Another year of repression

27 12 2021

Even with the virus, most people have been celebrating the holidays. But, as Prachatai reports, nothing of the sort is possible for those jailed without bail on lese majeste charges.

Parit Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa have again denied bail in an act of lese majeste torture. The four have already spent some 3-4 months in jail pending trial.

Of course, in line with lese majeste torture protocols, the courts are in no hurry to get these political prisoners into a trial.

Clipped from VOA News – a Reuters photo

A bail request was submitted to the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court on 17 December.  As expected from the royalist courts, on 24 December the court “ruled to leave its former order unchanged out of concern that the four, if released, would commit the same offences again.”

The court rejected an undertaking by the “four detainees [who] affirmed that, if released, they would abide by previous Court conditions to not engage in any activities damaging to the monarchy, take part in protests causing public disorder, flee the country, or violate Court-mandated travel restrictions.”

The regime and, we assume, the absent monarch, prefer to keep these young people locked up. They fear the anti-monarchism that has grown and that is (temporarily) repressed.

From Prachatai’s Facebook page

Protesters had gathered at the Court to support the political prisoners. After bail was refused, the protesters “burned a judge uniform and the Criminal Code textbook and sprayed paint all over the Court entrance area.” Meanwhile, “Thatchapong Kaedam, another prominent figure in the protest movement, said that next year, the people will continue to call for change and the intensity of the demonstrations will escalate.”

This is now the normal court contribution to political repression: at least another 16 people “are being detained pending trial or police investigation of their participation in political protests and confrontations with the police over the past year.”

Over the longer period from July 2020 to October 2021, according to the Thai Enquirer, 1,636 people in 896 cases have faced lawsuits for their political participation and expression, including 258 minors.

Of that, 1,337 are being prosecuted for alleged violations of the emergency decree which came into effect in March 2020, 107 are being prosecuted for the alleged violations of the Public Assembly Act, 97 for alleged violations of the Computer Crime Act, 112 for sedition and 154 for lese-majeste.

In addition to the politicized judiciary, the royalist regime has also used violence to repress anti-monarchism. According to a report by the Thai Enquirer, in 2021, more than “500 people were injured from protest-related violence in 2021…”. Dozens of them were children, with one 15 year-old was killed.

Of the total, 347 civilians, including 88 minors were injured. Reflecting the regime’s attempts to also suppress the media, 29 journalists were injured, including several who were targeted with rubber bullets. In addition, three medical volunteers and two bystanders were injured. Many more injuries went unreported.146 police officers  and one soldier were injured.

The police have become especially aggressive, having replaced the military as the frontline troops in repressing protest. Emphasizing this, as Prachatai reports, another “20 protesters and activists have been charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for participating in the 28 November 2021 rally at the Ratchaprasong intersection to call for marriage equality.” They are also charged with obstructing traffic.

LGBTQ protesters are now seen as threatening and in need of repression. Of course, pro-monarchy and pro-regime groups face no such police action,

The activists of the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality say “that the rally was an exercise of their legal rights and freedoms, and that the charges against them amount to a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or SLAPP.”

They add that they are “willing to fight the charges to show that they are free to think and are protected by the civil rights enshrined in the Constitution. They are also considering filing complaints against the officers who file charges against them.”

For a perspective on Thailand’s authoritarianism, see this article.





The regime’s courts

3 11 2021

Thai PBS recently reported that Thammasat University engineering student, Benja Apan, a member of the United Front for Thammasat and Demonstration”was sentenced to six months in prison today (Monday) for contempt of the court and for ‘causing disunity’ in the country.”

It adds: “The six-month imprisonment is the heaviest penalty for such offence.”

Clipped from Khaosod

Benja’s charges stemmed from a rally “in front of the Criminal Court on April 29th to demand the release of Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, a leader of the Ratsadon group, who was being held on multiple charges, including lèse majesté.”

Benja also faces lese majeste charges.

It was alleged that, during the protest, Benja “read a poem over a loud hailer, criticising the court for its handling of Parit’s case…”. Poetry can indeed be dangerous.

It was further alleged that she “breached a barricade.”

The court babbled that, “even though the accused has the right to free expression and to demonstrate peacefully under the Constitution, the exercise of such rights must be within the confines of laws enacted to preserve national security, protect public safety and the rights of other people.”

It is unclear how she breached such provisions.

It is then reported that the court “cited provisions in the Constitution requiring that individuals do not do anything which may cause ‘disunity’ in society and respect, without infringing upon, the rights of other people.”

The Criminal Court is not the Constitutional Court, so this seems curious to us at PPT.

We don’t know for sure, but assume that this refers to Chapter III of the 2017 Constitution where the Rights and Liberties of Thais are set out. We couldn’t see anything on disunity, but did notice that the regime is arguably in breach of almost all of the provisions in that chapter.

As the courts sink ever deeper into the murky depths of unbridled politicization, we can only ponder how difficult it is going to be for any reasonable government to reform military, police, and judiciary, let alone the horrid monarchy.





Repression enters a new phase

9 09 2021

Thai Enquirer presents the disturbing figures on arrests made by the regime as it seeks to repress anti-monarchism:

More than 1,100 people have been prosecuted for political protests between July 2020 and August 2021, where over 400 were charged in August alone, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported this week.

The human rights lawyer’s organization said they have known of at least 1,161 people (621 legal cases) who are being prosecuted for alleged crimes that were related to political gathering and expression since the latest pro-democracy movement began on July 18, 2020.

Of the total, 143 are minors, aged under 18.

The majority of them are being charged with:

The violation of the state of emergency decree (902)
The violation of Section 215 of the Criminal Code which bar a gathering of more than 10 people with intention to create an act of violence or disturb the peace (320)
The violation of Section 112 or lese-majeste (124)
The violation of Section 116 or sedition (107)
The violation of the Public Assembly Act (106)
The violation of the Computer Crimes Act (74)
(Numerous people are facing multiple charges, which means that the sum of the charges is greater than the number of people charged.)

Of the 621 cases, 89 have been settled because the accused have paid the fine, two have been dropped by the prosecutor and one has been dropped by the court.

These figures are not surprising as the state’s repressive apparatus of police, prosecutors, and courts have worked to dampen criticism.

We may expect these figures to further increase as the police move to an even more aggressive strategy of pre-emptive strikes against those who rally. Thai PBS reports that Pol Maj-Gen Piya Tavichai, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, has explained that the “Talugas” protesters “are troublemakers and a danger to the public…”.

In another Thai PBS report, the relatively new police tactic saw them “swoop … on a group of hardcore ‘Talugas’ protesters as they converged at Din Daeng intersection in Bangkok this evening (Tuesday), before starting their routine provocation of the police…”.

Police reportedly “leapt from the trucks and charged into the protesters, arresting about 10 of them and confiscating some motorcycles,” carrying off those detained.

Such actions are provocative and may be illegal, but that never bothers the regime or its puppet judicial system.





Royalism corrupts

4 09 2021

The judicial system has lost much of the precarious public support it once had. Now, the only standards used are double standards.

Admittedly, the police were never held in high esteem, known to be murderous and thoroughly corrupt. But judges and prosecutors also display wanton corruption and never-ending double standards.

While some judges still try to hold some standards and to adjudicate the law, the deepening royalism of the judiciary has overwhelmed them. Political cases litter the judicial playing field, with judges taking decisions based on notions of “Thainess,” “good” vs “bad” people, on orders from the top or made for reasons that seem to bear no relationship to written law. Not a few judges have been shown to be corrupt.

A Bangkok Post picture

Meanwhile, prosecutors do as they are told and, in some cases, as they are paid. Wealthy killers get off with the support of corrupt prosecutors. Kids get prosecuted for political crimes. Working hand in royal glove with judges, prosecutors oppose bail in political cases, seeking to damage “suspects” through lese majeste torture and, now, the threat of virus infection in prison for political prisoners.

On the latter, as the Bangkok Post reports that “activist Chartchai Kaedam is one among many political prisoners infected with Covid-19.” His condition is cause for much concern.

A petition has been lodged with the National Human Rights Commission “demanding an investigation into how a Karen rights activist contracted Covid-19 while imprisoned,…” pointing out that “he is not a criminal and should be allowed bail, especially given his health condition…”. The petition added that “bringing innocent people into a contagious environment such as a prison during a deadly virus outbreak violates their rights..”.

The NHRC has been pretty hopeless since it was politicized under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, but in this case, Commissioner Sayamol Kraiyoorawong says “staff have made some ‘unofficial’ attempts to get information from the Department of Corrections about his [Chartchai’s] condition and treatment.” But guess what: “Under the Covid-19 crisis, we [NHRC] have not been allowed access to the prison to see people…”. Other concerned by his condition are also denied information. Prachatai reports that the “his family and lawyer were not able to speak to his doctor or obtain information on his condition.”

The impression is of a callous, deliberately dangerous, and unjust system seeking to punish even those not convicted of a crime and held without bail on trifling charges. Of course, they are political charges.

In another branch of the royalist swill, the police are still at it. Pol Col Thitisan “Joe” Uttanapol or “Joe Ferrari,” has reportedly been charged “with premeditated murder by means of torture, unlawful deprivation of liberty and malfeasance.” Despite all the evidence leaked, Joe now claims “he just ‘assaulted’ the victim, and did not torture and murder him.” He’ll probably get off. The pattern will be for witnesses to be paid off or strong-armed, for the case to be drawn out for years, and with public attention having moved on, and judges gingered up and rewarded, Joe might get a suspended sentence. That’s how the system rots.

All in all, this is a sorry tale of how royalism corrupts, money corrupts, and political preferences corrupt.

But never fear, “good” people are at work. Into this fetid swamp masquerading as a judicial system, come the Education Ministry, “planning to modify the history curriculum in schools to strengthen learning amid recent moves by youth groups against the kingdom’s highest institution [they mean the monarchy].” Yes, cleaning up Thailand means pouring palace propaganda into children. We suppose that this is an admission that the never-ending and expensive royalist buffalo manure over 50 years has failed to get sufficient cowering acquiescence. We do know that those who have drunk most at the fount of royalist propaganda are the most corrupt.

 





Masters of repression I

14 07 2021

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have published their June update. It makes for sorry reading, from using the virus emergency decree for political repression to the use of lese majeste against political activists.

According to the TLHR “at least 695 people in 374 cases have already been affected as a result of their political involvement and opinions since the ‘Free Youth’ rally on 18 July 2020 until the end of June 2021.” This includes “43 youths of under 18 years old…”.

In total, lese majeste charges have now been laid against more than 100 people.

Contempt of court and insulting the court cases case have grown. For the former, there have been at least 18 people in 14 cases “for participating in assemblies criticizing the judiciary since the Free Youth Rally until the end of May 2021.” Strikingly, “the Court can conduct a contempt trial and pass a judgment directly bypassing the investigation or prosecution process.”

TLHR also reports that the courts have routinely “imposed overly strict measures in courtrooms, including limiting the number of audience or requiring a preapproved permission. In all trials, the Court forbade notetaking claiming it was to keep order.” Such measures “were likely to undermine the principle of a free and fair trial.”

In addition to court and judicial processes, TLHR states that “[s]tate authorities continuously monitor and harass people who posted monarchy-related content and political activists…”. In June alone, the “authorities approached least 18 citizens who expressed monarchy-related or political opinions at their homes. These incidents occurred in all of the regions of the country…”.

TLHR also found that “at least 511 people in 162 cases had been accused of breaching the Emergency Decree provisions…”.

The regime may not be very good at virus mitigation, but it is highly skilled in acts of political repression.





Wealth, power and the corruption of justice

10 07 2021

With all of the virus stuff going on, we are a bit late getting to this post. However, as it concerns the seemingly never-ending saga of corruption and double standards in the judicial system, it merits a late post.

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post reported that all members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) have been ordered to “sit on a newly formed panel that is tasked with investigating 15 senior police officers, prosecutors and investigators who mishandled the 2012 hit-and-run case involving Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidh­ya, the Red Bull scion who has managed to escape prosecution so far.”

Apparently, after almost 10 years, the case is officially considered “high profile.” We guess that for all of the previous nine years the case has involved the high profile but that the judicial system was doing its well-paid best to do deals to get Boss off.

Vorayuth Red Bull

An AFP photo clipped from ChannelNews Asia

NACC chairman Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit has also decided, after all these years,”that the investigation must be wrapped up in a timely fashion…”. Right. But, then: “As required under Section 48 of the National Anti-Corruption Act, the NACC must conclude the probe within two years. It will be allowed by law to extend the investigation for another year at most, if more time is needed…”. So that could be 2024…. Timely… not.

The report reminds readers that there are “currently two other committees probing the issue.” We figure that “probing” is an over-statement.

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post states that this NACC “investigation” is “welcome news.” It notes the damage the case’s cover-up has done to the judicial system: “The anti-graft body would do a great service to the justice system and country at large with a swift investigation. It should also make sure to avoid all the mistakes by other agencies that performed at snail’s pace over the past nine years.”

Well, maybe. Of course, the NACC has generally been hopeless on almost all the cases sent to it, “investigating” with double standards and political affiliation always in mind. The rest of the judicial system has been equally biased and corrupt to boot.

The wheeling and dealing has been huge. Even before the NACC commissioners got to “work,” it seems that “one member, Suchart Trakulkasemsuk, withdrew from the panel.” Why? Because as a member of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly “he had been a member of NLA’s subcommittee on justice and had received a petition from Vorayuth’s family…”.

It turns out that the fabulously wealthy and immensely powerful Yoovidhya family were “allowed 14 appeal attempts … which is unprecedented.”

The Post concludes with the obvious: “the suggested three-year period seems far too long, taking into account the fact the case had dragged on for nearly a decade.”





Blame thyself

11 01 2021

A couple of days ago PPT pointed to an article discussing the long-standing failures of the police.

There’s an another article on police corruption, concentrating on anti-democrat Kaewsan Atibhodhi. Oddly, Thai PBS refers to this royalist propagandist as an “academic,” but that seems par for the course in the mainstream media.

He blames the current virus outbreak as a product of “COVID mafia.” This term refers to “corrupt officials who work hand in glove with local influential figures involved in illegal gambling, in eastern region of Thailand, and with human trafficking gangs, who smuggle migrant workers from Myanmar into Samut Sakhon province and illegal Thai workers from Myanmar back into Thailand.”

Kaewsan

Kaewsan claims that the “mafia system” is a “network” between “state officials and local influential figures…”. He reckons “that the influential figure in Rayong province has managed to buy the entire police force, be it the local police and the Bangkok police, including the Crime Suppression Division, by dealing with just one group of state officials.”

He went on to lament that “he didn’t expect the police will ever be reformed under the present government, and there is no real opposition in the parliament either, but only the vengeful group of politicians and another group bent on toppling the Monarchy.”

We do not disagree with Kaewsan’s assessment. However, as a lamentable royalist and a supporter of two military coups, he misses the most significant point: Kaewsan and his ilk bear considerable responsibility because it is they who, as anti-democrats, have supported the system that promotes this corruption and the impunity enjoyed by military, police and officials. By supporting regimes that roll back notions of responsibility and accountability and make impunity a central element of governance, they reinforce this kind of corruption.

Since the 2006 military coup and especially since the 2014 coup, the police force has not been cleansed or reformed. Rather, as we have said, it has been made royalist and junta/post-junta regime friendly. Constant corruption operates as a reward for loyalty and a lubrication for the the hierarchy.

Because of his complicity, Kaewsan is unable to speak the truth.





A bent legal system

9 01 2021

PPT recommends a long op-ed at Khaosod that focuses on the police. In discussions of the judicial system, PPT generally concentrates on the manipulation of the royalist judicial system – Prachatai has a relevant post, although we think that post overly optimistic.

The Khaosod post is about the long-standing failures of the police.

The corruption of the police is well-documented and amounts to a system.

That system works in the interests of the rich and powerful.

Since the 2006 military coup and especially since the 2014 coup, the police force has not been cleansed or reformed. Rather, it has been made royalist and junta/post-junta regime friendly. Constant corruption operates as a reward for loyalty and a lubrication for the the hierarchy. It is well-known that senior cops are the wealthiest of the corrupt that constitute the regime.

 





Law as political weapon

31 10 2020

It was only a few days ago that we posted on the ever pliant Election Commission deciding to file criminal charges against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for the time when he was with the Future Forward Party. It no coincidence that the regime believes Thanathorn behind the rallies. In addition, its pretty clear he’s being punished for his questioning of the monarch’s use of taxpayer funds and for posing a challenge to the ruling regime and the ruling class.

The regime’s strategy, managed by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and the odious Wissanu Krea-ngam is to tie the upstart opposition (and student protesters) into legal knots.

The Thai Enquirer reports on yet another regime move against the former Future Forward and now heading up the Progressive Movement.

The former leaders of the dissolved Future Forward Party – Thanathorn, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and Pannika Wanichhave – been summoned by police “to hear charges of sedition and other alleged crimes…”. As the newspaper puts it, this is “continuing a judicial campaign against people thought to be behind the current pro-democracy protests.”

Summoning the three is a step taken before issuing arrest warrants.

Piyabutr pointed out the bias and yet more bending of the rules for the regime:

“If the police take off their uniforms and think back to their second year in law school, they would know very well that almost every warrant that was issued [is not a real violation of section 116],” Piyabutr said.

“Thailand is unlucky because these police officers have to throw away everything they learned in order to become part of the government’s mechanism and serve the people in power,” he added.

A Bangkok Post picture

That the judicial system is now a tool for repression is now widely acknowledged – we have been saying it for years – with even the Bangkok Post’s opinion page scribbler Thitinan Pongsudhirak writing:

When Thailand’s justice system issues decisions that have political ramifications, fewer people are holding their breath these days because conclusions are increasingly foregone. In fact, when the historical record comes into fuller view, it will be seen that the politicisation of the judiciary has fundamentally undermined Thailand’s fragile democratic development and reinforced authoritarian rule that has been resurgent over the past 15 years.

He adds something else we have been saying for years:

The lesson is that Thailand’s political party system has been deliberately weakened and kept weak to keep established centres of power in the military, monarchy, judiciary, and bureaucracy paramount and decisive. No democracy can take root until voters have an equal say on how they are to be governed without the usurpation and distortion of party dissolutions and power plays behind the scenes.

The point of the junta’s time in power was to ensure that there was 20 years of non-democracy.





Updated: The political judiciary

28 10 2020

From long being a pretty somnolent part of the bureaucracy, in the 21st century, Thailand’s judiciary has shown that it can move politics in particular directions. The judiciary has demonstrated a capacity for politicized decision-making that has supported rightist, royalist and military interests. Its double standards are now legendary.

Sure, sometimes a court makes a decision that goes against the political grain, but these are exceptions to what is now a rule.

The most politicized of judges, who do as they are required, get rewarded. The most recent is the appointment of Nurak Mapraneet as a privy councilor. He is a former president of the Constitutional Court. He became court president in 2007 following the 2006 military coup. During his tenure there, the Court dissolved six political parties, removed two prime ministers, nullified the 2014 election, banned scores of politicians, and accepted a king’s announcement as law. Quite a record and now he’s rewarded.

All of this is a preamble to an observation that the judicial system and the courts are again being used by the regime as a political weapon.

A couple of days ago, Thai Enquirer published a list of Thailand’s latest political prisoners. It is a list of list of university students, activists, and musicians who have been charged, since 18 July 2020, under Article 116 with sedition (21 persons) and Article 110 for committing an act of violence against the queen or her liberty (3 persons). It notes that “at least 60 other protestors have been charged for joining the pro-democracy protests between October 13 and October 24, according to TLHR and Amnesty International.” Many of these were charged with violating the emergency decree. Astoundingly, that number includes “two children, aged 16 and 17, and they will be prosecuted even though the severe state of emergency decree was lifted…”.

The courts get involved in these cases almost from the beginning. From a phase where those arrested were soon bailed by the courts, that has now ceased for those deemed to be “leaders.” It is as if an order has come from higher up, telling the judges not to release them. For example, there have been several instances where the political detainees have been granted bail and then immediately arrested on other charges. The most recent example is human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa. He was bailed by a Chiang Mai Court and then immediately re-arrested and transported to Bangkok by road to face another period in detention.

As was the pattern in lese majeste cases, we see the judiciary, police and corrections being used to punish, detain, and harass. We refer to this as “lese majeste torture.” The most awful example was the treatment meted out to Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. He’s now in jail and denied bail again. Also well aware of this tactic, having also been a lese majeste prisoner, is Akechai Hongkangwarn. He’s now denied bail on a spurious Article 110 charge.

Then there are the young “leaders.” Not only are they repeatedly denied bail, but the system ensures that they are treated to all the feudal rules of the prison system. While they have not yet had their heads shaved, they are given king-approved haircuts and made to wear prison uniforms and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul has been made to “dye her hair natural black,” if those words from the Bangkok Post make any sense at all.

But none of this makes much sense. It is just a dictatorial regime acting under orders.

Update: Khaosod reports that police are looking to charge some 16 persons: “Deputy Bangkok police chief Piya Tawichai told the media yesterday the police were gathering evidence to prosecute the embassy protesters…. Maj. Gen. Piya said a number of laws were violated, such as the public assembly act and libel.” Pro-democracy activists Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa are among those being “investigated.”

It is not reported whether the police are taking similar action against the yellow shirts who protested at the same embassy before the pro-democracy thousands.








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