Prachatai English

Activist detained pending trial for splashing paint in front of police station

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-10-21 17:09
Submitted on Thu, 21 Oct 2021 - 05:09 PMPrachatai

Songpol “Yajai” Sonthirak, an activist from the Thalufah group, has been 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.

Songpol “Yajai” Sonthirak

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that the court denied him bail because the offense was serious and he has repeated this offense several times.

On 3 August 2021, activists splashed paint in front of Thung Song Hong Police Station following their release after spending a night in detention on charges relating to a protest at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau on 2 August to demand that the police return a speaker truck seized after the 1 August ‘car mob’ rally.

They 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.

3 other Thalufah activists have previously been denied bail on the same charges: Nawapol “Dino” Tonngam, Wachirawit “Peak” Limthanawong, and Pawaris “Pao” Yaemying. The three had previously been arrested during the 13 October 2020 protest at the Democracy Monument, and according to TLHR, the court denied them bail on the grounds that they had violated their previous bail conditions. However, TLHR noted that the bail conditions were set on 21 September 2021, which was after the incident on 3 August 2021. 

Activists Jatupat Boonpattarasaksa surrendered at Thung Song Hong Police Station on 9 August 2021 on the same charges. He was denied bail on the grounds that he faces other charges for similar offenses, had broken his bail conditions which prohibited him from repeating these offenses, and was likely to flee or cause danger if he is released.

Jatupat has been repeatedly denied bail and is still in detention at the Bangkok Remand Prison. The court also revoked his bail on charges relating to the 19 September 2020 protest.

According to TLHR, at least 1,458 people are now facing charges for participating in pro-democracy protests between July and September 2021. Of this number, at least 145 are facing royal defamation charges under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code; at least 111 people are facing sedition charges under Section 116, while at least 1,171 people are facing charges for violations of the Emergency Decree.

TLHR also said that, as of 14 October, 23 people are currently in detention for participating in protests: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Anon Nampa, Huad, Thawee Thiangwiset, Chitipat, Chakri, Panupong Jadnok, Nat, Nawapol Tonngam, Wachirawit Limthanawong, Pawaris Yaemying, Paitoon, Suksan, Naruebet, Pichai, Jittakorn, Tha, Sith, Thu, Benja Apan, Kachen, and Kajornsak. 

NewsThalufahSongpol Sonthirakright to bailfreedom of expressionjudicial harassmentpro-democracy protest 2021
Categories: Prachatai English

Burning portraits of the King : Symbolic expression and backlash beyond the law

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-10-21 16:00
Submitted on Thu, 21 Oct 2021 - 04:00 PMSorawut Wongsaranon, Yiamyut Sutthichaya

An escalation of symbolic actions by pro-democracy protesters took place after the repeated use of force against protesters by the police and legal charges against its leading figures. But when it comes to burning portraits of the King, the state uses the royal defamation law to handle the problem.

A protester and a bonfire. (File photo)

Tom (pseudonym), a pro-democracy protester, burned down a portrait of the King at a certain place in Bangkok after their group was running away and was ambushed by pro-royalists one night in September.

"Please just look at  how much budget was spent producing these portraits? If we keep burning them, and they are symbols that we don't want, they won't make any more portraits. Use the money for the portraits to buy vaccines, spend it on the education budget ...

"People may not understand why. People may wonder if it is anger. But if we have explained things this way, they will get the picture about why we burn them. We burn them to let them know that we don't want them."

Burning rubbish and official property has increased during the past 3 months, mostly after the protests were halted in their tracks from getting close to Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s house at the Din Daeng intersection in August, which led to nights of confrontation between furious protesters and the police there and elsewhere.

Royal arches and portraits of the King are the targets of arson, despite the Kingdom's controversial lèse majesté law, Section 112 of the Criminal Code, that carries a 3-15 years jail sentence and which has been criticized for its broad interpretation in the Kingdom’s recent political history.

Legal consequences and something beyond

Tom was later arrested and charged with royal defamation for the arson. He is not the only one to be arrested.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reports that between November 2020 and September 24 this year, 151 people in 156 cases have been either charged or put on trial under the royal defamation law. 9 out of 19 arson cases allegedly involve burning things related to the monarchy like portraits or arches.

Beside the arson cases, there are 13 royal defamation charges involving removal of portraits, defacing the King's image with stickers or paint and parodying the style of art usually used in royal images.

Regarding arson, Sawatree Suksri, a law lecturer from Thammasat University (TU), says the act itself can be counted as arson or mischief but should not be counted as defaming, insulting or expressing hostility toward the King, Queen, Heir Apparent or Regent as provided under the royal defamation law.

Unlike the law in the days of the absolute monarchy that clearly criminalized damage done to symbols of the monarch and nobles who govern in his stead, Sawatree says that the laws criminalizing injury to the monarchy that came later do not specifically include surrounding figures and symbols as such. 

The portrait in front of the Central Prison was set  alight in February 2021. Chaiamorn ‘Ammy’ Kaewwiboonpan, a famous pop singer was accused for the burning and charged with lèse majesté, arson and computer crimes.

Therefore, the royal defamation charges should be based on an interpretation that the act has a direct intention. The burning by itself may fit the definition of arson or mischief depending on what they burn, but does not constitute a direct threat to harm or murder the subject in the case of burning someone’s image.

The TU law lecturer said the content of the royal defamation law is similar to other laws in the Criminal Code. Thus, it should be interpreted by similar standards. She cited a European Court of Human Rights ruling that the burning of photographs of the King of Spain by protestors was a case of freedom of expression. This example could be used to limit the scope of the royal defamation law.

On the other hand, Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen, a TLHR lawyer, said it is difficult to describe the use of Section 112 under the logic of the law alone. F or a period from late 2018 on, no royal defamation charges were brought against offences that are similar to cases today where this charge is applied. 

At that time, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha was reported to have claimed that no royal defamation charges were brought because of the King has 'generosity'.

But in November 2020, after a surge in pro-democracy protests, the PM announced that 'every section of the law' would be used and royal defamation charges reappeared.

"It points out the unpredictability in the use of Section 112, because for one period of time, after the coup, it was the policy to use military courts. The trials passed sentences for each offence that were heavy.

"For almost 10 years until 2018 after the King passed away, there was another wave of prosecutions. After the succession of King Rama X, there was a policy change in the direction of not enforcing [Section 112] by every organization.

"The worry may be the strict enforcement of Section 112 over the past year or so.  The overall picture is that Section 112 is used in every case that concerns the monarchy.  This is worrying because it points to unpredictability in Thai society where for one period of time, there were no Section 112 cases at all.

"Whatever you did, it wasn’t an offence, or even if there was a prosecution, some cases are unbelievably dropped. But at another time, whatever is done that is related to the monarchy is all interpreted as Section 112."

Bizarre policing

Most of the arson cases led to arrests in late August. It will take time for them to proceed to court. The latest court case of burning an image of the King was in 2018 when the Appeal Court overturned the conviction of 6 people who burned down a royal arch in Khon Kaen Province.

The reason given by the court was that the defendants had no intention to violate the royal defamation law. It should be noted that the ruling came at a time when the enforcement of the royal defamation law had practically ceased. The direction of the courts in royal defamation cases in the near future will be interesting to observe.

Poonsuk said there are many abnormalities in police procedures regarding arson cases related to the monarchy. For example, in a case in Khon Kaen Province in September 2021, the police tried to interrogate two suspects separately without allowing them to contact a person they trusted.

There are two other cases where the police made arrests and seized the suspects’ phones without a warrant. The police gave the excuse that all this was done with the suspects’ consent, confirmed by documents that they had them sign.

In the case of Tom, the police also tried to remove one suspect for interrogation and bar the presence of a lawyer, which is a constitutional right. After the lawyer successfully insisted on entering the room, he found the suspect shaking with fright. It was reported that he may have been subjected to a police beating.

Of the people arrested that night, Tom and one other suffered physical mistreatment at the hands of the police. In Tom's case, his head was pressed onto a desk and pushed down to his knees after he kept on refusing to allow the police access to his phone.

"They said to please cooperate well with the police. I was like, getting into my phone has nothing to do with Section 112 at all. Why did I have to turn it on for them? It's not the Computer Crime Act. If it's the Computer Crime Act and you had a warrant from the anti-cybercrime police, I would have opened it. But they didn't."

Many juveniles who had their phones seized could not call their parents or guardians. Personal issues also come to play as some juveniles either did not want to contact their parents or their parents were stuck at work and could not come, causing difficulties in the investigation and bail processes.

Piyanut Kotsan, the Amnesty International Director who has participated in the "Child in Mob" campaign promoting and protecting children rights in protests, said some youths arrested at Din Daeng have difficult relationships with their family members. This exacerbates the situation when they are arrested as some of them either could not tell their family members that they went to the protests, they lived apart from them or had lost them due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Legal harassment only feeds retaliation

From Piyanut’s observations, the escalation of violence among protesters is an expression of anger toward the state’s failure to control the damage from the Covid-19 pandemic. This may explain why these protesters do not seem discouraged by repeated royal defamation charges against the pro-democracy movement’s leading figures and continue to gather and take on the police.

A water cannon truck extinguishes a fire. (File photo)

She sees the gatherings as political because the targets of their violence and arson are things that belong to the state such as police or government property.  This comes in response to the way the crowd control police have dispersed protests in the past .

“If politics was OK, there would not be anger or people coming out to express themselves in this way. I think they could express themselves without this kind of anger. You also have to see that what they have been doing to handle this over the past month and more does not work, but they still do it.

“Why don’t you divert the budget for rubber bullets and tear gas into taking care of the people’s welfare?” asked Piyanut.

A sign saying “reform the monarchy” in front of the Embassy of Germany on 26 Oct 2020.

Sawatree said that allowing a broad interpretation of royal defamation will put an overwhelming burden on the police and judges in the near future in the investigation and trial process. She also sees the sharp rise in arson cases as reflecting the people's anger toward disproportionate prosecutions and questions about the monarchy’s involvement in politics.

"We also can't deny that this administration tries to link itself to the power of the monarchy. ... So this pulls [the monarchy] down quite a lot. Once it is pulled down, it can't stop people from thinking as a consequence, hey, does the monarchy have a political role, or is it involved in the country's administration?

"And when the national administration doesn't look to be working, and looks to have many problems ... because the protests to have the government resign haven't worked, it keeps on escalating."

She suggested that not allowing people to speak their minds can provoke them into resorting to violence and ignoring the laws that mistreat them. Negotiation and opening space for criticism under the framework of the law should solve the tension.

Poonsuk also thinks that the violence of the protesters has something to do with the use of the royal defamation law as a political tool. She suggests the authorities drop the ongoing cases because the offences are unrelated to the charge and it is not in the public interest. In the long term, Section 112 should be amended and the importance of the rule of law established in Thai society.

"When we talk about being in a state ruled by law, or the rule of law, it has to be firm and certain and the law must not look at who it is dealing with. But the use of Section 112 clearly shows that it is selectively used against some groups, some cases, and depends on the whim of one organization or one individual to a certain extent.

"It points out uncertainty that is not decided by the law, but by something more than the law, because the law has always been the same while the situation has switched back and forth," said Poonsuk.

X (pseudonym), another protester who set fire to a portrait of the King, said the monarchy should be open to criticism and that the arson he caused was an expression of his anger toward the use of violence against the protesters by the crowd control police.

"I don't feel that it's not wrong to burn things. But people’s rage makes them do it."

FeatureKing Vajiralongkornmonarchylèse majesté lawRoyal defamationSection 112Article 112Poonsuk PoonsukchareonSawatree SuksriPiyanut KotsanThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Amnesty Internationalpro-democracy protest 2021
Categories: Prachatai English

CMU students request temporary injunction over attempted censorship by administration

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-10-19 19:45
Submitted on Tue, 19 Oct 2021 - 07:45 PMPrachatai

Students from the Media Arts and Design Department, Faculty of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University, filed a lawsuit with the Chiang Mai Administrative Court on Monday (18 October) for a temporary injunction after the University administration prohibited them from showing their final theses in the University Art Centre because some pieces deal with social and political themes.

CMU students and lecturers filed a lawsuit against university administration

Thasnai Sethaseree, artist and Faculty of Fine Arts lecturer, said that they have requested the temporary injunction because the students must complete their project and the lecturers have to submit their grades within the semester. If lecturers are not able to issue them a grade, students may fail their class, so he said that they are asking the court for a temporary injunction so that the students can hand in their works.

Thasnai also said that the Faculty administration has filed charges of trespassing and destruction of property against students and lecturers who occupied the Art Centre on Saturday (16 October). He said that the Art Centre area is an educational space which is always used by students and lecturers, and that in fact, locking the gates is destruction of property, adding that several students were locked inside the building all night without water and electricity.

Thasnai said he wanted the Faculty and University administration to keep in mind the students’ future and the faith of future students, and that they should not see students as their enemies. If there is a problem, they should instead talk to the students, not run away.

Students and lecturers occupied the University Art Centre on Saturday (16 October) to set up their exhibition, after the Faculty and University administration refused them permission to use the Art Centre for the thesis exhibition, required for 4th year students in the department, claiming that some pieces are political and therefore inappropriate for a public exhibition. Water and electricity at the Media Arts and Design department building were also cut on Friday night (15 October) and Saturday morning, reportedly by order of the Faculty Dean.

In March, the Faculty Dean and several other faculty personnel also attempted to remove students’ art projects from the department building without first informing the students, claiming that some pieces could violate the law. Students also said that police officers came to the building to monitor the students the night before as they were working on their projects.

Meanwhile, lecturers from the Multidisciplinary Art programme in the Visual Art Department, Faculty of Fine Arts, issued a declaration earlier today (19 October) saying that an art space in an educational institution must allow for freedom of expression without obstruction, and must provide opportunities for artistic expression and academic discussion. The declaration also said that an art space must encourage activities that benefit public participation without obstructing content associated with civil society and politics, and empower the new generation.

The Student Government of Chulalongkorn University (SGCU) also issued a statement in solidarity with Media Arts and Design students, saying that the Faculty administration’s action can be considered an attempt to censor artworks that are related to politics, and therefore a violation of academic freedom. Such action shows that the administration not only lacks awareness of their duty to protect academic freedom but also obstructs students’ learning process, which is the main purpose of a university. 

NewsChiang Mai UniversityMedia Art and Design departmentThasnai Sethasereeacademic freedomArtistic freedomfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Protester faces charges for stripping in front of police

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-10-19 19:39
Submitted on Tue, 19 Oct 2021 - 07:39 PMPrachatai

A protester has been charged with violation of the Emergency Decree and public nudity, after she completely stripped in front of a line of crowd control police at a protest on 28 September 2021 to protest the use of violence to disperse of the protest.

Worawan Sae-aung

Worawan Sae-aung, or “Aunty Pao,” an elderly fruit vendor who regularly attends protests and is known for her sharp tongue, reported to Nang Loeng Police Station yesterday (18 October). According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the Metropolitan Police gave a press conference following the 28 September protest saying that they will be pressing charges against Worawan. The inquiry officer at Nang Loeng Police Station also said that they have already issued 2 summonses and are preparing to issue a 3rd summons before requesting an arrest warrant, but Worawan said she has never received any summons, so her lawyer contacted the police to set up a meeting.

Worawan is being charged with violation of the Emergency Decree and committing a shameful act by indecently exposing her person under Section 388 of the Thai Criminal Code. The charges result from a protest on 28 September 2021 at the Nang Loeng intersection demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, during which Worawan took off her clothes, laid down on the ground, and opened her legs in front of a line of crowd control police in protest at their use of violence to disperse of the protesters.

Under Section 388 of the Thai Criminal Code, “doing any shameful act in public by indecently exposing one's person, or by committing other indecent acts” is punishable with a fine of up to 5000 baht.

Worawan denied all charges. She told reporters that her action represents the fight of people who have nothing but their bodies to fight against the crowd control police trying to disperse of their protest.

According to TLHR, Worawan is currently facing 12 charges for joining protests during the past year, most of which concern violations of the Emergency Decree. She was previously arrested during a protest on 11 August 2021.

NewsWorawan Sae-aungEmergency DecreeState of emergencyPublic nudityNonviolencepro-democracy protest 2021Thalufah
Categories: Prachatai English

Cartoon by Stephff: Thai citizenship

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-10-19 14:15
Submitted on Tue, 19 Oct 2021 - 02:15 PMStephffCartoon by Stephff: Thai citizenship

 

MultimediaStephff
Categories: Prachatai English

Prosecutors denied the state's involvement in Information Operation (IO)

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-10-19 14:13
Submitted on Tue, 19 Oct 2021 - 02:13 PM

On 12 October 2021, Surachai Trongngam, Theeraphan Phankhiri, and Sanya Chongdeeiad, members of a legal team representing Angkhana Neelapaijit and Anchana Heemmina, two women human rights defenders (WHRDs), attended a civil court hearing to settle issues and schedule witness testimony in a case filed against the Office of the Prime Minister and the Royal Thai Army for damages pursuant to the 1996 Act on the Liability for Wrongful Acts of Officials.

Middle and right: Angkhana and Anchana on the standby at the court.

The case stems from the issues raised during a 2020 parliamentary no-confidence debate in which MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn exposed an information operation (IO) to spread disinformation and smear the reputations of WHRDs using the website Pulony.blogspot.com. The alleged aim of the IO was to damage to the reputations, dignity and mental health of WHRDs.   The case was filed to hold those responsible for the IO accountable.   

On 4 November 2020, lawyers representing two WHRDs, Angkhana Neelapaijit and Anchana Heemmina, filed the case against the Office of the Prime Minister, which oversees the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), and the Royal Thai Army for damages, demanding three million baht and two million baht respectively. The defendants are alleged to be responsible for the dissemination of disinformation on the Pulony.blogspot.com website to smear the two WHRDs.

After the hearing ended, Sanya revealed that prosecutors representing the defendants assert that his clients  have no legal standing to file the case.  They also contend that the Pulony.blogspot.com website does not belong to ISOC and the Royal Thai Army and that affiliated officials were not involved with  website posts, as alleged by the plaintiffs. They further argued that the case was filed too late, falling outside  the statute of limitations.

Sanya added that the plaintiffs plan to submit additional evidence to establish that ISOC, the Royal Thai Army, and other government agencies were  involved with the running of the Pulony.blogspot.com website.  He added that the evidence would shed light on the utilisation of financial resources in the three southern border provinces by the Army and ISOC Region 4 Forward Command officers.  Due to the complexity of the issues involved experts in various fields would be called to give evidence. Additional evidence and expert testimony would also be used to adduce the nature of state information operations.

“It has been clear to us from the beginning that  state information operations in the southern border provinces, and in the Army Region 2 case raised during the parliamentary debate, have been very professional. Masterminds have been shielded and the dissemination process has been systematically organised. It makes it challenging to pin down those responsible for such actions,

"But we believe we will be able to shed light on the overall structure harboured by the state. It will lay bare how the state has been perpetrating such information operations and how much money has been used for such operation. We will try our best to establish these links, despite the circumstances we are operating under," said Sanya. The Civil Court has scheduled witness examination to take place on May 10, 11, 17 18 and 19 2022. 

Angkhana thanked the court for agreeing to review the case. It is the first time that a party humiliated by an information operation has been  able to file a case in the court of justice.  In the past, human rights defenders (HRD)  have been victimised by IOs designed to promote hatred, particularly against WHRDs. State agencies in charge have failed to protect the rights of injured parties and end such operations, let alone bring perpetrators to justice. 

“Over the past several years, I have been the victim of a smear campaign perpetrated via an information operation and am looking to find ways to restore justice for myself. I have reported cases to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) and made inquiries with officials in local precincts. Thus far, the perpetrators have not been brought to justice. Worse, such websites and information operations have been allowed to continue unabated, harassing and humiliating members of  the public, particularly HRDs.”

“I have no worry filing this case even though the burden of proof lies with the injured parties. It is after all an uphill task to prove the case since the defendants are public agencies. Still, I believe the court will bring me justice.” 

“As to the evidence adduced, it includes documents produced by the public agencies and furnished to the House Budget Scrutiny Committee. They are all official documents. As the opposition parties have raised questions to the Prime Minister about state efforts to smear HRDs, I believe  the state should show its courage by accepting the responsibility and liability, offering remedies to the victims. They should not protect the agencies, and  officials implicated in such offences. Nor should they treat the acceptance of liability as a loss of face. I believe that by filing this case, I can be part of the effort to expose the truth and ensure the victims receive remedies. This will serve public interest and lead to the protection of people’s rights from the violations by the state,” said Angkhana.

Anchana said that the case was a response to the commission of a wrongful act, as well as an effort to reveal the wrong and put things right. She hopes the case will help everyone to understand what the state should have done and what they should not have done. She thanked supporting organisations for doing their best to help and added her hope that the case would shed light on things that should not have happened to anyone. Rather than using public resources to attack or to discredit people, she proposed that such money be used to protect people’s rights.

Pranom Somwong, a representative of Protection International, an international organisation that provides support to WHRDs, said that the harassment of WHRDs is being closely monitored by United Nations agencies. In its latest report the UN Human Rights Committee noted that Thailand is a place where civilian HRDs are often targeted for reprisal. 

Among the cases mentioned was that of Angkhana Neelapaijit, her allegations against the Office of the Prime Minister and Royal Thai Army, and her petitioned to have the reported fake news, offensive content and disinformation removed.  Reports of the UN Secretary General also  note  that  local HRDs frequently meet with intimidation and online smear campaigns.

Pick to PostProtection International (PI)Angkhana NeelapaijitAnchana HeemminaInformation Operation
Categories: Prachatai English

Occupy CMU: students take over university art centre after censorship attempt

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-10-19 13:28
Submitted on Tue, 19 Oct 2021 - 01:28 PMPrachatai

Students from the Media Arts and Design Department, Faculty of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University, took over the University Art Centre on Saturday (16 October), after the Faculty and the university administration prohibited them from showing their final theses as some pieces deal with social and political themes.

Students gathering in front of the dean's office building

Earlier on Friday afternoon (15 October), a group of Media Arts and Design students went to the Dean’s office to meet the university administration to follow up on a letter filed 2 days earlier, following an order from the Faculty of Fine Arts forbidding 4th year students from exhibiting their final theses in the Art Centre, as some pieces deal with political themes.

According to the students’ letter, they requested the use of the University Art Centre to organize their thesis exhibition. However, the Art Centre said that they have to submit information about every piece that will be exhibited, and that some pieces will not be allowed to be shown as the Faculty said the pieces are political and inappropriate for a public exhibition.

After they submitted the additional documents, the Art Centre asked them again on 12 October to send more information about how the pieces are to be set up and to attach a picture of the piece, as well as to get these details approved by the students’ project supervisors, causing the students concern that they would not be able to set up the exhibition in time for the opening date on 18 October.

The letter said that every project has been checked by their respective supervisor, and that the exhibition is not a political gathering but is organized as part of their thesis project, which they have been working on for their past two semesters.

The students also said that every piece should be exhibited because it is a question of freedom of expression, and because they have all paid their tuition fees and the cost of organizing the exhibition at the Art Centre.

University administration then replied to them via a Facebook post on 15 October saying that the exhibition should follow Faculty rules and regulations. On the same day, the students, along with lecturers and their parents, gathered in front of the Dean’s office and demanded a meeting. While they were giving speeches through a speaker, university security cut the electricity supply three times.

The students also attempted to join a university administration Zoom meeting, as the administration claimed that they are not able to meet with the students because they have to attend another meeting. Once the students tried to raise the issue of the exhibition, the administration muted them and deleted them from the meeting, claiming that the issue had nothing to do with what they were discussing.

The students also went to wait in front of the meeting room, but members of the administration left the building via a fire exit and did not meet the students.

Students went to the Phuping Rajanivej Police Station to file a complaint

In the evening, the students went to the Phuping Rajanivej Police Station to file a complaint that they were forbidden from showing their works, which may damage the pieces and their education.

One of the parents who joined the students’ gathering said that the students’ expression has been limited in the past, and that she believes that the arts should be open-minded and students should be allowed to express what they think or feel through their art so that society knows what is going on. She also noted that the university is preventing students from exhibiting their work just before they graduate, even though they have been working on their project for the entire semester.

“I came here today because I want to know if my child is going to graduate, or is it because some nonsense that has nothing to do with the kids. You’re linking this to the kids, and then they don’t graduate. They have already planned out their lives. Where are they going once they graduate? Which job are they going to apply to? But right now they don’t even know if they’re going to graduate. They came to ask you questions, but there are no answers. You ran away and did not answer them,” the parent said.

On Friday night (15 October), the students also found that water and electricity at the Media Arts and Design Department building had been cut, and that several students who were working inside the building were locked inside the Faculty and all exits were locked with chains.

artist and lecturer Thasnai Sethaseree and another student cut the chains locking the art centre gates

On Saturday morning (16 October), around 100 Media Arts and Design students, along with several lecturers, broke through the gates and occupied the Art Centre to set up their exhibition. As the gates were locked, they had to cut the chains to get in, and had to also break through the door of the Art Centre, which was also locked.

Meanwhile, electricity at the Media Arts and Design building was still cut. A university staff member informed the students that electricity and water in the building was cut by order of the Faculty Dean.

Students and lecturers took over the art centre to set up their exhibition

Thasnai Sethaseree, an artist and Faculty of Fine Arts lecturer who has been supporting the students, said that the Faculty was using a university order made in April 2021 to prohibit students from organizing protests on campus to prohibit students from using faculty space on the grounds that they need to prevent disorder and a breach of “good morals,” which for him raised questions of how art can cause disorder and damage morals.

“What happened during the past week is a common occurrence in Chiang Mai University, but the people who are affected have never spoken out. The President of the Faculty of Fine Arts Student Union has to show the content to the Deputy Dean of Student Affairs before it is posted. Things like this happen in Chiang Mai University every day. This case like a volcano that will make the lava in other places erupt,” Thasnai said.

Faculty of Sociology lecturer Pinkaew Laungaramsri said that the university has been claiming that they are trying to meet the UN’s sustainable development goals, one of which is to preserve justice and freedom, but what is currently happening in the Faculty of Fine Arts is injustice and a violation of freedom of expression, which goes against what the university has been claiming.

“I would like to tell the administration that if they want guarantees to truly reach the goal of justice, they have to allow students to freely express themselves,” Pinkaew said.

NewsChiang Mai UniversityMedia Art and Design departmentThasnai Sethasereeacademic freedomArtistic freedomfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Writer sues Culture Ministry for stripping him of his status as National Artist

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-10-16 14:50
Submitted on Sat, 16 Oct 2021 - 02:50 PMPrachatai

Writer Suchart Sawatsri filed a lawsuit on Thursday (14 October) against the National Culture Commission (NCC) and the Ministry of Culture for stripping him of his national artist status, reportedly due to social media posts he made about the monarchy.

Suchart Sawatsri speaking to reporters at the Administrative Court on 14 October (Picture from Voice TV)

A lawyer from the Human Right Lawyers Alliance, which is providing legal assistance for Suchart, said that the writer is suing the NCC and the Ministry of Culture to have them revoke the order stripping him of his status. His lawsuit seeks compensation of 1.12 million baht, as the order violates his human dignity and freedom of expression, and damages his personal reputation, and requests the court to issue a temporary injunction and have the NCC returns all benefits and honours of a national artist to Suchart until the court issue a verdict.

The lawyer said that the lawsuit was filed because the order removing Suchart’s national artist status was unlawful, as the NCC issued the order without a legal reason, and did not allow Suchart to appeal before the resolution was reached. The NCC also did not give a clear reason for the order, only claiming that Suchart made inappropriate social media posts about the monarchy, but did not detail what the posts said and when they were made. When they requested information from the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry also told them that the information can’t be released as the NCC must first be consulted, and they still do not know which posts were offensive.

Suchart said that he is suing the NCC and the Ministry of Culture “to take back my humanity, and to say that the freedom to express my opinion is not an embarrassment and political dissent is not a crime.”

On 19 August 2021, the NCC held a secret meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, during which they agreed to strip Suchart of his national artist status. A letter delivered to Suchart, dated on 30 August 2021, stated that the reason for the resolution was that he regularly posts about controversial issues on his Facebook account, and that the posts contain “words or images which are dangerous to the monarchy,” which is inappropriate for a national artist and goes against Thai culture.

Suchart is the first national artist to be stripped of their status since the criteria for becoming a national artist were changed in May 2020.

Writing under the pen name “Sing Sanam Luang,” Suchart, now 76 years old, is known for his novels and for founding the Cho Karaket award for short fiction. He is also known as the editor of literary journals and magazines. He was named a national artist in literature in 2011.

NewsSuchart SawatsriHuman Right Lawyers AllianceMinistry of CultureNational Culture CommissionAdministrative CourtNational artistliteratureArtistic freedomfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Education Ministry working group ‘concerned’ about children’s books

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-10-16 14:40
Submitted on Sat, 16 Oct 2021 - 02:40 PMPrachatai

A working group set up by the Ministry of Education to investigate a series of illustrated children’s books about the pro-democracy movement said that five out of the 8-book series are likely to lead to violence in children.

"Nitan Wad Wang" ("Dream of Hope Tales") is a series of illustrated children's book about social movement, freedom, and equality

Thai PBS reported that according to Darunwan Chanphiphatanachai, spokesperson for the Deputy Education Minister, the working group found that five out of the eight books in the “Nithan Wad Wang” series (“Dream of Hope Tales”) might condition young people towards using violence to resolve conflict.

The five books included an illustrated biography of historian and dissident writer Jit Phumisak; “The Adventure of Little Duck,” an illustrated book by cartoonist Sa-ard about a yellow duck adventuring and fighting for democracy; “Mom, where are you going?,” which tells the story of the 2020 pro-democracy protests through the eyes of actor-turned-activist Inthira Charoenpura’s cat; “The Call of the Bird,” an illustrated book containing pictures of various birds and telling stories about freedom; and “10 Ratsadorn” (“10 People”), which contains illustrations of various protest leaders, such as Anon Nampa, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Panupong Jadnok.

The working group also claimed that the five books have no content and contained no text, which they said is concerning as children might want to imitate the behaviour shown in the books, because young children are not able to distinguish reality from fantasy. The working group also said that they would like parents and teachers to look out for their children.

In fact, “10 Ratsadorn” is the only book in the series which consists purely of illustrations. Every other volume contains a poem, many of which are written by the well-known children’s book writer and primary school teacher Srisamorn Soffer, which narrates the stories throughout the book.

"Mom, where are you going?" tells the story of the 2020 pro-democracy protests through the eyes of actor-turned-activist Inthira Charoenpura’s cat. The book is illustrated by illustrator Phetladda Kaeochin, which is accompanied by a poem by Srisamorn Soffer. Each page also contains a note from Inthira to her cat. 

Nevertheless, the working group said that they found three of the books beneficial to children: “Who has no head?” which aims to teach children about equality; “Hack! Hack! The Fire Dragon,” a story about the fight against a fire-breathing dragon attacking an indigenous village written by activist Sombat Boonngamanong; and “Children Have Dreams,” a ‘Where’s Wally?’-style picture book about what young people dream they want the world to be.

Darunwan said that the working group was “without any bias” and used “academic principles” in their investigation. She also said that they are not responsible in “ruling whether it is right or wrong, but put the benefits for children and young people first.”

“Children Have Dreams” is a ‘Where’s Wally?’-style picture book about what young people dream they want the world to be. 

Following a report on 27 September that Deputy Education Minister Kalaya Sophonpanich had formed a working group to investigate the series, claiming that the books might mislead children, the series sold out within three days. The publisher said that there is currently no plan for a re-print.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB) summoned the publisher of the series in for a meeting, claiming that they had received a request for a probe into whether selling books on a Facebook page violates the 2002 Direct Sales and Direct Marketing Act.

Pornchai (last name withheld), one of the team behind the series, went to meet with an OCPB officer on Tuesday (12 October), along with lawyer Pawinee Chumsri. However, the official prohibited our reporter from observing the meeting.

Pornchai said following the meeting with the officer that he was questioned about how the books were made and delivered to customers, without mentioning the content of the books. Nevertheless, he thinks that there is likely to be other laws related to the content of the books, as the officer raised concerns about the content of some of the volumes.

He said that the officer told him that he was summoned because the books were being sold via a Facebook page, which might be related to the Direct Sales and Direct Marketing Act, and he already explained the sales process to the officer. He said that there is currently no punishment, as their page does not count as direct sales, and there have been no customer complaints.

He said that they deliver the books directly to customers, and if anyone wishes to cancel their orders, they will receive a refund, so they do not intend to break the law. He also added that the officer gave them some recommendations on how to conduct their business without breaking the law.

The series also included an illustrated biography of historian and dissident writer Jit Phumisak, with poem by Srisamorn Soffer and illustration by faan.peeti

Meanwhile, Pawinee said that the OCPB received a complaint on whether it is possible to sell books online, so they are reporting to the OCPB to confirm that there is a real person who is selling the books, and that the books exist. She said that they have explained to the official that sometimes they respond to customers’ messages too slowly, or are slow to ship out the books, and if the customer wants a refund, they will give back the money, so there is currently no customer complaint to the OCPB.

Pavinee said that the official has made a record of the meeting, and the OCPB will be investigating whether there is any offense. If there is anything that is against the law, the OCPB might forward the case to other relevant agencies.

Pavinee Chumsri (left) and Pornchai (centre)

Pornchai said that the team is slightly concerned, as this is the first time they have had to deal with such an incident, but he felt that, as it already happened, they must explain it, and he believes that most people understand where they stand and that they are doing what is right and not outside the boundaries of the law.

“We want these stories to reach as many children and members of the new generation as possible, because we believe that the content of the books is not violent. It is something that is currently happening, and some are historical events that need to be recorded and talked about,” Pornchai said.

“It is a good thing if parents buy it for their children and explain it so that they understand their personal rights, about the lives of people of many nationalities and many ideologies. We have to be able to live together. I think this is a good thing and I want as many parents as possible to talk about this with their children.” 

NewsChildren's bookChildren's literatureNitan Wad Wangfreedom of expressionArtistic freedomSrisamorn SofferJit Phumisakpro-democracy protest 2021Student protest 2020Pro-democracy movementequalityInthira CharoenpuraSombat Boonngamanong
Categories: Prachatai English

Missing activist’s sister charged with Emergency Decree violation

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-10-15 14:19
Submitted on Fri, 15 Oct 2021 - 02:19 PMPrachatai

Sitanun Satsaksit, sister of missing activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit, has been charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for giving a speech at a protest on 5 September 2021 at the Asoke Intersection.

Sitanun Satsaksit (centre) lighting candles at an event on the 1st anniversary of her brother's disappearance on 4 June 2021

11 other people have been charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for participating in the same protest and were summoned to Thong Lo Police Station on 27 September 2021 to hear the charges. However, according to the Cross-Cultural Foundation, Sitanun did not receive either of the summonses sent to her. She later contacted  Thong Lo Police Station and found that the summonses were not delivered to her address, and that an arrest warrant might be issued if she does not report to the police. Her lawyer therefore contacted the police so that she can report to them to hear the charges.

Sitanun said that she feels hopeless that not only are the Thai authorities not helping her find her brother and bring the perpetrators to justice, they are also trying to silence her by filing charges against her, even though she is fighting for the rights of her brother and other victims of enforced disappearance. She said that she has no other option but to speak out about the failure of the justice system in investigating her brother’s disappearance, and asked whether expressing her support for the anti-torture and enforced disappearance bill is such a threat to national security.

“Is it such a threat to national security that I join the campaign for the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance bill that you have to file charges to silence a victim? I am just calling for justice for someone in my family, but the government sees me as an enemy,” Sitanun said.

Sitanun’s brother Wanchalearm went missing on 4 June 2020, while living in exile in Cambodia. His fate is currently unknown, and no progress has been made in the investigation into his disappearance. Meanwhile, Sitanun has been spearheading the search for her brother and became a vocal supporter for the anti-torture and enforced disappearance bill, which was recently submitted to parliament.

At the 5 September 2021 protest, Sitanun gave a speech on torture and enforced disappearance, during which she asked why dissenters are harassed and are not able to even stay in Thailand. She said that these people should have the right to stay in the country, but they are forced to go overseas and live in exile, and noted that her brother has been on a government “watch list” since 2014.

A “watch list” document was leaked in late August 2021, which included at least 183 activists, politicians, and members of civil society organisations, all of whom have been critical of the government.

“I don’t know why people with different opinions have to be a threat to national security. Are they the nation? As far as I know, they are soldiers who live off taxpayers’ money. Can’t we have different ideas from them?” she said during the speech.

Sitanun said that torture is not a phenomenon that takes place after a coup, but has long been taking place in the three Deep South provinces, where people are accused of being separatists. She said that what happened to Wanchalearm and 8 other disappeared activists in exile let people see who the country is being ruled by and who they are fighting, and that she is fighting because she does not want anyone else to suffer the same fate as her family.

She also said that, even though her brother disappeared over a year ago, government agencies has yet to decide who is going to be responsible for investigating his disappearance. She saw that the government is ignoring Wanchalearm’s case in the same way that it ignores the voices of people who are protesting, and said that everyone is at risk if we are still ignorant about things that are not right. She also called for people to support the anti-torture and enforced disappearance bill.

Under the State of Emergency declared in late March 2020, public gatherings are banned and many activists and protesters are facing legal prosecution for violation of the Emergency Decree. According to iLaw, at least 1171 people are now facing charges of violating the Emergency Decree for joining protests.

NewsSitanun SatsaksitWanchalearm Satsaksitpro-democracy protest 2021enforced disappearancepolitical refugeeState of emergencyEmergency Decree
Categories: Prachatai English

Migrant worker detained from registrar failure to renew permit has been released

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-10-15 14:15
Submitted on Fri, 15 Oct 2021 - 02:15 PMHuman Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)

On 5 October 2021, Coordinator and lawyer of the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) has gone to the Bang Khen Immigration Detention Center to pick up Ms. P, a female migrant worker from Myanmar, who had been remanded in custody being accused of being an alien and worked without the permit, an offence against the Royal Ordinance Concerning the Management of Foreign Workers’ Employment 2017.

She could face up to a fine of 50,000 baht and be barred from working in the Kingdom of Thailand for the period of two years. 

Background of the case

  1. On 22 June 2021, officials from the Bangkok Office of Employment Region 2 and the Bangkok Internal Security Operations Command have conducted a labour inspection in the company where the female migrant worker, Ms. P, worked. After finding her work permit had expired, they charged her for being an alien and working without a permit an offence against the Royal Ordinance. The police later fined her and had her held in custody pending the process of deportation.
  2. After reviewing concerned information and documents, HRDF has found Ms. P was a legally registered migrant worker recruited through the Government-to-Government MoU and her work permit had expired on 20 February 2021, She has since applied to renew her work permit with the Bangkok Office of Employment Region 2 before the expiry date of her permit. The renewal could not be completed, however, since the official could not retrieve her information from the depository of migrant workers.

HRDF has thus coordinated with concerned agencies as follows; 

The Immigration Bureau was asked to discharge Ms. P from custody since she was among the migrant workers who benefit from the waiver made possible by the Ministry of Interior’s Notification on permission for certain groups of migrants including migrants from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to continue staying in the Kingdom on a special basis amidst the Covid-19 pandemic dated 3 August 2021. It basically allowed migrant workers whose work permits have expired between 1 January to 3 August 2021 to continue living in Thailand temporarily and they are required to renew their work permits within 2 December 2021.

In its reply on this case, the Immigration Bureau, however, states that Ms. P is not a migrant as defined in the Notification. 

The Department of Employment: We sought an urgent discussion whether Ms. P is a worker who enjoys a waiver pursuant to the Ministry of Interior’s Notification or not. On 15 September 2021, the Department of Employment replied in a letter that Ms. P has pled guilty for being an alien and working without the permit and even though her employer has filed the application on her behalf to renew her permit, but the registrar was unable to grant her the permission to work.

HRDF has further clarified to the Department of Employment that Ms. P has filed an application to renew her work permit before its expiry date. In its written reply on 28 September 2021, the Department states that Ms. P has applied to renew her work permit and the Bangkok Office of Employment Region 2 has been instructed to renew her work permit and to coordinate with the Immigration Bureau to have her released from custody. Even though Ms. P has already applied to renew her work permit before its expiry date as required by Section 64/1 of the Royal Ordinance Concerning the Management of Foreign Workers’ Employment 2017 and the registrar has yet renew it for her, she still retains the right to continue working until the registrar eventually decides to not renew her work permit pursuant to Section 67/2.

In such case, Ms. P should not be held accountable for an offence of being an alien and working without the permit, an offence against Section 8 which is punishable according to Section 101 of the Royal Ordinance and its amendments. 

Therefore, the Department of Employment has thus instructed by letter for the Bangkok Office of Employment Region 2 to review and renew the work permit to allow her to resume her work. The letter has since been furnished to the inquiry official to further information the Immigration Bureau to have her released from custody. HRDF’s staff have gone to pick up Ms. P at the Immigration Detention Center and coordinate with her employer to reinstate her as an employee. 

Acting Sub Lt. Watchirawit Wutthipatchara, lawyer from the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)’s Chapter in Samut Sakhon, comments that this case reflects the flaws of the documentation system of the renewal of work permit and employment of the migrant workers, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic which has become an obstacle for the migrant workers to renew their work permits. Such flaws have made the migrant worker a victim being deprived of her liberty and rights even though she has done nothing wrong.

Ms. P should therefore be entitled to a compensation from concerned agencies since the case has stemmed from the erroneous action of the officials who have failed to properly review their information even though the application to renew the work permit has been filed before its expiry date as attested to by the receipt issued by the agency itself.

Previously, there have been complaints from a number of migrant workers in various areas who were unable to renew their work permits since the information about their employment and their renewal of work permit has not been properly recorded.

The Department of Employment was thus asked to inform the Offices of Employment in all areas to ask all in-charge officials to properly record all the employment information of the migrant workers immediately upon the filing of application or relevant procedures. This will prevent any unintended consequences and the arrest in such case. This will fulfill the spirit of the Ministry of Labour which wants to reform the relevant law and policy concerning the management of migrant worker to make them compatible with the General principles and operational guidelines for fair recruitment by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Thailand was part of the drafters of the principles.

Pick to PostHuman Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)labour rightsmigrant worker
Categories: Prachatai English

Chula students propose 6 October as the International Day for the Protection of Students’ Freedom of Expression

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-10-15 14:12
Submitted on Fri, 15 Oct 2021 - 02:12 PMPrachatai

The Student Government of Chulalongkorn University (SGCU) has proposed that 6 October of every year be designated the International Day for the Protection of Students’ Freedom of Expression.

Flowers brought by various student groups and CSOs at the 45th anniversary of the Thammasat University Massacre event on 6 October 2021

The SGCU has started a petition on change.org, proposing that the UN designate 6 October, the anniversary of the 1976 Thammasat University Massacre, as the International Day for the Protection of Students’ Freedom of Expression.

The petition is backed by several student activist groups from Chulalongkorn University and Thammasat University, including the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration and the Spring Movement, and 29 international activists and academics, including those from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Myanmar, and the Philippines.

The petition proposes that the International Day for the Protection of Students’ Freedom of Expression be observed on 6 October to remember “those who lost their lives and the various cases of brutality that have taken place in various academic institutions around the world” and to call on university administrations to protect students’ freedom of expression, academic freedom, and create “a safe space for dialogue and inquiry.”

The petition also says that the situation has not improved since the 1976 Thammasat University Massacre. Student movements around the world continue to face repression, at times by the state, and the 2020 - 2021 student-led protests in Thailand have faced violence from the authorities while activists, many of whom are under 18 years old, are facing prosecution.

Student activist and SGCU president Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal said that what they are doing right now is to make people aware of how important freedom is. He said that while they do plan to submit the petition, there is no need to wait for the UN, but Thai students in every university should come together to create a day that is meaningful to them and to raise awareness among students about the protection of rights and freedoms and to call on university administrations to protect students’ rights and freedoms. He said that once this day is recognized in Thailand, they can move on to the international level.

“It needs time, but we will definitely propose it,” Netiwit said, “but mainly, we have to do it well at home. If we don’t, then if the world accepts it, but we ourselves don’t care about it, what good would it do?”

Netiwit said that student movements in other countries still face state violence, such as in Hong Hong, where young people are facing charges with penalties as severe as life imprisonment, or in Myanmar, where students have long been at the forefront of pro-democracy movements and have been severely repressed, with many of them killed. He sees 6 October as a symbolically meaningful day at an international level, not just in Thailand.

“Students are starting to see the 6 October incident as closer to their lives every year, because they started to see it, right? Once they start asking questions, they are put down, so they start to understand the generations before them, who lived through the incident, so they see that this is injustice, that this is brutality that they must not forget," Netiwit said. 

"And the state doesn’t care to remember it, so people have to remember. If, one day, the state starts remembering it, this day might become a more ordinary day, but it would still be a day that inspires people to fight back against the state, as long as it is still remembered by ordinary people."

Netiwit believes that, despite repression and legal prosecution, people are still determined to fight. He said that in the past, if an activist was arrested, they didn’t know how much support they had, but right now, more people sympathize with them and are ready to support them, so he believes that the situation is getting more hopeful.

 

NewsStudent Government of Chulalongkorn University (SGCU)Netiwit Chotiphatphaisalfreedom of expressionstudent movement6 October 1979Thammasat University massacre
Categories: Prachatai English

Gender equality network demands democracy for all

Prachatai English - Thu, 2021-10-14 00:15
Submitted on Thu, 14 Oct 2021 - 12:15 AMPrachatai

The gender equality activist group Feminist’s Liberation Front Thailand staged a protest on Saturday (9 October) to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, constitutional amendments, and monarchy reform to create a democracy for all.

Protesters on Silom Road carrying Pride flags

The protest started with a “car mob” caravan beginning at Soi Silom 2, which then headed to the Democracy Monument via Ratchaprasong Intersection and Lan Luang Road. Gender equality activist Chumaporn Taengkliang said that the group chose Soi Silom 2 as the starting point of the caravan because this is the area where LGBTQ workers and sex workers used to thrive, but Covid-19 has caused everything to stop, so the group chose the spot as their starting point to show support.

Chumaporn said that the group invited around 10 truck drivers who were affected by the pandemic to join the caravan, and that there wouldn’t be speeches but they would be playing music and dancing, which required 10 ten-wheeler trucks because they wanted to maintain distancing measures while dancing. However, she said that the truck drivers were blocked by police in Pathum Thani from entering in Bangkok. Nevertheless, the group went ahead with the event, handing out Pride flags to participants to carry during the caravan.

Chumaporn also said that the group asked volunteers helping to organize the event to take a Covid-19 test if they have yet to receive 2 doses of vaccine, and she does not understand why the police would accuse them of risking the spread of the virus when they had every disease prevention measure in place.

In addition to demanding Gen Prayut’s resignation, constitutional amendment, and monarchy reform, the group is also calling for menstrual products to become state welfare, marriage equality, the repeal of Section 112, and for amendments to the constitution which take diversity into account and which treat everyone as equal.

Following a performance by several drag queens, the caravan took off from Silom Road at around 14.40. They arrived at the Democracy Monument, where a stage was set up, at around 15.45.

The Democracy Monument being wrapped in a large Pride flag

Protesters wrapped the Democracy Monument in a large Pride flag and placed several smaller Pride flags around it. Several activists then took turn giving speeches.

A group of protesters from the Thalugaz group, who have been staging daily protests at Din Daeng, also went up on stage to ask for support from other protesters. They also spoke about the crowd control police’s use of violence against the Din Daeng protesters, most of whom are young people. One Thalugaz protester said that protesters who were arrested from Din Daeng were assaulted by the police, and that some were burned with cigarettes.

Thalugaz protesters went up to the stage

The protest ended abruptly at around 19.10, while activist Phromsorn Weerathamjaree was speaking, after a small clash occurred at the Phan Fa Lilat Bridge, and it was reported that crowd control police were arriving in the area. The organisers immediately announced the conclusion of the protest and told participants to leave via the Khok Wua intersection to avoid clashing with the police. There were reports that the police used tear gas.

iLaw reported that 1 person was arrested near Mahakan Fort, and that the police tied their hands behind their back with cable ties. The police also attempted to arrest activist Ekkachai Hongkangwan while he was in a Seven-Eleven opposite the King Prajadhipok Museum. They tried to make Ekkachai and 4 other people board a detention truck, but the group refused, saying that they had already been searched and that the police must notify them of their offense before taking them to a police station. They also refused to let the police search their mobile phones, and were later released.

Going beyond the gender binary

Charlotte

Charlotte, representing the non-binary community, gave the first speech of the evening about what it means to be non-binary. They said that, when they were born, they were labelled male because of their genitals, but once they grew up, they were labelled female because of their behaviour, but they believe that they are a different identity which is not on the gender binary, and society has no right to tell them whether they are a man or a woman.

“When I was a child, does everyone believe that I had to face a lot of questions, and I was inspected on which gender I really am. One day, they think I’m a man. The next day, I’m seen as a woman. Do you believe that in 1 year, I was labelled with maybe 30,000 sexes? So I want to say that all of this is the result of this country’s system which does not recognize my identity and which does not accept me as a human being,” Charlotte said. They also said that the Thai sex education curriculum sees non-binary people as abnormal and as people who should be treated, while the Thai constitution does not take diversity into account.

Charlotte said that the state’s negligence of the LGBTQ community is ignoring their human dignity, their rights and freedoms, as well as human rights. They called for a constitution in which everyone is equal.

It’s time to talk about marriage equality, says iLaw manager

Yingcheep Atchanont

iLaw manager Yingcheep Atchanont gave a speech during the protest on amendments to the marriage law. He noted that Section 1448 of the Thai Civil and Commercial Code, or the current marriage law, has only been amended once since it went into effect in 1935, when the age at which men and women are allowed to get married was changed, while other countries are changing their laws so that people can get married regardless of gender.

Yingcheep said that MPs from the Move Forward Party have previously proposed a marriage equality bill, but it has yet to go before parliament. The Civil Partnership bill proposed by the government has also not been added to the parliament’s agenda. Nevertheless, he questioned whether we can rely on parliament to bring about marriage equality.

He said that the problem was not just about Section 1448, but also about other legislation which states that couples only have legal rights if they are legally married, while the law only allows marriage between a man and a woman. Certain welfare services are also extended only to legally married spouses. He said that since these rights are only given to those who are legally married, it is not possible to amend every law, and therefore Section 1448 has to be amended. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court has postponed a hearing on whether the marriage law violates the Constitution.

Yingcheep said that the next two months are crucial for the movement for marriage equality. He asked that everyone spread the word of how important it is that everyone who decides to spend their lives with another person must have equal rights to be legally married to send a message to the Constitutional Court, because if the Court rules that Section 1448 does not violate the Constitution, then Thailand may never have gender equality.

“So in the next two months, if you have a voice, if you have information, if you have reasons, if you have opportunities, you have to say it as loud as you can. I hope that we won’t have to regret anything later, so that in December, we won’t have to think that we knew we should have talked about it before, because the opportunity is now in our hands,” Yingcheep said. “If we don’t say it loud enough, clear enough, we might not be able to make history. Today, it might not be easy. We may have many things that we have to talk about, like freeing our friends, like democracy, like writing a new constitution, but this is one other thing. If we miss this opportunity, we might regret it later, so I want to leave marriage equality with you. No matter who you are, no matter your gender, no matter the gender of people you love, no matter if you can register your marriage today, there are many of our brothers and sisters who want to register their marriage.”

Activists call for sex workers’ right

Nott (left) and Siri Ninlapruek (right)

Nott, a 5th year medical student, and Siri Ninlapruek, an activist from Feminist’s Liberation Front Thailand, gave a speech calling for sex workers’ rights and welfare.

Siri said that sex work is an ancient profession, and sex workers have always been taken advantage of. They are not accepted and are oppressed by society. She said that sex workers have the right to choose whether to stay in the profession, because it is their right to their own bodies. She noted that the Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act is therefore an obstacle to legalizing sex work, as the legislation benefits the authorities’ business.

“Do you know that each day around here, those with power still use their power to oppress but also to ask [sex workers] to provide services for free because they’re in uniform, even though the economic is in decline. It’s difficult to sell even your vaginas. The lowest price is 300 baht right now. Sometimes you have to [work] for 5 days to earn 300 baht,” Siri said.

Nott said that legalization of sex work is so that sex workers can have the rights and welfare that every citizen should get. He said that it does not mean that more people would become sex workers, but if the profession is legalized, sex workers will be able to do their work safely and will be protected from disease and other forms of violation, including threats, extortion, and physical assault.

“While we are calling for democracy and calling for equality, I would like to raise my voice. I ask everyone not to forget about this group of people. Don’t forget sex workers, because they are all Thai citizens just like us. They want welfare. They want protection, and they want the law to see them like all of us,” Siri said.

Student activist shaves head to protest state violence

Ploy (left) and Mimi (right)

Student activists Mimi and Ploy gave a speech about violence against young people. Ploy said that there is no safe space for young people in this country, not even at home. Young people who speak out about politics are judged or cursed by adults, even though they only want to see a better and more equal society, and many times, adults and those with power use violence against young people.

“Many times, the words ‘being good’ and the word ‘gratitude’ are used as tools to oppress children, whether it is making merit to repay the country, repay the land, or even obligations within the home. Many times, these words are used as tools to oppress young people until they no longer have their humanity,” Ploy said.

“If it turns out that that child has faced violence all their lives, and they want to come out and say that politics sucks, that the government sucks, that it caused them to have to face such things, and the adults do this, the adults cursed the child, is this what an adult should do, even though we’re all oppressed by the government?”

Ploy said that she does not want the idea of gratitude to be used to oppress young people, because everyone wants a good life and wants to be respected as a human being. She asked that young people are treated as humans without violence.

Mimi had their head shaved to protest against state violence (Photo by Chana La)

Meanwhile, Mimi said that changing society to become a safer place can start with the home, expanding to the workplace, the community, and the country.

“If you come to protests, calling for equality, calling for safety, but when you get home, you still type comments sexually harassing women, still send pictures of your penis to people on Twitter who do not consent, why the fuck are you here?” Mimi said.

Mimi said that Thai society is still not very aware of safety and bodily autonomy. They said that sex work is currently still a crime, while people who get pregnant still have limited choices. Students are still having their hair cut and their socks confiscated. Gender identities and sexualities are not accepted. There is no state welfare, while indigenous communities are still threatened, and young people protesting at Din Daeng still face violence. Many other people are also left behind due to the pandemic.

“Today, as a young person who thinks that our country can get better if we have democracy, my rebellion will never end,” Mimi announced while cutting their own hair with scissors. “Today, I want to show my condolences to people who have been lost because of the government’s management failure. I’m going to stand with people who are coming out to fight, with all of us, and I will oppose the power that suppresses our right to our own body.”

Mimi announced that they will be shaving their heads until Gen Prayut resigns, and if the next government is still a dictatorship, they will keep their heads shaved to show that the country has never had a democracy. Ploy and two other people then brought hair clippers onto the stage to shave Mimi’s head.

Activists demand repeal of Section 112

Thanapat gave a speech dressed in a Thai Chitralada dress

Thanapat, a member of the activist group Thalufah, gave a speech on the repeal of Section 112, or the royal defamation law, while dressed in a red Thai Chitralada dress. He said that there is a right and freedom to dress as one chooses, and therefore the government has no right to dictate how people dress.

Thanapat said that many people are currently imprisoned on royal defamation charges, even though what they said was criticism of the monarchy, especially when it comes to using the national budget. He asked whether what these people said was wrong, since they spoke out because they want national budget to be used for the benefit of the people. He also said that he believes that if everyone joins in the fight, then Section 112 will be repealed in the future, not just amended.

“When you want to stay in this country, on the same land as the citizens, then you have to listen to the citizens’ voice, both those who dissent and those who love you. Don’t pick and choose. Don’t lock up just dissenters. I don’t see people who stage coups locked up too,” Thanapat said.

Thanapat noted that the late King Bhumibol once said that the monarchy can be criticized, but one has to point out where the monarchy went wrong, meaning that people should be able to criticize the monarchy since the King said so himself. He added that those who criticize the monarchy are using information and facts, which is good for the monarchy. However, Section 112 has been used not only to silence critics, but has also been used by those with a personal conflict or who wish to bully someone else, such as the case where an older sibling filed charges against their own younger sibling.

Thanapat said that it has now become apparent that using royal defamation charges against critics does more harm than good, and the best way out is to repeal the law.

“I want to see Thailand able to criticize everyone in good faith, for everyone to have the same law to be able to protect themselves , not one person above others, because we are a democracy,” Thanapat said.

Thanaporn Wichan

Labour Network for People’s Right activist Thanaporn Wichan also gave a speech on the expansion of corporations with connections to the Crown Property Bureau, such as Siam Bioscience, which is contracted to produce the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for Thailand, and a joint venture by various companies to set up a waste power plant in Saraburi. She also asked the labour sector to pay attention to women’s rights and demanded gender justice for women who are limited by the bounds of tradition and must stay faithful to one husband, while such ideas are not applied to men.

Thanaporn also raised questions about domestic violence in relation to the monarchy, giving examples of past incidents where people in the royal family have been punished, and questioned whether it is fair that men are allowed to be polygamous while women must stay faithful.

NewsFeminist's Liberation Front Thailandgender equalityfeminismmarriage equalityLGBT rightsLGBTQpro-democracy 2021
Categories: Prachatai English

Former TAT officers found guilty of false reimbursement, says Governor

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-10-12 13:24
Submitted on Tue, 12 Oct 2021 - 01:24 PMPrachatai

In a One Channel News interview, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said that Phitcha-on (formerly Jarinya) Kiatlaphanachai, the former Director of TAT’s New York office, and Monthira Prakhongphan, the office’s former Deputy Director, have been found guilty of using stolen documents to claim unwarranted reimbursements.  

The TAT main office in Bangkok.

According to the news report, Phitcha-on and Monthira were fired from their posts on 7 September. The case is now under appeal.

In August 2020, Suteera Nagavajara and Pitsara Lumpukdee, Thai residents in the United States filed complaints with local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) against the two officers for identity theft.

In 2019, Suteera was hired to perform a dance at an event in Washington D.C. In March, she gave TAT a copy of her driving license as documentation for payment purposes.

She later learned that this copy was used by Phitcha-on to claim reimbursement for a 4,000 USD car rental and driver service in Massachusetts in August 2019.  Suteera has documents to prove she was in Thailand at the time.

In Pisara’s case, she submitted a copy of her green card in support of support a job application at TAT.  The document was later used by Monthira to claim reimbursement for the cost of ‘event organising’ in Boston in February 2019, when Pisara was in Thailand.

Suteera filed complaints with the TAT headquarters in Bangkok and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) but received no formal investigation result from them.

Prachatai earlier submitted a letter of inquiry to the TAT Governor, asking for an update on Suteera’s petition but received no response, despite several follow-up attempts.

NewsTourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)corruptiontransparencySource: prachatai.com/journal/2021/10/95421
Categories: Prachatai English

Youth forcefully questioned over shooting of police officer

Prachatai English - Tue, 2021-10-12 12:09
Submitted on Tue, 12 Oct 2021 - 12:09 PMPrachatai

On 10 October, a 14-year-old boy was taken from his house to the Din Daeng Police Station and pressured to confess that he shot a crowd control police officer in the head on 6 October, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

Police officers search a perimeter in the Din Daeng Flat.

The youth was taken to the station around noon. When a lawyer arrived to provide assistance, he had already been moved from the station without charges being filed. Police took the youth and a relative back home without giving them a chance to talk to the lawyer.

The relative was unwilling to provide the lawyer with information, saying that the police had forbidden it. 

The police have made increasing use of irregular tactics in dealing with the Din Daeng protests. Protesters have been clashing with police there since August in a bid to march to Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s house. Residents of the densely populated community have been suffering collateral damage from the clashes and dispersions.

On 6 October, Pol L/Cpl Dejwit Lettenson, a unit commander of the crowd control police was shot in the head by an unknown type of firearm during a protest dispersion. The bullet penetrated his helmet, causing a serious injury.

On 7 October, Pol Maj Gen Jirasan Kaewsaeng-ek, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) announced that the police had information about the suspect. He asserted that the gunman had the intention to kill, having shot from a high location. The type of bullet fired was still under investigation, according to the Bangkok Post.

The shooting was followed by large-scale arrests in the Din Daeng area. On 7 October, the police rounded up 70 people, including 5 underage youths. Some were found to have explosive devices. Some of the individuals detained at Din Daeng Police Station were initially barred from meeting with lawyers.

On 7 October, the Facebook page “Gun tape, camouflage, trekking kits” cited a now-deleted post on a Black Hood Tactical page, stating that the bullet which hit Pol L/Cpl Dejwit is an “R.I.P.” produced by the US-based G2 Research Company. The bullet leaves an eight-point mark when it hits the target and flattens out to cause a serious wound. The post also stated that the bullet is expensive.

NewsPol L/Cpl Dejwit LettensonThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Din Daeng Police StationDin DaengCrowd control police
Categories: Prachatai English

Far-right hosts to join military-owned channel next year

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-10-11 22:10
Submitted on Mon, 11 Oct 2021 - 10:10 PMPrachatai

The four ultraroyalist hosts from Top News who were sanctioned by pro-democracy protesters and Nation TV last year will host 7 hours a day for Channel 5, the military-owned TV channel, from 3 January 2022.

Despite the controversies surrounding them, Kanok Ratwongsakul, Teera Tanyapaibul, Santisuk Marongsri, and Sathaporn Kuasakul said they would work with the Channel 5 team to present themselves with different personae, focusing on delivering impartial and accurate reports.

According to the renewable 1-year contract amounting to 65 million baht offered to Channel 5 by Galaxy Media Corporation (GMC), the commentators will host news programmes at 6.00-7.00, 12.00-14.00, 18.00-20.00, and 20.30-22.30.

The contract also covers a daily two-minute programme Sat Haeng Siam (Siamology) and two variety programmes on Saturday and Sunday, one of which is Lai Kanok Yok Siam hosted by Kanok.

With the four hosts in the team, Channel 5, now with a national rating of 18th, will provide information that will end the public division and help Thailand out of the economic and health crisis caused by the spread of Covid-19, said Lt Gen Rangsi Kitiyanasap, Managing Director of Channel 5.

"The goal of presenting news on Channel 5 will emphasize news which is the truth in all aspects, with in-depth detail, and importantly, which does not create division in society, and does not add fuel, but pulls firewood out of the fire. We will be a mainstream media outlet which will not judge who is wrong or right, but presents comprehensive information and lets the people decide," said Lt Gen Rangsi.

Lt Gen Rangsi said that he did not care much about ratings. However, Chaiwat Techapaitoon, Chair of the Executive Board of GMC, was confident that in three months, the rating of Channel 5 news would soar into the top three, and the channel would reach the top ten overall.

"Pull firewood out of the fire."

Since late August, speculation that right-wing figures would be brought into the military-owned channel has caused controversy. In August, Lt Gen Rangsi told Matichon that the right-wing hosts just came to propose their programme plan according to the annual schedule and that these concerned only those commentators, not Top News as a whole.

At the opening event on 30 September, Lt Gen Rangsi replied to the question of what the programme will look like saying that people will have to wait and see "how Kanok's team will change their looks." The right-wing hosts did not fail to add their comment, with Teera Tanyapaibul saying "We focus on the truth, and omit division."

Lai Kanok Yok Siam, a variety programme that will appear on Channel 5 next year, started broadcasting on Top News in February and led to controversy in May after winning a 4.8 million baht grant from the Thai Media Fund. After public criticism, Thanakorn Srisuksai, Manager of the Thai Media Fund, said that the grant complied with the law and the Fund's regulations and requirements.

The show's host Kanok and his team left Nation TV in 2020 after its sponsors became the target of a boycott by pro-democracy protesters because of their pro-government coverage. Top News, which broadcasts the programme, started operating in January 2021, focusing on an ultraroyalist narrative after the team made unsuccessful attempts to buy NEW18 and PPTV.

Not long after it started operations, Top News sponsors, including MK Restaurants and Yayoi, became the target of a boycott by pro-democracy protesters. In late March 2021, Prachatai English reported that a group of social media users tried to defend the Top News sponsors by posting fake pictures from the internet in opposition to the boycott.

Before the successful contract with Channel 5, the Top News commentators made an unsuccessful attempt to get into the mainstream media by discussing a business plan with the state enterprise MCOT Public Company Limited in late January 2021. Anucha Nakasai, Minister of the Office of the Prime Minister, said at the time that the plan was still vague and that the government had nothing to do with it.

Under the new contract, Brand Buffet emphasized that GMC, with Chaiwat Techapaitoon as Chair of the Executive Board, was a different legal entity from Top News Digital Media Co Ltd, which has Sonthiyan Chuenruthainaitham as its founder.

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

 

NewsTop NewsRoyal Thai ArmyChannel 5Nation Channel
Categories: Prachatai English

CMU lecturer files defamation lawsuit against art critic

Prachatai English - Mon, 2021-10-11 14:14
Submitted on Mon, 11 Oct 2021 - 02:14 PMPrachatai

Art critic Pearamon Tulavardhana reports that she has received a court summons on a charge of defamation by publication filed against her by Chiang Mai University lecturer Pongsiri Kiddee, after she published an article on an exhibition organized by the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC).

Peeramon Tulavardhana

Pearamon said that the cause of the lawsuit was 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. The article reviewed an OCAC exhibition featuring artwork purchased by the OCAC as “national treasures.”  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.

The article stated that the OCAC spent 19 million baht to buy artworks for its collection, and that a document containing the list of artists whose works were purchased was published on the OCAC website for a short time before being taken down, raising questions about the OCAC’s criteria in spending such a large amount of money to buy these works, why these works were chosen, and who the selection committee members are.

The exhibition in question took place on 19 March – 9 May 2021 at the Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Center. Pearamon’s article questioned whether these works can be considered contemporary, and stated that there is no description of the works or an explanation of how these works were curated in the exhibition. 

Pearamon gave the example of Pongsiri’s work, which was featured in the exhibition. She said that she was sued for comparing his 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.  

Pearamon said that she finds it unusual that Pongsiri filed a lawsuit against her, as the article mainly criticized the OCAC, and if anyone is going to file a lawsuit against her, it should be the OCAC, which is the subject of the article.

The article was published in Way Magazine and has not been taken down. Pearamon said that the Way Magazine editorial team told her they had not received any court summons, meaning that it is likely that the lawsuit was filed only against her.

The lawsuit was also filed with a court in Nakhon Si Thammarat, even though the exhibition took place in Bangkok, where Pearamon is based, and Pongsiri lives in Chiang Mai.

Pearamon said that, if the case goes to court, she would insist that she did nothing wrong, because she is only doing her job as member of the press, and that she wanted to insist that criticism should be normal practice. A lawyer she consulted also told her to stand by her role in the media and her experience working in the arts, as she has been working as a coordinator in an art gallery for the past 3 years, and has published articles for at least 5 years.

“If there is going to be a settlement, I don’t want to take the entire article down, because I don’t want to censor myself, and there is nothing for me to apologize, because criticism is normal,” Pearamon said. “I want to insist that criticism should be possible, especially when you are an artist. Once your work reaches the public, if someone who is a member of the public sees it, they must be able to criticize your work. It’s no different from movies or food, the things which you can review.”

Peeramon said that she now has a lawyer. The first inquiry hearing is set for December 2021.  

Pongsiri is a lecturer in the Faculty of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University, and the Faculty’s Deputy Dean of Student Development. 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.

Under Section 328 of the Thai Criminal Code, defamation by publication is an offense punishable by imprisonment not exceeding two years and a fine not exceeding 200,000 baht.

NewsPeeramon TulavardhanaWay MagazinePongsiri KiddeeChiang Mai UniversityArt criticismfreedom of expressionOffice of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC)defamationLibelStrategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP)
Categories: Prachatai English

Thai police warn children against watching Squid Game

Prachatai English - Sun, 2021-10-10 21:51
Submitted on Sun, 10 Oct 2021 - 09:51 PMPrachatai

Pol Gen Krissana Pattanacharoen, Deputy Spokesperson of the Royal Thai police, has said that he is worried about children who may imitate the survival game from the Netflix series Squid Game, causing physical harm and property damage, Khaosod reports.

So far, there are still no reports of any incidents in Thailand related to the Squid Game.

Pol Gen Krissana said on 10 October that amid the spread of Covid-19, children who have to attend online classrooms at home rely more on social media and watching the series has become a popular activity.

However, some series or movies, including Squid Game, may contain inappropriate content and violent behaviour. The audience may think that they are in the same situation and follow the violent behaviour, leading to criminal convictions.

The parents should monitor their children’s use of social media and consumption of media. Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk is aware of the danger and the police are working hard to raise public awareness about the danger to provide people with immunity to stay out of crime.

If concerned citizens spot anything suspicious, they can call the Royal Thai Police hotline at 191 or 1599, available 24 hours, said Pol Gen Krissana.

Squid Game, rated as 18+, is among the ten most popular series in Thailand.

In the Korean series, 456 people in debt or desperate for money participate in traditional children games to earn a tremendous reward. People who lose will die. The series has raised concerns about the personal debt crisis in South Korea and questions of religion, immigration, and the economy. 

After its release, the series caused a global sensation as the most-watched Netflix Series of all time and has led to real-world implications.

According to South China Morning Post, a man in South Korea who has the same phone number that is given in the series has received thousands of prank calls, affecting his mental health. Huh Kyung-young, a South Korean presidential candidate, has offered to buy the number for 100 million won.

In the United Kingdom, the Telegraph reports that advertisements for a real-life version of Squid Game are circulating online. The losers will be “aggressively stampeded towards, and shot in the face with a BB gun.” The Metropolitan Police has warned everyone against taking part.

 

NewsRoyal Thai Police
Categories: Prachatai English

Performance artist faces another royal defamation charge

Prachatai English - Sat, 2021-10-09 14:32
Submitted on Sat, 9 Oct 2021 - 02:32 PMPrachatai

Chiang Mai University student and performance artist Withaya Khlangnin is facing another royal defamation charge for staging a performance in front of the university on 1 May 2021 to demand the release of detained activists.

Withaya poured red paint all over himself during his performance on 1 May 2021

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that, according to the police, Withaya’s performance amounts to royal defamation because it involved climbing onto the university sign, above which was a portrait of the King and a sign saying “Long live the King.” Withaya also poured red paint all over himself, which the police said was unsightly, and spilled paint over the university sign and the image of the King. The police also said that the gestures Withaya used during the performance, such as standing with a paint bucket over his head, and lying down with one foot pointing up at the portrait of the king, was disrespectful.

Withaya went to Phuping Rajanivej Police Station on Tuesday (5 October) to hear the charges. He was dressed as Luffy from the Japanese manga One Piece, and staged a short performance before going to meet the inquiry officer.

Withaya arrived at the Phuping Rajanivej Police Station dressed as Luffy from the Japanese manga One Piece, and performed Luffy's "Gear 2" pose before going into the police station. 

TLHR reported that at least 60 police officers were stationed in the area, while the police station was surrounded with metal fences. The police also tried to stop a small crowd of supporters from going inside the police station area. Officers were taking photos and videos of people, and repeatedly made announcements that gatherings are prohibited under the Emergency Decree. 

Withaya was released after his meeting with the inquiry officer. He has to report to the police again in 12 days, and has to submit further testimony in 20 days.

Withaya is currently facing 2 counts of lèse majesté under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. Along with Yotsunthon Ruttapradid, another Chiang Mai University student, he was previously charged under Section 112 and the 1979 Flag Act for a piece of installation art during a protest on 14 March 2021, which featured a mannequin wrapped in plastic in the middle of two red and white strips, on which participants at the 14 March protest were invited to write down messages. The messages were seen as defaming the King, and since the piece looks like a Thai flag without the blue stripe, which represents the monarchy, it was taken to mean that the artist does not wish the monarchy to exist in the country.

NewsWithaya KhlangninSection 112Royal defamationlese majestePerformance artArtistic freedomfreedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

Student activist arrested, denied bail on royal defamation charge

Prachatai English - Fri, 2021-10-08 18:57
Submitted on Fri, 8 Oct 2021 - 06:57 PMPrachatai

Student activist Benja Apan was arrested yesterday (7 October) on a lèse majesté charge in connection with the 10 August 2021 protest and has been denied bail. 

Benja was carried into a police vehicle and taken to the Thonglo Police Station yesterday (Picture from The Reporters)

Benja went to meet the inquiry officer at Lumpini Police Station yesterday afternoon to hear a charge of violating the Emergency Decree for participating in the 3 September protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection. However, the police found that there was an outstanding arrest warrant issued against her on a royal defamation charge under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, as well as charges for violations of the Emergency Decree and the Communicable Diseases Act, for participating in the 10 August 2021 protest.

During the protest, Benja read out the 2nd United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration Declaration, stating that the 2014 coup led by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has led to a regime which benefited only the elite. The statement also criticised the government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic and called for the government properly handle the pandemic, revitalise the economy, repeal the 2017 Constitution which allows the junta government to prolong its stay in power, push forward reforms in state structures and the monarchy, and also return to the people their dignity.

The police intended to take Benja to Thong Lo Police Station, but she told them that she would not be going anywhere and would stay in front of Lumpini Police Station. She told them that if the police wanted to arrest her, they had to come and arrest her themselves. She refused to get into a police vehicle.

Lumpini Police Station Superintendent Pol Col Jakkrit Chosungnoen asked Benja to finish her dinner at Lumpini Police Station and then board a police vehicle. However, Benja continued sitting in front of Lumpini Police Station until around 17.45 when two women police officers carried her into a police vehicle and took her to Thong Lo Police Station.

Benja was denied bail at the inquiry level, and was detained at Thong Lo Police Station overnight. She was taken to court this morning (8 October) for a temporary detention request and was later denied bail.

Benja being held in a detention truck (Photo by Ginger Cat)

The judge who signed the order was reported to be Netdao Manotamkij, who denied Benja bail on the ground that the offense has a high penalty, and that she has previously committed the same offense. The inquiry officer also opposed to granting her bail.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), Benja is currently facing 6 charges under Section 112.

A crowd of supporters gathered at the South Bangkok Criminal Court (Photo by Ginger Cat)

The United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration posted a letter from Benja thanking everyone for their support.

“Everything happened so fast, and it’s very confusing, but it’s alright,” the letter said. “It will pass soon. We are the ghosts of time, and time is always on our side. See you later.”

Benja has been taken to Central Women Correctional Institution. The crowd of supporters waiting at the South Bangkok Criminal Court were gathering by the court’s back gates, but the vehicle taking her to prison turned towards the front gates. It was reported that the crowd tried to chase after the truck, but could not catch up. Meanwhile, TLHR said that they have appealed to the order denying her bail, and are still waiting for the result.

NewsBenja ApanUnited Front of Thammasat and Demonstrationstudent activistpro-democracy protest 2021Royal defamationlese majesteSection 112freedom of expression
Categories: Prachatai English

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