Suppressing information on lese majeste trials

24 10 2018

Our second post on information missed earlier is from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and is about a Military Court’s direction to suppress publication of witness testimonies and court dockets in the case against lese majeste detainee Thanakorn:

The Bangkok Military Court has conducted a hearing on a probable case against Anon Nampa, an attorney on 3 October 2018 at 13.30. It stemmed from the publication of evidence given by the prosecution witness, Maj Gen Wijarn Jodtaeng, in the case against Mr. Thanakorn (last name withheld) who was accused of sharing Rajabhakti corruption diagram and clicking ‘like’– deemed offensive to a royally adopted dog. The Court also ordered Anon Nampa to inform the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) to have the information removed from the published article “Military official, who reported the case against a person for sharing Rajabhakti corruption diagram and clicking ‘like’– deemed offensive to a dog, actually did not know how to use Facebook, but he insisted that by just clicking ‘like’ on a page offensive to the monarchy is in itself the commission of royal defamation” (http://www.tlhr2014.com/th/?p=8950). The article to be removed by the Court’s order has been published on TLHR’s website. The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) who is not a party in this case, would like to take this opportunity to explain to the public as follows;

1. The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has been providing legal and litigation assistance to vulnerable people whose rights have been affected by the exercise of the state power as a result of the coup in 2014, including cases concerning the freedom of expression and cases of civilians who are prosecuted in the Military Courts.

According to the statistics collected by the Judge Advocate General’s Department, from 25 May 2014 to 30 June 2018, civilians have been indicted with the Military Court in over 1,723 cases and at least 281 cases are pending the review. TLHR has been assisting in 58 cases in which the civilians stand trial in the Military Court, of which 12 cases have been “secretly” conducted by the court’s order. Furthermore, the Military Court also prohibited any observer from recording the court proceeding. Recently, the Military Court banned a public dissemination of dockets in two cases, namely, the case concerning a call for election on 24 September 2018, and the case against Mr. Thanakorn on 3 October 2018.

2. According to Section 30 of the Civil Procedure Code, “The Court shall have power to give to any party or any third person present in the Court such directions as it may deem necessary for the maintenance of order within the precincts of the Court and for the fair and speedy carrying out of the trial.” Nonetheless, the latest direction to suppress the public dissemination of the docket in this case is unrelated to the maintenance of order within the precincts of the Court. Besides, the dissemination of the docket shall not affect the justice to be served in the case. Thus, it cannot be deemed a violation to the Section 30 of the Civil Procedure Code.

3. A public trial is one of the core elements to ensure the right to the fair trial according to the Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). As a state party to the Convention, Thailand is obliged to implement its provisions. According to the principle, a person is entitled to a fair and public trial. The public trial does not only involve those in the court room, but it must be open and accessible to every individual.

Moreover, the public trial can ensure the transparency of the justice process and can guarantee the rights and the freedoms of the people. Therefore, apart from being important in itself, the public trial is an entitlement– necessary to ensure other elements that constitute a fair trial and to build trust in the justice process among the public.

4. TLHR has been reporting details of every hearing that the Court did not order the trial to be conducted secretly and suppressed the dissemination of the docket. The information has derived from a summary of evidence given in the Court and from the trial observation.

The publication of contents summarized from the witness testimonies is not tantamount to the publication of the court documents. After all, such publication has been granted a consent by the defendants. This is to ensure transparency in the justice process, particularly the trial of civilians in the Military Court, where the defendants are supposed to enjoy less safeguards that protect their right to fair trial, compared to trials in the Court of Justice.

Therefore, the dissemination of information concerning the court proceeding does not only affect the trial, but also helps gracing the image of the Military Court itself. It is a better alternative than ordering the hearing to be secretly conducted and the suppression of the docket dissemination.

TLHR is determined to provide legal assistance to civilians tried in the Military Court and to inform the public of related information. This is to ensure the transparency and the safeguard of the right to the fair trial amidst the extreme deterioration of democracy and the rule of law.

With respect in people’s rights and liberties

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)





Corruption under the junta

23 09 2018

We don’t always agree with academic Sungsidh Piriyarangsan’s politics, but his research on corruption is usually pretty good. We found these bits of a report in The Nation worth quoting for readers:

Sungsidh Piriyarangsan said his “cautious estimate” put the damages at between Bt50 billion and Bt100 billion for 2018 alone. He based his estimate on the findings of 14 studies on corruption funded by the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC)….

“Corruption has increased rapidly because Thai politics is a closed system,” the academic said. “A big weakness is that we have no agency that truly scrutinises. Parliament and independent agencies exist but they can’t scrutinise politicians.

“The country’s history and culture enshrine the existing patronage system, in which people with connections thrive. Also, law enforcement is not effective enough although this government has issued a lot of good anti-corruption laws,” he added.

We are still waiting to hear more about Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s watches, all those “investigations” into Rolls Royce engines at Thai Airways and PTT’s commissions, the Kyodo News Agency report in the Bangkok Post about Japanese executives being charged over bribes to a Thai official of the Ministry of Transport, former police chief General Somyos Pumpanmuang’s “borrowed” money, Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda’s alleged approval of the purchase of hundreds of road speed guns for six times the normal price, Rajabhakdi Park and many more.





The puppet NACC

7 08 2018

The Bangkok Post has yet another editorial criticizing the National Anti-Corruption Commission. It begins:

[The NACC] has reached a crucial fork in the road. Soon, it will have to provide the public with the facts it has uncovered in the probe of the undocumented luxury watches worn by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon. Alternatively, it will continue to stonewall. This choice will inform the public that the NACC is a weak organisation, completely unwilling to speak truth to power and lacking the fortitude even to bring about the promise that brought Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to the premiership.

In fact, the “fork in the road” was passed long ago. It passed that point from the moment it was appointed by the junta. It sped further down the puppet road when NACC president Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit was made NACC puppet president and, after public pressure “recused” himself from the actual “investigation,” but continued in his job when “investigations” of Prawit “continued.” Watcharapol “has personal ties with Gen Prawit, and with Gen Prawit’s brother, former national police chief Pol Gen Patcharawat, who also has faced NACC graft allegations without result.”

The “recusal” was fake: Watcharapol “has stayed directly informed, as evidenced by his press conference on July 20 that gave information about the investigation.”

The NACC is a fake anti-corruption agency. It works as the junta demands. It ignores cases the junta wants ignored. As the Post points out, The Dictator’s anti-corruption drive is compromised:

One of the first high-ranking people to be accused of corruption was a four-star army general. But Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha [Prayuth’s brother] was never prosecuted. Former army chief and former deputy defence minister, Gen Udomdej Sitabutr [a Prayuth supporter], was responsible for the construction of the extremely controversial Rajabhakti Park but there were no consequences.

The Post recognizes that the NACC is a puppet institution, observing:

Pol Gen Watcharapol’s NACC decided not to pursue blatant, obvious and even admitted nepotism by many members of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly.

On Prawit’s case,

What it [the NACC] has been able to do to this point, more than eight months later, is to stonewall the corruption accusation. The public and opinion writers believe that the anti-graft agency is trying to make the country forget that the first deputy prime minister and closest associate of Prime Minister Prayut faces hard questions of how he got access to more than 40 million baht worth of watches.

In the end, the Post admits that the “fork in the road” is long passed, declaring that the NACC looks remarkably like “an agency far more interested in protecting bad actors of the regime than in doing its assigned job.”

That’s true. The sad thing for Thailand is that it is but one of the puppet institutions. Even regular bureaucratic agencies have suffered purges under the junta and been infiltrated by junta cronies.

Usually, the public learns little of the corruption of military regimes until they are gone. In the case of this junta, we may never know because it isn’t planning to go away for many, many years.





Watching and waiting

23 02 2018

In the land of the military dictatorship, double standards are the guiding principle when it comes to law. While there were similar patterns seen in the past, it needs to be remembered that the junta seized the state in the 2014 coup and expelled an elected government publicly trumpeting the need for reform, its opposition to corruption and rule of law.

Of course, some seasoned observers knew from bitter experience that all of this was bluster and it wouldn’t be long before the nepotism, corruption, impunity and the double standards that are definitional of military regimes were seen.

While many of the junta’s anti-democrat put up with early examples of corruption (such as Rajabhakti Park) and were prepared to turn a blind eye to lese majeste repression, murder (what has happened to the evidence associated with the Chaiyapoom Pasae case?), censorship and political repression, a range of issues have seen even diehard yellow shirts turning away from the junta. These issues include: the election “delay,” double standards in the law and the Deputy Dictator’s luxury watches.

On the latter, many will be stunned to read that the National Anti-Corruption Commission continues to delay on its investigation. The NACC says that it will (again) “write to Deputy Prime Minister [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwon in the next few days, demanding he provide specific details on how he acquired 25 luxury watches…”.

We count at least three previous letters asking for the same information.

NACC president Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, himself polluted by his relationship to the Deputy Dictator, said the “deputy premier will be asked to furnish precise details of the watches exposed in recent news reports, including the brand names, price tags and dates he wore them…”.

What did the previous letters ask for? Did they not ask for such details? If not, why not? Pol Gen Watcharapol must explain this.

The NACC has given Gen Prawit another 15 days to respond. All the other deadlines, like “election” promises, have simply been ignored.

The article suggest that Gen Prawit is not fully cooperating with the NACC. That may be so, but why is the NACC cooperating with Prawit?

On an “investigation” that the NACC recently said would be wrapped up by the end of February, Pol Gen Watcharapol now says the “issue will be clearer [next month]…”.

Unremarkably, Pol Gen Watcharapol said “the deputy premier has informed the NACC he was too busy with his duties” and that Prawit “may need some time to gather the information as some of the watches were worn a long time ago … adding he did not suspect Gen Prawit was deliberately stalling.”

It sounds like collusion and a cover up to us.

Another case that is defining of double standards is that of leopard killing and eating tycoon Premchai Karnasuta of Italian-Thai Development and dozens of other companies. Not that long ago we posted on his seeming disappearance despite ongoing investigations of his illegal hunting.

Police have now issued a second summons to Premchai and other members of his hunting party “inviting him to answer additional charges of cruelty to animals…”. All had failed to respond to the first summons. His lawyer didn’t even bother to provide a particular reason for his client’s failure to appear.

Not showing up to answer a summons is not uncommon, but this is a high-profile case and we well recall the way poor farmers were mistreated under the same laws. Not that long ago a couple of farmers were arrested by police and quickly sentenced to 30 years in prison, which was reduced by half because they had confessed. Their “crime” was picking mushrooms from a protected forest. They did not shoot and eat  endangered animals. But the law works differently for the rich.

And so it goes on and on….





Vajiralongkorn, lese majeste and the repression of political activists

28 01 2018

Readers will know that out of the thousands who shared BBC Thai’s accurate profile of the new King Vajiralongkorn only Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, also known as Pai, was the only one arrested, charged with lese majeste and eventually sentenced to 5 years jail on 15 August 2017.

It might have been forgotten that, at the time, one other activist was accused of the same “crime.” Chanoknan Ruamsap, an New Democracy Movement activist, also shared the profile on her Facebook page on 3 December 2016.

Also known as Cartoon or Toon, she was also one of six key members of the NDM who were arrested in late 2015 for organizing a field trip to Rajabhakti Park (or the military’s Corruption Park). She was also arrested on 24 June 2016 for commemorating the first efforts at democracy in Thailand when the absolute monarchy was removed.

More than a year after he Facebook share, she “received the summon on 16 Jan to meet the police at Khan Na Yao Police Station, Bangkok, on 18 Jan. A military officer named Sombat Dangtha filed a lese majeste complain against her…”. She believes the long delay was due to the “inefficiencies” of the police, but come for her they did.

As Chanoknan explains, realizing that she faced years in jail, “she decided within 30 minutes after learning about the charge to flee Thailand to an Asian country.”

She is the second person of the almost 3000 who shared the profile to be charged with lese majeste. And it is no accident that both are anti-junta activists.





Updated: Pots and kettles II

12 12 2017

In another pots and kettles post, we have to comment on The Dictator’s claims reported in the Bangkok Post recently. The self-appointed prime minister “urged all sectors of Thai society not to tolerate corruption…”.

He added that “Thai people must reject and no longer tolerate any kind of corruption.”

General Prayuth Chan-ocha then said: “I can assure you that I never befriended corrupt people or received any benefit from them…”.

The Bangkok Post also reports that Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan will tell the National Anti-Corruption Commission that his luxury watch was “lent” to him by a very rich businessman who is a friend and that his huge diamond ring was inherited from his mother.

The Dictator seems to have associated with Gen Prawit and may even have befriended him.

He certainly also associated with General Anupong Paojinda, who has seen a corruption case associated with him disappear into bureaucratic nothingness.

The Dictator is also friendly with his brother, who has miraculously survived all kinds of corruption and nepotism scandals.

Do we need to mention Rajabhakti Park and commissions on military purchases and the cover-ups of military murders of civilians?

Then there’s all those generals and admirals in the puppet agencies who report huge wealth that is far in excess of what might be expected when their official salaries are considered.

Update: The Nation reports that the NACC has told “the public” to butt out and not speculate on Prawit’s jewels. Prawit has said he will not tell the public his reasons for having so much expensive bling.





Updated: After the funeral, more of the same

30 10 2017

The funeral is officially over but the hagiographical syrup and royalist nastiness and threats continue to flow.

As in other periods where ultra-royalism is boosted by the military state, it becomes dangerous for anyone who might dare to express different opinions.

The military regime may also be emboldened by the continued rise of ultra-royalism, which obviously feeds into its political ambitions when it decides to call its “election.” Presumably the coronation will add to all of that political use of royalism.

In the meantime, we might also expect cowed and submissive politicians to become warily more active.

A Bangkok Post editorial has a bet each way. It drips royal loyalty for a couple of paragraphs, observing what should be obvious: “The expiration of the mourning period returns the country to a semblance of normality…”.

It strokes the military dog:

The members of the government under Gen Prayut deserve a respectful thank you for their care and attention to the events brought to a grief-stricken climax last Thursday. The preparations for the funeral of the great King Bhumibol Adulyadej provided impeccable grace, and splendour remarked on around the world. When he seized power three and a half years ago, Gen Prayut promised to unite Thais. Last week, Thai people were united as never before.

In fact, the funeral was fitting in that it marked a crescendo of military-backed monarchism that has defined one of the most politically repressive eras in Thailand’s modern history, with that repression being in the name of the monarchy and claimed to be protecting it.

The funeral was fittingly militarized but few have bothered to think about what this means for Thailand going forward (well, backward, under the junta).

(If one watches the Ananda Mahidol funeral and compares it with the recent event, the military dominance and precision of the latter is clear.)

The Bangkok Post then reminds the junta and its readers that the “funeral occurred in the midst of political questions which now will return to the fore.”

It adds that several of these “questions” are “urgent.”

It lists:

These include the running scandal of Rajabhakti Park‘s improvement plan. The Prachuap Khiri Khan site of the massive statues of the seven great kings has been under a cloud from its inception. The latest controversy is a two-part “improvement”. These consist of what seem to be the most expensive 52 toilets ever installed at a government-supported facility, and five shops. These will cost yet another 16 million baht in “donations” — a word which has become synonymous with “scandal”. In countering the allegations about massive overspending, army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad said the military is ready to disclose full financial details about the project which was investigated once by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). He should realise the public anticipates getting the details.

Then there is the ongoing corruption and pathetic excuses for abysmal decisions from former Army boss and Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda. His latest mess is over  laser, speed-detection guns at hugely exorbitant prices.

But, really, is that it? Of course not. As the Bangkok Post itself reports, “[l]ocals in eastern Thailand are opposing the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s [the junta] order to reorganise city planning in Chachoengsao, Rayong and Chon Buri provinces to bring it in line with the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) policy.”

There’s plenty of other land and infrastructure deals and shady, opaque stuff going on. And in the corruption in-tray there are all those cases around Rolls Royce that have never seen an out-tray. Just stalling, burying, hiding.

But what about the political repression that has juveniles charged with lese majeste. There is the old man potentially charged with lese majeste for comments about legendary events. And there is the law student, singled out by the military dictatorship for lese majeste for sharing a BBC Thai story that was also shared by several thousand others. What of the mothers and others jailed for scores of years on pathetic lese majeste charges? Protection of the monarchy means crushing many and threatening everyone.

Then there’s the missing/stolen/vandalized and enforced historical lobotomy of the “missing” 1932 commemoration plaque and associated lese majeste cases.

Military murders remain unresolved, with a recent tragic example of Chaiyapoom Pasae, shot by troops in very opaque circumstances and with the “investigations” adding farce to tragedy.

And who killed Ko Tee in Laos? We can all guess but probably the assassins, speaking Thai, will never be revealed. That’s the impunity that official murders enjoy.

We could go on and on and on…. After all, the ninth reign saw thousands of state crimes against the people.

Update: Readers will be interested in two views of the events and legacy of the ninth reign at New Mandala. Both are reasonably tame and the first quite lame.