Piling on computer-cum-lese majeste charges

11 06 2020

About a week ago, PPT posted on the prosecutor’s delay in the computer crimes-cum-lese majeste case against “Niranam_”, a Twitter name (meaning “Anonymous”). He is a 20-year-old Twitter user, accused of insulting the country’s monarchy.

Since Vajiralongkorn took the throne there has been a winding back of the use of the lese majeste law and, for the last couple of years, no cases that anyone has reported on. However, this change coincided with a rise in computer crimes and sedition charges against those accused of “insulting” the monarch and a string of enforced disappearances and murder of exiled anti-monarchy critics

In congruence with these trends, Prachatai reports that already arrested over a tweet about King Vajiralongkorn, “Niranam_” is now slapped with “7 more charges over tweets about the late King Rama IX and the King Rama X, seen as a threat to national security.”

The “threat” seems to be that “Niranam_” had tens of thousands of followers and especially teenagers.

The report states that “[i]f found guilty on all 8 charges, Niranam_ faces a maximum of 40 years in prison (maximum 5 years for each charge).”

He is now charged with uploading “false data” that included “photos of the two kings.” The charge is that there was “photo doctoring with the intention of undermining the monarch … tantamount to an offence against national security.”

Police are reportedly still investigating and then the state prosecutor will decide on which cases will go to court.

With the regime facing rising discontent and the absent king facing protests in Germany it seems that the knee-jerk regime/palace response is demonstrate its capacity for terror and repression through making examples of people like “Niranam_” and Wanchalearm Satsaksit.





The Dictator’s face

1 06 2018

Spoofing The Dictator is a crime in Thailand. It is treated so seriously that an international manhunt has resulted in arrests.

We have no idea whether Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, self-appointed president premier of Thailand, actually spat that those complaining about fuel prices should put water in their tanks. He might not have said it, but over his more than four years of unfettered power he’s said many silly, nasty and/or threatening things. He often barks emotionally at reporters.

But when he gets lampooned in social media, police are poked into action to save the murderous general’s “face.”

It is reported that a “Cambodian man has … been arrested in Phnom Penh after allegedly posting fake news about the Thai prime minister on the internet while six Thais have been detained in Bangkok for sharing it…”.

It may or may not be “fake new” – thanks Donald – or it may be something else again. But The Dictator is apparently furious, unable to sleep and as agitated as hell. He can’t believe that anyone could treat him so badly.

A pity about all of those red shirts murdered by troops he commanded, but from The Dictator’s perspective, these were beings less than people. He, however, is great and good and can’t possibly stand these social media spoofs, lampoons, “fake news,” clickbait or anything that shaves a layer off his “face.”

Police are working with another increasingly dictatorial regime to arrest and extradite “Heng Ratanak, 21, of Cambodian nationality.” He’s “accused of importing into computer systems false information that may undermine national security or cause panic among the public under the computer crime law…”.

National security? What a farce. All of this to save the boss’s face!

But it doesn’t stop there.

Police have also summoned “six Thais who allegedly shared the article.” All have been arrested. They face a “charge of knowingly propagating or forwarding false digital information that may damage national or economic security, or cause panic among the people.”

That’s the power of dictatorship and The Dictator. He wants to teach them a lesson, just as he taught the red shirt protesters a lesson.

The Dictator losing face is dangerous.





Get rid of the horrid monarchy law

2 05 2018

A Nation Editorial deserves attention as a call for reform of the despot’s political law of choice, the lese majeste law. It has been used brazenly to repress.

PPT has posted hundreds of times on the misuse of this law. It has been used in ways that are unconstitutional and unlawful. Persons have been convicted for what they did not say, for what they did not write. Some have been convicted for “crimes” against persons not covered by the law. Mothers and children have been convicted. Disabled and sick persons have received long sentences. Persons have been convicted on forced guilty pleas when they were not guilty. Sentences have been huge and the treatment of prisoners on lese majeste charges has been tortuous and unlawful. It has been used against political opponents and against some who have fallen out of favor in the palace itself.

The editorial states that “Somyot Pruksakasemsuk’s release after years in prison affords a chance to reflect on deeply unfair abuses of the law.” We could not agree more.

It says his “release from prison on Monday … should prompt the authorities to review the draconian lese majeste law, which was designed specifically to protect the monarchy but continues to be misused for political ends.”

Of course, it was “designed specifically” protect the military and politico-business elite. It protects a system and a configuration of power, not the monarchy on its own. The monarchy is the keystone for a repressive power structure that sucks wealth to those associated with the military-monarchy-tycoon elite or, as some say, the amart.

On the particular case, the editorial states that Somyos was jailed as a political opponent. It states that “[i]t was not and is not illegal to be aligned with the red shirt movement supporting former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his regimes’ policies. And it was unfair for Somyot to have been identified as anti-monarchy without evidence.”

It reminds us that Somyos was arrested and jailed by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime “as he was circulating a petition calling for Article 112 of the Penal Code – the lese majeste law – to be amended.” Indeed, Somyos was targeted because he opposed the very law that was used against him. The amart have a sense of purpose when opposing those who endanger the power structure.

The editorial states:

Article 112 is quite straightforward. It says anyone who defames insults or threatens the King, Queen, heir-apparent or regent shall be imprisoned for three to 15 years. The authorities’ case against Somyot was that he had published in his magazine two articles by Jit Pollachan, a pseudonym used by an exiled politician. The law was applied beyond its intended scope and meaning. The two articles merely mentioned the roles of the monarchy. There was no inherent insult to the monarchy.

Indeed, a majority of lese majeste cases fall into similar “misuses” of the law. But that’s the point. Lese majeste is designed to be used in these ways to protect the power structure.

It continues:

Thus, cases are often handled as though Thailand was still an absolute monarchy rather than a nation under the modern rule of law. People charged with lese majeste are routinely denied bail and held in pre-trial detention for months. Somyot was denied bail 16 times.

As the editor of a periodical, Somyot should have been protected by the Printing Act and the Constitution’s safeguards covering freedom of expression. But the Constitutional Court ruled in October 2012 that lese majeste breaches represented threats to national security and thus overrode any such protection.

When the editorial concludes by observing that “Somyot’s case should give all citizens pause for thought. Political reform is badly needed, and this unfair practice in particular has to be rolled back,” it makes a point that is very significant. It will scare the regime and those who benefit from this law.





Release Pai XVIII

4 08 2017

As has become standard for lese majeste cases, Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa’s case began in secret at the Khon Kaen provincial court.

On 3 August 2017, the court heard the first plaintiff witness. No one from the public was permitted in the court room to hear this.

The usual buffalo manure “explanation” was that the secrecy was required because it involved “national security and the monarchy.” Of course it involves the monarchy, that’s why it is called lese majeste. Yet in the not too distant past, trials were open.

The national security claim is mad. Ask the more than 2000 other people who did the exact same Facebook share that Pai did. They are somehow outside the national security dragnet.

The first “witness” is the thug military officer, Lt Col Pitakpol Chusri, who filed the lese majeste complaint against Jatuphat.

We don’t expect the court to make any contribution to justice in Thailand. Rather, this is a fit-up and the court is complicit.

Jatuphat is accused of “sharing on his Facebook account a controversial biography of King Vajiralongkorn published by BBC Thai.” In fact, because it was truthful, it is “controversial.” Truth and monarchy are two words that can’t be used together in Thailand.





More snooping

12 08 2016

Reuters reports on a “new scheme that would allow Thai police to intercept telephone calls in national security cases has been put forward to cabinet for approval…”.

Under the military dictatorship, everyone knows that this means essentially two arenas of “national security” will be emphasized: protecting the junta and protecting the decrepit monarchy.

The report states that the taps would be for “criminal, national security, royal insult and transnational crime cases but not political cases…”.

That’s utter nonsense as the junta makes political cases about sedition and national security. This is simply about creating a Nazi-ified Thailand.

The police will gain the “authority to wiretap communication by amending a 1934 Criminal Procedure Code…”. We suspect they already do this illegally.

 

Under the proposed new “rules,” the police “will have to ask court permission,” but that’s a snip under the military dictatorship and its supplicant judiciary.

 

Sunai Phasuk oft Human Rights Watch, called the idea “disturbing.” He adds that the “idea is very disturbing, given Thai authorities’ reckless and arbitrary use of security charges…”.

We’d call the “innovation” not so much “disturbing” as “normal” for a fascist regime.





Media censorship

23 07 2016

As we noted in our previous post, we noted that the Bangkok Post wrote that the military junta had decided to “allow debates on the draft constitution in all provinces ahead of the Aug 7 referendum, bowing to pressure for calls for open talks.”

It seems unlikely that the junta has bowed to anyone. Rather, the junta’s plans are to force through a Yes vote by all means necessary and then claim legitimacy. This involves carefully delimited “debate” including only trusted participants while ruthlessly suppressing opposition voices.

The most recent examples of blocking discussion and debate include banning the distribution of the most recent print edition of The Economist for a long story on the monarchy and politics. (As we understand it, the online version of the story remains available in Thailand.)

A second example is the 30-day closure of Peace TV. The ban by the Communication Authority of Thailand is for “allegedly disseminating content threatening national security.”

The closure is reportedly based on “three TV programmes which allegedly carried content that breached NCPO [junta] Announcements No. 97/2014 and 103/2014, which prohibit dissemination of content that instigates violence and misleads the public.”

Because Thailand is a military dictatorship, the authorities had no need to disclose what content was chosen by them (or, rather, the junta) as somehow threatening the nebulous concept of “national security.”

We assume that “national security” is defined minimally as anything the military junta doesn’t like. In any case, this is no more than a ruse to close the station as the country moves to vote in an illegitimate referendum on the military’s draft charter.

The blackout of the red shirt-aligned Peace TV began at one minute past midnight on 22 July.

Jatuporn Promphan of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship “said that the station will sue the CAT for 6.3 million baht as compensation…” and “petitioned the Administrative Court to hold an urgent hearing to provide the station with legal immunity.”

Jatuporn also explained that:

the junta has made various attempts to shut down Peace TV since the station became a public space for those who oppose the junta-sponsored draft charter, further adding that the blackout will intensify dissatisfaction against the junta itself. He also rejected the allegation that Peace TV disseminated content threatening national security and condemned the junta for abuse of power….

In fact, the move by the junta is not an abuse of power as much as a demonstration of its basic nature. This is how dictatorial regimes behave.





Lese majeste and the degradation of the rule of law

21 09 2014

Military dictatorships are usually established via a putsch. By the nature of their illegal seizure of power, such regimes are not usually much interested in the law as it applies to them. However, military dictatorships will often make use of certain laws to maintain repression and oppression.

In Thailand, since the military coup of May 2014, there has been yet another spike in the use of the draconian lese majeste and computer crimes laws. These are convenient tools for the maintenance of repression and the silencing of critics. The current military dictatorship’s use of these laws has its heritage in the 2006 palace-military coup. Following this previous putsch, the use of these laws has skyrocketed and been directed against those who are seen as enemies of the royalist state.darunee

Indeed, PPT came into existence. As we say elsewhere on this blog, PPT is dedicated to those who are held in Thailand’s prisons, charged with political crimes. It also seeks to raise the cases of those who are accused of political crimes. Our focus is the contemporary period where political cases revolve around the use of Thailand’s lese majeste law and, increasingly, the Computer Crimes Act. Our beginning was prompted by the Democrat Party-led government of 2008-11 that rapidly expanded censorship, blocked tens of thousands of web pages it considered offensive to the monarchy and presided over hundreds of new charges and arrests. All of this in the defense of some ill-defined notion of “national security.” The monarchy was defined as an issue of national security, not least by the military officers who seized power in 2014.

In amongst the plethora of convictions and continuing cases, two of the most egregious are those of Darunee Charnchoensilpakul and  Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. In both cases, the law has been used and abused in order to lock up and silence political opponents of the royalist regime. In each case, constitutional provisions were simply ignored by the courts. In the case of Somyos, his treatment has often amounted to a form of torture. Neither of them was ever allowed to access bail.

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk shackled in 2012

Somyos shackled in 2012

This degradation of the rule of law through the bizarre legal machinations associated with these political laws has been noted by others, including academics, Amnesty International and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

All of this background is to observe that Somyos has recently been back in the courts. Denied bail at least 15 times, Somyos appealed his 23 January 2013 conviction and sentencing to 5 years on each of two lese majeste charges. Within a short time, Somyos lodged an appeal, and on 19 September 2014, the Appeals Court upheld the lower court’s decision. Reports of the appeal outcome were carried in the Bangkok Post, Khaosod and Prachatai. Thecourt reportedly rejected Somyos’ appeal, saying “his new evidence could not override that of the prosecution.”

What struck PPT, however, was not that the courts continued to make politicized decisions but the continuing basic inhumanity associated with the case. Somyos was taken to court for the verdict and no member of Somyos’ family nor any of his lawyers were reportedly present at the court. It is stated that this is because they were not informed by the authorities in advance. His wife Sukunya noted that this failure indicated the lack of transparency and flouting of rules and law in lese majeste cases.

Following this failed appeal, Somyos has indicated that he would fight on to the Supreme Court.

Lese majeste has poisoned Thailand’s judiciary and undermined the rule of law just as completely and effectively as military coups do.





National security and the self-fulfilling prophecy

20 02 2012

It is only a few days ago that bombs went off in a well-known area of Bangkok and the authorities and media have been talking about terrorism. Then there is the ongoing struggle in the south, which has cost thousands of lives.

In The Nation, Kavi Chongkittavorn has a longish article on national security. He reminds us that Thailand’s most recent national security strategy (2007-2011) concluded last year. That strategy “pursued two priorities—internal security and stability as well as protection of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

In essence, despite some fudging, he concludes that the strategy was pretty much a waste of time, overtaken by events, lack of foresight and poor policy formulation. The issues mentioned above were ignored or handled badly.

In the next five-year strategy (2012-2017), Kavi makes one fundamental point:

Despite all the great shifts and changes of political environment–one thing has not and will not change is the protection of monarchy which remains the utmost important task of the country’s security policy makers. It remains at the top of the country’s objectives….

A strategy that elevates the monarchy to such a position in “national security” suggests that its status remains severely diminished. Continuing to follow military notions about the threat to the monarchy is likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Devoting ever greater resources to “protecting” the monarchy is evidence that the military and palace are unlikely to promote a historic compromise that would have recognized non-elite demands for voice and could have established a monarchy protected by and beholden to a constitution.

That would have allowed national security strategy to focus on issues such as terrorism and solving real security problems rather than policing “loyalty.”





I’ve told you once….

8 02 2012

A couple of days ago PPT had  a post  on Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha and his repeated demand that Nitirat stop its Article 112 amendment campaign. In another post, on Nitirat vowing to continue, we concluded by saying that “The Army and its chiefs don’t usually accept such defiance.”

This is why the support given to Prayuth by a couple of right-wing cabinet members should not come as a surprise. But it is the terms used in the support that is telling.

The Bangkok Post reports that Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa seems to confirm the position expressed by Robert Amsterdam when he claimed the military had a veto over government. The General states that “the army would never allow the Criminal Code’s Section 112 to be amended.” Yutthasak added: “Any act demeaning the monarchy or Thai people’s feelings should be stopped.”

Navy chief Surasak Roonroengrom declared: “I think that the armed forces are watching to see if the movement will affect national security.”

Backing up the boss, First Army chief Udomdej Seetabutr said “the monarchy deserves the utmost protection because it brings about national security.”

Clearly, the military leadership is again asserting that it has the right to continually intervene in political issues. Amsterdam expressed it best: “The Yingluck [Shinawatra] administration is not fully in charge of this country. We all know it. We all know the Army has a veto over what happens here.”

As usual, the military couldn’t care less about election results and, in the words of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, owes no allegiance to any (elected) government.





Facebook user indicted on lese majeste

30 11 2011

Prachatai reports that on 25 November, “programmer and Facebook user Suraphak (family name withheld) was indicted by the public prosecutor for lèse majesté, according to lawyer Anon Nampha.”

Surapak is “accused of being the owner of a Facebook account entitled ‘I shall…by staging coups’ and posting messages deemed offensive to the monarchy…”.

According to the report, the “indictment states that the defendant posted the defamatory comments on 4 May, 18 and 22 June, and 16 Aug 2011.  He was arrested on 2 Sept, and the police seized his laptop, an air card, two True Move SIM cards, a One Two Call SIM card, 52 CDs, a modem, a desktop computer and a circuit board.”

Surapak has denied all charges.  As has become the norm, he has been denied bail.

Prachatai quotes the public prosecutor in opposing bail:

The defendant is Thai, living on Thai soil which has His Majesty the King as Head of State, who has shown his immeasurable graciousness to the country and its inhabitants. The defendant, apart from not recognizing His Majesty’s graciousness towards the inhabitants, has the audacity to express great malice with the intent of overthrowing the institution of the monarchy, which is worshiped by the Thai people.  This is considered a threat to national security, which is unacceptable to the Thai people.  The defendant’s acts do not warrant any leniency whatsoever, and he deserves harsh punishment.  He committed serious crimes which threaten the security of the kingdom.  If granted temporary release, he will possibly flee, or tamper with the evidence, or recommit the crimes.  The public prosecutor objects to his temporary release in the event that he seeks bail.

It seems that lese majeste is now considered the most heinous of crimes for the Thai royalist state.