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Updated: 9 min 54 sec ago

A monarchy reform graffiti painter and citizen journalist arrested

10 min 45 sec ago
Submitted on Thu, 16 Sep 2021 - 04:55 PMPrachatai

A citizen journalist and a protester who allegedly painted graffiti about monarchy reform at Din Daeng Intersection on 13 September were arrested by the police on Wednesday night (15 September). 

A photo of the painting incident on 13 September 2021.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Wiraphap Wongsaman was arrested and taken to Chaiyaphruek Police Station in Nonthaburi Province to file the report and then detained at Phaholyothin Police Station in Bangkok. 

Student activist Wanwalee Thammasattaya posted on Facebook that she personally knew Wiraphap by the nickname ‘Reef’ and that he was arrested while eating noodles. He was accused of painting graffiti reading ‘The monarchy should be reformed to be under the constitution’.

She stated that Reef has been the target of Information Operations and a pro-monarchy group which tried to label him as a radical protester. A video of him shoving reporters’ cameras was criticized online. In fact he was trying to prevent reporters from recording the faces of protesters who were minors, and had later apologized to the reporters.

On the same night, a citizen was arrested for resisting the authorities. He was taken to Thakham Police Station before being detained at Phaya Thai Police Station. According to Voice TV, a citizen journalist was arrested while wearing a purple vest that identified him as a follower of Kathoei Mae Luk On (trans mom with an infant child), a YouTuber who has been live broadcasting the Din Daeng protests.

Similar to the case of Ratsadon News whose reporter was arrested on Monday night (13 September), Kathoei Mae Luk On is a citizen journalist with 300,300 followers on YouTube.

NewsMonarchy reformpro-democracy protest 2021Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Kathoei Mae Luk Onpress freedomSource: prachatai.com/journal/2021/09/95011
Categories: Politics

We won't be scapegoated: Father spends 12 years seeking justice for tortured son

50 min 40 sec ago
Submitted on Thu, 16 Sep 2021 - 04:16 PMYiamyut Sutthichaya

A newly-launched book documents the ongoing case of Somsak Chuenchit and his 12-year effort to bring the police officers who tortured his son by beating and suffocating him with plastic bags during an interrogation.

From left to right: Ritthirong and Somsak Chuenchit. (Source: Cross Cultural Foundation)

On 28 January 2009, Ritthirong 'Shop' Chuenchit ,18, was returning from a cinema in Prachinburi Province with a friend when he was stopped by the police. His clothing and motorcycle helmet reportedly fit the description given to police by a woman who had earlier been the victim of a gold necklace-snatching.

At the police station, the woman identified Ritthirong  as the person who had taken her necklace. Ignoring his assertion of innocence, the interrogating officers beat the handcuffed youth and then suffocated him in a bid to determine where the necklace was hidden. Whenever Ritthirong chewed holes in the plastic bags to breathe, more were placed over his head.

The interrogators also told Ritthirong that if he died, they would hide his corpse in a far-away wilderness. Terrorised, the youth decided that the only way to escape was to admit to the theft and claim that the necklace was at a shop he frequented. 

After beating him some more, the police accused him of being on drugs and sought evidence with a urine test, which later proved to be negative.

Eventually, Ritthirong ’s father Somsak arrived on the scene, launching a fight to restore his son’s dignity. 

Rough road for justice

Torture at the hands of the police left the 18-year-old student and acoustic guitar player with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and he has since required ongoing medical treatment. He is often awakened by nightmares and his appetite for guitar playing and music has declined.

In a bid to get justice for his son, Somsak filed a complaint about the assault. The perpetrators worked to stop him, lobbying him to drop the case, fabricating evidence, and harassing him with the threat of drug charges. Police officers also appeared at Ritthirong’s school, exacerbating the concerns of an already-frightened student.

A rally poster against torture and enforced disappearance. (File photo)

“I had to fight alone. I had to fight the police.  Some units, some police violated our rights by violating and depriving my son of the right to breathe. Even the air to breathe they wouldn't give him,”

"I haven't been mixed up with drugs at all.  But in 2011 I was told by a local government agency to go for drug rehabilitation. I took this letter to the District Chief telling him that I had no history with drugs. This was the beginning of the threats,” said Somsak.

Somsak's case began to draw public attention after he contacted Amnesty International and the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), a rights advocacy group. With the aid of a CrCF legal team, Somsak filed a lawsuit in 2015 against the 7 police officers involved in the incident for malfeasance, perverting the course of justice, assault and illegal detention .  

Far from over

Thus far, Somsak’s efforts have borne little fruit. After 12 years of struggle, only one police officer has been punished. Sentenced to prison for 16 months and fined 8,000 baht fine for interfering with an investigation, he has already been paroled.

Somsak is still pursuing cases against the police for utilising false testimony and fabricated evidence to frame his son. Police are pursuing a case against him in turn for allegedly presenting false information in court.

Aitarnik Chitwiset, an author of When tortured, I sought justice who spent over 6 months collecting data and conducting interviews before writing a book about the case, believes that Somsak's struggle is worth keeping an eye on. On a number of occasions, patron-client networks in the bureaucracy were used to block Somsak's efforts, reflecting a fundamental defect in a state system that needs reform.

When tortured, I sought justice at the book launch event on 10 September 2021.

Preeda Nakpiw, the CrCF lawyer in charge of Somsak's lawsuit, blames the lack of a law criminalising torture, which makes it relatively easy for wrong-doers to escape punishment. Only an anti-torture and enforced disappearance bill will ensure that mechanisms are in place to end such practices.

A draft bill banning torture and enforced disappearance is scheduled for parliamentary debate

Civil groups and the relatives of victims are working to have it pass on the first reading. Slated for 15 October, the last day of the current parliamentary session, the reading has already been delayed for 7 years.

Eventually, the parliament has passed the first reading of the bill on 16 September with an overwhelming 363-0 vote. Howver, the actual enforcement is still far as further debates over the details are needed before passing the second and third reading.

According to Surapong Kongchantuek, the president of CrCF, torture and enforced disappearances are often carried out in places with limited public access, such as military barracks, police stations or national parks, making it difficult to gather evidence and investigate culprits.

He calls for the immediate passage of the anti-torture bill to create a legal toolset to pursue investigations. He also proposes police reforms to decentralise the command structure, facilitate independent investigations, enforce rules of conduct for interrogations including the mandatory use of voice and video recorders,  provide clear criteria for internal promotions and eliminate the current “bounty system” which encourages unwarranted police raids and abductions.

As for Somsak and his protracted struggle for justice, he wants his family to be remembered for their stand against abusive authorities.

“We have been branded as scapegoats.  We refuse to be sacrificed. So we must look for every way to fight.  This is a fight not be be scapegoats.”

This article uses material from Aitarnik Chitwiset’s new book “When tortured, I sought justice” published by the CrCF and information given at the book launching. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, click here. The book is in Thai language)

Featuretortureenforced disappearanceanti-torture billSomsak CheunchitRitthirong CheunchitCross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)Amnesty Internationalhuman rights
Categories: Politics

5 activists granted bail, 1 arrested

5 hours 58 min ago
Submitted on Thu, 16 Sep 2021 - 11:08 AMPrachatai

Five activists detained on charges relating to a protest in front of the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters on 2 August 2021 to demand the release of 32 detained activists have been granted bail.

From left to right: Parit, Nutchanon, Phromsorn, Panupong and Thatchapong. (Source:TLHR)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that the Court of Appeal granted bail to activists Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, Thatchapong Kaedam, and Nutchanon Pairoj earlier today (15 September), after they had earlier been denied bail several times.

9 activists were arrested on the same charges. Parit, Nutchanon, and Phromsorn were arrested along with Sirichai Natueng on 8 August 2021, after they reported to the police headquarters to show that they did not intend to flee or tamper with evidence.

Thatchapong and Panupong were arrested on the same day after they reported to Khlong Ha Police Station and were taken into custody. Thanapat Khapeng and Panadda Sirimasakul, members of the activist group Thalufah, also went to Khlong Ha Police Station with Thatchapong and Panupong and were arrested.

Sam Samat, a stateless man who was previously arrested for joining the 28 February 2021 protest and allegedly pretending to urinate onto crowd control police gathering below the containers used to block protesters, was also arrested on 7 August 2021.

Thanapat was granted bail on 13 August 2021, while Panadda, Sirichai, and Sam were granted bail on 26 August 2021.

Phromsorn, Panupong, Thatchapong, and Nutchanon were released in the afternoon. However, TLHR said that they still have to file another bail request for Parit, whose bail for charges relating to the 19 September 2020 protest has been revoked by the Criminal Court following a request from the public prosecutor.

Meanwhile, human rights lawyer and activist Anon Nampa is still in detention, after he was arrested on a royal defamation charge due to his speech at the second Harry Potter protest on 3 August 2021 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC).

Activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa is also still in detention, after he was arrested on 9 August 2021 on charges related to an incident on 3 August, in which activists splashed paint in front of Thung Song Hong Police Station following their release after spending a night in detention on charges relating to a protest at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau on 2 August to demand that the police return a speaker truck seized after the 1 August ‘car mob’ rally. He was charged with violating the Emergency Decree, damaging public property, and taking part in an assembly of more than 10 people which caused a breach of public peace.

Seven of the 11 detained activists have tested positive for Covid-19 since their detention: Parit, Sirichai, Sam, Phromsorn, Panupong, Thatchapong, and Jatupat. Thanapat also tested positive for Covid-19 after he was granted bail. Meanwhile, Sam and Sirichai were transferred to a hospital after they were granted bail.

Thawee Thiangwiset, another member of the Thalufah group, was arrested today (15 September) and charged with resisting an official, committing an act of violence not amounting to bodily or mental harm to another person, escaping while in detention, and violation of the Emergency Decree and the Communicable Diseases Act.

Thawee was arrested while reporting to Nang Loeng Police Station along with other Thalufah members to hear charges relating to the incident on 22 July 2021, when they gathered to show support for 19-year-old rapper Danupha Khanatheerakul, known under her stage name Milli, who was charged with defamation for posting on her Twitter account criticism of the government. 

TLHR said that Thawee was arrested by a group of men claiming to be plainclothes officers from Phaya Thai Police Station, who did not present their police IDs. Thawee was then taken to Phaya Thai Police Station, where he was informed that his charges are related to an incident on 3 September 2021, when drivers of the Thalufah speaker truck were arrested following a protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection.

Officers who filed the complaint against Thawee said that while the group was being arrested, a group of people tried to stop the officers from taking them away, and that Thawee punched an officer in the face before escaping along with another person who was being arrested.

The inquiry officer then took Thawee to court for a temporary detention request via video conference. The court denied him bail on the grounds that he violated previous bail conditions, and that the court believes he would flee or repeat his offense. The court order was issued by judge Tewan Rodcharoen, Deputy Director-General of the Criminal Court.

Newspro-democracy protest 2021Phromsorn WeerathamjareeParit ChiwarakPanupong JadnokThatchapong KaedamNutchanon PairojThai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)Source: https://prachatai.com/journal/2021/09/94989
Categories: Politics

Civil society urges inclusive and more detailed in the state's Factory Sandbox

Wed, 09/15/2021 - 18:49
Submitted on Wed, 15 Sep 2021 - 06:49 PMMigrant Working Group (MWG)

An open letter from Migrant Working Group (MWG), the labour-related NGO expresses its observations and recommendations for the management policy of the Factory Sandbox by the Ministry of Labour.

File photo. (Source: ILO Asia-Pacific/Phaywin (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

Dear Minister of Ministry of Labour

On 30 August 2021, the cabinet acknowledged the report of the implementation of a pilot program for the prevention and control of communicable diseases in factories (Factory Sandbox) conducted by the Ministry of Labour. Starting since 13 August 2021, it has focused on workplaces, businesses and factories serving large scale export which plays a vitally important role to the national economy to ensure the continuation of industrial operation in four sectors including automobile, electronic parts, food and medical equipment. It took place in four target provinces including Nonthaburi, Pathumthani, Samut Sakhon and Chonburi with factories employing at least 500 workers and upward. This has been done in conjunction with disease control and prevention measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Ministry of Labour, in the pilot area (Phase I), there were 387 participating workplaces with 474,109 insured workers. The Migrant Working Group (MWG) has these observations to make; 

  1. This program was put under the charge of the Ministry of Labour in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Interior under the “Health Economics” concept to stabilize the economy while upholding the employment and ensuring the control and prevention of communicable diseases. MWG has found that even though the Ministry of Labour took the lead in the program, but the focus of the labour management has been placed on workers insured in the social security system pursuant to Section 33. As a result, some uninsured workers could be unaccounted for in this program even though they are employed by the participating factories. 
  2. In terms of labour protection and the promotion of decent work in the midst of the pandemic, according to our survey of workers within and outside the Bubble and Seal (BBS), the workers have to face similar programs including being suspended from their work and isolated if they are found to have close contact with infected persons while there is no clarity regarding the payment of their wage during such quarantine. In practicality, the workers are forced to isolate themselves taking their days off or their annual leave which shall affect the exercise of their rights as an employee according to the labour protection law concerning annual leave. In terms of their accommodation, despite measures put in place by the public agencies, but according to cases reported to the MWG, the workers have to live in crammed and vulnerable places with insufficient supply of food and drinking water.  If both parents participated in the program, their children would be left behind unattended. 
  3. MWG has found the MoPH’s Department of Disease Control’s (DDC) has published a detailed guideline on “Disease Prevention and Control in Designated Area (Bubble and Seal - BBS) for Workplaces”. In reality, all workers are required to have a Covid-19 test via RT-PCR to isolate infected persons and ensure they receive prompt treatment. They are also required to test themselves using Antigen Self-Testing Kit (Self ATK) every week. MWG notes that the DDC’s guideline does not clearly mention as to who shall be held responsible for the testing costs. Just for the initial target group of 474,109 workers required to have RT-PCR, it would have cost at least one billion baht (at 3,000 baht/person). The weekly ATK tests would have cost 33,187,630 baht (at 70 baht/person/week). If they have to test themselves four times a month, they will need 1,896,436 self-test kits. A lack of clarity regarding who shall bear the expense for the tests asides, MWG has been informed by workers from the factories participating in the BBS program that many of them are forced to pay for the ATK test kits themselves. There is also insufficient ATKs for the workers. At present, the National Health Security Office (NHSO) has decided to procure 8.5 ATKs via the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) and the distribution targets shall include slums and fresh markets focusing on risk groups and those working with the community. And according to online news, the NHSO will start distributing such ATKs to the public the middle of September onward while the Factory Sandbox pilot program has started since late August 2021.

Therefore, to ensure economic stability and to protect employment as well as to control and prevent diseases as part of the Covid-19 pandemic response and to ensure the protection of people’s rights according to the Constitution 2017, MWG has these recommendations for the Ministry of Labour and concerned agencies. 

  1. Produce a manual on the labour protection in designated disease control areas to set out clear guidelines for the employers and their employees. What should they do If they have to be suspended from their work, how they should take their days off. There should be clarity as to the payment of their wage during the quarantine, or the compensation. This is to ensure that while acting in compliance with measures for disease prevention and control, the workers shall not be deprived of their due rights as protected by the Labour Protection Act 1998.  The Ministry of Labour must issue a notification specifying that the taking of sick leave for Covid-19 quarantine must be treated as a paid sick leave and they shall not be included in their normal sick leave provided that they may have to isolate themselves for a long time. Proactive testing should also be conducted among the workers in response to the outbreak. For example, the migrant workers should be allowed to submit their applications in their languages and to submit them as a group through online complaints mechanism. Since the four industrial sectors are geared toward export, it is important to ensure the standards of goods are met as well as compliance with labour protection standards since it would be one of the requirements set forth by the buying countries. This action may have ramification on Thailand’s image as far as the Business and Human Rights principles are concerned.  
  2. The Ministry of Labour should expand the program to also account for uninsured workers who are employed in the participating factories. These factories may employ both Thai and migrant workers and the latter are subject to labour management at different levels. Some migrant workers are in the process of becoming insured workers and having access to unemployment benefits. Therefore, if they are at risk and required to isolate themselves, they may not be able to exercise their rights according to the labour protection law. 
  3. The MoL should urgently meet with the MoPH to ensure sufficient supply of test kits for all workers participating in the program. And the MoPH should take the lead to outlay expenses to procure ATKs while refraining from charging either the employers or the employees. The MoPH’s budget can be drawn from the one-trillion-baht emergency loan decree since the program serves medical and public health purposes with the existing earmarked budget of 63,898 million baht. This shall also serve the purposes of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand 2017’s Section 47 paragraph 3 which prescribes that “A person shall have the right to the protection and eradication of harmful contagious diseases by the State free of charge as provided by law.” Every country in the world including Thailand realizes and acknowledges that Covid-19 pandemic is an emerging disease that affects public health of all people and all aspects of national development. 
  4. The MoL should expedite the effort to ensure access to vaccination of all workers. This will help to reduce their vulnerabilities to the disease, sickness and deaths. It can also promote the good quality of life of the people and the fulfillment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Thailand’s SDG ranking has fallen from 41st last year to 43rd this year. It also serves Thailand’s commitment on “No one safe until everyone safe” made during the Global Compact on Migration meeting at the United Nations in March 2021.
  5. The Social Security Office (SSO) or the Division of Health Economics and Health Security, as the case may be, should ensure health facilities in the areas where the workers are eligible take the lead to provide healthcare in each spot of the Factory Sandbox. Otherwise, NHSO should coordinate for the provision of healthcare to all workers by drawing into the Health Insurance Fund and not charging either the workplaces or the workers. 
  6. Clear measures and guidelines should be put in place to monitor the accommodation for the isolated of workers at risk of infection provided by each workplace. It should focus on the provision of consumable supplies, preventing crowdedness and any vulnerable condition. Measures should be put in place to help if both parents have to be quarantined and their children could be left unattended. 

With respect in human rights and human dignity

Migrant Working Group (MWG)

CC:  

  1. Minister of Public Health
  2. Minister of Interior
  3. Minister of Industry
  4. Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)  
  5. Thai Frozen Foods Association (TFFA)
  6. Thai Tuna Industry Association
  7. Federation of Thai Industries
  8. Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade of Thailand  
Pick to Postlabour rightsMigrant Working Group (MWG)migrant workerFactory Sandbox
Categories: Politics