“Men in black”

2 03 2015

Prachatai reports that a case being brought by the police against so-called men in black has been sent back to prosecutors and the police.

The criminal court has postponed a deposition hearing for five suspects alleged to have been “involved in the violence during the military crackdown on redshirts on 10 April 2010…”. The reason for this is that there is a lack of evidence on the terrorism charge they face and because the public prosecutor and the Department of Special Investigation that has been responsible for the case seem unable to agree on what they are doing.

These suspects, all male, were arrested and charged with “with offences of possession of unauthorized and illegal weapons of war, such as M79 grenade launchers, M16s, HK33s and explosive devices.”

After their miraculous arrest more than four years after the events, the police arranged a press conference on 11 September 2014 so that the five could confess that they were indeed men in black. About a month later, all five recanted saying “they were tortured to confess while under detention by the military.” Torture of suspects by the military and the police is common in Thailand.

The five have been detained ever since, being unable to raise bail. Even if they could, the chances are that they’d be refused bail. After all:

… Punika Chusri, the only female suspect who was not involved in the case, but was merely accused of sitting in the same vehicle as the four other defendants during the incident. However, the court declined the bail request citing flight risk despite the fact that she was not arrested, but voluntarily reported to the police in early September.

The whole case should be viewed skeptically. No sooner had Thailand’s top cop shouted that he had captured the men in black who killed soldiers in April 2010, than he was backpedaling faster than a trick cyclist.

Police General Somyos Pumpanmuang had proudly declared that exiled red shirt Kritsuda Khunasen was involved in money and weapons transfers to the alleged men and women in black he had arrested. Almost immediately he was forced to withdraw the claim. At the time, Khaosod reported the obvious:

The retraction of the link between the Blackshirt suspects and the murder of Col. Romklao is only the latest inconsistency to puzzle observers and raise questions about the accuracy of the police investigation.

Yet when the military dictatorship holds power, even dubious cases can go forward, keeping these alleged “terrorists” locked up for months. This is the military dictatorship that claims to be moving towards democracy. Can these democracy dunces even spell the word?





Updated: Torture and the military

13 10 2014

Late last week, PPT missed a revealing article at Prachatai that has been pointed out to us by a reader. The article sets out the use of ill-treatment and torture by the military.

Groups of anti-coup student activists in Bangkok and Mahasarakham were “allegedly blindfolded, threatened with being killed and suffered minor assaults.”

Earlier, Kritsuda Khunasen “claimed that the military subjected her to blindfolding, beatings, sexual harassment, and suffocation.”

The military denied these allegations.

Later, the “Thai Lawyers for Human Rights revealed … that at least 14 people were allegedly tortured physically and psychologically by the army…. The torture allegations included beatings and electrocution.”

More denials.

Prachatai has now interviewed three people “who were arrested after the 22 May coup d’état and were allegedly tortured during detention.” Their “accounts of alleged torture include electric shocks to the genitals, suffocation, continuous beatings all night, and detention in a hole in the ground, while the hole was being filled.”

This will be denied by the military and police. However, the fact is that torture is standard practice in Thailand. As just one example of many, see this Amnesty International Report. The report notes that ” torture and other ill-treatment, and the lack of accountability for torturers, remains sufficiently frequent and widespread that it cannot be dismissed as the work of a few errant subordinates in isolated instances.”

Update: Readers will find these reports from the past couple of days provide more evidence of the widespread use of torture.

The first is from Prachatai:

Five suspects, accused of being the ‘Men in Black’, recanted their confessions, and said their confessions were made under duress due to alleged torture and ill-treatment during military detention, according to their lawyer. The police accused them of using illegal weapons during the political violence in April 2010, according to their lawyers….

[Their lawyer] Winyat said the suspects have just retracted their statements because they had only just secured legal representation. The five were arrested and detained under martial law. During pre-charge detention, they could not contact their families or lawyers and were allegedly ill-treated.

After they agreed to confess, the military handed them to the police and the police held a press conference….

The second is from The Nation, reproduced in full:

In a rare move, three major human rights groups yesterday jointly criticised Thailand for denying redress to an alleged victim of torture from the deep South.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) issued a joint statement Monday calling for the Prayut Chan-o-cha government to comply with its international human rights obligation to provide remedies and reparation to victims of torture or other ill-treatment.

On October 7, Pattani Provincial Court ruled that Hasan Useng, an alleged victim of torture and other ill-treatment by the state was not entitled to judicial remedies and reparation under Article 32 of the Kingdom’s 2007 Constitution because the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) terminated the charter after the May 22 coup.

The petition was filed by Hasan Useng’s sister on May 2, before the coup took place, however. The allegation involved Hasan Useng being taken to the Inkhayuthaborihan Military Camp in Pattani in April where “military personnel allegedly kicked him and ordered him to do several hundred push-ups and jumping jacks on the hot concrete with his bare feet”.

 





Judicial harassment

17 09 2014

PPT received the following urgent appeal from the AHRC. It refers to Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Somchai Homlaor of the Cross Cultural Foundation. Somchai is well known as a former member of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s Truth for Reconciliation Commission.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-133-2014

17 September 2014

THAILAND: End judicial harassment of human rights defenders

ISSUES: Torture; human rights defenders; military; threats and intimidation; rule of law
———————————————————————

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that the judicial harassment of Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Somchai Homlaor, long-standing and prominent human rights defenders and director and chairperson, respectively, of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) in Thailand, is ongoing. They have been accused of defaming the army and face potential legal prosecution for their work documenting instances of torture and advocating on behalf of victims.

CASE NARRATIVE: As we described in an earlier statement (AHRC-STM-164-2014), on 24 August 2014, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Somchai Homlaor, long-time human rights defenders and director and chairperson, respectively, of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), received warrants summoning them to report to the Yala police by 25 August 2014. Initially, Pornpen and Somchai postponed their reporting to the Tatong police station in Raman district in Yala province until 10 am on 14 September. On 10 September, this was postponed indefinitely at the request of the police investigator. The warrants are in relation to an investigation carried out pursuant to a legal complaint of libel and defamation filed against them by Paramilitary Unit 41. The complaint accuses CrCF of causing damage to the reputation of the Army by disseminating an open letter about a case of torture carried out in southern Thailand.

CrCF was established in 2002 to work on justice and the protection, promotion and monitoring of human rights in Thailand. CrCF’s philosophy and activities are focused on strengthening human rights and delivering sustainable judicial reform throughout society, both top-down and bottom-up. CrCF has a long, well-respected track record of supporting marginalised people such as ethnic minority groups, stateless people, migrant workers and victims of conflict in their struggles for accountability in cases of torture, enforced disappearance, and other human rights violations. Since the declaration of martial law in southern Thailand in January 2004, CrCF has been at the forefront of documenting and calling for justice in cases of torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killing, and other human rights violations. The work of the organization, and especially the work carried out by Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, is in the service of education citizens about their rights, recording rights violations, and pushing for accountability and redress. As part of this work, they routinely document cases and aid victims in filing both formal complaints and disseminating this information to the public via the media. In this case, the complaint was filed by Paramilitary Unit 41 after an open letter which detailed a case of torture of a young man in Yala circulated in public (Some of the details of the open letter were published online by Isra News Agency here). The Army has claimed that the young man was not tortured, and so therefore the open letter constitutes libel and defamation. In response, on 8th May 2014, the ISOC, the Royal Thai Police, and others – including doctors, examined the victim of the alleged assault, and produced a press release stating that an investigation had been carried out which had found that the allegation of assault was untrue. The press release went on to say that CRCF should be held responsible for intentionally distorting the truth and spreading false statements to the public.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The judicial harassment of Pornpen Khongkachonkiet is part of a broader pattern of harassment and legal proceedings carried out against those who expose torture, call for accountability and defend human rights in Thailand. The Government of Thailand acceded to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading or Inhuman Treatment (CAT) on 2 October 2007. As a state party to the CAT, Thailand is obligated to take action to prevent torture, hold perpetrators to account, and provide redress and protection to victims of torture. The AHRC has noted that this is not always the case, such as in the criminal prosecution of Suderueman Maleh, a survivor of torture in southern Thailand, who was sentenced to two years in prison in 2011 after he brought a torture complaint against a police officer who was later cleared of responsibility (AHRC-STM-103-2011). Similarly, when Kritsuda Khunasen, who was arbitrarily detained for nearly a month following the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order, released two video interviews detailed her torture and abuse while in military custody, the junta’s response was to threaten and discredit her (AHRC-STM-151-2014). The appropriate response in all of these cases would be for the military and government to initiate independent investigations into torture.

SUGGESTED ACTION: Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately cease the judicial harassment and end any ongoing investigation of Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Somchai Homlaor for their work defending human rights.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.





Backpedaling on men in black

15 09 2014

No sooner had the policeman who will be Thailand’s top cop shouted that he had captured men in black who killed soldiers in April 2010, than he’s backpedaling.

Just a day or so ago, Police General Somyos Pumpanmuang proudly declared that exiled red shirt Kritsuda Khunasen was involved in money and weapons transfers to the alleged men and women in black arrested by the police. Now Somyos says that “police have not established a clear link between the 26-year-old activist and the armed militants.”

Yesterday, Somyos “insisted that police’s ongoing effort to extradite Ms. Kritsuda is needed to question her about the Blackshirts.” Today he says the police don’t know where she is and, at present, can prove nothing about the claimed links.

A couple of days ago, Somyos was declaring that he arrested “men in black” were connected to “Redshirt militant group [that] were responsible for the murder of an army colonel during the political unrest in 2010.” This refers to Colonel Romklao Thuwatham. Even the soldier’s widow thanked the cops. Today, the police have stated: “This case is not related to the killing of Col. Romklao Thuvatham…”.

Khaosod reports the obvious:

The retraction of the link between the Blackshirt suspects and the murder of Col. Romklao is only the latest inconsistency to puzzle observers and raise questions about the accuracy of the police investigation.

If backpedaling was an Olympic sport, Somyos would have the gold medal.





With a major update: Suspicion

13 09 2014

There have been a remarkable number of reports in various media in recent days of the miraculous police action that has netted one woman and four men alleged to have been “men in black” and claimed to have “confessed” to attacking military and other targets in April 2010.

This is not the first miracle worked by the police since the May 2014 military coup. The miracle worker was, in several such cases, the gold miner businessman and now police boss General Somyos Pumpanmuang. Several of the cases seemed to fade as fast as the miracle was produced.

MIB

A Bangkok Post photo

If that isn’t reason enough for some skepticism, the sight of the police dressing the detainees in black clothing, attaching red armbands and ribbons to them, forcing them to wear balaclavas, and having them “re-enact” alleged “crimes,” including taking them to the streets and having them pose with grenade launchers and assault weapons is completely bizarre and legally fraught.

The first report PPT saw was in the Bangkok Post, where the police already had the detainees were already in fancy dress.

Despite the fact that, at the time the so-called men in black were “identified” as “responsible” for actions against the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime the police and military were under the control of pro-Abhisit commanders, no suspects were captured and convicted and there were precious few video or photo images of the MiBs.

They lived on in military and royalist lore as “responsible” for all the killings in 2010. As The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha and other military brass have said many times, the military did not kill anyone. The courts have disagreed with this in several cases. Even when anti-democrats were violent in 2013 and 2014, they blamed mysterious MiBs. Such claims were demonstrated to be false, concocted for political purposes and to take the heat off the violence of the royalist anti-democrats.

This is not the first time that authorities have claimed to have identified the “perpetrators.” A sub-committee of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission headed by the compromised Somchai Homlaor stated that it had “identified” MiBs. We posted:

In its report on the 2010 Battle for Bangkok, Somchai Homlaor, who headed the investigating sub-committee, said the commission had “found connections between the ‘men in black’ and security guards of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship in at least two clashes with authorities at Kok Wua intersection near the Democracy Monument and the Pratunam area on April 10, 2010.” He adds that “many” of the men in black “were found to be close to Maj Gen Khattiya…”. He added that the commission did “not have evidence to conclude whether they had a connection with UDD key figures…”.

If they did, there was little follow-up and no naming of names.

Prayuth once reportedly stated: “I do not know whether there were men in black or not, but soldiers and police were injured and killed in those clashes…”. The Democrat Party and Abhisit have been sure, and have repeatedly campaigned about MiBs, but their government never found any. Abhisit has repeatedly claimed that MiBs were responsible for all deaths.

That first report in the Bangkok Post stated that the recent arrests saw Somchai Sawaengkarn resurrected the claim that it was only MiBs who were responsible for “killing of soldiers and civilians during political unrest in 2010…”. He added that the arrests might “lead to the identification of those responsible for masterminding the violence…”. He essentially means Thaksin Shinawatra, who he blames for all Thailand’s ills including heavy rainfall. Somchai is of dubious character: a member of the puppet National Legislative Assembly, he was also an unelected senator. He is a huge supporter of anti-democrats.

The police claimed that all “five suspects have admitted involvement in the violence that led to the killing of soldiers near Democracy Monument in April 2010.”

The report states that these suspects “were taken into custody on Tuesday but the arrests were only made public yesterday. They have all been charged with illegally carrying and using guns, bullets and bombs.” In fact, one of those arrested was a “red shirt activist who went missing after he was arrested by soldiers last week…”. He was “arrested by soldiers on 5 September and held incommunicad0 for almost a week while the military denied having him in their custody, the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on Wednesday.”

The police also implicated now-exiled red shirt activist Kritsuda Khunasen saying that the raids on her house “found clear evidence relating to the transfer of large sums of money to the five suspects, although he declined to reveal how much.”

Within hours, the police and the military dictatorship has sought to condemn those arrested. Police General Somyos also defended his arrest of the suspects. He said he has “solid evidence,” but didn’t say anything much about it.

Somyos declared that he “would not argue with red shirts who insisted there were no ‘men in black’ among their ranks.”

Meanwhile, The Dictator stated that he would not comment on the case. As usual, though, he was unable to control himself. He “warned people behind the fatal attacks during the political unrest to … turn themselves in because he has all of their names in his hands.”

He claimed to have “the names of the supporters and financiers of the violent attacks in 2010 as well as those in 2013 and this year, and he urged them to report to authorities. Some are inside the country and some had fled abroad,” as if to blame red shirts yet again. He promised to prosecute and name “those who provided support for the acquisition of such weapons, including their financing…”.

Update: Somewhat belatedly, the mainstream media has decided to raise questions about facts and process involved in this case. As is usual in the Bangkok Post, it has a story that cites a single anonymous source as if that source is unimpeachably reliable. That source claims: “The DSI source said the agency has files on all of the alleged ‘men in black’, but the probe ground to a halt when the Yingluck Shinawatra government was elected in July 2011…. A ‘powerful politician’ in the since-deposed government laid out a guideline for the DSI that the so-called men in black did not exist and there was no armed element, the source alleged.” This is initially plausible, but only until one asks why the DSI did not act against these suspects when the Abhisit regime was in control and backed by the military?

The claim comes as “rights groups label … a press conference in which the suspects were forced to dress in black paramilitary attire as a publicity stunt likely to rob them of the chance of a fair trial.”

The People’s Information Centre pointed out that “there was no compelling evidence linking them to the nine deaths on Din So Road…”. It adds that “[t]hree of the four military casualties … on Din So Road were as a result of grenade blasts, according to … an inquest, not from gun fire as claimed by police on Thursday.”

As noted above, the police have accused exiled red shirt Kritsuda of financing the suspects. She has responded that, at the time of the events, she was 23 year-old. She asks General Somyos: “How can you accuse me without feeling ashamed of yourself?”At the conclusion of this Post story there is a brief mention of how the police decided to track those they now say are guilty: “Soldiers ‘remembered him’ [one of the suspects] from when he and the others allegedly rode in a van past an army Humvee on April 11, 2010.” On that day, the soldiers were in disarray and retreated when they tear-gassed themselves and when faced with red shirt resistance. They fled leaving behind weapons and other equipment. It seems dubious at best that memories of that day could be clear.

The Bangkok Post also has an editorial that comments on the case. It states: “The presentation of the suspected ‘men in black’ last week raises more questions about justice in Thailand under the military regime than it answers.” It continues to raise questions about dressing the men up and having them “re-enact” events that they may not have been involved in. It says: “The questions raised by this series of events are myriad and troubling…. The use of re-enactments is troubling and would be considered highly prejudicial in a legal system that relied on juries.”

On the arrests it asks: “what was that evidence? Who handled the interviews? How can we be certain the confessions were genuine?” It adds that the “suspects are still just that — suspects. They are all entitled to the presumption of innocence and a fair trial and they are entitled to be treated equally under the law.”

Of course, under the military dictatorship, the law is but a tool for those who rule.

Oddly, when the Post editorial concludes, it does so in a curious manner: “The families of those killed by the men in black in April 2010 deserve to know the right people have been brought to justice, and that can only happen in an open, transparent and accountable system.” In making this statement, it is neglecting the red shirts who were murdered by the military commanders who now rule the country.





Torture of detainees

8 09 2014

To date, the most serious claim of mistreatment and torture while in military detention was from the now exiled Kritsuda Khunasen. Not only was she illegally detained by the junta, but she claimed to have been suffocated and physically assaulted.

Prachatai now has a story that says Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has reported that “14 people were tortured and ill-treated during military detention…” during the first 100 days of the military dictatorship with a total of 571 persons having been detained. The allegations of mistreatment involved people being “tortured physically and psychologically by the army.”

Some “[e]x-detainees reported that they were beaten and electrocuted. This is against the military assurances that all detainees will be treated well during detention.” Of course, it was widely reported that the military demanded that each detainee sign a statement affirming that they had been treated well during detention.

Most of those who allege torture “are red shirt supporters or former red-shirt guards. The military allegedly tortured them to force them to confess of using weapons to create situations in various parts of Bangkok during political turbulence since late last year…”.

Other reports were:

that some detainees were blindfolded to their detention locations with handcuff and robes. Some were kicked, punched, suffocated, and were electrocuted on their genitals. They were also blindfolded while they were fed by the officials without knowing what they were eating and were not allowed to take a shower. Moreover, they had been verbally abused by officials who threaten to harm their families.

Some of the detainees were held for periods “exceeding the limit of seven days, allowed by the martial law.”

According to report, of the “571 people summoned by the junta since the coup, at least 266 were arrested. The overwhelming majority of 396 were associated with the red-shirt camp. Another 142 were academics and activists and 98 were those who participated in the peaceful protest.”





ALRC: Human rights in crisis three months after coup

5 09 2014

Reproduced in full from the Asian Legal Resource Centre:

ALRC-CWS-27-12-2014
September 5, 2014

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Twenty seventh session, Agenda Item 4, General Debate

A written submission to the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre

THAILAND: Human rights in crisis three months after coup

1. The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to raise grave concerns with the Human Rights Council about the deepening human rights crisis in Thailand following the 22 May 2014 coup launched by a military junta calling itself the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha. The NCPO has claimed that it carried out the coup for the vague purpose of “reform” and with the intention to “return happiness to the people.” Instead, the NCPO has carried out mass arrests and arbitrary detention, used executive power to push through a number of orders and measures likely to be damaging to human rights, engaged civil and military courts as tools to restrict political freedom, and extensively constricted freedom of expression. Martial law, which was declared on 20 May 2014, remains in force. After three months of military rule, a temporary constitution bereft of necessary rights protections has been announced and General Prayuth was elected as prime minister by an assembly of 194 people hand-picked by the NCPO.

2. The view of the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) is that the actions carried out by the NCPO during the first three months of military rule represent significant derogations of Thailand’s responsibilities as a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

3. From the outset, the ALRC maintains that no “time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation” exists in Thailand to justify the introduction of martial law or the military coup, and therefore no grounds exist under Article 4(1) of the ICCPR for Thailand to derogate from these obligations. Although the country has been experiencing political unrest, this unrest is protracted, and nothing in the current circumstances justified the introduction of these measures. Furthermore, the unrest is in large part a consequence of the last military coup, carried out on 19 September 2006. The assessment of the ALRC that the 22 May 2014 coup and the assault on human rights is likely to further intensify, rather than resolve, the unrest.

4. The NCPO has severely restricted freedom of expression through the issuance of Orders No. 97/2557 [2014] and No. 103/2557 [2014] which place restrictions on criticism of the junta and through the use of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which stipulates that, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The ALRC has repeatedly raised the matter of the damage done to the right to the freedom of expression by the use of Article 112 in a series of statements to the Council over the previous four years, the most recent two being those submitted during the twenty-fifth session in March 2014 (A/HRC/25/NGO/61) and the twenty-sixth session in June 2014 (A/HRC/26/NGO/58).

5. While Article 112 has been part of the Criminal Code since the last major revision in 1957, available statistics suggest that there has been a substantial increase in the number of complaints filed since the 19 September 2006 coup and a dramatic increase in action taken in cases following the 22 May 2014 coup. According to the Internet Dialogue on Law Reform (iLaw), there are 13 new cases that are known to have entered the judicial process since the coup; additional, unreported cases may also be in process. In addition, per Order No. 37/2557 [2014], all complaints of violations against the crown and state, including those under Article 112, filed subsequent to the coup are placed within the jurisdiction of the military court, which restricts the rights of those subject to proceedings, including a denial of the right to appeal.

6. The ALRC is particularly concerned about the recent arrests of Patiwat (last name withheld) and Pornthip (last name withheld), who were arrested following a complaint being filed against them under Article 112 in relation to a performance of a play, “The Wolf’s Bride” (Jao Sao Ma Pa) held in October 2013. They were arrested on 14 and 15 August 2014 and have been held without bail since their arrests while the investigation against them continues. Their arrests are part of a broader planned campaign of arrests of those alleged to have violated Article 112 which have been catalyzed by groups of royalist citizens, such as the group calling itself the National Rubbish Collection Organization, which aims to remove “trash,” by which they mean those who question the institution of the monarchy, from Thai society. Law should be used to limit these vigilante actions and protect free speech, rather than to aid in its restriction.

7. The ALRC would like to remind the Government of Thailand that under Article 19 of the ICCPR, restrictions on the right to freedom of expression are only permissible under two circumstances: “for respect of the rights or reputations of others” and “for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.” While Article 112 is classified as a crime against national security within the Criminal Code, and this is frequently cited by the Government of Thailand when the criticism that the measure is in tension with the ICCPR, to date a clear explanation of the precise logic for categorizing the measure as such has not been provided. The exercise of freedom of expression is frequently messy and productively contentious, but this does not equate to a threat to public order or morals. To raise questions about the operations of power in society are a necessary part of constructing a polity grounded in human rights and the rule of law, not a threat to it.

8. The restriction on freedom of expression and political freedom has also included restriction of activities not explicitly connected to either the junta or the institution of the monarchy. Since the coup, the NCPO has used the provisions of martial law to intimidate and foreclose discussion on development and capital projects affecting citizens, such as those working against the negative affects of gold mining in Loei and those working to raise awareness about the implications of energy sector expansion. For example, on 20 August 2014, eleven activists of the Partnership on Energy Reform were arrested while carrying out a peaceful and non-partisan walk calling for public discussion and to encourage citizens to be actively engaged in decisions about energy development. The walk was surrounded by military troops and the eleven activists were arbitrary detained and held for three days and nights at the Senanarong Army Camp in Songkhla Province. While the ALRC welcomed their release, they should not have been detained in the first place. Further, an additional series of arrests of nine individuals who joined the walk were carried out on 24 August 2014 as this statement was being completed, and the authorities have indicated that those arrested will be charged and processed in the military court for violating martial law, which prohibits public gatherings of five or more persons.

9. The Asian Legal Resource Centre would also like to remind the Government of Thailand of its obligations to uphold Article 9 of the ICCPR, which addresses arbitrary detention and notes specifically that, “1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law. 2. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him. 3. Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release…” During the first two months following the coup, the NCPO immediately began a process of mass arrests of those deemed to oppose them. Under the terms of martial law, soldiers can detain and interrogate anyone for up to seven days without having to provide evidence of wrongdoing or bring formal charges. People arrested can be held at irregular places of detention, including permanent or temporary military bases or other sites designated as places of detention. Detention in irregular places means that the possibility for rights violations, including torture, forced disappearance and extrajudicial execution is greatly increased. Those detained, or targeted for arrest and detention, include politicians from all sides of the political spectrum, red and yellow shirt activists, academics, human rights defenders, writers, publishers, and other dissidents and citizens. The methods of arrest and detention have varied widely. While the use of arbitrary detention has faded from public view in the third month of rule by the NCPO, the ALRC remains gravely concerned about the extent of its use.

10. Further, on 2 and 3 August 2014, Kritsuda Khunasen, a red shirt activist and human rights defender who was arbitrarily detained for nearly a month following the coup, released a series of video interviews in which she described being tortured while in detention. She released the interviews, in which she detailed a range of physical and emotional abuse, after she left Thailand. The response of the junta was to first discredit her account, and then to bring weapons charges against her, despite their statement upon her release from detention that they were not going to bring any charges against her. The ALRC urges the Council to remind the Government of Thailand that as a state party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading or Inhuman Treatment (CAT) it is obligated to take action to prevent torture, hold perpetrators to account, and provide redress and protection to victims of torture. At a minimum, this would involve an independent investigation into the claims made by Kritsuda Khunasen, rather than to respond with an immediate denial of their veracity. The ALRC is concerned that the torture reported by Kritsuda Khunasen may not be an isolated incident and may instead point to a broader pattern of the use of torture by the NCPO against those deemed to be its opponents.

11. In view of the above and in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Asian Legal Resource Centre calls on the United Nations Human Rights Council to:

a. Call on the Government of Thailand to immediately revoke martial law and return to civilian rule;

b. Urge the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to carefully monitor events in Thailand and in particular, derogation of responsibilities under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to call on the Government of Thailand to act in accordance with the protection and promotion of human rights;

c. Urge the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment to investigate the reports of torture by those held in detention following the coup by the NCPO, and to call on the Government of Thailand to act to prevent, investigate, and redress instances of torture;

d. Urge the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders to carefully monitor events in Thailand and in particular, the targeting of human rights defenders to safely carry out their work; and

e. Urge the Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Opinion and Expression to continue ongoing monitoring and research about the broad situation of constriction of rights and individual cases in Thailand and how this is affected under military rule.





HRW on the Thai dictatorship

23 08 2014

Human Rights Watch on the rise of The Dictator and his regime, reproduced in full:

Thailand: Junta Leader Named Prime Minister
Repression Continues Three Months After Military Coup
August 22, 2014

(New York) – The appointment of Thailand’s junta leader as prime minister by the military-picked legislature does not advance human rights or a return to democratic rule, Human Rights Watch said today.

On August 21, 2014, the 191-member National Legislative Assembly unanimously approved Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha as the new prime minister while permitting him to retain his chairmanship of the ruling military authority, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

Three months after the May 22 military coup, the junta continues its crackdown on those exercising their fundamental rights and freedoms and has made no genuine progress towards restoring democratic rule. Under martial law, the junta’s sweeping powers can be carried out without any judicial or other oversight, and with full immunity from prosecution.

“As both prime minister and junta leader, Gen. Prayuth can wield broad power without accountability,” said Brad Adams [3], Asia director. “This marks a dark day for human rights and the future of democracy in Thailand.”

Under the interim constitution proclaimed on July 22, the military junta created a closed and undemocratic political system. The NCPO filled the National Legislative Assembly with military personnel and others known to be close to the junta. Since its formation, the assembly has appeared to operate as a rubber-stamp body for the NCPO rather than placing any checks on the junta’s broad executive powers. For instance, during Prayuth’s presentation of the national budget proposal on August 18, not a single assembly member made a critical comment.

Human Rights Watch learned that after the presentation Prayuth asked, “Anyone disagree with me?” The room remained silent.

Since the military coup on May 22, the NCPO has enforced widespread censorship, largely banned public gatherings and other political activity, carried out hundreds of arbitrary arrests and detentions, and disregarded allegations of torture and ill-treatment.

“Three months under military rule, the junta continues to show contempt for fundamental rights and freedoms,” Adams said. “Criticism is prosecuted, political activity is banned, free speech is censored and subjected to punishment, and several hundred people have been arbitrarily detained.”

Censorship and Restrictions on Free Expression

Restrictions on media and free expression and censorship that began after the coup have continued. Under martial law, the authorities can censor any information considered to be “distorted” or likely to cause “public misunderstanding.” Failure to comply with censorship orders could result in prosecution before a military court. As a result, print and other media operators have generally refrained from publishing news and commentary critical of the military.

The junta has not only targeted media outlets affiliated with the ousted Pheu Thai Party and its mass organization, the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), known as the “Red Shirts,” but it has also banned criticism from pro-junta newspapers and other media.

On July 26, the junta issued an order threatening to prosecute the weekly magazine Phu Jad Karn Sud Sapda if it continued to publish “false information to discredit the NCPO” after the magazine published stories alleging military cronyism and corruption. The junta also instructed the National Press Council of Thailand to launch an ethics inquiry against the magazine. In protest, Phu Jad Karn Sud Sapda announced on August 2 that it would stop publication for one month. Through August 21, the magazine’s sister ASTV satellite broadcast is off the air since the NCPO shuttered the station on May 22.

The junta has repeatedly vowed to prosecute critics of the monarchy, in violation of the right to free expression. Since the coup, at least 14 new cases of lese majeste – insulting the monarchy – have been brought to the Bangkok Military Court and criminal courts around Thailand.

On August 14 and 15, the authorities arrested two activists involved in a play, “The Wolf Bridge,” performed in October 2013 that the junta considered to be “insulting to the monarchy.” Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkong were denied bail and are being held in detention facilities in Bangkok.

On August 14, the Bangkok Criminal Court found Yuthasak Kangwanwongsakul, a taxi driver, guilty of lese majeste based on his conversation with a passenger, and sentenced him to 30 months in jail. On July 31, the Ubon Ratchathani Court sentenced a 27-year-old man to 15 years in prison for posting messages on Facebook deemed insulting to members of the monarchy.

On August 5, the Cultural Ministry announced that the simulation game Tropico 5 was banned because it contained content that appeared to be offensive to the monarchy. The Cultural Promotion Department chief said the game allowed players to name the country and its leader or king as they pleased, and therefore the content was deemed offensive to the Thai monarchy and might affect the country’s dignity.

Arbitrary Arrests and Detention

Since the coup on May 22, the military has detained more than 300 politicians, activists, journalists, and people accused of supporting the deposed government, disrespecting or offending the monarchy, or being involved in anti-coup protests and activities.

The NCPO has banned public gatherings of more than five people and prohibits any opposition to the military authorities. On August 20, police and soldiers arrested at least 11 energy-reform advocates while they walked on the Asian Highway in Songkhla province’s Rattaphum district. The activists were told that their activity violated martial law provisions banning public gatherings of more than five people. Those arrested were taken to the Senanarong Army Camp in Hat Yai district, where they are being held indefinitely.

On August 10, the authorities ordered Amnesty International Thailand to stop its campaign activity in Bangkok calling for peace in the Gaza Strip, citing the public assembly restrictions and prohibition on political events.

On August 8, the NCPO attempted to stop an academic seminar on the interim constitution at Thammasat University in Bangkok. A letter, signed by Col. Noppadon Tawrit, commander of the Kings Guard’s 1st Field Artillery Regiment, to the university rector, stated that the event should be stopped in order “to prevent the resurgence of differences in political attitude.”

The NCPO has held people in incommunicado lockup in unofficial places of detention, such as military camps. Some have been held longer than the seven-day limit for administrative detention under martial law. For example, Yongyuth Boondee, a well-known Red Shirt supporter, was arrested by soldiers in Chiang Mai province on June 28. He was brought to a news conference on July 1, in which the authorities accused him of involvement in grenade attacks and shootings at opposition demonstrations. Since then, the authorities have refused to provide Yongyuth’s family with information on his whereabouts. On August 8, military officers told legal aid activists that Yongyuth had “consented” to voluntarily stay in military custody at an undisclosed location.

Kritsuda Khunasen, another Red Shirt activist, was arrested by soldiers on May 27 in Chonburi province and held incommunicado until June 24, when she was released without charge. In a video interview released on August 2, Kritsuda alleged that soldiers beat her during interrogation and suffocated her with a plastic bag over her head until she lost consciousness. The Thai authorities quickly blocked access to the interview on YouTube and to an English language article about her case. There has not been any official inquiry into Kritsuda’s allegations or other reports of mistreatment in military custody.

The NCPO’s response to Kritsuda’s allegations has been dismissive, raising broader concerns for the authorities’ treatment of all detainees.

On August 20, Worawut Thuagchaiphum, a student at Mahasarakham University, told the media that military personnel threatened him with enforced disappearance and death while in military custody in May because he had protested against the coup. He and his friends had made cloth banners with anti-coup messages and hung them from a clock tower and around Mahasarakham. After the media reported Worawut’s account, the army unit that allegedly interrogated him summoned him to report to its base.

Since the NCPO’s announcement on June 24 that all detainees held without charge had been released, no information has been provided about releases, and individuals continue to be arrested and detained. Those released from military detention have to sign an agreement that they will not make political comments, become involved in political activities, or travel overseas without the junta’s permission. Failure to comply could result in a new detention, or a sentence of two years in prison, or a fine of 40,000 baht (US$1,250).

“Since the May coup, the generals have tightened rather than relaxed their grip on power,” Adams said. “Instead of the promised path back to democracy through free and fair elections, Thailand’s military seems to be opting for a road to dictatorship.”





Comedy and the coup II

11 08 2014

We understand that the military dictatorship’s comedic qualities are not appreciated by all. After all, much of its “comedy” has quite grim outcomes for many. But really, they are such a bunch of hilarious dipsticks.

Think of the laughable claim that red shirt activist Yongyuth Boondee, aka “Daeng Shinjang,” like Kritsuda Khunasen before him, has “requested” that his detention by the military dictatorship be extended beyond the legal limit. The military presented a document allegedly signed by Yongyuth but still refused “to disclose the whereabouts” or allow anyone to contact him, including his lawyers.

Such antics by The Leader and his coup cohort is either very, very funny or they are simply a bunch of ridiculously egocentric dolts and criminals. We leave it to readers to decide which category to place them.

Here’s some more humor-cum-egotistical nonsense the military dictatorship has come up with in recent days.

A report at The Nation reads like a script for a comedy show. It tells us that speaking to his hand-picked – although some were compelled to attend – Prayuth is said to have been cheered. Of course he was! What would be expected from a bunch of anti-democrats who love the military almost as much as the monarchy. Here’s some excerpts:

The audience applauded loudly when he talked about education…. “Students don’t have textbooks. They’ve got only sheets. I don’t know what the Teachers’ Council of Thailand has been doing,” he said…. He said students were made to work too hard, with many having tutorial classes on top of their normal classes…. “Children nowadays don’t know how to do housework,” he said. “Parents see them overwhelmed with homework until 10pm, so they don’t want to tell their kids to do it [housework]…. “The father helps his kid with the homework, and the next day the kid tells him the answers were all wrong.” Prayuth added to laughter.

Clearly Prayuth is being funny or he has no conception of the situation for children in the vast majority of schools around the country.

Like most comedic dictators, he thinks he knows about everything and can fix everything too, with military orders and discipline. For example, he talked about garbage sorting. Seriously, he did. He said: “What’s the point of garbage sorting in bins when the garbage collectors later put it all in the same truck?” We don’t know which enclave Prayuth resides in state-funded splendor, but where one of the PPT collective resides, the garbage collectors spend quite a few hours very early every Wednesday morning sorting the garbage they collect, mainly so they can sell the recyclable stuff and make a bit extra for the pretty awful job they have.

When Prayuth got to the coup, he babbled that “he did not lead the coup due to a thirst of power” and complained that the military junta “haven’t had a holiday since the coup…”. Yes, seriously, Prayuth thinks that he and his military morons deserve holidays every couple of months. The garbage collectors and other workers might like such a job, with regular holidays.

When Prayuth claims that he only gets a per diem of 400 baht a day, is anyone feeling sorry for military leaders who engage in corruption that allows them to own expensive holiday properties, houses, cars and watches.

When he says: “Our wives are going to leave us” because of all the work and pitiable allowance, we can only wonder about all the mia nois.

In another comedy story at The Nation, about the same event, we are told that “many” of the hand-picked participants predictably “agreed it was time to reform the country and are optimistic the efforts would finally end the political crisis.”

And just in case anyone missed it, they “expressed confidence in the leadership of the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).” That’s the junta member’s minions polishing the junta’s boots for them.

The hilarious bit here is that The Nation even reports such tripe. When the media is controlled, the participants chosen by the dictators and The Leader on stage, what else could be said?

Adding mirth, in quoting supportive delegates, The Nation goes to an official of the Department of Local Administration, part of the Ministry of Interior, long central to the country’s hierarchical authoritarianism, says the “meeting … was useful because it gave knowledge about the reform.”

The someone from “the Mass Internal Security Operations Command.” Given that the guy goes on to talk about bus drivers and traffic jams, we assume he’s really from the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority rather than ISOC. said he was optimistic the NCPO would lead the country out of the current turbulence. While his official location may be confused, he’s naturally impressed by Prayuth!

Also at The Nation, the jokes continue, with the junta, which kept Kritsuda in custody for almost a month and then released her, now has a warrant our for her on weapons charges. It is funny that the military dictatorship only issued the warrant after she complained of torture while in custody. They are a bunch of obnoxious wise guys.





More fanatical monarchism

9 08 2014

Monarchism has underpinned all governments since 1957. It has been required since General Sarit Thanarat crushed the last of the Khana Ratsadon and any others who favored a politically restricted monarchy. Strikingly, when monarchism has become ultra-royalism, it has been the regimes closest to the palace that have been most fanatical. Think of the right-wing palace fascism of privy councilor Tanin Kraivixien in 1976-77, the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime of 2008-11, and now the military dictatorship under The Leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Prayuth’s reign dictatorship is already emerging as one of the most hardline and reactionary of this selection of ultra-royalist regimes. Here are some recent examples of the nature of the regime.

At Khaosod it is reported that the newspaper has been forced into outspoken self-censorship. We understand that this hardly makes sense, but look at the editorial Khaosod has published.

Khaosod English states it had to make changes “to a recent article about an anti-royal video posted on youtube last week.” The editors removed some rather innocuous direct quotes in the original posted article, fearful of the lese majeste law. The editorial stated that as “a news agency based in Thailand, Khaosod English is obliged to comply with Thai laws. However, we always strive to find a balance between the boundary of the law and our strong commitment to an objective, accurate news reporting.”

That is a moving boundary, moving mostly to the right, and a boundary that is almost impossible to locate, meaning that self-censorship is the rule, and it becomes more extensive under repressive lese majeste regimes like that of the curent military dictatorship.

Also at Khaosod, the nature of the royalist nature of the regime is further revealed in story headlined, “Hardline Royalist Elected Head of NLA.” By NLA is meant the puppet assembly, handpicked by The Leader. That The Leader’s choice as head of the puppet assembly was “unanimously” voted into the position tells you a great deal about how slavishly loyal this “assembly” is. No independence, no thought, no representation. Asia Sentinel has a useful article on this “lap dog.

The one chosen as The Leader’s boss of the puppet assembly is Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, a former Supreme Court judge. Judges are, by definition, ultra-royalists who leave snail trails on the path when they slither off to the palace.Snail Trail

The last time he was a member of a puppet assembly after the 2006 coup, Pornpetch wanted tougher lese majeste laws. Yes, sentences of 15, 20 and 30 years are simply insufficient when protecting the royalist elites wealth and political power.

Khaosod states that his proposal back then was to expand Article 112’s coverage to “cover members of the Royal Family, the Head of Privy Council, all of the Privy Councilors, and ‘any person who has been appointed a representative of His Majesty the King’.” He also “suggested granting judges the power to outlaw media coverage of ongoing lese majeste trials.” Pornpetch reportedly withdrew his bill “because he was told to do so by the Privy Council…”.

This time, as the slave of The Leader, Pornpetch has said that choosing a premier is not something that is urgent for the puppet assembly. ho need a prime minister when you have an all-powerful and palace-sanctioned dictator.

Meanwhile, getting right down to the most important things, Prayuth has barked about lese majeste (again). Perhaps he’s been excited about the queen’s birthday and the lavish spending to “celebrate” yet another propaganda moment. More likely, he has been enraged by the video calling for the king to abdicate and return power to the people.[clicking opens a YouTube video, banned in Thailand]

The Leader identified some of those he considers opposed to the monarchy and who he wants locked up for decades. He said, in a televised address: “Let me name them,” he said. “[They are] Chupong Theetuan, Anek Chaichana, Saneh Thinsaen, Amnuay Kaewchompoo and Ong-art Thanakamolnan.” PPT has no links for Ong-art or Saneh. Each of the named men is reported outside Thailand. Prayuth warned that he’s hunting more.

Just for good measure, The Leader, joined by even some of his blogosphere “enemies”, decided to condemn Kritsuda Khunasen for claiming she was tortured while in Army detention. He said the claims were untrue and just meant to attack his military dictatorship. Why should anyone believe Prayuth on this? It makes little difference, for under the dictatorship, the military can do what it wants and there is “no plan to investigate the issue.”

At the Wall Street Journal it is pointed out that Prayuth is in firm control. It observes: “The point of this tight control is to rig Thailand’s future political system to prevent supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who the majority of Thai voters support, from forming a future government.” This is too soft and and too narrow. Even The Economist is remarkably weak in identifying military authoritarianism for what it is: a dictatorship. Thailand’s military dictatorship is winding back to a Premocracy, denying democracy, and cementing the foundations of the royalist state.

 

 








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