Lese majeste catch-ups

18 02 2018

Natthika Worathaiwit was one of The Facebook 8 who were arrested by the military dictatorship because of a satirical Facebook community page that poked fun at The Dictator. They were charged with sedition and computer crimes on 28 April 2016. Tow of them, Harit Mahaton and Natthika were charged with lese majeste.

Initially all were refused bail. When six of the eight were bailed, a military court refused bail for Natthika and Harit. The two firmly maintained their innocence. After more than two months in prison, on 8 July 2016, the two were released on bail. A month later, a military prosecutor indicted the two anti-junta critics on lese majeste and computer crimes.

Little more was heard about the case until in January 2018 Natthika revealed that she had decided to flee Thailand to seek asylum in the U.S. She remains critical of the military dictatorship. Prachatai has an interview with her in the U.S.

Prachatai also reports on a case with a curious twist. Back in March 2016, it was reported that that nine persons are to be charged with lese majeste over the Tob Jote/ตอบโจทย์ television show in 2013. ThaiPBS aired the program on the monarchy and lese majeste law on 11-14 March and 18 March 2013. The series featured historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul who later went into exile, conservative royalist Sulak Sivaraksa, the execrable Surakiart Sathirathai and retired ultra-monarchist Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn. The show hosted by Pinyo Trisuriyathamma. All are mentioned in the new set of charges, with four others.

Later, in July 2014, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) imposed a 50,000 baht fine on ThaiPBS for broadcasting political discussions about the monarchy. The NBTC declared that the broadcasts violated “Article 37 of the NBTC Act. The Commission accused the station of publishing content that instigated conflict, damaged peace and order, or damaged the good morality of the people.”

Royalists and the junta could not abide by notions that Thais could have a reasonable discussion of the monarchy or be allowed to think for themselves about the monarchy.

On 15 February 2018, the Administrative Court invalidated the fine. In doing so, it ruled that the NBTC showed bias (which is standard operating procedure for this bunch of junta minions). That bias got a name:  Lt Gen Peerapong Manakit, one of the NBTC members. According to the report, the “court ruled that bias on the part of … [Peerapong] who proposed the punishment, led to an unfair trial. The court ordered the Commission to refund the fine to Thai PBS…. However, the verdict does not rule whether the show’s content was legal or not.”

It is an interesting ruling. If Peerapong’s name rings a bell, it could be because he is another of those military hogs who can’t keep out of the trough, as reported in The Nation:

… there was a public outcry after an Office of the Auditor-General investigation revealed Peerapong Manakit had topped the list of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission members who had made the most overseas “study” trips last year…. He spent about one-third of his time (129 days) on 20 overseas trips at a cost of Bt12.03 million…. Peerapong has reportedly appointed his wife Janya Sawangjit as his adviser, effective October 1. Her salary is Bt120,000 a month…. It is not clear if NBTC commissioners can take their advisers on overseas trips.

Of course, nothing happened about this nepotism and he remains a commissioner, with a bunch of other military and royal-connected men.





Censorship, threats

18 03 2016

After a few weeks in the shadow of General Prawit Wongsuwan, The Dictator seems to have his oats again and he is back to his deranged and authoritarian best/worst.

Over the past couple of days he’s been demanding Prawit’s idea for a future constitutional government (yes, these guys are jokers) about a huge and unelected senate be filled with the junta’s members and military brass.

As usual, he’s ticked off with the media and has decided to threaten, “advise,” rant and threaten some more.

The Bangkok Post reports that the self-appointed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has “slammed Thai PBS, the country’s sole public TV station for its ‘one-sided’ reporting despite it being financed by the state budget.”

Prayuth means that the station is not keeping the junta happy.  He’s essentially threatening before censoring. The Nation reports that The Dictator’s claims of “biased reporting” have caused him to threaten the broadcaster: “The station is funded by the state’s taxes, but it chooses to present only one side of people’s problems…. Should it be granted budgets any further?”

ThaiPBS is hardly “oppositional” and is certainly not “radical” in any way, but dictators like to totally control all things and this is just another example of Prayuth’s paranoia. At the same time it is clear that the idea of public broadcasting is lost on a man who is used to propaganda.

What seems to have set Prayuth off on his threats is that “the channel only focuses on people suffering from the drought and other problems and not on what the government has done to solve these problems.” Prayuth believes that “showing only drought areas and negative issues which allow people to scold the government…”. Because no criticism is allowed, even factual reporting an issue like drought is threatening for the junta and this leads to junta threats to the media.

The demented general wants Thais to focus on propaganda and patriotism.

Prayuth also seems ticked off that all the propaganda channels – National Broadcasting Services of Thailand, Channel 11 and the Royal Thai Army Radio and Television’s Channel 5 – have the lowest ratings of all the major television broadcasters.

Clearly, the Thai people recognize where the media rubbish is.





The academic 9

10 03 2016

It had to happen. The military dictatorship can simply not control itself on lese majeste. The longer it consumes the helium that seeps from its high position, the more bizarre become its lese majeste accusations and charges, not to mention the sentences meted out.

Prachatai reports that that nine persons are to be charged with lese majeste over the Tob Jote/ตอบโจทย์ television show in 2013. ThaiPBS aired the program on the monarchy and lese majeste law on 11-14 March and 18 March 2013. The series featured Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Sulak Sivaraksa, Surakiart Sathirathai and retired Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn, the latter a hard-boiled monarchist. The show hosted by Pinyo Trisuriyathamma. All are mentioned in the new set of charges, with four others.

In a post from some time ago PPT quoted the then army chief:

… Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha “has lashed out at the Tob Jote TV programme for broadcasting a debate over the role of the monarchy.” … He considers the “broadcast was inappropriate at a time of political conflict.” So the timing was wrong? Probably not. Prayuth doesn’t want any discussion of the role of the monarchy that goes outside the narrow boundaries of the official treacly narrative.

In the latest report, the “deputy police chief announced after a meeting of a police committee tasked for investigating lèse majesté cases that the committee has concluded that, within the scope of Article 112, the nine have allegedly committed crime. The officer, however, refrained from mentioning in details as to when the case file will be sent to the prosecutor office.”

The military monarchists are, as we have said previously, becoming increasingly unhinged as the king’s death approaches. That event will allow the military regime to extend its rule and manage a succession.





Somsak ++ lese majeste accusations

26 02 2016

Apparently, having academic Somsak Jeamteerasakul outside Thailand and living in exile is insufficient for royalists and the military dictatorship. Reports at both Khaosod and Prachatai confirm that the junta is seeking to charge Somsak with lese majeste along with several others.

The report is that “[p]olice have reopened a criminal investigation into a former history professor who criticized the monarchy in a interview broadcast nearly three years ago…”.

Somsak has been pursued by many royalists and most especially by The Dictator himself for lese majeste, and it is never clear to us if any of these accusations have stuck. In any case, after the junta grabbed power, Somsak read the very clear tea leaves and took off for Paris.

Apparently, this is a new case and stems from “[s]everal people hav[ing] filed complaints of royal defamation against Somsak … since [his] … interview was aired March 2013  on Thai PBS…”.Somsak

ThaiPBS aired a “talk program on lèse majesté law…. The program Tob Joad (The Answers) was broadcast … on 11-14 March and 18 March 2013.” The series “featured Sulak Sivaraksa, an anti-lese majeste law royalist, Surakiart Sathirathai, former deputy prime minister, and Pol Gen Wasit Dejkunchorn. The show hosted by Pinyo Trisuriyathamma.”

According to police, no action has ever been taken on these complaints. This proves that police can be sensible, but they are now under great pressure from mad royalists in the junta and outside.

In fact, the deputy chief of Royal Thai Police is appointed to oversee the case or cases, showing just how mad and threatening things have become.

Apparently the deputy chief has to view the show and decide “whether it is considered illegal.”  He’s right to use the word “considered” because the letter of the law simply doesn’t matter in Thailand under the military dictatorship.

If  he decides that someone – let’s say an erratic dunce like General Prayuth Chan-ocha – “considers” the content lese majeste, then “Somsak and other people involved in the TV program will be charged under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, which outlaws any negative remark about the Royal Family, with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.” This might include “executives of Thai PBS TV station…”.

All of this relates to a 12 March 2013 interview with  Somsak, then a history professor at Thammasat University, on the monarchy and the constitution, where he suggested that the royals exceeded the “limits imposed by the legal framework of the modern constitutional monarchy.”

The programs from the show Tob Jote are available at YouTube. Start here.

Of course, he’s right, but the mad monarchists seem to favor an absolute monarchy and a royal deity.





Making up

9 01 2016

Yesterday PPT post on the ongoing kerfuffle over ThaiHealth. In that post we noted that the junta’s attacks on the organization had something to do with shifting funds to the military dictatorship’s own projects and that there was a decided political dimension to the attacks. On the latter, we noted that some of the NGOs and foundations involved were clearly on the side of the junta, had supported the coups of 2006 and 2014 and thus were unlikely “opponents.” We guessed that the junta might be needling them for potentially being too liberal.

It seems we were wrong, and that the military dictatorship and its junta have quickly rectified their mistake and are quickly restoring funds to tame and royalist NGOs.

The Dictator has reportedly “ordered Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) to immediately release funds for projects based on the Pracha Rath or ‘state of the people’ concept, as funding-approval difficulties have caused many projects to be delayed.”

It seems that one of the key NGO bodies supporting the military junta’s Pracha Rath projects is the Local Development Institute, and General Prayuth Chan-ocha met with one of its yellow-hued leaders, medical doctor Poldej Pinprateeb to sort the matter out among political allies.

Poldej served the previous junta-appointed government led by palace flunkey and Privy Council member General Surayud  Chulanont.

LDI is an institute chock full of aging yellow shirts and military supporters, and is closely linked to royalist “liberal” Prawase Wasi and longtime academic and “development promoter” Saneh Chammarik. It has links to the Rural Doctor Foundation and ThaiPBS, which were also on the junta’s hit list at ThaiHealth. For more on this network, see the academic article here. (We can’t find a free copy.)

Poldej praised The Dictator: “I would like to applaud the PM for making swift decisions to tackle this problem and letting the Pracha Rath projects move forward again…”.





Article 44 used for money-making by the junta

8 01 2016

There has been quite a bit of debate and editorial comment on the military dictatorship’s move to neuter and take over the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth). PPT hasn’t followed the mini-coup all that closely, but a few lines in a report today suggested a reason for increased interest.

As far as we can tell, ThaiHealth has been quite successful. Yet a couple of days ago, The Dictator used the draconian Article 44 to suspend seven board members of ThaiHealth along with 52 other “state officials ordered to leave their duties pending probes, mostly concerning alleged irregularities and malfeasance.”

A junta “investigation” reckons that the organization’s budget last year was misused.The junta claims conflicts of interest. (PPT can’t imagine the junta turning the same lens on itself, for the regime is riddled with such conflicts. Just another example of double standards.) In fact, a Bangkok Post report makes it clear that the board members followed the “rules” on conflicts of interest.

Rabid rightist-royalists have condemned ThaiHealth [clicking this link takes the reader to a very strange conspiratorial world linking Oregon and Bangkok] as a kind of NGO-cuddling cabal somehow linked to international and US-based organizations undermining the world and Thai sovereignty. Even the Puea Thai Party has got into the act on ThaiHealth.

According to the Bangkok Post story linked above, a government source says that ousting the board members will “provide an opportunity for the government to change rules governing the agency’s spending so it can use the money to fund the regime’s projects.” No conflict of interest there….

As well as getting its hands on the “sin taxes” that funded ThaiHealth, this move also allows the junta to twist a knife into some of the organizations it sees as too liberal and thus untrustworthy or as oppositional.

Vichai Chokevivat, the ousted deputy board chairman, sees that the junta has targeted ThaiHealth: “He said the charter writing panel headed by Borwornsak Uwanno attempted to take away the earmarked taxes from ThaiHealth last year and force the agency to obtain funds from the fiscal budget in the future.” When the charter writers backed down “the Office of the Auditor-General and the military regime’s panel investigating suspicious spending of state funds stepped in…”.

While not all anti-military, a bunch of groups targeted in this move include irritant groups like Isra News. It has been received some funding from ThaiHealth and has exhibited an interest in the junta’s wealth and military spending. ThaiPBS has been seen as unreliable for the junta and it also received some funding. The Komol Keemthong Foundation also received some funds, and that is associated with Sulak Sivaraksa, considered a thorn in the side of palace and military for many years. Also funded was the October 14 Foundation is generally considered a pain for the military, who, of course, have never massacred students.

More interesting are the foundations from the royalist side that have been supportive of the 2006 and 2014 military coups and which have been funded by ThaiHealth. The Rural Doctor Foundation has supported both military coups and is associated with the aged royalist busybody Prawase Wasi. That said, it tends to be supportive of the universal health program the junta would dearly love to scrap. Then there is the Thai Rural Reconstruction Movement, which is now miles removed from the ideals it was set up to achieve more than 40 years ago. Now run by a bunch of aging bureaucrats, minor princes and royalist propagandists for the loopy sufficiency economy idea.

It will be interesting to see how these organizations respond to the use of Article 44 to target them in a “case” that would appear concocted in order to serve the junta’s interests.





Reacting to “incorrect” views

16 11 2014

Anyone with even a passing interest in Thailand knows that the current military dictatorship is Orwellian in its doublespeak, repressive of opponents and any person perceived as potentially straying from the royalist-militarist ideology and censorial of almost everything political.

A day or so ago, PPT posted on a military threat to ThaiPBS over a program that the military found just too challenging. According to a new report in Khaosod, the program “was airing complaints from the public about the 22 May coup.”

The military boot came in the form of a group of officers showing up at the broadcaster and telling them to get with the military’s agenda or face the consequences. The executives at the station, never particularly brave, quickly caved, and dumped the presenter and changed the format to “military-lite.”

The recently-appointed/anointed commander-in-chief of the Army has insisted that this action was necessary. General Udomdej Sitabutr who doubles as Deputy Minister of Defense, got very Orwellian, claiming that the visit to PBS was “not an order to suspend anything…”. He said that the military was “merely reacting” to “an attitude that displays mis-understanding about some matters…”. He called it a “conversation.” We imagine that military conversations are rather one-sided and akin to a conversation with a famished and agitated lion in that the outcome is known well in advance of being devoured.Orwell

Udomdej purred that “… we didn’t do anything much. We merely asked for their understanding.” He proclaimed that the media was pretty much under total control, referring to “constant” surveillance of the media since the coup. He stated that the military dictatorship asks “that those in charge of all types of media have understanding and cooperate with us. If we feel that some media reports, once broadcast out there, may lead to disorder or inappropriate consequences in the current situation, we will ask for cooperation, because we need to maintain peace and order.”

As Khaosod explains, this is just the latest act of massive censorship and repression by the military dictatorship: “Since seizing power, the junta has banned any criticism of the regime, crushed any political protests, and briefly detained hundreds of activists.”

The military dictatorship says this is not censorship. If they say it enough, some will believe them, maybe. For a script on how to understand the Orwellian moment, see Kong Rithdee’s latest op-ed.

Meanwhile, the often supine Thai Journalists Association has been spurred to action over PBS and states it “will push next week for the lifting of orders restricting freedom of expression of journalists and the general public, as well as martial law.”