Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathien charged for using excerpts from Reuters' Pulitzer prize-winning reports on people traffickingThe Thai authorities have charged two journalists with defaming the country's navy in a news report about the trafficking ... Read more...
Two Phuketwan journalists were charged today with defaming the Thai Navy, and face seven years in prison and a $3,000 fine if convicted. A Thai Navy captain brought charges against Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian after they republished a paragraph from a Reuters story accusing Thai officials of being involved in a human trafficking operation that exploits Rohingya refugees from Burma. Read more...
PHUKET, Thailand (AP) — Thai authorities have charged two journalists with defaming Thailand's navy in an online news report about the trafficking of refugees from Burma. The Australian editor of the Phuketwan website Alan Morison and his Thai colleague Chutima Sidasathian appeared at a court Thursday on the southern island of Phuket to hear charges of defamation and violation of the computer crime act. Read more...
BANGKOK, 17 April 2014: Revenue earned from international film productions shot on location in Thailand should increase 15% to Bt2.5 billion by year end. Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ Department of Tourism director general, Anuparp Kasornsuwan, said film earnings should grow 15% from Bt2,173.35 million last year, despite instability in the country. Promoting film shoots [...] Read more...
BANGKOK, 17 April 2014: Two journalists face jail if found guilty of defamation after citing a Pulitzer-prize winning report alleging Thai military links to people-smuggling, one of them said Wednesday, raising fears for media freedom in the kingdom. Australian editor Alan Morison and his Thai colleague Chutima Sidasathian are due Thursday to hear the criminal [...] Read more...


See bigger image here
 

Accountability for the political violence in April and May 2010, which cost 98 lives and injured over 2,000 people, is still incomplete even after full four years have passed. 
 
In early March, the Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against Suthep Thaugsuban after he failed to show up to hear the Attorney General’s indictment on charges of ordering the 2010 military crackdown and premeditated murder. 
 
The then Deputy Prime Minister and current anti-government protest leader, Suthep was indicted as an accomplice of former PM Abhisit Vejjajiva. Meanwhile, Abhisit said he could never apologise for what happened because all the facts have not yet been fully revealed.
 
So far, the courts have read inquests on 29 deaths. Of those, 17 were ruled by the court to have been caused by bullets coming from the direction of the army. However, the inquests did not specify individual army officers. 
 
The Attorney General has already handed out indictments in the cases of Phan Khamgong, a taxi driver, 16-year-old Khunakorn Srisuwa (Isa), Samorn Maithong, a van driver who was heavily injured, and also the six who were killed in Wat Pathumwanaram. 
 
Inquests in six cases are in the process of being heard, including the Japanese Reuters cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto. Another four cases are under police investigation. 
 
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Kijja Pattamasattayasonthi, president and chief home fashion officer of Chic Republic, opened the fashion store’s Sleep Gallery featuring mattresses and bedding items from 12 well-known international brands including Sealy, Slumberland and Tempur. A representative of the Bangkok Hospital Pattaya was at Chic Gallery to answer customers’ queries about sleeping disorders, snoring and allied matters. The [...] Read more...
Mai Chaiyanit, mayor of Nongprue municipality, told a public meeting at Pattaya Land and House Village that a wall erected for security purposes would need to be removed to make way for a new public road between Sois 8 and 14. He explained that the wall had originally been built to deter unwelcome strangers but [...] Read more...
Alan Morison, who faces up to seven years in jail over story on human trafficking, says authorities aim to shut down his website An Australian journalist set to face a Thai court on charges of criminal defamation and computer crimes says the Royal Thai... Read more...
Men on two motorbikes fired a volley of shots at a security guard’s home, injuring the man’s mother. Owner of the house near Baan Nongprue School, 36-year-old Surachart Kenaran, handles security at a bar on Soi Buakhao. When he earlier had intervened during an argument among several drunken teens at the bar, he believes the [...] Read more...
Police are investigating a blaze at the Mitsubishi garage on Sukhumvit Road which damaged two cars before firemen brought the fire under control. It is thought that the fire, which occurred after the car dealership was closed for the day, may have begun in a garbage dump. Investigators said they were not sure yet of [...] Read more...
UPDATE: After spending five hours in court cell, Phuketwan reporters Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian are released on bail (100,000 Baht each) and are remanded to appear in court again on May 26, according to a report by Australia’s The Age. ORIGINAL ARTICLE: The trial against two Phuket journalists for alleged defamation is set to begin today. The Royal Read more...
Noom Rednon

Translator’s note: This is a different kind of new year story. Every year, Buddhist New Year is observed from 13-15 April. People tend to spend the holiday with their family and friends. One part of the holiday involves “playing water,” which means to throw water and flour on friends and community members in a joyful and playful fashion. In this essay, Noom Rednon reflects on the four Songkrans between 2010 and 2013 he spent behind bars. “Playing water” takes on a new meaning behind bars. His detailed account of Songkran inside the prison is a valuable, and harrowing, record of prison life.

*

Songkran Day is an important day for all Thais, including me. On Songkran, Thais happily splash and play water with the people we love. For me, every year, Songkran was a day that I spent with my son. We splashed water together and rode a motorcycle around the neighborhood where we used to live in Trai Noi district of Nonthaburi province.

The last Songkran before I was arrested and put in prison was in 2009. I was without joy in playing water during that Songkran.  There was a dispersal of red shirt protestors at Government House and, for certain, many of my friends in “Red Non” [red shirt residents of Nonthaburi —trans.] were present during the dispersal.

That year, I had to perform my fatherly duty and take my son around the neighborhood to play water for Songkran the same as every year. But damn, I did not feel any happiness at all.  My son noticed that something was off and asked, “Why aren’t you happy?” I answered my son, and said yes, you are right. I told him, “Many of my friends are in the demonstration, and I am worried that my friends are not safe.” This was how I felt about the “Bloody Songkran” of 2009, a Songkran I will always remember.

Who knew that this would be the last Songkran the two of us shared?

On 2 April 2010, I was arrested and placed in the Bangkok Remand Prison. At that time, the atmosphere inside the prison was lively and the scent of the Songkran festival was in the air. Prisoners who had been inside for a long time and had already adapted were happy that they would be able to celebrate Songkran. I myself did not know how I could feel happy at all. All I could think about then was being granted bail and released. All I could think about was going to be with my son. No one had come to visit me. No one had bought clothes for me and I only had one set of clothes. It was lucky that I met Ajarn Kethong, who took care of me during that time.

Waiting to be bailed out made the time on the calendar pass too quickly and all of a sudden it was my first Songkran behind bars. Really, can you believe it? If you ask people in the prison, there is likely no one who will answer that they like celebrating Songkran in prison. They do not like it because it is a long holiday. Not only Songkran, but other holidays — people in the prison do not want them to arrive.

Why? On holidays, prisoners cannot receive visitors and relatives who come to see them. What kind of happiness is there in seeing all of the usual people in prison? What kind of happiness is there in a life that revolves inside the four walls of the prison only?

Before Songkran arrives, there is a long series of holidays, such as the new year. The prison has regulations about carrying out raids of the sleeping cells, searching the lockers and various other areas in the prison zones. They do so in order to search for prohibited items, especially materials that could be used as weapons such as stainless steel spoons and spikes. They seized these as a protection against quarrels and fights during the long holiday periods. Yet even though they carried out inspections, there were fights every year, some serious and some not so serious. This was the status quo.

Every year, on the morning of the first day of Songkran, the large Buddha statues from each zone were carried to the center of the sports field. Then, monks came inside the prison so that prisoners could offer the dry food we had as alms to them. Before Songkran, prisoners who were charitable and Buddhists prepared things to give as alms, mainly Mama noodles, canned fish, Lactasoy brand soymilk, etc.

Before paying respect to the flag at 8 am, the prison allowed the monks to walk inside to receive alms from prisoners in each zone. At first, I thought this was exciting, because we were infrequently allowed to set foot outside our zones (sometimes we would feign ignorance and secretly go to meet our friends in different zones). Usually, one could not walk through and out the door of one's zone.

When the offering of alms was complete, the prisoners lined up in front of the flagpole. Then a representative monk came and poured water and blessed us. Over the loudspeaker, a prayer was spoken. During the prayer, the war of “liquid bags” among the zones began intermittently. That is to say, the war of plastic bags filled with liquid. Prisoners found bags in trashcans, added liquid, and bound them with rubber bands. These were thrown from one zone to another, accompanied with shouting and enjoyment. But let me say that this was not enjoyable in the sense that you would think it would be. Not at all. This is because we had no way of knowing what was in the liquid being tossed in the bags. If it was plain water, then one was lucky. Sometimes what would be thrown would be red-colored water (you had to put capital into it), fish sauce, or urine or rotten food. No one stopped it. If it landed on one's head, one was unlucky. At this time, no one could be stopped. Once paying respect to the flag was complete, this was the signal that “Songkran Day in the Prison” had officially begun.

Like I said, professional prisoners, those who have been with the prison for a long time and were frequently in and out of prison, treated Songkran as a day to enjoy. But for new prisoners, such as myself, we felt no happiness at all, truly. I chose to secretly go to the cafeteria in order to avoid having liquid poured on me. On the long holidays, the prison released the prisoners to freely do what they wanted. Some zones had internal sports competitions. It was fun and merry. Some set up a band and sang, or played bamboo, or drummed together happily. But to me, it was all noise. Wherever I walked, all I could hear was singing and the sound of pails being hit. It was completely deafening.

In reality, the playing water did not go on for very long in the prison. Think about the conditions. The area is small. No matter how you run to flee, you will collide [with your pursuer]. However you get wet, you will be wet like that. There are no young women on whom to throw flour. There are only kathoey [transgender women —trans.]. If you throw flour on a kathoey, you will run afoul of her partner. But to honest, Songkran Day can be regarded as a day of the kathoey. She will be especially tantalizing [to others]. Many kathoeys are pursued, venerated, flour-ed, and put in the bathing cistern, until some are hurt. But the majority, particularly attractive kathoeys, are likely happy because they are enveloped by men. But for homely kathoeys, they will not only be hit with water on Songkran. Some may be hit with things with which no one wants to be hit. You will come to know what they are hit with in the next lines.

When the splash of water comes, all that arrives with it is wetness.  What else is there to play with that will make it more satisfying? That’s it! Trash itself! Especially food trash that is rotten and kept in a bin at the end of the zone to be taken for the pigs to eat (They call it pig food). This is what prisoners play with on Songkran. The truth is that on the morning of the first year, I myself thought that people would only play like this for one year. I thought that it would perhaps only be the experience of some prisoners who were cursed. But I passed four Songkrans in the prison. I can confirm completely that playing Songkran involves playing with trash every year.

Can you imagine? Food trash that is beginning to smell sour, sometimes with mold and sometimes sodden, is thrown and tossed onto people’s heads. What then is their condition? To think about it is utterly hair-raising.. But on that day, it was free-style. Bring it all completely on. Whoever was going to play, played. But for me, it was enough to escape from the trajectory of the bullets.

Nothing much more happened during the morning than I have already explained. Liquid was lobbed back and forth.  Prison celebrities were hunted down and dunked in the water cistern (I was only hunted and dunked in my last year when I was in Zone 1,  because I was regarded as a celebrity in the prison). People played with flour, played with mold, and the highlight, taking pig food and throwing it on each other. In my heart, I still think that it is lucky that shit was not used. There is a still a semblance of a culture of decency. Ee ee. Even if I only think about it, I will throw up.

At around two, three o’clock, we would get ready to bathe to go into the sleeping cells. At this time, the majority of the people would stop playing because activities still remained. When we went into the sleeping cells, this was the period of greatest suffering for me. On that day, the officials who searched the prisoners before they went into the sleeping cells were especially strict. They would not allow anyone to bring plastic bags into the sleeping cells because they could be used to make a loud sound. Everyone then had to carry their food and snacks up without using plastic bags. Even though plastic bags were forbidden, no matter, this did not stop the big “music festival” once we were in the sleeping cells.

The concert stage in each sleeping cell began immediately once the inspection and counting in each cell was complete. Then the “lock down” happened. God help us. Whatever voice one had, he would use it fully.  People rapped on bottles. People beat on mattresses. People beat on buckets. There was no consideration for anyone else. You could say it was a competition. No need for anyone to try to watch a television drama, because the sound could not be heard at all. Even to hold a conversation, you could barely hear anything. The sound was clamorous. Noisy. The singing, making music, and dancing of the prisoners would continue until around midnight. Then it would stop. Perhaps it stopped because people were tired. Or perhaps they sang until there were no more songs to sing. Think about it, from four o’clock in the afternoon until midnight, they sang a whole lot, sang over and over again. They made music until they were exhausted.

Songkran, the new year, is a festival of true liberation of the tension of the prisoners. Usually, if anyone made a loud noise like this, he would definitely be punished. Loud noises are against the rules of the prison. The only exceptions are long holidays like Songkran.

The next morning, on the second day of Songkran, everything proceeds as it did on the first day of the festival. There is the throwing of liquid bags and playing with pig food. There is singing and making music. Songkran is three days in length. The days revolved like this. If one was bored, one could not get bored.  There was no one to complain to that we wanted to dwell in quiet, so we had to tolerate it, and have the boring Songkran days pass as quickly as possible.

Songkran Day is also regarded as the Big Cleaning Day in prison. Typically, the different parts of the prison are not fully cleaned. Songkran causes the majority of the floors to be covered in liquid from the play of the prisoners. Therefore, on the evening of the final day of the Songkran festival, the warders will order the prisoners in each work unit to do a big clean. They say that every year there is one big clean, on Songkran Day.

I believe none of the “people of the prison” wish to celebrate Songkran behind bars. It is not fun. Many people put up with it to make it fun and have happiness, because it cannot be avoided. But I believe that the majority of people miss playing Songkran with the people outside. I myself thought about the people outside too during that time: “Who will my little monkey play with?”

Happy Songkran Day, everyone ^^

 

Source: สงกรานต์ครั้งแรกของผม.. หลังกำแพงคุก

 

Translated by Tyrell Haberkorn.

 

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Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the withdrawal of all proceedings against two journalists who are to be tried tomorrow in the southwestern province of Phuket on charges of contravening the Computer Crimes Act and defaming the Royal Thai Navy for quoting from a Reuters special report on the smuggling of Rohingya refugees from neighbouring Burma.

The two journalists are Alan Morison, the Australian editor of the Phuket-based news website Phuketwan, and Chutima Sidasathian, a Thai reporter who works for the site.

The case was brought by Naval Capt. Panlob Komtonlok with the support of Admiral Polawat Sirodom, the navy’s deputy commander. Morison and Chutima are facing a possible five-year jail sentence and fine of 100,000 bahts (3,000 US dollars) under the Computer Crimes Act and another two years in prison for criminal defamation.

“Taking Phuketwan’s journalists to court is absurd,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. “If the navy want to dispute the Reuters special report, which has just won a Pulitzer Prize, it can publicly give its version of events and demand the right of reply.

“By using the Computer Crimes Act to intimidate journalists, the navy is just making it obvious that it wants to conceal this sensitive information and deter any comments on this humanitarian scandal. We urge the court not to proceed with this improper complaint.”

Ismaïl added: “This case highlights the urgent need for reform of the Computer Crimes Acts, which is responsible for frequent violations of freedom of information by the authorities. It is also essential that the international media operating in Thailand should give this trial extensive coverage despite government pressure to ignore it.”

The special report by Reuters journalists Jason Szep and Andrew R.C. Marshall on Thai trafficking in Burma’s refugees was awarded a Pulitzer Prize on 14 March for “courageous” reporting on the Rohingya and the “predatory human-trafficking networks” to which they often fall prey.

Phuketwan has meanwhile begun a symbolic countdown to 3 May, World Press Freedom Day.

Thailand is ranked 130th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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First, some background. The Rohingya have been systematically mistreated over the years, including by the Thai military. Below is an excerpt from a previous post which summarizes much of what transpired with the Rohingya in late 2008/early 2009: The Nation should think back to the beginning of the year when the Rohingya were towed out Read more...
In an ironic and shameful twist, two Reuters journalists were awarded the Pulitzer prize for covering the plight of Burma's Rohingya while two Thailand-based reporters could face jail for republishing a paragraph from the Pulitzer-winning reports. Read more...
Harrison George

The latest attempt to remove Acting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra over the transfer of former, and now re-instated, National Security Council Secretary-General Thawil Pliensri has run into some legal wrangling.  

The Supreme Administrative Court found that the transfer of Sec-Gen Thawil, shortly after the Yingluck administration took power, was illegal.  Thawil argued that it was motivated by the patron-client system and “if the patronage system stays strong, how can civil officials be counted on to do their jobs correctly?” he argued.

Which is all a bit rich, since his installation by the Abhisit government formed one part of an academic study on high-level bureaucratic appointments by Khon Kaen University which concluded that these are motivated by, er, the patron-client system.

It is normal for a new administration to select as head of the NSC someone who they can expect to do their bidding.  And so Thawil proved, serving as Secretary to the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation during the crackdown against the red shirts, making unproven claims that red shirts had received military training in Cambodia, and threatening to close the Burmese refugee camps and send them all home or to third countries (they’re still there).

Even after losing his job, Thawil continued to serve his masters.  His testimony at the still ongoing trial of 14 UDD leaders was a masterpiece of courtroom tactics.  First of all he came over all Ronald Reagan and claimed he couldn’t remember anything.  Then, when prompted by his own witness statement, he suddenly did remember.  A doctor’s appointment, if it please the court, sorry, can’t stay.  The court had to halt proceedings for the day.  He didn’t appear ill in any life-threatening sort of way, but hey, if he was being treated for amnesia, maybe it was the right call.

And, despite drawing a salary as a government official, he has over the past months taken to moonlighting on the PDRC stage.

It really was no surprise that the Yingluck government should find his presence at the NSC less than helpful and seek the first opportunity to shunt him off into some siding where he could do them no harm.  In some countries, like the US, such a change of personnel is de rigueur.  In Thailand, it has been done again and again.

But this time Thawil took the PM to court (since she had to sign off on his transfer) and surprise, surprise, the Supreme Administrative Court found against her.  Not that she doesn’t have the authority, but that she used this authority for the Wrong Reasons.  Penalty – re-instatement, which has been done. 

Now the Constitutional Court gets involved and decides that this ‘illegal’ transfer was done ‘for personal benefits or for the benefits of others or of a political party’ and thus a violation of Section 266 of the Constitution.  As a result, Section 182 comes into play and Yingluck loses her position as PM.

Except that since the dissolution of the House for elections that may come sometime this side of Christmas, Yingluck has not been PM but caretaker PM and another section of the constitution seems to say that she has to stay put until a new government is formed after the election.

Anti-government forces have therefore prepared a new strategy to overthrow the current government without actually staging a military coup.  And without an election, of course, which they seem bound to lose. 

The latest accusation against the Prime Minister concerns the Government Lottery Office and allegations concerning similarities between winning lottery ticket numbers and the numbers on the licence plates of vehicles owned by or associated with the Prime Minister.

These allegations have been rife since she first took office in 2011.  Gamblers then noted that the reg on a police car in her motorcade had the same numbers as that fortnight’s lottery winner.  (This is the extremely widespread illegal lottery, you should realise, based on the last 3 digits of the winning number of the official national lottery.  The government once tried to stop this diversion of funds by co-opting this system, but the courts decided that the government was being corrupt.  Well, it was a Thaksin government.)

Such ‘coincidences’ have continued with a new spate surfacing last month.  Those losing on the lottery are crying foul.  Someone dunnit, but who?

Now the powers that want to be got nowhere looking at the lottery draw.  This has been the subject of scandals down the years and now has a seemingly cast-iron method to prevent any rigging.  Layers of methods, in fact.

So attention turned to the claims that Yingluck was somehow orchestrating this for her own benefit.  This is just the kind of sneaky corrupt shenanigans that gets the Constitutional Court wetting itself.

A spokesperson from the Court says that they will find against Yingluck under Section 266 (1) for interfering in the duties of the Government Lottery Office for her own as yet to be determined benefit and then sack her under Section 182 (9) that authorizes the dismissal of caretaker Prime Ministers.

Constitutional scholars expressed great surprise at this statement.  They noted that (a) nobody has referred this case the Constitutional Court; (b) the statement seems to say that a verdict has been decided before the case is heard; and (c) there is no subsection (9) in Section 182.

The spokesperson brushed these concerns aside.  First, the Court was accepting any and every petition that threatened the government so taking on a case on its own volition was merely a way of increasing the court’s efficiency, as was a pre-determined verdict.

As for the non-existent subsection, he noted that some members of the Constitutional Court had been involved in drafting this constitution and if they now discovered that they had forgotten something, it was only natural for them to put things right and thereby save the nation.

 


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).

 

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Academic Paul Chambers has some analysis of the situation and on the rise of Thailand’s juristocracy. Below are some brief excerpts (read the whole thing for the full picture): Perhaps a less visible trend, which has grown over the last decade, has been the rise of Thailand’s judiciary. Indeed, Thailand today possesses a weakly-developed democracy Read more...