Prachatai English

Two people sentenced to jail for distributing pro-republic leaflets

Prachatai English - Fri, 2022-12-02 16:31
Submitted on Fri, 2 Dec 2022 - 04:31 PMPrachatai

The Supreme Court on Wednesday (30 November) sentenced 2 people to 3 years in prison for distributing leaflets and selling t-shirts promoting the pro-republic group Thai Federation.

A black t-shirt with the Thai Federation symbol

In September 2018, 5 people were arrested and detained at a military camp for distributing Thai Federation leaflets and selling black t-shirts with the group’s symbol. Kritsana, Thoetsak, Praphan, Wannapa, and Jinda (last names withheld) were later charged with sedition and being members of a secret society whose aim is unlawful.

Jinda failed to appear in court. The remaining four defendants were sentenced by the Court of First Instance to 3 years in prison for being members of a secret society. Since Thoetsak and Praphan confessed, their sentence was reduced to 2 years. The sedition charge was dismissed. The Appeal Court also ruled in April 2021 to uphold the verdict.

Kritsana, Thoetsak, and Wannapa appealed their sentence to the Supreme Court on the ground that they were not Thai Federation members. Praphan, who has been in continuous detention since May 2019 while the case went through the Court of First Instance and the Appeal Court, did not file an appeal. She served over two years of her sentence and was released on 31 May 2021.

Kritsana and Thoetsak have been required to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet as part of their bail condition since 2018, the longest of all defendants in cases relating to political expression. Wannapa, meanwhile, has been required to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet since June 2021 after she was granted bail pending appeal with the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday (30 November) ruled to uphold the verdict of the Court of First Instance and the Appeal Court. Kritsana and Wannapa were found guilty of being members of a secret society on the ground that, even though the content of the leaflet they handed out was not seditious, the leaflet also included the URL for the Thai Federation YouTube channel, which aims to incite people to change the regime – something which the court sees an unlawful aim.

The court also said that, since Kritsana also posted messages on Facebook criticizing the government and the monarchy and is part of a group chat on the messaging application Line in which participants criticize the monarchy, and because Thoetsak, Wannapa, and Kritsana were handing out the leaflets, the defence that they are not Thai Federation members is unbelievable and therefore they are guilty of being members of a secret organization. The sedition charge, meanwhile, was dismissed.

Kritsana and Wannapa were immediately taken to prison. Thoetsak did not come to court and arrest warrants have now been issued for him and Jinda.

Pawinee Chumsri, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), said that the three defendants said they insisted they were never members of Thai Federation and only joined the Line group. They also said that they made the leaflets and t-shirts themselves because they liked the ideas being circulated in the group and wanted to show support for the demands for state welfare and for the country to be divided into states. There is also no evidence they have ever joined any group meetings to plan activities. In Kritsana’s case, there is no other evidence than his testimony when he was questioned while detained in a military camp.

Pawinee also noted that Wannapa’s family is poor, and that she was only helping her mother deliver the t-shirts, but did not know anything about the Thai Federation.

Pawinee said that the charge of being a member of a secret society under Section 209 of the Thai Criminal Code is an old law that has recently been revived and used against people in the Deep South provinces. However, she noted that in the Deep South cases, the prosecution has to prove that the defendants have been inducted into a group or that they have joined planning sessions. But the court considered the defendants in the Thai Federation case group members even though they were only part of the Line group or making leaflets with links to the group’s YouTube channel.

TLHR reported that Kritsana, 36, is currently unemployed. When he was arrested, officers confiscated his laptop and mobile phones before detaining him in a military camp for 7 days. He was threatened while being questioned, and an officer once slapped him. His arrest also made him to afraid to express his political opinion.

Meanwhile, Wannapa, 35, is a single mother of 2 sons aged 18 and 13. Being made to wear the electronic monitoring bracelet not only causes discomfort and sores and bruises on her ankle from the pressure but also a sense of shame. Wannapa said she never wears shorts, since she would feel shameful if someone stares at her.

The charges against her have also cost Wannapa her job. After spending a year working as a taxi driver, Wannapa got a part-time job in a warehouse, but was let go before being made a full-time staff when her employer found that she has a criminal record. She now works part-time at several warehouses. However, the monitoring bracelet also caused her problems as it triggered metal detector gates at warehouses she worked at, and other employees would gossip about her. Wannapa said she fears the shame so much that she would not work at large warehouses with metal detector gates, which means that she is not able to earn as much money.

Wannapa’s oldest son has left school to work as a food delivery driver. Her youngest son has also left school and now lives with his grandparents outside of Bangkok.

NewsThai FederationSupreme Court
Categories: Prachatai English

Concerns raised over court’s refusal of bail money, volunteer guarantors

Prachatai English - Thu, 2022-12-01 22:43
Submitted on Thu, 1 Dec 2022 - 10:43 PMPrachatai

Concerns have been raised after the Criminal Court refused to let several activists use money from a bail fund to post bail and did not allow a volunteer to act as their guarantor, requiring family members to file the bail request themselves.

Chitrin Plakantrong (Photo from TLHR)

Chitrin Plakantrong, 25, an activist from the Thalufah group, went to Nang Loeng Police Station on Wednesday (30 November) after learning that there is an arrest warrant out for him on charges relating to the burning of a royal ceremonial arch in front of Ratchawinit School during a protest on 19 September 2021. He was charged with royal defamation, destruction of property, arson, and violation of the Emergency Decree – the same charges given to two other activists, Pornchai Yuanyee and Micky (full name withheld) accused over the same incident. Another activist, Sinburi Saenkla, was also accused, but was not charged with royal defamation.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) noted that Chitrin never received a police summons on these charges, and officers never arrested him despite the warrant. He reported to the police himself because he was told by an officer from Nang Loeng Police Station that there was an arrest warrant out for him.

Chitrin was taken to court for a temporary detention request. TLHR reported that he was subsequently granted bail on a security of 100,000 baht. He was given a curfew of 18.00 – 6.00 and was given the conditions that he must not repeat his offense or participate in activities which can cause public disorder, commit violence against an official, or destroy public property. His father was also appointed as his supervisor on the condition that the court will confiscate the bail security if Chitrin violates his bail conditions.

The court also required him to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, which he was already wearing after being granted bail on other charges.

A TLHR information officer said that Chitrin’s lawyer asked his father to prepare money to post bail for him in advance, after the court did not allow Pornchai, Sinburi, and Micky to use money from the Will of the People Fund, a bail fund for pro-democracy protesters.

Ida Aroonwong, a representative of the Will of the People Fund, is concerned about the court’s recent requirements that guarantors posting bail for activists have to be a family member and that they must use their own money. She said that she is concerned that similar conditions would be deamnded of other protest leaders or protesters who continue their activism despite facing charges or who may have their bail revoked in the future.

Ida also noted the court’s condition that repeating one’s offense amounts to violating one’s bail conditions. This means that the court can confiscate bail money, and said that normally the court can only do this if the defendant tries to run.

Nevertheless, Ida believes that the Will of the People Fund will be able to continue to support prosecuted activists and protesters. She said that it is likely that the court only wanted to make sure that the supervisors will be able to make the defendants follow their bail conditions by requiring that they post bail using their personal funds.

She said that if the court insists on these conditions, it will be up to the court to prove its legitimacy and reliability, not the Will of the People Fund, which is helping people accessing their right to due process without economic or political obstacles, noting that there are other similar organizations, such as the Justice Fund under the Ministry of Justice.

 

On Tuesday (29 November), activist Nawapol Tonngam was also denied bail and detained for one night at Bangkok Remand Prison following his indictment, as the Criminal Court refused to allow a volunteer guarantor to post bail for him.

Nawapol was charged with destruction of public property, destruction of property, arson, and violation of the Emergency Decree in relation to a protest on 19 August 2021 at the Democracy Monument, during which activists burned effigies of the cabinet and senators. The public prosecutor claimed that the burning damaged the road around the Democracy Monument, costing around 157,000 baht in damage.

The court required that a family member post bail for Nawapol and agree to be made his guardian. The Court also required the guarantor to agree that they will be held responsible if Nawapol breaks his bail conditions.

Protesters kicking the remains of the effigies burned at the end of the 19 August protest

Nawapol was granted bail on Tuesday (29 November) after his lawyer filed another bail request naming a family member as his guarantor and guardian and with a security of 90,000 baht. He is required to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and was given a curfew of 20.00 - 6.00. He was given the conditions that he must not repeat his offences, must not participate in activities which can damage public property or harm an official, and must not leave the country.

Although he was not charged with royal defamation in this instance, he was also given the condition that he must not do anything that can affect the monarchy.

Nawapol was released after spending a night in Bangkok Remand Prison.

TLHR said that the court’s requirement would increase the burden on activists and protesters who were prosecuted, since they would not be able to have their security covered by the Will of the People Fund, noting that the amount of bail can range anywhere from a thousand baht to a hundred thousand baht.

NewsChitrin PlakantrongNawapol TonngamThalufahright to bailWill of the People Fundcriminal courtRight to due process
Categories: Prachatai English

Constitution Court settles formula for calculating party-list seats 

Prachatai English - Thu, 2022-12-01 01:04
Submitted on Thu, 1 Dec 2022 - 01:04 AMPrachatai

A bid to give small and mid-sized parties an easier route to party-list seats in the next election has been rejected by the Constitutional Court, which has ruled that original calculation formula is legitimate.

On 30 November, the Constitutional Court published a press release, announcing the judges’ response to a request made by 105 lawmakers to consider if Sections 25 and 26 of the Organic Act on the Election of the Members of the House of Representatives are constitutional or not.

The Sections stipulate that the total party-list votes will be divided by the total of party-list seats, or 100, to determine how many party-list seats a party will get.

The judges ruled unanimously that the Sections were constitutional, noting that the drafting process was in line with the procedure set in the 2020 Constitution.

Why is it so important?

The Court’s ruling means that the constitutionality of the whole bill cannot now be challenged. The Parliament Speaker will submit the bill to the Prime Minister, who will wait for another 5 days to see if any more challenges will be referred to the Constitutional Court. If there are no complaints, the bill will be submitted to the King for signature for the law to come into force.

Assuming no further challenges, this marks the end of a long struggle over the calculation method and will determine the landscape of the House of Representatives after the next General Election in early 2023.  The proposal to divide the total partly-list votes by 500 (the total number of seats in the House) rather than 100 (the total number of party-list seats) is now effectively dead

Based on number of valid votes in the 2019 election (where each ballot was used to select both constituency MPs and party-list MPs), under the ‘division by 100’ formula, 355,968 votes would be needed for each party-list MP, but only 71,193 votes under the ‘division by 500’ formula. The lower number would mean more parties would make the cut, leading to a proliferation of micro-parties. 

How will a ‘division-by-500’ party-list calculation shape the next election?

The ‘division by 100’ formula is expected by observers to benefit big parties with strong constituency support, making it harder for small or mid-sized parties to win seats. 

If these expectations are realized, the next lower house will see fewer parties with representatives, as big parties will gain large numbers of constituency seats and can still claim party-list seats.

How did we get here?

The Constitutional amendment in September 2021 changed the proportion of constituency and party-list seats. The total number of MPs remains 500, but there are now 400 constituency seats instead of 350, and consequently 100 party-list seats, down from 150. 

The amendment also re-instituted separate ballots for constituency and party-list. Voters will receive two ballot papers, one listing the candidates for MP in that constituency, and the second listing political parties which will be used in the calculation of party-list seats. Voters are free to choose an MP from one party and then a different party on the party-list ballot.

The challenged Organic Law determines the calculation for allocating party-list seats. During the drafting process, the debate was whether the party-list vote totals should be divided by 500, the total of all seats, or by 100, the number of party-list seats.

The ‘division by 500’ formula was promoted and lobbied by micro-parties who currently have only one party-list MP each. Ravee Maschamadol, leader of New Palangdharma, stood out as a vocal supporter of this formula.

At first, parliament defied the drafting committee, which had proposed division by 100, but later backtracked in the final reading. 105 parliamentarians, including appointed senators, later filed a request to the Parliament Speaker to ask the Constitutional Court to review the bill’s constitutionality.

Upon hearing the Court’s consideration, Ravee told the media that he will no long oppose the law. The micro parties may have to merge to give themselves a chance of a seat in the next parliament.

NewspoliticsConstitution CourtOrganic Act on the Election of the Members of the House of Representativesdivision by 100division by 500Ravee MaschamadolSource: prachatai.com/journal/2022/11/101664
Categories: Prachatai English

A card game on Deep South history seized by police and soldiers

Prachatai English - Wed, 2022-11-30 13:12
Submitted on Wed, 30 Nov 2022 - 01:12 PMPrachatai

Security officers raided a cafe in the Deep South of Thailand, seizing “Patani Colonial Territory”, a board game using a set of cards about the history of the colonisation of Patani by Siam. The authorities claimed the content ‘may be illegal’.

Security officers stand guard at Life Coffe Slow Bar on 28 November 2022.

The seizure took place at the Life Coffee Slow Bar in Bannang Sata District, Yala Province. On 28 November 2022, police and soldiers visited the cafe and seized the game without any warrant being shown. 

The authorities told Furqon Malee, the cafe owner, that they came after they heard that the cafe had been given a Patani Colonial Territory set by the game developer, Chachiluk Board Game, as announced on its Facebook page.

Furqon showed the officers the game and instruction leaflet. The officer informed him that the photos shown on the cards ‘may be illegal’ and said that the game must be investigated by the local police.

After Furqon insisted the game was not illegal, the police invited him to go to the police station. He objected to the invitation unless he had a lawyer present. After consulting the Muslim Lawyers Association, it was suggested that he should give the officers the game, which Furqon did. This ended the four-hour-long debate.

“My cafe may be the first one to have officers seize this card game.”

“This incident has made me feel quite pressured by the authorities,” said Furqon.

Ambitious, controversial game

According to the developer, Patani Colonial Territory was created under a project funded by Common School, an institution under the Progressive Movement Foundation, an organisation founded by members the now-banned Future Forward Party.

A set of Patani Colonial Territory.

“This set of cards collects histories and stories from local people in the form of a card game to enhance fun in learning, and create space for discussion only,” according to the game description from Chachiluk Board game.

In more than two decades of conflict, the Deep South has become a special zone where a state of emergency has been continuously in force for years. With the impunity granted by law to security officials, reports of human rights abuses by state agents in the Deep South are repeatedly being uncovered and the number of casualties keeps ticking upwards.

The game, however, traced a much longer history back to the time before the kingdom of Siam annexed the area. The game’s narrative seems to challenge the state’s attempts to defeat the insurgency which has been calling for more autonomy in the region. 

On 29 November 2022, the Yala Provincial Public Relations Office conveyed a message from Maj Gen Pramote Phrom-in, Deputy Director of the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 Forward Command, a quasi-military civilian entity that take a major role in security matters in the area.

Pramote expressed his concern that the card game brought up the area’s painful history in a form of game. The game also contains misinformation such as a story about Malay people being enslaved, chained together by the Achilles heel and brought to Bangkok to dig canals.

He said this game is another example of history that has been made up with the goal of inciting the people. He also pointed out that the Common School is related to a political movement.

The historical details were also challenged made by Piti Srisangnam, Director of the Centre for International Economics, Chulalongkorn University. He said the claim of chaining by the Achilles heel has already been admitted to be incorrect by the academic community.  

He also urged the security authorities to consider the game’s raising an outdated claim in the Deep South.

The game was also targeted by a right-wing political party. Thai Pakdee Party spokesperson Suksan Sangsri submitted a petition to the Ministry of Interior Permanent Secretary to investigate everyone related to the development of the game, including the donor.

Dangerous game

This is not the first time the Thai authorities have targeted games in the name of national security. In August 2014, Tropico 5 was banned from sale in Thailand. The distributor stated that the Ministry of Culture believed that some of the game’s content may affect the country’s peace and order.

Tropico 5 commercial picture.

Tropico 5 is a simulation game where players become country leaders. One of the paths a player can choose is to become a military dictator who aims to create a militarised regime; this is the content that may have led to the game’s ban. The game could still be purchased online.

Apart from being banned by the state, the game has been labelled by the media and society as an incitement to crime and misbehaviour among children and youth. The surge in e-sports challenges these claims, but the impact of games on child development is still an ongoing debate.

NewsDeep SouthBannang SataPatani Colonial TerritoryProgressive MovementTropico 5gameentertainmentboard gameSource: prachatai.com/journal/2022/11/101642
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: New Tiananmen crackdown 2022

Prachatai English - Tue, 2022-11-29 19:14
Submitted on Tue, 29 Nov 2022 - 07:14 PMStephff

MultimediaStephff
Categories: Prachatai English

Anti-APEC Demonstrators demand accountability for violent protest dispersal

Prachatai English - Tue, 2022-11-29 16:11
Submitted on Tue, 29 Nov 2022 - 04:11 PMCitizens Stop APEC 2022 Coalition

A statement from the protesters who have been violently dispersed by the police force on 18 November underlines the purposes of the movement and demands responsibility for grieve losses.

Citizens Stop APEC 2022 Coalition address their demands in a press briefing on 28 November 2022.

"Citizens Stop APEC 2022 Coalition" is a gathering of more than 75 organisations representing farmers, workers, poor people, grassroots groups and local people committed to fighting dictatorship and promoting democracy across the country. We monitored the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2022 Forum in Bangkok along with the APEC Economic Leaders Summit. We also organised parallel forums between 16-17 November 2022 at the Bangkok City Hall plaza to consider the needs of people affected by state development policies.

On November 18, 2022, we announced the formation of a movement to pursue three demands: 1) a suspension of the government’s “Bio-Circular-Green” (BCG) economic policy and facilitating legislation; 2) the removal of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha from chairmanship of the meeting chair on the grounds that he has no legitimacy to sign an agreement with APEC leaders; and 3) the dissolution of parliament and drafting of a new constitution by the people to pave the way for elections and create true democracy. In pursuing these demands, our rally was violently dispersed by crowd control police who arrested 25 people and injured many at the scene.

Why protest against APEC?

Many mottos have been used to promote the APEC Forum - Open. Connect. Balance; Create economic opportunities for all sectors in society; Promote growth that emphasises balance in all aspects rather than profit; and Responsible business operations with environmental considerations. Thailand’s BCG model, proposed during the forum fit none of these. Instead, it has been designed to benefit government agencies and capital groups.

The Thai government made great efforts to have APEC member countries sign off on the project. Following cabinet approval of a draft Bangkok Goals for a BCG Economy, a national development BCG Model action plan was drawn up for 2021-2027, by a group of former high-ranking civil servants and representatives of the country’s major industries. Unsurprisingly, the BCG strategy secures benefits for large capital groups and the bureaucratic state at the expense of the general public.

1) The bio-economy policy opens the way for genetic theft. This allows capitalists to easily monopolise the markets for seeds and the development of biotechnologies such as genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) with a biosecurity act. The so-called GMOs Act includes an attempt to amend the Plant Varieties Protection Act B.E. 2542 to facilitate seed monopolisation.

2) The circular economy policy, which opens the way for the growth of energy crops for power generation, will result in a reduction of food crops, lead to food insecurity problems and generate dangerous environmental pollution. Plans call for the construction of a large number of biomass power plants and the importation of plastic waste.

3) The green economy policy is an opportunity for the government to push a carbon credit trade policy to address the climate change crisis. Rather that regulating industrial capital, the real source of carbon emissions, it will place additional burdens on peasants, labourers, and the poor in general. Instead of solving the problem at its root, the state will snatch public land for reforestation projects to serve as carbon credit areas for capital groups. The goal is to increase the  country’s green areas by up to 55%.  A policy to increase forest areas by 40% that is currently being implemented by the government’s National Forest Policy Committee has already resulted in land-grabbing, with a huge impact on public livelihoods.

Human rights violations and the violent protest dispersal

When the Citizens Stop Apec 2022 coalition organised events and rallies on 18 November to demand that the state review its policies, crowd control police responded by subjecting them to unnecessary force. At least 31 people were injured, including Phayu Boonsophon, a protester, was shot by rubber bullets and lost his right eye.

At least three members of the press were injured, and 26 people were held in police custody. There were reported cases of surveillance against activists on Facebook and attempts to request a bail revocation against the activists facing royal defamation charges who joined the recent APEC 2022 protest.

Our demands to APEC members state

We call on APEC member states to take responsibility for the human rights abuses that happened at the APEC 2022 meeting by pressuring the Thai government to follow the demands of the Citizens Stop Apec 2022 Coalition. We also ask that your country abolish the collective agreements made Thailand during the APEC meeting that are likely to effect our people.

You should take into account the principles of Human Rights as well as Business. You should study whether your agreements are likely to increase human rights violations by the Thai state and/or large capital groups as they compete for public resources. People wanted to participate and express our opinions at the meeting but the government used violence to disperse the protests.

With respect to the 18 November Violence, the “Citizens Stop Apec 2022 Coalition" demands that:

1. The Royal Thai Police publicly admit their wrong-doing and apologise for the 18 November 2022 incident.

2. The Royal Thai Police and relevant parties take responsibility for what happened and compensate the injured for both physical damage and lost items.

3. The Royal Thai Police and related divisions accelerate the investigation into those responsible for the dispersal, release their finding and punish all guilty parties.

4. Reform the assembly control process to support the exercise of rights and freedoms of assembly for the people. To guarantee that there will be no more violent police incidents against the people, the names of the officers charged with assembly control must be disclosed every time. All officers, in uniform and undercover, must be identifiable to prevent undercover officers from creating violent situations. Rubber bullets should stop being used for crowd control.  International human rights principles in assembly should be adhered to along with laws and regulations conducive to people's rights to freedom of assembly.

We affirm that our assembly is peaceful without weapons according to international standards.  We want to participate by submitting demands and policy comments to the leaders at the APEC meetings and to the Gen Prayut government because "We are not just consumers. We are also people affected by the APEC policies".

Pick to PostCitizens Stop APEC 2022 CoalitionAPEC 2022
Categories: Prachatai English

Protester denied bail for contempt of court

Prachatai English - Tue, 2022-11-29 13:23
Submitted on Tue, 29 Nov 2022 - 01:23 PMPrachatai

A protester was arrested on Friday (25 November) and subsequently denied bail on a contempt of court charge resulting from a speech demanding bail for a detained activist.

Chiratchaya Sakunthong (centre) after she was released from prison following her first pre-trial detention in August (Photo by Ginger Cat)

54-year-old Chiratchaya “Ginny” Sakunthong was arrested last Friday (25 November) while traveling from the South Bangkok Criminal Court, where a small crowd of pro-democracy protesters gathered as the ultra-royalist group the People’s Centre to Protect the Monarchy was giving a press conference after they filed petitions with the court to revoke bail for activists Tantawan Tuatulanon, Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon, Nutthanit Duangmusit, and Netiporn Sanesangkhom, supposedly for being involved in anti-government protests during the APEC meetings.

Chiratchaya was stopped by plainclothes police officers while riding a motorcycle past the Robinson Bangrak shopping mall. The officers presented an arrest warrant issued on 18 October by the South Bangkok Criminal Court on charges of contempt of court, defamation by publication, and using a sound amplifier without permission.

She was taken to Yannawa Police Station on the back of a police officer’s motorcycle. However, once she arrived at the police station, Chiratchaya was told that she would be taken to the police club on Vibhavadi Road. She was then put into a police truck, but instead of heading to the police club, the officers drove back to Yannawa Police Station. They also drove up and down Sathorn Road several times because ultra-royalist protesters were gathering in front of the police station.

Chiratchaya was charged for a speech she gave during a protest demanding bail for detained activists, in which she criticized the court’s decision not to grant bail to activist Shinawat Chankrajang, who was charged with royal defamation for speaking at a protest on 28 July to demand the release of detained activists.   

According to the inquiry officer, Chiratchaya said that it was shameful for the police and the court to accept the cases against pro-democracy activists, and that the police should have dismissed these complaints. She also said that the court does not consider the ethics of their occupation before accepting these cases, and that this situation is not lawful. The police claimed that the content of her speech was defamatory and amounted to contempt of court.

Chiratchaya was detained overnight at Yannawa Police Station before being taken to court on Saturday (26 November). The South Bangkok Criminal Court then denied her bail on the ground that her speech contained unfounded accusations aimed to pressure the court on bail requests. The court also said that she was a flight risk and that she is likely to cause further damage. The order was signed by judge Phaibun Thongnuam.

Chiratchaya was then taken to the Women’s Central Correctional Institution, where she is now detained.

This is the second time Chiratchaya has been charged with contempt of court. In August, Chiratchaya and another protester named Ngoentra Khamsaen were charged with contempt of court, defamation, and using a sound amplifier without permission for protesting in front of the South Bangkok Criminal Court to demand bail for detained activists, during which they gave speeches criticizing judges in the South Bangkok Criminal Court for denying bail to monarchy reform activists Nutthanit Duangmusit and Netiporn Sanesangkhom, who were detained pending trial on royal defamation charges at the time. Chiratchaya and Ngoentra were detained for 9 days before being granted bail.

NewsChiratchaya Sakunthongcontempt of courtSouth Bangkok Criminal Courtfreedom of expressionright to bail
Categories: Prachatai English

Man sentenced to 4 years in prison for Facebook comment

Prachatai English - Mon, 2022-11-28 15:03
Submitted on Mon, 28 Nov 2022 - 03:03 PMPrachatai

A man from Sa Kaeo was sentenced yesterday (24 November) to 4 years in prison on a royal defamation charge filed against him for commenting on a picture of King Vajiralongkorn posted in the monarchy reformist Facebook group Royalist Marketplace.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Panithan (pseudonym) was arrested at work in May 2022 on charges of royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act. He was made to sign an arrest record, which states that he confessed to all charges, before being taken to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) headquarters in Bangkok for questioning.

TLHR said that the police convinced Panithan to confess by telling him that they would remove a part of his message to make his sentence lighter. He was questioned without a lawyer present.

After he was indicted, Panithan’s family contacted TLHR for legal assistance. Because his wife was pregnant, he initially  denied the charge and waited to see what evidence the police had against him.  He decided to confess during the evidence examination.

Ahead of his sentencing, Panithan told his lawyer that he confessed in the hope that his sentence would be suspended so that he could return to work and be able to take care of his wife and newborn baby. However, the Criminal Court sentenced him to 4 years in prison. Because of his confession, his sentence was reduced to 2 years.  Although he has a family to care for and has never committed a criminal offence, the Court ruled that he committed a serious crime by injuring the King’s reputation.

Panithan’s wife was surprised by the Court ruling and found it unfair, since it was his first offense and he confessed.

“While the court ruled that it was a serious offence that affects the monarchy, the people most affected are the ones being prosecuted,” she said.

Panithan was granted bail to appeal the conviction.   The Court ordered an additional security of 10,000 baht to the 90,000 baht he posted when he was fist indicted. His security was covered by the Will of the People Fund, a bail fund for pro-democracy protesters and activists.

TLHR reports that thus far this November, courts of the first instance have ruled on 24 of 239 known royal defamation cases. Only 4 were dismissed and one of these dismissals was later overturned by the Appeal Court.

NewsRoyal defamationlese majesteSection 112online freedom
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: New red zebra crossing

Prachatai English - Mon, 2022-11-28 12:36
Submitted on Mon, 28 Nov 2022 - 12:36 PMStephff

MultimediaStephff
Categories: Prachatai English

Petition to scrap a Thai right-wing retirement plan in Australia gains 14k signatures

Prachatai English - Fri, 2022-11-25 17:23
Submitted on Fri, 25 Nov 2022 - 05:23 PMPrachatai

Hyper-royalist doctor Maj Gen Rienthong Nanna has said that he wanted to visit Perth, Australia, from time to time as a part of his retirement plan. Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai political academic in exile, launched an online campaign on Change.org, calling for the Australian government to deny him entry in response to his witch-hunts against free speech activists. 

On 10 Nov Maj Gen Rienthong announced a retirement plan which included passing the management of the family-owned Mongkut Wattana hospital on to his 3 children after their graduation in the next few years and living as "an old granddad" in Perth, Western Australia. "I am almost 63 now. I am old. I can no longer hold up the shield," said Maj Gen Rienthong on Facebook. 

Many see the move as hypocritical for a patriot and recalled his actions against democratic dissidents. Maj Gen Rienthong contended that his father had bought a house in Perth in 1992. It was not 'nation-hating' to pay a visit there from time to time when Thailand is hot. Unlike the dissidents who fled to other countries to evade imprisonment or out of disappointment with the nation, he said he will always come back to defend the Thai monarchy. 

However, his retirement plan to take his family to "do the cleaning at his parents' house so that it doesn’t deteriorate, to take care of the roses for his mother, to buy lobster to eat with fish sauce with chilies and lime" in a foreign country has faced growing obstacles. On 14 Nov, Pavin Chachavalpongpun launched an online petition on Change.org calling on the Australian government to deny him entry, citing his right-wing activism against Thai dissidents as a reason for disqualification. 

"In 2013, he set up “Rubbish Collection Organisation”—a Thai state-sponsored ultra-royalist vigilante group to supposedly eradicate Thailand’s “social rubbish” and to annihilate lèse-majesté offenders completely As a result of this effort, many Thais were charged under lèse-majesté law, and some decided to escape from Thailand to seek a refugee status overseas," wrote Pavin in the campaign statement on Change.org.  

"Last month, I was asked to write a reference letter in support of a Thai who ran away from the lèse-majesté and now resides in Vancouver, Canada. This Thai was a medical doctor who wrote a comment on Facebook—a comment that was interpreted as lèse-majesté. Maj Gen Rienthong then began a witch-hunt process, putting pressure on hospitals in which this Thai person was working. Eventually, he was fired and was also charged with lèse-majesté. He sought exile in Canada." 

On 15 Nov, Maj Gen Rienthong claimed on Facebook that there had been campaigns against him like this for almost 10 years to deny him entry to Australia, Europe, and the United States. But he was still able to travel freely several times a year except during the Covid-19 pandemic from 2020 to 2022. He was also contacted by companies asking him to be a sales agent and a distributor of medical equipment and products from these western countries. 

On 16 Nov, Maj Gen Rienthong posted on Facebook again saying that Thais in Australia sent him messages welcoming him to the country via various social media platforms. He insisted that he was not 'nation-hating' and was not running away from any criminal charges, was not going into exile, and was not relocating to a foreign country out of disappointment. He further elaborated his plan on Facebook, saying that he would stay in Perth for less than one month each time. 

Five days after the campaign launch, Pavin, together with the rights group 112 Watch, the Australian Alliance for Thai Democracy, Thai Rights Now (USA), the Association of Thai Students in Europe for Liberal Democracy, and Thai Democratic Movement in Canada, also submitted letters to Angela Macdonald, the Australian Ambassador to Thailand, and the Australian Embassy in Thailand, asking the Australian government to reconsider Maj Gen Rienthong's entry permission.

Pavin also said on Facebook on 19 Nov that the campaign will step up their actions. "Thais in Australia will also submit letters directly to the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Australian Border Control. The next step is to collaborate with the Australian media, especially in the west (where Perth is located) to provide coverage on Rienthong's relocation to Australia."

As of 25 Nov, the petition had reached 14,428 signatures.

Apart from right-wing activism in his home country, Maj Gen Rienthong also supports China and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

The controversy surrounding his retirement plan is not the first time that a right-wing figure has been criticized for living or sending their family members abroad despite their paranoia about foreign interference. Sitala Wongkrachang, for example, left the K-pop band H1-Key 5 months after its debut. Netizens called her out for participating in the ultraroyalist protests which her father led and which paved way for the military coup in 2014.  

NewsMaj Gen Rienthong NannaPavin Chachavalpongpunchange.orgRubbish Collection Organisation (RCO)Australia
Categories: Prachatai English

Civil Court to summon police to testify on protest crackdown

Prachatai English - Fri, 2022-11-25 17:06
Submitted on Fri, 25 Nov 2022 - 05:06 PMPrachatai

The Civil Court has agreed to summon police representatives to testify on the crackdown on the 18 November anti-government protest, which left at least 4 reporters injured.

10.10 After protesters pulled away a police truck blocking the route to the Democracy Monument, crowd control police rushed at them. The police can be seen in the video clip pushing at reporters gathering at the scene. #APEC2022 WhatsHappeningInThailand #ม็อบ18พฤศจิกา65 pic.twitter.com/lqwkF5sxM1

— Prachatai English (@prachatai_en) November 18, 2022

A video clip showing crowd control police running at a group of reporters gathering on the footpath and hitting them with shields and batons during the 18 November protest crackdown.

Last Friday (18 November), protesters attempted to march to the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, where the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting was taking place, to protest what they see as the Thai government’s attempt to boost its legitimacy on the international stage and the lack of participation from civil society in determining policies being proposed at APEC meetings.

They were also protesting the Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) Economy Model proposed by the Thai government at the APEC meetings due to concerns that the model would worsen community right issues facing marginalized and vulnerable groups, would take away their resources and land, and is an attempt at greenwashing the country’s major corporations with its carbon credit model.

However, as they were approaching the Democracy Monument, the protesters were stopped on Dinso Road by units of crowd control police. Twice, the police forcibly dispersed the protesters, leaving many injured, including one who was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet, and at least 4 members of the press. 25 people were arrested, including a citizen journalist livestreaming for The Isaan Record.

On Tuesday (22 November), the online news agency The Matter, whose reporter Sutthipath Kanittakul was assaulted by crowd control police while livestreaming the crackdown, filed a request with the Civil Court to have police commanders summoned to explain the crowd control police use of violence against members of the press.

The request was part of an ongoing lawsuit the news agency filed in August 2021 against the police after one of its photographers was shot with a rubber bullet while covering a protest on 18 July 2021 along with Plus Seven reporter Thanapong Kengpaiboon. The Civil Court subsequently granted an injunction ordering the police to exercise caution and refrain from committing violence against the media during its crowd control operations. The Matter’s senior editor Pongpiphat Banchanont said that the request also asked the court to rule whether the police had failed to obey the injunction.

On Thursday (24 November), the Human Right Lawyers Alliance, which is providing legal assistance to The Matter and other reporters injured during the protest, said that the Civil Court agreed to summon police representatives to testify over the use of violence to disperse protesters. The hearing will take place on 17 January.

Pongpiphat Banchanont (third from right) submitting his petition to the House Committee on Political Development, Mass Communications and Public Participation. (Photo from The Reporters)

Pongpiphat also met with the House Committee on Political Development, Mass Communications and Public Participation on Thursday (24 November) to file a petition asking the House Committee to investigate the police operation on 18 November and find out why crowd control police used such a level of violence to disperse protesters, injuring many protesters and reporters.

The petition asks that the House Committee summon the national Police Commissioner, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and commanding officers in the crackdown to explain the crackdowns and how they intend to prevent such an incident from taking place again. It also asks that the House Committee summon documents relating to the police operation, including the number of officers, the police crowd control policy, the equipment used during the dispersal, and orders forming committees to investigate the police use of force to crackdown on protests, leading to injuries for both protesters and reporters, since 2020.

Pongpiphat noted that the TJA met with the Metropolitan police chief and the police spokesperson twice in 2021 to discuss safety measures for journalists covering protests. He asked whether the level of violence used during the 18 November crackdown was a matter of policy and commanding officers’ orders rather than a matter of individual officers’ actions.

Move Forward Party MP and committee member Nattacha Boonchaiinsawat said that the committee is already planning to compile evidence relating to the crackdown so that it can summon the officers involved for an inquiry.

Newspress freedomPolice brutalitystate violenceAPECAPEC 2022
Categories: Prachatai English

Activists demand police responsibility for protest crackdown

Prachatai English - Fri, 2022-11-25 15:12
Submitted on Fri, 25 Nov 2022 - 03:12 PMPrachatai

The activist group Thalufah staged a protest in front of the police headquarters yesterday (24 November) to demand that the police take responsibility for the violent crackdown on the 18 November anti-government protest march, which left many protesters injured and cost one activist his eye.

Protesters gathering in front of the police headquarters holding pictures of the crackdown and a large banner stating their demands. (Photo from Mob Data Thailand)

The activists demanded that the Thai police apologize for the violence and compensate the injured. They must also guarantee that no violence will be used in future to disperse protesters and must disclose the names of officers involved in operations.

On 18 November, crowd control police forcibly dispersed anti-government protesters gathering on Dinso Road for a march to the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, leaving many protesters injured, including Payu Boonsophon, an activist from the Dao Din group, who was shot in his right eye with a rubber bullet. 25 people were arrested.

At least 4 members of the press were also injured. Several were hit by crowd control police shields and batons, one was assaulted a group of crowd control officers while livestreaming the protest, and a photographer was hit in the head with a fragment of a glass bottle thrown from behind the police lines. A citizen journalist was also assaulted and arrested.

Crowd control police in riot gears stationed on the traffic island in front of the police headquarters, while a water cannon truck was parked inside. (Photo from Mob Data Thailand)

Ahead of the protest, which took place yesterday (24 November) at 15.00, units of crowd control police were seen stationed inside the police headquarters on Rama 1 Road along with a water cannon truck. Police officers were stationed on the skywalk linking the BTS Sky Train’s Siam and Chidlom stations, which were closed ahead of and during the protest, while a police checkpoint was set up at Chaloem Phao intersection. Crowd control police carrying shields were also stationed on the traffic island in front of the police headquarters.

While activists took turn giving speeches in front of the police headquarters, activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa and some other Thalufah members went to meet with senior police officers. They then returned with Assistant Police Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Sarawut Karnpanich. Jatupat said that the activists were told by Pol Lt Gen Sarawut that a committee will be formed to consider whether protesters injured during the crackdown will be compensated, and that the police will consider the demand to disclose the identity of all officers involved in an operation and will reply in 15 days.

Pol Lt Gen Sarawut said that he had informed the Police Commissioner of the demand for compensation and that the protesters may sue the police for damages. He also noted that the police and activists will need to discuss how to prevent future violence. He admitted that anonymity may lead to officers becoming more violent, and said that the public has a right to know the name and division of officers involved in an operation so they can be held accountable and so that charges may be pressed against them if needed.

Jatupat Boonpattararaksa leading other activists marching down Wireless Road (Phto from Thalufah).

Thalufah also on Tuesday (22 November) visited 6 embassies in Bangkok and the UN headquarters to file petitions on the excessive use of violence to disperse protesters. At around 13.50, Jatupat led the activists in a march down Wireless Road while covering his right eye with three fingers to show support for Payu, who has lost his right eye. Other activists displayed pictures of the crackdown.

The group visited the embassies of Vietnam, the US, Japan, Mexico, Germany, and Singapore, before travelling to the UN headquarters on Ratchadamnoen Nok Road, where Jatupat and another activist went in to file their petition.

Meanwhile, members of the People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) in at least 9 provinces on Wednesday (23 November) filed petitions with their provincial governors calling for Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign so that he cannot interfere in the investigation into the crackdown. They also demanded that all officers involved in the crackdown, whether commanders or subordinates, be held legally responsible for the use of violence, and that everyone injured during the crackdown must be compensated.

NewsThalufahPolice headquartersPolice brutalitystate violenceAPECAPEC 2022
Categories: Prachatai English

19-year-old activist convicted for royal defamation

Prachatai English - Thu, 2022-11-24 21:47
Submitted on Thu, 24 Nov 2022 - 09:47 PMPrachatai

A 19-year-old activist was sentenced on Tuesday (22 November) to 2 years in prison after the Central Juvenile and Family Court ruled that the royal defamation law covers not only specific monarchs but also the monarchy as a whole.

(Illustration by TLHR)

Thanakorn (last name withheld) was charged with royal defamation for a speech given at a protest on 6 December 2020, in which they said that Thailand is not a democracy but an absolute monarchy and spoke about the role of the monarchy in military coups. They also called for a national reform. At the time, Thanakorn, who identifies as being part of the LGBTQ+ community, was 17 years old.

Activists Wanwalee Thammasattaya and Chukiat Saengwong were also charged for speeches given during the same protest, but since both were over the age of 20, Wanwalee and Chukiat’s cases are being heard by the Thonburi Criminal Court.

The complaint against the three activists was filed by Chakrapong Klinkaew, leader of the royalist group People Protecting the Institution.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that the Central Juvenile and Family found Thanakorn guilty on the grounds that the royal defamation law coves not only specific monarchs but the entire monarchy and sentenced them to 2 years in prison. Given that they were charged at the age of 17, Thanakorn is now the first minor to be charged and convicted for royal defamation.   

The court said that, since it believes it would be more beneficial for Thanakorn to go through “training” to improve their behaviour than for them to go to prison, it commuted the prison sentence to a juvenile training centre under the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection of the Ministry of Justice for a minimum of 1 year and 6 months or a maximum of 3 years, but not after they turn 24 years old.

The court prohibited representatives of human right organizations and anyone not related to the case to observe the trial, claiming that it cannot allow third-party observers because the case involved a minor. After Thanakorn told the court that they wanted trusted persons and rights groups to be present in the court room, the judge said that organizations wishing to observe the trial must request permission from the court.

However, after representatives from Amnesty International told the judge that they have already submitted a request to observe Thanakorn’s trial and presented their letter to the judge, they were told that their request is denied, claiming that Thanakorn was to be tried in secret.

Thanakorn then left the courtroom and filed a petition themself to have representatives from human rights organizations attend the trial so that they would feel safe, and said that it would be in their best interest to have observers in the room. However, their request was denied.

Following Thanakorn’s sentencing, Amnesty International issued a statement noting that at least 283 protesters under the age of 18 have been prosecuted for participating in the protests, the majority of whom were charged with violations of the Emergency Decree, which has since been repealed, while others face charges of defamation, sedition, and dissemination of false information.

The statement noted that Thailand is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), both of which guarantee children’s freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. It said that during its Universal Period Review in 2021, Thailand received recommendations to uphold these freedoms for children and to avoid detaining or prosecuting minors who are exercising their rights. However, it also noted that the Thai government has always rejected these recommendations.

Amnesty International Thailand’s executive director Piyanut Kotsan said that Thanakorn’s sentencing sets “a worrying precedent” and creates “a chilling effect” for young people taking part in the pro-democracy movement, and while the prison sentence was commuted, Thanakorn should never have been charged to begin with, and they will still be held in official custody and take part in mandatory training for the duration of their sentence.

She noted that Thanakorn will still have a criminal record, which could affect their professional opportunities, and their sentence would deprive them of the time and resources they could use to pursue education like other young people.

“Young people peacefully expressing their opinions, views and thoughts about the future of the country should not face jail time or restrictive measures that limit their day-to-day activities. Thai authorities must stop intimidating and surveilling child protesters and end criminal proceedings against them,” Piyanut said.

Thanakorn was later granted bail in order to appeal the conviction on a security of 30,000 baht, which was covered by the Will of the People Find, a bail fund for pro-democracy protesters and activists. 

 

NewsThanakornRoyal defamationlese majesteSection 112Central Juvenile and Family CourtChild human right defender
Categories: Prachatai English

Activists charged with burning royal arch granted bail

Prachatai English - Thu, 2022-11-24 13:48
Submitted on Thu, 24 Nov 2022 - 01:48 PMPrachatai

Three activists detained pending trial on charges relating to the burning of a royal ceremonial arch in front of Ratchawinit School have been granted bail after months in prison.

The three activists were released from Bangkok Remand Prison on Tuesday night (22 November) after they were granted bail. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Pornchai Yuanyee, Sinburi Saenkla, and Micky (full name withheld) were accused of burning the royal ceremony arch during a protest on 19 September 2021. All three were charged with arson, destruction of property, and violation of the Emergency Decree. Pornchai and Micky were also charged with royal defamation. Sinburi was also accused of burning a traffic control box at the Nang Loeng intersection.

Before being granted bail, Pornchai had been detained for 139 days, Sinburi for 107 days, and Micky for 50 days. Pornchai was arrested on 7 July, while Micky was denied bail on 4 October when he was indicted. Sinburi was denied bail when he went to Nang Loeng Police Station on 8 August after learning that there was an arrest warrant out for him.

Following a bail hearing on 31 October, the Criminal Court issued a ruling on the three activists’ bail request on Tuesday (22 November). Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that initially, the Court denied them bail on the grounds that their guarantor has no relations with them, and their proposed supervisors did not own the money used to post bail.

iLaw reported that Pornchai’s wife and father-in-law, Sinburi’s older sister, and Micky’s mother went to the Criminal Court after the Court said that the activists’ relatives must come to post bail for them and agree to be their supervisor. They were subsequently granted bail on a security of 100,000 baht each, which came from each relative’s personal fund instead of from the Will of the People Fund, a bail fund for pro-democracy activists and protesters. Each supervisor also had to agree that the Court may immediately confiscate the security if the activists break their bail conditions. All three supervisors will also be held responsible if one of the activists break their bail conditions.

The three activists were also given the conditions that they must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and must not leave their residence between 20.00 and 6.00, they must not repeat their offense, commit violence against an official, or destroy public property, and they are also not allowed to leave the country.

Newsright to bailRoyal defamationPre-trial detentionlese majesteSection 112pro-democracy protests 2021
Categories: Prachatai English

Exclusive: Bottle thrown from police line at media in APEC protest

Prachatai English - Thu, 2022-11-24 08:55
Submitted on Thu, 24 Nov 2022 - 08:55 AMTeeranai Charuvastra

On the same day various leaders from Asia-Pacific nations mingled at a shiny convention center in Bangkok, photographer Chalinee Thirasupa was among a huddle of journalists taking photos of a phalanx of riot police close to Democracy Monument. A glass bottle was suddenly hurled toward her face.

Right: A glass bottle that appears to be thrown from the line of riot police toward a group of reporters during a protest on 18 November 2022. Image: LIVE REAL / Facebook. Left: Photographer Chalinee Thirasupa after she is struck by the bottle. Image: jane_chalinee / Twitter.

“I saw it coming and I tried to dodge it, but it was so fast,” Chalinee recalled the moment in an exclusive interview with Prachatai English.

A video showed the bottle shattering on the hood of a police pickup truck, where the photographers were standing, just inches in front of Chalinee. One of the glass pieces ricocheted squarely into her face, drawing gasps of shock from onlookers.

 

Photographer hit in the face by glass bottle at protest outside APEC summit in Bangkok, Thailand this morning #ม็อบ18พฤศจิกา65 #APEC2022THAILAND #APEC2022 pic.twitter.com/NvvXQ10GTS

— ViralPress (@ViralPressCoLtd) November 18, 2022

 

A hospital scan would later show that the impact left a wound of 6 millimeters on the sclera of her right eye, and just one millimeter away from the pupil, saving her from severe eye injury, if not a loss of eyesight. The photographer said she previously had a lasik operation, a factor that doctors said would have greatly complicated the damage had the projectile landed on her pupil.

“It was sheer luck,” said Chalinee, who currently works as a stringer for a foreign news agency.

Chalinee was one of the photographers and journalists who were injured while covering the 18 November demonstration that attempted to march on the venue where the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, was taking place. Violence broke out when the protesters scuffled with the police, ultimately leading to a crackdown that saw dozens wounded on both sides.

Multiple videos, photos and eyewitness accounts reviewed by Prachatai English also show that police actions contributed to injuries of at least 4 media professionals on that day, including Chalinee. The glass bottle appeared to be hurled, without any warning, from the police line facing the reporters. Police have yet to make a formal explanation over the incident.

Other cases of police assaulting media workers at the scene including riot police shoving a reporter for The Matter to the ground and beating him; a photographer for Top News was struck in the face by another police officer, damaging his eyeglasses; and a reporter for Prachatai had his hand wounded after a policeman shoved a riot shield at him.

Who threw it?

Chalinee said perhaps the most surprising thing about her injury was that it came at an unexpected timing of the protest.

Police and protesters did scuffle earlier that day, but the confrontation already came to a lull when Chalinee walked with other photographers to take photos of the protesters burning chili on a pan – a traditional way of putting a curse on someone – and then putting it on the top of a police vehicle.

“It was before the crackdown,” Chalinee said. “The atmosphere wasn’t tense yet.”

Police were forming a shieldwall just beyond the pickup truck. After an officer noticed that a piece of burning coal dropped onto the hood of the vehicle, a fire extinguisher was brought forward by the police to douse the flame.

The sight prompted protesters to throw bottles and other objects at the police. Photographers jostled with each other in the abrupt chaos, and Chalinee’s goggles were lost in the struggle.

“I couldn’t find the goggles, and I thought I’d look for them later,” she said.

The glass bottle flew at her just moments later, as she was training her camera at the police line. Chalinee recalled seeing it coming at her from the direction of the police, an observation collaborated by several eyewitnesses and videos.

The projectile is seen being thrown from the direction of the police at 11.28 mark.

Another key evidence is a pair of photos taken by another photographer who was standing close to Chalinee. The photos, which have been shared with Prachatai English, appear to show the glass bottle being hurled from the riot police position.

Minutes after she was struck with the bottle, police moved in and cleared out the protesters. An officer advised her to leave the area immediately to avoid being stranded in the confused skirmishes, so Chalinee left in a car, her right eye bleeding, and headed for doctors. Rubber-tipped bullets started flying just as Chalinee tried to make her way out of the area, forcing her to duck in her car at one point to avoid another injury.

Protest organisers said at least 21 demonstrators were wounded in Friday’s clashes, including a man who was reportedly shot in his eye by a baton round. Another 26 people were arrested, including a citizen journalist, organizers said. The police said in a statement that 14 officers were injured.

Wakeup call

While sheer luck may have spared Chalinee from the worst plight, she still faces a long road to recovery. She was diagnosed with hemorrhage in her eye, which forced her to take several weeks off work. She also experiences throbbing pain.

In the following weeks, her right eye cannot come into contact with tap water – she’s advised to clean her face by dabbing saline on it – and she must put an extra pillow on her head when sleeping to lessen the pressure on the eye. Doctors told her the bleeding will stop on its own in a month, but they can’t guarantee what will follow afterwards.

“Even after I recover, there might be long term complications to my eye,” Chalinee said, citing her doctors. “They may not happen right now, or soon, but it’s too early to tell.”

To monitor the damage to her eye tissue, Chalinee will have to do a monthly check-in with the doctors for the next two years.

In the interview with Prachatai English, Chalinee also addressed a question that kept being brought up in social media threads that discussed her injury: where was her safety gear?

Chalinee said she’d already taken routine precaution on that day, like any other assignment that involved going to a political rally. When police were clashing with the protesters that morning, she had put on a protective helmet and goggles, and kept a distance from the brawl, in accordance with the training provided by her employer. She also brought a gasmask with her, in case teargas was deployed.

“I brought the safety gear with me, too,” Chalinee said. “When there was a clash, I put them on, and I was standing on the pavement. I was in my goggles and helmet. I didn’t join the fray either because I didn’t want to risk being hurt. I don’t want to have decent photos at the cost of my own safety.”

 

วินาทีขวดแก้วถูกโยนมาจากฝั่งเจ้าหน้าที่และโดนใส่บริเวณตาข้างขวาผู้สื่อข่าว Reuterจากเหตุการณ์สลายการชุมนุมราษฎรหยุด APEC ในวันนี้#ม็อบ18พฤศจิกา65#APEC2022#Lanner pic.twitter.com/cOvVoaIbRO

— Lanner (@Lanner2022) November 18, 2022

 

By the time she joined other photographers to take pictures of the burning chili, Chalinee had taken off the helmet, after enduring hours of heat and humidity in Bangkok’s weather. The lull also convinced her and many other photographers that no violence was imminent.

“From now on, I’d be even more careful than before. If I see riot police around, I won’t ever take off my safety gear,” Chalinee said with a laugh. “I’ll at least have my goggles on.”

Her friends and colleagues also told her that they saw her injury as a lesson to be more vigilant. One person said they bought safety goggles immediately after hearing the news, after hesitating at the price tag for a year. Another asked her for advice about what equipment they should don in protests.

“It’s a wakeup call that we have to bring these gears with us and put them on at all times,” she said. “It’s like a personal protocol for me now: all hell may break loose the moment we take off these gears.”

Chalinee declined to comment on what legal actions she may take against the police for the injury she suffered, but urged media watchdog organizations to communicate with police commanders that safety and rights of journalists in the field must be respected.

“We don’t go into protests to take a leisure stroll. We’re there to work,” Chalinee said. “We deserve the right to work safely.”

InterviewChalinee ThirasupaReutersAPEC 2022press freedomCrowd control police
Categories: Prachatai English

Activists sue police over APEC protest crackdown

Prachatai English - Wed, 2022-11-23 14:23
Submitted on Wed, 23 Nov 2022 - 02:23 PMPrachatai

Activists and protesters have filed a complaint against crowd control police for the violent dispersal of the 18 November anti-government protest march which left many injured and led to the arrest of 25 people.  

Anon Nampa (white shirt, second from left) and other activists filed a complaint against crowd control police for the violent dispersal of the 18 November protest.

On 18 November, protesters and activists set out on a march from Lan Khon Muang square in front of the Bangkok City Hall to the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, where the APEC meetings were taking place at the time, to protest what they see as the Thai government’s attempt to boost its legitimacy on the international stage and the lack of participation from civil society in determining policies being proposed at APEC meetings. They also spoke out against the Bio-Circular-Green Economy Model (BCG), raising concerns that the model would worsen community right issues facing marginalized and vulnerable groups, would take away their resources and land, and is an attempt at greenwashing the country’s major corporations with its carbon credit model.

However, as they were approaching the Democracy Monument, the protesters were stopped on Dinso Road by units of crowd control police. Twice, the police forcibly dispersed the protesters, leaving many injured, including one who was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet. At least five members of the press were injured, including a Reuters photographer who had a glass bottle thrown at her head from behind the police lines. 25 people were arrested during the two crackdowns, including a citizen journalist from The Isaan Record.

On Saturday (19 November), human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, along with other activists, went to Samranrat Police Station to file a complaint against the crowd control police and any other officers responsible for misconduct, physical assault causing injuries, and physical assault causing serious injuries such as loss of sight.

The activists also requested that the inquiry officer summon documents and witnesses to be used as evidence, including the action plan for controlling the 18 November protest, a list of all officers on duty in the protest, a list of all officers authorized to use a rubber bullets or tear gas, and information on which agency took out rubber bullets, rubber bullet guns, and tear gas guns, how many pieces of this equipment were signed out and how many were returned.  

Anon said that since the complaint was filed against the Superintendent of Samranrat Police Station, the commander of the Metropolitan Police division 6 accepted the complaint and said that a committee will be formed to investigate the crackdown, since it would not be appropriate for Samranrat police to investigate a complaint filed against them.

Although previous attempts to press charges against police officers have been difficult, Anon said there is enough evidence, including photos and video clips, showing that the crowd control police action was excessive, and he believes they are likely to be successful with their complaint.

Despite claims by police spokesperson Pol Maj Achayon Kraithong that the use of rubber bullets was within the legal limits, and that the police dispersed protesters because they threw rocks and other objects at the police and destroyed a police truck, Anon said that the police did not announce that they would be using rubber bullets before they began firing. Bullets were also aimed at head level, leading to eye injuries for one protester. 

He said that there were instances where a protester or member of the press fell and were then assaulted by the police, and that even though protesters were really throwing things, the police do not have the right to assault them.

Anon said he wanted to set a new standard to control the police’s use of force against protesters, noting that officers have always gotten away with unlawful methods of dispersing protests and that he wants the police to be held accountable when they break the law.

The human rights lawyer said that crowd control officers need to change their attitude and understand that their duty is not to control or arrest protesters but to facilitate the exercise of freedom of expression. He also called on media organizations to speak out for their own benefit, as several reporters were injured during the crackdown.

Activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul was also among the group who went to Samranrat Police Station to file their complaint. She said that she did not expect the police to be violent to the point of blinding someone, and that she was shocked by it. She noted that the police might only be acting on orders, but called on them to use their discretion so that such an incident does not happen again.

Activists filing a petition with representatives of the House Committee on Political Development, Mass Communications and Public Participation.

The activists also went to parliament on Monday (21 November) to file a complaint with the House Committee on Political Development, Mass Communications and Public Participation, calling for an investigation into the crackdowns. They also called on the House Committee to summon all officers involved, such as the Superintendent of Samranrat Police Station, in whose jurisdiction the crackdowns took place, the Metropolitan Police chief, and the Prime Minister, to testify on what happened.

Baramee Chaiyarat, advisor for the activist group Assembly of the Poor and one of the 25 people arrested during the 18 November crackdowns, said that since the protest leaders had notified the authorities of the protest as required by law, the police did not have the authority to stop the march, and that the police are required to get a court order to disperse a protest, which they did not do. Their use of violence was also not proportional to what the protesters were doing, Baramee said.  

Move Forward Party MP and committee member Nattacha Boonchaiinsawat said that the committee will discuss the crackdowns on Thursday (24 November), and will summon related agencies for questioning. He also noted that members of the press who were injured during the crackdown will submit evidence to the committee before the meeting.

Meanwhile, Anon told The Reporters after the activists filed their petition that they now have a list of 170 officers involved in the crackdown, and that they are still trying to identify the officers who fired rubber bullets at close range and at above waist level.

He said that the authorities must be held accountable for their actions whether they are a commanding officer or an operative, and the police headquarters must also take responsibility since their actions were extreme and affected protesters, bystanders, and members of the press. He also noted that media outlets should press charges because officers who assaulted members of the press who have clearly identified themselves as such might have intentionally targetted field reporters covering the protests.

Anon said that the activists will press both civil and criminal charges against the responsible officers, and will also file complaints with other organizations, such as the National Human Rights Commission and the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

On Tuesday morning (22 November), the online news agency The Matter, whose reporter was beaten by crowd control police while livestreaming the protest, filed a court challenge against the police. It asked the Civil Court to summon police commanders to testify on the violence against reporters covering the 18 November protest and to rule whether the police failed to obey an injunction issued in August 2021 ordering the police to exercise caution and refrain from committing violence against the media in its crowd control operations.  The Civil Court has accepted the petition, but no decision has been reached. 

NewsPolice brutalitystate violenceAPECAPEC 2022
Categories: Prachatai English

Talk but no action? Cambodian workers in Thailand see a lot of room for improvement

Prachatai English - Tue, 2022-11-22 17:41
Submitted on Tue, 22 Nov 2022 - 05:41 PMSeoung Nimol

Thai-Cambodian discussions at the recent ASEAN summit put labour issues on the table. Despite the pleasant chat, migrant workers in Thailand have yet to see what, if any, measures the authorities will adopt to help address their problems.

A Cambodian-Thai meeting at the ASEAN summit event in Phnom Penh on 10 November 2022. (Source:Facebook/ Samdech Hun Sen, Cambodian Prime Minister)

In a bilateral meeting on the sideline of the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits on 10 November 2022, Hun Sen expressed gratitude to the Thai government for allowing Cambodian workers to enter Thailand and called for further cooperation in the matter.

According to a press release from the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hun Sen and Prime Minister, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha met to affirm their existing good relationship and continued cooperation in all fields including the entry of Cambodian migrant workers to Thailand.

While the meeting ended on a positive note, Cambodian workers here feel that their government and embassy should do more to protect and help them. 

Te (full name withheld), 28, a Cambodian worker in Thailand, believes that the meeting was a polite diplomatic exchange with no real substance.  He also feels that Thailand is not likely to change its current practices in managing foreign workers.

What Te really wants to see are more jobs for people in Cambodia.

"If the government creates more jobs and provides decent wages for the people, it will reduce migration … and also help the country's economy," he added.

Loeng Sophon, a Thailand-based project officer for the Cambodian labour rights group Central, notes the many challenges Cambodian workers face here: finding a place to stay; getting a job during the COVID-19 crisis; and filing documents to get visas and work permits.

He thinks it is good that the Cambodian and Thai governments have expressed their joint concern for Cambodian workers. He also notes that the Thai government has done things to make it easier for some Cambodian workers, such as allowing them to renew their visas in Thailand without having to return to Cambodia.

However, he wants the Cambodian government and relevant agencies, especially its embassy staff, to closely monitor the problems that occur among Cambodian workers.

People before politics

Te feels that relevant Cambodian organisations, like the Ministry of Labor and the Cambodian Embassy in Thailand, should be actively involved in assisting workers, listening to their problems and helping them to come up with solutions.

He notes that Vietnamese workers in Cambodia receive support from both their own and the Cambodian governments.  He thinks that Cambodian workers in Thailand do not get much help; when they run into problems, they do not know where to turn.

Te has been working in Thailand for more than 12 years.  Whenever he has a problem, he faces it on his own, without help from government officials.

According to Te, his government not only provides little help  but actually makes problems for workers known to support the now-disbanded opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) - a discriminatory practice he wants to see ended.

He wishes that relevant authorities would visit Cambodian labourers in Thailand to help them address their problems on the ground.

Another worker, Ruay Sin, expressed happiness that Hun Sen asked for continued close cooperation with Thailand to make things easier for Cambodian workers here.

She hopes it will end the exploitation of Cambodian workers and help them to live better lives.

"Cooperation to make things easier for Cambodian workers here is important - there are so many of them,” says Rin.

In response to a Prachatai English query, Heng Sour, a Labour Ministry spokesperson, said that the ministry would continue to collaborate with the Thai Ministry of Labour to address the needs of Cambodian workers in Thailand.

FeatureHun SenCambodiaThailandPrayut Chan-o-chalabour rightsmigrant labour
Categories: Prachatai English

US re-engagement with Mekong region poses opportunities and ambiguity, say CSOs

Prachatai English - Tue, 2022-11-22 14:11
Submitted on Tue, 22 Nov 2022 - 02:11 PMYiamyut Sutthichaya

The US plan to invest over 20 million USD to support Mekong countries in clean energy transition, environmental protection, and regional interconnection was made at the end of the Bangkok APEC meeting. In the eyes of civil societies along the riverbank, the final picture still leaves many questions unanswered.

Mekong river and its unique small islands. (Source: Thai People Network from Eight Mekong Provinces)

At the US Embassy residence on 20 November, Vice President Kamala Harris convened climate activists from Northern Thailand and business leaders related to clean energy innovation. 

The Vice President announced that the Biden Administration intends to request additional funding of up to 20 million USD in addition to the Japan-U.S.-Mekong Power Partnership (JUMPP), the cooperation framework announced in August 2019. The money is aimed at providing energy security, greater regional power flows, clean energy integration, decarbonisation, and resilience. 

In addition to the fund, the US aims to discuss the importance of environmental protection, natural resource governance, youth empowerment, and civic engagement. They will also discuss opportunities for economic development, entrepreneurship and innovation in the clean energy future.

(Middle) Kamala Harris gives a speech before the roundtable discussion on Sunday.

"Our climate action is not only necessary to protect people or our planet or the natural resources, but also a powerful driver of economic growth, something we've been talking about actually in the past couple of days in the context of APEC," said the Vice President on Sunday.

Voices from below in the top-down battle

The Mekong subregion is an area that for decades has seen a strategic battle for influence between economic giants in the name of development. More than a dozen dams have been built along 4,800 km of the Mekong, with 11 in upstream China.

Lacking a regional framework to co-manage dam operations, the flow of the river has been left to the riparian state accords. This anarchistic arrangement greatly affects the livelihood of people along the river, especially those who relied on the river for food and livelihoods. 

Scrutinizing US, China Mekong cooperation: the new regional battlefield

After attending the talk with the Vice President, Niwat Roykaew, founder of Rak Chiang Khong, a conservation group known for their advocacy of sustainable development along the Mekong river, told Prachatai that the discussion on Sunday was a good starting point for civil participation in Mekong river development and he wants this in all other international frameworks.

Niwat addressed the Vice President about the lack of civil society participation in development projects despite them being a numerical majority of stakeholders. He also emphasised that dam energy is not a clean source of energy, all of which were heeded and responded positively by Kamala.

However, he still sees no clear picture of what is going to happen next.

“Right now, in real concrete terms, I still don’t know what will come out of it. But I try to make people’s participation happen under any framework, because the heart of the matter is the development of the people and the Mekong river.

Niwat Roykaew

“America and China have many things where they agree and where they differ, but [if] we want to have them support anything to do with the Mekong river, we have to address it,” said Niwat.

Paul Sein Twa, Executive Director of the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network, told Prachatai that his organisation works on the development of indigenous Karen communities on the Thailand-Myanmar border and environmental issues along the Salween river. They are also now working on supporting Karen people who have fled the civil war in Myanmar.

He shares Niwat’s view that the final picture is still unclear.

“What I have been doing, and what Kru Tee (Niwat) is talking about with the Mekong, is looking at community rights as a more central issue than investment in production. We don’t emphasize material issues because it is not our priority. We see that in the protection of nature, and reducing the problem of climate change, community rights and indigenous rights are important things because we can’t overlook them,” said Paul.

Seeking international support

Although the path ahead is unclear, the US position is still seen by the two advocates as an opportunity to see a better side of what they have been facing.

In December, the “People’s Council”, a conference of CSOs working on problems along the geographically-connected Mekong, Loei, and Mun rivers, will be held in Nong Khai Province. The Rak Chiang Khong group is also seeking publicity and representation from local authorities and international actors.

On Paul’s side, he wants Thailand and the US to understand how the war in Myanmar has affected people and that humanitarian support and civilian protection are urgently needed.

“For us, the CSOs have been pushing for the US to cooperate with the Thai government to understand the problems that the Karen people are facing … We want the Thai government to open the border to provide temporary refuge for 2-3 months …But in the past, we have seen it was only a matter of a couple days before they were driven back.

“We also want direct support us. We don’t want the money to come through the Myanmar military government, because the Myanmar military is the cause of refugees and internally displaced people,” said Paul who thinks aid through the Tatmadaw will be redirected.

FeatureMekong RiverKamala HarrisPaul Sein TwaNiwat RoykaewJapan-U.S.-Mekong Power Partnership (JUMPP)Mekong-U.S. Partnership
Categories: Prachatai English

Media sues cops over APEC clashes that left reporters wounded

Prachatai English - Tue, 2022-11-22 12:01
Submitted on Tue, 22 Nov 2022 - 12:01 PMPrachatai

An online news agency is filing a fresh court challenge aimed at reining in the police’s documented aggression against members of the press following the 18 November crackdown on anti-government demonstrators, which saw a reporter being beaten on the ground and a bottle hurled at a photographer’s face from the direction of the police.

A protester spreads his arms during clashes between anti-government demonstrators and riot police in Bangkok on 18 November 2022. 

The news agency whose reporter was mobbed and beaten by riot police while covering a recent protest filed a fresh legal action against the national police force on Tuesday. 

The filing submitted by The Matter asks the Civil Court to summon police commanders to explain themselves over the outburst of violence against journalists and photographers on Friday. At least four members of the press were reportedly injured by police actions, including a stringer photojournalist whose face was struck with a glass bottle. 

“We want police to have standards and responsibility in their actions,” Pongpiphat Banchanont, an editor for The Matter, told Prachatai English before the court proceedings began. “So that the police, as an organization, will have credibility, respect for the media, and respect for the constitutional rights to peaceful assembly.”

The move is part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by The Matter against the Royal Thai Police back in 2021. It sought financial damages for reporters and photographers struck by police baton rounds during clashes between security officers and anti-government protesters. The court subsequently issued an injunction ordering the police to exercise caution and refrain from committing violence on the media in its crowd control operations. 

Pongpiphat said today’s court filing will ask the court to rule whether senior police commanders had failed to obey the injunction handed down last year. It is unclear when the ruling will be made. As of publication time, the case was accepted by the court, but no decision has been reached. 

Several hundreds of demonstrators on Friday attempted to march on the venue where the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, or APEC, was being held. The rally turned violent when police dispersed the protesters, who accused the government of whitewashing its human rights records at the summit. 

Dozens of police and protesters were wounded in the violence on Friday. But details that emerged so far suggested that all injuries suffered by members of the press were solely caused by the police, who were filmed stomping a reporter on the ground, smashing another with a riot shield, and beating a photographer with a baton. A bottle hurled from the police line also hit a photographer for Reuters in her face, based on videos of the incident.  

 

Photographer hit in the face by glass bottle at protest outside APEC summit in Bangkok, Thailand this morning #ม็อบ18พฤศจิกา65 #APEC2022THAILAND #APEC2022 pic.twitter.com/NvvXQ10GTS

— ViralPress (@ViralPressCoLtd) November 18, 2022

Online news agency The Matter said in a statement that one of its reporters was shoved to the ground by police officers wielding shields and batons, and then kicked multiple times after he fell down, despite wearing a media armband and shouting that he was a member of the press. 

“The Matter condemns such action and urges relevant authorities to convene a committee to investigate the incident, in order to hold the perpetrators responsible,” the company said on Friday evening, adding that it reserved the rights to take further actions to protect its staff and freedom of the press. 

Although Pongpiphat told Prachatai English that the trial will be lengthy and the chance of victory uncertain, he hoped the lawsuit will send a loud and clear message to the police: behave yourself.

“It could take up to 10 years,” Pongpiphat said. “But we want the police to know that they have to be held accountable in their exercise of power. They can’t just do as they please.”

Although the police spokesperson maintained that Friday’s crackdown was in accordance with the laws and approved measures, photos, videos and eyewitness accounts paint a picture of police officers venting their frustration on members of the press without visible attempts by their supervisors to restrain them. 

Protesters push at a police vehicle moments before anti-government demonstrators and riot police in Bangkok on 18 November 2022.

One of the people speaking out against police actions is a senior reporter who helped the Thai Journalist Association organize its safety training programs for field reporters. Sataporn Pongpipatwattana said the police violence on reporters at the scene on Friday didn’t appear to be a case of collateral damages, but showed an intent to intimidate the press through violence. 

“As a person who conducted safety programs for the press for many years, it is my opinion that in this case, reporters were doing their job by reporting the situation based on facts, and they were clearly identified as such,” Sataporn wrote online. “They weren’t injured by stray objects in the chaos. They were targeted and assaulted.” 

He went on, “These are considered intimidation of the press, and an attempt to block the media from reporting the news. If they resort to this [degree of violence], no matter how many safety courses we take, they won’t help us defend ourselves at all.” 

The Thai Journalists Association’s press freedom committee also published a damning preliminary finding, which was partially based on testimonies from injured reporters.

“[We] were informed that actions from some of the police officers lacked self-restraint, potentially amounted to intimidation of media professionals at the scene, and ran against the police’s own tactical guidelines on crowd control,” part of the statement said. 

The association, whose leadership includes a reporter for Prachatai English, also said its representatives will file a petition to the national police force demanding an investigation into the violence.

Mistakes were made? 

Protest organizers said at least 21 demonstrators were wounded in Friday’s clashes, including a man who was reportedly shot in his eye by a rubber-tipped bullet. Another 26 people were arrested, including a citizen journalist, organizers said. The police said in a statement that 14 officers were injured.

Police officials were quick to downplay allegations of using excessive force or targeting the press. Police spokesman Pol Maj Gen Archayon Kraithong said the force will investigate allegations of unsanctioned violence against the media, but said “a conclusion cannot be made in haste.”

He also said police were deploying anti-riot equipment in accordance with approved guidelines because protesters were trying to march outside an area authorized for the rally.

Police commissioner Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittipraphat said members of the media injured by police actions may seek compensation from the force, but did not elaborate on the procedures. He also appeared to suggest that the press simply had to accept the risks of such injuries. 

“If a demonstration had the potential of clashes and scuffles with police, the media had to be careful and look after themselves, because it’s difficult to control the situation,” Pol Gen Damrongsak said at a news conference. “Please have some sympathy for the police, because there were a lot of reporters, including Youtubers … so when an incident breaks out, there might be some mistakes.” 

Those “mistakes” included a moment when The Matter’s correspondent was filming a group of police officers rushing to a demonstrator who was on the ground. He was soon confronted by police officers, who struck him with a baton and shoved him to the ground, before stomping their boots on him.

ผู้สื่อข่าว The Matter ถูกเจ้าหน้าที่ตำรวจผลัก เตะ และใช้กระบองฟาด ขณะพยายามกันสื่อมวลชนออกนอกพื้นที่ระหว่างที่มีการสลายการชุมนุม แม้ว่าผู้สื่อข่าวจะใส่ปลอกแขนสื่อมวลชนชัดเจน #ม็อบ18พฤศจิกา65 pic.twitter.com/2cqmbQjknP

— arawnakkkkk (@arawnakkkkkk) November 18, 2022

“I’m the real deal!” one policeman shouted in the video, using an expletive. The reporter could be heard identifying himself as the media and pleading at them to stop.

Other videos showed police officers armed with shields and batons charging at a group of reporters and photographers who were standing on the sidewalk, away from the main line of contact between riot police and the protesters. 

A photographer for Top News was struck in his face by a baton, his eyeglasses damaged by the blow. Another policeman shoved his shield at a reporter for Prachatai English, wounding his hand. 

10.10 After protesters pulled away a police truck blocking the route to the Democracy Monument, crowd control police rushed at them. The police can be seen in the video clip pushing at reporters gathering at the scene. #APEC2022 WhatsHappeningInThailand #ม็อบ18พฤศจิกา65 pic.twitter.com/lqwkF5sxM1

— Prachatai English (@prachatai_en) November 18, 2022

But perhaps the most serious injury experienced by the press on Friday belonged to Chalinee Thirasupa, the Reuters photographer, who reported on Twitter that doctors diagnosed her with hemorrhage in the eye after a glass bottle flew at her face. 

Based on a photo Chalinee posted on her social media, the impact appeared to miss her pupil by a mere millimeter. 

“Went to see an eye doctor. I’m safe. Off work for a week. Thank you everyone,” Chalinee wrote on her Twitter in Thai, before repeating the same message in English. 

The photojournalist was not available for an interview by publication time, but her tweets said she had evidence in her camera implicating the police as the perpetrators who threw the projectile at her. 

“The glass bottle came from the back of the police line, 100 percent. I had a photo of the face of the person who did it. Don’t worry. No more doubt,” she wrote.

More legal repercussions against the police may follow, as Chalinee hinted at a lawsuit in one of her replies to a Twitter account who posted a video of the bottle flying into her face. “Please let me know how to reach the admin so I can ask for the video to be used as part of the prosecution in the court,” she wrote

The statement released by the Thai Journalist Association also offered pro bono legal assistance to members of the media injured by police actions on Friday who wish to sue the authorities for damages.

 

Newspress freedomPolice brutalitystate violenceAPECAPEC 2022
Categories: Prachatai English

Reporters injured during crackdown on protest march

Prachatai English - Mon, 2022-11-21 16:05
Submitted on Mon, 21 Nov 2022 - 04:05 PMPrachatai

On Friday (18 November), several reporters were injured and a citizen journalist was assaulted and arrested during a violent dispersal of a protest march that was heading towards the APEC meeting at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre (QSNCC).

Crowd control officers charging at protesters gathering on Dinso Road during Friday's protest march.

At 10.10, after protesters moved a police truck blocking Dinso Road, crowd control police forcibly dispersed the crowd, hitting both protesters and reporters with shields and batons. A video clip taken at the time shows police in full riot gear running directly at a group of reporters and photographers gathered on the footpath, pushing them with shields and hitting them with batons. Most of the reporters in the clip were wearing the blue press armbands issued by the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) to identify members of the press covering protests.

Prachatai English reporter Yiamyut Sutthichaya sustained a minor injury to his finger after being hit by a shield while filming the clash. Another photographer on the footpath from the right-wing news channel Top News was also hit by shields and batons while photographing operation. He sustained minor bruises, and his glasses were broken.

 

10.10 After protesters pulled away a police truck blocking the route to the Democracy Monument, crowd control police rushed at them. The police can be seen in the video clip pushing at reporters gathering at the scene. #APEC2022 WhatsHappeningInThailand #ม็อบ18พฤศจิกา65 pic.twitter.com/lqwkF5sxM1

— Prachatai English (@prachatai_en) November 18, 2022

A video clip filmed by Prachatai English reporter Yiamyut Sutthichaya as crowd control police charged into the group of reporters gathering on the footpath, hitting them with shields and batons. 

At around 12.45, during a second violent dispersal of protesters on Dinso Road, Sutthipath Kanittakul, a reporter from the online news outlet The Matter, was assaulted by crowd control police while livestreaming the protest. In a video clip taken from the livestream, a crowd control officer can be seen pushing Sutthipath away from a protester lying on the ground. He was then hit with a shield until he fell, at which point the officers kicked him and hit him with their batons while threatening him. The reporter was heard telling the officers that he was a member of the press wearing the TJA’s press armband.

A statement issued by the Matter after the attack condemned the police action and called on the authorities to investigate and hold those responsible to account. Noting that several reporters were injured during the crackdown, the outlet raised questions about whether the police had used excessive force in violation of international protocols.  Stressing that freedom of assembly is a constitutional right, it also said that it would steps to protect the welfare of its employees and press freedom.

A screenshot from The Matter's livestream shows a crowd control officer approaching The Matter reporter Sutthipath Kanittakul while he was livestreaming the protest before hitting him with a shield.

The statement added that the attacks broke an agreement reached by the representatives of media organisations and the metropolitan police in 2021 and were also a violation of a Civil Court order issued in August 2021, which stated that police must exercise caution when dispersing protests and keep in mind the safety of on-duty reporters.

The Civil Court ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Plus Seven reporter Thanapong Kengpaiboon and a photographer from The Matter in August 2021 after they were injured with rubber bullets while covering a protest on 18 July 2021. It was filed against the Royal Thai Police, then-police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, then-Metropolitan Police Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Phukphong Phongpetra, and then-Protection and Crowds Control Division Commander Pol Maj Gen Manop Sukonthanapat for the unlawful dispersal of the protest on 18 July 2021.  The police fired rubber bullets, intentionally using excessive force to disperse the protest. 

 

*** แก้ไข @iLawFX รายงานว่า ช่างภาพหญิงรอยเตอร์ที่ได้รับบาดเจ็บที่ดวงตาไม่ได้ถูกยิงด้วยกระสุนยางจาก คฝ.แต่อย่างใด แต่เป็นเพราะถูก #สะเก็ดแก้ว จากฝั่งแนวหลัง คฝ. ขณะนี้ได้รับการปฐมพยาบาลเบื้องต้นแล้ว
Cr.ภาพจาก https://t.co/IEjy19tvwn pic.twitter.com/b5WgUZAAv6

— TLHR / ศูนย์ทนายความเพื่อสิทธิมนุษยชน (@TLHR2014) November 18, 2022

Reuters photographer Chalinee Thirasupa receiving first aid after a glass bottle was thrown at her from behind the police line. It was initially reported that she was cut with broken glass, but a video clip circulated on Twitter shows that an object was thrown at her.

At around 12.45 on Friday (18 November), Reuters photographer Chalinee Thirasupa was also injured after someone from behind the police line threw a glass bottle at her head. In a video clip circulated on Twitter, Chalinee can be seen standing with several other photographers behind a police truck blocking Dinso Road.  She was photographing the police from behind the truck when the bottle was thrown at her head. A photograph of Chalinee receiving first aid makes it clear that she was wearing a press ID and the TJA’s press armband.

Chalinee sustained a minor eye injury,  later posting on her Facebook page that she had seen an ophthalmologist and did not require surgery or stitches but would need to take a week off work.

Waranyu Khonsathittum, a citizen journalist for The Isaan Record, was arrested after being assaulted by crowd control police.

Meanwhile, Waranyu Khongsathittum, a citizen journalist livestreaming for The Isaan Record, was assaulted by several crowd control police, who then arrested him, even though he identified himself as a reporter. In a video clip, crowd control officers can be seen kicking Waranyu.  Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) later reported that he sustained an injury to his head and has bruising on his body, and that he was made to wait at least 2 hours with only a bandage around his head before he was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Waranyu was taken to Thung Song Hong Police Station along with other protesters arrested during the crackdown. The Isaan Record issued a statement calling for his immediate release and demanding that police stop using violence against reporters and respect freedom of the press. 

Accoring to the Isaan Record, Waranyu is part of its citizen journalist programme aimed at training participants to report in a way that reduces conflict and promotes democracy in Thailand.  He was assigned by his editor to cover the protest.

Waranyu was charged with participating in a gathering of 10 or more people and causing a breach of public peace by participating in an act posing the threat of violence, for not dispersing when ordered to do so by an official, and for not complying with an officer’s order given under the Public Assembly Act. He was granted bail on a 20,000-baht security predicated upon the condition that he refrain from joining any political demonstration, and encouraging others to join gatherings likely to cause public disorder.  He was released at around midnight on Friday (18 November) along with 22 arrested protesters.

Teeranai Charuvastra, the TJA’s vice president for press freedom and press reform, expressed concern about police behaviour.  There were no reports of officers being threatened or assaulted by field reporters.  The injured journalists were not obstructing police operations and all were wearing press IDs. He concluded that the injuries sustained were not accidental but rather an effort by police to prevent members of the press from covering the protest.

Teeranai called on relevant authorities to investigate the attack, inform the public of the facts, and punish those responsible.  He also demanded compensation for the injured reporters.

Teeranai reiterated that members of the press have the right to report information to the public, adding that any attempt to intimidate or prevent them from doing so was a violation of the people’s right to information. He said that TJA’s press freedom subcommittee will be meeting on Sunday (20 November) to discuss how they can pressure the authorities to launch any investigation and what additional measures should be taken to reduce the risk for field journalists.

The TJA reported on Sunday (20 November) that its press freedom subcommittee will be filing a petition with the police chief to call for an investigation into the violence against reporters, and that any field reporter who were injured or whose equipment was damaged while covering the 18 November protest and wish to press charges against any relevant authority but did not have the money or a lawyer may contact the TJA for support by sending an account of what happened, as well as evidence such as photos, video clips, or a medical certificate to tjareporter@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, police chief Pol Col Damrongsak Kittiprapas told reporters visiting the media centreing at the QSNCC that, by stand in front of protesters, journalists often made police’ operation more difficult. He also said that reporters covering protests should be careful and take care of themselves because it was difficult to control the situation; “mistakes can happen” when there are many reporters and also some YouTubers who do not stay in line. He added that the police will check the “mistakes” that happened. 

Newspress freedomPolice brutalitystate violenceAPECAPEC 2022
Categories: Prachatai English

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