BANGKOK, 19 September 2014: The British Embassy in Bangkok issued a statement on behalf of the UK warning citizens to exercise caution while travelling in Thailand after two British tourists were murdered on Tao island in Surat Thani on Monday. The embassy noted in the website message that 800,000 British nationals visit Thailand every year. [...] Read more...
BANGKOK, 19 September 2014: The Tourism Authority of Thailand is launching its ‘ASEAN to Thailand’ project with the key objective of enhancing recognition of Thailand as an attractive and fun place to visit in the heart of ASEAN. Media trips are the core feature of the promotion that will be organised this month to key [...] Read more...
FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights
and its member organization in Thailand
Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)
Joint press release
Thailand: Students and academics arrested for organizing democracy talk
Paris, 19 September 2014: Thailand’s military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) must immediately stop harassing and arbitrarily detaining students and academics who exercise their right to freedom of expression, FIDH and its member organization UCL said today. On 18 September, police in Pathumthani Province, located just north of Bangkok, stopped a panel discussion about democracy and arrested four academics and three students who had organized the event.
“Yesterday’s arrest of students and academics is yet another ominous reminder of the military junta’s intolerance for any dissenting voices,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “In light of the ongoing arbitrary arrests and severe restrictions on freedom of expression, the junta’s claim that it respects human rights is a poorly-disguised pretense,” Mr. Lahidji added.
Academics Nithi Eeosiwong, Prajak Kongkirati, Janjira Sombatphunsiri, Chaowarit Chaosengrat and students Worrawut Wongsamart, Rattapon Supasopon, and Sorrawit Serivivat were arrested during the presentation of a university-sanctioned event titled “Democracy Classroom: Fall of Foreign Dictators” at the Rangsit campus of the prestigious Thammasat University. The purpose of the event was to discuss the demise of dictatorial regimes around the world. After being arrested, they were taken to the Klong Luang police station where they were interrogated for several hours and denied access to a legal representative. They were all released without being charged.
The 18 September arrests follow a similar act of repression earlier in the month. On 2 September, the NCPO forced human rights activists to cancel a panel discussion titled “Access to Justice in Thailand: Currently Unavailable.” Organizers had planned to hold the public event at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in Bangkok to launch a report detailing the human rights situation in Thailand during the first 100 days of military rule. No one was arrested on that occasion.
“The NCPO must stop committing human rights violations. Banning public discussions about democracy and human rights goes against Article 4 of the junta-approved interim constitution, which protects all rights and liberties guaranteed by international treaties to which Thailand is a State party,” said UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn.
In an attempt to stifle all dissent since seizing power on 22 May 2014, the NCPO has summoned or arbitrarily detained scores of academics, writers, and journalists. According to the Internet Dialogue on Law Reform (iLaw), as of 13 September, military and police had arrested at least 280 people, including 105 in connection with peaceful anti-coup demonstrations.


The Bangkok Military Court on Thursday sentenced three peaceful anti-coup protesters to six months’ imprisonment and fines of 10,000 baht, but with the jail terms suspended.

Because the three defendants pleaded guilty, the court decided to halve the sentences to three months and a fine of 5,000 baht each and suspended the jail terms for two years. 

Woraphon Vichasut, Nattawut Nuchanarot, and Sumet Virojchaiyan took part in anti-coup protests in late May 2014.

All three were charged for defying martial law which prohibits public assemblies of more than five people. 

Woraphon took part in an anti-coup activity of “eating McDonald's against the coup” at the fast-food restaurant in Bangkok’s shopping district of Ratchaprasong Intersection on 25 May. He was arrested and detained for seven days without charge, the maximum length of detention allowed by martial law. 


The soldiers controled the area in fron of Amarin Plaza to suppress the anti-coup protesters in Ratchaprasong


Nattawut protested on 31 May in front of a McDonald's restaurant in Pathumwan District, carrying a sign saying “Election Only”. He was also arrested and detained for seven days.

Sumet was found guilty of inciting approximately 100 people in front of the Fortune Town shopping complex on Bangkok’s Rama IX Road to oppose the coup. 

All of them were granted bailed after their seven-day detention before the military court hearing today.

This, however, is not the case for Panmanee Chuchao and Sombat Komaiphan, two other anti-coup defendants, who were tried on Thursday.

On 28 May Panmanee released air from the tyre of a military vehicle at the Victory Monument, and Sombat Komaiphan spray-painted military vehicles.

Besides being charged with defying the junta’s prohibition against protests, the two were also charged with intentionally causing damage to military property and harming military personnel. 

The two confessed that they defied the junta’s order and caused damage to military property. However, they denied harming military officers at the time of their arrest.

The military court scheduled the next witness hearing on 26 November.    


BANGKOK, 18 September 2014: Association of Thai Travel Agents’ member companies handled 1,710,608 international tourists at Suvarnabhumi Airport during January to August, representing a decline of 42.66% from 2,983,139 visits during the same period last year. ATTA released its data, Tuesday, based on fees member agencies pay Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport to provide a meet-and-greet services [...] Read more...
BANGKOK, 18 September 2014: Thailand’s military ruler on Wednesday questioned whether tourists in bikinis are safe in the kingdom, in comments following the murder of two Britons whose battered bodies were found on a Thai island. David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, were found dead on the southern island of Tao island on Monday, [...] Read more...
Exports and tourism have long been key reasons for Thailand’s good economic performance over the last two decades. Exports are down .42% in the first 7 months of the year, but bad tourism numbers are also a worry. TTR Weekly: International tourist arrivals to Thailand posted a decline of 10.66%, January to August, this year, according Read more...
Pavin Chachavalpongpun

Rewriting a history in an intricate business. Nations thrive on extraordinary history. It must be replete with heroism, sacrifices, courage and patriotism. History is employed to reaffirm the longevity of a nation. The longer the life of a nation is, a deeper sense of national belonging it becomes. Given this importance, history is a powerful tool in instigating nationalism. To make a perfect nation, a perfect history is necessary. In the world of nationhood, history tells stories of miracles, achievements and memorable occurrences.

The 23rd prime minister of Thailand being removed from historical textbooks

At the same time, history is a manipulative instrument. Conservative historians may wish to underscores the nation’s impressive tales while burying its embarrassing past moments. A prominent historian Professor Charnvit Kasetsiri, also former rector of Thammasat University, cautioned, “If you know nothing about history, you are one-sided blind. But if you believe in history without any questions, you are totally blind.”

Last week, an article by Thomas Fuller of the New York Times, unveiled the Thai state’s alleged project on rewriting Thai history by deleting from the high-school textbooks Thaksin Shinawatra, the 23rd prime minister of Thailand who had been in power from 2001-2006 until he was overthrown in a military.

So far, education authorities gave conflicting accounts on why details on Thaksin were erased from the Thai historical textbooks. One account was that the Thai political history happened to end only at the government of Chuan Leekpai (1997-2001). Basically, this is the case of the textbooks not being updated. In another account, education authorities admitted not to include Thaksin’s name, but only mentioned the period of political difficulties. Either way, it raises suspicions on the part of the Thai state in purposefully forgetting the Thaksin period, which saw the longest-running elected government in the short political history of the Thai nation.

Forgetting the past represents a trick that cleanses a nation. It is a trick that is designed to hide some inconvenient truths. More importantly, it is a part of adding a layer of legitimacy to the regime of the day. Erasing important figures or political episodes from the pages of history is not an uncommon practice.

The Chinese historical textbooks exclude the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, which killed hundreds, if not thousands, of pro-democracy activists. In comparison, Thai historical books treat with little significance the October 6 massacre of students at Thammasat University in 1976. In both incidents, the remaining of brutal memories only served to bring out the ruthlessness of the despotic regimes of the past. Conservative historians would rather craft a more picturesque history for the people to admire, even if it would leave them in the world of make-believe.

Since Thaksin’s downfall, the former prime minister has continued to cast a long shadow over the present and future of Thai politics. The current coup is a part of eliminating the Thaksin’s influence from the political realm. But Thaksin’s enemies have clearly chosen the wrong approach. Instead of winning back supporters of Thaksin through good policy platforms and via elections, they endorsed a coup as a shortcut to get rid of Thaksin and his proxies from politics.

But the coup will prove to be counterproductive. Thaksin’s supporters see it as yet another attempt to rob them of their electoral rights. Worse, removing Thaksin from the history will also be perceived as removing from their consciousness and recollection their dear prime minister. The forgetful past will not be forgotten. But it will be entrenched even further into some people’s mind.

Falsifying history is just plainly wrong. Loved or hated, Thaksin must earn a place in the Thai history. It is then up to the people to learn from such history, analyzing it, and making their own judgment about some good and bad legacies Thaksin has left behind. Bad history is not necessarily bad. It could provide a lesson for people of later generations. This explains why the European history is full of wars, ethnic animosities, losses of nations, heartless political leaders and mass deaths. Yet, they have made the most out of their bitter past to create an even brighter future for themselves.

For the conservative historians, deleting Thaksin from the people’s memory is much more difficult than they earlier thought. It is even more difficult now, comparing with many decades ago when social media did not exist. Today, people have other channels to learn more about their past without having to rely on a distorted version of history endorsed by the state.

Such alternative histories allow people to check facts, compare events, and give their own critical assessments about past happenings. The state’s manipulation of history will be from this point onwards confined within a new social context. Exploiting national history to create a uniform society will face several challenges. For example, the mysterious “men in black” who were supposedly behind the killing of some state agencies in 2010, have become a controversial topic. A number of people used evidences found on the Internet to question the existence of such men in black. This is how history will be contested from now on.

At the end, Thailand is not North Korea, although the two nations share a myriad of similarities. As an open society, even when it is currently under the military government, Thailand can no longer close down its social space in which differences must be tolerated. History is a larger social space in which national heroes or villains deserved their place.



Pavin Chachavalpongpun is associate professor at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.


Thailand’s ruling military junta is further tightening its grip on the public discourse by heightening its censorship measures, going as far as reportedly implementing widespread surveillance of Thai Internet users. The new measure seeks to crush criticism at the military government and  to crack down on anything that is deemed insulting to the royal institution – also known as lèse majesté. Read more...
Lèse majesté cases under Article 112 of the Criminal Code have gained much attention. Hot debates have flared up every time the Court hands down verdicts on such cases and the opinions expressed tend to be highly polarized. 
Part of the online debate is harbored to support a notion that “Lèse majesté is a bad law, it should be revoked”. Meanwhile, the other faction would claim that “the law is fine; if you have done nothing wrong; you are not supposed to fear (the law).” Very little effort has been made to draw public attention toward detail of the verdict of each cases and very few genuine critiques have been made over the interpretation of the law.  
In the aftermath of the 2014 coup, number of lèse majesté cases are queuing up for court trial. By reviewing previous verdicts made on such cases may help to shed light on problems stemming from the interpretation of the law. It would be useful for those who continue to monitor whether history will repeat itself and how the judicial process in Thailand will evolve over the issue. 
Intent must be key to determining guilt of an accused 
"Intent" is a determinant of criminal liability. Article 59(1) of the Criminal Code goes “A person shall be criminally liable only when such person commits an act intentionally, except in case where the law provides that such person must be liable when commits an act by negligence, or except in case where the law clearly provides that such person must be liable even an act was committed unintentionally”.  
As for an offence according to the Article 112 of the Criminal Code, it does not provide that a person who has committed the offence unintentionally or by negligence has to be penalized. Therefore, it is essential that a person can be convicted under this article only when it can be proven that he or she has committed the offence intentionally.  
In the case against seller of the book “Kong Chak Pi Sat” (Thai translation of The Devil's Discus), the Court ruled that content of the book is an offence against the Article 112 of the Criminal Code. However, given that the defendant has insisted on never reading the book, and since the prosecution has failed to prove that the accused had read the book, a benefit of the doubt has gone to the defendant.  
It is obvious in the verdict that intent is key to determining guilt of an defendant. Even though the defendant sold a book which content is an offence against lèse majesté law, but since there was no supporting evidence to prove that he might have been aware of the content of the book, it thus has given rise to a doubt of the defendant having really committed the offence. Since it was not possible to prove his intent, the case against him had to be dismissed. 
The lèse majesté case against Ibrahim is another example of how intent of the accused was used in his defense.  
A Saudi, Ibrahim was married to a Thai woman and regularly traveled between Thailand and Saudi Arabia. He traded stocks through a broker. In 2009, there was some negative rumor about the monarchy spreading around online media. Ibrahim who usually read news via international media outlets understood that the rumor was a fact, he then posted a message to warn his fellow traders on a webboard.
Later, he found out "a fact" was just a rumor, so he posted an apology and went by himself to apologize the webboard administrator. Still, he was arrested and prosecuted.  
In the Court, Ibrahim stated how he was loyal to The monarchy. Once, he made journey from his home in Phayao province to Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok to sign a "get well book" for His Majesty the King. He also sent a postcard to His Majesty the King in the occasion of the royal birthday which he later received a letter of acknowledgement from the Bureau of the Royal Household. 
Even though Ibrahim insisted that his posting was meant to give a warning to fellow investors and he had no intention to defame, insult or threaten the King, but both, the Court of the First Instance and the Court of Appeals were not convinced that he had no such intention.  
Part of the verdict issued by the Court of Appeals goes that, the fact that the defendant claimed in his motion of appeal that he had made a trip and written postcards to express his well wishes to His Majesty indicated that he was aware that His Majesty the King was the Head of the State and shall be respected and inviolable. By posting such a message while knowing it was false, was then an act to defame His Majesty the King.
The Court ruled over opinion and mindset.  
There are at least two verdicts of lèse majesté cases that the Court adjudicate by taking in to account opinion of individuals.  
Part of the verdict issued by the Court of Appeals in the case against “Jeng Dokjik”, can be summarized as follows.  
The Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand provides that Thailand is ruled by a democratic form of government with the King as Head of the State. The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. The Thai state and its citizens are strictly obliged to protect the nation, religion, monarchy and the democratic form of government with the King as Head of the State. Not only in the provision of the law but also in the mindset, every Thai citizen holds respect to the Kings since time immemorial.
Meanwhile, part of the verdict issued by the Court of Appeals in the case against Ibrahim also goes that; 
"Section 2 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand B.E. 2550 (2007), provides that “Thailand adopts a democratic form of government with the King as Head of the State. Section 8 goes “The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. Section 70 goes " Every person shall have a duty to uphold the Nation, religions, the King, and the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of the State under this Constitution”. Section 77 goes "The State shall protect and uphold the institution of kingship..." It is clear that according to provisions in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, His Majesty the King is enthroned as the Head of the State and shall be respected and shall not be violated. The state and its people are obliged to uphold the institution forever. It does not just lie within the law, but also in the mindset of Thailand people, the monarchy shall be revered and held up high over our head all the times since time immemorial. Any verbal abuse or any posting of messages into a computer system which can be tantamount to being an insult or defamatory against His Majesty is an act that no one dares to perform”.  
Both verdicts of the Court of Appeals are similar, apart from invoking facts and legal provisions, the Courts even made reference to opinion held by individuals.  
An opinion is something personal and it is subject to one’s liberty to think freely. Article 18(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)  thus provides that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice,…”.  
Even though Article 4(1) of ICCPR provides for a state party to waive certain of its obligations during the emergency situation, as it provides that; 
"1. In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, color, sex, language, religion or social origin”. 
But in (2) of the same Article, it provides for Articles in the Covenant which cannot be abrogated in whatever condition including “derogation from articles 6, 7, 8 (paragraphs I and 2), 11, 15, 16 and 18” which could not be derogated.  
In other word, under emergency situation, the state may impose restrictions to limit certain freedoms of its citizens, i.e., the right to freedom of assembly or freedom of expression, but the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion cannot be derogated in any circumstance. 
Thought and opinion are not a crime by itself, as long as it have not transformed into an action (or word) that against the law. Therefore, as law enforcement authority, the Court is obliged to determine guilt by reviewing criminality of an act (or word) and invoking existing legal provisions, instead of making any reference to opinion or mindset since it is something beyond the comprehension of the Court. In addition, opinion and mindset of the Thai citizens is not an essence of the cases and the Court should not have invoked it.  
Are the Courts getting adapted to social context? 
Whenever the court had the verdict of lèse majesté cases, it usually became subject of criticisms by those who are opposed to the use of the law. There are, however, at least, two verdicts which indicate that the Courts have not completely disengaged themselves from society. It also shows that the Courts are well aware of the implication of the Article 112 of the Criminal Code which shall not be borne by the accused only, but society as a whole. The verdict of the Court of Appeals in the case against Surapak and the verdict of the Criminal Court in the case against Thitinan (click here for detail of the case) are a good example of how the Courts have adapted themselves.  
Surapak was accused of posting five facebook messages found defamatory to the King on different occasions in 2012 (click here for detail of the case). In October 2012, the Court of First Instance acquitted him citing dubious evidence produced by the prosecution. The public prosecutor appealed the case on 26 March 2014, the Court of Appeals concurred with the Lower Court and dismissed the charge against him.  
The Court of Appeals’ verdict provides reasons to acquit the accused which can be summarized as follows;  
Lèse majesté case is sensitive. A defendant will not only punish by the law but also by social sanction. To convict the defendant based on dubious evidence is not only unjust for the defendant but it will also provoke divisions in the society. In addition, any enforcement of the law which may violate the rule of law may give rise to a decline in loyalty and respect toward the monarchy.  
Similarly, the verdict of the case against Thitinan who was accused of defacing the portrait of His Majesty the King, the Court invoked social context when making its adjudication.  
In this case, the defendant confessed to committing the offence as alleged, but she did it when she was ill and could not control herself. During the trial, evidence has been given by a medical doctor who has given her the treatment. The Court found the defendant guilty and sentenced her to two years.  
But given that the defendant had never been convicted to jail term before and considering that her mental illness could become a major factor contributing to her offence, for the benefit of the defendant and the society as a whole, the Court decided to suspend the imprisonment. 
In the verdict, the Court did not specify clearly what “society as a whole” means. But by issuing such a verdict, the Courts treat the cases as public cases and acknowledge that the implication of the verdicts shall not be just borne personally by the defendant, but also by the society as a whole.  
These two verdicts may indicate that certain Judges realize that the verdicts of Lèse majesté cases shall render implication not just on the defendants themselves, but also on society at large. Therefore, the writing of verdicts must be done carefully bearing in mind any impact that may affect political schisms in society.  
The verdicts above are just a few interesting examples. Apart from these, there are other verdicts which have been elaborated by academics and social activists working on legal issues including the lèse majesté case against a former King (King Mongkut, Rama IV) and the case of “Kenji” who was accused of posting a defoamatory message against the King in the Internet Freedom webboard (click here for detail of the case and an analysis of the verdict), etc.  
During the time a number of cases against the Lèse majesté are tried in the Court (click here for detail of the cases to be indicted), and amidst highly polarized political tension, by reviewing interesting verdicts, it may help us monitor the cases with understanding and without biases, and hopefully, it will have led to more constructive debate.  
Source: iLaw
Kongpob Areerat
Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the head of the junta and Prime Minister, has revealed the eleven policies of his administration, one of which is a plan to improve Thailand’s health system; however, the conservative junta might set Thailand’s health policies back by ten years.
Prayuth stated that they would facilitate a health insurance system accessible to all, prioritize preventive medicine to reduce costs, and redistribute health personnel to rural areas in accordance to the fifth policy of his government.
This, however, contradicted his words in early August when he called on the rich to leave the universal health insurance system to the poor.
“The rich should make a sacrifice to people with lower income without being forced to by the state. If 3-5 million people give up their universal health care rights, we will have a bigger health budget,” said Prayuth on his Friday TV programme on 22 August 2014.
This might sound reasonable, but that fact that the junta might try to reduce the budget for the national health care scheme and increase the salary of bureaucrats instead would contradict their promise to provide health care accessible to all. 
The junta wants to reduce the cost of the public health care by setting the per capita health care budget next year at 2,895 baht in contrast to the inflation-adjusted figure of 3,060 baht proposed by the National Health Security Office (NHSO). 
This reduction will cause a net shortfall of 483 baht per capita, and will take 23,184 million baht out of the national health insurance budget.            
According to Sureerat Treemaca of the People's Health Systems Movement, a reduction in the budget for health care will worsen the public health system in Thailand.
“The idea that there is not enough budget for health care is a discourse that the Bureau of Budget has always been using. But in fact, out of a national budget of 2-3 trillion baht a year, 140 billion baht is spent annually for public health care, which is not much at all” said Sureerat.
She also pointed out that the junta’s health policy, which only prioritizes the poor, is flawed because the essential reason for creating a welfare system is to reduce the income gap. Therefore, the health care system should be created equally for both the poor and rich via a system of taxes that they can afford to pay.    
Sureerat said unequal provision of health care will set Thailand back ten years in its public health policies. 
“When we talk about welfare and health insurance, we should keep in mind that it should be accessible to everyone equally. However, the conservative paradigm of the junta, which thinks that welfare and health care should be provided only for the poor because a universal system will have additional costs, will set Thailand back ten years in its health system,” said the outspoken member of the People's Health Systems Movement.
Thaksin Shinawatra, a controversial ex-prime minister renowned for his so called ‘populist policies’, introduced the universal health coverage scheme in 2001. The scheme was called the ‘30 baht policy’ where people receive a ‘gold card’, allowing them to access medical treatment in their registered district with a co-payment cost of 30 baht per illness. 
According to the World Bank, 99.5 percent of Thailand’s population have access to public health care, which is divided into three schemes, one for government officials and their families, a social security system for employees in the formal private sector, and the universal health coverage.
When Thaksin’s government was overthrown by the coup in 2006, the next military-appointed government chose to retain the universal health care policy. However, they cancelled the co-payment and relied fully on tax revenue for funding health care. 
Although most Thais have access to public health coverage schemes, there are two apparent problems; one is the imbalanced distribution of health personnel, which are scarce in rural areas, and inequality in the medical treatment provided to patients covered by different healthcare schemes.
According to Sureerat, the contrasts of the number of physicians in cities and in rural areas and among the health budget for government officials and others are striking.
“Physicians are more concentrated in cities because they can treat patients with all kinds of diseases, earn more, and can pursue further medical studies as well. Another problem is inequality in health care policy. In Thailand, the budget for government officials’ medical treatment is unlimited, whereas others covered social security and the universal health scheme get limited treatment and cheaper medicines,” said Sureerat.
She added that, annually, 5-6 million government officials and family members in Thailand consume six to seven billion baht a year for health care, paid for by the Comptroller General’s Department, whereas ten million people eligible for social security consume only two to three billion annually and the rest, numbering more than 50 million people, get 10-20 billion baht a year.
Moreover, the high medical costs of the government officials’ scheme are not transparent and accountable, according to Sureerat.
“People who are under the universal health coverage and social security schemes usually get different medicines, which are cheaper than those provided under the government officials’ scheme. The way of allocating medicines is not standardized,” said the welfare campaigner. 
Another major problem of public health system in Thailand is the commoditization of health institutions in the country. Hospitals in the private sector operate in a manner similar to for-profit businesses. These private hospitals are more attractive for physicians and nurses since they pay more than public hospitals. These private hospitals have been drawing resources away from the public health sector.
“Thailand allows private hospitals to become profitable businesses that can even be listed on the stock exchange. It allows private hospitals to absorb important public health resources. In addition, the promotion of Thailand as a ‘medical hub’, with state support for private medical businesses, will take more resources from the public health sector,” said Sureerat.
For her, although Thailand prides itself for being one of the most advanced ‘medical hubs’ that welcome medical tourists from all over the world, it does not mean that all Thailand’s citizens have equal access to medical treatment.