UK travel advisory

22 09 2022

Like many countries, the government of the United Kingdom has online pages of foreign travel advice. For Thailand, that advice includes a succinct section on “Safety and security“:

The political situation in Thailand can be volatile. In recent years, there have been instances of civil and political unrest. You should avoid any protests, political gatherings, demonstrations or marches.

Lèse-majesté (criticism of the monarchy in any form) is a crime, which can be interpreted broadly and carries a long jail sentence. Some foreign (including British) and Thai journalists, Human Rights Defenders and members of the public have faced criminal charges, including for defamation, sedition, and under the Computer Crimes Act for raising concerns, making political comments, and sharing articles online that could been seen as portraying Thailand negatively or making accusations about individuals.

That’s and accurate and pretty damning assessment.





The military-monarchy regime’s judiciary

21 09 2022

Prachatai reports on more outlandish efforts by the royalist judiciary to “protect” the monarchy:

For the past 9 months, the Criminal Court has been refusing to issue summonses for documents requested by lawyers representing activists charged with royal defamation [Article 112] for the 19 September 2020 protest to be used as evidence, delaying the witness examination process.

Defense lawyers “have not been able to cross examine prosecution witnesses, as the Court has refused to issue summonses for documents requested by the defendants to use as evidence in the cross examination process. Some documents were the subject of a summons, but the defendants have yet to receive them.”

A Bangkok Post picture

The lawyers requested six documents from several agencies, “including records of King Vajiralongkorn’s travels, records of the Royal Offices and of the Crown Property Bureau’s budget spending, and documents relating to a court case filed by the Ministry of Finance against King Prajadhipok and Queen Rambai Barni.”

Of course, these requests are seen by royalists as provocative, damaging, and threatening. The royalist courts can’t ask because they fear this will lead to even more criticism of the monarchy. They may also be frightened to request them.

Yet the defence needs the documents “because the public prosecutor [has] indicted the activists on the grounds that their speeches about the crown’s budget and King Vajiralongkorn’s alleged stay in Germany are false…”.

As everyone knows, if the documents were provided, the defendants would be shown to be correct and truthful. The courts don’t want that.





Monarchies and blood succession

18 09 2022

The Economist’s Banyan reflects on the monarchies of southeast Asia, but mostly about Vajiralongkorn. Unfortunatey, the story is behind a paywall. Here it is in full:

With the death of Queen Elizabeth, the title of longest-serving, still-breathing monarch passes to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei. He has been on the throne for 55 years. Long reigns are not unusual in South-East Asia. It is home to a flush of potentates, from the kings of Cambodia and Thailand to the sultans of Malaysia, Brunei and Yogyakarta, a province of Indonesia. Most have sat on their thrones for decades. All are in their 60s and 70s. Some are whispered to be in ill health.

The issue of hereditary succession looms over their realms. Unlike the British monarchy, which has survived by ceding power to democratic institutions, some kings in South-East Asia have preserved their prerogatives. Some have even amassed power that exceeds that of their forebears. The Thai king is notionally hemmed in by a constitution, but is actually the most powerful person in the country. Indonesia is a republic, but the sultan of Yogyakarta will rule for life, and pass his power to his heir. The sultan of Brunei, an absolute monarch, considers himself to be “the shadow of Allah on earth”, and expects his subjects to agree.

Plenty of South-East Asians are happy with their monarchs. In times of change they provide a link with the past. If you believe they are divinely appointed, as they often claim, they make ideal defenders of religion and national identity. They remind the people of their sanctity through good works. King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, who reigned for seven decades (88 days fewer than Queen Elizabeth) until his death in 2016, spent half his time touring the poorest parts of Thailand. He presided over Buddhist ceremonies and dispensed university diplomas, handing out so many that doctors worried he might injure his arm. By tapping his kingdom’s oil wealth, Brunei’s sultan offers goodies such as free education and health care. Some style themselves as champions of democracy. Malaysia’s sultans have recently earned goodwill by chiding the country’s corrupt, self-serving politicians.

Yet discontent often simmers at moments of transition. The mood in Thailand was sour in 2016, when King Maha Vajiralongkorn took the throne. His father, King Bhumibol, was, whisper it, no angel. (He would often throw his weight behind the army as it launched yet another coup.) But the public did revere him as the embodiment of a good Buddhist. His son spends much of his time in Germany, cycling through the forests of Bavaria in skimpy shorts, accompanied by members of his harem. He rules by fear, says Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai dissident, and is trying to claw back the absolute power enjoyed by his ancestors.

King Vajiralongkorn uses the courts to hound his critics. Hundreds of people have been charged with insulting the Thai royal family in recent years. The late Sultan Mahmood Iskandar of Johor, a Malaysian state, had a violent streak. In the 1970s, as crown prince, he was twice charged with manslaughter (and pardoned by his father both times). He was just as bad as sultan. In 1987 he allegedly clubbed a caddie to death for laughing at him when he missed a putt.

Heredity is not an infallible way of picking a good ruler. Some monarchies have found ways to avoid crowning the worst candidates. Malaysian sultanates are not bound by primogeniture and so can select the best son for the job. There are usually a reasonable number of sons to choose from, since sultans typically have multiple wives. (Daughters are not yet eligible.) When the ex-wife of the apparent heir to the sultanate of Kelantan alleged that the heir had kept her as a sex slave, the sultan anointed a different son (the prince denied the charge, sued his ex-wife and won). In Cambodia, a council of politicians elects a king for life, plucking a favoured man from one of two royal households.

Finding good heirs is essential if monarchies are to endure. The consequences of rotten royal behaviour can be deleterious. In the 1990s Sultan Iskandar’s misadventures prompted the Malaysian government to revoke sultans’ immunity from prosecution and remove their veto over legislation.

Thailand’s monarchy faces similar risks. The king is protected by his supporters in the army and the courts, but public anger is building. Tens of thousands of young Thais took to the streets in 2020 to demand royal reform. Their movement was crushed, but the taboo against lèse-majesté was broken. If King Vajiralongkorn and his peers want to keep hold of the reins of power, they would do well to soften their grip.





283 minors charged

17 09 2022

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights maintains a database on political charges. In a recent report compiled from the database is about juveniles/minors prosecuted since 2020.

It calculates “at least 283 youths from 211 cases have been prosecuted for political expression and protest.”

From August 2021 to the end of October 2021, in the Din Daeng area, “[a]t least 210 youth from 104 cases were charged…”.

There are 17 in 20 cases charged under Article 112 with lese majeste. The majority of these have been indicted.

TLHR provides a month-by-month account of this effort to shut down young rebellion.





Jatuporn gets bail II

15 09 2022

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reports on Jatuporn Sae-Ung’s case and bail.

It adds some detail on the royalist court’s decision:

Having examined 14 prosecutor’s witnesses and two defendant’s witnesses during June 2022, the Bangkok South Criminal Court acquitted Jatuporn of all charges with the exception of those brought under Section 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code and the Public Assembly Act. Considering the totality of circumstances at the time of the fashion show on 29 October 2020, the court ruled that Jatuporn intended to impersonate, mock, and dishonor the Queen. This was tantamount to defamation against the Queen.

It also adds commentary on Jatuporn’s important statement to the court:

Jatuporn affirm[ed] … her belief to the court stating that dressing up in Thai National Dress is a right that any individual can choose to do so and if one chooses to dress up, it is not a crime. The fact that her dressing up on the day of the incident is a violation of section 112 is purely a vague interpretation by the plaintiff and her witnesses.

“Your honor, today I am wearing Thai national dress, is there something wrong with me here? I do not intend to mock anyone.”

A lawyer commented:

“In a polarized society, Lèse-majesté law becomes a tool used to harm those who think differently. In this case, the individual who accused her (Jatuporn) was of the opposite political view.”





Jatuporn gets bail I

14 09 2022

Clipped from Coconuts Bangkok

It is reported that activist Jatuporn Sae-ung, sentenced to two years in prison for, the court believed, defaming the monarchy by dressing up as Queen Suthida , has been released on bail.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights confirmed that an appeals court had set a bail of 300,000 baht.

Jatuporn, 25, was due to be released sometime on Wednesday afternoon or early evening, after being held since Monday.

The activist will be free on bail while the appeals court deals with her case.

The report states that Jatuporn’s:

… conviction is the latest in a wide-ranging crackdown by the Thai authorities to stifle the pro-democracy movement, which staged massive protests in mid-2020 that sparked a public debate on the role of Thailand’s all-powerful monarchy in society.





Updated: Mimicry 112

12 09 2022

Clipped from Coconuts Bangkok

112Watch reports that on On 12 September 2022, a royalist court sentenced transgender activist, Jatuporn Sae-Ung, to 3 years on a 112 charge, reduced to 2 years in prison for her cooperation with the court. She stood accused of dressing to mimic Queen Suthida on 29 October 2021 during a political demonstration known as the “Runway for the People.” She dressed in what is now termed a traditional Thai costume of pink silk. She walked on the red carpet while other protesters prostrated in front of her, an act deemed to be insulting the monarchy under the Article 112.

The Court considered her act to violate the so-called dignity of the monarchy and, hence, lese majeste.

Jatuporn is seeking bail to appeal.

UpdatePrachatai has the long story on Jatuporn’s case. The Bangkok Post has a story too.





Singing lese majeste

3 09 2022

Clipped from Prachatai

Citizen reporter Sao Nui was arrested on the evening of 1 September 2022 “for singing a song composed by the band Faiyen during a protest on 23 August 2022.”

After her arrest, she was taken the Narcotics Suppression Bureau where she was held overnight. After some debate over a police request for her to be detained, the court granted bail on 2 September.

As well as lese majeste, she was charged under the Computer Crimes Act for singing “Lucky to have Thai people.” Prachatai explains that the song “relates how Thai people are made to love the King through many means and the punishment the people will face if they do not love the King.”

Sao Nui and another citizen reporter, Worawet, already faced 112, sedition, and resisting an officers’ order charges for a Thaluwang royal motorcade poll at Siam Paragon on 8 February 2022.





Royalists courts play royalist politics II

2 09 2022

Arnon Nampa, facing up to a dozen lese majeste charges, and himself a lawyer with long experience of defending political prisoners, has asked the Judicial Commission, an in-house board meant to keep the judiciary in order, and the Chief Justice of the Criminal Court “to investigate Attakarn Foocharoen, Deputy Chief Justice of the Criminal Court, whom he accuses of meddling in his [lese majeste and computer crimes] court case without having any authority to do so.”

The case goes back to a protest on 8 November 2020 calling for monarchy reform. Anon received a letter on 4 August 2022,” calling an additional [previously unscheduled] hearing, and stating that the witnesses examined in the previous hearing were not related to the event at issue.” That letter was “signed by Attakarn and dated 21 July.” Attakarn is not a member of the committee considering the case, and “[b]y law, it is the responsibility of the judge who oversees the case to plan the trial process and approve what witnesses shall be heard.”

Arnon reckons “Attakarn’s intervention would infringe the judge’s independence.”

Legal niceties and the law itself seldom impinge on lese majeste cases.

Arnon (L). Clipped from The Nation

Arnon “insisted that the trial must be free from interference by Court administrators.” It was revealed that Attakarn had used his position to intervene in “many other political cases…”.

The justice system, always worrisome for its corruption, has been blatantly politicized and instrumentalized since the dead king’s intervention in 2006. The judges now at the top of the judiciary have been eager to serve king and regime.





Royalists courts play royalist politics I

31 08 2022

Royalist courts continue to engage in political actions. Prachatai reports that “[t]wo women were arrested last Thursday (25 August) and subsequently denied bail on charges of contempt of court, defamation, and using a sound amplifier without permission.”

The complaints were filed “on behalf of judge Santi Chukitsappaisan, Research Justice of the Supreme Court, temporarily acting as the Deputy Chief Justice of the South Bangkok Criminal Court.” Ngoentra Khamsaen and Chiratchaya Sakunthong “were arrested during the night of 25 August on warrants issued by the South Bangkok Criminal Court on a request from Yannawa Police Station…” and were a result of “a protest in front of the South Bangkok Criminal Court on 15 July to demand the right to bail for detained activists.”

The two were not were taken to the Yannawa police station, but like other political prisoners, were initially detained at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau.

Neither woman received a summons before being arrested.

Apparently, amongst other things that annoyed the judges of the South Bangkok Criminal Court, the women “criticized judges … for rulings made in the case of monarchy reform activists Nutthanit Duangmusit and Netiporn Sanesangkhom,” both charged with lese majeste.

After being taken to the South Bangkok Criminal Court, the two were denied bail on the spurious “grounds that their actions were very dangerous to the court and the justice system, since they were rude and accused judges of things that were not true in order to pressure the court, which the court sees as a disregard for the law and an intention to create hatred against it.”

The judges know that they are political tools of the royalist regime and thus seek to silence criticism.

There are another 29 political prisoners currently detained without bail. Two others are under house detention.








%d bloggers like this: