Updated: Challenging arbitrary lese majeste

25 10 2017

Prachatai reports that the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded that lese majeste victims Sasiwimon S. and Tiensutham or Yai Daengduad are detained arbitrarily.

The UN has concluded that the detention and sentencing of the two was done arbitrarily. Each received sentences that amount to decades in jail.

In other words, “the detention of the two was against the international conventions in which Thailand is a state party of such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Some time ago the same U.N. body also “concluded that the detention of four lèse majesté convicts were arbitrary. The four are: Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Pornthip Munkong, Patiwat Saraiyaem, Phongsak S.”

The military dictatorship will more or less ignore this U.N. declaration as the use of the lese majeste law is critical for its suppression of opponents of the junta and the monarchy.

When it does reply to the U.N. it lies. Last time, in June 2017, the junta lied that “the state protects and values freedom of expressions as it is the foundation of democratic society…”. This is buffalo manure and no one anywhere believes it.

The regime added that freedom and democracy were only possible when they do not impact “social order and harmony.” Like fascist and authoritarian governments everywhere, they mean that freedom and democracy are not permitted in Thailand.

The regime also claims that lese majeste “is necessary to protect the … [m]onarchy as the monarchy is one of the main pillars of Thai society…”.

That’s why the regime sent Sasiwimol, a 31-year-old single mother of two to 56 years in jail for allegedly posting seven Facebook messages considered lese majeste. How she threatened to undermine the monarchy is unclear.

Yai Daengduad, who is 60 years old was sentenced to 50 years in a junta prison for lese majeste.

Neither could appeal as they were dragged before one of the dictatorship’s military courts.

Meanwhile, Khaosod reports that the iconoclastic former lese majeste convict, Akechai Hongkangwarn has been confronted by a squad of uniformed military thugs for saying that he’d wear red for the dead king’s funeral. The thugs demanded he “choose between spending a few days at what they described as a resort in Kanchanaburi province or a military base at an unspecified location…”.

Of course, in royalist and neo-feudal Thailand, saying one would refuse to wear black is considered unacceptable. Akechai has been subject to a barrage of threats and hate mail and posts declaring him “unThai.”

Akechai “said it was not about disrespecting the [dead] king but exercising his rights.”

Royalists cannot accept that anyone has rights when it comes to the monarchy; there are only (enforced) duties.

They have encouraged attacks on Akechai and his house.

This is royalist Thailand.

Update: An AP report states that Akechai has been arrested: “A lawyer for Ekachai Hongkangwan said soldiers arrested Ekachai at his Bangkok home on Tuesday morning and indicated they would detain him outside the city, in Kanchanaburi province.”





World news on Wolf Bride sentencing

24 02 2015

Some of the international and national press reports on the sentencing of Patiwat Saraiyaem, a 23 year-old student in Khon Kaen, and Pornthip Mankong, a theater activist aged 26, is reproduced as links below. They received two years and six months in prison for their roles in “The Wolf Bride.” The play was about a fictional kingdom but the remarkable royalist judges considered that “insulted” the non-fictional monarchy. Their sentences were reduced from 5 years because of the guilty pleas.

The military dictatorship looks more ridiculous and dangerous to thinking people every day.

Radio Australia, 25 February 2015: “Human rights groups slam jailing of two Thai students for ‘royal insult’ in university play

Asian Correspondent, 24 February 2015: “Thai court jails theater activists for lese majeste

Sydney Morning Herald, 24 February 2015: “Thailand jails two for insulting the monarchy in a university play

Bangkok Post, 24 February 2015: “Charged scenes as dramatist pair jailed for lese majeste

The Australian, 24 February 2015: “Thai theatre activists jailed for lese majeste

The Nation, 24 February 2015: “Jailing of actors for lese majeste stirs criticism

Voice of America, 23 February 2015: “2 Students Given Jail Terms for Defaming Thai Royal Family

Daily Mail, 23 February 2015: “Two Thais are jailed for more than two years for ‘defaming the monarchy’ in a university play

The Indian Express, 23 February 2015: “Producers of ‘The Wolf Bride’ convicted for mocking the Thai monarchy

Channel 4 News, 23 February 2015: “Jailed for satire: Thailand’s lese majeste convictions

Irish Independent, 23 February 2015: “Thailand jails students for insulting monarchy in play

The Times, 23 February 2015: “Thais jailed over satirical play about a king

Business Times, 23 February 2015: “Thailand jails two on royal insult charge

Lonely Planet Travel News, 23 February 2013: “Two jailed for insulting Thailand’s monarchy

Zee News, 23 February 2015: “Thai actors sentenced for crime of lese-majeste

Deutsche Welle, 23 February 2015: “Rights groups slam conviction of Thai theater activists for royal slur

Associated Press, 23 February 2015: “2 Thais Who Staged Play Found Guilty of Insulting Monarchy

Bloomberg, 23 February 2015: “Thai Court Sentences Two for Play Deemed Insulting to Monarchy

Reuters, 23 February 2015: “Thailand jails two students for insulting monarchy in college play” ( video report by Reuters is here)

BBC, 23 February 2015: “Thai pair jailed for insulting monarchy in student play

Prachatai, 23 February 2015: “Court sentences theater activists to 5 years in jail for lese majeste

Khaosod, 23 February 2015: “Theater Activists Jailed Over Satirical Play About Monarchy





More jailed for lese majeste

23 02 2015

As has been widely reported, a student and a theater activist have been convicted of lese majeste. As usual, they decided to plead guilty in order to move the case along more quickly.

Patiwat Saraiyaem, a 23 year-old student in Khon Kaen, and Pornthip Mankong, a theater activist aged 26, were given sentences of two years and six months in prison for their roles in “The Wolf Bride,” a play about a fictional kingdom that royalist judges considered “insulted” the non-fictional monarchy. Their sentences were reduced from 5 years because of the guilty pleas.Wolf bride

The pair were arrested in August 2014 after the play had been performed almost a year earlier at Thammasat University. The play was to commemorate the anniversaries of the pro-democracy student uprising in October 1973 and the bloody royalist massacre of students at the university in October 1976.

The royalist judges stated that: “performing the play … was an act of defamation and insult in front of numerous people…. Moreover, it was disseminated on many websites, causing damage to the monarchy, which is revered by all Thais [sic.]. Such action is a grave crime that warrants no suspension of the punishment.”

A lawyer said the two defendants were unlikely to appeal the verdict. In fact, experience shows that an appeal results in further punishment and even torture-like legal processes meant to punish the appellants who are almost always refused bail.

Police are reportedly searching for another six people involved in the play, and it is believed that several of them have fled royalist Thailand under the military dictatorship.





Call for observers of sentencing in lese majeste cases

20 02 2015

As we often do, PPT reproduces a call from the Asian Human Rights Commission:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-033-2015
February 19, 2015

THAILAND: Call for observers of sentencing in freedom of expression case

On Monday, 23 February 2015, at 1 pm in the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok, the court will read the verdict and sentence Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong. They were formally charged on 25 October 2014 with one count of violating Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code in relation to the performance of a theatre play, ‘The Wolf Bride’ (Jao Sao Ma Pa) in October 2013. On 29 December 2014, they pled guilty to the charge. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges all concerned persons to attend the court as observers, and calls on other interested persons to follow the case closely.

This case is one of many involving the constriction of freedom of expression since the 22 May 2014 coup and the inauguration of a dictatorship by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). Together with the expansion of the jurisdiction of the military court to civilian cases, the banning of public expression of dissent, the restrictions placed on freedom of expression have caused a rapid deterioration of human rights under rule by the NCPO. The unequivocal opinion of the AHRC is that the peaceful expression of thoughts and opinions is not a crime. The AHRC and calls for the charges against Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong and all others being held under Article 112 to be immediately dropped.

Case details:

Patiwat Saraiyaem, age 23, a fifth year student and an activist in the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts at Khon Kaen University, was arrested on 14 August 2014 in Khon Kaen province and is being held in the Bangkok Remand Prison. Pornthip Munkhong, age 25, a graduate of the Faculty of Political Science at Ramkhamhaeng University and an activist, was arrested on 15 August 2014 at the Hat Yai Airport, and is being held in the Central Women’s Prison. They have been held without bail, despite numerous requests, since their arrests.

Article 112 of the Criminal Code stipulates that, “Whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The use of Article 112 is highly politicized and has frequently been used as a method of silencing dissenting voices, particularly in moments of regime crisis. Although this measure has been part of the Criminal Code since its last revision in 1957, there has been an exponential increase in the number of complaints filed since the 19 September 2006 coup; this increase has been further multiplied following the 22 May 2014 coup.

The case against Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong complaint is in relation to their participation in the performance of a play, ‘The Wolf Bride’ (Jao Sao Ma Pa) at Thammasat University in October 2013 on the fortieth anniversary of the 14 October 1973 people’s uprising. At the time of their arrests, the AHRC noted that their arrests for exercising their freedom of expression in a theatre performance was an indication of the ongoing criminalization of thought and expression in Thailand following the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) (AHRC-STM-157-2014; AHRC-STM-159-2014). Their continued detention is a daily reminder of the deepening human rights crisis put in motion by the coup (AHRC-STM-177-2014). In this case, as well as other freedom of expression cases since the coup, the manner in which the two activists were charged more than a year after the alleged crime suggests that the past has become an open catalogue of acts and speech which can be criminalized in retrospect.

The Asian Human Rights commission would like to remind the junta and the Criminal Court that as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Thailand is obligated to protect and uphold Article 19, which notes that, “1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. 2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. 3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.” The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the coup in the strongest terms possible and wishes to condemn the denial of freedom of expression and the expanding witch hunt of those who express, or have expressed in the past, critical or dissenting views. To think differently than the junta is not a crime.

The Asian Human Rights Commission also remains gravely concerned about the continued denial of bail in this and other freedom of expression cases. Although extended periods of both pre-charge and pre-trial detention have become common in cases of alleged violation of Article 112, as a state party to the ICCPR, the Thai authorities are also obligated to respect the right to temporary release. In particular, the AHRC would like to remind the junta and the Criminal Court that Article 9(3) of the ICCPR stipulates that, “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. 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, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment.” Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong were denied temporary release for over two months before being charged, and then this denial continued after they were formally charged. Similar to other Article 112 cases, the Criminal Court has made this denial on the basis that if convicted, they would be subject to a heavy punishment and so are therefore likely to flee.

Nine months have passed since the 22 May 2014 coup and there is no clear timeline for an end to martial law or a return to a democratic government and the protection of human rights. Within this context, the presence of observers within the courtroom is a visible reminder to the junta and the judges that the violation of human rights is not passing unnoticed.





Wolf Bride detainees plead guilty

29 12 2014

Prachatai reports that both Pornthip Munkhong and Patiwat Saraiyaem have entered guilty please on lese majeste charges they faced for their role in the play The Wolf Bride.

In pleading guilty, “the defendants asked the court to suspend the jail terms. The court then ordered a background check in order to rule whether to suspend the jail term or not.” A decision will be due on 23 February 2015 when the court will read its verdict.

Patiwat was arrested on 14 August this year and Pornthip a day later. Their bail requests have been repeatedly rejected.

Both are political activists, with Patiwat being the Secretary-General of the Student Federation of the North East and Pornthip a co-founder of Prakai Fai Karn Lakorn, formed in 2010 and disbanded in 2012. Its plays “concerned social issues, inequality, and politics.”

In the current period of lese majeste fervor and with the military dictatorship hunting lese majeste as a “crime” against “national security,” the pressure to plead guilty must have been intense.





Observers needed for lese majeste case

26 12 2014

The Asian Human Rights Commission has issued an important call for observers to attend the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok on the morning of 29 December. Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong, both accused of lese majeste offenses, will be before the court.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-214-2014
December 26, 2014

THAILAND: Call for observers in freedom of expression case

On Monday, 29 December 2014, at 9 am in the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok, Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong will appear before the court for the first time since being formally charged on 25 October 2014. They have been charged with violating Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code in relation to the performance of a theatre play, ‘The Wolf Bride’ (Jao Sao Ma Pa) in October 2013. This case is one of many involving the constriction of freedom of expression since the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges all concerned persons to attend the court as observers, and calls on other interested persons to follow the case closely.

Case details:

Patiwat Saraiyaem, age 23, a fifth year student and an activist in the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts at Khon Kaen University, was arrested on 14 August 2014 in Khon Kaen province and is being held in the Bangkok Remand Prison. Pornthip Munkhong, age 25, a graduate of the Faculty of Political Science at Ramkhamhaeng University and an activist, was arrested on 15 August 2014 at the Hat Yai Airport, and is being held in the Central Women’s Prison. They have been held without bail, despite numerous requests, since their arrests and since being formally charged on 25 October with one count of violation of Article 112.

Article 112 of the Criminal Code stipulates that, “Whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The use of Article 112 is highly politicized and has frequently been used as a method of silencing dissenting voices, particularly in moments of regime crisis. Although this measure has been part of the Criminal Code since its last revision in 1957, there has been an exponential increase in the number of complaints filed since the 19 September 2006 coup; this increase has been further multiplied following the 22 May 2014 coup.

The case against Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong complaint is in relation to their participation in the performance of a play, ‘The Wolf Bride’ (Jao Sao Ma Pa) at Thammasat University in October 2013 on the fortieth anniversary of the 14 October 1973 people’s uprising. At the time of their arrests, the AHRC noted that their arrests for exercising their freedom of expression in a theatre performance was an indication of the ongoing criminalization of thought and expression in Thailand following the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) (AHRC-STM-157-2014; AHRC-STM-159-2014). Their continued detention is a daily reminder of the deepening human rights crisis put in motion by the coup (AHRC-STM-177-2014). In this case, as well as other freedom of expression cases since the coup, the manner in which the two activists were charged more than a year after the alleged crime suggests that the past has become an open catalogue of acts and speech which can be criminalized in retrospect.

The Asian Human Rights commission would like to remind the junta and the Criminal Court that as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Thailand is obligated to protect and uphold Article 19, which notes that, “1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. 2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. 3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.” The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the coup in the strongest terms possible and wishes to condemn the denial of freedom of expression and the expanding witch hunt of those who express, or have expressed in the past, critical or dissenting views. To think differently than the junta is not a crime.

The Asian Human Rights Commission also remains gravely concerned about the continued denial of bail in this and other freedom of expression cases. Although extended periods of both pre-charge and pre-trial detention have become common in cases of alleged violation of Article 112, as a state party to the ICCPR, the Thai authorities are also obligated to respect the right to temporary release. In particular, the AHRC would like to remind the junta and the Criminal Court that Article 9(3) of the ICCPR stipulates that, “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. 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, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment.” Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong were denied temporary release for over two months before being charged, and then this denial continued after they were formally charged. Similar to other Article 112 cases, the Criminal Court has made this denial on the basis that if convicted, they would be subject to a heavy punishment and so are therefore likely to flee.

Seven months have passed since the 22 May 2014 coup and there is no clear timeline for an end to martial law or a return to a democratic government and the protection of human rights. Within this context, the presence of observers within the courtroom is a visible reminder to the junta and the judges that the violation of human rights is not passing unnoticed.





Fiction and lese majeste

28 10 2014

The lese majeste repression dragnet is cast and those trapped in it are increasing in number.

We have noted that arrests and charges against university student Patiwat and colleague Pornthi. The Bangkok Post reports on their recent court appearance. Interestingly most of the photos in the media strategically left out Patiwat’s leg irons. Feudal chains are usually used on males charged under this feudal law.

Formally charged on Monday, “they won’t enter a plea until December, but feel the play that sits at the heart of their alleged crime is being taken out of context.”

The play is, of course, the October 2013 performance of fictional drama about a fictional monarch entitled “The Wolf Bride.” It was performed for “a commemoration of the 37th and 40th anniversaries of the Oct 6, 1976 and Oct 14, 1973 pro-democracy student uprisings at Thammasat University.”

The “prosecutors cited nine passages from the pay’s scripts they claim insulted the monarchy in violation of the Article 112 of the Penal Code.”

Patiwat told the Bangkok Post his “first impression” of the charges laid was that the prosecutors had sliced and diced the script “and consider only certain paragraphs [the prosecutors consider] as insulting to the monarchy.” He says they “should look at the big picture and that this is a fictional play.”

The Post reports that “two [other] red-shirt activists, Watt Wallayangoon and Jaran Ditapichai, also face arrest on lese majeste charges for their roles in the play event.” PPT knew of Jaran, who is in exile in France, but not of Watt.





Wolf Bride lese majeste charges

24 10 2014

Prachatai has reported the expected news that they are filing “lese majeste charges against two activists involved in the political play ‘the Wolf Bride’.”

As is usually the case with lese majeste charges, the prosecutors took a considerable time getting their case together, with the defendants being held without bail. It is reported that “Phawinee Chumsri, lawyer representing Patiwat S. and Pornthip M., told Prachatai that the public prosecutor on Friday filed lese majeste charges against the two suspects after almost three months of detention.” The courts have repeatedly refused bail.





Jaran charged with lese majeste

16 10 2014

For a couple of days social media has been saying that the military dictatorship was charging former Human Rights Commissioner Jaran Ditapichai under Article 112.

Prachatai has now reported that Jara has indeed been charged by the royalist junta’s regime. In some ways, this is not unexpected. The Dictator and his junta have long wanted to punish Jaran. Indeed, since the military coup, the regime has filed four charges against Jaran. He is charged with lese majeste and defying the junta’s order to report to the military.

More revealing are the charges that Jaran breached the Emergency Decree during the red-shirt mass protest in 2010. Yes, that’s four years ago. The final charge relates to the red shirt protest targeting Privy Councillor President and coup plotter General Prem Tinsulanonda in July 2007. Yes, that seven years ago.

The most recent charge, of insulting the walking dead, the “veteran political activist” is accused of having organized the play “The Wolf Bride.” Two other activists remain in custody over this play that was performed in October 2013 in remembrance of the 14 October 1973 student uprising. The arrest warrant for Jaran was issued on 26 August 2014.

The others caught in this particular lese majeste dragnet are Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong.

Jaran is in exile in Europe.





Refusing bail

27 09 2014

Readers will recall that in mid-August, two young people associated with the play The Wolf Bride / ละคร เจ้าสาวหมาป่า were arrested and accused of lese majeste.

More than forty days later, according to Prachatai, one of these activists, Patiwat Saraiyaem has been refused bail for a fifth time.

The police claim they have not finished viewing the video of the performance of the play, which is considered “evidence.” We consider this just the usual rejection of basic human rights seen in almost every lese majeste case.

Those associated with monarchy and palace should be ashamed of their role in this gross violation of rights and for allowing acts that amount to torture to be inflicted in its name and without taking a stand to correct the violations. Of course, they aren’t ashamed, for this treatment is standard and an element of the repressive demonstration effect associated with lese majeste.