Judicial intimidation and repression

6 12 2020

We have known for some time that the loyalist Constitutional Court brooks no criticism. However, its recent political decision allowing Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s free gifts from the Royal Thai Army, despite the words against this in the constitution, means the court and the regime are going to be busy dousing the critical commentary of the kangaroo court.

A story at Thai Enquirer is worth considering. It points out that, after the court’s decision, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, a secretary to the Office of the Prime Minister, warned protesters associated with the new People’s Party and the Move Forward Party “to not create trouble and respect the high court’s decision.” In addition, the Constitutional Court “issued a statement urging people to avoid criticism that could lead to prosecution…”. It stated that “a person shall enjoy the liberty to express opinions, but criticism of rulings made with vulgar, sarcastic or threatening words will be considered a violation of the law.”

It is difficult not to be sarcastic when characterizing the decisions made by this cabal of politicized regime crawlers and fawners.

The story observes that the “impermissibility of judicial criticism … is a growing concern and has been on the rise since the May 2014 coup d’etat…”. It notes that “[t]hreats to critics have become commonplace.”

Recent high-profile cases include “two academics were summoned by the Court for making comments critical of court decisions.”

Sarinee Achavanuntakul, an academic wrote an opinion piece in Krungthep Turakit arguing that judges were “careless” in their interpretation of election law after disqualifying a Future Forward Party candidate from running in the March 2019 election. Kovit Wongsurawat, a lecturer at Kasetsart University, also received a letter from the Court over an “inappropriate” tweet.

This trend is described as “alarming,” and makes the case that charges of contempt of court are “used in the same fashion as other draconian and authoritarian laws such as lese majeste and the Computer Crime Act to curb dissent.”

The use of courts for political repression is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes.

In the case of the Constitutional Court, its powers are more or less unbounded; it has the power to issue summons to anyone without due process. Guilt is determined on the spot.” The story adds that “[u]nder Section 38 of the Organic Act on Procedures of the Constitutional Court, judges have the power to limit criticism–and have the authority to remand the accused to as much as a month in prison.”

Described as “a thuggish attempt to call dissenters before the Court,” this power to repress is likened to the junta’s  “attitude adjustment sessions.”

It concludes that “[t]ogether, the Court and the regime are demanding no less than silence before, during and after a case appears before it.”

By seeking to intimidate, the article suggests that the Constitutional Court “risks the further erosion of public legitimacy, as their actions chip away at what remains of democratic mechanisms in Thailand,” adding that this “growing intolerance of judicial criticism is another painful reminder of how far Thailand has fallen and that this behavior by the Court has become normalized.”





It is still a military regime V

9 06 2020

There’s been some very strange reporting on military snooping.

Yesterday, Khaosod reported that the “Ministry of Defense on Monday confirmed a proposal asking mobile phone operators to give up the location data of those who were in close proximity to coronavirus patients.”

Today, the Bangkok Post reports that the “Ministry of Defence has denied requesting mobile phone location data from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to monitor the Covid-19 outbreak in Thailand.”

The Khaosod report states that in a “leaked document published by academic and activist Sarinee Achavanuntakul, mobile phone operators are asked to provide location logs for the past 14 days of users who are found to contract the virus…. They are also told to provide mobile number information of the users who shared the same location with the patients.”

The Post report states that “Defence Ministry spokesman, Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich, said the ministry has no authority to demand private mobile phone information…”. It said he was seeking to counter “reports that the ministry had asked mobile network operations to send in their customers’ location data to assist with efforts to curb the spread of the disease.”

In both reports, Gen Raksak Rojphimphum, director of defense policy and planning office, is quoted as confirming the actions. He said: “We have good intentions…. We collaborated with different agencies to see whether the plan is possible. We concluded that it is executable, so we sent that letter out for the benefit of outbreak investigation.” In the Post report he tries to backpedal, saying other agencies lead on this. So why the letter? No answer.

Gen Raksak then went on to “explain” that the data was needed “to track mobile phone users by citing the cluster of infections at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium.” The tone deaf general said: “If we had the mobile phone information of all 2,800 people at the stadium, we would have been able to send a text to warn them immediately…”. In fact, if the Army boxing stadium had followed instructions, there wouldn’t have been a cluster.

Increased surveillance seems to be tried and occurring in many countries. However, only in the most authoritarian of countries does the military do this. Again, the regime demonstrates that it is the military running things in Thailand.





Seeking safety in cyberspace

31 05 2020

At Quartz, there’s discussion of efforts to find safety on line. By “safety” is meant avoiding visits from the police and military for what one reads and writes online.

It begins by quoting Sarinee Achavanuntakul, an independent commentator and associated with the Thai Netizen Network, who discarded Twitter: “Say goodbye to Twitter and meet at Minds.”

Many are now “wary and distrustful of Twitter over a recent string of developments on the platform that sparked privacy concerns.”

After Facebook became unsafe, patrolled by state and reporting to authorities, with several arrested and charged with lese majeste, Thais turned to Twitter.

Now, they worry about Twitter:

The most proximate cause was an update to the platform’s privacy policy on May 19, set to take effect globally next month, allowing Twitter to share device-level data like a user’s IP address with business partners. The policy update came just days after Twitter launched an official Twitter Thailand account, with an accompanying blog post noting that Twitter has partnered with local NGOs and the government. To Thai Twitter users, that was a huge red flag, sparking fears that incriminating user information could be shared with the government.

Sarinee said the “newly set up official Twitter Thailand account was ‘very tone deaf, boring… using official language’…”. For many, when a Twitter spokesperson said the company is “committed to serving an open and public conversation in Thailand and will continue to be transparent” it sounded something like an admission that it is now working with the repressive state.

The, in February, “a Thai Twitter user was arrested for allegedly posting a tweet that insulted the monarchy. It was the first arrest directly linked to a tweet…”. Other users, some of them critical of the monarchy, began to get “visits” from the authorities.

Some users have turned to Minds. It is described this way:

Minds has become popular for its commitment to privacy, decentralization, optional anonymity, radical transparency, free speech, and user rewards in contrast to the surveillance, secrecy, censorship, and algorithm manipulation occurring on many proprietary social networks.





Updated: Control and surveillance

25 12 2016

The puppet National Legislative Assembly’s dutiful passing of amendments to the computer crimes law came despite considerable opposition expressed in a giant petition.

The revised law expands the capacity of the military junta’s capacity to “protect” itself and the monarchy, there has been more opposition. Limited in so many ways by the junta’s repression, the opposition has involved hactivism, some brave demonstrations and more discussion.

A forum held today saw critics warning of the impacts of the law but also of the junta’s broader plans for greater control and surveillance.

Sarinee Achawanantakul of the Thai Netizen Network told the forum that several other draft bills, which will also be dutifully passed by the NLA, including the Cyber Security Bill and a radio frequency allocation bill, will expand the state’s control. Sarinee “said the government sector had an idea to control mainstream media.”

Its an important point.

The military dictatorship wants to control everything and oppress everyone. However, this is not new in any way. Rather, this is the “traditional” role of the “king’s servants.”

The civil and military bureaucracy has long allocated to itself the paternalist role, ensuring that the children-citizens are properly ordered. As with everything else the dictatorship does, this is rolling back the years and the political developments since 1992 that began to alter the relationship between the military-monarchy regime and its bureaucracy (amart) and the children-citizens (phrai).

Update: The Bangkok Post has an updated story on the forum.





Keeping the country orderly and organized

29 12 2015

The Nation has a couple of articles that look at the Computer Crimes law.

In the first article, Sarinee Achawanantakul, who is President of the Foundation of Internet and Civic Culture or the Thai Netizen Network, argues that “[p]ressing ‘like’ on a[n allegedly] defamatory message posted on Facebook is certainly not a crime…”.

Clicking “like” on a Facebook post, according to Sarinee,”… should not violate Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act, which is meant to punish those who propagate false information regarding national security and stability, or information that pertains to obscenity. This is especially so as Facebook “prevents users from setting their preferences to control how their ‘likes’ are displayed or with whom they are shared.” In addition, “Facebook posts can always be edited by the person who posted the original message, and thus the full significance of ‘likes’ cannot always be conclusively evaluated.”Facebook-Like-Button

Seems reasonable to PPT, but not to the authorities who enforce this law and lese majeste. As Sarinee notes, in the current political climate, which is repressive, there is encouragement for “a biased interpretation of the law that results in unjust outcomes…”. In addition, Sarinee said “the Act’s current application is far beyond the original definition of the Act and therefore could be considered ‘dangerous’.”

The second article sets out an official view, and as would be expected, it is chilling. Police Colonel Olarn Sukkasem, said to be the superintendent of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, Central Investigation Bureau, and in charge of enforcing the Computer Crime Act, sees “likes” as identifying “social media conspirators.”

“Liking” defamatory content on Facebook sparks debate on whether acknowledging such posts should be considered a crime. On the one hand, authorities say the action is deemed as supporting dissent, but on the other, cyber-liberty advocates say Facebook “likes” only constitute support of the online record of a pre-existing act. “Liking” a message that turns out to be identified as “controversial or defamatory … on Facebook is certainly a crime as it shows support for the content.”Facebook-Dislike-Button

The colonel equates this action as “on par with cheering someone who has murdered a victim.”

Olarn warned that clicking “like” was “showing support for the content. If they perform any action regarding the message whatsoever … that are contributing to the message.” He views this as an act that “threatens national security and stability.”

The superintendent “admitted that the police have limited resources and they cannot arrest all wrongdoers in this context.” He said police:

… do prioritise their list of arrest warrants based on the actions of the suspects. For instance, if a thousand people ‘like’ an inappropriate post, but one among them also posts other defamatory photos or messages, that person would be arrested first…. The superintendent said in that case some people might be considered guiltier than others, although all of the thousand Facebook conspirators would be considered legally guilty…. Olarn added that the person who went to the trouble of adding other photos or messages would potentially be considered more “dangerous” than the others.

He admitted that Facebook-related arrests were unlikely in other countries where the Thai arrests were sen as “an extreme reaction…”. However, he said “critics of Thailand should not be oversensitive about the issue.”

Olarn “explained” that “Thai people had been used to limitless freedom, which had caused society to become disorganised. Something had to be done to stop people from exercising their free will without enough consideration about others…”. He added that the country’s “current socio-political situation is abnormal and stringent law enforcement in society is needed to keep the country orderly and organised…”.

He means repressed and suppressed.





More lese majeste cases to come

10 09 2011

In a report in The Nation on the lese majeste and computer crimes trial of Prachatai’s Chiranuch Premchaiporn there is some grim news for those who have been hoping that the peak season of lese majeste charges may have been behind Thailand with the change of government to a less obviously royalist administration.

Prosecution witness Police Lieutenant Boonlert Kalayanamitr, who was the last witness from the prosecution, told reporters that he didn’t want to say much to the media “because giving interviews will affect the security and the Crown. It’s dangerous.” He did explain that “there were many cases still being pursued…”.

This seemed confirmed in broad terms by Sarinee Achavanuntakul, a key member of the Thai Netizen Network, who stated that “further crackdowns on lese majeste offenders would likely continue, especially ‘under a climate where all [political groups] are competing to become more royalist than others’.”





More on internet censorship

28 05 2009

The Bangkok Post (28 May 2009: “Self censorship plagues net”) has a follow-up on the Thai Netizen Network report of a couple of days ago. Unaccountably, in the web-based version, it appears under the headline “Web Crime.”

The 2007 Computer Crimes Act has created immense fear, resulting in self-censorship by webmasters wishing to avoid harsh penalties. This is particularly an issue for internet-based public forums. In addition, internet service providers impose their own censorship based on the same pressure from the authorities.

Academic Ubonrat Siriyuwasak is reported as claiming that the “government is closely watching websites which serve as forums on social and political issues after they became popular channels. Some had become so powerful they could direct public opinion or cause changes in society…”.

Sarinee Achawanantakul of Thai Netizen Network is reported as claiming that the government’s methods are ineffective.

Fear of severe penalties for breaching security regulations have led to many internet-based public forums adopting a policy of self-censorship, a seminar was told yesterday.

The 2007 Computer Crimes ActFear of severe penalties for breaching security regulations have led to many internet-based public forums adopting a policy of self-censorship, a seminar was told yesterday.

The 2007 Computer Crimes Act