The junta-gang and its thuggishness

13 06 2016

It is a week since Prachatai published this (and, yes, yet another) disturbing report and almost a week since another story at the same place that point to the military junta’s thuggish attempts to oppress. We have used the words “thuggishness” and “thugs” quite often, and consider it appropriate as the junta acts in the manner of a criminal gang, threatening some, offering protection to others and reaping the material and other rewards of its brute power.

The first story is about an ongoing intimidation of “Benjarat Meetian, the lawyer for Thanakrit Thongngernperm, a suspect in the alleged Bike for Dad terrorist plot who is also charged under the lèse majesté law…”.

Thanakrit is the man alleged to have been involved in the so-called Khon Kaen model or plot to carry out attacks after the 2014 coup. As far as we can recall, this was a junta beat-up that led to men and women being accused and arrested but little more has been reported since then. Later, a warrant was issued for Thanakrit, accused of a plot to attack a royal event and/or The Dictator at the Bike for Dad propaganda event. At the time, while claimed by the junta to be “on the run,” Thanakrit was actually incarcerated in a Khon Kaen jail and had been there since mid-2014.

Benjarat filed a complaint on 29 November 2015 under Articles 172, 173, 174, 181, and 328 of the Criminal Code against Maj Gen Wicharn Jodtaeng, head of the junta’s legal office and Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the Deputy Police Chief, “for allegedly filing false charges and defaming her client.” The response from the military and police officers was to file a criminal defamation complaint against Benjarat.

On 3 June 2016, the Criminal Court held a conciliation hearing but Maj Gen Wicharn and Pol Col Mingmontree did not attend. Instead, Mingmontree “filed an additional criminal defamation charge against an embattled defence lawyer.” She has “been summoned to report to police investigators … on 8 June 2016.”

In the second story, as expected, a “District Court has confirmed that the Military Court has jurisdiction over trials of anti-junta activists charged with violating the junta’s political gathering ban…”. The case involves “Natchacha Kongudom, an anti-junta youth activist indicted for violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head’s Order No. 3/2015.  The order prohibits any political gathering of five or more persons.”

The Military Court “read the ruling of Pathumwan District Court of Bangkok, which confirms the jurisdiction of the Military Court in the case, citing NCPO Announcement No. 37/2014 which states that cases related to national security, the Thai monarchy and violations of NCPO orders shall be tried in Military Courts.”

According to the report, the “ruling also states that although the announcements and orders of the NCPO were not endorsed by the King or parliament, the coup-makers have successfully gained control over the country since the 2014 coup. Therefore, their orders and announcements are lawful.”

Thuggish behavior is accepted in Thailand, as law.

Natchacha’s defence lawyer has asked the “Constitutional Court to consider jurisdiction over the case.”

Junta intimidation

20 03 2016

The Nation reports that the intimidation of lawyer Benjarat Meethien continues.

Benjarat is the lawyer for Thanakrit Thongngernperm, who has been alleged to have been involved in the so-called Khon Kaen model or plot to carry out attacks after the 2014 coup. Later, a warrant was issued for Thanakrit, accused of another plot to attack a royal event and/or The Dictator. At the time, while claimed to be “on the run,” he was actually incarcerated in a Khon Kaen jail and had been there since mid-2014.

Deputy Prime Minister, coup maker, Defense Minister and General, Prawit Wongsuwan brushed his incarceration aside and came up with a response that was so deliciously dumb that terrified us that such morons are able to keep Thailand under the military boot. General Prawit said that “although Thanakrit was in prison he must have done something against the law, otherwise the court would not have approved the warrant for his arrest.” Prison authorities confirmed Thanakrit was in jail and could not have been involved, but what the heck, this is the junta’s Thailand.

None of the original Khon Kaen 26 arrested in mid-2014 has yet been convicted and many remain in jail. PPT has always thought the military concocted the “plot” as a part of its drive to consolidate military dictatorship following the coup.

Some of those involved with the second “plot” – again we seriously doubt that it existed, not least because the junta has produced no evidence – have been charged with lese majeste.

All of this bizarre background brings us back to Benjarat, who “has sought help from the European Union (EU) over alleged intimidation by authorities.” She says she has “suffered intimidation by police and military officers after she filed a petition against authorities under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) for dealing with a case involving her client.” And she’s the lawyer; just imagine what they must be doing to Thanakrit.

In her letter to the EU, Benjarat made the all too obvious point “that the NCPO and authorities treated people unfairly.” How could it be otherwise? This is the nature of military rule in Thailand.

She also complained about the dictatorship’s preference for moving detainees into the temporary prison at a Bangkok military camp – a prison for civilians that is essentially a military prison – “claiming that they suffer from poor treatment and tough conditions.” She had earlier petitioned the United Nations.

Benjarat claims she was followed, threatened and detained by military officers and that her residence has been watched by police and military officers. She “filed petitions against police and military officers involved in the issuing of an arrest warrant for her client.” Several weeks later, “the officers involved sued the lawyer for defamation. In response she lodged a counter-suit against the officers for making a false accusation…”.

Because she has dared stand up to the military, she is now a declared enemy of the junta and will continue to be harassed.

Lese majeste repression continues in 2016

6 01 2016

2015 was something of a record year for lese majeste cases, charges and allegations. We say this despite a recent article in the Bangkok Post was potentially misleading.

LM casesIn that article, a graphic was included (reproduced here), a casual reader could be excused for thinking that lese majeste cases have eased under the military dictatorship.

Nothing could be further from the truth for the data seem to be only for cases in civilian courts. Under the junta, however, all cases now go to a military court.

That said, 2012, under the Yingluck Shinawatra government, pressured by the military and monarchy, represented an inglorious record under an elected government.

At the website of iLAW, a rights advocacy group, 62 persons have been charged with the lese majeste under the junta. We think this is also an underestimate of those accused/charged and those convicted.

The real figure is in excess of 110. Lese majeste cases associated with to crackdowns on palace-connected persons number around 30 to 40 alone. On average, when sentenced, the length of jail time has increased substantially.

Under the military, even criticizing the lese majeste law is dangerous and can land critics in jail.

On new lese majeste cases, Prachatai reports on what might be the first case in 2016.

One of the men accused of being a part of a plot to assassinate unnamed persons at an unknown spot in December, is now charged with lese majeste.

Thanakrit Thongngernperm has been transferred from Khon Kaen Provincial Prison to the 11th Military Base in Bangkok.

He is alleged to have defamed the monarchy while talking to other inmates in Khon Kaen Prison.

The military and police earlier “accused Thanakrit of being one of the nine suspects in a terrorist plot around Bike for Dad, a cycling rally to honour … the King on 11 December 2015.”

Of course, Thanakrit is the accused who has already been in jail for more than a year and is accused of being involved in the “assassination plot” while in jail.

Lawyers say that all nine alleged “plotters” have been charged with lese majeste.

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