Cartoon by Stephff: Visas for chinese triads
Princess Bajrakitiyabha’s condition remains stable, says the Palace
The Bureau of the Royal Household issued a second statement today (19 December) on the condition of Princess Bajrakitiyabha, stating that she is still stable and that her heart, lung, and kidney are being treated with medication.
The Bureau of the Royal Household's second statement
The palace also said that the Princess’ heartbeat is being regulated with medication and that the coronary angiogram found no abnormality.
The statement came after it was announced last Thursday (15 December) that the Princess had been hospitalized after she collapsed from a heart-related condition while training dogs for the 2022 Thailand Working Dog Championship of the Royal Thai Army.
- Announcement of Princess Bajrakitiyabha’s heart condition
- Princess’ sudden illness puts royal succession under spotlight
Princess Bajrakitiyabha is the oldest of King Vajiralongkorn’s 7 children and the only child born to his first wife Princess Soamsawali. Although the King has not appointed an heir, Princess Bajrakitiyabha has been seen as a potential heir to the throne due to her personal benevolence and family background.
Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital has set up a venue for members of the public to send get-well messages to the Princess. Religious leaders and local authorities have also called for people to pray for the Princess’ conditions to improve.NewsPrincess BajrakitiyabhaChulalongkorn Memorial Hospital
Defamation charge against art critic dismissed
The Nakhon Si Thammarat Provincial Court has dismissed a defamation charge filed against art critic Pearamon Tulavardhana by Chiang Mai University lecturer Pongsiri Kiddee, who sued Pearamon after she wrote an article criticizing an exhibition featuring his work.
Pearamon posted on her Facebook profile page on Tuesday (13 December) that the Nakhon Si Thammarat Provincial Court had dismissed the criminal defamation charge against her, but noted that Pongsiri can still file an appeal. Pongsiri also sued her for 1,000,000 baht in civil damages and the Civil Court has yet to make a verdict.
Sorayut Aiemueayut, a lecturer at Chiang Mai University’s Media, Arts, and Design Department, testified as a witness in the case. He said after the verdict was issued that the ruling would set a precedent protecting art criticism as something that can be done and should be encouraged.
In October 2021, Pearamon said Pongsiri had sued her for defamation by publication for an article “National treasure or whose treasure? What kind of art did the government use my taxes to buy?” (“สมบัติชาติหรือสมบัติใคร ภาษีเรา รัฐเอาไปเปย์งานศิลป์อะไรเนี่ยถามจริ๊ง”), published in March 2021 in Way Magazine.
The article reviewed an exhibition organized by the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC) featuring artwork purchased by the OCAC as “national treasures,” in which Pongsiri’s work was included. It raised questions about the OCAC’s criteria for choosing these works, since there was no work by artists who produce non-traditional styles of art, and whether these works can be considered contemporary, noting that there was no description of the works or an explanation of how these works were curated in the exhibition.
She said that she was sued for comparing Pongsiri’s earlier works with his more recent works in her article and saying that they showed no development. She was also sued for writing that the editor should not delete Pongsiri’s academic title from the article, because he might not be happy with it, which was interpreted to mean that she was accusing him of being snobbish.
The lawsuit was filed in Nakhon Si Thammarat, even though Pearamon is based in Bangkok and Pongsiri lives in Chiang Mai. The exhibition in question took place in Bangkok. Pearamon also noted in an October 2021 interview that she found it unusual that Pongsiri filed a lawsuit against her, since the article mainly criticize the OCAC.
Pongsiri is a lecturer in the Faculty of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University. In March 2021, he was reported to be one of the faculty personnel attempting to remove students’ art projects from the Media Arts and Design Department building without first informing the students, claiming that some items were removed because they might constitute violations of the law. The students later filed charges of theft and destruction of property against Pongsiri, along with Asawinee Wanjing, the Faculty Dean, Pakornpatara Janthakhaisorn, the Deputy Dean of Administration, Sulalak Khaopong, the Faculty Secretary, and Chaiyan Khomkaew, a staff member the university art gallery, as their projects were damaged during the incident and some were missing.
The lawsuit led to opposition from the academic and artist community in Chiang Mai, who see it as an attack on academic freedom and freedom of expression. In November 2022, the artist and academic network Cultural Practitioners and Academics for Democracy group launched a campaign on change.org calling for support for Pearamon, noting that the circumstances of the lawsuit seem designed to make it difficult for Pearamon, forcing her to travel long distances and shoulder the expenses. The group also said that the lawsuit could damage the reputation of the Faculty of Fine Arts, since one of its lecturers reacted to good faith criticism in a way that is in conflict with international norms within academia and artistic circles.
The group also demanded that Chiang Mai University launch an investigation against Pongsiri, saying that he had damage the university’s reputation by filing a lawsuit against Pearamon since the Faculty of Fine Arts teaches its students art criticism and the lawsuit is an act of injustice against the critic. The fact that he filed his complaint in Nakhon Si Thammarat even though he lives in Chiang Mai and Pearamon lives in Bangkok also makes it a case of harassment.NewsPearamon Tulavardhanacriminal defamationdefamationPongsiri KiddeeArtistic freedomfreedom of expression
Woman accused of spraying paint at King's portrait gets prison sentence
A 26-year-old factory worker accused of spraying paint on the frames of King Vajiralongkorn portraits at two locations in Pattaya has been sentenced to prison for royal defamation.
A framed portrait of King Vajiralongkorn on a traffic island. (File photo)
Panida (pseudonym), 26, was arrested on 20 October 2020 and charged with destruction of public property. Police officers later searched her apartment and confiscated her mobile phone. In November 2021, Panida was summoned by the inquiry officer and told that she had also been charged with royal defamation.
She was charged for spray painting a message onto the frame of two portraits of King Vajiralongkorn in Pattaya city, Chonburi. The public prosecutor later indicted her on the grounds that the message insulted the King.
Panida was arrested by some 20 plainclothes officers, who did not have a search or arrest warrant. She said in an interview with Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) that she initially feared she was being abducted and would be forcibly disappeared, as the arresting officers were all men and they did not identify themselves.
Panida was left traumatised by the arrest and subsequent search. As a knock on her door now makes her panic, family and friends were asked to call her phone when they are coming to visit. She said that she has also been harassed by police officers who follow her and watch her workplace.
When indicted, Panida decided to confess. TLHR said that the court ordered her to pay the Pattaya city administration 12,480 baht in damages.
The Pattaya Provincial Court initially scheduled Panida's trial for 8 November 2022. However, at the opening of the trial, the judge asked her how she could make up for the damage she had done to the King's honour. Panida promised to perform a ceremony to ask for forgiveness in front of the King's portrait at the South Pattaya intersection, one of the portraits she was accused of spray-painting. She also agreed to post pictures of the ceremony onto her Facebook profile page. In response, the court postponed the trial but ordered her to submit pictures of the ceremony.
On Wednesday (14 December), the Pattaya Provincial Court found Panida guilty of two counts of royal defamation and destruction of public property, sentencing her to 3 years in prison for each count. The Court later reduced her sentence to 1 year and 6 months for each count because she confessed, and suspended her sentence for 2 years because she has never been previously sentenced to prison, has paid damages to the Pattaya city administration, and has shown remorse by apologising. As another reason for suspending her sentence, the Court also cited a probation officer report stating that Panida was misled by media reports to believe that the King supports the current government, which she doesn't like.
Panida must also report to the probation officer 4 times within a year, and do 12 hours of community service.
TLHR noted that Panida was handcuffed during the trial. Although her lawyer objected and told the court marshal that she should only be handcuffed after the verdict had been read, the handcuffs were only removed at the end of the trial.
For Panida, the charges against her have deprived her of a normal life. She said she had been saving up to buy a house but was now too scared to get a mortgage because she feared that she would soon be going to prison. She also said that while wanting to start a family of her own, she was too scared to enter a relationship for the same reason.
After being given a suspended sentence, Panida expressed relief and said that she hopes to return to a normal life and take care of her parents and younger sister.NewsSection 112Royal defamationlese majeste
Royalist raising money to pray for princess’ recovery faces fraud charge
A monarchy supporter with a large online following was arrested on Saturday, hours after he claimed to have raised nearly 700,000 baht to cover the cost of what he described as a ritual to extend the life of King Vajiralongkorn’s eldest child.
Police officers talk to Suvinai Pornavalai outside his residence in Bangkok on 17 December 2022.
Suvinai Pornavalai, 66, may violate the fraud and “publishing false information” charges for his brief donation drive, police announced in a news conference, though he was spared the more serious charge of royal defamation. A police official said Suvinai maintained he was innocent and was acting out of his goodwill for Princess Bajrakitiyabha, who remains hospitalised for unspecified heart conditions.
“He cooperated well with the authorities,” Pol Maj Gen Wiwat Khamchamnan, commander of a cybercrime unit, told reporters. “He said he didn’t have any ill intention. He was merely seeing that, since science cannot help, he has to rely on rituals.”
Suvinai, a retired economics lecturer at Thammasat University, wrote to his 52,000 followers on Friday he has learned the means of communicating to supernatural entities, and that he will harness them for a divine intervention on behalf of the 44-year-old princess.
What he needed, he wrote, is money to cover the cost.
“This mission really exceeds my current financial capacity to see it through smoothly,” Suvinai wrote, with details of his bank account numbers at the end of his post.
Hours later, Suvinai reported that the first of his three sets of rituals has been commenced, and he’s raised over 600,000 baht, “close to 700,000 baht,” for the initiative. The royalist also said he decided to end the fundraising, per advice from someone close to him.
But that did not stop police from paying a visit to Suvinai’s home in Bangkok after many social media users shared his post and debated whether the rituals amounted to making quick bucks on the public's concerns over the princess’ health.
Suvinai was taken to a police station and told that police were considering charging him with defrauding the public, along with violating the Computer Crimes Act, which bans publication of “false information” over the internet. Pol Maj Gen Wiwat, the cybercrime unit commander, said Suvinai appears to have already spent 300,000 baht of the donations on his rituals. It is not clear whether any charges were eventually filed
Wiwat said anyone who donated the money can seek its return by contacting the police.
“I’d like to ask the public to be careful when posting anything that may defame the high institution at this time,” he said, using a euphemism for the monarchy.King, queen get COVID
King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida tested positive for COVID-19, the palace announced on Saturday, just hours after the pair paid a visit to the hospital where Princess Bajrakitiyabha is receiving treatment.
The statement said their conditions are “mild” and they were advised to refrain from taking up royal duties in the meantime. The news came just as the government is gearing up religious rituals across the country to pray for the princess’ recovery – a campaign taken by many netizens as a sign that her condition may be more serious than what the authorities communicated to the public so far.
Princess Bajrakitiyabha, or Princess Bha, collapsed and lost her consciousness from a heart-released ailment during a military dog training in Nakhon Ratchasima earlier this week, according to the palace.
She remains hospitalized at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital in Bangkok. The palace has said little about the nature of her illness, and It is unclear whether she’s regained consciousness.
The King and Queen were among members of the Royal Family to visit the hospital in recent days. Photos and videos taken by a crowd of well-wishers and posted on social media show the royal couple in athletic clothes, wearing facemasks, waving to their supporters at the hospital on Friday.
It is not immediately clear when the king and queen would be visiting the hospital again, given their infection from COVID-19.
The princess is the only child of King Vajiralongkorn and his first marriage, Princess Soamsawali. Princess Bha, who serves as a commander in the King’s royal bodyguard unit, is recognised by many monarchy watchers as the potential next-in-line for the throne, though the decision to name an heir rests solely with the King.
Regardless of her position in the succession pathway, Princess Bha’s sudden illness still came as a shock to many Thais, who have known her as an athletic and active member of the Royal Family. Perhaps as a reflection of anxiety felt in the halls of power, the Ministry of Interior Affairs on Friday evening instructed local administrations in all provinces to stage religious ceremonies to wish Princess Bha a speedy recovery.
Apart from prayer sessions, the order also suggests hosting other charitable activities, such as blood donation drives, food alms to monks, and release of fish and animals that are meant to be butchered.
In Nan province, local officials gave alms to a gathering of 700 monks in hope of improving Princess Bha’s health.
The scale of such events surpassed previous similar undertakings when other members of the Royal Family were hospitalized in recent years, such as King’s Vajiralongkorn’s mother, Queen Sirikit and his sister, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.Round UpPrincess BajrakitiyabhaSuvinai Pornavalai
Man charged with royal defamation for Facebook comment
A 25-year-old man has been arrested and charged with royal defamation for posting a comment on Facebook about a photo taken from a movie theatre screening of the royal anthem.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reports that Chakorn Laion, 25, was arrested at home in Mukdahan on 9 December by officers from the Investigation Division of the Provincial Police Region 1, the Rattanathibet Police Station, the Bangpongpang Police Station, and the Dontan Police Station. He was arrested on a warrant issued by the Nonthaburi Provincial Court for royal defamation and for uploading into a computer system data which could affect national security, as stipulated under the Computer Crimes Act.
According to a temporary detention request filed by the inquiry officer, Chakorn was charged for commenting on a Facebook post that featured a photo taken in a movie theatre of the Royal Anthem music video. The scene in the photo depicted King Vajiralongkorn and his son Prince Dipangkorn.
The complaint against Chakorn was filed by Thitiwat Tanagaroon, a royalist who confronted pro-democracy protesters with a raised a portrait of the late King Bhumibol during a protest at Central Pinklao on 20 October 2020. Thitiwat was later praised by the King while waiting with a crowd near the Grand Palace on 23 October 2020.
Thitiwat has previously filed royal defamation complaints against 2 other people, including Prasong Khotsongkhram, who was arrested on 8 July 2021 and was held in pre-trial detention for 27 days before being granted bail.
Chakorn was moved from Mukdahan to Nonthaburi, where he was taken for a temporary detention request. During the hearing, the inquiry officer told the court that he should not be granted bail because the charges carry a high penalty and he was likely to flee. The court disagreed, granting bail using a security of 150,000 baht. Bail was covered by the Will of the People Fund, which was established to help those being prosecuted for taking part in the pro-democracy movement.
TLHR noted that Chakorn’s arrest is another example of how the royal defamation law can be used to harass people who subscribe to different political beliefs, as the law allows anyone to file a complaint. There have been previous cases in which complaints were filed based on social media posts at police stations far from where the accused live, requiring them to spend time and money travelling to police appointments and court hearings.
224 people have been charged with royal defamation in 242 cases since November 2020. Of these cases, 111 resulted from complaints filed by members of the public, who TLHR said are likely to be pro-monarchy activists. 127 out of the 242 cases also resulted from social media activities.NewsSection 112Royal defamationlese majesteonline freedomThitiwat Tanagaroon
Princess’ abrupt illness puts royal succession under spotlight
As Princess Bajrakitiyabha remains hospitalised on Friday, attention on social media is turning to her status as the presumed heiress to the throne – a significant role rarely acknowledged in public but taken seriously by a number of analysts.
In this 10 November 2020 file photo released by the Royal Household Bureau, Princess Bajrakitiyabha visits an exhibition at Siam Paragon shopping mall in Bangkok.
The 44-year-old, whose real name is Bajrakitiyabha Narendira Debyavati, but known to Thais simply as Princess Bha, collapsed while training her dog at a military facility in Nakhon Ratchasima on Thursday, according to a palace statement. The palace does not mention whether she’s regained her consciousness, and when she’s expected to make full recovery.
The lack of information may end up fueling more anxiety over the future of the Royal Family, especially considering Princess Bajrakitiyabha’s unique role in the institution. Although the king has yet to formally name a successor, the princess has been recognised by observers of the Thai monarchy as the most viable candidate, due to a number of reasons.
“At this point, there is no designated Heir Apparent, [but] much of the public hypothesised that Princess Bha will be the next royal successor,” Japan-based academic and monarchy critic Pavin Chachavalpongpun wrote in a Facebook post, which gained over 21,000 reactions.
First, as pointed out by Pavin, there’s her birthright. Princess Bajrakitiyabha is not only the eldest child of King Vajiralongkorn, but also his only issue whose parents retain their royal titles to this day.
In this 14 March 2021 file photo released by the Royal Household Bureau, Princess Bajrakitiyabha presents a lecture about Thai laws to a selected group of students in Rayong province.
The princess was born in 1978 to then-Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and his wife, Princess Soamsawali, who was also his cousin. Although the pair later divorced in 1991, Princess Soamsawali remains a key member of the Royal Family.
She also often appears at important royal events and duties alongside her daughter, Princess Bajrakitiyabha, such as last week’s exhibition about a charity foundation they set up together.
This unique parentage alone sets Princess Bajrakitiyabha apart from her half-siblings: Princess Sirivannavari (born 1987 to the King’s second wife) and Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti (born 2005, to His Majesty’s third marriage).
Princess Sirivannavari’s mother, Sujarinee, lost her royal title in 1996 following allegations about embezzlement of palace funds and inappropriate conduct with an official.
A similar fate befell Prince Dipangkorn’s mother in 2015, when members of her family were arrested for allegedly running crime syndicates and exploiting royal connections for their financial gains. The King eventually divorced her and stripped her of royal titles.
Although Sujarinee and the king had four sons together, they are believed to be residing overseas as commoners – Sirivannavari is the sole child from that marriage to retain royal title – and without any known plan in the near future to return to Thailand.
Princess Bajrakitiyabha also cultivated an image fitting of a benevolent ruler in recent years. Among the flurry of public roles and causes taken up by the princess include legal reforms, welfare of female convicts, and overhaul of Thailand’s notoriously overcrowded prisons.
A Cornell graduate with a law degree, Princess Bajrakitiyabha is listed as a public prosecutor based in eastern Thailand. In early 2021, she received a rank of General from the King and was appointed command in the elite royal bodyguards unit.
That same year, the princess surprised the public by doing away with her long hair and adopting the military haircut preferred by the royal guardswomen. The change is seen by many as her dedication to the new role and a display of deep personal connections with the King.
In this still image from the Royal Household’s news broadcast on 12 February 2021, Princess Bajrakitiyabha lights candles during a Chinese New Year ritual at a palace in Bangkok.
While gender may run against traditions – Thailand never had a woman as a designated heiress to the throne, let alone a reigning Queen – the laws appear to be on her side. Constitutional amendments passed in 1974, which were then adopted by subsequent charters since then, affirms the ruling monarch’s authority to name either a man or woman as his successor.
Former journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall, who now operates online newsletters about the Thai Royal Family, summarised Princess Bha’s viability as the potential royal successor as thus: “Bajrakitiyabha remains a strong contender.”
“She has backing from the wider royal family, her mother remains a senior member of the monarchy,” Marshall, who lives in the UK, wrote in his blog post. “And the fact she’s a woman is unlikely to be a major obstacle in the 21st century, because the changes in the constitution since 1974 show that the palace has already accepted that in the modern world there is no reason to only have male monarchs.”
Thailand’s draconian royal defamation law, or lèse majesté, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, means that discussion about the succession pathway remains a sensitive topic in the country. Exceptions like Marshall and Pavin, as quoted above, do exist, but both of them are currently living outside Thailand.
At least 220 people have been charged and tried under lèse-majesté since the law’s harsh application was reintroduced in late 2020, according to a tally by the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. The authorities have interpreted the offence to include any remark or action deemed to be negative toward the monarchy.
Due to the broad stroke of the lèse majesté prosecution, Prachatai English cannot include links to full writings by Pavin and Marshall, who were designated as persona non grata by the government in 2017. It is also withholding some parts of online discussions about Princess Bajrakitiyabha’s conditions or other members of the Royal Family that may run afoul of the law.No new statement
Across the country, activities and calls of prayers are being organised to wish Princess Bajrakitiyabha a speedy recovery.
King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, where Princess Bajrakitiyabha is receiving her treatment, set up a venue today for delegates from public and private sectors to write get-well messages and present their flowers.
People write their messages for Princess Bajrakitiyabha at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital.
Key members of the Royal Family who have visited the hospital so far include the King, Queen Suthida, and Princess Sirivannavari. A number of royalties remain overseas as of Friday, such as Princess Ubolratana, who is photographed on her social media account in South Korea, and Princess Chulabhorn, who is currently on an official visit to Japan.
The head of the national Buddhism body, the Supreme Patriarch, also issued a statement on Thursday night instructing monks in Thailand and overseas to offer prayers twice a day at their temples for the stricken princess. The Sheik-ul-Islam, the leader of the state-sanctioned governing body of Islamic affairs, made a similar call for prayers to Muslims nationwide.
As of publication time, the royal palace has yet to release any update on Princess Bajrakitiyabha’s condition on Friday. The royal news bulletins are usually aired nightly at 8pm.FeaturePrincess BajrakitiyabhaPavin ChachavalpongpunAndrew MacGregor Marshalllèse majesté lawroyal defamation lawKing VajiralongkornPrince Dipangkorn RasmijotiSirivannavari
Friends mark tenth anniversary of Lao activist’s disappearance
Sombath Somphone was abducted from the middle of Lao PDR’s capital Vientiane in 2012. A decade later, the perpetrators have not been brought to justice, his fate is still unknown, and his friends still hope for some progress in the case.
Gatherers take a group photo at the Lao PDR embassy side entrance.
It has been a decade since Sombath, the renowned Lao civil society activist, was last seen by his family. In commemoration, his friends and activists gathered at the Lao PDR embassy in Bangkok on the morning of 15 December 2022 to once again demand that Lao authorities investigate the matter and determine Sombath’s whereabouts.
A brief ceremony was held in the presence of uniformed and plainclothes police officers. Participants demanded that the embassy send a delegate to receive their statement and open letters. When no delegate came, they placed the letters in a mailbox at the entrance.
Representatives submit mails to a mailbox.
Watcharapol Nakkasem, a representative from the Young Leadership for Social Change Network, a local civil society group, read a statement saying that they still remember Sombath and will continue to seek his fate and the perpetrator’s punishment.
“Although the Lao government announced that missing Lao citizens will be found, it is clear that the Lao government has failed to show its commitment to fulfil that duty.
“The Lao government … previously announced that there was a process to find out the truth about [Sombath’s] enforced disappearance, but never once explained how it was progressing, although [his] friends and colleagues around the world were trying to pressure for the speedy process,” Watcharapol stated in the letter.
Wasinee Boontee, a representative from Sombath Somphone and Beyond Project (SSBP), a regional civil society network that has been calling for an investigation into the Sombath case since his disappearance, underscored their continued determination to discover Sombath’s fate.
“The Lao PDR government has yet to answer to Sombath's family as to what happened and why Sombath was taken away [despite calls from] the United Nations, the governments of different countries, human rights organisations, and media networks in the region and internationally for the Lao government to transparently investigate Sombath's enforced disappearance.
“One more time, we are here in front of the embassy of Lao PDR in Thailand to condemn the enforced disappearance. We reaffirm our demand to the Lao government for justice for Sombath Somphone … his rights … have been severely violated. We also demand justice for Sombath's family members who have become victims of this enforced disappearance,” said Wasinee.
Participants ended the event by singing “Duang Champa”, a Laotian song composed to support the French decolonisation movement of Laos.
Born in the Champasak region in 1952, Sombath and family lived through the civil war period in Laos. After obtaining a PhD in Agriculture from the University of Hawaii, he returned to Laos in 1983, unlike many other Lao nationals who fled the country for better lives overseas.
Working with government authorities, he helped to promote food security and agricultural sustainability. He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2005.
Sombath was last seen on a busy street in Vientiane. CCTV camera footage taken on the evening of 15 December 2012 showed that his vehicle was stopped at a police checkpoint. Within minutes, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove him away in the presence of police officers.
CCTV footage also showed an unknown individual driving Sombath’s vehicle away from the city centre. The presence of police officers at Sombath’s abduction and their failure to intervene were noted by civil society groups and observers, who suspected state participation in the enforced disappearance.
Lao authorities have repeatedly claimed they are investigating Sombath’s enforced disappearance but have failed to disclose any new findings to the public since 8 June 2013. The last time they have met with Sombath’s wife, Shui Meng Ng, to provide her with updates on their investigation was in December 2017.NewsSombath Somphoneenforced disappearanceLao PDR
Princess Bajrakitiyabha announced having heart-related sickness
On 15 December 2022, the Bureau of the Royal Household published a statement, declaring Princess Bajrakitiyabha, King Vajiralongkorn's oldest child, had a heart-related sickness that resulted in her being medically treated.
The Bureau of the Royal Household statement over the Princess's sickness.
The statement stated that the Princess travelled to the Military Dog Battalion in Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima Province on 14 December to practise dogs attending an ongoing Thailand Working Dog Championship by Royal Thai Army 2022.
During the practice, Princess Bajrakitiyabha collapsed from heart-related sickness. She was then transferred to Pak Chong Nana Hospital for treatment. She was sent to Chulalongkorn Hospital in Bangkok via helicopter after the sickness subsided, where she received a thorough medical examination and treatment.
The statement was made after a long night and day of rumour about her health condition. The hashtag #โคราช (#Korat) trended on Twitter since late last night (14 December) after journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall tweeted that palace sources said the Princess has had a heart attack while running with her dogs.
Some netizens can be seen using the hashtag to express concerns of her health and that upcoming plans during the New Year plan after the country's reopening will be affected if the news of sickness goes into a worst-case scenario conclusion.
Several accounts also shared photos and videos claiming to be royal motorcade cars arriving at Chulalongkorn Hospital and police officers gathering there.
The same day prior to the Palace’s statement, Danai Ekmahasawat, an anchorman to the MCOT’s Inside Thailand morning news show, said that there would be a “news of earthquake-level” released either today or tomorrow and that all the military’s top brass had gone to Khao Yai urgently since last night.
The program was made limited from access in YouTube later the same day. A Twitter user managed to record Danai’s short statement, however.
On 15 December, MC Chulcherm Yugala, a renowned royalist, a distant royal family member who was appointed as King’s special royal guard, posted on his Facebook wishing the Princess a good health. The post was inaccessible on the same day before the official announcement was published.
Princess Bajrakitiyabha is King Vajiralongkorn's oldest child and the only one of his seven children born to his first wife Princess Soamsawali. She previously worked in the Thai Permanent Mission to the UN and the Office of the Attorney General in Bangkok. In February 2021, she was transferred to the Royal Security Command, the military unit responsible for the security of the King and his family, and given the rank of General.NewsPrincess BajrakitiyabhaThai Royal familyDanai EkmahasawatChulcherm Yugala
19-year-old sentenced to prison for 13 Oct ‘20 protest
A 19-year-old protester who was arrested during a protest on 13 October 2020 has been sentenced to 2 years and 5 days in prison on charges resulting from the protest, including violation of the Emergency Decree and resisting officials.
Police officers surrouding protesters gathering near the Democracy Monument on 13 October 2020.
Sasaluk (last name withheld) was among the 21 people arrested when crowd control police forcibly dispersed a protest at the Democracy Monument on 13 October 2020. The dispersal was reportedly done to clear the road for a royal motorcade.
During the 13 October 2020 protest, activists were occupying the area ahead of a mass protest on 14 October 2020. In this latter demonstration, protesters marching from the Democracy Monument to Government House were again forcibly dispersed in the early morning of 15 October 2020.
Sasaluk was charged with violating the Emergency Decree, joining an assembly of more than 10 people, causing violence and disrupting public disorder, obstructing traffic, violating the Public Cleanliness Act by placing objects on the road, destruction of property, refusing to follow an official order, assault, and resisting arrest.
The public prosecutor accused Sasaluk and other protesters of blocking the street by parking vehicles in the area, and trying to prevent police officers from arresting activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa by blocking them with metal fences, as well as throwing objects and paint at the officers, who were also assaulted. The public prosecutor said that protesters did not disperse when ordered to do so by a police officer, who told them that they must open the road to prepare for a royal motorcade.
Since he was charged before he turned 18, Sasaluk was tried by the Central Juvenile and Family Court, which sentenced him on Tuesday (13 December) to a total of 2 years and 5 days in prison.
According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), he was sentenced to 1 year in prison for violation of the Emergency Decree, 1 year for joining an assembly of more than 10 people, causing violence, public disorder and destruction of property, and 5 days for refusing to follow an officer’s order.
The Court then commuted the sentence, ordering Sasaluk to be sent to a juvenile training centre for 6 months. He must also complete his junior high school education, Mathayom 3 or Year 9, and take two occupational training courses.
TLHR reported that the Court did not allow observers in the courtroom while the verdict was being read, claiming Covid-19 prevention measures. They also noted that the public prosecutor had earlier decided not to indict 6 other activists charged at the same protest for violation of the Emergency Decree on the grounds that the protest did not risk the spread of Covid-19 since protesters were wearing masks and the area was a large, open space.
Sasaluk’s family members were shocked and saddened by the verdict as they expected the Court to dismiss the violation of the Emergency Decree charge, since the State of emergency has already ended.
Sasaluk was later granted bail pending appeal using a 5000-baht security covered by the Will of the People Fund, a bail fund for pro-democracy protesters and activists.News14 - 15 October 2020 protestStudent protest 2020Emergency DecreeState of emergencyfreedom of assemblyCentral Juvenile and Family Court
Cartoon by Stephff: Another nail on the coffin
2 Uyghur bombing suspects on trial for 7 years and counting
It has been 7 years since Adem Karadağ and Yusufu Mieraili were detained and put on trial for their involvement in the bombing of the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok. Enmeshed in a legal quagmire, their lawyer says no clear evidence has yet proved them guilty thus far.
Adem Karadağ (front) and Yusufu Mieraili (back)
The outside of the Bangkok South Criminal Court was not very lively late on the morning of 8 December. Inside however, one of the important cases in the country was moving forward, under the watchful gaze of several observers, including from the Embassy of China.
Since 2020, the trial has been proceeding against Adem Karadağ and Yusufu, two Uyghurs arrested for the bombing at the Erawan Shrine at Ratchaprasong intersection on 17 August 2015, a tragedy that killed 20 and injured 130.
Although the trial now is in a civilian court, the case was put into the military’s hands several years back, with one of the accused making claims of torture and threats of death and deportation.
With translation partly by an interpreter nominated by the Chinese, the military prosecution ran into problems, and with a large number of prosecution witnesses, justice has been delayed, whether the Uyghurs are guilty or not.Mud match
One month after the incident, Karadağ was arrested in his apartment in Bangkok’s Nong Chok area while Mieraili was arrested at the Thai-Cambodian border. Among other charges, they are accused of first-degree murder and possession of explosive material.
The two have been detained in military custody since then due to a special junta provision assigning national security cases to the military courts.
The case was handed back to the civilian courts in 2019 prior to the general election, but the trial was not launched until 2020. The case is now hearing testimony first from prosecution and then defence witnesses.
Defence lawyer Choochart Kanpai told Prachatai that more than 400 witnesses have been called by the prosecution, of which only 23 have already testified in the military court, and 17 in the civilian court.
Choochart is petitioning the Court to cut the remaining witnesses to 200, as they are not related to the case, such as those who were casualties of the bombing and their relatives; their injuries are admitted but may actually not be related to the charges.
He added that the trial was also slowed by a suspension for about 2 years due to Covid-19.
Chalida Tajaroensuk, Director of the People’s Empowerment Foundation, a local human rights NGO, who has been observing the case, said the trial is proceeding slowly and that some of the witness testimony presented similar information. She would be happy if there was a chance to eliminate some of the prosecution witnesses.
“Justice that is delayed means that the victims’ rights are violated,” said Chalida.Evidence in question
Choochart insists on the defendant’s innocence, since the evidence presented has yet to connect the two defendants to the bombing incident.
The main evidence concerns materials seized from Karadağ’s room (Room 412) and another nearby room (Room 414). The police said two keys were found in Karadağ’s room, but neither were able to unlock an external lock on Room 414 so the authorities had to cut it off. This implies that Karadağ could not get into Room 414.
And despite the fact that one of the keys was able to unlock the door of 414, the apartment owner has already said that several rooms’ doors can be opened by one key.
He went on to say the materials that were seized in Karadağ’s room and in the other room in the apartment building have been separately filed in the evidence list by police and military, but the military’s list somehow has larger amounts of explosive chemicals than the police’s.
This mismatch in the evidence is still unexplained by the military whereas testimony from the Office of Police Forensic Science testified that the military sent the evidence directly to the Office instead of the investigating officer overseeing the case, which is uncommon in legal procedure and may have great significance to the case.
In Adem’s case, the lawyer said he was not in Thailand prior to the incident.Eyes and tongue from China
One of the delays has been caused by interpretation problems. As Karadağ speaks only Uyghur, there has to be a two-step interpretation: between Uyghur and English, and between English and Thai.
An Uyghur-English interpreter appointed by the Court was proposed by the Chinese Embassy, a country whose systematic forced assimilation of ethnic Uyghurs, especially in the Xinjiang region, has been under scrutiny.
Bora Bahtiyar, an independent Uyghur-English interpreter from Australia, has been in the courtroom since 22 November, observing the official Uyghur-English interpreter. He told Prachatai that he had noted over one hundred mistranslations, such as translating “Erawan Shrine” as “Erawan District”, and “Inspector” as “Police”.
After raising an objection through a attorney, the judge acknowledged his point and allowed him to assist the official interpreter in translation.
Bora is concerned that mistranslation may risk affecting the direction of the case.
Choochart (2nd from the right), Bora (middle), and Chalida (2nd from the left) give press interviews after the trial.
Thailand’s history regarding the Uyghurs is problematic. In 2015 it forcibly deported 109 Uyghur detainees to China by plane. As of June 2022, at least 56 Uyghurs were reportedly being detained by Thai Immigration authorities.
Chalida observed that the continuous presence of observers from the Embassy was a sign of pressure over the defendants’ future.Lengthening trial, deteriorating conditions
Karadağ’s statements from September 2015 to January 2016 were provided to Prachatai. They claim that he has been subjected to torture, beatings, and the threat of death and deportation to China in order to have him confess to being the bombing perpetrator.
The details include some sort of waterboarding, threatening him naked with military dogs, having armed officers forcing him to confess in the presence of high-level policemen, taking him to places and forcing him to say he had been there despite him never having been there.
Exhausted and afraid of threats, he eventually confessed in the investigation stage, but later recanted the confession in court.
Karadağ and Mieraili have been kept since 2014 in a temporary detention facility in the Infantry Battalion 11th Military Circle, Lak Si, . where overcrowding was less of a problem than solitude and health problems.
“They want to relocate to a prison with many people so that they can learn some Thai language, because with only two people, studying Thai is slow. If they are in the Bangkok Remand Prison at Bang Khen, it should be better for them. If they are in the military prison, there are too many officers,” said Choochart.
He added that Karadağ has a frequent urethritis and developed some issues with his eye, likely a cataract. He planned to submit a letter for him to be sent to the prison hospital for a medical check-up. Mieraili’s health is still fine.
According to Benar News, the two have never been allowed to contact their relatives and their food sometimes contained pork, despite the fact that both men are Muslims.FeatureAdem KaradagYusufu MierailiUyghurErawan bomb 2015Choochart KanpaiChalida TajaroensukBora BahtiyarSource: prachatai.com/journal/2022/12/101792
The Black Forest
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) announcement No.64/2557, better known as the "Forest Reclamation Policy,” led to regulations to stop encroachment on forest resources.
Enforcement resulted in more than 64,000 villagers around the country being arrested and sued. Most were villagers who lived on, or had land plots that overlapped with, forest preserve areas in various ways. As national parks adopted specific laws and imposed severe penalties, a shockingly large number of people were prosecuted, many going to jail. Many others lost their ancestral lands. In some cases, families were left bankrupt, the assets accumulated over a lifetime exhausted. Others lost family members.
Pongsak “Bank” Tonnampetch, a community leader who fights for the land rights of Bangkloi villagers
The funeral procession of “Grandpa Ko-i Meemi”, a spiritual leader of Karen indigenous people who died in 2018
Pinnapha “Muenor” Phrueksapan, the former wife of Billy, who keeps fighting for justice for her husband
Bank in a meeting with the independent truth and resolution commission of the Karen community of Bangkloi
Pongsak “Bank” Tonnampetch, a community leader and fighter for the land rights of Bangkloi villagers
Evening view around Phetchaburi bridge, symbol of Lower Bangkloi village
From Bangkok, it me took 3 hours to reach the entrance of Kaeng Krachan National Park and nearly three more from there to arrive at my destination - Ban Bang Kloi, a village located in Kaeng Krachan.
Formally known as “Ban Bang Kloi Lang,” it is the home of Karen people who were relocated from Ban Jai Paen Din, a village in the middle of the Kaeng Krachan forest, in 1991. [Such forced relocations], the dark side of forest resource conservation, began after logging concession in natural forests were cancelled, a policy known as “closing forests.” This is the 4th time for me to visit this area. Getting there is becoming more and more difficult as Bang Kloi is a now a recognised area of disputed area.
The “closed forest” policy cancelled all concessions related to cutting timber from natural forests. It was done to preserve forest resources as national treasure, a beautiful goal that raised the hopes of Thai conservationists. The policy had a dark side, however - resources preservation undertaken without any thought of possible sociological and anthropological repercussions, without regard for fundamental human rights principles. The result: villagers whose way of life had been tied to the forest for a long time were adversely affected.
I came to Bang Kloi for the first time in 2017 to monitor the mysterious disappearance of “Billy” – a young Karen man who came out to demand the right to live and make a living in Jai Paen Din before the Kaeng Krachan National Park was established. Billy fought and demanded the right to live with the forest according to the traditional way of life of Karen indigenous people. They claim to have lived in the area since the time of their ancestors. He was representing the villagers in their fight. At the same time, he represented the voices of forest people who have lived for generations with harmony and respect for the nature. Tragically, one afternoon in April of 2014, Billy left his house to run errands in the district and never returned. Witnesses claimed to have seen him being held by forest rangers. The rangers explained that they detained him for smuggling wild honey and released him later the same day. But no one saw Billy again. Then, in 2019, the Department of Special Investigations announced that they had found Billy’s dead body and were opening a special investigation. The prosecutor eventually brought charges against the then head of Kaeng Krachan National Park for murder, a case that is still being heard by the court.
Billy’s disappearance served as a wake-up call for other Bang Kloi villagers about the importance of protecting their home. This meant protecting the lives and safety of the people who live on the land as well. The result is a long conflict between government officials and villagers that continues at present. Recently, I had a chance to talk to Pongsak "Bank" Tonnamphet - a young man from Bang Kloi, a self-described recovering alcoholic. Nowadays, Bank is a mainstay of the Bang Kloi community. He, himself, is still surprised how he arrived at this point. In the past, he was a small boy who didn't think much about life. Today, he is the hope of the village - a leader and interlocutor with outsiders who are interested in their struggle. He does so out of necessity: "If I don't do it, who else will? I am not ready but try to do what I can and keep on learning." Bank joined the People's Movement for a Just Society (P-move), which addresses the housing rights issues of indigenous groups. He was eventually accused along with 29 other area villagers of encroaching on the Kaeng Krachan National Park forest.
Chantorn "Chan" Tonnamphet, a young girl from the same village, and her mother were among the accused. Chan was also charged with violating the “Royal Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations” because she participated in a public assembly organised to reclaim ancestral land rights in traditional areas. She believes she was exercising her fundamental rights as a human being. As a result of the charges, she decided to drop out of high school in her senior year. She worries about the lawsuits against herself and her mother. As her mother cannot speak Thai, she has to accompany her mother to every case-related appointment to act as an interpreter and explain legal procedures and restrictions. Chan also has to travel back and forth from Bangkok to Bang Kloi to present in the assembly case. “It has been very expensive in terms of travel and accommodation. Although some people have helped, it doesn’t cover everything. I used all my savings. There was nothing left. So, I decided to drop out,” Chan explained.
Fishing for a living is vital for Bangkloi villagers due to the state’s insufficient land provision
Children playing in the river while waiting for their mothers to finish fishing for dinner
Chantorn “Chan” Tonnampetch, an 18 year-old woman who had to quit school after her family was charged of forest encroachment
Photo of Chan and her friends from the same village. Chan regrets that she had to quit school a few months before graduation
Chantorn “Chan” Tonnampetch, an 18 year-old woman who had to quit school after her family was charged of forest encroachment.
As some of the Bangkloi villagers are Christian, gatherings are held every Sunday morning at the church which also serves as a shelter for underprivileged kids from Bangkloi and nearby communities.
A map indicating the residence zone and division of property made by the villagers and the commission established by the state
The land area that the state provided is disproportionate to the size of the population and their needs. Many of them want to return home.
From Bangkloi, I continued my trip to Sub Wai Village in Nong Bua Ra Wae District of Chaiyaphum Province to meet Nittaya Muangklang and Sompit Taennok. They both were accused of encroaching on forest land in Sai Thong National Park. Some 14 lawsuits have been filed against villagers in the area. In 3 cases, the Supreme Court issued a guilty verdict and ordered imprisonment without parole. What is right and wrong under the law is sometimes difficult for human beings to understand.
In the eyes of Sub Wai villagers, Nittaya Munagklang is a leader in the fight. She is also a refuge for them in both the real world and the world of judicial procedure. Nittaya acts as a lawyer, providing legal advice to local villagers, friends with the same fate - defendants and victims of an injustice perpetrated by their own government.
Nittaya Muangklang, community leader and land rights defender of Subwai community, Chaiyaphum province, resting in her home after work
Nittaya Muangklang and Sompit Tannok, two accused of forest encroachment, help each other harvest their sticky rice
Nittaya, community leader and land rights defenders of Subwai community, Chaiyaphum province.
The boundary line of Saitong National Park. Situated next to the villagers’ land, overlapping land issues between the villagers and the park are still problematic today
Sompit and Nittaya searching for farm work, their main employment after their case ended
“Seriously, I really want to study law. I don't want to be an attorney or a lawyer or anything. I just want to have knowledge with me in case it can be used to help the community. I have survived to this day thanks to the help of lawyers. It makes us see the importance of this very much.” During her trial, Nittaya was sent to prison for 77 days before being released on bail to fight the legal process. The Supreme Court ultimately suspended her sentence.
Viewed strictly from the standpoint of conservation, the number of prosecutions might represent an increase in forest coverage area - an overall improvement in both the quality of the environment and the quality of people’s lives across the country. The achievement has also wounded and traumatised many people, especially the lesser folks, the socially marginalised, who face difficulties in resisting the power of a state that doesn't listen to their voices. Instead, it only takes pride in expanding green spaces that please the middle classes, allowing the government to remain in power for as long as possible.
The case of Poh Sompit Thaennok of Ban Sab Wai is another brutal example of the misguided application of forest reclamation policy. The Supreme Court sentenced him to prison for 1 year and 10 months without parole. Two months into his sentence, Sompit's wife, who was ill with terminal-stage cancer, passed away. Nittaya and some kind-hearted villagers took care of Sompit's wife in her last moments. Sompit and his wife never got to say goodbye to each other. “When I knew that she died, I was very sad. My heart was broken. We had lived together for more than thirty years and we almost never quarrelled, never once spoke rudely to each other,” said Poh Sompit while looking at array of photographs on the wall. Most are framed photos of him and his wife. The glass has been wiped clean so that the photos inside can be clearly seen. The same is true of a picture of his daughter on a key chain that Poh Sompit always hangs at his waist, never far from him.
Poh Sompit’s case reminds me of the story of Poh Den and Mae Supap Khamlae – a husband and wife from Kok Yao village, Khon San District, Chaiyaphum Province. Poh Den was a village mainstay who had been pushing for a community land titles. Villagers had been in conflict with the rangers of Phu Sam Pak Nam forest from the beginning of the forest reclamation policy, when Kok Yao villagers were forcibly relocated out of the area. One day, Poh Den disappeared. His body was found in the forest not far from home a year later. Although the reasons for his disappearance and death were never clearly identified, villagers and people close to him believe that it was related to the land rights fight. After the death of the villagers’ long-standing leader, Den Khamlae, the Supreme Court continued the case against his wife Mae Supap, finally sentencing her to 6 months in prison without parole.
I had a chance to visit Mae Supap at a memorial service for Pho Den. It was in 2017, just before she had to go to the Supreme Court to hear the court’s judgment. Though my memory of the conversation has faded over time, I recall the sad look in her eyes, even when she was smiling. It always comes back to me when I think about their story. After being released from prison in 2018, Mae Supap joined the P-move group and their movement for the right to livelihoods. Not long after, Mae Supap died of cancer in 2021 at the age of 67.
It is no exaggeration to say that this is a country has produced a record number of social activists and human rights defenders. And just like overseas, we also have individuals working to conserve natural resources. But the path of conservation in Thailand has again and again led to tears, injury and death for marginalised people. The need for conservation should be reassessed if the price to be paid is something priceless - human freedoms and human livelihoods.
Sompit’s home that he sold to pay for his legal fees
Sompit wife’s photos. She died during his detention. They were married for more than 30 years.
Every evening Sompit comes out to sit on the ladder of his home to relax, listen to music, and smoke
Certificate of Innocence is a document that the Department of Correction issues for a convicted who has served a sentence and been released
Sompit Tannok, accused of forest encroachment and convicted by the supreme court, received a sentence of 1 year 10 months without parole
Den Kamlae’s identity card, one of the things he left behind after his disappearance in Suan Pa Kok Yao
Village lands situated next to the area of Phu Sam Phak Nam National Reserved Forest and Phu Khiao Wildlife Sanctuary, known as the boundary dispute area of Den Kamlae case
Suphap Kamlae, died not long after release from prison for forest encroachment
This special report is supported by Internews' Earth Journalism Network.FeatureForest Reclamation PolicymultimediaFarmerland rightsKarenforestPinnapha PhrueksaphanNittaya MuangklangYostorn Triyos
Concerns around the criminalisation of protesters in Thailand as new global report launched
Around the launch of its global report on protests, CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, calls on the Thai government to halt its criminalisation of protesters and drop all charges against them. Further, the government must ensure accountability for violations carried out by the security forces while policing protests.
A protester shows banners rallying toward abolishing royal defamation law and the need to protest. (File photo)
Monitoring by the CIVICUS Monitor throughout the year shows that in Thailand, hundreds of protesters were charged for violating the Emergency Decree which banned gatherings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decree was lifted in September 2022. Other protesters have faced lese-majeste or sedition charges.
Some have consistently been denied bail or forced to wear electronic monitoring bracelets as part of their bail conditions. There are also concerns that the Pegasus spyware was found on the phones of dozens of Thai activists including protesters. There has also been a failure to investigate police use of excessive force including water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protests. Protesters have been detained and suffered injuries, including children.
These actions appear to be inconsistent with Thailand’s obligations under the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
All across the Asia Pacific region, from Afghanistan to Fiji, the right to protest continues to face restrictions and attacks. A new global assessment by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online research platform that tracks fundamental freedoms in 197 countries and territories, shows that protesters in the region faced challenges before, during and after protests.
In China, Vietnam, and Laos, where civic space is rated as ‘closed’, freedom of peaceful assembly is tightly restricted in law and practice. In Sri Lanka, the government repeatedly used state of emergency regulations to curtail mass protests related to the economic crisis while in Afghanistan, following the Taliban takeover, the Taliban announced a ban on all protests in Kabul and other provinces without prior authorisation. An emergency decree to handle the COVID-19 pandemic continued to be used in Thailand until the end of September 2022 to ban protests.
Even in the Pacific, where civic space is relatively open, there are concerns. In Australia, in 2022, three states passed anti-protest laws that invoke harsh penalties for non-violent protest, particularly aimed at climate protesters.
Across the region, protests were documented in at least 27 countries over the last year with detentions reported in 20 countries. In Sri Lanka, the authorities arrested and detained suspects without warrants and due process safeguards. Protesters from the Papua region of Indonesia continued to face arrests from security forces for demanding an end to discrimination and exploitation.
“In many countries in the Asia Pacific region, states used emergency regulations, anti-protest laws and even COVID-19 measures to block or disrupt protests as well as arrest and detain protesters demanding political and economic reforms, the end to discrimination, climate justice or worker rights. These actions are contrary to international human rights law and standards and create a chilling environment for those who speak out and mobilise”, said Josef Benedict, Civic Space Researcher at the CIVICUS Monitor..
The use of excessive force by security forces was documented in at least 14 countries in the Asia Pacific region during the year. In Myanmar, the junta continued its violent crackdown on anti-coup protests in 2022 using lethal weapons while in Afghanistan, the Taliban responded to protests by women activists by pointing firearms at them or firing in the air as well as beating, threatening and insulting the protesters. In Sri Lanka, police used excessive and unprovoked force, including tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters, bystanders, and journalists
Killings of protesters by security forces were documented in at least four countries in the last year, especially in Myanmar, where more than a thousand have been killed by the junta. Other countries where this occurred include Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
Even after protests, protesters continued to be targeted. A range of public order, national security, and other laws were used to criminalise protesters.
In Myanmar, thousands of anti-coup protesters languish in detention on trumped up charges of ‘incitement’ or ‘treason’ after facing secret military tribunals, with hundreds being tortured or ill-treated with impunity.
In India, student protesters, remain in detention without bail under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), an anti-terrorism law, for their involvement in demonstrations against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) while in Hong Kong, numerous activists have been jailed for protests under the Public Order Ordinance which carries a five-year maximum sentence.
“Scores of protesters in the Asia region have been jailed on spurious charges or remain in pre-trial detention for long periods and have been denied bail. Some have been tortured and ill-treated. There has also been a lack of accountability for injuries and the killing of protesters which highlights the climate of impunity in the region” added Benedict
The CIVICUS Monitor data shows that restrictions to freedom of peaceful assembly have occurred in at least 100 countries from October 2021-September 2022. The detention of protesters is the most prevalent violation. Those exercising their fundamental freedoms have been detained in at least 92 countries over the past year.
Excessive force has also been a recurring theme of this year’s protests. Demonstrators have been met with water-cannons, batons, tear-gas and other acts of brute-force in over 40 percent of the countries recording protests. Most disturbing of all has been the unlawful killing of protesters, which has occurred in at least 24 countries.
Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform, which tracks restrictions to civic freedoms across the globe. The research coalition tracks a total of 33 different restrictions related to freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. The data also provides the basis for national civic space ratings, countries can be categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open.Pick to PostCIVICUSGlobal report on protests
Exclusive: police admit APEC protest crackdown lacks court order
Police operations to disperse protesters demonstrating against the APEC summit in Bangkok last month were launched without a court approval, a police official said during a recent parliamentary hearing.
In this file photo from 29 November 2022, protesters in front of the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai hold up images of anti-government activist Payu Boonsophon who was shot in his right eye by a police baton round during the 18 November protest.
The revelation is expected to spell further legal trouble for the national police force, which is already being sued by a group of activists injured in the crackdown. One of the lawyers behind the lawsuit said that the existing law on public assemblies clearly requires the police to obtain a formal backing from the Civil Court before dispersing political gatherings.
“This shows that police actions on that day were not in accordance with the Public Assembly Act,” Amarin Saichan from the Human Rights Lawyers Alliance said in a phone interview. “It is a case of a wrongdoing by people who are supposed to enforce the law.”
Several hundred protesters gathered at City Hall on 18 November and attempted to march to the venue where the government was hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, forum. The march leaders wanted to submit a complaint over the bioeconomy policies pledged by APEC leaders, which they believe threaten community rights and natural resources.
But police blocked the group close to Democracy Monument. After skirmishes broke out, police moved in to disperse the protest and arrested 25 people, including a citizen journalist for the Isaan Record news agency. Dozens were also injured, including protesters, police, and a news photographer struck in her face by a bottle hurled from the group of riot police.
In response to the outburst of violence, the Human Rights Lawyers Alliance filed a new legal challenge on behalf of the activists.
Amarin, a lawyer from the group, noted that the 18 November gathering was the first major protest to take place after the government repealed the Emergency Decree in October. The emergency law, enacted by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha at the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, permitted law enforcement officials to ban gatherings deemed to threaten public order. Critics say it was invoked mainly to suppress dissent against the government, rather than tackling the pandemic.
Since the ban is no longer in place, Amarin said that the police were required to follow the steps mandated by the Public Assembly Act.
Section 21 of the law stipulates that when police deem a certain gathering to be unlawful, they must first obtain a clearance from the Civil Court before moving or dispersing it. If the court rules in favour of the police, the authorities must notify the protesters and order them to leave the area.
If protesters fail to comply, the police are required to secure permission from the Civil Court to declare the protest area a “controlled zone” which can be cleared by force, if necessary.
The number of steps involved is meant to prevent law enforcement officials from banning or dispersing protests at their own discretion, protecting constitutional rights to peaceful assembly, the lawyer said.
“The law was designed in a way to make sure that any request [from the police] is scrutinised and deliberated first, for the sake of checks and balances,” Amarin said. He cited an example in Krabi where the Civil Court recently ruled against a request by local police to put an end to an environmental protest.Not a Crackdown
By the police’s own admission, there was no court backing for their decision to move in and crack down on the APEC protest.
This key information surfaced during a hearing held on 30 November by the House Committee on Law Enforcement, where activist leaders, their lawyers and representatives from the police force were summoned to testify about the sequence of events that led to the violent confrontation. The hearing was observed by several media personnel, including a correspondent for Prachatai English.
One of the three policemen, Pol Col Pitak Sitthikul, told the panel of parliamentarians that actions by the police on that day were in accordance with all relevant laws on public assembly, since an officer was dispatched to the Civil Court and applied for a permission to clear the protesters from the street.
But when opposition MP Rangsiman Rome pressed him to clarify how the court ruled on their dispersal request, another police official said the judges did not hand down a ruling, since the courthouse was closed on that day.
“It was on a special holiday mandated by the government for the APEC summit,” said Pol Col Thanayut Bhumngam, whose explanation was met with chuckles of derision and disbelief from some of the activists present at the hearing. The judges declined to open an emergency session to hear the police request because it did not qualify as “an urgent matter,” Thanayut added.
“We went to secure permission from the court on the following day, but the protest was already over by then,” Thanayut concluded his testimony.
In this file photo from 29 November 2022, protesters in front of the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai hold up images that depict the police crackdown on the 18 November protest.
Both Thanayut and Pitak maintained that the crowd control units were forced to act and make arrests without waiting for a court hearing because the protesters were posing a clear and present threat to public safety. In support of this assertion, they noted that an attempt was made to set a fire to a police vehicle.
One of the activists at the hearing, Baramee Chaiyarat, disputed that allegation. He said the demonstrators were merely burning chili on a charcoal grill – a Thai ritual of calling down a curse – which they placed on a police pickup truck. Baramee’s account is confirmed by multiple videos of the confrontation.
Thanayut went on to insist that the police were not launching a “crackdown” on the protest on 18 November, but merely detaining individuals engaged in violence or unlawful behaviour.
“Let me be clear, we did not disperse the protest. We were only making arrests,” Col. Thanayut said. “The gathering continued for a number of hours afterwards.”
He also offered a word of sympathy to the demonstrators wounded in the violence, including activist Payu Boonsophon who reportedly lost the eyesight in his right eye to an impact from a police baton round.
“I am very saddened to see members of the public being injured in this incident,” the officer said.Word Game
Amarin, the attorney assisting the protesters with their lawsuit, dismissed police explanations as a failed attempt at mental gymnastics.
“It’s just groundless assertions,” Amarin said, adding that the police did not produced any evidence to back their claim that they tried to secure permission from the Civil Court on 18 November, before moving in on the protesters.
He said the refusal of the police to wait for the court to convene a hearing as mandated by the law robbed the demonstrators of a chance to defend themselves.
“It runs against the principle of freedom of assembly,” Amarin said. “If there had been a hearing by the Civil Court first, there would have been an examination of whether the protesters were simply exercising their rights to peaceful assembly.”
At the parliamentary hearing on 30 November, Col Thanayut said that the police have set up their own investigation into the APEC protest. However, he did not elaborate on how the inquiry would take place or when its results would be made public.
The Human Rights Lawyers Alliance had also asked the court to rule whether the police action breached an injunction issued by the Civil Court back in August 2021, which stipulated that police crowd control measures be proportional to the actual threat posed by a given protest.
A hearing is set for 17 January 2023. Senior police commanders are expected to be summoned by the court to testify and explain their actions, Amarin said.Featurepress freedomAPEC 2022Payu BoonsophonAmarin SaichanPitak SitthikulRangsiman RomeThanayut Bhumngam
Authorities harass 13-year-old protester
A 13-year-old protester says he has been harassed by the police after he tried to protest at Sanam Luang on the late King Bhumibol’s birthday.
A screenshot of a video clip of a police officer speaking to Oia while he was sitting in the McDonald's next to the Democracy Monument.
“Oia” (pseudonym), a 13-year-old protester, said that on Monday (5 December) he tried to stage a protest calling for the repeal of the royal defamation law at Sanam Luang, where an event commemorating the birthday of the late King Bhumibol was taking place, saying that he disagrees with the royal defamation law because it has been used to harm people.
However, he was stopped by plainclothes police officers while near Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus, which is across the street from Sanam Luang. The officers confiscated Oia’s sign saying “Repeal Section 112” and forced him to move to the McDonald’s near the Democracy Monument.
While at the McDonald’s, Oia said that another officer came to talk to him and confiscated more signs, so he went home to get more paper with the same message before returning to the McDonald’s in the evening. While walking back to Sanam Luang, he was blocked by plainclothes police near the Rattanakosin Hotel, who tried to convince him to go back to the McDonald’s, claiming that a royal motorcade was going to pass through the area, even offering to give him a lift in their motorcycle.
Oia said he told the officers that he was just walking around and did not intend to disrupt the royal motorcade, but the officers did not believe him and told him that either he leaves on their motorcycle, or they will take him in a van. After a few more minutes of negotiation, Oia agreed to go back to the McDonald’s.
Later, Oia said he was walking towards the 14 October 1973 Memorial, near Khok Wua intersection, before heading towards Chana Songkhram Police Station. He then noticed plainclothes officers following him on their motorcycle and taking pictures of him. The officers then reprimanded him and told him not to go to Sanam Luang. Oia then went back to the McDonald’s since he felt unsafe. He also said that he did not want to travel with the police because he was concerned for his own safety.
After arriving at the McDonald’s, Oia said he was approached by a police officer, later reported to be Pol Capt Chumphon Suthiprapha, an inspector from Metropolitan Police Division 2, who tried to pull a piece of paper Oia was carrying under his arm. When Oia tried to walk away and into the McDonald’s, the officer threatened him, telling him that he will have Oia removed from the restaurant unless the 13-year-old showed him what was on the piece of paper.
An argument then took place, during which Oia told the officer that the police have no right to make him leave the restaurant. The officer then asked for Oia’s name and ID card. Oia said that he told the officer his name, but did not give him his ID. Around 10 plainclothes police then came to the McDonald’s along with personnel from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS). Oia said it seemed like he was going to be arrested, and so he told the police that this is inappropriate because he had not done anything.
Oia said that, around 10 minutes later, he received a call from his family telling him to stop what he was doing because a police officer was going to visit them, which Oia said might be an attempt to threaten him to stop his activity, but he said that he wasn’t doing anything at the time and did not do anything wrong.
Oia said he was concerned that the police would either charge him or harm him, and that he found it to be inappropriate for the police to threaten a child and his family. He also said that MSDHS officers said they will be visiting him at home to ‘investigate his behaviour.’
13-year-old Oia is a regular protest-goer. He was previously charged with violating the Emergency Decree because he passed by a protest while riding a bicycle home on 13 September 2021. He was also charged with violation of the Emergency Decree and joining an assembly of 10 or more people threatening violence when he joined a protest on 15 April 2022.NewsPolice harassmentPolice surveillanceSection 112Royal defamationlese majesteMonarchy reform
Rohingya stranded near Thai waters for over a week, 30 have already perished, says source
Over 200 Rohingya refugees from a Bangladesh IDP camp have been left floating in a single boat off the coast of Thailand. Unable to get the boat moving and lacking food and water, 30 people have reportedly died.
A footage from the stranded boat.
Ali, a Rohingya man who has been assisting refugees in Thailand, informed Prachatai of the situation on 7 December after receiving word from a relative of one of the boat passengers. According to BBC Thai, the boat is near Thailand’s exclusive economic zone. Naval Area Command 3 reports that it is still outside of Thailand's territorial waters.
The Navy said to BBC Thai that neither arrest has been made, nor food and water supply has been sent to them.
According to Ali, the stranded boat was one of the four that departed from a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Two arrived in Malaysia where their passengers were arrested by authorities. Contact with the third has been lost.
Ali was informed that the stranded boat is out of fuel and basic provisions, giving rise to a growing death toll - some 30 in all with six people recently dying in a single day.
According to Ali, Thai authorities have already made contact with the boat and pledged assistance but help has still not reached them.
The Rohingya people have been subject to large-scale, systematic discrimination and state-led persecution in Myanmar. A 1982 Citizenship Law stripped them of their citizenship and rights in the country. Since then, members of this Muslim minority have been the victims of a deepening prejudice and discrimination from the country’s Buddhist majority.
This includes genocidal attacks led by the Myanmar military, the Tatmadaw, with participation from Buddhist residents of Rakhine State in 2012, 2016, and 2017. Thousands of men, women and children were slaughtered. There were also mass evictions, rapes, and incidences of torture - brutalities which prompted a mass exodus of Rohingya refugees into neighbouring Bangladesh.
Bangladesh refugee camps currently house over a million Rohingya. Recent reports indicate worsening living conditions caused by a shortage of resources, overcrowding, and crime. Plans for repatriation have thus far been unsuccessful and discussions of establishing new camps on remote islands have raised ethical concerns.NewsRohingyaPhuketRoyal Thai NavyRefugeeBangladeshSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2022/12/101775
Women human rights defenders collective demands constitutional reform
A network of women human rights defenders has called for a more inclusive constitution and proposed amendments to the constitution which included the protection of women’s rights, decentralization, and state welfare.
Representatives of the Collective announcing their demands for constitutional reform
On 29 November, the Women Human Rights Defenders Collective in Thailand held a press conference and panel discussion at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre to mark the 2022 International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, to raise awareness about the value of care work and state welfare for mothers and caregivers.
During the event, the Collective, made up of women activists from community right groups, LGBTQ rights groups, women from the Deep South, and sex worker rights activists, announced 6 demands for constitutional reform:
1. The new constitution must genuinely respect, protect and promote human rights of all of women in Thailand without exception.
2. The new constitution must recognize the caring work done in the home and on the land as socially and economically valuable work. Caring work performed by mothers, and other primary family carers must be properly remunerated by the State who will also be obliged to ensure all women have access to welfare benefits
3. The new constitution must be geared toward decentralization and promote local administration with women being part of the decision making with genuine participation at all levels.
4. The new Constitution must promote universal access to education for all in Thailand, including all women and those with special needs. The State must promote and support a system of alternative education that allows learners to determine their purposes and to chart the course of their lives freely.
5. The new constitution must decrease the power of the military and reduce the defense budget, which instead can be allocated to pay “caring wages” and ensure Welfare Benefits for all women and other people in Thailand.
6. The new Constitution must ensure access to universal welfare for all women. For example: women should own 50% of total landholdings; women must account for at least 50% of the members of committees responsible for state welfare at all levels; women must have universal access to comprehensive and non-discriminatory health services and must have access to safe refuge. Women workers, whether in the formal or informal sector, must be paid fair and equal wages. Women must have the right to safely and legally terminate their pregnancies. If they do not want to terminate their pregnancies, the State must ensure extra welfare support for single mothers. The state must ensure access to state welfare for all women by providing comprehensive interpretation and translation in all government services
Members of the Collective covering their right eyes with three fingers while a representative read out their statement to show support for Payu Boonsophon, an activist who lost an eye after being shot with a rubber bullet.
Group representatives also read out a statement calling on the government to provide welfare for mothers and domestic caregivers, saying that care work, which is often done by the women in a family, is often unpaid and unrecognized. They demand that the government provide an income for mothers and caregivers “for the security and quality of life of all people in society,” which may be paid in cash or other forms of welfare, such as housing or land.
The group also condemned the police’s violent dispersal of the anti-government protest on 18 November as unlawful and an abuse of power that has its root in the military government that grants impunity to state officials, noting that women are often the ones caring for those injured or imprisoned for dissent, pursuing the truth for the disappeared, and seeking justice for those killed.
They called on the authorities to issue a public apology for the 18 November crackdown and compensate those injured by police action, including Payu Boonsophon, an activist who lost an eye after being shot with a rubber bullet.NewsWomen Human Rights Defenders Collective in ThailandInternational Women Human Rights Defenders DayCare incomeCare workState welfareConstitutional amendmentConstitutional reform
Deep South history card game designer summoned by police
The student who designed “Patani Colonial Territory,” a card game based on the history of colonization in the Deep South, is reported to have been summoned by the police, after the game was confiscated from a café in Yala by police and security officers.
(Left) the "Patani Colonial Territory" card game
(Right) the police and military officers raiding Life Coffee Slow Bar café
Chachiluk Board Game, the team of developers behind the card game, said that the student was hired by the team to design the game, but was not involved in the conceptualization and production process.
The team said that they invited Lt Gen Santi Sakuntanark, Commander of the 4th Army Region, to the game launch, and that he sent a representative, a high-ranking army officer, to attend the launch.
They also said that the officer saw the card game, and said that there was no problem when he was asked if any part of the game was against the law. They explained to the officer their intention in creating the game, and he said that it was permitted.
The team said they are unsettled by the report that the designer has been summoned by the police to provide information about the game, and called on the authorities to follow the law.
A set of the game was confiscated from Life Coffee Slow Bar café in Yala’s Buung Sata district on 28 November by police and military officers, who told the owner that material in the game ‘may be illegal.’ No warrant was presented during the raid.
“Patani Colonial Territory” is a card game based on the history of Siam’s colonization of Patani and appears to challenge the state’s attempts to defeat the insurgency which has been calling for more autonomy in the region. It was funded by Common School, an organization under the Progressive Movement Foundation, a non-profit entity founded by members of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party who were banned from politics following the party’s dissolution.
The game has been targeted by military officers, academics and right-wing politicians, who claim that the information it presents is misleading and that it aims to incite people against the state.
Maj Gen Pramote Phrom-in, Deputy Director of the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 Forward Command, a quasi-military civilian entity that takes a major role in security matters in the Deep South, said that the game contains misinformation, such as stories about enslaved Malay people being chained by their Achilles heels and brought to Bangkok, and claimed that the game used made-up history to incite the people.
Piti Srisangnam, Director of the Centre for International Economics, Chulalongkorn University, also said that the story about the Achilles heel is recognized by the academic community as being false.
Meanwhile, Suksan Sangsri, spokesperson for the right-wing Thai Pakdee Party, submitted a petition to the Ministry of Interior Permanent Secretary to investigate everyone related to the development of the game, including the donor.NewsPatani Colonial TerritoryDeep Southboard gameCommon SchoolProgressive Movement
Chiang Mai students protest Myanmar junta’s death sentence for student activists
After it was reported last week that the Myanmar military government had sentenced to death 7 students from Dagon University in Yangon who participated in anti-junta protests, students in Chiang Mai went to the US Consulate and the Myanmar Consulate to file petitions protesting the death sentences.
Chiang Mai University students submitting their open letter to the US Consulate in Chiang Mai
On 1 December, The Irrawaddy reported that on 30 November, the students were sentenced to death in closed trials by a military tribunal, having been arrested in April 2022, allegedly for being involved in the shooting of Saw Moe Win, a Global Treasure Bank branch manager and former military officer.
The Dagon University Students’ Union said the 7 students were Ko Khant Zin Win, Ko Thura Maung Maung, Ko Zaw Lin Naing, Ko Thiha Htet Zaw, Ko Hein Htet, Ko Thet Paing Oo and Ko Khant Linn Maung Maung.
Members of the Chiang Mai University Student Organization went to the US Consulate in Chiang Mai on Tuesday (6 December) to file a petition protesting the sentencing. The statement calls the Myanmar junta’s action an abuse of power and said that it “serves as a warning to the conscience of all humans that it is time that we rise to stand by those opposed by the state to protect their free will.” It also condemns the death penalty as destroying human value and violating human dignity, and calls for the abolition of capital punishment.
The students issued 6 demands to the international community:
1. Collectively put pressure on the sentencing by the courts under the Myanmar military junta to prevent the execution of the seven students and other people in Myanmar who have been sentenced to death in other politically motivated cases.
2. Release all political prisoners
3. Restore transparency in the judiciary system; trials must not be conducted in prisons or military barracks.
4. Stop supporting the Myanmar military junta militarily, economically, etc.
5. Ensure all humanitarian assistance is delivered to the people of Myanmar directly, not via the Myanmar military junta
6. Eradicate the use of the death penalty in modern states since the form of punishment is heinous and obliterates ‘human rights.’
They called on the Thai government to make clear its stance regarding Myanmar’s military government by reviewing its international policy towards the junta to pressure them to stop the crackdown on anti-regime protesters and to sever its relations with any despotic regime to show that Thailand is a democratic state.
They also called on the rest of ASEAN to pressure the Myanmar junta to return power and freedom to the people, and retore democracy to ensure freedom and human dignity for Myanmar’s citizens.
A student representative putting the letter into the mailbox at the Myanmar Consulate
After visiting the US Consulate, the students initially planned to file their letter with the Myanmar Consulate in Chiang Mai. However, a consulate official told them that they should have made an appointment, and that the Consulate was not comfortable with them just showing up with reporters and so would not send anyone to receive the letter. Around 15 police officers also came to the Consulate soon after the students arrived.
A representative of the students then read out the statement in Burmese, before putting the letter into the mailbox at the Consulate gate.
A performance during the protest at the Three Kings Monument
A group of activists and the Myanmar community in Chiang Mai also gathered at the Three Kings Monument in the evening for a protest. The event included performances by artists in Chiang Mai and poetry readings. The protesters then read out a statement saying that the 7 students were sentenced in a process which is not in line with international human rights principles, noting that the Myanmar junta has already executed 4 other activists. They also condemned the Myanmar junta’s decision to sentence the 7 students to death as destructive to the Myanmar people’s future.
NewsChiang maiMyanmarMyanmar coupdeath penaltyDagon UniversityChiang Mai University Student Organization