Bangkok’s Military Court dismissed a petition questioning its jurisdiction, submitted by Worachet Pakeerut, a prominent law academic and core member of the Nitirat group, who was charged with failing to report to the junta.    

According to Free Thai Legal Aid (FTLA), the Military Court of Bangkok on Monday morning rejected the petition submitted by Worachet.

Nitirat is a progressive law academic group based in the Faculty of Law, Thammasat University, Bangkok. The group has been well known for its courageous stand on the campaign to amend Article 112 of the Criminal Code, known as the lèse majesté law.  

The petition was submitted to the military court in order to allow the Constitutional Court to interpret whether the junta’s Announcements No. 37/2014 and 38/2014 on the jurisdiction of the military courts violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). However, the military court simply dismissed the request.

The court cited its power to rule over the case in accordance with the announcement of the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and the Interim Charter written by the coup-makers, and said that its ruling does not violate the ICCPR because the Interim Charter also gives civil and political rights in parallel with the ICCPR.     

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, another key member of the Nitirat group, posted on his Facebook page that the ruling of the military court breached the principles of the ICCPR which Thailand has an obligation to adhere to as a state party.   

Article 14/1 of the ICCPR states “all persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any charge against him, or his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”

Worachet Pakeerut (third from left) with his lawyer Winyat Chatmontri (second from left) from FTLA, talking to the press in front the military court on 26 January 2015     

Moreover, Article 14/5 adds “Everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction or sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law”.

Sam Zarifi, Asia and Oceania Regional Director of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), earlier told Prachatai in an interview “The military courts really are designed to handle cases of military personnel. International law really does not approve of civilians being tried by military tribunals. The reason for that is simple, because the military tribunal does not always provide the dual process and protection that international law demands.”  

This is the second petition dismissed by the military court that questioned its jurisdiction to try civilians.

Earlier on Friday, the military court dismissed the same petition submitted by Sombat Boonngam-anong (aka nuling), an anti-coup red-shirt activist accused of the same charge.

Worachet was arrested in late June after he flew back to Thailand from Hong Kong and was detained at the Crime Suppression Division and Bangkok Remand Prison for interrogation for two days.

He was summoned twice on May 24 and June 9. On June 10, however, he failed to report to the junta citing health problems. Patcharin Pakeerut, Worachet’s wife, submitted a letter to the military prior to his arrest, saying that Worachet did not intend to flee, and would delay reporting due to his health problems.

The military court has scheduled the witness hearing on 26 May 2015.

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Almost 10,000 people have signed a petition urging the junta not to pass the digital economy bills which will give the state unprecedented powers of mass surveillance and control over communications in the name of national security.

Thai Netizen Network, an advocacy group promoting online privacy and internet freedom, opened an online petition on change.org last week to collect names to halt the legislative process of the digital economy bills, which were approved by the junta’s cabinet earlier this month.

More than 5,000 people signed the petition within 24 hours of the page being created.

The Thai Netizen made the following remarks on the digital economy bills:  

Stop sniffing.  Stop the “Cyber Security Bill” – In order to promote the digital economy, freedom of expression must first be protected.

Recently, several bills related to information and communication technology were proposed. The cabinet has approved in principle ten bills in the series. Three more are in the pipeline.

We, the signatories, are concerned that these 10+3 bills violate the rights and liberties of the people and operators in several ways, monopolize resources and do not promote the digital economy as claimed. They are in fact digital security bills. We have the following remarks:  

  • These bills in fact are not about the digital economy, but national security, and bestow vast powers on the authorities.
  • These bills, which will extensively affect people’s lives and the economy, have not been adequately deliberated by either the people or the state authorities.  In particular, the eight bills which were hastily proposed and approved by the cabinet on 6 January 2015 were not on the meeting agenda. Some state agencies have never seen the bills before.
  • There are at least five draft amendments and brand new bills – the amendment of Computer Crime Act, the Cyber Security, Digital Transactions and Inducement Suppression bills, and the amendment of Criminal Procedure bill – which allow the authorities to search, confiscate, have access to and intercept communications without any check and balance from any credible judicial authority and in some cases, these acts can be conducted without strong evidence. This is a violation of freedom of expression, the right to privacy and the right to personal information, and will affect the confidence of the operators of businesses related to information and communication.
  • The draft amendment of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Technology (NBTC) bill destroys the independence of this regulator and may pave the way for the return of radio frequencies into the hands of the government and the military, as was the case before the enactment of 1997 Constitution. This will destroy the principle that radio frequencies are public resources and will also destroy the mechanism of the free market. The objectives of the fund which now derives from the license fee for radio frequencies will be gravely modified. From a fund for research for the public good – promoting consumer protection, social enterprise, professional ethics, accessibility, and media literacy for people with physical challenges, the elderly and the marginalized – it will become a fund for loans to state authorities and the private sector.  
  • The draft amendment of the NBTC does not tackle the problems of transparency and accountability. The bill will establish another agency which has a rather similar financial and administrative structure.
  • All the bills lack a clear mechanism to protect the rights and liberties of consumers. Moreover, no committee has a quota for representatives on rights. The most obvious case is the committee on the protection of personal information under the Protection of Personal Information bill. The three seats for consumer rights representatives were cut and replaced with two seats for national security representatives. They also share a secretariat with the committee on National Cyber Security. The two agencies’ roles are in conflict. This may lead to conflict of interest and a poor check and balance mechanism.

On Saturday, at a public forum on law reform, Surangkana Wayuparb, the Chief Executive Officer of the Electronic Transaction Development Agency (ETDA), told the media that some of the content of the controversial digital economy bills is in error and that the bills are not national security bills as civil society understood.

“We have to accept that with limited time because of the attempt to finish [drafting the bills] before the election along with many other bills and organic laws to be completed, this might cause mistakes [in the Digital Economy Bills] in some issues,” said Surangkana.

“We admit our mistakes, particularly Article 35 of the Cyber Security Bill (CSB), as our working team had to rush the drafting of all 10 bills so we could enforce them before the next general election,” the Bangkok Post quoted Surangkana as saying.

Article 35 of the CBS states that for the purpose of performing their duties under this Act, officials who have been entrusted in writing by the Secretary shall have the following powers:

  • (1) to issue letters asking questions or requesting a state agency or any person to give testimony, submit an explanation in writing, or submit any account, document, or evidence for the purpose of inspection or obtaining information for the benefit of the execution of this Act;
  • (2) to issue letters requesting state agencies or private agencies to act for the benefit of the NCSC’s performance of its duty;
  • (3) to gain access to information on communications, either by post, telegram, telephone, fax, computer, any tool or instrument for electronic media communication or telecommunications, for the benefit of the operation for the maintenance of Cybersecurity.

Implementation under (3) shall be as specified by rules issued by the Council of Ministers.     

In response to a question whether the junta will monopolize the distribution of the radio frequencies, the ETDA director said “I confirm that the government does not intend to intervene with radio frequencies.”

Maj Gen Pichet Kongsri, a member of one of the eight digital economy working groups led by Deputy Prime Minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, said at the forum in response to many criticisms that the digital economy bills are actually national security bills in disguise. “Currently, as for the ‘national security’ issue that many are concerned about, please interpret this in the wider context which does not imply the national security of the state, but the overall picture of society, politics, economics, and individuals all of which have to be balanced.”

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BANGKOK, 26 January 2015: Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau launched its ASEAN Rising Trade Show campaign to pull more business for exhibitions in five key sectors over the next three years. The five key rising sectors are: automotive; energy; infrastructure; food & agriculture; and health & wellness. It will involve substantial support grants for exhibition […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 26 January 2015: Kasikorn Research Centre estimates an investment in Thailand’s hotel sector will expand by 7.1% to 10.0% representing between THB513 and THB527 billion this year. The centre said the country’s hotel sector would grow this year, despite a decline in European tourists, high competition and the failure of the Russian economy. “Poor […] Read more...
CHIANG RAI, 26 January 2015: A bus accident that injured 16 South Korean tourists at the weekend is another shocking example of the risks of travelling by tour bus in Thailand. Khaosod English language news channel reported, Sunday, that the tour bus carrying tourists from South Korea crashed into an oncoming pick-up truck in Chiang […] Read more...
BANGKOK, 26 January 2015: Thailand’s has tweaked its regulations governing sale times for alcoholic beverages restricting entertainment establishments to just five hours daily. A core regulation that sales of alcohol cannot exceed 10 hours a day remains, but many of the exceptions have been rescinded. The rule that alcohol beverages can now only be sold from […] Read more...

Bangkok’s Military Court dismissed a petition submitted by a prominent red-shirt figure questioning whether the jurisdiction of the military court over civilian cases violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).  

The Military Court of Bangkok on Friday morning ruled to reject the petition submitted by Sombat Boonngam-anong (aka nuling), an anti-coup red-shirt activist accused of defying the junta’s orders and instigating rebellion against the coup-makers in June 2014.

The petition was submitted to the military court in order to allow the Constitutional Court to interpret whether the junta’s Announcements No. 37/2014 and 38/2014 on the jurisdiction of the military courts violate the ICCPR. However, the military court simply dismissed the request.

Sombat is the founder of the Mirror Foundation and a well-known political activist who is the leader of the red-shirt ‘Red Sunday’ group.

He is charged with failing to report to the junta twice, instigating rebellion against the coup-makers under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, and importing computer content related to offences against national security under Article 14 (3) of the Computer Crime Act.    

He was arrested on 5 June 2014 and was brought to unknown locations for detention. He was however later brought to Bangkok Remand Prison during the interrogation period.

After he suggested that the red shirts should stop going out to protest and that he had decided to stop defying the junta and wished instead to cooperate with the NCPO, he was granted bail in July 2014.  

In 2011, Bangkok North Municipal court sentenced Sombat to six months in prison and fined him 6,000 baht with the jail term suspended for leading a demonstration against the emergency decree on Lad Phrao Road in eastern Bangkok, on 21 May 2010, two days after the government’s crackdown on the red shirts at Ratchaprasong.     

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