A call to abolish 112

28 10 2021

With the mainstream media more or less ignoring lese majeste cases and actions opposing the law and calling for its reform or abolition, it is mainly Prachatai, Thai lawyers fro Human Rights and social media that give these matters due attention.

So it is that Prachatai reports on a 27 October 2021 rally at the parliament building “to submit a petition to the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights for the repeal of Section 112.”

The Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution (CCPC) rallied, held banners opposing 112 and performed. It said that it was deeply concerned by a “sharp rise in the number of people facing royal defamation [lese majeste] charges for speaking out about the monarchy…”.

The CCPC observed that “in many cases, people are being charged even though they only speak about the monarchy as an institution and not a specific member of the royal family, which does not constitute an offence under Section 112.”

Further, the CCPC “said that the text of the law is unclear and can be widely interpreted, while it is strictly enforced. In many cases, officials did not explain how a defendant’s action constituted an insult or a threat, often stating that their action damages the King and the monarchy, even though the law does not apply to the monarchy as an institution.”

It also noted the ways in which the law is used to repress political opposition and to limit free speech. Most especially, it was seen that the law was used by ultra-royalists to police speech and political freedom.

Activist and former 112 political prisoners, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk “said that the royal defamation law has been used to restrict freedom of expression, which is a fundamental freedom in a democracy.” He also observed that, “since the monarchy uses taxpayer’s money and is listed as a public organization by the constitution, people should be able to express their opinions and criticism of the monarchy. He also noted how those charged with royal defamation are often denied the right to bail.” He’s “currently out on bail on another count of the same charge with the condition that he does not damage the monarchy…”.

The petition was given to “Pheu Thai MP Chavalit Witchayasut and Move Forward Party MP and former activist Rangsiman Rome, representing the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights.”

From Sunday, the activist network Citizens for the Abolition of 112 “will be accepting signatures to back a proposal for the repeal of Section 112 and amendment of Thailand’s defamation law so that there is only fines instead of prison sentences. They also called for a demonstration on 31 October at 16.00 at the Ratchaprasong Intersection.”





Updated: Two bailed

23 04 2021

Two political prisoners charged with lese majeste and other offenses have been granted bail.

Thai PBS reports the good news that Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa have finally been bailed. The softening of the regime and the regime’s courts on these two may reflect a regime belief that it can further split the leadership of the recent protests. In any case, these two, both previously convicted and jailed on 112 charges, have agreed that they will not challenge the monarchy:

Pai and Somyos

Pai and Somyos Clipped from Thai PBS

The defendants told the court that, if they were to be granted bail, they would refrain from any activities which may damage the reputation of the Thai monarchy.

Having heard the testimony of prison officials and the pledge by the defendants, the court ruled that there was no reason not to grant them bail, at 200,000 baht each, and set the conditions that they must not get involved in activities which may tarnish the monarchy or leave Thailand.

Their supporters, who had been staging 112-minute protests against Article 112 “called off the protest and travelled to Bangkok Remand Prison to welcome the Ratsadon leaders upon their release.”

Update: Prachatai reports that two others on 112 charges – named as Phonphimon (Pholpimol) and Phonchai (Pornchai Wimolsupawong) were bailed in Chiang Mai.





HRW on continuing detentions

21 04 2021

Human Rights WatchHuman Rights Watch has released a statement on the continuing detention of political activists. We reproduce it in full, including with links HRW had embedded:

(New York) – Thai authorities should immediately release pro-democracy activists detained on charges of insulting the monarchy, Human Rights Watch said today. Prominent Thammasat University students Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul have been on hunger strike to protest their pre-trial detention, for 35 days and 21 days respectively.

The charges against Parit, Panusaya, and others should be dropped for violating their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Until then, bail should be provided for all those detained under the lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) law. Hunger strikers should be transferred to a hospital for medical supervision.

“Thai authorities should immediately drop the cases against Parit, Panusaya, and others unjustly charged for their peaceful pro-democracy protests, but at a minimum they should be released on bail,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Holding activists in detention prior to trial and conviction, which could be years away, seems aimed to unfairly punish them rather than fulfill a legitimate state interest.”

On March 8, 2021, the Bangkok Criminal Court ordered Panusaya, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, and Panupong Jadnok into pre-trial detention on lese majeste charges connected to the speeches they made demanding reforms of the monarchy during a rally on September 19, 2020. The cases follow the court’s February 9 decision to order four other prominent democracy activists – Parit, Arnon Nampha, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, and Patiwat Saraiyaem – into pre-trial detention on similar charges.

Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code makes lese majeste punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The activists were also charged with sedition under Criminal Code article 116, which carries a maximum 7-year sentence. These cases are just the latest in which Thai activists charged with lese majeste have been detained for lengthy periods that could go on for years until their trial is concluded, Human Rights Watch said.

Except for Patiwat, who gave a statement in court on March 29 that he would no longer participate in rallies and other political activities or make public comments about the monarchy, the court has repeatedly denied the activists’ bail requests, saying they are likely to commit the alleged offenses again if released.

Holding those charged with lese majeste in pretrial detention violates their rights under international human rights law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified, encourages bail for criminal suspects. Article 9 states that, “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.” Those whose charges have not been dropped should be tried without undue delay, Human Rights Watch said.

The number of lese majeste cases in Thailand has significantly increased in the past year, Human Rights Watch said. After almost a three-year hiatus in which lese majeste prosecutions were not brought before the courts, Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, in November, ordered the authorities to restore lese majeste prosecutions, ostensibly because of growing criticisms of the monarchy. Since then, officials have charged at least 82 people with lese majeste crimes in relation to various activities at pro-democracy rallies or comments on social media.

In a February 8 statement on the situation in Thailand, United Nations human rights experts said that lese majeste laws have “no place in a democratic country.” They also expressed serious concerns about the growing number of lese majeste prosecutions and harsh prison sentences the courts have meted out to some defendants. On January 19, a retired civil servant, Anchan Preelert, received an 87-year prison sentence, later halved after she pleaded guilty.

The ICCPR protects the right to freedom of expression. General Comment 34 of the Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors compliance with the covenant, states that laws such as those for lese majeste “should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person that may have been impugned” and that governments “should not prohibit criticism of institutions.”

“The Thai government should stop this witch hunt against peaceful dissenters and demonstrate respect for human rights by permitting all viewpoints,” Adams said. “The government should engage with United Nations experts and others about amending the lese majeste law to bring it into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations.”





Virus of double standards II

11 04 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that at least 22 “detained on charges related to the protests,” mostly using Article 112.

While the Criminal Court has granted bail to Patiwat Saraiyaem, on the basis that he “pledged not to breach Section 112 … and also stay away from political rallies…”, it refused bail for to other political prisoners, Somyos Pruksakasemsuk and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa.

The report adds that Somyos and Jatuphat “joined other protest figures in signing a letter expressing their intention to withdraw their lawyer from their Section 112 trial,” but did not detail the complaints made by the detainees.

Thai PBS states that the “court said that it doubts the credibility of the two Ratsadon leaders’ pledge not to mention the revered institution in future protests, after they refused to recognize the trial process.”

Prachatai provides an account of the withdrawal of defense lawyers, based on Thai Lawyers for Human Rights:

22 people facing charges relating to the protests on 19 – 20 September 2020, including 7 protest leaders facing lèse majesté charges, have withdrawn their legal representation in protest at court measures and treatment by prison officials which deny them the right to a fair and open trial.

The 22 are listed as:

The 23 defendants in the case are Chinnawat Chankrachang, Nawat Liangwattana, Nattapat Akhad, Thanachai Aurlucha, Thanop Amphawat, Thanee Sasom, Phattaraphong Noiphang, Sitthithat Chindarat, Suwanna Tallek, Anurak Jeantawanich, Nutchanon Pairoj, Atthapol Buaphat, Adisak Sombatkham, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Panupong Jadnok, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Chukiat Saengwong, and Chaiamorn Kaewwwiboonpan.

The defendants “requested to withdraw their legal representation and their lawyers requested to be released from their duties.” They consider the “courtroom has been made into a prison.”

The defendants and lawyers say they are not receiving a fair and open trial and their rights are not being respected. According to TLHR the defendants:

  • have not been allowed to speak to their lawyers individually and confidentially, as they were always under the control of prison officials
  • who are detained pending trial and those granted bail have not been allowed to discuss the case with each other
  • family members and other individuals have been prevented from observing the proceedings, with some family members initially forbidden from even entering the court building and told by court police that they do not have permission to enter the courtroom
  • family members have been prevented from personal contact with the political prisoners, and at times they have been prevented from handing over personal items and food

Political prisoner and lawyer Arnon Nampa wrote a declaration to the court saying:

… he would like to withdraw all legal representation on the ground that he has been denied bail and treated in ways which are degrading, that he cannot participate in a judicial process which is “carried out with fear and without taking human dignity into account.” He also wrote that the law has been used to silence the demands of the younger generation, that violence has been used to suppress protests, and that their detention will lead to fear in society and no one will dare to speak the truth.

“In this trial, our right to fully fight the case has been violated,” he wrote. “The courtroom has been made into a prison.” He then went onto say that the process is unconstitutional, and that the defendants and lawyers agreed that if they continue to participate in the procedure, they would be promoting a process of injustice.

“This case has involved the destruction of human dignity, the use of the law to silence people, and many other forms of injustice. As a person who has studied the law and who practices as a lawyer, and as one of the citizens who aim to reform the monarchy, the defendant cannot continue to participate in this process. The defendant whose name is at the end of this petition therefore requests to withdraw legal representation and refuses this process,” Anon wrote.





Updated: Concern for 112 detainees

26 03 2021

There is reason to be concerned for the safety of those accused of lese majeste and currently detained without bail in several prisons.

The Bangkok Post reports that these members of the Ratsadon group “are being detained at five prisons while police prepare the cases against them…”. The report lists some of them:

Six were being detained at Bangkok Remand Prison, he said. They are Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, Piyarat “Toto” Jongthep, Patiwat “Bank” Saraiyaem, Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpatararaksa, Arnon Nampa and Somyos Prueksakasemsuk.

Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, alias “Ammy The Bottom Blues”, is being held at Thon Buri Prison, and Panusaya “Rung” Sitthijirawatanakul at the Central Correctional Institution for Women.

In Pathum Thani province, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak is detained in Pathum Thani central detention centre, and Promsorn “Fah” Veerathamjaree of the Ratsadon Mutelu group is in Thanyaburi Prison in Thanyaburi district.

Release our friends

There are several reasons for concern for the safety of these political detainees. First, Corrections Department deputy director-general Veerakit Hanparipan has revealed that his department lacks coordination and standard operating procedures. Second, it is a “policy” to separate the detainees as a means to break their spirit and to prevent them from supporting each other. Third, lawyers and families are having great difficulty visiting the detainees. Fourth, political detainees are being treated as common criminals. Fourth, Thonburi Prison is said to be a problematic location due to it being in a high-risk Covid zone.

All of this amounts to lese majeste torture.

There is special concern for Parit, “who is on a partial hunger strike…”. Veerakit told reporters that Penguin “continued to refuse solid food.” He added that he has become “weakened from refusing food” and that “Parit was instead given bread, milk, sweet drinks and mineral water to prevent his blood-sugar level falling too far.” Veerakit also revealed that “Parit had a rash on his chest. Prison officials had given him medication.”

Update: Concern for Penguin is increasing. He’s “been on hunger strike for over two weeks,” and is experiencing weakness. He has “allowed doctors to conduct a blood test for the first time on Saturday night, after suffering from fatigue, increased dizziness and dehydration.” As a result, he’s now being administered glucose and fluid intravenously.





Concocting “victory”

9 03 2021

With three more pro-democracy campaigners locked away on lese majeste charges, the regime seems confident it has a royalist political victory in sight.

Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Jatuphat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa – were each charged with 112 and other “crimes” and denied bail for the Thammasat University rally back in September 2020. Along with 15 other pro-democracy protesters, they also face sedition charges.

Some of those locked up. Clipped from France24

The other 15 were bailed, marking the regime’s 112 strategy as now involving lengthy jail stints waiting for a trial before royalist judges and potentially very heavy sentencing. The regime and palace – which gives the orders on 112 – want to stamp out all signs of anti-royalism.

They join Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem who have already been held for about three weeks without bail on similar charges. Also banged up on 112 charges is Chai-amorn Kaewwiboonpan, aka Ammy the Bottom Blues.

Jatuphat called on followers: “Fight on everyone…”, while Panusaya, “who is facing eight other royal defamation charges, believes the pro-democracy movement will continue to exist although most of the leaders could be locked behind bars”: “No matter how many people are locked up, people outside will continue fighting, they do not need us…. “I am not concerned at all that the movement will stop.”

The regime thinks it has them beaten. With its carefully managed violence and targeted arrests, these detentions signal that the regime believes that the leaders will not get broader support.

The mainstream local media does not challenge regime stories of violence and weapons, although some of the international media has a different reporting. We conclude that the local media has come under enormous pressure to follow the regime’s lead and that corporate owners are willingly propagandizing for the regime. Why else would the Bangkok Post be interviewing and publishing outlandish conspiracy manure from anti-democrats? The media that lambasted the protesters for allegedly straying from the path of non-violence have been regime pawns too.

Such concocted claims have been seen from royalists many times in the past – from Pridi shot the king to the Finland Plot and more – and they continue. We can but speculate that these claims will lead to a deeper repression across the country, as they did in the past.





Lese majeste and cruelty II

28 02 2021

The Bangkok Post has a story about yet another bail refusal for lese majeste defendants and monarchy reform advocates Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem.

The Post says this is a “[t]hird setback in efforts to secure release of foursome awaiting lese majeste trials.” We know it is difficult keeping up with the number accused of lese majeste (is it 59 or 60?), but the number of bail applications and repeated refusals by royalist courts should be easier to count.

Going by the information in the story, we count five, including the most recent that begins the Post story:

Clipped from Khaosod

They have been in the Bangkok Remand Prison since Feb 9 when they were formally indicted on charges including lese majeste in connection with rallies at Sanam Luang on Sept 19 and 20 last year. The Criminal Court rejected their initial bail request.

The Court of Appeal on Feb 15 upheld the Criminal Court decision, citing the defendants’ disrespect for the monarchy and saying they posed a flight risk. Subsequent requests to the Criminal Court on Feb 17 and Feb 22 were also rejected, with both decisions upheld by the Court of Appeal.

The grounds for the appeal were entirely reasonable:

The first was a cash bond of 400,000 baht for each defendant, which was higher than the previous bail request. Charnvit Kasetsiri, a former rector of Thammasat University, and Panas Tassaneeyanon, a former dean of the university’s Faculty of Law, had agreed to act as guarantors for the defendants, said the lawyer.

The three other issues were that the defendants posed no flight risk, they had not yet found been guilty by a court and thus they were considered innocent, and all had permanent residences…

All to no avail. The establishment is busy protecting the king and punishing its opponents.





Lese majeste and cruelty I

23 02 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that the Criminal Court has again “rejected the third bail request for four key Ratsadon members held on charges of lese majeste…”.

Charnvit Kasetsiri, a former rector of Thammasat University and Panas Tassaneeyanon, a former dean of the faculty of law were there to “offer themselves as the guarantors for the temporary releases of Arnon Nampa, Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat ‘Mor Lam Bank’ Saraiyaem.”

The court again denied the bail request, “citing the same reasons for the dismissals of the previous two requests — the offence carried a high penalty and there were reasons to believe the suspects would repeat the offence if they were released on bail.”

As the report notes, “pre-trial detention could go on for years until the court passes a final ruling.” Most often, this is for those charged with lese majeste and is a form of torture.

Social media reports that the judges involved are the same cruel judges who sat on the case against Ampol Tangnopakul, who was convicted in late November 2011 and sentenced to 20 years in jail for the 4 text messages the court believed he sent. To simplify, the court was unable to prove that Ampol sent the messages but convicted him on the basis that he could not prove that he didn’t send them. Sadly, Ampol died in custody.





Updated: Lese majeste torture

16 02 2021

In the past, we used the term “lese majeste torture” to refer to the ways in which those detained on Article 112 charges were denied bail, had their trials drawn out, and were shuttled around various courts. One of the aims of this seemed to be to get the defendant to plead guilty so that the trial became unnecessary.

Somyos caged

One particularly nasty example of lese majeste torture involved Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, who was refused bail at least 16 times. He was put in cages, transported around the country to various court proceedings, some of which were canceled, and was repeatedly chained.

Of course, Somyos is now back in detention, refused bail and accused of lese majeste and other charges. With Arnon Nampa, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, and Patiwat “Mor Lam Bank” Saraiyaem, lawyers asked for temporary releases and bail for a second time. The Appeal Court dismissed that appeal citing “as reasons the severe penalties of the offences, their brazen behaviours which tarnish the highly respected monarchy and hurt the feelings of all loyal Thais without fear of the law, their past records of similar offences and flight risks.”

Such statements indicate the extreme political bias of the court, make prejudicial judgements and resort to moral and royalist shibboleths rather than legal grounds for refusing bail. About as close as the court got to legal reasoning was declaring them “flight risks,” which contradicts an earlier court ruling that declared them likely to re-offend, so not flight risks.

All of this is congruent with the measures used by the military junta after its 2014 coup.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that “the Criminal Court had rejected their latest plea for bail, ruling that the Court of First Instance and Court of Appeal had already denied their release and it saw no reason to overrule their decisions.” We count that as the third rejection.





Bail inequality

13 02 2021

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both expressed “concern over the bail denial of the 4 prominent activists as an abuse of the judicial process to silence peaceful critics.”

Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat ‘Bank’ Saraiyam have been charged with lese majeste and sedition and banged up in pre-trial detention, denied bail. As has happened before:

After the court denied them bail, four of them were taken to the Bangkok Remand Prison to be held in custody pending the trial. They shall remain in custody until the court grants them bail or until the trial is concluded or until the cases against them are dismissed by the court, the length of time which is undeterminable.

Clipped from Khaosod

In response, the Bangkok Post reports that “126 law academics and legal experts have issued a statement condemning a court decision denying bail for protest leaders.” They declared:

We are of the strong opinion that a person’s right to bail is a crucial principle that the judicial institution — which has legal, social and humanitarian duties and is the final beacon of hope for the people — must uphold to support the basic rights and freedom of the people….

This action by the Criminal Court is in sharp and stark contrast to the bail swiftly granted to Somchai Jutikitdecha aka Longjoo Somchai “who is accused of being the man behind illegal casinos linked with a recent Covid-19 outbreak in the eastern provinces…” The court is said to have “brushed aside police objections and granted Mr Somchai bail on Thursday night.”

Double standards? You bet!








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