Demands for rights and freedoms and the end of martial law are getting louder and wider in the rising wave of activities by students, academics, NGOs and local activists over the past two months (see a comprehensive timeline of activities with pictures by Prachatai). Read more...
The military court on Friday made the unprecedented decision to grant bail to a lèse majesté suspect. 
 
The Bangkok military court on Friday at 2 pm granted 400,000 baht bail to a man known by his pen name as Bundit Aneeya, a 73-year-old writer and translator, who was arrested on Wednesday for making a comment during a seminar that allegedly defamed the King. 
 
The bail conditions include that the suspect will stop joining political activity and stop expressing opinion which may instigate the people. 
 
The writer, who has been diagnosed with psychosis, has only one kidney and has to carry a urine drainage bag with him all the time. 
 
The old man had earlier been convicted of lèse majesté with the jail term suspended due to his mental illness. If convicted again, his jail terms will accumulate.
 
The allegedly lèse majesté comment that he made on Wednesday pointed out the general opinion of Thais toward the monarchy.   
 
Bail was guaranteed by Rawee Issaranan, a writer using the pen name Wad Rawee. 
 
In February 2014, the self-taught writer and translator, who has written and translated over 30 books, was found guilty by the Supreme Court under Article 112, the lèse majesté law, for his comments at a seminar and sentenced to four years in jail, but the jail term was suspended for three years. 
 
 
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Khon Kaen student activists arrested for giving three-fingered salute at the head of the junta reported intimidations they received after their release to the United Nations officers in Bangkok. On the occasion, Prachatai also interviewed them on the accusation of being red shirts. 
 
Two representatives of Dao Din group, student activist group based in Khon Kaen University of Thailand’s Northeast, met with personnel of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Bangkok on Thursday to report the intimidations and harassments that the group have faced.
 
The intimidations started after the release of five Dao Din students activists, arrested for the raising three-fingered salute and wearing the t-shirts with the message ‘No coup d’état’ during the speech of Prayuth Chan-ocha, the head of the junta, last week.  
 
According to the group’s Facebook page, the military allegedly visited houses of some members of the group and allegedly attempted to monitor the group’s activities and movements.
 
Prachatai had a chance to interview two members of the group after their meeting with the OHCHR.  
 
Dao Din representatives at the United Nation office in Bangkok
 
How was the meeting with the OHCHR?
 
High ranking personnel of of the OHCHR told us that they realise the situation of human rights in Thailand and the intimidations on rights that happened to us. They confirmed that they will follow our situation closely and promised that they will consult with the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs about our situation. Moreover, they suggest that Dao Din group should submit a report on the intimidations against the Dao Din students activities to the UN.    
 
Is it uncomfortable being accused as redshirt [anti-establishment political camp]?
 
It is alright, we have a firm stance and like to say that those who are against the coup d’état are not only from of the red-shirt camp. They are people who are uncomfortable with the situation from both sides, but for us we do it in the name of the new generation who believe in democracy and we want the society to think beyond the colour coded political divide. One dimension to this is that it makes our activities to solve the problems of the villagers that we have been working with much more difficult because of the pressure from the authority and the colour coded politics, which only obstruct the ideas of the new generation.    
 
How is the relation between Dao Din and the red shirt?
 
In some aspects, such as as election, we are in favour of the election and we campaigned in support for it. When the Constitutional Court ruled that the election was void, we went to the Administrative Court to filed charge against the Office of the Ombudsman’s personnel who filed the case to invalidate the election that they had no power to file such charge. However, our movements are independent and are not under the control of the red-shirt camp. We have our own ways.      
 
Now that the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order proposed the reform agendas and suggested that the participations of the youth and students might be on the table, if you are invited to participate in this, would you join?
 
In principle they don’t go together. They have guns, but we only have empty hands. How can we cooperate for reform. If they really want the reform then they should remove the martial law first.
 
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A Koh Samui court this week denied bail to the two suspects in the high-profile murder case of two British backpackers on Koh Tao in September. The suspects, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, are being held on charges of murdering Hannah Witheridge and David Miller. The court refused a request for bail because the two men are migrant workers from Burma and are accused of major crimes, and are therefore considered a flight risk, according to The Irrawaddy. Read more...

Most evidence indicates that a Japanese cameraman and two other red shirts who died during violence in April-May 2010 were shot by the military.

Bangkok’s Southern Criminal Court on Tuesday started another round of hearings on the deaths of Hiroyuki Muramoto, a Reuters cameraman, and Wasan Phutai and Todsachai Maekngamfa, two anti-establishment red-shirt protesters, who were shot dead during the violent military crackdown on red-shirt protests on 10 April 2010.

According to the testimony given at the hearing by Pol Capt Ariyataj Athisureemas from Plubplachai Police Station, the three deceased and many others were killed by high velocity bullets which were shot from the direction of the military.

He added that from the collection of evidence and witness accounts, the Metropolitan Police have concluded in the investigation report submitted to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the prosecutors that the three died during the military operation on April 10.

Pol Lt Gen Wanlop Prathummuang, one of the commanders of Logistic Office of the Royal Thai Police, who has been assigned by the DSI to investigate the case, testified at the hearing that according to the visual evidence and eye witnesses it can be concluded that Hiroyuki was shot dead in front of Satriwithaya School on Din So Road close to the Democracy Monument, but no evidence or witnesses can pinpoint exactly who killed the three victims.

However, Wanlop stated that according to Paiboon Noipeng, Udon Wannasing, and Pol Sen Sgt Maj Chatree Usaram, three witnesses who were in close proximity to Hiroyuki when he was shot, gunshots were heard and flashes of light from gunfire were seen from the direction of the military when the cameraman was killed.

Paiboon, a red-shirt protester, shown a video with pictures of himself, Hiroyuki, and another victim, Wasan, recorded at the scene, reported that he was approximately three metres away from Hiroyuki when he was killed to confirm his testimony.

Chatree reported that he was about a metre away from Hiroyuki and rushed to help the victim when he was shot. The blood stain on Chatree’s trousers was later confirmed to be Hiroyuki’s blood.

Moreover, five other witnesses, one of which is Pol Lt Col Wipoj Apornrak, an ex-member of the parliament and one of the red-shirt leaders, reported that Wasan and Todsachai were also killed when gunshots from the military side were heard.  

More than 90 people died and over 2000 people were injured during the brutal military crackdown on red-shirt protesters in April-May 2010, authorized by ex-Deputy Prime Minister from the Democrat Party Suthep Thaugsuban and former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Four years after the April-May 2010 crack-down, the Criminal Court has ruled on 30 deaths in a total of 20 cases concerning those killed in the massacre. According to the rulings, 18 out of the 30 people were killed by bullets coming from the military. These include Fabio Polenghi, an Italian photo-journalist, Kunakorn Srisuwan, a 13-year-old child, Pan Kamkong, a red-shirt taxi driver, and many others. However, none of the inquests specified the individual army officers responsible for the deaths.

Bangkok’s Southern Criminal Court will hold another hearing on 28 November to rule on the circumstances of the deaths of the three.    

 

 

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In the immediate aftermath of the military coup of the May 22 earlier this year, there was some early hope by rather optimistic (but ultimately naive) observers that this hostile takeover of powers would be just a "speed bump" or a "slight setback" for Thailand's democracy. The hope was that, as with the previous coup in 2006, powers would be returned to a quasi-civilian government that would organize fresh democratic elections within a year. Read more...
In Part 1, I focused on attitude and how it relates happiness. Life under the Thai junta in 2014 has not been and need not be a hardship, provided you have the right attitude. This second part discusses the dark side of different political thoughts in the happiness regime. Read more...
BANGKOK, 27 November 2014: Kasikorn Research Centre estimates international tourist arrivals to Thailand will reach 25 million visits and generate THB1.167 trillion in revenue by year end. Thailand welcomed 26.7 million visits in 2013, up 19.6% on 2012 when arrivals reached 22.35 million. However, tourism took a dive this year, due to prolonged protests, a […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 27 November 2014: The recently launched Transfer Baggage Terminal (TBT) service at Savarnabhumi International Airport could speed up luggage transfer between flights. The airport opened the new two-storey TBT building, 1 November, with an area 12,550 square metres. The baggage handling terminal is used exclusively for bags transferring between flights and should reduce the connecting […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 27 November 2014: Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health will increase surveillance at all ports in Thailand following an outbreak of the Black Death in Madagascar, Thailand’s National News Bureau reported Wednesday. The Ministry of Public Health has ordered officials in provinces with international ports to sterilize all ships anchoring at Thai ports and fumigate […] Read more...
On Monday, the 'Bangkok Post' ran what was touted as the "first interview" given by former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra since the military coup of May 22, 2014, which ousted her government after nearly six months of anti-government protests and thus a manufactured political deadlock. Read more...
The Appeal Court dismissed charges against 10 high-profile civil society workers, including Jon Ungpakorn, a former Senator and the founder of Prachatai, and Supinya Klangnarong, currently National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commissioner (NBTC), accused of instigating chaos and trespassing on the parliament compound in a 2007 protest against the military government led by Surayud Chulanont.
 
On 12 December 2007, the ten allegedly trespassed onto the grounds of parliament during a rally against the 2007 National Legislative Assembly (NLA), appointed by the 2006 coup makers, 
 
The rally took place because the NLA was rushing to pass several bills on issues such as internal security and the privatization of universities, without public participation.   
 
 
Jon Ungpakorn (center) talks to reporters after the verdict.
 
The Court of First Instance accepted lawsuits against Jon and nine others in December 2010 after prosecutors filed charges against them for trespass, inciting people to break the law, and leading an illegal gathering of ten or more people according to Articles 362, 116/3, and 215 of the Criminal Code.
 
After 51 witnesses testified in the case, the Court of First Instance sentenced six defendants to two years in prison with a 9,000 baht fine. Another four defendants were sentenced to a year of imprisonment with a 9,000 baht fine. However, since all defendants were cooperative during the investigation process and committed the alleged crimes with good intentions, the defendants’ penalties were reduced by one third and the prison terms were suspended for two years.  
 
At around 10:45 am on Wednesday, the Appeal Court, however, dismissed charges against the ten defendants because the defendants did not gather with criminal intent to trespass on the grounds of parliament.
 
The court said none of the defendants gathered to create instability or caused damage to parliament, but committed the alleged crimes because they merely wanted to complain that the 2007 NLA should not rush to issue new laws, but should wait until an elected parliament was formed.
 
The court added that the act is not trespass because this charge can be applied only when the trespasser causes disturbance in a property. However, the defendants only wanted to state the group’s stance against the NLA and no officers asked them to leave. Moreover, no property in parliament was damaged and other functionalities of the parliament were not obstructed. The court added that the ten left peacefully after Pol Maj Gen Aswin Kwanmuang accepted the written complaint from the group.
 
After the court’s ruling, Jon stated that laws which will affect people must be passed only by elected members of parliament.   
 
The ten are: 
  • Sawit Keawwan, the leader of the workers’ union of Thai State Railway
  • Sriwichai Maingam, the leader of Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’s workers’ union
  • Pichit Chaimongkol, former executive committee member of New Politics Party
  • Anirut Kaewsanit, a farmer activist
  • Amnaj Palamee, Deputy Secretary General of the State Enterprise Workers’ Relations Federation 
  • Pairoj Polpetch, a committee member of the Law Reform Commission of Thailand
  • Saree Ongsomwang, Secretary General of the Foundation for Consumers
 
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In the days preceding the six-month anniversary of the latest military coup the three-finger salute made a comeback in Thailand, coinciding with the premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1'. It was a case of life imitating art imitating life. Read more...
Harrison George

For all its faults, Wikipedia has been a godsend to the Thai education system.  Think of the thousands and thousands of term papers and theses that have benefitted from a judicious cut-and-paste job, sometimes on a massive scale, sometimes even with proper attribution. 

In this way, Wikipedia has helped to secure a ready supply of suitably trained academics to serve the plagiarism-friendly educational institutions of the country.

But there are fears that Thai scholarship may be deprived of this invaluable resource and that the internet encyclopaedia may soon be blocked because of repeated blatant violations of the lèse majesté law.  This threat comes from the apparent willingness of the judiciary to see Article 112 as applying to all monarchs, dead or alive.

Last year the Supreme Court ruled that a glancing reference to a lack of personal freedom in the reign of King Rama IV (when slavery still existed) constituted ‘defaming, insulting or expressing ill will towards the king, queen, heir apparent or regent’, i.e. a crime with 3 to 15 as the statutory penalty.  And it didn’t matter that King Rama IV died in 1868, because by extension, this scurrilous comment negatively affected the current monarch.

Those who fondly conjectured that this was a transient fit of the vapours on the bench have had their hopes dashed by the latest prosecution of serial lèse majesté offender Sulak Srivaraksa for wondering aloud if the boy’s own heroics of King Naresuan (1555-1605) as narrated in hyperbolic school textbooks were completely factual. 

So, with the help of an eager Thai student who reads Prachatai to improve his English, I have taken it upon myself to ‘clean up’ the pages of Wikipedia so that Thai students can continue learning in their own distinctive way.  And we’re going to start with King Ekkathat.

Eager Thai student: Ah, the last King of Ayutthaya who braved personal danger to valiantly rouse his subjects to the defence of the capital, despite his, er, …

HG: Yes, I don’t think it would be very nice to specify exactly what he was supposed to have suffered from.  Shall we say ‘medical condition’? 

OK, that’s, er, very subtle. 

And not defamatory.  Everyone has a medical condition, after all.  But, valiant rousings notwithstanding, it was under his watch that Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese.  But perhaps the biggest difficulty is with the way he became King.

He wasn’t just crowned?

Well, after he snitched to his father, who was King, that his elder brother was having it off with one of the royal concubines, the King had his brother bludgeoned to death, removing one obstacle on his route to the throne.  There might be a few lèse majestés to get rid of there, the telling tales, the hanky-panky and the bludgeoning.

Erm, perhaps not.  The elder brother was Front Palace so certainly he may have been expected to become King but there was no ‘heir apparent’ as such in those days.

Ah, ‘heir presumptive’, good one.  So he’s not covered, so no problem.  Then the King skipped Ekkathat and made his younger brother heir.  Royal prerogative.  Nothing wrong with that.

So how did Ekkathat become King and not his brother?

When their father died, the brother did become King. But Ekkathat fomented a civil war, executed his half-brothers and forced his brother to abdicate.

Yes, well, a bit of sibling rivalry is quite normal.  It’s not really defamatory, is it?  Nowhere near as dangerous as claiming some Thais used to be slaves.

So you think we can get away with that?  OK, then there’s this story that he sneaked out of Ayutthaya under the Burmese siege, leaving the nobility to surrender and that was Ayutthaya’s lot.

Ah, yes, but that’s just what some foreigner said.  Foreigners are known to be incapable of understanding Thailand, so the story’s obviously not trustworthy.

So the foreigner may be guilty of posthumous lèse majesté but if Wikipedia couches this in the right way, I think we’re home and dry.

Except for his name.

His name?  Why?

Well the ‘ekka-’ means ‘one’ or ‘single’.

Yes?  And the ‘-that’?

That’s the root for things to do with vision.

Bugger.  This is not going to be easy.  Because it’s not just Thai kings we have to deal with, you know.  The law doesn’t say ‘the Thai King’, just ‘King’.  So we’ll have to do Richard the Third who was just exhumed from a car park.

The nasty one in Shakespeare?

Afraid so.  Then Ivan the Terrible, Vlad the Impaler, Caligula.

Who’s Caligula?

A Roman Emperor.  Off his rocker by all accounts.  Even had his horse made Consul.

Oh, that’s just like …

Comments like that are not at all helpful.


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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