BANGKOK, 27 February 2015: Airports of Thailand reports its January data showing increases in both aircraft movements and passengers at six airports under its management. AoT released its latest data, Thursday, revealing an improvement of 17.67% at its six airports. They handled 9,519,564 passengers up from 8,089,911 during the same month last year. The overall […] Read more...
Bangkok, 27 February 2015: Thailand’s travel related research should take a turn for the better now the Tourism Authority of Thailand has enrolled strategic partners. TAT’s Intelligence Centre (TATIC) recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism and Sports; the National Statistical Office of Thailand; Kasikorn Research Centre, and the […] Read more...
MUMBAI, 27 February 2015: “2015 Discover Thainess” was core promotional message at the Thailand Trade Investment Tourism Road Show that ends today 27 February, 2015, in Mumbai and Delhi. Organised by the Thai Ministry of Commerce, in collaboration with the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Mumbai, the roadshow created business opportunities for Thai and Indian entrepreneurs. […] Read more...
Tourism Thailand’s attempt to charm potential travellers with romantic plot twists and photogenic actors has had the opposite effect. MSN’s coverage of the ad says it “comes off as more creepy than creative.” Meanwhile, a harsher critique on the popular Skift website questioned whether or not the ministry was being “tone deaf” with the video. Read more...
The Constitutional Drafting Committee are continuing to re-write the political rule book for a post-coup Thailand. But, like with all the military junta's government bodies, the claim to "reform" and bring "true democracy" is questionable, as the most recent proposals for an unelected sorry, "indirectly elected" Senate shows. Read more...
Military’s staff judge advocate accused human rights lawyer Anon Numpa of publicising anti-junta information on his Facebook. 
 
Anon Numpa, volunteer lawyer for the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), told Prachatai on Thursday that the police from Pathumwan Police Station had summoned him via telephone to hear accusation under Article 14 (2) of the Computer Crime Act (CCA). Anon will report in next week, he said. 
 
Article 14 (2) of the CCA stipulates that whoever importing false information which may damage the national security or cause public panic must face jail term up to five years.
 
The accusations came after Lt Col Burin Thongprapai of the military's Judge Advocate General's Office, filed the complaint to the police. 
 
On 14 February, the police accused Anon and three others of defying the coup maker’s order for organizing an assembly of more than five people after the group organizing an activity demanding for election in front of the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre (BACC) in the evening of the Valentine’s Day.
 
On 19 February, the police interrogated Anon for about four hours about his Facebook posts on his Facebook profile which is deemed instigating anti-junta movement by the police. 
 
“I don’t worry. The military may hope that the cases can deter my move,” said Anon. 
 
 
Anon (mid) speaks to reporters after he was released for defying coup maker's order on early morning of 15 February
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People forum on reform pointed out that the junta uses the martial law to silence people while plundering natural resources in the communities nationwide against the locals’ will.  

People’s National Reform Council (PNRC) urged the junta to stop using the martial law to suppress freedom and allow public participation in its governance at a public forum titled ‘Monitoring the expansion of the state authority; protecting people’s power; the new constitution must be better’ held on Wednesday at the  National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) in Bangkok.

The forum discussed about current land and other natural resource conflicts between the state parties and the locals, such as oilfield concession in Kranuan District of the northeastern province of Khon Kaen, the plan to construct a coal-powered electricity generating plant in the southern Krabi province, and the eviction of villagers in Konsan District of the northeastern Chaiyaphum province.

The forum participants pointed out that the lesson from the current resource conflict between the junta and the locals is that the government tend to ignore the community rights over resources and the social and environmental impact on the locals while using the martial law as one of the mechanisms to monopolize the resource management.

Central to this problem is the outdated centralized state model which feeds on a prolong social and economic inequity in the country, the forum concluded.

The participants added that the junta’s resource policies violates the community’s rights. The group pointed out the recent incident in Khon Kaen, when the state authorities assisted the oil exploration company to transport drilling equipments into the petroleum field despite the villagers’ opposition and the eviction of villagers in Konsan District of Chaiyaphum in accordance to the junta’s forest protection policy (Order 64/2014 of the National Council for Peace and Order).

Moreover, the junta’s attempts to amend laws on the management of natural resource, such as the new Mining Bill, might expand the state’s monopoly over resources to give out state concession to private companies without having to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as well.

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On 23 February 2015 student activists Patiwat S., 23, and Pornthip M. (f), 26, were each sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating Thailand’s “lèse-majesté” law. The charge of “lèse-majesté” criminalises alleged insult of the monarchy under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, and is commonly used to silence peaceful dissent. According to reports, there has been a considerable rise in arrests, trials and sentences relating to lèse majesté cases since the military coup of 22 May 2014. The case against Patiwat S. and Pornthip M.relates to their involvement in staging a play about a fictional monarch, the “Wolf Bride” (‘Jao Sao Ma Pa’) at Thammasat University in October 2013. The pair have been in detention since their arrest in mid-August 2014, after being repeatedly refused bail, and pleaded guilty in December 2014 in order to reduce their sentence. PEN International considers Patiwat S. and Pornthip M. to be imprisoned in violation of Articles 9 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.
 
Take action: Please send appeals:
 
Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of students Patiwat S. and Pornthip M., as they are held for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, in contravention of Articles 9 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party.
Reiterating serious concern for the safety of writers, academics and activists in Thailand, who are at risk of attack and imprisonment solely for the peaceful expression of their opinions.
Urging the authorities to amend the Criminal Code, in particular the lèse-majesté law, to ensure that it meets Thailand’s international obligations to protect freedom of expression.
Appeals to:
 
Leader of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)
General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Royal Thai Army Headquarters,
Rachadamnoen Nok Road,
Bangkok 10200,
Thailand
Fax: (+66-2) 226 1838
E-mail: prforeign@gmail.com
Salutation: Dear General
 
Please contact this office if sending appeals after 10 March 2015. Please send us copies of your letters or information about other activities and of any responses received.
 
Publicity
 
PEN members are encouraged to publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the case of Patiwat S. and Pornthip ., and the situation of freedom of expression in Thailand. Their prison writings are available for publication:
 
The poem ‘Friend’ by Patiwat S. has been translated into English and published on Prachatai.
 
A fable that Pornthip M. is writing from prison now has four parts, and is available in English translation here
 

Background 

The following case information is provided by The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC):

Patiwat S., age 23, a fifth year student and an activist in the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts at Khon Kaen University, was arrested on 14 August 2014 in Khon Kaen province and is being held in the Bangkok Remand Prison. Pornthip M., age 25, a graduate of the Faculty of Political Science at Ramkhamhaeng University and an activist, was arrested on 15 August 2014 at the Hat Yai Airport, and is being held in the Central Women’s Prison. They have been held without bail, despite numerous requests, since their arrests and since being formally charged on 25 October with one count of violation of Article 112.

Article 112 of the Criminal Code stipulates that, “Whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The use of Article 112 is highly politicized and has frequently been used as a method of silencing dissenting voices, particularly in moments of regime crisis. Although this measure has been part of the Criminal Code since its last revision in 1957, there has been an exponential increase in the number of complaints filed since the 19 September 2006 coup; this increase has been further multiplied following the 22 May 2014 coup.

The case against Patiwat.S. and Pornthip M. complaint is in relation to their participation in the performance of a play, ‘The Wolf Bride’ (Jao Sao Ma Pa) at Thammasat University in October 2013 on the fortieth anniversary of the 14 October 1973 people’s uprising. At the time of their arrests, the AHRC noted that their arrests for exercising their freedom of expression in a theatre performance was an indication of the ongoing criminalization of thought and expression in Thailand following the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) (AHRC-STM-157-2014; AHRC-STM-159-2014). Their continued detention is a daily reminder of the deepening human rights crisis put in motion by the coup (AHRC-STM-177-2014).  In this case, as well as other freedom of expression cases since the coup, the manner in which the two activists were charged more than a year after the alleged crime suggests that the past has become an open catalogue of acts and speech which can be criminalized in retrospect.

Military Coup

After nearly seven months of escalating political violence in Thailand, a military coup d’état led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha was declared on 22 May 2014. The coup has imposed martial law and a curfew, dissolved the Senate – the only remaining national government body with elected members – and taken on wide-ranging executive and legislative powers. Political gatherings have been banned and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has imposed strict censorship of the internet and control of the media.

Several television and radio stations were shut down in the early days after the coup though most have since resumed broadcasting.  Facebook was briefly blocked by the Information Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry at the request of the military on 28 May, although the military denied this. However, on 9 June, Telenor, the Norwegian telecoms company which runs Thai operator DTAC acknowledged that it had implemented an official request to block the site on 28 May. An interview with an anonymous journalist describing how journalists are self-censoring may be read here. On 25 May 2014 the NCPO issued order no 37 assigning jurisdiction to military courts for offences against the royal family (articles 107-112 of the Penal Code) and most offences against internal security (articles 113-118) as well as offences stipulated by orders of the NCPO. According to iLaw (Internet Dialogue on Legal Reform), which monitors freedom of expression in Thailand, 669 people have been summoned and 376 have been arrested under Article 112 since the coup.

Since the coup, scores of protesters and critics of the coup, including prominent politicians and academics, have been summoned to report to the army and at least a hundred have been arrested. They include journalists Thanapol Eawsakul, editor of the hard-hitting political magazine Fa Diew Kan (Same Sky) and Pravit Rojanaphruk, senior reporter of The Nation, who were both detained on 23 and 24 May after being summoned by the military. Rojanaphruk was released after a week, and an interview with him after his release may be read here.

Thirty-five prominent academics were summoned on 25 May, including the following scholars who advocate democracy and amendments to the lèse majesté law: Thammasat lecturers Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Worachet Pakeerut and Sawatri Suksri (the latter two of the Nitirat or Enlightened Jurists group); Suda Rangupan, a former Chulalongkorn University lecturer, and Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a professor of Southeast Asian studies at Kyoto University. Mr Pavin, a frequent contributor to the Bangkok Post and other media, said by telephone from Japan that he would not turn himself in. It is thought the others have also chosen not to report to the authorities. Refusal to respond to a summons is a crime carrying a maximum prison term of two years and/or a 40,000 baht (USD1,300) fine.

UN human rights mechanisms have repeatedly clarified that criminal defamation and insult laws, including lèse-majesté laws are incompatible with international standards on free expression.  In 2011, the then UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Frank La Rue called on Thailand to reform its lèse-majesté laws. He said, “The threat of a long prison sentence and vagueness of what kinds of expression constitute defamation, insult, or threat to the monarchy, encourage self-censorship and stifle important debates on matters of public interest, thus putting in jeopardy the right to freedom of opinion and expression.”

 

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In the last part of our Siam Voices series examining the new cyber laws, we chronicle the criticism against and the defense for the controversial bills - and what’s behind the military junta’s motivation to push these into law. In the past two weeks we analyzed the cyber law bills in its potential impact on policies, censorship and also business. More often than not we found that the flaws outweigh the benefits and, if signed into law without large-scale amendments - will have very serious implications of the civil liberties, free speech, personal privacy and even e-commerce of every Thai internet user - except for those in charge of the law. Read more...