Planet Krypton and lese majeste

30 05 2019

About a week ago we posted on about Pornthip Munkhong’s new book, All They Could Do To Us (Aan Press, 2019). Pornthip, jailed on lese majeste for her role in a political play, The Wolf Bride (เจ้าสาวหมาป่า), about a fictional monarch and kingdom, had written of her experience.

Today, The Nation has a story about her debut exhibition “Planet Krypton” at WTF Gallery in Bangkok. The report states:

After spending two years behind bars for violating the country’s draconian lese majeste laws, the life of young performing artist and rights activist Prontip “Kolf” Mankong changed dramatically. But rather than grinding the 30-year-old artist down, it made her stronger, a fact she clearly demonstrates by transforming that profoundly disruptive experience into creative art.

Pornthip and her fellow inmates will give a talk on Sunday at 5pm as they wrap the exhibition “Planet Krypton” at WTF Gallery. That may also be the last day of the exhibition. The story also states that her book is being translated to English.





Fascists and their opponents

22 05 2019

On the fifth anniversary of the military’s coup where it through out yet another elected government, we at PPT want to point to a couple of stories that do a great job of remembering and noting the impacts of the military’s illegal action in 2014.

The first is a story at Khaosod, where five activists provide brief comments on their experiences. All have been arrested and some have been jailed under the military dictatorship and its junta. Some clips:

1. No Coup 2. Liberty 3. Democracy

Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, recently released from prison on a manufactured lese majeste case, and facing more charges:

I saw. I fought. I lost. I was hurt. After five years fighting the junta and spending time in jail, I lost. Well, I didn’t lose. It’s just that we haven’t won yet. Some people are discouraged and disappointed. Others continue fighting.

Political activist Nutta Mahattana:

I underestimated the Thai people. Thais are more tolerant of military dictatorship than I expected.

Iconoclast activist Sombat Boonngamanong:

The most visible change in the past five years was how some people who fought for a certain strand of democracy were turned into mindless supporters of the military junta…. They saw the failure of the junta over the past five years, yet they are okay with it. It’s scary meeting these people….

Yaowalak Anuphan from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights:

Freedom of expression keeps sinking and more people censor themselves. The military has fully invaded civil society and injected its autocratic thinking into civilians.

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal:

[W]e took democracy for granted. We thought it was something that could be restored quickly after it was gone. We thought military dictatorship wouldn’t last long. But people have become better at adapting to life under dictatorship…. At symposiums, people are now more wary when they speak. This change was rapid….

The second is an article by retired diplomat and Puea Thai Party member Pithaya Pookaman. We disagree with him that the “election” result shows that the junta and its puppet party are “popular.” But he identifies those who are junta supporters as a “new right.” While this is catchy, it is also misleading in that much of the “new right” is pretty much the same opposition that’s worked against electoral democracy for decades. Pithaya knows this, saying:

Broadly speaking, the New Right consists of an odd mix of ultra-conservatives, reactionaries, semi-fascists, pseudo-intellectuals, and even former leftists. It is the product of more than 80 years of political evolution and has been shaped by technological and economic advances, as well as social and demographic changes, and populism in modern Thai society…. This tug of war between the so-called liberals and conservatives dates back to 1932…. The conservative Thai oligarchy, which saw their traditional grip on power being eroded, have strongly resisted democratic developments up until today.

Thailand’s urban middle class has a unique tolerance of authoritarian rule, wholeheartedly embracing military coups with few moral scruples. Meanwhile, the reactionary and semi-fascist groups seem to have a romantic infatuation with anachronistic medieval political and social systems….

Their common hatred of Thaksin and his political machine has allowed the fate of these diverse groups to intertwine. It has also made them vulnerable to “Thaksin Derangement Syndrome”, which has spread among a conglomeration of former leftists, the urban middle class, pseudo-intellectuals, ultraconservatives, semi-fascists, militarists, and the elitist establishment, all of which can collectively be called the New Right.

A third story is important. “All They Could Do To Us: Courage in Dark Times from a Fighter (Not a Victim)” is an article by Metta Wongwat, translated by Tyrell Haberkorn. It is about Pornthip Munkhong, who was jailed on lese majeste for her role in a political play, The Wolf Bride (เจ้าสาวหมาป่า), about a fictional monarch and kingdom. Her new book, All They Could Do To Us (Aan Press, 2019) “is an account of imprisonment under Article 112 during the NCPO regime written in the voice of an artist. She tells her story and the stories of her fellow prisoners from every walk of life, and in so doing, leads readers into her life during her two years of imprisonment.”

She includes a message for those who hold politics close: “(Political struggle) is like boxing. The ring is theirs. The rules are theirs. The referees are theirs. You must be prepared.





Updated: Challenging arbitrary lese majeste

25 10 2017

Prachatai reports that the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded that lese majeste victims Sasiwimon S. and Tiensutham or Yai Daengduad are detained arbitrarily.

The UN has concluded that the detention and sentencing of the two was done arbitrarily. Each received sentences that amount to decades in jail.

In other words, “the detention of the two was against the international conventions in which Thailand is a state party of such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Some time ago the same U.N. body also “concluded that the detention of four lèse majesté convicts were arbitrary. The four are: Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Pornthip Munkong, Patiwat Saraiyaem, Phongsak S.”

The military dictatorship will more or less ignore this U.N. declaration as the use of the lese majeste law is critical for its suppression of opponents of the junta and the monarchy.

When it does reply to the U.N. it lies. Last time, in June 2017, the junta lied that “the state protects and values freedom of expressions as it is the foundation of democratic society…”. This is buffalo manure and no one anywhere believes it.

The regime added that freedom and democracy were only possible when they do not impact “social order and harmony.” Like fascist and authoritarian governments everywhere, they mean that freedom and democracy are not permitted in Thailand.

The regime also claims that lese majeste “is necessary to protect the … [m]onarchy as the monarchy is one of the main pillars of Thai society…”.

That’s why the regime sent Sasiwimol, a 31-year-old single mother of two to 56 years in jail for allegedly posting seven Facebook messages considered lese majeste. How she threatened to undermine the monarchy is unclear.

Yai Daengduad, who is 60 years old was sentenced to 50 years in a junta prison for lese majeste.

Neither could appeal as they were dragged before one of the dictatorship’s military courts.

Meanwhile, Khaosod reports that the iconoclastic former lese majeste convict, Akechai Hongkangwarn has been confronted by a squad of uniformed military thugs for saying that he’d wear red for the dead king’s funeral. The thugs demanded he “choose between spending a few days at what they described as a resort in Kanchanaburi province or a military base at an unspecified location…”.

Of course, in royalist and neo-feudal Thailand, saying one would refuse to wear black is considered unacceptable. Akechai has been subject to a barrage of threats and hate mail and posts declaring him “unThai.”

Akechai “said it was not about disrespecting the [dead] king but exercising his rights.”

Royalists cannot accept that anyone has rights when it comes to the monarchy; there are only (enforced) duties.

They have encouraged attacks on Akechai and his house.

This is royalist Thailand.

Update: An AP report states that Akechai has been arrested: “A lawyer for Ekachai Hongkangwan said soldiers arrested Ekachai at his Bangkok home on Tuesday morning and indicated they would detain him outside the city, in Kanchanaburi province.”





Enforced amnesia

17 06 2017

The efforts to erase history from the brains of Thais continues.

A widely-circulated Khaosod report is of junta thug-soldiers and police going to two art galleries in Bangkok and ordering the removal of “three photographs from an exhibition without citing any reason.”

In fact, thug-soldiers working for the military dictatorship doesn’t need any reason for doing what it pleases. Yet, in this case, the notion seems to be to prevent people from remembering.

One of the exhibitions depicts the “lives and memories of political prisoners while the other was an homage to the 2010 military crackdown on Redshirt protests which left more than 90 people dead.”

The soldiers reportedly showed up under a misapprehension that lese majeste convict Pornthip Munkong, was hosting the exhibition. In fact, many of the photos had already been removed from the exhibition following a complaint by Pornthip.

By chance, the soldiers wandered across to the other exhibition and were aghast that the exhibition “contrasts images of the bloody 2010 crackdown with pictures of everyday life.” The soldiers demanded that three collages be removed.

The military junta seems intent on countrywide lobotomy.





Darunee, Pornthip and Thitinant released

27 08 2016

Some good news. As several sites and sources, including the Bangkok Post, it has been reported that Daranee Charnchoensilpakul (Da Torpedo), Pornthip Munkong (Golf) and Thitinant Kaewchantranont have been released from prison. Each was imprisoned for lese majeste.

Darunee was initially convicted and jailed for 18 years on lese majeste. Her appeal was upheld, but she was held in jail until a new trial was held. That trial again found her guilty and sentenced to 15 years. She was arrested on 22 July 2008 after delivering an exceptionally strong 30-minute speech denouncing the 2006 coup and the monarchy. She served more than eight years.

Pornthip was a 24 year-old activist when arrested on 15 August 2014 and charged with lese majeste. She was convicted on 23 February 2015. Pornthip, along with a separately arrested and detained activist, Patiwat Saraiyaem, for their involvement in a political play, The Wolf Bride (เจ้าสาวหมาป่า), about a fictional monarch and kingdom. She was denied bail several times. She eventually entered guilty please on lese majeste charges and was sentenced to 5 years, reduced by half for the guilty plea. She served just over two years.

Thitinant was arrested on 17 July 2012, accused of lese majeste. The details of her case and how and where she was held in not clear. Dating back to 2003, the New Zealand resident had been found to suffer mental illness. This was confirmed by court doctors. She was initially found guilty on 21 May 2014, and sentenced her to two years in jail. The prison term was commuted to one year for her confession. The jail term could be suspended for three years. This suspension was overturned by the Appeals Court sentenced Thitinant to jail for a year. It is not clear how long she was detained in prisons and hospitals.

It is good that these women have been released. None of them should have been in jail.





Lese majeste lies, nonsense and repression

7 02 2016

The lese majeste conviction train has been traveling at a speed that makes everything else the military junta does seem like extra-slow motion. We use this post to catch up on some recent lese majeste stories.

At Prachatai: lese majeste lunacy is reported, yet it is unclear who is suffering mental illness. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights “the military Judge Advocate General’s office has scheduled a hearing on 20 April 2016, when military prosecutors will decide whether to indict Sao (surname withheld due to privacy concerns) under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.

Sao, “who claims that he has telepathic powers to communicate with Thaksin Shinawatra,” was assessed by psychiatrists from the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute and they concluded that” Sao is fit to stand on trial in a military court…”.

It is bizarre that trained psychiatrists would come to such conclusions. Perhaps they suffer some kind of royalist psychosis.

In another story of lese majeste oddities, we note that Pavin Chachavalpongpun has a remarkable ability to get under the skin of the royalists who currently rule over Thailand. Almost everything he writes gets a high-level response and royalists are sometimes showing up when he speaks to provide usually crude responses to his views, if they don’t get to shout him down.

Usually for op-eds in foreign newspapers, Thailand’s ambassadors are tasked with responding with cliched royalisms, usually bending and breaking the truth. However, in responding to a recent Japan Times op-ed by Pavin, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs does him the honor of having Sek Wannamethee, Director-General of its Department of Information respond.

Sek says he wants “to clarify some points” but actually muddies and muddles the royal waters.

His first attempt to alter history is to assert that “the monarchy has been and always remains above politics.” By now, almost everyone with even a smidgen of interest in Thailand knows this is a steaming pile of horse manure.

His second to alter history is to assert that “the main purpose of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [he means the junta] to take control of national administration were to provide a cooling-off period for all sides, and to prevent further violence, restore stability, as well as to put the country back on track toward full democracy.”

This is clearly nonsense and a lie that the junta and its flunkies trot out to in the face of facts that say something quite different.

To assert that there is no “association between the monarchy and the operation of the [junta] is completely misleading and totally out of context,” is to deny the junta’s own claims about its raison d’etre. It proclaims its loyalty, it capacity to “protect” the monarchy and Prem Tinsulanonda supports the junta for its loyalty. It is clear that the military is hoping to manage succession.

His next claim, that “the lese majeste law is part of Thailand’s Criminal Code, giving protection to the rights or reputations of the king, the queen, the heir apparent, or the regent in a similar way libel law does for commoners” is one repeatedly made. It is repeatedly denied by academics and activists. For a start, the law has been applied far more widely than the persons mentioned. That’s a fact. When was the last time that libel saw a person sentenced to 60 years in jail?

To argues that the law “is not aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression nor the legitimate exercise of academic freedom, including debates about the monarchy as an institution” is simply a lie.

In another lie, when he denies that “the current government has tightened up its measures against lese majeste charges as the cases become more politicized is an overstatement of the current situation.” Again, its a fact. Mammoth jail sentences, scores of cases and military courts say Sek’s a propagandist.

Some international bodies do recognize the arbitrariness and politicized nature of lese majeste. A Prachatai report tells us that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention “has requested that Thailand immediately release lèse-majesté detainee Pornthip Munkong aka Golf and award her compensation for the arbitrary detention she has been subjected to…”. Apparently, this opinion was adopted on 2 December 2015, arguing that Pornthip’s

… detention is arbitrary because it contravenes Articles 9 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Articles 9(3) and 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Thailand is a state party to the ICCPR. The referenced provisions guarantee the fundamental right to liberty, the right to a fair trial, and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

PPT suggests that almost all lese majeste incarcerations fall into this category.

Dare we say it, but military prosecutors have shown some sense on lese majeste. For the first time, “have dismissed lèse majesté charges against three suspects accused of defaming the Thai monarchy on Facebook.”

The Judge Advocate General’s Office “decided not indict Jaruwan E., 26, Anon, 22, and Chat, 20, accused of using a Facebook page under the name of Jaruwan to defame the King.” Police had charged them with lese majeste  and computer crimes in mid-November 2014. They were imprisoned for almost three months.

Jaruwan denied all charges and claimed an unhappy suitor was responsible for the Facebook account. It seems the prosecutors have finally agreed.





World news on Wolf Bride sentencing

24 02 2015

Some of the international and national press reports on the sentencing of Patiwat Saraiyaem, a 23 year-old student in Khon Kaen, and Pornthip Mankong, a theater activist aged 26, is reproduced as links below. They received two years and six months in prison for their roles in “The Wolf Bride.” The play was about a fictional kingdom but the remarkable royalist judges considered that “insulted” the non-fictional monarchy. Their sentences were reduced from 5 years because of the guilty pleas.

The military dictatorship looks more ridiculous and dangerous to thinking people every day.

Radio Australia, 25 February 2015: “Human rights groups slam jailing of two Thai students for ‘royal insult’ in university play

Asian Correspondent, 24 February 2015: “Thai court jails theater activists for lese majeste

Sydney Morning Herald, 24 February 2015: “Thailand jails two for insulting the monarchy in a university play

Bangkok Post, 24 February 2015: “Charged scenes as dramatist pair jailed for lese majeste

The Australian, 24 February 2015: “Thai theatre activists jailed for lese majeste

The Nation, 24 February 2015: “Jailing of actors for lese majeste stirs criticism

Voice of America, 23 February 2015: “2 Students Given Jail Terms for Defaming Thai Royal Family

Daily Mail, 23 February 2015: “Two Thais are jailed for more than two years for ‘defaming the monarchy’ in a university play

The Indian Express, 23 February 2015: “Producers of ‘The Wolf Bride’ convicted for mocking the Thai monarchy

Channel 4 News, 23 February 2015: “Jailed for satire: Thailand’s lese majeste convictions

Irish Independent, 23 February 2015: “Thailand jails students for insulting monarchy in play

The Times, 23 February 2015: “Thais jailed over satirical play about a king

Business Times, 23 February 2015: “Thailand jails two on royal insult charge

Lonely Planet Travel News, 23 February 2013: “Two jailed for insulting Thailand’s monarchy

Zee News, 23 February 2015: “Thai actors sentenced for crime of lese-majeste

Deutsche Welle, 23 February 2015: “Rights groups slam conviction of Thai theater activists for royal slur

Associated Press, 23 February 2015: “2 Thais Who Staged Play Found Guilty of Insulting Monarchy

Bloomberg, 23 February 2015: “Thai Court Sentences Two for Play Deemed Insulting to Monarchy

Reuters, 23 February 2015: “Thailand jails two students for insulting monarchy in college play” ( video report by Reuters is here)

BBC, 23 February 2015: “Thai pair jailed for insulting monarchy in student play

Prachatai, 23 February 2015: “Court sentences theater activists to 5 years in jail for lese majeste

Khaosod, 23 February 2015: “Theater Activists Jailed Over Satirical Play About Monarchy