The lese majeste abyss

10 11 2016

Yesterday we posted on lese majeste exile Jaran Ditapichai‘s view that Thailand’s already dismal human rights situation is likely to get worse. Jaran takes the view that the “special circumstances surrounding the succession” mean human rights abuses will grow.

How right he is.

Prachatai reports that that most corrupt of Thailand’s organizations, know as the “Royal Thai Police” have announced that they have now “documented 194 alleged violations of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.” The police say they have arrested 10 and are hunting 17 more “suspects.”

The officer added that 10 persons have already been arrested while the authorities are now trying to arrest 17 more.

That is not a human rights situation getting worse. It is an avalanche of human rights violations dragging Thailand into an abyss of abuse from where it will be difficult to recover. We are likely to be talking decades (or a violent and sudden overthrow of the military regime). Liberals in Thailand have no place to exist.

As a footnote, pointing to the belligerent General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the “uneducate” junta leader and self-appointed prime minister, the article claims that he “has ordered the authorities to speed up the arrest of lèse majesté suspects who fled abroad, adding that Thailand has extradition agreements with 16 nations.”

Thick as a brick” we hear you say. Maybe. Yet there is a lot of posing by the military junta, cementing its position as a wall of royalist bricks. They believe that they must protect the monarchy in order to make themselves the silverback gorillas in a post-Bhumibol Thailand.

A second footnote is our own. This announcement of the large number of lese majeste cases being investigated suggests both that the legal definition of the “crime” has been reduced to the lowest possible level so that anyone saying anything about the monarchy, past, present and future. At the same time, it suggests that disdain for the monarchy is far more widespread than the junta and royalist propaganda suggest.





Jaran on the human rights abyss

9 11 2016

Jaran Ditapichai, from The Organisation of Free Thai for Human Rights and Democracy and a political exile in France, having fled lese majeste charges, has an article at EurActiv.com on human rights in Thailand.

He says the human rights situation is “likely to get worse before they get better…”.

Jaran takes the view that the “special circumstances surrounding the succession” mean human rights abuses will grow.

A “marriage of convenience” between the military regime and Crown Prince Vajiralongkorm will be in control for “an extended period, under the pretext of stabilising the country, and a return to democracy will be delayed to 2018 or later.”

The new king, when he eventually succeeds, will be “unpredictable and will not have the aura of his father, so the military regime will clamp down even further to ensure that no negative views are expressed on his reign…”.

Since the king’s death, “police have so far prosecuted some 23 people for lèse majesté.”

The military-monarchy twinning and “paused royal succession” will see “the military regime continue to destroy or undermine all democratic forces…”.

He’s pretty much spot on.





A refuge from the feudal law

28 06 2015

Prachatai reports that France has granted political refugee status to three Thai exiles, each of who is charged under the lese majeste law.

Saran Chuichai or Aum Neko, Jaran Ditapichai and Somsak Jeamteerasakul are each reported to have been granted this status since their arrival in France as political exiles.

This revelation is likely to anger The Dictator and other feudal-minded junta members, although they will have already known this.





Jaran in exile

5 06 2015

Jaran Ditapichai is one of the 31 exiles that the military dictatorship wants back in Thailand so they can be locked up. Prachatai has an excellent account of Jaran’s history of activism and his current role.

JaranJaran is 68 years old and the police issued an arrest warrant for him on 16 June 2014, following the military coup. On 26 August 2014 a further arrest warrant was issued on a lese majeste charge. This was for his role as “the chief organizer of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the 14 October 1973 student uprising, where ‘The Wolf Bride’ was performed in October 2013 at Thammasat University, Bangkok. Two theatre activists were sentenced to two years and a half for their involvement in the alleged lèse majesté play.”

Jaran had earlier fled on 27 May to a neighboring country before leaving for France in June.

Long a dedicated activist, he is now a “coordinator of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (FTHD), an anti-junta group in exile, and the coordinator of red-shirt supporters and pro-democracy activists in Europe.”

Jaran’s view remains that, for Thailand, its political future lies in a revolution. He has few hopes about returning home as the lese majeste charge hangs over him.





Malaysiakini on Thailand’s lese majeste exiles

7 01 2015

There have been several reports of late about Thailand’s lese majeste political exiles. One of these appeared in the influential Malaysiakini, written as a special report by Susan Loone. We felt it worth reproducing, with a few notes added and some clarifications:

Thai exiles want ‘free, democratic Thailand’

On Dec 1, several NGOs protested the visit of Thailand Prime Minister [they mean The Dictator and self-appointed premier] Prayuth Chan Ocha to Malaysia, in solidarity with the Thai exiles, who urged other countries Prayuth visits to follow the example of Malaysians in sending a strong message that they opposed the Thai military dictatorship.

Malaysiakini spoke to several Thai exiles, who expressed their desire to see a liberated Thailand in their lifetime.

One of them, Jakrapob Penkair, was a university professor and a TV journalist before devoting his time to politics in 2003.

During Thaksin Shinawatra’s rule, Jakrapob … was a Member of Parliament, representing Bangkok, besides being a minister in the Thai Prime Minister’s Office and a government spokesperson.

He helped formed the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) and was subsequently jailed for 12 days for his anti-military coup activities.

As a cabinet member, he was about to relinquish state powers when he was accused of lèse majesté, the law that punishes citizens for insulting the royalty.

Jakrapob left his beloved country on April 14, 2009 and has never since returned. And he has not never given up on his political beliefs either.

“We hope to undo the brainwashing of Thailand and to continue with the process of democratisation.

“We Thais have been led to believe that the King of Thailand can right all the wrongs and we need not have confidence in ourselves, but just to believe in him.

“No country can depend on one person, although one good leader can encourage several more people to move and shake,” Jakrapob told Malaysiakini in an interview recently.

He is proud and grateful that several Malaysian activists protested against Prayuth’s visit to Malaysia on Dec 1.

“You made it clear to the dictator of your disgust and disdain about him and his kind. We would like to express our appreciation to all of you.

“We understand that your internal struggle is no less tough and tiresome. We hope to be able to join forces for you as well,” he said.

Junya Lek Yimprasert is a Thai labour rights activist who fights and writes about exploitation at the bottom of supply chains.

After the massacre of civilians by military forces in Bangkok in May 2010, Junya wrote ‘Why I don’t love the King’ and was charged with lèse majesté.

She has, since July 2010, been living in Finland as a “political refugee”.

“The last straw that made me leave was after seeing many trade unions and NGOs become part of the royalists movement to kick out many elected governments since 2005.

“My last straw was seeing 40,000 military troops crackdown violently on the demonstrators, which caused some 100 people to be killed and nearly 2,000 injured,” she said in an interview with Malaysiakini.

‘Even those in exile face threats’

But being in exile does not guarantee freedom from violence or fear.

Junya … said the Thais who are living in exile from the military regime also face much threats, from both ultra royalists and the military, as well as imprisonment, without any chance to defend themselves.

“For me, being wanted by the Thai military junta as ‘a criminal and a treat to national security’ for my writings is something that hit me hard in terms of recognising that the road of struggle for democracy and freedom in Thailand will be long and with lots of obstacles,” she said.

Like many who live in exile, Junya is not happy to see Prayuth welcomed warmly in Malaysia by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

She then went on to call upon Malaysians to oppose the Thai junta and not allow Prayuth to poison the aspirations for freedom and democracy in her country.

“It’s important for Malaysia, for Thailand and for Asean as a whole that the people of Asean stay in solidarity to uphold the principle of freedom and democracy. The Thai people are very much in need of solidarity from you all to help us fight against the dictatorial military regime,” she said.

Suda Rangkupan was an assistant professor at the Department of Linguistics in the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, from 2000 to 2004 before she fled Thailand.

Suda was part of the well-known movement, “29 Jan 10,000 Liberate”, where 10,000 people called for amnesty for political prisoners.

She left Thailand after the coup, on May 22 last year, after realising that the Red Shirt Movement to oppose the military coup could not be pushed further at that time.

She does not accept the coup as the orders of its leader, Prayuth …, are “illegal and an act of rebellion”.

“However, I realise how brutal the Royal Thai Army, which took control of Thailand, is to the Red Shirts so I decided to leave Thailand, hoping that the least I can do as a free person is to tell the world that not all Thais surrender to this latest royal coup,” she said.

‘Prayuth is just a junta leader’

Suda does not understand how anyone can accept Prayuth as the leader of Thailand. “I would not call him prime minister, for he is just a junta leader,” she said.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University in Japan has been summoned twice by the Thai junta for his criticisms of the military.

“I rejected the call and as a consequence, the junta issued a warrant for my arrest. Shortly afterwards, my passport was revoked and this forced me to apply for refugee status with the Japanese government,” Pavin … said.

He now feels safe in Japan, for the government there looks after him well, he said. He has a permanent job, with a steady income and a sense of security.

“Hopefully, I will be granted refugee status in the future and this will allow me to travel legally, which is a important part of me as an academician, for I need to travel for my work.”

Pavin’s message to Prayuth, nevertheless, remains clear: “Return power to the Thai people immediately. Stop violating the people’s rights.

“The military must withdraw itself from politics; the military must also stop politicising the monarchy for its own political interests.”

The coordinator of the Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy, Jaran Ditapichai, said Thais who love freedom and democracy need moral and political support, notably from the international community, to stop the human rights violations the ruling junta carries out daily.

Jaran is currently in political asylum, under the juridicial and administrative protection of France.

“I have several good friends, both Europeans and Thais, who are keeping an eye over me.

“But the big problem is how to earn living in this country, where the cost of living is high,” said Jaran, who was a former adviser to a deputy prime minister and a former national human rights commissioner of Thailand.

The leader of the … United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship, which is also known as the Red Shirt Movement, is thankful to Malaysian politicians, human rights and democratic NGOs and the media that reported the protest against Prayuth during his visit to Malaysia.

“I hope friends of human rights and democracy in the other Asean countries will openly express their what they think of the Thai military leadership, like how the Malaysians have done,” Jaran added.





New year barbs III

4 01 2015

As well as barbs to the military dictatorship in the media (here and here), red shirts have also sent some new year jabs Thaksin Shinawatra’s way.

A report at the Bangkok Post begins with an observation that “[o]pposition to the military-led government could gain momentum this year…”. We think that’s true, and it doesn’t simply depend on “economic stability, actions by Thaksin Shinawatra and the fate of Yingluck Shinawatra…”.

As PPT noted yesterday, we think that there is a potentially broader anti-coup/anti-military opposition that will emerge. We agree with Verapat Pariyawong, “an independent law expert and a red-shirt supporter who has remained outside Thailand since he was summoned by the coup-makers,” who states that “the junta’s strategy of suppressing dissent against students, activists, reformists and academics would only trigger more critics and sympathy from around the world,” and, we think, in Thailand; and that is most significant.

The Post’s report contains several points worthy of consideration including the view that “former prime minister Thaksin will have to weigh his steps carefully…”. Double-dealing with the military and palace is unlikely to resolve his political problems. As one red shirt leader opines, “If he lets time pass and does not make any big moves, his fate would be like that of Pridi Banomyong…”. Pridi failed to build a people-based opposition to military domination and spent 34 years in exile, dying in Paris.

The leader pointed out the obvious, declaring that “many red shirts are disappointed that Thaksin and Pheu Thai Party leaders have gone quiet, instead of fighting for peoples’ civil liberties.” The leader adds, “If Thaksin compromises with military leaders for his own benefit, he will lose the people’s support and will not be able to mobilise people power again…”.

Some have argued that Thaksin and Puea Thai are waiting for more widespread opposition to the military dictatorship to emerge or that they await an election and an electoral comeback. The former might be reasonable but the latter is a pipe dream, for the military won’t allow it to be a replay of 2007.

Jaran Ditapichai, described as “a leading red-shirt intellectual,” acknowledges the power of the military dictatorship by observing that “the power of those in exile against the government is limited.” He notes that “[m]ost of the exiles remain scattered … [and that] he future for those facing lese majeste charges is even more cloudy.”

Another exile is Watt Wallayangkoon, an intellectual and writer is clear and defiant: “A coup is coup. You can’t wait for nice things to happen. And as an intellectual, you can’t produce your work in a dictatorial environment…”. He added that the “mentality of many in the middle class and elite who support the coups, calling them ‘blinkered apologists’.”

Will Thaksin make yet another political comeback in 2015? Does it matter? In 2007, the initial anti-coup activism was muted. But that limited response grew as opposition became more widespread and various groups – including many who were no supporters of Thaksin – came together to oppose the military’s political tutelage. The military junta doesn’t want that to happen this time and so they have been harsher and harder. In our view, that is likely to make the eventual response stronger and more determined. Thaksin might have to hitch a ride.





Fiction and lese majeste

28 10 2014

The lese majeste repression dragnet is cast and those trapped in it are increasing in number.

We have noted that arrests and charges against university student Patiwat and colleague Pornthi. The Bangkok Post reports on their recent court appearance. Interestingly most of the photos in the media strategically left out Patiwat’s leg irons. Feudal chains are usually used on males charged under this feudal law.

Formally charged on Monday, “they won’t enter a plea until December, but feel the play that sits at the heart of their alleged crime is being taken out of context.”

The play is, of course, the October 2013 performance of fictional drama about a fictional monarch entitled “The Wolf Bride.” It was performed for “a commemoration of the 37th and 40th anniversaries of the Oct 6, 1976 and Oct 14, 1973 pro-democracy student uprisings at Thammasat University.”

The “prosecutors cited nine passages from the pay’s scripts they claim insulted the monarchy in violation of the Article 112 of the Penal Code.”

Patiwat told the Bangkok Post his “first impression” of the charges laid was that the prosecutors had sliced and diced the script “and consider only certain paragraphs [the prosecutors consider] as insulting to the monarchy.” He says they “should look at the big picture and that this is a fictional play.”

The Post reports that “two [other] red-shirt activists, Watt Wallayangoon and Jaran Ditapichai, also face arrest on lese majeste charges for their roles in the play event.” PPT knew of Jaran, who is in exile in France, but not of Watt.





Jaran charged with lese majeste

16 10 2014

For a couple of days social media has been saying that the military dictatorship was charging former Human Rights Commissioner Jaran Ditapichai under Article 112.

Prachatai has now reported that Jara has indeed been charged by the royalist junta’s regime. In some ways, this is not unexpected. The Dictator and his junta have long wanted to punish Jaran. Indeed, since the military coup, the regime has filed four charges against Jaran. He is charged with lese majeste and defying the junta’s order to report to the military.

More revealing are the charges that Jaran breached the Emergency Decree during the red-shirt mass protest in 2010. Yes, that’s four years ago. The final charge relates to the red shirt protest targeting Privy Councillor President and coup plotter General Prem Tinsulanonda in July 2007. Yes, that seven years ago.

The most recent charge, of insulting the walking dead, the “veteran political activist” is accused of having organized the play “The Wolf Bride.” Two other activists remain in custody over this play that was performed in October 2013 in remembrance of the 14 October 1973 student uprising. The arrest warrant for Jaran was issued on 26 August 2014.

The others caught in this particular lese majeste dragnet are Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong.

Jaran is in exile in Europe.





With a major update: Remembering the 6 October 1976 attack

6 10 2013

The Bangkok Post reports:

A ceremony to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the October 6, 1976 bloodshed was held at the historic park at Thammasat University on Sunday morning.

Assoc Prof Udom Rathamarit, deputy rector of Thammasat University, presided over the opening of the ceremony which was attended by relatives of those who died in the incident and some leading political figures who were part of the then student movement for democracy.

Thai Rath Newspaper

Thai Rath Newspaper

A statement was read out in memory of the “heroes” who sacrificed both in the October 6 event and the October 14 student uprising which took place earlier in 1973.

To be honest, that seems a pretty scant report for one of modern Thailand’s most significant royalist-monarchy massacres of democracy protesters. Perhaps the royalist nature of the killing and burning of protesters at Thammasat is the reason for so much silence. Should any reader think the king and palace were anything other than rightists bent on pushing extremists for murderous action, read this post from a few months ago.

The murders of 1976 were in the monarchy’s name and supported by the palace. The most dramatic and horrible event was the royalist-inspired attack on people – mostly students – damned as “disloyal.” Just days after the bloodshed, the crown prince distributed awards to paramilitary personnel involved. The massacre at Thammasat University has never seen any state investigation. Impunity was the rule because the state’s troops and rightist gangs were doing the work of the royalist state. The main perpetrators of the massacre are claimed to be the Border Patrol Police who trained many of the rightist gangs in the name of the monarchy and with considerable U.S. funding. The BPP was (and remains) close to the royal family.

The regime that was put in place following the massacre and a coup was headed by a palace favorite. Thanin Kraivixien remains a Privy Counselor even today, considered “respected” because of that. Yet the fact is that his administration was one of the most right-wing, repressive and brutal regimes in Thailand’s modern history.

In other words, the massacre at Thammasat University was intimately linked to palace political machinations.

Update: The Bangkok Post has a longer article about one of the remembrances of 6 October. PPT was aware that there was a split between “Octobrists” with some now red shirt activists with another group having continued to support the People’s Alliance for Democracy and its political progeny. The Nation reports that the 14 October Foundation is now “seen as part of the yellow shirts, as it is under Dr Wichai Chokwiwat.”  The latter is quoted as complaining that “capitalists have played a bigger role in Thai politics.” He explains his perspective:

Since the … [14 October 1976] uprising, people have become more aware of their rights. They fought [for] elections. But elections…are not the answer … as the representatives do not aim to solve the country’s problems, [they aim] to maintain their power and benefits. This is…not a real democracy…”.

The yellow shirt disdain for elected representation is clear.

At the Bangkok Post, the red shirt-related group is discussed. It is led by human rights activist and red shirt Jaran Ditapichai, who proclaimed that the “protests [of 1973-76] had paved the way for greater freedom of speech and assembly.”

Two recently released lese majeste convicts attended. Surachai Danwattananusorn was only released from prison last Friday but attended. Also there was Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul, released a couple of months ago. He praised the October Generation: “Without the courage and contributions of the October Generation, nobody else would have fought for democracy in subsequent years…”.

Writer Watt Wallayangkoon observed that “the victories earned by the … “October Generation” were short-lived and were counteracted by ultra-royalist elements and a fear of communism within wider society.” He added that  “The red-shirt struggle [for democracy] is not yet finished…”.





An important call for AI to help Thailand’s political prisoners

12 06 2012

Andrew Spooner has published a letter from lese majeste convict Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul (also known as Num). The letter is addressed to Amnesty International and was delivered by former National Human Rights’ Commissioner, Jaran Ditapichai. The letter, which is on behalf of 55 political prisoners, laments that AI has not yet done anything for the prisoners. They hope that “one day” AI may do something for them. PPT reproduces it in full below:

Re: Request for aid for lèse-majesté law and political prisoners in Thailand after September 19, 2006 coup.

Bangkok Remand Prison

May 14th 2012.

Dear Amnesty International,

My name is Thanthawut Taweewarodomkul; I am a 40 years old lèse-majesté prisoner who received a 13-year sentence – I have been incarcerated for 2 years and 1 month and was not released on bail while awaiting for my trial. At present I have just withdrawn my appeal because I am applying for a royal pardon. 7 other lèse-majesté law prisoners also decided to drop their appeals and chose to apply for the royal pardon as well.

Besides lèse-majesté law prisoners, many others have been arrested and charged during political demonstrations since the 2006 coup – they are now detained in Laksi prison in Bangkok and many other places in Thailand. All of them have been prosecuted because they exercised their civil and political rights to demand democracy as citizens of their country.

But we have never been treated justly; our basic rights such as right to bail, right to be treated with respect and dignity as prisoners of conscience and political prisoners, which are guaranteed by international laws, have been denied. The authorities have physically assaulted many of the prisoners. Many prisoners have been put in very crowded cells and refused proper medical treatment which led to the death of Amphon Tangnoppakul aka Ar Kong who was 62 years and died of advanced stage of cancer on May 8, 2012 – he didn’t receive proper care and medical treatment.

Up until now, we have been suffering physically and mentally from incarceration. Many have been incarcerated for over 2 years without being allowed bail even though the governmental organizations and human right organizations in Thailand and overseas have continually been trying to help out.

So we now hope that Amnesty International, an organisation that is widely respected because of its outstanding human rights work and which has a huge global network, including in Thailand, would be able to help us out.

So far, we have never been contacted by or received any attention from Amnesty International in Thailand at all. We are deeply sad about this but we still hope that one day, Amnesty International, might start to pay attention to us.

At the moment, Thailand has a democratically elected government and its policy is to create reconciliation in Thailand, a country that has been deeply divided since the 2006 coup. Many organizations in Thailand and overseas have been working together to create reconciliation as soon as possible.

We, therefore, hope that Amnesty International will be part of this reconciliation process in Thailand by doing everything it can to ensure that the basic rights of incarcerated political prisoners meet international standards. We will be very happy if Amnesty International does this.

Furthermore, we hope to see peace in Thailand as soon as possible. We have always respected and believed in democracy governance with the King as the head of state and we are ready to do everything to make the country become normal again.

Finally, we hope that you will consider lending us some help and we are looking forward to the day you are able to do so.

Respectfully,

Thanthawut Taweewarodomkul

Lèse-majesté law prisoner writing on behalf of 55 incarcerated political prisoners in Thailand.

Scans of the hand-written Thai version can be found here and here.