Prawet’s lese majeste defiance

12 05 2018

After the completion of one lese majeste hero’s sentence, another hero faces his accuses with heroic defiance.

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk completed his seven-year sentence at the end of last month, still challenging the authorities and the law used against him. Prawet Praphanukul remains incarcerated on lese majeste charges, facing three separate sedition charges, computer crimes and 10 counts of lese majeste, could be sentenced to 171 years in jail. The legal maximum is 50 years, but when you are in your late 50s, 171 years or 50 years make little difference.

His case is one of several involving the alleged sharing a Facebook post on the theft of the 1932 revolution plaque on or about 5 April 2017. He’s been held since then and has repeatedly been refused bail.

The twinning of sedition and lese majeste tell us that the military dictatorship is determined to prevent any criticism of the king for his presumed role in the theft of the plaque.

Prawet is a human rights lawyer and has been defiant from the beginning. When he appeared in court on 18 September 2017, he stunned the court by stating that he did not accept the judicial system and did not wish to examine witnesses and evidence against him.

Prawet’s challenge is to the court’s impartiality. He wrote: “Thai courts do not have the legitimacy to try the case. Therefore, I declare that I do not accept the judicial process in the case.”

According to a Prachatai update – read it in full here – on 8 May 2018, the case resumed. Before testimony began,

Prawet had a heated 30-minute argument with two judges. He said he did not believe the court will rule his lèse majesté case with fairness and impartiality, given that the court repeatedly rejected his bail requests. So he asked the judges to try him in absentia and hand him the maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.

The judges responded “that they would rule the case with justice and sympathy to the defendant, adding that nobody can influence the court.”

Nobody could possibly believe such lies. The courts have repeatedly and consistently handed out huge sentences, applied the law to persons not covered by it, refused bail and breached the law and constitution on lese majeste.

Prawet’s reply was short and to the point: “he will not accept the authority of the court to prosecute him but would not obstruct testimony.”

As if to confirm their previous statement was buffalo manure – actually of far lesser value than fertilizer – the judges then closed the court for a secret trial.

UN staff protested but were ditched out of the court.

A verdict will read the verdict on 23 May 2018.

Prawet’s aim is to reveal the shortcomings and injustice of this pathetic judicial system.

Prawet also dismissed his lawyers and refused to sign any documents saying the “justice system was not sufficiently impartial to rule on royal defamation prosecutions, so he decided to deny the authority of the court.”

We salute Prawet. His stance is courageous and principled, words that have little meaning in Thailand’s deeply flawed (in)justice system.





The personal and the political

5 05 2018

A report at the Bangkok Post on Vorakorn Chatikavanij’s son and Korn Chatikavanij’s stepson states that he was charged with possession of cocaine.

Korn is a former Democrat Party minister and Vorakorn has been a yellow-shirted warrior. Korn is spectacularly wealthy. When great wealth meets the judiciary the result is usually in favor of the affluent.

Vorakorn and Korn

Cocaine is a Category 2 drug under Thai law. Changes to laws in 2016 means that Category 2 substances can mean the the offender faces six months to 10 years imprisonment and fines of 10,000 to 5 million baht. The changes also provided judges with more discretion.

The Bangkok South Criminal Court on Friday seemed to use truckloads of “discretion” when it released Panthit Mahapaurya “on bail of 10,000 baht in his cocaine possession case, and ordered him to report to a drug rehabilitation facility on June 21.”

The court “did not set any special conditions.” It ordered Panthit “to report at the end of the fourth detention period at 8.30am on June 21 to a psychosocial service centre of the courts to begin a drug rehabilitation programme.”

Sure, rehab might be sensible and this is bail and not sentencing, but we expect that this case will simply go away as the courts yet again make decisions on the “great and the good” using “principles” other than those in the law.

Cocaine is a rich person’s drug in Thailand and the rich enjoy it with relative impunity – think of the Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya who was rumored to have been doing a bit of sniffing prior to his murderous drive home.

As in everything legal in Thailand, the rich get special treatment and the poor get arrested, jailed, beaten and shot. Double standards are the only standards for the judiciary.





When the military is on top XXI

3 05 2018

A theme of our now long series of posts on When the Military is on Top has been the embedding of double standards. One set of rules for the junta and its partners and another for those not connected with the regime or its partners seem never-ending.

The latest example is related to land. Since it seized power the junta has emphasized “illegal” uses of “state” land. We use the inverted commas to mark the fact that some of this land was, several decades ago, allocated to state agencies, institutions and people as part of the military’s counterinsurgency operations.

So when the military becomes involved in expelling owners and smashing down resorts in areas like Khao Khor in Petchabun, one might ask how it is that the Royal Forest Department and the the Internal Security Operations Command co-operate now to “take legal action against all 135 mountainous resorts suspected of encroaching on a land plot in Khao Kho district within three months.”

No doubt some of these resorts are the plaything of the rich, but so much of the land in the area was allocated to farmers who were encouraged into the area after the battles with the communists there in the 1970s. That those farmers sold their land decades later is a reflection of ISOC’s 1970s policies never having recognized the property rights of the villagers it encouraged and even transported to the area.

The mistreatment of land protesters is reflective of similar processes that began decades ago as, also as part of a broad counter-communism policy, the state commodified land, allocated land and titles of various levels of tenure and then saw business people take advantage of this land market.

The Bangkok Post refers to the “temporary detention of land rights activists in Chiang Mai and Lamphun by security authorities [as] disgraceful.” While this is rightly seen as ” intimidation” by “soldiers and policemen were dispatched to deal with the growing disgruntlement of ordinary people who were merely trying to make their voices heard. But using force to shut people up is a barbaric tactic that will only intensify public displeasure against the military rulers,” the roots of the problems of land in the policies of previous military regimes should not be neglected.

The double standards are obvious when the judiciary’s luxury housing construction project in Chiang Mai is considered. Sanitsuda Ekachai makes the all too obvious points in her op-ed. As she says, representatives of the regime and the judiciary have loudly claimed that: “People and the forest can live together in harmony…”. But there are people and there are others.

The people who can live in harmony with forest are “good” people and the rest are the untrustworthy and the unworthy.





The unbelievables

25 04 2018

As a rule never receive information from military juntas as factual. Junta members, leaders and minions have no compunction about making stuff up. They may sometimes tell the truth, but they are the unbelievables.

In recent days we have seen examples of this manipulation of facts and truth.

For example, Khaosod reports that activists are incensed about judges and court officials demanding that their luxury “forest homes built … on Doi Suthep…” be maintained.

Supreme Court judge Chamnarn Rawiwannapong “suggested the protesters should let the court officials stay in their new mountain homes 10 years before assessing the environmental impact.” In other words, forget how this project was done and allow the judges to enjoy their luxury residences for a decade. Of course, by then, the protests will be forgotten and the judges and other judicial lucky ones can have their houses.

Chamnarn also argued “it’s not possible for the court to stop the construction because it already signed contracts and paid for the construction.”

Another former senior judge added to this creepy, self-centered and grasping narrative. Chuchart Srisaeng stated “that society would plunge into chaos if people allowed their emotions to guide their actions and judgement, and consider something wrong only when they did not gain any benefits from it.”

Who is getting the benefit in this? Protesters or the judges. It’s clear who is emotional and gaining benefit: the judges who worry they will miss out.

These selfish members of the bureaucratic elite cannot be believed.

Then there’s The Nation reporting ridiculous claims by The Dictator and his armed and unarmed colleagues that he’s not campaigning. Chief mouthpiece in this case is Bhum Jai Thai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul.

Anutin “played down suggestions that party members might be headhunted after it was revealed that the junta’s mobile Cabinet would take place in Buri Ram province next month.” As the article states, “Buri Ram is a political stronghold for Bhum Jai Thai and is the base of its prominent politician Newin Chidchob, who has gained greater popularity in recent years after becoming owner of the Buri Ram football club.”

Don’t believe these military opportunists.

Newin joined up with the military and judiciary to overthrow an elected government in late 2008 which brought Bhum Jai Thai into the ministry. Bhum Jai Thai was a proxy military party in the 2011 election.

Anutin said he “would welcome Prayut to the province and he would not want anyone to link the trip to politics.” That sounds like a lie and a threat.

While some “believe they [the junta] may arrange a secret deal, Anutin said he believed Newin was already happy where he was.” He added: “I don’t believe that anyone would dare to headhunt our men…”.

Believable? Not really. The claim does not preclude a deal between the military junta and the military-loving Bhum Jai Thai.





The slow death of the amart’s judiciary

14 04 2018

PPT remains somewhat confused as to why the miltiary junta sorted out the judiciary’s luxury housing project on the side of Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. Perhaps there are some hints in Wasant Techawongtham’s Bangkok Post op-ed.

The housing project “is said to be 98% completed at a cost of more than a billion baht.” The “project was ill-conceived. Some might even argue it was unlawful.”

He then acknowledges that the project “will certainly go down in the history books for setting a precedent that sent tremors through the establishment.” Why’s that? Shooting down dozens of demonstrators and jailing hundreds seems not to bother the “establishment,” sometimes known as the amart.

Apparently, it was “unrestrained public criticism of the judiciary” that was shaking the establishment to its (judicial) foundation. Wasant says that such criticism “was almost unheard of before this case exploded on social media.”

We are not sure that Wasant has been listening. What of all that talk of double standards? He wasn’t listening because he has the royalist position on judiciary. He says:

Courts are normally held in awe as judges are believed to perform their duties with the King’s authority. Any slight against a judge is taken to be a slight against the monarch.

Lawyers and laymen alike observe strict protocol when making comments about judicial decisions or conduct so as to avoid being cited for contempt of court….

The mountain is part of Doi Suthep–Pui National Park, which is also where the Bhubing Palace, the winter residence of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and family, is located.

Is this the reason for the junta’s rapid decision to solve this issue?

If these links are important how is it “the judiciary became the receptacle for the masses to vent their frustration and anger at all that has gone wrong under the regime — the lack of freedom, double standards, blatant inequality, cronyism, corruption and all those other social and economic ills affecting the majority of citizens.”

Yet Wasant is pretty sure the foundation of the establishment can be “saved”: “Despite widespread criticism, I believe the judiciary remains the most respected part of the bureaucracy.”

Think again. The umbilical cord from judiciary to establishment, monarchy and military dictatorship is one negative. But the politicized nature of the its “work” has undermined the judiciary.





Updated: A remarkable capacity for protecting the rich and powerful

4 04 2018

Khaosod reports that “[r]egional prosecutors dropped five of 11 charges including animal cruelty filed against Italian-Thai Development President Premchai Karnasuta, but will seek to prosecute him on the other six counts.”

Glass half-full you might think. Perhaps not. In Thailand’s legal system there are many ways in which the rich and powerful get out of unexpected judicial dealings – they never expect to be arrested and charged.

One tried and trusted method is to drag out proceedings, sometimes over years and years. All along, the rich/powerful person remains on bail and seeks to have charges dropped, eliminate those testifying against them, pay off victims and/or bribe police, prosecutors and/or judges.

We see some of this in Premchai’s case. He’s trying to wait out the interest in the case. Media and activist interest will, he hopes, eventually, die down. When the case is no longer high profile, he hopes he can quietly settle the case.

In Premchai’s case, the charges dropped were “that he entered the sanctuary without permission with guns and ammunition and committed animal cruelty.”

Double standards? You bet.

Update: According to Thai PBS, police have “objected” to the dropping of the five charges. But not all it seems, as the police want nine charges, while saying “its up to the prosecutor.” It can all be a part of negotiations complicated by the current high-profile case. Or it could be political theater.





When the military is on top XVII

30 03 2018

In another egregious example of the warping of society under the military boot, The Nation reports that “Army chief General Chalermchai Sittisart has given the green light to resume construction of court buildings and official residences at the foot of Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep, near [right at the edge of] Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.”

The same report states that the “plot in question is considered Ratchaphatsadu land belonging to the state. However, when the project started two decades ago, the plot was under the authority of the Army.”

So why the chief Army thug has his say on this seems to reflect the way Thai society and administration has been militarized.

Chalermchai declared that the “[p]roject ‘gone too far to stop’ despite residents’ environmental worries…”. He added: “As our investigation found construction had proceeded in line with the law and it was already 95 per cent complete, I have allowed the construction work to resume…”. He’s the boss!

Significantly, the large plot of land – 24 ha – cutting a swathe into forest is building luxury houses for judiciary officials based in Chiang Mai. It seems the judiciary has been such a loyal ally in politicized rulings that the military junta is rewarding it.

 

From the Bangkok Post

Construction of the judges and associated staff luxury houses will “cost about Bt1 billion.” Then there will be additional services and fine furnishing.

The Bangkok Post reports that local residents are livid about the judicial housing project essentially involving clearing all trees from the site.

Now the Army boss has “ruled,” he expects all discussion and debate to cease. This is what happens when the military is on top.