Updated: Virus of double standards I

10 04 2021

The double standards that characterize Thailand’s legal system run through the bureaucracy. No better example of this is seen in the treatment of the virus infected. No that Thailand’s good work – most of it due to health professionals – is being undone, with outbreaks across the country, in the police force, among senior corporate types and with half the cabinet in isolation.

This outbreak seemingly stems from entertainment venues visited mainly by the rich and powerful, including members of parliament and officials, and perhaps even a minister or two.

But there’s a cover-up and the reasons for it remain opaque and might be interpreted as pure blockheadedness but which display the usual characteristics of impunity and double standards.

Recent reports illustrate how the blockheads are also thin-skinned.

It was reported on Wednesday that Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, secretary-general of the Bhumjaithai Party, is infected with Covid-19 and has been admitted to Buriram Hospital for treatment. The minister quickly denied “he had not been out in the Bangkok nightlife scene where the virus has been rushing back, with hundreds of new cases found in recent days.” He claimed that “he got it from one of his staffers who had earlier tested positive for the disease.”

Saksayam

From The Nation

Most of the Bhum Jai Thai Party parliamentarians – 61 of them – and staffers are said to be quarantining. That includes Health MInister Anutin Charnvirakul who was pictured maskless with Saksayam.

But then the political instincts kicked in as netizens wondered about Saksayam’s denial and then about his vague timeline of activities (legally required for contact tracing). It was soon stated that “[t]hree people in close contact with him got the virus. One of the three is Kittichai Ruangsawat, BJT’s Chachoengsao MP, who was quoted by the media as admitting that he had accompanied Mr Saksayam to a club in Thong Lor in mid-March.” People asked if he’d been back in recent days.

Of course, when the “new” story was being concocted, Kittichai “backtracked, saying the media got it wrong.” Not him, but the media. Then it was noted that Saksayam’s denial came a day before he was virus tested as positive. One response from the minister was to lie, saying he was fully vaccinated – he wasn’t.

This fibbing was compounded when “the minister refused to unveil his timeline of activities during the period. Only after mounting social pressure did his team release one, but it was incomplete.”

With all the media and social media attention, the minister enlisted a Buriram-based doctor to defend him. Of course, Buriram is a Chidchob family fiefdom. The doctor appeared in the media:

Dr Pichet Phuedkhuntod said three close aides to the minister had visited the Krystal Club on March 30 and the Emerald Club on April 1 with four other people. They were tested for the coronavirus on Sunday and Monday and the results released a day later were positive, he added.

“His infection was from his staff members who worked close to him and who were in the (Thong Lor) cluster comprising seven people altogether.”…

Buriram provincial health “released the minister’s timeline on Thursday” showing that he did not visit entertainment places. But it was a timeline with gaps, so the banter continued.

To deal with that, Saksayam’s lawyer “warned of legal action against people who post messages online that cause damage to his client by implying that his infection was due to his visit to an entertainment venue.” Sounds a bit like a miniature version of the regime’s approach to political repression. By Friday, the minister’s complaints were being lodged with Buriram’s tame police.

Backing him is Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. He’s threatened “legal action against anyone who used the expression ‘Thai Khu Fa Club’ to mock the government amid reports a minister had contracted Covid-19 at a nightclub in Thong Lor.” The mocking appearing to consider the cabinet as constituting a “club” of entertainment venue visiting ministers.

Gen Prayuth said: “I have ordered the legal team to consider whether it is against the law or not. Using the term Thai Khu Fa … is not [right]…”. Infecting half the cabinet seems okay….

It is yet another example of the tendency to double standards – one for the rich and powerful and another for everyone else – and the almost natural response to criticism being political repression.

Update: It is reported that Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, has “called on state agencies to investigate politicians who became infected with Covid-19 after attending bars in the Thong Lor area which is the epicentre of the new surge of infections.” He targeted “corruption and law-breaking” as associated with the most recent virus outbreaks, mentioning  hi-so entertainment places in Bangkok and illegal gambling dens and illegal migrants…”. He might have mentioned the Army’s boxing stadium. In fact, it is difficult to find an outbreak that is not associated with corrupt actions and impunity.





All about repression

8 04 2021

Yesterday, it was reported by the Bangkok Post that “[a]n adviser to the House Committee on Law …[had] filed a complaint with police against protest leader Jatuporn Prompan for allegedly violating the lese majeste law.”

The culprit is Sonthiya Sawasdee, who “asked police at Chana Songkhram station to look into Mr Jatuporn’s speech that he delivered on Sunday at the Santiporn Park … — where he held a mass protest for the Sammakhi Prachachon Pheu Prathet Thai (People’s Unity for Thailand) — to see if it violated the lese majeste law.”

The protest was in fact held to demand the resignation of coup leader and Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, and as far as we could tell, tried to avoid commentary on the monarchy.

Still, royalist “protector” and regime lackey Sonthiya said “he believed Mr Jatuporn’s speech violated the lese majeste law but added that it was up to the police to decide whether or not to press charges against him.” Quite oddly and in the face of all evidence, Sonthiya claimed “[t]he authorities enforced the lese majeste law out of good intentions to create peace in the country…”.

In fact, we all know that the use of 112 is as a tool of political repression.

That repression is the regime’s main task is is illustrated by another Bangkok Post today which has police summoning 36 people “involved in Sunday’s protest … to answer a slew of charges that could also include lese majeste.” The report states that:112

Red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, who organised the mass gathering on behalf of the “Thai Mai Thon (Impatient Thais)” group and Adul Khiewboriboon, leader of the Samakkhi Prachachon group, will be among 14 people summoned to meet investigators and answer charges next Thursday, Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau said on Wednesday.

The other 14 people will be summoned to answer charges the following day, he said.

Twelve other people who had a role in the rally at Santiporn Park that spilled over into Monday were also found to have violated several laws and will soon be summoned to face charges as well, he said.

Pol Maj Gen Piya “reiterated that all public gatherings are now considered unlawful under the emergency decree and the disease control law, being implemented to contain the spread of Covid-19.”

This is an increasingly bizarre claim, but one that’s been made several times. In fact, it is ministers slipping off to bars for a bit of sexual stimulation and gratification is demonstrably a more serious virus threat, as is poor policy. and bizarre behavior.

In any case this emergency decree has mainly been used as another tool for political repression.

Police confirmed that they are “examining a recording of a speech Mr Jatuporn delivered at Sunday’s gathering to determine whether comments made violated Section 112 of the Criminal Code…”.

By our rough calculations, there are currently about 80 active lese majeste cases and another 30-40 “under investigation.”





Revolving injustice door

3 04 2021

Some readers might have seen reports in some media and ion social media that Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, leader of WeVo political group, was granted bail yesterday. He was. But he was immediately rearrested.

Bail was granted by the Criminal Court because the only charges were manufactured illegal association crimes under Sections 209 and 210 of the Criminal Code. The charges carry so little punishment if proven that his bail was just 45,000 baht. The court would have looked more ridiculous than it already is if it hadn’t granted bail. In addition, he’d already been held in prison for more than three weeks.

But, of course, this is the post-dictatorial dictatorship, and so to continue the political repression, Piyarat was rearrested before he left the jail, on “a court-issued warrant for alleged lese majeste, and violating the computer crime law during the launch of his political campaign in Kalasin province.”

It is really very predictable, with the regime determined to lock up as many of the protesters as possible, and lese majeste, they think, works just nicely for this repressive task.





Updated: Going for broke

31 03 2021

The regime apparently thinks it is strong enough to go for broke on lese majeste and nail its prime target Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Given that it was actions against Thanathorn and the Future Forward Party more than a year ago that set off anti-regime protests, this move represents the regime’s victory lap.

ThanathornThanthorn has appeared before police to acknowledged the Article 112 charge filed by the regime.

Now chairman of the Progressive Movement, he “went to Nang Loeng Police Station in Bangkok on Tuesday morning to acknowledge the charge involving his Jan 18 Facebook Live criticising the government’s vaccine procurement plan.”

In speaking with reporters, Thanathorn said “he was confident he had not said anything that tarnished the institution and the clip was his effort to sincerely check the government.” He claims nothing he said contravened the Article 112.

Additionally, he faces “sedition and computer crime charges involving the clip.”

In reality, Thanathorn must be worried, even if the charge is fabricated. But fabricated lese majeste charges have been used to lock up and/or harass several others in the past. Who can forget the ludicrous 112 charge against Thanakorn Siripaiboon in 2015 for allegedly spreading “sarcastic” content via Facebook which was said to have mocked the then king’s dog. Thanakorn finally got off in early 2021, but had endured seven days of interrogation and physical assault at an Army camp and three months in prison.

Thanathorn is the main target of ultra-royalist hatred and fear, and they have been urging the regime to lock him up. They see him as the Svengali behind the anti-regime protesters and rising anti-monarchism, refusing to believe the protesters can think for themselves. The regime sees Thanathorn as a potent political threat. They have threatened and charged him with multiple offenses, disqualified him from parliament, dissolved the political party he formed, and brought charges against his family.

By targeting Thanathorn, the regime seems to believe that it is now positioned to defeat the protesters and to again crush anti-monarchism. But, it is a repression that remains a gamble.

Update: Rabid royalists are joining the regime in going after actress Inthira “Sai” Charoenpura and activist Pakorn Porncheewangkul “over donations they received in support of the protest movement.” They are “facing possible tax and anti-money laundering probes over their acceptance of public donations in support of the Ratsadon protests.” It is anti-democrat Watchara Phetthong, “a former Democrat Party MP,” who has “petitioned the Revenue Department and the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) asking them to investigate Ms Inthira and fellow activist Pakorn…”.





Mad monarchists madder still II

30 03 2021

With the resurgence of protests and the regime intensifying its repression, the mad monarchists are increasingly agitated.

While reporting on Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon and her recent speech targeting the monarchy and other reforms, Thai PBS spends space on enraged monarchists and their bizarre claims.

Mind

Mind

Already facing a lese majeste charge, on 24 March, Mind made three calls on the monarchy, calling on the king to cease interfering “in the military, in politics and in public assets.”

As a result of these reasonable demands of a monarchy meant to be constitutional, Mind probably faces additional lese majeste and other charges. She says she is “bracing for jail…” and vowed to “continue her fight even if she was jailed during the court trial.”

The rabid royalists given space are alleged “scholar” Arnond Sakworawich and political aspirant Warong Dechgitvigrom. It is interesting how each royalist repression of protesters since 2005 has seen a new bunch of royalist spokespersons promoted as the “defenders” of the monarchy.

Arnond claims Mind is “mistaken in alleging the King has ‘his own army’, independent of the Thai armed forces.” His view is that the “King’s Royal Guards were simply transferred from the military and police to form the royal security unit.” He doesn’t explain how it is that this “unit” is under the direct command of the palace or why it was necessary to vastly expand the “royal security unit.”

Arnond’s rebuttal of Mind’s observation of the king’s political interventions – preventing his elder, non-royal, sister stand in an election – seems to confirm Mind’s point. Arnond ignores other interventions, including the king’s demands for constitutional change.

Royalist Arnond’s defense of royal wealth and the king’s assets is just loopy and ignores the king’s own changes to the law that allowed him to take total control of all assets associated with the monarchy, while rolling back decades of legislation.

Warong Dechgitvigrom relied more on the concoction of a conspiracy, a royalist strategy that has been used repeatedly since 2005 to smear and repress.

He claimed Mind is manipulated “by a hidden hand bent on defaming the King with distorted facts.” He declared:

It’s a pity that you didn’t do your homework before reading the statement. The person who prepared the statement for you is so cruel. Without supporting truth, they sacrifice you just to incite people….

This conspiracy claim is repeated and expanded by the maddest of the Bangkok Post’s monarchists, Veera Prateepchaikul. Agreeing with the yellow-shirt conspiracies and cheers the detention without bail of those accused of lese majeste.

Like Warong, he believes that Mind and other protesters are manipulated and the tools of dedicated anti-monarchists. He pours accelerant on the royalist fire, repeating scuttlebutt that her “demands for reform of the monarchy was allegedly given to her by someone believed to be an anti-monarchist.”

He demeans and diminishes all the young protesters, preferring to believe they are misled and tricked. His claims are a familiar refrain. It was only a few years ago that yellow shirts demeaned red shirts, considering them uneducated buffaloes, led around by the nose, and or paid by Thaksin Shinawatra. Obviously, the kids protesting aren’t “uneducated,” but there is still a search for a political Svengali.

In an attempted political assassination, Veera names and seeks to shame “Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Progressive Movement Group and anti-monarchist lecturer at Thammasat University…”. Veera decries Piyabutr’s view that the protesters are agents of change, who “will not change their mind on the monarchy” by jailing them.

Veera peddles more royalist tripe by questioning why several academics have been willing to post bail for those jailed.

Veera states that “many students have been exploited,” and claims that Mind is manipulated: “What if she is thrown behind bars for reading the script in question while the actual writer remains scot free? That is unfair, cold-blooded and sheer exploitation of a young mind.”

Yellow shirt ideology is conspiratorial and displays a remarkable penchant for patriarchal nonsense, diminishing the views and actions over many months of demonstration. Clearly, the students understand that reform to the monarchy comes with a diminution of patriarchy and other hierarchies that keep old royalist men in charge of the country.





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.”

arrested

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.





Royalists need 112

28 03 2021

New Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakmanusorn said on Friday that he will continue with his predecessor’s policies. That is, his working life will be more or less devoted to track down and censor websites considered to be defaming the monarchy.

For a story that eschews the minister’s spinlessness and offers courage in the face of royalist repression, see the ABC’s “Thailand protest leader Rung could face a lengthy prison sentence for allegedly insulting the King. But she isn’t giving up yet.” Despite facing 112nine lese majeste charges that mean “she could be handed a maximum jail sentence of up to 135 years,” Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul or Rung, has vowed to fight on.

She explains: “I am in this battle, I give it my all, I devote my life,” adding: “Thailand has been changed hugely [by the protest movement] and there is no return … I feel going to jail is worth it…”.

Rung wants Article 112 “revoked entirely.” She said: “There is no need to have this special criminal law separately…. If [the royal family] think they were insulted they should use [civil] defamation law to sue…”.

Of course, royalists like the new minister and some of those cited in the story will be livid, realizing that their whole regime of fear and repression requires 112.





Updated: Counting the detainees

27 03 2021

Thai Enquirer has posted an updated list of political prisoners. Even so, it remains a mixture of estimates and known cases rather than a definitive list. Important points:

After eight months of protests, more than 400 people are being prosecuted for alleged violations ranging from littering and obstruction of traffic to sedition and lese-majeste.

Of those, 77 have been charged with violation of Section 112…. 112[S]ix [112 charges] are against people younger than 18.

Nineteen people are incarcerated awaiting trial with their bail requests repeatedly denied. Most of those are protest leaders charged with sedition and lese-majeste….

In the lese-majeste cases, 28 were brought by civilian plaintiffs, six by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, and the rest were filed by the police.

Many of the protest leaders are facing multiple charges.

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, now on his 12th day of hunger strike for his right to bail, faces 20 counts of lese-majeste.

Far more lese majeste and lese majeste-like cases are likely to follow as protests continue. Most recently, prosecutors have decided to indict protesters “for blocking … the Queen’s motorcade during an anti-government protest last October…”. This is a buffalo manure set of cases as a sightseeing queen and prince had their minions drive them to the protesters location, and while they copped some invective, their motorcade was not blocked in any significant way. The notion that they aimed to “commit violence against the Queen and [h]er liberty” is a fabrication.

We can expect further charges from Wednesday’s rally.

Update: Related to our last comment, the Bangkok Post reports that police are “taking legal action against 11 rally speakers and 10 other protesters at Wednesday’s demonstration at Ratchaprasong Intersection for allegedly violating the lese majeste law…”. That would bring the known total to somewhere close to 100 charged with lese majeste.





Preparing for book burning

22 03 2021

Thailand’s regime continues to push the country down into the abyss of a dark authoritarianism.

Thai PBS reports that police “raided the anti-establishment Fah Diew Kan printing house and seized many copies of a book called “The Monarchy and Thai Society”, which police claim were intended for distribution to protesters at Sanam Luang on Saturday evening.”

Some of the books do appear to have been distributed. The book is The book is a “compilation of the speeches about the monarchy given by Arnon Nampa, … currently … detained, with others, at the Bangkok remand prison on lèse majesté charges.”

Police seized a large number of copies, promising to “carefully check the book for any content which is deemed insulting or critical of the monarchy.”

We have no doubt that the police will locate something in the book they consider lese majeste and this may lead to even more arrests.

 





Thailand not Myanmar

20 03 2021

Some of the photos and video from last night’s rally and the heavy-handed response can be seen in photos and video collected from social media.

Even journalists shot with rubber bullets.

Some of the video looks like Myanmar.

The protesters called for a range of things but particularly targeted the monarchy.

Protesters are particularly enraged by the use of sea containers.

They also want their friends released on bail.