Money for nothing I

16 02 2017

Many readers will have already seen Prachatai’s report on the iLaw study of the apparently unconstitutionality of some members of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. We say “apparently” because the details of “leaves” taken are considered “secret.”

The point made by iLaw – Prachatai’s report doesn’t seem to get it quite right – is that the stipulated requirements of the Assembly are that in order to receive the substantial salaries they receive, the puppets are mandated to attend one-third of voting sessions in the Assembly. The requirement to attend a stipulated number of voting sessions is mandated by the military’s interim constitution at Article 9(5).

Clipped from iLaw

Clipped from iLaw

The big noise in all of this is that, yet again, The Dictator’s brother, General Preecha Chan-ocha, features. Preecha appears to play by his own “rules,” engaging in all kinds of nepotism, while pocketing the loot of his relationships and his military position, with impunity. Preecha is included in the graphic above, with 4 + 1 attendances.

We can also extrapolate a little on these findings. By not attending for the stipulated proportion of voting meetings, prima facie, membership of the Assembly is ended. Thus, by continuing to receive a salary for doing nothing or very little, such members are potentially engaging in an act of corruption. It can also be suggested that any Assembly actions they take are also unconstitutional. In essence, decisions the Assembly has taken, that these members have been involved in – when they managed to attend – may also be deemed unconstitutional.

We can surmise that, because “leaves” are secret, because The Dictator’s brother is involved, and because the junta’s work is at stake, that an announcement will be made that the non-attendees were “on leave.”





Deleting news and suppressing freedom of expression

26 12 2016

PPT has chased this story – deleted from Prachatai – for a few days. Finally, with our thanks and appreciation, a reader came up with it. This is the deleted story:

Court orders NGO to delete report criticising its judgement
Submitted by editor4 on Thu, 15/12/2016 – 18:15

A court has threatened to prosecute a lawyer for contempt of court after Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) published a report criticising the court’s decision to deny bail to an anti-junta activist.

On 14 December 2016, Phra Khanong Provincial Court ordered the TLHR to delete an online report about the court denying bail for Piyarat Chongthep, a pro-democracy activist prosecuted for tearing a referendum ballot on 7 August. The court threatened to prosecute Piyarat’s lawyer for contempt of court if the TLHR did not delete the report.

The TLHR then conceded to the court’s order before the court granted bail for Piyarat and his two friends on the same day with 200,00 baht as surety for each suspect.

The deleted report contains details of the trial and comments from TLHR staff criticising the court’s judgement to deny bail to the three suspects on 13 December. On that day, two university lecturers had used their academic positions to submit bail requests for the three. However, the court denied bail, reasoning that the lecturers are neither relatives of the three or their employers.

The TLHR report argues that official regulations do not state that bail guarantors have to be a relative or employer of suspects.

While bail was eventually granted, the situation is that reports of reports of bail being denied are now deleted. Courts, monarchy, military and regime are all on a list of bodies that cannot be criticized.





Updated: No torture reporting

28 09 2016

The Bangkok Post reports that the military junta has prevented “an Amnesty International seminar today on torture and other abusive practices in Thailand, arguing that the foreign speakers do not have work permits.” The event was to launch a report on torture in Thailand covering the last two years.

The Amnesty International team said: “The authorities do not want to cancel the event but they asked that the foreign panelists do not speak during the panel discussion…”. Yet all the panelists were foreign nationals.

The report is said to provide “details [on] 74 cases of alleged torture of detainees, in the far South and [of] political activists, at the hands of Thai soldiers and police.”

The junta continues to use Cold War methods to “protect” itself and its murderous police and military.

The Asian Human Rights Commission produced a “press release from Prachatai.”

————-

FORWARDED PRESS RELEASE
AHRC-FPR-032-2016

THAILAND: Thai authorities prevent press briefing on state-sponsored torture

Police and public officials have prevented a press briefing of Amnesty International (AI)’s about state-sponsored torture, saying that AI speakers might be charged for not having working permit.

On 28 September 2016, at Four Wings Hotel in Bangkok, Special Branch police officers and officials from the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare intervened at a press briefing of an AI report titled “Make Him Speak by Tomorrow”: Torture and Other Ill-Treatment in Thailand.

The report documents 74 cases of torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of soldiers and the police, including beatings, suffocation by plastic bags, strangling by hand or rope, waterboarding, electric shocks of the genitals, and other forms of humiliation.

The Thai authorities said that they are not barring the press briefing, but the AI speakers from the UK might be arrested if the briefing continues because they do not have a work permit.

In the report, AI states that since seizing power in a 2014 coup, Thailand’s military authorities have allowed a culture of torture and other ill-treatment to flourish across the country, with soldiers and policemen targeting suspected insurgents, political opponents, and individuals from the most vulnerable sections of society.

“Thailand may claim to be tough on torture, but actions speak louder than words. Empowered by laws of their own making, Thailand’s military rulers have allowed a culture of torture to flourish, where there is no accountability for the perpetrators and no justice for the victims,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

Update: AI have made the Executive Summary of their report available in Thai and English.

 





Judicial harassment of activists and reporter

1 09 2016

As part of the process of preparing for the military junta’s “election,” and probably for General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s drive to be unelected and continuing dictator of Thailand, the regime is continuing its crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners and a Prachatai journalist. For the “election,” there can be no democracy and no free media. We reproduce an updated posting from the Asian Human Rights Commission:

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-016-2016

1 September 2016

[RE: AHRC-UAC-089-2016: THAILAND: End judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and reporter]
—————————— —————————— ———
THAILAND: Ongoing judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and Prachatai reporter

ISSUES: Administration of justice; arbitrary arrest; freedom of expression; military
—————————— —————————— ———

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding four activists and one journalist, indicted over anti-draft constitution leaflets. The Public Prosecutor has asked the Court to revoke the defendants’ right to vote for ten years.

UPDATED INFORMATION: (Based on documentation by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights)

On 29 August 2016, the Ratchaburi Public Prosecutor indicted the five defendants, namely Mr. Pakorn Areekul, Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot, and Mr. Anan Loket (all members of the New Democracy Movement), Mr. Panuwat Songsawatchai (a Mae Jo University student), and Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha (a Prachatai reporter), in the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi. They have been indicted for the offences related to the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), Section 61, and the Announcement of Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) no. 25, on the arrangement concerning criminal prosecution.

The indictment states that on 10 July 2016,

“the five defendants had dared to distribute some documents and blue stickers displaying messages of ‘7 August: Let’s Vote No to Reject the Undesirable Future’ which means to say that people should be voting to reject the Draft Constitution made by the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) in the Constitutional Referendum set on 7 August 2016. The distribution of the stickers displaying such messages to general public and their colleagues who were eligible voters was an attempt to transmit texts which are inconsistent with the truth or inciting aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot or vote in any direction, and the act was committed with five persons or more, to disrupt the referendum which was an act against the law”.

In addition, the Public Prosecutor has further asked the Court to revoke the right to vote of the defendants for ten years, in accordance with Section 61 of the Constitutional Referendum Act.

All of the defendants applied for bail during trial, which was granted by the Court, using the same sureties placed during the police investigation, for 140,000 baht (approx.4,000 $USD) each. The Court has scheduled a mediation hearing on 21 September 2016 and an arraignment on 17 October 2016.
__________________________

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately end any ongoing judicial harassment of the 4 activists and 1 reporter from Prachatai.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.

To support this case, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

THAILAND: Ongoing judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and Prachatai reporter

Names of victims:

1. Mr. Pakorn Areekul
2. Mr. Anan Loket
3. Mr. AnuchaRungmorakot
4. Mr. ThaweesakKerdpokha
5. Mr. PanuwatSongsawatchai

Names of alleged perpetrators: Military Officers and Police Officers

Date of incident: 10 July 2016 to the present

Place of incident: Ratchaburi Province, Thailand

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the Ratchaburi Public Prosecutor indicting the New Democracy Movement (NDM) activists and a reporter on the offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), as a result of the documents recouped from their vehicle. The judicial action has been taken despite the activists not having distributed any material, much to the puzzlement of the suspects.

On 29 August 2016, the Ratchaburi Public Prosecutor indicted the five defendants, namely Mr. Pakorn Areekul, Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot, and Mr. Anan Loket (all members of the New Democracy Movement), Mr. Panuwat Songsawatchai (a Mae Jo University student), and Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha (a Prachatai reporter), in the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi. They have been indicted for the offences related to the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), Section 61, and the Announcement of Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) no. 25, on the arrangement concerning criminal prosecution.

Under Section 61 of the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), they face imprisonment not exceeding ten years and fine not exceeding 200,000 Baht. And, under the Announcement of Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM), no. 25, they also face imprisonment not exceeding 6 months and/or fine not exceeding 1,000 Baht, for disobeying the order of the officials by refusing to give their fingerprints. In addition, the Public Prosecutor has further asked the Court to revoke the right to vote of the defendants for ten years, in accordance with Section 61 of the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016).

I also wish to point out that the deprivation of liberty, arbitrary arrest, and judicial harassment, arises in this case wherein the five defendants attempted to exercise their right to freedoms of expression and opinion. It means that the government has failed to recognize the rights guaranteed by Article 9 of the ICCPR, ratified by Thailand in 1996.

Therefore, I would like to urge the Thai Government and authorities, including the Attorney General Office, the Judge Advocate General, and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to end all acts of judicial harassment against the five victims.

Yours Sincerely,

—————-

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Prime Minister
Head of the National Council for Peace and Order
Rachadamnoen Nok Road
Bang Khun Phrom
Bangkok 10200
THAILAND
Tel: +662 283-4194
Fax: +662 288-4235
Email: panadda_d@opm.go.th

2. Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda
Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police
Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan,
Khet Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Tel: +662 2053 406
Fax: +662 2514 739

3. Pol.Sub.Lt. Pongniwat Yuthaphunboripahn
Deputy Attorney General.
The Office of the Attorney General
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December, B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +662 142 1444
Fax: +662 143 9546
Email: ag@ago.go.th

4. Mr. What Tingsamitr
Chairman of National Human Rights Commission
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December
B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +662141 3800, +6621413900
E-mail: help@nhrc.or.th

5. Mr. Phattarasak Vannasaeng
Secretary -General of Office of the Judiciary
Criminal Court Building, 12 Floor Ratchadaphisek Road
Chatuchak
Bangkok 10900
THAILAND
Tel:+662 5412307
Fax: 662 5412306
E-mail: phattarasak.v@coj.go.th

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Visit our website with more features at http://www.humanrights.asia.

You can make a difference. Please support our work and make a donation here.

—————————–

Asian Human Rights Commission

G/F, 52 Princess Margaret Road

Ho Man Tin, Kowloon

Hongkong S.A.R.

Tel: +(852) 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) 2698-6367

Web: http://www.humanrights.asia





End judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and reporter

18 07 2016

This is a post of an Asian Human Rights Commission appeal. It refers to the now well-known detention of students and a Prachatai reporter. We reproduce the appeal in full, not least because it includes significant detail on the case. The original is here.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-089-2016

18 July 2016

———————————————————————
THAILAND: End judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and reporter

ISSUES: Administration of justice; arbitrary arrest; freedom of expression; military
———————————————————————

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) regarding the arrest of activists who attempted to exercise their right of expression. On 10 July 2016, the Ban Pong police searched the vehicle of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) activists, and found campaign material about the Constitutional Referendum and “Vote No” fliers. They were then held in custody for questioning, together with a reporter from Prachatai. No charges were initially pressed against them, but afterwards the Commander of the Provincial Police Region 7 instructed the officer to charge them with violating the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 for preparing to distribute the fliers.

CASE NARRATIVE:

On 10 July 2016 at around 11:30 a.m., police officials from the Ban Pong Police Station, Ratchaburi, searched the vehicle of Mr. Pakorn Areekul, aka “Man”, an activist of the New Democracy Movement (NDM). Mr. Pakorn had gone to Ban Pong District earlier to give moral support to some residents who had been summoned to acknowledge their charges. The local people there have been charged as a result of opening a referendum monitoring center. In the back of the activist’ pickup truck, the officials have found documents featuring reasons against the Draft Constitution, ‘Vote No’ stickers, and fliers made by the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT). Mr. Pakorn, along Mr. Anan Loket and Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot, his fellow NDM activists as well as Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha, a reporter from Prachatai, were about to board the vehicle when they were summoned for questioning. Mr.Thaweesak was interrogated, despite showing his press ID card.

Initially, the officials did not press any charges against, simply informing them that they had to put the information into the daily record and had to seize the documents. But later, at around 12:00 p.m., the police informed them that they had just sent the information to the Provincial Election Commission and local military authorities for review. During the initial questioning, Mr. Thaweesak revealed that the officials tried to establish that Prachatai online news has been the funder behind the NDM, including giving the activists money to print the material to campaign against the Draft Constitution.

Then, the Deputy Superintendent of Ban Pong Police Station had made the phone call to the Election Commissioner on electoral affairs, Mr. Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, who informed the police that if the documents were simply in the possession and not yet distributed, the activists could not be held accountable. But if they had distributed them, whether it would violate the Order of the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2558 or not, this would be subject to the discretion of the police on a case by case basis. Nevertheless, according to the police, the Commander of the Provincial Police Region 7 insisted that the act could be actionable as the activists were getting prepared to distribute the material and hence decided to press charges relating to the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61, paragraph two against them. Mr. Somchai also added that the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) was still reviewing the referendum campaign material of the NDM, but insofar could not determine if by simply having them in possession would constitute an offence or not.

In the Arrest Memo, the police noted that around 11:00 a.m the arresting police have received a report from people who acted in good faith and via the police scanner of the Ban Pong Police Station that a group of individuals were driving a pickup truck carrying with them documents and gears in the back of the truck. From their behavior, it was believed they were there to distribute the documents, the fliers, and brochures to campaign against the vote to endorse the Draft Constitution in Ban Pong District. From further investigation, it was found that the vehicle had pulled over on Songphon Road, Ban Pong Municipality, Tambon Ban Pong, Ratchaburi. The officials have thus identified themselves and asked to search the vehicle.

From the search, the evidence no. 2-14 were recovered, and from asking Mr. Pakorn Areekul, they have learned that he had travelled there with Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha, Mr. Anan Loket and Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot in order to visit their friends who have been summoned in the case of the unlawful assembly of five persons and upward or a political gathering without permission and to run the campaign about the Draft Constitution. Regarding the evidence no. 2-14, Mr. Pakorn accepted that they belonged to the New Democracy Movement (NDM) and they had been loaded into his vehicle.

The officials have thus seized the evidence and informed the arrestees of the charge against them for “having transmitted a text, or an image, or sound through the print media, or radio, or television, or electronic media, or other channels, which are inconsistent with the truth or are violent, aggressive, rude, inciting or threatening and aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot or vote in any direction shall be considered as disrupting the referendum”, which is an offence of the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 paragraph two.

The 14 items of evidence seized by the officials include the pickup truck, Vinyl banner reading “Any Thai Prime Minister is subject to mocking” (one copy), a loudspeaker and microphones, ‘Vote No’ bookmarks, document ‘Seven reasons why the Draft Constitution should be rejected’. brochure “How to cast your votes”, document “A dissenting opinion”, document ‘Release the Seven Referendum Prisoners’, public statement of the Nitirat Group on the Referendum, document “How to apply to vote outside your constituency” and ‘Vote No’ stickers.

The four suspects pleaded not guilty to the charge and refused to sign their names in the Arrest Memo. Later at 16.00, the police also searched in the passenger cabin and seized five more items on top of the documents already seized including a NDM donation box made of paper with 2,571 baht inside and a booklet “In the name of the NCPO’s (in)justice” by the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

Around 18:00 p.m., the police have brought the four suspects to a holding cell at the Ban Pong Police Station and denied them bail at the police level. They were informed that the interrogation shall take place that night and they would be brought to the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi for a remand hearing on 11 July 2016 which TLHR attorneys filed a motion objecting the remand then.

Of late at 20.20 p.m., it was reported that four vehicles of police officials have laid siege to the residence of Mr. Panuwat Songsawatchai, student of Faculty of Political Science, Maejo University Phrae Campus – Maejo University, another suspect in the same case who was summoned to turn himself in at the Ban Pong Police Station as a result of his activity at the referendum monitoring center in the morning. He was pressed with the same charge as the four individuals.

On 11 July 2016 at 9:00 a.m., all five were brought to the pre-trial remand hearing at the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi. The police investigator of Ban Pong Police Station asked the Court to have them remanded for 12 days and the Court approved as submitted by police. However, six alleged offenders have been released by the order of the Court, by placing bail bond at 140,000 Baht (around 3,975 $) each.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Previously, on 23 June 2016, other NDM activists and union activists, 13 of them, were arrested while distributing campaign material in the public to urge them to vote during the Constitutional Referendum in Samut Prakan province. They were pressed with charges relating to the violation of the Order of the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2558 and the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61 (please see Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-075-2016 for more information). In addition, seven other student activists from the Kasetsat Liberals were apprehended while organizing a ceremony to mark the anniversary of Thailand’s democracy “24 June: Dusting off Democracy” at the Lak Si Monument on 24 June and their ‘Vote No’ campaign material of their car were also seized. The seven activists were pressed with charges relating to the political gathering of five persons and upward, the violation of the Order of the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2558, though they were not charged for violating the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately withdraw the case and end any ongoing investigation into the 4 activists and 1 reporter from Prachatai.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion expression and seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

THAILAND: End judicial harassment of pro-democracy activists and reporter

Name of victim: 1. Mr. Pakorn Areekul 2. Mr. Anan Loket 3.Mr. Anucha Rungmorakot 4.Mr. Thaweesak Kerdpokha 5. Mr. Panuwat Songsawatchai

Names of alleged perpetrators: Military Officers and Police Officers

Date of incident: 10 July 2016 to the present

Place of incident: Ratchaburi province, Thailand

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the arrest of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) activists and a reporter on the offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act as a result of the documents recouped from their vehicle, even though they were not yet distributed, emerged in the wake of puzzlement by the suspects in the case.

While the international community has frequently described freedom of expression as one of the essential foundations of a democratic society because it guarantees the right of every person to exchange information, debate ideas and express opinions, the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559’s Section 61 paragraph and its implementation have shown contradictory results. Because it intends to restrict people’s right who need to discuss – and to criticise – decisions about their country.

Moreover, generally Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) prohibits the state from interfering with freedom of expression. This would prevent, for example, the government attempting to ban particular forms of political or artistic expression. The prohibition is not limited to the government but also includes all public bodies such as local authorities, schools and universities which Thailand, as a State party, should respect it.

Therefore, I would like to urge:

1. The Commander of Royal Thai Police to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against the 4 activists and 1 reporter who were trying to campaign and report around the referendum on the draft constitution;
2. The Commissioner-General of Royal Thai Police and the Attorney General of Office of Attorney General to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the 4 activists and 1 reporter and unconditionally drop all charges against them;
3. The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission to urge The Royal Thai Police and The National for Peace and Order (NCPO) to take prompt action to protect the 4 activists and 1 reporter who were trying to campaign and report around the referendum on the draft constitution;
4. The NCPO to cease obstructing, threatening, and arresting those who campaign around the referendum and express differing views about the draft constitution in an orderly, peaceful and open manner, and allow the free presentation of views to accept or reject the draft constitution through various channels.

Yours Sincerely,

……………….

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Prime Minister
Head of the National Council for Peace and Order
Rachadamnoen Nok Road
Bang Khun Phrom
Bangkok 10200
THAILAND
Tel: +662 283-4000
Fax: +662 282-5131
Email: panadda_d@opm.go.th

2. Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda
Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police
Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan,
Khet Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Tel: +662 2516 831
Fax: +662 2053 738

3. Pol.Sub.Lt. Pongniwat Yuthaphunboripahn
Deputy Attorney General.
The Office of the Attorney General
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December, B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +662 142 1444
Fax: +662 143 9546
Email: ag@ago.go.th

4. Mr. What Tingsamitr
Chairman of National Human Rights Commission
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December
B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +662141 3800, +6621413900
E-mail: help@nhrc.or.th





FCCT statement on charging of Prachatai journalist

13 07 2016

As readers will know, Taweesak Kerdpoka, a journalist with Prachatai was arrested and charged in Ratchaburi. He was detained after the police searched a car of student activists and found copies of New Democracy Movement’s booklet which provides information that opposes the junta on the draft constitution. Taweesak had hitched a ride with the students.

They are apparently charged with violations against the military dictatorship’s ridiculous and draconian Referendum Act that allows the junta to repress all views that are not its own on its charter and the illegitimate referendum on it.

His arrest led to junta thugs – police and military – showing up at Prachatai’s office and searching it, coming up empty-handed.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand has issued a statement on the arrest and charging of Taweesak. PPT reproduces it in full:fcctlogo2 - Copy

The professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) is concerned at the detention and charging of Taweesak Kerdpoka, a journalist with the independent news website Prachatai.

Mr Taweesak was arrested on July 10 while covering the activities of the New Democracy Movement (NDM), one of the few groups which publicly criticise the current government. He was released on bail but has been charged under the government’s Referendum Act, which outlaws criticism of the draft constitution, a document that Thais will vote on in a referendum on August 7.

The NDM activists had travelled to the central Thai district of Ban Pong to support another group of 18 activists who had been summoned by police. Mr Taweesak accompanied them from Bangkok to Ban Pong in the same car as part of his reporting assignment.

Police stopped and searched the vehicle and said they found pamphlets and stickers that they alleged were in breach of the Referendum Act. The documents belonged to the NDM activists who have been calling on Thais to reject the proposed charter. Prachatai director Ms Chiranuch Premchaiporn said the documents did not belong to Mr Taweesak.

All were arrested, charged and later freed on bail, but face up to ten years in jail if convicted. Prachatai’s offices were subsequently searched by police officers on July 12.

It is not unusual for journalists to accompany or travel with newsmakers and interviewees. As a reporter covering human and environmental rights, Mr Taweesak was merely doing his job.

The FCCT is concerned that arresting and charging him sets an alarming precedent for media freedom, and calls on Thai authorities to withdraw the charges against him.





Repressing the middle class

28 02 2016

We remain bemused by the military junta’s approach to the draft charter. Sometimes it appears that the junta actually thinks they can force through a Yes vote in the referendum.

The junta had one of these delusions when they heard that Prachamati, which Prachatai says is an “online forum which summarises controversial content in the draft constitution and allow people to vote whether they agree or disagree with it” was planning “a seminar about the controversial new draft constitution titled ‘New Constitution: What Are We Going to Do?’…”.VOTE NO

Thai Police have banned the seminar declaring it a (seemingly threatening) political gathering of five or more persons, which the junta cannot abide, even if it organizes political events itself.

The seminar was to be held at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, hardly a known venue for sedition.

The police had the BACC staff tell “the organisers that they have to prohibit the event from being held at the venue.”

Prachamati responded, saying: “We just hope that people will still have space to express their opinion about the new draft constitution in various different means and not having their rights arbitrarily suppressed…. We will continue to campaign to create awareness about the draft charter online.”

Prachamati website was founded with the cooperation of Prachatai and Thaipublica, both middle-class alternative media agencies, iLaw, which monitors and promotes freedom of expression and the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, which is a part of Mahidol University.

The more the junta cracks down on the middle class, the weaker it seems. Whether that is due to internal rifts, authoritarian madness or fascist mentality, it matters little, for it widens repression and reduces support for the junta from the frightened middle classes.