Military authorities can still arbitrarily detain civilians

13 07 2019

The following is produced in full from the Asian Human Rights Commission website:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-FST-003-2019
July 12, 2019

A Statement from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

THAILAND: Military authorities can still arbitrarily detain civilians

Analysis of the Head of the NCPO Order no. 9/2562 that repealed some Announcements/Orders that are no longer necessary

On 9 July 2019, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha in his capacity as the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued the Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562 to repeal 70 NCPO An­ nouncements/Orders and Head of NCPO Orders. Since staging a coup on 22 May 2014, the NCPO has issued a total of 557 decrees: 214 NCPO Orders, 132 NCPO Announcements, and 211 Head of NCPO Orders. Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562 repeals only some of the decrees, while most of the Orders, Announcements and Head of NCPO Orders remains in effect.

Below is the analysis by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) regarding the implications of Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562.

1. Military authorities retain the power to detain civilians without judicial oversight

Military authorities will retain the power to summon individuals to report themselves, to appre­ hend individuals who commits flagrant offenses, and detain them for up to seven days, to search, forfeit and freeze assets invoking the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and no. 13/2559.1

On 1 April 2015, the NCPO issued the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2558, which authorized military authorities to detain individuals, most of whom had their liberties deprived of in military barracks.

The exercise of such power has been euphemistically defined by the authorities as “attitude adjustment.” Throughout the past five years, at least 929 members of the public have been summoned by the NCPO and detained in military barracks for “attitude adjustment” (for more
detail, please see 6 years under NCPO, enough is enough? Recommendations to rid the coup’s remnants).

TLHR finds the exercise of such power should be restricted to emergency situations when an imminent harm against the nation is impending and should be confined to certain areas – which has not been the case over the past five years.

The retention of the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and no. 13/2559 to continue authorizing military authorities to detain an individual up to seven days in an undisclosed place without access to family or lawyer and without judicial review, increases the risk of arbitrary detentions in breach of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and may result in other forms of human rights violations, such torture and enforced disappearance.

In its Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Thailand, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that Thailand amend Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2558 to ensure that it complies with all the provisions of the ICCPR, including with the guarantees against incommunicado detention.

2. Disobeying and showing defiance to NCPO summons are still criminalized

Despite the NCPO’s repeal of the ban against political gathering of five or more persons, disobeying and showing defiance to NCPO summons are still criminalized under NCPO Announcement no. 41/25572. To date, the NCPO has summoned 2 at least 472 individuals to report themselves, and at least 14 of them who have defied such summons have been issued with arrest warrants that remain effective.

Once individuals report themselves to the NCPO, they are often held in incommunicado detention in military barracks. Their fate and whereabouts are unknown to people outside. This makes them vulnerable to torture. Without judicial review and given that they would have to later stand trial in military courts, many individuals who were summoned decided to leave the country. As a result, since the May 2014 coup, 86 individuals have become political exiles (for more detail, please see Collapsed Rule of Law: The Consequences of Four Years under the National Council for Peace and Order for Human Rights and Thai Society, Part 3)

TLHR recommends that NCPO Announcement no. 41/2557, which criminalizes individuals’ defiance or disobedience to the summons to report themselves, be immediately repealed and that all prosecutions pursuant to this decree be stopped.

3. Transferring cases against civilians from military to civilian courts

The Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562 has led to the repeal of NCPO Announcements no. 37/2557, no. 38/2557, no. 43/2557, and no. 50/2557, and Head of NCPO Order no. 55/2559. As a result, cases against civilians that are being tried in military courts will be transferred to the Court of Justice. It would effectively make the previous proceeding in military courts part of the further proceedings of the Court of Justice, which would continue to hear the cases.

Over the past five years, at least 2,408 civilians have been tried in military courts nationwide (for more detail, please see 6 years under NCPO, enough is enough? Recommendations to rid the coup’s remnants). TLHR is offering legal assistance to defendants in 59 cases prosecuted in military courts, 21 of which involve 41 defendants.

TLHR remains concerned about the following ongoing negative impacts of prosecutions of civilians conducted by military courts under the NCPO.

3.1 Cases which have reached a verdict, but the right to a fair trial was not upheld

Ongoing cases as well as cases that have reached the final verdict in military courts, have not been heard in fair trials, and no remedy for the violation of this fundamental trial has been established.

The right to a fair trial is guaranteed by Article 14 of ICCPR, which underscores particularly the principles of judicial independence and impartiality. Military courts flout such principles because they operate under the authority of the Ministry of Defense and two thirds of their presiding judges are commissioned military officers who are not required to obtain a law degree.

In addition, over the past five years, military courts’ proceedings have been exceptionally protracted.

Some defendants prosecuted for alleged violation of Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (lèse-majesté) remain detained awaiting trial and their hearings were conducted behind closed doors. Those convicted by military courts for violating Article 112 have been sentenced to prison terms that have been twice as harsh as sentences imposed by civilian courts (for more information, please see 20 reasons why civilians should not be tried in the Military Court).

3.2 Defendants tried in military courts are barred from appealing their sentences

According to fair trial principles, defendants are entitled to have the right to appeal to courts of higher instance. Nevertheless, those indicted when Martial Law was imposed and whose cases fell under jurisdiction of military courts have been deprived of such right. To restore justice to the individuals whose cases have reached the final verdict, their right to appeal to courts of higher instance should be restored.

3.3 Arrest warrants issued by military court remain active

Apart from hearing the cases, military courts have also issued arrest warrants for suspects who remain large. As of 30 November 2016, over 528 individuals were still wanted by military courts nationwide (please see Why will Thanathorn have to stand trial in the Military Court?: Getting to know the Military Court under the NCPO Era). To ensure these individuals will stand trial in proceedings that uphold the principles of judicial independence and impartiality, TLHR recommends that the existing warrants be rescinded and new warrants be issued by the Court of Justice.

4. Offenses under NCPO decrees remain in place

Only 70 (12%) of the 557 decrees issued by the NCPO are being repealed. Most of the NCPO Announcements and Orders remain in effect and can only be repealed or amended by laws, except for the Announcements or Orders concerning the exercise of administrative powers, whose repeal and amendment are subject to the executive power of the Prime Minister or the
Cabinet.

In addition, all the Announcements and Orders and acts of the NCPO are made legal and constitutional by Sections 279 of the 2017 Constitution. Even after the imminent dissolution of the NCPO, the NCPO cannot be held accountable for violations that resulted from its Announcements, Orders or acts.

TLHR deems that NCPO decrees have no place in the legal system because they lack proper checks and balances. The retention of legal provisions that justify a lack of accountability in all circumstances contributes to fostering a culture of impunity in total breach of the principles of the rule of law.

5. TLHR’s recommendations

TLHR believes the Head of NCPO Order no. 9/2562 repeals only some Announcements and Orders which are no longer useful for the NCPO, but it does not serve public interest because the military authorities retains significant powers, including the power to restrict people’s rights and freedoms, for example under the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and no. 13/2559, among others.

In addition, the NCPO is set to expand the power of military authorities in a variety of public affairs concerning civilians. In particular, the Head of the NCPO Order no. 51/2560 on the amendment of the Internal Security Maintenance Law increases the powers of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) and bolsters budget and structure of the regional and provincial ISOCs.

To address the coup’s remnants, the repeal of some NCPO Announcements/Orders is insufficient.

Rather, an effort has to be made to systematically restrict powers of the military as a whole. In addition, it is necessary to address the problematic NCPO Announcements/Orders, laws endorsed by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), court verdicts, justice system reform, and remedies for victims (for more detail, please see 5 years under NCPO, enough is enough? Recommendations to rid the coup’s remnants) Concerning the NCPO decrees and the judicial process, TLHR wishes to make the following recommendations to the House of Representatives;

1. Repeal Articles 265 and 279 of the 2017 Constitution, which make the decrees and acts of NCPO legal under Articles 44, 47, and 48 of the 2014 Interim Constitution to ensure that the NCPO Announcements, Orders, and acts comply with Thailand’s international legal obligations and the principles of the rule of law.

2. Review all NCPO Announcements/Orders and Head of NCPO Orders and all other laws adopted by the NLA and amend or repeal all those that violate the people’s rights and freedoms.

3. Immediately repeal the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and no. 13/2559. When any wrongdoings or public disruption take place, law enforcement officials can already resort to powers prescribed in the Criminal Procedure Code. It is not necessary to retain power offered by these orders.

4. Take all necessary measures to provide redress to civilians whose cases were heard in military courts and have reached the final verdict. Civilians convicted by military courts after the imposition of Martial Law in May 2014 should be allowed to appeal to courts of higher instance and be provided compensation.

———————————————————————–

1 The Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2558 and No. 13/2559 endow appointed officers with extensive police powers, including powers to arrest, detain and search suspects without warrants and hold them in places not officially recognized as places of detention for up to seven days.

2 This order prescribes a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of 40,000 Baht (approximately USD1,250) or both. The order also has a provision that prohibits financial or property transactions.

 





Deep harassment for the monarchy

13 06 2019

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have released a report that must be read in full. “Silent Harassment: Monitoring and Intimidation of Citizens during the Coronation Month” is a brave and important account of how royalism is enforced.

Of course, there are many loyalists and royalists in Thailand, with the most fanatical ever eager to harass, attack and slander. But this is a report of how perceived “opponents” are identified and repressed.

Here, we simply quote some bits of this seminal piece of work on “violations of personal freedom through constant monitoring and intimidation by state authorities … [conducted] in secret throughout the course of the [coronation events” for King Vajiralongkorn.

Authorities involved in harassing included “police, military, and special branch police…”. They “identify” groups categorized as “target groups” or “monitor groups” and “track their movements and restrict their political activities…”.

TLHR reports at least 38 instances “of monitoring and intimidation…”. In addition, activists have also been harassed.

In fact, “the groups of people being monitored during this period were quite diverse, as they had not necessarily previously expressed anything about the monarchy.”

The harassment has included home visits by authorities who ask about travel plans, take photos and are seen by other family members and neighbors. They are:

warned by the authorities not to do anything during the coronation period. Some were threatened by the police and told that if they did not comply, they would be handed over to the military and that the military might “abduct” them. In some cases, if the wanted person was not home the authorities talked to his/her family member instead.

Monitored groups get more regular harassing visits and are tracked and followed. For some “special” individuals, the harassment is continuous and involves family and harassing phone calls often from an officer assigned to trail and monitor. Former Article 112 prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk found his residence monitored around the clock. On 5 May 2019, activist Akechai Hongkangwarn revealed that “police took him to the cinema in order to keep a close watch on him all day.”

All were warned not to do or say anything during the coronation period.

Vigilantes were also at work, on the internet, tracking “people who posted their opinions about the coronation online” and reporting them to the authorities.

Royalist Thailand in 2019 is a dark and fearful place.





Release Rung Sila

7 06 2019

The United Nations, FIDH and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have all urged that the military government “immediately release lèse-majesté detainee Siraphop Kornaroot [Rung Sila], in accordance with a ruling made recently by a United Nations (UN) body [Human Rights Council, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention}…”.

He’s “been detained for almost five years on charges under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code – one of the world’s toughest lèse-majesté laws – and Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.”

His “trial” before a military court, in secret, in September 2014 and after 20 previous court hearings the next hearing is on 10 June.

He has been repeatedly refused bail. In other words, this is another example of lese majeste torture, seen in several cases, where the regime and courts and probably the palace demand a guilty plea.

The Human Rights Council has already declared his detention arbitrary and views his trial as unfair.

Rung SIla is the eighth lese-majeste detainee whose detention has been declared arbitrary by the UN since August 2012.





Stop assaulting opponents!

4 06 2019

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights is a co-signatory to a statement decrying the increasing use of thuggish violence against political opponents of the military junta. Other signatories are the Cross Cultural Foundation, Center for Protection and Revival of Local Community Rights, Community Resource Centre Foundation, Human Rights Lawyers Association, Enlaw Thai Foundation, and Union Civil for Liberty.

Read this important statement here or here.





Fascists and their opponents

22 05 2019

On the fifth anniversary of the military’s coup where it through out yet another elected government, we at PPT want to point to a couple of stories that do a great job of remembering and noting the impacts of the military’s illegal action in 2014.

The first is a story at Khaosod, where five activists provide brief comments on their experiences. All have been arrested and some have been jailed under the military dictatorship and its junta. Some clips:

1. No Coup 2. Liberty 3. Democracy

Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, recently released from prison on a manufactured lese majeste case, and facing more charges:

I saw. I fought. I lost. I was hurt. After five years fighting the junta and spending time in jail, I lost. Well, I didn’t lose. It’s just that we haven’t won yet. Some people are discouraged and disappointed. Others continue fighting.

Political activist Nutta Mahattana:

I underestimated the Thai people. Thais are more tolerant of military dictatorship than I expected.

Iconoclast activist Sombat Boonngamanong:

The most visible change in the past five years was how some people who fought for a certain strand of democracy were turned into mindless supporters of the military junta…. They saw the failure of the junta over the past five years, yet they are okay with it. It’s scary meeting these people….

Yaowalak Anuphan from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights:

Freedom of expression keeps sinking and more people censor themselves. The military has fully invaded civil society and injected its autocratic thinking into civilians.

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal:

[W]e took democracy for granted. We thought it was something that could be restored quickly after it was gone. We thought military dictatorship wouldn’t last long. But people have become better at adapting to life under dictatorship…. At symposiums, people are now more wary when they speak. This change was rapid….

The second is an article by retired diplomat and Puea Thai Party member Pithaya Pookaman. We disagree with him that the “election” result shows that the junta and its puppet party are “popular.” But he identifies those who are junta supporters as a “new right.” While this is catchy, it is also misleading in that much of the “new right” is pretty much the same opposition that’s worked against electoral democracy for decades. Pithaya knows this, saying:

Broadly speaking, the New Right consists of an odd mix of ultra-conservatives, reactionaries, semi-fascists, pseudo-intellectuals, and even former leftists. It is the product of more than 80 years of political evolution and has been shaped by technological and economic advances, as well as social and demographic changes, and populism in modern Thai society…. This tug of war between the so-called liberals and conservatives dates back to 1932…. The conservative Thai oligarchy, which saw their traditional grip on power being eroded, have strongly resisted democratic developments up until today.

Thailand’s urban middle class has a unique tolerance of authoritarian rule, wholeheartedly embracing military coups with few moral scruples. Meanwhile, the reactionary and semi-fascist groups seem to have a romantic infatuation with anachronistic medieval political and social systems….

Their common hatred of Thaksin and his political machine has allowed the fate of these diverse groups to intertwine. It has also made them vulnerable to “Thaksin Derangement Syndrome”, which has spread among a conglomeration of former leftists, the urban middle class, pseudo-intellectuals, ultraconservatives, semi-fascists, militarists, and the elitist establishment, all of which can collectively be called the New Right.

A third story is important. “All They Could Do To Us: Courage in Dark Times from a Fighter (Not a Victim)” is an article by Metta Wongwat, translated by Tyrell Haberkorn. It is about Pornthip Munkhong, who was jailed on lese majeste for her role in a political play, The Wolf Bride (เจ้าสาวหมาป่า), about a fictional monarch and kingdom. Her new book, All They Could Do To Us (Aan Press, 2019) “is an account of imprisonment under Article 112 during the NCPO regime written in the voice of an artist. She tells her story and the stories of her fellow prisoners from every walk of life, and in so doing, leads readers into her life during her two years of imprisonment.”

She includes a message for those who hold politics close: “(Political struggle) is like boxing. The ring is theirs. The rules are theirs. The referees are theirs. You must be prepared.





Another Federation link

16 05 2019

The three missing activists, probably deported from Vietnam to Thailand on 8 May 2019, have been associated with the Organization for a Thai Federation.

Readers may recall that back in about September 2018, several persons were arrested in Thailand for distributing black t-shits, claimed to be connected with the Organization, then said to be operating from Laos. At the time, Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan claimed that these republicans had a network in Thailand. It seems that the regime has made a determined effort to track down the group in Laos and to destroy it.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights recently reported that a 58 year-old woman, identified only as Praphan, “was arrested by the Malaysian Police and deported back to Thailand on 10th May 2019 while waiting for refugee status from UNHCR in Malaysia.” The police in Thailand have charged her with sedition, being a member of a secret society, and other charges related to her having allegedly having worn a back t-shirt bearing a federation symbol.

Interestingly, this refoulement occurred at around the same time that the three men were said to have been deported to Thailand. Fortunately, Praphan has not been disappeared. Indeed, she seems to be jailed with another woman accused of the same crime.

Praphan fled Thailand in January 2019 and sought asylum via the UNHCR in Malaysia. While awaiting a third country to take her as a refugee, she was arrested by the Malaysian police on 24 April and detained.

Praphan was arrested for her black shirt on September 3, 2018. Soldiers and police “seized 3 phones, UDD cards, Thaksin Shinawatra pictures and 3 other UDD books.” She was initially held at a military base and then handed over to police and charged. In December 2018 “she was re-detained at the 11th Army Regiment, together with 8 other people, with the wife and son of Mr. Chucheep Chiwasut or Uncle Sanam Luang is also included. Then the military released her on December 14, 2018…”.

She fled before her second court appearance on the sedition and other charges.

Her refoulement, the charges laid and the disappearance of the three are yet further demonstrations that, under the junta, the rule of law has ceased to exist in Thailand.





Framing Thanathorn

15 05 2019

They wrote their own constitution and ran a rigged referendum. They rigged the election (but did rather poorly). They corrupted all of the “independent” agencies. They stacked a Senate that now drips nepotism and corruption. They have used “law” more than any previous regime to cement their own position. Now, the military junta, acting as if their “election” was just a speed bump on their chosen path to “electoral authoritarianism,” have decided to manipulate law and frame Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party.

Some might have read that on the very day he was released from prison where he had been incarcerated on trumped up charges, Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa was ordered to report to police in Bangkok on 21 May, ostensibly to give evidence on the case the junta has concocted against Thanathorn from 2015.

How high can the junta pile it?

But, as everyone knows, the junta’s case is buffalo manure. So in order to cover their “legal” tracks, this shameless regime has decided that it better have a “case” against the activist/s Thanathorn is supposed to have aided. Without even a flinch, the junta’s “lawyers” have determined that they can concoct another case – well, 15 other cases. As Prachatai reports, “15 activists, including Jatupat …, have been summoned to Pathumwan Police Station on sedition charges filed by Col Burin Thongprapai…”.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights states that “the activists were charged on the basis of an incident on 24 June 2015, when the activists attempted to bring charges against the police for using unnecessary force to crack down on activists’ peaceful commemoration of the coup’s first anniversary in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.”

That’s the date when Thanathorn is accused of sedition for giving one of the activists a ride home. Of course, this is no coincidence. This is the junta retro-fitting their manufactured “case” against Thanathorn. It was Col Burin who filed the “case” against Thanathorn, which will probably be heard in a military court. We suppose that these other 15 charges will also go to a military court. These courts are marked by legal ineptitude and influence from superiors. In other words, they do the junta’s work and have nothing much at all to do with the law.

It is also no coincidence that one of the 15 summoned is Rangsiman Rome, who is now a Future Forward party-list MP.

This use of 15 political activists for the framing of Thanathorn fits the junta’s modus operandi, but it really is time for people to call out the junta on this manipulation and bastardization of the law.