Lese majeste detentions skyrocket under military rule

23 11 2014

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is an important “international NGO defending all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It acts in the legal and political field for the creation and reinforcement of international instruments for the protection of Human Rights and for their implementation.” It has released this statement on lese majeste repression in Thailand:

Thailand’s military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), must end the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of individuals under the country’s draconian lèse-majesté laws, FIDH and its member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) urged today. Fifteen of the 20 individuals currently behind bars on lèse-majesté charges have been either detained or imprisoned after the 22 May 2014 military coup.

“Under the pretext of protecting the monarchy, the junta has embarked on a witch hunt that has significantly eroded fundamental human rights,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “Trials in military courts, closed-door proceedings, and the systematic denial of the right to bail have become a disturbing reality of the junta’s overzealous enforcement of lèse-majesté laws.”

“The junta must immediately end the unnecessary deprivation of liberty for alleged violators of lèse-majesté laws and restore all guarantees of fair trials,” urged UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn.

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.”

Under the military junta, authorities have stepped up investigations, arrests, and prosecution of individuals suspected of lèse-majesté.

On 14 October 2014, National Police Acting Deputy Chief Lt Gen Chakthip Chaijinda said that police aimed at bringing charges in about 50% of the 93 lèse-majesté active investigations by the end of the year.

Since 22 May, 18 individuals have been arrested for allegedly violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code. Two have been released on bail and five have been sentenced to prison terms for offenses committed before the military coup, with one released on a suspended sentence.

On 18 November, a military court in Bangkok deliberated its first case and sentenced web radio host Kathawuth Boonpitak, 59, to five years in prison. The court found Kathawut guilty of making comments that defamed the monarchy during a political talk show aired on his website in March 2014. Defendants cannot appeal the verdicts of military courts.

On 4 November, a Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced 24-year-old student Akkaradet Iamsuwan to two-and-a-half years in prison under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act. Akkaradet was found guilty of posting a Facebook message on 15 March 2014 that the court deemed it insulted the monarchy and threatened national security.

On 1 September, a Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced behind closed doors Chaleo Jankiad, a 55-year-old tailor, to a three-year suspended prison term for uploading to the web an audio clip in late 2011 that was deemed to be offensive of the monarchy. Chaleo is the only defendant who has been released as a result of a suspended sentence.

On 14 August, a Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced Yuthasak [last name withheld], a 43-year-old taxi driver, to five years in prison. Yuthasak was accused by a passenger, a Chulalongkorn University lecturer, of expressing anti-monarchy views. The passenger recorded the conversation on her phone and filed a lèse-majesté complaint against Yuthasak in January 2014.

On 31 July, the Ubon Ratchathani Provincial Court sentenced 28-year-old musician [name withheld] to 15 years in prison under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act. The court found him guilty of posting messages on Facebook between 2011 and 2012 that were deemed to insult the monarchy.

All five defendants saw their original sentences halved because they pleaded guilty to the charges.

In addition to these verdicts, on 19 September, the Court of Appeals upheld a Bangkok Criminal Court’s lèse-majesté conviction of Somyot Phrueksakasemsuk. The court failed to inform Somyot, his lawyer, and his family members that the hearing would take place on that day. On 19 November, Somyot filed an appeal to the Supreme Court against his conviction. Court officials have denied Somyot’s requests for bail 15 times. Somyot suffers from hypertension and he is not receiving adequate treatment at the Bangkok Remand Prison.

In the overwhelming majority of lèse-majesté cases, courts have denied bail for detainees awaiting trial. FIDH and UCL believe that this deprivation of liberty is in violation of the principle that release must be the rule and provisional detention the exception, as stipulated by Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a State party.





AHRC: Military summons activists

11 11 2014

As we often do, we reproduce an Asian Human Rights Commission statement on Thailand:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-197-2014
November 11, 2014

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

THAILAND: Resurgence of Military Summons of Activists and Human Rights Defenders

The Asian Human Rights is gravely concerned about the resurgence of military summons of activists and human rights defenders. According to information provided by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, 16 activists and human rights defenders (HRDs) in northeastern Thailand have been summoned to report to the local military authorities. The summons to report came after the 16 individuals, representing 12 human rights and civil society organizations in northeastern Thailand, issued a statement (available in Thaihere) on 3 November 2014 that they would not participate in the reform process initiated by the 22 May 2014 coup staged by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The statement questioned the intentions and beneficiaries of the coup, and concluded with an announcement of the position of the signatories that they did not accept the authority of the coup or the structures and administering bodies established by the junta following the coup. At this time, some of those summoned have reported and been released following questioning and being forced to promise to not engage in any additional political activities, and in some cases, publicly recant their position as previously issued in the statement by making a post on Facebook to that effect.

The statement was signed by 12 organizations, including:

Isaan Human Rights and Peace Center
Ecological Studies Group
Project for Publicly-Driven Mineral Resource Policy
Thai Network for Citizen-Owned Mining
Isaan Natural Resource and Environment Network
Center to Protect the Rights and Manage the Resources of Lum Nam Chi Community
Rights for Poor People Action Project (Isaan region)
Isaan Human Rights Defender Network
Baan Peace Group
Isaan Voices
Community Media Center for a Justice Society
Center for Human Rights Law for Society

The 16 signatories who have been summoned are as follows:

1.      Mr. Chakraphong Thonworaphong
2.      Mr. Suwit Kulapwong
3.      Mr. Lerdsak Khamkhongsak
4.      Mr. Sirisak Saduak
5.      Mr. Panya Khamlap
6.      Mr. Decha Khambaomuang
7.      Mr. Nattaphong Rachamee
8.      Mr. Natrin Cha-onsri
9.      Mr. Paitoon Soisod
10.     Mr. Sawang Noikham
11.     Mrs. Chonthicha Tangwornmongkhol
12.     Mr. Withuwat Thongbu
13.     Miss Nattaporn Ajhan
14.     Mr. Adisak Tum-on
15.     Mr. Nitikorn Khamchu
16.     Mr. Yongyut Dongpratha

According to the information reported, the military authorities threatened those who reported with prosecution if they engaged in any further activities critical of the junta and the coup.  Those who did not report following the summons have noted that the authorities have then come to their homes to look for them. The use of summons to compel human rights defenders, activists, writers, editors, academics, and other citizens was a feature of the first two months of rule by the NCPO. During this first period, some people were summoned through the public broadcast of orders to report to the junta authorities in Bangkok and outside Bangkok, people targeted were instead summoned informally through phone calls or other notification and ordered to report to the local military authorities. As the Asian Human Rights Commission commented at the time, the use of summons to compel citizens to report themselves to the military authorities is a way of creating terror and coercing compliance (AHRC-STM-100-2014; AHRC-STM- 109-2014).

The Asian Human Rights Commission notes that these 16 individuals have been targeted, summoned, and intimidated solely for the purpose of expressing their opinion about the coup. The constriction of freedom of expression is compounded by NCPO’s use of executive power to push through environmental megaprojects which has significantly impacted the rights of many, particularly the marginal and impoverished, who then cannot criticize, or even raise questions about the projects without risking harassment or criminalization. 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 16 persons who signed the statement in the northeast to report to the authorities and recant their views is a clear violation of Article 19.

The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the coup in the harshest terms and wishes to express grave concern about the rapid decline of human rights protections it has engendered. The Asian Human Rights Commission calls on the National Council for Peace and Order to immediately cease summoning, arresting, and detaining citizens for expressing their views. To think differently than the junta is not a crime.





HRW fails on the military dictatorship

21 09 2014

Human Rights Watch is wasting its collective breath on Thailand’s military dictatorship. Declaring that the “Thai government and military authorities [PPT: in fact the two are indistinguishable] should immediately end its crackdown on academic seminars and respect freedom of expression,” really is a waste of time and effort. The truth is that the military dictatorship is true to form; Thailand’s military governments are generally authoritarian book burners who repress and oppress in the name of monarchy and ruling class.

When it detains academics and “activists for several hours for organizing [a] … seminar,” this is nothing new for the uniformed troglodytes.

Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch seems a little confused when he says: “While telling the world that they are not dictators, the Thai military authorities are extending their grip into universities and banning discussions about democracy and human rights,” he seems as if he really wants to believe the criminals who seized power in an illegal coup. He seems to think that “the world” does not recognize that men in uniform with dyed hair and propaganda machines extolling a cult of personality in the name of the monarchy is not a fascist dictatorship.Human Rights Watch

When Adams declares: “Prime Minister Prayuth should immediately end this crackdown on academic freedom and free speech,” he may as well be trying to make gold from iron filings. Prayuth is The Dictator and recognizing him as anything else is politically dumb. He should know this for he quotes The Dictator who is clear:

“We are working on reconciliation.… This is not a time for them to talk…. They did not get permission to talk. And what did they want talk about? They talked about democracy at Thammasat University. They talked about political issues that we told them not to talk about.”

Thinking is banned. Talking is banned when it does not conform.

HRW quotes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to The Dictator. We are sure that he couldn’t care less whether Thailand is a party to such an agreement as it doesn’t accord with His ideas.

Again Adams sounds as if he believes junta claptrap when he says, “Thailand is clearly not on a path toward democracy when free speech is censored, criticism is prosecuted, and political activity is prohibited…. The path that such repressive action leads to is dictatorship.”

Has HRW lost the plot again?

This is not a regime on the path to dictatorship, it is a fully-fledged and operating dictatorship.





ALRC: Human rights in crisis three months after coup

5 09 2014

Reproduced in full from the Asian Legal Resource Centre:

ALRC-CWS-27-12-2014
September 5, 2014

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Twenty seventh session, Agenda Item 4, General Debate

A written submission to the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre

THAILAND: Human rights in crisis three months after coup

1. The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to raise grave concerns with the Human Rights Council about the deepening human rights crisis in Thailand following the 22 May 2014 coup launched by a military junta calling itself the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha. The NCPO has claimed that it carried out the coup for the vague purpose of “reform” and with the intention to “return happiness to the people.” Instead, the NCPO has carried out mass arrests and arbitrary detention, used executive power to push through a number of orders and measures likely to be damaging to human rights, engaged civil and military courts as tools to restrict political freedom, and extensively constricted freedom of expression. Martial law, which was declared on 20 May 2014, remains in force. After three months of military rule, a temporary constitution bereft of necessary rights protections has been announced and General Prayuth was elected as prime minister by an assembly of 194 people hand-picked by the NCPO.

2. The view of the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) is that the actions carried out by the NCPO during the first three months of military rule represent significant derogations of Thailand’s responsibilities as a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

3. From the outset, the ALRC maintains that no “time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation” exists in Thailand to justify the introduction of martial law or the military coup, and therefore no grounds exist under Article 4(1) of the ICCPR for Thailand to derogate from these obligations. Although the country has been experiencing political unrest, this unrest is protracted, and nothing in the current circumstances justified the introduction of these measures. Furthermore, the unrest is in large part a consequence of the last military coup, carried out on 19 September 2006. The assessment of the ALRC that the 22 May 2014 coup and the assault on human rights is likely to further intensify, rather than resolve, the unrest.

4. The NCPO has severely restricted freedom of expression through the issuance of Orders No. 97/2557 [2014] and No. 103/2557 [2014] which place restrictions on criticism of the junta and through the use of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which stipulates that, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The ALRC has repeatedly raised the matter of the damage done to the right to the freedom of expression by the use of Article 112 in a series of statements to the Council over the previous four years, the most recent two being those submitted during the twenty-fifth session in March 2014 (A/HRC/25/NGO/61) and the twenty-sixth session in June 2014 (A/HRC/26/NGO/58).

5. While Article 112 has been part of the Criminal Code since the last major revision in 1957, available statistics suggest that there has been a substantial increase in the number of complaints filed since the 19 September 2006 coup and a dramatic increase in action taken in cases following the 22 May 2014 coup. According to the Internet Dialogue on Law Reform (iLaw), there are 13 new cases that are known to have entered the judicial process since the coup; additional, unreported cases may also be in process. In addition, per Order No. 37/2557 [2014], all complaints of violations against the crown and state, including those under Article 112, filed subsequent to the coup are placed within the jurisdiction of the military court, which restricts the rights of those subject to proceedings, including a denial of the right to appeal.

6. The ALRC is particularly concerned about the recent arrests of Patiwat (last name withheld) and Pornthip (last name withheld), who were arrested following a complaint being filed against them under Article 112 in relation to a performance of a play, “The Wolf’s Bride” (Jao Sao Ma Pa) held in October 2013. They were arrested on 14 and 15 August 2014 and have been held without bail since their arrests while the investigation against them continues. Their arrests are part of a broader planned campaign of arrests of those alleged to have violated Article 112 which have been catalyzed by groups of royalist citizens, such as the group calling itself the National Rubbish Collection Organization, which aims to remove “trash,” by which they mean those who question the institution of the monarchy, from Thai society. Law should be used to limit these vigilante actions and protect free speech, rather than to aid in its restriction.

7. The ALRC would like to remind the Government of Thailand that under Article 19 of the ICCPR, restrictions on the right to freedom of expression are only permissible under two circumstances: “for respect of the rights or reputations of others” and “for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.” While Article 112 is classified as a crime against national security within the Criminal Code, and this is frequently cited by the Government of Thailand when the criticism that the measure is in tension with the ICCPR, to date a clear explanation of the precise logic for categorizing the measure as such has not been provided. The exercise of freedom of expression is frequently messy and productively contentious, but this does not equate to a threat to public order or morals. To raise questions about the operations of power in society are a necessary part of constructing a polity grounded in human rights and the rule of law, not a threat to it.

8. The restriction on freedom of expression and political freedom has also included restriction of activities not explicitly connected to either the junta or the institution of the monarchy. Since the coup, the NCPO has used the provisions of martial law to intimidate and foreclose discussion on development and capital projects affecting citizens, such as those working against the negative affects of gold mining in Loei and those working to raise awareness about the implications of energy sector expansion. For example, on 20 August 2014, eleven activists of the Partnership on Energy Reform were arrested while carrying out a peaceful and non-partisan walk calling for public discussion and to encourage citizens to be actively engaged in decisions about energy development. The walk was surrounded by military troops and the eleven activists were arbitrary detained and held for three days and nights at the Senanarong Army Camp in Songkhla Province. While the ALRC welcomed their release, they should not have been detained in the first place. Further, an additional series of arrests of nine individuals who joined the walk were carried out on 24 August 2014 as this statement was being completed, and the authorities have indicated that those arrested will be charged and processed in the military court for violating martial law, which prohibits public gatherings of five or more persons.

9. The Asian Legal Resource Centre would also like to remind the Government of Thailand of its obligations to uphold Article 9 of the ICCPR, which addresses arbitrary detention and notes 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…” During the first two months following the coup, the NCPO immediately began a process of mass arrests of those deemed to oppose them. Under the terms of martial law, soldiers can detain and interrogate anyone for up to seven days without having to provide evidence of wrongdoing or bring formal charges. People arrested 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. Those detained, or targeted for arrest and detention, include politicians from all sides of the political spectrum, red and yellow shirt activists, academics, human rights defenders, writers, publishers, and other dissidents and citizens. The methods of arrest and detention have varied widely. While the use of arbitrary detention has faded from public view in the third month of rule by the NCPO, the ALRC remains gravely concerned about the extent of its use.

10. Further, on 2 and 3 August 2014, Kritsuda Khunasen, a red shirt activist and human rights defender who was arbitrarily detained for nearly a month following the coup, released a series of video interviews in which she described being tortured while in detention. She released the interviews, in which she detailed a range of physical and emotional abuse, after she left Thailand. The response of the junta was to first discredit her account, and then to bring weapons charges against her, despite their statement upon her release from detention that they were not going to bring any charges against her. The ALRC urges the Council to remind the Government of Thailand that as a state party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading or Inhuman Treatment (CAT) it is obligated to take action to prevent torture, hold perpetrators to account, and provide redress and protection to victims of torture. At a minimum, this would involve an independent investigation into the claims made by Kritsuda Khunasen, rather than to respond with an immediate denial of their veracity. The ALRC is concerned that the torture reported by Kritsuda Khunasen may not be an isolated incident and may instead point to a broader pattern of the use of torture by the NCPO against those deemed to be its opponents.

11. In view of the above and in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Asian Legal Resource Centre calls on the United Nations Human Rights Council to:

a. Call on the Government of Thailand to immediately revoke martial law and return to civilian rule;

b. Urge the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to carefully monitor events in Thailand and in particular, derogation of responsibilities under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to call on the Government of Thailand to act in accordance with the protection and promotion of human rights;

c. Urge the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment to investigate the reports of torture by those held in detention following the coup by the NCPO, and to call on the Government of Thailand to act to prevent, investigate, and redress instances of torture;

d. Urge the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders to carefully monitor events in Thailand and in particular, the targeting of human rights defenders to safely carry out their work; and

e. Urge the Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Opinion and Expression to continue ongoing monitoring and research about the broad situation of constriction of rights and individual cases in Thailand and how this is affected under military rule.





Intimidation of lawyers and human rights organizations

5 09 2014

Forwarded by the  Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC):

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-FST-066-2014
September 3, 2014

THAILAND: Intimidation of lawyers and human rights organizations

A Statement from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) in collaboration with Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) and Amnesty International Thailand was planning to organize a presentation of report on the situation of human rights “Access to Justice in Thailand: Currently Unavailable Human Rights Situation 100 Days after the Coup” today. But just yesterday, 1 September 2014, TLHR and other organizing organizations have been contacted and asked my Thailand’s military officials to cancel the event as they claimed the incumbent situation is still abnormal. We were told as well that if we persist to organize the event, we will face charges for violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Announcement no. 7/2557 which prohibits any political assembly of five people upwards. TLHR wants to make our stand clear regarding the behaviour of the Thai authorities as follows:

1. The presentation of report on the situation of human rights “Access to Justice in Thailand: Currently Unavailable Human Rights Situation 100 Days after the Coup” is an attempt to shed light on obstacles to access to justice in the aftermath of the coup in Thailand. It is not a political gathering. TLHR has been established to receive complaints and provide legal aid to detainees, and we are simply performing our duties as lawyers and human rights activists. Given that Martial Law has still been imposed and it provides draconian power to the officials, an effort to monitor the situation and disseminate information to society is therefore indispensable.

2. The right to freedom of expression is a fundamental human right enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Thailand is a state party and is obliged to observe. After all, NCPO has been telling the press that it respects human rights principles. Also, Section 4 of the 2014 Interim Constitution written by NCPO itself provides for protection of human dignity, rights, liberty and equality of all Thailand people in accordance with the Constitutional practice in the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of the State and any existing international obligations should therefore be respected as per the Constitution. Any attempt to prevent a public event to discuss about human rights from happening is a gross violation of such rights and liberties.

3. Apart from being a direct intimidation to lawyers and rights activists, the attempt by the military authorities to “ask for cooperation” to cancel or postpone the event and the reiteration that if the organizers decide to press ahead with the event, they shall face prosecution for violating the NCPO Announcement which bans any political gathering, will also perpetuate the climate of fear in society and will lead to further infringement of human rights and the chance the affected families shall be accorded with justice and remedies. Such a consequence seems contradictory to the image the NCPO has tried to project by claiming that they have been performing their duties with due respect to human rights. It also highlights the grave human rights situation as of now.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) condemns the intimidation by security officials and as an advocate of legal and human rights, we shall persist to uphold our duties as a lawyer to protect the people’s rights and liberties. We shall make an effort to present the report on human rights situation to mark 100 days after the coup via other channels in order to ensure that voices of the people and their families whose human rights have been abused shall continue to be heard and that they shall be bestowed on with truth and justice as well as to uphold people’s rights and liberties in general. TLHR would also insist on proposing the following recommendations as mentioned on our current report on the situation of human rights that:

1. Martial Law which is being imposed countrywide should be revoked.

2. No persons shall be subjected to apprehension, arrest and detention invoking Martial Law.

3. Any restriction to curb the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly should be lifted.

4. No civilians should be tried in the military court.

With respect to the people’s rights and liberties

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)

Tel (+66) (0) 96-789-3172,  096-789-3173

e-mail: tlhr2014@gmail.com





HRW on lese majeste repression

20 08 2014

Reproduced in full from HRW. Our only comment is to point out that the repeated citing of the king’s 2005 speech indicates a lack of critical attention to lese majeste, an acceptance of palace propaganda and a failure to understand the monarchy’s politics or the politics at the moment of the speech. Once before we noted:

PPT thinks this is a misrepresentation that actually provides support for the use of the law. After all, if the king really did say that he could be criticized, then it is venal others who “use” the monarchy for their own purposes. Only a day or so ago we posted on a newly-revealed lese majeste investigation that claims the direct involvement of palace officials. This is not an isolated case.

This is the HRW statement:

Thailand: Theater Activists Jailed for Insulting Monarchy
Lese Majeste Arrests Increase Since Military Coup

The arrest of two activists involved in a play considered by Thai military authorities to be “insulting to the monarchy” shows the decline in freedom of expression in Thailand since the May 22, 2014 coup, Human Rights Watch said today. At least 14 new lese majeste cases are pending in the Bangkok Military Court and in criminal courts around Thailand, according to the Internet Dialogue on Law Reform (ILaw).

Patiwat Saraiyaem, 23, and Pornthip Munkong, 25, were arrested on August 14 and 15 respectively for their participation in “The Wolf Bride,” a play presented in October 2013 as part of the 40th commemoration at Thammasat University of the October 1973 pro-democracy protest.

“Thailand’s military junta first put a chokehold on TV, radio, newspapers and the internet, and now they’re going after the theater arts,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Since the military coup, the authorities have clamped down on any speech they find objectionable, including what they deem is critical of the monarchy.”

Patiwat, a student of Khon Kaen University’s Fine and Applied Arts Faculty who was an actor in “The Wolf Bride,” was transferred after his arrest from Khon Kaen province to Bangkok’s Chanasongkhram police station. Police said that a warrant for his arrest had been issued in June. Pornthip, an activist who directed “The Wolf Bride,” was arrested as she was about to leave Thailand to study overseas. She was also sent to the Chanasongkhram police station.

The Bangkok Criminal Court denied both Patiwat’s and Pornthip’s bail requests. Patiwat is currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison while Pornthip is at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution.

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 need to be tried as expeditiously as possible, Human Rights Watch said. The ICCPR in article 19 upholds the right to freedom of expression.

“For many years Thai courts have regularly refused bail to people awaiting trial for ‘insulting the monarchy,’” Adams said. “The systematic denial of bail for lese majeste suspects seems intended to punish them before they even go to trial.”

The offense of lese majeste is found under article 112 of Thailand’s penal code. The Thai authorities have frequently used article 112 to intimidate, arrest, and prosecute people who are accused of criticizing or speaking ill about the king and members of the royal family.

The military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has pledged to restore human rights protections in Thailand, but has also repeatedly vowed to prosecute critics of the monarchy, which clearly undermines the right to free speech. The arrests of Patiwat and Pornthip 10 months after the performance of “The Wolf Bride” suggest that the military authorities are sending a current political message rather than addressing a past harm, Human Rights Watch said.

Neither King Bhumibol Adulyadej nor any member of the royal family has ever personally filed lese majeste charges, Human Rights Watch said. During his birthday speech in 2005, the King stated that he was not above criticism. “Actually, I must also be criticized. I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong, because then I know. Because if you say the King cannot be criticized, it means that the King is not human,” he said. “If the King can do no wrong, it is akin to looking down upon him because the King is not being treated as a human being. But the King can do wrong.”

However, the police, public prosecutors, courts, and other state authorities appear to be afraid to reject any allegations of lese majeste out of concern they might be accused of disloyalty to the monarchy. Human Rights Watch has long urged the Thai authorities to amend article 112 so that private parties cannot bring complaints of lese majeste since no private harm is incurred. Private persons and groups have often misused lese majeste laws for political purposes.

“The heavy-handed enforcement of lese majeste laws has a devastating impact on freedom of expression in Thailand,” Adams said. “A broad-based discussion is urgently needed to amend the laws to ensure that they conform with Thailand’s international human rights obligations.”





Jatuporn and the IPU II

6 04 2013

Thanks to a reader for pointing out Robert Amsterdam’s blog post regarding the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s continuing interest in the disqualification of red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan from his parliamentary position.Jatuporn_prison

Earlier, PPT posted on the unanimous resolution adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Governing Council at its 191st session held in Quebec in late October 2012 on Jatuporn’s loss of parliamentary position. An online version of the resolution is available and it also begins on page 123 of the PDF of the IPU meeting.

Amsterdam refers to the new IPU statement as an “historic resolution” and notes that at:

most recent summit in Ecuador, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) – a body which has permanent observer status at the UN and which is considered by the UN to be the leading international organisation for parliaments – has issued an historic resolution condemning the unlawful disqualification of Thai Member of Parliament Jatuporn Prompran.

This refers to a meeting of the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians on 22-27 March 2013 and its resulting decisions that go to the IPU’s Governing Council as draft resolutions. The IPU Decision (the link is fixed and clicking downloads a large PDF, with Jatuporn’s case beginning at page 50) states, inter alia, that it considers:

that, although the Thai Constitution specifically provides for the disenfranchisement of persons “detained by a lawful order” on election day, preventing those accused of a crime from exercising the right to vote is at odds with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 25 of which guarantees the right to “take part in the conduct of public affairs” and “to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections” without “unreasonable restrictions”;

… in this regard that denying an incumbent member of parliament temporary release from prison to exercise the right to vote is an “unreasonable restriction”, particularly in the light of the Covenant’s provisions guaranteeing persons accused of a crime the right to be presumed innocent (Article 14) and “separate treatment appropriate to their status as unconvicted persons” (Article 10(2)(a)); points out that Mr. Prompan’s disqualification also appears to run counter to the spirit of Article 102(4) of the Thai Constitution, which stipulates that only those convicted, not those accused, of a crime lose their right to stand for election once a candidacy has been submitted….

In addition, the draft resolution notes the circumstances of Jatuporn’s arrest and jailing, with the implicit view that it was a contrived case by Army and judiciary:

On 10 April 2011, Mr. Jatuporn took the stage during the commemoration organized at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok to mark the first anniversary of the government’s response to the Red Shirt demonstrations; in his speech, he criticized the then government and the Royal Thai Army for using the pretext of “protecting the monarchy” to criminalize the Red Shirt movement and kill its members the year before; Mr. Jatuporn also criticized the Constitutional Court for sparing the Democrat Party from dissolution, making reference to leaked video recordings that showed some of the justices colluding with party officials; following this, representatives of the Royal Thai Army filed a complaint alleging that Mr. Jatuporn had committed lese-majesty in his speech; the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) asked the Criminal Court to revoke his bail following the complaint, which it did on 12 May 2011; Mr. Jatuporn was subsequently held in Bangkok Remand Prison until 2 August 2011; the DSI subsequently dismissed the charge and the case was referred to the Office of the Attorney General for consideration on 17 January 2012….

In making its draft resolution, the IPU committee refers to a letter from the Secretary General of the House of Representatives in Thailand and “[r]eaffirms its [the committee’s] view that the letter does not dispel its concerns that Mr. Jatuporn was disqualified on grounds that appear directly to contravene Thailand’s international human rights obligations…”.





Human rights and lese majeste

11 02 2013

Readers will find the Bangkok Post’s publication of a speech by Tjaco van den Hout is former ambassador of the Netherlands to Thailand of interest. The article is said to be an abbreviated version of a speech made at an EU seminar on “Reconciliation and Freedom of Expression” in Bangkok in January. PPT won’t repeat it; rather we highlight a couple of points.

He begins by noting that restrictions on freedom of expression – what he describes as a “primary right” – under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

… are legitimate only if they satisfy the “three-part test”. This means that the restrictions must be provided by law that is; 1) clear and accessible to everyone, 2) proven to be necessary and legitimate to protect the rights or reputations of others, national security or public order, and public health or morals, and 3) proportionate and the least restrictive to achieve the purported aim.

He notes that General Comment No. 34 of the Human Rights Committee clarifies that:

invoking national security provisions with the aim to suppress or withhold from the public “information of legitimate public interest” that does not harm national security or to prosecute journalists or others for having disseminated such information is incompatible with Article 19 of the ICCPR.

… the principle of proportionality, indicating that this principle “has to be respected not only in the law that frames the restrictions but also by the administrative and judicial authorities in applying the law”.

Finally, on a separate but related matter, it advises state parties to decriminalise defamation (including lese majeste). “In any case, the application of the criminal law should”, according to the Committee, “only be countenanced in the most serious of cases and imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty.”

He also notes that the European Court of Human Rights has recently been called to adjudicate when national courts have make decisions on defamation cases, including lese majeste, and mentions two: Otegi Mondragon v Spain (March 15, 2011) and Tusalp v Turkey (Feb 23, 2012).

In adjudicating, the European Court:

… bases its view on the notion of “democracy”. While not defining this notion as such, the court does offer us what it should entail: “pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness”. Without these, the ECtHR states, “there is no democratic society”. In addition, open public debate is, in its view, essential for any democratic society to function. Consequently, the discretion of a government to restrict the right to freedom of expression on matters of public interest including political issues is very limited indeed.

Where lese majeste is concerned, Thai courts make no such decisions based on either notions of constitutionality or ideas about democratic freedom.





AHRC questions Chiranuch verdict

31 05 2012

The Asian Human Rights Commission has issued a long and detailed appeal and statement on the sentencing of  Chiranuch Premchaiporn yesterday. It is complicated and worth studying in full. It begins:

On 30 May 2012, the Criminal Court read its verdict in the case in Black Case No. 1667/2553, in which Chiranuch Premchaiporn was charged with ten alleged violations of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act (CCA). Chiranuch is the 44-year-old webmaster of Prachatai, an independent online news site, which has served as an important platform for critical news, discussion, and debate for over seven years in Thailand. The charges against her in this case stemmed from her alleged failure to remove comments deemed offensive to the monarchy from the Prachatai webboard quickly enough. The Court found Chiranuch guilty for one out of the ten charges, and she was sentenced to one year in prison and a 30,000 baht fine. Resulting from her cooperation with the Court and the fact that this was her first offence, this was immediately reduced to a suspended sentence of eight months and a 20,000 baht fine.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) welcomes the news that Chiranuch will remain outside prison and be able to continue her and Prachatai’s ground-breaking work expanding and sustaining the space for freedom of expression in Thailand. Yet we are gravely dismayed at the broader threat to freedom of expression and human rights represented by the return of a guilty verdict in this case.

AHRC calls on the Thai government to “explain this decision, and the logic supplied for it, with its obligations under Article 19 of the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights].”





Joe Gordon denied bail in lese majeste case

14 06 2011

U.S. citizen Joseph Gordon (Thai name Lerpong Wichaikhammat) was denied bail by the court when he appeared on 13 June. According to Prachatai, “his lawyer and family of petitioned the Criminal Court for bail, citing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and his urgent need of medical treatment for high blood pressure and gout.”

The court dismissed the request because “the offences damage the reputation of the revered monarchy and the investigators have objected to bail, and so it believes that the suspect, if granted bail, will tamper with evidence.”

PPT can only gape at the increasing stupidity of the courts in providing reasons for locking people up on lese majeste charges. The courts are getting as bizarre as the Department of Special Investigation and are equally politicized.

Another appeal is expected, and unless the U.S. Embassy gets of its collective large posterior, PPT thinks that Joe is locked up until he agrees to plead guilty, gets sentenced and then awaits some kind of pardon from the heavenly ones. We expect that this is the only deal the U.S. Embassy is willing to countenance given its embrace of royals as a supposed act of foreign policy. For a take on this, see Andrew Spooner at Prachatai or Asian Provocateur.

 








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