Monday, 17 October 2016

The Weekly Briefing: 10-16 October 2016

At least 44 people charged under the Referendum Act
Student activists were arrested over the campaign that opposed the August referendum on 24 June 2016. Photo by Komchadluek

On 10 October 2016, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (THRL) reported that at least 44 people charged under the Referendum Act are struggling to fight the cases.

TLHR is working for 22 of the 44 defendants, while the other cases are being looked after by other groups of lawyers. The 22 are involved in five separate cases. These include the high-profile cases of the seven anti-coup student activists who distributed anti-draft pamphlets in Samut Prakan province, and the case of Prachatai journalist arrested while working in Ratchaburi province,

Section 61 of the Referendum Act, which was draft specifically to apply to the August 7 referendum, placed strict limitations on campaigning against the charter.

THRL has found that in some cases the defendants were arrested under Section 61 alone, while others were charged under Section 61 along with other offences relating to national security related laws such as the National Council for Peace and Order's ban on political gatherings, the Computer Crime Act, and sedition in the Criminal Code.

Those charged under Section 61 will be tried in a civilian court, while those charged under "national security" laws face the further complication of being tried by a military tribunal

Military court detains man for posting images of Crown Prince

On 11 October 2016, the Military Court of the northern province of Chiang Rai granted police permission to detain Sarawut (surname withheld due to privacy concerns), a 32-year-old optometrist.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the police summoned Sarawut to hear accusations against him on 11 October. He is accused of breaking Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, for allegedly posting two images of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn deemed defamatory to the Thai Monarchy.
Authorities close investigation on the disappearance of a human rights lawyer
Photo by Citizenthaipbs
On 12 October 2016, Department of Special Investigation (DSI) decided to end their investigation on the enforced disappearance of Somchai Neelapaijit, a renowned human rights lawyer and Angkhana’s husband.
Somchai disappeared 12 years ago while he was representing separatist suspects from the Muslim Deep South in a case where weapons were stolen from Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra Army Base in Cho-airong District of Narathiwat Province.    
He disappeared on 12 March, 2004, a few days after he exposed allegations that his clients had been tortured and forced to confess while in the hands of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD). He was forcibly disappeared by five police officers, some of whom were identified by Somchai’s clients as their torturers.

King Bhumibol Dies, Successor Appointed

Many of those outside the hospital clutched pictures of the King and wore pink and yellow shirts Picture : EPA

On 13 October 2016, As soon as the king's death was announced, domestic stations switched to rolling footage showing monochrome pictures and video of the king throughout his 70-year reign. The military government asked people to abstain from “joyful event” for 30 days and civil servants were asked to wear black and white for a year.
On the night of 13 October, members of the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA) were summoned to a special session two hours after King Bhumibol's death was announced, and they expected they would go through the formality of inviting the crown prince to take the throne.
But, they were told the name of the next king would not be forwarded to them yet. Instead they held a nine-minute silent tribute to the late king, and went home. The NLA did not invite the Crown Prince to ascend the throne.
However, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha informed the NLA that the heir, HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, would like to take some time to grieve with the nation before accepting the invitation to become the new king.
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej appointed His Royal Highness Prince Vajiralongkorn as the Heir to the Throne on Dec 28, 1972 after which he became His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.
On 14 October 2016, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam made the announcement explaining the temporary succession. King Bhumibol's head of the privy council and close confident, Prem Tinsulanonda, will assume the role of caretaker to throne according to the country's constitution.

Restriction on Media after King's Death

On 13 October 2016, Junta government ordered TV networks to replace their programmes with a pre-prepared rolling state media programme for 30 days. All broadcasters must "link to a signal from television pool  Satellite channels - including international news networks like the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera - were replaced later in the day with the same programming. Some websites published in black and white and many digital billboards switched to messages honoring the king. Many newspapers and news websites shunned color to publish in black and white, including English-language newspaper The Bangkok Post.
On 14 October 2016, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBCT) ordered  to all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to monitor “inappropriate content” on their channels and remove it as soon as possible. The order also asked web-administrators of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Line to comply with the regulation.

On 15 October 2016, Foreign Ministry released the statement claiming some big foreign media outlets have been reporting erroneous or false information and accusations of a manipulative and provocative nature on the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

On 16 October 2016, Mobile operators Advanced Info Service Pcl (AIS) , Total Access Communication Pcl and True Move, a unit of True Corp, posted instructions on a messaging app and on their Facebook pages, for how to report Facebook posts and Youtube videos.

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