On 9 November 2021, Thai immigration officials forcibly returned two Cambodian refugees, putting them at risk of unfair trials in Cambodia. Cambodian authorities should immediately drop the politically motivated charges against Veourn Veasna and Voeung Samnang, and unconditionally release them.
The flag of Cambodia
On November 8, Thai police arrested Veasna, a Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) online TV broadcaster, and Samnang, a former CNRP commune official.
The next day, Thai authorities deported them to Cambodia even though the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had already intervened. Both men were registered refugees under UNHCR protection. Cambodian authorities have transferred both men to a prison facility, Correctional Center 1 (CC1), in Phnom Penh.
“Thailand’s forcible return of these two refugees shows a blatant disregard for fundamental refugee protection principles,” said Bill Frelick, refugee and migrants director at Human Rights Watch. “The Thai government’s actions make it complicit in the Cambodian government’s persecution of its political opponents, which appears to extend beyond Cambodia’s borders.”
Since the Cambodian government-controlled Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in 2017, the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen has pursued a crackdown on former CNRP members. The authorities have carried out dozens of arbitrary arrests and brought baseless criminal charges.
In September 2019, Cambodian prosecutors charged Samnang with conspiracy and incitement to commit a felony. Samnang fled to Thailand in 2020 and applied for and received refugee status from UNHCR. Samnang created several Facebook accounts and pages under his name, on which he shared posts by the CNRP leader Sam Rainsy that criticized the Cambodian government on various political issues, including the government’s Covid-19 response.
Because of the crackdown on the CNRP, Veasna fled to Thailand in early 2020 and applied for and received refugee status from the UNHCR. In April 2021, the authorities charged him with incitement to commit a felony under Articles 494 and 495 of Cambodia’s Criminal Code and obstruction of Covid-19 measures under Article 11 of the Law on the Prevention of the Spread of Covid-19 and Other Contagious Diseases. Veasna created several Facebook accounts and pages under the name “Kranhoung Prey Lang.” A poem he wrote labelling Hun Sen a traitor led the prime minister to call for Veasna’s arrest in October.
Forced returns of Cambodian refugees appear to have been facilitated by the Cambodia-Thailand “fugitive” arrangement that Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha reportedly reached in 2018. Dozens of Thai “Red Shirt” political activists are still believed to be in hiding in Cambodia following the 2014 coup in Thailand, while dozens of Cambodian activists have sought refuge in Thailand following the Cambodian government’s crackdown on the political opposition. In recent months, Cambodian refugees hiding in Bangkok have reported escalating levels of surveillance and threats by unidentified people whom they believe are Cambodian officials.
Thai authorities have repeatedly violated the rights of Cambodians who have fled to Thailand to seek refuge. In early 2018, Sam Sokha, a labor and opposition activist, fled to Thailand to avoid arrest after a video showing her throwing a shoe at an election campaign billboard of Hun Sen went viral. In Thailand, she applied to UNHCR for refugee status. Nevertheless, Thai authorities arrested and forcibly returned her to Cambodia after receiving an extradition request. Cambodia courts convicted her twice and sentenced her to two separate two-year prison sentences.
In December 2018, the Thai authorities arrested and deported Rath Rott Mony, the former president of the Cambodian Construction Workers Trade Union Federation, based on his role in the production of a documentary about sex trafficking in Cambodia. After he was forcibly returned to Cambodia, a court convicted him of incitement, sentenced him to two years in prison, and ordered him to pay 70 million riels (US$17,200) in compensation to two plaintiffs. Mony and his family had been in the process of seeking refugee status in Thailand when he was deported.
The international refugee law principle of nonrefoulement provides that no one should be returned to a country where they are likely to face persecution, torture, or other serious harm. The 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Cambodia is a party, prohibits the return of a refugee “in any manner whatsoever,” which would include extradition. While Thailand is not a party to the Refugee Convention, it is bound to the principle of nonrefoulement under customary international law and as a state party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
“Thailand and Cambodia’s leaders appear to have cut a deal that puts the rights of refugees at grave risk,” Frelick said. “Refugee protection should never be sacrificed as part of deal-making between governments seeking to harass and pursue political opponents in exile.”
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Cambodia, please visit:
- Cambodia: Free Forcibly Returned Critic of Hun Sen Thailand Violates International Law by Returning UN-Recognized Refugee: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/02/09/cambodia-free-forcibly-returned-critic-hun-sen
- Thailand: Don’t Return Cambodian Dissident – Activist at Risk of Bogus Prosecution, Mistreatment in Cambodia: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/12/11/thailand-dont-return-cambodian-dissident
- Cambodia: Thai Activist Abducted in Phnom Penh – Urgently Locate Wanchalearm Satsaksit: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/06/05/cambodia-thai-activist-abducted-phnom-penh
- Cambodia: Solve Thai Activist’s ‘Disappearance’ – One Year Anniversary of Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s Abduction: https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/06/04/cambodia-solve-thai-activists-disappearance
On 10 November 2021, the Constitutional Court read a ruling regarding a petition on whether or not the speeches calling for reform of the monarchy given by Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok and Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul on 10 August 2020 constituted overthrowing rule of democracy with the king as head of state. The Constitutional Court ruled that it did, and in so doing, equated calls for reform of a regime with overthrowing that regime. The official decision has not yet been released by the Constitutional Court or published in the Ratchakitchabeksa, but a translation of an unofficial transcript is below. This transcript is of the decision as read by the Constitutional Court and was transcribed by iLaw and published as part of this report in Thai by Prachatai:
Ruling No. 19/2564
10 November 2021
The admissible facts according to the petition, the explanation and various pieces of evidence, including audio files of the speeches by Respondents Nos. 1-3 are that Respondents Nos. 1-3 gave speeches in public many times at many locations beginning on 3 August 2020 demanding that there be modification to the institution of the monarchy. At the demonstration at Thammasat University, Rangsit campus, on 10 August 2020, Respondents Nos. 1-3 argued for the transformation of the institution of the monarchy through 10 demands. The significant content was to revoke Article 6 of the Constitution, which prohibits the bringing of cases against the king, and amending to allow parliament to bring cases against the king. It also included the demand for the revocation of Article 112 of the Criminal Code and to allow the people to exercise freedom of expression to offer opinions about the institution of the monarchy as well as an amnesty for all those prosecuted for criticizing the institution of the monarchy.
An objection that must be ruled on first is if the petition is ambiguous, unclear and does not fulfill the elements of Article 49 of the constitution. Upon examining the petition and accompanying documents, the view of the court is that this is a case in which the petitioner claimed that the speeches of Respondents No. 1-3 on 10 August 2020 at the ThammasatWontStandForIt stage, held at Thammasat University, Rangsit campus, contained content that distorted, encroached upon, mocked and defamed the institution of the monarchy and queried whether or not these were actions with the intention to overthrow rule of democracy with the king as head of state according to Article 49 of the Constitution. The petition cited various documents including transcripts of audio files which illustrated the actions of Respondents Nos. 1-3 and their group, which were appended to and included as part of the petition.
The petition is therefore clear and sufficient for Respondents Nos. 1-3 to understand the conditions of the actions for which they are accused. They are able to fight the case. The objection of Respondents Nos. 1-3 is therefore not tenable.
The point which must be examined and ruled on is whether or not the actions of Respondents Nos. 1-3 were the exercise of rights or freedoms to overthrow rule by democracy with king as head of state according to Article 49, paragraph one.
The Constitutional Court has examined and found that the constitutional principles lay a foundation for rule by democracy with the king as head of state. The constitutional values, which are the kernel of rule by democracy with the king as head of state, include important values such as the protection of rights and freedoms of Thai people according to Section 3 of the constitution. The protection of rights and freedoms of the people was first provided for in the 1932 Constitution of Siam and has been provided for continuously in every constitution.
The Constitutional Court then quotes Article 25, paragraph one, which stipulates what the rights and freedoms of Thai people include, and explains that the guarantee of the people’s freedoms is divided into two portions. There are freedoms that are stipulated specifically in the constitution and freedoms that are not prohibited by other laws. Thai people have the aforementioned rights and freedoms. They are constitutionally-protected in every case, with the condition that the exercise of rights and freedoms that are protected by the constitution and other laws must not impact state security, contravene peace and order or good morals of the people, or violate the rights and freedoms of other people.
When an individual has rights and freedoms, they also have accompanying duties and responsibility. This appears in Section 4, Duties of All Thai People, Article 50 (1) (3) (6) and including Article 49, which is about individuals exercising rights and freedoms to overthrow democratic rule. Article 49 of the constitution aims for all Thai people to participate in protecting and preserving democracy and provides the Constitutional Court with the authority to perform the duty of monitoring, ruling and ordering the cessation of actions that overthrow the aforementioned rule.
Article 49, paragraph one, of this constitution (2017), which was first stipulated in Article 35 of the 1932 Constitution (1952 Revision), and stipulated in the same manner in every subsequent constitution, is about the principle of protection of democracy with the king as head of state. The article is intended to protect against threats arising from the exercise of constitutional rights and freedoms. The intention is for the constitutional values to support the existence of democracy with the king as head of state, not for it to be overthrown or lost.
The principle according to Article 49, paragraph two, that gives the Constitutional Court the authority to rule as such, was stipulated for the first time in the 1997 Constitution, and similarly stipulated in the 2007 and the 2017 Constitutions. The purpose is so that if anyone [attempts to] overthrow rule, the right to petition the Office of the Attorney General to send the matter to the Constitutional Court to cease the aforementioned actions exists.
The facts according to the petition, the additional petition, the explanation of the accusation, documents and various evidence from the Office of the Attorney General, the Superintendent of the Khlong Luang Police Station in Pathumthani province, Secretary-General of the National Security Council (NSC), the Director of the National Intelligence Agency, the rector of Thammasat University and the National Police Commissioner concern the speeches on 10 August 2020 when Respondents Nos. 1-3 organized a protest stage to talk about the institution of the monarchy.
The constitution has articles to prohibit the exercise of rights and freedoms to overthrow rule. Such articles appear in the 1997 Constitution, the 2007 Constitution and the 2017 Constitution. Constitutional Court Ruling No. 18-22/2555 and Ruling No. 3/2562 (the case of Thai Raksa Chart Party) formulate that the word “overthrow” denotes a grave threat to the constitution and the system of rule that is impossible to rectify. It refers to actions to destroy or devastate the system of rule until it completely dissolves and no longer exists. Exercising one’s rights and freedoms to call for the amendment of the constitution to change the royal status of the king causes the king to not be respected and worshipped. It creates turbulence and insubordination among the people. It is the exercise of rights and freedoms in excess of what is appropriate. It has dangerous repercussions for the security of the state, peace and order and the good morals of the people. It will ultimately undermine democracy with the king as head of state.
The king and the Thai nation have been indivisible from the past until the present, and will exist together in the future. Thailand is a democracy with the king as head of state, with Thai people in agreement to invite the king to be head of state and paying homage to his inviolability in order to maintain Thai nation-ness, as is outlined in the 1932 Constitution.
From the article stipulated in the 1932 Constitution, the history of Thai rule and that the authority to rule always belongs to the king from the Sukhothai period through the Ayutthaya period and up to the Rattanokosin period can be seen. The king has the gravely important mission to preserve the survival of the country and the people, by holding the position of the Supreme Commander of the Thai Army and leading the military to fight to protect and expand the kingdom always. In previous eras, the principles of rule followed religious principles and rule by the Ten Perfections. The king therefore has been respected and the spiritual center of all Thai people for hundreds of years. Even with the transformation of rule in 1932, the People’s Party and the Thai people were in agreement to invite the king, who is the primary institution, to co-exist with democracy, by calling it rule by democracy with the king as head of state. The kingdom has maintained this system continuously, in the same way as various other countries, which have different histories of nationhood but share having identity, symbolism, and national treasures, and laws to prohibit these from becoming stained or damaged.
Therefore, the making of demands that call for the abolishment of the recognition of the royal status of the king, the head of state who is inviolable, is therefore an action with the explicit intention to smash the institution of the monarchy. The actions of Respondents Nos. 1-3 undermine and subvert democracy with the king as head of state. They call for attacks in public and incorrectly cite their constitutionally-provided freedoms. They use obscene phrasing. They violate the rights and freedoms of other people, too. They are setting an example for others to follow.
Respondents Nos. 1-3 have acted as a movement to reach their purpose and goals. Even though the speeches on 10 August 2020 have passed, but after the Petitioner (Mr. Nattaporn Toprayoon) submitted his petition to the court, it appeared that Respondents Nos. 1-3 still joined in demonstrations with various individuals and groups. They used the strategies of transforming the kind of demonstration, changing the figures who gave speeches, using the method of not having leaders. The form of the actions by the group of people who share the ideas of Respondents Nos. 1-3 and their related network, are characterized as being a movement that shares the intentions of Respondents Nos. 1-3. They have repeated the actions continuously, with these actions constituting a movement, of agitation and using false information to foment violence and chaos in society.
There are three principles of democracy. They are “freedom”: everyone can say and do anything not prohibited by law; “equality”: everyone is equal; “fraternity”: all individuals are united and support their brothers and sisters. The system of democracy with the king as head of state is one in which the Thai people and the king have been bound together for many hundreds of years. The king is the head of state and therefore receives consent the from Thai people to exercise sovereignty according to the constitution through the parliament, prime minister, and court.
The Thai institution of the monarchy is an important pillar that is essential to rule by democracy with the king as head of state. Therefore, the various actions with the intention to destroy or cause the institution of the monarchy to cease to exist, whether it is speech, writing, or other actions in order to undermining, make insignificant, or weaken the institution, are those with the intention to overthrow the institution of the monarchy.
The exercise of rights and freedoms of Respondents Nos. 1-3 is not in line with the principles of democracy. They only claim rights and freedoms without taking “equality” and “fraternity” into consideration. Respondents Nos. 1-3 exercised their freedom of expression and did not listen to the opinions of other people. They did not accept views that were different and violated the personal rights of other people. They reviled and harassed the personal space of other people. They agitated and incited using facts that distorted reality.
There is clear eyewitness evidence that Respondents Nos. 1-3 have organized groups, organizations and networks to use violence continuously. There are provocative parts of the speeches to stir up violence and create disharmony among the people in the nation. They have destroyed the principles of “equality” and “fraternity” to ultimately overthrow democracy with the king as head of state.
The facts also show that in many demonstrations there was destruction of portraits of the king. There was the removal of the blue sections from the national flag, which means the removal of the institution of the monarchy from the national flag. The ten demands of Respondents Nos. 1-3 would cause the status of the king to not be according to the tradition of rule that the Thai nation has always adhered to and practiced.
The conduct of Respondents Nos. 1-3 on 10 August 2020 and the subsequent continued conduct of Respondents Nos. 1-3 demonstrate that their motivation is the exercise of rights with the ulterior motive to overthrow rule by democracy with the king as head of state. It is not reform. It is the expression of opinion that is not sincere. It is the violation of law. It is motivated by the wish to overthrow rule by democracy with the king as head of state as stipulated in Article 49, paragraph one, of the constitution. Even though the incident according to the petition has passed, Respondents Nos. 1-3 including the group in the form of a network of organizations, still continues the aforementioned acts, and are not far from the overthrow of rule by democracy with the king as head of state.
Upon examining the matter, the view of the Constitutional Court is that the actions of Respondents Nos. 1-3 are the exercise of rights and freedoms to overthrow rule by democracy with the king as head of state according to Article 49, paragraph one, of the constitution. The Constitutional Court orders Respondents Nos. 1-3, including related organizations and networks, to cease the aforementioned actions in the future as well, according to Article 49, paragraph 2, of the constitution.NewsConstitution CourtMonarchy reformNattaporn Toprayoonpro-democracy protest 2021lèse majesté lawAnon NampaPanussaya SitthijirawattanakulPanupong Jadnok
The Civil Court said on Tuesday (9 November) that it will issue a ruling on 30 November in a lawsuit filed against historian Nattapol Chaiching and his publisher, Same Sky Books for producing two books based on Nattapol’s PhD thesis about Thai politics during the Cold War period.
The lawsuit was filed by Mom Rajawongse Priyanandana Rangsit, a granddaughter of Rangsit Prayurasakdi, Prince of Chai Nat. She alleges that Nattapol’s books “Dream the Impossible Dream” (“ขอฝันใฝ่ในฝันอันเหลือเชื่อ”) and “The Junta, the Lords, and the Eagle” (“ขุนศึก ศักดินา พญาอินทรี”) contain misleading information about her grandfather, damaging his reputation.
MR Priyanandana is suing for a compensation of 50 million baht. She initially asked the Court for a temporary injunction stopping the circulation of both books, but later withdrew her request, noting that there was no point to a temporary injunction as the books have been widely circulated. She is also suing Nattapol’s PhD thesis supervisor, former Faculty of Political Science lecturer Kullada Kesboonchoo Mead; Chaithawat Tulathon, editor for “Dream the Impossible Dream”; Anchalee Maneeroj, editor for “The Junta, the Lords, and the Eagle”; Same Sky Books, the publisher of both volumes; and Same Sky Books editor-in-chief Thanapol Eawsakul.
Kullada issued an open letter before the hearing saying that the lawsuit against her, as Nattapol’s PhD supervisor, violates freedom of expression and academic freedom and would have a strong effect on academic circles. She added that a thesis examination panel has already examined Nattapol’s thesis, passing it with distinction, and that it is an academic work which is open for debate.
Kullada called upon Chulalongkorn University to adhere to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression. However, instead of protecting her as she performed her official duties, Kullada said that the university formed a committee to investigate her supervision of Nattapol’s thesis.
“This case is therefore a fight to preserve academic freedom, especially for thesis supervisors. It is a universally held principle that a thesis is the responsibility of the person who wrote it,” said Kullada’s open letter.
Kullada Kesboonchoo Mead
Nattapol completed his PhD at the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University in 2009. His thesis, titled “Thai Politics in Phibun’s Government Under the U.S. World Order (1948-1957),” explores US intervention in Thailand during the period leading up to the 1957 military coup led by Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat.
Chulalongkorn University, the institution where Nattapol completed his PhD and the copyright holder of his thesis, was originally also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, but the Court dismissed the suit on the ground that the university is not connected to the case.
According to Same Sky Books, Chulalongkorn University has already suspended the circulation of Nattapol’s thesis, which currently cannot be found in the university’s research repository.
An article by Thongchai Winichakul and Tyrell Haberkorn, published on the New Mandala website, noted that Nattapol’s thesis contained a error construed by “some (royalist) academics and the Rangsit clan” as “seriously damaging to the monarchy.” It asserted that the Prince of Chai Nat as regent interfered with the government by attending cabinet meetings. The article also notes that “The Junta, the Lords, and the Eagle” contains extensive revisions and does not have the mistake.
In his thesis, Nattapol cited a Bangkok Post article from 18 December 1950 which reported that the Prince of Chai Nat had been frequently attending cabinet meetings, a move which was said to have upset the then-Prime Minister Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram. Bangkok Post has denied that it ever reported this information.
In 2018, Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, demanded that Nattapol’s thesis be revised to remove the mistake. He also allegedly accused Nattapol of falsifying the information to damage the monarchy and demanded that he be punished. The New Mandala article also said that Chaiyan allegedly threatened Nattapol with a royal defamation charge, but that Chaiyan denied this allegation.
A 2018 investigation by the thesis examination committee and the Faculty of Political Science found that the mistake was unintentional. Nattapol requested the Chulalongkorn Graduate School to allow him to revise his thesis, but his request was denied.
In 2021, Same Sky Books also published ia revised version of “Dream the Impossible Dream,” in which the text has been amended, removing the aforementioned mistake. The publisher also said that the mistake was unintentional and does not affect the overall content of the book. Those who purchased the 1st edition of the book are also welcomed to exchange their copy for the revised version free of charge.NewsKullada Kesboonchoo MeadNattapol ChaichingSame Sky BooksMom Rajawongse Priyanandana Rangsitacademic freedomfreedom of expressionjudicial harassmentStrategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP)
On 10 November, the Constitutional Court ruled that the calls for monarchy reform and monarchy-related activities organized by Anon Nampa, Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Panupong Jadnok and associated organizations were, are and will be abuse of constitutional rights and liberties as they are intended to ‘overthrow’ the democratic form of government with the King as Head of State.
The Court member read the ruling.
The complaint was filed by lawyer Natthaporn Toprayoon, who accused 8 activists who spoke at the 3 August and 10 August 2020 demonstrations of attempting to overthrow the “democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State,” as stated in Section 49 of the 2017 Constitution.
The Court ruled that Anon's speech and Panussaya's statement at the 10 August 2020 protest, and their participation in the protests afterward and other symbolic actions have the hidden intention of overthrowing the regime, which would cause public disorder and unrest in society.
Activities cited by the Court are part of Anon’s speech at the 10 August protest and the full statement read by Panussaya at the same event, which the Court recounted in full, and symbolic actions at many protests such as burning the King’s portrait and removing the blue stripe representing the monarchy from the Thai national flag.
The Court stated that the people’s constitutional rights and liberties come with the responsibility to protect the democratic regime with the monarch as its head. The word ‘overthrow’ can be inferred from actions that cause a serious threat to the constitution and regime in a decisive and irreversible manner that completely obliterates them.
The ruling continued by saying that exercising rights and liberties in public to call for a constitutional amendment regarding the status of the monarch or amendment of Section 112 of the Criminal Code (the royal defamation law) will diminish the respected status of the monarchy, which leads to unrest that affects public order and morality when people follow these practices.
The monarchy has existed and been cherished by the Thai people as an essential institution in governing and leading the armed forces in Thailand since the days of Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and the current Rattanakosin era, despite changes of regime, ruled the Court.
Thus, the actions of Anon, Panussaya and Panupong constitute an abuse of rights and liberties in order to overthrow the democratic form of government with the King as Head of State and the Court ordered that they and their network organizations stop such actions in the future.
A mock-up of the democracy consumed by fire.
Upon hearing the Court’s comment, the supporters of the pro-democracy activists in the front of the Court reacted with fury. Papers were scattered and a mock-up of the democracy monument was burned before the group dispersed.Landmark case to the reform movement
The Court’s decision raises questions over the direction and legal risks of the pro-democracy movement which has been calling for political and monarchy reform since its sudden surge in July 2020.
After the judgement was made, Yingcheep Atchanont, manager of iLaw, a legal watchdog NGO, told Prachatai that it is still unclear about what counts as prohibited actions and the network organizations of Anon, Panussaya and Panupong.
Yingcheep said the judgement may be used by those who hold the movement in contempt to prevent po-democracy activities. It would also be unthinkable for the protest organizers not to hold protests against the ruling. Because of these uncertainties, this ruling will exacerbate tensions within society.
In an interview with the STANDARD, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a former law academic and secretary-general of the Progressive Movement, said the ruling affects Thai society in 3 ways.
Firstly, the ruling’s broad interpretation of the law has closed the door for those who want to reform the monarchy.
Secondly, the ruling prohibits many acts, both those which have been done and those not done. This will allow those who oppose proposals for monarchy reform to flood the courts with petitions similar to the one today. Civil society organizations and political parties that rally for the amendment or abolition of the royal defamation law might be affected by this.
Thirdly, this order to gag people will not bring about reconciliation between those who think differently. It will exacerbate tensions between the old and the new generations who have different ideas about the monarchy.
“If you don’t want to enter the red zone, then don’t do it. Don’t speak. Don’t touch. Don’t do anything. Then, you will be in the safe zone. Your party won’t be disbanded. Your MPs can stay. Criminal charges won’t touch you. In public rallies, you mustn’t speak about this. Just talk about ousting Prayut. Don’t speak about these [monarchy] issues and you will be safe.”
Thalufah, a protest group, published a statement after the ruling, saying that Thai and global citizens should not accept the ruling. Criticism of individuals under the same constitution are constitutional.
“We insist and affirm that, according to the constitution, “Thailand is ruled by a democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State,” and in fact the monarch is only the “Head of State” [and] should not establish himself as a “regime of government” in this way.
“For the Constitutional Court to rule in this way is tantamount to their admitting that this country is governed by an absolute monarchy, not a democracy as is written in the constitution! And today’s ruling is a distortion of ‘what is written in the constitution’,” read the statement.No testimony from the accused
The complaint was originally filed against Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak, Jutatip Sirikhan, Siripatchara Jungthirapanich, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, and Atittaya Pornprom. The Court later accepted the complaint against Anon, Panusaya, and Panupong, but dismissed the complaint against the remaining 5 activists.
Leaflets with messages are thrown into the Court's premises.
The Court decided that only Anon, Panussaya and Panupong were involved in the 3 August and 10 August 2020 actions stated in the petition.
Natthaporn, a staunch royalist, is a former advisor to the Chief Ombudsman and has previously acted as a lawyer for the PAD, the Thai Patriots Network and other right-wing groups. In June 2019, he filed a similar complaint against the now-dissolved Future Forward Party (FFP), claiming that the party was linked to the Illuminati, a fictitious secret organization believed by conspiracy theorists to be seeking world domination. The Constitutional Court ruled to acquit the party in January 2020, citing insufficient evidence.
A similar complaint was also filed on 2 September 2020 by former Palang Pracharath Party MP candidate Sonthiya Sawasdee, who accused activists and protesters participating in the 18 July and 10 August 2020 demonstrations of attempting to “use their rights or liberties to overthrow the democratic regime with the monarch as Head of State.”
The Constitutional Court later ordered him to provide more evidence before deciding whether to accept the complaint. Sonthiya then submitted an addendum to the complaint on 28 September 2020 specifying that his complaint is against Parit, Panusaya, Anon, and Panupong, and adding information about the 19-20 September 2020 protests at Sanam Luang. Nevertheless, the Court dismissed the complaint, citing insufficient evidence.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) stated that, despite a request by lawyers for the three activists for them to be summoned for an inquiry along with several other witnesses to give them the opportunity to defend themselves, the ruling was made without examining witnesses and based only on the complaint itself, the objection to the complaint, and documents that the Court requested from the Office of the Attorney General, Khlong Luang Police Station, the Royal Thai Police, the National Security Office, the National Intelligence Agency, and Thammasat University.
The Court then ordered the inquiry concluded, claiming that it has enough evidence to issue a ruling.
TLHR also said that, in addition to the three activists themselves, they had requested that several academics be summoned as witnesses. They had planned to summon historians Nithi Eoseewong and Charnvit Kasetsiri to testify on Thai political history, and legal scholar Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang to argue that the activists’ actions do not qualify as using their rights and liberties to overthrow the democratic regime with the monarch as Head of State.
They also planned to summon writer Sulak Sivarak to speak about the role of the monarchy in Thai politics and President of the 1997 Constitution Drafting Assembly Uthai Pimchaichon to speak on the intention of Section 49 of the Thai Constitution, which is modelled after the same section in the 1997 Constitution.
None of the aforementioned witnesses were given a chance to testify.NewsConstitution CourtMonarchy reformNattaporn Toprayoonpro-democracy protest 2021Piyabutr SaengkanokkulYingcheep Atchanontlèse majesté lawThalufahAnon NampaPanussaya SitthijirawattanakulPanupong JadnokSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/11/95873
Cover photo is used with courteasy of the Rap Against Dictatorship, the original source.
You may sometimes hear about SOTUS – related rap nong activities in the news. It is still a controversial issue that people still hold different opinions about it.
But before you start the article, consider this statement:
(At the bottom) "[I support] SOTUS, but don't want dictatorship"
Consider the following statement: “I love and promote democracy, but I also support SOTUS.” The comment comes from a post on social media. The author was discussing student hazing, known in Thai as rap nong activities, at an unnamed university. Although seemingly harmless and fun, such activities are often designed to promote respect for seniority, order, tradition, unity, and spirit (SOTUS).
Is the statement logically consistent?
I am not sure if the speaker means SOTUS in general or the Thai tradition of hazing. In either case hazing is used to promote dictatorial SOTUS culture. It seems to me that if you promote it, it can be concluded that you are simultaneously supporting dictatorship. We all know that dictatorship is an adversary of democracy. You cannot say that you love democracy but support SOTUS culture at the same time, right? Because what you are saying is nonsensical. They just cannot go together.
SOTUS values cannot be a part of a democratic society. They provide a foundation for dictatorship and remain an important mechanism for perpetuating dictatorship in Thailand.
What does SOTUS really mean?
SOTUS is a combination of doctrines. If you google the term, your search will lead to a popular Thai drama series, the BL love story of a university student at an engineering school. Media misrepresentation aside, the real SOTUS is not a beautiful, young love story like that, however.
As noted above, in Thailand SOTUS is associated hazing or initiation ceremonies, particularly in higher education. These ceremonies are comprised of many activities, some seemingly harmless and others clearly abusive. Sometimes the purpose of such activities is clear and other times not. Such activities include: Cheer Room (introduction to university songs); wak (screaming at disobedient students); raprun (symbolically adopting a sense of cohort with seniors); passing objects from mouth to mouth kind of activities; activities that involved sexual harassment; and ngoen run (seniors collect money from freshmen for college activities). Many activities involved older students exercising authority over younger ones like: phi wak (seniors shouting at disobedient newcomers); phi rabiap (seniors playing the role of disciplinarians); phi nian (seniors playing tricks by infiltrating themselves among freshmen); etc.
Most of these activities reinforce SOTUS values, authoritarian culture and a dictatorial society. It is just another exercise in using power to oppress people, a promotion of authoritarian values contrary to liberalism and progressive thought.
Rapnong is a part of SOTUS. SOTUS is a part of authoritarianism and dictatorship. These last two are contrary to liberal democracy and human rights. SOTUS values and democracy do not go together. It is not logical for people to say that they love democracy but support SOTUS.
From the above definitions of both words, the reader may already have formed an idea of how SOTUS is related to dictatorship. To make things clearer, I would like to point out the shared elements of SOTUS and dictatorship so that the reader can better understand the argument “SOTUS is Dictatorship”. Look at the two pictures above. Do you see any similarities?
SOTUS is about implanting a kind of ideology. It is used to instil students with militaristic beliefs - respect for superiors, obedience, adherence to cultural dictates, solidarity, and personal sacrifice - the very values the dictatorship uses to govern people under its control. In SOTUS, we have oppressors and the oppressed. Some people take on the role of oppressors, perhaps because they believe in SOTUS and are just not aware of how oppressive it is. Or they might take pleasure in extracting revenge for what they have suffered in the past. Some people benefit from this culture. It creates a hierarchy of tension between age groups, allowing seniors to manipulate juniors.
We all know appeals to the authority of experience - the assertion that “I am older than you and have been through ‘a lot’ of things, so you must listen to me because the world outside is cruel.” Seniors use this kind of argument to subjugate initiates in the hope that it will create solidarity among freshmen. But these seniors are just one or two years older than you, right? So how much experience have they actually had?The oppression of SOTUS does not just stay inside education. The SOTUS culture of oppression graduates to the workplace and society as well. Like dictatorship, it aims to eradicate political pluralism to facilitate the manipulation of people and resources. Eliminating diversity, the homogenisation of society, is a significant mechanism of authoritarianism. Conversely, people who stand against the inculcation of SOTUS values are defending political pluralism. I am arguing that SOTUS is actually about politics. Not everyone is aware of this.
Why are people drawn to authoritarianism? There have been some experiments - the Milgram Experiment in 1961 and the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971 - to answer the question why people turn evil and become addicted to authoritarian power like SOTUS. . At a public lecture in 2018, Assistant Professor Parinya Thewanarumitkun, Ph.D., identified the connection between SOTUS values, social psychology, and the influences of evil and fear on human nature.. SOTUS also uses peer pressure to eliminate rebels, using threats of punishment or the withdrawal of friendship to instil group solidarity.
This is just how dictatorship works - using the threat of force to suppress citizens who are controlled with passive fear and romanticised dilemmas. Collective punishment works in real life and can be explained psychologically. Unity and spirit are central to military training. To promote discipline (thamrong winai), newcomers are bullied or punished. They are then instilled with SOTUS values. Unity, order, and tradition are central to fascist movements. Once a person appreciates these values, they will most likely accept and internalise them, passing belief on to the next generation or cohort. Minorities who oppose SOTUS will have to survive the tyranny of dictatorship culture.
In academic settings, it is not easy for students who oppose Thai-style hazing and SOTUS values to fight back. It is worse if they are marginalised by professors as well as seniors.-. Just as dictators prolong their political power, the sadistic cycle of SOTUS continues to be enforced.
I think that Thai politics, with its never-ending cycle of military governments, continues to oppress people in the same way that SOTUS survives in rites of passage, endlessly and imperceptibly. This is not an overstatement. It is just hard to imagine that some of us see abusive powers as normal.
A colleague in the ANTI SOTUS struggle, Bannagorn Jantaratin or Nai Chat Sangkhom (Mister Nation and Society) said in his book that SOTUS values are militaristic. No matter how hard military training is, they tell you you have to do it for the nation. And no matter how hard the Cheer Room is, they say you must endure it for the sake of your “run” (cohort). These values are used to indoctrinate initiates and destroy their intellectual capacity. They are turned into followers. SOTUS makes people cowardly and stupid, as noted by Thai Historian Thongchai Winichakul. It is extremely helpful if a ruler wants to control the population.
In 2018, ANTI SOTUS, a human rights watchdog and student advocacy group , organized a public forum against SOTUS culture and hazing practices. I led a discussion on the topic “Does SOTUS Build or Impede the Nation?” It began with an informative lecture by Dr. Parinya on social psychology’s explanation of SOTUS and abusive powers. The second part was a debate between four political parties, both conservative and progressive. Pannika ‘Chor’ Wanich, then a representative of the Future Forward Party, stated that , “For me, SOTUS is not a neutral concept. SOTUS is a Nazi concept. a concept of dictators. … As long as ivory does not grow in a dog’s mouth, democracy does not grow from the barrel of a gun, democracy does not grow out of SOTUS.” This statement supports my argument: SOTUS values are linked to dictatorship and do not fit with democracy.From SOTUS Culture to Thai Dictatorship
When we recognise that SOTUS values and authoritarianism are tied together, we can see more clearly the effect of SOTUS on Thai politics and everyday life. It allows us to connect the dots and answer the question of why democracy has yet to grow in Thai society.
Take seniority culture. To live happily here, you need to learn to respect elders. There is nothing wrong with respecting someone for a good a reason but authority should not always be deferred to. There is a difference between respect and obedience. SOTUS legitimises obedience; it implies that you need to listen to and obey the commands of older people or run phi (seniors) in order to become a good and prosperous person. Adherence to seniority culture in the workplace is likely to make your career path more secure, peaceful, and prosperous. At least seniority benefits some people.
It fosters a culture of silence and fear. You succumb and obey without questioning. This kind of culture is widespread in the collectivist societies of Asia.
It works for those at the top. When you need people to respect you, you may need to make them fear you. The more you are feared, the more you will be respected. Holding power through fear can be very useful for controlling people.
It is the same in Thai school settings. Teachers govern students through obsolete rules on hair, punctuality, and behaviour. Young people hesitate to question adults or elders. They are passively brainwashed. Their critical thinking skills get degraded. People discourage them from speaking up or challenging traditions. SOTUS values govern Thai education, intimidate students and prevent them from opposing, questioning, or fighting back.
And then there is patronage culture. This is not just about SOTUS values alone but also how we are instructed and bond in society as well. Have you ever wondered what Thai people mean when they say, “university education matters”? They mean that your connections with fellow alumni matter. You need them as a gateway to success.
It is favoritism. Suppose your senior, now an HR manager, sees your name on a list of applicants for a job at company. The HR manager may hire you on the basis of your relationship, not your qualifications. Thai people call this Colour Culture, a slang term for patronage. “Colour” affects critical HR decisions at all levels. It leads to a cycle of corruption (which I think we can see clearly in Thai politics right now, where the military is running the administration). Not all HR departments support this but patronage is still a part of our daily news ( see, for example here, and here, or here).In the end, are you aware of this delusion of dictators?
In an essay, Thongchai Winichakul said that the values SOTUS helps to reproduce are a serious cause of the malaise and social ills that permeate major social institutions in Thailand.” I hope readers now recognise the links between SOTUS culture and dictatorship, that SOTUS is the cultural foundation of authoritarianism and consequently ensures the failure of Thai politics and society. I know that this kind of writing may not help much, but I hope that this article might provide a spark of encouragement to people to fight against SOTUS..
If you look on social media, you’ll see that many students have started to oppose and call for the abolition of the university SOTUS system. Many students are no longer silent. In many universities, student committees have declared that SOTUS is an activity of dictatorship and against the democratic form of governance. I am not sure if this is thanks to globalisation and a wave of democracy. In any event, I am delighted that things are better than in my day. I experienced being tortured by this system; the trauma of being bullied and tortured remains in my mind. I am glad that at least some people can escape from the Matrix and be liberated.
Maybe one day in the future, there will be no more victims of SOTUS or dictatorship. This will only happen when freshmen, seniors, and those who participate in SOTUS, both oppressor and oppressed, become aware of human rights. This is why I remain anti SOTUS …
Because SOTUS is a dictatorship in disguise.
Bandhukavi Palakawong na Ayudhya or “Keng” is currently studying at the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University (International Programme). He is a former member and committee member of the ANTI SOTUS group, which fights against hazing, patronage, and the culture of dictatorship.
OpinionBandhukavi Palakawong na AyudhyaSOTUSAnti-SOTUSHazingeducation
An Ubon Ratchathani man was arrested on Saturday (6 November) for damaging a portrait of the King displayed in front of the Trakan Phuetphon district high school.
Taem and his mother
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Taem (pseudonym), 31, was detained by the Trakan Phuetphon police on Saturday evening. According to the police, he was arrested while standing in front of a portrait of the King at a local bus station and later confessed to damaging three portraits of the King at various locations around the district.
TLHR reports the police had Taem sign an arrest record before he was able to consult with a lawyer.
Taem was charged with destruction of property and held at Trakan Phuetphon Police Station for two nights. On Monday (8 November) he was taken to court where a temporary detention request was filed against him. The Court denied the request on the grounds that Taem was unlikely to flee or tamper with evidence. He was released without bail that evening.
A damaged portrait of the King
Taem’s mother said that her son has been displaying symptoms of mental illness since being discharged from the Navy. Drafted at 21, he was assaulted while a conscript. According to Taem’s mother, he is currently receiving treatment at the Prasrimahabhodi Psychiatric Hospital and has been prescribed medication which he needs to take regularly. He also has a disability ID, a card which Taem’s lawyer delivered to police as evidence along with his medications.
Taem’s mother said that when he has taken his medications, he is polite, communicative, and able to help her in the fields, but when he does not and drinks alcohol, his behaviour changes; he becomes frustrated and refuses to listen to anyone. She also said that Taem did not take his medications on the day he damaged the portraits and later told her that voices from heaven made him do it.NewsUbon RatchathaniTaemDestruction of propertyKing's protraitKing Vajiralongkorn
As Thailand’s human rights record is examined at the Human Rights Council on 11 November 2021, CIVICUS and the Asia Democracy Network (ADN) call on UN member states to raise serious concerns about Thailand’s civic freedoms.
In the previous UPR cycle in 2016, Thailand committed to guarantee and respect the right to freedom of expression, assembly, and association; put an end to all forms of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders; and ensure that all legislation comply with international human rights standards protecting fundamental freedoms. It received 35 recommendations related to civic space, accepting 10 and noting 25.
Thailand has not upheld these commitments. A joint submission by CIVICUS and ADN to the Human Rights Council in March 2021 highlighted Thailand’s ongoing use of repressive laws against human rights defenders, activists and journalists as well as harassment, physical attacks and allegations of enforced disappearances of activists. Our organizations also raised concerns about the crackdown on peaceful protests, the arrests and criminalization of protesters and the use of excessive force by the police.
Over the last four years, criminal defamation laws such as section 116 of the Penal Code on sedition have been used to quash dissent by the authorities. More recently, sedition charges have been brought against human rights defenders involved in protests calling for democratic reforms. Although rarely used since 2018, there has been an escalation of investigations and arrests for lèse majesté (section 112 of the Penal Code) since November 2020 against the leaders of the pro-democracy movement.
Other concerns related to freedom of expression include the Computer-Related Crime Act (CCA), which allows the authorities to conduct surveillance on online content and prosecute individuals under broadly defined offences and the cybersecurity law passed in 2019 that gives the government sweeping access to people's personal information. Outspoken media outlets and reporters have also often face intimidation and punishment for commentaries critical of the authorities.
“In the upcoming session at the Human Rights Council, states must use the opportunity to call out Thailand for its systematic repression of pro-democracy activists, human rights defenders and journalists. These actions are inconsistent with Thailand’s international obligations,” said Cornelius Hanung, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer for Asia from CIVICUS.
The Thai authorities have also imposed restrictions on peaceful protests in recent years and arbitrarily arrested peaceful protesters. In 2020, at least 90 people joining peaceful protests were arrested between 13 and 21 October 2020 by the police. The use of excessive force by the police to disperse protesters have been widely reported. On 17 November 2020, during a protest outside parliament, police used water cannon laced with purple dye and an apparent teargas chemical, as well as teargas and pepper spray grenades, to forcibly disperse thousands of protesters, including students, some of whom were children.
“No one should be detained merely for exercising the right to peaceful assemble. The authorities must immediately end its harassment of protest leaders and participants and release all those detained. There should also be prompt, effective and independent investigations into any violations during protests and perpetrators held accountable,” said Ichal Supriadi, Secretary General at Asia Democracy Network.
Civil society organizations, pro-democracy groups, student networks and labor groups in Thailand have been subjected to restrictions and multiple forms of intimidation for carrying out their work. More recently, the Thailand Government is considering a revised NGO law that contains arbitrary and vague-defined powers that could be used to muzzle civil society groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It includes excessive punishments, places discriminatory restrictions on organizations that receive foreign funding and allows for intrusive surveillance and searches without judicial oversight.
Key recommendations that States should make include:
- Ensure that processes to draft any new laws to oversee the formation and operation of CSOs include meaningful consultation with CSOs and HRDs and are consistent with international law and standards related to the freedom of association.
- Provide HRDs, civil society members and journalists with a safe and secure environment in which they can carry out their work. Conduct impartial, thorough and effective investigations into all cases of attacks, harassment and intimidation against them and bring the perpetrators of such offences to justice.
- Specifically, repeal or review article 112 (lèse-majesté) and article 116 (sedition) of the Penal Code to bring it in line with the ICCPR, UN Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 34 and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
- Specifically, review and amend the Computer Crime Act and Cybersecurity law to ensure that these laws are in line with best practices and international standards in the area of the freedom of expression.
- Ensure that journalists can work freely and without fear of criminalization or reprisals for expressing critical opinions or covering topics that the government may deem sensitive.
- Unconditionally and immediately release all protesters detained for exercising their right to the freedom of peaceful assembly and drop all charges against them.
- Review and, if necessary, update existing human rights training for police and security forces, with the assistance of independent CSOs, to foster the more consistent application of international human rights standards, including the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms
The examination of Thailand will take place during the 39th Session of the UPR on 10 November 2021. The UPR is a process, in operation since 2008, which examines the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States every four and a half years. The review is an interactive dialogue between the State delegation and members of the Council and addresses a broad range of human rights topics. Following the review, a report and recommendations are prepared, which is discussed and adopted at the following session of the Human Rights Council.Pick to PostUniversal Periodic Review (UPR)CIVICUSAsia Democracy Network (ADN)
The online petition to repeal the royal defamation law, or Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, has received over 100,000 signatures within 24 hours of its launch.
Protesters in front of iLaw's booth at the 31 Octobe protest, where the campaign to repeal Section 112 was launched
On 31 October, during a protest at Ratchaprasong Intersection, the activist network Citizens for the Abolition of 112 launched a campaign to have parliament repeal the royal defamation law. According to the legal watchdog NGO iLaw, 3,760 people signed their petition at the protest.
An online petition was later launched on 5 November at no112.org. Within 24 hours, it received over 100,000 signatures, ten times the number legally required for a bill to be put before parliament by the public. iLaw said that the offline and online signatures will eventually be combined.
As of 14.00 today (8 November), the petition has 188,124 signatures.
Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code states that defaming, insulting, or threatening “the King, the Queen, the Heir apparent, or the Regent” is punishable with 3 – 15 years of imprisonment. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at least 154 people have been charged with royal defamation for political expression since November 2020. Following a protest in front of the Royal Thai Police HQ on 18 November 2020, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha announced that the government would use every law it had to stop pro-democracy protesters.
Several protest leaders are facing multiple counts of the charge, including Parit Chiwarak, who is facing 21 counts; Anon Nampa, 14 counts; Panupong Jadnok, 9 counts; Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, 8 counts; and Benja Apan, 6 counts.
Five people are currently detained pending trial on royal defamation charges: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Benja Apan.NewsiLawRoyal defamationSection 112lese majesteMonarchy reformfreedom of expression
Sirapat Deesawat, a Nonthaburi man charged with royal defamation for removing a gold-framed King Vajiralongkorn portrait from a housing estate entrance last August, may be tried in a closed-door session.
On 3 November, the prosecutor requested the the Nonthaburi Province Court hold Sirapat’s trial in camera, not allowing the public to hear the proceedings because the case is related to the royal defamation law.
Sirapat is currently out on bail. A 100,000 baht security was posted on his behalf by the Ratsadon Prasong Fund, a charity set up to help people charged with political crimes.
Kanokwan Chimnok was also charged in the case for receiving stolen property. She surrendered on 24 August and was released after putting up a 90,000 baht security deposit.
Sirapat was arrested without a warrant on 10 August after Songsak Chantachot, a Prachachuen village chief, complained that a King Vajiralongkorn portrait in a decorative golden frame was stolen from the entrance of a housing estate. A CCTV camera recorded the theft.
Sirapat (Source: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights)
According to the prosecutor's report, Sirapat removed the portrait and its frame, dragging both along the ground face down for about 190 metres - an allegedly criminal display of disrespect towards the monarch.
Section 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code makes it illegal to defame, insult, or threaten the king, queen, heir-apparent, heir-presumptive, or regent. Those found guilt of violating the law can be sentenced for up 15 years in prison.
According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), as of 3 November at least 155 people have been charged under Section 112 in 159 cases during 2020-21.NewsSirapat DeesawatSection 112Article 112lèse majesté lawRoyal defamationThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)
On Wednesday, 3 November, the Criminal Court granted bail to 4 activists detained pending trial on charges relating to an incident on 3 August 2021 when paint was splashed in front of Thung Song Hong Police Station.
Thalufah members putting up their flag in front of Thung Song Hong Police Station on 3 August 2021 (Picture from Thalufah)
Songpol “Yajai” Sonthirak, Nawapol “Dino” Tonngam, Wachirawit “Peak” Limthanawong, and Pawaris “Pao” Yaemying, members of the activist group Thalufah, were released after the Criminal Court granted them bail on the condition that they do not join gatherings that cause public disorder or leave the country. They must also come to court as required and face a 35,000-baht fine for any violation of bail conditions.
The four were charged with violating the Emergency Decree, damaging public property, and taking part in an assembly of more than 10 people which caused a breach of public peace by splashing paint in front of Thung Song Hong Police Station. They were hit with the charges after being released from a night in detention following a protest at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau on 2 August. The protest was held to demand that the police return a speaker truck seized after the 1 August ‘car mob’ rally.
Activist Jatupat Boonpattarasaksa surrendered and was similarly charged at the Thung Song Hong Police Station on 9 August 2021. The court revoked his bail on charges stemming from the 19 September 2020 protest. He was also denied bail for this latest charge on the grounds that he is facing charges for similar offences, had broken bail conditions which prohibit him from repeating these offences, and was likely to flee or cause danger if released. Jatupat is still in detention at the Bangkok Remand Prison.
According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), Nawapol, Wachirawit, and Pawaris were in prison for 33 days, while Songpol was detained for 15 days.
Songpol and Pawaris were released from the Bangkok Remand Prison on Wednesday night. Nawapol and Wachirawit contracted Covid-19 in prison and had been receiving treatment at the Department of Corrections Hospital. They have now been transferred to a civilian hospital.
Nawapol previously planned to get married on 11 November. His fiancée told TLHR that, because he was imprisoned and has contracted Covid-19, they have to postpone their wedding to 10 December. She also said that they have to pay a 30,000-baht postponement fee, as everything has already been booked for the ceremony.
TLHR reported that at least 23 people are currently being detained on charges relating to political expression and participation. This includes five facing royal defamation charges: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Benja Apan.
A bail revocation hearing was held on Wednesday, 3 November, for Anon, Panupong, student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and singer-turned activist Chaiamorn “Ammy” Kaewwiboonpan, for charges relating to the 19 September 2020 protest. After the full-day hearing, the Court scheduled another hearing for Panusaya, Panupong, and Chaiamorn on 18 November.
Panusaya and Chaiamorn are currently out on bail after being detained pending trial earlier this year. If their bail is revoked, they could be detained indefinitely.
Anon Nampa speaking at the 3 August 2021 protest
On Thursday, 4 November, the Court decided not to revoke Anon’s bail on the condition that he remain in his residence and wear an electronic monitoring bracelet. However, he is still being detained on separate charges stemming from his participation in protests on 3 August 2020, 14 October 2020, and 3 August 2021.
After the 4 November ruling, his lawyer moved to bail him out of prison but the request was denied on the grounds that there is no reason to change existing court order. This latest order was signed by judge Chanchai Na Pikul.NewsThalufahSongpol SonthirakNawapol TonngamWachirawit LimthanawongPawaris YaemyingAnon NampaActivstpro-democracy protest 2021Student protest 2020right to bail
The Chiang Mai Administrative Court ruled in favour of students from the Media Arts and Design Department, Faculty of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University, who filed for a temporary injunction on 18 October after the University administration prohibited them from showing their final theses in the University Art Centre because some pieces dealt with social and political themes.
Media Arts and Design students and lecturers at the Administrative Court
The Court ruled that University Art Centre director Kitti Maleepan and Faculty of Fine Arts dean Asawinee Wanjing must consider and decide upon the students’ request to use the Art Centre once they received it. They should also not request additional documents or evidence and, if they content that the students have not submitted all the required documents, they must return the request with an explanation before the date and time the students request use of the building, so that the students and their lecturers can plan accordingly.
As students earlier occupied the Art Centre, exhibited their theses, and received grades from lecturers, the Court added that there was no reason to order the defendants to follow court guidelines or considered the matter of compensation for the students. It then ordered the case disposed.
The lawsuit was filed in response to an order from the Faculty of Fine Arts forbidding 4th year students from exhibiting their final theses in the Art Centre, as it deemed some of the pieces political and therefore inappropriate for a public exhibition.
An exhibition is required for the students to complete their project and receive grades from their lecturers. Unable to stage an exhibit, they were at risk of failing their class.
In an apparent effort to block the exhibition, water and electricity at the Media Arts and Design Department building were shut off, allegedly by order of the Faculty Dean. Entrances were also chained, locking several students working in the building inside the Faculty.
On 16 October, students and lecturers cut the chains, broke through the door of the Art Centre, and occupied the University Art Centre to set up their exhibition. The exhibit ranuntil 23 October as scheduled. On the closing night, they burned two coffins containing pictures of the Faculty Dean and University Principle in a symbolic act of protest.
Students also filed a petition on 25 October with the Chiang Mai University Council, the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights, and the House Committee on Education to have university principle Dr Niwet Nantajit and Faculty of Fine Arts dean Asawinee Wanjing removed from office for attempting to prohibit students from exhibiting their theses and violating their academic freedom.
Students burned two coffins containing pictures of the Faculty Dean and University Principle on the exhibition's closing night in a symbolic act of protest.
Discussing the Administrative Court decision, Supanut Boonsod, a lawyer affiliated with Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that ruling confirms the rights of students and lecturers to use the University Art Centre, and must be taken into account if university administration tries to press charges against the individuals who occupied the Art Centre.
Supanut also said that the case sets a precedent for the future: if university administrators receive a student request to make use of facilities in line with established procedures, they cannot use unnecessary delays to block students’ freedom of expression.
According to Media Arts and Design lecturer Pathompong Manakitsomboon, the court ruling confirms that the faculty administration’s actions were unlawful and likely to affect student graduation plans. It also affirms that they have the right to use the Art Centre, as the Media Arts and Design department classrooms are also in the same area. He disagreed with the administration’s claim that the occupation of the Art Centre was an act of trespassing.
Pathompong added that the exhibition was necessary, affecting students’ grades and graduation plans, and did not cause any damage to the Art Centre. He also said that museums and galleries normally do not have the right to interfere with an artist's work and the only thing they need to know is how the work is to be installed.NewsChiang maiAdministrative CourtChiang Mai UniversityFaculty of Fine ArtsMedia Arts and Design departmentacademic freedomArtistic freedomfreedom of expression
On 10 November 2021, Thailand’s human rights record will be examined by the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group for the third time in a meeting that will be webcast live.
Protesters remove decorative plants around the Democracy Monument at the protest on 13 February 2021.
Thailand is one of the 13 States to be reviewed by the UPR Working Group during its session currently taking place from 1 to 12 November*. Thailand’s first and second UPR reviews took place in October 2011 and May 2016, respectively.
The documents on which the reviews are based are: 1) national report - information provided by the State under review; 2) information contained in the reports of independent human rights experts and groups, known as the Special Procedures, human rights treaty bodies, and other UN entities; 3) information provided by other stakeholders including national human rights institutions, regional organizations and civil society groups.
The three reports serving as the basis for the review of Thailand on 10 November can be found here.
Location: Room XX, Palais des Nations, Geneva [NB: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the meeting will be held using a combination of in-person and remote participation, and media representatives are encouraged to follow the proceedings on webcast.
Time and date: 09.00 – 12.30, Wednesday, 10 November (Geneva time, GMT +1 hour)
The UPR is a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. Since its first meeting was held in April 2008, all 193 UN member States have been reviewed twice within the first and second UPR cycles. During the third UPR cycle, States are again expected to spell out steps they have taken to implement recommendations posed during their previous reviews which they committed to follow-up on, as well as to highlight recent human rights developments in the country.
The delegation of Thailand will be led by Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The three country representatives serving as rapporteurs (“troika”) for the review of Thailand are: Bulgaria, China and Côte d’Ivoire.
The webcast of the session will be at http://webtv.un.org
The list of speakers and all available statements to be delivered during the review of Thailand will be posted on the UPR Extranet
The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the recommendations made to Thailand at 17.00 on 12 November. The State under review may wish to express its positions on recommendations posed to it during their review.Pick to PostUniversal Periodic Review (UPR)OHCHR
The Thai authorities should promptly and impartially investigate the alleged police torture of two pro-democracy activists in Bangkok and hold those responsible to account, Human Rights Watch said yesterday (3 November).
On October 29, 2021, at about 6 p.m., police arrested Attasith Nussa, 35, and Weeraphap Wongsaman, 18, after violently dispersing a protest outside Bangkok’s Din Daeng police station. The two men allege that the police beat them while arresting them and then took them inside the police station, where officers beat and choked them, burned them with cigarettes, and threatened them with death.
“Attasith and Weeraphap’s accounts of their brutal mistreatment show that the Thai government has failed miserably to live up to its repeated pledges to end torture in police custody,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The fact that this abuse happened not in a remote provincial jail but in downtown Bangkok demonstrates how little the police fear getting punished.”
On 1 November, Attasith told the media that he was filing a complaint with the House of Representatives’ Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. He said that, after being taken to the police station, officers in uniforms and civilian clothes surrounded him in an interrogation room. One police officer in a white shirt accused him of setting fire to a shrine in front of the Din Daeng police station, and said it was “convenient” that he came alone to the demonstration so that they could say he “died in an accident.”
“[H]e dragged me on a wooden bench and slammed my head against it twice” Attasith said. “He asked me, ‘Why did you come here and make a mess? Did you set fire to the shrine? Do you know who shot that riot police officer [who was seriously wounded on October 6]? Were you involved in that shooting?’ He asked these questions again and again. Then he hit my ribs and stomach with a wooden baton. After that, he grabbed my neck and choked me until I almost passed out.”
Attasith said the police took turns choking him six or seven times, forcing him to tell them his mobile phone and chat passwords. Officers told him not to resist or the beating would get much worse. They beat him until 7 p.m. and kept him in the interrogation room until about 3 a.m. the next day, before taking him to the holding cells where they detained other protesters.
On October 30 Weeraphap gave a media interview describing his mistreatment by police in uniforms and civilian clothes at the Din Daeng police station.
“Those police officers punched and kicked me when they arrested me and brought me inside the Din Daeng police station,” Weeraphap said. “I was handcuffed behind my back. They put me on a chair in an interrogation room and took my pants off. They burned the areas around my genitals with cigarettes and kicked my testicles. One of the officers said, ‘You were lucky that I did not shoot you and dump your body in a river, because you set fire to the shrine [in front of the police station].’ They took turns beating me up, punching and kicking me.”
Weeraphap said they repeatedly asked him about the wounding of the riot police officer on October 6, and when he said he knew nothing about it, they beat him again. He said this went on until the next day at 3 a.m.
Attasith and Weeraphap were released by the court on October 30.
Torture and other ill-treatment in police custody have long been a problem in Thailand but the government has taken few steps to address it, Human Rights Watch said. In August, police tortured a drug suspect to death in the Nakhon Sawan provincial police station. Human Rights Watch has also documented numerous cases related to counterinsurgency operations in Thailand’s southern border provinces, in which police and military personnel tortured ethnic Malay Muslims.
The government’s Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Bill, which is currently being considered by parliament, does not meet international human rights standards, such as lacking definitions for cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Thailand is a party to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which obligates governments to investigate and prosecute acts of torture and other ill-treatment. Article 4 of the Convention states that a government should “ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.” The government should also “make these offenses punishable by appropriate penalties, which take into account their grave nature.”
“Attasith and Weeraphap’s cases should impress upon the Thai government the need to establish a credible and independent prosecutorial body to receive complaints of police abuse, conduct investigations, and bring cases for prosecution,” Adams said. “The government should also promptly act to fulfill past pledges to make torture a criminal offense.”Pick to PostHuman Rights Watch (HRW)Police brutalitytortureDin DaengAuttasit Nussapro-democracy protest 2021
Student activists Benja Apan and Nutchanon Pairoj have been sentenced to jail on contempt of court charges stemming from a protest at the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court on 29 April 2021 to demand the release of detained activists.
Benja Apan speaking in front of the Criminal Court on 29 April 2021
On 29 April 2021, a crowd gathered on the steps of the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court while lawyers went to file a bail request for 7 activists who were detained pending trial at the time on a royal defamation charge. During the protest, Benja and a group of other students came to the Criminal Court to submit an open letter signed by over 10,000 people demanding the release of detained activists.
When judge Chanathip Muanpawong did not come out to receive the letter, Benja scattered pieces of paper printed with the names of those who signed the letter on the steps of the court building. She also read out a poem by Anon Nampa, which criticised the judicial process and call on judges to grant justice to the people.
Benja was sentenced to 6 months in prison, which, according to a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), is the highest possible sentence for the charge.
The court ruled that Benja’s action caused disorder on the court grounds, and that the poem she read insulted the judiciary. The court also said that as she showed no remorse for her action, there was no reason to reduce her sentence.
Benja scattering paper on the steps in front of the Criminal Court
After leaving the trial, Benja met student activist and fellow United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration member Cholathit Chotsawat and gender equality activist Chumaporn Tangkliang, who were waiting outside the courtroom. She cried, asked Chumaporn “when will it end?” and questioned why the leaders of military coups never get prosecuted.
Benja then asserted that her legs were her own and she had the right to walk by herself or not. She told the correctional officers surrounding her that they already had power over her body and could do what they wanted but that they were going to have to drag her as she would not be moving from the spot on her own.
She then sat down on the ground. The correctional officers brought in a wheelchair, two women officers pulled Benja up and took her away. As she was being taken, Benja called out “Down with feudalism. Long live the people.”
People gathered at the Criminal Court on 29 April 2021 to demand the release of detained activists
Meanwhile, Nutchanon was sentenced to 4 months in prison, but was later released after posting a 50,000-baht bail. The surety was covered by Will of the People Fund, a charity established to help people facing charges for participating in the pro-democracy movement.
At the 29 April protest, Nutchanon gave a speech on the steps of the court, saying that he does not count the judges as alumni of Thammasat University, where he is currently studying, because they do not love the people as stated in the university’s motto. He also shouted for Chanathip to come receive their open letter and said that the judges “have no backbone.”
Nutchanon said that he made the statement because he believes that denying detained activists bail rights is an injustice that goes against legal principles. The court found him guilty of contempt of court, not for expressing opinions different from the court, but rather for joining a protest, shouting, and acting rudely in a court area in an attempt at use a crowd to pressure the court, which violates the court’s independence in ruling on a case.
According to iLaw, during Benja’s trial, court police were stationed in front of the courtroom, and even though the judge did not order the trial to be held in secret, no observers were allowed into the room, ostensibly as a Covid-19 prevention measure. During Nutchanon’s trial, the court prohibited all recording devices and only allowed note-taking.
TLHR reports that since 18 July 2020, at least 26 people have been charged with contempt of court. Of this number, at least 14 have been charged for demanding bail rights for detained activists.
Other than Benja and Nutchanon, 4 other activists are facing contempt of court charges for participating in the 29 April 2021 protest: Pattarapong Noipang, Shinnawat Chankrajang, Elia Fofi, and Pisitkul Kuantalaeng.Newsstudent activistBenja ApanNutchanon Pairojcontempt of courtfreedom of expressionright to bailfreedom of assemblyjudicial harassmentcriminal court
In an open letter, civil society organisations raised concern regarding seven migrant workers arrested at Ministry of Labour despite Thailand government’s decision on amnesty pending regularization and demand for Protection of the Right to Defend Human Rights of migrant workers.
Policemen instruct the migrant labours at the ministry of labour.
Dear Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha,
We, the undersigned organizations, write to express our concern and call for action regarding the following.
On 29/10/2021, seven migrant workers from Cambodia were arrested and detained at Ministry of Labour (MOL) Thailand. This occurred whilst they were part of a Delegation submitting a Petition to the Minister of Labour demanding better welfare and rights of migrant workers working in Thailand, affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The arrests occurred despite announcement on official government websites regarding the Cabinets decision to give an amnesty on documentation requirements for migrants and whilst the migrants were exercising their human rights as Human Rights Defenders.
One of the main duties of MOL is “to consider complaints or requests filled to Minister”. The Minister failed in his duty to the seven migrant workers who were making an official request.
On 29 October 2021, at about 9 am, a delegation from the Taskforce to Monitor the Provision of Support to Workers in Construction Sector, which included the Workers’ Union, the Labor Network for People’s Rights and migrant workers, went to meet the Minister of Labour petitioning that the MOL ensure better welfare and rights to migrant workers especially during this Covid-19 pandemic.
Their demands included, (1) the appointment of the Working Committee on the Management of Foreign Workers from the Three Countries (Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia) with representation from the workers, civil society and state; (2) the reduction of fees and expenses, particularly for those migrants with permission to remain in the Kingdom; (3) the provision of Mandatory Health Insurance for migrant workers from these three countries who are employed in the private sector to be at the same rate and benefits as provided in the health insurance scheme of the Ministry of Public Health or Social Security; and (4) the repeal of Social Security Office’s regulations which impede the migrant workers’ access to protection under the Workmen's Compensation Fund Act.
Around 11 am while negotiations were on-going between the representatives of the delegation and the authorities, seven migrant workers who were waiting outside the Ministry of Labour were arrested by plainclothes police officers, Immigration officers and other unidentified officials wearing vests bearing the name “The Minister of Labour Suchart Chomklin”. The authorities barged in and demanded to examine the personal documents of the seven workers. Photos were taken.
The seven Cambodian migrant workers (3 women and 4 men) were arrested and taken to the Din Daeng Police Station. One of them is a single mother, who had that morning told her children she would be out to process her work permit, but will come back in the evening. Now, her two children are left motherless having no idea where their mother is.
Charges against the seven were for allegedly illegally entering the country, an offense punishable under the Immigration Act B.E. 2522 (1979).
Denial of access to lawyers and questionable investigations
The seven allegedly were then pressured into rushing to sign the charge sheets, which can be taken as an admission of guilt. This was done before they were granted access to lawyers and/or legal representatives. There were no qualified interpreters present. Access to lawyers was subsequently granted only at around 3 pm. The police then transferred the seven to the Immigration Detention Centre (Soi Suan Plu IDC), where they still remain in detention.
Arresting these migrant workers, who are Human Rights and Labour Rights Defenders, who went to the Ministry to submit representations is wrong and a violation of human and labour rights.
When Minister and Ministries Disrespect Thailand Cabinet’s Decision of 28/9/2021.
It is shocking that this happens after the Thai Cabinet on 28 September 2021 had made and publicized a decision to allow undocumented migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia to continue to stay in Thailand to enable time for employers and migrant workers to apply and receive official permits. The Cabinet’s reasonable decision comes in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected employers, workers and also government administration.
Despite this government decision, the Ministry of Interior and/or the Ministry of Labour has still failed to put in place the necessary mechanisms and procedures to give effect to the government’s decision.
This government decision will apply to two groups of migrant workers including (1) undocumented workers from the said three countries who have yet to obtain their work permits; and (2) migrant workers from the said three countries who have already applied for work permits pursuant to the earlier 29 December 2020 Cabinet resolution, but have yet to receive their permits.
The reported government decision was that these 2 categories of workers shall be treated as follows: The undocumented migrant workers who have yet to apply for work permits shall remain in the Kingdom and continue to work legally, and their employers must apply for work permits on behalf of the workers within 30 days after the Notification of the relevant Ministry, being the Ministry of Labour and/or Ministry of Interior, is issued and published in The Royal Thai Government Gazette. Migrant workers will be allowed to continue staying and working in the Kingdom until 28 February 2023.
Over a month after the government’s decision, the needed Notification from the relevant Ministry is yet to be issued. This procrastination and neglect of duty has also impacted on the ability of Public Health to successfully implement its Covid19 prevention program
The procrastination of Ministers and their Ministry is appalling as it will cause great suffering not just to migrant workers but also their employers.
It has been reported on the Facebook Page of Labor Network for People’s Rights that on the evening of 29 October 2021, negotiations concluded that the said seven migrant workers will be placed under Covid-19 quarantine for at least 14 days or until the Ministry Notification pursuant the 28 September 2021 Cabinet decision is issued and despite the high risk of Covid-19 infection at detention facilities.
We, the undersigned, therefore
Call for the immediate release of the seven migrant human rights defenders, noting that this arrest is a violation of human rights following Thailand’s decision to grant amnesty pending regularization;
Call also that the Thai government to forthwith apologize and to provide an effective remedy and compensation for seven migrants victims of human rights violation;
Call on the Ministry of Labour and/or the Ministry of Interior to respect the Thai government/Cabinet decision of 28 September 2021, stop procrastinating and immediately proceed on the regularization of migrant workers and to adopt legislative, administrative and other steps as may be necessary to ensure effective implementation of rights and freedoms of migrant workers.
Call also for a moratorium on arrest and detention of migrant workers on the basis on being undocumented pending the completion of the regularization exercise.
Call on the Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission, UN and others responsible and concerned for defending human rights to act to end this human rights violation.
1. Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN)
2. Asian Resource Foundation (ARF)
3. Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodia
4. Society of Young Social Innovators (SYSI), Thailand
5. Young Leadership for Social Change Network, Thailand
6. People Go Network, Thailand
7. MAP Foundation, Thailand
8. Migrant Workers Federation (MWF), Thailand
9. Women Workers for Justice ( WJG), Thailand
10. Salaya Students and Worker Union , Thailand
11. Clean Cloth Campaign (CCC),South East Asia Coalition
12. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, Malaysia
13. Foundation for Aids Rights (FAR), Thailand
14. Workers Assistance Center, Inc. Philippine
15. MADPET-Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture, Malaysia
16. National Catholic Commissions on Migration NCCM, Thailand
17. The Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) Asia Pacific
18. Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor & Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia
19. Justice for Peace Foundation, Thailand
20. Safety and Rights Society (SRS), Bangladesh,
21. Women's Centre,Sri Lanka
22. Legal Action for Women, UK
23. Global Women’s Strike, UK
24. Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL), Cambodia
25. We Women Lanka
26. Think Centre, Singapore
27. Equitable Cambodia, Cambodia
28. Mekong Migration Network (MMN)
29. Foundation for Education and Development (FED)
30. Empower Foundation, Thailand
31. Focus on the Global South
32. Union for Civil Liberty, Thailand
33. Social Action for Community and Development (SACD ),Cambodia
34. Manushya Foundation., Thailand
35. Women of Color, USA
36. Global Women’s Strike USA
37. International Black Women for Wages for Housework
38. Labour Behind the Label, UK
39. Global Women Against Deportations, UK
40. Defenders in Dordrecht, Netherlands
41. Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada
42. Nijera Kori , Bangladesh
43. People's empowerment Foundation, Thailand
44. Campaign for Public Policy on Mineral Resources (PPM), Thailand
45. Ecological and Cultural Study Group, Thailand
46. Thai Network of People Who Own Mineral Resources, Thailand
47. Khon Rak Bamnet Narong , the Anti- Potash mining group, Chaiyaphum, Thailand
48. Khon Rak Ban Kerd in 6 villages, The Anti gold mining group, Loei, Thailand
49. Rak Wanon Niwat , the Anti Mining group ,Sakon Nakhon , Thailand
50. Rak Kham PaLai , the Anti Mining group , Mukdahan, Thailand
51. The Community of Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group, Nong Bualamphu, Thailand
52. Rak Ban Heang, the anti-mining group, Lampang, Thailand
53. Rak Lam Kho Hong, the anti-mining group, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
54. Khon Lao Hai Ngam Anti mining group, Kalasin, Thailand
55. Center for Orang Asli Concerns, Malaysia
56. National Union of Transport Equipment & Allied Industries Workers. Malaysia
57. Korea Center for United Nations Human Rights Policy (KOCUN), Korea
58. Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), Thailand
59. The Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand (SPFT)
60. Raks Thai Foundations, Thailand
61. Protection International
62. Independent Trade Union Federation (INTUFE)
63. Worker's Information Center (WIC), Cambodia
64. Social Action for Community and Development (SACD)
65. Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP)
66. Cambodia Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
67. Global Women’s Strike Ireland
68. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
69. RESISTERS DIALOGUE
70. Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) , Thailand
71. Media for Citizenship Group, Thailand
72. Dao Din, Thailand
73. Legal Center for Human Rights, Thailand
74. New E san Movement, Thailand
75. Banpak Group, Thailand
76. MSU Revolutionary Party (MRP), Thailand
77. Move High Group, Thailand
78. New Surin Movement, Thailand
79. UDdone , Thailand
80. Korphue dismantle dictator Group, Thailand
81. People’s Party of Buengkan, Thailand
82. Korat Movement, Thailand
83. Khon Kaen Porguntee Group , Thailand
84. KKC students association, Thailand
85. The International Service for Human Rights ( ISHR )
86. Awaj Foundation, Bangladesh
87. Women's Studies Center, Chiang Mai University, Thailand
88. Foundation for Women, Law and Rural Development (FORWARD)
89. Green Advocates International, Liberia
90 .Payday men's Network,UK
91. PINAY Quebec, Canada
92. The Community Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) Collective in Thailand
93. Community Resources Centre (CRC) Thailand
94. Isaan land Reform Network, Thailand
95. Duay Jairak Group Thailand
96. Try Arm" Underwear "Fair Trade Fashion", Thailand
97. ENLAW Foundation, Thailand
98. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), Thailand
99. Labor network for people rights, Thailand
100. Aliran, MalaysiPick to Postlabour rightsSuchart Chomklin
2 people arrested during a candle vigil for a dead protester at Din Daeng Police Station revealed that their 9 hours in police custody involved beatings and death threats.
Auttasit and his wounds.
Auttasit Nussa, an engineer, was arrested on 29 October as people went to the police station to hold a candle vigil for Warit Somnoi, a youth shot by an unidentified party in front of the police station on the night of 16 August.
"I had not even joined the activity. I went to front of the police station to light a vigil candle. They (the police) had already come to disperse the gathering. They told me to run. I didn't understand why. They grabbed me and accused me of burning a shrine and related to the man who shot the policeman [on the evening of 6 October].”
Then he and another protester were taken inside the police station where he was subjected to beatings in an effort to obtain information that he said he did not know. The police reportedly told him that if he died during the beatings, they would make his death look like an accident.
"A police officer senior to the others said 'Let me have him. I want this one.' Then he started the beating, asking me if I knew the shooter. I said I didn’t but he kept on hitting me.”
"They beat me a lot. They kicked me. They punched me. They smacked my head into a wooden chair. They use a baton on to hit the ribs on my right side. Then, they choked me to get my phone password... I told them but it was wrong. I couldn’t remember. They squeezed my neck so hard that I almost fainted."
He was released on 02.30. Afterwards, he was subject to normal investigation procedures and charged with participating in a gathering and causing public disorder.
"I feel they didn't act professionally. They used force. Their duty is to arrest and investigate but they used force to intimidate me. It should not be like this. It is a structural problem in their system that cannot be allowed to go on," said Auttasit.
In addition to Auttasit, 'Leaf', another participant in the event was also arrested and beaten. Earlier in October, he was charged with royal defamation for painting the message ‘we should reform the monarchy.’
Leaf and his wounds.
Leaf said he was taken to a solitary room and stripped down to his pants. Interrogators stomped on his genitals and stubbed out cigarettes on his lower stomach.
"It was very bad. I had to brace myself all the time because I didn't know when they were going to hit me again," said Leaf, who was eventually charged like Auttasit.
On 1 November, We Volunteer, a group of protest guards, went to parliament to submit a petition asking the House Committee on Law, Justice, and Human Rights to investigate the two cases of police brutality.
The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), a civil organisation which looks at arbitrary detention and torture issues, published a statement demanding a serious investigation of the incidents at the Din Daeng Police Station and a speedy passage of the anti-torture bill which will criminalise such actions by state authorities.
Auttasit filed a complaint at the Din Daeng Police Station, where the beatings took place. Leaf plans to do so.
On 2 November, Pol Lt Col Sophon, Yaemchomcheun, the Din Daeng Police Station deputy superintendent said to Prachatai that further evidences related to the beating are need to me collected. He said he did not know about the situation as he was investigating another case in a separate room.
“Frankly speaking, I think I’m not sure to confirm that much. But what is for sure is that the mob use violence, especially cursing…There was some people kicked the police,”
“You have to look at that point too. They ran to us too…If the gathering was really peaceful, nothing would happen. But you come and use violence, burning, speaking aggressively,” said Sophon.NewsDin Daengpro-democracy 2021Auttasit Nussa
Need for safer, freer region stressed in commemoration of international day to end impunity for crimes against journalists
To mark the 9th International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEA) on 2 November, media workers from around Southeast Asia gathered together with international stakeholders to consider the how best to overcome prevailing constraints on regional media - legal, political and cultural.
An online report launch and panel discussions on 2 November 2021.
The United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed IDEA in 2013, both to commemorate the assassination of two French journalists in Mali and to encourage member states to adopt measures to end impunity with respect to crimes against media workers.
While killings are clearly the most extreme dimension of media censorship, journalists are also commonly subjected to numerous other types of violence, creating a climate of fear for media professionals and impeding the free circulation of information, opinions and ideas.
Addressing the problem requires the investigation and prosecution of all who threaten violence against journalists, both to prevent future crimes and to send a clear message that society will not tolerate attacks that undermine the right to freedom of expression.
To mark the event on 2 November, an online public discussion was held by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Prachatai, an independent online newspaper based in Bangkok. Prachatai also launched a special report on challenges faced by Thai journalists in recent years, regional trends related to the safety of journalists, and the role of judiciary in bettering the investigation and prosecution of crimes against media workers.The need to be protected
The 2 November commemoration included a panel discussion by investigative journalists from Thailand and Myanmar. They talked about the risks they face performing their work and also considered a situation report about media safety in Thailand.
Crowd control police pulling on a reporter covering a protest (Photo from iLaw)
Katia Chirizzi, the Deputy Regional Representative, OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia said that the protection of civic and democratic space is crucial for democracy and the enjoyment of other human rights. The Southeast Asia region has seen an increase in attacks on journalists in various forms which affect media workers, who often resort to self-censorship.
"The work of journalists and media workers across the region and in Thailand must be protected. The democratic space of free expression is vital for human rights and also for fostering understanding and dialogue needed to advance overall efforts to achieve sustainable development goals in the region," said Katia.
"In Asia and the Pacific, journalists are facing an increasingly hostile working environment as the democratic space continues to shrink. Female journalists are particularly subjected to harassment and threat, especially online. When threats of violence and attacks on journalists are not properly investigated, this often leads to more aggression and even murder, the ultimate form of media censorship," said Shigeru Aoyagi, Director of UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, UNESCO Bangkok.
Soe Myint, the founder and editor of Mizzima News in Myanmar, explained the grave situation for media safety in Myanmar, which was highly exacerbated by the February 2021, resulting in hundreds of journalists being arrested and, on occasion, subjected to beatings and torture.
Censors have revised permissible language, prohibiting the use of words like "junta", "coup" or "regime". The laws and courts have been systematically used to suppress dissent and keep publications from “inciting anti-establishment sentiment” with the critical comments of journalists and citizens. Increased tensions and armed conflicts around the country have also led to more dangerous working conditions, particularly for those working in the overlooked ethnic media operating in conflict zones.
Soe Myint urged pressure from inside and outside the country to repeal the laws that now stifle press freedom.
"I encouraged all governments, journalists and regional associations to work together to bring about an environment for press freedom in the Greater Mekong region that truly allows for freedom of information while respecting the need to be balanced and professional under context of media activities," said Soe Myint
A situation report on Thailand indicates that media workers in the country have also been facing increased risk while performing their duties.
- 2 journalists lost their lives while reporting on the protest dispersion in 2010. Perpetrators were never apprehended,
- Following the surge of public protest calling for a political and monarchy reform in 2020 , at least 5 mass media workers and 3 citizen journalists were arrested while reporting at the protest sites, 14 were reportedly shot by rubber bullets, 3 were physically assaulted and 4 injured by explosive devices.
- In Southern Thailand, media workers continue to find themselves in the middle of confrontations between the state and local insurgents and are subject to arbitrary detention. News sources and the families of journalists have occasionally been threatened by authorities.
- Between 20032019, at least 13 cases of defamation and contempt of court lawsuits were filed against journalists over their coverage and comments about the public impact of private firm activities and development projects.
Jutharat Kultankitja, a reporter from Prachatai, called upon Thai authorities to take part in creating an environment that is safer and friendlier for media workers on the ground. She also called upon existing media associations to take a firm stand to ensure media safety and demanded that those engaged in media harassment be punished.A tool for protection
In addition to discussing the prevailing media environment, a ‘Guidelines for prosecutors on cases of crimes against journalists’, published by UNESCO and the International Association of Prosecutors, was presented to improve methods for investigating and prosecuting crimes against journalists in Mekong countries.
The guideline is undergoing Thai translation at UNESCO. For an English version, click here.
Sabin Ouellet, author of the Guidelines and senior prosecutor in Canada, said that human rights violations against journalists interfere with the work of journalism and promote self censorship.
The guideline suggests that when crimes against journalists occur, investigators must respect the confidentiality and safety of stakeholders, the victims of the crime. Effective investigations also require that social factors, like power relations between genders, be kept in mind.
New legislation is also needed to deepen the legal base for pro-active investigations as well as assure effective prosecution and case closure.
Yongyoot Srisattayachon from Thailand's International Affairs Department, Office of the Attorney General noted that threats against journalists ultimately limit public access to information.
He suggested that within the context of Thailand, the Department for Special Investigations should be tasked with such investigations as it allows prosecutors to take part in the investigation process, which is otherwise left to the the police, who are far less efficient in tracking down perpetrators.
When asked about the case of Fabio Polenghi, an Italian photographer who was shot to death by the authorities during the 2010 protest crackdown in Bangkok, Yongyoot said that he did not know about the case but would be willing to look into it.Calls to stop a culture of impunity
Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn, a legal scholar and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia, said that crimes against journalists in the region are a source of shame. He added that countries in Southeast Asia all have ways of suppressing freedom of expression and freedom of association, affect the work of regional journalism.
He also noted how the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic led not only to the use of emergency laws and disease control laws to curb the disease but also to crack down on political dissent. Multiple abuses have also arisen from new laws designed to stop hackers and cybercrimes. Broadly interpreted, they have also been use against online expression, labeled as fake news and misinformation.
"Freedom of expression and freedom of association are absolute rights which cannot be constrained. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other UN-related instruments do not prohibit reasonable limitations on such freedoms but the state must prove objectively...that such limitations comply with international human rights law and are necessarily and proportionate to the risk emanating from an exercise of such freedom,"
"The SEA region is confronted by awfully and excessively used invocations of national security and public order. Indeed, fake national security, fake public order which failed to satisfy those criteria. Leading to a situation where civil space and political space are shrinking, shrunken, shrunk, according to a recent UN report," said Vitit.
Vitit called upon Southeast Asia countries to use their political will for democratisation, revise laws, policies and practices in compliance with human rights laws, and replace criminal punishments under defamation, sedition and lese majeste laws with civil codes drafted in line with international trends.
Additionally, states should also have a high awareness of and rapid response to threats against journalists, both in peace time and in the context of armed conflicts, with due regard to gender-based issues.
"A key component is action against a rampant impunity that undermines the development of this region. UNESCO and friends should show a preferred path to the future by initiating a change of mindset, change of control, and change of power monopoly."
Tewarit Maneechai, Prachatai editor-in-chief urged media associations to include citizen reporters as media workers in order to provide them protection. He also asked for the public to be alert to the limitation of communication freedom and violence against journalists, including structural threats like law and cultural violence.
"It is an establishment of collective consideration for the population to have all-around information. There may be some bad-quality news but that freedom will guarantee that you will also have some of the good-quality news,"
"In a society filled with fear and violence, without freedom of the press, you will never know whether the news that you are reading is of good quality or not," said Tewarit.Newspress freedomInternational Day to End Impunity for Crimes against JournalistsUNESCO
On Monday, 1 November, student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and representatives from Amnesty International Thailand submitted a petition to the prime minister to demand the release of detained activists and an end to the prosecution of protesters.
Activists and Amnesty International representatives at the Government House (Photo by Amnesty International)
The petition was signed by 28,426 people, some who participated in Amnesty International’s urgent action campaign and others who signed an online petition at Change.org. It was received by Sompat Nilapan, advisor to the office of the permanent secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister, at the Government House on Monday morning.
According to iLaw, the routes to Government House were blocked on Monday morning, ahead of the activists’ visit. The roads around Government House were blocked with metal fences and shipping containers. Police officers were also stationed in the area.
The petition calls on Gen Prayut and the Thai government: to stop pressing charges against dissenters; to release arbitrarily detained activists; to respect people’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly; to stop arbitrarily restricting civil rights by imposing unwarranted bail conditions; to promptly, thoroughly, impartially, and transparently” investigate the excessive and unnecessary use of force by police when detaining individuals and dispersing protests; and to order the police to follow guidelines on the use of force which comply with international standards.
Amnesty International Thailand director Piyanut Kotsan said that Thai activists have been arbitrarily arrested and detained even though they were only exercising their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. She added that the police have been using excessive and unnecessary force to disperse protesters, firing at them with tear gas, water cannon, and rubber bullets, and beating protesters.
Many protest leaders, such as Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, are still being detained and denied the right to bail. Amnesty International was informed by the activists’ lawyers that they are being held in “dismal conditions,” raising concerns for their wellbeing. Several activists have contracted Covid-19 while in prison. At least 1,634 people, including 257 under the age of 18, are facing charges for taking part in the pro-democracy protests. Piyanut noted that many of these people are at risk of long prison terms or even life imprisonment.
“We demand the Thai government stop the cycle of suppression of dissenters and adhere to its international obligations as well as respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. It should ensure that the police response to the public assemblies, including ‘unpeaceful’ ones, comply with the requirements of necessity and proportionality. The authorities shall refrain from using excessive force which has been the mainstay during public assemblies from 2020 until now. The police must protect the rights of peaceful protesters and prevent any interference or violence abetted by a third party” said Piyanut.
Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul (Photo by Amnesty International)
Meanwhile, Panusaya said that she is demanding the right to bail for every political prisoner, adding that they should not have been detained in the first place. She said it was shameful to see the authorities using their powers to lock up anyone they did not want to see on the street, and noted that although Thailand is a so-called democratic country, young people, the future of the country, were being detained and prosecuted for speaking out about social issues.
Panusaya said that the authorities are still not able to control the spread of Covid-19 in prisons, noting that prisons are a “twilight zone,” with few people speaking out about prison conditions and the public unaware of what happens inside them. She also said that there was no way of knowing what would happen to detained activists and called upon people to demand their release as soon as possible.
“If we are going to fight about ideas, we should do it outside,” Panusaya said, adding that the Prime Minister was the only who benefitted from the forceful dispersion of protests, and the arrest and detention of protesters. It made her wonder, she said, whether Gen Prayut and his government were acting “in good faith’.
Panusaya herself is facing a number of charges for participating in the pro-democracy protests, including charges under the Emergency Decree, the Computer Crimes Act, and the sedition law, or Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code. She is also facing 9 counts of royal defamation under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code.
Panusaya is attending a bail revocation hearing today (3 November), along with human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, student activist Panupong Jadnok, and singer-turned activist Chaiamorn “Ammy” Kaewwiboonpan for charges relating to the 19 September 2020 protest. If their bail is revoked, they could be detained indefinitely.
The four activists have been charged under Section 116 and the Ancient Monuments, Antiques, Objects of Art and National Museums Act. Anon, Panupong, and Panusaya are also facing royal defamation charges under Section 112. The activists were previously detained pending trial in early 2021: Anon between 9 February – 1 June, Panupong between 8 March – 1 June, Panusaya between 8 March – 6 May, and Chaiamorn between 3 March – 11 May. They were granted bail on the condition that they refrain from tampering with evidence or participating in activities damaging the monarchy, report to court regularly, and remain in the country. The public prosecutor submitted a bail revocation request to the court, claiming that they have violated these conditions.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that at least 27 people are currently in detention for participating in pro-democracy protests. Of this number, five people are being detained on royal defamation charges: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattarasaksa, Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Benja Apan. Parit and Jatupat also had their bail revoked on charges relating to the 19 September 2020 protest.NewsPanusaya SithijirawattanakulAmnesty Internationalstudent activistright to bailfreedom of expressionfreedom of assembly
On Saturday (31 October), activists held a memorial for Nuamthong Praiwan, a taxi driver who intentionally crashed his vehicle into a tank and later committed suicide to protest the 2006 military coup. The event was held at the overpass where he hung himself.
The memorial at the overpass where Nuamthong was found
On 31 October 2006, Nuamthong was found hanging in front of the Thairath newspaper office on Vibhavadi Road. He killed himself after Akkara Thiproj, a deputy spokesperson for the military junta, expressed scepticism about his intentions by asserting that “nobody’s ideals are so great that they would sacrifice their lives for them."
Last Saturday afternoon, former Red Shirt leaders, activists, and members of the public gathered at the overpass to place flowers and hold a merit-making ceremony.
United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) representative Thida Thavornseth gave a speech declaring that Nuamthong was the first commoner hero to fight against a dictatorship at a time when intellectuals and members of the upper-class supported the coup.
“Uncle Nuamthong Praiwan is the first true hero of democracy. We have come together here so that the younger generation can join with us in remembering him, so that he can serve as an example for the next generation about making sacrifices to prove that the people want democracy and are willing to risk their lives to get it,” Thida said.
“At the same time, we want to tell the army, the conservatives, and the authoritarians that they must not look down on the people, that there actually are people who want democracy and are prepared to die for it. This should be remembered, not just today but every day.”
Former Pheu Thai MP and UDD leader Weng Tojirakarn called on political parties to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICCU) and back a publicly-proposed draft constitutional amendment to prevent future coups.
Pannika Wanich, former Future Forward Party (FFP) MP and Progressive Movement executive board member, said that prior its dissolution, the FFP had plans to promote the acceptance of ICC jurisdiction, so that state violence against the Thai public would at least be prosecuted overseas, if not by a national court.
She added that today, young people who share Nuamthong’s dream of living in a country with no more military coups are being imprisoned, while those who have committed crimes against the people remain in power.
“Today is still their day, but this country belongs to us, the people, and one day when we win, those who harm the people, the owners this country, will be going to jail, and the future will be ours,” Pannika said. “Let’s follow Uncle Nuamthong’s dream. Let’s do it together. Nothing can impede the power of the people.”
We Volunteer hung a banner from the overpass
At 16.00, another memorial service was held at the same location by young activists from several groups, We Volunteer, Thalufah, and the Feminist’s Liberation Front Thailand, who also brought flowers in Nuamthong’s memory.
Before the event, We Volunteer members hung a banner with Nuamthong’s picture from the overpass. Police officers arrived and told them to take the banner down but they refused, saying that they would take the banner down after the event was over.
Panadda Sirimasakul, an activist from the Thalufah group, read a poem in Nuamthong’s memory, describing him as a common man who used everything, including his own life, to fight against a military coup. She also asserted that, although the movement to secure freedom and end military coups is still unfinished after 15 years, Thailand has already changed and will never be the same again.
A young activist gave a speech at the memorial
Another Thalufah activist noted that Nuamthong was a hero who fought for democracy, and added that the younger generation, those joining the pro-democracy movement, have taken up his goal.
“Every person should know that a true hero is not a general with stars on his shoulders who looks down on people prepared to risk their lives by fighting against a military coup and injustice. In his final letter, Nuamthong wrote ‘I hope that there won’t be a coup in my next life,’ but 15 years has passed and there are still coups in this country. It is sad and something to be angry about,” said the activist, while adding that “even though Uncle Nuamthong is gone, his ideals are alive and will fight along with us until the day when we will not have to face another coup.”
CMU students wearing masks of Nuamthong's face
At Chiang Mai University, students also organised a memorial event to mark the 15th anniversary of Nuamthong’s death, wrapping themselves in white cloths, wearing masks with Nuamthong’s face, and marching around campus after dark.
In Lamphun, at a “car mob” protest on Saturday evening to demand the repeal of the royal defamation law, or Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, a protester stated that they were staging the event on the anniversary of Nuamthong’s death as a reminder that people are willing to die for democracy to encourage those currently taking part in the pro-democracy movement to keep going.NewsNuamthong Praiwanred shirtactivist2006 military coupUnited Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)student activistThalufah