The monarchy and Thai society III

11 05 2023

The Monarchy and Thai society


This is merely the opening scene of the transformation of the monarchy’s royal prerogative that poses a problem to democracy. It is the promulgation of law by a parliament of dictatorship. The next is that our monarchy has remained silent in excess of necessity and allowed people to progress by referencing the monarchy over and over again in order to damage those who think differently about politics.

The first person I am going to talk about, who has pulled the monarchy in to support himself is named Prayuth Chan-ocha. Brothers and sisters, do you recall that the constitution stipulates that before a person is to become prime minister, he must take an oath in front of the king? He must pledge that he will be loyal to the monarchy and rule faithfully, and, importantly, protect and act in accordance with the Thai constitution. But Prayuth Chan-ocha intentionally did not pledge in front of our king that he would protect and act in accordance with the Thai constitution.*

What is this meaning of this, brothers and sisters? What it means, brothers and sisters, is that Prayuth Chan-ocha did not give his word that he would not once again tear up the constitution. Prayuth Chan-ocha did not give his word that he would act in accordance with the constitution. But the monarchy still allows Prayuth to refer to them over and over again.

That alone is not enough. I do not believe that the monarchy, which has military units who serve as an intelligence wing, a wing that looks after social networks, are not aware of the how people like Major General Rienthong Nanna use the monarchy to smash us.** I do not believe that he does not know. But that the monarchy and the Bureau of the Royal Household do nothing even though they know that there are individuals who refer to the monarchy and then come down to smash the people. This makes us unable to resist asking, really, what does the monarchy think about us? If my voice reaches the monarchy and the Bureau of the Royal Household, allow me to call on him to express a neutral political stance. Deal with Major General Rienthong and do not let him hurt the people, don’t let him threaten us anymore.

In addition, this country still distorts many other important issues. The monarchy has been twisted so that it is the institution of a particular group of individuals, not an institution of all Thai people in the country. This particular group has claimed that the actions of those who call for the removal of Prayuth Chan-ocha are equivalent to the toppling of the monarchy. This is not the case. Calling for the removal of Prayuth is calling for the removal of Prayuth. The amendment of the constitution is the amendment of the constitution. Saying that the removal of Prayuth is the equivalent of topping the monarchy is an exaggeration.

That group of individuals must cease doing so before those in the country come face to face with violence. Additionally, each and every one of us must try to talk about this genuine problem openly and in public. Starting tomorrow and from now on, if I am invited to speak but those who invite me ask me to contort myself and not talk about the monarchy, I will not do it. I will only go up on stage when given the chance to speak the truth. And I maintain, on my manly honor and my human dignity, that I speak with respect and sincerity. If I lie, even a little bit, let me expire within three, seven days, brothers and sisters.

*Section 161 of the 2017 Constitution stipulates that: “Before taking office, a Minister must make a solemn declaration before the King in the following words: ‘I, (name of the declarer), do solemnly declare that I will be loyal to the King and will faithfully perform my duties in the interests of the country and of the people. I will also uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.’” But on 16 July 2019, Prayuth Chan-ocha, the prime minister, led the cabinet in swearing the oaths of allegiance. Prayuth concluded by stating “I will faithfully perform my duties in the interests of the country and of the people.” But he missed the sentence of “I will also uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.”

**Major General Rienthong Nanna is a retired army officer and physician who established an organization, the Rubbish Collection Organization, in 2013. The group carries out witch-hunts against critics of the monarchy, including publicly outing them and filing criminal charges of lèse majesté against them.–trans.

The monarchy and Thai society (preamble)

6 05 2023

Clipped from Prachatai

PPT has decided not to run a commentary on the 2023 election in the last couple of weeks of the campaign. Part of the reason for this is that we are taking a break and will only be posting occasionally over the rest of the month.

However, over the days leading up to the election, we are posting The Monarchy and Thai Society, a speech by Arnon Nampa, made on 3 August 2020.

The 2023 election is about many issues, but an important pivot is around the monarchy and Article 112. As such, we feel this speech deserves renewed attention for the light it throws on the nature of the military- and monarchy-backed regime.

We use translation of the speech made available in English some time ago. The translators’ introduction states that the speech was given during the “Casting a Spell to Protect Democracy,” protest organized by Mahanakorn for Democracy and Kasetsart University (KU)
Daily at the Democracy Monument.The translators’ note adds:

The Democracy Restoration Group transcribed the tape of the speech and it was published as both a small paper booklet and distributed as a free PDF. For this English-language translation, in addition to the footnotes in the original Thai-language version, footnotes (marked with –trans. at the end) and supplemental information in [ ] have been added to the text where necessary for an international audience that may be unfamiliar with Thai politics and history. Otherwise, the translation has hewn as close to the original as possible to retain the quality of speech.

TLHR recommendations for ending political prosecutions

3 05 2023

Read the whole Thai Lawyers for human rights post “Recommendations for Ending Political Prosecution since the 2014 Coup until the Present.” It is packed with information, data, and good sense. Here are the recommendations, in full:

(1) Enact a law to end the prosecution of civilians in the military court and political or politically-motivated cases arising after the coup d’état on 22 May 2014 until today

1.1 The parliament should enact a law authorizing and empowering the committee on political trials to decide which case is political and which one is politically motivated.

1.2 The House of Representatives should formulate broad criteria for considering political and politically-motivated cases and make sure that members of the committee on political trials consist of all stakeholders, including MPs, victims’ representatives, agencies in the justice system, academics, and human rights organizations, with gender diversity and gender balance in mind. The committee on political trials must be independent and impartial.

A political case means a case where the offense or event on the date of incident can be identified, for example, cases related to NCPO announcements and orders, civilians’ cases in the military court, lèse-majesté cases, etc.

A politically-motivated case is a case that cannot be characterized as a political case or where it is not possible to identify the event on the date of incident, but whose motivation can be proven to be political.

1.3 The parliament should enact a law ending political prosecution and politically-motivated cases since the 2014 coup d’état until the present and nullifying the culpability in those cases, effectively terminating them.

1.4 The parliament should enact a law allowing civilians involved in non-political or politically-motivated cases and/or civilians who were tried by the military court to request a re-trial in the Court of Justice or allowing civilians involved in the cases happening during the martial law to exercise the right to appeal.

(2) Establish an independent commission of inquiry 

To develop mechanisms to seek and expose the truth related to the human rights violations that occurred as a result of the military trials of civilians after the coup and the abuse of power by the state. The parliament should enact a law establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate the abuse of power and human rights situation following the 2014 coup. The said mechanism should take the format of a ‘truth commission’ tasked to pursue the truth in accordance with the right to truth of the victims, their families, and the society at large.

Its main missions should include collecting information and facts about the event, investigating relevant parties, as well as collecting and preserving evidence. The findings are to be disclosed to the public and ensure that the public can access relevant documents and official archives. The truth shall form a basis for remedy for those whose human rights have been violated and for prosecuting those involved in human rights violations.

It is important that the state guarantees that the selection and appointment of each committee member is in accordance with the principles of independence and impartiality and that the committee can work to its full capacity and to engage relevant people and human rights organizations both within and outside of the country. The committee shall consist of experts or representatives from various disciplines as well as victims’ representatives, lawyers, psychologists, social workers, and human rights experts in a way that is gender diverse and balanced.

(3) The state should take responsibility for the violations of human rights

The Cabinet and parliament should issue a public statement apologizing for what happened in order to show their acknowledgement and acceptance of the truth and the impact of human rights violations on the affected individuals. They should also provide the guarantees of non-repetition, as well as consider providing social remedies, for example, by raising public awareness on the said events and creating mechanisms to prevent, monitor, and systemically solve social conflicts.

Activist convicted on 112

30 04 2023

Election campaigning and intensified debate regarding Article 112 seems to be intensifying royalist courts’ efforts to lock people up.

Prachatai reports that activist Nawat Liangwattana, indicted on 8 December 2021, was sentenced on 26 April 2023 to three years in prison under Article 112.

The lese majeste charge was for a speech given at a protest on 13 February 2021.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) stated that “Nawat was charged with royal defamation, destruction of property, blocking a public road, violation of the Emergency Decree, violation of the Public Cleanliness Act, and using a sound amplifier without permission for his participation in the protest.”

As well as the three years, he “was also sentenced to 2 months in prison and a fine of 2,000 baht for destruction of property, and a fine of 1,000 baht for using a sound amplifier without permission, although TLHR noted that the maximum fine as stated in the Sound Amplifier Act is 200 baht.”

The court reduced this to 1 year and 7 months in prison and a fine of 1,500 baht because he confessed.

The public prosecutor reportedly decided that “calling for monarchy reform, demanding that the King must be under the Constitution, and questioning how the royal family uses taxpayers’ money is not an expression of opinion in good faith and can damage King Vajiralongkorn’s reputation.”

Prachatai states that “Nawat is facing 18 charges for joining pro-democracy protests, including 4 counts of royal defamation [lese majeste]. This is the first time he has been found guilty and sentenced to prison.”

He was later granted bail.

Child still detained on 112

30 04 2023

Thanalop has been detained for a further 15 days. She is the 15 year-old who was 14 when accused of lese majeste during a rally in October 2022 at Bangkok City Hall that called for the release of political detainees and for the abolition of Article 112.

According to the Post:

Under the Juvenile and Family Court Procedure Act, a minor must be released from detention if the prosecutor does not file charges or request a postponement within 30 days. In Thanalop’s case, the prosecution on Thursday of this week requested that she be detained for an additional 15 days and the court agreed.

The law allows for as many as four 15-day postponements in cases where the offence carries a prison sentence of more than five years, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

Thanalop was arrested on 28 March 2023.

Human Rights Watch has called for the charges to be dropped and the girl released. It referred to the case as “unjust.” Elaine Pearson, Asia director at HRW, added: “By arresting a 15-year-old girl, the Thai government is sending the spine-chilling message that even children aren’t safe from being harshly punished for expressing their opinions.” HRW also observed that the “Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Thailand, states that the arrest, detention, or imprisonment of a child ‘shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time’…”.

Another Bhumibol 112 conviction

29 04 2023

The Bangkok Post reports (yes, it is actually again reporting 112 cases) that a royalist Appeals Court has “reversed a lower court’s decision to acquit a suspect charged with lese majeste over remarks deemed offensive to the monarchy.” Thaiger also reports the case.

It reports, via Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, that the “Court found the defendant, identified only as Wutthipat, guilty of violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code.”

Wutthipat made a comment on Facebook’s Royalist Marketplace page on 2 June 2020, that was deemed “offensive to a former king and the current monarch.”

Earlier, the Samut Prakan Provincial Court had dismissed the case. It considered, rightly, that the defendant had posted a comment referencing the dead King Bhumibol and an even longer dead King Ananda. His comments had something to do with the the still officially unexplained death of King Ananda Mahidol in 1946. Correctly, that court ruled that Article 112 “only protects the current king, queen, heir to the throne and regent.”

However, the Appeals Court ruled that those comments also offended the current king.

The court initially sentenced Wutthipat to “five years in jail, but due to his making a statement useful to the hearing, the court commuted it to three years and four months…. The defendant was released on bail pending an appeal at the Supreme Court.”

The complaint against Wutthipat was made on 19 July 2021, by Siwaphan Manitkul, said to be “a private citizen.”

During the court’s witness hearings in March 2022, “Wutthipat admitted he had posted the comment and made a reference to King Rama IX, the younger brother of King Rama VIII, though he argued Section 112 did not cover past kings.”

Further updated: Abolition vs. reform

27 04 2023

David Hutt at The Diplomat reckons that “a decent show from the youthful radicals at Move Forward next month ought to move the needle on debates around the monarchy.”

And it certainly looks like a “decent show” is on the cards. As Hutt says, “a significant number of Thais are soon expected to vote for a party that has remained open to supporting the abolitionist cause on lèse-majesté and made reform part of its manifesto…”.

He observes that “The ‘Abolish 112’ campaign … appears to be gaining ground. And it appears to be moving from the academy onto the streets, especially among those who joined the demonstrations that began in 2020.” And, we might also cheer Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phupong.

Of course, “the Constitutional Court ruled … that even calls for royal reform are seditious.” That perspective seems nicely forgotten as several parties talk about 112 reform, even if they remain cautious.

Hutt then moves on to think about how 112 might be reformed. But is reform sufficient? He suggests, and we agree, that “a goodly number of Thais … are moved by the idealistic stance, which is that the lèse-majesté law is wrong in itself. For the most part, they see reform as a dead-end path, so abolition is the only way.”

That stance raises other questions: “whether another human being, by happenchance of birth, is infallible and unquestionable, and why an institution purportedly so strong and adored needs to be defended on every occasion against the obscure Facebook post.”

Let’s hope the “idealists” can move this position forward.

Of course, if the same old fossils somehow scratch and finagle their way back to power but are stunned by Move Forward’s appeal, they are likely to return to their dinosaur agencies at the Election Commission and Constitutional Court and try to rid themselves of that party (as they did after the last election).

Update 1: Speaking of fossils and their stone age ideas, when 17 envoys from 13 European countries met with Bhum Jai Thai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul, “he affirmed the party’s stance against amending Section 112, the lese majeste law, during a meeting with European Union (EU) ambassadors.” He stated that “Bhumjaithai would only have one condition when forming a post-election alliance — that it would not work with any parties seeking to revise the lese majeste law.”

Update 2: Thai Newsroom adds to the story of the EU visitors, reporting that the envoys:

inquired with the Bhumjaithai leader as to whether caretaker prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who is running to retain power under the Ruam Thai Sang Chart tickets could possibly enjoy “windfall” advantages, either before or after the May 14 election, only if his archrivals such as the Pheu Thai were dissolved by court.

Apparently the visit was prompted by “Anutin’s comment recently made to the extent that he ultimately disagrees with the dissolution of any party because, he said, it cannot practically stop politicians from pursuing their ideological interests under democratic rule.”

More on R10 lese majeste complaint

26 04 2023

The case of a 112 complaint against Yan Marchal got some attention in the Thai Examiner.

The significant point for PPT was this:

Last Tuesday, it is understood that the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) agreed to take up the case against the French national and three to four Thai nationals living abroad who are believed to have participated in his 41-second video singing a song about waiting for a pizza delivery with lyrics that the royalist activist group believes is harmful to the monarchy and a clear breach of Article 112 of the Criminal Code which courts and Thai case law have widened in scope to encompass allusions, innuendo and indirect messaging with criminal convictions and jail sentences being handed down on this basis.

The loathsome Anon Klinkaew, self-appointed leader of the ultra-royalist group the so-called People’s Centre to Protect the Monarchy, was also mentioned. Allocating to himself great power, the thug “took the opportunity to warn the Thai public last week to simply ignore the clip and not to, on any account, post, repost or share it, something which would constitute a serious criminal offence in Thailand…”. He added that his vigilantes continues to what it calls “the offensive and dangerous content and to report any attempt to share or repost it in Thailand.”

111 lese majeste

25 04 2023

Clipped from Prachatai

Prachatai reports that Songpol “Yajai” Sonthirak, a Thalufah activist has been summoned by the police in Khon Kaen on a lese majeste complaint.

The complaint was filed with police by Kamon Kitkasiwat, the leader of a royalist vigilante group in Khon Kaen, who is also standing as an MP candidate for the mad royalist Thai Pakdee Party.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights believe the “cause of the complaint against Songpol is probably because he flashed the three-finger … salute after receiving his degree certificate from Princess Sirindhorn, King Vajiralongkorn’s younger sister, during Khon Kaen University’s graduation ceremony on 20 December 2022.”

As far as PPT is aware, the rotund princess is not covered by Article 112: “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”

But what the law states in very clear words that has never really give police, prosecutors or judges much cause to follow the law. They all make stuff up.

According to Songpol, in a January 2023 interview, “his action was not planned, but he did it because he wanted to take the few seconds he had in front of the Princess to communicate his demands directly to someone in the royal family.” Prachatai adds:

Songpol said his demands were to remove then-Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha from office, amend the Constitution, and repeal the royal defamation law. He said he left the stage and went back to his seat afterwards, and did not see if or how the Princess or her guards reacted. Nevertheless, he was sure he did not cause problems as the graduation ceremony continued normally.

Songpol said:

“I believe that displaying the three-finger salute is not an offence, and I feel that doing this might lead to some changes more than (thinking about) the consequences. When I walked up [onto the stage], I felt that it was really my space. It was the people’s space where I can do this,” he said.

Songpol said that, after the end of the first half ceremony, a lecturer from the Faculty of Law came to ask him if he would be doing anything else and asked that he not take any action during the next half. He also said that after the ceremony ended, a lecturer and plainclothes officer spoke to his parents, who were waiting outside the auditorium, and made them sign a note acknowledging that his action was inappropriate.

Updated: The parties and lese majeste

22 04 2023

Yesterday we posted on Puea Thai and Article 112. Today we point readers to an article by Napon Jatusripitak, Visiting Fellow in the Thailand Studies Programme at ISEAS in Singapore. His “Thailand’s Lèse-majesté Law: A Subtle Referendum in the Upcoming Elections?” is a useful account and jives with our view that 112 is on the election agenda mainly because of the valiant efforts of Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon and Orawan “Bam” Phupong.

The conclusion to the paper is not really an answer to the question posed in the title but is to the point:

Will the election provide an opening for the small but growing demand for change, particularly among younger generations of Thais like Tawan and Bam? Or will it signify the political exclusion of this demand and affirm the suspension of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and … the rule of law? Much remains to be seen, but it is clear that the lèse-majesté law has become a central issue that will shape the generational and ideological divides in political attitudes, even if its fate does not appear to be hanging in the balance.

The fate of lese majeste might not be hanging in the balance, but the fates of scores of people facing lese majeste charges are certainly left hanging.

Update: Prachatai recounts an election debate and sets out the responses to 112 by 10 participants from 10 parties. The royalist Democrat Party is listed under the majority of parties that consider “112 is problematic in terms of enforcement and its legal provisions.” Here’s the summary of party leader Jurin Laksanavisit’s comments:

Jurin expressed the view that Section 112 is still crucial, as it is designed to protect the head of state, and many other nations have a similar law.

He believes that if the enforcement is problematic, the solution lies in amending the enforcement process, rather than abolishing the law.

Lastly, he disagrees with the idea of having the Bureau of the Royal Household or the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary act as complainants, as it is like directly pitting the monarchy against the people.

In other words, keep everything as is but fix enforcement somehow…. Last time the Democrat Party was in power it also took this position and the number of lese majeste cases increased.

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