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  • Protesters welcome ‘Pai Dao Din’ back from prison, who keep on protesting right away

    An overnight protest took place on 23 October in front of the Bangkok Remand Prison to welcome Jatupat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa, an activist from Khon Kaen, the last protester of those arrested on 13 October to be released.

    Jatupat raised the 3-finger salute as he was released from the prison.

    Jatupat was welcomed by hugs and greetings from friends. He immediately went on to the stage to give a speech. The protesters in front of the prison demanded that the state free the remaining protesters under detention.

    As of 24 October, 8 still remain in detention: Anon Nampa, Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Panussaya Sitthijirawatthanakul, Panupong Jadnok, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, Ekkachai Hongkangwan, Patipan Luecha and Suranat Paenprasoet, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)

    On the morning of 24 October, the People’s Party 2020 held a press briefing in front of the prison where they had camped out overnight. Jatupat said that they will continue to protest there to see whether Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha will resign by 22.00 today, according to the 3-day deadline set by the protesters on 21 October at Government House.

    The protest on 23 October went on with speeches and music. Chaiamorn 'Ammy' Kaewwiboonpan, the lead singer of the pop band The Bottom Blues, who was arrested along with Jatupat but released earlier, was playing. Graffiti were sprayed on the prison wall and nearby streets and public facilities.

    The protest, held by the Anonymous Party announced 5 demands:

    1. Unconditionally free the protesters.

    2. Stop all forms of state-led harassment against the people.

    3. Prayuth must resign by 24 October

    4. Amend the constitution in line with the proposal from the people; senators must be stripped off their power.

    5. Reform the monarchy so that it is governed under the constitution.

    Jutatip Sirikhan , another leading protest figure said that she was followed by 6-7 unidentified people on 3 motorcycles as she and her friend travelled to the protest. She stated that this is unethical behaviour that undermines rights and freedom.

    Chinnawat Chankrachang, a protest leader who has been arrested and released, gave a speech. He believes that the authorities will free the arrested protesters out of fear that they will incite prisoners to an uprising. When he was released, the criminals in prison supported him to fight for them.

    Nutchanon Pairoj, a leading figure from the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), who has also been arrested and released, urged students, teachers and workers to join the protest, calling for democracy together. 

    “We fight for democracy. Why do we have to be hurt all the time? This is government in the form of dictatorship. I would like to ask Prayut Chan-o-cha ‘Who are the ones paying tax?’.”

    “Today we have to change the government so we have to drive him (Prayut) out because he come in illegitimately,” said Nutchanon. 

    25 October 2020
    8870 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • Concern over standpoint of the monarchy as King thanks a pro-monarchy protester

    “Very brave. Very brave. Very good. Thank you,” said King Rama X to a protester who raised a portrait of the late King Rama IX at a pro-democracy protest. This conversation has triggered questions in society about the attitude of the monarchy towards politics. It propelled #23ตุลาตาสว่าง to the twitter top trend.

    Left to right: #23 October awakening hit the twitter top trend, King Rama X and Queen Sutthida greeting Thitiwat Tanagaroon, the one who raises the late King Rama IX portrait.

    The hashtag, which translates as “23 October awakening or ‘opened eyes’”, refers to an incident on the night of 23 October as King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida left the Grand Palace after paying tribute to King Rama V on the anniversary of his death, Chulalongkorn Day, where many people were waiting to meet them in person.

    Among them was Suwit Thongprasert, formerly known as Buddha Issara, a leading figure in the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), the pro-junta movement which protested against the Yingluck Shinawatra government in 2013-2014.  Other prominent pro-monarchy figures were seen.

    A report on Facebook names Thitiwat Tanagaroon as the person outside the palace wall and as the same person who raised a portrait of King Rama IX, confronting pro-democracy protesters at Central Pinklao on 20 Oct.

    According to his Facebook post and recorded footage, the King and Queen passed where he was sitting. The King and the Queen greeted him after the Queen said to the King that he was the one who raised a portrait of King Rama IX at the protest.

    The King tells him “Very brave. Very brave. Very good. Thank you.” Thitiwat’s video has gone viral, with comments both opposing and supporting the King’s action.

    For some, the King’s words raise concern at a time of rising confrontation between pro-democracy protesters, who have been rallying since 18 July, calling mainly for constitutional amendments, the resignation of the Prime Minister and monarchy reform, and pro-monarchy groups, most of whom wear yellow shirts, the colour of the birthday of both King Rama IX and King Rama X. 

    Some violence has occurred. A pro-democracy student protester was injured by pro-monarchy protestors who breached police lines separating between the 2 sides after verbal exchanges at Ramkhamhaeng University on 21 October.

    Maj Gen Rienthong Nanna, the director of the family-owned Mongkutwattana Hospital and a well-known ultra-royalist influencer, characterized the incident as ordinary and the violence as a natural response toward people who infringe on the monarchy.

    Awakening days

    Under the principles of a constitutional monarchy, the monarch, as the ruler all citizens, whatever their individual political views, is placed in a position of neutrality above politics.  Thai constitutions have also prohibited members of the royal family from running for political positions and from voting in political elections. 

    This restriction has been observed extremely broadly in Thailand.  In 2017, Princess Ubolratana, who lost her royal title in 1972 on her marriage to a foreign commoner, was nominated as candidate for Prime Minister by the Thai Raksa Chart Party.  Her candidacy was rejected and the party dissolved by the Election Commission of Thailand after the personal intervention of King Rama X in the form of an announcement in the Royal Gazette.

    However, the Thai monarchy has, from time to time, seemed to take sides in street politics as evidenced by their interaction with people who express a pro-monarchy ideology. Some call these incidents an ‘awakening’ that clarifies their doubts. 

    The most prominent such incident in recent times took place on 9 October 2008 when the then Queen Sirikit presided over the cremation ceremony of Angkhana ‘Nong Bow’ Radappanyawut, who had been killed by a police tear gas canister during a People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) yellow shirt protest against the pro-Thaksin government of the day. The PAD was calling on the King to use a constitutional prerogative to nominate a PM without any election.

    During the ceremony, the Queen allowed the family of the deceased and Sondhi Limthongkul, the PAD leader, to have conversations with her, a breach of normal royal protocol. Many with different political ideologies, like the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) or the red shirts, viewed this as a day of awakening.

    Before that incident, Sondhi had, from time to time, claimed that the yellow shirts were supported by a ‘highly esteemed lady’. In 2006, Kamnoon Sidhisamarn, a former columnist and junta-appointed senator, also claimed that the PAD received blue scarves with the message “902...74...12 August 2006...mother of the land”.  Blue is the birthday colour of the Queen Mother and her birthday is celebrated as a national holiday on 12 August.

    On 19 January 2014, Princess Chulabhorn, who had accompanied the Queen to the funeral of Angkhana Radappanyawut, assigned her representative to bestow a wreath to the funeral of Prakong Chuchan, a PDRC protester who died from a grenade thrown at a march. In 2013, she also gave a wreath to the funeral of Wasu Suchantabut, an anti-Thaksin protester who was shot dead during a clash at Thai-Japanese Stadium at Din Daeng during registration of candidates for an election that the pro-monarchy groups opposed and eventually prevented.

    The funeral of Thanusak Rattanakot, another PDRC protester who died in a clash with police in February 2014, received a wreath from Princess Chulabhorn.

    24 October 2020
    8869 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • UN experts urge Thai government to allow peaceful protests and release unconditionally those arbitrarily detained

    UN human rights experts* urged today (22 October) the Thai government to guarantee the fundamental rights of peaceful assembly and free speech and called for an end to a crackdown on peaceful protests.

    Protesters setting up a barrier during the protest at Victory Monument on 18 October

    “The imposition of a state of emergency is the latest in a series of draconian measures aimed at stifling peaceful demonstrations and criminalizing dissenting voices,” the experts said.

    “We urge the Thai government to allow students, human rights defenders and others to protest in a peaceful manner. The Thai people should be allowed to freely speak their mind and share their political views, both online and offline, without prosecution.” 

    Thousands of people have joined pro-democracy protests in Bangkok, calling for government and monarchy reforms. Since 13 October 2020, at least 80 individuals have been arrested, of whom 27 remain in detention. Some have been charged under Thailand’s Criminal Code on counts of sedition and holding an “illegal assembly”. Some have also been charged under the Computer Crimes Act for using their social media accounts to call the public to participate in the rallies. Two face lifetime jail sentences for allegedly using violence against the monarchy.

    “We are seriously concerned that those taking part in peaceful protests have been charged under laws, about which we raised concerns in the past.”

    The experts called on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release any individual detained for the sole exercise of her fundamental freedoms.

    On 15 October “severe emergency measures” were imposed in Bangkok province, prohibiting gatherings of more than four people. Police have subsequently applied force, including the use of water cannon, to disperse protesters who were demonstrating peacefully.
    “The security authorities are using unnecessary force against the peaceful protesters,” the experts said. “Such violence only risks escalating the situation. Instead of trying to silence peaceful demonstrators, we urge the Thai government to promptly seek an open and genuine dialogue with them.”

    *The experts: Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights of peaceful assembly and association, Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression, Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

    The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

    23 October 2020
    8868 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • Failing to portray protesters as violent, Prayut lifts severe state of emergency.

    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha lifted the severe state of emergency today at 12.00, according to the Royal Gazette. The severe state of emergency was in force for 6 days from 15-22 October.

    The state of emergency imposed restrictions on Bangkok and surrounding areas. They included a ban on public gatherings of more than five people, a ban on reporting information that threatened public stability, and control over transportation and access to certain buildings, in accordance with the Prime Minister’s orders.

    The severe state of emergency was described as an “emergency in emergency” due to the pre-existing use of the Emergency Decree in response to the coronavirus outbreak which the government extended for the 7th time until the end of November.

    After Prayut announced the severe state of emergency on 16 October, it was expected to end on 13 November. But it has ended today (22 October) after protesters publicly defied it for six straight days, marking another victory of the pro-democracy protesters.

    Protesters have been gathering on the streets of Bangkok and other provinces every day since 14 October, demanding the resignation of Prayut, constitutional amendments, and monarchy reform.

    Yesterday, Prayut gave a speech asking all groups to take one step back, and told the protesters to rely on the parliamentary process to get things done. On 20 October, the cabinet approved a special session of parliament for a debate on 26-27 October.

    Failure to demonize protesters

    The government failed to portray the protesters as aggressive and violent, causing a political backfire and pressuring them to step back.

    Prayut announced the severe state of emergency on 15 October in response to the protest on 14 October which they claim may have disturbed the public order.

    The anti-dictatorship protest on 14 October was part of an expected response after parliament postponed debate on constitutional amendments for 30 days on 24 September, disappointing the protesters demonstrating in front of the parliament on that day.  

    The government claimed that the severe state of emergency was announced because of illegal protests in violation of the public assembly law, and specifically pointed to an incident where a royal motorcade passed through a protest site.

    Three protesters, Ekkachai Hongkangwan, Boonkueanoon Paothong, and Suranat Paenprasoet, have been charged with allegedly harming the Queen’s liberty under the scarcely used Section 110 of the Criminal Code, which carries a penalty of “imprisonment for life or imprisonment of sixteen to twenty years.”  

    Related story: Protesters accused of harming the Queen, royal motorcade route questioned. 

    However, the government failed to demonize the protesters as public opinion largely did not believe that the protesters intended to harm the Queen. According to many media reports from the scene, the protesters in fact opened a path for the royal motorcade to pass through.

    In defiance of the government’s restrictions, the protestors gathered again on 16 October at Pathum Wan. The government made the decision to disperse the peaceful protesters using water cannon with dye and a chemical irritant. The protesters, which included students, remained nonviolent, leading to criticism of the government for its excessively harsh measures, and provoking even more protesters to come onto the streets.

    The government tried to control the narrative again by ordering the closure of media outlets which had given extensive coverage to the protests, including Voice TV, Prachatai, the Reporters, and the Standard. Their attempt backfired as the protesters continued the demonstrations and now included a demand for a free press.

    Related story: Court lifts suspension orders against Voice TV, Free Youth

    In their last attempt to provoke violence, pro-monarchy protesters in yellow shirts gathered at Ramkhamhaeng University to challenge the pro-democracy protesters. A minor clash took place between pro-monarchy and pro-democracy protesters,  initiated by the pro-monarchy yellow shirts.

    Caption: Pro-monarchy protesters tried to remove a fence to go to attack the pro-democracy protesters. 

    Leaked documents confirm that the government sponsored the pro-monarchy gatherings by “inviting” people to join. Some reluctant volunteers defied orders by showing the three-finger symbol while wearing a yellow shirt.

    After failing to frame the protesters as violent, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha took a step back and lifted the severe state of emergency, asking the protesters to rely on the parliamentary process. The majority of the protestors’ demands remain unmet, however, as major political parties have insisted that they would not include monarchy reform in their agenda, and the government persists on arresting anyone it can identify as a protest leader. 


    22 October 2020
    8867 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • 6 days after crackdown, tens of thousands return to oust Gen Prayut

    The people have made 21 October another historic moment in Thai political history as leaderless protesters marched almost completely peacefully past police blockades to Government House. 

    A big banner states "Go home and meet again" after the protesters gave the resignation letter to the PM delegate.

    The night ended with a delegate from the PM’s Secretariat receiving an unsigned draft resignation letter in the name of the PM with a 3-day deadline for Prayut to quit and release all arrested protesters.

    At 21.30, after almost an hour in front of the Government House, a Deputy Secretary-General of the PM’s Secretariat and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner accepted a resignation letter for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha from Korakot Saengyenphan, the protesters’ representative. 

    The reception of the resignation letter by the deputy PM secretariat.

    Dated 21 October 2020, the letter is addressed to ‘The People’ and reads as follows:

    "Whereas I, Prayut Chan-o-cha, have used arbitrary power, bought and sold votes, threatened to impose a gangster’s constitution, traded benefits and positions and used the institution of the monarchy as a justification to get hold of the position of the Prime Minister,

    "In order to maintain the dignity of my family, the dignity of the position of Prime Minister and the dignity of the country and to express my respect for the people who hold sovereign power, I, Mr Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister, hereby resign from the position of the Prime Minister."

    The protesters also demanded an end to the prosecutions of protesters and leading figures. The protesters dispersed at 21.36.

    After the protest, Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon, a student activist from the Mahanakhon group, was arrested and taken to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 Headquarters at 23.00.

    One week previous at the same site, a protest led by the People’s Party 2020 occupied the street in front of Government House, only to be forcibly dispersed by the police before dawn. After that, the number of protesters has only seemed to increase in Bangkok and other provinces. Even more joined the fray after the police forcibly dispersed the protest on 16 October.

    State of emergency declared, protest dispersed before sunrise

    Police fire water cannon at pro-democracy protesters in Bangkok

    On 21 October, protestors started to gather at the Victory Monument at around 15.30 before gradually occupying the roundabout. This was the sixth day of leaderless mobile protests arranged with very short notice of the place and time.

    Protesters distributing safety helmets.

    The reason that the protests are leaderless is that most of the leading figures have been arrested and the protestors have adopted a strategy where ‘everyone is a leader’. 

    This also means that the police find it hard to chase the protesters down, although in this protest, the police were ready to block the way to Government House.

    "My tax", the message stated.

    At 17.38, the protesters started moving from the Victory Monument to the Phaya Thai intersection, around 1 km away.

    The United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), one of the protest organizers, stated that the protest would march to Government House, where the protest was dispersed on 15 Oct at dawn, a prelude to the crackdown on 16 October at Pathum Wan.

    Another protest was taking place at the same time at Ramkhamhaeng University which was confronted by a yellow-clad, pro-monarchy rally group that claimed to be there first. The pro-monarchy side breached the barrier set up by the police and assaulted pro-democracy protesters. Protesters decided to change the protest site to Huamark Police Station.

    Middle: a student whom the pro-monarchy group threw the speaker at filing a complaint to the police. Her knee and left feet was injured.

    Wara Chanmanee, a protester who was chased out of Ramkamhaeng University, said he felt sad about the assault by the yellow-clad group, which reminded him of the 6 October 1976 massacre. A victim of the assault later filed a complaint with the police.

    March to Government House

    As the protestors arrived at Phaya Thai intersection, a pro-monarchy group blocked the way. After a short pause, protesters proceeded to Government House along Phetchaburi Road, chanting "Free our friends", referring to arrested protesters.

    A big banner states "Keep walking forward". Recent leaderless protesters came up with a way to communicate with each other such as hand signs, shouting en masse or large banner like this.

    4 lanes of Phetchaburi Road were packed with protesters. At Uruphong intersection, protesters met the first line of defence, comprising police in riot control gear, razor wire and barriers. With further blockades ahead, the protesters spend most time sorting out the confrontation here.

    Police blockade at the Uruphong intersection.

    At 19.23, there was a minor clash as the protesters on the front line were pushed from behind, causing some commotion. The confrontation ended after protesters from Nang Loeng intersection approached the police from the rear. After that, the police abandoned their position and other defence lines failed to contain the protesters.

    Another line of defense after Uruphong intersection.

    Some protesters wounded from falling into the razor wire or during the commotion were tended by volunteer medics.

    The march reached Government House at about 20.00 where police vans, public buses, lines of police, water cannon and voice amplifier trucks blocked the entrance to the Government House at Panitchayakan bridge.

    Yellow-clad group of people stationed along Ratchadamnoen Nok road. They are believed to be soldiers.

    PM asks people to ‘take a step back together’

    As the protesters were marching to the Government House, Gen Prayut made a television address regarding the political situation and protests. He urged the protesters to solve the conflict via the parliamentary debate scheduled for 26-27 October. He also asked the government and the protesters to “each take a step back” and “find solutions to the problems.”

    The PM also said that he is prepared to revoke the severe state of emergency in Bangkok, declared at 04.00 on 15 Oct to control the protest.  “I am currently preparing to lift the state of severe emergency in Bangkok and will do so promptly if there are no violent incidents.”

    “The only way to a lasting solution for all sides that is fair for those on the streets as well as for the many millions who choose not to go on the streets, is to discuss and resolve these differences through the parliamentary process,” said Prayut.

    In his speech, the PM also alleged that during the forcible police dispersal of the protest on 16 October at Pathum Wan, “We saw terrible crimes being committed against the police using metal rods and huge cutting implements in brutal attacks.”  No media reports at the time mentioned any such attacks.

    22 October 2020
    8866 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • BKK Art Biennale artists express support to Thai democracy protesters

    On October 21, 25 Bangkok Art Biennale including Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor, released a public statement expressing the support for the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations in Thailand and calling for dialogue, not a crackdown.

    A protester in front of the crowd control police line. (Source: File photo)

    As participating artists of the Bangkok Art Biennale 2020, we are deeply concerned about the events that have unravelled in Bangkok over the past days in response to the ongoing protests calling for democratic change. Scenes of overt police force, including the use of water cannons, being deployed against peaceful protesters have weighed heavily upon us as we prepare for the full opening of the biennale later this month. The arrests of key protest leaders and several activists are also a cause for concern. That many of these events have taken place in the Pathumwan intersection where the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), a key venue of the Biennale, is located makes this response all the more urgent and necessary.

    The theme of this year’s Biennale is “Escape Routes,” which according to the Biennale, explores how art can help us understand and search for ways out of the many predicaments that we are living through in the world today. We believe that any attempt at imagining the possible futures that lie ahead of us must begin by confronting our present realities. This means that as artists we must not only maintain art as a space for reflection and debate on the issues of the day but also be able to speak directly to the situations that have literally arrived at our doorstep.

    We therefore unequivocally condemn and call for the immediate stop to the use of violence against the protesters and express our support for their struggle for democracy. We also affirm the space of art as an essential constituent of the democratic public sphere which, in times of social upheaval, must also seek to provide refuge for those escaping violence. We further urge the Biennale and the BACC to join us in taking a stand against such violence and affirming the right to peaceful protest.

    As artists, we thrive in a society that supports our ability to speak out and speak to the times in which we live. Such a society is one that meets calls for progressive change not with a crackdown but a commitment to building understanding, dialogue and collectivity.

    October 21, 2020

    Ai Weiwei
    Anish Kapoor
    Bussaraporn Thongchai
    Chantana Tiprachart
    Choy Ka Fai
    Dane Mitchell
    Dinh Q. Le
    Haevan Lee
    Ho Rui An
    I-na Phuyuthanon
    Irwan Ahmett
    John Akomfrah
    Julia Fullerton-Batten
    Khvay Samnang
    Linda Havenstein
    Nipan Oranniwesna
    Prateep Suthatongthai
    Reena Saini Kallat
    Ruangsak Anuwatwimon
    Rungruang Sittirerk
    Sarah Naqvi
    Thanet Awsinsiri
    Tita Salina
    Yuken Teruya
    Zhou Xiaohu

    (As of October 21, 2020)

    22 October 2020
    8865 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • Sentencing Thai Railway workers is brazen attack on union work, freedom of association

    21 October 2020 guilty verdict handed down to 13 leaders of the State Railway Workers’ Union of Thailand (SRUT) is a gross miscarriage of justice and a brazen attack on workers’ rights.

    A Thai train (Source: Thai News Agency)

    These leaders have been charged and handed three-year sentences for nothing more than
    rightly exposing unsafe working conditions on the Thai railway system. Efforts to make railways safer for both workers and passengers should be applauded, not prosecuted.

    These SRUT workers have been ruthlessly pursued by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) through the legal system for carrying out a national  rail safety campaign following a fatal train derailment in October 2009 at Khao Tao Station.

    This has also been shadowed by a general vindictiveness on part of the authorities including the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). The SRUT leaders have been scapegoated for an accident that both The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and an internal fact-finding investigation concluded was
    primarily caused by the poor maintenance and condition of the locomotive.

    The Thai authorities have used trumped up charges to deflect attention from their own lack of
    competency in ensuring safe railways. It is regrettable that the mandate of the NACC has been used to undermine legitimate trade union activities and the principles of freedom of association. Instead of needlessly ruining the lives of SRUT workers and their families, the State Railway of Thailand and the NACC should be supporting their efforts to improve rail safety.

    Since November 2018, the monthly salaries of seven SRUT leaders have been deducted to pay fines of Baht 24 million (US$726,116) to SRT for the 2009 initiative they took based on the decision of the Supreme Labour Court in 2017. This is tantamount to collective punishment of the workers and their families. The SRT must now withdraw the fines and reimburse the seven SRUT leaders.

    They must also ensure that the SRUT leaders receive full compensation for lost wages and benefits which they have not received since their reinstatement. The ITF and ITUC will continue support the SRUT 13 and their families, as they post bail appeal this ruling.

    About the ITF: The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) is a democratic global union federation of nearly 700 transport workers trade unions representing around 20 million workers in 150 countries.

    The ITF works to improve the lives of transport workers globally, encouraging and organising international solidarity among its network of affiliates. The ITF represents the interests of transport workers unions in bodies that take decisions affecting jobs, employment conditions and safety in the transport industry.

    About the ITUC: The International Trade Union Confederation is the world largest trade union
    federation. The ITUC represents 207 million workers in 163 countries and territories and has 331 national affiliates.

    22 October 2020
    8864 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • Court lifts suspension orders against Voice TV, Free Youth

    The suspension orders against Voice TV and Free Youth have been reviewed and lifted by the Criminal Court on 21 October.

    The Court also said that Prachatai, the Reporters, and the Standard enjoy the same protection under the Constitution.

    Section 35 (1) of the 2017 Constitution says that “a media professional shall enjoy the liberty to present news or express opinions in accordance with professional ethics.”

    Section 35 (2) says that “the closure of a newspaper or other mass media in deprivation of the liberty under paragraph one shall not be permitted.”

    The court on duty had ordered the suspension of Voice TV and Free Youth online activities at the request of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES). The DES claimed that Voice TV had violated the Computer Crimes Act and the restrictions set under the severe state of emergency. The DES did not mention which law was used against Free Youth. 

    But the Chief Justice of the Criminal Court read the court order sent to him according to procedure and thought that the order may be incorrect, so the case was reopened. 

    “The Court also said, specific to the media, that the freedom of the media is very important because it is a principle under the constitution and human rights,” said Winyat Chartmontri, the lawyer of Voice TV.

    “The process of submitting the complaint did not specify which content or message is illegal. Because the court sees that for any blocking, there must be content specifying which statement is illegal, an entire channel cannot be blocked, blocking whatever station, page, or URL. This is considered beyond the scope of law.”

    Crackdown on media backfires

    On 19 October, Buddhipongse Punnakanta held a press conference saying that there are 300,000 URLs on social media which violate the law, including the Emergency Decree and the Computer Crimes Act, which they would prosecute indiscriminately.

    Buddhipongse also confirmed a leaked document with the signature of Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, the Royal Thai Police chief, which said that the government has ordered the police to consider censoring or closing Voice TV, Free Youth, Prachatai, the Reporter and the Standard, whose content allegedly violated restrictions set under the severe state of emergency.

    The severe state of emergency was announced amid the ongoing protests in Thailand that began in July, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, constitutional amendments, and monarchy reform.

    The government’s attempted crackdown on the media caused uproar on social media. #Saveสื่อเสรี (#savefreemedia) and #SaveVoiceTV topped Twitter’s trending in Thailand on 19-20 October.

    Six journalist organizations issued a joint statement against the crackdown on media including the Thai Journalists Association, Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, Confederation of Thai Journalists, National Press Council of Thailand, News Broadcasting Council of Thailand, Online News Providers Association.

    Deputy Permanent Secretary Puchapong Nodtaisong of the DES said on 20 October that the court had ordered the suspension of Voice TV and Free Youth. Voice TV said they would continue reporting despite the suspension order.

    Free Youth, a Facebook page which protesters have been relying on to learn about the time and place of demonstrations, opened a substitute Facebook page which collected 300,000 subscribers in two days. It also opened a page and a group on Telegram.

    In response, the DES has ordered the authorities to close 4 IP addresses of Telegram. Many Thai outlets reported that Telegram is impossible for even Russia to penetrate.

    As social media erupted and people continued gathering on the street, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on 20 October that he had ordered the police to review the order to suspend media outlets by prioritizing freedom of the press. After his speech, the Criminal Court reviewed the order and lifted the suspension orders against Voice TV and Free Youth.


    22 October 2020
    8863 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • Countrywide protests give 24 hrs to release protesters, withdraw emergency decree

    On 19 October, more protests took place at many sites in Bangkok and other provinces. It is the fifth day in a row and the organizers have called for a break of 24 hours to wait and see the government response.

    The protest at Kasetsart intersection.

    The United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), one of protest organizers, stated at 18.00 on Monday that, within 24 hours, those protesters who have been arrested must be released with no further additional charges and the emergency decree must be withdrawn. 

    It also underlines the original 3 demands: Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and the cabinet must resign, parliament must be re-opened to amend the constitution and the monarchy must be urgently reformed.

    “If the state does not comply, then prepare to handle a surprise from us,” says the UFTD post.

    In the greater Bangkok area, people gathered at the Ministry of Health MRT station in Nonthaburi Province, Bangkok Remand Prison and Kasetsart intersection. According to the Free YOUTH movement, there were also protests at Nakhon Pathom, Buriram, Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai, Phetchaburi and Ubon Ratchathani.

    The pro-monarchy protesters at Hat Yai.

    Hat Yai, Songkhla Province, also saw a protest. There were people wearing yellow shirts, displaying banners in support of the monarchy in the area as well.

    From 16.00 to 18.00 in Buriram, a flash mob took place at Buriram Rajabhat University. Protesters sang the national anthem while flashing the three-finger salute before dispersing.

    The Kasetsart protest ended by itself at 19.00 after many thousands occupied the usually congested intersection.

    At around 17.20, a protester at a Nonthaburi protest gave a speech admiring the Hong Kong protesters who rallied in support of the movement in Thailand and called for release of the protesters arrested in front of Thai consulate in Hong Kong on Monday.

    She criticized the Xi Jinping administration for trying to suppress people in China and the region like the Uyghur, Hongkongers, Tibetans or the Mekong subregion people that are suffering from dam construction.

    There are 3 conditions worthy of note relating to politics and the protests.

    1. Some arrested protesters have still not been released. Some are remanded at the Bangkok Remand Prison. More are detained at Thanyaburi Prison, Pathum Thani, and Chiang Mai Prison. Despite some being released on bail on the evening of 19 Oct, some were immediately charged again.

    At 11.30 on 19 Oct, it was reported by TLHR that Patipan Luecha, a mo lam singer, was arrested at his home and taken to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters, Pathum Thani, and charged with sedition, gathering in a group of more than 10 people to cause public unrest and using unauthorized voice amplifiers.

    2. Chuan Leekpai, Speaker of the House of Representatives, consulted with a cabinet representative and called a special session of parliament on 26-27 Oct to solve the ongoing conflict, in line with Section 165 of the 2017 Thai constitution, enabling the session to be held without a vote or resolution.

    Protesters have been calling for a special session to discuss constitutional amendments.

    3. The severe emergency decree has been used to censor the coverage of the protests by The Standard, The Reporters, Voice TV, Prachatai and Free YOUTH. This quickly put #Saveสื่อเสรี (#Savefreemedia) at the twitter top trend today.

    As of 20 Oct, all platforms of Voice TV have been ordered shut down under a court order filed by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES). Cases against the other media outlets will proceed later.

    As of 21 Oct, the court has ruled out the shut down order on the 4 media.

    21 October 2020
    8862 at https://prachatai.com/english
  • Third person charged in connection with the royal motorcade incident

    Suranat Paenprasoet, a coordinator of the Active Youth network who joined the 14 October protest, has become the third person charged under Section 110 of the Criminal Code. He was seen on Phitsanulok Road when a royal motorcade passed through anti-dictatorship protesters.

    Middle: Suranat Paenprasoet after being investigated by the police. Banners behind state "Save Suranat".

    Suranat is a community activist in the Bangkok Noi and Bangkok Yai area. He planned to go himself to Dusit Police Station to hear the charges at 09.30 on 21 October after the charge was filed on 20 October, but the police went to his home earlier and took him to the police station. 

    Suranat spoke to the media before being taken to Border Patrol Police Region 1 Headquarters, a place designated by the severe emergency decree as a detention place for protesters. He said that he did not know that a royal motorcade was approaching and he had no intention of blocking it. He said he denied all the charges made by the police.

    Suchat Paenprasoet, Suranat’s brother who was at the scene, said Suranat had no intention of blocking the motorcade. He tried to move away as soon as he realized that a motorcade was coming through but he was blocked and pushed by the people around him. Suranat also said “Don’t push, there is a royal motorcade”.

    As he was being questioned by the police, many people, including students and young people, gathered in front of the police station to give him support. Chuwit Jantaros, Secretary General of the Child, Youth and Family Foundation, prayed “The answer is blowing in the wind” and led supporters in chanting “Save Suranat”. 

    Chuwit insists that Suranat never had any intention of overthrowing the monarchy as Suranat in the past engaged in activities mourning the death of King Rama IX. Many shed tears as Suranat was taken away from the police station.

    Prior to Suranat, Ekkachai Hongkangwan and Boonkueanoon Paothong were charged with the same offence. Boonkueanoon was granted bail while Ekkachai was not.

    What happened at the 14 October royal procession?

    The incident took place at around 17.50 on Phitsanulok Road during the march by anti-dictatorship protesters from the Democracy Monument to Government House. The police had blocked the way, but some of the protesters, including the two accused, managed to make it through and were sandwiched by the police from behind.

    As the main bulk of the protesters were negotiating with the police to open up a path, a royal motorcade passed by on Phitsanulok Road where there were police, anti-dictatorship protesters and some pro-monarchy people wearing yellow who were already there.

    The Queen, representing King Rama X and accompanied by Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, was on her way to offer robes to monks in kathin ceremonies (an annual Buddhist merit offering ceremony) at Wat Arun Ratchawararam (the Temple of the Dawn) and Wat Ratcha Orasaram.  The motorcade passed protesters shouting and raising the 3-finger salute. One person also threw a bottle of water at the motorcade.

    Ekkachai, Boonkueanoon and Suranat insist that they did not know about the arrival of the royal motorcade. 

    Questions raised over procession route

    Many pro-monarchy social media channels saw the confrontation at the royal procession as an assault on and harassment of the royal family. The severe state of emergency in Bangkok that was announced on 15 October also referred to the incident as unlawful and a threat to national security.

    The Thai Move Institute, a conservative and pro-monarchy online influencer, interviewed people wearing yellow who were there to greet the royal procession. One of them said he was informed from news sources that there would be a royal procession there. So he moved from Makkhawan bridge where another royal procession had already passed by.

    He said he and 20 other like-minded people tried to block the protesters while shouting “long live the Queen”. Another interviewee said that he did not know who was in the procession.

    News reporters who were there also gave their views of the incident. Pravit Rojanaphruk from Khaosod English stated that he was there reporting via Facebook live. According to his observation, he did not see anyone trying to stop the procession or hitting the vehicles.

    Live footage (sound muted due to improper language) from Teeranai Charuvastra, another Khaosod English reporter, confirms Pravit’s observation that no announcements were made as the police formed up the blockade. Ekachai and Boonkueanoon can be seen raising 3 fingers but neither of them blocked or got close to the procession at all.

    “And importantly, there was no announcement from the police at all that there would be a royal procession along Phitsanulok Road, in front of Government House which the first group of protesters had occupied so easily that Francis (Boonkueanoon) told me that it was so easy that it felt ‘fishy’,” stated Pravit on Facebook.

    Noppakow Kongsuwan, another reporter from Khaosod Online who was reporting on the pedestrian bridge across Phitsanulok Road, which would normally be cleared of people if there was a royal procession, stated on his Facebook post that there were no announcements or attempts to clear the pedestrian bridge.

    He also questioned why the royal motorcade travelled via this route where the main bulk of the protesters were. Even though all alternative routes like Ratchadamnoen Avenue were almost completely cleared of protesters, the police responsible for arranging the motorcade route still decided to use Phitsanulok Road.

    “I raise the question with no intent to provoke, based on available facts which many media agencies reported or even from many video clips or many of those who were there. There is collective agreement that in this case “there was no blocking” at all,” stated Noppakow.

    21 October 2020
    8861 at https://prachatai.com/english