Updated: Two bailed

23 04 2021

Two political prisoners charged with lese majeste and other offenses have been granted bail.

Thai PBS reports the good news that Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa have finally been bailed. The softening of the regime and the regime’s courts on these two may reflect a regime belief that it can further split the leadership of the recent protests. In any case, these two, both previously convicted and jailed on 112 charges, have agreed that they will not challenge the monarchy:

Pai and Somyos

Pai and Somyos Clipped from Thai PBS

The defendants told the court that, if they were to be granted bail, they would refrain from any activities which may damage the reputation of the Thai monarchy.

Having heard the testimony of prison officials and the pledge by the defendants, the court ruled that there was no reason not to grant them bail, at 200,000 baht each, and set the conditions that they must not get involved in activities which may tarnish the monarchy or leave Thailand.

Their supporters, who had been staging 112-minute protests against Article 112 “called off the protest and travelled to Bangkok Remand Prison to welcome the Ratsadon leaders upon their release.”

Update: Prachatai reports that two others on 112 charges – named as Phonphimon (Pholpimol) and Phonchai (Pornchai Wimolsupawong) were bailed in Chiang Mai.





HRW on continuing detentions

21 04 2021

Human Rights WatchHuman Rights Watch has released a statement on the continuing detention of political activists. We reproduce it in full, including with links HRW had embedded:

(New York) – Thai authorities should immediately release pro-democracy activists detained on charges of insulting the monarchy, Human Rights Watch said today. Prominent Thammasat University students Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul have been on hunger strike to protest their pre-trial detention, for 35 days and 21 days respectively.

The charges against Parit, Panusaya, and others should be dropped for violating their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Until then, bail should be provided for all those detained under the lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) law. Hunger strikers should be transferred to a hospital for medical supervision.

“Thai authorities should immediately drop the cases against Parit, Panusaya, and others unjustly charged for their peaceful pro-democracy protests, but at a minimum they should be released on bail,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Holding activists in detention prior to trial and conviction, which could be years away, seems aimed to unfairly punish them rather than fulfill a legitimate state interest.”

On March 8, 2021, the Bangkok Criminal Court ordered Panusaya, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, and Panupong Jadnok into pre-trial detention on lese majeste charges connected to the speeches they made demanding reforms of the monarchy during a rally on September 19, 2020. The cases follow the court’s February 9 decision to order four other prominent democracy activists – Parit, Arnon Nampha, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, and Patiwat Saraiyaem – into pre-trial detention on similar charges.

Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code makes lese majeste punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The activists were also charged with sedition under Criminal Code article 116, which carries a maximum 7-year sentence. These cases are just the latest in which Thai activists charged with lese majeste have been detained for lengthy periods that could go on for years until their trial is concluded, Human Rights Watch said.

Except for Patiwat, who gave a statement in court on March 29 that he would no longer participate in rallies and other political activities or make public comments about the monarchy, the court has repeatedly denied the activists’ bail requests, saying they are likely to commit the alleged offenses again if released.

Holding those charged with lese majeste in pretrial detention violates their rights under international human rights law. 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 whose charges have not been dropped should be tried without undue delay, Human Rights Watch said.

The number of lese majeste cases in Thailand has significantly increased in the past year, Human Rights Watch said. After almost a three-year hiatus in which lese majeste prosecutions were not brought before the courts, Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, in November, ordered the authorities to restore lese majeste prosecutions, ostensibly because of growing criticisms of the monarchy. Since then, officials have charged at least 82 people with lese majeste crimes in relation to various activities at pro-democracy rallies or comments on social media.

In a February 8 statement on the situation in Thailand, United Nations human rights experts said that lese majeste laws have “no place in a democratic country.” They also expressed serious concerns about the growing number of lese majeste prosecutions and harsh prison sentences the courts have meted out to some defendants. On January 19, a retired civil servant, Anchan Preelert, received an 87-year prison sentence, later halved after she pleaded guilty.

The ICCPR protects the right to freedom of expression. General Comment 34 of the Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors compliance with the covenant, states that laws such as those for lese majeste “should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person that may have been impugned” and that governments “should not prohibit criticism of institutions.”

“The Thai government should stop this witch hunt against peaceful dissenters and demonstrate respect for human rights by permitting all viewpoints,” Adams said. “The government should engage with United Nations experts and others about amending the lese majeste law to bring it into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations.”





Virus of double standards II

11 04 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that at least 22 “detained on charges related to the protests,” mostly using Article 112.

While the Criminal Court has granted bail to Patiwat Saraiyaem, on the basis that he “pledged not to breach Section 112 … and also stay away from political rallies…”, it refused bail for to other political prisoners, Somyos Pruksakasemsuk and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa.

The report adds that Somyos and Jatuphat “joined other protest figures in signing a letter expressing their intention to withdraw their lawyer from their Section 112 trial,” but did not detail the complaints made by the detainees.

Thai PBS states that the “court said that it doubts the credibility of the two Ratsadon leaders’ pledge not to mention the revered institution in future protests, after they refused to recognize the trial process.”

Prachatai provides an account of the withdrawal of defense lawyers, based on Thai Lawyers for Human Rights:

22 people facing charges relating to the protests on 19 – 20 September 2020, including 7 protest leaders facing lèse majesté charges, have withdrawn their legal representation in protest at court measures and treatment by prison officials which deny them the right to a fair and open trial.

The 22 are listed as:

The 23 defendants in the case are Chinnawat Chankrachang, Nawat Liangwattana, Nattapat Akhad, Thanachai Aurlucha, Thanop Amphawat, Thanee Sasom, Phattaraphong Noiphang, Sitthithat Chindarat, Suwanna Tallek, Anurak Jeantawanich, Nutchanon Pairoj, Atthapol Buaphat, Adisak Sombatkham, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Panupong Jadnok, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Chukiat Saengwong, and Chaiamorn Kaewwwiboonpan.

The defendants “requested to withdraw their legal representation and their lawyers requested to be released from their duties.” They consider the “courtroom has been made into a prison.”

The defendants and lawyers say they are not receiving a fair and open trial and their rights are not being respected. According to TLHR the defendants:

  • have not been allowed to speak to their lawyers individually and confidentially, as they were always under the control of prison officials
  • who are detained pending trial and those granted bail have not been allowed to discuss the case with each other
  • family members and other individuals have been prevented from observing the proceedings, with some family members initially forbidden from even entering the court building and told by court police that they do not have permission to enter the courtroom
  • family members have been prevented from personal contact with the political prisoners, and at times they have been prevented from handing over personal items and food

Political prisoner and lawyer Arnon Nampa wrote a declaration to the court saying:

… he would like to withdraw all legal representation on the ground that he has been denied bail and treated in ways which are degrading, that he cannot participate in a judicial process which is “carried out with fear and without taking human dignity into account.” He also wrote that the law has been used to silence the demands of the younger generation, that violence has been used to suppress protests, and that their detention will lead to fear in society and no one will dare to speak the truth.

“In this trial, our right to fully fight the case has been violated,” he wrote. “The courtroom has been made into a prison.” He then went onto say that the process is unconstitutional, and that the defendants and lawyers agreed that if they continue to participate in the procedure, they would be promoting a process of injustice.

“This case has involved the destruction of human dignity, the use of the law to silence people, and many other forms of injustice. As a person who has studied the law and who practices as a lawyer, and as one of the citizens who aim to reform the monarchy, the defendant cannot continue to participate in this process. The defendant whose name is at the end of this petition therefore requests to withdraw legal representation and refuses this process,” Anon wrote.





MP wants 112 suspects locked up

2 04 2021

Palang Pracharath Party MP Sira Jenjaka has decided that prison is the best place for those charged with violating Article 112.

Earlier in the week, as chairman of the House committee on law, justice process and human rights, Sira “visited the Bangkok Remand Prison … where three of the leaders — Arnon Nampa, Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattaraksa and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok — are being detained on charges including lese majeste.

Sira made the outrageous claim that these detainees are living the high life and their rights are not infringed: “It’s like living in a five-star hotel,” he said. Such a claim is quite deranged. Bangkok’s prisons are overcrowded, unpredictable, dank and dangerous.

And, only recently, in an unusual decision, acting on a complaint made by Arnon, that fellow political prisoners Jatuphat and  Panupong were mistreated, the Criminal Court “found the wardens failed to fully protect the rights of the detained protest figures.”

It seems Sira’s self-appointed task was to lie. No human rights abuses in prison and life was good. What a clown! His performance continued as he went from MP to medical practitioner. Untrained in medicine, Sira determined that Jatuphat, seen in a videolink, was “in good health…”.

Sira claimed the detainees’ supporters “who are worried shouldn’t be…”. He then got to his main point: “Let them [the protest leaders] be and don’t try to get them out. They are fine where they are.”

Presumably the odious Sira wants even more political prisoners.

Of course, Sira may lose his own position as an MP for a previous fraud conviction, which legally means he should not have been a candidate in the rigged election. But given that a deputy minister has a heroin conviction, we wonder if Sira doesn’t feel safe so long as he leeches around the regime bosses.

Meanwhile, a few days ago, Secretary to the Minister of Justice, Thanakrit Jitareerat, stated that:

the ministry would support any request by Mr Parit’s mother Ms Sureerat Chiwarak, to have her son moved to a Corrections Department hospital where his care could be monitored more effectively and which would have more medical resources than doctors at the Pathum Thani Detention Centre where he is currently incarcerated.

Not on your life. A couple of days later, Thawatchai Chaiwat, deputy director-general of the Department of Corrections and also its spokesman, “rejected a request by Mr Parit’s mother to refer him to a private hospital, saying if hospitalisation was required, detainees would be transferred to well-equipped prison medical facilities.denied Mr Parit was suffering serious health issues from going on a hunger strike in protest at the justice system.”

The whole regime appears full of liars, leeches, and charlatans.





Updated: Concern for 112 detainees

26 03 2021

There is reason to be concerned for the safety of those accused of lese majeste and currently detained without bail in several prisons.

The Bangkok Post reports that these members of the Ratsadon group “are being detained at five prisons while police prepare the cases against them…”. The report lists some of them:

Six were being detained at Bangkok Remand Prison, he said. They are Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, Piyarat “Toto” Jongthep, Patiwat “Bank” Saraiyaem, Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpatararaksa, Arnon Nampa and Somyos Prueksakasemsuk.

Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, alias “Ammy The Bottom Blues”, is being held at Thon Buri Prison, and Panusaya “Rung” Sitthijirawatanakul at the Central Correctional Institution for Women.

In Pathum Thani province, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak is detained in Pathum Thani central detention centre, and Promsorn “Fah” Veerathamjaree of the Ratsadon Mutelu group is in Thanyaburi Prison in Thanyaburi district.

Release our friends

There are several reasons for concern for the safety of these political detainees. First, Corrections Department deputy director-general Veerakit Hanparipan has revealed that his department lacks coordination and standard operating procedures. Second, it is a “policy” to separate the detainees as a means to break their spirit and to prevent them from supporting each other. Third, lawyers and families are having great difficulty visiting the detainees. Fourth, political detainees are being treated as common criminals. Fourth, Thonburi Prison is said to be a problematic location due to it being in a high-risk Covid zone.

All of this amounts to lese majeste torture.

There is special concern for Parit, “who is on a partial hunger strike…”. Veerakit told reporters that Penguin “continued to refuse solid food.” He added that he has become “weakened from refusing food” and that “Parit was instead given bread, milk, sweet drinks and mineral water to prevent his blood-sugar level falling too far.” Veerakit also revealed that “Parit had a rash on his chest. Prison officials had given him medication.”

Update: Concern for Penguin is increasing. He’s “been on hunger strike for over two weeks,” and is experiencing weakness. He has “allowed doctors to conduct a blood test for the first time on Saturday night, after suffering from fatigue, increased dizziness and dehydration.” As a result, he’s now being administered glucose and fluid intravenously.





Neo-traditionalism and fascists

18 03 2021

Prachatai has a couple of stories that are about a theme – political repression. In our view, they also appoint to the entrenchment of neo-traditionalist, royalist, fascism.

The first report is about complaints made by the so-called People’s Network to Protect the Monarchy to Anek Laothamatas, who seems to spend some time as Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation. They demanded that the former communist now mad royalist and failed politician investigate the lecturers who have used their positions to stand bail for arrested protesters. The fascist Network “claims that their bail requests for Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, students at Thammasat and Mahidol universities, constitute behaviour that infringes upon the monarchy.”

Clipped from Prachatai
The Network submitting a petition to the MHESI representatives, Duangrit Benjathikul Chairungruang and Jak Punchoopet (Source: Facebook/ Center for People Protecting the Monarchy).

Immediately, the ministry sprang into action: “Jak Punchoopet, Advisor to the Minister … said … the Ministry is preparing to summon deans and chancellors of the universities of 8 lecturers who offered bail to 3 student activists detained while awaiting trial for royal defamation and other charges.” Jak previously participated in People’s Democratic Reform Committee efforts to foment a coup against an elected government.

The Network claimed it is “unethical for teachers as they are protecting students who have clearly and publicly defamed and infringed upon the King, Queen and the Chakri dynasty, which the Network has denounced.”

Jak quoted Minister Anek as stating that “academic freedom must not infringe on the … monarchy.”

There’s not much academic freedom in Thailand anyway, with the 2020 Academic Freedom Index grading Thailand as an E, “the lowest grade, with a score of 0.13 out of a maximum of 1.  Other countries with and E grade include China, North Korea, Cuba, Lao, Iran, Rwanda, and South Sudan.”

Preventing academics standing bail would be a major change to previous and longstanding practice.

Of course, neither the fascists of the Network nor the dolts at the Ministry ever pause to think that none of these political prisoners have yet been found guilty. In any case, none were allowed bail.

An equally concerning report is about constant harassment of independent media:

The Isaan Record, an online media organization based in Khon Kaen Province, is under surveillance by police officers. This is not the first time, and it occurs after they report on monarchy reform and anti-dictatorship activities which other media find distasteful.

The effort to silence The Isaan Record is clear and follows a pattern:

On 10 March, Hathairat Phaholtap, the Isaan Record editor, told Prachatai English that police officers came to their office 4 times in one day. She was informed by vendors close to the office that police had asked them about the agency. The police did not approach staff directly.

This took place after the agency reported on an activity organized on 8 March by Femliberate, a feminist activist group, who shrouded the statue of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat with women’s sarongs with a banner reading “Justice died 8 March 2021,” a symbolic action against the oppression of women and the court decision to keep in detention Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul and Panupong Jadnok, 3 leading pro-democracy activists.

Police intimidation sometimes leads to arrests but can also lead to attacks by royalist thugs – more often than not these are police and military men in plainclothes. Such attacks are never investigated.

Unsurprisingly, these royalist, fascist interventions are coordinated. Prachatai reports:

… Manager Online for the northeast region reported news with the headline “Don’t stand for it! Khon Kaen people love the institution [of the monarchy]. Attack KKU [Khon Kaen University], ask its position on whether they want the monarchy or not after allowing gangs who want to abolish the monarchy to hang out there,”.

The news item reports that a pro-monarchy group blames the Progressive Movement, from the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, for being the mastermind behind the student movement in Khon Kaen in the past year. They also questioned Khon Kaen University for letting public figures who spoke about democracy and monarchy reform give lectures to the students.

You see the link between Manager Online and the People’s Network to Protect the Monarchy. When fascism takes hold, the country usually falls into a deep and dark abyss.





Updated: Political prisoners and political trials

16 03 2021

A mass hearing of 22 political prisoners took place yesterday at the Criminal Court.

Thai PBS reports that Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak made the it clear that it was a political “pre-trial” meeting. It states that the defiant Parit “caused a brief commotion during a hearing … when his request to make a statement was rejected by the court…”.

The Bangkok Post reports that “Parit read a prepared statement in which he criticised the role taken by the courts in the conflict.”

The judge “interrupted him and warned that if he continued, the court would order a meeting behind closed doors with Mr Parit alone. He then ordered the defendants out of the courtroom and suspended the hearing.”

Court officials tried to rush Parit out of the court room, “causing a commotion as other defendants tried to shield the defiant protest leader.” He stood on a chair to ask “why the court didn’t grant him bail while is still not convicted of a crime…”.

He “announced his intention to go on hunger strike in prison until his request for bail is granted…”. In fact his demand referred to all 22 prisoners.

Parit’s statement is at Prachatai.

The court did agree “to requests by Panupong Jadnok, alias Mike Rayong, Chatupat Boonpatthararaksa, alias Pai Daodin, and Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep to be transferred from Thonburi remand prison back to Bangkok remand prison.”

Parit’s defiance is brave but may well lead to an intensification of lese majeste torture.

Indeed, last evening, detainee Arnon Nampa wrote a letter through his lawyer saying he was in fear when officials and others tried to take detainees out of their cells at midnight for a “COVID test.” These thugs were armed guards, some with no identification. He ended his letter: “Please save our lives…”.

Update: We see that the authorities at the Bangkok Remand Prison have concocted a half-baked story about Arnon’s concerns. Krit Krasaethip, commander of Bangkok Remand Prison, said the prisoners returned from Thonburi Prison – Pai and Mike – were “being moved to isolate them.” He said they had to be “quarantined in isolation units” because “Thon Buri Prison … is in a high-risk Covid zone, so [the prisoners] were required to have Covid-19 tests and be quarantined in Zone 2.” He added that the “pair were to be moved from their quarantine room on the ground floor to another quarantine room on the second floor but refused to leave, so prison guards agreed not to move them to avoid problems.”

Does any of this make any sense? Why were they transferred to a high-risk area in the first place? Why put prisoners from a high-risk area in the wrong kind of cell? Why not take them directly to quarantine? And why decide to do this in the middle of the night?

Just to make it all more odd, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said the incident prompted him to order “prison authorities to install more surveillance cameras to monitor cell block activities.” How does the prison story fir with that?

 





Lese majeste and cruelty III

13 03 2021

Yet again, the royalist courts have “rejected the bail applications by four core leaders of the anti-establishment Ratsadon group on the grounds that there is no justification for changing the court’s previous order to remand them in custody.” This refers to Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, and Piyarat Chongthep.

The new applications for bail “were filed today by Mr. Krisadang Nutcharat, a lawyer from the Centre for Human Rights Lawyers, and a group of lecturers from Thammasat and Mahidol universities.” Krisadang said “that he and the lecturers were seeking bail for the three students, namely Parit, Panusaya and Chatuphat, because they are about to take examinations.” The case of Piyarat has to do with “pre-emptive” arrest (as far as we know he has not been charged with 112).

In another report, it is stated that “Kritsadang also complained about Mr Parit’s transfer to Area 5 of the prison, usually designated for inmates already convicted.” He condemned this action, making an argument of the presumption of innocence. We doubt the royalist courts even know what this is as they take orders from the top.

The pattern emerging is one of lese majeste torture, seen in several earlier lese majeste cases. Keeping them locked up and seeking to separate them from their fellow political prisoners is a way to break their spirit and solidarity. It is also reflective of the nastiness seen in other cases involving those who “cross” the king.





Concocting “victory”

9 03 2021

With three more pro-democracy campaigners locked away on lese majeste charges, the regime seems confident it has a royalist political victory in sight.

Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Jatuphat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa – were each charged with 112 and other “crimes” and denied bail for the Thammasat University rally back in September 2020. Along with 15 other pro-democracy protesters, they also face sedition charges.

Some of those locked up. Clipped from France24

The other 15 were bailed, marking the regime’s 112 strategy as now involving lengthy jail stints waiting for a trial before royalist judges and potentially very heavy sentencing. The regime and palace – which gives the orders on 112 – want to stamp out all signs of anti-royalism.

They join Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem who have already been held for about three weeks without bail on similar charges. Also banged up on 112 charges is Chai-amorn Kaewwiboonpan, aka Ammy the Bottom Blues.

Jatuphat called on followers: “Fight on everyone…”, while Panusaya, “who is facing eight other royal defamation charges, believes the pro-democracy movement will continue to exist although most of the leaders could be locked behind bars”: “No matter how many people are locked up, people outside will continue fighting, they do not need us…. “I am not concerned at all that the movement will stop.”

The regime thinks it has them beaten. With its carefully managed violence and targeted arrests, these detentions signal that the regime believes that the leaders will not get broader support.

The mainstream local media does not challenge regime stories of violence and weapons, although some of the international media has a different reporting. We conclude that the local media has come under enormous pressure to follow the regime’s lead and that corporate owners are willingly propagandizing for the regime. Why else would the Bangkok Post be interviewing and publishing outlandish conspiracy manure from anti-democrats? The media that lambasted the protesters for allegedly straying from the path of non-violence have been regime pawns too.

Such concocted claims have been seen from royalists many times in the past – from Pridi shot the king to the Finland Plot and more – and they continue. We can but speculate that these claims will lead to a deeper repression across the country, as they did in the past.





Lese majeste charges mushrooming

27 11 2020

Thai PBS reports that:

Twelve core members and supporters of the Ratsadon group reported to Phya Thai police station today, to acknowledge charges of violating the state of emergency law with their protest march from the Victory Monument to Government House on October 21st.

The report lists just nine: Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, Chonthicha Jaengraew, Suwanna Tarnlek, Chartchai Kaedam, Korakot Saengyen, Apisit Sapnapapant, Passaravalee Thanakitvibulphol, Dr. Tosaporn Sererak and Arnan Loomchan.

This list does not entirely match that at Thai Enquirer. and nor does it match that we reproduced a couple of days ago. Comparing the three lists, it may be that about 20 have been charged or been summoned to hear 112 charges.

In addition, Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, has posted on Facebook that he too faces a charge. This is his second lese majeste charge. He was jailed on the first.