Further updated: Abolition vs. reform

27 04 2023

David Hutt at The Diplomat reckons that “a decent show from the youthful radicals at Move Forward next month ought to move the needle on debates around the monarchy.”

And it certainly looks like a “decent show” is on the cards. As Hutt says, “a significant number of Thais are soon expected to vote for a party that has remained open to supporting the abolitionist cause on lèse-majesté and made reform part of its manifesto…”.

He observes that “The ‘Abolish 112’ campaign … appears to be gaining ground. And it appears to be moving from the academy onto the streets, especially among those who joined the demonstrations that began in 2020.” And, we might also cheer Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phupong.

Of course, “the Constitutional Court ruled … that even calls for royal reform are seditious.” That perspective seems nicely forgotten as several parties talk about 112 reform, even if they remain cautious.

Hutt then moves on to think about how 112 might be reformed. But is reform sufficient? He suggests, and we agree, that “a goodly number of Thais … are moved by the idealistic stance, which is that the lèse-majesté law is wrong in itself. For the most part, they see reform as a dead-end path, so abolition is the only way.”

That stance raises other questions: “whether another human being, by happenchance of birth, is infallible and unquestionable, and why an institution purportedly so strong and adored needs to be defended on every occasion against the obscure Facebook post.”

Let’s hope the “idealists” can move this position forward.

Of course, if the same old fossils somehow scratch and finagle their way back to power but are stunned by Move Forward’s appeal, they are likely to return to their dinosaur agencies at the Election Commission and Constitutional Court and try to rid themselves of that party (as they did after the last election).

Update 1: Speaking of fossils and their stone age ideas, when 17 envoys from 13 European countries met with Bhum Jai Thai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul, “he affirmed the party’s stance against amending Section 112, the lese majeste law, during a meeting with European Union (EU) ambassadors.” He stated that “Bhumjaithai would only have one condition when forming a post-election alliance — that it would not work with any parties seeking to revise the lese majeste law.”

Update 2: Thai Newsroom adds to the story of the EU visitors, reporting that the envoys:

inquired with the Bhumjaithai leader as to whether caretaker prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who is running to retain power under the Ruam Thai Sang Chart tickets could possibly enjoy “windfall” advantages, either before or after the May 14 election, only if his archrivals such as the Pheu Thai were dissolved by court.

Apparently the visit was prompted by “Anutin’s comment recently made to the extent that he ultimately disagrees with the dissolution of any party because, he said, it cannot practically stop politicians from pursuing their ideological interests under democratic rule.”

Updated: The parties and lese majeste

22 04 2023

Yesterday we posted on Puea Thai and Article 112. Today we point readers to an article by Napon Jatusripitak, Visiting Fellow in the Thailand Studies Programme at ISEAS in Singapore. His “Thailand’s Lèse-majesté Law: A Subtle Referendum in the Upcoming Elections?” is a useful account and jives with our view that 112 is on the election agenda mainly because of the valiant efforts of Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon and Orawan “Bam” Phupong.

The conclusion to the paper is not really an answer to the question posed in the title but is to the point:

Will the election provide an opening for the small but growing demand for change, particularly among younger generations of Thais like Tawan and Bam? Or will it signify the political exclusion of this demand and affirm the suspension of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and … the rule of law? Much remains to be seen, but it is clear that the lèse-majesté law has become a central issue that will shape the generational and ideological divides in political attitudes, even if its fate does not appear to be hanging in the balance.

The fate of lese majeste might not be hanging in the balance, but the fates of scores of people facing lese majeste charges are certainly left hanging.

Update: Prachatai recounts an election debate and sets out the responses to 112 by 10 participants from 10 parties. The royalist Democrat Party is listed under the majority of parties that consider “112 is problematic in terms of enforcement and its legal provisions.” Here’s the summary of party leader Jurin Laksanavisit’s comments:

Jurin expressed the view that Section 112 is still crucial, as it is designed to protect the head of state, and many other nations have a similar law.

He believes that if the enforcement is problematic, the solution lies in amending the enforcement process, rather than abolishing the law.

Lastly, he disagrees with the idea of having the Bureau of the Royal Household or the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary act as complainants, as it is like directly pitting the monarchy against the people.

In other words, keep everything as is but fix enforcement somehow…. Last time the Democrat Party was in power it also took this position and the number of lese majeste cases increased.

Updated: Mad monarchists get mad(der)

11 04 2023

It came as no surprise to PPT that monarchy and 112 reformers Orawan Phuphong and Tantawan Tuatulanon were among the winners at The People Awards 2023.

Of course, mad monarchists have responded by becoming even madder attacking online magazine The People and others associated with it.

Social media lit up following the 5 April  ceremony. Prachatai reports that “right-wing media such as Top News and ultra right-wing groups like the Thai Move Institute, who also directed criticism at the Nation Group, which owns the magazine, and the Export-Import (EXIM) Bank of Thailand, who they claim is a sponsor for the awards.”

Sadly, the result has been considerable spinelessness.

According to Prachatai,

The Nation Group issued a statement on 6 April that neither the company nor other media outlets it runs are involved in the awards, and that the company allows each editorial team to work independently. It also said that The People’s editorial team are the sole decision-makers behind the awards.

It seems to be throwing its employees under the royalist bus.

The statement also noted that the Nation Group is planning to sell its shares in the magazine, and has already negotiated a sale with a potential buyer.

Of course! Run and hide!

“The Nation Group is a professional media institution and will steadfastly stand by our principles in our duty of being providers of useful information for the Thai public and to preserve the institutions of the nation, religions, and the monarchy,” said the statement.

Just a tip for the jellyfish at The Nation: in Thailand, you can’t do both. You either suck up to the monarchy or you tell the truth.

Update: Of course, as a reader writes, The Nation has long been hopelessly short on spine. That’s well known, but the idea that it thinks of itself as “professional” and as having “principles” stuck out in this report, where the groups antics demonstrated exactly the opposite.

Out of hospital and (still) campaigning II

26 03 2023

The Straits Times has a useful story regarding the Move Forward Party and the appearance of Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong, as posted yesterday. The story, focused on Move Forward, is part of a series on Thailand’s key personalities and political parties as The Straits Times follows the campaign trail for the 2023 election.

It is a long an interesting story and PPT focuses on the part referring to lese majeste.

It was on 24 March, in Chonburi that Tawan and Bam climbed on the Move Forward campaign stage “with a sign [a ballot] asking people to vote to ‘abolish’ or ‘amend’ Thailand’s lese majeste law.”

Clipped from Bangkok Post

Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat welcomed them and allowed them to speak. “He then votes by placing a sticker in the ‘Abolish’ column on their poster. The 10 Chonburi constituency candidates behind him follow suit.”

Pita then said: “However, I must apologise, but the party must push for amendments first…”. He said that “if the amendments are still rejected, the party will push for its abolishment.” He told the crowd: “This is why the people of Chonburi must elect our candidates to step forward, so we have enough votes to solve political problems…”.

Out of hospital and (still) campaigning I

25 03 2023

Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong were only discharged from Thammasat University Hospital on Thursday. It had taken 12 days for medicos to nurse them back to health after their 52-day fast.

Yet, as the Bangkok Post reports,

Within hours they were in Ayutthaya, attending a Pheu Thai Party campaign event for the May 14 general election. Carrying a large placard, they began to circulate through the crowd, asking party faithful to mark down whether they favoured repealing Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the royal defamation law. A second question asked whether freedom and economic prosperity were possible at the same time.

Clipped from Bangkok Post

The two women approached the party’s campaign stage, and were “eventually allowed onstage. Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the face of the party and presumptive prime ministerial candidate, made some general remarks about freedom of expression and the moment passed without incident.”

The Post gleefully writes: “Like most parties campaigning for the May 14 poll, Pheu Thai does not want to make lese-majeste an issue, or even mention it at all, beyond saying that is open to discussing possible amendments.”

It then seems to want to attack Move Forward:

On Friday evening, Ms Tantawan and Ms Orawan — Tawan and Bam to their supporters — took their campaign to a Move Forward rally in Chon Buri, where they found an enthusiastic reception. Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat even invited them onstage and expressed support for their efforts.

It adds:

Only Move Forward has an explicit policy proposal to reform the law to reduce the current harsh punishments. The party also says that only the Bureau of the Royal Household should be allowed to file criminal complaints. Currently, anyone can file a lese-majeste complaint against anybody else and the police are obliged to investigate it.

Tantawan and Orawan have said they will “visit all the parties, even the ‘dictatorial’ ones, on the campaign trail to find out where their leaders and supporters stand on the lese-majeste issue.”

The Post suggests potential violence if they show up at the United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) party “fronted by the acting prime minister, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the reception might be less than warm. One of the big names who joined the party this week is Dr Rienthong Nanna, a ultra-royalist vigilante infamous for inciting supporters to go after reformist activists.”

This reporting is lop-sided, but at least the report includes available data on lese majeste cases long-missing from the Post’s reporting. We can probably thank Tawan and Bam for that!

Brave women V

11 03 2023

Thai Newsroom reports that “Tantawan ‘Tawan’ Tuatulanond, said in a Facebook post that both she and Orawan ‘Bam’ Pupong want to inform the public that they had stopped their hunger strike to live and continue fighting as they had not yet received a response from the court.”

A photo of the two before their fast

Their fast lasted 53 days.

The two are currently undergoing treatment at Thammasat Hospital, under close medical supervision. Doctors remain concerned “about the functioning of their kidneys and other organs that had been affected by their lengthy fast without food or water.”

Tawan’s post stated “that they were both responsive and alert as well as communicating clearly. While they were now out of danger they would be undergoing medical treatment for sometime at this hospital.”

AFP calls out fake posts

4 03 2023

AFP has called out fake news on social media about Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon and Orawan “Bam” Phupong:

False Facebook posts have repeatedly shared a photo with the claim it shows two Thai protesters looking healthy despite being on hunger strike for the abolition of the kingdom’s tough royal insult laws. But the photo actually shows two different women — not youth activists Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon and Orawan “Bam” Phupong whose deteriorating health had been acknowledged by a Thai court.

…[F]alse posts here, here and here have continued to circulate online, criticising the pair for purportedly not looking unwell.

These posts were published days after Tawan and Bam began a fresh hunger strike outside Thailand’s Supreme Court, where they and their supporters erected a protest site including a tent.

Many comments online suggested people believed the photo showed both activists.

… AFP reached out to Netiporn and Nutthanit who separately said their photo had been misused.

“I was just preparing things. In my hand was tissue,” said Nutthanit.

Netiporn said the picture shows her cleaning the bed for Tawan and Bam inside the tent.

Kritsadang Nutcharas, a lawyer for Tawan and Bam, told AFP both had been taking liquids and some minerals from February 24 to March 2, but have since announced a new hunger strike.

That new hunger strike came after another activist was refused bail. Since then, Tantawan and Orawan have “again been admitted to Thammasat University Hospital as their condition has worsened…”.

Brave women IV

24 02 2023

Bam. Photo clipped from one by Ginger Cat

Activists Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon, and Orawan “Bam” Phuphong have left Thammasat Hospital.and continue dry fasting at the front of the Supreme Court from 24 February 2023.

They had fasted for 37 days demanding bail rights, the release of political prisoners and justice reform.

The Bangkok Post reported that they “looked noticeably thinner and were very weak, with bruising on their bodies from needle marks where they had received intravenous fluids.”

Comrades have constructed a shelter on the footpath for them.

The two wrote a letter to Thammasat hospital acknowledging that they had insisted on leaving the hospital and that doing so was a risk to their lives. They also pointed to their right to refuse  medical treatment.

Tawan. Photo clipped from one by Ginger Cat

In addition, they stated:

They said that despite their physically weak condition they were still able to think clearly, as witnessed by their friends and families. In the event that the pair may not be able to make decisions, their lawyer can make decisions in their interests.

Only three political prisoners remain in detention without bail.


Updated: 4 political prisoners bailed

19 02 2023

The Bangkok Post reports that four members of Thalugas/Thalugaz have been released on bail of 70,000 baht each and ordered to wear electronic monitoring anklets.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, these political prisoners “had spent more than 240 days in pre-trial detention…”. That detention of more than 8 months results from them being “accused of setting fire to a police car during a protest on June 11, 2022.”

Clipped from Pattaya News

TLHR reports that their lawyers “had requested bail for them 18 times — the most of all political prisoners in 2022.”

It is reported that “the foursome expressed thanks to hunger strikers Tantawan ‘Tawan’ Tuatulanon and Orawan ‘Bam’ Phuphong, who have led the campaign in support of bail rights for political prisoners.” Those brave women are past 30 days in their brave protest, demanding “the right to bail, the release of all political prisoners and the abolition of the lese-majeste and sedition laws.”

This release of Thalugas prisoners means that “four detainees remain in Bangkok Remand Prison.”

One of those detainees is “Sophon Suraritthamrong, who has been refusing to sleep for 10 days.” He has been detained since 9 January 2023 on lese majeste.

Update: Prachatai reports that the glacial, royalist courts have “granted bail to 3 detainees whose charges relate to political protests, leaving 3 still detained.” On 20 February 2023, the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court “granted a request from their lawyers to temporarily release Sopon Surariddhidhamrong, Nutthanit Duangmusit, and Pornpot Jaengkrajang.”

It is reported that the “remaining three are Thiranai, Khathathon, and Chaiyaporn (surnames withheld in all cases)…. In Thiranai and Chaiyaporn’s case, the Court has passed the request to the Court of Appeal for consideration. In Khathathon’s case, Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court asked for further information. All cases would take a few days before a decision is made.”

However, Prachatai also says that “there are [an]other 6 people who have been sentenced to prison terms for crimes related to expression about the monarchy and actions related to the protest. The longest serving is Anchan, who has been sentenced to 43 years and six months for violating Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (lèse majesté).”

On Tantawan and Orawan, “Thaluwang (Pierce the Palace), a monarchy reform group to which Tantawan and Orawan are affiliated, posted that the two would leave Thammasat hospital and continue to protest in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday if all the bail requests are not promptly granted.”

Brave women III

11 02 2023

Despite the angst of some, the brave and determined hunger strike by Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong is producing results: increased international attention, more domestic action on lese majeste reform, and the release on bail of a number of political prisoners.

To be sure, motivating the regime is akin to moving mountains. Here, we mean more than the government. What needs moving is the ruling class of palace, tycoons, military, and the senior police, bureaucrats, and judges who serve that class.

But, at glacial pace, and despite internal splits between the faux liberals and the recalcitrant royalists, it is moving.

Prachatai reports that “on 10 February that Sitthichok Sethasavet, a detained food rider, was allowed bail by the Supreme Court, a final feat after the Court of Appeal denied the temporary release during an ongoing appeal.” It adds that a “day before …, Sombat Thongyoi, a protest guard, and Kongpet (surname withheld), another political detainee, were allowed bail.” And, “Another convicts related to explosive device possession, Tatphong Khieukhao, was also released from his temporary detention on 8 February.”

In summary, “8 people are still under detention for participating in political protests that call for political and monarchy reforms. All are being detained pending trial.”

That’s progress thanks to Tantawan and Orawan.

Even the supine Bangkok Post has an editorial calling for reform. It somewhat grudgingly states: “Their self-destructive campaign poses a challenge in terms of how Thailand will balance the application of the strict lese majeste law while permitting freedom of expression in a more open society.” It does acknowledge that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s response has been paternalist and cruel:

his messages are … disturbing and unproductive. It is shocking to hear the man who, after staging the coup in 2014, promised “peace and reconciliation” so easily discount the credibility of young political activists, and try to position them as the pawns of political groups. His words will only further alienate dissidents. Perhaps now we can understand why his national reconciliation plan remains half-baked, and young activists have grown more alienated and even radicalised during his eight-year tenure.

But the Post can’t explain why it declares: “Make no mistake, the lese majeste laws have been part of the country’s political culture and are needed to protect the revered institution.” This is royalist mantra. But it still shows glacial progress thanks to Tantawan and Orawan.

%d bloggers like this: