TLHR recommendations for ending political prosecutions

3 05 2023

Read the whole Thai Lawyers for human rights post “Recommendations for Ending Political Prosecution since the 2014 Coup until the Present.” It is packed with information, data, and good sense. Here are the recommendations, in full:

(1) Enact a law to end the prosecution of civilians in the military court and political or politically-motivated cases arising after the coup d’état on 22 May 2014 until today

1.1 The parliament should enact a law authorizing and empowering the committee on political trials to decide which case is political and which one is politically motivated.

1.2 The House of Representatives should formulate broad criteria for considering political and politically-motivated cases and make sure that members of the committee on political trials consist of all stakeholders, including MPs, victims’ representatives, agencies in the justice system, academics, and human rights organizations, with gender diversity and gender balance in mind. The committee on political trials must be independent and impartial.

A political case means a case where the offense or event on the date of incident can be identified, for example, cases related to NCPO announcements and orders, civilians’ cases in the military court, lèse-majesté cases, etc.

A politically-motivated case is a case that cannot be characterized as a political case or where it is not possible to identify the event on the date of incident, but whose motivation can be proven to be political.

1.3 The parliament should enact a law ending political prosecution and politically-motivated cases since the 2014 coup d’état until the present and nullifying the culpability in those cases, effectively terminating them.

1.4 The parliament should enact a law allowing civilians involved in non-political or politically-motivated cases and/or civilians who were tried by the military court to request a re-trial in the Court of Justice or allowing civilians involved in the cases happening during the martial law to exercise the right to appeal.

(2) Establish an independent commission of inquiry 

To develop mechanisms to seek and expose the truth related to the human rights violations that occurred as a result of the military trials of civilians after the coup and the abuse of power by the state. The parliament should enact a law establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate the abuse of power and human rights situation following the 2014 coup. The said mechanism should take the format of a ‘truth commission’ tasked to pursue the truth in accordance with the right to truth of the victims, their families, and the society at large.

Its main missions should include collecting information and facts about the event, investigating relevant parties, as well as collecting and preserving evidence. The findings are to be disclosed to the public and ensure that the public can access relevant documents and official archives. The truth shall form a basis for remedy for those whose human rights have been violated and for prosecuting those involved in human rights violations.

It is important that the state guarantees that the selection and appointment of each committee member is in accordance with the principles of independence and impartiality and that the committee can work to its full capacity and to engage relevant people and human rights organizations both within and outside of the country. The committee shall consist of experts or representatives from various disciplines as well as victims’ representatives, lawyers, psychologists, social workers, and human rights experts in a way that is gender diverse and balanced.

(3) The state should take responsibility for the violations of human rights

The Cabinet and parliament should issue a public statement apologizing for what happened in order to show their acknowledgement and acceptance of the truth and the impact of human rights violations on the affected individuals. They should also provide the guarantees of non-repetition, as well as consider providing social remedies, for example, by raising public awareness on the said events and creating mechanisms to prevent, monitor, and systemically solve social conflicts.

The politically persecuted

19 03 2023

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has provided an update on political persecution by the current regime.

It begins:

Two months into the new year as Thailand is gearing towards a general election, over a hundred cases related to political expression and assemblies are still set to go to trial. In the past month, at least six new lèse-majesté cases have been reportedly initiated, while six cases related to the protests in 2020 – 2021 have been dismissed by the court….

According to TLHR statistics, at least 1,895 people in 1,180 cases have been charged and/or prosecuted due to their political participation and expression since the beginning of the “Free Youth” protest on 18 July 2020 until 28 February 2023.

Among this number are 211 cases involving 284 children and youths under 18 years old, including 41 below 15 years old and 243 between 15 – 18 years old.

TLHR data on EM

14 03 2023

In a follow-up to a recent link we provided to Prachatai on electronic monitoring – the anklets courts order, mainly for those accused of political crimes – Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has a report that aggregates data on the use of these devices.

112 for two more

12 03 2023

Via Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Prachatai reports that two more protesters have been arrested for lese majeste, “contempt of court for singing and speaking at a protest in July 2022….”.

The pair were arrested on 9 March 2023 and both have been denied bail.

Chen. Clipped from Prachatai. Photo by Ginger Cat

Chen Chiwabancha, 55, known as a protest regular and a YouTuber, was arrested at around 16.00 on 9 March 2023 at a protest in front of the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court. Although he had never received a summons, he was arrested on a warrant from the South Bangkok Criminal Court on Article 112 charges as well as contempt of court, defamation by publication, and using a sound amplifier without permission. Chen was initially detained at Yannawa Police Station.

At around 18.25, police also arrested Ngoentra Khamsaen, 43, another protest regular also known as Mani. She had gone to the Yannawa Police Station after Chen was arrested. She faces similar charges to those against Chen. Like Chen, she never received a summons prior to her arrest.

Ngoentra had previously been arrested in August 2022 on “charges of contempt of court, defamation, and using a sound amplifier without permission relating to a protest on 15 July 2022. She was denied bail and detained for 9 days before being granted bail.”

TLHR says the current charges relate to a protest on 28 July 2022 in front of the South Bangkok Criminal Court. It was the court that complained.

According to the police, both “gave speeches without requesting permission to use a sound amplifier and put up banners insulting the court.” In addition, they are accused of singing the Faiyen song ..โชคดีที่มีคนไทย (…Lucky to have Thai people) which is claimed to insult the monarchy.

Ngoentra. Clipped from Prachatai

Chen and Ngoentra were detained overnight at Yannawa Police Station and then taken to the court that lodged the complaint. Predictably, the court denied bail using the usual claim that the charges are very serious, those charged may flee the country or repeat the offense (these are the main legal grounds for denying bail). The order was reportedly signed by judge Phaibun Thongnuam.

As Prachatai explains, the song, banned in Thailand, is “about how Thai people are made to love the King through many means and the punishment the people will face if they do not love the King.

It is reported that “[a]nother protester has previously been arrested for singing the song during a protest in August 2022,” and TLHR states that there are four more cases of lese majeste for singing or playing the song. In these cases, all the accused were bailed.

Ngoentra has previously been detained when she was arrested in August 2022 on charges of contempt of court, defamation, and using a sound amplifier without permission relating to a protest on 15 July 2022. She was denied bail and detained for 9 days before being granted bail.

Thailand languishes and still not free

12 03 2023

Readers may recall that about a month ago we were shocked that the Economist Intelligence Unit trumpeted that Thailand had miraculously emerged as the biggest improver in its annual democracy ranking. That was bizarre, not helped by flawed methods and ideological taints.

Now, we read a Bangkok Post headline that blares: Thailand improves but still ‘not free’

The headline refers to the release of Freedom House’s annual rankings. For the Post, “Improves” amounts to a one point gain on a 100 point scale, for 29 to 30.

Perhaps a more truthful headline would have been: Thailand languishes and still not free.

What does this year’s report say? Its overview states:

Following five years of military dictatorship, Thailand transitioned to a military-dominated, semi-elected government in 2019. The combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy in Thailand’s governance triggered massive demonstrations in 2020 and 2021. In response, the regime has employed authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse-majesté charges, and harassment of activists. Press freedom is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.

Quite unlike the EIU and entirely more realistic, Freedom House acknowledges that the 2019 elections and the 2017 constitution are fundamentally undemocratic. For the question, “Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?”, it’s a fat zero score, as it is for the question: “Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?” On the question: “Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?”, it’s 1/4. And the scores 0 and 1 predominate. Where Thailand is ranked better, it is about Freedom of Religion, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights.

Interestingly, on the judiciary and its independence, it is a dismal 1/4. The report states:

While judicial independence is constitutionally guaranteed, courts are politicized and corrupt. The Constitutional Court has sweeping powers, including the ability to dissolve political parties, overthrow elected officials, and veto legislation.

Related, it adds: “The police and military often operate with impunity, which is exacerbated by the absence of any law that explicitly prohibits torture…”.

On the topic of academic freedom (1/4), the report states:

Academic freedom is constrained in Thailand. University discussions and seminars on topics regarded as politically sensitive are subject to monitoring or outright cancellation by government authorities. Activist activities on university campuses remain constrained by the government, including through prosecutions for sedition and violations of draconian lèse-majesté laws. Academics working on sensitive topics face oppressive tactics including summonses for questioning, home visits by security officials, surveillance of their activities, and arbitrary detention for the purpose of questioning.

Thailand’s public education system is rife with propaganda aimed at instilling obedience to the country’s monarchy and military.

In other words, Thailand is languishing with the likes of Angola, Algeria, Guinea, and Mali.

Confining protesters

10 03 2023

Panadda “Tong” Sirimasakul, an activist from the Thalufah group, speaking about electronic monitoring as a form of surveillance and political repression:

It’s not an opportunity. It is a tool that binds people. It is a tool that confine people’s freedom. It is a tool that oppresses people and prevent them from being free, from living the life they wanted. Another thing is it’s a tool preventing us from joining protests and exercising our rights…

Watch the Prachatai video:

Children targeted

9 02 2023

Amnesty International is at odds with the Economist Intelligence Unit’s recent democracy ranking of Thailand.

AI has released a new report on child rights to protest in Thailand. It’s press release begins:

Thai authorities have arrested, prosecuted, surveilled and intimidated child protesters for taking part in unprecedented mass demonstrations, Amnesty International said today, as it called for charges to be dropped and an end to any harassment discouraging children from joining protests.

Again, we can only question how the EIU came up with its bizarre claims on political participation.

The AI media release continues to note:

To date, nearly 300 under-18s have faced criminal charges, with some at risk of years in prison after being accused of sedition or insulting the monarchy, the first time that lèse majesté cases were known to have been brought against children in Thailand. The majority were accused of violating rules around mass public gatherings set out in a pandemic-related Emergency Decree that has since been lifted.

The report details the tactics used by the authoritarian regime:

Amnesty International documented a variety of tactics used to suppress the right to protest. Authorities routinely monitored or surveilled pro-democracy child protesters; directly intimidated children from ethnic minority groups for taking part in public assemblies; and asked unnecessary and invasive questions during background checks, such as whether the individual had relationships with someone of the same sex…. In some cases, authorities misused official powers under the Child Protection Act to wrongly prevent children from taking part in protests…. [AI] also documented authorities putting pressure on parents to discourage or prevent children from participating in protests. This provoked family tensions which, in two cases … resulted in domestic violence against child protesters.

Startlingly, the news release also documents that “[t]hree young protesters, aged 14, 15, and 16 at the time, were shot with firearms – allegedly by members of the public – outside Din Daeng Police Station in Bangkok on August 16, 2021.” Others were shot with rubber bullets during protests.

None of this sounds much like the quite surreal EIU report.

AI has called “for the Thai government to drop all criminal proceedings against peaceful child protesters; end all forms of intimidation and surveillance; and repeal or amend laws used to curb children’s right to protest to ensure they are in line with international human rights laws and standards.”

We’d guess there’s little chance of this without getting rid of the corrupt monarchy-military regime.

Controlling, repressing

13 11 2022

In a follow-up to earlier news, a Prachatai report tells of more efforts to control students in Chiang Mai.

The report states that on “10 November, a scuffle broke out in front of Phupingrajanivej police station when police tried to seize a banner from students and activists who went to the station in support of 2 Chiang Mai University (CMU) lecturers and 1 CMU student being charged there.  The clash left two protesters with minor injuries. Their banner carried the innocuous message ‘Art is short. A criminal case is long’.”

This relates to royalist Asawinee Wanjing, a “former Dean of CMU’s Faculty of Fine Arts, filed a trespassing charge against two faculty lecturers, Sorayut Aiemueayut and Thasnai Sethaseree, and a Fine Arts student, Yotsunthorn Ruttapradid.”

The “police stopped gatherers from tying banners in front of the police station.” So the protesters held the banner aloft.

Policemen then “tried to snatch a banner from Yotsunthorn, other protests intervened. In the ensuing scuffle, police placed one demonstrator in a chokehold.”

Excessive force is normalized.

Pavin on the “forgotten kingdom”

1 11 2022

At Asia Media International, a publication from Loyola Marymount University’s Asia Pacific Media Center, Pavin Chachavalpongpun writes of his fears for Thailand in the contemporary moment:

Thailand has become a “forgotten kingdom.” Despite a myriad of domestic troubles, ranging from the growing absolutist monarchic power, the remaining authoritarian rule, the highly politicized judiciaries, to the heightened legal harassments against pro-democracy youths, Thailand is virtually free from international pressure and sanctions.

This is largely because:

While the world is busy dealing with greater threats to the international community, including the war in Ukraine, the growing clout of Russia and the leadership question in China, Thailand is left unattended. The global spotlight is elsewhere. This could allow authoritarianism to thrive in Thailand.

The youth protesters are caught in a dilemma. Their protests had an impact, but not what they intended:

Since the outbreak of Thai protests, there has been no sign from King Vajiralongkorn of his willingness to work with democracy. Instead, Thais have witnessed the mounting absolutist power of the monarchy….

But lately, there have been some changes within the walls of the palace. After the protests dissipated, it seemed that Vajiralongkorn has adopted a less controversial lifestyle. He now resides mostly in Thailand, refraining from commuting so frequently between Bangkok and Munich, hence reducing chances of being a target of German paparazzi. This includes no more riding a bicycle in a tiny tank top. He also appears in public only with his queen, Suthida, rather than flaunting the threesome relationship involving the second wife, Royal Noble Consort Sineenat. Indeed, Sineenat has disappeared from the public eyes, swirling up gossips that questioned her wellbeing and whereabouts. [is she back?]

Because there have been no new issues concerning the king, it will be difficult to call for another round of protests. Even if a protest could be organised, the protesters might have to revisit their demands for royal reforms proposed two years ago. Whether the public would continue to support the old demands is a challenge for the entire youth movement….

Thailand is trapped in stagnation…


Vitit and 112

31 10 2022

It takes a while and careful language for essentially conservative legal scholars to speak up. Recently, at the Bangkok Post, Vitit Muntarbhorn, a professor emeritus at the Law Faculty at Chulalongkorn University, has done this as he laments the lack of space for young Thais to participate under the current repressive political arrangement. He observes:

The air of ambivalence is witnessed by history itself, especially the pervasiveness of non-democratic rule in the country which also hampers the role of youth in the national polity.

He notes the “bloodshed and suppression of the student movement, with a return to non-democratic rule via a coup d’etat staged by uniformed authorities” in 1976.

He goes on to look at the “troubling scenario in recent years in regard to how young people’s voices have been constrained.” He means political repression. In pointing to the “Youth-led demonstrations in 2020, calling for reforms of the political system and related entities” – he means the monarchy but can’t seem to write that – and its repression by the authorities.

He notes that the “Constitutional Court also found that a number of youth leaders had been seeking to overthrow established institutions [he means monarchy] through their demands and were thus acting unconstitutionally.” Vitit tiptoes around this court decision, but says: “It is open to debate whether that was the case, and whether the movement was advocating too much or not.”

Then lese majeste.

It is of great concern that nearly 300 children in this group are now being prosecuted under the national emergency decree, Section 112 on lese majeste and other criminal law provisions.

He rambles on about law and conventions but can’t condemn Article 112…. Or even call for reform of the law.

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