Journalist charged after angering The Dictator

9 08 2017

The military dictatorship has has again demonstrated its capacity for sullen and vengeful (mis)use of what passes for law and the justice system in Thailand.

Khaosod journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk has been charged under Article 116 of the criminal code (sedition) and computer crimes for criticizing the junta. Yesterday he met police to actually learn what it was in his social media account that annoyed the junta. Before then, the police had refused to explain.

Both charges carry penalties of up to seven years in jail. Facing up to fourteen years in jail, Pravit revealed that one charge relates to a post from February 2016, “when he criticised the junta-drafted constitution.”

The second charge is revealing of the reason for these charges and why the junta’s police had to trawl back to 2016. Last month, Pravit posted a critical comment on The Dictator’s “handling of floods and the trial of ousted premier Yingluck Shinawatra.”

From Wikipedia’s article on lese majeste

Clearly, The Dictator went into yet another rage and demanded action against the impertinent journalist.

This is confirmed in Khaosod’s report that “a representative from the military filed complaint against Pravit … on July 28. The source … said the charges under the Computer Crime Act would rely on its provisions covering online defamation.”

Quite obviously, criticizing General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand’s dictatorial leader since May 2014, is now an act of treason. The sedition and computer crimes law are now The Dictator’s equivalent of lese majeste. He is so thin-skinned that he can brook no critical comment. His arrogance is monarchical and maniacal.

Pravit has “vowed to continue to speak out against the junta…”. He added, “I’m not surprised by the charge…. Anyone who criticizes them [the junta] must pay the price.” He might have added that criticizing The Dictator means angry and concocted uses of the law as punishment.





Incessant double standards

7 08 2017

In his weekly column at the Bangkok Post, Alan Dawson looks at the double standards that define the military dictatorship’s (in)justice system.

In it, he mentions national deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul’s chagrin at not being able to arrest Yingluck Shinawatra supporters last week that “he has their transport dead to rights. He captured 21 taxi and van drivers who drove the fans to the court because they were not licensed to drive in Nonthaburi province where the court is.” He suggests this action was vindictive and petty.

He turns to lese majeste:

On Thursday, the first witness hearing was held in the case of The Regime vs Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, aka Pai Dao Din. The prosecutors call him “that man who liked a Facebook post”.

Which he did, of course. He fully admits it and it’s there on the BBCThai.com website if you need prove it. The “like” was for a biographical news report. It’s a report on which 3,000 other people in Thailand clicked like — but aren’t being prosecuted for lese majeste and computer crime with 30 years of free room and board at state expense in the balance.

As others have, he compares this with the situation of hugely wealthy and influential Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya:

That’s a double standard [Pai’s case]. But the pursuit and persecu… we always get that word wrong, the prosecution of Pai is in stark, massive contrast to the case of a playboy and bon vivant from a family with 10 dollar billionaires. The chase doesn’t even rise to the description of trivial pursuit.

In just a few more days, the rich guy’s case expires. Cop dead, run over and his body dragged along the road by the expensive car, but never mind, attack rural students for being a political activist.

Dawson could have gone on and on.

What of those accused of lese majeste and sentenced for “crimes” against royal personages not covered by the law? Then there are the political activists picked off by junta using lese majeste charges.

Then there are those sent to jail, like Jatuporn Promphan, for defamation of leading anti-democrats, while anti-democrats defaming their opponents remain free. Then there are those who are slapped with sedition charges for pointing out some of junta’s failures (of which there are many).

What of those identified as opponents who are prevented from meeting when “allies” like the members and leadership of the People’s Alliance for Democracy can. And we hardly need to mention the jailing of red shirts for all manner of “crimes” while PAD leaders walk free.

And then there are the double standards when it comes to corruption. The junta is considered squeaky clean, always. “Evil politicians” are always considered corrupt.

Finally, for this post, there is impunity, which is the grossest of double standards. Who stole the 1932 plaque? No investigations permitted. Chaiyapoom Pasae’s murder has disappeared into official silence, so that usually means impunity via cover-up by simply ignoring it as a case against soldiers. The enforced disappearance of Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee is unlikely to be mentioned much at all as the military junta quietly congratulates itself on a “job” well done. It seems a bit like the murder of Kattiya Sawasdipol or Seh Daeng by a sniper in 2010.

Not only is the junta operating with double standards, its sanctions the murder of its opponents. Meanwhile, the justice system in Thailand is broken.





Repressing opponents

6 08 2017

Two reports in Khaosod show how insecure the military dictatorship becomes when it identifies critics of its dominance.

The first Khaosod report is, naturally enough, related to the trembles it has when Yingluck Shinawatra looks popular and seems to have supporters boosting her. The junta has blustered about conspiracies and plots. Who have they targeted?

A day after several hundred supporters “gathered to support former premier Yingluck Shinawatra’s closing statement in her malfeasance trial, the … police … launched a crackdown against the people who drove them there.”

It is reported that “Gen. Srivara Rangsipramkul, who usually handles matters of national security, charged 21 minivans drivers Wednesday with violating the Land Transport Act by straying from their designated routes to bring Yingluck supporters to Bangkok.”

In addition, the regime has sent its uniformed thugs to threaten red shirt supporters seeking to prevent them from showing up at the court. The report states:

Redshirt supporters say these efforts are emblematic of the Prayuth regime’s strategy of uprooting the legacy of its political rivals, the Shinawatra clan, and falling short of that, render it invisible.

A second Khaosod story reports that two former Puea Thai Party politicians and a well-known journalist (for Khaosod) have been slapped with sedition allegations.

Former energy minister Pichai Naripatapan met police last Friday to “acknowledge a charge of sedition filed against him…”.

PPT has mentioned journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk in a previous post. The third is the outspoken Watana Muangsook.

For the junta, “sedition” seems to amount to criticism of the junta.

Pichai’s “crime” is that he “violated the law in things they wrote on social media.” He quoted an academic on economic problems. It seems that this amounts to sedition.

Watana “acknowledged the charge on Wednesday and insisted on his innocence.”

The Article 116 charge against Pravit cites “unspecified Facebook posts…”. He is due back before the police in a few days, when the police say they will finally disclose which of his posts are determined to be “seditious.”

It seems that appearing pathetic is not an issue for the military dictatorship.





Punishment

29 07 2017

The military junta and its minions have been hard at work in recent days, punishing people it sees as political opponents or threats to the royalist-tycoon military regime and its plans for control into the future. All of this political “work” has been around the period of the first birthday “celebration” for King Vajiralongkorn, which seems appropriate, in the reign of fear and threat.

The junta just hates it when the lower classes complain, especially when they are in areas considered politically suspect, like the northeast. So its obedient servants have charged and now prosecuted seven women who have been campaigning against a mining concession extension for Tungkum Co Ltd, a gold mine operator in Loei province. The seven are Phonthip Hongchai, Ranong Kongsaen, Wiron Ruchichaiwat, Suphat Khunna, Bunraeng Sithong, Mon Khunna, and Lamphloen Rueangrit.

Somyos and his money

The Tungkum Company has had significant regime support and the junta see the villagers as having support from anti-regime activists. The case goes back a long way, with the company supported by the usually wealthy (never explained or investigated) former police chief General Somyos Pumpanmuang. We have previously noted this cop’s connections with shady business groups that use men-in-black to harass the villagers opposing mining and environmental degradation.

The women involved are now charged with “breaking the public assembly law and intimidating public officials.” The so-called act of “intimidation” involved “leading more than 100 people to gather in front of Wang Saphung District Administration Office on 16 November 2016 while officials were holding a meeting…” that was to rubber stamp the company’s application.

Business elites and the junta don’t want these little people getting out of hand, especially women (we say more on this below).

In a similar case, the junta’s bureaucratic thugs and something still referred to as the “Supreme Court” – better called the military’s civilian sentencing machine – has sentenced a husband and wife to six months in jail “for trespassing on protected land six years ago.” The court seems quite deranged in its “thinking” sentencing the elderly Den Khamlae and his wife Suphab Khamlae. Deranged in that Den has been missing since April 2016, believed to have been forcibly disappeared by the same authorities that charged him and his wife.

Den’s case goes back to 1985, when “his Chaiyaphum farmland was taken by the government. They were promised land to use elsewhere, but Den and his neighbors later found the area designated for them was already occupied.” His crime is that he wouldn’t bow down to the “authorities,” and with the junta in power, these thugs decided to get rid of him. Suphab’s “crime” seems to have been her campaign to learn what has happened to her husband. As the linked article explains, “Suphab, who has campaigned about forced disappearances since Den’s disappearance, will immediately go to prison.” Campaigning against the royalist-tycoon-bureaucratic state is not just a “crime,” but the dictators are angered by the uppity lower classes and especially those who don’t accept their “place” in the hierarchy.

The court babbled something about Den being “convicted” because he is not proven dead. We can only hope that there are sufficient horrid and vicious ghosts from the disappeared who will haunt these morons in robes for in this life and the next.

The popular Yingluck

Then there are the political punishments meted out to those the junta considers as challenging its right to rule and dictate.

The most obvious example of this is Yingluck Shinawatra. Early in the week, she made the mistake of complaining about the junta’s minions acting against her in ways that she considered foul. Worse (for her), she had a social media exchange with The Dictator. The result has been the sudden revelation that National Anti-Corruption Commission, which essentially works at the behest of the military dictatorship, has 11 other cases against Yingluck that it is “investigating.”

The junta has been keen to punish Yingluck for several reasons and not least because she remains popular. In this instance, though, it seems to us that the junta is punishing Yingluck for speaking up for herself. The Dictator has a habit of punishing those who pick a fight with him but in this case it is also clear that the strong misogynist ideology of the royalist political elite is playing out. The Dictator thinks “that woman” should “know her place.” He’s “teaching” her to know her submissive place. Of course, other royalist lads have derided Yingluck for being a woman in their man’s world.

Finally, at least for today, there’s the is the arrest warrant for Watana Muangsook. It seems that Watana, “a Pheu Thai Party key figure and former commerce minister, and two other suspects on suspicion of provoking rebellion…”. Did we read that right? “Rebellion”? That seems to be how the men who control most of Thailand’s legal weapons view the prospect of hundreds turning out to “support” Yingluck when she’s next in the (kangaroo) court. The junta is giving the impression that its is so frightened that it is suffering collective and premature incontinence.

In this “case,” the so-called “suspects were found to have been inciting people to come to a gathering planned for Aug 25 when the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions is due to hand down a ruling in the rice-pledging case in which former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is charged with dereliction of duty…”. The junta reckons this alleged “incitement” can be “deemed a violation of Section 116 of the Criminal Code,” meaning sedition!

In Watana’s case, his “sedition” appears to be challenging The Dictator: “In a series of messages posted on his Facebook page from July 19 to July 26, Mr Watana criticised the government and urged members of the public to come out to support Ms Yingluck, also on Aug 1 when she is due to verbally present her final statement in the rice-pledging case to the court…”.

In response, “Watana said on Thursday he has never posted any message urging Ms Yingluck’s supporters to turn up at the court.” So his “crime” would seem to be his violation of the dictum that allows no arguing with The Dictator.





Republicanism means 50 years in prison

27 07 2017

Talking or posting about a republic or republicanism is considered and act of lese majeste. Governments for sometime, including the ultra-royalist military dictatorship, once “defended” lese majeste by saying that it was just like defamation but for royals. The case of human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul, one of the Stolen history 6, clearly show that such bleating was a concoction and expressed as blatant lies.

On 25 July 2017, Bangkok’s Criminal Court “accepted charges filed against [the]… human rights lawyer facing five decades of imprisonment for royal defamation and sedition.” Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have said that Prawet is accused of posting Facebook comments that are deemed to have asserted that Thailand should become a republic.

Even Prachatai uses the term “defamation” when reporting this case. Clearly lese majeste is not defamation. Rather, it is a law that represses political opponents and jails them for daring to think about and discuss alternative forms of government.

Prawet stands accused of importing digital content “deemed defamatory to the [m]onarchy and seditious.” He is alleged to have done this from 25 January- 23 April 2017 and this probably relates to Facebook posts made by exiled historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul.

As well as being charged under Articles 112 (10 counts) and 116 (3 counts), Prawet is “also charged with Article 14(3) of the Computer Crime Act for importing illegal information online and violation of the Council for Democratic Reform (the 2006 coup-maker) Order for obstructing … the police [in]… obtain[ing] his fingerprints.”

It is easy to see that the military junta is determined to lock him away for decades, with 50 years being the legally maximum cumulative sentence. The lese majeste and sedition charges alone, if proven, amount to 171 years of jail. Few who go to court on these charges are ever exonerated by the royalist courts.

Prawet and the other five (for whom there is precious little information that PPT can locate) have been held in jail since 29 April 2017.





The junta and that tower

29 06 2017

When we posted on the junta’s proposed erection of a giant tower on prime real estate, we could smell rotting fish. No bidding, no transparency, claims of “public good,” and then the declaration that it all had something to do with the deceased king suggested – no, shouted – that there was funny business.

The Nation reports that corruption alarm bells are ringing. And they should be.

Assistant junta spokesman Colonel Atisit Chaiyanuwat was the one who “disclosed that the Cabinet had exempted the project from bidding to speed up the project. ” Recall that yesterday the claim was lack of interest from construction firms.

The this same Atisit said “private investors would fund the tower project.” Really? Atisit also “backtracked from his earlier statement that the 459-metre-high tower would cost Bt7.6 billion, bringing that figure down to Bt4.6 billion.” Wow, a discount because no one wants to build it – they aren’t interested…. In other words, this is a mixture of buffalo manure and rotting fish.

Not deterred by contradiction and spin, Atisit also “said the project only needed Cabinet approval because it would be developed on a plot of land belonging to the Finance Ministry’s Treasury Department.” The idea being that the Treasury Department can do what it likes? And the poor taxpayer just gets stiffed again?

Located in Bangkok’s Klong San district, the plot is located on the Chao Phraya River, and is one of the most expensive parts of the city. Prices for land are well into the millions of baht per square meter.  The public purse, though, will reap a glorious 198 million baht in rent, over 30 years. That’s 6.6 million baht a year. Wow, what a deal! We wonder if the taxpayer is going to also get a few glass beads and other trinkets.

The Bangkok Post adds some important information about the deal that reveals quite a lot more.

For a start, it says income over 30 years for the Treasury will be only 70 million baht. And that’s from the director-general Patchara Anuntasilpa of the department.

Then there’s this tidbit:

Registered in 2014, the Bangkok Observation Tower Foundation was originally chaired by Visit Malaisirirat, CEO of Magnolia Quality Development Corporation Co, the property development arm of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group. The position was later taken over by former Finance Minister Panas Simasathien.

The foundation’s directors include representatives from Siam Piwat Co, the operator of Siam Center and Siam Discovery.

Meanwhile, Magnolia, Siam Piwat and CP group are the joint developer of Iconsiam, a mixed-use project by the Chao Phraya River scheduled to launch by the end of this year. The project is next to the planned tower. In the promotional material of Iconsiam released in April, it wrote, “prepare for the 7th Wonder of ICONSIAM. An Iconic Landmark that will be a symbol of national pride,” without elaboration.

We all know who CP is. They are on top of Thailand’s non-royal rich list year after year, this year worth more than $21 billion. But what of Siam Piwat? For the answer, we will send readers to a 2013 post on royal wealth. Bingo!

Yes, it is yet another royal money maker. One source calculates that Princess Sirindhorn earns more than $50 million a year from Siam Piwat and the land in the area around her palace.

We guess that the next junta task will be to ban comment on its erection because that would be lese majeste and sedition, preventing slippery deals that make the royals wealthier still. And we still reckon that there must be some generals lurking behind the scenes gathering up the change that falls from the royal pockets.





Still detained, law ignored

28 06 2017

Prachatai reports that what PPT calls the torture of lese majeste “suspects” continues unabated and is being applied to human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul.

For the sixth time, the Criminal Court has “refused to release a human rights lawyer facing up to 50 years in prison for royal defamation and sedition.” [Actually, as the report later states, he faces 171 years on lese majeste and sedition, but there’s a 50 year sentencing limit.]

On 26 June 2017, the Criminal Court in Bangkok renewed the pre-trial detention period for Prawet. He has now been held for two months, while the police “investigate.”

Of course, the aim is to wear down Prawet, forcing him to plead guilty.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) argued that “the case’s interrogation process is already complete.” It was also argued that “prolonging of the detention is against Article 29 of the 2017 Constitution, which in brief states that suspects of crimes have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

The error here is in thinking that any lese majeste case will be considered on the basis of law. As many cases have demonstrated, law is strikingly absent from these acts of political intimidation and repression.

As expected, the court ignored law and statements by the prosecution that the case was investigated and kept Prawet locked up.

Prawet was one of six people arrested by police and military officers on 29 April 2017. We have no further information on the other five.

All are accused of a variety of lese majeste, computer crimes and sedition offenses for “sharing a Facebook post about the missing 1932 revolution plaque by Somsak Jeamteerasakul…”.

The claim now heard is that “Prawet allegedly posted Facebook comments asserting that Thailand should become a republic.”

Thailand should be a republic.