Warping “law”

25 12 2017

Reader will have noticed that PPT has had to use inverted commas for rather a lot of words used in Thailand where the meaning is not as it seems, This includes such seemingly important words as election when that “election” is manipulated for a particular outcome and justice where “justice” is actually injustice.

We have also long been critical of various aspects of the “justice” system as being feudal, subject to double standards and political manipulation.

Of course, our longest criticisms have been of the lese majeste law, which has long been (mis)used. Since the 2006 military coup this misuse has become farcical. By this we mean that the use of the law has been as a tool for palace and military regime in ways that have been increasingly absurd, feudal and, in fact and in law, lawless.

One aspect of this lawless use of the lese majeste law has been in the application of the law to figures not covered by the law.

A recent article, “Who is an ‘Heir(-Apparent)?’: An old issue that is still new today” by Metta Wongwat examines how the law has been used to “protect” Princess Sirindhorn. As explained,

the scope of the royal persons protected by the law has a … problematic interpretation, despite the fact that the law clearly specifies only four positions, namely, the King, the Queen, the Heir-Apparent and the Regent.

The article includes some cases not previously known to PPT. The article examines the proceedings of these cases and the decisions made by the courts.

These cases are worth reading for the efforts judges make to consider Sirindhorn and “heir apparent.”

In one case, in 2004, while the prosecutor initially lodged a defamation case, an initial court decision elevated the case to lese majeste with a banal Royal Institute dictionary definition being used and further interpreted. At that time, the higher courts rejected this interpretation and dismissed the lese majeste charge.

In a second case, the court seems to consider any defamation against any royal to constitute lese majeste. While the Royal Household Bureau responded to a court request stating that, in 2010, only then Prince Vajiralongkorn was heir apparent, as the case included other royals covered by the law, lese majeste stuck.

A third case involves a man accused defaming Princess Sirindhorn while in  private conversation with a friend. The case was initially dropped, but following the 2014 coup, the case was tried in 2014. The Provincial Court of Thanyaburi and Appeals Court dismissed the charge because the offense did not constitute lese majeste. The public prosecutor is appealing the case.

The fourth case demonstrates the manipulation of the law that has been definitional of the military junta’s misuse of lese majeste. Four were accused of misusing Sirindhorn’s name for profit. Two of the defendants were pressured to plead guilty to lese majeste and they were promptly jailed.

The other two defendants remain imprisoned challenging the charge. The two who pleaded guilty have been released, being “rewarded” for not challenging the court and the misused charge.

The lawyers for the still detained men have repeatedly run into illegal brick walls. They sought documents and testimony from the case heard in the Thanyaburi Provincial Court. In a surreal decision, the court ruled that the royal letter didn’t appear to exist, despite the lawyers citing the correspondence number of the Royal Household Bureau. The testimony from the investigating officer to the Thanyaburi Court was also ruled out with the court saying it would “not cross the line…”. It is clear that “the line” is real investigation and proper justice.

When the lawyers then found that the Council of State’s website had a “publicly displayed … consultation letter from the Royal Police Department in 1989, that [stated] the Crown Prince is the only heir-apparent,” they asked the court to issue a summons for the document. Surprisingly, the court did seek the document from the Council of State.

The response of the Council of State was to remove the document from its website and made it secret, saying that the “document is classified state information and its release could cause damage.” This Council is one of Thailand’s most important legal institutions. but is prepared to break and bend the law to allow courts to make decisions that flout the law.

The lese majeste law is warped by such manipulation while warping the whole justice system.





More secret palace deals

9 12 2017

In a secret consideration, the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has approved “adjustments to the law that manages the safety and security of … the [k]ing and members of the [r]oyal [f]amily.”

After the event, it is reported that the NLA “voted unanimously to approve an amendment to the 2014 Law of Royal Safety in line with the 2017 Constitution, as well as a new law concerning the Royal household.”

The amendment to the 2014 law reportedly “authorises the Principal Private Secretary to … the [k]ing to provide security services to the monarchy rather than a committee chaired by Chief of Aide de Camp General to … the [k]ing, as stipulated in the old law…”.

The previous committee “included military commanders and other relevant officials…”. Whether there will be a new committee is apparently up to the Principal Private Secretary. That person:

… will also be in charge of security and safety services for … the [k]ing and members of the [r]oyal [f]amily whenever they travel abroad…. The old law commissioned the Aide de Camp Department [of the military] and the Foreign Ministry to take care of their safety. Under the new law, the Principal Private Secretary … will plan and command safety measures for … the [k]ing….

The 2014 Law on Royal Safety also “authorised the prime minister to be involved in the approval of safety plans for … the [k]ing and members of the [r]oyal [f]amily.” That role is now gone.

It is reported that the “amendment will be promulgated in the Royal Gazette later,” and that the “content of the new amendment was not available to the public during the NLA debate.”

This is another move consolidating palace affairs in the king’s hands and a process of removing all vestiges of civilian control of the monarchy and palace that were put in place in 1932 and after.

Earlier, the NLA had approved the transfer of the Royal Household Bureau, Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, Royal Aide-De-Camp Department, Office of Royal Court Security Police and Royal Security Command, formerly under control of the Ministry of Defense, the Prime Minister’s Office and the police, to the king.

He’s continuing the process of making the monarchy independent of any notion of civilian and parliamentary control. The previous justification for the move was that issues related to the king and his family could not be served by the state bureaucracy.

Not that long ago, the arrangements for control of the fabulously wealthy Crown Property Bureau were passed to the king in another secret set of dealings.





Further updated: More royal house cleaning

8 11 2017

[Note: we have reworded parts of this post to add a little detail and have also included an update to more recent reporting on this sacking.]

It is widely believed that former Grand Chamberlain Distorn Vajarodaya is not favored by the King Vajiralongkorn. Confirming the king’s distaste, Distorn was demoted and demeaned in January. He has now he’s been sacked from the Royal Household Bureau and further shamed.

In an order dated 6 November and signed by Lord Chamberlain Chirayu Isarangkun Na Ayudhya, the Royal Household Bureau has dismissed Grand Chamberlain “for disciplinary violations” and what were called “severely immoral acts.”

Distorn was also chairman of the royal Rajaprajanugroh Foundation. He was said to have “committed four serious wrondoings…”.

As the chairman of the foundation, he was said to have “abused his power by instructing a foundation official to issue a document certifying the donation of 25 million baht by a person, even though the donation did not occur.” Later, it is alleged that Distorn “used the certificate to ask for a royal decoration for that person.”

Another charge was that he was:

found taking soil leftover from the construction of the new parliament for sale to a land developer and for use as fill at his own place, even though the Lower House gave the soil to the foundation for its own use.

Yet another charge was that Distorn had “used a royal car that was involved in an accident.” Related, he was accused of making a “false claim of the monarch’s signature” used “to import a car without paying tax in order to replace the damaged vehicle.”

The report states that all of this “was done without royal permission…”.

Quite remarkably, at least when one considers the king’s serial adultery, the Royal Household Bureau:

discovered very unpleasant behaviour in his personal affairs. Mr Distorn had an intimate relationship with a woman who was not his wife. When she became pregnant, he forced her to have an abortion and eventually forced her marry another man….

So out he went. We doubt many observers will buy this stuff at face value. Distorn may have done some or all of these things, but more is going on.

In January, we had a long quote from royal watcher Andrew MacGregor Marshall on problems the king had with senior officials close to his dead father:

One of the most prominent families of palace officials is the Vajarodaya clan (the surname is sometimes transliterated as Watcharothai). The octogenarian family patriarch Kaeokhwan Vajarodaya [now deceased] was a childhood friend of King Bhumibol, and has been Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau since 1987…. [O]ver the past two decades, Kaeokhwan’s nephew Disthorn Vajarodaya has become particularly close to Bhumibol. [Wikileaks cables} named him in 2009 as one of the very few people in the king’s innermost circle of confidantes….  Disthorn was chairman of the king’s Rajanukhrao Foundation and a Grand Chamberlain in the Royal Household Bureau. Over recent years he has usually been at Bhumibol’s side when the king makes his rare public appearances. He has become a familiar face to most Thais who have often seen him on royal news broadcasts, accompanying the king.

When the new king took over, it was reported that:

 Disthorn … was instructed to attend a special training course so he could learn to perform his duties properly, and thereafter he would serve as a private page of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. He would be banned from ever again running any of the agencies in the Royal Household Bureau…. Disthorn and his cousins Ratthanwut and Watcharakitti apparently [had to] undergoing their special training….

Marshall added:

Vajiralongkorn clearly intends to publicly shame the three palace officials, and then continue to torment them indefinitely afterwards. Disthorn, for years one of the closest friends of King Bhumibol, suddenly finds himself forced to obey the whims of Vajiralongkorn, first in a humiliating training course and then as the crown prince’s personal page. It is a dizzying fall from grace, and will be an ongoing nightmare for him.

It seems that torment has now completed and Distorn ditched and shamed. A lese majeste charge has sometimes followed such royal house cleaning under Vajiralongkorn.

Update: As expected, it is reported that “Distorn will face legal action for breaking the law, said the source from the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB).” We thought it remarkable that the “Royal Household Bureau is expected to lodge a formal complaint against Mr Distorn when it finishes compiling evidence to support the complaint…”. But, then, we thought that this is the palace, so it can make law (think of the constitution changes and changes to the control of the palace and Crown Property Bureau), operate its own jail, and conduct its own investigations! It is truly a law unto itself. How very feudal.

And the claims of Distorn’s sexual “misbehavior” have expanded:

Distorn was intimate with a woman whom he got pregnant on two occasions. He forced her to abort once but the second time she resisted.

As a result, he forced her to marry another man, according to the bureau.

No mention of the grand irony in this. As noted above, the king is a serial adulterer and has savaged his legal wives each time he has ditched them.





The king’s political moves

14 05 2017

Should people be concerned that the king is accumulating power to his personal position? Obviously, unless one is a deaf, dumb and blind ultra-royalist, the answer is unquestionably affirmative.

Under the changes that were demanded by the king before he’d endorse the junta’s constitution, it might have been thought that the changes were mostly about the king’s powers over his domain in the palace, as well as sorting out any constitutional crisis.

Now, however, it is clear that the king is accumulating far broader powers than any king has had since 1932.

The Nation reports that a new royal decree, required by the changes to the constitution, was published in the Royal Gazette on 10 May.

It outlines the re-organization of the palace and the personnel associated with the administration of “agencies that work directly under … the [k]ing.”

According to the “Royal Decree on the Organisation and Personnel Administration of Agencies under the King, … there are three main agencies involved – the Privy Council, Royal Household Bureau, and Royal Security Command.”

The report continues:

Under this new law, privy councillors and civilian, military and police officers working in those agencies are considered officials under the King’s custody. They are not regarded as civil servants or state officials, although they retain the status of “competent officers” under the Penal Code.

According to the royal decree, the King may give military or police ranks to and remove those ranks from any of the officials under his custody at his pleasure.

Also, the legislation allows [the king]… to appoint, promote, transfer, demote and remove officials under the King’s custody at his pleasure. He may transfer officials working under him to other agencies and vice versa.

These are remarkable powers and allow for royal interference in every agency of government. Be very worried how they may be used by an unpredictable egoist.





King’s power increased, public funds (mis)used

2 05 2017

Thailand’s restoration of feudal institutions and relationships just moved another step into the dark ages.

In an earlier post, PPT posted on a secret meeting of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly that gave a bunch of state agencies to the king.

Because it was a secret meeting, little was actually known about the changes made. Now, Khaosod has reported the changes. We think that the changes are important enough to reproduce the report in full, leaving out a last paragraph that was background:

Five state agencies that oversee the palace’s security and management were transferred to custody of … the King on Monday.

The transfer was announced last night in a bill passed in secret by the interim parliament two weeks ago. Following the bill’s enactment, the five agencies are no longer state bodies, but entities directly overseen by King Vajiralongkorn.

The transferred agencies are the Royal Household Bureau, Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, Royal Thai Aide-De-Camp Department, Office of Royal Court Security Police and Royal Security Command. The first manages royal affairs while the rest provide security services to the monarch.

They were formerly under control of the Ministry of Defense, the Prime Minister’s Office and the police.

The law transfers ownership of all agencies but the four-year-old Royal Court Security Police from the public back to the crown for the first time since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932. They will continue to receive public funds for their operation under Section 5 of the bill. The same section said any revenues generated by the four agencies will not be forwarded to the state treasury.

The bill’s footnote said the transfer was necessary for more efficient management of issues related to [the king] … and his family, whose needs cannot be served by the state bureaucracy.

The law was brought before the junta’s rubber stamp parliament on April 20, where it was discussed and approved in a single day by secret vote.

What a deal for the taxpayer. Pay for all these things but if they make any money, the royal freeloaders keep it. How feudal. How pathetic.





More Sirindhorn fraudsters

29 04 2017

Since about the time that the king was crown prince and began the nasty separtion from the then Princess Srirasmi in late 2014, there have been several spates of lese majeste cases against persons claimed to have been making profit from their real or alleged relationship to royals.

In August 2015, there were cases brought against four persons alleged to have made false claims about the monarchy, falsifying public documents, fraud, and impersonating officers from the Royal Household Bureau.

Prachatai reports that the military “have arrested a group of people in southern Thailand who are allegedly involved in a network making false claims about the monarchy for financial gain.”

The report states:

On 27 April 2017, soldiers arrested Nonglak B., a radio host from Thungsong District of Surat Thani Province after several individuals were arrested and taken to a local military base a day earlier for interrogation.

They were arrested for reportedly promising the 2017 ‘Thep Kinnari Award’, the award from Princess Sirindhorn given to people working towards preserving Thai arts and cultures, in exchange for money from those who wanted to receive the award.

At the same time, soldiers and police officers in Trang Province arrested Waraporn W., president of Women’s Cultural Club Under Royal Patronage, and Patthiya C. together with four other people under similar accusation.

Nonglak, Patthiya, and Waraporn were detained at a military base under Article 44. If these cases follow the earlier ones, these persons are likely to be accused of lese majeste.

Initial reports stated that six persons were held, with a later report commenting on one further arrest. The arrests were widely covered in the media, including during arrests.

We suspect there’s a lot more to this story than has been in the media. However, like the other alleged fraud-cum-lese majeste cases, little more is likely to be reported of them unless the media shows more tenacity in following the cases rather than just reporting the claims the regime feeds it.





Reporting official political vandalism

24 04 2017

The Nation has a particularly useful report the details surrounding the removal of the 1932 plaque, which most pundits now agree was at the behest of the palace, probably based on faulty astrological advice.

Reporters have now tracked down witnesses to the event and constructed a kind of timeline. The report states:

Some photos shared and scrolled down on social media pages, along with accounts of “regulars” and concerned authorities as checked by the Nation have shown that between late last month and April 6, at least two distinctive activities took place at the Royal Plaza before the public was alerted last Friday [14 April] that the plaque was missing.

A regular visitor to the area stated that “late last month the statue of the former [k]ing [the equestrian statue] was renovated, with some framework set up and covered with translucent green sheets.” That renovation was confirmed by the Fine Arts Department.

This witness then states that “from April 4 to 6, there were a few tents set up next to it – around the spot where the plaque was located.” He adds that these “tents were closed and draped with cloth, so the regulars could not see anything inside.” When the tents were gone, so was the plaque, replaced by royalist graffiti.

His account was generally confirmed by others and by photographic evidence. “Other regular visitors …[stated] that they saw a couple of tents near the statue of King Chulalongkorn a few days before Chakri Day on April 6.” These “tents were located some metres away, on the right side of the equestrian statue, where the plaque was.”

These witnesses add that on “April 5, the Plaza also closed early – at 9pm, due to arrangements needed for Chakri Day…”.

Photos from “March 28 [show] the framework was set up around the statue. Other photos, … taken at least on April 1, also show individuals working inside the sheeting. However, no tents were seen set up nearby…. The tents appeared in some photos taken on April 4 to 5. But on April 6, there were no tents seen on the spot.” The Fine Arts Department confirmed that the tents did not belong to them.

Confirming this timeline,

Sarttarin Tansoon, a political science lecturer at Kasetsart University, told The Sunday Nation that a group of his students saw the original plaque during a field trip to the Royal Plaza from April 1 and 3.

On April 8, another group of his students went to the Plaza to see the plaque, but found it had been replaced.

Several agencies have official tasks in the area. The “Dusit district administration takes care of overall tidiness, the police are in charge of security. The Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning is in charge of the road surface, while the King’s statue is overseen by the Fine Arts Department.” In addition, the “Bureau of the Royal Household (BRH), meanwhile, is authorised to permit activities or events to be held on the Plaza…”.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority’s Traffic and Transportation Department is responsible for the CCTV cameras in the area, which they ever so conveniently claim were all turned off before one of the main royal events of the year in that area.

Now the military junta has arranged for the protection of the new royalist graffiti:

Dozens of metropolitan police, plus plainclothes officers were deployed and on guard 24/7 around the compound, and especially the spot where a new plaque was embedded to replace the 81-year-old Constitution plaque metres away from the [k]ing’s statue.

Reporters are told not to take photos. Visitors are told to leave the site.

It is clear that the removal was an official act. Something this symbolic and this significant was ordered from on high.