Lese majeste and the collapse of human rights

23 02 2017

Amnesty International joins Human Rights Watch in declaring human rights at a new low in the military dictatorship’s Thailand.

AI’s overview of the past year in royalist Thailand states:

The military authorities further restricted human rights. Peaceful political dissent, whether through speech or protests, and acts perceived as critical of the monarchy were punished or banned. Politicians, activists and human rights defenders faced criminal investigations and prosecutions for, among other things, campaigning against a proposed Constitution and reporting on state abuses. Many civilians were tried in military courts. Torture and other ill-treatment was widespread. Community land rights activists faced arrest, prosecution and violence for opposing development projects and advocating for the rights of communities.

Read the sorry story here.

As if to confirm the human rights decrepitude of the junta’s human rights record, the Bangkok Post reports that Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa (or Pai), accused of lese majeste for circulating a BBC story somehow deemed critical of Thailand’s king, was again refused bail.

The report states that Pai’s “family and lawyers … vowed to keep on appealing to secure bail for the 25-year-old after their seventh request was rejected by a court.”

The junta’s court reportedly “took less than 20 minutes in considering [the bail] … petition and again ruled it would not allow temporary release for Mr Jatupat…”.

That denial of bail “came even though the lawyers increased the surety from 400,000 cash to 700,000 baht and had prominent social critic Sulak Sivaraksa as a second bail guarantor, apart from Mr Jatupat’s father, Wiboon Boonpattararaksa.” The application included “letters [guarantees] from academics and people with credibility which confirmed Mr Jatupat would not flee the trial or do anything of concern.” This included senior academics like Gothom Arya and former National Human Rights commissioner Niran Pithakwatchara.

The court denied and dismissed “the defence lawyer’s argument that there is no point in detaining Jatuphat further because the case’s investigation process is already completed, the court reasoned that the suspect could try to interfere with evidence or jump bail if he is released.”

Pai is being framed by the military junta because he is identified as a troublesome anti-junta activist and his fate and jailing is considered by royalist and military thugs as a way to threaten and silence others.

His case is not unique, but Pai’s travails do show (again) how the royalist junta denies rights and destroys the rule of law. Its also indicates (again) that the courts have no independence and that the courts are partners in human rights abuse in Thailand.

In essence and in fact, lese majeste is a law that underpins dictatorship and domination in Thailand.





Opposing the draconian referendum law

11 05 2016

A group of what The Nation describes as “high-profile human rights advocates and former senators”  has “lodged a petition with the Ombudsman’s Office, seeking the nullification of the newly enacted referendum act, claiming it violates the interim constitution.”

The group was “led by former senator and director of Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) Jon Ungphakorn…”. The group “asked the Constitutional Court via the Ombudsman’s Office to look at the second and fourth clauses under Article 61 of the Act. He said the clauses in question violate Article 4 of the interim charter, which guarantees freedom of expression.”

The group’s petition was “signed by 100 law experts, academics and human rights advocates” who stated that the act’s language was vague and broad, preventing people from knowing which “actions can be considered illegal.” Of course, this is exactly what the military junta intended as the act is meant to intimidate critics.

The group also declared the penalties as overly harsh, stating that “[e]xpressing one’s views in a ‘rude or aggressive’ manner may be inappropriate, but it should not be taken as a violation of law…”.

Jon stated that several clauses in the act are meant to “discourage the general public and the media to voice their opinions on the draft.” He added: “We have no intention to overturn the August referendum, but just want people to be able to arrange debates on the draft during the lead-up to the referendum…”.

Former National Human Rights Commissioner and the ex-senator Niran Pithakwatchara said the referendum may end up being a waste as, by its nature, a “referendum aims to hear people’s voices, so why is the law discouraging people from speaking out”? He added that “[f]ear has spread throughout the country and is harming democracy…”.

Of course, there is no democracy in Thailand and the military’s charter is not meant to achieve it.





Dragged from a hospital bed

14 12 2015

If the news for the last couple of days wasn’t sad enough, today it is confirmed that lese majeste, sedition and computer crimes suspect Thanet Anantawong was dragged out of a hospital ward by junta thugs.

Yes, we did say “sad.” For all of the madness being displayed by a rogue royalist regime, we are sad that Thailand’s people are subject to the crazed behavior of a regime bent on making Thailand a failed state.

Prachatai reports that on Sunday 13 December 2015, Thanet, a student aged 25, was apprehended by plainclothes officer-thugs for “calling for a probe into the Rajabhakti Park corruption scandal…”.  It is not clear if he has “insulted” a royal flea bag as well.Thanet

The thugs “allegedly took him from his sickbed while he was in Sirindhorn Hospital, Bangkok.” Khaosod reports that Thanet “was admitted to the hospital with an intestinal infection Friday and was about to be operated upon for a hernia when he was taken away…”.

He was reportedly taken to the military’s deadly “temporary prison in the 11th Military Circle on Nakhon Chaisi Road … for interrogation.” He will interrogated with the intent being to force a confession from him.

Niran Pithakwatchara, who is “a medical doctor and former National Human Rights Commissioner, said he was concerned for Thanet’s health…”.

In addition to the crimes he is accused of, the junta gang “also alleged that he joined the red shirt demonstrations in 2010…”. Well, him an hundreds of thousands of others, but this hardly seems to tell us anything other than the regime is petrified and paranoid.

Thanet faces up to 27 years in prison.

Meanwhile, in an uplifting development on a very bad day for Thailand’s people, Khaosod reports that:

Those who actually made the graphic for which Thanet and a second man have been charged today called for the junta to prosecute them instead of people who liked or shared it online.

Rangsiman Rome, a leader of the New Democracy Movement, this afternoon called for the military regime to hold his group responsible for the Rajabhakti Park corruption map.

Rangsiman also expressed concern Thanet might die in military custody.





Updated: The royalist rubble that was human rights

22 07 2015

Readers will know that PPT has little time for the ridiculous National Human Rights Commission. In the period since Amara Pongsapich has been chair of the organization it has been a joke. Being responsible for human rights should never be a joke, but working with the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, Amara made the NHRC a biased and useless organization.

Amara and friends

Amara and friends

The only current commissioner who has made a public effort to do anything remotely serious about human rights abuses, of which there are many, was Niran Pithakwatchara.

So PPT expected the worst when the names of the proposed new commissioners for the NHRC. We were surprised to see one high-profile activist, being Angkhana Neelaphaijit, who has criticized the military at various times. Most of the rest are loyal royalist bureaucrats.

More significant for the future of this useless organization, however, is the nomination of ultra-royalist Boworn Yasintorn. Both Khaosod and Prachatai have stories regarding the nomination of this campaigning yellow shirt.

Boworn, as well as supporting anti-democrats campaigning against elected governments, has formed and led several royalist groups that not only promote the monarchy but actively hunt those they consider anti-monarchists or republicans, seeking to have them jailed. His Thai Facebook page provides a vivid illustration of his ultra-royalism.

At various times, Boworn has been described as a leader of the “multicolors” who were yellow shirts without their royal colors and organized to support the Abhisit regime and oppose red shirts and the electoral prospects of any pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Party. Later, he was reported as forming the “Students Centre of Thailand” that was made up of adults and former student activists rather than current students. Its role was as a “disorganizer” and spoiler organization to undermine the Students Federation of Thailand.

He was behind other groups, mostly royalist vigilantes, including being reported as President of the Network of Volunteer Citizens to Protect the Monarchy on Facebook and Citizens Volunteer For Defence Of Three Institutes Network. Both groups have brought lese majeste complaints against political opponents.

In fact, as we think about it, Boworn is probably the most suitable appointment to this hopeless organization. He is a living, breathing symbol of its destruction.

Human rights in Thailand are a pile of royalist rubble.

Update: Prachatai has another perspective on the demise of the NHRC.

 





Hackers for the military dictatorship

19 07 2015

PPT, alerted by a reader, had just begun sifting through Wikileaks release of “one million searchable emails from the Italian surveillance malware vendor Hacking Team (HT) on July 8” when the Bangkok Post published a story on the event with a few comments on the use of the Hacking Team by the military dictatorship.Wikileaks

The article states that:

The military and police struck deals as recently as December to allow them to use hacking software to monitor mobile phones and computers, raising concerns of privacy violations….

The Bangkok Post Sunday learned of the deals by sifting through hundreds of the company’s emails and documents, which name the Royal Thai Army and Royal Thai Police as customers of its remote control systems (RCS), also known as Galileo and Da Vinci.

The Police are said to have purchased products worth €286,482  and the Army spent €360,000 in 2014. HT used intermediaries in Thailand. The Post story says this:

HT’s partners in Thailand include Israel-based Nice Systems and Thai firms Placing Value Co and Netsurplus Co. In September 2012, Nice Systems met with people from several branches of the Royal Thai Army, including intelligence units, to conduct product demonstrations. They were shown “several key functionalities Nice has to offer for this market, which is characterised by poor legislation and no LEA [law enforcement agency] or intelligence connectivity to telecom service providers”.

Placing Value eventually became HT’s main partner and correspondence between the two started in October 2012.

Other emails included the electronics company Samart and ISOC, DSI and “narcotics agencies” are also mentioned, along with “military intelligence.”

As expected, “Army spokesman Col Winthai Suvaree said he is not aware of the purchase.”

National Human Rights Commissioner Niran Pithakwatchara is reported to have “slammed the use of spyware,” stating that it “is a violation of democratic principles…”. Perhaps he hasn’t noticed that Thailand is not a democracy. At the same time, these deals began as far back as 2012 when the military was already working to undermine the elected government and was spying extensively on political opponents.

When the capacity of the software purchased is considered, it would be a reasonable guess that “national security” was dominated by spying on those thought to have attacked the monarchy.

 





NHRC does not understand human rights

7 05 2015

PPT has long posted on the sorry case of the National Human Rights Commission and its failure to defend human rights in Thailand. It has been poorly led, has been partisan and has exhibited a failure of understanding of even the most basic principles of human rights.

The exposure of the gruesome and reprehensible trafficking of persons in Southern Thailand, known for many years, and aided and abetted by powerful civil and military officials, provides one more sorry example of the failure of the NHRC.

In this latest human trafficking scandal, the involvement of officials is clearly recognized. For example, Reuters reports that:

Asked by reporters whether there had been official complicity in trafficking humans, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters in Bangkok: “There must be. This is not acceptable.”

It is reported that police claim to have “issued a total of 18 arrest warrants in connection with the detention camps and trafficking network. The suspects include police officers and local administrative officials. Six people have been arrested so far…”. It is further reported that “at least 50 police officers in southern Thailand, including high-ranking commanders, were transferred following the discovery of the suspected trafficking camps.”

More broadly, as Khaosod notes,

For years, successive Thai governments have failed to effectively dismantle trafficking networks in the country, in part because of the protection offered by some Thai officials involved in the lucrative trade.

Last year, the United States government cited the complicity of Thai officials as one the reasons for downgrading Thailand to the lowest rank in its annual assessment of how foreign governments combat human trafficking.

The NHRC seems to have been unable to vigorously pursue cases of human trafficking in previous years, including the reprehensible actions under previous governments. NHRC

In the present circumstances, where major crimes have been reported, including murder and human trafficking, with acknowledged official involvement and more, it might be considered important for the NHRC to be involved and making recommendations including about prosecutions, inquiries and more.

Unfortunately, it seems the best this failed agency can do is for Niran Pithakwatchara, usually considered one of the more reasonable commissioners at the NHRC, to suggest that the military dictatorship use it draconian powers under Article 44. He says:

If the government exercises its power under Article 44 to solve this problem, especially by using the administrative power to deal with bureaucrats or local politicians who are involved, and to root out the causes of the problem, then it may be a good solution.

Not that long ago, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “expressed alarm at the Thai military Government’s announcement that it has invoked an article of the Interim Constitution that bestows unfettered authority on the head of the military government.” The Commissioner explained:

I am alarmed at the decision to replace martial law with something even more draconian, which bestows unlimited powers on the current Prime Minister without any judicial oversight at all. This clearly leaves the door wide open to serious violations of fundamental human rights.

Yet this is the Article the NHRC suggests be invoked. We can only despair for human rights in Thailand when even the official protectors of human rights seem unable or unwilling to comprehend the most basic principles.





Dense dictators I

26 03 2015

The Dictator and his minion dictators, who seem stuck to him like ticks, are rapidly showing themselves to be ignorant, dense, mindless, dull-witted and slow. Unfortunately, these traits, quite common amongst the military brass, where such characteristics are rewarded as evidence of loyalty, are making Thailand a laughing stock.

A recent story at Khaosod shows how doltish this lot are. Most readers will understand that PPT has little time for Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission. While led by Chairperson Amara Pongsapich, the NHRC has shown itself to be politically compromised.

When one of the NHRC commissioners – Niran Pithakwatchara – turned up at the Bangkok Remand Prison to visit with four men who say they were tortured by military officers, he was turned away. One of the suspects claims he was electrocuted on his legs because he refused to confess.

Niran had forensic experts from the Ministry of Justice with him and apparently wanted to consider the torture claims. He was given short shrift and the warders told him to beat it as he didn’t have permission to visit. He responded: “I am here as a director of the NHRC…. I am a state official. I am not an NGO.”

Niran has sometimes sought to do what he thinks is right in his position. However, he seems to have forgotten that Thailand is a military dictatorship that has no conception of much other than power and hierarchy. Human rights simply do not compute for the military brass that hold the country by its collective throat.

The Dictator and his minions are so thick that they do not understand that turning away a commissioner from their own NHRC amounts to a confession of guilt on the torture allegations. Or maybe they simply don’t care that their standard operating procedures include torture, forced disappearance and murder.





Yellow reform I

27 10 2014

Anti-democrats reject elected politicians and political parties as divisive and corrupt. This is an essential point of the royalist discourse that seeks to limit policy making to the great and the morally good.

Of course, any reasonable assessment indicates that the great are often fabulously corrupt and the morals of the good are usually flexible. The notion of rule by the morally good simply equates with those who slither about saying what great monarchists and loyalists they are. Nepotism and collusion are quite alright if you are of the right politics, as the military dictatorship has so relentlessly demonstrated.

This is why it is expected that a group of the junta’s handpicked National Reform Council (NRC) members led by academic Sungsidh Piriyarangsan should also launch its very own “civic group” which they have called the “Thailand Reform Institute” at Rangsit University.

Along with Chulalongkorn, Rangsit University is one of the centers of anti-democrat/PAD/yellow shirt academic activism. The university is owned by Arthit Ourairat. Arthit’s self-promoting profile is here.

The “new” group at Arthit’s university “was founded to act as a coordinating centre for movements of civic groups working in the areas of national reform and development as well as helping to build a democratic society…”.

Frankly, we do not believe them. We can accept that they might want “reform.” After all, that was the unspecified demand of the anti-democrats who are responsible for the military’s coup, which they repeatedly demanded. But democracy? That’s a stretch for this group.

For a start, the “institute” is as much about disseminating royalist propaganda as gathering “people’s opinions.” The idea that the “institute” would “monitor the government’s use of power” is a stretch too far. Then, the members of the “institute” are dedicated anti-democrats.*

Suriyasai Katasila, listed as “a lecturer at the College of Social Innovation and the Green Group leader, [who] was appointed the director of the newly formed group” by the Bangkok Post is actually a former PAD leader and speaker on the anti-democrat stage.

Other committee members include NRC members “Rosana Tositrakul, Anek Laothammathat, Niran Pitakwatchara of the National Human Rights Commission, Sirichai Mai-Ngam, chairman of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) labour union, former PAD leader Pipob Thongchai and academics from various disciplines.”

Rosana is a strident yellow shirt who has supported all anti-democrats since 2004. Most recently, she has opposed having different views on the NRC, so her participation in this “institute” is likely about exclusion rather than inclusion of opposing views.

Anek is one of the ideologues of anti-rural propaganda that denigrates voters as bought, duped and ignorant.

Sirichai heads the unions that have supported every anti-democrat action since 2004. His unions were the ones who went about disconnecting water and electricity at government departments during the anti-democrat protests earlier in the year. All the state enterprises are now controlled by the military.

Pipob is a political ally of Suriyasai and a former member of the PAD leadership.

Suriyasai defended the notion that “some committee members were also on the NRC because talks to establish the institute had taken place before the selection of NRC members. But this would not be a problem in terms of work…”. In fact, conflict of interest is nothing for the “good.” These anti-democrats have colluded for over a decade, so there’s no obstacle to their propaganda work.

*We don’t rule out the possibility that this ginger group could fall out with The Dictator when he begins to make compromises and angles for a longer-term military presence in politics (think of 1991-92). They also want to make sure that he and his junta stay “on track” for radical royalist “reform.”

 





Shackling and fettering

20 12 2012
somyos

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk shackled in 2012

There’s a brief story at The Nation that caught PPT’s attention. In it, National Human Rights Commissioner Niran Pithakwatchara has “voiced concern about the use of fettering and its impact on human dignity.”

Apparently the “rules” that are currently used demand that “the fettering of all male inmates aged not over 60 to prevent any attempt at jailbreak or suicide.”

Niran seemed to think that  there was concern “[a]t the international level.” All lese majeste prisoners under 60 years are shackled on every court appearance.

Niran also raised issues regarding the health care provided to inmates, noting that lese majeste convict Ampol Tangnopakul died in jail earlier in 2012.

Joe Gordon in chains in 2011

Joe Gordon in chains in 2011

He also mentioned the case of Ampon Tangnoppakul, who died while serving a jail term for a lese-majeste offence earlier this year: “Niran pointed out that the Corrections Department might have failed to take care of Ampon’s health well enough.”

Harry Nicolaides in chains in 2009

Harry Nicolaides in leg irons in 2009

The Corrections Department’s senior executive Lawan Ornsamlee “explained that prisoners were only handcuffed at correctional facilities.” In 2011, the U.S. State Department stated: “Authorities also used heavy leg irons to control prisoners who were deemed escape risks or possibly dangerous to other prisoners.” She added that: “Only convicts held on grave offences are fettered by both ankles and wrists…”.

She continued to explain that: “Other prisoners were fettered in the same way only when they travelled out of correctional facilities.”

Lese majeste is deemed not a libel or a defamation but a “grave offense.” As the Constitutional Court has it, lese majeste is so serious that it threatens the very foundations of the state!





Obama and lese majeste

16 11 2012

The Network of Family Members and People Affected by the Article 112 has released an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama on lese majeste, prior to his visit to Thailand. PPT reproduces it below:

16 November 2012

Subject: Your support to raise our concern to Thai government to release all Thai political prisoners

Dear President Obama,

On behalf of The Network of Family Members and People Affected by the Article 112 (called the 112 Family Network) and other joint organizations, I would like to welcome you to Thailand and would like to hand this letter to you and allow us to express comments as well as to support us to raise our concerns to Thai government. I have hereby attached a letter in Thai to you and have summarized the key points as follows:

1. There are many Thai citizens charged, arrested and detained in prisons from the coup on 19 Sep 2006. Some were arrested and detained because of gathering in the public, speech, publishing the articles which interpreted as insulting the king or royal families. There were many of them charged under the article 112 (Lese Majeste Law) for example: Mr.Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Dr.Somsak Jiamtherasakul, Mr.Thanthawut Thaweewarodomkul, Lt. commander Chanin Klayklaeng.

2. The article 112 has been widely used to charge Thais because its definition of “insulting’ or defaming” is unclear and ambiguous. This has limited the right to express opinion and suppress Thai under fearfulness and have to self-censor.

3. Thai government ignored the UPR and responded that the charges of Thais under this law are nothing related to Thai politics.

4. At the moment, there are 7 persons charged and detained or imprisoned under the article 112 and computer crime act and about 30 persons detained under the emergency decree. All of them should be considered political prisoners. In addition, they have not received the bails despite several application submissions to the court.

5. Therefore, I would like to pass our following recommendations to you to raise to Thai government :

5.1 Release all political prisoners that were charged under the article 112, computer crime act and all charges related to the emergency decree as well as public gathering to express political opinions.

5.2 Grant bail to all prisoners undergoing the trials

5.3 Thai government compensate to the former prisoners who were charges and end trial with acquittance.

Respectfully your,

Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk, Representative of the 112 Family Network

Dr.Niran Phitakwatchara, National Human Right Commission

Mr.Sarawut Patoomraj, Human Rights Advocate/Educator Institute for the Rule of Law and Human Rights

Suda Rangkupan, Representative of the Declaration of street justice