The Appeal Court on Friday affirmed the decision of the Court of First Instance to sentence Somyos Prueksakasemsuk to 10 years in jail for editing lèse majesté articles written by others.
 
Somyos Prueksakasemsuk has been detained at Bangkok Remand Prison for almost four years.
 
He was found guilty of being the editor of Voice of Taksin monthly magazine which published two articles deemed to insult the King.  

The two articles were written in the magazine under the pen name of 'Jit Polachan’, believed to be Jakrapob Penkair, a Thai politician living in self-exile in Cambodia, in February and March 2010.

 

Somyos (File photo taken in 2013)

In one article, Jit Polachan tells the story of a fictional character called “Luang Narueban of the Ghost Hotel”. The Court interpreted the story as defaming the Thai King.
 
In January 2013, the Court of First Instance sentenced Somyos to ten years imprisonment without suspension.
 
In January 2013, Somyos took his case to the Appeal Court and argued that according to the law on publications, editors are not be held liable for any content published under their authorisation. However, the Appeal Court dismissed the claim, saying that the charges filed against him are under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, not the Press Act.
 
On 23 January 2013, he was also sentenced to one additional year of imprisonment for defaming Gen Saphrang Kalayanamit.
 
None of Somyos’s family members and lawyers were presented at the court on Friday because they were not informed by the court in advance.
 
“The fact that the authority didn’t inform on the day that the verdict’s going to be delivered is not in accordance with the rule and is not transparent. I missed an opportunity to listen to the verdict myself, especially when the court affirmed the verdict. This greatly affected him. I wanted to come and supported him, but I couldn’t,” said Sukanya.
 

 

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BANGKOK, 19 September 2014: The British Embassy in Bangkok issued a statement on behalf of the UK warning citizens to exercise caution while travelling in Thailand after two British tourists were murdered on Tao island in Surat Thani on Monday. The embassy noted in the website message that 800,000 British nationals visit Thailand every year. [...] Read more...
BANGKOK, 19 September 2014: The Tourism Authority of Thailand is launching its ‘ASEAN to Thailand’ project with the key objective of enhancing recognition of Thailand as an attractive and fun place to visit in the heart of ASEAN. Media trips are the core feature of the promotion that will be organised this month to key [...] Read more...
FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights
and its member organization in Thailand
 
Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)
 
Joint press release
 
Thailand: Students and academics arrested for organizing democracy talk
 
 
Paris, 19 September 2014: Thailand’s military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) must immediately stop harassing and arbitrarily detaining students and academics who exercise their right to freedom of expression, FIDH and its member organization UCL said today. On 18 September, police in Pathumthani Province, located just north of Bangkok, stopped a panel discussion about democracy and arrested four academics and three students who had organized the event.
 
“Yesterday’s arrest of students and academics is yet another ominous reminder of the military junta’s intolerance for any dissenting voices,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “In light of the ongoing arbitrary arrests and severe restrictions on freedom of expression, the junta’s claim that it respects human rights is a poorly-disguised pretense,” Mr. Lahidji added.
 
Academics Nithi Eeosiwong, Prajak Kongkirati, Janjira Sombatphunsiri, Chaowarit Chaosengrat and students Worrawut Wongsamart, Rattapon Supasopon, and Sorrawit Serivivat were arrested during the presentation of a university-sanctioned event titled “Democracy Classroom: Fall of Foreign Dictators” at the Rangsit campus of the prestigious Thammasat University. The purpose of the event was to discuss the demise of dictatorial regimes around the world. After being arrested, they were taken to the Klong Luang police station where they were interrogated for several hours and denied access to a legal representative. They were all released without being charged.
 
The 18 September arrests follow a similar act of repression earlier in the month. On 2 September, the NCPO forced human rights activists to cancel a panel discussion titled “Access to Justice in Thailand: Currently Unavailable.” Organizers had planned to hold the public event at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in Bangkok to launch a report detailing the human rights situation in Thailand during the first 100 days of military rule. No one was arrested on that occasion.
 
“The NCPO must stop committing human rights violations. Banning public discussions about democracy and human rights goes against Article 4 of the junta-approved interim constitution, which protects all rights and liberties guaranteed by international treaties to which Thailand is a State party,” said UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn.
 
In an attempt to stifle all dissent since seizing power on 22 May 2014, the NCPO has summoned or arbitrarily detained scores of academics, writers, and journalists. According to the Internet Dialogue on Law Reform (iLaw), as of 13 September, military and police had arrested at least 280 people, including 105 in connection with peaceful anti-coup demonstrations.
 
 
 
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The Bangkok Military Court on Thursday sentenced three peaceful anti-coup protesters to six months’ imprisonment and fines of 10,000 baht, but with the jail terms suspended.

Because the three defendants pleaded guilty, the court decided to halve the sentences to three months and a fine of 5,000 baht each and suspended the jail terms for two years. 

Woraphon Vichasut, Nattawut Nuchanarot, and Sumet Virojchaiyan took part in anti-coup protests in late May 2014.

All three were charged for defying martial law which prohibits public assemblies of more than five people. 

Woraphon took part in an anti-coup activity of “eating McDonald's against the coup” at the fast-food restaurant in Bangkok’s shopping district of Ratchaprasong Intersection on 25 May. He was arrested and detained for seven days without charge, the maximum length of detention allowed by martial law. 

 

The soldiers controled the area in fron of Amarin Plaza to suppress the anti-coup protesters in Ratchaprasong

 

Nattawut protested on 31 May in front of a McDonald's restaurant in Pathumwan District, carrying a sign saying “Election Only”. He was also arrested and detained for seven days.

Sumet was found guilty of inciting approximately 100 people in front of the Fortune Town shopping complex on Bangkok’s Rama IX Road to oppose the coup. 

All of them were granted bailed after their seven-day detention before the military court hearing today.

This, however, is not the case for Panmanee Chuchao and Sombat Komaiphan, two other anti-coup defendants, who were tried on Thursday.

On 28 May Panmanee released air from the tyre of a military vehicle at the Victory Monument, and Sombat Komaiphan spray-painted military vehicles.

Besides being charged with defying the junta’s prohibition against protests, the two were also charged with intentionally causing damage to military property and harming military personnel. 

The two confessed that they defied the junta’s order and caused damage to military property. However, they denied harming military officers at the time of their arrest.

The military court scheduled the next witness hearing on 26 November.    

 

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BANGKOK, 18 September 2014: Association of Thai Travel Agents’ member companies handled 1,710,608 international tourists at Suvarnabhumi Airport during January to August, representing a decline of 42.66% from 2,983,139 visits during the same period last year. ATTA released its data, Tuesday, based on fees member agencies pay Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport to provide a meet-and-greet services [...] Read more...
BANGKOK, 18 September 2014: Thailand’s military ruler on Wednesday questioned whether tourists in bikinis are safe in the kingdom, in comments following the murder of two Britons whose battered bodies were found on a Thai island. David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, were found dead on the southern island of Tao island on Monday, [...] Read more...
Exports and tourism have long been key reasons for Thailand’s good economic performance over the last two decades. Exports are down .42% in the first 7 months of the year, but bad tourism numbers are also a worry. TTR Weekly: International tourist arrivals to Thailand posted a decline of 10.66%, January to August, this year, according Read more...
Pavin Chachavalpongpun

Rewriting a history in an intricate business. Nations thrive on extraordinary history. It must be replete with heroism, sacrifices, courage and patriotism. History is employed to reaffirm the longevity of a nation. The longer the life of a nation is, a deeper sense of national belonging it becomes. Given this importance, history is a powerful tool in instigating nationalism. To make a perfect nation, a perfect history is necessary. In the world of nationhood, history tells stories of miracles, achievements and memorable occurrences.

The 23rd prime minister of Thailand being removed from historical textbooks

At the same time, history is a manipulative instrument. Conservative historians may wish to underscores the nation’s impressive tales while burying its embarrassing past moments. A prominent historian Professor Charnvit Kasetsiri, also former rector of Thammasat University, cautioned, “If you know nothing about history, you are one-sided blind. But if you believe in history without any questions, you are totally blind.”

Last week, an article by Thomas Fuller of the New York Times, unveiled the Thai state’s alleged project on rewriting Thai history by deleting from the high-school textbooks Thaksin Shinawatra, the 23rd prime minister of Thailand who had been in power from 2001-2006 until he was overthrown in a military.

So far, education authorities gave conflicting accounts on why details on Thaksin were erased from the Thai historical textbooks. One account was that the Thai political history happened to end only at the government of Chuan Leekpai (1997-2001). Basically, this is the case of the textbooks not being updated. In another account, education authorities admitted not to include Thaksin’s name, but only mentioned the period of political difficulties. Either way, it raises suspicions on the part of the Thai state in purposefully forgetting the Thaksin period, which saw the longest-running elected government in the short political history of the Thai nation.

Forgetting the past represents a trick that cleanses a nation. It is a trick that is designed to hide some inconvenient truths. More importantly, it is a part of adding a layer of legitimacy to the regime of the day. Erasing important figures or political episodes from the pages of history is not an uncommon practice.

The Chinese historical textbooks exclude the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, which killed hundreds, if not thousands, of pro-democracy activists. In comparison, Thai historical books treat with little significance the October 6 massacre of students at Thammasat University in 1976. In both incidents, the remaining of brutal memories only served to bring out the ruthlessness of the despotic regimes of the past. Conservative historians would rather craft a more picturesque history for the people to admire, even if it would leave them in the world of make-believe.

Since Thaksin’s downfall, the former prime minister has continued to cast a long shadow over the present and future of Thai politics. The current coup is a part of eliminating the Thaksin’s influence from the political realm. But Thaksin’s enemies have clearly chosen the wrong approach. Instead of winning back supporters of Thaksin through good policy platforms and via elections, they endorsed a coup as a shortcut to get rid of Thaksin and his proxies from politics.

But the coup will prove to be counterproductive. Thaksin’s supporters see it as yet another attempt to rob them of their electoral rights. Worse, removing Thaksin from the history will also be perceived as removing from their consciousness and recollection their dear prime minister. The forgetful past will not be forgotten. But it will be entrenched even further into some people’s mind.

Falsifying history is just plainly wrong. Loved or hated, Thaksin must earn a place in the Thai history. It is then up to the people to learn from such history, analyzing it, and making their own judgment about some good and bad legacies Thaksin has left behind. Bad history is not necessarily bad. It could provide a lesson for people of later generations. This explains why the European history is full of wars, ethnic animosities, losses of nations, heartless political leaders and mass deaths. Yet, they have made the most out of their bitter past to create an even brighter future for themselves.

For the conservative historians, deleting Thaksin from the people’s memory is much more difficult than they earlier thought. It is even more difficult now, comparing with many decades ago when social media did not exist. Today, people have other channels to learn more about their past without having to rely on a distorted version of history endorsed by the state.

Such alternative histories allow people to check facts, compare events, and give their own critical assessments about past happenings. The state’s manipulation of history will be from this point onwards confined within a new social context. Exploiting national history to create a uniform society will face several challenges. For example, the mysterious “men in black” who were supposedly behind the killing of some state agencies in 2010, have become a controversial topic. A number of people used evidences found on the Internet to question the existence of such men in black. This is how history will be contested from now on.

At the end, Thailand is not North Korea, although the two nations share a myriad of similarities. As an open society, even when it is currently under the military government, Thailand can no longer close down its social space in which differences must be tolerated. History is a larger social space in which national heroes or villains deserved their place.

 

 

Pavin Chachavalpongpun is associate professor at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

 

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Thailand’s ruling military junta is further tightening its grip on the public discourse by heightening its censorship measures, going as far as reportedly implementing widespread surveillance of Thai Internet users. The new measure seeks to crush criticism at the military government and  to crack down on anything that is deemed insulting to the royal institution – also known as lèse majesté. Read more...