Further updated: Yuletide lese majeste

22 12 2020

There’s been quite a lot of commentary on the protests, some motivated by the avalanche of lese majeste cases and some by the fact that the end of the year begs for reviews.

One that caught our attention is by Matthew Wheeler, Senior Analyst for Southeast Asia at the International Crisis Group. It is quite a reasonable and careful rundown of events prompting the demonstrations and the call for reform of the monarchy.

The lese majeste cases pile higher and higher. In a Bangkok Post report on people turning up to hear lese majeste charges, eight are listed: Arnon Nampa, Intira Charoenpura, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Nattathida Meewangpla, Shinawat Chankrachang, Phimsiri Phetnamrop, and Phromson Wirathamchari.

We can’t locate the latter two on the most recent Prachatai graphic that listed 34 activists charged under 112, but that graphic does include five with names withheld. For us, this brings the total charged to 34-36, but it may well be more.

There was some good news on lese majeste. It is reported that, after more than 4.5 years, a ludicrous 112 charge against Patnaree Chankij have been dismissed. The mother of activist Sirawith Seritiwat, the Criminal Court on Tuesday dismissed the charge. Her one word “jah” in a chat conversation was said to be the cause of the charge but, in reality, going after her was the regime’s blunt effort to silence her son.

A second piece of reasonable news is that the Criminal Court also dismissed charges of sedition brought by the military junta against former deputy prime minister Chaturon Chaisaeng on 27 May 2014 six years ago under Section 116 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act. This was another junta effort to silence critics.

As seen in recent days, equally ludicrous charges have been brought against a new generation of critics.

Update 1: Thai PBS reports that the Criminal Court acquitted nine members of the Pro-Election Group who had been charged in late January 2018 with poking the military junta: “Section 116 of the Criminal Code, illegal public assembly within a 150-metre radius of a Royal palace and defying the then junta’s order regarding public assembly of more than five people.”

The defendants were Veera Somkwamkid, Rangsiman Rome, currently a party-list for the Kao Klai party, Serawit Sereethiat, Nattha Mahatthana, Anon Nampa, a core member of the Ratsadon Group, Aekkachai Hongkangwan, Sukrit Piansuwan, Netiwit Chotepatpaisarn and Sombat Boon-ngam-anong.

The court ruled that:

… protesters complaining about the postponement of general elections cannot be regarded as incitement to public unrest. It also said that the protesters had no intention to defy the ban against public assembly within 150-metres of the Royal palace.

Of course, the charges were always bogus, but the junta’s point was to use “law” for political repression.

Update 2: The Nation reports that there were, in fact, 39 defendants who were acquitted.





Where’s Burin Intin?

25 10 2019

The Thai Alliance for Human Rights website has posted three parts of an article by Ann Norman. These posts follow the case of Burin Intin, who was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 11 years and 4 months in prison on dubious lese majeste charges. He remains in jail and thes posts ask why.

What happened to Burin Intin? Part 1: His lese majesty case in light of the attacks on Ja New

What Happened to Burin Intin, Part 2: Some Clues from the Songs of Resistant Citizen

What Happened to Burin Inten? Part 3: Why is He Still in Jail after a String of Royal Pardons?





Another cowardly attack III

29 06 2019

Prachatai reports “Activist Sirawith attacked in broad daylight.” The attack at about 11.30 am was by thugs in “a crowded area with a lot of witnesses who subsequently contacted his mother and called an ambulance.”

Sirawith was at first sent to Navamin Hospital with major head injuries. He was “unresponsive and unable to speak.”

At about 2 pm, Sirawith’s mother Patnaree Charnkij said he also “has a broken nose and eye socket. He was having difficulty breathing and was on oxygen, but MRI scans found no brain haemorrhage. Subsequent doctor’s examination also found that Sirawith is unable to see with his right eye.” He was transferred to the Mission Hospital. He was in intensive care.

Patnaree reported the assault to police and “gave investigators the clothes her son was wearing during the attack as evidence.” She also “filed a complaint with the police…”.

What wasn’t reported is that when she attended the police station, uniformed military also showed up. While we are sure that the junta has a “reason” to give for this presence, it seems to us that it is just more intimidation. It is mafia-like behavior. Unfortunately, this is not at all remarkable as the regime behaves in these thuggish ways.

Prachatai’s editorial team has released a statement. Part of it states:

This is the 11th political assault since 2018, and public sentiment is growing more intense as progress in all investigations is next to zero. Justice delayed is justice denied, and the Thai state’s failure to bring the perpetrators to justice only encourages impunity and a license to harm and kill.

We assume that this total does not include those anti-monarchy activists disappeared and murdered in neighboring countries.

It continues:

No matter who is responsible, this qualifies as terrorism, defined as the use of violence which aims to generate fear in the general public for political purposes. And when the Thai state fails repeatedly to prevent the assaults, the term ‘state-sponsored terrorism’ starts to become appropriate.

Reflecting on yellow-shirted cheering of attacks on activists, pointing to one by Siripong Rassamee, an MP for the junta’s Phalang Pracharat Party, who posted on Facebook saying “he [Sirawith] deserves more.” Responding to this barbarity, the statement adds:

… opinion which discredits the integrity of the activists or devalues their right to basic personal security makes it easier for complacent, and maybe complicit authorities to sleep at night and let the assaults continue. A culture of violence is allowed to ferment and this justifies the on-going impunity.

We think the junta knows exactly who is responsible for these barbarous attacks. And, it is responsible for unleashing the thugs. PPT has pointed this out some time ago. The regime’s silence condemns it.





Kings and lese majeste

20 08 2017

In another interesting op-ed at the Bangkok Post, Alan Dawson comments on lese majeste. This is always a difficult topic in royalist Thailand.

On Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, Dawson considers, as we do, that his case is a “fit-up.” He says that:

Clearly, as the 3,000 people who weren’t charged [for sharing the BBC Thai story that got Pai charged] show, there’s more than a little bit of Beria in all this — the dreadful Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s secret police hatchetman who bragged: “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.”

He continues with “[a]nother example of that unique aroma of extra-careful selection” on lese majeste:

Patnaree Chankij, a 41-year-old domestic worker, wrote “ja” (yeah) in response to a Facebook post that kicked off a social media discussion about the monarchy. After police refused to charge her, the military prosecutor lovingly culled Ms Patnaree from among dozens of posters on that thread to face lese majeste charges.

There are those so blind that they actually deny that the motherly Ms Patnaree was selected from all the other candidates because she is literally the mother of Sirawit “Ja New” Serithiwat. Ja New, referred to by Bangkok junta supporters as a “pain in the extreme lower back area”, is an unrepentant coup opponent.

The fit-up:

Two events occurred. Ja New refused to take military advice to stop protesting against the coup. Ms Patnaree, his mother, was chosen for arrest, detention and prosecution on lese majeste charges for “yeah”.

Dawson concludes this comparison saying: “You can claim publicly these two acts are unrelated, so long as you enjoy people pointing at you and laughing uproariously.”

We get the point. Yet lese majeste is hardly a laughing matter even if the gyrations of its exponents are comical and extreme.

Like others who write on lese majeste and express some criticism of the law, Dawson also quotes the late king on lese majeste. He argues that the dead king “spoke several times in public against the lese majeste law.”

We are not convinced. The quotes that Dawson uses, like all the others who use it, are from the almost unintelligible and rambling 2005 birthday speech.

Yes, the king appeared to say that lese majeste was a bother, and also claimed that “the king” had never used it. But read the whole thing and read it in context and it is clear that the dead king was not advocating an end to the law or even its revision. He was criticizing Thaksin Shinawatra and complaining about the “trouble” caused for the king most especially when foreigners are charged with lese majeste.

(Recall that Thaksin’s government had caused an international kerfuffle when the Far Eastern Economic Review reported on alleged financial and business dealings between then Prince Vajiralongkorn and Thaksin, and used lese majeste.)

At the same time, we also know that that king’s offices have engaged in lese majeste cases, appealing sentences considered too light and even making complaints. So the dead king was embellishing the truth.

Then Dawson gets to the current king:

… the King has shown his feelings about Section 112 and about the government’s obsession with it. In the very first set of details given before last December’s royal pardons, His Majesty’s announcement stated specifically that prisoners imprisoned for lese majeste would be eligible. It was a slap against the junta’s fixation.

The general prime minister says His Majesty has clearly stated that he wants no one, ever, to be punished for lese majeste. That wasn’t the shock. The shock was the junta leader’s reaction. Which was to state that Section 112 exists to protect the monarchy.

The monarch does not want protection to extend, ever, to punishment. The military regime will continue to push for maximum punishment anyway.

This is buffalo manure.

The use of lese majeste against the king’s former wife Srirasmi, her family and associates is well known. So has been the use of lese majeste charges against unfortunates who have fallen out with the new king.





Patnaree’s lese majeste case begins

17 06 2017

Another ludicrous and vindictive lese majeste trial has begun. On 16 June 2017, testimony began to be heard in the lese majeste case against Patnaree Chankij.

The case is ludicrous for several reasons. For one thing, it is an attempt to silence Patnaree’s son, anti-junta activist Sirawith Seritiwat. Second, the charge appears to relate to one word in a Facebook conversation about the monarchy: “ja.”

While the report linked here says that the word is initially translated as “yeah,” this is a misinterpretation that the military regime knows will be the court’s understanding. In fact, “ja” is a word used for all kinds of responses to statements by others and does not always imply agreement with anything at all.

Yet ludicrous lese majeste charges are “normal” for the military dictatorship as it seeks to manage Thailand as a royalist anti-democracy.

Patnaree is a single mother and a domestic worker and for her “ja” now stands “accused of insulting the monarchy, a crime known as lese majeste for which she could serve three to 15 years in prison.” She also faces charges under the Computer Crimes Act, another “law” that represses free speech in Thailand.

So far, Patnaree has maintained that she innocent on all the junta’s charges. She has “denied she had any intention to join in or endorse criticism of the monarchy in the conversation.” She adds: “I am fighting this charge to prove my innocence… My intention, my thought and the text that I wrote have already shown that I had no such idea (to defame the monarchy).”

The report states that the only “witness” heard on Friday was “an army officer who filed the complaint against her, laid out the details of the prosecution’s case.” The case is, like so many other lese majeste cases, a political persecution.





Updated: 11+ years for lese majeste

27 01 2017

Prachatai reports that Burin Intin has been sentenced by a military court on two lese majeste charges.

The report isn’t entirely clear. It says Burin was sentenced to 11 years and 4 months. Usually, when a “suspect” pleads “guilty,” the sentence is halved, so we wonder if Burin was actually sentenced to 22 years and 8 months.

Prachatai states:

The military court read the verdict two days after he pleaded guilty to two lèse majesté counts he was indicted with. Together with the lèse majesté offences, Burin was also indicted with Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act for publishing illegal computer content.

The first count concerned a Facebook comment which was posted shortly before he joined the protest on 27 April 2016. The second was a message on his private Facebook chat with Patnaree Chankij, the mother of Sirawit Serithiwat, a well-known anti-junta activist.

We can now expect the merciless thug-junta to now go after the single mother Patnaree.

Update: A report in the Bangkok Post sort of clarifies sentencing. It states:

During sentencing yesterday, the court initially commuted his term by half due to his confession.

However because he had been convicted for another crime less than five years ago the court increased his sentence by a third, which meant he will have to serve 11 years and four months in total.





Forced confessions and lese majeste

25 01 2017

In a recent post we used the term  whiffy to describe a deal approved by the military junta to extend a contract to manage the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center for one of Thailand’s richest.

If that deal was whiffy, then a recent story at Prachatai details a case that reeks.

It is apparently another case of a political activist being accused of lese majeste and then being fitted up. In this case, being held in detention until he “agreed” to plead guilty.

Burin Intin, a welder from northern Thailand, was arrested about 27 April 2016. He was taken from the police by soldiers and detained at a military base before being indicted on two counts of lese majeste and computer crime charges on 22 July 2016.Burin

He was arrested as the military junta cracked down on dissidents. Burin had been campaigning online for the release of the eight from the Neo-Democracy and  Resistant Citizen groups arrested for opposing the military junta’s illegal rule.

The military junta’s thugs declared that Burin had committed lese majeste in his “private chats” on Facebook and it was soon revealed that at least some of his chats were with Patnaree Chankij, the mother of activist student Sirawith Seritiwat, who has also been charged with lese majeste in another bizarre case.

The conversation was referred to by police using these (translated)  words:

In the [Facebook] chat, Mr. Burin who used his Facebook account named “Burin Intin” had posted messages obviously deemed defamatory to the monarchy. During the chat, Mr. Burin had also wrote “Don’t criticise me for saying all these”, and a reply had come from a Facebook account “Nuengnuch Chankij writing ‘Ja’.

Having been held for almost nine months, on 24 January 2017, Burin changed his plea before the military court to guilty on lese majeste and computer crimes charges. He will be sentenced on Friday.

It is a common tactic of the thug-authorities to drag out lese majeste cases until they get a guilty plea. This tactic is a form of torture.

Burin has stated that, on “the night when he was detained at the military base in Bangkok, army officers demanded his Facebook password, but he resisted by keeping his mouth shut.” He claims that he was then beaten:

a heavily-built man in plain clothes, with a knitted hat, gave Burin four hard slaps on the head, while an interrogation officer threatened him by saying “You surely won’t survive. You won’t be able to get out [of this place]. If you won’t tell me [your password], I will take you somewhere where you will face even harsher treatment.”

Burin insists he did not give up his password yet police “used conversations claimed to have been obtained from Burin’s Facebook inbox as supporting evidence to press charges against him.”

It also appears that “the documents to support the charges appear to have been prepared even before the police raided his house and confiscated his computer.”

This is just one more lese majeste case where laws and the rights of citizens are simply ignored and thug-authorities steamroller cases to conviction. The “justice” system in Thailand is very deeply flawed, but nowhere is it so lawless and unconstitutional than in the use of the lese majeste law and the framing of “suspects.”

Thailand’s “justice” system, always dubious, is now a sham. Previous shaky notions of rule of law have been expunged to create an injustice system of rule of and by lords, with the lords being the military, monarchy and the royalist elite.





The dictatorship’s threat to all opposition

16 12 2016

Prachatai reports that, on 14 December 2016, a military court has held a deposition hearing on the lese majeste case against Patnaree Charnkij, the mother of the well-known anti-junta activist Sirawith Serithiwat.

The court decided to hear the case in secret, announcing “it would proceed with the hearing in camera, allowing only Patnaree and her defence lawyer to be in the courtroom without any observers since the case is related to the lèse majesté law.”

Patnaree denied the lese majeste charge “and vowed to fight the case.” She remains on bail.

Patnaree’s charge arises from a “private Facebook chat with Burin Intin, another lèse majesté suspect.”

In fact, she is charged because the military dictatorship has sought to silence her activist son. It is a threat to each and every activist, emphatically stating that the junta will come after you and your family if you dare oppose the junta.

She is accused of “defaming” the monarchy by the use of the word “ja” when “replying to a Facebook message from Burin deemed to be lèse majesté…”.

The report states that “Human Rights Watch translated this word as a non-committal, colloquial ‘yes’ in the Thai language,” while the lese majeste police say the word “shows that she accepted or agreed with the message and failed to report Burin to the authorities.”

Both are wrong. The use of “ja” or “ka” or “krup” is an acknowledgement of another’s statement. It is not a “yes” or an agreement. These words do not imply agreement or disagreement.

Her secret trial in a military court will begin on 29 March 2017.





Lese majeste indictments mount

5 08 2016

The junta’s lese majeste witch hunts have continued, somewhat behind the scenes, as the regime has worked to get its way on the referendum and the military’s charter. There have been several indictments in recent days.

Prachatai reports that a military prosecutor has indicted two anti-junta critics, charging them with lese majeste “in their private Facebook chat.”

On 2 August 2016, the military prosecutor officially “indicted Harit Mahaton and Natthika Worathaiwich, youth anti-junta critics, of offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Code…”. They will face a military court and their trial will probably be conducted in secret.

They also face  charges under the 2007 Computer Crime Act, “a law against the importation of illegal information into the computer system.”

Surprisingly, the two were “released as the Military Court earlier granted them bail under 500,000 baht surety each.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that Patnaree Chankij, “[t]he mother of a leading activist against the military junta in Thailand has been charged with insulting the country’s monarchy in a one-word Facebook post.”

The woman “was brought to a military court in Bangkok on Monday after the attorney general decided to press charges despite police saying earlier that they would not pursue the case.”

She was also released on bail.





Threatening children I

22 07 2016

The news from Thailand today has been depressingly bizarre. Earlier in the day, the Bangkok Post seemed to indicate that the military junta had blinked. The junta had apparently decided to “allow debates on the draft constitution in all provinces ahead of the Aug 7 referendum, bowing to pressure for calls for open talks.”

At the same time, elements of the junta seem to have gone berserk in their political repression. We have posted on the dictatorship’s lese majeste attacks on Patnaree Chankij and Noppawan Bunluesilp.

Most bizarre, however, is the demented decision to to “file charges against two 8-year-old schoolgirls who tore a voter registration list because they wanted its pink paper.” We posted on this case earlier.

Two 8-year-old girls collecting some pretty paper hardly seem like  threat to anything. But the junta’s minions at the ridiculous Election Commission have demanded their prosecution along with an apparently deranged police chief, Pol. Maj. Gen. Damrong Phetphong. The latter declared “he told the local election commissioner to file a complaint because the children had destroyed commission property.”

The crazy cop has been pushing for some kind of “example” to be made of the threatening youngsters He thundered:

There is no such thing excessive enforcement of the law…. The law has different punishments for adults, children and drunk people.We follow regulations. The judge will be the one who decides.

Meanwhile, the local “elections chief Suraphong Thanasangnuchit said he worried about being accused of dereliction of duty for not filing a criminal complaint against the little girls.”

Amazingly, these two girls are to be “further interrogated” as the police seek to establish “criminal intent.” Thailand, a global laughing stock, has witnessed the Grade 2 students fingerprinted “and criminal records run.” This despite the fact that they are too young to be responsible.

We can only imagine that the two 8-year-olds are extremely threatening for the military junta. The threat real is that the junta is demented and deranged and is getting madder by the moment.