Remarks by Sukit Subaneksanti at the Laotion-Thai Human Rights Conference on Capital Hill, Washington DC, April 26, 2017

Good afternoon everyone.

My name is Sukit Subaneksanti. I am representing “The Union of Democracy Loving Thai People of Illinois,” a Thai organization in Chicago.

Thailand

Behind those deceiving slogans of “Thailand: The Land of Smiles” and “Amazing Thailand” is the bitterness most Thai people are enduring because of the lack of freedom, democracy, and the ever-growing, ever more powerful dictatorship.

Thai government’s worldwide propaganda…

Claims that Thailand is a democratic country under unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy, and the King is under the laws.

This is not true. Thailand is not a democratic country. Thailand is under a deceptive absolute monarchy, and the King is above all laws

Therefore, Thailand is under dictatorship.

To truly understand Thailand’s dictatorship, one must understand its structure.

Thailand’s dictatorship is comprised of 3 powers, 1st the monarchy system, 2nd the King, and 3rd the tools of tyranny.

The first two, the monarchy system and the King:

Fronted by the present King Rama the X, Thailand’s dictatorship is rooted in monarchy system.

Yes, the monarchy system, the very same system that Westerners wrongly see as the symbol of kindness and the center of heart and mind of Thai people.

The 3rd power of Thailand’s dictatorship structure
Are the tools of tyranny, including Article 112, Article 44, regulations, a phony judicial system, a phony legislative system, intelligence agencies, military forces, police, prisons, intimidation squads, phony accusations, harassment, attack, and more.

The center of all evil things happening in Thailand

Are the monarchy system and the King, combined.

Because they originate from the immoral belief that all men are not created equal, Thailand’s monarchy system and the King need to legitimize themselves. 

To do that, most Thailand’s media are being used as oppressive tools and propaganda machines to maintain their Godlike images, above all other Thai people.

Now, let’s look at the press in Thailand:

Press ownership:
Practically almost all Thailand media are own or heavily influenced by the dictatorship.

Print outlets: Large companies and prominent families, many with political ties, own the majority of them.

Free-to-air television stations and the roughly 700 officially registered radio stations: Are owned by state entities, including the armed forces and police

Press freedom in Thailand continues to get worse day by day.

Oppression by laws:

– National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) คสช. คณะรักษาความสงบแห่งชาติ, whose leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, a Prime Minister has aggressively enforced defamation and lèse-majesté laws, banned criticism of its rule, and harassed, attacked, and shut down media outlets.
Article 44, also known as the unlimited authority laws. This law gives sweeping powers to General Prayuth as the NCPO chairman and allows him to issue orders with no oversight or accountability.
Article 112 or lèse-majesté laws have had a particularly chilling effect on freedom of expression.
– It is the penal code that assigns penalties of up to 15 years in prison for anyone who “defames, insults, or threatens the member of the royal family, royal development projects, the institution of royalty, the Chakri Dynasty, or any previous Thai king,
– The laws have been used to protect governments and to shield military coups from lawful criticism.
– Even a sarcastic comment online about the King’s dog, Tongdaeng, counts as lèse-majesté
– Even calls to reform lèse-majesté laws have themselves resulted in charges of lèse-majesté”
– Prosecutors have been able to increase sentences beyond this threshold by charging multiple counts
– Article 112 complaints can be brought by one citizen against another, and authorities are required to investigate them.
– Lèse-majesté defendants are almost always denied bail.
– This whole [royal] image is created to bolster a conservative elite well beyond the walls of the palace.
Criminal defamation laws are also used to silence dissent.
The military court system has been central to the NCPO’s crackdown on dissent.
– Thai military courts do not meet international human rights standards, including the right to a fair trial.
– They regularly try civilians for lèse-majesté, threats to national security, and sedition การปลุกปั่นให้ขัดขืน, and generally impose harsher sentences than civilian courts.
– There is no right of appeal, and rulings are handed down without announcement or any form of public observation.

The results:

– Journalists, critical academics, activists, and others continued to face intimidation, summonses from authorities, and arbitrary (having any value or form) detention and arrests throughout the years.
– Since the 2014 coup, there has been a sharp increase in lèse-majesté cases,
– Sentences issued during 2015 ranged as high as 30 years in prison.

Cybersecurity Bill:

– Cybersecurity Bill that would increase surveillance, prevent the publication of sensitive material, and facilitate data interception and website blocking.

– Amended Computer Crime Laws Spark Protests in Thailand, (VOA, Dec 20, 2016) http://www.voanews.com/a/amended-computer-crime-laws-spark-protests-in-thailand/3643284.html

– The amendments to the 2007 Computer Crimes Act were passed overwhelmingly by the military backed National Legislative Assembly, a rubber stamp of dictatorship.

– The amendments are in addition to Thailand’s tough Lese Majeste laws protecting the Thai Royal Family from criticism and defamation

Amnesty International said the changes allow for the prosecution and imprisonment of computer users who “peacefully express their opinions online, as well as internet service providers hosting sites where such opinions are posted.”

The rights group said the laws enable authorities to “conduct invasive surveillance of internet traffic – in some cases without prior judicial authorization – and to suppress electronic content deemed to threaten a variety of vaguely defined state interests”.

Amnesty International’s Thailand director said the laws created a climate of fear and anxiety in the online community.

Oppress by rules and regulations:

– The authorities proposed new measures that further restrict media freedom
The new visa restrictions imposed on foreign journalists,

– Effective from 21 March 2016, there are new criteria covering foreign journalists who apply to work in Thailand for periods longer than three months.

– A vague provision in the new guidelines gives authorities new discretionary powers to deny visas to foreign reporters

Thailand: Latest media bill:

Thailand: The latest media bill, has been called a ‘death blow’ to media freedom, (Asian Correspondent, Feb 2, 2017)

Thailand: Latest media bill labelled ‘death blow’ to media freedom

– Thirty media organizations in Thailand came together to express their concern against the impending bill that they say could curtail press freedom further in a country that already struggles with extreme censorship.

– A crucial point of concern is that the bill will include the establishment of a “national media profession council” that will be empowered to penalize media outlets that violate the code of conduct.

– Four of the 13 members of this council will be government members, namely the permanent secretaries of finance, digital economy and society, culture, and the Office of the Prime Minister.

– Another controversial aspect of the bill is the requirement for all media professionals – including journalists, news readers, radio presenters, television hosts – to be registered, gain a license and to carry a media identity card, with the threat of losing their registration and heavy fines for ethical breaches.

– The conditions for issuing and revoking the license will be decided by the national media profession council.

All these facts I have listed are not good for Thailand’s freedom of expression.

Thai people should understand that … unless they democratize their country, the situation will only get worse.

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