Monday, February 26, 2018

An Appeal for International Support (for Thai Democracy) from Jaran Ditapichai

Facebook post by Jaran Ditapichai, Former National Human Rights Commissioner, Thailand
Coordinator, Thai Overseas for Democracy

Thai democracy on hold again.

For Thai observers, predictably as its general election is being delayed again until 2019. Since overthrowing the elected government in 2014, Thailand’s military junta and General-come-Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha have repeatedly used a familiar mix of false promises and outright lies to suppress the Thai people’s right to a vote. The National Legislative Assembly, Thailand’s rubber-stamped parliamentary body appointed by the junta, voted on January 25th to postpone the election by another 90 days after its promulgation in the official gazette. This would mean a vote in late February 2019, but observers think it also can be postponed. Elections were first promised in 2015, only to be delayed as the junta rewrote the nation’s constitution, increasing the military’s tight grip on Thailand’s political institutions. Most recently, General Prayuth Chan-ocha said a poll would be held in November 2018. The Puea Thai Party, whose government the military ousted in 2014, alleges the amendment is a tactic by the junta to tighten its grip on power. In tactical terms, the benefit to delaying the election is simple - it gives the junta more time figure out how to preserve power beyond 2019.

The new constitution gave the military the ability to “manage” politicians, positioning generals as kingmakers even if civilian government does return. Meanwhile, political activity is still outlawed and civil rights are in freefall, with arrests for anti-junta sentiment occurring with increasing regularity. Even more disturbing are the emerging political aspirations of General Prayuth. Having promised a quick return to civilian rule in 2015, it seems that he is now seriously considering retaining the office of the Prime Minister indefinitely.
However, public opinion are increasing against the junta. The Thai people are fed up of lies. In late January and February, a thousand Pro-democracy activists and gathered in a rare show of dissent to protest the authoritarian regime. Considering the latest developments, Thai Overseas for Democracy is calling for the international community to demand that the junta keeps its promise by holding elections in November 2018.

In a most recent development after two demonstrations in late January and February, the Junta served over 100 arrest warrants to the protestors, but the protesters still called for bigger rally in May 19-22 to bring attention to this unwelcome extension of the election date to 2019.

Jaran Ditapichai
Former National Human Rights Commissioner, Thailand
Coordinator, Thai Overseas for Democracy

The Adventures of Ekachai Hongkangwan: Part 3

by Ann Norman
Petitions Dictator Prayut to use his dictatorial powers to abolish Thailand’s lese majesty law
As you will recall, Ekachai Hongkangwan spent almost three years in jail for selling CDs of an Australian documentary about the royal succession, which you can read about in The Adventures of Ekachai Hongkangwan, Part 1. When he got out, he started a nonprofit organization to help other lese majesty victims (people accused of “insulting” the monarchy) and other political prisoners.
As part of his activism on behalf of the lese majesty victims, on September 12, 2017, Khun Ekachai boldy petitioned Dictator Prayut Chan-ocha to use his self-given dictatorial powers under Section 44 of the Interim Constitution to end the lese majesty law. Makes sense, right? Dictator Prayut justified his power grab as a quick way to enact democractic reforms before returning a new, improved democracy to the people. What better way to enact democratic reform than to remove the law that blocks all serious discussion of politics in Thailand?
Dictator Prayut gave Khun Ekachai an opening to petition in comments the dictator made after Pai Dao Din was sentenced to 2.5 years in jail simply for sharing a ordinary BBC news article. Prayut claimed that the King is merciful and doesn’t like to see people punished in this way:
“Nowadays, the monarchy has always shown mercy and ordered that [he] doesn’t want people to be punished for such matters.” said Gen Prayut “The King has always given royal pardons and amnesties but there are still people trying to do it [commit lèse majesté]. I don’t understand.”
Having heard similar pleadings from Prayut in the past, right before yet another ruthless crackdown on those sharing news about the King (whether about his twisted lifestyle or his direct attacks on Thai democracy), I can re-translate this statement:
“Children, children, PLEASE stop challenging me or I will be forced to come over there and spank you.”
It was Thai scholar Thanaboon Chiranuvat, also commenting on the Pai Dao Din case, who pointed out that Thai society doesn’t really care about the international law aspects of the Pai Dao Din case because in practice Thai society hasn’t really developed a respect for the rule of law, but in practice administers the country on the model of a family, particularly the model of a father dictating to children.
Rather than begging a father for mercy, Ekachai is using logic to request that the human rights of all Thais be respected. He notes that among the European countries that used to have a lese majesty law, almost all have gotten rid of it, and that those few that still have one, don’t use it. And that General Prayut completely has it in his power to solve this problem.
There is no good answer Prayut can offer to this argument, other than to threaten people into silence. And so I fear for the safety of Ekachai Hongkangwan because he is a brave civil rights activist throwing himself against the “my clan” supremacists currently ruling Thailand.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Thai Alliance for Human Rights condemns Thailand’s refoulement of Cambodian asylum seeker Sam Sokha

The Thai Alliance for Human Rights (TAHR) joins the chorus of voices, including Human Rights Watch and the US State Department, in condemning Thailand’s actions in returning Cambodian refugee Sam Sokha to Cambodia, where she is now in jail for throwing a shoe at a billboard of Dictator Hun Sen. On January 25, 2018, a Cambodian court had convicted her in absentia to two years in jail for the “crime”. Thailand returned Sam Sokha to Cambodia only two weeks later on February 8. As was completely expected, she was immediately arrested and taken to a prison in Kampong Speu, Olof Blomqvist to begin a two-year sentence for “insulting a public official” and “incitement to discriminate.”

As many others have noted, this contradicts the customary principle of international law that prohibits the return of anyone to a place where they could be persecuted, tortured, or face other human rights violations. This is called the principle of “non-refoulement.” Forcibly returning refugees to abusive situations is nothing new for Thailand. We recall the 100 Uighurs returned to China in July 2015. The rumor is that the whole group were killed after they returned! Thailand has often had a “push back” policy for Rohingya fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar by boat, even after during the boat crisis in May 2015 when at least 375 individuals died at sea. Rather than take in the refugees, Thailand would restock the boats and send them back out to sea, often with claims that the boats had refused offers to come ashore because they were on their way to Indonesia or Malaysia.

Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.

Article 14 (1) states that everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

Article 19 states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
This would include the right of a Cambodian woman to throw a shoe at a billboard of Cambodia’s dictator.

TAHR condemns this whole pattern of abuse in and around Thailand and asks that the human rights of asylum seekers be recognized and respected. We join with Human Rights Watch in urging Thailand to complete steps begun to develop a full, effective, and fair procedure to evaluate claims for refugee status and protection, procedures which currently do not exist.

TAHR would also like to highlight a sinister detail of this most recent case of refoulement that bears on our mission to protect Thai human rights. Unlike the previous incidents, the case of Sam Sokha involved just one person who posed no burden to Thailand as UNHCR was about to send her to a third country. Thais couldn’t possibly care about her supposed “crime” (throwing a shoe at a billboard of a neighboring dictator), and yet Thailand acted deliberately, over international objections, to send her to her doom.

Why? We suspect it’s because the Thai junta has its own long list of most-wanted dissidents who have done nothing worse than throwing a shoe at a billboard.

Rangsiman Rome Already Explained This!

Rangsiman Rome is a law student, or he may already be graduated. He’s going to be a great lawyer, one day if the junta doesn’t manage to destroy him first. He has an impressive ability to analyze a situation and persuasively summarize a case. In researching him (by googling his name), I was pleased to find that so much of his story is in his own words, including analyses in English).

An early article by him titled “Corruption, Lèse Majesté and the Thai Junta,” published in The Huffington Post begins:The Thai junta is using the lèse majesté law to conceal their own corrupt acts.” He describes how the junta tried to stop people from sharing a chart detailing alleged corruption in the construction of Rajabhakti Park -- corruption involving top junta officials. They didn’t use the defamation law (for defamation of ordinary individuals) but instead adapted the lese majesty law (for defamation of the King, Queen, and Heir Apparent), which doesn’t naturally apply to the case. Rangsiman Rome explains that they did this for a reason:

“The junta is well aware that connecting the sharing of the chart displaying corruption in the Rajabhakti Park project with violation of Article 112 will make the issue slip away. No one will dare to examine corruption in the Rajabhakti Park project any further. . . . This strategy has resulted in swift success for the junta. When the issue shifts from one of corruption to one of lèse majesté, no one will remain interested in whether or not the NCPO is corrupt. They will only be interested in whether or not those who engaged in symbolic action to prompt an audit of the corruption are loyal to the monarchy.”

This article could be almost instantly updated and recycled just by changing “ Rajabhakti Park project” to “Prime Minister Prawit’s watches.” The article Rangsiman Rome wrote over two years ago also describes his current predicament.

The Adventures of Ekachai Hongkangwan: Parts 1 and 2

[NOTICE:  I, Ann Norman, am an American living in the United States and am not subject to, and do not recognize Thailand’s lese majesty law. Furthermore I condemn that law as a huge human rights abuse that continues to ruin hundreds of innocent lives and has poisoned all of politics in Thailand. I am the sole author of this article and it was my idea to write it. This was first posted on Facebook, February 4, 2018.]

3 Years in jail for selling copies of a Documentary about the Monarchy and Succession 

Beginning in 2011, Ekachai Hongkangwan, a former lottery ticket salesperson, served almost 3 years in jail for selling pirated copies of an Australian Documentary on the Thai monarchy. You can see that documentary here:

If you can’t view the video, here is an opening statement that summarizes it’s aim: “The Achilles heel of monarchy is succession. It’s the stuff of Shakespeare . . . Reporting has been off-limits, but with a beloved king in decline, a successor in the wings, and Thailand at a dangerous and defining moment in its history, the time has come to enter the ‘no go’ zone and tell the story.”

Saturday, February 10, 2018

An URGENT Message about 7 people acused of sedition in Thailand

Recorded as a Facebook live video by Ann Norman, February 8 in Pittsburgh, PA, 7:18pm