No change, more repression

10 07 2019

Despite claims that the military government is ending, it remains in place, essential a government of the junta, headed by the junta’s prime minister who will also be the post-junta/junta-backed prime minister.

The (almost) end of the rule by junta government has some useful attributes. For example, as reported by the Bangkok Post, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha issued a decree stating:

The NCPO [junta] issued announcements and orders to facilitate administration and national reform and to promote unity and reconciliation among people. Now that the implementation of some of them have been completed, they no longer serve a purpose….

All offences under the NCPO orders, whether committed before or after this order takes effect, will be in the jurisdiction of the courts of justice [not military courts]. The cases being tried by the military court will also be transferred to the courts of justice….

And, despite having used Article 44 just yesterday, Gen Prayuth says he won’t use it again.

Even so, “[s]ome special laws enacted by the junta’s absolute power will stay in place even after the new government takes over…”. As has been noted previously, however, many of the activities of the junta have been sucked up into the military and in particular, the Internal Security Operations Command.

As the Bangkok Post notes in an editorial about recent attacks on activists and repression and threats to opponents, this is the style of “rule of a repressive military regime, not a civilian one.”

It notes that “state surveillance on activists remains ongoing and the same kind of heavy-handed suppression of political dissent can be expected under the new civilian government,” confirming that the junta “has already ensured that such a campaign will be led by the military … [and] Isoc…”.





Further updated: Who knew?

27 06 2019

A couple or three stories caught our attention as they suggested we at PPT are either dopes or strange things are going on.

First, we read that the “Defence Ministry has launched a project to upgrade military courts nationwide to boost public confidence in them.” We weren’t aware that there was a nationwide system of military courts. We had thought that they were (“normally”) limited to dealing with military stuff.

The junta changed that, but we thought the these courts would be put the courts back in their box, only being brought out again after the next coup. But, no, there’s going to be an effort to “improve public trust in military courts…”. Seriously? It seems so. And the models? Already existing corrupt and hopeless military courts. It looks like they are being prepared to replace civil courts! Well, probably not, but you get the spin being pedaled by the creeps in uniform.

Second, despite the fact that there’s no government and no ministers seems to not stop House of Representatives is meeting in its temporary digs. We guess this is because it is a place to take pot shots at the junta and The Dictator. However, is this the way Thailand operates, with a complete disjuncture between reality and practice?

Third, we are staggered that Big Joke is back! Sacked in April and hurriedly disappeared for a while, Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn is back!

Heck, it was only Monday when both Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda said Surachate would not return to any work with the police. But there he is! So, the questions multiply? Why was he sent off in the first place with closed mouths all round? Who ordered it? Who’s now allowing him back, indeed, pushing him back? How has this been manipulated? What have been the lubricants? Money? Threats? What is going on?

Update 1: Oops, before we even posted this, the Big Joke continues. He’s gone again:

Police Commission has resolved to remove sacked immigration chief Surachate Hakparn from a police sub-committee following mounting pressure.

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon on Wednesday chaired a meeting of the commission to consider the appointment of Pol Lt Gen Surachate, nicknamed “Big Joke”, to the police sub-committee responsible for laws and regulations.

National police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, his deputy Pol Gen Wirachai Songmetta and representatives from concerned agencies attended the meeting, which lasted about 40 minutes….

The meeting resolved to remove Pol Lt Gen Surachate’s name from the police panel responsible for laws and regulations. Pol Col Mana Phochuay, deputy commander of the Metropolitan Police Division 8, was asked to fill the slot due to his knowledge in legal affairs, and he accepted the job, said Pol Gen Wirachai.

The deputy police chief said the change was made over concerns about suitability for the position….

Who knew? What a bunch of jokers, and not just Big Joke.

Update 2: One thing that came out of the Assembly meeting was a useful needling of The Dictator. 102 MPs: “petitioned House Speaker Chuan Leekpai to ask the Constitutional Court to consider whether Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should serve as premier, saying his status as NCPO chief may violate the charter.”





Updated: Rung Sila bailed

11 06 2019

Prachatai reports that lese majest detainee Rung Sila (Sirapop Kornaroot) has been released on bail, having been incarcerated since 24 June 2014, soon after the junta seized power in an illegal military coup.

That’s almost five years in jail while his in-camera “trial” dragged on since it began on 24 September 2014. His detention at Bangkok Remand Prison is “the longest time for a person currently charged or serving a prison sentence under Article 112.”

We earlier noted that the UN’s Human Rights Council had already declared his detention arbitrary and views his trial as unfair.

Essentially, he has been held for so long because he has refused to plead guilty. In recent years, keeping people accused of lese majeste in jail until they plead guilty has been a form of lese majeste torture.

Late today the Bangkok Military Court allowed bail and he was released at about 7.30pm.





Release Rung Sila

7 06 2019

The United Nations, FIDH and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have all urged that the military government “immediately release lèse-majesté detainee Siraphop Kornaroot [Rung Sila], in accordance with a ruling made recently by a United Nations (UN) body [Human Rights Council, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention}…”.

He’s “been detained for almost five years on charges under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code – one of the world’s toughest lèse-majesté laws – and Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.”

His “trial” before a military court, in secret, in September 2014 and after 20 previous court hearings the next hearing is on 10 June.

He has been repeatedly refused bail. In other words, this is another example of lese majeste torture, seen in several cases, where the regime and courts and probably the palace demand a guilty plea.

The Human Rights Council has already declared his detention arbitrary and views his trial as unfair.

Rung SIla is the eighth lese-majeste detainee whose detention has been declared arbitrary by the UN since August 2012.





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.





The military court and Thanathorn

9 04 2019

According to Khaosod, the military junta has again defended its use of military courts.

Of course, this is because the sudden charges, including treason, against Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit are to be heard by a military court.

Col. Winthai Suvari, spokesman for the junta, “insisted … on the fairness of the junta’s order to try civilians charged with violating security laws in military courts.”

For background on this “fairness” under the junta, see the iLaw article, “Top 5 memorable works of the Military Court.” On the very significant differences between civil and military courts, where the latter deny many of the rights that the accused have in the former, see “Military Court in Thailand under NCPO regime.” And for more detailed information on the military court, see “Military Rule: The Military Court – We only follow orders.”

Under the junta, almost 2,000 people have been tried in military courts.The junta has used military courts precisely because these courts make it easier to convict people because their normal civilian rights and the usual procedures of civil courts are not followed.





Suppressing information on lese majeste trials

24 10 2018

Our second post on information missed earlier is from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and is about a Military Court’s direction to suppress publication of witness testimonies and court dockets in the case against lese majeste detainee Thanakorn:

The Bangkok Military Court has conducted a hearing on a probable case against Anon Nampa, an attorney on 3 October 2018 at 13.30. It stemmed from the publication of evidence given by the prosecution witness, Maj Gen Wijarn Jodtaeng, in the case against Mr. Thanakorn (last name withheld) who was accused of sharing Rajabhakti corruption diagram and clicking ‘like’– deemed offensive to a royally adopted dog. The Court also ordered Anon Nampa to inform the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) to have the information removed from the published article “Military official, who reported the case against a person for sharing Rajabhakti corruption diagram and clicking ‘like’– deemed offensive to a dog, actually did not know how to use Facebook, but he insisted that by just clicking ‘like’ on a page offensive to the monarchy is in itself the commission of royal defamation” (http://www.tlhr2014.com/th/?p=8950). The article to be removed by the Court’s order has been published on TLHR’s website. The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) who is not a party in this case, would like to take this opportunity to explain to the public as follows;

1. The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has been providing legal and litigation assistance to vulnerable people whose rights have been affected by the exercise of the state power as a result of the coup in 2014, including cases concerning the freedom of expression and cases of civilians who are prosecuted in the Military Courts.

According to the statistics collected by the Judge Advocate General’s Department, from 25 May 2014 to 30 June 2018, civilians have been indicted with the Military Court in over 1,723 cases and at least 281 cases are pending the review. TLHR has been assisting in 58 cases in which the civilians stand trial in the Military Court, of which 12 cases have been “secretly” conducted by the court’s order. Furthermore, the Military Court also prohibited any observer from recording the court proceeding. Recently, the Military Court banned a public dissemination of dockets in two cases, namely, the case concerning a call for election on 24 September 2018, and the case against Mr. Thanakorn on 3 October 2018.

2. According to Section 30 of the Civil Procedure Code, “The Court shall have power to give to any party or any third person present in the Court such directions as it may deem necessary for the maintenance of order within the precincts of the Court and for the fair and speedy carrying out of the trial.” Nonetheless, the latest direction to suppress the public dissemination of the docket in this case is unrelated to the maintenance of order within the precincts of the Court. Besides, the dissemination of the docket shall not affect the justice to be served in the case. Thus, it cannot be deemed a violation to the Section 30 of the Civil Procedure Code.

3. A public trial is one of the core elements to ensure the right to the fair trial according to the Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). As a state party to the Convention, Thailand is obliged to implement its provisions. According to the principle, a person is entitled to a fair and public trial. The public trial does not only involve those in the court room, but it must be open and accessible to every individual.

Moreover, the public trial can ensure the transparency of the justice process and can guarantee the rights and the freedoms of the people. Therefore, apart from being important in itself, the public trial is an entitlement– necessary to ensure other elements that constitute a fair trial and to build trust in the justice process among the public.

4. TLHR has been reporting details of every hearing that the Court did not order the trial to be conducted secretly and suppressed the dissemination of the docket. The information has derived from a summary of evidence given in the Court and from the trial observation.

The publication of contents summarized from the witness testimonies is not tantamount to the publication of the court documents. After all, such publication has been granted a consent by the defendants. This is to ensure transparency in the justice process, particularly the trial of civilians in the Military Court, where the defendants are supposed to enjoy less safeguards that protect their right to fair trial, compared to trials in the Court of Justice.

Therefore, the dissemination of information concerning the court proceeding does not only affect the trial, but also helps gracing the image of the Military Court itself. It is a better alternative than ordering the hearing to be secretly conducted and the suppression of the docket dissemination.

TLHR is determined to provide legal assistance to civilians tried in the Military Court and to inform the public of related information. This is to ensure the transparency and the safeguard of the right to the fair trial amidst the extreme deterioration of democracy and the rule of law.

With respect in people’s rights and liberties

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)