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.





Net censorship

21 10 2022

Rankings are always problematic, yet the Freedom House rank for Thailand’s “Freedom on the Net” seems reasonable. Thailand is assessed as “not free,” with a score of 39/100.

Clipped from Freedom House

Freedom House’s overview is as follows:

The internet is severely restricted in Thailand. A wide-ranging crackdown on online expression was carried out by the military-led regime in response to prodemocracy protests that started in July 2020 and continued throughout the coverage period. Authorities significantly increased the use of lèse-majesté law and sedition, charging and imprisoning individuals for online expression. Prodemocracy activists face heavy prison sentences. State-sponsored attacks, intimidation, and harassment targeting individuals for their online activities also continued. The government repeatedly extended the enforcement of a repressive emergency declaration issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, imposing further constraints on fundamental freedoms, though the courts found some measures unconstitutional.

Following five years of military dictatorship, Thailand transitioned to a military-dominated, semielected government in 2019. The combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy in Thailand’s governance has since triggered massive demonstrations. In response, the regime continues to employ 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.

The whole report – which runs to about 50 pages – is depressing reading.





Domestic spying

16 10 2022

Readers might find a recent story, “Dissent in Thailand: ‘Weaponized laws’ with the help of Israeli spyware” at i24NEWS of interest. i24NEWS is an Israeli-based international 24-hour news and current affairs television channel.

Clipped from Popular Mechanics

Much that is in the story ihas been previously published. This article focuses on the NSO Group, a cybersecurity company in Israel that was at the center of the Pegasus spyware scandal. It cites Ruchapong (Thames) Chamjirachaikul of iLaw on lese majeste and lawfare:

“Our government has started weaponizing laws. You can get up to 15 years in prison for criticizing the monarchy,” he explained, noting that most who are jailed have yet to be proven guilty in a judiciary process.

“The government tries to show it’s legitimate. Authorities don’t shoot people on the streets or arrest people brutally – but in reality, it’s not that free or fair.”





Remembering 1976: After the massacre II

6 10 2022

This is the third publication we are posting as a way of recalling the terrible events of 6 October 1976, focused on Thammasat University.

It is the second of two publications from the period that assess the immediate political outcomes of the massacre.

European Co-ordinating Committee for Solidarity with the Thai People (c1978) Political Repression in Thailand is an activist pamphlet. Its table of contents is:

  • Thailand – Facts and Figures
  • Chronology of Events in Thailand 1932-1970
  • Politics and Violence in Thailand
  • Political Detention in Thailand
  • Suppression of Trade Unions in Thailand
  • Government Atrocities in Rural Areas

A list of resources and contacts at the time is also included.

 





Taxpayer funding for the monarchy II

24 09 2022

The enveloping mourning and funeral of the dead British queen was unable to completely obliterate anti-monarchism. Opponents of monarchy were able to be heard, even if the mainstream media became absurdly royalist for a couple of weeks.

Interestingly, questions have been raised regarding the cost of the monarchy in Britain. As we noted yesterday, analysis of the Thai monarchy’s cost to the taxpayer has (re)emerged. There was very limited discussion of the taxpayer contribution to the rich royals under the dead king.

Shutting down discussion of the monarchy’s cost was one of Bhumibol and his coterie’s remarkable political achievements, built on military dictatorship, repression, and the deaths of many opponents of the military-monarchy regime. Recently, thanks to a few dedicated researchers and youthful protesters, such questioning is at least politically possible, even if the royalists push back and the regime still arrests, charges, and arrests activists.





283 minors charged

17 09 2022

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights maintains a database on political charges. In a recent report compiled from the database is about juveniles/minors prosecuted since 2020.

It calculates “at least 283 youths from 211 cases have been prosecuted for political expression and protest.”

From August 2021 to the end of October 2021, in the Din Daeng area, “[a]t least 210 youth from 104 cases were charged…”.

There are 17 in 20 cases charged under Article 112 with lese majeste. The majority of these have been indicted.

TLHR provides a month-by-month account of this effort to shut down young rebellion.





Authoritarianism for royalists, monarchy, tycoons, and military

7 09 2022

PPT has been reading some of the commentaries regarding Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s suspension as premier. We thought we better post something on these as Prayuth’s case could be (almost) decided by the politicized Constitutional Court as early as tomorrow.

Prawit and Prayuth: Generals both

At East Asia Forum, academic Paul Chambers summarizes and lists the pedigree and connections that have led to his former boss, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, to become (interim) premier.

A few days before that, Shawn Crispin at Asia Times wrote another piece based on his usual anonymous sources, that assesses the balance of forces. He thinks the Constitutional Court’s decision to suspend Gen Prayuth was a pyrrhic victory and writes of:

… a behind-the-scenes, pre-election move away from Prayut by the conservative establishment, comprised of the royal palace, traditional elites and top “five family” big businesses, he has cosseted both as a coup-maker and elected leader.

One source familiar with the situation says a group of traditional and influential Thai “yellow” elites including an ex-premier and foreign minister, after rounds of dinner talks, recently delivered a message to Prayut asking him to put the nation before himself and refrain from contesting the next general election to make way for a more electable, civilian candidate to champion the conservative cause.

It is clear that the conservative elite are worried about upcoming elections. Pushing Prayuth aside is thought to give the Palang Pracharath Party an electoral boost. Crispin reckons that the Privy Council beckons if Gen Prayuth does as asked. That’s a kind of consolation prize for Gen Prayuth having done his repressive duty for palace and ruling class.

But, as Crispin makes clear, the ruling class and the political elite is riven with conflicts. Indeed, one commentary considers the contest between Gen Prawit and Gen Prayuth.

It may be that Prayuth comes back. Recent leaks suggest that one faction still wants him in place, “protecting” the monarchy as the keystone to the whole corrupt system.  If Gen Prayuth returns to the premiership, where does that leave the ruling party and its mentors in the ruling class?

On the broader picture, an article by Michael Montesano at Fulcrum looks beyond personalities to the system that the 2014 military coup constructed:

The function of Thailand’s post-2014 authoritarian system is to channel and coordinate the overlapping interests of a range of conservative stakeholders: royalists and the monarchy, the military, much of the technocratic elite, a handful of immensely powerful domestic conglomerates, and the urban upper-middle class. This channelling or coordinating function is the system’s crucial defining feature. No individual or cabal of individuals gives orders or controls the system. Rather, collectively or individually, stakeholders or their representatives act to defend a shared illiberal and depoliticising vision with little need for explicit or direct instructions.

He adds:

Understanding these realities makes clear that Prayut’s premiership of eight long years — so far — has not been possible because of his leadership skills, the loyalty that he might command, or his indispensability. Rather, the remarkable longevity of his stultifying service as prime minister is due to the fact that someone needs to hold that office and he has proved adequate. His premiership satisfied the collective interests that Thailand’s post-2014 authoritarian system serves. For all of his manifest inadequacies, keeping him in place has, at least up to now, been deemed less costly than replacing him.

Has that cost risen so much that Gen Prayuth can be “sacrificed” for the royalist authoritarian system he constructed?





Lese majeste repression

24 08 2022

Readers may find a recent report on “civic space” in Thailand, by the CIVICUS coalition, of interest. It begins:

Civic space in Thailand is rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. Civil society has documented a range of violations in recent years by the government, including the use of criminal defamation, lese-majesté (royal defamation), and other restrictive laws against activists and journalists as well as harassment, physical attacks, and allegations of enforced disappearances of activists. There has also been a crackdown on peaceful protests, the arrests and criminalisation of protesters, and the use of excessive force by the police….

The authorities have continued to use Section 112 of the Criminal Code to charge, detain, and convict critics for royal defamation. Commonly known as the lese majeste law, the statute criminalises any criticism of the king or the royal family and carries a punishment of up to 15 years imprisonment.

Read it all for a refresher on how the royalist-military regime has engaged in widespread political repression.








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