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, Intira 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 Intira “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, Intira 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 Intira 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 Intira “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.