Prachatai English

Only one of three lèse majesté detainees allowed bail

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-04-10 17:16
Submitted on Sat, 10 Apr 2021 - 05:16 PMPrachatai

Patiwat ‘Mor Lam Bank’ Saraiyaem was allowed bail while 2 others were not, following their decision to withdraw their legal representation in protest against what they call an unfair judicial process where their right to legal consultation and the presumption of innocence were undermined.

The decision was made on 9 April after a request for temporary release had been submitted on 5 April for Patiwat, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Jatupat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattararaksa, who were detained on charges related to their activism at the 19-20 September protest at Thammasat University and Sanam Luang, a landmark protest where demands for monarchy reform were made in speeches and symbolic actions.

The request stated that Somyot is old and in frail health and that the prolonged detention would affect his family. Also, detention pending trial violates the principle of presumption of innocence.  Somyot added that he could not properly spend time to find evidence to ensure a fair trial.

Jatupat testified in addition to his request that he did not have the intention to flee. Detention would affect his educational prospects as he is now a university student. And detention pending trial violates the principle of presumption of innocence.

Patiwat testified that if granted bail , he would not participate in any political gathering or give speeches infringing on the monarchy. He was willing to abide by every condition for release, including wearing an electronic tag, restricting his movements and reporting regularly to the court.

The other 2 defendants also accepted condition of not infringing on the monarchy and not participating in any activity that brought disgrace on the monarchy. They would also abide by all other conditions for release.

The court ruled that Patiwat was granted bail as it was convinced that he would not repeat the offense. The court ordered 200,000 baht bail with the condition that he not repeat similar offenses against the monarchy. Travel abroad is prohibited unless approved by the court. He is to report regularly to the court.

However, Somyot and Jatupat were not allowed bail due to their decision on 8 April to withdraw their legal representation and their refusal to participate in the trial, which made their testimonies untrustworthy. Jatupat and Somyot will therefore remain in prison after already being detained for over a month.

Beside these three, the court denied bail requests for 5 other defendants in detention pending trial: Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sitthijirawatthanakul, Panupong Jadnok and Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan. As of 9 April, Anon and Parit had been detained for 60 days and Panusaya and Panupong for 33 days.

Parit has been on a hunger strike, sustaining himself with only sweetened drinks and milk for more than 25 days while Panusaya and Phromson Wirathammachari, another person detained on remand for royal defamation, have been on a similar fast for a week.

Protest against ‘unfair trial’

The court’s refusal to grant bail to Somyot and Jatupat stems from the incident inside the trial room on 8 April when 22 defendants withdrew their legal representation in protest at court measures and treatment by prison officials which deny them the right to a fair and open trial.

The 23 defendants in the case are Chinnawat  Chankrachang, Nawat Liangwattana, Nattapat Akhad, Thanachai Aurlucha, Thanop Amphawat, Thanee Sasom, Phattaraphong Noiphang, Sitthithat Chindarat, Suwanna Tallek, Anurak Jeantawanich, Nutchanon Pairoj, Atthapol Buaphat, Adisak Sombatkham, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Patiwat Saraiyaem, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Panupong Jadnok, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Chukiat Saengwong, and Chaiamorn Kaewwwiboonpan.

All of the defendants with the exception of Patiwat, requested to withdraw their legal representation and their lawyers requested to be released from their duties. The court has yet to rule on this request.

According to a statement from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the defendants have not been allowed to speak to their lawyers individually and confidentially, as they were always under the control of prison officials. The names of the lawyers and defendants who are part of each hearing are strictly checked.

Lawyers who would like to speak individually with the defendants have also been assaulted or had their telephones seized. Several defendants who are being detained pending trial and others who have been granted bail have not been allowed to discuss the case with each other.

There were also various measures to keep family members to meet the defendants and observers from observing the proceedings. The measure is strict and strange to the point Anon, who is also a human rights lawyer wrote a declaration to the court that the judicial process they are undertaking does not take human dignity into account.

“This case has involved the destruction of human dignity, the use of the law to silence people, and many other forms of injustice. As a person who has studied the law and who practices as a lawyer, and as one of the citizens who aim to reform the monarchy, the defendant cannot continue to participate in this process. The defendant whose name is at the end of this petition therefore requests to withdraw legal representation and refuses this process,” Anon wrote.

After the statement was made, the Criminal Court published a press release, saying that the measure in the courtroom was due to the chaos during the trial on 15 March 2021 when some defendants and observers disregarded the rules by reading a statement, throwing objects or taking a photo within the room, which is prohibited. Therefore, the measure at the next trial on 29 March had to be made strictly.

In addition, the spread of Covid-19 during 7-8 April resulted in the court limiting the number of the attendance in order to apply to the social distancing measure. This results in the court allowing only those who related to the case to attend, numbering almost 50 consisting of defendants, the lawyer team, prosecutors and embassy representatives. However, the court has provided a room for relatives and observers to see the trial process via teleconference.

Despite not going into details about the prison officials, the statement insists that the court has allowed relatives, people, embassy representatives and media to attend the trial. It also grants the defendants full rights to talk with the lawyers and relatives and they can inform the judges if any inconveniences were found.

NewsArticle 112Section 112lèse majesté lawSomyot PruksakasemsukPatiwat SaraiyaemJatupat Boonpattararaksapro-democracy protest 2021monarcy reformPresumption of innocenceSource: prachatai.com/journal/2021/04/92501
Categories: Prachatai English

19 September protest defendants announce withdrawal of legal representation

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-04-10 14:56
Submitted on Sat, 10 Apr 2021 - 02:56 PMPrachatai

22 people facing charges relating to the protests on 19 – 20 September 2020, including 7 protest leaders facing lèse majesté charges, have withdrawn their legal representation in protest at court measures and treatment by prison officials which deny them the right to a fair and open trial.  

A part of Anon Nampa's written declaration saying "Denial of the process of injustice." 

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that, following the examination of evidence on Thursday (8 April) at the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road, 22 out of 23 defendants in the case declared that they intend to withdraw legal representation on the ground that the regulations and practices they experienced during the trial procedures do not facilitate a fair trial.

The 23 defendants in the case are Chinnawat  Chankrachang, Nawat Liangwattana, Nattapat Akhad, Thanachai Aurlucha, Thanop Amphawat, Thanee Sasom, Phattaraphong Noiphang, Sitthithat Chindarat, Suwanna Tallek, Anurak Jeantawanich, Nutchanon Pairoj, Atthapol Buaphat, Adisak Sombatkham, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Patiwat Saraiyaem, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Panupong Jadnok, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Chukiat Saengwong, and Chaiamorn Kaewwwiboonpan.

All of the defendants with the exception of Patiwat, requested to withdraw their legal representation and their lawyers requested to be released from their duties. The court has yet to rule on this request.

TLHR said that the defendants have not been allowed to speak to their lawyers individually and confidentially, as they were always under the control of prison officials. The names of the lawyers and defendants who are part of each hearing are strictly checked. Lawyers who would like to speak individually with the defendants have also been assaulted or had their telephones seized. Several defendants who are being detained pending trial and others who have been granted bail have not been allowed to discuss the case with each other.

Despite a request by Anon and Jatupat that the court order prison officials to respect their rights, the court said that it would do what it sees as appropriate and did not order prison officials to act with respect to the rights of the defendants or the lawyers.

There are also measures keeping family members and other individuals from observing the proceedings. TLHR said that those who came to observe the 8 April hearing had to register their names and ID numbers with court officials. The defendants’ family members were initially forbidden from even entering the court building and were told by court police that they do not have permission to enter the courtroom and it would be a waste of their time to try.

They were later told to wait in the arraignment room, so some of the relatives sat down on the stairs in front of the court building to express their disagreement. They had to wait for a long time before they were allowed up to the 7th floor, where the hearing took place. Panupong’s mother, who arrived after the others had already gone up, had to wait in front of the court while security guards radioed for permission for her to join them. She was also not allowed to give her son the glasses she had brought him and had to send them through prison officials.

The women’s bathroom on the 7th floor was also closed to everyone but court officials, and the area around the elevator was fenced off from the rest of the floor while court officials and guards patrolled the area inside and outside the courtroom. The relatives were also not allowed to sit in a nearby room, where there were chairs and air conditioning.

During the hearing on 7 April, the shops under the court building were closed, so food could not be bought for the detainees. Other defendants were not allowed to go downstairs to eat but officials brought food and drink to the court room due to Covid-19 restrictions. On 8 April, the defendants were taken downstairs to eat, but their families were not allowed to buy food for them.

These measures have been implemented despite the court not having ordered the case to be heard in secret, and the defendants and lawyers said they do not facilitate a fair and open trial.

Anon also wrote a declaration to the court saying that he would like to withdraw all legal representation on the ground that he has been denied bail and treated in ways which are degrading, that he cannot participate in a judicial process which is “carried out with fear and without taking human dignity into account.” He also wrote that the law has been used to silence the demands of the younger generation, that violence has been used to suppress protests, and that their detention will lead to fear in society and no one will dare to speak the truth.

“In this trial, our right to fully fight the case has been violated,” he wrote. “The courtroom has been made into a prison.” He then went onto say that the process is unconstitutional, and that the defendants and lawyers agreed that if they continue to participate in the procedure, they would be promoting a process of injustice.

“This case has involved the destruction of human dignity, the use of the law to silence people, and many other forms of injustice. As a person who has studied the law and who practices as a lawyer, and as one of the citizens who aim to reform the monarchy, the defendant cannot continue to participate in this process. The defendant whose name is at the end of this petition therefore requests to withdraw legal representation and refuses this process,” Anon wrote.

NewsThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Judicial processjudicial harassmentcriminal courtRight to a fair trial19 - 20 September protestSection 112Section 116lese majesteSeditionstudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

Women of Myanmar Call Immediate Global Action to End Military Rule

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-04-09 13:33
Submitted on Fri, 9 Apr 2021 - 01:33 PM Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)

The Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development (APWLD) and the Women's League of Burma (WLB) held a press conference with Kachin, Karen and Shan women on Thursday (8 April) to call on the international community for a monitoring and intervention mission to Burma/Myanmar, a comprehensive global arms embargo and ICC to recognise mass atrocities against peaceful protesters.

At a virtual press conference held today, women of Burma/Myanmar shared how the human rights situation is deteriorating in the country with continuous military offensives in ethnic areas, with recent airstrikes in Karen State and fighting in Kachin and Shan states. Since illegitimately claiming control of the country’s affairs on 1st February, the armed and security forces of the military coup council have waged violence against peacefully protesting civilians across Burma.

The General Secretary of Women’s League of Burma (WLB) said, “In a country that has experienced over 70 years of civil war, the abuse of power by the military is nothing new, especially for ethnic people who have been oppressed by the state for years. In the past two months, Burma has turned into a pool of blood as the world is watching and the military regime has continued committing all arbitrary acts of violence and atrocities with impunity. At least 43 women and girls have been killed.”

“While the military has brutally shot dead innocent civilians in urban areas, they are also launching air attacks and bombing the villages in Karen State. The airstrikes have displaced thousands of Karen civilians, and at least 14 people were killed and 40 more were injured, including women and children,” said a representative of Karen Women’s Organisation (KWO).

A representative of Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) shared, “The military coup will have the deepest impact on those who are already marginalised due to the decades of civil war and ongoing human rights violations committed by Burmese military. Humanitarian aid must be closely monitored to ensure that it benefits the conflict-affected ethnic communities and not the military. At the same time they need to make sure that all women and girls get access to basic reproductive health services.”

Since the early 50s, Shan State’s countryside has been a killing field and civilians have been caught in the crossfire. A representative of Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN) said, “Now Burma’s killing fields have extended to urban areas. Every day, the security forces of the military coup council have shot, killed and arrested the innocent civilians including women and children across the country. Now they are also destroying and looting people’s properties.”

“State has the obligation to protect its own people. Inside Burma, this responsibility is clearly failing. It is time for the international community to immediately exercise its universal, collective responsibility to protect the peoples of Burma from the ongoing state-sponsored ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Only then it will be proved how committed the UN and its member states are to the fundamental principles and purposes of the UN Charter. We need international solidarity – and your action counts,” said Misun Woo, Regional Coordinator of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).

The women came together for a call for collective action from the international community:

To immediately dispatch a well-equipped monitoring and intervention mission to Myanmar/Burma to end the state sponsored human rights violations being perpetrated against civilians exercising their rights to peaceful assembly.

To institute a comprehensive global arms embargo on Myanmar/Burma, to end the direct and indirect supply sale or transfer of all weapons and other military equipment that may be used for training, intelligence and military assistance.

To refer Military coup council members and personnel to the ICC for their mass atrocities against peaceful protesters, ethnic Kachin, Karen, Shan, Rohingya, Rakhine and other civilians.

Pick to PostAsia Pacific Forum on Womenlawand Development (APWLD)Women's League of Burma (WLB)Myanmarstate violence
Categories: Prachatai English

9 protesters charged with breaching the Emergency Decree and lèse majesté

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-04-09 12:02
Submitted on Fri, 9 Apr 2021 - 12:02 PMPrachatai

As Covid-19 infections spread in pubs and bars, 9 people who gave speeches at the 24 March protest at Ratchaprasong intersection have been charged with violating the Emergency Decree.

9 Protesters reporting themselve at Lumpini Police Station on 8 April.

Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon, one of the leading pro-democracy protest figures who gave a speech addressing monarchy reform on that day was also charged with violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the royal defamation law.

Pro-democracy protesters return to Ratchaprasong

10 people were summoned to Lumpini Police Station on 8 April to hear the charges: Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon, Chatchai Kaedam, Yingcheep Atchanont, Chinnawat Chankrachang, Thanaporn Wichan, Benja Apan, Chumaporn Taengkliang, Khanaphot (surname withheld by request), Atthapol Buapat and Natthida Meewangpla.

The investigator stated that the 10 were engaged in an activity that caused a crowd to gather, posing a threat of Covid-19 infection, which constitutes a violation of the Emergency Decree. All suspects denied the charges and will submit documentary evidence on 23 April. They were released without bail.

Atthapol did not report to the police station with the others as he had to attend court for his trial regarding his involvement in the 19-20 September 2020 protest at Thammasat University and Sanam Luang.

Patsaravalee said she understood that the authorities would use every measure to undermine protests, which may not succeed because the people have heard the reason why they [the protestors who gave speeches] came out. The speakers insisted that what they said was correct.

Patsaravalee said that the ongoing enforcement of the Emergency Decree and Communicable Diseases Law is not meant to solve the Covid-19 problem but to suppress people who think differently. The new surge of infections is also not from the common people.

The new wave of infections appears to stem largely from pubs and bars in the Thong Lo area of Bangkok. Saksayam Chidchob, Bhumjai Thai Party Secretary-General and the Minister of Transport, Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, Public Relations Department Director General and 2 high-ranking soldiers reportedly tested positive.

Current infections are spreading among celebrities and the political and military elite. Some are suspected of enjoying the nightlife at bars in Thong Lo without announcing to the public after they tested positive, or meeting those who have been there. Saksayam denied that he went to a bar in Thong Lor and provided a timeline for his whereabouts from 24-31 March.

Since the surge of pro-democracy protests in July 2020, no cases of Covid-19 infection from the protest sites has been reported.

NewsPatsaravalee Tanakitvibulponpro-democracy protest 2021Ratchaprasong intersectionCOVID-19Emergency Decreelèse majesté lawSection 112Article 112Source: prachatai.com/journal/2021/04/92478
Categories: Prachatai English

School in Phuket fails student for ‘no loyalty to the nation and monarchy’

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-04-09 11:35
Submitted on Fri, 9 Apr 2021 - 11:35 AMPrachatai

A student in Phuket has not been allowed to pass to Grade 10 because of his rallies in 2020 about students’ rights and liberties and the abolition of uniforms. The school tried to stop his and his friends’ activism before prohibiting him from continuing his education at the school on the grounds of not being loyal to the nation and monarchy.

A note from the student affairs office regarding the admission rejection. The circled part refers to the case who was rejected for not being loyal to the nation and monarchy.

According to the Bad Student activist group, at least 15 9th grade students were named by the student affairs office, which requested the principal to reject their automatic admission to Grade 10, giving as reasons tobacco addiction, engaging in brawls and misbehaving. The case of Wave (pseudonym) stands out as the reason given was “not loyal to the nation, institution of the monarchy”.

The case was heavily criticized on social media as seen in the hashtag #รรปสดชื่อดังติดสถานีตำรวจ (famous crazy school close to the police station).

Wave told Prachatai that he was monitored by the school when he started to join rallies the abolition of uniforms in 2020 along with other students countrywide. He invited his friends to join the cause via social media posts; a screenshot was taken of one and sent to the school’s student affairs office.

Despite being monitored and asked not to stage political activities, he kept on rallying about students’ rights and liberties. He and friends ignored a caution about breaching school regulations by distributing white ribbons to his schoolmates, resulting in them being summoned to the student affairs office for warnings.

Wave said the lecture that day was based on rhetoric about being for the nation, religion and monarchy, plus the principle that students must obey rules. The day passed by without any points deduction but he was the only one who was prevented from passing to the 10th grade, the transition from middle to high school in Thailand.

“I’m not really okay about being dealt with like this because it is a reason that no one should suffer from. It is our right to express ourselves,” said Wave. He added that he has received a lot of support from friends. His family has acknowledged it but still taken no stance. Meanwhile, he has not been contacted by the teachers.

The student activist aims to re-enrol at the same school via the school entrance exam with students from other schools. What he fears most is that the school will still not accept him due to his record. If that is the case, he will seek a lawsuit against the school for impeding his right to an education.

“If anyone is dealt with like me but makes no response, the school may become arrogant and there may be more students facing the same thing.”

He added that the school should accept a diversity of skills among students. Separating special classrooms from regular classes and fostering prejudice between different classroom curricula should end.

“I feel that students should have more rights and liberties than this, including freedom of thought. Schools must teach children to be able to think by themselves, not force children to think like them. Schools should create opportunities for students to express their ideas more freely,” Wave said about his dream for the school.

Students' attempts to address student rights and issues within schools countrywide surged significantly after the rise of the pro-democracy movement in around July 2020. Students from many schools have joined together to communicate with the public and stage public gatherings.

NewsBad StudentmonarchyPhuketeducationSource: prachatai.com/journal/2021/04/92482
Categories: Prachatai English

Scholars at Risk calls for government to release detained students and cease prosecutions

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-04-08 14:13
Submitted on Thu, 8 Apr 2021 - 02:13 PMScholars At Risk

On 2 April 2021, Scholars at Risk (SAR) sent a letter to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha expressing concern over the detention and prosecution of three students as part of the current trend of criminalization of peaceful political expression. The students are currently being held in pretrial detention on charges of violation of Article 112 (lèse majesté) and other violations related to their participation in protests in 2020.

The three detained student activists. From left: Panupong Jadnok, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, and Parit Chiwarak

The three students are “Penguin” Parit Chiwarak, a student at Thammasat University;  “Rung” Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, a student at Thammasat University; and “Mike” Panupong Jadnok, a student at Ramkhamhaeng University. SAR called for their immediate release and for all charges against them to be dropped.

SAR expressed particular concern over the repeated denials of bail for all three students and the health and safety of the two students who are currently on hunger strike, namely Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul.  SAR noted that the detention and prosecution of the students for nonviolent expression is in contravention of the right to freedom of expression is conduct that is protected under both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a state party, and requested clarification from the government as to why these actions had been taken.

The letter was also cc’ed to other key figures in the government and judiciary, namely Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Somsak Thepsutin, Minister of Justice; Sittichote Intrawiset, President of the Criminal Court; Metinee Chalodhorn, President of the Supreme Court; Police Colonel Suchart Wongananchai, Director General of the Department of Corrections; General Apirat Kongsompong, Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army; General Chaktip Chaijinda, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police; Prakairat Tanteerawong, Chairman of the National Human Rights Council.

SAR is a U.S.-based international network of academic institutions organized to support and defend the principles of academic freedom and to defend the human rights of scholars around the world. Their network includes over 530 higher education institutions in 42 countries. SAR has followed the academic freedom and broader human rights situation in Thailand since the 22 May 2014 coup.

The complete letter reads: 

Your Excellency:

I write on behalf of the Scholars at Risk Network to express grave concern over the detention of three students, Mr. “Penguin” Parit Chiwarak, Ms. “Rung” Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, and Mr. “Mike” Panupong Jadnok, and the lèse-majesté and sedition charges they face in apparent retaliation for their nonviolent participation in pro-democracy protests. SAR respectfully urges you to immediately secure the students’ release and to drop any charges against them.

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of more than 500 universities and colleges in 43 countries dedicated to protecting the human rights of scholars around the world, and to raising awareness, understanding of, and respect for the principles of academic freedom and its constituent freedoms of expression, opinion, thought, association, and travel. In cases like this, involving alleged infringement of these freedoms, Scholars at Risk investigates hoping to clarify and resolve matters favorably.

SAR understands that, starting on July 18, 2020, students and other young people across Thailand organized protests demanding democratic reforms, including the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his cabinet, the drafting of a new constitution based on the will of the people, and an end to the repression of dissidents. Police arrested Mr. Parit, a Thammasat University student, and Mr. Panupong, a Ramkhamhaeng University student, in August 2020. In October of the same year, police arrested Ms. Panusaya, also of Thammasat University. While all were initially charged with sedition for their participation in the protests, in late 2020, authorities added charges of lèse majesté (Criminal Code Section 112).

On February 9, 2021, a criminal court formally indicted Mr. Parit and ordered him held in pretrial detention on the lèse majesté charges against him. Ms. Panusaya and Mr. Panupong were likewise formally indicted on lèse majesté charges and ordered detained on March 8. Thailand’s lèse majesté law provides for up to 15 years’ imprisonment for anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir apparent or the Regent.” Mr. Parit faces at least 20 counts of lèse majesté, for, inter alia, 12 different speeches and 4 social media posts between August 2020 and February 2021. Ms. Panusaya faces at least 9 counts of lèse majesté, for, inter alia, 4 speeches and 2 social media posts between August 2020 and February 2021. Mr. Panupong faces at least 8 counts of lèse majesté, for, inter alia, 4 speeches and 2 social media posts between August 2020 and February 2021.

In all three cases, the court has denied bail on the grounds that the gravity of the punishment makes flight likely. As of this writing, Mr. Panupong is being held in the Bangkok Remand Prison; Ms. Panusaya is being held in the Central Women’s Prison. Mr. Parit’s health has deteriorated considerably since March 15, when he began a hunger strike to protest the denial of bail. SAR understands that Mr. Parit is currently being held in Pathumthani Detention Center, where he is serving 15 days for contempt of court, apparently in connection to his announcement of his hunger strike. After his contempt sentence, Mr. Parit will be transferred back to Bangkok Remand Prison. At a March 29 hearing, the court again denied bail for Mr. Parit, Mr. Panupong, and Ms. Panusaya. SAR understands that Ms. Panusaya has since started a hunger strike.

We welcome any additional information that may explain these events or clarify our understanding. Absent this, the facts as described suggest that Mr. Parit, Mr. Panupong, and Ms. Panusaya are being detained and prosecuted as a result of the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression–conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party. Detentions and prosecutions in connection with nonviolent political expression by student activists raise serious concerns about protection for free expression, academic freedom and the higher education space in Thailand.

SAR therefore respectfully urges you to direct the appropriate authorities to immediately release the students; drop any charges against them that arise out of nonviolent expressive activity; and ensure that they are afforded due process, humane treatment, and access to medical care, family, and legal counsel, in accordance with international human rights obligations.

I thank you for your consideration and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
Robert Quinn
Executive Director

Pick to PostPanupong JadnokPanusaya SithijirawattanakulParit Chiwarakstudent activistScholars at Risk (SAR)arbitrary detentionfreedom of expressionfreedom of assemblyjudicial harassment
Categories: Prachatai English

Army underlines restrictions on soldiers’ political expression

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-04-08 13:43
Submitted on Thu, 8 Apr 2021 - 01:43 PMPrachatai

Despite its Information Operations (IOs) being caught and deleted by Facebook and Twitter , the Royal Thai Army (RTA) insists that soldiers are not allowed to express political views.

Soldiers with RTA riot control shields guarding the BTS platform (File Photo)

On 5 April, there were widespread reports of an interview given by Army Spokesperson Lt Gen Santipong Thampiya at RTA Headquarters about the protest by Sammakhi Prachachon Pheu Prathet Thai (People's Unity for Thailand) on 4 April led by Jatuporn Prompan, leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship a.k.a. the red shirts, and Adul Khieoboriboon, Chair of the Committee of Relatives of the Black May 1992 Victims.

Santipong cited RTA Regulation Number 388/2563 and the 1956 Ministry of Defence Regulation on Ministry Officials and Politics, which regulate political participation by military personnel. Those who violate the rules will be investigated by an army-appointed committee followed by criminal or disciplinary punishments.

The RTA has put up posters inside RTA Headquarters, listing do’s and don’ts.

Do’s

  1. Membership of any political party must be reported to commanding officers all the way to the RTA Commander in Chief.
  2. Attendance at a political meeting in a personal capacity is allowed but uniforms must not be worn and it must take place outside officials hours.
  3. Duties must be performed with neutrality without expecting benefit from any specific political party and must be performed in line with government policies.
  4. Votes or expressions of personal opinions about political candidates are allowed.
  5. The expression of personal political opinions is allowed, but not in uniform or in official hours; public meetings can be attended peacefully.

Don’ts

  1. Do not commit any action of a kind that refers to, denigrates or mocks the institution [of the monarchy], the government or commanding officers.
  2. Do not wear a uniform or other clothing with any insignia showing military status to political party meetings or political gatherings of a political nature.
  3. Do not wear symbols or uniforms of political parties when entering government premises.
  4. Do not force subordinates, either directly or implicitly, to become members of any political party, and do not use rewards or punishments.
  5. Do not interfere in politics or use politics as a tool to carry out any activity.
  6. Do not express directly or implicitly anything to assist or support any candidate during an election period.
  7. Do not post any political message during official hours, on official premises, or using official computers, and do not use official accounts in political activities on social media.

Despite these regulations, the Thai military have been caught manipulating public political expression on social media. In its February 2021 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report, Facebook detected and removed 77 accounts, 72 pages, 18 groups and 18 Instagram accounts originating in Thailand, targeting audiences in the Southern provinces.

This network primarily posted news and events in Thai together with content supporting the Thai military and the monarchy, calls for non-violence, regional COVID-19 updates, allegations of violence by insurgent groups in Southern Thailand, and criticism of separatist independence movements and civil society organizations.

In October 2020, Twitter cooperated with the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) in an investigation and analysis which revealed that 926 accounts with 21,385 tweets linked to the RTA supported the government and the Army and targeted opposition parties and their allies, especially the Future Forward Party (FFP) and the Move Forward Party (MFP).

In the February 2020 parliamentary censure debate, Move Forward MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn exposed how the Prime Minister, through ISOC, had ordered IOs to sabotage activists and the peace process in the Deep South, a method which was later found to be used against opposition politicians and the pro-democracy movement.

NewsRoyal Thai ArmySantipong ThampiyaJatuporn PrompanAdul Khieoboriboonfreedom of expressionSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/04/92437
Categories: Prachatai English

COVID-19 hits those shackled by oppression hardest thanks to decades of inequalities, neglect and abuse

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-04-08 13:20
Submitted on Thu, 8 Apr 2021 - 01:20 PMAmnesty International
  • Pandemic lays bare massive systemic inequality worldwide with ethnic minorities, health workers, and women among the most severely impacted
  • Report finds COVID-19 weaponized by leaders to ramp up their assault on human rights
  • New Secretary General Agnès Callamard calls for a re-think and reset of broken systems in order to genuinely build back better

The global pandemic has exposed the terrible legacy of deliberately divisive and destructive policies that have perpetuated inequality, discrimination and oppression and paved the way for the devastation wrought by COVID-19, Amnesty International said in its annual report published on Tueday (6 April).

Yesterday's report launch event (7 April)

Amnesty International Report 2020/21: The State of the World’s Human Rights covers 149 countries and delivers a comprehensive analysis of human rights trends globally in 2020.

In it, the organization describes those already most marginalized, including women and refugees, as bearing the devastating brunt of the pandemic, as a result of decades of discriminatory policy decisions by world leaders. Health workers, migrant workers, and those in the informal sector - many at the frontlines of the pandemic - have also been betrayed by neglected health systems and patchy economic and social support.

The response to the global pandemic has been further undermined by leaders who have ruthlessly exploited the crisis and weaponized COVID-19 to launch fresh attacks on human rights, the organization says.

“COVID-19 has brutally exposed and deepened inequality both within and between countries, and highlighted the staggering disregard our leaders have for our shared humanity.  Decades of divisive policies, misguided austerity measures, and choices by leaders not to invest in crumbling public infrastructure, have left too many easy preys to this virus,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s new Secretary General.

“We face a world in disarray. At this point in the pandemic, even the most deluded leaders would struggle to deny that our social, economic and political systems are broken.”

Pandemic has amplified decades of inequalities and erosion of public services

Amnesty’s report shows how existing inequalities as a result of decades of toxic leadership have left ethnic minorities, refugees, older persons, and women disproportionately negatively affected by the pandemic.

COVID-19 worsened the already precarious situation of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in many countries, trapping some in squalid camps, cutting off vital supplies, or precipitating border controls that left many stranded. For example, Uganda, the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa with 1.4 million refugees, immediately closed its borders at the start of the pandemic and did not make an exception for refugees and asylum seekers trying to enter the country. As a result, over 10,000 people were stranded along its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The report highlights a marked increase in gender-based and domestic violence with many women and LGBTI persons facing increased barriers to protection and support due to restrictions on freedom of movement; lack of confidential mechanisms for victims to report violence while isolated with their abusers, and reduced capacity or suspension of services.

Those on the frontlines of the pandemic - health workers, and those in the informal sector – suffered as a result of wilfully neglected health systems and pitiful social protection measures. In Bangladesh, many working in the informal sector have been left without an income or social protections due to lockdowns and curfews. In Nicaragua, over the course of two weeks in early June, at least 16 health workers were dismissed after expressing concerns about lack of PPE and the state response to the pandemic.

“We are reaping the results of years of calculated neglect at the hands of our leaders. In 2020, under the unique strain of a pandemic, health systems have been put to the ultimate test and people have been left in financial freefall. The heroes of 2020 were the health workers on the frontlines saving lives and those bunched together at the very bottom of the income scale, who worked to feed families, and keep our essential services going.  Cruelly, those who gave the most, were protected the least,” said Agnès Callamard.

Virulent strain of leaders weaponize the pandemic to further assault human rights

The report also paints a dismal picture of the failures of global leaders whose handling of the pandemic has been marked by opportunism and total contempt for human rights.

“We’ve seen a spectrum of responses from our leaders; from the mediocre to mendacious, selfish to the fraudulent. Some have tried to normalise the overbearing emergency measures they’ve ushered in to combat COVID-19, whilst a particularly virulent strain of leader has gone a step further.  They have seen this as an opportunity to entrench their own power. Instead of supporting and protecting people, they have simply weaponized the pandemic to wreak havoc on people’s rights. said Agnès Callamard.

Authorities passing legislation criminalizing commentary related to the pandemic has been a presiding pattern. In Hungary for example, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government amended the country’s Criminal Code, introducing prison sentences of up to five years for “spreading false information” about COVID-19 for example.

Across the Gulf states in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates authorities used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to continue suppressing the right to freedom of expression, including by prosecuting individuals, who posted comments on social media about government responses to the pandemic, for spreading “false news”.

Other leaders have used excessive force. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte said he had ordered police to shoot “dead” people who protest or may cause “trouble” during quarantine measures. In Nigeria, brutal policing has resulted in security forces killing people for protesting in the streets, demanding their rights and calling for accountability. Under President Bolsonaro, police violence in Brazil escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At least 3,181 people were killed by the police across the country between January and June - an average of 17 deaths per day.

Some leaders have gone a step further, using the distraction of the pandemic to clamp down on criticism – and critics – unrelated to the virus, and perpetrate other human rights violations while the gaze of the world’s media was elsewhere. For example, in India, Narendra Modi, further cracked down on civil society activists, including through counter-terrorism raids on their homes and premises. Meanwhile under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government continued its persecution of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang unabated and a sweeping national security law was ushered through in Hong Kong to legitimize politically motivated repression.

“International institutions such as the International Criminal Court and UN human rights mechanisms are there to hold states and individual perpetrators to account. Sadly, 2020 shows that they have been wrestled into political deadlock by leaders seeking to exploit and undermine collective responses to human rights violations,” said Agnès Callamard.

National self-interest has trumped international cooperation in COVID response

World leaders have also wreaked havoc on the international stage, hampering collective recovery efforts by blocking or undermining international cooperation.

These include:

  • Leaders of rich countries, such as former President Trump, circumventing global cooperation efforts by buying up most of the world’s supply of vaccines, leaving little to none for other countries. These rich countries also have failed to push pharmaceutical companies to share their knowledge and technology to expand the supply of global COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Xi Jinping’s government censoring and persecuting health workers and journalists in China who attempted to raise the alarm about the virus early on, supressing crucial information.
  • The G2O offering to suspend debt payments from the poorest countries, but demanding that the money be repaid with interest later.

“The pandemic has cast a harsh light on the world’s inability to cooperate effectively in times of dire global need,” said Agnès Callamard.

“The only way out of this mess is through international cooperation.  States must ensure vaccines are quickly available to everyone, everywhere, and free at the point of use. Pharmaceutical companies must share their knowledge and technology so no one is left behind.  G20 members and international financial institutions must provide debt relief for the poorest 77 countries to respond and recover from pandemic.”

Failed by their governments, protest movements the world over have stood up

Regressive policies have inspired many people to join long-standing struggles as seen by the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, the #End SARS protests in Nigeria, and new and creative forms of protest such as virtual climate strikes. The report details many important victories that human rights activists helped to secure in 2020, particularly across gender-based violence. These include new legislation to counter violence against women and girls in Kuwait, South Korea, and Sudan, and the decriminalization of abortion in Argentina, Northern Ireland, and South Korea.

“Leadership in 2020 came not from power, privilege, or profiteers. It came from the countless people marching to demand change. We saw an outpouring of support for #End SARS, Black Lives Matter, as well as public protests against repression and inequality in places across the world including in Poland, Hong Kong, Iraq and Chile. Often risking their own safety, it was the leadership of ordinary people and human rights defenders the world over that urged us on. These are the people at the frontier of the struggle for a better, safer and more equal world,” said Agnès Callamard.

“We are at a crossroads. We must release the shackles that degrade human dignity. We must reset and reboot to build a world grounded in equality, human rights, and humanity. We must learn from the pandemic, and come together to work boldly and creatively so everyone is on an equal footing.”

Pick to PostAmnesty InternationalCOVID-19coronavirusPandemichuman rightsHuman right violation
Categories: Prachatai English

22-year-old online vendor arrested for royal defamation

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-04-08 11:57
Submitted on Thu, 8 Apr 2021 - 11:57 AMPrachatai

Phonphimon (last name withheld), a 22-year-old online vendor from Chiang Mai, faces a royal defamation charge and a charge under the Computer Crimes Act for a Facebook post made in October 2020 and is currently still in detention.

A part of a note Phonphimon wrote during her first night of detention at the Changpuak Police Station saying "Please give me back my life." 

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reports that Phonphimon was arrested on 31 March by a team of 5 – 6 uniformed and plainclothes police officers who presented an arrest warrant issued by the Chiang Mai Provincial Court for a royal defamation charge under Section 112 and for importing into a computer system data relating to an offence against national security under the Computer Crimes Act.

The officers also presented a search warrant issued by the Chiang Mai Provincial Court in order to search her room and confiscated her mobile phone and iPad.

She was then taken to Changpuak Police Station, where she was held overnight before being taken to court for a temporary detention request.

On 1 April, the inquiry officer informed Pornpimon of the charges, saying that the charges were filed by Thikhathat Phrommani, who claimed he saw a Facebook post which was an insult to the King. Phonphimon denied all charges and said she is not involved with the Facebook profile in question. She also consented to have officers access the confiscated electronic equipment to prove that the Facebook profile is not hers. 

Later that day, the Chiang Mai Provincial Court ruled to detain Phonphimon for 12 days, on the grounds that the penalty for the charges is high and that the accused is likely to flee or tamper with evidence.

The Court also denied her bail and she was taken to the Chiangmai Woman Correctional Institution. According to TLHR, she is the 13th person currently in detention on a charge under Section 112.

Phonphimon told her lawyer, who went to visit her on 4 April, that she is being held alone with a prison guard in a cell with no window, and that there was no light other than in front of the cell. She said she doesn’t know whether it is day or night, and that another inmate in a nearby cell kept screaming, keeping her awake.

“This law is not fair. It’s like people who are accused are being bullied, like their lives were taken away, like they’re dead. I don’t know how many other people outside are facing the same thing that is happening to me. I don’t want this law to exist. This shouldn’t happen to me. This shouldn’t happen to anyone,” she told her lawyer.

On 5 April, after Prachatai reported about Phonphimon’s arrest on our Thai-language site, a Facebook user using a fake name and claiming to be the person who filed charges against Phonphimon, sent a message to Prachatai’s Facebook page claiming that he received several insulting messages after Prachatai, Khaosod, and TLHR reported Phonphimon’s arrest. He also claimed he has filed a police report and that he would file charges against Prachatai for publishing his name if he faces any damages as a result.

According to TLHR, at least 82 people are facing charges under Section 112 since November 2020. Several protest leaders are also facing multiple counts, such as Parit Chiwarak, who is facing 20 counts, Anon Nampa, who is facing 12 counts, and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, who is facing 9 counts.

NewsSection 112Royal defamationlese majestearbitrary detentionPhonphimonThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Chiang Mai Woman Correctional Institutionfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Socialist Party of Malaysia demand PETRONAS to withdraw its investment in Myanmar

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-04-07 20:46
Submitted on Wed, 7 Apr 2021 - 08:46 PMParti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) strongly urge the PETRONAS to stop funding the murderous military regime in Myanmar by completely withdrawing its investment in Myanmar.

Refugees from Karen state at the riverbank. (File photo, taken by a villager at Salween river)

PETRONAS has announced recently a temporarily cessation of operation in Yetagun gas field, but the company said it“remains committed to its project in Yetagun and is taking all necessary measures to resume production as soon as possible”. This shows PETRONAS is trying to do business as usual by ignoring the severe crisis in which the country has plunged into, with hundreds of people have been killed since the coup staged by the Burmese military on 1 February 2021.

As of 4 April 2021, already 564 people have been killed by the Burmese military regime, while a total of 2667 people are under detention, including elected members of parliament, journalist, workers and ordinary people who are just protesting to defend democracy and against the ruthless military coup.

For a Malaysian government wholly-owned company to continue its investment and operation in Myanmar, is not only a recognition of the illegal and brutal military regime in Myanmar, but also funding the murderous act of the junta against the people of Myanmar. This must be stop immediately.

Hence, we call upon the Malaysian Government to take immediate action to instruct its government-linked companies to stop cooperation with the Burmese military, and withdraw all the investment from the country, in order to stop providing life-line to the murderous military regime.

Words from the Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to call upon the Burmese military regime “to change its course, and choose a path towards peaceful solutions”, is fell short if there is no decisive action from the Malaysian government.

Malaysian Government should send a strong message through the cutting off of military and economic cooperation with the Burmese junta immediately. This including that the cooperation like sending back Burmese migrants with naval vessels should not be happened again.

We reiterate our solidarity with the people of Myanmar in their courageous struggle against the coup regime and for democracy.

Released by,
Choo Chon Kai
Central Committee Member
Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)

Pick to PostMalaysiaParti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)Myanmar coupChoo Chon Kai
Categories: Prachatai English

Mor Lam Bank: A melancholic melody in a country where hope remains dim

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-04-06 14:09
Submitted on Tue, 6 Apr 2021 - 02:09 PMPrachatai

Originally published in Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)

In a village in Manjakiri district around 40 kilometers outside Khon Kaen city, male and female mor lam [Isan folk performance] are performing the courtship and poetry of “Luk Nerakhun” in the courtyard of a house as part of a merit-making ceremony.

Mor Lam Bank

An audience of many tens watched closely to see where the story would go next. Everything was as it should be, except that Patiwat Saraiyaem, or “Mor Lam Bank” was not there to take part in the performance. 

“If Bank was here today, he would be part of the performance.” Kritiphop Sommitr, or Mor Khaen Buatong, a khaen [Isan wind instrument] player and member of Bank’s mor lam troupe, commented on the first day we met.

Mor Khaen Buatong explained that he met Bank for the first time 10 years ago. He was Bank’s senior in the Department of Traditional Music in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Khon Kaen University. Upon witnessing his talent, he recommended that Bank major in mor lam vocal performance.

“Bank said he was from Sakon Nakhon province. He had studied traditional dance, he could play the phin [Isan string instrument], he could do it all. So I recommended that he major in mor lam vocal performance -- because it seemed like he could go beyond being part of the backup.” The melodies of mor lam became part of Bank’s life and Buatong became his regular accompanist on the khaen. 

Mor lam and political struggle

In addition to supporting himself as a professional mor lam performer, Bank also used mor lam to express his political stance and convey the injustice experienced by people in society. Mor Lam Bank is one of those who must be included on the list of the senior masters and teachers of mor lam. The politics of everyday life emerge in the poetry sung in mor lam performance. The content of both everyday life and this poetry has caused him to face charges of lèse majesté, or Article 112, twice in his life.

The first time was from performing in a theater play -- “The Wolf Bride” – that included a critique of the institution of the monarchy. The court sentenced him to 2 years and 6 months in prison and he was released in 2016. 

Middle: Bank performing in the Wolf Bride theater play.

The second time was because he joined the “19 September Return Power to the People” protest last year [2020]. All he did was get up on stage and say, “I have nothing left. I didn’t topple the lords, but it was the lords who toppled me.” For this he faces a total of 11 violations, including Article 112, Article 116 [sedition], and another 9 violations.

During the investigation in October 2020, he was locked up for more than ten days and then released. But since 9 February 2021, he has been detained once again with Anon Nampha, Parit Chiwarak, and Somyot Prueksakasemsuk at the Bangkok Remand Prison. Numerous attempts to request bail for the four have failed. In addition, other activists are similarly losing their right to bail one-by-one.

Within the context of people’s political awakening and the reaction of state power, if Mor Lam Bank’s struggle was compared to a melody, it would be a tragic song in a time of tremendous sorrow. The story of this melody would be one in which many, Mor Lam Bank included, refuse to give up hope until the day of victory arrives.

The place of mor lam in Isan

Buatong recalled that at the beginning when he and Bank created their mor lam troupe, they gave it the name “KKU Phetch Nong Mai Khwanjai,” then “Tum Tun Sawoenjai,” which then became “Bak Nuad Nung Lan Patipan Luecha.” 

“Once he is on stage, Bank is exactly on point, every point. He can put on the costume of the clown, he can be a woman, he can be a cheat. He can play every role in a scene.” The pair take Mor Lam Yai Chamnong Luecha and Mor Lam Tongplu Nuadlek in Udon Thani province as prototypes for their performance, as well as drawing on the work of Phetch Phinthong, a classic Isan musical troupe.

To perform in the Khon Kaen style is to use verse and insert political content. They both perform this type of work often, because “Isan people believe in mor lam.” People are compelled by performance in which political events are narrated through poetry. They are no different than Mor Lam Sopha Phontree who performed mor lam about the Phu Mi Bun Rebellion during the reign of Rama 8.

Therefore, Bank and members of the troupe constantly try to weave political thought into the poetry of mor lam because they believe that injustice is sometimes obscured: “Our eyes are closed, our eyes are covered up, we don’t know.”

During the past year, Bank and Buatong traveled around Isan for mor lam work. If they did not have work and were free on days when political demonstrations were held, they went to perform mor lam for those who came to the protests. They did so both to express their political stance as part of the protest and to introduce mor lam performance to the new generation. 

Bank singing mor lam during the protest at Khon Kaen Police Station in September 2020.

“Sometimes we received 500 baht, sometimes 1000 baht, to cover travel and everything. Sometimes, if there is no money then we could not go. But other times, we went even if there is no money, because we want to perform wherever we can. We have performed all over Roi Et, Mahasarakham, and Khon Kaen.”

Who is Bank behind the curtain?

We know the figure in front of the curtain on the mor lam stage. But we invite readers to get to know another side of “Mor Lam Bank – Patiwat Saraiyaem.” His parents divorced and he spent his childhood with his mother, but they were never close. 

He mother moved abroad with her new husband, which gave them few opportunities to talk. He does not have any family and so has had to rely on himself since he was a child. He had not met his father until he was imprisoned. His father saw news about his case on television in 2015 and traveled to visit him. They met for the first time when Bank was a political prisoner. But they have not been in contact since Bank was released from prison.

Mor Lam Bank grew up in a formerly Communist village in Lao Phon Kho sub-district, Koksri Suphan district, in Sakon Nakhon province. It was a red area during the Communist era and the villagers fought with the central government. His upbringing there nurtured a sense of Thai history that has been with him ever since he can remember, and this informs his feelings and thoughts about his country a great deal.

Mor Lam Bank is a person who strives and strives. If he wants something, he dives in and concentrates until he reaches success. Part of the reason is that his life has never been smooth, not when he was a child and not in the present.

“He has struggled since he was a child. He doesn’t have a father. His mother went to live in England with her new husband and died there at the end of 2020. When he contacted his stepfather and asked for documents to request various kinds of compensation, his step-father immediately hung up and became unreachable. He received nothing. No compensation. He has not even seen any trace of her remains.” Buatong explained another part of Bank’s story.

The wedge deep in his heart and his constant struggle

Mor Lam Udomsilp, or Wandee Phonthongsathit, Isan Treasured Artist in the field of performance for 2016, has taught Bank both mor lam and how to live and survive. 

Mae Udomsilp is very close to Bank. If he has a problem, he tells her about it. He respects her a great deal, and shares a lot with her. “Sometimes I called him to wake up him to go to school because I worried he would not make it. He worked throughout his studies. He managed take care of his own life from the moment he began to study. Who was going to perform where? Who was going to go with them? I had him set up his own group. And he was an artist from that moment forward.”

The melodies glorifying the institution, melodies about the servants of the university, and those about university ladies, were the first that Mae Udomsilp passed on to Bank. Then, she added in the melodies of Khon Kaen and Lam Phloen, because she saw Bank’s determination and ability. If he had been a different student, she might not have taught him so much. He could perform each one and asked to study further, including verse melodies. He wanted to make a living from mor lam and was able to earn 1000-5000 baht each time he performed while still a student.

“He can perform as part of a troupe, he can perform verse, he can play the khaen, he can do it all. He has a good head on his shoulders.  He studied every subject. He came to ask for my advice about the teachers he was not so fond of. I told him, you are only there for four years, don’t be put off by the teacher. You have to study. We are studying so we learn, not them. This is how I taught him and kept on supporting him, like a child of my own.”

Regarding his political expression, Mae Udomsilp said that she feels that Bank is an Octobrist [activist from the 1973-1976 period] who has come back to life once again. “He was born out of time and it is wedged deep in his heart, so he is always engaged in the movement.” Mae Udomsilp follows the news closely, especially the worrying news about political prisoners. She concludes by offering her concern and saying that, “If there is anything, tell me. I will do it for my child.”

My struggle is my struggle, no one sees me

The stain from having once been a prisoner and having been inside prison is what Bank worries about the most. He is afraid he will not be accepted by society. 

He once went to ask to work with a local MP in the area, because he wanted to erase the stain and challenge the idea that people who had been in prison could not work with ordinary people. But he was castigated for having been in prison and couldn’t join the team to work with other people. It made him very disappointed and led to subsequent arguments.

This is the reason behind the Seen Song Ton Studio Mor Lam Digital Station that he raised money for by performing mor lam and selling dried beef during live broadcasts. This was another one of his attempts to make a living and make himself more well-known. He wanted to find funds to improve the quality of his life, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic during which the opportunity for live performance disappeared.

Bank submitted a request to the provincial culture office to ask for social support and compensation for mor lam performers during COVID, but he did not receive a response. The fact that he has often had to carry on in his life alone made him feel lonely. Mor Lam Bank always says that, “My struggle is my struggle, no one sees me.” 

What is the judicial system doing to Mor Lam Bank?

As of 6 April 2021, Bank is being indefinitely detained while his case awaits trial. He has been in the Bangkok Remand Prison since 9 February. All of his friends are worried because his personality changed the first two times he was released.

Mor Khaen Buatong said that he was frightened and uneasy for a month after he was released from prison in 2016. “He was afraid. He said that someone was following him and watching where he went and what he did, waiting to see if he was going to be politically active. He cried, out of this fear, for a month, two months.”

Mae Udomsilp recommended that he ordain as a monk to eliminate the negative things that remained with him. He did as she recommended, but ordained for only 7 days before calling a taxi to take him to a dormitory near the university immediately without formally leaving the monkhood. He went back to the temple later to complete the ceremony to un-ordain. He said that having to be in a temple without wide, open space made him feel like he was locked up the way he had been in prison. “It became a fear of narrowness. He is really afraid of narrow places.”

The second time he was released, in October 2020, he had strong feelings and reactions to what happened to him. What happened to him, as one mor lam performer, was unjust. This was compounded by his difficult financial situation because the COVID-19 pandemic meant he had few performances. A great deal of stress and pressure was present in his life.

Mor Lam Bank is leaving

“Whenever he goes to report himself or to the court, he leaves things at the restaurant, and says, ‘Jae [older sister], I’m leaving.’ It takes my breath away, because I don’t know when he will return.” 

Waan, the owner of a restaurant in Khon Kaen who knows Mor Lam Bank well, said that after Bank became a political prisoner he was afraid he would not be accepted by society. For a period after his release from prison he was afraid to go anywhere and spent all his time in the restaurant. Waan and the other people in the restaurant understand him and the political situation he has had to face. This is a safe place for his body and soul.

“Mr. Bank tries to help himself. He worked wherever he could because he was uninterested in people simply giving him money. By nature, he did not like being looked down on. He wanted to work in exchange for money and get rid of the stain of having an Article 112 conviction. It made it difficult to buy a car or motorbike. He applied for a job delivering food and they did not want him. He wanted to release this lock on his life.” 

“I am leaving.” This was the short goodbye with which he always left Waan before going to hear the charges against him or report following a summons.

Ever since his goodbye at the beginning of February, a dry wind blows and no one has heard him perform the melodies of mor lam.

FeaturePatiwat SaraiyaemMor Lam Bankpro-democracy protest 2021Mor Lam
Categories: Prachatai English

International Scholars Appeal to Chulalongkorn University to Defend Academic Freedom

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-04-05 17:00
Submitted on Mon, 5 Apr 2021 - 05:00 PMProf Dr Thongchai Winichakul, Prof Dr Tyrell Haberkorn

Hundreds of scholars from universities across North America, Europe and Asia are sending letters of appeal to high-level administrators at Chulalongkorn University (CU) asking them to defend academic freedom and stop the attack on Dr Nattapoll Chaiching.

Dr Nattapoll presenting his book "Warlords, Feudals and the Great Eagle", a work which was made from his targeted dissertation.

Dr Nattapoll Chaiching, who received his PhD in 2009 from the Faculty of Political Science at CU and is now a faculty member at Suan Sunandha Ratchabhat University, is being investigated by CU as a result of an innocent and minor mistake made in his dissertation at the behest of some academics who alleged that it was a fabrication of evidence that affects the reputation of the monarchy. Given the politicized place of the monarchy in the Thai polity, the investigation into Dr Nattapoll for a mistake in his dissertation is the instigation of a witch-hunt, rather than the safeguarding of principles of academic integrity.

Writing to Professor Bundhit Eua-arporn, CU President, Professor Parichart Sthapitanonda, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Social Outreach, and Professor Chakkaphan Sutthirat, Vice President for Research Affairs, the scholars called on them to cease the investigation into Dr Nattapoll, make his Ph.D. dissertation available to the public, since an open discussion, not censorship, is the best way to guarantee academic integrity in this case. The scholars also called on them to put in place policies that will enable that will provide protection to students and faculty to take the intellectual risks necessary to complete creative and ground-breaking work.

In their letters, the scholars explained that without protection of scholars against attacks, the university itself will be damaged. This will be felt in a the impoverishment of debate in the classroom, the dull theses produced to stay safe from possible attack, and lifeless scholarship that remains solely within the frameworks of debate amenable to those in power. But the cost of producing only a narrow scholarship amenable to those in power is a decline in excellence, which will may ultimately be reflected in the international rankings so essential to the survival of all universities today, including Chulalongkorn University.

Leading international scholars offered the following comments about the investigation and campaign:

Dr Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chancellor's Professor of History, University of California, Irvine: “This is a moment when academic freedom is under assault in many parts of Asia (and indeed the world as a whole) at a time when it has never been more important for universities to be places where free inquiry can be carried out on issues related to such topics as international relations and political systems… It has thus been deeply concerning to me to learn of the varied methods now being used to try to silence a well regarded Thai scholar of these topics--efforts that are focusing largely on a small mistake of detail that he made early in his career, which he has gone on to acknowledge and try to correct.”

Dr Ben Kiernan, A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History at Yale University: “In withholding any public access to the PhD dissertation…Chulalongkorn University is now engaging in academic persecution that deserves rigorous condemnation by the global scholarly community.” 

Dr Jim Glassman, Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia: “Freedom of speech and academic research are barometer indicating the degree to which a society and its major institutions are healthy or unhealthy. In strong and healthy societies, these basic freedoms reinforce society’s overall health, and where scholars… make mistakes—as they inevitably sometimes will—those mistakes are corrected through free and open discussion. A society in which honest scholarly mistakes are corrected… through draconian punishment reveals itself not to be strong in the defense of its institutions but frail and marred by declining health. Thailand is currently at a crossroads, where the decisions made by leading policy-makers and intellectuals about freedom of speech and intellectual inquiry will reveal—and perhaps help determine—whether or not the country and its institutions will have a healthy future or are instead headed toward greater illness and eventual demise.”

Katherine A. Bowie, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, former President (2017-2018) of the Association for Asian Studies: "By failing to make a straightforward defense of academic freedom, Chulalongkorn University risks the danger of appearing to allow itself to become a party to the broader partisan politics that is threatening to beset Thailand at present... Universities play important roles in ensuring a civil space for rigorous dissent and debate that is important for broader society. Failure to defend academic freedom not only leads to the impoverishment of debate on campus, but also to the inability to nurture a new generation of dynamic, innovative leadership."

Dr Andrew J. Nathan, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University, appealed to the CU administrators to set an example for their colleagues around the world: “This is an issue of international concern, because what can happen to a scholar today in Thailand today can happen to me in the United States tomorrow. I therefore personally request that you, as academic leaders, take the necessary steps to protect Dr Nattapoll Chaiching from persecution... Your doing so will offer great encouragement to all scholars around the world.”

The organizers of the campaign, Dr Thongchai Winichakul, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Dr Tyrell Haberkorn, Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, believe it is important to stand with colleagues in Thailand because the role of the university is to serve as a beacon of free exchange and a space for rigorous dissent and debate. This is important both for the broader Thai society of which the university is a part, as well as to foster the atmosphere of critical and creative exchange necessary for academic excellence.

Pick to PostNattapoll ChaichingThongchai WinichakulTyrell Haberkornacademic freedom
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Godzilla vs King Kong

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-04-05 12:03
Submitted on Mon, 5 Apr 2021 - 12:03 PMStephff

C

MultimediaStephffMyanmar coupRefugeeKarenSalween river
Categories: Prachatai English

Activist immediately re-arrested following release

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-04-05 11:28
Submitted on Mon, 5 Apr 2021 - 11:28 AMPrachatai

Activist Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep was immediately re-arrested on a royal defamation charge under Section 112, Thailand’s lèse majesté law, after he was granted bail on a criminal organization charge and released from Bangkok Remand Prison.

Piyarat Chongthep

Piyarat was arrested on 6 March along with another 47 members of the We Volunteer (WeVo) protest guard group by an armed police SWAT team, who used force and did not produce an arrest warrant, while they were at a shopping mall, eating and waiting to attend the protest at the judicial court complex on Ratchadapisek Road. He was detained pending trial on a criminal organization charge, while the rest of the group were granted bail.

On 2 April, the Criminal Court granted bail for Piyarat using 45,000 baht as security, on the ground that the inquiry officer cannot present enough evidence to confirm that he was guilty, as when he was arrested, he was with 2 – 3 other people and did not resist arrest.

However, after he was granted bail, Piyarat was immediately detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison and taken to Prachachuen Police Station, as the Kalasin Provincial Court had issued an arrest warrant for him on a royal defamation charge under Section 112.

The arrest warrant was issued on 2 April and was requested for by an officer from Yang Talad Police Station. However, the reason the warrant was issued was not stated.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported at 20.40 on 2 April that Piyarat was then taken to Yang Talad Police Station and would be taken to Kalasin Provincial Court on 3 April for a temporary detention request.

According to TLHR, Piyarat is being charged with royal defamation for printing banners criticising the government’s Covid-19 vaccine programme and hanging them from trees, electricity poles, and a commemoration arch for the king along a road in the Yang Talad District area.

The banners contained messages such as “Giving the spotlight to the palace,” “Vaccine company monopoly,” “conflict of interest,” and “royal favour.” Pictures of the banners were also posted on Piyarat’s Facebook page and the We Volunteer Twitter account.

In addition to the royal defamation charge, Piyarat is also being charged with importing into a computer system data relating to an offence against national security under Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act.

At 11.00 on 3 April, the Kalasin District Court ruled to have Piyarat temporarily detained on the ground that the charge under Section 112 is severe, that he is likely to repeat the offence and tamper with evidence. The court denied him bail and he was taken to be detained at Kalasin Remand Prison.

NewsPiyarat ChongthepWe Volunteerlese majesteSection 112arbitrary detentionactiviststudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020Kalasin District Court
Categories: Prachatai English

Opposition MP to call President of Supreme Court to hearing

Prachatai English - Sun, 2021-04-04 13:28
Submitted on Sun, 4 Apr 2021 - 01:28 PMPrachatai

MP Rangsiman Rome of the Move Forward party, is working to have a parliamentary committee call President of the Supreme Court Methinee Chalothorn to a hearing over the illegitimate detention of activists.

The attempt to call Methinee was made after claims that during a regular meeting of Supreme Court judges, she said that pro-democracy activists have been denied bail because someone outside ordered it.

Rangsiman said after a meeting on Thursday 1 April that the Parliamentary Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights has not yet decided whether to invite Methinee to a hearing due to a lack of quorum. Usually meetings are held on Wednesdays, but this time Sira Jenjaka, a government MP and the chair of the Committee, decided to hold it on Thursday.

During the meeting, concern was raised whether the Committee has the legal power to issue this invitation. So the Committee is to consult with the parliamentary legal service over the legality of the invitation and over obtaining of the minutes of the Supreme Court meeting.

According to Sira, the response from the legal service should come before the next meeting on Wednesday 7 April. Meanwhile, Rangsiman said in public that he is confident that the committee's authority does not violate the constitution. However, some government MPs contested his claim.

According to a claim made by political exiles and senior human rights activists, a judge asked Methinee during the meeting why the pro-democracy activists have been denied bail despite the impossibility of fleeing or tampering with the evidence. She said that someone outside ordered it.

The judge replied that if the highest official in the Court of Justice could say that, then the Court of Justice will soon no longer exist. And if she still let someone outside order the courts around, then she should sit before a disciplinary committee over the appropriateness of being the President of the Supreme Court.

While the possibility of calling Methinee to a parliamentary hearing is debated, many Thai political activists still remain in jail despite unproven accusations. In prison, Parit Chiwarak has already been on hunger strike for 20 days to protest the denial of bail. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul has also done the same for 6 days.

Meanwhile, political activist Piyarat Chongthep was released after bail was approved with a security of 45,000 baht. However, he was released only to be immediately re-arrested and detained at Yang Talad Police Station, Kalasin Province, on another lèse-majesté charge. This detention appears to be illegal since he has already acknowledged the new charge.

NewsRangsiman RomeMethinee ChalothornSira JenjakaParit ChiwarakPanusaya Sitthijirawattanakul
Categories: Prachatai English

The Isaan Teacher Teaching Students Diversity

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-04-02 17:44
Submitted on Fri, 2 Apr 2021 - 05:44 PMTara Abhasakun

Fos was left angry, anxious, and nervous when her friends at school started bullying her for being mixed-race, half Thai and half Finnish. The shy 16-year-old, still dressed in her school uniform as the school day had just ended, only spoke a few words. Her social studies teacher, Thichanon Chumwangwapee, recounted her story via Zoom from the school in Udon Thani in Northeastern Thailand where he teaches.

Thichanon during one of his lessons

“Sometimes her friends bullied her by stereotyping, saying her mom was a sex worker,” he said.

Ending the bullying was difficult for Fos. Her friends, in addition to saying her mother was a sex worker, also teased her for her physical appearance being different from that of other Thais. Fos tried to tell her friends to stop teasing her. However, she sometimes had to work alone in class in order to avoid it. Thichanon visited Fos’ house to speak with her mother, who told him that other teachers had ignored what was happening between Fos and her friends.

Fos

“[They ignore it] because, they told me, this problem is normal. That they could not solve it. [They think] this is not a big problem. They think not many luk khruengs must suffer this. They think many luk khruengs can solve the problem by themselves.”

Fos’ struggle with bullying is not uncommon for mixed-race children in Thailand. She is what is known as a luk khrueng, a Thai word for a mixed-race person. Thailand has a complex history in its attitude toward luk khruengs. While many have found fame and fortune in the entertainment industry due to their unique looks, many like Fos are bullied and made outcasts. Stereotypes about luk khruengs being prostitutes’ children began in the 1970s when during the Vietnam war. American soldiers often came to Thailand during their breaks, and formed relationships with Thai women, some of whom were sex workers.

Since then, relationships between Thais and foreigners have occurred in many other forms. Interracial marriages began to increase in 1990, Thichanon said, due to Thailand’s tourism industry bringing in foreigners from abroad. Many relationships, he said, formed through genuine love and connection.

 In 2004, approximately 87 percent of the 20,000 Thai women in the Isaan region, Thailand’s Northeastern region, married to foreigners are married to men from Europe, North America, Australia, or New Zealand.  While the number of foreigners in Udon Thani specifically is not documented, government records stated that there were 27,000 foreigners living in the Isaan region in 2010. 90 percent of those foreigners were men married to Thai women. In Fos’ secondary school of 1700 students, 17 of them are luk khruengs of Australian, English, Japanese, South Korean, and Finnish descent.

Still, Thais young and old continue to believe that luk khruengs are largely products of the country’s sex industry, resulting in bullying like that of Fos’ situation. While there are not many available statistics on the extent of bullying towards luk khruengs, many have detailed such stories of ostracism by their peers in interviews.

 In July 2020, Thichanon noticed that many of the 17 luk khruengs at his school experienced similar bullying to Fos. Their peers mocked their physical appearances being different than other Thais, or said that their mothers must have been sex workers. The 33-year-old knew he had to act. He has since been designing a curriculum to help students better understand the diversity of their local demographics, and the experiences of their mixed-race peers. At the same time, he is earning a PhD in education, and now focuses on the challenges that luk khruengs face.

“Other teachers ignore this problem, and it continues. I thought if I ignored this problem, it would continue. I thought I must bring this topic to the classroom and talk about it and make them understand diversity in the community,” Thichanon said.

Thichanon gave Fos the opportunity to share her family history with her class. She also discussed the bullying she had experienced and how it made her feel. After this, the situation improved a lot.

He now teaches his students about the diverse history of interracial and transnational marriages between Thais and foreigners, and the struggles that luk khruengs face in Thai society. He believes that Thai schools only teach diversity in a superficial way, and do not do enough to teach students about the challenges that minorities face. The Thai school curriculum, he says, does not teach the reality of local communities’ diversity, and how that diversity came to be.

“Thai schools teach a surface level of diversity that only teaches the beautiful dimensions of diversity. They never teach the history or oppression of subjugated groups. They teach only the culture of dominant groups,” he said.

Some schools in the surrounding area have since heard about Thichanon’s curriculum, and other teachers have contacted him asking how they can implement such changes at their schools. But some educators think Thailand will take a long time to make such changes.

Kasama “Mai” Yotin, a mother and teacher at a bilingual school in Chiang Mai, said that diversity is not a priority in social studies curriculums in Thai schools.

“The adoption of diversity management has not happened at school. History class or social science class in Thai schools are predominantly about Thai history where Thailand and its people are the center of the stage, thus creating nationalist sentiments where the identity of ‘Thainess’ is distorted,” she said.

The bullying against luk khruengs may be part of the country’s larger issue of racism and xenophobia, and the way it leaks into the country’s school system. Some have accused Thailand’s education system of labeling Malay Muslims in Southern Thailand as threats to national security. Mai said that Sikh children who wear turbans are also bullied for looking different. She added that xenophobia is upheld in the way that children of migrants from Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar are not allowed to attend Thai schools.

According to BBC Thai, despite the Thai government ruling in 2005 that children of migrant laborers had the right to study in Thai schools, many Thai school administrations still do not understand the procedures of admitting migrant students who lack Thai citizenship and identification documents. This makes it difficult for migrants’ children to attend schools in Thailand.

Some politicians are noticing problems with bullying in Thai schools. On 29 of March 2021, newly appointed Education Minister Trinuch Thienthong vowed to combat bullying, in addition to violence by teachers toward students. .

Thichanon said that in order to decrease racial bullying against mixed-race children in Thailand, young Thais must be taught how difficult it is for luk khruengs to face bullying and discrimination.

 “They should understand luk khruengs’ lives and their family backgrounds. Not surface level, but deep understanding. I think if people understand difference and diversity, this could change behavior,” he said.

Fos said that being given space to express how being bullied made her feel was helpful in making it stop.

“A good way is to talk with other people about my feelings. It’s a good way to teach other people about bullying because other people will understand my feelings. Then other people will stop bullying me,” she said. 

NewsBullyingracismIsaandiversityschoolEducation system
Categories: Prachatai English

UN Human Rights Office urges suspension of returns to Myanmar

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-04-01 15:12
Submitted on Thu, 1 Apr 2021 - 03:12 PMOHCHR

The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia calls on States in the region to protect all those fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar and ensure that refugees and undocumented migrants are not forcibly returned given the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation inside the country.

 Members of ethnic Karen communities fleeing attacks from the Myanmar military (Picture from the Friends Without Border Foundation

Since Myanmar’s military seized power in a 1 February coup, at least 510 peaceful protesters have been killed by security forces and 2,600 others have been detained, many of them held incommunicado or forcibly disappeared. Night raids, mass arrests and killings have become daily occurrences throughout the country. De facto military authorities have increasingly resorted to heavy weaponry such as rocket-propelled and fragmentation grenades, heavy machine guns, and snipers to kill demonstrators in massive numbers.

New fighting has also flared between the military and some ethnic armed organizations, including in Kayin state, where recent airstrikes have forced thousands of civilians to flee.

Civil servants, students, political activists and others who have opposed the coup, including defectors from the police and military, have fled Myanmar, while the UN Human Rights Office has received reports that some individuals seeking safety in the region have been forced to return to the country.

“No one should face the risk of being returned to Myanmar when their lives, safety or fundamental human rights are threatened,” said Cynthia Veliko, South-East Asia Regional Representative of the UN Human Rights Office in Bangkok. “Now is the time for us to stand in solidarity with the people of Myanmar.”

“In light of binding obligations under international refugee and human rights law, we call on all countries to ensure that all those seeking asylum are able to access the protection to which they are entitled under international law,” Veliko said.

States in the region should also ensure effective search and rescue, and refrain from intercepting or pushing back those who are trying to access sea or land routes to reach safety. The UN Human Rights Office is aware of reports that at least one boat carrying refugees from Myanmar is currently stranded in the Andaman Sea, unable to access safe disembarkation options. Coastal States and others should co-operate to identify a safe place to disembark these vulnerable people and ensure rights-based and regional solutions are found.

Millions of migrants from Myanmar live and work in countries across the region, but many may be fearful of returning to renew their visas or otherwise maintain a regular immigration status. Countries should consider putting in place measures to avoid migrants from Myanmar falling into situations of irregularity. In so doing, they could draw inspiration from a range of innovative practices implemented in the recent context of the pandemic to ensure the regular status of visitors and migrants on their territories.

Given the grave human rights situation in Myanmar, States in the region should also suspend deportations while the crisis in the country continues and look to safe, non-custodial alternatives to the detention of undocumented migrants. Avoiding immigration detention is also an important practical response in light of the heightened risk of COVID-19 transmission within detention centers.

“Migrants from Myanmar, who have contributed so much to our communities, now need us to stand by them,” Veliko said. “We call on countries in the region to suspend deportations of Myanmar migrants who are undocumented or otherwise in irregular situations, and to provide them with a secure legal status while their country remains in crisis.”

Pick to PostMyanmarMyanmar coupRefugeeOffice of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Categories: Prachatai English

5 people granted bail over the royal motorcade chaos

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-04-01 12:25
Submitted on Thu, 1 Apr 2021 - 12:25 PMPrachatai

The prosecutor has filed suits against 5 activists and protesters for allegedly harming HM the Queen when a royal motorcade passed pro-democracy protesters on 14 October 2020.

A moment when the royal motorcade passing through Phitsanulok road.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, the 5 include Ekkachai Hongkangwan, Boonkueanoon Paothong and Suranat Paenprasoet. Ekkachai and Boonkueanoon posted 300,000 baht each as security while the rest posted 200,000 baht each.

They were charged under Section 110 of the Criminal Code for harming HM the Queen’s liberty. If found guilty, they face 16-20 years in prison or life. 

Before the process began on Wednesday morning, Ekkachai said he had previously been denied bail in this case due to the severe penalty which might result in him fleeing. But 5 months has passed since then and he has not given any thought to fleeing. He presented himself today to ask for justice, not the court’s mercy.

Boonkueanoon also read a statement, saying that they had no intention to commit the offense as charged. They are proud of being part of the pro-democracy movement and would fight on even if bail was denied.

“I will move forward without any regrets at all, fighting whatever confronts me with a smile and the satisfaction of knowing that what we have sacrificed will have meaning. And my reputation will be etched in history, knowing that our spirit, our subconscious mind and our faith will certainly never be destroyed,” said Boonkueanoon. (Source: Matichon

What happened at the 14 October royal procession?

The incident took place at around 17.50 on Phitsanulok Road during the march by anti-dictatorship protesters from the Democracy Monument to Government House. The police had blocked the way, but some of the protesters, including the two accused, managed to make it through and were sandwiched by the police from behind.

As the main bulk of the protesters were negotiating with the police to open up a path, a royal motorcade passed by on Phitsanulok Road where there were police, anti-dictatorship protesters and some pro-monarchy people wearing yellow who were already there.

The Queen, representing King Rama X and accompanied by Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, was on her way to offer robes to monks in kathin ceremonies (an annual Buddhist merit offering ceremony) at Wat Arun Ratchawararam (the Temple of the Dawn) and Wat Ratcha Orasaram.  The motorcade passed protesters shouting and raising the 3-finger salute. One person also threw a bottle of water at the motorcade.

Ekkachai, Boonkueanoon and Suranat insist that they did not know about the arrival of the royal motorcade. 

Questions raised over procession route

Many pro-monarchy social media channels saw the confrontation at the royal procession as an assault on and harassment of the royal family. The severe state of emergency in Bangkok that was announced on 15 October also referred to the incident as unlawful and a threat to national security.

The Thai Move Institute, a conservative and pro-monarchy online influencer, interviewed people wearing yellow who were there to greet the royal procession. One of them said he was informed from news sources that there would be a royal procession there. So he moved from Makkhawan bridge where another royal procession had already passed by.

He said he and 20 other like-minded people tried to block the protesters while shouting “long live the Queen”. Another interviewee said that he did not know who was in the procession.

News reporters who were there also gave their views of the incident. Pravit Rojanaphruk from Khaosod English stated that he was there reporting via Facebook live. According to his observation, he did not see anyone trying to stop the procession or hitting the vehicles.

Live footage (sound muted due to improper language) from Teeranai Charuvastra, another Khaosod English reporter, confirms Pravit’s observation that no announcements were made as the police formed up the blockade. Ekachai and Boonkueanoon can be seen raising 3 fingers but neither of them blocked or got close to the procession at all.

“And importantly, there was no announcement from the police at all that there would be a royal procession along Phitsanulok Road, in front of Government House which the first group of protesters had occupied so easily that Francis (Boonkueanoon) told me that it was so easy that it felt ‘fishy’,” stated Pravit on Facebook.

Noppakow Kongsuwan, another reporter from Khaosod Online who was reporting on the pedestrian bridge across Phitsanulok Road, which would normally be cleared of people if there was a royal procession, stated on his Facebook post that there were no announcements or attempts to clear the pedestrian bridge.

He also questioned why the royal motorcade travelled via this route where the main bulk of the protesters were. Even though all alternative routes like Ratchadamnoen Avenue were almost completely cleared of protesters, the police responsible for arranging the motorcade route still decided to use Phitsanulok Road.

“I raise the question with no intent to provoke, based on available facts which many media agencies reported or even from many video clips or many of those who were there. There is collective agreement that in this case “there was no blocking” at all,” stated Noppakow.

NewsEkkachai HongkangwanBoonkueanoon PaothongSuranat Paenprasoetroyal motorcadeHer Majesty the Queen
Categories: Prachatai English

Protesters charged for resisting the authorities despite turning themselves in

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-04-01 12:01
Submitted on Thu, 1 Apr 2021 - 12:01 PMPrachatai

45 protest guards from the We Volunteer group have gone to hear additional charges after being arrested by armed police before a protest on 6 March. Despite being released from detention by other protesters while under a police escort, they took the decision to walk to the nearest police station to turn themselves in and demonstrate that they were not trying to escape. The police have nevertheless charged them with resisting officials.

A We Volunteer member hand behind a police cage van on 6 March.

The latest charge hearing took place on 31 March at Phaholyothin Police Station. They had previously been charged for violating the Covid-19 control Emergency Decree, forming a criminal organization and forming a secret society), according to Matichon.

Pawinee Chumsri, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said the WeVo members face different charges, ranging from resisting or fighting back against the authorities, possessing unauthorized military equipment (vests) to possessing unauthorized walkie talkies. The accused will have to report to the prosecutor on 9 April at 10.00.

Originally, 46 were arrested at the scene, including Piyarat Chongthep, the leader who has been in prison since March 9. They were arrested by an armed police SWAT team while they were at a nearby shopping mall, eating and waiting to attend the protest at the Criminal Court on 6 March.

Trash dumped and burned at court entrance

According to their testimony to TLHR, they were rounded up by the police commandos, forced to lie on the ground, had guns pointed at their backs, had their hands tied with cables and had their belongings seized.

They were put into 3 different detention vehicles, 1 of which, containing 18 people, was able to make it to Border Patrol Police Region 1. The other 2 were intercepted by the protesters on Ratchadapisek Road. The cage padlocks on the second vehicle were broken and the WeVo members got out. Another 14 who were sitting in the third vehicle remained inside for 2 hours in total.

At 21.10, a lawyer from TLHR came to see the remaining WeVo members in the third vehicle and took them to Phaholyothin Police Station to present themselves out of fear of being charged with escaping. Those from the second vehicle later followed them to the station, 28 in total.

Pawinee said the charge of resisting the authorities was filed by the police despite the fact that they had voluntarily presented themselves at the police station, where the incident was recorded in the daily log. The charge reflects the abnormal reaction of the authorities to people who express their political views, resulting in unfair treatment right from the beginning of the judicial process. 

“They were eating at the time. They were still eating and had not gone to the protest and had not caused any disorder.  You may charge them with forming a secret society or whatever, but you still have no evidence to prosecute them. They had not done anything as has been claimed. I think it is an unfair prosecution,” said Pavinee.

The TLHR lawyer said the police should return to the principle where a person charged has committed an offence and the elements of the offence exist. The prosecution for political purposes against those who have different opinions cannot change their opinions. The discriminatory treatment that people receive will alienate them from the judicial system and the state’s system.

NewsWe VolunteerWeVopro-democracy protest 2021Piyarat ChongtepThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)
Categories: Prachatai English

The calm before the storm: pictures from the 20 March protest at Sanam Luang

Prachatai English - Wed, 2021-03-31 13:34
Submitted on Wed, 31 Mar 2021 - 01:34 PMAnna Lawattanatrakul, Kotcharak Kaewsurach, and Rattanaporn Khamenkit

Photos by Anna Lawattanatrakul, Kotcharak Kaewsurach, and Rattanaporn Khamenkit

On 20 March, a protest took place at Sanam Luang, organised by the activist group REDEM, to demand limits on the power of the monarchy, the demilitarization of politics, and universal social welfare, as well as to demand the release of imprisoned activists. After attempting to remove a long barrier of containers placed across Sanam Luang, the protesters were met with rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannon blasts during a 4-hour long clash with crowd control police. 32 people were arrested and 33 people were injured. 

Before the clash, however, the event was peaceful. People were seen flying kites spray-painted with the pictures of activists currently imprisoned on charges relating to political activities, as well as messages such as “Free our friends” and “Abolish Section 112”, raising banners and spraying the ground with graffiti.

The following pictures were taken by Prachatai’s field reporters during the protest, before the clash began.

A group of protesters were seen dancing and singing earlier in the evening.

A man who is often seen at protests dressed as a statue came to Sanam Luang with the message “Free our friends” written on his face.

A protester was seen skateboarding during the early part of the protest.

A booklet containing human rights lawyer Anon Nampa’s speech on monarchy reform was handed out during the protest.

A protester folded a piece of paper into a paper plane to be thrown across the container barrier towards the Grand Palace in a symbolic action addressing the issue of limiting the power of the monarchy under the constitution.

A protester was seen attempting several times to throw a paper plane across the container barrier.

Members of the artists’ network Free Arts spraying painting the message “Free our friends” onto a yellow kite – one of many which were seen flying above Sanam Luang.

A protester holding a kite spray-painted with the message “abolish Section 112”

A protester is seen flying a kite spray-painted with a picture of activist Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa, who is currently in prison.

A kite spray-painted with an image of Anon Nampa, who is also currently in prison, was seen flying above Sanam Luang.

A protester lighting a candle sitting on a coconut shell, several of which were placed on the ground to form the number 112.

A large piece of white cloth was placed on the ground at Sanam Luang for protesters to write messages on.

MultimediaPhoto essayprotestREDEMSanam LuangMonarchy reformstudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020
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