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.





Outcome of the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review

16 05 2016

Justice Ministry permanent secretary and junta mouthpiece  Charnchao Chaiyanukit is reported in the Bangkok Post, justifying the junta’s rotten human rights record and its pathetic performace before the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.

He is reported as saying that Thailand had “accepted 181 out of 249 recommendations, while 68 were noted for further consideration.” He explained that “[s]ome of the recommendations Thailand needs to consider include limits on rights that would affect national security, the lese majeste law, amendments to the Computer Crime Act and the ending of death row and the use of the military court against citizens.” He added that a “meeting will be held between state authorities and cabinet members to put forward the 68 recommendations following which the cabinet will be asked to make comments on each.”

In other words, the junta is going to reject recommendations in all of these areas. Yet a perusal of the 68 recommendations that have effectively been rejected is, in fact, defining of the military junta. We list some of these:

Twelve recommendations relate to the abolition of the death penalty. Thailand has not officially executed anyone since 2009, but the military regime is unlikely to accede to the abolition. Many die in extrajudicial killings by the military and police.

Three recommendations relate to conventions on Genocide, International Criminal Court and Rome Statute. Thailand under a military regime that came to power trampling the bodies of civilian protesters is not about to allow itself to be subject to international scrutiny on these matters.

Four recommendations variously called on the junta to comply with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and put an immediate end to the use of arbitrary detention. The Czech Republic and New Zealand makes several recommendations for the end of the practice of forced detention of dissenters in the “re-education camps” and “attitude adjustment” and recommended the government investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment associated with such detentions. New Zealand wants all those arrested in such circumstances to “have access to justice and a fair trial…”. The military junta uses arbitrary detention on almost a daily basis so is never going to agree to this recommendation. As all PPT readers know, “re-education” and “attitude adjustment” are critical elements of the junta’s regime and so these recommendations will be ignored.

Canada recommends that the junta “[c]reate an independent body to investigate all torture allegations…”. As torture is a standard operating procedure in the military and police, this recommendation will be rejected.

Two recommendations relate to ILO Conventions that have not been ratified by Thailand. Workers’ rights are not on the junta’s agenda. The military has long repressed labor and considers that the subordinate classes should know their position.

Four recommendations directly address the junta’s restrictions on freedoms and its manipulation of law. Australia recommends the “[r]epeal all orders of the National Council for Peace and Order that are inconsistent with its international human rights obligations.” The USA directs attention to the referendum law and its restrictions. The Netherlands recommends the junta “[r]estore the protection of civil and political rights by ensuring that the Constitution meets Thailand’s international human rights obligations and end the present prosecution of civilians in military courts.” Each of these recommendations restricts the junta’s capacity to act arbitrarily and so will be rejected.

Botswana, Brazil, Finland, Italy and the UK specifically addressed freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and called for all legislation affecting freedom of expression to be “compatible and implemented in line with Thailand’s international obligations…”. This will be rejected, perhaps with pathetic claims about the cultural content of the junta’s repression.

Norway recommended that the junta “[p]ropose concrete dates for visits by the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of association and assembly respectively…”. The junta doesn’t want international scrutiny, so this recommendation will be ditched.

Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay and the USA all called for an end the prosecution of civilians in military courts. Not only did the junta’s representatives lie about this central element of its regime before the Human Rights Council, but the junta has already “explained” that it will continue to put civilian opponents in military courts before unqualified military judges.

Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Spain and the US called for abolition or reform of the lese majeste law. Several of these states and Sweden also demanded the end of or reform to the computer crimes, public assembly, slander and defamation laws. There is no chance that the royalist junta, managing succession, will do anything along such lines.

For those interested in the review’s draft report and lists of recommendations, this is available at the UPR Extranet (https://extranet.ohchr.org/sites/upr/Sessions/25session/Thailand/Pages/default.aspx) logging in [username:  hrc extranet (with space); password: 1session]. We include a PDF of the report A.HRC.WG.6.25.L.13 – After adoption here.