UN “very concerned” on lese majeste

14 06 2017

They have been saying it for several years now, but UN expressions of concern about lese majeste madness in Thailand deserve repeating. The call is to amend the law. That’s unlikely to happen any time soon, so a watered-down squeak for amending might as well be a real demand for abolition. That won’t happen either, but it needs to be shouted again and again.

The following is the whole post from the UN Human Rights -Asia Facebook page:

The military junta We are very concerned by the rise in the number of lèse majesté prosecutions in Thailand since 2014 and the severity of the sentencing, including a 35-year jail term handed down last Friday against one individual. A Thai military court found Wichai Thepwong guilty of posting 10 photos, videos and comments on Facebook deemed defamatory of the royal family. He was sentenced to 70 years in jail, but the sentence was reduced to 35 years after he confessed to the charges.

This is the heaviest sentence ever handed down under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which is also known as the lèse majesté law. The previous heaviest sentences were handed down in 2015, when three people were jailed for between 25 and 30 years by military courts on the same charges. The offence carries a penalty of three to 15 years in jail for each charge of insulting the monarchy.

Between 2011 and 2013, 119 people were investigated for insulting the monarchy. Over the last three years, between 2014 and 2016, that figure has more than doubled to at least 285.

Statistics provided by Thai authorities show there has been a sharp fall in the number of people who have been able to successfully defend themselves against lèse majesté charges. From 2011-13, around 24 percent of people charged with the offence walked free, but over the next three years, that number fell to about 10 percent. Last year, that figure was only 4 percent.

While our Office appreciates the complexity and sensitivity of the issue surrounding lèse majesté in Thailand, we are deeply troubled by the high rate of prosecutions and the courts’ persistence in handing down disproportionate sentences for the offence. All people have the right to freedom of expression, including when it comes to criticising public figures. Imprisonment of individuals solely for exercising the right to freedom of expression constitutes a violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand acceded to in 1996. In March 2017, the UN Human Rights Committee, which reviews implementation of the ICCPR, concluded that Thailand should review Article 112 of the Criminal Code to bring it into line with Article 19 of the Covenant.

We also have concerns about the conduct of the trials since the military coup of 2014. Most of the lèse majesté cases have been tried before a military court, and the hearings have been closed to the public. Most of the accused have been denied bail and some held for long periods in pre-trial detention. While we welcome the Government’s decision in September 2016 to cease hearing future lèse majesté cases in military courts, we reiterate our call to authorities to apply this is to all pending cases, retroactively.

Our Office calls on the Thai Government to immediately amend the lèse majesté law to bring it in line with international human rights standards and to review all cases brought under Article 112 of the Criminal code.

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva





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




UN Human Rights Committee findings

29 03 2017

The UN Human Rights Committee has published its findings on the civil and political rights record of countries it examined during its latest session. These findings are officially known as “concluding observations.” They contain “positive aspects of the respective State’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and also main matters of concern and recommendations.”

All of the reports generated for Thailand’s review, including the Concluding Observations are available for download.

The Committee report begins by welcoming Thailand’s “submission of the second period report of Thailand, albeit 6 years late, and the information contained therein.”

There are 44 paragraphs of concerns and recommendations. There’s a lot in it: refugees, enforced disappearances, Article 44, freedom of expression, torture, constitutional issues, arbitrary detention, the National Human Rights Commission, military courts, problems in the south, repression during the constitutional referendum, defamation, computer crimes, sedition and much more.

We just cite the comments on lese majeste:

37. The Committee is concerned that criticism and dissention regarding the royal family is punishable with a sentence of three to fifteen years imprisonment; and about reports of a sharp increase in the number of people detained and prosecuted for this crime since the military coup and about extreme sentencing practices, which result in some cases in dozens of years of imprisonment (article 19).

38. The State party should review article 112 of the Criminal Code, on publicly offending the royal family, to bring it into line with article 19 of the Covenant. Pursuant to its general comment No. 34 (2011), the Committee reiterates that the imprisonment of persons for exercising their freedom of expression violates article 19.  





Human Rights Committee report

19 03 2017

A reader points out that we should have linked to the U.N.’s Human Rights Committee report on the second periodic review of Thailand’s implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

For those interested, it is here. That report also links to Thailand’s official country report, which can be read here: CCPR/C/THA/2, although that report seems dated to us.

 





Human rights and the lawless junta

16 03 2017

Readers may recall that, a couple of days ago, PPT posted on the 46 minions of Thailand’s military junta who were going to Geneva to defend the junta in its second review before the Human Rights Committee on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR).

We indicated that this would be defending the indefensible and would amount to a crock of lies.

According to a report at The Nation, that’s how it has turned out.

In fact, in addition to lies, The Nation states that the “Thai delegation has continued to dodge queries about freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and child labour in its response in front of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.”

They stated that “freedom of expression was ‘clearly defined under the law’ with restrictions only to maintain public order and curb violence…”.

On freedom of assembly, the Thai delegation said that “public assemblies were ‘easily granted’ permission, provided that they did not block important public facilities.” The delegation did not answer questions “whether Thai authorities planned to lift restrictions, how many criminal penalties had been imposed and the appeal procedure when permission to assemble was denied.”

Nor did the Thai delegation “touch on the junta’s ban against political gatherings of five or more people, which has been in place since 2014.”

The delegation was unable to answer questions regarding child labor.

The delegation did parrot the junta:

“The [NCPO’s] aim had been to stop the ongoing political conflict and put an end to deep divisions in Thai society,” the Thai delegation said. “The council [junta] attempted to reconcile the different parties to the conflict and present an escalation of the situation.”

The delegation also managed only the one “acceptable” lie on lese majeste:

The lese majeste law gave protection to the King or the Queen, and it was not aimed at curbing the freedom of expression … People charged for lese majeste were [also] entitled to the rights as persons charged for other criminal offences, including the right to a fair trial.

That is a hint on the big lie that underpins the junta’s rule. It is essentially a lawless regime.

Article 44 allows the junta to do anything it wants and that means it is “legal.” That article is granted by a constitution that was put in place by the junta following the illegal 2014 coup. If anything a regime wants to do is “legal,” then there’s no law at all except what the regime deems “law” and “legal.”

There is no rule of law in Thailand, just a regime that is unbridled by law.





Defending dictatorship

13 03 2017

The minions of Thailand’s military junta are descending on Geneva to defend the indefensible. The Nation reports that some 46 officials, “more than any other country,” for its second review before the Human Rights Committee on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR). The next largest delegation has 33 persons.

As well as presenting its own national report, the Committee “provided a list of 10 issues involving 28 inquiries for Thailand to respond to.” These issues “include rights and liberty and security of people, as well as rights to freedom of expression…”.

The 46 officials, including senior persons and bag carriers, are described in the report:

Headed by permanent secretary to the Justice Ministry Charnchao Chaiyanukij, the delegation consists of 14 officers from the Foreign Ministry, six from the Justice Ministry, four from the police and the Labour Ministry each, three representatives of administrative bodies in the deep South, three from the Education Ministry, two from the Interior Ministry, the Defence Ministry, and the Social Development and Human Security Ministry each, an officer from the Office of the Attorney General, Office of the President of the Supreme Court, the Digital Economy and Society Ministry, the National Security Council each and an interpreter.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Kreangam, who is the legal and “civilian” face of the dictatorship, “defended the large number of Thai delegates saying it was due to various missions the delegation has to handle.”

According to the report, “Thailand is obligated to provide information on the use of some of the junta’s orders that give military officers’ authority to search or detain any individual deemed a threat to national security.” The Nation has a copy of Thailand’s report and states:

Thai representatives will respond that the country did not allow impunity. If a state official, or someone acting on its behalf, commits a crime, that person shall be held accountable and subject to disciplinary action and/or legal punishment….

That makes it clear that the junta’s “defense” of its “human rights record” is likely to be a crock of lies.

On the use of military courts, if The Nation is to be believed, the response from the junta evades the issue.

As more details emerge, the degree to which the junta is prepared to dissemble will become clearer.





Release Pai IX

14 02 2017

Prachatai reports that the “Student Councils Assembly of Thailand has demanded that Thai authorities release ‘Pai Dao Din’ [Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa], an anti-junta activist accused of defaming King Vajiralongkorn” by reposting a BBC Thai report on succession.

On 13 February 2017, the Assembly states:

“As an organisation founded to protect the rights and liberties of students in accordance with democratic principles, [SCAT] is concerned about the case’s judicial process since the court has refused to release Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa. This is against the suspect’s human rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights…”.

The Assembly calls for Jatuphat’s release.