Republicanism means 50 years in prison

27 07 2017

Talking or posting about a republic or republicanism is considered and act of lese majeste. Governments for sometime, including the ultra-royalist military dictatorship, once “defended” lese majeste by saying that it was just like defamation but for royals. The case of human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul, one of the Stolen history 6, clearly show that such bleating was a concoction and expressed as blatant lies.

On 25 July 2017, Bangkok’s Criminal Court “accepted charges filed against [the]… human rights lawyer facing five decades of imprisonment for royal defamation and sedition.” Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have said that Prawet is accused of posting Facebook comments that are deemed to have asserted that Thailand should become a republic.

Even Prachatai uses the term “defamation” when reporting this case. Clearly lese majeste is not defamation. Rather, it is a law that represses political opponents and jails them for daring to think about and discuss alternative forms of government.

Prawet stands accused of importing digital content “deemed defamatory to the [m]onarchy and seditious.” He is alleged to have done this from 25 January- 23 April 2017 and this probably relates to Facebook posts made by exiled historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul.

As well as being charged under Articles 112 (10 counts) and 116 (3 counts), Prawet is “also charged with Article 14(3) of the Computer Crime Act for importing illegal information online and violation of the Council for Democratic Reform (the 2006 coup-maker) Order for obstructing … the police [in]… obtain[ing] his fingerprints.”

It is easy to see that the military junta is determined to lock him away for decades, with 50 years being the legally maximum cumulative sentence. The lese majeste and sedition charges alone, if proven, amount to 171 years of jail. Few who go to court on these charges are ever exonerated by the royalist courts.

Prawet and the other five (for whom there is precious little information that PPT can locate) have been held in jail since 29 April 2017.





The junta’s inhumane use of lese majeste

26 07 2017

Reports yesterday of the bailing and immediate re-arrest of Nattatida Meewangpla give another insight into the inhumane nature of the lese majeste law and its (mis)use by the totalitarian military regime.

Prachatai reports that on 24 July, Bangkok’s Military Court bailed Nattatida, along with “Nares Intharasopa, Wasana Buddee, and Nuttapat Onming, suspects in the 2015 Criminal Court bombing…”.

Nattatida is “a key witness of the 2010 military crackdown” and the murders at Wat Pathum Wanaram.

When “arrested” in 2015, she was abducted by military thugs and The Dictator then lied about it.

The four who were initially bailed this week “were among at least 15 people charged with terrorism and criminal association for alleged involvement in the court bombing on 7 March 2015. The four have been imprisoned for more than two years.”

At the time of the arrests, PPT posted on how the arrests seemed bogus.

Despite being bailed, “police refused to release Nattatida and Wasana. Nattida is currently detained at the Crime Suppression Division while Wasana is being held at Chokchai District Police Station in Bangkok.”

Nattatida is apparently detained as “she was also accused under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, over a message posted on 17 March 2015 on the Line chat application.” Yet she was taken into military custody on 11 March 2015.

As Khaosod reports, and as we have on our short page on her case, back in March 2015, she was “charged in two separate cases: conspiring with a terror group behind an alleged bomb plot at Bangkok’s Criminal Court and insulting the monarchy.”

We can only guess that denying her freedom is because she has “failed” to plead guilty to the lese majeste charge, so that her detention must continue. That’s the inhumane pattern.





Updated: Fear and repression I

24 07 2017

Talk of “reconciliation” seems pointless in the junta’s dictatorship. The task of the junta has been to repress those it identifies as “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition.” As it was largely through the efforts of the anti-democrats, led by the (anti-)Democrat Party, that paved the way for the 2014 military coup, it should be no surprise at all that the coalition of military and anti-democrats coalesces to continue the fight against those “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition.”

As everyone knows, the “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition” are mainly red shirts, elements of the Puea Thai Party and the Shinawatra clan and associates. After more than three years of heavy duty repression designed to decapitate these groups, there is limited evidence that they retain much capacity for mobilization. Yet the military and anti-democrats live in fear that they may rise against them.

As reported in The Nation, the pending verdict against Yingluck Shinawatra, due on 25 August, is causing considerable angst among the ruling regime and its anti-democrat allies.

This deep anxiety was inflamed by the sight of “[h]undreds of Yingluck’s supporters [who] gathered at the high court last Friday during the last hearing of the case against her.”

The Democrat Party, never very popular anywhere except in the previous palace hierarchy and among the royalist military, immediately went back to their rhetoric of anti-Thaksinism that has been a feature of their efforts to bring down each elected government since 2001. They claimed that “many of the supporters travelled together in an arranged trip from the northeastern provinces of Ubon Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen.” In other words, they reflexively denigrated their opponents as unthinking and unintelligent people/buffaloes, led around by money and bosses.

At the same time, Somchai Sawaengkarn, reported as “a member of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)” but in fact a former unelected senator, dedicated anti-democrat, anti-Thaksin campaigner for more than a decade, hard core royalist and prone to accuse opponents of lese majeste, claimed “that he has learned of a plot to incite riots in a bid to overthrow the government and the NCPO [he means his buddies in the junta].”

Somchai has concocted plots in order to denigrate political opponents in the past and we assume he’s at it again. “Good” people like him are skilled liars but usually claim they do it for the greater “good.” This usually means ousting an elected government, supporting the crown or lapping the military boot or, as in this case, encouraging it in political activism. This is why he invents a plot: “They will try to bring down the government and the NCPO [junta] through riots. Hard-core groups that are their allies have clearly said that they want to wage a ‘people’s war’…”. He predicts a “mobilization” of 10,000 people.

While we might hope he is right, based on previous “inventiveness” by Somchai, we can be reasonably sure that, tongue on military boot, he’s making this up to encourage his junta allies in further political repression.

Indeed, the military thugs are already at work.

The Nation reports a source in the ruling junta as revealing that the military and its bureaucratic handmaidens are “closely following movements by certain groups of people ahead of the Supreme Court verdict in the case against former prime minister Yingluck…”.

That source adds that “Army commander-in-chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart, in his capacity as secretary to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has instructed the local peacekeeping forces to monitor the movements of ‘all groups involved’ over the next month…”.

The Army’s regional commanders have been ordered “to make sure any suspicious movements are under their microscope…. If the local peacekeeping forces, which were formed after the military coup in 2014, discovered any plan to mobilise large groups of people into Bangkok, they would need to persuade their leaders to cancel such a trip…”. That will mean detentions, threats and other forms of repression. Indeed, the leaking of these orders are a part of that repression.

Military officers have already “been dispatched to different areas of the country in an attempt to persuade Yingluck’s supporters not to come to Bangkok … [and t]hey are going to meet with local community leaders and administrators and ask them to ‘create a better understanding’ among the local residents.” The order is that there “should be no mobilisation of the masses…”. In other words, the military presence at all levels is being heightened and the threats made real.

Update: Part of the fear of Yingluck’s supporters seems reflected in the estimates of the number who showed up last week. The Bangkok Post reports almost 1,000. The official red shirts of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have warned The Dictator that his threats inflamed the situation and brought out even more supporters. More threats and intimidation could would damage the junta.





Lese majeste that isn’t

17 07 2017

One of the ways in which the courts have undermined the rule of law has been by applying the lese majeste law to persons, dead, alive, fictional and historical, and some animals.

Anyone reading that sentence will be baffled, but it is a fact that the Thai courts have applied the law to threaten real and imagined opponents of the royalist regime and have tended to ignore what the law actually says.

On or about 20 August 2015, the Kamphaeng Phet provincial court issued arrest warrants for Kittiphop Sitthirat, 23, Atsadaphon Sitthirat, 45, and Wiset Phutthasa, 30, on lese majeste accusations. Later, a fourth name was added, Noppharit (surname not known), 28. Some were arrested on 21 August 2015.

They are accused of having made false claims about the monarchy, falsifying public documents, fraud, and impersonating officers from the Bureau of the Royal Household. Most significantly, they were accused of using Princess Sirindhorn’s name and so we call them the Sirindhorn 4.

All denied lese majeste charges when they appeared in court on 21 December 2015.

At the time, Noppharit, the fourth suspect, told the court that he does not know why he has been arrested and charged. He stated that he does not know the other three suspects and is not involved in the alleged crimes. He was arrested on 21 August 2015 and requested bail. As usual, the court denied it because the case involves the monarchy and there was a flight risk. All of this is the standard and cruel court practice in lese majeste cases.

Lawyers for Noppharit made an obvious submission, asking the court to consider whether the case falls under Article 112 since that law does not apply to Princess Sirindhorn. It doesn’t.

As has often been the case in the use of the lese majeste, the court chose to ignore the actual law and dismissed the request, saying “under the current procedure, it is not yet necessary to consider the request from the fourth suspect.”

In May 2016, the Provincial Court at Kamphaeng Phet sentenced Kittiphop, 23, and Wiset, 30, to four years’ imprisonment for lese majeste law, for making false claims about Princess Sirindhorn for financial benefit.

Now, Prachatai reports that “[h]uman rights lawyers are arguing that suspects accused of defaming Princess Sirindhorn should not be indicted with the lèse majesté law.”

PPT is confused by the report, given earlier reports of convictions, but we will accept that Thai Lawyers for Human Rights is correct in stating that “during the period of 18 July–December the Provincial Court of Kamphaeng Phet will hold trials for four suspects indicted with violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code…”.

The report adds that the “four suspects have been detained indefinitely, since the court has repeatedly denied bail.”

It states that “Noppharit also submitted two requests that the court reconsider whether false claims about Princess Sirindhorn falls under Article 112. The court, however, rejected the request.”

TLHR has “pointed out that indicting the four with Article 112 significantly affects interpretations of the lèse majesté law and the country’s judicial system in general…”. The report goes on to explain previous cases related to royals not covered by the lese majeste law. These are worth setting out in full:

In 1989, the Royal Thai Police submitted a request to the Council of State to conclude whether Princess Sirindhorn is an heir to the throne. The Council concluded that based on the 1924 Palace Law of Succession and a statement from the Bureau of the Royal Household, the only heir-apparent to the throne at the time was the then Prince Vajiralongkorn, now the current King.

The Council ruled further that defaming the princess falls under Article 326 of the Criminal Code, the criminal defamation law, under which a case can only begin if the injured party files a complaint against the offender, or gives authorisation to another person to file it. However, in Noppharit’s case, the plaintiff is Wat Sai Ngam Buddhist Monastery.

In 2012, Thanyaburi Provincial Court sentenced Anon (surname witheld due to privacy concerns) to two years in prison for defaming Princess Sirindhorn and Princess Soamsawali during a private conversation. He was initially indicted with Article 112, but the court ruled that the alleged crime fell under the normal criminal defamation law. The Appeal Court later dismissed the charge against him.

In another case in 2004, Nonthaburi Provincial Court handed 10 years of imprisonment to Prachuap (surname withheld due to privacy concerns). He was indicted with two counts under the lèse majesté law for making false claims about Princess Sirindhorn, the then Prince Vajiralongkorn, the Queen, and Princess Bajrakitiyabha.

In 2005, the Appeal Court reduced the jail term for Prachuap to five years after concluding that Princess Sirindhorn was not an heir-apparent. Later the Supreme Court reduced his imprisonment to 4 years, reasoning that Prachuap is loyal to the monarchy and had never committed a crime before.





Free Pai XVI

16 07 2017

The military dictatorship’s jailing of  Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa (or Pai) is an example of how the junta engages in selective political repression.

The first political activist to be charged and jailed on lese majeste charges during the reign of the loathsome King Vajiralongkorn, his arrest was a act of political repression, singling out Pai among thousands who shared a BBC Thai story about the king. Pai has now been held in jail for more than six months awaiting what will surely be a conviction.

Of course, the “authorities” want him to plead guilty so that they can jail him without a trail.

The junta’s regime is interested in repression and uses the law as a gangster uses a gun.

In this story of repression, double standards and manipulation of the law, as The Nation reports, international activists are now working to bring attention to Pai’s sad and sorry case.

These activists have launched a campaign called “Bring the World to Pai” to tell the stories of Jatuphat and other political prisoners, while telling the world about the political situation in Thailand under the military dictatorship.

The brave young activists, “identified as Cat, Chris, Austin, Jay, and Effy from Australia, England, Canada, Malaysia, and Vietnam” actually “visited Pai at Khon Kaen Central Prison on Friday.”

Pai was said to be “in good spirit and told his international friends, with one of his fists up in the air, to encourage young people everywhere to carry on their struggle for freedom and democracy.”

This expression of “solidarity with Thai activists opposed to the military-backed regime” puts the conference delegates at the International Conference on Thai Studies in Chiang Mai to shame. So far, PPT hasn’t heard a peep from these academic tourists about the grave political situation or about political prisoners in Thailand. There’s still time for some kind of statement from them, but so far it has been silence, which the junta must appreciate.





Updated: Anti-112 activist abducted by junta

3 07 2017

Prachatai reports that Charoenchai Saetang, 60, known to have “campaigned against the lèse majesté law,” was abducted by soldier-thugs claiming the right to take him away under Article 44.

It is not know why he has been taken to an army base in Bangkok. However, the thugs “confiscated the mobile phones of the two brothers and Charoenchai’s laptop.” His brother is Kimpiew.

Update: Khaosod adds to the above report. First, Charoenchai’s “family … detained by soldiers two days ago have yet to find out where he’s being held…”.

Second, the “local police station, … was told soldiers had taken Charoenchai to file a report on suspicion the 60-year-old may have committed an offense under Section 112 of the Thai Penal Code, which outlaws insults to the monarchy.”

Third, the way the “legal system” works in these cases of abduction is shown to be even more bizarre than we imagined: “Although Charoenchai’s family said soldiers told them they were taking him to the 11th Army Circle base, the commander of that installation denied any knowledge.” Lt. Gen. Sanitchanok Sangkhachan declared that “security forces” – who is this if not military? – “never informed him when they brought someone to be jailed at his base.”





More on the king’s personal prison

2 07 2017

Not that long ago we posted on Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s article in the Japan Times where he wrote of  a small prison established in King Vajiralongkorn’s Dhaveevatthana Palace. He said it was used to “lock up those betraying the trust of the new … king…”. He had some details.

We also noted the response by Thailand’s ambassador in Japan, saying little more than “we object.”

Interestingly, there is now a response to the ambassador’s letter,headlined, “Thai prison is real, should be shut down.” We reproduce it in full with the hyperlinks:

In his letter to The Japan Times in the June 11 edition, Thai Ambassador Bansarn Bunnag accused Pavin Chachavalpongpun of making unsubstantiated claims when he reported that there is a temporary prison on the grounds of the Daveevattana (Thavi Wattana) Palace of Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn, a prison that inmates describe as “hell on Earth.” The prison is real, and our organization has already translated the public documents authorizing this prison into English and paired it with a Google Earth map, so both Thai- and English-speaking people can know the shocking facts. You can see the evidence at tahr-global.org/?p=32209. [PPT guesses that following the link or reposting it might constitute lese majeste.]

The Thai Alliance for Human Rights has been concerned about this prison since we learned of its existence at the beginning of March, when Jumpol Manmai, who had been a close aid to the king, first disappeared, then reappeared, and was taken from court back to this prison.

So the prison exists. The only remaining mystery is what all goes on there. Having a secret prison that cannot be visited by the public, at the home of a king who is above the law, is a recipe for rampant human rights abuses, including enforced disappearance, torture and even murder. Indeed, Chachavalpongpun lists the names of three men who died there under suspicious circumstances.

If the rumors of rampant human rights abuses are false, the king can put them to rest by inviting an international human rights organization such as Amnesty International to visit the temporary prison. If they are true, the Thai government should close this shadowy prison and take away Vajiralongkorn’s power to persecute people on a whim.

The Thai ambassador also claimed that Thailand respects freedom of opinion and expression, when in fact Thailand’s barbaric lese majeste law prescribes three to 15 years in jail for anyone saying anything negative about this king, and Chachavalpongpun has been exiled simply for doing his job as a political scientist. If only Thailand did have free speech, ongoing human rights abuses could be brought to light and future abuses prevented.

Ann Norman, Executive Director, Thai Alliance for Human Rights, Pittsburgh