Faking fake news

11 09 2021

The regime’s efforts to stifle dissent and anti-monarchism has long targeted online discussion. Because of the way that international apps and sites work, this now involves loyalist, royalist courts issuing orders under legislation that delineates so-called fake news. This resort to the courts has been a constant since the 2014 military coup, deepening since the rise of student-led protests.

Prachatai, using work by The Reporters, show that “between 16 – 22 August, the MDES [Ministry of Digital Economy and Society] reported that they have found 44 URLs which they claimed to be spreading fake news, and that they are in the process of requesting a court order to block at least 145 URLs.” Of course, this is in additon to hundreds and thousands already blocked.

In this latest bunch, most are Facebook pages. While it is no surprise, many of these pages are by political activists. What is something of a surprise is that well-established online news sites and those of journalists are also being targeted. This suggests a growing appetite to further censor the media. We would guess that the confidence to take such steps is to bolstering the regime’s more aggressive street-level tactics to repress demonstrators.

Among them is Prachatai’s own Thai language Facebook page and the Facebook profile of their reporter Sarayut Tungprasert. Other media included are “Voice TV’s Talking Thailand Facebook page and the Progressive Movement’s Facebook page.” Other pages listed are:

The Facebook pages for academic in exile Pavin Chachavalpongpun, photographer Karnt Thassanaphak, actor and pro-democracy protest supporter Inthira Charoenpura, and activist Parit Chiwarak are all included on the list, as well as the Facebook pages for activist groups Free Youth, United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), Dome Revolution, and Thalufah. The Facebook group [belong to Pavin] Royalist Marketplace is also listed.

17 Twitter accounts appear, including those of human rights lawyer and activist Anon Nampa, Thalufah and UFTD, as well as @ThePeopleSpaces, an account which often runs discussions relating to politics and the pro-democracy movement on Twitter’s Spaces platform.

Prachatai states that it “does not know which piece of news led to the Facebook page and Sarayut’s Facebook profile being included on the list.”

While the king has not been seen for several weeks – is he in Thailand or holidaying in Germany? – his minions are hard at work erasing anti-monarchism.





Mad 112 case

2 09 2021

Prachatai reports that an Article 112 complaint has been lodged against former royalist and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra campaigner Thanat Thanakitamnuay.

Longtime readers might remember him from this report. More recently, he has joined pro-democracy activists, apologized for his previous politics, and made speeches to anti-regime activists. He was injured in an event on 13 August, with his family saying “his right eye was hit by a ‘blunt cylindrical object’ – which … was [probably] a tear gas canister – tearing the cornea, rupturing the eyeball, and causing his retina to peel off.”

For his recent appearances at rallies, on 30 August 2021:

Nangnoi Atsawakittikorn from the Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims and Jakkapong Klinkaew from the Centre of the People for the Protection of Monarchy filed a royal defamation complaint [Prachatai means a lese majeste complaint] against Thanat at the Samranrat Police Station on behalf of the “People’s Network for the Protection of the Royal Institution”.

Just to remind readers, Article 112 states: “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.” In 2013, however, the the royalist Supreme Court decided “that the law also applies to all previous monarchs…”.

The ultra-royalists have used this to bring some ludicrous allegations and charges, even involving, more than once, a dead royal tail-wagger, historical kings and members of the royal family not covered by the words used in the law.

Thanat. Clipped from Prachatai

In the complaint against Thanat, the ultra-royalists complain about him “wearing an outfit similar to one worn by the late King Rama IX.”

They complained that:

… Thanat was intentionally mocking the late King Rama IX by wearing a suit, an eyepatch and a camera to a protest on 22 August…. According to Nangnoi, Thanat’s costume and camera were props employed to ridicule a well-known photograph of King Rama IX.  The late King often wore a camera around his neck when travelling upcountry.

Of course, Thanat’s eye was covered because he had been injured in a previous rally (see above).

These mad monarchists, who have lodged many lese majeste complaints over the past year, added another complaint, asserting “that a speech Thanat gave on 25 August calling for Section 112 to be abolished reflects his intent to overthrow the monarchy.”

Again, the idea that calling for Article 112 to be abolished can be either lese majeste and/or sedition charges has been increasingly common.

In addition, as Prachatai points out:

This is not the first time that royalists have taken umbrage with the costumes of pro-democracy activists. Conservative netizens put up a storm of critical commentary after the 28 January 2021 posting of a picture featuring Chaiamorn ‘Ammy’ Kaewwiboonpan, a lead singer in the Bottom Blues Band, and actress Inthira Charoenpura which Chaiamorn dressed in an outfit similar to one worn by King Rama IX.

Mad monarchists get madder by the minute. Internationally, the country’s judicial system is a joke.





Updated: Going for broke

31 03 2021

The regime apparently thinks it is strong enough to go for broke on lese majeste and nail its prime target Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Given that it was actions against Thanathorn and the Future Forward Party more than a year ago that set off anti-regime protests, this move represents the regime’s victory lap.

ThanathornThanthorn has appeared before police to acknowledged the Article 112 charge filed by the regime.

Now chairman of the Progressive Movement, he “went to Nang Loeng Police Station in Bangkok on Tuesday morning to acknowledge the charge involving his Jan 18 Facebook Live criticising the government’s vaccine procurement plan.”

In speaking with reporters, Thanathorn said “he was confident he had not said anything that tarnished the institution and the clip was his effort to sincerely check the government.” He claims nothing he said contravened the Article 112.

Additionally, he faces “sedition and computer crime charges involving the clip.”

In reality, Thanathorn must be worried, even if the charge is fabricated. But fabricated lese majeste charges have been used to lock up and/or harass several others in the past. Who can forget the ludicrous 112 charge against Thanakorn Siripaiboon in 2015 for allegedly spreading “sarcastic” content via Facebook which was said to have mocked the then king’s dog. Thanakorn finally got off in early 2021, but had endured seven days of interrogation and physical assault at an Army camp and three months in prison.

Thanathorn is the main target of ultra-royalist hatred and fear, and they have been urging the regime to lock him up. They see him as the Svengali behind the anti-regime protesters and rising anti-monarchism, refusing to believe the protesters can think for themselves. The regime sees Thanathorn as a potent political threat. They have threatened and charged him with multiple offenses, disqualified him from parliament, dissolved the political party he formed, and brought charges against his family.

By targeting Thanathorn, the regime seems to believe that it is now positioned to defeat the protesters and to again crush anti-monarchism. But, it is a repression that remains a gamble.

Update: Rabid royalists are joining the regime in going after actress Inthira “Sai” Charoenpura and activist Pakorn Porncheewangkul “over donations they received in support of the protest movement.” They are “facing possible tax and anti-money laundering probes over their acceptance of public donations in support of the Ratsadon protests.” It is anti-democrat Watchara Phetthong, “a former Democrat Party MP,” who has “petitioned the Revenue Department and the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) asking them to investigate Ms Inthira and fellow activist Pakorn…”.





Further updated: Yuletide lese majeste

22 12 2020

There’s been quite a lot of commentary on the protests, some motivated by the avalanche of lese majeste cases and some by the fact that the end of the year begs for reviews.

One that caught our attention is by Matthew Wheeler, Senior Analyst for Southeast Asia at the International Crisis Group. It is quite a reasonable and careful rundown of events prompting the demonstrations and the call for reform of the monarchy.

The lese majeste cases pile higher and higher. In a Bangkok Post report on people turning up to hear lese majeste charges, eight are listed: Arnon Nampa, Inthira Charoenpura, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Nattathida Meewangpla, Shinawat Chankrachang, Phimsiri Phetnamrop, and Phromson Wirathamchari.

We can’t locate the latter two on the most recent Prachatai graphic that listed 34 activists charged under 112, but that graphic does include five with names withheld. For us, this brings the total charged to 34-36, but it may well be more.

There was some good news on lese majeste. It is reported that, after more than 4.5 years, a ludicrous 112 charge against Patnaree Chankij have been dismissed. The mother of activist Sirawith Seritiwat, the Criminal Court on Tuesday dismissed the charge. Her one word “jah” in a chat conversation was said to be the cause of the charge but, in reality, going after her was the regime’s blunt effort to silence her son.

A second piece of reasonable news is that the Criminal Court also dismissed charges of sedition brought by the military junta against former deputy prime minister Chaturon Chaisaeng on 27 May 2014 six years ago under Section 116 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act. This was another junta effort to silence critics.

As seen in recent days, equally ludicrous charges have been brought against a new generation of critics.

Update 1: Thai PBS reports that the Criminal Court acquitted nine members of the Pro-Election Group who had been charged in late January 2018 with poking the military junta: “Section 116 of the Criminal Code, illegal public assembly within a 150-metre radius of a Royal palace and defying the then junta’s order regarding public assembly of more than five people.”

The defendants were Veera Somkwamkid, Rangsiman Rome, currently a party-list for the Kao Klai party, Serawit Sereethiat, Nattha Mahatthana, Anon Nampa, a core member of the Ratsadon Group, Aekkachai Hongkangwan, Sukrit Piansuwan, Netiwit Chotepatpaisarn and Sombat Boon-ngam-anong.

The court ruled that:

… protesters complaining about the postponement of general elections cannot be regarded as incitement to public unrest. It also said that the protesters had no intention to defy the ban against public assembly within 150-metres of the Royal palace.

Of course, the charges were always bogus, but the junta’s point was to use “law” for political repression.

Update 2: The Nation reports that there were, in fact, 39 defendants who were acquitted.





Land of (no) compromise VII

21 12 2020

Coconuts reports on actress Inthira “Sai” Charoenpura’s lese majeste case.

It recounts that she spent “the past week perplexed by a vague police summons,” finally learning, when she reported to police, that the charge involves a sarcastic social media post where she used the words “very brave.” She explained, drawing on the official charge sheet:

Facebook user Inthira Charoenpura posted a picture that had text mocking the monarchy. It featured the words ‘I may not go back to loving you,’ ‘you are very brave,’ and ‘because everybody’s eyes are widely opened…. The word ‘very brave’ was said by King Rama X to admirers at a royal event, and to repeat the word in a mocking tone defames his dignity.

Clipped from Starsgab

Of course, the words “very brave” came during the royal family’s declaration of war on the protesters. Despite the claim that Thailand is the land of compromise, this charge shouts that there is no compromise in Vajiralongkorn’s kingdom.

In fact, though, Inthira is being charged not just for mocking Vajiralongkorn but for her high-profile “material support including food, toilets and other donations for the rallies…”.

The complaint against Inthira was filed by deputy Bang Khen district police chief Anan Wonrasat.

Meanwhile, Arnon Nampa and Parit Chiwarak met police for more lese majeste charges to be piled on. Each faces multiple charges.

It is clear that there are more charges to come as the land of (no) compromise seeks to wind back the clock, trying desperately to restore the ideological hegemony for a mad monarch.





Updated: Lawfare increasing

16 12 2020

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his regime are piling on the charges against those they consider the leaders of opposition rallies. It looks like lawfare.

Wikipedia has useful definitions:

  • The misuse of legal systems and principles against an enemy, such as by damaging or delegitimizing them, wasting their time and money …, or winning a public relations victory.
  • A tactic used by repressive regimes to label and discourage civil society or individuals from claiming their legal rights via national or international legal systems. This is especially common in situations when individuals and civil society use non-violent methods to highlight or oppose discrimination, corruption, lack of democracy, limiting freedom of speech, violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law.

That’s pretty much what’s going on, as case after case piles up. In recent reports, the Bangkok Post refers to Arnon Nampa being hit with another lese majeste case, reporting “to Bang Pho police on Monday to acknowledge another lese majeste charge under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, this time in connection the rally in front of parliament, near the Kiak Kai intersection, on Nov 17.”

It is uplifting that Arnon is “not dispirited by the charge.” He says there are four others and he expects more.

Arnon stated that “[a]ll protest leaders were prepared to enter the legal process…”. And, he expects a long struggle against the regime.

Update: As we said, cases are mounting by the day. Two new charges we have seen are:

  • Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak reported to Samranrat police on Wednesday to acknowledge a police charge of causing damage to public property during a rally at the Democracy Monument on Oct 14.
  • Celebrity actress Inthira “Sai” Charoenpura, who organized donations for the pro-democracy rallies said Wednesday she was charged with royal defamation [112], a harsh law that could land her in prison for 15 years.




Army trolls II

29 11 2020

We at PPT can’t help but think that there’s a connection between a Thai PBS report that singer/actress Inthira “Sine” Charoenpura and Pakorn “Hia Bung” Pornchewangkurn have been receiving plenty of highly critical comments on social media, casting doubt on their fund raising for the protester and a military information operation (IO) action recently revealed.

We say there might be a connection because all these “complaints” have led to “[d]onations are flooding into the bank accounts of the two main providers of protest supplies ranging from food to inflatable rubber ducks…”. This is reported as “a sign of ongoing public support for the pro-democracy movement’s actions.”

Yesterday, The Nation reported that “Pavin Chachavalpongpun and Somsak Jeamteerasakul criticised the recent information operation (IO) allegedly conducted by the Army to deal with the pro-democracy online movement.”

In an informative account at the Bangkok Post, it is reported that the Army has issued a “denial.” It is an odd denial because the Army has only “denied using taxpayers’ money to hire a company to conduct an … IO…” and/or hiring “any company to conduct IO,” while admitting that the leaked documents are authentic.

A military spokesperson claimed the leaked “slides were simply a drill for army personnel to learn how to use social media constructively.” How a drill does not use taxpayer money is a mystery.

The slides “show a coordinated process for tweets on the same issue by 17,000-strong personnel, complete with timetables, separation of duties between content creators and users, a division of units into ‘white and grey/black groups’, as well as instructions on how to avoid being banned by Twitter.”

The spokesperson described this as keeping the “armed forces … abreast of technological and platform development,” further explaining: “We regularly hold training and briefings to educate all levels of our personnel so they understand and know how to use social media effectively and appropriately.” Yeah, right.

The documents leaked “show two apps — Twitter Broadcast and Free Messanger — were used to coordinate tweets by 17,562 accounts.”

The Post has more details that show that the military is active in seeking to disrupt its opposition while seeking to circumvent Twitter bans.

Thousands of Army-related trolls are at work.





Thinking 112

23 09 2020

Royalist and other conservatives are pressing back against the demonstrators demanding reforms to the monarchy.

In the face of the unprecedented demands, an unusually even-tempered regime seems have caused great concern for some of the “protectors” of the monarchy.

According to Thai Enquirer, they are now “stepp[ing] up a pressure campaign to force the Prayut Chan-ocha government to take action against student protesters…”.

One of the first to file police complaints was the old yellow shirt/no colour/etc. royalist Tul Sitthisomwong, accusing the protesters of “defaming the monarchy.”

The report states that Tul’s is “likely to be the first of many charges filed against the rally organizers…”. Other royalists are pressuring the government to take action. One government MP is cited:

There are many in these groups and official organizations that feel that a line has been crossed and the government cannot stand idly by and watch a sacred institution be desecrated… There are people who are very respected in society who have asked us to take action….

These royalists want lese majeste to be used to shut the protesters down, arguing that “other criminal charges … of sedition and computer crimes laws” have not worked.

Another royalist, former Action Coalition for Thailand Party politician Sonthiya Sawasdee, has filed a police complaint against actress Inthira “Sai” Charoenpura, who has funded aspects of the rallies.

In the latest legal backlash against those who organized the Sanam Luang protest, veteran actress  was targeted for allegedly fundraising donations and providing food at the rally site.

A police spokesman has said “the authorities will press all the relevant charges against the leaders and supporters of last weekend’s protest, including the lese majeste offense…”.

A return to the use of Article 112 is likely to raise the political temperature quite considerably.








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