Further updated: Yuletide lese majeste

22 12 2020

There’s been quite a lot of commentary on the protests, some motivated by the avalanche of lese majeste cases and some by the fact that the end of the year begs for reviews.

One that caught our attention is by Matthew Wheeler, Senior Analyst for Southeast Asia at the International Crisis Group. It is quite a reasonable and careful rundown of events prompting the demonstrations and the call for reform of the monarchy.

The lese majeste cases pile higher and higher. In a Bangkok Post report on people turning up to hear lese majeste charges, eight are listed: Arnon Nampa, Intira Charoenpura, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Nattathida Meewangpla, Shinawat Chankrachang, Phimsiri Phetnamrop, and Phromson Wirathamchari.

We can’t locate the latter two on the most recent Prachatai graphic that listed 34 activists charged under 112, but that graphic does include five with names withheld. For us, this brings the total charged to 34-36, but it may well be more.

There was some good news on lese majeste. It is reported that, after more than 4.5 years, a ludicrous 112 charge against Patnaree Chankij have been dismissed. The mother of activist Sirawith Seritiwat, the Criminal Court on Tuesday dismissed the charge. Her one word “jah” in a chat conversation was said to be the cause of the charge but, in reality, going after her was the regime’s blunt effort to silence her son.

A second piece of reasonable news is that the Criminal Court also dismissed charges of sedition brought by the military junta against former deputy prime minister Chaturon Chaisaeng on 27 May 2014 six years ago under Section 116 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act. This was another junta effort to silence critics.

As seen in recent days, equally ludicrous charges have been brought against a new generation of critics.

Update 1: Thai PBS reports that the Criminal Court acquitted nine members of the Pro-Election Group who had been charged in late January 2018 with poking the military junta: “Section 116 of the Criminal Code, illegal public assembly within a 150-metre radius of a Royal palace and defying the then junta’s order regarding public assembly of more than five people.”

The defendants were Veera Somkwamkid, Rangsiman Rome, currently a party-list for the Kao Klai party, Serawit Sereethiat, Nattha Mahatthana, Anon Nampa, a core member of the Ratsadon Group, Aekkachai Hongkangwan, Sukrit Piansuwan, Netiwit Chotepatpaisarn and Sombat Boon-ngam-anong.

The court ruled that:

… protesters complaining about the postponement of general elections cannot be regarded as incitement to public unrest. It also said that the protesters had no intention to defy the ban against public assembly within 150-metres of the Royal palace.

Of course, the charges were always bogus, but the junta’s point was to use “law” for political repression.

Update 2: The Nation reports that there were, in fact, 39 defendants who were acquitted.





Fascists and their opponents

22 05 2019

On the fifth anniversary of the military’s coup where it through out yet another elected government, we at PPT want to point to a couple of stories that do a great job of remembering and noting the impacts of the military’s illegal action in 2014.

The first is a story at Khaosod, where five activists provide brief comments on their experiences. All have been arrested and some have been jailed under the military dictatorship and its junta. Some clips:

1. No Coup 2. Liberty 3. Democracy

Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, recently released from prison on a manufactured lese majeste case, and facing more charges:

I saw. I fought. I lost. I was hurt. After five years fighting the junta and spending time in jail, I lost. Well, I didn’t lose. It’s just that we haven’t won yet. Some people are discouraged and disappointed. Others continue fighting.

Political activist Nutta Mahattana:

I underestimated the Thai people. Thais are more tolerant of military dictatorship than I expected.

Iconoclast activist Sombat Boonngamanong:

The most visible change in the past five years was how some people who fought for a certain strand of democracy were turned into mindless supporters of the military junta…. They saw the failure of the junta over the past five years, yet they are okay with it. It’s scary meeting these people….

Yaowalak Anuphan from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights:

Freedom of expression keeps sinking and more people censor themselves. The military has fully invaded civil society and injected its autocratic thinking into civilians.

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal:

[W]e took democracy for granted. We thought it was something that could be restored quickly after it was gone. We thought military dictatorship wouldn’t last long. But people have become better at adapting to life under dictatorship…. At symposiums, people are now more wary when they speak. This change was rapid….

The second is an article by retired diplomat and Puea Thai Party member Pithaya Pookaman. We disagree with him that the “election” result shows that the junta and its puppet party are “popular.” But he identifies those who are junta supporters as a “new right.” While this is catchy, it is also misleading in that much of the “new right” is pretty much the same opposition that’s worked against electoral democracy for decades. Pithaya knows this, saying:

Broadly speaking, the New Right consists of an odd mix of ultra-conservatives, reactionaries, semi-fascists, pseudo-intellectuals, and even former leftists. It is the product of more than 80 years of political evolution and has been shaped by technological and economic advances, as well as social and demographic changes, and populism in modern Thai society…. This tug of war between the so-called liberals and conservatives dates back to 1932…. The conservative Thai oligarchy, which saw their traditional grip on power being eroded, have strongly resisted democratic developments up until today.

Thailand’s urban middle class has a unique tolerance of authoritarian rule, wholeheartedly embracing military coups with few moral scruples. Meanwhile, the reactionary and semi-fascist groups seem to have a romantic infatuation with anachronistic medieval political and social systems….

Their common hatred of Thaksin and his political machine has allowed the fate of these diverse groups to intertwine. It has also made them vulnerable to “Thaksin Derangement Syndrome”, which has spread among a conglomeration of former leftists, the urban middle class, pseudo-intellectuals, ultraconservatives, semi-fascists, militarists, and the elitist establishment, all of which can collectively be called the New Right.

A third story is important. “All They Could Do To Us: Courage in Dark Times from a Fighter (Not a Victim)” is an article by Metta Wongwat, translated by Tyrell Haberkorn. It is about Pornthip Munkhong, who was jailed on lese majeste for her role in a political play, The Wolf Bride (เจ้าสาวหมาป่า), about a fictional monarch and kingdom. Her new book, All They Could Do To Us (Aan Press, 2019) “is an account of imprisonment under Article 112 during the NCPO regime written in the voice of an artist. She tells her story and the stories of her fellow prisoners from every walk of life, and in so doing, leads readers into her life during her two years of imprisonment.”

She includes a message for those who hold politics close: “(Political struggle) is like boxing. The ring is theirs. The rules are theirs. The referees are theirs. You must be prepared.





On the EC’s failures

18 04 2019

The Election Commission is a festering sore on the junta’s “election.” It has failed to convince no one that it is independent. Worse, it has not shown any capacity for administering a competent election process, even an election rigged by the junta.

There have been several actions taken to protest the EC’s failures. One of the most eye-catching has been that by “student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who arranged dozens of pairs of shoes outside the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, spelling out the Thai initials of the Election Commission.” The association of the EC with feet is damning of the agency.

Meanwhile, at New Mandala, legal scholar Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang of the Faculty of Law at Chulalongkorn University concludes that “Thailand’s 2019 general election is a spectacular disaster.” He adds that “the integrity of this election is irreparably damaged,” and heaps blame on the EC. In doing this, Khemthong looks at the EC’s history of anti-democratic behavior.

On the current EC, he observes:

The fifth and current Election Commission (2018–present) was installed by the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA). Its appointment history underpinned suspicions prior to the 2019 election that the body would collude with the NCPO. Those suspicions were confirmed when the Commission refused to investigate a campaign finance scandal involving the NCPO’s proxy, the Phalang Pracharath Party, but swiftly dissolved Thai Raksa Chart, one of Thaksin [Shinawatra]’s proxies.

Khemthong states that “there is broad consensus that the Election Commission is unfit to fulfil its assignment.” But for all of its failures, this EC remains largely unaccountable – except to its puppet masters in the junta.





Nonsensical charges

2 11 2018

The military junta claims that there will be an election. It is letting it be known that the best chance of that election will be for 24 February.

Back on 27 January this year, a group of political activists demonstrated to demand an election.

But as the Bangkok Post reports, the activists “have been indicted in court for illegal assembly…”.

Those indicted by prosecutors are:

Rangsiman Rome, a Thammasat University law student; Sirawith Seritiwat, a political science graduate from Thammasat; Arnon Nampa, a lawyer; Ekachai Hongkangwan, a regime critic; Sukrit Piansuwan, a former Thammasat economics student; Netiwit Chotepatpaisal, a Chulalongkorn University political science student; Nuttaa Mahattana, an activist and moderator; and Sombat Boonngam-anong, an activist for an anti-coup group called Wan Arthit Si Daeng (Red Sunday).

The Post thinks it important to report that way back then, these protesters were “about 150 metres from Sra Pathum Palace.” The Post doesn’t explain why this is significant to anything associated with the action.

The Post does not say anything about the nonsensical charging of persons demanding an election that the junta seems keen to grant at roughly about the time that the protesters wanted it.

The court “promptly accepted the case for hearing. All of the accused denied the charges and applied for bail.”





Dolts as dictators

2 06 2018

We are bored with this ridiculous junta. It is so stupid, so nasty and so predictable.

Its efforts to snuff out all opposition is a part of its “election” strategy.

So it is that the police are ordered to pile charges against “an additional 41 people the military junta want charged for violating its ban on political gatherings among others.” That means 56 persons will have been charged for an event that even the dictatorship’s own fake constitution allows.

The list of those charged “includes prominent student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, pro-democracy activist Pansak Srithep, taxi driver and Redshirt Paisarn Chanparn and Chananin Kongsong, a rubber farmer and former member of the People’s Committee for Absolute Democracy with the King as Head of State [PDRC].”

These are persons the military’s ISOC identifies as those with the potential to mobilize against the junta or are persons who have caused one or other of the generals to lose face.

The junta is a personalized dictatorship that will be in place for about 5 years before it allows a rigged election. It treats the whole Thai population as a land political sheep. It is run by hopelessly inadequate but remarkably self-interested dolts.





Providing a platform for dictatorship

10 04 2018

Chulalongkorn University’s administration has a reputation as a royal university. This often means that it has, through its history, provided a platform for dictatorial regimes.

It has done it again. The Nation reports that the university has invited The Dictator to speak at the university’s main auditorium on something called “Chulalongkorn University and the Driving of Thailand During the Transition.”

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said “his 20-year national strategy … was[not] part of a ‘plot’ to let him stay on in power.’ We agree. Rather, it is a strategy to allow the military to dominate and maintain power in its hands for 20 years.

Protests against The Dictator at Chula were limited. Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal appeared “with a facemask and ear plugs,” saying this ‘was because he found the place “full of air and noise pollution’. He also wore a mourning band to protest the university management’s decision to invite ‘a person like this’ to give a speech.”

Gen Prayuth spent his time defending his junta. The junta is struggling to defend a poor record. Chula’s administrators are trying to help him.





Senior policeman denies association with philosophical thought

1 03 2018

Here we refer to the policeman’s intelligence and a report in Khaosod.

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal and two of his colleagues have translated and published “Messages to Our Century: Three Essays of Isaiah Berlin.” Sir Isaiah Berlin died in 1997 and was one of the 20th century’s most respected intellectuals. He was a social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas, often associated with ideas of political liberalism.

Back in early February, Netiwit met with deputy police commissioner Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul when he and other activists “heard charges against them at Pathum Wan Police Station.” Netiwit later posted a photo of himself handing Srivara the book. He added: “He even asked me to sign the book for him…. I thought that he would actually read it…”.

Later, Netiwit posted that “multiple police officers had called him to order the book on Srivara’s recommendation,” claiming that the top cop said: “this is a good book, guys [police officers]. Do you have it [the book] yet?”

Pol Gen Srivara has now gone ballistic. For “allegedly using a false anecdote about him to promote the sale of a book he translated,” he’s filed a complaint against Netiwit claiming defamation and computer crimes. Srivara has stated that while he kept the book he didn’t read it.

The policeman has clearly thought shallowly about this and decided it would be unprofessional for any police officer to be caught engaging in deep thought about ethics, philosophy or liberty. Clearly, philosophy is not something that Thailand’s police can afford to be associated with. The force’s defining characteristics are anti-intellectual and involve nepotism, corruption, murder and torture, and such characteristics should not be tainted by association with philosophy.





Lines are being drawn II

17 02 2018

Khaosod reports that the military junta is going after pro-democracy activists, targeting both veterans and others who are virtually unknown.

The junta wants 43 people “prosecuted for attending a recent rally demanding elections be held this year.”

It is worth noting that it is reported that it is the junta itself that has picked out those to be charged. Among them are:

Activist Piyarat Chongthep, leftist Chotisak Onsoong, former lese majeste convict Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, 2010 crackdown justice advocate Pansak Srithep, student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, civil rights lawyer [and father of Pai] Wiboon Boonpattararaksa and academic Anusorn Unno and 36 others were named in complaints Thursday. They are accused of violating the junta’s ban on protests.

Daranee denies being part of the protest.

Most of the rest charged have “no obvious history of activism.”

As far as we can tell, the junta has now brought charges against almost 90 pro-election activists in the past week or so. All face at least a year in jail if convicted and some face up to seven years.





Repression and manufactured paranoia

30 01 2018

As expected, the junta has responded to the mounting criticism it is catching. And, as expected, it has not gone after the anti-democrats involved but anti-coup activists.

The repression is unsurprising but the borrowing of manufactured nationalist paranoia is a little more bewildering.

Khaosod reports that the military junta “has ordered seven of the most prominent pro-democracy activists [be] charged with crimes including sedition after they launched a protest campaign calling for general elections to be held in November.”

It might seem somewhat odd that sedition now includes demanding that the junta stick to its promises.

Acting for the military dictatorship, Col. Burin Thongprapai,  filed police complaints against seven activists. They are:

Sirawit Seritiwat, Nutta Mahattana, Democracy Restoration Group leader Rangsiman Rome, student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, former lese majeste convict turned political activist Ekachai Hongkangwan, human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa and newcomer student activist Sukrid Peansuwan.

The colonel chuckled that his people had “solid recorded evidence that the seven protest leaders have violated the junta’s ban on political gatherings of more than four and committed acts of incitement against the state.”

The junta’s Burin “said the seven were singled out because they are leaders and committed sedition.”

So the next time The Dictator talks about an election, presumably he’s committing sedition. The junta is now sinking into nonsensical survival mode. It is likely to become dangerous as these ridiculous repression fails.

As one of the accused observed, “[t]he fire has been lit…”, adding:

They want to snuff the fire at its source because everyone’s getting energized. The people have become lively again, and even the media reported it on the front page in a sympathetic manner…

Meanwhile, Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has sent an aide out to declare that the “pro-democracy campaign was orchestrated by foreign powers.” This was followed by a claim worthy of alt-right fruit loops claiming that anti-coup activism results from “trickery by foreign powers” providing the examples of “Iran and Hong Kong.” Several other right-wing leaders and regimes have made similar claims.

The idea of such accusations is to appeal to those anti-democrats who consume mad conspiracy theorists, themselves in the pay of foreign states.

Things are going to get nastier still.





Pathetic royalist “university” III

3 09 2017

Chulalongkorn University’s concocted royalist initiation ceremony for first-year students that descended into chaos into chaos sees the university’s royalist administrators going royalist beserk.

When a group of students staged a walk out from the ridiculous prostration ceremony, one of them was put in a headlock by botany assistant professor Ruengwit Bunjongrat. The thug “professor” hid in a hospital and the university administration defended him.

Blaming the head of the Student Council, Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal for the kerfuffle and barely concealing the administration’s desire to be rid of the student activist, it is replacing him and his colleagues with, they hope, appropriately royalist puppet Student Council.

The administration’s royalism is defended. They proudly declare that the students are not just renegades but unThai. The latter being a dangerously vicious attack on opponents usually the stuff of military thugs:

Disrespect to Thai morality, failing to maintain the university’s prestige and performing practices against Thai culture are among accusations faced by former student council president Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal and other seven students for allegedly misbehaving during Chulalongkorn University’s (CU) oath-taking ceremony.

As a result of breaking these rules, Netiwit and his colleagues have had their behaviour points deducted by 25 points. Since Netiwit and four others had served in the CU student council, they were removed from those posts.

The royalist administrators list the transgressions based on their kindergarten’s 1984 regulations on student discipline:

Article 4: “Students must always strictly follow all laws, rules, regulations, announcements or orders of the University or their faculty”;

Article 5: “Students must follow Thai good moral, ethical and cultural principles on all occasions”;

Article 6: “Students must maintain unity, orderliness and the University’s image and prestige”

Article 7: “Students must behave themselves gently and not behave in ways that may damage themselves, their parents, their guardians, or the University” and

Article 12: “Students must not perform any tradition or practice deemed inappropriate to Thai culture.”

The students are guilty of causing the royalist world to tremble ever so slightly:

Instead of sitting on the ground and paying their respects like all other students, they chose to walk away from their positions spots, and stood and bowed before statues of the late King Rama V and VI.

That show of respect was insufficient, causing the royalist administrators’ berserk reactions. As well as assaulting one student, the students are now accused of “misconduct.”