Criticism, monarchy, and lese majeste torture

29 12 2021

Jatuphat in jail on an earlier 112 charge

Khaosod reports that monarchy-reform protesters Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa and Panupong Jadnok “will no longer apply for bail after repeated refusals to grant them bail while they face multiple lese majeste charges.”

Their attorney, Krisadang Nutcharus said that it is “now be up to the criminal court to consider whether to let the four be released so they could have a fair chance to fight the cases or not.”

Krisadang explained: “The court has the power to end the temporary detention. I will continue to assist [the defendants] but they think the court no longer wants to let them out on bail…”.

The four state that the repeated bail denials means that they are unable to “prepare themselves to fight a fair trial and goes against the international obligations Thailand has to the international community.”

The report quotes former lese majeste political prisoner, Akechai Hongkangwarn. He believes the four now know that:

Penguin during an earlier period in jail. Clipped from Prachatai

they won’t be released before the verdicts are handed [down]. They have requested for bail many times and the repeated denials left them with bitterness. They will probably spend next year in prison if not longer. I understand them and those outside the prison must carry on. If they don’t come out onto the streets, the chance of the four being forgotten would increase…”.

That’s exactly what the regime, palace – with the spendthrift and erratic king back in Thailand – and courts wants: to silence them and to keep them locked up so that the protests lose momentum and leadership. It is also the well-used tactic of keeping those accused of lese majeste locked up until they plead guilty, thus avoiding a proper trial. Several former political prisoners suffered under this neo-feudal system for several years.

Clipped from The Nation

Meanwhile, Thai PBS has a year-ender on criticism of the monarchy and calls for change. It gets some things wrong. For example, it claims: “Before the birth of the youth-led protest movement in 2020, criticism of the monarchy and calls for changes to the institution [monarchy] were only limited to academia.” Only the historically dimwitted could make such a claim. It demeans earlier criticism of the monarchy. Think of some of the red shirts and the students of 1973-76 as two examples. At the same time, it should be noted that academics calling criticizing the monarchy were thin on the ground.

In many ways, as they acknowledge themselves, the current reformers draw on a legacy going back to 1932. And, it is true that this round of questioning the monarchy has meant that the monarchy has been “widely discussed in Thai society.” That’s a real achievement but has come at great cost to the reformers as the lese majeste and other repressive laws have been used and police have attacked and arrested demonstrators (and others).

As the Thai PBS article observes, the judiciary has become crucial in opposing the reformers. Not only does it lock them up, but the “Constitutional Court verdict last month seemed designed to silence the discussion [about the monarchy and reform].”

In a ludicrous verdict, the court ruled that speeches on monarchy reform “amounted to attempts to overthrow the country’s democratic system with the King as head of state.” But the threat of lese majeste charges against those reporting accurately about monarchy and reform has silenced critical voices and made the media compliant. So much so that the mainstream media barely even reports on lese majeste cases.





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





Updated: Rung jailed

16 11 2021

As we posted recently, the Constitutional Court’s absurd ruling made it clear where Thailand is heading: down the royalist rathole.

And so it begins….

The Bangkok Post reports that the “Criminal Court on Monday denied bail for Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul on a lese majeste case involving her crop top outfit.” She had, with others, shown up on 20 December 2020, in front of the royally-connected Siam Paragon shopping center, in front of the Sirivannavari shop, owned by the king’s second daughter. In crop tops, the protesters held signs attacking the lese majeste law.

Not Rung, but the fellow in Germany

The result was a lese majeste charge, apparently for the crop top.

The court immediately denied bail, saying Rung “had repeatedly committed similar offences since she and four others were indicted by public prosecutors on June 29.” It claimed she had “violated the conditions set by the court in other cases…”.

She was sent to the Central Women’s Correctional Institution for detention.

We expect further efforts to lock up protesters.

Update: Prachatai has a detailed report on Rung’s case.





Lese majeste hits another teen

24 09 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that Akkarasorn Opilan, 17, a “niece of Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, [has] reported to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) yesterday [23 Sept] to answer a lese majeste charge.”

The charge against her “related to a Feb 13 social media post concerning clashes between police and anti-government protesters in front of the Criminal Court.”

The post had been removed but was captured by internet vigilantes and it was again the ridiculously monikered Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims, an online ultra-royalist group, that made the complaint to police. In almost all recent cases of recent lese majeste and sedition cases, it has been this group, headed up by extreme rightists Nangnoi Assawakittikorn and Nopadol Prompasit, that had run to the police.

No further details are currently available.





112 bail for Prasong

7 08 2021

Prachatai reports that Prasong Khotsongkhram, arrested on 8 July 2021 on a lese majeste charge, has “been granted bail after spending 27 days in prison.”

The Taling Chan Criminal Court granted bail on 4 August after three previous bail requests were denied. In seeking bail,

… Prasong told the court that he never received a summons before he was arrested. He also said that he did not resist arrest and therefore would not try to escape.

Prasong’s mother Supranee also testified to the court that she was present when Prasong was arrested at their home in Lopburi and signed as a witness to the arrest. She said that there is no one besides Prasong to take care of her. She said that she has kidney stones, high blood pressure and diabetes, which require her to take regular medications, and if Prasong is released, she would have someone to take her to doctor’s appointments.

The court allowed bail but requires that Prasong  wear  electronic monitoring and, continuing the judiciary’s role in lese majeste repression, “set the condition that he must not do anything that would damage the monarchy and must not leave the country without the court’s permission.”

Prasong had been detained “at the Thung Noi Temporary Prison, which is on the same premises as the Military Circle 11 Prison.”

The current count of people charged in the latest round of efforts to erase anti-monarchism, 113 people are facing lese majeste charges.





A deluge of 112 charges

23 07 2021

People might be dying in the streets but the regime has its eye on what it thinks is most important: more and more lese majeste and other charges. It is desperate, not to stem the virus, but to stem any notion that the neo-feudals should be reformed.

Thai PBS reports that 13 protesters were formally indicted by public prosecutors on Thursday for lese majeste and sedition. The charges stem from the march and rally at the German Embassy on 26 October 2020. It states:

Mind

Among the accused named by the public prosecutors are Passaravalee “Mind” Thanakitvibulphol, Korakot Saengyenphan, Chanin “Ball” Wongsri, Benja Apan, Watcharakorn Chaikaew, Nawat “Am” Liangwattana, Atthapol “Khru Yai” Buapat, Akkarapon Teeptaisong, Suthinee Jangpipatnawakit, Ravisara Eksgool, and Cholathit Chote-sawat.

12 protesters reported to prosecutors at the Bangkok South Criminal Litigation Office at about 9.30am to acknowledge the charges brought against them by Thung Mahamek police. The other was due to report … [today]. They were escorted by police to the Bangkok South Criminal Court for arraignment and have been granted bail.

Fellow activist Arnon Nampa and others showed up to provide support, while “[t]hree “Move Forward” MPs, namely Rangsiman Rome, Thongdaeng Benjapak of Samut Sakhon, Suttawan Suban Na Ayuthaya of Nakhon Pathom, were present at the court to offer their parliamentary status to secure bail for the protesters.” In addition”six lecturers also volunteered to offer their academic status to support bail for the protesters.”

The Bangkok Post reports that “[t]hree officials from the German embassy were also present as observers.”





Masters of repression I

14 07 2021

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have published their June update. It makes for sorry reading, from using the virus emergency decree for political repression to the use of lese majeste against political activists.

According to the TLHR “at least 695 people in 374 cases have already been affected as a result of their political involvement and opinions since the ‘Free Youth’ rally on 18 July 2020 until the end of June 2021.” This includes “43 youths of under 18 years old…”.

In total, lese majeste charges have now been laid against more than 100 people.

Contempt of court and insulting the court cases case have grown. For the former, there have been at least 18 people in 14 cases “for participating in assemblies criticizing the judiciary since the Free Youth Rally until the end of May 2021.” Strikingly, “the Court can conduct a contempt trial and pass a judgment directly bypassing the investigation or prosecution process.”

TLHR also reports that the courts have routinely “imposed overly strict measures in courtrooms, including limiting the number of audience or requiring a preapproved permission. In all trials, the Court forbade notetaking claiming it was to keep order.” Such measures “were likely to undermine the principle of a free and fair trial.”

In addition to court and judicial processes, TLHR states that “[s]tate authorities continuously monitor and harass people who posted monarchy-related content and political activists…”. In June alone, the “authorities approached least 18 citizens who expressed monarchy-related or political opinions at their homes. These incidents occurred in all of the regions of the country…”.

TLHR also found that “at least 511 people in 162 cases had been accused of breaching the Emergency Decree provisions…”.

The regime may not be very good at virus mitigation, but it is highly skilled in acts of political repression.





Repressive bail and 112 illegality

1 07 2021

Readers might be interested in a report at Asia Democracy Chronicles on “Repressive bail conditions stifle basic freedoms in Thailand” by Anon Chawalawan from iLaw.

In an otherwise reasonable report, we wonder why Anon decided to begin the report with the usual lazy journalism: “In Thailand, the monarchy is revered.” Recent events have demonstrated that this is not true. The monarchy is contested.

Tyrant 112

Clipped from the linked report

One point worth repeating is on how bail comes with political conditions:

… the activists behind bars must accept certain conditions imposed by the court if they want their temporary freedom. The court will dismiss the petitions for bail of activists who do not agree to the conditions, such as the prohibition for them “to take part in any activity that may harm the monarchy.” The court is likely to dismiss said petitions until the activists agree to the condition. In this manner, the state uses the conditions for bail to limit anti-government protesters’ freedom of expression and movement.

The question is raised regarding the legality of this (not that the regime worries about legality). The law states:

In granting a provisional release, the official empowered to so grant or the court may stipulate any condition governing the residence of the person provisionally released or any other condition to be observed by such person, in order to prevent his abscondence or any possible danger or injury which might ensue from the provisional release (unofficial translation).

In some cases, the use of electronic tracking devices has also been part of the conditions for bail. As has been shown in two cases, other courts have rejected this requirement, suggesting that 112 bail conditions are illegal.

It is worth emphasizing that the application of the lese majeste law itself has involved courts making illegal decisions, applying the law to persons not covered by it.





TikTok lese majeste

21 05 2021

In yet another inglorious first for the monarchist regime, we believe the first lese majeste case against a user of TikTok has been launched.

Prachatai reports that TikTok user Lalita Meesuk “faces charges under the lèse majesté law and the Computer Crimes Act for a video clip criticizing the Thai government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Lalita, from Kalasin, reported to Nang Loeng Police Station – quite a site for lese majeste charges – on 20 May 2021. Her summons was issued two weeks ago.

Lalita

Clipped from Prachatai

As is becoming common, the “complaint against Lalita was filed by Apiwat Kantong, a lawyer for the Office of the Prime Minister…”. His complaint was that “she posted a short video clip on the popular social media platform TikTok criticising the Thai government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Apiwat’s complaints are generated directly from the Prime Minister’s Office and have for some time legally trolled those critical of the regime’s virus choices, including the decision to allocate vaccine production and to subsidize a little known company that just happens to belong to the king.

Lalita says that in a reply to a comment on her post, she stated: “It’s not as much a favour as a person who takes the people’s money and gives it back to the people. But why do we need to show appreciation for royal grace?”

That got the regime’s bosses in a flap and Apiwat was given the job of filing a complaint to shut down criticism.

It is reported that Lalita denied all charges. She insists she was criticizing the government.

She was released, to report to the public prosecutor on 13 July 2021.

She was defiant, saying that the use of Article 112 amounts to a ” weaponizing the law,” adding: “What I’m feeling today is mostly anger that he used the law as a weapon to hurt me, even though he is also a lawyer. He shouldn’t be acting like this. What I said was nothing wrong. I said it because I want things to get better…”.

She attacked the government:

The country is being ruined not because of what I said. It’s being ruined because they themselves are using it and ruining it. The ones ruining it are not us but them. In the end, the things that are issued, like court orders and summonses, they have almost no meaning…. What they are doing, how long have they been doing it? And has anything got better? 5 years ago, 10 years ago, how many people did this happen to? So today, has the number got any smaller? It’s increasing instead, so is what they are doing going the right way?

They should take what we are talking about to fix things, and not look what we say as a problem, and write it down as a problem and then throw it in the garbage. The problem is not what is said. They are not doing it right. They won’t succeed if they keep acting like this.

That seems like a reasonable assessment.





Targeting Penguin

15 05 2021

Readers will probably have noticed that the recently bailed Penguin is in the sights of Palang Pracharath Party member Sonthiya Sawasdee.

On Friday, the execrable Sonthiya “asked the Criminal Court to review its decision to free Parit … Chiwarak on bail after the protest leader was accused of violating his bail conditions in a social media post.”

Sonthiya petitioned “Sitthichote Intharawiset, the Criminal Court chief justice, asking the judge to look into the post and decide on the matter.”

It seems this is the brave and challenging post, translated by Thisrupt:

Penguin

Clipped from Prachatai

The 93-day imprisonment and 57-day hunger strike to protest against injustice are now over. Yesterday, the court returned my and Ammy’s right to receive bail, even if there are some bail conditions. It’s self-evident these conditions are meant to obstruct the struggle for democracy. I believe the court is political, and the court must examine whether it stands for justice. In any case, there is now a legal precedent on the right to bail in Article 112 cases. In the past, bail was never granted. Also, I believe this barbaric law should be abolished soon.

I have no issues with the bail conditions because I don’t see how I commit royal defamation. I don’t think there’s defamation when the people speak the truth, whether it’s the demand to abolish Article 112, the request to return royal assets (such as SCB shares), or the call to cancel personal royal armed forces. I don’t see how these things defame the royal institution. If the call for the king to be under the constitution is defamation, then the question becomes: is Thailand a democracy with the king as the head of state or an absolute monarchy?

As such, for me, the struggle for monarchy reform continues.

Regarding the condition barring me from participating in protests that lead to social chaos, I insist I have always upheld peaceful resistance throughout my struggle. Every protest I participated in or organized has been peaceful and without weapons. There have only been nonpeaceful actions by the authorities and government supporters as far as I can see. Therefore, this condition is not an obstacle in my struggle. I am ready to participate in every activity after the current COVID crisis (which occurred because of government incompetence) has passed.

The struggle for democracy continues with strength and conviction. Our struggle is built on the foundation of truth. There is no power greater than truth. Like the stars, truth never dies. No matter which corner of the sky, the stars shine bright, just as the truth. No matter the cage, the torture chamber, or the execution chamber, the truth remains powerful and eternal.

In the immediate step, we must help release others who speak the truth that remains unjustly imprisoned: Lawyer Anon, Brother Mike Rayong, Frank, Natchanon, and others. We who love democracy must continue our struggle to prove speaking the truth is not wrong; lies cannot forever hide the truth.

I am still who I am. I still have faith in the truth. No one can turn back the clock, and soon the wind of change will sweep us into the other side of the sky.

For now, I must rest my body and eat before I march again with my brothers and sisters. I am the same person. I fight for the same ideals. I am more resolute than ever before.

Death to feudalism. Long live the people.

Penguin Parit Chiwarak

12 May 2021 (1 day after freedom)








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