Turkey and Amsterdam

17 07 2016

There is considerable social media discussion about the attempted coup in Turkey. Many ask why Turkish citizens protected an elected government in Turkey but that there was no such effort in Thailand in May 2014.

Obviously, there is much to be trawled over in the differences between Turkey and Thailand. There have been some comparative efforts and even attempts to apply a concept – Deep State – that has been used for analyzing Turkey.

In the comparative article, Duncan McCargo and Ayşe Zarakol speculate that recent years have seen “the rise of new societal groups based upon urbanized villagers has produced charismatic populist leaders who preach democracy, but practise electoralism. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Thaksin Shinawatra are locked in parallel confrontations with traditionally interventionist military/bureaucratic elites.”

We are not able to provide any sophisticated comparative discussion, but we did note one similarity. In a report at The Guardian, discussing allegations by Erdoğan about the involvement of exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen who leads global Hizmet movement from exile in Pennyslvania, we saw this mention of lawyer Robert Amsterdam:

As the coup attempt unfolded on Friday night, a lawyer for the Turkish government, Robert Amsterdam, said there were “indications of direct involvement” of the Gülenists, adding that he and his firm had “attempted repeatedly to warn the US government of the threat posed” by Gülen and his movement. Amsterdam cited Turkish intelligence sources in claiming that “there are signs that Gülen is working closely with certain members of military leadership against the elected civilian government”.





Libel, defamation and double standards

4 06 2016

Remember this from the Bangkok Post on 25 May?

The Appeals Court on Wednesday upheld the Criminal Court’s acquittal of former Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut of a charge of defaming former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra in comments about her meeting with businessmen at the Four Seasons Hotel in 2012.

Chavanond’s claims were meant to imply several things and all were meant to denigrate Yingluck.

The Criminal Court dismissed the suit against Chavanond. An appeal was lodged and the “Appeals Court ruled that in his press interviews Mr Chavanond had not accused her of disclosing official secrets, but rather had made an honest criticism of her.”

Then what about this?

The Appeals Court on Thursday upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a defamation suit brought by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra against Peoples Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leader Sondhi Limthongkul and his two media businesses, Thaiday.com and ASTV Co.

Thaksin alleged Sondhi defamed him while addressing PAD supporters at a rally at Government House on Oct 14, 2008. Sondhi accused Thaksin of infringing on the monarch’s powers, buying grass-roots voters, taking control of the police and bribing certain high-ranking military officials to weaken the royal institution.

His speech was broadcast live on ASTV News 1 satellite TV channel and also published on the website of the Manager daily newspaper.

The judge declared that while Sondhi’s words “were defamatory towards Thaksin, the defendant argued that there were other suspicious individuals who had political ties with the former premier as well as his close aides and henchmen such as Robert Amsterdam, Thaksin’s former lawyer who was accused of violating lese majeste law.”

The court decided that “Sondhi’s suspicions about Thaksin were genuinely felt and not therefore deemed an act of defamation.”

And what about this?

The Supreme Court Thursday reversed a ruling by the Court of Appeal and upheld the lower court’s ruling sentencing red-shirt co-leader Jatuporn Prompan to six months in jail, suspended for two years, and fining him 50,000 baht for defaming former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Jatuporn made some remarks “accusing the then prime minister of wrongfully sitting in a chair that put him on the same level as His Majesty the King during a royal audience.” He accused Abhisit of failing to show due respect to the king.

The Criminal Court “ruled in Mr Abhisit’s favour, finding Mr Jatuporn’s remark was not made in good faith as it violated Section 328 of the Criminal Code.”

Jatuporn appealed and was acquitted by the Appeal Court, which “ruled his remarks were not defamatory.” Abhisit appealed to the Supreme Court. That court has decided that “Jatuporn had the intention to defame Mr Abhisit” and “reinstated the lower court’s ruling” and the jail sentence.

Readers might notice some similarities in these cases. Like a sore thumb, it sticks out that one side wins in each case.





Updated: On May 2010, part I

19 05 2015

The document leaked at Thailand Accountability Project is potentially important.

It is worth noting that the document is unverified. As the post at the site states,

the signatories at the bottom of the document can not be accurately and fully ascertained. What can be read is “[unknown signatory] witness” and “Police Colonel [unknown signatory] investigate, record.” The document is then dated “Nov 7, 2011”. The document appears to be signed by these persons to confirm that the memo is a verified piece of evidence to be presented after that date.

This document has been all over social media, both in Thai and English versions.Crackdown 1

It refers to the last few hours before the final murderous crackdown on red shirt protesters by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime and enthusiastic military brass on 19 May 2010. The day before, red shirt leaders met with members of the Senate “in a last attempt to negotiate a peaceful resolution.”

The Abhisit regime has long “claimed that the Red Shirts/UDD had stated that they would only ‘stop shooting at the Army’, a statement that clearly implies that the protest leaders refused to agree to unconditional peace talks.”

This document says something different, showing that the red shirt protest leaders  “did agree to an unconditional negotiation with the Abhisit regime and, furthermore, that the senators had a form of commitment from the Abhisit regime that if the Red Shirts/UDD leadership did participate in unconditional talks, then Abhisit would suspend any further military crackdown.”

Despite this agreement, the military operation continued on 19 May.

The implication is that the Abhisit regime and its military accomplices engaged in not just lies but murder.

Update: Robert Amsterdam writes on Abhisit’s responsibility and asks an “obvious question”:

why hasn’t Abhisit been held to account for his actions? Did he lose control of the soldiers he’d unleashed on the very people it was his duty to protect? And if he did lose control why didn’t he tender his immediate resignation and commit to securing a criminal prosecution of those Thai Army officers and soldiers who’d murdered unarmed civilians who were seeking sanctuary in his own government’s designated safe haven?

 





Dictatorship, lese majeste and “unconstitutionalism”

1 02 2015

Robert Amsterdam has an op-ed titled “Thailand: The Unconstitutional Monarchy” at the  Eurasia Review. He reiterates some well-known points and makes some useful observations about Thailand’s descent to military dictatorship.

He looks at the way the United Kingdom maintains a public separation “between the elected persons who make the laws and the head of state, the monarch, who acts as the functionary to sign them onto the statute book.” He points out that

This relatively simple arrangement is neatly summed up on the official website of the British monarchy in that – “The ability to make and pass legislation resides with an elected Parliament, not with the Monarch.”

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

It’s a very clear premise. The ability to pass legislation in a functioning constitutional monarchy doesn’t reside with the army, royally appointed senators or a vast network of palace associates in unpopular political parties but with an elected Parliament.

A “functioning constitutional monarchy does not have to enforce itself via the terror of appallingly draconian censorship laws or hate campaigns….”.

You know who the comparison is with. Thailand’s horrendously anti-democratic military dictatorship and the constructed power of the monarchy that involves unconstitutional politics.

Amsterdam points out that the “most obvious factors that undermine ‘constitutionality’ are the roles of the Army – who exercise power beyond any constitutional or legal norm or framework, acting as a ‘deep state’ whose only sovereignty is gained from their ability to organise violence…”.

Turning to the “appalling lese majeste law,” he says many familiar things about the “draconian punishments attached to it and vague, irrational and cruel interpretations of it applied by the Thai courts, it has become the ‘legal’ terror weapon of choice…” for the junta.

He observes that “the coup regime of General Prayuth has sought to extend the terror of lese majeste further, with critics and academics being forced into exile and multiple arrests being made under the auspices of this law.” He points to the absurdity of  “the arrest and imprisonment of two young members of a theatrical troupe who were involved in the performance of a play … deemed to have uttered metaphors and allegories that were insulting to the monarchy.”

Amsterdam concludes that “Thailand is now a military dictatorship.” We knew that from the day of the coup! He says the “clearest indications that Thailand remains beyond internationally accepted norms of ‘constitutionality’ is the continuation of the lese majeste law and its application as a form of terror in the Thai body politic.”





Accountability

5 01 2015

Early in the new year, Robert Amsterdam issued a press release. The essence of the release is that Amsterdam & Partners LLP have formed “a new independent campaign to hold Thai officials accountable in foreign jurisdictions.”

Essentially, Amsterdam wants to:

bring criminal charges against the coup leadership and those responsible for the 2010 Bangkok massacre, as well as pursue targeted sanctions to deliver accountability and justice for the victims.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam states:

In the face of horrific repression under the current coup government, we must not abandon the effort to apply consequences to those who violate human rights and those who have torn apart Thailand’s fragile democracy…. We view this as a matter of historical importance – only when we see these elites charged and sanctioned for their crimes can there be any hope of restoring rule of law and representative government in Thailand

The media release states that the “campaign will be conducted on a pro bono basis, completely independently from any active political figure or party in Thailand.”

It states that “the engagement between Robert Amsterdam and former Prime Minister Thaksin [Shinawatra] has concluded.” Amsterdam says that his campaign’s focus is to “to pursue alliances with civil society, NGOs, and other politically independent groups to continue advocating for the rights of citizens through all available avenues. Our commitment is unwavering…”.





Ji and Amsterdam on Australian TV

26 05 2014

Zoe Daniel speaks with Bob Amsterdam, the international counsel to the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship or “Red Shirt” movement.

Thailand’s army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has sent a clear warning that he’ll use force to stop all anti-government protests. Auskar Surbakti speaks with Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a Thai-British academic and vocal opponent of the Thai military by videolink.

 





Consideration given to formation of Thai government in exile

24 05 2014

This gets full re-posting here:

LONDON, 23 May 2014 – Following the declaration of an illegal military coup by the Army of Thailand on Thursday, Robert Amsterdam, counsel to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the pro-democracy ‘Red Shirt’ movement, stated that active consideration is being given to the formation of a government in exile in the wake of the illegal seizure of power staged in Thailand by General Prayuth Chan-Ocha on May 22, 2014. Mr. Amsterdam reiterates that the actions of Thai military junta lack all legitimacy and constitute flagrant violations of both Thai and international law. The only organization in Thailand with a popular and legal mandate to govern remains the Pheu Thai Party, on the strength of its clear victory in the last full general election of July 3, 2011.

“The military coup carried out by the Army of Thailand does not have any legitimacy nor does the Army of Thailand have a mandate from the people of Thailand to govern the country. Those who have the mandate of the people of Thailand, secured through free and fair elections, are now considering the formation of a government in exile,” said Mr.Amsterdam.

Mr. Amsterdam also raised the question of the unlawful detentions of pro-democracy activists currently being rounded up by the junta stating that “I denounce the illegal detention of all political leaders in Thailand. Given the Thai Army of Thailand’s human rights record, we are extremely concerned for the safety of the political detainees, and we urge the international community to remain on high alert.”

Mr Amsterdam also stated that a number of foreign governments have already expressed their willingness to host such a government in exile under internationally established rules and practice. He emphasised that the Army of Thailand has no legal authority to govern and has acted in violation of both local and international law.

“Make no mistake, this is an illegitimate military coup that must be penalized with the full strength of sanctions and diplomatic measures to ensure the safety and security of the Thai people,” said Amsterdam.





Lawyers versus lawyer

14 05 2014

Robert Amsterdam, international lawyer for the official red shirts, spoke to the red shirt rally last week. This is the video of his speech:

His commentary included a statement that was roughly this: “We must change 112 [lese majeste law]. The Democrat Party uses that statute to squelch free expression and the necessary debate that every democracy must have.”

This statement seems to have caused the royalist Lawyers Council of Thailand (LCT) great angst. Scratching around for a response, this lot babbled that Article 112 “is aimed at protecting the monarchy and those who violate it are breaching national security.” Ipso facto, Amsterdam must have broken the law!

These lawyers, who regularly appear to deliberately misunderstand the law books they profess to act on, say Amsterdam “almost certainly breached national security laws by calling for the abolition of the lese majeste law…”.

In other words, these legal eagles consider that a call to “change 112” is a breach of the law. Perhaps they also wish to burn witches at the stake and behead political prisoners.

Just for good measure, they threatened officials and police with charges if they ignored the LCT’s claims about “a criminal offence…”.

Meanwhile, Amsterdam also appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box speaking on elections, Thaksin Shinawatra and Suthep Thaugsuban as “as a gangster.” His final comment on the absurdity of events in Thailand is apt.





Lawyers gone wild

9 04 2014

It is almost impossible to comprehend the depths to which the judiciary and lawyers in Thailand have allowed themselves to be flushed down a hole that is so deep that they may never recover. Like the famous Three Stooges legal firm of Dewey, Cheatem & Howe and the NPR Car Talk lawyers mentioned each week at that show, Thailand’s lawyers seem beyond believability.

Khaosod reports that the bumbling royalist lackeys at Dewey, Cheatum and Howethe Lawyers Council of Thailand have accused United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship lobbyist and former lawyer for Thaksin Shinawatra of lese majeste. This is not the first time Robert Amsterdam has been accused of insulting the monarchy.

According to the “Lawyers Council of Thailand Under the Royal Patronage,” Amsterdam had allegedly “defamed” the monarchy and had also “insulted the Thai judicial system during his Skype call to pro-government Redshirts rally on 6 April in Nakhon Prathom province.”

In that call, Amsterdam “urged the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to amend the Article 112 of the Criminal Code…”. Khaosod states: “[H]e made no direct mention of the Thai Royal Family, but the Lawyers Council considers it a sufficient cause of insult for the monarchy, calling for the police to press charge of 112 Article against Mr. Amsterdam.”

The lawyers, who do a pretty good job of defaming the judiciary with such preposterous claims, are joined by Democrat Party and anti-democracy campaigner Thaworn Senniam in making two lese majeste complaints against Amsterdam for daring to ask for the lese majeste law to be amended.

Amsterdam was outraged and stated “that there is absolutely no basis for the lese majeste allegation in what he has told the Redshirts demonstrators.” He pointed out that the lawyers at the Council were fools, cared nothing for the law and abandoned all notions of “fairness” in making these claims. Actually, that pretty much defines the “Lawyers Council of Thailand Under the Royal Patronage.” Click on our tag for this lot, and it becomes clear that law is the last thing this bunch of royalist dolts are interested in.

Appropriately, Amsterdam “insisted on the point he made in the Skype call, stating that the Article 112 should be amended. He stated:

“[Lese majeste] is one of the most overused, misunderstood statutes in the world…. It does not in any way serve the purpose it was designed. People in Thailand are afraid to talk about it – and I understand why – but I am not afraid to talk about it”…. He added that he is not deterred by the threats of legal actions against him, and that he will visit Thailand again in the near future.





Suthep attacks the “international community”

7 04 2014

The source may be biased, but our quick scan of the media suggests that this is a reasonably accurate account of a joust between Robert Amsterdam and anti-democrat leader Suthep Thaugsuban:

Following a speech delivered yesterday by lawyer Robert Amsterdam to a massive Red Shirt rally in Bangkok, the former Democrat Party member and anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban issued an aggressive attack quoted by local media.Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban answers questions during a news conference in Bangkok

“He is a bloody farang, why does he interfere in Thai politics?,” Suthep said, repeatedly referring to Mr. Amsterdam as a “bastard” for suggesting that individual members of anti-democracy network should face international sanctions. “They want to convince the world to be on their side and force us to accept the opinion of international community. But what does the international community know about Thailand?”

In response to Suthep’s statement, Mr. Amsterdam issued the following comment:

“It’s a great disappointment that this is what passes for dialogue among the PDRC. Under Suthep’s leadership, his organization has threatened and attacked voters much like a Thai Taliban. Using the language of ‘reform,’ the Democrat Party network of senators, judges, and bureaucrats are conspiring to deprive millions of Thai citizens of their right to vote by seeking the unlawful removal of yet another elected government.”

“It’s clear that Suthep is deeply concerned by the recent news that the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is looking into alleged interference by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) in parliamentary affairs by probing of 308 senators and former members of parliament for voting for a constitutional amendment. The international community should continue to remind these anti-government Thai elites that another judicial coup shall not be tolerated.”

Robert Amsterdam serves as international counsel to the United National Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) of Thailand. More information can be read at http://robertamsterdam.com/thailand.

SOURCE Amsterdam & Partners LLP