International Commission of Jurists
Thailand must end immediately the prosecution of civilians in military tribunals and transfer all remaining cases to the civilian courts, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today.
 
On 18 November 2014, the Bangkok Military Tribunal convicted a political broadcaster, Khathawut B., of lese majeste under article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code and Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act, and sentenced him to five years in jail following a plea of guilty. The court barred observers and the public from the proceedings on the ground that they “concerned matters of national security.”
 
There is no appeal possible under article 61 of the Thai Act for the Organization of the Military Court so long as Thailand remains under Martial Law, which has been in force nationwide since May 22.
 
“Under international standards, civilians should not be subject to the jurisdiction of military tribunals, particularly where, like in military-ruled Thailand, military tribunals lack the institutional independence from the executive required by international law regarding fair trials. Thus, civilians convicted before such tribunals should have the right to a new trial before a civilian court,” said Wilder Tayler, Secretary General of the ICJ. “This case also highlights another very serious problem with the state of human rights in Thailand: Thailand’s misuse of criminal defamation laws to imprison people exercising their right to freedom of expression.
 
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) extended the jurisdiction of military tribunals over civilians after it took power by a coup d’etat and imposed Martial Law throughout Thailand. Prior to this, civilians had not been subject to military jurisdiction in Thailand for crimes not directly involving the military for decades, including during the state of emergency in place in southern Thailand since 2004.
 
Among crimes now within the jurisdiction of military tribunals in Thailand is lese majeste - criminalizing the making of statements that could be construed as defaming or insulting the Thai Monarchy. Such broad restrictions violate the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party.
 
Since the coup, at least 69 civilians have faced prosecution before military tribunals in Thailand on charges ranging from breaching NCPO orders, to planning a terrorist act and lese majeste.
 
Under article 14 of the ICCPR, everyone has the right to a “fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.” The imposition of Martial Law, and the State’s suspension of some of its obligations under the ICCPR, including the right to appeal guaranteed by article 14(5) for cases heard by military tribunals, does not affect the applicability of this provision.
 
“All prosecutions of civilians before military tribunals must be transferred to civilian courts immediately, if Thailand is to comply with its international obligations,” said Tayler. “There is absolutely no excuse or justification for the use of military tribunals to prosecute civilians in Thailand, and especially not for simply exercising the right to freedom of expression.”
 
The Draft Principles Governing the Administration of Justice through Military Tribunals, set out principles that apply to state use of military tribunals.
 
Principle 5 states “Military courts should, in principle, have no jurisdiction to try civilians. In all circumstances, the State shall ensure that civilians accused of a criminal offence of any nature are tried by civilian courts.”
 
Further, Principle 2 states “Military tribunals must in all circumstances apply standards and procedures internationally recognized as guarantees of a fair trial.” Military tribunals must in all circumstances respect the principles of international law relating to a fair trial, even in times of crisis.
 
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Prayut Chan-O-Cha warns citizens who use three-finger symbol of resistance against army coup risk jeopardising their futures

Thailand’s military ruler has said he is unfazed by people using a three-fingered protest salute inspired by the blockbuster Hollywood franchise The Hunger Games to express opposition to the country’s junta.

But Prayut Chan-O-Cha warned that those who adopted the gesture in public risked jeopardising their futures.

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Thai military in Northern Chiang Mai Province arrested an activist on Thursday night after she took and shared a photo of her holding a sheet of paper reading “No Martial Law” and “No NCPO.” The military said free expression is allowed only when the second phase of the junta’s reform plan starts in September 2015.

 
The activist has been released with no charge although she declined to sign a military-drafted document stating that she would not engage in any political activity again. This is the second case where people arrested for showing opposition to the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) were coerced and threatened into signing the document, but refused to sign and faced no official consequences, yet. (Read about the first case here)
 
Siriporn Chayphet and a friend hold a sheet of paper reading “No Martial Law” and “No NCPO”. The sign below reads “Peak of Chiang Dao Mountain, 2,225 metres above sea level.” The spot is for tourists to take photos as souvenirs of their visit. 
 
 
At around 7 pm on Thursday, the military stopped the car of Siriporn Chayphet, an activist with the Thai Volunteer Service Foundation, at a checkpoint in Chiang Dao District. The military searched the car, confiscated her national identity card and brought her to Chiang Dao Police Station. 
 
At the police station, she was asked by the authorities whether she was the person in the picture or not. Siriporn confirmed her identity and told the authorities that she has every right to express her ideas and she only shared the photo among friends.   
 
“Do you know which situation we are in?  Showing things like this is illegal,” Siriporn quoted the military officers as saying.
 
According to Siriporn, the military told her that she has the right to express her opinions, but only after the second phase [of the junta’s reform plan], which starts after September 2015. The authorities later asked her to sign an agreement not to publicly criticize the junta again and told her that she might be charged and detained for seven days if she did not sign the paper.
 
Siriporn, however, was adamant and refused to sign any paper and was released without charge after several hours in detention.
 
“I have good intentions and I did nothing wrong. I have the right to express my ideas and beliefs,” Siriporn told Prachatai. 
 
As the military pleaded to her to sign the document, they told her that they had spent two whole days looking for the people in the photos as there was an order to find them. All people on Chiang Dao Mountain were inspected and all cars driving down from the mountain were searched. 
 
Siriporn said a military officer took pictures of her car on Thursday morning but she was not aware that it would lead to her arrest. 
 
Siriporn has organized activities with the Dao Din group and is one of the activists who on Thursday signed the petition, ‘Down with martial law…power belongs to all the people’, against the junta and the imposition of martial law together with more than 100 others. 

 

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The Thai diaspora and students in France gathered to wave three-fingered salutes as a symbol of defiance against the military regime at the ‘Hunger Games 3’ premiere and at the Institut d'études politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris. The event was joined by the controversial transgender anti-coup student activist Aum Neko. 
 
After the Wednesday arrest of five student activists in Khon Kaen who flashed three-fingered salutes in front of Prayut Chan-o-cha, the head of the junta, while he was giving a speech to civil servants and the subsequent arrests of students who followed suit in Bangkok, Thai people in France on Thursday gathered at the ‘Hunger Games 3’ premiere in Paris and raised the symbolic three-fingered salute in front of a cinema.
 
 
The activists flash the salute in front of a cinema in Paris. Aum Neko is on the right bottom corner
 
 
They also put up banners reading ‘District Thai’ and ‘No to Dictator Prayut’ while later at the student gathering at Sciences Po the students showed banners reading, “Down with martial law, release students” and “Thai students in Paris do not accept the coup”.
 
In the evening, the group and international students at Sciences Po, a well-known political science institute in Paris, also raised 3-fingered salutes in symbolic protest to condemn the junta’s use of martial law to arrest political dissidents and students.
 
“This movie reflects many dimensions of current Thai society, especially the main content of the movie which points out that a dictatorial regime will eventually meet its demise, and as long as people are still treated with injustice they will come out and fight against the oppressor,” said Saran Chuchai, aka Aum Neko, who is now in exile in Europe. 
 
Delattre, a French native who also came to join the campaign, added that the salute signified the French national motto, Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood, which has had an important meaning in France for the last 200 years. Therefore, the arrest of people who only express these values is very regressive.    
 
‘Hunger Games 3’ or ‘Mockingjay’ is the last in the Hunger Games movie trilogy, based on the novel of the same title by Suzanne Collins. The movie is about a fictional country called Panem, which is ruled by a suppressive dictatorial regime based on a city called the Capitol while other cities are divided into numbered districts to serve without question the rich Capitol. A 3-fingered salute is used in the story by rebels as a sign of resistance against the Capitol.
 
 
 
The activists held placards in French and English reading "End Martial Law. Free Student activists in Thailand."
 

 

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John Sifton (Human Rights Watch)
Life in Thailand is growing more absurd by the day. Earlier this week Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the leader of the junta that seized power in May and later anointed himself prime minister, was beginning a speech in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen when five local university students stood up and stripped down to t-shirts emblazoned with “Don’t Want a Coup” in Thai. They then raised their hands to give the iconic three-fingered salute of Jennifer Lawrence’s heroine in “The Hunger Games” franchise, a symbol of resistance in Thailand since the coup.
 
“I want to express my opinion and I’m from here,” one said, as security forces surrounded him and the other students. Security forces seized the students and led them away.
 
The entire episode was captured on video.  A short while after the students were taken off, General Prayuth dropped a chilling challenge with a smile: “Anyone else want to protest?”
 
It was hardly a laughing matter for the students. Security personal took them to a nearby military base in Khon Kaen to be interrogated by an intelligence unit. There, officers told local rights advocates that the five would be charged with violating martial law and have to sign an agreement not to engage in further political activity. The intelligence officers threatened the students with expulsion from the university and worse.  But the students refused to back down—even at one point singing a Thai version of the “Les Miserables” anthem “Do You Hear the People Sing?” which led one intelligence officer to order soldiers to strip off their anti-coup t-shirts.
 
The military is expected to charge the five with violating martial law and order school officials to expel them from Khon Kaen University.  
 
“The Hunger Games” movies take place in a dystopian totalitarian society in the future, divided into districts outside a wealthy capital.  The heroine, Katniss Everdeen, comes from District 12. Last week, outside the latest film’s premier in London, a group of anti-coup protesters held up a sign reading “District Thai.”
 
When news of the arrests reached Bangkok on Wednesday, several student activists gathered at the city’s Democracy Monument to support the students and were briefly detained. Others assembled at cinemas showing “The Hunger Games” and flashed the three-fingered salute. At least one cinema group with two theaters in Bangkok then announced that it had decided not to show the film “for fear of political implications.” On Thursday, the authorities arrested at least three students outside a cinema where the movie was set to be shown.                                                                    
 
Such is life in Thailand under martial law. Bangkok’s hustle and bustle remains—tourists, shops, commuters—but protests and political gatherings are illegal. Unauthorized meetings with more than five people are banned, and violators risk trial in military courts where decisions are final and there is no appeal.
 
Since the coup, which the junta contends was necessary to restore order after months of political protests, dissidents have sought novel ways to protest military rule, including the three-finger salute, eating sandwiches together in “democracy picnics,” or publicly reading George Orwell’s “1984.”
 
In the wake of the coup, media outlets in Thailand remain tightly restricted. One Thai military official recently told editors: “We don’t limit media freedom but freedom must be within limits.”
 
It is time for the international community to see Thailand’s leadership for what it is: a military dictatorship set on long-term rule. Of course, Thailand has suffered a number of coups over its modern history.  Some of the coups, during the Cold War, led to authoritarian governments that ruled for years. But more recent military coups in 1991 and 2006 were short-lived “resets,” with elections scheduled relatively soon after. The current military rule, however, appears more of the old school. All evidence suggests the military’s so-called roadmap to democracy, sketched out in mid-2014, is really a roadmap to nowhere—the junta no longer even bothers to pretend that elections will be held next year.
 
Thailand’s friends and allies need to adopt a tougher line with the junta, and insist on a speedier timeline to democratic civilian rule. In the interim, they should press the junta to lift its restrictions on free speech and assembly.
 
And someone needs to inform General Prayuth that if his system of government is threatened by young people emulating a Hollywood movie, it is pretty sure sign that things needs to change.
 
John Sifton is Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. 
 
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BANGKOK, 21 November 2014: International tourist arrivals to Thailand posted a decline of 8.72% during January to October this year according to Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ data. Released Tuesday, the ministry data reported 19,739,600 visits to the country during the first 10 months, down from 21,626,233 over the same period last year. Tourism and […] Read more...
More than 100 academics, activists, and others on Thursday announced in a joint statement, “Down with martial law… power belongs to all the people.” 
 
Some of the signatories of the statement are renowned academics, such as Prajak Kongkirati, a well-known political scientist from Thammasat University, Prapas Pintobtang, Puangthong Pawakapan, and Pratubjit Neelapaijit.  
 
According to the statement, the group condemns the arrest of five students in Khon Kaen who flashed 3-fingered salutes and wore ‘No coup’ t-shirts to welcome the junta’s leader to the province and calls for the end of martial law in order to return power to all the people.
 
Down with martial law … Power belongs to all the people
(Translated by Prachatai)
 
The coup d’état on 22 May 2014 staged by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has severely affected the basic human rights and freedoms of the people, especially when people are arrested and detained for expressing political discontent against the coup d’état. The suspension of the rights and freedoms of people, who the NCPO allege belong to the opposite end of the political spectrum, has resulted in about 600 people being ordered to report to the NCPO and 200 arrested. Within these numbers are academics, members of the press, activists, and ordinary people. Moreover, 33 activities and seminars have been obstructed by the military, resulting in an environment of fear and suppression, where people are restrained from expressing ideas freely.
 
Furthermore, martial law [imposed since the coup d’état] has been used to evict poor people from farmlands (while investors were allowed to settle in protected areas), such as the eviction of villagers in Ban Noen Din Daeng of Buriram Province, Khon San villagers in Chaiyaphum, Klong Sai Pattana villagers in Surat Thani and many other communities throughout the country. Moreover, activists campaigning for national energy reform have been arrested. People from 12 northeastern organizations who signed a statement against the reform agenda of the coup-makers were detained. Villagers and academics campaigning against the NCPO’s forestry policy were arrested. In addition, the media has been intimidated and threatened to prevent information against the NCPO being made public. A cultural activity with a talk show on the land issue was banned. The freedom of expression of students from Kasetsart University who rallied against the construction of Mae Wong Dam was suspended. All these problems, which concern people’s livelihoods, cannot be solved without the participation of the people who will be affected by the outcomes.
 
Recently, five student activists from Khon Kaen University were arrested in Khon Kaen on 19 November 2014 for expressing an anti-coup message in front of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his ministers who assumed power after the coup d’état, although the group has been working to assist villagers in Thailand’s Northeast for many years.
 
In summary, as academics, writers, activists, and representatives from different organizations who have signed this open letter, we would like to request the following:
  1. The martial law should be lifted as soon as possible to guarantee the people’s freedoms and rights in solving social-political problems.
  2. Power belongs to all the people and we do not accept power from those who have stolen it from the people.
  3. We stand with student activists from Khon Kaen University and people who have been affected by the NCPO’s policies. We do not accept the use of martial law to press charges against students and others.

 

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Three-fingered salute has been adopted by pro-democracy campaigners in Thailand, but screenings of Mockingjay – Part 1 pulled after becoming focus for protests

• The girl on hold … China delays screenings of Hunger Games
• Full coverage of the film

A cinema chain in Bangkok has cancelled screenings of the new Hunger Games film after protestors adopted the movie’s defiant three-fingered salute against totalitarian rule.

Activists say police ordered the move after hundreds of students planned to protest at an opening day screening of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 on Thursday. Thailand has been under military rule since May, and authorities have banned the salute as part of an ongoing crackdown on pro-democratic dissent.

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The military on Thursday afternoon forced a seminar on land and tax reform to be canceled, saying that they should only speak to the junta’s National Reform Council (NRC).  
 
Jakchai Chomthongdee, the organizer of “Land, disparity, tax: the step we have to choose,” told PRachatai that he received a phone call from a military officer, who said the military told him that the event cannot be held.
 
The event was scheduled Thursday 6pm at the Reading Room, art library, on Silom Road, downtown Bangkok. It features Korn Chatikavanich, Anusorn Thamjai and Duangmanee Laowakul. 
 
Although Jakchai tried to explain to the military that this event is rather academic and the talk on disparity will benefit every side, the military insisted that the event cannot be held and that if there is any thought on the reform, they should submit a letter to the NRC only. 
 
“Space for thoughts, and exchange of opinion are not allowed. This is the most surprising,” he said. 
 
Meanwhile, five military officers went to the Reading Room and told the library owner she needs to ask for permission for any future event. 
 
Five military officers visits to the Reading Room and tell the library owner she needs to ask for permission for any future event. 
 
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Earlier this month Thailand’s Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said that about 25 million foreign visitors are expected to visit the country this year, down from 26.7 million in 2013. This seems optimistic, considering that Thailand has suffered a tumultuous year marred by months of violent political protests and a military coup on May 22. Read more...