Deep harassment for the monarchy

13 06 2019

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have released a report that must be read in full. “Silent Harassment: Monitoring and Intimidation of Citizens during the Coronation Month” is a brave and important account of how royalism is enforced.

Of course, there are many loyalists and royalists in Thailand, with the most fanatical ever eager to harass, attack and slander. But this is a report of how perceived “opponents” are identified and repressed.

Here, we simply quote some bits of this seminal piece of work on “violations of personal freedom through constant monitoring and intimidation by state authorities … [conducted] in secret throughout the course of the [coronation events” for King Vajiralongkorn.

Authorities involved in harassing included “police, military, and special branch police…”. They “identify” groups categorized as “target groups” or “monitor groups” and “track their movements and restrict their political activities…”.

TLHR reports at least 38 instances “of monitoring and intimidation…”. In addition, activists have also been harassed.

In fact, “the groups of people being monitored during this period were quite diverse, as they had not necessarily previously expressed anything about the monarchy.”

The harassment has included home visits by authorities who ask about travel plans, take photos and are seen by other family members and neighbors. They are:

warned by the authorities not to do anything during the coronation period. Some were threatened by the police and told that if they did not comply, they would be handed over to the military and that the military might “abduct” them. In some cases, if the wanted person was not home the authorities talked to his/her family member instead.

Monitored groups get more regular harassing visits and are tracked and followed. For some “special” individuals, the harassment is continuous and involves family and harassing phone calls often from an officer assigned to trail and monitor. Former Article 112 prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk found his residence monitored around the clock. On 5 May 2019, activist Akechai Hongkangwarn revealed that “police took him to the cinema in order to keep a close watch on him all day.”

All were warned not to do or say anything during the coronation period.

Vigilantes were also at work, on the internet, tracking “people who posted their opinions about the coronation online” and reporting them to the authorities.

Royalist Thailand in 2019 is a dark and fearful place.





Updated: Rung Sila bailed

11 06 2019

Prachatai reports that lese majest detainee Rung Sila (Sirapop Kornaroot) has been released on bail, having been incarcerated since 24 June 2014, soon after the junta seized power in an illegal military coup.

That’s almost five years in jail while his in-camera “trial” dragged on since it began on 24 September 2014. His detention at Bangkok Remand Prison is “the longest time for a person currently charged or serving a prison sentence under Article 112.”

We earlier noted that the UN’s Human Rights Council had already declared his detention arbitrary and views his trial as unfair.

Essentially, he has been held for so long because he has refused to plead guilty. In recent years, keeping people accused of lese majeste in jail until they plead guilty has been a form of lese majeste torture.

Late today the Bangkok Military Court allowed bail and he was released at about 7.30pm.





Updated: Crazed MP uses lese majeste

10 06 2019

Khaosod reports further on the crazed campaign by Parina Kraikup of the junta-spawned Phalang Pracharath Party. For the background, see the following stories:

Pantsuit-Gate II: Pro-Prayuth MP Piles on Rival’s Fashion

Pantsuit-Gate: Future Forward MP Criticized for Not Wearing All Black

Pro-Junta MP Files Cybercrime Case Against Netizens

Army Revokes Order to Broadcast ‘Red Scare’ Song

#Chitpas1700 : Netizens Squint at Democrat’s Unlikely Victory

Parina has been slagging off Future Forward MP Pannika Wanich for a while now. Much of it has been silly and all of it has been decidedly childish.

Parina has become increasingly hysterical and has quickly gone nuclear, accusing Pannika of lese majeste. The mad claim goes back to “a 2010 graduation photo which shows her [Pannika] looking at a photo of King Rama IX while a classmate points at him.”

Complaining (clipped from Khaosod)

Parina went berserk, writing on Facebook that Pannika was a “fucking bitch and the scum of the earth.” The latter channels an “anti-Communist song of the same name [and] … is associated with the massacre of Thammasat University” on 6 October 1976. That was also recently used by Gen Apirat Kongsompong while attacking Future Forward and other anti-junta parties.

Parina ranted that the photo was “a clear violation of the 112 law…the officials must prosecute her…”.

Pannika defended herself but still felt the need to kowtow:

I deeply apologize to any citizens who are uncomfortable with the photo. But I hope everyone understands that youths are now growing up with questions about using the monarchy as a political tool…my friends and I believe in the system of a democratic government with the king as the head of state.

But in a Sunday interview, Parina said she didn’t buy her rival’s explanation. She was strongly supported by the usual crowd of fascists and anti-democrats who have been unleashed.

Along with assaults and murders, this use of lese majeste to destroy political opponents is likely to be defining of the way the junta-cum-Palang Pracharath plans to “manage” its regime.

Updated: As expected, within hours of the puerile Parina’s pathetic claims, the police have begun investigations. The royalist desire to damage and dispose of Future Forward is quite remarkable. Not one but “[s]everal police units will investigate if Future Forward Party spokeswoman Pannika Wanich, nicknamed Chor, violated any laws in an online post of an old photo showing her gesturing towards a portrait of King Rama IX.”

It is reported that:

Assistant national police chief Pol Lt Gen Piya Uthayo said on Monday that the Thailand’s Action Taskforce for Information Technology Crime Suppression (Tactics) under the Royal Thai Police Office had ordered the Technology Crime Suppression Division, the Legal Affairs Division and the Special Branch Division of the Royal Thai Police Office to conduct the investigation.

Not only Pannika is in strife, but all those in the photos with her.

Also piling on is the royalist “activist”-complainer Srisuwan Janya who is running to the National Anti-Corruption Commission “to probe if Ms Pannika, a list MP of the Future Forward Party, violated the ethics required of holders of political positions” on the basis that “MPs must protect the royal institution and the constitutional monarchy and not take any action that would tarnish the honour of MPs…” Of course, she wasn’t an MP when the photos were taken, but that doesn’t bother the slavish royalists.





Release Rung Sila

7 06 2019

The United Nations, FIDH and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have all urged that the military government “immediately release lèse-majesté detainee Siraphop Kornaroot [Rung Sila], in accordance with a ruling made recently by a United Nations (UN) body [Human Rights Council, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention}…”.

He’s “been detained for almost five years on charges under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code – one of the world’s toughest lèse-majesté laws – and Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.”

His “trial” before a military court, in secret, in September 2014 and after 20 previous court hearings the next hearing is on 10 June.

He has been repeatedly refused bail. In other words, this is another example of lese majeste torture, seen in several cases, where the regime and courts and probably the palace demand a guilty plea.

The Human Rights Council has already declared his detention arbitrary and views his trial as unfair.

Rung SIla is the eighth lese-majeste detainee whose detention has been declared arbitrary by the UN since August 2012.





Lese majeste verdict overturned

30 05 2019

Khaosod reports on a lese majeste case we do not think we have heard of previously. A search of our site and of iLaw did not pinpoint previous reporting of the case (that we could find).

Khaosod explains that a “former monk accused of fabricating ties to the monarchy was on Wednesday convicted of fraud but acquitted of royal defamation” after previously having been convicted of under Article 112.

Wankasat Promthong, who is now 31, was arrested in 2016 and was originally convicted of fraud and lese majeste in November 2017, and sentenced to five years and nine months in prison.

He was found guilty of “selling amulets with forged royal insignias and dishonestly claiming the trinkets were sponsored by the palace.”

On appeal, only his fraud conviction was upheld, resulting in a sentence of two years and nine months.

The Appeals Court ruled that “the defendant claimed false ties to the monarchy only to pursue monetary gain, and not to defame or insult the royal family.”

It was said that “Wankasat, formerly Phra Wankasat, told other monks at his temple that he was raised in the royal palace and anointed into monkhood by the late [then alive] King Bhumibol.”

He sold his amulets “emblazoned with the royal insignia under pretensions that they were sponsored by the Royal Household Bureau, according to the prosecutors.”

If this is a “new” revelation of a lese majeste case, we wonder how many more there have been that have not been publicly revealed.





Planet Krypton and lese majeste

30 05 2019

About a week ago we posted on about Pornthip Munkhong’s new book, All They Could Do To Us (Aan Press, 2019). Pornthip, jailed on lese majeste for her role in a political play, The Wolf Bride (เจ้าสาวหมาป่า), about a fictional monarch and kingdom, had written of her experience.

Today, The Nation has a story about her debut exhibition “Planet Krypton” at WTF Gallery in Bangkok. The report states:

After spending two years behind bars for violating the country’s draconian lese majeste laws, the life of young performing artist and rights activist Prontip “Kolf” Mankong changed dramatically. But rather than grinding the 30-year-old artist down, it made her stronger, a fact she clearly demonstrates by transforming that profoundly disruptive experience into creative art.

Pornthip and her fellow inmates will give a talk on Sunday at 5pm as they wrap the exhibition “Planet Krypton” at WTF Gallery. That may also be the last day of the exhibition. The story also states that her book is being translated to English.





Guarding the king

30 05 2019

Over the past few years the number of police and soldiers assigned to the palace has reportedly ballooned. Part of this has to do with the military credentials of the current king. Some of it has to do with the great fear that is generalized among the elite over challenges to its control.

Some might ask why the king, who spends most of his time in Germany, needs an ever larger force of “protectors.” Again, part of the answer probably has to do with the king’s training and his desire for pomp and circumstance and his personal need to command. Notice that he’s incessantly promoting people – especially wives, concubines and dogs – and demoting. It may also reflect, as the media sometimes has it, that the king is establishing his own force to contend with the martial power of the military.

It was in October 2018 that PPT first posted on reports about a new and special police unit for the “protection of the monarchy.” At that time, the new unit of 1,600 personnel, was said to be made up of “police commandos transferred from the Crime Suppression Division.” It is said to be “providing security to the Royal Family” as well as “collecting information on ‘individuals or groups whose behaviors pose a threat to the national security and … the King’.”

A later post recounted that this represented a quadrupling of the police force assigned to the palace and was costing the taxpayer a minimum of 300 million baht for salaries alone.

At that time, the force’s commander, then Pol Col Torsak Sukvimol (ต่อศักดิ์ สุขวิมล), “explained” that this huge increase in security, including intelligence units and additional “patrolling” is required when the “king visits different parts of the country.” This seems like blarney. We haven’t detected any particular increase in any royal trips, except to and from Europe.

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post carried yet another report on now Pol Maj Gen Torsak and the renamed “Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904.”

Torsak

Maj Gen Torsak seems to be well-connected. He is reported to be the “younger brother of the King’s highly trusted Air Chief Marshal Sathitpong Sukwimol (secretary to the Crown Prince, Director-General of the Crown Property Bureau and the Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau).”

That ACM Satitpong has served the prince/king for many years and that he is “trusted” is confirmed by his rapid promotion not just in the palace but within the king’s businesses.

Obviously assisted by his family connections, Torsak has been moving up for several years.He now finds himself in demand for all manner of activities and clearly enjoys the limelight. One of the most intriguing reports we located was his association with the Chinese-Thai Global One Belt One Road Association, formerly known as Hokien International Chinese Cultural Association, formerly chaired by the Democrat Party’s Alongkorn Ponlaboot.

But back to the recent report in the Post.

Pol Maj Gen Torsak explained that “his team is responsible for the advance surveillance of areas which the King will pass through as well as guarding the monarch and his family.” He added that the unit “will not be deployed to deal with crime suppression, so it can focus on protecting the monarchy at all times…”.

Yet he claimed a populist role for the unit, being sent to “ordinary duties to capture those who have long been wanted under warrants, particularly in cases in which they made trouble for the public.” That populism is also seen in the report when, lapping at Torsak’s boots, it portrays him as a benevolent autocrat.

All officers undergo stringent anti-terrorism training and get the most up-to-date weaponry. As Pol Maj Gen Torsak explained, “I believe that we also must have the best weapons for our officers…. They must protect themselves along with the VIPs and to do that they must be well-armed.”

It is never made clear which people or groups constitute the threats to the king and royal family. We wonder about the unit’s international operations.

Having ealier spoken of lese majeste, he is was again quoted on Article 112:

Speaking of the lese majeste law, Pol Maj Gen Torsak said the King gave guidance that he does not want to see anyone prosecuted under the lese majeste law as it can be “a double-edged sword”, adding the monarch has always shown mercy.

Some people may misjudge the situation from things they have heard, he noted.

“The King gave guidance that no punishment should be made in relation to Section 112 [of the Criminal Code] since some people may have misunderstood or listened to false information,” Pol Maj Gen Torsak said.

The monarch wants authorities to treat the matter on a case-by-case basis with a committee investigating the intentions behind supposed breaches, he said.

Not short of ego, Pol Maj Gen Torsak said “his nomination to the top job at the new division did not happen by chance…. ‘I have earned the King’s trust by working hard for him,’ he said.”

King’s Guard 904 needs to be carefully watched as it expands as a power center within the palace but with the potential for widespread influence and action.