Three years to get a correct decision

6 07 2017

It isn’t often that a military court gets anything right. In legal terms, a military court is simply an arm of the junta, doing its bidding. However, a report at Prachatai suggests that it got one decision legally right.

When the military dictatorship was established following the coup in May 2014, it issued orders for dozens of people to “surrender” themselves to the regime.

Most did go to a military jail for a short time. Some were jailed for years. A few went on the run and were hunted down. Others went into exile and some were not able to report, being overseas or in hospital and the like.

Jitra Kotchadej, a trade unionist and well-known activist, was one of those who could not report to the military thugs. She was in Sweden at the time.

When she returned to Thailand, she “was arrested … on 13 June 2014 by  the Thai Immigration officers. The police later requested the military court to remand her in custody, but Jittra was released on bail on the same day.” She was accused of failing to abide by the military junta’s orders.

She was acquitted by the court on 6 July because she had “submitted a letter to the Royal Thai Embassy and the NCPO [the junta], explaining that she would report to the junta on her return to Thailand.”

That acquittal is good news but it took almost three years to get to it. In most normal political systems, she would not have been charged or dragged to the courts, let alone a military court. But Thailand is anything but normal.





Updated: No to No

25 06 2016

The military dictatorship’s repression is increasing over its intention to hold a referendum for its draft charter.

For a while, the junta pretended that its repression was of those engaging in “rude” or deceptive” campaigning on the charter. The Dictator even lied to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that “people throughout the country have been given a chance to voice their opinions…”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

NOThat exceptionally thin veil of deceit has given way to the suppression of anyone who opposes the military’s anti-democratic charter. A series of reports at Prachatai confirm this.

One report states that on 22 June, “Rangsiman Rome, a leader of the New Democracy Movement (NDM), … with another two members of the movement, handed out ‘vote no’ flyers to local people in Samrong District of Bangkok.”

Police and military thugs “approached them and asked them to stop, citing the Referendum Bill, but the activists refused the request, reasoning that the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) has never said that such activity is prohibited. The authorities then allowed the activists to distribute flyers for only 30 minutes.”

A second report states that three days later, that police and military thugs arrested the activists when they attempted to hand out more Vote No flyers in a factory area.

Rangsiman Rome “was arrested while handing out flyers calling for a no vote in the August draft charter referendum, to workers at Bangplee Industrial Estate, Samut Prakan Province.” Some 9-10 others were also taken into custody.

Unionist and activist Jitra Kotchadej witnessed the arrests and “told Prachatai that while the activist and his friends were distributing the flyers, soldiers from the Royal Thai Marine Corps approached them and asked them to stop by 5.30 pm. The activists then asked the authorities to let them continue the activity until 6.00 pm as the workers in the estate would finish work by that time.”

The soldiers, some in uniform and others in plainclothes, then “carried Rangsiman away, put him in a car, and then drove off.” Prachatai has a video of the illegal abduction of Rangsiman.

A third report states that 13 were “arrested” by the junta’s thugs. They are described as “pro-democracy activists from the New Democracy Movement and the Try Arm workers union…”.

As usual, the regime is busy concocting charges against them. And, as usual, the charges seem to be that the activists have “violat[ed] the junta’s ban on political gatherings for distributing campaign flyers for the upcoming draft constitution referendum.”

In other words, there can only be Vote Yes campaigns around the charter, all of them organized and mostly populated by the military.

The Dictator’s claim that “people throughout the country have been given a chance to voice their opinions…” means those people who support the junta and a a Yes vote.

The 13 activists held are: Rangsiman Rome, Korakoch Saengyenpan, Worawut Butmat, Konchanok Tanakhun, Tueanjai Waengkham, Pimai Ratwongsa, Somsakol Thongsuksai, Anan Loket, Phanthip Saengathit, Thirayut Napnaram, Yuttana Dasri, Rackchart Wong-arthichart and Nantapong Panmat.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that the 13 “refused to sign their names on the police reports.” Police then “refused to grant bail to some of the pro-democracy activists and filed an additional charge against the 13 activists for refusing to sign the police report.”

A fourth report states that the activists could face up to 10 years in jail as a military court allowed (what a surprise!) the thug police and military gang to continue to detain the activists, accused of “violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head’s Order 3/2015, the junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons” and of “refusing to cooperate with officers and for violating the controversial Draft Referendum Act which lays out 10 years imprisonment for persons who distributed content about the draft constitution…”.

Following these events, UN Human Rights – Asia released a statement. In part it reads:

We are concerned by the arrests of 13 activists in Thailand who were detained for defying a military order banning political gatherings of five or more people. Eight of those arrested on June 23 in Bang Plee Industrial Area in Samut Prakarn Province, south of Bangkok, were students affiliated with the New Democracy Movement (NDM). The three others were labour rights activists. At the time of their arrest, they were distributing leaflets related to the upcoming referendum on the draft Constitution. Eight of the activists are due to face a military court, while the five others have been released on bail.

The junta will ignore these and other human rights statements not just because it rejects the notion that its opponents have rights but because the junta is intent on having its illegitimate charter “pass” an illegitimate referendum.

Update: Khaosod reports that six of the arrested 13 have been released on 50,000 baht bonds. The other seven have been “ordered to be locked up … by a military tribunal [court] as they await their trial.” These seven “refused to pay bonds … demanding to be released without any conditions, arguing that they did nothing wrong and that the legal action against them is illegitimate.” They are right.





More on the dictatorship’s repression

3 06 2014

The junta’s repression is expanding far and wide across Thai society. Over the weekend there have been a plethora of stories, posts and pleas about this. PPT tries to collect some of them below:

More people called in: The Asian Human Rights Commission has again condemned the coup, expressing concern over additional summons to report, and calls on the junta to cease its campaign of fear. The junta has demanded that 38 more persons report to the Army. According to the AHRC , the:

list includes a number of human rights defenders, activists, academics, and journalists. Jittra Kotchadet is a long-time labour rights activist and human rights defender. Tewarit Maneechay is a human rights defender and journalist for the independent media site Prachatai. Suthachai Yimprasert, a historian at Chulalongkorn University, and Kengkij Kitirianglarp, a political scientist at Chiang Mai University, are two academics who have consistently acted in support of human rights. Pranee Danwattananusorn is the wife of Surachai Danwattananusorn, a former [lese majeste] political prisoner, and she has worked to support and defend the rights of political prisoners and human rights defenders. Karom Phonpornklang is a lawyer who has defended numerous political prisoners.

Prachatai notes that its “journalist Tewarit Maneechay is included. Before joining Thai-language Prachatai in 2012, Tewarit was very active as a political activist and labour unionist at Try Arm.”

Of course, the latter is also associated with Jitra. And Jitra has given support to those accused of lese majeste.

3 fingersArrests at anti-coup protests: Prachatai reports that at least four persons were arrested “on Sunday at the anti-coup protests which were met by a large number of army and police forces around Bangkok.”  In other reports, police and undercover agents arrest an old woman for protesting. One of those arresting her wears fake press credentials. Another video showed military officers wearing red crosses arresting protesters.

Red shirts: The Financial Times had a useful report a couple of days ago on what’s happening upcountry. It says red shirts are “lying low for now,”  and writes of frustration and “stifled anger”: “We can’t fight the army with guns. But we can fight them with elections.” It reports that: “Red shirt leaders have been raided, rounded up and ‘re-educated’ by the military, sparking dismay among supporters…”.

Monarchical repression: Of course, the monarchy is a staple of military propaganda, and the current dictators think it will work again. In addition to lese majeste repression, they pour out the usual drivel that marks these cock-eyed efforts. As the dutiful state news agency reports, in the Northeast, “police will hold seminars on the importance for all Thais to show their loyalty and love for the King of Thailand, and to follow in the footsteps of His Majesty’s philosophy of Sufficiency Economy.” These fools don’t know it is 2014 and not 2006 or 1966.

These dolts will “hold seminars for the province’s local high school students to promote the importance of the Thai monarchy” and bore them to tears, but the message is: don’t fool with the royalist dictatorship. Participants will have to “be shown the great importance of Thailand’s monarch and the contribution [the king]… has done for the country.”

The seminars suggest that there is a need for the royalist dummies and cult of personality promoters “to instill into students the sense of love for their own monarch, and the responsibility each person has toward the society as a whole.” How very North Korean!

Happiness propaganda and instilling fear: Khaosod reports that, like good fascists everywhere, the junta is blathering about an effort to “return happiness.” The military dictators are  “organizing road cleanups, army-band concerts, and free haircuts for the people.” If they could get the troops off the trains and the protesters off the streets, they could probably get the trains running on time too.

But this “happiness” is enmeshed in a reign of fear, with protesters being hauled off and into a silence that is meant to instil fear in all those who think of opposing the dictatorship.

More of this nonsense, with a statist Buddhist bent, is also reported at The Nation, as if anyone believes that such Cold War propaganda is going to win the coup. The repression might be nastier this time, but the propaganda is decidedly 2006-8, the last time the dinosaur dictators grabbed power.





On democracy in Thailand

19 12 2013

Readers will find something of interest in two recent posts by Andrew Spooner. The first is at Left Foot Forward, a UK political blog, about the fascist turn in Thailand and those opposing it. He concludes:

Thailand stands at crossroads – the potential for civil war is now obvious and fascism is rearing its ugly head. It’s time for the global community of democrats – whether on the left or the right – to stand shoulder to shoulder with those battling extremism in Thailand.

The second is at his own Asia Provocateur blog, where he has “asked four prominent persons from what I would call Thailand’s “pro-democracy alliance” the four same questions to gauge the range of thoughts and feelings as to the country’s present political situation.” The four are: “trade unionist and possible prospective party list MP candidate for the new Palang Prachathipatai Party (Democratic Force Party)” Jitra Kotchadej, political exile, Jakrapob Penkair; Secretary General to Yingluck Shinawatra, Suranand Vejjajiva, and Panuwat Panduprasert, a lecturer in the Faculty of Political Science and Public Administration at Chiang Mai University.

 





Unionists and activists in court

10 07 2013

PPT has posted on the trial of unionists and activists before (see here), going back to our earliest days of this blog. Watch the news for the court outcome.

THAILAND: Court to read verdict in case against human rights defenders

AHRC-STM-127-2013
July 10, 2013

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

 On Thursday, July 11, 2013, the verdict in the case of three human rights defenders —  Jittra Kotchadej, Boonrod Paiwong, and Soonthorn Boonyord — will be read at the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok. The charges against the human rights defenders stems from peaceful protests they held calling on the government to take action to protect labor and human rights in 2011. If convicted, they could be sentenced to a maximum prison term of five years and/or a fine of up to 10,000 baht. The prosecution of Jittra Kotchadej, Boonrod Paiwong and Soonthorn Boonyord indicates a grave threat to the rights of citizens to take action to protect human rights and livelihood in Thailand.  The Asian Human Rights Commission calls on all those in Bangkok interested in the protection of human rights to attend the reading of the verdict as observers and for all others to closely follow developments in this case.

Background: On August 27, 2009, Jittra Kotchadej, Boonrod Paiwong, and Soonthorn Boonyord were part of peaceful protests requesting the government’s aid in the case of the dismissal of 2,000 workers by Triumph International. With approximately 400 women workers from several labor unions, they protested in front of Parliament and Government House in Bangkok. Prior to the protests, they had submitted petitions to then-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva regarding the mass dismissal of workers and asking him to protect workers’ rights. They were protesting as they had not received a response from the prime minister.

In response to the protests, the police used a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), which makes a very loud and painful noise, to attempt to disperse the protestors. Over a year after the protests, the public prosecutor charged Jittra Kotchadej, Boonrod Paiwong, and Soonthorn Boonyord with violating Articles 215 and 216 of the Criminal Code in Black Case no. Or 620/2554. Article 215 of the Criminal Code states that “If the offender is leading an act , he/she shall be punished for the maximum of five years imprisonment or fined not exceeding ten thousand baht or both.”Article 216 of the Criminal Code states that “hen an official orders any person assembled under section 215 to disperse and such person does not disperse, he/she shall be imprisoned for the maximum of three years or fined for the maximum of six thousand baht or both.” This means that the three human rights defenders could be sentenced to a maximum prison term of five years and/or a fine of up to 10,000 baht.

This prosecution of Jittra Kotchadej, Boonrod Paiwong, and Soonthorn Boonyord represents a significant threat to the rights of citizens to peacefully protest and defend human rights in Thailand.





Triumph unionists on trial

24 08 2012

PPT is a little late posting this, but it is important. The Human Rights Lawyers Association asks that observers attend the trial of Triumph International Labour Union members. We have posted before on this case. See posts here and here.

23-24 and 28-30 August 2012 at the Court Room no. 809, Criminal Court, Bangkok

Any interested persons are invited to attend the trial of the case stemming from the demonstration of Triumph International Labour Union members. Its prosecution witness examination will be conducted from 23 August 2012 and 24 August 2012(morning), and defence witness examination on 24 August (afternoon) and 28 – 30 August 2012 at Court Room 809, Criminal Court, Ratchadapisek, Bangkok.

Ms. Jitra Kotchadej, Ms. Boonrod Saiwong and Ms. Sunthorn Boonyod, three unionists, are prosecuted by the Special Criminal Litigation Division, Office of Attorney General, for assembling of ten people upwards to commit any act that has breached public order. They are accused of being core members who have stimulated other people to commit the crime. Also, they are accused of resisting the order of officials to stop the wrongdoings (violation of Sections 85, 215 and 216, Penal Code).

The demonstration took place on 27 August 2009 in front of the Government House and Parliament as a protest against the massive layoff of workers by the company. The government was urged to address the workers’ grievances.

On that day, the police used Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) making very loud noises in an attempt to disperse the defiant demonstrators. Such a harsh response to the demonstration has yielded strong condemnation from fellow activists and a demand was made for the revocation of the arrest warrants against the workers. The government and the National Human Rights Commission were urged to carry out an inquiry into the alleged abuse committed by the police officers. Instead, the public prosecutors have decided to press ahead with prosecution against the labour activists. The witness examination shall commence on the aforementioned date, time and venue.

For more information, please contact:

Khoomklao songsomboon: +66 86 785 6665

Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA): +66 2 693 0682





Five human rights defenders

9 07 2012

PPT passes on this emailed message as received:

Somchai Neelapajit Memorial Fund reveals Five Human Rights Defenders Shortlisted for its Award

(9 July 2012) The five shortlisted candidates for the 2012 Somchai Neelapajit Award are: 1. Ms Jittra Kotchadej Labour rights and political rights activist 2. Mr Rasada Manurasada Human rights lawyer for victims of violence in Southern Thailand and in other parts of the country 3. Mr Somyot Prueksakasemsuk Labor rights activist and political activist (currently detained in prison) 4. Mr Adisorn Kerdmongkol Expert on the rights of migrant workers 5. Udon Thani Environment Group Grassroots network of villagers that are defending the community rights from Potash Industry.

Out of these names, there will be one person/ group which will receive the 2012 Somchai Neelaphajit Award together with 50,000 Thai Baht. The other four will receive Outstanding Human Rights Defender Award with prize money of 10,000 Thai Baht.

Jon Ungpakorn, a Committee member and Founder of Somchai Neelapaijit Memorial Fund, said that Thailand has been suffering from problems concerning human rights violations from both state agencies as well as from state mechanisms. The five names that are shortlisted for this award are those that have fought to protect human rights bravely, vigorously, and at times they have put themselves in danger in order to defend human rights just like the disappeared human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit. Somchai had fought on behalf of human rights principles until he was a victim of enforced disappearance. This award aims to honor and support human rights defenders who have dedicated their lives in working to protect human rights. It also aims to communicate to Thai society to recognize the important roles that these individuals/group play as well as to shed light on the human rights problems in Thailand.

The award giving ceremony will take place from 9.30am to 12.00pm on 11 July 2012 at Conference Room, 4th Floor, Thai Volunteer Service, Soi Rohitkul, Pracharat Bampen Road (Huay Kwang station MRT stop). Apart from the ceremony, there will be a panel discussion on the topic of “The road of struggle and experiences of Thai human rights defenders” by all five shortlisted individuals as well as a closing remark by Dr Charnvit Kasetsiri.

Somchai Neelapaijit Fund had opened up the public nomination for individuals and organizations to nominate people and organizations from February to April 2012. There are 20 individuals and organizations that have been nominated. They represented broad and diverse groups of human right defenders ranging from those working on community development, volunteering, and combating injustice. Five names have been shortlisted while one out of the five will be given the award. There are four criteria for the selection namely: 1) The recipient(s) of the award works to promote and protect the human rights on issues that are related to the public interest; 2) The recipient(s) has outstanding record; 3) The recipient(s) has not been given an award on human rights before; 4) The recipient(s) works on issue of human rights that is contemporary and are still discussed in the society and he/she has risk from being attacked or violated for his/her /their human rights work.

Somchai Neelapaijit Memorial Fund starts to give out Somchai Neelapaijit Award with the intention to honor and give support to those who play important roles and has dedicated them to promote and protect human rights in Thailand. The Fund also aims to provoke Thai society to see the importance and recognize the roles that human rights defenders play. The award is an open process whereby anyone can make nomination. This is the first year that the award is given out.

How to get to the Venue:

If you travel by MRT, get off at Huay Kwang MRT Stop. Get of exit to Pracharat Bampen Road. Take a motorcycle taxi to Summer Mansion. Thai Volunteer Service Building is at the far end of the Soi.

Please register your attendance at: http://bit.ly/PcbXyQ

For more information, please contact Ms Thaweeporn at 0898291167

See Google Map of the venue : http://goo.gl/maps/28De

Agenda of Somchai Neelaphaijit Awarding Ceremony 2012 

11 July 2012, 9.30am – 12.00pm

Conference Room, Fourth Floor, Thai Volunteer Service, Huay Kwang, Bangkok

9.30 – 10.00am: Registration

10.00-10.30am: Introduction by Master of Ceremony

•  Opening session by Ms Angkhana Neelaphaijit, Committee member of Somchai Neelaphaijit Memorial Fund

• History of Somchai Neelaphaijit’s fund and the Award by Jon Ungpakorn, Committee member of Somchai Neelaphaijit Memorial Fund

10.30 – 10.45am: Announcment and presentation of Somchai Neelapaijit Award and Certificates for Outstanding Human Rights Defenders

• Award presentation by Dr Charnvit Kasetsiri, historian professor and former Rector of Thammasat University

10.45am – 12.00pm: A panel discussion entiteld “On the Trail of Struggle: Lessons Learned from Human Rights Defenders” featuring:

• Awardee of Somchai Neelapaijit Award

• 4 Reciepients of Certificates for Outstanding Human Rights Defenders

• Moderated by Ruj Komonbut, assistant professor at the Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication, Thammasat University and Committee member of Somchai Neelaphaijit Memorial Fund

12.00pm: Closing speech by Dr Charnvit Kasetsiri





Hunger strikes end

5 03 2012

PPT hasn’t been reporting them in any detail, but following the hunger protest by Panitan Prueksakasemsuk, or Tai, for his father, Somyos, jailed on lese majeste charges, other activists continued the protests against lese majeste. The hunger strikers logged 23 days of action.

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that hunger strike “activists seeking bail rights for political prisoners on Monday announced the end of their fasting marathon, admitting they had achieved no tangible result.” What is meant here is that “the judiciary has not positively responded to the peaceful campaign for basic rights.” That means that the politicized judiciary is still acting as if defendants are guilty prior to trial.

More such campaigns may be launched later if there is a need for more publicity of the “basic right to bail for political prisoners.”

Core member Jitra Kotchadet said:

We continued the hunger strike campaign beyond the 112-hour ordeal initiated by Panitan Prueksakaemsuk and Phusadee Ngamkham and are disappointed that there has yet to be a standard implementation of bail approvals…”.

It is sadly ironic that getting the courts to follow the law appears an uphill battle.





Lese majeste and limiting democracy

9 02 2012

Yesterday PPT posted on the arguably unconstitutional approach to a legal petition on the reform of the lese majeste law by the speaker of the House.

Now Police boss Priewphan Damapong has told the Nitirat group that “the authorities were keeping a close watch over its activities…”.  He added: “We will arrest [you] for any wrongful moves and any illegal activities will face prosecution…”.

Priewphan essentially makes the Nitirat group’s point. Using the law to protect a draconian law, not from abolition but from the possibility of reform.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung was reportedly preparing a Cabinet resolution against any attempts to amend Article 112 on lese majeste.

What is it about a call to amend a law by a few academic lawyers that throws the royalist elite into such a spin? Why is it that the royalist elite’s response is simply reaction? Why is it that the royalist elite must resort to censorship and repression whenever it is challenged? What, exactly, does it defend?

The response of Nitirat aligned persons is interesting. Yukti Mukdavichit from Thammasat University said Chalerm’s idea is “hilarious”. He added: “Our campaign is based on constitutional right.”

Yukti continued to criticize Chalerm:

“It also means that people in the government do not understand human rights and liberty under a democratic system. [Such an idea] is also unconstitutional,” said Yukti, warning that Chalerm and even the Cabinet could be charged with restricting the constitutional right to amend law by citizens.

Labour activist Jitra Kotchadej said:

Chalerm has shown himself to not be respectful of people’s constitutional rights and reflects a lack of respect for the democratic process. “I’m surprised because Chalerm was elected… It’s horrible.”

As much as it might be both hilarious and horrible, this is the response of the royalist elite when challenged. Of course it has no respect for constitutional rights or democracy for they are the ideas that challenge it political hegemony and economic stranglehold.





Abhisit’s regime attacks the right to assembly and association

3 04 2011

Prachatai has a short but important story on the trial of three unionists, including Jitra Kotchadej.

The case, which has some international attention, sees further challenges to the right to peaceful assembly and association by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

The trial will take place from 15 November 2011.

On 28 March Jitra, an advisor to the Triumph Labour Union,  Boonrod Saiwong, Former Executive Secretary of the Triumph Labour Union and Sunthorn Boonyod, staff member of the Labour Union Center had their first hearing.

Prachatai reports:

The defendants are accused of violating Section 215 and 216 of the Penal Code which stipulates against the “gathering of ten people upwards to do or threaten to do an act of violence, or do anything to cause a breach to the peace…and being the manager or the person having the duty to give orders for the commission of the offence…and when the official orders the persons assembled together to disperse, the persons refuse to do so”. The Black Case no. Or 620/2554 was filed by the public prosecutor of the Division of Special Prosecution 10, Office of the Attorney General.

The unionists demonstrated at Government House with 1000 others on 27 August 2009.

It is said that the “arrest warrants issued later have drawn outcries from rights activists and the National Human Rights Commission has been asked to come out to defend the right to peaceful assembly and association and to inquire over the violation of civil rights by the police.”

PPT doubts the NHRC has the necessary independence to deal with this.








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