Giving up on the justice system

20 09 2017

At about the same time that human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul challenged the courts on lese majeste, there has been a second lese majeste-related poke at Thailand’s seriously flawed and deeply politicized “justice” system.

Viboon Boonpattararaksa, father of the convicted lese majeste victim, Jatuphat, has declared that he “has given up hope in the Thai justice system, saying there is no point in trying to appeal the court’s verdict” on his son’s case. Given that Viboon is a lawyer and his activist son a law student, that’s quite a statement.

Viboon said “he will not submit an appeal request for his son.” The reason? He explained:

If I have a choice and the Appeal Court maintains justice without prejudice and try the case in accordance to the evidence and logic, I do not want to put an end to my son’s case at the Court of First Instance. But the channel to go forwards does not exist, so there is no use to do it….

He added that his son agrees with him.

Viboon said “he presumes that the upper counts will confirm the same sentence of two years and six months imprisonment handed down to his son.” And, if there was an appeal, as before, his son would be denied bail and would be kept in jail.

There is no justice when it comes to lese majeste. Lese majeste is a festering sore eating away at the courts.





Monarchy and lese majeste

16 09 2017

Some recent stories on lese majeste and the monarchy deserve to be highlighted even if they have been widely read.

First, the brave Akechai Hongkangwarn has come up with a proposal for abolishing Article 112 of the criminal code. The idea of abolishing the lese majeste is a proposal we heartily support, although the mechanism he proposes strikes us as a tad flawed.

Prachatai reports that Akechai cites a statement by The Dictator in positioning his proposal General Prayuth Chan-ocha use the dictatorial Article 44 to dump the lese majeste law:

He said that after Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, also known as Pai Dao Din, pleaded guilty of lèse majesté last month, the junta head indicated that the King actually does not want any individual to be prosecuted for lèse majesté.

Some might suggest that getting rid of the law by any means is okay, but we tend to think the idea of using a draconian power to nix the draconian law is contradictory. More significantly, we think it important to look at what The Dictator actually said.

At the time, The Nation reported that General Prayuth stated: “The monarch never wants to see people being punished because of this matter…”. He added: “The monarchy institution always has mercy, always grants pardons and even amnesty…”.

In fact, The Dictator was not expressing the new monarch’s personal position on lese majeste, but protecting the monarchy’s public image.

Prayuth stated that the “protection of the institution of the monarchy is one of the key security strategies of the government.” He “explained”:

“It is not the institution of the monarchy that issues and enforces such laws, it is the government’s duty to enforce the law to protect the institution…. Please understand that HM the King cannot enforce the law. The monarchy gives the power [to the government] to run the country, so we have to protect the institution.”

It is clear that Prayuth is distancing the monarchy from the political use of the law and that he speaking of the monarchy as an institution and not an individual monarch.

He claimed to be bemused that “people know very well that defamation of the monarchy is a crime in Thailand, [but] some just want to violate the law…. I don’t really understand why they just want to disobey the law.”

Prayuth’s position is congruent with the royalist propaganda on the law and is repeating tales we have heard several times over the decades and most especially since the 2006 military coup.

We should add that it is also false. There are several cases listed in our files that show the palace’s direct involvement with cases. One example is Bundith Arniya’s case.

Second, we wonder about a story at Khaosod. The Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, completed in 1915, is a Renaissance revival-style meeting hall, sometimes erroneously described as a “palace.” It is being closed to the public “indefinitely,” from 30 September, the same day that “people to pay their respects to the late King Bhumibol.”

A magnificent structure and lavish interiors have attracted tourists. Described as housing “some of Thailand’s national treasures,” this seems to mean royal stuff collected by fabulously kings, queens and other royals.

Officials state that there “is no date when the throne hall will reopen…”.

We may be all too conspiratorial, but the Hall is across the road from the purloined 1932 plaque. The Hall also has an important position in the 1932 revolution. As Wkipedia explains it:

During the four days of the 1932 Revolution (24–27 June), the Khana Ratsadon (or the People’s Party) used the throne hall as its headquarters. The party also imprisoned several princes and royal ministers as hostages inside the hall as it carried out its coup [they mean “revolution”].

Following that, the Hall was used as Thailand’s first parliament, and remained the parliament until 1974. It was then given back to the monarchy as part of  the Dusit Palace.

This return to the monarchy was a part of a long process of the royal family clawing back all that had been lost after 1932. That process restored and enhanced the monarchy’s (how) huge wealth and its political influence.

It seems no coincidence that this move is a part of a larger process undertaken under King Vajiralongkorn to further expunge the memory of 1932 and the period of anti-royalism.

Third, the Khmer Times reports on political refugee Neti Wichiansaen and a screening of his documentary “Democracy After Death” in Cambodia.

The report explains that Neti “is part of a small Thai community in Phnom Penh living in exile because of the Thai junta’s harsh enforcement of the loosely worded lese majeste laws, which punishes anyone who criticises the monarchy with up to 15 years in prison.”

Neti says: “If I went back now I would go straight to jail, even though I have no weapons. I am just a filmmaker…”.

PPT has posted on “Democracy After Death” previously, and the link to the film still seems active.

Neti was also one of the brave few who signed up for the Article 112 Awareness Campaign in 2011.

On the monarchy in Thailand’s politics, Neti says: “Many people after [the coup], realised that the monarchy is the mother mind of the coup. After that, Thai people think it’s unfair that the monarchy takes sides…”. Of course, the monarchy has always taken sides.

It is revealing that Neti does not claim to be a republican, preferring a European-style constitutional monarchy – that is, the 1932 model. He explained that: “Most Thai people don’t want to destroy the monarchy, they want it to go together with the new democracy…”.

Reforming the monarchy seems a pipe dream. Like the lese majeste law, abolition seems a better approach.





It is still a military dictatorship

25 08 2017

Whatever happens today in the Yingluck Shinawatra verdict, Thailand will still be a military dictatorship tomorrow.

Strangely, The Dictator and his underlings express a warped – mad is a better term – view that Thailand is a “democracy” despite a military regime that came to power overthrowing an elected government and throwing out constitutional law and ruling largely by decree.

The Bangkok Post provided a platform: for The Dictator to present his form of this nonsensical blather:

“Everyone is well aware that over the past three years Thai society faced various problems. We can’t blame anyone because our country is a democratic one and there are elections. Therefore, we must implement political reform to get a government that is democratic, has good governance and is the government of all people…”.

Now, even if the first claim is a misprint, any claim that the dictatorship is paving the way for democracy is nuts. And, despite what American political scientists have tried to tell us, good governance is not necessarily about electoral democracy.

The junta chief also complained – he is an interminable whiner – that “some people are so unwavering in their beliefs. Some agree [with us] but others don’t. I’m not saying that people must agree with everything but everyone can share the common stance that Thailand must be freed from this trap.”

“Some people” consider the “trap” to be military dictatorship, military coups and royalist-capitalist control (by definition, “good people”) of everything.

He seems to mean the “middle-income trap,” a term we might suggest was invented by orthodox economists as a way of ignoring the political in political economy.

But General Prayuth Chan-ocha is not the only military man babbling about democracy. The Nation reports on the trial of anti-coup activists in Khon Kaen, including lese majeste prisoner Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa.

Military officer Captain Apinan Wanpetch told a military court on Wednesday that “holding a banner with a message against the coup d’etat – as student activists led by Jatupat Boonpattararaksa did in May 2015 – was an act of ‘destroying democracy’.”

Such a claim should lead to some kind of psychiatric assessment. But this is Thailand’s military and an officer before a military court, so no sanity could prevail. Captain Apinan, “who arrested the activists, said the 2014 coup to scrap the 2007 constitution and topple the elected civilian government was an admirable mission.”

As mad as a hatter, he babbled on:

“There is no reason to oppose the coup. Although holding a banner against the coup is freedom of expression, the act is destroying democracy, therefore they deserve arrest and attitude adjustment…”.

So the military thinks Thailand is democratic under the military junta and its dictatorship. Liars, murderers, corrupt and as stupid as hell, these guys are more dangerously deranged than we had thought possible.

Meanwhile, a military prosecutor “sought permission from the military court in Khon Kaen to amend the indictment, asking the court to hand down a prison sentence on top of the term Jatupat is serving for the royal defamation charge.”

Liars, murderers, corrupt, as stupid as hell and vindictive and cruel.





Junta repression deepens VI

22 08 2017

Thailand’s military dictatorship seems to be in a panic. As we recently posted, some of this seems to be caused by Yingluck Shinawatra’s upcoming verdict. But there’s more going on.

The Criminal Court has “sentenced Watana Muangsook, a key Pheu Thai Party figure and former commerce minister, to one month in prison, suspended for one year, and fined him 500 baht for contempt of court after broadcasting via Facebook Live at the court.” He was also ordered to “delete the clip from his Facebook page.”

The report at the Bangkok Post states that the “sentence was handed down while he was waiting for the court’s decision on whether to detain him on charges of inciting public chaos, breaching Section 116 of the Criminal Code.” It adds that that “charge is in connection with a case involving the removal of a memorial plaque commemorating the 1932 Siamese Revolution.”

A charge related to the plaque is quite bizarre given that the state has not acknowledged that the plaque was stolen or officially removed. Yet complaining about this historical vandalism is considered sedition. That the removal coincided with the royalist ceremonies associated with the junta’s faux constitution is evidence of official efforts to blot out anything not royalist or military in political life and memory.

Watana points out that:

…[T]he Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) on Monday submitted a request to detain the politician from Aug 21-Sept 1. Mr Watana was awaiting the ruling on that matter when he started filming in the court.

Earlier at the police station, Mr Watana acknowledged the charge of importing false information into a computer system in violation of the Computer Crime Act after he posted content relating to the plaque’s replacement on his Facebook page.

He was temporarily released on 200,000-baht bail for both charges.

He said it was not common for TCSD investigators to summon someone again after the person has already acknowledged the charges again him.

Mr Watana also said the detention request is intended to hinder him from giving moral support to former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the Supreme Court this Friday.

Then there are those academics and others who attended and organized the International Conference on Thai Studies at Chiang Mai University. They have reported to police and been fingerprinted while denying charges brought against them.

Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, director of the Regional Centre for Social Science and Sustainable Development at Chiang Mai University, met Chang Phuak police with Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Chaipong Samnieng, Nontawat Machai and Thiramon Bua-ngam after the summons had been issued for them on Aug 11, almost a month after the four-day 13th International Conference on Thai Studies at Chiang Mai University ended on July 18.

They face charges of assembling of more than four for political activities, which is prohibited by the National Council for Peace and Order.

As with the fit-ups of Pravit Rojanaphruk and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, Chayan is being fitted up. He had nothing much to do with those protesting the military’s surveillance of conference attendees. The other four are also being fitted up as there were others who held the signs and appeared in photos, and these persons have not been summoned by the police.





Kings and lese majeste

20 08 2017

In another interesting op-ed at the Bangkok Post, Alan Dawson comments on lese majeste. This is always a difficult topic in royalist Thailand.

On Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, Dawson considers, as we do, that his case is a “fit-up.” He says that:

Clearly, as the 3,000 people who weren’t charged [for sharing the BBC Thai story that got Pai charged] show, there’s more than a little bit of Beria in all this — the dreadful Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s secret police hatchetman who bragged: “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.”

He continues with “[a]nother example of that unique aroma of extra-careful selection” on lese majeste:

Patnaree Chankij, a 41-year-old domestic worker, wrote “ja” (yeah) in response to a Facebook post that kicked off a social media discussion about the monarchy. After police refused to charge her, the military prosecutor lovingly culled Ms Patnaree from among dozens of posters on that thread to face lese majeste charges.

There are those so blind that they actually deny that the motherly Ms Patnaree was selected from all the other candidates because she is literally the mother of Sirawit “Ja New” Serithiwat. Ja New, referred to by Bangkok junta supporters as a “pain in the extreme lower back area”, is an unrepentant coup opponent.

The fit-up:

Two events occurred. Ja New refused to take military advice to stop protesting against the coup. Ms Patnaree, his mother, was chosen for arrest, detention and prosecution on lese majeste charges for “yeah”.

Dawson concludes this comparison saying: “You can claim publicly these two acts are unrelated, so long as you enjoy people pointing at you and laughing uproariously.”

We get the point. Yet lese majeste is hardly a laughing matter even if the gyrations of its exponents are comical and extreme.

Like others who write on lese majeste and express some criticism of the law, Dawson also quotes the late king on lese majeste. He argues that the dead king “spoke several times in public against the lese majeste law.”

We are not convinced. The quotes that Dawson uses, like all the others who use it, are from the almost unintelligible and rambling 2005 birthday speech.

Yes, the king appeared to say that lese majeste was a bother, and also claimed that “the king” had never used it. But read the whole thing and read it in context and it is clear that the dead king was not advocating an end to the law or even its revision. He was criticizing Thaksin Shinawatra and complaining about the “trouble” caused for the king most especially when foreigners are charged with lese majeste.

(Recall that Thaksin’s government had caused an international kerfuffle when the Far Eastern Economic Review reported on alleged financial and business dealings between then Prince Vajiralongkorn and Thaksin, and used lese majeste.)

At the same time, we also know that that king’s offices have engaged in lese majeste cases, appealing sentences considered too light and even making complaints. So the dead king was embellishing the truth.

Then Dawson gets to the current king:

… the King has shown his feelings about Section 112 and about the government’s obsession with it. In the very first set of details given before last December’s royal pardons, His Majesty’s announcement stated specifically that prisoners imprisoned for lese majeste would be eligible. It was a slap against the junta’s fixation.

The general prime minister says His Majesty has clearly stated that he wants no one, ever, to be punished for lese majeste. That wasn’t the shock. The shock was the junta leader’s reaction. Which was to state that Section 112 exists to protect the monarchy.

The monarch does not want protection to extend, ever, to punishment. The military regime will continue to push for maximum punishment anyway.

This is buffalo manure.

The use of lese majeste against the king’s former wife Srirasmi, her family and associates is well known. So has been the use of lese majeste charges against unfortunates who have fallen out with the new king.





Pai’s secret trial

17 08 2017

Two of the defining characteristics of lese majeste under the military dictatorship have been the use of secret/in-camera trials and the use of delays to force defendants to plead guilty, meaning that there is no trial, just a sentencing.

We have seen both in the most recent case involving anti-coup activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa.

According to his lawyer, cited at Prachatai, the young Pai “chose to plead guilty because he was being tried in camera, meaning observers and media were not allowed into the courtroom.” In jail for almost 8 months,the lawyer stated that “Jatuphat initially intended to have people witness injustices in the Thai judicial system, but his goal could not be met if the court chose to hold his trial in secret.”

We are sure that this is something the military dictatorship knows and that’s why they hold secret faux trials in the (in)justice system.

Another motivation for Pai’s confession cited in the report is that “Jatuphat and his family was also informed by the court that he does not stand much chance to win the case as the king was protected by the constitution although he was accused of lèse majesté for merely sharing a BBC biography of King Vajiralongkorn.”

That makes little sense to us, for no-one accused of lese majeste has much chance of winning a case.

Amnesty International is cited on the sentencing:

This verdict shows the extremes to which the authorities are prepared to go in using repressive laws to silence peaceful debate, including on Facebook. It is outrageous that Pai Dao Din is now facing more than two years behind bars just for sharing a news article….

That’s entirely true.

We must also remember the cases of others when we think of injustice. Here are two of many:

Somyos Pruksakasemsuk, a journalist and labor activist, was arrested on 30 April 2011, and he remains in jail. When he was on trial, he was usually kept in chains and cages. On 23 January 2013, Somyos was sentenced to 5 years on each of two lese majeste charges, with an extra year added from a previous suspended sentence for insulting General Saprang Kalayanamit, a leader of the 2006 royalist coup. He refused to plead guilty and is serving his time.

Burin Intin, a welder and an anti-coup political activist, was arrested about 27 April 2016. He was taken from the police by soldiers and detained at a military base before the military court eventually sentenced him on 27 January 2017. Having been held for almost nine months, Burin changed his plea to guilty on lese majeste and computer crimes charges. Burin got 11 years and 4 months in jail on two lese majeste charges.

Secret trials, injustice and politicized and military courts. That’s dictatorship at work.





Pai’s 5 years on lese majeste fit-up

16 08 2017

The British refer to the police framing of suspects as a “fit-up.” It means that a person is incriminated on a false charge or is framed. That is what’s happened to student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, or Pai.

After almost 8 months – 237 days – of detention and continual pressure to plead guilty to lese majeste and computer crimes, he decided yesterday to take that route. He was immediately sentenced to 5 years in jail. As usual, for the guilty plea, his sentence was reduced by half.

As Prachatai explains, the “sentence was read swifty in an in camera trial, on the same day Jatuphat abruptly recanted his innocence.”

His lawyer stated that “Jatupat chose to confess due to the prolonged trial.”

Prachatai states:

Jatuphat is accused of lèse majesté for sharing on his Facebook account a controversial biography of King Vajiralongkorn published by BBC Thai.

He was the first person to be arrested for lèse majesté under the reign of the new King. Despite the fact that more than 2,000 people shared the same article on Facebook and millions read it, he was the only one arrested for lèse majesté.

The Bangkok Post says it was some 2,800 people who shared the same post. That Pai is the only person charged is evidence that he was fitted up, framed.

He was fitted up because he was “a member of Dao Din, a human rights student activist group based in the Northeast, which had joined activities with villagers affected by development projects.”

Worse, his crime was that his group “staged protests against the junta.” When he was arrested on this “crime,” he “was facing four other lawsuits, all for opposing the military junta.”

He was fitted up by the military:

He was arrested in Chaiyaphum on Dec 3 last year on a warrant based on a complaint filed by Lt Col Phitakphon Chusri, deputy chief of the Operations Directorate at the 33rd Military Circle in Khon Kaen province.

We don’t doubt that the military dictatorship saw Pai’s case as killing two birds with one stone. They got him, silenced him and threatened all other activists and also made it clear that the junta would vigorously attack anyone who dared to be critical of the new king and his tainted past.