Arbitrary detention and digital dictatorship

16 01 2023

We note two recent reports worthy of attention.

The first is from the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has issued an appeal regarding Thailand.

It begins:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment of Mr Sopon Surariddhidhamrong, aka Get, leader of the student pro-democracy group Mok Luang Rim Nam, and Ms Natthanit Duangmusit, aka Baipor, member of the pro-democracy and monarchy reform activist group Thalu Wang. Founded in August 2020, Mok Luang Rim Nam has expanded from advocating for the rights of students at Navamindradhiraj University in Bangkok to various human rights issues in Thailand, including enforced disappearance, labour rights, and equality. Formed in early 2022, Thalu Wang has been advocating for the abolition of Article 112 of Thailand Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”) and conducting public opinion polls at various locations in Bangkok on how the Thai monarchy affects people’s lives and whether the institution should be reformed.

On January 9, 2023, the Bangkok Criminal Court revoked Sopon and Natthanit’s bail and ordered their detention, on the ground that the two violated the bail conditions of their temporary release, granted on May 31, 2022, and August 4, 2022, respectively, by participating in an anti-government protest on November 17, 2022, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bangkok….

It adds:

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Sopon and Natthanit, who seem to be only targeted for the legitimate exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly….

The second is from Global Voices. It begins:

A ministerial decree issued by the government of Thailand detailing procedures for the “Suppression of Dissemination and Removal of Computer Data from the Computer System B.E. 2565” took effect on December 25, 2022. The decree passed despite calls from various civil society organizations to withdraw the new regulation because it contains provisions that could further suppress online free speech.

Noting that content could be removed without a court order, NGOs considered the decree “another tool of control for the authorities to silence critical dissent, and a reflection of the digital dictatorship in Thailand.”

112 bail revoked

10 01 2023

Prachatai reports that two monarchy reform activists, both charged with lese majeste, have had their bail revoked.

Bail for Sopon Surariddhidhamrong and Nutthanit “Baipor” Duangmusit was revoked on 9 January “after the Criminal Court ruled that they had violated their bail conditions by joining an anti-government protest during the APEC summit in November 2022.”

Sopon and Baipor. Clipped from Prachatai, hhoto by Ginger Cat

As Prachatai reports, “Sopon was previously held in pre-trial detention on a royal defamation charge for a month before being granted bail on 31 May 2022. He has been prohibited from leaving his residence without court permission unless for educational or medical reasons.”

Nutthanit, who had previously been held in pre-trial detention for 94 days “went on a hunger strike for 64 days … until granted bail on 4 August 2022.”

As usual, the royalist courts appear to have made odd/political decisions that seems to stretch notions of legality: “TLHR [Thai Lawyers for Human Rights] said that the defendants decided not to testify because the prosecution did not bring an eyewitness to court, and because they believed that the prosecution did not have enough evidence to prove that they violated their bail.” Even so, bail was revoked.

Release political prisoners IV

1 06 2022

Prachatai reports that monarchy reform activist Sopon Surariddhidhamrong, who has been held in pre-trial detention on a lese majeste charge, was finally granted bail on 31 May.

His Article 112 charge resulted from a speech he gave at a protest on 22 April 2022. A charge of “using a sound amplifier without permission” was added.

The complaint against him was filed by royalist vigilante Anon Klinkaew, a member of the ultra-royalist group People’s Centre to Protect the Monarchy, who alleged that Sopon’s speech defamed Queen Suthida.

He also faces at least one other 112 charge(the reporting is not clear): “one is for a speech given at the Chakri Memorial Day protest on 6 April 2022 and another for a speech given during a Labour Day rally in front of Government House on 1 May.”

Clipped from Prachatai

Sopon was arrested as he left a Labour Day event at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. Prachatai states: “He has been held in pre-trial detention for the past 30 days and repeatedly denied bail. His family and lawyers filed another bail request for him on 27 May, after concerns arose that Sopon will not be able to complete his radiological technology license course if he continues to be detained and will be denied the opportunity to work as a medical professional.”

Like other recent cases where bail was reluctantly granted, the conditions are oppressive. He was “granted him bail for a 1-month period using a 100,000-baht security, which was covered by the Will of the People Fund, a bail fund for people facing charges for participating in pro-democracy protests. The court appointed his parents and grandfather as supervisors.”

The Court also “prohibited him from repeating his offense or participating in activities which cause public disorder or damage to the monarchy. He is also not allowed to leave the country without court permission and must stay at home at all times unless for educational or medical reasons.” In addition, the court demanded: “If he needs to leave home for educational reasons, he must present certifying letters from his university and the lecturer responsible for the relevant classes to the Court 3 days in advance. In cases of medical emergency, he must present a medical certificate to the Court within 3 days.”

In other words, this “release” amounts to house arrest.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) revealed that:

… before Sopon was released from Bangkok Remand Prison, officers from Buppharam Police Station came to re-arrest him on another royal defamation charge resulting from a speech he gave during a protest on Chakri Memorial Day (6 April). Although there is an arrest warrant out for Sopon, officers have already visited him in prison to inform him of his charges and the warrant should therefore become invalid.

Officers initially said they would take him to the Police Club on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, claiming that the arrest warrant is still valid. Sopon’s lawyers then spoke to the officers and told them that Sopon’s family will be filing a misconduct complaint against them if they arrest him. At around 20.20, after the officers confirmed that they would not arrest him, Sopon was released from Bangkok Remand Prison.

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