House Committee petitioned over royalist witch hunts

A human rights lawyer has submitted a petition to a parliamentary committee on witch hunts and legal harassment against at least 25 critics of the Thai monarchy on the ‘Royalist Marketplace’ Facebook.

Left to right: Anon submitted a petition to an MP Rangsiman Rome.

On 4 June, human rights lawyer Anon Nampa submitted to the House Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights a petition to examine the cases of people subjected to witch hunts for expressing their opinions about the Thai monarchy in the ‘Royalist Marketplace’ Facebook group.

As of 4 June, the group, established by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai academic in exile, has more than 497,000 members. Group members exchange opinions in daily satirical discussions of the monarchy. These activities have provoked online and offline retaliation from royalist Thais.

Anon said that the retaliation ranges from pressuring companies to fire group members, to mobilizing people to file lawsuits in distant jurisdictions, forcing defendants to make difficult journeys. The petition states that personal information on at least 25 people has been exposed on social media, 2 have been threatened by the police, and 12 are the subject of complaints to the police under the Computer Crimes Act, the defamation laws and the lèse majesté law.

The petition urges the Committee to summon state authorities and the plaintiffs to address the issue. It also calls for the Committee to identify the administrators of Facebook pages that have mobilized retaliation, such as The METTAD, Ueng Ia Sue Thue Iao Kia v10 (อึ้งเอี๋ยะซือ เทื้อเอี้ยวเกียv10), Khunnak (ขุนนาค), Sae Play (เสธPlay) and Phak Krayachok (พรรคกระยาจก).

Rangsiman Rome, Move Forward Party MP and committee member, said that the petition will be considered. He also said that the retaliation is considered judicial harassment which is within the committee’s responsibility. The committee will study the issue and submit a report to Parliament and the Cabinet.

A report from the Thai Lawyer for Human Rights, referred to in Anon’s petition, states that the authorities’ reaction toward the group’s activities can be considered as “intense”. Civilians also play a part in creating a threatening atmosphere against who express sceptical or critical opinions against the monarchy.

In one case, unidentified state authorities took a person from his home to a police station without a warrant. His device was seized by officers for examination. He was also forced to give the police personal information and delete his posts. He was asked whether or not he was affiliated with the Thai Federation group, an activist group promoting a change in the country’s form of government. He was warned not to post such comments again, otherwise he would be sued.

“They [officers] said they wanted to have a little chat. They didn’t use strong language. Once it was over they would bring me back home. Then they took me to the police station. They forced me to get into the car with them.”

“They said ‘We are doing our job. You broke the law but we don’t want to harm your future. We all are Thai. We will look at each person in turn. If you understand us, we won’t do anything. We just want you to stop expressing your opinions’,” one victim told Prachatai.

The Royalist Marketplace is also a parody of ‘Marketplace’ groups created during the Covid-19 lockdown as a platform for members to buy and sell commodities and interact with a sense of community.

Source: 
https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/06/87956