Royal law and lese majeste law

10 05 2012

It is sadly ironic that the Cornell University Law School reports that it will host a visit by alum Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, eldest daughter of Prince Vajiralongkorn.

The visit is sadly ironic because it comes just two days after the death in custody of lese majeste victim Ampol Tangnopakul. The princess will provide a guest lecture at Cornell based in part on her exalted appointed position as “Ambassador and Alternative Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice…”.

Just seven years post-J.D., she is said to have “a wealth of practitioner’s experience to the policy-making process of the Commission, particularly in strengthening standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice…”. Like all other royals, she has been showered with awards at a remarkably early age, including by U.N. agencies that get never-ending award pressure from supplicant Thai officials.

While she is said to have a particular interest in the conditions of women prisoners, it seems that little has changed in Thai prisons. Claimed royal interest seems to be about things “international” and reputation burnishing rather than promoting much needed and thorough-going prison reform.

It remains clear that prison conditions in Thailand remain horrendous and that there are certain women prisoners who are singled out for especially horrid treatment and denied even their constitutional rights. All prisoners held on lese majeste charges are treated in unconscionable ways. And, as the Ampol case demonstrates, lese majeste is a crime that can be a death sentence.

Open letter from AHRC details persecution of Darunee in prison

23 09 2009

The Asian Human Rights Commission has just issued a very important open letter on the case of Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul.  Addressed to Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, in her capacity as the Director of the Kamlangjai Project at the Ministry of Justice, the AHRC reports key information about the continued mistreatment Darunee is experiencing at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution.

In particular, the AHRC highlights the following:

“First, she is suffering health problems but has not received treatment. Her jaw is locking and she is unable to open her mouth properly to eat or brush her teeth. As far back as January, while awaiting trial, a doctor examined her and recommended that she receive treatment outside the facility, but to date she has received none. Her attempt to get bail so that she could seek medical treatment at her own expense also failed. As you will be aware, there are many other prisoners in need of outside medical help that are not getting any, and in this respect her case is typical rather than exceptional.

Second, since her detention she has been kept isolated from other detainees throughout the daytime. She is kept outside a guardpost and made to sit under the roof there alone. At nighttime she is brought back to sleep with other detainees; however, other detainees have reportedly been warned not to speak to her and to inform the guards if she tries to communicate.

Third, since her conviction she has been issued a prison uniform that is brown with red on the sleeves. According to the advice that the AHRC has received, this uniform should only be assigned to convicts in very serious criminal cases, such as drug dealers where the amount of amphetamines recovered exceeds 100,000 tablets.

Fourth, since her conviction the wording on the card that she must carry with her in prison to identify her offence was changed to a much more serious expression from that on the original card. Whereas the previous card identified her offence as having defamed the monarchy, the new card uses the Thai word “arkhatmadrai”, which is often translated as “threaten”. But as you are aware, the connotation of this word is grave; it does not indicate a passing threat but suggests deep malice that a person may carry throughout her life.”

As the AHRC comments, the treatment of Darunee in prison is structured in such a way as to deepen her punishment. Eighteen years is apparently not a high enough price for her dissent.

PPT joins the AHRC in calling on the Princess to take action. The Princess is a UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador. Perhaps the appropriate phrase here would be: “Liberté, égalité, sororité”