HRW on continuing detentions

21 04 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Virus of double standards II

11 04 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that at least 22 “detained on charges related to the protests,” mostly using Article 112.

While the Criminal Court has granted bail to Patiwat Saraiyaem, on the basis that he “pledged not to breach Section 112 … and also stay away from political rallies…”, it refused bail for to other political prisoners, Somyos Pruksakasemsuk and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa.

The report adds that Somyos and Jatuphat “joined other protest figures in signing a letter expressing their intention to withdraw their lawyer from their Section 112 trial,” but did not detail the complaints made by the detainees.

Thai PBS states that the “court said that it doubts the credibility of the two Ratsadon leaders’ pledge not to mention the revered institution in future protests, after they refused to recognize the trial process.”

Prachatai provides an account of the withdrawal of defense lawyers, based on Thai Lawyers for Human Rights:

22 people facing charges relating to the protests on 19 – 20 September 2020, including 7 protest leaders facing lèse majesté charges, have withdrawn their legal representation in protest at court measures and treatment by prison officials which deny them the right to a fair and open trial.

The 22 are listed as:

The 23 defendants in the case are Chinnawat Chankrachang, Nawat Liangwattana, Nattapat Akhad, Thanachai Aurlucha, Thanop Amphawat, Thanee Sasom, Phattaraphong Noiphang, Sitthithat Chindarat, Suwanna Tallek, Anurak Jeantawanich, Nutchanon Pairoj, Atthapol Buaphat, Adisak Sombatkham, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Panupong Jadnok, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Chukiat Saengwong, and Chaiamorn Kaewwwiboonpan.

The defendants “requested to withdraw their legal representation and their lawyers requested to be released from their duties.” They consider the “courtroom has been made into a prison.”

The defendants and lawyers say they are not receiving a fair and open trial and their rights are not being respected. According to TLHR the defendants:

  • have not been allowed to speak to their lawyers individually and confidentially, as they were always under the control of prison officials
  • who are detained pending trial and those granted bail have not been allowed to discuss the case with each other
  • family members and other individuals have been prevented from observing the proceedings, with some family members initially forbidden from even entering the court building and told by court police that they do not have permission to enter the courtroom
  • family members have been prevented from personal contact with the political prisoners, and at times they have been prevented from handing over personal items and food

Political prisoner and lawyer Arnon Nampa wrote a declaration to the court saying:

… he would like to withdraw all legal representation on the ground that he has been denied bail and treated in ways which are degrading, that he cannot participate in a judicial process which is “carried out with fear and without taking human dignity into account.” He also wrote that the law has been used to silence the demands of the younger generation, that violence has been used to suppress protests, and that their detention will lead to fear in society and no one will dare to speak the truth.

“In this trial, our right to fully fight the case has been violated,” he wrote. “The courtroom has been made into a prison.” He then went onto say that the process is unconstitutional, and that the defendants and lawyers agreed that if they continue to participate in the procedure, they would be promoting a process of injustice.

“This case has involved the destruction of human dignity, the use of the law to silence people, and many other forms of injustice. As a person who has studied the law and who practices as a lawyer, and as one of the citizens who aim to reform the monarchy, the defendant cannot continue to participate in this process. The defendant whose name is at the end of this petition therefore requests to withdraw legal representation and refuses this process,” Anon wrote.





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.





Lese majeste and cruelty II

28 02 2021

The Bangkok Post has a story about yet another bail refusal for lese majeste defendants and monarchy reform advocates Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem.

The Post says this is a “[t]hird setback in efforts to secure release of foursome awaiting lese majeste trials.” We know it is difficult keeping up with the number accused of lese majeste (is it 59 or 60?), but the number of bail applications and repeated refusals by royalist courts should be easier to count.

Going by the information in the story, we count five, including the most recent that begins the Post story:

Clipped from Khaosod

They have been in the Bangkok Remand Prison since Feb 9 when they were formally indicted on charges including lese majeste in connection with rallies at Sanam Luang on Sept 19 and 20 last year. The Criminal Court rejected their initial bail request.

The Court of Appeal on Feb 15 upheld the Criminal Court decision, citing the defendants’ disrespect for the monarchy and saying they posed a flight risk. Subsequent requests to the Criminal Court on Feb 17 and Feb 22 were also rejected, with both decisions upheld by the Court of Appeal.

The grounds for the appeal were entirely reasonable:

The first was a cash bond of 400,000 baht for each defendant, which was higher than the previous bail request. Charnvit Kasetsiri, a former rector of Thammasat University, and Panas Tassaneeyanon, a former dean of the university’s Faculty of Law, had agreed to act as guarantors for the defendants, said the lawyer.

The three other issues were that the defendants posed no flight risk, they had not yet found been guilty by a court and thus they were considered innocent, and all had permanent residences…

All to no avail. The establishment is busy protecting the king and punishing its opponents.





Lese majeste and cruelty I

23 02 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that the Criminal Court has again “rejected the third bail request for four key Ratsadon members held on charges of lese majeste…”.

Charnvit Kasetsiri, a former rector of Thammasat University and Panas Tassaneeyanon, a former dean of the faculty of law were there to “offer themselves as the guarantors for the temporary releases of Arnon Nampa, Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat ‘Mor Lam Bank’ Saraiyaem.”

The court again denied the bail request, “citing the same reasons for the dismissals of the previous two requests — the offence carried a high penalty and there were reasons to believe the suspects would repeat the offence if they were released on bail.”

As the report notes, “pre-trial detention could go on for years until the court passes a final ruling.” Most often, this is for those charged with lese majeste and is a form of torture.

Social media reports that the judges involved are the same cruel judges who sat on the case against Ampol Tangnopakul, who was convicted in late November 2011 and sentenced to 20 years in jail for the 4 text messages the court believed he sent. To simplify, the court was unable to prove that Ampol sent the messages but convicted him on the basis that he could not prove that he didn’t send them. Sadly, Ampol died in custody.





Updated: Lese majeste torture

16 02 2021

In the past, we used the term “lese majeste torture” to refer to the ways in which those detained on Article 112 charges were denied bail, had their trials drawn out, and were shuttled around various courts. One of the aims of this seemed to be to get the defendant to plead guilty so that the trial became unnecessary.

Somyos caged

One particularly nasty example of lese majeste torture involved Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, who was refused bail at least 16 times. He was put in cages, transported around the country to various court proceedings, some of which were canceled, and was repeatedly chained.

Of course, Somyos is now back in detention, refused bail and accused of lese majeste and other charges. With Arnon Nampa, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, and Patiwat “Mor Lam Bank” Saraiyaem, lawyers asked for temporary releases and bail for a second time. The Appeal Court dismissed that appeal citing “as reasons the severe penalties of the offences, their brazen behaviours which tarnish the highly respected monarchy and hurt the feelings of all loyal Thais without fear of the law, their past records of similar offences and flight risks.”

Such statements indicate the extreme political bias of the court, make prejudicial judgements and resort to moral and royalist shibboleths rather than legal grounds for refusing bail. About as close as the court got to legal reasoning was declaring them “flight risks,” which contradicts an earlier court ruling that declared them likely to re-offend, so not flight risks.

All of this is congruent with the measures used by the military junta after its 2014 coup.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that “the Criminal Court had rejected their latest plea for bail, ruling that the Court of First Instance and Court of Appeal had already denied their release and it saw no reason to overrule their decisions.” We count that as the third rejection.





Bail inequality

13 02 2021

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both expressed “concern over the bail denial of the 4 prominent activists as an abuse of the judicial process to silence peaceful critics.”

Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat ‘Bank’ Saraiyam have been charged with lese majeste and sedition and banged up in pre-trial detention, denied bail. As has happened before:

After the court denied them bail, four of them were taken to the Bangkok Remand Prison to be held in custody pending the trial. They shall remain in custody until the court grants them bail or until the trial is concluded or until the cases against them are dismissed by the court, the length of time which is undeterminable.

Clipped from Khaosod

In response, the Bangkok Post reports that “126 law academics and legal experts have issued a statement condemning a court decision denying bail for protest leaders.” They declared:

We are of the strong opinion that a person’s right to bail is a crucial principle that the judicial institution — which has legal, social and humanitarian duties and is the final beacon of hope for the people — must uphold to support the basic rights and freedom of the people….

This action by the Criminal Court is in sharp and stark contrast to the bail swiftly granted to Somchai Jutikitdecha aka Longjoo Somchai “who is accused of being the man behind illegal casinos linked with a recent Covid-19 outbreak in the eastern provinces…” The court is said to have “brushed aside police objections and granted Mr Somchai bail on Thursday night.”

Double standards? You bet!





Further updated: 112 detentions

10 02 2021

After all the arrests, the detentions have begun.

On Tuesday, The Nation reported that the “Office of the Attorney-General announced  that it will file charges against four leaders of the Ratsadon pro-democracy movement, namely Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat ‘Bank’ Saraiyam.” They are each charged with lese majeste and sedition, stemming from “a rally in Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus in September last year. The rally had also spilled over to Sanam Luang nearby.” That rally was on 19 and 20 September 2020.

Clipped from Khaosod

Thai PBS adds that the four Ratsadon leaders also face charges of “illegal assembly, violation of Emergency Decree … blocking traffic and destruction of archaeological sites.”

It adds that “Parit was also indicted for lèse majesté and incitement of unrest, under Sections 112 and 116 of the Criminal Code, and illegal assembly in violation of the Emergency Decree in a separate case in connection with a protest on November 14th [2020].”

That report also states that “Parit was present at the press conference this morning when Prayuth Petkhun, deputy spokesman of the Office of the Attorney-General, announced the prosecutors’ decision. He asked Prayuth about their request that prosecutors question two defence witnesses.” In response, this legal official saying “public prosecutors … insist that there is no need to question additional witnesses…”. Not hearing witnesses for the defendents has been common under the junta’s judiciary and apparently continues.

When the four accused “appeared before the Criminal Court, where they were formally indicted.”  They were denied bail. That is also common for lese majeste cases. The court “rejected the application on the grounds that some of the charges against them are serious and carry severe penalties,” and thought that if “they were to be released on bail, they may continue to commit similar offences.”

People protested online and in the city. There have been calls for their release.

The usual pattern is for cases to drag on as the defendants are pushed to plead guilty. In these cases, however, we wonder if the order to the judiciary will be to move quickly and make an example of these four anti-monarchy/democracy activists.

Update 1: According to The Nation, taking a lead from anti-coup protesters in Myanmar, “[p]ro-democracy Ratsadon protesters gathered on Bangkok’s Pathumwan Skywalk today for a demonstration dubbed hitting pots to banish dictators’.” Livestreamed, the demonstration included attacks on Article 112, the regime and the king.

Update 2: Thai PBS reports that after the rally at the Pathumwan Skywalk and a march to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, “protesters marched to the Pathumwan district police station, after they learned that a few protesters were being held in custody there.” The report adds:

They laid siege to the police station to demand the release of their fellow protesters by 8.30pm or they said they would storm the station.

During the standoff, at about 8.20pm, several explosions, believed to have been giant firecrackers, were heard behind the police station. A tear gas canister was later found on the road.

At about 9pm, police released all the detainees.





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.

 





Updated: Arrests, jail and repression

31 10 2020

Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Patiwat Saraiyaem and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul were supposed to be released on bail last evening. Instead, obviously following orders from regime and probably from the palace, the regime’s minions detained three of the protest “leaders” on an illegal arrest warrant. In other words, it is the police who are breaking the law.

We understand that only Patiwat was released.

Meanwhile, Mike, collapsed and was carried off to hospital.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights “said the activist [Mike] was not in danger but would be kept in hospital overnight. The group said it believed he passed out after being put in a chokehold in the [police] van.”

Clipped from Bangkok Post

It is clear that the regime is not going to give much ground to the protesters. On what it considers “important,” it will give nothing.

The establishment’s Bangkok Post states: “All told, more than 80 people have been arrested in connection with the protests staged in recent weeks, according to TLHR. Most are now free on bail but a handful remain behind bars.” Of course, the truth is somewhat different.

The regime believes that it can arrest, jail and repress its way out of the current conflict. This is learned behavior, learned from its period as a military junta.

Update: AFP reports that Rung and Penguin have also been hospitalized. Tosaporn Sererak, a doctor and former Puea Thai Party MP, “was with the pair as they were loaded into an ambulance about 4:30am on Saturday.” He said: “After questioning, both Rung and Penguin were feeling weak and have been sent to hospital, where they are expected to stay for two-three days…”. Penguin was reported to have “shards of broken glass in his skin from a scuffle in a police van,” while “Panusaya had foot pain…”.

As is to be expected from this despicable repressive, royalist regime, it is reported that “[a]uthorities will seek a court order to have them remanded in prison upon discharge from hospital…. Officers visited Panupong in hospital before 7am on Saturday.”








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