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.





Lese majeste and cruelty III

13 03 2021

Yet again, the royalist courts have “rejected the bail applications by four core leaders of the anti-establishment Ratsadon group on the grounds that there is no justification for changing the court’s previous order to remand them in custody.” This refers to Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, and Piyarat Chongthep.

The new applications for bail “were filed today by Mr. Krisadang Nutcharat, a lawyer from the Centre for Human Rights Lawyers, and a group of lecturers from Thammasat and Mahidol universities.” Krisadang said “that he and the lecturers were seeking bail for the three students, namely Parit, Panusaya and Chatuphat, because they are about to take examinations.” The case of Piyarat has to do with “pre-emptive” arrest (as far as we know he has not been charged with 112).

In another report, it is stated that “Kritsadang also complained about Mr Parit’s transfer to Area 5 of the prison, usually designated for inmates already convicted.” He condemned this action, making an argument of the presumption of innocence. We doubt the royalist courts even know what this is as they take orders from the top.

The pattern emerging is one of lese majeste torture, seen in several earlier lese majeste cases. Keeping them locked up and seeking to separate them from their fellow political prisoners is a way to break their spirit and solidarity. It is also reflective of the nastiness seen in other cases involving those who “cross” the king.





Concocting “victory”

9 03 2021

With three more pro-democracy campaigners locked away on lese majeste charges, the regime seems confident it has a royalist political victory in sight.

Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Jatuphat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa – were each charged with 112 and other “crimes” and denied bail for the Thammasat University rally back in September 2020. Along with 15 other pro-democracy protesters, they also face sedition charges.

Some of those locked up. Clipped from France24

The other 15 were bailed, marking the regime’s 112 strategy as now involving lengthy jail stints waiting for a trial before royalist judges and potentially very heavy sentencing. The regime and palace – which gives the orders on 112 – want to stamp out all signs of anti-royalism.

They join Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem who have already been held for about three weeks without bail on similar charges. Also banged up on 112 charges is Chai-amorn Kaewwiboonpan, aka Ammy the Bottom Blues.

Jatuphat called on followers: “Fight on everyone…”, while Panusaya, “who is facing eight other royal defamation charges, believes the pro-democracy movement will continue to exist although most of the leaders could be locked behind bars”: “No matter how many people are locked up, people outside will continue fighting, they do not need us…. “I am not concerned at all that the movement will stop.”

The regime thinks it has them beaten. With its carefully managed violence and targeted arrests, these detentions signal that the regime believes that the leaders will not get broader support.

The mainstream local media does not challenge regime stories of violence and weapons, although some of the international media has a different reporting. We conclude that the local media has come under enormous pressure to follow the regime’s lead and that corporate owners are willingly propagandizing for the regime. Why else would the Bangkok Post be interviewing and publishing outlandish conspiracy manure from anti-democrats? The media that lambasted the protesters for allegedly straying from the path of non-violence have been regime pawns too.

Such concocted claims have been seen from royalists many times in the past – from Pridi shot the king to the Finland Plot and more – and they continue. We can but speculate that these claims will lead to a deeper repression across the country, as they did in the past.





Further updated: 112 updates

9 02 2021

It is reported that lese majeste case No. 58 of the current round of repression has been lodged – we seem to have missed cases 56 and 57 – with a 37 year-old man being charged “with the royal insult, or lese majeste, for allegedly mocking the monarchy at a shopping mall in December…”.

A fanatical royalist from Thai Pakdee accused Pawat Hiranpon “of feigning to genuflect and saying ‘Long Live Your Majesties’ at Siam Paragon on Dec. 20 when several pro-democracy activists were walking past him…”. The mad monarchist thinks he was being sarcastic.

At about the same time, UN human rights experts are reported to have “expressed grave concerns over Thailand’s increasingly severe use of lèse-majesté laws to curtail criticism of the monarchy, and said they were alarmed that a woman had been sentenced to over 43 years in prison for insulting the royal family.”

They stated: “We are profoundly disturbed by the reported rise in the number of lèse-majesté prosecutions since late 2020 and the harsher prison sentences…”. They added: “We call on the authorities to revise and repeal the lèse-majesté laws, to drop charges against all those who are currently facing criminal prosecution and release those who have been imprisoned…”. The regime will not heed such calls. It never has. It heeds the king, and it is he who has directed this repression strategy.

Meanwhile some better news, with the Criminal Court having “dismissed a petition by the Digital Economy and Society Ministry to remove a clip criticising the government’s Covid-19 vaccine policy by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.” The ministry claimed it constituted lese majeste. He criticized the secret deal between regime, the king’s Siam Bioscience, and AstraZeneca.

After being ordered to take down his half-hour analysis, Thanathorn challenged the order. He was successful after the full clip was played in court, with the court “saying no part of the clip clearly showed he criticised or raised questions in any way that could be deemed insulting to the monarchy.” It added: “There is no clear evidence it affects national security…”.

The court asked Thanathorn why he used the term “royal vaccines”. His reply was wonderful, pointing out that “he was not the first to use it.” He pointed out that: “It was Gen Prayut and government agencies who first used or implied it that way…”. They were milking propaganda for the king and that was turned back at them, and the court agreed: “The court viewed the term was borrowed from what the government had said earlier about the local vaccine production to show the mercy of the king. Mr Thanathorn’s use of the word was therefore not a lie, which could cause damage to the king.”

Of course, the regime is now scrambling on vaccines, issuing statements that seem designed to mollify growing criticism. For a useful report of further questioning of the king’s Siam Bioscience, see Khaosod.

Update 1: Prachatai reports on the 112 case facing Pawat (using Phawat ‘Pocky’ Hiranphon). It states that the “charge was filed by Acting Sub Lt Narin Sakcharoenchaikun), a member of Thai Pakdee…”. Further,

the investigator gave as the reason for the complaint to a cosplay activity at Siam Paragon on 20 December 2020, where Phawat was seen paying respect by bowing, giving a ‘wai’ (the Thai greeting) , saying ‘Long live the King’, and presenting flowers to Parit Chiwarak and Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, who cosplayed King Rama X and the Queen wearing crop tops.

The investigator alleges this was an act of mockery toward people paying respect to King Rama X.

Phawat is seeking evidence to file a complaint against Narin, as he sees the complaint as politically motivated and damaging to his reputation and income. Narin also is not the one offended by Phawat’s action.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post has an editorial calling for the regime to get on with vaccination rather than defending itself. The editorial notices:

Bombarded by criticism that it has been too slow and overly reliant on two sources, AstraZeneca and Sinovac, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha tried to explain the government’s immunisation strategy last Sunday.

The PM was far too keen on defending the government than shedding light on the crucial vaccine drive. Although he addressed some of the main points of criticism, the PM offered no new information.

His claims and promises also appeared unsubstantiated, with little or no detail at all.

Self-censoring, it doesn’t say much at all about the king’s Siam Bioscience.

The public health minister has only made things worse. Bent on protecting himself and the government, Anutin Charnvirakul essentially told people to keep quiet and stop questioning the vaccine procurement and immunisation plan. He also told other politicians who are not in the government to keep their advice to themselves.

Mr Anutin’s tantrum only reinforced his image as being out of touch.

Self-censoring, it doesn’t say much at all about the king’s Siam Bioscience.





Updated: The 112 tally

15 01 2021

It is now almost three months since Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “declared that “all laws and all articles” will be enforced against protesters who break the law.” And we can amuse that recent lese majeste charges and arrests reflect his recent demand that various “agencies to speed up their investigations into lese majeste cases regarding unlawful online content and to take legal action against the suspects.”

We might also assume that this changed of direction on lese majeste – from not using it to an avalanche of cases – must reflect an order from the king. After all, Gen Prayuth stated that the king told him not to use it, and it would be unimaginable that Prayuth would change this policy without a direction from the palace.

Using Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) data, Thai PBS tallies some of the results of the regime’s extensive Article 112 campaign:

At least 234 people were charged in 145 criminal cases stemming from the rallies between July and December 2020, TLHR said.

Among them are six juveniles who were charged with sedition and lese majeste….

Between November 24 and December 31 last year, the group handled 24 cases involving 38 individuals charged with lèse majesté. The accused included one minor and several university students….

Prominent anti-establishment figures facing charges include Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, who has 26 cases, Arnon Nampa (20 cases), Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul (10 cases), and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok (16 cases)….

Less than two weeks into the new year, some 20 protesters have already met police to acknowledge charges of Royal defamation [Article 112].

Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon faces “nine charges, including lèse majesté, and is waiting to see whether public prosecutors decide to indict her.” Arnon said “he did not remember how many lawsuits have been triggered by his role in youth-led protests.”

Meanwhile, with protests on virus hold, “leaders have been keeping the campaign alive by posting regular social-media messages slamming the government.” In addition, there’s a “guerrilla campaign”across the country with banners and graffiti appearing regularly. Banners calling for “the repeal of draconian lèse majesté law have also been spotted around the city, including at Hua Lamphong Railway Station, Thammasat University, a shopping mall and pedestrian bridges.” Other efforts have targeted king and regime.

The regime is now seeking to use lese majeste against the “guerrillas.”

Update: The recent anti-monarchy campaigns online have seen royalists, regime and military using online resources. They are supporting lese majeste.





Updated: New year, new charges

6 01 2021

The Voice of America has reported the fact that “Thai authorities January 1 made their 38th arrest of a pro-democracy activist in recent weeks under the country’s tough lèse majesté law…”.

This refers to the case of “Nut,” the “Facebook administrator of a protest group and [who] was bailed out January 2 after being charged under Section 112 for selling a calendar using the movement’s satirical rubber duck symbol to allegedly mock the monarchy.”

As the report indicates, “In just a matter of weeks 112 charges have continued to surge…”, with several of those charged facing multiple cases.

The regime and palace have been panicked by widespread anti-monarchism. Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk made the obvious point: “Even the slightest critical reference to the monarchy is now punishable…”.

In Nut’s case, Chulalongkorn University’s Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang pointed out that the police who filed the charge “couldn’t even answer to the lawyer how this [calendar] violated Section 112. This was purely political…”. In other words, the cops are under orders to arrest people and charge them under 112 even if they are clueless about the actual “offense.” It is Orwellian “protection” of the monarch.

Read more on lese majeste charges here.

It isn’t clear that the tactics being used by the regime and palace are effective:

Authorities are now struggling to catch up with protesters whose attacks on the monarchy – and the law which shields it – are visible both on banners hung from bridges and across the internet in memes and hashtags.

Recent social media posts from across the country also show defaced portraits of the king and queen, often featuring additional photos of them in crop tops and so on.

Attapon Buapat, a protest leader who has been charged under the 112 law, says:

People do not fear 112 anymore…. Everyone fighting this battle has been prepared for our freedoms and rights to be violated one day. We have stepped beyond that fear for quite some time now. Whatever will be, will be….

Update: Prachatai reports on three new 112 cases. They say this means 40 cases. We think there are maybe more than this. Difficult to keep up. The first is that of Nut or Nat mentioned above. The second refers to 3 January, when “Thanakon (last name withheld), 17, also received a summons on a Section 112 charge issued by Buppharam Police Station.” Thai Lawyers for Human Rights say “the charge is likely to be related to a demonstration on 6 December 2020 at Wongwian Yai.” The third case is “Jiratita (last name withheld), 23, [who] was also charged with royal defamation for a speech given at the protest on 2 December 2020 at the Lad Phrao intersection.” It seems that this latter charge relates to complaints made by a member of the public.

Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Shinawat Chankrachang and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul were also hit with 112 charges for their involvement in this protest. Parit is now facing 12 counts of lese majeste, Arnon 8 counts, Panusaya 6 counts, and Panupong 5.





Year-end articles II

31 12 2020

The local English-language press now has some year-end reflections on the year just about gone:

Khaosod, “Our Person of the Year 2020: Rung Panusaya, the Woman Who ‘Shattered the Ceiling’.

… the demonstrations truly took a historic turn that shocked all when a 22-year-old student named Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, or Rung, stepped onto a stage at Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus on Aug. 10. There, she read a 10-point manifesto that challenged the institution at the very top of Thailand’s social strata [they mean the monarchy].

Clipped from Prachatai

Khaosod, “Opinion: 2020 is a Year to Reflect on What We Have, and What We May Lose,” by Pravit Rojanaphruk.

Khaosod, “‘Tappanai, Pan the Camera!’ 7 Top Moments of Khaosod English’s FB Live Duo.

The Nation, “2020: the year youth rose up in Thailand.

Thai Enquirer, “2020’s 20 Most Important Moments in Thailand.

Thai PBS, “The movers and shakers behind Thailand’s 2020 protests





Updated: 5 activists acknowledge 112 charges

1 12 2020

Thai PBS reports that Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and Arnon Nampa “reported to Chanasongkhram police station in Bangkok today (Monday), to acknowledge lèse majesté charges related to protests at Sanam Luang on September 19th and 20th.”

The four remained defiant. Arnon stated “they are not worried about the charges and are ready to defend themselves in court.” He added that the “protests will continue and will be escalated next year, as he advised the police to prepare more cargo containers to set up road blocks.”

Rung “insisted that the protesters merely want to reform the [m]onarchy, not to overthrow …[it].”

Clipped from Khaosod

According to Khaosod, Mike stated: “The monarchy should be eligible for scrutiny and criticism…”. Penguin stated that such “backward” charges “will only encourage more people to support the movement, which seeks to limit the monarchy’s influence in politics and abolish laws that censor discussions about …[it].” He added: “People will feel there is no justice in our country…”.

That report also has Patiwat Saraiyaem reporting to the police on the same charge, so our headline is for five. Reports of other activists facing charges are contradictory and there may be between 14 and 20 facing 112 charges.

Thai PBS adds that “Parit will face lèse majesté charges in connection with the protest on November 14th at Kok Wua intersection, in Bangkok, and protests in the northeastern provinces of Roi-et and Ubon Ratchathani.”

All were released without having to post bail.

Update: Prachatai confirms that five protesters heard lese majeste charges. It states that “Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon, Jutathip Sirikhan and Tattep  Ruangprapaikitseree, leading protest figures, received summonses from Bangpho Police Station for ‘defaming, insulting or expressing malice to the monarch’. They have to report to hear the charge on 7 December.” The report lists 12 persons who have been or are likely to be summoned to hear 112 charges, but we believe this list is incomplete.