Robert Amsterdam responds to Democrat Party royalist

14 10 2011

A couple of days ago PPT posted regarding Democrat Party MP Watchara Phetthong’s call for police to arrest Robert Amsterdam on allegations of lese majeste Watchara had made months ago. Amsterdam has now responded.

International lawyer Amsterdam stated:

“It is very disappointing that instead of open, civil debate, members of the Democrat Party prefer to threaten jail…. In the past we have exhaustively shown that Mr. Watchara’s allegations are groundless, and this inappropriate abuse of the law to protect himself and his party from accountability is gravely offensive.”

Amsterdam continued:

“These are serious matters which require serious dialogue between all parties. The last thing that the Thai people need is to feel frightened and intimidated when they are speaking out about what happened on the streets of Bangkok in April and May 2010. As far as I know, there is no law in Thailand against requesting justice and urging accountability of the Army.”

Further updated: Democrat Party continues to bang the lese majeste drum

12 10 2011

The Democrat Party has never really been a true party of democrats. Rather, its history, from the day it was formed, is of a royalist party. Yes, it opposed military rule at various times, but that was only to promote the monarchy as an alternative and to oppose the 1932 Revolution; it was never to support a functioning parliamentary democracy where all votes were equal.

In keeping with that inglorious tradition, in the post 2006 military coup period, it has been the so-called Democrat Party that has been most royalist. It is also the party and government that has most utilized lese majeste as a means to repress political opponents and, in its collective royalist logic, to  support royalism as a political system.

Now in opposition (again) – a good place for a royalist party that can’t win elections – it continues to bang the lese majeste drum. It does this because it believes that royalism and the monarchy has been brought down a couple of notches (largely by the efforts of the so-called protectors of the monarchy like the Democrat Party) and because it feels that the monarchy is a weak spot for the Puea Thai-led government.

We might add that another reason it bangs on about the monarchy and lese majeste is because the Democrat Party has no alternative policies. In the last election campaign it simply plagiarized Thai Rak Thai policies.

So it is certainly no surprise to read in the Bangkok Post that “Democrat list MP Vachara Phetthong [Watchara Petthong] said on Wednesday he has sent a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung asking him to order police to arrest Robert Amsterdam, a lawyer acting for deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.”

Watchara raised the issue of Amsterdam being subject to a lese majeste complaint over contents in his report “Massacre in Bangkok“. In fact, it was Watchara who made the complaint. (See PPT’s earlier post on another lese majeste complaint by the same Democrat Party member).

Watchara said Amsterdam “had travelled to Thailand and was seen at a Bangkok prison visiting some red-shirts in detention. He did not say when Mr Amsterdam arrived. Since Mr Amsterdam is the subject of lese majeste complain filed with police he should be arrested.” Legally, we think Watchara is wrong as no charge has apparently been laid, but that is really beside the point.

Watchara said “his letter to Mr Chalerm, who is in charge of the Royal Thai Police Office, asked him to order acting police chief Gen Priewpan Damapong to order the CSD or local police to arrest the man” threatening them with charges of “neglect of duty in violation of Section 157 of the Criminal Code” if they didn’t act.

The Democrat Party’s DNA means that they are unable to shed lese majeste as a tool of political repression and become true elements of a democratic society.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post has an updated story – mixed in with a story about Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha – that adds some comments from Amsterdam, who stated that “he was glad to be visiting Thailand again.” He added that “it was very important to establish truth of what happened during last year’s bloodshed, when so many people lost their lives, otherwise democracy would not evolve in Thailand. The soldiers involved could not be left unpunished. There should not be laws to allow a coup to happen…”. He singled out Prayuth as a particular problem for he often espoused political positions.

Amsterdam also confirmed that he had visited some red-shirts in prison, and observed that “they were in a very poor condition.” He made the point that they “should not have been jailed on security-related charges, but should have been allowed bail…”.

Update 2: A YouTube video is available of Amsterdam’s press conference in Bangkok. Thanks to a reader for pointing this out.

Democrat MP jumps on the lese majeste bandwagon

19 04 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that Democrat Party member of parliament Watchara Petthong has “filed a lese majeste complaint against Puea Thai MP Manit Jitjanklab with the Crime Suppression Division.” His claim is that Manit made remarks Watchara considered “offensive to the monarchy” during the Truth Today political talk show broadcast on 13 April 2010. He provided a video a]of the show as evidence.

Watchara was last mentioned at PPT when he got twisted out of shape over the Amsterdam & Peroff “White Paper,” on the violence of April and May 2010, and called for charges against those involved with the report Watchara said was “offensive to the monarchy and the courts.”

Watchara is another self-appointed “protector” of the monarchy who emerges at exactly when lese majeste is being used to thrash political opponents.

Updated: The missing headline: Lese majeste

22 02 2011

There is currently a storm of lese majeste activity in Thailand but very little of it is in the English-language media (except for the ever reliable Prachatai). Self-censorship would be the usual explanation, but the Thai press reports such cases, so we think it is a case of cleaning the headlines for international consumption.

The Manager keeps reporting these lese majeste cases as victories for the forces of good against evil while failing to notice that lese majeste repression is easily turned on anyone deemed an opponent of the amart’s regime.

PPT has posted on several lese majeste cases and issues in recent days: Chiranuch Premchaiporn‘s court case, Surachai Sae Dan‘s most recent arrest, Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul‘s court case, and the threat to track down lese majeste internationally. To this incomplete list we can add the lese majeste accusations raised against Thaksin Shinawatra, Robert Amsterdam and editor of the Fa Diew Kan/Same Sky magazine Thanapol Eawsakul. The accusations are made by a Democrat Party member of parliament.

Back in November, the MP, Watchara Petthong, called for charges against those involved with the Amsterdam & Peroff “White Paper,” on the violence of April and May 2010, which Watchara said was “offensive to the monarchy and the courts.” At the time, the Thai version of the book did not name of the author, but listed Amsterdam & Peroff as the publisher and Kled Thai Co as the distributor.  Its first edition ran to 5,000 copies and each sold for 100 baht. It became a best seller.

Watchara has reportedly lodged the complaints calling for charges with the Crime Suppression Division late last week. He did this because he says that his calls last November were ignored. He filed the charges himself and gave police copies of the book as “evidence.”

It remains unclear why Thanapol is included as he is not listed as the publisher of the book. Both Thaksin and Thanapol have faced earlier charges related to lese majeste.

Robert Amsterdam, who now joins the ever-lengthening list of those facing lese majeste charges at PPT’s page on Pending Cases, has responded at his blog. Amsterdam makes the point that this is “not the first time accusations of this sort are leveled against us {he and Thaksin] by Democrat Party politicians. In the wake of the White Paper’s release in July, Democrat Party spokesperson Dr. Buranat Samutrak made similar charges.”

Amsterdam states: “the White Paper does not contain any instance of lese majeste.”He says that Watchara raises objections to two points:

First, Mr. Watchara resents that the White Paper pointed out that His Majesty the King did not publicly intervene in the wake of the 1976 and 2010 demonstrations, as he did in 1973 and 1992. That, of course, is factually true; besides, the White Paper does not make any value judgment about this historical fact. Second, Mr. Watchara suggests that simply pointing out that many people are being arrested and jailed for lese majeste constitutes an insult to the monarchy. Again, it is an empirically verifiable fact that an unprecedented number of people have been thrown in jail for lese majeste since the Democrats cheated and bribed their way into power (a 1500% increase of cases in 2009). Condemning the arrests certainly does not constitute an insult to the King, but rather an attack on those, like Mr. Watchara and his party, who constantly invoke the King’s name for their own political gain.

Watchara with the "evidence"

Amsterdam suggests that:

… [t]he odd timing of his attack betrays a transparent attempt to stifle free speech, as international awareness of the unlawful conduct of the Democrat Party during the Bangkok massacres increases day by day. The White Paper, in both English and Thai versions, online and print, have reached a circulation surpassing approximately 50,000 copies and downloads at this point, which may explain why the junta saw fit to invent an LM claim out of thin air. It already seems apparent that Mr. Watchara’s main goal is stop the sales of the book in Thai bookstores.

It seems that Watchara is prompted to this act of lese majeste repression by the fact that Amsterdam & Peroff have a new and updated version of the White Paper available for download. He is attempting to limit the impact of the second report, but the horse has already bolted. More insidious, though, it is likely that the current wave of lese majeste repression is both an attempt to secure political advantage for the current government and to repress while the world’s attention has shifted to the Middle East.

Update: Amsterdam has more at his blog.

Updated: Lese majeste is the most important political weapon

18 11 2010

PPT has been all too regularly posting about lese majeste events over the past month. In fact, this is because the coming to power of General Prayuth Chan-ocha at the head of the army and Police General Wichien Potposri as top cop has seen a coalition of determined royalists take control of the “grand fight” against Thaksin Shinawatra, the red shirts and the republicans (seen as one group by the yellow-shirted royalists).

The advent of this pro-establishment coalition has given the Democrat Party and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva a powerful political advantage that allows for the repression of opponents in the name of protecting the monarchy. Gutting the opposition through lese majeste laws and computer crimes laws wasn’t sufficient to counter the “red tide,” and it is now more direct repression and higher levels of propaganda warfare that are considered likely to defeat republicanism and red shirts.

It is the only way to maintain the elite’s “life as we know it” while avoiding the historic compromises that lead to more popular forms of democratic rule. This ruling class is not about to back down or compromise. In fact, they see democratic forms of government as the prime reason for the emergence of Thaksin, republicanism and red shirts. Their fight is as much about establishing anti-democratic forms of government as it is about defeating republicanism.

PPT is sure the palace, through the Privy Council, is desperately keen that dangerous republicanism be smashed and it has never favored any form of government that is not “Thai-style.” That is, hierarchical, elite rule, with the monarchy at the center of the system of rule.

Is PPT being too alarmist? We think not, but if you need convincing, follow this link to the Forum, scroll up to the top, and read story after story (all in Thai, but with short English-language captioning) that is about lese majeste, the work of Prayuth (seen as a hero for yellow shirts), arrests, threats of repression and arrest and so on.

Interestingly, one of the stories is about how bringing down the Constitutional Court is the first step in getting rid of the monarchy. This kind of story is remarkably revealing for it lays bare the true attitudes of the establishment.

Democracy, rule of law and human rights mean nothing for them. When Thaksin once said democracy was a tool, he was revealing the same kind of attitude. Such words have no real meaning or political content. They can be mindless mantras spat out for an international audience, but in the elite’s Thailand there is no use for such ideas in practice. What matters is maintaining rule and any political tool will do. Most often it has been the military’s jackboot.

Update: Prachatai has a story – form one of the links above – that reports on a Democrat Party parliamentarian who wants Thaksin charged with insulting the monarchy, allegedly in Robert Amsterdam’s White Paper on state violence against red shirts in April and May. Watchara Petthong “told reporters at Parliament House that he had received complaints from the public about the book…. He said that the book, whose Thai version is available at major bookstores, contained passages accusing the courts, including the Courts of Justice, the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, of being dominated and giving arbitrary rulings, and attacking the throne in regards to, for example, the court-ordered seizure of Thaksin’s assets, the massacres in 1976 and 2010 and numerous arrests under the lèse majesté law. Watchara said that he had already filed a complaint with House Speaker Chai Chidchob to look into the matter and forward the case to the National Police Chief Pol Gen Wichean Potephosree for legal action. [The … Thai version] does not bear the name of the author, only giving Amsterdam & Peroff as the publisher and Kled Thai Co as the distributor.  In its first edition, 5,000 copies were printed, each sold at 100 baht. And after the MP’s statement appeared in the news, it is reported that a major bookstore withdrew the book from its shelves.”

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