An Army unit in northern Thailand filed a police complaint, accusing a businessman of defaming the King on Facebook.
The Chiang Rai Army’s Peace and Order Maintenance Command sent a representative to file the complaint at Chiang Rai Police Station on Tuesday, according to ASTV-Manager Online.
It accused Praphat D., the owner of a travel company based in the province, of defaming the King on a Facebook profile under his name.
In the post, allegedly defaming the King, Praphat shared a headline of a news story which read “[The King] praises 'Thong Dang' not arrogant. Unlike other [humans] who like to be arrogant," and wrote comments shwoing his disatisfaction about the King’s comparison betwen his favorite dog Thong Dang, and "Thai citizen who pay tax," as written by Praphat.
ASTV-Manager said the problematic post attracted several comments, adding that there have earlier been several posts of the same kind but were these not obvious lèse majesté offences.
At press time, the Facebook account was still active.
Community rights groups have urged the junta not to ignore community rights and to reconsider their forest protection policies after nearly 1,800 families, most of them in Thailand’s North and Northeast, have been severely affected.
They also planned to discuss the issue with Gen Dapong Rattanasuwan, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment on Thursday.
The People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move), land reform networks and regional farmers’ federations nationwide met in Bangkok on Wednesday to press the junta to reconsider the impact of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) policy on the reclamation and restoration of protected areas nationwide. The policy was announced in NCPO Orders 64/2014 and 66/2014, issued in June.
The group also expressed concerns about the lack of community rights in the framework of the draft constitution, while the two previous constitutions acknowledged these rights.
“We want to make it clear that together with our brothers and sisters from the four regions of Thailand, there must be a reform of the natural resource policy and Orders 64/2014 and 66/2014,” said Laothai Nimnuan, a representative of the Land Reform Group from Isan, Thailand’s northeast.
People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move), land reform networks and regional farmers’ federations nationwide meets at October 14 Memorial Meeting Hall in Bangkok on Wednesday to discuss the impact of the junta's policy to return the forest. The banner at the center reads, "Stop! killing and intimidating communities with forest protection policy. Human rights must be in every constitution".
While Order 64/2014 stated that the encroachers into protected areas shall be punished according to the law, Order 66/2014 stated that the poor and settlers who have lived in areas overlapping with protected areas before the policies were announced would not be affected.
Although the junta has said that the Orders would target investors and large-scale land encroachers, the reality differs starkly from the junta’s rhetoric.
According to Prayong Doklamyai, general adviser of P-Move, since June about 500 people have faced charges for encroaching into protected areas and nearly 1,800 families, most of which are in Thailand’s Northeast and the North are affected. Of this number, about 80 percent are the poor.
Laothai said that in the past six months 103 people from 20 provinces in Isan have been accused of land encroachment and many poor farmers go in fear of becoming landless.
“The imposition of martial law is adding to the abuse of community rights and the poor, which will become more severe,” said Laothai.Read more...
An ex-lèse majesté suspect charged with disobeying a junta order pleaded guilty to failing to report to the junta in June, despite the fact that he had earlier been arrested by the junta.
Nut S., an anti-coup activist accused of defying the coup order which summoned him to report to the coup-makers in June, pleaded guilty during the trial at the military court in Bangkok on Wednesday morning.
Nut was arrested and detained by the military from 7-14 June. However, on 28 June, he was arrested again and brought to the Crime Suppression Division on a charge on defying junta orders.
He was charged with disobeying Order No. 5/2014, which summoned him to report to the junta in late May.
If found guilty Nut could be imprisoned up to two years and fined up to 40,000 baht.
After he pleaded guilty, the court scheduled sentencing for 22 January 2015.
During a preliminary hearing on 2 September, the court stated that the case was not serious and that the police and defendant could request the military to have the case dropped. The prosecutor, however, asked the court to give him a harsh sentence.
In 2009, Nut was charged with lèse majesté and under Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act for sending three lèse majesté video clips to Emilio Esteban, whom the police identified as an Englishman residing in Spain. Esteban ran the now-defunct ‘Stop Lèse Majesté’ blog.
The court sentenced him to nine years in prison, three years for each lèse majesté count. However, he pleaded guilty and the prison term was reduced to four years and six months with the jail term suspended.
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Weeks of rumour and speculation were partly confirmed this week with an announcement by the Foundation for Community Educational Media, the organization which produces Prachatai, which acknowledges the resignation of Harrison George from his position as columnist. All titles and honours attached to this position have also been withdrawn, such as ‘Advisor on Satire’, ‘Sarcastic Sod’ and ‘Perpetrator of Impenetrable Muddled Prose’ (the much sought-after PIMP decoration.)
While it had been known for some time that George and the staff of Prachatai had been estranged, appearing together only at formal online occasions, the announcement seems to be the first step towards a formal separation. The statement however failed to clarify the position of the ‘Alien Thoughts’ column, which now risks being abandoned as an orphan.
The first signs of trouble at the online newspaper came with a slew of charges laid against persons thought to be related to George, including abuse of syntax, illegally soliciting online ‘likes’ and mis-spelling. Most importantly, the charge of plagiarism was included, meaning that the cases would automatically be heard before a military court.
It was the notorious plagiarism law that prevented any public discussion of the case within Thailand, leading to the ironic situation where readers outside the country were better informed than those in Thailand, who had to rely on gossip, hearsay and innuendo.
It was claimed that there was substantial evidence to back up the charges. Sentences full of dangling participles, gerundives and conditional clauses with a value running into millions of baht were reportedly found in half-written columns. But very little of this evidence has been put on public display other than a number of archaic structures whose value is not obvious.
These charges were followed by an order by editor Chuwat Rerksirisuk to cancel the George pen name. Chuwat, whose past behaviour some have described as erratic, seems to have lost interest recently in George’s work.
‘Chuwat probably only just started to understand what George was writing about,’ said one Prachatai staffer on condition of anonymity. ‘It took him years to get this far, but as soon as he started reading the column, even if he had to follow the lines with his finger and look up every other word in the dictionary, it was only a matter of time before George was on the way out.’
Persistent rumours say that Chuwat has a new columnist ready to be published who has already produced a successor to the ‘Alien Thoughts’ column. The name of the new column has not been made public.
Since the Foundation’s letter, a widespread purge of George associates and acolytes has been underway, with promises of more arrests to come. In most cases, formal accusations of plagiarism were included on the charge sheet.
In one case, someone with the same pen name as George was accused of furnishing a letter to excuse a relative from the need to declare his assets on the grounds that he was not a political writer. This was in fact not true and attracted a charge of plagiarism on the grounds that it is the same excuse already used by the National Reform Council.
In another case, the wife of a George associate was accused of selling overpriced vocabulary to Prachatai reporters by using plagiarized threatening letters to scare off competing suppliers. Some observers question how Prachatai staff could have been fooled into buying adjectives at more than twice the market price and common nouns at 90 baht a kilo.
Rumours that George had been given a ‘golden handshake’ from Foundation funds were widely discredited by anti-plagiarism commentators. They pointed out that the Foundation did not receive grants for this purpose and, while its structure and operations may be shrouded in secrecy, its assets can be used only for educating the community on media issues, not paying off superannuated hacks.
A statement by the Foundation Managing Director later confirmed that a copy of a leaked bank transfer slip showing a substantial two-digit payment to George was in fact authentic. Although the exact amount was not disclosed, it is thought that the sum will be sufficient to keep George in the poverty to which he has become accustomed since he started to write for Prachatai.
The affair has had wide repercussions in Thai society and is even thought to have affected the stock market, with share prices plunging over the past week on rumours that this could presage major changes in the country. NCPO leader and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha was even asked to make a decisive and well-informed comment.
‘What rumour?’ he is reported to have said. ‘I don’t know what it’s about.’
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).
Jom Petpradab, a self-exiled journalist, who was accused of spreading the rumour about the Thai King’s health which caused the Thai stock market to plunge, revealed that the rumour may have come from his report citing an anonymous source in the palace.
Jom said in a statement released on Wednesday that he was very upset and worried with the allegation from the junta that he spread the rumour which caused the biggest single-day loss in six years at the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).
On Tuesday, Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, Army and government spokesman, said the rumour about the King’s health was spread by Jom, who is now living in self-exile in the US after he was summoned by the military junta.
Jom said the troublesome story entitled “The inside story of the divorce between the Crown Prince and Mom Srirasmi,” published on Thai Voice Media website on 13 December, was initiated because he noticed that most of the public have sympathy for the former royal consort, so he intended to correct popular misunderstanding about the divorce.
“I did talk with high level sources in the palace. I presented the story because it will give the people a correct understanding about facts that happened in the royal family, which have been of great interest to the public. Moreover, it will give the people a better understanding about the Crown Prince,” stated the veteran journalist.
Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn recently divorced his royal consort, Srirasmi, after a series of the arrests of Srirasmi’s siblings and relatives for claiming his name in corruption cases and other crimes.
The report allegedly cited an anonymous source in the palace who said that this was done in preparation for the succession.
“The Thai monarchy has been constructed to be the heart of Thai people and is the centre of Thainess. It is challenged by the new culture of society which stresses questioning, checks and balance, and criticism. This is inevitable,” said Jom, adding that as a journalist he could not avoid reporting the issue, but he did so with good intentions for the sustainability and stability of the monarchy.
Jom is a former TV journalist and programme host at ITV and later NBT. After the coup in 2006, he caused an uproar among pro-establishment Thais when he flew to Hong Kong to interview controversial former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. After the uproar from the anti-Thaksin camp, the programme was cancelled. Again in 2009, after his live interview with the former Prime Minister, he was pressured to resign from hosting the programme.
In 2014, after he was summoned by the military junta, he fled Thailand to live in the US where he founded Thaivoicemedia.com, a web-based Thai media outlet in exile, which has been blocked by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.Read more...
The military ordered six rubber farmers to be detained in a military camp for ‘attitude adjustment’ after they campaigned for a rubber price subsidy.
According to the Post Today Online, Maj Gen Kueakun Innachak, Surat Thani Army Chief, summoned Pairot Ruekdi, coordinator of the Rubber Farmers’ Federation of Bang Song Sub-district of Wiang Sa District in the southern province of Surat Thani, and five other leading members to report to a military camp on Tuesday.
Earlier, Pairot and the five urged the junta to intervene in the price of raw rubber sheets.
He urged the government to buy rubber sheets at 80 baht (about 2.5 USD) per kilogramme, while the current price is 51.25 baht (1.6 USD) per kilogramme.
After a three-hour discussion with the military, military personnel declared that they understood the intention of the group and that the group campaign for the rubber farmers was not illegal under martial law. However, the military has decided to send them to an ‘attitude adjustment’ camp.
Nonetheless, Pairot, who is a lawyer, and the other five, who are members of the municipal council, said that they were not available and negotiated a postponement of their participation at the ‘attitude adjustment camp’ until February 2015.
At the meeting the group also submitted a petition with the following recommendations to the junta:
- The movement of rubber farmers is to press the government to prioritize boosting the falling price of raw rubber sheets;
- The direct solution is to provide a satisfactory subsidized price for rubber farmers and the government should not make claims about the global market price;
- The rubber farmer movement is well-intentioned and for the interest of the public.
Pairot added that the group also submitted a complaint to Prayut Chan-o-cha, the head of the junta, on the abuses of middlemen.
After the activities of rubber farmers in recent weeks, Supawachara Sakda, Deputy Governor of Surat Thani Province, called a meeting with the Provincial Office of Agriculture and Cooperatives to give out state loans to small and medium size rubber farm operators.
The state loan programme is a part of the national programme planned by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives. It aims to assist about 100,000 rubber farmers by giving out low-interest loans.Read more...