Absurd 112 trials

19 01 2023

We were surprised to see that the Bangkok Post wrote something on the situation of monarchy reform advocates. Perhaps it is because the report is about the Clooney Foundation for Justice, where the superstar connection might have been the trigger.

The Foundation issued a statement made the all too obvious point that the current military-monarchy regime “should dismiss the case against 22 protest leaders charged with insulting the monarchy, sedition and a range of public order offences…”. Of course it should!

To do so would mean Thailand would “adhere to its international human rights obligations…”.

The Foundation’s TrialWatch Expert Kevin Bell AM KC submitted “an amicus brief submitted to the Bangkok Criminal Court.”

Clipped from The Nation

TrialWatch monitors criminal trials globally against those who are most vulnerable, including journalists and opposition figures, and advocates for the rights of individuals who are unfairly imprisoned. Since late 2020, CFJ’s TrialWatch initiative has been monitoring and evaluating criminal proceedings against the protest leaders, who face between seven and 15 years in prison if convicted of all charges (in Thailand, if a defendant is being prosecuted for multiple offenses for the same conduct, the defendant is to be punished for the offense with the most severe punishment).

Of course, the spinelessness of the Bangkok Post editorial policies means it only summarizes the most important bits of the statement. Here it is in full:

… The charges are based on the prosecution’s allegation that while giving speeches at a protest the defendants lied about the Thai King’s expenditures and his frequent travel to and from Germany, including during the COVID lockdowns and allegedly in violation of quarantine rules.

As documented by TrialWatch monitors who have attended the trial, the prosecution has not presented evidence that the defendants’ statements were false and the court has refused to order institutions like the Crown Property Bureau, the Royal Office, and Thai Airways to provide financial and travel records, despite the defense’s repeated requests. This has undercut the defense’s ability to prove the statements were true. As one defendant noted at a recent hearing, without access to information to prove the truth of their comments “it is as if the defendant’s side is chained with one hand to the boxing ring, preventing them from punching and fighting with the other side.” If the court does not dismiss the case, it should at least allow the defense access to the materials it needs to both mount a defense and to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and arguments, today’s amicus brief said.

… “In violation of international principles, the court has tied the accused’s hands by obstructing their attempts to obtain documents that would prove the truth of their statements about the King. The absurdity of this situation is highlighted by the fact that the defendants are charged with lying that the King was not in Thailand during certain periods at the same time as defense lawyers have been prevented from accessing routine travel records,” said TrialWatch Expert the Honourable Kevin Bell AM KC, who has fifteen years of judicial experience in the conduct of criminal trials, including as former Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia.

Read the whole statement.

Jumpol dead

2 11 2022

Prachatai and the Bangkok Post report on the death of Jumpol Manmai, a former favorite of Prince/King Vajiralongkorn, who was disgraced by the palace. Read the two reports together and see how spineless the Post is whenever royals are concerned.

The one useful sentence in the Post story is the claim that his death due to a lung infection came after his years in jail and had “been treated for his illnesses after having been discharged from prison before passing away.”

Did he die from health problems that were due to his incarceration?

Of course, as the Prachatai story intimates, Jumpol was severely punished by the palace. Which other land encroacher has been paraded with shaved head and in chains? Which other land snaffler has disappeared on arrest, reportedly to Vajiralongkorn’s personal prison, refused to apply for bail and been convicted in a matter of days?

The cruel and vindictive Vajiralongkorn angrily dismissed Jumpol “for misconduct [that was] described by the palace as ‘extremely evil’. He abused his post for personal gain and his political interests threatened national security, it said.”

Jumpol had quite a history. For one thing, after being sidelined as a Thaksinite following the 2006 military coup, he was back by 2009. This is what Khaosod said earlier about Jumpol’s career:

A policeman by trade, Jumpol is better known as a well-connected political player with links to both former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra….

While he served as deputy police commissioner, Jumpol was considered for the top job at the police force in 2009, but did not make the final cut.

He’s considered by many political analysts to be a rare figure who can serve as a liaison between the Shinawatra clan and the palace circle.

After retiring from the force in 2010, Jumpol came back to the limelight in September when he was appointed deputy director of the Royal Household Bureau, a title also known as the Grand Chamberlain.

The job appeared to be tailor-made for him; the title of deputy director in the royal household did not exist prior to Jumpol’s appointment.

There’s more than this. Jumpol was rumored to be the then prince’s “candidate” for police chief back in 2009, which saw a major standoff with then premier Abhisit Vejjajiva. One result of this crisis was the resignation of secretary-general to PM Abhisit, Nipon Promphan, related by marriage to Suthep Thaugsuban.

Wikileaks has several cables that tell various elements of the police chief saga and the rumors of links between Jumpol and Thaksin: 21 Sept 2009, 24 Sept 2009, 28 Sept 2009, 6 Oct 2009.

People leading

22 11 2021

A report in The Nation got PPT thinking.

The report “How Lalisa took Thai silk to the world stage” reminded us that, until a few years ago, it was always the now aged and disabled Queen Sirikit who was propagandized as the one responsible for taking Thai silk to the world. This article marks a change where people are leading. Sure, the article mentions current Queen Suthida as wearing Thai silk, but no one outside of Thailand knows who she is or even cares.

We then recalled the recent Bangkok Post report and another in The Nation that Bangkok was to get another King Bhumibol Park.

Nothing wrong with having a new park, but why does the city need another expensive park administration that celebrates a dead king who already has a park named in his honor and countless other monuments around the country. If silk can be promoted by commoners, why not a People’s Park instead of another piece of royal idolatry?

The new park  was presented by the Bureau of the Royal Household, with “a virtual design for a new public park that will be built in commemoration of … King Bhumibol Adulyadej…, which is expected to be completed by 2024.”

The other park Suan Luang Rama IX Royal Botanic Garden established in on his 60th birthday in 1987. The stated objectives of this park seem little different from the new one.

The new one will be a large “279 rai of land, which served as the grounds for the Nang Loeng Racecourse of the Royal Turf Club in Dusit district, was donated by King Rama X for park development.”

Donated? To who? Doesn’t belong to the king? How’s he “donating” for more royal aggrandizement (and a nice view from the expanded palace zone).

Who will pay for the construction? Who will pay for its administration?

It is Vajiralongkorn who gets the propaganda value.

So we thought, why not a People’s Park? If he really is donating the land to some other body – the reports lack transparency – then why not a park that celebrates the people. After all, the royals have snatched the zoo and Sanam Luang, both of which were popular for the people. Why not repay/compensate them with a People’s Park?

Update: Overcoming PR failures

25 07 2021

In many countries, the vaccine rollout has been mired in secret or opaque contracts and quite a few governments have been providing only sparse details about strategies, contracts, and plans. In Thailand, this has been made even more opaque because the AstraZeneca vaccine is produced by the king’s Siam Bioscience, which means that almost no information has been produced and critics repressed.

It has only been in the past week or so that AstraZeneca has released some information, although this also remains vague on details, with the most recent reported in the Bangkok Post.


In essence, the company appears to confirm production problems at Siam Bioscience. It does this when it states that the  company “is ‘scouring’ its global supply chain to try and boost Covid-19 vaccine supplies to Thailand and Southeast Asia…”. It adds: “We are hopeful of importing additional doses in the months ahead…”.

Siam Bioscience, “a first-time vaccine maker,” is said to have “not commented on reports of production shortfalls or delivery timelines.”

So if the monarchy/regime bet that the production of the vaccine would boost the monarch hasn’t worked, and the king and his family have been pretty much invisible for much of the current virus trouble. But, his birthday is upon him and he has to be seen to be doing something.

Out of the blue and from an unlikely source, with the so-called Chulabhorn Royal Academy using Facebook to “announce” a huge royal “donation.”

Of course, the “Academy” also came out of the blue to order a replacement Chinese vaccine to make up for the AZ shortfall. It on-sold the vaccine, but as Andrew MacGregor Marshall on Twitter has shown, the Academy’ has been demanding displays of royal loyalty from those being vaccinated.

But this is small chips compared with its most recent “announcement.”

The Bangkok Post reported that the “Academy” posted that the king had “donated more than 2.8 billion baht for procurement of medical supplies and equipment to support efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.”

A couple of things come to mind. First, usually the Royal Household Bureau makes such announcements or through a Royal Gazette proclamation, so this one strikes us as being unorthodox. Second, the amount is large., but, if our shaky math is right, this “donation” would be about $85 million, amounting to only about 0.12% of his vast fortune (on our figures) or about double that if the usual figure for the king’s wealth is used – $30-35 billion.

On Facebook, the “Academy” claimed that “the the monarch donated the money to hospitals and medical facilities so they can buy medical equipment to deal with the pandemic…”.

If this report is in any way accurate – and often taxpayer funds are claimed as royal funds – then it seems  making up for the PR failures of the recent past is rather expensive.

Knowing the truth, though, is pretty much impossible.

Update: Andrew MacGregor Marshall has had a couple of very useful posts on virus politics at Secret Siam. In particular, related to our post, he points to a Prachatai post in Thai on the king’s “donations.” That article points out that the original “Academy” post was soon removed. It also points out that the figure is not very different from the previous report on royal donations.

Further updated: The monarchy-coup two-step

8 11 2020

Prior to the rally in the evening, it was reported by the Bangkok Post that some”15 companies of crowd control police” were to be “deployed at the Royal Plaza and the Bureau of the Royal Household to maintain law and order during today’s rally by anti-government protesters.”

The police stated that they expected the protesters would march on “Ratchadamnoen Avenue to either the Royal Plaza or the Bureau of the Royal Household.” And that’s pretty much what happened.

In anticipation, a “national security unit had prepared negotiating teams to talk with the protesters to minimise the rally’s adverse impacts on the general public … [and] “would strictly prohibit the protesters from demonstrating within a 150m-radius of HM the King’s palace.”

Metal barriers were set “between the anti-government protesters who will gather in front of McDonald’s and a group of royalists who intend demonstrating on the opposite side of the monument to reduce confrontation…”. There was no clashes as most of the yellow shirts – as if by magic – had all left by the time the pro-democracy event got fully underway.

Police also use “55 public buses from the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) to support their task of ‘facilitating traffic’ at the pro-democracy rally at Democracy Monument.”

The buses were used near the Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace complex, together with some razor wire and metal barricades, with hundreds of police manning them.

Clipped from The Nation

The “Free Youth group posted a message inviting people to join the demonstration.” It reportedly stated that:

a letter listing their demands would be submitted to HM the King via the Office of His Majesty’s Private Secretary, the Bureau of the Royal Household, the Privy Council as well as the PM. The letter also says the protesters do not want a violent confrontation and will call on the government to stop hurting the people and violating their rights.

They also assembled post boxes to receive letters from the public to the king.

All of this seemed quite well choreographed, so it was rather odd to learn that “Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said the government has not prepared any special measures to handle the protesters.”

As the protesters marched, they “were prevented by police on Sunday evening from reaching the Palace Office to petition for reform of the monarchy.” In doing that, at “around 6.45pm, police had used high pressure guns to spray water on the protesters.”

Oddly, the police could then be heard apologizing for using water cannon – no dye and no irritants – this was confirmed in live broadcasts by protest leaders. They stated “they accepted the apology with a grain of salt, and asked them to explain their past behaviour.”

While protesters breached an initial police cordon, they stopped short of the main police line, and the Bangkok Post reported that volunteer marshals kept the protesters away from the main police cordon.

At that point, “protest leaders read out a collectively agreed message, undersigned by the ‘People’, calling for reform of the monarchy before the crowd dispersed and the rally ended” at around 9.30pm.

It was difficult to assess the size of the crowd. As we write this post, the only estimate we had seen was “tens of thousands.”

The rally appeared somewhat less spontaneous and innovative than past events and it remains to be seen where the protesters go from here.

Update 1: Prachatai reports on the rally and says that “[a]ctivist Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon said that the letter writing activity is organised because they want those in power to listen to the voice of the people…”. A translation of the joint statement is included:

From the untainted people to King Vajiralongkorn,

With care, not cruelty

With well wish, not hatred

With hope, not fear

It is an absolute truth that all humans are both loved and loathed. Blood and roots do not judge whether a man should be loved or hated. Love and faith come from your own action.

A common man might have a choice to be surrounded by those who love and have faith in him. Even though it might turn out that around him are full of immoral, incompetent, obsequious people, still it is his choice.

However, a king cannot do so for he cannot choose between love and hatred.
It does not matter whether the people love the king or not, he must love them all the same.
If the king can talk to the people who love him, he must also talk to the people who do not all the same.

When you hear all the flattering praise from the people, you must also hear fearless criticisms and suggestions all the same.

When the king truly cherishes democracy, all people will find happiness.

The three demands from the people are the utmost compromise.

With power of equal human dignity,


Prachatai also reports that one innovation of note: A “We love the king” sticker with added words:

“We love the king that allows us to check.”
“We love the king that spends the tax worthwhile.”
“We love the king that do not endorse the coup.”

Update 2: Quite a few newspaper accounts – and a couple of readers – disagree with our statements that the protest yesterday “seemed quite well choreographed…” and “somewhat less spontaneous and innovative than past events.” They reckon it was another remarkable event. For example, Voranai Vanijaka at Thisrupt says “What happened last night, 8 November, was unprecedented.” He adds:

Ratsadon marched to the Grand Palace to submit letters to King Rama 10, with an envelope addressing him by his first name. The official letter’s content explained to the king how a king should behave.

Think about it in the context of Thai culture, a group of tweenies addressing the king by his first name and writing a letter explaining how the king should behave.

It’s not only unprecedented. It’s a world turn upside down.

After firing water cannons into the crowd, the police commander told the protestors he could not let them pass, for the area he’s guarding is a sacred site.

“Sacred” is the keyword.

Ratsadons are defying Thailand’s most sacred institution….

Facebook and the censors

2 08 2020

A couple of days ago we mentioned a report that “Facebook has admitted to an error in its automatic translation, from English to Thai, and has offered a profound apology to the Thai people.” As the error was not detailed, we assumed it involved the monarchy.

Several readers have now told us that the translation for the king’s birthday made it his death day.

But even after Facebook had made its apology, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society sprang into royalist action. It:

sent an urgent letter to Facebook in Singapore and Thailand, demanding the social media giant take responsibility over a mistranslated headline from English into Thai about the live broadcasting ceremony to celebrate the King’s birthday seen on several media Facebook pages on Tuesday.

At lightening speed, the police have begun “collecting evidence for an investigation into the matter following a complaint made by Thai PBS TV station on Wednesday.” Comparisons with the farce of the Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya case. The regime’s priorities are all too evident.

The panicked Thai PBS groveled, contacting ” the Royal Household Bureau, the DES Ministry and various agencies about the incident.”

DES Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, one of Suthep Thaugsuban’s men, “confirmed the letter was sent to Facebook” while “at a meeting with National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) together with internet service providers (ISPs) about efforts to deal with the violations of the Computer Crime Act.”

In other words, the Minister and the regime he serves are more broadly concerned about social media and the monarchy and to declare that the Ministry has been active, “gather[ing] evidence and fil[ing] complaints to the courts, which were asked to issue an order to close websites or delete information which breached the law.”

Buddhipongse said the Ministry had “received complaints about 8,715 URLs. Of them, the courts issued orders for action against 7,164 URLs.” Apparently this is for the first seven months of the year. The Minister added that “YouTube removed 1,507 out of 1,616 URLs [93%] on the court orders from its platform. Facebook took down 1,316 out of 4,676 URLs [28%] as ordered by the court.”

This caused him to criticize and threaten Facebook: “Facebook gave little cooperation although it operates a service in Thailand and Thais generate fruitful benefits to the company…”.

We decided to look at the data. While not yet available for the period the Minister rants about, Google (including YouTube) reports that for the whole of 2019, it received 4,684 requests for removal of specific items from Thai officials. It removed 3,945 or about 84%.

Facebook reports data that is only This report details instances where it has “limited access to content based on local law.” While we can’t find data for the number of requests received, the data do show how blocking has expanded over time (see our first post on this).

As the Thai Enquirer observes, this action coincides with “heightened tensions over the treatment of the Thai monarchy, in recent weeks, with ardent royalists becoming increasingly more active in protecting the [monarchy]… from becoming embroiled or linked with political commentary…”.

It might have added that it coincides with the long absence of the king from the country. As far as we can remember, since early this year, he’s only been in Thailand for a few hours. This has led to considerable muttering.

Tiwagorn released, supporters harassed

26 07 2020

In a somewhat odd report, the Bangkok Post reports Tiwagorn Withiton’s release from incarceration in a psychiatric hospital last Wednesday.

The report is odd because, while describing him as a “political and human rights activist,” seems to claim that he was forcibly “hospitalised in Khon Kaen after speaking out about Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s disappearance…”. Buried in the report is another comment: Tiwagorn “was seen wearing anti-monarchy T-shirts after the disappearance of Mr Wanchalerm, another political advocate who faced lese majeste charges…”.

It has been widely stated that Wanchalearm did not face lese majeste charges. It is also widely reported that Tiwagorn’s treatment was because of his t-shirt which declared he had “lost faith” in the monarchy. This statement is taken by the Post to be “anti-monarchy.”

At least the report admits that “Tiwagorn was seized by six hospital personnel and handcuffed by a soldier from Internal Security Operations Command at his home. He was then [forcibly] taken to the mental hospital and sectioned.”

The report adds that former lese majeste prisoner, law graduate and activist “Jatupat Boonpattararaksa … filed a petition with the Khon Kaen Provincial Court asking for Mr Tiwagorn’s released.” Of course, the “court dismissed the petition.”

Prachatai reports that activists who have agitated for Tiwagorn’s release have been threatened by the authorities.

It points to a university student in Bangkok being “visited” at home on 20 July “by 2 plainclothes police officers after he shared news about Tiwagorn and a Royal commemoration gate on his Facebook account.” The cops claimed “their ‘boss’ had ordered them to monitor the student. If any more monarchy-related news was shared, it may violate the Computer Crime Act.”

They warned the student to shut up, making him “sign a document which contains the promise that he will not post anything that criticizes or makes a negative reference to the monarchy again.”

The Prachatai report states that “Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that similar incidents have happened in many places where police officers showed up at people’s house without warrants and made people sign MOUs.”

One example is a shopkeeper in Loei, who posted Tiwagorn’s t-shirt, and found his shop surrounded by armed plainclothes police. They took the shopkeeper to “a police station for interrogation as a witness.”

Remarkably, the “police said that they will submit the case to the Bureau of the Royal Household for their decision on further action.”

When did the Royal Household Bureau become a part of the judiciary? In the past, it was always (falsely) claimed that the palace was detached from cases involving the monarchy.

Rolling back 1932 one piece of property at a time IV

1 08 2019

We have posted much about King Vajiralongkorn’s property acquisitions. An example was in April last year. This post is about a Khaosod story on the Vimanmek Mansion, which is a royal property. The story, however, hints at the bigger plans for the area around the so-called Royal Plaza.

Vimanmek Mansion was once a royal villa and palace. It was located in the Dusit Palace area, near the defunct Dusit Zoo, acquired by the king. It was a 72 room villa, first celebrated and used on 27 March 1901. It was a palace for five years. By 1932, it was being used “as a storage place of the Bureau of the Royal Household.” It was restored in 1982 and was open to visitors until 2016.

Following reports that it was “gone,” Khaosod reporters went to the area. They were told that the villa had been taken apart to allow work on foundations, with palace officials saying the “historic teakwood mansion will be fully rebuilt after repair works are completed…”. The work is said to be budgeted at 81 million baht. That seems altogether too low (see below). But, who is paying?

The story continues:

But here’s the bad news for anyone wishing to admire the mansion’s spectacular Thai-Western architecture once again – Vimanmek will not welcome visitors after the renovation efforts are over.

It won’t be reopened to the public. It’ll be closed off permanently,” an official at the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, which manages the property, said by phone. “We don’t know when the renovation will be completed.”…

Royal Guards armed with rifles stood at attention, facing the construction site while workers labored….

Documents published online by Bangkok’s Department of Public Works and Town Planning earmarked a one-million baht fund for daily “accommodation and transportation” for the laborers, since they are not allowed to live on the palace compound.

The report includes mention of new ponds and an underground tunnel.

It seems highly likely that the “royal precinct” that has been created in recent years is set to be made into something grand and “fitting” for the world’s wealthiest monarch.

Lese majeste verdict overturned

30 05 2019

Khaosod reports on a lese majeste case we do not think we have heard of previously. A search of our site and of iLaw did not pinpoint previous reporting of the case (that we could find).

Khaosod explains that a “former monk accused of fabricating ties to the monarchy was on Wednesday convicted of fraud but acquitted of royal defamation” after previously having been convicted of under Article 112.

Wankasat Promthong, who is now 31, was arrested in 2016 and was originally convicted of fraud and lese majeste in November 2017, and sentenced to five years and nine months in prison.

He was found guilty of “selling amulets with forged royal insignias and dishonestly claiming the trinkets were sponsored by the palace.”

On appeal, only his fraud conviction was upheld, resulting in a sentence of two years and nine months.

The Appeals Court ruled that “the defendant claimed false ties to the monarchy only to pursue monetary gain, and not to defame or insult the royal family.”

It was said that “Wankasat, formerly Phra Wankasat, told other monks at his temple that he was raised in the royal palace and anointed into monkhood by the late [then alive] King Bhumibol.”

He sold his amulets “emblazoned with the royal insignia under pretensions that they were sponsored by the Royal Household Bureau, according to the prosecutors.”

If this is a “new” revelation of a lese majeste case, we wonder how many more there have been that have not been publicly revealed.

Palace propaganda and the new reign

28 02 2019

As PPT has mentioned in several posts, when succession finally came, there were numerous commentators who had predicted a crisis and even an unraveling of the monarchy. Part of the “crisis” was that King Vajiralongkorn, because of his checkered past and odd personality could not have the same palace propaganda that had made his father’s benign, deified image, even when the reality of his reign was quite different.

The period since Vajiralongkorn came to the throne have shown that for all of his personal foibles and the great fear associated with his erratic and narcissistic behavior, for the palace propaganda machine, nothing much has changed. The monarch is promoted using familiar and what the palace (and junta) considers tried and true methods.

These comments are prompted by a Bangkok Post story that has the junta “urging the public to wear a yellow shirt bearing the royal emblem of … the King from April until July as part of nationwide celebrations of the royal coronation in May.”

This yellow shirt wearing gimmick was really only widely adopted around the time of the dead king’s 60th jubilee which coincided with agitation against Thaksin Shinawatra. Yellow shirts became a symbol of loyalty and was taken up by the People’s Alliance for Democracy as it marked its territory as monarchists.

Even some who were to become red shirts donned loyalist yellow shirts.

When the military coup came in 2006, the troops marked themselves as loyalists by using yellow ribbons.

More recently, we have seen the creation of “royal volunteers for the king,” all of them decked out a loyalist uniform associated with the current king.

It was Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, speaking “after a second meeting of the government’s committee responsible for handling procedures for the ceremony” who revealed that the Prime Minister’s Office (The Dictators Office) “will issue a design prototype of the royal emblem for the yellow shirt.”

That design has already been approved by the king but the “committee is now waiting for a letter from the [Royal Householf B]ureau to confirm details of the design so it can be used as the official logo for the ceremony…”. Only that emblem will be permitted to be used.

That emblem will be reproduced in millions and will blanket the country and suffocate its people. Nothing much has changed. And, the events and displays of loyalty play into the junta’s political hands.

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