Updated: Failed, failures, and lies

14 05 2021

It is reported that yet another anti-government political prisoners has the virus. According to lawyer Noraset Nanongtoom, his client Panupong Jadnok has tested positive while in prison.

Panupong has been refused bail several times since being detained on 8 March 2021for lese majeste and other charges resulting from an anti-government/anti-monarchy rally on 19-20 September 2020.

And, he’s only one among thousands who are now infected in a hopelessly underfunded and overcrowded prison system.

After activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul was bailed and revealed she had contracted the virus in prison, Corrections Department director-general Aryut Sinthoppan was forced to finally confirm that there were 2,835 infections in two Bangkok prisons.

This is information that was apparently being kept secret! We say this because the department has previously declared it had “stringent health screening measures in prisons.” It said this when activist Chukiat Saengwong got the virus in detention.

At that time, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin said that “five field hospitals in the grounds of Klong Prem would have a total of 500 beds. They would treat new inmates who tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival at any of seven prisons.” He was fudging. Prisons already had virus infections, with one report of infections in a northern prison.

Now it turns out that “1,795 prisoners at Bangkok Remand Prison and 1,040 at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution to be infected with the coronavirus.” According to the Corrections Department, there were 3,238 prisoners at the Bangkok Remand Prison as of May 5 and 4,518 at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution. To save readers the math, that is over 24% at the former and over 23% at the latter.

Director-general Aryut has made the quite ludicrous statement that “he considered the number of infected inmates to be small when compared to the number of infections throughout the country.” He’s either mad or seeking to cover-up. Impunity should not be permitted in his case. He’s failed and should go.

Update: And, now, the lies.

Lie no. 1: “The Corrections Department admits that the Covid-19 outbreak in prisons is worrying, but insists it can bring the situation under control.” With a quarter of inmates infected, this seems like a lie to us, especially when a boss there states “the Medical Correctional Institution may not have enough medical personnel and equipment to deal with so many cases.”

Lie no. 2: Deputy director-general Weerakit Harnpariphan “denied a report that protest leader Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul, who was released recently, caught Covid-19 in prison. A test on April 23 confirmed she was free of the disease…”. She was released on 6 May. Another report states that from 23 April to 5 May, Rung was in “quarantine.” Weerakit adds that “Panusaya did not go outside the prison or engage in any activities before her release on May 6th.” In other words, she got it in prison.

Further updated: “Justice” kills

6 05 2021

There’s increasing concern about hunger strikers and political prisoners Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, including well-meaning calls from some for them to not die when seeking justice.

Sadly, it is becoming clear that the regime is callous and savage. More, we know that the king has a say in whether the lese majeste is used or not. We also know that he is savage in dealing with those he thinks have been disrespectful – look at how he has treated his various wives and Vajiralongkorn’s mad and furious tone in his official declarations when he sacks people.

It gets worse. It is now confirmed that another political prisoner, Arnon Nampa, has fallen ill with the Covid virus “and been moved for medical treatment” at the Medical Correctional Institution. The virus appears to be infecting many inmates and may be out of control.

Coronation 1

Arnon is the second political prisoner to have contracted the virus while incarcerated. The first was Chukiat “Justin” Saengwong.

All prisoners are now under threat, but that these political prisoners are at risk is yet another example of the politicization and monarchization of the (in)justice system. After all, the junta’s constitution states at Article 29:

A suspect or defendant in a criminal case shall be presumed innocent, and before the passing of a final judgment convicting a person of having committed an offence, such person shall not be treated as a convict.

In lese majeste cases, there is a presumption of guilt.

The question must be asked again and again: why is that these activists are not receiving justice? What is it or who is it preventing justice? WHo is it who doesn not care if they die? Who is it that relishes this savage and feudal treatment of young Thais?

No wonder hundreds of thousands of young Thais have joined a Facebook group that displays their dismay and that they have lost faith in many of the country’s institutions.

The military, the mafia regime, and the monarchy are destroying the country while they and their friends eat it.

Update1 : Some good news: “The Criminal Court has approved bail for the temporary release of Rassadon co-leader Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul on condition that she must not get involved in activities deemed to dishonour the monarchy.” Who knows what the latter condition means.In addition, “she must not join any activity that may cause unrest in the country, leave the country without permission and must report to the court as scheduled.”

The court appeared unable to make a decision without getting advice-cum-orders from on high: “After an inquiry into her bail request on Thursday morning, the court first scheduled handing down the decision at 3pm but later rescheduled it twice to 4pm and 5pm.” We take that delay as confirmation that the court gets it order from the regime and/or the palace.

Update 2: Despite the virus outbreak in prisons and at least two political prisoners already infected, Parit Chiwarak has been transferred “from Ramathibodi Hospital back to prison … after his health improved.” The danger to him is made clear by the courts themselves, which refuse to hear these defendants for fear of the virus. Parit’s court appearance, and that for Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, have been postponed “because the two defendants will not complete their 14-day quarantine until tomorrow. Prison officials said both have to be screened again, to make sure they are clear of the virus, before they will be allowed to attend the hearing.” This amounts to protecting judges and other officials – which is reasonable – but keeping political prisoners in dangerous conditions.

Callous and savage

30 04 2021

While not unexpected, the report by Prachatai that the Criminal Court has again denied bail for seven activists detained on lese majeste charges is to be lamented as yet another demonstration that the judicial system is deeply flawed.

These political prisoners are Panupong Jadnok, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, Arnon Nampa, Chukiat Saengwong and Parinya Cheewinkulpahtom.

Penguin and Rung

Clipped from The Nation

Parit has now been detained for more than 80 days. He remains on a partial hunger strike that began some 45 days ago to protest the injustice of the system and the denial of bail for detained activists.

Lawyer Kritsadang Nutcharat of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said:

…one of the reasons for requesting bail is concern over the spread of Covid-19 in prisons, because even the court is concerned that the virus will spread among court officials. He also said that there is no more reason to keep the activists in detention, and that it would be acceptable if the court set a condition related with their trial. He also mentioned that the court previously granted bail for activists Jatupat Boonpattaraksa and Somyot Pruksakasemsuk.

Kritsadang expressed considerable concern for Penguin and “also requested that the court allow Parit to be taken to Rama 9 Hospital for 30 days, because the hospital is better equipped than the Medical Correctional Institution…”.

The court demonstrated its inhumanity by dismissing the request. It is as though the courts take their orders from savage and vindictive higher-ups.

Kritsadang revealed that:

he visited Parit on 28 April and spoke to him through teleconference. During the visit, Parit told Kritsadang that he has not been able to sleep, his skin is dry, and that he suffers from nausea and fatigue. Blood was also found in his stools, but he has not been sent to the Medical Correctional Institution to have his condition assessed.

The court exhibited a callous disregard for the detainee’s health.

Meanwhile the “Department of Corrections has denied that Parit’s condition has worsened…”.

The ruling to deny bail was “signed by judge Tawan Rodcharoen. Judge Tawan delivered the verdict in the Joe Gordon lèse majesté case in 2011.” Joe had repeated bail requests denied. When he finally agreed to plead guilty and he was sentenced to 5 years.

The Bangkok Post reports that the Corrections Department has said that Parit is “physically well.” It quotes Department deputy director-general Thawatchai Chaiwat from Thursday, stating that “Parit could talk and was well and conscious. He was tired and had dry lips, but was not dizzy.” Thawatchai added that Panusaya who is also rejecting “food and took only drinking water, minerals, juice and milk,” is also “well, conscious, looked normal, talked understandably and was able to do her routines…”.

The lie in this is demonstrated. Parit is now hospitalized. The very same Corrections Department now states that Parit “was admitted over concerns he could go into shock if his condition worsened and require specialised care.”

TLHR warns that both Parit and Panusaya “are in deteriorating health…”.

Parit faces 20 lese majeste charges “which could result in a sentence of 300 years.” Meanwhile, “Panusaya faces nine cases under the law, which could lead to a 135-year sentence if convicted.”

Free Penguin and Rung

26 04 2021

Tyrell Haberkorn and Thongchai Winichakul of the University of Wisconsin-Madison have a call for the release on bail of political prisoners Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul. It is at NikkeiAsia. Read it in full.

Clipped from The Nation

The two have “gone on hunger strike while being detained ahead of their trials in late May for alleged lese-majeste. The pair are refusing nourishment to protest the denial of their right to bail.”

Penguin began his partial hunger strike on 15 March 15 and Rung joined him 15 days later: “The risk to their health grows with each passing day.”

The authors note:

…these activists have not actually insulted, defamed, or threatened the monarchy. Instead, they have dared to call for an open and frank discussion on the place of the monarchy in Thailand — particularly with respect to its relationship with the law, the judiciary, the military and its assets.

Parit faces at least 20 counts of violating Article 112, and Panusaya at least nine. Their sentences for speeches at peaceful protests and social media posts could break records — evidence how afraid the state and the palace are of such discussions.

They point out that the “right to bail is guaranteed under Thai law and by Thailand’s international human rights obligations, but it is routinely denied in Article 112 cases on the grounds of national security and the fact that the harsh penalty makes flight more likely.” By denying bail, they say,the regime “has effectively shut down the protest movement, and instilled fear in those who dare to dissent.” And, authoritarianism deepens.

They conclude:

As each application for bail is denied, it becomes more evident that preventing citizens from openly discussing the monarchy and its role in the Thai polity are to the authorities more important than the lives of citizens. Parit, Panusaya and all the other political detainees must have their bail rights restored.

HRW on continuing detentions

21 04 2021

Human Rights WatchHuman Rights Watch has released a statement on the continuing detention of political activists. We reproduce it in full, including with links HRW had embedded:

(New York) – Thai authorities should immediately release pro-democracy activists detained on charges of insulting the monarchy, Human Rights Watch said today. Prominent Thammasat University students Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul have been on hunger strike to protest their pre-trial detention, for 35 days and 21 days respectively.

The charges against Parit, Panusaya, and others should be dropped for violating their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Until then, bail should be provided for all those detained under the lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) law. Hunger strikers should be transferred to a hospital for medical supervision.

“Thai authorities should immediately drop the cases against Parit, Panusaya, and others unjustly charged for their peaceful pro-democracy protests, but at a minimum they should be released on bail,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Holding activists in detention prior to trial and conviction, which could be years away, seems aimed to unfairly punish them rather than fulfill a legitimate state interest.”

On March 8, 2021, the Bangkok Criminal Court ordered Panusaya, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, and Panupong Jadnok into pre-trial detention on lese majeste charges connected to the speeches they made demanding reforms of the monarchy during a rally on September 19, 2020. The cases follow the court’s February 9 decision to order four other prominent democracy activists – Parit, Arnon Nampha, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, and Patiwat Saraiyaem – into pre-trial detention on similar charges.

Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code makes lese majeste punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The activists were also charged with sedition under Criminal Code article 116, which carries a maximum 7-year sentence. These cases are just the latest in which Thai activists charged with lese majeste have been detained for lengthy periods that could go on for years until their trial is concluded, Human Rights Watch said.

Except for Patiwat, who gave a statement in court on March 29 that he would no longer participate in rallies and other political activities or make public comments about the monarchy, the court has repeatedly denied the activists’ bail requests, saying they are likely to commit the alleged offenses again if released.

Holding those charged with lese majeste in pretrial detention violates their rights under international human rights law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified, encourages bail for criminal suspects. Article 9 states that, “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.” Those whose charges have not been dropped should be tried without undue delay, Human Rights Watch said.

The number of lese majeste cases in Thailand has significantly increased in the past year, Human Rights Watch said. After almost a three-year hiatus in which lese majeste prosecutions were not brought before the courts, Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, in November, ordered the authorities to restore lese majeste prosecutions, ostensibly because of growing criticisms of the monarchy. Since then, officials have charged at least 82 people with lese majeste crimes in relation to various activities at pro-democracy rallies or comments on social media.

In a February 8 statement on the situation in Thailand, United Nations human rights experts said that lese majeste laws have “no place in a democratic country.” They also expressed serious concerns about the growing number of lese majeste prosecutions and harsh prison sentences the courts have meted out to some defendants. On January 19, a retired civil servant, Anchan Preelert, received an 87-year prison sentence, later halved after she pleaded guilty.

The ICCPR protects the right to freedom of expression. General Comment 34 of the Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors compliance with the covenant, states that laws such as those for lese majeste “should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person that may have been impugned” and that governments “should not prohibit criticism of institutions.”

“The Thai government should stop this witch hunt against peaceful dissenters and demonstrate respect for human rights by permitting all viewpoints,” Adams said. “The government should engage with United Nations experts and others about amending the lese majeste law to bring it into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations.”

Penguin to Rung

20 04 2021

In October 2020, Penguin (Parit Chiwarak) wrote a poem for Rung (Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, whose name means Rainbow). Penguin and Rung were in jail at the time, and both are now in jail again, each on a dangerous hunger strike. Penguin wrote several striking poems from prison, evoking Jit Phumisak, a progressive-cum-communist revolutionary who also wrote at least one poem from prison and who died young, killed by the Army. Ann Norman translated Penguin’s first poem:

A Message from Penguin
Penguin and Rung

Clipped from The Nation

แด่รุ้ง และเพื่อนผู้ต้องขังทางการเมืองทุกคน
To Rung, and all of my political prisoner friends
The sky is bitter, the night is cold
Shivering to the bone
A gust of wind blows
ละอองฝน กระเซ็นสาย
mists of raindrops
Watch the moon, it’s a setting moon
Look at the stars, their sparkling faint and muted
This night is so lonesome
ในกรงขัง อันวังเวง
In a lonely cell
Lend an ear and hear the sound
It’s not the music of a song
It’s a string of words making music
in the dark night, proclaiming and calling out
What beats is thunder
ใช่เสียงกลอง ย่ำโมงกาล
Not the sound of a drum [telling] the evening hour
ที่ดัง แว่วกังวาล
What loudly resounds in the distance
ใช่กระดิ่ง คือโซ่ตรวน
is not a bell but the sound of a chain
The whistling sound
is not not a flute but the moaning wind
What calls out [in an ancient musical style] and croons,
It’s the cries of the people
The sound of impoverished people
Heard from every place
A song of suffering plays and circulates
Loud and tumultuous, not dying out
This night is certainly difficult
As if the mind was separated from the body
Your humanity melts away
The storm rages
You may be scared
When the sky rumbles and rushes in
If the sky that swoops down
is going to measure the size of your heart
Steel that is good and strong
Must be struck and go through fire
Bold people more than anyone
Must pass dangers, the heart therefore endures
Where there is struggle, there is pain
And shivering sometimes
But for the people
[one] must suffer and bear it
For a reputation/dignity that is secure and certain
We must boldly give a mocking smile
A hundred thousand guns, all ten thousands obstacles
ฤ จะสู้เพียงหนึ่งใจ
We fight only with one heart
In standing fast in [one’s] faith
Bravely enduring on the long path
no cruel power of any kind
may force [us] to bow [our] heads
Even though the rain pounds
[you] must raise your head, don’t be afraid and cower
Let everyone everywhere know
That the New Sky is inching closer
Until the day that the rays of light shine
Bright and beautiful throughout the whole sky
All the people on the land, then
Will rumble drums, mightily
That day is tomorrow
We will see A Rainbow glittering far [across the place]
The masses will have victory
And be most important on the land
เพนกวิน พริษฐ์ ชิวารักษ์
Penguin Parit Chiwarak
ผู้ต้องขังทางการเมือง ณ เรือนจำพิเศษกรุงเทพ
Political prisoner at Bangkok Remand Prison
29 ต.ค. 2563
October 29, 2020

A letter from Rung

17 04 2021

PPT posts a translation of a Facebook post from Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, held without bail on lese majeste and other charges. She is currently refusing some food in protest at being refused bail. The letter is translated by Ann Norman

To Everyone,Rung

เราเข้าใจทุกคนนะ เข้าใจมากๆนะ ทั้งคนที่อยากให้เรากลับมากินข้าวได้แล้วและคนที่ส่งกำลังใจให้ เรายังโอเคนะ ความดันอะไรก็ยังปกติดี เราขอบคุณและเราดีใจที่ทุกคนไม่ลืมเรา
I understand you all, I really understand, both the people who want me to be able to go back to eating and the people sending their moral support. I am still OK. Whatever the pressures, [it’s] still normal. I am thankful and happy that you all haven’t forgotten me.

แต่เราไม่อยากให้ทุกคนลืมเหมือนกันว่าเราทำเพราะอะไร ตอนแรกเราไม่อยากทำแบบนี้หรอกเราเคยคุยกับเพนกวินว่า เราไม่ทำนะ เราอาจจะไม่ไหว แต่เพนกวินมันแน่วแน่มากว่ามันต้องทำเพื่อประท้วงกระบวนการที่ไม่ยุติธรรมกับเราและสื่อสารถึงทุกคน รวมถึงมนุษย์ผู้มีอำนาจด้วยว่า การจองจำเราไว้แบบนี้มันเป็นเรื่องที่โหดร้ายและทารุณ
But I also don’t want you all to forget what I’m doing this for. At first I didn’t want to do like this at all. I spoke with Penguin saying, “I won’t do it. I might not be able to take it.” But Penguin was more resolute saying it must be done to protest the injustice of the procedures with regard to us and to convey the message to everyone, including the people with the power, that our being detention like this is cruel and inhumane.

เราสองคนเป็นแค่นักศึกษาปีสามและปีสี่ เราแค่ออกมาพูดให้ทุกคนได้ยินว่าเราคิดอะไรอยู่และมีความคาดหวังต่อประเทศนี้ยังไงบ้างเรา แค่อยากให้เกิดการพัฒนาไปในทางที่ดีและการเปลี่ยนแปลงบางอย่างอย่างเหมาะสม แต่สุดท้ายคุณก็เอา 112 มาใช้กับเรา และไม่ใช่แค่กับเรา แต่รวมตั้งแต่วัยแก่ยันเด็ก เด็กที่สุดอายุ 14 ปีที่โดนยัดข้อหานี้ โดยที่เจตนาของทุกคนมันไม่มีอะไรไปมากกว่าเขาอยากจะมีชีวิตที่ดีขึ้นและอยากจะมีสถาบันกษัตริย์ที่เขาสามารถกราบไหว้และเทิดทูนได้อย่างเต็มใจ
The two of us are only third- and forth-year [university] students. The only thing we can do is speak out so all can hear what we are thinking and what our hopes and expectations are for this country. We only wanted to start progress through paths that are good and by changing in an appropriate way. But in the end [Article] 112 [the lese majesty law] was used against us. But people from the elderly to children—children only 14 years old!—have had this charge shoved at them, and none of these people desire anything more than for their lives to get better and to have a monarchy that they are able to honor and esteem wholeheartedly.

เมื่อมันมีสิ่งที่ควรปรับปรุงเมื่อมันมีสิ่งที่ผิดพลาดไปเราในฐานะเป็นมนุษย์ด้วยกันย่อมต้องพูดคุยกัน แนะนำกันเพื่อให้สังคมนี้ไปต่อได้และมีการปรับปรุงไปในทางที่ดีขึ้น เป็นสิ่งที่เพื่อนมนุษย์ควรกระทำต่อกันไม่ใช่เหรอ
When there is something we need to adjust, when there is something wrong, we, as fellow humans, must discuss it together—advise each other so that society can move on and adjust onto a better path. Isn’t this something fellow humans should do for each other?

การอดอาหารประท้วงของเราสองคนตอนนี้มันไม่ใช่แค่เพื่อตัวเราเองที่เรากำลังบอกว่า เราอยากให้เขาปล่อยตัวชั่วคราวเรา ให้เราได้สู้คดีอย่างเต็มที่ แต่มันก็เพื่อคนทุกคนที่ถูกดำเนินคดีทางการเมืองในตอนนี้ มันไม่มีใครเลยที่สมควรจะโดนกระทำแบบนี้
The two of us fasting in protest isn’t only for ourselves, to say we want them to free us temporarily so we can do everything possible to fight this case, but it is also for every person being prosecuted for political reasons right now. There is no one who should be treated this way.

เราขอบคุณแล้วเราเข้าใจในความห่วงใยของทุกคน ก่อนหน้านี้เรากลัวว่าทุกคนจะลืมว่าเราอยู่ในนี้จนถึงวันนี้เราอยู่ในเรือนจำมาเกือบ 40 วันแล้ว เรากลัวคนลืมว่าเรากำลังประท้วงด้วยการอดอาหารอยู่ แต่พอมีแคมเปญนี้เกิดขึ้นเราดีใจนะ ดีใจมากที่ทุกคนไม่ลืมกัน
We thank you for and understand the concerns of each of you. Before this, we were afraid that everyone would forget us in here, and now it’s been 40 days. We were afraid people would forget that we were still on a hunger strike. But soon a campaign started up and we are happy—very happy that everyone hasn’t forgotten us.

แต่เราอยากจะขอร้องทุกคนว่าตอนนี้สิ่งที่ทางเราและทุกคนที่เห็นข้อความนี้ต้องทำ คือ การบอกกับคนทั้งโลกว่าพวกเราถูกกักขังอยู่ในนี้เพราะว่าอะไรและเรียกร้องให้ปล่อยตัวเราออกไป
But I ask each person right now, ourselves and everyone who sees message, tell people around the world why we are currently imprisoned and demand our release.

ทุกคนจำได้ไหมเมื่อปลายปีที่แล้วที่เกิดการชุมนุมขึ้นมากมายเกิด กระแสขึ้นมากมายข่าวการชุมนุมในประเทศไทยดังไปถึงต่างประเทศทั่วโลก โดยความช่วยเหลือของพวกเราทุกคนนี่แหละ ที่ทำให้ตอนนั้นเราสามารถพูดถึงการปฏิรูปสถาบันกษัตริย์ได้อย่างเปิดเผย มันเป็นเพราะทุกคนจริงๆ ตอนนั้นเราถึงกล้าออกมาพูดและเรายังถึงคงพูดอยู่เพราะมีทุกคนสนับสนุนเรื่องนี้ไปด้วยกัน ตอนนั้นเรารู้สึกขอบคุณทุกคนจริงๆ
Everyone remembers at the end of last year when many [mass] protests happened, the stream of news about the protests rose loud in the country, all the way to other countries throughout the world. With the help of all us who did [something] for [the movement] back then, we were brave to come out speaking and we will continue speaking because everyone supports this matter together. Back then we were so truly thankful for each person.

และในตอนนี้เราก็ต้องการการสนับสนุนจากทุกคนอย่างเต็มที่เหมือนตอนนั้นอีกครั้งหนึ่ง เราไม่รู้ว่ามันมากเกินไปไหม แต่ขอได้ไหม ทำให้พวกเราได้ออกไปที บอกทุกคนในประเทศนี้ บอกทุกคนในโลกที ว่าตอนนี้เรากำลังถูกทารุณด้วยกระบวนการอยุติธรรม ทำให้มันเป็นแคมเปญใหญ่ขึ้นมาอีกครั้งได้ไหม
And now we need the support of each person, everything you can do, same as back then, one more time. I don’t know if it is too much [to ask], but may I ask you to do [whatever you can] to get us out? Tell everyone in this country, tell everyone in the world, that right now were are being treated inhumanely with procedural injustice. Make the campaign grow bigger one more time, can you?

ถ้าหลังจากข้อความนี้จบลงแล้วมันไม่มีอะไรเกิดขึ้น เราคิดว่าเราคงได้อยู่ในนี้ตลอดไป
If after this message, nothing happens, I think that we will probably stay in here forever.

I believe in the power of the people on the outside!

รุ้ง ปนัสยา
Rung Panusaya
16 เม.ย. 64
April 16, 2021
(Posted by the older sister of Rung

Royalists need 112

28 03 2021

New Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakmanusorn said on Friday that he will continue with his predecessor’s policies. That is, his working life will be more or less devoted to track down and censor websites considered to be defaming the monarchy.

For a story that eschews the minister’s spinlessness and offers courage in the face of royalist repression, see the ABC’s “Thailand protest leader Rung could face a lengthy prison sentence for allegedly insulting the King. But she isn’t giving up yet.” Despite facing 112nine lese majeste charges that mean “she could be handed a maximum jail sentence of up to 135 years,” Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul or Rung, has vowed to fight on.

She explains: “I am in this battle, I give it my all, I devote my life,” adding: “Thailand has been changed hugely [by the protest movement] and there is no return … I feel going to jail is worth it…”.

Rung wants Article 112 “revoked entirely.” She said: “There is no need to have this special criminal law separately…. If [the royal family] think they were insulted they should use [civil] defamation law to sue…”.

Of course, royalists like the new minister and some of those cited in the story will be livid, realizing that their whole regime of fear and repression requires 112.

Updated: Concern for 112 detainees

26 03 2021

There is reason to be concerned for the safety of those accused of lese majeste and currently detained without bail in several prisons.

The Bangkok Post reports that these members of the Ratsadon group “are being detained at five prisons while police prepare the cases against them…”. The report lists some of them:

Six were being detained at Bangkok Remand Prison, he said. They are Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, Piyarat “Toto” Jongthep, Patiwat “Bank” Saraiyaem, Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpatararaksa, Arnon Nampa and Somyos Prueksakasemsuk.

Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, alias “Ammy The Bottom Blues”, is being held at Thon Buri Prison, and Panusaya “Rung” Sitthijirawatanakul at the Central Correctional Institution for Women.

In Pathum Thani province, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak is detained in Pathum Thani central detention centre, and Promsorn “Fah” Veerathamjaree of the Ratsadon Mutelu group is in Thanyaburi Prison in Thanyaburi district.

Release our friends

There are several reasons for concern for the safety of these political detainees. First, Corrections Department deputy director-general Veerakit Hanparipan has revealed that his department lacks coordination and standard operating procedures. Second, it is a “policy” to separate the detainees as a means to break their spirit and to prevent them from supporting each other. Third, lawyers and families are having great difficulty visiting the detainees. Fourth, political detainees are being treated as common criminals. Fourth, Thonburi Prison is said to be a problematic location due to it being in a high-risk Covid zone.

All of this amounts to lese majeste torture.

There is special concern for Parit, “who is on a partial hunger strike…”. Veerakit told reporters that Penguin “continued to refuse solid food.” He added that he has become “weakened from refusing food” and that “Parit was instead given bread, milk, sweet drinks and mineral water to prevent his blood-sugar level falling too far.” Veerakit also revealed that “Parit had a rash on his chest. Prison officials had given him medication.”

Update: Concern for Penguin is increasing. He’s “been on hunger strike for over two weeks,” and is experiencing weakness. He has “allowed doctors to conduct a blood test for the first time on Saturday night, after suffering from fatigue, increased dizziness and dehydration.” As a result, he’s now being administered glucose and fluid intravenously.

Neo-traditionalism and fascists

18 03 2021

Prachatai has a couple of stories that are about a theme – political repression. In our view, they also appoint to the entrenchment of neo-traditionalist, royalist, fascism.

The first report is about complaints made by the so-called People’s Network to Protect the Monarchy to Anek Laothamatas, who seems to spend some time as Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation. They demanded that the former communist now mad royalist and failed politician investigate the lecturers who have used their positions to stand bail for arrested protesters. The fascist Network “claims that their bail requests for Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, students at Thammasat and Mahidol universities, constitute behaviour that infringes upon the monarchy.”

Clipped from Prachatai
The Network submitting a petition to the MHESI representatives, Duangrit Benjathikul Chairungruang and Jak Punchoopet (Source: Facebook/ Center for People Protecting the Monarchy).

Immediately, the ministry sprang into action: “Jak Punchoopet, Advisor to the Minister … said … the Ministry is preparing to summon deans and chancellors of the universities of 8 lecturers who offered bail to 3 student activists detained while awaiting trial for royal defamation and other charges.” Jak previously participated in People’s Democratic Reform Committee efforts to foment a coup against an elected government.

The Network claimed it is “unethical for teachers as they are protecting students who have clearly and publicly defamed and infringed upon the King, Queen and the Chakri dynasty, which the Network has denounced.”

Jak quoted Minister Anek as stating that “academic freedom must not infringe on the … monarchy.”

There’s not much academic freedom in Thailand anyway, with the 2020 Academic Freedom Index grading Thailand as an E, “the lowest grade, with a score of 0.13 out of a maximum of 1.  Other countries with and E grade include China, North Korea, Cuba, Lao, Iran, Rwanda, and South Sudan.”

Preventing academics standing bail would be a major change to previous and longstanding practice.

Of course, neither the fascists of the Network nor the dolts at the Ministry ever pause to think that none of these political prisoners have yet been found guilty. In any case, none were allowed bail.

An equally concerning report is about constant harassment of independent media:

The Isaan Record, an online media organization based in Khon Kaen Province, is under surveillance by police officers. This is not the first time, and it occurs after they report on monarchy reform and anti-dictatorship activities which other media find distasteful.

The effort to silence The Isaan Record is clear and follows a pattern:

On 10 March, Hathairat Phaholtap, the Isaan Record editor, told Prachatai English that police officers came to their office 4 times in one day. She was informed by vendors close to the office that police had asked them about the agency. The police did not approach staff directly.

This took place after the agency reported on an activity organized on 8 March by Femliberate, a feminist activist group, who shrouded the statue of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat with women’s sarongs with a banner reading “Justice died 8 March 2021,” a symbolic action against the oppression of women and the court decision to keep in detention Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul and Panupong Jadnok, 3 leading pro-democracy activists.

Police intimidation sometimes leads to arrests but can also lead to attacks by royalist thugs – more often than not these are police and military men in plainclothes. Such attacks are never investigated.

Unsurprisingly, these royalist, fascist interventions are coordinated. Prachatai reports:

… Manager Online for the northeast region reported news with the headline “Don’t stand for it! Khon Kaen people love the institution [of the monarchy]. Attack KKU [Khon Kaen University], ask its position on whether they want the monarchy or not after allowing gangs who want to abolish the monarchy to hang out there,”.

The news item reports that a pro-monarchy group blames the Progressive Movement, from the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, for being the mastermind behind the student movement in Khon Kaen in the past year. They also questioned Khon Kaen University for letting public figures who spoke about democracy and monarchy reform give lectures to the students.

You see the link between Manager Online and the People’s Network to Protect the Monarchy. When fascism takes hold, the country usually falls into a deep and dark abyss.