Lese majeste catch-ups

18 02 2018

Natthika Worathaiwit was one of The Facebook 8 who were arrested by the military dictatorship because of a satirical Facebook community page that poked fun at The Dictator. They were charged with sedition and computer crimes on 28 April 2016. Tow of them, Harit Mahaton and Natthika were charged with lese majeste.

Initially all were refused bail. When six of the eight were bailed, a military court refused bail for Natthika and Harit. The two firmly maintained their innocence. After more than two months in prison, on 8 July 2016, the two were released on bail. A month later, a military prosecutor indicted the two anti-junta critics on lese majeste and computer crimes.

Little more was heard about the case until in January 2018 Natthika revealed that she had decided to flee Thailand to seek asylum in the U.S. She remains critical of the military dictatorship. Prachatai has an interview with her in the U.S.

Prachatai also reports on a case with a curious twist. Back in March 2016, it was reported that that nine persons are to be charged with lese majeste over the Tob Jote/ตอบโจทย์ television show in 2013. ThaiPBS aired the program on the monarchy and lese majeste law on 11-14 March and 18 March 2013. The series featured historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul who later went into exile, conservative royalist Sulak Sivaraksa, the execrable Surakiart Sathirathai and retired ultra-monarchist Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn. The show hosted by Pinyo Trisuriyathamma. All are mentioned in the new set of charges, with four others.

Later, in July 2014, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) imposed a 50,000 baht fine on ThaiPBS for broadcasting political discussions about the monarchy. The NBTC declared that the broadcasts violated “Article 37 of the NBTC Act. The Commission accused the station of publishing content that instigated conflict, damaged peace and order, or damaged the good morality of the people.”

Royalists and the junta could not abide by notions that Thais could have a reasonable discussion of the monarchy or be allowed to think for themselves about the monarchy.

On 15 February 2018, the Administrative Court invalidated the fine. In doing so, it ruled that the NBTC showed bias (which is standard operating procedure for this bunch of junta minions). That bias got a name:  Lt Gen Peerapong Manakit, one of the NBTC members. According to the report, the “court ruled that bias on the part of … [Peerapong] who proposed the punishment, led to an unfair trial. The court ordered the Commission to refund the fine to Thai PBS…. However, the verdict does not rule whether the show’s content was legal or not.”

It is an interesting ruling. If Peerapong’s name rings a bell, it could be because he is another of those military hogs who can’t keep out of the trough, as reported in The Nation:

… there was a public outcry after an Office of the Auditor-General investigation revealed Peerapong Manakit had topped the list of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission members who had made the most overseas “study” trips last year…. He spent about one-third of his time (129 days) on 20 overseas trips at a cost of Bt12.03 million…. Peerapong has reportedly appointed his wife Janya Sawangjit as his adviser, effective October 1. Her salary is Bt120,000 a month…. It is not clear if NBTC commissioners can take their advisers on overseas trips.

Of course, nothing happened about this nepotism and he remains a commissioner, with a bunch of other military and royal-connected men.

Lese majeste indictments mount

5 08 2016

The junta’s lese majeste witch hunts have continued, somewhat behind the scenes, as the regime has worked to get its way on the referendum and the military’s charter. There have been several indictments in recent days.

Prachatai reports that a military prosecutor has indicted two anti-junta critics, charging them with lese majeste “in their private Facebook chat.”

On 2 August 2016, the military prosecutor officially “indicted Harit Mahaton and Natthika Worathaiwich, youth anti-junta critics, of offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Code…”. They will face a military court and their trial will probably be conducted in secret.

They also face  charges under the 2007 Computer Crime Act, “a law against the importation of illegal information into the computer system.”

Surprisingly, the two were “released as the Military Court earlier granted them bail under 500,000 baht surety each.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that Patnaree Chankij, “[t]he mother of a leading activist against the military junta in Thailand has been charged with insulting the country’s monarchy in a one-word Facebook post.”

The woman “was brought to a military court in Bangkok on Monday after the attorney general decided to press charges despite police saying earlier that they would not pursue the case.”

She was also released on bail.

Palace and lese majeste

7 06 2016

In a short report at Prachatai, the desperate efforts of “the parents of two Facebook users initially arrested for mocking the junta leader and later charged with lѐse majesté” are mentioned.

Most interesting in this report is that the parents have “travelled to the Grand Palace in Bangkok to pay respect to the Thai Monarchy [capitals!] and submit a bail request for their children to the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary…”.

Harit and Natthika “have firmly maintained that they are innocent.”

They have repeatedly been refused bail by the military court, as is the norm for lese majeste “suspects.” Their lawyer states that “if his clients are granted bail, they will continue to fight the case through the judicial system.” (This is exactly why bail is rarely given – the royalist authorities do not want cases to be contested.)

As mentioned going to the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary seems unusual. Indeed, we can’t think of such a move previously. We recall that pleas for a pardon have gone to the Office, but this action to “submit a bail request,” is quite new.

We think this acknowledges the reality of the palace’s involvement in lese majeste cases. We have previously noted this involvement by the political interventionists at the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, here and here, and by the Privy Council, here.

No bail on lese majeste for Facebookers

22 05 2016

PPT is late posting on this story that appeared at Prachatai. As usual, however, we want it up as part of the record of the military junta’s witch hunt on lese majeste that has gone on for two years and will continue for the foreseeable future.

On 19 May 2016, a military court in Bangkok refused bail applications by lese majeste “suspects” Harit Mahaton and Natthika Worathaiwich, who are also charged with sedition under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, for allegedly mocking The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The military court rejected the bail requests that each came with 700,000 baht surety for each of the accused, “ruling that the two might obstruct the investigation process and were flight risks.” This is a common claim by the courts when they more-or-less routinely deny bail to lese majeste suspects. In fact, the courts prefer to keep lese majeste suspects in jail as a form of torture.

As Prachatai explains the case, “Harit and Natthika were two of the eight junta critics abducted by the military on 27 April, and charged under the Computer Crime Act and Article 116 of the Criminal Code for their alleged involvement in a Facebook page” mocking Prayuth. “The eight were released on 10 May, but Harit and Natthatika were immediately re-arrested since, unlike the other six, they were also accused of lѐse majesté for sending private messages deemed [by the royalist authorities] to defame the … monarchy.”

Deadly and dangerous clowns

12 05 2016

Despite an inglorious day before the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group, where the junta was shown to be tyrannical, rancid and hopelessly out of its depth, this seems to count for nothing in a regime composed of very dangerous clowns.Nasty clown

We do not intend to diminish the gravity of the situation facing Thailand under the junta by the use of the word “clown,” but this junta is composed of buffoons who only understand hierarchy, violence and repression.

The clownish aspects are demonstrated in a Prachatai story. Justice Minister General Paiboon Khumchaya has lapped up some royalist kool-aid sufficient to declare that “other countries” can’t understand Thailand’s lese majeste law because they lack Thailand’s level of “civilization, sensitivity, and gentleness.”

Yes, he’s lost his marbles, and to make that absolutely clear, the royalist maniac blurted out that “by having the King, Thailand was unique and civilized. That makes Article 112 or the lèse majesté law necessary…”. More remarkably, Paiboon told the media to report his “explanation.”

Meanwhile, the junta continued its witch hunts for political opponents, real or imagined.

In Pitsanulok, up to nine persons were detained by the military for joining a “field trip to investigate corruption allegations over a canal dredging project by the War Veterans Organisation.” The military accuses the Puea Thai Party of being involved. The alleged corruption involves the Ministry of Defense.

In Bangkok, the last two of the Facebook 8 have been denied bail by the military court. They are Harit Mahaton and Natthika Worathaiwich. At the same time, one of their supporters, Burin Intin, has been detained on lese majeste charges. The military court denied bail “citing flight risk, the possibility that they might attempt to distort evidence and the seriousness of the offence.” That is standard practice by the courts. It is also a gross breach of their rights under the law. The defendants allege that the military and police used illegal measures to obtain “evidence.”

In another case of the junta breaking the law, “military and police have attempted to break into the house of a Pheu Thai Party politician to detain him after he criticized the junta leader.” It is reported that early today soldiers and police “surrounded the house of Worachai Hema, a former Member of Parliament (MP) of the Pheu Thai Party from Samut Prakan Province, and attempted to break into the house.” They allegedly “pulled out the telephone line to the house and ordered Worachai’s daughter-in-law to remove a CCTV camera from the house.” Presumably they don’t want any evidence surfacing of their illegal acts. The thugs apparently had no warrant nor permission to enter the compound. The Bangkok Post reports that 50 soldiers and police were involved and Worachai states that “soldiers broke into his bedroom and ransacked it.”

Another raid was carried out against a former Puea Thai deuty minister, Pracha Prasopdee. A later report states that 12 homes were searched and this thuggish fishing trip yeilded “two BB guns, an ID card for a security guard of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), four CDs on UDD rallies, three communication radios, a notebook computer of Noppakao Kongsuwan, one of the eight Facebook users suspected of violating the Computer Crime Act, and two mobile phones” along with “11 firearms of various types, handguns and rifles, all of them properly registered but taken for examination, and a communication radio.” The military thugs claim that these raids are part of their crackdown on dark influences. Readers will recall predictions of this “crackdown” being politically motivated.

Meanwhile, pro-democracy monk Phraiwan Wannabut revealed that the military have visited him at his temple more than five times asking him to “stop all political activities, including writing articles and Facebook posts…”. This is intimidation of a religious figure, a new low for the military’s thugs.

It is only going to get worse.

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