FACTorial: Why we support the Thailand 10
February 22, 2012
The power of nonviolence
Observant FACT readers will note that five of the Thailand Ten accused of a Decermber 2007 nonviolent sit-in at Parliament are FACT petition signers. One, media activist, Supinya Klangnarong, cofounded FACT with this writer in 2006 and has risen to be the youngest serving member of the National Broadcast and Telecommunications Commission.
Let’s sensibly examine the facts of this 2007 political protest. Over 1,000 Thais gathered at Parliament House at the height of a military coup d’etat govt. The coup-appointed National Legislative Assembly had already passed more than 70 laws in its tenure, a bit over a year, many of them very repressive in nature. These laws included the Computer Crimes Act which is still trying to make unConstitutional censorship legal.
At the time of the protest, the NLA was sitting in 24-hour session to ram home the last 30 of the military’s repressive legislation such as the Internal Security Act in the 11th hour in the last two weeks before elections were held..
70 new laws benefiting military influence in a year is nothing short of a blatant power grab. If one examines how these laws have been used in the last five years, every one of them is sticky with military influence.
In the looking-glass world of Thai politics, any laws promulgated by an illegal military coup govt continue to have full force of law once the coup is over. Not one has ever been rescinded.
Thailand has 18 military coups d’etat since the first one ended absolute monarchy in 1932. Thailand went from a king as head of state to a perpetual state of military rule in foreground or back.
All Thai Constitutions expressly forbid removing an elected govt by force. That means that all military leaders first rescind the Constitution, pardon themselves, and write a new one.
About a hundred activists scaled Parliament’s fence to sit in in front of the legislature’s doors. No one was arrested at that time but later ten were charged are ringleaders and representatives of interest groups by the Senate Secretariat. All accused have long histories as human rights defenders.
Why did the Thai 10 invade Parliament? To stop those last 30 laws so that they could be put before an elected government, of course.
At this time, elections had already been announced and 29 NLA had already resigned to run. The Thai 10 put the military’s lawgivers on notice that their actions were not secret, that they could not hide in the shadows. That must be pretty frightening to pols who know they’re doing wrong. The power of truth, the power of the people.
They are charged with 1) “any act that brings about changes in the laws of the country or the government, or incites unrest and disaffection among the people” which carries a seven year sentence; 2) “the assembly of ten people upwards to commit an act of violence and to cause a breach of peace” which carries a five year sentence and 10,000 baht fine; 3 & 4) two counts of “trespass” carrying sentences of five years each with 10,000 baht fines; and 5) “trespass and committing an act of violence” which bears a five year sentence and 10,000 baht fine.
The accused human rights defenders are each facing 27 years in prison plus a 40,000 baht fine.
Each of these charges, when carefully examined, are quite interesting. They are precisely the same genuine crimes of violence which were, in fact, committed by the military coup leaders! The military did these with guns and tanks and the Thai 10 did them with a ladder.
Who are the real criminals? Why were the generals not charged with their crimes?
The NLA sit-in was a classic protest using nonviolent civil disobedience against an unjust and corrupt govt. The Thai 10 were simply speaking truth to power to reset Thailand’s moral compass. How can any Thai taxpayer be charged with “trespass” when they paid not only for the land and building but for the very functionaries sitting inside???
By contrast, on April 7, 2010, thousands of Redshirt antigovt protestors, some of them armed, rammed a truck through Parliament’s gates in order to force the (similarly unelected) PM to dissolve the assembly. MPs climbed ladders just like the Thai 10 to scurry over the back walls of Parliament, deserting the ship like rats. None of them have yet been subject to criminal charges.
Where is democracy when ordinary citizens can’t join their lawmakers? And why did govt wait five years to prosecute???
Who brought the ladder?!?
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)