Updated: Torture and lese majeste

Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists reckon that “Thailand had pledged 10 years ago to respect and protect the rights of all people to be free from torture and other ill-treatment by ratifying the Convention against Torture. But the organisations said they remained concerned that torture remains prevalent.”

We don’t imagine that the two NGOs are surprised. After all, Thailand’s military and police use torture regularly and as standard practice. They even use it when training their own recruits. It is just normal for the thugs.

One form of torture that seems relatively new relates to lese majeste. A few years ago, at about the time that the then government was “pledging” to end torture, royalist thugs came up with the idea of keeping those accused of lese majeste in jail until they confessed.

This form of torture has been refined. Now, those accused of lese majeste are kept out of courts until they confess. If they don’t confess, then court proceedings dragged out over months and even years, are secret. Sometimes not even family or lawyers know about the court date. Sometimes not even the defendant knows and courts take decisions without the defendant or a lawyer present.

Royalist courts are never going to provide justice in lese majeste cases. However, a guilty plea means the courts don’t even have to deal with the case. All they do is sentencing.

The most recent example of this kind of lese majeste torture involves a 59 year old man who has been locked up for three years until he finally entered a guilty plea.

The report says he faces up to 50 years in jail, but this is wrong (a point made later in the report) for it accepts that the sentence will likely reduced by half for his guilty plea and because Thailand “limits” sentences to 50 years. In fact, the nonsensical nature of lese majeste should be emphasized by noting that he could be sentenced to more than 100 years in jail.

On 26 June 2017, the “Military Court in Bangkok postponed the sentencing of Tara W., a 59-year-old seller of Thai traditional medicine accused of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, after he pleaded guilty.” He will now be sentenced on 9 August 2017.

Tara W. is one of the Banpot 6/8/10/14 (the number varied as arrests were made). He and another decided to fight the case (we don’t know any more about the other defendant). Tara sold traditional medicine but was accused of being the “owner of a tourism website, okthai.com, which is now blocked by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.” It is even blocked overseas. [Update: Not blocked. Thanks to a reader for directing us.] Blocking seems to mean taking down but maintaining a blocked notice. We hope the regime is paying for the domain name.

As the report states, a “tiny corner of the website allegedly contained a banner with a link promoting the programmes of Hassadin U., also known as ‘DJ Banpodj’, the head of the so-called Banpodj Network, which has allegedly produced podcasts criticising the monarchy.”

Tara faces six lese majeste charges and other charges under the Computer Crime Act.

He had claimed that he “only uploaded them [the clips] for their information on traditional medicine.” He was arrested on 25 January 2015 and has remained in jail since.

That constitutes torture. There’s several other human rights mangled by the case, but readers should understand that this is now standard practice in royalist Thailand.

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