Category Archives: Ann Norman

Thailand’s Orwellian Nightmare: Three Cases

Remarks by Ann Norman, Executive Director of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights, at the Laotian-Thai Human Rights Conference at the Rayburn Building, Washington, DC.

Conference organized by Lao Human Rights and Red USA – Thai Voice International; sponsored by US Congressman Markwayne Mullin)

[สวัสดีค่ะ พี่น้องทุกๆ ท่านที่รักความเป็นธรรม รู้สึกเป็นเกียรติ อย่างยิ่งที่ได้มาพูดตรงนี่ค่ะ P’ Chao asked me to talk about three human rights cases. This won’t be boring because it is horrifying.]

Kritsuda Khunasaen

A 27-year old women, a leader of the Red Shirts, was one of thousands taken away for arbitrary detention at an undisclosed location right after the May 2014 coup conducted by General Prayuth Chanocha. Kritsuda’s family was frantic because unlike most of the others she wasn’t returned within the 7 days that the junta gave themselves to “legally” detain someone. But on the 28th day of her detention she appeared on TV and gave a chilling interview: wearing an anxious smile, she insisted she had been well treated by the military, that everything was great and she had spent her time watching TV and playing on the Internet; and that in fact at one point, the soldiers had let her go, but she was having such a good time she asked to stay longer! Then they led her go. What did the junta hope to gain by airing this totally implausible story? It was impossible to know whether they stupidly expected people to believe this story, or whether they wanted to terrify people with their amazing powers to extract compliance.

Kritsuda escaped the country and from safety told a completely different story: she had been blindfolded the whole time she was in custody, her hands tied––even when she went to the bathroom, a female soldier had to pull her pants down for her! The soldiers even bathed her, which see said she considered sexual harassment. And she could hear a man’s voice in the background while they bathed her. They slapped her, and at certain points they put a plastic bag over her head and suffocated her into unconsciousness. She awoke to the words “Is she dead yet?”

The junta threatened her to stop giving interviews saying they would charge her with further crimes if she kept talking. But opposing the junta is not a crime outside Thailand, so the junta accused her of supplying guns to a group of five who had just confessed to being the so-called “Men in Black” shooters from 2010. (This strategy repeats itself in the recent Ma Noi case.) But the men accused of being the Men in Black soon rescinded their confessions saying they had been tortured­­––threatened with execution, blindfolded, beaten, suffocated, buried up to their necks, and given electric shocks while in military custody.

Chaiyaphoom Pasae

Chaiyaphoom Pasae was a stateless hilltribe boy, of Lahu ethnicity, born in Thailand but not actually a Thai citizen, as is the case with many of the hilltribe people. Chaiyaphoom was shot dead by a soldier last month at a military checkpoint. The military claimed that they had found drugs hidden in the car in which he was a passenger, that Chaiyaphoom had run from them and when they pursued, he had pulled out a hand grenade to throw at them.

Chaiyaphoom’s many friends immediately began to shout that this was impossible. It turns out was not just any hilltribe boy, he was a famous community activist, singer, and short film maker. Continue reading

The King and Pai, Part 8: Thailand vs. The BBC

(Originally posted on Facebook, April 1, 2017)

Ten days ago, on March 21, the government deployed a 100-person security team outside Khon Kaen court complex, for the pretrial hearing of for Pai Daodin, (Jutapat Boonpattararaksa), and a large crowd gathered to show their support for a man who is perhaps the second-most famous victim of Thailand’s harsh lese majesty laws. What is all the fuss about? Pai, a 25-year-old, shared a BBC news article about King Vajiralongkorn on Facebook. For this, he is jailed without bail, and if convicted, could serve 3 to 15 year in jail. The primary reason this case is making waves is the remarkable character of Pai Daodin himself and of his friends in the pro-democracy movement.

But this case has struck a nerve locally and internationally, not only because of the popularity and principled stand of Pai Daodin. There is so much at stake, not just for this man, but for freedom of speech in the region. On the same day that the Pai was arrested, December 2, one day after Vajiralongkorn accepted the title of King, the police also raided the offices of BCC Thai in Bangkok, finding them abandoned. The police claimed to be hunting for the author of the article on new King Vajiralongkorn, and Dictator Prayut Chan-o-cha made a statement to the press warning “that no agent, foreign or domestic, will receive special treatment where Thai law is concerned.”

BBC Thai replied that it “was established to bring impartial, independent, and accurate news to a country where the media faces restrictions, and we are confident that this article adheres to the BBC’s editorial principles.”

Within Thailand, those looking to read the BBC article on King Vajiralongkon were blocked by a message from the Orwellinan Ministry for Digital Economy and Society saying the website contained “inappropriate information.” Continue reading

A Refutation of Thailand’s Official Response to the International Outcry over lese majesty: “Crimes against humanity”?

By Ann Norman

You can read about the attack on Thailand’s lese majesty law by UN special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expresssion, David Kaye, and download the Amnesty International Report, in this Bangkok Post article HERE.

Meanwhile Worldwide Movement for Human Rights Presidents states that “The skyrocketing number of arbitrary detentions of lèse-majesté defendants under Thailand’s military junta has severely damaged the country’s international image. If this trend continues, there is a real chance that the junta’s extreme campaign to protect the monarchy could amount to crimes against humanity.”

You can read the Thai government’s lame defense here at the website of the Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

My point-by-point response to the Thai goverment’s statement, addresses the English-speaking audience who the Thai government hopes to fool: Continue reading

Thai singer sentenced to 10 years for alledged royal Insult. Free Tom Dundee!

You Can Help!!

Thanat Thanawatcharanon, also known as Tom Dundee ทอม ดันดี, 58, was a celebrity in Thailand for over a decade as a singer in the band Zu Zu. His music was playful and flirtatious. In 2010, he gave up doing concerts to become a leader of the Red Shirts (or United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship), giving speeches at rallies. During this time, he was denounced by royalist watchdogs (the Network of Volunteer Citizens to Protect the Monarchy on Facebook) for insulting the monarchy in some of these speeches.

The Thai constitution states that “The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action.” Section 112 of Thai Criminal Code states: “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.” We do not actually know what Tom Dundee or Thanat Thanawatcharanon said to cause the lese majesty accusation, because the alleged insults cannot be repeated.

Thanat’s case dragged out until after the May 2014 coup led by Prayut Chan-ocha. Sentences for royal insults have become increasingly harsh under the junta, which justifies itself as protector of the monarchy. Thanat Thanawatcharanon at first he denied he was guilty of lese majesty, but after 11 months he confessed, as most lese majesty prisoners do in hope of receiving a pardon or a lenient sentence. So all were shocked when, on June 1, 2016, he was given a sentence of 7.5 years. In addition, the royalist judge added that after he is released, he must compose a song promoting national reconciliation and plant trees in honor of the king.

On July 11, 2016, he was punished again for the same statements, when he was sentenced to several additional years under the Computer Crimes Act, which came into play because his speeches had been posted online. This brings the total time he will be imprisoned to 10 years, 10 months.

Former editor, and fellow lese majesty political prisoner Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, calls Tom Dundee Thailand’s true Songs for Life artist.

Thanat Thanawatcharanon, or Tom Dundee, remains in jail separated from his wife and family. He can be pardoned by the King. You can help by sending snail mail to the Thai Embassy in Washington DC.

Royal Thai Embassy Embassy
2300 Kalorama Rd NW, Washington,
DC 20008

Or go to this link and sending a quick email to (self-appointed) Prine Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and to Minister of Justice:

Free Tom Dundee

Guide to the Thai junta’s Draft Constitution: The “human rights” sections

Don't worry about Human rights

I read an English translation of the junta’s proposed draft constitution for Thailand and highlighted some interesting parts. The bold headings are mine. The rest is, unfortunately, the actual proposed constitution:

Preamble: You the people, are to blame for our current predicament because you are uneducated and immoral:
Sometimes there have been constitutional crises with no solutions and partial causes thereof were attributed to the people who ignored or disobeyed administrative rules, corrupted or distorted power or did not recognize their responsibility to the nation and the public resulting in ineffective law enforcement. It is therefore of necessity to prevent and resolve these problems by means of educational reform and law enforcement and to strengthen a moral and ethical system. Another reason concerned the consequences of political and administrative rules that were not appropriate for the situation of the country and the time period, and attached importance to the format and procedure rather than the fundamental principles of democracy; . . . .

Good governance is based on finding “good people” to rule and not on institutional checks and balances:
. . . the placement of mechanisms to strictly prevent, monitor and eradicate corruption and misconduct – all are for the purpose of preventing leaders or officials of no morals, ethics and good governance from taking power in the administration of the country or exercising their power arbitrarily.

Thailand is special and needs to craft a special form of government that incorporates the word “democracy”:
To achieve this goal requires co-operation from people in all sectors with the State agencies according to the people-state concept under the rules pertaining to the principle of democratic and traditional governance suitable for the situation and the characteristics of Thai society, the integrity, the human rights and good governance principles which will drive the development of the country in a strategic way towards political, economic and social stability, prosperity and sustainability in compliance with the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of the State.

We already explained to you simple farm folk why you need to vote yes; now shut up and vote YES:
In the implementation thereof, the Constitution Drafting Committee has built public awareness and understanding of the principles and justifications of all provisions on a periodic basis so as to provide the opportunities for the public to widely access the Draft Constitution and its explanations through a variety of media and to allow public participation in the development of the content of the Draft by providing recommendations on the revision it so requires. Upon completion, the Draft Constitution has been disseminated to the public with the summary of explanations on its essence in a manner which enables the public to easily and generally understand it, and has organized a referendum to approve the entire Draft Constitution.

You are getting sleepy, very sleepy . . . Now turn off your brain:
The sovereign power belongs to the Thai people. The King as Head of the State shall exercise such power through the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers and the Courts in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

We are making this up as we go along:
Whenever no provision under this Constitution is applicable to any case, . . . the President of the Constitutional Court shall convene a joint meeting of the President of the House of Representatives, the Opposition Leader in the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate, the Prime Minister, the President of the Supreme Court, the President of the Supreme Administrative Court, the President of the Constitutional Court, and the Presidents of Constitutional Organizations to make decision thereon. The joint meeting shall elect one among themselves to preside over each session. In case of the absence of any position holder, the joint meeting shall be composed of the existing holders of the positions.

Vajiralongkorn will magically become a god:
The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action.

All persons are equal before the law (some restrictions apply):
All persons are equal before the law and shall enjoy equal protection under the law. . . . Unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of the difference in origin, race, language, sex, age, disability, physical or health condition, personal status, economic or social standing, religious belief, education or political view that does not violate the provisions of this constitution, or any other ground shall be prohibited.

A person has the liberty to practice state-approved religions:
A person shall enjoy full liberty to profess a religion, and shall enjoy the liberty to observe or perform rites according to own religion, provided that it shall not be prejudicial to the duties of Thai people, be harmful to the security of the State, and be contrary to the public order or good morals of people.

A person shall enjoy freedom of speech, unless we don’t like what you’re saying:
A person shall enjoy the liberty to express his opinion, make speech, write, print, publicize, and make expression by other means. Restriction on such liberty shall not be permitted, except by virtue of the provisions of the law specifically enacted for the purpose of maintaining the security of the State, protecting the rights or liberties of other persons, maintaining public order or good morals of people, or safeguarding the health of the people.

Academic freedom is guaranteed if the topic isn’t too sensitive:
Academic freedom shall be protected, provided that the exercise of such freedom shall not be contrary to the duties of Thai people or good morals of people and shall respect and not impede differing opinions of other persons.

We guarantee the right to peaceful assembly, just not right now or any time in the foreseeable future:
A person shall enjoy the liberty to assemble peacefully and without arms. Restriction on the liberty under Paragraph One shall be prohibited, except by virtue of the provisions of the law enacted for the purpose of maintaining the security of the State, public safety, public order or good morals of people, or protecting the rights or liberties of other persons.

Royalists can form political parties. Republicans, not so much . . . . :
A person shall enjoy the liberty to unite and establish a political party in conformity with democratic regime of government with the King as Head of the State, as required by law.

This again:
A person shall have the following duties: (1) to uphold the Nation, religions, the King, and the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of the State;

The army will protect the Royal Instituiton from the people:
The State shall protect and uphold the Royal Institution, the independence, the sovereignty, the territorial integrity and the territory under sovereignty of Thailand, the national prestige and interests, the security of the State, and the public order of people. For the purpose herein, the State shall arrange for the efficacy of armed forces, diplomacy and intelligence. The armed forces shall also serve in the national development.

“Sufficiency economy.” Check.
The State shall organize the economic system that allows people to comprehensively, fairly and sustainably benefit from economic growth and to become self-reliant according to the philosophy of sufficiency economy, . . .

The Ministry of Truth (just kidding! We’ll call it something else):
The State shall promote accurate knowledge and understanding of people and communities in relation to the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of the State, and their participation in various aspects of the national development, inpublic services at the national and the local levels, in examination of the exercise of State power, in combating the corruption and misconduct, in political decision making, and in all matters that may affect the people or the communities.

This sounds like an actual political function:
The King has the prerogative to dissolve the House of Representatives for a new election of members of the House.

A (self-?)appointed Senate:
The Senate shall consist of two hundred members selected among themselves of persons who possess knowledge, expertise, experience, profession, or common characteristic or interest, or who work or have worked in diverse fields of the society.

Senators cannot be politicians!
Members of the Senate shall have the qualifications and shall not fall under the prohibitions as described here under: . . . (4) being a member of a political party; (5) holding or having held any position in a political party, unless he or she has vacated office in the political party for not less than five years up to the date of application; . . . A member of the Senate shall not be sided with or yielded to the mandate of any political party.

Representatives cannot be Taksin Shinawatra:
A person falling under any of the following prohibitions shall have no right to be a candidate in an election of members of the House of Representatives: . . . (3) being the owner or a shareholder in newspaper business or any mass media; (4) being disfranchised from exercising the right to vote pursuant to Section 96 (1), (2) or (4); (5) being under temporary suspension of applying for candidacy in an election or having been revoked of the right to apply for candidacy in an election; (6) having been sentenced to imprisonment by a court and being detained by a court warrant; . . . (8) having been expelled from the official service, a State agency or a State enterprise on the ground of malfeasance or be regarded as corruption in the official service; (9) having been sentenced by a final judgment or order of a court to have his or her assets vested in the State on the ground of unusual wealth, or having been sentenced to imprisonment by a final judgment on the ground of committing an offence under the law on prevention and suppression of corruption; (10) having been convicted by a final judgment of a court for committing wrongful conduct in official duties or justice affairs, or committing an offence under the law on the wrongful acts of officials in State organizations or State agencies, or an offence against property in bad faith according the Criminal Code, or an offence under the law on (13) being sentenced to imprisonment by a final judgment of a court, notwithstanding the suspension of punishment . . .

More fun stuff to come. You can read an English-language translation of the Thai draft constitution at this link: http://www.khaosodenglish.com/politics/2016/06/28/whats-draft-constitution-actually-say-read-english/

TAHR will join March for Democracy in Los Angeles

LA_protest_sign

Thais and international allies are invited to the

March for Democracy, Los Angeles, Saturday, July 30, 2016,

beginning 5pm in front of the Royal Thai Consulate, 611 N. Larchmont Blvd (Los Angeles, CA 90004).

At 6:00pm, we will then march for democracy on Hollywood Blvd from Wilcox to Mann Chinese Theatre.

We will be urging the Thai people to VOTE NO! in the upcoming referendum on the corrupt junta-drafted constitution.

Pro-democracy Thai-American and Thais and Farang (non-Thais) from all over the United States and Canada will join together in this event. All lovers of democracy are welcome; Thai and English will be used. You don’t need to be Thai to participate.

The March will be broadcast live from Los Angeles to Thai viewers worldwide. Local media are welcome. Leaders in the Thai human rights and democracy movement will be giving interviews. Information packets available for those who wish to learn about the struggle for democracy and human rights in Thailand.

The following media channels will be broadcasting live:

Ajahn Waan of Media Force.
Dr. Piangdin Rakthai’s United Networks of Red Ants for Democracy.
TPRUD  (Thai People’s Revolutionary University for Democracy)
The Organization of FreeThais for Human Rights and Democracy (OFHD)
NCP EU Sweden channel.
Thai Voice Media and Jom Voice with Jom Petchpradab
And RedUSA facebook live.

The Emperor Has No Clothes กษัตริย์แก้ผ้า

by Ann Norman   EmperorNEWclothes

There is Western children’s story that Westerners immediately think of when they hear about what is happening in Thailand. It is called “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” (“Emperor” and “King” mean the same thing). For instance, I was interviewed on an English-language podcast once––talking about Thailand, the coming succession, and lese majesty––and the producers chose to title the episode: “The King Has No Clothes!” “กษัตริย์แก้ผ้า!” which is the punchline of the story. Here is that children’s story, first published in a book by Hans Christian Anderson in 1837, almost 200 years ago:

Two weavers promise to make the King a new set of clothes, which are very beautiful but invisible to those who are “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent.” When the weavers bring the King the “new clothes” and praise him for looking so good in them, the King can’t see any clothes at all, but is afraid to say so because that would mean he was stupid and incompetent. In fact, the King is encouraged to go show off his “new clothes” in a big parade for all the kingdom to see. On the day of the parade, the King marches out wearing nothing at all (because he has been tricked) but the people all along the parade route cheer and praise the King for his beautiful clothes. No one wants to admit to being the only one who can’t see the King’s clothes (which could be dangerous)––until an innocent little boy, who doesn’t understand what is going on, shouts the obvious truth: “The Emperor has no clothes!” At that point the people in the crowd start murmuring to each other: “The Emperor has no clothes! . . . The Emperor has no clothes!” Until suddenly, everyone admits that their king is standing naked at the front of the parade.

I think of the invalid Thai King and Thai Queen on parade in their van with medical equipment and nurses helping them even to wave to the crowd, while everyone alongside the road cheers hysterically, holding pictures of them as young people. The truth is there is nothing to cheer about. The King and Queen can do nothing to help the Thai people anymore. No matter how much one loves or trusts the King, it is irrelevant now. His era is over!

And what next? Loving the king will not solve the problem of succession. I recently wrote a short facebook post about the problem which ended: “As for the statement, ‘All Thais love their King,’ that is not entirely true; however, more to the point, it is irrelevant because the King is going to be gone very soon and the Thais will have to endure the cruel and erratic Prince Vajiralongkorn, who they most certainly do not love. It’s time for Thailand to openly discuss its very serious and immediate problems, and for that we need freedom of speech, which many Thais are now demanding. Let the world stand with the Thais demanding the right to discuss their political future.”

This post above an article got 17 likes, but 105 shares! (Some of the shares were for the article itself without my comment, but still!) How does that happen that a post gets 6 times as many shares as likes? It happens because we are all acting like the people in the crowd at the Emperor’s naked parade, afraid to admit the obvious, waiting for someone else to do it.

I understand that not everyone can safely do what I did. I don’t live in Thailand and have nothing to lose by speaking out. But there is safety in numbers. These are things that would be safe to say in a crowd of 100,000 people. Thais outside of Thailand are saying it. I’m sure many Thais inside Thailand are saying it in private. How could they not be? Sooner or later––and it NEEDS to be soon––everyone is going to be stating the obvious:  The monarch, especially if it is is going to be Prince Vajiralongkorn, is NOT the key to Thailand’s future security.

I’ll introduce another interesting Western metaphor that applies to the situation: “The shit is about to hit the fan.” What does that mean? Imagine you throw some shit at a fan . . . everything is good, everything is good, and then, the shit hits the fan.

 

 

Beautiful Pictures from the Protest at Democracy Monument

KhunPravitandJaNew
May 22, I woke up at 5:00 am and decided to check my facebook before going back to bed. I was delighted and privileged to find live feed of an ongoing pro-democracy protest in Thailand to mark the 2nd Anniversary of the 2014 coup: 200 people peacefully marching to Democracy Monument and openly voicing their opposition to the coup and their demands for democracy and human rights. So inspiring! Don’t you love this pretty screenshot of Kashod Reporter Pravit Rojanaphruk interviewing activist Ja New with in front of Democracy Monument? Ja New is the young man whose mother was recently thrown in jail on a completely ridiculous lese majesty charge (she failed to criticize someone who sent her a message), in a blatant and futile attempt to stop Ja New from protesting. Khun Pravit has been to “attitude adjustment” several times. As we can hear from the interviews in the video of the protest, no attitudes have been adjusted. Those opposing this dictatorship just keep stating the obvious.

protest at democracy monument

Thai Activist’s MOTHER sent to jail for NOT OBJECTING to a Facebook post. Happy Mother’s Day!

by Ann Norman

Ja New and Mother

Oh yes, we now have a lese majesty “offence” even more frivolous than liking a joke about the kings’s dog: The MOTHER of a prominent young activist arrested for failing to criticize her son’s friend when he sent her messages which someone has deemed insulting to the monarchy. The friend sent the message and said, “Don’t criticize me for saying all this.” And she replied, “Yeah.” So off to jail for up to 3 to 15 years for saying “yeah” on facebook rather than criticizing a comment. No bail because this is a “serious offense.” HAPPY MOTHER’S Day everyone!

On May 6, 2016, Patnaree Chankij, a widow and mother of 3, was hauled off to jail without bail for failing to criticize Burin Intin, a friend of her son, when he sent her the allegedly offensive Facebook messages. Burin had been arrested days earlier for lese majesty (Human Rights Watch, May 6, 2016). Keep in mind that the unmentionable content is very possibly something we in the West would consider innocuous: Any comment about the monarchy other than “I would die for the King!” is at this point considered treasonous. Lese majesty can mean mentioning true but inconvenient facts related to the monarchy. Lese majesty can mean complaining about the harshness of the lese majesty law itself. Lese majesty can mean insulting the Prince, who pretty much deserves any insult you can think up—just last year he divorced his third wife and threw her whole family in jail for lese majesty—with the bodyguards! And who would really blame these oppressed citizens if they actively railed against King Bhumipol himself, who has allowed about 100 people a year to go to jail to protect his once good name?

Also, whatever the comment that Burin Intin sent to Patnaree Chankij, we do not know that she even agreed with it. Like the word “yeah,” the word she used in Thai to respond to Burin’s comment can either mean “Yes” or just, “I’m listening to what you are saying.”

Her activist son, 23 year old Ja New, was shocked to hear of his mothers arrest, saying “My mother never talks politics, not to mention anything that could risk 112 [lese majesty].”

This is not the first time the junta has tried to get at Ja New through his mother. Last December the military came to her house to tell her to try to talk her son out of a planned political protest at Rajabhakti Park. As reported by Pravit Rojanaphruk:

“Soldiers dispatched by the military junta first tried to persuade her by offering to fix the leaking roof of her single-story, dilapidated house she rents in the capital’s Minburi district and promising scholarships for her children. It didn’t work. Patnaree said she respected her son’s decision and political stance, and told them it would be impossible to talk him out of political activism anyhow. Things became more tense when the junta representatives told her they could not guarantee what might happen to her son and the home improvement and scholarship offers were off the table after she started writing on Facebook to criticize the perceived threats.” (December 13, 2015, Kashod English)

In that same article, she was reported as saying, “I have no concern for politics. Whoever becomes prime minister, I’m still going to be poor.”

So, as much of the world celebrates Mother’s Day, Thailand’s junta tosses a Mother of three in jail for respecting the choices of her oldest son. And her other two children are young and need her at home.

A year ago, here in the US, we were discussing the increasingly absurd lese majesty witch hunt in Thailand, and my friend repeated a joke about the old Soviet Union:

A man sees prisoners chained together digging ditches along the side of the road. Someone asks the guard, “What did these prisoners do?”

“Oh their offense was very serious. They told a joke about Stalin.”

“And how about those prisoners over there on the other side of the road?”

“They heard it.”

We laughed, noting that Thailand was almost at that point. Well, it is time to stop laughing because, unbelievably, we are now there: It is illegal to hear a joke. Don’t run from this invasion of your privacy. Get on Facebook and scream and shout and demand an end to the insanity!

WHO is behind the anti-government propaganda??? Something for the Crime Suppression Committee to consider . . .

Something to consider