Students vs. the feudal regime I

24 10 2021

As Pravit Rojanaphruk points out in a Khaosod op-ed:

A year has passed since the students-led monarchy reform movement descended to the streets of Bangkok and beyond in large numbers. One year on, over 140 have been charged with lese majeste crimes, or defaming the monarchy. It’s punishable by a maximum imprisonment term of 15 years. Around half a dozen of them are currently … incarcerated….

Scores of others face hundreds of other charges. Some are in jail, others have bail, others await more charges.

While the media face censorship and with “self-censorship are the norm, combined with self-denial or silence to due fears of repercussions or political expediency,” the students continue to push for change.

Thai PBS reports that the Chulalongkorn-Thammasat football match procession will be different this year. The executive committee of Chulalongkorn University’s Student Union is unanimous in canceling the Phra Kieo coronet, Chulalongkorn University’s emblem. Why? They see “it to be representative of a feudal culture and a symbol of inequality.”

As the most royalist of universities, with many connections with the monarchy and royal family, the message is clear.

In his  article in support of other students who suffer feudal repression – lese majeste – Pravit calls on the media to support them:

The press could continue to watch and simply report about more prosecutions as more youths take the risks, are taken to jail, repeatedly denied bail, and refrain from questioning the anachronistic law . Such stance means the Thai press continue to be part of the problem for their lack of courage and commitment to greater press freedom.

It means the mostly young political activists feel the need to express themselves publicly on the streets or on social media, despite the risks as they regard the current situation as not just abnormal but unacceptable, untolerable and undemocratic…..

The least that journalists and media associations can do is to call out publicly and say we need to talk about the lese majeste law and something needs to be done about it. Even if they do not support the abolition of the law, there are crucial details worth reforming: the severity of the law which is disproportionate and more.

In fact, from our observation, the media has not been comprehensive in reporting of these arrests and charges and the reporting is so sporadic that we feel the regime and its supporters have cowed the mainstream media.

The students deserve better. Thailand deserves better.





Cracking down IV

23 09 2021

Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has “hailed progress in Thailand’s campaign against ‘fake news’…”.

Translation: The regime is getting rid of news it doesn’t like. Its own fake news is okay.

The Nation adds that this cheering from The Dictator comes as “critics accuse the government of an unprecedented clampdown on internet freedom.” Indeed, “fake news” is a term “being weaponised by the government to crack down on its critics and protesters.”

The unelected general praised “state agencies after the latest Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) report showed fake news … stories in 2021 had dropped by 26.43 per cent, following a 6.69 per cent decline in 2020.” Meanwhile, it reported that “the number of genuine news stories had risen by 28.66 per cent…”. Fake statistics.

The Ministry “said 158 cases of fake news were prosecuted last year. So far, 135 cases have been prosecuted this year…”. Almost all of these cases are likely to be about  “online content critical of the government, military or Royal Family, amid rising anti-establishment protests.”

The crackdown targeting political activists has again swept up Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul. She was arrested on Wednesday “and charged with sedition due to her involvement with the Facebook page of the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD).” Much of the mainstream media has been quiet on this, reflecting the regime’s pressure.

This followed the arrest of Niraphorn Onkhao a few days ago.

Plainclothes officers from the Technological Crime Suppression Division presented an arrest warrant “… issued by the Criminal Court and signed by judge Sakda Phraisan. It stated that Panusaya is charged with sedition under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code and with entering into a computer system data which is an offense to national security under Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act.”

Panusaya was taken to the TCSD headquarters in a police van.  They immediately sought her detention.

As in Niraphorn’s case, the cops were acting on a “complaint filed by Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims [sic.], an online royalist group…”.

According to the dutiful cops, the UFTD “Facebook page contains what they consider to be seditious messages calling for people to rebel against the authorities, and accusations that police have used excessive force against protesters.”

You get the picture. No criticism or protest permitted. The authoritarian pit is a deep and dark one.

She was granted bail on 35,000 baht security.





Cracking the media

20 09 2021

Thailand’s regime is seeking to limit reporting on the actions of its police against demonstrators. Recent actions against the media are reported here, here, here, here, and here.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand has issued a statement, reproduced in full:

FCCT STATEMENT ON THAI POLICE THREAT TO ARREST JOURNALISTS COVERING PROTESTS

The professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand wishes to express its deep concern over a threat by the Royal Thai Police to arrest journalists caught covering protests after the 9pm curfew.

The police have issued a list of preconditions for journalists to obtain permission to report on the protests, which some will be unable to meet. The police want journalists to provide them with a letter requesting coverage after the curfew, stamped by the Metropolitan Police, a copy of a PRD press card, and a letter of assignment from their news agency asking for post-curfew reporting.

This is an onerous set of requirements for what should be routine media work. Some legitimate journalists do not have PRD-issued press cards, and some freelancers cannot get all these documents. It is unacceptable that journalists should face the threat of arrest and prosecution while doing their jobs, simply because they cannot meet all these bureaucratic conditions.

The FCCT urges the police to review their rules for post-curfew reporting, and to recognise that there are genuine journalists reporting on the streets who may not be able to get all the documents they are asking for, and who should not be arrested face any criminal charges.

17 September 2021





Updated: Cracking down II

12 09 2021

As we have posted several times, the regime has adopted more aggressive repression, extending from protesters to the media. This is reflected in a Prachatai Facebook post on arrests and intimidation on Saturday, reproduced in full:

51 people have been arrested following a clash between protesters and crowd control police at Din Daeng.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that they have been notified at around 23.45 on Saturday night (11 September) that 51 people have been arrested, 6 of whom were minors and were taken to the Paholyothin Police Station. 23 of those arrested were adults and taken to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, while the remaining 22 people were taken to the Don Mueang Police Station.

Volunteer medics in the area have also been detained. According to iLaw, 25 volunteer medics were taken to the Din Daeng Police Station. The police took record of their information, but did not charge them.

From Prachatai’s Facebook page

During the clash, which began in the evening, crowd control police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters, who retaliated with firecrackers and other small explosives.

Crowd control police were also reported to fire tear gas and rubber bullets into nearby houses and apartment buildings. They also threatened to arrest residence who came to force the officers out of their community, claiming that they were out past curfew.

According to The Reporters’ live broadcast, crowd control police also ordered a group of journalists gathering near the Din Daeng District Office to sit down and end their live broadcasts while the officers check their IDs.

The Reporters posted on their Facebook page at around 22.40 that they have to end their live broadcast as the police ordered journalists to leave the area or they will be arrested for breaking curfew.

The Din Daeng Intersection and the surrounding area have been the site of daily clashes for the past month, as protesters gathered to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. TLHR said that at least 225 people were arrested during the Din Daeng protests in August alone, at least 15 of whom were under 15 years old and at least 62 were between 15 – 18 years old.

Update: Also at its Facebook page, Prachatai provides more information:

To express objection toward the police brutal arrest and protest crackdown last night, people rallied at Din Daeng Intersection and Ratchaprasong Intersection to protest.

As of 19.30, no clash has been taken place in either locations. Explosive sounds were heard and some small fire were seen set on the road of Din Daeng. The organizer at Ratchaprasong were brought to Pathum Wan police station.

On 19.45, rubber bullets were shot at the protester at Din Daeng.

On Saturday night, (11 September) 78 people have been arrested, 6 of whom were minors. Some of the arrested reportedly stated that they were either passerby, vendors, motorcycle taxi or people who went to the protest to find food giveaway.





Trampling remaining freedoms II

31 07 2021

The regime has defended its repressive action in the usual manner: it has lied.

Thai PBS reports that Government Spokesperson Anucha Burapachaisri and Deputy Spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek “assured the media and the public” that the “government order banning dissemination of fake and distorted news and fearmongering” is “not restricting people’s rights to expressing their opinions.” Anucha stated: “If you criticize the government with distorted information, people may be confused, have misunderstandings, and develop hatred…”.

How high?

Anucha added: “You can voice criticism, but as long as it is based on facts.” Whose facts? The regime’s.

Everyone knows this is buffalo manure.

The Financial Times in “Thailand outlaws reports that cause ‘fear’ as Covid-19 cases” is clear:

Thailand will allow officials to block online reports that cause “fear”, even if they are true, in a move critics have lambasted as an effort to shut down debate of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure announced late on Thursday will penalise anyone who causes “misunderstandings” or jeopardises national security during the country’s state of emergency, which has been in effect since March 2020.

The provision gives authorities the power to find where online content originated from and block it or hand over information to police for prosecution. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government was able to pass the new rule without parliamentary approval under the emergency powers.

In that report, Sunai Phasuk from Human Rights Watch hits the dictatorial nail on the head:

This is the way a dictator would respond to a credibility crisis…. Instead of addressing challenges and bringing about efficient solutions, [Gen] Prayuth [Chan-ocha] chose to issue a gagging order that essentially banned anyone from talking about bad news.





Updated: “Fake” news, state news

13 06 2021

Anyone who struggles through the blarney posted by the regime’s PR outfits must wonder about the meaning of “fake news.”

But when the regime’s bosses talk “fake news” one can expect they are talking about others and their news. Mostly, they are worried about news on the monarchy and criticism of themselves.

All kinds of political regimes have taken up “fake news” as a way of limiting criticism, but it is authoritarian, military and military-backed regimes that have been most enthusiastic in using it to roll back and limit criticism. In Thailand, repression has been deepened through all kinds of efforts to limit free expression and to silence opponents.

With laws on computer crimes, defamation, treason, sedition, and lese majeste, a reasonable person might wonder why the regime needs more “legal” means for repression. But, then, authoritarian regimes tend to enjoy finding ways to silence critics.

It is thus no real surprise to read in the Bangkok Post that Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has ordered “the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) and security agencies to take tough action against those who spread fake news.” He included the “Anti-Fake News Centre, the Royal Thai Police, the Justice Ministry and the DES” telling them to “work together to respond swiftly to the spread of fake news on social media platforms, and take legal action accordingly.”

I Can't Speak

His minions “explained” he was worried about virus news, but when Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “instructed the Council of State, the government’s legal advisory body, to study the laws and regulations, including those in foreign countries, dealing with the spread of fake news” the focus was much broader and was clearly about anti-monarchy news. After all, officials added that the Computer Crime Act was insufficient for curbing “the damage speedily enough.”

The Thai Enquirer sensed an even broader regime agenda. They saw the use of the Council of State as a path to a “law that would control the online media in Thailand.”

They recognize that the aim is to strengthen “national security,” code for the monarchy. But, they also note a desire to limit “the criticism that the government has received over its Covid-19 response program from online platforms” including by Thai Enquirer. Of course, that criticism has also involved the monarchy.

They rightly fear that the online media “would be targeted under the new law.” They say:

This law, as commentators have noted, is an affront and a threat to free and fair press inside this country. It would make our job thousands of times harder and open us up to lawsuit and the threat of legal harassment by the government.

As we have been saying at PPT, Thai Enquirer believes:

we are being taken back to the dark days of military rule because the government believes criticism aimed at them is a threat to the entire nation. That they are unable to differentiate between a political party, its rule, and the fabric of the nation is arrogant and worrying.

But here we are, even as Deputy Prime Minister and legal predator Wissanu Krea-Ngam thinks of an excuse to shut us down, we promise to you that we will keep reporting to the end.

They call for opposition to tyranny, adding that “this new onslaught against press freedom” will be opposed through their reporting.

In a Bangkok Post op-ed by Wasant Techawongtham acknowledges that fake news can be a problem but notes that a new law “Bootis aimed at silencing critics of the ruling regime.” He adds:

Since democracy was banished from Thailand following the 2014 military coup d’etat, a number of laws have been enacted purportedly to protect the Thai people against the harmful effects of computer crimes. But it is crystal clear that the real purpose of these laws is to suppress the voice of the people.

Authoritarians tend to go to great lengths to ensure their stay in power through silencing dissent.

Under this regime, Wasant observes that regime opponents have been “harassed, or even put in jail” and several have been dissappeared and others killed.

He recognizes that a range of repressive laws have:

done quite a remarkable job of suppressing free speech. Those who insisted on speaking their minds against the current rulers have been severely dealt with. Those who were put in jail were allowed back to their families only after they agreed to seal their lips.

Not only regime and monarchy critics are silenced, but the “media — broadcast, digital and print — have felt compelled to screen their offerings very carefully, which in many cases leads to self-censorship.”

But none of this is enough! The regime wants more! There can be no freedom. There can only be the regime’s “truth.”

Update: Thinking about fake news from the regime, the royal propaganda machine is pumping out some real tripe. The latest has the king and his number 1 consort cooking meals allegedly for “medical professionals,” although in the story at The Nation, Sineenat isn’t even mentioned.

Royal cooks

Clipped from The Nation

As they often are, the couple appear in identical kit with minions groveling around them. We are told that “King … Vajiralongkorn on Saturday cooked a variety of food at the kitchen of Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in Dusit Palace…”. He’s the cleanest cook in history, with not a stain to be seen, suggesting that its fake news or, in other words, a photo op meant to deceive the public. And, their gear changes in several of the pictures.

To add to the “news,” the “Royal Office” is quoted as saying:

These foods have nutrition values of five food groups with fingerroot as a key ingredient…. Fingerroot or Krachai is a Thai traditional herb that has various medicinal benefits and could help strengthen the body’s immune system and help prevent Covid-19. Furthermore, eating freshly cooked meals is one of the recommended ways to stay safe from the virus.

We have to say that we at PPT must have wasted our time getting vaccinated because, as the royals have, hot food protects us, and we eat “freshly cooked meals” at least twice a day! Krachai may well be the king’s favorite ingredient as it is said to help with male sexual performance. But how to explain the erect chef’s hat is beyond us.

That aside, this palace propaganda must rank as “fake news.”





Neo-traditionalism and fascists

18 03 2021

Prachatai has a couple of stories that are about a theme – political repression. In our view, they also appoint to the entrenchment of neo-traditionalist, royalist, fascism.

The first report is about complaints made by the so-called People’s Network to Protect the Monarchy to Anek Laothamatas, who seems to spend some time as Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation. They demanded that the former communist now mad royalist and failed politician investigate the lecturers who have used their positions to stand bail for arrested protesters. The fascist Network “claims that their bail requests for Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, students at Thammasat and Mahidol universities, constitute behaviour that infringes upon the monarchy.”

Clipped from Prachatai
The Network submitting a petition to the MHESI representatives, Duangrit Benjathikul Chairungruang and Jak Punchoopet (Source: Facebook/ Center for People Protecting the Monarchy).

Immediately, the ministry sprang into action: “Jak Punchoopet, Advisor to the Minister … said … the Ministry is preparing to summon deans and chancellors of the universities of 8 lecturers who offered bail to 3 student activists detained while awaiting trial for royal defamation and other charges.” Jak previously participated in People’s Democratic Reform Committee efforts to foment a coup against an elected government.

The Network claimed it is “unethical for teachers as they are protecting students who have clearly and publicly defamed and infringed upon the King, Queen and the Chakri dynasty, which the Network has denounced.”

Jak quoted Minister Anek as stating that “academic freedom must not infringe on the … monarchy.”

There’s not much academic freedom in Thailand anyway, with the 2020 Academic Freedom Index grading Thailand as an E, “the lowest grade, with a score of 0.13 out of a maximum of 1.  Other countries with and E grade include China, North Korea, Cuba, Lao, Iran, Rwanda, and South Sudan.”

Preventing academics standing bail would be a major change to previous and longstanding practice.

Of course, neither the fascists of the Network nor the dolts at the Ministry ever pause to think that none of these political prisoners have yet been found guilty. In any case, none were allowed bail.

An equally concerning report is about constant harassment of independent media:

The Isaan Record, an online media organization based in Khon Kaen Province, is under surveillance by police officers. This is not the first time, and it occurs after they report on monarchy reform and anti-dictatorship activities which other media find distasteful.

The effort to silence The Isaan Record is clear and follows a pattern:

On 10 March, Hathairat Phaholtap, the Isaan Record editor, told Prachatai English that police officers came to their office 4 times in one day. She was informed by vendors close to the office that police had asked them about the agency. The police did not approach staff directly.

This took place after the agency reported on an activity organized on 8 March by Femliberate, a feminist activist group, who shrouded the statue of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat with women’s sarongs with a banner reading “Justice died 8 March 2021,” a symbolic action against the oppression of women and the court decision to keep in detention Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul and Panupong Jadnok, 3 leading pro-democracy activists.

Police intimidation sometimes leads to arrests but can also lead to attacks by royalist thugs – more often than not these are police and military men in plainclothes. Such attacks are never investigated.

Unsurprisingly, these royalist, fascist interventions are coordinated. Prachatai reports:

… Manager Online for the northeast region reported news with the headline “Don’t stand for it! Khon Kaen people love the institution [of the monarchy]. Attack KKU [Khon Kaen University], ask its position on whether they want the monarchy or not after allowing gangs who want to abolish the monarchy to hang out there,”.

The news item reports that a pro-monarchy group blames the Progressive Movement, from the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, for being the mastermind behind the student movement in Khon Kaen in the past year. They also questioned Khon Kaen University for letting public figures who spoke about democracy and monarchy reform give lectures to the students.

You see the link between Manager Online and the People’s Network to Protect the Monarchy. When fascism takes hold, the country usually falls into a deep and dark abyss.





Dead-weight lese majeste

21 05 2019

Lese majeste or Article 112 has often been considered as a draconian law. It is. It has been wielded by the current military dictatorship to imprison hundreds. Critics of the regime have been threatened with the law to silence them.

However, less often emphasized is the way the lese majeste law hangs like a millstone around the collective neck of journalists and commentators.

This is why we recommend an an AFP blog post by journalist Sophie Deviller. She has a long account of the ways in which lese majeste directs every aspect of reporting associated with the recent coronation. She also comments on how the secrecy has been significant for the monarchy in maintaining its power.

Thais recognize that the new king is being remade:

… when I tried to bring up the new king’s personality and his escapades, which have been reported by foreign media, she [a Thai journalist] shut down. “This is of no importance,” she told me. “This image is disappearing, in favor of an image of a sacred and powerful king.”

We were, however, stumped by the blog’s final paragraph:

What purpose does it serve for you to constantly criticize your leaders?” she asked me. I had little choice but to answer with the same smile that the Thais use to get out of a delicate or embarrassing situation.

Two points: first, Thai journalists do constantly criticize leaders, although this depends on the political climate. It is only the monarch and royal family that are spared, and that’s the role of lese majeste; second, a journalist should be able to explain that one purpose of the media is to hold leaders to account.





On coronation II

4 05 2019

One of the most noticeable things among the bland and sometimes downright posterior polishing masquerading as reporting today was the censoring of journalists.

Khaosod reports that the BBC was taken off the air in Thailand yesterday and today.

Self-crowned

As the report notes, this came just a day “after Thailand marked its ‘press freedom day’.” As usual, no reason was provided, but everyone knows that it had something to do with reporting of the king.

The Thai provider, TrueVision, owned by Sino-Thai monarchists, “has blacked out broadcasts by the BBC and other foreign media agencies that touched on sensitive subjects in the past.”

That means monarchy.

One of the most interesting aspects of reporting is that, despite claims about joyous crowds, most of the photos of the coronation that we have seen so far do not suggest crowds extending much beyond those the regime ordered to show up. Of course, the diehard royalists also showed up to cheer.

Clipped from The Nation

Another noticeable set of social media reports showed photos of the royal family, including Ubolratana being hugged by her brother.

Also present, in addition to the new queen, was one of the king’s concubines.





Erase the junta’s “law”

29 04 2019

Prachatai recently reported on an important intervention by the International Commission of Jurists, seeking to “the repeal or amendment of Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and NCPO orders and announcements in line with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations.”

While this approach to the Council of State is likely to be ignored, it is responding to Ministry of Foreign Affairs advice that the Council of the State “had been tasked to review the necessity and relevance of announcements, orders, and acts of the NCPO and of the Head of the NCPO (HNCPO) in February 2019.” That review is responding to “Thailand’s declaration to the UN Human Rights Committee in its Follow-Up to the Concluding Observations of the Committee, submitted on 18 July and published on 10 August 2018.”

To read the ICJ’s recommendations, download its 15-page document. Importantly, it urges:

… that Thailand immediately end the use of special powers, including those enshrined under Article 44 of the 2014 interim Constitution, and retained through Article 265 of the 2017 Constitution.

And, it goes on to list the junta’s contraventions of the country’s international obligations: military involvement in civilian law enforcement, arbitrary detention and arrest, lack of judicial oversight for detainees, the inability to legally challenge detention, the use of military courts, the restriction of peaceful assembly, restrictions on the media, and the infringement of community and environmental rights.








%d bloggers like this: