New queen, new positions

16 06 2019

The royal couple may never be in Thailand all that much, preferring Munich, Tutzing and Zurich, but that doesn’t stop the royal tank grinding on.

The Bangkok Post reports that the king has “commanded” – oh, so feudal! – that six royal agencies be placed under new queen Suthida:

Suthida in the uniform, earrings and makeup of a General

The six agencies are Her Majesty Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother’s Private Secretary Division; Her Majesty Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother’s Royal Household Division; Supplementary Occupation Programme Division; Sirikit Institute; The Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Technique of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand; and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother’s ladies-in-waiting.

With Sirikit incapacitated for several years, this is generational change but it also represents the rise and rise of Vajiralongkorn.

Suthida also carries an multi-syllable name, Bajrasudhabimalalakshana. Quite a change from the family name Tidjai or even from the previous Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya.

Showered with “honors” and having moved up from second lieutenant to full general in just six years of military “service,” she holds military command positions with the Royal Thai Aide-de-camp Department and the large force that “protect” the king and royal family.





Junta, queen and Prem

2 06 2019

Politics seems remarkably quiet as the junta seeks to seal its stolen election victory (all of the last three words need inverted commas). As in many political deals, the junta’s machinations with various anti-democrat parties is going on behind closed doors.

How much all of this will cost the taxpayer is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, with yet another holiday for royal stuff, its a queen’s birthday holiday. As expected, this is the first opportunity for the palace propaganda machine to lumber into action to give the former consort a royal makeover.

This is a palace process that follows patterns set in the previous reign that seeks to manipulate public opinion with propagandized “histories” and “life stories.” Of course, within a couple years, barring a fallout with the king, she will be another super royal, at least in the propaganda.

And kind of related, for those readers who haven’t seen it, Pravit Rojanaphruk’s op-ed that holds a mirror to the sycophantic (part) memories of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda. Divided opinions on Prem are actually a fair representation of this divisive royalist figure. His efforts built on the work of disgruntled princes and royalists that have sought to roll back 1932. That effort continues in the current reign.

 





The “necessity” of military dictatorship

13 10 2017

In the Bangkok Post, commentator Thitinan Pongsudhirak comes up with his repeated excuse for military domination. He claims the succession explains it:

The consequent royal transition is likely to be viewed in posterity as the principal reason why the Thai people have had to put up with Gen Prayut.

Later he states, as he has before, that:

To appreciate how Gen Prayut and his cohorts could seize power and keep it with relative ease, we need to recognise the late King Bhumibol’s final twilight. The royal succession was imminent by coup time, and the Thai people collectively kind of knew the special and specific circumstances this entailed. Power had to be in the hands of the military, as it had to ultimately perform a midwife role. Unsurprisingly, ousted elected politicians may have complained about and deplored the coup but none wanted to retake power during the coup period. They knew that after seven decades of the reign in the way that the Thai socio-political system was set up around the military, monarchy and bureaucracy, it had to be the generals overseeing this once-in-a-lifetime transition.

This is nonsensical propaganda. There were, at the time, and today, many, many Thais who reject this royalist babble. But Thitinan just ignores the deep political and social struggles that marked the period of discord that began with the Asian economic crisis in 1997 and which was punctuated by two military coups.

Thitinan appears to us to be expressing the views of the socially disconnected middle class of Bangkok, those who hate and fear the majority of Thais, and “protect” themselves by attaching themselves to the economic and political power of the Sino-Thai tycoons, monarchy and military.

Thais have “put up with” ghastly military rulers for decades. The military dictators and rulers have used the monarchy to justify their despotism. General Pin Choonhavan used the “mysterious” death of Ananda Mahidol; General Sarit Thanarat promoted the monarchy as a front for his murderous regime; General Prem Tinsulanonda made “loyalty” de rigueur for political office.

Thitinan is wrong and, worse, whether he wants to or not, he provides the nasty propaganda that is justification for military dictatorship. We can only imagine that the military junta is most appreciative.

One reason Thais “put up with” military dictatorship now is because anti-democrats want it, because many of them hate elections that give a power to the subaltern classes. And, as Thitinan acknowledges,

Gen Prayut and his fraternal top brass in the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) have guns and tanks to intimidate and coerce. In their first year in power, the ruling generals detained hundreds of dissenters and opponents for “attitude adjustment”. They even put some of those who disagreed on trial in military court. They also came up with their own laws in an interim charter, including the draconian absolutist Section 44. And they have used and manipulated other instruments and agencies of the state to keep people in check and dissent suppressed.

To be sure, dozens of Thais are languishing in jail during junta rule. One young man, a student with his own strong views, has been jailed for re-posting a social media message that appeared on more than two thousand other pages. The junta also has banned political parties from organising, and has generally violated all kinds of human rights and civil liberties all along.

In addition, the generals have not been immune to corruption allegations….

Thais, it seems, must just “put up with” all this in order to facilitate the death of a king, succession and coronation. Thitinan goes even further, lauding The Dictator:

who grew up in the Thai system from the Cold War, who came of age at the height of Thailand’s fight against communism in the 1970s, seeing action on the Cambodian border against the Vietnamese in the 1980s, serving both the King and Queen and the people in the process with devotion and loyalty.

In fact, General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s military promotion was not forged in “battle” but in providing service to the palace and especially the queen.

Thitinan declares that General Prayuth is the “soul of the nation,” a term once used for the dead king:

When Gen Prayut spoke for the nation [after the last king died], he meant it. Fighting back tears, in seven short minutes, he said what had to be said, and directed us Thais to two main tasks, the succession and the cremation after a year’s mourning. Had it been Yingluck [Shinawatra], who is not known for her eloquence, she might have stumbled during the speech. Had it been Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is fluid and flawless in speechmaking, it would have lacked the soul of the nation.

It had to be Gen Prayut, the strongman dictator and self-appointed premier. He is an earnest man, purposeful and well-intentioned….

Make no mistake, this is pure propaganda for military dictatorship. Make no mistake, Thitinan is justifying military dictatorship for the West, “translating” Thai “culture” for those he thinks are Thailand’s friends. He is saying to The Dictator and to “friends” in the West that 2018 or 2019 will mark the end of an “unusual” time and a return to “normality.” That “normal” is Thai-style democracy, guided for years by the military and its rules.

For those who seek a more nuanced and less propagandist reflection try Michael Peel in the Financial Times. He was formerly a correspondent for the FT based in Bangkok, and has penned “Thailand’s monarchy: where does love end and dread begin?” (The article is behind a paywall, but one may register and get access.) Peel asks: “In a country where few dare to speak openly about the royals, how do Thais feel about their new ruler?”

That is, how do they feel about the succession that Thitinan propagandizes as having “required” military dictatorship working as midwife.





Conspiratorial musings

25 06 2017

Shawn Crispin at the Asia Times has a view that everything that happens in Thailand is a conspiracy. When he reports on Thailand’s politics, it is almost never from an on-the-record source. But he always cobbles together an interesting story of conspiratorial maneuvers.

We don’t reject conspiracies as an explanation. Indeed, our limited experience of Thailand’s movers and shakers is that they are always planning to foil the next conspiracy even when they don’t know what it is or who is behind it. So conspiracies are often built around and constructed from factual events that are put together into a story that is embellished and may or may not be accurate.

In his most recent outing at Asia Times, Crispin mixes a frothy conspiratorial cocktail, mixing knowns with unknowns and unknowns with speculation and guessing. This is apparently in the tradition of Bush era Secretary for Middle East invasion, Donald Rumsfeld: “there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

He begins with the bomb that “ripped through a Bangkok military hospital in late May…”, and like many, he seems to not be all that convinced by the claims that the military got their bomber. What the bombing does is provide the “potential for Thailand’s ruling military junta to leverage the blast to further delay elections scheduled for next year for reasons of national security.”

Apart from the obvious – elections are not always predictable unless totally controlled, they love uncontrolled power and the junta hates elections anyway – why would they want further delay?

The capture last week of a 62-year-old ex-civil servant suspect with alleged links to coup-ousted ex-premiers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra’s “Red Shirt” pressure group underscored the notion that political instability and disenchantment are on the rise three years after the military suspended democracy and seized power in a May 2014 coup. Try this:

Polling conducted by the Internal Security and Operations Command (ISOC), a military unit under the authority of the Prime Minister’s Office, has shown repeatedly since the coup, as well as in recent months, that Peua Thai would win any free and fair vote, according to a source familiar with the confidential surveys.

To be honest, we are skeptical of this, not least because the “election” will not be free or fair and the junta has been working for more than three years to prevent such a result. But let’s say it is true. Crispin’s claim is that “the premier appears to be testing the political waters for yet another delay.” That’s certainly true.

That could come in any number of forms, including the death of the queen. Crispin says there are “new worries about the state of 84-year-old Queen Sirikit’s health…”. He adds:

Royal family members, including Vajiralongkorn, recently came together when Queen Sirikit was urgently moved from Siriraj to another medical facility due to a health scare. Many anticipate Prayuth’s junta, led by troops who rose to prominence on their loyalty to Sirikit, would announce and impose another extended period of national mourning that puts politics in abeyance upon her eventual death.

He then talks of factions in the military. Of course, there are many and there always have been, but concentrating on them too closely is like reading tea leaves in a tea house that’s burning down. Prayuth’s in place as long as he can manage the troops and give them toys and positions that provide pay-offs.

But there are always younger fascists keen to get ahead, like the detestable First Region army commander General Apirat Kongsompong, a King’s Guard soldier now tipped as a likely future army commander. We don’t know the king’s preferences yet, and they are likely to be significant for we know he will want a say and that he must have remora-like officers around him.

The referendum also allowed for an unelected premier, which the military-appointed Senate’s presumed cohesive bloc will likely have strong sway over after the next poll. Until recently, analysts presumed Prayuth was the mostly likely candidate to become appointed premier over an elected “unity” government the military would check and control from above. Crispin says he has “frequent one-on-one audiences with [Generals] Prayuth and Chalermchai [Sitthisart].”

Presumably that when’s he’s actually in Thailand and not cycling around parts of Erding and being shot in the backside with plastic bullets.

Vajiralongkorn also seems to be a fan, for the moment, of the General Apirat, not least because the latter will do anything for publicity and promotion. However, that publicity may not always keep the king jolly.

Then the Kremlin watchers-cum-military-watchers in Thailand will be waiting to read October’s military reshuffle list and will see all kinds of messages there. Who won, who lost and that kind of cake decoration. But decorated cakes can have a political impact, not least when a general feels done down.

Is there rising factionalism in the armed forces? We don’t think so as the military is happy enough in harness at present. But things change. The junta is getting criticized far more widely now, and if that continues, Prayuth may be turfed out. But as Crispin concludes:

While Prayuth’s once near-absolute grip has certainly started to slip with new challenges from within the military and a more assertive monarchy, it’s not clear the solider-cum-premier is ready to yield power any time soon to the same politicians and anti-junta activists he believes caused the various problems his military government has aimed and claimed to solve.

We think that’s not idle speculation.





On the junta’s use of lese majeste

8 05 2017

Reproduced in full from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw):

(Bangkok, Paris) The number of individuals arrested on lèse-majesté charges since the May 2014 military coup has passed the 100 mark, FIDH and its member organizations Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) said today.

“In less than three years, the military junta has generated a surge in the number of political prisoners detained under lèse-majesté by abusing a draconian law that is inconsistent with Thailand’s international obligations.”

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President

Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code (lèse-majesté) imposes jail terms for those who defame, insult, or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent. Persons found guilty of violating Article 112 face prison terms of three to 15 years for each count.

The number of people who have been arrested under Article 112 of the Criminal Code has reached 105, following the arrest of six individuals on 29 April 2017. Forty-nine of them have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 30 years. To date, at least 64 individuals are either imprisoned or detained awaiting trial on lèse-majesté charges. At the time of the 22 May 2014 coup, there were six individuals behind bars under Article 112. Eighty-one of the 105 cases involved deprivation of liberty for the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The remaining cases are related to individuals who were arrested for claiming ties to the royal family for personal gain.

“Many of those arrested are democracy activists and outspoken critics of the military regime. In some instances, they were kidnapped from their homes by military officers and interrogated in secret for several days in military camps before being formally charged. Lèse-majesté defendants are rarely granted bail, and so spend months or even years fighting their cases while in detention. All of this makes a mockery of ‘justice’ in Thailand’s justice system.”

Jon Ungpakorn, iLaw Executive Director

On 28 March 2017, following the review of the country’s second periodic report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Geneva, Switzerland, the UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR), expressed concern over the “extreme sentencing practices” for those found guilty of lèse-majesté. The CCPR recommended Thailand review Article 112 to bring it into line with Article 19 of the ICCPR and reiterated that the imprisonment of persons for exercising their freedom of expression violates this provision. The CCPR also demanded the authorities release those who have been deprived of their liberty for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

“The Thai government has run out of excuses to avoid reforming lèse-majesté. Article 112 must be brought into compliance with Thailand’s international obligations as demanded by numerous UN mechanisms.”

Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn, UCL Chairman




Regime not sufficiently monarchist?

23 10 2016

At the same time that the military regime is using the late monarch and the period of mourning for political purpose, it is also accused of not being sufficiently monarchist.

It has spent a week trying to smother a royalist social media campaign that declares the junta disloyal for “ordering the removal of the late king’s portrait.”

The Bangkok Post reports that The Dictator has now had to issue an order banning the removal of the ubiquitous portraits that capture a king of 20 or 30 years ago.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “prohibited public offices from removing the pictures or portraits” of the “late King, as well as those of Queen Sirikit, and must keep them in good condition…”. It was added:

If they come with text such as ‘Long Live the King’ or the Pali version of it [Teeka Yuko Hotu Maha Racha], it may be changed appropriately. If they are to be replaced or decorated with black or white ribbons, the changes must be quickly made and the pictures put back without delay….

Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd “reaffirmed the government had never ordered the removal of the portraits as shared by some users in social media.” He demanded that these users “should refrain from sharing such information without sources.”

Any notion that the regime would undermine the monarch that they have literally (at Corruption Park) and metaphorically hoisted high for their own regime is potentially damaging. That they might be preparing for the new reign is likely to prove unpopular among its constituency of mad and even sane monarchists (and other seeking to undermine the regime).





Further updated: Unsubstantiated rumors and speculation

13 10 2016

Because the palace provides little information, there is considerable speculation about the king’s dying days.

Social media has some pretty long and involved discussions of what’s happening and what will happen.

Much of this is highly speculative. For example, there social media speculation that the prince returning to Thailand by a TG flight is seen as significant of something by some, such as control by the military junta. Some see his return as evidence that there will be no intervention in succession. We will soon know if any of this speculation and guessing is worth the huge efforts that go into it.

One current social media rumor is that the “old brass” from the Privy Council is currently meeting with the junta’s “new brass.” This seems  reasonable speculation and we’d guess that such a meeting would not be the first. If there is going to be any interference in succession, these are the main players but there’s no recent and compelling evidence to suggest that there will be such an intervention, but the junta’s Thailand is highly secretive and that needs to be kept in mind.

Reports from Thailand suggest that there is a calm “waiting” going on. That said, we can expect considerable grieving when it is announced that the king has died.set-index

Update 1: Here is another claim that needs to be considered carefully before believing it. And we mean the one by the junta’s “Deputy junta head for the Economy” Somkid Jatusripitak, who declares that the “authorities are now hunting for people who are causing Thailand’s stock market to plummet rapidly.” Apparently now infected by junta-itis, which affects the brain, detaching it from reality, he says he “has ordered Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand (SEC) to find people who are spreading rumours causing rapid fall on the nation’s stock market…”.

It’s the Royal Household Bureau’s announcements and then the failure of the junta and palace to say anything about the way they are dealing with the king’s demise that are causing the drop.

Somkid “said that Thai people should not become victims of those who are spreading rumours for personal gains, adding that people should trust in the nation’s economic potential and follow news from the government sources only.” See what we mean? Only believe the military dictatorship!

Then, remarkably, he added to the rumors: “This country is now at a very important moment and things will gradually get better…”. So the king is dead or about to die, now confirmed by this statement.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that Princesses Sirindhorn, Soamsawali, Chulabhorn and Prince Vajiralongkorn are again at Siriraj Hospital. We see no mention of the queen, who is also hospitalized.





Promoting political allies II

15 09 2016

A few days ago, PPT posted on the rise of the new Army boss General Chalermchai Sittisart.

It seems the Bangkok Post’s military correspondent essentially agrees with us. Wassana Nanuam reckons that The Dictator’s promotion of Chalermchai was a “bold move [that] has surprised many.”

As we said, there should be no surprise as The Dictator is selecting a man “well-suited with what he called ‘the current situation’.” She means well-suited to managing the military junta’s continued control of politics, “election” or not.

Chalermchai is not from the Burapha Phayak clique, having never “served in the 21st Infantry Regiment (Queen’s Guard) nor the 2nd Infantry Division where Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon grew into their military careers.”

But Chalermchai is well “qualified” for repressing the junta’s opponents. The new boss “is from the ‘red beret’ Special Warfare Command (SWC) where he had served in intelligence and secret services throughout his career.” He served on the Thailand-Cambodia border during the Khmer Rouge era meaning he probably made a reasonable amount of money.

He also served under another red beret, General Surayud Chulanont, now a privy councilor. The report says he “formed a close bond with Gen Surayud.” That bond and links to the queen have been critical for Chalermchai’s rise.

Gen Chalermchai’s is not due for retirement until September 2018 meaning Gen Prayuth can expect “stability within the army…”. The report states that “[s]uch stability is important for Gen Prayut if he becomes a non-elected prime minister of an elected government.”

Chalermchai’s appointment is also a sign that Prayuth “wants to maintain close ties with Gen Surayud and strengthen relations with the Si Sao Thewes clique of Privy Council president [General] Prem Tinsulanonda.”





Near death recoveries

1 08 2016

Both the king and queen spend all their time in hospital, each suffering the multiple ailments of the old. They are both kept alive by teams of doctors. Alive may not mean that they are able to do anything at all, including breathing.

The Royal Household Bureau is issuing regular “reports” that are irregular and still opaque.

One recent report has the queen being moved from Siriraj hospital to Chulalongkorn Hospital. This routing seems regular now. She was moved because an “x-ray showed a slight inflammation on her lungs and blood tests showed an infection…”. Why she isn’t treated at Siriraj, where she resides and where the king is treated is unclear.

As always in these reports, the queen is said to be “improved, with her fever having “subsided and coughing … eased…”. Even so, “she will remain at the hospital for a while longer before being moved to the same hospital as the king.” That is, moved back to another hospital.

Meanwhile, AFP reports that the king still has a fever and continues to be treated with antibiotics. The Bureau stated: “After taking antibiotics his condition has got better but he still has some fever…”.

It seems the king is on antibiotics all the time and has repeated fevers. He also continues to have problems with his catheter that drains excess spinal fluid.

Both seem essentially terminally ill, with doctors working very hard to keep them alive.





Junta and the undermining of law I

28 06 2016

PPT has been harping on the junta’s destruction of law and rule of law because of its capricious use of laws and its announcements, orders and decrees that are used as laws in the interests of the junta and always against those it thinks are its political opponents.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has issued a Statement on the issue, reproduced below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-100-2016
28 June 2016

THAILAND: How coup d’état undermined fair trial concept

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, where the king serves as head of state and has traditionally exerted political influence. In May 2014, military and police leaders, taking the name of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) led by General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, overthrew the interim government led by the Pheu Thai political party. The NCPO replaced the 2007 Constitution with an interim constitution.

The NCPO has maintained control over the security forces and all government institutions since the coup. With regards to the justice system, prior to the coup, the Thai justice system was recognized as independent and the government generally respected it. Since the NCPO overthrew the interim government, declared martial law, issued a series of NCPO orders and announcements and imposed Article 44 of the interim constitution however, both the civilian and military court systems have been affected.

According to Article 44 of the Interim Constitution, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, as the junta leader and Prime Minister, has absolute power to give any order deemed necessary to “strengthen public unity and harmony” or to prevent any act that undermines public peace. As a result, the status of the order issued under the power of Article 44 is equal to an act passed by the legislature.

This article affects civilian law enforcement directly due to the fact that even though martial law was revoked on 1 April 2015, it was replaced by NCPO Order No. 3/ 2015, which was issued under the authority of Article 44. In practice, the effect is no different from martial law as the order permits the boundless exercise of power and also inserts military officials into the judicial process and provides them with the authority to carry out investigations along with the police. In addition, the order gives authority to military officials to detain individuals for up to seven days. During this 7-day period of detention, detainees do not have the right to meet with a lawyer or contact their relatives, and the military officials further refuse to make the locations of places of detention public.

As a result, many forms of human rights violations have occurred throughout the country. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), since 22 May 2014 until 30 April 2016, at least 1,006 individuals were summoned to report to authorities for questioning and attitude adjustment, while 130 academic discussions and public forums were prohibited and intervened by the authorities. Moreover, at least 579 individuals were arrested and sized under NCPO Order No. 3/ 2015.

Further, the prosecution of some civilians by military courts for offences stipulated in NCPO Announcements Nos. 37, 38 and 50 is of grave concern. Although the Thai government processed civilians in military courts due to the charge under the Anti-Communist Activities Act B.E.2495 (1952) and during the political conflict on 6 October 1976, the AHRC views the present use of the military judicial system in civilian cases to be graver and more expansive than in the past.

This is due to the fact that under Announcement No. 37/2557 of 25 May 2014, the NCPO made clear its intention to establish military courts to process people accused of certain categories of offences. In particular, it listed offences of lese majeste, offences concerning internal security, and any offences deemed to be contrary to the orders of the NCPO. In Announcement No. 37/2557, it added that persons brought before military courts with cases pending against them from the ordinary criminal courts could have those cases dealt with simultaneously. Moreover, on 30 May 2014, the NCPO issued Announcement No. 50/2557, which placed weapons-related cases within the jurisdiction of the military court, retroactive to 4:30 pm on 22 May 2014.

According to the Judge Advocate General’s Department (JAG), from 22 May 2014 – 30 September 2015, there have been 1,408 civilians tried in the military court including 1,629 alleged offenders/defendants, most commonly for violations of Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (lese majeste, defaming or insulting the king, queen, heir-apparent, or regent), failure to comply with an NCPO Order, and violations of the law controlling firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

The AHRC and other rights groups are particularly concerned by the practice of prosecuting civilians in military courts, due to the lack of legal rights. In ordinary criminal courts, defendants have a broad range of legal rights, including access to a lawyer of their choosing, prompt and detailed information of the charges (including no-cost interpretation if needed), and adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence. These are not provided in the law for the establishment of military courts. For example, military courts do not afford civilian defendants rights to a fair and public hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal. Also, civilians have to seek private counsel from among the limited number of lawyers able and willing to take their cases in military court. In addition, civilians facing trial for offenses allegedly committed from 22 May 2014 to 1 April 2015–the period of martial law–have no right of appeal.

With regard to Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) and TLHR, there are some particular cases in military courts that should be noted. On 26 June 2015, police arrested “the 14 student activists” from the New Democracy Movement group, who carried out a symbolic action at the Democracy Monument on 25 June 2015. They were charged with violating NCPO Order No. 3/2015 banning gatherings of more than five people and Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code (sedition).

It is worth noting that the remand hearing of the 14 student activists took place at night. Normally, the Military Court’s office hours are until 16:30, but on that day, the Military Court was open at 22:00 when the inquiry officers handed in the request for the remand. The whole process for the remand hearing finished at 00:30. It was the most late-at-night remand hearing known to have taken place, and according to critics, it reflected the military court’s clear lack of independence and impartiality.

In addition, when an accused person decides to fight the charge in the Military Court, they fall into the trap of delays, as in the case of “Sirapop, Anchan, and Tom Dundee”. Since the announcement has been made in 2014 to authorize the Military Court to have jurisdiction over cases against civilians, the military court has scheduled the hearings in a drawn-out, staggered fashion. During some hearings, the prosecution witnesses were simply absent without informing anyone in advance. Therefore until the end of 2015, none of the trials in the cases in which the accused has decided to fight the charge have been completed.

Furthermore, the military court also meted out hefty punishment in the case against “Thiansutham”. He was found guilty by the military court on five counts from posting five Facebook messages, and sentenced to altogether 50 years, prior to a reduction to 25 years. “Pongsak” was found guilty on six counts by the military court from posting six Facebook messages and was sentenced to 60 years prior to the reduction to 30 years, and “Sasiwimon” was found guilty on seven courts by the Chiang Mai military court and was sentenced to 56 years prior to reduction to 28 years.

It is therefore clear that the military courts do not accord the same rights as Thailand’s civilian courts, while also violating internationally protected fair trial rights, especially rights to fair and public hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal, and the rights to legal representation and appeal. The AHRC thus calls for the NCPO to revoke Article 44 of the Interim Constitution and the NCPO orders and announcements that place civilians in military courts, and end all forms of violations and harassment to ordinary people.