Intolerance and monarchy

27 04 2021

Political intolerance is a virus that has infected much of Southeast Asia, rolling back the minimal democratic gains made in the late 20th century.

An Australian report shows how monarchies are being resurrected and revamped as symbols of and sites for political intolerance. Thailand’s lese majeste law is ridiculous enough, but in Malaysia there’s now competition for the most ludicrous use of the law that represses, silences and threatens.

The report is of Fahmi Reza who “unleashed his latest Spotify playlist at a party in Australia…”, to now find himself “arrested, thrown behind bars and facing a potential three-year prison sentence.”

Fahmi is a “well-known satirist [who] is being investigated under the country’s sedition law, as well as its communications and multimedia legislation, for allegedly insulting Malaysia’s Queen…”.

His playlist is centered on the words “jealous” and “jealousy” and is “a reference to the queen’s riposte on social media to speculation about members of the royal family and their staff having jumped the queue for COVID-19 vaccines.”

Like Thailand’s police, Malaysian cops claim Fahmi’s playlist “intentionally threatens public security.” Yes, really. It turns out that the “investigation” was “triggered by a complaint made by pro-establishment government MP…”.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch was clear: the “investigation” was “patently absurd,” showing that the “Malaysian government persecution of free expression is reaching all new lows.” He added:

The intolerance of PM Muhyiddin Yassin and his government is really off the charts, and this kind of violation of civil and political rights betrays an anti-democratic tendency that values power and control over respect for the people and democracy….

Thailand ranks far lower.





Updated: Another 112 incarceration

24 03 2021

The Bangkok Post reports on yet another lese majeste incarceration.

Chukiat  Saengwong, also known as Justin, a member of the Ratsadon group, has been arrested on lese majeste and a slew of other charges including sedition.The charges relate to several protests, with the most recent being on March 20.

Clipped from Prachatai

Police allege that at last Saturday’s protest near the Supreme Court, “Chukiat affixed a piece of paper on which were written offensive words to a portrait of … the King erected outside the premises.”

The police claim his “action was recorded by a security camera…”. Soon after, “protesters allegedly set fire to the portrait…”.

Chukiat has denied all charges.

The court approved a police request to detain Chukiat for 12 days. A bail application was rejected, with the court claiming that, if released, Chukiat “may commit similar offences again.”

The royalist judiciary continues to carry out its orders.

Update: Prachatai also reports on Chukiat’s case. It states that his bail was refused because of “the seriousness of the charge, the heavy penalty, and the fact that the accused committed similar offences after previously being allowed bail…”. A Thai Lawyers for Human Rights lawyer met “Chukiat at 00.54 on 23 March, tweeted that the police tried to interrogate Chukiat with a lawyer that they assigned to him and confiscated his phone. Because he objected to this, the police had him handcuffed [him]…”. Chukiat sent a message to supporters “to fight on and not to worry about him.”

Among protesters, “Chukiat became well known for his speeches and public appearances in protests where he wore a crop top. The nickname ‘Justin’ comes from Justin Bieber, a famous singer who wears crop tops.”





Another busy 112 day

4 03 2021

Clipped from Prachatai

In yet another day of Article 112 action, Thailand’s royalist protection police – 20 of them – descended on Tiwagorn Withiton, “a Facebook user who went viral in 2020 for posting a picture of himself wearing a shirt printed with ‘I lost faith in the monarchy,’ was arrested again…”, in Khon Kaen, “on a warrant issued by the Khon Kaen Provincial Court on 3 March 2021 on charges under the lèse-majesté law and sedition law, or Sections 112 and 116, as well as the Computer Crimes Act.”

The charges stemmed from “Facebook posts he made on 11 and 18 February 2021.” The police seized three “I lost faith in the monarchy” t-shirts, computers and smart phones.

Tiwagorn denied the charges.

After a couple of hours in prison, the “Khon Kaen Provincial Court has granted Tiwagorn bail, with a security of 150,000 baht.”





Further updated: 112 detentions

10 02 2021

After all the arrests, the detentions have begun.

On Tuesday, The Nation reported that the “Office of the Attorney-General announced  that it will file charges against four leaders of the Ratsadon pro-democracy movement, namely Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat ‘Bank’ Saraiyam.” They are each charged with lese majeste and sedition, stemming from “a rally in Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus in September last year. The rally had also spilled over to Sanam Luang nearby.” That rally was on 19 and 20 September 2020.

Clipped from Khaosod

Thai PBS adds that the four Ratsadon leaders also face charges of “illegal assembly, violation of Emergency Decree … blocking traffic and destruction of archaeological sites.”

It adds that “Parit was also indicted for lèse majesté and incitement of unrest, under Sections 112 and 116 of the Criminal Code, and illegal assembly in violation of the Emergency Decree in a separate case in connection with a protest on November 14th [2020].”

That report also states that “Parit was present at the press conference this morning when Prayuth Petkhun, deputy spokesman of the Office of the Attorney-General, announced the prosecutors’ decision. He asked Prayuth about their request that prosecutors question two defence witnesses.” In response, this legal official saying “public prosecutors … insist that there is no need to question additional witnesses…”. Not hearing witnesses for the defendents has been common under the junta’s judiciary and apparently continues.

When the four accused “appeared before the Criminal Court, where they were formally indicted.”  They were denied bail. That is also common for lese majeste cases. The court “rejected the application on the grounds that some of the charges against them are serious and carry severe penalties,” and thought that if “they were to be released on bail, they may continue to commit similar offences.”

People protested online and in the city. There have been calls for their release.

The usual pattern is for cases to drag on as the defendants are pushed to plead guilty. In these cases, however, we wonder if the order to the judiciary will be to move quickly and make an example of these four anti-monarchy/democracy activists.

Update 1: According to The Nation, taking a lead from anti-coup protesters in Myanmar, “[p]ro-democracy Ratsadon protesters gathered on Bangkok’s Pathumwan Skywalk today for a demonstration dubbed hitting pots to banish dictators’.” Livestreamed, the demonstration included attacks on Article 112, the regime and the king.

Update 2: Thai PBS reports that after the rally at the Pathumwan Skywalk and a march to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, “protesters marched to the Pathumwan district police station, after they learned that a few protesters were being held in custody there.” The report adds:

They laid siege to the police station to demand the release of their fellow protesters by 8.30pm or they said they would storm the station.

During the standoff, at about 8.20pm, several explosions, believed to have been giant firecrackers, were heard behind the police station. A tear gas canister was later found on the road.

At about 9pm, police released all the detainees.





Dead dog lese majeste

17 01 2021

A few days ago, The Nation reported that, after more than five years, including seven days of interrogation and physical assault at an Army camp and three months held in prison, a court had finally dismissed the most ludicrous of lese-majeste charges that royalist Thailand has ever mounted. Along with equally mad sedition and computer crime charges associated with the Army’s corrupt Rajabhakti Park royal project, the Article 112 charges against Thanakorn Siripaiboon were all dismissed.

The lese majeste and computer crimes charges resulted from Thanakorn clicking “like” on a Facebook page featuring a satirical picture of King Bhumibol and for a Facebook post about that king’s mutt, Thong Daeng. It is reported that the “court dismissed that charge … ruling that the evidence was not proof that he intended to defame the monarchy.”

The court dismissed the other charges, “upholding Thanakorn’s legal right to air his suspicions of corruption. It also ruled he had not violated the Computer Crime Act because it could not be proved the information he shared was false.” According to a more detailed Prachatai report, the court ruled that “the Court said that a call for transparency in the project was not an act of sedition.

While good news, the court’s “reasoning” on the lese majeste case indicates that the judiciary remains royalist mad:

With regard to liking the problematic Facebook page, an act which put him under lèse-majesté and computer crime charges, the Court said that there was no “following button” on Facebook at the time, so a user had to click “like” to follow a Facebook page.

Clicking “like” to follow the news on a Facebook page in September 2015 was not the same as clicking “like” on an allegedly lèse majesté picture which was posted in December, so the Court acquitted him of the lèse majesté charge.

And since the defendant only followed the page, and did not share it, he did not spread any false information from the page. Facebook may have promoted any public post or pages randomly on anyone’s newsfeed, but it was not Thanakorn’s doing. So the Court also acquitted him of the computer crime charge.

Thanakorn has since ordained as a monk.





Further updated: Yuletide lese majeste

22 12 2020

There’s been quite a lot of commentary on the protests, some motivated by the avalanche of lese majeste cases and some by the fact that the end of the year begs for reviews.

One that caught our attention is by Matthew Wheeler, Senior Analyst for Southeast Asia at the International Crisis Group. It is quite a reasonable and careful rundown of events prompting the demonstrations and the call for reform of the monarchy.

The lese majeste cases pile higher and higher. In a Bangkok Post report on people turning up to hear lese majeste charges, eight are listed: Arnon Nampa, Intira Charoenpura, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Nattathida Meewangpla, Shinawat Chankrachang, Phimsiri Phetnamrop, and Phromson Wirathamchari.

We can’t locate the latter two on the most recent Prachatai graphic that listed 34 activists charged under 112, but that graphic does include five with names withheld. For us, this brings the total charged to 34-36, but it may well be more.

There was some good news on lese majeste. It is reported that, after more than 4.5 years, a ludicrous 112 charge against Patnaree Chankij have been dismissed. The mother of activist Sirawith Seritiwat, the Criminal Court on Tuesday dismissed the charge. Her one word “jah” in a chat conversation was said to be the cause of the charge but, in reality, going after her was the regime’s blunt effort to silence her son.

A second piece of reasonable news is that the Criminal Court also dismissed charges of sedition brought by the military junta against former deputy prime minister Chaturon Chaisaeng on 27 May 2014 six years ago under Section 116 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act. This was another junta effort to silence critics.

As seen in recent days, equally ludicrous charges have been brought against a new generation of critics.

Update 1: Thai PBS reports that the Criminal Court acquitted nine members of the Pro-Election Group who had been charged in late January 2018 with poking the military junta: “Section 116 of the Criminal Code, illegal public assembly within a 150-metre radius of a Royal palace and defying the then junta’s order regarding public assembly of more than five people.”

The defendants were Veera Somkwamkid, Rangsiman Rome, currently a party-list for the Kao Klai party, Serawit Sereethiat, Nattha Mahatthana, Anon Nampa, a core member of the Ratsadon Group, Aekkachai Hongkangwan, Sukrit Piansuwan, Netiwit Chotepatpaisarn and Sombat Boon-ngam-anong.

The court ruled that:

… protesters complaining about the postponement of general elections cannot be regarded as incitement to public unrest. It also said that the protesters had no intention to defy the ban against public assembly within 150-metres of the Royal palace.

Of course, the charges were always bogus, but the junta’s point was to use “law” for political repression.

Update 2: The Nation reports that there were, in fact, 39 defendants who were acquitted.





Legal repression

10 12 2020

A uniformed King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida were present for the dedication ceremony “to open a new Supreme Court Office in Bangkok’s Phra Nakhon district on Monday.” The link between the palace and the judiciary is remarkably feudal.

Since 2006, when the dead king activated the judiciary into public judicial activism, the courts have been loyal allies of coup-makers, generals and the right and royalists. and has been significant in political repression and ensuring Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime remained in office.

Since student-led protesters rose again in July, the judicial system has been the regime’s principal institution in repressing the protesters.

Keeping up with the avalanche of charges against protesters is difficult indeed. One summary, at Prachatai, is from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and they:

reported the case statistics from the first protest on 18 July to the night of 7 December. In the past 4 months and 20 days, 220 people have faced 119 charges. Most are related to unannounced protests under the Public Assembly Act.

149 people have been charged with violations of the emergency decree, and 18 charges are related to the withdrawn severe state of emergency. There are also 56 people who were arrested on the spot during the 16 October crackdown.

Among all those charged, 5 are under the age of 18 who face 7 charges. The lowest age is 16. The sedition law has been used against a 17-year-old youth.

24 people have been charged under Section 112 of the Criminal Code (the lèse majesté law), 53 under Section 116 (the sedition law), and 5 under Section 110 (violating the Queen’s liberty).

Now that lese majeste is back in a big way, protesters and commentators are again targeting the law for abolition and/or revision.





Republic vs. the regime

9 12 2020

Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has declared: “Thailand is not and won’t be a republic. That’s impossible…”.

The royalist general, responsible for managing the military-monarchy regime, crowed that his “government will do everything in its power to thwart any such system of government in Thailand.”

He was responding to the Free Youth group’s call for discussions about a republic.

As Free Youth has said that “a republic is a state in which the masses are the boss,” Boss Prayuth and Boss Vajiralongkorn are clearly targeted with a radical call for democracy.

Referring to Thomas Paine and calling for equality, Free Youth emphasised “the decentralisation of power, with rulers coming from free and fair elections — not determined by bloodlines” or rigged elections.

The group emphasized that such a radical democracy required “the people rising up to dismantle all the shackles…”.

The Restart Thailand campaign builds on these ideas:

This is a new movement where nothing will be the same. Awareness of the oppressed working class will be awakened, whether you are students, office workers, non-uniformed staff, farmers or civil servants. We are all oppressed workers.

…there will be no leaders, no guards, no compromises or negotiations….

Fearful of what for Thailand amounts to radicalism, Gen Prayuth ordered the regime’s “legal team” to decide if such a call is “against the law.” He’s thinking of sedition and the constitution:

Section 49: No person shall exercise the rights or liberties to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.

Any person who has knowledge of an act under paragraph one shall have the right to petition to the Attorney-General to request the Constitutional Court for ordering the cessation of such act.

Meanwhile, the charges against the regime’s opponents continue to pile up.





Legal harassment continues

6 11 2020

The military-backed regime and its minions continue to see the hand(s) behind the latest round of protests as being that of the Progressive Movement.

This has resulted in Pannika Wanich, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul having to front the Phaya Thai police to “acknowledge sedition charges filed against them by a former yellow-shirt co-leader.”

Clipped from Thisrupt

The yellow shirt making the complaint is none other than Suwit Thongprasert, the former People’s Democratic Reform Committee activist monk Buddha Issara. This is not just any PDRC clot, but the one who has been seen a couple of times having things whispered in his ear by the king.

King, queen and ex-Buddha Issara

In Piyabutr’s case, the complaint “against him involved posting in social media his academic work, including his lectures, while he taught law at Thammasat University.” Some of this goes back a decade. Those old posts were connected with more recent “posts supporting solutions to the ongoing political crisis” where he “suggested that the three demands of youth protesters, including the monarchy reform, be brought to a safe zone by setting up a House special committee to hear their grievances.”

To an outsider, all of this must seem rather odd, but the fascist former monk sees it as sedition for commenting on the monarchy.

The allegations against Pannika appear to be “centred around her Facebook Live sessions from rally sites,” while Thanathorn is “accused of his role in connection with Samesky, a publishing house specialising in Thai politics,” a connection that also goes back many years. Apparently, the fascist former monk also found discussing the allocation of huge dollops of taxpayer funds to the royal family to be seditious.

The fascist ex-monk and other neo-Nazis are desperately trying to put the monarchy genie back in the sealed bottle. In other words, the rightists are using sedition as they previously used lese majeste.

Pannika “urged Gen Prayut to stop using the same old weapon he has been relying on for seven years.” She said: “Prosecution of dissidents no longer works. These bullets are blank— they not only fail to stop the rallies but also escalate them…”.





Updated: Vulture cops

2 11 2020

Compromise? No.

Thai PBS reports that the hospitalized prominent protesters, jailed for some time already, are set for more jail time. The cops, vulture-like, are waiting to re-arrest them as soon as the doctors discharge them.

Panasaya “Rung” Sitthijirawattanakul, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak will be dragged off to the courts “with the … police seeking to have them held on remand on more charges, which were filed against them while they were recuperating at Rama 9 Hospital.” They will end up in remand in several provinces.

The Bangkok Post reports that, in fact, two have already been “officially rearrested” while in hospital. This is reminiscent of actions taken in the lese majeste case against Thanet Anantawong who was dragged out of a hospital ward by junta thugs. Tghe Post reports:

Officers from Rayong showed up at Praram 9 Hospital to file a charge against Panupong “Mike” Jadnok over his protest against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during the premier’s visit to the province in August ahead of the mobile cabinet meeting there.

Similar scenes occurred when Ubon Ratchathani police also showed up to detain Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak over his role in an Aug 22 demonstration in the northeastern province. He faces sedition charges under Section 116 of the Criminal Code which he refused to acknowledge.

On Saturday night, city police had filed charges against Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul over her involvement on June 5 and June 22 in protests at the Pathumwan Skywalk in Bangkok.

Rung is now “under a 24-hour watch and police will reportedly seek a Pathumwan District Court order today to put her back behind bars for the time being.”

Get the picture? No compromise. As Mike and Penguin are being taken out of Bangkok, there are fears for their safety.

Update: In some good news, the Pathumwan District Court “rejected a police request to detain protest leader Panusaya … for further questioning in two cases in which she is charged with violating the Public Assembly Act of 2015.” The two cases relate to “demonstrations on the skywalk over the Pathumwan intersection on June 5 and June 22 demanding justice for Wanchalerm Satsaksit, … abducted by a group of men from in front of a condominium in Phnom Penh.” The court found no reason for detention. The same court also “refused a police request to detain Panupong “Mike Ranong” Jadnok, who was charged over his role in protesting the Prime Minister on July 15 in Rayong province,” finding no reason for further detention.

That good news is made better when the Criminal Court “dismissed a police request to extend the detention period for protest leaders Somyod Pruksakasemsuk, Ekkachai Hongkangwan, Suranat Paenprasert and Arnon Nampa…”. Somyos and Arnon are “facing charges stemming from their participation in the rally at Thammasat University on September 19-20,” while Akechai and Suranat have been “charged with attempting to harm … the Queen’s liberty by allegedly obstructing the royal motorcade … on October 16.”