The fear

30 07 2014

Military dictatorships operate by instilling fear in the population and especially amongst those who are seen as real or potential opponents of the regime.

Two recent reports on the Thai military dictatorship’s use of intimidation and fear are worth quoting some bits and pieces.

The first report is in The Nation and focuses on academics for whom there is no freedom.

The deputy dean of law at Siam University Ekachai Chainuwati is a well-known commentator. Since the military coup he has been very quiet. Why? Ekachai “opposes the coup but has chosen not to criticise the coup- makers publicly” because, as he put it, “I have three kids, the oldest is eight and the youngest just two…. If I were alone I would have gone the whole hog.”

That’s a pretty reasonable fear. We have been told several times that those interrogated by junta brown shirts that their families are threatened.

This is also seen in the case of lese majeste victim Thanthawut Thaweewarodomkul, who refused to surrender to the military dictatorship. He states that his family is being targeted: “my aging father and mother, brothers, sisters and son were harassed by officials from the NCPO. The NCPO sent police and military to visit them every day, sometimes twice a day — in the morning and in the evening.”

The second report is in the Bangkok Post and refers to villagers from the small Buriram village of Kao Bart. Living “on land that falls within the Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary,” the village of 40 years has been cleared by soldiers “under the aegis of martial law.” The result is “a palpable climate of fear.”

The village is just south of an area that the military began logging and clearing in the 1980s.

When reporters showed up near Kao Bart, villagers were clearly petrified. One village head said: “Please don’t ask me to comment on anything…. I don’t want to get into trouble…”. Another villager referred to the military, saying: “The Big Brothers are there watching your every move…”. The soldiers were in full combat gear and ordered reporters to leave.

One Kao Bart resident states that soldiers threatened to “arrest everyone on sight” if they didn’t abandon their homes. Another told of the personal threats from a soldier: “If you don’t move the hell out of there and remove your house, you will end up in jail. I can’t guarantee what will happen to your family. Your child was just born, right? Think about it carefully.”

There’s the threat to family again.

This is how the military operates when in power, when its regular impunity becomes supercharged. No rights, no freedoms. But plenty of intimidation and fear.

On being free

12 07 2013

Readers may be interested in a post at the Thai Red Shirt blog that interviews Thanthawut Thaweewarodomkul, recently released from prison after serving three years for lese majeste. Thanthawut explains that he agreed to seek a royal pardon after the death in custody of Ampol Tangnopakul.

The interview was provided on the day he was released. Some excerpts:

TRS: How was your time in prison?

Thantawut: It is better now toward the end of my sentence since the government and the UDD are paying more attention in political and 112 prisoners. Back in 2010, the Red Shirts supporters who were imprisoned have been picked on more frequently than others. At first, it was a hard time for all of us. Especially for the 112 prisoners who were particularly targeted.

… I have never been in jail before. In my heart, I believed that I wouldn’t be in here for long since I would get bail soon. I never thought that have to be in prison until today. Due to the judicial process and injustice, I was denied bail and remain incarcerated until now.

TRS: How are the other 112 prisoners doing?

Thantawut: We have been well taken care of since the government and the UDD are paying attention to us prisoners more than before. The correctional officers do not bother us as much, even though a few of them hated us, but they leave us alone, unlike before.

TRS: You have written many letters to Assoc. Prof. Tida, did she help or response to you at all?

Thantawut: I never thought that Mrs. Tida would have paid this much attention to my letters because I feel that nobody cares about the 112 prisoners but she have proved me wrong. She stopped by and encouraged us not to lose hope. Every request that was sent through the letters has been answered one way or another by Ar-jarn Tida herself.

TRS: Is there anything you want to say to the Red Shirts supporters?

Thantawut: As a former 112 prisoner, I do not want the Red Shirts supporters to differentiate between political prisoners in Lak Sri Prison and 112 prisoners at Bangkok Remand Prison because all of us shared the same ideology. We derived from the same beginning, we attend the same rally and we listen to the same speeches. Why is there a need to separate us from the other political prisoners? Why should 112 prisoners received less support from the Red Shirts? I want the Red Shirts supporters to think of us the same way that they think about other political prisoners because being in jail is already like living in hell.

Updated: U.N. agency visits lese majeste detainees

24 05 2013

A document seen by PPT indicates that the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights has visited seven lese majeste detainees.

The officers visited Darunee Charnchoensilpakul for an hour on 8 May 2013, and Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Thanthawut Thaweewarodomkul, Wanchai Saetan, Surachai Danwattananusorn, Yuttapoom Martnork (this is the only name not appearing in PPT’s lists) and Akechai Hongkangwarn, also for an hour.

The OHCHR heard from all the prisoners and it is hoped it will relay issues to the government and will continue to encourage the Thai government to ensure that the lese majeste law meets the country’s international human rights obligations.

Nat Sattayapornpisut released in April

4 08 2012

Prachatai reports that Nat Sattayapornpisut was finally released from jail in April 2012 after serving 2 years and 4 months on lese majeste charges.

Nat’s case goes back to 2008, although it was only in October 2009 that the Criminal Court has agreed to a request by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to detain Nat , then aged 27, under the 2007 Computer Crimes Act after he was found to have sent offensive clips to a blog called StopLeseMajeste.

The DSI began investigations on 29 August 2008 that led to YouTube clips and the arrest of Suwicha Thakor and the discovery of an alias StopLeseMajeste. The latter was believed to belong to “Emilio Esteban,” a Briton living in Spain, who had been in email contact with Suwicha. Between 19 April 2008 and 15 September 2009, Esteban allegedly published contents offensive to the throne on his blogs and called for the abolition of the lese majeste law. The police gained access to Esteban’s email, where they allegedly found that on 21-23 July 2009 Nat had sent him three “offensive clips” which were then posted by Esterban.

DSI initially charged Nat with offenses under the Computer Crimes Act—disseminating pornographic materials through the internet – which we assume to be the naked pictures of various royals and associates that have long been in circulation.  He was eventually bailed out by his relatives with 200,000 baht in cash but a month later was summoned to the DSI, and further charged with lese majeste.

These charges are interesting as the website includes, in addition to some of the most childish clips that appeared at YouTube about the king, clips involving the crown prince and his various consorts in compromising situations as well as other royals in similar situations. Some of the clips are real and have been surreptitiously circulated in Thailand, while others are concocted and silly. Involving the crown prince’s private life has seen others jailed (such as Harry Nicolaides and Akechai Hongkangwarn).

There was very little news on Nat’s case until well after his release from prison in April 2012 and then via this Prachatai report.

It states that Nat went to court on 14 December 2009. He went alone and without a lawyer.  Without support and advice, when he was asked by court officials what he had decided to do he was also told that if he confessed, a verdict would be delivered immediately. He knew that “this kind of case was almost impossible to fight.” He confessed. That day he was found “guilty on three counts for sending three e-mails on 22-23 July 2009, and sentenced him to 9 years in prison, but reduced the term by half as he had pleaded guilty.

Nat’s time in prison was extremely difficult for him. Prachatai reports that “During his time, he got to know other ‘Section 112’ prisoners, starting with Wanchai Saetan who was in the same zone, Worawut Thanangkorn who was moved to the zone in early 2011, and then Thanthawut Thaweewarodomkul.  It was Thanthawut who told visitors about Nat and Wanchai.  As a result, from mid-2011 onward, Nat, who had previously been rarely visited, had more visitors, including red shirts and other concerned people, and that lifted his spirits.”

Nat now visits his compatriots who remain imprisoned on lese majeste charges.

Surachai denied bail

7 04 2011

MCOT News reports that the Criminal Court has rejected a bail application by ‘Red Siam leader Surachai Danwattananusorn who is held on lese majeste charges.

Surachai’s lawyer 1.2 million baht as a bail bond (US$40,000) but this was rejected. The Court made its boringly familiar claim that the charges are serious and the detainee might flee if released. Surachai is 68 years old and has been under threat since late 2008, so flight would seem unlikely.

Surachai reckons he’ll be in jail for a very longtime. Like Da Torpedo (Darunee Charnchoensilpakul), he refuses to admit guilt.

At the same time, the Court decided “to forward the temporary release request of Thanthawut Thaweewarodomkul, webmaster of, to the Appeals Court for its consideration.”

Chiranuch’s trial continues

7 02 2011

Simon Roughneen at The Irrawaddy has a story on the trial of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, about to enter Day 2. PPT has also been adding to the links at the page we have on Chiranuch. As most observers agree, this is a “landmark case for freedom of expression in Thailand.”

So too is the trial of Thanthawut Thaweewarodomkul, which PPT has also been updating. We recommend the report on his trial at Prachatai. How ironic is it that Prachatai’s Chiranuch is on trial for alleged computer crimes while it reports on lese majeste allegations against another. Well, maybe “ironic” is the wrong term. Perhaps it is just a sign of the way free speech is considered a threat to the regime.

Chiranuch is not not even accused of having written or said anything. The “case stems from comments posted by users of the Prachatai Web board that authorities say are defamatory of the Thai monarchy–a criminal offense under Thai law. She has been charged under the CCA’s Article 15, with the prosecution making the case webmasters are liable for comments posted by third parties on their websites.”

Roughneen says that interest from “local and international media, as well as NGOs and international organisations, meant that the hearing had to be moved from the smaller courtroom 703 to the larger 701 down the hallway at Bangkok’s Criminal Court, where the judge sat, as is the norm in a Thai courtroom…”. There is far less international attention to Thanthawut’s case. He has been kept in jail without bail since his arrest in 1 April 2010. Chiranuch has been bailed (several times).

PPT found this part of the report of interest:

During the afternoon, leafing through an A5-sized copy of the CCA, one of Chiranuch’s lawyers asked the witness whether expressing “disagreement” with the Thai monarchy was an offence on the same level as “insulting” or “defaming”. The witness replied that it was not, but that the commentator should keep his/her remarks private. The discussion centred on comments posted on Prachatai’s web-board about the appointment of Privy Council members and related remarks about the 2006 military coup in Thailand, which removed then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from office.

In other words, not a single critical word is able to be uttered against one of the world’s wealthiest royal houses and a highly political one.

A further 8 days of trial are promised.


Updates on Da Torpedo and Red Eagle

11 08 2010

Prachatai has an account of recent events concerning Darunee Charnchoensilpakul’s bail request and the trial of the webmaster of the Norporchor USA website,  Tanthawut Thaweewarodomkul.

The updates are pretty much as expected. The Appeals Court has rejected  Darunee’s bail application “for fear that she might flee.” Tanthawut’s trial has been scheduled for February 2011, the same month that Chiranuch Premchaiporn’s case is scheduled.

Tanthawut is charged as the webmaster of Norporchor (or UDD) USA and faces charges of lese majeste under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, and under the 2007 Computer Crime Act. He has denied the charges in court essentially meaning that he gets no bail. “The public prosecutor submitted to the court a list of 12 witnesses, while the defendant submitted a list of 6. Both prosecution and defence witnesses will testify from 4 – 11 February 2011.” He was arrested by police on 1 April 2010 at his apartment in Bang Kapi, Bangkok. His computers and other belongings were seized.

On 29 July, Darunee “requested the court to release her temporarily to receive proper medical treatment for her molar problems. She claimed that her illness was so serious that she needed an operation in a well-equipped hospital, with a couple of years for recovery. She also argued that Sondhi Limthongkul, a PAD leader accused of the same crime, has always been granted bail until now.” Naturally, Sondhi, being a yellow-shirt gets different treatment. Her request was rejected a few days later, “citing the fact that her case carried a severe punishment and her crime was against the revered and venerated monarchy, affecting widely the feelings of loyal people. Because of her sentence of 18 years’ imprisonment, the court did not believe that she would not flee.” But Sondhi…. forget it!

Miscategorization of Thanthawut Thaweewarodomkul

1 05 2010

According to recent reporting by Prachatai, Thanthawut Thaweewarodomkul, who has been held in Bangkok Remand Prison for being the webmaster of the allegedly anti-monarchy website NorporchorUSA, has been categorized as a serious prisoner, being held in Zone 8 for those convicted of committing crimes such as murder and assault.

Thanthawut had been assaulted in prison, and has reported that closer supervision by wardens has made him safer.

PPT is very disturbed by the classification. As noted by Prachatai, Zone 8 is for those who have already been convicted of crimes, Thanthawut has not yet been convicted; the prosecution has not even begun. But perhaps this miscategorization can be read as something other than a mistake. Perhaps in Thailand today, those accused of lese majeste are presumed guilty simply as a result of being accused.  Perhaps this miscategorization reflects not a mistake, or oversight on the part of prison officials — but rather the idea that speech is dangerous. It is apparent to PPT that speech has become very dangerous for those who dissent in Thailand. The state apparently thinks so as well, as evidenced by the recent spate of arrests and accusations.

Read the entire article in Prachatai here in English: “Alleged NorporchorUSA webmaster asks to be removed from prison zone for serious criminals” and สำหรับภาษาไทย ดู “ผู้ดูแลเว็บนปช.ยูเอสเอขอความเป็นธรรม ขออยู่แดนแรกรับเหมือนกรณีทั่วไปแทนแดน 8”

%d bloggers like this: