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.

Courts, rights and junta

26 01 2017

As we have been saying, the so-called justice system is now but a festering and rotting sore on the junta’s repressive political body. But are we too pessimistic? Several stories at Prachatai suggest that while the sore is weeping, some think that it may be cured.

In one story, we are told that the diminutive Thanet Anantawong has appeared in a military court and has been sentenced to eight months in jail. Readers may recall that Thanet was arrested while hospitalized. He was charged with “defying the junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons.”

The military court halved his sentence to four months after Thanet “pleaded guilty.” Pleading guilty is the only way to even get into a military court, for they seem reluctant to deal with any legal issues and prefer simple sentencing.

As Thanet “has already been detained in Bangkok Remand Prison for a period that exceeds his jail term,” he was released.

Along with nine others, Thanet was arrested for “participating in an excursion to Rajabhakti Park [Corruption Park] in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province on 7 December 2015 to investigate corruption allegations related to the park’s development.”

The military junta was not willing to countenance any activist bringing attention to their expensive park and so blocked them and arrested them. It has since whitewashed the park, cleaning it so that it remains their odious refrain to royalism.

That story makes us feel that the “justice” system, especially in the hands of the military is rotten. However, is there hope for this festering sore?

Another Prachatai story gives a little more confidence. It states that public prosecutors have dropped defamation charges against Naritsarawan  Keawnopparat. She has campaigned for justice over the torture of her uncle. That’s moderately good news because the polluted police able to reject the prosecutor.

There are others who think the courts may still be able to recognize justice. Prachatai carries news of anti-junta activists filing “a civil lawsuit against the Thai army, police, and the Prime Minister’s Office for abusing the rights of peaceful demonstrators.”

A few days ago, Neo-Democracy Movement activists “attended a preliminary hearing at the Southern Bangkok Civil Court.” The action refers to “malfeasance and abuse of human rights in arresting and abusing NDM activists and other demonstrators who on 22 May 2015 participated in a peaceful gathering to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état.” The activists “demands about 16.5 million baht in compensation from the three public agencies.”

Interestingly, activist Rangsiman Rome said “that the reconciliation process which the junta the military government is trying to foster will not succeed if people still suffer injustice.”

Yet another story reports that Thai Lawyers for Human Rights “have filed a charge against Thailand’s Corrections Department after prison officers barred a lawyer from meeting his lèse majesté client.”

The Corrections Department and the Director of Chiang Rai Central Prison, as well as prison staff members have been “accused of violating a prisoner’s rights after a lawyer from TLHR was denied a meeting with his client on 12 September 2016.” TLHR “will now attempt to sue the Corrections Department for 200,000 baht as compensation.”

(Prachatai reports the prisoner as “Somsak.” PPT has no record of Somsak and assumes it is Samak Pante, but would appreciate advice from readers.)

The outcome of these cases may tell us more about the spread of the injustice infection.

With a major update: Fighting repression

16 01 2016

Khaosod reports that members of the Neo-Democracy Movement have declared that they are committed to “fighting for freedom and democracy.”

Facing threats, new arrest warrants and summons related to their campaign on Corruption Park, they have “vowed to remain in the country to call attention to the allegations of corruption in the army’s construction of the billion-baht [Rajabhakdi] park.” They stated:

We would like to confirm our remarks that we will not flee anywhere. We will publicly and peacefully live our lives…. We, then, will continue fighting for freedom and democracy against the Junta until our last day to ensure that justice will be achieved.

In part, they were also responding to the flight to exile of Thanet Anantawong.

Update: The students have read a statement in public:

We received summonses for taking a train to Rajabhakti Park. We made clear then that we would not take part in the justice process under dictatorship. Today, arrest warrants are out for us…. This is the reward a person gets for trying to dig into corruption under the regime.

Everything about the Hua Hin park — allegations of kickbacks, the stand of the National Council for Peace and Order and the army’s lack of transparency, as well as the treatment of those seeking the truth — have shown beyond doubt there is corruption in the project…. It’s not an overstatement to say those responsible — the NCPO and the army — are corrupt.

From now on, we and democracy fighters under the NDM will proceed with our activities to check all NCPO’s projects to protect the interests of the people, the true owner of sovereignty.

We insist, as we always do, that we won’t run. We’ll live normally and will continue to do what we believe in. We’ll fight dictatorship to the end.

The brave students then “folded their arrest warrants into origami birds…”. They declared that this was “to send a message to all dictatorship fighters that we demand democracy, freedom and justice in a peaceful way despite threats”.

Remarkably, the students taunted the police to arrest them. The police and military thugs were present for this ceremony. Indeed, they had “sealed the area [Thon Buri train station] after learning about the demonstration.” However, the authorities did not arrest the students: “We didn’t arrest them for fear of playing into their hands…”.

The military junta, usually as blunt as a rock, seems bamboozled by the students.

Updated: Fleeing repression

14 01 2016

Since the 2014 military coup, quite a few Thais have fled the country. More precisely, they have fled the military junta’s repression. Prachatai has had several stories profiling some of the exiles.

The latest reported exile is Thanet Anantawong. He faced sedition charges and was also accused of computer crimes. Readers will recall that the diminutive Thanet was grabbed by the junta’s thugs from a hospital on 13 December 2015.  Thanet faces up to seven years in prison.

At Khaosod it is reported that Thanet is believed to have fled. He has not been in touch with his lawyer in 2016 and “failed to appear at a Bangkok military court under the terms of his bail…”.

His lawyer says that Thanet and his father have been “harassed by soldiers who visited their places.”

Some worried that Thanet’s flight would make it harder for others to get bail in the future.

However, Akechai Hongkangwarn, a former lese majeste convict, “sympathizes because Thanet had previously served time in prison in the aftermath of the crackdown on Redshirt demonstrations in 2010. He said Thanet probably did not have an easy time in prison.”

Update: In a new report at Khaosod, Thanet says he will return to Thailand “to face justice,” but ” just not now…”. He stated: “You must understand me. If I am taken into prison the second time around, I will face worse punishment…. I am still fighting [for democracy]. I did not flee to save my skin or to ruin the movement. I fled because I was severely harassed. Ten to 20 soldiers are now observing my father [… upcountry].”


Updated: Changing stories

18 12 2015

There are two reports in Khaosod about quite significant stories that the military dictatorship has decided it wants to change. There seems a pattern in the junta’s refutations of earlier stories.

The first is about a red shirt that Khaosod and other media reported received a death sentence, reduced to a lifetime sentence, for allegedly torching a provincial city hall in 2010. A lower court had earlier found Pichet Tabudda guilty and sentenced him to one year in prison. The Supreme Court then stepped in and overturned that sentence and sentenced Pichet to death, said to have been reduced to the life sentence because of a guilty plea.

Now Khaosod reports that the “court … has refuted reports the Supreme Court handed down a death sentence to a Redshirt leader convicted of setting fire to a provincial city hall as widely reported earlier this week.” Apparently, a lawyer was “confused.” Many will be confused, not least because Pichet was interviewed at Prachatai and stated, when asked about his sentence:

In fact, I wish they had left the sentence as execution, so I could get executed and everything will be over by tomorrow. I don’t care. I believe I followed the right path, and there’s no need for me to beg anyone for anything.

The second story at Khaosod is about Thanet Anantawong. Thanet is accused of sedition, computer crimes and lese majeste and was reportedly arrested at a hospital and taken to an undisclosed location by police and/or military. It seems his crime is to have spoken and “shared” information on Corruption Park, the military’s expensive project to slavishly honor a select group of monarchs, past and present. Khaosod reports that stories of the people involved are changing.

When Thanet was produced in court, with no reference to a lese majeste charge, and bailed, other bits and pieces of the story of his arrest began to be reconfigured.

A week ago, mainstream and social media lit up as Thanet was said to have been dragged from a hospital bed and taken to detention. The military junta was decried as inhumane.

While Prachatai states that “[o]n Sunday, 13 December 2015, two officers in plainclothes reportedly arrested Thanet at his sickbed in Sirindhorn Hospital, Bangkok, as he awaited medical operations…”, the story now being purveyed by authorities is that Thanet was arrested after he had discharged himself from hospital. The Khaosod report states that “[p]olice have flatly denied he was dragged from his sickbed.”

The story gets strange when a “nurse who did speak initially said she did not know the circumstances, but several minutes later reversed herself to say Thanet was not taken from his bed.”

It gets stranger when the same Sirindhorn Hospital Director Supaporn Kuralak reported a few days ago and said nothing to dispute the earlier accounts of Thanet’s arrest, now “insisted that Thanet – who admitted himself Dec. 10 – was not dragged away, although she said she does not know the circumstances of his arrest either.” But then she adds: “If he was arrested, it must have been done by plainclothes officers after he discharged himself. We didn’t know that he was wanted…”.

She sounds odder still when she states: “If a patient is really not well, no doctor would allow the patient to be discharged because no doctor would allow a patient to leave and die…”. Supaporn then added that “Thanet deserves medical attention under military detention, however.” The report observes: “Two days after saying a medical doctor ‘should be dispatched to have a look’ at Thanet, Supaporn today said that maybe he’d already recovered.”

The hospital director also “said that she has seen CCTV footage of Thanet leaving the hospital building alone, which she said proves he was not dragged away from his sickbed on the seventh floor of the building’s surgery ward…. Supaporn would not produce even a still image of the said CCTV footage…”.

Supaporn volunteered that “[s]ecurity officers have frequently returned to the hospital since Sunday…”. She states: “I don’t know why they [police and military officers] want to interrogate us so much…”. It is added that a “security guard at the hospital, whose name is being withheld for his own safety, said the military and police interrogated more than 10 hospital staff and appeared furious the hospital had not informed them about Thanet before the arrest.”

Curious, yes. Suspicious, yes. It seems to us that the military junta is embarking on a new media strategy that is in line with the anti-democrat strategies of 2013-14, where news is manipulated sufficiently to allow negative stories to be mired in confusion and contradiction.

Update: Khaosod reports that the diminutive “sedition” suspect Thanet Anantawong, now released on bail has told friends that “plainclothes security officers arrested him inside his room at Sirindhorn Hospital while he was consulting with nurses in the pre-surgery ward on the building’s seventh floor…”. The report adds that this claim is quite different from that belatedly “offered by both security and hospital authorities.”

No human rights in a regime of thugs

18 12 2015

The criminal court has rejected Sirawit Serithiwat’s petition for the release of anti-junta activist 25 years-old Thanet Anantawong who was snatched by the military from a hospital bed on 13 December 2015. He has not been seen since then and needs medical attention and needs to be produced in court within the next 24 hours.

The health condition of Thanet and his exact location are unknown.

No one expects any justice or even humanity from Thailand’s courts in such cases, so it is no surprise that the court “reasoned” that because the military junta has Order No. 3/2015, this permits “security officers to detain suspects of crimes related to national security for seven days without any responsibility…”.

Khaosod reports that:

Doctors at a hospital where a patient was removed and taken into military custody said they have received no information about his medical condition from authorities.

Three days after sedition and lese majeste suspect Thanet Anantawong was removed from a hospital by plainclothes security officers to answer a charge of sedition, the hospital director said Wednesday they have received no information about his medical condition from the military.

“They haven’t informed us, [they] only interrogated us, including his physician, but not [myself] yet,” said Supaporn Karalak, 58, director of Sirindhorn Hospital….

The hospital denies that it alerted the military of Thanet’s hospital admission. Social media accounts suggest that the hospital or a royalist employee acted to report Thanet, a red shirt, leading to his arrest.

Despite citing “patient privacy” when talking to the media, it talked to the military: “ … we gave [the information] to the military because they had a letter demanding it…”.

This case, and many others, show that Thailand is essentially lawless, under a regime that came to power illegally. The corrupt military dictatorship can do anything it wants, when it wants and how it wants.

The report at Prachatai states that:

International human rights agencies, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have recently issued statements urging relevant state agencies to provide medical treatments and make his detention location known.

“Thailand’s junta has reached a new level of ruthlessness by snatching an activist from his hospital bed, putting him in military detention, and depriving him of needed medical treatment,” said Brad Adams, the Asian director of HRW. “Thanet Anantawong needs to be immediately transferred to a hospital.”

That is putting it altogether too mildly. This is a rogue regime uninterested in any notion of human rights or human dignity. General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his thuggish regime is seemingly intent on making Thailand some kind of monarchy-military totalitarian state. The extremism of the regime is indicated by Thanet’s arrest, which is prompted by the junta’s determination to prevent investigation of its own corruption.

Dragged from a hospital bed

14 12 2015

If the news for the last couple of days wasn’t sad enough, today it is confirmed that lese majeste, sedition and computer crimes suspect Thanet Anantawong was dragged out of a hospital ward by junta thugs.

Yes, we did say “sad.” For all of the madness being displayed by a rogue royalist regime, we are sad that Thailand’s people are subject to the crazed behavior of a regime bent on making Thailand a failed state.

Prachatai reports that on Sunday 13 December 2015, Thanet, a student aged 25, was apprehended by plainclothes officer-thugs for “calling for a probe into the Rajabhakti Park corruption scandal…”.  It is not clear if he has “insulted” a royal flea bag as well.Thanet

The thugs “allegedly took him from his sickbed while he was in Sirindhorn Hospital, Bangkok.” Khaosod reports that Thanet “was admitted to the hospital with an intestinal infection Friday and was about to be operated upon for a hernia when he was taken away…”.

He was reportedly taken to the military’s deadly “temporary prison in the 11th Military Circle on Nakhon Chaisi Road … for interrogation.” He will interrogated with the intent being to force a confession from him.

Niran Pithakwatchara, who is “a medical doctor and former National Human Rights Commissioner, said he was concerned for Thanet’s health…”.

In addition to the crimes he is accused of, the junta gang “also alleged that he joined the red shirt demonstrations in 2010…”. Well, him an hundreds of thousands of others, but this hardly seems to tell us anything other than the regime is petrified and paranoid.

Thanet faces up to 27 years in prison.

Meanwhile, in an uplifting development on a very bad day for Thailand’s people, Khaosod reports that:

Those who actually made the graphic for which Thanet and a second man have been charged today called for the junta to prosecute them instead of people who liked or shared it online.

Rangsiman Rome, a leader of the New Democracy Movement, this afternoon called for the military regime to hold his group responsible for the Rajabhakti Park corruption map.

Rangsiman also expressed concern Thanet might die in military custody.

Updated: The lese majeste black hole

13 12 2015

Pravit Rojanaphruk refers to Thailand as “A Kingdom in Denial.” His op-ed refers to the remarkably “efficient” self- and official censorship of Thailand’s mainstream media on anything that might be interpreted as in any way critical of the monarchy. He argues that this process has been “normalized.”

He adds that the flip-side of repression, censorship and the heavy penalties of lese majeste is the ever more ridiculous official veneration of a now invisible monarch and his dysfunctional family.

Pravit is right. But Thailand under the military dictatorship is bleaker than even he suggests.

As Pravit wrote, the junta had its military and police lese majeste thugs out searching for another “dangerous” Facebook fan who clicked “like” on the “wrong” link. They promise that “hundreds” more could follow, filling the jails with political “opponents.”

An military court has issued an arrest warrant for 25-year-old Thanet Anantawong. He “faces charges of lese majeste, inciting disorder and computer crimes.” Reports say he “shared” the same “infographic detailing the alleged [sic.] web of corruption in the Rajabhakti Park scandal.”

A photo from The Straits TimesIn fact, the corruption has been admitted by General Udomdej Sitabutr. He seems to have disappeared from the headlines as the lese majeste witch hunt takes over.

The police say that Thanet “was among a group of student activists who attempted to visit Rajabhakti Park in Hua Hin on Monday, but were intercepted by military officers.” Those military officers some in uniform and others disguised as “protesters” against the students, are just one part of the junta’s cover-up of military corruption that extends into the palace.

The military say will be taking Thanakorn, a 27 year-old worker, to a military court tomorrow.

The connection between Corruption Park, the military and the palace is said by the junta to involve “the royal institution indirectly because it includes references to Suriyan “Mor Yong” Sucharitpolwong — the well-known fortune teller charged with lese majeste who recently died in military custody.”

This claim that lese majeste is involved is ludicrous. Given that the military junta brought lese majeste charges against Suriyan, then presumably they must also arrest themselves and everyone else involved with the case. This is the lese majeste vortex at work sucking in and destroying “opponents.” It is at work because the junta is covering up its own corruption with the use of lese majeste charges.

The situation is obvious to everyone but the dictatorship holds all the repressive cards.

Thailand is in a lese majeste repression black hole that operates as a dark vortex. It sucks in not just opponents but deforms everything in the country – institutions, civil society, habits and more. This is not a political transformation but a societal deformation in the interests of an oligarchy that protects its capacity to exploit, consuming the country, its people, everything.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that Thanet has been arrested and taken to the deadly military prison at the 11th Military Circle. Social media reports that he was snatched from a hospital bed.

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