Silence on monarchy

4 02 2021

We have been trying to get to this post for a week or so. In the meantime, as we have collected news stories, it has grown and grown.

Among the demands of the democracy movement were constitutional reform and monarchy reform. When they come together, it is in parliament, where constitutional reform, law reform and lese majeste reform is meant to be considered.

On monarchy reform and especially reform of Article 112, the usual royalist rancor and “opposition” spinelessness has been on display. Khaosod reported a while ago that “[o]nly one opposition party is planning to raise the issue of the excessive use of the royal defamation offense when the Parliament reconvenes for a censure debate…”.

That is Move Forward, and a couple of their MPs have expressed reservations and fears. Move Forward plans to criticize the use of the draconian law to intimidate political dissidents. The party plans to “push for reforms of libel laws, including lese majeste…”.

Spineless politicians

Other opposition parties panicked, and even walked back on their censure debate which mentioned the political use of the monarchy. Puea Thai stated that while the “formal motion of the no-confidence debate accused PM Prayut Chan-o-cha of ‘using the monarchy as an excuse to deepen the division in the society,’ … the party has no plan to raise the issue of the lese majeste during the censure debate or support the law’s amendment.” A spokesperson added “We didn’t include monarchy reforms in the motion either. We only wrote it broadly, that PM Prayut damages the confidence in democratic regime with the King as Head of State.”

That sounds remarkably like backpedaling with a political spine gone to jelly. Former political prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk observed: “… Pheu Thai still lacks moral courage. It will only worsen and prolong the problem of political divisions.”

Acknowledging the status quo of decades, it was observed that “discussions about the monarchy during a parliamentary session are generally discouraged,” adding: “There are restrictions … we cannot mention His Majesty the King unnecessarily…”.

Khaosod reports that there’s a parliamentary regulation that “bans … ‘referencing … the King or any other person without due cause’.”

The Seri Ruam Thai Party also ran from the lese majeste law and monarchy reform. Thai PBS reported opposition chief whip Suthin Klangsaeng as saying they are “fully aware of the sensitivity surrounding the [m]onarchy, but he insisted that the opposition will refer to the [m]onarchy during the debate while trying to be very discreet and referring to the institution only if necessary.”

The part of the motion causing all the royalist angst states that Gen Prayuth has not been “…upholding nor having faith in a democratic system with the King as the head of state; undermining and opposing democratic governance; destroying the good relationship between the monarchy and the people; using the monarchy as an excuse to divide the people and using the monarchy as a shield to deflect its failures in national administration.”

Of course, the regime’s supporting parties are opposing any discussion of the monarchy and lese majeste. These parties announced they will “protest if the opposition makes any reference to the [m]onarchy during the censure debate…”. Government chief whip Wirat Rattanaseth said “he would feel uncomfortable with any reference to the Monarchy in the opposition’s censure motion which, in essence, says that the prime minister referred to the Monarchy to deflect accusations of gross mismanagement and failures in national administration.”

In the military’s Palang Pracharath Party royalist fascist Paiboon Nititawan emphasized that the pro-military/royalist parties will invoke parliamentary rules to silence any MP discussing the monarchy. He was especially keen to silence critics of the lese majeste law. He declared: “Our party’s policy is to defend the monarchy.” On the broader issue of constitutional reform, the Bangkok Post reports that Paiboon demands that “any provision related to the royal prerogative should not be changed at all, regardless of which chapters they were in.” No change to anything related to the monarchy. We recall that the last changes made to the king’s prerogatives were made on the king’s demand and considered in parliament in secret.

Democrat Party spokesman Ramet Rattanachaweng said MPs had to toe the royalist line: “Everyone knows what their duty is, because we’re all committed to the institutions of Nation, Religions, and Monarchy.” He said his party will oppose amendment of the lese majeste law. Why? “…[O]ur party has no policy to amend it, because we are not affected or damaged by it directly…”.

The parliamentary royalists were cheered on by mad monarchist and royal favorite Warong Dechgitvigrom who declared “he would regard attacks on lese majeste law – or any move to amend it – as an attempt to overthrow the monarchy.”

Soon after this pressure – and plenty more behind the scenes – the opposition buckled. Thai PBS reported that they “agreed to remove a reference to the monarchy, which the government may find provocative, from its censure motion to avoid protests from coalition MPs.” This came after a meeting  to resolve the conflict over the motion. The meeting was chaired by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

Puea Thai leader Sompong Amornvivat was reported as pedaling backwards and was reported to have promised “that he will withdraw the motion and rewrite it.” He later denied that he had made this promise and the opposition pushed on with the motion.

Back at the debate about parliamentary (non)debate, Thai PBS had a story about royalist allegations that Sompong had broken his promise to delete the reference to the monarchy in the censure motion. Palang Pracharat MP Sira Jenjakha “threatened to file a lèse majesté charge with the police against opposition MPs who sign in support of a censure motion…”.

Government chief whip Wirat Rattanaseth “warned today that the opposition‘s refusal to delete the offending reference may lead to protests in parliament, to the extent that the debate may be disrupted and end prematurely.”

The last time the royalists disrupted parliament. A Bangkok Post photo showing a Democrat Party member grabbing a policeman’s throat.

Thai PBS took sides, declaring that “Thailand is bracing for unprecedented chaos [not really, see above] in Parliament later this month when the opposition shatters a deep-seated taboo by citing the monarchy in its censure motion against the prime minister.” It asserts: “Involving the monarchy in the no-confidence motion has sparked angry accusations from the government camp that this constitutes a grave insult to the revered institution.”

In response, the Bangkok Post reports that the regime “has formed a legal team to monitor the upcoming censure debate for inappropriate references to the monarchy…”. The person in charge of this is quisling former red shirt Suporn Atthawong, a vice minister to the PM’s Office whose own 112 case sems to have been forgotten. The regime’s legal team will “gather false allegations made during the debate against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and cabinet ministers and lodge complaints with police.”

The threats have come thick and fast. The regime is furious. Presumably the palace is too. What they want is to roll back politics to the golden era when the king was never discussed, by anyone, except the seditious.





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.





Debating lese majeste

13 12 2020

Clipped from France24

While the anti-regime demonstrators are taking a break until the new year, it is appropriate that their last 2020 rallies targeted Article 112 on lese majeste. After all more than two dozen of their members now face lese majeste charges.

The Bangkok Post reports that speakers at the rally “vowed to drum up public support for their call for the revocation of … the lese majeste law.” It is reported that:

In a joint statement read at the 14 October 1973 Memorial [where there had earlier been an explosion], one of the anti-government movement’s three rally sites in Bangkok on Thursday, eight protest leaders facing lese majeste charges insisted they would not settle for anything less than the law being repealed.

The speakers said that this law is “a hindrance to freedom of expression, carries a hefty penalty and is often exploited as a political tool to suppress political opponents.”

As PPT has been posting since 2009, all of this is true.

Parit Chiwarak called for all of the existing 112 cases to “be dropped and amnesty be granted to all suspects and those already punished compensated, for the sake of democracy and for Thailand to be able to move forward and reduce political conflicts in society…”.

Prachatai reports that another action, this led by the 24 June Democracy Group, representatives had been “to the United Nations (UN) office in Bangkok …[on] 10 December … to petition the UN Human Rights Council to pressure the Thai government to repeal Section 112, Thailand’s lèse majesté law.”

Their petition observes that “pro-democracy protests have been met with state persecution and crackdowns, despite peaceful protest being a right under the Thai constitution and international human rights principles.” Hundreds of protesters are facing charges, including lese majeste.

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk said “Section 112 is an outdated law which restricts people’s rights and freedom of expression, which is one of the fundamental freedoms, and has been used against the political opposition.” He added that:

since the head of state receives income from taxpayers and is in this position according to the constitution, criticism of the head of state should be permitted in order to resolve the public’s questions about the monarchy. If Section 112 is repealed, the head of state will be able to come to an understanding with the people, which would be beneficial to the monarchy itself and to Thai politics….

He said that using Section 112 against protesters will lead to confrontation between the monarchy and the people. He asked whether the judicial process, where the courts represent the monarch as judgements are made in his name, will be just, because if people are denied bail or if an arrest warrant is immediately issued, it will be a reflection of injustice, which would not be beneficial to the government and the monarchy.

The chicken farmer

Those who want Article 112 to be maintained and used more also rallied, led by chicken farmer and Palang Pracharath Party reactionary Pareena Kraikupt and former senior bureaucrat and now appointed Senator Chadej Insawang, “in his capacity as deputy chairman of a committee on the protection of the royal institution [monarchy].”

They claimed “[t]here are laws similar to Section 112 in all countries including the UK…”, a claim also made by former Democrat Party MP Warong Dechgitvigrom, who leads the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee mob of grey hairs. We should point out that these dopes never do any research about such laws and prefer to make stuff up, and even when corrected carry on with their fake claims.

Making false claims has become a yellow shirt trademark. Those who went with Pareena carried signs that read “Stop threatening the life of the King.”





Further updated: Lese majeste cases rising

7 12 2020

It remains unclear to PPT exactly how many lese majeste cases have been filed by police. Different reports have different numbers and some of this may reflect that some people have been charged several times.

A recent report tells of two new complaints against activists. Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Atthapol “Khru Yai” Buaphat have been hit with 112 complaints by ultra-royalist in Khon Kaen, representing the mad monarchists of Thai Pakdee.

Sunate Kaewkhamhan, said to be “a core member of the Thai Pakdee Group of Khon Kaen,” made the complaint to police. Sunate claimed that the two activists’ “infringements on the royal institution [monarchy] are intolerable…” and promised that “wherever and whenever they go up on a stage to speak against the monarchy, we will compile evidence and file a complaint against them for violating Section 112…”.

Sunate appears to have once been a president of a fake “union” aligned with turncoat red shirt Suporn Atthawong. Both men are likely to be supported by the Army/ISOC.

Prachatai has posted a graphic listing 17 individuals who have been reported to have had police summons for 112 charges. We reproduce it below and note that it does not list Atthapol, so the total is at least 18.

Update 1: Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, who spent 7 long years in prison on lese majeste convictions, has posted on social media that he has been summoned to report to police on another 112 charge. So the running total is now at least 19.

Update 2: The case against Somyos is now reported in The Nation. He is “charged of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code at a protest on September 19 and 20.” Prachatai has now repoduced its graphic in English with a story on the 112 charges. We have changed the purloined graphic used above to the English version.





Updated: Vulture cops

2 11 2020

Compromise? No.

Thai PBS reports that the hospitalized prominent protesters, jailed for some time already, are set for more jail time. The cops, vulture-like, are waiting to re-arrest them as soon as the doctors discharge them.

Panasaya “Rung” Sitthijirawattanakul, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak will be dragged off to the courts “with the … police seeking to have them held on remand on more charges, which were filed against them while they were recuperating at Rama 9 Hospital.” They will end up in remand in several provinces.

The Bangkok Post reports that, in fact, two have already been “officially rearrested” while in hospital. This is reminiscent of actions taken in the lese majeste case against Thanet Anantawong who was dragged out of a hospital ward by junta thugs. Tghe Post reports:

Officers from Rayong showed up at Praram 9 Hospital to file a charge against Panupong “Mike” Jadnok over his protest against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during the premier’s visit to the province in August ahead of the mobile cabinet meeting there.

Similar scenes occurred when Ubon Ratchathani police also showed up to detain Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak over his role in an Aug 22 demonstration in the northeastern province. He faces sedition charges under Section 116 of the Criminal Code which he refused to acknowledge.

On Saturday night, city police had filed charges against Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul over her involvement on June 5 and June 22 in protests at the Pathumwan Skywalk in Bangkok.

Rung is now “under a 24-hour watch and police will reportedly seek a Pathumwan District Court order today to put her back behind bars for the time being.”

Get the picture? No compromise. As Mike and Penguin are being taken out of Bangkok, there are fears for their safety.

Update: In some good news, the Pathumwan District Court “rejected a police request to detain protest leader Panusaya … for further questioning in two cases in which she is charged with violating the Public Assembly Act of 2015.” The two cases relate to “demonstrations on the skywalk over the Pathumwan intersection on June 5 and June 22 demanding justice for Wanchalerm Satsaksit, … abducted by a group of men from in front of a condominium in Phnom Penh.” The court found no reason for detention. The same court also “refused a police request to detain Panupong “Mike Ranong” Jadnok, who was charged over his role in protesting the Prime Minister on July 15 in Rayong province,” finding no reason for further detention.

That good news is made better when the Criminal Court “dismissed a police request to extend the detention period for protest leaders Somyod Pruksakasemsuk, Ekkachai Hongkangwan, Suranat Paenprasert and Arnon Nampa…”. Somyos and Arnon are “facing charges stemming from their participation in the rally at Thammasat University on September 19-20,” while Akechai and Suranat have been “charged with attempting to harm … the Queen’s liberty by allegedly obstructing the royal motorcade … on October 16.”





Updated: The political judiciary

28 10 2020

From long being a pretty somnolent part of the bureaucracy, in the 21st century, Thailand’s judiciary has shown that it can move politics in particular directions. The judiciary has demonstrated a capacity for politicized decision-making that has supported rightist, royalist and military interests. Its double standards are now legendary.

Sure, sometimes a court makes a decision that goes against the political grain, but these are exceptions to what is now a rule.

The most politicized of judges, who do as they are required, get rewarded. The most recent is the appointment of Nurak Mapraneet as a privy councilor. He is a former president of the Constitutional Court. He became court president in 2007 following the 2006 military coup. During his tenure there, the Court dissolved six political parties, removed two prime ministers, nullified the 2014 election, banned scores of politicians, and accepted a king’s announcement as law. Quite a record and now he’s rewarded.

All of this is a preamble to an observation that the judicial system and the courts are again being used by the regime as a political weapon.

A couple of days ago, Thai Enquirer published a list of Thailand’s latest political prisoners. It is a list of list of university students, activists, and musicians who have been charged, since 18 July 2020, under Article 116 with sedition (21 persons) and Article 110 for committing an act of violence against the queen or her liberty (3 persons). It notes that “at least 60 other protestors have been charged for joining the pro-democracy protests between October 13 and October 24, according to TLHR and Amnesty International.” Many of these were charged with violating the emergency decree. Astoundingly, that number includes “two children, aged 16 and 17, and they will be prosecuted even though the severe state of emergency decree was lifted…”.

The courts get involved in these cases almost from the beginning. From a phase where those arrested were soon bailed by the courts, that has now ceased for those deemed to be “leaders.” It is as if an order has come from higher up, telling the judges not to release them. For example, there have been several instances where the political detainees have been granted bail and then immediately arrested on other charges. The most recent example is human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa. He was bailed by a Chiang Mai Court and then immediately re-arrested and transported to Bangkok by road to face another period in detention.

As was the pattern in lese majeste cases, we see the judiciary, police and corrections being used to punish, detain, and harass. We refer to this as “lese majeste torture.” The most awful example was the treatment meted out to Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. He’s now in jail and denied bail again. Also well aware of this tactic, having also been a lese majeste prisoner, is Akechai Hongkangwarn. He’s now denied bail on a spurious Article 110 charge.

Then there are the young “leaders.” Not only are they repeatedly denied bail, but the system ensures that they are treated to all the feudal rules of the prison system. While they have not yet had their heads shaved, they are given king-approved haircuts and made to wear prison uniforms and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul has been made to “dye her hair natural black,” if those words from the Bangkok Post make any sense at all.

But none of this makes much sense. It is just a dictatorial regime acting under orders.

Update: Khaosod reports that police are looking to charge some 16 persons: “Deputy Bangkok police chief Piya Tawichai told the media yesterday the police were gathering evidence to prosecute the embassy protesters…. Maj. Gen. Piya said a number of laws were violated, such as the public assembly act and libel.” Pro-democracy activists Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa are among those being “investigated.”

It is not reported whether the police are taking similar action against the yellow shirts who protested at the same embassy before the pro-democracy thousands.





Updated: Another night, more protests

17 10 2020

Another afternoon and night of protests. The regime thought that shutting down the train system would prevent protesters massing again, They particularly concentrated on the Victory Monument, and closed it off, with not a protester in sight.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters gathered at various spots around Bangkok and in Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen and several other provincial towns. Our pictures are clipped from social media.

Some of the signage was interesting.

Update: The Bangkok Post has some details on those arrested, still detained, and some bailed. Among those refused bail are former lese majeste victims Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa and Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. While there is some information on arrests, the regime is opaque, and Thai Enquirer says “security forces may have arrested up to 100 demonstrators for violating the government’s emergency decree…”. It also says that some demonstrators are “missing.”

In the royal car case, Bunkueanun Paothong has been bailed, while Akechai Hongkangwarn, another lese majeste victim, is awaiting bail.

Among those recently arrested are student leaders Panupong Jadnok (Rayong Mike) and protest leader Tattep Ruangprapaikijseree.





Still no freedom

22 09 2020

Somyos: On his release

We have been delayed in getting to this post by other events. However, we felt that a recent AFP report deserved attention because it is about Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, a political activist who fought lese majeste and the authorities for years. His long lese majeste story can be read here. It also cites Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, another activist who stood up to lese majeste and its use by the authorities, and paid a considerable price.

Somyos is said to be inspired and “in awe today as university students spearhead a growing movement demanding reforms to Thailand’s ultra-powerful monarchy.”

At 58, he says the “struggle is not finished…”. He adds: “I’m really proud that our efforts in the past continue… The new generation is discovering the reality — that there is no hope for them under this system.”

Jatuphat on his release. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Jatuphat (or Pai) also remains politically active. He observes: “This generation of kids is coming out to say what we have not dared say before…”. He attends and speaks at some of the rallies. On the threats: “They used to say we are the black sheep or outsiders of society, but that doesn’t really work any more because the people have woken up…”.

Both think it’s time for change; until there’s change there’s no freedom. Thousands agree with them.





Madness and monarchy

18 07 2020

A few days ago, PPT posted on the disturbing account of Tiwagorn Withiton’s forcible incarceration in a Khon Kaen psychiatric hospital on 9 July, Tiwagorn is the Facebook user who went post a picture of himself wearing a shirt printed with “I lost faith in the monarchy.”

Reuters reports that his case is not being ignored. It says a “small group of Thai activists protested at a psychiatric hospital on Friday…”. More than a dozen protesters called for his release at the hospital, described as “a rare sign of public support for someone who has openly criticised the monarchy.”

In response, Khon Kaen’s police chief Maj Gen Puttipong Musiku, told Reuters: “He is getting treatment, his relatives had him admitted…”. The police chief was supported Nattakorn Champathong, director of hospital who “told Reuters that Tiwagorn had not been forced to enter the hospital.”.

However, human rights lawyer “Yingcheep Atchanont, who visited Tiwagorn on Monday, told Reuters he believed the engineer had been held against his will at the hospital since July 9.”

Former political prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, himself a victim of the lese majeste law, also called for Tiwagorn’s release.

According to Prachatai, “[b]oth Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) and the Student Union of Thailand (SUT) have issued statements calling for the release…”.

In a report at the Bangkok Post it is reported that, so far, “[n]o charges have been pressed against [Tiwagorn]…”. He remained under medical “assessment” at the hospital.

In response to official claims, Tiwagorn’s mother “said officials turned up at his home on July 9 to arrest him…. She said although she was some distance away her son appeared to resist being arrested before being bundled into a hospital vehicle.”

Pointing to the reason for Tiwagorn being dragged to a psychiatric hospital, TLHR state:

… that the police do not have the authority to press charges against Tiwagorn, as the sentence “I lost faith in the monarchy” does not count as defamation, an insult, or a threat under Section 112 of the Criminal Code. It also does not count as sedition under Section 116, or as any kind of computer data listed under Section 14 of the Computer Crime Act.

TLHR adds that the official claims about Tiwagorn are concocted nonsense:

as Tiwagorn had to be carried out of his house by 6 officers, it is evident that he did not consent to being admitted. The fact that the police took around 10 vehicles to Tiwagorn’s house without a request from his family could also mean that his family is not able to tell the authorities what they really want.

It also accused the police of unlawful actions in arbitrarily detaining Tiwagorn:

… there is no reason why the police had to confiscate Tiwagorn’s computer and mobile phone, because they have nothing to do with medical treatment. TLHR believes that searching and confiscating objects without a warrant and without pressing charges is not lawful.

It might have been added that the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) was also involved in Tiwagorn’s detention, emphasizing the political nature of the regime’s actions. Police and military, along with complicit medical officials effectively forced him to hospital and forced his mother to “consent” to this abduction.

Pravit Rojanaphruk, writing an op-ed at Prachatai rather than Khaosod, makes it clear that this is lese majeste by another name: “Instead of using the controversial and anachronistic law, a man who insisted on wearing a controversial T-shirt was forcibly taken to a psychiatric hospital.”

Pravit takes the issue to a broader context:

Although Section 6 of the Constitution requires Thais to hold the monarchy in reverence, it’s clear that some Thais can no longer keep on pretending. Some fled abroad, and a few of these end up mysteriously disappearing while in exile. And if you are still inside Thailand, they may put you inside a mad house as occurred to Tiwagorn.

Tiwagorn was right, we cannot force people to hold on to faith when it’s no longer there.

He adds:

Losing faith in the institution of the monarchy is not a mental illness. A society which puts someone who loses faith inside a psychiatric hospital is mad.

Only a mad society would accuse someone who refuses to toe the line of being insane and keep him inside a madhouse.





Wanchalerm’s enforced disappearance

3 07 2020

Wanchalearm

Keeping the spotlight on the unexplained “disappearance” of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, the BBC has a long feature article detailing the events and background to the likely state abduction of the political activist, then living in exile in Cambodia.

As the report observes, he is “the ninth exiled critic of Thailand’s military and monarchy to become a victim of enforced disappearance in recent years.”

We feel it is worth reading in full. There’s not a lot that is new for those who have been following the case, but it is useful to have it brought together.

The report emphasizes that those who abducted Wanchalearm were armed and threatening to those who tried to intervene. The abductors used a black SUV, often a sign of state involvement.

His satirical political commentary “made fun continuously of the military junta. He made fun of Gen Prayuth [Chan-ocha] … he made fun of other generals.”According to human rights observer Sunai Phasuk, Wanchalearm’s social media interventions were to “show that a commoner can make fun of those in power. That seemed to be the way of getting even with the oppressors.”

It seems the oppressors came to hate him and to fear his wit and popularity in Thailand, especially in the northeast. They had been after him since the 2014 military coup and issued an “arrest warrant for Wanchalearm based on allegations he violated the Computer-Related Crime Act” in June 2018, with the authorities vowing to bring him back to Thailand. Now he’s gone.

Jakrapob

Jakrapob Penkair, also a political exile, says the junta/post-junta message is clear:

Let’s kill these folks. These are outsiders, these are people who are different from us and they should be killed in order to bring Thailand back to normalcy….

The reaction in Thailand to Wanchalearm’s disappearance has varied by political position, with regime supporters, royalists and yellow shirts cheering.

However, it has also “sparked protests in Bangkok, with demonstrators accusing the Thai government of involvement, while demanding the Cambodian government investigate the case fully.”

The enforced disappearance also caused the “hashtag ‘#abolish112’ was also written or retweeted more than 450,000 times.” The undertone is that the king is involved in these disappearances:

Many activists believe this abduction is linked to the palace, but the strict laws against any negative comment on the monarchy make this a dangerous link to explore or investigate.

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, described as “a prominent activist who served seven years in jail on charges of lese majeste” explains that:

The objective of kidnapping is to kill him and to create the atmosphere of fear in Thailand and other countries where [Thai] people are active in criticising the monarchy….

Somyot is reported to be “in little doubt as to who was behind the disappearance”:

The government knows very well about this kidnap and disappearance. I can insist that the government are the ones behind this violation….

The regime says it knows nothing. No one believes it.








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