Precious courts I

21 12 2021

Prachatai has a report on the judiciary that is worth considering.

Joseph (not his real name) protested the denial of bail for detained activists – some of them held for more than 4 months now. He cut his arm in front of the judge on 11 October 2021 to protest the denial of bail for activists Arnon Nampa and Benja Apan. They are held on lese majeste and other charges.

Now Joseph “has been sentenced to 2 months in prison on a contempt of court charge…”.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) report that Joseph was sentenced by the South Bangkok Criminal Court on 17 December. Because he “confessed and said to the court that his action was symbolic and that he has no intention of hurting anyone, the court reduced his sentence to 1 month in prison and a 250-baht fine. His sentence is also suspended for 6 months.”

Clipped from Prachatai

TLHR calculates “that 26 people have been charged with contempt of court in 16 cases since July 2020. Of these cases, 14 resulted from protests demanding the right to bail for detained activists.”

Joseph is also reportedly:

one of the 13 protesters facing royal defamation and sedition charges under Section 112 [lese majeste] and 116 [sedition] of the Thai Criminal Code, as well as using a sound amplifier without permission under the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act for either reading a statement or giving speeches during the protest in front of the German Embassy in Bangkok on 26 October 2020, in which they submitted a petition calling for the German authorities to investigate King Vajiralongkorn’s use of power during his time in Germany. Joseph is facing charges for reading out a statement in English.





More 112 charges urged II

9 12 2021

A pattern has emerged. In our last post, we noted that national police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk had urged police superintendents to give even more attention to “national security” cases involving lese majeste and sedition.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda, and the leaders of the armed forces came together for an ISOC meeting “that was held to sum up its performance over the past year and to announce its action plan for 2022.”

Three army generals in 2019. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

The Internal Security Operations Command has arguably been the most critical agency collecting intelligence on the regime’s and the monarchy’s opponents. It has a nationwide organization that mirrors the civil bureaucracy. It also arranges “fake news,” including “plots” against the monarchy and builds royalist “movements” to face down “threats” from regime opponents.

It is reported that Gen Prayuth “laid down polices for the command to focus more on regional security and tackle threats to national security.” Those latter words are the code for the monarchy.

Bizarrely, Gen Prayuth described this most politicized of agencies as “not a political unit but a body supporting other agencies’ efforts to solve problems besetting the country.”

ISOC’s political role was further emphasized when Gen Prayuth urged “… Isoc and the interior minister to work together closely to address problems through democratic means, adding that dated laws and regulations should be amended to boost efficiency.”

They already do, but little of what they do can be realistically described as “democratic,” except in regime doublespeak.

The pattern being set is a division of roles, with the military and ISOC working on intelligence, using “counterinsurgency” techniques to control the provinces, while the police crack heads and wage lawfare, arresting protesters while the courts lock them up





More 112 charges urged I

8 12 2021

It is usually mad monarchists who urge the authorities to use Article 112 more aggressively. Now, however, it is national police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk. As a junta loyalist, we assume he fits the mad monarchist category.

The Bangkok Post reports that Pol Gen Suwat has urged “[p]olice superintendents in Bangkok … to pay more attention to and improve their understanding of law enforcement in security cases involving Section 112 and 116 of the Criminal Code…”.

He explained that this would be necessary to “to deal with political protests…”.

The national police chief was lecturing 143 police superintendents of the Metropolitan Police Bureau.” Speaking of a task that always involves hundreds, even thousands, of police every time a pampered, expensive royal ventures out, he “explained” that “[e]nsuring security for a royal motorcade is not just a tradition but protecting national security…”.

For several years the regime has made “protecting” the monarchy is a matter of “national security.” It’s buffalo manure, but the mad monarchists in and around the regime seem to believe it.





Back to “normal”

5 12 2021

After months and months of calls for monarchy reform, the arrest of hundreds, plenty of political prisoners, the massive use of repression, and hundreds of lese majeste, sedition, and several other charges, what has changed?

If we look at King Vajiralongkorn’s behavior, we guess he’d be content to answer that nothing much has changed. He’s back to his erratic, self-centered “best.”

Readers will recall that when the students first made calls for monarchy reform, the king eventually had to interrupt his long residence in Europe to return to Thailand and engage in a bit of royalist rabble-rousing. That involved a mobilization of his daughters and wives. The king had to spend an extended period in-country, more than he’d done for years.

At the same time, the regime deepened it political repression, emphasizing lawfare.

By early November, it appeared that king and regime figured that they had seen off anti-monarchism, and the king sent a huge number of people, dogs, and royal stuff to Germany. He jetted out in secret in the second week of November. As the the SCMP had it: “He’s back and is feeling at home with his poodles in his favourite kingdom of Bavaria,” Bild wrote, adding he had brought 30 poodles with him from Thailand. The Guardian adds that the king and entourage “booked an entire [4th] floor of the Hilton Munich airport hotel for 11 days.”

The king has quickly re-established his old pattern of quick trips back to Thailand to perform “important” kingly tasks. As far as we can tell, he was back in Thailand, for about 24 hours, when he was required at Wat Phra Kaew, just a few days after arriving in Germany.

And, today, he’s back, again for about 24 hours. This time it is for his dead father’s birthday where he is “scheduled to plant a tree at 4pm on Sunday in a ground-breaking ceremony for a monument to King Rama IX in Bangkok’s Princess Mother Memorial Park.”

We have no idea how much this costs the long-suffering taxpayer. But Metropolitan Police Bureau spokesman Pol Maj-Gen Jirasan Kaewsaengaek revealed that “some 1,300 police officers will be deployed to provide security and control the traffic around the area.” One tree, one king, 1,300 police.

Lots of roads closed and plenty of encouragement for royalists to show up and show support the itinerant monarch.

All pretty “normal.” Obviously, regime and palace feel they can get back to fleecing taxpayers for the royal house.





“Down with feudalism” 112 charge/s

26 11 2021

Via Prachatai, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has “reported that Supakorn Khunchit, a student from the Faculty of Economics, Prince of Songkla University, was arrested by a group of plainclothes police officers in the parking lot in front of the Songklanagarind Hospital’s sport complex after he went to receive his second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.”

The arrest was made by plainclothes police acting like thugs on 23 November 2021:

Supakorn said that, at first, a man called out to him in the parking lot. He thought the man wanted to ask for some information, so he walked over, but was then surrounded by 3 – 4 other men who said they were police officers and presented a warrant issued by the Phatthalung Provincial Court … under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, a sedition charge under Section 116 of the Criminal Code, and a charge of entering into a computer system data which is an offense relating to national security under Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act.

It is claimed that another “7 – 8 more plainclothes officers then came out of a vehicle and surrounded him.”

He was permitted to contact a lawyer but the police thugs took him off to a police station and recorded the arrest before the lawyer had arrived.

Supakorn stated that “he had never received a summons…”.

He was held overnight at Muang Phatthalung Police Station, without access to visitors or a lawyer. A TLHR lawyer and “Suthichai Ngamchuensuwan, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Prince of Songkla University, went to meet him on Wednesday morning (24 November).”

Supakorn is charged for allegedly being part of a “group of people who took pictures of various locations in Phatthalung and posted them on the Facebook pages ‘Free Phatthalung’ and ‘Democracy of Southern Thailand’ along with messages which the police claimed were insulting towards the King and the Queen and aimed to incite unrest among the people.”

Among the messages were: “‘1 2 3 4 5 fuck you,’ ‘Down with feudalism. Long live the ducks,’ ‘The people own the country’,” which TLHR disputed as messages corresponding to the charges.

Supakorn was “granted bail using Suthichai’s academic position as security.”

Supakorn pointed out some of the absurdities of his arrest, observing that “he had just reported to the police on charges relating to another protest but did not receive an arrest warrant for this case.”

TLHR stated that “an arrest warrant has also been issued for 2 other student activists on charges relating to the same incident, and that they would be reporting to the police on Friday (26 November).”





Boundaries

17 11 2021

The regime was undoubtedly keen for the Constitutional Court to rule “reform,” when applied to the monarchy, actually means treason and sedition.

That absurd ruling means the regime can jail opponents, refuse bail, and lose the keys.

But, there’s another “treasonous/seditious” threat to the monarchy that has to be managed and seen off, at least until the ultra-royalists can have the Constitutional Court dissolve opposition parties.

The threat is in changing the junta’s constitution.

The Bangkok Post reports that the never elected coup leader Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has warned that: “The country, the religion and the monarchy must remain [intact]. MPs must not act in a way that affects the royal institution.”

He demanded that Palang Pracharath Party MPs must vote as directed on constitutional change.

No doubt he will report on these boundaries and progress on wiping out anti-monarchism when he meets the king later in the week. Vajiralongkorn is due back for a ceremony this weekend, and is likely to head straight back to Germany.

While not the point of this post, the erratic king’s decision to decamp to Germany and quarantine, only to leave again and then return to Germany seems bizarre. Or is it that he wanted to be out of town when the Constitutional Court made its absurd decision?





Down the royalist rathole

12 11 2021

With the king having decamped back to Germany, the judiciary has stepped up. Some saw this as the deep state at work. However, the judiciary is both obvious and shallow. That said, it is certainly playing the role allocated to it by the regime and its masters.

At Thai Enquirer, Sunai Phasuk from Human Rights Watch is quoted: “The ruling today is essentially a judicial coup that replaces constitutional monarchy in Thailand with absolute monarchy…”. That’s exactly what regime and palace have been working for since the mid-2010s.

On the Constitutional Court’s decision, the same paper quotes academic Tyrell Haberkorn on “a fundamentally dangerous moment”:

“The Constitutional Court’s sleight of hand in equating the activist’s call for reform with revolt — defined in Article 113 of the Criminal Code and punishable with up to life imprisonment or the death penalty — is legally and politically dangerous,” she said.

“To put this in the starkest terms, if the Office of the Attorney General were to bring charges on the basis of this ruling, [the pro-] democracy activists could face the death penalty for the peaceful expression of opinion. That the Constitutional Court has made this ruling with the stated goal of the preservation of democracy is both cynical and incorrect. Democracy and criminalization of peaceful expression of opinion are not compatible.”

What is clear is that with all discussion of the monarchy now made illegal – apart from royalist honey and tripe – the most ultra of royalists are buoyant and calling for more. More repression, more charges, more jailings, less bail, longer sentences and more.

Thai PBS reports that ultra-royalist stooge Paiboon Nititawan, currently with the junta-invented Palang Pracharat Party is jubilant, declaring that the “Constitutional Court’s ruling will strengthen the monarchy [as if it needed it!] and is legally binding on the police, prosecutors and courts, as well as the Election Commission in taking legal action against individuals or political parties whose activities or conduct are deemed to be a threat to the constitutional monarchy.”

Expect, he implies, more charges and the dissolving of opposition parties. The first targets will be the Move Forward Party and Puea Thai (again).

Meanwhile, Senator Somjet Boonthanom “warned any legislator advocating amendments to lèse majesté law or reform of the monarchy to exercise extreme caution as they may now be accused of attempting to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.” He added that “amending the lèse majesté law in parliament … is doomed as a consequence of the court’s ruling.”

Jade Donavanik, said to be a legal scholar, told Thai Enquirer “that if a political party is found guilty of supporting an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy system, they could be dissolved and the Constitutional Court’s ruling could be used to support a petition for the dissolution.”

In the Bangkok Post, Deputy Prime Ministers Wissanu Krea-ngam and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan warned student protesters. They were “warned … to be careful as they can no longer cite their rights and liberties for their actions as they did previously because the court ruled that such actions were not an exercise in rights and freedom under the constitution.”

The police are now hard at work and it is expected that more lese majeste, sedition and treason charges will follow.

It is pretty clear where this is all going: down the royalist rathole.

The response from students has been to firmly reject the court. Let’s see where that leads. Royalists tend to react in nasty ways and the students are now left with few avenues for peaceful and legal protest into the future.

 





Updated: Another lese majeste debate

10 11 2021

The king seems to think the threat to his throne has been seen off. According to reports from Andrew MacGregor Marshall at Facebook, the king and his extensive entourage of women, servants, minions, and other hangers-on, he’s back in Germany.

Yet, it is reported that, in under a week, more than 120,000 people have signed a petition to parliament calling for the repeal the infamous and draconian lese majeste law (see also a Prachatai story on this petition).

That will cause consternation among the military leadership and the former military leaders leading the regime but we suspect that they also feel that their lawfare approach has worked, with several leaders of the protests jailed without bail and thousands of others, arrested, harassed and repressed.

But an ongoing debate on lese majeste strikes at the heart of the regime’s political ideology.

Khaosod’s Pravit Rojanaphruk writes that last week’s “unprecedented flurry of reactions both in support and opposition to amending the controversial lese majeste law” means it is likely to “turn the next general elections into a de facto referendum on the law…”. That’s the last thing the palace wants – as Thaksin Shinawatra quickly determined – and it isn’t what the regime and its shaky party want.

Despite facing multiple lese majeste charges, Thaksin has always sucked up to royals; it seems in the genes of big shots brought up during the last reign. That’s why it was a surprise when, “just hours after the renewed major protest by monarchy-reform groups [to] reiterate their year-long call and started a signature drive for the abolition of the law … the opposition Pheu Thai Party’s chief of strategic committee Chaikasem Nitisiri issued a statement … saying the party supports pushing for the proposal to be debated in parliament.”

Thaksin nixed that. Regime and its associated parties were suitably unimpressed, standing up for the status quo.

The royalist Democrat Party declared Article 112 unproblematic, blaming the students and other protesters for the debate that is not needed. It is what is expected of a party founded by vindictive royalists and populated by royalists today. One of them babbled:

The lese-majeste law is not problematic as distorted and claimed by those calling for the amendment by the parliament… If it’s tabled for the parliament we shall fight. We support strict enforcement of the law….

The opposition parties, like Move Forward talk amendment rather than abolition, but the activist fire under them wants the law gone.

Pravit is enthusiastic about the debate:

To amend or not amend the lese majeste law, or even to abolish it, is a much needed debate and we can start on the right foot by trying to be more honest about where the different groups stand. The perpetuation of a state of self-denial will not do Thailand any good.

Royalists are livid and want no debate, no changes, no nothing (as usual).

The Bangkok Post reported that Suwit Thongprasert, better known as the fascist former monk and political activist Buddha Isara, has “submitted a petition to the parliament president to oppose any moves to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law.”

He and representatives of the so-called People’s Army Protecting the Monarchy claim 222,928 signatures supporting their ultra-royalism. They also oppose amending Article 116, the sedition law. Articles 112 and 116, along with computer crimes laws are the main lawfare statutes used by the regime to stifle political dissent.

Like all royalists and the regime itself, the fascist former monk “insisted that the monarchy has been one of the main pillars of the country, a source of Thai culture and tradition, and a unifying force for the Thai people.” Blah, blah, blah palace and rightist propaganda.

The royalists face off against the Progressive Movement which is campaigning “for people to sign an online petition seeking to amend Section 112.”

According to Thai PBS, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is predictably opposed to any amendment:

Deputy Government Spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek said today (Thursday) that the prime minister told his cabinet that his government will not amend the law and will run the country by upholding the three main pillars, namely the Nation, the Religion and the Monarchy.

She said that the prime minister would like to assure the Thai people that this is the administration’s position.

He was quoted to have said about this controversial issue yesterday, “Every country has longstanding cultures and traditions. No one thinks all the good in our past should be erased in favour of the new, created without rules. We shouldn’t be destroying what all Thais hold in high regard.”

The regime’s party is uniting against change. The Bangkok Post reports that Thipanan Sirichana, who is attached to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat Office says it is “impossible to repeal Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law, both in technicality and spirit, and doing so runs counter to the constitution…”. Thipanan insists that Section 6, “that the monarch holds a position of reverence which is inviolable” translates to an impossibility of amending or ditching the law.

That’s looney, but in this atmosphere being mad is a credential for ultra-royalism.

Interestingly, though Thipanan sees campaigning against the law as a campaign tool, suggesting that she knows there’s considerable support for change and reform.

Bangkok Post’s Chairith Yonpiam, an assistant news editor, writes that:

Right-wing conservative factions will have to learn, albeit with a sense of disappointment, that demands to change Section 112 will remain a key point in the drive to reform the monarchy, in what appears to be a long-haul political endeavour.

The calls to modify Section 112 are nothing new. They surfaced in the latter period of King Rama IX’s reign, and have now become predominant.

Sensibly, Chairith reminds readers of earlier efforts to reform or abolish 112, focusing on Nitirat which also had a lese majeste reform petition to parliament back in 2012. Back then, dark forces were unleashed against the university lawyers. One of the major voices denouncing Nitirat and threatening reformists was, of course, Gen Prayuth, then army commander.

Charith is correct to observe that:

The abuse of democratic rule with the launch of the military-sponsored 2017 charter by Gen Prayut and conservative elites, who branded themselves as staunch royalists, propelled calls for the reform of the monarchy, which have become louder in parliament and on the street.

He notes that “politics as we used to know it has changed, as it is no longer dominated by politicians. This is because people are aware that political conflicts have affected all elements in society and reform is necessary.”

His view is that: “Amending Section 112 is absolutely necessary to prevent the abuse of this draconian law.”

Amending this feudal law is not enough. Too many have suffered. Get rid of it. Vajiralongkorn and his mad monarchists are facing determined and growing opposition. Intimidation will be the royalist response, but that is likely to further expand the opposition to royalism and the regime.

Update: Thaksin has said more on lese majeste, seemingly contradicting his earlier position that 112 was “problem-free.” Now he’s saying “the 15-year maximum jail sentence for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code is too harsh. The law must be amended to lower the punishment as a matter of urgency.” He stated: “We need to figure out how to keep the punishment from being too heavy,” adding that those detained under the law “must be granted the right to bail.”





Abolish 112

26 10 2021

Between July 2020 and September 2021, “at least 1,458 people are now facing charges for participating in pro-democracy protests…”. Further, “at least 145 people are facing [lese majeste] charges…” [but see below]. In addition, “[a]t least 111 people are facing sedition charges under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code, while at least 1,171 people are facing charges for violating the Emergency Decree.” And, a handful continue to face charges under Article 110, accused of trying to harm the queen.

Clipped from the linked report

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights report that, “as of 14 October, 23 people are currently in detention for participating in protests: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Anon Nampa, Huad, Thawee Thiangwiset, Chitipat, Chakri, Panupong Jadnok, Nat, Nawapol Tonngam, Wachirawit Limthanawong, Pawaris Yaemying, Paitoon, Suksan, Naruebet, Pichai, Jittakorn, Tha, Sith, Thu, Benja Apan, Kachen, and Kajornsak.”

The Citizens for the Abolition of 112 has been organized to seek people’s signatures to support the abolition of Article 112. Their campaign begins on 31 October, with a press briefing held on 24 October in front of the Supreme Court.

Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul “said the group aimed to abolish Section 112 of the Criminal Code, generally amend the laws regarding defamation and slander, and abolish prison sentences for defamation.” She said:

On Sunday 31 October 2021, I ask everyone to gather at Ratchaprasong intersection. The activity will run from 16.00 to 21.00. If we succeed in gathering signatures this time, what will happen is that the Section 112 will be abolished. The defamation law system will be completely amended, with only fines instead of prison sentences…. This is the mission that all Thai people must carry out together….

The group says “that at least 151 people have been charged with Section 112 between November 2020 and 19 October 2021 for their actions and online statements.” Remarkably, Parit faces at least 21 charges. If found guilty on all charges and given the maximum sentence, Parit will go to jail for 315 years.

It pointed out the obvious: “The existence of Section 112 is like a threat to the rights and liberties of the people…”. It added that 112 “distorts the judicial system. … It makes the authorities choose to limit their role in protecting the rights of suspects such as the right to bail and the right to an open and fair trial…”.





Cracking down IV

23 09 2021

Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has “hailed progress in Thailand’s campaign against ‘fake news’…”.

Translation: The regime is getting rid of news it doesn’t like. Its own fake news is okay.

The Nation adds that this cheering from The Dictator comes as “critics accuse the government of an unprecedented clampdown on internet freedom.” Indeed, “fake news” is a term “being weaponised by the government to crack down on its critics and protesters.”

The unelected general praised “state agencies after the latest Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) report showed fake news … stories in 2021 had dropped by 26.43 per cent, following a 6.69 per cent decline in 2020.” Meanwhile, it reported that “the number of genuine news stories had risen by 28.66 per cent…”. Fake statistics.

The Ministry “said 158 cases of fake news were prosecuted last year. So far, 135 cases have been prosecuted this year…”. Almost all of these cases are likely to be about  “online content critical of the government, military or Royal Family, amid rising anti-establishment protests.”

The crackdown targeting political activists has again swept up Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul. She was arrested on Wednesday “and charged with sedition due to her involvement with the Facebook page of the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD).” Much of the mainstream media has been quiet on this, reflecting the regime’s pressure.

This followed the arrest of Niraphorn Onkhao a few days ago.

Plainclothes officers from the Technological Crime Suppression Division presented an arrest warrant “… issued by the Criminal Court and signed by judge Sakda Phraisan. It stated that Panusaya is charged with sedition under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code and with entering into a computer system data which is an offense to national security under Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act.”

Panusaya was taken to the TCSD headquarters in a police van.  They immediately sought her detention.

As in Niraphorn’s case, the cops were acting on a “complaint filed by Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims [sic.], an online royalist group…”.

According to the dutiful cops, the UFTD “Facebook page contains what they consider to be seditious messages calling for people to rebel against the authorities, and accusations that police have used excessive force against protesters.”

You get the picture. No criticism or protest permitted. The authoritarian pit is a deep and dark one.

She was granted bail on 35,000 baht security.








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