The Thai Military Court sent an anti-junta transgender student activist to face sexual harassment in male prison before releasing her.  

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), on Monday noon, 29 June 2015, the staff judge advocate of the Military court of Bangkok indicted Natchacha Kongudom, a well known transgender anti-junta student activist and Tatchapong Kaedum, her fellow activist.

The two were indicted for breaking the Thai junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s Order No. 3/2015, an order which gives military officers full power to maintain national security, for participating in a gathering to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état in downtown Bangkok on 22 May.

After the indictment, the military court sent the two to Bangkok Remand Prison before granting bail under 10,000 Baht surety to the anti-junta activists and released them.

For Natchacha, however, the court sent her to face sexual harassments in the male compound of Bangkok Remand Prison before the release despite the fact that she has already had a sexual reassignment operation.

Natchacha, an anti-junta student activist, in front of Bangkok’s Military Court on 29 June 2015 (courtesy of TLHR)

Natchacha said that she felt extremely uncomfortable while she had to undergo physical examination in the male prison compound whose staff were all male.

She added that she felt sexually harassed by the prison staffs who performed the examination on her while she was forced to reveal her body during the examination and by other male inmates who verbally harassed her.

Prior to being sent to Bangkok Remand Prison, Natchacha asked the military court to send her to female prison instead because she is a transwoman. However, the court lifted the request, saying that in accordance to the law the suspect is still ‘male’ and there is no law, which stipulates that transwomen are female in Thailand.

According to the Coalition on Democracy and SOGIE Rights (CDSR), the court’s decision is against the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which states that the dignity and rights of LGBT shall be protected under custody.

“In cases which LGBT persons are under detention, the detained must be protected under custody in accordance to their sexual and gender identifications and that in any circumstance transwomen should not face physical examination performed by male prison staffs,” CDSR wrote in it’s statement.

On 24 June, Natchacha was arrested while she was hospitalised by security officers in plainclothes and brought to the Pathumwan Police Station in central Bangkok for interrogation together with the 14 anti-junta student activists, who are now under custody.

In December 2014, two men who were thought to be military officers in plainclothes assigned to follow her threaten her with rape at the human rights event.

 

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A brand new monthly publication has hit the newsstands of Pattaya and promises to be the most informative publication aimed at Tourists that Pattaya has ever seen. To celebrate the launch of the “Buzzin Lifestyle” magazine, Buzzin Media Group, which incorporates Pattaya One, invited over 100 children from the Ban Jing Jai Orphanage onto Pattaya’s […] Read more...
John Draper

The story of embattled human rights activist Sombat Boonngam-anong, aka Nuling or the Polka Dot Editor, is now reaching the international media. Currently being persecuted by the Thai state in what has become an absolute military dictatorship due to General Prayut invoking Section 44 of the Interim Charter, Sombat is facing approximately five charges, including the possibility of lèse majesté (Section 112).

General Prayut himself has hypothesized that Sombat’s latest venture, selling rice, is politically motivated, with the assumption appearing to be that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is funding his venture. An obsession with a plot is characteristic of this government due to its (hopefully unintentional) fascist tendencies, as explained here. However, it should be pointed out that Sombat used to host TV shows on the Peace TV channel, which used to be the UDD Channel, which was connected to Thaksin.

But, how is the concept of selling rice in itself subversive? What Sombat is doing is buying rice direct from farmers, bagging it in a small operation under the Polka Dot brand, and then selling it. What appears to be so rebellious is buying rice at 15,000 baht per ton, as under the Yingluck rice scheme of a guaranteed minimum price, and then running a form of social enterprise which cuts out the middle men, i.e., the rice mills and the bureaucracy (Ministry of Agriculture etc.) and selling direct to customers.

At the same time, bag deliverers are being paid 15 baht per bag above the going wage. The above-market price combined with an above-market delivery per bag payment are the two aspects of the venture which make it a social enterprise, therefore falling into the same category as the Doi Kham brand founded by His Majesty the King, rather than pure capitalism.

Colonel Sansern Keawkamnerd, the NCPO’s spokesman, has suggested Polka Dot Rice buy all the rice from all the farmers and therefore take over the management of the country’s main agricultural product. This appears to be an attempt at ridicule. But, why shouldn’t all Thailand’s rice be sold as a social enterprise using direct-to-customer marketing?

There are two main groups who may be not particularly happy with this idea. The first is the rice millers and silos owners, who have their own associations and have traditionally served as middle men. They are mainly ethnic Sino-Thais who had few opportunities when Thailand was still called Siam to find employment other than in state-mandated occupations, including rice trading. However, there would still be a need for their services – except that instead of the government paying for them to mill and store rice, the farmers’ associations would do it.

The other group which may be unhappy with this idea would be corrupt officials who make money from monitoring, supervising, and adding red tape to each movement and transaction involving the rice. However, is that not one of the problems that the dictatorship is trying to solve?

But, what about the fact that farmers’ associations are not market experts? The answer is for the farmers’ associations to hire domestic and international rice traders who know what they are doing. In other words, the workers hire the management instead of the management hiring the workers.

Gradually, you have a completely new economic model. Traditionally, at the bottom of the food chain are the farmers, the poorest ones being mainly Thai Lao people farming marginal land affected by all sorts of problems such as salination and over-use of pesticides. In this model, supply is dictated by the state. But, if the farmers operate cooperatively and democratically elect the leaders of their farmers associations - which many already do - who then directly buy in experts to manage the interface with buyers ranging from individuals to companies, thereby cutting out the state, you have the basis of economic democracy.

Some may state that this sounds like communism. However, it is not. A communist state would, via a central bureaucracy, dictate supply, manipulate demand and direct by committee all economic operations via a single party. The fact that the Thai state already controls the supply of rice is, in fact, an aspect of socialism - the command economy - which has sometimes been borrowed by forms of authoritarian government, particularly in developing countries. But, Thailand’s economy overall also has a large private sector, which is why it is a hybrid economy. And, introducing economic democracy in one sector will not change Thailand’s model from being a hybrid one overnight.

The role that Sombat has created for himself as a social entrepreneur is along the right lines. However, he is still essentially a manager hiring staff. And, the thinking is too small, which is why Colonel Sansern Keawkamnerd’s suggestion for Sombat to think bigger is, in fact, an excellent one. Obviously, there is no quick fix for Thailand’s rice problems. The agricultural sector poses socio-political and ethnic questions of concern to all Thais. But, the Colonel should advise General Prayut to start the process towards economic democracy via disintermediation – cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy – immediately.

The farmers and their representative associations should then directly hire talented people like Sombat to put together a management team in order to negotiate what bureaucracy remains and create a business plan. Then, the associations’ hired management, now responsible to the associations, who become the Board of Directors, function as an executive. This executive obtains loans from organizations such as the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives and forges business partnerships. Through this process, the farmers’ associations can supervise the milling, storing, marketing and then selling of their rice, potentially via online platforms for mass sales such as alibaba.

Mistakes will be made, managers will be fired, and things will go wrong. So yes, it may need some regulation, and it should definitely involve independent auditing and state insurance against disasters. But at this stage in the game, there is nothing to lose from the military supporting an approach which allows farmers to take control of their own lives and futures.

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Human rights lawyers condemned the Thai police for hasty arrest of the 14 embattled student activists and the unlawful collection of the activists’ mobile phones.

Yaowalak Anupan, the head of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), said at a press conference on Sunday, 28 June, at Thammasat University, that the arrest on Friday was hasty and unprofessional.

The 14 activists, mostly students, were arrested for political gatherings on 22 May, the first anniversary of the 2014 coup d’état in Bangkok and the northeastern province of Khon Kaen.

After the arrest, the investigative officers attempted to interrogate the activists without their lawyers’ presence. Therefore, activists refused to proceed with the investigation and declared that they would only be represented by lawyers, said Kisadang Nutjarat, a lawyer from the TLHR.

Kisadang pointed out that the activists arrested have the right to their preferred lawyers to prevent the authorities from taking advantage of them.

The activists were also arrested without questioning or taking down of fingerprints because the police were in a hurry to take the activists to the military court and to submit a custody petition before midnight of Friday, added Yaowalak.

TLHR also announced that normally the court closes at 4 pm. Therefore, the operation of the military court until midnight just for these arrests raises suspicions of unprofessionalism.

In addition after the arrest of the student activists, from around midnight until 3 am on Saturday, military and police officers attempted to search a car of a TLHR lawyer parked in the military court compound. The lawyer, however, refused to let officers search her car without a warrant, and stood guard at her car all night as the police refused to let her drive away.

On Saturday morning, after the warrant was acquired, a police officer broke the evidence collection protocol as he seized five phones belonging to the activists without proper evidence-sealing procedure while transporting the evidence. He disappeared with them for ten minutes, after which the officer returned and handed the phones over to an evidence collection officer.

Kisadang Nutjarat from the TLHR stated that evidence obtained via unlawful procedures cannot be used in court.

The lawyer added that during those ten minutes, the phones could have easily been tampered with. Moreover, the unwarranted break-in attempt and lawyer intimidation denotes unlawful action, as well as obstruction of justice.

Kisadang also relayed four messages from the activists to the public at the press conference. First, the activists insist that they are political prisoners accused of political wrongdoing. Second, they do not have intentions to request bail, except in the case of a temporary release for immediate medical attention. Third, all 14 activists reject the authority of the military court and will only go to trial in a civil court.

Finally, the activists called for their release, as well as the release of all other political prisoners, without condition.

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The Thai military and police in the northern Thailand summoned and inspected pro-democracy activists, academics, and students to make sure that nothing would happen during the junta’s cabinet meeting in the province.

Between from 23-29 June 2015, the military and police officers in Chiang Mai summoned and inspected at more than 15 activists, academics, writers, students, and others in the province to make sure that no anti-junta activity would take place during the junta’s cabinet meeting on 29-30 June 2015.    

On 23 June, the military officers in Chiang Mai summoned four members of the anti-establishment red shirt group in the province for a talk at Kawela Military Base one of the whom is Pol Sen Sgt Maj Pichit Tamoon, one of the key local red shirt leaders.

At around the same time, police officers from the Special Branch Thai Police (SBP), a police division responsible for national security’s intelligence, came to Chiang Mai University to talk to Somchai Preechasinlapakun, a lecturer of the Faculty of Law of the university, over the junta’s meeting.

The security officers in Chiang Mai participate in the drill to prepare for the junta’s meeting between 29-30 June 2015  

Two police officers in plainclothes also paid a visit to Piphop Udomitthipon, an independent writer and translator, to inspect about his background and activities. The officers mentioned that they were assigned to make sure that there would be no disturbance on the junta’s meeting and warned the writer that he will be visited by security officers again if he does not obey.

During the same week, the officers in plainclothes also visited Nithipong Samrankong, another independent writer in the province, who was summoned for an attitude adjustment after the coup earlier, and another local cultural activist.

On 26 June, military officers summoned two members of the Federation of Northern Farmers (FNF) for a talk.

Rodjareat Wattanapanich, an pro-democracy activist and founder of the Book Republic, a bookshop in Chiang Mai, and Direak Khongngoen, one of the FNF’s key leaders, were also inspected by the security officers last week regardings the junta’s meeting.

In addition, several village chiefs and students from Chiang Mai University were also contacted the the security officers at around the same time as well.  

According to Thairath Online, over 2,000 military, police, and other security officers are assigned to quell any anti-junta activities that might take place in Chiang Mai during the junta’s meeting.

On 25 June, the military and police officers in the province participated in the drill in preparation for the coming up meeting, Thairath reported.

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Yiamyut Sutthichaya
Experts say torture will cause problems for society if people are not aware that it exists and what it will lead to. It is therefore the duty of the media to make society aware of torture. 
 
On Wednesday 24 June, the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), Amnesty International Thailand and the Faculty of Information and Communication Technology of Silpakorn University organized a public forum on Media and Torture Prevention at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), Siam Square, Bangkok. The event was held to celebrate International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June.
 
The four speakers at the forum were Ronnakorn Boonmee of the Faculty of Law, Thammasat University, Ekaluck Lumchomkhae of the Mirror Organization, Panjai Woharndee from the Ministry of Justice and Anusorn Tipayanon from Chiang Mai University.
 
Ronnakorn said that when a person is tortured, it may affect his life and his family. Not are only the victims’ bodies and minds damaged, but the community may exclude them in the belief that those who have been tortured are bad people.
 
The media has the duty to increase social awareness that torture is unacceptable, said Ronnakorn.
 
Sometimes it is the media which legitimizes torture. They selectively present information that exacerbates hatred in society in exchange for ratings or circulation, pointed out Ekaluck.
 
He said that the media should little by little create better understanding within society. They must find ways to attract public attention to torture. The media also should express information from the point of view of both victims and perpetrators in cases of torture and let their audiences think critically about the problems of torture.
 
Anusorn said the media has a duty to create a social impact, to make society realize that torture is not right. Violence and torture are social dynamics. They will consistently grow and reach the point where people do not care whether torture exists in society. 
 
Agreeing with Ekaluck, he said that the media should consistently imbue an anti-torture mind-set in society.
 
Panjai said that torture is actually very close to our daily lives. Torture is firmly established in society so change will take time.
 
The representative from the Ministry of Justice also advised the media to be patient in order to criminalize torture in public attitudes. 
 
Ekaluck said that films should focus on social dimensions to directly create a social impact. Society takes part in the torture process as it socially condemns criminals. 
 
An anti-torture short film was screened at the event. 
 

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On the 29th June, 2015 at 06:40 police in Koh Samui received a report that a fatal shooting had taken place near the Hin Lat Waterfall Bridge at Hin Lat Waterfall Temple. On arrival at the scene the authorities discovered the body of Mr. Chalerm Kampeerapap, a 57 year-old Buddha sculpture maker. The deceased had […]

The post Buddha Sculpture Maker Shot Dead in Hin Lat Waterfall Temple Samui appeared first on Samui Times.

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The Thai police confiscated five mobile phones after a search on a car of a defense lawyer of the 14 embattled anti-junta student activist while the lawyer pointed out that the search was unlawful.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at 3 pm on Saturday Pol Col Suriya Jamnongchok, an investigative officer of Samranraj Police Station in Bangkok searched a car of Sirikan Charoensiri, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), who is one of the defence lawyers of the 14 embattled student activists in front of Bangkok’s Military Court.

The police officer reasoned that the search was for collecting objects that were used for illegal activities as evidence and things that were acquired illegally.

An investigative officer searches Sirikan's car in front of Bangkok's Military Court on 27 June 2015 (Photo from TLHR)

After the search, the officer collected five mobile phones that were found in the lawyer’s car some of which belong to the student activists who are now under detention, including, a tablet, TLHR reported.

The police later brought all the evidences collected from the lawyer’s car to Chanasongkram Police Station.

Prior to the search, Sirikan at around 1 pm came to Samranraj Police Station and filed a complaint under Article 157 of the Thai Criminal Code, malfeasance in office, against the police, pointing out that the officers unlawfully confiscated her car for the search.

The lawyer also pointed out to a police that the investigative officer who searched her car transported the evidences collected to the police station without sealing them, which was against normal searching procedures, and spent about 15 minutes to hand the evidences to the relevant authorities.

While filing the complaint, Sirikan told the police to note down the unprofessional way in which the evidences were handled in the police’s report because the electronic information on the devices confiscated can be easily interfered. However, the police did not accept the complaint.

The police attempted the search Sirikan’s car since 1 am on Saturday, but was not able to because of the lawyer’s objection to allow the search without an official warrant from the court. Later, the officers obtained the warrant from the court at 11 am on Saturday and was able to carry out the search.

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Pro-democracy activists and people from all walks of life gathered at Thammasat University and Bangkok Remand Prison on Sunday to give moral support for 14 embattled anti-junta activists under custody.

At noon on Sunday, many students from Liberal League of Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD), activists, academics and others gathered in front of the Tha Prachan Campus of Thammasat University to attached placards with messages to support the 14 student activists on the campus’ wall.

One of the placards is a message from Kasian Techapeera, a renowned anti-junta political scientist of Thammasat and Chulalongkorn University, which reads ‘I’m proud to be your lecturer’.

Kasian Techapeera's message to support the student activists under custody

Some other placards attached to the campus’ wall read ‘release the 14 student activists unconditionally’, ‘people who are behind this [anti-junta activities] is nobody, but ordinary people who love democracy’, ‘dictatorship will be ruined and democracy will triumph’.

At 8 pm on the same day, around 30 people some of which are activists from Neo-Democracy Group, an anti-junta group, gathered in front of Bangkok Remand Prison, where the student activists are detained and lit up candles to symbolically show support for the student activists.

They also released white balloons to show their moral support and read out a statement to denounce the Thai junta’s measure to arrested the student activists.

The group statement pointed out that despite the fact that all the 14 student activists always made it clear that they would not escape, the Bangkok’s Military Court detained them and denied their lawyer’s objection to the custody order.

The group added that the military court’s decision to detain the student activists was also read at an unusual hour on Friday night, which is not the normal working hours of the court.

A member of the Neo Democracy Group reads out the statement to denounce the Thai  junta's arrest of the student activists

“This sort of behavior [of the authorities] shows that the state officials are abusing the justice system to arrest and prosecute those who have different political stands,” said the group’s statement.    

On Friday night, the Bangkok Military Court granted custody permission to detain 14 student activists who are accused of violating the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 7/2014, which prohibits any political gathering of more than five persons for holding symbolic events to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état on 22 May.

In addition, the 14 are also charged under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, the sedition law, for holding anti-junta political activities. If found guilty they could face up to seven years of imprisonment.

On Saturday, Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, the Thai Army Chief, said that the arrest of the 14 student activists was necessary to prevent further political conflicts and made ambiguous claim that the authorities now know who are behind the anti-junta activities.

The army chief also threatened to use harsh measures against people who support the student activists.  

Seven of the 14 are student activists from the Dao Din Group, a student activist group based in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen. The rest are student activists from Thai Student Centre for Democracy (TSCD) based in Bangkok.

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A huge THANK – YOU to our great supporter Silvana from Switzerland who has collected a great amount of donations in Switzerland to have a specially designed DogRescue-Sidecar built and we also bought a new motorbike. Walter Lehmann who’s been living in Lamai a long time and is a good friend of Silvana has designed […]

The post Dog and Cat Rescue Samui Foundation June update appeared first on Samui Times.

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The Thai police officers attempted to search a car of a lawyer representing the 14 embattled student activists without a search warrant.

At 1 am on Saturday, the interrogation officers from Chanasongkram Police Station in Bangkok attempted to search a car which belongs to Sirikan Charoensiri, a lawyer from Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR) who is one of the defense lawyers of the 14 embattled student activists in front of the Bangkok’s Military Court.

Sirikan Charoensiri negotiates with a police officer in front of the military court at an early hour on 27 June (Photo from Sirikan's facebook profile). 

However, the lawyer refused to let the police officers carry out the search saying that in accordance to the law the officers supposed to present a search warrant before the measure.  

The event happened shortly after the Military Court detained the 14 student activist charged with defying the Thai junta’s political gathering ban and Article 116 of the Criminal Code, a sedition law, for holding anti-junta activities.

Despite Sirikan’s disapproval, the police wanted to bring the car to Chanasongkram Police Station

After a brief negotiation, at 1:20 am, the police told the lawyer that they would not bring the car the the police station and will search the car later on Saturday morning.

The police then attached a piece of paper to the car to guarantee that they would not arbitrarily open it. Sirikan, however, chose to remain cautious and guarded her car until the search.

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Human Rights Watch

(New York, June 27, 2015) – Thai authorities should immediately drop all charges and release unconditionally 14 student activists who peacefully expressed opposition to military rule, Human Rights Watch said today. 

On June 26, 2015 in Bangkok, police and soldiers enforced a military court warrant to arrest 14 students from the Neo-Democracy Movement for sedition and violating the military junta’s ban on public assembly. The students are now held in the Bangkok Remand Prison and the Central Women Correctional Institution for 12 days while awaiting trial in a military court. 


“Thailand’s junta should immediately stop arresting and prosecuting student activists,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “While insisting they aren’t dictators, the Thai generals have used the military courts as a central feature of their crackdown against peaceful criticism and political dissent.” 

On June 24 and 25 authorities arrested Rangsiman Rome, Wasant Sadesit, Songtham Kaewpanphruek, Payu Boonsopon, Apiwat Suntararak, Rattapol Supasophon, Supachai Pookhlongploy, Apisit Sapnapapha, Panupong Sritananuwat, Suvicha Pitungkorn, Pakorn Areekul, Chatupat Boonyapatraksa, Pornchai Yuanyee and Chonticha Chaengreo. The students took part in peaceful rallies calling for an end to military rule under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The army commander-in-chief, Gen. Udomdej Seetabutr, publicly accused the 14 student activists of being backed by anti-government groups and claimed their actions could lead to disturbances and violence. 

If found guilty of sedition under article 116 of the penal code, the harsh provision criminalizing free expression under Thai law, the activists would face up to seven years in prison. In addition, they would face an additional six-month prison term and a fine of up to 10,000 baht (US$312) for breaching the NCPO’s public assembly ban.

These latest arbitrary arrests again demonstrate the military junta’s unwillingness to ease its oppressive rule, Human Rights Watch said. International human rights law, as reflected in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) ratified by Thailand in 1996, protects the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. However, since the May 2014 coup, the junta has banned political gatherings of more than five people. The authorities have arrested at least 80 people for organizing or taking part in such public gatherings. 

The NCPO’s 37th order replaces civilian courts with military tribunals for crimes of national security and sedition, and for lese majeste (offending the monarchy). Individuals who violate the NCPO’s orders are also subject to prosecution in military courts. Hundreds of people, mostly political dissidents and critics of the NCPO, have been sent to trials in military courts since the coup.

International human rights law prohibits governments from using military courts to try civilians when civilian courts are functioning. The use of military courts in Thailand also fails to meet international fair trial standards under the ICCPR. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors state compliance with the ICCPR, has stated in its General Comment on the right to a fair trial that “the trial of civilians in military or special courts may raise serious problems as far as the equitable, impartial and independent administration of justice is concerned.” This is particularly problematic in Thailand where every element of military courts functions within the Defense Ministry’s chain of command.

“With each new arrest, Thailand’s path toward democracy is getting harder to find,” Adams said. “Governments around the world should press the junta to end repression and respect fundamental rights.”

 

Source 

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The Thai Military Court detained 14 embattled students activists accused of violating the Thai junta’s political assembly ban amid a crowd who came to give moral support to the students.  

At 00:20 am on Saturday, the Bangkok’s Military Court granted custody permissions to detain 14 student activists who are accused of violating the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s Order No. 7/2014, which prohibits any political gathering of more than five persons for holding symbolic events to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état on 22 May.

People sing and write banner to give moral support to the 14.

At the court, a defense lawyer of the 14 submitted a request against the custody permissions without success. The 14 will be detained under the first custody period of 12 days with the possibility of the custody permissions being renewed.   

The 13 student activists were brought to Bangkok Remand Prison while the only female student activist of the group, Cholticha Jangrew, was brought to Central Women Correctional Institute in Bangkok.

People light up candles to support the student activists on the night of 26 June 2015 next to the Military Court of Bangkok

Earlier at 5:30 pm on Friday, the police officers arrested the 14 at their safe house, Suan Ngern Mee Ma, Charoen Krung, Bangkok and took them to the Phra Ratchawang Police Station for interrogation.

About 50 people came to give moral support to the group in time of the arrest.

At 00:30 on Saturday, the crowd led by members of Neo Democracy Movement (NDM), an anti-coup group, sang ‘Sang Daw Heng Sattha’ (the light of faith from the stars) and Song of the Commoners, Thai civil movement songs, to encourage the student activists while they were being transported to prisons.

Activists from Neo Democracy Movement Group sang in support of the 14. (left) Natchacha Kongudom, another renown student activist from Thai Student Center for Democracy (TSCD)

Some also held placards and lit up candles to give the embattled student activists moral support.   

Seven of the 14 are student activists from Dao Din Group, a student activist group based in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen. The rest are student activists from Thai Student Center for Democracy (TSCD) based in Bangkok.

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ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
JAKARTA, 26 June 2015 – ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) called on Thai authorities to drop all charges and immediately release students arrested in Bangkok today, adding that the time had come for others in the region to take a stand alongside those fighting for democracy in Thailand.
 
Fourteen students were arrested this evening, according to reports, charged with taking part in a gathering of more than five people—an act outlawed under the National Council for Peace and Order’s (NCPO) order no. 3/2558. The arrests followed their participation in a protest against the ruling military junta, which took place in downtown Bangkok yesterday.
 
“It’s a disgrace. There’s no legitimacy left for a regime that bullies and arrests peaceful students for doing nothing more than standing up for their rights,” said Charles Santiago, APHR Chairperson and a member of parliament in Malaysia.
 
“How can the junta expect the international community to take seriously the idea that it can hold credible elections if people aren’t even allowed to stand next to one another holding signs expressing their political opinion?” Santiago said. “The international community and Thailand’s neighbors can no longer be under the illusion that the junta intends to return the country to democracy anytime soon.”
 
Recent weeks have also witnessed high-profile news conferences forcibly cancelled by the military government, including one on the subject of the Kingdom’s controversial lèse majesté law, which criminalizes all open discussion of the monarchy.
 
“The junta has instituted a series of laws and policies that are increasingly turning Thailand into a country governed by fear and repression, where ordinary citizens are tried in military courts and people can no longer speak their minds,” said Santiago. “This is not something that the rest of ASEAN welcomes.”
 
“Thailand isn’t moving towards reconciliation; it’s moving towards another explosive confrontation,” he added. “ASEAN craves stability, not conflict. Not even the iron fist of Thailand’s infamous military will be able to keep the Thai people suppressed for long. It’s high time this junta stepped aside and allowed for the return of democracy and the institution of basic human rights protections.”
 
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Asaree Thaitrakulpanich
Thailand and Myanmar’s regulations systematically discriminate the rights to movement, health, and culture of the nomadic sea gypsy ethnic Moken people, according to a Human Rights Watch report released this week. 
 
The Moken people are one of the last hunter-gatherer groups in Southeast Asia. Approximately 3,000 Moken live in the Mergui Archipelago off the coast of Myanmar, while 800 live in Thailand, mainly in Ranong and surrounding islands. In the report “Stateless at Sea: The Moken of Myanmar and Thailand,” the HRW said the traditional Moken fishing nomadism is threatened by both Thai and Myanmar governments’ regulations. 
 
The report was launched on 25 June at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT), Bangkok. 
 
The stateless Moken people are restricted from travelling outside of their district, cannot obtain legal work permits, and prevented from becoming citizens by both Thailand and Myanmar. While the Myanmar navy intimidate and harass Moken boats, Thai authorities block Moken citizenship. 
 
Surapong Kongchantuk, chairman of the Human Rights Subcommittee on Ethnic Minorities and the Lawyers Council of Thailand, states that the Thai national verification process for Moken require a Thai citizen to verify their citizenship as a witness. The witness cannot be a Moken with Thai citizenship, thus it is virtually impossible for Moken to gain a national ID card. Furthermore, Surapong says authorities often claim that Moken citizenship is impossible due to their nomadism, although in truth most Moken have settled down in stable communities due to restrictions on their traditional livelihood. 
 
Conservation laws also prevent Moken from their traditional livelihood of fishing, foraging, and building shelter from surrounding natural resources. According to the report, the Surin Islands Marine National Park’s regulations prohibit Moken from chopping wood for huts or their kabang boats and from catching protected animals including  fish, turtles, sea cucumber, and giant clams. 
 
When they cannot maintain their traditional livelihood, Moken have been forced to find other sources of income, and many survive on begging, garbage collecting, or diving for sea animals. Moken divers risk their lives with every dive due to decompression sickness and dynamite fishing bombs. Surapong says “the current society exerts pressure” on the Moken, causing many Moken men to become alcoholics and women to become indebted gamblers. 
 
Moken statelessness makes them vulnerable to land-grabbing by local corporations and businessmen. As such, Moken are often evicted from land they have inhabited for generations. Niran says than on Li Pe Island, 95 per cent of the land is owned by “influential people” who are not only charged with Rohingya human trafficking, but forge illegal land titles to local Moken.On Phi Phi, the so-called tourist paradise, 40 sea gypsy families are crammed into 2 rai of land, where Sunai says the HRW investigation revealed “350 families face eviction from local influential figures” who have filed approximately 100 cases, resulting in 20 arrest warrants. 
 
The Moken have been “violated of their right to culture,” which is tantamount to “a second tsunami wave” that washes over unnoticed, says Niran. “Despite the fact that they have been living in this area longer than the Rattanakosin era itself,” they are still “not allowed to dock their boats” on Thai shores or to access their traditional cemetery grounds. Moken cemeteries are violated by resorts and hotels, and the people are fenced out from performing their cultural ceremonies there. Fifty cemeteries in 5 provinces have been violated, and 70–80% of Moken cannot access their cemeteries. 
 
“They are losing their human dignity and cultural identity,” says Surapong. 
 
Against the rising tide of ultranationalist and authoritarian sentiment that excludes the idea of a multiethnic Thailand, Surapong emphasizes the value of the Moken people. Ethnic minorities’ value must be emphasized in response to such anti-Thai sentiments, such as those expressed by Thai citizens over the Rohingya boat crisis, he says. The Moken, he says are an “irreplaceable, unique treasure of the world.” Having resided on the Western border of Thailand for thousands of years, they have their own unique culture, language, accumulated body of knowledge, and even physical evolutionary characteristics. The Moken possess extraordinary diving abilities, and can dive for tens of minutes and can open their eyes in seawater without hinderance. They also possess valuable knowledge of the sea. Not one Moken died in the 2004 tsunami, since they could predict the disaster. 
 
Surapong pinpoints the root of the problem at the current Constitution as well as “mishandling of state policies.” The current draft omits the issue of cultural rights altogether while extending state protection only to “citizens,” rather than “persons,” therefore putting emphasis on state authority rather than protection of people. “Such regressive thinking is tragic. It’s as if the lyrics of the national anthem, ‘Thai blood and flesh’ are being followed to the letter,” adds Niran. According to him, the 1997 and 2007 constitutions offered more protection of human rights, and this period “enshrined the non-discriminatory approach,” and the National Human Rights Council was free to investigate ethnic minority issues. Those “eighteen years of progressive constitution” however, shook up the current state of ultranationalism, so now they are refusing the previously-fulfilled obligation to protect ethnic minorities. 
 
Surapong also claims the Thai government operates on a false dichotomy regarding national security and human rights--that it is impossible to have one without undermining the other. Therefore human rights issues have been “sacrificed” for ones of national security. 
 
Surapong, however, claims these two issues go hand-in-hand: developed countries often have high standards on both issues. 
 
The current mentality of excluding non-Thai from Constitutional protection is against what Surapong calls the “internationally recognized principle that everyone should have at least a state’s protection upon birth--in other words, a nationality. A state’s obligation is to provide a nationality not only to people residing in its jurisdiction, but also the people nearest to it.” Part of the solution Surapong suggests is that Thailand must recognize Moken as an indigenous group, protect them in the Constitution, and “stipulate that Thailand is a multicultural society. The state should assume that all Moken in Thailand are Thai, and support their traditional livelihood. 
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The police on Friday 5.30pm arrested 14 activists wanted on arrest warrant for anti-junta activities at their safe house, Suan Ngern Mee Ma, Charoen Krung, Bangkok. 
 
The police took them to the Phra Ratchawang Police Station for interrogation. About 50 people came to give the group moral support. 
 
The police is expected to take them to the Bangkok military court and submit custody petition. 
 
The 14 activists are seven members of Dao Din, a student activism group based in Khon Kaen, and seven people accused of violating the junta’s order by assembly of more than five people on 22 May, the first anniversary of the military coup. 
 
The 14 activists, on Wednesday, joined the Neo Democracy Movement (NDM) an anti-coup group, mostly composed of student activists across the country. 
 
People sing and write banner to give moral support to the 14.
 
Rangsiman Rome from Thammasat University (black shirt) is arrested at Suan Ngern Mee Ma.
 
Chatupat Boonpattararaksa from Dao Din (blue shirt) is arrested at Suan Ngern Mee Ma.
Read related stories:
 
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Samui Ex-pats love the taste of British chocolate and luckily for them its available in abundance at the Expat Food Shop however the Cadbury’s Creme eggs are selling fasts and the Iron Bru is flying out the door too so be sure to make a stop at the Expat Food Shop open from 11am until […]

The post It’s official, Samui loves British Chocolate – now available at the Expat food shop appeared first on Samui Times.

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A British man was found hanged at his home in Sakoo earlier today (June 26), police have not yet ruled the incident as suicide. At 7:30am, Tha Chatchai police were called to a house in Sakko where a man had been found hung next to a chicken coop. Upon arrival at the house in Moo […]

The post British man found hanged at his Phuket home appeared first on Samui Times.

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BANGKOK, 26 June 2015: International tourist arrivals to Thailand posted an improvement of 24.72%,  January to May, this year, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ data. Released earlier this week, the ministry’s data showed the country attracted 12,448,641 international visits during the first five months of the year, up from 9,981,581 visits during […] Read more...
Yiamyut Sutthichaya
About 100 people gathered at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument on Thursday when a group of embattled activists from Bangkok and Khon Kaen awaited the arrest by the police and rallied against the military regime, amid tight security. 
 
On 25 June, 11 anti-junta student activists under the newly founded Neo Democracy Movement (NDM) protested against the military dictatorship at the Democracy Monument, Rajdamnoen Avenue, Bangkok.
 
The rally began in the afternoon after the group left Suan Ngern Mee Ma, a place under the care of Sulak Sivaraksa, who hosted them the night before. They took a bus to Thammasat University,  the 14 October Monument and then the Democracy Monument.  
 
From the 14 Octover Monument to the Democracy Monument, the activists were signing while walking, and grabbing each other’s hands, while their supporters cheered and sang along. 
 
At the Democracy Monument, the group members gave a speech, urging people who share the democractic ideology to take part in the movement and called for the military government to resign. They harshly criticized the junta for illigitmately taking away the Thai democracy and the following suppression of rights and freedom. 
 
About 20 police officers maintained law and order at the scene, while many more plainclothes police observed and videotaped the scene. 
 
The NDM revealed its demand: the junta must return Thailand the five principles, namely democracy, human rights, justice, and public participation in governance. A clenched fist has been adopted by the group as the symbolic gesture for the fight against the Thai junta. 
 
The rally ended around 7pm when the group left the venue on a truck to an undisclosed safe house. The truck was closely followed by plainclothes police in motorcycles.
 
Pansak Srithep, an embattled red-shirt pro-drmocracy activist and one of the leading member of the Resistant Citizens, told Prachatai that he joined the protest to give moral support to the young blood. “I admire the things they do. They are young and very brave to stand against the military government,” said the red-shirt taxi driver. “Many people share their feeling, but only few are active.” 
 
Founded on 24 June, the 83rd anniversary of the so-called Siamese Revolution, the NDM comprises activists, mostly students, from across the country, who are against the military dictatorship. The group mainly consists of members of Dao Din, the student activists from Khon Kaen province, and the students activists from the 22 May incident at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC).
 
On 22 May, about 40 people were arrested for an attempt to comemorate the coup at the BACC in Bangkok , while seven Dao Din members were arrested fo showing cloth banner to commemorate the coup at Khon Kaen’s Democracy Monument. Nine people from Bangkok and seven Dao Din members are wanted on arrest warrants for violating the junta order which prohibits the gathering of more than five people. Apart from two activists already acknowledging the charge before the police, the rest have not been arrested. 
 
 
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The whitening phenomenon in Thailand, i.e. the use of cosmetic products to whiten the skin – and now we can include beauty apps that might obviate the use of whitening products, for the online face at least – often seems to beguile the visitor from the West, or at least cause them to smirk at outlandish items such as underarm whitening deodorant. But before we smirk, we might look at our own seemingly strange habits. Read more...
Harrison George

Military claim ‘vicious harassment’, appeal to NHRC

The military junta who have taken total control of Thailand have started to make public complaints of political harassment, claiming that ‘unscrupulous opposition forces’ are mounting relentless attacks that leave them humiliated, frustrated and barely able to administer the country.

It appears that the military see their major enemy as the various student groups who have repeatedly endangered national security by secretly holding placards in public places, forming underground cells of more than 4 people who are discovered demonstrating on the street, and expressing opinions that show a complete disregard for the dignity, sanity and self-satisfaction of the armed forces.

‘We are doing all we can to counter these people, who seem to think they have a right to say how the country should be run,’ said a spokesperson for the coup-makers’ National Council for Peace and Order who requested anonymity for fear of repercussions. 

‘But every time we arrest them or take them away for friendly discussions where we have the guns and they have the handcuffs, it seems to have no effect.  They just do it again.  They say that they simply want the freedom to think for themselves, but we find that hard to believe.  I mean, we in the military never want to do that, why should they?’

While the military have taken pride in strictly following the rules that they themselves make up as they go along, their greatest fear is that one day they will be provoked into drastic retaliation that will rebound on them if the general population turns against them. 

‘Our own opinion polls show that when asked by armed men in uniform, the vast majority of Thais think we are the best government they have ever had,’ said one insider.  ‘But you know opinion polls in Thailand; they never seem to work, just like elections.’

The situation has deteriorated to the point where the military top brass have become convinced that their rights are being routinely violated.  They have asked the NHRC to investigate anyone who threatens their right to tear up the constitution, write their own laws, and get angry when the media ask awkward questions.  The NHRC has reportedly set up a committee to look into this.

In the meantime, the military establishment is doing what it can to minimize the danger.  Instead of tackling minor national problems like the economy, corruption, land rights, the education system and police reform, they have decided to focus on the big issues – the price of lottery tickets, teenagers racing motorbikes and whether Thailand should have casinos.

 

Minister blames ‘miscommunication’ for running red light

Transport Minister ACM Prajin Juntong told police last night that he drove through a red light because of a ‘miscommunication’ with Deputy Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.  According to the Minister, although he knew the light was red, his deputy had told him that no one else would be able see it and so he would not have to stop like other drivers.

ACM Prajin argued that the traffic police had shown no consideration for his manner of driving and should not have compromised his good name.  ‘We have worked hard during the six-month grace period that the police gave us to improve our driving habits.  We formed committees, wrote manuals and re-organized a number of agencies.  But they still hit us with a red light when we are in a hurry to get somewhere.  It’s just not fair.’

The Ministry later issued a statement saying that the incident would not jeopardize Thailand’s standing as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for traffic accidents.

 

Thailand cries foul over early end to World Cup dreams

The Thai women’s football team says that only an arbitrary cut-off point ended Thailand’s progress in the Women’s World Cup in Canada. 

‘The organizers insisted on going by the score after 90 minutes’, complained team manager Nuanphan Lamsam.  ‘But Thailand did much better in an extra period after losing 4-0 to Germany in regulation time.’

‘Many matches go into extra time’, said the manager.  ‘We were very upset to be 4-0 down after 90 minutes, so we carried on after the final whistle, although the Germans didn’t, and we did much better.’ 

The Thai team took a series of penalties at the now unguarded German goal and scored 7 times from 43 attempts until the groundskeepers turned on the sprinklers and chased them off.

According to the Thai captain, this means they should really have been awarded full points for a victory and allowed to continue into the knock-out stages.  But this was refused by FIFA who said that the 90-minute cut-off was the same for all teams. 

A statement from the Football Authority of Thailand said that the treatment of the women’s national team by the World Cup organizers was regrettable and discriminatory.  They offered to open negotiations with the FIFA hierarchy provided the Lamsam family, who were bankrolling the woman’s team, provided sufficient ‘resources’ to make it worth their while.


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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An accomplished directorial debut features two brothers reconnecting in Bangkok following their father’s suicide

Set in Bangkok circa 1997, this moody drama about two brothers trying to cope with their father’s suicide subtly queries the impact of macroeconomics on personal lives.

Elder brother Mutt (soulful Ananda Everingham), who’s been living in New York as a currency trader, shoulders guilt for his own small contribution to his country’s – and consequently his father’s – meltdown, and tries to recover some lost innocence by reconnecting with his ex-girlfriend Sai (Janesuda Parnto), who also has money troubles.

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Thai Lawyers for Human Rights
In pursuance to the invocation of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order no. 7/2557 to ban political gathering and Section 44 of the 2014 Interim Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand which issue the Order of Head of NCPO no. 3/2015 regarding the maintenance of public order and national security as well as the orders to authorize military court to have jurisdiction over cases related to political assembly, the police and military officials have lately exercised their draconian power to hold a person in custody. It has given rise to infringements on the rights to freedom of expression in many instances, particularly the arrest and pressing of criminal charges against a group of students and citizens who were gathered to demonstrate during the first anniversary of the military coup in front of the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre and the Democracy monument in the city of Khon Kaen.
 
The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) deems the activities have been carried out peacefully and unarmed according to the right and liberty every Thai citizen is entitled to as far as the democratic convention in Thailand is concerned. In addition, the right is provided for in Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Thailand is a state party, and which guarantee that “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and that “the right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized”. Even though the officials claimed to have performed their duties according to the law, but the law which restricts people’s rights and liberty has to be exercised proportionately and properly in a democratic society. Since it appears that the laws have essentially led to breaches of the right to public assembly, it is not justified for the state to claim that the arrest and prosecution against the persons based on such charges have been carried out according to human rights principles and justice process. 
 
In addition, it happens that the police officials have apprehended and brought individuals to police station and recorded their personal information and action, even though they had not done anything that could be deemed as an illegal offence. There have been instances that such individuals have been ‘invited’ to the police station and no charges were pressed against them, for example when Mr. Pansak Srithep was brought to the Pathumwan Police Station, or when Mr. Anurak Janetawanit was brought to the same police station today (24 June). Moreover, three other students were nabbed from around the Democracy Monument in Bangkok and arbitrarily brought to the Samran Rat Police Station without committing any apparent illegal offence. Such apprehensions are a breach to procedure as provided for in Article 78 of the Criminal Procedure Code and it was in fact an obvious attempt to stifle freedom of expression.
 
Therefore, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) demands the following;
 
1. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and government officials have to stop behaving in such a way that threatens the exercise of the right to freedom of expression by students and citizens who simply express themselves peacefully and unarmed. 
2. Stop trying civilians in Military Court since the use of such justice system is a breach to the principle of independence and impartiality of the judiciary which in this case is being used as a political tool. 
3. Such intimidation and the misuse of justice process to carry our the arrest and others prosecutions shall not only violate rights and liberties of the people, but they will also not help to restore social justice without which no genuine solutions to the incumbent conflicts can be founded
 
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About 20 police officers, most of them in plainclothes, have been deployed the entrance of a Bangkok safe house of the 11 of 14 student activists, wanted on arrest warrants for protesting.    11 of 14 are those wanted on arrest warrants for c... Read more...
One of the most renowned and liberal universities in Thailand, Thammasat, has stood behind its original decision to not accept its graduate Kath Khangpiboon as a lecturer at Faculty of Social Administration. The rejected appeal comes despite the fact that the Faculty has fully supported Kath, as its alumni and previously an external lecturer. Read more...
Metta Wongwat
Sombat Boonngam-anong, aka Nuling or the Polka Dot Editor, has been all over the news during the past month since he has been forced to take his brand of bagged rice, Polka Dot Rice, off the shelves. 
 
Sales of Sombat’s Polka Dot Rice have been cancelled for violating regulations by not displaying the production and expiration date on the label. Officials will bring Sombat in for further investigation and prosecution at Don Mueang District Court, Government Complex, Building A on 24 June at around 3 pm.
 
The case against Polka Dot Rice is the latest in a long line against Sombat, who now has four major cases against him. On 22 June, he met the public prosecutor over accusations of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lèse majesté law. The public prosecutor’s office has not decided to file the case yet and will investigate further by interrogating six more people.
 
“I’m confident that the cases against me are politically motivated,” states Sombat.
 
 
Sombat is often seen as an artistic freedom fighter who uses symbolism, activities, and light touches of humor to protest. His methods usually appeal most to middle-class supporters. Sombat has had numerous cases against him since 2010, when he led a sit-down protest at Ratchaprasong Intersection to mourn those killed in the 2010 red-shirt protests. 
 
Sombat broke State of Emergency regulations twice during the coup. He organized a “Bare for Life” activity as well as a news-exchange gathering in Khan Na Yao district in northeastern Bangkok. For these gatherings, he was hit with two charges. For the first, Sombat was sentenced to a year in jail, which is still currently suspended. The second case has been dismissed.
 
The cases he has received since the 2014 coup are as follows:
 
The first case is for refusing to report to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) after their summons. This case has just completed the process of trying six witnesses at Taling Chan District Court. Luckily, Sombat has not been called to a military court after his widely-publicized arrest at Chonburi.
 
“The maximum jail term for this offense is two years and a 40,000 baht fine. Luckily, I can fight it in three courts. The story is, I was laying around my house when they summoned me to report to the NCPO. I didn’t go. They got mad and held me captive against my will in a military camp on account of disobeying their orders. I think it’s unfair that I have to follow the orders of someone who’s violated Article 113 of the Criminal Code. The 1997 and 2007 constitutions uphold Article 113, so I had some ground to defend myself. My act of protest is simply not reporting when summoned by a lawbreaker. Not showing up when summoned—that’s my act of civil disobedience.” Sombat said all this in his trademark dazed look.
 
The second case against Sombat is for posting Facebook comments that are alleged to violate Article 116 of the Criminal Code for inciting rebellion and the Computer Crime Act. This case is within the jurisdiction of the military court and is currently under investigation.
 
“I was on Facebook, using it to criticize the junta. I was doing this way before the coup, and didn’t encounter any problems for doing so. It became a problem only after the coup.” 
 
“They accused a lot of my Facebook posts of breaking Article 116 of the Criminal Code, such as the one where I said that citizens could be punished for anything, while the NCPO could get away with anything.” 
 
The third case against Sombat is for breaking the lèse majesté law or Article 112 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crime Act. The accuser is “iPad,” from Roi Et, who filed a complaint against Sombat for posting a parody picture of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) on Facebook that had been sent to him through the Line messaging application. The doctored image is of Suthep Thaugsuban, the PDRC leader, and his wife at a press conference, but with a framed Democrat Party seal in the background instead of photos of the King and Queen. 
 
 
“Around that time, Suthep had declared that the PDRC was independent. I shared the picture forwarded to me through Line on Facebook without adding any further comment. Thaworn Senneam (the then deputy chief of the Democrat Party), was furious. He gave speeches at Ratchadamnoen Avenue about how I was posting outright slander. The police weren’t even going to process the case against me because it wasn’t even related to the [royal] institution; it was just a parody picture of the PDRC. The police closed this case even before it began. Later, when I got hit with the case for disobeying the NCPO summons, this case was dug up, so I got hit with breaking the lèse majesté law. As of now, that parody picture is still on Pantip (online forums). Fortunately, though, I was granted bail after the EU held a press conference on political prisoners.”
 
“If I get hit with the maximum sentences on all of these cases, I’d die in prison.” 
 
How did you come to start selling Polka Dot Rice? 
 
“At that time, the NCPO had just frozen my bank accounts, so I could not work. I was the president of four foundations, and I had to quit all of them. I was hosting TV shows on the Peace TV channel, which used to be the UDD Channel, as well as Channel 11 news programmes before having to quit. I tried to transfer jobs and host programmes on Peace TV. I thought I would get to work at least five days, but it only lasted one day when the junta shut Peace TV down. I thought I would find some extra income by selling watches. After a while, I started selling Polka Dot Rice as well.”
 
“I wanted to start a social enterprise business, a kind of business that would benefit the community. The idea behind Polka Dot Rice was that a kwian of rice [200 litres] is 15,000 baht, so what should an appropriate price be for just putting this rice into packaged bags?” 
 
After you announced that you were going to sell Polka Dot Rice, were you hit with any charges? 
 
“Twenty days after selling rice I started to get harassed. The police came and searched a shop that stocked only 20 bags of my rice. The first time, they just came to talk. The second time, the shop owner started to get scared about these 20 bags, and whether there was anything in them to be worried about. He stopped selling my rice and even shut down his entire shop out of intense fear.”
 
“Next, the police went to the rice mill at Pathum Thani that provides me with rice. The rice mill didn’t even know that they were my provider because my farmer friend is actually the one who sells the rice to me. So, when the police asked the mill operators about Polka Dot Rice, they were completely oblivious. My farmer friend was there, and told me the story later. Then the Ministry of Commerce called the mill to keep asking about providing rice to Polka Dot Rice. Imagine, the Ministry of Commerce getting so worked up about my rice that they called the mill! That’s not all. At the meeting of the Organization of Bagged Rice Businesses, traders discussed Polka Dot Rice, too. They asked everyone whether anyone was providing rice to Polka Dot Rice. They were really searching for whoever they suspected could be my provider.”
 
Sombat, also a clock salesman
 
“Furthermore, the police even searched the house of one of the farmers who sold rice to me. They chose him to search on account of his property having barns and warehouses, therefore having the capacity to store rice. The police wanted to find grounds that Polka Dot Rice was a political project with politically-motivated funding. You can just listen to the tone of Prayut or Col Sansern Keawkamnerd (NCPO spokesman) when they comment on this issue to see that they hypothesize that production of Polka Dot Rice is politically motivated, and that thousands, tens of thousands of bags of rice must exist.”
 
“But try as they might, they can’t find them. They’ve been trying for so long but to no avail, because those bags don’t exist. I produce 200 bags at a time. The only reason Polka Dot Rice is famous is due to the NCPO’s involvement. After Sansern’s comment, orders for my rice shot through the roof, and I couldn’t even keep up production and delivery. There are two people working in production, packing the bought rice into bags. 
 
“They were fiercely disappointed at not being able to find anything, so they filed as many charges against me as they could. The Consumer Protection Act referred to the Committee on Bagged Rice Labels policies to trip me up. They said that my rice didn’t specify on the packaging on how to cook my rice. Bagged rice from a factory must specify cooking instructions on the label, they said. I’m like, sure, cooking rice for Thai people must be so hard. Fine, according to the law I should print this. That’s fine by me. The issue I take, however, is the fact that this law only applies to rice from a factory. Polka Dot Rice does not come from a factory. By law, a production enterprise needs at least seven workers and a 15 horsepower machine to be categorized as a factory. Polka Dot Rice uses only two people as labour. Even the provincial industry inspector came by, inspected, and declared that my production could not be categorized as a factory.” 
 
“Another issue is the Food Act regarding packaging. They’re accusing me on the grounds that the packaging of my rice doesn’t state the production and expiration dates, or something like that. I have discussed with the Food and Drug Administration as well as inspected other bagged rice brands in the supermarket. Some market brands don’t even provide this information on the packaging either.” 
 
Did you intend to act politically through selling rice? What were your intentions with Polka Dot Rice in the beginning? 
 
“I thought about how the previous government allegedly lost money from selling rice at 15,000 baht. I wanted to take apart this equation and put the numbers to the test: if I sold rice from the market price of 15,000 without tax, would I lose money, too? I wanted to try this out in the form of a social enterprise, and to see if I would sell any rice at all. But to be honest, I also really needed work and a source of income.”
 
“I wasn’t really thinking too seriously about the project, to be honest. If my rice sold, then good. If not, then never mind. I was just experimenting in case I struck a profit.”
 
Do you work with a big network of red-shirt farmers?
 
“I work with a group of red-shirt farmers. They think that Polka Dot Rice, first, is built to protect Yingluck and the rice subsidy scheme. I don’t think of it as direct protection. I just wanted to prove the idea that it is possible to buy rice from farmers at a price that is higher than the market price. The market price of rice is set by merchants, not by consumers or farmers. By buying from farmers at a price higher than the market price, I could then prove that the model of the rice market could be changed.”
 
“But my farmers see Polka Dot Rice as absolving Yingluck of the charges of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and the Ministry of Finance, and calling the so-called failure of the rice scheme into question. This is their point of view, though. Personally, I don’t want to absolve Yingluck. I want to be able to sell rice without taxpayers’ money, so I’m not doing the same thing that Yingluck’s administration did.”
 
“Second, the farmers also see Polka Dot Rice as challenging the current junta. This junta does not have an aid organization in place for rice farmers. You can see from Col Sansern Keawkamnerd’s rhetoric and tone regarding my rice. He said that if Polka Dot Rice was so good at selling small amounts of rice, why didn’t we just buy all the rice from all the farmers? His words shows that this junta sees me as a challenger, an opponent.”
 
“To be frank, before Sansern’s PR, I sold 200 bags a day. After he talked publicly about Polka Dot Rice for two straight days, followed by Prayut, my sales jumped to 600 per day. I had more orders than I could keep up with; the maximum number of bags I can produce in one day is 600. Finally, the junta halted my production because they feared I was inciting a farmers’ mob. It seems likely that I will be accused of more cases, too.” 
 
What’s the real reason the junta halted production of Polka Dot Rice?
 
“I would assume that the junta, as the state, thought that they had no other option than to stop my production. If they let me keep producing Polka Dot Rice, then my sales would keep increasing along with my ideological trend. I can see how they really thought they had no other choice.” 
 
“I had the chance to speak to the military officer in charge of me, who made me see that the junta saw my actions differently from how I did. I saw Polka Dot Rice as a way for me to make money as well as express a bit of playfulness. The junta, though, weren’t amused, and soon I wasn’t either. They wanted to find an exit strategy, a solution for both sides. If I thought that selling rice would actually cause pandemonium, then I would be willing to stop selling Polka Dot Rice, too.” 
 
Did you get a lot of profit from Polka Dot Rice? Does the social enterprise business model really work? 
 
“I thought I would get super rich, like the guy who did the Tao Kae seaweed brand (laughs). I was just following the equation I told you about before. I started out by buying 70 kwian of rice in the first month, with a goal of selling just 15. I thought it would be a really slow business. After selling a certain amount though, I got lots of new ideas about the business, such as how I could really enter the mainstream market. I saw many opportunities and I even believed that I could make Polka Dot Rice even more widespread than 7-11 if there was no one standing in my way. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, though.” 
 
Besides the conflicts with the junta, Polka Dot Rice has also run into opposition among Red Shirts.
 
“It really shouldn’t be that way. I’ve never opposed their E-Rice project at all. They created another ethically sound model, just a different one from mine. Polka Dot Rice focuses on the rice market, and has a delivery system in place. People in charge of delivery get extra income from me, more than they get from large rice corporations. They get 25 baht per bag from me, but most rice deliverers get 10 baht per bag. The E-Rice project, on the other hand, uses a deposit system where whoever has an available vehicle delivers the rice. To me, this system seems to have some limitations.”
 
It seems that due to your rice selling, now you’re prevented from doing anything else.
 
“Yes, it’s really difficult to do anything at all. Once, I went to deliver clocks to Ayutthaya. A customer had ordered a big lot of 12 clocks. I drove there to deliver the clocks myself. The Special Branch Police were trailing me. I had made plans to stay over in Ayutthaya for a night, and the police booked the same resort as I did. They were following me, I’m 10,000 per cent sure of it. They probably thought I was going to meet up with some core red-shirt leaders to incite some farmers into rebellion or something, I guess. But of course there was no such meeting. Everyone knew I was going to deliver clocks in Ayutthaya; I even posted a Facebook comment about it.”
 
How are you living your daily life, with all these cases against you and the arrests? 
 
“It’s not a normal life, and one that’s far from being happy or free. I might be in the 1 per cent that insists that we are not living under a democratic system. I have to ponder really hard before doing any simple, everyday thing. For example, my friend invited me to go eat with him at McDonald’s, as a casual hang out. I thought really hard about if I should go. If there were police eating there too, would they accuse me of trying to incite unrest? The other day, I went to True Coffee after delivering clocks at the Government Complex, and was sitting here chatting with a friend. Suddenly a soldier just came up to me and took pictures while we were drinking coffee. I was completely bewildered.” 
 
The story is originally published in Thai on Prachatai and was translated into English by Asaree Thaitrakulpanich
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