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…”.





Cracking down IV

23 09 2021

Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has “hailed progress in Thailand’s campaign against ‘fake news’…”.

Translation: The regime is getting rid of news it doesn’t like. Its own fake news is okay.

The Nation adds that this cheering from The Dictator comes as “critics accuse the government of an unprecedented clampdown on internet freedom.” Indeed, “fake news” is a term “being weaponised by the government to crack down on its critics and protesters.”

The unelected general praised “state agencies after the latest Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) report showed fake news … stories in 2021 had dropped by 26.43 per cent, following a 6.69 per cent decline in 2020.” Meanwhile, it reported that “the number of genuine news stories had risen by 28.66 per cent…”. Fake statistics.

The Ministry “said 158 cases of fake news were prosecuted last year. So far, 135 cases have been prosecuted this year…”. Almost all of these cases are likely to be about  “online content critical of the government, military or Royal Family, amid rising anti-establishment protests.”

The crackdown targeting political activists has again swept up Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul. She was arrested on Wednesday “and charged with sedition due to her involvement with the Facebook page of the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD).” Much of the mainstream media has been quiet on this, reflecting the regime’s pressure.

This followed the arrest of Niraphorn Onkhao a few days ago.

Plainclothes officers from the Technological Crime Suppression Division presented an arrest warrant “… issued by the Criminal Court and signed by judge Sakda Phraisan. It stated that Panusaya is charged with sedition under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code and with entering into a computer system data which is an offense to national security under Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act.”

Panusaya was taken to the TCSD headquarters in a police van.  They immediately sought her detention.

As in Niraphorn’s case, the cops were acting on a “complaint filed by Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims [sic.], an online royalist group…”.

According to the dutiful cops, the UFTD “Facebook page contains what they consider to be seditious messages calling for people to rebel against the authorities, and accusations that police have used excessive force against protesters.”

You get the picture. No criticism or protest permitted. The authoritarian pit is a deep and dark one.

She was granted bail on 35,000 baht security.





Royalist university censors students

29 08 2021

University World News reports that administrators at Thailand’s most royalist of universities, Chulalongkorn, have declared that they will “take disciplinary action” against student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who is President of the Chulalongkorn University Student Union. The “disciplinary action” will extend to other leaders of the university’s student union “for organising an orientation for incoming students that featured outspoken critics of the Thai monarchy.”

Netiwit in 2017. Clipped from The Nation

That “disciplinary action” follows pressure from royalist “alumni groups” that were supposedly outraged by the 20 July orientation that “featured three well-known figures as speakers: Thammasat University student leaders Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak and Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul from the pro-democracy movement and Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an academic and critic of the monarchy, now in exile and teaching at Kyoto University…”. All three face lese majeste charges.

The university’s Office of Student Affairs states that “the content of the orientation was considered ‘radical’ and ‘rude’ and was not approved by the university.” Apparently, “student handbooks published by the student union, which included critiques on certain university traditions and interviews with liberal student activists, were ‘not appropriate’ for new students and their guardians to refer to.”

It is known that university leaderships have been made royalist over the past few decades and that, like the corrupt police and murderous military, prefer hierarchy and paternalism.

Netiwit “said he received a letter from the deputy dean at Chulalongkorn reprimanding him for inviting the activists as speakers, as well as for producing and distributing the student handbooks,” while a deputy dean has reportedly “submitted the case to a university committee for investigation and to decide on the punishment against the student organisers involved.”

The activist chastised the university’s royalist leadership:

Instead of being the last fortress to defend freedom, the university is assisting in the decline of freedom. If Chulalongkorn actually takes disciplinary action against us, not only are they refusing to defend freedom, but they also set a norm for other universities to follow, diminishing liberty in this society and affecting young people’s future….

Who pressured the university? According to the report, it was Chaiphat Chantarawilai, who claims to lead a conservative royalist alumni group, “Defending the Honour of Chula.” Defending the university is defined as “protecting” the monarch and monarchy. On 26 July, Chaiphat “submitted a letter to the university’s dean calling on administrators to take action against the student organisers of the orientation, including a demand to involve the police in a formal investigation.”

In other words, the royalists are hankering for lese majeste charges.

Chaiphat threatened the dean if no action was taken against the students.

After several clashes with university authorities in the past, Netiwit and his colleagues “won in landslide votes in April 2021” when standing for the student union.





Back in prison

10 08 2021

Several bailed protest leaders have been re-arrested and locked up.

Thai PBS reported that Ratsadon  leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Nutchanon Pairote, who “reported to the police at the Royal Thai Police HQ in Bangkok” on Sunday were arrest ed on warrants issued “for alleged offences committed in front of the Region 1 Border Patrol Police Command while demanding the release of 31 members of the ‘Ban Talu Fah’ group held inside…”.

Both were “charged with illegal assembly in public of more than five people, in violation of the Emergency Decree, while participating in activities which risk spreading COVID-19, in violation of the Communicable Disease Control Act.”

The Bangkok Post added that Parit was summonsed “over his role behind the graffiti that appeared outside the Region 1 office of the Border Police…. On arrival, police presented him with an arrest warrant…”.

Parit told supporters:

Today, I came with the courage to stand and face unjust power… I insist I have done no wrong. We demand democracy. We demand freedom and civil liberty. We demand a way out for the people.

But it’s okay, as the police must follow the boss’s order. They have more strength as they have more power.

However, I would like for everyone to save our strength… on 10 August, the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration group and allies will organize the largest car mob ever.

The Bangkok Post also reported that another leader, Jatuphat Boonpathararaksa and three other protesters also “turned themselves in to police on Monday to fight a charge in connection with an anti-government rally last Tuesday.”

They “were charged with defacing the Thung Song Hong police station sign with red paint during a protest on Aug 3.”

Jatuphat denied the charge against him and three other protesters: “What we did was not harmful to other people. It was a peaceful act…”.

Prachatai’s added details reporting that Parit, Nutchanon, Sirichai Natueng, and Phromsorn Weerathamjaree were arrested at the police headquarters on Sunday. They were also charged with violating the Emergency Decree, the Communicable Diseases Act, and the Sound Amplifier Act, matching earlier charges used against other protesters.

Parit stated that “as he noticed police officers following him, he would be going to the police headquarters on Sunday (8 August), and if the police would like to arrest him, they could do so there.”

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) “said that Parit, Sirichai, and Phromsorn requested to have a trusted person with them while they are questioned, but the police denied their request, so the three activists refused to take part in the inquiry process.”

Meanwhile Thatchapong Kaedam and Panupong Jadnok “went to Khlong Ha Police Station and were taken into custody.” Another three other activists were reportedly arrested.

At 21.00 on 9 August, the “Thanyaburi Provincial Court approved the temporary detention request for the 9 activists, and later denied them bail on the ground that the activists act without fearing the law and without considering the society’s safety, peace, and order during the Covid-19 outbreaks.” They were forcibly “taken to the Rangsit Temporary Prison for a 14-day quarantine period, after which they will be detained at the Thanyaburi Prison.”

Later, Thai Enquirer provided a list of activists who were in detention:

  • Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak – a co-founder of the main student-led protest group, the Ratsadon
  • Natchanon Pairoj – the current chairperson of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD)
  • Sirichai “New” Natueng – a co-leader of the UFTD
  • Phromsorn “Fah” Weerathamjaree – a protest leader from the Ratsadon
  • Panupong “Mike Rayong” Jadnok – a co-founder of the Ratsadon
  • Tatchapong Kaedum – a protest leader from the Ratsadon
  • Thanapat or “Poon” (last name omitted) – an activist from the Ratsadon
  • Panadda or “Tong Thalu-Fah” (last name omitted) – an activist from the Ratsadon
  • Jatupat “Pai Daodin” Boonpattararaksa – a co-founder of the Ratsadon

Many of these detainees are already facing multiple charges, including sedition and lese-majeste.

The Bangkok Post later reported that the “Criminal Court approved a prosecution request to withdraw bail for Mr Parit in a case where he was involved in placing a plaque symbolising democracy at Sanam Luang on Sept 20 last year.”

The court is also considering revoking bail for Anon Nampha and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

There’s a clear pattern emerging that sees bailed activists being taken back to jail as protests are reignited.

 








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