical royal figure counts for far more than premeditated murder and terrorism. The justice system operates as a feudal institution.

As an important aside, recall that one of the reasons for the EU capitulation on Thailand was this:

The Council notes the decision of the Thai military leadership to phase out the practice of prosecuting civilians before military courts for a number of offences since 12 September 2016, including for offences against internal security and lèse majesté offences. The Council urges the Thai authorities not to prosecute civilians before military courts including for lèse majesté offences committed before 12 September 2016.

Naturally enough, the junta can simply ignore human rights issues and continues to use military courts. The “out” for the EU seems to be the date it notes.





Burning arches lese majeste “guilty” pleas

22 11 2017

About a week ago we posted on the sentencing of two men, held in jail until they pleaded guilty, for allegedly torching dead king arches in Khon Kaen province. They were said to be two among eight suspects and a 14-year-old who are accused of being involved in the burning.

Prachatai reports that “[f]ive teenagers and one adult facing royal defamation [lese majeste] charges for burning royal arches in northeastern Thailand have pleaded guilty.” Previously, the six had only agreed to plead guilty to destroying public property. They denied charges of criminal association and lese majeste.

Why did they change their plea?

One of the six said that they chose to plead guilty because the trial would be lengthier if they continued to fight the case, adding that he hopes that the sentence can be halved and that they will receive a royal pardon.

Nothing new there. This is now standard operating procedure in the Thai (in)justice system.

On 20 November 2017, the Provincial Court of Phon District “held a preliminary hearing for six suspects indicted for violating Article 112 … criminal association, and destruction of public property…”. The court is scheduled to sentence them on 31 January 2018.

The unusual thing in this case is that five of the defendants are teenagers.

In other words, the Thai state is prepared to keep children and youth in jail, without bail and limited access to lawyers in order to get its guilty pleas that avoid having anyone challenge the “sanctity” of the horrid monarchy, even in a real court case.

There is no such thing as a fair trial on lese majeste in Thailand. Legal procedures are fake and a farce.

The 14 year-old who is also charged will face the Khon Kaen Juvenile and Family Court later. We are unable to confirm if he is detained.








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