Political Prisoners of Thailand | Mirroring the real but often blocked PPT
This is a rough and ready mirror site for Political Prisoners in Thailand. We established it when PPT was blocked by Thai government authorities. The blog does not include all the pages available at PPT, just recent posts.
After going after the Thai Raksa Chart Party, the junta seems worried that the Future Forward Party is an electoral threat that demands junta attention, using state bodies to harass. Two cases now confront Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the leader of the party.
This legal action is against Thanathorn and two senior colleagues in the party. Police state:
“We will send both the case for prosecution and the suspects to the attorney-general,” said Pol Lt Col Krit Seneewong Na Ayutthaya, an investigator on the case from the Technology Crime Suppression Division.
Thanathorn and his colleagues “face five years in prison under the Computer Crime Act for ‘uploading false information’…”.
The party rightly points out that the information in the speech was all publicly-available information.
Thanathorn stated: “It’s obvious that as the election approaches, the case is being rushed ahead … We’re ready to face whatever challenge comes our way…”.
In another case, Thanathorn is accused of posting “false information which appeared in his profile on the party’s website – a violation which could see him banned from politics for 20 years.”
According to information on Thanathorn’s profile on the party’s website, “he served as the president of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) for two consecutive terms between 2008 and 2012.” This was incorrect. He was “president of the FTI’s Nakhon Nayok chapter between 2007 and 2011.”
The Election Commission’s deputy secretary-general Sawaeng Boonmee is now involved. If it locates “false information … and a complaint is lodged with the EC…, the watchdog will then look into the motive for keeping the false information on the website for five months…”.
This could “be deemed as an act of fraud and could violate Section 73(5) of the law on the election of MPs,” which means ” a jail term of up to ten years and/or a fine of up to 200,000 baht, and they will have their rights to run in elections suspended for 20 years…”.
Thanathorn has been critical of military rule and this marks him as a target for the military junta. That his party is doing better than some expected seems to have caused the junta to activate its puppet agencies to limit the party’s electioneering.
The fallout from Thaksin Shinawatra’s ill-fated attempt to have Ubolratana nominated as the Thai Raksa Chart Party prime ministerial candidate continues.
The Bangkok Post reports that the party’s defense before the Constitutional Court has three parts:
From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog
First, the party has no hidden agenda and its nomination received consent from Princess Ubolratana to stand as the TRC’s prime ministerial candidate.
Secondly, the party will show the term “hostile” does not cover the party’s actions. In their view, the term covers communism and rebellions under Section 113 of the Criminal Code.
Lastly, the EC’s complaint is unlawful because the agency failed to follow a due process by conducting a probe into the issue….
To understand the “charges,” it should be recalled that the puppet Election Commission unanimously and very rapidly decided to recommend the dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart based on “evidence” that included:
the Feb 8 royal announcement, the party’s letter notifying the person it proposed as the prime ministerial candidate and the party’s letter allowing Parliament to consider approving its candidate as PM.
In this context, Prachatai’s interview with Sawatree Suksri, a law lecturer with the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University “on the legal status of the Royal Command and its interpretation” is important reading.
She is adamant that the so-called Royal Command or Proclamation is not law, despite its use as such by the EC and anti-Thaksin forces. She states:
If anything is to become law, it has to follow the country’s legislative system. Thailand has a codified system of laws issued by the legislative branch, or the executive branch in the case of a royal ordinance, or the administration in cases of secondary laws where this is allowed by the fundamental laws. Because of this, the royal command is not a law, because it did not go through legislative procedures.
Sawatree adds: “the content of the Royal Command is not an order, but a recommendation.”
In other words, the use of King Vajirlongkorn’s royal proclamation on his elder sister is now a test of the judiciary. If the Constitutional Court acts appropriately and legally, it would reject the EC’s use of the king’s proclamation. If it stays true to it royalism, it will change the very meaning of law in Thailand, taking the country even further towards a neo-absolutist regime.
Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong has been hammered by the media today. For example, the Bangkok Post had an editorial, two op-eds and a story all highly critical of his attack on campaigning politicians as “scum.”
In the story, it was reported that “[p]oliticians demanded … the army chief remain neutral in the lead-up to the … election after he rebuked them for calling for defence budget cuts and revived an anti-communist song…”.
Actually, it is a song that belongs to extreme rightists and ultra-royalists, most recently used by the yellow-shirted royalists People’s Alliance for Democracy and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee to attack pro-Thaksin Shinawatra groups and politicians.
In other words, Gen Apirat was reaffirming his ultra-royalism as an anti-democratic rightist. The notion that he will be “neutral” is farcical. The military is never politically neutral.
Commenting on this, Ploenpote Atthakor points out that one of the (false) justifications for the 2014 military coup was about eliminating political conflict. As she points out, Gen Apirat is promoting conflict. For PPT, it is clear that the military has been stirring conflict throughout recent decades. The military is the problem.
Many people may love the song and call it patriotic. But for a person like me and many others who are old enough to have witnessed the horrors of the “October 6” massacre and heard it being blasted around the clock before that fateful day by the army-run Yankroh radio station alternating with the hateful phone-in comments against the students inside Thammasat University, this is unquestionably a far-right hate song for its association with this bloody history.
The troubling response of the army commander to a rather benign political campaign promise has quickly escalated. Gen Apirat Kongsompong didn’t just try to refute the call to cut both the military budget and the number of general officers. He retaliated by reviving the most hateful song in Thai political history, and promised to flood military bases and the airwaves with it. It is a move with an ironclad guarantee of major political and national division.
It continues to condemn Gen Apirat, saying what was:
hugely disappointing and inappropriate was Gen Apirat’s instant and ill-formed leap into the political campaign. The decision of the highest ranking army officer to step into the election debate was questionable. What is indefensible is his order to revive and propagandise his soldiers with the noxious and odious 1970s song Nak Phandin.
Yet it is hardly out of the ordinary. Gen Apirat, like his predecessor Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha have made their careers by being palace loyalists, rightists, and murderous military bosses.
Perhaps the most interesting commentary, however, was at Thai Rath, which outlines Gen Apirat’s family story. His father, Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong, a diminutive rightist also known as “Big George,” was a corrupt leader of the 1991 coup. The paper points out that, following a dispute between Sunthorn’s wife and mistress in 2001, people were stunned to learn that the property under dispute was valued at over 3.9 billion baht.
Thai Rath goes through the whole story of this corrupt general, the father of the current military commander. Being a powerful military boss has been lucrative, but for the Kongsompong clan, the wealth siphoned was conspicuously huge. We have no evidence of who shared in that huge wealth.
Update: It is not just the media that has gone after Apirat. As Prachatai reportsAs Prachatai reports:
… student activist Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, along with other members of the Student Union of Thailand, also went to the Army Headquarters to read an open letter to the Army Commander in Chief protesting Gen Apirat’s comment on ‘Nuk Paen Din.’
… political activists Ekkachai Hongkangwan and Chokchai Paibulratchata held a demonstration at the Royal Thai Army Headquarters in response to army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s order to broadcast the controversial Cold War anthem ‘Nuk Paen Din’ (‘Scum of the Earth’) on all army radio stations and over the intercom at military headquarters.
This is likely our last PPT post on the Hakeem al-Araibi case. Our last post was about failures on the Thai side.
Until now, we had not seen an admission of fault by the Australian side for its role in passing on information to the Thai authorities based on an Interpol Red Notice that should never have been issued and that should have been trumped by the Australian government’s acceptance of Hakeem as a refugee.
Fronting parliament – that would be an innovation in Thailand – Australian Border Force officials have had to admit “human error” in the Hakeem case, “saying processes that might have prevented him from being detained in Thailand ‘broke down’.”
But as seems all too common in security agencies with bloated power, Commissioner Michael Outram seemed to refuse to accept full responsibility.
Hakeem spent “spent two months in a Bangkok prison after having an Interpol red notice issued against him, despite being recognised as a refugee,” but the commissioner backed away from taking responsibility: “Asked if he would like to apologise to Mr al-Araibi, Mr Outram said he could not say whether the mistake directly led to his detention.” He went on:
But to offer an apology for him that would say that I’m accepting that the outcome, what happened in Thailand, was entirely due to that error. I can’t say that without speculating.
Such disingenuous is a feature of belligerent security agencies, as is well known in Thailand.
Outram told the Senate hearing that “ABF staff regularly received red notice information from the AFP [Australian Federal Police] which they then needed to cross-check against other government information, a process which could take 14 days.”
It remains unclear why more care was not taken in reporting Hakeem to the Thai authorities. “Human error,” perhaps, but undue haste as well. Why?
Have heads rolled? No. Impunity is not just a Thai phenomenon. In the West it is made worse by ridiculous managerial-speak.
The best Commissioner Outram could do was apologize that “an error occurred within Border Force and that is something that we’re taking very seriously…”. But they are not taking Hakeem’s personal distress very seriously. Can he take legal action?
Managerial-speak went berserk when “secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, Mike Pezzullo, told the hearing his department was looking at ways of using ‘sophisticated algorithms and data matching’ to automate the process.” He buried it all with this nonsensical prose:
But to accelerate that program would mean that other programs potentially are not funded equally, to an equal level of priority and it’s a question of then managing those priorities…,
Just saying sorry to Hakeem would have been a human thing to do.
The Constitutional Court hasn’t had so much politicized work to do under the military junta, so some have forgotten how central it was to undermining elected governments from 2007 to 2014 and evening engaging in what many saw as a judicial coup in 2008.
But it is the politicized Constitutional Court that now holds the fate of the Thai Raksa Chart Party in its tainted hands.
The Prachatai story includes brief details on some nine cases that have gone against pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties.
Created in 1997 as part of a major constitutional reform, Thailand’s Constitutional Court has since become embroiled in several high-profile political controversies. Since the 2006 coup, because a number of such decisions have favoured one political camp and considering obvious close and long-standing relations between judges and political elites, questions have arisen about the court’s ability to act as an independent arbiter. Is this view justifiable? To answer that question, this article first analyses how the court has behaved across political administrations in 32 high-profile cases since 2001. It then turns to the socio-biographic profile of the bench, the politics of nominations and changes to its composition, particularly since 2006. Finally, the article considers data on participants in classes offered by the Constitutional Court, which makes it possible to better understand the links between Thai political and judicial networks. The analysis finds evidence of politically biased voting patterns and increasingly partisan nominations to the court, though formally appointment procedures are apolitical, which suggests the politicisation of the court and growing ties between judicial and political elites. These findings raise new questions about the public’s perception of the Constitutional Court’s legitimacy and prospects for the rule of law.
Thai Raksa Chart is not in the hands of an unbiased, apolitical court. It is a court that has done the work of royalists, stunting the development of electoral politics.
The Thai Alliance for Human Rights has produced a compilation of articles on the assassinations and the plight of the Thai refugees in Laos. We thought it useful and worth getting to a wider audience, so reproduce it as it is at their website:
The first set were written by the Thai Alliance as a whole or by individual members of the Thai Alliance during a period of high alert for the dissidents in exile. We were in fear that the dissidents, especially Ma Noi (Ko Tee), were being hunted. These references are here to illustrate that we at the Thai Alliance believed that the dissidents were being hunted and were in grave danger about 4 months BEFORE the disappearance of Ma Noi.
“TAHR Statement on the 9 Suspects Held in Relation to Weapons that Exiled Broadcaster Ko Tee Says Were Planted at His House,” by Thai Alliance for Human Rights, March 21, 2017, http://tahr-global.org/?p=32252
“In Defense of Ma Noy and the Core Leaders of the Organization for Thai Federation,” [in Thai and English] by a member of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights, at Thai Alliance for Human Rights website, March 24, 2017. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32265
“More on Thai dissident Ma Noi or Ko Tee, who was disappeared on July 29, 2017,” by Ann Norman, at Thai Alliance for Human Rights website, August 2, 2017. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32557
“English Translation of Evidence in the Case of Ma Noi (Ko Tee): He Predicted His Death,” August 29, 2017. August 29, 2017. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32605
Kidnapping in Thailand of the wife and son of dissident in exile Sanam Luang (Sanam Luang at one time worked with Surachai). In retrospect, we realized this kidnapping overlapped in time with the disappearance of Surachai, Gasalong, and Puchana, and is thus relevant:
References relating to the assassinations of Surachai, Gasalong, and Puchana, memorials to the five assassinated dissidents, and the plight of the remaining Thai refugees in Laos.
“Translated letter from wife of Kidnapped dissident Surachai Saedan” December 25, Letter by Ba Noi translated by Ann Norman, at Thai Alliance for Human rights website, December 25, 2018. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32809
“แถลงการณ์ หยุดทำร้ายนักกิจกรรม Statement: Stop Harming the Activists!” statement in Thai by Anurak Jeantawanich (signing as Ford Sentangseedaeng) with English translation (by Ann Norman), at Thai Alliance for Human Rights website, February 3, 2019. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32820
It seems that “fake news” is news that someone influential doesn’t like. A report on the military junta and “fake news” caught our attention.
The junta is reported as ordering “state agencies to issue immediate clarifications to counter distorted news in the run-up to the March 24 election.”
Deputy junta spokeswoman, Col Sirichan Ngathong said “[c]ertain pieces of information made available to people were embellished to give certain political camps the upper hand over their rivals…”.
The junta will use state agencies and its media resources to “prevent or curb distortion.” That sounds a heck of a lot like controlling the news for the junta’s party, Palang Pracharath.
With its own party running in the election and its head, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha as that party’s candidate, having the junta and “government agencies are working together to maintain peace and order and related authorities will meet people to disseminate correct and accurate information” sounds a lot like manipulating the media and using state resources for political advantage. This manipulation is made clearer still when it is candidate-prime minister-dictator-general-prime minister Gen Prayuth who is issuing the instructions.
The Election Commission should be investigating. It won’t because it mostly acts on the junta’s instructions.
While on the EC, a reader wondered if the silent partner in Palang Pracharath, Somkid Jatusripitak hadn’t said just a little too much about the political manipulation of the junta when he was quoted in a recent Bangkok Post story (see the clip on right).
We guess the EC won’t be interested in that either.
First, we see The Dictator showing himself for his Palang Pracharath Party and the party using his picture on campaign posters while he remains deeply engaged in all kinds of state activities, spending and so on.
Meanwhile, his former boss, brother-in-arms and Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda has “defended his [now] boss … by insisting that junta leader-cum-Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha should not step down before the royal coronation takes place in two months.”
Here the point being made to the electorate is that only The Dictator and the military can be “trusted” as loyalists. It was the anti-democrats of the People’s Alliance fro Democracy that proclaimed loyalty as a political issue of the era by donning royal yellow.
Second, to make the point about loyalty, none other than anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban is quoted as declaring that only a vote for his party (and pro-junta parties) “can prevent Thaksin Shinawatra from returning to power through its proxy parties…”. That’s a refrain widely heard from the anti-democrats for over a decade. And, Suthep appears to be admitting the electoral strength of the pro-Thaksin parties, something seen in every election from 2000 to 2011, when elections were free and fair.
Suthep’s claims that the anti-democrats could keep Thaksin’s “proxies” out saw him drawing on the experience of the repressive actions of the junta in forcing through its 2016 constitution draft in a “referendum.” Perhaps he expects/hopes for similar cheating in the junta’s “election.”
And third, Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong, who himself wielded war weapons against red shirt protesters in 2010, and who refuses to rule out another coup, has again declared that he will not be controlled by “evil” politicians.
After the military budget increasing 24% under the junta, the notion that it might be cut by an elected government prompted the evil but loyal Gen Apirat to order the “ultra-rightist song ‘Nak Phaendin’ [Scum of the land] to be aired every day on 160 Army radio stations across the country…”. This anti-communist song from the 1970s – another period when the military murdered hundreds in the name of the monarchy – was to be played twice a day. It was also to be played at the Ministry of Defense and and in all Army barracks:
The Army chief reasoned [PPT thinks that word is incorrect] earlier that the anthem broadcast was aimed at encouraging everyone to be aware of their duties and responsibilities towards the country.
The “duties” he means are to protect the monarchy and murder opponents of the military-monarchy alliance.
He was supported by Deputy Dictator, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who supported the notion that politicians are “eveil” and deserve death at the hands of murderous loyalists. He said: “Listen to the song that the Army chief mentioned. Listen to it.”
Other than calling for a return to absolute monarchy, they’re now rehearsing ‘Scum of the Earth,’ too? History will repeat itself if we don’t learn from it. And where will that path take us? Better or worse?
It leaves Thailand in its ultra-conservative, ultra-royalist time warp.
Clearly, the Army commander and the Defense Minister are campaigning against pro-Thaksin parties and for The Dictator and the party of the rightists, Palang Pracharat.
That’s not new. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, then head of the Army, demanded that voters reject Thaksin parties in 2011. However, this time, the threat is louder, nastier and very, very threatening.
To receive refugee status, a person must have applied for asylum, making them—while waiting for a decision—an asylum seeker. However, a displaced person otherwise legally entitled to refugee status may never apply for asylum, or may not be allowed to apply in the country they fled to and thus may not have official asylum seeker status.
Once a displaced person is granted refugee status they enjoy certain rights as agreed in the 1951 Refugee convention. Not all countries have signed and ratified this convention and some countries do not have a legal procedure for dealing with asylum seekers.
Thailand has never become a party to that 1951 convention. In essence, that means that no refugee is safe in Thailand.
We make this observation in the context of a Bangkok Post report of an interview with Chatchom Akapin, director-general of the Office of the Attorney General’s International Affairs Department.
Chatchom seeks to explain the debacle over the case of Hakeem al Araibi, who was granted refugee status by Australia but was arrested in Thailand and faced deportation to Bahrain.
The Post and Chatchom paint Thailand as being “caught” between Bahrain and Australia. This is may be true, but it ignores the fact that Thailand did not need to respond to Bahrain’s extradition request or to the quickly withdrawn Interpol red notice. The case was entirely Thailand’s responsibility as it held the footballer.
Chatchom shows how decidedly dull Thai officials can be and how they are reluctant to “impose” on their higher-ups. He states:
Bahrain asked to have Hakeem extradited to face prosecution by showing evidence he committed the wrongdoing and had been convicted by the court…. We considered this fell into the criteria where we could assist in line with legal principles so we filed the case with the court….
On the Australian government’s granting refugee status, Chatcom declares: “We considered that this point was irrelevant as the wrongdoing had been committed before he was granted the refugee status in Australia…”.
This makes clear that no refugee is safe in Thailand. Refugee status counts for nothing (except where other political, monarchical or military considerations are considered). Refugee status can be used for or against an individual, as seen in the two cases last month.