Hunger strikers resolute but health deteriorates

6 02 2023

Activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong, who are undergoing a hunger strike to demand the release of political prisoners and judicial reform are in danger (see below).

Prachatai reports that on Saturday, the two vowed to continue their fast. In that report, Krisadang Nutcharus, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), said that:

he and the two activists’ parents met Tantawan and Orawan on Friday (3 February), and reported that they were alert and were able to hold a conversation. Krisadang said he informed Tantawan and Orawan that the National Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Justice have issued a joint statement promising reform of the judicial system, while several political parties have agreed to discuss issues related to the royal defamation law [Article 112] and sedition law in parliament. He also told them that the Court of Justice held a press conference on bail on that Friday (3 February), and read them the press release, which Tantawan and Orawan said did nothing and said nothing.

Krisadang said that he also told them that many activists have been allowed to take off their monitoring bracelets, and that the court is considering bail requests for many political prisoners. Nevertheless, the two activists said they will continue with their hunger strike until every political prisoner is released and asked TLHR to post bail for everyone still detained again on Monday (6 February).

“[Tantawan and Orawan] believe that, the Ministry of Justice, the National Human Rights Commission or political parties tend to listen to the people,” Krisadang said, “… but the court has never listened. They have asked me to tell you that they will continue their hunger strike, but they are not trying to pressure the court. They wanted to prove whether what the court spokesperson said, that the court uses human rights principles when ruling on cases was true.”

The report also notes that Orawan’s father Suchart Phuphong said:

the medical team told him to wait until Monday to be told what can be done, but he said that Orawan’s condition is considered critical to her parents although her doctors say they need to keep monitoring her, and that they are concerned that she may not make it to Monday.

Suchart called on the powers that be to have sympathy when someone is using a method the two activists are using to demand the rights Thai people should already have, and to keep someone who is the nation’s future healthy and strong.

Later, Prachatai has tweeted:

Parents of hunger striking activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong have been contacted by their doctors, who said that they have gotten worse and asked that the families and lawyers visit them tomorrow morning {Monday].#ตะวันแบม





Courts caught (in a bind)

3 02 2023

A couple of days ago we had a post that raised a question regarding judicial double standards on actress Savika “Pinky” Chaiyadej who won approval from the Criminal Court to remove an electronic monitoring (EM) device.

In that post we mentioned that there had been no such leniency for lese majeste and other political prisoners.

That has suddenly changed.

Bailed on lese majeste and sedition charges, several activists seized on Pinky’s case.  Thai PBS reports that the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court “agreed to the request of five anti-establishment protesters yesterday (Wednesday), to have electronic monitoring (EM) tags removed.”

The report says the “five protesters are Chonthicha Jaengrew, Panupong Jadnok, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Weha Saenchonchanasuek and Nawapon Ton-ngam.”

As well as the Pinky precedent, it may be that the sustained criticism of the judiciary from the hunger strikes has had an impact.





Updated: Smash 112, free all political prisoners

23 01 2023

Brave advocates for the end of Article 112 began protesting “in front of the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road in conjunction with a hunger strike by two detained female activists who are neither eating nor drinking water with tonight (Jan. 21) being the third night but they have been taken to the Correctional Department’s hospital…”.

Calling themselves the Independent People’s Group, the protesters had these demands:

  • Reform the judicial process taking into account human rights principles and freedom of expression and not interfere with litigation;
  • Stop prosecuting people for exercising their freedom of expression, assembling and  voicing their political views:
  • All political parties propose a policy to guarantee rights, liberties and political participation by cancelling Section 112, also known as the lese majeste law, and Section 116 of the Criminal Code.

Yesterday, members of Thalufah “peacefully stood in a row on a sidewalk outside the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre at Pathumwan intersection in protest of the sustained detainment of the 21 political detainees, nine of whom have been faced with the draconian lese majeste charges, better known as Section 112 of the Criminal Code, and others on sedition charges.” They planned a 112 hour protest calling for “Free Political Prisoners” and “Stop Violation of Human Rights”, among other demands.

These protesters are also calling “for the unconditional and immediate release of the 21 political detainees,” and supporting “Tantawan Tuatulanond and Orawan Pupong, currently held at the Central Women Correctional Institution.”

Now, “Tantawan and Orawan who have not only denied meals but drinking water provided at the prison have resolutely insisted that all the political detainees be freed, the country’s judicial systems be amended and the lese majeste law be abolished.”

Update: Prachatai updates on the protests, which have expanded beyond Bangkok, including Khon Kaen and Chiang Mai (scroll down the story about halfway for the update on protests).





Updated: Opening eyes

21 01 2023

Thai Newsroom and Thai PBS show that it takes considerable effort to get reporting of critically important news when it has anything to do with Kibosh and his family of Munsters.

It took self-bail revocation, a (limited) hunger strike, and student pressure to get them to take notice.

The Bangkok Post seems to still be avoiding the obvious:

The two stories mentioned above relate to large banners that were hung at Chulalongkorn University and Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus. The banners pushed:

“students to pay attention to politics, to not bow to unjust rules and to support the persistent call for freedom for the 21 political detainees, nine of whom have been prosecuted under the draconic lese majeste law, better known as Section 112 of the Criminal Code, whilst the others have been slapped with sedition charges.

The call was supported by the United Front of Thammasat & Demonstration and Thai Lawyers For Human Rights.

Update: Better late than never – the Bangkok Post has reported this story.





Silencing MPs on 112

6 11 2022

Prachatai reports that yet another ultra-royalist vigilante group is seeking to silence critics of the lese majeste law. This time, they are targeting an elected member of parliament for a speech made in parliament, later posted online.

Move Forward party MP Amarat Chokepamitkul recently “posted a video clip on Twitter of herself speaking about court neutrality issues in royal defamation [Article 112] cases.”

Amarat. Clipped from Prachatai

The “King Protection Group posted on its Facebook page on Thursday (3 November) that its President Songchai Niamhom went to Phatthalung Provincial Police Station to file a royal defamation [lese majeste] and sedition complaint against Amarat, claiming that she defamed the monarchy in a Twitter video of herself speaking during Wednesday’s parliamentary session.”

In her speech, Amarat “discussed the court’s neutrality when dealing with royal defamation cases and how courts refused to summon documents to be used as evidence in these cases, such as records of King Vajiralongkorn’s travel to and from Germany and records of the transfer of shares in Siam Commercial Bank.”

In the meeting, conservative House Speaker Chuan Leekpai “told her to keep her discussion to what benefits the public and not to talk about the monarchy. He eventually cut off her microphone.”

As is usual, the “the police accepted Songchai’s complaint and said that they will investigate the matter and submit the case to their superiors.” That usually leads to a charge.





Net censorship

21 10 2022

Rankings are always problematic, yet the Freedom House rank for Thailand’s “Freedom on the Net” seems reasonable. Thailand is assessed as “not free,” with a score of 39/100.

Clipped from Freedom House

Freedom House’s overview is as follows:

The internet is severely restricted in Thailand. A wide-ranging crackdown on online expression was carried out by the military-led regime in response to prodemocracy protests that started in July 2020 and continued throughout the coverage period. Authorities significantly increased the use of lèse-majesté law and sedition, charging and imprisoning individuals for online expression. Prodemocracy activists face heavy prison sentences. State-sponsored attacks, intimidation, and harassment targeting individuals for their online activities also continued. The government repeatedly extended the enforcement of a repressive emergency declaration issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, imposing further constraints on fundamental freedoms, though the courts found some measures unconstitutional.

Following five years of military dictatorship, Thailand transitioned to a military-dominated, semielected government in 2019. The combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy in Thailand’s governance has since triggered massive demonstrations. In response, the regime continues to employ authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse-majesté charges, and harassment of activists. Press freedom is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.

The whole report – which runs to about 50 pages – is depressing reading.





The monarchy and “sedition”

7 10 2022

Readers will recall the “good news” from late last month, when a court in Khon Kaen rejected a lese majeste case against Tiwagorn Withiton. The bad news is that Prachatai has reported that on 4 October, the Lampang Provincial Court found Tiwagorn “guilty of sedition [Article 116] for inviting netizens to cast votes in a campaign asking whether the Thai people wanted to have a referendum about having a monarch as head of the state.”

The Court found Tiwagorn guilty “for his campaign message on 28 June 2021 on Change.org, a website known as an online space for starting social advocacy campaigns” where he asked “people if they agreed to a referendum on whether Thailand should have a monarch as head of state.” His call added: “We dream of a republican/federal state system that needs no monarch.”

The complaint by ultra-royalist Thawi Intha from the Network to Guard, Defend and Protect the Monarchy in Lampang. Tiwagorn lives in Khon Kaen and was forced to travel to Lampang for the trial.

Tiwagorn admitted that he posted the campaign message but claimed a constitutional right. Indeed, one of his witnesses argued “that questioning the form of government is a regular activity and that bringing this issue to the Court can be deemed as manoeuvring the monarchy down into a political debate. He also referred to a Facebook post of royalist MC Chulcherm Yugala which asked whether Thailand should be a “democracy” or “monarchy”. He saw this question as more radical than Tiwagorn’s.”

To no avail, and Tiwagorn “was sentenced to 3 years in jail, but was later paroled. Tiwagorn told TLHR, that he wanted to appeal as he finds that the ruling contradicts the Constitutional right to freedom of expression when it comes to monarchy issues. He believes that the ruling will be harmful to a democratic regime.”

The court’s ruling was reported this way:

The Court declared that Sections 1, 2, and 3 of the 2017 Constitution state that Thailand is a unified and inseparable Kingdom, governed under a democratic regime with the King as head of state. Despite freedom of expression being a constitutional right and freedom, it would have to be limited for the sake of the security of the state and the form of government.

Besides security restrictions, the Court mentioned that rights and freedoms can also be limited in order to protect the freedoms and rights of others and public morality. Moreover, it is a constitutional duty for Thais to protect the nation, religions, and monarchy.

Thus, Tiwagorn’s action went against the will of the Constitution and he was found guilty, but as multiple charges were filed over one offence, the Court found him guilty only of the charge with the heaviest punishment, and sentenced him to 3 years’ imprisonment for sedition.





Tiwagorn’s 112 good news

30 09 2022

Some relatively good 112 news. According to media reports, the “Khon Kaen Provincial Court has dropped a lèse majesté case filed against Tiwagorn Withiton, whose picture wearing a shirt printed with “I lost faith in the monarchy” went viral in 2020.”

The lese majeste charge against Tiwagorn resulted from his “I have lost faith in the monarchy” t-shirt and his Facebook posts about it. His first appeared in the shirt on 16 June 2020 and wore it to the market and on the farm.

The ruling given on 29 September 2022, with the Court finding “that the evidence did not prove that the defendant intended to defame or express hostility to the monarch.”

After the ruling, Tiwagorn is reported as saying: “I’m also surprised because I really thought I would get it. This is beyond my expectation. Is this mercy?”

Tiwagorn was prosecuted for lese majeste, sedition, and computer crimes on 26 or 27 May 2021. His t-shirt statement caused a stir as he was not defaming or criticizing the monarchy, but declaring his own loss of faith.

This act initially confused the state’s monarchy police who tried to convince him to give up the t-shirt and not advertise his lost faith. When he refused, his mother was told lies by officials, and he was arrested, dragged from his home, and forcibly admitted to Khon Kaen’s Rajanagarindra Psychiatric Hospital. Officials seemed to believe that anyone who had no faith in the monarchy was mad. In fact, though, they were concerned to prevent a social media blitz of other announcing this loss of faith in the corrupt institution.

He was discharged from the hospital following a public campaign demanding his release.

At the time, the police announced that they would submit the case to the Bureau of the Royal Household for their decision on further action.

Tiwagorn was re-arrested on 4 March 2021 and taken to Tha Phra Police Station in Khon Kaen on charges under Article 112, Section 116, and the Computer Crimes Act because of Facebook posts he made on 11 and 18 February 2021.

On 26 May 2021, he was informed that the public prosecutor had decided to proceed with the case. The Khon Kaen Provincial Court accepted a lese majeste case filed against Tiwagorn. He was granted bail using a security of 150,000 baht.

The court’s decision may still be appealed by prosecutors.





UK travel advisory

22 09 2022

Like many countries, the government of the United Kingdom has online pages of foreign travel advice. For Thailand, that advice includes a succinct section on “Safety and security“:

The political situation in Thailand can be volatile. In recent years, there have been instances of civil and political unrest. You should avoid any protests, political gatherings, demonstrations or marches.

Lèse-majesté (criticism of the monarchy in any form) is a crime, which can be interpreted broadly and carries a long jail sentence. Some foreign (including British) and Thai journalists, Human Rights Defenders and members of the public have faced criminal charges, including for defamation, sedition, and under the Computer Crimes Act for raising concerns, making political comments, and sharing articles online that could been seen as portraying Thailand negatively or making accusations about individuals.

That’s and accurate and pretty damning assessment.





Bent law enforcement and warped institutions

7 08 2022

Rotten to the core

The legal system from police to the highest court is rotten to the core.

Prachatai reports that after 7 years, “the public prosecutor has decided to indict activists from the New Democracy Movement (NDM) and the Dao Din group on charges of sedition for an anti-junta protest in front of Pathumwan Police Station on 24 June 2015.”

There were 17 people “charged for participating in the 24 June 2015 protest, including activists Jatupat Boonpattaraksa and Chonticha Jaengrew, activist-turned-Move Forward Party MP Rangsiman Rome, and Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party.”

On 4 August 2022, that the public prosecutor decided to indict 10 of the activists 7 years after the protest and 3 years after the charges were filed. They were later granted bail using a security of 70,000 baht each.”

Meanwhile, the well-connected rich and powerful get away with murder.

Prachatai also reports that the royalist judiciary via its Judicial Commission has unanimously ruled to remove judge Wichit Leethamchayo from the Supreme Court “after he was found to have joined pro-democracy protests…”.

It seems that “right-wing groups accused him of showing support for pro-democracy protests on at least two occasions in 2021.” Ultra-royalist Maj Gen Rientong Nan-nah “filed a complaint with the Judicial Commission in March last year accusing Wichit of showing ‘anti-monarchy behaviour’ in front of the Supreme Court on 13 February. Rienthong also claimed that Wichit posted anti-monarchy comments on Facebook using the name Wichit Lee.”

The Commission agreed, with “judges on the Commission called out his ‘anti-monarchy’ stance.”

As the report notes, this judiciary is biased. Judge Methinee Chalothorn, who was appointed President of the Supreme Court in September 2020, has been seen in published photos attending “a right-wing anti-government PDRC protest which led to the military coup in 2014.” Of course, she’s not been censured as supporting the right, ultra-royalists is second nature for most judges. In fact, it is revealed that:

the Judicial Commission’s minutes confirming that it had acknowledged Methinee’s participation in the anti-democracy protest in July 2020, 3 months before the appointment of a new President of the Supreme Court in October. Yet the Commissioners voted 13-1 to approve her appointment with several judges giving the opinion that being at a protest site does not mean that she showed support for the protest. Worasit Rojanapanich, an external examiner for the Commission, said that her participation was “graceful” for a judge because she acted out of love for the nation and the monarchy.

Clearly monarchism and the monarchy has crippled the judiciary. Its royalism is the reason for denied bail, the avalanche of 112 convictions, and endless double standards.

And royalism is infecting other institutions, with Prachatai reporting that the “unelected Senate has voted 146-38 not to appoint Prof Arayah Preechametta to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). The meeting minutes are confidential, but Isara News cites an anonymous source in the Senate claiming that the candidate was not approved because his ideas were contrary to the conservatives.” By “conservatives” is meant royalists, ultra-royalists, and supporters of the military/monarchy-backed regime.

Isara News cited an anonymous source in the Senate claiming that during the meeting it was mentioned that a person filed a complaint against Arayah because he had political ideas in opposition to the conservatives. The Senate eventually voted to reject Arayah on the basis that he was insufficiently right-wing. Presumably the unelected swill want “trusted” compatriots making the “right” decisions.








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