Lese majeste in 2018

16 01 2019

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have a useful analysis of the use of lese majeste in 2018.

They begin with the background:

Since late 2016, in the aftermath of the passing of King Rama IX and the accession of King Rama X, prosecutions of lèse majesté cases or the violation of the Penal Codes Section 112 spiked sharply. The witch huntor vigilante actions taken against people who hold different views led to prosecution of dozens of lèse majesté cases.

In fact, since the 2006 military coup, there have been several “spikes.” After that coup, during the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime and then since the 2014 coup.

For 2018, there’s not just been a precipitous decline in cases, there’s been none:

The year 2018 saw a number of changes to the enforcement of Section 112. No new cases invoking Section 112 have been prosecuted in 2018 (as far as we know). Meanwhile, several ongoing lèse majesté cases have been dismissed, particularly cases under the review of civilian courts, though this does not necessarily indicate more freedom to exercise the right to free expression in Thailand. Even though the authorities are now reluctant to press lèse majesté charges, charges invoking other laws including the Computer Crime Act or “sedition” per Section 116 continue to be an important tool to restrict freedom of expression and purge dissenters.

TLHR see the cause of this decline as being in the palace:

These changes can be directly attributed to the royal succession. It has not stemmed from the authorities or personnel in the justice process realizing the many protracted problems caused by the enforcement of Section 112. It has also not stemmed from more respect for human rights in Thailand.

Remember all those royalists who used to make excuses for that nice old man, good King Bhumibol, lamenting that he really disliked 112, but those nasty politicians and military types just wouldn’t listen? King Vajiralongkorn has shown how much buffalo manure that propaganda line was.

Sulak Sivaraksa wrote that Vajiralongkorn “instructed the Chief Justice and the Attorney General to bring to an end to prosecutions invoking Section 112 and to not allow it to be used as a political tool.” It seems that on this point, Vajiralongkorn has more sense than his father. That’snot to say that there weren’t dozens of lese majeste cases directly related to Vajiralongkorn such as the spate around his separation from his consort in late 2014 and early 2015.

One result of Vajiralongkorn’s intervention is outlined:

The Attorney General’s directive dated 21 February 2018, addressed to high-ranking officials of all levels in the Attorney General’s Office, instructs all units of the public prosecutor’s department to receive and review immediately investigation reports filed by inquiry officials regarding Section 112 cases. The public prosecutors are then instructed also to furnish the Office of the Attorney General a copy of the police investigation report in each case and not to make any decisions about these cases. They are informed that it is the Attorney General who will decide as to whether the cases will be filed in Court or not. Now the rank-and-file public prosecutors no longer have the power to order prosecution of 112 cases.

The other impact that this change from the top has brought has been that several cases have been dropped, even when those accused have entered a guilty plea. Sometimes the defendants have been convicted of other offenses or were already serving long jail terms.

TLHR conclude:

Amidst changes in the status, role and content of the laws concerning the monarchy in 2018, any expression of thought in public, including any criticisms based on factual information, could be construed as a sensitive comment and could be deemed “crossing the line” in Thailand.

Change seems to have taken place in ‘form’, though the ‘substance’ of the law remains the same.





Academics in court III

25 12 2018

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights report that the court in Chiang Mai has dismissed the ludicrous case against five academics, students and others who attended the International Conference on Thai Studies.

That’s good news.

The court’s dismissal stated that The Dictator’s recent Order No. 22/2561 meant that the charges brought against the five no longer constitutes an offense.

At the same time, the Court declared that the prosecution of similar cases executed under junta Announcements and Orders were not affected by this decision.

We at PPT are not lawyers or legal experts, but this court’s decision strikes us as bizarre. Its “reasoning” is entirely opaque. How this particular case can be declared to no longer exist because of Order No. 22/2561, why does this legal logic not apply to other, similar cases? If anyone knows, be in touch with us.

At present, we can only think that the decision by the court is a way to avoid an embarrassing case around the time of an “election.”





Academics in court II

18 12 2018

As it turns out, the five academics and students we said had just spent five days being tried by the military junta, ended up in a truncated appearance.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reports that hearings scheduled for 6-7 and 12-14 December were suspended on the 12th.

These were witness hearings in the case of those charged with violating The Dictator’s No. 3/2558 regarding the prohibition of political assembly of five or more persons. This is the case where academics at the International Conference on Thai Studies where they meekly stated that “An Academic Conference is Not a Military Barracks” in July 2017.

In a long post, TLHR reports that the prosecutors asked for the court to rule on whether the case could continue after the military junta lifted its ban on political meetings – not that those charged had done this. “The court then issued an order to suspend the witness hearings scheduled for 12-14 December and set a meeting for all parties in the case to hear the ruling at 9 am on 25 December.”

Before the case was adjourned, each of the accused were allowed to enter their statements into the court record, declaring their innocence and pointing to the junta’s denial of academic freedom.

The TLHR post includes all statements. They should be read.





Academics in court I

17 12 2018

Five academics and students have just spent five days being tried by the military junta.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reports that on 6-7 and 12-14 December, witness hearings were held in the case of those charged with violating The Dictator’s No. 3/2558 regarding the prohibition of political assembly of five or more persons. This is the case where academics at the International Conference on Thai Studies where they meekly stated that “An Academic Conference is Not a Military Barracks” in July 2017.

As we understand it, the five did not appear at the conference together.

The case is being heard in the Chiang Mai district court.

The brief and quiet holding of small printed pages was a response to the junta sending spies to record aspects of the conference. These junta thugs did not register for the conference and nor did they seek permission for their intrusive and anti-constitutional actions. But, then, the junta is lawless in the sense that laws apply to others but not to their slugs.

They are reported to have “interrupted the conference through speaking during presentations and making other loud sounds.”

The case has attracted interest for demonstrating that the there is no freedom of expression or academic freedom in the junta’s Thailand.

TLHR shared the details of the defendants, which we reproduce here:

Dr. Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, age 75, has served for over ten years as the director of the Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development and the head of the Center for Ethnic Studies and Development, both in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Chiang Mai University (CMU).

Dr. Chayan completed his BA in the Faculty of Arts at Chulalongkorn University and his MA and PhD in Anthropology at Stanford University.  He is also the recipient of an honorary doctorate in Social Anthropology from Gothenburg University (Sweden) in 2004.

Dr. Chayan has been a university professor for over 33 years, from 1985 until the present. His students, from BA to PhD level, include Thai and international students. He has produced scholarly work about ethnicity in northern Thailand, local wisdom, border studies, and refugees and displaced persons.

In addition, Dr. Chayan has worked with marginalized people and communities to access land and forest rights, community resource rights, and indigenous rights, as well as the struggle for democracy in Burma. He has worked to disseminate information about these issues by joining public debates, leading training workshops, and working with local communities to find solutions.

With the rise of the ASEAN Economic Community, Dr. Chayan has supported academic work in ASEAN Studies and surveying development in the Mekhong River subregion as part of his role as the director of the ASEAN Studies Center at CMU.

CMU was the host of ICTS in 2017, which was the 13th time this conference has been held. Dr. Chayan was the vice chair of the organizing committee and the chair of the academic subcommittee. He did not participate in holding up the “An Academic Conference is Not a Military Barracks” sign.  His only action was to examine the sign and decide that it was not a problem and therefore did not have to be removed. For this, he was targeted for prosecution by the military.

Pakavadi Veerapaspong, age 53, has been an independent translator and writer for many decades. Her academic background is in philosophy; she holds a BA in philosophy from Thammasat University and an MA in philosophy from Chulalongkorn University. Her interest in reading and translation dates from her time as a student.

Pakavadi has translated a number of significant works of literature. This includes The Name of the Rose, the historical mystery novel by the Italian writer Umberto Eco; The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Czech writer Milan Kundera; the quartet of novels by Indonesian dissident and writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer; and the Philip Marlowe mystery novels by American writer Raymond Chandler.

In addition, Pakavadi also translates academic work, and her published translations include writing by American linguist Noam Chomsky; Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken, a collection of essays about social and economic change;  and The Great Transformation, by Karl Polyanyi, about the industrial revolution in Europe. She was also part of the collective translation of Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson, the scholar of Southeast Asian Studies and nationalism.

Pakavadi is compelled by social and revolutionary movements and has translated books and written articles about social movements in Latin America and the West.

Pakavadi is also a magazine columnist and has regularly joined public debates on social and political matters in recent years.  She sometimes joins protests as a participant or an observer.

At ICTS, Pakavadi was a speaker on a panel about Benedict Anderson’s life and work.

Nontawat Machai, age 22, is a fourth-year drama student in the Faculty of Mass Communication at CMU.

His hometown is Phatthalung province and he graduated from Satriphatthalung School. His interest is in writing and performing in plays; he is a member of Lanyim Creative Group, a group of youth activists who perform plays, show films and organize seminars about social problems.

Nonthawat directed a play called “Swallow” in the annual theatre festival of the Faculty of Mass Communication at CMU in 2015. He has performed in many plays in the Faculty as well, including “I merely wish to go outside” (2015) and “Fly first” (2016). He also acted in the short film “Onli(n)e Society” (2016) and in the dialogue theatre of Lanyim Creative Group in collaboration with Makham Pom Theatre (2017).

Nonthawat was a member of the Chiang Mai University Student Assembly in 2015. He was awarded the National Youth Excellence Award in the field of communication for protection and resolution of social problems in 2014 and was the first runner-up for an award for creative communication and environmental innovation from the United States Agency for International Development.

At ICTS, Nonthawat was a student volunteer in the conference directorate. He was responsible for taking photographs and video at the conference and aiding with the opening and closing ceremonies.

Chaipong Samnieng, age 36, is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in the Faculty of Social Sciences at CMU.

Chaipong is from Phrae province. He completed a BA in Social Studies in the Faculty of Education and an MA in the Department of History in the Faculty of Humanities at CMU.

Chaipong was previously a lecturer at Naresuan University in Phayao province. He then moved to CMU, first to work in the Public Policy Institute, and then to begin his doctoral studies, which continue at present. He is also a special lecturer for the course “Northern Society and Politics” in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at CMU.

Chaipong is interested in Lanna (northern Thai) history, local governance and public policy. His publication, both as a sole researcher and as a member of a research team, are numerous. These include, for example, Dynamics and Recognition of the History of Phrae, 1902-2006, Development of Capital Groups and Business Networks in Northern Thailand, 1903-Present, and as part of a research project to study public policy to advance decentralization of local governance, etc.

Chaipong also writes for print journals and online media about Lanna history, politics and culture.

At ICTS, Chaipong presented a research paper about conflict and confusion in Lanna history. He was also the coordinator of a series of panels about Lanna history, which was one of the highlights of the conference.

Teeramon Buangam, age 39, is an MA student in the Faculty of Mass Communication at CMU.

Teeramon is from Chiang Mai province. He completed a BA in the Faculty of Medical Technology at CMU, and then completed a BA with a newspaper major in the Department of Mass Communication in the Faculty of Humanities at CMU.

He has worked at Prachatham newspaper since 2005 and has served as editor since 2012. Prachatham is a northern media outlet that reports on civil society movements, community rights, and northern society.

At present, Teeramon is a special lecturer in alternative media and advanced reporting in the Faculty of Mass Communication at CMU and a special lecturer at Mae Jo University as well.

Previously, Teeramon was a researcher in a project to survey the landscape and direction of media convergence and a project to survey the resources and readiness for reporting of community radio. At present he is interested in data journalism and is writing his MA thesis about public communication by independent media in this field.

At ICTS, Teeramon presented a paper about data-driven journalism. He simply walked by and took a photograph with the “An Academic Conference is Not a Military Barracks.” This led to him being accused of violating the law and becoming a defendant.





Republicanism rises again

7 12 2018

Readers will recall the kerfuffle a little while ago over t-shirt, with some arrested, detained and maybe charged with making and distributing shirts claimed to be anti-monarchist and part of a republican movement.

On Wednesday, according to social media reports and in Khaosod, “police briefly detained two men wearing T-shirts associated with a republican group in public yesterday…”. In fact, there may have been more than two, as videos and photos are available on social media, including the Facebook page of Andrew MacGregor Marshall, show.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said the two were grabbed by police on the public holiday dedicated to the dead king in Lat Phrao district and taken to a local police station. Pictures appear to show republicans at MBK also.

Apparently the two detained were “released later in the day.” Police refused to comment.

The two arrested were said to be detained “while they were eating at a McDonald’s and brought to the station for interrogation.” They were detained for “wearing black T-shirts with the emblem of the Organization for a Thai Federation, an underground network that seeks to secede parts of Thailand from the kingdom to establish a republic.”

Police “warned them not to participate in any activity organized by the republicans.”





Unending lese majeste detention

6 11 2018

Adilur Rahman Khan is the Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights or FIDH. He has recently stated:

The detention and prosecution of Siraphop Kornaroot violate his fundamental rights to liberty, freedom of expression, and a fair trial – all rights guaranteed by international treaties to which Thailand is a state party. It is very disturbing that after more than four years there is no end in sight for Siraphop’s trial and the military court, which should not try civilians in the first place, continues to deny him bail.

This statement is in the context of the FIDH and its partner organization, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights having petitioned the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, seeking the release of lese-majeste defendant Siraphop.

The statement by FIDH observes:

Siraphop, 55, has been detained for more than four years and four months – the longest time for a person currently charged or serving a prison sentence under Article 112. Siraphop was arrested on 1 July 2014 in Bangkok and is currently incarcerated at the Bangkok Remand Prison. Since July 2014, the Bangkok Military Court has rejected Siraphop’s bail applications seven times, the most recent today, 5 November 2018. His trial before the Bangkok Military Court has been ongoing since 24 September 2014.

Also known as Rung Sila, Sirapop has been held for almost 1,600 days without his trial in a military court having been completed.

In petitioning the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, FIDH and TLHR called for:

the immediate and unconditional release of Siraphop and for all the charges against him to be dropped. FIDH and TLHR also urge the government to end the abuse of lèse-majesté and immediately and unconditionally release those detained or imprisoned under Article 112 for the mere exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Sirapop has refused to plead guilty. This often leads to not just arbitrariness on the part of the military junta and judiciary, but a vindictiveness that amounts to lese majeste torture.





Suppressing information on lese majeste trials

24 10 2018

Our second post on information missed earlier is from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and is about a Military Court’s direction to suppress publication of witness testimonies and court dockets in the case against lese majeste detainee Thanakorn:

The Bangkok Military Court has conducted a hearing on a probable case against Anon Nampa, an attorney on 3 October 2018 at 13.30. It stemmed from the publication of evidence given by the prosecution witness, Maj Gen Wijarn Jodtaeng, in the case against Mr. Thanakorn (last name withheld) who was accused of sharing Rajabhakti corruption diagram and clicking ‘like’– deemed offensive to a royally adopted dog. The Court also ordered Anon Nampa to inform the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) to have the information removed from the published article “Military official, who reported the case against a person for sharing Rajabhakti corruption diagram and clicking ‘like’– deemed offensive to a dog, actually did not know how to use Facebook, but he insisted that by just clicking ‘like’ on a page offensive to the monarchy is in itself the commission of royal defamation” (http://www.tlhr2014.com/th/?p=8950). The article to be removed by the Court’s order has been published on TLHR’s website. The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) who is not a party in this case, would like to take this opportunity to explain to the public as follows;

1. The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has been providing legal and litigation assistance to vulnerable people whose rights have been affected by the exercise of the state power as a result of the coup in 2014, including cases concerning the freedom of expression and cases of civilians who are prosecuted in the Military Courts.

According to the statistics collected by the Judge Advocate General’s Department, from 25 May 2014 to 30 June 2018, civilians have been indicted with the Military Court in over 1,723 cases and at least 281 cases are pending the review. TLHR has been assisting in 58 cases in which the civilians stand trial in the Military Court, of which 12 cases have been “secretly” conducted by the court’s order. Furthermore, the Military Court also prohibited any observer from recording the court proceeding. Recently, the Military Court banned a public dissemination of dockets in two cases, namely, the case concerning a call for election on 24 September 2018, and the case against Mr. Thanakorn on 3 October 2018.

2. According to Section 30 of the Civil Procedure Code, “The Court shall have power to give to any party or any third person present in the Court such directions as it may deem necessary for the maintenance of order within the precincts of the Court and for the fair and speedy carrying out of the trial.” Nonetheless, the latest direction to suppress the public dissemination of the docket in this case is unrelated to the maintenance of order within the precincts of the Court. Besides, the dissemination of the docket shall not affect the justice to be served in the case. Thus, it cannot be deemed a violation to the Section 30 of the Civil Procedure Code.

3. A public trial is one of the core elements to ensure the right to the fair trial according to the Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). As a state party to the Convention, Thailand is obliged to implement its provisions. According to the principle, a person is entitled to a fair and public trial. The public trial does not only involve those in the court room, but it must be open and accessible to every individual.

Moreover, the public trial can ensure the transparency of the justice process and can guarantee the rights and the freedoms of the people. Therefore, apart from being important in itself, the public trial is an entitlement– necessary to ensure other elements that constitute a fair trial and to build trust in the justice process among the public.

4. TLHR has been reporting details of every hearing that the Court did not order the trial to be conducted secretly and suppressed the dissemination of the docket. The information has derived from a summary of evidence given in the Court and from the trial observation.

The publication of contents summarized from the witness testimonies is not tantamount to the publication of the court documents. After all, such publication has been granted a consent by the defendants. This is to ensure transparency in the justice process, particularly the trial of civilians in the Military Court, where the defendants are supposed to enjoy less safeguards that protect their right to fair trial, compared to trials in the Court of Justice.

Therefore, the dissemination of information concerning the court proceeding does not only affect the trial, but also helps gracing the image of the Military Court itself. It is a better alternative than ordering the hearing to be secretly conducted and the suppression of the docket dissemination.

TLHR is determined to provide legal assistance to civilians tried in the Military Court and to inform the public of related information. This is to ensure the transparency and the safeguard of the right to the fair trial amidst the extreme deterioration of democracy and the rule of law.

With respect in people’s rights and liberties

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)