On 20 January, the Court of Appeal objected to the bail request of Anchan (surname omitted), a 63 year old woman who faces 43 years and 6 months jail sentence under the Lèse-majesté law.
Anchan while being brought to prison on 19 January
According to the ruling, the reasons for the objection are due to her high prison sentence, the defendant also had confessed, her actions had brought derogation to the institution of monarchy which “affected the mind of people who are loyal” and which that the lèse majesté case relates to the security of the kingdom.
The court found that, if granted bail, it would be possible for her to flee.
The court objection ruling
Anchan P., a food seller and former civil servant, faced 29 counts of “insulting the monarchy”, or lèse majesté, under Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code and provisions of the Computer Crime Act. She was arrested in January 2015 and detained for nearly four years until November 2018, when she was released on bail.
Anchan was initially detained incommunicado in a military camp for five days before her transfer to a detention facility and repeatedly denied bail.
The court convicted Anchan for allegedly sharing and uploading clips on social media of an online talk show alleged to have made defamatory comments about the monarchy.
Section 112 of the Criminal Code criminalizes individuals who defame or express hostility to the King, the Queen, the Heir Apparent and the Regent. It carries a 3-15 year jail sentence.
As of 19 January, at least 54 people have been charged or summoned by the police to hear the Section 112 charges within the last few weeks. None have yet made their way to court.NewsAnchanLèse-majestéSection 112Article 112
Responding to the questioning of the government’s Covid-19 vaccination programme and its strong relationship with private company funded by King Rama X, government representatives teamed up to file lèse majesté and computer crime charges against the leader of the Progressive Movement.
A footage of Thanatorn from the Facebook live about the vaccination program.
Nawin Chochaiyathip, Deputy Minister of Digital Economy and Society (MDES), Tossapol Pengsom, an official from the Prime Minister’s Office, and Suporn Atthawong, Deputy Minister of the Prime Minister's Office, went to the Technology Crime Suppression Division to file the complaints on 20 January, according to Matichon, Voice Online and Prachachat.
Tossapol said that Buddhipongse Punnakanta, the MDES Minister, told him to file complaints against Thanatorn as his 30-minute-long Facebook live presentation, which was uploaded on YouTube, has 11 instances that may be in violation of the lèse majesté law and the Computer Crime Act. Those that found involved with the video will face the complaints as well.
On the same day, Thanathorn’s Facebook Fanpage responded to the complaints, questioning the government’s intentions in its vaccination plans and its reliance on Siam Bioscience. The issue can be solved by clarifying the company’s technology transfer deal with AstraZeneca, the British-Swedish pharmaceutical group, said Thanathorn.
Thanatorn’s "Royal Vaccine: Who Benefits and Who Doesn't?" on Facebook live on 18 January, criticizes the government's slow procurement of vaccine in comparison with other countries in Asia. He also questioned why Siam Bioscience is the only company to strike a deal with AstraZeneca to produce its mRNA vaccine.
He expresses concern that ‘betting on a single horse’ puts at risk timely access to the vaccine for Thai people.
The company has King Rama X as its only shareholder, replacing CPB Equity Company Limited, an investment arm of the Crown Property Bureau, which had held all shares since the company was founded.
On 19 January, Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the PM responded to Thanatorn's criticism saying that he would order legal action against any statement about the vaccination plan that is distorted and not factual, according to the Bangkok Post.
The Thai government claims it has secured 26 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine and 2 million doses of Sinovac vaccine from China. Most of the AstraZeneca vaccines are to be delivered at the end of May. The Sinovac doses are to be delivered at the end of February.NewsThanathorn JuangroongruangkitCOVID-19vaccineAstraZenecaSinovacSiam BioscienceSource: prachatai.com/journal/2021/01/91284
On 18 January, the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok sentenced poet ‘Rungsila’ to 4 years and 6 months in jail for posting poems and cartoons judged to be lèse majesté. He was jailed for 4 years and 11 months during his trial in a military court, so he has no more time to serve. However, he said he would fight on for justice in the Court of Appeals, believing that Section 112 was an instrument used to attack political opponents.
Rungsila is a penname of the poet, cartoonist and blogger Siraphop (surname withheld). The court acquitted him over a poem on the Prachatai webboard citing benefit of the doubt but convicted him for two other posts, including a lèse majesté cartoon of the late King Bhumibol on Facebook in December 2012, and an article about the roots of the Boworadet rebellion and its lingering legacy on Blogspot in January 2014.
The court sentenced him to 3 years on each charge for which he was found guilty, or 6 years in total, but as he gave useful testimony, the court reduced the sentence to 4 years and 6 months. The court also ruled that since he was detained during his trial in the military court for longer than the sentence given, he does not have to return to jail. Observers from international organizations and diplomats from the German, Austrian, and Luxemburg embassies were present to hear the verdict.
During 4 years and 11 months in detention, only 3 witness were called to give testimony in the military court trial. He was denied bail 7 times and eventually released temporarily in 2019 thanks to the revocation the NCPO order on trying civilians in national security cases in military courts and the subsequent transfer of the case to a civilian court. The revocation came in the wake of pressure from protesters to hold an election, and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s call for his release.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that he was arrested in June 2014, one month after the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) staged a military putsch. He was driving in Kalasin province to flee the country when a dozen men in hoods and heavy weapons intercepted him. With their fingers on the triggers, they took him to Siharat Dechochai Army Base, Khon Kaen Province, where he was detained for one day. He was then taken to Bangkok and detained for a further 7 days
One day before he was arrested, 30 soldiers with weapons raided his home in Songkhla where his three children and grandchild were staying. Two of his children were still in school and university, and his grandchild was only 10 months old. His children and grandchild were taken to a military camp. His electronic devices were seized at his home. Rungsila’s political work was only a hobby. Siraphop was the main source of income for his family, working as a construction contractor.
Initially, he was charged for not reporting in response to an NCPO order. He was bailed out while on trial for that case. However, he was re-arrested immediately by the Technology Crime Suppression Division for posting the 3 allegedly lèse majesté statements. He remained in detention until June 2019. He could have confessed to shorten his sentence, but he insisted he was innocent and ready to die in this fight as he told the TLHR.
“I was ready to die in jail. It does not matter even if I die, because I do not have weapons, I do not have guns, I have only my life. Are they willing to trade with me? I can lose only one life, it does not mean anything. But if you lose, you lose everything. I think of it this way. So it does not matter, I don’t care. I’m willing to sacrifice my life. Otherwise, how could I last for 5 years? If I am afraid to die, then it’s over.”
In his testimony to the military court Rungsila said that he did not report to the NCPO as an act of civil disobedience against the military coup and to defend democracy in Thailand. The military court found him guilty and suspended his sentence of 2 years. The right to defy a military coup was protected under the 2007 Constitution, but this was torn up by the military coup in May 2014.
After the sentence, he said that he would appeal. He believed cases which started in military courts should be nullified. The decision whether to prosecute or not should reside with civilian prosecutors, not the military courts. While he was in jail, he wrote poems and articles to cope with the dehumanization. After he was released, he wanted to make sure that no one has to face injustice like him again.
“I said to myself that in this fight, at least, don’t let it go to waste so that others do not have to fall into the same circumstances as me, to be pressured, detained, detained and forgotten, destroyed. Everything was ruined, including my family situation, economic status, occupation, humanity. I do not want anything like this to happen to anyone again, not even to a single person, I do not want it.”NewsRungsilaSection 112lèse majesté lawUN Working Groups on Arbitrary DetentionNational Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Technology Crime Suppression DivisionSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/01/91248, https://tlhr2014.com/archives/25137, https://tlhr2014.com/archives/8993
Student activist Benja Apan and 2 other activists from the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration went to the Iconsiam shopping mall on the afternoon of 19 January holding signs saying “Monopolizing the vaccine to give the spotlight to the monarchy”
A number of mall security guards tried to remove the activists from the premises and threatened to have them arrested. A small clash occurred when one of the guards pulled the sign from Benja’s hand, so she tried to grab his employee ID to see his name.
Benja said that the security guard slapped her face and other guards confiscated the activists’ mobile phones while they were broadcasting live on Facebook.
The police, who has been called by mall management, then arrived at the scene and took Benja to the Pakkhlongsan Police Station. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported, however, that she had not been arrested, and that she decided to press charges against the security guard for assault.
Icon Siam’s management did not press charges against Benja and the other activists for their activity. Meanwhile, the security guard who slapped Benja received a fine of 1000 baht. He claimed that he did not intend to slap her and apologised to Benja.
Benja said that she only intended to take pictures while holding the sign to raise questions about the vaccine production monopoly by Siam Bioscience, the only company currently licensed to produce the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in the region.
There have been reports that Siam Bioscience’s largest shareholder is the Crown Property Bureau. Meanwhile, BBC Thai reported that the Department of Business Development, Ministry of Commerce, lists King Vajiralongkorn as the largest shareholder.
A crowd of around 30 people, led by activist Panupong Jadnok, later gathered at Iconsiam to demand an apology from mall management for the security guard’s use of force against the activists.
It was also reported that Sasaluk Charoensuk, one of those who participated in the gathering, was choked by a security guard, and that other participants were stopped from leaving the mall by other guards.
The crowd dispersed at around 18.40, after a representative of Iconsiam announced that they will investigate the incident.
An announcement was also posted on the mall’s Facebook page saying that the management will be investigating what happened and if the security guard is found to be at fault, he will face disciplinary action according to their protocol.
The announcement also asked people not to hold any political demonstrations within the premises and noted that the mall management retains the right to prohibit any activity that they see as inappropriate.
The hashtag #banIconsiam trended on Twitter following the incident in the afternoon, while campaign signs raising questions about Siam Bioscience’s vaccine license have also been seen at other locations.
Iconsiam announced yesterday (20 January) that it has investigated the incident and found the security guard violated its regulation. It therefore decided to take disciplinary action against the security guard, who has decided to “show responsibility” by resigning with immediate effect.NewsBenja ApanIconSiamSiam BioscienceCOVID-19Covid-19 vaccinestudent activiststudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020
For the first episode in a series on sexual violence, let’s get to know Thailand’s rape history with Pattarat Phantprasit, an academic historian, going from the case of Amdaeng-onsa to the present. For one hundred years the state and society have discriminated without ever changing their ideas. The ‘good woman’ is still the standard used to deal with cases.
The Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation, which collected 317 news items on sexual violence in 2017, found that there were 153 reports on rape, 40 on attempted rape, 52 on indecency, 10 on gang rape, 5 on child abduction, 25 on forced prostitution, 9 on sexual violence by men on men and 23 on other issues such as stealing underwear, exhibitionism, etc.
This covers only sexual violence that appears in the news. In reality, just how many other cases really happened would be difficult to find statistics on. We have to accept that Thai society has lived alongside a culture of sexual violence for a long time, under a patriarchal society and authoritarianism which have framed the concept of a ‘good woman’ as desired by the state.
This has created the problem of discrimination in society, which includes the way the state deals with rape cases. After we talked to Pattarat Phantprasit, a history scholar and PhD student at the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University, we found that throughout the past 100 years, the Thai state has maintained the same perspective on rape as before.Retracing literature: rape victims were not condemned for acting inappropriately
Pattarat thinks that the limited historical evidence we have means we know relatively little about rape in ancient Thai society. But literary traces, which can be considered a historical evidence in some sense, reflect interactions between characters which can be called rape.
For example, in Khun Chang Khun Phaen, Khun Chang wrestles with Wanthong to the point that the mosquito net tears. Kaeo Kiriya herself should also be considered as raped by Khun Phaen since she is bewitched into a trance before Khun Phaen starts to coax her.
Or in Inao, Inao makes a big show of raiding the city to kidnap Butsaba and take her to the cave. It can be said that in many of Thailand’s valued works of literature, the main characters start their love from rape – these issues have been studied by academics interested in literary studies.
But Pattarat thinks that society still has not seriously thought about the thing called ‘rape history’ in the meaning that rape is something which happens and changes in the circumstances and context of Thai society in each era, like any other activity.
Pattarat’s analysis is that in literature, other than scenes where the male protagonist rapes the female protagonist, there is a very interesting point to be found; there is something called “pleading guilty” or at least, there is a show of responsibility to the female character. Like in Khun Chang Khun Phaen, after Khun Chang sexually assaults Wanthong for the first time on the wedding night, it does not appear that he rapes her again. Khun Phaen himself accepted Kaeo Kiriya as another wife and Inao accepts Butsaba as a consort.
“That’s why in this aspect, rape committed by people in the past shouldn’t be seen only as the use of force to fulfil a man’s desire, but part of it is an obligation where the rapist needs to take some kind of responsibility towards the woman. Another issue is that the rape of women in Thai literature is not for the reason that they act inappropriately. Wanthong, Kaeo Kiriya and Butsaba are all ladies who stay home or in the palace. When each of the three was raped, we do not find that the male side, their families or society condemn them in any way as victims of rape or because of their own behaviour which led to them being raped.”
Pattarat therefore thinks that when one is going to say that rape has always existed in Thai society, an important thing to consider is where is the turning point that makes us feel that some cases of rape should receive exemptions, or why is it that the personal behaviour of rape victims has become an indicator of whether it is appropriate for them be raped or not; both these ideas keep appearing in present day Thai society and don’t seem to be decreasing.Turning point: when the state promotes gender equality and frames the concept of a ‘good woman’
Pattarat thinks that an important turning point concerning thoughts on rape started from when the status of women was promoted to be more equal to men, which sounds contradictory.
Pattarat said that in his reign, King Rama IV made an announcement allowing members of the inner court to request to leave the palace to remarry, because he did not want to “jealously detain” the women . Even though this is not directly related to rape, she sees this as a very important point where the Thai elite picked up on the topic of the consent of women, because after this, it can be seen that the Thai elite constantly tried to emphasise the better status of women to show that Siam had a civilization to equal those of Western nations and did not oppress women, and did not see women only as sexual objects as Westerners at that time had often criticised them for.
In the reigns of King Rama V and King Rama VI, the status of women continued to be promoted. A number of high-ranking women stepped out of their houses/palaces into the public and became patrons of schools, hospitals, public health activities, social work, etc.
Even so, Pattarat said, while trying to make women into a representation of the nation’s civilisation, the Siamese elite created a standard or frame for women at the same time. If we look back to Prince Damrong Rajanubhab’s work “khon di thi khaphachao ruchak” [good people that I know] which writes about the biographies of aristocrats and important people in Siam at that time, we will see that the tradition of a woman who is to be respected and should accord to the Prince’s opinion is of a woman who brings benefits to the nation, religion and family; or the tradition of “daughter, wife and mother”  which we are familiar with and which has been passed down to the present.
“It can be said that Thai women have been promoted to be anything within the frame the state has created. The status of Thai women which, it has been said, has developed to be equal with men is therefore not truly free. The question is whether the Siamese state’s policy towards the development of status of Thai women truly covers all groups of women or not. What if one woman is not within the frame of a good woman as determined by the state? Will the state still protect that woman or not?” Pattarat questioned.The rape case of Amdaeng-onsa: whether the state has the authority to deal with the case or not depends on being a ‘good woman’
Pattarat herself thinks that the ‘Amdaeng-onsa rape case’ is an important case which illustrates the state’s attitude towards sexual offenses. On 2 June 1914, there was a report from the Ministry of Defence on a rape case in Mukdahan Province, or at that time, Mueang Mukdahan. The report stated that in 1913 when the Siam government sent soldiers out to receive French soldiers, it appeared that two soldiers together raped a local woman named Amdaeng-onsa, aged 17, until she became ill and died 19 days afterwards.
The details of the case are as follows. The two soldiers met Amdaeng-onsa when she came to perform Mo Lam. One of the soldiers took a liking to her and asked for her hand in marriage, but she did not agree. When she did not agree voluntarily, the troupe was hired to perform Mo Lam for three more days and nights. During that time, Amdaeng-onsa was separated from the other female Mo Lam performers. She was taken to be detained in the house of the District Officer and Assistant District Officer. The two soldiers, the Assistant District Officer and others took turns raping her for many days.
A document stated that one soldier raped Amdaeng-onsa in an “abnormal” way and Amdaeng-onsa developed the symptoms of blood in the urine and pain in her lower abdomen. “Her private parts had a tear exuding pus with visible blood in the urine, causing pain in the lower abdomen and fever, but with fluctuating pain.” The pathologist found that “the vulva was bruised with inflammation as far as the uterus which is located in the abdomen, causing the various symptoms.”
When investigations began, one of the two soldiers claimed that he had already married Amdaeng-onsa. He and the others did not detain her in anyway and Amdaeng-onsa even followed him when he went on business to another town. It is possible that he claimed marriage with Amdaeng-onsa because the criminal law that was in force in 1908, Article 243, specified a penalty only for rape on a woman who was not the offender’s wife.
“Whoever uses physical force or verbal threats to rape a woman against her will who is not their wife, that person has committed rape. That person shall be sentenced to imprisonment of from one to ten years and a fine of no less than fifty baht and no more than five hundred baht. … If that woman dies, the rapist shall be sentenced to imprisonment of from twelve to twenty years in prison and a fine of no less than one hundred baht and no more than two thousand baht” 
The conclusion of this matter was that since there was no plaintiff to file a lawsuit, the government of Siam decided only to deprive the two soldiers of their military ranks and dismiss them from government service, since it believed that further investigation of the case would “lead to great uproar and long delays because all the witnesses are in Monthon Ubon Ratchathani.” 
In Pattarat’s analysis, there are two issues that can be seen from this case. The first is that the state becomes the one with the authority to decide whether each rape case should be dealt with or not. This was a case involving state officials which were sent from the central administration. Further investigations would be likely to smear the reputation of the government of Siam in the locality and become a scandal. Therefore, the rape of Amdaeng-onsa should disappear in silence rather than be reopened.
The second issue is what kind of woman should be protected from sexual assault. We can see that in the centre of Thailand or Siam at that time, the status of women was being improved by the state. But the status and femininity of Amdaeng-onsa, a local person far away from Bangkok in a Monthon that had just recently been annexed under Siam’s authority not many decades earlier, and Amdaeng-onsa’s status as a Mo Lam performer – the profession of a performer that has to wander around in search of work wherever they can be hired –is far from the idea of a ‘good woman’ as was created by the state.
“For these reasons, Amdaeng-onsa fell victim to gang rape by soldiers and local government officials, who took turns to detain her in their house for many days with no one daring to question them. The justice Amdaeng-onsa should have received as a citizen of Siam was made to disappear. The status of Amdaeng-onsa, who was already at risk of being violated, became the legitimization of the state’s decision not to prosecute, so that the state’s honour and authority was not destabilized,” Pattarat concluded.The young women who were violated on the morning of 6 Oct 1976: when the state closed one eye so that some groups of people could go unpunished
Pattarat provided another example closer to the present, which is the events of 6 October 1976, the suppression of students at Thammasat University. From the Documentation of Oct 6 project she takes the case of “the young woman who was violated on the morning of Oct 6 1976”. Even though the autopsy reports said that female students were not raped or sexually assaulted, the fact is that after she was killed she was stripped naked as a form of insult.
Even though no rape occurred, it is considered to be a type of physical violation. It also tramples on her human dignity and dignity as a woman. All of this occurred due to the branding of students as having communist beliefs and the intention to destroy the nation’s security.
As a female student opposed to the state, the punishment is physical violation through insulting her naked female body. It is certain that the offenders are still out there. Again, the state chose to close one eye to sexual assault of a woman who did not conform to the state’s ideal of a ‘good woman’.
Picture: Watchari Phetsun, third year student at the Faculty of Science, Ramkhamhaeng University, from the article ‘Desecrating corpses on 6 Oct 1976: who, how, why’ by Puangthong Pawakapan and Thongchai Winichakul
According to the “Documentation of Oct 6” project, the autopsy report states that Watchari died from 3 bullets which entered her back and lodged in the chest area. Her body was stripped naked. There was a triangular piece of wood placed on her body, the end pointing to her genitals. This allows the interpretation that she may have been sexually violated after death, but the autopsy report does not mention any traces of such injury.
“There are still many other rape cases which illustrate the relation between the state, rape and women. Rape and sexual assault have always been a part of the history of Thai society. It just hasn’t been mentioned often, because we think that rape is just rape. There’s nothing more to it than that.”
“That’s why when we talk of rape history, it shouldn’t simply be about who was raped, when the rape occurred, what are the details, but rape should be linked more with Thai society. It can be said that rape has changed under a variety of conditions and rape often contains a hidden meaning of more than just a release of lust. Most rape is a way of affirming the superiority in authority and power of the rapist and of trampling on the humanity of the rape victim at the same time. In the end, since the state has the authority to decide which kind of rape is acceptable and which is not, impunity for some groups of people therefore occurs,” Pattarat said.
Picture of female students in the 6 Oct 1976 incident who were captured together with other male students/protestors and had their shirts removedFrom Amdaeng-onsa to the present: one hundred years where the state and society has discriminated and never fixed their views
“We will find that authority, both in the form of state authority and patriarchal authority, has taken deep roots, so that when rape occurs in Thai society, the important question is “who was raped?” and “what was the woman like?” If the rapist has authority, no matter in terms of patriarchal authority or official authority, it is the equivalent of saying that their act of rape has more or less some legitimacy. The second question is, are you a good woman according to the tradition of Thai society? If you are a good woman according to Thai moral standards, you will receive pity. You are a victim that should not have been raped. In contrast, if you are a woman who does not conform to society’s standard of goodness, such as by wearing revealing clothes, by liking to tease men or by walking alone in dark places, then obviously rape is the punishment that is appropriate. Authority from one’s status and duties, and the concept of being a good woman become the two main factors that show how a person who has been raped will be treated and whether the state will give you justice or not,” Pattarat said.
Try comparing the case of a 14-year-old girl who was raped in Mukdahan Province and the case of Lunlabelle, a ‘pretty’ model who was raped and killed. Social opinions on the two cases are clearly different.
“Even though a hundred years has passed, many cases which occur in Thai society today are similar to the case of Amdaeng-onsa, including the attitude of the state and what those in power do to women. This means that in the past hundred years, we have not been able to solve the problem of rape at all, especially for women who cannot access the justice system from the state. If we’re still stuck with the ‘good woman’ - ‘bad woman’ frame according to social standards, and discrimination which does not lead to justice towards those who have been raped or sexually assaulted, the problem of rape will never disappear from Thai society. That is why people in society should be made to see that rape is an offence which should have no exceptions and that rape is not a punishment reserved for women who do not act according to the frame that society wants,” Pattarat said.
Nevertheless, Pattarat still thinks that the issue of the rape of men (including LGBT), children and the elderly is not often mentioned, although these three groups are also experience sexual harassment. Being a man does not mean there is no risk of rape or sexual assault, especially in a society made up only of men such as monks, soldiers, boys boarding schools or even prison. There are very high risks of such incidents, even though not all cases need to end with rape, and when there is rape or sexual assault, it does not mean that men do not feel like women. This is the same in cases of children and the elderly. We find that news of the rape of these two groups has increased a lot.
“While we have some measures to prevent women being at risk of rape, it can be seen that these other three groups still must face the risks of being violated in various forms. That’s why awareness of the evil of rape should include all groups of people in society. Rape is not and should not be restricted to being a problem of the female sex. Everybody can be at risk of being raped under unequal social power structure and state discrimination,” Pattarat said.Spark of hope
Pattarat sees that in the present, the definition of rape has been greatly expanded. It does not mean only the use of force, but also includes the use of threats to make the victim submit, paying money to the victim after a rape so that the rapist feels that they have ‘paid’ compensation to the victim after the deed, or even verbal and emotional assault. This is a good thing. In addition, there are quite a number of Facebook pages that are trying to campaign on these issues, such as Thaiconsent, Feminista and Spectrum which focus on understanding and exchanging experience among those who have been violated. Pattarat thinks that this is interesting and may be one hope that will make the new generation more aware of these issues.
 Saichol Sattayanurak. Prince Damrong: Creation of the Thai national identity and class in Siam (Bangkok: Matichon, 2003) [in Thai]
 Criminal Law, Royal Thai Government Gazette, Vol 25, 1 June 1907, pp 260-261 [in Thai]
 Mo. Ro. 6 Ko. 3/7 Ministry of Interior Official Records [in Thai]
 Young Women who were Violated on the Morning of 6 October 1976 https://doct6.com/archives/13421. Accessed 15 May 2020FeatureNutcha TantivitayapitakPattarat Phantprasitrapewomen rightsAmdaeng-onsaKhun Chang Khun PhaenInaoSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/05/87759
Record-breaking lèse majesté sentence an assault on freedom of expression, says AI regional director
The record-breaking sentence delivered to Anchan, 63, who was found guilty of lèse majesté, is a "serious assault" on freedom of expression and shows how Section 112 is inconsistent with international human rights law, says Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Regional Director.
Anchan (Photo from iLaw)
Responding to the record prison sentence handed to Anchan P. by a Thai court today after conviction for lèse majesté and computer-related crimes, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director, Yamini Mishra, said:
“This shocking case is yet another serious assault on Thailand’s vanishing space for freedom of expression.
“The fast-rising number of individuals facing charges and being detained under the lèse majesté law demonstrates the Thai authorities’ relentless drive to silence dissent. Today’s extreme sentence is a case in point, and shows why this law is inconsistent with international human rights law.
“Defamation should never incur a criminal conviction in the first place, let alone an extremely long jail sentence like today’s.
“Anchan has already faced appalling treatment since being arrested in 2015, including pre-trial detention for years, some of which incommunicado.
“The manner of her sentencing is also chilling. The way authorities have evidently sought to maximize the punishments by multiplying criminal charges sends a clear message of deterrence to Thailand’s 50 million internet users.
“The Thai authorities must halt their crackdown on peaceful dissent. The government must repeal or significantly revise legislation which gags freedom of expression both on- and offline, such as the lèse majesté offence and the Computer Crime Act used in today’s verdict.”Background
Anchan P., a food seller and former civil servant, faced 29 counts of “insulting the monarchy”, or lèse majesté, under Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code and provisions of the Computer Crime Act. She was arrested in January 2015 and detained for nearly four years until November 2018, when she was released on bail.
Anchan was initially detained incommunicado in a military camp for five days before her transfer to a detention facility and repeatedly denied bail.
The court convicted Anchan for allegedly sharing and uploading clips on social media of an online talk show alleged to have made defamatory comments about the monarchy.
Anchan pleaded guilty to the charges and received a consecutive three-year sentence for each of the 29 lèse majesté offences, or 87 years - the harshest conviction under Article 112 to date. The sentence was reduced by half to 43 and a half years owing to Anchan’s guilty plea. Article 112 of the Criminal Code carries between three and 15 years’ imprisonment per violation.
Amid mounting peaceful protests throughout 2020, the Thai authorities resumed the use of lèse majesté charges in November of that year, having brought no new charges under the law since March 2018.
More than 220 people, including children, have faced criminal charges for their alleged involvement in peaceful protests throughout 2020. Of those, dozens have been charged with sedition and lèse majesté.
Thailand is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which protects the right to freedom of expression under Article 19. The UN Human Rights Committee, the treaty body responsible for interpreting the ICCPR, has stated that “imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty” for defamation-related offences such as lèse majesté.Pick to Postlese majesteSection 112Article 112Amnesty International
Anchan (pseudonym), 63, found guilty under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, has been sentenced to 87 years in prison, with the sentence reduced because of her confession and 3 years spent in prison pending her trial. The net sentence is 43 years and 6 months, the longest sentence ever under Section 112.
Right: Anchan (Source: iLaw)
Anchan was arrested in 2015, then charged and tried for 29 offences arising from sharing 29 videos with content adjudged to defame the monarchy. Charges were brought under the lèse majesté law and the Computer Crime Act, but as the offences violated more than one law, the court ruled on the most serious offence, which is lèse majesté.
Anchan’s lawyer has filed an appeal and requested bail with 1 million baht as security. The court has submitted the request to the appeal court. Anchan is now detained in the Central Women Correctional Institution, awaiting the court’s decision.
Anchan's case is part of the state crackdown over an online group which Hassadin Uraipraiwan or 'DJ Banpodj' hosted on his online radio programme.
At least 16 people related to the group were arrested, and all were detained in a military camp, prohibited from meeting relatives and lawyers, before they were passed into police custody. Anchan’s trial was originally heard by a military court and then transferred to a civilian court.
This case is not a by-the-book process of law enforcement in Thailand, yet was legitimized by the NCPO junta when the military authorized themselves to intervene in 'national security-related issues,' which many times were given a wide interpretation.
Section 112 of the Criminal Code criminalizes individuals who defame or express hostility to the King, the Queen, the Heir Apparent and the Regent. It carries a 3-15 year jail sentence.
As of 19 January, at least 54 people have been charged or summoned by the police to hear the Section 112 charges within the last few weeks. None have yet made their way to court.
In the rise of the pro-democracy movement since July 2020, calling for the government’s resignation, constitutional amendments and monarchy reform, criticism of the monarchy has become a topic of public discussion as never before. Section 112 has recently again been widely used against protesters with a wide range of interpretation after an informal moratorium that began in 2018.
The lèse majesté law in Thailand has a long history. It had taken many forms, and it became Section 112 of the Criminal Code in the 1950s when Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat staged a military coup and began the restoration of the monarchy’s status to keep communism at bay. The penalty was increased to 15 years with a minimum of 3 years after the massacre of student activists in the 6 October incident of 1976 by Thanin Kraivichien, then Prime Minister and later Privy Councillor.
The enforcement of Section 112 has been controversial and problematic over the wide range of interpretations over what should be counted as defamation or expression of hostility toward those protected by the law.
As the law is part of the section of the Criminal Code dealing with offences against national security, it is open for anyone who believes an offence has been committed to file a complaint with the police. It has also been difficult for those accused to receive bail. Most defendants have been remanded in prison pending their trial.NewsSection 112Article 112lese majestelese majesteAnchanSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/01/91270
Controversial housing for the Thai judiciary at the foot of Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai Province, is back in the news as a Facebook user has found it in a popular flight simulator game on Steam.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, a game that allows players to simulate unlimited flights around the world, uses real maps and satellite data.
The graphics in the game show a feature similar to the real housing project.
The housing project started around the end of 2014 on 174 rai with 13 buildings for offices of Courts of Justice Region 5 and 45 houses, and a budget of 955,064,056.28 baht. The land formerly belonged to the military but later granted to the Office of the Judiciary. The land is close to a National Park and was a dense forest. Construction took place out of sight of the general public.
The housing project came under scrutiny in 2018 when aerial photographs showed the construction area close to Doi Suthep National Park. Questioning the propriety and legality of the construction, civil society and local communities demanded a stop to the construction.
In August 2018, a committee to determine the process of construction of the housing of Appeal Court Judges Region 5 resolved to halt construction of all buildings and restore the forest.
However, on 6 November 2018, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha said those occupying the housing could remain while waiting for relocation.
On 20 November 2018, 2 activists were accused by the Office of the Judiciary of defamation. The prosecutor later dropped the charges.
Footage from Google Earth, accessed on 19 January, found that the housing area is now mostly covered with trees, possibly in connection with a Green Court project that planted trees around the site.NewsChiang Mai Judiciary HousingMicrosoft Flight Simulator 2020SteamSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/01/91272
The Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases has postponed the preliminary examination in the lawsuit filed against the police for negligence in charging Wasan Setasit for involvement in the 19 - 20 September 2020 protest even though he was not there.
Left to right: Nadthasiri Bergman and Paranda Pankaew
On 18 January, the Court ordered more documents to be submitted within 30 days (by 18 February), and delayed the examination until 1 March.
Paranda Pankaew, Wasan’s lawyer from the NSP Legal Office, said the Court will issue a letter requesting evidence from the police. She said the court would proceed to the preliminary examination with the documents already submitted if no further documents or evidence were submitted.
The NSP Legal Office filed a lawsuit against the investigative officers for negligence under Sections 157 and 200 of the Criminal Code on 9 December 2020.
The legal action was taken as lawyer associations in December 2020 formed a Human Rights Lawyers Alliance to monitor and sue the authorities for abuse of power and to protect human rights when 220 people were already facing 119 charges with 24 of them charged under the lèse majesté law (the number is at least 49 as of 18 January 2021).
Wasan was accused by Chanasongkram Police Station investigators for participating in the protests at Thammasat University and Sanam Luang on 19-20 September 2020. He was in a different province at the time of the protest.
It is reported that another person was accused alongside Wasan but whether the similar kind of lawsuit will be made or not is still a work in progress.NewsNadthasiri BergmanParanda PankaewNSP Legal OfficeWasan Setasitpro-democracy protest 2021Student protest 2020
On 16 January, Mongkol ‘Yale’ Santimethakul, a political activist, was kidnapped late at night after joining a protest that afternoon. Someone who kidnapped him used his phone to send messages to threaten his friends, claiming to be from the Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC). Via a protest leader’s Facebook page, one of the friends released a conversation he said he had with one of the kidnappers.
After the screenshots went viral, Mongkol was released. Mongkol was told he would be released at Thailand’s border. He ran for his life with his head covered in a hood. But he found himself in Samut Prakan, the province where he lived. ISOC has released an announcement denying any involvement in the abduction.
Mongkol ‘Yale’ Sanimethakul, 25, is a protest guard for We Volunteer. He has attended the gatherings on 16 January at Victory Monument, where people wrote comments on a 112-metre long banner to protest against the government, and later at Phaya Thai Police Station and Samyan Mitrtown. A number of fellow protest guards were arrested by police and taken to Region 1 Border Patrol Police headquarters. However, Mongkol had it much worse. He was kidnapped in front of his home in Samut Prakan province.
At 23.20, Mongkol posted on Facebook “Please help.” His friends could not reach him so one of them went to his residence. People there said that the last time they saw him was at 23.00. Mongkol said after his release that there were probably 4 four kidnappers in a van. All of them were men who spoke Thai with a standard accent, except one who spoke in a southern accent.
They took his phone and asked for the password. Out of fear, he gave it to them. They also tried to force him to sign a document which he was not allowed to read. They threatened him not to join any protest again. Mongkol said the process went on like this the whole night. He said his hands and legs were not tied, but he was hooded so he could not see. He was not allowed to go to the toilet. In the morning, they said ‘brother’ just misunderstood. The hood covering his head was changed, but his vision remained just as restricted.
At some point, they returned his phone. He cannot remember when. In the afternoon of 17 January, Mongkol was kicked out of the van. When he was released, he believed that he was at Thailand’s border because they had told them so. Feeling frightened, he ran with the idea of going into the jungle. He forgot to even take off the hood. After running some distance, he took it off. He found himself at Soi Bang Pu 49 in Samut Prakan, the same province where he lived. He called people he trusted to take him to safety.
When he disappeared, members of We Volunteer gathered at ISOC in the morning because a kidnapper, claiming to be one of their officers, sent text messages via Line to threaten Mongkol’s friends. They tried to negotiate his release, but they were warned not to join any protest or encroach on the monarchy again. Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak posted on Facebook a screenshot of the conversation which he said Mongkol’s friend had with the kidnapper. The screenshot of conversation starts at 2.27.
Kidnapper: Will I be able to talk today? This kind of anger.
Mongkol’s Friend: Let me have a phone call with you. Just me. Just me. Just me.
Kidnapper: I had a look at all in your group.
Mongkol’s Friend: Alright, then let me have a phone call with you. [The other end did not answer].
Kidnapper: About what you asked. In short, ISOC. Is there a problem?
Mongkol’s Friend: What? Where is he? [Call cancelled] Where is he? Are you kidnapping him? If you are an official, please identify yourself. [The other end did not answer.]
Kidnapper: Go and look at the Facebook page what you have said. About the monarchy.
Mongkol’s Friend: Then, where is he now? How is he being prosecuted according to law? Where is he now? Sir. Acting like this is not useful at all. What right do you have to abduct people like this?
Kidnapper: I will let him contact you when he signs the document. [The kidnapper later deleted this message]
Mongkol’s Friend: Wait.
Kidnapper: He is fine. [The kidnapper later deleted this message]
Mongkol’s Friend: A lawyer must be with him.
Kidnapper: Don’t worry. [The kidnapper later deleted this message]
Mongkol’s Friend: No, brother. Let him have a lawyer. Brother, just tell me where he is. Just that.
Kidnapper: Pass it on to the people who did something today to be careful. Don’t think that I do not know.
Mongkol’s friend: Do what?
Kidnapper: I have given you too much already.
The conversation went on like this for while. His friend apologized on Mongkol’s behalf if he had overstepped in any way as a way to negotiate his release and questioned if the kidnappers were really the authorities. The kidnapper sent a screenshot of Mongkol’s phone, circling pictures which related to the on-going protests, saying they need to investigate them. They used a classic excuse, saying they did not want to do it, but their superiors ordered them, and the protesters did it to themselves. They said he would be released on Monday during official working hours at some place he could not confirm.
The kidnapper also seemed to send fake messages claiming to come from Mongkol. “I was afraid (crying emoji), but brother did nothing to me.” Two minutes later another message was sent from his phone “Are you okay yet, I already let him answer.” Mongkol’s friend asked “Is it him? I want a video cilp, a picture.” The kidnapper just simply replied “It is him.” On Mongkol’s Facebook post a statement appeared saying “Now I am being taken to be released. It was just a misunderstanding.” After he was released, however, Mongkol said he did not post this message.
In response to the allegation, the ISOC has released a statement saying that until now they have not been assigned to “maintain peace and order and take care of the area to protect the protesters.” They also said that “from preliminary investigations, ISOC would like to confirm that there was no appearance of ISOC units’ involvement in the matter in at all.”
After his release, Mongkol and his friends went to Bangpoo Police Station to file a report, but the police there said that the event occurred in the jurisdiction of Mueang Samut Prakan Police Station. So they went there. During the police investigation in the evening of 17 January, his friends and lawyer asked the police to send Mongkol for a physical and mental health examination.NewsSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/01/91240, https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/01/91233
Ever since the people came out to demand the resignation of General Prayut Chan-o-cha from the position of Prime Minister, the drafting of a new constitution and reform of the monarchy, the topic of the King’s assets has been a matter of interest and has become an topic of increasing discussion among the general public. Some groups of protestors have gone into detail on how to reform the monarchy: revoke the 2018 Crown Property Act and clearly divide the assets into the assets of the monarchy under the management of the Ministry of Finance and His Majesty’s personal assets; cut the national budget allocated to the monarchy to reflect the country’s economic status; and abolish all royal donations and charity projects so that the people can check the monarchy’s expenses, especially those that were allocated from the people’s taxes.
However, this suggestion was opposed by comments that all the King’s property already belonged to the King. The King’s property was restructured in the reign of King Rama X to repossess property that was stolen by “those hungry for power and money since 1932-” and was bit by bit being returned to its real owner, according to a Facebook post by Mom Chao Chulcherm Yugalain July 2017:
“After being stolen by those hungry for power and money since 1932 until now, the ‘city, palace, treasury, farm’ [the 4 ‘pillars’ or departments of traditional Thai government} have now bit by bit started to return to their real owner, no longer belonging to any one person who will come and seize them or seek benefits from them. Long live the king. Mom Chao Chulcherm Yugala”
To understand the discussion of the part of monarchy reform related to the King’s property, Prachatai invites you to find the answers through academic data – so, where do the king’s assets really come from? This account is taken from the Thai version of “The Rise and Decline of Thai Absolutism” (Rabop somburanyasitthirat : wiwatthanakan ratthai) translated by Kullada Kesboonchoo-Mead and “Phraphrom chuai amnuai hai chuencham setthakit kanmueang waduai sapsinsuanphramahakasatri lang 2475” (Brahma brings the refreshing rain; political economy through crown property after 1932) edited by Chaithawat Tulathon.Initial era: trade monopoly
In the early Rattanakosin era, the royal court and the government were still not separated. The main agency in this era was the Royal Treasury, with its main duty of controlling trade with other countries. The people could not directly do business with other countries, but must take goods, especially rare goods such as sugar, sappanwood, ivory or forest goods and sell them to the Treasury. The Treasury would then sell these items to other countries through royal junks and bring back foreign goods to sell to the people.
Kings in the early Rattanakosin would use the income from selling these goods at their pleasure. Most was used to pay allowances to royal family members and the nobility. The expenses for infrastructure or national development came from duties, taxes, levies and fees collected from the people.Era of tax farmers: income from taxes and trade
Early in his reign, King Rama III cancelled the monopoly of the Treasury and focused on earning national income through taxes. Private individuals had to tender for the rights to collect some forms of tax and became known as tax farmers. The taxes collected were, for example, export taxes, taxes on goods that were once monopolised by the Privy Purse and taxes on consumer goods.
In addition, tax farmers had a similar position to middlemen by monopolising goods that they collected taxes on and selling them to foreign countries. An important tax base in this era was Chinese migrants and farmers. This new tax system gave the state a more stable income and the King used this money to pay allowances to royal family members and nobles.
Even though the Treasury monopoly was cancelled, King Rama III continued the junk trade of the early Rattanakosin era but in the form of a private business. He also paid taxes like other merchants. Income from this trade went to the Privy Purse which His Majesty could use at his pleasure, creating a culture where the Privy Purse was money for the personal use of the King before later being separated from the Royal Treasury.
During King Rama IV’s reign, the Royal Treasury continued to receive income from tax collection fees paid by tax farmers. Nobles became the controllers of the nation’s income and were responsible for 5% of the income from tax collection which was sent to the Privy Purse.Era of the Privy Purse Department: income from state finance and investments
During King Rama V’s reign, His Majesty centralised power to the King and established the Ministry of Finance to control tax collection and look after state money collected from the people, greatly improving the country’s financial status.
15% of public revenue collected each year had to be sent to the Privy Purse Department, which was considered to be a government agency, but directly under the King’s command. This, for the first time, shows a clear separation between the government’s money and the King’s personal money.
Other than this income of 15% of public revenue each year, the Privy Purse also made money from giving out loans to merchants, royal family members and aristocrats close to the king at an interest rate of 7.5% per year. Although there were many cases where the principal and interest were not repaid, the mortgaged land which was confiscated was worth more than the principal.
The Privy Purse also invested in public infrastructure, which expanded greatly in King Rama V’s reign, such as railways, maritime transportation and the Siam Commercial Bank.
Immovable property is another type of asset that brought a great amount of income to the Privy Purse. Land which belonged to the Privy Purse had 4 different origins: land titles claimed since the reign of King Rama IV and rented to the people for farming; foreclosed land; land bought in areas where a road was being built or land bought in advance of a road being ordered built through the property; and land transferred from the state to personal ownership, such as Chaophraya Bodindecha’s house, which had belonged to the Ministry of Finance, and was transferred to the Privy Purse Department in order to be given to HM Sukhumala Marasri. If the Ministry of Finance wanted to use land of the Privy Purse Department for government service, they would need to find another piece of land as compensation.After 1932: separating crown property from the King’s private property
After the 1932 revolution, parliament passed the 1936 Crown Property Act to separate the “King’s private property”, “public property” and “crown property” and provided the following definitions:
The “King’s private property” meant property or rights attached to property that were in existence or created in any part of the kingdom if:
(a) that property or right belonged to the King before His Majesty’s ascension to the throne and the King has the right to dispose of it before ascending the throne;
(b) that property or right fell into the possession of the King during or after ascending the throne by any means from any predecessor or any person who is not the King of this kingdom.
(c) that property or right was acquired or bought with the King’s personal money.
“Public property” means property of the King which is used exclusively for the benefit of the State, e.g. palaces.
“Crown property” means property of the King other than the King’s private property and public property.
Originally, according to the 1936 Crown Property Act, the Ministry of Finance was responsible for crown property and would transfer income, after subtracting expenses, to His Majesty to spend as the monarch. Structuring the crown property by trying to transfer the Privy Purse’s property as crown property was an important cause in King Rama VII’s abdication and led to a lawsuit afterwards.
The Ministry of Finance during Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram’s term of office filed a lawsuit against King Rama VII and Queen Rambhai Barni, claiming that while the two were King and Queen, they had transferred assets under the crown to their own names without legal authority and with no countersignature on the Royal command as the constitution required. For example, deposits under the Privy Purse were transferred to his own name. The total damages including interest were more than 6 million baht; the court ruled the defendants guilty on 30 September 1941.
While the administration of the crown property in order to pass the assets on to King Rama VIII was very difficult, many of King Rama VII’s personal assets in England ended up with Prince Suprabhat Chirasakti, King Rama VII’s adopted child, who had to sell them in order to pay inheritance tax to the British government; they did not return to the monarchy.After the 1947 coup: seeking benefits through the Crown Property Bureau
The 1947 coup is considered to be the end of the Khana Ratsadon (People’s Party). The 1936 Crown Property Act was amended in 1948. Crown property was removed from the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance, and the Crown Property Bureau was established as a legal entity, with the duty to maintain and manage crown property. The Minister of Finance was the Chair ex officio and the Board, comprising at least 4 members, was appointed by the King.
The main income of the Crown Property Bureau has been from investment and real estate; after subtracting expenses, it is for the King to use at the royal pleasure. The King’s private property, including assets conferred by the state, are maintained and managed at his discretion. The royal assets were administered under this structure throughout the reign of King Rama IX.King Rama X’s reign: property management at the royal pleasure
The management of crown property was again restructured during King Rama X’s reign through the enactment of the 2017 Crown Property Act [this is the official name of the Act; a literal translation would be ‘Act on the Organization of Property on behalf of the Monarch’] which amalgamated public property into the crown property. The administration, maintenance, management, and operations related to the property are all to be subject to royal command. The result is that the Crown Property Bureau, which was originally responsible for maintenance and management, was demoted into an organisation that does only to what the King assigns.
The 2017 Crown Property Act was in effect for only about a year when the 2018 Crown Property Act [literally the ‘Act on the Organization of the Property of the Monarch’] was passed, revoking the 2017 Act. The key change was that all crown property was gathered under the same administration, with the result that the administration, maintenance, management, and operations concerning all property is now at the King’s discretion.
The King still receives money from the state budget for expenses. It has also been observed that land, immovable property and shares have started to be registered under the name of His Majesty himself instead of that of the Crown Property Bureau as in the reign of King Rama IX.FeatureMonarchy reformCrown property
On 15 January, the court accepted a request from the police to withdraw an erroneous arrest warrant against political activist Chayaphol ‘Dave’ Danothai after he went to Klong Luang Police Station for questioning with a goat.
The goat was covered in a red cloth with the number 112 in gold, signifying Section 112 of the Criminal Code (the lèse majesté law). Inthira ‘Sine’ Charoenpura, a pro-democracy celebrity, posted on Facebook that she was the one who sent goats to support Chayaphol. Their names are Sujira Anuchid and Songsit.
In front of the police station, Chayaphol said he saw his name on a search warrant as an accomplice riding a motorcycle and spraying protest messages “abolish 112” and “my taxes” on walls and King Vajiralongkorn’s portrait together with Sirichai Natueng, an activist who has been arrested twice for allegedly defaming the King.
According to the warrant, the police claimed the incident took place on 10 January, but Chayaphol brought evidence to show that from 29 December to 14 January he was in Hat Yai, Songkhla Province, and not with Sirichai.
Fearing that he could be arrested anytime as a scapegoat, he took goats with him to the police station for questioning. In front of the police station, Chayaphol asked the police to show him an arrest warrant and withdraw it if any existed.
Protest leader Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) were also at the police station to observe. TLHR said that the police later showed up and reassured Chayaphol that there was no warrant issued for him.
Chayaphol’s request was recorded in the police blotter in the afternoon. His lawyer said that Chayaphol’s appearance before the police means they will no longer be able to arrest him over this case since the warrant has been nullified.
Matichon Online later reported that the police have requested the Court to withdraw the arrest warrant for Chayaphol, claiming lack of evidence. The court has accepted the request.NewsChayaphol ‘Dave’ DanothaiSection 112Inthira Charoenpuralèse majesté lawPanusaya SithijirawattanakulThai Lawyer for Human RightsSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/01/91218
In late August 2020 when the Budget Expenditures Bill 2021 passed to the committee stage, Prachatai released the report ‘Budget related to the monarchy in 2021 revealed: details according to the Budget Act’ which referenced data from the Bureau of the Budget’s website. This is the second year that Prachatai has opened all the budget documents to add up all the expenses related to the monarchy that were scattered among various agencies.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha attends a photo session with new cabinet ministers at the Government House in Bangkok on 16 July 2019 (source: File/Thaigov)
In summary, in 2021, various agencies allocated budget related to the monarchy, all of which total approximately 37.228 billion baht or 1.12% of all the national budget (3.3 trillion baht), divided into 20.653 billion baht in direct expenses and 16.575 billion baht in indirect expenses. It must be noted that many of the projects among the indirect expenses are for the public benefit. But referring to or claiming a connection to the monarchy may have a significance that the public can further analyse in many ways. For example, these projects may showcase the abilities of royal family members in various ways or it can be seen that these projects in an indirect way improve the public relations of the monarchy, or could lead to a project not being audited, etc.
In addition, the budget for the monarchy was previously rarely mentioned by politicians. In mid-December 2020, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, adviser to the Ad Hoc 2021 Budget Scrutiny Committee, questioned the budget for the Royal Offices (see here), thought to be the first time details of the expenses of these agencies were questioned since they were established during the NCPO government in 2017. Thanathorn questioned why every year the budget for this agency is higher than the estimate: it increased 67% in 6 years and in 2021 the budget is as high as 8.98 billion baht, an almost 17% increase from the previous year before (see here), while the budget draft document does not break down the details of expenses like it does for other agencies. Thanathorn emphasised that making the budget for this agency transparent will protect the honour of the monarchy.
Details of the budget expenses related to the monarchy are as follows:
For fiscal year 2021 the expenses allocated directly for the monarchy, such as security, construction within royal palace grounds, etc., are found to be not much different from the year before (2020) as appears in the following table:
Comparison of direct expenses (million baht)
(Royal Thai Police) Strategic plan to reinforce security for the pillar institution of the nation
(Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning) Projects related to royal palace grounds
(Secretariat of the Cabinet) The King and royal family members receive the highest safety and convenience
(Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence) Support for security for the King and operations according to His Majesty’s intentions.
(Central Budget) Royal travel and receiving foreign royal guests
(Secretariat of the Cabinet) Efficient operations related to coordination with Royal Offices (related to royal decorations)
(ISOC) Reinforcement of security for the pillar institution of the nation
Source: Bureau of the Budget website
A look at the details of each agency shows more interesting data, for example:
1. Royal Offices
Starting from 6,800 million in 2019 and continuing to increase until fiscal year 2024, it is estimated that the Royal Offices will receive more than 10,000 million baht.
Comparison of budget for 2019-2021 and budget estimates for 2022-2024 (unit: million baht)
Details of expenses did not appear in the budget draft but this agency’s mission is to 1) conduct secretarial work for the King, both in governmental affairs and the personal affairs of the King and royal family members, including secretarial work for the Privy Council; 2) organise royal ceremonies, state ceremonies, ceremonies, and royal charity events, including royal travel; 3) coordinate between the monarch and the government, parliament, government agencies and various organisations both within and outside the country as well as the people; 4) conduct work related to requests for royal benevolence in various issues and respond to royal commands related to relieving the suffering of the people; 5) publicise royal duties, art and culture, and traditions for wide dissemination to the public both within and outside the country; 6) manage funds, projects and benefits of royal palace property under the management of the Bureau of the Royal Household, including temples under royal patronage as well as properties of royal family members at the king’s pleasure; and 7) any other duties at the king’s command.
2. Royal Thai Police
The Royal Thai Police is an agency directly under the Prime Minister. It receives a budget of more than ten billion baht. Interestingly, its mission is to 1) provide security to the King and royal family members, then followed by 2) enforce the law and facilitate justice and 3) protect the peace and order and security of the kingdom.
The Royal Thai Police have many missions and plans. One of these is the strategic plan to reinforce security of the pillar institution of the nation. Duration: 19 years (2019-2037) with a total budget of around 26,008 million baht. For the 2021 budget, the total is 1,649.8697 million baht:
Project to provide security for the monarchy and royal family members
(unit: million baht)
The budget for providing security has two performance indicators:
Providing security worthy of royal honour and according to the king’s wishes
Police training on providing royal safety
*results for fiscal year 2020 (6 months)
The numbers in “Police training to provide royal security” are what the media calls the “Infantry Police.” An order was issued some time ago to select commissioned and non-commissioned officers “of excellence” to be trained and transferred to the Royal Security Command in 2020, totalling 873 officers. This group had to undergo basic training for a period of 6 months (1 Oct 2019-31 Mar 2020). The selection criteria looked at appropriate characteristics, loyalty, good attitude, strong physique, overall readiness and a signed record to volunteer for duty. Even so, some unrest still occurred in the initial stages, as appeared in the columns of a leading newspaper. There was also a report that a number of police officers who did not report for duty were punished with at least 9 months of disciplinary training.
Details of the capital budget revealed one project to build the Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King's Guard 904 Headquarters, Central Investigation Bureau, Lat Phrao. The total 2021 budget is 177,600,000 baht, but this is a multi-year budget. The total budget is 480,000,000 baht divided into:
Year 2020, budget of 96,000,000 baht
Year 2021, budget of 177,600,000 baht
Year 2022, committed budget of 206,400,000 baht
3. Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning
The Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning received a total budget of 29.84 billion baht, covering many plans, each plan containing many projects. One of these is the Strategic Plan to Reinforce the Security of the Monarchy with a budget of 1,700 million baht, all of which will be used in a “Special Royal Activities Support Project.”
The Special Royal Activities Support Project’s objective is to support the design, construction and maintenance of special royal activities within royal grounds. The duration is 15 years (2010-2024) with a total budget of 21,438,781,400 baht.
For 2021 the budget is set at 1,700 million baht. When looked at in detail, we see that this money is to aid construction within royal palace grounds. The table of goals and indicators shows that in 2020-2024 there will be construction at 6 places but it is not made clear what will be constructed or where. The qualitative goals are security, highest standards, beauty, fitness for royal honour, completed and compliance with the King’s wishes.
The budget is set as follows (unit: million baht):
4. Secretariat of the Prime Minister
The Secretariat of the Prime Minister set the 2021 budget at 5,988,779,100 baht. Almost all is to be spent on basic security plans.
1. Government management of security. The objective is that the King and all royal family members receive the highest convenience and safety, as well as security, safety and peace and order in the country.
In detail, we see that more than 2,600 million is expenses in equipment, land and construction, and includes more than a few helicopters for royal use and planes for VIP use. The budget is divided into commitments over many years.
- 2 accompanying helicopters for royal travel, including other expenses: 967,335,100 baht
Total budget of 2,802,085,100 baht
Year 2019, a budget of 549,441,100 baht
Year 2020, a budget of 786,153,300 baht
Year 2021, a budget of 967,335,100 baht
Year 2022, a committed budget of 499,155,600 baht
- 3 helicopters for royal use, including other necessary expenses: 142,554,500 baht
Total budget of 2,970,932,600 baht
Year 2018, a budget of 662,746,000 baht
Year 2019, a budget of 1,275,400,000 baht
Year 2020, a budget of 890,232,100 baht
Year 2021, a budget of 142,554,500 baht
- 1 plane for VIP travel, including other necessary expenses: 325,068,300 baht
Total budget of 3,279,745,400 baht
Year 2018, a budget of 712,651,000 baht
Year 2019, a budget of 1,363,900,000 baht
Year 2020, a budget of 878,126,100 baht
Year 2021, a budget of 325,068,300 baht
- 3 planes for VIP travel, including other necessary expenses: 969,073,500 baht
Total budget of 2,703,688,500 baht
Year 2019, a budget of 529,420,000 baht
Year 2020, a budget of 555,760,000 baht
Year 2021, a budget of 969,073,500 baht
Year 2022, a committed budget of 649,435,000 baht
- Royal aircraft hangar 1, Dechochai 3 Royal Flight Unit: 76,931,499 baht
Total budget of 281,800,000 baht
Year 2019, a budget of 56,519,000 baht
Year 2020, a budget of 148,349,600 baht
Year 2021, a budget of 76,931,400 baht
- Royal aircraft hangar 2, Dechochai 3 Royal Flight Unit: 41,530,900 baht
Total budget of 187,500,000 baht
Year 2019, a budget of 38,121,200 baht
Year 2020, a budget of 107,847,900 baht
Year 2021, a budget of 41,530,900 baht
- Royal helicopter hangar, 201 Squadron, Wing 2, including facilities: 95,000,000 baht
5. Ministry of Defence
The basic security plan specifies that one product is support for the provision of security to the monarchy and operations according to the king’s wishes
Details of the expenses are divided into car rental and buildings without detailing what buildings and where.
1. Subsidy: 1,218,466,000 baht
1.1 General subsidy: 1,015,886,300 baht
(1) Subsidy for security support expenses for the monarchy 1,015,868,300 baht
1.2 Special subsidy: 202,597,700 baht
(1) Car rental 2,784,000 baht
Year 2020, a budget of 3,120,000 baht
Year 2020, a budget of 1,288,000 baht
Year 2021, a budget of 2,784,000 baht
Year 2022, a committed budget of 2,784,000 baht
Year 2021, a committed budget of 2,784,000 baht
(2) 1 item of construction costs: 194,092,400 baht
Total budget of 620,500,000 baht
Year 2019, a budget of 98,768,200 baht
Year 2020, a budget 54,960,700 baht
Year 2021, a committed budget of 194,092,400 baht
Year 2022, a committed budget of 272,678,700 baht
(2) Consultant fees: 5,721,300 baht
Total budget ceiling of 21,700,000 baht
Year 2019, a budget of 2,174,000 baht
Year 2020, a budget 6,564,000 baht
Year 2021, a budget of 5,721,300 baht
Year 2022, a committed budget of 7,240,000 baht
For 2021 indirect expenses, there is a great diversity. The projects are in line with the missions of each organisation, but if similar projects distributed among different agencies are categorised together, the results are as follows:
1. Royal Project Foundation/royal projects/projects related to the sufficiency economy: 11,434 baht
2. Pageantry projects fostering a consciousness revering the monarchy: - 1,261 million baht
3. TO BE NUMBER ONE project, 170 million baht
4. Plant genetic conservation/rare plants under the patronage of Princess Sirindhorn, total budget of 150 million baht
5. Other projects in various agencies, totalling 3,904 million baht
For further details see the Thai versionFeaturefiscal budget2021 budgetthe Royal Thai GovernmentIn-Depth
Flash mobs at the Victory Monument, the Ministry of Education and close to Chulalongkorn University met harsh police responses with at least 8 people arrested and a journalist injured by a pipe bomb.
The collaged photo of political activities at Victory Monument, Ministry of Education and a shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima.
By 22.24, 6 people had been taken to the Border Patrol Police (BPP) Region 1 headquarters, Pathum Thani Province: 2 from the Victory Monument protest and the rest from the Sam Yan protest close to Chulalongkorn University.
A heavy presence of crowd control police could be seen at every site. At around 11.30 at the Victory Monument, the police aggressively intervened and removed a '112 metre-long message to government'. 2 people were arrested and taken immediately to the BPP headquarters right away without being first processed at Phaya Thai Police Station, which is responsible for the area.
The 2 were charged under the Communicable Diseases Act and the Emergency Decree for staging a public gathering. The other cases are still under the investigation at the time of writing.
Another protest at the Ministry of Education held by ‘Bad Student’, a student activist group, to parody Teacher’s Day ceremonies that are held every 16 January, also faced police intervention. 5 people were taken to Metropolitan Police Division 1; 4 high school students and 1 freshman university student.
However, later-arriving students continued with the activity until 15.28 after the police at 15.20 demanded that they leave the area within 15 minutes.
At 15.30, a protest was staged at Sam Yan Mitr Town shopping mall. Despite a megaphone announcement asking people to return home and wait for a further announcement on the fate of those arrested earlier, people remained in the area.
At 17.45, several hundred crowd control police arrived at the scene and took control of Sam Yan intersection. The police also brought in many detention trucks.
17.54, a loud explosion was heard followed by white smoke. It was later identified as a pipe bomb. Tanakorn Wongpanya, a reporter from The Standard, received a minor injury from a fragment of the explosion. 4 police also suffered minor injuries.
Regarding the explosion, the police detained 4 suspects, 2 men and 2 women, according to Matichon. iLaw reported that their phones were seized and they were not informed where they would be taken.
The overwhelming police reaction involving the deployment of large numbers of officers, aggressive engagement, and the speedy arrest and despatch of suspects to Pathum Thani for interrogation is a shift in their modus operandi against pro-democracy activities.
This response was seen at the shrimp-selling activity staged by the WeVo group on 31 December, 2020, where around 500 police aggressively dispersed and arrested people who were trying to help struggling shrimp farmers sell shrimps.
No law currently allows the police to transfer arrestees for interrogation to the facility of their choosing. The severe state of emergency, which did enable them to do so, was withdrawn in October 2020. The Criminal Procedure Code authorizes police to detain and interrogate people only at the police station responsible for the area where the alleged offence occurred.
This change in procedure was implemented at around the same time as a series of people received summonses and arrest warrants for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the law that criminalize defamation of the King, Queen, Heir and Regent.
United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, one of the pro-democracy protest organizers, published a statement denouncing the police’s harsh measures and those who gave them ‘green light’ to use force against the people. The statement demands the unconditional release of those who are arrested.
In the afternoon at a shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, a banner was spotted with the message “The shooting was almost a year ago, where is military reform?”
The banner refers to the mass shooting on 8-9 February in Nakhon Ratchasima, when Sgt Jakrapanth Thomma killed at least 30 people, using military weapons he stole from his base. He was reportedly provoked by a conflict with his superior about housing. The case drew social attention to the ‘twilight zone’ within the military.
On 20.30 Saturday, People gathered at Khon Kaen Democracy Monument, Khon Kaen provine to express their disagreement with the police use of force at the Victory Monument. Khon Kaen police officers could be seen observing the activity.
20.30น. #ม็อบ16มกรา #อนุสาวรีย์ปชตขอนแก่น ปชช. จำนวนหนึ่งในขอนแก่น ออกมาแสดงกิจกรรมเชิงสัญลักษณ์ไม่เห็นด้วยกับการจับกุม #การ์ดปลดแอก ที่อนุสาวรีย์ชัยสมรภูมิบ่ายนี้ ปรากฎป้ายผ้าข้อความ ยกเลิกม.112 และหยุดคุกคามประชาชน โดยมีจนท. จาก สภ.เมืองขอนแก่นยืนสังเกตการณ์ในพื้นที่ pic.twitter.com/PdxjgDwMxO
— TLHR / ศูนย์ทนายความเพื่อสิทธิมนุษยชน (@TLHR2014) January 16, 2021
About 21.00, 2 banners with messages "天竜人を滅ぼせ! Abolish the celestial dragons" and "The will of D" were reportedly spotted at Kong Bin 41 Intersection, Chiang Mai province.
The messages refer to the narrative of the famous Manga One Piece when the celestial dragons are a group of dictating elites that perhaps would be cast in chaos by those who have the will of D.NewsStudent protest 2020Thailand protest 2021Thai policeBad StudentSource: prachatai.com/journal/2021/01/91229
On 13 January, Samutprakan Provincial Court acquitted "Thanakorn" of lèse-majesté and computer crime charges after the authorities prosecuted him in 2015 for posting a statement relating to a sarcastic comment against supporters of Thong Daeng, the favourite dog of the late King Bhumibol.
Court said that according to the plaintiff, Thanakorn (with surname withheld) took screenshots of two comments and posted them on his Facebook page with a caption saying that he “read the comments and felt so touched”.
The first comment was a statement without any disdain or hatred. The other was sarcastic towards ordinary people who appreciated Thong Daeng. However, neither constituted lèse majesté speech. So the Court ruled that his publication of the information and his comment on those statements did not constitute a lèse majesté crime.
He was also acquitted of the charge under the Computer Crime Act as his comment did not import or confirm any distorted information about the late King’s dog. His Facebook post only involved a question about whether people know Thong Daeng was the late King’s dog, a statement which is a well-known fact.
Thanakorn was also faced charges for two other Facebook posts which the Court also dismissed. The authorities claimed that he posted a diagram which pointed to potential corrupt activities in the construction of Rajabhakti Park by the Thai Royal Army and “liked” a Facebook page which has a photoshopped picture of the late King Bhumibol on the cover.
Maj Gen Burin Thongprapai, the legal representative of the National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO), claimed that posting the diagram was an act of sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code. However, the Court said that a call for transparency in the project was not an act of sedition. Some officers also admitted there was corruption in the project, including Gen Paiboon Khumchaya and Gen Udomdej Sitabutr. So the Court acquitted Thanakorn of the charge.
With regard to liking the problematic Facebook page, an act which put him under lèse-majesté and computer crime charges, the Court said that there was no “following button” on Facebook at the time, so a user had to click “like” to follow a Facebook page.
Clicking “like” to follow the news on a Facebook page in September 2015 was not the same as clicking “like” on an allegedly lèse majesté picture which was posted in December, so the Court acquitted him of the lèse majesté charge.
And since the defendant only followed the page, and did not share it, he did not spread any false information from the page. Facebook may have promoted any public post or pages randomly on anyone’s newsfeed, but it was not Thanakorn’s doing. So the Court also acquitted him of the computer crime charge.
Thanakorn’s court case was concluded after a trial of 5 years. Thanakorn was a factory worker. In 2015, he was arrested by plainclothes officers in Samut Prakan Province. He was not allowed to meet a lawyer or his relatives. Then he was kept in detention for one week in two military camps.
During the last two days of detention at the 11th Military Circle, he said he was hit on the back of the head with a glass bottle while being interrogated about his Facebook post on Rajabhakti Park. He said the glass bottle did not break but he was hurt and feared for his family members.
After his detention, he was transferred to Crime Suppression Division for further investigation by police. Even though the police record said that he “testified voluntarily”, he confirmed that he gave testimony out of fear that he may be detained in a military camp again.
Ilaw’s database says that Thanakorn was detained at the Bangkok Military Court and later given temporary release on bail. Thanakorn confirmed that he was loyal to the monarchy. After he was released from the military court in 2016, he went into the monkhood as an act of devotion to the late King Bhumibol.
Thanakorn’s case was one of the cases tried in the military court under the NCPO’s Orders after its power seizure in 2014. Thanks to pressure from civil society calling for the putschists to hold an election, the NCPO loosened its grip in 2019 and Thanakorn’s case was transferred to a civilian court.NewsMaj Gen Burin ThongprapaiNational Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)iLawThongdaengThanakornlèse majesté lawComputer Crime ActRajabhakti ParkSeditionSection 112Section 116King BhumibolSource: https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/01/91179
Thailand’s government in 2020 escalated its repression of basic rights in the face of a growing, youth-led democracy movement demanding political and constitutional reforms, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday (13 January) in its World Report 2021.
A protester flashing the three-finger 'Hunger Games' salute as riot police continue to fire tear gas at the protesters during the 6-hour clash on Samsen Road on 17 November 2020
Protests that started on July 18 soon spread across the country, calling for the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, an end to harassment by the authorities, and the drafting of a new constitution. Some protests included demands to curb the king’s powers. The government responded by cracking down on protest leaders, charging more than 100 of them with illegal assembly, violating Covid-19 related restrictions, and sedition.
“The Thai government has responded to peaceful demands from youth for sweeping political reforms by making Thailand’s human rights crisis go from bad to worse,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Thai authorities have prosecuted dissenters, violently dispersed peaceful protests, censored news and social media, and punished critical political speech.”
In the 761-page World Report 2021, its 31st edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 100 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth argues that the incoming United States administration should embed respect for human rights in its domestic and foreign policy, in a way that is more likely to survive future US administrations that might be less committed to human rights. Roth emphasizes that even as the Trump administration mostly abandoned the protection of human rights, other governments stepped forward to champion rights. The Biden administration should seek to join, not supplant, this new collective effort.
On October 15, riot police forcibly cleared protesters who had camped outside the Government House in Bangkok. In the ensuing days, police assaulted peaceful protesters using water cannons, mixed with dye and teargas chemicals, as well as teargas grenades. On November 17, at least 55 people were injured, most from inhaling teargas, and six pro-democracy protesters were wounded by gunfire during a clash with ultra-royalist groups after police withdrew. On November 18, the spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressed concerns about the Thai government’s use of force against peaceful protesters.
The government intimidated and punished children and youths who participated in the pro-democracy campaigns. The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported in August a total of 103 harassment incidents against students across the country. At least four high school students were charged with illegal assembly.
The government routinely enforced censorship, including on social media platforms, blocking and punishing opinions the authorities deemed critical of the monarchy. In November, Prime Minister Prayuth brought back lèse-majesté prosecutions after a three-year hiatus. As of December, at least 35 people, including a 16-year-old boy, were charged under article 112 of the penal code (insulting the monarchy) for demanding reform of the monarchy, or saying or writing or doing anything the authorities considered offensive to the monarchy. Critics of the monarchy were also prosecuted under sedition, cybercrime, and other legal provisions.
Thai dissidents who have fled Thailand to escape political persecution face grave threats to their lives. On June 4, an exiled democracy activist, Wanchalearm Satsaksit, was abducted in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, and remains missing. Since 2016, at least nine Thai political activists have been forcibly disappeared in neighboring countries. Two of them were found killed.
“Thailand’s foreign friends should stop ignoring the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the country,” Adams said. “It’s not possible to return to business as usual without securing Thai government commitments to respect democratic principles and rights for all.”Pick to PostHuman Rights Watchstudent movementYouth movementStudent protest 2020freedom of expressionfreedom of assemblyHuman right violationstate violenceprotest
The Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (NIPT) is calling for voters to back their Council of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand bill, which proposes to set up a formal indigenous peoples’ council to give Thailand’s indigenous population the opportunity to resolve community rights issues in ways that are suitable to their way of life.
Members of the Karen indigenous community in the Kaeng Krachan area lighting candles in a traditional ceremony before an event on community rights issues held on 16 December 2020
The Indigenous Media Network (IMN) reported in late December 2020 that the NIPT has published the full draft of the bill and is calling for Thai citizens over 18 years old to help back the bill in order to propose it to parliament.
According to IMN, Thailand’s indigenous peoples are facing many human rights issues, from land rights, access to basic welfare, and citizenship to the loss of their cultural identity, while the younger generation continues to leave their communities to find work elsewhere. These problems are a result of the way the government’s policies and legislation relating to indigenous communities do not take their traditional way of life into consideration, as well as going against the intentions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), to which Thailand is a signatory, along with 143 other countries.
A number of indigenous rights are enshrined in the UNDRIP, including but not limited to:
- the right to be free from discrimination based on their indigenous origin or identity;
- the right to self-determination and the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs;
- the right to a nationality, land, and other fundamental human rights;
- the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons;
- the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions; and
- the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.
The UNDRIP also states that governments must provide effective preventative mechanisms and redress for any action which has the aim or effect of depriving indigenous peoples of their integrity as distinct peoples or of their cultural identities, dispossessing them of their lands, territories, or resources, forced population transfer, forced assimilation or integration, or any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them.
The issues facing indigenous peoples in Thailand led to the drafting of the Council of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand bill, in order to guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly their rights to self-determination, according to Thailand’s international commitments, including those stated in the UNDRIP, and to create a mechanism for solving human rights issues in ways that take indigenous ways of life into consideration and in which indigenous communities themselves can participate.
The bill proposes to found a formal indigenous peoples’ council whose members are made of representatives of each ethnic group, chosen by the communities themselves. The bill also states the council’s responsibilities, which include the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights, the recovery and strengthening of indigenous cultures, the protection of spiritual grounds and the right to land, and collaborating with relevant agencies in organizing projects to strengthen indigenous communities.
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Thailand has over 30 ethnic minority groups, none of whom are recognized as indigenous by the Thai state. While the current Constitution mentions the right of “ethnic groups” to live according to their cultural traditions peacefully and without interference, no legislation uses the term “indigenous people.”
Apinan Thammasena, a researcher from the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre (SAC), said that the Thai state does not recognize any ethnic group as indigenous because it is concerned about having to follow the international agreements it is party to, such as the UNDRIP. Apinan said that many international agreements use the term “indigenous,” because it refers to a specific group of people facing a specific set of issues.
Apinan explained that the Thai state has argued that, because Thailand has never been colonized, it does not have an indigenous population. He also said that Thailand’s national security agencies are often concerned that, if the state recognizes that there is an indigenous population, it would have to give them the right to autonomy.
Meanwhile, Kittisak Rattanakrajangsri, the current chairperson of the Council of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand, an indigenous rights NGO based in Chiang Mai, said that the indigenous communities do not refer to themselves as “ethnic groups,” but use the more specific term “indigenous people.” He also insists that, while the government argues that Thailand has no indigenous population, many ethnic groups have been in this territory for hundreds of years, but the Thai government refuses to recognize them as indigenous to avoid having to follow international agreements.
There have, however, been previous attempts at creating a policy guideline to resolve issues facing indigenous communities in Thailand. In 2010, the cabinet at the time issued two cabinet resolutions, one on the recovery of the Karen people’s way of life and one on the sea nomad communities.
Both cabinet resolutions contain guidelines for short- and long-term measures for solving the issues faced by each community, such as the lack of citizenship, land rights, the lack of resources, and how to support their traditional ways of life. The cabinet resolution on the recovery of the Karen people’s way of life also states that conservation zones which overlap with locations of Karen communities that have lived in that area before the area became a conservation zone should be revoked.
However, there have been problems with putting both cabinet resolutions into practice. Kittisak said that local officials often do not acknowledge the cabinet resolutions and argue that the Forest Act is a higher-ranking law and therefore they do not have to follow the resolutions. Because of this, legislation to protect indigenous people’s rights has become necessary.
Kittisak said that the Council of Indigenous Peoples bill will allow for the protection of indigenous rights in every aspect, from economic rights to cultural. He said that these rights are not new, but are what the indigenous communities once had and would like to have enshrined in law.
“We would like there to be policies and exclusive plans that are suitable for addressing our issues, because from what we have seen from the lessons in the past, most policies issued by the government sector are very centrist and very grey, and when they are applied in practice, they don’t really solve people’s issues. Even for the Council of Indigenous Peoples itself, we would like an exclusive plan that actually fits with our needs, and we would like to live according to the traditional way that we want to live. It’s like being able to determine the fate of our own lives,” said Kittisak.
In addition to the Council of Indigenous Peoples bill, Kittisak said that two other pieces of legislation are being drafted to protect the indigenous way of life. One is the Protection and Strengthening of Ethnic Way of Life bill, which the SAC is working on, and similar legislation is being drafted by the Standing Committee on children, young people, women, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and ethnic groups.
Kittisak said that, in addition to legislation, communicating with the public about the protection of indigenous culture is also important. He said that the public often has a bias against indigenous peoples, as in the past, the education system depicted indigenous communities in a negative light, with such claims as that the hill tribes destroy the forest or are drug traffickers. These biases still exist even though the curriculum has been changed, and that time and serious campaigning effort will be needed to undo them.
“It’s like arranging flowers in a vase. If there are a hundred kinds of flowers, then it’s beautiful, but if there is only one kind, it would be a bit plain. If we are to make them see the dimension of beauty, the dimension of benefits, values, I think that the educational system is important. Campaigning is important,” said Kittisak.Newsindigenous peopleIndigenous rightsNetwork of Indigenous People in Thailand (NIPT)
Jomtien Hospital and Bangkok Hospital Rayong have announced the dismissal of Dr Saravin Thongrong for “inappropriate behaviour against the rules of the company” after his comments on the late King Bhumibol surfaced on the internet. Right-wing activists have called for his license to be revoked and for him to be prosecuted under the lèse-majesté law.
On 6 January, Jomtien Hospital released an announcement on Facebook dismissing Dr Saravin, effective from the day of the announcement. Bangkok Hospital Rayong also announced his dismissal on the same day. Both hospitals used the same wording, saying that he had committed “inappropriate behaviour” which was “against the rules of the company” and the hospitals “apologized for the occurrence.”
Dr Saravin had worked at Jomtien Hospital as a full-time employee and at Bangkok Hospital Rayong part-time. His dismissal was announced after Dr Saravin’s comments on Facebook went viral.
The Facebook page of Bangkok Hospital Rayong advertised its readiness to respond to the spread of the Covid-19. The post led to a debate between Dr Saravin and other Facebook users about the role of Siam Bioscience Co Ltd, which was founded on the initiative of the late King Bhumibol, whom Dr Saravin referred to using rude language.
Screenshots of Dr Saravin’s comments were found on the Facebook pages of conservative supporters and outlets. However, the Facebook page of Bangkok Hospital Rayong where the original comments were posted is no longer available at the time of this report.
With the Crown Property Bureau as the sole shareholder of the company, Bangkok Biz News reports that Siam Bioscience will produce the anti-Covid vaccine to be available for Thais in May at a cost price of 5 US dollars per dose. Under the current law, the Crown Property Bureau is the personal possession of King Vajiralongkorn.
Dr Saravin was also found commenting about the late King Bhumibol as a member of the Royalist Marketplace (Talad Luang), a Facebook group which now has 2.2 million members and is critical of the monarchy. A 6 January report says that the Royalist Marketplace was the 15th largest Facebook group in the world in 2021.
As Dr Saravin was fired, right-wing activists pledged to take further action. Despite the announcement from the two hospitals, Maj Gen Rienthong Nanna, the founder of the ultraroyalist Rubbish Collection Organisation, posted on Facebook that he would wage social measures against Jomtien Hospital and Bangkok Hospital Rayong unless they sack Dr Saravin. Rienthong also claimed that Dr Saravin graduated from Khon Kaen University, calling Khon Kaen Hospital to check whether they hired him as an employee.
On 8 January, Srisuwan Janya, an activist known as “the complainer in chief”, also requested the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) to prosecute Dr Saravin, and a Facebook user named “Watcharin” who posted similar comments, under Section 112 of the Criminal Code and the Section 14 of the Computer Crime Act. Srisuwan also said he will request the Medical Council of Thailand to revoke the medical license of Dr Saravin.
The lèse-majesté law (Section 112) says that “whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” It is not clear if former monarchs, like the late King Bhumibol, are protected under this law.
For 2 years the law was in abeyance, and the Prime Minister claimed that King Vajiralongkorn had prohibited the authorities from using it out of mercy. But in the last few weeks as many as 40 lèse majesté cases have been filed against Thai activists in the wake of pro-democracy protests last year which called for monarchy reform.
Before the return of the lèse majesté law late last year, Section 14 of Computer Crime Act had been used together with Section 116 of the Criminal Code, the law on sedition, as a substitute. Section 14 of the Computer Crime Act says that whoever imports into a computer system data which is deemed as a likely threat to national security shall be punished by up to five years in jail and/or a fine of not more than 100,000 baht.
NewsSrisuwan JanyaRienthong NannaRubbish Collection Organisation (RCO)Section 112Article 14 of Computer Crime Act
The South korean-based prize given to activists globally, this year, goes to Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer from his legal contribution, anti-dictatorship activisms and his call for monarchy reform.
Anon, in a duck outfit, giving a speech at the 25 November protest.
On 14 January, the May 18 Memorial Foundation, the South Korean-based foundation established to remember the spirit of democratic struggle and solidarity of the May 18 1980 officially announced Anon Nampa as the winner of its annual prize given to the human rights-related activists around the world.
The Jury has also selected the Watchdoc Documentary Maker of Indonesia as the Special Prize winner of the 2021 Gwangju Prize for
Human Rights from their contribution to human rights promotion via their film works.
Beside Anon, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa or 'Pai Daodin', human rights, political and environmental activist and Angkhana Neelapaijit, a former member of the Thai Human Rights Commission was awarded the prize in 2017 and 2006 respectively.
Below is the announcement letter:
2021 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights
Winner Announced The 2021 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights (GPHR) Jury has announced this year’s winners. The winner of the 2021 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights is Mr. Anon Nampa, an activist and a human rights lawyer in Thailand (Thai Lawyers for Human Rights/TLHR).
Since 2008, when he started his legal profession, he has offered free legal assistance to human rights and democracy activists. After the 2014 military coup d’etat , he has especially defended people who were indicted under Article 112 of the Thai Penal Code, which has been abused in order to oppress freedom of speech, punish human right activists and political critics, and also defended those who have been indicted by the military court for their struggles for freedom of assembly, association, and speech.
In 2014, he co-founded a prodemocracy activist group, Resistant Citizen, to empower people to challenge the undemocratic, authoritarian regime and to raise public awareness about human rights. He was also one of leading figures of the movement We Want an Election in 2018.
Also, he has struggled to promote people’s awareness about human rights violations caused by martial law and military rule. His speech on demanding restructuring the Thai monarchy system and establishing a greater democracy that was delivered at a massive pro-democracy rally of Thai youth added fuel to the ongoing democratization movement.
As a result of his unrelenting activism, he has been arrested and indicted many times on charges of criminal offences, such as sedition, but he was released on bail. In spite of facing risks of being reincarcerated if he does not stop his activities, he continues his fight for justice and human rights.
The Jury has also selected the Watchdoc Documentary Maker of Indonesia as the Special Prize winner of the 2021 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. It is a documentary film making group that was established by Indonesian journalists Andhy Panca Kurniawan and Dandhy Dwi Laksono. Since then it has produced over 200 documentary series and more than 700 TV series on the themes of human rights, democracy, rule of law, environment, women, minority groups, and history. Its productions are viewed freely by public and have been used for campaigns and education by many human rights organizations and schools, making a great contribution to human rights promotion.
Assuming the trailblazer’s role in promoting human rights through culture and arts, works of the Watchdoc Documentary Maker were awarded by many international film festivals, such as CinemAsia Film Festival in Amsterdam and International Anti-Corruption East Asia Documentary Film Festival in Brazil.
The 2021 GPHR Selection Committee believed that the May 18 Spirit is realized through the actions of Mr. Anon Nampa and the Watchdoc Documentary Maker. It highly appreciates the actions of Mr. Anon Nampa who has relentlessly fought against dictatorial governments regardless of physical threats and the activities of the Watchdoc Documentary Maker that has inspired world citizens with their film making.
The May 18 Memorial Foundation believes that today’s decisions will serve as a momentum to secure the solidarity between world citizens towards the development of democracy and the expansion of human rights.
January 14, 2021
2020 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Jury Members (In alphabetical order)
Chief: Moon, Kyoo-hyun (Chair / People for Peace and Reunification)
Members: Kang, Seong-gu (Vice Chairman / Korea Democracy Foundation)
Kim, Jeong-ho (Lawyer / IUS Law Firm)
Song, Soh-yon (Secretary-General / NHRC of Korea)
Oh, Heung Sook (Representative / Busan Lifeline)
Youn, Yeong-duk (Lawmaker / The Democratic Party)
Lee, Cheol-woo (Chairman / The May 18 Memorial Foundation)NewsGwangju PrizeThe May 18 Memorial FoundationAnon Nampa