Nine years of PPT

21 01 2018

Yet another year has passed for Political Prisoners in Thailand.

After nine years, it is dispiriting that we must still post on gross authoritarianism, monarchy and political repression in Thailand.

PPT should have gone the way of the dinosaurs, being unnecessary as Thailand’s political prisoners would have been released and political repression replaced with a more democratic regime.

We began PPT on 21 January 2009, thinking our endeavors would be temporary. More than 7,000 posts and millions of views later, we are still at it, and Thailand is currently more authoritarian than it was when we began.

Thailand has now had an illegal military regime for almost four years. That regime was founded in nonsensical royalism and bound to a monarchy that remains feudal in its politics and grasping in its economic location. One king has gone and the new one is treading both a familiar path while adding his own peculiar positions and toadies. He has shown himself driven by the desire for wealth, power and to rid his kingdom of the vestiges of the 1932 revolution.

A better, more representative and more democratic politics remains a dream. The “reform” promised by the military junta and now embedded in a military-royal constitution promises that Thailand will remain dominated by an authoritarian elite for years to come.

The past year saw “enthusiasm” for an election, but without some kind of political slapdown of the junta, no election in Thailand can be free or fair under the junta’s rules.

When we sputtered into life PPT was as a collaborative effort to bring more international attention to the expanded use of the lese majeste and computer crimes laws by the then Abhisit Vejjajiva regime and his anti-democratic Democrat Party. That regime’s tenure saw scores die and thousands injured in political clashes in 2009 and 2010 with hundreds held as political prisoners.

The royalism and repression that gained political impetus from anti-democratic street demonstrations that paved the way for the 2006 military coup and then for the 2014 military coup have become the military state’s ideology. That alliance looks weaker today as the junta and The Dictator seemingly prepare for post-election repression by a military-dominated regime.

Opponents of the military and the monarchy continue to be detained, coerced and threatened. Lese majeste has been used against them, silencing them and those who become fearful that they too might be whisked away into detention.

The 2006 and 2014 coups, conducted in the name of the monarchy, have seen a precipitous slide into a  political dark age. The current military junta has used the lese majeste, computer crimes and sedition laws as grotesque weapons of choice for its political repression.

Royalists have fought to maintain a royalist state that lavishes privilege, wealth and power on a few. The military junta is seeking to institutionalize this control and power.

It seems forlorn to hope for the release of political prisoners under this regime.

Even so, we must remember that lese majeste is used in unconstitutional ways and the authorities demand “confessions” from those charged so that the courts do nothing but sentence. We should recall that brave individuals like Somyos Pruksakasemsuk and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, now imprisoned for almost seven years and one year respectively, remain in jail. There are scores of others, workers, red shirts and activists, including the most recent inmate, a blind woman. Their continued imprisonment is a travesty of justice and their treatment has been inhumane and, in many cases, illegal.

In recent years, these lese majeste cases have grown exponentially. Military and civil courts have held secret trials and handed out unimaginably harsh sentences. And even worse than this,  the definition of what constitutes a crime under the draconian lese majeste law has been extended to include implied lese majeste and the “protection” of royals not cover by the law and even royal dogs and kings long dead.

PPT has now had more than 5.4 million page views at our two sites. We aren’t in the big league in the blogging world, despite an “award” ranking Political Prisoners of Thailand as one of Thailand’s top 100 blogs (in English). Even so, the level of interest in Thailand’s politics and the use of lese majeste internationally has increased. We are pleased that there is far more attention to the issue than there was when we began and that the international reporting and understanding of the issue is far more critical than it was when we began.

We want to thank our readers for sticking with us through the deepening attempts by the Thai censors to block us. Since mid-December, many of our readers in Thailand can only access PPT using a VPN.

We trust that we remain useful and we appreciate the emails we receive.

As in the past, we declare:

The lese majeste and computer crimes laws must be repealed.

All political prisoners must be released.

The military dictatorship must be deposed.





Release Pai XVII

28 07 2017

Prachatai reports that a “military court has refused to release an embattled anti-junta activist after summoning him for a witness hearing.”

On 27 July 2017, Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa appeared before the Military Court of Khon Kaen for a witness hearing in the “case in which Jatuphat and six other youth activists were charged with violation of the junta’s political gathering ban of five or more persons for gathering at the replica of the Democracy Monument in Khon Kaen Province to commemorate the first anniversary of the coup d’état on 22 May 2015.”

With Jatuphat are “Aphiwat Suntrarak, Phayu Boonsophon, Phanupong Srithananuwat, Suwitcha Pitangkorn, Supachai Phukrongploy, and Wasan Setsit.”

This military court held the hearing in camera and proceeded to revoked the bail it had previously granted in this case, “reasoning that Jatuphat is also battling a royal defamation case.”

As we have previously stated, when it comes to lese majeste, Prachatai gets its terminology wrong. There is no “reasoning” involved and the concocted notion that lese majeste is about “royal defamation” has been disproved. In fact, lese majeste is a political charge used against political opponents.

Political prisoners, military courts and secret trials: that’s what Thailand’s military dictatorship does.





Release Pai XVI

16 07 2017

The military dictatorship’s jailing of  Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa (or Pai) is an example of how the junta engages in selective political repression.

The first political activist to be charged and jailed on lese majeste charges during the reign of the loathsome King Vajiralongkorn, his arrest was a act of political repression, singling out Pai among thousands who shared a BBC Thai story about the king. Pai has now been held in jail for more than six months awaiting what will surely be a conviction.

Of course, the “authorities” want him to plead guilty so that they can jail him without a trail.

The junta’s regime is interested in repression and uses the law as a gangster uses a gun.

In this story of repression, double standards and manipulation of the law, as The Nation reports, international activists are now working to bring attention to Pai’s sad and sorry case.

These activists have launched a campaign called “Bring the World to Pai” to tell the stories of Jatuphat and other political prisoners, while telling the world about the political situation in Thailand under the military dictatorship.

The brave young activists, “identified as Cat, Chris, Austin, Jay, and Effy from Australia, England, Canada, Malaysia, and Vietnam” actually “visited Pai at Khon Kaen Central Prison on Friday.”

Pai was said to be “in good spirit and told his international friends, with one of his fists up in the air, to encourage young people everywhere to carry on their struggle for freedom and democracy.”

This expression of “solidarity with Thai activists opposed to the military-backed regime” puts the conference delegates at the International Conference on Thai Studies in Chiang Mai to shame. So far, PPT hasn’t heard a peep from these academic tourists about the grave political situation or about political prisoners in Thailand. There’s still time for some kind of statement from them, but so far it has been silence, which the junta must appreciate.





Enforced amnesia

17 06 2017

The efforts to erase history from the brains of Thais continues.

A widely-circulated Khaosod report is of junta thug-soldiers and police going to two art galleries in Bangkok and ordering the removal of “three photographs from an exhibition without citing any reason.”

In fact, thug-soldiers working for the military dictatorship doesn’t need any reason for doing what it pleases. Yet, in this case, the notion seems to be to prevent people from remembering.

One of the exhibitions depicts the “lives and memories of political prisoners while the other was an homage to the 2010 military crackdown on Redshirt protests which left more than 90 people dead.”

The soldiers reportedly showed up under a misapprehension that lese majeste convict Pornthip Munkong, was hosting the exhibition. In fact, many of the photos had already been removed from the exhibition following a complaint by Pornthip.

By chance, the soldiers wandered across to the other exhibition and were aghast that the exhibition “contrasts images of the bloody 2010 crackdown with pictures of everyday life.” The soldiers demanded that three collages be removed.

The military junta seems intent on countrywide lobotomy.





Shackling and chaining political prisoners

16 06 2016

The military dictatorship continues to treat its political prisoners – most especially those charged with lese majeste – as dangerous criminals. This is reflective of both the feudal mindset of royalists and their cruel desire to torture and belittle those with whom they do not agree.

Shackled and chainedPrachatai reports that two junta critics Harit Mahaton and Natthika Worathaiwich have been taken, shackled and chained, to a military court. For a fourth time, the court rejected bail for the two civilians, accused of lese majeste.

As usual, the royalist court refused bail because lese majeste is considered a major crime in royalist Thailand and because it thought the two were flight risks. (The courts, both civil and military, almost always say this as they repeatedly refuse bail for those being victimized under the lese majeste law.)

On “15 June 2016, the Bangkok military court rejected one million baht bail for the [two], … accused of lѐse majesté for sending messages deemed defamatory to the Thai [m]onarchy in their private Facebook chat.”

The court did urge “authorities to finish the case’s investigation before the end of current custody period. The two have been detained for almost two months.” (Slow investigations are part of a process of wearing down the defendants, repeatedly demanding that they plead guilty.)





“Loosening up”

4 06 2016

There has been quite a lot of media discussion of the military dictatorship “loosening up.”

This picture, we assume recent, shows several political prisoners being marched to appear before a military court.

Shackled

Shackled and made to walk barefoot, these political prisoners are degraded by the process of parading them to court. None of them is dangerous or likely to flee, but they are shackled nonetheless.

Loosening up? Well, the shackles are now lighter than those used previously, which belonged to the 18th century. The picture below is of lese majeste victim Joe Gordon, forced to wear leg irons.

Joe Gordon in chains in 2011

Joe Gordon in chains in 2011





US still wrong on lese majeste

29 06 2015

PPT has, each year, been critical of the U.S. State Department’s report on human rights for failing to acknowledge that the lese majeste law is a political law and that almost all of those held under this law are political prisoners. This year (referring to 2014), the report moves a little closer, but still can’t accept that lese majeste is used for explicitly political purposes and for political repression. This is what the report says:

Political Prisoners and Detainees112
Prior to the May 22 coup, there were no government reports of political prisoners or detainees, but sources estimated that 20 persons remained detained under lese majeste laws that outlaw criticism of the monarchy (see section 2.a.). Some of the cases involved persons exercising their rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Following the May 22 coup, the military government opened at least 15 new lese majeste cases for investigation as of September, while authorities also revived other cases in which officials had not previously filed charges.