It has been a busy news period of late, with The Dictator’s erratic behavior and tantrums, several abduction-detentions, efforts at heightened internet censorship and the stillbirth of the draft constitution. This means we have neglected several other important stories and this post is a kind of catch-up.
Khaosod updates the case of Narong Roonthanawong, a former city council member, arrested and facing up to five years in prison for resharing a music video that allegedly mocked Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. It says that a human rights lawyer has claimed the video “doesn’t appear to contain any obviously defamatory content.” The video merely links news footage of Prayuth but this has led to a charge under the Computer Crimes Act. It seems to PPT that Prayuth mocks himself. His skin has grown thinner than ever and he is behaving like someone who has usurped the kingship.
While on the Computer Crimes Act, it is noticeable that the new monarch’s court – the Army – is increasingly using the Act and defamation charges to silence critics and cover-up alleged crimes. Prachatai reports a case of an officer making a complaint against “a Lahu ethnic minority activist for posting a facebook video clip, saying that the clip defamed him and injured the honor of Thai military.” Of course, we are stunned that military officers consider that the military has any honor to protect but understand that much of the “training” of officers is about creating the fiction that the Army is a “protector” of the nation rather than a gang of murderous thugs. The video int his case apparently is a “record of a heated exchange between military officers and Lahu villagers of Kong Pak Ping Village … who on 1 January 2015 went to a local military post to ask the officers to identify soldiers who reportedly abused them physically.” In other words, the material is factual.
The harassment of political opponents continues unabated and extends to their lawyers. Prachatai reports the case of a Thai Lawyers for Human Rights lawyer Sirikan Charoensiri. Sirikan is a lawyer for Neo-Democracy Movement anti-junta activists. She is accused “under Articles 172 and 368 of the Criminal Code of propagating false accusations against investigating officers and disobeying police orders.” Police filed the charges against Sirikan after she filed a “complaint against the police under Article 157 of the Thai Criminal Code, malfeasance in office, pointing out that officers unlawfully confiscated her car for the search “by officers on the night of 27 June 2015 in front of the Military Court of Bangkok after the 14 activists were arrested and taken to the court.” You get the picture, and it is a sad but consistent one of repression by law.
Torture remains a standard operating procedure for state authorities. In a Prachatai report it is stated that torture and ill-treatment allegations in the South have doubled since the military junta came to power. Sadly, that is no surprise. In these allegations, detainees report being “beaten or hit with hard objects, … put in a room kept at a low temperature, … suffocated, and … electrocuted.” Others say they were “pierced with needles, tortured with pliers, forced to drink their own urine, stripped naked, injected with unspecified chemicals, tortured in the genitals, and threatened with execution.” The military and other state thugs operate with impunity and torture is regularly used across the country.
Update: The Internal Security Operations Command claims the report on torture in the south is a work “of imagination not based on reality…” and accused its authors “released the report of wanting to undermine the credibility of the Thai state in the eyes of the world.”