Lese majeste expanding madly

15 10 2017

Since the 2006 royalist military coup, the use of the lese majeste law has been expanded and deepened. Under the military dictatorship its use has become downright bizarre. By the month ever more absurd cases are being pursued.

Some of the downright absurd charges and allegations have involved: “insulting” a dead king’s dead dog, expressing doubt about an ancient king’s elephant battle, juveniles, jailing the family of the new king’s ex-wife, “insulting” a long dead king, a palace associate who sold oversized chilli paste to the new king’s household, fraudsters and grifters charged under Article 112 and much more.

None of these cases have anything much at all to do with the law as written. All of these cases have been assessed by an unstated royalist judicial view of what might, possibly, perhaps, cause others to think less of the existing monarchy. (Yes, we know the current monarch is starting pretty low.) There’s also a lot of unexpressed fear of not being royalist enough. And, there’s the requirement to be seen to be doing the required posterior polishing.

In a recent story, Khaosod reports that a lese majeste charge “might be filed against a construction company that allegedly defrauded 300 million baht from its victims…”.

The Department of Special Investigation has nabbed the Hujjee Group for having “solicited investment by claiming to have won major contracts in Myanmar from bogus royal family members of the Mon ethnic group there.”

Bogus royals? In Myanmar? DSI is “considering” whether to file a lese majeste charge against the seven people already in custody other suspects still being pursued.

This seems like just another group of garden variety of fraudsters who are so common in Thailand, but their alleged claims are about Myanmar and a bogus royal family that has no relationship with Thailand’s monarchy.

Should the DSI file lese majeste charges, the next step might be to charge companies like King Power, Hotel Royal Bangkok, Royal Coffee, Royal Airport Services, Royal Skyways, Royal Foods and even similar companies in other countries for using allusions to the monarchy in their trading names!

It’s getting that risible.





Criticism is not contempt

24 08 2017

Don’t criticize the monarchy, their pets or dead kings (and any other body the royalists get exited about). They are protected by the lese majeste and computer crimes laws.

Don’t criticize The Dictator or the military junta. They are protected by defamation, sedition and computer crimes laws.

Don’t criticize the judiciary. It is protected by contempt and computer crimes laws.

Perhaps because these three groups and bodies have, by their own actions, been so politicized the invention, re-invention and application of these laws has been so crucial for Thailand’s turn to feudalism and authoritarian rule.

Khaosod has a long story on the judiciary’s use of contempt laws to protect its tarnished reputation.

We won’t do more than quote a couple of parts of the story.

On Monday, a court fined prominent transparency activist Srisuwan Janya 700,000 baht. He was found guilty of the same offense that in the past week alone has seen a former politician given a suspended jail term and a media agency cowed into self-censorship….

Contempt of court, a law once limited to maintaining order in court proceedings, is now being interpreted to cover a broad range of offenses in the kind of creeping legal expansion that have reshaped other draconian laws, such as the Computer Crime Act and lese majeste, into powerful weapons against dissent.

The trend has alarmed a number of lawyers who fear the integrity of the justice system is in jeopardy….

Thammasat University law professor Piyabutr Saengkanokkul warned that an unchecked power to punish alleged violators could lead to a completely unaccountable judiciary….

Now the law is being used for crowd control. The authorities are anxious about an outpouring of support for former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra when the verdict in her malfeasance trial is read Friday – a verdict many expect to not be in her favor.

On Sunday, police announced supporters – or gatherings of any kind – would not be allowed outside the court that day.

… Piyabutr said punishing criticism of any institution is contrary to the principle of accountability.

“Since the court exercises sovereign power that belongs to the people, the people are entitled to the right to scrutinize, criticize and disagree with the court,” he wrote.

The courts, with double standards and politicized rulings, has much to “protect.” In fact, criticism of courts is permitted in most non-authoritarian polities. Contempt is something different.





Light yellow standards

24 07 2017

The Bangkok Post reports on yet another (partial) victory for the yellow shirts of the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

In another example of double standards and a politicized judiciary, the Appeals Court reduced “two-year jail terms imposed by the primary court for their seizure of Government House in an attempt to oust then-prime minister Samak Sundaravej in 2008.” The court declared that their illegal occupation was “not intended to benefit certain groups or their own interests…”. In other words, the judge reckons they acted in the “public interest.” This is another example of “good people” double standards.

Thus the court reduced their sentence to eight months but did not suspend imprisonment.

The PAD lawyer then declared an appeal to the Supreme Court and asked for bail for all but one of the defendants:  Chamlong Srimuang, Phibop Dhongchai, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Somsak Kosaisuk and Suriyasai Katasila. (Sondhi Limthongkul is in jail already for fraud.)

This result came almost two years after the lower court decision. Perhaps their next case will be in 2019 or 2020? SO far their sentences have been reduced from three to two years and now to eight months. We can guess that the next court will be even more sympathetic.





The emperor’s clothes may not be seen

5 05 2017

When the king is in residing in his beloved Germany, he is prone to behave in ways that are not seen in Thailand. The German media paparazzi has shown the king dressed in casual, indeed, in odd ways (see left).

No Thailand-based media outlet has dared to publish pictures or video of the casual king, although in the past they did publish photos of his father in casual – but not odd – attire such as Hawaiian shirts and shorts.

In Thailand, this king is portrayed in particular ways, usually at ceremonies and fully garbed in (usually) a military uniform (see below) or a dress suit.

It seems that the military junta is engaged in efforts to prevent Thais in Thailand from seeing the king in all his foreign “fashion” glory.

Prachatai reports that the junta has managed to convince Facebook to block pictures of the “German king” in Thailand.

It states:

On 4 May 2017, the exiled academic Somsak Jeamteerasakul announced on his Facebook that he has received an email from Facebook informing that one of his statuses violates Thailand’s 2007 Computer Crimes Act (CCA). Facebook has subsequently decided to restrict access to the post in Thailand.

“We’re contacting you because the Ministry of Digital Economy & Society [MDE] has sent us a Court Order issued by the Judge Tassanee Leelaporn and Judge Somyod Korpaisarn of the Criminal Court of Thailand stating that the following post you made on Facebook violates Section 14(3) of the Computer Crimes Act B.E. 2550 (2010),” read the email.

A court order from royalist judges is, for the dictators, a bit like sitting on the toilet – easy, normal and convenient. As we have stated previously, the courts in Thailand have been made a royalist tool for political repression.

Section 14(3) is about national security. As many readers will recall, a military junta has determined that the monarchy is a matter of “national security.” In the small military mind, this means that seeing photos of the king dressed casually is a threat to national security.

That Facebook accepts this kind of bizarre claim means that any crazy regime can enact any law it pleases and the Facebook money counters will comply (at least when they have a decent market in that tinpot dictatorship).

So now, instead of seeing Somsak’s post of a king in odd clothing users in Thailand get a message: “Content unavailable in Thailand.”

Prachatai states that:

According to Somsak, the blocked post is a video clip of a man believed to be King Vajiralongkorn walking in a shopping mall in Germany. Before its removal, the video had generated over 400,000 views.

That bit about “a man believed to be the king” is odd indeed, but there you are, Thailand under the military dictatorship and mad monarchists is an odd place. It resembles a children’s tale made very scary for its reality.





Updated: All about the law II

2 04 2017

Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey gives some credit to the judiciary – the Central Administrative Court – for having ruled that “the military junta’s moves to take away the three passports held by the former Education Minister, Chaturon Chaisang, was a ‘serious violation’ of …[Chaturon’s] fundamental rights…”.

But he goes way, way too far when he states that the “judiciary is making great strides in bringing about fairness in society…”.

Thailand’s judiciary and its legal processes are somewhere between a joke and feudal. PPT has spent a considerable amount of space highlighting repeated failures and while we don’t expect Pandey to be a regular reader, surely he reads his own newspaper.

On the same day when he is full of praise for the judiciary and its “strides in bringing about fairness,” his colleague Alan Dawson lambasts elements of the judicial system and its double standards.

You might say that the judges are not the whole system, and that’s true, with Pandey slamming elements of it. However, there are now hundreds of cases that have gone to court in recent years that have seen judges fail all reasonable tests of fairness. Think of the scores of lese majeste cases, several cases we mentioned in a previous post, cases against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban, cases making coups legitimate, a judicial coup, cases against red shirts (and not against yellow shirts), allowing torturers to go free and many, many more.

Being honest, we think the judicial system is now broken beyond repair. We have royalists, the military, the palace and the judges themselves to blame for this sad state of affairs.

Update: A reader puts us onto another Bangkok Post story, where the headline is, NCPO urges Thaksin to stop ‘distorting the truth’. The junta says:

“Mr Thaksin [Shinawatra] should stop harming the country, show restraint and stop distorting information. If Mr Thaksin calls for justice from society, Mr Thaksin should give justice to society, too,” the NCPO spokesman said.

The junta demands that Thaksin stop harming Thailand. Yet it is the junta that distorts truth. It has done so for years now. And, if the junta demands the legal system for Thaksin, how about themselves? Why is it that Section 113 of the Criminal Code doesn’t apply to this bunch of thugs?

Section 113: Whoever, commits an act of violence or threatens to commit an act of violence in order to:

  1. Overthrow or change the Constitution;
  2. Overthrow the legislative power, the executive power or the judicial power of the Constitution, or nullify such power; or
  3. Separate the Kingdom or seize the power of administration in any part of the Kingdom, is said to commit insurrection, and shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.




All about the law I

29 03 2017

The media is awash with stories about law. How the rich use it for their benefit or avoid it. How the junta uses it. How the police and military manipulate it. We will just link with some of these, grab some quotes and make some comments.

Law for the rich: It is all about Red Bull heir and cop killer Vorayudh “Boss” Yoovidhya. This story and his “hiding in plain sight” avoidance of responsibility for his drug and booze addled killing of a cop has been around since 2012. In the time since, he’s ignored the cops, probably paid some of them off, paid off the cop’s family with meager “compensation” (also known as blood money) and lived what AP called “the high life” in the resorts of the world. He’s partied with the same crowd he has always been with, the rich, the “good” and the famous. His 400+ photos of his good and expensive life are at Facebook.

We can only wonder why it took AP to do the work of finding him. Not the cops (who lost one of their own). Not the prosecutors. Not even Thailand’s media. Why is that? Money, huge influence and power are, like a military regime, threatening. Hired thugs often do the dirty work for Thailand’s Sino-Thai tycoons, so few are prepared to challenge any of them.

And, oh yes, he is due to “appear” before prosecutors. As the Bangkok Post states, this spoiled rich untouchable “has been repeatedly summoned to face authorities but he avoided it each time, claiming [that should read “lying”] through his lawyer that he was sick or out of the country on business.”

Law and the junta I: Thaksin Shinawatra is not short of a baht. In fact, a previous court decision extracted about $1.4 billion from him in 2010, representing more than half of the assets the state had frozen. No matter what one thinks of that decision, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this decision made sure that the state got back what it thought necessary.

It seems not, for the junta has decided to suck back more of Thaksin’s money. In fact, another $510 million in “tax.” Of course, this is a part of the junta’s paranoia about Thaksin and political opposition. It is also meant to scratch the junta’s anti-election itch about voting being about money paid for each vote received.

Law and the junta II: While on Thaksin and hobbling the Shinawatra clan, the junta’s minions have closed Voice TV for a few days for daring to report on things that make the military dictatorship uncomfortable. The Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association have generally been dominated by yellow-shirted journalists and media entrepreneurs, but even they feel the threat from the junta.

Two media associations have “called on the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission … to review its committee’s order to black out Voice TV’s broadcasts for seven days, saying it harms media freedom.” They also determined that the NBTC’s decision “conflicts with both the 1997 and 2006 constitutions, which safeguard those in the media who deliver news or opinions in compliance with their career ethics.”

Such calls have no impact on the military dictatorship because it has “law” in its holster.

Law for the politically connected: Anti-democrat and military junta-supporting Suthep Thaugsuban leads a charmed legal life, at least under the junta. He’s broken more laws than anyone could keep count of and gotten off  every  charge he’s faced (that we can recall) under the military junta he worked with and helped bring to power (or never even been charged). Having something in common with the Red Bull fugitive, he even got away with murder. But that’s not unusual in Thailand…

This time, in a case where he was accused of defaming leading members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship who were standing for election, accusing them of arson and other crimes, a politicized court ruled “Suthep had not made false accusations against the three UDD leaders as alleged, and dismissed the case against him.” Thailand’s judiciary simply fails to dispense anything resembling justice when it comes to the politically-connected and powerful.

Then there’s the case of ultra-nationalist and anti-democrat Veera Somkwamkid who toddled off to the Thailand-Cambodia birder to check on casino graft. Locals blocked his visit yet PPT couldn’t help but recall that it was only about two weeks ago that The Nation reported that “[p]olice are launching a manhunt for well-known political activist Veera … after he published an opinion survey’s result on his Facebook wall, saying the majority people lack confidence in the Prayut administration.” So there he was, ath the border, surrounded by cops and troops and … well, nothing.

Law, police and military: We saved the grossest and nastiest stories. These are the reports surrounding the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae, struck down with a single shot by the Army. The stories from the authorities on this case have been banal. Accused of drug dealing, being armed with a knife and a grenade, the dead boy is now accused of somehow having a gun because the police chief says Chaiyapoom could have shot officers.

A slip of the tongue perhaps, but this is what happens when the authorities manufacture excuses for their own crimes.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

Convinced that the lad was a drug dealer and claiming that the CCTV footage backs up the official story, the cops refuse to release the footage because … wait for it … “the controversial evidence does not ‘answer all problems’.” In addition, “[r]eleasing the footage might lead to a mess to the investigation process and arguments among the society.”

What next?

The law has never been particularly impartial and judges have never been much good in Thailand. However, under the influence of the monarchy and under this military dictatorship the law has been ransacked, killed and buried.





Release Pai XI

22 03 2017

Thailand justice system is a mess. In fact, it has become and injustice system, crippled by the junta and warped by monarchism. A corrupt judiciary does not interpret the law but seeks to determine legal outcomes according to the whims and needs of its masters.

In that linked post, we had information regarding the Khon Kaen Provincial Court going after student activists who had the temerity to support lese majeste victim Jatuphat (Pai) Boonpattaraksa.

Jatuphat is the sole person of more than 2,000 who shared a BBC story on the new king who is accused of lese majeste and is currently sweating in a junta jail.

The Khon Kaen court accused several supporters of Jatuphat of contempt of court for participating in a peaceful gathering to demand for Pai’s release.

Not content with that, like a stormtrooper’s dog, the court is now going after others. Prachatai reports that “three more youth activists [are accused] of contempt of court for joining a peaceful gathering demanding Pai Dao Din’s release from prison.”

On 20 March 2017, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that the well-known anti-junta activist Sirawit ‘Ja New’ Serithiwat; Panupong Sritananuwat, an activist from the Dao Din group based at Khon Kaen University; and another law student who requested anonymity had received court notices.

The notices state that the three are accused of contempt of court for gathering in front of the court on 10 February 2017 to demand the release of Jatuphat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa, a law student and key member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM).

The pathetic and disgraceful excuse for a judiciary that sits in Khon Kaen has “ordered the activists to appear in court to hear the charges against them on 24 April 2017.”

Pai’s case now sees him in jail and facing a trial, refused bail for an eighth time and seven students from activist groups charged. The junta and its legal minions are seeking to smash a moderate and engaged group of youngsters who want a better Thailand.

When Pai gets to court again, he’ll see that its judges and administrators have new rules for lese majeste cases:

The Khon Kaen Provincial Court also announced a strict code of conduct as the initial lese-majeste proceedings against the pro-democracy activist began.

In a large banner placed near the front gate, the court announced that it was prohibiting any misbehaviour or disorder around its compound.

The court also banned documents, leaflets, banners and any other objects that contained messages deemed insulting to the court and the justice system, or which provoked others to do so.

The court also forbade any symbolic action and photo-taking intended to show disrespect to the court and the justice system.

You get the idea. These judges are reprehensible.