Updated: Reporting on cowardly attack

30 06 2019

While yellow shirts on social media continue to cheer the vicious and cowardly attack on Sirawith Seritiwat, the reporting of the attack, the patterns it reveals and the future it portends, reporting has been extensive. We felt readers may finding a linked list of some use:

Reuters, 28 June: “Thai anti-junta activist attacked, latest in ‘pattern’ of violence.”

La voi dumond, 28 June: “Thaïlande: un militant pro-démocratie passé à tabac en pleine rue.”

Bangkok Post, 29 June: “Prawit orders police to speed up ‘Ja New’ case.” While some politicians on the right made statements against violence, the reprehensible Pareena Kraikupt of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party voiced a concoction that also circulates on yellow-shirt social media, claimed that the assault was probably by supporters of the Future Forward Party in order to gain support. If neither the junta nor her party doesn’t condemn her bizarre statement, then we may assume she’s speaking their collective mind. Pareena mimicks the fascists of 1976.

Political cartoon by @stephffart in support of activist Sirawith Serithiwat

Bangkok Post, 29 June: “Future Forward MP has ‘Ja New’ attack clip.” The clip is widely available on social media and its publication preempts any attempt to claim that CCTV was inoperable and prevents the media “disappearing.”

Daily Wiews, 29 June: “Thai anti-militare attivista attaccato e lasciato inconscio.”

News.com.au, 29 June: “Shocking pictures show brutal bashing of political activist in Thailand.”

Thai PBS, 29 June: “Thammasat U professor suspects Ja New’s assailants used blackjack batons.”

The Nation, 29 June: “Former senator calls for public donations for Sirawith.” Interestingly and symbolically, Jon Ungpakorn called for 247.5 baht donation, channeling the 1932 Revolution.

Thai PBS, 29 June: “Fund-raising campaign to help cover Ja New’s medical bills.”


The Nation, 29 June: “Korn condemns assault on anti-junta activist.” Democrat Party deputy leader and plutocrat Korn Chatikavanij managed to (sort of) condemn the attack on Sirawith, only by referring to alleged attacks on his “subordinates” at some unstated time. Korn was complicit in the Abhisit government and cabinet that presided over a period where dozens were killed by the murderous military and hundreds were injured. Korn blamed others.

The Nation, 29 June: “Pheu Thai MP raises Bt103,000 to support assaulted anti-junta activist

The Nation, 29 June: “‘Ja New’ needs eye socket operation, say human rights lawyers.” This report has stills from CCTV showing attackers and lists the damage done to the young activist in the brutal attack.

The Nation, 29 June: “Concert held to support Ja New after anti-junta activist assaulted again.” In fact, Sirawith “helped organise the concert, named ‘Democracy 24 June: What’s day?’, to mark the 87th anniversary of the Siamese Revolution of 1932 that overthrew absolute monarchy…”, suggesting that thugs involved in the attack may be ultra-royalist hirelings or acting for the military, which has a record of creating and managing such rightist thugs.

Bangkok Post, 30 June: “Activist assaults go unpunished.”

Update: Khaosod reports on CCTV footage being available, while the police are already saying such footage is “unclear.” No one can expect justice from this junta (except the rich and powerful friends of the junta).

Opposing the draconian referendum law

11 05 2016

A group of what The Nation describes as “high-profile human rights advocates and former senators”  has “lodged a petition with the Ombudsman’s Office, seeking the nullification of the newly enacted referendum act, claiming it violates the interim constitution.”

The group was “led by former senator and director of Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) Jon Ungphakorn…”. The group “asked the Constitutional Court via the Ombudsman’s Office to look at the second and fourth clauses under Article 61 of the Act. He said the clauses in question violate Article 4 of the interim charter, which guarantees freedom of expression.”

The group’s petition was “signed by 100 law experts, academics and human rights advocates” who stated that the act’s language was vague and broad, preventing people from knowing which “actions can be considered illegal.” Of course, this is exactly what the military junta intended as the act is meant to intimidate critics.

The group also declared the penalties as overly harsh, stating that “[e]xpressing one’s views in a ‘rude or aggressive’ manner may be inappropriate, but it should not be taken as a violation of law…”.

Jon stated that several clauses in the act are meant to “discourage the general public and the media to voice their opinions on the draft.” He added: “We have no intention to overturn the August referendum, but just want people to be able to arrange debates on the draft during the lead-up to the referendum…”.

Former National Human Rights Commissioner and the ex-senator Niran Pithakwatchara said the referendum may end up being a waste as, by its nature, a “referendum aims to hear people’s voices, so why is the law discouraging people from speaking out”? He added that “[f]ear has spread throughout the country and is harming democracy…”.

Of course, there is no democracy in Thailand and the military’s charter is not meant to achieve it.

Anti-democrats campaign for dictatorship

8 06 2015

A story at the Bangkok Post indicates something of the fervor with which anti-democrats are campaigning for the extension of the military dictatorship and the entrenchment of a Thai-style totalitarianism.

As the report states:

Opinion polls and web pages supporting “reforms before elections” have been popping up, amid criticism the campaign is an attempt to justify proposals to extend the tenure of the interim government.

The Suan Dusit poll which regularly conducts polls that are often push poll-like is one effort, asking questions that support dictatorship. It claims 75% support an extension of military dictatorship.

The poll was conducted “shortly after the two-year delay proposal was floated by a group of National Reform Council members, led by Paiboon Nititawan.”

It is also reported that “several web pages have been launched to campaign for the proposal to extend the military-led government’s tenure, and are asking the public to sign up in support.” Social media has seen a propaganda-like rash of supportive posts, some supporting General Prayuth Chan-ocha to remain The Dictator of Thailand for up to four or five years.

As the report in the Post notes,

Some political observers see the campaign as predictable and designed to reflect the view of the powerful to justify the proposal for the coup-installed administration to remain in power….

Jon Ungphakorn, a former Bangkok senator and social policy activist, has lambasted the proposed referendum on the government’s tenure, saying it is a tradition adopted by countries with an authoritarian rule.

Readers will recall that the proposal on “reforms before election” was the main demand of the anti-democrats who rallied against elected government and against elections in early 2014. That’s why the leading anti-democrat Suriyasai Katasila, a former leader of both the People’s Alliance for Democracy and  the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, both anti-democrat street anti-democrat groups, is urging the dictatorship to continue.

Major General Veerachon Sukonthapatipark, deputy government spokesman, has been quoted as stating that the Suan Dusit poll “has boosted the government’s morale…”. It doesn’t need morale, but craves some kind of manufactured legitimacy for its continuing dictatorship.

Suspended sentences for anti-junta activists

30 03 2013

The Bangkok Post reports that former senator Jon Ungphakorn and nine other activists, including Phairoj Pholpet, a Law Reform Commissioner, National Broadcasting and Telecommunications commissioner Supinya Klangnarong and Foundation for Consumers secretary-general Saree Aongsomwang, “have been sentenced to suspended prison terms for trespassing on the grounds of parliament during a protest in 2007.” The names of the 10 are here. The background to the saga, as summarized by the AHRC is:

Following the military coup on 19 September 2006 and the suspension of the 1997 Constitution, the military council formed by the coup leaders established a “National Legislative Assembly” (NLA) to act as an interim unicameral legislature for enacting legislation until parliamentary elections were held under a new constitution. All members of the NLA were selected by the military council.

After the promulgation of the 2007 constitution on 24 August 2007, the NLA continued to function as the legislature, and during the last two months before the general parliamentary election of 23 December 2007, the NLA rushed through the passage of a number of extremely controversial laws affecting human rights, civil liberties, community rights, and social justice. This was done despite strong opposition and protests by many civil society groups. The most controversial of these was Internal Security Act, a law demanded by the military to allow them to hold special powers to deal with national security issues after the return to elected civilian government. Other controversial laws passing through the NLA included legislation on privatisation of state universities, water management, and state enterprises.

On 11-12 September 2007 the Thai NGO Coordinating Committee (NGO-COD) with Jon Ungphakorn … serving as Chair and Pairoj Polpetch … as Vice-Chair held a consultation involving a number of civil society networks and labour union leaders which ended with a public statement and press conference calling on the NLA to abandon consideration of 11 controversial bills considered to violate the rights, freedoms, and welfare of the public according to the 2007 Constitution….

On 29 November 2007, a mass demonstration was held outside the parliament building and grounds, demanding that the NLA immediately abandon consideration of the 11 controversial bills, requesting members of the NLA to consider resigning their office , and asking members of the public to sign a petition for the NLA to cease all legislative activities in view of the coming elections for a democratic parliament.

On 12 December 2007 another mass demonstration was held outside the parliament building and grounds, this time involving well over one thousand demonstrators. At around 11.00 a.m. over 100 demonstrators climbed over the metal fence surrounding the parliament building using make-shift ladders to enter the grounds of parliament. Then, around 50-60 demonstrators were able to push their way past parliamentary guards to enter the lobby in front of the NLA meeting chamber where the NLA was in session. They then sat down peacefully in concentric circles on the lobby floor. Negotiations with some members of the NLA and with a high-ranking police official ensued, until at around 12.00 noon the demonstrators were informed that the NLA meeting had been adjourned. The demonstrators then left the parliament building and grounds, returning to join the demonstrations outside the premises.

Further demonstrations were held outside the parliament building and grounds amidst tight police security on 19 December 2007. Despite all the protests, the NLA passed the Internal Security Act which remains in force to this day. Some of the other controversial laws were also passed.

More details can also be found here.

Jon and the nine activists were accused of inciting unrest and trespass. The “Criminal Court yesterday sentenced Jon and five other defendants to two years each in prison and a 9,000 baht fine. The sentences were then reduced by one third because of their cooperation during the trial to one year and four months and a 6,000 baht fine.” The others were “sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 9,000 baht. Their jail sentences were reduced to four months, and the fines to 6,000 baht.” The court suspended the prison terms for two years.

Jon reportedly “insisted he and his colleagues acted out of goodwill. “Our conscience told us to prevent harmful laws from being passed but we never intended to resort to violent means, engage in non-peaceful demonstrations or harm anyone…”. Phairoj “said the demonstration was a form of freedom of assembly and expression.”

It seems that protecting the military junta’s laws remains important.

NHRC to “study” lese majeste

11 01 2012

According to the Bangkok Post, the National Human Rights Commission’s “working group studying the impact of the lese majeste law convened its first meeting yesterday human rights group has begun a study of the controversial lese majeste law and how it affects freedom of expression, academic freedom, civil rights and Thailand’s global image.”

Working group member NHR Commisioner Niran Pitakwatchara explained that “the main objectives of the study were to protect the monarchy from being used as a political tool and to prevent people politicising the lese majeste law and the 2007 Computer Crime Act.” He added: “We don’t have an agenda to reform or abolish or maintain the laws…”.

That should keep the royalists happy for it buys into the notion that the monarchy itself is the body abused by the law, not the victims of lese majeste repression!

Niran well knows that the victims are those locked up. He also know the chilling impact on freedom of expression that derives from draconian statutes like lese majeste and the computer crimes laws.

NHRC moves on lese majeste

19 09 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that the National Human Rights Commission is looking to “set up a working group to study problematic applications of the lese majeste law and the Computer Crime Act following an outcry over their alleged abuses.”

It is clear that all of the domestic and international condemnation has made a difference. So too has a change of government. The lese majeste noise also calls into question the “strategy” adopted by the U.S. government and (a least until remarkably recently) Amnesty International‘s “quiet” approach on this draconian law. In fact, both have nothing to show for their toadying approach.

According to the report, NHRC member Niran Pithakwatchara “said he has proposed the formation of the working group to the commission,…” to be headed by Jon Ungpakorn.

This is another indication that that lese majeste is being reconsidered. The sooner the better!

There’s also an interesting footnote to this story, with a comment from lese majeste victim Boonyuen Prasertying stating that “the only way to secure a shorter jail term was to confess and then behave well while inside [prison].”

We highlight this because we have long made this point. It is clear that the authorities and their principals want as little discussion of cases as possible and so that they appear “reasonable” when in fact they are conniving to protect the unprotectable.

NHRC and lese majeste

24 05 2011

To date the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has been pretty much a puppet of the current regime and has done precious little about any of the gross human rights abuses seen in the country during the term of this Commission.

The only Commissioner who has seemed in any way concerned about human rights has been Niran Pithakwatchara, who chairs the sub-committee on civil and political rights. The Bangkok Post reports that Niran’s sub-committee is to “begin a study on whether the content and current use of the Criminal Code’s lese majeste clause, Article 112, is constitutional.”

PPT can only assume that this is an important turn of events and that Niran is adopting a strategy that is walking a thin line.

The “NHRC sub-committee chairman said on Monday that the controversial use of the lese majeste law was urgently called into question, since it could be a condition leading to violence in society.”

The NHRC sub-committee’s first hearing last week saw about “60 participants, including those being imprisoned, harassed and implicated as a result of  people citing Article 112.” Niran said the sub-committee hoped to complete its report “in the next few months” and report to the government and to the public.

His sub-committee includes “well-known human rights activists Somchai Homla-or, Jon Ungphakorn, Boonthan T. Verawongse, and Sunai Phasuk, would examine human rights abuses in the cases of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a trade unionist and a red-shirt editor of the Voice of [Taksin], and Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a senior historian at Thammasat University.” It seems the cases of Somyos and Somsak are to be the subcommittee’s “study platform.”

Niran said stated that his work is”not be just an academic exercise but a means to protect the rights of the people and provide some solution in the event there was injustice in applying the lese majeste clause…”. He admitted that the issue of lese majeste is not an easy matter and referred to “also surmounting internal self-adjustment difficulties within the (NHRC) office…”. That seems clear, but the question remains: will Niran be prevented from investigating and reporting?

Sulak Sivaraksa said the “Privy Council and the NHRC should have the intellectual courage to lead the discussion about the role of the monarchy in a democratic system.” Intellect and courage are not terms easily associated with either body in recent years.

Niran also spoke with officials regarding Somyos, with the prison commander saying he considered “Somyot had been so stressed out that he thought of committing suicide.” Niran added that Somyos needed bail to be able to “prepare his defence against the charge.”

In a related development, Indonesian trade unionists of the Konfederasi KASBI (Confederation of Congress of Indonesian Unions Alliance) have called for Somyos’s release and expressing concerns about his safety in an open letter to a seemingly uninterested Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. The union group “said they believed his arrest was part of a systematic repression of pro-democracy activists in Thailand.” And, in an action that PPT would love to see becoming more widespread, the group “urged the Thai government to release all political prisoners; stop using the lese majeste law to persecute pro-democracy activists; abolish all draconian censorship laws; and ensure justice for those killed during the April-May violence last year.”

Military and monarchy, together in perfect harmony?

18 05 2011

Jon Ungphakorn’s column in the Bangkok Post is well worth a thorough read. He comments on a recent post at New Mandala that has caught attention in the blogosphere for the unstated comparison it draws between allegedly reformist monarchs and the current conservative royalist regime.

There are some controversial interpretations as well. Jon says: “It has always been the military that has been keen to enforce absolute reverence towards the monarchy, and all military coups in recent history have cited alleged threats to the monarchy as justification for military rule.” He adds: “It is the kings themselves who, from time to time, have made attempts to reform the monarchy to be more in line with democratic society.”

PPT was scratching its collective head on this. Yes, the military has often played the royal card in maintaining and reinforcing its role in Thailand’s political system. But what are the reforms that enlightened kings have brought. We assume that Jon is referring to the post-1957 period. This means that there has been not “kings” but one king; the present one. What great democratic reforms has he fostered?

Jon refers to “the maximum prison sentence for lese majeste was increased from SEVEN to 15 years after the military coup of 1976; while on the other hand our present king is on record in his birthday speech of 2005 as requesting that lese majeste be used judiciously and that criticism of the king should be allowed.”

Well, yes, but wasn’t that 1976 government headed by Privy Councilor and a king’s favourite in Thanin Kraivixien? Wasn’t it this monarchy that was involved in supporting the coup. Wasn’t it the king and queen who welcomed a former dictator back and set off the events of massacre and coup? Wasn’t it the current price and princesses who provided moral support for the perpetrators of the massacre? And hasn’t lese majeste gone through the roof since a coup that was clearly implemented with palace connivance in 2005 and 2006? Need we go on?

Jon is right when he observes that the “present actions of the military [on lese majeste] are clearly intended to influence the results of the elections by once again implying that a threat to the monarchy is involved. In their actions, they have moved the boundaries of lese majeste accusations to an extreme never reached before at a time when demands for reform of lese majeste law are reaching a peak.” He adds: “This is a very tense and explosive situation which, as history clearly tells us, cannot possibly be beneficial to the monarchy.”

PPT agrees, but doubts many of the old duffers in the palace see it this way. We doubt that those responsible for royalist political ideology and propaganda see it this way. We think that those who protect and “ancient institution” that is also the country’s largest and most conservative capitalist conglomerate believe that reform is in their interests. Rather, they have shown a capacity for support to the most reactionary elements and an incapacity for making historically significant compromises with the subaltern masses.

Commenting on the lese majeste charge against Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Jon argues that “critical comments among academics and intellectuals on the monarchy as an institution have been tolerated. This is why Sulak Sivaraksa has never gone to prison for his consistently outspoken observations. Now, there seems to be no refuge left.”

PPT has a vague memory of Sulak being arrested and in jail. Sulak’s website says this: “In 1984 he was arrested in Bangkok on charges of criticising the King, but international protest led to his eventual release.” That international protest was led by international academics and Buddhist organizations, amongst others. Sulak has been charged several times and currently has charges pending. That said, it is true that Sulak has never been convicted. But he is also not the only academic to have been threatened. Think of Giles Ji Ungpakorn who now lives in exile.

Jon goes on to refer to the “unfairness of the lese majeste law,” commenting, as many reformers do, that a problem is that “anyone can file a complaint and there are no guidelines as to the interpretation of the law.” He then makes this observation: “The only peaceful solution to the political explosion that is building up as more and more people are charged and sentenced under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, is to reform the lese majeste law and the monarchy as an institution in line with democratic principles.”

That’s not the only solution: abolishing the law and allowing the monarchy to use existing defamation laws, just like anyone else is also a peaceful solution.

Jon argues that the reason there is not reform is that politicians “don’t dare to do anything [because] … they are afraid of reprisals from the royalist movements such as the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the multi-coloured shirt activists and, in particular, the military establishment.”

He concludes with these observations: “It is the avowed protectors of the monarchy who are actually destabilising the monarchy and preventing the reforms badly needed to sustain the monarchy. Will the military establishment recognise this fact in time and learn to stop meddling in Thailand’s political affairs?”

PPT can agree with the first point. No doubt about it. They are bringing themselves undone. But the protectors are necessarily blind to this. The second point is one that can also be agreed. At the same time, it is not the monarchy that binds the military to intervention. After all, when its commanders were pretty much anti-monarchy the military also took a prime political position.

It seems to PPT that in the current period there is probably a pretty good alignment between the ideas of the military leadership – General Prayuth Chan-ocha is known to have excellent links to the queen – and the palace and monarchy. Chulabhorn’s recent comments on the threats being akin to the Burmese sacking of Ayudhya attest to the kind of thinking and discussions that must be going on in both military and palace circles. We see considerable harmony of interests.

And, just as a footnote, this post began with the New Mandala story on prostration and the reforms Chulalongkorn made. For all of those who are touting him as the great reformer, add to this the fact that his regime was probably the most absolute of the Chakkri dynasty….

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