Bent law enforcement and warped institutions

7 08 2022

Rotten to the core

The legal system from police to the highest court is rotten to the core.

Prachatai reports that after 7 years, “the public prosecutor has decided to indict activists from the New Democracy Movement (NDM) and the Dao Din group on charges of sedition for an anti-junta protest in front of Pathumwan Police Station on 24 June 2015.”

There were 17 people “charged for participating in the 24 June 2015 protest, including activists Jatupat Boonpattaraksa and Chonticha Jaengrew, activist-turned-Move Forward Party MP Rangsiman Rome, and Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party.”

On 4 August 2022, that the public prosecutor decided to indict 10 of the activists 7 years after the protest and 3 years after the charges were filed. They were later granted bail using a security of 70,000 baht each.”

Meanwhile, the well-connected rich and powerful get away with murder.

Prachatai also reports that the royalist judiciary via its Judicial Commission has unanimously ruled to remove judge Wichit Leethamchayo from the Supreme Court “after he was found to have joined pro-democracy protests…”.

It seems that “right-wing groups accused him of showing support for pro-democracy protests on at least two occasions in 2021.” Ultra-royalist Maj Gen Rientong Nan-nah “filed a complaint with the Judicial Commission in March last year accusing Wichit of showing ‘anti-monarchy behaviour’ in front of the Supreme Court on 13 February. Rienthong also claimed that Wichit posted anti-monarchy comments on Facebook using the name Wichit Lee.”

The Commission agreed, with “judges on the Commission called out his ‘anti-monarchy’ stance.”

As the report notes, this judiciary is biased. Judge Methinee Chalothorn, who was appointed President of the Supreme Court in September 2020, has been seen in published photos attending “a right-wing anti-government PDRC protest which led to the military coup in 2014.” Of course, she’s not been censured as supporting the right, ultra-royalists is second nature for most judges. In fact, it is revealed that:

the Judicial Commission’s minutes confirming that it had acknowledged Methinee’s participation in the anti-democracy protest in July 2020, 3 months before the appointment of a new President of the Supreme Court in October. Yet the Commissioners voted 13-1 to approve her appointment with several judges giving the opinion that being at a protest site does not mean that she showed support for the protest. Worasit Rojanapanich, an external examiner for the Commission, said that her participation was “graceful” for a judge because she acted out of love for the nation and the monarchy.

Clearly monarchism and the monarchy has crippled the judiciary. Its royalism is the reason for denied bail, the avalanche of 112 convictions, and endless double standards.

And royalism is infecting other institutions, with Prachatai reporting that the “unelected Senate has voted 146-38 not to appoint Prof Arayah Preechametta to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). The meeting minutes are confidential, but Isara News cites an anonymous source in the Senate claiming that the candidate was not approved because his ideas were contrary to the conservatives.” By “conservatives” is meant royalists, ultra-royalists, and supporters of the military/monarchy-backed regime.

Isara News cited an anonymous source in the Senate claiming that during the meeting it was mentioned that a person filed a complaint against Arayah because he had political ideas in opposition to the conservatives. The Senate eventually voted to reject Arayah on the basis that he was insufficiently right-wing. Presumably the unelected swill want “trusted” compatriots making the “right” decisions.





Updated: Thanapol arrested

30 06 2022

Thai Newsroom reports that on 29 June 2022, Technology Crime Suppression Division police arrested Fa Diaw Kan Publishing House editor Thanapol Eawsakul. He is charged with “disclosing documents and other material related to national security and violating the Computer Crime Act…”.

Clipped from Prachatai

The police took Thanapol to Technology Crime Suppression Division headquarters “without waiting for a lawyer to show up but a lawyer is now following up the case.”

In January 2022, “more than 30 policemen had brought a warrant to search the publishing house and in doing so went through the books and confiscated mobile devices and computers belonging to Thanapol.”

Later, on Facebook, Thanapol explained the situation (with apologies for hurried translation).

He explains that it has more or less been normal for the police to “visit” the offices of Fa Diaw Kan since the journal was established some two decades ago. Following the 2014 military coup, the “visits” increased, then dropped off around the time of the 2019 election, but then expanded again as the monarchy reform-democratization movement expanded. In this latter period, the police became interested in various books published by Fa Diaw Kan, most of them associated with aspects of the monarchy, historical and contemporary.

This heightened police “interest” meant that Thanapol was being closely monitored.

On 21 November 2020, Thanapol posted a message about a National Security Council document ordering to tracking down of a former ambassador. The police filed a complaint on 31 December 2020 and then went quiet.

On 20 January 2022, some 30 police and officers from the Technology Crime Suppression Division searched the publisher’s office, seizing including Arnon Nampa’s The Monarchy and Thai society (which is not a Fa Diew Kan book), computer equipment and Thanapol’s mobile phone. The officers presented two search warrants and an order granting access to computer data, issued by the Nonthaburi Provincial Court.

On 18 April 2022, the Technology Crime Suppression Division said the earlier document seized was classified and disseminated illegally. An arrest warrant was sought even though Thanapol had agreed to report to police. He says: “On June 23, 2022, I made an appointment to go to the TCSD on July 4, 2022 at 1 p.m., but during that time, on June 28, the TCSD requested the court’s approval to issue an arrest warrant….  As a result of issuing an arrest warrant, The police came to arrest me today, 29 June 2022, when I was taken to the police station and to the TCSD…”.

Lawyers from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and efforts by Move Forward Party, MP Rangsiman Rome led to bail being granted.

So far, few details of the charges are available.

Update: Thai Enquirer has a story on the arrest and bail.





A call to abolish 112

28 10 2021

With the mainstream media more or less ignoring lese majeste cases and actions opposing the law and calling for its reform or abolition, it is mainly Prachatai, Thai lawyers fro Human Rights and social media that give these matters due attention.

So it is that Prachatai reports on a 27 October 2021 rally at the parliament building “to submit a petition to the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights for the repeal of Section 112.”

The Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution (CCPC) rallied, held banners opposing 112 and performed. It said that it was deeply concerned by a “sharp rise in the number of people facing royal defamation [lese majeste] charges for speaking out about the monarchy…”.

The CCPC observed that “in many cases, people are being charged even though they only speak about the monarchy as an institution and not a specific member of the royal family, which does not constitute an offence under Section 112.”

Further, the CCPC “said that the text of the law is unclear and can be widely interpreted, while it is strictly enforced. In many cases, officials did not explain how a defendant’s action constituted an insult or a threat, often stating that their action damages the King and the monarchy, even though the law does not apply to the monarchy as an institution.”

It also noted the ways in which the law is used to repress political opposition and to limit free speech. Most especially, it was seen that the law was used by ultra-royalists to police speech and political freedom.

Activist and former 112 political prisoners, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk “said that the royal defamation law has been used to restrict freedom of expression, which is a fundamental freedom in a democracy.” He also observed that, “since the monarchy uses taxpayer’s money and is listed as a public organization by the constitution, people should be able to express their opinions and criticism of the monarchy. He also noted how those charged with royal defamation are often denied the right to bail.” He’s “currently out on bail on another count of the same charge with the condition that he does not damage the monarchy…”.

The petition was given to “Pheu Thai MP Chavalit Witchayasut and Move Forward Party MP and former activist Rangsiman Rome, representing the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights.”

From Sunday, the activist network Citizens for the Abolition of 112 “will be accepting signatures to back a proposal for the repeal of Section 112 and amendment of Thailand’s defamation law so that there is only fines instead of prison sentences. They also called for a demonstration on 31 October at 16.00 at the Ratchaprasong Intersection.”





A deluge of 112 charges

23 07 2021

People might be dying in the streets but the regime has its eye on what it thinks is most important: more and more lese majeste and other charges. It is desperate, not to stem the virus, but to stem any notion that the neo-feudals should be reformed.

Thai PBS reports that 13 protesters were formally indicted by public prosecutors on Thursday for lese majeste and sedition. The charges stem from the march and rally at the German Embassy on 26 October 2020. It states:

Mind

Among the accused named by the public prosecutors are Passaravalee “Mind” Thanakitvibulphol, Korakot Saengyenphan, Chanin “Ball” Wongsri, Benja Apan, Watcharakorn Chaikaew, Nawat “Am” Liangwattana, Atthapol “Khru Yai” Buapat, Akkarapon Teeptaisong, Suthinee Jangpipatnawakit, Ravisara Eksgool, and Cholathit Chote-sawat.

12 protesters reported to prosecutors at the Bangkok South Criminal Litigation Office at about 9.30am to acknowledge the charges brought against them by Thung Mahamek police. The other was due to report … [today]. They were escorted by police to the Bangkok South Criminal Court for arraignment and have been granted bail.

Fellow activist Arnon Nampa and others showed up to provide support, while “[t]hree “Move Forward” MPs, namely Rangsiman Rome, Thongdaeng Benjapak of Samut Sakhon, Suttawan Suban Na Ayuthaya of Nakhon Pathom, were present at the court to offer their parliamentary status to secure bail for the protesters.” In addition”six lecturers also volunteered to offer their academic status to support bail for the protesters.”

The Bangkok Post reports that “[t]hree officials from the German embassy were also present as observers.”





Coup rumors

22 07 2021

PPT noticed a story in the Thai Enquirer yesterday talking about coup rumors that are said to be “within political and business circles” having “reached a crescendo this past week with many claiming that a putsch was imminent due to the worsening economic and Covid-19 situation.”

The story notes that the virus crisis and “a widely shared fake document which purported to show army orders preparing for a coup” sent rumor mills into overdrive, especially “within the business community…”.

2006 royalist coup

Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome set an appropriate tone when he said that military denials “are not always accurate…”, adding: “We have to accept that in our political system the armed forces have never been reformed to be under a civilian government…. As long as they are not under a civilian government, they can use their authority and our tax money to stage a coup.”

He’s right.

Of course, it beggars belief that business types, many of who supported previous coups, would think that the military that produced the incompetent oafs now running the country can provide a more competent oaf. Wealthy business leaders are addicted to the military authoritarianism because it is good for profits, usually providing “order.” They want change when order and profits are threatened.

What Thailand needs is thorough political, legal and administrative reform, not more coups.





The royal elephant in the room

20 02 2021

Reading a report at the Thai Enquirer on Move Forward’s Rangsiman Rome and his speech in parliament requires insider knowledge.

Reporting that he “showed the four-page document from 2019, when the Royal Thai Police force was under the leadership of [Gen] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and of current Deputy Prime Minister [Gen] Prawit Wangsuwan,” it is left to the reader’s imagination and inside knowledge to work out what this is about, adding:

The so-called chang or elephant ticket is allegedly a list of police officers assured of promotion. The ticket, according to Rome, is a vehicle for positions and connections within the police, bypassing the official merit-based system for promotion.

Immediately the hashtag #ตั๋วช้าง began trending, used millions of times.

Like an earlier politician forced into exile, Rangsiman spoke of the patronage system. Rangsiman implied “Prayut and Prawit were aware that such corrupt practices were taking place, accusing the administration of allowing the police to indulge the ‘godfathers’ operating gambling dens and the drug trade, while cracking down on pro-democracy protestors like criminals.”

The closest the newspaper gets to talking about the elephant in the room is when it reports that the MP said “he was aware that he was breaching a dangerous taboo against some of the country’s most powerful vested interests.” That’s code for the monarchy and that he was speaking of the involvement of the palace in police promotions and corruption was clearer – but still unstated – when he said:

This is probably the most dangerous action I’ve ever taken in my life,” he said during the hearing. “But since I have been chosen by the people, I will fight for the people…. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I have no regrets over the decisions that I have made today.

It is Khaosod that reports the speech more directly, helped by the slimy lese majeste bully Suporn Atthawong.

According to this report, Rangsiman’s “bombshell revelation” was that “a handful of government favorites and a royal aide can dictate appointments and removals within the police force at their whim…”.

He went further, saying that the documents showed that “police officers can gain immediate promotions without going through the formal route if they manage to obtain a ‘Ticket,’ a document signed by Maj. Gen. Torsak Sukvimol, the commander of the Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904.” That’s the younger brother of the king’s most important official.

The link to the palace is clear:

The MP said the scheme is run by Torsak’s brother, Sathitpong Sukvimol, who serves as Lord Chamberlain to the royal palace. Documents shown by Rangsiman shows that Sathitpong in 2019 wrote to a certain institution asking for 20 police officers to receive either new ranks or titles.

The slimy Suporn has rushed in with Article 112 allegations:

We have transcribed every word and letter of the speeches that Mr. Rangsiman Rome referenced the monarchy…. Our legal team has looked into it and concluded that the information is sufficient for prosecution under Article 112.

Of course, the king’s previous interference in police promotions has been well-documented. A recent academic piece, drawing on Wikileaks, summarizes this, stating that Vajiralongkorn twice “intervened in matters to do with the appointment of the national police chief, in 1997 and 2009, both seemingly with personal motives…”. We also know that there were several periods when the king was crown prince that there were rumors that he was involved with crime figures.





Further updated: Yuletide lese majeste

22 12 2020

There’s been quite a lot of commentary on the protests, some motivated by the avalanche of lese majeste cases and some by the fact that the end of the year begs for reviews.

One that caught our attention is by Matthew Wheeler, Senior Analyst for Southeast Asia at the International Crisis Group. It is quite a reasonable and careful rundown of events prompting the demonstrations and the call for reform of the monarchy.

The lese majeste cases pile higher and higher. In a Bangkok Post report on people turning up to hear lese majeste charges, eight are listed: Arnon Nampa, Inthira Charoenpura, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Nattathida Meewangpla, Shinawat Chankrachang, Phimsiri Phetnamrop, and Phromson Wirathamchari.

We can’t locate the latter two on the most recent Prachatai graphic that listed 34 activists charged under 112, but that graphic does include five with names withheld. For us, this brings the total charged to 34-36, but it may well be more.

There was some good news on lese majeste. It is reported that, after more than 4.5 years, a ludicrous 112 charge against Patnaree Chankij have been dismissed. The mother of activist Sirawith Seritiwat, the Criminal Court on Tuesday dismissed the charge. Her one word “jah” in a chat conversation was said to be the cause of the charge but, in reality, going after her was the regime’s blunt effort to silence her son.

A second piece of reasonable news is that the Criminal Court also dismissed charges of sedition brought by the military junta against former deputy prime minister Chaturon Chaisaeng on 27 May 2014 six years ago under Section 116 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act. This was another junta effort to silence critics.

As seen in recent days, equally ludicrous charges have been brought against a new generation of critics.

Update 1: Thai PBS reports that the Criminal Court acquitted nine members of the Pro-Election Group who had been charged in late January 2018 with poking the military junta: “Section 116 of the Criminal Code, illegal public assembly within a 150-metre radius of a Royal palace and defying the then junta’s order regarding public assembly of more than five people.”

The defendants were Veera Somkwamkid, Rangsiman Rome, currently a party-list for the Kao Klai party, Serawit Sereethiat, Nattha Mahatthana, Anon Nampa, a core member of the Ratsadon Group, Aekkachai Hongkangwan, Sukrit Piansuwan, Netiwit Chotepatpaisarn and Sombat Boon-ngam-anong.

The court ruled that:

… protesters complaining about the postponement of general elections cannot be regarded as incitement to public unrest. It also said that the protesters had no intention to defy the ban against public assembly within 150-metres of the Royal palace.

Of course, the charges were always bogus, but the junta’s point was to use “law” for political repression.

Update 2: The Nation reports that there were, in fact, 39 defendants who were acquitted.





Military and their (slave) conscripts

10 11 2020

One of the policies that attracted voters to the Future Forward Party was to get rid of military conscription in peacetime.

Rangsiman Rome of the Move Forward Party has revealed that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has dumped the “military conscription bill by refusing to endorse it.”

The bill was meant “to create professional armed forces that are smaller but more efficient. The number of recruits will be lower but they will be trained more intensively.”

Of course, as has been pointed out many times, including at PPT, what the military brass wants is no so much conscripts, but slaves. Not that long ago, Wilat Chantarapitak, a former Democrat Party MP and former advisor to a parliamentary anti-corruption committee, said the conscription system is “riddled with corruption because more than half of the conscripts end up as servants in the houses of senior officers or in military cooperative shops.”

The stories of conscripts being flogged, enslaved and exploited are common and several conscripts die in circumstances that the military almost never satisfactorily investigates or explains. Yet, as the Post notes, “[o]ver the past six years, demand for conscripts by the armed forces was on the rise, from 94,480 in 2013 to 104,734 in 2019.”

And, as soon as Rangsiman revealed The Dictator’s move, it was reported, sadly, that another two conscripts “were found dead in their bases in the Northeast.” In one case, the mother of the deceased stated that “he was pinned to the floor while his hair was cut and hit in the back. Chili and salt were put on his back…”. The other reportedly dies in a military prison.

A feudal institution maintains not just its loyalty to a feudal monarch but to feudal (mal)practices.

 





Substantive reform

30 09 2020

Building on years of struggle by other activists and exiles, the great success of the student-led movement has been in initiating a discussion on the monarchy. A couple of recent reports highlight this.

Rangsiman Rome is no longer a student, but he was one of those students who stood up to the junta after the 2014 coup. Those demonstrating now draw inspiration from the opposition Move Forward MP.

Thai PBS reports he has proposed a “new deal” between “the people and the monarchy” to make Thailand becomes a “real democratic constitutional monarchy.” This, he says, requires “a new Constitution, written by an elected charter drafting assembly.”

In speaking of the monarchy, he’s observed: “What’s happening does not benefit ordinary people. They know these things would not happen if the monarchy was truly constitutional…”.

He wants “public scrutiny” of the monarchy with it being “supervised by an elected government body, like any other organisation under the Constitution.” He wants the people to be soverign and the monarchy to “stand … alongside democracy…”.

During his speech, conservative, royalist junta party MPs sought to silence him, to no avail.

Debate is also on the agenda outside parliament. Prachatai reports about a panel discussion on 15 September at the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University titled: “If politics were good, how would we discuss the monarchy”?

The report observes that “[a]ddressing the issue of the monarchy straightforwardly is a very rare sight in this country, especially after the 2014 coup when prosecution of critics of the monarchy intensified.”

Read the report of the discussion and marvel at how far the students have moved Thailand’s politics.





Updated: Preempting regime and king

20 06 2020

When we first posted on Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s apparent enforced disappearance, we understood that the rumors would be about assumptions regarding the king’s role. We suggested some caution:

Most observers would likely consider the criminals at work in this enforced disappearance are working for Thailand’s military and its regime. PPT’s guess would be that they work under orders from Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who has oversight of “national security.”

Whether Gen Prawit is acting on the orders of the vengeful king is likely to remain unknown, but the enforced disappearance does coincide with heightened protests in Germany about the truant king, which have been widely viewed in Thailand. The palace and regime probably see these protests as the result of cooperation between anti-monarchists and political activists.

Coincidences do not amount to facts. When it comes to the king, however, verifiable facts are hard to come by and circumstantial evidence and extrapolation are used in their place.

Yet it is a remarkable fact that so many Thais seem to have heard the rumors and concluded that the king is at work on these disappearances. This is evidenced by a sudden surge in social media support for Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome:

The twitter hashtag #saveโรม (#saveRome) began trending on Friday morning after rumours circulated online that powerful people within the Thai establishment were unhappy with the conduct of Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome.

Readers may recall that it was Rangsiman who poked the regime on the disappearance and on the lese majeste law. This brought a regime response and warnings along with claims about an anti-monarchy plot.

Thais on social media used the “saveRome” hashtag “to voice their encouragement and support for Rangisman Rome and also to criticize the establishment and the state for using violence and fear as intimidation tactics.” It was a preemptive strike based on fears and on rumors that Rome and several other activists were under threat.

This is a political strategy previously used. Back in 2019, as several Thai exiles were “disappeared,” members of the Faiyen band feared that they were being hunted by those responsible for the enforced disappearances and murders of fellow exiles. At the time, many observers assumed that Thai paramilitary forces were responsible for these extra-judicial actions.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

That so many fear the king is telling. That they believe that the regime is prepared to condone or engage in illegal acts for the king and to protect their regime is equally revealing.

These fears and assumptions are reasonable. After all, throughout his life, the king has displayed erratic behavior and disdain for symbols of the 1932 revolution is reasonably considered evidence of hatred of those who favor a monarchy limited by constitution and law. This fear is reinforced by the regime’s public statements since the 2014 coup and its efforts to “protect” the monarchy. Indeed, the regime has been actively promoting fear to enhance its repression.

Update: Interesting, PPT has received a letter that is sent to the Embassy for the Federal Republic of Germany in Thailand, pointing to Germany’s responsibility under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit. Appropriately, it notes that the facts are hard to come by but that the German government needs to ensure that the disappearance is not associated with actions taken in Germany.








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