The 2019 National Intelligence Act became effective on Wednesday (17 April), allowing the National Intelligence Agency to use any means, including electronic or other technologies, to access information.
The National Intelligence Act, which was published in the Government Gazette on 16 April, gives the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) the authority to order any government agency or person to hand over information or document that affects national security within a timeframe specified by the NIA Director.
In cases where it is necessary to obtain information or document relating to intelligence, Article 6 of the Act gives the NIA the power to use any means, including the use of electronic tools, scientific tools, telecommunication, or other technologies to obtain the information or document.
Article 12 also requires the NIA to establish a National Intelligence Coordinating Centre (NICC) to act as a central agency in coordinating intelligence works between national intelligence agencies. Article 13 gives the NICC the authority to
- Follow, evaluate, and analyse both national and international current situation for 24 hours a day, including reporting daily news, urgent news, news of specific cases, and advance emergency warnings to the Prime Minister, the National Security Council, the Director, and other relevant agencies.
- Monitor threats to security, both in normal situation, in sensitive situation, during important festivals, royal ceremonies, or important state conferences or ceremonies in order to support the prevention or resolving of the situation when there is a serious emergency, and to be on duty until the situation can be resolved.
- Educate and cooperate with government sector, private sector, and the public, both centrally and regionally, in terms of information services.
Between December 2018 and February 2019, the National Legislative Assembly has already passed over a hundred draft bills into law. Among these are the National Intellgence Act, which was passed on 1 February 2019, and the Cyber Security Act, which allows the National Cybersecurity Commission to continuously demand information from relevant parties on cybersecurity threats and require such parties to cooperate. It also gives the authorities to bypass court orders in “critical” situations.NewsNational intelligence act 2019
Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Secretary-General of the Future Forward Party (FFP), went to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) on April 17 to acknowledge allegations by the NCPO’s legal representative of contempt of court and spreading false information online.
Piyabutr Saengkanokkul went to the TCSD at the Chaeng Watthana Government Complex today to acknowledge allegations by the NCPO. Col Burin Thongprapai, its representative, filed lawsuits under Article 198 of Criminal Code for contempt of court and under Article 14 (2) of Computer Crime Act for spreading false information into computer system, after Piyabutr, as the FFP Secretary-General, criticized the Constitutional Court for disbanding the Thai Raksa Chart Party (TRC).
The FFP board, members and supporters went in the early morning to support Piyabutr. Piyabutr and his supporters showed three-finger signs. Some of them also displayed ‘Pocky’, a Japanese snack, to show support for Piyabutr, whose nickname is ‘Pock’. Angkhana Neelapaijit, a member of National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, also observed together with representatives of the UN Human Rights Office in Thailand.
Piyabutr's supporters displaying 'Pockey'
If convicted, Piyabutr may go to jail for 7 years and pay fine of 14,000 baht at maximum for contempt of court. Formerly a legal scholar, Piyabutr questioned the law saying that Article 198 of the Criminal Code allows "anyone" to file for contempt of court, establishing a norm which limits the freedom to criticize any organizations in the future as third person can file a lawsuit.
Under Article 14(2) of the Computer Crime Act, he may also go to jail for 5 years and pay fine of 100,000 baht at maximum if convicted. According to iLaw, 53 people have been filed against under the Article 14(2) since the military coup in 2014, including the case of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and the other 3 FFP’s members for criticizing Phalang Pracharat Party last year.
Piyabutr rejected Burin’s allegations saying that his statement after the disbandment of TRC shows no contempt of court. He also said that the one who sues him is from NCPO, and the head of NCPO is a PM candidate from Phalang Pracharat Party. Piyabutr thanked his supporters and observers for coming. Piyabutr said that he talked with Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit until 2.00 am the previous night and the lawsuits against both of them were expected since they were fighting to return democracy to Thailand.Welcome to the Club
Before Songkran, police also pressed three charges against Thanathorn including sedition (Article 116 of the Criminal Code), helping a suspect escape (Article 189), and assembling more than 10 people to cause unrest (Article 215) for his participation in an anti-junta protest on 24 June 2015, the 83rd anniversary of Thailand’s democratic revolution in 1932.
If convicted, Thanathorn could be imprisoned for a maximum of 7 years, 2 years, and 6 months for each of the charges. According to NCPO’ Order No. 37/2557 of May 2014, Thanathorn’s case may have to be heard by a military court as one of his cases relates to national security under Articles 113-118 of the Criminal Code. Even though NCPO Order No.55/2559 ruled that such cases may now go before civilian courts, the Order exempted cases which occurred before 12 September 2016, which still have to go before military courts.
When he went to Pathumwan Police Station on 6 April to acknowledge the allegations, around 200-300 people went in support, among them Sombat Boonngamanong, the leader of the Grin Party and a political activist. Through Prachatai, he said to Thanathorn “Welcome to the 116 club,” because he has also been charged twice under Article 116. According to iLaw, 104 people have been charged under Article 116 for sedition since the recent military coup.
Around 12 diplomats from the US, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the EU also went to Pathumwan Police Station to observe. Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Prime Minister of Thailand, said that “I don’t know if they truly are diplomats, I asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to follow-up with the Ambassadors.” Don Pramudwinai, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, invoked the Vienna Convention and said that other countries should not intervene in Thai internal affairs.
However, according to Bangkok Post, the US released an emailed statement saying that it is “standard diplomatic practice” to “observe fair trial guarantees and respect for rule of law.” A statement from EU also said that “observation of hearings and trials is standard diplomatic practice worldwide. Its purpose is to enhance understanding of adherence to international standards such as human rights and due process.''NewsFuture Forward PartyPiyabutr SaengkanokkulThanathorn JuangroongruangkitNational Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)Col Burin Thongprapai
Thailand has been ranked 136th in Reporters Without Borders (RSF)’ 2019 World Press Freedom Index, 4 places above its 2018 ranking, but is still classified as being in a “difficult situation.”
According to RSF, the Index, which evaluated the state of journalism in 180 countries and territories across the world, shows that “an intense climate of fear has been triggered — one that is prejudicial to a safe reporting environment” and that the number of countries where journalists can work in complete security continues to decline while authoritarian regimes continue to suppress the press in many countries.
Only 24% of the 180 countries and territories are classified as “good” or “fairly good”, as opposed to 26% last year, while 37% is classified as being in a “problematic situation.” 29% is classified as being in a “difficult situation” and 11% is classified as being in a “very serious situation.” RSF also reported that threats, insults, and attacks are now among the “occupational hazards” for journalists in many countries, and that in many places, “the level of violence used to persecute journalists who aggravate authorities no longer seems to know any limits,” causing many journalists to censor themselves or stop writing altogether. Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, and in Slovakia, investigative journalist Ján Kuciak was murdered along with his fiancée Martina Kušnírová in February 2018.
In Asia Pacific, RSF reported that, “with totalitarian propaganda, censorship, intimidation, physical violence and cyber-harassment, [the region] continues to exhibit all of the problems that can beset journalism and, with a virtually unchanged regional score, continues to rank third from last”. The region is also facing “waves of disinformation” which is “helping to erode democracy throughout the region, and press freedom with it”.
While Thailand is now ranked 136th, 4 places above its 2018 ranking, it is still classified as being in a “difficult situation”. The RSF report also says that “the Chinese system of total news control is increasingly serving as a model for other anti-democratic regimes” such as Singapore, Brunei, and Thailand.
The RSF report on Thailand says that, for the past five years, the junta “has constantly hounded outspoken journalists, summoning them for questioning, detaining them arbitrarily and driving at least ten of them to flee the country. Any criticism of the junta is liable to lead to violent reprisals made possible by draconian legislation and a justice system that follows orders.” Dissident journalists and bloggers face the threat of the cyber-security law adopted in February 2019 and of the lèse-majesté charge which carry a possible 15-year prison sentence.
RSF reported that "the opposition TV channel Voice TV was simply shut down for the duration of the election campaign". However, while there was indeed a 15-day suspension order for Voice TV, issued by the national broadcasting regulator on 12 February 2019, the suspension only lasted for about 3 days, as Voice TV's executives took the case to the Administrative Court, which subsequently ruled the suspension order to be invalid.
Read more on Voice TV's suspension during the election campaigns:
RSF also noted that "the authorities...behave in a very indulgent manner towards certain regimes: Chinese and Vietnamese operatives have been allowed to arrest dissident exile journalists or bloggers from their country in order to “repatriate” and then jail them.”
“If the political debate slides surreptitiously or openly towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of the utmost urgency for all people of good will who value the freedoms acquired in the course of history.”
Newspress freedomReporters Without Borders (RSF)World press freedom index
With growing suspicion and anger over the Election Commission’s handling of the March poll, Thais have expressed their displeasure in a variety of ways: netizens have mocked and criticised the commission online, a demonstration against the agency at Victory Monument attracted around a hundred people, and student groups from twelve different universities have organised a petition calling for the commissioners to be impeached.
But the most creative protest so far was an unsanctioned public art exhibition by student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who arranged dozens of pairs of shoes outside the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, spelling out the Thai initials of the Election Commission. The young dissident side-stepped the question of why he chose shoes for his protest, telling local media that he preferred to let people think about that for themselves.
But the meaning is clear: according to Thai culture, the feet are the lowest and most unclean part of the body. Using shoes therefore breaks a social taboo and is deeply insulting to the Election Commission because it suggests they themselves are base or ‘dirty’. Netiwit’s protest was striking and original, but it was not the first time feet or shoes have been used as a tool for protest in Thailand.
The Shoe Protest
After Yellow Shirt protestors popularised hand-clappers at their rallies, the Red Shirts responded with their own ‘foot-clappers’ - creatively subverting both the Yellow Shirt protests and Thai social norms at the same time. Red Shirt activists also made flip-flops with then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s face on them. Not only is putting an image of someone’s face on a shoe offensive enough, but the soles of the wearer’s feet rubbing against Abhisit’s face would cause further humiliation. Thais consider the sole to be the most unclean and disrespectful part of the foot.
In neighbouring Myanmar, it wasn’t shoes but underwear that was weaponised for dissent. Following the crackdown on the Saffron Revolution in 2007, a group of Burmese and international activists based in Chiang Mai orchestrated a campaign called “Panty Power”, which called on allies to send female underwear to Burmese embassies around the world. In Myanmar, many men believe contact with female clothing will emasculate them. Sending panties was therefore a symbolic way of taking away the power of the generals who controlled the country at the time.
What these protests all have in common is that they tap into feelings of disgust for the human body - a concept French-Bulgarian philosopher Julia Kristeva calls ‘abjection’. For our psychological well-being, Kristeva argues, individuals and societies cast off that which is deemed unclean, or which reminds us of our own ‘corporal reality’. Things deemed ‘abject’ have the power to shock, disgust, horrify, thrill and even entertain — breaking taboos can be fun, after all. They evoke such strong feelings because they touch us at our most primal level.
In 2010, the Red Shirts staged a symbolic protest using gallons of blood donated by demonstrators, which was poured on the ground in front of parliament and at the gate of Abhisit’s home. The action was as controversial as it was visceral because it utilised something we, as humans, find naturally repulsive.
In recent years, women around the world have broken bodily taboos to protest unfair taxes on sanitary products. In Australia, self-proclaimed “Menstrual Avengers” — in full superhero costumes, no less — threw tampons at then-Prime Minister John Howard and his cabinet. And in Britain, two women wore white trousers while menstruating, staging what they called a “free bleeding” protest outside parliament.
The most extreme transgression of bodily taboos as a means of protest must be in Northern Ireland, where disputes between jailed Irish Republican Army paramilitaries and their prison guards deteriorated to the point where the prisoners refused to leave their cells, then smeared the walls with their own human waste.
The concept of abjection begins with disgust of the body but extends to anything seen as threatening to the symbolic order of a society. Anything taboo or disruptive is firmly cast aside and when ‘violations’ occur, it causes anxiety and distress that can manifest itself in ugly ways. In Thailand, young students are just not meant to question teachers, generals or state officials - let alone spell out their name with ‘dirty’ shoes.
Netiwit called his shoe exhibition “sa-ha-baa-taa”, which is a humorous slang phrase describing a group of people stamping on someone as a form of punishment (literally “united feet”). Older, conservative Thais might find Netiwit’s transgressive activism repulsive but he and many others like him are even more repulsed by the corrupt system they see around them - and they are breaking taboos by finally putting their foot down.
James Buchanan is a PhD Candidate researching Thai politics at The Department of Asian and International Studies, City University of Hong Kong.Opinion2019 general electionElection Commission of Thailand (ECT)Netiwit ChotiphatphaisalJames Buchanan
We’re going to have to find something else.
You mean sedition won’t be enough? But he’s admitted giving that chappy a ride home and he’s now in his party, thick as thieves. Cut and dried for a military court, surely.
Well, yes, they may make that stretch to aiding and abetting in escaping arrest. But even then it’s not going to look good in court when they show that the NCPO rep who persuaded the students to leave the police station at the time is the same officer who is now bringing charges of evading arrest.
Oh. Maybe we shouldn’t have had him put his name on the docket.
How do you stop him? Anything legal to do with these pro-democracy anarchists and he’s bound to turn up and sue somebody for something.
Well it was 4 years ago. Maybe when he testifies, he can say that on mature reflection, with the passage of time, he’s changed his mind about what happened.
I don’t think bringing up the 4 years will exactly help. If this case really is a threat to national security, why have we waited 4 years to bring charges?
Well, we didn’t know how many votes they were going to get in the election until now.
Oh come on. Even a military court can’t ignore political motivation as blatant as that.
Oh I see. Will that not look good?
What? You saw all the embassy types turn up at the police station. Of course it doesn’t look good. That’s why they want the whole world to be looking in that direction.
But the Minister has dealt with that, hasn’t he?
Oh yeah? Here we are, writing our own laws as we go along and then breaking them right, left and centre and he goes and accuses them of breaking some UN rule of diplomacy that nobody’s ever heard of. Have you not seen the foreign press on this?
No, not really. None of us in the office can read farang and that translator chap took off for a long Songkran.
Well let me give you a potted summary. What they’re all saying amounts to ‘Sedition? Ha bloody ha.’
Oh, I see. So maybe we can drop the sedition charge and just go with aiding and abetting.
No we can’t, because we need the sedition charge to get it in front of a military court. Aiding and abetting alone and we’re back with the civilian courts and these days you just can’t trust them. They’ve just let those Ratchaburi anti-constitution agitators off again. It’s a lost cause as far as I can see but I suppose we’ll have to take it to the Supreme Court just to tie them up in legal fees. But heaven knows if that bench of aging brains can come up with the legal pyrotechnics you’d need to change that verdict.
But I thought the judges had all been told to …
Yes, but we can’t expect all of them to do what we want. Luxury housing in a forest reserve only buys you so much influence.
I see. So you think this case is a non-starter.
It’s already bloody started. That’s the problem. And who knows how it will go. They win and we look like vindictive bullies who can’t even rig a straightforward political trial. We’d have Hun Sen and Duterte and all the other dictators laughing up their sleeves at us and there’s nothing gets his nibs pissed off as much as foreigners laughing at him.
But it’s a military court. We can order a win if we want.
But on what grounds? He got pally with some pain in the arse 4 years ago and we’ve now suddenly realized he was really trying to overthrow the system?
Oh, so he wasn’t trying to overthrow the system?
Are you kidding me? He formed a political party under our rules, he ran in an election under our rules, he’s won lord knows how many seats under our rules. And all we can find is a clerical error in his CV. Does that look like they were trying to bring down the state?
Well, have we no hotel room tapes? There’s dozens of them look ready enough to drop their knickers for a selfie.
No, and the last clip we leaked just increased their Facebook likes.
Well, we’ll just have to wait for the ECT to dissolve the party and all our troubles will be over.
But don’t you see? A guilty verdict for sedition was supposed to be the reason for eliminating the party. The ECT can’t rejig the party-list votes on the principle that ‘every vote counts’ and then promptly disenfranchise the 6.3 million who voted for them for no good reason.
So what are we going to do?
Lord only knows. We’ve had 4 years to get all this lined up and we can’t even agree on what the rules mean and we wrote the damn things. Maybe we’ll have to stage another coup and see if we can’t get it right this time.
Ah well, at least it’ll make him over at the Army happy.
About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).Alien ThoughtsPolitical harassmentNational Council for Peace and Order’s (NCPO)military courtFuture Forward Party
Originally published in Thai on Matichon Online
Article by Nidhi Eoseewong
Translated by Tyrell Haberkorn
If one thinks that the song “Scum of the Earth” is merely another patriotic song produced by the Thai government, then one has gravely misunderstood.
The lyrics of all of the songs referred to as patriotic -- beginning when the Sayamanusathi was put to music and up until the songs of Luang Wichit and all the others -- aim to promote the unity of Thais to fight against enemies who were outsiders.
Outsiders may exist only as a shadow. We did not know who was an outsider from the reign of Rama 6 up until when the Japanese were trying to extend their power throughout Southeast Asia. Once Thailand was occupied by the Japanese Army, the Allies became our enemy. Then the Communists became the enemy during the Cold War.
But the song “Scum of the Earth” was explicitly composed and disseminated in order to suppress those enemies who were insiders.
In truth, the justification to love the nation in order to fight with external enemies has an entirely internal political goal. The politics here are partially indirect and partially direct.
The state of being alert and prepared to fight with external enemies provided special powers to the government for domestic enforcement and control. This also created an image of the firm ties between Thailand and the free world, which was the source of material assistance in the form of money, guns and helicopters, and immaterial assistance such as the presence of the voice of Thais on the world stage and scholarships for soldiers and civil servants.
In actuality, the Thai government knew full well that those whom they made into enemies were not from Moscow, Peking, or Hanoi, but were Thais. For example, the government had a list of names and detailed information about the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Thailand. But the government was satisfied with claiming that their enemies were the lackeys of Moscow or Peking. Labeling them this way dispossessed them of the right to have a voice in Thai politics.
The repression of those people, by means both legal and illegal, could then also be carried out without opposition from any quarter.
For this reason, patriotic songs (in the Thai formulation) are songs that always construct the enemy as external, whether implied or stated directly. Such songs did not result in ordinary patriotic love of the nation. Love of the nation may be expressed through many different kinds of action. Some of these actions may not be favored by the government at all, such as opposing a corrupt government or assisting and augmenting the power of marginalized, voiceless Thais to become owners of the nation and come together with us fully. But the love of the nation that the Thai government bestows upon Thais is always one in which we must fight against external enemies.
The song “Scum of the Earth” cannot be placed in this category of patriotic songs. The reason is that those who are the namesake of the song are Thais just like the composer, singers, and those who promoted its constant dissemination on the radio.
In truth, the Thai government used assassination to get rid of its political enemies from 1947 onwards without any need to use a song like “Scum of the Earth” to foster assent among the people. For the most part, they implied that those assassinated by the state were linked to outsiders. (For example, the four cabinet members who were assassinated were made out to be connected to Chinese communists in the Malayan Federation. Otherwise, why would the state go against them?)
But by 1975, this once-effective method of getting rid of the enemies of the state had lost its efficacy. For example, even though they killed farmer leaders, the farmers’ movement continued. Even though they killed the Secretary-General of the Socialist Party, the party did not fall apart and still fielded candidates for election (and did better than expected in the elections).
In short, we can say that those insiders viewed as enemies were the “masses,” or the large number of marginalized people whose specificity was unseen by the state. Targeted assassination was unable to destroy their movements. The only way to wipe them out was to carry out a massacre in the city streets, and in so doing create and spread extreme fear to those inside the movement and society beyond it. They mutilated the corpses in a barbaric manner so that Thais would not dare come together to rise up against the state again.
But once the fear subsides, such an action may reverberate as hatred of the state. This is because it was a massacre of Thais by Thais in the center of the city.
For that reason, the song “Scum of the Earth” relies on the agitation of “insiders” and “outsiders” in Thai society in order to make those killed in the city streets into outsiders, or those who are not fully Thai. The song begins, “There are those who use the name Thai, and their appearance is Thai, and they live on the land, and from the land; but in their hearts they would destroy it.”
Upon hearing these words, the meaning immediately comes to mind. For Thais who were indoctrinated like this from the time of our grandparents and great-grandparents, they could only be Chinese (Isn’t it funny that those who extracted the most profit from Thailand are Westerners, and yet they have been exempt from being seen as despised outsiders?) People in this category, including their descendants, who have become fake “insiders” faced extortion by state officials like farmers. They were better to extort than farmers because they lived their lives in the market economy and so had more cash.
The song “Scum of the Earth” was one part of the preparations in the year leading up to the massacre of 6 October 1976. The preparations also included references to the student leaders as “Tee” (Chinese boy) on the military radio. Ordinary university students came to be a threat to Thai society, warning who could study to the level of university, if they were not Chinese descendants? The masses went from being fake insiders to rising up to demand to be among the owners of the nation. They then became absolute outsiders.
After the massacre, Mr. Samak Sundaravej, who was catapulted into the position of minister of interior by the coup, gave an interview and claimed that those who were assassinated in the streets were Vietnamese. They could not speak Thai. The value of the lives of those unable to speak Thai was equated with that of one mosquito. Mr. Samak perhaps hoped that the song “Scum of the Earth” had successfully provided a mental foundation for Thais to be prepared to view the lives of outsiders as equivalent to those of mosquitos.
The song “Scum of the Earth” conveys that the lives of those whom the people who wield state power view as “scum of the earth” have a value equivalent to a mosquito. They may be picked off and discarded at any moment. Reference to the song by military officers carried the same meaning as speech threatening to take the lives of those whom powerholders deem to be their enemies, such as “Be very careful,” etc. One hears such threats more frequently when the army holds political power.
In the present, song “Scum of the Earth” has less potency. It merely stands in as a threat to individuals. It is unlikely to serve as a foundation for a massacre in the city streets. The power of the song (and every song in the world) is always derived from its political, economic and social context, and not its melody or lyrics alone.
Everything in Thailand has changed completely. Being Chinese or Vietnamese does not result in one’s ejection from the insider category. Many prime ministers have openly declared their Chinese ancestry. International relations have undergone a 180-degree turn. (Asking for devotion in the form of the shirt off one’s back and the pillow under one’s head no longer carries political meaning, since it would be equivalent to asking everyone to give up their shirt.) The Thai economy is more tightly intertwined with the global economy than it was in 1975-1976. A massacre in the city streets like 6 October would impact the peoples’ livelihood directly. Even the profits of the public enterprise capitalists would not escape effect. There are also now much stronger domestic organizations separate from the state, ranging from political parties to sports associations.
The smiles of the crowd as they watched the mutilation of the corpse on 6 October 1976 came from being malinformed and disinformed. Their smiles also came from their blindness, which can cause the emergence of hatred as well as love. But even Thais who do not know all the news and information still know a great deal more today than they did then. The levels of love and hatred are also much lower and incomparable to what they were then.
The song “Scum of the Earth” therefore holds no meaning greater than a threat. This threat can be used against individuals but cannot be used against the masses.
As we know from the writing of Karl Marx: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce.”
Note: This essay was first published in Thai in มติชน on 25 February, shortly after army commander-in-chief General Apirat Kongsompong called for the song “Scum of the Earth” (หนักแผนดิน) to be publicly broadcast. General Apirat’s call came after anti-dictatorship political parties criticized the role of the military in the polity in the lead-up to the 24 March election. The anticommunist song, which dates from 1975, was used to vilify and dehumanize those accused of being communists and anyone who questioned the ruling order in the months leading up to the 6 October 1976 massacre. Nidhi Eoseewong provides the context for the song and its use in creating an atmosphere of violence against dissidents in 1975-1976. His analysis has only become more relevant since the election and the subsequent series of events.—trans.Opinion6 October 1976Nak Phaen DinNidhi Eoseewong
Officers from the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) and Pakkred Police Station have arrested a 56-year-old civil servant on suspicion of involvement in the Thai Federation movement.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Rani (last name withheld) was arrested at 14.10 on Thursday (11 April) and charged under Article 209 of the Criminal Code for being a member of a secret society and under Article 116, the sedition law, for ‘expressing to the public by words, writing, or any other means, anything which is not an act within the purpose of the Constitution or for expressing an honest opinion or criticism in order to cause the people to transgress the law of the country’.
Rani was arrested while assing through the checkpoint in front of the Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University to attend her son’s graduation ceremony. She was first taken to Pakkred Police Station to record the arrest before being sent to the CSD for interrogation. She denied all charges and was held at the CSD until a court hearing scheduled for Saturday (13 April) morning.
TLHR reported this afternoon (13 April) that Rani was released on bail after the court hearing at 9.00 this morning.
TLHR reported that Rani was among a number of citizens under continuous surveillance. On 7 December 2018, soldiers in uniform and police officers came to her house and asked to search the property without presenting a search warrant but claiming authority under Section 44. However, she did not allow them to search the property since it was night time.
A photograph of the officers asking to search Rani's house in December 2018 (Source: TLHR)
Her harassment and arrest possibly came about because, on 5 December 2018, she wore a black t-shirt and went out to eat at the KFC at CentralPlaza Ramindra, even though her t-shirt did not have the Thai Federation symbol on it. At that time, around 5 plainclothes police officers came to speak to her and asked her to go with them, but she refused, telling them that they can talk to her there. She also asked to take pictures of the officers’ ID cards. She later told a friend of the incident and sent the pictures to the friend on Line. The pictures were later published on YouTube without her knowledge.
On 2 April, plainclothes officers also arrested Thoedsak (last name withheld), another defendant in the Thai Federation case. Officers presented him with an arrest warrant and took him in a van from Phuket while he was working as a private chauffeur.
On Wednesday (10 April), the Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANC) went to the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) headquarters to hand an open letter calling for transparency in the vote counting process and for the ECT to stop prosecuting citizens.
Representatives of TANC
The letter, signed by 121 academics, calls for the ECT to publish the vote count at each polling station and the method they use to collect the vote count, since the overall vote count reported by the ECT does not match the voter turnout. The letter also calls for the ECT to publish the detailed method of calculating the number of party-list MPs, and to withdraw the charges it filed against citizens who share the Change.org campaign to impeach the ECT. If not, the ECT must also file charges against the academics who signed the letter, who are ready to defend the case.
“Not only that the election on 24 March did not help Thailand out of its crisis as it should, it worsens the situation, because it is a questionable election which caused many suspicions,” says the letter.
“For example, the number of ballots does not match the number of people who voted, the final 5% of the vote count which does not match the number of polling stations, or the party-list calculation method which does not follow principles and possibly violates the constitution. Citizens who campaign to impeach the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) because they see that the ECT does not perform its duties with transparency are instead being prosecuted under defamation charges, which increase the public’s dissatisfaction with the ECT.”
Meanwhile, on the same day, representatives of 63 civil society and human rights organizations also went to deliver a letter to the ECT, calling for an end to prosecutions, for the ECT to publish the vote count at each polling stations, and for the ECT to follow the law in calculating the number of party-list MPs.News2019 general electionElection Commission of Thailand (ECT)Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANC)
The Administrative Court has ruled that Chulalongkorn University must reduce the penalty imposed on Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal and his 7 colleagues and revoked the order removing him as President of the Student Council. This came too late to change anything as his one-year term ended last year.
On 4 April, the Administrative Court ruled that the removal of Netiwit from the Student Council Presidency is revoked. The deduction of 20 behavioural points was also decreased to 10, meaning that their political rights in the University have been retrieved. The Administrative Court also ruled that the University has to pay compensation of 10,000 baht to each of the 8 students, plus 7.5% annual interest.
Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, activist and former president of Chulalongkorn University Student Council, posted on Facebook explaining that both punishments were given to him and his colleagues after the so-called ‘headlock’ incident. In 2017, the 8 student activists did not prostrate themselves before the King Chulalongkorn statue and walked out of the oath ceremony, a ritual held every year for freshmen students. The student activists explained that they acted in accordance with the wishes of King Chulalongkorn who abolished prostration in 1873.
However, the University deducted 25 behavioural points for each student, making them ineligible for positions in the Student Council and 15 points away from a one-term suspension. Suphalak Bumroongkit, the Deputy President of the Student Council at that time, was also put in a headlock by a professor during the event for what the Deputy President claimed as a “violation of an agreement” as staff had arranged a separate space for them to pay respect without having to prostrate themselves.
The oath ceremony in 2017
The Administrative Court’s decision was welcomed by Netiwit, who at the time had been the President of the Student Council for only 3 months. In 2018, along with his 7 colleagues, he filed a petition with the Court against Chulalongkorn University, its President and Grievance Committee. “At this moment, I can have peace of mind,” said Netiwit on Twitter.
“At first, we were accused of 5 violations with a 25-point deduction, making us ineligible for positions in the Student Council and cutting me off being President,” said Netiwit. “After we submitted an appeal, the Grievance Committee reduced the score deduction from 25 to 20 points, and the violations from 5 to 2. Today, the Administrative Court ruled to reduce the penalty from 20 points to 10 points and the violations from 2 to 1 and revoked our removal from the Student Council.”NewsNetiwit ChotiphatphaisalChulaAdministrative Court
Today (11 April), the Appeal Court has dismissed the charges against four activists and a Prachatai journalist, after they were charged with violating the Public Referendum Act for distributing stickers persuading the people to reject the constitution draft in 2016.
The defendants (from left to right): Taweesak Kerdpoka, Phanuwat Songsawadchai, Anucha Rungmorakot, Anan Loked, and Pakorn Areekul
This morning (11 April), the Appeal Court ruled to uphold the Ratchaburi Provincial Court’s ruling to acquit the five defendants in the Ban Pong referendum campaign case.
Pakorn Areekul, Anucha Rungmorakot, Anan Loked, and Taweesak Kerdpoka were charged in 2016 after officers from the Ban Pong Police Station searched Pakorn’s car and found documents opposing the draft constitution, “Vote No” stickers, and leaflets belonging to the Election Commission of Thailand. The four were then arrested on a charge of disseminating documents aimed at inducing people to vote in a particular way in the referendum, therefore violating Article 61 of the Public Referendum Act.
On 10 July 2016, Pakorn, Anucha, and Anan were visiting the villagers who had been summoned by the court after they were accused of violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons for opening a referendum monitoring centre in Ban Pong, Ratchaburi. Taweesak is a Prachatai journalist and travelled in Pakorn’s car together with the three activists to report on the event.
The fifth defendant, Phanuwat Songsawadchai, was arrested on the same day. The police accused him of holding an event at the opening of a referendum monitoring centre and filed the same charge against him as the other four defendants.
The Appeal Court ruled on the ground that distributing the “Vote No” stickers is not a violation of Article 61 in the Public Referendum Act, since the content of the sticker is simply campaigning for the people to vote to reject the constitution draft. This is within the boundary of the law and is not considered an attempt to induce the people to violate the law. The Court also ruled that the content of the sticker, which said “Vote No on 7 August. Reject the future we can’t choose”, is not a false statement since 7 August 2016 was indeed the referendum day. If the stickers are distributed, it is not a dissemination of falsehood. In addition, the defendants have the right to distribute the stickers, according to Article 7 of the Public Referendum Act. Campaigning for people to reject the constitution draft is permitted if the campaign does not violate the law.
However, the court also said that the prosecutors may still appeal to the Supreme Court.
News2016 referendumTaweesak KerdpokaPhanuwat SongsawadchaiAnucha RungmorakotAnan LokedPakorn Areekul
Yesterday (9 April), a group of LGBT activists and representatives of ASEAN civil society organizations gathered in front of the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam in Bangkok to deliver a statement against Brunei’s implementation of the Sharia Law, under which same-sex relations is a crime punishable by death.
At 10.30 on Monday (9 April), a group of more than 30 LGBT activists, human rights activists, civil society representatives from Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries gathered in front of the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam in Bangkok in a peaceful protest against Brunei’s implementation of the Sharia law, which entails punishments such as amputation, hanging, and stoning, therefore leading to human rights violation.
The group also delivered a joint statement by ASEAN civil society organizations, signed by at least 132 organizations across ASEAN, which asked the Brunei government to “halt the full implementation of the Sharia Penal Code” since it “entails provisions that contradict international human rights standards.”
The statement notes that the Sharia Penal Code “inevitably ends up disproportionately targeting those who are already vulnerable and socially marginalized, including women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people, the economically disadvantaged, religious minorities, and dissenting voices.” Brunei’s Sharia law criminalized consensual same-sex relations, adultery, pregnancy out of wedlock, and access to abortion, and entails excessive penalties for violating the code, including whipping, amputation, and death by stoning. These penalties constitute torture, ill-treatment, and inhuman and degrading treatment, which is prohibited under international human rights law.
Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Global Issues, also said in a statement last week that “This new penal code allows punishments such as amputation or death by stoning which are unspeakably cruel and have no place anywhere in the world.
“We are alarmed that the code criminalizes behaviour that should not be considered crimes at all. The international community must continue to condemn Brunei’s decision to put these cruel penalties into practice.”
Sulaiporn Chonwilai, an independent scholar and LGBT rights activist, said that Brunei’s criminalization of same-sex relationship is now a major issue among ASEAN LGBT activist network. It was planned at first that the statement and letter would be delivered to representatives of the Brunei government in each ASEAN country, but because the atmosphere in other countries is not permitting, only the group in Thailand was able to deliver their statement.
“It’s hard to work for LGBT rights in ASEAN countries, because there is a lot of ASEAN member states who are clear that they don’t accept LGBT rights; ASEAN’s mechanisms, such as various human rights commissions, also don’t want to take a stand and say that LGBT rights are human rights; and ASEAN also has a principle of non-interference. In short, in the past nothing came out of our campaigning, and nothing will come out of it because we can see that this is what the system is like,” Sulaiporn said.
Matcha Phorn-in from the Sangsan Anakot Yawachon Development Project, who was at today’s event and was among those who helped mediate between the group and the embassy, said that the death penalty in this case is problematic because LGBT people are not able to be open about their sexuality, and when one’s identity is criminalized and is punishable by death, it is a violation of human rights, since everyone is born equal and must not be discriminated against on the basis of sexual diversity or gender identity.
Matcha said that the LGBT community in ASEAN countries has to face many difficulties, from the level of beliefs down to the level of family. There are cases of parents abusing LGBT children, and Thailand ranks second in the world for such abuses. A UNESCO research project on bullying in schools from 2 years ago also found that more than 40% of LGBT students who are bullied have experienced suicidal thoughts or have tried to commit suicide. Laws in some countries still criminalized LGBT people, such as in Myanmar and Malaysia, where there has been a report of transgender people being murdered, and two years ago there was a report of two lesbians being sentenced to whipping. However, there are civil society groups all over the region working on LGBT rights in every area from legislation to acceptance in daily life.
Sirisak Chaiyatet, an LGBT rights activist from Chiang Mai, said that there should be no discrimination by any country, institution, or religion. As a member of the LGBT community, he is directly affected, since the law is so severe, and even though people are talking more about human rights today, Brunei still implement such a cruel and inhuman law.
Sirisak, who was dressed in a costume representing stoning, said that “I want them to see that it’s torture to be stoned. Not only that, you’re half-buried and they get people to throw stone at you one by one. It’s a slow death. Sometimes the stone are big and sometimes they’re small. Even getting slapped or dropping a pen on your face hurts, but this is being stoned slowly until you die. It’s torture. It’s cruel and inhuman.”
Ekkawat Pimsawan, an activist from the Togetherness for Equality and Action (TEA) group who was at yesterday’s activity, said that Thailand has to take a stand against Brunei’s implementation of the Sharia law, which violates the commitment Brunei gave to the international community. He said that it is the state’s duty to make sure the people are safe and secure, and if the state fails at that duty, the people might not be able to find any guarantee that they would be able to live, and if the society makes it difficult for them to live, they might not be able to feel secure.
Prasert Wasedueraman, the officer representing the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam accepted the submission of the statement read by the activist group. According to the officer, Wasedueraman would pass the statement to the ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to Thailand.
According to Amnesty International, Brunei has signed by not yet ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and has rejected all recommendations to this effect in its human rights review at the UN in 2014.Statement of ASEAN Civil Society Organizations on the Full Enforcement of Sharia Law in Brunei Darussalam
We, the undersigned civil society organizations in the ASEAN region, urge the government of Brunei to immediately halt the full implementation of the Sharia Penal Code (SPC). The said law entails provisions that contradict international human rights standards, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) and the ASEAN Charter. Brunei has signed and ratified these instruments, and thereby must show commitment to respect, protect and fulfill its obligations. Moreover, Brunei should recognize the importance of progressive development of human rights therefore moving away from corporal punishment and death penalty.
By enforcing the SPC, Brunei will set a dangerous precedent for its neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia and broader Asia as it perpetuates the practice of violating fundamental freedoms, particularly freedom of expression, in the region.
We acknowledge the Brunei government’s intention to “maintain peace and order and preserve religion, life, family and individuals regardless of gender, nationality, race and faith” being a rationale behind the SPC. However, there are provisions in the law that provides excessive penalties, including whipping, imprisonment and death penalty, against those who commit adultery, consensual same-sex relations, pregnancy out of wedlock, access to abortion, and acts critical of state-interpretation of Islam.
The SPC inevitably ends up disproportionately targeting those who are already vulnerable and socially marginalised, including women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ)
people, the economically disadvantaged, religious minorities, and dissenting voices. The penalties imposed by the law, including whipping and stoning to death, constitutes torture, ill-treatment, and inhumane and degrading punishment. As a consequence, this will further silence dissent, create a culture of fear among its people, and further shrink civic space in the country. A country that cares for its citizens needs to look out for those more vulnerable to discrimination, violence and injustice, and seek to protect them first.
By adopting conservative views of morality and excessive punishments, Brunei essentially legitimizes violence. The law and its enforcement will encourage extremist and fundamentalist groups in the region to continue sowing fear, social discord and violence.
We reiterate the commitment of ASEAN Member States Leaders under the ASEAN Community 2025 to realise a rules-based, people-oriented, people-centred community bound by fundamental principles, shared values and norms, in which our peoples enjoy human rights, fundamental freedoms, and social justice. The current situation in Brunei reflects the contrary, and will have negative implication to jeopardise the vision of ASEAN and consequently the identity of ASEAN as a collective region.
We urge Brunei to uphold its name being an “abode of peace”, a society that upholds and respects diversity, where difference is approached with compassion.
We look forward to seeing Brunei become a role model in ASEAN, as the region strives towards the better practices of democracy in partnership with civil society. We hope Brunei will strive to achieve this through the sharing of prosperity and by respecting the equal rights of all.
SignedNewsLGBT rightsDiscrimination against LGBTGender discriminationBruneiShariah law
Yesterday (5 April), the People’s Coalition for Fair Election gave a statement on the campaign to impeach the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) at a demonstration in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. The petition now has over 7,200 signatures.
At 16.28, the People’s Coalition for Fair Election, led by activists Siravit Serithiwat and Thanawat Wongchai, set up a table in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) for people to sign the petition to impeach the ECT.
Siravit said that more than 7,200 people have signed the petition, while the online campaign on Change.org has about 850,00 signatures.
The 2017 Constitution does not specify the minimum number of signatures needed for an impeachment petition, so the Coalition will be submitting the petition to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and will be attaching the online campaign as evidence. However, the number of signatures on this petition has not been combined with those on the petitions started by other activist groups, such as the group led by Anurak “Ford” Jeantawanich and the group led by Srisuwan Janya.
Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal also joined the demonstration and is bringing the list of signatures on his own petition to be combined with the petition started by the Coalition.
At 17.38, Siravit gave a statement saying that, following the campaign to impeach the ECT, which started on 27 March, the group has started both an online petition on Change.org, and organized campaigning activities in universities and other places. However, Thai law does not recognize an online petition such as the one on Change.org, so the group started an off-line petition, which is to be submitted to the NACC. Under the current constitution, Section 234 Clause 1 allows the submission of such a petition. If the NACC accepts the petition and file a charge with the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court accepts, the ECT will be suspended.
The petition now has around 7,234 signatures, but there are also documents arriving by post, and the number will most likely be finalized next week.
Student activist Thanawat Wongchai also called out several universities for attempting to bar students from campaigning on campus. At Suan Dusit University, for example, a lecturer has prohibited students from campaigning, forcing them to move off-campus. Even then, universities officials also told printing shops around the university not to photocopy documents for students signing the petition.
Within the past week, students have been campaigning in at least 19 universities across the country, including Chulalongkorn University, Thammasat University, Khon Khaen University, Maejo University, Burapha University, Prince of Songkla University, Phayao University, Ubon Ratchathani University, Maha Sarakham University, Naresuan University, Kasetsart University, Sakonnakhon Rajabhat University, Pibulsongkram Rajabhat University, Suan Dusit University, Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University, Phetchabun Rajabhat University, Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University, Silpakorn Unviersity, and Walailak University.
The campaigners are also concerned that the Samsen Post Office will be checking the information of people who signed the petition, so they will be asking the relevant post office personnel to clarify the issue.
Meanwhile, at Kasetsart University’s Sakon Nakhon campus, students have started the #save38millionvotes (#save38ล้านเสียง) campaign to protest against the ECT’s actions during and after the election. The campaigners said that they would like to call for the authorities to respect the people’s right and their 38 million votes and for transparency in the election process.
The group has also written an open letter to Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, calling for him to take responsibility for the ECT’s suspicious actions and for instances where Gen Apirat Kongsompong, the army Commander-in-Chief, make a statement which could lead to violence. They are also calling for the ECT to announce the number of party-list MPs and for the ECT to approve the election result so that there can be a new government and parliament can be opened, and are calling for the army Commander-in-chief and the Supreme Commander, along with other army commanders, to stop expressing political opinions.News2019 general electionElection Commission of Thailand (ECT)Siravit SerithiwatThanawat Wongchai
Responding to the news that Brunei Darussalam has today finalised the implementation of a new Shariah Penal Code that introduces cruel punishments such as death by stoning for same-sex sexual acts and amputation for robbery, Stephen Cockburn, Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International, said:
“We are extremely concerned that these heinous punishments have become law in Brunei today.
“This new penal code allows punishments such as amputation or death by stoning which are unspeakably cruel and have no place anywhere in the world.
“We are alarmed that the code criminalizes behaviour that should not be considered crimes at all. The international community must continue to condemn Brunei’s decision to put these cruel penalties into practice.
“The Brunei authorities must refrain from implementing these laws, and must take necessary steps to repeal this unacceptable legislation and bring it in line with international human rights laws and standards.”
These punishments are provided for in newly-implemented sections of Brunei’s Sharia Penal Code that will come into force today.Background
Brunei Darussalam has signed but not yet ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and has rejected all recommendations to this effect in its human rights review at the UN in 2014.
Under international human rights law, corporal punishment in all its forms, such as stoning, amputation or whipping, constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, which is prohibited in all circumstances.
While Brunei retains the death penalty in law, it is abolitionist in practice. One new death sentence was imposed in 2017, for a drug related offence.
Brunei’s Shariah Penal Code (SPC) does not replace civil law but is expected to operate alongside it – from information available, each case requires an initial decision to determine whether it should be prosecuted under civil law, or Shariah law.Pick to PostBruneiShariah lawcorporal punishmentConvention Against Torture (CAT)Amnesty International (AI)Source: https://www.amnesty.or.th/en/latest/news/6751
The Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) has filed a defamation charge against Voice TV host Sirote Klampaiboon and activist Nuttaa Mahattana, most likely for Voice TV’s broadcast on the election day.
Sirote Klampaiboon (left) and Nuttaa Mahattana (right)
Sirote Klampaiboon posted on his Facebook page this morning (5 April) that he received a summon for a defamation charge filed by the ECT. The summon named the accused as “Sirote Klampaiboon and others” and ordered activist Nutta Mahattana to report to the Thung Song Hong Police Station at 10.30 on Thursday (11 April).
“I’m still confused about how I had defamed the ECT. If it’s about expressing my own opinion, I’m confident that, when I talk about the ECT, I said that we need to separate “error”, “mistake”, “lack of transparency” and “corruption”. I have also insisted that most criticism of the ECT is about “error,” about the on-site performance of duty at most, not about the commission, and not about accusing anyone of corruption,” Sirote posted on his Facebook page. “If this is because of my job as a TV host, my job is to invite guests to express their opinion, so I don’t understand why that’s wrong. But by principle, I think it’s not appropriate for the ECT, as a government agency, to be filing charges against citizens, especially not a charge that could result in a 2-year prison term, regardless of who is being sued.”
Meanwhile, Nuttaa also posted on her Facebook page that police officers delivered the summon to her house at 6.00 this morning, and said that she will be reporting to the Thung Song Hong police station as required by the summon.
“This morning around 6:00, 9 police officers came to deliver my fifth summon. This time the accuser is the ECT, and Sirote Klampaiboon is my co-accused, meaning that this is a result of my performing my duty as the media on the election day,” Nuttaa said. “I’m sure I didn’t slander anyone. What I did that day was informing the people about the election rules, especially about photographing, which affects the capability of election observers. I insist that, when there are several misunderstandings among the officials, it is a reflection of the ECT’s capabilities.”News2019 general electionSirote KlampaiboonNuttaa MahattanaElection Commission of Thailand (ECT)judicial harassment
On Monday (1 April), members of the Thai community in New Zealand laid wreaths at the gates of the Thai Embassy in Wellington in protest of the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT)’s action regarding the 1542 overseas ballots from New Zealand.
After the ECT ruled that the overseas ballots from New Zealand would not be counted because they were not delivered to their respective constituencies within the specified timeframe, the Thai community in New Zealand has expressed their frustration and disappointment at being unable to participate in the election due to the ECT’s mismanagement.
On Monday, members of the Thai community in Wellington travelled to the Thai Embassy in Wellington to place black funeral wreaths and banners at the Embassy’s gates. The wreaths say “RIP 1542 votes” and “Democracy?”. The group also place banners saying “RIP 1542 votes” and a bouquet with a sign saying “unprofessional”.
Thanabadi Yatsangkat, a Thai chef who was at the demonstration at the Embassy, said that many people expressed interest, but because of heavy rain that morning, only about 10 people went to the Embassy. Thanabadi said that the Embassy did not bar them from going through with their activity, but asked them not to take pictures of the King’s portrait.
The Thai community in Auckland also made a video clip calling for justice. The group said that they would like to know why the ballots did not arrive back in Bangkok on time, since they voted since 10 March – two weeks before the election day on 24 March.
“We would like to know who is responsible for the delayed delivery. Where is justice?” A representative of the group said in the video clip. “We have to take time off work and close our businesses. Some of us has to travel 50 – 60 kilometers to vote, but in the end it’s all for nothing. Isn’t this a loss? Is this transparency? Is this justice?”
“Someone has to be held responsible. This is our plea. We would like Thailand and the world to hear us.”
“The relevant embassy personnel and ECT officials have to take responsibility. If no one owes up, then the head of the NCPO and the prime minister, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, has to be held responsible. Gen Prayut, if you are a man and a soldier, you have to take responsibility and show your spirit by resigning from your position as head of the NCPO and prime minister instantly.”
Thanawee Tungthong, a Thai student in New Zealand, also recorded a video clip saying that this is the first time that she vote in an election. She said that she thinks that the ECT’s decision is an easy decision and an unfair one which does not benefit the country in any way.
“Is this right? Is this fair that Thai citizens, especially these 1542 voters, have to live with the consequences, have to face trouble, have to lose our rights as people and as Thai citizens because of a mistake that is not our fault but from a mistake in the authorities’ process?” Thanawee asked in her video clip.
“I would like the ECT and the government to think about your decision, whether it is fair or right to make these 1542 votes invalid. I would like you to consider this election, whether it is transparent, whether it is right, whether it is democratic.”
Charn Tiebtienrat, who lives in Whangarei, said that he helped the town’s Thai community register to vote, and he felt that it was irresponsible that the Thai authorities did not pick up the ballots in time, rendering them invalid.
“We live in Whangarei, in the northernmost area of the North Island. It is not possible for us to go to vote in the capital, which is at the southernmost point of the North Island, because we would have to drive more than ten hours to get there,” Charn told Prachatai. “We have to register to vote via post. The process was difficult and the website crashed often. While I was helping this person register, the site crashed eight times. It only worked on the ninth time. If I’m not patient, I would have given up.”
“The Embassy sent us the ballots on 6 March, and we had to send them back to Wellington by 13 March. I sent everyone’s ballots back on 11 March. We followed all the steps.”
“In New Zealand, when there’s an election, the authorities will count the votes from New Zealanders who live overseas after the election day and combine them with the vote count, and then the results will change slightly. Last time, one party won one more seat after they included the overseas votes. It is not strange to count overseas vote later and then combine them with the vote count.”
“This time it’s clear that they wanted a certain party to win and are doing everything to make sure that party wins. Everyone can tell.”
The ECT still has not offer a proper explanation regarding the New Zealand ballots, but election commissioner Pakorn Mahannop said yesterday (2 April) that the ECT is currently investigating the issue. He claimed that vote counting concluded within 2 – 3 hours after the poll closed, and the ballots from New Zealand did not arrive in time. However, the Embassy issued a press release on 25 March saying that the ballots left Wellington by air cargo on 18 March and should have arrived in Thailand on 19 March.
Sumet Damrongchaitham, president of Thai Airways International, also said that the ballots were shipped from Wellington to Auckland by Air New Zealand flight NZ448 on 18 March, and that they were kept in Air New Zealand's storage from 18 – 22 March. The ballots were then shipped from Auckland to Bangkok and arrived at 20.50 on 23 March.
Sumet said that Thai Airways warehouse staff contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 17.00 of 23 March that the ballots from New Zealand would arrive that night, but they were not picked up until 19.30 of 24 March.
Thanabadi said that he spoke to the Embassy on Monday, and was told that embassy staff already separated the ballots into constituencies. For him, it should not be too difficult for the ECT to deliver the ballots to their constituencies on time, and there should be no reason for the MFA or the ECT to not pick up the ballots on 23 March.
News2019 general electionOverseas votingNew Zealand
(New York, April 3, 2019) – Thai authorities should urgently and impartially investigate renewed threats and attacks against prominent pro-democracy activist Ekachai Hongkangwan and other activists, Human Rights Watch said today.
Ekkachai Hongkangwan (red shirt)
On April 1, 2019, at about 1 a.m., unidentified arsonists torched Ekachai’s car outside his house in Bangkok’s Lad Phrao district. The attack came a day after Ekachai led a protest calling for impeaching the Election Commission for allegedly helping junta leader Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha remain in power after Thailand’s general election on March 24. In another case, on the evening of March 31, two unidentified assailants beat another activist, Anurak Jeantawanich, after breaking into his house in Samut Prakarn province. Anurak, who was at the same protest as Ekachai, suffered minor injuries.
“The environment for Thailand’s pro-democracy activists appears to be taking a turn for the worse,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s crucial for Thai authorities to fully investigate these incidents, bring the attackers to justice, and act promptly to end the deepening climate of fear.”
For more than a year, Ekachai has been repeatedly targeted by what appear to be reprisals for his strong public criticisms of the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta, including:
- January 19, 2018: Krairit Chaiwanasat assaulted Ekachai outside the Government House while Ekachai was speaking to the media about alleged corruption linked to Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan’s collection of luxury watches. Ekachai escaped unharmed. Krairit was arrested, charged with illegal possession of a knife, and fined 1,000 baht (US$31).
- January 23, 2018: Krairit attacked Ekachai for a second time. Ekachai was punched in the face near his house after returning from a protest outside the Government House after again alleging corruption related to General Prawit’s luxury watch collection. Police charged Krairit with assault, and fined him 10,000 baht ($310).
- August 14, 2018: An unidentified assailant splashed Ekachai with fermented fish at a bus stop near the Government House while he was heading to stage a protest about the alleged corruption related to General Prawit’s luxury watch collection.
- August 22, 2018: Three unidentified attackers hit Ekachai with wooden sticks, breaking several fingers, near his house as he was returning from a protest outside the Government House. Police arrested Kamthorn Thammakhan, but have not been able to identify the other two. There has been no reported progress in the police investigation.
- January 19, 2019: Four attackers punched and kicked Ekachai near Thammasat University after he returned from a protest demanding that the government should hold elections without further delay. There has been no reported progress in the police investigation.
- January 26, 2019: Attackers set Ekachai’s car on fire outside his house. There has been no reported progress in the police investigation.
- March 5, 2019: An assailant hit Ekachai with a wooden stick, injuring his arm and head after he went to the Public Health Ministry to report the alleged use of hate speech and incitement of violence by a pro-junta medical worker. There has been no reported progress in the police investigation.
The attacks and the failure of the police to bring most of those responsible to justice heightens concerns for Ekachai’s safety, Human Rights Watch said. Ekachai has filed complaints with the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and the Justice Ministry’s Department of Rights and Liabilities Protection, but Thai authorities have not taken effective steps to protect him from further violence.
Thai authorities have an obligation to ensure that anyone engaged in protecting and promoting human rights can work in a safe and enabling environment, Human Rights Watch said. Instead of recognizing the important work of activists in protecting human rights, promoting democracy, and uncovering corruption, Thai authorities have subjected them to countless rights violations and tried to deter them from exercising their rights to liberty, expression, and association. The Thai junta continues to prosecute its critics under the sedition law and the Computer-Related Crime Act. Since the May 2014 coup, the junta has summoned hundreds of politicians, activists, and anyone deemed to oppose military rule for “attitude adjustment” sessions to compel them to stop expressing dissenting opinions.
“The frequency of these attacks and lack of consequences for perpetrators suggest that the Thai government is turning a blind eye to them – or worse,” Adams said. “The government should publicly denounce any threats and attacks against activists and critics while adopting concrete measures to ensure that activists can safely exercise their rights without fear of reprisals.”Pick to PostEkkachai HongkangwanHuman Rights Watch
Teenage Somali refugee with Downs Syndrome held in Thai immigration detention despite clear medical risk
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) is deeply concerned by the continued detention of a UNHCR recognised refugee minor from Somalia who suffers from Downs Syndrome. Thirteen-year-old Hamza Abdulrashid has been held for over five months at the Suan Plu Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok. He has not had access to necessary specialised medical care in conditions that pose significant risk to his health, and potentially to his life.
Abdulrashid, who requires daily assistance with basic functions, including eating and dressing, is detained according to orders by Thai immigration authorities. He is being held alongside his caregiver and elder brother, Omar Ahmed Abdullahi, aged 22 years. This is despite their recognised refugee status under UNHCR mandate and adherence to regular reporting requirements. While Abdulrashid entered detention due to necessity of care by his brother, rather than on the orders of Thai authorities, Thailand is a signatory to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and is therefore obliged under international law to facilitate the best interests of the minor, including release from detention and respect for family unity. Additional international protections exist regarding the detention of high-risk individuals, and Thailand has recently publicly committed itself to adherence to international standards, including disallowing the of detention of minors.
APRRN Secretary General Themba Lewis responded stating, “it is unconscionable that Thai authorities would maintain that the detention of the child’s caregiver is warranted, given the clear risks this poses to the child. Proportionality arguments fail. APRRN calls on the Thai authorities to respect their commitments and immediately release Omar Abdullahi and the child under his care. This is not just a case of a child being detained, illegal in its own right, this is a child facing serious risk and in need of immediate and regular care that is not available to him in detention.”
Sunai Phasuk, Senior Researcher for Thailand at Human Rights Watch reinforced the sentiment, stating that by “depriving [Abdulrashid] of access to necessary healthcare, the Thai government is exposing him to possible serious illness or even death.”
People with Downs Syndrome suffer innumerable and severe health risks, including immune system deficiencies that may lead to serious and life-threatening illness, seizures, heart problems, and a number of related risks.
APRRN continues to dedicate itself to working closely with governments, affected populations, civil society, and NGOs to further strengthen protection and ensure rights for refugees in the region.Pick to PostAsia Pacific Refugee Rights NetworkRefugeedetention
The Vietnamese government has implemented strict rules for its fishery industry in order to have an EU Yellow Card warning lifted. The Thai example has proved that success is achieved at the expense of the grassroots, leading sometimes even to deaths.
The European Commission has long been combatting IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) fishing and announced regulations in 2008 for EU member states and other nations worldwide to follow. Southeast Asia, as one of the biggest fish exporters to the EU, has felt the impact.
The Food and Agriculture Organization enacted an International Plan of Action on IUU (IPOA-IUU) in 2001, with the aim of sustainable management and use of marine resources. The plan of action called for voluntary implementation by all countries.
In 2015, when a Yellow Card was given to Thailand, it sent a signal to improve the serious situation on IUU fishing. It took about 3 years to have the card lifted, at the expense of a fishery sector shaken by sudden legal and structural change.
The Fisheries Act enacted in 2015 and amended in 2017 requires fishing boats of more than 30 tons gross to have a tracking system installed. The law also creates a strict port-in port-out registration of boat crews and sets a limit on the number of days that the boats are allowed to set to sea.
In addition, 9 NCPO Head’s Orders were issued under Article 44 of the temporary Constitution regarding IUU fishing and foreign labour. The orders mostly granted the authorities more control and enforcement capability to handle the issue.
As a result of the sudden change, in 2017, at least 680 boats were unable to set sail. In 2015, the President of the National Fisheries Association of Thailand reported that many fishers had committed suicide due to the stress caused by the financial cost of new equipment required under the new law, while the officials said they were ready to provide support.
Now Vietnam is facing the same dilemma.
On 23 October 2017, the European Commission (EC) gave a Yellow Card to Vietnam for IUU fishing, a warning from its second largest seafood export market, which dealt a huge blow to its fishing industry.
In June 2018, an EC Inspection Delegation informed Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) that IUU exploitation in Vietnam had not improved significantly, especially at the implementation level.
The Vietnamese authorities implemented several measures to address the EC’s 9 recommendations, including the central issues of prevention and elimination of illegal fishing outside its national Exclusive Economic Zone and improvement of traceability of fishery products.
Amendments to the fishery law were approved by the Vietnamese parliament on 21 November 2017 and implemented on 1st January 2019. The amendments aim to ensure compliance, in line with the actual conditions of Vietnam, with international regulations including UNCLOS (1982), PSMA (2009), UNFSA (1995), CCRF (1995) and IPOA-IUU.
Local authorities were given official guidelines on how to implement the international regulations, focusing on strict measures to manage the licensing of fishing vessels, port-in port-out controls, increased patrols for preventive inspections and control at sea, and strict provisions for handling violations and sanctions against IUU fishing vessels.
In order to raise local fishers’ awareness on fisheries regulation, particularly with regard to fishing operations in foreign waters, the MARD directed the Vietnam Directorate of Fisheries to collaborate and coordinate with Vietnam Television, agriculture publications and other media in implementing propaganda programmes to combat IUU fishing.
The Vietnam Fisheries Resources Surveillance agency has conducted 76 missions during 1,489 days of sea patrols to deal with IUU fishing operations and detected and punished 865 fishing vessels which violated the regulations.
3 vessels fishing illegally in Australian waters and New Caledonia were strictly punished for violating the regulations. The owners of fishing vessels violating IUU fishing regulations were given administrative sanctions including withdrawal of master certificates and fishing licenses.
The 2017 fisheries law states that illegal vessels in foreign waters must have their fishing licenses withdrawn. An individual who violates the regulation will be fined a maximum of 1 billion VND and an organization will be fined a maximum of 2 billion VND for illegal fishing operations in foreign waters.
Beside amending the law, MARD tried to raise local fishermen’s awareness of fisheries regulations, particularly in operations in foreign waters.
The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors and the Vietnam Fisheries Society have also developed a plan and organized propaganda activities to combat IUU fishing.
The Coast Guard, Border Defence Force and Navy focus mainly on patrolling, inspection and control of fishing activities at sea. The prevention and elimination of illegal Vietnamese fishing in foreign waters are considered one of their core duties.
To improve product traceability, the 2017 fisheries law states that the port authorities are assigned to verify catch certificates. Sub-Departments of Capture Fisheries and Resources Protection are in charge of granting catch certificates.
Imported fishery products must be of clear origin. Fishing fleets in near-shore waters have the obligation to port in the designated ports, and vessel masters have the responsibility to declare catch information and submit completed fishing logbooks.
The number of Vietnamese fishing vessels in foreign waters whose owners violate the regulations has significantly decreased. From 1 to 23 October 2017, 30 out of 292 vessels violated foreign waters. After 23 October 2017, only 2 out of 29 vessels illegally fished in New Caledonia. They were fined according to the present regulations and had their master certificates and fishing licenses withdrawn.
Transfer of ownership of those vessels is not allowed. Their names shall be deleted and the vessel owners shall be prohibited from building new vessels. In the first 4 months of 2018, no illegal fishing vessels have been detected in the Pacific island countries.
During 1-23 October 2017, 50 out of 397 Vietnamese fishing vessels in the ASEAN region were found violating the regulations. From 23 October 2017 to 15 March 2018, 20 out of 103 vessels also have been found violating the regulations.
The Vietnamese government aims to have the yellow card lifted by 2019. What we are seeing are harsh measures implemented by the central government. The lesson from Thailand shows that such measures have been fatal to some parts of the fishery industry. Unfortunately, these parts are human.
The future of the fishing industry under the government’s iron fist is worth observing.
Additional reference: Vietnam Fisheries: will the 'Yellow Card' be removed in 2019?Round UpIUU FishingVietnamNational Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)
Col Burin Thongprapai, the NCPO’s legal officer, has filed sedition charges against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party (FFP). Meanwhile, FFP Secretary-General Piyabutr Saengkanokkul also receive a summon to report as witness to the case on the FFP statement on the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart Party (TRC).
Piyabutr Sangkanokkul (left) and Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (right)
This morning (3 April), Thanathorn posted on his Facebook page that he has been summoned by the police to answer a sedition charge and has to report to the Pathumwan Police Station at 10:00 on 6 April.
The summon said that Thanathorn has been accused of “making an appearance to the public by words, writings, or any other means which is not an act within the purpoe of the Constitution or for expressing an honest opinion or criticism in order to raise unrest and disaffection amongst the people in a manner likely to cause disturbance in the country or to cause the people to transgress the laws of the country” and of “assisting another person who commits or is alleged of having committed an offence which is not a petty offence so that such person may not be punished by giving him lodging, by hiding, or by assisting him by any means so that he may not be arrested.” Both of these charges together may result in a prison sentence of up to 9 years, under Article 116 and Article 189 of the Criminal Code.
The summon named the accuser as Col Burin Thongprapai, the NCPO’s legal officer, but did not refer to any particular act of alleged sedition.
Thanathorn posted on his Facebook page that he will be reporting to the police as ordered to prove his innocence and to prove that the judicial process in Thailand will not become a tool for the dictatorship.
“It is clear that the old political game didn’t stop after the election. Instead, it intensifies, because they are afraid of Future Forward,” Thanathorn posted on his Facebook. “They are afraid of our victory, which was beyond expectation for many, afraid of the fact that the kind of politics which focus on policies, ideals, and creating faith has received the people’s support without a need for money or influence. They are afraid of the fact that there are almost 6.3 million people who truly support Future Forward.”
“I have neither law nor state power on my side. I don’t have Section 44. I don’t have weapons or prisons I can use to get rid of any opposition. But I believe that I have millions of people who love justice on my side, who are ready to show that they won’t tolerate the dark power that wants to destroy Future Forward.”
Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, the FFP Secretary-General, also received a summon to report to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) at 13.00 today (3 April), as witness to the case about the FFP’s statement on the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart Party (TRC), which he read on a Facebook live broadcast. Piyabutr said that he only received the summon before noon today, and he has his lawyer informed the inquiry official to move the date.
“After the election, the Future Forward Party has received the trust of the 6.2 million people who voted for us. Throughout the week, we have been calling for the ECT to publish the vote count in each polling station. But instead, we now have a collection of summons,” Piyabutr posted on his Facebook page.
During the election campaign period, FFP has been hit with several legal prosecutions. Thanathorn and two other party leaders were sued under Section 14 (2) of the Computer Crime Act for criticizing the NCPO in a Facebook Live broadcast. The decision whether to indict the three FFP leaders has now been delayed until 26 April. Lt Gen Pongsakorn Rodchompoo, the FFP Deputy Leader, is also being prosecuted by the TSCD for sharing fake news about Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. The NCPO has also filed a complaint with the TCSD against the FFP website administrator and other relevant personnel for contempt of court, after a video clip of the statement on the dissolution of TRC party, read by Piyabutr, was shared on the website.News2019 general electionFuture Forward PartyThanathorn JuangroongruangkitPiyabutr Saengkanokkuljudicial harassment
The poll for Thailand’s 2019 general election closed on Sunday, 24 March. But while voters wait for the official election result, they also have to wait and see whether the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) will be issuing penalties, known as ‘yellow cards’, ‘orange cards’, ‘red cards’, and ‘black card’ to any candidate.
The 2007 Constitution and the 2007 Organic Law on the Election Commission allowed the ECT to issue a ‘yellow card’ if it found evidence of election fraud but could not specify which candidate cheated, and the ECT could order a re-vote. The ECT could also issue a ‘red card’ if it could specify which candidate committed election fraud, and could order a re-vote and ban the candidate from running.
However, under the 2017 Constitution, the 2017 Organic Law on the Election Commission and the 2017 Organic Law on Election of MPs, the ECT and the courts have the authority to investigate any suspicions that an election did not proceed in a transparent manner and to issue penalties.
According to Nawat Sripathar of King Prajadhipok’s Institute, there are three types of penalty the ECT may issue in this election, ‘yellow cards’, ‘orange cards’ and ‘red cards’.
Under a ‘yellow card’ the ECT has the authority to order a re-vote, without being able to prove which candidate committed election fraud.
If before or on the election day, the ECT finds evidence that the election in any constituency has not proceeded in an honest and just manner, the ECT has the authority to suspend, withhold, rectify, or cancel the election and to order a re-vote or re-count in a particular polling station or in every polling station.
After the election result has been announced, if the ECT finds evidence that the election in any constituency did not proceed in an honest or just manner, but cannot prove that the candidate who won the election committed fraud, the ECT can file a request with the Supreme Court to hold a re-vote and to revoke the candidate’s MP status, valid from the day the court issues a ruling. The ECT must then hold a re-vote as soon as possible.
An ‘orange card’ gives the ECT the authority to temporarily remove a candidate who is unqualified or banned from elections, to prevent such a candidate from getting involved in the election or a re-vote.
If before the election day, the ECT finds that any constituency or party-list MP candidate is unqualified or is prohibited from running in an election, the ECT may file a request with the Supreme Court to remove the candidate from the list of MP candidates.
If before the election result is announced, the ECT finds that any candidate committed any action which means that the election did not proceed in an honest or just manner, or if there is evidence that any candidate makes or support others in committing fraud, or knows of fraud and does not prevent it, the ECT may revoke the candidate’s right to run in elections for up to a year. If the candidate has received enough votes to be elected, the ECT may cancel the election and order a re-vote. If the candidate did not win the election, their votes will not be used in calculating the number of party-list MPs.
A ‘red card’ is the revocation of the right to run in an election for a specific period of time, and is under the authority of the Supreme Court. The ECT may file a request with the Supreme Court to revoke a candidate’s right to run in an election or their right to vote, if it can be proven that the candidate or other person committed fraud or is an accomplice in election fraud. If the Supreme Court rules that the person is guilty, the court may prohibit them from running or voting in elections for 10 years. If the ruling means that there needs to be a re-vote, then the court will also order the guilty candidate or person to be responsible for the cost of holding the re-vote.
Finally, a ‘black card’ is when the Supreme Court impose a lifelong ban on a candidate or person, permanently barring them from running in an election or holding a political office. However, a ‘black card’ is not only a result of committing election fraud. If the Supreme Court or the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Position finds evidence of abnormal wealth, corruption, abuse of power, violation of the Constitution, or serious violation of ethical standards, the Court may also revoke that person’s right to run in an election.Infographic2019 general election