LM is just alright, oh yeah

30 01 2023

We read this from Pravit Rojanaphruk and were dismayed. Pravit writes of the hunger strike by Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong. He states:

The two young activists issued three lofty demands: justice system reform, release of all political prisoners, and for all political parties to call for the abolition of both the lese majeste and sedition laws.

Ten days have passed and none of their demands have been met. Yet as of press time, they insist on continuing their hunger strike, adamant that, if need be, they are willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause they believe in.

He continues, pleading:

Time is of the essence and people who have good ties with the two and their respect should immediately meet them at the hospital to try to convince them that their demands will most unlikely be met in the foreseeable future and they should end the hunger strike and carry on a fight in a more protracted manner.

And he opines:

It may take many years, no, decades more, but we cannot expect Thai society to produce an immediate consensus particularly on the status of the lese majeste law by having someone threaten to sacrifice their live, if all political parties do not support the abolition of the law. We need more talks to convince the unconvinced and it cannot be achieved through a hunger strike. This is where Tawan and Bam, no matter how well intended, got it wrong.

Talks for decades…. Hunger strikes are a longstanding political protest, used by many. Nelson Mandela and he also intervened to seek a negotiated settlement with the apartheid government. an end to a hunger strike by political prisoners.  Gandhi is listed as having used it at least 18 times. Ironically, Mandela and Gandhi sometimes got far better responses from the racist South African and British colonial state than these brave and principled young women get from the military-monarchy regime.

We recall a recent book on the history of hunger strikes, Refusal to Eat A Century of Prison Hunger Strikes by Nayan Shah. Its promotional material states:

The power of the hunger strike lies in its utter simplicity. The ability to choose to forego eating is universally accessible, even to those living under conditions of maximal constraint, as in the prisons of apartheid South Africa, Israeli prisons for Palestinian prisoners, and the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay. It is a weapon of the weak, potentially open to all. By choosing to hunger strike, a prisoner wields a last-resort personal power that communicates viscerally, in a way that is undeniable—especially when broadcast over prison barricades through media and to movements outside.

It is an expression of exasperation, often when other means of protest and negotiation are closed or unavailable. It is often a last-ditch effort for change.

By intervening in this manner, it seems another media capitulation, handing the regime a free pass for “years, no, decades…”. The result was that we had an old song ringing in our ears, with apologies to the Doobie Brothers and Arthur Reynolds:

… LM is just alright with meLM is just alright, oh yeahLM is just alright with meLM is just alright
I don’t care what they may sayI don’t care what they may doI don’t care what they may sayLM is just alright, oh yeahLM is just alright….
LM is just alright with meLM is just alright, oh yeahLM is just alright with meLM is just alright
I don’t care what they may knowI don’t care where they may goI don’t care what they may knowLM is just alright, oh yeah
LM, He’s my friendLM, He’s my friend….




International reporting on massive 112 sentence

29 01 2023

Lese majeste sentencing and the law itself are back in the international media. Not only are the anti-112 hunger strikers and related protests getting some attention, but the mammoth sentence handed out to Mongkol Thirakhote has flashed around the world.

Even the Bangkok Post’s briefly reports Mongkol’s case. It has been more diligent in reporting on the hunger strike by Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong. Difficult to ignore this strike when even the usually supine National Human Rights Commission has expressed “concern” for these two women. Neither appears to have mentioned Sitthichok Sethasavet’s hunger strike.

The international reporting has focused on the huge sentence and linked to protests and hunger strikes.

Associated Press (AP), Yahoo, and AFP reporting has gone to hundreds of outlets from small town newspapers to major national dailies, and radio and TV outlets from Japan, to India, to the US and Germany, from the left to the right.

Reports from the region are in Mizzima, The Straits Times, Today, Benar News, among others.





End lawfare

28 01 2023

A statement from ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights targets lawfare: “the use of judicial harassment and politically-motivated charges against critics and political opponents…”.

The Parliamentarians are mainly focused on the use of defamation laws.

The use of defamation to silence activists has been common in Thailand. However, PPT sees a broader approach in THailand, where there has been a huge increase in judicial harassment since the 2014 coup and most especially since the 2020 rise of the monarchy reform movement. Many hundreds of charges – and most notably Article 112 or lese majeste – have been laid over the past few years and courts, police, and prosecutors have cooperated with the regime to use prosecution and bail to harass and silence political opponents. This is one reason why the moves by Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong, self-revoking bail, is so significant.

The Parliamentarians state:

The Philippines, as well as other ASEAN member states, must immediately halt the use of judicial harassment and politically-motivated charges against critics and political opponents, a phenomenon known as ‘lawfare’, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said today at a press conference held in Manila.

“We call on Southeast Asian authorities to stop abusing the legal system to stifle dissent and urge ASEAN to reprimand member states that continue to use lawfare to attack political opposition. The Philippine government can take the first step by dropping all charges against Walden Bello and immediately releasing Senator Leila De Lima and any others that have been unjustly detained due to politically-motivated charges,” said Mercy Barends, Chairperson of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and member of the Indonesian House of Representatives.

The press conference, titled “Stop Lawfare! No to the Weaponization of the Law and State-sponsored Violence,” was organized by APHR and the Walden Bello Legal Defense Committee, in solidarity with Walden Bello, an APHR Board Member and former Member of Parliament in the Philippines. Bello is facing politically-motivated charges of cyber-libel brought by a former Davao City information officer who now works as chief of the Media and Public Relations Division of the Office of the Vice President, Sara Duterte.

There have been many other victims of lawfare in the Philippines, including Senator Leila de Lima, who was arrested in February 2017 on trumped-up drug charges, shortly after she had launched a Senate investigation into the extrajudicial killings committed under the Rodrigo Duterte administration. She has remained in detention ever since, still waiting for her trial, despite the fact that several key witnesses have recanted their testimonies.

“Lawfare is very common in the Philippines, but is happening everywhere in Southeast Asia and beyond. Governments in the region are using ambiguous laws to prosecute political opponents, government critics, and activists. This weaponizing of the legal system is alarming and incredibly damaging to freedom of expression. It creates an atmosphere of fear that not only silences  those who are targeted by such “lawfare” but also makes anyone who may want to criticize those in power think twice,” said  Charles Santiago, APHR Co-chairperson and former Malaysian Member of Parliament.

In Myanmar and Cambodia, for example, laws on treason and terrorism have been weaponized to crush opposition. The most tragic example took place in July last year, with the execution of four prominent Myanmar activists on bogus terrorism charges by the Myanmar junta. Those were the first judicial executions in decades, and provide an extreme example of how the law can be perverted by authoritarian regimes to cement their power, APHR has denounced. In Cambodia, members of the opposition are sentenced to lengthy jail terms on fabricated charges simply for exercising their right to freedom of speech.

Meanwhile, defamation laws are among the most often used for lawfare in Thailand, where, contrary to many other countries, it might be regarded as a criminal offense, rather than just a civil offense. Sections 326–328 of the Thai Criminal Code establish several defamation offenses with sentences of up to two years’ imprisonment and fines of up to 200,000 Thai Baht (approximately USD 6,400).

“I think we, as parliamentarians, should do our utmost in our respective countries to repeal, or at least amend, these kinds of laws. Our democracies depend on it. But I also think that we cannot do it alone. We need to work together across borders, share experiences with parliamentarians from other countries and stand in solidarity with those who fall victim to them, because, ultimately, we are all on the same boat,” said Rangsiman Rome, Member of the Thai Parliament, and APHR member.





Monarchy reform rejuvenated

27 01 2023

As a follow-up to our previous post, here we reproduce a post from Prachatai’s FB page:

Anon Nampa gives a speech, saying that he has received a phone call from a high-ranking figure in Pheu Thai party that, on Friday, every opposition party will make a statement to support Tantawan and Orawan. Their demands will be to amend the royal defamation charge at the minimum, and abolish the law at the maximum.

He went on, saying the new wave of pro-democracy movement starting in 2020 defies those who said it had won nothing. Examples given were the emergence of activist groups like Thalufah, Thaluwang, or Thalugaz, the anti-torture bill’s approval, and the lawmakers scrutinies over the Royal Office annual budget.

Clipped from Prachatai FB (photo credit Chana La)

Moreover, the authorities’ retaliation to the movement has consolidated them and created more allies across generations, and the fights between democracy and authoritarianism have sparked everywhere.

“Let us pass the message to Tawan and Bam that. This day, this place, we have awakened and ready to fight side by side with the two of them and those who are in prison…This is the clash between the old and the new idea, democracy and authoritarianism. This clash will take place in every fibre, every class.”

“We talked in 2020 with due truth. They took us to the Court, the conservatives said ‘prove yourself in the Court’, but when we tried to prove by asking for the travel document [of King Rama X to Germany], the Court did not issue [the document request]. Are they scared of the truth?” said Anon.

Anon asked the demonstrators to come out, raise their voice to the Court over the injustice the political detainees have received. If the political prisoners are all released, the political parties respond to the two’s pleas, it would be more reasonable to tell them to save their own lives to see the justice reform demands being done.





Rallying for Tantawan and Orawan

26 01 2023

There has been a strange and limited social media argument that Tantawan Tuatulanon (Tawan) and Orawan Phuphong (Bam) should not be on a hunger strike. It seems that some middle class liberals feel that this action is akin to political violence.

Frankly, events show that this view is perverse. The brave stand by Tantawan and Orawan has quickly reignited protest and discussion of lese majeste. They deserve huge credit for their brave stance.

Over the past 24-48 hours, things have developed quickly. Here, PPT summarizes from social media posts. To follow events, look for Khaosod and Prachatai on Facebook.

Tantawan and Orawan were taken to Thammasat University Hospital on Tuesday. They are now in their 9th day of dry hunger strike.Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that a lawyer who visited them at Thammasat University Hospital yesterday (25 January) said that the two activists have lost a lot of weight, to the point that they can see the shape of Tantawan’s skull.

The lawyer said that, when the two activists arrived at the hospital, it was found that Tantawan has low potassium level and was at risk of cardiac arrest, so she was given a potassium supplement. However, the two activists insist on continuing their hunger strike, and will not be receiving IV fluids or other vitamin supplements.
The pair are staying in the same hospital room, and are constantly guarded by 4 corrections officers.

Food delivery rider Sitthichok Sethasavet, convicted of lese majeste on 17 January 2023, accused of setting fire to a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida and detained pending appeal has gone on a hunger strike to protest his detention.

Today, protesters gathered at the Pathumwan Skywalk in support of activists Tawan and Bam.

Clipped from Khaosod FB page

The Chiang Rai Provincial Court has thrown gas on the 112 fire by sentencing Mongkol Thirakhote or “Bass” to a mammoth 42 years in prison, reduced from 28, for 27 seditious and lese majeste FB posts on Thursday. A bail application is pending.

Monarchy-reform protest co-leader Arnon Nampa called for a major demonstration in front of Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre at 5.12pm Thursday in support of lese majeste detainees Tawan and Bam. People are marching out from Chulalongkorn University (CU) to Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) to show their support. The judiciary is criticized for bias on lese majeste cases.





Brave women II

24 01 2023

Prachatai and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have provided more information on “monarchy reform advocates Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong…”.

The report states that these two resolute women “were taken to the Department of Corrections Hospital last Friday (20 January).” This move was against their own wishes and they have “refused all medical treatment and insisted on being taken back to the Women’s Central Correctional Institution…”.

As is usual in such cases, their lawyer was given the runaround by the authorities and prison officials.

Once the lawyer was permitted to meet them, TLHR was able to report on their condition. Their lawyer stated that on (22 January, “the two activists were fatigued and nauseous, and that Orawan condition had worsened as she reportedly passed out in the bathroom.” In addition, the two “asked their lawyer to tell the public that they are staying strong. They also noted that they heard the fireworks set off in front of the prison and thanked people for their support.”

On 23 January, TLHR released another statement after another visit by a lawyer. It said the:

two activists were pale and fatigued, and told the lawyer that Tantawan fainted in the bathroom on Sunday evening (22 January) and hit her head. She said she refused a CT scan, and the two activists told the lawyer that they did not want to receive treatment from or stay at the Department of Corrections Hospital, as a statement released by the Department of Corrections released on Sunday evening did not mention that Tantawan fainted. The two activists also said they were not able to walk on their own as the Department of Corrections claimed.





Updated: Smash 112, free all political prisoners

23 01 2023

Brave advocates for the end of Article 112 began protesting “in front of the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road in conjunction with a hunger strike by two detained female activists who are neither eating nor drinking water with tonight (Jan. 21) being the third night but they have been taken to the Correctional Department’s hospital…”.

Calling themselves the Independent People’s Group, the protesters had these demands:

  • Reform the judicial process taking into account human rights principles and freedom of expression and not interfere with litigation;
  • Stop prosecuting people for exercising their freedom of expression, assembling and  voicing their political views:
  • All political parties propose a policy to guarantee rights, liberties and political participation by cancelling Section 112, also known as the lese majeste law, and Section 116 of the Criminal Code.

Yesterday, members of Thalufah “peacefully stood in a row on a sidewalk outside the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre at Pathumwan intersection in protest of the sustained detainment of the 21 political detainees, nine of whom have been faced with the draconian lese majeste charges, better known as Section 112 of the Criminal Code, and others on sedition charges.” They planned a 112 hour protest calling for “Free Political Prisoners” and “Stop Violation of Human Rights”, among other demands.

These protesters are also calling “for the unconditional and immediate release of the 21 political detainees,” and supporting “Tantawan Tuatulanond and Orawan Pupong, currently held at the Central Women Correctional Institution.”

Now, “Tantawan and Orawan who have not only denied meals but drinking water provided at the prison have resolutely insisted that all the political detainees be freed, the country’s judicial systems be amended and the lese majeste law be abolished.”

Update: Prachatai updates on the protests, which have expanded beyond Bangkok, including Khon Kaen and Chiang Mai (scroll down the story about halfway for the update on protests).





Brave women I

17 01 2023

Prachatai reports that activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong went to Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court on 16 January 2023 to file for bail revocation for themselves. Both are facing several charges, including lese majeste. The article states:

Clipped from Prachatai

The two activists stood in front of the Court entrance and poured red paint on themselves, before announcing their demand that every activist and protester detained for their involvement in the pro-democracy protest must be released within 3 days. They will also not be filing for bail again until their demands are met, and if no response is made by 18 January, other activists, including those still detained, will be taking further actions.

They called for a reform of judicial system so that human rights and freedom of expression take priority, and so that courts are independent and protect people’s freedom, as well as for judges to make decisions without intervention from their own executives.

They also called for all charges against those exercising their freedoms of expression and assembly to be dropped, and for every political party to back the repeal of the royal defamation law and sedition law to guarantee people’s right, freedom, and political participation….

The courts accepted these self-revocations.

These are determined and brave women. All power to them. Thailand’s best.

As usual, it is Prachatai reporting this, with not a peep – as far as PPT can see – in any of the English-language local media. That media seems not only frightened but cowed by the regime, the judiciary, and palace. Almost no news regarding the use of lese majeste appears in any of these outlets.





House arrest

2 10 2022

Teeranai Charuvastra has another excellent report with Prachatai regarding the house arrest of “two activists known for their campaign to reform the monarchy…”.

Read it an weep for the activists. Pour scorn on the royalist courts. Lament the decline of the justice system.





AI Thailand on political prisoners

11 08 2022

Amnesty International Thailand has delivered a petition of 4,701 Thai citizens “to call for the release, dismissed the allegations and restored bail rights to activists who are being held in custody pending trial. As well as, to demand that Thailand’s government uphold its commitments to international human rights standards, including the right to bail, freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.”

The petition “was delivered to Mr. Somsak Thepsuthin, the Minister of Justice, by Mr. Wallop Nakbua, the Deputy Permanent Secretary for Justice, who also served as the Minister of Justice’s representative…”.

AI’s news release states:

Piyanut Kotsan, Director of Amnesty International Thailand said that according to the Amnesty International Secretariat in London, United Kingdom has launched an urgent operation inviting members, activists, and supporters to send a letter to Mr. Somsak Thepsuthin, the Minister of Justice, demanded the release of the activists and the withdrawal of all accusations. Additionally, they urged Thai authorities to adhere to their commitments under international human rights law, which mandate that they should protect citizens’ rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly and minimize detention pending review. This campaign was in effect until August 9th.

Since 2 June 2022, two women have been on hunger strike calling for their right to bail. They have been detained since 3 May 2022. Authorities have started criminal proceedings against them and one other, who is on bail under house arrest, for conducting street polls. The Thai government is required by international human rights commitments to effectively protect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and to minimize pretrial detention. All allegations against the three must be dismissed, and they must be released right away.

Thai authorities have carried out a wide-ranging crackdown on peaceful protest and online discussion since overwhelmingly peaceful pro-democracy reform protests started in July 2020. Officials are using vaguely worded provisions of laws – on security, the monarchy and computer crimes – as instruments of repression and are interpreting the peaceful exercise of rights as a threat to security or public order, or offence to the monarchy, and subsequently file criminal proceedings against activists which may result in up to life imprisonment.

The Director of Amnesty International Thailand also announced that over the course of more than a month through Amnesty International has campaigned to compile names under urgent action that are campaigning around the world. Calling for the release of two protest activists who have been on hunger strike including Bung, Netiporn Sanesangkhom and Bai Por, Nutthanit Duangmusit who demand their rights to bail. Both were detained on May 3, 2022 and released on August 4, 2022. Despite being given bail, authorities have launched criminal prosecutions against the two. However, as a result of the 64-day hunger strike has resulted in health ramifications for the body, which now requires hospitalization to recover. While Tawan, Thantawan Tuatulanon, who had previously been granted bail, is being sentenced to home detention for 24 hours after conducting street polls.

Clipped from AI Thailand

Since May 3, 2022, Netiporn and Nutthanit have been detained, with their requests for bail repeatedly denied. They have been on hunger strike since 2 June 2022 in protest of their detention. After going on a 36-day hunger strike in detention after authorities revoked her initial/earlier bail on 20 April 2022, Tantawan is currently on bail under house arrest

Prominent protesters have also faced months of arbitrary pre-trial detention, often compromising their rights to education and access to a livelihood. They are currently subject to increasingly restrictive bail conditions which stringently limit their human rights to freedom of movement, expression and peaceful assembly, including requirements to stay within their places of residence for up to 24 hours daily, unless for medical treatment, and wear electronic monitoring bracelets 24 hours a day.

During 2022, Thai authorities have filed criminal proceedings against protesters in connection with their public peaceful activism. Officials continue to increase their judicial harassment of people engaging in acts of perceived public dissent, including children, and are escalating measures to stifle public expressions of opinion and peaceful protest and are imposing excessive restrictions on people’s right to peaceful protest and expression.

Amnesty International has the following requests for the Thai government in this regard:

    • Immediately release and/or withdraw charges and excessive bail conditions against people targeted for peaceful exercise of their rights and drop all criminal proceedings against them;

    • Pending the release of people targeted for peaceful exercise of their rights, ensure they have adequate access to medical treatment;

    • Instruct officials to uphold Thailand’s international human rights obligations, including on the right to bail, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.








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