Political repression unabated

24 07 2022

Cyber-snooping, lawfare, and locking up opponents without bail seem to be the regime’s main means of repressing opponents, including monarchy reform activists. But, as Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reports, so is heavy-handed harassment.

TLHR refers to the regime’s “abuse of authority,” saying that the harassment “of citizens and activists at their homes, offices, and education institutions without any warrants regularly occur, thereby normalising the situation.”

TLHR calculates that, “since the beginning of 2022, citizens and activists have been harassed at home or summoned to talk – 83 between January and February (including 9 youths), 66 between March and April (including 8 youths), and 42 between May and June (including 4 youths).” In addition, “between January and June 2022, there are at least 191 individuals being followed/harassed. Among this number, there are 19 youths under the age of 18 (two of which are only 13 years old).”

They suggest that these data are under-estimates. The scale of regime harassment of political opponents is widespread.





The legal blitzkrieg

21 07 2022

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has provided its June update for the blitzkrieg of charges and arrests that the regime uses to repress political and monarchy reform activists.

TLHR’s documentation of cases (which may not be complete), between 18 July 2020 and 30 June 2022, “at least 1,832 individuals in a total of 1,095 cases have been prosecuted due to their expression and participation in demonstrations. This includes 282 individuals under the age of 18.”

It totals “at least 3,641 prosecutions based on political activism, with many of the accused being prosecuted in multiple cases.”

The main prosecutions can be categorised as follows:

Modern Thailand has never before seen such a crop of Article 112 charges.

The report adds that of the 1,095 cases, just 197 have reached a verdict. The regime is tying people up in legal cases, keeping some locked up, and generally extending political repression in ways that might be considered lawfare.





The weight that is 112

6 07 2022

Article 112 is stifling not just dissent, but Thailand itself. The weight of Article 112 is felt by the young, the innovative, and just about everyone who is interested in a more open politics. Blame the regime. Blame the royalist drivel taught in schools and paraded through the media. Blame ultra-royalists and their infantile attachment to symbols of a feudal path. Blame a judiciary that has lost its way as it protects neo-feudalism.

Of course, as everyone knows, there are attempts to change things. Such efforts are usually met by repression doled out by a blood-thirsty military.

The most recent effort to change things and to roll back neo-feudalism began two years ago. La Prensa Latina has an article about this anniversary and meets up with some of the leading protesters and the manner in which the military-monarchist regime has sought to silence them with lawfare and the legal weight of lese majeste and other serious charges.

Clipped from Prachatai

The article begins with Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul. She now attends university classes wearing an electronic monitoring (EM) device on her ankle. The 23 year-old has been charged with 10 counts of violating the lese-majeste law and a 16 other charges.

The regime’s idea is that semi-house arrest, EM, a 9pm to 6am curfew, and a myriad of legal cases means she’s got no time or opportunity for much else.

Maynu Supitcha, a 20 year-old university student from Thaluwang “has conducted street surveys on the monarchy, and other peaceful protest actions, for which they said authorities handed them three lese-majeste charges.” Maynu also has EM.

Panupong “Mike Rayong” Jardnok, “said he has been slapped with more than 40 charges, including 16 related to lese-majeste, which could see him spend nearly a lifetime in jail.”

 

According to recent data there are now some 210 Article 112 cases since November 2020.





Intimidate, repress, and control II

30 01 2022

The repression of heavy suppression of protesters and activists has been intense. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights recently published a report that states “at least 1,747 people in 980 cases have been prosecuted due to political protests and expression since the Free Youth Rally on 18 July 2020 until 25 December 2021.”

Only 150 of these cases have been concluded, meaning that hundreds of people are tied up in various legal procedures or are being held without bail. This reflects the regime’s use of lawfare.

In 2021 alone, “1,513 new people in 835 cases have been politically accused, accounting for an almost 7-fold increase compared to the number in the second half of 2020.”

Notably, there was a sharp rise in arrests and prosecutions “during the three-month period between August to October. The period coincided with a heightened political tension as a result of car mob events in various provinces, almost daily protests by various groups in Bangkok, and series of “Talu-Gas” protests at Din Daeng Intersection and the surrounding areas.”

Lese majeste charges were filed against at least 127 “new” people in 104 cases, while sedition charges were filed against at least 55 “new” people in 16 cases. As for the “key political leaders accused between 18 July 2020 and 25 December 2021 …[TLHR] found that:

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak has 43 cases.

Panupong “Mike” Jadnok has 30 cases.

Anon Nampa has 24 cases.

Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul has 24 cases.

Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa has 19 cases.

Benja Apan has 19 cases.

Another TLHR report states that “at least 291 activists and citizens, 39 of whom concerned youths under 18 years old, received house visits or were summoned for talks by authorities. These numbers do not include cases where authorities went to deliver summon warrants or make an arrest as part of a prosecution.” Most of this surveillance was in the northeast.

The repression continues and deepens.





Screwing down activism

10 01 2022

The screwing down associated with repressive regimes is an ongoing task for Thailand’s royalist regime, with Prachatai providing recent examples of how this political repression seeps across the political landscape.

In one report, Prachatai looks at cultural matters, focusing on the 29th annual Bangkok Critics Assembly film award ceremony. The video recording removes “references to imprisoned pro-democracy activists … from the speeches of awardees from ‘School Town King’, a film that took home seven awards.”

According to one report, “references to the detainees in the speeches of every awardee but one were cut from a nearly five-hour long video of the award ceremony, held on 24 December 2021 at Lido Connect in Bangkok.  The only speech not  ‘edited’ was given by Sinjai Plengpanich, who accepted an award on behalf of M.L. Pundhevanop Dhewakul.”

In all, “seven speeches were cut, including one by his film’s editor Harin Paesongthai, who received an award for his work.” In making his speech, Harin said “the film sought to address inequality and oppression in society,” adding: “not only in the education system … [but the social] system where we are dominated from the smallest unit to the largest, by the people on top.” In supporting political prisoners he stated that he wanted to: “… use this opportunity to support and stand with the fighters who are being unfairly detained. Free our friends. There are still people suffering, detained because of the injustice of the system … I believe that there will be a better day for us. Justice must take place.”

In another Prachatai story, union activist Thanaphon Wichan was recently prosecuted for attempting “to give a Labour Minister a petition calling for assistance for labour[er]s amidst the pandemic.”

Back on 29 October 2021, Thanaphon, a representative of migrant workers, together with several labor groups, went “to the Ministry of Labour to submit a letter to the Minister of Labour to follow up on their previous petition to demand a solution to construction workers and migrant workers amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and to demand a solution to other concerned issues including expenses incurred from entering the registration process which still lacked the clarity.”

This visit had been coordinated “with representatives of the Ministry of Labour beforehand.”

That action was disrupted when “the Cambodian migrant workers who accompanied her were arrested right in the premises of the Ministry of Labour.” The Ministry the authorized a complaint to police, claiming Thanaphon committed offences against the Immigration Act. No evidence was found, so another charge was concocted: “being complicit in the organization of a gathering and an illegal assembly in a manner that risks spreading the disease in the area designated by an announcement or an order as a maximum and strict control zone and an area under strict surveillance except for permission has been obtained from competent officials, an act of which is a breach of the Regulation issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005).”

We have lost count of how many times this emergency decree on health has been used to silence activists.

Thanaphon and her lawyers say the case “is tantamount to a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or SLAPP.”

Because of the prior coordination with the Ministry, her lawyers argue that “the Ministry of Labour was obliged to act to ensure the enforcement of the disease prevention protocol to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

She was allowed bail, but the message is broadcast to all activists: the screws are being tightened, the regime is out to silence you. If you refuse, face state lawfare.





More 112 charges urged II

9 12 2021

A pattern has emerged. In our last post, we noted that national police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk had urged police superintendents to give even more attention to “national security” cases involving lese majeste and sedition.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda, and the leaders of the armed forces came together for an ISOC meeting “that was held to sum up its performance over the past year and to announce its action plan for 2022.”

Three army generals in 2019. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

The Internal Security Operations Command has arguably been the most critical agency collecting intelligence on the regime’s and the monarchy’s opponents. It has a nationwide organization that mirrors the civil bureaucracy. It also arranges “fake news,” including “plots” against the monarchy and builds royalist “movements” to face down “threats” from regime opponents.

It is reported that Gen Prayuth “laid down polices for the command to focus more on regional security and tackle threats to national security.” Those latter words are the code for the monarchy.

Bizarrely, Gen Prayuth described this most politicized of agencies as “not a political unit but a body supporting other agencies’ efforts to solve problems besetting the country.”

ISOC’s political role was further emphasized when Gen Prayuth urged “… Isoc and the interior minister to work together closely to address problems through democratic means, adding that dated laws and regulations should be amended to boost efficiency.”

They already do, but little of what they do can be realistically described as “democratic,” except in regime doublespeak.

The pattern being set is a division of roles, with the military and ISOC working on intelligence, using “counterinsurgency” techniques to control the provinces, while the police crack heads and wage lawfare, arresting protesters while the courts lock them up





Back to “normal”

5 12 2021

After months and months of calls for monarchy reform, the arrest of hundreds, plenty of political prisoners, the massive use of repression, and hundreds of lese majeste, sedition, and several other charges, what has changed?

If we look at King Vajiralongkorn’s behavior, we guess he’d be content to answer that nothing much has changed. He’s back to his erratic, self-centered “best.”

Readers will recall that when the students first made calls for monarchy reform, the king eventually had to interrupt his long residence in Europe to return to Thailand and engage in a bit of royalist rabble-rousing. That involved a mobilization of his daughters and wives. The king had to spend an extended period in-country, more than he’d done for years.

At the same time, the regime deepened it political repression, emphasizing lawfare.

By early November, it appeared that king and regime figured that they had seen off anti-monarchism, and the king sent a huge number of people, dogs, and royal stuff to Germany. He jetted out in secret in the second week of November. As the the SCMP had it: “He’s back and is feeling at home with his poodles in his favourite kingdom of Bavaria,” Bild wrote, adding he had brought 30 poodles with him from Thailand. The Guardian adds that the king and entourage “booked an entire [4th] floor of the Hilton Munich airport hotel for 11 days.”

The king has quickly re-established his old pattern of quick trips back to Thailand to perform “important” kingly tasks. As far as we can tell, he was back in Thailand, for about 24 hours, when he was required at Wat Phra Kaew, just a few days after arriving in Germany.

And, today, he’s back, again for about 24 hours. This time it is for his dead father’s birthday where he is “scheduled to plant a tree at 4pm on Sunday in a ground-breaking ceremony for a monument to King Rama IX in Bangkok’s Princess Mother Memorial Park.”

We have no idea how much this costs the long-suffering taxpayer. But Metropolitan Police Bureau spokesman Pol Maj-Gen Jirasan Kaewsaengaek revealed that “some 1,300 police officers will be deployed to provide security and control the traffic around the area.” One tree, one king, 1,300 police.

Lots of roads closed and plenty of encouragement for royalists to show up and show support the itinerant monarch.

All pretty “normal.” Obviously, regime and palace feel they can get back to fleecing taxpayers for the royal house.





Updated: Another lese majeste debate

10 11 2021

The king seems to think the threat to his throne has been seen off. According to reports from Andrew MacGregor Marshall at Facebook, the king and his extensive entourage of women, servants, minions, and other hangers-on, he’s back in Germany.

Yet, it is reported that, in under a week, more than 120,000 people have signed a petition to parliament calling for the repeal the infamous and draconian lese majeste law (see also a Prachatai story on this petition).

That will cause consternation among the military leadership and the former military leaders leading the regime but we suspect that they also feel that their lawfare approach has worked, with several leaders of the protests jailed without bail and thousands of others, arrested, harassed and repressed.

But an ongoing debate on lese majeste strikes at the heart of the regime’s political ideology.

Khaosod’s Pravit Rojanaphruk writes that last week’s “unprecedented flurry of reactions both in support and opposition to amending the controversial lese majeste law” means it is likely to “turn the next general elections into a de facto referendum on the law…”. That’s the last thing the palace wants – as Thaksin Shinawatra quickly determined – and it isn’t what the regime and its shaky party want.

Despite facing multiple lese majeste charges, Thaksin has always sucked up to royals; it seems in the genes of big shots brought up during the last reign. That’s why it was a surprise when, “just hours after the renewed major protest by monarchy-reform groups [to] reiterate their year-long call and started a signature drive for the abolition of the law … the opposition Pheu Thai Party’s chief of strategic committee Chaikasem Nitisiri issued a statement … saying the party supports pushing for the proposal to be debated in parliament.”

Thaksin nixed that. Regime and its associated parties were suitably unimpressed, standing up for the status quo.

The royalist Democrat Party declared Article 112 unproblematic, blaming the students and other protesters for the debate that is not needed. It is what is expected of a party founded by vindictive royalists and populated by royalists today. One of them babbled:

The lese-majeste law is not problematic as distorted and claimed by those calling for the amendment by the parliament… If it’s tabled for the parliament we shall fight. We support strict enforcement of the law….

The opposition parties, like Move Forward talk amendment rather than abolition, but the activist fire under them wants the law gone.

Pravit is enthusiastic about the debate:

To amend or not amend the lese majeste law, or even to abolish it, is a much needed debate and we can start on the right foot by trying to be more honest about where the different groups stand. The perpetuation of a state of self-denial will not do Thailand any good.

Royalists are livid and want no debate, no changes, no nothing (as usual).

The Bangkok Post reported that Suwit Thongprasert, better known as the fascist former monk and political activist Buddha Isara, has “submitted a petition to the parliament president to oppose any moves to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law.”

He and representatives of the so-called People’s Army Protecting the Monarchy claim 222,928 signatures supporting their ultra-royalism. They also oppose amending Article 116, the sedition law. Articles 112 and 116, along with computer crimes laws are the main lawfare statutes used by the regime to stifle political dissent.

Like all royalists and the regime itself, the fascist former monk “insisted that the monarchy has been one of the main pillars of the country, a source of Thai culture and tradition, and a unifying force for the Thai people.” Blah, blah, blah palace and rightist propaganda.

The royalists face off against the Progressive Movement which is campaigning “for people to sign an online petition seeking to amend Section 112.”

According to Thai PBS, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is predictably opposed to any amendment:

Deputy Government Spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek said today (Thursday) that the prime minister told his cabinet that his government will not amend the law and will run the country by upholding the three main pillars, namely the Nation, the Religion and the Monarchy.

She said that the prime minister would like to assure the Thai people that this is the administration’s position.

He was quoted to have said about this controversial issue yesterday, “Every country has longstanding cultures and traditions. No one thinks all the good in our past should be erased in favour of the new, created without rules. We shouldn’t be destroying what all Thais hold in high regard.”

The regime’s party is uniting against change. The Bangkok Post reports that Thipanan Sirichana, who is attached to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat Office says it is “impossible to repeal Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law, both in technicality and spirit, and doing so runs counter to the constitution…”. Thipanan insists that Section 6, “that the monarch holds a position of reverence which is inviolable” translates to an impossibility of amending or ditching the law.

That’s looney, but in this atmosphere being mad is a credential for ultra-royalism.

Interestingly, though Thipanan sees campaigning against the law as a campaign tool, suggesting that she knows there’s considerable support for change and reform.

Bangkok Post’s Chairith Yonpiam, an assistant news editor, writes that:

Right-wing conservative factions will have to learn, albeit with a sense of disappointment, that demands to change Section 112 will remain a key point in the drive to reform the monarchy, in what appears to be a long-haul political endeavour.

The calls to modify Section 112 are nothing new. They surfaced in the latter period of King Rama IX’s reign, and have now become predominant.

Sensibly, Chairith reminds readers of earlier efforts to reform or abolish 112, focusing on Nitirat which also had a lese majeste reform petition to parliament back in 2012. Back then, dark forces were unleashed against the university lawyers. One of the major voices denouncing Nitirat and threatening reformists was, of course, Gen Prayuth, then army commander.

Charith is correct to observe that:

The abuse of democratic rule with the launch of the military-sponsored 2017 charter by Gen Prayut and conservative elites, who branded themselves as staunch royalists, propelled calls for the reform of the monarchy, which have become louder in parliament and on the street.

He notes that “politics as we used to know it has changed, as it is no longer dominated by politicians. This is because people are aware that political conflicts have affected all elements in society and reform is necessary.”

His view is that: “Amending Section 112 is absolutely necessary to prevent the abuse of this draconian law.”

Amending this feudal law is not enough. Too many have suffered. Get rid of it. Vajiralongkorn and his mad monarchists are facing determined and growing opposition. Intimidation will be the royalist response, but that is likely to further expand the opposition to royalism and the regime.

Update: Thaksin has said more on lese majeste, seemingly contradicting his earlier position that 112 was “problem-free.” Now he’s saying “the 15-year maximum jail sentence for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code is too harsh. The law must be amended to lower the punishment as a matter of urgency.” He stated: “We need to figure out how to keep the punishment from being too heavy,” adding that those detained under the law “must be granted the right to bail.”





Masters of repression IV

24 07 2021

The masters of repression have been hard at work.

Several outlets, including The Nation, reported that a “total of 154 pro-democracy demonstrators from eight protest groups were prosecuted between July 2 and 18…”. That seems to be something of a boast by the Metropolitan Police Bureau or perhaps it is just reassuring higher levels and yellow-shirted zealots that repression is strong.

Emphasizing the use of virus rules, “all were charged with violating the emergency decree and disease control acts,” in addition to a range of other laws, including sedition and lese majeste.

At the same time, responding to the zealots, the police are planning to “ask the Criminal Court to revoke temporary release granted to pro-democracy leaders who [they claim] broke bail conditions by joining protests.” One senior cop also made the extraordinary threat that “protest leaders who hold rallies will be charged with causing the virus to spread.”

So callous have the police become that they ignore bodies of the dead in the street while seeking to arrest the “two Covid-19 patients who protested in front of Government House on Wednesday evening…”. The police say that: “After they recover, both will be charged for joining several previous protests…”.

What do you say about such grotesque behavior? It is simply cruel. And it is this gross cruelty that they celebrate.

Meanwhile, lawfare is waged against regime critics, involving preposterous “charges.” By now, most readers will already know of the defamation action by Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha against rapper Danupa “Milli” Kanaterrakul, just 18 years-old, “for criticising him on social media.”

She had tweeted that the government’s handling of the virus situation was hopeless. According to The Nation“ she tweeted: “The situation is bad. The government does nothing at all.” One can see such comments in every news outlet. Tens of thousands have tweeted similar things and millions agree with them.

Unaccountably, she “confessed to the charge and paid a 2,000-baht fine.”

Even Tongthong Chandransu, a former dean of the Faculty of Law at Chulalongkorn University, observed: “A government is not a juristic person. It therefore cannot be the damaged party in a criminal case.”

But legal action is not something that bothers the regime. Digital Economy Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn has “warned people, especially celebrities, against posting ‘false information’ on social media.” Fake news is one thing, but it is clear that the regime is targeting criticism, when Chaiwut stated:

Actors are influencers or public figures whom people love. Please don’t exploit this advantage for their political agenda by attacking the government. It is tantamount to distorting information and spreading fake news…. Please don’t look from only one side. You have to think of what the government has done as well — procuring good vaccines that meet standards just like what our neighbours do….

Gen Prayuth’s special lawfare “committee tasked with monitoring and taking legal action against people who propagate on social media false information about him and his cabinet” – well, any criticism – “has filed hundreds of complaints.”

Following up on celebrities, Thai PBS reported that “[a]s many as 25 Thai celebrities have been or are being investigated over their criticism of the government and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, especially concerning the currently inadequate national vaccine rollout and other pandemic measures…”.

Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Pol Maj-Gen Piya Tavichai the list of celebrities was “submitted by the prime minister’s lawyer to police…”. He said that those “who called out specific members of the government may be subject to defamation charges, while others may be subject to charges under computer crime regulations for entering false information into a computer system.”

The regime is fighting a losing battle on this as the criticism expands by the day as the number of deaths and infections grow. But it insists on fighting battles with political opponents it fears may ignite protest.





Masters of repression III

18 07 2021

A couple of days ago, Thai PBS reported on the ongoing efforts to suppress anti-monarchism and political opposition. It reported that public prosecutors “have decided to indict 14 core members of the anti-establishment Ratsadon group, in connection with the mass protest at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok in July last year.” It seems to us that “decided” is the wrong word here, for this is a concerted lawfare campaign to silence critics.

The list of the 14 is:

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, alias Mike Rayong, Anon Nampa, Juthathip Sirikan, Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, Nattawut Somboonsap, Korakot Saengyenphan, Suwanna Tarnlek, Thanayut Na Ayutthaya, Baramee Chairat, Tossaporn Sinsomboon, Dechathorn Bamrungmuang, Tanee Sasom and Panumas Singprom….

This group is targeted with charges of sedition (Article 116) and Article 215 of the Criminal Code as well as breaching the Emergency Decree “for their leading role in the mass protest, organized under the ‘Free Youth’ umbrella.” Article 215 states:

Whenever ten persons upwards being assembled together do or threaten to do an act of violence, or do any thing to cause a breach of the peace, every such person shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding six months or fined not exceeding one thousand Baht, or both.

Noraseth Nanongtoom, a lawyer of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, provided “35,000 baht in cash for each of them, to be used as bail surety. There are also five Move Forward party MPs and lecturers at Thammasat University who are willing to lend their status to bail them…”. There were 11 who attended, and as we understand it, all were bailed.

Several of the activists face scores of legal cases. The regime’s aim is to tie them and their supporters up in a myriad of legal proceedings while making their freedom conditional on the actions of royalist courts.








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