Updated: More political prisoners

28 06 2020

Along with every other media outlet, Khaosod reports that, on Friday, the Supreme Court upheld rulings by lower courts against five leaders of a July 2007 protest that marched from Sanam Luang to the taxpayer-funded residence of the then president of the king’s Privy Council, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda. The rally accused Prem of fomenting the 2006 military coup.

Nattawut Saikua, Veerakarn (then Veera) Musikapong, Weng Tojirakarn, Nopparut Worachitwuthikul, and Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai were sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for “illegal assembly and using violence to resist police orders.”

Fellow UDD leader Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn observed that these men are political prisoners. The five were immediately taken from the court to prison.

While the reports refer to the five as red shirts, it needs to be noted that the wearing of the color hadn’t taken off at this time and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship-led rally and march had most people wearing yellow shirts, which was a display of “loyalty” following the 2006 60th anniversary of Bhumibol’s reign.

Another UDD leader, Jatuporn Promphan, reflected on the double standards in the judicial system: “I once said to them that on our way of fighting, it’s either death or imprisonment…. Over the past decade, we took turns getting in and out of the prison.” Jatuporn is “also due to stand trial on the same offense…”.

The double standards refer to the efforts by several royalist regimes supported by the pliant judiciary to lock up red shirts and UDD leaders while those from the royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy and People’s Democratic Reform Committee who also occupied parts of Bangkok and several state properties for extended periods, with considerable violence, get off quite lightly.

Few of the reports said much about the rally at Gen Prem’s free lodgings, so PPT went back and looked at reports from the time.

Asia Sentinel had a perceptive report. It began by observing:

On Sunday night, UDD leaders caught police unaware by marching with thousands of supporters to the house of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, a former army chief and prime minister who is held in high respect by much of the Thai public due to his proximity to the king.

King, queen, Prem and military coup leaders

The protesters accused Prem, who was in the compound at the time, of acting as the puppet master behind the coup last September that ousted Premier Thaksin Shinawatra. They called on Prem to resign.

The UDD set up a makeshift stage in front of Prem’s house on Sunday afternoon and made speeches for five hours or so, according to witnesses and news reports. But in the evening, after the protesters vowed to permanently camp outside the residence, riot police attempted to break up the gathering and arrest the leaders, prompting demonstrators to hail rocks, chairs, sticks, water bottles and pieces of broken flower pots at the police, who eventually retreated.

Most reports put the UDD crowd at 5,000 to 10,000, with some counting up to 20,000. The police eventually mobilized about 2,000 officers. The police:

made two more attempts to arrest the protest leaders, charging at  demonstrators with clubs, pepper spray and tear gas. Each time the demonstrators fought back with fists, rocks, sticks, bottles and anything else they could find.

Weng said the protesters withdrew when threatened with the army, saying, “We didn’t want anybody killed from this event.”

The police claimed that 200 of their officers and about 70 protesters were injured. Six protesters were arrested and charged with “causing chaos, obstructing the work of authorities, and damage to state property…. Police were also seeking arrest warrants for eight or so other UDD leaders…”.

The report wonders about the police action, saying:

It’s unclear why authorities attempted to break up the protest this time as many similar
protests had occurred earlier without incident. Some observers said the army may have been spooked by UDD statements that the group would camp out in front of Prem’s house — an unacceptable scenario for generals who swear allegiance to the royal advisor.

It also notes Prem’s coup role:

Although Prem is supposed to be non-political as a privy councilor, coup opponents blast the 86-year-old for a series of speeches he gave a year ago in which he donned full military garb and said soldiers should be loyal to the king instead of the government. Many observers said the speeches set the stage for the coup.

The Irrawaddy (July 23, 2007) carried a report that royalists declared Thaksin behind the UDD. The then president of the Constitution Drafting Committee Prasong Soonsiri, cheered the arrests, saying: “He [Thaksin] is probably responsible for supporting the clash, and he won’t stop there…”. This was a widely held view among the military-installed regime led by former Privy Councillor Gen Surayud Chulanont.

Shortly after the event, the Union for Civil Liberty issued a statement:

Declaration concerning the avoidance of violence during a conflict of opinion

During a protest by the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DADD) at the home of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda in the Thewes district of Bangkok, there occurred violent clashes between police and demonstrators. Alleging the part played by General Prem in organizing the military coup of 19th September 2006, protestors called for his resignation. As a result of the clashes which took place in the late evening of Sunday 22nd July, according to news media, 106 persons were injured.

The Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) maintains that the holding of non-violent protest to make known a political viewpoint is a civil right and a fundamental component of the democratic system. It is the duty of government to assure that the right of citizens to exercise this right is respected at all times, whether their action is against or in support of government, or to express other political opinion.

It is a matter of great regret that the protest on 22nd July last could not enjoy such a right to free expression due to the action of the police in blocking the protest march to the residence of General Prem in the Thewes district. The action angered some participants in the protest leading to the use of force and many casualties both among the protestors and the police.

To avoid the recurrence of such violence, perhaps on an even larger scale, the Union for Civil Liberty submits the following proposals:

1. Appoint a committee of persons acceptable to the public to investigate the events which occurred on the evening of the 22nd July for presentation to the Government and to the public.

2. Take court action against those who have acted illegally, whether the police or the protestors, in order that justice be done and human rights be protected.

Statement issued on 23rd July 2007
Union for Civil Liberty

So, for seeking to exercise their freedom of expression, these men are jailed. The regime that went after them was a junta-appointed administration that was vehemently royalist and anti-Thaksin. The double standards are as clear as they ever were.

Update: For another take on double standards, especially in comparing red shirts and yellow shirts, read this op-ed.

Bangkok 18 becomes Bangkok 19

23 05 2011

Apologies for again being slow with this post. PPT is continuing to experience difficulties in keeping up with the volume of material on lese majeste.

The Bangkok Post reported on 21 May that the political police at the Department of Special Investigation “will summon 19 red shirt leaders to hear lese majeste charges related to remarks made during a rally early last month.”

PPT earlier posted on this and added a Bangkok 18 post to our page of pending cases. We’ll need to change that to the Bangkok 19 as DSI chief Tharit Pengdit added Payap Panket to the list of those to be charged.

The other 18 are: Weng Tojirakarn, Nattawut Saikua, Korkaew Pikulthong, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, Karun Hosakul, Yoswaris Chuklom, Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Veera Musigapong, Chinawat Haboonpat, Wichian Kaokham, Suporn Atthawong, Kwanchai Sarakham (Praiphana), Nisit Sinthuprai, Prasit Chaisisa, Worawut Wichaidit, Laddawan Wongsriwong, Jatuporn Promphan and Somchai Paiboon.

Tharit said a “summons will be issued on Monday [23 May] and sent to the red shirt suspects by mail. They will have 10 days to prepare prior to appearing before authorities on June 2.”

While he can’t complete investigations into the deaths and injuries of April and May 2010, the puppet-like Tharit can get lese majeste cases sown up in a jiffy (as long as they are against the regime’s opponents).

DSI plans to “take the suspects to the Criminal Court to request their detention. The DSI will also go to Bangkok Remand Prison to file charges against red shirt leaders Jatuporn Prompan and Nisit Sinthuprai, who are detained there.”

Tharit also revealed that the DSI is taking over yet another lese majeste case that “involves six community radio stations which allegedly broadcast Mr Jatuporn’s April 10 remarks which were deemed offensive to the monarchy.”

Just because there is a bit of reformist lese majeste static about doesn’t mean that the political police aren’t on the job. Thailand remains a dangerous place for opposition activists. The royalists are keen to crush them.

18 red shirts charged with lese majeste

18 04 2011

From Prachatai

In an expected update to PPT’s many posts on this topic post-10 April, 18 red shirts have been summoned by the political police at the Department of Special Investigation to acknowledge charges of lese majeste.

As PPT understands it, the 18 charged are: Weng Tojirakarn, Nattawut Saikua, Korkaew Pikulthong, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, Karun Hosakul, Yoswaris Chuklom, Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Veera Musigapong, Chinawat Haboonpat, Wichian Khaokham, Suporn Atthawong, Kwanchai Sarakham (Praiphana), Nisit Sinthuprai, Prasit Chaisisa, Worawut Wichaidit, Laddawan Wongsriwong, Jatuporn Promphan and Somchai Paiboon.

The Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has been heavily criticized going nuclear on lese majeste. The Post says this:

Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha had acted within his authority when he ordered the Judge Advocate General Department to file lese majeste charges against Mr Jatuporn, Puea Thai MP for Udon Thani Wichian Khaokham and former Puea Thai MP for Nakhon Ratchasima Suporn Atthawong.

“Soldiers act in line with the constitution, which says the army is duty-bound to protect and uphold the institution of the monarchy,” Col Sansern said.

In a sign of how politicized the Army is, the Post adds:

An army source said yesterday more than 1,000 soldiers attached to the army’s st Division (Royal Guards) will today gather for military training at the 11th Infantry Regiment in Bang Khen district, in what is seen by observers as a show of support for the army commander.

PPT thinks we’ll just refer to these 18 as the Bangkok 18 and list them at our Pending Cases. The same report in the Post lists one further complaint of lese majeste. We will report that in a separate post.

We are having trouble keeping up with the mad use of lese majeste to repress opposition.

Updated: Wichian Kaokham responds on lese majeste

18 04 2011

The Isaan Record has an interview with Wichian Kaokham, one of the red shirts accused of lese majeste in the latest, Army-driven, set of cases that use lese majeste as a political weapon against the opposition.

The report explains that the term that appears to have been used against Wichian, a Pueau Thai Party member of parliament, in the recent lese majeste case was first used in parliament last month. The phrase he used was: “Why the hell are you shouting for your father?” [โห่หาพ่อมึงเหรอ]. He used this when Democrat Party members were heckling him. The Isaan Record says this term “amounts to a commonplace, moderately offensive ‘Shut up’.”

Apparently, the term caught the imagination of many red shirts and they chanted it back to him when he was on stage at the red shirt rally on 10 April. The Isaan Record says: “Two days later, on April 12, Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha charged Mr. Wichian with lèse-majesté.”

Wichian claims to be unconcerned by the lese majeste charge: “I didn’t say anything against the royal family. What I said is the phrase from [the debate]…. I just repeated it without any innuendo.” He says the innuendo comes from his political enemies, adding: “I’ve been charged because members of the military along with [Privy Council President] Prem want to destroy me and Pheu Thai. They want the Democrat … [Party] to win the election.”

Royalist's scattered marbles

That seems a pretty reasonable summary of events of the past two weeks.

Update: The Nation lists the 18 red shirts being investigated for lese majeste and sedition. PPT thinks the royalist elite has lost its marbles. The 18 are: Weng Tojirakarn, Nattawut Saikua, Korkaew Pikulthong, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, Karun Hosakul, Yoswaris Chuklom, Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Veera Musigapong, Chinawat Haboonpat, Wichian Khaokham, Suporn Atthawong, Kwanchai Sarakham (Praiphana), Nisit Sinthuprai, Prasit Chaisisa, Worawut Wichaidit, Laddawan Wongsriwong, Jatuporn Promphan and Somchai Paiboon.

Incredibly, many of these red shirts now look like facing charges of terrorism, lese majeste and sedition.

Further updated: Lese majeste repression and provocation increased

15 04 2011

This post is really a part of a series of posts we have had. They are, in reverse order:

MCOT News adds to our list of reports that show the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s political use of lese majeste as a tool of repression and as an election gimmick. Thailand’s political police, known as the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has said that:

at least 18 leaders of the anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) made inappropriate remarks about the monarchy at their recent Red Shirt rally.

DSI Director-General Tharit Pengdit said after screening video clips, still pictures and speeches made by the leaders during the rally in the capital on April 10, it was found that at least 18 were allegedly made remarks which were deemed insulting to the revered monarch as well as instigating people to violate law.

Tharit also said he would submit requests to revoke the earlier bail granted to nine UDD core leaders. They are: Nattawut Saikua, Weng Tojirakan, Korkaew Pikulthong, Kwanchai Praiphana, Yoswasris Chuklom (Jeng Dokchik), Nisit Sinthuprai, Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Veera Musigapong and Jatuporn Promphan.

PPT suspects that the political backers of the government are either trying to provoke red shirt violence before an election and/or to prevent and election and/or seeking to remove red shirt leaders from the political arena in order to silence them. Whatever is the case, the regime should be condemned for its blatant authoritarianism and political manipulation that some of the world’s worst dictators would be proud of.

Update 1: A reader rightly points out that one of the reasons the Abhisit government feels it can use lese majeste with impunity is because foreign governments themselves are reluctant to criticize the position of the monarchy in Thailand and the political use of lese majeste. The reader says that the recent U.S. State Department human rights report falls neatly into this category. It fails to make a strong and explicit link between lese majeste and political prisoners. PPT thinks the reader is absolutely correct and might have added Amnesty International to the list. Indeed, it seems AI and the U.S. State Department read from the same game plan.

Update 2: The Nation reports on the above and includes a comment from the Puea Thai Party where it claims Army spokesman “Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd had smeared Pheu Thai when he accused an unnamed political party of being behind the red shirts in their moves to insult the monarchy.” Puea Thai said:  “Political parties are loyal to the monarchy. The Army should not mix the job of running the country with loyalty to the monarchy. That is improper. Pheu Thai has many [retired] senior bureaucrats and armed forces commanders. They agree that some of their junior colleagues in the Army are overacting and claiming they are the only group with loyalty to the monarchy…”.

Further updated: DSI boringly predictable

16 03 2011

The Nation reports that the “Department of Special Investigation will submit a request to the Criminal Court to revoke the bail of seven red-shirt leaders after they allegedly violated their bail conditions at a rally on Saturday, the DSI said yesterday.” Why? Because the seven are said to have made “statements on stage calling for unrest or provocative acts that could lead to violation of the law…”.

The DSI boss Tharit Pengdit claims, for the umpteenth time, that these red shirts should be locked up yet again.

The DSI is entirely predictable; boringly so.

Update 1 : MCOT reports that DSI chief Tharit has now “petitioned the Criminal Court to revoke bail for the seven Red Shirt leaders on grounds that they broke the conditions set by the court when they joined the rally on March 12.”

Natthawut Saikua, Weng Tojirakan, Korkaew Pikulthong, Kwanchai Praipana, Yoswaris Chuklom also known as Jeng Dokchik, Nisit Sinthuprai and Wiphuthalaeng Pattanaphumthai were bailed recently and “forbidden from leaving Thailand without court permission and join any political gathering to incite chaos.” Tharit claims the “seven UDD leaders had joined the demonstration on March 12 at Democracy Monument and were breaking the law by joining the demonstration that blocked traffic lanes, causing inconvenience to motorists, schoolchildren and the general public.” He says they also “violated the court’s conditions by being on stage and addressing the Red Shirt supporters using words to incite unrest, encouraging the public to commit crimes and disparaging Thailand’s legal procedures and insulting government officials…”.

Tharit  wants their bail withdrawn and the court is considering whether to accept the DSI petition.

Update 2: Bangkok Post reports that the “Criminal Court on Wednesday dismissed a Department of Special Investigation (DSI) petition for the cancellation of bail granted to seven United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leaders, reasoning that the request should be instead submitted by the prosecution.” Tharit said he would submit the petition through special cases prosecutors, adding: “I am not disappointed.  I don’t think it’s a loss of face.  I am only performing my duty.  No matter through which channel, we have confidence in our evidence…”.

Red shirt leaders bailed

22 02 2011

In line with the recent post at PPT regarding the bail application by the jailed red shirt leaders, both the Bangkok Post and The Nation report that their applications were successful.

The Post states that the Criminal Court allowed bail for seven United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leaders on charges of “terrorism” and their lawyer was seeking additional action on charges against 4 of them and another red dhirt:

Lawyer Winyat Chartmontri said one of the applications was for the release of Natthawut Saikua, Weng Tojirakarn and Wiphuthalaeng Pattanaphumthai who are defendants in a case in which they are accused of leading red-shirt protesters to lay siege to the residence of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda in 2007.

The other is for the release of Yossawaris Chuklom, or Jeng Dokchik, accused of lese majeste and firearms theft.

The court was considering the additional requests.

The Nation adds that: “Each, except Yoswarit, put between Bt600,000 to Bt800,000 as guarantee for the temporary release. The bail approval followed the Monday’s hearing. Yoswarit needed to put Bt1.6 million as a guarantee because he is also facing a lese majesty charge.”

Unfortunately, this release on bail, 10 months after their arrest, comes in the midst of double standards on yellow shirts charged with similar crimes, a deepening lese majeste-based repression and leave more than 100 other red shirts still in jail.

On the yellow shirts, as is the pattern, their leadership showed up at a police station to acknowledge charges against them related to the Internal Security Act, and walked out to a press conference vowing to bring legal cases against those who charged them.

Updated: Red shirt leaders again seek bail

21 02 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that the red shirt leaders, jailed for 10 months, are again seeking bail:

UDD lawyers inititially submitted a bail request for seven UDD leaders – Weng Tojirakarn, Korkaew Pikulthong, Natthawut Saikua, Wiphuthalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Yossawaris Chuklom or Jeng Dokchik, Kwanchai Praipana and Nisit Sinthuprai.

Sophon Thitithampruek, the Bangkok Remand Prison commander, later asked the court to free on bail another UDD terrorist suspect, Phumkitti Sukchindathong, citing his poor health.

This brought the number of suspects seeking bail to eight.

Picture from The Nation

Lawyers and supporters believe that this request may well be upheld. Not least because:

In the afternoon session, the court heard testimony from Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart and Kanit Na Nakorn, chairman of the government-appointed Truth for Reconciliation Committee.

Maj-Gen Sanan said he went to see the UDD suspects at the prison on one occasion in an attempt to promote reconciliation and found them cooperative.

Mr Kanit said if the eight were released on bail he believed they would not pose a problem to the government’s reconciliation plan, adding that he had long called for the release of UDD core members in detention.

Update: There’s more on this story at MCOT News.

Jailed red shirt leaders refused bail

4 01 2011

MCOT News reports that the “Criminal Court on Tuesday dismissed bail requests for seven key Red Shirt leaders and allies who have been detained for more than six months on terrorism-related charges…”.

Acting chairperson of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn and UDD lawyers appeared at the court to submit bail documents for the seven detainees: Natthawut Saikua, Weng Tojirakan, Korkaew Pikulthong, Kwanchai Praiphana, Yoswaris Chuklom aka Jeng Dokchik, Nisit Sinthuprai and Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai.

It is reported that Thida “had prepared Bt3 million (US$100,000) bail bond for each detainee, altogether Bt21 million…”. The case made was that “as the state of emergency was lifted in Bangkok and two adjacent provinces, while the national reconciliation process is underway, the bail granting for the seven Red Shirts will provide an opportunity for all parties to enter the reconciliation process. The seven detainees also pledged in their documents that they would neither obstruct the national reconciliation process nor threaten national security and would not attempt to escape once they were released.”

Apparently the documents included “recommendation papers on the temporary release of the detained leaders from the independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Thailand and the Justice Ministry’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department.”

The court dismissed the requests, “saying there were no grounds to overturn the previous decision of the Appeals Court which refused to grant bail for fear of their possible flight due to the severe charges which carry a heavy penalty.”It is added that: “Most Red Shirt leaders, charged with terrorism, were denied bail as the court expressed concern regarding their possible flight. Only former UDD chair Veera Musikapong was released on Bt6 million bail with condition that he was barred from joining any political gatherings, being interviewed and travelling outside Bangkok.”

An appeal is expected.

Anti-red shirt/pro-yellow shirt

8 07 2010

It has never really been clear why the government didn’t push ahead with earlier allegations against red shirt leaders. But with regime boss Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday saying “a group of red shirts are planning further political activities,” the government is now pushing, trying to crush its opposition.

The public prosecutor has just “indicted four leaders of the UDD on charges of leading red shirts in laying siege to the Si Sao Thewes home of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda in July 2007. Veera Musikhapong, Natthawut Saikua, Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai and Weng Tojirakan were indicted yesterday in the Criminal Court.” Three others Nopparut Worachitwutthikul, of the 2006 White Pigeon group, Weerasak Hemathilin and Wanchai Naphuttha have also been charged.

Apparently, the prosecutor alleges that the red shirts “violated the rights and liberties of Gen Prem while causing difficulty to people who could not use the roads around his home.”

Meanwhile, yellow shirt sympathisers have mobilized against the ICG report PPT posted on yesterday. While the Bangkok Post seemed to cautiously welcome the report, the yellow-hued 2Bangkok.com editorialized as follows [with PPT comments in brackets]:

“The recommendation of this think tank shows a complete lack of awareness of what the recent and current unrest is related to [We are not at all sure how such a conclusion could be reached, but read on]. It is incredible that the International Crisis Group could issue such a high-handed recommendation without commenting that they realize they are asking the government to completely accede to Thaksin’s goals of elections so budgets and military appointments can be influenced [Aha! Thaksin’s evil plan all along has been to gain control of government via the ballot box. The evil genius stumbled upon such a devious plan and it undercuts the elite’s usual way of ruling via the barrel of a gun, dictatorship and royalist nonsense.]

Even though their recommendations might be perceived as fair [Hmm. Perceived as fair… well, maybe they are! See the Bangkok Post], it seems ridiculous to make this sort of call knowing the government would never give into the Red Shirt’s key demands–especially after the recent turmoil that threatened the authority of the state itself [Can’t have the authority of the state being challenged! That would be mutiny. A bit like the PAD demonstrations and the military’s failure to follow orders]. Any call for elections before November would not “bridge Thailand’s divide” as International Crisis Group suggests, but undoubtedly result in a new coup [Yes, can’t have elections when the election-shy Democrat Party might lose].

Nearly every part of their report has assumptions from a Westernized perspective with very little Thai historical perspective [When in doubt, use jingoism]. For instance: “The ruling royalist establishment cannot unilaterally push forward its “road map” to national reconciliation while simultaneously suppressing the Red Shirts’ dissenting voices.”

In fact, this is exactly the two-pronged approach the Thai establishment has historically used after bloody political upheavals of the past [Now we have Thai-style reconciliation, and it probably has its roots deep in Sukhothai]. Rightly or wrongly, the establishment will be believing that this approach would be the appropriate and customary one for Thai society [We assume the reference is to the 1980s. But look at “historical reconciliation” by the elite post 1932…. Look at the reconciliation with Pridi…. Look at post 1976…. Nonsense really.]

It is usually thought that “think tanks” are commissioned to validate partisan political opinions and stances [PPT does not understand the reference here and in the Thai media about ICG being a “think tank”. That seems a misrepresentation]. However, it is just as likely that the International Crisis Group has no understanding of the background of present Thai events and are simply drawing conclusions based on Western notions of common sense [When in doubt, hit the nationalism button].

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