Shocking flag shenanigans

4 02 2022

Clipped from Prachatai

Ten minutes is not a long time; just 600 seconds. But a short time period can be mortally threatening to the establishment.

Prachatai reports that three Khon Kaen University students have gone on trial at the Khon Kaen Provincial Court “for desecrating the national flag.”

Their alleged crime was to take down the national flag and replace it with “‘monarchy reform’ banner on a flag pole during a protest at Khon Kaen University in February 2021.” Police and a university security officer to removed it.

Defendants “Wachirawit Tedsrimuang, Chaitawat Rammarerng and Chetta Klindee were summoned to appear in court as defendants and witnesses on 31 January and 1 February.”

The monarchy reform flag “was raised to the top of the flag pole in front of the KKU President building to symbolically show that Thailand can become a full-fledged democracy when it reforms the monarchy.”

The protesters had “posted on a Facebook page, Khon Kaen Has Had Enough (Khon Kaen Por Kan Tee)” saying: “We do not despise the national flag but we … want it to be a truly dignified national flag representing a democratic regime that conforms with international standards.”

The Khon Kaen District Police Station is reported to have “pressed charges against the three defendants for raising a flag that damaged Thailand’s dignity and treating the national flag in a manner violating the Flag Act.”

It might have been just 10 miniutes, but so shocking, so threatening, so audacious was this act that “o]n the opening day of the trial, the Court prohibited attorneys and observers from recording the proceedings.” Only a court-approved record of the trial, to be issued at some unspecified future date was permitted.

The defendants admit the events and acts “but claimed that they were merely exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression.”

Tellingly, in terms of law, but probably of no consequence for the politicized court, the defendants also stated that “they raised the ‘reform monarch’ flag after removing the national flag from the pole after 18.00, the time when national flags are supposed to be taken down countrywide.”  They point out that no KKU official s came to take down the national flag.

They also make the good legal point – also likely to be ignored by royalists – that “they did not desecrate that flag.  Instead, they brought it down properly, did not take it away, and did not damage it in any way.”

According to Practatai, the “Court is scheduled to issue a ruling on 25 March 2022.” The charges carry a 2-year jail sentence, a 4,000 baht fine or both.

We looked at the law – Flag Act B.E. 2522 (1979) – and the only section we found that the royalist court could use states:

Section 54. Any person who commits any act in an insulting manner to the flag, the replica of the flag or the colour bands of the flag whose characteristics have been prescribed under this Act or as prescribed in the Ministerial Regulations issued under this Act shall be liable to imprisonment to a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding one thousand baht or to both.

These students hardly seem guilty under this section, but we have learnt that the courts don’t really follow the letter of the law in cases like this.

Boycotting feudal royals

14 01 2022

A couple of days ago, Prachatai reported that the Chiang Mai University Student Union had announced “that its representatives will not receive members of the royal family at the university’s graduation ceremonies during the current committee’s term in order to uphold equality.”

The graduation ceremony for the classes of 2019 and 2020, which was held on Friday 14 January 2022, presided over by Princess Sirindhorn, usually framed as the most popular among the odd family of royals.

The report explains the ceremonies:

Thai graduation ceremonies are often long, complicated, and strictly regulated as they are presided over by a member of the royal family. Student representatives at many universities are required to wait to receive the member of the royal family arriving to preside over the ceremony. Universities also impose strict dress codes on graduates, specifying even hair colour and nail polish colour, while many transgender students face obstacles in getting permission from university administrations to dress according to their gender identity. Attending the ceremony also costs graduates and their families a large sum of money, including the cost of the graduation gown, hiring a photographer, and travel costs for those who live in distant provinces.

The Student Union explained that it would:

not send representatives to receive Princess Sirindhorn as she arrives for the ceremony, and that it will not receive any member of the royal family at any graduation ceremony which takes place during the current committee’s term, as receiving members of the royal family would show support for “feudalism” [sakdina] and because they see the reception ceremony as a form of oppression and inequality. It also calls on other faculty unions to boycott the reception ceremony.

The union viewed “the ceremony as oppressive, outdated, and a way of normalizing inequality. Boycotting the ceremony would therefore be a way of upholding equality and human rights.”

Along with the 2020 – 2021 pro-democracy/monarchy reform protests, “graduation ceremonies have become a platform for young people to express their discontent at the status quo. Many graduates see boycotting the ceremonies as an act of civil disobedience, while activists are reported to have staged small activities at their universities’ graduation events.”

At a Khon Kaen University graduation on 13 December 2021, students and graduates hung banners reading “Free our friends” and “Repeal Section 112. ” They gave speeches “criticizing the university and its Faculty of Law for not taking action when its students were detained on political charges.” Student activist Sarayut Narkmanee:

gave a speech saying that for the 2021 ceremony, which was presided over by Princess Sirindhorn, the university designated a wider than usual area as royal space, which pushed people off campus. He also said that students don’t graduate because they are handed a degree, that graduation should be for the people, and a graduation gown is created by the authorities and so is not necessary. He then burned a graduation gown in an act of protest.

At the Chiang Mai event, “two student activists were arrested … [on] 14 January … while holding banners near the Chiang Mai University … auditorium calling for graduates to boycott the graduation ceremony … and for the repeal of Section 112.”:

CMU student activist Yotsunthon Ruttapradid and Phimchanok Jaihong, member of the activist group Thalufah, were arrested this morning (14 January) by plainclothes and uniformed police officers while standing on the foothpath opposite the university auditorium, where a graduation ceremony was being held. They were reported to be holding banners saying “Repeal Section 112” and “Feudal degrees” in a campaign for the repeal of the royal defamation law and to call on graduates to boycott the ceremony, presided over by Princess Sirindhorn, the King’s younger sister….

The activists were charged with creating a noise without a reasonable cause and refusing to comply with an official’s order. They received a 1500 baht fine and were released. Officers reportedly said that they were able to charge the activists with causing noise while on campus because the campus was considered royal space during the ceremony.

Social media reports that only about 40% of graduates showed up for the royal ceremony.

Streckfuss stays

4 05 2021

A couple of weeks ago we posted on the case of David Streckfuss, who worked for 27 years at Khon Kaen University and with CIEE: Council On International Educational Exchange, who had his work-permit with KKU revoked on 19 March. That meant his tenure in Thailand was tenuous.

Because Streckfuss worked with groups of young activists and because he has written and commented on lese majeste, many wondered if this politically motivated. After all, KKU’s Streckfussdecision came after police visited the University President and Faculty Dean following Streckfuss having participated in a workshop which partly involved discussion of decentralization.

For the cops and the regime, “decentralization” can be code for separatism.

Now it is reported that he has been issued a new work permit and visa.

Never a problem, apparently:

Immigration Division 4 superintendent Kridsada Kanjanaarlongkon said officials have completed the vetting process of Khon Kaen-based scholar David Streckfuss and he may now reside and work legally in Thailand with his new employer, the Isaan Record online news site.

“It was a normal visa application process,” Maj. Gen. Kridsada said. “We didn’t question him any further. [Streckfuss] is not implicated in any crime or considered as a threat to national security at the moment. However, if there’s evidence of wrongdoings in the future, we then have to act under the immigration law.”

This statement is clearly dusted with buffalo manure.

As his lawyer, Natthasiri Berkman, “wondered why the authorities had to take more time than usual to examine her client’s files,” she stated: “Although it’s normal for the authorities to run a background check when a foreigner applies for a visa, I found it strange why Streckfuss was extensively investigated.”

The lawyer also stated: “The immigration didn’t set any conditions for Streckfuss…”. We doubt that.

The people at KKU associated with their decision should be ashamed. Ultra-royalists will cheer them.

Further updated: Authoritarian darkness

16 04 2021

Thailand’s royalist authoritarianism and the desire to “cleanse” the nation of anti-monarchists appears to have taken a significant turn as the regime targets an American academic it considers has fomented political activism in the northeast.

From New Mandala

Thai Enquirer, Bangkok Post, and Prachatai report that David Streckfuss, who worked for Khon Kaen University, CIEE: Council On International Educational Exchange, and with regional news outlet The Isaan Record, has had his work-permit with KKU revoked on 19 March, which means his tenure in Thailand is tenuous as his visa is also revoked.

It is reported that Streckfuss had “been with the university for the past 27 years before his work permit was terminated.”

Prachatai states that the “decision reportedly came after police visited the University President and Faculty Dean, after Streckfuss participated in a workshop which partly involved decentralization.”

Hathairat Phaholtap, the editor of the The Isaan Record, confirmed the work permit cancellation and stated that it came “after Streckfuss attended a workshop about the preservation and development of the local Isaan identity which was held at a Khon Kaen hotel on 12-14 February.”

The police reportedly told the university that this meant Streckfuss was “involve[d] with local politics…”.

According to the Bangkok Post, where Streckfuss has been an author, he has “published in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He is also the author of Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason, and Lèse-Majesté, published by Routledge Press, in 2011… [and] has a PhD in Southeast Asian history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.” His recent academic work has been on censorship and self-censorship.

One of his roles since 1994 has been has been as director for CIEE Programs in Thailand, facilitating college students study abroad experiences in Thailand. In this he “works with the program’s administration and programs managers to oversee student health, safety, and welfare as well as all issues related to academics, services, projects, administration, and finance.”

Over the years, Streckfuss has spoken at various seminars, including with the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand. This action against a high-profile academic, and someone who might be described as a “friend” of Thailand, suggests either a bureaucratic miscalculation or, more likely, a further deepening of the regime’s repressive authoritarianism.

Update 1: A couple of reports in the media suggest that there’s some dissembling going on about this case. The Bangkok Post reports that Pol Maj Gen Kritsada Kanchana-alongkon, a commissioner at the Immigration Division 4 in Khon Kaen has gone all Sgt Schultz, saying: “The local immigration authorities didn’t know why the university terminated Mr Streckfuss’ contract…”.

Thai PBS reports multiple denials (one of which contradicts Pol Maj Gen Kritsada):

Immigration Police and Khon Kaen University have denied that the termination of the employment contract, work permit and visa of David Streckfuss are related to his political activism in Thailand.

Khon Kaen University’s International Affairs Division also denied allegations of police pressure, telling ThaiPBS World that the termination was due to his failure to fulfill his duty regarding student exchange programs.

Making matters worse for itself, KKU now states: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he allegedly failed to arrange student exchange programs, leading to the contract termination.” So, they say that students couldn’t come, so Streckfuss must go….

Update 2: Khaosod states that the Khon Kaen Immigration Office has “deferred the decision to extend the work permit and visa…”. An official stated: “This has nothing to do with politics and David is not a prohibited person under the immigration act. Therefore, there should be no problem with his visa application process.”

KKU continues to maintain that there was no official pressure applied – Streckfuss says there was – and says it sacked him for circumstances created by the virus:

The longtime expat worked as the director of the exchange student program at Khon Kaen University for the past 27 years before he was given a one-month notice of termination in February for “not being able to do assigned work.” He believed the decision was politically charged, an allegation denied by his former employer.

“No police or any other state officials have met with the rector or the dean,” Khon Kaen University rector Charnchai Pangthongviriyakul said Saturday. “The faculty saw that there has been no progress in his work, so it decided to notify him of contract termination.”

Even if this was the case, it marks KKU as an uncaring employer, not averse to taking decisions that destroy lives.

Neo-traditionalism and fascists

18 03 2021

Prachatai has a couple of stories that are about a theme – political repression. In our view, they also appoint to the entrenchment of neo-traditionalist, royalist, fascism.

The first report is about complaints made by the so-called People’s Network to Protect the Monarchy to Anek Laothamatas, who seems to spend some time as Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation. They demanded that the former communist now mad royalist and failed politician investigate the lecturers who have used their positions to stand bail for arrested protesters. The fascist Network “claims that their bail requests for Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, students at Thammasat and Mahidol universities, constitute behaviour that infringes upon the monarchy.”

Clipped from Prachatai
The Network submitting a petition to the MHESI representatives, Duangrit Benjathikul Chairungruang and Jak Punchoopet (Source: Facebook/ Center for People Protecting the Monarchy).

Immediately, the ministry sprang into action: “Jak Punchoopet, Advisor to the Minister … said … the Ministry is preparing to summon deans and chancellors of the universities of 8 lecturers who offered bail to 3 student activists detained while awaiting trial for royal defamation and other charges.” Jak previously participated in People’s Democratic Reform Committee efforts to foment a coup against an elected government.

The Network claimed it is “unethical for teachers as they are protecting students who have clearly and publicly defamed and infringed upon the King, Queen and the Chakri dynasty, which the Network has denounced.”

Jak quoted Minister Anek as stating that “academic freedom must not infringe on the … monarchy.”

There’s not much academic freedom in Thailand anyway, with the 2020 Academic Freedom Index grading Thailand as an E, “the lowest grade, with a score of 0.13 out of a maximum of 1.  Other countries with and E grade include China, North Korea, Cuba, Lao, Iran, Rwanda, and South Sudan.”

Preventing academics standing bail would be a major change to previous and longstanding practice.

Of course, neither the fascists of the Network nor the dolts at the Ministry ever pause to think that none of these political prisoners have yet been found guilty. In any case, none were allowed bail.

An equally concerning report is about constant harassment of independent media:

The Isaan Record, an online media organization based in Khon Kaen Province, is under surveillance by police officers. This is not the first time, and it occurs after they report on monarchy reform and anti-dictatorship activities which other media find distasteful.

The effort to silence The Isaan Record is clear and follows a pattern:

On 10 March, Hathairat Phaholtap, the Isaan Record editor, told Prachatai English that police officers came to their office 4 times in one day. She was informed by vendors close to the office that police had asked them about the agency. The police did not approach staff directly.

This took place after the agency reported on an activity organized on 8 March by Femliberate, a feminist activist group, who shrouded the statue of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat with women’s sarongs with a banner reading “Justice died 8 March 2021,” a symbolic action against the oppression of women and the court decision to keep in detention Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul and Panupong Jadnok, 3 leading pro-democracy activists.

Police intimidation sometimes leads to arrests but can also lead to attacks by royalist thugs – more often than not these are police and military men in plainclothes. Such attacks are never investigated.

Unsurprisingly, these royalist, fascist interventions are coordinated. Prachatai reports:

… Manager Online for the northeast region reported news with the headline “Don’t stand for it! Khon Kaen people love the institution [of the monarchy]. Attack KKU [Khon Kaen University], ask its position on whether they want the monarchy or not after allowing gangs who want to abolish the monarchy to hang out there,”.

The news item reports that a pro-monarchy group blames the Progressive Movement, from the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, for being the mastermind behind the student movement in Khon Kaen in the past year. They also questioned Khon Kaen University for letting public figures who spoke about democracy and monarchy reform give lectures to the students.

You see the link between Manager Online and the People’s Network to Protect the Monarchy. When fascism takes hold, the country usually falls into a deep and dark abyss.

Students, EC and censorship

30 03 2019

It has been widely reported that university students have begun a campaign to impeach the bungling, opaque and puppet Election Commission over its mishandling of the 24 March “election.” The universities involved were reportedly: Chulalongkorn, Thammasat (Rangsit campus), King Mongkut Institute of Technology (Thon Buri campus), Kasetsart (Bang Khen campus), Chiang Mai, Naresuan, Burapha, Prince of Songkla (Pattani campus) and Rajabhat Rachanakharin.

Channeling 1957, the Chulalongkorn University Student Council demanded “an explanation from the EC about widespread allegations of irregularities.” Meanwhile, the Thammasat University Student Union released a “statement saying that commission officials must be investigated because their sloppy procedures resulted in ambiguous election results…”.

Following up on the Army’s apparent support for the EC, the junta’s Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam, poured ice water on the student’s demands for impeachment, saying the “process would be long as the [junta’s handpicked] Senate is required by law to forward the case to the [junta’s puppet] National Anti-Corruption Commission.” And, even if malfeasance is found by the NACC, it is the senate that decides whether to remove the EC officials.

In other words, Wissanu thumbed his nose at the students, essentially saying, expend your energy, but fat chance that anything will happen.

And then the usual dirty tricks began, manifested as repression.

Students at Kasetsart “were barred by the university from campaigning and collecting signatures from other students,” and uniformed and plainclothes police and the university’s security guards photographed the students before forcing them to campaign off campus. In fact, they were forced to move twice.

Kasetsart’s rector Jongrak Watcharinrat either lied or is non compos mentis that “he did not know about the incident and insisted that students have the right to hold any campaign on the campus as long as it’s not against the law.” We know he is in one of these states because the “university issued an announcement prohibiting any unauthorized activities from taking place on university grounds, and university officials told the students that the university cannot get involved in politics.”

Not only did the university and police thugs make the students move, but they reportedly “stopped some students from signing the petition…”.

One might have “hoped” that this was a case of one deep yellow set of anti-democrat administrators acting to protect the junta. Sadly, though, it appears that this is a junta-directed campaign against the anti-EC students, with Prachatai stating:

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that Chiang Mai University has also prohibited students from campaigning, claiming that the students did not ask for permission to use the space, and at Khon Kaen University, students said that police officers came to observe the campaign and questioned them. There was also a report that university officials also came to tell the students that the Faculty of Law did not allow them to use the space.

The whole election process, always bogus and rigged, is now being “validated” as a fraud by the actions of the junta and its thugs. But did anyone expect anything else from this regime?

Dictatorship permeates universities

16 02 2018

We have previously posted on the takeover of university administrations by royalists and ant-democrats. The motivation for this concerted effort at control was to prevent students becoming political activists who challenge royalist and military regimes.

The most recent example of this reactionary administration comes from Khon Kaen University, often described as an island of yellow in a sea of red.

Despite two rulings by courts that the People Go/We Walk march should be unhindered, administrators have “denied a request to host an academic seminar on the last day of the ‘We Walk’ long march tomorrow…”. The administrators say this is “to protect the university’s reputation…”.

We guess they mean their reputation with the military dictatorship.

It is reported that the university administrators felt the need to “consult” with the military on their decision.

Don’t get sick in Khon Kaen

28 05 2012

Hopefully readers in Khon Kaen avoided getting sick on 28 May. Why? Basically because a royal cavalcade to Khon Kaen University’s Srinakarin Hospital will close the entrance to the hospital and several access roads.

The memorandum reproduced here and sent by a reader, gives details of closures for the royal procession of Princess Srirasmi, the crown prince’s current official wife. The thing that seems to have upset people in Khon Kaen is point 5 in the memo which tells emergency vehicles with serious cases to either hang about and wait for the royal procession to leave or go to some other nearby hospital. That makes the memo’s authors at KKU’s ever so royalist Faculty of Medicine look uncaring by putting royal convenience and security above the lives of people in emergency situations.

Closing roads for royal process is pretty much a normal thing in royalist Thailand. Ambulances and all emergency vehicles are also stationary while the higher-ups catapult past.

This is also seen in other countries for royals and some non-royal leaders. However, in Thailand it is a rather too regular occurrence, and even casual visitors to the country usually come across such a disruptive event. It is heralded by the sudden appearance of police at all intersections, barking at people not to use footbridges, and the sudden deathly silence as all traffic is cleared until the whoosh of the royal cavalcade zooms past in a large herd of expensive, often light yellow, vehicles.

The annoying thing for some is not just that emergency vehicles are stopped, sometimes for a considerable time, but that these processions are for all royal outings, not just official ones. So if the younger princesses want to party at a nightclub, all the roads are closed to facilitate their fun.

Updated: Nitirat continues

28 02 2012

At it is reported that the Nitirat caravan is underway. The report is remarkably biased in its first few paragraphs, but gets better.

It is reported that a “group of academics and activists — gathered in Ban Pong district in Ratchaburi province, 80 kilometres from Bangkok — is said to be bent on destroying the kingdom’s most revered institution: The monarchy. This is because the group members, many of whom identified as “red shirts”, are calling for the reform of Thailand’s lese majeste law.”

It continues in a report remarkable for its contradictions: “Although the campaign to amend the lese majeste law in Bangkok has come to a standstill,” which is utter nonsense, “there is a lot of interest among people in provincial Thailand, who think the law has been misused and curtails peoples’ freedom of expression.” Well, at least they got that right!

It claims that Chulalongkorn University academics are now leading the campaign “after their Thammasat University colleagues were attacked in the press.”

Chulalongkorn University political science lecturer Puangthong Pawakapan said: “They want to learn more about amendment proposal. So it is our duty to go out and explain things to them, especially now when the misinformation has been widely circulated by the hyper-royalist groups.”

According to the report, “Many at a Ban Pong forum are choosing to join the campaign to change the law, by signing the petition with their full names and identification.”

Some 5,000 signatures  have been collected so far.

Update: PPT is sure that readers will be interested in the latest post at The Isaan Record, which is also on Article 112 reform, and reports from an event in Khon Kaen. It reports that for a second time in recent weeks, the Campaign Committee to Amend Article 112 has raised Article 112 at the notoriously yellow on Khon Kaen University. The organizers were from the Thai Undergraduate Student Union. A student organizer is reported to have stated: “Next, we’re looking to go to Loei or Sakon Nakhon, or if there are people in villages who want to know about 112, we can even set up talks in small communities.” Well worth a read.

A tale of two (112) cities

6 02 2012

There have been plenty of news articles on the Nitirat campaign that PPT has been able to comment on. Here we want to point to two stories that we don’t have time to comment on in any detail, but would like to recommend to readers:

At Isaan Record: Article 112 Reform in the Provinces, a story on the Campaign Committee to Amend Article 112 of the Criminal Code (CCAA 112) in Khon Kaen. This was an interesting quote:

Though Sunday’s Khon Kaen discussion proceeded without incident, K[hon] K[aen] U[niversity]’s academics were conspicuously absent, with much of the modest crowd composed of local Red Shirts, independent community members, and student activists.

Boonwat Chumpradit, a Khon Kaen Red Shirt villager in attendance, found the silence of KKU’s professors troubling. “Professors at the university should be the ones leading us,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to be the ones leading them.”

That fits our knowledge of the academics at KKU, which seem like an island of yellow in a sea of red.

At Prachatai: Forum on Article 112 banned at Mahasarakham University, that reports on the Dean of the College of Politics and Governance effectively banning a proposed discussion by students of the lese majeste law.

Dean  Sida Sonsri “explained” (a misleading word in this context) that the College had “not restricted academic freedom” while refusing them a room for discussion. She demanded that the students of her College

hold the forum at a more proper place where ‘diverse views can be expressed with no risk of violence, which is unforeseeable due to conflicts on such a sensitive issue.

PPT would have thought that a real “College of Politics and Governance” in a real university would have been exactly the right place for such a discussion. The Dean should be ashamed of herself, acting as a censor of students rather than their intellectual leader.

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