Republicanism means 50 years in prison

27 07 2017

Talking or posting about a republic or republicanism is considered and act of lese majeste. Governments for sometime, including the ultra-royalist military dictatorship, once “defended” lese majeste by saying that it was just like defamation but for royals. The case of human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul, one of the Stolen history 6, clearly show that such bleating was a concoction and expressed as blatant lies.

On 25 July 2017, Bangkok’s Criminal Court “accepted charges filed against [the]… human rights lawyer facing five decades of imprisonment for royal defamation and sedition.” Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have said that Prawet is accused of posting Facebook comments that are deemed to have asserted that Thailand should become a republic.

Even Prachatai uses the term “defamation” when reporting this case. Clearly lese majeste is not defamation. Rather, it is a law that represses political opponents and jails them for daring to think about and discuss alternative forms of government.

Prawet stands accused of importing digital content “deemed defamatory to the [m]onarchy and seditious.” He is alleged to have done this from 25 January- 23 April 2017 and this probably relates to Facebook posts made by exiled historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul.

As well as being charged under Articles 112 (10 counts) and 116 (3 counts), Prawet is “also charged with Article 14(3) of the Computer Crime Act for importing illegal information online and violation of the Council for Democratic Reform (the 2006 coup-maker) Order for obstructing … the police [in]… obtain[ing] his fingerprints.”

It is easy to see that the military junta is determined to lock him away for decades, with 50 years being the legally maximum cumulative sentence. The lese majeste and sedition charges alone, if proven, amount to 171 years of jail. Few who go to court on these charges are ever exonerated by the royalist courts.

Prawet and the other five (for whom there is precious little information that PPT can locate) have been held in jail since 29 April 2017.





Still detained, law ignored

28 06 2017

Prachatai reports that what PPT calls the torture of lese majeste “suspects” continues unabated and is being applied to human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul.

For the sixth time, the Criminal Court has “refused to release a human rights lawyer facing up to 50 years in prison for royal defamation and sedition.” [Actually, as the report later states, he faces 171 years on lese majeste and sedition, but there’s a 50 year sentencing limit.]

On 26 June 2017, the Criminal Court in Bangkok renewed the pre-trial detention period for Prawet. He has now been held for two months, while the police “investigate.”

Of course, the aim is to wear down Prawet, forcing him to plead guilty.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) argued that “the case’s interrogation process is already complete.” It was also argued that “prolonging of the detention is against Article 29 of the 2017 Constitution, which in brief states that suspects of crimes have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

The error here is in thinking that any lese majeste case will be considered on the basis of law. As many cases have demonstrated, law is strikingly absent from these acts of political intimidation and repression.

As expected, the court ignored law and statements by the prosecution that the case was investigated and kept Prawet locked up.

Prawet was one of six people arrested by police and military officers on 29 April 2017. We have no further information on the other five.

All are accused of a variety of lese majeste, computer crimes and sedition offenses for “sharing a Facebook post about the missing 1932 revolution plaque by Somsak Jeamteerasakul…”.

The claim now heard is that “Prawet allegedly posted Facebook comments asserting that Thailand should become a republic.”

Thailand should be a republic.





Prawet’s bail refused

14 05 2017

PPT should have posted this a couple of days ago and we expect that most readers will have seen the report.

As usual in lese majeste cases, on 11 May, the Criminal Court in Bangkok refused bail for human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul, who was abducted by official junta thugs on 29 April.

Prachatai reports that the court rejected a defence lawyer’s submission of “a bail request with the position of a university lecturer friend of Prawet, valued at about 680,000 baht, as guarantee.”

As usual, the judge babbled about “flight risk, severity of the charge, and the possibility that the suspect might interfere with evidence.” On lese majeste, these judges are junta automatons and unconcerned by law.

Prachatai claims that “[a]ccording to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Prawet allegedly posted Facebook comments that Thailand should become a republic.”

We have no way of confirming this, but simply arguing for republicanism does not constitute lese majeste. Given that the constitution states that the form of government is a “democratic regime of government with the king as head of the state” may mean that advocating a republic is unconstitutional. Yet no military junta has ever had a problem with throwing out constitutions as if political confetti.

We do think Prachatai’s report is somewhat misleading. It states that Prawet faces “up to 50 years in prison for royal defamation and sedition.” They say 50 years because the “maximum penalties for Prawet for all counts of lèse majesté and sedition add up to 157 years in prison.  Under Thailand’s Criminal Code, however, the maximum total jail term other than life imprisonment is 50 years.”

We think this is diminishing the impact of the lese majeste law. It is not unlike the common media practice of stating that X was sentenced to 10 years for lese majeste when the sentence was actually 20 years, reduced by half for a guilty plea. The sentence was 20 years, not 1o years.

Hence, our reading is that Prawet is subject to 10 sentences of a maximum of 15 years each. He is also subject to more years on the sedition charges.

We see no reason to diminish the seriousness of lese majeste, which sometimes see heavier sentences than for murder.





And now lese majeste

27 03 2017

One of the things we should have predicted about the “weapons seizure” said to involve junta critic and renegade red shirt Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee was further lese majeste charges. We should have predicted this, but as Ko Tee already faces a charge, we became negligent of the junta’s modus operandi when dealing with such cases. After all, the dictators have claimed a “republican plot.”

Prachatai reports that the junta has “accused one of the nine people arrested over the alleged plot to assassinate the junta leader of lèse majesté over Line messages.” The report states:

On 24 March 2017, Maj Gen Wicharn Jodtaeng and Col Burin Thongprapai, legal officer of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) took nine people accused of involvement in the alleged plot to assassinate Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, to the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) in Bangkok….

Most of them, who are anti-establishment red shirts, are accused of terrorism and possessing unauthorised or illegal weapons, and involving in a criminal association. The nine were detained for seven days at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok after their arrest before being handed to the police.

One of those arrested, Suriyasak Chatphithakkun, 49, is now “accused of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law and Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act, a law against the importation of illegal content.”

According to the military snoops, Suriyasak is a “local red shirt leader from Surin Province…”. They claim that on “13 July 2016 allegedly wrote a message deemed defamatory to the Thai Monarchy in a Line chat group called ‘People Outside Coconut Shell’.”

He will go to a military court.





Updated: Suthep demands more dictatorship for longer

18 03 2017

The People’s Democratic Reform Foundation (PDRF) is the legalistic renaming of the anti-democratic People’s Democratic Reform Committee to allow it to keep operating under the junta it helped seize power in 2014.

It is still led by Democrat Party stalwart Suthep Thaugsuban, who “left” the party to arrange his anti-democratic actions opposing elections and the elected government led by Yingluck Shinawatra. Its bosses remain those anti-democratic elite and Democrat Party (former) members, Sathit Wongnongtoey, Akanat Promphan, Chitpas Kridakorn (Bhirombhakdi), Thaworn Senniam, Nattapol Teepsuwan, Chumpol Julsai and Sakoltee Patthippayakul.

It was this group that recently met with representatives of the military junta for “reconciliation talks.”

Readers might be surprised to learn (or maybe not) that, almost three years after he got the coup he wanted, Suthep “remained firm in its stance of ‘reform before election’, saying it did not mind a delay in the holding of the next election.”

Suthep and his clutch of anti-democrats also declared their full support for “absolute power under Article 44 of the interim charter” and claimed it “was not a problem for reform. Suthep said it as an opportunity for the junta to effectively reform the country.” We know he supports the murderous military and we guess he would also support military courts, torture and all manner of draconian measures against his political opponents.

Of course, we also know that Suthep hates elections, not least because his party never won one in its own right, and repeatedly hung off the military and royal coattails.

Likewise, it is no surprise that this group of anti-democrats “admitted to being fans of junta head General Prayut Chan-o-cha and the desire to complete key reforms.” Why wouldn’t they be? It was Suthep who claimed that he had worked since 2010 with General Prayuth on ways and means for preventing a Thaksin Shinawatra-aligned government from getting elected and then, if it did, on bringing it down.

Suthep and his cronies met with the junta’s people for “four hours of reconciliation talks” after which Suthep declared or maybe even threatened: “We’ve made the point in the meeting that the masses expect the National Council for Peace and Order [the junta] and the government led by [Prayuth] to finish the reforms so the country can continue as a democracy with the monarch as the head of state.”

Suthep, who spent many years as a Democrat Party powerbroker and politician chortled about “politics” being a problem: “Politics has to serve the people. In the past, it was [dominated by] politicians and financiers as well as interest groups. It’s never about the people…”. Because his party was resoundingly defeated time and time again, we can understand his reluctance to accept the will of the people.

Remarkably, as if Thailand’s elite is still under threat, he grasps the monarchy shibboleth by the throat and thunders: “Most importantly, political parties must be run by people who support democratic rule with the monarch as the head of state, not a republic.”

That purported danger justifies for Suthep, and his gaggle of anti-democrat scions of the elite, continuing military dictatorship. He reckons “the people” don’t want an election any time soon.

If the message wasn’t clear, Suthep stated: “The PDRF has no concerns over the NCPO staying in power so long as it works to push reforms.” He added that his support for “the military and Gen Prayut … was never hidden…”.

Update: And just in case anyone was wondering, the Bangkok Post reports that Suthep declined “to say whether his group would accept the outcome of the next election in the event that the Pheu Thai Party wins the poll.”





It’s the republicans (or its a junta ruse)

4 02 2017

Yesterday we posted on the talk of assassination threats against The Dictator and the Deputy Dictator.

We thought that the claims, when put together with coup talk, might suggest that there was some dissatisfaction with the junta, perhaps even in the military.

Then there was talk of those nasty “politicians” causing ill-will towards the military dictatorship over its ham-fisted flood relief operations in the south. Junta spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd says “[s]ome politicians in Songkhla are behind a move to stir up dissent against the government…”. In the last election – remember that? – each seat in the province was won by a Democrat Party politician. Could they be getting their gun sights re-calibrated from red shirts to military dictators?

It seems that it is neither military nor anti-democrats. Rather, The Dictator has let it be known that the culprits of “an assassination plot targeting Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon could originate from lese majeste suspects who are living abroad.”*

Of course! It’s the rascally republicans! Or, more correctly, it could be them.

Perhaps they did offer a threat for they have no capacity for much else. At the same time, perhaps the junta is framing them for a “crime” that does allow for extraditions from foreign jurisdictions.

They are that desperate and such a pathetic lurk is in line with other cowardly acts by the junta, most notably in targeting the children and families of its opponents.

The junta’s desperation to shut down every single critical reflection on the monarchy borders on a mental illness; it is a paranoia and an obsession.

_________

*One part of the latter report that struck us as laughable was the mention of (fraud) academic-for-sale Panitan Wattanayagorn, “adviser to Gen Prawit,” and quite capable of authoring a fake plot. In one part of the report this dolt is quoted as saying: “It [death threats] is not unusual and security agencies will respond to it…”. A couple of lines later, this: “He said assassination plots against government figures in Thailand are rare…”.





Thai republicanism

19 07 2016

In a post at New Mandala, academic Patrick Jory writes of the history if Thai republicanism. Much that he mentions will be known to those who study Thailand’s modern history. However, by bringing this into a story about republican roots, its development and links to the present, Jory provides a useful and revealing account.

Republicanism itself has a long history in political philosophy and its political usage and understanding has changed over time.