1976 in the news

7 10 2021

The Bangkok Post reported on the memorial rally, but little more. On that memorial event it noted:

Little has changed in the 45 years since students and activists were massacred by the military and rightwing radicals at Thammasat University….

This point was made by speakers when activists and members of the victims’ families gathered on Wednesday at the memorial at Thammasat University….

The Thalufah group said in a statement posted on its Facebook page that they would never forget the events of Oct 6 1976, and said violent means were unacceptable nowdays.

Red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar said students continued to fight for democracy 45 years later, with the country still divided with no political solution to the problem.

Despite the efforts of the state and especially the bureaucracy, military and monarchy, the events of 1976 have never been forgotten. The state’s success has been in preventing any meaningful investigation, covering up the events, and in providing impunity for the murderers who stalked the students at Thammasat and for several years after. Yet another effort is being made to rectify this, although the International Criminal Court is a high hurdle.

Kudos to Thai Examiner for its several reports on 6 October 1976. It did much better than most of the mainstream media. We are especially grateful for their interview with Sutham Saengprathum who was Secretary-General of the National Student Center of Thailand in 1976. As we recall it – correct us if our collective memory is faulty – Sutham was jailed as a political prisoner for a long period, and there was an international campaign for his release.

We especially like hearing from other students of the period as much of the “heavy lifting” on 1976 has been done in English by Thongchai Winichakul. See recent efforts here and here. Without other voices in English accounts, 1976 risks becoming Thongchai’s 1976. His major contribution is Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok, available from Library Genesis.


Royalism corrupts

4 09 2021

The judicial system has lost much of the precarious public support it once had. Now, the only standards used are double standards.

Admittedly, the police were never held in high esteem, known to be murderous and thoroughly corrupt. But judges and prosecutors also display wanton corruption and never-ending double standards.

While some judges still try to hold some standards and to adjudicate the law, the deepening royalism of the judiciary has overwhelmed them. Political cases litter the judicial playing field, with judges taking decisions based on notions of “Thainess,” “good” vs “bad” people, on orders from the top or made for reasons that seem to bear no relationship to written law. Not a few judges have been shown to be corrupt.

A Bangkok Post picture

Meanwhile, prosecutors do as they are told and, in some cases, as they are paid. Wealthy killers get off with the support of corrupt prosecutors. Kids get prosecuted for political crimes. Working hand in royal glove with judges, prosecutors oppose bail in political cases, seeking to damage “suspects” through lese majeste torture and, now, the threat of virus infection in prison for political prisoners.

On the latter, as the Bangkok Post reports that “activist Chartchai Kaedam is one among many political prisoners infected with Covid-19.” His condition is cause for much concern.

A petition has been lodged with the National Human Rights Commission “demanding an investigation into how a Karen rights activist contracted Covid-19 while imprisoned,…” pointing out that “he is not a criminal and should be allowed bail, especially given his health condition…”. The petition added that “bringing innocent people into a contagious environment such as a prison during a deadly virus outbreak violates their rights..”.

The NHRC has been pretty hopeless since it was politicized under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, but in this case, Commissioner Sayamol Kraiyoorawong says “staff have made some ‘unofficial’ attempts to get information from the Department of Corrections about his [Chartchai’s] condition and treatment.” But guess what: “Under the Covid-19 crisis, we [NHRC] have not been allowed access to the prison to see people…”. Other concerned by his condition are also denied information. Prachatai reports that the “his family and lawyer were not able to speak to his doctor or obtain information on his condition.”

The impression is of a callous, deliberately dangerous, and unjust system seeking to punish even those not convicted of a crime and held without bail on trifling charges. Of course, they are political charges.

In another branch of the royalist swill, the police are still at it. Pol Col Thitisan “Joe” Uttanapol or “Joe Ferrari,” has reportedly been charged “with premeditated murder by means of torture, unlawful deprivation of liberty and malfeasance.” Despite all the evidence leaked, Joe now claims “he just ‘assaulted’ the victim, and did not torture and murder him.” He’ll probably get off. The pattern will be for witnesses to be paid off or strong-armed, for the case to be drawn out for years, and with public attention having moved on, and judges gingered up and rewarded, Joe might get a suspended sentence. That’s how the system rots.

All in all, this is a sorry tale of how royalism corrupts, money corrupts, and political preferences corrupt.

But never fear, “good” people are at work. Into this fetid swamp masquerading as a judicial system, come the Education Ministry, “planning to modify the history curriculum in schools to strengthen learning amid recent moves by youth groups against the kingdom’s highest institution [they mean the monarchy].” Yes, cleaning up Thailand means pouring palace propaganda into children. We suppose that this is an admission that the never-ending and expensive royalist buffalo manure over 50 years has failed to get sufficient cowering acquiescence. We do know that those who have drunk most at the fount of royalist propaganda are the most corrupt.


Deadly serious I

17 08 2021

Readers may recall that the regime’s jailers say that lawyers can’t visit their clients when they are first taken into custody because of virus restrictions and quarantine.

It turns out that being taken into custody coukd amount to a death sentence. But, then, we suspect that the judges who refuse bail or revoke bail and the jailers know this.

The Nation reports that

The Department of Corrections announced on Monday that pro-democracy activists Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Promsorn “Fah” Veerathamjaree and Sirichai Nathuang have tested positive for Covid-19.

They are among the eight protesters detained in Thanyaburi prison in Pathum Thani early this month and are now under quarantine. All eight protesters underwent a PCR test for Covid-19 on Saturday, while Parit and Promsorn were tested again on Monday for confirmation. Sirichai’s infection was confirmed on Sunday.

All three are said to be “perfectly fine…”.

It seems clear that getting infected in prison is almost guaranteed. Even if infected prior to being taken into custody, being in jail increases health risks for political prisoners.

Further updated: “Justice” kills

6 05 2021

There’s increasing concern about hunger strikers and political prisoners Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, including well-meaning calls from some for them to not die when seeking justice.

Sadly, it is becoming clear that the regime is callous and savage. More, we know that the king has a say in whether the lese majeste is used or not. We also know that he is savage in dealing with those he thinks have been disrespectful – look at how he has treated his various wives and Vajiralongkorn’s mad and furious tone in his official declarations when he sacks people.

It gets worse. It is now confirmed that another political prisoner, Arnon Nampa, has fallen ill with the Covid virus “and been moved for medical treatment” at the Medical Correctional Institution. The virus appears to be infecting many inmates and may be out of control.

Coronation 1

Arnon is the second political prisoner to have contracted the virus while incarcerated. The first was Chukiat “Justin” Saengwong.

All prisoners are now under threat, but that these political prisoners are at risk is yet another example of the politicization and monarchization of the (in)justice system. After all, the junta’s constitution states at Article 29:

A suspect or defendant in a criminal case shall be presumed innocent, and before the passing of a final judgment convicting a person of having committed an offence, such person shall not be treated as a convict.

In lese majeste cases, there is a presumption of guilt.

The question must be asked again and again: why is that these activists are not receiving justice? What is it or who is it preventing justice? WHo is it who doesn not care if they die? Who is it that relishes this savage and feudal treatment of young Thais?

No wonder hundreds of thousands of young Thais have joined a Facebook group that displays their dismay and that they have lost faith in many of the country’s institutions.

The military, the mafia regime, and the monarchy are destroying the country while they and their friends eat it.

Update1 : Some good news: “The Criminal Court has approved bail for the temporary release of Rassadon co-leader Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul on condition that she must not get involved in activities deemed to dishonour the monarchy.” Who knows what the latter condition means.In addition, “she must not join any activity that may cause unrest in the country, leave the country without permission and must report to the court as scheduled.”

The court appeared unable to make a decision without getting advice-cum-orders from on high: “After an inquiry into her bail request on Thursday morning, the court first scheduled handing down the decision at 3pm but later rescheduled it twice to 4pm and 5pm.” We take that delay as confirmation that the court gets it order from the regime and/or the palace.

Update 2: Despite the virus outbreak in prisons and at least two political prisoners already infected, Parit Chiwarak has been transferred “from Ramathibodi Hospital back to prison … after his health improved.” The danger to him is made clear by the courts themselves, which refuse to hear these defendants for fear of the virus. Parit’s court appearance, and that for Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, have been postponed “because the two defendants will not complete their 14-day quarantine until tomorrow. Prison officials said both have to be screened again, to make sure they are clear of the virus, before they will be allowed to attend the hearing.” This amounts to protecting judges and other officials – which is reasonable – but keeping political prisoners in dangerous conditions.

Bail protests

3 05 2021

Frustration, sadness, and anger are common responses to the repeated denial of bail for protest leaders, most of them charged with political “crimes.” The continued use of the lese majeste law to silence political protest and the repeated use – over many years – of a cadre of “lock-them-up” judges who take orders from higher authorities heightens those emotions.

On Sunday, all of these emotions were on display, heightened by the political prisoner Parit’s mother displaying her frustration and deep sadness:

Sureerat Chiwarak … shaved her head yesterday (30 April) to protest against the court’s decision to repeatedly deny bail for her son, whose health is reported to be rapidly declining after being on a hunger strike for the past 46 days.

She’s begging for her son to be bailed.

One result of the callous and savage actions of the military-monarchy regime was the frustration of:

Hundreds of Thai protesters hurled red paint, tomatoes and eggs at a Bangkok court Sunday, demanding the release of all political detainees, including an activist who was hospitalised after a hunger strike.

The protesters rallied outside “Bangkok’s Criminal Court to demand Penguin’s release — and that of other detained activists involved in the pro-democracy movement,” demanding justice and not the rubbish dished out by the regime:

They sloshed red paint all over the court’s entrance, where they had plastered posters of the judge who protesters believed had denied Penguin’s bail.

Protesters also hurled eggs and tomatoes into the compound as police stood guard with plastic riot shields.

Meanwhile, long-time anti-coup and labor rights activist Patchanee Khamnak, who joined the rally “began a hunger strike in front of the Bangkok’s Ratchadapisek Criminal Court at 4pm on Sunday, demanding release on bail of all anti-establishment Ratsadon leaders and followers indicted on lèse majesté charges and being held on remand.”

Protesters also rallied at the Victory Monument, where they railed against politicized judges.

The police responded with more of the same. They made arrests, “dispersed” protesters, lied about the actions of protesters and promised more arrests.

Another poem from prison

22 04 2021

A couple of days ago we posted a poem by political prisoner Parit Chiwarak, known as Penguin. Ann Norman has now sent us a second, more recent Penguin poem:


Verses of Blessings Offered to the Citizens, People who Create the Nation


On the Occasion of Chakri Day

วันที่ 6 เมษายน 2564

April 6, 2021


กรุงเทพเทพเสกได้ เองฤา

Can Krungtep be created by the magic spell of an angel?

ล้วนแต่ตีนแต่มือ ไพร่สร้าง

All the feet, all the hands . . . commoners create and build

เวียงวังวัดสะพรั่งคือ ใครก่อ ขึ้นนา

The towns, royal palaces, and temples in blossom, who built them up?

ใยเทพฉวยชื่ออ้าง ว่าตั้ง กรุงเอง

Why does the angel snatch the name, claiming he built it himself?


ปราสาททองอร่ามเรื้อง เรืองสมัย

Golden palaces glitter and gleam for ages

ทองรีบเร้นจนใคร ขื่นกล้ำ

The gold was seized until someone is bitter

โอ้ว่าทิพยาลัย สรวงสถิตย์

The palaces where monarchs lived

งามวิสิทธิ์วิเศษล้ำ ก็น้ำตาใคร

Magnificently and splendidly built on whose tears?


เหงื่อไพร่พรูพรั่งพื้น พสุธา

The sweat of commoners pouring to the ground

ข้าวจึงเหลืองเต็มนา ทั่วด้าว

The rice therefore fully yellows the fields throughout the territory

ใช่โพสพเทวดา ใดเสก ประทานแฮ

Not the Goddess of Rice casting a spell, granting [it]

ผองไพร่ไป่ปลูกข้าว ฤาเจ้า มีเสวย

If the farmers don’t farm rice, will the monarchs have rice to eat?


เลือดใครไหลหลั่งป้อง ปฐพิน

Who shed blood to protect the motherland?

เลือดแน่เลือดไพร่ริน พิภพกว้าง

Certainly the blood of commoners flows [across] the wide world

เลือดดินย่อมย้อมดิน แดงเดือดค

The blood of the land is likely stain the ground red

ใช่เลือดบนหลังช้าง ที่ล้าง ธรณี

It’s not the blood [of the one] on the back of the elephant that washes the Earth


บุญแรงราษฎร์หล่อเลี้ยง โลกา

The virtue and power of the citizens nourishes the world

เป็นหลักค้ำผืนนภา แผ่นหล้า

It’s a principle that holds up the sky and the land [that is, the country]

เหลือยิ่งเอกบุญญา มหาราช ใดเลย

Even greater than the principle and merit of any great king

ขอนบคำนับอ้า ไพร่ฟ้า จงเจริญ

Now let me salute with the words, “Long live the people!”

Penguin to Rung

20 04 2021

In October 2020, Penguin (Parit Chiwarak) wrote a poem for Rung (Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, whose name means Rainbow). Penguin and Rung were in jail at the time, and both are now in jail again, each on a dangerous hunger strike. Penguin wrote several striking poems from prison, evoking Jit Phumisak, a progressive-cum-communist revolutionary who also wrote at least one poem from prison and who died young, killed by the Army. Ann Norman translated Penguin’s first poem:

A Message from Penguin
Penguin and Rung

Clipped from The Nation

แด่รุ้ง และเพื่อนผู้ต้องขังทางการเมืองทุกคน
To Rung, and all of my political prisoner friends
The sky is bitter, the night is cold
Shivering to the bone
A gust of wind blows
ละอองฝน กระเซ็นสาย
mists of raindrops
Watch the moon, it’s a setting moon
Look at the stars, their sparkling faint and muted
This night is so lonesome
ในกรงขัง อันวังเวง
In a lonely cell
Lend an ear and hear the sound
It’s not the music of a song
It’s a string of words making music
in the dark night, proclaiming and calling out
What beats is thunder
ใช่เสียงกลอง ย่ำโมงกาล
Not the sound of a drum [telling] the evening hour
ที่ดัง แว่วกังวาล
What loudly resounds in the distance
ใช่กระดิ่ง คือโซ่ตรวน
is not a bell but the sound of a chain
The whistling sound
is not not a flute but the moaning wind
What calls out [in an ancient musical style] and croons,
It’s the cries of the people
The sound of impoverished people
Heard from every place
A song of suffering plays and circulates
Loud and tumultuous, not dying out
This night is certainly difficult
As if the mind was separated from the body
Your humanity melts away
The storm rages
You may be scared
When the sky rumbles and rushes in
If the sky that swoops down
is going to measure the size of your heart
Steel that is good and strong
Must be struck and go through fire
Bold people more than anyone
Must pass dangers, the heart therefore endures
Where there is struggle, there is pain
And shivering sometimes
But for the people
[one] must suffer and bear it
For a reputation/dignity that is secure and certain
We must boldly give a mocking smile
A hundred thousand guns, all ten thousands obstacles
ฤ จะสู้เพียงหนึ่งใจ
We fight only with one heart
In standing fast in [one’s] faith
Bravely enduring on the long path
no cruel power of any kind
may force [us] to bow [our] heads
Even though the rain pounds
[you] must raise your head, don’t be afraid and cower
Let everyone everywhere know
That the New Sky is inching closer
Until the day that the rays of light shine
Bright and beautiful throughout the whole sky
All the people on the land, then
Will rumble drums, mightily
That day is tomorrow
We will see A Rainbow glittering far [across the place]
The masses will have victory
And be most important on the land
เพนกวิน พริษฐ์ ชิวารักษ์
Penguin Parit Chiwarak
ผู้ต้องขังทางการเมือง ณ เรือนจำพิเศษกรุงเทพ
Political prisoner at Bangkok Remand Prison
29 ต.ค. 2563
October 29, 2020

Updated: More protest arrests

29 03 2021

Protesters who had been “camping” outside Government House since 13 March and known as the “Baan Thaloo Fah village,” were detained by the police in a dawn raid on Sunday. They were “bussed to the Region 1 Border Patrol Police (BPP) Command in Pathum Thani province for ‘questioning’.”

Estimates of the number arrested vary in press reports, but the most reliable reports are of 99 detained.

This action by police “is the latest escalation by Thai security forces as they continue to carry out operations against pro-democracy demonstrators,” arresting, charging and detaining anti-regime protesters.

The Nation has a series of photos and Thai Enquirer has video links of the “violent arrest of the protesters was completely unprovoked as the demonstrators did not engage in any violent conduct and merely sat on the ground as they were manhandled and carried away by the police.”


Clipped from Bangkok Post

It adds that some of those detained minors and observes that the regime is now “much more comfortable now to use violence against peaceful protesters.” It considers that it may be that the regime is “emboldened by the atrocities carried out by their contemporaries in Myanmar, [with] the Thai security forces and the government … feel[ing] that anything they do will pale in comparison.”

But the violence we are seeing being used by the security personnel must not be allowed to be come the norm. These are not normal actions by a normal government.

These are extraordinary measures carried out by a government that is arrogantly flexing its muscles knowing that there will be little international condemnation to follow.

These actions are being conducted with the impunity that defines military-backed government in Thailand (and elsewhere).

Thai Enquirer worries that “the escalation in violence will only continue and it will be a matter of time before lives are lost.”

Update: The Bangkok Post confirms that 99 protesters were arrested. 67 were arrested in the morning and the rest in the afternoon. Police said those arrested “would initially be charged with violating the Communicable Disease Control Act and the emergency decree…”. In addition, “[t]wo monks who joined the protest were apprehended and disrobed at Wat Benjamaborphit…”. It isn’t clear if the monks were charged. Those arrested included groups associated with Ratsadon and others from the “Save Bang Kloi Coalition of ethnic Karen people from the Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi.” The police managed to concoct all kinds of allegations against the groups – see the story for the details.

Another year of PPT

20 01 2020

Eleven years have passed for Political Prisoners in Thailand. We admit our disappointment that we remain active.

By this, we mean that PPT should have gone the way of the dinosaurs, being unnecessary as Thailand’s political prisoners, its military dictatorship and political repression would have been a thing of the past. But political dinosaurs flourish in Thailand’s fertile environment filled with fascists, royalists and feudalists. Sadly, the political climate in  the country is no better following last year’s March “election,” which was rigged to return a junta-based regime.

When we began PPT on 21 January 2009, we hoped it would be a temporary endeavor, publicizing a spike in lese majeste cases to an international audience. Instead, a decade later, we are still at it and dealing with the outcomes of royalist politics gone mad.

We now face the repressive reality of the continued dominance of a military dictatorship-turned-military-backed regime, initially brought to power by an illegal military coup in 2014. This regime is underpinned by a nonsensical royalism that protects an anti-democratic ruling class and efforts by the king to enhance his political and economic power, cheered on by the regime. This royalist state lavishes privilege, wealth and power on a few.

In “protecting” monarchy, regime and ruling class, the military junta and its “elected” spawn have used a politicized judiciary, a rigged constitution and blunt military and police repression to maintain power.

Last year we argued that the junta’s rigging of an “election” that would embed a military-royalist constitution and lead to a political nightmare, maintaining military political domination for years to come. Sadly, we were right.

A better, more representative and more democratic politics remains a dream.

When we sputtered into life it 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 and 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. Those perceived as opponents of the military and the monarchy were whisked away into detention, faced threats and surveillance and some have died or been “disappeared” in mysterious circumstances.

This royalism and repression has also strengthened the monarchy. The junta supinely permitted King Vajiralongkorn to assemble greater economic and political power. It colluded with the palace in aggregating land for the monarch that was previously set aside for the public. It has colluded in destroying symbols of the 1932 revolution, emphasizing the rise of neo-feudal royalism that leaves democracy neutered.

On this anniversary, as in past years,  we want an end to political repression and gain the release of every political prisoner. Under the current regime – as military junta and then “elected” regime – hundreds of people have been jailed or detained, subjected to military courts and threatened by the military.

The 2006 and 2014 coups, both conducted in the name of the monarchy, have seen a precipitous slide into a new political dark age where the lese majeste law – Article 112 – has been a grotesque weapon of choice in a deepening political repression.

From 2006 to 2017, lese majeste cases grew exponentially. Worse, both military and civil courts have held secret trials and handed out unimaginably harsh sentences. And even worse than that,  the definition of what constitutes a crime under the lese majeste law has been extended. Thankfully, since 2017 we were unable to identify any new lese majeste cases and some in process were mysteriously dropped. There remain several persons held or charged with lese majeste and cries of lese majeste still emanate from royalists and ministers.

These days, other charges, including sedition, are used to repress political opponents.

As for PPT, we have now had more than 6.5 million page views at our two sites (one now closed). PPT isn’t in the big league of the blogging world, but the level of interest in Thailand’s politics has increased. We are pleased that there is far more attention to political repression and lese majeste than there was when we began and that the international reporting and understanding of these issues is far more critical than it was.

Tired after all these years, we did take a break in late 2019, but we are now back.

We want to thank our readers for sticking with us. We trust that we remain useful and relevant and we appreciate the emails we receive from readers.

As in the past we declare:

The lese majeste, sedition and computer crimes laws must be repealed.

Charges against all political activists must be dropped.

All political prisoners must be released.

Royalism and neo-feudalism must be opposed.

Update on PPT at 10

2 03 2019

In a post back in January, marking a decade of posting, we made a mistake that we want to correct. Back then, we stated:

As for PPT, despite heavy censorship and blocking in Thailand, we have now had more than 3 million page views at our two sites. The blocking in Thailand has been more extensive in 2018 than in past years.

That number was incorrect if we include both our pages (PPT and PPofT). Including both means we have had 6 million page views.

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