20 years on lese majeste

9 08 2017

Back in February 2015 the military junta began arresting people and charging them with lese majeste for allegedly being part of the Banpot anti-monarchist network.

By July that year it seemed that the arrests totaled 14.They were accused of distributing online materials that insulted the monarchy. Banpot produced radio programs distributed via the internet. His programs were long talk shows about politics and the monarchy. Many of the shows reproduced the rumors whirling around the royal family.

Two of these arrested decided to defend the case, which meant two years in jail for one named Tara W. while he was “convinced” to plead guilty.

Tara finally changed his plea to guilty on 26 June 2017. The Bangkok Post reports that on 9 August 2017 the 61-year-old Tara was jailed for 20 years “for posting six video clips deemed insulting to the monarchy…”. The military court backdated the 20 years to his arrest, meaning he has a further 18 years to serve.

Tara cannot appeal his sentence “because he was arrested while Thailand was under martial law.”





Release Pai XVII

28 07 2017

Prachatai reports that a “military court has refused to release an embattled anti-junta activist after summoning him for a witness hearing.”

On 27 July 2017, Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa appeared before the Military Court of Khon Kaen for a witness hearing in the “case in which Jatuphat and six other youth activists were charged with violation of the junta’s political gathering ban of five or more persons for gathering at the replica of the Democracy Monument in Khon Kaen Province to commemorate the first anniversary of the coup d’état on 22 May 2015.”

With Jatuphat are “Aphiwat Suntrarak, Phayu Boonsophon, Phanupong Srithananuwat, Suwitcha Pitangkorn, Supachai Phukrongploy, and Wasan Setsit.”

This military court held the hearing in camera and proceeded to revoked the bail it had previously granted in this case, “reasoning that Jatuphat is also battling a royal defamation case.”

As we have previously stated, when it comes to lese majeste, Prachatai gets its terminology wrong. There is no “reasoning” involved and the concocted notion that lese majeste is about “royal defamation” has been disproved. In fact, lese majeste is a political charge used against political opponents.

Political prisoners, military courts and secret trials: that’s what Thailand’s military dictatorship does.





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.





Three years to get a correct decision

6 07 2017

It isn’t often that a military court gets anything right. In legal terms, a military court is simply an arm of the junta, doing its bidding. However, a report at Prachatai suggests that it got one decision legally right.

When the military dictatorship was established following the coup in May 2014, it issued orders for dozens of people to “surrender” themselves to the regime.

Most did go to a military jail for a short time. Some were jailed for years. A few went on the run and were hunted down. Others went into exile and some were not able to report, being overseas or in hospital and the like.

Jitra Kotchadej, a trade unionist and well-known activist, was one of those who could not report to the military thugs. She was in Sweden at the time.

When she returned to Thailand, she “was arrested … on 13 June 2014 by  the Thai Immigration officers. The police later requested the military court to remand her in custody, but Jittra was released on bail on the same day.” She was accused of failing to abide by the military junta’s orders.

She was acquitted by the court on 6 July because she had “submitted a letter to the Royal Thai Embassy and the NCPO [the junta], explaining that she would report to the junta on her return to Thailand.”

That acquittal is good news but it took almost three years to get to it. In most normal political systems, she would not have been charged or dragged to the courts, let alone a military court. But Thailand is anything but normal.





Dead king, dead dog, lese majeste case goes on

28 06 2017

Thanakorn Siripaiboon was arrested at his house in Samut Prakan Province on 8 December 2015. He was arrested by military and police officers who invoked Article 44 of the then Interim Constitution which gives The Dictator absolute authority to maintain national security. He was accused and then charged with violating the lese majeste law by spreading “sarcastic” content via Facebook which allegedly mocked Thong Daeng, the royal dog.

Both the king and the dog are now deceased.

In one of the most bizarre lese majeste cases ever heard in an increasingly bizarre royalist Thailand, Thanakorn, who has been on bail, sought to have his case heard in a civilian court.

But as Prachatai reports, his appeal was rejected and the “Court Jurisdiction Committee has decided that a lèse majesté suspect accused of mocking the late King’s favourite dog will be tried in a military court.”

He also faces charge under the Computer Crimes Act.

In a separate case, he has been indicted under the sedition law, for posting an infographic on the Rajabhakti Park corruption scandal on Facebook.





Updated: Torture and lese majeste

27 06 2017

Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists reckon that “Thailand had pledged 10 years ago to respect and protect the rights of all people to be free from torture and other ill-treatment by ratifying the Convention against Torture. But the organisations said they remained concerned that torture remains prevalent.”

We don’t imagine that the two NGOs are surprised. After all, Thailand’s military and police use torture regularly and as standard practice. They even use it when training their own recruits. It is just normal for the thugs.

One form of torture that seems relatively new relates to lese majeste. A few years ago, at about the time that the then government was “pledging” to end torture, royalist thugs came up with the idea of keeping those accused of lese majeste in jail until they confessed.

This form of torture has been refined. Now, those accused of lese majeste are kept out of courts until they confess. If they don’t confess, then court proceedings dragged out over months and even years, are secret. Sometimes not even family or lawyers know about the court date. Sometimes not even the defendant knows and courts take decisions without the defendant or a lawyer present.

Royalist courts are never going to provide justice in lese majeste cases. However, a guilty plea means the courts don’t even have to deal with the case. All they do is sentencing.

The most recent example of this kind of lese majeste torture involves a 59 year old man who has been locked up for three years until he finally entered a guilty plea.

The report says he faces up to 50 years in jail, but this is wrong (a point made later in the report) for it accepts that the sentence will likely reduced by half for his guilty plea and because Thailand “limits” sentences to 50 years. In fact, the nonsensical nature of lese majeste should be emphasized by noting that he could be sentenced to more than 100 years in jail.

On 26 June 2017, the “Military Court in Bangkok postponed the sentencing of Tara W., a 59-year-old seller of Thai traditional medicine accused of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, after he pleaded guilty.” He will now be sentenced on 9 August 2017.

Tara W. is one of the Banpot 6/8/10/14 (the number varied as arrests were made). He and another decided to fight the case (we don’t know any more about the other defendant). Tara sold traditional medicine but was accused of being the “owner of a tourism website, okthai.com, which is now blocked by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.” It is even blocked overseas. [Update: Not blocked. Thanks to a reader for directing us.] Blocking seems to mean taking down but maintaining a blocked notice. We hope the regime is paying for the domain name.

As the report states, a “tiny corner of the website allegedly contained a banner with a link promoting the programmes of Hassadin U., also known as ‘DJ Banpodj’, the head of the so-called Banpodj Network, which has allegedly produced podcasts criticising the monarchy.”

Tara faces six lese majeste charges and other charges under the Computer Crime Act.

He had claimed that he “only uploaded them [the clips] for their information on traditional medicine.” He was arrested on 25 January 2015 and has remained in jail since.

That constitutes torture. There’s several other human rights mangled by the case, but readers should understand that this is now standard practice in royalist Thailand.





UN “very concerned” on lese majeste

14 06 2017

They have been saying it for several years now, but UN expressions of concern about lese majeste madness in Thailand deserve repeating. The call is to amend the law. That’s unlikely to happen any time soon, so a watered-down squeak for amending might as well be a real demand for abolition. That won’t happen either, but it needs to be shouted again and again.

The following is the whole post from the UN Human Rights -Asia Facebook page:

The military junta We are very concerned by the rise in the number of lèse majesté prosecutions in Thailand since 2014 and the severity of the sentencing, including a 35-year jail term handed down last Friday against one individual. A Thai military court found Wichai Thepwong guilty of posting 10 photos, videos and comments on Facebook deemed defamatory of the royal family. He was sentenced to 70 years in jail, but the sentence was reduced to 35 years after he confessed to the charges.

This is the heaviest sentence ever handed down under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which is also known as the lèse majesté law. The previous heaviest sentences were handed down in 2015, when three people were jailed for between 25 and 30 years by military courts on the same charges. The offence carries a penalty of three to 15 years in jail for each charge of insulting the monarchy.

Between 2011 and 2013, 119 people were investigated for insulting the monarchy. Over the last three years, between 2014 and 2016, that figure has more than doubled to at least 285.

Statistics provided by Thai authorities show there has been a sharp fall in the number of people who have been able to successfully defend themselves against lèse majesté charges. From 2011-13, around 24 percent of people charged with the offence walked free, but over the next three years, that number fell to about 10 percent. Last year, that figure was only 4 percent.

While our Office appreciates the complexity and sensitivity of the issue surrounding lèse majesté in Thailand, we are deeply troubled by the high rate of prosecutions and the courts’ persistence in handing down disproportionate sentences for the offence. All people have the right to freedom of expression, including when it comes to criticising public figures. Imprisonment of individuals solely for exercising the right to freedom of expression constitutes a violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand acceded to in 1996. In March 2017, the UN Human Rights Committee, which reviews implementation of the ICCPR, concluded that Thailand should review Article 112 of the Criminal Code to bring it into line with Article 19 of the Covenant.

We also have concerns about the conduct of the trials since the military coup of 2014. Most of the lèse majesté cases have been tried before a military court, and the hearings have been closed to the public. Most of the accused have been denied bail and some held for long periods in pre-trial detention. While we welcome the Government’s decision in September 2016 to cease hearing future lèse majesté cases in military courts, we reiterate our call to authorities to apply this is to all pending cases, retroactively.

Our Office calls on the Thai Government to immediately amend the lèse majesté law to bring it in line with international human rights standards and to review all cases brought under Article 112 of the Criminal code.

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva