Police goons, repression and stalking

10 02 2022

Thai Enquirer has reported on “police are continuing a programme of harassment and intimidation against anti-government dissidents and members of the press by visiting homes unannounced and stalking relatives and friends of their targets.”

Clipped from The Nation

This is abuse by the Royal Thai Police.

According to iLaw, “at least 18 activists and journalists, including Sirote Klampaiboon a prominent reporter for Voice TV, has been visited by the police at their house between January 1 and 24.”

A university student protest group wants “an investigation into the police. They say many of those facing intimidation by security forces are not charged with any crime and should not be the subject of such intimidation.”

Amarat Chokepamitkul, an MP of the Move Forward Party, states: “The police have been doing this continuously… They have not stopped, especially in rural areas…”. Amaret added: “What I believe is disgusting is when they visit the houses and they could not find the activist, they will psychologically harass their family or neighbors instead…”. She said that “officers usually do is ask the neighbors about the whereabouts and the daily activities of the activist and then told them to beware of the activist as a dangerous individual and a threat to national security.”

Such visits are not one-offs, but regular.

These are Stasi tactics or, more recently, Chinese state tactics. References to goons seems appropriate.





The virus and political prisoners

31 01 2022

Several times it has been pointed out that political prisoners detained by the junta have become ill in prison. The regime couldn’t care less as these are people they prefer to torture.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reports on this cruel treatment, determining that at least “30 political prisoners have tested positive for Covid-19 in the prison while being held in custody” since late March 2021. It must be remembered that “[a]ll of them are ‘innocent people’ who have been detained pending the trial.”

Some have been bailed, but the regime won’t release the rest until they plead guilty or agree to stringent and repressive bail conditions.

Some of the detainees have been reinfected while in the prison, including the Panupong Jadnok and Sam Samet.

Sakchai “Hia Song” Tangchitsadudi “was only allowed to post bail when the virus had penetrated his lungs after having tested positive for Covid-19 due to his comorbidity. As a result, he had to received treatment in ICU in a hospital outside the prison.”

This is an inhumane regime.





Intimidate, repress, and control II

30 01 2022

The repression of heavy suppression of protesters and activists has been intense. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights recently published a report that states “at least 1,747 people in 980 cases have been prosecuted due to political protests and expression since the Free Youth Rally on 18 July 2020 until 25 December 2021.”

Only 150 of these cases have been concluded, meaning that hundreds of people are tied up in various legal procedures or are being held without bail. This reflects the regime’s use of lawfare.

In 2021 alone, “1,513 new people in 835 cases have been politically accused, accounting for an almost 7-fold increase compared to the number in the second half of 2020.”

Notably, there was a sharp rise in arrests and prosecutions “during the three-month period between August to October. The period coincided with a heightened political tension as a result of car mob events in various provinces, almost daily protests by various groups in Bangkok, and series of “Talu-Gas” protests at Din Daeng Intersection and the surrounding areas.”

Lese majeste charges were filed against at least 127 “new” people in 104 cases, while sedition charges were filed against at least 55 “new” people in 16 cases. As for the “key political leaders accused between 18 July 2020 and 25 December 2021 …[TLHR] found that:

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak has 43 cases.

Panupong “Mike” Jadnok has 30 cases.

Anon Nampa has 24 cases.

Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul has 24 cases.

Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa has 19 cases.

Benja Apan has 19 cases.

Another TLHR report states that “at least 291 activists and citizens, 39 of whom concerned youths under 18 years old, received house visits or were summoned for talks by authorities. These numbers do not include cases where authorities went to deliver summon warrants or make an arrest as part of a prosecution.” Most of this surveillance was in the northeast.

The repression continues and deepens.





Intimidate, repress, and control I

26 01 2022

The 1932 People Space Library is at Wat Tong Noppakun in Khlong San, Bangkok. It was officially opened on Saturday. On Sunday, it was raided by the regime’s police.

According to Pravit Rojanaphruk, the police later denied they raided the library. In Orwellian terms, it was stated: “We went to talk with the staff.” They went with “5 plainclothes officers from Somdej Chao Phraya Police Station…”.

Why would cops threaten librarians? The library “was previously curated by writer Sulak Sivaraksa, who invited students from various universities in to help develop the space into a social sciences library and a space for discussion about political and social issues.”

And there it is. Troublemaker Sulak, with students, darting to talk about issues and politics. Not permitted in the royalist regime’s state, where independent political space is being squeezed.

Police also denied that “they confiscated a cartoon book praising the monarchy-reform movement and other items at a newly-opened library…”. They “seized a copy of ’10 Ratsadorn,’ one of the picture books in the ‘Nithan Wad Wang’ (‘Dream of Hope Tales’) series about the pro-democracy movement, freedom of expression, diversity, and what young people dream they want the world to be.”

The librarian made comments suggesting that, as usual in such cases, the cops were lying. Feebly, “an officer [said he] took the book to give to his son.”

The librarian “insisted items removed include a volume of cartoon praising the monarchy-reform movement, some 20 to 30 anti-lese majeste law stickers and a red socialist flag with a fist in the middle.”

Another staff member “said one officer used a foul language” as they demanded to know why the police had not been informed of the new library.

Sulak later said that “police acted unlawful without a search warrant.” He added: “This shows they demonstrated how barbaric they were…”.

A few hours later, “police arrived to return … the items, adding that they had to pay a visit because the boss asked them to check the library out.”

An activist explained:

If we are reading quietly, that is allowed, but if we talk about it in public, the state tries to make this into something scary, to make it seem something we cannot do. Does it have an effect? There may be hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people like me. Some people may not be brave enough to express themselves….

The regime hopes that measures like this intimidate, repress, and control.





Royalist regime fighting for the past

24 01 2022

While not a new revelation,

He explains:

Self-crowned

On a recent visit to a cinema in Bangkok, I was reminded of the dual role that movie theaters play in Thailand. One, of course, is to show films, local and foreign. The other is to reinforce in the audience a belief that their monarch serves as a unifying pillar in the Southeast Asian kingdom. That lesson plays out just before the main feature, when the screen in the darkened auditorium displays a message requesting the audience to stand as the strains of the king’s anthem fill the hall, accompanied by images of the king’s achievements….

The response of audiences — standing up for the anthem — was almost universal until the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in late 2016 ended a 70-year reign.

We think this is something of an overstatement. We recall that in the mid-1970s, when the royal stuff came on at the end of the film, many bolted for the exits to escape the hagiographic kitsch. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, audiences at movies and concerts often waited outside until the royal propaganda was finished and then rushed to their seats. But back to the story today:

But something quite different is now going on in cinemas….

[A]t Siam Paragon, a high-end mall in Bangkok’s upmarket shopping district…, [w]hen the familiar request to stand flashed across the screen to the strains of the royal anthem, only a middle-aged Thai couple stood up. The rest of the audience, which mostly consisted of younger Thais, sat impassively through the entire anthem as if it were perfectly normal.

… The display of silent defiance has gathered momentum in recent months; it has been noted by many Thais on social media and is discussed openly….

For the moment, the government appears at a loss on how to respond to this discreet but public challenge to the cinema reverence ritual. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the ex-army chief and former junta leader, has appealed to young people not to give in to peer pressure.

Yet, Thai cinemas have emerged as a new frontier for a generational zeitgeist. They have given a decisive answer to the question of whether or not to stand, something that seemed inconceivable just two years ago. From this perspective, Thai cinemas provide an inflection point in which the simple act of going to the movies becomes a political statement.

The royalist response to this anti-monarchism – or at least the rejection of the palace propaganda – is deepening. As they have for many years, it is the regime and the military are taking the lead.

Former red shirt, now paid turncoat, Seksakol/Suporn Atthawong, a vice minister attached to the Office of Prime Minister continues his boss’s conspiracy theory-inspired campaign against NGOs. Amnesty International is his main target. He claims – and it is a lie – that “NGOs that are supporting the three-hoof mob [he means the 3-finger salute] to destroy the country’s stability and abolish the royal institution…”. He means the monarchy.

He salivates over the AI target:

Amnesty International is an illicit organization that must be held accountable for its actions, and must be prosecuted to the fullest…. We should not give in to organizations that undermine national security.

Here, by national security, he means the monarchy. What did happen to his lese majeste charge? Oh, yes, he sold himself to the military rightists.

As in so many other places struggling with authoritarianism,

Seksakol’s gambit is typical of Thai ultra-royalist fringe politics. But as his position in the prime minister’s office attests, the fringe has migrated gradually to the center and the top of the Thai governing establishment since the military coup led by Prayut 2014. Facing a legitimacy deficit, Prayut’s current military-backed administration (direct military rule technically ended with the holding of a flawed election in 2019) has relied heavily on the blunt force of Thailand’s controversial lese majeste law, which outlaws any critical comment about the king or the monarchy, to silence critics and quash protests.

The regime is planning to stay. Forget all of the parliamentary realigning. This is about maintaining the political status quo well into the future through another rigged election. And just to help it along, the regime has extended its state of emergency. Thailand has been under this kind of draconian control for most of the period since the 2014 coup. This situation allows the military, police, ISOC and the judiciary to keep a lid on anti-royalism.

How it deals with the more passive rejection of the monarchy and the regime requires more propaganda, more surveillance and more repression. It means keeping Thailand in its past and rejecting the future. All in the name of the monarchy.





More 112 indictments

23 01 2022

UCA News reports on the raid on Same Sky publishing, concluding: “Thai authorities appear to be stepping up their campaign against pro-democracy activists, especially those who are advocating monarchy reform…” adding that “[t]his week alone, police have launched crackdowns including [the] raid on [Same Sky] and the issuing of new indictments for royal defamation.”

An anonymous commentator is quoted: “This is what repressive regimes do — try to outlaw honest and open debate…”.

Clipped from Prachatai

On the lese majeste indictments, it reports:

On Jan. 18, police in the northern city of Chiang Mai charged two university students with violating the royal defamation law, which prohibits any criticism of the monarchy and prescribes up to 15 years in prison per charge.

The two students at Chiang Mai University were indicted over an artwork they exhibited last year at the university’s gallery depicting the Thai national flag with the blue stripe, which represents the monarchy, absent in the tricolor, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group.

In their artwork the two students also condemned the royal defamation law, which is Article 112 of the Criminal Code, by using an expletive.

Another anonymous comment: “More political prisoners? More lives and voices stifled?”





Further updated: “The end of Thailand as an open society”

21 01 2022

Referring to the regime’s efforts to control and delete NGOs it despises for their independent political line, a Bangkok Post editorial states the obvious: “NGOs in society might be entering a dark age.”

It observes:

The government is jumping on the bandwagon of nationalist governments, like the one in China, or those increasingly looking inward, like India’s, to tighten monitoring of foreign NGOs….

Like it or not, the anti-NGO sentiment might signal the end of Thailand as an open society, too….

So far, society has tolerated NGOs. Even if some of their campaigns touch on politically sensitive issues, the government has never expelled any NGO.

Yet the bill — which is to be tabled in parliament for its final reading soon — will become a game-changer that turns Bangkok into a second Beijing…. If passed, it will give the authorities the power to further audit and regulate NGOs.

Under military and military-backed regimes, political space has always been limited and controlled. In general terms, these regimes – including the current despots – have concentrated on locals identified as enemies of regime, status quo and monarchy. At times this has let to massive bloodletting in order to maintain the status quo of the Cold War and post-Cold War eras.

As the (usually hopeless) National Human Rights Commission points out, this backward-facing regime has made the so-called justice system a political weapon. The NHRC reports that “violations of people’s rights in the judicial process were the most common form of complaints lodged with the … NHRC … last year.” It added that the “complaints concerned the Royal Thai Police, the Department of Corrections and the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc).”

We are unsure how the military-political agency ISOC fits into to a justice system. But this is the military’s and royalists’ Thailand.

On the ground, repression continues unabated, mostly in the name of the keystone of the ruling class, the monarchy. A recent example is the police raid on one of the truly independent publishing outfits in the country, Same Sky, publisher of Fa Diaw Kan.

Some 30 police – yes, 30 – “raided the Same Sky publishing house on Thursday, but failed to find a book deemed a threat to national security.”

They mean the monarchy.

The police were desperate to find a book “Sathaban Phra Maha Kasat and Sangkhom Thai” (The Monarchy and Thai Society). The “book contains the speech human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa delivered at a rally at the Democracy Monument on Aug 3, 2020 calling for reform of the [monarchy].”

Yes, that’s a book the authorities fear is somehow threatening to bring down the whole ruling class and its state. All very Nazi-like, or borrowing from the Post above, rather more like the Chinese Party-State versus the independent media in Hong Kong.

The hordes of brown-shirted cops “did seize mobile phones and editor Thanapol Eawsakul’s computer, to search for incriminating evidence.” Maybe they’ll just put this evidence on his machines, as they have been known to do in the recent past.

Same Sky stated: “The publishing house does not distribute the book…”. But Same Sky is popular among those who oppose the military-backed regime and has a history of critical and well-researched analysis of the monarchy.

Add this to recent efforts to further constrain the already cowed media and Thailand’s future looks like a dark age, and not just for NGOs.

Update 1: This post marks PPT’s 13th Anniversary. It is not an anniversary to celebrate. Things are getting worse and there are more political prisoners than when we began this blog. PPT remains dedicated to those who are held in Thailand’s prisons, charged with political crimes.

Update 2: Prachatai has posted on the raid targeting Same Sky and Thanapol Eawsakul. PPT has posted the English version of the book the police want here.





Authoritarianism and virus repression

18 01 2022

Several countries, and with regimes of several political orientations, have used the virus as a means to extend measures that amount to a global growing of authoritarianism. Thailand’s repressive royalist regime has used an emergency decree, meant to be about public health, to oppress political activists seeking a democratic politics and monarchy reform.

The Nation recently reported that the police have again warned those who regularly rally in support of imprisoned political prisoners that they will be arrested “under Covid restrictions.”

Metropolitan Police Bureau deputy commissioner and spokesman Jirasan Kaewsangek stated “it is still illegal to hold a protest or gathering…. He cited the emergency decree, anti-Covid guidelines and the Communicable Diseases Control Act…”. He directed this at those who he said were gathering peacefully.

To date, Bangkok police say they have “investigated 814 cases relating to protests since July 2020. Of these, 409 cases have been brought to court while the rest remain under police investigation…”.





Silencing the media II

17 01 2022

If any confirmation of the regime’s efforts to silence any media that it doesn’t like or trust was needed, it is now provided.

Thai Enquirer reports that the regimes bullyboys have “raided the homes of multiple reporters, accusing them of being involved in the ongoing anti-government protests…”. Three “journalists who were targeted have been covering the political unrest since July, 2020, when anti-government demonstrations broke out.”

Observers believe the “raids were conducted under a new decree signed on July 29, drafted to allegedly stop the spread of ‘fake news,’ and information that incites fear or causes instability to the state.”

Sirote. Clipped from Thai Enquirer

This is another state effort “to muzzle free press and infringe their rights, effectively blocking their ability to publish.”

Voice TV’s Sirote Klampaiboon regularly reported from the rallies and demonstrations. His home was raided. He released a leaked document which had his name on a regime watch list.

Sirote revealed that he has been previously charged with participating in a rally when he was doing his job as a reporter. And, he stated this “is not the first time police raided his home,” and pointed out that this “police intimidation has created an atmosphere of fear for his family.”

The state deliberately targets aged parents of those it wishes to silence.

As pointed out by Pravit Rojanaphruk, the media is is serious danger in Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime.





Silencing the media I

16 01 2022

The regime has congratulated itself on its ability to repress anti-government/anti-monarchy protests. The king must feel confident returning to Europe later in the month.

But at what cost? In its annual report, Human Rights Watch says:

Thai authorities have prosecuted dissenters, violently dispersed peaceful protests, and censored news and social media…. Respect for human rights in Thailand has gone from bad to worse while the government’s promises of reform remain unfulfilled.

Read HRW’s World Report 2022. We assume that HRW is in the regime’s sights for repression next year.

The regime’s moves to shut down political expression has been going on for several years, and much of this has been posted by PPT. Of late, we have had several asides regarding the apparent constricting of the media. Some of this has to do with business decisions – look at the Bangkok Post where the “news” is obliterated by advertorials and “stories” that are promotional. Some of it has to do with the political proclivities of owners.

But much of it has to do with repression, censorship and self-censorship. That screw has been being wound down for some time, but the Constitutional Court’s support of the regime in its ludicrous judgement on political reform now seems like a turning point, sending the country further down the repressive royalist rathole. That decision silenced much of the media reporting on monarchy reform.

With that stimulus, as Khaosod recently reported, the regime has conjured “a draft law that would allow suspension of media license on grounds of publishing contents deemed against ‘good morals of the public’.”

The bill,  formally called “Draft Media Ethics and Professional Standards Promotion Act,” was proposed by the government’s Public Relations Department and approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday. The department is chaired by Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who served as the spokesman for the junta….

We all know how the regime defines “good” and “good people.” It has nothing to do with goodness, but with supporting the regime and monarchy. And, we also know that morals have no meaning for a regime full of shysters and murders, not to mention a convicted heroin trafficker. Of course, they are all “good.”

The new law establishes a new licensing and watchdog agency called “Press Profession Council.”

The law will limit press freedom: “It stipulates that while freedom of the press is guaranteed, ‘the exercise must not go against the duties of Thai people or good morals of the people’.”

The Bangkok Post reports that the “draft bill on the promotion of media ethics and professional standards has cleared the cabinet…”.

Supporters of media repression

Regrettably, the Post is already under control, choosing to suggest, in Orwellian style, that an obvious effort to silence the media is, about “the rights, freedoms and independence of media organisations and practitioners.” This is buffalo manure, and the Post’s owners know it, but they have chosen to support repression.

Chavarong Limpattamapanee, chairman of the National Press Council of Thailand, is equally supine, describing “the bill as the best media-related piece of legislation to date.”

With the backbones of jellyfish, such support bodes ill for Thailand’s political future.








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