The 1932 spirit

27 06 2022

For those interested in the non-governmental response to the 90th anniversary of the 1932 revolution, there are a few stories to notice, with brief comments below.

Of course, the royalist government response is to ignore the event as if it never happened.

Thai Enquirer has a photo essay on the rally to celebrate the day. Some of the photos are quite something, and together they show how 1932 is intimately linked with contemporary struggles for democracy and monarchy reform. All of our photos here are clipped from Thai Enquirer.

Thai PBS reports on a seminar at Thammasat University’s Pridi Banomyong International College on 24 June, held “to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the 1932 Revolution.” Those attending and speaking included Sulak Sivaraksa and newly-elected Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt.

Various groups organized activities and events on June 24 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the revolution which turned the country from absolute to constitutional monarchy. While academics and politicians discussed the future of Thai democracy at Thammasat’s Tha Prachan campus, youthful groups and activists gathered at Lan Khon Muang Townsquare, calling for the restoration of the revolutionary spirit, reform of the monarchy, abolish the lese majeste law, as well as make June 24 the National Day….

Thammasat University student activist Parit Chiwarak told Thai PBS World earlier that students and political activists had grouped together under the name of People’s Party 2020 a couple of years ago to carry on the revolutionary spirit. Their objective was to remove the gulf between Thai citizens and the established elite.

“One of the six principles laid out by the 1932 People’s Party is equality, which has never been achieved,” he said.

The report notes that in 1960,Thailand’s National Day was changed by the then military dictatorship, and in concert with the king, from 24 June to the then king’s birthday on 5 December. That change was just one part of the restoration of the monarchy that continues through the 20th century.

Monarchy reform and democracy activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul “said in a phone interview that she and her associates continued to demand reforms to the monarchy, despite being prosecuted for lese majeste under Article 112 of the Penal Code.”

In another event, former red shirt leader and Puea Thai politician Nattawut Saikua, in a talk show hosted by the Pridi Banomyong Institute, “said the people’s movement which fought for democracy before and after the 1932 Revolution shared the same spirit — to have equality and democracy.” He added: “I do believe that such a fighting spirit has been transferred from generation to generation,” acknowledging that “red shirts admired and expressed their gratitude to both People’s Parties, in 1932 and 2020.”

There’s more in the article.

Meanwhile, at Khaosod, there’s an op-ed by Pravit Rojanaphruk, commenting on the long period of divisions between royalists and anti-royalists. He begins:

The 90th anniversary of June 24, 1932 revolt, which ended absolute monarchy, was only celebrated by those who believe Thailand has yet to achieve genuine democracy and aspire for more freedom and rights.

Conspicuously absent were the government, including Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, and royalist conservatives who did not observe the day and probably would rather forget that June 24, which falls on Friday this year, was not just arguably the most important day in modern Thai political history once a national day and a public holiday celebrated from 1938 to 1960….

For royalists who wish to see the monarchy … play a greater role in Thai society, to see the military continue to act as the state within a state, to limit the powers of politicians and the electorate whom they distrust, June 24, 1932 was a day of infamy….

Pravit notes that other countries “settled their differences through a bloody revolt.” He prefers a peaceful road to a democracy that provides for and accepts differences.

That’s all fine and good, but Pravit does not mention that the military has been all too willing to spill the blood of those who stand in their path and those who they consider challenge the monarchy and their Thai-style democracy. It has killed hundreds and jailed thousands.





Intimidate, repress, and control II

30 01 2022

The repression of heavy suppression of protesters and activists has been intense. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights recently published a report that states “at least 1,747 people in 980 cases have been prosecuted due to political protests and expression since the Free Youth Rally on 18 July 2020 until 25 December 2021.”

Only 150 of these cases have been concluded, meaning that hundreds of people are tied up in various legal procedures or are being held without bail. This reflects the regime’s use of lawfare.

In 2021 alone, “1,513 new people in 835 cases have been politically accused, accounting for an almost 7-fold increase compared to the number in the second half of 2020.”

Notably, there was a sharp rise in arrests and prosecutions “during the three-month period between August to October. The period coincided with a heightened political tension as a result of car mob events in various provinces, almost daily protests by various groups in Bangkok, and series of “Talu-Gas” protests at Din Daeng Intersection and the surrounding areas.”

Lese majeste charges were filed against at least 127 “new” people in 104 cases, while sedition charges were filed against at least 55 “new” people in 16 cases. As for the “key political leaders accused between 18 July 2020 and 25 December 2021 …[TLHR] found that:

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak has 43 cases.

Panupong “Mike” Jadnok has 30 cases.

Anon Nampa has 24 cases.

Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul has 24 cases.

Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa has 19 cases.

Benja Apan has 19 cases.

Another TLHR report states that “at least 291 activists and citizens, 39 of whom concerned youths under 18 years old, received house visits or were summoned for talks by authorities. These numbers do not include cases where authorities went to deliver summon warrants or make an arrest as part of a prosecution.” Most of this surveillance was in the northeast.

The repression continues and deepens.





Updated: Arbitrary detention

2 12 2021

On 26 November 2021, law NGO Destination Justice (Facebook page) filed an Urgent Action to the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Thai activists Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

The submission asks the Working Group to “declare Parit and Panusaya’s current arrest and detention as arbitrary and in violation of international law.” In addition, Destination Justice “called upon the United Nations to request the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Parit and Panusaya and terminate all prosecutions and cases against them.”

From Destination Justice

Here’s the information from Destination Justice:

GENEVA, Switzerland, Friday, 26 November 2021 // Destination Justice has today filed an Urgent Action to the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Thai human rights defenders Mr. Parit Chiwarak (also known as “Penguin”) and Ms. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul (also known as “Rung”).

The Urgent Action requests the United Nations body to declare Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya’s current arrest and detention as arbitrary and in violation of international law.

Destination Justice has also called upon the United Nations to request the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya and terminate all prosecutions and cases against them.

Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya are amongst the highest profile, most outspoken protesters in a mass protest movement in Thailand calling for socio-political change, including monarchic reform.

They have been repeatedly arrested and detained for participating in peaceful protests, expressing opinions, and otherwise exercising fundamental freedoms protected under international law.

Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya are currently being detained pending trial on charges including for lese-majesty under Criminal Code section 112, which has a sentence of up to 15 years.

Overall, Mr. Parit faces 43 trials and up to 300 years’ imprisonment and Ms. Panusaya faces 25 trials and up to 135 years’ imprisonment.

Moreover, a recent Thai Constitutional Court decision means that they may eventually charges of attempted insurrection for their human rights work, a crime which carries the death penalty.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is a Special Procedure of the United Nations Human Rights Council that investigates deprivation of liberty around the world. It can also intervene urgently where a person is detained arbitrarily in dangerous conditions or where there are other unique circumstances.

The Urgent Action has also been sent to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on freedom of assembly and association, freedom of expression and opinion, and human rights defenders. All of these officials, together with the Working Group, have already expressed concern over the treatment of Thai protesters participating in the ongoing movement.

ENDS //

For media inquiries, contact info@destinationjustice.org.

ANNEX: Executive Summary of the Urgent Action

Mr. Parit Chiwarak and Ms. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul are 22-year-old Bangkok-based Thai university students. They are being detained over their peaceful exercise of fundamental freedoms as amongst the highest profile, most outspoken protesters in a mass protest movement in Thailand calling for socio-political change, including monarchic reform.

Both have been arrested and indicted on charges including lese-majesty for participating in a protest on 19-20 September 2020 at Sanam Luang, with Ms. Panusaya also being detained over a 20 December 2020 protest at Siam Paragon that Mr. Parit also attended. For breaching bail conditions prohibiting them from exercising fundamental freedoms, they were detained and remanded in custody while their trials are ongoing. This is scheduled to be until at least December 2022. Taking into account past periods of detention, Mr. Parit has now been detained for 219 days overall and Ms. Panusaya for 81 days.

Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya’s human rights activities are situated within a broader movement of mass civilian protests. The Thai authorities have responded by shrinking the space for fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly (including by using Covid-19 as a pretext), which many States remarked upon at Thailand’s recent Universal Periodic Review.

Human rights defenders who peacefully call for socio-political change are also being judicially harassed through strategic lawsuits against public participation initiated by public and private actors. Mr. Parit faces 43 trials and up to 300 years’ imprisonment and Ms. Panusaya faces 25 trials and up to 135 years’ imprisonment (for lese-majesty alone). Moreover, following a 10 November 2021 Constitutional Council decision, future attempts by Mr. Parit or Ms. Panusaya to exercise fundamental freedoms may be met with charges such as attempted insurrection, which is a capital offence. Therefore, Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya could face the death penalty over their human rights work and a real possibility of actual execution.

Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya’s arrest and detention are arbitrary as they result from lawful exercise of fundamental freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly and association, and public participation (category II arbitrary detention). Their detention is also arbitrary due to partial non-observance of their right to a fair trial, including violations of the principle of legality, presumption of innocence, right to confidential communications with counsel, and right to adequate time to prepare a defence (category III arbitrary detention). Moreover, their arrest and detention are arbitrary as they represent discrimination based on their political opinions and status as human rights defenders advocating views deemed offensive by the authorities, for which they have been discriminatorily persecuted (category V arbitrary detention).

Finally, there are three unique circumstances warranting your intervention in this case as an urgent action. First, Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya may be imminently charged with capital offences, for which they could be expeditiously tried and even executed, posing a serious danger to their lives and representing an irreversible and egregiously unjust outcome. Second, their physical integrity is in danger due to detention conditions which expose them to the risk of contracting Covid-19 (which both have contracted in prison previously) and to attacks, surveillance, and harassment. Third, the apparently State-sponsored campaign of judicial harassment against them and prospect of interminable litigation and constant uncertainty over one’s fate also creates a significant threat to their psychological integrity amounting to inhumane treatment.

For the above reasons, Destination Justice calls on the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, together with other relevant UN special procedures, to, among other things, declare Mr. Parit and Ms. Panusaya’s detention arbitrary and ask the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them and terminate all prosecutions and cases against them.

Update: Panusaya has been granted bail. On 30 November 2021, “the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court granted her bail on charges relating to the 19 – 20 September 2020 protest and the 2 December 2020 protest at the Lat Phrao Intersection.” During her bail hearing, “Panusaya told the court that she is still enrolled at the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University, and is required to complete class projects and take her final examinations between 2 – 17 December 2021. She also said that in the next semester, she will have to complete an independent research project in order to graduate…”. She had been held for 17 days.

The Criminal Court granted bail on strict conditions and for a limited period:

… on the grounds that her education has been damaged by her detention, and set the conditions that she must not leave her residence without court permission unless for a medical emergency, to go to classes or take exams, or to contact the courts.

She is also prohibited from participating in activities that are damaging to the monarchy or cause public disorder and from leaving the country. She must also wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

The Criminal Court’s temporary release order is also only valid until 12 January, coinciding with the final exam period at Thammasat University.

This was a coordinated effort by several courts:

Today (1 December), the South Bangkok Criminal Court granted her bail on charges relating to the 20 December 2020 crop top protest at Siam Paragon, while the Ayutthaya Provincial Court granted her bail on charges relating to the 21 August 2020 protest in Ayutthaya. Both courts also set her the same conditions as the Criminal Court.

Five other activists remain in the regime’s dungeons, denied bail.





Updated: Toxic turncoats and the barking mad

23 11 2021

Suporn Atthawong, now known as Seksakol, an assistant minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, wants Amnesty International banned in Thailand and expelled from the country.

Suporn/Seksakol is a former red shirt who seems – no one is saying – flipped to the military junta to escape a string of charges his one-time opponents brought against him, including terrorism and lese majeste. Remarkably, by mid-2018, Suporn had pledged himself to support of the post-2014 coup regime’s concocted political party and, following the junta’s rigged 2019 election, to the ongoing premiership of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. For working to deliver red shirts to the regime’s party, the quisling was rewarded by being made a deputy minister. He now works as a loyalist assistant to Prayuth, the man who had some of those charges brought against him.

The quisling has been supported by Anon Saennan, described as “the ex-leader of the protest group Red-Shirt Villages of Thailand but still a member, said the group will launch a campaign to pressure the group [Amnesty International] to stop operating in the kingdom.”

Interestingly, Amnesty International had a terrible record on lese majeste when its “representative” in Bangkok was Benjamin Zawacki. He spent a lot of energy arguing that the reign of the dead king promoted human rights. He seemed to hold sway and AI received fierce criticism. More of less until Zawacki departed AI in 2012, AI tended to neglect and downplay lese majeste, including the conditions of those imprisoned on the charge. Since then, it has gradually rehabilitated itself and taken a firm stand on human rights in Thailand.

That seems to be the issue for the execrable Suporn (or whatever name he now uses). Getting up his nose – and his bosses – seems to be AI’s criticism’s of the regime’s “treatment of political protesters on several occasions, the latest of which followed the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the actions of anti-government protesters Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.”

Anon and other rightists-for-hire babble that AI “is turning a blind eye to the protesters’ lack of respect for the higher institution, a reference to the monarchy.”

It seems that mad monarchists have come to see the king as having his rights infringed even when he’s in Germany.

Update: A reader rightly says that we should have made it clear that the focus of the mad monarchist turncoats is AI Thailand. That reader also pointed out that Zawacki was a researcher for AI in its international version. That’s also true, so we made representative read “representative” above. That said, we maintain that Zawacki was seen by many, including in the media, as speaking for AI and represented it in meetings. At the time, we posted several times on Zawacki and AI.





Arbitrary detention of Panusaya

20 11 2021

From the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH):

Thailand: Arbitrary detention of Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul
Urgent Appeal
Human Rights Defenders
THA 004 / 1121 / OBS 120
Arbitrary detention / Judicial harassment
Thailand
November 18, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, aka Rung, a student and prominent pro-democracy activist with the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) [1].

On November 15, 2021, the Bangkok South Criminal Court denied bail to Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and ordered her detention in relation to charges under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”) [2] . These charges stem from her participation in a peaceful protest by a small group of activists who called for the repeal of Article 112 on December 20, 2020, at Siam Paragon shopping mall in Bangkok. Authorities accused Ms. Panusaya and the other activists of mocking King Rama X by wearing a crop top. [3]

The Bangkok South Criminal Court justified its decision to deny bail to Ms. Panusaya by arguing that the defendant had committed similar offenses and violated the conditions previously set by the Bangkok Criminal Court for her temporary release on May 6, 2021 [see below]. Ms. Panusaya is currently facing at least nine lèse-majesté charges, and could face 135 years in prison, if tried and found guilty in all cases. Ms. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul is currently detained at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul is arbitrarily detained for her legitimate human rights activities. On October 15, 2020, Ms. Panusaya was arrested and detained for 16 days after reading a 10-point manifesto calling for monarchy reform at a pro-democracy protest on August 10, 2020, at Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus in Pathumthani Province.

Ms. Panusaya was again detained from March 8 to May 6, 2021, in relation to another lèse-majesté case filed against her for calling for the reform of the Thai monarchy during a peaceful pro-democracy protest on September 19-20, 2020, in Bangkok. During that period of detention she was denied bail numerous times until she was granted temporary release by the Bangkok Criminal Court.

The Observatory underlines that the ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Panusaya and other human rights defenders in Thailand contradicted recent statements and commitments made by the Thai government. During the latest Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Thailand, which took place on November 10, 2021, the Thai government claimed that “human rights defenders have been highlighted as a specific group that needs appropriate protection” and that it “worked to create better understanding about the important role of human rights defenders.” The government accepted five recommendations that called for measures to guarantee civil society space, the protection of human rights defenders, and investigations into acts of harassment and attacks against them.

The Observatory also notes that between November 24, 2020, and November 16, 2021, 156 people, including many human rights defenders, were charged under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. In addition to Ms. Panusaya, five other human rights defenders – Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa and Benja Apan- are currently detained on lèse-majesté charges pending trial.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Benja Apan, Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa,which seem to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities and the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.

The Observatory calls on the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the six human rights defenders and to put an end to the judicial harassment against them and all other human rights defenders in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and all human rights defenders in Thailand, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Benja Apan, Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa,since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Benja Apan, Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa, and all other human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists in the country;

iv. Guarantee in all circumstances the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

v. Refrain from using Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists and amend all provisions of the Criminal Code used to repress fundamental rights and freedoms, and bring them into line with international human rights standards.

Addresses:

· Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Email: spmwebsite@thaigov.go.th
· Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Email: minister@mfa.go.th
· Mr. Somsak Thepsutin, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Email: complainingcenter@moj.go.th
· General Narongpan Jitkaewthae, Commander in Chief of the Army, Email: webadmin@rta.mi.th
· Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, Commissioner-General of the Police, Email: info@royalthaipolice.go.th
· Ms. Pornprapai Ganjanarinte, National Human Rights Commissioner of Thailand, Email: help@nhrc.or.th, info@nhrc.co.th
· H.E. Mr. Sek Wannamethee, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: thaimission.GVA@mfa.mail.go.th
· Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Email: thaibxl@thaiembassy.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Thailand in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, November 18, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

Footnotes
[1] The United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) is a student pro-democracy group from Bangkok’s Thammasat University, which was formed amid the wave of nationwide student-led pro-democracy demonstrations that began in Thailand in February 2020. Since then, UFTD has played a key role in organising pro-democracy protests and continued to make open criticism of the monarchy and calls for the reform of the institution.
[2] Article 112 of the Criminal Code imposes jail terms for those who defame, insult, or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent. Persons found guilty of violating Article 112 face prison terms of three to 15 years for each count.
[3] In July 2016, photos were circulated online of then-Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn appearing to wear a crop top in a shopping mall in Germany.





Updated: Rung jailed

16 11 2021

As we posted recently, the Constitutional Court’s absurd ruling made it clear where Thailand is heading: down the royalist rathole.

And so it begins….

The Bangkok Post reports that the “Criminal Court on Monday denied bail for Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul on a lese majeste case involving her crop top outfit.” She had, with others, shown up on 20 December 2020, in front of the royally-connected Siam Paragon shopping center, in front of the Sirivannavari shop, owned by the king’s second daughter. In crop tops, the protesters held signs attacking the lese majeste law.

Not Rung, but the fellow in Germany

The result was a lese majeste charge, apparently for the crop top.

The court immediately denied bail, saying Rung “had repeatedly committed similar offences since she and four others were indicted by public prosecutors on June 29.” It claimed she had “violated the conditions set by the court in other cases…”.

She was sent to the Central Women’s Correctional Institution for detention.

We expect further efforts to lock up protesters.

Update: Prachatai has a detailed report on Rung’s case.





Further updated: Absurd court reaffirms its royalist credentials

11 11 2021

Section 49 of the junta’s constitution states:

No person shall exercise the rights or liberties to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.

Any person who has knowledge of an act under paragraph one shall have the right to petition to the Attorney-General to request the Constitutional Court for ordering
the cessation of such act.

In the case where the Attorney-General orders a refusal to proceed as petitioned or fails to proceed within fifteen days as from the date of receiving the petition, the person making the petition may submit the petition directly to the Constitutional Court.

The action under this section shall not prejudice the criminal prosecution against the person committing an act under paragraph one.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

The Constitutional Court surprised no one yesterday with its absurd decision that those calling for reform of the monarchy were seeking to overthrow the political system and the monarchy. Its ruling, following the first paragraph above, was all the more bizarre given that many of the reforms were a call for the status quo ante of the previous reign and of the post-1932 regime.

The Court ruled on a petition from Natthaporn Toprayoon, a former advisor to the ombudsman, who prompted the court to rule on whether “public statements, made by leaders of anti-establishment groups concerning the monarchy at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on August 10th last year, amount to an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.”

Clipped from Prachatai

Even among the deranged among royalists, Natthaporn stands out as quite mad. His earlier efforts with the Constitutional Court in 2019 involved a bizarre claim that the Future Forward Party was attempting to overthrow the same “democratic regime with the king as the head of state” under the very same Section 49. The lame lawyer claimed, among many odd things, that party members were “anti-monarchy and anti-religion, is that they are part of the Illuminati.” In other words, the FFP was a part of a (fictitious) global anti-monarchist conspiracy. Many mad monarchists believed this rubbish. That action failed, so he took the same nonsense to the Election Commission, claiming an “alleged violation of the Political Party Act.”

This time, the Constitutional Court, by majority (8-1) decision:

ruled that the calls for monarchy reform and monarchy-related activities organized by Anon Nampa, Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Panupong Jadnok and associated organizations were, are and will be abuse of constitutional rights and liberties as they are intended to ‘overthrow’ the democratic form of government with the King as Head of State.

Remarkably, the court determined “hidden” intentions and “inferred” meanings:

The Court ruled that Anon’s speech and Panussaya’s statement at the 10 August 2020 protest, and their participation in the protests afterward and other symbolic actions have the hidden intention of overthrowing the regime, which would cause public disorder and unrest in society….

The word ‘overthrow’ can be inferred from actions that cause a serious threat to the constitution and regime in a decisive and irreversible manner that completely obliterates them.

The court considered the demand for the repeal of Section 6 of the constitution “which guarantees the monarch’s authority, as Head of State, which no one can accuse or violate is an explicit act with an intent to annihilate the monarchy.”

Rather, the demand was:

Abolish Article 6 of the constitution, which dictates that no one can make legal complaints about the king. Add an article to give the parliament power to perform checks and balances on the king, similar to the Khana Rasadon’s constitution.

This is a call to reform and a return to a previous status quo. As an op-ed at Thai Enquirer states: “If you carefully listen, what they are asking for is the modernization of the royal institution so that it can continue to peacefully exist along with the development of a democratic system.”

And the court objected to the tone of speeches:

To demand such changes and make such attacks in public, by claiming that it is an exercise of rights and freedoms according to the Constitution, not only is bad conduct, with rude words spoken, but also violates the rights and freedoms of other people who think differently….

For good measure, the court trotted out the palace and military propaganda line on the role of the monarchy in Thailand’s history. Essentially they accused the reform movement of being offensive to (ruling class) Thai culture.

The court also ordered the three respondents and others to end their movement: “The three respondents, other organisations and networks must cease their actions…”.

The ruling carried no penalty for the three respondents but it potentially unleashes a cascade of royalist repression and cases for the royalist courts that, the regime and palace appear convinced will be the end of the monarchy reform movement.

It is worth noting that, like the hurried and politicized dissolution of several parties in the 2008 judicial coup, the court dispensed with witnesses. As Prachatai explains:

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) stated that, despite a request by lawyers for the three activists for them to be summoned for an inquiry along with several other witnesses to give them the opportunity to defend themselves, the ruling was made without examining witnesses and based only on the complaint itself, the objection to the complaint, and documents that the Court requested from the Office of the Attorney General, Khlong Luang Police Station, the Royal Thai Police, the National Security Office, the National Intelligence Agency, and Thammasat University.

The Court then ordered the inquiry concluded, claiming that it has enough evidence to issue a ruling.

TLHR also said that, in addition to the three activists themselves, they had requested that several academics be summoned as witnesses. They had planned to summon historians Nithi Eoseewong and Charnvit Kasetsiri to testify on Thai political history, and legal scholar Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang to argue that the activists’ actions do not qualify as using their rights and liberties to overthrow the democratic regime with the monarch as Head of State.

They also planned to summon writer Sulak Sivarak to speak about the role of the monarchy in Thai politics and President of the 1997 Constitution Drafting Assembly Uthai Pimchaichon to speak on the intention of Section 49 of the Thai Constitution, which is modelled after the same section in the 1997 Constitution.

None of the aforementioned witnesses were given a chance to testify.

On the ruling, Natthaporn gloated: “The ruling today is a starter, that peace will finally be returned to society…”. He claimed the ruling bans all activities that might be construed to threaten the monarchy. His next target is the Move Forward Party: “He said the court’s decision would lead to the Election Commission deciding whether to move for the disbandment of the Move Forward Party. Mr Natthaporn claims the party supported the protests.”

In an interview cited by Prachatai, academic lawyer and former FFP member Piyabutr Saengkanokkul saw three impacts from the ruling:

Firstly, the ruling’s broad interpretation of the law has closed the door for those who want to reform the monarchy.

Secondly, the ruling prohibits many acts, both those which have been done and those not done. This will allow those who oppose proposals for monarchy reform to flood the courts with petitions similar to the one today. Civil society organizations and political parties that rally for the amendment or abolition of the royal defamation law might be affected by this.

Thirdly, this order to gag people will not bring about reconciliation between those who think differently. It will exacerbate tensions between the old and the new generations who have different ideas about the monarchy.

“If you don’t want to enter the red zone, then don’t do it. Don’t speak. Don’t touch. Don’t do anything. Then, you will be in the safe zone. Your party won’t be disbanded. Your MPs can stay. Criminal charges won’t touch you. In public rallies, you mustn’t speak about this. Just talk about ousting Prayut. Don’t speak about these [monarchy] issues and you will be safe.”

Indeed, this decision will, despite the wording of Section 49, will be used to lock up protest leaders and it will provide justification for a regime purge of those it can now say are anti-monarchists.

Finally in this absurdist “legal” world of the country’s protectors of the status quo, we must go back to the Thai Enquirer and its comments:

Asking for the amendment of the lese-majeste law is not treasonous in any way. Overthrowing an elected government by a military coup like what General Prayut Chan-ocha and his friends did in 2014 was.

It was also unconstitutional and unlawful. But the courts have regularly sanctioned military coups. The op-ed lists other unlawful acts sanctioned by courts:

Jailing and persecuting elected parliamentarians….

Arresting, cracking down, violently using force against unarmed protesters….

Shutting down public debate, installing an unelected senate, using the judiciary to go after dissidents….

Abducting and murdering political activists….

The op-ed concludes:

The verdict was almost like the final nail in the coffin of space for fair discussions in our society. And it was perpetrated by the same court system that has done nothing for the last six years but carry out the junta’s whim and reinforce the junta’s rule.

Update 1: Usefully, Prachatai has provided a translation of the Constitutional Court’s decision. Read it in all its bizarre detail.

Update 2:The Constitutional Court has defended not hearing evidence, saying it was too late and that the investigation was complete. Interestingly, in its decision, the court does not refer to any evidence that was not from the complainant or an official security agency.





Updated: Anti-112

1 11 2021

Readers will probably be aware of Sunday’s anti-112 protest. Prachatai has a useful recounting and some excellent photos. The Ratsadon protest group brought people together “at the Ratchaprasong Intersection to demand that the royal defamation [lese majeste] law be abolished and those held for violating it be freed.” They began collecting signatures for 112 reform.

Clipped from Prachatai

Protest speakers presented critiques of the Article 112. Among others, Supitcha Chailom, a student activist, spoke. She:

charged under Section 112, also gave a speech at Ratchaprasong Intersection. She said Section 112 is being used by the state to harass and stoke fear among the people to keep them from criticising the monarchy and calling for monarchy reform. In the recent past, people have been charged for questioning the Kingdom’s vaccination rollout, mocking the royal dog, and even reciting part of a poem.

At the end of the protest, stuent activist Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, who herself has been hit with multiple 112 charges, read a statement from the Ratsadon group:

“The ten demands to reform the monarchy proposed on 10 August 2020 were meant to fundamentally address political deadlocks in Thailand and raise questions about cults of personality. These demands were made to see Thailand become a constitutional monarchy, a characteristic of which is that the throne is under the law and subject to bonafide public scrutiny like any other institution in a democratic system…”

“We, the People’s Party (Khana Ratsadon) for the Repeal of #112, will work with all groups, all sectors, all organisations and all individuals in society to repeal the law and assure the right to bail for political prisoners. We have a dream that Thai society will be prosperous under a genuine democracy, under liberté, égalité, and fraternité,” the statement said.

After reading the statement, Panusaya “cut her wrist, making a wound of 112 figure and a cross line on it, underlining their demand for the law abolition.”

As expected, the regime’s poodles, the police, promised more charges against those who rallied.

Before the event at Ratchaprasong, a froup of people gathered at the “Uncle Nuamthong Pedestrian Bridge” on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road to remember Nuamthong Praiwan who committed suicide there.

Before his suicide, he had crashed his taxi into a military tank to protest the 2006 military coup.

Update: See these for accounts of the protest and one result:

 





Never ending “emergency”

30 10 2021

On Friday, “[s]tudent activists Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Seksit Yaemsanguansak filed a lawsuit with the Civil Court … against the Prime Minister and the military commander-in-chief to repeal emergency decree order 15 on the grounds that the ban on public gatherings unlawfully limits people’s rights and freedoms.”

The petitioners rightly state that “the ban, which was ostensibly imposed to prohibit unnecessary gatherings that risk the spread of disease during the pandemic, has been used instead to limit freedom of expression and assembly.”

Hundreds have been charged.

Panusaya observed that:

while the Emergency Decree has been repeatedly used to end pro-democracy protests, pro-establishment groups have been allowed to hold their gatherings without interference from the authorities. She noted that although pro-democracy protesters have always been peaceful, their protests have been blocked by means such as razor wire and shipping containers, which are not listed as part of the legal protocol.

“The country is reopening in three days. Why are you still prohibiting us from gathering? If you reopen the country, there will be gatherings all over the country. People will come out to live their lives normally, so we think that there is no reason to continue banning gatherings,” Panusaya said.

The activists petitioned the court to “impose a temporary injunction suspending the ban ahead of the protest this Sunday, 31 October, at the Ratchaprasong Intersection.” The court, however, quickly dismissed the request “on the ground that the 31 October protest still risk spreading disease and the order is still needed to prevent the spread of Covid-19…”. Nothing else could really be expected of the regime’s courts.

At about the same time, in the Royal Gazette, the regime “issued a fresh order banning rallies and activities deemed at risk of spreading Covid-19 across the country ahead of the kingdom’s upcoming reopening to international travellers.” The order takes effect on Monday and “was issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree and signed by Gen Chalermpol Srisawat, chief of defence forces, in his capacity as the person responsible for solving security emergencies.”

Tourism trumps freedom of expression.

We at PPT have lost track of how long the regime has been operating with emergency powers, but it seems that it has been pretty much since it seized power in 2014. Since then, the country has been defined as in a state of emergency so that the regime can bolster its position and repress political activists.





Abolish 112

26 10 2021

Between July 2020 and September 2021, “at least 1,458 people are now facing charges for participating in pro-democracy protests…”. Further, “at least 145 people are facing [lese majeste] charges…” [but see below]. In addition, “[a]t least 111 people are facing sedition charges under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code, while at least 1,171 people are facing charges for violating the Emergency Decree.” And, a handful continue to face charges under Article 110, accused of trying to harm the queen.

Clipped from the linked report

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights report that, “as of 14 October, 23 people are currently in detention for participating in protests: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Anon Nampa, Huad, Thawee Thiangwiset, Chitipat, Chakri, Panupong Jadnok, Nat, Nawapol Tonngam, Wachirawit Limthanawong, Pawaris Yaemying, Paitoon, Suksan, Naruebet, Pichai, Jittakorn, Tha, Sith, Thu, Benja Apan, Kachen, and Kajornsak.”

The Citizens for the Abolition of 112 has been organized to seek people’s signatures to support the abolition of Article 112. Their campaign begins on 31 October, with a press briefing held on 24 October in front of the Supreme Court.

Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul “said the group aimed to abolish Section 112 of the Criminal Code, generally amend the laws regarding defamation and slander, and abolish prison sentences for defamation.” She said:

On Sunday 31 October 2021, I ask everyone to gather at Ratchaprasong intersection. The activity will run from 16.00 to 21.00. If we succeed in gathering signatures this time, what will happen is that the Section 112 will be abolished. The defamation law system will be completely amended, with only fines instead of prison sentences…. This is the mission that all Thai people must carry out together….

The group says “that at least 151 people have been charged with Section 112 between November 2020 and 19 October 2021 for their actions and online statements.” Remarkably, Parit faces at least 21 charges. If found guilty on all charges and given the maximum sentence, Parit will go to jail for 315 years.

It pointed out the obvious: “The existence of Section 112 is like a threat to the rights and liberties of the people…”. It added that 112 “distorts the judicial system. … It makes the authorities choose to limit their role in protecting the rights of suspects such as the right to bail and the right to an open and fair trial…”.








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