Updated: Going after grannies

9 03 2017

The junta doesn’t discriminate when attacking and repressing its opponents. Age, gender and location are no barriers to repression.

Over the past couple of days, it seems the military dictatorship has turned its attention to repressing grannies.

A story at Prachatai reports that 20 villagers in Udornthani have ended a court case by pleading “guilty for violating the junta’s public gathering ban for supporting a referendum monitoring campaign.”

They could not afford to fight the case, so decided to plead guilty. Eight of the villagers are aged over 60 and several suffer chronic illnesses.

The “Udon Thani Military Court ruled that 20 villagers from Sakon Nakhon province were guilty of violating NCPO Head Order 3/2015, the junta’s ban on public assemblies of five people or more.”

The military court “sentenced the villagers to 1 month in jail each and fined each 5,000 baht” but reduced this “to a 2,500 baht fine and a 15 day suspended jail term” after the guilty pleas.

The case came “after the villagers took a photo with a banner from the Anti-Electoral Fraud in the Referendum Centre, the constitutional referendum monitoring centre run by the red-shirt movement.”

The junta and its military thugs considered them scary red shirt grannies. How low can the junta go? Very, very low.

Prachatai points out that:

During last year’s referendum, at least 143 people across eight provinces were prosecuted for violating NCPO Head Order 3/2015 after joining Anti-Electoral Fraud in the Referendum Centre’s campaigns. 74 of them decided to sign an agreement promising not to participate in any political activity in exchange for an end to their prosecution. Some pled guilty in courts to have their sentence reduced.

The arrests were a means of deterring anyone who considered the “referendum” somehow real and wished to participate in any way other than agreeing with the junta’s “constitution.”

That “approved” charter has since undergone changes and is still not approved by the king (he’s busy undoing royal titles for monks). It was meant to herald and “election,” and that is being delayed again and again so that the junta can further consolidate its position.

Update: Another Prachatai story notes that the military junta has “celebrated” International Women’s Day by pressing charges against seven women who are villagers opposing a local gold mine in Loei Province. The report states:

On 16 November last year, Ponthip Hongchai led 150 villagers in a protest at Khao Luang Subdistrict Administration Office where local officials were revising a request from Thungkham Limited, a gold-mining company, to extend its mining license. The protesters urged the office to immediately end the revision process.

On 18 December, a police officer accused Ponthip and six other female villagers of violating the junta’s ban on public assembly. 16 officials at the administration office also accused the six of coercing them into cancelling the revision process.

The seven will be summoned again on 30 March to hear whether a general-attorney [attorney-general] will indict them.

The Tungkum Company has had significant regime support and the junta see the villagers as having support from anti-regime activists.





Supporting feudal monarchism

8 02 2017

We know that the military dictatorship has little sense of irony. It seems part of the UN has caught the lack of irony disease. That lack of perception means that, as it has done previously, UN offices manage to collude in creating and reinforcing feudal monarchism in Thailand.

pattyWe say this based on a report in the Bangkok Post that “… the King’s daughter … Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol is to become a goodwill ambassador for the rule of law in Southeast Asia, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime announced on Wednesday.”

The irony of appointing a royal, protected by a feudal law and from a country ruled by a military dictatorship that illegally seized power and now uses military courts and thumbs its nose at rule of law, in favor of rule by law, seems lost on this UN office.

In fact, UNODC regional representative Jeremy Douglas is quoted as stating: “She doesn’t see herself as above the law and is interested in helping out to advance justice reform…”.

In fact, she is above the law. While in its written form the lese majeste law does not apply to her, every Thai knows that, in practice, she is “protected,” just like dead kings and deceased king’s dogs.

How a feudal “princess would help to promote justice reform” in “Thailand as well as the rest of Southeast Asia” is not clear. After all, her experience is of Thailand’s compromised and politicized “justice” system.

Yes, we know she allegedly has “a special interest in prison issues, particularly women in prison,” but even the UNODC website has little about this since this “interest” was happened upon back in 2008-9.

In an earlier post, we speculated that palace’s need to reorient its propaganda to promote the new king and his (official) family. As in the past, UN offices are targeted in this effort to promote feudal institutions.





Sarawut back in court

7 02 2017

Sarawut (surname withheld) is a 32 year old optometrist from Chiang Rai who has been charged with lese majeste before a military court. He is accused of defaming Prince Vajiralongkorn, now king. He was also charged under the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.

In a report at Prachatai, when Sarawut appeared before a military court on 7 February 2017, he is said to have vowed to prove his innocence. It seems he has been granted bail.

His next appearance before the court on 11 April 2017.





Updated: 11+ years for lese majeste

27 01 2017

Prachatai reports that Burin Intin has been sentenced by a military court on two lese majeste charges.

The report isn’t entirely clear. It says Burin was sentenced to 11 years and 4 months. Usually, when a “suspect” pleads “guilty,” the sentence is halved, so we wonder if Burin was actually sentenced to 22 years and 8 months.

Prachatai states:

The military court read the verdict two days after he pleaded guilty to two lèse majesté counts he was indicted with. Together with the lèse majesté offences, Burin was also indicted with Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act for publishing illegal computer content.

The first count concerned a Facebook comment which was posted shortly before he joined the protest on 27 April 2016. The second was a message on his private Facebook chat with Patnaree Chankij, the mother of Sirawit Serithiwat, a well-known anti-junta activist.

We can now expect the merciless thug-junta to now go after the single mother Patnaree.

Update: A report in the Bangkok Post sort of clarifies sentencing. It states:

During sentencing yesterday, the court initially commuted his term by half due to his confession.

However because he had been convicted for another crime less than five years ago the court increased his sentence by a third, which meant he will have to serve 11 years and four months in total.





Courts, rights and junta

26 01 2017

As we have been saying, the so-called justice system is now but a festering and rotting sore on the junta’s repressive political body. But are we too pessimistic? Several stories at Prachatai suggest that while the sore is weeping, some think that it may be cured.

In one story, we are told that the diminutive Thanet Anantawong has appeared in a military court and has been sentenced to eight months in jail. Readers may recall that Thanet was arrested while hospitalized. He was charged with “defying the junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons.”

The military court halved his sentence to four months after Thanet “pleaded guilty.” Pleading guilty is the only way to even get into a military court, for they seem reluctant to deal with any legal issues and prefer simple sentencing.

As Thanet “has already been detained in Bangkok Remand Prison for a period that exceeds his jail term,” he was released.

Along with nine others, Thanet was arrested for “participating in an excursion to Rajabhakti Park [Corruption Park] in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province on 7 December 2015 to investigate corruption allegations related to the park’s development.”

The military junta was not willing to countenance any activist bringing attention to their expensive park and so blocked them and arrested them. It has since whitewashed the park, cleaning it so that it remains their odious refrain to royalism.

That story makes us feel that the “justice” system, especially in the hands of the military is rotten. However, is there hope for this festering sore?

Another Prachatai story gives a little more confidence. It states that public prosecutors have dropped defamation charges against Naritsarawan  Keawnopparat. She has campaigned for justice over the torture of her uncle. That’s moderately good news because the polluted police able to reject the prosecutor.

There are others who think the courts may still be able to recognize justice. Prachatai carries news of anti-junta activists filing “a civil lawsuit against the Thai army, police, and the Prime Minister’s Office for abusing the rights of peaceful demonstrators.”

A few days ago, Neo-Democracy Movement activists “attended a preliminary hearing at the Southern Bangkok Civil Court.” The action refers to “malfeasance and abuse of human rights in arresting and abusing NDM activists and other demonstrators who on 22 May 2015 participated in a peaceful gathering to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état.” The activists “demands about 16.5 million baht in compensation from the three public agencies.”

Interestingly, activist Rangsiman Rome said “that the reconciliation process which the junta the military government is trying to foster will not succeed if people still suffer injustice.”

Yet another story reports that Thai Lawyers for Human Rights “have filed a charge against Thailand’s Corrections Department after prison officers barred a lawyer from meeting his lèse majesté client.”

The Corrections Department and the Director of Chiang Rai Central Prison, as well as prison staff members have been “accused of violating a prisoner’s rights after a lawyer from TLHR was denied a meeting with his client on 12 September 2016.” TLHR “will now attempt to sue the Corrections Department for 200,000 baht as compensation.”

(Prachatai reports the prisoner as “Somsak.” PPT has no record of Somsak and assumes it is Samak Pante, but would appreciate advice from readers.)

The outcome of these cases may tell us more about the spread of the injustice infection.





Forced confessions and lese majeste

25 01 2017

In a recent post we used the term  whiffy to describe a deal approved by the military junta to extend a contract to manage the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center for one of Thailand’s richest.

If that deal was whiffy, then a recent story at Prachatai details a case that reeks.

It is apparently another case of a political activist being accused of lese majeste and then being fitted up. In this case, being held in detention until he “agreed” to plead guilty.

Burin Intin, a welder from northern Thailand, was arrested about 27 April 2016. He was taken from the police by soldiers and detained at a military base before being indicted on two counts of lese majeste and computer crime charges on 22 July 2016.Burin

He was arrested as the military junta cracked down on dissidents. Burin had been campaigning online for the release of the eight from the Neo-Democracy and  Resistant Citizen groups arrested for opposing the military junta’s illegal rule.

The military junta’s thugs declared that Burin had committed lese majeste in his “private chats” on Facebook and it was soon revealed that at least some of his chats were with Patnaree Chankij, the mother of activist student Sirawith Seritiwat, who has also been charged with lese majeste in another bizarre case.

The conversation was referred to by police using these (translated)  words:

In the [Facebook] chat, Mr. Burin who used his Facebook account named “Burin Intin” had posted messages obviously deemed defamatory to the monarchy. During the chat, Mr. Burin had also wrote “Don’t criticise me for saying all these”, and a reply had come from a Facebook account “Nuengnuch Chankij writing ‘Ja’.

Having been held for almost nine months, on 24 January 2017, Burin changed his plea before the military court to guilty on lese majeste and computer crimes charges. He will be sentenced on Friday.

It is a common tactic of the thug-authorities to drag out lese majeste cases until they get a guilty plea. This tactic is a form of torture.

Burin has stated that, on “the night when he was detained at the military base in Bangkok, army officers demanded his Facebook password, but he resisted by keeping his mouth shut.” He claims that he was then beaten:

a heavily-built man in plain clothes, with a knitted hat, gave Burin four hard slaps on the head, while an interrogation officer threatened him by saying “You surely won’t survive. You won’t be able to get out [of this place]. If you won’t tell me [your password], I will take you somewhere where you will face even harsher treatment.”

Burin insists he did not give up his password yet police “used conversations claimed to have been obtained from Burin’s Facebook inbox as supporting evidence to press charges against him.”

It also appears that “the documents to support the charges appear to have been prepared even before the police raided his house and confiscated his computer.”

This is just one more lese majeste case where laws and the rights of citizens are simply ignored and thug-authorities steamroller cases to conviction. The “justice” system in Thailand is very deeply flawed, but nowhere is it so lawless and unconstitutional than in the use of the lese majeste law and the framing of “suspects.”

Thailand’s “justice” system, always dubious, is now a sham. Previous shaky notions of rule of law have been expunged to create an injustice system of rule of and by lords, with the lords being the military, monarchy and the royalist elite.





HRW chastised by military junta’s toadies

14 01 2017

The Nation reports that the junta’s government has “contested claims in a summary on the human rights situation in Thailand released by Human Rights Watch (HRW)…”. The junta reckons the “allegations were outdated and unfair.”

The junta’s toadies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared: “The authors have expressed their views with no updates of the latest status of each issue and, therefore, without taking into consideration progress and efforts made in the country…”.

The MFA’s lamentable statement continues:

There has been significant progress regarding the Government’s [they mean the military junta] efforts on the Roadmap towards restoring a strengthened and sustainable democracy [they mean the much delayed “election”], social harmony [they mean jailing opponents] as well as political stability [they mean repression]. Thailand is now in the second phase of the Roadmap where the Government is currently forging ahead [they mean delaying] with comprehensive reforms to lay a strong foundation in order to achieve a genuine democracy [they mean a Thai-style non-democracy] as well as undertaking legislative reforms. Over 190 laws have been promulgated with a view to addressing chronic problems from the past, including inequality and human rights issues such as gender equality, human trafficking, illegal fishing and labour rights. Such foundation will facilitate the proceeding to the third phase of the Roadmap, whereby the general elections will be held [they mean may be held], and ensure long-term political stability after the new Government [they mean a junta-friendly regime] takes office.

We’d like to be able to say that the folks at MFA are forced to make such silly and untrue statements because they are under the thumb of the junta. Unfortunately, we know that the MFA is populated by royalists and other anti-democrats who support the junta to the hilt.

Human Rights WatchThe HRW account is from its recently released World Report 2017. It begins:

Thailand’s military junta increased its repression and failed to restore democratic rule in 2016…. A new constitution, adopted in an August referendum that was marked by a crackdown against its critics, effectively entrenches unaccountable and abusive military rule.

That seems a reasonable summary of those events. It goes on, quoting HRW’s Brad Adams:

Thailand’s human rights crisis has worsened over the year as the military junta has tightened its grip on power and led the country deeper into dictatorship…. Rather than leading the country back to democratic rule, the junta has increasingly persecuted critics and dissenters, banned peaceful protests, censored the media, and suppressed speech in the press and online.

Again, there’s no argument on these points. The report continues, discussing the junta, saying it:

has banned political activity and public gatherings, made expression subject to criminal prosecution, censored the media, conducted hundreds of arbitrary arrests, and detained civilians in military detention.

That’s all certainly true and it adds that there remain 1,800 cases awaiting trial in biased and unfair kangaroo courts run by the military itself. Further,

The junta has arbitrarily and aggressively used the lese majeste … laws to prosecute people for any expression deemed critical of the monarchy. Since the May 2014 coup, Thai authorities have charged at least 68 people with lese majeste [we think this is too low an estimate as it seems to leave out all of the palace-related machinations associated with the prince-cum-king].

There is much more: “zero justice for past state-sponsored abuses,” the “killing and enforced disappearance of human rights defenders and other activists” and the increased use of “defamation lawsuits under the Penal Code and the Computer Crimes Act to retaliate against those reporting human rights violations.”

And the MFA bleats about “improvements.” The Ministry is a sad joke. The junta is further entrenched and human rights are down the drain. Thailand remains in a very dark and scary place.