Rallying for Tantawan and Orawan

26 01 2023

There has been a strange and limited social media argument that Tantawan Tuatulanon (Tawan) and Orawan Phuphong (Bam) should not be on a hunger strike. It seems that some middle class liberals feel that this action is akin to political violence.

Frankly, events show that this view is perverse. The brave stand by Tantawan and Orawan has quickly reignited protest and discussion of lese majeste. They deserve huge credit for their brave stance.

Over the past 24-48 hours, things have developed quickly. Here, PPT summarizes from social media posts. To follow events, look for Khaosod and Prachatai on Facebook.

Tantawan and Orawan were taken to Thammasat University Hospital on Tuesday. They are now in their 9th day of dry hunger strike.Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that a lawyer who visited them at Thammasat University Hospital yesterday (25 January) said that the two activists have lost a lot of weight, to the point that they can see the shape of Tantawan’s skull.

The lawyer said that, when the two activists arrived at the hospital, it was found that Tantawan has low potassium level and was at risk of cardiac arrest, so she was given a potassium supplement. However, the two activists insist on continuing their hunger strike, and will not be receiving IV fluids or other vitamin supplements.
The pair are staying in the same hospital room, and are constantly guarded by 4 corrections officers.

Food delivery rider Sitthichok Sethasavet, convicted of lese majeste on 17 January 2023, accused of setting fire to a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida and detained pending appeal has gone on a hunger strike to protest his detention.

Today, protesters gathered at the Pathumwan Skywalk in support of activists Tawan and Bam.

Clipped from Khaosod FB page

The Chiang Rai Provincial Court has thrown gas on the 112 fire by sentencing Mongkol Thirakhote or “Bass” to a mammoth 42 years in prison, reduced from 28, for 27 seditious and lese majeste FB posts on Thursday. A bail application is pending.

Monarchy-reform protest co-leader Arnon Nampa called for a major demonstration in front of Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre at 5.12pm Thursday in support of lese majeste detainees Tawan and Bam. People are marching out from Chulalongkorn University (CU) to Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) to show their support. The judiciary is criticized for bias on lese majeste cases.





More taxpayer funds for royals

26 01 2023

PPT was (not) staggered to learn from a story in The Nation that reports that even more bags of taxpayer money is being poured into pampering the wealthy royals.

The story states that the regime “has approved an 8.78-billion-baht budget to procure new aircraft for VIPs including royals, privy counsellors, prime ministers, ministers and royal guests.”

Oddly, the report does not say what kind of aircraft is being purchased.

The Prime Minister’s Secretariat proposed the purchase as the “Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) needs to replace the old Airbus A340-500 procured from Thai Airways International (THAI) for VIP travel.”

This Airbus appears to be the same VIP plane that the generous generals shoveled money into for the Royal Thai Air Force for a magnificent loo for royal poop and pee at a cost to taxpayers in excess of 54 million baht.

At that time, it was also reported that the air force had awarded Thai Airways a 750 million baht contract to renovate the interior of a Boeing 777-800 royal aircraft that was said to be under direct command of King Vajiralongkorn’s Deachochai 3 Royal Flight Unit.

Adding salt to the deep wounds on the taxpayers’ collective back, in 2020 it was reported that a new Airbus was procured for royal travel, complete with a VIP conversion at Lufthansa Technik. At a cost of probably well north of US$100 million, the plane joined a VIP fleet that then included two Boeing 737s, three Airbus 319/320/340s, three ATR 72s, 3 Sukhoi Superjet 100s, one Super King Air, and four Saab 340s.

Obviously, the rather small royal family doesn’t feel sufficiently pampered. More taxpayer money probably helps makes them feel better about themselves.





Jail for (not) burning a royal propaganda portrait

20 01 2023

TLHR photo clipped from Prachatai

Prachatai reports on the lese majeste conviction of Sitthichok Sethasavet on 17 January 2023.

The 26-year-old Foodpanda delivery rider was found guilty and sentenced to prison for “allegedly attempting to burn a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida during a protest” on 18 July 2021.

In addition to Article 112, he faced charges of “arson, destruction of property, and violation of the Emergency Decree.”

The portrait involved was one of the ubiquitous photos of the king and queen that haunts many cities as a standard feature of royalist propaganda. This one was on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue in Bangkok.

Sitthichok argued that he he came across the fire while on a delivery. He was trying to put out the fire, not light it:

He told iLaw that, while he was spraying water onto the base of the portrait, a police officer came to tell him to get down from the arch and that the officer would get a water cannon to put out the fire. But when he get off the arch, the fire had already been put out, so he went to deliver his order and then went home.

That evening, “a picture of Sitthichok standing by his motorcycle was posted on Twitter, along with a claim that he set fire to the King and Queen’s portrait.”

Foodpanda went royalist nuts:

Because the photo also showed a pink Foodpanda delivery box, the company’s official account replied to the tweet saying the platform has a policy “against violence and all forms of terrorism” and that the rider in question would be fired immediately. It also said that the platform is willing to help the authorities in pressing charges against the culprit.

Of course, at this point, there were no charges, let alone an investigation. But that’s how mad royalism works. In this case, it became corporate vigilantism. Foodpanda later apologized but said the “company was investigating the incident.” As far as we know, Foodpanda had not investigative skills. But then again, neither do the corrupt police when it comes to 112.

The latter sprang into action, and arrested Sitthichok at his Rangsit house on 19 July 2021. He was released on 20 July on bail of 100,000 baht.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said:

the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court found Sitthichok guilty on all charges on the grounds that there is no evidence he was trying to put out the fire, and because the prosecution witness testified that the fire grew stronger when Sitthicok sprayed a bottle of purple liquid on the royal arch.

The court heard that the royal portrait was not damaged by the fire, “which only damaged decorative fabric at the base of the royal arch.” The royalist court decided that “even if the portrait did not catch fire, spraying the liquid at the base of the portrait, which was already on fire, meant that Sitthichok intended to burn the portrait.”

This made him guilty of lese majeste.because “a prosecution witness testified that the Thai society sees a portrait of the King as being the same as the King himself.” The royalist court agreed. It “also said that he was guilty because Thailand is a democracy with the King as the head of state, and therefore people should not exercise their freedom in a way that is against the monarchy.”

Sitthichok was sentenced to a total of 3 years and 6 months in prison, but because “he gave useful testimony, his sentence was reduced to 2 years and 4 months.”

His lawyer requested bail with an additional security of 100,000 baht. Prachatai reports that:

On 19 January 2023, the Court of Appeals has denied bail request from Sitthichok Sethasavet, a food delivery rider who had been found guilty and sentenced to prison yesterday on a royal defamation charge, arson, and others.

The order stated that Sitthichok’s bail was denied due to the gravity of the punishment and that his offence showed a sign of not afraid of law. Moreover, his offence affects the “feeling and good moral of the people”. Hence, releasing him might result in him repeating the wrongdoing or flee.





Jeered for good reason

11 01 2023

Despite all of the protests of 2020 and 2021, the main change associated with the monarchy seems to be that the king now spends his time in Thailand. We can’t help thinking that’s a Pyrrhic victory.

Much else that happens seems little different from the pre-protest period or even from the previous reign. At least for readers of the mainstream media, this appearance is reinforced on a daily basis as syrupy stories are churned out about the monarchy and the rapidly diminishing royal family while anything that is not laudatory is simply not reported in an orgy of self-censorship and regime threats. Even palace lies are reported as truth. That’s how palace propaganda has long worked.

Think of some recent stories. When the HTMS Sukhothai sank, the explanations have been difficult to believe, but the fact that royalism led to many deaths is not pushed in reports. When navy chief Adm Choengchai Chomchoengpaet “explained” a lack of life jackets, he simply brushed it away as a royal necessity trumping the lives of sailors: “before the ship sank, it took on board 15 marines and another 15 personnel to take part in a ceremony marking the anniversary of the death of the Prince of Chumphon, who is regarded as the ‘Father of the Thai Navy’ in Chumphon.”

Clipped from Thai PBS

Then there’s the story of corruption and nonsense associated with the re-naming and re-signing of the Bang Sue Grand Station, now postponed. Why is a new name sign required? Of course, it is because King Vajiralongkorn rather belatedly “bestowed” a new name on the station: Krung Thep Aphiwat or “Bangkok’s prosperity.”

On fabricated palace “news,” see our recent post.

And, we are wondering why no one questions why almost every holiday is seemingly a royal holiday? There’s another new one for Coronation Day. The impression being manipulated is that only royals matter.

Meanwhile the pathetic efforts by ministries to promote the dead king with malleable UN agencies.

The thing is that ever growing numbers of Thais no longer “buy” palace propaganda. That’s why they jeered at the Blackpink concert.

That’s also why the regime and palace lese majeste dragnet is the largest ever. The most recent case involves:

Atirut (last name withheld), a 25-year-old programmer, on charges of royal defamation [Article 112] and resisting arrest. Atirut was charged for refusing to sit down and shouting “Going anywhere is a burden” as King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida’s royal motorcade passed a crowd gathered at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre (QSNCC) on 15 October 2022.

That’s also why they jeered at the Blackpink concert.

Keeping the lid on rising opposition to the palace propaganda is becoming increasingly difficult for a regime that is itself falling apart.

 





Back to the future

6 01 2023

Quite a while ago PPT posted here and there about the 2014 military junta’s plans for Thailand’s politics.

In summarizing some of these thoughts, back in 2014 we had a post that commented on an article at The Nation by Supalak Ganjanakhundee. His view and ours was that the “quasi-democratic regime under General Prem Tinsulanonda between 1980 and 1988” was the military’s and royalist elite’s preferred “model that would be suitable for Thailand forever.”

Of Premocracy, Supalak stated:

The Prem regime is the role model for many elite political architects. He is a former Army commander who was “invited” by political parties and elected politicians to take the premiership after elections during the 1980s. To that extent, political parties and politicians were only minor parts of the arrangement. They were furniture, rather than the structure of the country’s administration.

Thailand was then mostly run by military officers and bureaucrats. The prime minister had no accountability to the people. His power was supported by the military. Prem faced challenges from young officers and two coup attempts, rather than lawmakers in the House of Representatives. He never gave a damn about the politicians in Parliament. They would create no trouble for his government as long as they were allowed to join the Cabinet.

The 2014 coup, then, was to be yet another effort to embed the preferred political model.

But the junta’s plan owed much to the palace’s man in 1976, Thanin Kraivixien. He was catapulted into the prime ministership in 1976 following a massacre of students and a military coup. The king wanted the right-wing Thanin as premier. He presided over a period of fascist-like repression that was so extreme that even made some in the military leadership wonder if Thanin was damaging the military-monarchy brand.

After the 2014 coup, Thanin provided “advice” to the Prayuth Chan-ocha dictatorship. Indeed, the junta’s 20-year “roadmap” to “democracy” is modeled on Thanin’s 16-year plan for “democracy.” There are other similarities and comparisons that can be made. Among them, the junta’s draft constitution drew inspiration from the Thanin era, with Meechai Ruchupan having served Thanin as well. And, like Prayuth’s regime, Thanin’s dictatorship made excessive use of the lese majeste law to repress political opponents.

Rotten to the core

More significantly, as in the Prem period, we see a regime in decay. Some might say that this also reflects the 1990s, and that’s not wrong as Prem’s regime set the pattern. Parties forming and self-destructing as they bid for ministerial seats and the huge flow of illicit funds that underpinned a decrepit system of vote-buying and provincial gangsterism. Politicians selling themselves to the highest bidder. Politicians, military, and gangsters in cahoots, feeding at the trough of state funds. The state budget became a fund for military aggrandizement and private wealth accumulation by well-connected capitalists. Those capitalists and the military groveling before an ever more powerful monarchy.

All of this is the manner of the current corrupt regime. Did we mention Chinese gangsters? That, at least seems like an “innovation.”

Allowing Gen Prayuth/Prawit to continue in their alliances with gangsters – some of them MPs and many of them police and military brass – guarantees (perhaps) a shaky palace and keeps funds flowing, but it screws the other 65 million Thais.

 





Further updated: While we were away….

5 01 2023

It seems that a decaying regime and a largely tame mainstream media means that bizarre things happen and are reported as if they are “normal.” Likewise, some things – mostly to do with Article 112 are simply ignored. And then there’s the strangeness of The Family (the dysfunctional family that for many years has looked like something between The Addams Family and The Munsters but without much family togetherness or the good humor of those television families).

Obviously, the story that has been most difficult to comprehend is the death of Princess Bajrakitiyabha that the palace has not yet acknowledged. That story was scooped by Andrew MacGregor Marshall.

About three weeks ago the palace stated that, after a heart attack/aneurysm, her condition was “stable to a certain extent.” As the BBC added:

Medical bulletins from the royal palace in Thailand are typically vague and cryptic, and from the single statement issued about Princess Bajrakitiyabha, it is difficult to gauge how serious her condition is….

The statement says nothing about her state of health now. Some reports have suggested it is a lot more serious than stated.

Those reports stated that she was brain dead, being kept “alive” by machines. As the king’s favorite, her death is a personal blow, especially as she was only 44. It is not known why her death is not announced or even why there are no updates.

Meanwhile, millions of Thais are being regimented into “praying” for the princess’s miracle “recovery.” Uniformed Thais have led the “good wishes.”

Leaving aside the nutty stuff about what caused her demise, it does seem that succession has again become an issue. This seems to be based on assumptions that King Vajiralongkorn favored her. In fact, though, when succession was said to be in “crisis” a few years ago, it was Princess Sirindhorn who was the center of attention. Why she’s not in the mix now is not explained. Prince Dipangkorn is considered to have “health issues” (which royal doesn’t?) However, he’s now looking pampered, “handsome” to royalists, and must be a chance. But who knows?

A couple of points though. When there was last attention to a “succession crisis” and now, the one thing that has changed is that Bajrakitiyabha was the only full royal by blood. What hasn’t changed is that Dipangkorn is the only male (leaving aside the disowned lot in the USA). None of the royal princesses have male offspring and none of the female offspring seem intent on marriage and the production of offspring.

In the end, the dynasty seems to have reached its biological limits. Minor royals will be positioning themselves while more reasonable people would be looking to a republican future.

Update 1: A reader disputes that there are any “minor royals.” By “minor royals,” we mean those families that might claim royal blood from decades ago. There are still MRs and MCs around. Some of these have recently been seen in royal news undertaking royally-assigned tasks. The point is, as the reader acknowledges, in royalist Thailand, “anything is possible.” In that sense, some of the offspring in the USA might have royal thoughts.

Update 2: According to Prachatai, a new palace report has been released on Bajrakitiyabha. This time, the statement, released on 7 December, has it that “Princess Bajrakitiyabha collapsed due to severe cardiac arrhythmia relating to a mycoplasma infection. She is unconscious and is being given antibiotics, while her heart, lungs, and kidneys continue to be treated with medication and medical equipment.”





Juvenile lese majeste III

22 11 2022

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has an alert regarding an upcoming Central Juvenile and Family Court judgement on a juvenile Article 112 case.

The case is claimed as a “first” for this court, although other juveniles have previously fronted other courts on lese majeste charges. For a case in Khon Kaen, see here, here, here and here.

The case TLHR refers to involves Petch. a 19 year old LGBTQ+ activist. He copped the charge for a speech on 6 December 2020 at Wongwian Yai.

The prosecution alleges that Petch “gave a speech that tarnishes and defames King … Vajiralongkorn (Rama X). His speech is not opinion or truth but defamation towards King Rama X and livestreamed on social media leading [the] audience to believe that King Rama X is a bad person and above the law who is not subjected to any punishment.”

The latter is certainly true, while the former is an opinion held by many. The prosecutor alleges “that his speech defames the father of King Rama X (King Rama IX) for endorsing, allowing, accepting or acknowledging the coup of 2014 which constitutes falsehood.”

Of course, it is a fact that the dead king endorsed the coup, as he has had in 2006.

2006 coup endorsed

“Petch” denied all charges.

As is increasingly usual, Petch’s indictment followed a complaint by ultra-royalist Jakkapong Klinkaew, a leader of a group calling itself the People’s Center for the Protection of Monarchy.

The court heard witness statements from 17 to 25 August 2022, with seven “plaintiff’s witnesses and four defendant’s witnesses who were the defendant himself, the guardian, and two academics.”

Petch faces eight legal cases, “including three cases charged under Section 112 for giving a speech at Nonthaburi Pier on 10 September 2020, ‘wearing crop top’ at Paragon mall on 20 December 2020, and this case…”.

The verdict is due 22 November 2022.





Another FB lese majeste conviction

11 11 2022

Sutthithep. Photo by iLaw, clipped from Prachatai

Sutthithep (last name withheld), 23, was charged with lese majeste and computer crimes for a post he made in a public Facebook group called “Free People” on 14 October 2020.  He was arrested on 9 April 2021 and the Criminal Court found him guilty on 8 November 2022.

He was sentenced him to 3 years in prison, reduced to 1 year and 6 months following the required “confession.”

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights state that he posted: “If insulting royalty or criticizing royalty sends me to hell, then fine. I’ll go to hell,” and followed up with a “message criticising the monarchy.”

The public prosecutor alleged that the post defamed the monarchy and damaged national security. That’s the prosecutor’s mantra in these cases.

It is reported that the complaint to police was made by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, one of 11 such complaints.

Following the complaint, “Sutthithep was arrested on 9 April 2021 at a shopping mall in Bangkok’s Raminthra area on an arrest warrant issued by the Criminal Court.” He was then transferred “to the Technology Crime Suppression Division headquarters and was detained at Thung Song Hong Police Station overnight before being taken to court for a temporary detention request the next day. He was then released on bail using a 90,000-baht security with the condition that he must not use social media to defame anyone.”

The Criminal Court “did not suspend his sentence due to a report from the probation officer that Sutthithep posted criticism of the monarchy on social media after one of his friends was injured in a clash between officers and protesters gathering on the route of a royal motorcade.” This was seen by the court as an action “intending to cause a misunderstanding about the King, damage his reputation, and cause the people to lose faith in him.”

Sutthithep is to appeal and was granted bail “with an additional security of 10,000 baht, bringing his bail security to 100,000 baht. His security was covered by the Will of the People Fund, a bail fund for people prosecuted for participating in the pro-democracy movement.”

It was in September 2022 that Sutthithep “decided to confess to the charges. He said that he was ready to face his sentence because he lives alone and has no family…”.

He was a member of “the activist group Nonthaburi New Generation Network and has been helping the group gather signatures for a petition to repeal the royal defamation [Article 112] law.”





Royalist Marketplace 112 conviction

8 11 2022

Prachatai reports that Nacha (pseudonym), 26, a single mother, “has been sentenced to 3 years in prison on a royal defamation [they mean lese majeste] charge for commenting on the monarchy reformist Facebook group Royalist Marketplace.”

She was charged under Article 112 and computer crimes “for commenting on a picture of King Vajiralongkorn…”.

Nacha was “arrested in Ang Thong on 6 June 2022 and taken to the Technology Crime Suppression Division headquarters in Bangkok.”

Her mobile phone was confiscated by police and she “was interrogated without a lawyer or family member present and confessed during the interrogation.”

On 7 November 2022, the Criminal Court found her “guilty and sentenced her to 3 years in prison. Since she confessed and has never been found guilty of other charges, the Court reduced her sentence to 1 year and 6 months, suspended for 2 years. She must also report to a probation officer once every 4 months for a year and must do 12 hours of community service. The Court also confiscated her mobile phone.”





Silencing MPs on 112

6 11 2022

Prachatai reports that yet another ultra-royalist vigilante group is seeking to silence critics of the lese majeste law. This time, they are targeting an elected member of parliament for a speech made in parliament, later posted online.

Move Forward party MP Amarat Chokepamitkul recently “posted a video clip on Twitter of herself speaking about court neutrality issues in royal defamation [Article 112] cases.”

Amarat. Clipped from Prachatai

The “King Protection Group posted on its Facebook page on Thursday (3 November) that its President Songchai Niamhom went to Phatthalung Provincial Police Station to file a royal defamation [lese majeste] and sedition complaint against Amarat, claiming that she defamed the monarchy in a Twitter video of herself speaking during Wednesday’s parliamentary session.”

In her speech, Amarat “discussed the court’s neutrality when dealing with royal defamation cases and how courts refused to summon documents to be used as evidence in these cases, such as records of King Vajiralongkorn’s travel to and from Germany and records of the transfer of shares in Siam Commercial Bank.”

In the meeting, conservative House Speaker Chuan Leekpai “told her to keep her discussion to what benefits the public and not to talk about the monarchy. He eventually cut off her microphone.”

As is usual, the “the police accepted Songchai’s complaint and said that they will investigate the matter and submit the case to their superiors.” That usually leads to a charge.








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