2022 IPA Prix Voltaire

28 09 2022

This exciting announcement from the International Publishers Association, with PPT’s emphasis added:

The International Publishers Association’s Freedom to Publish Committee has selected Thai publishing house Same Sky (Fah Deaw Kan) to receive the 2022 IPA Prix Voltaire. The Bangkok-based company was chosen from a shortlist of five nominees, who have all been recognized for their exemplary courage in upholding the freedom to publish and enabling others to exercise their right to freedom of expression.

Same Sky Publishing House was founded in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2002 by three ex-student activists, Thanapol Eawsakul, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, and Chaithawat Tulatol. Since then, Samesky Publishing has published a large number of academic journals and books in social science and the humanities, mainly from a critical perspective. Some suggest this critical position has disturbed those who uphold the political and social status quo. The last two decades of volatility in Thai politics has impeded freedom of speech in Thailand, particularly with regards to the abolition of the monarchy – something Same Sky’s work seeks to address. As a result, Eawsakul, Same Sky’s executive editor, has had to endure monitoring by state officials attempting to persecute him for sedition.

Kristenn Einarsson, Chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee added: Same Sky Publishing is a perfect example of a publisher demonstrating their bravery by standing up to intimidation and continuing to publish works they believe in.

A representative of Same Sky Publishing will receive the Prix Voltaire in person at 33rd International Publishers Congress in Jakarta, on 11 November.

About the 2022 Prix Voltaire

This year’s shortlist also included independent VK K arthika (India), Raul Figueroa Sarti (Guatemala), Nahid Shahalimi (Afghanistan/Canada), and Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers Association (Ukraine).

Prix Voltaire nominees are publishers – individuals, groups or organizations – who stand firm on freedom to publish, be it as longstanding defenders of these values or having recently published works despite pressure, threats, intimidation or harassment from various sources.

Nominees have typically published controversial works amid pressure, threats, intimidation or harassment, be it from governments, other authorities or private interests. Alternatively, they may be publishers with a distinguished record of upholding the values of freedom to publish and freedom of expression. For the purposes of the IPA Prix Voltaire, the definition of ‘publisher’ is an individual, collective or organization that provides others with the means to share their ideas in written form, including via digital platforms.

The IPA Prix Voltaire, which comes with a CHF 10,000 prize, is made possible by generous contributions from sponsors, all of which are publishing houses and organizations that share the values that the IPA Prix Voltaire recognizes.

The current sponsors of the IPA Prix Voltaire are, in alphabetical order:

Albert Bonniers Förlag (Sweden)
Bonnier Media Deutschland (Germany)
Holtzbrinck (Germany)
Penguin Random House
Norstedts (Sweden)
Samlaget (Norway)
Verlag C. H. Beck (Germany)





More royal loot

27 08 2022

Siam Bioscience, owned by King Vajiralongkorn, reportedly received at least 600 million baht from the military-monarchy regime to subside its development of production capacity for an AstraZeneca contract to manufacture COVID-19 vaccine.

It has now reported a profit of 1.69 billion baht.

Readers will recall that this manufacture of vaccines would be “under a ‘no profit, no loss’ policy, meaning it would sell the vaccines at cost.”

Clipped from The Rand Blog

This profit is a “near 50-fold increase in annual profit…”. Founded in 2009 by the dead king’s Crown Property Bureau, and now owned by Vajrialongkorn, Siam Bioscience “had since been loss-making and reported its first profit only in 2020 of 35.7 million baht ($995,000).”

Reuters reports that “[p]rofit soared a whopping 4,650% to 1.69 billion baht and revenues increased by 1,500% to a record 4.9 billion baht, aided by its contract to manufacture 200 million doses of the Anglo-Swedish firm’s COVID-19 vaccine.”

As far as PPT can discern, it is still not known how much vaccine the company has actually made or their distribution.

Of course, as the report makes clear, the regime’s “deal came under fire from a prominent Thai opposition politician [Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit] who questioned why the contract went to a company that was owned by the king and had never made vaccines before.” He now faces a lese majeste charge.





Anutin defends Siam Bioscience

13 08 2022

In a report at the Bangkok Post, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul is reported as “defending” the monarch’s Siam Bioscience. He is reported this way:

He rebuffed criticism made earlier by former Move Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit that the ministry’s vaccine policy put an undue amount of trust in Siam Bioscience, given that the company had never produced such a vaccine before…. The minister pointed out that Siam Bioscience received a licence to produce a viral-vector vaccine from the UK-based AstraZeneca company.

Clipped from The Rand Blog

As usual, though, there’s no data or information about Siam Bioscience. How much vaccine has it produced? How much was used in Thailand? How much was exported? How much taxpayer money was provided to the king’s company?

Does any reader know of such data?

What we do know is that in most countries, such political contention would be entirely normal. But not in Thailand. Thanathorn is hit with a lese majeste charge that could land him in prison for 15 years. “Protecting” the monarchy seems to also mean “protecting” the king’s companies. It helps that the law also “protects” the regime from criticism.





Bent law enforcement and warped institutions

7 08 2022

Rotten to the core

The legal system from police to the highest court is rotten to the core.

Prachatai reports that after 7 years, “the public prosecutor has decided to indict activists from the New Democracy Movement (NDM) and the Dao Din group on charges of sedition for an anti-junta protest in front of Pathumwan Police Station on 24 June 2015.”

There were 17 people “charged for participating in the 24 June 2015 protest, including activists Jatupat Boonpattaraksa and Chonticha Jaengrew, activist-turned-Move Forward Party MP Rangsiman Rome, and Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party.”

On 4 August 2022, that the public prosecutor decided to indict 10 of the activists 7 years after the protest and 3 years after the charges were filed. They were later granted bail using a security of 70,000 baht each.”

Meanwhile, the well-connected rich and powerful get away with murder.

Prachatai also reports that the royalist judiciary via its Judicial Commission has unanimously ruled to remove judge Wichit Leethamchayo from the Supreme Court “after he was found to have joined pro-democracy protests…”.

It seems that “right-wing groups accused him of showing support for pro-democracy protests on at least two occasions in 2021.” Ultra-royalist Maj Gen Rientong Nan-nah “filed a complaint with the Judicial Commission in March last year accusing Wichit of showing ‘anti-monarchy behaviour’ in front of the Supreme Court on 13 February. Rienthong also claimed that Wichit posted anti-monarchy comments on Facebook using the name Wichit Lee.”

The Commission agreed, with “judges on the Commission called out his ‘anti-monarchy’ stance.”

As the report notes, this judiciary is biased. Judge Methinee Chalothorn, who was appointed President of the Supreme Court in September 2020, has been seen in published photos attending “a right-wing anti-government PDRC protest which led to the military coup in 2014.” Of course, she’s not been censured as supporting the right, ultra-royalists is second nature for most judges. In fact, it is revealed that:

the Judicial Commission’s minutes confirming that it had acknowledged Methinee’s participation in the anti-democracy protest in July 2020, 3 months before the appointment of a new President of the Supreme Court in October. Yet the Commissioners voted 13-1 to approve her appointment with several judges giving the opinion that being at a protest site does not mean that she showed support for the protest. Worasit Rojanapanich, an external examiner for the Commission, said that her participation was “graceful” for a judge because she acted out of love for the nation and the monarchy.

Clearly monarchism and the monarchy has crippled the judiciary. Its royalism is the reason for denied bail, the avalanche of 112 convictions, and endless double standards.

And royalism is infecting other institutions, with Prachatai reporting that the “unelected Senate has voted 146-38 not to appoint Prof Arayah Preechametta to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). The meeting minutes are confidential, but Isara News cites an anonymous source in the Senate claiming that the candidate was not approved because his ideas were contrary to the conservatives.” By “conservatives” is meant royalists, ultra-royalists, and supporters of the military/monarchy-backed regime.

Isara News cited an anonymous source in the Senate claiming that during the meeting it was mentioned that a person filed a complaint against Arayah because he had political ideas in opposition to the conservatives. The Senate eventually voted to reject Arayah on the basis that he was insufficiently right-wing. Presumably the unelected swill want “trusted” compatriots making the “right” decisions.





Doing the monarchy’s propaganda I

29 07 2022

There’s a lot of palace propaganda about at present. We guess that most foreigners will rely on news outlets like the Bangkok Post, which has been around since 1946. To be around that long makes it a newspaper of record but also suggests a capacity for keeping on side with the elite. Indeed, its owners and board are of the ruling class.

Royal birthdays are usually regurgitation worthy times. The story on the king – “HM” – sorting everything out and responsible for everything good in government is pretty horrendous. Who knew or believes that “Royally initiated projects have played a vital role in elevating the lives of Thais and providing a cushion during difficult times”? Who knew or believes that the king has a “long list of royal achievements”? The “evidence” for this is a series of unbelievable claims.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chalermchai Sri-on says that his ministry “follows the King’s guidance” – who knew or believes the king had any knowledge of agriculture?

The ministry’s claims that there were 1,601 royally initiated projects “implemented and completed in the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years” and another “543 projects … carried out in the 2021 fiscal year.” This seems quite unbelievable. Are there any projects other than royally initiated ones? Or is everything the ministry does labeled royal?

This is followed by claims that the Royal Irrigation Department has “3,402 projects which have been implemented, 3,333 are complete and 69 are under construction.” We wonder that if this is true, how many do anything useful?

Purveying palace propaganda is not just about producing vomit-inducing “stories.” Indeed, it means leaving out much. Of course, there’s long been self-censorship on the monarchy. Part of that has to do with fear of the lese majeste law, but it also has to do with shoring up the ruling class and the royalist ideology that cements that class together.

As part of this process of bending the news – and eliminating some of it – has meant the Bangkok Post has more or less stopped reporting on lese majeste. We did a quick search of the Post online for the past three months and found essentially no reporting of the young protesters who are calling for monarchy reform (there was one story on bail for one of them). Other than that, there was one story on Chadchart Sittipunt’s comment on lese majeste, several stories on the Lazada lese majeste case because it involved celebrities, and a couple of stories on the mad 112 case against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. The vast majority of 112 cases don’t get a mention.

We could be forgiven for thinking that the mainstream media is working for the palace. Certainly, by not reporting the travesties of injustice against the young protesters the Post is not serving its readers.





Using 112 against Thanathorn

7 06 2022

One of the most obvious efforts to use Article 112 to silence critics involves Progressive Group leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

Back in October 2021, it was reported that police had submitted a lese majeste charge against Thanathorn to the Office of the Attorney-General on 12 October 2021. The charge was lodged for Thanathorn’s livestreaming of talks in January 2021 on the government’s vaccine mismanagement when vaccines were being sourced.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

It was alleged that the talks included remarks thought to offend the monarchy, which arose when Thanathorn questioned the regime’s AstraZeneca vaccine strategy, where most of it was delayed in production by Siam Bioscience, a Crown company.

This 112 charge was initiated by Apiwat Khanthong, said to be the chairman of the government-appointed committee investigating the spread of alleged anti-regime “disinformation.”

Reportedly, Phahonyothin police station lodged a second lese majeste charge, also in connection with his Facebook livestreaming. He also copped a computer crimes charge.

Thanathorn livestream talk, titled “Royal Vaccine: Who Benefits and Who Doesn’t?” urged the regime and Siam Bioscience to publicly reveal the vaccine-production agreement. At the time, Siam Bioscience, an opaque company due to its royal connection, seemed to have failed monumentally, causing the regime to import millions of AstraZeneca doses.

Thanathorn concluded that “the government has been careless in negotiations for the vaccine…”. He pointed out that Siam Bioscience was “tasked with producing 200 million doses per year. Of this, 176 million will be sold to other countries in the region, while the remainder will be sold locally.” He added that the regime “has announced it will give Siam Bioscience Bt1.44 billion for the project.”

He claimed Siam Bioscience was only “established in 2009 with an authorized capital of Bt48 billion, but over the past 11 years, the corporation has made losses worth Bt581 billion…”.

And, he “pointed out that Siam Bioscience was only added to the plan in the second quarter of 2020 – when anti-establishment protesters began holding their rallies.” This, he said, may make the “AstraZeneca-Siam Bioscience deal is politically motivated.”

The politically-motivated charges are going ahead. The Criminal Court will hear 54 witnesses in the case, with 42 of the witnesses being “viewers who watched the stream on Jan 18 last year and will be testifying for public prosecutors who filed the case…”. There would be 12 witnesses for Thanathorn.

Thanathorn pleaded not guilty, “noting that Section 112 has from time to time been exploited by the [Gen] Prayut-Chan-o-cha administration to silence political opponents and anti-government protests.” He stated the obvious: “A large number of people have faced Section 112 cases. All of these cases were aimed at protecting the power of Gen Prayut at the cost of people’s freedom of expression…”.

Of course, the charge is also used to protect the monarchy and make opaque royal affairs.





Anti-human rights group rallies for regime I

27 11 2021

A flock of “protesters” claimed to be ultra-monarchists and ultra-nationalists, and arranged by the regime, “rallied” at Government House on Thursday, bleating that “the government expel Amnesty International (AI) from the country for allegedly interfering in internal affairs.”

The Centre of the People for the Protection of Monarchy is led by Jakkapong Klinkaew,who gets wheeled out at critical times to promote the regime’s political interests. This has included calls for lese majeste charges (the regime was pleased to oblige, again and again) and for bail to be revoked for young activists accused of lese majeste (and, again, the regime has complied).

Less successful due to the conflicting message it sent was the group’s earlier call for Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit to be sent packing from Thailand. The group’s racist taunts “questioned his loyalty to Thailand by pointing out his ethnic Chinese ancestry.” As news reports explained, this was ironic as “many of the ultraroyalists in Thailand who are opposed to any democratic reforms are themselves of ethnic Chinese heritage.” So are the most significant supporters of the regime, from the tycoons to the palace.

In the latest “rally,” the “protesters” were welcomed into Government House and “submitted a letter, addressed to Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha, demanding that authorities investigate the role and activities of AI’s Thailand office, to determine whether they amount to a threat against national security and the monarchy.” This followed the work of toxic turncoat Suporn Atthawong, now known as Seksakol, an assistant minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The group – and the regime – are irked by campaigning that urges fair, constitutional, and legal treatment for political detainees. It claims that AI has undermined national security – code for undermining the monarchy.

While it remains unclear whether these buffoons can distinguish between AI internationally and locally, they have “claimed that AI’s conduct could be seen as pulling the strings of anti-establishment groups in Thailand, to undermine the Thai monarchy.”

AI Thailand has “issued a statement refuting all allegations. It claimed that AI is a movement of about 10 million ordinary people across the world which is dedicated to the protection of human rights, social equality and fairness for all and it is free from political affiliations.” It is supported by donations. It stated that AI “will continue to perform its duties to protect human rights for people whose rights are being breached ‘because we firmly believe that every man is born equal and should not be oppressed…’.” AI has been officially registered in Thailand since 2003.

Again, the regime has accepted the ultra-royalist (self)coaching and Gen Prayuth “has ordered a probe into Amnesty International Thailand to determine if the human rights watchdog is operating in compliance with Thai law.” If it has violated the “law,” the 2014 coup leader said “it will be banned.”

The general added that “he does not want anyone or any group to speak ill about the country.” He means the regime. He added that “the government is seeking to make sure that NGOs act in a transparent way.” This is code for closing down NGOs, a path taken by several other authoritarian regimes. The irony is that the regime itself lacks any transparency.

Lapdog foreign minister Don Pramudwinai, who prefers dealing with dictators at home and abroad, pointed to “good and bad NGOs…”, providing direction for those clamoring for an even greater unfreedom in Thailand.





Thanathorn’s 112 charge

13 10 2021

Thai PBS reports that the “Nang Loeng police [has] submitted its case file, on a lèse majesté charge against Progressive Group leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, to the Office of the Attorney-General today [12 October 2021].” The Bangkok Post also reports it.

Lawyer Krisadang Nutcharat, said that the police decided to charge his client:

over his livestream lectures on the government’s vaccine [mis]management, which contained remarks allegedly deemed to offend the monarchy, as he was questioning the government’s AstraZeneca vaccine strategy, most of which produced by Thai firm Siam Bioscience, which is owned by a subsidiary of the Crown Property Bureau.

The 112 charge was initiated by Apiwat Khanthong, “chairman of the government-appointed committee investigating the spread of disinformation about the execution of the prime minister’s and cabinet ministers’ duties.”

Meanwhile, Thanathorn also “reported to Phahonyothin police station this morning to acknowledge a second lèse majesté charge, also in connection with his Facebook livestream lectures.”

Thanathorn described the charges against him and other activists as “unjust, urging the public to protect them and to condemn this injustice.”

In Thanathorn’s livestream, titled “Royal Vaccine: Who Benefits and Who Doesn’t?” he “urged the government and the firm to publicly reveal the vaccine-production agreement to prove the procurement was being done in a transparent manner.”

Siam Bioscience, still as opaque as ever, seems to have failed monumentally given that millions of AstraZeneca doses are being imported from other countries.

Lese majeste has seen some mad cases in this past, but this one seems to suggest that criticizing or questioning any royal company is now off limits. Bizarre.





Lese majeste hits another teen

24 09 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that Akkarasorn Opilan, 17, a “niece of Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, [has] reported to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) yesterday [23 Sept] to answer a lese majeste charge.”

The charge against her “related to a Feb 13 social media post concerning clashes between police and anti-government protesters in front of the Criminal Court.”

The post had been removed but was captured by internet vigilantes and it was again the ridiculously monikered Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims, an online ultra-royalist group, that made the complaint to police. In almost all recent cases of recent lese majeste and sedition cases, it has been this group, headed up by extreme rightists Nangnoi Assawakittikorn and Nopadol Prompasit, that had run to the police.

No further details are currently available.





More 112-Siam Bioscience madness

20 08 2021

As we have posted several times, as social media has discussed, and as even the mainstream media has reported, as far as can be determined, the Siam Bioscience contract to produce AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been something of a disaster. Recent reports of Thailand’s regime begging AZ does from other countries seem to confirm this.

With so much secrecy and opacity, like the activist from the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration in January, its seems that “Vaccine Monopoly is PR for the Royals.” Our guess is that handing a contract and state funds to a small and inexperienced company has been the root of the vaccine chaos.

Of course, that was the king’s company. Probably the reason for doling out the contract and the loot to this minor company was to eventually bring glory to the monarch and monarchy. That’s failed. But, “protecting” the monarchy, the company, the contract and the regime remains high on the agenda.

So it is that lese majeste lunacy deepens. It was Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit who was one of the first to express concern about the contract. Back in January 2021, the Progressive Movement leader “slammed the government for its tardiness in providing Covid-19 vaccines and pointed out that the company tasked with manufacturing the vaccine locally is owned by the King.”

Thanathorn

Thanathorn concluded that “the government has been careless in negotiations for the vaccine…”. He pointed out that Siam Bioscience “is tasked with producing 200 million doses per year. Of this, 176 million will be sold to other countries in the region, while the remainder will be sold locally.” He added that the regime “has announced it will give Siam Bioscience Bt1.44 billion for the project.”

He claimed Siam Bioscience was only “established in 2009 with an authorized capital of Bt48 billion, but over the past 11 years, the corporation has made losses worth Bt581 billion…”.

And, he “pointed out that Siam Bioscience was only added to the plan in the second quarter of 2020 – when anti-establishment protesters began holding their rallies.” This, he said, may make the “AstraZeneca-Siam Bioscience deal is politically motivated.”

Like Pavlov’s dogs, the regime immediately slapped Thanathorn with Article 112 and sedition charges. More followed. And now even more. The madness never ends.

The former leader of the now dissolved Future Forward Party has been a prime target for political harassment since that party did well in the junta’s 2019 election, but the lese majeste charges make it clear that harassment is insufficient and that the regime wants to erase him as a political leader.

Currently in France, it is now reported that Thanathorn “is facing two additional lese majeste charges over a statement he made earlier this year about the production of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine by the monarchy-owned Siam Bioscience Group.” He says he “will return to Thailand to hear the charges…”.

His lawyer, Kritsadang Nutcharas, said “his client is charged with lese majeste and entering data that harmed the kingdom’s security in relation to comments made during a Jan 18 livestream about the vaccine.” Apparently, he “was also summoned on Aug 10 by Phahon Yothin police over another lese majeste charge filed by Thossapol Pengsom, a legal adviser to the ruling Palang Pracharath Party…”.

In the midst of a virus crisis, the monarchy’s prestige and secrecy comes first, second and third. Fighting the virus lags. Madness.








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