Military media

11 10 2021

A chilling report at Prachatai suggests that in October 2021 the military’s media is revamping itself for ultra-royalist, extreme rightist agitation, much as it did in 1975-76.

The military’s TV Channel 5 is hiring “four ultra-royalist hosts from Top News … [to] host 7 hours a day … from 3 January 2022.”

The hosts, Kanok Ratwongsakul, Teera Tanyapaibul, Santisuk Marongsri, and Sathaporn Kuasakul, claim they will be “delivering impartial and accurate reports.” That seems unlikely.

Channel 5 or the Royal Thai Army Radio and Television Station is a free-to-air television network owned by the Royal Thai Army, and was launched on 25 January 1958. It is not a particularly popular broadcaster, ranking about 18th in ratings, and one motivation for this rightist move is to increase the broadcaster’s popularity. Becoming bellicosely ultra-royalist is seen as a way to do this.

Lt Gen Rangsi Kitiyanasap, Managing Director of Channel 5, says that the new programming “will provide information that will end the public division and help Thailand out of the economic and health crisis caused by the spread of Covid-19…”. That is code for supporting regime and monarchy.

Lt Gen Rangsi babbled, channeling Fox News:

The goal of presenting news on Channel 5 will emphasize news which is the truth in all aspects, with in-depth detail, and importantly, which does not create division in society, and does not add fuel, but pulls firewood out of the fire. We will be a mainstream media outlet which will not judge who is wrong or right, but presents comprehensive information and lets the people decide….

The general claimed the new contract was with “GMC, with Chaiwat Techapaitoon as Chair of the Executive Board, [and] was a different legal entity from Top News Digital Media Co Ltd, which has Sonthiyan Chuenruthainaitham as its founder.” As Prachatai explains: “Sonthiyan was a right-wing activist and a media entrepreneur whose support helped lead to the killing of red shirt protesters in 2010, the military coup in 2014, and the violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in 2020-2021.”

Military and military-backed media were notorious in the 1970s for their agitation against students and democracy advocates. Sound familiar? Back then, that media promoted the forces who assassinated activists and massacred students at Thammasat University.





Patsaravalee charged under Article 112

2 10 2021

Mind

Prachatai reports, via Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), that student activist “Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon has been indicted on a royal defamation charge [Prachatai means lese majeste] related to a speech she gave at a protest on 24 March 2021, in which she said that the monarchy must reform itself in order to survive.”

TLHR says that on 30 September 2021, the “public prosecutor at the Southern Bangkok Department of Criminal Litigation … decided to indict Patsaravalee … under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code … and a violation of the Emergency Decree charge resulting from her participation in the 24 March 2021 protest at the Ratchaprasong Intersection.”

At that rally, Patsaravalee, or Mind, “gave a speech calling for the King to conduct himself in a manner that befits the head of the state.” She argued that the king’s “expansion of power will endanger the … monarchy, and that even though an absolute monarchy can be created, it can also fall in the next reign.”

In her speech, she issued three demands: “having a single, inseparable armed force, ending intervention in any political groups by the monarchy, and quickly returning public assets which have been transferred to the King’s personal ownership.”

The public prosecutor “claims that Patsaravalee’s speech falsely accused the King of trying to expand his power and creating an absolute monarchy, that he transferred the army to himself, used his power to interfere with politics, and took national treasures for his own, accusations which damage his reputation and cause hate against him.”

All her accusations seem entirely reasonable based on the reported actions of King Vajiralongkorn.

Patsaravalee was granted bail by the South Bangkok Criminal Court with a surety of 200,000 baht, “with the conditions that she must not participate in activities which damage the monarchy and must not leave the country.”

She was the only speaker at the rally charged with lese majeste. As is now usual, the complaint against her was made by ultra-royalists. She now faces three lese majeste charges.

According to TLHR’s numbers, since November 2020, “144 people are currently facing charges under Section 112 for their participation in the pro-democracy movement, 12 of whom are under 18 years of age. Several activists are also facing numerous counts, such as Parit Chiwarak, who is facing 20 counts, Anon Nampa, who is facing 14 counts, Panupong Jadnok, who is facing 9 counts, and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, who is facing 8 counts.”





Vigilantes and cops

28 09 2021

A few days ago, Prachatai reported that student activist Panupong Jadnok – known as Mike – has “again been detained after being denied bail on a royal defamation charge [they mean Article 112, lese majeste] filed against him by a royalist activist for a Facebook post about monarchy reform.”

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights state that Panupong met with the public prosecutor on 23 September 2021 to be “informed that the public prosecutor had decided to indict him and he was taken to court.”

While Mike’s lawyer filed a bail request, as is common, it was denied.

The denial “was signed by judge Chanathip Muanpawong, Deputy Chief Justice of the Criminal Court, who earlier this year denied bail to several pro-democracy activists detained pending trial.” Prachatai also recalls that it was:

Chanathip … who sentenced Ampon Tangnoppakul, or “Uncle SMS,” to 20 years in prison on a royal defamation charge under Section 112 in 2011, after Ampon was accused of sending messages to Somkiat Krongwattanasuk, who was at the time the secretary of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, which were deemed offensive to the King and Queen.  Ampon died in prison.

Panupong has now been charged under Article 112, and an “offense to national security under Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act.”

Ultra-royalist bully Nangnoi

As we have posted several times previously, it is an ultra-royalist cyber-vigilante group that has made the complaint leading to the charges. It is again cyberbully royalist Nangnoi Assawakittikorn, a leader of the misnamed royalist group Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims:

The complaint was based on a Facebook post on 8 November 2020 which said “Do you think that you will look dignified standing on the ruins of democracy or on the corpses of the people?” along with the hashtag #ปฏิรูปสถาบันกษัตริย์ (#MonarchyReform).

It is claimed that the “original post also reportedly refers to the [k]ing by name.”

Panupong is detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison. He is now “facing 9 charges under Section 112; he has already been indicted on 3. He was previously detained pending trial on charges relating to the 19 September 2020 protest, and was in detention for 86 days before being released on 1 June 2021.”

One of the “lessons” of this case is to reinforce how much the police work hand-in-glove with ultra-royalist vigilantes. The cops are effectively royalists’ processing terminal for royalist repression.





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.





Cracking down IV

23 09 2021

Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has “hailed progress in Thailand’s campaign against ‘fake news’…”.

Translation: The regime is getting rid of news it doesn’t like. Its own fake news is okay.

The Nation adds that this cheering from The Dictator comes as “critics accuse the government of an unprecedented clampdown on internet freedom.” Indeed, “fake news” is a term “being weaponised by the government to crack down on its critics and protesters.”

The unelected general praised “state agencies after the latest Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) report showed fake news … stories in 2021 had dropped by 26.43 per cent, following a 6.69 per cent decline in 2020.” Meanwhile, it reported that “the number of genuine news stories had risen by 28.66 per cent…”. Fake statistics.

The Ministry “said 158 cases of fake news were prosecuted last year. So far, 135 cases have been prosecuted this year…”. Almost all of these cases are likely to be about  “online content critical of the government, military or Royal Family, amid rising anti-establishment protests.”

The crackdown targeting political activists has again swept up Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul. She was arrested on Wednesday “and charged with sedition due to her involvement with the Facebook page of the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD).” Much of the mainstream media has been quiet on this, reflecting the regime’s pressure.

This followed the arrest of Niraphorn Onkhao a few days ago.

Plainclothes officers from the Technological Crime Suppression Division presented an arrest warrant “… issued by the Criminal Court and signed by judge Sakda Phraisan. It stated that Panusaya is charged with sedition under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code and with entering into a computer system data which is an offense to national security under Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act.”

Panusaya was taken to the TCSD headquarters in a police van.  They immediately sought her detention.

As in Niraphorn’s case, the cops were acting on a “complaint filed by Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims [sic.], an online royalist group…”.

According to the dutiful cops, the UFTD “Facebook page contains what they consider to be seditious messages calling for people to rebel against the authorities, and accusations that police have used excessive force against protesters.”

You get the picture. No criticism or protest permitted. The authoritarian pit is a deep and dark one.

She was granted bail on 35,000 baht security.





Cracking down III

19 09 2021

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has recently reported statistics on people arrested or detained, accused of involvement in protest activities during the first three weeks of August:

It is found that from 1 to 25 August 2021, at least 260 persons have been arrested. This number includes at least 13 children younger than 15 years old, 57 youths within the age range from 15 to 18 years old, and 190 adults. However, it excludes the key protest leaders and activists who reported to the authorities per their arrest warrants.

Arresting and detaining 57 kids under 18 may seem excessive, but the point of these operations is to frighten and repress.

So it is that the cops harass:

Clipped from The Nation

All the arrested persons had been detained and interrogated in different places, depending on the authorities’ order each day. The documented detention venues included the Region 1 Border Patrol Police Headquarters (BPP 1) in Pathum Thani Province, the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) inside the Royal Thai Police Club, and other police stations across Bangkok. The majority of detention was unlawful because the police officers often did not bring the arrested persons to a police station in the locality of where they were arrested or the station in charge of processing the arrested persons’ charges in line with the Criminal Procedure Code.

Unlawful arrest and other unlawful activity seems to define police operations.

Read more on these arrests here.

Meanwhile, the regime’s thuggish police are running dragnets across the protest movement. Prachatai reports that on 17 September, “police officers raided the house of members of the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), confiscating mobile phones and computers and arresting one person.” According to TLHR, the arrest warrant did not say why it was issued.

That’s probably unlawful as well, but these thugs have become the law; whatever they do seems okay.

According to Thai PBS, Deputy Police Spokesman Pol Col Krisana Pattanacharoen stated that the cops “have 20 targets of investigation, including the UFTD leaders, who are suspected of committing illegal acts related to national security.” That’s usually code for lese majeste and/or sedition.

Pol Col Krisana claimed “[s]imilar raids and searches have been conducted outside Bangkok and at least five suspects have already been arrested…”.

Clipped from Prachatai

The person arrested was university student Niraphorn Onkhao, a third-year liberal arts student at Thammasat University, on charges of sedition and computer crimes. TLHR say the arrest warrant did not say why it was issued and contained the wrong citizen ID number. Niraphorn also protested during the arrest that she had never received a summons.

Niraphorn denied all charges and refused to sign the arrest record and was later released on bail of 25,000 baht.

TLHR reported that the complaint leading to Niraphorn’s arrest was filed “by Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims, an online royalist group whose members have filed numerous lèse majesté charges against many netizens and activists…”. Ultra-royalist Nopadol claimed the student was “involved with running the UFTD’s Facebook page, which contain messages calling for people to join protests, which said were not peaceful protests and at risk of spreading Covid-19.”

Showing how close the links are between regime cops and ultra-royalists, police claimed they “found that the Facebook page contain[ed] what they consider to be seditious messages calling for people to rebel against the authorities, as well as accusations that officers used excessive force on protesters.”

Thailand’s political space narrows by the day.





Mad 112 case

2 09 2021

Prachatai reports that an Article 112 complaint has been lodged against former royalist and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra campaigner Thanat Thanakitamnuay.

Longtime readers might remember him from this report. More recently, he has joined pro-democracy activists, apologized for his previous politics, and made speeches to anti-regime activists. He was injured in an event on 13 August, with his family saying “his right eye was hit by a ‘blunt cylindrical object’ – which … was [probably] a tear gas canister – tearing the cornea, rupturing the eyeball, and causing his retina to peel off.”

For his recent appearances at rallies, on 30 August 2021:

Nangnoi Atsawakittikorn from the Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims and Jakkapong Klinkaew from the Centre of the People for the Protection of Monarchy filed a royal defamation complaint [Prachatai means a lese majeste complaint] against Thanat at the Samranrat Police Station on behalf of the “People’s Network for the Protection of the Royal Institution”.

Just to remind readers, Article 112 states: “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” In 2013, however, the the royalist Supreme Court decided “that the law also applies to all previous monarchs…”.

The ultra-royalists have used this to bring some ludicrous allegations and charges, even involving, more than once, a dead royal tail-wagger, historical kings and members of the royal family not covered by the words used in the law.

Thanat. Clipped from Prachatai

In the complaint against Thanat, the ultra-royalists complain about him “wearing an outfit similar to one worn by the late King Rama IX.”

They complained that:

… Thanat was intentionally mocking the late King Rama IX by wearing a suit, an eyepatch and a camera to a protest on 22 August…. According to Nangnoi, Thanat’s costume and camera were props employed to ridicule a well-known photograph of King Rama IX.  The late King often wore a camera around his neck when travelling upcountry.

Of course, Thanat’s eye was covered because he had been injured in a previous rally (see above).

These mad monarchists, who have lodged many lese majeste complaints over the past year, added another complaint, asserting “that a speech Thanat gave on 25 August calling for Section 112 to be abolished reflects his intent to overthrow the monarchy.”

Again, the idea that calling for Article 112 to be abolished can be either lese majeste and/or sedition charges has been increasingly common.

In addition, as Prachatai points out:

This is not the first time that royalists have taken umbrage with the costumes of pro-democracy activists. Conservative netizens put up a storm of critical commentary after the 28 January 2021 posting of a picture featuring Chaiamorn ‘Ammy’ Kaewwiboonpan, a lead singer in the Bottom Blues Band, and actress Inthira Charoenpura which Chaiamorn dressed in an outfit similar to one worn by King Rama IX.

Mad monarchists get madder by the minute. Internationally, the country’s judicial system is a joke.





Monarchy reform reaction

6 08 2021

Following the recent call to re-emphasize monarchy reform, the official royalist reaction has been quick. As usual, the royalists have run to their allies in the military.

Jakkapong Klinkaew led his group of royalists to submit “a petition to Army Chief Gen. Narongpan Jitkaewtae … asking the military to step in to protect the monarchy from threats posed by anti-establishment elements.”

The so-called Centre of the People for the Protection of Monarchy is frightened by a proposed protest “by the anti-establishment Free Youth movement, for this Saturday at the Democracy Monument, after which the protesters intend to march to the Grand Palace.”

The royalists “want all security agencies to protect the monarchy against threats from the anti-monarchy protesters.” Of course, the Grand Palace has not been the real royal residence for decades, although King Ananda Mahidol was killed there in 1946.

Madness is a royalist syndrome, displayed by Warong Dechgitvigrom, a leader of the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee. He reckons that those planning the rally “might want to spread COVID-19, which he described as ‘biological weapon’, and then to put the blame on the government and the monarchy.”

Such insanity might be ignored but we suspect that other ultra-royalists harbor such nonsensical beliefs or, more likely, are happy to purvey such fake news.

Warong thinks the time is coming for decisive action to destroy anti-monarchists, saying they should wait until the “situation is right and, at that moment, everything will change and it will not end the way it was.”

The ultra-royalists have support from former state officials. For example, Nanthiwat Samart, “former deputy director of the National Intelligence Agency,”

questioned the motives of the Free Youth movement in urging people to march to the Grand Palace on August 7th, which marks the day, 56 years ago, when the then outlawed Communist Party of Thailand launched its first armed rebellion against the Thai state.

He said that the Grand Palace is the official residence of the King [but is not used as a residence], and houses the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which are highly respected by the Thai people.

Nanthiwat demanded that the the protesters not be allowed “to desecrate the Grand Palace,” calling on the authorities to “protect this sacred venue.”

Defense Forces chief Gen Chalermpol Srisawat has issued a decree that “bans all gatherings that risk spreading Covid-19 and are in violation of the emergency decree.” Violators are threatened with two years in prison.

Police have already become more aggressive and dangerous, and this pattern is likely to continue.





Royalist “scum”

4 08 2021

A Reuters report explains that “103 people from Thailand’s youth-led anti-government protests now charged with insulting or threatening King … Vajiralongkorn or his immediate family, a crime punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment. Hundreds more face other criminal charges.” Knowing the exact numbers is difficult because not all cases come to public view.

Arnon on the left

Commenting on the charges and jail time, one of those charged, lawyer Arnon Nampa commented “I think it has been worthwhile. Now the society can move forward and people can talk about the monarchy…”.

While some might say that nothing much has changed and the king remains politically and economically powerful, a crack in the royalist hegemonic discourse has been established and anti-monarchism is more widespread than royalists wish to admit.

Indeed, royalists are fighting a battle seeking to paper over the cracks in the kingdom.

Thai Enquirer reports that an “ultra-royalist group [has] asked the criminal court to revoke the bail of pro-reform leaders … saying they are repeatedly breaking the conditions of their release by continuing to speak out against the monarchy.”

Jakkapong Klinkaew, the leader of the People’s Centre Protecting the Institution, says “The protestors have caused chaos within society, affecting the private sector and damaging public property…”. He added that “many business owners and royalists” consider the protesters “scum.”

Jakkapong went into a meltdown-like rant, admitting the regime was pretty hopeless, but railed against protesters causing “social conflict” and “unrest,” being “violent,” and spreading “fake news” and the virus (the latter being fake news).

His group demanded that courts revoke the bail of:

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, Arnon Nampa and Jatupat “Pai Daodin” Boonpattararaksa, who have all been charged with lese-mejeste and sedition for organizing pro-democracy rallies since June 2020.

The letter said the protest leaders have continued to join protests and making speeches against the royal institution in breach of their bail conditions.

The group is panicked by the support being gained by protesters, even in the lockdown.





112 bail denied

16 07 2021

112Quoting Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Prachatai reports an the lese majeste case against Prasong Khotsongkhram.

The 26 year-old has “been denied bail for the third time after being charged with [lese majeste] for three Facebook posts made in May and June 2021.” This despite “using 250,000 baht as security and ask[ing] the court to allow him release while wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet and for a supervisor to be appointed.”

As has been the case in about half of recent Article 112 charges, the complaint came from a royalist vigilante:

Thitiwat Tanagaroon

Royalist Thitiwat. Clipped from Reuters

The complaint against Prasong was filed by Thitiwat Tanagaroon, a royalist protester who was praised by King Vajiralongkorn for raising a portrait of the late King Bhumibol at a pro-democracy protest. TLHR reported that Thitiwat filed the complaint against Prasong after seeing three public posts on Prasong’s Facebook profile, one of which was made on 21 May 2021 and the other two on 7 June 2021, which Thitiwat said were insulting to the King.

This royalist complaint led to Prasong being arrested on 8 July by Bangplat Police Station. The following day, the court approved his continued detention, denying a bail request. A second bail request, lodged on 11 July, was also rejected.

As is all too often the case in royalist courts, the “Taling Chan Criminal Court ruled to deny him bail on the grounds that the charges are serious, that he might try to flee, and that there is no reason to change previous court orders” to deny bail.

Prasong “is currently detained at the Thung Noi Temporary Prison, which is on the same premises as the Military Circle 11 Prison.” Using the virus crisis, the Department of Corrections has ruled that Prasong “will have to be in quarantine for 21 days, during which time his family and lawyer will not be allowed to visit him. After he has completed his quarantine period, he will be transferred to the Thonburi Remand Prison.”

The royalist repression continues.








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