Hunger strikers resolute but health deteriorates

6 02 2023

Activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong, who are undergoing a hunger strike to demand the release of political prisoners and judicial reform are in danger (see below).

Prachatai reports that on Saturday, the two vowed to continue their fast. In that report, Krisadang Nutcharus, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), said that:

he and the two activists’ parents met Tantawan and Orawan on Friday (3 February), and reported that they were alert and were able to hold a conversation. Krisadang said he informed Tantawan and Orawan that the National Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Justice have issued a joint statement promising reform of the judicial system, while several political parties have agreed to discuss issues related to the royal defamation law [Article 112] and sedition law in parliament. He also told them that the Court of Justice held a press conference on bail on that Friday (3 February), and read them the press release, which Tantawan and Orawan said did nothing and said nothing.

Krisadang said that he also told them that many activists have been allowed to take off their monitoring bracelets, and that the court is considering bail requests for many political prisoners. Nevertheless, the two activists said they will continue with their hunger strike until every political prisoner is released and asked TLHR to post bail for everyone still detained again on Monday (6 February).

“[Tantawan and Orawan] believe that, the Ministry of Justice, the National Human Rights Commission or political parties tend to listen to the people,” Krisadang said, “… but the court has never listened. They have asked me to tell you that they will continue their hunger strike, but they are not trying to pressure the court. They wanted to prove whether what the court spokesperson said, that the court uses human rights principles when ruling on cases was true.”

The report also notes that Orawan’s father Suchart Phuphong said:

the medical team told him to wait until Monday to be told what can be done, but he said that Orawan’s condition is considered critical to her parents although her doctors say they need to keep monitoring her, and that they are concerned that she may not make it to Monday.

Suchart called on the powers that be to have sympathy when someone is using a method the two activists are using to demand the rights Thai people should already have, and to keep someone who is the nation’s future healthy and strong.

Later, Prachatai has tweeted:

Parents of hunger striking activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong have been contacted by their doctors, who said that they have gotten worse and asked that the families and lawyers visit them tomorrow morning {Monday].#ตะวันแบม





More taxpayer funds for royals

26 01 2023

PPT was (not) staggered to learn from a story in The Nation that reports that even more bags of taxpayer money is being poured into pampering the wealthy royals.

The story states that the regime “has approved an 8.78-billion-baht budget to procure new aircraft for VIPs including royals, privy counsellors, prime ministers, ministers and royal guests.”

Oddly, the report does not say what kind of aircraft is being purchased.

The Prime Minister’s Secretariat proposed the purchase as the “Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) needs to replace the old Airbus A340-500 procured from Thai Airways International (THAI) for VIP travel.”

This Airbus appears to be the same VIP plane that the generous generals shoveled money into for the Royal Thai Air Force for a magnificent loo for royal poop and pee at a cost to taxpayers in excess of 54 million baht.

At that time, it was also reported that the air force had awarded Thai Airways a 750 million baht contract to renovate the interior of a Boeing 777-800 royal aircraft that was said to be under direct command of King Vajiralongkorn’s Deachochai 3 Royal Flight Unit.

Adding salt to the deep wounds on the taxpayers’ collective back, in 2020 it was reported that a new Airbus was procured for royal travel, complete with a VIP conversion at Lufthansa Technik. At a cost of probably well north of US$100 million, the plane joined a VIP fleet that then included two Boeing 737s, three Airbus 319/320/340s, three ATR 72s, 3 Sukhoi Superjet 100s, one Super King Air, and four Saab 340s.

Obviously, the rather small royal family doesn’t feel sufficiently pampered. More taxpayer money probably helps makes them feel better about themselves.





Brave women II

24 01 2023

Prachatai and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have provided more information on “monarchy reform advocates Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong…”.

The report states that these two resolute women “were taken to the Department of Corrections Hospital last Friday (20 January).” This move was against their own wishes and they have “refused all medical treatment and insisted on being taken back to the Women’s Central Correctional Institution…”.

As is usual in such cases, their lawyer was given the runaround by the authorities and prison officials.

Once the lawyer was permitted to meet them, TLHR was able to report on their condition. Their lawyer stated that on (22 January, “the two activists were fatigued and nauseous, and that Orawan condition had worsened as she reportedly passed out in the bathroom.” In addition, the two “asked their lawyer to tell the public that they are staying strong. They also noted that they heard the fireworks set off in front of the prison and thanked people for their support.”

On 23 January, TLHR released another statement after another visit by a lawyer. It said the:

two activists were pale and fatigued, and told the lawyer that Tantawan fainted in the bathroom on Sunday evening (22 January) and hit her head. She said she refused a CT scan, and the two activists told the lawyer that they did not want to receive treatment from or stay at the Department of Corrections Hospital, as a statement released by the Department of Corrections released on Sunday evening did not mention that Tantawan fainted. The two activists also said they were not able to walk on their own as the Department of Corrections claimed.





14 long years

22 01 2023

Sadly, PPT has been at work for 14 long and sometimes discouraging years. That said, we are amazed and gratified by the bravery of those in Thailand who oppose lese majeste and the monarchy-military alliance, and the voices for monarchy reform that refuse to be silenced.

Way back at our 2nd anniversary we had this:

In a very real way, the second anniversary of Political Prisoners in Thailand is not a birthday to be celebrated. When we began Political Prisoners in Thailand on 21 January 2009, we anticipated that it would be a temporary endeavor. Instead, two years later, we have grown exponentially in terms of writing and readership.

Unfortunately, we do not anticipate being able to end our work anytime soon. There are now more people jailed for a range of political crimes in Thailand today than there were in 2009.

If anything, things are worse today. There are at least 21 political detainees, but this number ignores others jailed on bogus charges. Worse, years of authoritarianism have changed institutions. Elections of a better regime is unlikely to mean that this embedded authoritarianism can easily be replaced. For us, fundamental political change begins with reform of the monarchy rooting out the monarchism that is the keystone of Thailand’s authoritarianism and its political and economic inequality.





Updated: Opening eyes

21 01 2023

Thai Newsroom and Thai PBS show that it takes considerable effort to get reporting of critically important news when it has anything to do with Kibosh and his family of Munsters.

It took self-bail revocation, a (limited) hunger strike, and student pressure to get them to take notice.

The Bangkok Post seems to still be avoiding the obvious:

The two stories mentioned above relate to large banners that were hung at Chulalongkorn University and Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus. The banners pushed:

“students to pay attention to politics, to not bow to unjust rules and to support the persistent call for freedom for the 21 political detainees, nine of whom have been prosecuted under the draconic lese majeste law, better known as Section 112 of the Criminal Code, whilst the others have been slapped with sedition charges.

The call was supported by the United Front of Thammasat & Demonstration and Thai Lawyers For Human Rights.

Update: Better late than never – the Bangkok Post has reported this story.





Absurd 112 trials

19 01 2023

We were surprised to see that the Bangkok Post wrote something on the situation of monarchy reform advocates. Perhaps it is because the report is about the Clooney Foundation for Justice, where the superstar connection might have been the trigger.

The Foundation issued a statement made the all too obvious point that the current military-monarchy regime “should dismiss the case against 22 protest leaders charged with insulting the monarchy, sedition and a range of public order offences…”. Of course it should!

To do so would mean Thailand would “adhere to its international human rights obligations…”.

The Foundation’s TrialWatch Expert Kevin Bell AM KC submitted “an amicus brief submitted to the Bangkok Criminal Court.”

Clipped from The Nation

TrialWatch monitors criminal trials globally against those who are most vulnerable, including journalists and opposition figures, and advocates for the rights of individuals who are unfairly imprisoned. Since late 2020, CFJ’s TrialWatch initiative has been monitoring and evaluating criminal proceedings against the protest leaders, who face between seven and 15 years in prison if convicted of all charges (in Thailand, if a defendant is being prosecuted for multiple offenses for the same conduct, the defendant is to be punished for the offense with the most severe punishment).

Of course, the spinelessness of the Bangkok Post editorial policies means it only summarizes the most important bits of the statement. Here it is in full:

… The charges are based on the prosecution’s allegation that while giving speeches at a protest the defendants lied about the Thai King’s expenditures and his frequent travel to and from Germany, including during the COVID lockdowns and allegedly in violation of quarantine rules.

As documented by TrialWatch monitors who have attended the trial, the prosecution has not presented evidence that the defendants’ statements were false and the court has refused to order institutions like the Crown Property Bureau, the Royal Office, and Thai Airways to provide financial and travel records, despite the defense’s repeated requests. This has undercut the defense’s ability to prove the statements were true. As one defendant noted at a recent hearing, without access to information to prove the truth of their comments “it is as if the defendant’s side is chained with one hand to the boxing ring, preventing them from punching and fighting with the other side.” If the court does not dismiss the case, it should at least allow the defense access to the materials it needs to both mount a defense and to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and arguments, today’s amicus brief said.

… “In violation of international principles, the court has tied the accused’s hands by obstructing their attempts to obtain documents that would prove the truth of their statements about the King. The absurdity of this situation is highlighted by the fact that the defendants are charged with lying that the King was not in Thailand during certain periods at the same time as defense lawyers have been prevented from accessing routine travel records,” said TrialWatch Expert the Honourable Kevin Bell AM KC, who has fifteen years of judicial experience in the conduct of criminal trials, including as former Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia.

Read the whole statement.





Succession and elections

14 01 2023

Singapore’s Mothership reports on a talk by Chulalongkorn University’s Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang who (bravely) asserted:

One of the biggest concerns for the country would be the matter of succession. Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendira Debyavati, the eldest daughter of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, was hospitalised [PPT: she’s dead] and eventually put on life support after she collapsed while training her pet dog on Dec. 14 last year.”

He explained:

While the Thai palace has never declared Bajrakitiyabha as the successor to the throne, she has been widely assumed to be next in line for succession.

“She studied law, she’s intelligible, approachable, and well-loved by many of the elite community,” Khemtong said, while “Prince Dipangkorn, the only male heir of [King] Vajiralongkorn, is said to be mentally challenged,” though Khemtong also stressed that as a “Thai person, [he] can neither confirm [nor] repudiate that accusation.”

We think that’s reasonably accurate, although Dipangkorn’s brief recent visit to Thailand suggested that there may have been some quick rethinking. In any case, dopey princes have previously become kings. It’s blood that matters.

His point is about the election:

“Now the king is in some kind of crisis. So the question is whether this crisis [will cast a] political shadow. Will we still have the election in May 2023?” Khemthong asked.

According to Khemthong, Thailand’s 2023 election is supposedly the biggest event of the year. It was expected to occur in May, but many believe the election might happen much earlier.

On the election:

Khemthong sounded pessimistic about the election, as he said, “The election will not be a transition. Actually, the election will help normalise this very unfree and unfair political arrangement of Thai politics.”

On linking palace and election:

But big questions remain. Given the Thai princess’s condition, how will the palace crisis affect this year’s election?

“The main question is that in times of crisis, will the palace resort to some extra-constitutional convention?” Khemthong asked. “At the very least, if there’s a state funeral, will it delay [the] election and for how long? And that’s the question that we don’t know the answer yet.”





Jeered for good reason

11 01 2023

Despite all of the protests of 2020 and 2021, the main change associated with the monarchy seems to be that the king now spends his time in Thailand. We can’t help thinking that’s a Pyrrhic victory.

Much else that happens seems little different from the pre-protest period or even from the previous reign. At least for readers of the mainstream media, this appearance is reinforced on a daily basis as syrupy stories are churned out about the monarchy and the rapidly diminishing royal family while anything that is not laudatory is simply not reported in an orgy of self-censorship and regime threats. Even palace lies are reported as truth. That’s how palace propaganda has long worked.

Think of some recent stories. When the HTMS Sukhothai sank, the explanations have been difficult to believe, but the fact that royalism led to many deaths is not pushed in reports. When navy chief Adm Choengchai Chomchoengpaet “explained” a lack of life jackets, he simply brushed it away as a royal necessity trumping the lives of sailors: “before the ship sank, it took on board 15 marines and another 15 personnel to take part in a ceremony marking the anniversary of the death of the Prince of Chumphon, who is regarded as the ‘Father of the Thai Navy’ in Chumphon.”

Clipped from Thai PBS

Then there’s the story of corruption and nonsense associated with the re-naming and re-signing of the Bang Sue Grand Station, now postponed. Why is a new name sign required? Of course, it is because King Vajiralongkorn rather belatedly “bestowed” a new name on the station: Krung Thep Aphiwat or “Bangkok’s prosperity.”

On fabricated palace “news,” see our recent post.

And, we are wondering why no one questions why almost every holiday is seemingly a royal holiday? There’s another new one for Coronation Day. The impression being manipulated is that only royals matter.

Meanwhile the pathetic efforts by ministries to promote the dead king with malleable UN agencies.

The thing is that ever growing numbers of Thais no longer “buy” palace propaganda. That’s why they jeered at the Blackpink concert.

That’s also why the regime and palace lese majeste dragnet is the largest ever. The most recent case involves:

Atirut (last name withheld), a 25-year-old programmer, on charges of royal defamation [Article 112] and resisting arrest. Atirut was charged for refusing to sit down and shouting “Going anywhere is a burden” as King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida’s royal motorcade passed a crowd gathered at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre (QSNCC) on 15 October 2022.

That’s also why they jeered at the Blackpink concert.

Keeping the lid on rising opposition to the palace propaganda is becoming increasingly difficult for a regime that is itself falling apart.

 





112 bail revoked

10 01 2023

Prachatai reports that two monarchy reform activists, both charged with lese majeste, have had their bail revoked.

Bail for Sopon Surariddhidhamrong and Nutthanit “Baipor” Duangmusit was revoked on 9 January “after the Criminal Court ruled that they had violated their bail conditions by joining an anti-government protest during the APEC summit in November 2022.”

Sopon and Baipor. Clipped from Prachatai, hhoto by Ginger Cat

As Prachatai reports, “Sopon was previously held in pre-trial detention on a royal defamation charge for a month before being granted bail on 31 May 2022. He has been prohibited from leaving his residence without court permission unless for educational or medical reasons.”

Nutthanit, who had previously been held in pre-trial detention for 94 days “went on a hunger strike for 64 days … until granted bail on 4 August 2022.”

As usual, the royalist courts appear to have made odd/political decisions that seems to stretch notions of legality: “TLHR [Thai Lawyers for Human Rights] said that the defendants decided not to testify because the prosecution did not bring an eyewitness to court, and because they believed that the prosecution did not have enough evidence to prove that they violated their bail.” Even so, bail was revoked.





Royal arch bail on 112 and other charges

24 11 2022

Prachatai reports that Pornchai Yuanyee, Sinburi Saenkla, and Micky (full name withheld), activists accused of “the burning of a royal ceremonial arch in front of Ratchawinit School have been granted bail after months in prison.”

Clipped from Prachatai. Photo by Ginger Cat

They stand “accused of burning the royal ceremony arch during a protest on 19 September 2021. All three were charged with arson, destruction of property, and violation of the Emergency Decree.” Pornchai and Micky were also charged under Article 112 while “Sinburi was also accused of burning a traffic control box at the Nang Loeng intersection.”

All three had been refused bail for long periods: “Pornchai had been detained for 139 days, Sinburi for 107 days, and Micky for 50 days.”

It is reported: “Pornchai was arrested on 7 July, while Micky was denied bail on 4 October when he was indicted. Sinburi was denied bail when he went to Nang Loeng Police Station on 8 August after learning that there was an arrest warrant out for him.”

At a bail hearing on 31 October, the Criminal Court took three weeks to issue a ruling. Who were the judges consulting? On 22 November “the Court denied them bail on the grounds that their guarantor has no relations with them, and their proposed supervisors did not own the money used to post bail.”

After that, “Pornchai’s wife and father-in-law, Sinburi’s older sister, and Micky’s mother went to the Criminal Court after the Court said that the activists’ relatives must come to post bail for them and agree to be their supervisor. They were subsequently granted bail on a security of 100,000 baht each, which came from each relative’s personal fund instead of from the Will of the People Fund, a bail fund for pro-democracy activists and protesters.”

It seems the courts have found a way to defeat the Will of the People Fund.

Punishing the relatives, the court forced them to “agree that the Court may immediately confiscate the security if the activists break their bail conditions. All three supervisors will also be held responsible if one of the activists break their bail conditions.”

This is truly amazing, suggesting political interference in the judicial process or extreme royalism in the courts.

The three “must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and must not leave their residence between 20.00 and 6.00, they must not repeat their offense, commit violence against an official, or destroy public property, and they are also not allowed to leave the country.”








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