Prachatai English

Reports of staffer’s ‘overwork death’ at True-owned TV station removed 

Prachatai English - Wed, 2023-02-08 19:56
Submitted on Wed, 8 Feb 2023 - 07:56 PMPrachatai

A Facebook page said it deleted two posts about a TV station staffer who reportedly died from overwork because it feared a lawsuit from the news agency, which is owned by one of the richest conglomerates in Thailand.

A photo Sarawut Srisawat's desk posted by Jor Dub Facebook page, a place where he died.

The team behind the page “Jor Dub,” which first broke the news on Sunday about Sarawut Srisawat’s death at the office of TNN news station, said on Tuesday night that a representative from the news outlet complained of inaccuracies in the posts. Prior to his death, Sarawut was forced by his supervisors to work almost non-stop for weeks despite his failing health, according to his peers and colleagues. He was 44. 

His death ignited outrage and conversations online about unfair treatment and labour law violations in the media industry, especially in the digital TV business, where competition is fierce and news crews often work overtime with little or no compensation pay. 

“We agreed to delete the posts for very straightforward reasons,” the “Jor Dub” page wrote: “1. We are afraid of being sued (we admit to it without any shame); and 2. We have already achieved our objective, which is to be the voice of the person who died.” 

The page routinely publishes commentary on ethics and working conditions in the media industry. It was also the first source to write about Sarawut’s demise. According to one of the posts, which were now deleted, Sarawut worked as a senior manager in charge of programme schedules at TNN, but his workload soon overwhelmed him as he had to juggle multiple roles per orders from the executives. 

Jor Dub also wrote that Sarawut, or “Bird” as his colleagues knew him, was last seen slumping over his desk on Friday night. When a housekeeper visited the newsroom on Saturday and tried to wake him, she realised that Sarawut was dead.  

“He worked overtime everyday. And he worked more than 5 days per week, on some weeks he even worked 7 days straight. As this stretched on, his body couldn’t take it, and he fell sick,” the post said.

“But when he was on sick leave for two days, he was called to hurry back to work and set up news programs schedules. Is this a TV station or a sweatshop?”

In a letter sent to Jor Dub, the channel argued that Sarawut was never forced to work overtime against his will. It also said there were more staff members at hand to assist Sarawut. 

“There was no prohibition on taking leave days. The work from home policy was also in place on that day,” part of the letter said. “The employee did not inform the supervisor about his illness or ask for a leave day. He reported for duty as normal. Based on our inquiry, the supervisor did not request him to come to office per any special case.”

The statement also threatened to take unspecified action against the Facebook page if it did not delete what the company described as “false information.” 

TNN is owned by True corporation, a telecommunication arm of the CP Group, one of the most powerful conglomerates in Thailand. The Chearavanont family, which owns the group, is consistently ranked as the kingdom’s wealthiest business clan. 

Business entities affiliated with the CP Group are known for their efforts to protect their brand reputation, asking media agencies to delete their news reports and filing lawsuits against detractors. 

In another post by Jor Dub, which was also deleted, Jor Dub published a photo showing a bag of medications at Sarawut’s desk and wrote that his health was deteriorating from the overwork to the point that he was heard complaining to his colleagues, “Do I have to die first before they find people to help me out?” 
The page went on to describe Sarawut as a polite and gentle man who did not like to argue with people around him. “It might be because of his character that the bosses never cared about him and kept throwing more work his way,” the page said. 

Testimonies shared online by those who said they knew Sarawut collaborated with Jor Dub’s account. 

“I've been hit in the guts since yesterday after hearing the news,” former TNN employee Sukanya Pongnumkun wrote. “Throughout the 10 years I knew him, he always worked hard. He was always sitting at his desk, setting program schedules. The bosses never assigned anyone to help him.”

In the post, which was later deleted without explanation, Sukanya also wrote that Sarawut was given a “C” evaluation by his company, even though he worked through weekends and holidays. 

“And after his death, I’ve heard that the executives had ordered the staff to delete videos about his demise. Why?” she asked. 

Another ex-journalist at TNN, Sakchai Pruedthipak, called on the authorities, including the National Telecommunication and Broadcasting Commission, or NBTC, to look into the circumstances that led to Sarawut’s death. 

“This case clearly shows that no matter how much low level employees like Bird tried to shout, their voices never reached the ears of the executives,” wrote Sakchai, who now serves as a board member of the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association. “Low level employees like Bird are left behind under the piles of their work. If they can endure it, they have to endure it. If they can’t, they have to quit, or die like Bird.”

The Thai Journalists Association likewise urged the authorities, including the Ministry of Labour and the NBTC, which oversees TV operating licences, to look into Sarawut’s plight and see whether labour laws were strictly followed by TNN. 

TNN only acknowledged Sarawut’s death only on Monday, two days after he was found dead inside his newsroom and a day after Jor Dub broke the news on social media, raising uproar among journalists and media watchdogs. 

In a statement, which was released as an internal memo to its staff, TNN said Sarawut died from heart failure, but did not elaborate on his condition or address allegations that overwork contributed to his death. 

TNN also said it will pay Sarawut’s family a compensation of 24 months salary. Sakchai noted that the amount falls well below the bar required by the labour law, which states that compensation for work-related deaths must be based on 70 percent of the employee’s salary for 10 years.

Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin said on Tuesday that he has ordered an inquiry into TNN’s operations, including whether TNN forced Sarawut to work overtime against his will. Officials will also ensure that Sarawut’s family receives fair compensation as indicated by the law, Suchart said. 

Under the labour law, overtime and holiday work cannot exceed 36 hours per week. Employers who violate the law face up to 100,000 baht and a prison term of six months. 

NewsSarawut Srisawatpress freedomJor DubTNN NewsCharoen Pokphand Group (CP)True Corporation pclTRUE
Categories: Prachatai English

Child protesters face 'severe repercussions' for taking part in demonstrations, says Amnesty International

Prachatai English - Wed, 2023-02-08 15:40
Submitted on Wed, 8 Feb 2023 - 03:40 PMAmnesty International

Thai authorities have arrested, prosecuted, surveilled and intimidated child protesters for taking part in unprecedented mass demonstrations, Amnesty International said today, as it called for charges to be dropped and an end to any harassment discouraging children from joining protests.

Panellists present the research and give opinions.

On 8 February, Amnesty International’s new report, “We are Reclaiming Our Future,” is based on interviews with 30 child protesters and activists from across the country who took part in large-scale demonstrations between 2020 and 2022.

Compared to previous waves of protest in Thailand, an overwhelming number of participants were secondary school students under 18, who demanded educational, political, economic and social reforms to what they viewed as a paternalistic and rigidly conservative establishment. LGBTI and Indigenous children, and children from other ethnic minority groups also played a major role.

(In the middle) Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong

To date, nearly 300 under-18s have faced criminal charges, with some at risk of years in prison after being accused of sedition or insulting the monarchy, the first time that lèse majesté cases were known to have been brought against children in Thailand. The majority were accused of violating rules around mass public gatherings set out in a pandemic-related Emergency Decree that has since been lifted.

“Children with their whole lives ahead of them now face severe repercussions merely for participating in peaceful protests,” said Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong, Amnesty International’s Thailand Researcher. “Thailand has a legal obligation to guarantee children’s right to freedom of peaceful assembly, but instead, exercising that right has come at a steep cost for protesters, who are potentially facing decades behind bars.” 

Harmful tactics

Amnesty International documented a variety of tactics used to suppress the right to protest. Authorities routinely monitored or surveilled pro-democracy child protesters; directly intimidated children from ethnic minority groups for taking part in public assemblies; and asked unnecessary and invasive questions during background checks, such as whether the individual had relationships with someone of the same sex.

Chompoo*, a Bangkok-based 13-year-old child protester, told Amnesty International that she has been followed around by authorities since she started her activism in March 2022. Similarly, a 16-year-old LGBTI activist was trailed by authorities to his house and school, which affected his mental health with panic attacks, insomnia and other stress brought on by the continuous surveillance.

In some cases, authorities misused official powers under the Child Protection Act  to wrongly prevent children from taking part in protests. Anna, a Bangkok-based student activist who advocates for educational reforms, said she and her friends were physically dragged out of a restaurant by police and officials from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, the main agency in charge of child protection, because authorities feared they were going to stage a protest at Democracy Monument as members of the royal family were due to travel past the area.

Amnesty International also documented authorities putting pressure on parents to discourage or prevent children from participating in protests. This provoked family tensions which, in two cases documented by Amnesty International, resulted in domestic violence against child protesters.

“When my family found out about my involvement in the protest movement, we started arguing a lot,” said Satapat, who took part in pro-democracy protests in 2020 as a 17-year-old high school student in the southern city of Pattani. “Then my parents started using physical violence and pressuring me by confiscating my daily allowance and mobile phone. I had to run away from home and went to live with my friend.”

“In addition to charges, some child protesters risk facing the added penalty of being disowned or abused by their own parents, due to the pressure put on them by authorities,” Amnesty International’s Tatiyakaroonwong said.

Hostile environment

Amnesty International has closely assessed safety conditions at protests since 2020. These concerns heightened in 2021 after increased police crackdowns and escalating violence at protest locations.

Three young protesters, aged 14, 15, and 16 at the time, were shot with firearms – allegedly by members of the public – outside Din Daeng Police Station in Bangkok on August 16, 2021.

One of them, 15-year-old Warit Somnoi, was shot in the neck, fell into a months-long coma, and then died from his injuries. Following the death, police repeatedly failed to provide evidence after many requests from the public prosecutor, causing a long delay in the investigation. The public prosecutor eventually indicted a member of the public with murder but no trial has yet taken place.

Amnesty International also spoke to a human rights lawyer who has represented several clients under the age of 18.  The lawyer described ill-treatment by police officers, including the use of restraining tools and beatings during arrests and rubber bullets during protest crackdowns.

Authorities reportedly used cable ties to restrain a 12-year-old protester during a police crackdown on an anti-government protest near Bangkok’s Din Daeng Intersection on 13 July 2021. Another protester named Sainam, who was 17 at the time, said he was shot with rubber bullets at a protest in Bangkok.

“After I got shot, I tried to run away, but riot control police approached me from the front and the back. They grabbed me and made me fall down. Then I recalled they kicked me and used something hard – like a baton or gun – to hit me. They searched me all over my body, tied me up with cable ties and continued kicking me,” he said, adding that he only got to see a doctor the following morning upon release.

Amnesty International is calling for the Thai government to drop all criminal proceedings against peaceful child protesters; end all forms of intimidation and surveillance; and repeal or amend laws used to curb children’s right to protest to ensure they are in line with international human rights laws and standards.

“Whether entering university or applying for jobs, many child protesters are just embarking on the next phase of their lives. Our message to Thai authorities is simple: Stop holding them back and allow them to exercise their rights freely,” said Tatiyakaroonwong.

*Full names have been withheld for security reasons

Pick to PostAmnesty InternationalChild rightsthailand protest
Categories: Prachatai English

Thai demonstrators and LA locals stand in support of fasting activists

Prachatai English - Wed, 2023-02-08 14:56
Submitted on Wed, 8 Feb 2023 - 02:56 PMPrachatai

On the iconic red bricks of USC village in sunny southern California, members of the Association for Thai Democracy (ATD) and Los Angeles locals staged a protest in support of activists Tantawan ‘Tawan’ Tuatulanon and Orawan ‘Bam’ Phuphong.

Portraits of detained activists, both sentenced and awaiting trial.

Prachatai English interviewed the organisers Pongkwan Sawasdipakdi and “Achil” (who asked to remain anonymous). They wanted to show moral support for Tawan and Bam, to “let them know their voices have already been heard. . . and to spread awareness among foreigners about the human rights situation in Thailand.”

The demonstration was announced on the Association for Thai Democracy, USA’s Facebook page under the title ‘Stand to Free Political Prisoners in Thailand.’ Held on 1 February, 2023 at 16:00 on the University of Southern California campus, it involved an activity in which passers-by were asked to vote on “most ridiculous reason” for accusing people of political crimes in Thailand.

On 29 January, the association also released a statement demanding Thai authorities observe “rule of law and grant the political prisoners the justice and human rights they deserve” on the grounds that “these fundamental rights. . . need to be guaranteed for democracy to flourish.”

Pongkwan and Achil stated that they “fully support” Tawan and Bam’s three demands and reiterated ATD’s declaration - “After all, what they asked for was judicial reform that would guarantee their freedom of expression and freedom of assembly - something that should be respected in a democracy.”

Portraits of detained activists, both sentenced and awaiting trial

The organisers hope the government will respond favourably to the activist’s demands to reform the judicial system.  They also call for all charges to be dropped against those exercising their freedoms of expression and assembly, and for every political party to guarantee people’s rights, freedoms, and political participation by backing a repeal of the royal defamation and sedition laws.

Pongkwan and Achil also emphasise that such reforms go beyond the responsibility of the government and need to take place within the courts themselves. The organisers called for consistency in decisions about whether or not suspects are granted bail and demanded that the courts “firmly adhere to the presumption of innocence.”

As of 8 February, Tawan and Bam are in critical condition and have been hospitalised at Thammasat University hospital after 21 days of dry fasting. Their lawyer was told by doctors that they would not live through the night without medical intervention. They have since agreed to receive IV fluids, but are still refusing food.

Pongkwan and Achil concluded with the following message to Tawan and Bam:

“We want to thank them for still standing firm on what they believe. However, since people outside the jail have already come out to amplify their demands, we hope that they would consider saving their lives now for the future fight.

"We are truly concerned about their deteriorating health conditions and want them to stay with us throughout this long journey. For Tawan, Bam, and the other activists who are still fighting, we hope that they will receive the justice they deserve soon.”

NewsTantawan TuatulanonTawanOrawan PhuphongBamSection 112lèse majesté lawRoyal defamationPongkwan SawasdipakdiAssociation for Thai Democracy
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Amazing Thailand

Prachatai English - Wed, 2023-02-08 13:51
Submitted on Wed, 8 Feb 2023 - 01:51 PMStephff

MultimediaStephffCharlene An
Categories: Prachatai English

Labour rights watchdog urge Thai govt to amend laws that violate migrant worker’s rights at PEA

Prachatai English - Tue, 2023-02-07 17:57
Submitted on Tue, 7 Feb 2023 - 05:57 PMHuman Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)

As a part of an ongoing lawsuit, the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) urged the Thai government to adhere to a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights pledge to amend laws that violate the rights of migrant workers hired by Thailand’s state-owned enterprise.

On 16-17 November 2022, staff from HRDF offered legal assistance to 16 migrant workers from Myanmar in a lawsuit against the Phuket Provincial Office of Labour Protection and Welfare labour inspector.

The case stemmed from a Phuket Provincial Electricity Authority construction contractor’s failure to comply with the Labour Protection Act, B.E. 2541.  The lawsuit alleges failure to pay the workers their wages and raises other subcontract employment issues.  

Workers contend that the construction project which was won by a joint venture with a bid of 210 million baht, was subcontracted out. According to an HRDF investigation, the subcontractor violated labour rights by failing to pay wages for their work from 22 June to August 2022.

With help from HRDF, the workers submitted a complaint to the Provincial Office of Labour Protection and Welfare on 17 November 2022. They requested that the labour inspector summon the joint venture companies and hold them accountable for violating Section 12 of the Labour Protection Act, B.E. 2541.

The provision stipulates that when an employer is a subcontractor, contractors shall be liable for subcontractor actions. In this case, the plaintiffs argue that the contractor shall be held liable for wages and compensation for the employees.

On 9 January 2023, a representative of the joint venture (the contractor) asked for a chance to negotiate and settle with the employees. They also placed money for wage with the labour inspector. After examining the details of the outstanding wage and the settlement, HRDF staff went to the Provincial Office of Labour Protection and Welfare, agreeing on 16 January to receive the outstanding wages in the amount of 98,200 baht.

According to HRDF, the government has to adopt a policy to ensure workplaces or businesses respect, promote and protect human rights including the human rights of the workers and migrant workers in keeping with the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. Several state agencies have reportedly failed to adhere to the policy.

Section 8 of the Public Procurement and Supplies Administration Act, B.E. 2560 (2017) stipulates that procurement and supplies administration by a state agency must generate optimal benefits to the state agency and must conform with the principles of value for money, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness and accountability in the procurement process.

However, the legislation does not stipulate due diligence in the matter of human rights, giving rise to cases of labour rights violations, particularly among the migrant workers employed in state construction projects or as state enterprise cleaners (read here and here).

Therefore, HRDF urges the Thai government to adopt a clear policy to encourage state agencies and state enterprises to respect, promote, and protect human rights, particularly the labour rights of Thai and migrant workers. Stringent supervision measures must be put in place to ensure employers who supply, procure, and are hired or subcontracted by state agencies act in strict compliance with the labour protection law.

Pick to Postlabour rightsProvincial Electricity Authority (PEA)Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
Categories: Prachatai English

Before anything, we must be human: A letter from hunger strikers' lawyer to judges

Prachatai English - Mon, 2023-02-06 13:27
Submitted on Mon, 6 Feb 2023 - 01:27 PMPrachatai

An open letter to the judges from Krisadang Nutcharus, a lawyer of Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong in regard to their continuous dry fasting to demand bail rights and justice reform.

(In the middle) Krisadang Nuscharas. Image: Thaivoice News

Tawan (Tantawan Tuatulanon) and Bam (Orawan Phuphong) are two young women currently facing Article 112 charges for peacefully protesting in Thailand. Although they were granted bail, they remained concerned about other political detainees being denied the right to bail.

On 16 January 2023, they revoked their own bail and have been on a dry hunger strike for nearly two weeks to call for the release on bail of all political detainees. They are currently hospitalized in the Thammasat University Hospital and their condition is very grave. On the evening of Sunday, 5 February 2023, their lawyer, Krisadang Nutcharus, penned the below open letter after speaking with their parents.


To the Judges:

Even though we perform different roles, we are all jurists in the judicial system. Whether one is a judge, a prosecutor or a lawyer, we are all human. We love. We desire. We get angry. We make mistakes. We want freedom. We want what is fair. We want justice. We want to live in a polity in which the state listens to our voices and we have equal rights.

All of us —before we are judges, prosecutors or lawyers —must be human.

This past weekend was a time of relaxation for us. Are you aware of the following:

In the Bangkok Remand Prison, there are 8-9 people who have been detained for a long time. Their ages range from 18 to 50 years. They have not been found guilty of any crime. They have been accused by the state of crimes relating to explosives, while in actual fact they had firecrackers and ping-pong bombs. They have been detained for nearly a year even though in the majority of cases, their trials have not yet begun.

They have been detained on your orders. Many of them are still in school. Many of them are breadwinners who support their families. Locking them up before they have been judged guilty creates trouble for them and many others in their lives. They have pled to be released on bail to fight their cases from outside the prison tens of times. But you have refused over and over again.

And in a corner of Thammasat University Hospital, there are two young women who are on hunger strike – refraining from consuming both water and food -- to entreat upon you to grant bail to those 8-9 people detained in the Bangkok Remand Prison.

An hour ago, physicians from Thammasat University Hospital called the parents of the two young women to tell them that their daughters’ condition was declining and reaching a grave crisis. They told the parents to contact their lawyers to arrange to visit in the morning.

What comes to mind when you listen to this account?

Perhaps you find the actions of the two young women, Bam and Tawan, to be impudent and an effrontery to you. Perhaps you think they are on hunger strike to force and coerce you.

But I want to tell you: no, and no.

I want to tell you that what Bam and Tawan are doing is to plead with you, not to try to force you.

They are imploring and pleading with you with their own suffering. They are taking their own lives as young women – lives that they love and cherish -- as proof that they firmly believe that what they are pleading for is right. I think that it is of greater value than crawling on their knees to prostrate themselves and grovel.

You are well aware that what Bam and Tawan are begging from you will not be of any benefit to themselves as all. They are not making demands on their own behalf. The political detainees on whose behalf they plead for you to use your authority to grant bail to are not members of their family or their relatives. They are not gaining anything for themselves by putting their lives on the line.

If we do not tell ourselves lies, the demand that they are making for others to be granted bail to fight their cases from outside prison is a fundamental right clearly guaranteed in the law. We are well aware of this already.

If you would only listen to Bam and Tawan, you would know that what they call for is the guarantee of the rights of all of us. This includes your right, the right of your brothers and sisters, and the right of your children and grandchildren to be protected from the illegitimate exercise of the power of the state.

I know from Bam’s and Tawan’s parents that the two young women do not have very much time left. You yourself must decide whether to listen to their requests or let this country be as it has always been.

I won’t blame you, whatever you decide. Perhaps we hold different perspectives. All I know is that if you make the wrong decision, that mistake will haunt you forever.

Krisadang Nutcharus

5 February 2023, 7:47 pm (Bangkok)

The letter is translated by Tyrell Haberkorn 

NewsTyrell HaberkornTantawan TuatulanonOrawan PhuphongKrisadang NutcharusKrisadant Nuscharasbail rightslèse majesté lawroyal defamation lawArticle 112Section 112
Categories: Prachatai English

Two activists to continue their hunger strike, says lawyer

Prachatai English - Sun, 2023-02-05 21:17
Submitted on Sun, 5 Feb 2023 - 09:17 PMPrachatai

Activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong, who are undergoing a hunger strike to demand the release of political prisoners and judicial reform, will continue their hunger strike until every political prisoner is released, said their lawyer during a press conference on Saturday (4 February).

Lawyer Krisadang Nutcharus (centre) leading the press conference at Thammasat University Hospital (Photo by Thaivoice News)

Krisadang Nutcharus, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), said during a press conference held at Thammasat University Hospital on Saturday (4 February) that he and the two activists’ parents met Tantawan and Orawan on Friday (3 February), and reported that they were alert and were able to hold a conversation. Krisadang said he informed Tantawan and Orawan that the National Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Justice have issued a joint statement promising reform of the judicial system, while several political parties have agreed to discuss issues related to the royal defamation law and sedition law in parliament. He also told them that the Court of Justice held a press conference on bail on that Friday (3 February), and read them the press release, which Tantawan and Orawan said did nothing and said nothing.

Krisadang said that he also told them that many activists have been allowed to take off their monitoring bracelets, and that the court is considering bail requests for many political prisoners. Nevertheless, the two activists said they will continue with their hunger strike until every political prisoner is released and asked TLHR to post bail for everyone still detained again on Monday (6 February).

“[Tantawan and Orawan] believe that, the Ministry of Justice, the National Human Rights Commission or political parties tend to listen to the people,” Krisadang said, “… but the court has never listened. They have asked me to tell you that they will continue their hunger strike, but they are not trying to pressure the court. They wanted to prove whether what the court spokesperson said, that the court uses human rights principles when ruling on case,s  was true.”

Krisadang said that the two activists made their decisions on their own and that they are of sound mind and are resolute. He also said that Tantawan asked that people not worry about her, and that she has made her own choice.

“They wanted to call on the conscience of people in the justice system, meaning the courts, to wake up. If they did something wrong, then let’s talk about it. It’s not like what the court spokesperson said yesterday, which any reasonable person can see that it was a waste. It was a repeat from before of something they’ve always been saying and over and over. If it was really true, you wouldn’t jail the wrong person. There wouldn’t be a judge who committed suicide. A police major general would not have to seek asylum in Australia. This country is not being ruled by law if this is what they’re doing,” Krisadang said.

Tantawan's father Sommai Tuatulanon (centre) leaving the hospital building with lawyers, other activists, and members of the two families (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Meanwhile, the two activists’ parents are now very concerned about their daughters, whose condition is getting worse after two weeks of hunger strike. Krisadang said that Tantawan’s parents told him they “want their daughter back alive and with honour and dignity.”

Tantawan’s father Sommai Tuatulanon, who joined the press conference, said that he has seen his daughter’s condition deteriorate since the first time he visited her at the hospital. Tantawan has lost a lot of weight and he could see the bones of her face, while her ribs could be felt underneath her skin. He said he is not sure what will happen during the next few days once her body has broken down all of her muscle.

“I’m afraid that there isn’t much time left, and something will happen we may not want to face,” he said.

Orawan's father Suchart Phuphong speaking at the press conference (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Orawan’s father Suchart Phuphong said that the medical team told him to wait until Monday to be told what can be done, but he said that Orawan’s condition is considered critical to her parents although her doctors say they need to keep monitoring her, and that they are concerned that she may not make it to Monday.

Suchart called on the powers that be to have sympathy when someone is using a method the two activists are using to demand the rights Thai people should already have, and to keep someone who is the nation’s future healthy and strong.

“Even though she looks good on the outside and the doctors said she can still respond, but her parents know how much she can take,” he said.

“Young people this age should not be going on hunger strikes. They should be having fun. Do you get it? My daughter will never be able to live a normal life when her life has gotten to his point. I think in the future, I want to see her in a condition where she can join the fight and call for all rights for all of us without fear, with institutions that have a strong spine. We will help each other to build a strong country. We have to rely on our determination and bravery”

On 16 January, Tantawan and Orawan revoked their own bail to demand the release of political prisoners and reform of the judicial system so that human rights and freedom of expression take priority, and so that courts are independent and protect people’s freedom, as well as for judges to make decisions without intervention from their own executives.

They also called for all charges to be dropped against those exercising their freedoms of expression and assembly, and for every political party to guarantee people’s rights, freedoms, and political participation by backing the repeal of the royal defamation law and sedition law.

After no response was made to their demands within the three-day time limit, Tantawan and Orawan announced on 18 January that they would be dry fasting and will not request bail for themselves until their demands are met. They were initially admitted to the Department of Corrections Hospital but were transferred to Thammasat University Hospital on 24 January.

At the request of their doctors, the pair started sipping a small amount of water each day since 30 January to keep their conditions stable and because their lips were cracked. Although they received potassium supplements when they arrived at the hospital, as they had low potassium level and Tantawan was at risk of cardiac arrest, they have been refusing medical treatment and vitamin or sugar supplements since.

Krisadang said that he last saw the activists on Friday (3 February). He said that the lawyers requested that they, along with Tantawan and Orawan’s families, be allowed to visit the pair during the weekend, because their condition is critical, and he was initially told by the Justice Minister that they would be allowed to do so. However, he was contacted on Friday night and informed that the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Justice has rejected their request because there is no rule allowing it, so instead they met with the activists’ medical team.

“Because we are citizens, people, we’re going to accept what the state has ordered, but I wanted to warn the bureaucrats in the Department of Corrections and the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Justice that death does not take the weekend off, and I don’t believe that you won’t allow parents to see the girls during the weekend, even though this is Thammasat University Hospital and there are four guards watching the two girls on their hospital beds,” Krisadang said.

The lawyer said that, when he visited the activists on Friday, the two were not able to sit for a long time and that they were talking while lying down. They spoke slowly, required a walker to walk to the bathroom, and Tantawan is often dizzy, has chest pains, blurred vision, and difficulty sleeping.

Both Tantawan and Orawan have a low blood potassium levels, low blood sugar, and high ketone levels, which are caused by the lack of nutrients and hydration. The doctors said that the low potassium level could make them go into shock, but that they cannot predict what will happen. The activists’ medical team planned to monitor them and check their vital signs every 2 hours, but agreed to do so every hour at the families’ request.

He noted that the doctors have already put in an IV line in preparation for an emergency, because it might be difficult to do this if they had already gone into shock, and that the pair consented to having the IV line in place.

Dr Tossapon Sesirak (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Dr Tossaporn Serirak, a former Pheu Thai party MP and a medical doctor, said that the activists’ condition can be considered critical. He said that low potassium levels can cause cardiac arrhythmia or arrest, while high ketone levels can cause them to go into shock as ketone is removed through the kidneys. However, when a person is dehydrated, the kidneys will make up for it by trying to conserve water, causing a build-up of toxins, affecting the brain and other organs. Dr Tossaporn said he was not sure whether the heart can be revived if it has gone into cardiac arrest, and whether the IV line already placed in the two activists’ hands would help if they go into shock.

“This is the most critical thing. I want to call on all justice organizations to quickly make a decision and do something. Don’t let it come to the sacrifice of the two girls’ lives,” he said.

Two other people are also hunger striking to protest the detention of activists and protesters. Sitthichok Sethasavet, 26, a food delivery rider detained pending appeal on a royal defamation charge, is also on a hunger strike to demand bail. He was also transferred to Thammasat University Hospital on 1 February.

Meanwhile, Mongkhon Thirakot, who was recently sentenced to 28 years in prison for royal defamation for a number of Facebook posts, has been on a hunger strike while sitting in front of the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court in solidarity with Tantawan and Orawan.

NewsTantawan TuatulanonOrawan PhuphongKrisadang NutcharusSommai TuatulanonSuchart PhuphongTossapon Serirakright to bailpolitical prisonersPre-trial detentionhunger strikeDry fastingJudicial reformRoyal defamationlese majesteSection 112SeditionSection 116freedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Prayut praises far-right media outlet in unusual visit

Prachatai English - Sat, 2023-02-04 15:56
Submitted on Sat, 4 Feb 2023 - 03:56 PMPrachatai

The Thai Prime Minister, who typically avoids media attention, has visited the Top News newsroom for the first time to commemorate the far-right outlet's second anniversary as the general election draws near.

Inviting viewers to watch Top News, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha said that it "presents the news based on facts" and "analysis based on principles," despite its hosts' misinformation on Ukraine when covering news for the military-owned Channel 5 and boycott campaign against its sponsors due to biased coverage of the pro-democracy protests.

It is a rare move from the former junta leader who has favoured one-way communication through press releases, online posts, state-run broadcasts, and who frequently gave short, inconsistent, and erratic responses to reporters.

Gen. Prayut, who was officially unaffiliated with any political party for eight years, joined the freshly created Ruam Thai Sang Chart Party last month in an effort to maintain his position as the general election draws near.   

If he wins the next election, he will only be able to serve for two years, as the Constitutional Court ruled that the eight-year limit began in 2017, when the constitution drafted by his enablers went into effect, despite assuming power through a military coup in 2014.

Gen. Prayut's status faced growing questions due to an apparent split with his aide, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who now leads the ruling Phalang Pracharat Party, while other parties in the government coalition are now full-on in their election campaigns.

Letter from Princess

Top News held its second anniversary event on Wednesday 1 Feb. Not only the Prime Minister attended, but also other rival politicians including Anutin Charnvirakul, the Minister of Public Health, and Chadchart Sittipunt, the Governor of Bangkok.

Kanok Ratwongsakul, a Top News host, revealed on its morning news program that Princess Chulabhorn, the youngest sister of King Vajiralongkorn, sent a letter to congratulate them on their second anniversary.  

"Inside the station, there are portraits of King Rama X and the Queen Mother," said Kanok "But at the front there is a portrait of His Majesty's younger sister, Princess Chulabhorn, because Her Royal Highness sent our station a happy birthday letter, so we must hold a ceremony to receive it."

In May 2022, Top News was among the most outspoken critics of a video advertisement on Lazada that many royalists saw as mocking of the disabled and a member of the royal family, who the royalists did not name. Lazada apologized for the inappropriate content.

Three influencers who appeared in the video were arrested and released on bail. They were charged with violating the Computer Crimes Act and the lèse majesté law, which forbids defamation of the King, Queen, Heir Apparent, and Regent but does not extend to the Thai princesses.

The Royal Thai Army (RTA), together with the government and royal project enterprises such as the Wansook shops, Doi Tung, Doikham, and Royal Chitralada Project, announced a temporary boycott against using the Lazada's platform due to the controversy. The RTA lifted the ban after one month.

Top News founder and head Sonthiyan Chuenruthainaitham was a right-wing activist and a media entrepreneur whose support helped lead to the killing of red shirt protesters in 2010, the military coup in 2014, and the violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in 2020-2021

NewsTop NewsAnutin CharnvirakulGen Prayut Chan-o-chaComputer Crimes Actlèse majesté law
Categories: Prachatai English

“I didn’t plan any of this,” says alleged mastermind of assault on Thai political refugees in Paris

Prachatai English - Thu, 2023-02-02 19:06
Submitted on Thu, 2 Feb 2023 - 07:06 PMPatrice Victor

The trial of Petr Donatek, a 46-year-old Czech man alleged to have hired two martial artists to attack Thai political refugees in Paris in 2019 has finally taken place. During the proceedings, Donatek insisted that he was not the one who planned the attack. A verdict is expected on 2 March.

From left to right: Nithiwat Wannasiri, Aum Neko

The trial in Paris was postponed twice due to difficulties in securing an interpreter,  The suspect is a Czech-certified swordmaster, world vice-champion in sword cutting, and president of the Czech Toyama-ryu federation (Toyama-ryu is a Japanese system of swordsmanship).

He was initially convicted in absentia for having hired two Czech henchmen, Jakub Hosek and Daniel Vokal, to attack Thai political refugees Aum Neko (Sarun Chuichai) and Jom Faiyen (Nithiwat Wannasiri) in Paris on 17 November 2019. The incident happened at the entrance of a Paris brasserie, Le Zinc. At the time of the assault, Donatek was reportedly watching from Le Primerose, a bar just in front of Le Zinc.  After the assault, he returned home  to the Czech Republic.

His henchmen were arrested, found guilty and sentenced to 26 months in jail on 23 November 2021.  They have already been released.  Donatek, who they named, was sentenced in absentia to 30 months in jail.  Aware of the proceedings, he claimed that he had contracted Covid and was unable to the trial.  Denying responsibility for the attack, he also appealed the verdict.  Believing that his sentence was too lenient, the public prosecutor did the same.

Last year, while travelling in Italy with his family, he was detained because of an arrest warrant issued by French authorities in 2021. Arrested in August, he was sent to France last October. Since then he has been jailed in Fresnes, a suburb of Paris.  His long-awaited appeal hearing finally took place at a courthouse in downtown Paris on 1 February.

The hearing lasted approximately 6 hours. Apart from the Thai victims, no one raised questions about who might have contracted Donatek to plan the attack. Donatek denied any involvement in the incident. He acknowledged he traveled together with Vokal and Hosek, joining them at Le Primerose. He also claimed that he left Le Primerose and went back to his hotel before the assault.

Videos recordings from cameras in Le Zinc and in the Primerose, including the first few seconds of the assault, were examined at length. Donatek was seen taking pictures in one of the videos.  He claimed he was taking a selfie and pictures of lamp posts in the street, not recording the attack, which he insists happened after he had gone back to his hotel. He claimed he has nothing to do with the incident.

The court was comprised of 3 judges, including its president. Here an excerpt of the proceedings:

The president (P): Despite recanting his confession, Hosek declared the attack had been planned. Do you agree?

Donatek (D): I didn’t take any part in this assault.

P: On Nov 11, 2019 you asked Vokal to install Signal [a secure messaging service] on his phone. Why?

D: I don't remember, as I don't use Signal.

P: What was the purpose of installing Signal?

D: I don't have the slightest idea.

P: Do you acknowledge your nickname on Signal is Gateway?

D: I don't. I don't know who that is.

P: You mention Action Paris on Whatsapp, why?

D: In Czech, the word "action" has many different meaning, it can mean "event".

P: Why was it mentioned in this conversation?

D: I set up a group on Whatsapp in order to organise the trip to Paris, to book the plane tickets and so on.

P: You posted some pics and you said [according to the official translation] "it's operational information".

Czech interpreter: I would have translated it as "practical" instead of "operational"

P: At first, Hosek declared that your role was to monitor the assault and that you were in charge of the financial part of it. What do you say to this?

D: It's the first time I have heard this.

P: Why did you buy plane tickets and hotel rooms for Vokal and Hosek?

D: They didn't have credit cards or bank accounts and we were traveling together.

P: Why did you pay for them?

D: It was their money; they gave me cash to do the booking.

P: What's your opinion about the political situation in Thailand?

D: I don't have any.

P: Are you involved in politics?

D: Absolutely not.

P: On Oct 6, 2019 you were already in Paris with Vokal during a first trip with him. You warned him about a group of 7 people including 4 Thais who were standing with guitars at the entrance of a building.  You said that the target was not there. What did you mean?

D: I can't remember

P: All those elements suggest a premeditated attack.

D: I understand, but I didn't plan any of this.

Lawyer for the Thai victims: Did you attend the incident?

D: No, had I been there, I would remember.

Lawyer for the Thai victims: Why did you record a video?

D: I didn't

Lawyer for Donatek: Why did Vokal retract his accusations during the fist trial?

D: I don't know

P: What's your occupation?

D: I'm a financial director for a few firms. I earn about 6000€/month. Some 20 years ago, I worked as a policeman in an anti-narcotics brigade, from 1996 to 2005. I have three degrees related to law, the environment, international relations and Japanese culture.

P: Do you have much free time?

D: I'm very busy. My free time is spent on martial arts and things related to Japan.

One of the judges:  Do you belong to the Heraldic Brotherhood for the Protection of the Royal Order?

D: Yes, but I'm a member of other Orders too.  They are charities.

The same judge: Why are you interested in Mr Okamura [the leader of a radical right-wing Czech political party]?

D: I'm not interested in him. I know he is politically active, but I'm not concerned with this. I have friends from many different backgrounds, such as deputies who belong to different political parties.

Lawyer for Donatek: Czech authorities claimed they could not transfer you to France because you are involved in another case?

D: Yes I was framed when I was in the police.  The case has been pending for some time.

Lawyer for Donatek: Why would you come to France to organise an assault?

D: This situation is absurd. I didn’t do all those things.  I know there are cameras everywhere and that purchases with credit card can easily been traced.

Aum Neko : Why did you study international politics? What's your political involvement?

D: I'm not a nationalist. I would say I position myself at the centre, neither left nor right.

Lawyer for the Thai victims: He denies everything but we can see him taking a video; there is no doubt of his presence during the assault.

Public prosecutor: There is an accumulation of evidence indication that the assault was planned. On Nov 15, 2019 Donatek sent pictures of the future victims, asked his accomplices to monitor them and wait until night time to attack them.  He kept watch over the incident when it happened. He says he came to Paris as a tourist and he can't explain why Hosek charged him, and why he paid for his trip. Confronted with the facts, he can’t answer. I request that he be given a 5 years jail sentence.

Lawyer for Donatek: Since the beginning, he has insisted he is not guilty. The videos provide no evidence of his presence during the attack. Why would he come to Paris to assault somebody? Maybe he has been framed. Maybe Hosek named him because he wanted to be released from jail. He gave the answers expected from him. All this is absurd. I ask for an acquittal. And if you sentence him, take into account his clean criminal record and his family situation.  He has 4 children.

The president: Mr Donatek would you like to say something more?

D: Thank you, I'm very tired.

P: The decision will be given on March 2nd

NewsAum NekoNithiwat WannasiriJom FaiyenParisPetr DonatekDaniel VokalJakub Hosek
Categories: Prachatai English

4 activists go on hunger strike, underlining reform demands

Prachatai English - Thu, 2023-02-02 10:49
Submitted on Thu, 2 Feb 2023 - 10:49 AMPrachatai

In addition to the dry fasting by activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong, one other detainee has been on hunger strike for over a week and another has just started after being released on bail.

A protester and a campaign banner with images of the dry fasting activists in it. (Image: Ginger Cat)

Mongkhon Thirakot was given a 28 years prison sentence for royal defamation in January in a case based on his Facebook posts which related to the monarchy. 

After being released on bail, he travelled from the northern province of Chiang Rai to Bangkok in order to take part in the ongoing fasting struggles. As of writing, he is camping out at the front of Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court.

Mongkhon, in front of Ratchadapisek Court. (Image: Ginger Cat)

As of 1 February, Tantawan and Orawan on the 14th day of dry fasting while in detention, demanding reform of the justice system and the release of political prisoners. They are also calling on political parties to promote policies that ensure basic political freedoms by proposing to abolish the royal defamation and sedition law.

The two are currently in Thammasat University hospital for treatment and to have their health closely monitored. The hospital released a statement on 1 February that the two have low sodium and potassium levels, and high ketone levels due to their fasting, but have started to take in water. 

Other symptoms mentioned were scurvy, nosebleeds, stomach ache, and a sudden pains in the left chest. 

Almost in parallel to these two, Sitthichok Sethasavet, a 26-year-old food delivery rider who was found guilty of royal defamation, arson, destruction of property, and violation of the Emergency Decree for setting fire to an arch with the King and the Queen’s portraits, started a hunger strike in prison.

He started with a fast of solid foods, before going on a dry fast for another six days, also demanding bail rights. As his health deteriorated, he was sent to Thammasat University hospital on 1 February.

According to his statement via a visiting lawyer, he said the prison suddenly took him to the hospital a day after he was admitted to the Department of Corrections hospital. He also said he would join the others to campaign for bail rights if he is released.

“I’m not a campaigner. I’m not a leader. I’m just a normal person who was in the protest and got charged. A warden said that I’m just a kind of pest. But if I can do it, the country will be better,” said Sitthichok via Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

A day earlier, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin went to Thammasat University hospital to visit Tantawan and Orawan. After the visit, he reportedly shed a tear before giving a press interview. He said he would discuss with lawmakers and the courts about the structural reform within the judicial system.

He urged the two to end the fast and give him time to solve the issue.

NewsTantawan TuatulanonOrawan PhuphongSitthichok SethasavetMongkhon Thirakothunger strikeDry fastingroyal defamation lawlèse majesté lawSomsak Thepsutin
Categories: Prachatai English

Myanmar: Two years after coup, global action needed to halt military’s ‘nationwide assault on human rights’  

Prachatai English - Wed, 2023-02-01 18:04
Submitted on Wed, 1 Feb 2023 - 06:04 PMAmnesty International

The Myanmar military continues to arbitrarily arrest, torture and murder people with impunity two years after launching a coup, Amnesty International said today, calling for increased global action and solidarity ahead of the anniversary on 1 February. 

A file photo of protest in Myanmar on 14 February 2021. (Source: Wikimedia)

Since the coup, nearly 3,000 people have been killed, 1.5 million have been internally displaced, more than 13,000 are still detained in inhumane conditions, and four people are known to have been executed while at least 100 have been sentenced to death. In addition, 7.8 million children are out of school. 

The military’s onslaught against anyone perceived to be opposed to its rule has caused widespread fear and grave human rights violations, including through the use of air and ground attacks targeting civilians.  

“There is no denying that the military is able to carry out its nationwide assault on human rights because of the shockingly inadequate global response to this crisis, which risks becoming forgotten,” said Ming Yu Hah, Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns. “We can’t let that happen. This anniversary should highlight the need for urgent global action from countries around the world and the Association for Southeast Asian Nations to protect the people of Myanmar, who remain under daily siege from the military.” 

Despite grave danger and persecution, brave individuals within Myanmar have continued to pursue peaceful protests. In the lead up to and on the day of the anniversary, Amnesty International is participating in protests, vigils and events in cities around the world, including in Bangkok and Seoul, to show solidarity with the people of Myanmar. 

“Speaking up for those in Myanmar who risk lengthy jail sentences, torture and death in custody for expressing peaceful defiance is not a trivial gesture,” Amnesty’s Ming Yu Hah said. “Solidarity has never been more important, as it can raise people’s spirits and show them they are not alone in their darkest hour.”  

But the United Nations and governments around the world must do more than send messages of support.  

The recent historic UN Security Council resolution on Myanmar was welcome but much more is needed from world governments, who must also apply more pressure on the military to release all those arbitrarily detained for peacefully exercising their human rights.  

The UN Security Council must refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court. It must also impose a comprehensive global arms embargo on Myanmar that covers all weapons, munitions, dual-use technology, and other military and security equipment, training and any additional forms of assistance.  

States and companies must also suspend the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer, including transit, trans-shipment and brokering of aviation fuel to Myanmar until effective mechanisms are in place to ensure that aviation fuel will not be used to carry out devastating air strikes and commit serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law.  

“The human rights situation in Myanmar is intolerable. People in Myanmar are suffering every day and do not have the luxury of time. While many governments have heeded calls to action, it is not yet enough to stop the grave violations of the military. The international community cannot let another day pass, let alone another two years, before taking additional effective steps to stop the military’s atrocities.” 


Since the coup on 1 February 2021, Amnesty International has documented widespread human rights violations, including war crimes and possible crimes against humanity as part of the military’s crackdown on the opposition across the country. 

In November 2022, Amnesty launched a campaign calling for a suspension of the supply of aviation fuel to prevent the Myanmar military from carrying out unlawful air strikes. The investigation also identified companies involved across the supply chain.  

Pick to PostMyanmar coupAmnesty International (AI)
Categories: Prachatai English

Lèse majesté watchdog urges more commitment on hunger strikers' demands

Prachatai English - Wed, 2023-02-01 15:17
Submitted on Wed, 1 Feb 2023 - 03:17 PM112WATCH

112WATCH expresses its deep concern over the hunger strike of two young female activists—Tantawan ‘Tawan’ Tuatulanon and Orawan ‘Bam’ Phuphong, who have been refusing food and drink and are now in grave danger.

On January 18, the two began a dry hunger strike, abstaining from food and water. They are now hospitalised. Setting out on their protest, the pair made three demands:

  1. Justice reforms,
  2. The moratorium on political prosecution, and
  3. Political parties to guarantee people's rights and liberties by repealing Article 112 (lese-majeste law) and Article 116.

Earlier, the two activists revoked their own bail in their Article 112 cases and symbolically poured blood over themselves. They returned to prison and began their hunger strike. They are hospitalised, in critical condition and refusing medical care.

Activists march to court to demand right to bail

Opposition parties back activists’ demand for judicial reform

With Tawan and Bam’s hunger protest ongoing, there have been active moves from civil society organisations, including statements from students’ organisations and unions calling for the court to immediately drop charges against them. There have also been calls for a public hearing on the abolition of Article 112.

112WATCH is in agreement with these organisations. There HAS TO BE a serious debate on Article 112. Tawan and Bam may die after calling for the protection of the fundamental human rights for Thai citizens.

It is disappointing to witness an ambivalent position of Thai political parties in regard to Article 112. While they offer concern about the two lives in peril, they have failed to take a lead in any discussion on reforms of the monarchy and the court, nor the abolition of Article 112. This passivity will worsen the situation involving democracy and human rights for all Thais.

Therefore, 112WATCH demands the following:

  1. That the Thai authorities uphold the rule of law, guarantee the right of political prisoners, and defend the human rights and justice,
  2. The reform of the Thai judicial system (following years of judicialisation affecting human rights of many Thais,
  3. The reform of the monarchy, and
  4. The abolition of Article 112.

These demands CANNOT be compromised if Thailand is to solve the current crisis.

112WATCH understands the wishes of Tawan and Bam but is extremely worried about their well-being.

Fulfilling their demands will be the first step, not only to set Tawan and Bam free from their political conditions but to move Thailand ahead to become a normal democratic society.

112WATCH is a coalition of people and an organisation that value human rights and democracy. 112WATCH aims to halt the Thai authorities’ escalating use of Article 112, Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, which is used to punish, to sideline and to silence citizens.

Pick to PostTantawan TuatulanonOrawan Phuphong112WATCHlèse majesté lawSource:
Categories: Prachatai English

Activists march to court to demand right to bail

Prachatai English - Mon, 2023-01-30 14:34
Submitted on Mon, 30 Jan 2023 - 02:34 PMPrachatai

On Sunday (29 January), activists and protesters marched to the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court to demand the release of political prisoners. Meanwhile, lawyers attempted to post bail for 12 people still detained pending trial or appeal, but were rejected.

Activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa leading the march to the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court (Photo by ZEE AI)

On Sunday morning (29 January), activists from the Thalufah group and a number of protesters travelled via the BTS sky train from the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), where they have been continuously protesting for the past week to demand the release of political prisoners, to the Major Cineplex Ratchayothin shopping mall. From there, they marched to the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court to meet with the team of lawyers from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), who requested bail for 12 activists and protesters detained pending trial or appeal on charges relating to their participation in pro-democracy protests, including 4 people detained on royal defamation charges.

The march was part of the protests demanding the release of political prisoners and showing support for the demands for judicial reform and for political parties to back the repeal of the royal defamation and sedition laws made by activists Tantawan Tuatunalon and Orawan Phuphong, who revoked their own bail in protest against the judicial system and are now undergoing a dry hunger strike in detention.

However, lawyers did not request bail for Tantawan and Orawan, along with activists Sopon Surariddhidhamrong and Nutthanit Duangmusit, as they asked not to be bailed until other detained protesters have been released.

After arriving at the Criminal Court, activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa read out a statement calling for the release of every political prisoner detained pending trial or appeal, and for bail conditions such as wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet or being prohibited from leaving one's residence, which can be disproportionate in limiting daily activities, to be revoked.

Protesters gathered in front of the Criminal Court for a while, before returning to the courtyard in front of the BACC for their daily Stand Against Detention protest.

At 15.00, TLHR reported that the Criminal Court had rejected the bail request for 9 activists and protesters detained pending trial. Meanwhile, bail requests for three people detained pending appeal on royal defamation charges were forwarded to the Appeal Court for consideration.

Man who died during protest a ‘lover of democracy’

Pairot Chotsiphanphon

While protesters were gathering in front of the Criminal Court, it was reported that an elderly man collapsed while sitting at the bus stop in front of the court and was taken to hospital. It was later reported that the man, Pairot Chotsiphanphon, 67, had died from a heart attack.

Jatupat posted a message on Facebook that Pairot was a “lover of democracy” and a regular protest-goer who has been continuously participating in pro-democracy protests.

“I offer my condolences and express my respect for Uncle Pairot, with admiration for an oppressed person who fought until his last moment,” Jatupat wrote.

Pui and Malee

Pairot’s friend Malee told Prachatai that they met during the Red Shirt protests and became friends because they regularly attended the protests. She said that Pairot came from Phichit Province, where his two sisters live, and that he lived alone in Bangkok where he had a business.

Malee and Pui, another protester, said they meet Pairot for a meal every Friday, as they live in the same neighbourhood, and that it was quality time for them to meet each other and talk politics.

Malee said they decided last Friday (27 January) to join the Stand Against Detention protest at the BACC because they were concerned for the young activists on hunger strike in prison. “He said he was worried about Tawan,” Malee said.

Both Malee and Pui said they did not know that Pairot had a heart condition, and that he only ever complained to them about his back pain. They also said that the activists who organized the protest should not feel guilty because Pairot’s death was due to a health condition, and that they are still supporting the group as there is still a long way to go.

Meanwhile, Tueng, another protester and a friend of Pairot, said that Pairot often brought food to give out to protesters. Sometimes he would bring a stove and pan and make them fried eggs.

Tueng also said that he did not previously know Pairot had a heart condition before Sunday. He said that Pairot took the MRT underground train to Lat Phrao station and walked to the Criminal Court. They were sitting at the bus stop together when Pairot told him that his chronic back pain is gone but that he found out that he had a heart condition.

At the BACC, Thalufah activists held a candlelit vigil for Pairot after their daily Stand Against Detention protest. Jatupat then announced that on the 29 January of each year, the activists will meet in front of the Criminal Court for a memorial event for Pairot.

NewsThalufahpolitical prisonersRatchadapisek Criminal Courtright to bail
Categories: Prachatai English

Opposition parties back activists’ demand for judicial reform

Prachatai English - Sat, 2023-01-28 16:58
Submitted on Sat, 28 Jan 2023 - 04:58 PM

6 opposition parties have issued a statement backing the call for the reform of the judicial system made by monarchy reform activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong, who have been on a dry hunger strike since 18 January, but did not respond to their demand for political parties to back the repeal of the royal defamation and sedition laws.

A banner calling for the reform of the judicial system hanging from the Pathumwan Skywalk during a protest on 26 January.

The joint statement was issued on 26 January by Pheu Thai, Move Forward, Seri Ruam Thai, Prachachart, Puea Chat, and Thai People Power parties. It raised concerns about the two activists’ condition, and said that, in order to revolve the current situation, the government, the Ministry of Justice, and the courts should hold public hearings to collect opinion on how the judicial system should be reformed, from people affected by the current judicial process, legal experts, human rights organizations, and political parties.

It also called on the court of justice to stand by the principles of presumption of innocence and judges’ independence, and must ensure that defendants in political cases are given their rights in the judicial process, and must also have their bail requests considered fairly.

“The opposition parties believe that these initial proposals will prevent further crisis of faith in the judicial process. Restoring people’s trust in the judicial process will be the last obstacle to ending conflict in society,” said the statement.

The statement triggered some criticism after it was released for not mentioning the royal defamation law, when Tantawan and Orawan also called for political parties to back the repeal of the royal defamation and sedition laws. The Progressive Movement’s Secretary-General Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a former lecturer at Thammasat University’s Faculty of Law and former MP from the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, posted on Twitter a call for the Move Forward Party to continue its campaign for amendment of the royal defamation law and amnesty for student activists and protesters.

He also wrote that the parties coming together might create unity, but it could also reinforce the idea that the repeal or amendment of the royal defamation law is not possible, and asked whether it will never been possible to change the royal defamation law through parliamentary methods.

Piyabutr called on the Move Forward party, which was formed by Future Forward MPs who were not banned from politics, to try harder to demand either the amendment or repeal of the royal defamation law and an end to the prosecution of young activists. He wrote that they should stop caring about the result of the upcoming election and becoming part of a government coalition and ask themselves what the party was formed for. He also questioned why the party should join other politicians and reinforce the idea that it was not possible to change the royal defamation law when the situation has changed.

NewsJudicial reformpolitical prisonersright to bailPresumption of innocenceMove Forward partyPheu Thai PartySeri Ruam Thai PartyPrachachart PartyPuea Chat PartyThai People Power PartyProgressive MovementPiyabutr Saengkanokkul
Categories: Prachatai English

Opposition parties back activists’ demand for judicial reform

Prachatai English - Sat, 2023-01-28 16:58
Submitted on Sat, 28 Jan 2023 - 04:58 PM

6 opposition parties have issued a statement backing the call for the reform of the judicial system made by monarchy reform activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong, who have been on a dry hunger strike since 18 January, but did not respond to their demand for political parties to back the repeal of the royal defamation and sedition laws.

A banner calling for the reform of the judicial system hanging from the Pathumwan Skywalk during a protest on 26 January.

The joint statement was issued on 26 January by Pheu Thai, Move Forward, Seri Ruam Thai, Prachachart, Puea Chat, and Thai People Power parties. It raised concerns about the two activists’ condition, and said that, in order to revolve the current situation, the government, the Ministry of Justice, and the courts should hold public hearings to collect opinion on how the judicial system should be reformed, from people affected by the current judicial process, legal experts, human rights organizations, and political parties.

It also called on the court of justice to stand by the principles of presumption of innocence and judges’ independence, and must ensure that defendants in political cases are given their rights in the judicial process, and must also have their bail requests considered fairly.

“The opposition parties believe that these initial proposals will prevent further crisis of faith in the judicial process. Restoring people’s trust in the judicial process will be the last obstacle to ending conflict in society,” said the statement.

The statement triggered some criticism after it was released for not mentioning the royal defamation law, when Tantawan and Orawan also called for political parties to back the repeal of the royal defamation and sedition laws. The Progressive Movement’s Secretary-General Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a former lecturer at Thammasat University’s Faculty of Law and former MP from the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, posted on Twitter a call for the Move Forward Party to continue its campaign for amendment of the royal defamation law and amnesty for student activists and protesters.

He also wrote that the parties coming together might create unity, but it could also reinforce the idea that the repeal or amendment of the royal defamation law is not possible, and asked whether it will never been possible to change the royal defamation law through parliamentary methods.

Piyabutr called on the Move Forward party, which was formed by Future Forward MPs who were not banned from politics, to try harder to demand either the amendment or repeal of the royal defamation law and an end to the prosecution of young activists. He wrote that they should stop caring about the result of the upcoming election and becoming part of a government coalition and ask themselves what the party was formed for. He also questioned why the party should join other politicians and reinforce the idea that it was not possible to change the royal defamation law when the situation has changed.

NewsJudicial reformpolitical prisonersright to bailPresumption of innocenceMove Forward partyPheu Thai PartySeri Ruam Thai PartyPrachachart PartyPuea Chat PartyThai People Power PartyProgressive MovementPiyabutr Saengkanokkul
Categories: Prachatai English

2023 Elections: Policy Advocacy for LGBTQIA+, Women, and Children or Just an Election-Campaign Scheme?

Prachatai English - Fri, 2023-01-27 18:53
Submitted on Fri, 27 Jan 2023 - 06:53 PMAttachai Had-an

Story by Attachai Had-an
Cover illustration by Kittiya On-in

In preparation for the upcoming election on May 7, 2023, “The Opener” has studied the spread of misinformation and how it might impair the quest for a free and fair election in Thailand.

Lessons from the 2019 election campaign until now indicate that while many political parties, including those in the government coalition, have long advocated on behalf of ‘vulnerable’ social groups like women and children, they have seldom implemented policies on their behalf.

Unsurprisingly, some people have come to believe that such policy pronouncements are little more than empty campaign rhetoric designed to woo voters.

In this article, we will look at how gender-related policies - policies addressing the welfare of women and children, LGBTQIA+ , and gender equality - are being discussed this election period.

Pracharath’s Mother-Baby Bonus Policy: Another Campaign Pledge Before the Election?

During the 2019 election, many political parties campaigned using policies to support maternal and child welfare. For example, Palang Pracharath Party promoted a policy called “Pracharath mother” which offered a 3,000 baht (or over USD 90) monthly subsidy for nine months of pregnancy, a 10,000 baht (over USD 300) payment to cover the cost of childbirth, and 2,000 (over USD 60) baht per month in support for children under the age of 6 - a total of 181,000 baht (or over USD 5,500) per person.

Under the same policy, parental leave was to be provided for at least 30 days after childbirth. Those staying home to look after sick children could also still get paid by submitting appropriate medical certificates.

The Democrat Party campaigned with a similar “Baby Bonus” policy, which provided 5,000 baht (over USD 150) for the cost of childbirth and 1,000 baht (over USD 30) per month for raising a child up to the age of 8.  It also stipulated free education and free lunches for children until Grade 9.

Despite the fact that Palang Pracharath Party is leading the coalition government, and the Democrat Party is supervising the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, these policies were never implemented.

Instead, since 2016 the push for child welfare has been driven from outside the government by civil society organisations.  Because of CSO efforts, a policy was implemented in 2017 to offer low-income families subsidies of 600 baht (over USD 18) per month for children under the age of 6.  Initially it benefitted at least 90,216 people.

After support criteria was adjusted to include families with an annual income of less than 100,000 baht (over USD 3,000), the number of children benefiting in 2022 increased to 2,351,720 - a significant portion of the country’s approximately 4.2 million young children.

Child Development and Thai Politics

Janya Thapporn and Siriporn Thapporn, a centre volunteer

Stating the obvious, Janya Thapporn, the founder and head of Sirisombath Preschool Child Development Centre, a facility that has been operating for 10 years, notes that parental circumstances have a huge impact on childhood development. Low-income single mothers face particular difficulties.

Janya explained that if mothers receive financial aid from the government to help take care of their children, they will have more time for their families and higher incomes, reducing the burden of paying for milk and food. 

Janya established her centre to take care of children from low-income families.  The centre receives a food subsidy of 20 baht (over USD 0.60) per person per day. She said that she agreed with the Democrat Party's policy because it was about nurturing children, the future of the nation.

“Even though it is almost the end of the term, the government still has the power to do it. Children all over the country are still waiting,” Janya said.

Janya believes that the policy was not implemented because the Democrat Party was not leading the coalition and lacked a majority vote.  She reckons that budgeting during the COVID-19 situation was also a problem.

Siriporn Thapporn, a centre volunteer who takes care of the children, said although many policy promises were made during the campaign, nothing much changed after the election. She had been hoping for the implementation of policies to improve women's health.

“The policies of each party during the campaigns were not very different. [I was hoping] they’d deliver on 80 percent of their promises …”

Now she admits to feeling a little desperate sometime.  "I still hope that the next government may actually implement mother and child care policies … but I’m confused because they’ve campaigned for these policies in the past but haven’t really started anything yet. The new party is campaigning again but policies have yet to be implemented … and if we don't follow up, we don't know whether something has changed or not,” Siriporn said.

Call for Universal Basic Services

Sunee Chaiyaros

Sunee Chaiyaros, chairperson of a universal child welfare policy working group which represents some 340 civil society organisations, said that since 2016, her organisation has been lobbying for policy reforms in three areas: increasing the stipend to low-income parents so that they can raise their children properly; prevention of domestic violence; and improving welfare for  mothers and children.

During the 2019 election campaign, Sunee’s working group met with many party representatives who seemed to agree with the idea of universal welfare, a state policy of taking care of every child equally.  Subsequently, however, although the government has adopted new policies, these have been limited to low-income earners and are not considered part of universal welfare.

According to Sunee, the Palang Pracharath Party and the Democrat Party proposed policies that budgeted more than the working group asked for.  After forming the government, they failed to implement their policies, however. Contrary to what they promised during the campaign, they only provided assistance to the very poor, a policy that did little to address current problems in the sector.

Sunee added that after the election, the opposition party continued to debate questions raised by CSGs in parliament with the result that in 2020, the Committee for National Child and Youth Development Promotion passed a resolution in support of universal welfare. However, relevant agencies failed to comply with the resolution. When asked about the matter, Jurin Laksanawisit, leader of the Democrat Party and Deputy Prime Minister, and Chuti Krairiksh, the Minister of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) blamed a lack a budget.

“Don't say they don't have money. It was a decision made by the MSDHS in 2022.  They are supposed to take care of the population from birth to death.  Last year, they received a budget of approximately 24 billion baht (USD 731 million). The Ministry of Defense received a budget of approximately 200 billion baht (USD 6.1 billion),” Sunee said.

Sunee notes that nowadays, old age pensions, disability allowances, free education, and medical insurance cards are all considered basic universal services. She adds that there are still problems - only poor mothers and children receive assistance.  She wonders why this important issue continues to be overlooked.

During their previous campaigns, Palang Pracharath Party and the Democrat Party promised that welfare would be provided to everyone. Despite this, the government has not implemented this mandate, even though there is a constitutional provision that the state must take care of children.  And a resolution from  the Committee on Child and Youth Development Promotion led by Jurin to protect the rights of children.

“I have lost all hope for this government. As long as there is no election, there is no pressure on them,” Sunee stated.

Her organisation’s next move is to communicate urgent issue to the new government.  They plan to meet with 15 political parties, and increase political pressure from their supporters.

Sunee notes that the state has a duty take care of mothers during their pregnancy and look after children until they reach the age of six.  They are supposed to increase the subsidy from 600 to 3,000 baht per month. She adds that civil groups will be monitoring how political parties frame their positions.

“We used to wonder if children were being denied universal basic services because they have no vote.  But lots of people who can vote have taken up the issue - parents, labor groups, LGBTQIA+ groups, P-Move, and even land rights groups. Our group will create a network and pressure political parties for policies, not just marketing schemes. We have to keep on pressuring them; children are a national resource,” Sunee said.

In a recent study, the Thailand Development Research Institute Foundation (TDRI) argued that amid the challenges of the new world, the welfare system must be people-centred, leaving no one behind. In the past, the Thai welfare system has targeted specific groups of people, leaving 60 percent of the population to rely their own resources.

Private charity has picked up some of the shortfall.  Thai people donate an average of 7.3 billion baht (or over USD 223.65 million) per year to charities and foundations, more than the budget of the MSDHS.

Advocates agree that it’s high time Thai civil society and the private sector establish a fund to help children.

In response to the United Nations’ (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Thailand formulated a “Leave No One Behind” vision for its social policies—at least on the surface.

Digital disruption and political attentiveness have made marginalised and vulnerable people visible, however.  They have been transformed into policy bases, not mere electoral bases like in the past. Political parties have to rethink the inclusiveness of their policies.  They must not only recognise diversity but place such issues front and centre in the upcoming election.

On Same-sex marriage

Bills calling for same-sex marriage and the promotion of LGBTQIA+ rights have been introduced in Parliament, beginning with the drafting of the 2013 Civil Partnership Bill which was introduced into the House of Representatives along with several related bills proposed by CSOs.  These were shelved by the 2014 coup.

The Justice Ministry’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department later reviewed the Civil Partnership Bill. It was proposed to the Cabinet by General Prajin Juntong, the Minister of Justice, and it was approved by the Cabinet in late 2018, before being revised in the parliament. The term of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) lapsed before the bill was passed and it was returned to the Ministry of Justice.

The fact that the military government had approved a bill granting the right to the family formation for LGBTQIA+ people generated a lot of buzz before the 2019 election. Also noticed was the fact that during the military governments of General Surayut Chulanont and General Prayut Chan-o-cha, gender equality was often promoted by allowing Pride Events or Gay Expo to be staged.

During the campaign, the Future Forward, Democrat, and several other political parties voiced support for LGBTQIA+ rights, same-sex marriage and gender-neutral titles. Concrete policies were lacking but there were some changes in Thai politics.  Future Forward Party fielded the first LGBTQIA+ member for Parliament and the conservative Palang Pracharath Party talked with LGBTQIA+ groups about their demands.

In June 2022, Move Forward Party proposed a draft Same-Sex Marriage Bill in the House of Representatives. The same day, the government placed the draft on its agenda along with a proposed amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code and a partnership bill from the Democrat Party. 

All four bills were approved by the House of Representatives and passed to a committee for further consideration.   Now, however, it appears that the new laws will not be completed before the end of the current parliamentary session, and the legislative process will  return to the Ministry of Justice for a third time.

LGBTQIA+ rights as a marketing campaign?

Kittinun Daramadhaj

Noting that the world and Thai society have accepted LGBTQIA+ as a natural thing, Kittinun Daramadhaj, president of the Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand and chairperson of the LGBTQ Community Advisory Board (MCAB), asserts that the current atmosphere is appropriate for advancing the rights of LGBTQIA+ people.

In the past, under the Thaksin Shinawatra and Abhisit Vejjajiva governments, LGBTQIA+  rights were not openly questioned, but they were also not promoted by law or policy. Later on, when a civil partnership bill was debated during Yingluck Shinawatra's government, the law still adhered to a gender binary system, a paradigm that still informed Constitutional Court rulings as late as 2021.

Now, however, the #EqualPeople agenda has seemingly gained acceptance in society due to a growing awareness of international human rights principles and the government’s “No one left behind” campaign. Kittinun attributes some of the ‘progress’ to political marketing schemes that target an LGBTQIA+ population of over 4 million people in Thailand and some 7 billion people worldwide.

According to Kittinun, political parties looking to win the support of this group are having an impact on social acceptance. As Kittinun sees it, parties have to cater to LGBTQIA+ constituents; those that fail to do so risk losing the vote to other parties. Seemingly unsupportive MPs are ‘outed’ by the media and online platforms. Because of this attention, during the election campaign, the Rainbow Sky Association was invited to express its concerns to every political party.

According to Kittinun, this is also why the state sector will appear to join with opposition parties and civil society groups whenever they propose new legislation.  Laws proposed by the opposition and civil society are seldom passed.  By lending its support, the government can claim ownership and not lose votes. As a result, bills proposed by the opposition, such as the 2015 Gender Equality Act, often encourage the government to enact laws that they otherwise might not adopt.

Despite this ‘progress’ Kittinun worries that political parties are not really concerned for the LGBTQIA+ community but instead are engaged in a marketing scheme in which there is no sustainability and no clear results.

"If they don't understand [the real issues of the LGBTQIA+ sector] and are just campaigning to gain votes - or trying not to lose votes - sustainability will not happen,” Kittinun said.

Once there is a law on family formation, Kittinun believes that it will be easier to pass other laws banning gender discrimination and protecting gender rights, due to a better understanding of people in the society.

Kittinun adds that many political parties have already gone beyond same-sex marriage to focus on cross-sectional issues.  What is lacking, he believes, is a population survey of vulnerable groups.   Without it, he worries that political parties will campaign by using the big framework of equality without looking for sustainable solutions

LGBTQIA+ and 2023 elections

Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn

According to Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn, a Fortify Rights officer and independent gender activist, LGBTQIA+ people in Thailand still face various types of direct and indirect social discrimination and violence.  The absence of clear legal protections does not help the situation at all.

Mookdapa cited a recent Constitutional Court ruling that reflected the state's perspective that LGBTQIA+ people were somehow radically different from men and women - a separate species. During the COVID-19 pandemic, LGBTQIA+ people were also excluded from certain occupations, exacerbating the discrimination they already faced in state schools, hospitals, and even prisons.

Despite provisions in the Constitution providing protection for all genders, gender still too often interpreted in traditional binary (male and female) terms. The Gender Equality Act has been passed, but it has not been practically enforced and its terms have not been properly communicated to the public.  Many government officials still don’t know that the act exists, let alone how to enforce it.

Mookdapa was pleased that during the 2019 election campaign, many political parties discussed gender diversity on mainstream media. The openness stood in marked contrast to the oppression LGBTQIA+ people had been facing for many years.

After the election, however, Mookdapa found gender issues were seldom raised by the government. A few parties treated gender diversity as an economic issue. Some even touted the idea of homonationalism to present Thailand as a civilised nation. Mookdapa believes that such measures were little more than superficial marketing schemes which did nothing to end discrimination, stigmatisation and violence against members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

“I think the government brings these drafts to promote what they have done, to make voters feel how far we have really come.   But are we satisfied with “how far” ? Can’t we dream of a more equal society?” Mookdapa asked.

Mookdapa guesses that the same-sex marriage bill and the civil partnership bill, which are unlikely to be passed by the House of Representatives before its term ends, will be promoted during the next political campaign period. She plans to keep an eye on which party states its intent to move this pending legislation forward in the medium and long term. As a voter, she is a bit worried that in the upcoming elections, these bills will used motivate people to head to the polls, that the bills will be used as a marketing tool to garner votes.

Her hopes for the legislation are different.  “I believe that these laws will help to break down prejudices in society, leading people to better understand the LGBTQIA+ community. The purpose of my movement is to create sympathy in society, to promote mutual acceptance,” Mookdapa said.

Since the 2017 constitutional referendum, the Thai government has seemingly taken steps to curtail the political participation of younger people, particularly rights advocates.  Many who took to the streets to protest were met with state violence.

Not surprisingly, some have lost hope. A poll of one Facebook group with a million members indicated that many now consider Thai politics to be beyond reform.

Part of this is due to the fact that the politically powerful have become adept at using misinformation to win elections.

Right advocates hope that voters will be able distinguish between campaign marketing ploys and actual promises.

In the upcoming Thai election, voters—and the world in general—will be watching to see how Thailand treats its vulnerable groups.

Note: This story is produced under the ANFREL Asian Media Fellowship on Election Reporting through the generous support of the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) Mission of Canada to ASEAN.

Featuregender equalitywelfareLGBTQLGBTQ rightsmarriage equalityParental leaveChildcareChildren's rightswomen's rights2023 general election
Categories: Prachatai English

Rare large gathering staged in support of fasting activists

Prachatai English - Fri, 2023-01-27 18:07
Submitted on Fri, 27 Jan 2023 - 06:07 PMPrachatai

Although many are already facing a long list of charges, activists have returned to protesting to support the demands made by two activists who have gone on a dry fast for over 10 days.

Protesters with images of the detained activists on royal defamation charges.

The 112-hour-long demonstration organised by the activist group Thalufah was coming to an end on 27 January evening. However, it attracted even more attention as about 500 people joining their stakeout, an exceptionally large gathering for the pro-democracy movement which, over the past year, has had diminished displays of support from the public.

The protest was held at the skywalk atop Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) to support Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong, two activists who renounced bail for their royal defamation charge and went on a hunger strike to demand reform of the justice system and the release of political prisoners. They are also calling on political parties to promote policies that ensure basic political freedoms.

The gatherers were joined by people who marched out from Chulalongkorn University. Student union members from the University and nearby Triam Udom Suksa school staged a 1.12 km walk to show their support for the pair’s demands.

People march to BACC from CU. The banner states "Return our people."

On 26 January, the fasting activists were moved to Thammasat University Hospital, where they were given potassium to keep their hearts from failing. Later that day, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Tantawan has refused to take any more.

Distress calls to save lives

Activists from many groups and organisations gave speeches. All have been charged with crimes for their past political expressions. Some are on bail with the condition that they not commit offences like protesting or encouraging others to do so.

In his speech, Anon Nampa reported that he received a phone call from a high-ranking figure in the Pheu Thai party.  He was told that on Friday, opposition parties will issue a statement in support of Tantawan and Orawan and their demands to amend, or possibly abolish, the royal defamation law.

Anon Nampa (Image: Ginger Cat)

He went on to list the gains of the post-2020 pro-democracy movement: the emergence of activist groups like Thalufah, Thaluwang, or Thalugaz, the approval of an anti-torture bill, and growing public scrutiny of the annual Royal Office budget.

He also noted that the harsh treatment state authorities brought to bear on the movement fostered unity among the protesters and created allies across generations, giving rise to fights against authoritarianism everywhere.

“Let us pass the message to Tawan and Bam. On this day, at this place, we have awakened and are ready to fight side by side with the two of them and the rest of those who are in prison…This is a clash between the old ideas and the new, between democracy and authoritarianism. It will be fought in every community, at every level.”

“We spoke truthfully in 2020 but they took us to the Court. The royalists told us, if you are so sure of yourselves,  prove it in the Court. But when we tried to prove what we said by asking for the release of travel documents [of King Rama X to Germany], the Court did not release them. Are they afraid of the truth?” said Anon.

Anon called upon protesters to raise their voices over the injustice political detainees have received. He also demanded that political prisoners be released and political parties respond to the pleas of fasting activists, both to save their lives and to see judicial reform happen.

In a separate speech from Yingcheep Atchanont, a campaigner from the legal watchdog, iLaw, it was noted that hundreds of people had already been charged for expressing their thoughts and even more were likely to be detained.

Yingcheep Atchanont

He went on to explain that in royal defamation cases, the judicial process was highly irregular. Judges claimed to be in charge of the process,  but the cases were often decided by court executives picked by Supreme Court committee members who had undergone a study program organised by the military.

At present, it is difficult to openly propose the abolition of the royal defamation law because legal mechanisms all but prohibit doing so.  Because the situation looked hopeless, the two activists decided to risk their lives to see if anyone supported them.

“We are here today to tell Bam and Tawan that we do,” said Yingcheep.

He added that the pair’s struggle may have influenced the outcomes in recent lese majeste cases: a suspect who was allowed bail in Chiang Rai; Computer Crime Act charge that was dropped in Pattaya; an effort to revoke the bail of another activist that was denied.

He also urged people to push for change with their votes in the upcoming election.

“I want to see Tawan and Bam go to vote. This would be their first time, wouldn’t it?” said Yingcheep.

A protester calls for free hug amidst sunflowers, a symbol for Tantawan and Orawan. (Image: Ginger Cat)

Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon, another activist, questioned the way the royal defamation law was being interpreted and noted that trials lacked uniform standards. In her view, over-enforcement by an authoritarian regime has turned the law into a political weapon.

Noting that the law had deprived people of their liberties and even caused deaths, she urged political parties to push for its abolition, to restore justice for her and others.

Panupong Jadnok, an activist from Rayong Province made an appearance after a lengthy period of a keeping a low public profile.

Noting that his speech could increase his charge tally to 41, he expressed hope that the protest would be followed by others. He also called upon the judicial system to recognise protesters' voices before it is too late.

Stakeout to go on

On a skywalk atop BACC, Thanapat Kapeng, an activist from Thalufah group, said there are still 22 political prisoners behind bars in total. He added that under authoritarian power, the courts were coming to be seen as nothing more than a tool to limit rights and freedom.

Thalufah expressed support for those who are fighting for change. They underlined Tantawan and Orawan’s demands, and also called for the immediate release of political prisoners to save the lives of the two hunger strikers.

“We won't go anywhere until our friends receive justice and freedom. Authoritarianism will never suppress the people’s hearts. The people have awakened and are on fire. They are inspired to act for the equality of the people,” said Thanapat.

Jatupat Boonpattararaksa

Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, a leading figure with Thalufah, announced that the group will continue to camp out and protest as long as the hunger strike continues.

NewsTantawan TuatulanonOrawan PhuphongRoyal defamationlèse majesté lawAnon NampaYingcheep AtchanontPanupong JadnokPatsaravalee TanakitvibulponJatupat Boonpattararaksa
Categories: Prachatai English

Activist sentenced to 28 years in prison for royal defamation

Prachatai English - Fri, 2023-01-27 16:36
Submitted on Fri, 27 Jan 2023 - 04:36 PMPrachatai

A 29-year-old activist in Chiang Rai has been sentenced to 28 years in prison on royal defamation charges resulting from a number of Facebook posts about the monarchy. The Chiang Rai Provincial Court found him guilty on 14 counts.

Mongkhon Thirakot during his protest in April 2021

Mongkhon Thirakot, a 29-year-old activist and online clothing vendor from Chiang Rai, was initially arrested in April 2021 while taking part in a hunger strike in front of the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court to demand the release of activists held in pre-trial detention at the time.

He was later charged with royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crime Act for 25 Facebook posts he made between 2 – 11 March 2021, including messages referring to the King’s images, sharing video clips and foreign news reports about the Thai monarchy, and sharing posts from Somsak Jeamteerasakul’s Facebook page while adding captions.

Police officers also searched his house in Chiang Rai and confiscated several pieces of paper with messages written on them, a declaration by the activist group Ratsadorn, an armband with the three-finger salute symbol, and a red ribbon, and had his mother sign documents to acknowledge the search and confiscation. Mongkhon’s mobile phone was also confiscated when he was arrested in Bangkok.

He was arrested again in May 2021 and charged with 2 more counts on the same charges for 2 more Facebook posts. He was granted bail both times.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that the Chiang Rai Provincial Court yesterday (26 January) found Mongkhon guilty of 14 counts of royal defamation, on the ground that 14 out of the 27 posts can be determined to be about King Vajiralongkorn and that they are an expression of opinion that is outside the limit of the law. As for the remaining 13 posts, the Court said that they were either about the late King Bhumibol or an undetermined person and dismissed them.

The court sentenced Mongkhon to 3 years in prison on each count, but reduced the sentence to 2 years per count because he gave useful testimony, giving a total sentence of 28 years, which TLHR said is the highest sentence given for royal defamation since 2020. However, TLHR noted that his sentence is still lower than the sentence given to Anchan Preelert, who was initially arrested in 2015 and later sentenced to 43 years and 6 months in prison, the longest-ever sentence under the royal defamation law, for allegedly sharing and uploading clips on social media of an online talk show alleged to include defamatory comments about the monarchy. She has been detained since 20 January 2021 after the Appeal Court rejected her bail request.

Mongkhon’s sentence has been widely reported on international media, including NPR, Deutsche Welle, and several other Australian media outlets, such as the Canberra Times and the South Western Times.

Mongkhon was later granted bail to appeal his charges on the condition that he must not do anything that damages the monarchy or leave the country. Since he posted bail using a total of 300,000 baht in security when he was arrested, the court did not require additional security.

TLHR noted that the court ordered Mongkhon to be tried in secret, and that initially no one not involved in the trial was allowed inside the courtroom. Mongkhon’s lawyer had to ask the court for permission before Mongkhon’s parents could enter the courtroom.

NewsMongkhon ThirakotSection 112Royal defamationlese majesteonline freedomfreedom of expressionpro-democracy protest 2021
Categories: Prachatai English

University of Wisconsin-Madison students stand in support of fasting activists

Prachatai English - Fri, 2023-01-27 15:44
Submitted on Fri, 27 Jan 2023 - 03:44 PMPrachatai

Under the watchful gaze of Abraham Lincoln, the UW-Madison Students for Thai Democracy braved the elements to demand the immediate release of political prisoners in Thailand.  They also called upon the Thai government to meet the demands of activists Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon and Orawan “Bam” Phuphong.

The newly formed organisation read their statements, written in both Thai and English, live on Facebook at 13.37 on 25 January, 2023. They began by saying that the Criminal Court, in denying and revoking the bail of twenty-two activists whose trials are ongoing, violated Article 11 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which states that “everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.”

They continued by tallying the number of people charged under Section 112 and 116 of the criminal code, Thailand’s lese majeste and anti-sedition statutes respectively, and then cited Article 19 of the UDHR, which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference.” They concluded by listing the three demands made by Tantawan and Orawan when their bail was revoked on 16 January:

  1. The courts must take into account human rights and the right to freedom of expression before other matters. 
  2. The end to prosecution of people who came out to exercise their freedom of expression, to protest, or to express themselves politically.
  3. That every party in Thai parliament should discuss the abolition of  Articles 112 and 116 of the Thai Criminal Code to ensure the rights and liberty of Thai people.”

After their demands received no response within a three-day time limit, Tantawan and Orawan announced on 18 January that they would be going on a hunger strike and would not request bail again until their demands are met. They were taken to the Department of Corrections Hospital on 20 January and are now in the 10th day of their hunger strike.

Tantawan and Orawan were transferred to Thammasat University Hospital on 24 January. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) noted that, although they have been transferred to a hospital that is not run by the Department of Corrections, they are still in detention.

“Time is running thin as Tawan and Bam are growing weaker after almost a week without food or water. We, the UW-Madison Students for Thai Democracy, once again demand the release of the twenty-two detained activists, AND we demand the Thai government to adhere to the three demands of Tawan and Bam immediately”, concluded the students before standing in silence for twenty-two minutes in solidarity with the twenty-two detained political activists.

Prachatai English reached out to the group for comment. They asked to be referred to only as UW-Madison students for safety.

“We wrote this statement to show our support for political prisoners like Tawan and Bam, and to let them all know that they are not alone in this fight and that they most definitely are not forgotten. We also wanted to bring this issue to light for other UW-Madison students and educate anyone willing to learn about the current violations of human rights in Thailand. We wanted to show that we stand with the movement in Thailand that asks simply for basic human rights.”

NewsUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonTantawan TuatulanonOrawan Phuphong
Categories: Prachatai English


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