Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
On 19 and 20 November, student and other activists carried out a series of peaceful, symbolic protests against the dictatorship in Thailand. In response, the military and police acted to swiftly end the protests and arrest eight of the activists under the terms of martial law. The position of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was summed up by deputy prime minister General Prawit Wongsuwan in a statement widely reported in the Thai press on 20 November that, " can think differently, but do not express it." In each of these cases, described below by the Asian Human Rights Commission drawing on reporting carried out by Prachatai, the military has attempted to intimidate student and other activists into promising to cease their expressing their opinions and engaging in political activities. As the six-month anniversaries of the declaration of martial law (20 November) and the coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (22 November) pass in Thailand, the junta has extended and consolidated its repressive apparatus.
 
On the morning of Wednesday, 19 November, a group of five students (Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Wason Sedsit, Jedsarit Namkot, Payu Boonsopon, and Wichakorn Anuchon) from the Human Rights Law Centre for Society (Dao Din) at Khon Kaen University engaged in a peaceful protest against the coup during a speech to local civil servants by junta leader and appointed prime minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha. Both before and subsequent to the coup, the members of Dao Din have actively worked to support and protect human rights and community rights in relation to various issues, including mining and land reform. Several members of the group were detained in June shortly after the coup and pressured to stop their activities. During the recent protest, they donned t- shirts which, when assembled in a line, spelled out, "No to the coup" in Thai (ไม่เอารัฐประหาร) and walked in front of the stage when General Prayuth was speaking. They raised their fingers in the three-finger salute of 'liberty-equality-fraternity' made popular by TheHunger Games films. They were swiftly arrested by police and first taken to the local police station and then to Sri Patcharin military camp to be interrogated. The military asked the students to remove their shirts and when they refused, the military forcibly removed their t-shirts. When the students were released on Wednesday evening, they walked out of the military camp without shirts or jackets. They and their parents were ordered to return to the military camp the next morning. On the morning of Thursday, 20 November, the students and their parents reported to the military camp where both parties were threatened that if the students did not sign an agreement to cease political activities, they were subject to expulsion from the university and proceedings in military court for the violation of martial law. Several of the students agreed to the conditions and several did not. Following the meeting, they were released and there were several reports of unmarked vehicles driving by their homes and other forms of harassment.
 
Then, also on the morning of 20 November, the military and police arrested several student activists in relation to screenings of the film The Hunger Games. During the morning, Rattapol Supasopol, a member of the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy, and Champ, a student activist arrested in June when he symbolically protested by eating a sandwich and reaching the novel 1984 in public, were arrested by the police at the Scala movie theatre in Siam Square. At the time of their arrest, they had not engaged in any overt protest, but were simply present prior to a screening of the film where a peaceful protest was planned. The screening at Scala was cancelled and the two students were later released. On the afternoon of 20 November, Natcha Kong-udom, a student at Bangkok University, was arrested when she raised three fingers in protest in front of reporters who had gathered in front of the movie theatre at Siam Paragon shopping center. She was arrested and detained by the military until the evening before she was released. The screening of the film at Siam Paragon continued, but was accompanied by a heavy military and police presence.
 
Further, on the early evening of 20 November, Siriporn Kongpetch, a trainer with the
 
Youth Development for the Transformation of Society Project of the Thai Volunteer Service (TVS), was arrested and detained by the police in Chiang Dao district of Chiang Mai province. Her car was searched by soldiers and police, her ID was seized and she was taken to the local police station No accusation was made against her, but she was arrested because photographs of her holding signs that said, "Repeal martial law" and "No to the NCPO" at Chiang Dao mountain had been posted on Facebook several days prior. The officials informed her that they had been looking for her since the photographs had been distributed. They tried to convince her to sign an agreement to refrain from engaging in any political movement, but she refused and maintained her right to express her opinion.
 
The Asian Human Rights Commission notes that these eight individuals have been arrested and detained solely as a result of expressing their opinions about the coup. This indicates that nearly six months after the coup, to think differently than the NCPO is being treated as a de facto crime. As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Government of Thailand has a responsibility to protect the rights as prescribed by Article 19 of the ICCPR, which notes that, "1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. 2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. 3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals." The demand for the eight persons to cease expressing their opinions and engaging in political activities is a clear violation of Article 19.
 
In recent weeks, the military authorities have also summoned activists and human rights defenders (AHRC-STM-197-2014), prevented a walk to raise awareness about land reform in Chiang Mai (AHRC-STM-196-2014), and intimidated lawyers working to support human rights. Over the past six months since the coup by the NCPO, human rights defenders and dissidents who peacefully protest, or who express any criticism, have been targeted by the junta. Combined with the extensive powers granted to the junta under martial law and the temporary constitution, these actions have created an atmosphere of fear that is detrimental to human rights and the rule of law.
 
The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the coup and the disappearance of rights and liberties in Thailand in the strongest terms possible. While the AHRC welcomes the release of the activists who have expressed their dissenting options, they should not have been arrested in the first place. They are citizens who were expressing their opinion peacefully and are a danger to no one. To think differently than the junta is not a crime. To express one's opinion is not a crime. The AHRC calls on the NCPO to cease arresting and detaining those who do so and return to civilian rule immediately.
 
Read more...
BANGKOK, 24 November 2014: A 67% surge in arrivals from China helped Thailand record an overall growth of 6.14% in visits in October, the first month of positive growth this year. Tourist arrivals reached 2,180,601 in October including 501,043 trips from China, giving it a market share of 23%. The upturn raised arrivals in January […] Read more...
The military in Chiang Mai threatened two anti-coup protesters who gave the three-fingered salute in Chiang Mai city, warning that the military will ‘visit’ them at their homes if they do not stop their political activity. Earlier an editor was detained for flashing the anti-coup symbol in the same incident. 
 
Damnai Prathanang, a 40-year-old writer, and Sinapan Kerdsanong, a 31-year-old hotel employee, reported themselves at the Chiang Mai Kawila Military camp at 9 am on Sunday after the military searched for them, but failed. A lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights accompanied the two during the interrogation at the military camp and police station.
 
 
\
(From left) Nitipong Samrankong, Sinapan Kerdsanong, and Damnai Prathanang gavethe anti-coup three-fingered salute at Thapae Gate, Chiang Mai.
.
On Friday, the military arrested Nitipong Samrankong, a writer and editor of Burakamin Publishing House. He was released after he signed the military-drafted document. 
 
Sinapan, Damnai and Nitipong posted a photo of themselves giving the three-fingered salute at Thapae Gate, in Chiang Mai city on Facebook on Thursday night.
 
At the military camp, the military officer who oversees information asked for their personal information, why they gave the salute, their past political activities, and what they want the military to fix. 
 
The two answered that they gave the anti-coup symbol to give moral support to the five Khon Kaen student activists, detained for giving the same salute to the junta leader on Wednesday, and proposed to the military that martial law should be lifted. They also said that the right to give the salute is guaranteed under the democratic system. 
 
Col Phoka Jokloi, the interrogator, told them that they should be patient and be open-minded about the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). If they have any problem, they should send a letter to the Damrongtham Centre, under the Interior Ministry. 
 
The military added that the martial law cannot be revoked since the anti-coup movement continues. 
 
The colonel added that if the two do not stop their political activity, they will be prosecuted in the military court and that there will be military officers visiting them at home. 
 
After interrogation at the camp, the two were taken to Chiang Mai Police Station where they were forced to sign the military-drafted agreement. 
 
The police wrote on the police daily ledger that the two gave the anti-coup symbol because they were impetuous.
Read more...
International Commission of Jurists
Thailand must end immediately the prosecution of civilians in military tribunals and transfer all remaining cases to the civilian courts, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today.
 
On 18 November 2014, the Bangkok Military Tribunal convicted a political broadcaster, Khathawut B., of lese majeste under article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code and Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act, and sentenced him to five years in jail following a plea of guilty. The court barred observers and the public from the proceedings on the ground that they “concerned matters of national security.”
 
There is no appeal possible under article 61 of the Thai Act for the Organization of the Military Court so long as Thailand remains under Martial Law, which has been in force nationwide since May 22.
 
“Under international standards, civilians should not be subject to the jurisdiction of military tribunals, particularly where, like in military-ruled Thailand, military tribunals lack the institutional independence from the executive required by international law regarding fair trials. Thus, civilians convicted before such tribunals should have the right to a new trial before a civilian court,” said Wilder Tayler, Secretary General of the ICJ. “This case also highlights another very serious problem with the state of human rights in Thailand: Thailand’s misuse of criminal defamation laws to imprison people exercising their right to freedom of expression.
 
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) extended the jurisdiction of military tribunals over civilians after it took power by a coup d’etat and imposed Martial Law throughout Thailand. Prior to this, civilians had not been subject to military jurisdiction in Thailand for crimes not directly involving the military for decades, including during the state of emergency in place in southern Thailand since 2004.
 
Among crimes now within the jurisdiction of military tribunals in Thailand is lese majeste - criminalizing the making of statements that could be construed as defaming or insulting the Thai Monarchy. Such broad restrictions violate the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party.
 
Since the coup, at least 69 civilians have faced prosecution before military tribunals in Thailand on charges ranging from breaching NCPO orders, to planning a terrorist act and lese majeste.
 
Under article 14 of the ICCPR, everyone has the right to a “fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.” The imposition of Martial Law, and the State’s suspension of some of its obligations under the ICCPR, including the right to appeal guaranteed by article 14(5) for cases heard by military tribunals, does not affect the applicability of this provision.
 
“All prosecutions of civilians before military tribunals must be transferred to civilian courts immediately, if Thailand is to comply with its international obligations,” said Tayler. “There is absolutely no excuse or justification for the use of military tribunals to prosecute civilians in Thailand, and especially not for simply exercising the right to freedom of expression.”
 
The Draft Principles Governing the Administration of Justice through Military Tribunals, set out principles that apply to state use of military tribunals.
 
Principle 5 states “Military courts should, in principle, have no jurisdiction to try civilians. In all circumstances, the State shall ensure that civilians accused of a criminal offence of any nature are tried by civilian courts.”
 
Further, Principle 2 states “Military tribunals must in all circumstances apply standards and procedures internationally recognized as guarantees of a fair trial.” Military tribunals must in all circumstances respect the principles of international law relating to a fair trial, even in times of crisis.
 
Read more...