Updated: Challenging arbitrary lese majeste

25 10 2017

Prachatai reports that the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded that lese majeste victims Sasiwimon S. and Tiensutham or Yai Daengduad are detained arbitrarily.

The UN has concluded that the detention and sentencing of the two was done arbitrarily. Each received sentences that amount to decades in jail.

In other words, “the detention of the two was against the international conventions in which Thailand is a state party of such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Some time ago the same U.N. body also “concluded that the detention of four lèse majesté convicts were arbitrary. The four are: Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Pornthip Munkong, Patiwat Saraiyaem, Phongsak S.”

The military dictatorship will more or less ignore this U.N. declaration as the use of the lese majeste law is critical for its suppression of opponents of the junta and the monarchy.

When it does reply to the U.N. it lies. Last time, in June 2017, the junta lied that “the state protects and values freedom of expressions as it is the foundation of democratic society…”. This is buffalo manure and no one anywhere believes it.

The regime added that freedom and democracy were only possible when they do not impact “social order and harmony.” Like fascist and authoritarian governments everywhere, they mean that freedom and democracy are not permitted in Thailand.

The regime also claims that lese majeste “is necessary to protect the … [m]onarchy as the monarchy is one of the main pillars of Thai society…”.

That’s why the regime sent Sasiwimol, a 31-year-old single mother of two to 56 years in jail for allegedly posting seven Facebook messages considered lese majeste. How she threatened to undermine the monarchy is unclear.

Yai Daengduad, who is 60 years old was sentenced to 50 years in a junta prison for lese majeste.

Neither could appeal as they were dragged before one of the dictatorship’s military courts.

Meanwhile, Khaosod reports that the iconoclastic former lese majeste convict, Akechai Hongkangwarn has been confronted by a squad of uniformed military thugs for saying that he’d wear red for the dead king’s funeral. The thugs demanded he “choose between spending a few days at what they described as a resort in Kanchanaburi province or a military base at an unspecified location…”.

Of course, in royalist and neo-feudal Thailand, saying one would refuse to wear black is considered unacceptable. Akechai has been subject to a barrage of threats and hate mail and posts declaring him “unThai.”

Akechai “said it was not about disrespecting the [dead] king but exercising his rights.”

Royalists cannot accept that anyone has rights when it comes to the monarchy; there are only (enforced) duties.

They have encouraged attacks on Akechai and his house.

This is royalist Thailand.

Update: An AP report states that Akechai has been arrested: “A lawyer for Ekachai Hongkangwan said soldiers arrested Ekachai at his Bangkok home on Tuesday morning and indicated they would detain him outside the city, in Kanchanaburi province.”





UN Human Rights Committee findings

29 03 2017

The UN Human Rights Committee has published its findings on the civil and political rights record of countries it examined during its latest session. These findings are officially known as “concluding observations.” They contain “positive aspects of the respective State’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and also main matters of concern and recommendations.”

All of the reports generated for Thailand’s review, including the Concluding Observations are available for download.

The Committee report begins by welcoming Thailand’s “submission of the second period report of Thailand, albeit 6 years late, and the information contained therein.”

There are 44 paragraphs of concerns and recommendations. There’s a lot in it: refugees, enforced disappearances, Article 44, freedom of expression, torture, constitutional issues, arbitrary detention, the National Human Rights Commission, military courts, problems in the south, repression during the constitutional referendum, defamation, computer crimes, sedition and much more.

We just cite the comments on lese majeste:

37. The Committee is concerned that criticism and dissention regarding the royal family is punishable with a sentence of three to fifteen years imprisonment; and about reports of a sharp increase in the number of people detained and prosecuted for this crime since the military coup and about extreme sentencing practices, which result in some cases in dozens of years of imprisonment (article 19).

38. The State party should review article 112 of the Criminal Code, on publicly offending the royal family, to bring it into line with article 19 of the Covenant. Pursuant to its general comment No. 34 (2011), the Committee reiterates that the imprisonment of persons for exercising their freedom of expression violates article 19.  





Human Rights Committee report

19 03 2017

A reader points out that we should have linked to the U.N.’s Human Rights Committee report on the second periodic review of Thailand’s implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

For those interested, it is here. That report also links to Thailand’s official country report, which can be read here: CCPR/C/THA/2, although that report seems dated to us.

 





Updated: Thailand rejected at the UN

29 06 2016

Kazakstan does not look very much like a democratic polity. Yet it is not a military dictatorship. As the Bangkok Post has it, Kazakstan “easily defeated Thailand’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, with just 55 countries backing Thailand against 138 for Kazakhstan.”

Junta supporters have pointed to the 55 and drawn some cockeyed notion about support for the regime, but that glass isn’t even half full.

Earlier, some of Thailand’s diplomats were quoted as declaring that “[m]ilitary-ruled Thailand stands a ‘good chance’ over oil-rich Kazakhstan…”. We couldn’t help wondering if these were the same shoppers diplomats who lied to the UN Human Rights Council. That these diplomats reckoned it was “a 50:50 draw, but we stand a good chance as we have secured support from Washington among others…” is another example of how the junta’s Thailand is Bizarro World, where its inhabitants are in some kind of delusional state or parallel political universe.

We also wondered if The Dictator’s self-described diatribe to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon might have sunk a very leaky Thai ship in the UN.

In the end, the “second-round voting wasn’t close.”

For more background on this event, see Kavi Chongkittavorn’s propaganda-like piece in support if the junta’s bid for the UNSC seat and the opposition of Human Rights Watch and FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) opposition.

Update: Despite all of the junta hype before the devastating defeat, and in the face of statements that the “Thai bid delegation, comprising former Asean secretary-general [and Democrat Party stalwart] Surin Pitsuwan and other retired ambassadors, had been optimistic about winning the race,…” Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has commented that: “We had anticipated that…. Never mind. Next time.” Prawit sounds as if he will still be around “next time” in 2017-18. Meanwhile, according to the same Bangkok Post report states that the “Pheu Thai Party claimed Wednesday the country spent more than 600 million baht in a campaign leading up to Thailand’s defeat in the race for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).”





Downgrading the disgraceful NHRC

31 12 2014

Regular readers will know that PPT has no time for the failed National Human Rights Commission. It is irrelevant to human rights, is led by a military-royalist flunkey, and most of its members have no qualifications for the job. Worse, this misnamed organization has done damage to persons and their human rights in Thailand. It is, quite simply, a disgrace led by disgraceful persons.

According to a report in Khaosod, the Sub-Committee on Accreditation of the “International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC), Thailand’s Office of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) should be downgraded from its current status of ‘A’ to ‘B’.”

B? Is there a Z?

The report on this is available as a PDF. The recommendation is:

Recommendation: The SCA recommends that the NHRCT be downgraded to B status. In accordance with Article 18.1 of the ICC statute, a recommendation to downgrade does not take effect for a period of one year. This allows an opportunity for the NHRCT to provide the documentary evidence necessary to establish its continued conformity with the Paris Principles. The SCA notes that the NHRCT maintains A status for the one year period.

The reasons for the proposed downgrade are: serious concerns about the selection process for Commissioners; concerns about whether members are immune from prosecution for actions taken in good faith in the course of their official duties; concerns that the NHRCT has not been addressing serious human rights violations in a timely manner; and concerns that staff members of the NHRCT were displaying publicly their political affiliations whilst undertaking official functions.

A related Prachatai report states that the consequences of being downgraded are:

  • Not being able to express opinions or send documents during the UN’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Conference, including, not being able to send the yearly report on human rights situation in Thailand for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UNHRC. The next round of Thailand UPR is in 2016.
  • Thailand’s NHRC would be considered merely as an observer of the regional and international human rights conferences organized by the UNHRC.
  • Thailand’s NHRC would not be able to vote in any of the ICC’s decision or apply for the ICC membership.

 





ALRC: Human rights in crisis three months after coup

5 09 2014

Reproduced in full from the Asian Legal Resource Centre:

ALRC-CWS-27-12-2014
September 5, 2014

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Twenty seventh session, Agenda Item 4, General Debate

A written submission to the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre

THAILAND: Human rights in crisis three months after coup

1. The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to raise grave concerns with the Human Rights Council about the deepening human rights crisis in Thailand following the 22 May 2014 coup launched by a military junta calling itself the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha. The NCPO has claimed that it carried out the coup for the vague purpose of “reform” and with the intention to “return happiness to the people.” Instead, the NCPO has carried out mass arrests and arbitrary detention, used executive power to push through a number of orders and measures likely to be damaging to human rights, engaged civil and military courts as tools to restrict political freedom, and extensively constricted freedom of expression. Martial law, which was declared on 20 May 2014, remains in force. After three months of military rule, a temporary constitution bereft of necessary rights protections has been announced and General Prayuth was elected as prime minister by an assembly of 194 people hand-picked by the NCPO.

2. The view of the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) is that the actions carried out by the NCPO during the first three months of military rule represent significant derogations of Thailand’s responsibilities as a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

3. From the outset, the ALRC maintains that no “time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation” exists in Thailand to justify the introduction of martial law or the military coup, and therefore no grounds exist under Article 4(1) of the ICCPR for Thailand to derogate from these obligations. Although the country has been experiencing political unrest, this unrest is protracted, and nothing in the current circumstances justified the introduction of these measures. Furthermore, the unrest is in large part a consequence of the last military coup, carried out on 19 September 2006. The assessment of the ALRC that the 22 May 2014 coup and the assault on human rights is likely to further intensify, rather than resolve, the unrest.

4. The NCPO has severely restricted freedom of expression through the issuance of Orders No. 97/2557 [2014] and No. 103/2557 [2014] which place restrictions on criticism of the junta and through the use of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which stipulates that, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The ALRC has repeatedly raised the matter of the damage done to the right to the freedom of expression by the use of Article 112 in a series of statements to the Council over the previous four years, the most recent two being those submitted during the twenty-fifth session in March 2014 (A/HRC/25/NGO/61) and the twenty-sixth session in June 2014 (A/HRC/26/NGO/58).

5. While Article 112 has been part of the Criminal Code since the last major revision in 1957, available statistics suggest that there has been a substantial increase in the number of complaints filed since the 19 September 2006 coup and a dramatic increase in action taken in cases following the 22 May 2014 coup. According to the Internet Dialogue on Law Reform (iLaw), there are 13 new cases that are known to have entered the judicial process since the coup; additional, unreported cases may also be in process. In addition, per Order No. 37/2557 [2014], all complaints of violations against the crown and state, including those under Article 112, filed subsequent to the coup are placed within the jurisdiction of the military court, which restricts the rights of those subject to proceedings, including a denial of the right to appeal.

6. The ALRC is particularly concerned about the recent arrests of Patiwat (last name withheld) and Pornthip (last name withheld), who were arrested following a complaint being filed against them under Article 112 in relation to a performance of a play, “The Wolf’s Bride” (Jao Sao Ma Pa) held in October 2013. They were arrested on 14 and 15 August 2014 and have been held without bail since their arrests while the investigation against them continues. Their arrests are part of a broader planned campaign of arrests of those alleged to have violated Article 112 which have been catalyzed by groups of royalist citizens, such as the group calling itself the National Rubbish Collection Organization, which aims to remove “trash,” by which they mean those who question the institution of the monarchy, from Thai society. Law should be used to limit these vigilante actions and protect free speech, rather than to aid in its restriction.

7. The ALRC would like to remind the Government of Thailand that under Article 19 of the ICCPR, restrictions on the right to freedom of expression are only permissible under two circumstances: “for respect of the rights or reputations of others” and “for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.” While Article 112 is classified as a crime against national security within the Criminal Code, and this is frequently cited by the Government of Thailand when the criticism that the measure is in tension with the ICCPR, to date a clear explanation of the precise logic for categorizing the measure as such has not been provided. The exercise of freedom of expression is frequently messy and productively contentious, but this does not equate to a threat to public order or morals. To raise questions about the operations of power in society are a necessary part of constructing a polity grounded in human rights and the rule of law, not a threat to it.

8. The restriction on freedom of expression and political freedom has also included restriction of activities not explicitly connected to either the junta or the institution of the monarchy. Since the coup, the NCPO has used the provisions of martial law to intimidate and foreclose discussion on development and capital projects affecting citizens, such as those working against the negative affects of gold mining in Loei and those working to raise awareness about the implications of energy sector expansion. For example, on 20 August 2014, eleven activists of the Partnership on Energy Reform were arrested while carrying out a peaceful and non-partisan walk calling for public discussion and to encourage citizens to be actively engaged in decisions about energy development. The walk was surrounded by military troops and the eleven activists were arbitrary detained and held for three days and nights at the Senanarong Army Camp in Songkhla Province. While the ALRC welcomed their release, they should not have been detained in the first place. Further, an additional series of arrests of nine individuals who joined the walk were carried out on 24 August 2014 as this statement was being completed, and the authorities have indicated that those arrested will be charged and processed in the military court for violating martial law, which prohibits public gatherings of five or more persons.

9. The Asian Legal Resource Centre would also like to remind the Government of Thailand of its obligations to uphold Article 9 of the ICCPR, which addresses arbitrary detention and notes specifically that, “1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law. 2. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him. 3. Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release…” During the first two months following the coup, the NCPO immediately began a process of mass arrests of those deemed to oppose them. Under the terms of martial law, soldiers can detain and interrogate anyone for up to seven days without having to provide evidence of wrongdoing or bring formal charges. People arrested can be held at irregular places of detention, including permanent or temporary military bases or other sites designated as places of detention. Detention in irregular places means that the possibility for rights violations, including torture, forced disappearance and extrajudicial execution is greatly increased. Those detained, or targeted for arrest and detention, include politicians from all sides of the political spectrum, red and yellow shirt activists, academics, human rights defenders, writers, publishers, and other dissidents and citizens. The methods of arrest and detention have varied widely. While the use of arbitrary detention has faded from public view in the third month of rule by the NCPO, the ALRC remains gravely concerned about the extent of its use.

10. Further, on 2 and 3 August 2014, Kritsuda Khunasen, a red shirt activist and human rights defender who was arbitrarily detained for nearly a month following the coup, released a series of video interviews in which she described being tortured while in detention. She released the interviews, in which she detailed a range of physical and emotional abuse, after she left Thailand. The response of the junta was to first discredit her account, and then to bring weapons charges against her, despite their statement upon her release from detention that they were not going to bring any charges against her. The ALRC urges the Council to remind the Government of Thailand that as a state party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading or Inhuman Treatment (CAT) it is obligated to take action to prevent torture, hold perpetrators to account, and provide redress and protection to victims of torture. At a minimum, this would involve an independent investigation into the claims made by Kritsuda Khunasen, rather than to respond with an immediate denial of their veracity. The ALRC is concerned that the torture reported by Kritsuda Khunasen may not be an isolated incident and may instead point to a broader pattern of the use of torture by the NCPO against those deemed to be its opponents.

11. In view of the above and in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Asian Legal Resource Centre calls on the United Nations Human Rights Council to:

a. Call on the Government of Thailand to immediately revoke martial law and return to civilian rule;

b. Urge the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to carefully monitor events in Thailand and in particular, derogation of responsibilities under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to call on the Government of Thailand to act in accordance with the protection and promotion of human rights;

c. Urge the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment to investigate the reports of torture by those held in detention following the coup by the NCPO, and to call on the Government of Thailand to act to prevent, investigate, and redress instances of torture;

d. Urge the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders to carefully monitor events in Thailand and in particular, the targeting of human rights defenders to safely carry out their work; and

e. Urge the Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Opinion and Expression to continue ongoing monitoring and research about the broad situation of constriction of rights and individual cases in Thailand and how this is affected under military rule.





The coup is illegal

24 06 2014

We reproduce this, sent out by the Asian Legal Resource Centre:

Date: June 23, 2014
Document id: ALRC-COS-26-21-2014
HRC section: Item 4, General Debate
Speaker: Mr.MOON Jeong Ho

Oral Statement to the 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), NGO with general consultative status and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, NGO with special consultative status

THAILAND: The Council must declare the coup illegal

Thank you Mr. President,

On 22 May 2014, a military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), usurped power by force and overthrew the democratically elected government of Thailand. The ALRC and LRWC are concerned that since the coup, human rights have suffered a serious setback in Thailand.

First, freedom of expression and political freedom have been severely curtailed. The NCPO has used intimidation, surveillance, and military force to create fear and prohibit peaceful protest. Civilians have been chased and apprehended by soldiers, and then detained, and, in some instances, formally charged for peacefully holding up blank A4 sized paper signs. The junta has banned the holding up of three fingers – a symbol of dissent in the movie The Hunger Games – in public.

Second, using public summons, arrests orraids, the NCPO has arbitrarily detained over 500 peopleincluding several human rights defenders. The junta has not released the names or number of detainees or their whereabouts. This lack of transparency creates terror and the likelihood of grave human rights violations such as enforced disappearances. Those released are forced to sign a pledge that they will not engage in politics or leave the country.

Third, military courts have been activated to prosecute civilians for violations of junta orders and crimes against the crown and state, including the draconian lèse majestélaws. These courts allow long pre-charge and pre-trial detention, prohibit appeal, and can be closed to public observation.

Mr President, the sovereignty of a state is expected to be exercised by a legitimately elected government. The ALRC and LRWC therefore urge that Council members declare that the coup is illegal and insistthat Thailandrespect itshuman rights obligations.

Thank you.