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.





Political arrests III

9 08 2020

Yesterday, the big news was that the Criminal Court “approved bail for a lawyer and a student activist [Arnon Nampa and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok] who were arrested on Friday on multiple charges including sedition in connection with their involvement in a recent anti-government rally.” Both men say they will fight the charges.

Clipped from The Nation

Interestingly, Arnon immediately taunted the military and regime, “saying that he would travel to Chiang Mai for a rally on Sunday as planned earlier. There, he said he would speak on the same topic he raised last Monday, when comments he made about the constitution and the monarchy touched on some highly sensitive matters.” That’s Postspeak, tiptoeing around the absent king (watch out for another flying visit of about 24 hours over the next week) and his gorging on the public purse and power grabs.

Equally significant was the gathering of “hundreds of their supporters … at the Skywalk across from the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, where they flashed three-finger salutes and chanted ‘We are not afraid‘.”

They seemed to be responding to Mike, who wrote to supporters saying:

Our arrests are a clear testimony that the dictators don’t want people to assemble…. If, having seen that, we still don’t fight, we’ll be enslaved by dictators and bullied by a judicial system that is not just. The time is up for fear. Let’s fight like brave people…. Let’s end it in our generation.

A couple of days ago, Thai Enquirer referred to the regime’s political strategy against mounting student protests as “decapitation arrests,” meaning that it sought to remove or repress those it considers the protest leaders. Hence the arrest of Arnon and Panupong.

That report also quoted anonymous “sources inside the police, the government has made clear to the police leadership that the student movements should not be allowed to expand beyond its current size prompting the police to move against the student groups.” It cites political analyst Arun Saronchai as observing:

By removing the leadership, they want to see if the students can regroup quickly or whether the momentum will die. The government can litigate all these student leaders until the end of time…. However, it may backfire on them and galvanize the movement even more.

Police have been increasing their activities on university campuses: “security forces increasingly taking an interest in the student bodies that were becoming politically active.” As one academic explained: “They want names, they want numbers and they want to know who is leading the protests…”.

The Bangkok Post reports:

The pair were taken into custody by police armed with warrants on Friday afternoon. Samran Rat police have sought arrest warrants for 15 more demonstrators and were told to apprehend them all by Monday….

Police are also reported to be in the process of collecting evidence to seize 16 more people, bringing the total number of suspects from the July 18 rally to 31.

The Post’s reporting comes with a weasle-worded editorial headline: “Police need a slap on the wrist.” Seriously? What dope came up with that? The editor, it seems. The editorial itself is better, describing the arrests as “ill-thought, excessive.” It says the charges are “disproportionate given that the previous rallies — or flash mobs — in Bangkok and the provinces were peaceful…. [T]he alleged offence against the Emergency Decree is nonsensical.” It adds:

The heavy-handed approach by police is equal to a crackdown on political activism as well as freedom of expression, all civic rights endorsed in the 2017 constitution. Such a blatant act would make the country and the [Gen] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] administration subject to international criticism.

And, presumably domestic criticism? It concludes with the weasle-words:

Thailand cannot afford another political crisis, a factor that would see the country trapped in an economic abyss.

Last week, the premier even stressed the need for unity that will enable the nation to move forward. A suppression of activism would not bring the nation to that goal. An open talk between the government and the activists about how to avoid political crisis is necessary. Before that, the prime minister must give the police a slap on the wrist.

That’s the same police who are corrupt, gun-toting thugs who can’t follow a snail trail and repeatedly lie to the public. But, heck, the Post seems okay with all of that when the political order is under pressure. The Post has a habit of weak support for democracy and it seems it is a hard habit to shake.

Better to return to the Thai Enquirer report, where Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch observed the regime’s actions as amounting to a “total disregard for fundamental rights.” He said:

We have prominent human right lawyer and we have student activists facing sedition charges for peacefully holding a political rally to demand a democratic vote and good governance, this should not be a criminal offence…. If such peaceful actions are considered by the Thai authority to be criminally offensive, it would tell the world that Thailand is not a democratic state, it is a pariah authoritarian state to the core….

Of course, Thailand has not been democratic since the 2014 military coup. And the military and regime plan to keep it authoritarian.





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.





Truth, May 2010, no remorse

13 05 2020

After the illumination attacks on King Vajiralongkorn in Germany, illuminations of sites in Bangkok have remembered and questioned the military’s murderous crackdown on red shirts in 2010.

Prachatai reported that messages “projected onto key locations of the May 2010 crackdown on the Red Shirt protests” on Sunday night and the projected hashtag “#FindingTruth” (“#ตามหาความจริง”) trending on Twitter. The projections appeared just “a week before the 10th anniversary of the May 2020 crackdown on Red Shirt protestors on 19 May.”

The crackdowns were ordered by then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban. The murderous military assaults, including the use of snipers, was led by Gen Anupong Paojinda and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, among others, many of who were a part of the junta regime after the 2014 military coup and remain part of the current regime.

The locations included “Wat Pathum Wanaram, Soi Rangnam, the Ministry of Defence, and the Democracy Monument.”

Other messages were: “May 1992, 2010: killing fields in the city” and “Facts about May 2010: (1) the military forced all Red Shirts out of CTW [Central World] (2) The military took control of the CTW area (3) The fire happened when the military took control of CTW (4) The military wouldn’t let fire trucks in to put out of the fire…”.

The identity of those responsible was, at first, unknown, but the military elements of the regime sprang into repressive action, threatening “legal” action. The Nation reported:

“We do not know the exact purpose of this group but speculate that they have also spread these messages around social media to gain a wider audience,” Defence Ministry spokesman Lt-General Kongcheep Tantrawanich said. “It seems they are trying to bring up past political events, but this could lead to misunderstanding by authorities and institutes.”

Lt-Gen Kongcheep continued:

“I personally find it inappropriate to project these messages on government and public buildings, which could spark disagreement amid a crisis that the country is already facing. If the group wants to seek the truth, they can find it from evidence in legal cases, some of which have already seen verdicts while others are awaiting further legal procedures…”.

Of course, this is buffalo manure. As Prachatai explained, the:

casualties of the April-May 2010 crackdowns included unarmed protestors, volunteer medics, reporters, photographers, and bystanders. While the Abhisit government claimed that the protestors were ‘terrorists,’ news reports, pictures, and video footage show that none of the victims were armed, and until now, no trace of gunpowder has been found on any protestors’ hands. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2011 report, the excessive and unnecessary force used by the military caused the high number of death and injuries, including the enforcement of “live fire zones” around the protest sites in which sharpshooters and snipers were deployed. No officials responsible for the crackdowns have so far been held accountable for these casualties.

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch is clear, saying the projections are “a sign of popular support for the demand for truth about the 2010 violence…”. He observes:

… the government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, just like its predecessors, has no answers for those demanding justice for at least 98 people killed and more than 2,000 injured between April and May 2010….

In the decade since, the authorities have conducted no serious investigations to prosecute government officials responsible for crimes. While protest leaders and their supporters have faced serious criminal charges, successive Thai governments have made paltry efforts to hold policymakers, commanding officers, and soldiers accountable.

Under pressure from the military, authorities made insufficient efforts to identify the soldiers and commanding officers responsible for the shootings. Criminal and disciplinary cases were dropped against former Prime Minister Abhisit, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, and former army chief Gen. Anupong Paojinda over their failure to prevent the wrongful use of force by the military that caused deaths and destruction of property. To add insult to injury, Thai authorities have also targeted for intimidation and prosecution witnesses and families of the victims.

Khaosod reported that the “Defense Ministry will file legal action against those responsible for a light spectacle…”, although it was not clear what the charges would be.  According to the Bangkok Post, “Pol Col Kissana Phatanacharoen, deputy spokesman of the Royal Thai Police Office, said on Tuesday that legal police officers were considering which laws were violated and who should face charges.”

We suppose that the regime can concoct something, including using the current emergency decree, even if Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan seemed stumped.

Meanwhile, the “Progressive Movement, a group of politicians loyal to the now-disbanded Future Forward Party, appeared to claim responsibility for the actions Monday night by posting a timelapse , behind-the-scenes video from inside a van.” The Nation confirmed:

The group also said on its Twitter account that the authorities had no need to track them down….

“The truth might make some people uncomfortable and they may try to silence it but the truth will set us free from your lies,” the group boldly announced on Twitter. “We are no longer your slaves. Find the truth with us on our Progressive Movement Facebook page between May 12 and 20,” it added.

Lacking any remorse, the military is insistent that action be taken against protesters who did not gather and merely composed projections. Its political allies are threatening that the “Move Forward Party, a reincarnation of Future Forward Party, may face dissolution for sharing images of messages with a political tone that were recently projected in public places across the capital…”.

Interestingly, much political discontent is simmering. As The Nation reports, a “large crowd of mourners, many dressed in red, paid tribute to [lese majeste victim] Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul on Sunday (May 10) as the pro-democracy fighter better known as Da Torpedo was laid to rest in Bangkok.” The report notes that: “Her funeral marked the first large pro-democracy gathering during lockdown. Many mourners dressed in red instead of black to demonstrate their determination to carry forward Da Torpedo’s fight for democracy.”

The regime and its murderous military appear worried.





Assassins serving the state

22 06 2019

Sunai Phasuk a Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch has a Dispatch that is revealing of the operations of Thailand’s military.

It is about the south, but speaks volumes about the way the military operates, illegally, and with impunity. It begins:

The recent arrest in Yala province of a militia member linked to numerous murders and other crimes raised hopes that the Thai government was finally getting serious about countless abuses carried out by its security forces in Thailand’s restive southern border provinces….

“Getting serious” is not about arresting a southern insurgent, but arresting Abdulhakeem “Hakeem” Darase who

… is allegedly responsible for a long list of murders of ethnic Malay Muslim men and women accused of involvement with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) separatist movement.

He’s an operative and assassin with links to the military. He’s in the custody of the military, meaning police can’t charge him.

Sunai concludes:

The government should take an important step to break this cycle of violence by ordering the military to transfer Hakeem to police custody for a transparent and impartial criminal investigation and to be prosecuted as the evidence warrants it. There can be no excuses.





Updated: Assassins and other thugs

9 06 2019

PPT has posted a lot on the most recent tactics employed by the military junta in silencing opponents: murdering them and bashing them.

We can be pretty sure that these gruesome murders and repeated assaults are the work of the regime and its associated thugs because it does nothing to investigate the attacks. That some activists were reported as extradited to Thailand and have then gone missing also suggests high-level collusion with the regime on enforced disappearance.

The reason for these murders and attacks is to frighten and silence political opponents and critics of the monarchy.

In recent weeks, the international media has taken up these stories and especially those associated with the radical band Faiyen.

Over the weekend, a syndicated report in Australian newspapers on these events and their links has been widely circulated on social media. “They sent an assassination squad: Thai exiles speak of life in fear” by Michael Ruffles is well worth reading. One particular point, by Faiyen band member Worravut “Tito” Thueakchaiyaphum was striking:

I am not a criminal, and thinking differently about the monarch is not criminal. Criticising the monarchy should not be a death sentence….

We are not criminals. We want our struggle to be known internationally. This is a liberty and freedom people should have to think differently. We hope the brutality and barbaric acts of the Thai junta will be condemned.

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch is also quoted:

They are [seen to be] enemies of the palace….

There’s no evidence because there’s no investigation….

Laos has responded as if nothing has happened. What has made them turn a blind eye? When the bodies appeared it should have been a red light. What happened? Nothing.

All the combined signals, even though there’s no clear evidence, suggest someone significant enough to put them under the rug. It has to be someone really powerful to influence authorities in two countries.

Royalist Thailand, under a military junta, is increasingly lawless. The use of violence is likely to continue under a shaky government led by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha who will rely heavily on the king for maintaining his “new” regime.

Update: Read Human Rights Watch on the recent attacks on junta critics. It urges Thai authorities to “urgently and impartially investigate [these] assaults…”. It also reveals that the regime is ignoring these attacks: “Police told Human Rights Watch that security cameras in the area were either broken or blocked by trees, so they have no footage of the assailants…”. Even if there was, the police would do nothing. Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director, makes the obvious point: “The failure of Thai authorities to seriously investigate these assaults both encourages future attacks and suggests a possible role by officials.” We suspect that this is a preview of the way the junta-cum-Palang Pracharath plans to “manage” its regime.





On the road to nowhere (new)

24 05 2019

Is wasn’t hard to predict the final “election” result. PPT predicted a junta “win” a long time ago. The “win” was never in doubt as the whole process was rigged.

HRW’s Sunai Phasuk put it this way:

The March 24 general election was structurally rigged, enabling the military to extend its hold on power. While maintaining a host of repressive laws, the junta dissolved a main opposition party, took control of the national election commission, levied bogus criminal charges against opposition politicians and dissidents, and packed the Senate with generals and cronies who will have the power to determine the next prime minister, regardless of the election results.

What wasn’t clear is that the bumbling generals would be snookered by the electorate. Thai voters, despite all the rigging and repression still voted for anti-junta parties, with the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Puea Thai Party winning a plurality.

Despite this, the junta’s puppet party, Palang Pracharath, will head up a coalition of some 20 parties. While a great deal of bargaining has gone on, pro-military parties like Bhum Jai Thai and the anti-democrat Democrat Party were always likely to saddle-up with the junta – after all, they have supported it for years and worked for its coup back in 2014.

In a throwback to December 2008, when the military midwifed a government led by the Democrat Party’s Abhisit Vejjajiva, it is reported that there was:

a meeting between Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha], his deputy Prawit Wongsuwon, Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul and Democrat secretary-general Chalermchai Sri-on at a military camp in Bangkok…. They discussed coming together to set up a government with the PPRP as the main party, the sources said, adding that given the atmosphere of the meeting, the “deal” to form the next government is almost sealed.

The wheeling and dealing is over who gets what. Bhum Jai Thai wants a bunch of potentially lucrative cabinet slots that all seem focused on benefits for the Buriram clan. The Democrat Party wants anything at all that will allow it to look stronger than its horrid election result suggest.

Following the junta’s clear message, via the Election Commission and Constitutional Court, that it intends to grind the Future Forward Party into political dust, the deals were more easily struck, with most of the remora micro-parties and even the middle-sized parties rushing into the octopus-grasp of the junta.

How strong that grasp will be is yet to be tested. A 20-party coalition is a recipe for instability or for massive corruption in keeping it together. There’s also the “Prem model” who tried to ignore party and parliamentary bickering and ruled as a cabinet-led government. Like Gen Prem, Gen Prayuth has a tame Senate. In fact, the Senate looks rather like the puppet National Legislative Assembly of the past few years.

A weak coalition government with an autocratic premier suggests that The Dictator will require strong support from extra-parliamentary sources – the king and the military. Neither is likely to be maintained without cost and deals.

Back in the 1980s, the main threats and support for Gen Prem were extra-parliamentary, and despite the image of a period of stability, saw several coup attempts.





Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia

20 05 2019

New Mandala has posted a series of videos from a recent conference on Entrenched Illiberalism in Mainland Southeast Asia,” recorded at the Australian National University on 8–9 April 2019.

Coming a couple of weeks after Thailand’s “election,” means that there’s something of a focus on that country. Thai participants included Sunai Pasuk, Pasuk Phongpaichit, Aim Sinpeng, Prajak Kongkirati, and Naruemon Thabchumpon.





With 3 updates: Human rights violations and the military junta

7 01 2019

There’s very wide media coverage of a young woman from Saudi Arabia “being held at a Bangkok airport fears she will be killed if she is repatriated by Thai immigration officials…”. Thai officials “have confirmed the 18-year-old has been denied entry to the country.” An interesting aspect of the story is that:

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun said she was stopped by Saudi and Kuwaiti officials when she arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport and her travel document was forcibly taken from her, a claim backed by Human Rights Watch.

Again, it is the Deputy Dictator’s man, Big Joke Surachate Hakparn who is “managing” more human rights abuse and who confirms that she will be forcefully repatriate. He has also played an important and negative role in the detention of Bahrain refugee.

Under the military junta, there have been several reports of foreign police and/or military officials actively “working” in Thailand. Most reports have involved Chinese police or provincial “authorities.” Dissidents have disappeared in Thailand and reappeared in China and those seeking refugee status have been forcibly deported.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post reports that Rahaf barricaded herself in her room and avoided the first effort to deport her. No doubt the huge international media attention and the interest of several governments has also caused the blunt dolts associated with the junta and Immigration to think a bit more, if “think is the correct term for what they do:

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch was quoted by media as saying Rahaf had refused to leave her hotel room at the Miracle Transit Hotel, which was surrounded by police who were refusing to let anyone inside.

UN officials were present, he reportedly said. However, ABC reporter Sophie McNeill tweeted that representatives of the United Nations Human Rights Committee were being refused access.

Update 2: A reader sent us a link to an interesting Australian media report on these events, saying that if Rahaf’s account is accurate, “Thai authorities have questions to answer” about how they are doing backroom deals with Saudi and Bahraini officials and with regimes with terrible human rights records.

Update 3: Intense international media attention seems to have caused the Thai authorities to do that “rethinking.” The Bangkok Post reports that Rahaf has been “temporarily admitted to Thailand for evaluation by the UN refugee agency…. Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn told reporters Monday night that 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun would be granted entry under the protection of the office of the UN High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR).” Immigration police allowed the UNHCR to meet Rahaf and accompany her from the airport.





Updates on disappeared Surachai and disappeared monument

5 01 2019

Chunks of concrete: The Sydney Morning Herald has commented on the bodies, “[g]utted and stuffed with concrete” found on the banks of the Mekong River. and feared to be the bodies of two of the three anti-monarchy activists who recently “disappeared” in Laos.

It cites Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk who demands that Surachai Danwattananusorn’s disappearance “should not be treated with silence or swept under the rug.” He adds:

Since 2016 at least five Thai anti-monarchy activists, including Surachai, have gone missing in the capital city of Laos. But the Lao government has failed to conduct any serious investigation. Lao authorities have routinely dismissed concerns raised by the UN agencies and human rights groups about these cases.

Readers should also look at the website of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights, which has additional information. PPT has also added the Alliance to our Blogroll.

Democracy in ruins: About a week ago, PPT posted on the removal of another monument associated with the People’s Party and its 1932 revolution. The Nation has now published a detailed story on this mystery. It notes that “no one in authority seems to know who took the monument away, where it is or where it might reappear.” Maybe they should have said that people in authority know who took the monument and where it is, but they are forbidden to say and too frightened to say.

Clipped from The Nation: The ruins of democracy and the rubble of history

The silence of the military junta on both stories as well as on other related incidents screams complicity.