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.





Free detained monarchy critics

20 07 2022

Human Rights Watch media release on the continuing detention of Netiporn “Bung” Sanesangkhom and Nutthanit “Bai Por” Duangmusit:

(Bangkok) – Thai authorities should immediately drop the charges and release pro-democracy activists detained for insulting the monarchy (lese majeste), Human Rights Watch said today.

Two of the activists, Netiporn “Bung” Sanesangkhom and Nutthanit “Bai Por” Duangmusit, have been on a hunger strike since June 2, 2022 to protest their pretrial detention at Bangkok’s Central Women Correctional Institution. Pending their release, they should immediately be transferred to a hospital where they can receive appropriate medical attention. On July 18, the two activists collapsed during a witness examination at the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court due to severe stomach pains and fatigue.

“Thai authorities should drop the politically motivated cases against Netiporn, Nutthanit, and others charged for their peaceful protests to reform the monarchy,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The Thai government is harshly punishing these activists by unnecessarily holding them in prolonged pretrial detention instead of releasing them prior to trial.”

Netiporn, 26, and Nutthanit, 20, who are affiliated with the pro-democracy Thalu Wang group, have regularly advocated reforming the monarchy. The authorities have charged them with various criminal offenses, including lese majeste, for conducting a public opinion poll on February 8 about royal motorcades. Since May 3, the authorities have held them in pretrial detention, and that detention has been repeatedly extended.

Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code makes lese majeste punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The number of lese majeste cases in Thailand has significantly increased in the past year, Human Rights Watch said. After almost a three-year hiatus in which lese majeste cases were not brought before the courts, in November 2020 the prime minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, ordered the authorities to restore lese majeste prosecutions, ostensibly because of growing criticisms of the monarchy. Since then, officials have charged more than 200 people with lese majeste crimes in relation to various activities at pro-democracy rallies or comments on social media.

Holding those charged with lese majeste in pretrial detention violates their rights under international human rights law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand ratified in 1996, encourages bail for criminal suspects. Article 9 states, “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.” Those whose charges have not been dropped should be tried without undue delay, Human Rights Watch said.

The ICCPR protects the right to freedom of expression. General Comment 34 of the Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors compliance with the covenant, states that laws such as those for lese majeste “should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person that may have been impugned” and that governments “should not prohibit criticism of institutions.”

“The Thai government should permit peaceful expression of all viewpoints, including questions about the monarchy,” Sifton said. “The authorities in Thailand should engage with United Nations experts and others about amending the lese majeste law to bring it into compliance with international human rights standards.”

Netiporn (l) and Baipor (r), clipped from Prachatai

Prachatai reports on the two women and their continued detention: “Monarchy reform activists Nutthanit and Netiporn, who are being held in pre-trial detention on … [Article 112] charges, have once again been denied bail despite being hospitalized after collapsing during a witness examination hearing from severe pain and fatigue from their hunger strike.” It adds: “On Tuesday (19 July), the South Bangkok Criminal Court denied bail for Nutthanit and Netiporn, claiming that their physical examination report shows that their health is normal.”

What is abnormal is the royalist judiciary.





Updated: Music that offends royalists

10 07 2022

The royalist Criminal Court has banned Rap Against Dictatorship’s song “Patiroop” (Reform/ปฏิรูป).

The song criticizes the royalist-military government’s performance and, probably more significant for the court, it supports demands for reform of the feudal monarchy.

The fascist functionaries at the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society earlier suspended the “posting of this music video’s URL and then appeal[ed] to the court to halt its distribution.”

The court objected to “profanity” used in the song and declared that “its lyrics conveys a message that affects state security.” They mean the monarchy and its hangers-on.

The crusty judges declared the song “is not a creative contribution to society.” The court probably prefers the dead king’s musical detritus.

The court used the Computer Crimes Act Section 14 (3) in conjunction with Section 20″ to ban the song. It is now geo-blocked on YouTube. Try Vimeo.

Update: Prachatai has a longer account of this case and more detail on the royalist judiciary.





The weight that is 112

6 07 2022

Article 112 is stifling not just dissent, but Thailand itself. The weight of Article 112 is felt by the young, the innovative, and just about everyone who is interested in a more open politics. Blame the regime. Blame the royalist drivel taught in schools and paraded through the media. Blame ultra-royalists and their infantile attachment to symbols of a feudal path. Blame a judiciary that has lost its way as it protects neo-feudalism.

Of course, as everyone knows, there are attempts to change things. Such efforts are usually met by repression doled out by a blood-thirsty military.

The most recent effort to change things and to roll back neo-feudalism began two years ago. La Prensa Latina has an article about this anniversary and meets up with some of the leading protesters and the manner in which the military-monarchist regime has sought to silence them with lawfare and the legal weight of lese majeste and other serious charges.

Clipped from Prachatai

The article begins with Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul. She now attends university classes wearing an electronic monitoring (EM) device on her ankle. The 23 year-old has been charged with 10 counts of violating the lese-majeste law and a 16 other charges.

The regime’s idea is that semi-house arrest, EM, a 9pm to 6am curfew, and a myriad of legal cases means she’s got no time or opportunity for much else.

Maynu Supitcha, a 20 year-old university student from Thaluwang “has conducted street surveys on the monarchy, and other peaceful protest actions, for which they said authorities handed them three lese-majeste charges.” Maynu also has EM.

Panupong “Mike Rayong” Jardnok, “said he has been slapped with more than 40 charges, including 16 related to lese-majeste, which could see him spend nearly a lifetime in jail.”

 

According to recent data there are now some 210 Article 112 cases since November 2020.





Hunger strikers

14 06 2022

For those who haven’t already seen it, a few days ago, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights posted on the long list of political prisoners who have used a hunger strike to push back against the regime and its jailing-happy judiciary: “Since the May 2014 coup, at least 18 activists and civilians have chosen “hunger strike” as a method of protest to call for justice …, especially with the purpose to demand the right to bail.”

The review argues that:

the “hunger strike” tactic first started in 2016 with Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa, the then activist of pro-democracy Dao Din group. After being arrested for handing out leaflets to campaign against the Meechai Ruchuphan’s proposed constitution draft, Jatupat — at the time detained at the Phu Khiao District Prison in Chaiyaphum province, northeastern Thailand — went on a hunger strike for the whole 12 days of his pre-trial detention to protest against the illegitimate referendum process and unlawful arrests of activists.





Criticism, monarchy, and lese majeste torture

29 12 2021

Jatuphat in jail on an earlier 112 charge

Khaosod reports that monarchy-reform protesters Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa and Panupong Jadnok “will no longer apply for bail after repeated refusals to grant them bail while they face multiple lese majeste charges.”

Their attorney, Krisadang Nutcharus said that it is “now be up to the criminal court to consider whether to let the four be released so they could have a fair chance to fight the cases or not.”

Krisadang explained: “The court has the power to end the temporary detention. I will continue to assist [the defendants] but they think the court no longer wants to let them out on bail…”.

The four state that the repeated bail denials means that they are unable to “prepare themselves to fight a fair trial and goes against the international obligations Thailand has to the international community.”

The report quotes former lese majeste political prisoner, Akechai Hongkangwarn. He believes the four now know that:

Penguin during an earlier period in jail. Clipped from Prachatai

they won’t be released before the verdicts are handed [down]. They have requested for bail many times and the repeated denials left them with bitterness. They will probably spend next year in prison if not longer. I understand them and those outside the prison must carry on. If they don’t come out onto the streets, the chance of the four being forgotten would increase…”.

That’s exactly what the regime, palace – with the spendthrift and erratic king back in Thailand – and courts wants: to silence them and to keep them locked up so that the protests lose momentum and leadership. It is also the well-used tactic of keeping those accused of lese majeste locked up until they plead guilty, thus avoiding a proper trial. Several former political prisoners suffered under this neo-feudal system for several years.

Clipped from The Nation

Meanwhile, Thai PBS has a year-ender on criticism of the monarchy and calls for change. It gets some things wrong. For example, it claims: “Before the birth of the youth-led protest movement in 2020, criticism of the monarchy and calls for changes to the institution [monarchy] were only limited to academia.” Only the historically dimwitted could make such a claim. It demeans earlier criticism of the monarchy. Think of some of the red shirts and the students of 1973-76 as two examples. At the same time, it should be noted that academics calling criticizing the monarchy were thin on the ground.

In many ways, as they acknowledge themselves, the current reformers draw on a legacy going back to 1932. And, it is true that this round of questioning the monarchy has meant that the monarchy has been “widely discussed in Thai society.” That’s a real achievement but has come at great cost to the reformers as the lese majeste and other repressive laws have been used and police have attacked and arrested demonstrators (and others).

As the Thai PBS article observes, the judiciary has become crucial in opposing the reformers. Not only does it lock them up, but the “Constitutional Court verdict last month seemed designed to silence the discussion [about the monarchy and reform].”

In a ludicrous verdict, the court ruled that speeches on monarchy reform “amounted to attempts to overthrow the country’s democratic system with the King as head of state.” But the threat of lese majeste charges against those reporting accurately about monarchy and reform has silenced critical voices and made the media compliant. So much so that the mainstream media barely even reports on lese majeste cases.





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.








%d bloggers like this: