Another busy 112 day

4 03 2021

Clipped from Prachatai

In yet another day of Article 112 action, Thailand’s royalist protection police – 20 of them – descended on Tiwagorn Withiton, “a Facebook user who went viral in 2020 for posting a picture of himself wearing a shirt printed with ‘I lost faith in the monarchy,’ was arrested again…”, in Khon Kaen, “on a warrant issued by the Khon Kaen Provincial Court on 3 March 2021 on charges under the lèse-majesté law and sedition law, or Sections 112 and 116, as well as the Computer Crimes Act.”

The charges stemmed from “Facebook posts he made on 11 and 18 February 2021.” The police seized three “I lost faith in the monarchy” t-shirts, computers and smart phones.

Tiwagorn denied the charges.

After a couple of hours in prison, the “Khon Kaen Provincial Court has granted Tiwagorn bail, with a security of 150,000 baht.”





Down the shute

4 03 2021

PPT doesn’t always post on rankings, but the Freedom House index struck us as telling of Thailand’s descent into a dark era. Freedom House’s report now ranks Thailand as Not Free. While one might dispute such indices, it is clear that the country now languishes with some sad companions in these “league tables,” looking far more authoritarian than democratic.

Freedom House’s report on Thailand begins:

Thailand’s status declined from Partly Free to Not Free due to the dissolution of a popular opposition party that had performed well in the 2019 elections, and the military-dominated government’s crackdown on youth-led protests calling for democratic reforms.

It goes on

Following five years of military dictatorship, Thailand transitioned to a military-dominated, semi-elected government in 2019. In 2020, the combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy provoked the country’s largest anti-government demonstrations in a decade. In response to these youth-led protests, the regime resorted to familiar authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse-majesté charges, and harassment of activists. Freedom of the press is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.

Read it all here.





Further updated: Three more 112 complaints

2 03 2021

Thai PBS reports that the Corrections Department has lodged lese majeste complaints with police, “seeking legal action against a group of people who torched the portrait of … the King in front of Khlong Prem prison early Sunday morning.”

An official cabal of 112 accusers was composed of Justice (yes, we know, there’s no real justice when it comes to king things) Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, Director-general of the Corrections Department, Ayut Sinthoppan, and Pol Col Panudet Sookwong, deputy commander of Second Division of Metropolitan Police Bureau.

Somsak said there are “three suspects, two men and one woman, after they examined footage from the CCTV system in front of the prison, which shows a white MPV at the scene at about 3.10am Sunday morning.” He added that the three had been tracked down “and further investigation shows that the trio have political connections…”. He did not explain.

We are reminded of earlier 112 arson cases.

The Bangkok Post reports that they will also be charged with ” charged with arson, trespassing on state property…”.

Somsak ordered tightened security and warned officials to “never let a similar incident happen again.” That should stand as a call for the burning of royal portraits across the country.

Update 1: We should have added the observation that the Bangkok Post decided headline arson charges rather than lese majeste cases. The Post is becoming an ever less reliable newspaper because of its bending to royalism. We think there are now 62-63 persons charged with lese majeste is the latest round of anti-royalist repression.

Update 2: Reports soon appeared that one of those being tracked by the police was Chai-amorn Kaewwiboonpan, better known as Ammy The Bottom Blues. There was considerable apprehension when Ammy was reported arrested on social media but saw police denying this. Later, it was confirmed that he was arrested in Ayutthaya. He now faces several charges:

The charges carry severe penalties — 5-20 years, life in prison or death for arson; 3-15 years for royal insult; and five years each for trespassing on a state office and for computer crime.





Lese majeste and cruelty II

28 02 2021

The Bangkok Post has a story about yet another bail refusal for lese majeste defendants and monarchy reform advocates Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem.

The Post says this is a “[t]hird setback in efforts to secure release of foursome awaiting lese majeste trials.” We know it is difficult keeping up with the number accused of lese majeste (is it 59 or 60?), but the number of bail applications and repeated refusals by royalist courts should be easier to count.

Going by the information in the story, we count five, including the most recent that begins the Post story:

Clipped from Khaosod

They have been in the Bangkok Remand Prison since Feb 9 when they were formally indicted on charges including lese majeste in connection with rallies at Sanam Luang on Sept 19 and 20 last year. The Criminal Court rejected their initial bail request.

The Court of Appeal on Feb 15 upheld the Criminal Court decision, citing the defendants’ disrespect for the monarchy and saying they posed a flight risk. Subsequent requests to the Criminal Court on Feb 17 and Feb 22 were also rejected, with both decisions upheld by the Court of Appeal.

The grounds for the appeal were entirely reasonable:

The first was a cash bond of 400,000 baht for each defendant, which was higher than the previous bail request. Charnvit Kasetsiri, a former rector of Thammasat University, and Panas Tassaneeyanon, a former dean of the university’s Faculty of Law, had agreed to act as guarantors for the defendants, said the lawyer.

The three other issues were that the defendants posed no flight risk, they had not yet found been guilty by a court and thus they were considered innocent, and all had permanent residences…

All to no avail. The establishment is busy protecting the king and punishing its opponents.





Bail double standards

26 02 2021

A couple of days ago we posted on the limp response on bail by one who should do better. The observations there become even more stark as yellow shirts, found guilty of sedition, stroll away with bail while four lese majeste defendants are repeatedly refused bail and may be kept in jail “indefinitely.”

The former People’s Democratic Reform Committee leaders, including three serving ministers, given their posts as “repayment” for paving the way to the coup in 2014, were sentenced on Wednesday. As Khaosod had it, those convicted were:

… former Democrat Party executive Suthep Thaugsuban and five others on charges of insurrection for their roles in street protests against the elected government back in 2013 and 2014.

Suthep was sentenced to 5 years in prison for the protests, which culminated in the military coup that toppled Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration in May 2014. The court declined to suspend their sentences, though it is not clear as of publication time whether Suthep and others would be granted a bail release while they appeal the verdict.

Defendants who were given jail sentences alongside Suthep include Digital Economy Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, and Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senniam.

Buddhipongse and Thaworn were sentenced to 7 and 5 years in prison, respectively, while Nataphol got 6 years and 16 months.

In all, 25 PDRC leaders and members were sentenced for treason and sedition. Other key PDRC leaders were given jail sentences were:

  • Issara Somchai – eight years and four months
  • Suwit Thongprasert, formerly Buddha Isra – four years and eight months
  • Chumpol Julsai – 11 years
  • Suriyasai Katasila – two years

Today, the Appeals Court granted bail to at least eight: “Suthep Thaugsuban, Issara Somchai, Chumpol Julsai, Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, Suwit Thongprasert and Samdin Lertbutr.”

But, for those who have not been convicted of anything remain in jail as further charges are piled on. They are detained pending trial which means they are detained indefinitely until the trial is over or until bail is granted.

Double standards? You bet.





Updated: Limp royalistness

24 02 2021

Vitit Muntarbhorn is a Professor Emeritus at the Faculty of Law at Chulalongkorn University and was formerly UN Special Rapporteur, UN Independent Expert and member of UN Commissions of Inquiry on Human Rights.

His op-ed at the Bangkok Post, “Thailand’s bail system — is it made for the rich?“, was recently presented at a web-conference organized by Thammasat University.

“Discussing” lese majeste

Given the fact that lese majeste defendants were more-or-less routinely refused bail for the years from 2006 to 2017 and that four defendants – all political activists – have been denied bail three or four times in quick succession, and you’d think that Vitit and his publisher would have something to say. But you’d be wrong.

Not a word. Sure, there’s limp comments about “the chasm between power derived from the coup d’etat and the aspirations of a democratic and just society” and “the spate of cases in relation to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” and some appropriate statements about access to bail. But nary a word on lese majeste and the bizarre actions of the courts.

Vitit’s work with the UN and on international law means he knows truth. Does he dare not speak it?

Update: A reader drew our attention to a second statement (added later?) to the Post op-ed, stating:

Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn teaches at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. He has helped the UN in a variety of positions and is currently a member of a UN Human Rights Commission of Inquiry. This article is derived from his speech at the recent Conference on Asean Traversing 2015: Challenges of Development, Democratisation, Human Rights and Peace, organised by Mahidol University, Bangkok.

Yet the original attribution to a February web-conference remains. Work it out. Something very limp going on.





Lese majeste and cruelty I

23 02 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that the Criminal Court has again “rejected the third bail request for four key Ratsadon members held on charges of lese majeste…”.

Charnvit Kasetsiri, a former rector of Thammasat University and Panas Tassaneeyanon, a former dean of the faculty of law were there to “offer themselves as the guarantors for the temporary releases of Arnon Nampa, Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat ‘Mor Lam Bank’ Saraiyaem.”

The court again denied the bail request, “citing the same reasons for the dismissals of the previous two requests — the offence carried a high penalty and there were reasons to believe the suspects would repeat the offence if they were released on bail.”

As the report notes, “pre-trial detention could go on for years until the court passes a final ruling.” Most often, this is for those charged with lese majeste and is a form of torture.

Social media reports that the judges involved are the same cruel judges who sat on the case against Ampol Tangnopakul, who was convicted in late November 2011 and sentenced to 20 years in jail for the 4 text messages the court believed he sent. To simplify, the court was unable to prove that Ampol sent the messages but convicted him on the basis that he could not prove that he didn’t send them. Sadly, Ampol died in custody.





The statistics of repression

21 02 2021

For those who aren’t already following them, it is worth spending some time at the website of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. These brave lawyers work with many of the arrested and charged protesters and those accused of lese majeste.

Recent reports at their English page includes the following analysis:

Number of persons held in custody at Border Patrol Police Region 1 from participating in political assemblies

There has been a slew of persons relentlessly being taken to and detained at the Border Patrol Police Region 1 in Pathumthani Province as a result of their participation in political assemblies in Bangkok.

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), from 13 October 2020 to 13 February 2021, at least 111 individuals were arrested for participating in political assemblies and were detained at the Border Patrol Police Region 1. TLHR finds such detention unlawful….

A statistical profile of minors charged for political expression and protest, 2020-2021

According to the TLHR database on juvenile prosecution (from 2020 onwards), at least 9 young people from among 16 cases have been prosecuted for political expression and protest.

TLHR Overall Situation in December 2020

In December 2020, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) documented 58 cases related to human rights violations and incidents in provinces in central and southern Thailand: Bangkok, Pathum Thani, Chonburi, Nontaburi, Samut Prakan, and related to Krabi, Songkhla, and Pattani. The number includes 4 cases of arbitrary detention, 2 cases of restriction of freedom of expression, 46 observations and monitoring of court trials, and 6 cases of other forms of harassment and intimidation.





The royal elephant in the room

20 02 2021

Reading a report at the Thai Enquirer on Move Forward’s Rangsiman Rome and his speech in parliament requires insider knowledge.

Reporting that he “showed the four-page document from 2019, when the Royal Thai Police force was under the leadership of [Gen] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and of current Deputy Prime Minister [Gen] Prawit Wangsuwan,” it is left to the reader’s imagination and inside knowledge to work out what this is about, adding:

The so-called chang or elephant ticket is allegedly a list of police officers assured of promotion. The ticket, according to Rome, is a vehicle for positions and connections within the police, bypassing the official merit-based system for promotion.

Immediately the hashtag #ตั๋วช้าง began trending, used millions of times.

Like an earlier politician forced into exile, Rangsiman spoke of the patronage system. Rangsiman implied “Prayut and Prawit were aware that such corrupt practices were taking place, accusing the administration of allowing the police to indulge the ‘godfathers’ operating gambling dens and the drug trade, while cracking down on pro-democracy protestors like criminals.”

The closest the newspaper gets to talking about the elephant in the room is when it reports that the MP said “he was aware that he was breaching a dangerous taboo against some of the country’s most powerful vested interests.” That’s code for the monarchy and that he was speaking of the involvement of the palace in police promotions and corruption was clearer – but still unstated – when he said:

This is probably the most dangerous action I’ve ever taken in my life,” he said during the hearing. “But since I have been chosen by the people, I will fight for the people…. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I have no regrets over the decisions that I have made today.

It is Khaosod that reports the speech more directly, helped by the slimy lese majeste bully Suporn Atthawong.

According to this report, Rangsiman’s “bombshell revelation” was that “a handful of government favorites and a royal aide can dictate appointments and removals within the police force at their whim…”.

He went further, saying that the documents showed that “police officers can gain immediate promotions without going through the formal route if they manage to obtain a ‘Ticket,’ a document signed by Maj. Gen. Torsak Sukvimol, the commander of the Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904.” That’s the younger brother of the king’s most important official.

The link to the palace is clear:

The MP said the scheme is run by Torsak’s brother, Sathitpong Sukvimol, who serves as Lord Chamberlain to the royal palace. Documents shown by Rangsiman shows that Sathitpong in 2019 wrote to a certain institution asking for 20 police officers to receive either new ranks or titles.

The slimy Suporn has rushed in with Article 112 allegations:

We have transcribed every word and letter of the speeches that Mr. Rangsiman Rome referenced the monarchy…. Our legal team has looked into it and concluded that the information is sufficient for prosecution under Article 112.

Of course, the king’s previous interference in police promotions has been well-documented. A recent academic piece, drawing on Wikileaks, summarizes this, stating that Vajiralongkorn twice “intervened in matters to do with the appointment of the national police chief, in 1997 and 2009, both seemingly with personal motives…”. We also know that there were several periods when the king was crown prince that there were rumors that he was involved with crime figures.





Clubhouse panic

19 02 2021

Minister for Protecting the King and Royal Family Buddhipongse Punnakanta, who doubles as Minister of Digital Economy and Society, has another digital platform to worry about in performing his main duty. Clubhouse has landed in Thailand and exploded.

As Thai Enquirer puts it:

Clipped from Vox

Clubhouse is a golden opportunity for free, open discussions to flourish in Thailand. Through the new voice-based app, Thai users are able to now access information and debates that are otherwise controlled and sometimes punishable by the state.

Of course, the topic that is bringing thousands into Clubhouse is the monarchy:

A large number of Thai users have joined Clubhouse in recent days after Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a … critic of the Thai palace, started discussing the monarchy, with some of the thousands of listeners chiming in with questions and opinions.

Buddhipongse said “authorities have followed Clubhouse usage in Thailand and warned legal action could be taken against those who violate laws,” suggesting that he has state spies in the system or plans to. He fumes and threatens:

Political groups and others have used the application to express opinion and give distorted information, create damage, and potentially violate laws.… Authorities are ready to proceed according to the law, the same as with other social media platforms.

More lese majeste charges coming…. By our count, the regime has now charged more than 60 persons under Article 112.