The rotten system II

17 09 2021

The smell from the rotten system is overpowering.

Remember the case of Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and his two dozen luxury watches? He said he had borrowed the watches from a former classmate, Patthawat Suksriwong, who was dead, but that he had returned them. Remember how the National Anti-Corruption Commission exonerated him on unexplained – some might say, bogus – grounds?

That smelly story is back. Thai PBS reports that the “The Central Administrative Court has ordered Thailand’s anti-graft watchdog, the … NACC…, to reveal its findings from an investigation into the expensive wristwatches seen being worn in public by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit…”.

The court seems to recognize that the NACC is so politically-biased that it is widely viewed as a regime tool when it “ruled that, the disclosure of the findings…, including witness testimonies and Gen Prawit’s own testimonies, will demonstrate the transparency and accountability of the NACC and will enhance public trust and confidence in the agency.”

The NACC says it is considering what to do. We might guess that it is seeking advice from the likes of regime legal fixer Wissanu Krea-ngam and Gen Prawit himself.

Remember Pol Col Thitisan Uttanapol or “Joe Ferrari,” recently caught on camera suffocating a man to death with plastic bags while “interrogating” a suspect and trying to extort money? You might think that Joe learned his plastic bag trick from watching gangster movies. But it seems he may have been trained by the police. Prachatai reports on “the case of Somsak Chuenchit and his 12-year effort to bring the police officers who tortured his son by beating and suffocating him with plastic bags during an interrogation.” The report states:

On 28 January 2009, Ritthirong ‘Shop’ Chuenchit ,18, was returning from a cinema in Prachinburi Province with a friend when he was stopped by the police. His clothing and motorcycle helmet reportedly fit the description given to police by a woman who had earlier been the victim of a gold necklace-snatching.

At the police station, the woman identified Ritthirong as the person who had taken her necklace. Ignoring his assertion of innocence, the interrogating officers beat the handcuffed youth and then suffocated him in a bid to determine where the necklace was hidden. Whenever Ritthirong chewed holes in the plastic bags to breathe, more were placed over his head.

Chuenchit survived but was framed and traumatized.

Remember the activists kept in jail for months when arrested and refused bail? Prachatai reports that the Court of Appeal granted bail to activists Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, Thatchapong Kaedam, and Nutchanon Pairoj on 15 September, after having been denied bail several times. Several other activists continue to be detained without bail, including Arnon Nampa and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa. A rotten regime prefers that its opponents remain in jail, face never-ending repression and under threat.

The regime is rotten, the system is rotten.





With 3 updates: Students vs. the rotten system

13 09 2021

In recent posts, here and here, PPT has mentioned the increasingly aggressive tactics adopted by the regime’s police in confronting mostly young protesters. The police now face determined protesters.

The South China Morning Post reports that police face thousands of protesters – “young, angry and desperate for radical change – [who] come out to oppose a state they have lost all faith in.” Some are as young as 12. These protests are now daily and have a degree of predictability:

Protesters, some armed with paint bombs – the more hardcore among them, sling-shots and glass bottles – retreated then returned, a daily dance on Bangkok’s streets which is now threatening to spill out of control.

Protests now almost inevitably end in tear gas, broken bottles and rubber bullets.

The protesters speak to power and call for change: “No one in power has heard us, no one listens to us, they only intimidate and suppress…. So we will keep coming back.”

Their targets are not just the regime, but the rotten system: “… deepening inequality in a country where a tight-knit establishment of tycoons, military and monarchy dominate the economy and politics.” The quoted protester – aged 16 – says: “Inequality comes from these structural issues, everything is tied up here by monopolies of business and power…”. Her observation is testament to the alienation felt by many in the young generation.

Academic Kanokrat Lertchoosakul observes that:

This generation are a totally different species of political, active citizens that we have never seen before in Thailand…. They are a generation with mass awareness of their political rights and have superior analytical skills to their elders.

Prachatai provides another example of youth activism, reporting on the Bad Student activist group that has “launched a strike campaign to protest against the continuous use of online classes during outbreaks of Covid-19, which has been detrimental to students’ mental health and deprived many of an education.”

They are “demanding that the government provide students, education professionals, and members of the public with high efficacy vaccines as soon as possible so that the education system and the economy can continue.” They also want the Ministry of Education to “reduce tuition fees or impose a tuition fee moratorium, and provide whatever welfare is needed by students and their parents to keep young people in school.”

The group encouraged students “to stop attending [online] classes between 6 – 10 September 2021…” and the brief boycott was quite successful.

Bad Students have also joined the ongoing demonstrations and were there almost from the very beginning, saying: “We don’t want this rotten education system. We don’t want this stinking Minister. But we want our future back, and even better, is an education system that truly improves us…”.

Meanwhile, Thai PBS reports on students and other protesters still held without bail, including “seven core leaders of the anti-government Ratsadon group, who have been held on remand for about a month.” These detainees include Parit Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa.

As the SCMP says, “Thailand is on a precipice … its politics once more a tinderbox of anger.”

Update 1: Sorry, we should have noted that the SCMP article was from August whereas the photos are more recent.

Update 2: Three stories at the Bangkok Post add to the analysis of the present moment in protest. In one story, police have said they will bring numerous criminal charges protesters. A second story says that police data is that 509 protesters have been arrested and a further 250 are being sought since the rallies began in July. That story also carries an important quote from Thalugas, welcoming the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration and the Thalufah group as rally “witnesses at the rally by young demonstrators in Din Daeng that evening.” Thalugas “said they should not be left to fight alone.” A third story is about a member of the older generation of protesters, Sombat Boonngamanong. He says: “We are at a crucial moment in democracy development…. This is a time when the ruling authoritarian establishment is trying to suppress the young, democratic generation.” His view is that “the nature of social movements has changed — because more people, especially younger generations, respect democratic values…. They do not tolerate authori­tarianism.”

Update 3: Prachatai reports on arrests in recent clashes. It has also produced a video on Bad Students:





fidh appeal

14 08 2021
The following is an appeal by Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture:

THA 002 / 0821 / OBS 083
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Thailand
August 12, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment of eight pro-democracy activists, namely: Anon Nampa, prominent human rights lawyer; Parit ChiwarakNutchanon PairojSirichai Natueng, Thammasat University student activists; Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Ratsadon Mutelu member; Panupong Chadnok, Eastern Youth for Democracy member; Thatchapong Kaedam, Free Youth member; and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa, Dao Din member….

On August 9, 2021, police officers arrested Anon Nampa after he surrendered himself to the Pathumwan police station in Bangkok after learning that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Mr. Anon was charged with violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”) and the Emergency Decree for his participation in a peaceful protest on August 3, 2021, in Central Bangkok. During the protest, Mr. Anon made a speech in which he reiterated the pro-democracy movement’s call for the reform of the Thai monarchy.

On August 10, 2021, police denied Anon Nampa’s bail request arguing that he would present a high risk of re-offending, if released. After spending two nights in custody at the Pathumwan police station, on August 11, 2021, the Bangkok South Criminal Court approved the police’s request detention for Mr. Anon and denied him bail. The court argued Mr. Anon was accused of a serious offence, had breached previous bail conditions, and was likely to re-offend, if released. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Mr. Anon was being detained at Bangkok’s Central Special Treatment Centre, where he was undergoing COVID-19 testing and a 14-day quarantine. The Observatory recalls that it is not the first time that Mr. Anon faces charges under Article 112 and, if convicted in all the “lèse-majesté” cases pending against him, he could be sentenced to a total of 195 years in jail. Earlier this year, Mr. Anon was detained for 113 days on charges under Article 112. Similarly, Messrs. Parit and Panupong were detained for 92 and 85 days, respectively, on lèse-majesté charges. Mr. Parit was conditionally released on May 11, 2021, and Messrs. Anon and Panupong on June 1, 2021.

The Observatory notes with concern that between November 24, 2020 and August 9, 2021, 116 individuals, including Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, and many other human rights defenders, were charged under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”).

On August 8, 2021, Parit Chiwarak, Nutchanon Pairoj, Sirichai Natueng, and Phromsorn Weerathamjaree were arrested in front of the Police Headquarters in Bangkok in connection with their participation in a peaceful protest on August 2, 2021, in front of the Border Patrol Police Region 1 Headquarters in Pathumthani Province. Protesters had gathered to demand the release of 32 fellow activists who had been arrested and detained in connection with another protest at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau in Bangkok earlier the same day. Later on August 8, 2021, Messrs. Parit, Nutchanon, Sirichai, and Phromsorn were taken into custody to the Khlong 5 police station and then to the the Border Patrol Police Region 1 Headquarters in Pathumthani Province.

On August 9, 2021, Panupong Chadnok and Thatchapong Kaedam were arrested after they reported themselves at the Khlong 5 police station in Pathumthani Province in relation to the August 2, 2021 protest. All six pro-democracy activists were charged with violating Article 215 of the Criminal Code (“leading an illegal assembly of more than 10 people” ), the Emergency Decree, and the Communicable Diseases Act. Three other protesters who accompanied Messrs.Panupong and Thatchapong at the Khlong 5 police station were also arrested and detained.

On August 9, 2021, the Thanyaburi Provincial Court approved the temporary detention request for Parit Chiwarak, Nutchanon Pairoj, Sirichai Natueng, Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Panupong Chadnok, and Thatchapong Kaeda and denied them bail on the grounds that they acted without considering the society’s safety, peace, and order during the COVID-19 pandemic and that they would likely commit the same offenses if released. The six activists were then taken to the Rangsit Temporary Prison in Pathumthani Province, where they remained detained at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal for a quarantine period of 21 days after which they would be transferred to the Thanyaburi Prison.

On August 9, 2021, police arrested Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa after he surrendered himself at the Thung Song Hong police station in Bangkok. Mr. Jatuphat was charged with violating the Emergency Decree and Article 215 of the Criminal Code, in connection with a protest held in front of the Thung Song Hong police station on August 3, 2021. Mr. Jatuphat, who was detained at Bangkok’s Central Special Treatment Centre at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, had no access to a lawyer until the afternoon of August 10, 2021.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of the eight above-mentioned human rights defenders, which seem to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities and the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.

The Observatory calls on the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the eight human rights defenders and to put an end to the judicial harassment against them and all other human rights defenders in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all human rights defenders in Thailand, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok,Nutchanon Pairoj, Sirichai Natueng, Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Thatchapong Kaedam, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, Nutchanon Pairoj, Sirichai Natueng, Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Thatchapong Kaedam, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa, and all other human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists in the country;

iv. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Addresses:

· Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Email: spmwebsite@thaigov.go.th
· Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Email: minister@mfa.go.th
· Mr. Somsak Thepsutin, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Email: complainingcenter@moj.go.th
· Gen Apirut Kongsompong, Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army, Email: webadmin@rta.mi.th

· Pol Gen Chaktip Chaijinda, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, Email: info@royalthaipolice.go.th
· Mr. Prakairat Tanteerawong, National Human Rights Commissioner of Thailand, Email: Prakairatana@nhrc.or.th/ Prakairatanao@yahoo.com
· H.E. Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.thailand@ties.itu.int
· Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Email: thaibxl@pophost.eunet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Thailand in your respective countries.





Back in prison

10 08 2021

Several bailed protest leaders have been re-arrested and locked up.

Thai PBS reported that Ratsadon  leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Nutchanon Pairote, who “reported to the police at the Royal Thai Police HQ in Bangkok” on Sunday were arrest ed on warrants issued “for alleged offences committed in front of the Region 1 Border Patrol Police Command while demanding the release of 31 members of the ‘Ban Talu Fah’ group held inside…”.

Both were “charged with illegal assembly in public of more than five people, in violation of the Emergency Decree, while participating in activities which risk spreading COVID-19, in violation of the Communicable Disease Control Act.”

The Bangkok Post added that Parit was summonsed “over his role behind the graffiti that appeared outside the Region 1 office of the Border Police…. On arrival, police presented him with an arrest warrant…”.

Parit told supporters:

Today, I came with the courage to stand and face unjust power… I insist I have done no wrong. We demand democracy. We demand freedom and civil liberty. We demand a way out for the people.

But it’s okay, as the police must follow the boss’s order. They have more strength as they have more power.

However, I would like for everyone to save our strength… on 10 August, the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration group and allies will organize the largest car mob ever.

The Bangkok Post also reported that another leader, Jatuphat Boonpathararaksa and three other protesters also “turned themselves in to police on Monday to fight a charge in connection with an anti-government rally last Tuesday.”

They “were charged with defacing the Thung Song Hong police station sign with red paint during a protest on Aug 3.”

Jatuphat denied the charge against him and three other protesters: “What we did was not harmful to other people. It was a peaceful act…”.

Prachatai’s added details reporting that Parit, Nutchanon, Sirichai Natueng, and Phromsorn Weerathamjaree were arrested at the police headquarters on Sunday. They were also charged with violating the Emergency Decree, the Communicable Diseases Act, and the Sound Amplifier Act, matching earlier charges used against other protesters.

Parit stated that “as he noticed police officers following him, he would be going to the police headquarters on Sunday (8 August), and if the police would like to arrest him, they could do so there.”

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) “said that Parit, Sirichai, and Phromsorn requested to have a trusted person with them while they are questioned, but the police denied their request, so the three activists refused to take part in the inquiry process.”

Meanwhile Thatchapong Kaedam and Panupong Jadnok “went to Khlong Ha Police Station and were taken into custody.” Another three other activists were reportedly arrested.

At 21.00 on 9 August, the “Thanyaburi Provincial Court approved the temporary detention request for the 9 activists, and later denied them bail on the ground that the activists act without fearing the law and without considering the society’s safety, peace, and order during the Covid-19 outbreaks.” They were forcibly “taken to the Rangsit Temporary Prison for a 14-day quarantine period, after which they will be detained at the Thanyaburi Prison.”

Later, Thai Enquirer provided a list of activists who were in detention:

  • Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak – a co-founder of the main student-led protest group, the Ratsadon
  • Natchanon Pairoj – the current chairperson of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD)
  • Sirichai “New” Natueng – a co-leader of the UFTD
  • Phromsorn “Fah” Weerathamjaree – a protest leader from the Ratsadon
  • Panupong “Mike Rayong” Jadnok – a co-founder of the Ratsadon
  • Tatchapong Kaedum – a protest leader from the Ratsadon
  • Thanapat or “Poon” (last name omitted) – an activist from the Ratsadon
  • Panadda or “Tong Thalu-Fah” (last name omitted) – an activist from the Ratsadon
  • Jatupat “Pai Daodin” Boonpattararaksa – a co-founder of the Ratsadon

Many of these detainees are already facing multiple charges, including sedition and lese-majeste.

The Bangkok Post later reported that the “Criminal Court approved a prosecution request to withdraw bail for Mr Parit in a case where he was involved in placing a plaque symbolising democracy at Sanam Luang on Sept 20 last year.”

The court is also considering revoking bail for Anon Nampha and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

There’s a clear pattern emerging that sees bailed activists being taken back to jail as protests are reignited.

 





Royalist “scum”

4 08 2021

A Reuters report explains that “103 people from Thailand’s youth-led anti-government protests now charged with insulting or threatening King … Vajiralongkorn or his immediate family, a crime punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment. Hundreds more face other criminal charges.” Knowing the exact numbers is difficult because not all cases come to public view.

Arnon on the left

Commenting on the charges and jail time, one of those charged, lawyer Arnon Nampa commented “I think it has been worthwhile. Now the society can move forward and people can talk about the monarchy…”.

While some might say that nothing much has changed and the king remains politically and economically powerful, a crack in the royalist hegemonic discourse has been established and anti-monarchism is more widespread than royalists wish to admit.

Indeed, royalists are fighting a battle seeking to paper over the cracks in the kingdom.

Thai Enquirer reports that an “ultra-royalist group [has] asked the criminal court to revoke the bail of pro-reform leaders … saying they are repeatedly breaking the conditions of their release by continuing to speak out against the monarchy.”

Jakkapong Klinkaew, the leader of the People’s Centre Protecting the Institution, says “The protestors have caused chaos within society, affecting the private sector and damaging public property…”. He added that “many business owners and royalists” consider the protesters “scum.”

Jakkapong went into a meltdown-like rant, admitting the regime was pretty hopeless, but railed against protesters causing “social conflict” and “unrest,” being “violent,” and spreading “fake news” and the virus (the latter being fake news).

His group demanded that courts revoke the bail of:

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, Arnon Nampa and Jatupat “Pai Daodin” Boonpattararaksa, who have all been charged with lese-mejeste and sedition for organizing pro-democracy rallies since June 2020.

The letter said the protest leaders have continued to join protests and making speeches against the royal institution in breach of their bail conditions.

The group is panicked by the support being gained by protesters, even in the lockdown.





Failure upon failure

2 08 2021

One of the things about a military and palace-backed regime is that, except in the most dire of circumstances, it tends only to get shaky when it loses the support of the upper crust. Is the regime led by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha reaching that point? It should be as failure after failure piles up, while the regime concentrates on political repression rather than virus suppression.

As infection numbers look set to go over 20,000 a day in the official tally, the government stumbles along like a drunk without shoes. Just this weekend, it has extended the lockdown after earlier extending emergency powers. The problem for many is that these powers seem to do nothing to stem the virus but do seem to add to repression. In addition, the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed swell by the day. The regime seems to lack a plan for any other measures to mitigate the virus or to help those impacted.

But the failures and fumbles keep increasing. The botched vaccine rollout continues to suffer supply constraints – thanks in part to the failures at the royal Siam Bioscience. On the weekend, a “shortage in supplies of Covid-19 vaccines led to the weekend closure of 25 vaccination centres in Bangkok, while the “Mor Prom” app also cancelled all bookings scheduled for Friday and Saturday and has yet to resume offering new appointments.”

This horrid effort is made worse by corruption. Most recently, it is reported that “[a]t least 7,000 people have bought Covid-19 vaccination slots at Bang Sue Grand Station that were illegally acquired through a loophole in the the national vaccine recipient’s database…”. Forgive our cynicism, but the cops said several days ago that they had cracked the case, so should anyone be surprised if this isn’t a higher-ups scam? It seems 7,700 shots have been sold at 1000 baht each.

Despite the increased repression, nationwide protests were held on the weekend, mainly involving people in cars and on motorcycles. On protester spoke for many:

“We can barely make a living now, all of my family members have been affected,” said a 47-year-old protester speaking from his car who only gave his first name “Chai”, for fear of government repercussions.

“The government failed to provide vaccines on time and many of us haven’t had any vaccine yet,” he said. “If we don’t come out to make our calls, the government will simply ignore us.”

Red shirts back. From Thai PBS

According to Thai PBS, the “car mob” rally saw:

the gathering together of well-known leaders of anti-government and anti-establishment groups, such as Nattawut Saikua, former secretary-general of the now defunct United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) or the Red-Shirt movement, Ratsadon leaders Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Anon Nampa, Chatupat Boonpatthararaksa, aka Pai Daodin of the “Thalu Fah” group, Sombat Boon-ngarmanong of Sombat Tour and Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, leader of the We Volunteer (Wevo) guards.

Nattawut said “the Red-Shirt movement is back in business and demanding the ouster of the prime minister.”

What will the powers-that-be do as the movement gains support as the government flails in failure?





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.