Pravit’s lese majeste allegation under investigation

2 07 2012

Lisa Gardner at Siam Voices has a brief article that confirms the lese majeste allegation against journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk is being investigated by the police. No charge has yet been laid.

The allegation apparently relates to articles written for Prachatai, The Nation and even a tweet. PPT has posted all of them (see one, two, three, four, five, six and seven). The accusation is made by serial lese majeste accuser Wiput Sukprasert, an ultra-royalist based in Roi Et.

Pravit was questioned by police, as was the editor of Prachatai.

More on Pravit and lese majeste

27 05 2012

As PPT briefly noted a few days ago, a serial lese majeste accuser has laid a complaint that journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk under Article 112.

PPT won’t repeat it, but we want to urge all readers to go to Asian Correspondent and read the excellent article by Lisa Gardiner on Pravit and his responses to the outlandish accusation.

Of course, and accusation has to be investigated by police. Ultra-royalists have long hated Pravit for his critical commentaries on the political use of the monarchy, and this accusation appears as “payback” and to have Pravit harrassed, attacked and investigated.

PPT wonders if Pravit’s employer, The Nation will have the guts to speak on Pravit’s behalf? We haven’t seen anything yet, so if readers see anything, email PPT.

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Gordon

13 11 2011

Prachatai has another article by Lisa Gardner on the continuing lese majeste torture of U.S. citizen Joe Gordon, accused of translating works and posting links to Paul Handley’s widely available The King Never Smiles that almost anyone in Thailand who wants to has seen. Joe is was arrested in Thailand and accused of such “crimes” allegedly committed while he was living in the United States.

The report states that Joe is: “A political prisoner, no question; and a U.S. citizen, no less. A used car salesman from Boulder, Colorado. By international standards, the charges are conspicuously political as they are innocuous.”

Gardner refers to someone who goes by the apparently lightly worn moniker of “human rights advocate.” This person claims that his organization “can’t take up his case without knowing if he’s as pure as the driven snow…”.

That line and similar ones have been mouthed by several allegedly human rights advocates in Thailand, not least by the ever quiet Benjamin Zawacki at Amnesty International. As a major human rights organization, AI embarrasses itself and it supporters by its public silence on lese majeste. It has done nothing for the hundreds of victims of lese majeste repression and torture in Thailand.

Given that Joe has been forced through incarceration and multiple refusals bail – this is the torture in lese majeste repression – to plead guilty, he must now rely “solely on a royal pardon to ensure his release.

A correspondent to Prachatai states that he wrote to the U.S. Embassy and Ambassador Kristie Kenney on Joe’s case and received the following reply:

“Thank you for your letter to Ambassador Kenney of 3 October regarding Mr. Joe W. Gordon. While overseas, all private foreign nationals are subject to the laws of the country where they are located. Many of these laws are vastly different from U.S. laws. As you know, the Thai Department of Special Investigations accused Mr. Gordon, a private U.S. citizen, of lèse-majesté, specifically violating Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code and Section 14(3)(5) of the Thai Computer Crimes Act.

Since Mr Gordon’s arrest in May, Ambassador Kenney and other Embassy officials have raised Mr. Gordon’s situation with the Thai government officials many times, urging fair treatment and respect for his rights to freedom of expression. Embassy officials visit Mr. Gordon in jail regularly and attended his court hearings, most recently on October 10. We remain committed to providing Mr. Gordon all possible assistance allowed a private citizen under international convention.


Chief of American Citizen Services Unit”

The essential element of this is that the embassy and ambassador are doing nothing for Joe. They are meant to visit all U.S. citizens in prison, showing up in their air-conditioned cars and neatly pressed clothes to provide faux sympathy for a citizen in leg irons and prison garb accused of a crime in the United States. Big deal that they claim to take the case up with Thai government officials several times, “urging fair treatment and respect for his rights to freedom of expression.”

That is, frankly, diplomatic speak for doing nothing. Where is the expression of a U.S. citizen’s right to free speech in the United States? All this lot are doing is following previous ambassadorial advice: keeping a quiet public front, urging a guilty plea from the defendant (whether they are guilty or not), and then hoping for a pardon. Despite the fact that its own Human Rights report complains of a generalized pressure to sign confessions, U.S. diplomats play the palace’s game with them and do nothing to confront a dangerous abuse of basic civil rights.

Now here’s a thought or perhaps a wild dream. U.S. President Barack Obama is about to visit the Southeast Asia region. In that visit he will, according to the State Department, amongst other things, “stand up for democratic values.” The State Department has commented, just in the past few days, on human rights abuses in Vietnam, Burma, Uganda, Syria and Afghanistan, just to name a few. Secretary of State Clinton, who is about to visit Thailand, has recently made several statements on human rights and democracy, praising the U.S. ambassador in Syria as one of our diplomats of courage, who “was mobbed, assaulted, and threatened, just for meeting with peaceful protestors, he put his personal safety on the line to let the Syrian people know that America stands with them.”

What about letting an American citizen know that America stands with him? Why not have Obama raise Joe’s case and the human rights abuse that is lese majeste? What about having Clinton do the same. What about having Ambassador Kenney be a diplomat of courage and visit Joe and other lese majeste victims? Maybe Clinton can specifically mention lese majste in a public way. Maybe the State Department can even list the victims of lese majeste repression as political prisoners in its annual human rights report, where its most recent 2011 report continues to state the ludicrously erroneous (and palpably stupid) single line: “There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.”

While we doubt such acts of diplomatic “courage” will be seen, it would be a welcome change to see the United States act in a way that at least appeared to be something other than a supporter of the royalist status quo in Thailand.

Joe Gordon’s learning

26 08 2011

Journalist Lisa Gardner has been following lese majeste stories and posting at Prachatai. Her latest contribution focuses on U.S. citizen Joe Gordon who is held in jail pending trial on lese majeste charges.

Joe tells Gardner that he has been learning a lot while imprisoned at the Bangkok Remand Prison, where other lese majeste victims are also held, including Somyos Pruksakasemsuk and Surachai Sae  Dan. Joe says:

“Before I was arrested, I had no feeling this way or that, for the ‘yellow shirts,’ or the ‘red shirts’,” Mr. Gordon stated, in an interview earlier this week. “I was only here on vacation, and I’m not Thai, you know? I didn’t really care about that stuff.”

Today, “I consider myself a political prisoner,” he says, “since I was arrested around the time of the election. I share a cell with (red shirt activist) Surachai (Saedarn),” he says. “There’s a few of us lèse majesté prisoners here, in the same building. He’s a good man, he speaks sense on this issue, and I have a lot of respect for him… So yes, since (my incarceration) started, I’ve learnt a lot.”

Joe also comments on the judicial system:

“I have no reason to believe that under the Thai legal system, that I’ll receive any justice. There’s no chance I could win: it’s just not a fair system,” Mr. Gordon says. “Judges are not impartial, and only want to maintain their ‘official’ bias. This is why it is important that the U.S. Government act to protect their citizens by ensuring my immediate release… Most people just cannot fight the system.”

There is huge pressure on those charged with lese majeste to plead guilty. If they don’t, much is done to ensure that their long stay in jail is as difficult as possible.

Joe is not particularly happy with the pathetic response of the U.S. Embassy and government on his case:

’Disappointment’ from the United States is not enough,” says Mr. Gordon. “There needs to be a stronger statement. It would be simple, you know. Free Joe. Now!

Indeed, Free Joe! And free all other political prisoners!

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