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.





Students rising

6 09 2020

There have been some very useful commentaries on students rising, including at New Mandala and in The Economist. The latter mentions that the students currently demonstrating are children of some who supported the royalist anti-democrats in 2013-14.

If the military and its royalist regime were hoping that arresting outspoken student and activists and waiting out the students would see rallies end, they were misguided.

The arrests and charges continue. The jailed activists Arnon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok have been a focus of rallies, with student protesters using white ribbons tied on the Bangkok Remand Prison gate and calling for their release. The rally was not just for them: “there are others who face injustice and there are many who are being charged just for speaking the truth.”

The students were joined by Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Pannika Wanich, formerly of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, “urging officials to release two pro-democracy activists…”.

Including those jailed, those arrested are expressing defiance. Dechatorn “Hockhacker” Bamrungmuang of Rap Against Dictatorship has restated his support for the student’s demands:

I agree with the original three demands; stop harassing the people, dissolve the parliament, and rewrite the constitution. And I also support the 10 demands [on the monarchy] of Thammasat (University) students to reform the monarchy. It must be reformed to fit with the times.

The largest rally in recent days has been the Bad Student demonstration at the Ministry of Education, when “[h]undreds of high school students demonstrated … on Saturday to demand reform of an education system…”.

Clipped from Bangkok Post

Pannika also showed up for the students at the Ministry: “She said she wanted to encourage students to express their opinions freely because they have the liberty to do so.” Others supporting the students were: Juthathip Sirikan, president of the Student Union of Thailand, singer Chaiamorn “Ammy” Kaewwiboonpan and democracy activist Nutta Mahattana.

The students made political statements, “sport[ing] white ribbons that have become a symbol of the broader youth-led protest movement…. They also blew whistles — mocking Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, a former co-leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee…”.

Meanwhile, others are pushing the protest envelope further, preparing for the next big rally, planned for 19 September. Parit Chiwarak vowed that protest speakers would “continue to discus reform of the monarchy at the rally…”.





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 stealing the election VI

7 04 2019

In an earlier post in this series, we were naive in commenting on the allocation of partly list seats. It seems that the Election Commission’s initial bumbling on this was something of a smokescreen to allow for the junta-approved “method” of allocating seats to be used.

The EC has finally “revealed” that it is going to “calculate MP-seat allocation based on a formula that will allow more than 25 parties to be present in the Lower House.”

That “method” is to the advantage of the junta and allows its Palang Pracharath Party to concoct a coalition and drags seats away from anti-junta parties.

The EC’s “public relations team” – apparently it has one –  “revealed” that “the commissioners will stick to the formula proposed to them by the now-defunct charter drafting team.” They claim that this “formula was based on stipulations in the Constitution and the MP election laws…”. But they would claim that, wouldn’t they.

The PR persons reckoned this was  “to give importance to every vote…”. So much importance that a bunch of at least 25 micro-parties that can be easily bought will get one seat based on as little as 30,000 votes, perhaps even less.

The authorities on this scam are some members of the junta’s hand-picked Constitution Drafting Committee.

While the EC rigs the election result for the election rigging junta and its buddies, it is now using law suits to silence critics. Reports mention Nutta Mahattana and

Meanwhile, despite fierce criticism against its questionable performance, the EC has gone ahead and filed defamation lawsuits against political activist Nuttaa Mahuttana and Sirote Klampaiboon but it seems there may be up to a dozen others who are receiving the EC’s attention.

It seems pretty clear that the junta is successfully stealing its own “election.”We can expect that after the king’s coronation that a Palang Pracharath coalition will be announced. After that look for junta ministers simply continuing their current jobs.

Nothing much will have changed. The election will have been successfully rigged and stolen, pretty much in broad daylight. And, yet again, the people’s voice will have been ignored. Are we too pessimistic?





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.”





Sedition as the new lese majeste

28 09 2018

According to the Bangkok Post, “[p]rosecutors have charged six pro-election activists who rallied on Ratchadamnoen Avenue in February with sedition.”

The six were Sirawith Seritiwat, 25; Anon Nampa, 33; Chonthicha Jaengreo, 25; Sukrit Piansuwan, 24; Nattaa Mahattana, 39; and Karn Pongprapapan, 25.

Under the junta, sedition now means ” violating an NCPO order banning political assembling of more than five.” Sedition can mean 7 years in jail. Clearly, the junta thinks itself inviolable. How very monarchical!

These six just happened to be singled out from about 400 who rallied “for an early general election at the Democracy Monument on Feb 10.” 50 were “charged with violating the assembly ban but the co-leaders also faced the sedition charge.”

The Nation reports that there are now 15 political activists who “face sedition charges in six different cases in connection with their pro-election gatherings.”

Sedition is the new lese majeste for the junta when it suppresses its opponents.