Hunger strikers resolute but health deteriorates

6 02 2023

Activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong, who are undergoing a hunger strike to demand the release of political prisoners and judicial reform are in danger (see below).

Prachatai reports that on Saturday, the two vowed to continue their fast. In that report, Krisadang Nutcharus, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), said that:

he and the two activists’ parents met Tantawan and Orawan on Friday (3 February), and reported that they were alert and were able to hold a conversation. Krisadang said he informed Tantawan and Orawan that the National Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Justice have issued a joint statement promising reform of the judicial system, while several political parties have agreed to discuss issues related to the royal defamation law [Article 112] and sedition law in parliament. He also told them that the Court of Justice held a press conference on bail on that Friday (3 February), and read them the press release, which Tantawan and Orawan said did nothing and said nothing.

Krisadang said that he also told them that many activists have been allowed to take off their monitoring bracelets, and that the court is considering bail requests for many political prisoners. Nevertheless, the two activists said they will continue with their hunger strike until every political prisoner is released and asked TLHR to post bail for everyone still detained again on Monday (6 February).

“[Tantawan and Orawan] believe that, the Ministry of Justice, the National Human Rights Commission or political parties tend to listen to the people,” Krisadang said, “… but the court has never listened. They have asked me to tell you that they will continue their hunger strike, but they are not trying to pressure the court. They wanted to prove whether what the court spokesperson said, that the court uses human rights principles when ruling on cases was true.”

The report also notes that Orawan’s father Suchart Phuphong said:

the medical team told him to wait until Monday to be told what can be done, but he said that Orawan’s condition is considered critical to her parents although her doctors say they need to keep monitoring her, and that they are concerned that she may not make it to Monday.

Suchart called on the powers that be to have sympathy when someone is using a method the two activists are using to demand the rights Thai people should already have, and to keep someone who is the nation’s future healthy and strong.

Later, Prachatai has tweeted:

Parents of hunger striking activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong have been contacted by their doctors, who said that they have gotten worse and asked that the families and lawyers visit them tomorrow morning {Monday].#ตะวันแบม





Courts caught (in a bind)

3 02 2023

A couple of days ago we had a post that raised a question regarding judicial double standards on actress Savika “Pinky” Chaiyadej who won approval from the Criminal Court to remove an electronic monitoring (EM) device.

In that post we mentioned that there had been no such leniency for lese majeste and other political prisoners.

That has suddenly changed.

Bailed on lese majeste and sedition charges, several activists seized on Pinky’s case.  Thai PBS reports that the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court “agreed to the request of five anti-establishment protesters yesterday (Wednesday), to have electronic monitoring (EM) tags removed.”

The report says the “five protesters are Chonthicha Jaengrew, Panupong Jadnok, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Weha Saenchonchanasuek and Nawapon Ton-ngam.”

As well as the Pinky precedent, it may be that the sustained criticism of the judiciary from the hunger strikes has had an impact.





Managing the corruption system

1 02 2023

As often happens when authoritarian governments are in place for a long time, corruption becomes embedded, systemic, and necessary for keeping the corrupt together and supportive.

Of late, reports of corruption have been legion. Yet the Bangkok Post has a jubilant headline, “Thailand improves in corruption survey.” Seriously? It turns out that Transparency International has ranked Thailand 101 out of 180 in its ranking. The Post says the country’s score went up one point and adds:

In 2014, the year Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha staged a military coup, the country was ranked 85th, an improvement from 102nd in 2013. Its ranking rose to 76th in 2015 but plunged to 101st place the following year. It recovered to 96th in 2017 but then began a downward move to 99th in 2018, 101st place in 2019, 104th in 2020 and 110th in 2021.

Let’s be realistic. This is a ranking that puts Thailand among a bunch of dubious places. We’d guess that if perceptions were surveyed today, they’d plummet, largely thanks to the mafia gang known as the Royal Thai Police and the mammoth horse trading by the coalition parties.

Rotten to the core

While on the corrupt cops, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has mumbled something about a few bad apples in the police. He has “insisted that any police officers involved in extorting money from a Taiwanese actress during her trip to Thailand early this month must face legal action.” He added: “Don’t let the issue ruin the reputation of the whole police organisation.”

We are not sure which reputation he refers to. As far as we can tell, the organization is rotten to the core.

Gen Prayuth reckons “we must get rid of rogue ones…”. Our guess is that if he was serious – he isn’t – just about every senior officer would be gotten rid of. The corruption system siphons money up to the top. There’s been little effort to follow up on data revealed when the regime established its post-coup assembly. Back then, the average declared assets for the top brass in the police was a whopping 258 million baht.

Even when senior police display their loot, nothing is done. Who remembers former police chief Somyos Pumpanmuang? He stacked loot in public! He’s still wealthy.

The Post has another headline: “Court lets ‘Pinky’ remove electronic tag.” It reports:

Actress Savika “Pinky” Chaiyadej on Tuesday won approval from the Criminal Court to remove an electronic monitoring (EM) device she was required to wear after her release from jail on Nov 30 last year.

She is on bail, accused of defrauding millions in the Forex-3D ponzi scheme.How did her lawyers convince the judge?

Her lawyer lodged a request for the court’s permission to remove the EM device, saying it was an impediment to her show business career.

Of course, there’s no such leniency for lese majeste and other political prisoners when they eventually get bail (some, of course, never do). Double standards? You bet!

Double standards and corruption are a feature of the monarchy-military regime. Part of the reason for this is mutual back-scratching. Much that the regime does makes the bureaucrats more or less untouchable. The judiciary is always there in support on the important issues.

We note that another junta and Prayuth supporter, former charter writer Udom Rathamarit, has been appointed to the Constitutional Court. That is an important part of the whole corrupt system.





Monarchy reform rejuvenated

27 01 2023

As a follow-up to our previous post, here we reproduce a post from Prachatai’s FB page:

Anon Nampa gives a speech, saying that he has received a phone call from a high-ranking figure in Pheu Thai party that, on Friday, every opposition party will make a statement to support Tantawan and Orawan. Their demands will be to amend the royal defamation charge at the minimum, and abolish the law at the maximum.

He went on, saying the new wave of pro-democracy movement starting in 2020 defies those who said it had won nothing. Examples given were the emergence of activist groups like Thalufah, Thaluwang, or Thalugaz, the anti-torture bill’s approval, and the lawmakers scrutinies over the Royal Office annual budget.

Clipped from Prachatai FB (photo credit Chana La)

Moreover, the authorities’ retaliation to the movement has consolidated them and created more allies across generations, and the fights between democracy and authoritarianism have sparked everywhere.

“Let us pass the message to Tawan and Bam that. This day, this place, we have awakened and ready to fight side by side with the two of them and those who are in prison…This is the clash between the old and the new idea, democracy and authoritarianism. This clash will take place in every fibre, every class.”

“We talked in 2020 with due truth. They took us to the Court, the conservatives said ‘prove yourself in the Court’, but when we tried to prove by asking for the travel document [of King Rama X to Germany], the Court did not issue [the document request]. Are they scared of the truth?” said Anon.

Anon asked the demonstrators to come out, raise their voice to the Court over the injustice the political detainees have received. If the political prisoners are all released, the political parties respond to the two’s pleas, it would be more reasonable to tell them to save their own lives to see the justice reform demands being done.





Brave women I

17 01 2023

Prachatai reports that activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong went to Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court on 16 January 2023 to file for bail revocation for themselves. Both are facing several charges, including lese majeste. The article states:

Clipped from Prachatai

The two activists stood in front of the Court entrance and poured red paint on themselves, before announcing their demand that every activist and protester detained for their involvement in the pro-democracy protest must be released within 3 days. They will also not be filing for bail again until their demands are met, and if no response is made by 18 January, other activists, including those still detained, will be taking further actions.

They called for a reform of judicial system so that human rights and freedom of expression take priority, and so that courts are independent and protect people’s freedom, as well as for judges to make decisions without intervention from their own executives.

They also called for all charges against those exercising their freedoms of expression and assembly to be dropped, and for every political party to back the repeal of the royal defamation law and sedition law to guarantee people’s right, freedom, and political participation….

The courts accepted these self-revocations.

These are determined and brave women. All power to them. Thailand’s best.

As usual, it is Prachatai reporting this, with not a peep – as far as PPT can see – in any of the English-language local media. That media seems not only frightened but cowed by the regime, the judiciary, and palace. Almost no news regarding the use of lese majeste appears in any of these outlets.





A recent history of lese majeste

20 10 2022

Readers may be interested in an article by Sulakshana Lamubol of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights for the Southeast Asia Globe. The article is something of a history of recent Article 112 cases.

It observes that “Thailand has the harshest royal defamation laws in the world, which punishes offenders with three to 15 years imprisonment.” Add to this the fact that an individual may face several charges and the result is sometimes mammoth sentences.

The recent use of Article 112 has become ever more politicized: “Since the military coup in 2006, lèse-majesté has become a perfect political tool for the authorities, as well as ultraconservative citizens, to silence those who criticise the government, the role of the monarchy, or even this law itself.”

The result is that, since 2020, “at least 215 individuals – including 17 minors – in 234 cases, have been charged and/or prosecuted with the law.” 10 individuals have been found guilty of this political crime since 2020.

TLHR explains “that the court’s judgments establish dangerous precedents for the country’s freedom of speech and assembly amidst heavy calls from the people demanding historic political changes.”

Sulakshana concludes: “The more the Thai state uses royal defamation to suppress the people’s freedom of speech to maintain ‘reverence,’ the result will be the opposite. Respect and faith of one’s public institution must be earned from the people — not forced.”





The military-monarchy regime’s judiciary

21 09 2022

Prachatai reports on more outlandish efforts by the royalist judiciary to “protect” the monarchy:

For the past 9 months, the Criminal Court has been refusing to issue summonses for documents requested by lawyers representing activists charged with royal defamation [Article 112] for the 19 September 2020 protest to be used as evidence, delaying the witness examination process.

Defense lawyers “have not been able to cross examine prosecution witnesses, as the Court has refused to issue summonses for documents requested by the defendants to use as evidence in the cross examination process. Some documents were the subject of a summons, but the defendants have yet to receive them.”

A Bangkok Post picture

The lawyers requested six documents from several agencies, “including records of King Vajiralongkorn’s travels, records of the Royal Offices and of the Crown Property Bureau’s budget spending, and documents relating to a court case filed by the Ministry of Finance against King Prajadhipok and Queen Rambai Barni.”

Of course, these requests are seen by royalists as provocative, damaging, and threatening. The royalist courts can’t ask because they fear this will lead to even more criticism of the monarchy. They may also be frightened to request them.

Yet the defence needs the documents “because the public prosecutor [has] indicted the activists on the grounds that their speeches about the crown’s budget and King Vajiralongkorn’s alleged stay in Germany are false…”.

As everyone knows, if the documents were provided, the defendants would be shown to be correct and truthful. The courts don’t want that.





Royalists courts play royalist politics II

2 09 2022

Arnon Nampa, facing up to a dozen lese majeste charges, and himself a lawyer with long experience of defending political prisoners, has asked the Judicial Commission, an in-house board meant to keep the judiciary in order, and the Chief Justice of the Criminal Court “to investigate Attakarn Foocharoen, Deputy Chief Justice of the Criminal Court, whom he accuses of meddling in his [lese majeste and computer crimes] court case without having any authority to do so.”

The case goes back to a protest on 8 November 2020 calling for monarchy reform. Anon received a letter on 4 August 2022,” calling an additional [previously unscheduled] hearing, and stating that the witnesses examined in the previous hearing were not related to the event at issue.” That letter was “signed by Attakarn and dated 21 July.” Attakarn is not a member of the committee considering the case, and “[b]y law, it is the responsibility of the judge who oversees the case to plan the trial process and approve what witnesses shall be heard.”

Arnon reckons “Attakarn’s intervention would infringe the judge’s independence.”

Legal niceties and the law itself seldom impinge on lese majeste cases.

Arnon (L). Clipped from The Nation

Arnon “insisted that the trial must be free from interference by Court administrators.” It was revealed that Attakarn had used his position to intervene in “many other political cases…”.

The justice system, always worrisome for its corruption, has been blatantly politicized and instrumentalized since the dead king’s intervention in 2006. The judges now at the top of the judiciary have been eager to serve king and regime.





Molam Bank

8 08 2022

Clipped from Sanam Ratsadon

Readers may find Sanam Ratsadon’s interviews with Patiwat Saraiyaem, a northeastern folk singer-poet known as Molam Bank: “I’ll live out a hundred lifetimes, but they won’t have my forgiveness” and “Freedom returned. Smoldering with rage.”

Patiwat Saraiyaem was a 23 year-old student, Secretary General of the Student Federation of the North East, and an activist at Khon Kaen University when he was arrested on 14 August 2014 and later charged with lese majeste by prosecutors.

He was sent to jail for 2.5 years on 23 February 2015.

Patiwat, along with activist Pornthip Munkhong, was arrested for his involvement in a political play, The Wolf Bride, about a fictional monarch and kingdom in 2013.

Following his arrest, Patiwat was denied bail at least six times.

The royalist judges stated that: “performing the play … was an act of defamation and insult in front of numerous people…. Moreover, it was disseminated on many websites, causing damage to the monarchy, which is revered by all Thais [sic.]. Such action is a grave crime that warrants no suspension of the punishment.”

Patiwat was released on 12 August 2016.





“Integrity” and “”transparency”

2 08 2022

There are times when one reads newspapers and wonder if the journalists involved have recently suffered as severe head knock or if they are lazy or perhaps think that the starkness of a report damns those involved.

Take, as an example, The Nation’s report on Nok Air’s skid off a landing strip at a provincial airport. Of course, not all accidents require an emergency evacuation, but the “explanation” from Nok Air was a doozy: “Nok Air said it decided against evacuating passengers via slides immediately because the ground had many puddles due to heavy rain. Also, it said, it was worried about their safety as it was dark outside and there may be dangerous animals lurking in the area.” Do we take it that snakes, tigers, and bears are loose inside the provincial airport? Surely a truthful statement that the pilot did not consider emergency evacuation necessary might have been a competent statement?

Truth is always fraught among the elite in Thailand.

Then there’s the report, also at The Nation, that announces the results of the National Anti-Corruption Commission’s integrity and transparency assessment that “the Royal Thai Air Force, the Royal Thai Army, the Royal Thai Navy and the Supreme Command passed the criteria of 85 ITA points.” In addition, “the three main courts – the Central Administrative Court, the Court of Justice and the Constitutional Court – passed the assessment with an average score of 90.06 per cent,” while the “agencies of Parliament – the King Prajadhipok’s Institute, the Senate Secretariat and the House Secretariat – also passed the assessment with an average score of 95.55 per cent.”

No doubt many choked on their coffee or rice soup when reading this. What about secret trials, corrupt commission payments, torture, buying parties and parliamentarians, convicted drug dealers in parliament, illegal military coups, the Constitutional Court’s partisanship, and so on and so on?

As it turns out, the NACC’s ITA is largely a box-ticking effort at managerialism in administration. And, as the Bangkok Post points out, even this bureaucratic transparency washing exercise failed to meet the NACC’s own targets.

So, no, the world has not been turned upside down, except for some box-tickers. These agencies are as corrupt as they have ever been and having a military-backed regime in place just makes it all less transparent.








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