Thanet’s long trial

30 06 2020

A few days ago, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported on the long-running set of cases against Thanet Anantawong. A couple of news outlets picked up the story, including The Thaiger.

A photo from The Straits Times of a damaged statue at Rajabhakti Park

Thanet’s case goes back to 2015 and protests against the Army’s huge posterior polish of the monarchy when it opened its tacky Rajabhakti Park of giant bronzes of selected kings. The Army was accused of corruption and students and activists demonstrated. Thanet supported them.

This sent Army thugs in search of reasons to jail Thanet, a red shirt. A military court soon issued a warrant for the arrest of the working class 25 year-old on charges of lese majeste, inciting disorder and computer crimes, accused of having shared an infographic detailing the corruption, criticized Privy Council President Gen Prem Tinsulanonda and commented on the death in custody of then then Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s soothsayer,  Suriyan Sujaritpalawong in five Facebook posts.

The lese majeste charge was quietly dropped soon after he was arrested but the other charges remained, alleging that Thanet’s posts “caused people to dislike the government, leading to protests to topple it.”

When arrested, Thanet was dragged from a hospital bed, and eventually spent 3 years and 10 months in jail awaiting some of the charges to be heard.

TLHR report that Thanet has now “been acquitted of national security and computer crime charges…”. Showing the good sense that is so often missing from the royalist judiciary, the court ruled “that while Thanet may have had different views from those in power at the time, he acted constitutionally:

The court believes his expression of opinions was not intended to stir up sedition or disobedience among people to the extent it could cause unrest in the kingdom or law violations. It was legitimate free speech. Since the witnesses and evidence of the plaintiff do not carry sufficient weight to warrant a guilty verdict, we’ve dismissed the charges.

The notion of “legitimate free speech” is something the courts should be held to in future.





Further updated: It is still a military regime VIII

28 06 2020

Perhaps the most concerning story we have seen for a while was in the Bangkok Post today.

Wassana Nanuam produced yet another of her regular propaganda pieces for the military. In among all the buffalo manure about what a great job the military has been doing (sans creating Thailand’s largest virus cluster, a mass shooting in Korat, trying to jail whistleblowers, destroying historical monuments, overthrowing elected governments, murdering civilians, etc.), there’s a note that Deputy Defence Minister Gen Chaichan Changmongkol has declared the ongoing need “for the military to assist the government in containing the spread of the novel coronavirus…”. That there’s essentially no local virus transmission seems not to be an issue in deciding that the the military should be in control. The general was meeting with the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) and the armed forces.

Clipped from Straits Times

Really worrying, though, is the decision to have military personnel “provide support to schools when they reopen on Wednesday, in ensuring social distancing and disease control measures laid down by the Public Health Ministry are observed.” The idea of soldiers being embedded in schools is just another step in establishing the dominance of the military over all of society.

Update 1: Not on schools, but on the military-backed regime’s repression, we were interested to read that the regime’s thugs continue to stalk political opponents. Such measures are threats. When the threats are considered to have failed, the regime’s next step has tended to be to have the thugs bash the opponent.

Update 2: Continuing the military thugs’ stalking of political opponents, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reports on Nattathida Meewangpla. The story they tell is remarkably similar to that in Update 1. It seems that the military thugs have not left her alone – that is, unthreatened – since she was finally bailed out of prison in 2018.





Further updated: Where’s Wanchalearm?

26 06 2020

On 23 June, the family of missing activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit has filed a complaint with “the  Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Justice’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department, and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), calling for an investigation into his disappearance, while also preparing to file a complaint with the Cambodian police.”

When Wanchalearm’s sister Sitanun Satsaksit , submitted her complaint to the Office of the Attorney, she was “joined by Pranee Danwattanusorn … whose husband Sur[a]chai went missing while in exile in Laos, and Kanya Theerawut … mother of Siam Theerawut, another missing activist.

They are supported by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights: “A TLHR lawyer said that the family is filing a complaint … calling for the authorities to launch an investigation in order to find and prosecute the three people who abducted Wanchalearm.”

Wanchalearm’s family has called on the Thai government to find whether:

  • Wanchalearm has been arrested in Cambodia and why, and if this is the case,
  • he is in custody in Cambodia and where;
  • the Thai authorities were notified of Wanchalearm’s arrest by the Cambodian authorities;
  • the Thai authorities requested the Cambodian authorities to send Wanchalearm back to Thailand to be prosecuted, and
  • the Cambodian authorities returned Wanchalearm to Thailand.

The family also asked that Thai authorities “investigate Wanchalearm’s possible torture and enforced disappearance” and demanded to know “if the authorities have information on Wanchalearm’s fate or whereabouts…”.

It must suit the military-backed regime in Bangkok that Sitanun and her family cannot travel to Cambodia because of the so-called virus crisis. She revealed that “the Cambodian police said they cannot investigate the case because Wanchalearm’s relatives has not filed a complaint about his disappearance.” Getting legal representation in Cambodia ha proven a challenge, not just because of cost, but “because some lawyers have withdrawn from the case as they did not want to take the risk.” That suggests collusion between the two authoritarian regimes.

In an interview at Thisrupt, Sitanun stated that she and her mother “hope that he is still alive.” She added that “if he is dead, at least give us confirmation, because not knowing whether he is dead or alive is very difficult.”

In the more than three weeks since Wanchalearm’s disappearance the junta’s regime has done nothing. Again, that provides reasonable grounds for suspicion that the regime is deeply involved with the crime.

There is a social media campaign using the hashtag #savewanchalearm going “until he is found. To not also let the topic disappear.” At the same time, “people have been putting up posters and tying white ribbons around Bangkok, demanding justice for Wanchalearm.”

Of course, the regime’s minions have been busy taking them down, another piece of circumstantial evidence of its complicity in the enforced disappearance.

There have also been several rallies in support of Wanchalearm and demanding the authorities reveal his whereabouts.

Update 1: The New York Times has a detailed report on Wanchalearm, enforced disappearances, and the political context, stating:

At least nine prominent critics of the Thai government have vanished over the past two years, according to human rights groups. It is a pattern of disappearances that the Thai public is having a hard time ignoring….

It also has details of the abduction of Wanchalearm and the official cover-ups in Cambodia and Thailand.

Meanwhile, VOA Khmer has more on the Cambodian police response. Not only is it insipid, but it reeks of covering up for powerful interests. Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Koy Kuong is quoted as saying that the Cambodian side “had sent a note to the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh on June 11 … but that the Foreign Ministry had not heard back from their Thai counterparts.” Koy added the obvious: “They have not requested anything else for us to do…. [W]e told them that the police will continue to investigate.” In this, “investigate” means throwing as much dust in the air as possible.

Update 2: Members of the European Parliament have issued a statement of concern about Wanchalearm’s disappearance.





It’s still a military regime III

29 05 2020

Without a hint of shame, the regime continues to display it military-ness.

The Bangkok Post reports on the “kickback scandal involving state quarantine contracts” which it says the Defense Ministry states is “being investigated by police…”. Great, you might think, the longstanding kickback system is getting some attention. But is it? And how is it being done?

Defense spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich explains that it is his ministry that conducted the “preliminary probe [and] had found evidence the accused had demanded ‘commission fees’ from hotel operators in the eastern region so their facilities could be chosen as state quarantine centres.” He added that a person with the initial “Phor” is one of those revealed by the Ministry of Defense’s “probe.”

This is all very smelly and very fishy. Why is the Defense Ministry the first line of investigation? Is the Ministry responsible for the quarantine centers? Well, no, it is the joint responsibility of that ministry and Public Health. Has Public Health been investigating? And why the buffalo manure about initials?

While Lt Gen Kongcheep said his “ministry had submitted evidence to police for further investigation…”, PPT reckons this could well be about pre-emptive posterior protection. One suggestion of that is when the Lt Gen declares that “the accused individuals acted on their own and their alleged misconduct had nothing to do with the organisations with which they are affiliated.” That screams cover-up.

Then there’s Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who has pretty much been sidelined in the virus response after his initial loudmouthed failures, and who has “denied public health officials were involved in the kickback scandal but said the ministry was ready to investigate any tips.” This also screams cover-up.

And, then, there’s the whole issue of the Ministry of Defense leading such matters. That screams military regime.

As if to prove that Thailand remains under the regime’s thumb, and using the virus as an excuse, Prachatai reports that police in “Songkhla Province have turned down a request to hold an anti-seawall public gathering at Muang Ngam beach, claiming it would violate the Emergency Decree on Covid-19 control. Many people still went to express their objections on the beach where the construction is taking place, while police took video recordings and photos.”

Prachatai also reports that on the “6th anniversary of the 22 May 2014 military coup, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) launched a new report on Thailand’s human rights situation As if the NCPO Never Left: Six Years after the Coup and the Persistence of Human Rights Violations, highlighting ongoing violations of freedom of expression and freedom of association which have persisted since the end of the NCPO regime.” Abuses are rampant.

Thailand remains a country under the military jackboot.





Niranam gets bail

2 03 2020

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported a week ago that, on 24 February, a 20 year-old called Niranam, accused of lese majeste-like computer crimes involving the monarchy had been granted bail.

While his first two bail applications had been refused, and appeal against the second refusal finally resulted in bail being granted.

“Niranam_” is a Twitter name meaning “Anonymous,” and his more than a hundred thousand followers avidly read his posts that were critical of military politics. His comments on the monarchy saw him detained and then imprisoned at the Pattaya Special Prison.

His bail was apparently crowd-sourced to assist his parents make the guarantee.





Lese majeste-like arrest

21 02 2020

While lese majeste arrests are no longer permitted in Thailand, other laws are used to arrest those the regime and palace believe are insulting the king or monarchy.

The most recent case is reported by Prachatai.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights is quoted on the case of a Twitter user arrested under the Computer Crimes Act, allegedly for tweets, images and satirical messages about King Vajiralongkorn. Taken before a court, he has been refused bail.

On 19 February, TLHR received complaints from a Twitter user “anonymous_” (@ ssj_2475), who identified himself as a 20-year-old living in Chonburi. Apparently without a warrant, at about 10.30 am, some 10 uniformed and plainclothes police had searched his family home, confiscating two phones, and took him and his parents to the Pattaya police station. The action apparently related to his tweets about the king. At the station, the parents were separated from him.

The police demanded “cooperation” and demanded phone passwords on threat of prosecution. They then identified more than 30 messages from his Twitter account, many of which were related in various ways to the monarchy. He was taken before a court the next day.

Police officers claimed the arrest was in pursuit of a “movement against the monarchy.”

An aspect of this case will be how the police link the arrested man to the posting of anonymous tweets.

Lese majeste may not be used much these days, but other laws are used to “protect” the monarchy.





Federationists sentenced

28 01 2020

A Prachatai report updates the fate of the “lese majeste” cases against four persons accused of involvement with the so-called Thai Federation, said to be a republican movement.

The four are not charged with lese majeste due to the king’s unwillingness to continue using the charge – despite his own previous aggressive use of the law. Rather, the four were charged with sedition and membership of a “secret society.”

The report states that the case was filed on 24 October 2019, but the case goes back to early September 2018.

While the four are not named, others named in the case and charged are several who are dead or disappeared. The public prosecutor filed charges against Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee, Kritsana Tupthai, Chucheep Chivasut or Uncle Sanam Luang, Siam Theerawut and Wat Wanlayangkoon, for their alleged involvement in the Thai Federation movement.

The Criminal Court found the four defendants guilty and sentenced them to between 2 and 3 years in prison on21 January.

Three of the four defendants were released on bail pending an appeal.





Asia Society shame

28 09 2019

The Asia Society surprised many by giving The Dictator Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha a stage in New York. Why have a “leader” who has had a hand in the murder of protesters, a military coup, more than five years of military dictatorship and a rigged and stolen election on your stage? As far as we can tell, this isn’t unusual for the Asia Society.

Readers might want to watch Gen Prayuth bumbling through the dictator-friendly discussion, which seems to have followed his speech (we can’t find a video of that). Gen Prayuth’s demeanor during the interview is of an uncomfortable person. He fidgets, bellows, points, gets prompts, forgets the microphone and fails to listen to the translation, wants to end the interview early and more. Unprofessional, incompetent, sometimes incoherent and appearing as a bozo. But that’s what he does in Thailand, with its muzzled press day in and day out.

In the discussion, he is seen claiming that while criminals evade the law – meaning Thaksin Shinawatra – he claims he himself has never transgressed the law. Short memory? Just one example: What about that unlawful 2014 coup? Oh, yes, that was made legal by the (in)justice system and by the junta itself after the event. Oddly, reflecting his irritation, Gen Prayuth makes the claim (again) that he had to stage the coup to stop the “conflict” – this time he refers to a pending “civil war.” He gets rather agitated. Finally, he babbles about Googling stuff.

And, during his speech there were silent protesters:

That the Asia Society expelled silent protesters should cause shame. Is that what now happens in the “land of free speech”? One protester does make some noise as she is bundled out by burly security guards.

Meanwhile, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has pointed out how the junta hangs over Thailand like a lead weight. It begins:

The 19 September 2006 coup was a turning point for the expansion of powers of the armed forces over the democratically elected civilian government since the end of Cold War, in light of the reorganization of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC). The coup makers’ legislative branch passed a statutory law to restructure ISOC, giving rise to the formal and systematic expansion of the military power over civilian affairs.

The trend of such expansion of powers and duties of the armed forces/security authorities continued, even under democratically elected governments. From the 22 May 2014 coup until today, the military’s power reach has continued to increase. ISOC is legally permitted to take charge of so-called “internal security” matters in lieu of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), following its dissolution. Now the powers and duties of ISOC have been expanded even further.

The report highlights five points:

  • Expansion of the definition of “internal security”
  • The composition of ISOC Regional and Provincial Committees now includes personnel from various public authorities including the police, public prosecutor and administrative organizations
  • The powers and duties of the Regional and Provincial ISOC increased from those of 2008
  • Secondary laws amended to require other public authorities to directly support the roles of ISOC
  • The internal reorganization of ISOC

The report concludes:

Military supremacy over civilians, as always

The overall expansion of ISOC’s roles and powers is inseparable from the attempt to proliferate the power of the armed forces, from the NCPO era until after the elections.  Investing such powers in ISOC stands contradictory to the principle of civilian supremacy, an essential benchmark of democracy; members of constitutional bodies should be elected. The public should have a role in managing resource distributions, public administration and the role of the military, not to mention military activities concerning internal security.

Under this principle, the armed forces and security agencies in a democratic society should be of equal status to other public authorities. A government chosen by free and fair elections should have the power to control these organizations, determine their budgets, and give them instructions, as well as to prevent them from getting involved with any civilian affairs, which should not be decided under a military mindset.

Under the incumbent ISOC, the military authorities will continue to have a dominant role over several civilian authorities and affairs. The democratization of the armed forces or security agencies is therefore urgently needed and can be done so only after an amendment of the Internal Security Act to reduce the powers and roles of ISOC.

We doubt the Asia Society is interested.





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.