Update on The “NLA Sit-In” Trial of 10 Thai Human Rights Defenders

Activists who have been charged for trespassing the National Legislative Assembly in 2007 and their lawyers wish to invite observers from human rights and media rights organisations and representatives from foreign embassies in Thailand to attend the trial to help ensure that they receive a fair hearing, as they believe that the charges against them and the possible penalties that they face are grossly disproportionate to their non-violent actions of civil disobedience against a legislature appointed by a military junta which was rushing through legislation affecting human rights and civil liberties just 11 days  prior to a general parliamentary election.

Background Information

Following the military coup on 19 September 2006 and the suspension of the 1997 Constitution, the military council formed by the coup leaders established a “National Legislative Assembly” (NLA) to act as an interim unicameral legislature for enacting legislation until parliamentary elections were held under a new constitution. All members of the NLA were selected by the military council.

After the promulgation of the 2007 constitution on 24 August 2007, the NLA continued to function as the legislature, and during the last two months before the general parliamentary election of 23 December 2007, the NLA rushed through the passage of a number of extremely controversial laws affecting human rights, civil liberties, community rights, and social justice. This was done despite strong opposition and protests by many civil society groups. The most controversial of these was Internal Security Act, a law demanded by the military to allow them to hold special powers to deal with national security issues after the return to elected civilian government.  Other controversial laws passing through the NLA included legislation on privatisation of state universities, water management, and state enterprises.

On 11-12 September 2007 the Thai NGO Coordinating Committee (NGO-COD) with Jon Ungphakorn (1st defendant) serving as Chair and Pairoj Polpetch (8th defendant) as Vice-Chair held a consultation involving a number of civil society networks and labour union leaders which ended with a public statement and press conference calling on the NLA to abandon consideration of 11 controversial bills considered to violate the rights, freedoms, and welfare of the public according to the 2007 Constitution.

On 26 September 2007, a delegation from NGO-COD and the Confederation of State Enterprise Labour Unions submitted an open letter to the NLA Speaker, Mr. Meechai Ruchupan at the parliament building.

On 29 November 2007, a mass demonstration was held outside the parliament building and grounds, demanding that the NLA immediately abandon consideration of the 11 controversial bills, requesting members of the NLA to consider resigning their office, and asking members of the public to sign a petition for the NLA to cease all legislative activities in view of the coming elections for a democratic parliament.

On 12 December 2007 another mass demonstration was held outside the parliament building and grounds, this time involving well over one thousand demonstrators. At around 11.00 a.m. over 100 demonstrators climbed over the metal fence surrounding the parliament building using make-shift ladders to enter the grounds of parliament.  Around 50-60 demonstrators were then able to push their way past parliamentary guards to enter the lobby in front of the NLA meeting chamber where the NLA was in session. They then sat down peacefully in concentric circles on the lobby floor. Negotiations with some members of the NLA and with a high-ranking police official ensued, until at around 12.00 noon the demonstrators were informed that the NLA meeting had been adjourned. The demonstrators then left the parliament building and grounds, returning to join the demonstrations outside the premises.

Further demonstrations were held outside the parliament building and grounds amidst tight police security on 19 December 2007. Despite all the protests, the NLA passed the Internal Security Act which remains in force to this day.  Some of the other controversial laws were also passed.

On 22 January 2008 the ten defendants were summoned by police to acknowledge a number of charges against them. Prosecutors later asked police to investigate further, and more serious charges which were then brought against the defendants, while less serious charges such as using a loudspeaker without prior permission were dropped. The prosecution was submitted to the Criminal Court on 30 December 2010, and all the defendants were allowed to post bail by the court.

The Defendants are:
1.    Mr. Jon Ungphakorn, NGO and human rights activist
2.    Mr. Sawit Keaw-wan, state enterprise union leader
3.    Mr. Sirichai Maingam, state enterprise union leader
4.    Mr. Pichit Chaimongkol, NGO and political activist
5.    Mr. Anirut Khaosanit, farmers’ rights activist
6.    Mr. Nasser Yeemha, NGO and political activist
7.    Mr. Amnat Palamee,  state enterprise union leader
8.    Mr. Pairoj Polpetch, NGO and human rights activist
9.    Ms. Saree Ongsomwang, NGO and consumer rights activist
10.  Ms. Supinya Klangnarong,  Freedom of expression and media reform activist

The Charges:

Collaborating to incite the public to violate the law through speech, writing, or other means outside the boundaries of constitutional rights or legitimate freedom of expression (Section 116 of the Criminal Code – maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment); gathering in a group of 10 or more people, in the capacity of leaders or commanders, to threaten or to carry out an act of violence or to act in a way which causes a public disturbance (Section 215 of the Criminal Code – maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment and/or fine of up to Baht 10,000); trespass with use of violence (Sections 362, 364, and 365 of the Criminal Code – maximum penalties of 5 years imprisonment and/or fines of up to Baht 10,000 under both Sections 362 and 364 as qualified under Section 365)

The most important dates for attending the trial are:

1)    February 21st 2012 (morning and afternoon) is the opening day for hearing witnesses at which the most important prosecution witnesses will be testifying, including former speaker of the National Legislative Assembly, Mr. Meechai Ruchupan, a notorious legal expert who has served a number of  dictatorial regimes.
2)    March 20th-23rd and 27th (morning and afternoon), during which the 10 defendants will be testifying in order (half-day each)
3)    March 28th-30th, April 3rd-5th, April 10th 2012, during which prominent defence witnesses will be testifying, including:
    28th March (morning) Pravit Rojanaphruk (afternoon) Gothom Arya, Nirun Pitakwatchara
    29th March (morning) Ubonrat Siriyuvasak
    30th March (morning) Vitit Muntarbhorn
    4th April (afternoon) Chaiwat Satha-Anand
    5th April (morning) Kanit na Nakorn
    10th April (afternoon) Phra Phaisan Visalo
    April 10th  2012 is expected to be the last day of the trial before the reading of the verdict (date not yet known)

From 21 February - 10 April 2012, ten prominent Thai NGO/ labour union/ human rights activists will be on trial at the Criminal Court, Rachadapisek Road, Bangkok on serious criminal charges relating to national security, public peace, and trespass with the use of force arising from a mass sit-in staged in the lobby in front of the meeting chamber of the National Legislative Assembly on 12 December 2007. If found guilty of all charges, they could face prison sentences of up to 20 years.

Trial Dates: (Tuesdays to Fridays; Morning sessions 09.00-12.00, afternoon sessions 13.30-16.30)

a)    Witnesses for prosecution  (Total 24 sessions)
February  21-24, 28-29  
March  1- 2, 13-16

b)    Witnesses for defence  (Total 24 sessions)
March  20-23, 27-30      
April  3-5, 10              

Do you think Thaksin is

Do you think Thaksin is worried about his human rights being violated? Or what about the board of directors at Goldman Sachs? Exxon's board? No. Why is that? Because they have a lot of Somyot's and Giles' defending them? Or because they possess the wealth, power, and means of defending themselves?

I have no doubt that many well-intentioned people are involved in "human rights activism" just like I know for a fact there are many well-intentioned people in US military. But good intentions don't translate into good causes.

Human rights are not something that can be granted - not something necessary to codify into law - they are something we are all born with and that no one can give or take except by force. You can kid yourself into thinking that legislation, protests and the likes will make a difference but at the end of the day, the only one you can trust to preserve your innate rights is yourself.

So then, what are people like Giles doing to help people do that? Sitting-in does what exactly to empower regular people so that they are capable of defending themselves - from exploitation or from physical transgressions? The key is to empower people - give them the technical education they need to develop their community's infrastructure, the ability to seize for themselves a greater proportion of the nation's wealth through entrepreneurship and increased economic activity (through innovation & technology) - and as the elite in any given nation begin to shrink as people rise up pragmatically - there will be no means for them to "violate" the human rights of the people.

Laws can be bent, circumvented or broken - and a society whose equality hinges on such laws can be easily jeopardized. On the other hand, a society where people are empowered through education and economic self-sufficiency will provide an informed, egalitarian population where a balance of power and the preservation of self-interests ensures people respect one another.

It is a matter of policy vs. pragmatism, idealism vs. realism. Human nature if given the means, will always lead to people attempting to assert themselves over others who they perceive as weak. Instead of trying to legislate away the ability to exploit the weak - why not just strengthen the weak instead?

This... the passage of the

This... the passage of the ISA by a military appointed putsch... is exactly what must be rolled back and undone as the Niti Raat has proposed.

Clearly the people, the true sovereigns of the country, were within their rights to take whatever steps they deemed necessary to oppose these lawless acts of the traitorous coupsters, who had overthrown the peoples' elected government and were using their puppets in going through the motions of 'enactment' of their lawless dictates.

Last but not least among the proposals of the Niti Raat is

15. Defence against Usurpation
  • Create a separate section in the new constitution concerning the "Nullification of the Legal Effects of a Military Coup d'Etat", whose content is drawn from Nitirat's proposal concerning the nullification of the legal effects of the 2006 coup.
  • Citizens have the right and duty to use any means to resist against attempts to take away the supreme power from the people (usurpation).
  • Specify that usurpation is a criminal act, and that after the supreme power of the people has been returned to the people, the usurpers must be prosecuted. Allow the period of prescription to start when the supreme power has been returned to the people.

As clearly, the Thai people need now to select and elect, in each and every jangwat, their 77 representatives for the CDA to ensure that the Niti Raat's work forms the basis of their new Constitution.

You are being unreasonable if

You are being unreasonable if you can't admit the horrendous, murderous, and autocratic transgressions by Thaksin which necessitated the 2006 coup in the first place.

A more reasonable stance would be to condemn Thaksin and excise his autocratic ambitions and cult-like political machine from Thailand, and ensure that the military relinquished controls it had put in place after the coup.

Your statement: "Clearly the people, the true sovereigns of the country, were within their rights to take whatever steps they deemed necessary to oppose these lawless acts of the traitorous coupsters"

...sounds like what the Nazis might have said before executing the leaders of the failed coup, Operation Valkyrie, to remove autocratic Hilter and his Nazi party from power.

And of course the "steps necessary" were all laid out, dictated, funded, and led by Thaksin and his political clique. So clearly it wasn't the "people," it was an ochlocratic mob of exploited and duped individual led by Thaksin.

Nitirat, failing to mention Thaksin's transgressions, and the need to roll back his political machine in tandem with the 2006 measures exposes them as one-sided and politically motivated - that and the fact that their whole audience is red shirts with Thaksin's lawyer sitting in the front row.

http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2012/01/globalist-lawyer-attends-color.html

I'm all with you John on keeping the military out of politics. But I'm also with stopping dangerous, autocratic, mass murdering personality cults. By continuously defending Thaksin and his UDD - you give the military impetus they need to STAY rather than go.

If say you dumped Thaksin and the UDD, and pursued pragmatic solutions to real problems, started a movement where Thais supported local economic activity instead of paying into national or international monopolies, and THEN the army decided to intervene because their power was waning - I would agree with your statement.

Thaksin & UDD aren't just an excuse for military intervention - they are a GOOD excuse for it.

TONY: "Thaksin & UDD

TONY: "Thaksin & UDD aren't just an excuse for military intervention - they are a GOOD excuse for it."

Yes and Pinochet was a good excuse for toppling the elected Allende government.
And Generalisimo Franco for toppling the elected Republican government.

In 1953, the CIA/UK worked toto overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran when by Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh who had attempted to nationalize Iran's petroleum industry, threatened the profits of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. WELCOME SHAh of Iran.

1954 Guatemala.

LUMUMBA in 1960 overthrown by Belgian and US CIA who then murdered the elected PM.

Brazil 1964
Ghana 1966
Vietnam
Afghanistan 1973/4
Argentina 1976
Arming the Contras in Nicaruaga
Cambodia
Angola

The list goes on and the list is far longer but the CIA was involved in almost every single overthrow or destabilization of left leaning governments that refused to tuck their tails between their legs and do as they were told.

So was every involvement in overthrowing democratically elected governments carried out hand in hand with right wing military officers. the MILITARY seems always ready to offer a helping hand to "save" the nation. Oddly how after every time they "save" a nation thousands are oppressed and often imprisoned or murdered.

The military do not need excuses. They can conjure up whatever excuses they need, force the changes at the barrel of the gun and then prosecute people according to laws they have written up to benefit themselves and the super-rich elites, with which inevitably walk along hand in hand.

i hope you enjoy the company you keep in your heart and mind, TONY.

Robald - I do not disagree

Robald - I do not disagree with you that the US overthrows "left" leaning governments, but they also overthrow "right" leaning governments as well. It is not a matter of "left" or "right" it is a matter of subservience and their willingness to support US interests not only within their own country but in a larger geopolitical context.

Iraq began as a proxy, it ended a bitter enemy destroyed by US invasion. Libya's Qaddafi was attempting to reapproach the West before they betrayed him, and ultimate killed nearly his entire family, plus bombed his convoy and allowed NATO-backed militants on the ground to torture and extra-legally execute him. Past support does not equate into current support.

On your list you forgot Iran, 1953 - see? I totally agree with you.

However, that doesn't mean EVERY coup in human history, or every coup recently, was backed by the CIA. Please consider the evidence of Thaksin's backing, now, during his premiership, and even before coming to power. It was Bush, Baker, and US corporate-financier interests the entire time.

http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2011/06/corporate-funded-peoples-movement.html

This I have documented beyond a shadow of a doubt. If you have evidence besides a single, vague "Wikileaks" cable that you have interpreted to signify US support for the coup rhetorically, that actually demonstrates material, and substantial political support for the coup please make it available.

And again - many of these people who you claim would be supporting the military are on record instead securing funding for operations like Prachatai, support for the UDD, and political support for Thaksin himself.

http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2011/11/ned-freedom-house-are-run-by.html

You don't have to agree or approve of the Thai army to realize Thaksin is bad news and his UDD is exploiting well intentioned people who deserve much better than BOTH sides have to offer.

My mistake - you did mention

My mistake - you did mention Iran in 1953 - well - it is worth repeating - because I completely agree with you about your list, and your accusations about the CIA, but you have failed to make a serious effort to connect the US to the CURRENT Thai military with any sort of evidence, or acknowledge that many US allies end up the very targets of their future, ever expanding ambitions.

Again, you do not deny that the US is doing all of this, yet are incapable of realizing that Prachatai's funding is then completely inexcusable for this exact reason! And furthermore, the entire network Prachatai associates itself with is likewise US funded. How do you reconcile this with you very knowledgeable understanding of America's meddling throughout its history?

Either way, I hope you continue digging, and learning.

You are being worse than

You are being worse than unreasonable when you repeatedly justify a coup by a serially murderous and corrupt military that operates for the largest conglomerates in the country, all of which have long and loving relationships with the U.S. government, corporations and foundations (whom you claim to see as responsible for everything evil).