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.





Lese majeste lies, nonsense and repression

7 02 2016

The lese majeste conviction train has been traveling at a speed that makes everything else the military junta does seem like extra-slow motion. We use this post to catch up on some recent lese majeste stories.

At Prachatai: lese majeste lunacy is reported, yet it is unclear who is suffering mental illness. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights “the military Judge Advocate General’s office has scheduled a hearing on 20 April 2016, when military prosecutors will decide whether to indict Sao (surname withheld due to privacy concerns) under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.

Sao, “who claims that he has telepathic powers to communicate with Thaksin Shinawatra,” was assessed by psychiatrists from the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute and they concluded that” Sao is fit to stand on trial in a military court…”.

It is bizarre that trained psychiatrists would come to such conclusions. Perhaps they suffer some kind of royalist psychosis.

In another story of lese majeste oddities, we note that Pavin Chachavalpongpun has a remarkable ability to get under the skin of the royalists who currently rule over Thailand. Almost everything he writes gets a high-level response and royalists are sometimes showing up when he speaks to provide usually crude responses to his views, if they don’t get to shout him down.

Usually for op-eds in foreign newspapers, Thailand’s ambassadors are tasked with responding with cliched royalisms, usually bending and breaking the truth. However, in responding to a recent Japan Times op-ed by Pavin, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs does him the honor of having Sek Wannamethee, Director-General of its Department of Information respond.

Sek says he wants “to clarify some points” but actually muddies and muddles the royal waters.

His first attempt to alter history is to assert that “the monarchy has been and always remains above politics.” By now, almost everyone with even a smidgen of interest in Thailand knows this is a steaming pile of horse manure.

His second to alter history is to assert that “the main purpose of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [he means the junta] to take control of national administration were to provide a cooling-off period for all sides, and to prevent further violence, restore stability, as well as to put the country back on track toward full democracy.”

This is clearly nonsense and a lie that the junta and its flunkies trot out to in the face of facts that say something quite different.

To assert that there is no “association between the monarchy and the operation of the [junta] is completely misleading and totally out of context,” is to deny the junta’s own claims about its raison d’etre. It proclaims its loyalty, it capacity to “protect” the monarchy and Prem Tinsulanonda supports the junta for its loyalty. It is clear that the military is hoping to manage succession.

His next claim, that “the lese majeste law is part of Thailand’s Criminal Code, giving protection to the rights or reputations of the king, the queen, the heir apparent, or the regent in a similar way libel law does for commoners” is one repeatedly made. It is repeatedly denied by academics and activists. For a start, the law has been applied far more widely than the persons mentioned. That’s a fact. When was the last time that libel saw a person sentenced to 60 years in jail?

To argues that the law “is not aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression nor the legitimate exercise of academic freedom, including debates about the monarchy as an institution” is simply a lie.

In another lie, when he denies that “the current government has tightened up its measures against lese majeste charges as the cases become more politicized is an overstatement of the current situation.” Again, its a fact. Mammoth jail sentences, scores of cases and military courts say Sek’s a propagandist.

Some international bodies do recognize the arbitrariness and politicized nature of lese majeste. A Prachatai report tells us that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention “has requested that Thailand immediately release lèse-majesté detainee Pornthip Munkong aka Golf and award her compensation for the arbitrary detention she has been subjected to…”. Apparently, this opinion was adopted on 2 December 2015, arguing that Pornthip’s

… detention is arbitrary because it contravenes Articles 9 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Articles 9(3) and 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Thailand is a state party to the ICCPR. The referenced provisions guarantee the fundamental right to liberty, the right to a fair trial, and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

PPT suggests that almost all lese majeste incarcerations fall into this category.

Dare we say it, but military prosecutors have shown some sense on lese majeste. For the first time, “have dismissed lèse majesté charges against three suspects accused of defaming the Thai monarchy on Facebook.”

The Judge Advocate General’s Office “decided not indict Jaruwan E., 26, Anon, 22, and Chat, 20, accused of using a Facebook page under the name of Jaruwan to defame the King.” Police had charged them with lese majeste  and computer crimes in mid-November 2014. They were imprisoned for almost three months.

Jaruwan denied all charges and claimed an unhappy suitor was responsible for the Facebook account. It seems the prosecutors have finally agreed.





Updated: Political persecution of Sirawith Seritiwat and his family

7 12 2015

We post this in full. [Update: For background, see here]:

Public Statement of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)
Regarding the persecution against Mr. Sirawith Seritiwat and his family

As Mr. Sirawith Seritiwat, a student leader, has announced the plan to make an excursion to the Rajabhakti Park plagued with scandalous corruptions and to organize some activities there on 7 December 2015, since 5 December, the Thai military officers have tried to approach him asking him to cancel the event and invite him for a meeting. The student leader has declined the invitation to meet and simply turned his communication devices off. Being unable to reach out to him, the military officers have gone to meet his mother at her home instead asking her to convince her son to call off the event. They even threatened her that by not following their order, the family could not blame them for any ‘consequences’. Of late on 6 December, his mother was contacted by the military officers again and was asked to meet with them in a military barrack this afternoon.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has found the behavior of the military officers a gross infringement on rights and liberties of people and unlawful. The Order of the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) no. 3/2558 simply authorizes the Peace and Order Maintenance officers to summon a person to report themselves or to give information on matters particularly concerning any culpabilities related to the offence against the monarchy, national security, and the law concerning firearms, ammunition, explosives, fireworks, and the equivalent of firearms, or any offence related to the violation of either the order or announcement of the NCPO or the order of the Head of the NCPO, only.

Therefore, the deprivation of liberty against the mother of Mr. Sirawith Seritiwat in order to stop him from embarking on his trip to the Rajabhakti Park has nothing to do with any of the four offences. Such an act is simply unlawful given that there is no legal basis for it to be carried out. In addition, the act can be construed as an offence as per Section 157 of the Penal Code concerning the abuse of office, Sections 309 and 310 regarding a breach of liberty and an act of arbitrary detention which is a breach to Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Any person subject to such detention can seek a judicial review asking the Court to have them released from any unlawful detention by invoking Section 90 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) urges the military authorities to immediately stop such persecution against civilians by invoking the Order of the Head of the NCPO no. 3/2558 which has been issued by the virtue of the draconian Section 44 of the 2014 Interim Constitution.

With respect to rights and liberties
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)

———————————————–
ศูนย์ทนายความเพื่อสิทธิมนุษยชน
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights
โทร/Tel (+66) (0) 96-789-3172, 096-789-3173





Updated: On Pravit’s detention (and release)

15 09 2015

The Asian Human Rights Commission has released an important statement on the secret detention of moderate journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-154-2015
September 14, 2015

THAILAND: Incommunicado detention of journalist by the junta

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is gravely concerned to have learned that Pravit Rojanaphruk, journalist for the Nation newspaper and freedom of expression advocate, is being detained in an undisclosed location by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The conditions of his detention are arbitrary and a clear derogation of the Government of Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The AHRC views his incommunicado detention as a warning sign of the deepening human rights crisis in Thailand.

According to information provided to the AHRC, Pravit Rojanaphruk was summoned by telephone call to report to the First Army Region base in Bangkok at 2 pm on Sunday, 13 September. Although he requested details on the nature of the summons, the military did not provide any additional information. He reported himself to the entrance of the base at the requested time, and was then told to give his mobile telephone to the lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) who accompanied him. Pravit was next taken inside the base alone and the lawyer was asked to leave. The military officials present at the entrance refused to provide any information about where Pravit was being taken or when he would be released. Despite additional attempts by TLHR to ascertain Pravit’s location on 13 September, the only information provided by the officials at First Army Region base was that he had been taken to an unknown location by another military unit.

On Monday, 14 September, Colonel Winthai Suvaree, spokesperson for the NCPO, acknowledged that Pravit Rojanaphruk was being held. He said that Pravit and others have been summoned to the First Army Region base primarily as a result of “presenting information that is not in line with the preservation of peace and order.” In addition to Pravit, two former Phue Thai Party politicians, Phichai Naripatapan and Karun Hosakul, are also known to be currently arbitrarily detained by the junta. Colonel Winthai further noted that all of the actions are being carried out sincerely by the officials and are based on reasoned evidence and without any intention to create confusion or conflict in society. Colonel Winthai did not provide information on where Pravit was being held or when he would be released, but noted that he was currently “ …being processed by the officials. How long it will take will depend on the results of the investigation, his cooperation, and the evidence held by the officials” (Matichon, 14 September 2015).

The arbitrary detention of Pravit Rojanaphruk comes after fifteen months of military rule following the 22 May 2014 military coup by the NCPO led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha. Since the coup, there has been a precipitous decline in the protection of human rights. There have been severe restrictions placed on freedom of expression and political freedom, ongoing formal and informal summons to report to the junta for alleged “attitude adjustment,” extensive use of arbitrary detention, the activation of military courts to process crimes against the crown and state, and the creation of a general climate of fear detrimental to human rights and the rule of law. Although martial law was revoked on 1 April 2015, NCPO Order 3/2558 issued under Article 44 of the 2014 Interim Constitution was used to replace the provisions granted by martial law, including the authority to arbitrarily detain individuals for up to seven days. As under martial law, those detained can be held at irregular places of detention, including permanent or temporary military bases or other sites designated as places of detention. Detention in irregular places means that the possibility for rights violations, including torture, forced disappearance and extrajudicial execution is greatly increased.

This is the second time that Pravit Rojanaphruk has been arbitrarily detained by the junta. He was summoned and detained for the first time shortly after the coup, when Order No. 6/2557 demanded that he report himself to the Army Club on Thewet Road on 24 May 2014 (AHRC-STM-100-2014). He was then detained for seven days before being released. Like others released from detention by the NCPO, under Announcement No. 39/2557, Pravit was compelled to sign a statement agreeing to a number of conditions, including that he would not exercise his fundamental human rights to free expression or assembly, or leave the country without permission of the junta.

The continued arbitrary detention and constriction of freedom of expression by the NCPO are clear derogations of Thailand’s responsibilities as a state party to the ICCPR. In particular, the incommunicado detention of Pravit Rojanaphruk and others is a violation of the obligations under Article 9, which provides specifically that, “1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law. 2. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him. 3. Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release…” The AHRC would like to emphasize that there is no legal basis for the detention of citizens without charge because they do not share the same political opinions as the junta.

At this time, Pravit Rojanaphruk’s location and safety are unknown. The Asian Human Rights Commission calls on the NCPO to immediately release Pravit Rojanaphruk and all citizens being arbitrarily detained without charge. The AHRC unequivocally condemns the coup in the strongest terms and wishes to express grave concern about the ongoing decline of human rights protections it has engendered. Further, the AHRC calls on the NCPO to recognize that tolerance for different ideas and dissent are part of building a polity grounded in human rights and the rule of law. To think differently than the junta and defend human rights are not crimes.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that Pichai Naripatapan, Karun Hosakul and Pravit Rojanaphruk have been released from the junta’s detention. It seems that at least one has “agreed” to the junta’s terms – essentially to shut up and not criticize the junta or its policies. The Post report has details of the iitimidation of others.





FIDH on lese majeste and the military dictatorship

21 05 2015

We are re-posting this important statement in full. It is from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH):

Thailand: Unprecedented number of lèse-majesté detentions call for urgent reform of Article 112

Paris, Bangkok, 20 May 2015: In the first 12 months under the rule of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), Thailand experienced an unprecedented number of lèse-majesté detentions, FIDH and its member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) said today.

“Unless the NCPO promotes an urgent reform of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, Thai jails will be increasingly populated by individuals who have merely exercised their fundamental rights to freedom of opinion and expression,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

According to research conducted by FIDH, since the junta seized power on 22 May 2014, at least 47 individuals have been detained under the draconian Article 112 of the Criminal Code. [1] Eighteen people have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to 50 years, for a combined total of 159 years – an average of eight years and eight months each. In most cases, defendants saw their sentences halved because they pleaded guilty to the charges.

Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code states that “whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years.”

Prosecutions under Article 112 are likely to continue at a steady pace in the coming months. On 24 April 2015, police said that there were 204 active lèse-majesté cases, of which 128 were under investigation. Authorities are also set to target lèse-majesté suspects beyond Thailand’s national borders. On 21 March 2015, junta-appointed Minister of Justice Gen Paiboon Koomchaya said the military-backed government would seek the extradition of 30 Thais living in exile who have been charged under Article 112.

FIDH and UCL urge the authorities to end lèse-majesté prosecutions of individuals who exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of opinion and expression. The two organizations also urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all individuals imprisoned under Article 112 for having exercised their rights to freedom of opinion and expression.

“Protection of the monarchy must not impinge on the rights of individuals to freedom of opinion and expression. It’s time for the NCPO to heed the numerous UN recommendations for reform and bring Article 112 in line with international law,” urged UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn.

Various UN human rights bodies have repeatedly called on Thailand to amend Article 112 and ensure that it complies with the country’s obligations under international human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party. In the latest statement by a UN official, on 1 April 2015, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye expressed concern over the increasing arrests and detentions under Article 112 and called for an end to the criminalization of dissenting opinions.

Press contacts:
FIDH: Mr. Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) – Tel: +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris)
UCL: Mr. Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn (Thai, English) – Tel: +66890571755 (Bangkok)

[1] This number does not include individuals who have been detained under Article 112 in connection with the prosecution of relatives of former Princess Srirasmi





Different

15 02 2015

Thailand is “unique.” Thailand is “different.” Thailand can’t be compared with anywhere else. These claims are often made for Thailand, often by those who know very little about anywhere else. They are often made about many countries, including Russia, North Korea, Scotland and many more, often described in marketing terms as “unique” or “different.”

Difference can be expressed in various ways. For Thailand, the military dictatorship has emphasized its “difference,” sometimes even claiming that it isn’t a dictatorship!

When the EU Delegation to Thailand recently issued a statement it said three simple and very clear things:

The EU Delegation is concerned about detention without judicial overview and recalls that Thailand, as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has a duty to bring suspects promptly before a judge.

The EU Delegation is equally concerned about the continued use of military courts to try civilians and calls on the government to restrict the use of such courts to military offences committed by military personnel.

As a friend and partner of Thailand, the EU has repeatedly called for the democratic process to be restored and for martial law to be lifted. Rule of Law and the protection and promotion of Human Rights are crucial elements for stability and progress.

The response from the military dictatorship was equally clear. It rejected the statement. That is certainly not “different,” at least not historically. Military dictatorships in Thailand and elsewhere have usually rejected calls for democracy, rule of law and human rights.

Speaking on behalf of General Udomdej Sitabutr, the junta’s secretary general and army chief, he justified military dictatorship and its components including martial law, military  courts, detention without judicial overview and the trashing of international obligations. Winthai said the junta “is well aware of this [EU] concern…” and states that the EU simply doesn’t understand the junta’s Thailand, saying the EU should “think about the current situation in Thailand that is different from those of other countries.”

Yet junta spokesman Colonel Winthai Suwaree says Thailand is different in this, without saying how it is different. PPT can assist him. Soldiers

The military dictatorship’s Thailand is indeed different. As best we can tell, and we are relying on Wikipedia, Thailand is the world’s only currently operating military dictatorship. Even if this is wrong and there are a few more, Thailand is operating under very different rules from most other countries of the world.

Because Thailand is afflicted by this unusual political pathology (a military dictatorship), Winthai observes that this means “the context of problem solving here may be different from ones used elsewhere…”. Again, he’s correct. As one of the world’s almost extinct political dictatorships, Thailand’s military bosses expect obedience, passivity and subservience to the military state’s power.

That context justifies martial law, military  courts, detention without judicial overview and the trashing of international obligations. Indeed, Winthai explained this using militarily idiosyncratic “logic”: “[m]artial law is being invoked only to prohibit political gatherings and to enhance the efficiency of law enforcement authorities…”.

The dopes at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were their usual diplomatic worst, saying “the ministry was aware of the EU’s latest stance and saw nothing new in it.”

So Thailand is different. It is politically different for all the wrong reasons. But that is exactly how the military, the palace and the royalist elite want it. After all, they benefit most from this politically idiosyncratic regime.





Judiciaries against justice

25 01 2015

Several times in recent years, courts in Thailand have demonstrated a disregard for the law.

As well as their capacity for repression and murder, military regimes in Thailand use the law but are not governed by it.

no-justiceIn addition to being highly politicized and royalist, the judiciary is prone to bribery and corruption, undue palace influence and operates on blatant double standards, including a bias for the rich. When it comes to lese majeste cases, the application of the “law” is inexplicable except by reference to the judiciary’s complete subservience to royalism. For example, despite the fact that Article 112 is specific on who is covered, judges have extended its application to long dead kings and have heard cases in secret.

When it comes to military courts these issues are compounded. Military courts sometimes don’t even appear to know the laws of the land.

In this context, a report at Prachatai is of interest. Bangkok’s Military Court has reportedly “dismissed a petition submitted by a prominent red-shirt figure [Sombat Boonngamanong] questioning whether the jurisdiction of the military court over civilian cases violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).”

PPT wouldn’t think that the military court would agree with the claim, but its response was even more emphatic than we expected.Sombat

Sombat is charged with twice failing to report to the junta, “instigating rebellion against the coup-makers under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, and importing computer content related to offences against national security under Article 14 (3) of the Computer Crime Act.”

The Military Court rejected the notion that it allow “the Constitutional Court to interpret whether the junta’s Announcements No. 37/2014 and 38/2014 on the jurisdiction of the military courts violate the ICCPR.”

The court “simply dismissed the request.” Parading those accused of political crimes before military courts makes Thailand a banana republic monarchy.





Observers needed for lese majeste case

26 12 2014

The Asian Human Rights Commission has issued an important call for observers to attend the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok on the morning of 29 December. Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong, both accused of lese majeste offenses, will be before the court.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-214-2014
December 26, 2014

THAILAND: Call for observers in freedom of expression case

On Monday, 29 December 2014, at 9 am in the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok, Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong will appear before the court for the first time since being formally charged on 25 October 2014. They have been charged with violating Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code in relation to the performance of a theatre play, ‘The Wolf Bride’ (Jao Sao Ma Pa) in October 2013. This case is one of many involving the constriction of freedom of expression since the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges all concerned persons to attend the court as observers, and calls on other interested persons to follow the case closely.

Case details:

Patiwat Saraiyaem, age 23, a fifth year student and an activist in the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts at Khon Kaen University, was arrested on 14 August 2014 in Khon Kaen province and is being held in the Bangkok Remand Prison. Pornthip Munkhong, age 25, a graduate of the Faculty of Political Science at Ramkhamhaeng University and an activist, was arrested on 15 August 2014 at the Hat Yai Airport, and is being held in the Central Women’s Prison. They have been held without bail, despite numerous requests, since their arrests and since being formally charged on 25 October with one count of violation of Article 112.

Article 112 of the Criminal Code stipulates that, “Whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The use of Article 112 is highly politicized and has frequently been used as a method of silencing dissenting voices, particularly in moments of regime crisis. Although this measure has been part of the Criminal Code since its last revision in 1957, there has been an exponential increase in the number of complaints filed since the 19 September 2006 coup; this increase has been further multiplied following the 22 May 2014 coup.

The case against Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong complaint is in relation to their participation in the performance of a play, ‘The Wolf Bride’ (Jao Sao Ma Pa) at Thammasat University in October 2013 on the fortieth anniversary of the 14 October 1973 people’s uprising. At the time of their arrests, the AHRC noted that their arrests for exercising their freedom of expression in a theatre performance was an indication of the ongoing criminalization of thought and expression in Thailand following the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) (AHRC-STM-157-2014; AHRC-STM-159-2014). Their continued detention is a daily reminder of the deepening human rights crisis put in motion by the coup (AHRC-STM-177-2014). In this case, as well as other freedom of expression cases since the coup, the manner in which the two activists were charged more than a year after the alleged crime suggests that the past has become an open catalogue of acts and speech which can be criminalized in retrospect.

The Asian Human Rights commission would like to remind the junta and the Criminal Court that as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Thailand is obligated to protect and uphold Article 19, which notes that, “1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. 2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. 3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.” The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the coup in the strongest terms possible and wishes to condemn the denial of freedom of expression and the expanding witch hunt of those who express, or have expressed in the past, critical or dissenting views. To think differently than the junta is not a crime.

The Asian Human Rights Commission also remains gravely concerned about the continued denial of bail in this and other freedom of expression cases. Although extended periods of both pre-charge and pre-trial detention have become common in cases of alleged violation of Article 112, as a state party to the ICCPR, the Thai authorities are also obligated to respect the right to temporary release. In particular, the AHRC would like to remind the junta and the Criminal Court that Article 9(3) of the ICCPR stipulates that, “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. 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, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment.” Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong were denied temporary release for over two months before being charged, and then this denial continued after they were formally charged. Similar to other Article 112 cases, the Criminal Court has made this denial on the basis that if convicted, they would be subject to a heavy punishment and so are therefore likely to flee.

Seven months have passed since the 22 May 2014 coup and there is no clear timeline for an end to martial law or a return to a democratic government and the protection of human rights. Within this context, the presence of observers within the courtroom is a visible reminder to the junta and the judges that the violation of human rights is not passing unnoticed.





Expression forbidden

25 11 2014

As we often do, PPT reproduces a Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission on limits on expression and freedom in Thailand:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-199-2014
November 20, 2014

THAILAND: Expression of opinion forbidden by the junta

On 19 and 20 November, student and other activists carried out a series of peaceful, symbolic protests against the dictatorship in Thailand. In response, the military and police acted to swiftly end the protests and arrest eight of the activists under the terms of martial law. The position of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was summed up by deputy prime minister General Prawit Wongsuwan in a statement widely reported in the Thai press on 20 November that, ” can think differently, but do not express it.” In each of these cases, described below by the Asian Human Rights Commission drawing on reporting carried out by Prachatai, the military has attempted to intimidate student and other activists into promising to cease their expressing their opinions and engaging in political activities. As the six-month anniversaries of the declaration of martial law (20 November) and the coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (22 November) pass in Thailand, the junta has extended and consolidated its repressive apparatus.

On the morning of Wednesday, 19 November, a group of five students (Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Wason Sedsit, Jedsarit Namkot, Payu Boonsopon, and Wichakorn Anuchon) from the Human Rights Law Centre for Society (Dao Din) at Khon Kaen University engaged in a peaceful protest against the coup during a speech to local civil servants by junta leader and appointed prime minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha. Both before and subsequent to the coup, the members of Dao Din have actively worked to support and protect human rights and community rights in relation to various issues, including mining and land reform. Several members of the group were detained in June shortly after the coup and pressured to stop their activities. During the recent protest, they donned t- shirts which, when assembled in a line, spelled out, “No to the coup” in Thai (ไม่เอารัฐประหาร) and walked in front of the stage when General Prayuth was speaking. They raised their fingers in the three-finger salute of ‘liberty-equality-fraternity’ made popular by The Hunger Games films. They were swiftly arrested by police and first taken to the local police station and then to Sri Patcharin military camp to be interrogated. The military asked the students to remove their shirts and when they refused, the military forcibly removed their t-shirts. When the students were released on Wednesday evening, they walked out of the military camp without shirts or jackets. They and their parents were ordered to return to the military camp the next morning. On the morning of Thursday, 20 November, the students and their parents reported to the military camp where both parties were threatened that if the students did not sign an agreement to cease political activities, they were subject to expulsion from the university and proceedings in military court for the violation of martial law. Several of the students agreed to the conditions and several did not. Following the meeting, they were released and there were several reports of unmarked vehicles driving by their homes and other forms of harassment.

Then, also on the morning of 20 November, the military and police arrested several student activists in relation to screenings of the film The Hunger Games. During the morning, Rattapol Supasopol, a member of the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy, and Champ, a student activist arrested in June when he symbolically protested by eating a sandwich and reaching the novel 1984 in public, were arrested by the police at the Scala movie theatre in Siam Square. At the time of their arrest, they had not engaged in any overt protest, but were simply present prior to a screening of the film where a peaceful protest was planned. The screening at Scala was cancelled and the two students were later released. On the afternoon of 20 November, Natcha Kong-udom, a student at Bangkok University, was arrested when she raised three fingers in protest in front of reporters who had gathered in front of the movie theatre at Siam Paragon shopping center. She was arrested and detained by the military until the evening before she was released. The screening of the film at Siam Paragon continued, but was accompanied by a heavy military and police presence.

Further, on the early evening of 20 November, Siriporn Kongpetch, a trainer with the Youth Development for the Transformation of Society Project of the Thai Volunteer Service (TVS), was arrested and detained by the police in Chiang Dao district of Chiang Mai province. Her car was searched by soldiers and police, her ID was seized and she was taken to the local police station No accusation was made against her, but she was arrested because photographs of her holding signs that said, “Repeal martial law” and “No to the NCPO” at Chiang Dao mountain had been posted on Facebook several days prior. The officials informed her that they had been looking for her since the photographs had been distributed. They tried to convince her to sign an agreement to refrain from engaging in any political movement, but she refused and maintained her right to express her opinion.

The Asian Human Rights Commission notes that these eight individuals have been arrested and detained solely as a result of expressing their opinions about the coup. This indicates that nearly six months after the coup, to think differently than the NCPO is being treated as a de facto crime. As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Government of Thailand has a responsibility to protect the rights as prescribed by Article 19 of the ICCPR, which notes that, “1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. 2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. 3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.” The demand for the eight persons to cease expressing their opinions and engaging in political activities is a clear violation of Article 19.

In recent weeks, the military authorities have also summoned activists and human rights defenders (AHRC-STM-197-2014), prevented a walk to raise awareness about land reform in Chiang Mai (AHRC-STM-196-2014), and intimidated lawyers working to support human rights. Over the past six months since the coup by the NCPO, human rights defenders and dissidents who peacefully protest, or who express any criticism, have been targeted by the junta. Combined with the extensive powers granted to the junta under martial law and the temporary constitution, these actions have created an atmosphere of fear that is detrimental to human rights and the rule of law.

The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the coup and the disappearance of rights and liberties in Thailand in the strongest terms possible. While the AHRC welcomes the release of the activists who have expressed their dissenting options, they should not have been arrested in the first place. They are citizens who were expressing their opinion peacefully and are a danger to no one. To think differently than the junta is not a crime. To express one’s opinion is not a crime. The AHRC calls on the NCPO to cease arresting and detaining those who do so and return to civilian rule immediately.