Lawlessness and the king

15 11 2014

Royalists regularly claim that the lese majeste law is required because the king and others covered by the draconian law are “unable to defend themselves” under the law. Other monarchies under constitutional regimes seem not to have this problem, so that observers know the claim is specious.

In fact, lese majeste, while a law, is used to justify lawlessness in matters to do with the king and monarchy. This has become even more noticeable following the May 2014 coup.

Repeatedly denying bail requests is common for lese majeste cases, and there have been repeated refusals to apply constitutional provisions – when there has been a constitution – to lese majeste cases. Many lese majeste cases are dealt with by judges who blatantly ignore the law.

When military courts become involved, the situation deteriorates to legal farce. This was amply demonstrated on Thursday when a military court ruled that yet another lese majeste case would be heard in camera.

Despite the presence of UN officials and representatives of human rights organizations, “lawyers are not allowed to copy trial reports to ‘maintain public morals’ and may be reprimanded for questions about civil rights and the credibility of the military courts.”

In the case reported, Sirapop (or Rung Sila) stands accused of poems on his personal blog and Facebook that allegedly violate Article 112 and the Computer Crimes Act.

The military court heard the military prosecutor propose that the trial be conducted in camera “because the case involves material defaming … the King.” Despite objections from defense lawyer Arnon Nampa, the military court decided on a secret trial to protect “public morals.”

In the secret court, the defendant, held since 25 June without bail, “denied all allegations…”.

Remarkably, when the defense lawyer “asked for a copy of the hearing report … the court did not allow this, reasoning that the case is serious and involves the important institution of the nation.” It means the monarchy.

At the same time, the “military court warned the defence lawyer to amend a petition within seven days because the petition contains ‘defamation against the junta and the military court’.” This refers to a challenge to the “independence and credibility of the military court and also urges the military court to consult the Constitutional Court for a ruling on whether the following issues breach … the 2014 Interim Charter…”.

The article in question states “that the freedom, rights and liberty of the Thai people must be respected and agreements with international agencies must be upheld.”

The effect is that when the monarchy is involved there is no law and human rights are trampled and thrown aside as meaningless.

Rewarding the anti-democrats II

9 10 2014

Yesterday we posted on the rewards dished out to anti-democrats by placing them in the military dictatorship’s puppet National Reform Council.

A report at The Nation stresses just how much rewarding has gone on. Two of the major ideologues of anti-democratic movements from the People’s Alliance for Democracy to the Democrat Party-led anti-democrats of 2014, have been Chai-Anan Samudavanija and Chirmsak Pinthong.

Chai-AnanChai-Anan, who has long been funded by Sondhi Limthongkul, considered a palace insider and a staunch monarchist, is reportedly “among the leading candidates for the NRC presidency.” Back in May, Chai-Anan was amongst a group of elite conspirators who wanted the king’s intervention to “solve” the political crisis in their interests. They ran to aged General and Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda to seek his intervention with the aged monarch. This was another manifestation of the old man country. You get a flavor for their perspective from earlier, very popular posts at PPT: Dangerous old men or just silly old men? and A country for old men? (also available as ประเทศนี้สำหรับคนรุ่นเก่าหรือไง).

Back in 2009, PPT commented on Chai-Anan:

Chai-Anan Samudavanija, formerly a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, is a long-time ally of Sondhi Limthongkul. He was also a supporter of Thaksin Shinawatra for a considerable time, and seemed to stay longer than Sondhi. Chai-Anan jumped ship when the People’s Alliance for Democracy was in Sondhi’s hands. Chai-Anan is also close to the palace, as director of Vajiravudh College and a member of the Royal Institute.

Chai-Anan has been a regular commentator at ASTV and his columns have been rather incendiary whenever the political temperature has risen over the last couple of years.

In another post, we pointed out that Chai-Anan was one of those who promoted the infamous PAD propaganda claim of a “Finland Plot” that linked Thaksin Shinawatra to a republican plot involving former communist activists. This pre-2006 coup device was meant to further establish the palace-Thaksin battle lines. As chairman of his own Institute of Public Policy Studies, long funded by PAD leader Sonthi, Chai-Anan has engaged in some some dubious name-calling and attacked representative politics. He has stated that electoral politics need to be re-considered and has been a supporter of the “Thai-style democracy” notions of non-democratic legitimacy.

ChirmsakChirmsak, a former senator once collected some valid criticisms of Thaksin Shinawatra in government but was soon captivated by the People’s Alliance for Democracy and dominated by a deep personal hatred of Thaksin. Back in 2010, he was howling about “civil war” and suggesting that Thaksin supporters are either paid by the tycoon or are traitors to the royal Thai state. As for those who were duped into voting for pro-Thaksin parties or into becoming red shirts, Chirmsak couples “the poor” with the “ignorant.” Like other right-wing intellectuals, Chirmsak remains so resolutely dismissive of many millions of his fellow citizens. Hence, he dismisses elections by talking of “a political party owned by an individual …[where the] party founders had no ideology and relied on their financiers to sustain the party.”  For Chirmsak – and he is absolutely logical and consistent in this –  the solution is appointed “independent MPs.”

In 2012, Chirmsak supported the ultra-royalist Siam Samakkhi group. At one of its rallies, he joined with a range of royalists including Tul Sitthisomwong and Kaewsan Atibhodhi when they cheered two thugs who had beaten up Nitirat’s Worachet Pakeerut. Worachet had once written in books edited by Chirmsak, criticizing Thaksin, but that counted for nothing when Chirmsak went after him as a political turncoat.

These are the political types who will chart “reform” for Thailand.

Rich, rich, rich I

4 07 2013

Only a day or so ago, PPT posted about inequality and the political power of the rich. Interestingly, this coincided with Forbes posting its list of Thailand’s billionaires. The top 10 are:

1. Dhanin Chearavanont & family worth $12.6 B, from agribusiness and more, and ranked in the top 60 richest on the planet.1000baht

2. Chirathivat family worth $12.3 B mostly in the retail sector

3. Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi of beer, liquor and property, worth $10.6 B

4. Yoovidhya family of Red Bull fame and fast car notoriety, worth $7.8 B

5. Krit Ratanarak, of Bank of Ayudhya and with television interests, worth $3.9 B

6. Chamnong Bhirombhakdi & family, worth $2.4 B, mainly from beer, and with a scion in the Democrat Party

7. Vanich Chaiyawan, worth $2.1 B, in insurance and a big shareholder in Charoen’s Thai Bev

8. Vichai Maleenont & family in media and entertainment, worth $2 B

9. Prasert Prasarttong-Osoth, worth $1.8 B from medical, health and aviation investment

10. Thaksin Shinawatra & family, worth $1.7 B, from various investments in property, mining and more.

Most of the list are paid-up monarchists and some have been active politically, using their wealth in various political ways. PPT isn’t sure if politics earns money for Thaksin or costs him a pile of loot at present. It certainly cost him plenty under various royalist governments.

Of course, the richest tycoon family in Thailand is actually the king and his family. With the stock market rises and boom in tourism, PPT’s back of the envelope calculation will have the rich royals at about $35-45 Billion this year.

PPT will have a follow-up post on the Forbes stories on these tycoons.

Updated: Lese majeste and the vindictiveness of ultra-royalists

18 07 2012

While Joe Gordon’s release made international headlines for a day or so, two new lese majeste cases have hit the local headlines. They are telling for the light they throw on not just the political nature of lese majeste but also the extremism of ultra-royalists.

The first case involves the beginning of the lese majeste trial of เอกชัย หงส์กังวาน/Akechai Hongkangwarn, accused of selling copies of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s documentary on the future of the Thai monarchy and the lese majeste. He was arrested in March 2011. For PPT’s material on the case and the documentary, see here. At the time of his arrest, he was also accused of having Wikileaks documents that were considered damaging to the monarchy and especially the crown prince (see here, here, here, here and here on Wikileaks and the linking of the ABC and Wikileaks here).

Akechai is hoping “to establish the fact that the video, along with two manuscripts of WikiLeaks cables he is being charged for under the lese majeste law were factual and did not constitute defamation of the monarchy.”

The Australian Broadcasting Commission has been totally hopeless, refusing to assist Akechai’s defense in any way. They appear to lack any spine.

Interestingly and tellingly, the

presiding judges wanted to hold the trial in camera but The Nation objected, saying it was [un]constitutional and that holding a trial in secret was contrary to standard legal procedure in democratic countries. The judges eventually allowed observers to remain but the video was not shown.

The report states that:

Police Lieut Major Somyot Udomraksasab, who ordered the arrest of Ekachai, stood as one of two prosecution witnesses yesterday. He said he believed the ABC report, which contains video footage involving HRH the Crown Prince, was defamatory. Somyot also testified that he believed that WikiLeaks texts claiming to refer to words by leading Thai politicians such as the late prime minister Samak Sundaravej, former premier Anand Panyarachun and Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanond also contained defamatory remarks about the monarchy.

The defamation of the price seems to refer to the leaked video showing his current wife nude at a birthday party for their dog Fu Fu.

The alleged defamatory words by Prem and Anand are in the cables and suggest that these two may also be at risk of charge. We realize that this is unlikely, but the facts are there, in the cables.

The defense, that the information is true, has already been rejected by the court.

The second case relates to a Bangkok Post story where it is reported that a gang of ultra-royalist vigilantes stormed the airport to prevent a “New Zealand-resident Thai woman accused of a lese majeste offence” from leaving on a “flight to Auckland yesterday…”.

Some 200 extremists “turned up at Suvarnabhumi airport to protest against her possible departure.” They “picketed outside the airport after learning that Thitinant Kaewchantranont, 63, was due to check in for a Thai Airways International (THAI) flight to Auckland.” Who told them?

A Bangkok Post photo

Thitinant, who is said to have “a history of mental illness” did not leave because the police “who have lodged a lese majeste complaint against her, referred her to Srithanya Hospital in Nonthaburi to see if she is genuinely mentally ill.”

The report claims the lese majeste complaint relates to her “allegedly making an improper gesture towards an image of His Majesty the King outside the Constitution Court…”.

Police said they “would have prevented her from boarding, as they believed she was unfit to leave the country.” The Thai Aiways company said that the “plane’s captain had pledged to refuse to pilot the aircraft if Ms Thitinant was on board, arguing the woman could pose a security risk.”

It is difficult to work out who, exactly, is deranged. The mad monarchists, the police or the pilot. Certainly, the mad monarchists, believing the king is god (see the sign on “blasphemy” should probably be seeking mental assessments.

More on this as we hear of it.

Update: A reader makes the good point that as the police are claimed to have lodged a complaint, this may become the first lese majeste case to begin under the Yingluck Shinawatra government. That is, the events of the case are all within the tenure of this government rather than emanating under the previous royalist administration.

Newin’s pro-monarchist rally a non-event

27 09 2010

Siam Voices is a blog worth following. Most recently, Saksith Saiyasombut has a useful post on the Newin Chidchob-Bhum Jai Thai Party-Ministry of Interior efforts to mobilize so-called pro-monarchy groups prior to the red shirt events on 19 September.

The event was promoted as large and impressive, with loads of pink shirt wearing people marching about with plenty of flags. In fact, while 50,000 people were predicted to participate, the pro-monarchy ASTV/Manager “said only 20,000 came and the national news agency NBT states that only 5,000 showed up…”.

Saksith concludes: “Considering the comparatively mute media coverage in the following days (and since the red shirt protests on Sunday were larger and more significant), this whole occasion was a non-event.”

Mad monarchists

19 09 2010

Prachatai reports that on 14 September, Boworn Yasinthorn, “a former student leader during the 14 Oct 1973 incident and President of the Network of Volunteer Citizens to Protect the Monarchy on Facebook, lodged a complaint with Air Chief Marshal Naphreuk Manthajit, chair of a Senate committee monitoring the enforcement of laws and measures to protect the monarchy, demanding that serious legal action be taken against those who offend the monarchy.”

Boworn complained that the 14 October 1973 student-led uprising has been used and “distorted to slander the monarchy for being involved in the event…”.

Boworn was the leader of the group that “previously asked the DSI to prosecute red-shirt singer Tom Dundee, who, he alleged, offended the monarchy in a public speech in Ratchaburi on 8 June.”

Seemingly maddened by “Two unidentified persons have posted a link to the YouTube clip on their Facebook pages from abroad,” Boworn is demanding that his group’s website be protected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from nasty overseas posters. Crackpots are usually ignored by governments in normalized societies, but not in Thailand, as Boworn will have the support of yellow shirted royalists.

While PPT might wish that it could dismiss these kinds of monarchist as crackpots, it is clear that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, several ministers, the political police at the Department of Special Investigation, and a bunch of yellow shirts take these crackpots seriously. Of itself, this shows how deeply this government is mired in authoritarian political practice.

Royalists are worried, again

5 01 2010
สำหรับฉบับภาษาไทย ดู Liberal Thai: “พวกคลั่งเจ้าได้วูบ อีกแล้ว”
In The Nation (5 January 2010) the continuing worries facing royalists are aired again.

Avudh Panananda admits that while “Thaksin [Shinawatra] and his army of red shirts may insist on loyalty to the King,” the “relentless attacks on [Privy Council President] Prem [Tinsulanonda], whose office in the Privy Council is intrinsic to the country’s revered institution, have sown seed of doubt about the monarchy.” Yes, there is “doubt.”

Indeed, the “proliferation of messages in cyberspace questioning and blaming the monarchy for what people perceive to be setbacks for democracy should be a cause for alarm.” Why should there be alarm? Because if these “attacks” are “allowed to spread unchecked,” they “can and will alter perceptions about the monarchy in the long run.”

The author makes the nonsensical claim that “Prem and the Privy Council have never had any involvement in the unfolding of political events…”. Hopefully the author has read Kavi’s article about using the media to spread lies…. The author admits that “a vast number of people, particularly those in rural areas” have been persuaded that “Prem had a role in the 2006 coup.” Maybe they didn’t need convincing and simply watched Prem orchestrate the coup. After all, he did this very publicly from April 2006.

Shockingly for Avudh, it seems that Prem and the Privy Council are seen “as villains against democracy.” False he says, but “an effective tool to rouse the masses.”

This is a bid to defend Privy Councillor Surayud Chulanont who is the target of the next rally of red shirts, organized by Weng Tojirakarn, who “will lead a march at Khao Yai Thiang, Nakhon Ratchasima, to attack [Surayud] for alleged forest encroachment.”

Actually, it seems pretty clear that Surayud is occupying forest reserve land. This is not uncommon in this area, but what the red shirts say they want to emphasize are the double standards: Surayud has his land but some ordinary villagers have allegedly lost theirs.

The scribe argues that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is “obligated to try to stop, or at least cushion the adverse impacts from this bashing of the Privy Council.” That has actually been Abhisit’s task since Day 1. That’s why there are so many lese majeste and computer crimes allegations and why there is so much censorship. That’s why there is such a plethora of monarchist propaganda.

Lese majeste charges flow fast and furious

10 11 2009

The Bangkok Post (10 November 2009: “Lese majeste complaint against Thaksin”) reports the “Siam Samakkhi Group on Tuesday filed two complaints alleging lese majeste with Dusit police against Thaksin and two other people.” The group included Senators Somchai Sawaengkarn and Warin Thiamjarat, General Somchet Boonthanom, who is reportedly a former chief of the secretariat of the Council for National Security, and Lt-Gen. Nanthadet Meksawat who is said to be a former deputy chief of the national intelligence co-ordination center.

It is stated that: “The first complaint was against Thaksin and Richard Loyd Parry, asia editor of The Times. Parry was the one interviewing Thaksin in Dubai. The second was against Jai Ungphakorn, a former lecturer of Chulalongkorn University who fled the country after being charged with lese majeste, and the website for disseminating articles alleged to contain lese majeste.”

These allegations are of serious concern for they relate to alleged offenses committed outside Thailand, and in the case of Parry, by a foreign national. PPT is sure that these complaints will be followed with considerable interest.

PPT has updated our pages on the lese majeste allegations against Thaksin and Giles, and we have added a page for Parry. PPT is having difficulty keeping up with all of the allegations of lese majeste and computer crimes that the current government and others are throwing about at present.

Update: The Times (11 November 2009: “Richard Lloyd Parry and Thaksin Shinawatra accused of lèse-majesté”) include a comment, reproduced in full here:

A group of Thai politicians and generals have accused a Times journalist of insulting the country’s monarchy by reporting comments by Thaksin Shinawatra — an offence that carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

The complaint against Richard Lloyd Parry, the Asia editor of The Times, derives from an interview with Thaksin that was published in Monday’s newspaper and on Times Online the day before.

According to the Bangkok Post, members of a group of Thai monarchists called Siam Samakkhi (United Siam) have made an allegation of lèse-majesté against Thaksin and Mr Lloyd Parry. The Government blocked parts of Times Online from being accessed within the country.

Kasit Piromya, the Foreign Minister, said: “Thaksin’s interview is a violation of the monarchy, which is the country’s core pillar and a highly respected institution. It is unacceptable and should have never taken place.”

It is not clear which parts of the interview led to the complaint by four members of Siam Samakkhi. They include Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn, a critic of Thaksin, and General Somchet Boonthanom, the former head of the Thai Council for National Security.

In a letter published in The Times today, Thaksin says: “Accusations that I am against the monarchy have been used by my political enemies in Thailand many times in attempts to discredit me. They will not succeed for I am and always will be a faithful and loyal servant to the King.”

Lèse-majesté was enacted in the 1950s but has never been invoked by members of the Royal Family. Thai citizens are empowered to bring charges against others — although it is up to police and prosecutors to decide whether to act on them.

The BBC’s former South-East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, was investigated, although never charged, for the crime. One complaint was that a photograph of the King appeared below that of a Thai politician on a page on the BBC website.

Chai-Anan Samudavanija and republicanism

5 08 2009

Chai-Anan Samudavanija, formerly a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, is a long-time ally of Sondhi Limthongkul. He was also a supporter of Thaksin Shinawatra for a considerable time, and seemed to stay longer than Sondhi. Chai-Anan jumped ship when the People’s Alliance for Democracy was in Sondhi’s hands. Chai-Anan is also close to the palace, as director of Vajiravudh College and a member of the Royal Institute.

Chai-Anan has been a regular commentator at ASTV and his columns have been rather incendiary whenever the political temperature has risen over the last couple of years.

In a recent issue (Manager Online, 2 August 2009: “สังคมไทยแบ่งเป็นสองฝ่าย”), Chai-Anan writes about the divisions in Thai politics and society.

Interestingly, he begins with a “former minister” who comes up with a different division: there are those who want the monarchy (ฝ่าย “เอาเจ้า”) and those who don’t (“ฝ่ายไม่เอาเจ้า”), the monarchists and the republicans. Here the “former minister” is referring to the people, not political leaders, for he says that Thaksin is largely irrelevant to this division, and whether he is around or not, the people are in these camps.

Chai-Anan says if this is the case, then people had better worry for the country, because the monarchy has always been there.

How did it come to this? He acknowledges Thaksin’s policies were welcome in the villages and increased his electoral stock, but wonders why republicans have emerged.

His answer is that there seem 4-5 groups: (i) those who dislike some privy councillors and this flows on to a disdain for the monarchy itself; (ii) those who mislead rural people and taxi drivers and pay for them to join the movement and demonstrations; (iii) a group in Chiang Mai who give rise to feelings about an old Lanna that had its own monarch and independence from Bangkok; (iv) others who feel that the current monarchy is remote from the people, unlike monarchs of the past; and later he adds (v) intellectuals who are closet republicans.

Chai-Anan is worried. He wonders why people don’t think about Thaksin’s bad deeds or blame him for the seeming acceptance of corruption amongst the younger generation. He asks rhetorically, was it Thaksin or Thaksin’s money that people liked?

Perhaps Chai-Anan should answer the question himself instead of pointing to others. He certainly benefited by holding several well-paid positions when Thaksin was premier. It seems pathetic and arrogant of Chai-Anan to seek to denigrate others when he was on the gravy train himself.

For Chai-Anan, Thaksin still has political influence because he has created a politics that operates like a marketplace.

He believes that the police are 100% for Thaksin and the red shirts. If Thaksin and the republicans grow in size and influence, it will be the fault of those police who refuse to do their duty.

Finally, Chai-Anan worries that if the republicans expand, the monarchists have little in their arsenal with which to counter-attack. He sees the monarchists arguments as only holding sway with the older generation, while the under 30s seem uninterested in nation and monarchy.

If all this is to be the fate of Thailand, the place will be ruined.