Reuters on lese majeste

8 12 2011

Reuters has a long and useful report on what it calls a “war on royal slurs.” It begins with an Orwellian image: “From a windowless room in a Bangkok suburb, computer technicians scour thousands of websites, Facebook pages and tweets night and day. Their mission: to suppress what is regarded as one of Thailand’s most heinous crimes — insulting the monarchy.”

Indeed, being accused of insulting the monarchy is now a crime that gets people locked up for terms that exceed those for some of the major crimes like murder and drug dealing. Indeed, when the murderers are state officials from the police and military, they are seldom even investigated, while huge teams scour the internet for “even the faintest criticism of 84-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej…”, using “the world’s most draconian lese-majeste laws.”

The Washington-based pro-democracy and rather conservative Freedom House claims that lese majeste and the computer crimes laws provide officials “carte blanche to clamp down on any form of expression.”

The current government gets a free pass: “Some Thais had hoped Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose party members are among those accused of lese-majeste, would reform the law. But she is treading carefully, aware her opponents in the military and royalist establishment could seize on any hint of disloyalty to the monarchy to bring her down.” That’s true, but some of her government’s own people have been beating the lese majeste drum very loudly.

Under Information and Communications Technology Minister Anudit Nakorntab “Thais who received anti-monarchy messages by email or on their personal Facebook walls and failed to delete them were also in violation.” A MICT official stated: “We would take them to court and prosecute them…. It is against the law to do such a thing and as a result, they will be fined and jailed.”

It is going to get messier and more repressive by the week, especially as the Yingluck government has fallen into the royalist trap. It is a trap that is impossible to get out of, not least when spineless ministers sprout “loyalty” as mantra. Maybe Yingluck should sit down and read the Wikileaks cables to see what the royalist amart can do to elected prime ministers.




RWB on DSI and its fantasy investigation

15 04 2011

Reporters Without Borders has issued a statement that

deplores Department of Special Investigation director-general Tharit Pengdit’s suggestion that the investigation into Japanese cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto’s death could be “delegated” to his employer, the Reuters news agency.

This twist in the political police agency’s “strategy” that shifts blame from the state and its soldiers to anybody else is deplorable. Tharit makes a statement about Reuters being able to get better tip-offs than the DSI. Indeed, there may be some truth in this as many see the DSI as hopelessly politically compromised, not least by Tharit’s former position in the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations that oversaw the military’s murderous crackdown on protesters in April and May 2010.

RWB states:

The DSI’s proposal shows that the Thai government is refusing to identify those who were responsible for Muramoto’s death…. A government that respects the rule of law has an obligation to establish the truth and to ensure that justice is done.

That’s the point really. This government has repeatedly shown that it does not respect the rule of law. In fact, it uses blatantly political laws to repress political opponents and to entrench its power.

The statement adds:

Reporters Without Borders recognizes the importance of cooperation between Reuters and the authorities in charge of the investigation but cannot accept any attempt by the DSI to offload its responsibility.

More on DSI-army collusion

28 02 2011

The BBC has more on the story regarding the death of Reuters cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto. For PPT’s earlier post, see here.

Noting that: “Critics say the investigations into how 89 people died in last year’s protests have been hurt by interference,” the report details the strange but not unexpected machinations on Hiroyuki’s murder and the army and DSI collusion.

It recalls that the Japanese reporter “died from a bullet through his chest,” and that the earlier DSI report found that the bullet was “fired by an M16 from an army-held position that night. Witnesses from the scene agreed.”

This led to the military being “unhappy with that finding and army sources have told reporters that a military officer was assigned to help the DSI’s investigation.  The result is this new finding – that an AK47 fired the deadly shot, and that soldiers that night were not using AK47s.” This changed finding apparently results from “a fresh look only at the photos of the wounds suffered by Mr Muramoto.”

The BBC says that the journalist’s employer, “Reuters has noted what it called the apparent contradiction between the earlier and later reports. Editor in chief Stephen Adler said it was imperative that full transparency be brought to the investigation.”

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports that DSI boss Tharit Pengdit claims his agency has “submitted investigation reports on 89 people, including Hiroyuki Muramoto, a Reuters News Agency cameraman, killed during the political unrest last year to the Metropolitan Police Bureau.”

Thairit  claims the “DSI has consistently reported on the progress of this case to the Japanese embassy and we welcome any Japanese authorities who want to take part in the investigation…”. If reports are submitted, hasn’t DSI completed its investigations?

It seems that the DSI has gone out and recruited its own forensic adviser, despite the existence of forensic science investigators being long available to DSI. Former “police forensic science chief Amporn Jarujinda … [who] has reviewed a report on the cameraman’s autopsy, said the bullet wound found on Muramoto was large and forensic police did not detect any lead residue inside it. All this indicated the bullet calibre must have been at least 7 millimetres, which suggested that the man was probably killed by a shot from a 7.62mm AK-47 assault rifle, a 9mm Nato weapon or an SKS semi-automatic rifle…”.

Does this make any sense to readers? All PPT can ascertain is that the army’s sniper rifles use 7.62mm ammunition.

Reuters leaked DSI report

10 12 2010

This Reuters report is worth posting in full, with comments to be included later. See Bangkok Pundit’s commentary also:

The Thai military played a larger role in the killing of civilians during political unrest in Bangkok this year than officials have acknowledged, leaked state documents seen by Reuters show.

A preliminary state probe into political violence in April and May concluded Thai special forces positioned on an elevated railway track fired into the grounds of a Buddhist temple where several thousand protesters had taken refuge on May 19.

Three of six people shot dead at the temple were likely killed by troops, the investigation found, directly contradicting statements by the Thai military, which has denied soldiers were responsible for the killings at the temple.

The report said there was not enough evidence to come to a conclusion about who was responsible for the other three deaths in the temple, but it said all six victims were hit by high-velocity bullets.

“There is a reasonable amount of facts, evidence and witness accounts to believe that (three) deaths resulted from security officials’ actions on duty”,” the investigators said, recommending that police look into the deaths further.

Asked by Reuters to comment on the leaked documents, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva did not deny their authenticity, but said investigations were still not complete and efforts were being made to expedite the process.

“The next step will involve the judicial process so we can’t react to any incomplete information”, he said.

The findings by Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) are likely to embolden the “red shirt” anti-government protest movement challenging the legitimacy of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who in June blamed armed elements among the protesters for the temple deaths.

Wat Prathum Wanaram, a Buddhist temple, had been designated a “safe zone” for women, children, the elderly and the infirm. Thousands fled there when the military used force on May 19 to disperse protesters occupying a nearby commercial district.

According to the DSI’s investigation, witnesses reported scenes of chaos outside the temple as gunshots rang out and civilians fled a shopping area.

One witness said he saw soldiers firing from the elevated train track into a medical tent inside the compound, where two nurses treating wounded civilians were killed.

Ninety-one people were killed and at least 1,800 were wounded during the unrest in April and May. More than 30 buildings were set on fire. It was the worst political violence in modern Thai history.


The DSI is investigating a total of 89 deaths linked to the unrest but the government has yet to publicly release any findings despite pressure from human rights groups.

The findings seen by Reuters were contained in two DSI reports — one on the temple shootings and another on the April 10 death of Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto.

Muramoto, a 43-year-old Japanese national based in Tokyo, was killed by a high-velocity bullet wound to the chest while covering protests in Bangkok’s old quarter.

The report quoted a witness who said Muramoto collapsed as gunfire flashed from the direction of soldiers. Thailand’s government has not yet publicly released the report into his death despite intense diplomatic pressure from Japan.

Reuters Editor in Chief David Schlesinger called for the immediate public release of the full report.

“The Thai authorities owe it to Hiro’s family to reveal exactly how this tragedy happened and who was responsible,” Schlesinger said in a statement.

The detailed accounts of soldiers opening fire on civilians could inflame public anger and galvanize supporters of twice-elected and now-fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who has called for an international probe into the April-May violence, including the contentious deaths at the temple.

One witness hiding under a car at the temple said he was shot at four or five times by men in camouflage uniforms positioned on the elevated mass transit Skytrain track.

He was hit once and helped to safety by a monk. Autopsies showed bullets found in four of the six bodies inside the temple were the same type that soldiers on the elevated tracks said they were equipped with. An unknown number of people were wounded at the temple.


Soldiers quoted in the DSI report said they fired warning shots toward the temple and came under fire from black-clad gunmen from below and by another gunman in the temple. They said they were providing cover fire for troops on the ground, who had requested backup.

Tharit Pengdith, director general of the Department of Special Investigation, said the DSI had concluded its preliminary investigation and passed the results to the police but had not publicly disclosed the contents.

“The investigation report is a sensitive issue to talk about or to confirm its authenticity,” he said. “It’s an official secret. To confirm the authenticity of the report sent to police would affect the rights of the people whose names were in it.”

He would neither confirm nor deny the authenticity of the two reports seen by Reuters but said police will now investigate the case of the three people believed to have been killed by troops at the temple, along with three others possibly killed by troops, including Muramoto.

The results of the police investigation will be sent to the DSI and government prosecutors.

If troops are found responsible for civilian deaths, families could sue for compensation. But authorities could also claim shootings were committed in the line of official duty.

RSF on the death of Hiroyuki Muramoto

11 04 2010

Reporters Sans Frontieres has issued a statement about the death of Hiroyuki Muramoto, the Reuters photographer who was killed in yesterday’s violence.

From the statement:

“Muramoto was shot in the chest while covering clashes in the Rajdumnoen Road area of the capital.

Reuters editor-in-chief David Schlesinger said: “I am dreadfully saddened to have lost our colleague Hiro Muramoto in the Bangkok clashes. Journalism can be a terribly dangerous profession as those who try to tell the world the story thrust themselves in the centre of the action. The entire Reuters family will mourn this tragedy.”

Reporters Without Borders calls for an independent investigation into Muramoto’s death, with both an autopsy and a ballistic study conducted in a transparent manner and, if necessary, with the assistance of foreign experts.”

Read the entire statement here: 10 April 2010, “Japanese cameraman fatally shot in clashes between troops and Red Shirts”

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