Regime’s judges deepen repression

11 03 2021

Human Rights Watch:

Thailand’s Bangkok Criminal Court has ordered three prominent democracy activists to pretrial detention on charges of insulting the monarchy, Human Rights Watch said today. The order could leave them detained for years until their trial is concluded….

“There is a growing pattern of Thai activists charged with lese majeste being sent to long periods of pretrial detention,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Courts should uphold the right to the presumption of innocence and ensure all fair trial procedures are observed.”

… The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified, encourages bail for criminal suspects. Article 9 states that, “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.” Those denied bail should be tried as expeditiously as possible, Human Rights Watch said….

“Thai authorities should immediately end their heavy-handed enforcement of the lese majeste law and allow a broad-based discussion to bring the law into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations,” Adams said.

Amnesty International:

The denial of bail for four protest leaders on Monday (8 March) is “tantamount to a systematic suppression of freedom of expression and freedom of opinion” in Thailand, says Amnesty International, who calls on the government to end legal prosecution against dissenting voices….

Piyanut Kotsan, Director of Amnesty International Thailand said:

“It is profoundly worrying that the Thai authorities are systematically prosecuting a large number of protest leaders and demonstrators. In certain cases, the suspects may face up to 15 years of imprisonment. This is a severe and disproportionate punishment. Given the normally protracted period of trial, the prosecution of dissenters or critics of the government is being weaponized to silence and retaliate against those who dare to challenge the state power.”

“Mass prosecutions and denial of bail demonstrate how the justice process is being used as a tool to brazenly attack the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. People are entitled to legitimate rights to express themselves and participate in activities concerning social issues.

“The Thai authorities must stop treating critics as if they are criminals or a threat to national security. They must be released and the charges against them must be immediately dropped in the condition where there is an insufficient evidence under international criminal standard.”

Should anyone thinks that the courts are involved in anything other than “lawfare,” we suggest a careful reading of a Prachatai report, where it refers to the “[b]izarre treatment of pro-democracy protesters…”. It mentions several anomalies:

The court’s rejection of bail for 4 pro-democracy activists on 8 March is raising questions about procedural irregularities as 3 of them were taken from court before they were allowed the opportunity to complete bail requests, while another was sent to a prison other than the one designated by the court.

Corrections Department Director-General Ayut Sinthoppan said that several political prisoners were transferred from Bangkok Remand Prison to Thon Buri Remand Prison to “ease overcrowding.” Lawyers and families were left in the dark.

At least 58 people now face lese majeste charges and none of them will be treated fairly or legally.





Talking to a brick wall

12 08 2020

It may be like talking to a brick wall yet it remains important that Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s family and Amnesty International Thailand are keeping the pressure on Cambodia over his enforced disappearance on 4 June 2020.

Young Thais continue to campaign for information on his fate.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Prachatai reports that they have asked for “a meeting with … Ouk Sorphorn, Ambassador of Cambodia to Thailand, to discuss and acknowledge investigation progress…”. THe call came on what would have been Wanchalearm’s 38th birthday.

Amnesty International Thailand “states that it has been two months since Wanchalearm has disappeared and there is no progress on his whereabouts either from Thai or Cambodian authority.” Most observers would consider this lack of progress to be reflective of official involvement and cover-up by both regimes. AI also notes that Cambodia is a state party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and has a responsibility to respond on the case. Of course, this assumes that the regime takes such an obligation seriously, and the evidence is that it does not.

Clipped from Prachatai

Wanchalearm’s sister, Sitanun Satsaksit, states that her family still lives in hope that there will be “answers both from Thai and Cambodian authority on Wanchalearm’s fate and whereabouts.”

As the disappearance is probably related to the absent monarch in Thailand (well, Germany), the Thai regime is going to remain mum. The Cambodians are supporting the semi-dictatorship in Bangkok.





Updated: Enforced disappearances and political repression

7 06 2020

The government continues to deny any knowledge of Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s apparent enforced disappearance. It also avers that it can’t do anything to investigate. It is the “We know nothing” response.

But this ruse is weakened when former security officials blabber on. In this case we have regime supporter and former deputy director of the National Intelligence Agency, Nantiwat Samart sowing seeds of doubt by urging “the public not to jump to conclusions.” He claims Wanchalearm may not have been abducted or killed.

He lies that Thailand’s military doesn’t have capacity for such operations – despite the fact that they have been conducting cross-border operations for decades and having several special forces units including some recently trained units capable of such operations. In addition, it is known that, less than a month ago, police visited Wanchalearm’s mother demanding information on his location.

Contradicting himself he then claims that Thia units would not have abducted the activist as he is just not important enough for such an operation.

Meanwhile, human rights defender Angkhana Neelapaijit – who knows a lot about enforced disappearances – advises the regime to act:

“The government would be cast in a bad light — as an accessory [to the disappearance] — if it is not active in solving this case,” Ms Angkhana said. “Despite Mr Wanchalearm being critical against the government, he is a Thai citizen.”

Thai authorities must work with the Cambodian government to solve this case, the former human rights commissioner added.

Ms Angkhana believes the Cambodian government would take an active role in solving Mr Wanchalearm’s disappearance as the country ratified the United Nations International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2013.

The Mirror Foundation has announced that Wanchalearm is considered a missing person and that the Foundation will “raise awareness about his abduction.” It said that its “members are making a missing person report assuming that it was a case of forced disappearance.”

The Nation reports that others have expressed their concern. Police used the now common virus emergency decree excuse to restrict a protest on Friday that drew attention to the abduction. The report states that a “group of protesters gathered on the Bangkok Skywalk in Pathumwan district…”.

The Bangkok Post has an editorial that considers the abduction and the others over the past couple of years “speak volumes of how the country’s democracy is phoney.”

We never thought the junta’s “democracy” was anything of the sort, but thought that the Post could have observed that these abductions have been used since the king decided that lese majeste should be toned down.

The Post calls for speech to be freed and for the computer crimes law and other “unjust laws” to be revised. We can’t see the military-backed regime doing anything, either on the enforced disappearances or reducing repression.

Update: AFP reports that Wanchalearm’s family have “pleaded Sunday for his release…”. They said: “Please release Wanchalearm. We will look forward to this with hope…. We hope this enforced disappearance will be the last time.”





Updated: Murder, impunity

4 09 2019

PPT has only mentioned the enforced disappearance of Karen rights activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen twice.

Clipped from Khaosod

One post came soon after his “disappearance” after being detained in Kaeng Krachan National Park by park officials on bogus charges. The post noted that Billy’s “disappearance” came after he filed a lawsuit that accused Kaeng Krachan Park authorities of damaging the property and homes of more than 20 Karen families living inside the park, suggesting that state officials were (again) solving “problems” by enforced disappearance. (We have seen this again recently with the murder and disappearance of several anti-monarchy activists.)

Several years ago the Asian Legal Resource Center made the UN’s Human Rights Council aware of the importance of continued action to end enforced disappearance in Thailand. It pointed out that “[d]ocumented cases indicate that enforced disappearances of citizens, including human rights defenders, dissidents, and ordinary people, have been carried out by Thai state security forces for over forty years.”

Two years after our first post, we noted a Human Rights Watch communication that observed that:

Thailand signed the Convention against Enforced Disappearance in January 2012 but has not ratified the treaty. The penal code still does not recognize enforced disappearance as a criminal offense. Thai authorities have yet to satisfactorily resolve any of the 64 enforced disappearance cases reported by Human Rights Watch, including the disappearances of prominent Muslim lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit in March 2004 and ethnic Karen activist Por Cha Lee Rakchongcharoen, known as “Billy,” in April 2014.

As usual, the official “investigation” was hopeless. However, on Tuesday, the Department of Special Investigation announced that it had found and identified “bone fragments of a Karen community rights activist [Billy] missing since 2014…”. The bone fragment DNA, said to “match those of his mother,” were “found in May inside a 200-liter oil tank submerged in water near a suspension bridge inside Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi province…. The tank that was found was burnt. The bones were also burnt…”. (This raises the specter of the Red Drum murders.)

This discovery came after Billy’s relatives “filed a request with the Phetchaburi Provincial Court to have Porlajee declared legally dead on 27 August…”.

Will anyone be brought to justice? Probably not. Impunity remains the norm for murderous officials, police and military.

Update: Sounding odd indeed, in the Bangkok Post, Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, the former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park, “who was among the last people to see the late Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen before he disappeared five years ago” has decided to publicly question the “DNA test that led authorities to conclude the Karen rights activist was murdered.” Speculation on why he might do this is warranted, but the ex-chief was quick to say that “he had nothing to do with Porlajee’s disappearance and death.”





Strange maneuverings II

24 10 2015

The strange case of the still mostly unexplained lese majeste cases against a person known to be close to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and his assistant, and a police officer responsible for some lese majeste investigations gets stranger still.

The Nation reports that there are fears for the safety of these men, held incommunicado and, apparently, lawyer-less in a military facility. It is stated that “special wardens, made up of military officers and guards from the Corrections Department, has been appointed to take care of three suspects detained over in a high-profile lese majeste case.” It is added that the “wardens’ key responsibility is to ensure the three men’s well-being during detention…”. Having thugs in the military “take care” could be code for something else.

Suriyan Sujaritpalawong, Jirawong Wattanathewasilp, and Police Major Prakrom Warunprapha are at a “temporary detention facility at the 11th Military Circle on Bangkok’s Nakhon Chaisri Road.”

In moves that may or may not be legal – but in lese majeste cases, true legalities go out the window – the men have seen their assets seized. In the previous lese majeste case involving persons close to the prince’s palace, assets were also stripped from people like policeman Pongpat Chayapan is raids that were portrayed as revealing their ill-gotten gains but seemed to be more a stripping of unusual wealth gained in unspecified ways.

The report states that the “seized assets are being kept under tight security at the 11th Infantry Regiment…”. Things that make you go hmm.

Meanwhile, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have stated that Suriyan appears to have been “a victim of enforced disappearance during the 6 days, from 16 October 2015 to 21 October 2015, according to International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance…”. They say that Suriyan was taken by the authorities on the evening of 16 October 2015. The police denied this. Then Suriyan did not appear again until 21 October when the police and military officers paraded him to the Bangkok Military Court.

It is also reported that a total of “13 police have been transferred to inactive posts, as inquiries are underway to determine whether they are also involved in the lese majeste case.” The jails won’t be large enough to accommodate all of these “lese majeste” detainees.





Who is at risk of state murder in Thailand?

30 05 2012

The Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF) has called for the Government of Thailand to ratify and comply with the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. The Asian Human Rights Commission has circulated it in English.

To most reasonable people, that might seem a very reasonable call. Indeed, a question might be asked as to why Thailand hasn’t already signed up. The answer is deeply depressing. The government – any Thai government – refuses to sign because, not unlike the abolition of the lese majeste law, such an innovation scares the pants off the elite. They fear that removing the impunity they have of using the Army and police to murder and massacre would bring their whole political and economic monopoly crashing down. Of course, it wouldn’t, but this lot won’t allow concessions to be made to the lesser beings they lord it over.

The JPF report details the enforced disappearance of 59 people from across Thailand. JPF President Angkhana Neelapaijit, whose husband Somchai was disappeared, states:

JPF has found that enforced disappearances take place within a broader context of state violence which is used to silence dissenting views and to eliminate suspected criminals, outside of the rule of law….

JPF found that two government policies contributed to enforced disappearances: “the highly militarized counter-insurgency approach adopted in southern Thailand by various governments and the War on Narcotic Drugs beginning in 2003.”

JPF also found that particular categories of people were most vulnerable to enforced disappearances:

(i) people with close relationships with officials and /or come into conflict with officials; (ii) activists engaged in human rights, political or corruption activism; (iii) witnesses of crimes or human rights violations; and (iv) migrants.

The report also points out that enforced disappearance is not a new problem, and notes cases since 1952.

How are people disappeared? Apparently there are three patterns:

The first, and most common, involves officials taking the victim from the street by forcing them into a vehicle and driving away. Secondly, the disappearance begins with the victim being arrested from his home or place frequently used by him. Thirdly, the victim is invited to meet an official at a specific location and then disappears. The detention of the individual is consistently denied when families seek information about their missing relative.

All of this will be depressingly familiar to anyone with some knowledge of Thailand and the activities and impunity of its police and Army. All of this is supported by the judiciary, which is biased, corrupt and compromised.

Angkhana is absolutely correct when she states that:

Decades of impunity have created a context in which administrative and security officials know that their illegal actions are condoned by the state and that the likelihood of legal action against them is extremely low….

JPF has made several recommendations, including ratification of the International Convention.