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.





Updated: Masters of repression II

16 07 2021

Lawfare is a tool authoritarian regimes use for political repression. Thailand’s military-backed/monarchist regime has become particularly adept at this means of silencing criticism. There’s been a blizzard of cases of late, even excluding the obvious and odious lese majeste cases.

Just in the past days or so, there have been several cases that warrant attention.

One case involves the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, reported by Reuters to have “initiated a defamation suit against the prominent chairman of a private hospital operator over his criticism of its procurement of Moderna (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccines.” He’s been a critic so he’s targeted. Interestingly, after this criticism, the GPO seemed to suddenly get moving on procurement. All vaccine procurement – and not just in Thailand – remains incredibly opaque.

A second case is reported by The Nation and involves the Royal Thai Army. Army chief General Narongpan Jittkaewtae has bellowed that “eight Facebook users and one Twitter user will be arrested over defamation charges” and can expect jail time, fines or both. His anger is because they shared information suggesting that “Thai soldiers were being flown to the United States for Covid-19 booster shots.”

censorship-1

The army claims that the soldiers were not heading off for the “Strategic Airborne Operation at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.” The army didn’t help its case by initially declaring that the soldiers were involved in Cobra Gold, which has nothing to do with travel to the USA.

A third case is reported in two related stories at Thai Enquirer and Prachatai. The toady National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission has ordered Voice TV “to take its programs off the Video To Home 9 TV (V2H9TV) channel…”. The NBTC claims the channel infringed “regulations when it aired … programs on April 27 which covered the protests Standing Still to Stop Incarceration (ยืนหยุดขัง), the White Ribbons (ผูกโบว์ขาว) and the Let Our Friends Go (ปล่อยเพื่อนเรา)…”. Other live protest broadcasts are reportedly being “investigated.”

In other words, the regime is using the NBTC to prevent Voice TV from providing live coverage of protests.

The NBTC has fined the MVTV company 50,000 baht for airing Voice TV’s “Voice Go” programme, “claiming that the content of the programme affects national security.”

The broadcast on the PSI satellite network on 27 April “was a report on the protest in front of the Supreme Court, in which a group of student activists from Thammasat University occupied an area on the footpath to demand the release of student activists then under detention. The programme also featured interviews with protesters on the reasons for their activities.”

The NBTC “stated that the content of the programme affected national security, peace, and public morals.” In fact, the reason for these moves is to remove opposition criticism.

A fourth case involves more defamation and sedition charges as the regime seeks to shutdown critical commentary on its botched vaccine rollout.

In this case, the regime has gone after veteran politician Sudarat Keyuraphan, with red shirt traitor and now regime flunky Seksakol [Suporn] Atthawong and spineless regime doormat, Sonthiya Sawasdee, adviser to the House committee on law, justice and human rights filing charges.

Sudarat’s Sang Thai Party has been campaigning to sue the “murderous government” for “mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis.”

She’s accused sedition and defamation.

The regime’s mouthpiece Seksakol claims that Sudarat has been “wrongly accusing the government of poorly managing the Covid-19 crisis. This was defamatory, according to Mr Seksakol.” He’s an idiot working for a ridiculous regime, making ridiculous claims while botching the crisis. Only diehard regime supporters would think that the regime’s recent virus work has been anything other than a deadly farce.

The execrable Seksakol made it clear that the charges were to prevent “disharmony in society.” In other words, support the regime or else.

Update: On the attack on Sudarat, consider the commentary by Thitinan Pongsudhirak, which is highly recommended as a full read:

Thailand’s vaccine rollout is evidently a complete shambles due to questionable procurement, supply shortage, and misallocation amid a deadly surge of the Covid-19 “Delta” variant. The situation has been going from bad to worse with no end in sight as a poorly conceived strategy unfolds into a national calamity. As public anger mounts with fast-spreading calls for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s ouster, the Covid-19 pandemic is becoming Thailand’s political game-changer more than anyone could have anticipated.

Instead of the youth-led political movement or the parliamentary opposition’s demands for reform, fundamental political change in this country will likely cascade from the Prayut government’s gross mishandling that is claiming lives, inflicting daily hardships, and causing unhappiness nationwide. When the time comes to pick up the pieces with more abundant and efficacious vaccines with virus control under way, a national inquiry for public accountability will be imperative….

What sets Thailand apart are what appears to be inherent nepotism and vested interests where people suspect there is more than meets the eye behind the country’s vaccination procurement. For inhabitants of this country, it matters less that other countries are suffering the same conditions, but that the country they live in can and should be doing much better. What’s worse, the Prayut government keeps repeating the same mistakes and making matters worse by the day.

Is he up for a state defamation action too?

 





Updated: Lawfare and constitution

26 06 2021

The regime is now a lawfare regime. This means that it misuses the legal system against an “enemy,” seeking to delegitimize them, wasting their time and money, and repeatedly harassing them. Like other repressive regimes, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government seeks to prevent and discourage civil society and individuals from claiming their legal rights, even when these are supposedly granted by the junta’s 2017 constitution.

Such lawfare is “especially common in situations when individuals and civil society use non-violent methods to highlight or oppose discrimination, corruption, lack of democracy, limiting freedom of speech, violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law.” It is rule by law rather than anything remotely close to rule of law.

King PenguinAs democracy activists seek to reactivate a movement that was attacked by a myriad of legal cases and detentions, their rallies are now met with multiple legal cases: the pure definition of lawfare.

Like other despotic regimes, the protesters face, according to Deputy Royal Thai Police Spokesman Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen, a “health safety announcement issued by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.” We guess that the leaders of one of the rallies, who are on bail, will find themselves targeted for more jail time. It is the way authoritarians use the law.

It is worth recalling that the protesters chose to rally on what used to officially be National Day. As the king has demanded, 1932 is a memory that only the public can keep alive, with the regime simply ignoring the date after years of removing its symbols.

1932 began an era of constitutional innovation and ended absolute monarchy, with small steps taken to establish the rule of law.

As the relatively small rallies went on, in parliament, a farce played out. The regime has, from time to time, indicated that it wants some constitutional change, mainly to further its already mammoth electoral rigging. But, as anyone who has followed politics since 2007 knows, the royalists, rightists and military allow no changes that might level the playing field. The lies on constitutional change began with the 2007 constitutional referendum and the brickwall to change has been strengthened by a biased Constitutional Court.

Pretending to promote constitutional change, 13 constitutional change bills were introduced. All but one was rejected by a joint sitting of the elected lower house and the junta-appointed senate. The legislation this hybrid “parliament” approved “would raise the number of constituency MPs from 350 to 400 and restore the old selection formula for 100 list MPs.” All this does is make regime thugs like Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Thammanat Prompao more powerful as they redevelop money politics.It also opens the opportunity for MP and party purchasing on a grand scale.

Those who link this change back to earlier times, miss the changes that have taken place under military regimes and ignore the way that state resources and the misuse of law have made the the regime all but impregnable in the next election.

These commentators should also consider that the appointed senate makes a mockery of parliament. The senators, who all owe their positions to the military junta and the thugs running the current regime, essentially voted as a bloc.

Bencha Saengchan of the Move Forward Party correctly states: “Last night’s vote shows that parliament is a drama theater that lacks sincerity towards the people…”. But that’s way too mild. This regime will have to be forced out, laws changed, constitutions rewritten, monarchy tamed or deleted, and the thugs imprisoned. It is the only way to roll back 15 years of rigging and corruption.

Update: For an example of horrendous “journalism,” see the Bangkok Post’s About Politics column. It is usually rightist tripe, but this week’s column is a doozy. Somehow it manages to ignore all of the regime’s efforts to rig constitution and elections and to blame the opposition for failed constitutional reform. Quite an act of political contortion.





Updated: Lawfare increasing

16 12 2020

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his regime are piling on the charges against those they consider the leaders of opposition rallies. It looks like lawfare.

Wikipedia has useful definitions:

  • The misuse of legal systems and principles against an enemy, such as by damaging or delegitimizing them, wasting their time and money …, or winning a public relations victory.
  • A tactic used by repressive regimes to label and discourage civil society or individuals from claiming their legal rights via national or international legal systems. This is especially common in situations when individuals and civil society use non-violent methods to highlight or oppose discrimination, corruption, lack of democracy, limiting freedom of speech, violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law.

That’s pretty much what’s going on, as case after case piles up. In recent reports, the Bangkok Post refers to Arnon Nampa being hit with another lese majeste case, reporting “to Bang Pho police on Monday to acknowledge another lese majeste charge under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, this time in connection the rally in front of parliament, near the Kiak Kai intersection, on Nov 17.”

It is uplifting that Arnon is “not dispirited by the charge.” He says there are four others and he expects more.

Arnon stated that “[a]ll protest leaders were prepared to enter the legal process…”. And, he expects a long struggle against the regime.

Update: As we said, cases are mounting by the day. Two new charges we have seen are:

  • Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak reported to Samranrat police on Wednesday to acknowledge a police charge of causing damage to public property during a rally at the Democracy Monument on Oct 14.
  • Celebrity actress Inthira “Sai” Charoenpura, who organized donations for the pro-democracy rallies said Wednesday she was charged with royal defamation [112], a harsh law that could land her in prison for 15 years.