Junta erasing 1932, part II

22 06 2018

Khaosod has another report on how the military junta is trying to blot out memories and memorials of the 1932 Revolution.

It reports that as “the occasion that brought democracy to Thailand passes all but forgotten Sunday, the Democracy Monument will be physically unreachable.”

The Democracy Monument “has been covered with potted plants that make it clear visitors – especially demonstrators – are unwelcome” and has been fenced off.

Photo by Jintamas Saksornchai, Khaosod

This effort is to prevent people – especially anti-junta activists – from reaching the monument and has been advancing for some time. It has gone hand-in-hand with other junta efforts to rewrite history books and erase 1932 as a meaningful symbol of the birth of democracy.

While “democracy” was contested back then, the junta is anti-democratic and wants these historical symbols erased, some of them physically removed, like the 1932 plaque.

A district official confirmed that the junta-appointed “City Hall placed the fences and plants ‘to prevent protesters from entering’ the site for political gatherings.”

Junta spokesman Winthai Suvaree said “he was unaware of the new landscaping. Asked when it would be cleared, he also could not say.” He’s lying (again).

Pro-democracy activist Somyos Prueksakasemsuk said the junta and its supporters were “trying to alter its meaning…”. Other activists agreed that the regime is seeking to remake history.

Pro-democracy activist Piyarat Chongthep “shrugged off the latest move however, saying the plants don’t make any real difference.” He added: “They don’t need to remove them because we are not attached to the site, and even if they demolish the monument, it won’t lessen the call for democracy…”.

Clearly the junta thinks otherwise. Would they demolish it? This junta may be tempted. It got away with the removal of the plaque, but the monument is much larger and better known. Even so, the junta is capable of major vandalism and mass murder in the name of the monarchy.

Prawet’s lese majeste defiance

12 05 2018

After the completion of one lese majeste hero’s sentence, another hero faces his accuses with heroic defiance.

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk completed his seven-year sentence at the end of last month, still challenging the authorities and the law used against him. Prawet Praphanukul remains incarcerated on lese majeste charges, facing three separate sedition charges, computer crimes and 10 counts of lese majeste, could be sentenced to 171 years in jail. The legal maximum is 50 years, but when you are in your late 50s, 171 years or 50 years make little difference.

His case is one of several involving the alleged sharing a Facebook post on the theft of the 1932 revolution plaque on or about 5 April 2017. He’s been held since then and has repeatedly been refused bail.

The twinning of sedition and lese majeste tell us that the military dictatorship is determined to prevent any criticism of the king for his presumed role in the theft of the plaque.

Prawet is a human rights lawyer and has been defiant from the beginning. When he appeared in court on 18 September 2017, he stunned the court by stating that he did not accept the judicial system and did not wish to examine witnesses and evidence against him.

Prawet’s challenge is to the court’s impartiality. He wrote: “Thai courts do not have the legitimacy to try the case. Therefore, I declare that I do not accept the judicial process in the case.”

According to a Prachatai update – read it in full here – on 8 May 2018, the case resumed. Before testimony began,

Prawet had a heated 30-minute argument with two judges. He said he did not believe the court will rule his lèse majesté case with fairness and impartiality, given that the court repeatedly rejected his bail requests. So he asked the judges to try him in absentia and hand him the maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.

The judges responded “that they would rule the case with justice and sympathy to the defendant, adding that nobody can influence the court.”

Nobody could possibly believe such lies. The courts have repeatedly and consistently handed out huge sentences, applied the law to persons not covered by it, refused bail and breached the law and constitution on lese majeste.

Prawet’s reply was short and to the point: “he will not accept the authority of the court to prosecute him but would not obstruct testimony.”

As if to confirm their previous statement was buffalo manure – actually of far lesser value than fertilizer – the judges then closed the court for a secret trial.

UN staff protested but were ditched out of the court.

A verdict will read the verdict on 23 May 2018.

Prawet’s aim is to reveal the shortcomings and injustice of this pathetic judicial system.

Prawet also dismissed his lawyers and refused to sign any documents saying the “justice system was not sufficiently impartial to rule on royal defamation prosecutions, so he decided to deny the authority of the court.”

We salute Prawet. His stance is courageous and principled, words that have little meaning in Thailand’s deeply flawed (in)justice system.

Somyos as activist

9 05 2018

On his release

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, we recommend Prachatai’s story on its interview with recently released Somyos Prueksakasemsuk.

Somyos is a dedicated activist and campaigner, and this comes through loud and clear in this story as he continues to be critical of archaic laws and resulting repression, as well as the operations of the prison system.

PPT won’t cite anything from the story other than a classic line that says so much about lese majeste repression:

… some government officials offered to help him, and other lèse majesté inmates, get out of jail. All he had to do is to simply “give up” and plead guilty, but again he refused.

Those who use lese majeste as a means of political repression view guilty pleas as admissions of submission. One reason lese majeste sentences have become bizarrely long is that these regime enforcers can dangle this act of submission ever more enticingly for prisoners facing decades in trial and prison.

As he did throughout the years of phony trial and imprisonment, Somyos stood tall.

Get rid of the horrid monarchy law

2 05 2018

A Nation Editorial deserves attention as a call for reform of the despot’s political law of choice, the lese majeste law. It has been used brazenly to repress.

PPT has posted hundreds of times on the misuse of this law. It has been used in ways that are unconstitutional and unlawful. Persons have been convicted for what they did not say, for what they did not write. Some have been convicted for “crimes” against persons not covered by the law. Mothers and children have been convicted. Disabled and sick persons have received long sentences. Persons have been convicted on forced guilty pleas when they were not guilty. Sentences have been huge and the treatment of prisoners on lese majeste charges has been tortuous and unlawful. It has been used against political opponents and against some who have fallen out of favor in the palace itself.

The editorial states that “Somyot Pruksakasemsuk’s release after years in prison affords a chance to reflect on deeply unfair abuses of the law.” We could not agree more.

It says his “release from prison on Monday … should prompt the authorities to review the draconian lese majeste law, which was designed specifically to protect the monarchy but continues to be misused for political ends.”

Of course, it was “designed specifically” protect the military and politico-business elite. It protects a system and a configuration of power, not the monarchy on its own. The monarchy is the keystone for a repressive power structure that sucks wealth to those associated with the military-monarchy-tycoon elite or, as some say, the amart.

On the particular case, the editorial states that Somyos was jailed as a political opponent. It states that “[i]t was not and is not illegal to be aligned with the red shirt movement supporting former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his regimes’ policies. And it was unfair for Somyot to have been identified as anti-monarchy without evidence.”

It reminds us that Somyos was arrested and jailed by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime “as he was circulating a petition calling for Article 112 of the Penal Code – the lese majeste law – to be amended.” Indeed, Somyos was targeted because he opposed the very law that was used against him. The amart have a sense of purpose when opposing those who endanger the power structure.

The editorial states:

Article 112 is quite straightforward. It says anyone who defames insults or threatens the King, Queen, heir-apparent or regent shall be imprisoned for three to 15 years. The authorities’ case against Somyot was that he had published in his magazine two articles by Jit Pollachan, a pseudonym used by an exiled politician. The law was applied beyond its intended scope and meaning. The two articles merely mentioned the roles of the monarchy. There was no inherent insult to the monarchy.

Indeed, a majority of lese majeste cases fall into similar “misuses” of the law. But that’s the point. Lese majeste is designed to be used in these ways to protect the power structure.

It continues:

Thus, cases are often handled as though Thailand was still an absolute monarchy rather than a nation under the modern rule of law. People charged with lese majeste are routinely denied bail and held in pre-trial detention for months. Somyot was denied bail 16 times.

As the editor of a periodical, Somyot should have been protected by the Printing Act and the Constitution’s safeguards covering freedom of expression. But the Constitutional Court ruled in October 2012 that lese majeste breaches represented threats to national security and thus overrode any such protection.

When the editorial concludes by observing that “Somyot’s case should give all citizens pause for thought. Political reform is badly needed, and this unfair practice in particular has to be rolled back,” it makes a point that is very significant. It will scare the regime and those who benefit from this law.

Somyos to continue his activism

1 05 2018

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, who, because he refused to plead guilty, served a full sentence for lese majeste. Seven years of jail have not dulled his activism nor his urge to work as an editor.

The Nation reports that Somyos “vowed to continue his struggle for democracy and to install an elected civilian government.“

Quite rightly, he argues that “[p]articipating in political activities is a civic duty. It is an expression…. I will join with any movement that demands elections. That’s surely a good thing. And I support groups calling for elections. Government, do not try to use any trick to delay it.”

Somyos compared the current political climate with that of leading to the May 1992 massacre by the military and police.

He warned: “The more dictatorial force is used, the worse it is for human rights, democracy and the government itself. It only leads to more conflict…”.

Somyos mentioned “that he had kept a journal recording hardships and infringements of basic rights behind bars.”

Updated: Somyos to be freed

30 04 2018

We are hoping that as we post this, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk has been released from jail after serving his lese majeste sentence.

Khaosod reports that the editor and activist who has been in jail for exactly seven years “will be freed from prison on Monday [today]…”.

The report states that Somyos served six years, but our record has him arrested on 30 April 2011. On 23 February 2017, the Supreme Court upheld the lese majeste convictions against Somyos but reduced the jail terms to three years on each count. With the year he got for “insulting” a coup-mongering general, his total jail time was set at seven years.

Supporters planned to gather at the prison to welcome Somyos with flowers on his release.

The reports adds: “As for life after prison, the aide said Somyot will take time to absorb the changes that have taken place in society over the past seven years.”

Amnesty International had belatedly declared Somyos a prisoner of conscience.

Update: iLaw reports that Somyos is freed and produces photos (including the one above), as does Prachatai. See an interview here.

Nine years of PPT

21 01 2018

Yet another year has passed for Political Prisoners in Thailand.

After nine years, it is dispiriting that we must still post on gross authoritarianism, monarchy and political repression in Thailand.

PPT should have gone the way of the dinosaurs, being unnecessary as Thailand’s political prisoners would have been released and political repression replaced with a more democratic regime.

We began PPT on 21 January 2009, thinking our endeavors would be temporary. More than 7,000 posts and millions of views later, we are still at it, and Thailand is currently more authoritarian than it was when we began.

Thailand has now had an illegal military regime for almost four years. That regime was founded in nonsensical royalism and bound to a monarchy that remains feudal in its politics and grasping in its economic location. One king has gone and the new one is treading both a familiar path while adding his own peculiar positions and toadies. He has shown himself driven by the desire for wealth, power and to rid his kingdom of the vestiges of the 1932 revolution.

A better, more representative and more democratic politics remains a dream. The “reform” promised by the military junta and now embedded in a military-royal constitution promises that Thailand will remain dominated by an authoritarian elite for years to come.

The past year saw “enthusiasm” for an election, but without some kind of political slapdown of the junta, no election in Thailand can be free or fair under the junta’s rules.

When we sputtered into life PPT was as a collaborative effort to bring more international attention to the expanded use of the lese majeste and computer crimes laws by the then Abhisit Vejjajiva regime and his anti-democratic Democrat Party. That regime’s tenure saw scores die and thousands injured in political clashes in 2009 and 2010 with hundreds held as political prisoners.

The royalism and repression that gained political impetus from anti-democratic street demonstrations that paved the way for the 2006 military coup and then for the 2014 military coup have become the military state’s ideology. That alliance looks weaker today as the junta and The Dictator seemingly prepare for post-election repression by a military-dominated regime.

Opponents of the military and the monarchy continue to be detained, coerced and threatened. Lese majeste has been used against them, silencing them and those who become fearful that they too might be whisked away into detention.

The 2006 and 2014 coups, conducted in the name of the monarchy, have seen a precipitous slide into a  political dark age. The current military junta has used the lese majeste, computer crimes and sedition laws as grotesque weapons of choice for its political repression.

Royalists have fought to maintain a royalist state that lavishes privilege, wealth and power on a few. The military junta is seeking to institutionalize this control and power.

It seems forlorn to hope for the release of political prisoners under this regime.

Even so, we must remember that lese majeste is used in unconstitutional ways and the authorities demand “confessions” from those charged so that the courts do nothing but sentence. We should recall that brave individuals like Somyos Pruksakasemsuk and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, now imprisoned for almost seven years and one year respectively, remain in jail. There are scores of others, workers, red shirts and activists, including the most recent inmate, a blind woman. Their continued imprisonment is a travesty of justice and their treatment has been inhumane and, in many cases, illegal.

In recent years, these lese majeste cases have grown exponentially. Military and civil courts have held secret trials and handed out unimaginably harsh sentences. And even worse than this,  the definition of what constitutes a crime under the draconian lese majeste law has been extended to include implied lese majeste and the “protection” of royals not cover by the law and even royal dogs and kings long dead.

PPT has now had more than 5.4 million page views at our two sites. We aren’t in the big league in the blogging world, despite an “award” ranking Political Prisoners of Thailand as one of Thailand’s top 100 blogs (in English). Even so, the level of interest in Thailand’s politics and the use of lese majeste internationally has increased. We are pleased that there is far more attention to the issue than there was when we began and that the international reporting and understanding of the issue is far more critical than it was when we began.

We want to thank our readers for sticking with us through the deepening attempts by the Thai censors to block us. Since mid-December, many of our readers in Thailand can only access PPT using a VPN.

We trust that we remain useful and we appreciate the emails we receive.

As in the past, we declare:

The lese majeste and computer crimes laws must be repealed.

All political prisoners must be released.

The military dictatorship must be deposed.