Remembering victims of murderous monarchists

4 02 2019

Prachatai has come back on line more regularly and is posting stories seldom covered at all well in the timid mainstream media.

A recent post is about a sad but brave event at Rajaprasong, “in memory of the three disappeared dissidents: Surachai Saedan, Phuchana, and Kasalong,” the two murdered and one “disappeared” and presumed dead dissidents who had had refuge in Laos. “The trio fled the country after the 2014 military coup, and disappeared in December 2018.” Two bodies have been identified and another seems to have been re-“disappeared.”

The memorial began with “a minute of silence, then Pranee Danwattananusorn, Surachai’s wife, led the group in placing flowers in memory of the three dissidents.”

Activist and former long term lese majeste prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk declared that:

on 7 February 2019, he will be going to the Government House to hand a letter calling for justice for the trio, and to demand for a return of Surachai’s body. Somyot said that, because Surachai, Phuchana, and Kasalong left the country after the 2014 coup and disappeared around 11 December 2018, when General Prayuth Chan-o-cha was visiting Laos, he is suspicious that the government may have been involved in their disappearance. If the government is not involved, he would like them to explain what Gen. Prayuth was doing on his visit to Laos and why the visit coincided with the three refugees’ disappearance. He also would like them to find and prosecute the culprit.

Like other disappearances, no “explanation” will be provided: plaque, monument, zoo, public buildings, other dissidents. Even the Saudi Arabia regime was pressured into conjuring a story about its role in murdering a political dissident. Not Thailand.

Another red shirt “disappeared”?

25 12 2018

Back in July 2017, Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul disappeared in Laos. A red shirt and critic of the monarchy, Ko Tee didn’t just disappear. He was disappeared. That is, he was forcibly taken and has not been heard from since.

In a Human Rights Watch alert, his enforced disappearance was described:

On July 29, at approximately 9:45 p.m., a group of 10 armed men dressed in black and wearing black balaclavas assaulted Wuthipong, his wife, and a friend as they were about to enter Wuthipong’s house in Vientiane according to multiple witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch. The assailants hit them, shocked them with stun guns, tied their hands with plastic handcuffs, covered their eyes, and gagged their mouths. Wuthipong was then put in a car and driven away to an unknown location while his wife and his friend were left at the scene. According to Wuthipong’s wife and his friend, the assailants were speaking among themselves in Thai.

It was widely assumed that Ko Tee was disappeared by Thai forces under the orders of the military dictatorship and probably by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. Of course, nothing can be proved because the disappearance has never been investigated.

Khaosod reports a second disappearance. Surachai Danwattananusorn or Surachai Sae Dan, a radical red shirt and a vehement critic of the monarchy has reportedly gone missing in mysterious circumstances.

A former student activist who joined that Communist Party of Thailand in the 1970s, he was imprisoned in the 1980s. In the recent color-coded clashes, Surachai led the Red Siam faction of the red shirts. He was charged and eventually convicted on several lese majeste charges after being arrested by the Abhisit Vejjiva regime in 2011. Eventually, he was sentenced to 25 years on three convictions.

Ill and elderly – he would now be about 76 – Surachai was pardoned on 3 October 2013. We understand he moved to Laos around the time of the 2014 military coup. Not long after, ultra-royalists were making further lese majeste accusations against him.

Now he has “disappeared.”

Khaosod reports that his “friends and wife … said they fear he might have been disappeared after they lost contact with him for two weeks.” The report continues:

Romchalee Yammy Sinseubpol, a political exile in Laos said she and … friends went to check Surachai Danwattananusorn’s residen[ce] Monday morning – more than two weeks after they lost contact with him – and found no one. She said all doors had been left open and that some documents appeared to be missing.

She posted on Facebook saying the place appeared to have been searched. She and her friends fear that he may have been “forced to disappear.”

… In a related development, Surachai’s wife, Pranee Dawattanasunorn pleaded that her husband and two male aides be safely released.

“I could only plead those involved to let them go,” said Pranee, who lives in Nakhon Si Thammarat province and lost contact with Surachai since Dec. 10.

Deputy Dictator Prawit Wongsuwan reportedly stated:

“I don’t know where he is and why he has disappeared now after four years,” adding that he had contacted the Laotian authorities, who had told him they were unaware of Surachai’s whereabouts.

That was almost word-for-word what they said when Ko Tee was disappeared.

Elderly and suffering several ailments, Surachai is in serious danger.

With a major update: Infantile politics

17 12 2013

The Bangkok Post reports that a “former Pheu Thai MP for Lop Buri on Monday lodged a lese majeste complaint against Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the anti-government [they mean anti-democratic] People’s Democratic Reform Committee.” This is about as dumb as it gets in Thailand’s politics. The report is that:

Suchart Sainam and his lawyer Singthong Buachoom argued that Mr Suthep had defamed Thailand’s monarchy by calling on the public to boycott the general election and demanding that the caretaker government step down and the poll be deferred.

Apparently the “complaint was received by Crime Suppression Division deputy chief” who said they would investigate.

Now, Suchart might be a mad monarchist or may just think it is a bit of reverse royalism to hit Suthep with a charge he happily bandied about in the past against his political opponents. But, really, isn’t it time that politicians became adults on lese majeste and assigned it to the dustbin of history.

Update: Of course, it is the mad monarchists who use lese majeste most often to attack, threaten and frighten opponents. Not long after we criticized the Puea Thai politician above, the rabid royalists have another charge to lay. Khaosod reports that the “coordinator of an anti-government network has urged the government to prosecute a Redshirts student activist for allegedly insulting the monarchy.” A related story is available at Prachatai.

The report is that:

Uthai Yordmanee, leader of Student and People Network For Political Reform of Thailand, said in a press conference that Mr. Ekkaphob Lueangra, a self-described vocational student who supports the Redshirt movements, has gravely defamed the monarchy in his speech at Rajamangala Stadium, where the Redshirts were holding mass rallies, on 28 November 2013.

PPT doesn’t know why, but while not identifying any particular item of lese majeste in the press conference, he “called on Mr. Jarupong Ruangsuwan, chairman of Pheu Thai Party, and Mr. Chaturon Chaisang, Minister of Education, to take legal responsibility for Mr. Ekkaphob′s remarks.” Guilt by association, perhaps, using the very broad and nasty lese majeste brush to smear many. Uthai seems to think that the two politicians allowed Ekkaphob to speak, so if he is committing lese majeste as alleged, then they are guilty too.

Of course, the yelling yellow also demanded that “Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra would also have to show her responsibility for the incident…”. Again, Uthai seems to be bonkers on this, but even the raving loonies can use lese majeste for ill purposes; and Uthai seems ill-tempered and ill of purpose.

Prachatai reports that:

police have charged an anti-establishment red-shirt supporter with lèse majesté for his coded speech at a red-shirt gathering at Rajamangala stadium on Ramkhamhaeng Road in late November.

A video clip of the speech was widely circulated on social media sites before it caught the attention of the law. A group of Internet users also disclosed his photo, home address and phone number as an act of political cyber bullying. They also found that he worked for a motor company and pressured the company via its Facebook page to punish him to show its “moral and social responsibility”.
The report states that the speech was at “a sideline red-shirt stage around the Rajamangala stadium…”, and that: Eakachai [note the different name used in the two reports] told a story of a family headed by “Uncle Somchai and Auntie Somjit” and the offspring of the couple. The speech attracted a loud acclaim and applause.At the end of the story, Eakachai spoke to the audience. “You guys feel a thrill of fear, but also like [the story]. But for me, I’d have to ask myself if I’ll be able to get through this. But I don’t care, because I didn’t refer to anybody. My speech isn’t illegal.” Apparently the police do not think so. Prachatai goes on to note that:
The fictional characters of Uncle Somchai and Auntie Somjit first appeared on the hard-core anti-establishment Same Sky web forum around 2010. The characters are known among people critical to the monarchy as code names used in a society where a speech can land a person in jail for several years or get them fired from their job because of political cyber bullying. The couple also feature in a song of Faiyen, an anti-establishment red-shirt pop band. The song is very popular among red shirts.
We think that Same Sky / Fa Diaw Kan is hardly more anti-establishment or hard core than Prachatai itself, so we are unsure why Prachatai chooses this description.
The anti-democratic movement has reason to hate Ekkaphob / Eakachai because he is a member of the progressive Red Siam group and “recently founded Gear of Red, which is a group of red-shirt vocational students and former vocational students.” The anti-democratic group has relied heavily on vocational students as their fighters, in the front line of demonstrations by rubber “farmers” in the south and in recent actions in Bangkok.
Vocational students are known for their violent clashes between schools and for their access to hand guns. THey are remembered for their brutality in the 6 October 1976 massacre at Thammasat University.

Targeting Surachai

27 01 2013

Part of the 1985 cover of the UCL Newsleter

Many readers will know that Surachai Danwattananusorn has been incarcerated on several lese majeste charges since 22 February 2011. On 28 February 2012, the then 71 year-old Surachai was sentenced to 15 years in jail for speeches made in late 2010. This was halved for his guilty plea.  On 27 April 2012, Surachai was sentenced to a further 5 years in jail. The court halved this sentence because of his guilty plea on the previous charges.  On 17 May 2012, he was hospitalized and scheduled for a prostrate operation. He came out of jail and hospital to be sentenced on yet one more charge on 28 May 2012. He received a further 5 years, reduced by half, for a speech on 15 December 2008. That’s a total of 12.5 years in jail. Surachai filed for a royal pardon on 20 August 2012.

At New Mandala, which has been surprisingly quiet on recent lese majeste cases and sentences, academic Jim Taylor has a brief interview with Surachai. PPT won’t repeat the details here, but we do want to add to the story from a document we recently came across from the mid-1980s. That was an appeal from the Union of Civil Liberty for Surachai, who had been tried in a kangaroo/military court under the administration of unelected Prime Minister General Prem Tinsulanonda, now Privy Council president. He was eventually released after an international and local campaign.

Undoubtedly Surachai has been a confrontational political activist. That is why the royalist state and the Prem and Abhisit Vejjajiva governments targeted him. It seems that the leaders of the royalist cabal, miffed that they couldn’t halt his activities in the 1980s have long memories and came after him again as he led Red Siam. As there has been not a peep from above regarding his amnesty, it seems he has a second “death” sentence at the hands of essentially the same cabal.

Updated: Surachai sentenced (again)

28 05 2012

The Bangkok Post reports the unsurprising news that Red Siam Group leader Surachai Danwattananusorn has been sentenced to yet another jail term for lese majeste.

The Criminal Court sentenced Surachai to 5 years, reduced to 2.5 years on his guilty plea. This was apparently for his fifth lese majeste charge, dating to 15 December 2008.

Surachai (an AP photo)

Surachai testified that he had “submitted a request to withdraw his earlier not guilty plea. He admitted he is the same person charged in four other lese majeste cases.” He said he “wanted the court to quickly hand down a verdict … because he wished to seek a royal pardon.” In other words, his guilty plea is little more than a part of a strategy.

This jail term “will be added to the jail sentences earlier handed down on him in four other lese majeste cases.”

We make that a total of 10 12.5 years in jail [PPT: our addition of all of his sentences was incorrect, and 12 years and 6 months is the correct total. Of course, the real sentence was a staggering 25 years!]. Surachai is shortly to undergo a prostrate operation.

Essentially, the courts are locking up a 72 year old and sick man for 10 12.5 years in the name of protecting the monarchy.

Surachai slammed with another lese majeste jail term

27 04 2012

In a political context where the Yingluck Shinawatra government is increasingly seen as having sold out red shirts, Red Siam leader Surachai Danwattananusorn has been given another 2.5 years in jail on lese majeste charges. This brings his total sentence to 10 years.

Surachai’s multiple cases are related to speeches he made in 2008 and 2011. In October 2010, the Abhisit Vejjajiva government decided to press ahead with lese majeste charges against the anti-coup activist and Red Siam leader.

Red Siam had on-again, off-again relationship with the mainstream red shirts until 2010, when Surachai’s small group detached itself from the main red shirt demonstrations in March-May 2010.


Surachai was arrested in the early morning hours of 22 February 2011 in Nonthaburi and taken to police cells to be charged. He has been in jail since then.

On 28 February 2012, incarcerated but unbowed, and almost a year after his arrest and jailing, 71 year-old Surachai was sentenced to 15 years in jail for speeches made in late 2010. This was halved for his guilty plea.

As is common in lese majeste cases, the court was reportedly exceptionally biased in sentencing, mentioning events from decades in the past that are highly disputed, and related to a previous case where Surachai was jailed for several years before being pardoned. This was unsurprisingly as the judges in the case led by the notorious Chanathip Muanpawong who, late in 2011, convicted Ampol Tangnopakul to 20 years and Darunee Charnchoensilpakul to 15 years on lese majeste charges.

Now, Thailand’s Criminal Court sentenced Surachai to another two years and six months incarceration after being found guilty on further lese majeste charges, apparently related to an address to a red-shirt rally at Samakkhitham Temple in Bangkok on 5 and 6 February 2011.

He has now been sentenced to a total jail term to 10 years. This is effectively a sentence for him to die in prison as Surachai is now almost 70 years of age (different reports have him aged 68 or 70).

MCOT News reports that the “court handed him down another five years jail but the sentence was commuted to two and a half years due to his confession in similar case.”

In the “similar case,” Surachai had pleaded guilty to three counts of lese majeste involving speeches at rallies in Chiang Mai, Udon Thani and Bangkok. He did not plead guilty on all cases against him, and the “court issued its verdict without any suspensions as they were serious offences with severe punishment and he had repeatedly committed the same act.”

Updated: Surachai convicted on lese majeste

28 02 2012

Surachai (a Bangkok Post photo)

At The Nation it is reported that the Criminal Court has sentenced Red Siam Group leader Surachai Danwattananusorn on lese majeste charges. As readers will know, Surachai, after almost a year in jail without bail, reluctantly decided to plead guilty.

The court sentenced him to 15 years, halving this for the guilty plea, meaning he will serve 7.5 years in jail for three counts of lese majeste from a set of speeches in late 2010.

His lawyers now say that “Surachai will seek a royal pardon.” He has another lese majeste charge pending.

At the Bangkok Post, Judge Chanathip Muanpawong is said to have “detailed a list of Mr Surachai’s activities as a member of the former Communist Party of Thailand (CPT), setting off a criminal explosion at a governor’s residence, and as a member of the former Thai Rak Thai and People Power parties, and other activities.” Some of these claims are highly disputed.

The court expressed opinions:

As an educated person and a former member of the Provincial Administrative Organisation in Nakhon Si Thammarat, he still committed a serious crime defaming, insulting and threatening the King and the Queen and the royal family who have done great service to the country. He was not chastened, therefore his sentence should not be suspended….

Surachai is reported to have damned the Yingluck Shinawatra government. said: “If the Yingluck government is really sincere about reconciliation, they have to push forward on [the issue of] royal amnesty.”

He added that he “would not plead guilty to the charge arising from his speech on Dec 15, 2008.”

Surachai reportedly issued a six-page hand-written statement titled:

“Don’t act as a military leader who destroys his own soldiers,” and addressed to the Yingluck government, asking if the ruling Pheu Thai Party was appeasing its former foes, the nobility, by getting rid of the party’s comrades and warriors.

“The Yingluck government and her party seem to have adopted the wrong strategy, thinking that the victory they won [the July 3 general election] was the ultimate goal and they no longer need to rely on their mass supporters, just as long as they can make a compromise for their mutual benefit with the nobility,” Surachai said in his statement.

He said the Pheu Thai Party did not really have full power, otherwise they would have already set free their jailed red-shirt supporters.

“The Abhisit government helped keep those who laid seige to the airports from being jailed, but this government is just appeasing the former foe by threatening those seeking the amendment of the Criminal Code’s Article 112 [the lese majeste law],” he said

Mr Surachai warned that the elite group was wiser than the “naive” Yingluck Shinawatra and her party.

“They are applying the same strategy as when they established ties with Beijing in order to sever the CPT support. Now the senior elites are making friends with Prime Minister Yingluck and waiting until this government eliminates it own soldiers and warriors, then the time will come to kick out the government,” the statement said.

His lawyer said he planned to appeal the verdict. PPT guesses this means the sentence.

Update: Both the BBC and Reuters report Surachai’s sentencing.



Further updated: Nitirat pushes reform

16 01 2012

The various royalist and ultra-royalist groups have been preparing for it for weeks, and it has now happened: Nitirat have held their meeting to activate a campaign for amending the lese majeste law.

The revised proposals by Nitirat are available at Prachatai.

At The Nation it is reported that the Nitirat law scholars group “called yesterday for the amendment of Section 112 of the Criminal Code relating to lese majeste, saying the law is outdated and in need of an overhaul.” The proposals include legal protections for royals as well as reduced penalties. In addition, it urged that “only the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary be granted the authority to file complaints against violators,” and wants “exemption from punishment of those who honestly express a political opinion, as well as those whose allegations are proven to be true or useful to the public.”

Nitirat wants to collect “10,000 signatures in support of the amendment within 112 days.” That will likely prove difficult as the ultra-royalists are likely to make signing a measure of “loyalty,” thus threatening potential signatories.

Nitirat claims its campaign is a “first step toward reforming the monarchy to ensure the institution continued in Thai society…”.

Meanwhile, at the Bangkok Post it is reported that Nitirat’s campaign is officially “The Campaign Committee for the Amendment of the Article 112 (CCAA112).” In addition to Nitirat, several other “academic and activist groups” are involved: “Midnight University, Nitimon, Nitirat, People’s Poets, Red Siam, Sang Sumneuk Writers, Santi Prachadham, Silpakorn Community for the People and Student Federation of Thailand.” Nitirat drafted the proposal.

As expected, the ultra-royalists immediately opposed to the proposal. The Nation reported that yellow-shirted Tul Sittisomwong, leader of the so-called multi-coloured group, vowed to oppose any change to Article 112. He was sure that the “proposal for a lighter punishment will cause the number of lese-majeste offenders to rise…”. So much for the great love for the monarchy amongst all Thais.

Update 1: Readers may be interested in a Businessweek report that contextualizes the Nitirat meeting and program. PPT thought it noteworthy that: “Hundreds of people in a standing-room only crowd at Bangkok’s Thammasat University cheered yesterday as the Campaign Committee for the Amendment of Article 112 listed proposed changes to the law…”.

Update 2: Readers will be interested in these photos and story (in Thai) on yesterday’s meeting.

Lese majeste victim Surachai hospitalized, will plead guilty

20 11 2011

Prachatai has an important update on lese majeste victims incarcerated at the Bangkok Remand Prison, which is still inundated by floodwaters.


According to Pranee, his wife, Surachai Sae Dan (Danwatthananusorn), her husband has been in the prison hospital since early November. His case was meant to be heard on 31 October, but was postponed due to flooding. It is now scheduled for 30 January 2012.

She and the Red Siam group are now appealing to the authorities through the Truth for Reconciliation Commission for all of the cases against her husband to be combined into one. She said all cases were essentially the same and as “Surachai had health problems and could not travel to several provinces for witness hearings over a long period of time.” She added this: “… he [Surachai] wants to combine all the cases and plead guilty…”.

This is something of a surprise as Surachai had seemed committed to fighting the case. Pleading guilty is always what the authorities demand so that the courts do not have to actually hear the cases and lese majeste victims can simply be sentenced. The authorities tend to deliberately drag out cases until they get the guilty plea.

The next scheduled court appearance by a victim of the the draconian lese majeste law is 21 November when Somyos Pruksakasemsuk will face the Sa Kaew Provincial Court. According to this report, Somyos “will then be taken to Phetchabun, Nakhon Sawan and Songkhla for further hearings of prosecution witnesses on 19 Dec, 16 Jan 2012 and 13 Feb 2012, respectively.”

Meanwhile, the U.S.’s forgotten citizen Joe Gordon has verdict reading “postponed indefinitely due to the flooding…”. His lawyer plans to lodge a petition for the court to read the verdict.

Another victim of this medieval law, the aged Ampol Tangnopakul will hear his verdict on 23 November.

Lese majeste conviction for CD sales

11 07 2011

Prachatai reports that a man identified only as Sathian has been sentenced to jail and a fine for selling CDs that contained material considered offensive to the monarchy.

On 4 July 2011, the Criminal Court sentenced Sathian to 6 years in jail for lese majeste and fined him 100,000 baht. As is often the case – and is the deal cut – for pleading guilty, these penalties were halved.

Sathian was reportedly “arrested on 19 March 2011 near the Democracy Monument for unauthorized sales of video CDs and publicizing the contents which were offensive to the monarchy.”

Prachatai states that Sathian was a hotel cook who had joined red shirt rallies from 2009. His arrest was made during a rally to commemorate the Army crackdown on the red shirts in 2010.

Sathian’s is not the only case like this. Akechai Hongkangwarn was arrested by police on 11 March 2011, and charged with lese majeste for being in possession of 100 illegal VCDs, a CD writer and 10 Wikileaks documents. He was arrested following a rally by the Red Siam group.


%d bloggers like this: