Fighting for political space

20 07 2017

According to a report at Prachatai, a court in Bangkok “has commenced a trial against initiated by democracy activists against the junta leader, the [Royal Thai] Army and the Royal Thai Police (RTP).”

These activists have accused these thugs “of violating their rights during a crackdown on a gathering to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état.” We consider “commemorate” a misnomer as it was actually an attempt to mourn the illegal acts of the military junta.

Most of the activists were members of the New Democracy Movement when junta thugs prevented the event.

They accuse the “authorities of malfeasance and abuse of human rights in arresting and abusing NDM activists and other demonstrators who on 22 May 2015 participated in a peaceful gathering…”.

It may be a case doomed to failure, but the demand for “16.5 million baht in compensation from the three public agencies” is a fabulous way of drawing attention to the thuggish acts of the military dictatorship.

Back in 2015, all the activists did was “stand… for 15 minutes in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.” Afterwards, they were “arrested and in many cases physically assaulted by security officers both in uniform and in plainclothes.”

We can’t wait for the court to call The Dictator and other senior thugs to testify.





Arresting one as a threat to many

25 06 2017

This military dictatorship has established a pattern of threat to repress.

In its early days, the military regime arrested hundreds and directly threatened thousands more, the latter mainly in the countryside. That level of mass repression is costly in political terms and a strategy emerged of arresting or high-profile threatening one activist as a way of threatening and repressing similar activists.

One high-profile example was Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa. He was charged with lese majeste and jailed for sharing a BBC Thai story that thousands of others had also shared. Yet the regime went after Jatuphat because he is an activist with links to other activists, several causes and relatively poor villagers.

The most recent arrest is of activist Rangsiman Rome, who was taken into police custody late on Sunday afternoon. Reporting of his arrest are at Khaosod and the Bangkok Post.

Police in Bangkok “detained the New Democracy Movement member on Tao Nao Road near the Oct 14 Memorial, where he was to attend a fund-raising event organised by the group to help political prisoners.”

Yet it seems that it was not this particular event that caused an “arrest warrant for him and 12 other activists for launching a campaign for voters in the area to throw out the draft charter in the referendum held on Aug 7, 2016” was suddenly activated.

Rangsiman expects to be taken before a military tribunal.

He has stated that he “believes the arrest was ordered because he was going to petition the military government to disclose information about the deal it struck with China allowing it to build a high-speed rail connection between Bangkok and Korat.”

Now all those who have been challenging the military junta’s use of Article 44 to push through the rail project know that they are under threat. As Rangsiman stated, “Now we have to postpone it [the petition], otherwise my friends will risk facing the same fate…”.

Or, they could go ahead and see if they do join Rangsiman in jail and ignore the junta’s strategy of repression by example.





Junta, dictatorship, coup

23 05 2017

Since the 2014 military coup, we at PPT have regularly used the appropriate terms for designating Thailand’s current government: military junta and military dictatorship.

It seems that the junta and its dictators are uncomfortable with such terminology.

Khaosod reports that the words “dictatorship, coups and military juntas … are banned…”.

The “organizers of a two-day discussion marking the three-year anniversary of the May 22, 2014, military coup” have been told they may not speak these words.

Pro-democracy activist Chonticha Jangrew “said she was given the choice Sunday by a senior-ranking military officer speaking on behalf of the junta: Don’t speak those words or risk having the event canceled.”

This is apparently a real story not some late April Fools’ Day joke. The joke and the fools are the junta.

The organizers felt they had to agree with the order and implied threat. Showing the ridiculousness of the order, “on Sunday, the first day of the symposium, speakers resorted to raising placards printed with the words instead.”

The day after, “Chaiyan Ratchakoon, a sociologist at Phayao University in the north, circumvented the ban Monday afternoon at Thammasat University by using alternative words.”

Instead of “coup” became “illegal regime change.” Chaiyan asked: “Do we really want coercion by the use of guns? How will this differ from those who rob banks?”

Chulalongkorn University historian Suthachai Yimprasert ignored the ban. He said:

…Thailand is the only country on earth today ruled by a military dictatorship. He said the junta leaders grew up during the Cold War and still cling to that mentality. He said no one believes the promises of junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who keeps postponing promised elections.

He added that “trying to ban the use of some words” was “mafia-like.”

Another speaker, Piyarat Chongthep argued that “the rule of law has been replaced by whatever the junta dictates…. We’re in a realm that we don’t quite know what’s permissible and what’s not,” adding, “[t]his is a situation where the ceiling is getting lower.”

Kornkot Saengyenpan, who also spoke, observed:

Dictators try to make us accustomed to whatever they impose, but only with limited success. We must do whatever it takes to not get used to Prayuth’s lies…. They have to go, not next year but now! We have waited for three years, and they can’t make us get accustomed to [military rule].

About 45 people attended on Monday, with another 15 being “plainclothes soldiers and police recording and observing.”

Destroying the rule of law, illegally seizing power, corruption, using torture, murdering and imprisoning the young and mopping up for a vile king are the hallmarks of Thailand’s military dictatorship.





Human rights matter

8 04 2017

Based in the Netherlands, Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) “helps lawyers in danger around the world.” It sets its objectives:

In conformity with international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders of the United Nations, L4L has committed itself to enable lawyers to practice law in freedom and independence, always and everywhere, even when that does not suit the local government, bar association or establishment.

L4L makes an important Award, every two years. This is:

awarded to a lawyer or group of lawyers who work to promote the rule of law and human rights in an exceptional way and are threatened because of their work.

This year, for her “unwavering courage and commitment,” L4L has chosen Thailand’s Sirikan Charoensiri.

In congratulating her and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, we cite the L4L Press Release:

Sirikan Charoensiri (June), a human rights lawyer from Thailand, will receive the Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2017. On 19 May 2017 Sirikan Charoensiri will accept the Award at L4L’s seminar ‘The Voice of Rights’ about lawyers and freedom of expression, hosted by Allen & Overy in Amsterdam.

Jury remarks

“Sirikan Charoensiri is a young Thai lawyer who stands up for human rights activists, journalists and people tried after the coup by military courts, even though she is facing considerable risks herself. By awarding Sirikan Charoensiri, the jury wants to applaud her unwavering courage and commitment, and draw attention to the human rights situation in Thailand that is relatively unknown in the West.”

High-profile human rights cases on a pro bono basis

Ms. Charoensiri will be the first woman to receive the Lawyers for Lawyers award. Sirikan Charoensiri is the co-founder of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), a lawyers’ collective founded shortly after the military coup on 22 May 2014 to provide legal aid and monitor the human rights situation in Thailand. As a human rights lawyer with TLHR, Ms. Charoensiri provides legal services in high-profile human rights cases on a pro bono basis. She acts for the increasing number of individuals facing lèse-majesté charges. These provisions make it illegal to defame, insult or threaten the king in Thailand. Ms. Charoensiri also represents human rights activists facing arbitrary arrest for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and expression and journalists facing arbitrary arrest in the exercise of media freedom and freedom of information by documenting the work of human rights activists. The political sensitivity of these cases is believed to be the reason why lawyers connected to TLHR are regularly subject to harassment, intimidation, and recently to criminal charges by the Thai authorities.

Four criminal charges in one year

In 2015, Sirikan Charoensiri started representing students from the New Democracy Movement (NDM) involved in peaceful protests on 25 June 2015, calling for democracy and an end to the military rule. Since then, Ms. Charoensiri has continually been subject to intimidation by the Thai authorities. Within one year, Sirikan Charoensiri has been charged with four criminal offences in connection to her professional activities. If found guilty she could face up to at least 10 years of imprisonment. Furthermore, another case was initiated by the police against her, under charges of reporting false information for having filed a complaint of malfeasance in office against the police. If proceeded, she could face up to a maximum of 5 years imprisonment.

Lawyers for Lawyers Award

The Lawyers for Lawyers award was created in 2011 by the Dutch Civil Society Organization Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L). L4L is an independent and non-political Dutch foundation seeking to promote the proper functioning of the rule of law by pursuing freedom and independence of the legal profession. We do this by supporting lawyers worldwide who are threatened or suppressed in the execution of their profession, in conformity with international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. L4L hands out this Award every two years recognizing that ensuing attention and publicity will offer the recipient additional protection in the discharge of his/her professional duties….





Release Pai XII

6 04 2017

The (in)justice system in Thailand continues to behave as the junta’s messengers.

Prachatai reports that on 5 April, the Region 4 Appeal Court confirmed the ruling of the Court of First Instance not to release Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, who faces a fit-up on lese majeste charges.

The court agreed with the other court that releasing New Democracy activist Jatuphat was impossible. They concurred that the activist had mocked the authority of the state without fearing the law and is facing other charges for violating the Public Referendum Act and the military junta’s ban on political gatherings.

The court stated that “the suspect could try to interfere with evidence or jump bail if he is released.” He certainly didn’t jump bail when he briefly had it earlier.

Sawatree Suksri from Thammasat University’s Faculty of Law “pointed out that one goal of bail is to allow defendants to fight their case fairly.” That’s the point. The junta, the palace and the courts are not interested in justice or legal fairness.

She said that “[b]ail allows defendants to seek and develop evidence for their case more freely, and to consult with their lawyer privately.” That’s the point. The junta, the palace and the courts are not interested in justice or having a defense against lese majeste. They just want to lock defendants up for years.

Sawatree says that “bail assists defendants to seek justice to the best of their ability, bail rejections should be an exception rather than the rule.” In lese majeste cases, where there is no justice, are the rule.

We can be sure that the repeated refusal of bail is the junta’s decision and may well reflect the position of the palace. Both are seeking to send a message that political activism is out and that even pointing to something that is accurate but critical of the monarchy must be considered a political abomination. Neither group has a track record suggesting respect of the law.





Court infringes the rights of many

25 03 2017

Prachatai reports that the Khon Kaen provincial court has made some negative comments when again refusing bail for Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa as he faces a false lese majeste charge.

The court had refused a request from Jatuphat’s lawyer requesting the court postpone the preliminary hearing for about a week. The lawyer said “that he did not have proper chances to consult with his client who has been detained in Khon Kaen Prison for more than three months.” He added that “the prison does not provide a room for lawyers to talk with defendants. Therefore it was nearly impossible to discuss with the defendant in a normal visitor room because it is too loud.” Further, “the prison staff did not permit him to discuss with Jatuphat in private and that there is also an interception device [recording/listening device) in the visitor room.”

In other words, the prison prevented his client from preparing to defend his case.

This request was refused.

When the lawyer later petitioned for bail, the court, as usual, denied this. But it went further:

The judge then told the defence lawyer to stop saying that Jatuphat’s rights are being violated since he is not the only defendant in Khon Kaen Prison who are consistently denied bail.

In other words, there are several or many prisoners who have their rights refused in regard to adequate legal representation, although this is not usual for non-violent crimes. Yet even those accused of rape and murder can usually manage bail.

It is lese majeste cases where the courts are most adept at denying rights.

This is known as double standards. The judiciary is a disgrace.





Release Pai XI

22 03 2017

Thailand justice system is a mess. In fact, it has become and injustice system, crippled by the junta and warped by monarchism. A corrupt judiciary does not interpret the law but seeks to determine legal outcomes according to the whims and needs of its masters.

In that linked post, we had information regarding the Khon Kaen Provincial Court going after student activists who had the temerity to support lese majeste victim Jatuphat (Pai) Boonpattaraksa.

Jatuphat is the sole person of more than 2,000 who shared a BBC story on the new king who is accused of lese majeste and is currently sweating in a junta jail.

The Khon Kaen court accused several supporters of Jatuphat of contempt of court for participating in a peaceful gathering to demand for Pai’s release.

Not content with that, like a stormtrooper’s dog, the court is now going after others. Prachatai reports that “three more youth activists [are accused] of contempt of court for joining a peaceful gathering demanding Pai Dao Din’s release from prison.”

On 20 March 2017, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that the well-known anti-junta activist Sirawit ‘Ja New’ Serithiwat; Panupong Sritananuwat, an activist from the Dao Din group based at Khon Kaen University; and another law student who requested anonymity had received court notices.

The notices state that the three are accused of contempt of court for gathering in front of the court on 10 February 2017 to demand the release of Jatuphat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa, a law student and key member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM).

The pathetic and disgraceful excuse for a judiciary that sits in Khon Kaen has “ordered the activists to appear in court to hear the charges against them on 24 April 2017.”

Pai’s case now sees him in jail and facing a trial, refused bail for an eighth time and seven students from activist groups charged. The junta and its legal minions are seeking to smash a moderate and engaged group of youngsters who want a better Thailand.

When Pai gets to court again, he’ll see that its judges and administrators have new rules for lese majeste cases:

The Khon Kaen Provincial Court also announced a strict code of conduct as the initial lese-majeste proceedings against the pro-democracy activist began.

In a large banner placed near the front gate, the court announced that it was prohibiting any misbehaviour or disorder around its compound.

The court also banned documents, leaflets, banners and any other objects that contained messages deemed insulting to the court and the justice system, or which provoked others to do so.

The court also forbade any symbolic action and photo-taking intended to show disrespect to the court and the justice system.

You get the idea. These judges are reprehensible.