Bogus 112 case dropped

30 01 2021

A couple of days ago, Prachatai’s Facebook page reported that on 28 January 2021, the Nonthaburi Provincial Court dismiss a lese majeste charge against Nattathida “Waen” Meewangpla.

Her case was always a fake one, concocted by the military to cover up its murder of red shirts.

When she was arrested, Nattathida was a 36 year-old volunteer nurse, accused by the military junta of terrorism and lese majeste.

She was essentially abducted by the military some time in mid-March 2015 and was held incommunicado for six days. She was then charged with “terrorism,” and was later accused of lese majeste.

Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC) pressed the charges and said Nattathida copied a text that insulted the monarchy from one chat room and posted it in two other chat groups.

This charge was simply meant to get her jailed as quickly as possible. Her particular threat to the regime was that she is a witness to the murder of six individual at Wat Pathum Wanaram Temple by soldiers during the crackdown on red shirts on 19 May 2010.

The court dismissed her 112 charge for lack of evidence. It said the only evidence provided “was a picture of the messages, and the person who was talking to Natthathida does not know her.”

As had been the case with all of her court appearances, the court met in secret: “The Court did not let anyone into the room when the ruling was read but Natthathida, claiming that it is a Covid-19 prevention measure.”





Updated: No one forgets 2010

19 05 2020

There’s a trend in academic work that emphasizes memory, memorialization and memory. As it has translated in Thailand, several very smart academics have argued that Thais have forgotten important events, including 1976 and 2010. And, there’s discussion of how to remember. As an example, see one of the several op-eds at the Thai Enquirer today.

We feel this is too academic and too detached from the reality of the almost two-month long Battle for Bangkok. No one who was involved has forgotten. Nor do they need “advice” on how to remember. But, it is a decade ago, and many of those talking of memory, forgetting and remembering were too young, too class-disconnected, too bookish or too coddled to be involved and therefore, it is their memories that are constructed, distorted or reoriented. For examples, see the other op-ed at the Thai Enquirer by reformed/reforming/rethinking/unreformed yellow shirts (here, here, here, and here). And, do look at the real effort that this newspaper put into trying to understand 2010 (here, here, here, and here). We don’t agree with everything that is said, but applaud the effort made.

The 19th of May 2010 marked the end of the red shirt struggles. April and May 2010 again revealed the utter brutality of a military that views electoral democracy and people’s sovereignty as a threat to the order it prefers and defends.

It must be recalled that the leadership of today’s regime is born of the military dictatorship – Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prawit Wongsuwan, Anupong Paojinda, and Apirat Kongsompong – together with former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban have never been held accountable for the protesters shot down, injured and killed in those bloody events. These men, blood on their hands, remain at the center of yet another military-backed regime.

These pictures are from both sides of the battle as the military gradually surrounded and then cleared the Rajaprasong area. Blood flowed and no one has been held responsible. Unfortunately, while no one involved forgets, it is Jatuporn Promphan who captures the essence of “remembering” for those defeated by the military’s armed excess:

“The truth is that this is the deadliest fight for democracy in Thailand…. Over the past 10 years, the Redshirts have been living humbly because we know that there is no way for us to fight. We can only seek for justice, but it will not be delivered.”

Update: It was at Wat Pathum Wanaram that – according to the courts and eye witnesses – the military gunned down people, including medics, in a zone they had declared “safe.” Since those murders, the military has gone to extraordinary lengths to silence witnesses and silence campaigners. Of course, the military has a lot to hide. Sadly, the military has also used the virus to close the temple on the anniversary of its murderous assault.

 





Truth, May 2010, no remorse

13 05 2020

After the illumination attacks on King Vajiralongkorn in Germany, illuminations of sites in Bangkok have remembered and questioned the military’s murderous crackdown on red shirts in 2010.

Prachatai reported that messages “projected onto key locations of the May 2010 crackdown on the Red Shirt protests” on Sunday night and the projected hashtag “#FindingTruth” (“#ตามหาความจริง”) trending on Twitter. The projections appeared just “a week before the 10th anniversary of the May 2020 crackdown on Red Shirt protestors on 19 May.”

The crackdowns were ordered by then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban. The murderous military assaults, including the use of snipers, was led by Gen Anupong Paojinda and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, among others, many of who were a part of the junta regime after the 2014 military coup and remain part of the current regime.

The locations included “Wat Pathum Wanaram, Soi Rangnam, the Ministry of Defence, and the Democracy Monument.”

Other messages were: “May 1992, 2010: killing fields in the city” and “Facts about May 2010: (1) the military forced all Red Shirts out of CTW [Central World] (2) The military took control of the CTW area (3) The fire happened when the military took control of CTW (4) The military wouldn’t let fire trucks in to put out of the fire…”.

The identity of those responsible was, at first, unknown, but the military elements of the regime sprang into repressive action, threatening “legal” action. The Nation reported:

“We do not know the exact purpose of this group but speculate that they have also spread these messages around social media to gain a wider audience,” Defence Ministry spokesman Lt-General Kongcheep Tantrawanich said. “It seems they are trying to bring up past political events, but this could lead to misunderstanding by authorities and institutes.”

Lt-Gen Kongcheep continued:

“I personally find it inappropriate to project these messages on government and public buildings, which could spark disagreement amid a crisis that the country is already facing. If the group wants to seek the truth, they can find it from evidence in legal cases, some of which have already seen verdicts while others are awaiting further legal procedures…”.

Of course, this is buffalo manure. As Prachatai explained, the:

casualties of the April-May 2010 crackdowns included unarmed protestors, volunteer medics, reporters, photographers, and bystanders. While the Abhisit government claimed that the protestors were ‘terrorists,’ news reports, pictures, and video footage show that none of the victims were armed, and until now, no trace of gunpowder has been found on any protestors’ hands. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2011 report, the excessive and unnecessary force used by the military caused the high number of death and injuries, including the enforcement of “live fire zones” around the protest sites in which sharpshooters and snipers were deployed. No officials responsible for the crackdowns have so far been held accountable for these casualties.

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch is clear, saying the projections are “a sign of popular support for the demand for truth about the 2010 violence…”. He observes:

… the government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, just like its predecessors, has no answers for those demanding justice for at least 98 people killed and more than 2,000 injured between April and May 2010….

In the decade since, the authorities have conducted no serious investigations to prosecute government officials responsible for crimes. While protest leaders and their supporters have faced serious criminal charges, successive Thai governments have made paltry efforts to hold policymakers, commanding officers, and soldiers accountable.

Under pressure from the military, authorities made insufficient efforts to identify the soldiers and commanding officers responsible for the shootings. Criminal and disciplinary cases were dropped against former Prime Minister Abhisit, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, and former army chief Gen. Anupong Paojinda over their failure to prevent the wrongful use of force by the military that caused deaths and destruction of property. To add insult to injury, Thai authorities have also targeted for intimidation and prosecution witnesses and families of the victims.

Khaosod reported that the “Defense Ministry will file legal action against those responsible for a light spectacle…”, although it was not clear what the charges would be.  According to the Bangkok Post, “Pol Col Kissana Phatanacharoen, deputy spokesman of the Royal Thai Police Office, said on Tuesday that legal police officers were considering which laws were violated and who should face charges.”

We suppose that the regime can concoct something, including using the current emergency decree, even if Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan seemed stumped.

Meanwhile, the “Progressive Movement, a group of politicians loyal to the now-disbanded Future Forward Party, appeared to claim responsibility for the actions Monday night by posting a timelapse , behind-the-scenes video from inside a van.” The Nation confirmed:

The group also said on its Twitter account that the authorities had no need to track them down….

“The truth might make some people uncomfortable and they may try to silence it but the truth will set us free from your lies,” the group boldly announced on Twitter. “We are no longer your slaves. Find the truth with us on our Progressive Movement Facebook page between May 12 and 20,” it added.

Lacking any remorse, the military is insistent that action be taken against protesters who did not gather and merely composed projections. Its political allies are threatening that the “Move Forward Party, a reincarnation of Future Forward Party, may face dissolution for sharing images of messages with a political tone that were recently projected in public places across the capital…”.

Interestingly, much political discontent is simmering. As The Nation reports, a “large crowd of mourners, many dressed in red, paid tribute to [lese majeste victim] Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul on Sunday (May 10) as the pro-democracy fighter better known as Da Torpedo was laid to rest in Bangkok.” The report notes that: “Her funeral marked the first large pro-democracy gathering during lockdown. Many mourners dressed in red instead of black to demonstrate their determination to carry forward Da Torpedo’s fight for democracy.”

The regime and its murderous military appear worried.





No justice

19 05 2019

Human Right Watch has issued a statement on the anniversary of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s bloody military crackdown on red shirt protesters in 2010. We reproduce bits of it here.

Thai authorities have failed to punish policymakers, military commanders, and soldiers responsible for the deadly crackdown on “Red Shirt” protests in May 2010, Human Rights Watch said today. On May 4, 2019, the military prosecutor decided not to indict eight soldiers accused of fatally shooting six civilians in Bangkok’s Wat Pathumwanaram temple on May 19, 2010.

“Despite overwhelming evidence, Thai authorities have failed to hold officials accountable for gunning down protesters, medics, and reporters during the bloody crackdown in 2010,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The military prosecutor’s decision to drop the case against eight soldiers is the latest insult to families of victims who want justice.”

The military prosecutor dismissed the case on the grounds that there was no evidence and no witnesses to the killing. This decision contradicted the Bangkok Criminal Court’s inquest in August 2013, which found that the residue of bullets inside the victims’ bodies was the same type of ammunition issued to soldiers operating in the area at the time of the shooting. Based on information from the Justice Ministry’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI), witness accounts, and other evidence, the inquest concluded that soldiers from the Ranger Battalion, Special Force Group 2, Erawan Military Camp fired their assault rifles into the temple from their positions on the elevated train track in front of Wat Pathumwanaram temple….

According to the DSI, at least 98 people died and more than 2,000 were injured….

The high number of casualties—including unarmed protesters, volunteer medics, reporters, photographers, and bystanders—resulted in part from the government’s enforcement of “live fire zones” around the UDD protest sites in Bangkok, where sharpshooters and snipers were deployed….

All those criminally responsible should be held to account whatever their political affiliation or official position. But over the past nine years, there have been a series of cover-ups that have ensured impunity for senior government officials and military personnel. Successive Thai governments charged UDD leaders and supporters with serious criminal offenses but ignored rights abuses by soldiers. Under pressure from the military, deliberately insufficient investigative efforts have been made to identify the soldiers and commanding officers responsible for the shootings. Criminal and disciplinary cases were dropped in 2016 against former prime minister Abhisit, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, and former army chief Gen. Anupong Paojinda…. Thai authorities have targeted for intimidation and prosecution witnesses and families of the victims who demand justice.

It is outrageous that the military has been allowed to walk away scot-free from deadly crimes committed in downtown Bangkok,” Adams said….





Political murder and impunity

5 05 2019

Many readers will have already seen the Khaosod report that sadly but not unexpectedly tells of another coronation gift: “Soldiers who killed six people at a temple during a 2010 protest will not stand trial in the military court…”.

Phayao Akkahad, who lost a daughter, Kamonkade, when the nurse was treating the wounded at the “safe zone” at Wat Pathum Wanaram. Kamonkade was shot dead by soldiers, probably firing from the Skytrain elevated railway. They shot others in that so-called safe zone as well.

“Investigators” have now told Phayao “that the military prosecutors decided to drop charges against the eight soldiers…” a court inquest earlier held responsible. They  cited “a lack of evidence,” but as everyone in Thailand knows, this is buffalo manure. In fact, the military is just doing what it always does when it tortures or kills civilians. That is, granting impunity.

Phayao said the “military prosecutors announced there won’t be indictment…. The prosecutors reasoned the no-indictment that there was no evidence, no circumstantial evidence, and no eyewitnesses.”

This is simply false. There are still photos and video evidence of the soldiers involved. PPT has posted some of this evidence several times.

The Khaosod report has video reporting from the time showing soldiers firing into the temple.

The evidence is clear but no soldier is held responsible. More importantly, those who ordered the murderous crackdown – Suthep Thaugsuban, Abhisit Vejjajiva, Gen Anupong Paojinda and current military dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha – get away with murder.

To date, not a single person has been held responsbile for the more than 90 deaths in April and May 2010. Sadly, in royalist Thailand, that is normal.





“I denied all the charges”

13 12 2018

Apologies for neglecting this story from 10 December, Constitution Day, where Khaosod reports on the arrest of Phayao Akkahad, the long-suffering mother of volunteer nurse Kamolkade Akkahad, who was “killed by military snipers inside … [the Pathum Wanaram] temple during street protests eight years ago…”.

Phayao was charged with violating the junta’s decree that bans public gatherings on Monday night. The “gathering,” of just four persons (not counting all the cops) was a kind of play “to demand justice for her daughter.” The story says Phayao “was arrested at the Democracy Monument with three other protesters – one of whom [Pansak Srithep] also lost his son in the 2010 crackdown.”

Clipped from Khaosod

The decree supposedly lifting the unlawful political gathering decree was promulgated less than 12hours later.

Phayao “denied all the charges…”.

It is not the first time that Phayao has been arrested for actions demanding an end to the impunity of the military over the murder of her daughter. We know the military murdered Kamolkade because a “court inquest in 2013 identified her killers as soldiers firing from the elevated BTS Skytrain track into the temple, which was designated by the government at the time as a ‘safe zone’ [for protesters].”

While all four protesters were arrested, it seems only Phayao was charged, and is now scheduled to appear in court on 24 December.

Phayao says the justice system is deliberately concealing the names of those soldiers and others responsible. The banner they held (above) shows some of those who deserve blame and who should be on trial.





Reporting lese majeste

3 10 2018

Two recent articles in The Nation reflect on lese majeste and both deserve some attention.

The first story is a poignant account of Nattathida Meewangpla’s case and the personal impact it has had. Nattathida’s misery over a lese majeste charge cannot be separated from the fact that she is a “key witness in the 2010 killings at Bangkok’s Wat Pathum Wanaram…”. She is currently on bail on the lese majeste case.

Being held in prison and without bail since March 2015 until her recent successful bail application was a form of lese majeste torture that has been repeatedly used by this regime and others before them.

She refers to fellow inmates who “knew how long they had to serve in prison before they could return home. But I didn’t have any hope. I had no idea what the punishment would be.”

Now also accused of lese majeste, she walked free on bail last month but has no idea when she’ll be back in jail.

Described as “a successful businesswoman, the mother of two boys and a part-time volunteer nurse” the charges she faced related to “terrorism” and lese majeste meant “her world collapsed almost overnight.”

In jail, she was harassed “for being a red-shirt supporter.” But it was when she was initially bailed on “terrorism” charges and then abducted by unknown officials even before she had left the gates of the prison and banged up again, on a concocted lese majeste charge, that she really struggled with the deliberate effort to break her. The military didn’t want a witness to the Wat Pathum Wanaram massacre talking.

She says she “became mentally unhinged,” adding: “I was shattered. It was beyond anger what I felt. It was intensely frustrating…”.

What would you do if you were me? Everybody at some point got to go home but I had to stay. What in the world? Why was did the trial go so slowly? What was I supposed to think when other inmates were suggesting I was being buried in the forgotten cell? There was no hope.”

Nattathida “knows she could be returned to prison at any moment. She refrained from talking about any mistreatment or discrimination because of uncertainty over her future.”

The second story is not particularly new but makes a point about the regime’s current lese majeste strategy. As we have noted, the military dictatorship, probably prodded by the palace, has decided to ease up on its use of lese majeste, replacing it with other charges like sedition and computer crimes.

The story cites iLaw’s documentation center head, Anon Chawalawan on the declining use of lese majeste. We do not necessarily agree with iLaw’s count of lese majeste cases, but there was a peak in cases in 2014 following the coup and into 2015, and then a decline following that.

Anon is correct in noting that immediately after the 2014 coup the military was clearing up cases, but not exactly as expressed in the article. The junta was using the law to attack mainly red shirts and others it considered “republicans.”

Anon stated that “during the military-led rule from 2014 to 2015, at least 61 people were prosecuted under Article 112…”. That’s a significant under-estimate. Our case lists suggests it was closer to 200 cases filed.

That makes the fact that there have been no reports of Article 112 cases this year all the more notable. That charges have been dropped, sometimes without any stated reason or explanation, is suggestive of high-level direction being given to the judiciary.

In this report, Anon is not quoted as saying anything about the use of other, “replacement” charges.

What we see, reading between line, that the junta feels that the anti-monarchists have been defeated or at least silenced (at least in country). It also seems that the argument that mammoth sentences and a huge number of cases does damage to the regime’s international reputation and to the monarchy may have been accepted for the moment. The change of practice also suggests that the military-royalist regime feels confident it can control politics going forward.





Lese majeste used by the junta to silence a witness

22 07 2018

When she was arrested, Nattatida Meewangpla was a 36 year-old volunteer nurse, accused by the military dictatorship of terrorism and lese majeste. She was abducted by the military on 17 March 2015 and held incommunicado for six days, then charged with “terrorism,” and was later with lese majeste.

Not so uncommon you might think. Especially since the 2014 coup, as the military wanted to crush all anti-monarchy speech and thought, lese majeste victims were usually dragged off by the junta’s uniformed thugs.

But the arrest and continued jailing of Nattathida was unusual. The lese majeste complaint was made by Internal Security Operation Command Col Wicharn Joddaeng, who claims Nattatida copied a text that insulted the monarchy from one Line chat room and posted it in two other chat groups.

Who knows if she did anything of the kind, but this charge was devised to have her jailed as quickly as possible as a threat to the military dictatorship. The threat she posed was as a witness to the murder of six individuals at Wat Pathum Wanaram Temple by soldiers during the crackdown on red shirts on 19 May 2010.

More than three years later, still in jail and never allowed bail, Nattathida’s trial has begun. On 20 July 2018, a “first witness hearing was held behind closed door[s]…”.

Secret trials are not unusual for lese majeste, where laws and constitutions are regularly ignored, but in this case, the military wants nothing said in court to be public for fear that it may incriminate them.

The Bangkok Post’s editorial on her cases is a useful effort to get some media attention to this case of cruel incarceration and the military junta’s efforts to suppress evidence of its murderous work in 2010 under the direction of then military-backed premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, Army boss Gen Anupong Paojinda and the commander of troops Gen Prayudh Chan-ocha.

The Post describes Nattathida as “a key witness in the deaths of six people killed during the military’s dispersal of red-shirt protests in 2010…”.

The Post seems to get the date of her 2015 lese majeste charging wrong, but these charges and their details are murky, and meant to be. It reports:

Ms Nathathida was in March 2015 charged as a suspect linked to the blast and had been held in prison until July 24 last year when she was finally granted bail. But the police filed a lese majeste charge, an offence under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, against her on the same day resulting in immediate custody without bail.

The editorial notes that her “trial for another case involving a 2015 bombing at the Criminal Court is also moving at a snail’s pace,” describing the slow pace as “questionable.” It thinks the deliberate foot-dragging suggests the charges are based on shaky grounds. It adds:

The cases yet again raise doubts about the legitimacy of the prosecution of many politically-driven cases in the post-2014 coup era, especially lese majeste cases.

Her lawyer Winyat Chartmontri has told the media that “many witnesses, who are government officials, in the blast case had postponed court hearings several times resulting in the case being delayed.”

As the editorial noted, these “two cases not only kept her in jail but may also have reduced the credibility of her as a witness in court over the six deaths at Wat Pathum Wanaram near Ratchaprasong intersection.” More though, they prevent her testimony being heard.

Why is the military so concerned? As the Post observes:

In 2012, she testified at the South Bangkok Criminal Court as a paramedic volunteer stationed at the temple, giving a vivid account of how she saw from close range gunshots being fired from the Skytrain tracks where soldiers were on guard. She did not hear gunshots fired back by protesters, she said.

The editorial makes the mistake of believing that “criminal prosecution requires solid proof of both motive and the scale of damage their act could have caused,” but that is never the case when it comes to lese majeste. And, under the military dictatorship, the courts have generally acted as a tool of the regime, often ignoring law.

The Post knows this, limply proclaiming that “[l]aw enforcement officers should not overlook … universal legal rules when handling cases that could send someone to prison.” Yet in “politically motivated” cases under the military junta, law and procedure goes out the window.

In concluding, the editorial also mentions “that tragic day at Wat Pathum Wanaram,” noting that the courts are “supposed to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The problem with puppet law courts is that they work for the perpetrators.





Silencing witnesses

28 04 2018

Lese majeste, computer crimes, terrorism and sedition laws have been wielded by the military junta as a means to strangle and snuff out political opposition. Thousands have been arrested, detained, charged and many hundreds have spent time in jail.

This repression is about silencing dissent on the established social order and its institutions, as well as the military dictatorship itself.

Prachatai reports on one of the most odious of uses of these laws. The United Lawyers For Rights & Liberty “has initiated crowdfunding for the bail of a lèse majesté suspect who witnessed the 2010 military crackdown on the red-shirt protest and has been in detention for over three years.”

The lawyers are planning to submit another bail request for Nattathida Meewangpla or Waen who is also held on a terrorism charge. Earlier posts at PPT are here, here, here, here and here.

A volunteer nurse, Waen is an important witness in the murder of six individual at Wat Pathum Wanaram Temple by soldiers during the crackdown on red shirts on 19 May 2010.

For more than three years, she has been imprisoned by the regime having been arrested for terrorism and lese majeste, the courts have consistently denied her bail.

The impression is that the regime, led by generals responsible for the massacre, wants he silenced. Certainly, they have not been in any rush to proceed with her trial. Her first hearing is scheduled for May this year. The terrorism case has made little progress.

Waen was accused of being involved in the 2015 Bangkok Criminal Court bombing with the evidence being a transaction record of 5,000 baht to her by another suspect.

While the other three “terrorism” suspects were released on bail in July 2017, the Bangkok Military Court, Waen was kept in jail, accused of lese majeste sharing a message in a private Line chatroom.

The lawyer essentially argues that her devices were confiscated on her arrest on 11 March 2015, “but the alleged message was uploaded about a week later.” It is not unusual for the police and military to plant “evidence.”

The ULRL is now seeking “900,000 baht to bail her out of the two charges — 400,000 baht for the terrorism charge and 500,000 baht for the other [lese majeste].” Prachatai has details on donations for Waen and ULRL.





The junta’s inhumane use of lese majeste

26 07 2017

Reports yesterday of the bailing and immediate re-arrest of Nattatida Meewangpla give another insight into the inhumane nature of the lese majeste law and its (mis)use by the totalitarian military regime.

Prachatai reports that on 24 July, Bangkok’s Military Court bailed Nattatida, along with “Nares Intharasopa, Wasana Buddee, and Nuttapat Onming, suspects in the 2015 Criminal Court bombing…”.

Nattatida is “a key witness of the 2010 military crackdown” and the murders at Wat Pathum Wanaram.

When “arrested” in 2015, she was abducted by military thugs and The Dictator then lied about it.

The four who were initially bailed this week “were among at least 15 people charged with terrorism and criminal association for alleged involvement in the court bombing on 7 March 2015. The four have been imprisoned for more than two years.”

At the time of the arrests, PPT posted on how the arrests seemed bogus.

Despite being bailed, “police refused to release Nattatida and Wasana. Nattida is currently detained at the Crime Suppression Division while Wasana is being held at Chokchai District Police Station in Bangkok.”

Nattatida is apparently detained as “she was also accused under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, over a message posted on 17 March 2015 on the Line chat application.” Yet she was taken into military custody on 11 March 2015.

As Khaosod reports, and as we have on our short page on her case, back in March 2015, she was “charged in two separate cases: conspiring with a terror group behind an alleged bomb plot at Bangkok’s Criminal Court and insulting the monarchy.”

We can only guess that denying her freedom is because she has “failed” to plead guilty to the lese majeste charge, so that her detention must continue. That’s the inhumane pattern.