“Loosening up”

4 06 2016

There has been quite a lot of media discussion of the military dictatorship “loosening up.”

This picture, we assume recent, shows several political prisoners being marched to appear before a military court.


Shackled and made to walk barefoot, these political prisoners are degraded by the process of parading them to court. None of them is dangerous or likely to flee, but they are shackled nonetheless.

Loosening up? Well, the shackles are now lighter than those used previously, which belonged to the 18th century. The picture below is of lese majeste victim Joe Gordon, forced to wear leg irons.

Joe Gordon in chains in 2011

Joe Gordon in chains in 2011

Framing lese majeste prisoners

30 08 2015

The Bangkok Post has published an excellent article assessing the case of Surapak Puchaisaeng, accused of lese majeste in 2011, and kept in jail  for many months, without bail.

He battled for four years to eventually prove his innocence, having the charges dismissed. With a degree in law and working as an IT specialist, Surapak was able to understand and challenge the technical “evidence” against him, which was shown to have probably been fabricated. PPT’s suspicion is that police may have been involved in some of the fabrication of evidence.Surapak

With so many lese majeste cases being brought against social media users, and with almost all of them being “convinced” that pleading guilty is likely to reduce jail time, his case is an example of the kinds of lengths lese majeste vigilantes and police are willing to go in order to throw political opponents in prison.

Several others have claimed they were framed, including Joe Gordon.

Remarkably, the story claims that this is the “first time in history a lese majeste defendant had ever made it to Thailand’s Supreme Court and won.”

Equally remarkable is the line in the story that Surapak “… has yet to receive compensation for the 13 months spent on remand, calculated at 200 baht per day.” PPT doubts any of the crooked cops will ever be held accountable.

Anti-monarchy = freedom, balance, equality and democracy

27 07 2014

A couple of days ago PPT posted on a VICE story about the monarchy and the threats imagined by the military dictatorship. The following is an English-language translation of the highly confidential Thai document featured in the VICE story:

[Highly confidential]
Undermining the Royal Institution
(27June 2014)

Groups undermining the Royal Institution have attempted to exploit the 72nd anniversary of the change in government structure [1932 Siamese revolution] (24 June 2014) by revealing their organisation to oppose the National Council for Peace and Order. They plan to undermine the Royal Institution, referring to freedom, balance, equality and democracy as their main justifications. Their methods have included the revelation of concealed history connecting the Royal Institution to political events, and they have attempted to distribute reports of royal deaths in an effort to reduce the community’s faith in the Royal Institution.

The establishment of “The Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy: FT-HD” includes Mr Jarupong Ruangsuwan as the Presidential Secretary and Mr Jakrapob Penkair as the Managing Secretary. On 24 June 2014, a videoclip was released providing a declaration from the organisation, criticising the political changes made by the National Council for Peace and Order as having broken Thai and international law, causing Thailand to return to an extreme system of dictatorship. The choice to use the phrase“Seri-Thai” [Free Thai] on the website http://www.youtube.com with the username “FreeThai Organisation”, and on the page “Seri-Thai Organisation” (องค์กรเสรีไทย), is said to refer to the freedom and rights of the common people, suitable for use while fighting to reclaim their human rights and democracy.

The opinions of most of the general Internet community oppose/do not agree with the above-mentioned proceedings. They see the establishment of such an organisation as being connected to the undermining of the Royal Institution, and spread information regarding the differences between “Seri-Thai” during the political changes caused by the revolutionaries in 1932 and the present. Concerning the groups that are undermining the Royal Institution, they have promoted and joined in sharing the above-mentioned declaration, as well as inviting each other to use the tag “#FreeThai”. They have stated that they are releasing the country to freedom and update each other with information on the page “Followers of the Thai Freedom Against the National Dictator Movement” (แนวร่วมขบวนการเสรีไทยต่อต้านเผด็จการแห่งชาติ). Interestingly, Mr Anon Numpa, a lawyer, has requested that Mr Jarupong or others involved in this organisation clearly provide a statement concerning the existence of the Royal Institution.

Regarding the movements of individuals attempting to undermine the Royal Institution, during the reporting period it was found that some have returned to using Facebook or have reopened their Facebook accounts, such as Mr Thanthawut Taweewarodomkulor “Noom Retanont” (หนุ่ม เรศนนท์), who has become active on Facebook again and has confirmed his refusal to report to the National Council for Peace and Order, including rejecting the order as a denial of his rights and freedom. In addition, it was found that individuals attempting to undermine the Royal Institution living overseas, who were asked to report to the National Council for Peace and Order, displayed their passports to show that they have received a different nationality rejecting their Thai nationality and include: Miss Chatwadee Amornpat or “Rose” (England), Mr Lerpong Wichaikhammat or “Joe Gordon” (USA) and Pavin Chachavalpongpun (Japan).

Overseas Situation

Mr John William Oliver, a comedy actor known for parodying English politics, discussed the issue of Crown Prince Filipe of Spain’s inauguration, criticising it and referring/connecting it to other countries with monarchs, such as Queen Elizabeth II, by means of showing sections of and criticising ‘the poolside clip’ broadcast on HBO, 23 June 2014.

For Consideration

The declaration of actions/establishment of the “Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy” by Mr Jarupong, which Mr Saneh Tinsaen (Piangdin Rakthai) had previously (on 21 June, 2014) provided information regarding the establishment of this organisation, shows that this organisation is connected/it may contact or join in an attempt to undermine stability.

The monarchy, freedom and democracy

1 05 2013

The US Department of State has released its Human Rights Report for 2012. PPT was alerted to this by a story at the Bangkok Post that referred to this report as “a highly critical report detailing … Thailand’s human rights failings.” It added that: “Observers noted this year’s report was more rounded and detailed, especially regarding the southern insurgency.”

Indeed, on our first skim of the report, released a week ago, it does seem somewhat better than its somewhat bland and repetitive reports of recent years. PPT has been especially critical of the State Department’s reports for their failure on lese majeste and the existence of political prisoners. Indeed, last year we commented on a:

hopelessly, probably deliberately, deceitful U.S. “human rights” report for Thailand in 2011. If it wasn’t deliberately deceitful, then we imagine that everyone on the Thailand desk at the Department of State and in the Embassy in Bangkok has been lobotomized to the extent that they are deaf, dumb and blind on lese majeste and other political prisoners in Thailand.

This year there is a change. As in previous years, there are useful comments on a range of issues including officials’ impunity, the use of emergency and other special laws and a range of abuses by security forces and local defence volunteers in the south. That list is disturbing reading. As the Post has it:

Security forces, the report said, were guilty of using excessive force, including killing, torturing and otherwise abusing suspects, detainees and prisoners.

PPT wants to highlight some of the report’s comments on politics, monarchy, lese majeste and political prisoners, which we think represents an attempt to break out of the previous genuflecting to the royalist propagandists and flunkies who have previously shaped American official discourses on Thailand. We will just quote and highlight (with some of the headings added by us):

Red shirts: According to an advocacy group, as of December, 16 protesters jailed after the 2010 United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD or “Red Shirts”) protests remained in pretrial detention, charged with protest-related crimes such as rioting and arson. Lawyers affiliated with the UDD movement continued to pursue bail for these remaining detainees held in several provinces. According to a UDD-affiliated information center, of the 1,857 arrests related to the 2010 protests, authorities prosecuted 1,664 individuals as of December, and the courts dismissed 91 cases, sentenced 850 individuals to probation and/or fines, and imprisoned 220 for less than one year, 63 for one to three years, 10 for three to five years, 10 for five to 10 years, and 27 for more than 10 years. According to the Department of Special Investigations, of the 270 protest-related cases under its jurisdiction, it completed 216 investigations as of December, and trials in 62 cases continued at year’s end.

Lese majeste: A July 10 royal pardon allowed the release of dual-national Joe Gordon (also known as Lerpong Wichaikhammat), who was sentenced in December 2011 to two and one-half years’ in prison for lese-majeste offenses. On August 16, a mass pardon in honor of the birthdays of the crown prince (July 28) and the queen (August 12) led to the release of approximately 30,000 prisoners. On August 24, in honor of the queen’s birthday, Suchart Narkbangsai and Suriyan Kokpuai, who were both serving three-year sentences for lese-majeste convictions, received royal pardons and were released.

PPT isn’t quite sure how releasing lese majeste convicts a bit early is an “honor” for the anyone. Thailand’s royals should be ashamed – not honored – that this feudal law remains in place; they could easily have it done away with if they had sufficient honor.

Trials: While most trials are public, the court may order a closed trial, particularly in cases involving national security, the royal family, children, or sexual abuse.

PPT can’t help but wonder why the State Department didn’t point out that closing courts infringes Section 40 of the current constitution. In other words, a court may close its proceedings but in doing so is infringing Thailand’s basic law.

Political Prisoners and Detainees: There were no government reports of political prisoners or detainees; however, sources estimated that seven to 18 persons remained detained under lese-majeste laws that outlaw criticism of the monarchy…. Some of those cases involved persons exercising their rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

While this statement is something of a step forward for the State Department, it still makes serious errors. For example, the claim that there are no government reports of political prisoners is simply a stupid claim. After all, the government has established a special prison for political prisoners at Laksi. Indeed, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra mentioned political prisoners in a speech this week.

Freedom of Speech and Press: The international and independent media operated freely, except in coverage of matters deemed a threat to national security or offensive to the monarchy…. Journalists generally were free to comment on government activities and institutions without fear of official reprisal. Nonetheless, they occasionally practiced self-censorship, particularly with regard to the monarchy and national security. For example, in April the Thai distributor of The Economist magazine withheld one issue because of a story about lese-majeste prosecutions…. The government imposed some restrictions on access to the Internet and reportedly monitored Internet chat rooms and social media without judicial oversight. Individuals and groups generally engaged in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail, although there were several limitations on content, such as lese majeste, pornography, and gambling…. The RTP Electronic Crime Suppression Division reported receiving 776 computer-related complaints during 2011 that resulted in 442 investigations–a complaint rate markedly greater than the 47 in 2009 or 285 in 2010. Most cases involved alleged defamation, lese majeste, and illegal activity such as gambling and pornography. Separately, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology operated the Cyber Security Operations Center to monitor and block Web sites. According to a report by the NGO iLaw, court orders officially blocked nearly 21,000 Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) during the year, 80 percent of which were related to lese majeste. Since passage of the 2007 Computer Crime Act, authorities blocked more than 102,000 URLs, 76 percent related to lese majeste.

From this list it is crystal clear that the major impediment to free speech is the monarchy, lese majeste and national security. Indeed, “national security” is usually defined n terms of the monarchy as well. Can it be said that, apart from the monarchy, Thailand is relatively free? It certainly seems that way.

And finally, this: The constitution provides citizens the right to change their government peacefully through periodic, free, and fair elections based on universal, compulsory suffrage.

How true is this? Yes, there are periodic elections, but there are also periodic military and judicial coups…. More to the point, Section 68 of the constitution effectively makes it illegal to advocate for a republic in Thailand. Again, the monarchy is an obstacle to full democratic freedoms.

Updated: Spooner, Asia Sentinel and HRW

29 04 2013

A couple of weeks ago we had a couple of posts (here and here) regarding Andrew Spooner’s short career at Asia Sentinel. One of the reasons he thinks he was shunted by Asia Sentinel was a story he did regarding Brad Adams at Human Rights Watch.Asia Provocateur moves

When Asia Sentinel showed Spooner the electronic door, they deleted this story. He has now re-posted it at his Asia Provocateur blog.

The post refers to a 2011 appearance by Adams at a meeting held in the UK Parliament. The post includes a video of Adams speaking at the parliament on arson in Bangkok in May 2010. Spooner questions Adams and HRW on their claims in 2011.

Update: A reader points out that former lese majeste political prisoner Joe Gordon has also posted a link to another Spooner post on HRW that caries a specific warning about HRW. Read Joe’s comment here and the Asia Provocateur article he refers to here.

News on lese majeste

15 04 2013

We have been informed by a democracy solidarity group that Australia’s Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) has passed a motion to support the call for solidarity for the coming May Day rally in Thailand and, significantly, they propose to call on Australia’s peak union body, the Australian Council of Trades Union (ACTU) to send a high-level delegation to visit Somyos Prueksakasemsuk in prison. The plan is to also invite other global unions be part of delegation to visit Somyos.

The VTHC Executive on 13 April 2013 had this:somyos

To our comrades and friends in Thailand:

We have witnessed the harsh sentence of labour activist Somyot on 23 Jan 2013, to 11 years jail, under Article 112. We have witnessed the continued use of Article 112 to charge, sentence and imprison activists and civilians in Thailand. This is a sign that human rights and democracy in Thailand are worsening. A democratic country does not have political prisoners, and it does not use draconian laws to suppress freedom of expression.

We renew our call upon all comrades and friends in the labour movement worldwide to pledge their support for international working people’s solidarity and for the continuing struggle for democracy in Thailand.

We will continue to make our voices heard until all political prisoners are free in Thailand.

We pledge to use the occasion of the International Labour Day / May Day to:

Demand the immediate release of Somyot

Demand the immediate release of all political prisoners in Thailand

Demand the abolition of Article 112 (The Lese Majeste law)

We ask the ACTU to take up these demands – by sending a delegation to Bangkok, to make direct representation to the government of Thailand, and to visit Somyot in prison. We also ask the ACTU to invite representatives of Global Union Federations to participate in this.

We say to Somyot, to the other political prisoners, and to our comrades and friends in Thailand: We are still with you and we will be continuing to struggle for your freedom and for the abolition of Article 112.

Motion Carried

At New Mandala, there is an interview with Joe Gordon. The questions aren’t very penetrating and there isn’t a lot that is particularly new, especially for those who follow Joe on Facebook. However, this point is worth repeating:

A Bangkok Post photo

A Bangkok Post photo

If Thailand wishes to become a civilised nation, it has to abolish this anachronistic law. The world has changed. And Thailand is no longer been under absolute monarchy. The Thai monarchy will have to act as prescribed by the constitution. It will need to adjust itself to the changing political and social circumstances. The British monarchy has survived mainly because it has learned how to live with democracy. Furthermore, the budget for the monarchy must be transparent and accountable. And since members of the royal family are public figures, they must be open to criticism. Glorification of the monarchy has long taken place in Thailand; it is unrealistic and a fabrication. Other institutions which have forged intimate ties with the monarchy will need to adapt themselves too. For example, the judiciary, known to serve as an instrument of the monarchy, is also in crisis. As long as they are not ready to live with a new reality, Thailand’s true democratisation will not take place.

Joe is one of the few who has been convicted on lese majeste charges who has gone on to actively campaign against Article 112. His activism is important and welcomed.

Shackling and fettering

20 12 2012

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk shackled in 2012

There’s a brief story at The Nation that caught PPT’s attention. In it, National Human Rights Commissioner Niran Pithakwatchara has “voiced concern about the use of fettering and its impact on human dignity.”

Apparently the “rules” that are currently used demand that “the fettering of all male inmates aged not over 60 to prevent any attempt at jailbreak or suicide.”

Niran seemed to think that  there was concern “[a]t the international level.” All lese majeste prisoners under 60 years are shackled on every court appearance.

Niran also raised issues regarding the health care provided to inmates, noting that lese majeste convict Ampol Tangnopakul died in jail earlier in 2012.

Joe Gordon in chains in 2011

Joe Gordon in chains in 2011

He also mentioned the case of Ampon Tangnoppakul, who died while serving a jail term for a lese-majeste offence earlier this year: “Niran pointed out that the Corrections Department might have failed to take care of Ampon’s health well enough.”

Harry Nicolaides in chains in 2009

Harry Nicolaides in leg irons in 2009

The Corrections Department’s senior executive Lawan Ornsamlee “explained that prisoners were only handcuffed at correctional facilities.” In 2011, the U.S. State Department stated: “Authorities also used heavy leg irons to control prisoners who were deemed escape risks or possibly dangerous to other prisoners.” She added that: “Only convicts held on grave offences are fettered by both ankles and wrists…”.

She continued to explain that: “Other prisoners were fettered in the same way only when they travelled out of correctional facilities.”

Lese majeste is deemed not a libel or a defamation but a “grave offense.” As the Constitutional Court has it, lese majeste is so serious that it threatens the very foundations of the state!

Anti-112 allies

4 12 2012

In this short post, PPT wants t draw attention to the Red Shirts blog and its post on “Thailand’s lèse majesté prisoners in and out of jail, …[and] the incredible group of friends and family members who support them.” In an excellent post, a couple of things stuck us.112.jpg

First, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk is quoted as declaring that his incarceration and trial is “about human rights. Not just my human rights, but those of all Thai citizens.” He’s absolutely right.

Second, it mentions “single-dad, Tanthawut [Taweewarodomkul who] hopes that he will receive a Royal pardon that would allow him to get back to his family soon.” He’s been in jail since March 2010, and after withdrawing his appeal against his politicized conviction, has been awaiting a pardon since August.

Third, the report mentions the continuing problems that lese majeste victims face following their release. It cites Joe Gordon, who left Thailand following his release, saying “I am sad to leave Thailand, but I don’t feel safe here. The lèse-majesté law … breeds resentment.” He’s now safe in the United States. Attending Joe’s departure party were former lese majeste inmates  Nat Sattayapornpisut and the recently acquitted Surapak Puchaisaeng who “were there, along with many of the people who had supported them through prison.”

Welcome home Joe!

11 11 2012

Readers will be interested in this if in California:

You are cordially invited to attend the “Welcome Home Joe Gordon” event on Saturday, November 17, 2012 from 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM at Universal Freedom Garden, a private home in Studio City, CA 91604

(Address will be provided upon receipt of your registration.)

Please come to join us in support of Joe Gordon who was wrongly jailed in a Thai jail for 14 months for the alleged lese majeste law without bail or proper representation. There will be plenty of home-made Thai food from our Red Shirt brothers and sisters from Los Angeles and Orange County at this event.

Here’s the program event:

– Speeches to welcome Joe Gordon

– Ceremony of giving flowers and garlands to Joe Gordon

– Article 112 in the eyes of the world

-Traditional welcoming back home by North Eastern red shirts

– Thai dinner

– Entertainment by Faroh and Sageant Prasit

Because space is limited, please register early by stating your name, number of guests, contact information at: register4menow@yahoo.com

We will contact you and give you our confirmation.

This event is free. For more information, please contact: Andrea: 714-585-5050 Anthony: 562-424-7813

Achara interviews Joe Gordon

10 11 2012

Achara Ashayagachat at the Bangkok Post has joined those interviewing lese majeste victim Joe Gordon as he returns home to the United States. This level of critical comment by one who has been convicted and released is unusual, and PPT hopes Joe eventually writes up his experience.

Joe again talks about The King Never Smiles. (It seems that the Post is unable to mention the book’s title.) He says he “did buy the book from a bookstore. It was published by Yale University Press and was written in an academic style.” He adds that reading it and posting links to it and unauthorized translations was his right and that he was a “victim of polarised Thai politics. I was in Thailand for health reasons but was dragged into dirty politics.”

A Bangkok Post photo

On prison, he states: “Prison conditions were far beyond being acceptable.”

On repeated refusals of bail for lese majeste inmates: “Without bail, the accused are never able to defend themselves well.”

On the lese majeste law: “It’s a shame that this government doesn’t dare to touch on the controversial aspects. I truly support the Nitirat group in its push for for the amendment [of the law], although I think what we really need is its abolition…. The law is used by conservatives to destroy the progressives.”

On the U.S., lese majeste and his case: “I was dismayed that the US issued a mild statement when I was convicted in December…”. PPT agrees that the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Embassy and Ambassador Kristie Kenney should be ashamed; they were spineless.

Finally, Joe notes that the “lese majeste law has shown its effect in sabotaging the institution of the monarchy rather than fostering and protecting it.” PPT understands this point but also views lese majeste as a part of the foundation of the repressive royalist state.

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