Prachatai English

Probe into Thai exile's enforced disappearance moving at snail’s pace, has glaring gaps, says Amnesty

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-12-08 15:16
Submitted on Tue, 8 Dec 2020 - 03:16 PMAmnesty International

The Cambodian authorities must redouble their efforts to thoroughly, independently and impartially investigate the disappearance of Thai dissident Wanchalearm Satsaksit and determine his fate and whereabouts, said Amnesty International today (8 December).

(Photo from Amnesty International)

The 37-year old activist was abducted by unknown persons from outside an apartment building in Phnom Penh on 4 June this year, having previously been sought for arrest by the Thai authorities for expressing criticism of the Thai government.

Sitanun Satsaksit, Wanchalearm’s sister, is being questioned by an investigating judge at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court today as part of the Cambodian authorities ongoing investigation into the case.

Over six months since he was disappeared, the Cambodian authorities have demonstrated negligible progress in the investigation, despite important pieces of evidence coming to public light in the intervening months. To this day, Wanchalearm’s fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

“So far, the glaring inadequacies of this probe make a mockery of Cambodia’s obligations to conduct a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation,” said Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director.

“It has moved at a snail’s pace and key evidence appears to have been ignored. The Cambodian authorities need to show that they are undertaking a credible investigation or serious questions will be asked about whether they are acting in good faith.”

Amnesty International calls for the Cambodian authorities to urgently address the apparent failures of the investigation to date, to immediately disclose any information they may have about Wanchalearm’s fate and whereabouts, and to ensure truth, justice and reparations for Wanchalearm and his family.

The Cambodian authorities’ failure to make adequate progress in the investigation calls into question their compliance with the Convention on Enforced Disappearances (CED), to which Cambodia is a state party.

Slow moving investigation

The lack of progress in the investigation six months after the enforced disappearance suggests the Cambodian authorities are failing in their obligation under the CED to determine the fate and whereabouts of people forcibly disappeared and conduct prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigations with a view to bringing to justice in fair trials all those suspected of criminal responsibility.

The Cambodian authorities must be fully transparent about the investigation's progress with Wanchalearm’s family. Their responses to the UN suggest they may not have spoken to potentially key witnesses visible on CCTV footage that captured the moment Wanchalearm was abducted. They must take all appropriate witness protection measures to ensure witnesses do not suffer any retaliation,” said Yamini Mishra.

The pace of the investigation has been a particular cause for concern for the family and civil society organizations. Six months after the disappearance, little or no progress has been reported by the authorities to determine who was behind the disappearance and where Wanchalearm is.

Notably, the Prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court only sent his request for an investigation to the court in September 2020 – over three months after Wanchalearm’s disappearance – despite the fact that the complaint forming the basis for the investigation from Sitanun Satsaksit was filed with the Prosecutor since July. These delays are inconsistent with Cambodia’s obligation to ensure a prompt investigation into allegations of enforced disappearance.

Moreover, the Cambodian authorities’ previous responses to UN inquiries regarding the investigation suggest a lacklustre and inadequate approach to the investigation. On 19 June, the Cambodian government stated that it had “neither knowledge nor any lead on the alleged abduction of Mr. Wanchalearm”.

On 12 August, the Cambodian government reported that it had interviewed three “witnesses” who allegedly “confirmed” that there were “no reports of abduction” in the relevant location, and that they had “tried to find evidence through security cameras where the incident reportedly took place”, but found “no clue”.

However, the publication of relevant evidence in the media appears to contradict claims that the CCTV footage provided “no clue” and highlight the fact that the authorities could be doing much more to investigate the case thoroughly. CCTV footage which has been shared by various media sources shows at least two male eyewitnesses who appear to have observed Wanchalearm’s abduction. The Cambodian authorities should develop an investigation strategy that ensures the capture and systematic analysis of all relevant material, including CCTV footage.

All potential witnesses should be interviewed as a priority and appropriate witness protection measures should be put in place to safeguard their participation in the investigation, as required under Article 12 of the CED.

Moreover, authorities should regularly provide Wanchalearm’s family with information about the progress and results of the investigation in a manner that also ensures the effectiveness of the investigation As noted by the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, “the active participation of victims and their families in the investigation is also the best means to guarantee transparency and accountability of the investigative process”.

Enforced disappearances are not explicitly criminalized under Cambodian law, despite Cambodia being obliged to introduce such an offence under Article 4 of the CED. Amnesty International calls upon the Cambodian authorities to criminalize enforced disappearances in accordance to the Convention, in order to facilitate the prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of all cases of disappearances.

Background

Wanchalearm Satsaksit, 37, is a Thai activist in exile in Cambodia. His sister, Sitanun, reported his abduction on 4 June. CCTV footage published in the media following the abduction shows a blue Toyota Highlander leaving the scene soon afterwards. The footage also shows two men who appear to have witnessed the abduction.

Thai authorities previously filed outstanding criminal charges against Wanchalearm, most recently in 2018 under the Computer Crime Act, alleging that he had posted anti-government material on a satirical Facebook page. Thai authorities reportedly requested Wanchalearm’s extradition from Cambodian authorities at the time, though the Cambodian authorities have not publicly acknowledged receiving any such request. The Thai authorities also filed charges against him for failing to report to a summons issued in 2014 to a wide range of activists and political figures after the military coup in May of that year.

Amnesty International has previously expressed concerned for the safety of Thai exiles in neighbouring countries whose extradition has been sought by the Thai authorities. Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s disappearance corresponds to a deeply alarming pattern of abductions and killings since June 2016 of at least nine Thai activists in exile by unknown persons in neighbouring countries, namely Laos and Viet Nam.

In each case, the Thai authorities had sought the individuals’ arrest or extradition in relation to criminal charges filed in connection with their exercise of the right to freedom of expression, often online and in some cases while in exile.

In light of this pattern of disappearances, killings and prevalent impunity in the region, Amnesty International has previously urged the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), the over-arching human rights body of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to exercise its mandate “to obtain information from ASEAN member states on the promotion and protection of human rights” in order to shed light on enforced disappearances such as that of Wanchalearm. AICHR should take a more active role in facilitating cooperation among different ASEAN countries to afford the greatest measure of mutual assistance in assisting victims of enforced disappearance, and in searching for, locating and releasing forcibly disappeared persons in Southeast Asia.

Pick to PostWanchalearm SatsaksitAmnesty InternationalSitanun Satsaksitenforced disappearanceabductionCambodia
Categories: Prachatai English

17 activists summoned on Section 112 charges in one week

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-12-07 21:57
Submitted on Mon, 7 Dec 2020 - 09:57 PM

17 activists have received summonses to hear lèse majesté charges during the past week, since Parit Chiwarak received a summons on 24 November. The law has not been used in the past two years. 

17 activists summoned on Section 112 charges during the past week

After the recent wave of student protests started demanding monarchy reform, beginning with Anon Nampa’s speech at the Harry Potter-themed protest on 3 August and the 10-point manifesto of the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration read by student activist Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul at the rally on 10 August, rumours began to spread that the lèse majesté law, or Section 112, would once again be used after no charges had been filed under this law since 2018. However, during the past four months of protest, no activist who criticized King Vajiralongkorn or the monarchy has been charged with Section 112, although some have faced sedition charges under Section 116 and other charges relating to the protests.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said in their report “As if the NCPO Never Left: Six Years After the Coup and the Persistence of Human Rights Violations” that despite the decline in the number of cases filed and prosecuted under Section 112 since the outset of King Vajiralongkorn’s reign, critics of the monarchy still faced legal prosecution under other laws, such as the Computer Crimes Act and Section 116. TLHR also noted that Section 112 charges were being increasingly dismissed, while defendants are convicted on other charges.

However, on 24 November, student activist Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak received a summons on charges under Section 112 and the Computer Crimes Act. Other activists then began receiving similar summonses, and by Saturday (5 December), a total of 17 people had been summoned.

Several people have also been summoned on multiple counts. Parit is facing 5 counts, Panusaya 3 counts, while Anon and student activists Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon and Chanin Wongri face 2 counts each.

Other activists facing charges under Section 112 are Panupong Jadnok, Patiwat Saraiyaem, Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa, Jutatip Sirikhan, Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, Kiattichai Tangpornphan, Watcharakorn Chaikaew, Benja Apan, Ravisara Eksgool, Cholathit Chotsawat, Nawat Liangwattana, and Shinawat Chankrachang.

In addition to charges under Section 112, most of these activists face other charges relating to the protests, such as sedition charges under Section 116, or violation of the Emergency Decree.

Earlier today (7 December), activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk posted on his Facebook page that he has also received a summons under Section 112.

During the past 10 years, the use of Section 112 to silence critics of the monarchy has been widely criticized. Various international organizations, including the United Nations’ human rights mechanisms, have previously said that the law itself is vague, excessive, and goes against the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In 2011, for example, Frank La Rue, then the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said that both Section 112 and the Computer Crimes Act are “are vague and overly broad, and the harsh criminal sanctions are neither necessary nor proportionate to protect the monarchy or national security.”

NewsArticle 112Section 112lese majesteMonarchy reformfreedom of expressionStudent protest 2020student movementYouth movement
Categories: Prachatai English

Pro-democracy protesters challenge royalists with their own memes

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-12-07 20:20
Submitted on Mon, 7 Dec 2020 - 08:20 PMThidatep Piboon

Student-led pro-democracy protests have been going on for months. One of their tactics is to use royalist symbols, quotations and traditions as satirical weapons to challenge and criticize the government, tradition and society overall.

Here, Prachatai reviews examples of royalisms used in the pro-democracy protest.

Redefine the meaning

The pro-democracy protests have adopted the tactic of showing re-engineered music videos of songs composed by King Rama IX. These songs convey patriotism but the patriotism expressed in the original is replaced by new pro-democratic meanings.

One example was seen at the protest on 10 August organized by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration in a re-engineered music video of Yung Thong, a Thammasat anthem, telling what happened on 6 October 1976. The song was composed in 1963 and given to Thammasat University. It has been performed on many occasions including the memorial ceremony for the late King Rama IX in 2016.

Another example of reclaiming the patriotic meaning of songs composed by King Rama IX is a re-engineered music video of The Impossible Dream which was originally a military march. It was shown in one of the biggest protests on 19 September at Sanam Luang.

The song now honours the fight for democracy and commemorates all those who were killed during the red-shirt protest including Nuamthong Praiwan, a taxi driver who committed suicide in protest at the coup in 2006.

Nuamthong survived crashing his taxi into military tank in an attempt to committed suicide on 30 September, 2006. In his second attempt on 31 October 2006, he hanged himself to prove wrong Col Akkara Thiproj, a deputy spokesperson for the military junta, when he said, “no one would sacrifice their life for their ideology.”

The protesters reinterpreted all the verses of The Impossible Dream, just as they have reinterpreted the nation. They show their devotion towards the nation by fighting for democracy in Thailand.

Nuamthong’s statement was used in the music video. He said, “If I am reborn in the next life, my wish is that there will never again be a coup. Goodbye.”

The music video showed Nuamthong’s taxi hitting the tank with the lyrics “To fight...the unbeatable foe .”

In 1969, Queen Sirikit asked Thanpuying Maneerat Bunnag to write a poem to encourage people to work for the nation by translating the song The Impossible Dream of the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha. Thanpuying Maneerat then wrote a poem that was distributed to civilians, police and soldiers. King Rama IX added a melody in 1971.

The most popular verse in this song is “I will be steadfast to correct what is false. I will love the nation until my life has turned to ashes. I am ready to die to maintain dignity. I will do good without anyone seeing,”  which is based on the verse “To right the unrightable wrong. To love pure and chaste from afar. To try when your arms are too weary. To reach the unreachable star,” in Man of La Mancha.

Back in 2009, this song was performed by a pianist Nat Yontararak and his singer wife Pawongduen Yontararak at a People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest. It was one of the nationalist songs used by the National Council for Peace and Order on 22 May 2016. In 2019, Gen Apirat Kongsompong, then chief of the Royal Thai Army, ordered this song played, along with other nationalist songs, in Army bases. 

Parody

Gold frames symbolize sacredness, and are regularly seen on pictures of the King and the Queen. But protesters instead used a gold frame on a picture of Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a political scholar whose criticism of the role of the royal family caused him to flee into exile to Japan.

Together with Somsak Jeamteerasakul, his reputation is famous among the pro-democracy movement because of his expertise on the Thai monarchy.

Left : A protester prostrates himself before Pavin’s picture. Right: A protester raises Pavin’s picture in a golden frame.

During Thailand’s Covid-19 lockdown, Pavin created a Facebook group satirically called “Royalist Market Place” that contains information about and criticism of the royal family. It was closed down at the request of the Thai authorities but immediately returned as a new group which attracted more than 1 million members within 1 week.

At the protest on 10 Aug at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus, a video of Pavin’s speech was shown giving support to the protesters. The video itself mocked royal court news, with an element of a royal anthem video consisting of a gold background, closing with “May it please the King” and “Long live the King” written in a font used on royal banners. During the video, the protesters shouted repeatedly, “Long live the King”

Pictures of the two pro-democracy scholars and exiles Somsak Jeamteerasakul and Pavin Chachavalpongpun and the statement “With Rice. With Kaeng om. I want Pork BBQ” [a parody of the expressions “May it please the King” and “Long live the King”] during the video of Pavin’s speech in the 10 Aug protest.

A remix of another piece of nationalist music, the Royal Guards March by King Rama IX, is frequently heard at protests. People might be familiar with this song from the introduction to royal court news, but protesters have remixed this song in different versions which can be found on YouTube.  

The government’s attempt to disperse the protest at Kiak Kai intersection on 17 November 2020 led to the iconic inflatable rubber ducks being awards pseudo-royal titles.

The protesters used the yellow ducks as shields to protect themselves from water cannon blasts. Several posts on social media expressed satisfaction on how much these ducks could minimize the damage. Netizens later dubbed the inflatable ducks Krommaluang Kiakkai Ratborirak (Prince/Princess Kiakkai, the People's Protector).

เทรดรวบรวมพระราชจริยวัตร แสดงพระมหากรุณาธิคุณของ พระบรมวงศ์เธอ กรมหลวงเกียกกายราษฎรบริรักษ์
(นามเดิม เป็ดยาง)#เป็ดยาง #เป็ดเหลือง #ม็อบ17พฤศจิกา #ม็อบ18พฤศจิกา #ม็อบ19พฤศจิกา pic.twitter.com/kP0ixAyqou

— Rainbow (@whereisrainbow9) November 19, 2020

A yellow duck in the uniform of a royal soldier. The Thai means “Long Live [the King]”.

Another example is seen in parodies of the King’s words. Since the monarchy seems to have adopted a more flexible behaviour in their public appearances, allowing people to touch them, several videos have appeared on social media of royal family members talking to yellow-clad people. This marks a shift from traditional formal ceremonies to something like celebrity appearances.

On October 23, the King thanked a man who had held aloft a portrait of the late King Rama IX at a pro-democracy protest. The King told him “Very brave. Very brave. Very good. Thank you,” raising concerns about the monarchy’s political stance which have long troubled Thai society.  The hashtags #กล้ามากเก่งมากขอบใจ [#VeryBraveVeryGoodThankYou] and #23ตุลาวันตาสว่าง [#23OctEyesOpeningDay] later trended on Twitter.

Parodies of these words of the King’s have also be seen at protests. The protesters often shout out the phrase to compliment and encourage each other. There is also a video of a woman dancing while people around clap and chant “Very brave. Very good. Thank you,” rather like cheerleaders at a sports competition.

#ม็อบ26ตุลา #26ตุลาไปสถานทูตเยอรมัน #กล้ามากกล้ามากเก่งมากขอบใจ pic.twitter.com/dI7a18nRXv

— Frenchie Narak (@NarakFrenchie) October 26, 2020

A banner reading “Very brave. Very brave. Very good. Thank you,” displayed in the protest march to the German Embassy on 26 October 2020.

Counter-attack   

While the King’s “Very brave. Very good. Thank You.” was ridiculed, his later words also went viral but were used by the pro-democracy protesters as a counter-attack in response to brutality in society.

At a royal public appearance on 1 November 2020, pro-monarchy people wearing yellow shirts gathered to meet the King. Several pro-monarchy figures were there and had the chance to have short conversations with the King. These included Warong Dechgitvigrom, who revealed on Facebook that the King told him, “We must help each other to bring out the truth.”

The hashtags #ต้องช่วยกันเอาความจริงออกมา and #ต้องเอาความจริงออกมา [#BringOutTheTruth] topped trends on Twitter. A lot of information and criticisms were expressed, claiming to follow the King’s words. Many Twitter posts questioned the cases of several Thai political exiles who were the victims of enforced disappearance and even murder.

“ Compromise “

กี่ชีวิตที่ดับสูญไป ด้วยวิธีป่าเถื่อนพิสดาร

ขนาดจะมอบความตายให้เค้า ยังทำลายเกียรติหยามเหยียดความเป็นมนุษย์จนวินาทีสุดท้ายของลมหายใจเค้า

ทุกเคสแม้แต่พิธีศพยังไม่มีโอกาสได้จัด ตายไปแล้วก็ยังไม่ยกเว้น

Compromise #ม็อบ2พฤศจิกา #ต้องช่วยกันเอาความจริงออกมา pic.twitter.com/s37NMcYxf2

— TT TT (@Tarn59162826) November 2, 2020

A photo of memorial ceremony in Nakhon Ratchasima with #BringOuttheTruth calling for the truth behind the disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit.

The King’s words in his short impromptu interview with Jonathan Miller, a reporter from Channel 4 of the United Kingdom, also topped trending. The King responded to Miller’s question about protesters calling for monarchy reform by saying “We love them all the same. We love them all the same. We love them all the same.” When Miller asked if there was any possibility for compromise, the King answered “Thailand is the land of compromise.”

Again, his words were used as hashtags on Twitter by pro-democracy protesters to criticize the government's intolerance of opposition and dissent. Some posts on Twitter showed a cruel history that the authorities want to be forgotten.

It’s the reality. You can’t denying it with your beautiful words like “We love them all the same” or “Thailand is the land of compromise”. #ม็อบ17พฤศจิกา #whatishappeninginthailand #LandofCompromise #Welovethemallthesame pic.twitter.com/OQQ7MKsaa5

— JirawatP (@A_JirawatP) November 17, 2020

 #Welovethemalthesame is used sarcastically showing how pro-monarchy and pro-democracy groups were treated differently on 17 November 2020.

#LandOfCompromise #LoveThemAllTheSame pic.twitter.com/ofc1idreAa

— Prach P (@prachpan) November 1, 2020

One of the most famous pictures of the Oct. 6 1976 Thammasat Massacre using #LandOfCompromise.

Thidatep Piboon is an intern from Mahidol University International College (MUIC)

FeatureStudent protest 2020pro-democracy protestPavin ChachavalpongpunSomsak JeamteerasakulroyalistmonarchyKing Rama XKing Vajiralongkorn
Categories: Prachatai English

Greenpeace's brand audit report names five Thai companies as top plastic polluters

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-12-07 19:21
Submitted on Mon, 7 Dec 2020 - 07:21 PMGreenpeace Thailand

Five Thai companies, namely, Charoen Pokphand Group (CP), Dutch Mill Co., Ltd., Osotspa, TCP Group, and Lactasoy, have been identified as the top plastic polluters locally responsible for plastic pollution affecting two provinces, according to the latest brand audit report conducted by Greenpeace Thailand. 

Greenpeace volunteers collect and sort garbage collected from Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand. (Photo credit:Wason Wanichakorn / Greenpeace)

Pichmol Rugrod, Plastic Project Leader for Greenpeace Thailand said: 

“This is the third time that Greenpeace Thailand has conducted a plastic brand audit and we continue to find the same types of plastic from the same brands in the environment. Single-use plastic has devastating effects not only to nature but to frontline communities as well. There will be no solutions to the plastic crisis unless there is a plan to urgently reduce plastic consumption and production. Just like a pandemic response, real actions are needed to tackle plastic pollution- from its source and throughout the plastic’s life cycle. In addition, corporations must take full responsibility for the pollution they have caused, taking into account the externalized cost of their single-use plastic products- such as the cost of waste collection treatment, their continued contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and the irreparable environmental damage that will continue to harm people and biodiversity for years to come.”  

Penchom Saetang, the Executive Director of Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand or EARTH Foundation said:

“The most important thing in managing and preventing plastic pollution is to apply extended producer responsibility (EPR). Currently the Thai government has a plastic management roadmap 2018-2030, model scheme, and relevant measures needed to implement the plans under the ASEAN framework action on marine debris. Meanwhile, the corporate sector has initiated and rolled out a circular economy policy. However, these policies are based on a voluntary basis and are non-legally binding. Without law enforcement, it is therefore difficult to gain buy-in from every company for the plastic crisis to be solved. Moreover, the government has not been proactive to motivate all stakeholders, including the private and public sectors and local governments, to join forces and seriously tackle the problems.”

The latest brand audit saw more than 70 volunteers join the activities that took place in Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai province and Wonnapa beach in Chonburi province. A total of 13,001 pieces of plastic waste were collected: 8,489 of which were food packaging and 3,273 of which were household products [1]. 

Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, other brand audits safely took place in 55 countries, with brands like The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Nestlé identified as the world’s top plastic polluters for the 3rd consecutive year. The brand audit is part of the #BreakFreefromPlastic global movement which aims to reduce the single-use plastic reduction and put an end to the plastic pollution crisis.

Greenpeace Thailand is calling on corporations, specifically the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector and other companies to apply the extended producer responsibility policy, implement a plastic footprint reduction plan and phase out unnecessary single-use plastics which continue to pollute our environment by prioritising the following actions:

  • Be transparent and traceable : Publicly disclose comprehensive information about the types and amount of plastic they use, their plans to apply refill, reduce and reuse principles. Annually monitor its progress and assess its plastic waste disposal by independent organisations or institutions;
  • Commit to plastics reduction plan : Set annual targets for continually reducing their single-use plastic footprint towards complete phase out. Make significant investment in creating refillable, reusable containers and the innovation of new delivery systems that minimise the need for single- use plastic packaging. The plan shall be actionable, transparent, measurable, time bound and can be accessible by public and stakeholders;  
  • Urgently eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastic : Begin reduction efforts by eliminating the most problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics with time-bound plan;
  • Invest in reuse and alternative delivery systems
  • Apply extended producer responsibility (EPR) principle throughout the products’ lifecycle : Keep monitoring social and environmental impacts on local communities. Include ‘marine debris’ as one factor to assess environmental impacts caused by the products.

Note:

1. Some 3,763 pieces of plastic collected belonged to the ‘Other’ category (or Plastic Number 7), which often includes multi-layer plastics and also plastics that may be layered or mixed with other types of plastics. Next were 2,740 pieces of plastic that were identified as High Density Polyethylene or HDPE plastic, followed by 1,851 pieces of plastic that were identified as Polypropylene or PP plastic.

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Categories: Prachatai English

Press freedom collective calls for new charge against Maria Ressa to be dropped

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-12-04 17:01
Submitted on Fri, 4 Dec 2020 - 05:01 PMReporters Without Borders

The global press freedom groups and civil society organizations collective #HoldTheLine Coalition calls for the new criminal cyber libel charge against Filipino-American editor and journalist Maria Ressa to be dropped. 

Maria Ressa (Picture from Wikipedia Commons)

The #HoldTheLine Coalition condemns new legal threats against Rappler founder and CEO Maria Ressa and calls for a second, trumped-up criminal cyber libel charge to be dropped.

Ressa posted bail after the new arrest warrant was filed on 27 November, and will appear in court on Friday, 4 December. The new cyber libel case was filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng, related to a single tweet posted by Ressa in February 2019. The tweet included screenshots of an earlier story from another publication alleging ties between Keng and a judge in the Philippines -- one of the sources of the Rappler article that was the basis of a separate cyber libel charge on which Ressa was convicted in June.

“We are alarmed by this escalation of threats against Maria Ressa and call on the Duterte regime to cease its baseless legal attacks on Ressa and Rappler in an attempt to silence their public interest reporting. It is absurd that a journalist tweeting about another publication’s story could be jailed. We call for the new charge to be dropped immediately, and for Ressa’s conviction on an earlier criminal cyber libel charge to be quashed,” said the #HoldTheLine steering committee.

This marks the ninth arrest warrant issued against Ressa, who has been arrested twice in the past two years. At least eight cases are currently open against her, including criminal tax charges. Ressa faces a possible six-year prison sentence if the existing cyber libel conviction is not overturned on appeal, and the new cyber libel charge carries a possible sentence of seven years’ imprisonment. If convicted on all charges, Ressa could be looking at a lifetime in prison.

In a statement issued by her legal team, Ressa said “The legal acrobatics to harass and intimidate me continue, but these moves only convince me that we have to fight back and demand justice."

The latest move against Ressa takes place in the context of an overall deteriorating media freedom climate in the Philippines, where four journalists have been killed this year - most recently on 14 November.

The #HoldTheLine Coalition - a global collective of more than 75 civil society and journalism organisations - was formed to defend the prominent Filipino-American editor after she was convicted on the first criminal cyber libel charge in June 2020. The Coalition launched a petition calling for public support for Maria Ressa and independent media in the Philippines, which remains open for signature.

Pick to PostMaria Ressapress freedomThe Philippinesjudicial harassmentReporters Without Borders (RSF)
Categories: Prachatai English

Constitutional Court rules 2 NCPO Orders unconstitutional

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-12-04 14:09
Submitted on Fri, 4 Dec 2020 - 02:09 PMPrachatai

In response to a petition filed by law academic Worachet Pakeerut, who was summoned and charged by the NCPO junta, the Constitutional Court has ruled that junta orders that forcibly summon people to military camps and punish them for not doing so violate the constitution.

Prof.Worachet Pakeerut

On 2 December 2020, the Constitutional Court decided unanimously that NCPO Orders No. 29/2557, issued on 24 May 2014, and 41/2557, issued on 26 May 2014, violate Section 26 of the 2017 Constitution. A majority vote also determined that the 2 orders violate Section 29 (1).

Section 26 states that the enactment of a law resulting in the restriction of rights or liberties of a person shall be in accordance with the conditions provided by the Constitution, while Section 29 (1) states that a suspect or defendant in a criminal case shall be presumed innocent, and before the passing of a final judgment, such person shall not be treated as a convict.

Worachet said that NCPO summonses were no longer enforceable under the Constitution. The Court will submit the ruling to Dusit District Court, where his case is on trial. And when the Court hears that the orders are unconstitutional, it will dismiss the case.

He also pointed out that his petition paves the way for others to ask the Court to decide on other NCPO Orders. Any cases that are still not adjudicated could use his case as a precedent for submitting a petition.

The petition was submitted by Prof Worachet Pakeerut of Thammasat University to consider whether NCPO Order 29/2557 allowing the NCPO to summon a person, and NCPO Order 41/2557 criminalizing violation of an NCPO summons violate the 2017 Constitution.

Worachet did not report after being summoned twice. Later, the military prosecutor charged him with violating the NCPO Order. He spent years on trial in a military court until the case was transferred to Dusit District Court.

Worachet explained that his petition asked the Constitutional Court to consider whether it had the authority to rule on the 2 NCPO Orders despite Section 279 of the Constitution, and also if the 2 Orders violated the Constitution.  He wished to correct the misunderstanding that his petition did not ask whether the Order to report was constitutional but only whether the Order determining penalties was constitutional. Also, he asked to the Constitutional Court to consider the rationale of both orders and if they could be applied retroactively.

“Because they [the NCPO] served me with a summons before they issued the Order setting out the penalties, the Court in a majority decision ruled it was a violation,” said Worachet. He said that he was first summoned at 10.30 a.m. on 24 May 2014 but the 2 Orders were issued later.

Worachet commented that when he submitted the petition, he asked if the Constitutional Court had the authority to rule on NCPO Orders even though Section 279 of the 2017 Constitution makes them lawful. The Court’s explanation did not include this issue so he was waiting for the full statement of the Court’s decision. But this case could be the first where NCPO Orders are found to be in violation of the 2017 Constitution.

He said the ruling is beneficial to those who are charged the same offences as him, such as Chaturon Chaisang, a former minister, or those who fled the country after being summoned. However, cases that have already been adjudicated would not benefit from this decision because the judicial process is complete.

“At least, we see that the Court’s investigation means that Section 279 is not a brake on Court investigations,”  said Worachet. He also explained that he submitted numerous legal arguments and the Court agreed that it did have the authority to investigate and could proceed without considering Section 279. Dusit District Court was waiting for the Constitutional Court ruling before setting a hearing for its verdict.

The Standard reported that Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that he had not seen the full decision, only a summary on the news. If the Court decided that the Orders contravened the Constitution, then they became ineffective. “After 2017, it is admitted that some people were summoned in the belief that the order was not unconstitutional. But when the Court decides that it is unconstitutional, then it is,” Wissanu said.

However, Wissanu confirmed that the Court’s decision would not be retroactive and defendants could not sue officials. “Because the officials proceeded in the understanding that it was not unconstitutional, and because there was no ruling, if they had not proceeded, they might themselves have been guilty. For now, if anyone is still being prosecuted or consideration of the case is unfinished, they must all cease.”,

NewsWorachet PakeerutConstitutional courtNCPO orderSource: prachatai.com/journal/2020/12/90657
Categories: Prachatai English

Nine US senators introduce resolution in support of Thailand pro-democracy movement

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-12-04 12:11
Submitted on Fri, 4 Dec 2020 - 12:11 PMUS Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

US Senators Bob Menendez and Dick Durbin, along with seven other senators, introduced yesterday (3 December 2020) a Senate Resolution in support of Thailand's pro-democracy movement, which have been met with violence and repression from the authorities. 

Protesters hit with tear gas during the crackdown on the 17 November protest in front of the parliament compound

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) yesterday (3 December 2020) led a group of seven of their Senate colleagues in introducing a Senate Resolution to underscore the United States’ commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Thailand. The senators’ resolution follows recent demonstrations by Thailand’s pro-democracy movement, which have been met with violence and repression by the country’s monarchy and government.

Joining Menendez and Durbin in introducing the resolution were Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)

“At a time when democracy is under assault from so many quarters it is critical that the United States Senate stand with the democracy movement in Thailand,” said Menendez. “Thailand’s reformers are not seeking a revolution. They are simply yearning for democratic changes to their country’s political system, for freedom of speech and assembly, and for Thailand to be a part of the community of democratic nations. With this resolution, we are sending a clear message of solidarity and support for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in Thailand, and urge all parties not to engage in needless violence or harassment. The United States need to make clear to the Thai people and the international community that our alliance and long-term partnership with Thailand will continue to be based on shared interests and values, and mutual respect for democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.”

“Thailand has been an important American ally – one that stepped up to help its Burmese neighbors in their struggle for democracy.  Today the world is watching as the Thai people raise their voices to reassert the same democratic aspirations that we Americans hold so dear,” Durbin said.  “As the people of Thailand debate changes to their constitution, their political future should be defined through peaceful dialogue, not violence, harassment, or persecution.  In particular, the voices of the many brave Thai students and youth deserve attention and respect.” 

“As a Thai-American who fought to protect the right to peacefully protest here at home, I know that both the long-standing, strong relationship between the U.S. and Thailand as well as every individual’s inalienable democratic rights are critically important to uphold and defend,” said Duckworth. “Thailand is a strong partner with the U.S.—both in terms of our shared national security priorities and economic relations—and the Thai people have a proud history of democratic reform. I urge Thai leadership to listen to the people and respect the democratic principles at the heart of the government they’ve worked so hard to form.”

Pick to PostStudent protest 2020student movementYouth movementPro-democracyUS Senate Committee on Foreign Relationsstate violencefreedom of assemblyfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Second lockdown

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-12-04 11:51
Submitted on Fri, 4 Dec 2020 - 11:51 AMStephffCartoon by Stephff: Second lockdown

 

MultimediaStephffCOVID-19LockdownprotestStudent protest 2020
Categories: Prachatai English

Missing activist's friends, AI mark six months after disappearance

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-12-04 11:37
Submitted on Fri, 4 Dec 2020 - 11:37 AMAmnesty International

On Thursday (3 December 2020), at 14.00, the Friends of Wanchalearm and Amnesty International’s activists have gone to the Cambodian Embassy in Thailand to organize an activity marking six months of Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s disappearance and to submit to Cambodia a name list of 14,157 individuals who urge Cambodian authorities to ensure  effective, urgent, thorough and transparent investigation and to restore justice to Wanchalearm’s family.

Clad in colorful Hawaiian shirts often worn by Wanchalearm, they put on Wanchalearm masks and urge people to use #6MothsOnWeShallNotForget hashtag to show that they still remember and keep monitoring progress in this case. 

Piyanut Kotsan, Director of Amnesty International Thailand, reveals that to mark the six months of Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s disappearance in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh on 4 June,  the Friends of Wanchalearm and Amnesty International’s activists have gone to ask for a meeting with H.E. Mr. Ouk Sorphorn, the Kingdom of Cambodia’s Ambassador to Thailand to discuss and ask  to know about progress in this disappearance case. They also submit to him a name list of individuals who urge Cambodian authorities to expedite their investigation effort. 

“We hold firm on our outstanding demand for the Cambodia authorities to expedite the effort to effectively, urgently, thoroughly and transparently investigate Wanchalearm’s disappearance and to bring justice to the family of the disappeared immediately since the last six months saw no progress in terms of the legal case. Wanchalearm still looms large in our memory. Six months on, but we never forget Wanchalearm and we shall never cease to demand justice for him and his family.”

Ms. Sitanan Satsaksit, Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s sister, has gone to Cambodia since 10 November along with the legal team to give evidence and provide testimony to the Cambodian authorities regarding the case of her brother’s disappearance. She is due to give her information on 8 December. 

We fervently hope that after that, the Cambodian authorities will be able to investigate and inform the family about the whereabouts of Wanchalearm and to give them an answer regarding why he has to be made disappeared, who did it, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.”

The 14,157 names given to the Cambodian authorities have been compiled by Amnesty International Thailand after the AI International Secretariat  had launched an Urgent Action to invite people around the world to write to Prime Minister Hun Sen to demand Cambodian authorities to urgently investigate the enforced disappeaccrance of Wanchalearm and to keep his family informed of his whereabout as well as to bring the perpetrators to justice through a fair trial with civilian court. They also urge Cambodia to act in compliance with the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance to which Cambodia is a s state party and not deport Wanchalearm to Thailand in order to act in compliance with the obligation to not send a person to a place where it is likely they shall face human rights violation.

Pick to PostWanchalearm Satsaksitenforced disappearanceabductionCambodian EmbassyAmnesty International
Categories: Prachatai English

Protest against Constitutional Court’s ruling

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-12-04 10:20
Submitted on Fri, 4 Dec 2020 - 10:20 AMPrachatai

After the Constitutional Court ruled that Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has not violated the constitution by living in army housing, a protest expressed frustration with the decision.

Spotted in the protest, a shrine, a Thai play of word with 'court' (san) with a placard 'No justice toward with the people'.

People started gathering at 15.30 with a mock court seat on the stage and many props satirizing the Constitutional Court.

One protester in a blue shirt taking to the streets for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdown said that the court decision was made and we have to accept it. However, it is very important for Thais to come out and protest. There are many issues in this country that have to be reformed and Gen Prayut is not the solution to the problems.

He wanted the PM to listen to the people's voices.

The court's verdict cited a 2005 Royal Thai Army regulation which allows the army to provide housing, along with utilities, to commanding officers with the rank of general or former army commanders who still contribute to the army or the country.

Because of his position as the head of the cabinet and the government, the security of the PM and his family is important and the state should provide them the proper safety and privacy for them to perform their duties. The existing official residence of the PM, Ban Phitsanulok, is also not ready to be used.

So even though Prayut retired from the army in 2014, his accommodation is not special treatment from a government body, as he is qualified to stay in army housing, and does not create a conflict of interest under the Constitution or the Code of Ethics for Political Office Holders.

Disappointment and questions over the ruling

Athapol ‘Kru Yai’ Buapat, an activist from Khon Kaen, said the court’s ruling was as disappointing as it was expected. He also offered 9 bananas as a tribute and smashed to pieces a shrine, a play on the word for ‘court’ (san in Thai).

Athapol smashing the shrine.

Parit Chiwarak, a student activist, said the ruling has proved that Thailand has no judicial standards. He questioned how the ruling can cite Royal Thai Army regulations to legitimize Prayut’s housing when the regulations can be written in violation of constitutional principles.

Parit burning a paper with the photo of the Constitutional Court jurists in it.

He went on to say that the Constitutional Court has obstructed Thai democratization by nullifying 2 elections in 2006 and 2014, dissolving 4 political parties, and dismissing an elected PM, Samak Sundaravej, for cooking on a TV show, but has allowed Prayut to stay in army housing because he is a good person.

Parit read the names of the 9 Constitutional Court judges and burned a book written by one of them, Nakarin Mektrairat.

Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer and prominent figure who has addressed monarchy reform, said he was not surprised by the ruling. It has set a standard where bureaucrats who made a contribution to the country can enjoy state assets with impunity, which by common sense is a conflict of interest.

Anon Nampa

Anon urged the judicial institutions, both the Constitutional Court and Court of Justice, to uphold principles. The head of the Supreme Court should not prostrate herself to King Vajiralongkorn when she is involved in lèse majesté cases.

He also said the Constitutional Court’s immunity from criticism under Sections 136 and 138 of the Criminal Code are, in essence, similar to the inviolable status of the monarchy stated in Section 6 of the Constitution. People should be allowed to honestly praise or criticize a ruling. If it is allowed only to praise ruling, then the praise would be flattery.

Anon said the monarch’s inviolable status will not be problematic if the King does not express a political opinion or violate the principle that ‘the King can do no wrong’ by endorsing a coup (in previous reigns), creating his own personal organizations, or appropriating soldiers or public assets to himself.

The King has also stated his personal opinion by saying to a person waiting to welcome him ‘Very brave. Very good. Thank you.’ and ‘We must bring out the truth’, while those who criticize him have to face charges.

Anon also said that if the monarchy is not neutral, its respected status would not be possible. In order to be neutral politically, the King must also be neutral financially. For example, in developed countries, the monarch would not be allowed to receive donations of money from CP as it would lead to questions of transparency and favour towards capitalists.

He cited Section 8 of the Japanese constitution that stipulated that donations to the Japanese monarchy have to be approved by parliament, unlike in Thailand where donations can freely be made.

Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul

At 19.30, Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul read the names of the lèse majesté suspects that had fled the country and played video footage of the military crackdown against the red shirts on 10 April 2010 while royally-composed music was played.

She demanded that the government and the monarchy address their involvement in the killing and abduction of exiles.

NewsConstitutional courtGen Prayut Chan-o-chapoliticsStudent protest 2020Panussaya SitthijirawattanakulAthapol BuapatAnon NampaParit ChiwarakSource: prachatai.com/journal/2020/12/90653
Categories: Prachatai English

Prayut allowed to live on in the army-sponsored house

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-12-02 16:08
Submitted on Wed, 2 Dec 2020 - 04:08 PMPrachatai

On 2 December, the Constitutional Court’s ruling decided the Royal Thai Army commander-turned Prime Minister residency in the army-sponsored house is not against the conflict of interest.

Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha (Source: Thaigov.go.th)

According to the ruling,  jurists referred to the RTA regulation on residency 2005 which allows the army to provide house, along with facility fees to the commanding officer in the General rank, or those who used to be the army commander that still provide benefit to the army or the country.

Moreover, the PM is an important position as the head of cabinet and the country. The PM and its family security is an important issue. State should provide them proper safety and privacy enough to perform their duties. The existing PM’s house, Ban Phitsanulok is also not ready to be used.

Thus, despite Prayut’s retirement from the army in 2014, his residency is not a special treatment from the government body as he is qualified to stay in the army house, not violating the conflict of interest in the constitution and ethical standard of the individuals who hold the political post.

Prayut Chan-o-cha's residencial in the 1st Infantry Regiment, King's Guard, on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road , Bangkok was raised during the opposition’s censure debate against the government on 25-27 February, 2020 by Pheu Thai party MP, Prasert Chantararuangthong.

On March 9, Sompong Amornwiwat, the leader of Pheu Thai party and opposition coalition, along with other 56 representatives submitted the parliament a petition to have the constitutional court consider Prayut’s residencial issue, claiming it against the conflict of interest that make him unfit to sit as PM. The petition was later submitted to the court the next day.

The petition accused Prayut of a conflict of interest by living in the military house despite not holding any military duty after his retirement as an army chief in 2014. And by staying there free of charge, he had broken army regulations.

Therefore, the action violates the Section 184 and 186 of the constitution, Section 128 of the Organic Act on the Prevention and Suppression of Corruption and the Section 9 of the ethical standard of the individuals who hold the political post.

The army explained that Prayut’s house was re-designed from the welfare house into a visitor house in 2012, which enables it to be used for accommodating the members of privy council, cabinet, parliament representatives and senators. In order for one to be qualified to live there, one must have been the high commanding officer of the army which still gives the country benefit, in which suits Prayut’s condition.

The military housing received public concern again after the Korat mass shooting on 8-9 February, around 2 weeks before the censure debate, when Sgt Jakkrapanth Thomma killed at least 30 by military weapons he stole from his base. The intention was reportedly about the housing scheme conflict with his superior.

Gen Apirat Kongsompong, the then Royal Thai Army commander announces the reform within the military welfare system. Those retired offices were required to actually leave the military residences. Lt Gen Pongsakorn Rodchompoo, the then Future Forward Party (FFP) executive member also found staying in the military house that he later resigned from his post in FFP to express his responsibility.

(Source: Bangkok Post, BBC Thai)

NewsConstitutional courtGen Prayut Chan-o-chaRoyal Thai Armyhouse
Categories: Prachatai English

Students stir up controversy by going to school out of uniform

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-12-02 11:44
Submitted on Wed, 2 Dec 2020 - 11:44 AMPrachatai

Thailand’s first day of the semester has been different as students in at least 23 schools countrywide attended class without uniforms, confronting one of the most controversial issues in Thai society: Do uniforms really matter?

(In an orange shirt) Kwankhao Tangprasert talking to a teacher at the school entrance. (Source: Atithep Chanted via The Isaan Record)

The no-uniform plea started from Bad Students and KKC Pakee Students, activist groups calling for students to wear clothes of their choice to schools on 1 December. They state that they want to reclaim students' freedom over their own bodies.

Bad Students reported later that students from at least 23 schools in Bangkok, Chonburi, Chanthaburi, Pathum Thani, Udon Thani and Khon Kaen joined the movement.

In Khon Kaen, where students from 4 schools joined the movement, Kwankhao Tangprasert, a Kaen Nakhon Wittayalai student and representative of KKC Pakee Students, wore an orange T-shirt to school along with several others who shared the same view.

According to the Isaan Record, Kwankhao told a teacher from the student affairs department that not wearing uniforms represents freedom of choice in dress. Students also raised the 3-finger salute, an anti-dictatorship gesture in the Thai pro-democracy movement. Teachers then took the students wearing clothes of their choice to a meeting hall, separating them from others in uniform who attended the flag ceremony.

At 11.46, Kwankhao stated that the school allowed those not wearing uniforms to attend class as normal. He said Sakdadach Tasai, Principal of Kaen Nakhon Wittayalai , said that there would be no points deduction and wearing clothes of one’s choice is deemed a form of self-expression.

Kwankhao said that today's activity is an experiment and symbolic expression to see what will happen if students wear their own clothes to school. KKC will submit a petition to the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC) to propose a 1-semester trial in which students are free to wear either uniform or their own clothes to school.

Regarding other schools in Khon Kaen, a KKC representative said that Kanlayanawat School collected the names of students for statistical purposes while Khon Kaen University Demonstration School and Holy Redeemer School Khon Kaen took the no-uniform students to the student affairs office.

KKC announced that they will conduct another non-uniform experiment on 2 December.

One Channel reported that the Principal of Udonpittayanukoon School, one of the leading schools in Udon Thani, did not object to the no-uniform campaign as the numbers were not large and their clothes blended in with those in PE outfits and winter sweaters.

In Bangkok, Matichon interviewed Boonyaphong Phothiwatthanat, Principal of Samsenwittayalai School, who said that students can attend class out of uniform and they would not be subjected to points deduction.

A student from Samsenwittayalai told Matichon that wearing their own clothes is a right they deserve.

Thai PBS reported that about 20 out-of-uniform students at Bodindecha School were not allowed to attend the flag ceremony. They were put in the school museum building to wait to talk with the principal and parents’ representative about the issue.

The school made an announcement on 30 November requiring students to wear uniforms in line with the Student Uniforms Act 2008 and school regulations.

The students said that they knew that they were violating regulations, and wore their own clothes as an act of civil disobedience. They also questioned the necessity and financial burden of uniforms.

Debate over necessity

Uniforms have been mandatory for students in Thai schools since around 1885 during the reign of the King Rama V. Uniforms resembling today’s were introduced after World War II.

Thai students wear one of a set of uniforms: regular uniform, physical education kit once a week and boy scout or girl guide uniforms once a week. Some schools have introduced other uniforms representing local or Bangkok-centric Thai culture.

Debate runs deep in Thai society. over school regulations on uniforms, haircuts, the colour of backpacks, etc. Some people believe that it is a part of teaching students discipline, reducing observable inequality within schools and showing student status outside the school.

But many people think that uniforms are costly for low-income families, are irrelevant to educational proficiency and represent authoritarianism along with other regulations which dictate to students, instilling obedience and undermining freedom.

The 2019 OBEC database shows that 3,481,632 out of 6,600,745 students under OBEC, or 52.75%, lack access to uniforms.  OBEC is responsible for almost all schools in the country.

Punishment is limited

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) published a legal observation on the Student Uniforms Act 2008 and the Ministry of Education Regulation on Students Uniform 2008, which mandate uniforms.

TLHR notes that the punishments allowed by law for students who do not wear uniforms are: warnings, parole, points deduction and behaviour adjustment activities. Other punishments, like searching students’ belongings, corporal punishment or excluding students from class, are not legally allowed.

Section 14 of the Ministry Regulation states that schools can submit a request to the school regulator to make uniforms differ from what is stated in the regulation. Section 16 of the Ministry Regulation also enables schools to exempt students from wearing uniforms when necessary.

NewsStudent protest 2020student uniformeducationKKC Pakee StudentsBad Students
Categories: Prachatai English

5 protesters hear lèse majesté charges, 3 more receive police summons

Prachatai English - Tue, 2020-12-01 14:28
Submitted on Tue, 1 Dec 2020 - 02:28 PMPrachatai

5 leading figures of the pro-democracy protest went to hear charges at Chanasongkram Police Station for addressing the monarchy. 3 more have received police summonses.

On 30 November, Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Panupong Jadnok and Patiwat Saraiyaem went to hear the charges along with their lawyers, Krisadang Nutcharus and Norasate Nanongtoom, concerning their involvement in the protests at Thammasat University and Sanam Luang on 19-20 September, according to Matichon.

Anon said he did not give so much value to the lèse majesté charge because the intention of his actions was very clear and he is ready to testify at the trial. Despite having not much faith in the judicial system, he believes that the court will consider the case honestly. It is time to address the monarchy issue directly.

Anon also said that if there is no response to the demands, he will still fight on. The content in the protests next year will become more intense. The state will have to find more containers and think about the outcome.

Panussaya said that the People’s Party intentions concerning the monarchy is to see it reformed, not overthrown. The return of lèse majesté law charges will not stop the People’s Party movement.

At the same day, Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon, Jutathip Sirikhan and Tattep  Ruangprapaikitseree, leading protest figures, received summonses from Bangpho Police Station for “defaming, insulting or expressing malice to the monarch”. They have to report to hear the charge on 7 December.

This series of lèse majesté charges comes after Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha  announced that every law would be used against the pro-democracy protesters after the protest in front of the Royal Thai Police HQ on 18 November.

On 24 November, a report from Matichon showed that Royal Thai Police Headquarters investigation officers in many areas had issued summonses for 12 leading figures. Those on the list are now being summoned:

  1. Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak (charge heard)
  2. Panussaya ‘Rung’ Sitthijirawattanakul (charge heard)
  3. Panupong ‘Mike’ Jadnok (charge heard)
  4. Anon Nampa (charge heard)
  5. Patsaravalee ‘Mind’ Tanakitvibulpon (summoned)
  6. Chanin Wongsri
  7. Jutatip ‘Ua’ Sirikhan (summoned)
  8. Piyarat ‘Toto’ Chongthep
  9. Tattep ‘Ford’ Ruangprapaikitseree (summoned)
  10. Atthapol ‘Khru Yai’ Buapat
  11. Chukiat Saengwong
  12. Sombat Thongyoi

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, no lèse majesté law case has been brought before the court since 2018. Lèse majesté charges were replaced with charges for sedition (Section 116) and under the Computer Crime Act.  This comes after new procedures were introduced requiring the lèse majesté charges to receive prior vetting, unlike in the past where effectively anyone could file a complaint.

The lèse majesté law carries a prison term of 3-15 years for those found guilty of defaming, insulting, or threatening the King, the Queen, the Heir Apparent, or the Regent.

NewsStudent protest 2020lese majesteArticle 112Anon NampaParit ChiwarakPanussaya SitthijirawattanakulPanupong JadnokPatiwat Saraiyaem
Categories: Prachatai English

Protest at army regiment headquarters challenges King’s control of army units

Prachatai English - Mon, 2020-11-30 23:55
Submitted on Mon, 30 Nov 2020 - 11:55 PMPrachatai

Protesters on Sunday (29 November) marched to the 11th Infantry Regiment headquarters to raise questions about the transfer of army units to the direct command of the crown.

Protesters flashing the three-finger salute while singing the national anthem before the start of the march

At 18.00, the protesters began marching from the Wat Phra Si Mahathat BTS Station in Bang Khen to the nearby 11th Infantry Regiment headquarters, led by a procession of protesters carrying yellow inflatable ducks, which have become somewhat of a symbol of the protest after they were used as makeshift shields against water cannon blasts during the protest in front of the parliament compound on 17 November.

A protester carrying an inflatable rubber duck during the march

At 18.30, the protesters arrived at the 11th Infantry Regiment headquarters, which were completely dark with no lights turned on. They then hung a sign saying "11th Infantry Regiment, the People's Close Bodyguard" from an overpass in front of the headquarters.

Also known as the King’s Close Bodyguard, the 11th Infantry Regiment was transferred along with the 1st Infantry Regiment, another king’s guard regiment, to the direct control of King Vajiralongkorn in October 2019. Both regiments were previously under the command of the Royal Thai Army and the Ministry of Defence.

The banner saying ""11th Infantry Regiment, the People's Close Bodyguard" hanging from a nearby overpass

Protesters set up a stage on the street in front of the headquarters and took turns giving speeches. There was also a small stage set up in the protest area, which discussed the use of the lèse majesté law or Article 112, which carries a severe penalty, to silence critics of the monarchy, as well as the amount of budget allocated to the monarchy, while also saying that this amount of money could be used for other purposes, such as Covid-19 testing.

As the protesters gathered in front of the entrance to the headquarters, protest leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak told the protesters that they have no plan to break through the barriers into the headquarters, and that they should not touch the razor wire.

Protesters gathering on the street in front of the 11th Infantry Regiment headquarters, which were completely dark

At 20.40, the protest organizers read out a statement saying that it is unnecessary for the king to have control of army regiments, and that transferring army units to the direct command of the crown "not only severely undermines democracy but also destabilizes the stability and righteousness of the royal institution."

The statement also says that the king’s command of army units is an interference in the civilian government’s work and in the people’s sovereign power, and calls for the two regiments to be transferred back to their original chain of command and for the 2019 royal decree transferring the two Infantry Regiments to the Royal Security Command to be revoked.

One of the demands made in the 10-point manifesto declared by the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration at a protest on 10 August was for the Royal Offices to be abolished and for units with a clear duty, such as the Royal Security Command, to be transferred and placed under other agencies.

Natthathida Meewangpla, a medical volunteer during the 2010 crackdowns on Red Shirt protests, also gave a speech during the protest about the case of the 6 people who were killed inside Wat Pathum Wanaram, which was designated a ‘sanctuary’ during the crackdown.

She said that the Red Shirt protesters were unarmed and were protesting peacefully, but they were met with violence, while those responsible are still getting away with the crime, and that people who were shot were not shot below the knees as the Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation claimed, and that some were even shot in the head. For her, the Red Shirts were just protesting like the students are currently protesting, and she said that all the students have is inflatable ducks, but the authorities used water cannon blasts laced with chemicals against them.

Natthathida was a key witness during the Wat Pathum Wanaram case inquest hearings, during which she told the Court she saw military officers on the BTS tracks in front of the temple. She was later accused of being part of a plot to throw a hand grenade into the Bangkok Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road on 7 March 2015, and was also charged with royal defamation under Article 112.

She also said that she was violated while in the military camp, that she was blindfolded and carried into the camp, and that soldiers took off her shirt to look at her chest.

Natthathida then called on the protesters to take the red paint provided and pour it onto the ground in front of the entrance to the headquarters in a symbolic act of protest to call for justice for the people killed during the 2010 crackdown on the Red Shirt protests.

She also warned protesters not to throw the paint at the blockades or the police officers stationed in front of the entrance, and not to throw any object at the officers.

Red paint was thrown onto the ground in front of the lines of police officers

The protesters then stood still while making the three-finger ‘Hunger Games’ salute in memory of those killed during the 2010 crackdown, while the Red Shirt protest song “นักสู้ธุลีดิน” (Ashes of the Fighters) played from the speakers on the truck.

The protest concluded at 22.00. Parit then announced that the next protest will be at the Constitutional Court at 14.00 on 2 December, when the Court is scheduled to rule whether Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha will be removed from office due to a complaint about him still staying in a military residence after retirement.

Police blockade in front of the 11th Infantry Regiment headquarters before the protest

Prior to the protest, the authorities blocked the entrance to the 11th Infantry Regiment headquarters with buses, trucks, several police vans, and razor wire. A unit of police officers in full riot gear are also stationed in front of the gates.

At 16.20, protest guards moved the buses and the razor wire blocking the entrance. There was no reaction from the officers stationed there and the protest guards successfully cleared some of the blockade.

The protest was previously scheduled to take place at the 1st Infantry Regiment headquarters, but the organizers announced the change in location after the authorities blocked the streets with containers.

News11th Infantry RegimentMonarchy reformmilitary reformStudent protest 2020student movementYouth movement
Categories: Prachatai English

People occupy major intersection to perform anti-coup drill

Prachatai English - Sat, 2020-11-28 23:31
Submitted on Sat, 28 Nov 2020 - 11:31 PMPrachatai

After a failed attempt in 2014, Thais tried again in 2020 as Lat Phrao intersection was occupied on the evening of 27 November for a ‘practice anti-coup drill’.

Protesters setting up the blockade at the beginning of the protest.

The gathering took place under heavy rumours of a coup d’état. The site of the previous protest on 25 November was switched to the Siam Commercial Bank Headquarters from the Crown Property Bureau due to the dramatically heavy security measures by the police and suspicious movements of military personnel.

Despite repeated denials from Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Narongpan Jitkaewthae, the Royal Thai Army Commander-in-Chief, people in a country that has seen 13 successful coups from 24 attempts remained sceptical and took to the streets to participate in the drill.

As people started to gather at around 16.45, protesters were seen blowing up rubber ducks and unicorns. Those who helped received a special cloth bag with the People's Party Plaque logo.

Protesters inflating the inflatables.

At 18.26, inflatable ducks, unicorns and aliens were marched into the protest site. The speaker said that the inflatables represent the soldiers in the anti-coup drill. The main strategies for resisting a coup attempt were explained.

  1. Stage resistance wherever and whenever possible, by strikes, school strikes or other activities.
  2. Obstruct military operations as much as possible by, for example, blocking roads with empty vehicles or occupying streets.
  3. Express the will to resist the coup and the illegitimate attempt to destroy the constitution and democracy.

The inflatables were moved in one direction then another to imitate incoming soldiers. Wherever they go, the people will have to pay close attention and strongly express their rejection symbolically.

Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, one of the pro-democracy leading figures, urged people to come out and resist if a coup happens, as an unsuccessful coup will then become a rebellion. The people have a legitimate right to peacefully express their views including opinions about the monarchy.

Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer and a prominent monarchy reform speaker, said that resistance against a coup is common sense, just as having someone elected is regular while having someone appointed is not.

He said that all people will take a leading role in coup resistance as vocational students can dismantle tanks and arts students can splash colour onto them. People from Isaan and southern Thailand can smear soldiers with fermented fish sauce. All people will resist the coup with whatever they have.

At 22.35, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa and Atthapol Buapat, activists from Khon Kaen, underlined the demands for the PM’s resignation, constitution amendments with people’s participation and monarchy reform. The protest then dispersed.

Jatupat urged people to resist a coup wherever they are by strikes, parking cars to block roads and expressing their rejection of the coup to show the coup makers that the country is not the same.

“In 2014, the coup happened. If people had come out en masse, Prayut would not be able to stay. From now on, if it happens one day, we must come out to resist, to object as a confirmation that there are people that do not want dictatorship.

“Come out to raise the 3-finger salute. Come out to do anything to show that there are people that do not agree with coups that use force to solve political problems,” said Jatupat.

Atthapol underlined the pro-democracy protests’ 3 demands: resignation of Gen Prayut, establishment of a people-elected Constitutional Drafting Committee and reform of the monarchy in order to co-exist with the people under the constitution.

Systematic Resistance to a Coup (from 2014)

The idea of an anti-coup drill echoes what was published on the Green Light Thailand Facebook page in January 2014, before the Prayut-led coup took place in May, featuring a Systematic Resistance to a Coup Handbook

The handbook suggests means to resist a coup, divided into 3 parts:

1. Defend

  • Distribute the handbook to those close to you.
  • Try to have the information in the handbook broadcast in local media and pro-democracy websites.
  • Disseminate democratic principles and the disadvantages of coups to the state officials and soldiers that you know.

2. Resist

Immediately after the coup:

  • Leave vehicles or obstacles on the streets to obstruct troop movements.
  • Occupy the streets. If there is a crackdown, return home or to your office and return when the crackdown ends. Do not make yourself a target like setting up a stage.
  • Do not follow any announcements or orders. Do not cooperate with the coup junta at all.
  • Show friendship to soldiers and invite them to join your side.
  • Create symbols of the resistance like black ribbons, flags or stickers and put them everywhere. If they are removed, replace them.
  • Make sound and video recordings of suppression against the people and troop movements. Keep the originals and publish them widely, both domestically and internationally, via social media like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Stage a 1-week strike to express dissent.

Long-term resistance:

  • Do not pay taxes or public utility fees.
  • Withdraw all money from the banks
  • Compose letters from the people calling for the courts not to endorse the coup junta.
  • Stage weekly symbolic events to show rejection of the coup.
  • Resist capitalists that support the coup by shaming and protesting against their businesses.

3. Restore

Once the coup is over, watch out for opportunities to restore order:

  • Rally for elections as soon as possible
  • Call for the arrest and prosecution of those who staged the coup.
  • Return to work and daily life and help state officials repair damage as far as you can.
  • Do not follow or believe rumours that go against the democratic system of government and the law.
Newscoupanti-coupStudent protest 2020Jatupat BoonpattararaksaAnon NampaPanussaya SitthijirawattanakulAtthapol BuapatSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/11/90589
Categories: Prachatai English

Red Rim Soldiers: the birth of the new network monarchy

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-11-27 15:57
Submitted on Fri, 27 Nov 2020 - 03:57 PMSupalak Ganjanakhundee

The appointment of Air Chief Marshal Airbull Suttiwan as the new Royal Thai Air Force Commander-in-Chief may not be what was expected by the mass media that reports on the military or by general observers, because the ‘Bull of the Sky’ (named ‘Airbull’ because he was born during a joint training programme of the Thai and US air forces in 1961 with the codename ‘Airbull’) is not one of the 5 flying tigers. He did not rise up through the strategic ranks nor was he a fighter jet pilot like previous air force commanders-in-chief. He was a C-130 transport pilot, had been the 601st air squadron commander in the Don Mueang 6th Wing, and had been the military attaché (Air Force) in Singapore. The position he held before taking the reins of the air force was an Air Force Special Expert, which everyone knows is a position for parking high ranking officers who the military does not want to do much.

People who know Airbull all agree that he is someone with a very nice personality – many were impressed during the time he was assigned to Singapore, but that is not a principle quality of people who are military leaders. Again Airbull did not have any outstanding achievements. What allowed this dark horse to attain such an important position in the RTAF, was that he was once responsible for a “royal flight”, and had a close relation with King Rama X, who has been a pilot, as well as another Air Force man, Air Chief Marshal Satitpong Sukvimol, Lord Chamberlain, who was the King’s Royal Secretary. The royally decreed short crewcut of the new RTAF Commander-in-Chief should be good evidence that a close relationship and the expression of unbridled loyalty to superiors are the most important factors in selecting military leaders at present.

The monarchy and the military have always been inseparable. Most Thai constitutions, from the very first that was promulgated in December 1932 after the change in the form of government, have stated “the King holds the position of Head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces”. Some versions, such as Article 11 in the 1949 constitution in the reign of King Rama IX, clearly decrees that “the King holds the position of Head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces and is the highest commander of all soldiers”. Article 8 of the 2017 constitution, which was written during King Rama X’s reign, there is only the short statement that “the King holds the position of Head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces”. The Royal Thai Armed Forces themselves consider their most important duty to be the protection of the monarchy and safeguarding the king, queen and royal family members. In the present warless era, it can be said that the military has only this mission as its highest priority. The Armed Forces will do anything to protect the king, from pulling a coup d’état to threatening, arresting, detaining and even executing people who are believed a threat to the monarchy.

The modern Thai Armed Forces were established by King Rama V. Even when Thailand changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy, the relations between the king and the military did not change according to the constitution at all. The word “Head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces” in the constitution, may superficially just be a symbol of their relation according to tradition. But the truth is that both the king and the military have clearly shown us, ever since Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat was Prime Minister, that the king is the head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces who holds the authority to control the military, so it is not strange that the king interferes in the appointment of military officers, directly or indirectly. The military also often uses the king as an excuse to seize political power. Recent research discovered that the king and the military have worked together to interfere with, control and command politics all along. The military and coups d’état are political tools of the king rather than something that protects the country and its territorial integrity [1].

King Rama X inherited this relationship with the military from King Rama IX and has expanded the power and authority of the king over the military, moving closer and closer to an absolute monarchy. This article will explain the relationship between the monarchy and the armed forces in the modern reign in 2 parts: 1) royal government agencies which are directly under royal command; and 2) relations with the armed forces which the King has created through recently developed networks.

The King’s personal army

Royal government agencies under King Rama X, under a law enacted by the National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO) government in April 2017, have been made into government agencies with special characteristics, exempting them from the laws governing state administration regulations and making them no longer part of the government under any other law. The administration of these royal agencies is to be “at the royal pleasure”. There are 3 main agencies:

(1) The Office of His Majesty’s Privy Council, which used to have a large role during King Rama IX’s reign when General Prem Tinsulanonda, President of the Privy Council, had the important duty of managing the network monarchy. But in King Rama X’s reign, the importance of the Privy Council has been considerably lessened. It is to be noted that the personal relationship between Gen Prem, the late former Privy Council President, and the King was not very good, which resulted in a reduction of the role of the current President, General Surayud Chulanont, beloved student and successor to Prem. King Rama X assigned to the Privy Council public relations work such as giving out goods to help the people and looking after royal projects which were launched during the last reign, rather than as an agency which provides advice on state administration to the king as it had in the past. It can be said that the old network monarchy’s role has decreased greatly, even though it has not completely disappeared. Also, even though Surayud once held the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Prime Minister, he does not hold as much authority in the military as Prem did and so is not able to manage efficiently the network monarchy for King Rama X, especially in the military.

(2) The Bureau of the Royal Household whose work covers general royal affairs, the royal secretariat, royal household and ceremonial administration, looking after the king’s property and any other duties “at the royal pleasure”. The Lord Chamberlain (Satitpong Sukvimol) was by his royal benevolence appointed at the royal pleasure as the person in charge and is responsible for running the agency.

(3) The Royal Security Command is an important agency directly related to military affairs. It is responsible for the planning, facilitation and coordination, command, control, oversight and administration in affairs concerning the protection and glorification of the king, queen, heir-apparent, royal family members and any other persons as assigned by the king, as well as work related to royal ceremonies as assigned and keeping peace and order within palace grounds, including acting according to the laws related to safeguarding the king, queen, heir-apparent, regent, members of the royal family, royal representatives and royal visitors.

Article 8 of the 2017 Royal Decree Organising Governmental Affairs and Personnel Administration for Royal Service states that “the Royal Security Command shall adopt a system of command that is directly subject to the Monarch.”

Article 9 states that under the Royal Security Command shall be the Office of the Commander, Office of the Aide-de-Camp, Office of the Royal Duty Officers, Royal Thai Aide-De-Camp Department, The King's Close Bodyguard Command, and Office of the Royal Police Guards as its main components.

In reality, King Rama X has been the commander of the Royal Security Command since he was Crown Prince and has had a number of soldiers under his command under the 904 code, but the command line was rather confusing because the Command was originally part of the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters before being transferred to being under the direct command of the Ministry of Defence in November 2013, when Yingluck Shinawatra was Prime Minister and also Minister of Defence. In reality, no one in Thailand can imagine that the Crown Prince, as the commander of a military unit, would listen to the orders of a commoner Minister or even Prime Minister.

That is why the restructuring of the royal government agencies in the reign of King Rama X is to make royal authority, which was the norm in the absolute monarchy, legally acceptable under a constitutional government. The enactment of a royal decree in September 2019 to transfer the personnel and budget of the 1st and 11th Infantry Regiments to become part of the Royal Security Command is nothing more than an expansion of His Majesty’s royal troops. Military experts estimate that the 2 regiments with 6 infantry battalions should total to no less than 5,000 troops. At present, the sites of these military camps have already become royal grounds.

In politics, there are many discussions. Does the King, already the Head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces under the constitution, need to have his own troops?

The side that agrees provides 2 reasons:

First According to tradition, the king as Head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces can transfer personnel anywhere at his royal pleasure. Parliament, as the representative of the people, can only enact laws which support such actions.

Second Considering the reality of politics, the 2 regiments are situated in Bangkok and served as the main force in many coups d’état, especially in 2006 and 2014. If they are under direct command of the King, Thailand can be rid of coups because it is believed that there would be no soldier brave enough to betray the King.

The side that disagrees thinks that the latter argument carries no weight and is based on very shaky speculation when one considers the fact that in Thailand’s coup history a coup will only be successful after approval from the palace, and importantly, that no modern state allows a state monarch to have personal troops like this. The Head of State, even in the case of the US President who has the duty of Commander-in-Chief of the national military, is not allowed to have their own personal troops to safeguard themselves and their family.

Having personal troops not only creates a state within a state, but may also create alienation in the military, because the Thai Armed Forces believe that their duty is to safeguard and protect the monarchy. Why would the king need a personal military? Naming them ‘the King's Close Bodyguard’ directly means a force which protects His Majesty that receives special favour. Alienation no doubt will occur in units not part of the King's Close Bodyguard Command who may feel that they are not being favoured, and may be abandoned, neglected or left to starve. This kind of situation happened before in the reign of King Rama VI who established the Wild Tiger Corps as his personal troops, providing them with more support compared to other military units, which eventually became one of the reasons for the coup d’état.

Network Monarchy

King Rama X, when he was Crown Prince, was a soldier and pilot. He studied and trained in military affairs and gained some war experience in 1976 during the era when the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) was waging a revolutionary war. The clash in Dan Sai District, Loei Province, in October of that year was highlighted in 2019 at his coronation, in order to build an image for King Rama X as a warrior king. Even though at this time there is no longer any war, General Apirat Kongsompong, the then Commander-in-Chief of the Army, mentioned this incident again and again, stressing to the military that the King is a military leader who is brave and capable, a professional soldier with battle experience. No military personnel should doubt this, in the way that senior soldiers in the Siamese military once had doubts about the military capabilities of King Rama VI, so that the soldiers will not mutiny. This is for the stability of the monarchy, because, more than anything, a military that is disloyal is the greatest threat to the throne.

King Rama X is not only a soldier with his own personal troops, but he has also given all the people around him – from the queen, his son, his daughter(s), his close attendants, to even his pet dog –military ranks and positions. For example, Queen Suthida, a former flight attendant, had to go through many military and pilot training courses. She has the military rank of Special General and held the position of Deputy Commander of the Royal Security Command before becoming Queen. Royal Noble Consort Sineenat graduated and worked as a nurse at Phramongkutklao Hospital and already had a military rank, but when she served His Majesty as a close attendant, she had to undergo military training, quickly getting promoted to the rank of general. Her position before being appointed Royal Noble Consort was Commander of the Royal Palace Battalion, Palace Guard Infantry Regiment, King's Close Bodyguard Command, Royal Security Command. The two have also led military parades in royal ceremonies, such as the Royal Cremation of King Rama IX and the Coronation of King Rama X as was witnessed by the public. Those who are government officials in the palace and have been given the last name Vajiralongkorn, Sirivajirabhakdi, Yuvarajabariraksa or Bariraksabhuminthara, all have military ranks.

Appointing the Queen and close attendants as royal guards may seem laughable in a modern military, but this happened in the Royal Thai Armed Forces in the 21st century and may create doubts within the military. However, King Rama X has ways to strengthen his relations with the military by building a new network and customs within the military, to be sure that His Majesty will receive the same loyalty that the former monarch received.

When recently enthroned, His Majesty selected 15 senior military officers led by Apirat Kongsompong, then the Assistant Commander-in-Chief of the Army, to go through a special training course at Thawi Watthana Palace (known to not be a palace where the king lives) and established a special unit; the Royal Guard Ratchawallop 904 Task Force (Commando Unit 904). No outsider knows clearly what authority or mission this special unit has, how many members it has, what are its rules and what work the unit covers.

The mass media that regularly reports on military affairs can only provide incomplete information on this. Sometimes, such as in the Nakhon Ratchasima mass shooting in February 2020, a part of the media misunderstood that Commando Unit 904 is the same unit as the Ratchawallop Police Division, King's Guard 904. This police unit is part of the Central Investigation Bureau and is not under the Bureau of the Royal Household at all. Later on, to avoid confusion, the police unit’s name was changed to Special Operations Division in July 2020 and was assigned additional missions related to terrorism that may occur and affect the safety of the royal family within palace grounds.

But the 904 special unit mentioned here refers to elite soldiers (please see table below) who were selected and trained by King Rama X for 3 months, not only to test their military skills but also to test their loyalty and knowledge and understanding of royal traditions applied by King Rama X, such as Rajasawasdi. These military officers may not have the same character as Apirat, but when in uniform, they all wear white t-shirts with red rims inside, eventually being called the ‘red rim’ soldiers. There is also a ‘caste’ sign attached to their uniforms, indicating that they are part of the special unit. Some people, such as Gen Apirat and Gen Narongpan Jitkaewthae, the present Commander-in-Chief of the Army, favour attaching a brooch with the image of Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti on their chests as well.

No one can tell what the selection criteria is. Within mass media circles, it is known only that everyone needs to be absolutely perfect in terms of dress and discipline, as decreed by King Rama X, such as the very short crew cut. But there are some shared qualities. For example, most 904 members of this generation are part of the ‘Wongthewan’ group, that is, they started their military career in the 1st Infantry Division and are the ‘sons of the influential’ that studied in the military academy in years close to Apirat, Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School years 20-22. One group of analysts believe that Apirat’s being selected as the leader was partly because of his family background, since he is the son of Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong, former Chief of Defence Forces, who led the coup in 1991 to overthrow Gen Chatichai Choonhavan’s government. But the more important matter is that both Sunthorn and Apirat are helicopter pilots and had chances to be close to King Rama X ever since their helicopter training. Some military officers in this group also share another feature: their fathers were part of the 1991 coup, such as Maj Gen Songwit Noonphakdi, son of Issarapong Noonphakdi. Interestingly, there is no one selected from the then-famous Kraprayoon family.

Choosing Apirat as the commander of the 904 special unit in 2017 also changed the power balance within the army. That is, it stopped the expansion of influence of military officers from the Burapha Phayak group under the patronage of Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and his group, which has Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and Gen Anupong Paochinda as important members, because even though Prayut and Prawit should be powerful in the government at that time in the positions of Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, neither raised any opposition at all when Gen Chalermchai Sittisart, Commander-in-Chief of the Army from a special forces background, who worked for Prem-Surayud and was earlier sent to cut their circles of power, nominated Apirat as Commander-in-Chief of the Army. It is known that Apirat was the one who helped Chalermchai organise the list of transfers and appointments in the year he rose to power [2]. In that year, soldiers in the Wongthewan group, including Narongpan and many others who were well-known as red rim soldiers, such as Maj Gen Songwit and Lt Gen Charoenchai Hinthao, took over important positions in the army. Through the 2 years when Apirat was in the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Army, he strengthened his authority by appointing soldiers known for their loyalty to King Rama X under his power and laid down a network of red rim soldiers so that they could succeed him.

Gen Narongpan Jitkaewthae, known for being an important royalist, became Commander-in-Chief of the Army and commander of the Royal Guard Ratchawallop 904 Task Force in place of Apirat who went to serve King Rama X as Deputy Lord Chamberlain. Gen Thammanoon Withee became the Assistant Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Lt Gen Charoenchai Hinthao became the Commander of the 1st Army Area, Gen Chaloemphon Sisawat became the Chief of Defence Forces, and Maj Gen Songwit Noonphakdi, who may look a little disappointed since he was not appointed as the Commander of the 1st Army Area, still holds the position of Chief of Staff of the Army, which also holds considerable importance.

Other choices, such as Gen Nattapon Nakpanich, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Army, known as the person that both Prayut and Prawit trust the most, were swept aside. This was because he is not a red rim soldier but he received the consolation of getting to sit in the position of Secretary-General of the National Security Council, which works in strategy and policy, slipping out of the military command line. In this aspect, it can be said that Prayut and Prawit’s power network within the army is shrinking while officers that control important units are all officers from the palace.

Although Apirat claims that he worked very hard to develop the army while in office, he had not done anything at all to develop the army into a military force with better capability in protecting the country, except for buying a number of armoured personnel carriers from the US. It is also uncertain just how many times they will be used in national security affairs in their entire working life.

But his real achievement is the effort to foster new military values designed in the reign of King Rama X, such as producing model soldiers according to the 2019 royal curriculum. This new kind of soldier of King Rama X must strengthen their physical fitness, military character, nutrition, psychology, motivation, etc. Model soldiers according to this royal curriculum will be an upgrade of the training system standards and the general way of looking after new army soldiers.

For practical training, there are posture command drills such as standing to attention, saluting, kneeling salutes, together with the chest-pump face-flick salute which is His Majesty’s new approach, hat picking up, paying homage and hat wearing stances. In addition, there are drills with arms, such as presenting arms together with the chest-pump face-flick salute, rifle raising, rifle inspection, removing bayonets, presenting rifles for inspection, including the demonstration of disassembling and assembling the M16A1 rifle, open-eyed and blindfolded. These are all being trained more rigorously. These drills are widely own, the phrase ‘chest pump, hmph’ or ‘chest lift’ originating from when King Rama X was still the Crown Prince; His Highness had thought that many soldiers were not stately or dignified, standing hunched, chest not expanded and chin lifted, and so he designed a new stance lifting the chest, pulling back the chin, and flicking the face towards the person being respected. None of these increases the army’s capability to protect the country as much as they emphasize the power and influence of the King over the military.

One thing Apirat did continuously in his term was to foster royalism in the military, starting from the opening of the Boworadet and Srisitthisongkhram rooms within the Royal Thai Army Ordnance Corps Museum building in October 2019 to honour former soldiers on the royalist side. Prince Boworadet, former Minister of Defence, one of King Rama VII’s relatives and trusted soldiers, and Phraya Srisitthisongkhram (Din Tharab) had significant roles in the 1933 rebellion to overthrow the Phraya Phahonphonphayuhasena government and restore the absolute monarchy. It is most probably not a coincidence that the honouring of royalist soldiers happened at the same time that memorials related to the history of soldiers who were important members of the People’s Party that suppressed the Boworadet rebellion were erased. Monuments to Phraya Phahon and Field Marshal Plaek were moved from a military camp in Lopburi between late 2019 and early 2020 and the names of two military camps changed. Phahonyothin Camp, which was named after Phraya Phahon, was renamed Bhumibol Camp and Phibunsongkhram Camp was changed to Sirikit Camp. These two events happened after the disappearance of the Constitution Defence Monument, also known as the (Boworadet) Rebellion Suppression Monument, at Lak Si intersection in late December 2018. The names of these locations are ideologically important because not only were they the leaders of the Khana Ratsadon, but Field Marshal Plaek was also the creator of the ‘nationalism above royalism’ idea, before King Rama IX cooperated with Field Marshal Sarit to eliminate it and replace it with royal nationalism from 1957 onwards.

In general, the red rim soldier network seems to be full of soldiers from the army and also some air force officers, but they are already transferred directly to the palace. It could be because the navy has not been much of a threat to the monarchy for a long time, since the Manhattan Rebellion and the defeat of the People’s Party in Pridi Banomyong’s group. The Air Force is small in size, and not only can it be no threat, but it is close to King Rama X who was once a fighter pilot. In many cases, His Majesty also served as a flight trainer for the Air Force. It is possible that he can already directly command the RTAF without needing to go through any formal mechanism. Airbull’s rise to power is a good evidence of this.

All that has been said are only certain starting points of the establishment of the network monarchy by King Rama X. Other than his network within the military, which is one starting point, there are also networks in the civilian sector and very importantly, within the mass media, which work together with the royal palace and military, such as the Royal Volunteer Project founded in 2017. It had an initial number of registrations (at the royal cremation of King Rama IX and the Un Ai Rak project) of 4 million, but there is no study yet on this which is systematic enough. Additionally, it may be too early to say how the network monarchy which started in the military will work or how strong and efficient it will be. Does mass psychology or information operations, including the use of military force and established mass groups, show political power within the network or not? And most importantly, how will these operations affect politics in the current era? Not counting what Apirat’s future role will be, currently outside of the military and working within the royal palace, will he do the same or similar work to what Prem did during the reign of King Rama IX? We still cannot tell right now.

The important matter is this newly established network may not need to replace the former network that had a strong and very complex existence in the reign of King Rama IX. The Privy Council not having much of an outstanding role in the current reign does not mean they are not doing anything at all. They may have been doing liaison work or they could be in conflict. When considering that these networks work by relying quite heavily on individual abilities, not counting the call for monarchy reformation, these networks may express different opinions and stances that are all over the place. For example, someone who used to be in the old network monarchy may want to see a constitution indicating that the monarchy has the same role and position that King Rama IX had, while the new network sees that the semi-absolute monarchy of the present is already satisfactory. All of this needs to be studied and scrutinised in detail.

Table of Red Rim Soldiers’ Progress (2017-2020)

 

Name

2017

2018

2019

2020

Apirat Kongsompong

Assistant Commander-in-Chief of the Army

Commander-in-Chief of the Army

Commander-in-Chief of the Army

Deputy Lord Chamberlain

Narongpan Jitkaewthae

Deputy Commander of the 1st Army Area

Commander of the 1st Army Area

Assistant Commander-in-Chief of the Army

Commander-in-Chief of the Army

Thammanoon Withee

Deputy Commander of the 1st Army Area

Commander of the 1st Army Corps

Commander of the 1st Army Area

Assistant Commander-in-Chief of the Army

Chaloemphon Sisawat

Director of Operations

  • Deputy Chief of Staff

  • Army Expert

Chief of Joint Staff

 

Chief of Defence Forces

Charoenchai Hinthao

Commander of the 2nd Infantry Division

Deputy Commander of the 1st Army Area

Commander of the 1st Amy Corps

Commander of the 1st Army Area

Songwit Noonphakdi

Deputy Commander of the 1st Infantry Division

Commander of the 1st Infantry Division

Deputy Commander of the 1st Army Area

Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army

Suksan Nongbualang

Commander of the 2nd Infantry Division

Deputy Commander of the 1st Army Area

Deputy Commander of the 1st Army Area

Commander of the 1st Amy Corps

Suwit Ketsri

Deputy Commander of the 2nd Calvary Division

Commander of the 2nd Calvary Division

Deputy Commander of the 1st Army Area

Deputy Commandant, Joint Staff College, National Defence Studies Institute

Tharaphong Malakham

Deputy Commander of the 11th Military Circle

Commander of the 11th Military Circle

Commander of the 2nd Infantry Division

Deputy Commander of the 1st Army Area

Ekkarat Changkaew

Chief of Staff of the 1st Army Corps

Deputy Superintendent, Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy

Deputy Superintendent, Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy

Director of the Army Training Command Department

Piyaphong Klinphan

Commander of the 11th Military Circle

Commander of the 2nd Infantry Division

Deputy Superintendent, Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy

Deputy Superintendent, Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy

Songpol Sadsaongern

 

Deputy Commander of the 1st Infantry Division

Deputy Commander of the 1st Infantry Division

Commander of the 1st Infantry Division

Commander of the 1st Infantry Division

Kantaphot Setsatharasami

Deputy Commander of the 2nd Calvary Division

Deputy Commander of the 2nd Calvary Division

Commander of the 2nd Calvary Division

Deputy Commander of the 1st Army Area

Thawatchai Tangphithakkun

Commander of the 31st Infantry Regiment

Deputy Commander of the 2nd Infantry Division

Commander of the 11th Military Circle

Commander of the 11th Military Circle

Phumchai Chaiphan

 

Deputy Commander of the RTAF Security Force Command

Commander of the RTAF Security Force Command

Attached to the Office of the Commander of the King's Close Bodyguard

Head of the Office of the Commander of the King's Close Bodyguard, the King's Close Bodyguard Command

 

[1] For more on the role of the King and military in politics, please see:

Nattapoll Chaiching, “The Monarchy and the Royalist Movement in Modern Thai Politics, 1932-1957”, in Søren Ivarsson and Lotte Isager, eds., Saying the Unsayable: Monarchy and Democracy in Thailand (Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2010), pp.147-178. Nattapoll Chaiching demonstrates the role of King Rama IX in supporting the coup by Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat in 1957.

Duncan McCargo, “Network Monarchy and Legitimacy Crisis in Thailand”, Pacific Review 4 (2005), pp.499-519. McCargo shows that the operations of the network monarchy in the age of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda whose authority is above politics.

Thongchai Winichakul, “Thailand’s Royal Democracy in Crisis”, in Michael J Montesano, Terence Chong and Mark Heng, eds., After the Coup: The National Council for Peace and Order Era and the Future of Thailand (Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, 2019),  pp. 282-307. The Armed Forces are shown to be an important mechanism supporting the king’s authority over elected governments and the government system.

[2] “Analysis: Big Tu, Big Pom, shaking up the military: special barrier-breaking version. Keeping an eye on Big Daeng in the midst of the red hat situation.” Matichon Weekly, 27 July – 2 August 2018 (https://www.matichonweekly.com/column/article_121055)

FeatureRoyal Thai ArmyIn-DepthNetwork MonarchyThai politicsPrivy CouncilRoyal Security Commands
Categories: Prachatai English

The king’s personal monopoly over royal assets criticized in the protest

Prachatai English - Fri, 2020-11-27 11:40
Submitted on Fri, 27 Nov 2020 - 11:40 AMPrachatai

A small crowd already began gathering at the SCB headquarters by 13.50 of 25 November, while SCB had announced earlier in the morning that its headquarters would be closed for the day.

The crowd control police stationed at the SCB HQs.

The protest was originally planned to take place at the Crown Property Bureau (CPB). The student activist group Free Youth announced that the protest would start at the Democracy Monument, before marching to the CPB. The organizers later changed the venue to the SCB headquarters due to the authorities’ heavy deployment of security measures.

At 14.50, police officers were stationed around the SCB Park Plaza building behind metal railings, but there are no other barriers. The protesters then accumulated in numbers until by dusk they occupied the street.

The yellow rubber duck seems to have become an icon of the pro-democracy protests, after inflatable ducks were used as makeshift shields against water cannon blasts during the crackdown on the 17 November protest at Parliament.

A protester had made coupons with the image of the rubber duck, worth 10 baht, which could be exchanged at 10 street food vendors (nicknamed "CIA" by protesters) who are participating in the activity.

A protester with the duck coupon.

The protesters dispersed at 21.17. The next protest is scheduled for 27 November at a place and time to be announced later.

At 22.13, after the protest had largely dispersed, a small explosive-like sound was heard, then followed by 4 sounds like gunshots. As of 26 November, there were reports that one person was shot in the stomach. He was taken to hospital and is out of danger. Protest guards caught 2 people suspected of being the perpetrators but the situation is still unclear.

Protest against monopolizing crown assets

Founded by Prince Mahisara Rajaharudaya, a half-brother of King Chulalongkorn, and established by Royal Charter in 1907, SCB is Thailand’s first commercial bank. According to the SCB website, King Vajiralongkorn is the largest single shareholder, holding 23.53% of SCB’s shares.

The stocks were transferred in 2018 from the CPB, the organization that controlled royal assets on behalf of the monarchy, to His Majesty’s personal property along with many other assets, due to the changes enacted in the Crown Property Act. This issue has been raised by speakers in this protest.

The status of CPB is an enigma and it has long been questioned whether its assets belong to the country, especially when Forbes calculated the assets of King Rama IX by including those of the CPB. The CPB in the past explained that the property of the monarch is the property of the state and of the country, managed by the government through the Minister of Finance as the chair of the governing board.

This explanation became invalid in 2017, when the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly  passed the 2017 Crown Property Act and the next year passed the 2018 Crown Property Act to replace the former version. [The 2 laws have slightly different names in Thai but the same name in the official English translation].

The reason for passing a new law was to make the regulations for the administration of crown property more suitable by presenting the management of crown property to be at the royal pleasure as a royal prerogative.

The essential points of the 2018 Crown Property Act are:

1.  The literal translation of the name of the Act in Thai is “Act on the Organization of the Property of the Monarch”.  The 2017 Act was “Act on the Organization of Property on behalf of the Monarch”.  There is no longer any language indicating that the monarch does not directly own the property.

2.  There is no division between the personal property of His Majesty and property held for the monarch.  Both become the property of the monarch.

3.  Crown property is taxable according to the law.

4.  The Crown Property Committee is appointed at the royal pleasure.

Parit Chiwarak in a duck outfit.

Parit Chiwarak, a student activist who has addressed the monarchy reform issue, and who had just been summoned by the police to hear a lèse majesté charge, appeared on the stage in a yellow duck outfit. He said that it is in the national interest to demand the King’s personal assets to be restored as public crown assets.

Parit questioned the transfer of public assets into the King’s personal assets, which has made him the main stakeholder in some of the country's biggest companies like SCB and Siam Cement Group (SCG), while the people at the bottom still struggle with poverty and inequality in daily life. These resources should be allocated to improve the quality of life of the people.

One of the demands made in the 10-point manifesto declared by the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration on 10 August calls for the 2018 Crown Property Act to be revoked and for there to be a clear division between the assets of the king under the control of the Ministry of Finance and his personal assets.

Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer, a prominent monarchy reform speaker and a man on the Section 112 charge list along with Parit, appeared at the stage in the SCB protest in a yellow chicken (perhaps meant to be a duck) outfit.

Anon Nampa, also in a duck outfit.

He said the past 4 months have been the greatest beginning in the history of Thailand when people voiced their concerns that monarchy is having problems. Since King Rama X took the throne, instead of behaving under the constitution, he seems to behave in another way.

By the transfer of assets to the King, the coup led by Gen Prayut betrayed the country and the People’s Party who staged the democratic revolution and separated public assets from royal assets.

He said that the Crown Property Act is problematic due to the status of royal assets in the past. For example, why would the assets that used to belong to royal families not be distributed among its members. Moreover, if the King decided to transfer the Grand Palace to the Queen, which the law allows him to do, the Queen could also transfer the palace to her mother.

Also, if the King, who holds all the crown assets personally, does not bequeath the assets to anyone, then on his death, the assets will be divided among his spouses and offspring according to civil law. That would be a major controversy, involving what used to be regarded as the national treasure. Those are reasons for the protest, because the people are stakeholders in this issue.

“We are speaking out because want future kings to have palaces to stay in. If the king happens to make a will transferring assets to someone else, we would have nothing left as public [assets]. And if he transfers everything, where would the new king stay?” asked Anon.

“We do not only protest and go home. We have a legal exit. We are going to collectively submit a new law, bringing all of the assets that His Majesty has taken back to Parliament. This issue can be done without any blood being shed.

“We will draft the law making a clear separation. Oversight will be by the government that we elect to oversee the country. We will hand the assets from the throne over to the government to oversee. This is only one from ten demands and we have many more places that we wish to go, and the containers cannot contain us.”, said Anon

Tough state defence against protesters

At 22.26 on 24 November, Free Youth announced a change of location to the Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) headquarters on Ratchadaphisek Road in order to avoid clashing with a pro-establishment rally, saying that there will be a team at the Democracy Monument to re-direct protesters to the right location.

Khaosod English reported that the authorities blocked a number of streets and intersections around the Crown Property Bureau with stacks of shipping containers and razor wire ahead of the protest, and that there were plainclothes officers stationed in the area, “dressed suspiciously like pro-democracy protesters” with hard hats and backpacks. 

There were also reports of Long-Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) in the area, as well as of officers rehearsing crowd control drills.

The logistics company Maersk, whose containers were seen among those used to block the streets, said on their official Facebook page that the containers are not owned by the company but were sold to a third party without Maersk knowing the intended use.

iLaw also reported at around 23.00 last night that officers were seen installing CCTV cameras in front of the SCB headquarters.

Later on 25 November, Deputy Bangkok Police Commander Maj Gen Piya Tawichai apologized to the public for blocking roads in a wide area. He said the measure was in response to the protesters. (Source: Bangkokbiznews)

NewsCrown Property ActMonarchy reformStudent protest 2020monarchyKing VajiralongkornKing Rama XSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/11/90570
Categories: Prachatai English

Lèse majesté returns as an activist summoned, 11 more expected to follow

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-11-25 15:09
Submitted on Wed, 25 Nov 2020 - 03:09 PMPrachatai

Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, a student activist who has been advocating monarchy reform, has received a police summons for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crime Act. A list from a police source shows charges against 11 more activists are expected to follow.

Parit Chiwarak

Parit posted a photo of the summons which he received at his home on 24 November. The issue date is 23 November 2020 and the name of the plaintiff is Sudhep Silpa-ngam. The offence is not specified. The summons orders Parit to hear the charge at the Technology Crime Suppression Division on 1 December 2020.

As of 25 November, Parit has recieved 2 more summons from his speech at the protests on 19-20 September and 14 November. The former protest charge is to be heard at the police station and the latter one is the sedition law violation.

Parit’s Facebook post shows that he is not worried.

“To whoever is the mastermind in enforcing this Section. I want to tell you here that I am not in the least afraid.

“The ceiling has broken. There will be nothing able to cover us anymore.”

According to Matichon, Royal Thai Police Headquarters report that investigation officers in many areas have issued summonses to 12 leading figures of the current pro-democracy protesters for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code:

  1. Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak
  2. Panussaya ‘Rung’ Sitthijirawattanakul
  3. Panupong ‘Mike’ Jadnok
  4. Anon Nampa
  5. Patsaravalee ‘Mind’ Tanakitvibulpon
  6. Chanin Wongsri
  7. Jutatip ‘Ua’ Sirikhan
  8. Piyarat ‘Toto’ Chongthep
  9. Tattep ‘Ford’ Ruangprapaikitseree
  10. Atthapol ‘Khru Yai’ Buapat
  11. Chukiat Saengwong
  12. Sombat Thongyoi

The reactivation of the lèse majesté law came after Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha  announced that every law would be used against the pro-democracy protesters after the protest in front of the Royal Thai Police HQ on 18 November.

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, the lèse majesté law has not been brought to the court since 2018. Lèse majesté charges have been replaced with charges for sedition (Section 116) and under the Computer Crime Act.  This comes after new procedures were introduced requiring the lèse majesté charges to receive prior vetting, unlike in the past where effectively anyone could file a complaint.

The lèse majesté law carries prison terms of 3-15 years for those found guilty of defaming, insulting, or threatening the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent.

The charges have been brought as the protesters planned to protest again on 25 November at the Crown Property Bureau (CPB). The area around the CPB was later reinforced with razor wire and surrounding roads were blocked by shipping containers. Around 6,000 police officers were deployed to secure the area.

Despite a coup denial from Gen Narongpan Jitkaewthae, the Royal Thai Army Commander-in-Chief, there have been reports that military forces are being mobilized in a suspicious way in connection with the CPB protest.

On 24 November, Khaosod English livestream found people sitting around the perimeter of the CPB in private clothes but with military or police haircuts. They refused to be interviewed at all. At 22.00 on the same day, 4 military vehicles were spotted at Mahanakhon intersection, carrying people in private clothes and with police/military haircuts.

The protesters then announced a change of the protest site to the Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) main office at Ratchayothin. SCB's main stakeholder is King Vajiralongkorn. The stocks were transferred from the CPB, the organization that controlled royal assets on behalf of monarchy, to His Majesty’s personal property along with many other assets in 2018 due to the changes enacted in the Crown Property Act.

Newslese majesteStudent protest 2020Parit ChiwarakPanussaya SitthijirawattanakulPanupong JadnokAnon NampaPatsaravalee TanakitvibulponChanin WongsriJutatip SirikhanPiyarat ChongthepTattep RuangprapaikitsereeAtthapol BuapatChukiat SaengwongSombat ThongyoiSource: prachatai.com/journal/2020/11/90561
Categories: Prachatai English

Thai student activist listed as one of BBC’s 100 most influential women

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-11-25 13:45
Submitted on Wed, 25 Nov 2020 - 01:45 PMPrachatai

Student activist and protest leader Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul has been listed as one of BBC’s 100 most inspiring and influential women of 2020. 

Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul reading the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration's 10-point manifesto at the rally on 10 August 2020.

22-year-old Panusaya is one of the students leading the wave of pro-democracy protests that have swept through Thailand since July. At the 10 August rally at Thammasat University, Panusaya, as a representative of the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, read a declaration containing the now-famous 10-point manifesto calling for monarchy reform. She has also spoken in support of monarchy reform on other occasions, and is one of the first people to publicly break the taboo and address the issue of the Thai monarchy during the 2020 protests.

Panusaya has been the target of a series of legal prosecutions due to her activism. Following the 10 August demonstration, lawyer and former advisor to the Chief Ombudsman Nattaporn Toprayoon filed a complaint with the Consitutional Court against Panusaya, human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, and student activist Panupong Jadnok accusing them of attempting to overthrow the “democratic regime with the monarch at the head of state” under Section 49 in the 2017 Constitution.

After the crackdown on the protest in front of Government House on 15 October, Panusaya was arrested at her hotel room on Khao San Road alongside student activist Nutchanon Pairoj, after she read out the People’s Party statement on the crackdown.

After being presented with an arrest warrant, Panusaya tore up the warrant and she and Nutchanon sat down on the floor in an act of resistance. Live-streamed video footage showed her and Nutchanon being put in wheelchairs and taken out of the room, before they were taken to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters.

Panusaya was charged with sedition, among other charges. The Thanyaburi Provincial Court denied her bail on the ground that she had repeated the same offenses many times. She was then imprisoned at Thanyaburi Prison before being moved to the Bangkok Remand Prison.

She was granted bail along with Parit and student activist Panupong Jadnok on 30 October, after the court denied a police request to extend their temporary detention.

In June 2020, Panusaya, Parit, and then-Student Union of Thailand (SUT) president Juthatip Sirikhan were also accused of violating the Emergency Decree for organizing a demonstration demanding justice for missing activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a charge which they did not acknowledge, and of violating the Cleanliness Act from their white ribbon campaign to protest against Wanchalearm’s abduction.

Other names on the list included Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow; Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin; Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; Chinese writer Fang Fang, who documented events in Wuhan during the Covid-19 pandemic; activist Laleh Osmany, who started the WhereIsMyName campaign to call for the Afghan government to record women’s names on official documents; Thai model, actor, and TV host Cindy Sirinya Bishop, who has been appointed the UN Women regional goodwill ambassador for Asia and the Pacific; and Thai landscape artist Kotchakorn Voraakhom.

The BBC has also left one name on the list blank to acknowledge the work of other unnamed women around the world who “have made a sacrifice to help others” and those who lost their lives while making a difference. 

NewsPanusaya SithijirawattanakulStudent protest 2020student movementYouth movementWoman activistBBC 100 womenUnited Front of Thammasat and Demonstration
Categories: Prachatai English

Lèse-majesté must not be used to criminalize pro-democracy protest leaders and participants, says FIDH

Prachatai English - Wed, 2020-11-25 13:25
Submitted on Wed, 25 Nov 2020 - 01:25 PMInternational Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Thai authorities must refrain from prosecuting individuals involved in the ongoing pro-democracy protests under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (lèse-majesté), FIDH urged today (25 November).

Yesterday, police summoned 12 activists to face charges under Article 112 in connection with their participation in the protests. Among the 12 are the following pro-democracy leaders: Messrs. Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, Tattep Runagprapaikitseree, and Piyarat Chongthep; and Mses. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Juthathip Sirikan, and Pasarawalee Thanakitwibulpol.

“After failing to deter peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations with unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, the Thai government is now using lèse-majesté to silence protesters. The international community must urge the Thai government to handle the ongoing protests through dialogue and within the framework provided by international human rights standards," says Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Secretary-General.

On 20 November 2020, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha indicated that Article 112 would be among “all laws and articles” to be enforced against pro-democracy protesters. Article 112 punishes with prison terms of three to 15 years those who are found guilty of defaming, insulting, or threatening the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent.

Prayuth’s statement represents a sudden U-turn in the Thai government’s policy with regard to the enforcement of Article 112. No legal action has been taken against individuals under Article 112 since July 2017, according to FIDH documentation. On 15 June 2020, Prayuth said Article 112 was not being enforced because King Rama X had “mercy and asked that it not be used.” [1]

FIDH reiterates its calls on the Thai government to amend Article 112 to bring it into line with Thailand’s human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party.

Various UN human rights monitoring mechanisms have repeatedly stated that Article 112 is inconsistent with international law and called for its amendment or repeal. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has consistently ruled that the deprivation of liberty stemming from lèse-majesté charges in Thailand is “arbitrary.” Between August 2012 and April 2019, the WGAD found the deprivation of liberty of all eight lèse-majesté cases brought to its attention to be “arbitrary,” and called for their immediate and unconditional release.

According to FIDH figures, between May 2014 and July 2017, at least 127 people were arrested under Article 112. Fifty-seven of them were sentenced to prison terms of up to 35 years.

Pick to PostInternational Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)Article 112freedom of expressionMonarchy reformStudent protest 2020student movementYouth movement
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