Updated: New year, new charges

6 01 2021

The Voice of America has reported the fact that “Thai authorities January 1 made their 38th arrest of a pro-democracy activist in recent weeks under the country’s tough lèse majesté law…”.

This refers to the case of “Nut,” the “Facebook administrator of a protest group and [who] was bailed out January 2 after being charged under Section 112 for selling a calendar using the movement’s satirical rubber duck symbol to allegedly mock the monarchy.”

As the report indicates, “In just a matter of weeks 112 charges have continued to surge…”, with several of those charged facing multiple cases.

The regime and palace have been panicked by widespread anti-monarchism. Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk made the obvious point: “Even the slightest critical reference to the monarchy is now punishable…”.

In Nut’s case, Chulalongkorn University’s Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang pointed out that the police who filed the charge “couldn’t even answer to the lawyer how this [calendar] violated Section 112. This was purely political…”. In other words, the cops are under orders to arrest people and charge them under 112 even if they are clueless about the actual “offense.” It is Orwellian “protection” of the monarch.

Read more on lese majeste charges here.

It isn’t clear that the tactics being used by the regime and palace are effective:

Authorities are now struggling to catch up with protesters whose attacks on the monarchy – and the law which shields it – are visible both on banners hung from bridges and across the internet in memes and hashtags.

Recent social media posts from across the country also show defaced portraits of the king and queen, often featuring additional photos of them in crop tops and so on.

Attapon Buapat, a protest leader who has been charged under the 112 law, says:

People do not fear 112 anymore…. Everyone fighting this battle has been prepared for our freedoms and rights to be violated one day. We have stepped beyond that fear for quite some time now. Whatever will be, will be….

Update: Prachatai reports on three new 112 cases. They say this means 40 cases. We think there are maybe more than this. Difficult to keep up. The first is that of Nut or Nat mentioned above. The second refers to 3 January, when “Thanakon (last name withheld), 17, also received a summons on a Section 112 charge issued by Buppharam Police Station.” Thai Lawyers for Human Rights say “the charge is likely to be related to a demonstration on 6 December 2020 at Wongwian Yai.” The third case is “Jiratita (last name withheld), 23, [who] was also charged with royal defamation for a speech given at the protest on 2 December 2020 at the Lad Phrao intersection.” It seems that this latter charge relates to complaints made by a member of the public.

Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Shinawat Chankrachang and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul were also hit with 112 charges for their involvement in this protest. Parit is now facing 12 counts of lese majeste, Arnon 8 counts, Panusaya 6 counts, and Panupong 5.





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, Inthira 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.








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