He’s back!

9 04 2014

We find it a little difficult to believe, but we are very pleased to see that veteran democracy campaigner Chalard Worachat is back at it. Prachatai reports that 22 years after he put backbone into the movement to prevent the military consolidating power in 1992, Chalard is camping out near Parliament House and has been there since 22 March (another report says 21 March). That is the day the Constitutional Court nullified the 2 February election.

Back in 1992, it was Chamlong Srimuang, now a grinning leader of the rightist Dhamma Army and of the People’s Alliance for Democracy who got credit for his hunger strike that eventually led to demonstrations and a massacre of civilians (note this report where a little-known intervention by the king is reported, trying to get Chamlong to abandon his hunger strike). In fact, though, it was Chalard who, as a very lonely protester, began a hunger strike that forced usually spineless politicians like Chuan Leekpai of the Democrat Party to take notice.


A Prachatai photo

Prachatai sates that:

Chalard’s very first hunger strike took place [in 1980]…. He protested against the right-wing Prime Minister Kriangsak Chamanan, who was installed after the 1977 military coup, for raising oil prices…. It caused Kriangsak to resign on the 36th hour of Chalard’s hunger strike.

In 1983, Chalard was back, protesting:

during the General Prem Tinasulanond government, the House tried to pass a bill allowing bureaucrats and military officers to become Prime Minister, in effect allowing Prem to extend his term. Chalard held a hunger strike for nine days before successfully stopping passage of the bill.

He was back again in 1992, and then “played an important role in pushing for the 1997 constitution…”. From 1965 to 1987, Chalard was a member of the now disgraced Democrat Party. He once represented the Party in parliament. However, he:

protested against his party leader by holding a hunger strike to call on Chuan to amend the 1992 constitution to be more democratic, but on the 49th day, he quit due to his deteriorating health. The Supreme Patriach asked him to ordain instead…. His strike however led to “Chalard’s Friends,” a committee which successfully pushed for political reform as its main social agenda, and later paved the way for the drafting of the 1997 constitution.

In the hours after the 2006 palace-military coup, Chalard was arrested for protesting against it.

As Prachatai puts it, he is now back at the spot:

… where this 71-year-old man held a 45-day long hunger strike in 1992 to protest against General Suchinda Kraprayoon, then Prime Minister who came from a coup he led in 1991. The protest led to Black May, a people’s uprising in Bangkok which toppled the military regime and paved the way to a more democratic government for Thailand.

And, he has much the “same demands — to abolish an undemocratic constitution and oppose an appointed Prime Minister, as well as a military coup.” He isn’t refusing food yet, “but he says he will, should a military coup happen.”

Today, Chalard said “the core problem of Thai politics is the 2007 constitution which allows independent agencies too much power over the government.” He says: “We must call for the abolition of the current seditious constitution, and bring back a more democratic one.” If this doesn’t happen, Chalard states that the “situation will lead to chaos, more violence and a military coup for sure…. What we need is a new election to be held as soon as possible. We need a Prime Minister who comes from elections.”

Asked about the failed Democrat Party, “Chalard said he first decided to join the party because it was against the military in the 1970s…. Now it changed from opposing dictatorship to supporting it…”. In fact, even in the 1970s, the party’s opposition to military government was tepid.

Chalard’s actions always spur reaction, so it will be interesting to see if this current lone protest has any impact.

Akechai on lese majeste

19 04 2013

At Prachatai, academic Tyrell Haberkorn has translated a remarkable document by now-imprisoned lese majeste activist Akechai Hongkangwarn.

Sentenced at the end of March , Akechai has requested bail while he appealed the conviction, but bail has been denied and he remains in the overcrowded Bangkok Remand Prison.

Prior to his conviction, Akechai wrote an analysis of the history of the lese majeste law over more than 100 years, the  Computer Crimes Act,  and the recent efforts to changes these laws and implement political amnesties. This tract is long and deserving of study. Here, PPT mentions just a few highlights.

In noting the first lese majeste law on 1 June 1908, Akechai notes that the law applied to king, queen, crown prince and regent but also applied to historical royalty and could apply to “anyone who violated either of these two laws in a foreign country would be punished in Siam.”

The revised Criminal Code promulgated on 13 November 1956  “reduced the number of people protected to only include the present-day King, Queen, Heir-apparent, and Regent, eliminated fines and kept a maximum 7 year sentence, but set no minimum. Akechai says: “This was tantamount to repealing Article 100 of the Penal Code of R.S. 127 [1908].” The application to those overseas remained.

It was following the massacre and coup of 6 October 1976 and under the present king’s selected prime minister, Thanin Kraivixien, that Article 112 was strengthened, setting a minimum sentence of 3 years and a maximum of 15 years.

The only other times that even harsher measures were proposed was following the 2006 coup. First, when yet another king’s favorite, Surayud Chulanot, was prime minister. As Akechai notes, only heavy local and international criticism saw the proposed changes dropped. Second, under pro-Thaksin Shinawatra premier Samak Sundaravej, who was also involved in the regressions of 1976. This amendment was also withdrawn.

The 2007 Computer Crimes Act, first proposed during Thaksin’s government and made law under Surayud’s appointed regime, is “an attempt by the rulers to promulgate a new law in order to control lèse majesté from spreading on the internet, because it could not be addressed by Article 112.” Like laws of old, “anyone who violated this law in a foreign country would be punished in Thailand…”.

On amnesty, Akechai “found 3 amnesty laws which constituted an amnesty for Articles 98 and 100 of the Penal Code of R.S. 127 [lese majeste] and Article 112 [lese majeste] of the Criminal Code.” He notes that there “have not been any laws which provide an amnesty for the Computer Crimes Act.”

The first granted amnesty to the 1932 People’s Party. The second was under Kriangsak Chomanan, in 1978, when he “passed the Amnesty for those who committed offences in the demonstrations at Thammasat University between 4 and 6 October 1976′.” It covered a lese majeste case. The third was in 1989, under the “government of General Chartchai Choonhavan [that] issued an amnesty for those whose actions were a violation of national security of the state in the kingdom following the Criminal Code and offences under the Anti-Communist Activities Act of 1989.” It also applied indirectly to at least one lese majeste case involving Veera Musigapong.

When he examines drafts of amnesty laws in the current period, Akechai states:

Among all 8 of the draft amnesty laws proposed by various sectors during the past 2 years, there is not even one that mentions amnesty for lèse majesté or Article 112 of the Criminal Code/Computer Crimes Act at all. Yet it may be incorrect to conclude that these amnesty laws do not provide an amnesty for lèse majesté.

I have examined the 8 draft amnesty laws and found 2 drafts of interest. These are the Draft Constitution for Amnesty and Eliminating the Conflict (proposed by the Khana Nitirat in 2013, timeframe of 19 September 2006 — 9 May 2011) and the Draft Act for Amnesty for People Imprisoned and Undergoing Prosecution Resulting from Political Conflict from 1 January 2007 until 31 December 2011 (proposed by the UDD in 2013, timeframe of 1 January 2007 – 31 December 2011).

… Upon examination of these two drafts, I am certain that these are amnesties for lèse majesté, but not that every case of lèse majesté can be covered by the amnesty from these two draft laws.


Remembering the 6 October royalist massacre

6 10 2012

As we have pointed out several times in recent weeks, the royalist state is “protected” by the military and ultra-royalists. This task requires that these groups – most especially the military – repress and kill citizens seen as dissidents or an opposition.

In 1976, this protection of the monarchy saw murders in the monarchy’s name. The most dramatic and horrible event was the royalist-inspired attack on people – mostly students – damned as “disloyal.” This massacre at Thammasat University, probably killed more people than the dark events of April and May 2010, yet there has never been any state investigation nor anyone sent to trial. Impunity was the rule because the state’s troops and rightist gangs were doing the work of the royalist state. The main perpetrators of the massacre are claimed to be the Border Patrol Police who trained many of the rightist gangs in the name of the monarchy and with considerable U.S. funding. The BPP was and remains close to the royal family.

The regime that was put in place following the massacre and a coup was, like 2006, headed by a palace favorite. Thanin Kraivixien remains a Privy Counselor even today, considered “respected” because of that. Yet the fact is that his administration was one of the most right-wing, repressive and brutal regimes. Mercifully, after just a year, he was thrown out by another coup, led by General Kriangsak Chomanan, who was never forgiven by the palace for throwing out the its prime minister. Of course, this led to Kriangsak’s ouster, arranged to replace him with General Prem Tinsulanond, another palace favorite, who remains president of the Privy Council today. Just days after the bloodshed, the crown prince distributed awards to paramilitary personnel involved.

In other words, the massacre at Thammasat University was intimately linked to palace political machinations. Neither the palace nor the military has been far from the politics of the period since, and the massacres of Bangkok protesters seen in 1992 and 2010.

A major event was organized to remember this 1976 event. It is in Thai and can be found here. Prachatati released new pictures from the period last year, and the BBC has a 10-minute documentary worth accessing. So is Puey Ungpakorn’s account of the events around 6 October.