Cracking down III

19 09 2021

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has recently reported statistics on people arrested or detained, accused of involvement in protest activities during the first three weeks of August:

It is found that from 1 to 25 August 2021, at least 260 persons have been arrested. This number includes at least 13 children younger than 15 years old, 57 youths within the age range from 15 to 18 years old, and 190 adults. However, it excludes the key protest leaders and activists who reported to the authorities per their arrest warrants.

Arresting and detaining 57 kids under 18 may seem excessive, but the point of these operations is to frighten and repress.

So it is that the cops harass:

Clipped from The Nation

All the arrested persons had been detained and interrogated in different places, depending on the authorities’ order each day. The documented detention venues included the Region 1 Border Patrol Police Headquarters (BPP 1) in Pathum Thani Province, the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) inside the Royal Thai Police Club, and other police stations across Bangkok. The majority of detention was unlawful because the police officers often did not bring the arrested persons to a police station in the locality of where they were arrested or the station in charge of processing the arrested persons’ charges in line with the Criminal Procedure Code.

Unlawful arrest and other unlawful activity seems to define police operations.

Read more on these arrests here.

Meanwhile, the regime’s thuggish police are running dragnets across the protest movement. Prachatai reports that on 17 September, “police officers raided the house of members of the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), confiscating mobile phones and computers and arresting one person.” According to TLHR, the arrest warrant did not say why it was issued.

That’s probably unlawful as well, but these thugs have become the law; whatever they do seems okay.

According to Thai PBS, Deputy Police Spokesman Pol Col Krisana Pattanacharoen stated that the cops “have 20 targets of investigation, including the UFTD leaders, who are suspected of committing illegal acts related to national security.” That’s usually code for lese majeste and/or sedition.

Pol Col Krisana claimed “[s]imilar raids and searches have been conducted outside Bangkok and at least five suspects have already been arrested…”.

Clipped from Prachatai

The person arrested was university student Niraphorn Onkhao, a third-year liberal arts student at Thammasat University, on charges of sedition and computer crimes. TLHR say the arrest warrant did not say why it was issued and contained the wrong citizen ID number. Niraphorn also protested during the arrest that she had never received a summons.

Niraphorn denied all charges and refused to sign the arrest record and was later released on bail of 25,000 baht.

TLHR reported that the complaint leading to Niraphorn’s arrest was filed “by Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims, an online royalist group whose members have filed numerous lèse majesté charges against many netizens and activists…”. Ultra-royalist Nopadol claimed the student was “involved with running the UFTD’s Facebook page, which contain messages calling for people to join protests, which said were not peaceful protests and at risk of spreading Covid-19.”

Showing how close the links are between regime cops and ultra-royalists, police claimed they “found that the Facebook page contain[ed] what they consider to be seditious messages calling for people to rebel against the authorities, as well as accusations that officers used excessive force on protesters.”

Thailand’s political space narrows by the day.





Anti-monarchy graffiti and arson

18 09 2021

Readers who are following social media will be aware that anti-monarchism has been more prominent over the past couple of weeks. This has worried the regime and ultra-royalists have been further spooked. The police and military have been chasing down those considered anti-monarchists.

Prachatai recently reported that “a protester who allegedly painted graffiti about monarchy reform at Din Daeng Intersection on 13 September [was]… arrested by the police on Wednesday night (15 September).” Wiraphap Wongsaman was arrested and detained at Phaholyothin Police Station, accused “of painting graffiti reading ‘The monarchy should be reformed to be under the constitution’.”

Clipped from Prachatai

Wiraphap was said to have “been the target of Information Operations and a pro-monarchy group which tried to label him as a radical protester…”.

Meanwhile, responding to the the burning of King Vajiralongkorn’s portrait on 13 September 2021 at Srinagarind Hospital in Khon Kaen, two “Khon Kaen University students were separately arrested on Monday morning by provincial police this morning (Friday) for allegedly torching the portrait of His Majesty the King in front of the Srinagarind Hospital in the early morning of Monday (September 13th ).”

From Isaan Record

With search warrants issued by the Khon Kaen provincial court two large “police teams searched the two houses in Muang district where the students have been staying.” Police “said that both [those arrested] are third-year students at the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Khon Kaen University.”

Prachatai says that “Panupong (last name withheld) and Ruangsak (last name withheld) were … taken to Muang Khon Kaen Police Station. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that the police took them into separate rooms for questioning and provided Ruangsak with a lawyer  who has a police rank and did not inform the suspect of his rights.”

They were charged with arson of public property. Both denied the charge and were “later granted bail without security, on the condition that they will receive a fine of 35,000 baht each if they violate their bail. The court also appointed the Deputy Dean of their faculty … as their guarantor.”

Such arson sometimes results in lese majeste charges.





Updated: Cracking down II

12 09 2021

As we have posted several times, the regime has adopted more aggressive repression, extending from protesters to the media. This is reflected in a Prachatai Facebook post on arrests and intimidation on Saturday, reproduced in full:

51 people have been arrested following a clash between protesters and crowd control police at Din Daeng.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that they have been notified at around 23.45 on Saturday night (11 September) that 51 people have been arrested, 6 of whom were minors and were taken to the Paholyothin Police Station. 23 of those arrested were adults and taken to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, while the remaining 22 people were taken to the Don Mueang Police Station.

Volunteer medics in the area have also been detained. According to iLaw, 25 volunteer medics were taken to the Din Daeng Police Station. The police took record of their information, but did not charge them.

From Prachatai’s Facebook page

During the clash, which began in the evening, crowd control police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters, who retaliated with firecrackers and other small explosives.

Crowd control police were also reported to fire tear gas and rubber bullets into nearby houses and apartment buildings. They also threatened to arrest residence who came to force the officers out of their community, claiming that they were out past curfew.

According to The Reporters’ live broadcast, crowd control police also ordered a group of journalists gathering near the Din Daeng District Office to sit down and end their live broadcasts while the officers check their IDs.

The Reporters posted on their Facebook page at around 22.40 that they have to end their live broadcast as the police ordered journalists to leave the area or they will be arrested for breaking curfew.

The Din Daeng Intersection and the surrounding area have been the site of daily clashes for the past month, as protesters gathered to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. TLHR said that at least 225 people were arrested during the Din Daeng protests in August alone, at least 15 of whom were under 15 years old and at least 62 were between 15 – 18 years old.

Update: Also at its Facebook page, Prachatai provides more information:

To express objection toward the police brutal arrest and protest crackdown last night, people rallied at Din Daeng Intersection and Ratchaprasong Intersection to protest.

As of 19.30, no clash has been taken place in either locations. Explosive sounds were heard and some small fire were seen set on the road of Din Daeng. The organizer at Ratchaprasong were brought to Pathum Wan police station.

On 19.45, rubber bullets were shot at the protester at Din Daeng.

On Saturday night, (11 September) 78 people have been arrested, 6 of whom were minors. Some of the arrested reportedly stated that they were either passerby, vendors, motorcycle taxi or people who went to the protest to find food giveaway.





Royal portrait lese majeste

2 09 2021

In a Prachatai reports we posted about earlier, another lese majeste case is mentioned. Citing Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, it is reported that, on 30 August 2021, “Sirapat Deesawat, 35, from Nonthaburi province, was charged with royal defamation [Prachatai means lese majeste] by the police at Rattanathibet Police station.”

Sirapat was reportedly been “arrested without a warrant on 10 August after a complaint was filed that a King Vajiralongkorn portrait and a decorative golden frame were stolen from the entrance to a Prachachuen housing estate.  A CCTV camera recorded the theft.”

Police allege that “Sirapat removed the portrait and its frame, dragged both along the ground face down for about 190 metres. Reaching a nearby market, he gave the portrait to Kanokwan Chimnok and dumped the frame in a canal.” For this, the authorities “contend that Sirapat’s action amount to defamation of the monarch as [t]he King’s portrait is supposed to be respected by people and should be kept in a place befitting his … station.”

Sirapat has denied the charge and was released on bail. Meanwhile, “Kanokwan was charged with receiving stolen property. She surrendered on 24 August and was released after placing a 90,000 baht security.”

According to TLHR, by 31 August, 126 lese majeste charges had been laid against 124 person.





AI on shooting kids

23 08 2021

We reproduce in full a note by Amnesty International on the shooting of several children in recent rallies:

Thailand: Urgent investigation needed after live rounds fired at child protesters

The Thai authorities must urgently investigate the shooting of protesters in Bangkok that has left one child in a critical condition, Amnesty International said after confirming that three children were injured by live rounds of ammunition during a demonstration outside a police station on Monday.

The mother of a 15-year-old protester told Amnesty that her son is in a coma and that a bullet – believed to be live ammunition – remains lodged in his skull. The organization confirmed that another protester, aged 14, suffered a bullet wound in the shoulder from live ammunition while a third protester, aged 16, was shot in the foot.

The Thai police have denied using live ammunition and it is unconfirmed who fired the shots.

“The use of live ammunition against protesters is a deeply concerning development. The Thai authorities must urgently investigate the shootings of these child protesters, including any unlawful use of firearms,” said Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.

“Thailand’s government must also investigate all reports of excessive and unnecessary force by police against protesters over the past year, and bring to justice anyone found responsible of causing physical harm to protesters.”

Over recent weeks, protesters have flocked to Bangkok’s streets and around Thailand to voice concerns over the official handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and other political grievances. The authorities have ramped up their use of rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas to disperse protests – even when protests have been peaceful.

In its recent report, Amnesty International called on Thai authorities to prioritize non-violent means, such as negotiation, mediation and dialogue, to de-escalate situations that might lead to violence.

The organization has also called on authorities to ensure that devices such as tear gas or water cannon are used only in situations of more generalized violence for the purpose of dispersing a crowd, and only when all other means have failed to contain the violence.

“Recent policing of assemblies, coupled with Thailand’s history of impunity for excessive and sometimes even lethal force against protesters, highlights the need for Thai authorities to change their approach. If they genuinely want to prevent human rights violations, they must stop repressing peaceful protest and instead facilitate and protect it,” said Emerlynne Gil.

“The police’s handling of protests, including those which are not peaceful, must be necessary and proportionate. Security forces must refrain from using the type of excessive force that has been seen repeatedly during protests since 2020.

“Police authorities must protect the rights of all peaceful protesters from disruption or violence by third party actors.”

Background

On the night of 16 August 2021, live ammunition was fired at protesters near the Din Daeng police station in central Bangkok as police tried to disperse peaceful demonstrators. The police have denied using live ammunition.

Ratchavitee Hospital, which is treating the injured protesters, said on 17 August that a 15-year-old is in a coma after a bullet struck him in the head. The 14-year-old protester who was shot in the shoulder has now been released from hospital.

Tens of thousands of Thais took to the streets to demand democratic reforms in largely peaceful protests throughout 2020 and into 2021 in Bangkok, the capital, and in provinces across Thailand. Amnesty International has found that authorities responded to protests with escalating arbitrary use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other less-lethal weapons and have used unnecessary and excessive force, with an apparent lack of accountability. The Thai Civil court has called on police to exercise restraint in their policing of assemblies.

As protests have reignited in recent weeks, police have fired tear gas and water cannon at demonstrators and arrested and detained numerous peaceful protesters – including under emergency provisions ostensibly put in place? to tackle Covid-19 and despite the country’s prisons reporting thousands of infections in recent weeks.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, from July 2020 to August 2021, at least 800 individuals have faced criminal charges – including sedition, royal defamation, computer-related crime, violation of the emergency provisions – in 374 lawsuits for joining peaceful protests, 69 of them children.





More on foodpanda 112 case

21 07 2021

Prachatai and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights report that Sitthichote Sethasavet, 25, stands “accused of burning a royal arch at Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue during the 18 July protest. He is accused of royal defamation [they mean lese majeste] and arson…”.

He has denied all charges and was “released on bail with 100,000 baht as securities.”.

Sitthichok

Clipped from Prachatai

It is reported that Sitthichote “was arrested by plainclothes police at his house in Rangsit on Monday night.” Prachatai states:

Sitthichok’s arrest is related to the #banfoodpanda (#แบนfoodpanda) hashtag which trended on Sunday. A Twitter user mentioned the food delivery platform, saying its rider may have been involved in the arson attempt on a royal arch during the 18 July protest. Foodpanda responded by saying that it would look into the details and that the platform has a policy “against violence and all forms of terrorism.”

The comment angered many netizens for equating protestors with terrorists when the protesters faced violence from the police use of anti-protest measures. They criticized the platform’s stance which seemed to support authoritarianism and prejudice against its rider without any proper investigation. This led to users and restaurants themselves to call for a boycott of the Foodpanda service.

Foodpanda soon published “a letter apologizing for the disappointment that its message had caused among users and partners. The letter stated that the company is still carefully looking into the incident.”

Meanwhile, labor groups “published a statement condemning Foodpanda Thailand for violating their worker rights of political expression.”

The Nation reports that Sitthichoke has “denied charges of burning royal portrait during an anti-government protest on Sunday, claiming he was attempting to put out the flames.”

Police claim they “have evidence that proves the suspect burned a royal picture…”.

He also revealed that police officers were interrogating the 16 protesters arrested earlier for their role in Sunday’s rally.





Masters of repression III

18 07 2021

A couple of days ago, Thai PBS reported on the ongoing efforts to suppress anti-monarchism and political opposition. It reported that public prosecutors “have decided to indict 14 core members of the anti-establishment Ratsadon group, in connection with the mass protest at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok in July last year.” It seems to us that “decided” is the wrong word here, for this is a concerted lawfare campaign to silence critics.

The list of the 14 is:

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, alias Mike Rayong, Anon Nampa, Juthathip Sirikan, Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, Nattawut Somboonsap, Korakot Saengyenphan, Suwanna Tarnlek, Thanayut Na Ayutthaya, Baramee Chairat, Tossaporn Sinsomboon, Dechathorn Bamrungmuang, Tanee Sasom and Panumas Singprom….

This group is targeted with charges of sedition (Article 116) and Article 215 of the Criminal Code as well as breaching the Emergency Decree “for their leading role in the mass protest, organized under the ‘Free Youth’ umbrella.” Article 215 states:

Whenever ten persons upwards being assembled together do or threaten to do an act of violence, or do any thing to cause a breach of the peace, every such person shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding six months or fined not exceeding one thousand Baht, or both.

Noraseth Nanongtoom, a lawyer of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, provided “35,000 baht in cash for each of them, to be used as bail surety. There are also five Move Forward party MPs and lecturers at Thammasat University who are willing to lend their status to bail them…”. There were 11 who attended, and as we understand it, all were bailed.

Several of the activists face scores of legal cases. The regime’s aim is to tie them and their supporters up in a myriad of legal proceedings while making their freedom conditional on the actions of royalist courts.





Masters of repression I

14 07 2021

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have published their June update. It makes for sorry reading, from using the virus emergency decree for political repression to the use of lese majeste against political activists.

According to the TLHR “at least 695 people in 374 cases have already been affected as a result of their political involvement and opinions since the ‘Free Youth’ rally on 18 July 2020 until the end of June 2021.” This includes “43 youths of under 18 years old…”.

In total, lese majeste charges have now been laid against more than 100 people.

Contempt of court and insulting the court cases case have grown. For the former, there have been at least 18 people in 14 cases “for participating in assemblies criticizing the judiciary since the Free Youth Rally until the end of May 2021.” Strikingly, “the Court can conduct a contempt trial and pass a judgment directly bypassing the investigation or prosecution process.”

TLHR also reports that the courts have routinely “imposed overly strict measures in courtrooms, including limiting the number of audience or requiring a preapproved permission. In all trials, the Court forbade notetaking claiming it was to keep order.” Such measures “were likely to undermine the principle of a free and fair trial.”

In addition to court and judicial processes, TLHR states that “[s]tate authorities continuously monitor and harass people who posted monarchy-related content and political activists…”. In June alone, the “authorities approached least 18 citizens who expressed monarchy-related or political opinions at their homes. These incidents occurred in all of the regions of the country…”.

TLHR also found that “at least 511 people in 162 cases had been accused of breaching the Emergency Decree provisions…”.

The regime may not be very good at virus mitigation, but it is highly skilled in acts of political repression.





Anchan’s absurd 112 sentence

11 07 2021

FIDH and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) have “petitioned the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) to seek the release of Anchan Preelerd…”. Ancha, who is 65 years old, is serving 87 years in the Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok for lese majeste.

This is “the longest prison sentence ever imposed under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code…”. She was convicted on

Anchan

Clipped from Prachatai

19 January 2021, on 29 counts of lese-majeste “for uploading and disseminating audio clips to social media platforms between 12 November 2014 and January 2015.”

FIDH and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) have “petitioned the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) to seek the release of Anchan Preelerd…”. Ancha, who is 65 years old, is serving 87 years in the Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok for lese majeste.

This is “the longest prison sentence ever imposed under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code…”. She was convicted on 19 January 2021, on 29 counts of lese-majeste “for uploading and disseminating audio clips to social media platforms between 12 November 2014 and January 2015.”

FIDH Secretary-General Adilur Rahman Khan declared: “Anchan’s outrageous prison sentence is effectively a death sentence for an act that constitutes a peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.” Khan demanded the “Thai government … immediately release her and end such extreme abuse of the lèse-majesté law…”.

In their statement, FIDH and TLHR said the consider:

… the prosecution of Anchan and her deprivation of liberty have been in violation of her right to a fair trial and her right to freedom of opinion and expression. These rights are guaranteed by Articles 14 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party.

TLHR Head Yaowalak Anuphan stated:

Anchan has been subjected to unfair judicial proceedings in a military court, lengthy detention before and during trial, and an unprecedented prison sentence. The Thai government must right the wrongs suffered by Anchan and immediately release her….

FIDH and TLHR called for Anchan’s “immediate and unconditional release” and called for “the amendment of Article 112 to bring it into line with Thailand’s obligations under the ICCPR.” They also urged “the government to refrain from carrying out arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of individuals for merely exercising their fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.”





Vigilante 112

4 07 2021

In a deepening of Thailand’s fascism, ultra-royalist vigilantes continue to lay complaints against netizens, which police convert into charges.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights report on another such case. We do not think we have previously posted on this case. TLHR states:

On 22 June 2021, at 08:00 am, Ms. Kanlaya (Pseudonym), a 27-year-old employee of a private company in Nonthaburi province, close to Bangkok, reported to Su-ngai Kolok District Police Station in Narathiwat province, Thailand’s Deep South, to acknowledge her charges under the “lese majeste” provisions of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, as well as Article 14(3) of the Computer Crimes Act. Mr. Pasit Chanhuaton filed these charges against her with the inquiry officer at this police station due to four of her online activities in which she posted, shared, and commented on Facebook about the monarchy.

The report does not provide further details regarding the alleged offenses.

Police state that Pasit “has accused at least five persons of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code and filed the charges at this police station in Su-gnai Kolok.” This suggests that he may be in the employ of state agencies, a member of a vigilante cyber-spy group funded by the state or an eager ultra-royalist.

Whatever his particular location as a snitch, police say they “have gradually started to issue summonses for these accused persons to acknowledge their charges.”

Kanlaya’s summons was “from Acting Pol. Maj. Natee Chansaengsri, an inquiry officer from Su-ngai Kolok District Police Station. Dated 17 May 2021, the summons required her to acknowledge her charge in person on 7 June 2021.” She managed to postpone this given that her abode was hundreds of kilometers away in Nonthaburi and her official residence in Phayao. She reported on 22 June 2021.

Snitch Pasit claimed to have been “using Facebook when he came across one Facebook user posting images and four messages referring to the monarchy. The messages include a criticism of the monarchy’s role in relation to the political protests…”. Pasit also claimed Kanlaya shared a post from another Facebook user which urged that Article 112 be revoked to permit free expression on the monarchy.

An outraged Pasit “claimed that these messages maliciously referred to the King in an accusatorial manner.”

Kanlaya has denied all charges.

The police requested that the Narathiwat Provincial Court remand Kanlaya in custody. The court did this but granted a bail application on a surety of 150,000 baht.

Kanlaya is  scheduled to report to the Court again on 9 August 2021.

According to TLHR, there are now “at least 101 persons have been charged under Article 112 in 98 cases since the enforcement of this article has resumed in late November 2020.” Fully 45 of these cases result from vigilante-like complaints.