Detained delivery rider goes on hunger strike
A food delivery rider accused on a royal defamation charge of setting fire to a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida and detained pending appeal has gone on a hunger strike to protest his own detention.
Sitthichok Sethasavet (Photo from iLaw)
On 17 January, 26-year-old food delivery rider Sitthichok Sethasavet was found guilty of royal defamation, arson, destruction of property, and violation of the Emergency Decree and sentenced to 2 years and 4 months in prison. He was accused of setting fire to a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida at a royal ceremonial arch on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue during a protest on 18 July 2021, but he said he passed by the protest on his way to deliver an order and was trying to put out the fire.
After he was sentenced, his lawyer requested bail. However, the Criminal Court forwarded his bail request to the Appeal Court, which then denied the request. He has been detained at Bangkok Remand Prison since 17 January.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported yesterday (24 January) that Sitthichok’s lawyer learned during their visit with him earlier that day that he has been on a hunger strike since his first day in prison, and has been drinking only milk.
His lawyer said that he seemed normal during the visit, but finally told his lawyer that he is on a hunger strike after he told the lawyer that he vomited blood, making the lawyer press him about his health and wellbeing.
Sitthichok has lost 4 KG in weight and suffers from stomach pain while lying down, while a test found that he has low blood sugar. He also said that he was being reprimanded by the prison warden, who is trying to pressure him to end his hunger strike.
Sitthichok told his lawyer that he intends to also stop drinking milk and will only be drinking water, and that he decided to go on a hunger strike because he felt that it was unfair and unreasonable for him to be detained.
“I wanted to protest against the court for the injustice that they have perpetrated against political prisoners. We are the only ones being accused, and we are denied bail,” he said.
Now detained pending appeal, Sitthichok intends to fight the charges, and has told his lawyer that he wants to prove his own innocence to the court. He also said he wanted to be released because he likes helping others and there is no life inside the prison.
“If I have to die because I expose the court’s injustice, it’s still more honourable than staying in here,” he said.
Sitthichok is one of 16 people currently detained pending trial or appeal on charges relating to their participation in the pro-democracy movement, 8 of whom are detained on royal defamation charges.NewsSitthichok Sethasavethunger strikeright to bailPre-trial detentionSection 112lese majesteRoyal defamation
Criminal complaint filed in Germany against Myanmar generals for atrocity crimes
Fortify Rights and 16 individual complainants from Myanmar filed a criminal complaint with the Federal Public Prosecutor General of Germany under the principle of universal jurisdiction against senior Myanmar military generals and others for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, Fortify Rights announced on 24 January.
A file photo of protesters confronting the police in Myanmar.
The 215-page complaint and more than 1,000 pages of annexes provide evidence to assist the Office of the Federal Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the Rohingya genocide as well as atrocity crimes related to the military junta’s coup d’état launched on February 1, 2021.
February 1, 2023 marks the second anniversary of the deadly coup and crackdown in Myanmar, and August 2022 marked five years since the Myanmar military’s most egregious attacks on the Rohingya people. However, the individuals responsible for crimes related to both have yet to be held accountable.
“An ethnically diverse and united front of survivors from throughout Myanmar are bringing this case to seek justice and accountability,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder at Fortify Rights.
“Despite international attention and several ongoing accountability initiatives, the Myanmar military still enjoys complete impunity, and that must end. These crimes cannot go unpunished. Germany’s universal jurisdiction law is a global model for combatting impunity for the worst crimes and providing access to justice for survivors of atrocities no matter where the crimes occur or where the survivors are located.”
Universal jurisdiction is a legal principle enabling a state to prosecute individuals responsible for mass atrocity crimes—genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes—regardless of where the crimes occurred or the nationality of the perpetrator or victims. Universal jurisdiction is typically reserved for “international crimes,” which are so severe that they represent offenses against the entire international community.
The criminal complaint was filed on January 20, 2023. Fortify Rights is represented by Covington & Burling LLP, which has offices in Germany.
Approximately half of the 16 individual complainants survived the Rohingya genocide and Myanmar military-led “clearance operations” in Rakhine State in 2016 and 2017, and approximately half survived post-coup atrocities in states and regions throughout the country in 2021 and 2022.
The complainants include six women and ten men who represent several ethnicities in Myanmar, including Arakanese (Rakhine), Burman, Chin, Karen, Karenni, Mon, and Rohingya. They include students, scholars, farmers, human rights defenders, businesspersons, former village heads, and homemakers. All the complainants survived or witnessed crimes in Myanmar, and many have since fled the country. At the time of writing, the complainants are located in several countries, including Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Germany, and the U.S.
Two of the complainants—“M.K.” (not their real initials) and Nickey Diamond—are presently situated in Germany and have retained German legal counsel for matters related to the complaint announced today. They both experienced and witnessed crimes in Myanmar in 2017 and 2021, respectively.
“We trust in Germany to open an investigation and seek justice for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed by the military and its leaders in Myanmar,” said Nickey Diamond, who is also a member of the Board of Directors at Fortify Rights. “This is the time to end impunity and ensure the military perpetrators and others no longer get away with their crimes.”
“F.K.” (not her real initials) is a 51-year-old Rohingya woman complainant who survived genocidal attacks in Rakhine State in 2017. In August 2017, soldiers and non-Rohingya residents of Rakhine State entered her village in northern Rakhine State, burned houses, and prevented residents of the village from fleeing. Individuals under the military’s control raped F.K.’s daughter-in-law while F.K. was in earshot and as soldiers beat her in an adjacent room.
The Myanmar military killed seven members of her family in the attack on her village and, in a separate incident, cut her with a knife, leaving permanent scars. F.K. witnessed piles of dead bodies of Rohingya civilians in her village and military soldiers stabbing, beating, and killing numerous Rohingya men and children. Soldiers killed one child as he begged them for drinking water.
F.K. told Fortify Rights: “The Myanmar government and military have been trying to vanish our Rohingya community for 50 years. . . As a Rohingya woman, I want justice for the genocide so that it does not happen again. As a Rohingya complainant, I am ready to file the UJ [universal jurisdiction] case.”
The complaint announced today alleges that the Myanmar military systematically killed, raped, tortured, imprisoned, disappeared, persecuted, and committed other acts that amount to genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in violation of the German Code of Crimes Against International Law.
The complaint includes substantial evidence showing that senior military junta officials exercised superior responsibility over subordinates who committed crimes, knew about their subordinates’ crimes, and failed to take any action to prevent the crimes from happening and to punish the perpetrators.
The complaint is on file with the German authorities and is not publicly available.
In the complaint, Fortify Rights and the complainants request that the German Prosecutor open an investigation into specific military officials and others who, according to evidence, are liable for mass atrocity crimes. The complaint also requests that the German authorities open a “structural investigation” into the situation in Myanmar, which would uncover numerous other crimes in various locations and affecting other ethnic groups not otherwise covered by the complaint.
Thi Da, one of the complainants, is a 35-year-old ethnic-Chin woman and mother of three. In September 2021, the Myanmar military arbitrarily arrested and tortured her husband, Ngai Kung, 35. Following his arrest, Thi Da received no official information about her husband’s whereabouts and well-being, rendering it an enforced disappearance. Myanmar junta soldiers reportedly informed a group of pastors that her husband was killed. At the time of writing, Thi Da does not know what happened to him.
“I’m still angry with the [Myanmar junta] soldiers,” said Thi Da to Fortify Rights. “They don’t think of us as people and treat us like animals or objects.”
In addition to the complainants’ testimonies to the Prosecutor General, the complaint draws on more than 1,000 interviews with survivors of international crimes in Myanmar conducted by Fortify Rights since 2013 as well as leaked documents and information provided by Myanmar military and police deserters and others that shed light on the military’s operations, crimes, and command structures.
More than 1,000 pages of annexes accompany the complaint and include additional documentation of atrocity crimes in Myanmar that may be of service to the German authorities, including revelatory reports by Fortify Rights, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews, the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, and others.
An investigation and subsequent prosecution of these crimes under German law would serve to punish those who have committed the gravest of crimes, prevent future crimes by perpetrators in Myanmar, and signal to other would-be perpetrators in Myanmar and elsewhere that accountability for atrocity crimes cannot be avoided, said Fortify Rights.
As part of this complaint, several Myanmar civil society organizations agreed to cooperate with the German authorities, including the Chin Human Rights Organization, the Karen Human Rights Group, the Karenni Human Rights Group, the Human Rights Foundation of Monland, the Burmese Rohingya Organization U.K, and an organized network of Myanmar lawyers working throughout the country.
Similarly, as part of this complaint, prominent human rights defenders from Myanmar and several senior U.N. officials, diplomats, and others have agreed to be resource persons for the German prosecutor in this case. They include U.N. Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews; former U.N. special rapporteurs Tomas Quintana and Yanghee Lee; former Dutch Ambassador Laetitia van den Assum; former Thai Ambassador Kobsak Chutikul; members of the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission Marzuki Darusman and Chris Sidoti; President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Kerry Kennedy; and others.
An investigation and subsequent prosecutions in Germany of the atrocity crimes detailed in the complaint would not duplicate other international accountability efforts underway but would only add to the mounting evidence about the Myanmar military’s crimes, said Fortify Rights. Other efforts include an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC), a genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and a universal jurisdiction case in Argentina for crimes related to the Rohingya genocide.
Specifically, in 2019, the ICC authorized an investigation into crimes perpetrated by Myanmar authorities against Rohingya where at least part of the crime was committed on the territory of Bangladesh or another State under ICC jurisdiction. At present, the ICC cannot investigate and prosecute any international crime completed entirely in Myanmar, and thus the investigation would not encompass the vast majority of the crimes against Rohingya alleged in the complaint. The ICC is also not investigating crimes against humanity or war crimes that occurred in the aftermath of the February 2021 coup d’état.
In 2019, the Republic of The Gambia brought a case against Myanmar at the ICJ in The Hague, alleging Myanmar is responsible for genocide against the Rohingya people. While it is a critically important case, the ICJ proceeding concerns only State responsibility for Myanmar’s violation of its obligations under the Genocide Convention. The ICJ does not hold individuals criminally accountable, and no individuals will face repercussions through that court for crimes uncovered in that proceeding.
Also in 2019, Rohingya human rights defender Maung Tun Khin of the Burmese Rohingya Organization U.K. (BROUK) and six Rohingya women survivors filed a petition urging an Argentinian court to investigate, under universal jurisdiction, crimes committed with impunity against Rohingya in Myanmar.
That judicial investigation is ongoing; however, while critically important, the case in the Argentinian courts currently focuses only on a specific region and does not address war crimes or the conduct surrounding the attacks against Rohingya in 2016 and 2017 or crimes against humanity in connection with the coup d’état.
Moreover, unlike German law, Argentine law does not prescribe a punishment for the crime of genocide, so there is no applicable penalty for the offense. Rather, a perpetrator can be convicted in Argentina in the context of genocide but would be punished for “ordinary” crimes committed, such as homicide, rape, or unlawful detention. Maung Tun Khin and BROUK have agreed to cooperate with German authorities on the complaint submitted by Fortify Rights and others.
The German authorities are well-placed to fill present gaps left by the currently pending accountability mechanisms, said Fortify Rights.
In 2019, Fortify Rights began exploring international legal options for survivors in Myanmar to pursue criminal prosecutions under universal jurisdiction. The organization researched and analyzed the feasibility of 16 jurisdictions in Europe, Africa, and South America that provide access to justice for atrocity crimes committed outside their national borders, ultimately deciding to file the complaint in Germany.
Under German law, the Prosecutor has the ultimate discretion to bring a case under universal jurisdiction. The Prosecutor should do so in particular when important witnesses to atrocities are present in Germany, which is the case regarding the complaint announced today.
German prosecutors are currently conducting more than 100 investigations into international crimes related to other countries and contexts. The Prosecutor General has also undertaken numerous structural investigations into atrocity crimes, which have led to several trials. German courts have heard cases dealing with torture in Syrian prisons as well as crimes by members of Da’esh, including against the Yazidi community.
In March 2022, the German Prosecutor opened a structural investigation into Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
In a statement to the United Nations on October 22, 2022, the Permanent Mission of Germany to the U.N. stated:
While we would prefer to have the most serious crimes under international law tried by international tribunals, in particular the ICC if the applicable complementarity criteria are met, the Code of Crimes against International Law allows us to work towards accountability for these crimes on a national level . . . The message is clear: those who commit atrocities cannot feel safe. They will eventually be held accountable. There is no safe haven for perpetrators of international crimes against criminal prosecution in Germany. Justice will be served for the victims and survivors.
Investigations by German authorities into international crimes can also potentially be used in prosecutions in venues and jurisdictions outside Germany.
“Germany is in a unique position to help thwart impunity in Myanmar,” said Matthew Smith. “Fortify Rights and the individual complainants are poised and ready to assist German prosecutors. An investigation now will help ensure that those responsible for these heinous crimes are held to account and punished, whether in Germany or elsewhere.”
Excerpts from select complainants’ statements to the German authorities:
[T]he military found where we were hiding and started firing at us. My mother told me to run away to save my life, so I jumped into the river . . . I saw bullets coming like drops of rain . . . When I realized I lost my family, I felt totally broken inside. My village was burned before my eyes. There is not a single home left. I lost everything.
—Statement of Rohingya Complainant “J.H.” (not actual initials)
[The military] surrounded the village . . . [and] began tying people up. At one point, I recall that the military entered the downstairs of the house [where we were hiding] and shot a seven- or eight-year-old boy in the kitchen. His brain spread across the floor . . . The soldiers then tried grabbing me . . . I fell and became unconscious. After I became unconscious, I did not know where my baby had been taken . . . I kept screaming for my baby child.
—Statement of Rohingya Complainant “S.B.” (not actual initials)
After the coup occurred, . . . I was told [by my contacts in the Ministry of Home Affairs] that if I was captured, I would most likely be tortured and/or killed. Around March 10, 2021, I and my family escaped . . . We often were forced to dig our own bomb shelters to avoid the threat of airstrikes of our entirely civilian encampments, as other such civilian areas were constantly being targeted by the Tatmadaw.
—Statement of Myanmar coup Complainant Nickey Diamond
In the days following the military coup, the police arrested people who helped the protestors. My friend was arrested for giving water to the protesters. Because I gave them [the protestors] shelter, I knew that I would be arrested. When Muslims are arrested, they are often killed or disappeared. I am a huge target for the military because of my human rights work, identity as a Rohingya Muslim, and my political views. I believed that I would be killed if I was arrested . . . I have feared for my life since the coup.
—Statement of Myanmar coup Complainant Abdul RasheedPick to PostFortify RightsRohingyaMyanmar coupSource: https://www.fortifyrights.org/mya-inv-2023-01-24/
Demands of fasting activists taken up by political parties
In response to the hunger strikes of two detained activists, opposition political party members have pledged to support bail rights and ending the criminalisation of political opinions.
Pita Limjaroenrat, Move Forward Party leader receives a letter from the activists. Each party takes turns doing the same. (Source: The Reporters)
On 24 January 2023, a group of activists submitted a petition to parliamentarians from the Pheu Thai, Move Forward, Seri Ruamthai, and Prachachart Parties.
Group representative Rattapom Lertpaijit said the health of two detained activists, Tantawan Tuatulanont and Orawan Phuphong, has reached a crisis point. The pair have been on a hunger strike for 6 days 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.
In support of the hunger strikers, the group is demanding that the Court uphold the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and release political detainees. It has also asked that political parties promote policies to protect people from being charged for expressing their political thoughts.
Commenting upon the government’s harsh treatment of protesters jailed for political expression, Julapan Amornwiwat, vice president of the Pheu Thai Party, said his party is monitoring the situation closely.
He urged the government to peacefully engage with protesters and release all political detainees. He also emphasised that Pheu Thai and other opposition parties support bail rights.
“We support the demands of the younger generation, of people everywhere, for democracy. This includes Bam and Tawan (the nicknames of Orawan and Tantawan) who are currently in prison. Let their struggle be safe and successful,” said Julapan.
According to Tossaporn Serirak, a Pheu Thai Party member and doctor who previously participated in street demonstrations, the 6th day of a hunger strike can be quite serious. Deprived of water, the body will attempt to save fluids by halting urination, resulting in the accumulation of toxic elements. Glucose will be extracted from the liver and muscle and a potentially fatal kidney failure may occur.
In the face of the detainees’ grave medical condition, he called upon political parties to join hands and pressure the government to meet their demands.
Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the Move Forward Party visited Tantawan and Orawan on Tuesday morning. He reported that their spirits were healthy but their bodies were not. The two asked him to thank people for their support.
They also asked Pita to remind the public that people suppressed by law have the right to bail.
The Move Forward Party leader called upon the next political administration to seek a way out of the deadlock. He believes that those prosecuted in political cases should be granted amnesty.
Noting that people have the right to think differently, Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, a Seri Ruamthai Party member, said that the state should not use its power and legal measures to deprive people of what they are entitled to.
Agreeing with other party MPs that bail rights should be supported, he also questioned the necessity of having political detainees wear EM trackers after being bailed. He felt that there was little risk of the country being damaged by people who think differently.
He stressed that Seri Ruamthai Party is ready to collaborate with parties everywhere to fully democratise the country. He also urged Tantawan and Orawan to stop fasting for the sake of their health and the ongoing struggle.
“The fight will not end in a short period of time. I want you to take care of your health. I want you to think of the longer struggle. It is not necessary to put your life at risk yet. We … support you and want to fight along side you,” said Somchai.
Pol Col Tawee Sodsong, a lawmaker from Prachachart Party, also expressed support for bail rights. He said what has taken place is an exercise of power over law … the use of law over justice. Prachachart party aims to reform the Court, military, and independent organisations.
He added that the hunger strikers’ demands have yet to be discussed, officially or informally, with MPs from the government coalition.NewspoliticsTantawan TuatulanonOrawan PhuphongPheu Thai PartyMove Forward partySeri Ruamthai partySomchai SrisutthiyakornRattapom LertpaijitJulapan AmornwiwatPita LimjaroenratTossaporn SerirakPrachachart Party
Protest at Chiang Mai University demands release of political prisoners
During a protest at Chiang Mai University yesterday (23 January) to demand the right to bail for political prisoners, police attempted to detain two students and accused them of causing panic and misunderstanding by dressing like inmates.
A student dressed in an inmate's uniform standing in front of a stall in the university's canteen during yesterday's performance
From 13.00 – 18.12, while graduation ceremony rehearsals were taking place, 7 students participated in a campus-wide performance as part of the protest to demand the release of political prisoners and to back the demands made by activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong when they revoked their own bail on 16 January.
The students were seen walking around campus dressed in an inmate’s uniform with stockings over their heads and chains on their wrists and ankles. At 17.00, they met by Ang Kaew, an on-campus reservoir, where other protesters were standing as part of the protest calling for the right to bail for detained activists and protesters. Water from the reservoir was poured on them, making it look as if they were bleeding as pigment dissolved onto their clothes. A representative of the students also read out Tantawan and Orawan’s demands.
The 7 students, covered in red paint after water was poured on them, standing with others participating in the protest calling for the right to bail.
Tantawan and Orawan called for the 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 going on a dry hunger strike and would not request bail for themselves until their demands are met. They were taken to the Department of Corrections Hospital last Friday (20 January) and are now in their 7th day of their hunger strike.
A graduate flashing the three-finger salute at protesters gathering next to Ang Kaew.
After several reports that the activists wished to be transferred to another hospital or back to the Women’s Central Correctional Institution due to concerns about how staff at the Department of Corrections Hospital might treat them, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported today (24 January) that the Department of Correction has informed the activists’ lawyer that they would be transferred to the Police Hospital for treatment, but they refused, asking instead to be transferred to Thammasat University Hospital.
TLHR said that Thammasat University Hospital agreed to have Tantawan and Orawan transferred to their facility. At around 19.00 today (24 January), the Department of Corrections issued a statement saying that the two activists will be transferred to Thammasat University Hospital, and TLHR noted that they are still in detention even though they are being transferred to a hospital outside of the authority of the Department of Corrections.
At around 20.00, it was reported that Tantawan and Orawan have arrived at Thammasat University Hospital.Police attempt to detain students for dressing like inmates
Police officers surrounding one of the two students seen standing around Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital dressed like an inmate.
While the students were taking part in yesterdays’ performance at Chiang Mai University, police officers attempted to detain two medical students while they were standing around Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital, a teaching hospital in Chiang Mai city affiliated with Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Medicine. The officers accused the students of causing public panic and making the officers mistake them for inmates from a nearby prison brought to the hospital for treatment. They were taken to a police office in the hospital reprimanded, before a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)’s Chiang Mai office arrive to negotiate their release. However, corrections officers refused to release the students until they apologize for dressing like an inmate.
Following the incident, the Chiang Mai Central Prison issued a statement addressed to the Department of Corrections saying that they were informed by correction officers guarding sick inmates receiving treatment at the hospital of a group of people dressed like officers and chained inmates, which may damage the Department’s reputation. The Prison said that it has looked into the incident, and that the group in question is not affiliated with the Chiang Mai Central Prison.NewsChiang maiChiang Mai Universitypolitical prisonersright to bail
MPs join Stand Against Detention protest
MPs from the Move Forward Party (MFP) joined the protest in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) yesterday (23 January), which was called to demand the release of political prisoners.
Protesters standing in front of BACC last night (23 January) holding pictures of detained activists and protesters.
The protest was called by the activist group Thalufah to demand the release of political prisoners and to back the demands made by monarchy reform activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong, who revoked their own bail and are now undergoing a dry hunger strike to demand the release of political prisoners and for the authorities to drop charges against activists and protesters.
They also called for the reform of the judicial system 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.
Starting from 1.12 on Sunday (22 January), activists and protesters are taking turns standing in the courtyard in front of the BACC for 112 hours. They also put up several banners around the area calling for the release of political prisoners, reform of the judicial system, and repeal of the royal defamation law. As of 15.12 today (24 January), the protest at BACC has been ongoing for 62 hours.
Yesterday evening (23 January), the protest was joined by MFP MPs and members of the Progressive Movement, a non-profit organization formed by members of the now-dissolved Future Forward party who were banned from running for offices following the dissolution.
MFP MP and party leader Pita Limjaroenrat said that the party wanted to take a stand to show activists that they are not alone, and that the detention of activists and protesters shows that there is something wrong with the Thai justice system. He also said that the royal defamation law is problematic in that the penalty it carries is disproportionate and it has been used against political dissidents.
“The best way out is for parliament to act as a space for everyone to find a common solution to problems that cause a relationship between the people and the monarchy which is not beneficial,” he said, noting that the MFP proposed amendments to the royal defamation law and other laws that limit people’s rights and freedoms, but they were rejected by the current parliament.
Pita, who is also provided bail for Tantawan, said that the most urgent issue is that political prisoners should be granted bail and for charges against political dissidents to be dropped. Amnesty for everyone facing a political charge should also be considered, while the MFP will continue to push for amendments to the royal defamation law.
Pita Limjaroenrat (left) and Thanathorn Juangrungruangkit (right)
(Photo from Move Forward Party)
Meanwhile, Progressive Movement member and former Future Forward party leader Thanathorn Juangrungruangkit said that the Progressive Movement wanted to stand by the principle that the right to a fair trial is a fundamental right, noting that several activists and protesters have been denied bail and detained for months. He called on everyone involved in the judicial process, from the police and prosecutors to the courts, to keep fundamental rights in mind, since the current situation shows that some groups of people are being treated differently, which led to people voicing their lack of trust in the justice system.
Thanathorn also said that parliament should discuss these issues and find a common solution, and that, even though some people might not want to talk about it, it is parliament’s duty to find a common solution.NewsMove Forward partyStand Against DetentionPita LimjaroenratThanathorn JuangroongruangkitProgressive Movementright to bailpolitical prisoners
Opponents of Media Ethic bill express concerns over censorship, state meddling
Journalists and students have submitted a letter to lawmakers to express their concern about a draft law on media ethics. They are calling for thorough public participation in the drafting process.
Nattacha Boonchai-insawat, the committee Chairperson, receives the letter from representatives of Thai Media for Democracy Alliance (DemAll), Media Students Alliance, Free Media Group, and Change.org.
The letter was submitted to the Parliamentary Committee on Political Development, Mass Communications, and Public Participation on 24 January.
Wasinee Pabuprapap, from DemAll said that many academics, media professionals and members of the public are concerned about the draft bill and its implications for media work and content creation.
She added that the draft, which was originally initiated by the Public Relations Department, was seemingly written without regard to the changed media landscape, and expressed concern that the presence of state-appointed officials on an ethics board would result in conflicts of interest.
Apisit Chavanon, a member of the Media Student Alliance, believes that the bill will make it difficult for members of the media to perform their duties and argues that parliamentary discussions should be delayed until after thorough public hearings.
Nattacha said that the matter would be added to the Committee’s meeting agenda and promised that it would issue an opinion to the public via a press briefing within the space of a week.
At present, Thailand has no comprehensive law that directly addresses the work of the media as a whole. Section 35 of the 2020 Constitution provides that the media shall enjoy rights and freedoms in presenting news and expressing opinions in accordance with professional ethics.’ Specific guidelines and prohibitions are stipulated elsewhere in a number of other laws. The same arrangements prevailed under the 1997 and 2007 constitutions.
Media professionals have long preferred self-regulation, believing that media agencies should be allowed to monitor and regulate unethical coverage without intervention from the state.
Suspicions about the bill's real intent
On January 11, the Cabinet approved the draft Act on Media Ethics and Professional Standards, placing it in a queue for parliamentary debate and approval. The bill is one of the reform-related laws that will be discussed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. There is a long list of items pending discussion.
The law aims to create a state-funded Media Council that will oversee the ethical compliance of media professionals or organisations that group themselves into ‘professional organisations’ and apply for Council membership. Media agencies recognised by the Council will have access to privileges that the Council may provide, such as training or national or international representation.
Although it is still not clear what ethical standards will be stipulated, the Council can punish violations by 1) warnings, 2) probation and 3) public reprimand. Many in media circles have raised concerns that it may become another tool for censorship, and that the state funding would stir up a conflict of interest.Newspress freedomThai Media for Democracy Alliance (DemAll)Wasinee PabuprapapNattacha Boonchai-insawatMedia Ethics and Professional Standards Act
Tun Min Latt in Thai court denies wrongdoing
A businessman with alleged ties to Myanmar’s junta leader, along with four other defendants, pleaded not guilty to money laundering and drug trafficking charges. The policeman spearheading the arrest has been transferred from Bangkok.
Tun Min Latt (yellow tie) visits an arms exhibition in Bangkok in 2019 with Myanmar leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing (second from left) ,Credit: Senior General Min Aung Hlaing/Government of Myanmar seniorgeneralminaunghlaing.com
On 23 January 2023, Myanmar business tycoon Tun Min Latt appeared shackled by the ankles before Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court for arraignment. Sitting beside him was Dean Young Guntula, also shackled.
The two had been summoned from the Central Correctional Institution for Drug Addicts. Sitting with them were the remaining defendants, Namhom Nettrakun and Piyada Khamta, apparently without shackles, but under the watchful gaze of prison officers sitting behind the four.
In December 2022, the four, in addition to a legal entity, the Allure Group P&E, were charged with money laundering and transnational organised crime, which each carry a prison term of up to 15 years. They are also charged with drug trafficking-related offences, which in extreme cases can result in the death penalty.
In a trial observed by the defendants’ relatives and journalists, the four pleaded not guilty via their attorneys along with explanations.Moneychanger issue
In general, the lawyers stated that their five clients had nothing to do with drug offences. Allure Group P&E was simply performing its function of importing electricity from Thailand to Myanmar’s Tachiliek region in line with its contract with the local authorities.
Problems only arose when the company decided to use an unofficial moneychanger to be responsible for trans-border transactions. Without the company knowing it, the money changer was involved with money from drug trafficking.
In Dean’s case, the lawyer claimed that he was not involved at all in this whole matter, that among his seized assets nothing illegal was found, and that he never even travelled to Myanmar.
Tun Min Latt and the other defendants have been in custody in Thailand since their arrest in September 2022. Two weeks later, an arrest warrant was also issued for Guntula’s father-in-law, Thai senator Upakit Pachariyangkun, on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, but the warrant was quickly withdrawn, OCCRP and Prachatai reported.
Tun Min Latt is accused of transferring funds derived from drug sales to the electricity company. Guntula allegedly oversaw the transfer of funds to the Allure Group (P&E) from a related firm, Myanmar Allure Group Company Limited.
The Allure Group (P&E) was used to “transform money gained from offences related to drugs into commodities in the form of electricity that was exported to Myanmar,” the indictment reads. Piyada and Namhom were also accused of involvement in the wrongdoing.
Upakit was previously a director of the Myanmar Allure Group. Corporate records show that he left the company in 2019, when he was appointed to the Senate by the military, which had overthrown Thailand’s civilian government five years earlier.
The indictment shows that prosecutors are focused on crimes that took place between February 22 and May 10, 2019. Upakit took his seat in the Senate on May 14 that year. Three months later, Guntula became a director at the Myanmar Allure Group.
Although he wasn’t registered as a director with the Allure Group until 2019, Dean’s Facebook profile shows that he made several visits to Myanmar’s commercial capital, Yangon, starting in 2017.
On the same day of the arraignment, the Inside Thailand news show reported that Pol Maj Kritsanat Thanasuphanat, the officer in the Metropolitan Police who took charge of the arrest of Tun Min Latt and the others, was ordered to be reassigned from Bangkok to an equivalent position in the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum. The news show interpreted this as a form of retribution for his bold performance.
The same show also interviewed Piyasiri Wattanavarangkul, Deputy Secretary General of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board. He said arrest warrants have issued for Pannarong Khunpitak and Kallayawee Thiraprapawong, major stakeholders in the Allure Group since 2020. The two are still at large.NewsTun Min LattDean Young GuntulaAllure Group (P&E)Myanmar Allure GroupMyanmar coupMin Aung HlaingSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2023/01/102430
Protests back demand for release of political prisoners
To show support for the demands made by two activists now on a dry hunger strike in prison, activists in several provinces have staged protests to demand the release of all political prisoners and reform of the judicial system.
Activists in Chiang Mai standing in front of the entrance to Chiang Mai University last Friday (20 January) during a protest demanding the release of all political prisoners.
Last week, monarchy reform advocates Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong 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 taken to the Department of Corrections Hospital last Friday (20 January). Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that even though the activists refused all medical treatment and insisted on being taken back to the Women’s Central Correctional Institution, they were admitted to the hospital regardless.
The activists’ lawyer also reported being given conflicting information. After requesting to meet them on Friday morning (20 January), the lawyer was made to wait around an hour and a half before being informed that the two activists had already been taken to the hospital that morning. After correction officers were not able to provide information on the activists’ condition and hospital visits, the lawyer decided to go to the Department of Corrections Hospital, where they were initially told by an officer that the two activists had been taken back to prison. Only when pressed and after they called their supervisor did the officer say that the two activists were being examined by a doctor.
At around 2.00 on Sunday morning (22 January), Tantawan and Orawan’s lawyer was contacted by a corrections officer and asked to come to the hospital to see the activists. TLHR reported that their condition had worsened as they entered their fifth day of fasting. A statement from their lawyer released on Sunday evening (22 January) said that the two activists were fatigued and nauseous, and that Orawan condition had worsened as she reportedly passed out in the bathroom.
Meanwhile, Tantawan is still alert and can still response to a conversation in long sentences. Both activists insisted they would continue to fast until their demands are met, and said that they have rejected medical treatment, intravenous fluids, and tube feeding.
Tantawan and Orawan also told their lawyer that they do not wish to be held at the Department of Corrections hospital any longer and that, if the Department of Corrections insist on keeping them under medical supervision, they wish to be transferred elsewhere due to concerns for their own safety and that they would be treated in a way that is against their will. If the Department refuses to transfer them, they would like to be taken back to the Women’s Central Correctional Institution, where they would feel safer.
The two activists asked their lawyer to tell the public that they are staying strong. They also noted that they heard the fireworks set off in front of the prison and thanked people for their support.
Fireworks were reported to have been set off in front of the prison complex on Ngamwongwan Road by unknown groups on 18 January after a video announcing the activists’ dry fast was released on Tantawan’s Facebook page, and on Saturday and Sunday nights (21 – 22 January).
TLHR released another statement on Monday (23 January) saying that a lawyer visited Tantanwan and Orawan earlier in the morning. The two activists were pale and fatigued, and told the lawyer that Tantawan fainted in the bathroom on Sunday evening (22 January) and hit her head. She said she refused a CT scan, and the two activists told the lawyer that they did not want to receive treatment from or stay at the Department of Corrections Hospital, as a statement released by the Department of Corrections released on Sunday evening did not mention that Tantawan fainted. The two activists also said they were not able to walk on their own as the Department of Corrections claimed.
TLHR’s statement also noted that the activists’ lawyer is concerned about the hospital staff’s treatment of the activists, their physical and mental safety, and whether they would be treated with human dignity.
TLHR lawyer Kunthika Nutcharus confirmed that, as of 11.00 on Monday (23 January), Tantawan and Orawan have not been force-fed.Protests in three provinces support activists’ demands
Protesters camping out in front of the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court last Friday night (20 January)
Meanwhile, other activists and protesters have launched protests to show their support for Tantawan and Orawan’s demands. In Bangkok, a crowd has gathered in front of the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court between 15.00 – 6.00 every day since last Friday (20 January), vowing to return every day for the foreseeable future.
Protesters standing in front of BACC on Sunday afternoon (22 January)
The activist group Thalufah also announced that they are holding their own Stand Against Detention protest and will be standing in the courtyard in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) for 112 hours, starting at 1.12 on Sunday (22 January) and until 17.12 on Thursday (26 January), to show support for Tantawan and Orawan’s demands.
Activist Tanapat Kapheng said that the group wanted to bring the demands to the public, because there has not been a lot of public interest, and they wanted people to know that activists are being imprisoned and are fasting. Members of the group will take turns standing in the courtyard throughout the 112 hours, and members of the public are welcome to join them.
Although concerns have been raised about the wellbeing of Tantawan and Orawan, Tanapat said he respects their decision, and that even though the methods are different, he felt he needed to act because they share a common goal.
“It is not a good thing that the Thai state and the authorities are locking up the country’s future in a prison and they are dying. You should listen to them. Sometimes, young people can see problems caused by the older generations, and they wanted to take part in developing the country,” he said.
“I want those in power to listen to young people, because obviously you cannot live forever, so when the people speak out, you should listen to their voice, if you believe that this country is really democratic.”
An activist pouring red paint on themself as a symbolic act of protest after the weekly Stand Against Detention protest at Tha Phae gate in Chiang Mai on Saturday (21 January)
In Chiang Mai, for the 39th week, activists stood at Tha Phae gate on Saturday (21 January) to demand the release of political prisoners. After the protest, several activists poured red paint on themselves and burned paper printouts of King of Spades and Joker cards to demand the release of political prisoners and to show support for Tantawan and Orawan’s demands.
Student activists in Khon Kaen sitting in an on-campus park at Khon Kaen University as they fast for 8 hours in solidarity with Tantawan and Orawan.
In Khon Kaen on Sunday (22 January), local student activists sat in an on-campus park at Khon Kaen University dressed in mock prisoners’ uniforms and wearing chains on their ankles. In solidarity with Tantawan and Orawan, they also fasted for 8 hours, between 15.00 – 23.00, saying that they wanted to bring public attention to the activists’ demands.
The activist group 24 June Democracy has also announced they are staging a protest this Wednesday (25 January) to support the activists’ demand. They called for a caravan starting at the Democracy Monument and said that they will drive to the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court to demand the release of political prisoners.NewsTantawan TuatulanonOrawan Phuphongright to bailPre-trial detentionpolitical prisonersSection 112lese majesteRoyal defamationStand Against Detention
Free Detained Critics of Monarchy, says Human Rights Watch
Thai authorities should immediately drop the charges and release two democracy activists detained for criticizing the monarchy, Human Rights Watch said on Friday (20 January).
Orawan Phupong (left) and Tantawan Tuatulanon (right) stood in front of the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court and poured red paint on themselves before they revoked their own bail on 16 January to demand the release of other political prisoners. (Photo by Ginger Cat)
Orawan Phuphong and Tantawan Tuatulanon have been detained since 16 January 2023, after appearing in court to revoke their own bail. They revoked their bail to demand the release on bail of other political activists, and adoption of judicial and legal reforms, including revocation of laws on lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) and sedition. On 18 January they began a hunger strike – refusing food and water – in Bangkok’s Central Women’s Correctional Institution to protest what they considered to be unjust pretrial detention of critics of the monarchy. On 20 January, the two activists collapsed, and the authorities transferred them to the Corrections Department Hospital.
“The Thai government should drop the unjust cases against Orawan, Tantawan, and others charged for their peaceful protests demanding reforms to the monarchy,” said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Holding these activists in pretrial detention for the peaceful exercise of their rights is punitive and cruel.”
The authorities have charged Orawan and Tantawan with various criminal offenses, including lese majeste, for conducting public opinion surveys about royal motorcades.
Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code makes lese majeste punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
- Activists announce dry fasting
- Activists revoke their own bail to demand release of political prisoners
The number of lese majeste cases in Thailand has significantly increased in the past year, Human Rights Watch said. After almost a three-year hiatus in which lese majeste cases were not brought before the courts, in November 2020 Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha ordered officials to resume lese majeste prosecutions, ostensibly because of growing criticism of the monarchy. Since then, officials have charged more than 200 people with lese majeste crimes in relation to various activities at pro-democracy rallies or comments on social media.
Holding those charged with lese majeste in pretrial detention violates their rights under international human rights law, Human Rights Watch said. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified, encourages bail for criminal suspects. Article 9 states, “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.”
“The Thai government should permit peaceful expression of all viewpoints, including questions about the monarchy,” Pearson said. “Thai authorities should engage with United Nations experts and others about amending the lese majeste law to bring it into compliance with international human rights law obligations.”Pick to PostTantawan TuatulanonOrawan PhuphongHuman Rights Watch (HRW)Section 112lese majesteRoyal defamationright to bailpolitical prisonersPre-trial detention
Twitter fails to remove videos of Thai teacher’s sex with minors
Videos depicting sexual acts between an art teacher charged with statutory rape and his alleged victims have been circulating on Twitter for days, Prachatai English has found.
Source: Andreas Eldh (CC BY 2.0)
The videos first appeared on 17 January, the same day the 37-year-old suspect was arrested by police in Nakhon Ratchasima province. Police accused the man, identified by local media as Kanthapit, of filming his sexual encounters with multiple students, including underage individuals, at the school where he taught.
It is unclear who posted the videos to Twitter but the footage is quickly making rounds on the internet. A user account that published the videos has picked up 34,000 followers in recent days. Some of the videos, which appear to show explicit sexual acts between Kanthapit and a minor, have been viewed at least 450,000 times, according to the Twitter’s audience display.
Although a reporter for Prachatai English reported the account and its videos to Twitter’s moderation centre on 19 January and flagged them as ‘child sexual exploitation,’ no reply was ever received, and no action was taken against the videos as of writing time.
The episode reflects the testimonies by victims of sexual abuse in many parts of the world that videos of their plight often find their way to social media and continue to be readily available on the internet long after the crimes were committed.
It is unclear whether the failure by Twitter to swiftly remove the videos flagged by Prachatai English is connected to the recent shakeup at its headquarters. Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk has axed a large number of technicians overseeing the site’s safety and content moderation, leading to warnings from many experts that the move could open a sluice gate for dangerous or abusive content on the platform.
Police said investigators were alerted after Kanthapit accidentally posted videos of himself and his victims on the school’s LINE chat group. School officials said Kanthapit was immediately suspended from his job, pending an investigation. The victims were identified to be students from the classes of Mathayom 3 through Mathayom 6 (Grade 9 to Grade 12).
Before police could move in and apprehend Kanthapit, the art teacher stabbed himself in the chest with a knife on 17 January and was sent to a hospital. His wounds were said to be non-life threatening. Police later arrested him on charges of statutory rape and violation of the Computer Crime Acts, which prohibits the import of illegal material into the computer system.
Pol Col Sanchai Pisaipan, chief of Non Sung police station, which has jurisdiction over the case, said that Kanthapit was granted bail by the court on 19 January. Sanchai added that more victims and their parents are stepping forward to file charges against Kanthapit.Newstwittersexual abusestatutory rapeNakhon Ratchasima
Trial of man accused of attacking Thai political refugees in Paris postponed again
The trial of the alleged mastermind behind an assault on two Thai political refugee in Paris has once again been postponed due to a lack of interpreter and a sudden mass protest.
Demonstrators wearing orange jackets inside and outside of a Thai restaurant in Paris on January 19.
Initially scheduled for December 1st, this much awaited appeal trial was rescheduled to January 19th. However, as fate would have it, on the 19th, a general strike against a bill to reform the French pension system resulted in major disruptions in public transport.
Although the accused, a Czech national named Petr Donatek, appeared in court along with his alleged Thai victims and court officials, a Czech interpreter did not show up.
There is a growing risk that the court may soon have to release Mr. Donatek, who has been detained for a considerable amount of time without trial. Nevertheless, the president of the court declared that “It's not possible to judge Mr Donatek using a language he cannot understand.” In order to avoid releasing the suspect, the president not only rescheduled the hearing to a near date, February 1st, but also did something quite unusual.
She committed herself to summon not one, but two Czech interpreters for February 1st in case one doesn't show up, and begged the Thai interpreter not to be absent that day.
Donatek’s lawyer told journalists that his client is eager to talk to the court and will probably continue to deny any involvement in the attack. Donatek is also reported to have said that life in a French jail is hell, much worst than in Italy where he was arrested and detained before being transferred to France.
The delay again put off a chance to ascertain the identity of the mastermind behind the attack against Aum Neko, and Nithiwat Wannasiri or Jom Faiyen, Thai political refugees living in France. The incident happened in Paris around midnight on 17 November 2019 when a small group of Thai refugees and a few of their friends left Le Zinc, a brasserie in District 15 of Paris.
Two Czech nationals, Jakub Hosek and Daniel Vokal, were later arrested for the attack. They may have had an additional target, Jaran Ditapichai, whose picture was found in one of their phones. By chance, Jaran was elsewhere at the time of the attack.
During their trial, the two henchmen claimed to have been hired by a third Czech man, Petr Donatek. Donatek was in Paris on the day of the assault but returned home to the Czech Republic without being arrested. Hosek and Vokal received 26 months jail sentences and have already been released. The alleged organiser of the attack, Donatek, was sentenced to 30 month in jail in absentia.NewsFaiyenAum NekoNithiwat WannasiriThai political refugeeFranceCzech RepublicPetr DonatekJakub HosekDaniel Vokal
Cartoon by Stephff: Paetongtarn wants to be PM
Right groups launch appeal for the release of political prisoners
Following the detention of monarchy reform activists Sopon Surariddhidhamrong and Nutthanit Duangmusit, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), launched an urgent appeal asking the international community to call on the Thai authorities to immediately release detained human right defenders and end all acts of harassment against them.
From left: Tantawan Tuatulanon, Sopon Surariddhidhamrong, and Nutthanit Duangmusit (Photo by Ginger Cat)
The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment of Mr Sopon Surariddhidhamrong, aka Get, leader of the student pro-democracy group Mok Luang Rim Nam, and Ms Natthanit Duangmusit, aka Baipor, member of the pro-democracy and monarchy reform activist group Thalu Wang. Founded in August 2020, Mok Luang Rim Nam has expanded from advocating for the rights of students at Navamindradhiraj University in Bangkok to various human rights issues in Thailand, including enforced disappearance, labour rights, and equality. Formed in early 2022, Thalu Wang has been advocating for the abolition of Article 112 of Thailand Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”) and conducting public opinion polls at various locations in Bangkok on how the Thai monarchy affects people’s lives and whether the institution should be reformed.
On January 9, 2023, the Bangkok Criminal Court revoked Sopon and Natthanit’s bail and ordered their detention, on the ground that the two violated the bail conditions of their temporary release, granted on May 31, 2022, and August 4, 2022, respectively, by participating in an anti-government protest on November 17, 2022, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bangkok. Sopon’s bail conditions stemmed from a “lèse-majesté” case in which he is being prosecuted for allegedly giving a speech critical of Thailand’s Queen on April 22, 2022. As for Natthanit, her bail conditions also stemmed from a “lèse-majesté” case in connection with a Facebook post she shared on March 30, 2022, concerning the budget allocated to the monarchy as well as to public opinion polls she conducted in Bangkok. These surveys questioned the appropriateness of the government allegedly allowing Thailand’s King to exercise his powers at his discretion.
On the same day of their bail revocation, Sopon and Natthanit’s lawyer submitted a bail request, which was rejected by the Court, arguing that both had already broken their previous bail conditions by participating in the November 17, 2022 protest and were likely to cause other danger or commit again acts similar to the ones of which they were accused. Upon the Court’s decision, Sopon was taken to the Bangkok Remand Prison, and Natthanit was taken to the Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok to be held in pre-trial detention.
The first bail revocation hearing on December 15, 2022, was initiated by a court staff who submitted a report to a judge alleging that Natthanit may have violated her bail conditions by participating in the protest. Sopon was later added to the bail revocation hearing.
The Observatory recalls that Sopon and Natthanit face charges for alleged violations of Article 112 in connection with their pro-democracy and human rights activities. Sopon is currently facing “lèse-majesté” charges stemming from three separate cases: 1) a speech he made in Bangkok on April 6, 2022, which was deemed critical of the King; 2) the above-referenced speech he made at a protest in Bangkok on April 22, 2022; and 3) a speech he made on the occasion of International Workers’ Day on May 1, 2022, in Bangkok, which was deemed critical of the King. Sopon was detained for 30 days from May 2 to May 31, 2022, at the Bangkok Remand Prison, before being released on bail.
Natthanit, in turn, is currently facing charges under Article 112 in connection with three cases: 1) conducting a public opinion poll about royal motorcades at Siam Paragon in central Bangkok on February 8, 2022; 2) the above-referenced case related to the sharing of a post on Facebook about the budget allocated to the Thai monarchy on March 30, 2022; and 3) conducting public opinion polls on April 18, 2022, at different locations in Bangkok questioning the appropriateness of the government allegedly allowing the King to exercise his powers at his discretion. Natthanit was detained in connection with the February 8 event for 94 days between May 3 and August 4, 2022, at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok, before being released on bail.
While in detention, Sopon and Natthanit went on a hunger strike to protest their pre-trial detention and to demand their right to bail. They were granted temporary release on the conditions that they would refrain from repeating their offences, participating in demonstrations that cause public disorder, and engaging in activities that may damage the monarchy.
The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Sopon and Natthanit, who seem to be only targeted for the legitimate exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. Furthermore, Tantawan Tuatulanon - a human rights defender who is currently being prosecuted for delivering a speech allegedly critical of the King via Facebook live on March 5, 2022 - is scheduled to attend a bail revocation hearing on March 1, 2023, where the Court will consider whether her participation in the November 17, 2022, APEC protest violated any of her bail conditions.
The Observatory notes that between November 24, 2020, and January 11, 2023, 226 people, including many human rights defenders and 17 minors, were charged under Article 112 of the Criminal Code. Five of them are currently held in detention pending trial.
The Observatory calls on the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Sopon Surariddhidhamrong, Natthanit Duangmusit, and all other human rights defenders in the country, and to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them.
Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Sopon Surariddhidhamrong, Natthanit Duangmusit, and all other human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists in Thailand;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Sopon Surariddhidhamrong, Natthanit Duangmusit, and all other human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists, since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Sopon Surariddhidhamrong, Natthanit Duangmusit, and all other human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists in the country, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
iv. Guarantee in all circumstances the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
v. Refrain from using Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists.
• Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Email: email@example.com
• Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Mr. Somsak Thepsutin, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Email: email@example.com
• General Narongpan Jitkaewthae, Commander in Chief of the Army, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas, Commissioner-General of the Police, Email: email@example.com
• Ms. Pornprapai Ganjanarinte, National Human Rights Commissioner of Thailand, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
• H.E. Mr. Sek Wannamethee, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: thaimission.GVA@mfa.mail.go.th
• Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic representatives of Thailand in your respective countries.Pick to PostInternational Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)Sopon SurariddhidhamrongNutthanit Duangmusitpolitical prisoners
Swedish Embassy to halt assistance to Thai berry pickers, scrutinise shady procedures
Jon Åström Gröndahl, the Swedish Ambassador to Thailand, has announced that the Embassy will halt assistance to Thais to go picking berries in Sweden after hearing claims of shadow contracts and fake documents.
Unscrupulous employment actors with shadow contracts and fake documents have no place in the labour market. The Swedish Embassy in Bangkok will not facilitate berry pickers to until all employers guarantee fair recruitment, safety standards and decent working conditions.
— Ambassador of Sweden in Thailand (@SwedeninTH) January 13, 2023
In a Tweet on 13 January, the Ambassador stated that this will remain the situation until “all employers guarantee fair recruitment, safety standards and decent working conditions.”
For over a decade, Thais have spent the last several months of the year picking berries in Scandinavian countries like Finland and Sweden . The journeys were made through private agents with the support of the authorities in Thailand and the destination countries.
With a promising income over a short period of time, alleged exploitation has been a regular problem through shady employment contracts that result in workers receiving less income than expected or nothing at all.
Chaiwat Wannakhot, a berry pickers watchdog for the Move Forward Party, told Prachatai that he has informed the Embassy about a certain agency’s misconduct in submitting a decent work contract to the Ministry of Labour and the Embassy while handing out a different unfair contract to job seekers.
He added that the contract generally does not present any legal relationship between the agency and the labourers, meaning that the berry pickers shoulder all risks themselves. The contract also specifies no working conditions.
Ovat Thongbomakrut, Director of the Ministry of Labour’s Overseas Employment Administration Division, said Swedish Embassy staff discussed the matter with the Department of Employment on 18 January.
The Department of Employment and the Swedish Embassy did not respond to Prachatai’s immediate request for comment.NewsJon Åström GröndahlSwedenberry pickinglabour rightsSource: prachatai.com/journal/2023/01/102361
Missing the Points
A recent letter from the Royal Thai Police to the Ministry of Justice indicates that the police now want to delay implementation of the newly-touted points system for improving driver behaviour.
The change of heart is something of a surprise in light of the fanfare given to the scheme’s launch a few days ago by Police Commissioner Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas whose brainchild this is.
Thailand’s roads are notoriously dangerous in comparison with other nations and any measure that will improve traffic safety is welcome. However, the points-deduction scheme may not meet the purpose.
When police spokesperson Pol Maj Gen Atchayon Kraithong announced the first day’s results he was pleased that 540 drivers had lost points. But the majority of these cases, 296, were for the administrative offences of failing to display road tax stickers or licence plates. These are violations of the traffic laws but are not known to be a major cause of death or injury on the streets.
Observers speculated that regulatory failings like road tax certificates and licence plates dominated the statistics because such violations are relatively easy for the police to catch. Exercising expert observation skills, a police officer can spot that a parked vehicle has no tax certificate; he then ‘stakes out’ the vehicle, waiting patiently, sometimes for days, until the driver returns and he can make an arrest.
This is much easier than for example, a case of speeding, which involves chasing after the perpetrator. ‘Just think about it,’ said one traffic cop. ‘If he’s speeding, he’s already going faster than we are allowed to go. How are we expected to catch him?’
A copy of the letter was obtained by the legal watchdog NGO iLaw, although Prachatai has been unable to independently verify it. In it the Police Commissioner asks the Ministry to delay implementation of the scheme until certain problems could be ironed out.
One of the problems is that these administrative offences are technically committed by the vehicle owner rather than the driver and the police have become aware that some vehicles are owned by juristic persons, like companies, rather than real people. Juristic persons, it turns out, have no driving licences from which they can lose points.
The police have also discovered that a number of vehicles are owned by wealthy individuals who employ drivers, while they themselves do not drive and consequently have no licence. Some unfortunate scenes occurred when overzealous police officers tried to take into custody the well-off and well-connected vehicle owners, who quickly pointed out that people of their social standing normally are normally immune from traffic prosecutions up to and including causing death by driving under the influence.
The letter goes on to stress the need for more training for police personnel. It quotes the result of a survey of police officers nationwide that found that many were unable to count reliably as far as 12 (the number of points that a driver gets automatically every year is 12) and that courses in remedial arithmetic would be needed before the scheme could be rolled out effectively.
Critics point out that the police department has been the beneficiary of numerous training programmes in sums funded by foreign governments and that it was not unreasonable to expect all officers to be able to count to 12.
In response, a police spokesperson, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that plans were underway to reduce the number of points per licence to 10, i.e. equal to the number of digits on 2 hands. This, it was thought, would remove some of the difficulty.
The police letter also points to budgetary problems. Traffic police will need to have pencils and notepads to keep track of who’s lost how many points. The cost of these, running into billions of baht, has not been included in police budgets to date. The earliest that the police think they can submit and obtain a proper budget will be 2028.
The police letter also refers to technical aspects of the points system. While drivers will get a fresh 12 points each year, the penalty for a hit-and-run is only 3 points. This means that a driver has to injure or kill at least 4 people before the system imposes any penalty. While some consumer groups complain that this is far too lenient, the Police Society of Unlicenced Souped-up Yamaha Racers believes that on the contrary, it is a violation of their right to drive without a licence, number plate or insurance, in excess of the speed limit and through pedestrian crossings being used by ophthalmologists.
It is not yet clear which position the Royal Thai Police is supporting on this issue.Alien ThoughtsAlien thoughtsSatireTraffic lawTraffic safety
Activists announce dry fasting
Two detained monarchy reform activists have announced that they will be dry fasting to demand bail for every political prisoner, after there was no response to the demands they made when they revoked their own bail on Monday (16 January).
Orawan Phuphong (left) and Tantawan Tuatulanon (right) covered in red paint which they poured on themselves before going to court to file requests revoking their own bail. (Photo by Ginger Cat)
In a pre-recorded video released on her personal Facebook page, activist Tantawan Tuatulanon announced that she and fellow monarchy reform advocate Orawan Phuphong will go on a hunger strike to protest the detention of activists and protesters, after the three days they gave the court to release every political prisoner have lapsed.
Tantawan said in the video that, since the video has been posted, it means that detained activists and protesters have still not been granted bail. Since their demands were not met within the three-day time limit, she said that she and Orawan will go on a hunger strike, and insisted that they will not request bail for themselves until their demands are met.
“We will never file for bail for ourselves until all of our friends are granted bail and these demands are met. We are ready to give up our lives for this fight,” Tantawan said.
On Monday (16 January), Tantawan and Orawan revoked their own bail to protest the denial of bail and detention of political prisoners and are now detained at the Women’s Central Correctional Institution. They demanded that every activist and protester detained for their involvement in the pro-democracy protests must be released within three days, and that if no response is made by 18 January, other activists, including those still detained, will be taking further action.
They called for reform of 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 against those exercising their freedoms of expression and assembly to be dropped, and for every political party to back the repeal of the royal defamation law and sedition law to guarantee people’s right, freedom, and political participation.
Tantawan was previously detained pending trial on a royal defamation charge in April 2022. She went on a hunger strike for 37 days before being granted bail on 27 May 2022.
According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), 16 people are now being held in detention pending trial or appeal on charges related to their participation in the pro-democracy movement, 8 of them on royal defamation charges.
Firework was lit in front of the Bangkok Remand Prison after the video was posted onto Tantawan's Facebook page. (Photo by Ginger Cat).
After the video was posted onto Tantawan's Facebook page, a series of firework was lit in front of the Bangkok Remand Prison at around 20.45 last night (18 January).
A lawyer who visited Tantawan and Orawan today (19 January) said that the two activists have been refusing food and drink since yesterday evening, and that they are both fatigued and nauseous. The lawyer said they asked Tantawan if the activists would at least drink water, but both she and Orawan refused and insisted that they do not want to be bailed out unless all other political prisoners are released.NewsTantawan TuatulanonOrawan Phuphonghunger strikeDry fastingright to bailPolitical prisoner
Delivery rider accused of attempting to burn King’s portrait found guilty of royal defamation
A food delivery rider has been found guilty and sentenced to prison on a royal defamation charge for allegedly attempting to burn a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida during a protest in July 2021. The court ruled that a portrait of the King is worth the same as the King’s person.
Sitthichok Sethasavet (Photo by iLaw)
26-year-old Foodpanda delivery rider Sitthichok Sethasavet was accused of burning a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida at a royal ceremonial arch on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue during a protest on 18 July 2021. He was charged with royal defamation, arson, destruction of property, and violation of the Emergency Decree.
Sitthichok said that he was on his way to deliver an order when he passed through the protest on Ratchadamnoen Nok and saw a fire at the royal arch. Since he has experience volunteering in an emergency rescue unit, he tried to put out the fire using a bottle of water mixed with purple grape-flavoured soda that he carried in his motorcycle to drink while working during the day. He told iLaw that, while he was spraying water onto the base of the portrait, a police officer came to tell him to get down from the arch and that the officer would get a water cannon to put out the fire. But when he get off the arch, the fire had already been put out, so he went to deliver his order and then went home.
It was later found during witness examination that the portrait of the King and Queen was not damaged in the fire, which only damaged decorative fabric at the base of the royal arch.
In the evening of 18 July 2021, a picture of Sitthichok standing by his motorcycle was posted on Twitter, along with a claim that he set fire to the King and Queen’s portrait. Because the photo also showed a pink Foodpanda delivery box, the company’s official account replied to the tweet saying the platform has a policy “against violence and all forms of terrorism” and that the rider in question would be fired immediately. It also said that the platform is willing to help the authorities in pressing charges against the culprit.
The platform’s action sparked outrage among netizens for equating protesters with terrorists and for seemingly supporting authoritarianism and prejudice against its rider without a proper investigation. The hashtag #banfoodpanda trended on Twitter as users called for a boycott of the platform. Foodpanda then released a letter apologizing for its message and said that the company was investigating the incident.
Sitthichok was arrested at his house in Rangsit on 19 July 2021. He was released on 20 July on bail of 100,000 baht.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that yesterday (17 January), the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court found Sitthichok guilty on all charges on the grounds that there is no evidence he was trying to put out the fire, and because the prosecution witness testified that the fire grew stronger when Sitthicok sprayed a bottle of purple liquid on the royal arch. The court also said that, even if the portrait did not catch fire, spraying the liquid at the base of the portrait, which was already on fire, meant that Sitthichok intended to burn the portrait.
The court ruled that he was guilty of royal defamation, because a prosecution witness testified that the Thai society sees a portrait of the King as being the same as the King himself. It should therefore be respected and cared for. The court also said that he was guilty because Thailand is a democracy with the King as the head of state, and therefore people should not exercise their freedom in a way that is against the monarchy.
The Court sentenced Sitthichok to a total of 3 years and 6 months in prison. Because he gave useful testimony, his sentence was reduced to 2 years and 4 months.
His lawyer then requested bail for him with an additional security of 100,000 baht, but the Criminal Court ruled that it will forward the bail request to the Appeal Court for consideration. He will be detained at Bangkok Remand Prison until a ruling is made.NewsSitthichok SethasavetFoodpandaSection 112Royal defamationlese majesteRoyal Arch Arsonpro-democracy protest 2021
Activist murder case to be tried in Supreme Court
A case filed by the family of Chaiyaphum Pasae, a Lahu ethnic activist who was killed by the military, has been accepted for consideration by the Supreme Court.
A commemoration poster with collated photos of Chaiyaphum.
The Supreme Court accepted the case on 16 January 2023. The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), which has been assisting the relatives, stated that the Court found there were some important problems to examine after the Appeal Court dismissed the case last year.
CrCF Director Pornpen Khongkachonkiet expressed gratitude to the Court for providing the family a chance to clear the doubts.
“Although the Army will insist that the bullet that was shot by a soldier under its command was fired in self-defence, the relatives and society still have doubts about the facts that occurred.
“So a ruling of the Supreme Court would help in resolving the facts, which is important for compensation to the deceased’s relatives and society,” said Pornpen.
Chaiyaphum was an activist who worked to promote indigenous rights in northern Thailand. He was shot and killed by military personnel at Ban Rin Luang checkpoint in Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai, on 17 March 2017. He was 17 years old.
The officers claimed that they found 2,800 drug pills in Chaiyaphum’s car and had to shoot him because he resisted the search and tried to throw a grenade at them. However, an eyewitness told Thai PBS that Chaiyaphum was dragged out of the car, beaten and shot.
The Chiang Mai Provincial Court ruled after an inquest in June 2018 that he was killed by an army bullet, but did not rule whether his death was a result of extrajudicial killing or whether the soldier’s action was lawful. The court also did not request the CCTV footage of the incident as evidence, despite a request from the family’s lawyer.
The CCTV footage of the incident was never released and remains missing.
The confusion about the CCTV footage has prompted public scrutiny over the military’s claim. Doubt turned into outrage when Lt Gen Wichak Siribansop, then commander of the 3rd Army Area in charge of the region, said that he had seen the CCTV footage and found that the soldiers were trying to protect themselves from harm.
“It was a normal decision of the soldier. If it were me there, I might shoot in automatic mode,” said Wichak.
The lawsuit was originally filed in May 2019 by Napoi Pasae, Chaiyaphum’s mother, who asked to be compensated for damages caused by the Army. After the Civil Court dismissed the case, Napoi filed an appeal.
The Appeal Court ruled on 26 January 2022 to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that the military shot Chaiyaphum in self-defence and therefore the Army was not liable for damages to his family.Newsprachatai.com/journal/2023/01/102314Source: Chaiyaphum Pasae, Lahu, Indigenous rights, Napoi Pasae, Wichak Siribansop
Thailand should dismiss charges against 22 protest leaders, says observers
Thailand should dismiss the case against 22 protest leaders charged with insulting the monarchy – otherwise known as lèse-majesté — sedition, and a range of public order offences, and adhere to its international human rights obligations, the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ) and TrialWatch Expert the Honourable Kevin Bell AM KC said on 16 January in an amicus brief submitted to the Bangkok Criminal Court.
Student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattankul surrounded by volunteer protest guards as she submitted the demands for monarchy reform to the then-metropolitan police commissioner in a day after the 19 September protest.
TrialWatch monitors criminal trials globally against those who are most vulnerable, including journalists and opposition figures, and advocates for the rights of individuals who are unfairly imprisoned. Since late 2020, CFJ’s TrialWatch initiative has been monitoring and evaluating criminal proceedings against the protest leaders, who face between seven and 15 years in prison if convicted of all charges (in Thailand, if a defendant is being prosecuted for multiple offences for the same conduct, the defendant is to be punished for the offence with the most severe punishment).
The defendants, in this case, span university students as young as 22 years old at the time of arrest, lawyers, activists, and journalists. The charges are based on the prosecution’s allegation that while giving speeches at a protest the defendants lied about the Thai King’s expenditures and his frequent travel to and from Germany, including during the COvid-19 lockdowns and allegedly in violation of quarantine rules.
As documented by TrialWatch monitors who have attended the trial, the prosecution has not presented evidence that the defendants’ statements were false and the court has refused to order institutions like the Crown Property Bureau, the Royal Office, and Thai Airways to provide financial and travel records, despite the defence’s repeated requests. This has undercut the defence’s ability to prove the statements were true. As one defendant noted at a recent hearing, without access to information to prove the truth of their comments “it is as if the defendant’s side is chained with one hand to the boxing ring, preventing them from punching and fighting with the other side.” If the court does not dismiss the case, it should at least allow the defence access to the materials it needs to both mount a defence and challenge the prosecution’s evidence and arguments, today’s amicus brief said.
The trial, which has been monitored by the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic on behalf of TrialWatch, consolidates two now-joined cases. A first indictment was filed against four people in February 2021, and a second against an additional 18 people in March 2021. Of the 22 defendants, at least six are university students, all in their early twenties. The defendants participated in demonstrations in Bangkok on September 19, 2020, with protesters calling for amendments to the Thai Constitution and reform of the monarchy.
One defendant, 24-year-old student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, gave a speech at the protest asserting: “the 2021 Budget did not come into effect on time and not one person was brave enough to say this straight [that it was] because the [King] wasn’t in the country. He was living a good life spending people’s tax money in Germany.” She spent 59 days in detention, during which she went on a hunger strike for more than five weeks. She now faces 15 years in prison.
Another defendant, 61-year-old magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, said at the protest: “the position [of the King] is vacant because he is not in Thailand,” and that “We have only one head of State, and he should be subject to criticism based on the check and balance system. It is unacceptable that he hides from criticism. He earns both salary and annuity 30 billion baht a year.” Mr Prueksakasemsuk is facing up to 15 years in prison.
A 24-year-old defendant and activist leader Parit Chiwarak – also facing up to 15 years in prison – said: “Do you know that when we do transactions with [the Siam Central Bank], if the bank makes a 100 baht profit, 33 baht will go straight to the pocket of King Rama X as the top shareholder? This means that when you use SCB, you’re financing his trip to Germany.”
In the indictment, reviewed by TrialWatch, the prosecution alleged that all statements made about the Thai King’s absences from Thailand and expenditures were false. According to the prosecution, the statements were also “intruding, assaulting, defaming, slandering, and showing a great malice” towards the King, whose position is “inviolable.”
Defendants who commented on the King in their speeches – seven of the 22 – are charged with lèse-majesté, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Since the demonstrations, these seven defendants (and one other) have been held in pretrial detention for significant periods of time. Lawyer Arnon Nampa spent the longest time in detention, a total of 113 days. Although all defendants have now been released on bail, they are subject to strict conditions, including prohibitions on participating in political protests and on criticizing the monarchy.
The amicus brief is based on the international obligations Thailand must follow as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Among other things, the ICCPR requires that defendants be able to contest the arguments and evidence against them, and access the materials necessary to do so.
“In violation of international principles, the court has tied the accused’s hands by obstructing their attempts to obtain documents that would prove the truth of their statements about the King. The absurdity of this situation is highlighted by the fact that the defendants are charged with lying that the King was not in Thailand during certain periods at the same time as defence lawyers have been prevented from accessing routine travel records,” said TrialWatch Expert the Honourable Kevin Bell AM KC, who has fifteen years of judicial experience in the conduct of criminal trials, including as former Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia.
The proceedings also violate the defendants’ right to freedom of expression, which is likewise guaranteed by the ICCPR. Under international standards, laws must be precise and clear so that individuals know what acts are criminal and what acts are legal. Lèse-majesté, however, criminalizes any insulting, threatening, or defaming of the monarchy, terms that are vague and subjective. In alleging the defendants have violated the lèse-majesté law, the prosecution has not even attempted to distinguish between whether their speeches “insulted,” “threatened,” or “defamed” the monarchy, instead repeating the same copy-and-pasted paragraph for each defendant that decries the “great malice” displayed towards the King.
“It is essential to note that it is unclear whether the statements made by the defendants even qualify as lèse-majesté under what is already an overbroad definition,” said the Honourable Mr Bell KC. “One would not assume, for example, that advocating for reform of the monarchy would constitute defaming or insulting the monarchy. But the prosecution has proceeded on this presumption, seemingly unconcerned with such matters like evidence and burden of proof.”
Some of the restrictive bail conditions placed on the defendants require them to refrain from engaging in any acts that might “impact the monarchy.” In response to confusion about what this means, magazine editor Mr Prueksakasemsuk said: “I might go to a meeting, I am not sure what will happen, whether anyone would talk about Monarchy or not and in what way?” The court did not clarify whether being present while someone else talked about the monarchy would put Mr Prueksakasemsuk at risk for reimprisonment, instead stating: “you agreed to the conditions, which were voluntary.”
Commentary about public figures, including monarchs, is protected by international law. Statements of this nature actually warrant heightened protection because of the importance of political speech. The defendants’ comments should never have led to a criminal prosecution, let alone a trial in which they face the prospect of more than a decade in prison. Indeed, UN experts have held that “lèse-majesté laws have no place in a democratic country” and have called on the Thai government to “stop the repeated use of such serious criminal charges against individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful expression.” The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has described Thailand’s lèse-majesté law as “so vague as to be inconsistent with international human rights law,” and the UN Human Rights Committee has criticised Thai authorities “extreme sentencing practices” in relation to lèse-majesté.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for January 16. In the amicus brief, CFJ and the Honourable Mr Bell KC urge the court to dismiss the case based on violations of the right to freedom of expression; failing that, the right to freedom of expression requires that the court lift the restrictive and unclear bail conditions imposed on the defendants and the right to prepare a defence requires that the court facilitate defence access to the evidence requested.
Section 112, the lèse-majesté provision in the Thai Criminal Code, provides that “whoever defames, insults, or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent, or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”
While falsity is typically not a required element for proving lèse-majesté under Thai law, the prosecution has made the supposed falsity of the speeches given by the protesters a central aspect of its case, stating unequivocally in both indictments that the defendants’ comments on the King were false. However, the defendants have not been given an opportunity to defend themselves by being granted access to materials that could prove the truth of their statements.
Pick to PostClooney Foundation for JusticeTrailWatch19 September 2020 protestPanussaya SitthijirawattanakulAnon NampaParit ChiwarakSomyot Pruksakasemsukroyal defamation lawlèse majesté lawSection 112Article 112freedom of expressionSource: https://cfj.org/news_posts/thailand-should-dismiss-charges-against-22-protest-leaders/?fbclid=IwAR0OZX6bM3ua9JQnnbexegXfK4v44poDY3GAAZ_XlCqLZasbW9a87TZ77iM
Justice delayed for journalist assaulted by monarchy supporters
Photojournalist Natthaphon Phanphongsanon was attacked by a group of pro-monarchy supporters in April 2022. After almost year, justice in the case is seemingly being impeded by the police.
A CCTV footage shows how Nattaphon (on the motorbike) was surrounded by three attackers (Source: DemAll)
On 16 January, Natthapon informed Prachatai that he was told his case has been passed to the prosecutor in October 2022. As one of the attackers faced 11 assault-related charges, the prosecutor reportedly requested additional information from investigators.
The investigator in charge of Natthapong’s case eventually resigned and no one replaced him. As a result, the indictment has stalled and the police have yet to hand over the requested information.
“I asked them (the police), what if it runs out of time? The officer replied that the statute of limitations was 15 years and there was no need to worry,” Natthaphon said.
The attack took place late in the evening on 22 April last year. As Natthaphon was about to leave a protest site he was covering, 4 men wearing vests and casual clothes approached him, asking to see the pictures on his mobile phone. When Natthaphon refused, he was attacked and hit with batons.
Natthaphon filed a complaint with the police over the assault. However, as he was trying to access the CCTV footage at a nearby McDonald, two men in private clothes with pistols approached him, claiming to be police officers, and asked him not to collect the footage. He was told to go to see a doctor instead.
- Journalists assaulted by thugs, monarchy supporters in protest aftermath
- Claiming assault as justified, pro-monarchy group raises fears of hate crimes
Shortly afterward, another quarrel broke out and the attackers ended up injuring another citizen.
The next day, the royalist group Vocational Students Protecting the Institution admitted that their members took part in assaults. The group banished members involved in the attacks but claimed that they were acting in self-defence. A video of the briefing was later made inaccessible.
A photo of the Vocational Students Protecting the Institution during their Facebook livestreaming.
Wasinee Pabuprapap, from the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) subcommittee for Press Freedom and Media Reform, has been monitoring Natthapon’s case from the beginning. She said the delay may largely be due to the resignation as a related citizen assault case was adjudicated by the Court in 2022.
According to Wasinee, in this latter case the Court imposed a 5,000 baht fine on the perpetrators.
She expressed disappointment in the lack of progress made in Natthaphon’s case. Noting that the delay might lead to further assaults, she demanded that the police proceed with transparency, efficiency, and haste.
“We can see how seemingly insignificant things that happened in other countries – hitting a journalist before developing to enforced disappearances and shootings. I think this case is part of a process for halting violence to spread to that point.
“If they get away with hitting him today, they may feel comfortable abducting him later as nobody will come after them,” said Wasinee.NewsNatthaphon Phanphongsanonpress freedomWasinee PabuprapapThai Journalists Association (TJA)Vocational Students Protecting the InstitutionSource: prachatai.com/journal/2023/01/102299