Police vs. the people

17 10 2021

The regime’s political “strategy” for controlling anti-government and monarchy reform movements involves repression and arrests, with the latter involving jail time.

Police Maj Gen Jirasan Kaewsangek, the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, recently stated that “since July 2020, 683 anti-government protests have been held in Bangkok, and 366 of the cases are still under investigation.” Independent sources have the figure topping 800. Not a few of them are children.

Many scores of these protesters are being kept in detention.

The regime couples these mass arrests with targeted harassment of those they think are leaders. Thai Enquirer reports that the most recent student leader to face “a flurry of legal charges for his political activism” is Hudsawat ‘Bike’ Rattanakachen, 22, a critic studying political science at Ubon Ratchathani University. He is “facing multiple charges from the police including the violation of the Emergency Situations Act and violation of the Communicable Disease Act.”

He says: “I think the government charged me because they want to slow down the pace of our movement and make things more difficult…”.

The impact for him and others facing charges is that become entangled in time-consuming legal actions and responses.

He went on to explain that the regime “is raising the bar when it comes to suppressing regional movements like his in Ubon Ratchathani. He fears the authorities are increasing their level of surveillance.”

Academic Titipol Phakdeewanich “agrees that the state is exercising a dangerous campaign of legal harassment, one that clearly violates the rights of students.” He added that “there are a significant number of cases like this where ordinary people, villagers, rural people, people defined by the government as opposition, have told me stories that they’ve been monitored or followed as well…”.

Titipol observes that the regime “hang these cases over them indefinitely as a way to control students…”.

Hudsawat explains the sad fact that “we live in a society where the process of law or justice in Thailand is not normal,” adding, “anyone can be accused of having a different opinion from the government’s and then it’s decided that they pose a security threat to the state.”

Another facing charges is Sitanun Satsaksit, the sister of missing activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit. She’s now “charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for giving a speech at a protest on 5 September 2021 at the Asoke Intersection.”

She’s one of a dozen now “charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for participating in the same protest…”. Her case is tragic:

Sitanun said that she feels hopeless that not only are the Thai authorities not helping her find her brother and bring the perpetrators to justice, they are also trying to silence her by filing charges against her, even though she is fighting for the rights of her brother and other victims of enforced disappearance.

She adds:

Is it such a threat to national security that I join the campaign for the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance bill that you have to file charges to silence a victim? I am just calling for justice for someone in my family, but the government sees me as an enemy….

The regime protects the monarchy and its own position for fear that even individual protesters can bring the whole corrupt system down. Both police and military are now little more than the regime’s political police. THe enemies are the people, democracy, and proposer representation.





Trampling remaining freedoms IV

10 08 2021

PPT is late getting to this story and we thank a reader for bringing it to our attention.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International issued a statement about the regime’s police issuing fines to “an Amnesty International staff member, along with three speakers and a panel moderator, for taking part in a panel discussion on 4 July focusing on the enforced disappearances of Thai activists, including Wanchalearm Satsaksit…”.

The police managed to conjure charges “under the Road Traffic Act and the Act on the Maintenance of Cleanliness and Order,” and under the Control Act B.E. 2493 for the use of an amplified speaker to advertise the event. The police issued “an administrative fine in response to their involvement at an in-person panel discussion on 4 July…”.

The other four who were fined were “a panel moderator and three other panelist speakers: a protestor, an 18-year-old student, and a lawyer who was friends with an individual who was forcibly disappeared.”

As Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra put it:

Our member of staff was simply doing her job to raise awareness in Thailand of international human rights law. The Thai authorities should not be fining her, the organizers or other panelists for simply speaking about the Thai authorities’ human rights obligations and the long history of enforced disappearances in this region….

Human rights defenders play a crucial role in protecting freedoms within society. To intimidate and fine them represents a threat not only to these activists but to anyone seeking to bravely defend the rights of others.

Amnesty International argues that the fines are a part of “ongoing efforts by the Thai authorities to silence criticism and repress freedom of expression.” It added: “The Thai authorities must stop issuing fines to people for peacefully exercising their human rights, and stop using the pandemic as an excuse to ramp up their repression.”





Updated: Wanchalerm “missing” for 12 months

4 06 2021

Thai PBS reported on one year “anniversary” of the apparent forced disappearance of regime critic Wanchalearm Satsaksit who was kidnapped in broad daylight on a Phnom Penh street on 4 June 2020.

It is widely assumed that it was some kind of military or paramilitary unit sent to do the work of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime, with many feeling that the orders probably came from the palace. Many believe he is dead.

Wanchalerm

Where is Wanchalearm? Clipped from Prachatai

He has not located and neither the Thai nor Cambodian governments have said much at all and have sat on their hands. This suggests state complicity and collusion between states.

According to the report, despite Wanchalerm having been “kidnapped by a group of armed men outside his apartment building in Phnom Penh” and that the “incident was witnessed by passers-by and recorded on CCTV cameras,” the  “Cambodian authorities refused to treat it as a case of abduction.”

Of course, he is not the only Thai political activist to have been disappeared since the 2014 military coup.

He is among nine critics of the Thai government and military thought to have fallen victim to enforced disappearance over the past few years. His case has become a focus of anti-establishment protests seeking to oust the Thai government and change the junta-sponsored Constitution.

Not mentioned is the fact that most of these disappeared activists, a couple of whom turned up murdered and floating in the Mekong River, is that most of them were critics of the monarchy.

The Thai regime has “made no progress in the investigation of Wanchalearm’s disappearance since his family submitted their information to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) a year ago…”.

Wanchalerm’s sister Sitanan “is dismayed by how Cambodian authorities have dealt with the case”:

The Cambodian police did not conduct a proper investigation…. I felt that officials in Cambodia did not care about the evidence we presented. They said if we could not provide stronger evidence, they would not investigate the case at all.

Sitanan also “says Thai authorities have shown an equal lack of enthusiasm, declining to give her any information or to conduct a formal inquiry into her brother’s disappearance.”

For many observers, there is a pattern of official lack of interest and inaction that usually accompanies official complicity. Indeed, Sitanan now “suspects Thai authorities were involved in what she describes as her brother’s ‘forced disappearance’ in Cambodia.”

Prachatai reports on further efforts to have the Thai regime to do something about Wanchalerm’s case and the similar “disappearance” of  Siam Theerawut, who disappeared after fleeing to Vietnam.

Update: Prachatai has a series of related stories, here, here, and here.





Year-end articles I

30 12 2020

2020 has been quite a year. Already, several publications have produced year-end articles that attempt commentary on a remarkable year. Here are some that we found:

VICE, “2020: Thai Protesters Look Back on a Year That Changed Their Lives.” As the article says: “We asked those behind the unprecedented demonstrations what was achieved, and what’s next.” Well worth reading and considering.

The Los Angeles Times has a very good article on the disappearance of Wanchalerm Satsaksit and subsequent events. “A Thai dissident was kidnapped. When police had no answers, his sister began to investigate” is also about the determined quest by Sitanan Satsaksit to ensure her brother’s enforced disappearance is not forgotten.

Where is Wanchalearm? Clipped from Prachatai

East Asia Forum has an editorial – “Thailand needs normal politics” – and two year-end articles. One is by James Ockey, “Government no match for Thai demonstrators online” and another by Kevin Hewison, “Thai youth protests undercut political establishment.





Justice for Thailand’s disappeared

20 11 2020

Al Jazeera’s 101 East has a program available on Thailand’s victims of enforced disappearance. Given the significance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s abduction in Cambodia for the genesis of the current protests, it is well worth viewing.





Updated: Vulture cops

2 11 2020

Compromise? No.

Thai PBS reports that the hospitalized prominent protesters, jailed for some time already, are set for more jail time. The cops, vulture-like, are waiting to re-arrest them as soon as the doctors discharge them.

Panasaya “Rung” Sitthijirawattanakul, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak will be dragged off to the courts “with the … police seeking to have them held on remand on more charges, which were filed against them while they were recuperating at Rama 9 Hospital.” They will end up in remand in several provinces.

The Bangkok Post reports that, in fact, two have already been “officially rearrested” while in hospital. This is reminiscent of actions taken in the lese majeste case against Thanet Anantawong who was dragged out of a hospital ward by junta thugs. Tghe Post reports:

Officers from Rayong showed up at Praram 9 Hospital to file a charge against Panupong “Mike” Jadnok over his protest against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during the premier’s visit to the province in August ahead of the mobile cabinet meeting there.

Similar scenes occurred when Ubon Ratchathani police also showed up to detain Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak over his role in an Aug 22 demonstration in the northeastern province. He faces sedition charges under Section 116 of the Criminal Code which he refused to acknowledge.

On Saturday night, city police had filed charges against Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul over her involvement on June 5 and June 22 in protests at the Pathumwan Skywalk in Bangkok.

Rung is now “under a 24-hour watch and police will reportedly seek a Pathumwan District Court order today to put her back behind bars for the time being.”

Get the picture? No compromise. As Mike and Penguin are being taken out of Bangkok, there are fears for their safety.

Update: In some good news, the Pathumwan District Court “rejected a police request to detain protest leader Panusaya … for further questioning in two cases in which she is charged with violating the Public Assembly Act of 2015.” The two cases relate to “demonstrations on the skywalk over the Pathumwan intersection on June 5 and June 22 demanding justice for Wanchalerm Satsaksit, … abducted by a group of men from in front of a condominium in Phnom Penh.” The court found no reason for detention. The same court also “refused a police request to detain Panupong “Mike Ranong” Jadnok, who was charged over his role in protesting the Prime Minister on July 15 in Rayong province,” finding no reason for further detention.

That good news is made better when the Criminal Court “dismissed a police request to extend the detention period for protest leaders Somyod Pruksakasemsuk, Ekkachai Hongkangwan, Suranat Paenprasert and Arnon Nampa…”. Somyos and Arnon are “facing charges stemming from their participation in the rally at Thammasat University on September 19-20,” while Akechai and Suranat have been “charged with attempting to harm … the Queen’s liberty by allegedly obstructing the royal motorcade … on October 16.”





Updated: Still missing

5 10 2020

It is now four months since the disappearance of activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit. He was snatched off the street in Phnom Penh in what was probably a black ops by the Thai military.

Where is Wanchalearm? Clipped from Prachatai

Prachatai reports that Piyanut Kotsan, director of Amnesty International Thailand says “there has been no progress in Cambodian authorities’ investigation of his abduction.” Nothing.

Both the Thai and Cambodian governments refuse to do or say anything, suggesting the two governments collaborated in ignoring international law and “disappearing” Wanchaleam.

AI states:

We urge Cambodia to set up an investigation team to carry out a prompt, effective, thorough and transparent investigation and to ensure justice is served for the victim and his family. Four months on, there is still no progress in the investigation.

Further, we urge Thai authorities to provide all necessary assistance to facilitate Ms. Sitanan Satsaksit, Mr. Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s older sister’s travel to Cambodia to give evidence to public prosecutors there.

The Nation has a story reporting on Wanchalearm’s former girlfriend. She spent time with him in exile in Cambodia.

Update: Khaosod interviews Wanchalearm’s sister, Sitanun. Sadly but predictably, “she’s given up any hope on government actions,” and has “decided not to rely on either Thai or Cambodian government because both of them have not given her any satisfactory answer” on her brother’s abduction. Sitanun explained a Cambodian cover-up: “Cambodian authorities told her in August that Saksit was not found in the accommodation list of the apartment.” For them, he did not exist: “They said there was no Wanchalearm there on that day. That the license plate of the van which abducted him wasn’t real…. They are now trying to clean up any traces.”

Tellingly, she adds, the “person ordering it is not ordinary…”. Like everyone else, Sitanun “believes the Thai authorities were behind the abduction…”.





Wanchalearm and the loyalist royalists

17 09 2020

We wonder if there isn’t a connection between the palace appointments of army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong and Corrections Department director-general Naras Savestanan and the enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit.

Prachatai reports that the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has:

submitted a second letter to the Cambodian government over lack of progress in the investigation since the Thai activist was kidnapped from the front of his residence in Phnom Penh on 4 June 2020.

Where is Wanchalearm? Clipped from Prachatai

Both the Thai and Cambodian governments have been silent on the abduction. To us, that indicates both regimes are complicit.

The UN Working Group states: “The right to truth is therefore an absolute right which cannot be restricted and there is an absolute obligation to take all the necessary steps to find the [missing] person…”. Sadly, the Group felt the need to add: “We further underline that his family should be protected from ill treatment or intimidation if required…”.

What does this have to do with the rewards to loyalist royalists? We can’t help thinking that Gen Apirat is being rewarded for taking a leading role in the abduction, disappearance, torture, and murder of several activists in third countries. Each of the operations has a strong whiff of special operations by the Thai military. Gen Apirat is likely being rewarded for illegal and murderous operations. We’d also guess that he’s also being rewarded for all the efforts he’s made to remove symbols of the 1932 revolution.

Clipped from Khaosod

And what of Corrections Department director-general Naras? Again, we’d guess that he’s rewarded for royal deeds associated with prisons, including the operations at the king’s Dhaveevatthana Palace prison and probably the imprisonment as punishment of Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi.

We can but wonder.





Missing the missing

7 09 2020

A report on missing and unidentified persons is a wholly uncritical account of a “digital sketch exhibition … to raise public awareness about missing people through the display of artwork.”

The event is organized Pol Col Chaiwat Burana, a superintendent at the Criminal Records Division of the Royal Thai Police.Pol Col Chaiwat organised the exhibition.It is stated that “[t]he police hope the sketches might attract other witnesses in the incident, whose testimonies will add weight to the case and raise the chance of conviction against the suspects.”

While it might be useful to raise awareness of missing persons and the unidentified, as far as we can tell from the report, the exhibition includes none of those who have been lost to enforced disappearance.

Where is Wanchalearm? Where are the scores of others? The UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances reports 82 unresolved cases of enforced disappearances in Thailand since 1980.

Where is Wanchalearm? Clipped from Prachatai

These include Somchai Neelapaijit in 2004, Karen land rights defender Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen in 2014 and political activists Siam Theerawut, Chucheep Chivasut and Kritsana Thapthai during 2018-19.

Where is Surachai?

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

Where are Ittipon Sukpaen aka DJ Sunho, Wuthipong Kachathamakul aka Ko Tee, Chatchan Bubphawan aka Comrade Phuchana, and Kraidej Luelert aka Comrade Kasalong?

Remarkably, the exhibition does show “the face[s] of two suspects in the deadly explosion at the Erawan Shrine at Ratchaprasong intersection in 2014.” These two are “missing” in custody. Their trial has been delayed and delayed since, with the two held in custody. The exhibition seems to admit that the police have insufficient evidence to convict them yet detains them for almost six years.

Justice is difficult to come by.





Talking to a brick wall

12 08 2020

It may be like talking to a brick wall yet it remains important that Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s family and Amnesty International Thailand are keeping the pressure on Cambodia over his enforced disappearance on 4 June 2020.

Young Thais continue to campaign for information on his fate.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Prachatai reports that they have asked for “a meeting with … Ouk Sorphorn, Ambassador of Cambodia to Thailand, to discuss and acknowledge investigation progress…”. THe call came on what would have been Wanchalearm’s 38th birthday.

Amnesty International Thailand “states that it has been two months since Wanchalearm has disappeared and there is no progress on his whereabouts either from Thai or Cambodian authority.” Most observers would consider this lack of progress to be reflective of official involvement and cover-up by both regimes. AI also notes that Cambodia is a state party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and has a responsibility to respond on the case. Of course, this assumes that the regime takes such an obligation seriously, and the evidence is that it does not.

Clipped from Prachatai

Wanchalearm’s sister, Sitanun Satsaksit, states that her family still lives in hope that there will be “answers both from Thai and Cambodian authority on Wanchalearm’s fate and whereabouts.”

As the disappearance is probably related to the absent monarch in Thailand (well, Germany), the Thai regime is going to remain mum. The Cambodians are supporting the semi-dictatorship in Bangkok.








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