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  • After almost 3 decades, Nong Bua Lamphu community rights group now hopes for permanent end to mining operations

    After more than two decades of struggle against quarry mining in Dongmafai sub District, Suwannakhuha District ,Nong Bua Lamphu Province, the community women and men human rights defenders impacted by the mining will organize a blockade in an attempt to stop the mining operations.

    The blockade is likely to take place in front of the mining site if the demands with the Provincial Governor of Nong Bua Lamphu and related agencies to permanently shut down the mine and Mine rehabilitation are not met during the roundtable negotiations this Thursday, 13 August 2020.

    The blockade is to be led by the Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group, an environmental community-based W/HRDs group impacted by the mining operations. The group has opposed the mining operations for the past 26 years, which has sadly resulted in the killing of 4 HRDs/members of the group between 1993-1999. No perpetrator was held responsible for the crimes.

    It is estimated that about 4,000 people who reside in six villages surrounding the mining sites are impacted by the daily explosions which causes noise pollution and damage to households due to falling debris. It also impacts the villagers’ access to sources of food in a nearby community forest. The mining area currently occupies 175 rai of a total of 200-rai of community forest.

    The group demands that the forest reserve area utilized by the mine be rehabilitated. It also demands that the authorities declare the area a conservation zone for its archaeological sites. Parts of the area has been registered by the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture as an important archaeological site as 3,000 years old mural paintings were found in the caves of a nearby cliff.

    According the new Mining Act 2017, forest area which is found to have watersheds or archaeological sites must be exempted from mining. The reserve in Dongmafai Subdistrict has both, raising the question as to why the authorities still allowed the company to continue its mining operations.

    In 2004, the Administrative Court revoked the company’s permit to utilize the forest and their mining license due to not fulfilling adequate regulatory requirements. However, this decision was later overturned in 2010 by the Supreme Administrative Court when the mining permit also expired. The company’s license was subsequently renewed in 2010, and is due to expire on 24 September 2020.

    In 2018, the Udon Thani Administrative Court revoked the company’s second mining permit after a lawsuit was filed by the local residents. It ruled that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and other government agencies had failed to allow public participation, as required by the constitution, prior to granting a permit for the firm to mine limestone. However, since the company appealed the decision, the mining operations still continues until today.

    Despite the decades-old opposition by the local residents to utilize the forest, which contradicts the basis in obtaining a mining license, the company still proceeds with obtaining the permit renewal. The group has found a number of illegalities during the permit renewal procedures such as the tactics done at the subdistrict administrative level to approve the utilization of the forest reserve despite the villagers’ opposition.

    Therefore, the W/HRDs of the Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group is set to have a roundtable negotiation with the Provincial Governor of NongBuaLamphuProvince and other 8 related state agencies related to the mining license approvals. The agencies invited include the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of the Natural Resource and Environment, the Provincial Industry Office, the Department of Primary Industries and Mines.

    The negotiation is to take place from 10am at the NongBuaLamphu Provincial Hall. If the group’s demands are not met, they will organize the people’s blockade at the company’s mining entrance in Dongmafai Subdistrict.

    The group also plans to organize a public forum on the afternoon of the 13th at the blockade with details as follows:

    “Three generations of struggle at Dongmafai: #LetsEndItInOurGenerations”

    The Speakers include:

    • Sunee Anuwet, a 61-year-old mother who has joined the Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Group since she was around 40 years old and still plays an active role in organizing the communities.
    • Wilai Anuwet, Sunee’s daughter, whose house is affected by the frequent noise and tremors from the mining explosions. She will also join in the negotiations with the Provincial Governor. 
    • Khoon Atsaphai, the uncle of Sunee has opposed the mining since the early 1990s and still continues to be active leader of the group.
    • Juthamas Srihutthaphadungkit from the People’s Network Who Own Mineral Resources, a nationwide network of grassroots communities who hold authorities and extractive companies accountable. Juthamas will discuss the failure of state intervention, the mechanisms to protect the natural resources and the importance of communities’ rights to protect their environment.

    The blockade is set to occupy the mines entrance until the authorities agree to the terms of the group’s demands.

    12 August 2020
    8716 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • TLHR statement on the exercise of freedom of expression to criticize the monarchy

    The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights statement urges state and public to tolerate, respect, protect and upheld freedom of expression toward the monarchy. The peaceful, unarmed expression and questionings are important in democratic regime.

    Since 18 July 2020, youth and various civic groups have demonstrated against dictatorship in Thailand. Free Youth has proposed three demands: the state must stop intimidating the people, a new constitution must be drafted, and parliament must be dissolved. At least 107 public activities and assemblies have been organized in 52 provinces, the latest of which was the #ThammasatCantTakeItAnymore demonstration organized by the United Front of Thammasat and Assembly at Lan Payanak on Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on 10 August 2020.

    In addition to their main demands, the demonstrators in each of these assemblies have pitched various other demands based on their specific interests. These have included demands related to education, same-sex marriage, legalization of sex work and criticism of the expansion of the power of the monarchy in the aftermath of the coup, such as in the ten demands listed in Declaration No. 1 of the United Front of Thammasat and Assembly.

    The exercise of the right to freedom of expression and public assembly has caused at least 76 organizers of the events to face intimidation and surveillance, as well as being told to call off the events, denied permission to hold the events, and the events being intervened by the authorities, etc. At least four legal cases have been initiated against individuals who have exercised their right to freedom of expression, particularly as a result of their criticism of the monarchy. It has led to the arrests of lawyer Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer, and Phanuphong Jadnok, a university student, and it appears more people will be slapped with legal cases.

    The issue has ignited widespread and fiery debate online as some view the exercise of such freedom of expression by the demonstrators as illegal acts and “insulting to the monarchy.” They have even threatened that the dehumanizing violence of 6 October 1976 at Thammasat’s Tha Pra Chan campus could repeat itself.

    Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) is concerned about the situation and would like to share the following opinions:

    1. In a democracy, freedom of expression is one of the most important freedoms. Being free to express oneself and being free to participate in a peaceful assembly are instrumental to the process of democratization and do not cause public havoc. Public administration that responds to the needs of the people, who are the power holders in a democracy, is not possible without the expression of opinions by the people.

    2. The exercise of freedom of expression to criticize the monarchy — whether to question its expenses, its powers and duties, and how a king should behave, and even to question the form of government — is a legitimate right since monarchy is a constitutional organ. As freedom of expression is essential in a democracy, the criticism made about the monarch as a state organ is therefore normal as attested to in other democracies including Spain or the Netherlands where such criticism can be made openly and publicly.

    3. The right to freedom of expression and assembly is prescribed and upheld in Sections 34 and 44 of the 2017 Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand and Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Thailand is a state party and with which it is obliged to comply. Such a right is also regarded as a universal value in compliance with international human rights standards.

    The demonstration at Thammasat University on 10 August 2020, the protest at the Democracy Monument on 3 August 2020 and other public gatherings have all been conducted peacefully by unarmed protestors. It is merely the exercise of the legitimate rights to freedom of expression and assembly and can be done under a constitutional monarchy.

    TLHR, therefore, urges the state to respect, protect and uphold the exercise of such rights and freedoms, to stop any harassment and any attempt to stymie or intervene in the activities, and to stop criminalizing individuals who exercise their right to freedom of expression and assembly. We also urge the public to be tolerant to the various opinions expressed. This will eventually bring us on course towards a full-fledged democracy.

    With respect in the people’s rights and freedoms

    Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)

    11 August 2020

    12 August 2020
    8715 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • AI Thailand and Wanchalearm's Family visited the Royal Embassy of Cambodia to seek progress on Wanchalearm's enforced disapperance

    Today (11 August 2020), 2 pm, Wanchalearm's family and Amnesty International Thailand request a meeting with H.E. Mr. Ouk Sorphorn, Ambassador of Cambodia to Thailand, to discuss and acknowledge investigation progress related to the enforced disapperance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, since 4 June 2020. The family also celebrates Wanchalearm's 38th birthday.

    Sitanun Satsaksit (centre) at the Cambodian Embassy earlier today

    Piyanut Kotsan, Director of Amnesty International Thailand, states that it has been two months since Wanchalearm has disappeared and there is no progress on his whereabouts either from Thai or Cambodian authority. Prior to this, Amnesty International had issued an urgent action inviting Amnesty members and supporters in Thailand and around the world to sign petition requesting Cambodian authority to start an investigation on Wanchalearm's alleged abduction, inform the family on his fate and whereabouts, as well as bring any person suspected of criminal responsibility to justice in a fair trial. The request also involves Cambodian  authority to stay in line with obligations as provided by the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, to which Cambodia is a state party.

    "After more than two-month collecting signatures, more than 5,000 people joined and signed the petition. We also campaign for our supporters to further submit the petition with requests of actions to Cambodian authority in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Phillippines, Malaysia, United States of America, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand etc. until 1 October 2020. We call for an effective, urgent, thorough and transparent investigation to deliver justice for the disappeared's family because this kind of grievance should not happen to anyone"

    Sitanun Satsaksit, Wanchalearm's older sister, reveals that it has been more than 60 days that her brother has been missing but her family still lives up a hope and waiting for answers both from Thai and Cambodian authority on Wanchalearm's fate and whereabouts. She also wishes to see bilateral cooperation for criminal investigation and fact-finding. In July, the family has appointed a lawyer in Cambodia  for legal affairs in the country and hoping that Cambodian authority would facilitate a serious investigation and bring Wanchalearm back to safety, tell the truth about the reasons behind his disappearance, and explain who is the perpetrator in order to bring the person to justice.

    "When the travel-ban restriction is lifted to enter Cambodia, I will travel there immediately to testify to the prosecutor and police officers as victim of enforced disappearance. Even though the lawyer is appointed there, Cambodian authority also wants to testify the victim further. More than 60 days, our family is waiting for the truth and clarity from both countries. A person is missing and clear evidences indicated that he was enforced or unwillingly abducted. Our family receives no investigation progress for more than two months.” Sitanun said.

    The family also takes this occasion to celebrate Wanchalearm's 38th birthday with cake and cookies while sharing them to the Embassy's staffs, police officers, press and pedestrians in front of the Royal Embassy of Cambodia to help calling justice for Wanchalearm and his family. The Cambodian embassy refused to come outside the embassy to receive the petition with signatures. They asked police official of Wang Thonglang police station to receive the document instead. Therefore, the organizer decided to not hand over the petition to the police and will seek other channel to directly reach out to the embassy.

    11 August 2020
    8714 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • HRW calls for Thai authorities to drop charges against activists

    Thai authorities should immediately and unconditionally release prominent human rights lawyer Anon Nampha and democracy activist Panupong Jadnok, Human Rights Watch said on Saturday (8 August). They should drop all charges related to their participation in peaceful rallies to demand restoration of democracy. Police are reported to be targeting at least 31 other people, including many student movement leaders, for arrest in the coming days.

    Anon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok after they were released on bail.

    “By arresting peaceful activists calling for democracy and political reform, Thailand is continuing the kind of oppressive rule established under the previous military dictatorship,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Governments around the world should call out Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha for making a mockery of his pledges to respect human rights, and demand the release of these political prisoners.”

    On August 7, 2020, police arrested Arnon and Panupong in Bangkok on charges related to their involvement in the “Free Youth” rally in Bangkok on July 18. They are charged with sedition, which carries a maximum seven-year prison term, assembly with intention to cause violence, violating the ban on public gathering, and other criminal offenses. On August 8, police received approval from the Bangkok Criminal Court to put them in pre-trial detention at the Bangkok Remand Prison.

    The arrest of Arnon and Panupong happened despite the prime minister’s public promise on August 4 that the government would provide a space for the dissenters to voice their concerns and opinions, following the escalating youth-led, anti-government protests in recent weeks. “I am concerned about our youth, and I want them to know that we will listen to their ideas about what they want their future to look like,” Prayut said.

    The Free Youth movement organized a peaceful rally in front of the Democracy Monument in Bangkok on July 18. Arnon and Panupong spoke at the event, which was the largest political protest in Thailand since the 2014 military coup, with more than 1,000 participants calling for the dissolution of parliament, a new constitution, and an end to authorities harassing people who exercise their freedom of expression. Human Rights Watch interviewed numerous witnesses to the demonstration and watched videos of the protest, all of which stated or showed that the protest was peaceful. The rallies have since spread to 45 provinces across the country and broadened their demands to include reforms of the institution of the monarchy to curb King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s powers.

    International human rights law, as reflected in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that Thailand ratified in 1996, protects the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. But Thai authorities have routinely enforced censorship and gagged public discussions of rights, political reforms, and the monarchy. Over the past decade, hundreds of activists and dissidents have been prosecuted on serious criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) for peacefully expressing their views.

    Repression continued after the March 2019 general elections, which brought the coup leader General Prayut back to office as prime minister for a second term. Thailand’s anti-democratic trend has intensified over the past five months, as Thai authorities have used state of emergency measures implemented to control the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to ban anti-government rallies and harass pro-democracy activists.  

    International pressure is urgently needed to press for a genuine transition to civilian democratic rule in Thailand.

    “With each new politically motivated arrest, Thailand moves further away from the democratic path,” Adams said. “Peaceful protests for political reform should not be criminalized. Diplomats and the United Nations need to publicly demand the Thai government allow its people to organize and express their visions for the country’s future.”

    11 August 2020
    8713 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • Regional MPs urge Thai authorities to respect freedom of speech and assembly

    Regional lawmakers today called on Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop charges against human rights lawyer Anon Nampa and student activist Panupong Jadnok, and to ensure that all those participating in peaceful protests can do so without fear of reprisals. 

    Participants in the demonstration at Thammasat University's Rangsit Campus on 10 August flashing the three-finger 'Hunger Games' salute

    “Peacefully voicing your opinion in public is not a crime. Those participating in peaceful protests should not do so at the cost of their liberty,” said Charles Santiago, Member of Parliament (MP) in Malaysia and chairperson of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). 

    “The Thai authorities should know by now that their repeated attempts at silencing calls for greater democracy are not only illegal but also counterproductive. Thai youth in particular are hungry for change, and the authorities’ threats will merely strengthen their determination. Instead, Thai leaders might find that listening to those willing to peacefully discuss Thailand’s future will in fact be of greater benefit to the country,” Santiago said. 

    On 7 August police officers arrested Anon Nampa and Panupong Chadnok, and the pair were later charged under a number of criminal offences including sedition, assembly, intending to cause violence, and violating the ban on public gatherings. If found guilty they could face years in prison. The two were released on bail the following day on the condition that they do not engage in the alleged offences for which they were arrested. 

    The charges relate to their involvement in the peaceful pro-democracy “Free Youth” rally held in Bangkok on 18 July. At the event Anon Nampa called for a public debate on the role of the monarchy within Thai politics. According to news reports another 31 activists risk possible arrest, raising fears of a wider crackdown. 

    The peaceful student pro-democracy movement, which started before the COVID-19 pandemic and has resumed nationwide in recent weeks, calls for an end to the harassment of political activists, the dissolution of parliament and revision of the Constitution. On the evening of 10 August, thousands joined an anti-government demonstration at Bangkok’s Thammasat University.  

    Following a post-elections fact-finding mission last year, APHR found that the only avenue to restoring democracy in Thailand is to amend the current Constitution to ensure that all government representatives are democratically elected, for the separation of powers to be guaranteed, and for civilian oversight of the military to be restored within a properly functioning system of checks and balances. APHR also found that democracy activists and human rights defenders remain at risk in Thailand, and urged authorities to ensure that they can work in a safe and enabling environment free from fear of harassment, threats, surveillance, and physical attacks. 

    11 August 2020
    8712 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • “We are the people!” student-led protest demands activists’ release

    A student-led protest took place at the Pathumwan Skywalk on Saturday (8 August) to demand the release of human rights lawyer Anon Nampa and student activist Panupong Jadnok, who were arrested on Friday (7 August) and then released on bail.

    Protestors flashing the three-finger salute as they surround the police officers and pushing them away from the protest leaders. 

    The protest, led by the Free People Group, many of whose leaders are on a list being circulated on Friday night of protest leaders now targeted for arrest, took place at the Pathumwan Skywalk following the arrest of Anon and Panupong, who were accused of sedition and violation of the Emergency Decree among other charges.

    Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that there were around 30 – 40 police officers deployed in the area before the start of the protest. As the protest was starting, they made an announcement ordering the organisers to end the protest as they had not given prior notification to the authorities according to the Public Assembly Act.

    At 16.15, the police formed a line blocking participants from the organisers while a group of officers spoke with the organisers, as the crowd shouted “stop harassing citizens!” while flashing the three-finger ‘Hunger Games’ salute, now a well-recognised symbol of resistance seen at every protest in Thailand.

    The protestors were also booing and shouting “Police get out!” and “We are the people!” as they pushed the officers out of the centre of the protest, while the organisers carried in a cardboard cutout of a red bull.

    One of the organisers gave a speech in front of a cardboard cutout of a red bull.

    One speaker shouted “We are not afraid and we will not take it anymore” and asked the crowd to sing “Do You Hear the People Sing?” with her while flashing the three-finger salute.

    One speaker at the event announced that she would like to invite every new graduate not to join their graduation ceremony.

    “I would like to invite every graduate not to join their graduation ceremony. Graduation ceremonies cost a lot of money. Graduation day is an expression of success for us and our families, therefore there is no need for us to go into an auditorium. There is no need for us to join a ceremony. We go to the event and take pictures with our family and friends. I would like everyone to go to the event but to not enter the auditorium. We can receive our certificates from our teachers, from our parents, from the people who pay to send us to university. We don’t need flowers or gifts. Let’s bring blank pieces of paper and take pictures together as a symbol that this year we will not join the graduation ceremony.”

    Another speaker announced a campaign inviting new graduates to not join their graduate ceremony. 

    University graduation ceremonies in Thailand often cost a large sum of money for the graduate, including the cost of the graduation gown, hiring a photographer, and travel costs for those who live in another province from their university. Universities also often impose strict dress code for graduates, specifying even hair colour and nail polish colour. Many trans students also face obstacles in getting permission from their university to dress according to their gender identity. University degree certificates are also, in most cases, conferred upon the graduate at the ceremony by a member of the royal family.

    Approximately 1000 people joined the protest, which persisted despite the rain which fell for most of the event. Protestors were seen with placards saying “If we burn, you burn with us,” “This is the song of angry people,” “Look here Anon, the people are on your side,” and “Dictatorship cannot give you gender equality.”

    Some of the signs seen at the protest. The first one says "Look here Anon, the people are on your side." The fourth one says “Dictatorship cannot give you gender equality," while the last one says "The more you tramble us into the ground, the more beautiful we grow." 

    ‘Missing person’ posters for Somchai Neelapaijit and Wanchalearm Satsaksit, both victims of enforced disappearance, were also seen around the protest area. The posters, made by the student group Spring Movement, who has also made digital copies of the poster available, are now a common sight at many protests currently springing up across the country.

    'Missing person' posters for Somchai Neelapaijit and Wanchalearm Satsaksit

    Representatives of the student rights group Bad Student also spoke about high school students facing harassment from their schools when they try to organize a demonstration.

    “Many schools said they are neutral, but I would like to ask you, between dictatorship and democracy, do we still need neutrality?

    “Rules like cropping our hair are not a measure of how good you are. Little things like these are what make us used to having our rights violated.

    “I want to encourage every student who wants to organize a demonstration and faces harassment and threats. We must not fear dictatorial power.”

    Representatives of the Bad Student group speaking on stage. 

    Around 17.00, the organisers announced that Anon and Panupong had been released on bail, and the crowd cheered loudly.

    Other student activist leaders also joined the protest, including Sirawit “Ja New” Serithiwat and Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa.

    Jatupat also spoke on stage near the end of the protest. He said that, after 6 years, the people are still oppressed and harassed. The authorities are using the sedition law and the disease control act to control the people. He also said that the fact that there are so many students out protesting shows the growth of the pro-democracy movement.

    “I am 10th on the list of people to receive a warrant, but I think I’m not afraid,” Jatupat said. “Who is really afraid? The people who are arresting us are the ones who are afraid. They are afraid of the truth, of the truth no one dares to speak, but everyone is enlightened now, right? Today they are trying to press down on our freedom. We must help defend it. Don’t let anyone oppress you. This is human dignity. If you are human, it is enough for you to come out.”

    Protest leaders now targetted for arrest appeared on stage. 

    Protestors flashing the three-finger salute at the end of the protest

    At 19.30, several protest leaders whose names appeared on a list of those targeted for arrest appeared on stage. The organisers then asked participants to join them at the protest scheduled for 16 August at the Democracy Monument. They then asked the participants to turn on the flashlights on their phones and flash the three-finger salute as they shouted “we won’t stop until the dictator’s power is gone”, before ending the protest.

    11 August 2020
    8711 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • 6 Phitsanulok activists forcibly abducted in attempt to stop 9 Aug. protest

    A protest on 9 August in Phitsanulok Province was interrupted as leading figures were  abducted by people claiming to be state agents, taken to their homes and asked to cancel the protest.

    A chat published by the Student Union of Thailand saying that 3 organizers could not be contacted.

    The Facebook page of the organizers, “Brave Phitsanulok not yielding to the dictator,” posted a statement on the same day that at 12.30, one of the organizers was visited by 6 people claiming to be state agents, along with her mother.

    Her smartphone was seized and she was put into a van and taken to her home in a different district. One of the agents tried to convince her politely not to hold the event because the authorities were very concerned about the protest. Some people had filed a complaint that the protest was improper and would lead to a potential clash between 2 groups of people.

    This agent attempted to apply psychological pressure by saying that Phitsanulok is the headquarters of the 3rd Army Area, responsible for the north of the country. Any activity that caused a threat to national security may have negative results.

    The leaders of the sub-district administration and the village chief were waiting for her at her home. They tried to convince her not to organize any such event again. The conversation finished at 18.40. She was not charged with any offence.

    She stated through the Facebook page that any further action will be made after consultation with lawyers and human rights activists. The Facebook page also reported that similar action was taken against 5 other leading figures in the protest.

    The protest at Phitsanulok was nevertheless held, but with a small number of participants.

    The abductions were first exposed on the Facebook page of the Student Union of Thailand (SUT) which reported that it was suddenly impossible to contact 3 of the organizers. A person claiming to be a Border Patrol Policeman informed the SUT that they were detained at the Chao Phraya Chakri Camp of the Border Patrol Police in Phitsanulok.

    BBC Thai reported later that the Superintendent of Border Patrol Police Sub Division 31, Pol Col Wisanphong Soikunbodi, denied this.

    Harassment against people who attended countrywide protests has increased significantly since the mass protest in Bangkok on 18 July. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have reported that 5 out of at least 76 planned activities could not be held due to intervention by the authorities.

    TLHR has observed various forms of pressure and intimidation against organizers to stop their activities such as house visits, forcing individuals to sign MOUs promising not to talk about the monarchy, applying pressure to families and schools, taking people to police stations without official warrants and publicly threatening protesters that their activities might constitute a violation of the law.

    11 August 2020
    8710 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • [Full statement] The demonstration at Thammasat proposes monarchy reform

    The organizer of the demonstration at Thammasat University read their first declaration. It proposes that the monarchy should be reformed in line with democratic principles. The perception toward the monarchy should not be exaggerated.

    Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, the Student Union of Thailand spokesperson read the first declaration at the Thammasat demonstration on 10 August.

    The demonstration was held on 10 August. The proposal toward the monarchy reform has been made even more objectively after the first speech about the monarchy role and deep-rooted Thai political problems by Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer in a demonstration on 3 August.

    Beside the monarchy issue, other demonstrators also gave speeches about other problem such as labor rights, gender equality and political crisis.

    Anon Nampa calls for monarchy reform and open criticism of the crown

    United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration

    Declaration No. 1

    To the people:

    Since the People’s Party fomented a revolutionary transformation, the people have hoped that our country would be a democracy with the king as head of state who is truly above politics. But it has not been as such as the king has exercised power to intervene in politics from above. For example, whenever a coup topples a government that has arisen from a real democratic process, the king has signed to appoint the head of the junta. This constitutes the endorsement of each and every coup as legal.

    Moreover, the king has moved troops and also transferred a significant amount of the national budget to belong to the himself personally. He has exercised extralegal royal authority to amend the constitution, which had already passed a referendum, to allow him to reside outside the kingdom without having to appoint a regent.

    This could be done because the dictatorship government bowed down under the shadow of the king and continues to claim the monarchy for its own benefit. It can be seen that they mutually benefit. Such a situation constitutes an enemy to the principles of a democracy with the king as head of state. There is no democratic country in which such actions take place.

    The people ought to know that the king of our country is not above politics. This has consistently been the root of political problems. He has neglected his duties of being the head of state that binds him to the hearts of the people and uses the people’s taxes to seek pleasure and reside outside the country. This takes place while the people are experiencing hardship from economic downturn. He also has close relationships with the rebels who foment coups to topple democratic rule.

    It is therefore evident that if there are no adjustments made for the monarchy to co-exist with the institutions of the people, the people will necessarily lose faith in the monarchy.

    The United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration therefore makes the following demands in order to resolve the problems with the monarchy:

    1. Revoke Article 6 of the 2017 Constitution that does not allow anyone to make any accusation against the king. And add an article to allow parliament to examine the wrongdoing of the king, as had been stipulated in the constitution promulgated by the People’s Party.

    2. Revoke Article 112 of the Criminal Code, as well as allowing the people to exercise freedom of expression about the monarchy and giving an amnesty to all those prosecuted for criticizing the monarchy.

    3. Revoke the Crown Property Act of 2018 and make a clear division between the assets of the king under the control of the Ministry of Finance and his personal assets.

    4. Reduce the amount of the national budget allocated to the king to be in line with the economic conditions of the country.

    5. Abolish the Royal Offices. Units with a clear duty, for example, the Royal Security Command, should be transferred and placed under other agencies. Unnecessary units, such as the Privy Council, should be disbanded.

    6. Cease all giving and receiving of donations by royal charity funds in order for the all of the assets of the monarchy to be auditable.

    7. Cease the exercise of royal prerogative over expression of political opinions in public.

    8. Cease all public relations and education that excessively and one-sidedly glorify the monarchy.

    9. Search for the facts about the murder of those who criticized or had some kind of relation with the monarchy.

    10. The king must not endorse any further coups.

    These demands are not a proposal to topple the monarchy. They are a good-faith proposal made for the monarchy to be able to continue to be esteemed by the people within a democracy.

    Therefore, for the monarchy to be secure in the present-day world, it must not hold power related to politics. It should be able to be controlled, audited, and criticized and it should not be a burden on the people. Then it will be able to be held as the monarchy that is dignified in line with a universal meaning of democracy.

    11 August 2020
    8709 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • Krabi Police force people to sign MOUs not to talk about monarchy

    Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) report that a 24-year-old man in Krabi Province was visited by the police who tried to make him sign a document promising not to express any opinion about the monarchy as he had during a past protest.

    Koh Phi Phi, one of a tourist attraction spot located partly in Krabi province. (Source: Pixabay)

    He was visited on 6 August and TLHR report that other protesters in Krabi were similarly visited. 

    The man, who requested anonymity, said he attended a protest at Krabi on 24 July. He was one of those who held a vinyl banner with the message “Royalist Marketplace”.

    3 weeks later, he was visited at his home by a plainclothes police officer. The officer checked his name and address, then identified himself as police and said “If you don’t want to talk, it’s okay, but let’s sort it out in court.”

    The policeman also said “If you want to curse the government, go ahead, it’s okay. But don’t mess with the monarchy.” He also saw some signed MOU documents that the police brought along.

    The MOU confirmed that this person was in fact involved in holding the Royalist Marketplace banner. It demanded that the individual admit that this action was inappropriate and would not be repeated.

    The authorities' hostility toward people who have taken part in protests has increased countrywide. As of now, at least 28 people have been prosecuted in 9 cases for taking part in protests. Many more have reported being visited at home and asked to sign MOUs.

    Royalist Marketplace is a Facebook group consisting of more than 830,000 members. The group was established by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai academic in exile, and mainly criticizes the Thai monarchy and politics.

    10 August 2020
    8708 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • Pro-democracy activists released on bail

    Anon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok, two pro-democracy activists who were arrested on Friday (7 August), have been released on bail on the condition that they do not repeat the actions of which they were accused.

    Anon Nampa after he was released.

    The Bangkok Criminal Court rejected the initial temporary detention request filed by police on Friday evening on the grounds that it was filed outside official working hours. The investigating officers were ordered to bring the pair back to court again within 48 hours with another temporary detention request.

    Despite their lawyers’ objection that, as the Court has rejected the temporary detention request, the police can no longer hold them in custody, the police forcibly dragged Anon and Panupong into a police van and took them to Huai Khwang Police Station, as the crowd which had gathered at the Criminal Court to see the outcome of the temporary detention request shouted “stop abducting citizens!”

    A crowd also gathered at Huai Khwang Police Station after they were taken there, joined by participants from the rally in front of the Bangkhen Police Station, where Anon was previously held. People took turns giving speeches and the crowd shouted “Stop harassing citizens! Free Anon! Free Mike!" "Mike" being Panupong's nickname. 

    Police officer blocking the steps in front of the Criminal Court

    Anon and Panupong were held overnight at Huai Khwang Police Station and taken to the Criminal Court again at 8.00 on Saturday (8 August) for the investigating officers to file another temporary detention request.

    Student Union of Thailand (SUT) members Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul also came to the Criminal Court a few minutes after Anon and Panupong arrived to hear the Court’s ruling on the temporary detention request as a crowd of supporters gathered. Meanwhile, the Free People Group and Free Youth Movement announced a flash mob at the Pathumwan Skywalk at 16.00 on Saturday (8 August) as the SUT posted on their social media pages calls for an urgent gathering in front of the Court.

    Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) noted that metal fences blocked the entrance to the Court with around 50 uniformed and plainclothes police officers in the area.  

    As the Court examined the temporary detention request, Anon wrote a note to his supporters expressing concerns that he and Panupong would be detained at the Nakhon Chai Sri (Thung Song Hong) temporary prison, where two lèse majesté suspects, Suriyan “Mor Yong” Sucharitpolwong and Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapa, were detained and mysteriously died while in detention. The Chief Justice of the Criminal Court held a press conference later in the day saying that the pair would be detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison if the Court approved the temporary detention request and if they do not seek or are not granted bail.

    Anon wrote another letter concerning the protest at Pathumwan Skywalk, urging protestors to keep fighting towards the three demands made by the Free Youth Movement at the mass protest on 18 July rather than just demanding for his and Panupong’s release and to not let their arrest distract the movement from its goal.

    After Anon expressed his concerns about being detained at the Nakhon Chai Sri temporary prison, the crowd in front of the court started voicing their concern as well and tried to push through the line of police blocking the entrance to the Court, insisting that Court proceedings must be open to the public. Following negotiations with court officials, two representatives were finally allowed to enter the courtroom to listen to the examination of the temporary detention request.

    The crowd in front of the Criminal Court flashing the three-finger 'Hunger Games' salute after the ruling on Anon and Panupong's temporary detention request. 

    After five hours of examination, the Court finally ruled at 15.35 to temporarily detain Anon and Panupong for 12 days. Following the ruling, the crowd in front of the Criminal Court flashed the three-finger Hunger Games salute, now a well-known symbol of resistance seen at every anti-government protest in Thailand, and sang Jin Gammachon's song "เพื่อมวลชน" ("For the People")

    At 17.00, Anon and Panupong were granted bail and temporarily released. The Court required 100,000 baht as security, and imposed a ban on them engaging in acts of resembling what they were accused of. The Court ruled that they do not have to pay the security unless they violate the restriction.

    “We will speak within the bounds of the constitution. If ever we speak outside of the bounds of the constitution, we are happy to go into prison. The demonstration on 16 August will definitely be a mass protest, and we are just one part of it. We stand by the same three demands and 2 restrictions. We mean well to the country and respect those who think differently. We would like you to listen to us. We thank the officers who took good care of us, but as for those who do bad things, we are going to have to deal with them,” Anon said.

    Anon referred to the three demands made by Free Youth Movement on 18 July, now repeated at every anti-government protest springing up across the country: stop harassing citizens, draft a new constitution, and dissolve parliament, as well as 2 restrictions, which are that there is to be no military coup or a national unity government.

    Anon and Panupong meet their supporters after their release.

    Anon and Panupong were accused of sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code; of organizing an assembly of ten or more people and threatening to cause violence or a breach of peace under Section 215 of the Criminal Code; violating the Emergency Decree, which bans large gatherings; obstructing a public way without permission under Section 385 of the Criminal Code; violating Section 19 of the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness of the Country Act; and of using loudspeaker without permission under the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act.

    Their arrest followed a series of demonstrations demanding reform and a new constitution, as well as the launch of the Free People Group on Friday morning (7 August), when another protest on 16 August was announced. Anon also gave a speech at a rally on 3 August calling for monarchy reform and open criticism of the crown. He is also speaking at a rally today (9 August) at Tha Pae Gate, Chiang Mai.

    Their arrest warrants named Anon the seventh suspect and Panupong the fifth suspect, suggesting a larger police operation to arrest pro-democracy activists may be under way. Human rights lawyer Yaowalak Anuphan also told Khaosod English that at least 31 people are now marked for arrest.

    9 August 2020
    8707 at https://prachatai.com/english